How would the gay rights movement had gone if conversion therapy actually worked?

Say, in 1950, researchers discovered that a simple drug cocktail coupled with 3 psychotherapy sessions were sufficient to convert gay people straight with a 95% success rate. Those who were converted reported the same range of sexual response as a typical heterosexual person with no homosexual longings and there were no notable negative side effects.

What would have happened to the society and it’s relationship with homosexuals if this had happened? Would gay people have voluntarily undergone the conversion? Would they have been forced to? Would there be any gay people remaining today?

How would it be different if instead, this discovery were made today?

It would have slowed the progress of civil rights…but not stopped it. Gay Rights would eventually have won out. Maybe not by 2013, but in time.

A certain number of people would choose not to take the cure. Their rights would still need to be considered and protected.

After all, we protect religious dissent, and that’s even easier to change.

A great many parents would have forced it on their children as soon as “gay” symptoms began to manifest. A great many parents would still do so today.
What happens, just out of curiosity, if the treatment is administered to someone who is actually straight but just happens to seem gay-ish to an overly-sensitive observer? A treatment as described wouldn’t be limited to just homosexuals, but anyone who transgressed someone else’s idea of gender norms - boys who like musicals, girls who like sports…

In your hypothetical, is there a similar treatment to turn a straight person gay? And what of bisexuals or asexuals?

Let’s say for the sake of argument that the drug cocktail temporarily puts your sexual orientation into a labile state and that the psychotherapy sessions set them. You could turn a gay man straight or a straight man gay or a bisexual man straight. It doesn’t affect other manifestations of the behavior apart from sexual attraction so if you liked musicals before, you’ll still like musicals.

Easier to change? Well changes in religious belief certainly do happen. But they can’t happen against a person’s will.

I think that first of all, there would be a lot less homosexuals, and it would be far more stigmatized. I mean, look at the difference in attitude between those who believe it is a choice and/or can be fixed, and those who understand that it is essentially immutable - the latter are basically forced to accept that gays are sticking around and that they need to be treated with the same dignity as anyone else, while the former treat gays a bit like furries or scat fetishists. And a lot more gays would also treat it as if they had some sort of disorder, and hurry to get it fixed. In the 50s? If this had happened back then, there probably wouldn’t be a “gay rights” movement. Accepting homosexuality as “normal” is an ongoing process that still isn’t complete, and in the 50s, coming out as gay was the kind of thing that really wrecked careers, and I think most people would rush to get the treatment. Ideally, we’d treat all gay people the same, but realistically? I don’t see that happening.

Rights for homosexuals wouldn’t exist, because there essentially wouldn’t be any to have rights in the first place. There would have been a worldwide effort to eradicate homosexuality with this, enforced by gunpoint if necessary. There wouldn’t be enough left to apply any kind of political pressure for rights, and they wouldn’t dare come out of hiding to even try because they’d just be dragged off and “adjusted”.

I expect you’ll also see it used in attempts to inflict other “useful” psychological changes, like turning women compulsively submissive, making people compulsively religious, or the general population compulsively submissive to authority. It might well work, if the desired behavior can be framed in the form of sexual compulsion; compelling someone to desire a specified gender isn’t that different than compelling them to be sexually submissive to that gender.

If that doesn’t work, there will be research to create a version that does; probably successful research as the existence of this mind control treatment indicates that others are possible.

Then I think the other side of this as well as parents converting their kids would be that, since there’s already people who think gay folk set out to convert straight folk, the ability to actually do that would only increase that fear more. And I would expect some parents of naturally gay children to blame their orientation on this conversion rather than, well, nature/nurture of a non-medicinal basis.

OTOH, I expect it would probably be used usefully in research by some. Sexual orientation eliminated as a conflicting variable could well be helpful - assuming in this universe that such experimentation would be a) allowed. I would worry that the ability to so change a major part of ourselves, and one that would probably be at the very least socially pressured, would decrease our respect for people’s makeup in general. After all, if we can change this, what else might it be possible to change?

I don’t know, look at the deaf community and their attitude to cochlear surgery. Some like it and embrace it, some think it reinforces that they are less than perfect and prefer to just use sign language and get on with it.

And although you may think your neighbour should get the surgery for their kid, you’re not advocating it be done by force. You’re happy for it to be their decision, and their life to live, with the consequences one way or the other.

I think that is how it would play out, pretty much.

Could it also turn people bisexual? From what I hear about the '60s and '70s, I could believe there would have been a lot of heterosexual counterculture types willing to turn themselves bisexual. I don’t know what the long-term effect of that would have been on LGBT rights, though. Maybe sex with a same-sex partner would eventually have become no more controversial than premarital sex, or maybe it would still be widely (although not universally) regarded as a dangerous and/or immoral choice like recreational drug use.

Heck, some people might take it before heading off for a weekend in Vegas, just to be open to anything.

To me this is like asking, “what would gay rights be like in a universe where sexual preference was not a core part of our identity?”

The question could still be raised, “why fix it if it isn’t broken?” but, if sexual preference was not key part of what make me me, would I care that much? I think that means the question doesn’t really say much about the universe we actually live in where those who support gay conversion are really asking people to deny their identity.

But there’s never been the same rabid hatred for the deaf as there has been for homosexuals. You don’t see people thrown in prison for being deaf or subjected to “corrective rape” or being beaten to death like you do homosexuals.

In the '50s, there weren’t all that many heterosexual couples lined up to embrace their child’s homosexuality. It’s not like homosexual couples were popping out kids left and right who shared their sexual preferences the way deaf couples frequently have children who share their deafness.

Even with a maximum amount of openness to sexuality, there is no particular inherent benefit to be had by choosing homosexuality over heterosexuality. Bisexuality perhaps opens you up to a larger audience of potential partners.

With the extreme negativity surrounding homosexuality in the mid 20th century, I can’t imagine anyone choosing that path for their child, if they could “fix” them without altering who they are as a person. It would be akin to choosing Depression for your child rather than giving them a permanent, effective, treatment, because you don’t want to change your child’s personality.

This would have been the most powerful weapon of the Cold War, given you specified 1950. You’d have the CIA and KGB drugging diplomats, turning them gay and photographing them in enthusiastic gay sex, and then blackmailing them to keep it secret. Maybe an extra incentive to turn traitor would be a promise to make them straight again later.

Bingo. Because regardless of whether or not homosexuality in and of itself is harmful (it isn’t), the problems associated with being gay are myriad. That these are, for the most part, caused by discrimination is beside the point - I would still never wish being gay on one of my children, and I wouldn’t hesitate to have them changed in a world where it was possible.

Gayness would be seen as an easily-curable mental illness.

Yeah, but the excuse “I was drugged by communist agents” would be plausible.