"A cure for homosexuality is a complete fantasy, an idea only entertained by homophobes, the ignorant... and my mum and dad.
— Paul Sinha
The occurrence in fiction of effecting a cure for, or attempting to cure, homosexuality.
Whether the homosexual character being "cured" is male or female depends more on when the work was written than on anything else. Before about 1970 (and dating so far back that it's Older Than Steam
) lesbianism was thought of not as an active attraction to women but as a neurotic, unhealthy rejection of men or even of sex entirely ("sex" at the time being thought of as all about men). Works tended therefore to show only women being "cured" of their homosexuality - and the "cure" didn't need to be consensual either. (Male homosexuality, if even mentioned, was seen as irredeemable.) It's only in the last 30 to 40 years that the trope has changed (influenced by male appreciation of lesbianism
) to being mainly about gay men being "cured" through the love of a good woman.
There are many variations on this theme, ranging from outright genetic reprogramming to just having sex with a member of the opposite sex. May draw on the Rape and Switch
trope, in which homosexuality is a defense mechanism triggered by unwanted (and unpleasant) sexual contact.
Can be Truth in Television
if the trope is merely alluded to, such as a homophobic character mentioning
it as a possible response to a gay or lesbian character's sexuality, or if a gay or lesbian person tries it but fails. Can be inverted, commonly in erotica and erotic Fan Fiction
, to have a character be "cured" of heterosexuality
Once quite common, this trope is increasingly becoming a discredited
one due to homosexuals in general being moved to the realm of Once Acceptable Targets
as well as some cathartic backlash against the once common idea of "curing" homosexuality. There is also the growing body of research showing that homosexuality is likely to have a biological cause, and attempts to "cure" it with psychotherapy or other non-medical techniques are not only usually ineffective but can often be dangerous and the rejection of this trope by all major medical and psychological organizations such as the American Psychiatric Association and is now illegal to subject minors to in California, with other states following suit.
Does NOT include gay characters who turn out to have been bisexual all along
(that is, still find the same sex attractive but are in a relationship with the opposite sex). Nor does it include If It's You, It's Okay
. Nor does it include turning
a gay character straight with no in-story explanation at all
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Anime & Manga
- Literally happens to Mizuki in ef - a fairy tale of the two..
- Double Subverted in Ranma ˝, Ranma and co try to cure what they think is Tsubasa's Les Yay crush on Ukyou by setting her up on a date with Ranma himself. However in the end it turned out that while Tsubasa was an extremely convincing Wholesome Crossdresser he was totally heterosexual.
- Discussed in Sekirei, and played for comedy. Benitsubasa states that her "pure love" and awesome boobs will cure Natsuo and make him fall in love with her. It obviously isn't going to happen, and Natsuo's other Sekirei realize and respect his true sexuality and lampshade how completely stupid this plan is.
- Houou Gakuen Misoragumi is a manga about a girl who likes girls. But all her girlfriends breaks up with because they're both girls, even though they love each other. So her mother sends her to an All-Boys School to "cure" her... Digital Manga Publishing dropped the english release after 1 volume due to the Values Dissonance.
- Bloom County, "Outland", where Steve Dallas was subjected to electroshock therapy.
- Occurs very commonly in Chick Tracts. According to him demons posess a child when he's molested and turn him gay. Fortunately, just by accepting Jesus as your savior, you exorcise those demons and immediatly stop being gay.
- X-Men never had to deal with this... literally, anyway. Mutants are sometimes used as a metaphor for homosexuality, and there have been a number of storylines where someone tries to cure the mutant gene, which almost always backfires. Emma Frost discusses this trope with a scientist.
Emma: What's next, a cure for the gay gene?
Scientist: Homosexuality isn't a threat to the human race.
Emma: We are clearly watching different televangelists.
- Hilariously subverted in this Justice Society of America issue.
Stargirl: How do you feel, Todd?
Obsidian: Pretty good, all things considered. Wonderful, in fact. I'm as powerful as ever. No discernible side effects of my disability, except that I'm no longer gay, of course.
Green Lantern: Son?
Obsidian: That's right, dad! I'm cured! Isn't that great!
[The cast exchanges looks of bewilderment]
Obsidian: Relax folks. Only kidding. Still gay. Seriously, I wish you could all see your faces right now.
- Parodied in Swamp Thing Vol. 2 #165, an out-of-continuity Satire on mid-nineties American conservatism. As part of his pendulum shift from hippiedom, Chester Williams instantly undoes his ex-girlfriend's lesbianism with a single kiss. Cue Match Cut to the two of them kissing at their wedding.
- Resonance Days inverts this; as a consequence of girls in the afterlife being made into hormone-less Energy Beings, they can switch orientations if they want to, and since they are surrounded by other girls, they very often become gay.
- Lady Vivian in Merlin Crack Fic A Very Hairy Situation She's an anomaly in a story which uses Cure Your Straights as a plot device.
- In the later chapters of Bringing Me To Life there's Gabriel Jameson who tries to 'cure' his teenage son, Max, of being gay by abusing him. This started in Kindergarten - before Max'd even come out, before he'd even realized it, because his dad still goes by the 'rule' that a boy that starts baking, even if your Grandmom helps, makes you 'turn' gay. Thankfully, it doesn't work at all.
- Brüno. The title character (played by Sasha Baron Cohen) attempts to go straight with the help of a man who specialized in "curing" gay men.
- But I'm a Cheerleader, a film about a summer camp attempting to cure teenagers of their homosexuality. It fails miserably.
- Chasing Amy. Appears to be about this, with Holden "curing" Alyssa of her lesbianism - however, it turns out that she was bisexual all along. She identified as lesbian for a long time, but she had been involved with a number of men in the past. When Holden finds out that he didn't magically make her switch teams, he doesn't take it well.
- Gigli. Ben Affleck is a cure for lesbianism, it seems.
- Far From Heaven has Dennis Quaid's character seek out a psychologist to cure his homosexuality. It doesn't work, of course.
- Aaron is sent to a camp to cure his gayness in Latter Days. Not only does it predictably not work, it's there that he hears the song Christian's friend has made using his diary and realizes Christian loves him, giving him the strength to run away from there.
- John Waters' Female Trouble. Inverted, in which Aunt Ida begs her son Gator to "turn nelly", even trying to set him up on dates with flamboyantly gay men.
Aunt Ida: The world of the heterosexual is a sick and boring life!
- Goldfinger. James Bond bangs the lesbianism right out of Pussy Galore.
- Pillow Talk. Brad feigns being gay to attract Jan, to try to get her to "cure" him. The ironic subtext was that Brad was played by Rock Hudson, who even played this scene at parties for friends who knew he was gay.
- Saved!. After a devout Christian teenager learns that her boyfriend is gay, she sleeps with him in order to cure him. It doesn't work. Then the boy's parents find out and send him to an institution with the intention of curing him, where he stays for most of the movie. And then turns up at prom with a boyfriend.
- Velvet Goldmine. Teenage Curt Wilde is given shock treatments by his parents to cure him (based on the Real Life experiences of Lou Reed).
The doctors said the treatment would "fry the fairy clean out of him". But all it did was make him bonkers - every time he heard an electric guitar...
- Save Me centres around a drug-addicted gay man who enters an ex-gay program at the request of his Catholic family shortly after an accidental overdose. Oddly, the ex-gay program itself is shown in a positive light, with the two camp runners being portrayed as well-intentioned but woefully misguided. They started the camp after their gay son committed suicide.
- The main character of In & Out tries to do this with a Self-Help tape. He proceeds to fail abysmally when he can't resist the urge to dance to "I Will Survive" despite the tape screaming at him to stop.
- The film A Different Story is of a gay man and a lesbian moving in together and both suddenly stop being gay and fall in love with eachother.
- In Maurice, the title character goes to an American hypnotist to cure his homosexuality. Somewhat subverted since the hypnotist is the most reaffirming character in the film, giving up and suggesting Maurice emigrate to a country more accepting of homosexuality.
- In Prayers for Bobby, Mary's efforts to cure her son Bobby's homosexuality drive him to suicide. Mary realizes that God didn't cure Bobby because there was nothing wrong with him in the first place and she becomes a gay rights activist.
- Mentioned in passing in Miller's Crossing, where a gay character says his sister came on to him to try to cure him. Given how trustworthy the speaker is, it's hard to say if he's telling the truth.
- In Kire can the huldra's curse men into falling in love with them. And men only, implying that there are no gays (whom can't be cursed) or lesbians (that can be cursed). The huldras are made so authentic as possible, but it had been better if it had been made a little more up to the times where they don't have to struggle that much.
- The Black Magician Trilogy: A character has struggled against rumors about being gay which have ruined his reputation (in his home country at least - others are more open). Eventually, when he is completely out of mana it turns out that he was gay, but he blocked out the memories and has been reflexively using Healing magic to block any sexual impulse for years. The gay man he had been traveling with had already figured it out but didn't want to say anything, and they end up becoming a couple.
- It's a bit better than the regular cases, since the man IS gay, but had tried to 'cure' himself, due to the great social stigma attached to it in his home country. It sort of works, since he forces himself — with magic — not to think sexual thoughts, because he doesn't want to admit that he is gay. So it is sort of an inversion of the trope. Since it is a curing that fails. Sort of.
- This is essentially what a particularly Armored Closet Gay goes through, aided by magic. If a repressed homosexual had access to magic, this is what they would do. A 'cure' for homosexuality would not result in a functionally asexual person, but a heterosexual person, because the kind of people who think that homosexuality is a disease that needs to be cured are generally not going to accept asexual identities, either. The situation described above is not a cure, but merely good ol' repression, magically enhanced.
- I Have No Mouth and I Must Scream has one of the human characters as having been once homosexual, but after so many years of torture from AM he now has sex with Ellen, the only female of the group. Also became a monstrous gorilla thing. This is a case where this clearly isn't supposed to be seen as a good thing and may in fact count as some form of dark social satire since it was published in 1967, when attempts at 'curing' gay men of their homosexuality were pretty much the norm. It might also be a subversion, since Benny's attraction to men was only "cured" by physically rearranging his body and breaking his mind, and the act of giving him his freakish, overly endowed body and changing his sexuality is considered a torture in and of itself.
- In Julian Comstock, Adam (who is straight) manages to take advantage of this:
On more than one occasion his [Julian's] female acquaintances—sophisticated girls of my own age, or older—made the assumption that I was Julian's intimate companion, in a physical sense. Whereupon they undertook to cure me of my deviant habits, in the most direct fashion. I was happy to cooperate with these "cures," and they were successful, every time.
- Alfie in Alfie's Home gets "cured".
- In E.M. Forster's Maurice, the title character goes to a hypnotist to try to change. Doesn't work.
- In Oracle by Greg Egan, an alternate universe Alan Turing is locked in a punishingly cramped cage by the secret service in an attempt to cure him of his homosexuality. The No Celebrities Were Harmed version of Turing notices the Anviliciousness of the situation:
Quint was silent for a moment, then he replied with a tone of thoughtful sympathy. "It's unnatural, isn't it? Living like this: bent over, twisted, day after day. Living in an unnatural way is always going to harm you. I'm glad you can finally see that."
Robert was tired; it took several seconds for the meaning to sink in. It was that crude, that obvious? They'd locked him in this cage, for all this time ... as a kind of ham-fisted metaphor for his crimes?
- His short story "Cocoon" also has the eponymous treatment for pregnant women that inadvertently prevents gay-making hormones from reaching the baby.
- In Pat Barker's The Eye In The Door, some members of the British parliament see gays as a threat to society, and there's a lot of talk about curing homosexuality through therapy—it's a constant threat in the background, although it's never tried on any of the main characters.
- In Love Drugged by James Klise, the main character attempts to cure his own homosexuality by taking an experimental pill that claims to be able to remove homosexual urges, even though it's currently untested and the side effects include nausea, rage problems and blinding headaches. It doesn't quite work as he hoped, however - the pills only help with diminishing his homosexual urges, but don't create heterosexual urges in their place, leaving him basically desexualised, angry and in pain.
- In the short story The Crooked Man by Charles Beaumont, Jesse and Mina are a straight couple meeting in secret in a future where gay couples are the norm and politicians rail against heterosexuals. At the conclusion, they are caught by the vice squad and get taken away to be cured (Jesse forcibly; Mina has accepted it and decides it would be better than going underground).
- In the dystopia in the Delirium Series, love is considered a disease. All people are required to have a surgery to cure them of love at the age of 18. If two "uncureds" of the opposite sex fall in love and get involved with each other, they're merely considered to have "amor deliria nervosa" and it's bad because it's considered an unnatural version of the usual husband-wife relationships. If the two "uncureds" are of the same sex, though, their behavior is labeled as "Unnaturalism." After the surgery, everyone is forced into heterosexual bureaucratically arranged marriages.
- In The Child Garden by Geoff Ryman, there is an actual CURE for being gay, and everyone gets it along with the cures for everything else.
- Genome by Sergey Lukyanenko describes a world where most people are genetically specialized for some profession (be it janitor, pilot, geisha, executioner...). Many are also programmed to love their professions. Pak, a non-specialized secondary characternote accidentally drinks an experimental drug that suppresses genetic predisposition to anythingnote . Several hours later we see him experimenting with a woman for the first time in his life. The inventor of the drug predicts that if this becomes a habit, Pak would stay bi when the drug wears off in a few weeks. Note that the effect is completely unintentional as in this world any sexuality is perfectly OK.
- Inverted in The Forever War, in the 24th century homosexuality is mandatory (as Population Control) and heterosexuality is considered a mental disorder that is easily cured. Though it doesn't work on oldtimers like Mandella. Though in the end in the 31st century, sexuality becomes a moot point on earth as it's now a Hive Mind of clones. But some of Mandella's surviving troops decide to become straight and join colonies of old-fashioned humans.
- In the world of Replica, homosexuality is a tricky situation. It is considered acceptable for the two lower classes (Employees and the Basement) to express themselves in such a way. The powerful Executive class forbids it and any Executive who identifies as such are sent to a special place for reprogramming.
- Pops up in Pretty Little Liars. In "PERFECT",the third book,Emily is outed by "A" and as a result her parents make her take part in a program called "Little Miss Treetops" in order to "cure" her(Emily only reluctantly agrees to take part after her mother threatens to send her off to her to her horribly stuck up and stuffy amish relatives if she doesn't). Suffice to say this fails miserably when Emily and her peer mentor Becka decide to go skating. They run into Becka's ex,Wendy,and things are a bit awkward. Emily excuses herself to go to the washroom,only to find Becka and Wendy making out when she returns. This convinces Emily not to take part in the program.THEN Emily's parents,upset with her for not trying to "cure" herself,try again by sending her to the afforementioned amish relatives but this also fails when Emily runs away. Fortunately Emily's parents and siblings do become more accepting of her sexuality in later books.
- Indecent Exposure: Dr von Blumentritt is convinced that a combination of electric shocks, strong emetics and aversion therapy can cure anything. She gets a chance to test this and applies it first to policemen sexually attracted to black womennote , and then on gays.
- Inverted in Tim Minchin's Five Poofs And Two Pianos in which he expresses the desire to get someone to do the same thing but in reverse because gays are cooler.
- Lou Reed's Kill Your Sons was based on his electroshock therapy in an attempt to cure his bisexuality.
- Reggae musician Capleton regularly sings about the need to ‘purify’ gays. To add insult to injury, he uses fire as a symbol for purification (borrowed from his Rastafari faith), causing many people to misinterpret what he’s saying as Bury Your Gays.
- Poked fun at in a Doonesbury strip, where Lacey Davenport and Joanie visit a homosexuality-awareness meeting. Lacey, not very familiar with the homosexual community, kindly asks them "But have you really tried dating some nice girls?" One of the men replies "It doesn't work like that, ma'am."
- Space 1889 In Canal Priests of Mars the John Douglas 9th Marquess of Queensbury is bringing his effeminite son Alfred to Mars to get him out of Oscar Wilde's influence and to 'toughen' him. Historically he would in 1895 trick Oscar Wilde into suing him -which ended up sending Oscar Wilde to prison. Historically Alfred didn't meet Oscar Wilde until 1891 and Canal Priests of Mars is persumably set in 1889 so this is slightly ahistorical.
- Werewolf: The Apocalypse features Homogeniety Incorporated, a private firm that offers to cure your non-heterosexual urges. Good news: it works! Bad news: it also cures every single one of your other urges and turns you into a blank, featureless fomor that lashes out at the slightest bit of "abnormality."
- The Boys in the Band. Michael and Donald both wish to be "cured" of their homosexuality; Donald is even seeing a shrink to help him. Other characters, like Emory and Harold, refuse to be cured, and in Harold's case, mocks Michael's self-loathing.
- In the musical Only Heaven Knows, set in the 1940s and 50s, Alan sings the Tear Jerker "Where is the Love?" before going to get shock treatments to cure himself of homosexuality.
- Peterson Toscano's one-man show Doin' Time in the Homo No Mo Halfway House is about the utter failure of this trope in the real world.
- From Book Of Mormon: The song Turn It Off starts off as various Mormon missionaries giving advice on "turning off" unpleasant feelings/memories (sister dying of cancer, physically abusive father) but once a 'formerly gay' missionary reveals his struggles with his "really strange feelings for Steve" the song suddenly concentrates on advice about how to stop having gay thoughts, even though this is not remotely related to the main character's problem. Its as funny as it is sad.
"Imagine that your brain is made of tiny boxes, then find the box that's gay and CRUSH IT!"
"Boys should be with girls, that's heavenly father's plan. So, If you ever feel you'd rather be with a man, turn it off."
"Being gay is bad but lying is worse. Just realize you have a curable curse, and turn it off!
- The Latent Heterosexual by Paddy Chayefsky has this happen accidentally with a Perfectly Arranged Marriage (for tax purposes) between a Camp Gay author and a prostitute.
Christine: When I first met my husband, he was a faggot, junkie, poet. Well, he stopped being a faggot, he kicked the junk, and he hasn't written a word since last spring.
- In Grand Theft Auto IV, the arch-Conservative and anti-gay Deputy Mayor of Liberty City, Brice Dawkins, ends up getting outed after evidence is released of him having a relationship with Bernie Craine. He continues to deny his homosexuality, insisting he is instead going to "rehab" to correct "personal failings".
- Shizune's route in Katawa Shoujo shows why this is a terrible idea, with Misha's infamous "comfort" scene. In the end Misha is still in love with Shizune, both she and Hisao feel terrible about their tryst since them having sex equalled to Hisao cheating on Shizune, and said tryst results in the route's Bad Ending.
- In Dragon Age: Inquisition, one of the major reasons Dorian left Tevinter was because his own father tried to use Blood Magic to make Dorian heterosexual (it should be noted that this has more to do with Tevinter obsession with bloodlines rather than dislike of homosexuality). The ritual is noted to have had a significant risk of lobotomizing him instead.
- Sonichu. One of the more recent plot developments involves Chris-chan donating some of his "pure straight" blood to science so that they can create a vaccine that erases homosexuality on a genetic level, which he uses to turn his arch-nemesis straight and "turned him good" and injects into the water supply with the help of Time Travel, eventually eradicating homosexuality off the face of the Earth entirely. It also cured Asexuality too. For some reason, they didn't use future Chris. And it raises some questions though: did the distribution of the gay vaccine in the past create a time paradox, or did the gay vaccine simply fail?
- The fact that he terms it specifically as a vaccine brings some added lulz, as vaccines are made from the blood of someone who already has what you're trying to cure. Whoops.
- And naturally, he got the idea from the Family Guy example below.
- To compound the ridiculousness even further, he then proceeded to legalize gay sex in CW Cville within the next few pages.
- A reverse example occurs early in Something Positive when Monette insists she's a lesbian who just ends up sleeping with guys all the time, and wants help to become properly gay.
You could always have sex with Davan
Plenty of his lovers switched teams afterwards. Davan:
Hey! Fuck you! That's only happened twice!
- The Dragon Doctors has devices that can change one's orientation easily, but it's only seen used to keep up when one's significant other switches gender (which can happen accidentally).
- The "rape them straight" variant shows up in Misfile, when two rednecks overhear Ash and Missi's Les Yay conversation and decide to "fix" them. Luckily, a friend of the girls' chases them off by saying he's taken pictures with his phone and is ready to go to the cops. The rednecks let everyone go, but set up an ambush to get the phone and the pictures. Then an angel kills them both.
- A Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal comic shows a "gay vaccine" made by pro-gay people to trick anti-gay people into buying it. Naturally, it's just saline solution.