Men’s Rehabilitation Therapy Thesis
We’ve come into a dynamic and challenging era in the new age of Gender in the United States. As sexual equity has increased, creating more egalitarian opportunities for both men and women. The challenges of sexual fluidity, the marginalized intersex community and the cohesive definition of gender remain as frontiers to be mastered. This challenge is prevalent in our lives as it determines our proclivities, anxieties and coping mechanisms in our most basic Belonging Needs as outlined in Maslow’s Hierarchy of needs. As a man navigating gender equity and my role as well as future as a holder of the XY chromosome, I’d like to ensure I can understand how I fit and pass that on to my own offspring if I am ever so fortunate to bear any. As a rehabilitation counselor, privileged to be a cisgender masculine identifying male, I’d like to expand my practice to specialize in men’s rehabilitation. I feel my Master of Science in Rehabilitation Counseling; my work experience in counseling; and my strong network into both the straight and LGBT male community provide me a demographic from which I can both gather and provide transformative data. As well, I feel my Bachelor of Art in language; my art studio; and my professional experience in both fitness and modeling; can help me form an effective experimental design as well as therapy to assist men in navigating, mastering and finding satisfaction in both their male sexuality and gender identity. In a Ph. D program, I’d like to pursue the hypothesis:
Through art, drama and sex therapies focused on photography, modeling and role play, men can be cognitively, psychiatrically, physically and sexually rehabilitated in the effect of reducing homophobia, sexist anti-female bias, sexual dysfunctions, body dysmorphia and general antisocial personality disorder related behaviors. I’d like to pursue this using conventional, boudoir, physique and Avant Garde film and photography to produce “process film and images” in which the client (a male) and counselor (myself) can use CBT, appreciative inquiry and motivational interviewing to achieve both internal and external results of self-improvement accordant to gender and sex egalitarian goals.
To properly discuss male rehabilitation with the challenges of our new era of sex and gender freedom and transitions, we need to ask and define what the terms of the conversation mean. What is sex? What is sexuality? What is gender? I’ll explore these first terms and as the paper unfolds, I’ll explain and apply other terms as they arise.
What is sex?
Sex is both noun and verb. While it can apply to action that incudes procreation, it also serves as mechanism of stress relief, social bonding, reconciliation, trust building, performance and even business. However, as a noun it classifies how we are born from our mothers and our genital descent. The sexual types are not just male or female, but usually termed intersex: hermaphrodite (herm), male hermaphrodite (merm) and female hermaphrodite (ferm). Intersex hermaphrodites usually have sexual organs and features solidly in the middle. Intersex male hermaphrodites present as male, but internally have female organs. And Intersex female hermaphrodites present as female although their internal equipment is male. In more medical language, the varieties of intersex are congenital adrenal hyperplasia (CAH), androgen insensitivity syndrome (AIS) and especially rare, 5-alpha-reductase deficiency (5ARD). However, when we look at forms, we are only offered “male” or “female” (our sex). There are never any squares with “male, merm, herm, ferm and female” nor forms with “XX, CAH, AIS, 5ARD, XY”. As a public, we are ill-informed and our understanding of the varieties in which we humans naturally (without human tinkering) occur is quite low and tend to be restricted to limited segments of the medical community.
So, when it comes to the uninformed public, we have no choice but to confuse sex with gender and assume restrictions on sexual ideas. This situation becomes especially murky when discussing gender identity when “cisgender” discussions tend to be heteronormative and focus on male vs female, while the intersex minority remains marginalized. When people discuss transgender or transsexualism, the common goals are male-to-female (MTF) or female-to-male (FTM). It is virtually never that you see male-to-intersex (MTI) or female-to-Intersex (FTI) procedures nor patients who seek it specifically as a goal. When people discuss cisgender privilege or how forms should have “male, female, transgender”, it often is a faux pas of their own heteronormative privilege. In a culture of pathological binary thinking, the intersex-positive stance can revolutionize and reenergize discussions between the sexes and balance some of the arguments of the transgender/ transsexual movement. Transitioning sex to either male or female is a privilege for anyone heteronormatively identified and never offered “male, female, intersex”.
Nancy Krieger; Genders, sexes, and health: what are the connections—and why does it matter?, International Journal of Epidemiology, Volume 32, Issue 4, 1 August 2003, Pages 652–657, https://doi.org/10.1093/ije/dyg156
Ernst, M. M., Liao, L. M., Baratz, A. B., & Sandberg, D. E. (2018). Disorders of Sex Development/Intersex: Gaps in Psychosocial Care for Children. Pediatrics, e20174045.
Griffiths, D. A. (2018). Shifting syndromes: Sex chromosome variations and intersex classifications. Social studies of science, 48(1), 125-148.
What is gender?
As done with sex, gender too must be clarified. Gender, although the term can be found to be synonymously used to mean physical sexual characteristic has become distinguished to refer to style. As Butler describes and harkening back to dramaturgy theory, gender has abstract, relative and aesthetic qualities. Originally found in linguistics, the term indicates male, female and neuter. Not only in linguistics and language is gender explored as a performative art with clear rules, Butler employs a helpful model of theatre to also understand its performative qualities in the context of sexual politics and social expression. This also helps us gain a clearer understanding on how to approach sexual equity in the public sphere as well as gender equity. As before, I noted that the intersex minority id often without representation and consequently gender role. However, using aesthetic principles of performance, this means asexual or neutral can be the space for intersexual discussion as male is for male and female is for female.
With this pattern we can also see how transsexualism/ transgenderism must be properly negotiated. A man—especially unaware of intersexual reality—claiming female identity and space must be challenged that he is not making a male chauvinist claim toward not only a gender expression, but also not toward a complex sexual identity that is not his own. To most males who do not understand the sexual experience of menstruation, childbearing and childbirth, mammary development, menopause, etc. it is presumptive and marginalizing to women to reduce female experience to just the aesthetics of breasts, genitals and fashion. And for FTM is it the same when considering the unique male experiences of nocturnal emissions, epididymal hypertension, erectile dysfunction and andropause. Perhaps it could even be described a potentially reverse female chauvinism or even a Stockholm syndrome of sorts.
Furthermore, it must be considered what the effects of intersex-negative transgenderism can have on youth. As we are aware of the negative effects of excessive heteronormative sexualization of children, transgenderism/ transsexualism may potentially have equal and opposite outcomes. If transsexual/ transgender discourse ignores the reality of intersexuality as does its heteronormative counterpart, the trans movement may not only potentially be prematurely emphasizing sexual identity conclusions in children, but it may also potentially reinforce the marginalization of intersexual children; and consequently, reinforce body dysmorphic disorder and unrealistic body images. Ideally children should have the right to be inconclusive, asexual, androgynous and purely intellectual in a neutral environment until they are not only resolute, but also when they are cognitively, emotionally and physically prepared for the gender and sexual identity that suits them in their adulthood (18). However, sexual/ gender identity politics and their profound real-life ramifications can damage children, especially intersexual children who are more likely to suffer genital mutilation and body dysmorphia from their own parents and doctors.
What is Men’s Rehabilitation Therapy?
In exploring gender and all its complexity, my personal interest and motivation is in male gender expression, sexuality and masculinity of men. Feminist Theory has posited a plethora of positive points and contributions towards the empowerment of women as well as the recruitment of feminism allies. It has also spurned motivation throughout LGBTQIA communities. However, as the knowledge unlocked from feminism has bettered society, it has also reverberated into producing negative effects: polarization of WASP men as well as paternalistic, female-negative men; the lack of minority men in nurturing positions; homophobia and marginalization of the sexuality of feminist male allies; male chauvinist MTF transgenderism; retaliatory insensitivity toward male children; and many other, seen but not heard social problems.
But through the conclusions of feminist theory—that gender is performed—I feel I can help the male world through the art therapy of modeling, performance and a safe space for the exhibition and artistic appreciation and eventually holistic rehabilitation of masculinity.