"The Sex They Really Need:" Medicalization and Popular Interpretations of Homosexuality in Postwar Canada


  • Joseph James Wawzonek Mount Royal University




With the fiftieth anniversary of the Stonewall Riots having just past, it is astounding to see the leaps and bounds made by queer historians towards developing an understanding of homophobia in the American postwar period which led up to the riots. While the publicised, state-sanctioned homophobic purges of men and women from public service has been well documented in American history, the equivalent persecution of gay men and lesbians in Canada has gone largely unexamined. Much like other oppressive acts enacted by the Canadian government, the purging of those suspected of homosexuality has been left out of Canada's collective national history. That organisations such as the RCMP and CSIS act as arbiters of archival documentation detailing the means of constructing and detecting the homosexual other only complicates matters further. As such, researchers can be better served through the examination of auxiliary texts, or interviews with those affected by the purges. This paper opts for the former, utilising postwar medical periodicals, popular media publications, and audio recordings of postwar symposiums to unravel the proposed medical basis for state homophobia and demonstrate how scholarly research was appropriated by the press. Through utilising a queer reading of these texts and employing contemporary queer theory, it is revealed that gender anxiety was at the root of the purges and that constructions of homosexual men and women as subversive was the result of self-reinforcing cycles of information misinterpretation. 

Author Biography

Joseph James Wawzonek, Mount Royal University

First year undergraduate student. History Major.