What is and how to do LGBT History?

Feb conference

I am rounding off LGBT History Month 2016 with a presentation at the third “What is and how to do LGBT History?” Conference at Manchester Metropolitan University tomorrow.

My presentation is the first paper in a three paper panel entitled:

“A queer turn of events: LGBTI Psychology, past and present”

The aim of our panel  is to track LGBT history within the discipline of psychology.  Psychology as a scientific discipline is relatively young.   Despite the youthfulness it has a long history of studying human sexuality that traces its roots to the pioneering work of sexologists such as Havelock Ellis and Richard von Krafft–Ebbing.  The panel presents the work of three social psychologists, myself,  Dr Katherine Hubbard and Professor Peter Hegarty, all of whom are engaged in work that critically examines the history of psychological research with sexual minority people.  Paper 1 by myself takes a broad sweep across the history of psychology to examine the changes in how the lesbian and gay individual, and more recently the bisexual and transgender individual, has been considered by the discipline over the years, tracking the shift from pathology to affirmation.  Paper 2 by Dr Katherine Hubbard focuses on a specific method of testing lesbians and gay men, employed by psychologists in the mid 20th century: the Rorschach Test.  Finally, paper 3 by Professor Peter Hegarty brings the focus of enquiry closer to the present day, taking a look at how the dichotomy of essentialism and choice has shaped developmental, social and clinical psychological enquiry in relation to sexuality in the more recent past.  Taking all the papers as a whole, the panel maps out the rich, but relatively short, history of the psychology of sexuality.

The abstract for my paper is here:

“From homosexual subject to queer participant: The changing position of the LGBT person in psychology”

Psychology and sexuality has had a long and turbulent relationship, with sexual minority people piquing both academic and medical interests since the inception of the discipline. From the early roots of enquiry in the field of sexology, the psy disciplines have endeavoured to understand the complex nature of sexuality.  The extant psychological LGBT research base falls into two distinct corpora.  On the one hand there is a body of research that holds the LGB or T  person as being the focus of research: that is the subject.  The second body of work engages with heterosexual perceptions of the LGB or T subject.  This paper will focus on the former body of work, seeking to chart the changing discourses that have shifted the psychological focus.  Starting with the homosexual subject, the examination of whom was necessary in the quest to establish the aetiology of homosexuality, via a discourse of pathology and cure, to affirmative and positive psychological explorations of the lives of queer participants that provide insight into the unique issues that impact LGBTI lives and ultimately informs the practice of psychologists and psychotherapists working with LGBTI people.


About Orla Parslow-Breen

In random order I am an academic, teacher, researcher, writer, tutor, self-confessed introvert, treadmill addict, trainee counsellor, meditator, and compulsive reader of the written word. Recently I have forgotten where my treadmill is :(
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2 Responses to What is and how to do LGBT History?

  1. Alice Herron says:

    Sounds interesting. Hope it all goes well!

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