My colleagues and I often care for patients suffering from hallucinations, prophesying, and claiming to speak with God, among other symptoms—in mental health care, it’s sometimes very difficult to tell apart religious belief from mental illness…. Our conclusions frequently stem from the behaviors we see before us. Take an example of a man who walks into an emergency department, mumbling incoherently. He says he’s hearing voices in his head, but insists there’s nothing wrong with him. He hasn’t used any drugs or alcohol. If he were to be evaluated by mental health professionals, there’s a good chance he might be diagnosed with a psychotic disorder like schizophrenia. But what if that same man were deeply religious? What if his incomprehensible language was speaking in tongues?
“Cottages” (or: “Tearooms”) were no heaven, granted. But they were no hell either. Mischief in public toilets left more traces in vice squad logbooks than in high literature. Within the gay community, they remain more a source of shame than pride. And yet, these public aedicules, which sheltered the escapades of so many gay men, transvestites, prostitutes and libertines, were also sites of unbridled freedom. Within these atypical places of transience and sociability, social differences were blurred and otherwise separated cultures briefly mixed. Despite being disparaged as sleazy and dirty, they allowed for immediate, anonymous sexual contacts. They were a godsend to those who could not entertain at home and expose their sexual proclivities to the outside world.BACK TO TOP