From Leonore Tiefer, via the NYU Gender Studies listserv:
THE NEW VIEW CAMPAIGN announces its THIRD Conference, to be held at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, on Sunday, September 26, 2010.
FRAMING THE VULVA: GENITAL COSMETIC SURGERY AND GENITAL DIVERSITY
While the vulva surgeons are holding a conference on the Las Vegas strip, the New View, in collaboration with the UNLV Women's Studies Department and Petals, will hold a counter-symposium to examine the personal and political complexities of the new female genital cosmetic surgeries.
This is the second of at least two posts exploring the continued medicalization of sexuality as seen through the revisions of the American Psychiatric Association's Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (DSM). See part one here.
Imagine a person who is deeply conflicted about his sexuality. Instead of acknowledging his problem and working through it, this person lashes out at others, sending them confusing and judgmental messages about their own sexual behavior. He then tells them they are sick because they are confused. Imagine further that this person is a person of power and consequence and so the people around him start to feel ashamed of their own sexual desires and behaviors. They stop talking to each other about sex, and look to therapists and doctors to help them cope with their own shame and confusion. Hardly seems fair or right, does it? One person's conflicts get internalized by many, and the many all then think there is something wrong with them.
That is kind of like what's happened in the United States in terms of sexual diversity. We get so many confusing messages, and one outcome is that we simply don't talk about our own desires and behaviors and many of us end up feeling abnormal, ashamed, or ill. Meanwhile the American Psychiatric Association continues to supply new diagnostic categories for those of us who are made anxious or disturbed by our sexual urges.
In the past few months I've received numerous calls and emails about the revisions to the bible of the psychiatric world - the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, or DSM for short. The diagnosis in this manual are critically important because they determine who gets diagnosed as mentally ill, who should get powerful psychotropic drugs, and whether and how much insurance companies will pay for care.
The Washington Post quoted Alan Schatzberg, the president of the American Psychiatric Association, "It not only determines how mental disorders are diagnosed, it can impact how people see themselves and how we see each other. It influences how research is conducted as well as what is researched. . . . It affects legal matters, industry and government programs."
The proposals will be debated in an intense process over the next two years, with potentially billions of dollars at stake for pharmaceutical companies, insurance companies, government health plans, doctors, researchers and patient advocacy groups.
But perhaps more important, the outcome will help shape which emotions, behaviors, thoughts and personality traits society considers part of the natural spectrum of the human persona and which are considered pathological, requiring treatment and possibly even criminal punishment.