Category: Queer Mind: LGBTQ and Beyond

The ‘Other’ Gay Rights Issue

by Margie Nichols, Ph.D. Marriage equality laws continue to make change, but in the therapy world, people are still fighting Sexual Orientation Change Efforts.  Also called ‘conversion therapy’ ‘reparative counseling’ or simply ‘ex-gay’ therapy, SOCE is considered unethical by all major professional counseling or therapy organizations worldwide.  Yet in the United States, it is still practiced, mostly by Christian Right groups. Read about the efforts to make it illegal to force this therapy on children in my first blog for Goodtherapy.org: http://www.goodtherapy.org/blog/other-gay-rights-movement-0611136

The DSM And NIMH: Why Insel Got It Right And What It Means For Sexology

by Margie Nichols, Ph. D.   In a move that is causing consternation among psychiatrists, Thomas Insel, Director of the National Institutes of Mental Health, announced that NIMH will be ‘re-orienting its research away from DSM categories.’  Insel called the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual, the Bible of psychiatry, nothing more than a dictionary at best.  He made it clear that it is founded on symptom-based categories, and that this method of classifying disease has become outmoded in every other area of medicine. He says NIMH will replace the DSM with what he is calling RDoC, or ‘Research Domain Criteria.’  In this new system, mental illnesses will be categorized not by symptoms but by genetic, neural, and cognitive data.  Only problem – the system doesn’t exist yet – because the data doesn’t exist. In other words, Insel is saying having no category system at all for mental disorders is better than the current DSM.  He did acknowledge that the DSM will still be useful for mental health treatment (although that is questionable) and will certainly be in place for insurance purposes for quite some time.  But he was emphatic in stating that it would be a disaster to base scientific research… Read more »

GSD: Not Just Another Queer Alphabet Soup

by Margie Nichols, Ph.D.     A couple of weeks ago, the Pink Therapy group in the UK made news by proclaiming‘GSD’ – Gender and Sexual Diversities – as the new umbrella term for a community that seems to add letters by the season. Seriously, I’ve seen: LGBTQQIAA- lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, questioning, intersex, asexual, allies. And lots of groups –  nonmonogamous people, kinky people, those who identify as pansexual, for example-  aren’t included in that mouthful of letters. At first I thought it was just the brilliant Brits.  And then I did a little research and discovered that the term is already in use in some academic and educational circles here in the U.S.  Pink Therapy is publicizing a growing cultural shift. I’m jumping for joy! I feel like I’ve waited a lifetime for this trend. Because this isn’t just a new alphabet soup. This is a different paradigm, a reversal of the pattern of making finer and finer distinctions of sex and gender that prevails in all areas from identity politics to scientific discourse. They say in scientific thinking there are ‘splitters’ and ‘lumpers; ’different issues at different times require both approaches. LGBT activism started in the 1970’s with organizations that… Read more »

Is the LGBT Community ‘Recruiting the Young?’

by Margie Nichols, Ph.D. Recently I saw a special report put out by the Gallup organization on the results of polling done last year.   Gallup asked 120,000 people the following questions: ‘Do you, personally, identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender?’  This is the largest number of Americans who have EVER been polled about their sexual orientation in history (by comparison, the highly regarded NORC survey done by University of Chicago asked 2,000 people). The results are fascinating, and upend some of the more common stereotypes about queer people.  3.4% answered ‘yes,’  92.2% answered ‘no,’ and 4.4% said they didn’t know, or refused to answer. It’s important to understand that the 3.4% represent people who are willing to publicly declare their queerness to a pollster, and that this number is  far smaller than: The number of people who identify this way but won’t disclose this, which in turn is smaller than The number of people who live an LGBT life but don’t self-identify, which is smaller than The number of people who experience LGBT attractions and inclinations but don’t act on them Anyway, you get the idea – a very significant minority of people are at least a little bit… Read more »

The DSM 5 and LGBT Rights: Still Crazy After All These Years?

by Margie Nichols, Ph.D. Two things recently have made me think about that important piece of LGBT history, the ‘de-classification’ of homosexuality as a mental illness in 1973.  The first is the news, released this week, that the fifth edition of the ‘Bible’ of psychiatric illness, the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual, will be published in Spring of 2013.  The second was the election, and the two are related. In the Novenber election, LGBT people made up 5% of voters – enough to make the difference.  And it showed.  The election results were almost unimaginable for someone like me who came out in the mid-70’s. The gay Congresspeople, the lesbian Senator, the four Marriage Equality ballot initiatives that won – I still have to pinch myself.  So it made me reflect on the progress of the ‘gay agenda’ since the ’70’s. Many LGBT people don’t fully understand the critical role that the political action against the mental health community played a in advancing lesbian and gay rights. Soon after the Stonewall Rebellion of 1969, the new gay activist movement took on the task of getting homosexuality removed from the psychiatric ‘Bible,’ the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of mental disorders (DSM). Before 1973, if… Read more »

Why Maxwell Zachs’ Petition Is So Important

by Margie Nichols, Ph.D. Last week this was all over the Internet: a London transman named Maxwell Zachs began a petition to the World Health Organization to remove ‘transsexualism’ from its list of ‘mental disorders’ in the ICD, the international disease classification system.  Zachs says: “There is nothing wrong with me. I am perfectly healthy.  I just happen to be transgender.”  But his move has generated a lot of controversy even among trans rights activists. If you don’t know a lot about transgender issues, you might not understand the significance of Zachs’ petition.  You might not know why the issue is a big deal in the first place. If you don’t know – you need a refresher in LGB history.  Before 1973, homosexuality was classified as a ‘mental disease,’ and this reinforced social views that ‘those people’ were deviant, unstable, and deficient.  It legitimized all kinds of discrimination, not to mention providing the basis for unvoluntary psychiatric commitments and other ‘treatments,’ being discharged from the Armed Forces or teaching – well, you get the point.  In fact, most queer historians consider the removal of this diagnosis one of the pivotal ‘gay rights’ events of the last forty to fifty years…. Read more »

Guest Blog: Gay Men And Dating

Jordan Hunt, L.C.S.W., our guest blogger, is a psychotherapist who worked at IPG for many years until he moved to Connecticut this summer. A friend of mine recently asked me to comment on his blog where he was posing the questioning of why gay men have such a difficult time finding people to “date”.  Below is my response. Dear Michael- So, you have asked me to respond to your blog about the difficulties that men (gay men, in particular) have when it comes to dating. Where do I begin?  I mean, this topic is truly worthy of a dissertation. However, I did see that someone else responded saying, “I can’t even find a man worthy of a date. ”  To me, his statement is the crux of the problem that gay men encounter when trying to date or “make a real connection”. We prematurely JUDGE as a way of avoiding risk and vulnerability. To be fair, perhaps gay men are not really entirely to blame for the difficulties we encounter.  Regardless of whether we realized we were gay since birth, we are socialized based upon our anatomy. Society as a whole does not “socialize” people to be in romantic relationships…it… Read more »

‘How To Survive A Plague’ – The Horror And Glory Of Aids

by Margie Nichols, Ph.D. Last night I watched ‘How to Survive a Plague’ home alone on my TV.  A little context: HTSAP is a history of ACT-UP – The AIDS Coalition To Unleash Power- an activist organization that transformed the way the government responded to AIDS and forever changed drug treatment, drug trials, the FDA, the CDC, and NIH.  As Larry Kramer says in the film, what gay people did from 1987 to 1996, in particular, may go down in history as our greatest humanitarian legacy. And I am a queer psychologist, sex therapist, and activist who was the first Director of New Jersey’s AIDS service organization, Hyacinth Foundation, back in the mid 80’s. More personally, many of my closest friends died of AIDS, for three years I co-led a group of men with AIDS, and saw dozens of them die, and by the early 90’s I was burned out. So when I watched ‘How To Survive A Plague’  I was stunned – instant PTSD – and still can’t get some of the images of dying men out of my brain tonight.  It’s impossible to describe the way a grown man who weighs 80 pounds looks, the way a 30… Read more »

Why We Need SB21172 In New Jersey – And All Over

by Margie Nichols, Ph.D. California just passed a law, SB 21172,  making it illegal to practice ‘conversion therapy’ – the attempt to convert a homosexual to a heterosexual orientation – on minors.  Few people understand the importance of this law, not only for gay teens, but also for all trans and gender nonconforming children, some of whom are as young as four when brought for treatment.    CalAnd last week State Assemblyman Tim Eustace, openly gay representative from Bergen County, said he would introduce a similar bill in New Jersey.  If he does and it is passed, New Jersey will be the second state, after California, to ban this dangerous therapy.  He’s framing the bill as protecting children from abuse, and he’s right. Before I explain why, let me explain a little of the history of psychiatry’s relationship to sexual minorities.    Since the late 1800’s,  psychiatrists considered all forms of unusual sexual behavior and gender expression automatically ‘sick,’ in need of ‘treatment.’  The perception of gay people as mentally ill stood in the way of many other rights, so much so that after Stonewall in 1969 psychiatrists were one of the first groups targeted for political action.  And in 1973… Read more »

Sex and the Older (Bisexual) Lesbian

by Margie Nichols, Ph.D. The Journal of Sex Research is one of my favorite professional journals, and a recent issue included a study on sexual identity and sexual behavior in older lesbians, those 51 or older at the time of the survey – Baby Boomer lesbians, born before 1960. Some of the results are really interesting.  Here’s one to shoot down the “lesbian bed death” theory:  about 11% of the women with partners, average age 63, reported no sex in the past year.  The comparable figure for heterosexual partnered women over the age of 50, according to Kinsey Institute statistics?  Twenty-five to thirty percent, depending on whether they are married or not.    Most older lesbians in relationships had sex a few times a year to weekly – but 3% were still having sex daily!  And most of the women who were having little or no sex with their partners were satisfied with this frequency, noting that their relationships had changed over the years, with emotional intimacy increasingly more important than sexual intimacy. Lesbian sexuality is underappreciated.  Yes, there are women for whom ‘lesbian bed death’ is a reality and they hate it.  Whether lesbians in sexless relationships outnumber heterosexual women… Read more »