WWII veteran admits he wanted to be ‘cured’ of homosexuality so he could have someone to love
Both before and after the partial decriminalisation of homosexuality in England and Wales in 1967, gay men have been persecuted in the UK.
Just some of the heartbreaking stories from men who faced this discrimination are collected in a new book, Not Guilty, by Sue Elliott and Steve Humphries, from Biteback Publishing and available to purchase now.
An accompanying TV programme, Convicted For Love, aired earlier this month on Channel 4, and is now available to watch via catch-up.
Below is an extract telling the story of Dudley Cave, who, at the age of 24 wanted to be cured of his homosexuality, just so he could have someone to love, and be loved by.
Dudley Cave, twenty-four, had been told he was homosexual by a specialist while they’d both been prisoners of war in Singapore. Now he wanted to know what could be done about it.
“I suppose at that time I just wished somebody would wave a magic wand and I would feel the same wave of emotion for a woman as I did for a man.
“And I think I would have given all my savings to have that done to me. Not because I wanted to conform, but I just wanted to have somebody I could love and be loved by.”
The psycho-medical model of homosexuality current at the time meant that many practitioners believed it to be eminently treatable and Dudley wanted to be ‘made better’. As a former POW he had a rigorous medical examination after the war.
“There was a brick-faced colonel sitting at little table. He said rather pompously, ‘You’ve been thoroughly examined; is there anything you’d like to tell us about your condition?’ And I said, ‘Yes sir, I’m homosexual.’
“He looked at me with horror and a little vein throbbed in his temple and he went a deeper red, presumably at the thought of the army having nurtured to its bosom this dreadful person. So he said in a choked voice, ‘Better see a psychiatrist.’”
Dudley was referred as an in-patient to a psychiatric hospital in Surrey and spent the weekend there, expecting to be given ‘hormones or something’. He saw a psychiatrist on the Monday, told him the whole story and was surprised and rather confused at the response.
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“He said, ‘The only advice I can give you is to find someone of like mind, settle down with him and stop worrying about it.’ When he said this, there was an elation, but the only thing is he didn’t give me any indication how to meet [that person] and so we were back to my pre-war situation, where my sexual contacts were all in my social circle …
“The big problem for me as a gay young man was that I didn’t realise what I was; I had no role models, nobody to model my life on, and the only people I knew who were gay were the camp transvestites or semi-transvestites. So I didn’t belong to that, I couldn’t see it. And even when I did realise there were other people, I didn’t know where to find them, I couldn’t ring up a [gay] switchboard and ask where to go.
“There were very few clubs and pubs and those that existed were well hidden, discreet and expensive. So it was very difficult. I had no identity and I really didn’t know where I was going, or who to go with.”
Nevertheless, it was something of a turning point. A strong character, Dudley was starting to come to terms with his situation.