Salon interviews historian Hanne Blank, who argues that the categories of “straight” and “gay” as we know them today arose with the spread of psychiatry in the late nineteenth century. So I guess Blank is saying, this Valentine’s Day, thank Freud?
“Heterosexual” was actually coined in a letter at the same time as the word “homosexual,” [in the mid-19thcentury], by an Austro-Hungarian journalist named Károly Mária Kertbeny. He created these words as part of his response to a piece of Prussian legislation that made same-sex erotic behavior illegal, even in cases where the identical act performed by a man and a woman would be considered legal.
Psychiatry is responsible for creating the heterosexual in largely the same way that it is responsible for creating the various categories of sexual deviance that we are familiar with and recognize and define ourselves in opposition to. The period lasting from the late Victorian era to the first 20 or 30 years of the 20th century was a time of tremendous socioeconomic change, and people desperately wanted to give themselves a valid identity in this new world order.
Social Darwinism comes into play in a big way. It became important to prove that you were part of the solution and not part of the problem in this pell-mell, hurly-burly, crazy new social order [of the late 1800s and early 20th century].