Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Transcending Diagnoses

by Stacey Prince

One place where issues of politics, social justice and mental health come together in profound and impactful ways is in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (DSM), the diagnostic "bible" used by medical and mental health professionals to identify psychiatric disorders. Although its authors strive to be value-free and scientifically based, the DSM is unavoidably influenced by cultural norms, and conversely it influences how society determines what is normal, pathological, or deviant. On the flip side, the DSM can be a positive influence when it increases access to appropriate care (for example, insurance companies typically require a diagnosis in order to reimburse for treatment) and legitimizes previously unrecognized suffering (such as when PTSD was coined and identified as a common consequence of combat trauma for Vietnam veterans).

The next version of the DSM, the DSM-5, is currently being drafted and is scheduled for release in 2013. I have been watching closely the controversy surrounding one particular diagnosis and its proposed revisions in the DSM-5. Gender Identity Disorder (GID) is used to identify individuals whose internal experience of gender and/or desired gender expression is opposite that of their biological sex or gender assigned at birth--individuals who often identify as "transgender". From the beginning there has been a great deal of controversy around the GID diagnosis. At the most basic level, the very existence of the diagnosis implies that significant gender variance is pathological. This not only adds fuel to the fire for those who stigmatize, discriminate against and harass gender non-conforming individuals, but also lends credence to efforts to change or "convert" gender variant people, enforcing their conformity to their assigned birth sex. Further, the classification of gender variance as a mental disorder is used by some to deny transgender individuals basic civil rights and legal protections. These arguments against diagnostic criteria are similar to those around homosexuality, which was not removed from the DSM until 1973. (For those interested in this topic please see an excellent article by Jack Drescher offering a thorough review of the parallels and contrasts between GID and homosexuality with regard to diagnostic criteria and civil rights.)

To read entire post click here.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Perspectives on Social Justice: The fight to end colonization in the island-territory of Guahan

by Hope A. Cristobal

The Insular Empire: America in the Marianas Islands documentary will be airing tonight 3/28 at 7pm on KCTS in Seattle. Here is a schedule of upcoming national PBS air dates.

I was 18 in the fall of 1996— “Rock the vote!” was in the air. MTV touted, “Choose or Lose!” Unfortunately that year, I was about to be labeled the “loser,” not by my choice, however, but by the choice made for me by the United States Department of the Interior.

I am an indigenous Chamoru from the island of Guam (the pronunciation given to the island by foreigners). Guahan, is the actual name given by the indigenous people—it means, “We have.”

“Do you guys wear grass skirts?...Do you even have stop lights there?…What do you call your tribe?...Wow, you speak such good English!” These were common questions I encountered when I moved to Washington State at the age of 17. You see, for the first 17 years of my life, I grew up in a United States colony in the Pacific, and many Americans knew nothing of Guahan, so I did a lot to educate my college friends that year. Yes, Guahan is a colony—or politically termed, an Unincorporated Territory of the United States. This is a fancy name for a place where the people are “part of the United States,” and have American citizenship, but do not fall under the United States Constitution, and thus, do not share in the inherent rights afforded most citizens of this country. As a colony, the people of Guahan are governed and “cared for” by the Dept of the Interior—the same federal department that cares for all the national parks and endangered species.

To read entire post, click here.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Butch Voices Conference Closing Keynote

From August 20-23rd Oakland hosted the 2009 Butch Voices conference featuring a series of workshops, lectures and community events designed to build confidence and a community among various types of self identified women ranging from Butches and Studs to Aggressives.

The conference drew an impressive roster of thinkers and activists to discuss ideas of gender, sexuality and social justice. Oakland's Malkia Cyril, a longtime media and community activist delivered the final keynote, which addresses individual freedoms and the work that still needs to be done to achieve them for all people.

To read the keynote, click here.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Somatics, Trauma and Resilience Workshop April 26th

We are pleased to announce that Staci Haines will be offering a one-day workshop for therapists and advocates during her upcoming visit to Seattle in late April. In collaboration with the Therapeutic Justice Project, this Somatics, Trauma and Resilience workshop will be offered on April 26th, 2010 from 9am-5pm (location TBA). This workshop will be oriented towards therapists, social workers, advocates, and others working with survivors of trauma. Registration information is included in the attached announcement.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

NASCAR in Vegas (and what it has to do with TJP)

by Stacey Prince

On the last weekend in February I traveled with my partner Teri and 12 of our friends to Las Vegas to celebrate her 40th birthday. A decade earlier we celebrated her 30th there, and over the years Vegas has become a fun getaway destination for us, a guilty pleasure where we can eat great food, shop and gamble a little, see a show, and get some sun. This particular weekend was also NASCAR weekend, so lots of racecar fans were in town with us. We knew the hotels and casinos would be crowded as a result; what we didn’t expect was how much homophobia and gender queer phobia we would experience.

Vegas is a very gendered city. The men are men and the women (well, some of them anyway) have heels and cleavage. Under the best of circumstances my partner and I get some stares there. On this particular weekend, the experience was almost constant. On the day we arrived, approaching the hotel registration desk we were called "gentlemen" by a staff member--apparently our short haircuts and androgynous Seattle clothing were too much of a gender violation. Walking from the elevator to a restaurant for breakfast, shopping in the malls, hanging out at a bar, we got stared at so much that I jokingly asked my partner several times if I had toilet paper stuck to my shoe or was having a bad hair day or visibly displaying some other defect. The worst was on the night we were set to go to a very lovely Italian restaurant for her big birthday dinner. We were both dressed to the max (which is a big deal coming from Seattle, land of fleece and skechers). Teri had on a nice pair of dress pants and a button-down shirt, and I was wearing a dress and sporting, well, cleavage and heels. I can honestly say that I do not remember ever being gawked at as much as we were that night, walking the long path through the casino to the restaurant. Much as I would like to think it was just because we were such an attractive couple, I know this was not the case; we were an easily identified, lesbian couple who not only were flaunting our same-sex relationship status, but also were butching and femming out about as much as we ever do. It was uncomfortable. It made me think of all of the studies I’ve read about how threatening gender-atypical behavior is, and how that rather than someone’s gayness is often the provocation for harassment and violence. I found myself staring back at people defiantly, challenging them to look away—or to say something to us, so we could have an actual confrontation instead of this wordless staring.

To read entire post click here.

Monday, March 1, 2010

Generative Somatics is coming to Seattle!!!


Dear friends and community members,

We are very excited to announce that Generative Somatics is coming to Seattle! Generative Somatics offers a body-centered framework for individual and collective healing, within a social movement context. This body of work was developed by Staci Haines, author of The Survivor’s Guide to Sex and co-founder of Generation Five, an organization committed to ending the sexual abuse of children within five generations.

This spring Staci will be making a rare visit to Seattle to hold a 3-day intensive in Somatics, Trauma, and Social Justice. This course will introduce somatics as a strategy for effectively addressing the impacts of both individual and collective trauma, while organizing for sustainable social change. This is a unique opportunity to build this work in Seattle and we hope that you will consider joining us!

To read this entire post, click here.