Date of Award

Spring 2020

Degree Type

Honors Project


College of Liberal Arts

First Advisor

Nurith Zmora


In Minnesota, throughout the 19th century, the concept of homosexuality was associated with sin/illegality due to the strict religious ordinances and legislation passed with the intent to criminalize homosexuality. However, influenced by European notions, this correlation of morality and legality started expanding to a more medicalized perception. With a push to decriminalize homosexuality, much of the United States began to adopt the philosophy of homosexuality’s existence either as or because of an illness. While other studies have explored treatment methods practiced in the U.S. and Europe, this research focuses only on Minnesota history and its practices. An analysis of Minnesota hospital records (patient case files, hospital population surveys, and commitment/discharge records), as well as interviews conducted with doctors practicing these treatment techniques led to a greater understanding of the malpractice and abuse instated by authority figures in Minnesota state hospitals. By evaluating multiple treatment plans for individuals spanning from 1919 to 1944, this study works through the typical categorizations of aversion (the attempt to stop homosexual tendencies) and conversion therapies (the attempt to stop homosexual tendencies by enforcing heterosexuality), as well as drawing a focus on the social and political pressures that influenced the prescription of the treatment methods. The contemporary relevance of this Minnesota case study relates to current political discussions surrounding conversion therapy practices. This research contributes to the awareness of the history of these enforced practices currently still utilized by Minnesota psychiatrists and religious figures. By analyzing the historical significance that conversion therapy has played in the suppression of sexuality, a more informed opinion is molded on this pressing issue.








Departmental Honors Projects