Sheila’s Story

Sheila’s Story

Born in 1951, Sheila Gilhooly grew up in Ottawa. Her story is very different from those of most LGBTQ youth today.

When I first went to college, there I was in a college library, all anonymous, no one cared what I took out and I looked up homosexuality and there were two references. One was to The Well of Loneliness which is a really depressing novel by Radcliffe Hall. The other was The Omnibus of Abnormal Psychology which had a write-up in it. So I didn’t find myself in either of those two places. – Sheila

text and face fragment
And she said if I had had shock I must be sick…

After her first sexual experience with a woman, Sheila came out to a counselor as a lesbian. She then spent the next three years of her life in and out of the psychiatric wards of various hospitals.

Like many lesbians who encountered the psych professions in this era, Sheila underwent electric shock treatment, and endured constant admonitions to dress and act in a more feminine fashion.

After her last hospitalization, Sheila found supportive lesbian and feminist communities. Moving to Vancouver in 1981, she became even more active in these circles.