I am currently enrolled in an expensive graduate program at Antioch University, to get an MA in clinical psychology with a specialty in Trauma. I intend to become a psychotherapist specializing in survivors of trauma, such as child abuse, domestic violence, war, serious accidents or illness, secondary trauma (such as police, war reporters, even trauma therapists), and so forth.

This degree will enable me to help others, and have a satisfying career for myself. It may enable me to write books on the subject. While I am in school, I have been honing my skills and amusing you by diagnosing fictional characters.

If you would like to help support me in all or any of those endeavors, I have put up this "donate" button.






For my own benefit, I am looking for stories of two types of therapy moments:

1. Things a therapist did right.

2. Things a therapist did wrong.

In both cases, I'm looking for things that weren't obvious.

For "wrong things," I'm not thinking of clearly, extremely terrible things that I would never do in a million years, like having sex with a client, telling a client their abuse was their own fault, telling a client not to be gay, etc. I'm looking for mistakes that were more subtle than that - things a well-meaning but inexperienced therapist might do. For example, it was not beneficial to me (as a client) to let me sit there and recount lengthy abuse stories, and then have the therapist immediately start delving deeper into the abuse. But that's not an obvious mistake on the level of "It was all your fault it happened."

For right things, also, I'm looking for moments that went beyond the obvious "She was very empathetic," "He told me it wasn't my fault," or "She helped me see the connections between my childhood and my adult relationships." I am particularly interested in any times in which a therapist managed to do a good job with identity issues (gender, culture, etc), whether or not the therapist had the same identity as the client.

I realize that everyone is different, and what's right for one person may be wrong for another. I'm not looking for a rule book, but rather for inspiration and food for thought.

Anonymous comments are enabled but screened. If you comment anonymously, please let me know whether or not you'd like me to unscreen.
Tags:
Asakiyume had a post about romanticism and mental illness with some good discussion in comments.

I wrote, "I have mixed feelings about that one. Yes, it's obnoxious to write stories in which mental illness is actually nothing but magical specialness, whether the magic part is literal or metaphorical.

On the other hand, the flip side of the "mentally ill people are better and more special than the rest of us tools of the system" myth is the "mentally ill people are doomed to a miserable, squalid existence filled with nothing ever but loneliness and pain" myth.

I think there's room for realistic depictions of mental illness in which the intent is to de-glamorize, focus on the pain, and have the hope be in the slow, difficult work of healing. But maybe there's also room for non-realistic in which people live with mental illnesses and have those be part of the fabric of their lives as they have romanticised adventures and pursue villains and do magic and get the girl. Why should the non-mentally ill get all the escapist literature?

The key, I think, is not to take some painful and unpleasant mental illness and pretend that the illness itself is not painful and not unpleasant, and just looks that way because the mundane world doesn't understand how magical and awesome it really is. That's not cool. But I'd love to see, say, a paranormal romance with a heroine in therapy for social anxiety torn between a bipolar vampire and a werewolf with Asperger's.

Why not? Very few of us are out on the streets murdering people because the voices in our head told us to. Most of us are living our lives - with struggle and pain, but who doesn't have that?"

I am interested, too, in stories in which mental illnesses and non-neurotypical states are dealt with not unrealistically by accident, but with extrapolation and deliberate fantasy applied: Walter Jon Williams' breathtaking space opera Aristoi ($4.99 on Kindle; also has excellent martial arts), in which people deliberately induce multiple personalities in order access the full richness of their psyches; the later books of Scott Westerfeld's Uglies, in which the characters take on various cognitive/neurological templates, raising the question of whether identity is something separate from brain chemistry. Very similar questions come up in Westerfeld's novel Peeps, in which vampirism-causing parasites create OCD-like irresistible compulsions and aversions. And, of course, the many, many, many magical or science fictional versions of brainwashing and de-programming, from Cyteen to The Avengers to Mockingjay.

There is sometimes a tendency to see any non-realistic treatment of serious issues as inherently trivializing or even insulting. But I think it depends on the individual work, as well as the judgment of the individual reader. I would like to see more extrapolative works dealing with the subject, as well as more stories in which mental illness or non-neurotypicality is part of a character's character, not the subject of the story.

I would like to see fewer soft-focus, romanticized depictions of beautiful fragile mad girls.

What do you think? Good examples? Bad examples? Things you'd like to see more of? Things you'd like to see less of?
I just took the MMPI-2. Taking and scoring the thing took so much time that the in-class explanation of what our results meant, plus any non-scoring class discussion of the test, must wait till next week. But for the record, my scores are below. Please feel free to interpret if you happen to know how. I think everything is in the "normal" range (below 65, IIRC) so I don't know how meaningful they are.

Read more... )
Tags:
For one of my classes (Queer Counseling and Narrative), I need to write a paper in which I do a "first session" counseling an LGBTQ person or couple, then write up a summary of the full course of therapy.

This is not about diagnosis, and the character does not need to have a mental illness. They just need to have some sort of issue or life circumstance which might be helped with therapy.

Can you suggest a character or characters who might be fun to do this with? Criteria:

1. They must be LGBTQ. (They don't have to necessarily explicitly identify that way.)

2. The work they come from must be contemporary (or near-contemporary) realism. No fantasy or sf.

3. Ideally, this will be something I've already read. If not, it should be something comparatively easy to read and obtain.

4. The work must be fiction.

Please give a little bit of detail if you suggest something.
If I get through all this tonight, I will go eat dinner and watch some Flashpoint. Really dense material below - but interesting.

Summary:

- PTSD is largely a matter of conditioned physiological changes, which are very hard to change via insight and introspection alone.

- Many people face trauma, but not all develop PTSD. People are wired to respond to fear with action (fight/flight.) If they are immobilized and helpless, literally or metaphorically, during a trauma, they are likely to develop PTSD. This may have a biological basis. If they could take action - complete the fight/flight response - they may be able to decondition some of their PTSD reflexes.

- Traumatized people often freak out when meditating due to its internal focus's tendency to send them straight into traumatic memories. But meditation or mindfulness would probably be helpful if they could manage it. Wonder if movement-based meditative practices are less likely to cause freak-outs? If so, that would explain why so many survivors find movement practices helpful. Maybe the movement provides a balance between interior feelings (scary/bad) and external focus (move left arm to block), thus decreasing interior focus and making it more tolerable.

If the trauma is partly caused by the interruption of the fight/flight response and people being forced, physically or by circumstance, into helplessness or inaction, then maybe movement lets them work through the fight/flight (action) response they needed, thus rewiring conditioned responses.

Lots of detail below cut.

Read more... )
Right now I'm in several classes which are presenting completely different views on some central psychological issues. Let's take this one: "Why do I do self-destructive things?"

Simplified enormously for the sake of being able to actually post this before I have to run off, but please feel free to correct me if I've misinterpreted anyone:

Freud: People have a death instinct, which is intertwined with their superego - the critical, self-hating part of their psyche - the internalized scolding voice. Also, they feel deep-seated, unconscious guilt, possibly over early incestuous desires, which makes them feel that they don't deserve to live.

Jung: Perhaps repressing and failing to confront one's Shadow makes it emerge in the form of seemingly inexplicable self-destructiveness?

Melanie Klein: Infantile envy of the mother's "good breast" and inborn aggressive/destructive impulses turned inward.

Trauma perspective: If you experience enough trauma, abuse, emotional neglect, etc, that state feels natural and real to you, and a state of calm and safety feels unnatural, frightening, and false. So you recreate a state of trauma for yourself, with your actions or purely by maintaining an internal state of fear, paranoia, etc.

Narrative perspective: Society and prior negative experiences impose a negative narrative on you, and so you consciously or unconsciously conform to it by doing self-destructive stuff, noticing negative impulses and acts, and ignoring and discounting positive and constructive moments.

Cognitive perspective: Very similar to narrative, but based around "thoughts and ideas" rather than "stories;" also, less concerned with social messages. We sabotage ourselves due to the (irrational and negative) thoughts we have which point us toward self-destructive or unproductive actions, and we can change our actions by changing our thoughts.

Like I said, very simplified. But what strikes me is that all of this stuff is basically metaphoric. None of it is provably "true." (Okay, trauma-based is the most testable. But it's also got metaphoric qualities.) It's all just frameworks for conceptualizing, understanding, and treating common issues. (In my example, "Why are people self-destructive, and how can they stop being self-destructive?")

Any metaphoric framework makes sense to therapist and client is probably going to work as well as any other, for issues that are treatable by therapy at all. (ie, let's assume the client either doesn't need medication or is already on medication and needs therapy also.) Whatever you believe is the truth of your situation - "I do these self-destructive things because..." IS the truth. It's the truth BECAUSE you believe it's the truth.

The metaphor that feels true to you is probably also the metaphor that will help you, whether it's "I was neurologically rewired by trauma" or "I have repressed Oedipal feelings for my mother."
Tags:
rachelmanija: (Naruto: Super-energized!)
( Dec. 1st, 2011 09:40 am)
Registration this go-round was much less painful than last time, when the computer enrolled me in classes at the same day and time (Help desk guy: "That's supposed to be impossible,") causing me to madly enroll last in whatever was still open.

This time I did do some mad rushing last night to formally declare a double specialization in Trauma (non-combat) and Spiritual/Depth Psychology before registration to get into classes held for people with specializations, but everyone was very helpful and it worked out. I am seeing the benefits of belonging to a small, private college, because if this was anywhere else I've ever attended, I would probably still be at the registrar's office now.

I still don't know if I can go to Japan. Registration for that was delayed for everyone due to some technicality. When it opens, we all put our names on a wait-list, and then they hold a lottery.

My classes for next quarter:

Monday 10:00 AM: PSY 548 Ethics and the Law
Sect 1: Joel Andres 3 units

Monday 1:00 PM PSY 501A Process/Psychotherapy I -
Sect 1: Zari Hedayat 2 units

Monday 4:00 PM: PSY 531A Personality I -
Sect 1: Doug Sadownick 3 units

Wednesday 7:00 PM: PSY531H Intercultural Transpersonal and -
Depth Psychology
Sect. 1: Thomas Mondragon 3 units

PSY522 Effects of Trauma on Human Development and -
Neurobiology; Social History and Current Issues.
Sect 1: Joel Andres 2 units
Dates: Jan. 15 and Jan. 29 , 9am - 5pm


MAYBE

PSY 525F Japanese Approaches to Mindfulness and Mental Health -
Sect 1: Matt Silverstein & Marli Kakishima 3 units
March 14-March 24, Shunkoin Temple, Kyoto, Japan


Three classes on Monday - yikes. But all three are core classes I need to take next quarter. I haven't had any of those professors before. The Wednesday class is taught by my favorite professor from this quarter, so I pounced on it. No idea what it will actually be like, but judging by the class I have with him now, it should be intense and amazing.
rachelmanija: (Fishes: I do not see why the sex)
( Nov. 30th, 2011 12:32 pm)
[Poll #1799574]

Final paper is looming terrifyingly on the horizon. I have limited time this week, and it is due Monday. I have widely varying knowledge on the topics I listed on the poll, but I would have to do substantial research for any of them. So if anyone has tips like, "This one slim volume is the single best resource on the soul-figure/asexuality/fisting which can be read in a short period of time," please go for it! (These are not all the possible topics. They're drawn from a much longer list, whittled down considerably by factors like lack of interest and the phrase "object relations," which in my very short experience so far tends to point to excessively eye-glazing articles.)

I got so frazzled last week that I misread the due date for the final paper for another class, and madly wrote and turned it in yesterday... a week early. I guess that turned out to be a good thing, all things considered.

Also, I have to register for classes tomorrow and am worried that I won't be able to get into the classes I am most dying to take, now that I know who the best professors are.

Given my current state of stress-driven absent-mindedness, I should probably mention now, since it randomly popped into my mind, that there is a new Sarah Tolerance book out! I have my own copy of The Sleeping Partner: A Sarah Tolerance Mystery, and am saving it for the winter break, when I will have more relaxed time to read. Also, Sherwood Smith's Blood Spirits (Coronets and Steel), sequel to Coronets and Steel, is out! I read it in manuscript, and it is excellent. Both series will satisfy all your "women who fight with swords amidst a background of history and intrigue" needs.

ETA: Okay, I'm doing fisting. I found the Pat Califia essay I had recalled. It's called "Gay Men, Lesbians, and Sex," and it's worth reading. On Google Books. If anyone has further good fisting resources, online or offline, keep them coming!
As many of you probably know, Freud and Jung had quite an intense relationship. Freud apparently had a pattern of getting into idolizing father-son relationships, and then having dramatic breakups with them. I notice that of his psychosexual stages, Freud seemed to have been most interested in the phallic stage (Oedipal complex), which is the most Daddy-son-centric of them.

What I did not know was that Freud dramatically fainted in Jung's presence, and Jung carried him to a couch! And that this happened not once, but several times! (Freud was apparently given to fainting - a classic "hysterical" symptom - during intense emotional encounters.)

The first time, Jung was discussing mummies. Freud demanded to know why Jung was going on and on about corpses, then fainted. Upon waking, Freud accused Jung of having a death wish for Freud.

Later, Jung was lecturing about how Egyptian pharoahs would scratch out their fathers' names on monuments, and replace them with their own. Freud promptly fainted again.

It's hard not to give all that a Freudian interpretation: Freud thought that Jung, his son-figure, was trying to usurp Daddy's role as the head of the psychoanalytic family. When confronted with that idea, or with the thought of Jung wishing him dead so Jung could replace him, Freud ensured that he didn't have to think about it by passing out.

Alternatively or additionally, Freud was in love with Jung. Freud himself discussed the possibility of repressed homosexual feelings.

Robert King suggests, Twice placing Freud on a couch after a faint was consistent with Jung's wish to be Freud's analyst as well his analysand.

King (google books)

Freud A-Z (google books)
Tags:
This is purely for study purposes (mine) and entertainment (yours and mine). I cannot actually diagnose any real person.

Young Miles

Presenting Problem: Miles Vorkosigan is a 29-year-old white male who appears older than his reported age. He is of below-average height and weight, and has visible disabilities affecting his legs and back. He wore a military uniform, and his grooming and hygiene were above average (normal for Barrayaran military.) His speech and movements were very energetic, and he appeared restless and fidgety. Upon initial questioning, he appeared cooperative but irritated.

The client relaxed when he was assured that the contents of the meeting were not only confidential but top secret, and was quoted back (by advance permission) Imperial Security Chief Simon Illyan’s comment, “I don’t want to fix him. I just want to know what makes him tick.”

The client then confirmed that he was present due to an experimental pilot program bringing in Betan therapists to assess and, if necessary, treat members of Barrayaran Imperial Security. He rapidly diagnosed himself as “a bit bipolar, hyperactive, split personality, and megalomania,” then laughed when it was pointed out that the last two are not diagnoses.

Client stated that he has a history of depressive episodes and combat-related flashbacks, but neither interferes with his job performance. He stated that he has satisfying relationships with his family, is happy with his work, and has ongoing romantic relationships. Upon closer questioning, he admitted to a suicide attempt as a teenager and frustration over being unmarried. Client denies current suicidal ideation.

Personal History: Serious physical disabilities. Social prejudice due to ableism. Satisfying and very successful military career. High-stress life, but client stated that he enjoys this. Client seems very invested in his secret identity.

Family Background: Good relationship with parents and extended family. History of conflict with deceased grandfather. Recently learned of existence of clone-brother, but clone-brother cut off contact, to client’s regret.

Psychiatric/Treatment History: No previous diagnoses. Client said that he has never been treated for a mental illness, and speculated that he is probably allergic to all psychiatric medications.

Differential Diagnosis: Described manic and hypomanic states to client, and asked if he was having one now. Client stated that he is “always like this” except when he is having a depressive episode. Acquired client’s permission to call his mother, who agreed that client’s baseline met all the clinical criteria for hypomania, except for the existence of a non-hypomanic baseline. Client’s mother described client’s behavior as a child, which met the criteria for Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder, Predominately Hyperactive/Impulsive Type. Client and client’s mother stated that the client has never had a manic episode except while under the influence of a substance.

Symptoms of PTSD are concentrated on the reexperiencing and increased arousal axes. Avoidance symptoms are missing, but reexperiencing ones (dreams, flashbacks, psychological distress, and physiological reactivity) are sufficiently intense as to justify the diagnosis.

Rule out Dissociative Identity Disorder. Client’s over-investment in his secret identity is common in military operatives, and there is no amnesia present.

Rule out Narcissistic Personality Disorder. Client’s grandiosity and sense of specialness don’t seem unrealistically inflated given his circumstances, and he shows no more entitlement and arrogance than is common among wealthy, high-status people. Other symptoms are not present.

Recommendations: 1. Individual therapy services to address his PTSD and Major Depressive Disorder. Recommend a cognitive-behavioral approach.

2. A complete medical examination to rule out possible physiological or medication-based causes for his conditions.

3. A medication consultation. NOTE: See extensive list of allergies. Be aware that while the therapist did not diagnose Bipolar II, it could be present in a non-diagnosable form.

4. Individual therapy services from a Jungian perspective to address issues of Persona and Self.

Axis I (clinical disorders): Major Depressive Disorder, Recurrent, With Catatonic Features. Posttraumatic Stress Disorder.Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder, Predominately Hyperactive/Impulsive Type.

Axis II (personality disorders and mental retardation): : No diagnosis.

Axis III (general medical conditions): : See attached files.

Axis IV (psychosocial and environmental problems): : High-pressure occupation. Ongoing search for wife.

Axis V (GAF: Global Assessment of Functioning): : 65 (Some distressing symptoms, but generally functioning well.)

Rachel's note: What do you think? Do you need the existence of a non-hypomanic baseline to diagnose Bipolar II? Or should I have gone ahead and diagnosed it anyway? (Or guessed that brief non-hypomanic, non-depressive periods probably existed but had gone unnoticed?)
The Silent Tower: The Windrose Chronicles (Book One); The Silicon Mage: The Windrose Chronicles (Book Two)

For the purposes of this exercise, I'm assuming that I know all about magic, other worlds, etc, and take that into consideration when assessing my clients.

Presenting Problem: Antryg Windrose is a slightly disheveled and eccentrically (but not bizarrely) dressed man with somewhat but not markedly tangential speech, and somewhat labile affect. When asked what brought him here today, he states that he is sad and frustrated over his inability to work magic in Los Angeles.

Client denies suicidal ideation, but says he has moderate anxiety over realistic fears of being returned to his home country for execution. Client still takes pleasure in daily life and current relationship, and is employed.

Personal History: Childhood abuse, torture and imprisonment by government, refugee. Client discusses this with insight and appropriate emotion.

Family Background: Client was raised by unrelated abusive man; has no contact with biological family.

Psychiatric/Treatment History: Previous diagnosis of paranoia proved to be incorrect: the client’s seemingly paranoid beliefs were objectively true. Client states cheerfully that “everyone knows he’s mad.” When asked if he believes that he’s mad, he is evasive, then states that he understands why others think he is. Exploration of this point produces several statements of “odd” beliefs regarding magic theory and the likely truth of superstitions. Client has no hallucinations, and possible “delusions” are within the realm of eccentricity.

Differential Diagnosis: Evaluated for depression. Client states that he has no history of mania, major medical condition, substance use, somatic symptoms, symptoms of major depression, or dysthymia. Client agrees that depression and anxiety developed in response to stress.

Consider adjustment disorder with mixed anxious and depressed mood. Rule out on basis of lack of sufficient impairment of social and occupational functioning.

Rule out PTSD (due to trauma history): client states that he has no symptoms of PTSD. Rule out schizophrenia: no symptoms. Rule out paranoid personality disorder: no symptoms. Rule out schizotypal PD: Client is indeed “odd.” But he lacks a pervasive pattern of social and interpersonal deficits due to oddness, is comfortable with close relationships, and is not distressed by being “odd.”

Client appears to be quite well-adjusted and emotionally healthy, especially given his background and circumstances.

Treatment Plan: Therapy for grief over loss of magic. Refer to orthopedist for consultation on injuries to client’s hands.

Axis I (clinical disorders): No diagnosis.

Axis II (personality disorders and mental retardation (note: yes, that is the term for diagnosis)): No diagnosis.

Axis III (general medical conditions): Injuries to hands from torture.

Axis IV (psychosocial and environmental problems): Loss of former career. Exposure to torture and imprisonment. Threat of execution. Refugee.

Axis V (GAF: Global Assessment of Functioning): 80. (Transient and expected reactions to psychosocial stressors.)

(GAF explanation: 100: Buddha. 50: Seriously affected by mental illness. 0: Catatonic or currently randomly shooting passersby.)

ETA: I'm going strictly by the book here. In real life, he probably would have gotten an "adjustment disorder" diagnosis so his treatment would qualify for insurance.
I am taking a class on Treatment and Assessment. Yes, MFTs can diagnose. (We can't prescribe medication.)

To help familiarize myself with the DSM-IV and the process of diagnosis, terminology, etc, please recommend a fictional character I am familiar with who you think might have a mental illness, and I will attempt to diagnose them according to the DSM-IV criteria, as time permits. It would be helpful to note some incidents or traits which make you think they may need treatment.

For this go-round, please don't throw characters at me who you think might have something obscure, like (checks index) Mixed Receptive-Expressive Language Disorder. The class is currently focusing on mood and anxiety disorders, but I am also reasonably familiar with psychotic, dissociative, and personality disorders from my recent class in Abnormal Psych.

This is purely for study purposes (mine) and entertainment (yours and mine). I cannot actually diagnose any real person.
rachelmanija: (Fishes: I do not see why the sex)
( Oct. 12th, 2011 04:57 pm)
I will make a filter for this shortly. Until then, cut to spare you, and also for sexual content including some hilarious romance novel excerpts. These are my brief notes, for my own benefit with the exception of the throbbing pistons which are for yours, on today's reading.

Read more... )
I don't want to spam people, and will eventually make a special "psychology" filter. Please comment if you especially do or don't want to be on it. Otherwise, I will take my best guess. I will not be hurt if you don't want to be spammed with billions of notes on scholarly articles!

I'm reading an essay by Arthur Kleinman, "How Is Culture Important for DSM-IV," dissecting its extreme cultural biases and blind spots. Great stuff.

Brief notes follow - note that this is all simplified and primarily meant as notes to myself.

Read more... )
Tags:
I don't want to spam people, and will eventually make a special "psychology" filter. Please comment if you especially do or don't want to be on it. Otherwise, I will take my best guess. I will not be hurt if you don't want to be spammed with billions of notes on scholarly articles!

I'm reading an essay by Arthur Kleinman, "How Is Culture Important for DSM-IV," dissecting its extreme cultural biases and blind spots. Great stuff.

Brief notes follow - note that this is all simplified and primarily meant as notes to myself.

Read more... )
Tags:
Another one of the books assigned for Human Sexuality, which I was nearly done with before I learned that the teacher had been reassigned. I finished it anyway, of course.

I have a lot to learn about trans issues, so please feel free to correct me if I use wrong/outdated terminology, or for any other reason.

Adding “in the modern western world” to the end of the subtitle would have been a good idea: the book does not even touch upon pre-modern or non-European/non-European-descended American concepts of transgenderism. I am certain that a more wide-ranging book exists, and I wish one had been assigned; I kept thinking, “Are you ever going to mention hijras? Two Spirit people? Sikhandi?” She did not.

As a history of transgender (and intersex) activism and history in modern Europe and America, though, it seems reasonably good, not that I’m an expert. Rudacille, a cisgendered woman (a term which never appears in the book), includes a number of interesting interviews with trans people. They are, however, similar kinds of trans people: all American, at least in their thirties, and people who strongly identified with a single gender and, to some degree or another, medically transitioned. Race was not stated for anyone, and was not made clear from the interviews; unless I missed something, there was no one clearly identified as non-white. Neither are there in-depth interviews with anyone who identifies as genderqueer or anything non-gender-binary, anyone really young, anyone who decided not to physically transition, etc, though some such people are quoted.

I couldn't help wondering if Rudacille, probably unconsciously, selected her interview subjects according to who she felt comfortable talking to (and who felt comfortable talking to her,) and so ended up with a bunch of people who were demographically similar to her and who more-or-less shared her beliefs. Irritatingly, sometimes she'd give a nod to diversity by quoting someone for one line, prefaced with something like, "So-and-so, 19, who self-identifies as a Radical Faerie trannyboy," and then not follow up with an interview.

Rudacille has somewhat biologically determinist and stereotypical views about gender, in the sense of believing that certain qualities, like compassion, nurturing, adventurousness, analysis, are inherently masculine or feminine. She also comes down heavily on the “nature” side of questions like “why are boys more aggressive/better at spatial relations/etc,” not to mention on the “oh hell yes” side of questions like “Is it even true that boys are more aggressive?”

The trans people she interviews mostly hold at least somewhat similar beliefs, citing their gender non-conformist behavior in childhood as an early indication that their true gender didn’t match their bodies. (It’s more complicated than that in some cases; some of the people she interviews are intersex.)

Rudacille concludes with a chapter making a case that DES and other environmental estrogen-affecting chemicals may affect fetuses, causing them to be transgender. I kept waiting for her to add, “Though of course, while that may be true for some people, it cannot be true for all, since transgender people pre-date the existence of any of the chemicals I’m talking about.” Alas, no.

I suspect that a subjective sense of gender is inborn, and that some people have it more strongly than others. I know people, male and female, who don’t have a strong sense of their own gender, and others who do. This seems to have nothing to do with whether or not you match a gender stereotype. But I would guess that the stronger the sense of your gender, the stronger the distress if you have a body which doesn’t match it.

I have always had a very strong sense of being female, but I was so gender-nonconformist as a child that it was a significant source of conflict. I liked “boy stuff.” I had “masculine attributes.” I liked to dress “like a boy.” But I never wanted to be a boy; I was just into stuff which (bizarrely, in my mind) was labeled “boy stuff.” I was so convinced that I was female, despite everyone telling me that I was in no way a proper one, that I decided that none of the things I liked could possibly really be boy things. I was a girl, and I liked to climb trees. Q.E.D., climbing trees was also a girl thing.

I mention that as an example of how biological sex, gender stereotypes, and the internal sense of gender seem to me to all exist independently of each other. They may all line up. Or some of them may. Or none of them may.

There must be some trans people who stereotypically fit the gender they were assigned at birth, and yet still feel that it’s the wrong one. (Say, a female assigned at birth who loves looking pretty and shopping, but knows that in his heart, he’s a man – a man who loves looking pretty and shopping.) I wish Rudacille had interviewed a couple of them, because that might have shaken her annoying beliefs in the inherent masculinity and femininity of abstract traits.

Any recs for something a bit more radical, less gender-stereotype-essentialist, and/or with more pre-1800 history and perspectives other than European and American-minus-Indians?

The Riddle of Gender
This book, one of the required texts for my 10:00 AM Monday Human Sexuality class, suggests that the class, while possibly lacking in academic rigor, will not lack in amusement value. I am picturing a cross between a 70s encounter group and a "Let's all draw our vulvas, watch a video of women ejaculating, and then make an offering to the Great Goddess!" workshop.

Its arrival this week was perfect timing, given that the month to date was the sort which, to completely misquote Emma Bull's War for the Oaks, left me grasping for straws of comfort like, "No matter what else happens today, at least I still like my clitoris."

This is the sort of book which has an anatomical drawing of a clitoris, and a woman pointing to it and exclaiming "WOW!"

The book has some interesting information about clitoral anatomy (the little button part is just the tip of the iceberg; a large portion of the female genitalia is made up of clitoral tissue and structures.) But most of the book is basically, "Wow! A clitoris!"

There is a long chapter on female ejaculation, in which women enthusiastically describe their gushing orgasms, with slightly terrifying details like, "And then I had to mop the floor!" The author then notes that you too may be able to teach yourself to ejaculate, if you don't already. Personally, after I am done having solo or partnered sex, the last thing I want to do is mop the floor.

Despite some dubious history and a cringe-worthy discussion of the Tao and Tantra, this book is mostly harmless. I expect it would be delightfully eye-opening to any women who aren't already familiar with their anatomy or the possible range of their sexual response. But for a graduate course... seriously? This is the best you can do? If anyone knows of more academically rigorous or up-to-date or more culturally sensitive books on female sexuality, please rec them to me, and I will rec them to the school.

I also boggle that this apparent typo in chapter one didn't get corrected through many editions: From as far back as the Kinsey report in 1953, intercourse has not been found not to be the most effective means for women to experience the full range of their sexual response, and yet, penis-in-vagina sex remains the ne plus ultra of sexual activity.

And I boggle more at this: During full-blown sexual response, clitoral tissues expand enormously. The erectile tissues fill with blood, causing the clitoris to protrude enough, as one woman put it, "to fill my cupped hand."

The Clitoral Truth: The Secret World at Your Fingertips

Hilariously pornographic cheery illustrations below cut )
.

Profile

rachelmanija: (Default)
rachelmanija

Syndicate

RSS Atom

Most Popular Tags

Powered by Dreamwidth Studios

Style Credit

Expand Cut Tags

No cut tags