In "How to Bring Your Kids Up Gay: The War on Effeminate Boys," Eve Sedgwick critically examines the state of psychoanalysis concerning 'proto-gay' youth. She begins the chapter by looking at why this is so important: the high rate of suicide attempts among gay and lesbian youth. Especially problematic is the political and cultural climate in which this fact is being silenced. Sedgwick spends the bulk of her chapter looking at the 'revisionist psychoanalytical' approach to effeminate boys, gay adults, and proto-gay kids. After homosexuality was removed from the third edition of the Diagnostic and Statical Manual (DSM-III) in 1973, the field of therapeutic psychology has been shifting its treatment of gay individuals and gender-nonconforming kids.
The DSM-III also included a new diagnosis (perhaps in place of homosexuality): gender identity disorder of childhood. This is loosely classified by the "failure to develop a [core gender identity] CGI consistent with one's own biological sex" (142). More specifically, however, the manual lists more and broader symptoms for male children than it does for female children; implying that boys be diagnosed with the disorder at almost any display of effeminacy and that girls only be diagnosed if the actually think they should have a penis. Sedgwick notes that this diagnosis has been hardly contested at all and suggests that it is because of the 'gay movement's' need to "interrupt a long tradition of viewing gender and sexuality as continuous and collapsible categories" (141). So, if LGBT folks won't rebuke the publication of this new disorder, who will?
Sedgwick goes on to critique Richard Friedman's Male Homosexuality: A Contemporary Psycholoanalytic Perspective written in 1988 for signs of homophobia and effeminophobia in his explanation of therapeutic psychology with gay men. Let's just say that there is no shortage of unprogressive, oppressive views of gay men in Friedman's book. Friedman is perplexed by the sheer number of gay men who survive gender-nonconformity as children (read: don't commit suicide) and suggests that it might be a result of increasing societal flexibility concerning gender roles. Sedgwick proposes that it be attributed to a profoundly empathetic and encouraging mother love, which is condemned by contemporary psychoanalysis as being pathological.
Sedgwick also seeks to challenge us (the reader) to see the underlining problem as a societal "wish that gay people not exist... [and the] asymmetry of value assignment to between hetero and homo" (145). Society is coming to terms with being tolerant of gays who already exist (read: failed to be assimilated as children), but even the field of psychoanalysis (who have previously been protectors and supporters) have a "disavowed desire for a nongay outcome" (145). Richard Green, a co-conspirer of Friedman's, claims that parents put their gender-nonconforming kids in therapy because of their "desire to protect them from peer-group cruelty" (146). This, Sedgwick argues, is a fallacy; that no one wants their kid to be gay and they will do everything in their power to overtly persuade them into heterosexuality.
Just for starters:
Curiouser was published in 2004, this chapter was originally published in 1991. How do we see Sedgwick's view of gay acceptance changing (if at all)? What are our experiences with therapy, especially in relation to gender-(non)conformity, if any? Where do we see the recent highly publicized gay teen suicides in Sedgwick's chapter? I am so interested in the idea of 'mother love,' can we say more about this (please)?
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