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Freud on Homosexuality and Bisexuality

CHAPTER 4: LGBTQQIAA Identities and Challenges

Sigmund Freud on Homosexuality and Bisexuality

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Sigmund Freud, 1856-1939.

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Sigmund Freud was the founder of psychoanalysis and had a profound influence on psychology and psychiatry, among other fields. He is considered one of the most influential modern thinkers.

In 1935, a mother wrote to Freud concerning her son’s homosexuality. Here is part of his reply:

Homosexuality is assuredly no advantage, but it is nothing to be ashamed of, no vice, no degradation; it cannot be classified as an illness; we consider it to be a variation of the sexual function, produced by a certain arrest of sexual development. Many highly respectable individuals of ancient and modern times have been homosexuals, several of the greatest men among them. (Plato, Michelangelo, Leonardo da Vinci, etc.). It is a great injustice to persecute homosexuality as a crime – and cruelty, too. If you do not believe me, read the books of Havelock Ellis. (1960/1935, p. 423)

Freud’s views on sexual orientation evolved over time. Here is a later statement by Freud on bisexuality:

It is well known that at all times there have been, as there still are, human beings who can take as their sexual objects persons of either sex without the one trend interfering with the other. We call these people bisexual and accept the fact of their existence without wondering much at it … But we have come to know that all human beings are bisexual in this sense and their libido is distributed between objects of both sexes, either in a manifest or a latent form. (quoted in Young-Bruehl, 2001, p. 179)

References

Freud, S. (1960/1935).Letters of Sigmund Freud. E. L. Freud (Ed.). New York, NY: Basic Books.

Young-Bruehl, E. (2001). Are Human Beings 'By Nature' Bisexual? Studies in Gender & Sexuality, 2(3), 179-213.



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