Friday, June 28, 2019


Last week the American Psychoanalytic Association (APsaA) apologized for its part in formerly pathologizing homosexuality and for the “discrimination and trauma” doing so had inflicted on those who sought help from psychoanalysts. In 1991 homosexuality, under threat of an anti-discrimination lawsuit, was no longer classified as a mental disorder. The APsaA now stands against conversion therapy and supports LGBTQ civil rights.
Earlier this month NYC’s Police Commissioner apologized for the raid, fifty years ago today, on Stonewall Inn, a popular bar-nightclub for gay men and women. A riot ensued when patrons fought back by throwing bottles at police officers, and, days later, demonstrations for the civil rights of LGB Americans took place. Stonewall sparked the Gay Pride movement. President Bill Clinton was the first president to acknowledge Pride month in 2000.
Virginia Goldner said:
[I]n considering the history of gender-variant subjects, I am more struck by the trauma of stigma, which, along with the isolation of being/feeling different, and of coping with the unrelenting, embodied self-alienation of gender dysphoria, takes a far greater toll on the soul than I had initially understood. I still think it is these experiences of self-alienation, combined with an estrangement from one’s very own breathing body, that constitute the foundational trauma of gender variance.
Corbett, K. Dimen, M. Goldner, V. Harris, A. (2014). Talking Sex, Talking Gender—A Roundtable. Studies in Gender and Sexuality, 15(4):295-317.

Sunday, June 23, 2019

Reading Aloud and the Third

Children’s book author and two-time Newberry medalist Kate Dicamillo [Louisana’s Way Home -- described as “a story of discovering who you are — and deciding who you want to be”] recounts a momentary event that changed her outlook forever. 
In 1972, when she was eight years old at Clermont Elementary School in Clermont, FL, her second grade teacher Mrs Boyette was reading aloud to the class from Island of the Blue Dolphins. She says [Nov 19, 2018, PBS NewsHour, IMHO],
“I am literally on the edge of my seat ...caught up in the wonder of it all. I am a kid who loves a story. But also in that second grade classroom seated not too far away from me there’s a class bully. Because I am so terrified of this boy, he does not even seem real to me, he is in my mind less a boy and more … a monster. ...and I notice that he is listening too, that he is engaged by the story too, that he, like me, is leaning forward in his seat and listening with his whole heart.  I stare at him, open-mouthed. I’m struck with the sudden knowledge that this boy that I am so afraid of is, in fact, just like me. He is a kid who likes a story. The boy must feel my eyes on him because he turns. He sees me seeing him and something miraculous happens: he smiles at me, really. And then another miracle: I, unafraid, smile back. We’re two kids smiling at each other.
“Why have I never forgotten this small moment? Why, almost 50 years later, do I still recall every detail of it? I think it’s because that moment illustrates so beautifully the power of reading out loud. Reading aloud ushers us into a third place, a safe room. It’s a room where everyone involved, the  reader and the listener, can put down their defenses and lower their guard We humans long not just for story, not just for the flow of language, but for the connection that comes when words are read aloud. That connection provides illumination. It lets us see each other. When people talk about the importance of reading aloud they almost always mean an adult reading to a child. We forget about the surly adolescent and the confused young adult, and the weary middle aged, and the lonely old. We need it too. We all need that third place, that safe room, that reading provides. We all need that chance to see each other.”

Wednesday, June 19, 2019

Reparation, a way towards repair

H.R. 40 seeks to establish a commission to study the effects of slavery and its subsequent racial and economic discrimination, and its physical, economic, and psychological impact on African Americans today, and then make recommendations for repair and reconcilliation. In 1989 John Conyers, (D) Rep. MI, introduce H.R. 40 (40, from 40 acres and a mule) and today it might finally have some teeth. Therapists familiar with rupture and repair might have some insights to offer the US Congress on healing. While a few presidential candidates have come out in favor of reparation, one, Marianne Williamson, is an author and activist who actually knows a few things about healing the soul of our nation evident in her ideas about poverty alleviation, peace building, women’s advocacy, and feeding the hungry, to name a few.
Therapists are well aware of how insidious and pernicious intergenerational transmission of trauma is on families across time.  Attachment research and Infant-mother research have shown that anxiety and dissociation are not merely inherited but are created from experience, that is, encoded in the brain and built within central and peripheral neuronal connections that become a default position for future experience. Huge retrospective and prospective studies have documented the physical and psychological consequences of adverse childhood experiences (ACE).
Is any trauma so heinous or span centuries as slavery did in the United States? Dehumanization of people, the calculated splitting up of families (seen recently at our southern border), the terrorization to body and sense of self (continued by Jim Crowe segregation laws, the KKK, lynchings, and today, the inequitable incarceration and shooting of black men) all create long lasting sequelae to traume. Reparations (more than eigthy billion dollars) were paid by Germany to Jewish Holocaust survivors and refugees. The USA compensated Japanese interned during World War II (Civil Liberties Act of 1988). Is there a way to recognize the early economic prosperity of America established on the backs of unpaid slave labor that can heal the soul of America?