Journalist, Humorist, Novelist

The Bizarre History of Gay Conversion Therapy

AFIn 1918 Sigmund Freud’s youngest daughter, Anna, was 23 years old and secretly in love with her best friend, Eva. Concerned about what seemed to be Anna’s diminishing marriage prospects, Sigmund began interrogating Anna about her sexual fantasies.

The more he learned about his daughter, the more he must have quaked in his boots. For while he believed that homosexuality is almost unremarkable in men, he considered lesbianism a gateway to mental illness.

Of course, lesbians can lead full sexual lives without oversight or interference by men. But because Sigmund considered women in general to be morally inferior to men, he thought all women need guidance by husbands. And so he considered lesbians like his own dear daughter to be actually dangerous—to themselves and others. 

HYSTERICAL: Anna Freud’s Story (She Writes Press) is the fictional but very fact-based “memoir” of Sigmund Freud’s smartest daughter as she came of age under her father’s very harsh gaze.

Somehow the real Anna Freud survived hundreds of hours of analysis by Sigmund with her innate sexual preference nicely intact. Though the analysis ruined the love affair Sigmund initially discovered, Anna eventually enjoyed 54 years of happy monogamy with Dorothy Burlingham, heir to the Tiffany fortune. They raised a family together. And Anna became one of the founders of child psychology.

Sigmund Freud’s failed attempt to convert his daughter from homosexual to straight has been kept under wraps by the Freud dynasty for nearly 100 years. With HYSTERICAL, the secret is finally out—and the crazy roots of gay conversion therapy are revealed.

Booklist called HYSTERICAL “avidly researched, shrewd, and unnerving,” as well as “complexly entertaining, sexually dramatic, and acidly funny.” LAMBDA Literary wrote that it’s got “a plot so rife with tension it’ll make you squirm.” Oprah recommended it in the June 2014 issue of O, The Oprah Magazine. The American Library Association named it a 2015 “Over the Rainbow” book.

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