Pathologise This.

Posted: October 13, 2010 in Foucault, Identity, Masculinities, Uncategorized
Tags: , ,
“The intellectual was rejected and persecuted at the precise moment when the facts became incontrovertible, when it was forbidden to say that the emperor had no clothes. ”
Michel Foucault
‘Gay people are not sexually interested in straights…The subtext to a lot of homophobic thinking is the idea that gays will try to get straight people into bed at the first opportunity, or that gays are looking to “convert” straights. Freud called this concept schwanzangst; the U.S. Army calls it Don’t Ask Don’t Tell.’
   –  OK Cupid
I am too tired and hacked off to explain properly. But the whole thing the shadow that is hanging over this ‘It gets better’ , ‘growth in gay suicides’ , ‘gay teens need help’, ‘gays are persecuted by society’…. the word that describes what is going on is:                                                                                                                                                                                                                
And when you pathologise you make it likely that the people you are pathologising are the ones who are going to suffer in social and mental health terms. I had a friend who was a very unhappy teenager. He held on and ‘toughed it out’ till he was 25, when he finally killed himself. He wasn’t ‘gay’. He had another label stuck on him like an unwanted Star of David: ‘schizophrenic‘. And once he had that label I don’t think he had much chance of finding a way to be ‘well’. You can’t be ‘cured’ of schizophrenia just as you can’t be ‘cured’ of being ‘gay’. 
But you can reject the terminology. Not just you. Not just the individual who is labelled. We. We can reject how people are pathologised in society by labelling them according to certain characteristics and behaviours that they display at any given time.
My friend wasn’t a schizophrenic to me. He was my friend, a freckled faced wild-eyed boy, an adventurer, a fantasist, a painter, a poet, a dickhead, a lover of Bob Dylan, a joker, a worrier, a tightrope walker, a drinker of  cheap cider, and briefly, tortuously a man.
Nobody is ‘gay’ to me. Nobody is ‘straight’. Nobody is ‘schizophrenic’.  It’s ok. We will still exist without those titles. I do. Or, as Gore Vidal put it more poetically, via the voice of myra Breckinridge:
…I am right, for it is demonstrably true that desire can take as many shapes as there are containers. Yet what one pours into those containers is always the same inchoate human passion, entirely lacking in definition until what holds it shapes it. So let us break the world’s pots, and allow the stuff of desire to flow and intermingle in one great viscous sea…’
(Myra’s wisdom found in Mark Simpson’s It’s A Queer World)
Post Script: It Gets Weirder: I think i found myself agreeing with the words of a right-wing Republican and homophobe… Not ALL the words obviously.
  1. Jen says:

    He must have an enormous Schwanstücke!

    Sorry, just gotta quote Young Frankenstein at every opportunity, and ‘Schwanzangst’ got me going.

  2. google translation: schwanzangst= ‘dick fear’ haha I guess that’s what it is!

  3. There is certainly a disturbing tendency to pathologize anything out of the supposed ordinary.

    • it’s when people pathologise themselves as ‘victims’ that I get the most pissed (off) Caroline. And with this It Gets Better thing, it is gay people who are quite successful and ‘safe’ in their lives, pathologising younger more vulnerable people as ‘gay’ , making both being young and being gay into ‘problems’!

  4. innegative says:

    I Enjoyed this. Tis, in clinical circles, the concept of the ‘normative’ that is used in designationg where mental health problems begin – I think, but don’t remember for sure – that Canguelheim was a big name in this? Certainly, what can be pathologised can often be used more creatively. ‘Victim’ is indeed a pretty heinous one, but there’s a lot of power in being a ‘victim’. ‘Survivor’ too it likewise hideous, implying that there was indeed something ‘extraordinary’ that happened to you.

    Conceptualisations are useful to though in that they create entities and thus aesthetics. Look at how much imagination has been poured into paedophilia. I wonder what the world of your Myra quote would look like – where would imagination go without conceptual shapes from which to evolve it?

  5. Conceptualisations are useful to though in that they create entities and thus aesthetics. Look at how much imagination has been poured into paedophilia. I wonder what the world of your Myra quote would look like – where would imagination go without conceptual shapes from which to evolve it?

    Good question Innegative. But paedophilia seems to me like such a waste of all our imaginative energy-just to create such a ridiculous ‘monster’ as that. Gore Vidal’s imagination is much more creative and beautiful, and it is one which aims to go beyond categories. My guess is our imaginations would go to fantastic places without the constraints of pathologising identities

  6. innegative says:

    I quite like monsters, is sort of my problem. I haven’t read any Gore Vidal, so I don’t really have any idea what he’s upto. The monster imaginary though I think speaks of an elsewhere that is always interesting. It’s the ‘elsewhere’ I suppose that interests me more than the monster-shapes through which we get there. I wonder though if we don’t need structures through which to get there – like pathology. ‘Pathology’ creates an aesthetic world as much as it does a set of annoying and sterile self-conceptualisations. I worry about the underlying desire to remove negative worlds/realities, is all as I think they are pregnant and desirable in themselves.

    • I know what you mean innegative. I don’t think we are ever going to remove negative realities. But its still worth challenging some of the most pernicious constructs in society. I think. You make me question myself! I like the monstrous too. But I find the concept e.g. of ‘the paedophile’ quite a boring monster.

      • innegative says:

        For want of a better word, probably… I think ‘boredom’ is likely the best counter-action given the hysteria that surrounds ‘paedophilia’ and the huge amount of stuff that gets inapproprately filed under that catch-all. In deconstructing nonsense though, I always feel you have to take some care to protect the good bits. This isn’t, of course, to say that the monsteraous aspects of paedophilia are good, but only that ‘the relationship with the monsterous’ and then how you encode that is good.

        It is a good message though I think – that you don’t have to see yourself via the social/clinical label; that you are free to invent yourself for yourself around whatever it is you happen to be.

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