Lesson 2: The Homosexual as a Psychiatric Danger

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Lesson Two: The Homosexual as a Psychiatric Danger

Approximately one hour

Opener: ‘Boys Beware’ (12- 15 minutes)

  • Show Boys Beware,’ a 1961 anti-homosexuality film focusing on the “bad men” preying on young boys by Sid Productions.  Ask students to note how homosexual men are portrayed

Discussion: Is homosexuality viewed as normal in this time period? (10-15 minutes)

  • Ask for student input to the views of homosexuals presented in the video
  • Ask if homosexuality is viewed as normal according to the video
  • Engage your students in a discussion of “normal.”  What/who is “normal”?  What defines normal?  Who defines normal?  What is the opposite of normal?  This discussion should be based in students’ experiences, but can be expanded to include historical, transnational, or theoretical issues
  • Ask students what happens if people are labelled as “abnormal”
  • Ask students who labels someone normal/abnormal and what the ramifications are.  List the answers, which could include friends and family, the media, the medical profession, customs/laws, and government

Activity: How is ‘normal’ enforced? (20-30 minutes)

  • As a class, discuss briefly how normality is enforced, giving an example for each category from the list compiled in discussion
  • Using a fictional (and safe) example of someone who is “abnormal”, such as someone wearing two different colour socks, ask your students to work in pairs or groups to fill in a chart similar to the one below


Who creates “normal”

How do they maintain “normal”

Friends/Family Talking with individual about “strange” habits.  Seeking and giving advice about an individual’s behaviour.  Ignoring “problem” behaviour.
The media Creating images of “perfect.”  Providing products to consume.
The medical profession Diagnosing and providing treatment for problems.  Prescribing medication or therapy to “cure” problems.
Customs/laws/government Outlawing activities deemed dangerous or incongruous with societal values.


Closing: Why normality was stressed during this time period (10-15 minutes)

  • Discuss that during the Post-war period there was an extraordinary focus of normality because of the threat of Communism.  As a result, the behaviours of many people were policed.
  • In particular, homosexuality was pathologized and deemed a security threat, leading to people being “outed” and even fired or institutionalized.


Extension Activity


Reaching All Learners

  • According to the level of your class, you might want to create the chart in the activity section together and have your students copy it.


Resources for ‘The Homosexual as a Psychiatric Danger’ lesson:


  1. “Boys Beware” video: 1962


  1. “Tale of a Witch a Hunt” (PDF) Macleans, 2001

Additional Resources for this lesson

  1. A History of Psychiatric Homophobia” (PDF)
  2. Ryan Hotckiss.  “School of Hard Knocks” (JPG)
  3. “To put it bluntly…” (JPG)
  4. “Secret Tests” (PDF)
  5. Report slams gov’t for past treatment of gays and lesbians,” CBC News.
  6. “Perversion for Profit,”  Citizens for Decent Literature.  1965.
  7. A psychiatric ‘problem,‘” CBC Digital Archives.  Video: 1959.
  8. Doctors on homosexuality 1950.