History Department
History Department

Christopher Babits

B.A. (Highest Honors), M.A., Clark University

Graduate student



American masculinity; gender and sexuality; slavery and abolition; history of psychology; educational history, policy, and reform; historical teaching methods


I’m a second-year PhD student. My research focuses on United States gender and sexuality in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. My dissertation is tentatively titled "To Cure a Sinful Nation: A Cultural and Intellectual History of Conversion Therapy in the United States, 1945-2014." Conversion therapy is a therapeutic practice that aims to "change" or "cure" homosexual men and women and "turn" them straight. It became a popular therapeutic practice in the 1950s. In the 1970s, though, the psychiatric establishment removed homosexuality from its list of mental disorders. Conversion therapy came under political fire in the 1970s and 1980s for being religious moralizing in disguise. Conversion therapy draws from classical Freudian psychiatric thought, Thomas Aquinas' beliefs about natural law, and theological debates about sodomy. Depending on the social and political context, conversion therapists have drawn on a mixture of these three intellectual traditions to support their therapeutic practice. A longer historical examination of the conversion therapy movement helps us understand 1) how religious and scientific inquiry intersect, 2) alliances between the Religions Right and supposed secular psychiatrists, and 3) changing norms on gender and sexuality from the early Cold War into post-9/11 America.

I'm currently completing an article that contextualizes Dr. Joseph Nicolosi's masculine initiatory therapy. Nicolosi was one of the founders of the National Association for Research and Therapy of Homosexuality (NARTH), a group formed in 1992 that continues to advocate for conversion therapists. In addition to this, I'm finishing an article-length piece that examines Davy Crockett Almanacs from the 1830s through the 1850s. I argue that these almanacs criticized the masculinity that was emerging in Northern cities as a result of the market revolution.

This spring, I'm one of Professor Bsumek's teaching assistants for HIS 317L: Introduction to American Indian History. I'm also the supplemental instruction (SI) leader for the course. As an SI leader, I'll design and facilitate optional discussion and activity sessions that'll emphasize content acquisition and skill building. I served as Professor Olwell's SI this past fall for HIS 315K: United States History, 1492-1865. Students participated in a wide-range of activities, but the most popular was a gallery walk activity that helped students prepare for exams.

Please feel free to contact me about my work and/or about being a graduate student in the History Department at the University of Texas.

History Graduate Council

I will be serving as one of the co-leaders of the History Graduate Council for the 2015-2016 and 2016-2017 school years. The Council provides history graduate students a voice for their educational and professional experiences at the University of Texas.