Nora M

"Nora M." was a subject of the study "Sex Variants" conducted by Dr. George Henry between 1936 and 1941. From her interviews we can determine that Nora was born between 1906 and 1911 (age 30 at the time of her interview) and that she was most likely from New York or one of the surrounding states. She was very close with another subject of the study, Salvatore N., with whom she sometimes spoke of marriage for the purpose of appearance. Salvatore also had a sexual relationship with her brother.

The following are transcripts from her case study. The "Gynecological Examination" and "X-ray Examination" are both omitted, both were brief and neither any information out of the ordinary or interesting. Both highly medical in terminology.


General Impression

Nora is now thirty years old and the virtual head of a business firm. Her physical appearance is in keeping with her executive ability. She has square shoulders and a stocky body with heavy bones and strong muscles. Her face is pale and freckled, her nose slightly upturned, and her eyebrows are dark and heavy. Her hair is cut in an extreme boyish bob and her dress is tailored and not relieved by feminine detail. She sits at ease in a slouching position and she walks with a decided, fearless stride. At the beginning of the first interview Nora appeared sullen and on the defensive. She seemed to want to get her part of the study over as quickly as possible although she claimed no hesitancy in acknowledging homosexual interests. This was a sincere and frank statement of her conscious attitude but it was evident that she was having difficulty trying to adjust to constitutional deficiency and to the fact that her conduct met with social disapproval.

On further acquaintance Nora became milder in her attitude and occasionally, as though a mask had been removed, she smiled in a friendly way. She spoke in a low, soft voice which at times was scarcely audible. After each question she pondered a moment in order to give an accurate and concise response. Although not content with herself she made it clear that she would not tolerate a feminine role. She had little more than contempt for any man who should make a display of masculine aggression toward her. Since adolescence it has been her ambition to establish a home for prostitutes so that they would not have to sell themselves to men.

Family Background

For generations my family have been of the landed gentry of Ireland, staunch Catholics who maintained high standards of living, at least as far as the public was concerned. From my viewpoint they were hypocritical. My paternal grandfather was a tyrant and Grandmother was conciliatory and gentle. They had one daughter and five sons. the daughter was a very religious old maid. One son was very avaricious, another very religious and a bachelor, a third headstrong and kicked out of the family circle for marrying a maid in the household. A fourth son ran away from home rather than yield to the desire of his parents that he study for the priesthood.

The oldest in this family, my father, was a large, heavy man, over six feet tall, masculine in appearance and manner. As a young man he was something of a Don Juan but after thirty and his marriage to my mother he settled down to apparent fidelity in spite of the fact that she was obviously cold to him.

During most of his life he has been out of harmony with his surroundings. Before marriage he quarreled with his family with the result that they have since held themselves aloof. His socialistic ideas and activities resulted in neglect of his family. He should never have married. Half of the time he didn't realize that he had a family. Basically he was kind and affectionate but he acted as though he was ashamed to express his feelings. Mother didn't understand him. If she had they really could have gotten along better. I really pity him. At first he was a teacher and then an accountant in the English Civil Service. At forty he entered politics and since then he has seldom been at home. With his family and in meeting strangers socially he was bashful. In public he was known as a writer and orator. He could let loose with fire and brimstone. I admire his ideas and I would like to be like him. As a matter of fact we are so much alike that we've always antagonized each other.

On Mother's side of the family I know little about my grandfather because he died so long ago. Grandmother was so dominant and strict that it was impossible for her children to live with her. In her later years she has suffered from delusions. Grandmother had three sons and three daughters. The oldest son ran way from home at the age of thirteen. He is now an impossible drunkard. When drunk he is nice and sociable but when he is sober he is so mean and sour that no one can talk to him. The next son also ran away from home, led a wild life of liquor and women and died of tuberculosis. The youngest son, at the age of seventeen and while studying painting and music, eloped with a twenty-five year old nun. They came to the United States and lived together for two years. He then left her to marry a wealthy woman who in turn left him. Except for singing in concerts he never worked. His career was terminated by drowning, the circumstances of which are unknown.

The oldest of the daughters is completely obsessed with herself. She does nothing but care for her skin and her nails. She has a mania for clothes, has a lot of them and frequently takes them all out just to look at them. She is fond of men but too selfish to marry as she would have to deprive herself of much of the attention she now receives. She is the tyrant of the family now and demands that Grandmother look after her. Of the daughters my mother comes next and then the youngest daughter with whom I lived for a while. This aunt was very headstrong and nagging. I don't know where she is now. Her husband was a drunkard and dissipated whatever she had. Their only child is mentally defective.

Mother has always been very retiring and reticent. Her general attitude toward life is the result of her mother's training. She believes that people should be perfect and accepts no excuse for their failure ot be so. Her nagging conscience has always kept her in hot water. She would go to confessional every day if she could. One priest finally told her to go away and not come back. Before marriage Mother was very much attached to a thoroughly masculine, assertive and able woman who has since been prominent in public life. Quite recently I saw this woman's picture in the paper and I couldn't decide at first whether she was a man or a woman. I'm of the impression that Mother is a homosexual too. I know she was veyr cold in her marital relations. I never saw her kiss Father unless he was going away some place. She has frequently stated that I looked like this woman, and that I should be independent and never have anything to do with men. She told me that she would rather see me dead than married.

I was the oldest of nine children. The next in the family is a brother two years younger and the remainder are spaced at two or three year intervals, the youngest being thirteen. None of them is married. I'll tell you about them in the order of their birth. The oldest brother was delicate as a baby and had a pigeon chest. He could eat only certain things and Mother always gave in to him. When young I had frequent quarrels with this brother. He had a vile temper and would dig his nails into me and pull my hair. In school he tormented others by sticking pins into them. He seemed to delight in inflicting pain on others. At seventeen he developed a craving for guns and if anyone crossed him he would fly into a rage and draw a gun. At present he is quite childish and subject to violent fits of temper. He still is a coward and when sick he becomes very religious. He gets a crush on a woman and says he is going to commit suicide if she doesn't marry him. Once he threatened a girl because she wouldn't marry him. I told her to do as she pleased and then he said he was going to kill me for butting in. He's really weak-minded. The doctors say that parts of his brain are underdeveloped. I have to support him. [There is a note here that Nora "Permitted Salvatore N. to perform fellatio and other overt homosexual practices on him.]

The next is a brother who had epileptic convulsions in infancy. He is quite eccentric and has always had a very bad temper. He's a dreamer, stays by himself and take long walks alone. Although he is masculine in build he is quite effeminate in some respects. He loves to arrange flowers, draperies and curtains, and he likes to sew and to darn socks. When he was fifteen he developed funny ideas that he had stolen things. He has no business sense at all. The fourth, a brother, is just the opposite as to money - the traditional Shylock. When we were all children and had no money he would buy all our toys and then later sell them back at a higher price. He has no deep feelings at all. He's just cold blooded.

The next is a sister who has always been very much interested in men and quite fond of feminine things. At fifteen she developed rheumatic heart trouble and was under medical care for two years. Then she developed a religious mania and wanted to become a nun. The sixth is a brother now twenty-one years old. He has been very religious since he was eleven and is now in a monastary preparing to become a monk. He was always saying prayers and was a general nuisance about them. He tells me I should come home and enter a convent, that a girl can't live a good life like a man can. In spite of his intelligence he is still very childish and his religious pretensions do not stop him from being very irritable and uncharitable.

The remaining three were young children when I left home. One, a brother, died at thirteen of scarlet fever. Strangers were so impressed by his sweet nature that they said he was too good to live. This leaves two sisters who are too young yet to have developed outstanding characteristics. I am most attached to the youngest, a very bright child. She took a great liking for me and forced herself upon me. She got along the poorest with the oldest brother.

Personal History

Mother's adjustment to married life must have been difficult. The woman friend she was fond of continued too much in her thought although she refused to see her after marriage. She has often told me that she was sorry for the way she treated me after I was born. She wouldn't touch me and I was six months old before she kissed me. She was very cold about babies. My father never paid much attention to me and when he did he was strict rather than kindly. I got plenty of the slipper from him when I was young. I resented it because he was never at home and never had anything to do with the responsibilities of the home so I thought he had no right to lick me.

I grew up in a small town where the Church was the paramount influence. All of us children were taught to be quiet, demure and undemonstrative. Apparently I was always very perverse, an extremely dirty child. I disliked dressed with frills and if I had on a starched or organdy dress I would get it dirty just as soon as I could. Within a few minutes I would be covered with mud. As a child my mother made me feel that I was ugly and I was always reminded about my walk because I took such long steps. I always felt conspicuous because I had to wear very feminine clothes. Being told that I was ugly made me very unhappy.

From about the age of four I liked to go into closets, shut the door and imagine all sorts of crazy things. A nurse in the family told stories about giants and ghosts and I would have to cover up my head before going to sleep. I trace my deep regard for women to the age of five. Mother didn't allow us to have many playmates but I did play with a girl a year older and I became quite attached to her. She was my great friend and heroine. I wished I could be her and imagined that if I was inside her head I could be her. When she went away to school I refused to get out of bed until Mother forced me to get out. The following year when this girl came back I was very shy in her presence and ran away from her. She was like a stranger and I've always been bashful with strangers.

Most of my play life was with my brothers and sisters, and especially with my oldest brother. I preferred to play with boys and would sneak out of the house to play football with them or to go fishing with them. I liked to box with them. I wanted to be a cowboy or a soldier. I had no interest in dolls and I never had any desire to pretend I was playing house. Once when an aunt gave me a set of dishes I became angry and smashed them. I wanted trains and guns. I used the guns to shoot at the dolls. When I was eight I was quite interested in foreign languages and I wrote sentimental verse and a few plays - ridiculous things - all about war. My parents ridiculed my efforts so much that I felt ashamed and didn't write any more. At that time I was so thoroughly under the influence of the Church that I would get downhearted. I was just afraid to breathe.

Three years later because I was run down physically and had lost considerable weight I was sent to a health resort for delicate children. There I enjoyed myself very much. I had many books and an interesting tutor. I enjoyed reading Wild West and adventure stories, such as Nick Carter - anything about blood and thunder.

My periods started when I was thirteen and without my having any idea of what was happening. I thought one of the girls had wiped a bloody nose on my night clothes. The girls explained where the blood came from and told me I mustn't indulge in violent exercise while menstruating. This restriction of my activities I resented very much because I wanted to continue doing everything.

By this time my health was restored and I had gone to live with Mother's younger sister, the aunt who married a drunkard. She nagged constantly and wanted to keep me sitting on a chair, acting like a lady. Her husband took me deep sea fishing and to the mountains to see moonshiners and I was thrilled. I liked him very much. He taught me how to box and explained to me about sex and about how children were born. Before that I thought they were born through the navel. I was very much interested in his explanations and I enjoyed reading some medical books that he had.

While living with my aunt I met a girl ten years older to whom I became very much attached. We saw each other every night and held hands. She wanted to kiss me and I was very embarrassed. I wanted to kiss her too but I was too shy. When she went out with men I became quite jealous. On one occasion I threw a rock at one of her boy friends and hit him. The death of this girl at the end of two years left me broken hearted and for some time I went to the cemetery and sat for hours at her grave.

Following this I went out with boys, not because I liked them but because other girls did and I liked to annoy girls by taking boys away from them. The boys wanted to kiss me but that seemed very stupid to me and it annoyed me very much. I often wondered why they wanted to kiss me. I just wanted them to be friends. On one occasion two boys fought over me and beat each other up. When the winner came to claim me, I gave him a bloody nose. I could lick all the boys of my own age.

I now realize that I entertained crazy ideas about sex at that time. I thought the there should no men and I wished I could develop some technique by which I could impregnate women and have the offspring female only. In addition I had thoughts of a synthetic cell from which a female would evolve. I wanted men eliminated from the world and I did all kind of experiments with worms to see if it could be done or if both sexes could be incorporated in one animal.

At fifteen I was back home again, much to my displeasure. I had learned to like simple people and my family were too snobbish for me. They had to force me to remain home. The next year they sent me to a convent boarding school where there was considerable emotional upheaval occasioned by the intimacies of the girls. Here I had to live almost like a nun. It was a nuisance to me. I despised the other girls and thought they were stupid. In a short time I began to misbehave. I would sneak out and go to the city and at night I would raise a rumpus in the dormitory.

Before this I didn't realize that girls had crushes on each other. I had been taught that any show of emotion was bad form and I was still shy. My crushes were all one-sided except with an older girl. With her I formed a deep friendship which lasted seven years. There was kissing and embracing but no overt sex play. She came to America first and I followed as soon as I was of age.

While I was at the convent a boy whom I had met previously came to see me occasionally. He pretended he was my cousin as otherwise he wouldn't have been permitted to see me. I liked him as a friend but when he tried to kiss me I thought it was foolish. By the time I was eighteen he wanted me to elope with him. He said that if I would marry him he wouldn't kiss me or bother me in any other way. I felt that if he could keep his promise it would be all right but I suspected that he wouldn't. When I finally refused to listen to him he stopped coming.

I really felt relieved when he ceased his attentions. I had no sex feelings toward him - I didn't feel anything. The whole affair was quite boresome to me. At that time it didn't occur to me that all girl didn't want to kiss and be in love with each other just as I felt toward them. Moreover I never though that married people loved each other but that they were married only to have babies. I thought that love was possible only between two girls. When I look back now I wonder at how dumb I was, especially since my uncle had explained to me about sex.

At the age of twenty I left school and returned home. This I soon regretted because I couldn't stand the people at home. Their main topics of conversation were clothes, marriage, births and deaths. I was interested in books and in writing and there was no one I could talk to. Disputes over what I was to do finally made me decide that I must do something. Mother wanted me to become a lawyer, Grandmother wanted me to get married, and Father didn't give a damn. I wanted to write but they were so stuck up and snobbish that they wouldn't listen to me.

My oldest brother was then cutting up so much that the family decided to send him to relatives in America. He was then a fiery-tempered youth who had shown little restraint in private or public quarrels and through being mixed up in political feuds, was obliged to leave the country. When I learned of the plans I bothered Mother so much about going with him that she finally consented. After my arrival I gradually discovered I was the dumbest thing imaginable. I didn't know anything about people; I never had worked before. For about a year I was quite busy trying to get adjusted. I resumed my contacts with the girl to whom I had become attached in the convent school and made myself ridiculous in the eyes of others. I thought it was stupid that this girl accepted the attention of men. They just laughed at me when I said it wasn't natural for a girl to love a man.

Having had good training in mathematics I was bale to secure a position in an office and I have made steady progress in my work with the result that I now hold an executive position in a large business firm, a position ordinarily held by a man. The head of the firm is an effeminate, vacillating man and I have to make all his decisions for him. Soon after I started work I became acquainted with a very feminine girl in the office who embarrassed me by kissing me. One of the young men in the office also approached me to ask whether I thought he was like other men. He told me that he was worried because he loved men and then said that I felt the same toward women. He told me that we were not supposed to be that way and gave me some books like Krafft-Ebing's on queer people. For the first time I realized what it was all about but I kept on having dates with girls.

Nevertheless the enlightenment made me feel discouraged and that there was something wrong with me. On this account, at the age of twenty-three, I decided to find out whether I could be fond of men. I selected a very good friend, a man whose company I enjoyed, and led him on to the point of intercourse. We started but I couldn't go through with it. I felt like vomiting and I did. I just can't describe my feelings. I got very nervous and chilly and I shivered. He was very nice about it and didn't make any fuss. We're still good friends but I've never tried anything like that since.

Several men have tried to get familiar with me but they just annoyed me. Toward the man I had led on I was enraged and I felt like hitting him. I didn't approve of the homosexual man in the office or of his attitude toward his own problem. He was entirely obsessed by sex and though of nothing else.

After the girl in the office kissed me she came to my apartment. She was engaged at the time but we went to bed and hugged and kissed each other. She became passionate and naturally I satisfied her. I kissed her genitals and breasts. I didn't know anything about that before. She just hugged and kissed me but I had a climax just the same. This affair lasted three years and I have since had half a dozen similar affairs. Two of them I terminated because the girls got too upset. I induced two other girls to go back to men because I believed these girls were fundamentally normal. My present affair is with an unhappily married young woman [note that this is Charlotte N., another subject of the study] who wants to divorce her husband so that she can be my companion. I am quite uncertain about this because I don't think it is just the right thing to do.

Since I was seventeen I've imagined I had all sorts of trouble. I've been hypochondriacal. Two years ago I had attacks of my heart pounding. They were purely nervous because as soon as the doctor came I felt better. I had a terrible fear of heights and of being near a window. I would feel something forcing me to jump out and I had to force myself to stay near a window. If my mother or my aunt had a pimple they would have to have a doctor. I suppose I am getting like them.

In the past year I've been getting funny ideas that I am going insane. I have a fear that I am going to commit suicide. It's only when I'm along that I get these ideas. I also get dizzy and have choking spells. The doctors say it's just nervousness and that I need a rest. I told them that I was a homosexual but they thought my nervousness was due to overwork. I think it may be due to drinking and associating with homosexuals too much.

I also think that I have been very much repressed by my early religious training. These missionaries going around telling about hell fire, eternal damnation and that crazy business made a deep impression upon me and it wasn't until I was fifteen that I began to think it was all form, dogma, and bunk. I now have no interest or belief in religions but I go to church with my brother because I think his fear of punishment may help to keep him straight.

I still wonder why I feel and act toward women as I do. It might be some form of human life in evolution. I'm neither masculine nor feminine except that I am masculine in my attitude toward women. I could enjoy making love to them even though I was not aroused myself. The only condition under which I would associate with them is that they allow me to pay their expenses. I like to touch them and stimulate them sexually but I don't want them to touch me. I'm veyr passionate and easily excited. I'm somewhat shy about appearing in the nude in the presence of women but not with men. I don't want the men to pet me. Sometimes I sleep with my friend, the homosexual man, but there is nothing sexual about it. We are both lonesome and I dislike being alone. If I could get along with him I would have him come and live with me but he is a little bit too maternal. He tells me that I need a new hat and fusses with my clothes and that gets on my nerves.

The more I see of homosexuals the more I disapprove of them. They seem incapable of living normal lives. They just mingle with a certain set and are always going off on tangents. I can't understand why the average homosexual is incapable of telling the truth. my personal experience with them has been disillusioning.

My own future is uncertain. I am firmly established in the business world but I will not be content to remain there. I want to write. I want to understand the normal mind as well as my own. I want to know how women who like men feel about life. I don't want to change my own mode of living. Even if I were not a homosexual I wouldn't want to marry. I have no desire to have a home or family. I don't want to be deprived of my freedom.

Physical Examination

Athletic-feminine type with rather boyish face. Fairly high cheek bones. Mouth medium. No torus. Pharynx normal. Voice low. Teeth regular. Ears normal. Eyes gray; discs circular; right eye very little vision. Skin thin and smooth. Hair normal aside from line below umbilicus; feminine public hair. Chest normal. Heart average; rate 90. Blood pressure 120/75. Radials, brachials and retinals normal. Breasts, nipples, and areolae medium. Muscles medium firm. Fat, slight excess on buttocks. Skeleton medium. Height 169 cm. Weight 56.7 kg. Torso-leg ratio 44 x 84 x 94. Biacromial 36.8 cm. Bicristal 23 cm. Interspinal 29 cm. Carrying angle 171 degrees.

Impression: Five-pointed, boyish face; feminine type; moderately straight arms, stout boyish legs.

Comment

Nora is probably correct in her judgment that her parents should not have married. Some of the father's difficulties may be traced to his parents, to the influence which the grandfather exerted as a tyrant and to the gentle and conciliatory attitude of the grandmother. Their children went to one or the other of these extremes. Nora's father was ostracized by his family for quarreling with them and then he also got himself in difficulty with the government. A spirit of rebellion under the guise of socialistic ideas kept him so preoccupied that "half the time he didn't realize he had a family." Equivalent conflicts were in operation in the mother's family. The mother differed from her siblings in that she was very retiring and reticent. Her nagging conscience drove her to obsessive religious activity and to standards of perfection for herself and others. Perhaps her close attachment to a masculine, assertive and able woman contributed to her sense of guilt.

This sense of guilt may have been a factor in causing her to marry a glamorous man who had the reputation of being a Don Juan. It would help to explain her frigidity in marital relations as well as the father's inability to express his feelings with his family. From the number of children born there can be no doubt that the mother was a dutiful wife even though she did not care for babies. She never fully adjusted, however, to the loss of her former woman friend and she may have been pleased and haunted by the mutual resemblance of Nora and this friend.

As Nora was the first child she has little memory of her mother's coldness in her own childhood but she had abundant opportunity to note the cool reception that her siblings received. The mother made Nora feel as a child that she was ugly. As a result Nora was very unhappy; she retaliated by being a perverse, extremely dirty child. Repeated punishment, especially by her father, accomplished little or nothing except to make her more rebellious and resentful.

Nora not only resented her father's punishment but she followed her father's aggressive and rebellious pattern. She disliked anything feminine and in spite of the parents' attempts to subdue her she lived as a rough boy. The violence of her reactions to restriction or attack is consistent with the trends of her paternal grandfather and her uncles. Her father as an orator could "let loose with fire and brimestone" and Nora would like to be like him. As a matter of fact they were so much alike that they antagonized each other. Nora has outdone her father int hat he was violent in speech only; Nora was violent also in her behavior. When she was not occupied with rebellion against her parents she was disciplining her brothers and her playmates.

Nora's psychosexual development is a reflection of what she observed in her own family. There was no affection and the men were disliked. Nora went beyond this in her "crazy ideas about sex." She thought that there should be no men and that love was possible only between girls.

In spite of the fact that Nora appears to have adult female genitals, it is unlikely in view of her background and her animosity toward men that she could make a heterosexual adjustment. Nora's single desperate attempt to have relations with a man intensified her feeling of revulsion for any intimacy with men. The platonic friendship which she has had with Salvatore is a caricature of the fairly satisfactory relations often realized between a masculine woman and an effeminate man.

Nora is best adjusted in her work. Even here she occupies a position ordinarily held by a man. Through this position she is well able to maintain herself but her intimate personal problems remain unsolved. Her Lesbian activities give her only temporary pleasure and they are now in large part compulsive. She wants to write as her father did; she wants to know how women who like men feel about life; she has no desire to change her mode of living or to be deprived of her freedom.

Nora has made so little progress in the solution of her problems that her internal conflicts are now manifested by hypochondriasis, anxiety and phobias. Her doctors have told her that her nervousness was due to overwork. It is much more likely that her work is her only salvation. To Nora the future is uncertain and she expresses her apprehension in fears that she is going insane or that she is going to commit suicide.

Resume

  • Family: Paternal grandfather dominant. Father rebellious and a Don Juan. Maternal grandmother dominant. Her children maladjusted. Mother religious and frigid.
  • Childhood: Not wanted. Mother hatred. Unhappy. Attached to girl friend. Tomboy.
  • Adolescence: Resented menses. Homoerotism. Hated men. Naive although sex explained.
  • Adult Life: Nauseated by attempt at sex with a man. Resentful. Homosexual relations. Platonic friendship with male homosexual. Alcoholism. Anxiety.
  • Impression: Homosexuality an expression of innate virility, identification with father and resentment over mother's lack of affection. Rebellion against submission to men. Maladjustment manifested in alcoholism and anxiety.
Unless otherwise stated, the content of this page is licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 License