Preface: "Man Seeks Castration To Cure His Homosexuality" is the sensational headline for Dr. Charles H. Hughes’s article in the February 1904 edition of the St. Louis-based medical journal Alienist and Neurologist. An “alienist” is a nineteenth century term for a psychologist or psychiatrist. Here is the full text of the 1904 article:
The Gentlemen Degenerate, A Homosexualist's Self Description and Self-Applied Title
By Dr. Charles H. Hughes
How often is there delivered from the womb of some noble and grand woman—some little soul, scarred in such manner that stigmatizes its after life and brings a stain so deeply colored as to stamp it in the eyes of the world a 'social outcast and criminal.' How thoroughly ignorant was one good mother of the burden of sorrow which was fast developing in a boy upon whom she was counting to be an exemplary character in the eyes of his fellow man and as she often expressed it, in the eyes of God—for there was no more queenly type of the true Christian spirit than that which seemed to complete and envelop this good woman. Thanks be to a God whom they say does everything for the best—this darling woman went to her grave knowing nothing of a terrible affliction which had virtually possessed this son from the date of his birth, and whose absence from her dying bedside suggested a picture of neglect.
Where was he? In a little room in the wilds of a distant part of the country, bowed in grief, realizing that he could never kneel at that bedside claiming to be the offspring of such a God-like woman, irrespective of the fact that no responsibility rested upon him and with the full knowledge that, had anyone blamed her, the son would have become a raving maniac.
"The few lines which are written above are simply the preface of a statement which is intended for such who feel that they can gain anything from it in dealing with cases of a like character. We are well aware there is ever a possibility of some good man being thrown into a dungeon for things which are a part of his being, but who is honest, upright, gentlemanly in his manner to others, and who would gladly take flight from a social evil known as sexual perversion, were his brain or mentality so constructed as to enable him to do so.
"The animals in jail for theft and murder and other like fiendish crimes would, even in their absolute indifference to everything going to make up a good man, regard the condition above referred to as honorable. Society has to be protected, of course, yet should scientific mien not exert themselves to do all in their power to save the wellmeaning from degradation and ostracism which naturally follows such affection?
Take our most charitable citizens who are ever ready to rescue the unfortunate from the slough of despond. Is it not in their own nature to shrink from those so cursed, but whom they know in other respects to be their equals in point of birth and general intelligence, and a desire to be clean? "Thirty-nine years ago there was born to a couple in one of the far eastern cities a son—the subject of this discussion. The father was a gentleman of decidedly liberal education, being born in Ireland and graduating from one of the old world's best colleges.
Being an Irish patriot he naturally figured in the rebellion of '48, which meant death to him, unless through intrigue he could escape. Such version as the son was given, of the flight, need not be mentioned here beyond the fact that my old Irish nurse assisted him to the seaport, where he was enabled to jump on board and claim protection of the Stars and Stripes—falling upon his knees at the time, looking upward, thanking God that he was a free man and enjoying the benefits of the emblem of liberty—the American Flag.
Upon reaching the United States he became interested with several other Irish patriots—whose names are watchwords with the Irish as well as the Americans familiar with Irish history—and established or edited a paper known as the Owing to the excited condition of Irish affairs these patriots separated; my father going into another city and state and being immediately taken up by an Irish gentleman and placed in business. It was not long before his attainments became known, and he was recognized as one of the leading intellectual lights of the city, which claimed the distinction of possessing a highly cultured class.
"In the course of time, it being vouched for that my father filled all the requirements of a true gentleman, he became interested in and married a woman who was almost his equal from a literary standpoint—it being almost a puzzle when any question of philosophy or any other studies amongst the older children arose, which to ask— father or mother. However, that love for mother asserted itself and we wanted our father to think that our mother was the brighter and in nine cases out of ten her solutions of problems were correct and our father had nothing to do but admit it. (The object of the writer in mentioning these points will no doubt be understood by those under whose observation this statement may come.)
The marriage was granted under dispensation of the Pope—yet as in most cases of mixed marriages unhappiness was ever conspicuous, every child, however, always sided with the mother, and her religion was courted although she herself never interfered. Aside from this my father was associated with politics, and like most of those who are ranked reasonably high in the same, the liquor habit made its appearance, also epilepsy.
This entailed great hardships upon a proud family and it is needless to say many were the trials and tribulations in that family. If I am correct it was more of the Jacksonian epilepsy than the idiopathic. There was always a peculiar noise preceding the worst of these spells, and the whole family were greatly alarmed. As young as I was at the time I knew nothing of the cause, but regarded it as due to drink. Irrespective of the family clashes over religion, he was at times very kind to his children, and many times when he saw the ship sinking, many times did he call his children to him with tears in his eyes, realizing that he had been the cause of much unhappiness and it was still lurking within reach of his children, to develop to the point of sorrow (in one) that of a social outcast in the eyes of the world, however, but not in the eyes of One whose ways are most mysterious.
This father passed away after a lingering illness due either to epilepsy or apoplexy. The priest was there to perform the last rites of the church—yet as he had not been a Catholic in good standing his remains had to be placed in Protestant burial ground. His pallbearers were men of the highest standing in the community. It was at least certain that with the last flicker of life his mind was on his dear old home in Ireland and the woman upon whom was devolved the correct rearing of the children he left behind.
Was her task easy? No. Many sacrifices were made by her and so far as the daughters were concerned there was nothing to worry about—of the sons, upon two came sorrows for which they were irresponsible, the third still remains close to his sisters and the absent one hopes this boy may be spared to give them that protection which a brother should, for the mother is no more.
With the flight of that soul some fifteen years ago went the whispered words, 'Why does my boy remain so long at the market place?' It is needless to state that when the announcement of this death was communicated to him—that his hand went up in supplication to the Almighty to give him that manliness and character that his mother wished, in order that he could be a companion for his sisters, one to whom they could look up to and take pride in. "Was this son regretful at his father's death
At that time, no; for he felt that he must have been aware of his physical condition at the time he married a grand and beautiful woman. The son a regular 'girl boy' as he was called, always afraid to tell a fib—never using bad language, never smoking nor chewing, thoroughly honest, shunning the girls and always having some boy friend he fancied for his good looks and endeavoring to show him some kindness in the way of making him presents—never cared for an ugly boy—in fact did not know why he particularly cared for any, always studious, receiving high honors at school for thoroughness in his studies and exemplary deportment.
The child mind not understanding the features of certain matters recalls his desire to bunk with any gentleman who might be the guest of his father, and to them, no doubt revelations were made, but naturally ascribed to childish innocence. I felt myself growing stronger in this way. In other words showing a preference for such society and ignoring girls—yet being timid in the presence of both male and female—was frequently twitted about it.
"This of course became an annoyance to me. 1 would never associate with girls and always felt slighted when some boy schoolmate whom I liked would run off with a crowd of boys — was never physically or morally courageous, but always terribly hurt when anyone doubted me. This was done to worry me as they all knew I was quite an honest lad. My method of resentment would usually be to run up and give the hand of the aggressor a good bite. This melancholy condition continued to grow upon me* and it was fast dawning upon me that it would be something to disgrace me in the eyes of those whom I had known all my life, and the shadow would naturally fall upon those nearest and dearest to me on earth. I recall two gentlemen — one especially handsome — whom I knew who had gone west to go into business, and seeing the danger pursuing me, I wrote to them for a position. Mark this peculiar phase of the case.
I felt in some way I could enter into some peculiar relationship with the good looking man. But upon reaching my destination 1 found the party in question prospering, yet so changed that the impression first made become a mere nothing. The writer was at this time about nineteen or twenty, had never touched a drop of liquor, never smoked, chewed, used coarse language or gambled, associated himself with the church (because his mother wished it) and led for a while a good life but was terribly homesick.
Going back to the trip, there were just a few little incidents which I recall that made an impression upon my mind. I ran out of money, with the exception of twenty-five cents, when 1 was half through the trip. I made up my mind not to borrow, so when I reached territory adjacent to that of our own country, the engine having stopped for water, I ran across the line, so 1 could say that I had been on foreign soil and bought a little bologna sausage and bread and was badly scared when some Texan said that there was smallpox over there. But 1 was very hungry and ate the bread and sausage all the same. I did however have to borrow a dollar before reaching , yet the party who obliged me, I did not care for, as it occurred to me I was in the clutches of a desperado or 'con' man. I returned the amountim mediately upon reaching my employer's headquarters, and gave him a polite farewell with thanks for his kindness. Incidentally here I was considered by the people on the train as a young man actor or priest.
"It appeared from the start that I was well liked in my new position and for some reason it occurred to me that I would make a success socially. I carried letters to some of the best families and soon discovered that for one so young and being a little extravagant I was doing well. In a non-professional way I became identified with theatrical, lyric and dramatic people and soon found myself in the social whirl—yet withal, the eye was for the man instead of the woman, that is handsome appearing men. Liquor was soon with me one of the necessities. A handsome man meant the tinkling of glasses. I will leave to those who are interested in the case from a physiological standpoint what at times would follow, in addition to frequent chastisement. Haunting the parks, seaside resorts and other localities, a lonely man afflicted, no hope of cure as intimated by physicians and neurologists, this being repeated to me in all localities, large cities and small towns.
This man who has found rest for a time on the tops of mountains with nothing but God's shelter for him, this man who has sat in the woods with only the beasts of the forest for company, this man who has been on the seashore, with not a soul or house in sight, watching the terrible dark breakers splashing and dashing with but a flickering light here and there to startle him from the great burden under which he was placed.
Why has he handled the pick beside the common foreigner, why has he exhausted himself in pulling heavy timbers over rollers in the large mills on the coasts, at night? Why has he picked the hops in the field of the Northwest and, to escape eiror, crossed the continent again and again to pick apples in an orchard in the absence of other work? Why all this? Because he wished to save his family and the name of the good mother who bore him.
"Twenty-five years of this misery is a long time for such torture, yet the struggle goes on. If the wishes of this lonely man were realized, and he trusts it may not be long before he may find the surroundings illumined and he be enabled to step into the sunlight—a clean and wholesome man—or in the absence of such bliss—his mother's arm be extended down from the region beyond into which he may be embraced and find that rest which may be emblemized as eternal."
These autobiographic reflections of a sexual pervert, with reverse sexual instinct feelings and impulses, are given place here, as contributing to complete the portraiture of the homosexual form of hereditary perversion and also to call attention to the often revealed psychic accompaniment of morbid egoism and craving for sympathy.
Such of this class who have come under my observation and care as patients, have been inclined to write up their cases, without suggestion to that effect and without urging. The morbid egoism to disclose the self-feeling is like that of Claud Hartland, another patient of the editor's, whose book was excluded from the mails.
This narrative does not give details, but were similar to those described by many of Kraft-Ebing's patients troubled by homosexuality. In this case an operation was performed on the filaments of the pudic nerve supplying the testes, but the morbid inclination still persists, notwithstanding the operation and a course of chologogues, antiseptic intestinal treatment and full bromism.
This man is a competent accountant and a cultured gentleman, much distressed still by his persisting malady and has asked to be castrated and talks earnestly of suicide as a not far distant resort in the event of failing of relief. This case appears to be in the head and not in the genitals.
Having endeavored after this operation to convince this unfortunate man that the trouble was now in his brain and mind alone and that he should do as other men have to do and do do, keep his passionate impulses in abeyance to the higher purposes of his nature and the nobler ambitions of life, he answered as follows:
"What you claim can be accomplished through efforts on my part is impossible—of course you will dispute this. Were our positions reversed for a month, you could understand. If the difficulty is with the head, all I have to say is that it has centered there with such vigor and tenacity that it would appear to me that the elimination of the trouble in one center has been doubly concentrated in another. The head of my firm has heard about my weakness and certain insinuations have been spread broadcast, resulting in my displacement from my position.
I will be upon the streets next week—to go where—the Lord only knows. "I can not change this unfortunate condition—for if I could it would be an awful stigma upon me if I did not. You are certainly a grand man—in your profession—yet there must be something about my brain construction that even is beyond you. Let me ask you—would extreme methods (you know my meaning) amount to anything? If so I will go into a charity hospital and have it done. Do something, I must. I have told you the truth. It means that or worse.
"You are the only man who can help me. Would what I have suggested accomplish anything? You may think this idle talk, but no one knows better than myself that it is not. "Save my family I must; they do not know my whereabouts." The sufferings of this unfortunate are real. The training of the inhibitory centers of the cortex over the lower centers of the brain and cord have evidently been sadly neglected in this man's youth.
The full sway of any of the passions tend to moral and physical habitual dominance of the passions in the hereditarily unstable neuropaths, with vicious and perverted passionate entailment from father to son, as appears in this unfortunate victim of congenital fate. The medico-legal aspects of these cases of homosexuality and of some other cases of perverted as well as natural, but abhorrant sexual violence, obtrude here, but we will not now discuss them.
In a letter six months subsequent to the operation he writes as follows: "I am if anything, worse than before, as I now follow in the street those who attract me." On the last of January of the present year this unfortunate neuropath wrote the following despairing letter:
"I am now convinced that from an experience in St. Louis during my last visit (an experience without consummation) that there is absolutely no avenue of escape from my trouble but to be placed under restraint, and if I can get back to St. Louis it is my intention to place myself in the hands of the authorities irrespective of the consequences, as I am certain to get into trouble, and I can not stand this thing longer.
I know just what Dr. and yourself would suggest, yet from the statement of other physicians — the trouble is of the head and there would be no certainty that the operation in question (castration) would be successful. You well know the debilitating experiences through which 1 passed after the first surgical work. I jumped on a train in St. Louis last night and followed a party clean through to South McAIester. I was expected back at the hospital that night. I spent all my money. I do not know for certain that I have a position here, as the company is in a bad way and none of the officials are in town.
"I came very near getting in serious trouble on the trip. If I am compelled to pass through another surgical operation it will have to be at the city hospital. My trunk and satchel are at the Hospital. I feel terribly over this, as I promised Dr. I would conduct myself with decorum. If the remedy he suggested is a sure cure, then I will have to accept it."
Source: Hughes, Charles Hamilton, The Alienist and Neurologist, Vol. 25, February 1904, 3857 Olive Street, St. Louis, Missouri.