- ICD10 is “slow to catch up” than DSM with regard to taking asexuality out of the classification of diseases.
- Young queer folk are sexually irresponsible and seem to think that they will live forever given how frequently and dangerously they seem to partake in unsafe sex. Yes, indeed unsafe sex can be self-harm.
- Consent is grey especially in long-term relationships where one enthusiastically consents to sex with ones partner but may not end up feeling satisfied
- Consent is grey because there is consenting for non-consensual sex within the BDSM communities.
I was part of an online class by a reputed organization that was disseminating classes to educate people in the field of healthcare and allied sciences on the queer lives, they mentioned being queer affirmative. This online class allowed for faculty and participants to freely and without accountability express these ideas and faculty that held their voices in affirmative. I was distraught by the third day. After writing a few times to the facilitator I quit the course because I was constantly triggered, my voice was heard and then tossed away with remarks like systems are “slow to catch up” and we understand intersectionality and each persons voice is important here in this group.
I wept that night and then decided to drop the course.
It got me thinking about an organization’s responsibility in queer lives, especially organizations that work to better queer lives via education to say the least.
An organization by way of being an entity established to work to improve lives of people sits at a place of power, able to potentially influence the lives of thousands and amplify a stance or vision that brought them to existence. What is the responsibility of an organization such as this toward a class like this?
What should faculty teaching queer affirmative work be mindful of?
Institutions in places of power need to be mindful of the stance they are exercising. Ask yourself what are you amplifying or perpetuating?
Are you perpetuating the idea that the person is the problem or amplifying the awareness of how a system marginalizes people and proliferates emotional deprivation?
The fabric of our society is hemmed to the edge with ideas of binaries. Perfect vs. flawed, man vs. woman, heterosexual love and monogamous relationships. That anything outside of “health” is sickness and everyone outside this neat definition is pathological.
Really, ask yourself what are you believing in? As a facilitator of a program you may truly believe that you are holding all individual voices in the room as equal but in doing so you are undoubtedly marginalizing those voices that are not privileged enough to have a trigger-free day because you said so lightly that what they are experiencing for years together is really because of a glitch in a system that was slow to catch up.
Do you see what you have done here? When you say something to the effect of “oh asexuality is indeed not a disorder and ICD is just slow to catch up” you are partaking in invisiblizing the trauma that is a product of stigma and marginalization actively participated upon by large bodies such as the ICD that are “slow to catch up” and in the meanwhile impacting significantly the life of those who identify as queer.
Now, another matter, this view of seeing young queer folk as careless, irresponsible, having god complex saying all this as rationale for why they having unsafe sex. What is wrong with this you ask? While I was talking about this experience with Pooja Nair one of the amazing faculy members of the QACP program she gave language to the irksome feeling I was having in my gut. She said “The danger of conflating harm, sex and risk leads to assumptions that come from a paternalistic concern for the person (deeming them sick and needing rescue) or from a sense of panic that this person might be “spreading” infections”. We miss seeing the larger system at play here, we miss seeing the agency of the person and perpetuate the idea that the person is the problem.
For that point about consent being grey. I am simply going to say consent is not grey.
Technically it is true that ICD 11 is on its way out and asexuality will not be part of it. But as a facilitator of a course on queer lives, representing the voices of the marginalized accurately involves, being aware of the voices in the classroom and locating the genesis of the conversation within a sociopolitical context that has long marginalized voices. Self-harm is what happens to parched young lives that live on the margins of a society. Where erasure is a norm what are we saying is harm? The erasure itself that is inflicted on young lives or the unsafe sex and the bleeding wrist?
As a faculty of a program on queer lives, as a mental health practitioner who works with people who identity as queer and as those of us who are queer, faculties and mental health practitioners, our work is cut out for us. We need to do the necessary emotional labor arm in arm with those marginalized.
May we Educate, Agitate and Organize as Baba Shaib said. W.A.I.T as my favorite mindfulness abbreviation goes, we need to ask ourselves as people who can potentially do good: Why Am I Talking? And listen before we say we know really, how to do this work.
So tell me how do you want to talk about queer lives? With a cis-het gaze on lives of people beyond this charmed binary? What else are you willing to see?
-Written by Aarathi Selvan
PS: Thank you Pooja Nair on the QACP faculty team for encouraging my voice, seeing my anger for what it is, giving language to it and agitating with me. The QACP program is a deeply life altering one giving voice to what it means to be human, queer and live in this flesh and blood. I highly encourage MHPs to keep an eye on when the program will be held next and make this course central to your understnding of queer lives. Follow Mariwala Health Initiative on Insta: @Mariwalahealth. It is necessary to build solidarity on this scrufy, wobbily terrain of finding quiet within: May we find our bodies align when we meet people who can teach us well.