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A great show on "This American Life" on the whole difficult process of how the American Psychiatric Association decided in 1973 that homosexuality was no longer a mental illness.


A reminder, many aspects of consensual sex acts, including kink, is still considered a mental disorder and pathology.

If your sex style includes aspects that other people consider 'sick' it's worth hearing this. For all the talk about community outreach and activism it's worth really considering concrete ways to change politics and medical standards.

In many ways, individuals and organization of the kink world approaches it's survival in still very closeted and is fear-based. Many are operating from a place of internalized prejudice and failure to look at real social change. If one is closeted because they fear social/legal repercussions, then why not change the society/legal/medial world? The secret society attitude and bake-sale mentality to fundraising, while romantic, doesn't change the world for the better. The poverty mentality of clubs will never get us mobilized towards justice and equality.
Personal sexual freedom is a political matter. Maybe we need to look at a better business model for organizations and events as well as consider actual political strategies.

I didn't go into this much after LLC, but I did sense a lot of "Let's hide in our safe closet and decorate the inside better" attitude.

Laura Antoniou's speech at LLC really hit the nail on the head about this. I'll get the link for this speech from her and post it here soon.


( 18 comments — Leave a comment )
May. 12th, 2007 09:02 pm (UTC)
I believe it's STILL on the military's list of mental disorders, although a few months ago I heard they moved it up the list. It's no longer in the range of psychosis... now it's on par with bedwetting. Hooray for progress.
May. 12th, 2007 09:13 pm (UTC)
once, a very wise Creole woman said to me, "You're a transsexual who likes girls? Seems like an awful long walk round the block to get in your own front door."
i am a transwoman. i am gay. i am Jewish too though i dont practice.
the more labels i get into makes me stronger. i have to be. i didnt get here to survive.
i've seen you talk three times, and met you once. i think you rock.
i rock too.
you speak a truth that few want to hear, and you do it well.
everything slants and everything curves.
art is our only hope.
a book a story, a movie a song. a pome. a demonstrative performance.
no one is brave anymore.
May. 12th, 2007 09:44 pm (UTC)
well put. I have had this discussion with people so many times. I agree with you that many in the kink community are often approaching things from a closeted perspective. Heck, even friends of mine who RUN leather events are closted. It's shocking to me. I don't get it.

I wish I could have afforded LLC more... do you know your personal activism workshop (the first time I ever saw you anywhere) at LLC 6 I believe it was, in LA was SUCH a huge impact on my life. It helped me realize that I already was living as an activist and didn't need a group to make an impact on the world.

Of course now I'm part of the Sisters and DO have a group to do activism with... but I still remember back to the things you said there. You have such a huge impact the way you live your life. Sometimes people will criticize you, but I for one thank you for what you do in the lifestyle and out.

Sean-Michael (pondering if I should send this privately but it's your journal entry that got me thinking so here it is on your LJ)
May. 12th, 2007 09:47 pm (UTC)
If I am not mistaken, there actually has been a step *backward* when the view of kink as a mental disorder. The DSM used to see most sexual deviances as mental illnesses IF they caused impairment's in one's life. Apparently this qualifier has been removed recently...

Fully coming out is hard. This issue has been gaining weight in my mind, and I'm more frequently confronted with difficult decisions. I don't feel ready ... yet.
May. 13th, 2007 02:07 pm (UTC)
The next revision of the DSM will be out in a few years. The current DSM TR-IV states that sadism, masochism or cross-dressing is a mental disorder if it causes problems in one's life. That's bad because too many people have problems in their life if their partner doesn't like their sexuality, if they have child custody or divorce problems, or if they are suffering discrimination.

I wish I could urge people to be out, but there can be severe consequences for some people.
May. 13th, 2007 06:56 pm (UTC)
hmmm - I'm going to have to look this up more thoroughly then, I'm getting conflicting information about the "qualifier".

A few of my close friends know (those not in the community) and last summer I told my parents (and one sister) about my kinks. It went fairly well. I'm still hiding it from the general public however (co-workers being a concern), this is the step that I'm choking on at the moment... not sure if I should.
May. 12th, 2007 10:32 pm (UTC)
I haven't listened to the show yet, but I heartily agree with the sentiment. The saying has become a bit cliche by now, but there is still great truth in it: "BE the change you want to see in the world." If that change that we want is more global acceptance of kink, then we need to live that truth, IMHO.

It was for this reason (and a few others), that I came out to my family (yes, my family). My mother, my stepfather, my father, brother, sister-in-law, stepbrothers...everyone except cousins I wasn't that close to and don't talk to much. My mother later phoned my former shrink and asked, "so...is she sick?" The shrink laughed and gently told her that no, I'm perfectly fine, and there are thousands upon thousands of people just like me. Later, when I spoke with him myself, he laughed uproariously and asked, "what on earth posessed you?"

Several things:

1.) The tense, slightly estranged, don't-ask-don't-tell relationship between my otherwise wonderful stepfather and his oldest son, who is clearly gay but doesn't discuss it. Their relationship has become closer since I came out to the family about the kink thing. I would like to believe that my own disclosure has been a part of that. (Funny quote from stepbro: "*tsk* And everyone thinks *I'm* the family pervert!" I retorted that I think what bothers him is that now, *no one* thinks that *he* is the family pervert. And if there's one thing a queen hates, it's being upstaged.)

2.) Going through my dead uncle's belongings as we cleaned out his home, and learning some things about him that I had never known (like the fact that he had been a dedicated nudist his entire life--who knew?). Very jarring. I started thinking, what if something happened to me, and my family was cleaning out my belongings? I had heard that the leather community will try to get to someone's house ahead of the family, to get rid of toys and such. But I just didn't want to have to deal with that eventuality, or have anyone else have to deal with it, either. And I was tired of stressing about what to lock away when family members came to visit.

3.) It was getting harder and harder to speak in euphemisms. To remember to say "dinner party" instead of "dungeon party." To worry about any photos of me that my family could potentially run across (not that they would, and it's an almost non-existent concern, but still).

It was a challenge, definitely. I'm fortunate to be blessed with well-educated and reasonably open-minded family members. But I was also prepared, at the time, for them to reject me completely, and walk away from me. And I had to be ok with that possibility first.

What I feel I have gained is that I no longer have to stress about "slipping up" in front of my family members. I no longer feel like I have some sort of dreaded "sickness" that I have to conceal from the world. A woman I met in college said her mantra for recovering from bulimia was, "you're only as sick as your secrets." And I find that to be true. If you have secrets--or shame--people can use that to hurt you. But if your life is an open book, and you can respond with, "yeah, that's true. So?", it's incredibly freeing and stress-reducing.

Again, I'm lucky - I wasn't raised by Bible-thumpers. But I've found that people can occasionally surprise me--like the small-town Nebraska redneck I was chatting with recently (don't ask), who told me that one of his brothers is gay, "an' we dinnt care." He said that in high school, no one harassed his brother, because "you mess with mah brother, you mess with US." They were still family, and protected each other. I was stunned--and to be honest, touched--to have some of my own perceptions of red-state types taken down a peg or two.

They may have been more the exception than the rule--but I would like to shape the kind of world where that kind of acceptance IS the rule. No more Teena Brandons, no more Matthew Shepards...no more. To create that world, I think we all need to be willing to risk.

May. 13th, 2007 01:53 am (UTC)
My main reason I'm not "out" to the general public is two-fold, and I think probably many other people are in my boat. 1) I believe sexuality is a personal and, to some degree, private thing. I do not ask people who are not my friends about their preferences, so why should I broadcast mine? Everybody does not want to know what I'm into. 2) I like my job. Part of my job involves teaching schoolchildren. While I would never, EVER touch or talk to a child in an inappropriate way, people leap to conclusions. I do not want to lose my job and become blacklisted, partly because I like my job and partly because this country runs on money and I refuse to take a menial job when I am trained for more advanced, creative jobs.
May. 14th, 2007 02:23 am (UTC)
but you can do things to change the world around you and the acceptance level.
Are you out to your friends?
Are you available for them to answer questions they may have when they are curious?
Do you vote for candidates who are more likely to support civil liberties?

You can do much to change the situation for the next generation. If you don't, the next generation will still carry the stigma.
May. 14th, 2007 03:06 am (UTC)
Yes on all counts, although I haven't voted too many times so far because I'm only 23.

I also wear daily a ring of the SSC/whatever emblem made by quagmyr (it looks sort of like this: http://www.puretnt.com/images/NewWideSymRing.jpg). So far, very few people have commented on it. I suppose I might get more comments if I wore a (work-appropriate) collar, which I may do at some point. Right now I'm still settling into my new job.

I try to answer questions as much as possible for those who are curious, although obviously it's not the sort of thing that often comes up in normal conversation and living in a state where s&m is illegal (MA) complicates matters slightly. Mostly I just try to help people who know about it understand that I have accepted it as a part of my life and that I don't feel it's wrong. I also don't really think of practicing it as a form of civil disobedience, although I guess maybe it is. Odd to think of it that way. Anyway, as someone else mentioned, when I am explaining bdsm to someone who really has no idea what I am talking about I make sure to stress that there is such a thing as "real" sadism which is not something I'm into. I suppose that's why it's still considered mentally ill, although I myself see a world of difference between ssc bdsm and random sadism.

And thanks for replying to my comment :)
May. 13th, 2007 04:45 am (UTC)
Today's This American Life was really wonderful, and even though I think I'd heard it before, I was pretty glued to the radio (?) for the whole thing.

Damn, I need to get back into activism/organizing. I went to my first LLC shortly before my breakdown and 6 year sabbatical from leather, and it was a wonderful, life-changing experience, the energy and people were just incredible. And I really want that back.

I've always thought one of Patrick Califia's arguments against being closeted was very powerful - I'm afraid I can't recall it, and am probably mangling the sentiment horribly, but it was something to the extent of "if you're the first to say it (about yourself), it takes the power away from others to use it agains you." I'm not 100% out about everything to everyone, but I live my life pretty out there, and strongly believe in the power of claiming your own label and refusing to be shamed for it.

By the way, you may not remember me, but I'm Hope, redheaded gal from Ann Arbor, MI, who was at your "Creating Cathartic Scenes" workshop in early January. :)

And I totally agree with tay_en_pointe - you rock. ;)
May. 13th, 2007 05:22 am (UTC)
it gets even more tricky when dealing with subjects that are considered "taboo" in the kink world. i often hear people expressing their limits, and the most common ones (besides "no animals," and "no children") are "no blood," and "no scat."
if we use that last one as an example, it helps to make the point, i think. if you really want to open your mind, have a real conversation with someone who IS into scat. if you can go beyond the common "that's sick" thought-pattern, and hear what is driving the person to it, how they get off on it, and why they seek it, you will be that much closer to understanding scat in sex acts. i'm not saying you need to incorporate it into your own play, or even accept it. i just think it makes a person better, when they become a little more open minded to practices that they don't partake in themselves.

marcus of the fuck house
May. 13th, 2007 04:13 pm (UTC)
good point!
You know, I consider myself a serious movie buff and extremely open-minded (that was until I watched the trailer for the following movie, and found myself cringing as I watched it- need to work on my openness), and one of my limits is animals... guess what movie I'm pushing myself to see when it comes out on DVD for exactly the reasons you posted... "Zoo." It's a hard limit for me, but it's important that I know the why's as to why people have relationships with animals, as you posted.
It's basic human socialization, I think, to want to prove one's self "above" another (especially someone who is different), but in giving in to this programming we work backward instead of forward, as others have stated.
Revolutionary thinking is always good. :)

May. 13th, 2007 07:03 am (UTC)
LLC 2008 will be right here in San Francisco in April. Those that want to make a difference are urged to get involved. Go to the LLC website:
May. 13th, 2007 02:14 pm (UTC)
I was shocked when I had this discussion on a local BDSM list - a number of people who are into BDSM posted that sadism, masochism and cross-dressing SHOULD be in the APA's Diagnostic and Statistic Manual! They seem to think that it doesn't matter if we're all smeared by the DSM because the serial killers of the world need the "sadism" diagnosis, despite the fact that the DSM states that people who are also diagnosed with Antisocial Personality Disorder are the ones how may seriously injure or kill their victims. So why not just use that diagnosis?

I'm doing everything I can to get Sexual Sadism, Sexual Masochism and Transvestic Feishism removed. It's pure bunk right now - for example, for Transvestic Fetishism only heterosexual men are considered mentally ill. Homosexuals who cross-dress are specifically excempt. That's messed up.
May. 13th, 2007 07:17 pm (UTC)
wait... gay men cross dressing are ok, but straight men are mentally ill? That's just dumb. What kind of science is this?!?
May. 20th, 2007 05:39 pm (UTC)
only one possible good reason for SM to be a "disorder"
i wish i could be out at work, but i cannot. my family and friends all know about my submissive tendancies and how SM plays a large role in my life. But if people at work knew, i would be out of a job. That's not right, it's not fair, it should be fixed. We should do everything we can to get this fixed.

However, one very good reason for keeping SM and other fetishes in the DSM "for now" has been pointed out to me. Because we're not yet protected under diversity laws, we need to use other laws to protect our jobs. my understanding is that, because SM is in the DSM, an arguement can be made to an employer that an employee cannot be fired due to their "illness" of SM. i'm not sure that this has been tested, and i hope there is no need to test it, but perhaps it is a small safeguard to us?

Well wishes everyone, and thank you for bringing up this topic!

May. 21st, 2007 10:52 am (UTC)
Re: only one possible good reason for SM to be a "disorder"
As far as a 'safeguard' it's a really lousy one. It's the same as keeping homosexuality as a disorder - as mentioned in the show. Did you listen to it? By keeping it a disorder it allows for many workplaces to legally bar them from being employed. It allows the courts to bar the 'patients' to have custody of their children. It gives legitimacy for the legal world to openly discriminte. They'd also never enter into politics. In the worst cases it could allow family members to force medical treatments upon the 'patient' much in the way that gays and lesbians were made to go through forced hospitalization and electro shock therapy.

Also by keeping it a disorder it increases the shame and increases the likelihood of suicide. Today large number of teenage suicide is among gay/lesbian youth.

But as long as the kinkster in question doesn't want to run for office, have a child, choose their own job, cause no legal problems, doesn't engage in their fantasies and generally stays meek and well behaved keeping it a disorder will protect them.

( 18 comments — Leave a comment )

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