A case of homosexuality in a woman

Rosenbergs asylum in Bergen, photographer unknown. From University of Bergens image collections (ubb-bros-04751).
Rosenbergs asylum in Bergen, photographer unknown. From University of Bergens image collections (ubb-bros-04751).

A woman from Kvam in Hardanger was committed to Dr. Rosenbergs asylum in Bergen in 1895, with the diagnosis "homosexuality". In her home village she had worked as a maidservant, but according to her employer it had become impossible to have her around, as she was continuously seducing other women.

Artikkelen "Et tilfælde av homosexualitet hos en kvinde" av overlege Carl Looft, s 286.
Artikkelen "Et tilfælde av homosexualitet hos en kvinde" av overlege Carl Looft, s 286.

Doctor Carl Looft was so fascinated by this woman that he wrote an article about her in 1896. Thus, he became one of the first to use the term "homosexuality" in Norway - a word that had been introduced only a few years earlier. Looft thought this case particularly interesting as he considered female homosexuality rare. Adhering to the theories of psychiatrists such as Carl Westphal and Richard von Krafft-Ebing, Looft also considered the condition to be hereditary. In this case, that theory was supported by the fact that the woman's mother had been thought "strange". Nonetheless, he did not succeed in curing the woman of what she called her "irksome drives" - despite treatment with hypnosis, cold baths and the sedative potassium bromide. She had also tried to cure herself by completing intercourse with men, but without results, as she found it "disgusting" and "horrid". "She would rather die than be without women", Looft wrote.

From the late 19th century and until quite recently, psychiatry as a field had significant defining power when it came to sexuality. Transvestism, transsexuality, sadism, masochism and homosexuality are amongst those phenomena psychiatry has defined as illnesses to be diagnosed. It wasn’t until the late 1970s that these "perversion" diagnoses started being gradually removed. 

Artikkelen "Et tilfælde av homosexualitet hos en kvinde" av overlege Carl Looft, s 287.
Artikkelen "Et tilfælde av homosexualitet hos en kvinde" av overlege Carl Looft, s 287.

Referanser

Looft, Carl. 1986. "Et tilfælde af homosexualitet hos en kvinde", Medicinsk Revue: referater og oversættelser fra Lungegaardshospitalets bibliothek, samt praktiske Meddelelser for den norske Lægestand, p. 286-287.

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