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Sedgwick Diablog Wrap-Up/Summary

Our diablog group focussed on Eve Sedwick's article, "How to Bring Your Kids Up Gay: The War on Effeminate Boys" from Friday, 10/29 until we lead our in-class discussion the following Thursday, 11/4. Our diablog mainly took the form of an open thread posted to the class blog site. We also created a handout that we brought to class for students to use as reference during our discussion. After all members of the group posted their initial engagements with the article, we began interacting on the open thread through comments, responding to each other's entries and proposing further discussions on some of Sedgwick's key points.

@Jo began by encouraging @Davvy and @Nosecage to examine and share our experiences with effeminacy as children and the social pressure that coincided with our gender-nonconformity. Both of them were able to identify examples from their childhoods that supported Sedgwick's theories about the negative impacts of revisionist psychoanalysis. @Nosecage went as far as to say that he most certainly fits the criteria for gender identity disorder of childhood from the DSM-III. @Davvy outlined the ways in which he was teased by his peers and he also provided an example of the way in which gender-nonconformity is politicized in Malaysia.

Another important aspect of our discussion became defining and contextualizing a mother's involvement in the lives of effeminate boys. Sedgwick touches on this briefly but @Nosecage first brought it up in his initial engagement and @Jo included it in her response. Both @Davvy and @Nosecage discussed their own experiences being supported by their mother and @Davvy mentioned his relationship with his father as well. We continued to use parental influence as a point of critical analysis throughout our discussions.

We then moved to a relatively short discussion of the idea presented by Sedgwick in reference to Green of 'peer therapy.' @Jo initially decided that peer therapy (defined by the forces society uses to normalize its citizens) is not effective in the traditional sense of the purpose of therapy. @Nosecage brought up that while peer therapy does not prove to be a supportive force in the lives of proto-gay or gender-nonconforming kids, it is often successful in its goal of silencing their expressions of different (which is perhaps its true definition of success).

Overall, our diablog went really well and flowed very smoothly. This type of forum for group work is exceptionally conducive for busy students. It was so much easier to be able to engage in our readings solo and then engage with each other on our own time. There was no need to figure out meeting times outside of the classroom, which would have been a challenge for all of us. The open thread on the blog site was a fantastic way for each of us to engage with each other, which allowed for a richer and more in depth understanding of our reading.

Sedgwick Diablog Discussion Handout

DSM-III (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual):
1973: dropped homosexuality from its list of mental disorders
1980: added 'gender identity disorder of childhood' as diagnosis
girls: believes "that she has, or will grow, a penis"
boys: "preoccupation wish female stereotypical activities as manifested by a preference for either cross-dressing or simulating female attire, or by a compelling desire to participate in the games and pastimes of girls."

Revisionist Psychoanalysis: a new approach to treating homosexuality in a therapeutic setting
Richard Friedman's 1988 Male Homosexuality: A Contemporary Psychoanalytical Perspective
seeks to perpetuate gender binarism
promotes the seemingly ambivalent wish of therapists for a 'nongay outcome'
"...the healthy homosexual is one who (a) is already grown up and (b) acts masculine" (141)

What these institutions "demonstrate is the wish for the dignified treatment of already gay people is destined to turn into either trivializing apologetics or, much worse, a silkily camouflaged complicity in oppression--in the absence of a strong, explicit, erotically invested affirmation of some people's felt desire or need that there be gay people in the immediate world" (148)

Gender-nonconforming Children (especially effeminate boys):
"...seen as a pathology involving the core gender identity..." (142)
The role of the mother:
Richard Green's 1987 The "Sissy Boy Syndrome" and the Development of Homosexuality and Friedman: "mothers 'proud of their sons' nonviolent qualities' are manifesting unmistakable 'family pathology'" (144)
"...these mysterious skills of survival, filiation, and resistance could derive from a secure identification with the resource richness of a mother" (144)

Green "refers approvingly... to 'therapy, be it formal (delivered by a paid professionals) or informal (delivered by the peer group and the larger society via teasing and sex-role standards)'" (146)

Gender-nonconformity and sexual difference:
"...the depathologization of atypical sexual object choice can be yoked to the new pathologization of an atypical gender identification" (142)
"One serious problem with this way of distinguishing between gender and sexuality is that, while denaturalizing sexual object choice, it radically renaturalizes gender" (142-143).
"The reason effeminate boys turn out gay, according to [Friedman], is that other men don't validate them as masculine" (143)
"For Friedman, the increasingly flexibility in what... can be processed as masculine... fully account[s] for the fact that so many 'gender disturbed' (effeminate) little boys manage to grow up into 'healthy' (masculine) men, albeit after the phase where sexuality has differentiated as gay" (143)
For Friedman, "it seems merely an unfortunate... misunderstanding that for a proto-gay child to identify 'masculinely' might involve his identification with his own erasure" (144)

Diabloging Sedgwick

After reading Sedgwick's "How to Bring Your Kids Up Gay: The War on Effeminate Boys", I have scribbled a few questions on my paper and most of them begins with "Why?". I am really interested in thinking of why does all these happen.

Page 140, the third paragraph was mentioning about 2 monographic literature on subject which exclusively about boys. I personally have problem with the way they titled their book or literature. "The Sissy Boy Syndrome", this title is conveying the idea that effeminate is a syndrome. Why? It sounds very effeminophobia to me.

Besides on the same page, in Friedman's book during his depatholizing movement, the way that he portrayed, in his definition of "healthy gay man" are very masculine and there are also characteristic which he used which I personally have no idea why it was there, like
"Bob, another "well-integrated individual", had regular sexual activity with a few different partner but never cruised or visited gay bars or baths. He did not belong to a gay organization... He had loyal, caring, durable friendship with both men and women. WHY? This is confusing... It's like saying a gay man can have multiple sexual partner, but you should not cruised or visit gay bars or bath, don't get involve in gay organization. And hey FYI, he is loyal, caring and can have a durable friendship with both men and women.

Nosecage and Chester_Selfish have mentioned about the dropping of the pathologizing diagnosis of homosexuality from the DSM-III (hurray!! ღ(。◕‿◕。)ღ). But there was a new diagnosis for "gender identity disorder of childhood" (Boo~), the naming of the diagnosis have make it sounds as if the child is traumatized with their childhood or they are "handicapped".

In page 141, it is mentioned that the diagnosis is highly differential between boys and girls (→ double standard), that girl will only be diagnosed to have "disorder" if only she thinks that she identified herself as male or will eventually grow a penis. Whereas a boy will be diagnosed with the "disorder" even if he display stereotypical female activities. So why does this happens? Is it because of the social expectations that are exerted on male? Is the society too masculine driven?

So the homosexual is not a sickness but being effeminate is. In this case are we going anyway or are we still on still in square 1?

In page 141, Sedgwick brought our attention to the theoretical movement of distinguishing gender from sexuality. That is to my understanding, the professionals are depatholizing sexuality but patholizing gender identity. But still link it to the development of sexuality which indirectly still patholizing sexuality.

Sedgwick also bring our attention to John Money and Robert Stoller's research that the development of "gay-ness" is related to a boy growing up being effeminate. It is indicated in "Under the pressure, ironically, of having to show how gay adults whom he considers well-integrated personalities do sometimes evolve from children seen as they very definition of psychopathology (effeminate)." And also several paragraph followed.


In page 144, she also bring our attention to the exclusiveness of the issue, saying that "But given that ego-syntonic conlidation for a boy can come only in the form of masculinity, given that the masculinity can be conferred only by men, and given that femininity in a person with a penis can represent nothing but deficit and disorder." Hmm, penis as a reference point of masculinity?

I personally have been teased and bullied for being a effeminate boy when I was growing up. Even now back in my home university I was being joke around, not in an offensive way, about my some effeminate characteristic.

There is a guy who is female identified in my campus, who was constantly being make fun of in my home university. And recently I have found out that people were commenting on her picture offensively on facebook. Words like "disgusted, monster..." were used.

Diablog: Sedgwick

In this essay, Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick discusses psychoanalysis and psychiatry, specifically revisionist psychoanalysis as it was functioning in 1989 when the essay was first written. The author does this by examining the work of two authors that published books right around that time period, Richard C. Friedman and Richard Green. Throughout the essay Sedgwick critiques several passages from each book examining closely the popular theories surrounding the cause and "cure" of homosexuality specifically among boys.
One interesting belief among revisionist analysts is the idea that there are good gays; these are the men that present as masculine, do not belong to any gay organizations, and do not frequent gay bars. Then there are the other gays. According to Friedman, "the healthy homosexual is one that is (a) already grown up and (b) acts masculine."
It seems that there is one group of individuals that were a bit of an enigma to revisionist psychoanalysis. "Extremely and chronically effeminate boys", this however, was easily remedied with the DSM III that was published in 1980. In this issue of the DSM homosexuality had been removed as a mental disorder but a new disorder had been added, "Gender identity disorder in childhood." The criteria needed to be labeled with this disorder was much different for girls than boys. For a girl to get this label she actually had to be anatomically male. For boys on the other hand, they needed only to express themselves as feminine or express that they felt it would be better to not have a penis. There are so many problems with these diagnostic criteria that I honestly don't even know where to begin. Most importantly, I think, is the idea that gender and gender expression are either fully masculine or fully feminine, that there can be no overlap. The underlying idea of developing gender identity disorder of childhood involves the failure to develop a core gender identity, "one's basal sense of being male or female."
According to revisionist analysts the main reason effeminate boys end up gay is because they are never validated as masculine by other men. In addition, the mothers of these boys can offer no help in the validation process. "Any involvement by a woman is overinvolvement, and any protectiveness is overprotectiveness." It is however, the responsibility of the parents or caretakers of these male children get a "properly male core gender identity in place." If this occurs then there will be more of a chance for the boys to grow into healthy adult heterosexuals.
I think it is important to reiterate the fact that this was first published in 1989 and that many of the ideas about sexuality have changed. I do not however they have changed drastically enough. This line of thinking presented by Friedman and Green is so oppressive and stigmatizing. There is so much left to discuss on the topic but I want to stop here and get the thoughts from my group up to this point.

Boyhood Effeminacy: It's Diablogical!

Diablog(ical) Engagement with Sedgwick

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)?

Respond/comment on this open thread.

Sedgwick Diablog Open Thread


A discussion on Sedgwick's "How to Bring Your Kids Up Gay: The War on Effeminate Boys."

Please feel free to join in.

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