Quantifying Sexual Constitution: Abraham Myerson’s Endocrine Study of Male Homosexuality, 1938–1942

A new piece in the Journal of the History of Medicine and Allied Sciences may interest AHP readers: “Quantifying Sexual Constitution: Abraham Myerson’s Endocrine Study of Male Homosexuality, 1938–1942,” by Matthew J. McLaughlin. Abstract:

Using the new medical science of endocrinology, scientific sex researchers in the 1920s and 1930s began studying sex hormone excretion as a means to search for the biological basis of human sexuality. One of these researchers was Abraham Myerson, a leading psychiatrist and researcher from Boston who conducted a series of innovative endocrine experiments between 1938 and 1942 in an effort to establish a relationship between sex hormone excretion patterns and homosexuality in men. While prevailing cultural models of heteronormativity identified male homosexuality as an abnormal case of biological femininity in men, Myerson’s framework and experimental research transcended this limiting duality of sexual biology. Adopting the theory of bisexuality, he argued that all men possessed a natural variability of masculine and feminine traits in their biological, social, and sexual characteristics, and that the disparity among these traits could be quantified and understood using sex hormones. In reconstructing Myerson’s research methods and data analysis, this paper uncovers how he established a distinctive diagnostic method and classification system for male homosexuality and illuminates how he conceptualized and categorized male sexuality as quantifiable and independent of personality.

About Jacy Young

Jacy Young is a professor at Quest University Canada. A critical feminist psychologist and historian of psychology, she is committed to critical pedagogy and public engagement with feminist psychology and the history of the discipline.