Free online viewing Thursday, 25 August, 8pm (AEST) REGISTER HERE
Most people know there was a time when gay and lesbian people were considered mentally ill and mental health professionals used bizarre and cruel methods in their attempts to cure them. Probably fewer people could name the year that was reversed and fewer could detail the series of events that led to the American Psychiatric Association’s (APA) momentous decision.
Cured is an excellent documentary that takes the viewer through the decades of appalling ignorance about sexuality in the 1940s, 50s and 60s and reveals the courageous and defiant gay activists who stood up to the institutions that viewed homosexuality as a perversion and sickness .
During the aforementioned era, homosexuals were criminalised, institutionalised and pathologised. In 1952, motivated by a misguided desire to help, the APA classified homosexuality as a “sexual deviation” within the larger “sociopathic personality disturbance” category in the first Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM). For some mental health professionals, it was more than a misguided desire to help, it became an egoistic obsession to be the “expert” on treatments and cures. “Experts” like Charles Socarides, Irving Bieber and Edmund Bergler, reinforced society’s prejudices through their publications and presentations. This quote from Edmund Bergler’s 1956 book, “Homosexuality: Disease or way of life?”, is pretty typical.
‘‘I have no bias against homosexuals; for me they are sick people requiring medical help… Still, though I have no bias, I would say: Homosexuals are essentially disagreeable people, regardless of their pleasant or unpleasant outward manner…[their] shell is a mixture of superciliousness, fake aggression, and whimpering. Like all psychic masochists, they are subservient when confronted with a stronger person, merciless when in power, unscrupulous about trampling on a weaker person’’
There are several important markers in our struggle to break free from oppression and false labels. The 1969 Stonewall Riots being an obvious one and running a close second would be the 1973 APA decision that instantly cured 20,000,000 gay people with a stroke of a pen……just in America. It is this event the film focuses on.
Cured is not just a documentation of historical events. One of the delightful and most powerful elements of the film are the interviews with the activists themselves. Well, those who are still with us, others have passed on. Also, the archival footage takes us back to actual events themselves. I agree with other reviewer’s comments “fascinating” (Hollywood Reporter), “riveting” (The Queer Review), and the British Film Institute’s, “one of the best documentaries of this or any year”.
But there is an even more important reason to watch Cured. Considering today’s freedoms enjoyed by every LGBTQ person, if they don’t know of the events in the film, their historical knowledge is sadly lacking and therefore, Cured is a “MUST SEE”. Family and friends of LGBTQ people, and allies will also gain an important insight into our past struggles and why we enjoy today’s freedoms.
You’ll find Cured inspiring, insightful, encouraging and occasionally disturbing.
Cured also reminds us that the battle is far from over.
Cured is being screened live for free this Thursday, 25 August, 8pm (AEST) and sponsored by Ambassadors & Bridge Builders International and the Brave Network in partnership with filmmakers Patrick Sammon, Bennett Singer and Story Centre Films.
© Anthony Venn-Brown OAM
Founder and CEO of Ambassadors & Bridge Builders International (ABBI)
Author of the bestseller “A Life of Unlearning – preacher’s struggle with his homosexuality, church and faith”