Oct 102014
 

Today is World Mental Health Day, and I’ve been reflecting on how disability discrimination affects mental health.

Yes, there’s stigma and discrimination against people with psychological illnesses or disabilities; there’s also stigma and discrimination against disability in general that, I believe, can exacerbate, or even cause, short-term mental health crises or chronic or episodic mental illnesses. IN other words, I think the discrimination people with physical, developmental, or other disabilities experience increases our risk of developing psychological disabilities.

I haven’t yet been able to find studies that looked specifically at the effects of discrimination against people with disabilities on mental health, but we do know that disability stigma result in people not seeking treatment, withdrawing from daily activities, and denying the symptoms of any type of illness. Discrimination against people with disabilities can lead to exclusion from educational, social, and employment opportunities. resulting sometimes in experiences of isolation. These situations are also a ripe breeding ground for warning signs of mental health difficulties being ignored, minimized, or unnoticed by the person experiencing those difficulties or by their family or friends.

Many people with disabilities experience multiple types of discrimination, including hate crimes, discrimination in a school setting, harassment in public spaces, just to name a few.

I was able to find studies correlating the experiences of racism and homophobia with experiences of mental health disturbances ranging from chronic stress, to anxiety, to psychosis. I know we can’t use these findings as evidence that people with disabilities will have the same experiences as people of colour or LGBQ and trans folks, but they do set up a convincing—to me, anyway—picture of the impacts discrimination and stigma have on psychological well-being.

This overview of the psychological impact of discrimination against LGBQ and trans people cites research finding that LGBQ and trans folks who live in American states with laws that protect their human rights have a lower incidence of psychiatric disorders than do LGBQ and trans people in states that don’t yet have these laws on the books. The article pulls together a lot of the current data on discrimination and mental health for LGBQ and trans people, and is worth a read.

These
articles highlight the strong associations found between the experience of racism and the incidence of mental illness.

Because there is so much judgment of people with mental illness—so many assumptions that people with mental illness just “need to try harder,” are attention-seeking, or are crazy and can’t be trusted because of the illness—I think it’s important to say that none of what I, or the articles I’ve linked to, have said means that people who have not experienced large amounts of discrimination have no reason to experience mental health problems. Illness, of any kind, doesn’t discriminate.

Keeping this brief, for once, I’ll close with a link to an excellent blog post encouraging us to have less judgment toward, and more curiosity about mental illness.

Jul 122014
 

This week, The Atlantic published Should We “Fix” Intersex Children?

When I hear stories like the ones told here, I want to find those children and cuddle them; then I remember that I’m so heartbroken because their bodies were invaded and hurt without their say-so,, so it’s better not to want to cuddle, but to tell them I’m so sorry that happened.

Actually, I want to offer comfort to any child who’s had medically unnecessary surgery. I’m not a medical practitioner, and most definitions of medical necessity out there revolve around what insurance will and won’t cover, so I’m defining medically necessary for my purposes, as any procedure needed to save a person’s life or significantly improve their functioning. So, as in the case of Aliya’s son, the urethra not being in the usual place isn’t a reason for surgical intervention, unless the urethra doesn’t function in a way that’ll carry urine out of the body. And no, not being able to pee standing up, in the “manly” way, doesn’t count as reduced function.

Surgery is stressful. Surgery is traumatic.

Not understanding what’s happening to your body is terrifying, and that fear doesn’t leave once the bad time is over.

It doesn’t matter whether a child can consciously remember the surgery. It, like abuse, leaves its imprint on the body and psyche.

This isn’t just rhetoric here; I know what I’m talking about.

Between my birth and shortly after my fifteenth birthday, I went through over 20 surgeries. Most of them were on my head and face. None of them were genitally related. I remember few of them. All of those surgeries were necessary to my survival and my functioning, but I also know the toll they’ve left on my mind and body. There are only so many times you can take a body apart and put it back together again before it just doesn’t feel right or function cohesively.

To leave that toll just because a child’s body doesn’t conform to arbitrary gender or attractiveness standards is violence.

Adults are free to get whatever cosmetic or medical surgeries that aren’t strictly necessary they want. Yes, we could fault beauty norms for pushing some adults into thinking that they have to have surgery to improve themselves, but ultimately they have choices, and are free to exercise those choices.

Children aren’t given those choices. Babies and very little children aren’t able to make such choices. Children’s bodies are growing and changing—should not be interfered with unless interference is needed for survival and healthy growth. If it’s possible to facilitate a child being able to breathe, talk, walk, and otherwise move their body without inflicting lasting harm, then certainly that can and should be done. That’s what I mean by healthy growth.

”The journalistic integrity in this article, presenting as many views and realities as possible, is wonderful, but I am not swayed.

We must not take the bodies of little children apart just to put them back together the way we think they should go.

The validation for surgery on intersex babies came from a psychologist named John Money.
This was the result of his experiment with which doctors have justified operating on intersex children.

One of the medical establishment’s goals is to prevent disability and illness. The Hippocratic Oath commits healthcare providers to never do harm.* How then can medicine, as a whole, ethically justify procedures that can cause physical or psychological disability.

Medically unnecessary surgery disables children. It can lead to chronic pain, nerve damage, and injury as a child’s body grows out of the procedure–physical disabilities that wouldn’t have been there had the surgery not happened. Gender dysphoria, and the sense of bodily violation, can lead to mental health difficulties like anxiety, depression, and thoughts of self-harm. Yes, medical treatments can be experienced as violations. That’s why I call it medical violence.

We should not be disabling children. The fact that the justification for disabling children in this way came from an experiment that harmed a child–a human being–so greatly is horrifying.

As to whether children should have genital-normalizing surgeries to protect them from bullying: People—children and adults–will always, always find something to bully about. That’s not going to change. Submitting a child to surgery with unknowable results isn’t going to change social structures or the bullying problem. (I was going to say that surgery wouldn’t change human nature—which is also true—but I believe that the pervasiveness and escalation of bullying have much more to do with social structures than human nature.

I’d argue too that every child deserves privacy, including privacy from other children, so that if they don’t want to, or don’t feel safe with, showing their bodies to their peers, they don’t have to. It’s ridiculous, actually, that on one hand adults preach to children about modesty while on the other hand children are not given the chance to practice any form of modesty if they wish too.

I should clarify here that I don’t think there’s anything bad or immodest about bodies, or about being unclothed around other people in contexts where that makes sense—like locker rooms. What I take issue with is the contradictory messaging children are given around privacy, and the lack of options for children to make decisions around their own bodies. It’s shameful how little bodily autonomy children are allowed.

The tendency to bully around difference is a massive topic requiring another post, but again, people will always find difference, even if it’s not staring them in the face.

So, if we don’t do genital surgery on intersex children, what do we do about assigning gender? I don’t know. I’d like to think that we could just raise children in a non-gendered, or maybe a multi-gendered, way until, or if, they choose a gender for themselves. Most Western and westernized cultures are so dependent on the gender binary, for everything from naming children to assigning them to sports teams and other recreational activities, that my wee brain just can’t quite envision how these cultures could move past this tendency to raise children without actions that lock their existence into a gender binary. I wish I had that kind of expansive imagination, and even more that if I had that imagination it could make real cultural change.**

The only thing I know for certain is that hurting children is bad, and that having a medical degree and seeing genitals that don’t fit what your textbooks tell you is normal is not a free pass for causing hurt.

*For a modern version of the Hippocratic Oath, take a look here.

** Someone did have that kind of expansive imagination.

Oct 202011
 

Last year I learned about the The Mautner Project, The National Lesbian Health Organization based in the Washington DC aarea. Mautner Project promotes health and wellness for same-sex attracted women through educational and support services, and advocacy. Among the many things they Do, Mautner Project conducts:

  • support groups for lesbian, bisexual and transgender individuals coping with cancer and other serious illneesses
  • health education for lesbian, bisexual and transgender individuals
  • training and advocacy with health care professionals on issues and concerns facing lesbian, bisexual and transgender patients or clients
  • Research into the health realities and needs of same-sex attracted women
  • I had the opportunity to attend a workshop workshop at Mautner’s office, and was impressed by the warm friendliness and dedication of the staf.

    Tonight I will be offering a workshop on sexual healing for trauma survivors, as part of Mautner’s new tele-workshop series. I am delighted to be able to offer a little slice of support to Mautner’s clients and supporters.

    The workshop is free to all Mautner Project clients. Mautner requests a $5 donation from all others who listen live or access the recording later. The money goes straight to Mautner and helps them continue the fabulous, and much-needed, work they already do.

    Details:

    Time: October 20 8 PM Eastern

    Description:
    Join Robin as she gives a workshop on having healthy sexual exploration after a sexual assault. Open to both survivors and their partners, as well as health care professionals who work with LGBT-identified survivors of sexual assault, this workshop will give its participants many practical resources as well as gentle encouragement to keep on the journey to sexual fulfillment and ecstasy.

    Call-in Info and paypal Donation link

    If you can’t make the call, a recording will be available either from me or from the Mautner Project beginning next week.

    Please join me in sharing information and supportive energy for sexual healing.

Jul 122011
 

I say this all the time: Lube is really important. I think my friends get tired of hearing me say that. If they voiced their boredom, they might remind me that I call myself a toy maven, and that I should get back to talking about toys, pleasure anatomy, and all that good stuff.

Lube really is the anchor that can pull all that other juicy (pun intended) stuff together, though. It can make sex play easier, more fun, more pleasurable, and safer. It’s important whether you’re playing by yourself, or with others, with or without toys, and with or without safer sex barriers–such as condoms or gloves. Most people–talking mainly about female-bodied folks here–don’t produce enough of their own wetness to make things fun, comfortable, and long-lasting. Speaking of those safer sex barriers, dryness and friction can cause them to split, so using lube with barriers is essential to using them safely.

If you are one of those people who does produce a lot of lubrication and you find your sex play works just fine without it, by all means skip the lube, but please don’t skip it because you think you’re not supposed to need it.

There are dozens–perhaps even hundreds–of different lubricants on the market, and it can be tough to figure out which one you need.

IN this ttele-class I talk about different categories of lube and the pros and cons of each.

IN this class I talked about things to look for in your lube choices, as well as things to watch out for. What have you found in your own quest for the perfect lube? Do you have any shopping or usage tips for others?

Jul 032011
 

Join me for a tele-class on one of my favourite topics–lubricants!

Lubrication is important for safe, comfortable, and, most of all, pleasurable sex. Whether you’re partnered or alone, lubricant will smooth the way to a happier, healthier, and longer-lasting experience.

Somehow, most of us have ended up with the idea, especially regarding female bodies, that our own natural lubrication should be enough. The amount of natural lubrication the vagina secretes varies from person to person, and even from time to time. Keeping a bottle of lubricant on hand ensures that sexy time can happen any time, regardless of wetness.

Male-bodied folks usually learn early in their solo sexual explorations that keeping things slippery makes life a lot easier. This knowledge doesn’t always make it into partnered sex, though.

Want to learn more about lubrication, including why it’s so important and how to find the right lube for you?

Join me on Thursday July 7 at 9 PM (ESt) for a free 30 minute tele-class, and I’ll give you all the basics for celebrating slipperiness.

details Below:

Lube It Up: Pleasure In A Bottle

Thursday July 7 9:00-9:30 PM EST:

In this class you will learn:

  • why additional lubrication is important.
  • where to buy lubricants and how to choose which one is right for you.
  • the differences between silicone, water-based, and oil lubricants.

Open to people of all genders, sexual preferences, and relationship statuses.

To join, dial:

1-712-432-3066
and enter the conference code: 265077

Have questions?

Shoot me an
Email.