Hidden from history? The psychiatric treatment of lesbian, bisexual and gender non-conforming women 1952-1990 


  • Dr Helen Spandler

    University of Central Lancashire

Project summary

This is a scoping study to identify and explore treatments given to lesbian, bisexual and gender non-conforming women in the UK mental health system from 1952 until 1990. We will assess the feasibility, design and scope of a larger oral history study exploring women’s lived experiences, developing counternarratives to the clinical discourse. We will provide a preliminary analysis of the extent and types of treatment received by lesbian, bisexual and gender non-confoming women in the UK mental health system. We will compare this with the previously hidden histories of the psychiatric treatment of gay, bisexual and gender non-conforming men. We will scope relevant LGBT, women’s and mental health archives, and find relevant mental health testimonies, memoirs and autobiographical material. We will also develop partnerships with mental health service user organisations for older LGBT people and develop a follow-up research proposal.

Our long-term goal is to include the experiences of lesbian, bisexual and gender-non conforming women in psychiatric history by contributing to the historiographies of psychiatric treatments. We will address the historical gaps in knowledge about both LGBT and mental health user/survivor histories and use the information to support the mental health of older women.