Queer approaches to depathologisation
The following chapter is extracted from Queer Ink: A Blotted History Towards Liberation, by Katherine Hubbard (Pb: 9781138362529, £34.99), published by Routledge.
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“An old Victorian oil lamp. The shape of the lamp. Two girls – at each side going to kiss each other. Big breasts, very slim, high heads, only one leg. Red lipstick.” These are the responses to Rorschach ink blot Card number 3 by a woman ‘who was deeply involved in a homosexual relationship’ while at her stay in a psychiatric hospital in London in the late 1960s (Barker, 1970). Similarly, in my own testing experience in 2015, as another woman ‘deeply involved in a homosexual relationship’ I reported:
Two figures, two women, stirring a big cooking pot, they’re wearing tiny high heeled shoes, like old Victorian boots that are pointed. Their boobs and bums are sticking out. The red bit in the middle looks like lungs, with the bit joining them in the middle.
I also claimed to see two women in Card number 7 who both looked rather ‘serene’. What strikes me now as I look at these cards is that not only do I still see these two women, much like the woman in the 1960s, but I can name the women I see. Now when I look at this card, I ‘see’ Evelyn Hooker and June Hopkins. Hooker’s research was absolutely pivotal in the depathologisation of ‘homosexuality’ as a mental illness in the US and Hopkins’ work, comparatively, was the only Rorschach research used for queer afﬁrmative ends in Britain.
In focusing on the work of these women I concentrate not only on their academic work but also the context and lived experiences that inﬂuenced them. Sangster (1995) argued that despite the shift from women’s history to gender history both are required and that more inclusive approaches that involve sexuality, amongst other factors, should be used. Scarborough called for a greater, more inclusive, and detailed women’s history of Psychology and for more scholarship about the less well-known women in the history of Psychology, as well as a more analytical approach to such histories.
I submit that if we are to construct a fully-fledged women’s history of psychology, we need more than a record of women’s life experiences. So, more than just a “for-the-record” reporting, we now need interpretation and analysis. (Scarborough, 2005, p. 6)
What is and what is not investigated by historians reveals social power, hierarchies, and what is considered marginal and what is considered important. This is especially true in the history of Psychology which includes additional intersections of the power of psychologists and psychological testing.
Power relations between the studiers and the studied need to be taken into account. This is one reason why, thinking historically, psychologists using the Rorschach is so fascinating; because it complicates the idea of the apparently objective and separate psychologist (of course, a misnomer). It turns the lens and the focus away from those they studied onto those who did the studying. In this chapter I therefore switch the lens onto those who did the testing and pay particular attention to the work of Hooker and Hopkins (see Hubbard, 2017a). Speciﬁcally, I uncover exactly how they used the Rorschach to argue that there was nothing pathological, neurotic, or psychopathic about being queer, albeit in rather different ways.
Evelyn Hooker was born Evelyn Gentry in her grandmother’s one-room farm house in North Platte, Nebraska (US) on 2nd September 1907. The sixth of nine children to Edward Gentry, a tenant farmer and Jessie (née Bethel) Gentry, who was a nurse during the 1918 ﬂu epidemic. Her mother had only a third-grade education but deeply encouraged Evelyn, or as she pronounced it ‘Eva-leen’, to get an education because that was one thing that could never be taken away. To this end, the family moved to Sterling, Colorado in a covered prairie schooner wagon when Evelyn was 13 years old to further her education.
Coming from a relatively poor family on the wrong side of the track meant Evelyn described growing up as a painful process. She was particularly conspicuous as a nearly 6-foot-tall teenager, and her feeling of never being ‘becoming’ continued into adulthood. Having moved to study she attended Sterling High School which was relatively progressive and she was encouraged by her teachers to continue her education. She enrolled in an honours programme with a course in Psychology and graduated in 1924. At 17 she joined the University of Colorado in Boulder and worked cleaning houses in order to bolster her scholarship. Having been awarded her undergraduate degree in 1928 she stayed on to work with psychologist Karl Muenzinger for her master’s degree which she received in 1930.
As she made her decision as to what to do next, the US was in the ﬁrm grip of the Great Depression. This undoubtedly had an impact on her own career options but she also faced other challenges, being a young woman embarking on a career in a predominantly sexist ﬁeld. Despite being offered a place in the PhD programme at Colorado, her supervisor Muenzinger was keen for her to go to an eastern university, so she chose Yale. However, the chair of her department (a Yale man himself) refused to provide a woman with a letter of recommendation. Instead, Evelyn became one of only 11 women studying at John Hopkins University, where she was supervised by Knight Dunlap who agreed to take her on despite not approving of women doctorates. She completed her PhD in 1932 and later recollected that John Hopkins had been the right kind of place for her.
Following her PhD, she managed to secure a job by ‘sheer luck’ at Maryland College for Women. Such colleges were often the only places women academics could work. After a period of teaching and recovering from tuberculosis she spent some time in Europe studying at the Institute for Psychotherapy in Berlin. Here, she stayed with a Jewish family who she later found out died in the concentration camps (see, Minton, 2002). Upon her return, she applied for a job at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) but she was told she could not be employed because there were already three women, who were largely disliked, in the department. Sexist barriers continued to plague her career as they did for many early women psychologists. However, she was accepted by the Extension Division at UCLA as a research associate and continued teaching experimental and physiological Psychology there, with the exception of one year at Bryn Mawr women’s college, for the next 31 years. In 1941 Hooker married Donn Caldwell, a freelance writer. Their relationship lasted until 1947 and ended in divorce.
Throughout her life Evelyn was well known amongst circles of famous psychologists and artists. From her work at UCLA she knew Bruno Klopfer, the famous Rorschach psychologist. Her friendship with Klopfer and his expertise on the Rorschach was later essential in her famous studies of gay men. He was the one who most encouraged her while they shared an ofﬁce in the Psychology department. Hooker also knew famous sexologist Alfred Kinsey (who she believed was queer, Bucknell, 1997, p. 979) and other famous queer people, e.g. Stephen Spencer, the poet. Throughout her life the connections she made with others highly impacted in her own research interests and beliefs about marginalised groups. She had experienced the Great Depression, been in Germany during the Nazi regime, and in 1944 she met a gay student who would change the trajectory of her life.
Sam (‘Sammy’) From, was initially a student of Evelyn’s and she is said to have recognised he was the brightest student in the Introductory Psychology class. Once he had ﬁnished the night course their friendship was established. When Evelyn ﬁrst introduced Sam to her husband, Donn Caldwell, he later asked: “Well, you told me everything else about him, why didn’t you tell me he was queer?” (Minton, 2002). It was because of this friendship with an openly gay man, and at Sam’s direct request, that she began to consider conducting research on non-pathological gay men. This research, initially ethnographical, enveloped her into gay communities and sparked her ongoing work to remove the pathologisation of homosexuality in Psychology. Prior to meeting Sam, Evelyn had accepted the pathologising perspective towards queerness that she had been taught, and she herself taught, in Psychology. However, her acceptance into these communities convinced her this uncritical perspective was false. Her newfound view and her ethnographic research into gay communities and sub-culture allowed her to make further gay friends. For example, in August 1949 Hooker met Christopher Isherwood at one of Sam From’s all-night parties (Bucknell, 1997).
Evelyn married her second husband Edward Niles Hooker, a Professor of English at UCLA, in 1951. The two had met at UCLA despite graduating from John Hopkins the same year. In fact, Edward had allowed Evelyn to stay in his guest house when she needed new accommodation following her return from Bryn Mawr. This guest house, as it was to turn out, was a very important building in the removal of ‘homosexuality’ as a mental illness. It became the home of Christopher Isherwood in 1952 and the exact location of her research into the Rorschach responses of gay men compared to heterosexual men. In fact, in September 1953 Evelyn insisted Christopher Isherwood, then aged 49, move out because her husband felt that his relationship with Don Bachardy, who was 19, would cause a scandal.1 After this short difﬁcult period however, their friendship continued for years to come (see Bucknell, 1997).
Hooker’s research on homosexuality began in 1953 when she applied for a six-month grant from the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH). In a period of intense McCarthyism and homophobia, Hooker said she had to be as ‘pure as the driven snow’ (read heterosexual) in ordered to be authorised to conduct such research. She later claimed that this was part of the reason why she did not research lesbian women – if she had she would have been considered to have ulterior motives. At the time, ‘homosexuality’ was considered a severe and pervasive emotional mental disorder and gay men and lesbians were being investigated for being ‘sexual perverts’ with potential communist ties. The NIMH eventually agreed to grant the funding, even though it was warned it could be halted. Initially, the University insisted the research be conducted on campus, but Hooker rejected the proposal, arguing gay men would not volunteer to take part if they were so easily identiﬁed. Instead they agreed that the guest house could be used for testing the participants (see Minton, 2002).
With the funding Hooker conducted her research on 30 gay non-pathological men, a sample that had never been collected for psychological research before. These men were recruited through her own friendships and via the Mattachine Society, an early gay rights activist group. Unsurprisingly, conﬁdentiality was absolutely vital to protect the gay men who took part in Hooker’s research and she even was said to carry a letter explaining she was on the faculty at UCLA in the event she was caught up in a raid while at a gay bar recruiting participants (which occurred one time and she was held in Los Angles jail). However, while she managed to recruit gay men easily given her connections to the gay community of California and the Mattachine Society, she found it much more difﬁcult to recruit heterosexual men willing to take part, despite her reassurances it was not a ‘Kinsey Study’. Eventually she resorted to ‘enticing men’ who showed up at her home for inspections or repairs. Her husband commented “No man is safe on Saltair Avenue” (see Minton, 2002, p. 227). Her participants all completed three projective tests: a Rorschach test, a Make a Picture Story Test, and a Thematic Apperception Test (TAT). The 60 individuals were matched according to age, IQ, and education, so the only meaningful difference between them was their sexuality.
Both groups responses to the Rorschach were then provided to two experienced clinicians, one of whom was Bruno Klopfer. The Rorschach experts then were asked to separate out the two groups based on whether they thought they were gay or straight. They were unable to determine any better than chance which responses were from 30 heterosexual men and which were from 30 gay men. Hooker concluded ‘very tentatively’ (emphasis original, p. 30) that “homosexuality as a clinical entity does not exist” (1957, see Hegarty, 2003b; Hooker, 1958, 1960, 1992).
The mid-1950s were a highly intense time for Hooker. In 1955 Sam From died in a car accident before seeing the impact Hooker’s work was soon to have. In 1956 Hooker presented her research to the American Psychological Association. Just before she travelled to Chicago she and her husband visited Christopher Isherwood and Don Baccardy. Isherwood wrote in his diary about her paper and noted the potential historical signiﬁcance of her work:
We saw Evelyn Hooker on Saturday – just about to leave for the High Sierras with Edward. Then she’s going to read a starting paper to a congress in Chicago which will state (1) that there are exactly as many well-adjusted homo-sexuals (percentually) as heterosexuals (2) that homosexuality may, in certain cases, be regarded as psychologically as well as biologically “normal.” All this was arrived at by getting a great expert to examine a large batch of ink-blot tests. The expert arrived at these conclusions very unwillingly and against his own theories. Maybe this will be celebrated one day as a great historic event – Hooker reading the Declaration of Adjustment.
(Isherwood Diary, August 6th 1956, see Bucknell, 1997, p. 637. Footnote included that Isherwood speciﬁed ‘Rorschach’ in the margin and Bruno Klopfer was the expert)
Following supper with Evelyn in December 1956, Isherwood again noted in his diary where she was with her research. The Chicago paper was to be published and her “future investigations into the social life of homosexuals, which will oblige her to go to parties, dance and get drunk.” Isherwood reﬂected that “there is really something very noble and admirable about Evelyn. I love to think of her getting drunk and living it up in the interests of science – the good thing about her is she’ll really enjoy doing this” (Bucknell, 1997, p. 669). The surprise at Hooker’s ﬁndings in her Rorschach research was felt not only in the academic community of Psychology, but also in the gay community. Isherwood commented how:
Evelyn told me how Klopfer, the great Rorschach expert, can actually tell from Rorschachs which patients have slow-growing cancers and which fast- growing ones – because patients who have made a good adjustment to life are able to put up a much greater resistance to them. And yet, Klopfer wasn’t able from Rorschachs to tell a homosexual from a heterosexual.
(emphasis original, December 8th 1956, Bucknell, 1997, p. 669)
In 1957 ‘The Adjustment of the Overt Male Homosexual’ was published by both The Journal of Projective Techniques and in the Mattachine Review. Tragedy struck again in 1957 when Hooker’s second husband unexpectedly died; the two had been married only six years. While Hooker’s work was later called upon by activists and academics alike in the ﬁght against the pathologisation of ‘homosexuality’, her work at this point continued but proved difﬁcult given the tough context in which she worked. Following her husband’s death, Isherwood commented she looked ‘mortally tired’ despite being about to embark on further research. He elaborated:
her new project – the investigation of social patterns of homosexuality. As she says herself, the only way she can do this is to follow up every clue and see and talk to anybody who is willing.
(Isherwood diary, September 29th 1957, Bucknell, 1997, p. 730)
It seemed, according to Isherwood at least, that Hooker’s work was central to her during this tough time and she seemed a very lonely ﬁgure, working in solitude with her data collected from gay men.
one always feels drawn to Evelyn, because she is indeed doing so much good in the world. And how lonely she must be! One sees her all alone in that garden house, surrounded by her tapes of statements – by the gay bar owner, the wealthy male prostitute, et etc.
(June 26th 1960, Bucknell, 1997)
Later that summer in July Don Baccardy drew Hooker and she had found the experience very strange, “like having one’s own Rorschach test made” (Bucknell, 1997, p. 888).
In 1967 Hooker was invited to be the head of the Task Force on Homosexuality. Their report issued in 1969 suggested that the medical model which labelled all ‘homosexuals’ as pathological was false. But they did still suggest that prevention was important for children and adolescents, and that treatment was also recommended for those who had some heterosexual leanings. Echoing the Wolfenden Report (1957) in Britain the general tone of the report was liberal and it was opposed to discrimination based on sexuality. The report’s publication was delayed until 1972 but activist homophile groups in the US found out about the report prior to this. Groups such as the Mattachine Society, the Daughters of Bilitis, and ONE, ﬁrst established in the 1950s, drew upon the work of Hooker in their arguments against the pathologisation of homosexuality – it is the blending of science and society, of activism and academia which fuelled the wave to change (see Minton, 2002).
In 1970 Hooker opened her own private clinical psychology practice in Santa Monica. Three years later American Psychology removed homosexuality ‘per se’ from their diagnostic manual of mental disorders and Hooker’s work was cited as pivotal in the change, along with the work of people like Frank Kameny (see Minton, 2002). Previously, in 1959 Hooker had commented in conversation with Christopher Isherwood that she “wished the young would get excited about issues the way they did in the thirties” (Bucknell, 1997, p. 813), and they certainly did. From the 1960s–1970s political movements, student protests, and gay liberation were well underway, especially in the US. Within this history, Hooker continues to be recognised as a key ﬁgure in the movement to depathologise homosexuality: Hooker’s place in the history of Psychology and gay liberation has been cemented (see Minton, 2002). She died in Santa Monica, California on 18th November 1996, having seen her work help in the depathologisation of homosexuality in 1973 in the DSM and later, the International Classiﬁcation of Diseases also removed its classiﬁcation in 1990.
June Hopkins was originally from Texas where she gained both her degree in Psychology (University of Texas) and her master’s in Psychology (from Baylor University). In the 1950s she joined the US Air Force as a Personnel Ofﬁcer where she met “lots of lesbians who were absolutely smashing” (Clarke & Hopkins, 2002, p. 44). Despite the connections she made with other queer women, Hopkins married the chief Methodist Padre of the US Royal Air Force though they both knew she was lesbian.2 In the 1960s the couple moved to Britain when her husband got a role in Scarborough, where Hopkins still lived in 2002, though she was still described as a ‘proud Texan’ (Clarke & Hopkins, 2002). At the point of getting this role, Hopkins’ husband warned the church that “My wife will not be a second minister. She wants to work and she will.” Her ﬁrst role upon landing in Britain was a Probationer Psychologist at United Cambridge and Fulbourn Hospitals; a year later she qualiﬁed as a Clinical Psychologist.
In the mid-1960s Hopkins began her research into lesbians, directly because of her beliefs against the pathologisation of homosexuality at the time. In an interview with Victoria Clarke (Clarke & Hopkins, 2002), she said:
When I was working at Cambridge Hospital, they kept calling certain patients, as a diagnosis, “lesbian” or “gay” and I thought that was very strange. What they were doing too was using a test that they had devised for male homosexuals – the Rorschach ink blot test – for lesbians as well. I thought, “This can’t be – I’m sure this isn’t right”.
Not only was she unconvinced that lesbians and gay men were pathological because of their sexualities, she had also been inﬂuenced by people she knew and social injustice. Speciﬁcally, she had been outraged by the dismissals of lesbian women she knew from the Air Force and wanted to prove there was nothing neurotic or pathological about lesbians:
When I was in the Air Force, I had a great feeling of injustice: if you were found out to be a lesbian you would be discharged and it wouldn’t be an honorable discharge. I was a Squadron Commander for a while and there were women in my organization whom I knew were lesbians. I knew it and I thought they were super. No way would I have ever had them investigated. But the minute I left there, there was a big investigation and some of my very favourite people were out. I was so appalled by this. This was another reason why I wanted to do something. I wanted to say, “Hey these are wonderful gals. Why are we getting rid of them?”. That really bugged me and stayed with me. The Air Force had a lot to do with why I wanted to do the research and make some kind of contribution.
(Clarke & Hopkins interview, 2002, p. 46, emphasis original)
Hopkins was the ﬁrst person to publish original Rorschach research on lesbian women in Britain. Importantly, she used the word ‘lesbian’ in her 1969 and 1970 papers instead of ‘female homosexual’ as was more common given the pathological understanding of ‘homosexuality’ in Psychology at the time. For example, Barker (1970) – who conducted the study already mentioned at the very beginning of this chapter – also published Rorschach work on lesbians, but identiﬁed his participants as ‘female homosexuals’ in the same issue of the British Journal of Projective Psychology and Personality Study as Hopkins (1970) was published.
Hopkins published two central papers on lesbian women. In both she drew on data she collected using the Minority Research Group, a group of lesbian women volunteering for research in order to discredit the idea that lesbian women were pathological. She tested all her recruited participants with seven psychological tests, one of which was the Rorschach. The ﬁrst paper compared the 24 lesbian women to heterosexual women on two personality tests, including Cattell’s 16 Personality Factor test. However, instead of concluding there was no signiﬁcant difference between the two groups as Hooker had done previously with gay men, Hopkins concluded that lesbian women were different, though she had not quite expected to ﬁnd that result.
I didn’t think there would be differences, I didn’t think lesbians would be any stronger, any weaker, than the heterosexual women but, as it turned out, there were differences and all of the differences, I felt, were very healthy and were good ones – self-sufficient, that sort of thing. I also felt that my paper might change the opinion of people who thought lesbians were all neurotic. By definition, if you were lesbian or were gay, you were neurotic and I just didn’t think that was true.
(Clarke & Hopkins, 2002, p. 44, emphasis original)
Published in 1969 in The Lesbian Personality, she argued that lesbian women have a distinct personality. But rather importantly, unlike the rest of the majority of psychological literature, she described lesbian women’s personalities more positively compared to heterosexual women. She argued that her ﬁndings showed lesbian women were more independent, resilient, reserved, dominant, bohemian, self-sufﬁcient, and composed compared to their ‘heterosexual female counterpart’. Hopkins therefore represents one of the earliest ‘signs’ of progressive and afﬁrmative queer thinking in British Psychology.
This 1969 paper, published the same year as the Stonewall riot in New York City, was according to Hopkins rather easy to publish. Serendipitously, John Bancroft had also written a paper about ‘homosexuality’ for the British Journal of Psychiatry and so both papers were published together. Hopkins was also rather deliberate in her choice of journal: “I Choose the BJP to publish in because it was the most prestigious journal at that time and because I wanted to open the minds of psychiatrists who viewed lesbians as neurotic” (Clarke & Hopkins, 2002, p. 46). Bancroft’s paper, in stark contrast to Hopkins, is a much longer paper detailing the use of electric aversion therapy on ten gay men in attempt to cure them of their homo- sexuality. Only one ‘case’, or ‘subject’, was deemed completely successful, though seven were said to have a change in ‘sexual attitude’ after ‘treatment’ but only three men sustained this change short-term. Despite the subsequent anxiety in several men and depression detailed in all the descriptions of the participants, Bancroft was encouraged to continue his research to see if he could continually justify the use of what he called ‘an inherently unpleasant method’. The use of aversion therapy is brieﬂy discussed again in Chapters 5 and 6. For further detail on the use of aversion therapy in Britain I strongly recommend Tommy Dickinson’s (2015) book Curing Queers: Mental Nurses and Their Patients 1935–1974.
The history of aversion therapy and its use in ‘curing’ gay men especially, illustrates the homophobic and highly medicalised contexts in which Hopkins was working. As a queer woman herself she was embedded within a discipline which pathologised her. She may not have been out at the time, but she knew ‘in her own mind’ she was a lesbian and despite the challenge and the stigmatisation she continued on with her afﬁrming and pioneering research. In fact, she turned down an invitation for a job at a girls’ school because of her research. She felt that it was too important to stop and she was dedicated to ﬁnishing it. She was also aware of the social stigma and implications if the head of a girls’ school was interested in lesbians, or indeed, was one herself. This was not an easy time to conduct such work and Hopkins remembered the difﬁculties she faced when doing research on sex and sexuality:
I was terribly isolated, just terribly. I did other research in the area of sex before I began the lesbian study. To read the literature on sex in the Cambridge University Library, I actually had to go into a separate room and be supervised by somebody. You had to be observed reading this salacious literature The literature was all under lock and key. I couldn’t just go and get the books. Those were the days when, you didn’t write about sex and you didn’t talk about sex and anything aberrant like homosexuality, you were under suspicion [if you were interested in it]. Even in the hospital, everybody knew what I was doing but they didn’t want to discuss it with me. I felt that was very apparent. They made snide comments about my research: I think they thought it was a bit of a bore and not at all important. So it wasn’t a very happy time. Also, I didn’t feel that I could discuss it with anybody on the outside at all.
(Clarke & Hopkins, 2002, p. 45)
Hopkins’ dedication to her research seemed to know no bounds. The data for both the 1969 and 1970 papers were collected single-handedly over a one-year period. In this year she individually administered seven separate personality tests, including the Rorschach, to over a hundred lesbians. Travelling to London every weekend for one year to test lesbian women, usually recruited via the Minorities Research Group (MRG, see Chapter 5), she remembered how she would return to Cambridge with a swollen wrist from ‘just writing, writing, writing’. She had also visited the Gateways, a famous lesbian night club, to also recruit lesbian women for her research. However, she had to rely on personal contacts and wives associated with her husband’s work to recruit the 24 heterosexual women she needed for her sample – a much more difﬁcult task.
In 1970 she published her Rorschach research with these women. In her 1970 paper Lesbian Signs on the Rorschach she used the same data, and the Rorschach speciﬁcally, to show that there were particular ‘signs’ on the Rorschach for lesbian women, some of which matched the personality traits she had already found. Here she argued once again for lesbian difference. Quite unlike Hooker (1957) she argued there were lesbian signs on the Rorschach. The lesbian signs that lesbian women showed were: a) ‘deprecated’ female responses (meaning they were demeaning responses about women), b) lesbian women often provided less than three responses per plate, and 3) that Card 7 was often the least liked card.
These lesbians ‘signs’ are fascinating on their own because they contrast rather dramatically with the kinds of ‘gay signs’ that were uncovered in the US in mid-20th century. Hopkins did initially structure her work around the gay signs Wheeler (1949) identiﬁed but also argued that there was an androcentric aspect to this work and that speciﬁc lesbian signs were not available in the literature. In fact, in her article she noted how she considered all suggestions so far on what the signs were for male ‘homosexuality’ which included ‘Hooker’s male homosexual indicators’. However unlike Wheeler (1949) and Barker (1970) who suggested these signs were pathological and rather stereotypically sexual, Hopkins’ (1970) signs were not attributing overly sexualised meanings to signs. Her ﬁndings contrasted with Shafer and Holt (1954) who seemed to apply gay signs for men onto women but in a reversed way. So ‘masculine emphasis’ and ‘perversions’, as well as the rejections of women’s ‘conventional feminine role and status’ (p. 137) were considered signs for queer women.
What Hopkins did was rather more feminist, not to mention afﬁrmative, in approach as she sought lesbian signs on the Rorschach from participants who were not experiencing psychological distress, nor did she deduce lesbian signs from that of gay men’s. Indeed, the Psychology of Women as a subject grew out of this exact issue that women were often seen as defunct versions of men and so in Psychology, the ﬁndings of studies of men were liberally applied to women, and such Rorschach work on gay signs is just one example of this.
In reﬂection of this work in later interviews with Victoria Clarke, Hopkins highlights the distinctly difﬁcult context of the late 1960s in doing this kind of work.
I was a little worried because at the time it wasn’t acceptable at all. We’re talking about 1969 when the paper [The Lesbian Personality in the British Journal of Psychiatry] was published. I felt I was treading on very delicate ground.
It is also exceptionally important to recognise Hopkins’ own sexuality and experiences within this context. She stated that:
I didn’t know whether I wanted to be a lesbian or not, whether I wanted to be identified as a lesbian. I decided later that I didn’t care. After all the literature came out, it felt quite respectful. I was married and my husband knew I was a lesbian but I wasn’t an active lesbian – I was one in my own mind. I had known for years in my own mind. I hadn’t “come out”.
(Clarke & Hopkins, 2002)
Despite Hopkins’ good intentions her research was perceived as homophobic by researchers in the US. The distinctions Hopkins made between lesbian and hetero-sexual women was concerning for many, as talk of difference signiﬁed pathology in the US context. Morin (1977) described her research as homophobic due to her search for ‘lesbian signs’ on the Rorschach. He presumed that by ﬁnding lesbian signs Hopkins was attempting to diagnose homosexuality, which she was not. Rather, all of her self-identiﬁed lesbian participants were engaged in research in order to prevent such diagnosis and pathologisation of homosexuality.
Similarly, in Britain, Hopkins’ work was initially received rather negatively. She herself remembers a critique that she was working within the medical model, which she found strange as that had been the opposite to her intention (Clarke & Hopkins, 2002). Similarly, in 1987 Celia Kitzinger criticised Hopkins’ 1969 study as one which removed the political aspects of lesbian experience, separating it out from the social world. This, Kitzinger, argued, was related to the veneer of objectivity used in such studies to remove the active nature of the researcher and imply passivity. It also meant that in the effort to reject lesbian pathology, researchers who tested such a theory still “take seriously the possibility that we [lesbians] might be less mentally healthy than heterosexuals” (Kitzinger, 2002, p. 50). However, later with Sue Wilkinson, they instead used Hopkins’ research in a rather tongue-in-cheek way to demonstrate how perhaps lesbians were in fact more healthy than hetero-sexual women (Kitzinger & Wilkinson, 1993) – an interpretation which seems to be highly congruent with Hopkins’ own interpretation of her ﬁndings.
Following decades of growth in Lesbian and Gay Psychology, Hopkins’ work was remembered as pioneering and brave in a special issue of Lesbian and Gay Psychology Review (2002, Volume 3, part 2). Kitzinger, in reﬂection of Hopkins’ work, concluded with a thank you to June Hopkins “for a brave, early, scholarly article which continues to contribute to both the science and to the politics of lesbian and gay psychology” (p. 51). Similarly, Julie Fish recognised the feminist perspective of Hopkins, highlighting speciﬁcally her explicit ‘thank you’ to her research participants in her research acknowledgments. In doing so, “Hopkins demonstrated both her respect for lesbians and her commitment to feminist principles” (p. 57). Hopkins continued with this feminist work into the 1980s when she focused on topics such as rape and sexual assault, once again having been inﬂuenced by the experiences of a friend (see Hopkins, 1984). In 1988 Hopkins retired but in 2002 she was interviewed by Victoria Clarke for the special issue and reﬂected on her own experiences researching lesbians, as a lesbian, in the 1960s. In looking back, she commented that:
I find it extraordinarily amazing, having watched the changes. When you think about it, it’s hard to believe. Anything that is pioneering is going to be hard but when you’re doing it, you don’t think about it as pioneering. I didn’t think about what I was doing. I just did it because I wanted to. (p. 47)
While Hopkins herself has not been able to recognise her own bravery in her work, Halla Beloff echoes the thoughts of many when she described Hopkins as ‘fearless and clear-eyed’ (Beloff, 2002, p. 48; see also, Fish, 2002).
Hopkins’ and Hooker’s work are distinctly comparable. However, while Hooker has been viewed as central to the depathologisation of homosexuality in the US because of her research on gay men, little attention, except the special issue mentioned above, has been paid to the work of Hopkins. Hooker’s demonstration that there was no distinction between gay men and heterosexual men on the Rorschach appeared far more useful to efforts of depathologisation (1957; see Minton, 2002). In contrast Hopkins’ work argued that lesbian women were different, and this type of progressive work was not reclaimed as distinctly afﬁrmative until the turn of the 21st century. Despite the differences between the results of Hopkins’ and Hooker’s work, both are now recognised as being a part of the complex history of the removal of homosexuality as a mental illness per se in 1973. In the following I untangle the similarities and differences between these two researchers in an effort to contextualise the meanings of their results and explain how such different approaches can have the same overall objective.
Importantly, both Hopkins and Hooker aimed to stop queer people from being considered pathological based on their sexuality. Their work needs to be considered in light of their particular contexts. For example, Hopkins argued lesbian women were different, and used more positive language to describe them; these positives removed the idea that lesbian women were vulnerable and neurotic. However, it did echo some stereotyped ideas about lesbian women being particularly dominating and more masculine than straight women (Jennings, 2007a). Similarly, it is also worth taking into consideration Hooker’s (1957) conclusion in which she suggested ‘very tentatively’ (emphasis original, p. 30) that “homosexuality as a clinical entity does not exist” (1957; see Hegarty, 2003b; Hooker, 1960, 1992). Perhaps not quite the forceful pro-queer stance we might be looking for in the past, but within context this was certainly a signiﬁcantly positive statement to make about gay men.
The differences between Hopkins’ and Hooker’s work are clear but they also have some striking similarities. It is worthy of note that while Hopkins was working in Britain and published her work in British journals, they are actually both American women working within a discipline largely dominated by men (Clarke, Ellis, Peel, & Riggs, 2010; Hooker, 1992). Though of course projective testing was seen as an area more suited to women, as we have explored in Chapter 1.
Both Hooker and Hopkins were studying homosexuality using the Rorschach and the tests’ perceived reliability and validity were central to their ﬁndings. Without belief in the Rorschach’s potential to discern people’s psychology, Hooker’s ﬁnding that psychologists could not successfully distinguish between ‘homosexual’ and heterosexual participants and Hopkins’ ﬁndings that there were lesbian signs on the Rorschach would have been meaningless. For these studies to work and act against pathologisation, belief and trust in the Rorschach’s validity was vital.
A distinction between the two women is that Hooker studied men and Hopkins studied women. Given the absolute focus on men within the US Rorschach literature, it is surprising to see a relative focus on lesbian women in the British literature (Barker, 1970; Hopkins, 1970). In fact, Hopkins distinctly highlighted androcentrism within the Rorschach research literature and argued against the application of gay men’s ‘signs’ on the Rorschach being uncritically applied to women (Hopkins, 1970).
Both Hopkins and Hooker were said to have been inﬂuenced by their friends and it was their direct experiences of lesbian and gay people that led them to conduct such research. Hooker famously became interested in gay men because of Sam From, with whom she became friends (Minton, 2002). Hopkins similarly became interested from her experiences in the US Air Force where lesbian women were being discharged due to their sexuality (Clarke et al., 2010). Their work can in some ways be seen as efforts for social justice as they engrained their studies within the social context of the world. While Hopkins (1969) was later criticised for removing the political and attempting to overly objectify lesbians (Kitzinger, 1987), both Hopkins and Hooker were inspired by social injustices and used the psychological tools they had to try and demonstrate lesbians and gay men were not pathological based on their sexualities. Hopkins also highlighted how her focus on objectivity was deliberate, as was her publication in a prestigious journal as these would mean her work was more likely to have a greater impact on the psychological community and be more convincing to an audience of pathologising and homophobic psychologists and psychiatrists (see Peel, 2002).
The differences in the participants of these two studies are telling. Hooker has said that she had been asked later why she did not research lesbian women and do the same for them as she did for gay men (Hegarty, 2003a). However, she argues that to have asked the National Institute of Mental Health at the time would have meant she would be under investigation of being a lesbian herself. Hooker (1992) describes some of the ordeals she went through in order to investigate gay men, including suspicions of her own sexuality and dealing with the police in regards to both the conﬁdentiality and illegality (at the time) of her participants’ sexual behaviours. McCarthyism was also rife and so Hooker was continuously reinforcing her own heterosexuality, or as she described it, she had to be as ‘pure as the driven snow’ (Hegarty, 2003a). In contrast, however, Hopkins studied women and did so despite the fact she too may have been considered a lesbian herself – which of course, she was. “Back then, if you were associating yourself with lesbians, then you were a lesbian” (Clarke & Hopkins, 2002, p. 46). She also chose to publish her papers under her own name, whereas other people published anonymously: “they didn’t want to be named but I was prepared to be tarred with the brush” (p. 46). It most likely helped reinforce the impression of Hopkins’ heterosexuality however, in her acknowledgments where she thanks her husband for his assistance. However, she certainly did defy convention in her approach to her work and her perspective and she also demonstrated a level of bravery during a potentially difﬁcult time when she was not out, but studying lesbians in a highly pathologising ﬁeld.
In both matched paired studies, Hooker and Hopkins both needed heterosexual people to take part and to be similar in age and education to their queer participants. Hooker had to become fully submersed in the gay community and build trust in order to recruit the gay men for her study (1957). Her work was heavily supported by the gay community (e.g. The Mattachine Review, Hegarty, 2003a; Minton, 2002). However, she described difﬁculty in recruiting heterosexual counterparts because of the nature of her research (Hegarty, 2003a). Hopkins similarly found it much easier to gain lesbian participants because of the Minorities Research Group (MRG) and the Gateways club. She tested over 100 lesbian women but only reported ﬁndings of 24 because she found it so difﬁcult to recruit heterosexual women because she had only recently moved to Britain (Clarke & Hopkins, 2002). It seems that being in a new place – a new country or a new community – and the stigmas of such research had profound effects speciﬁcally for potential heterosexual participants.
The key comparative feature between the work of Hopkins and Hooker is the idea of difference. Hooker in effect argued that gay men and heterosexual men are the same, whereas Hopkins argued lesbian women and heterosexual women are different. Hopkins arguably provided positive aspects of the lesbian personality to counter the pathology surrounding the psychology of lesbian women at the time (see Peel, 2002), whereas Hooker used a lack of difference as evidence of lack of pathology. These approaches also had different consequences in each national context. In America where difference suggested pathology, discourses of sameness were afﬁrmative. In contrast, in Britain where there was little military involvement and a lesser concern of homosexuality in the post-war era, discourses of difference had more potential to be positive.
Hegarty (2003b) speciﬁcally discussed Hooker’s use of signiﬁcance testing; he described how Hooker’s conclusion that there was no difference between the gay men’s and straight men’s Rorschach responses might hinge on what speciﬁc type of statistical test Hooker implemented. Hooker argued, quite rightly, that in a clinical setting psychologists would not receive two matched Rorschach responses. She therefore did unmatched analysis. Had she have chosen otherwise, it might have been possible for her to argue that there were distinguishable differences between the Rorschach responses of gay men and straight men. Statistics therefore require interpretation just as ink blots do. To quote Hegarty (2003b):
significance testing is an inexact process, and that the means by which marginally significant results are determined to be “significant” or “non-significant” forms part of the historical process by which scientific “facts” about sexuality are constructed.
(p, 31, see re-print 2018)
Overall there seems to be a major difference in attitudes in Britain compared to the US. Hopkins had a more afﬁrmative approach and struggled less with the speciﬁc suspicious Cold-War context that was rife in the US at the time (Lemov, 2011; Lutz, 1997). However, it should be noted that Hopkins and Hooker were both studying homosexuality at different points in time, as mentioned. The British papers were not published until 1969/1970 whereas Hooker published her initial work in 1957. Separated by over a decade within very different cultural contexts of each time, these socio-historical differences should be taken into account when considering the differences between approaches. Hooker (1992) described her ordeals with studying homosexuality during the Cold-War era, whereas in contrast Hopkins was able to conduct her research in the late 1960s when gay liberation was underway. Yet she did still come across prejudice and substantial difﬁculties in conducting afﬁrmative research. For example, both Hooker and Hopkins experienced isolation working in absolute solitude on their research projects. Isherwood described Hooker as working ‘all alone’ and theorised about her loneliness in her big garden house surrounded by the tapes of gay men she interviewed. Hopkins too, reﬂected on the loneliness in her work as she felt she could not talk to anyone and her colleagues were distinctly disparaging of her research.
Another key difference in these two studies is the sexuality of the researcher themselves. Hopkins identiﬁed (albeit only in her own mind at the time of publication) as a lesbian. This was in contrast to Hooker in the US who reinforced her own heterosexuality to avoid accusations of her being queer (Hooker, 1992). Such identiﬁcation (or non-identiﬁcation) with one’s participants can be viewed in some ways as either bias or as beneﬁcial. In the early days of Psychology, women researchers were treated as suspicious in regards to their study of women (Morawski & Agronick, 1991). Hookers’ experiences somewhat mirrored this; she argued that people would have thought she had some kind of ulterior motive to wish to research lesbians. However, upon reﬂection of Hopkins’ work, she can be viewed as having brave authority to have discussed possible lesbian signs on the Rorschach and lesbian personality traits. Within the comparison of Hooker and Hopkins it is possible to see how the shift of authority has developed. Hooker had to reinforce her own heterosexuality in order to be considered legitimate enough to be able to study homosexuality. The distancing of her own identity from her subjects meant her research was viewed as less biased and more objective. In con- trast, however, Hopkins’ later open identiﬁcation with her participants has shown an understanding of her subjects’ experiences and perspectives which also suggests her work is reliable.
Despite the directly comparable studies and the similar aims, Hooker has been remembered and claimed as an afﬁrmative researcher to a much greater extent than Hopkins. Malley (2002), in recognising that Hopkins’ work was like Hooker’s, suggested they both had “blown the gaff on the fact that clinical judgements of lesbian or gay male populations were not derived solely from a scientiﬁcally objective stance” (2002, p. 55). Peel (2002) also suggested that Hopkin’s work was ahead of its time due to a) its explicit focus on lesbians, b) its positivist-empiricist approach, and c) its emphasis on unpathological difference between lesbians and heterosexual women. It has been suggested as well that it might be that Hopkins’ work was paid less attention precisely because of her focus on lesbians, rather than gay men, and because of it being conducted and published in Britain (Malley, 2002).
The Rorschach as a tool for good
As demonstrated in the research of Hooker and Hopkins, just as Psychology legitimised homophobic practices and the pathologisation of queer people via tests like the Rorschach, Psychologists used the Rorschach to try to depathologise ‘homosex- uality’ and develop afﬁrmative approaches. For this work to be successful it is worth noting that for this to work, psychologists had to be invested in the Rorschach as valid, reliable, and good scientiﬁc practice. Belief in the Rorschach has therefore not just had a history of homophobic practice but it was precisely belief in the Rorschach which meant that more afﬁrmative work could happen. The Rorschach itself is therefore not inherently good, or bad, but works in the hands of those who use it. Our intentions inﬂuence the science we produce.
These studies, however, also needed to be considered within context and the actions of participants also need to be recognised. It was the speciﬁc social, medicalised, and historical context of the 1950s–1960s which meant this work could happen and by whom. For example, in both of these examples it is the people these psychologists knew who inspired them and the social injustices being acted against them which created the afﬁrmative perspectives of both Hooker and Hopkins. Without Sam From’s direct request and the Minorities Research Group actively inviting researchers to use them as participants, these studies would not have happened. The studies therefore represent an early integration of activist-academic work. Queer people at this time did a great deal for these researchers – volunteers to take part in Hooker and Hopkins’ research vastly outnumbered the heterosexual people willing to take part. It is the work of these activist groups which I explore in greater detail in Chapter 5.
When looking back at Card 3 now, it is possible to reﬂect upon the young woman’s interpretation of the ink blot at the beginning of this chapter. On the one hand her response can be interpreted as ‘deprecating’ indicating Hopkins’ (1970) lesbian sign, or that such an interpretation would not be signiﬁcantly different of that of a heterosexual women, in keeping with Hooker’s (1957) conclusion. I argue that in Card 3, it is possible to see the outlines of two women, side by side, working tirelessly together, perhaps differently but with one common goal. Card 3 therefore represents to me Evelyn Hooker and June Hopkins. And just like the edges of an ink blot, the history of Psychology does not have a distinct and clear edge. It blurs into other areas, like gay liberation and activist groups.
- Dr Katherine Hubbard is a Lecturer in the Sociology Department having previously worked in the School of Psychology. [email protected]
• In 1954 Don Bachardy was classified by the US military as ‘4-F’ after revealing he was homosexual. Such categorisations of men were developed in order to distinguish groups of men available for the draft. Class 1 indicated men available and suitable for training. Class 4 was considered a deferral from military action for various reasons and the subcategory F was specifically for those who were considered to be physically, mentally, or morally unfit for military service. As well as ill-health, these included crimes such as murder and treason, plus sodomy and ‘sexual perversion’ (Bucknell, 1997). See Chapter 2 for further details on such military exclusion and the use of the Rorschach in detecting ‘homosexuality’ in potential officers in the US military.
• For more information, see Amy Tooth Murphy (2013): “I confirmed; I got married. It seemed like a good idea at the time’: domesticity in postwar lesbian oral history.”
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