“Treatment is possible and effective”?: Polish sexologists and queers in correspondence in late state socialism. In: Queers in State Socialism: Cruising 1970s Poland. Edited by Tomasz Basiuk and Jędrzej Burszta. Routledge, 2020.
In 1970, a letter signed “JB from Wrocław” and sent to a sexologist read in part: “Homosexuality is the most horrible sexual perversion.” The sexologist, Zbigniew Lew-Starowicz, answered: “Treatment is possible and effective.” Lew-Starowicz ran a sex column in a highly popular, progressive student weekly between 1969 and 1990. By the mid-1980s, his approach towards homosexuality changed fundamentally. He wrote: “Treatment is neither necessary nor possible.” The chapter seeks to answer a set of questions that arises from reading Lew-Starowicz’s sex column: How did sexologists in state-socialist Poland perceive homosexuality? What happened between 1970 and 1985 that made Lew-Starowicz, along with many other Polish sex experts, change their views? Was the shift the same in relation to male and female homosexualities? The chapter reconstructs the dialogue between sexologists and their patients, highlighting the tension between the prevalent pathologization of sexual “others” and a humanistic approach, which prompted some experts to empathize with their queer clients and to present homosexuality as “normal.” More.