‘Someone who is sick and in need of help’: Medical attitudes to homosexuality in Australia, 1960-1979

Date of this Version


Document Type

Book Chapter

Publication Details

Interim status: Citation only.

Wilson, E. (2008). 'Someone who is sick and in need of help': Medical attitudes to homosexuality in Australia, 1960-1979. In S. Robinson (Ed.), Homophobia: An Australian history (pp. 148-171). Sydney, Australia: The Federation Press. ISBN:9781862877030

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2008 HERDC submission

© Copyright The Federation Press 2008


Homophobia is a prejudice with effects that extend far beyond the gay and lesbian community. While its physical, emotional and social effects have been charted to some extent, the development of homophobia in Australia has yet to be fully explored.
Homophobia: An Australian History is the first book to consider homophobia in a distinctively Australian context. In this collection, thirteen well-known scholars examine the embedded homophobic attitudes that Australian gay and lesbian activists have fought to change. The book traces the evolution of homophobia, from its expression in Australia’s past as a colonial settler society, through to manifestations in present day society.
The compilation of this text is timely, given the 2007 release of the Same Sex: Same Entitlements report of the Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission. The release of this report, which focused on institutionalised and legal homophobia, has raised public awareness of these issues and sparked broader debates about homosexual rights. The thirtieth anniversary of Sydney's Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras earlier this year also offers an ideal opportunity to reflect on the past gains and future goals of the gay and lesbian rights movement.
The collected chapters in this book argue that homophobia developed in conjunction with the growth of a modern homosexual identity in the second half of the nineteenth century. To various extents, the legal and medical professions and other social institutions have perpetuated homophobic attitudes. Homophobia: An Australian History raises awareness of the devastating impact these attitudes can have on individuals and on society.

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