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San Francisco’s new science museum includes “a dingy 20th century exhibit on mental health”. Mental health clipboards detail the treatment of unfortunate individuals who were institutionalized and drugged for behaviors that, today, we would consider quite normal, including homosexuality.
“Normalcy is a shifting landscape,” explains co-curator Pamela Winfrey, who wants kids and adults alike to understand how medical science helps define convention.
“Frank C” was institutionalized for what doctors called a “homosexual panic.” After being discharged from military service 1942, he went berserk outside of a restaurant. He told physicians, “I know that I am in the Kings County Hospital. I am not sick. I got excited on Fulton Street and I was throwing garbage. My blood temper. I went up. I was angry. In the Virginia restaurant I got a broken plate…I thought that someone planned to kill me.” Doctors “suspected he feared his own latent homosexsual desires; at the time, this so-called ‘homosexual panic’ was believed to lead to paranoia…he was confined in calm and quiet surroundings and treated with medication”.”