Tag Archives: intersectionality

1st Annual AltSex NYC Conference 2016—10 Days Left for Regular Registration

Hello Friends, Colleagues, and Community!

I couldn’t be more excited to be involved in organizing and producing the 1st Annual AltSex NYC Conference on April 22, 2016 alongside Dr. Michael Aaron. Please see the stellar line up of speakers below, and note that the best time to buy tickets is now, before regular registration ends and prices go up on April 1.

Please also note that the conference has officially been approved by New York State for 6.5 social work continuing education credits, and also by AASECT for 6.5 continuing education credits.

If you have obligations that will keep you from attending the conference in person, you can attend remotely via live streaming, which is also eligible for continuing education credits.

Cheers,

Dulcinea

1st Annual AltSex NYC Conference

Friday, April 22, 2016
8:15am – 5:15pm

Midtown Manhattan
CEs available*

Introducing the 1st Annual AltSex NYC Conference—where clinicians, academics, and alt lifestyle community members will come together for a full day of sex-positive, alternative lifestyle affirmative, cutting edge research-based,  and current practice-informed seminars and discussions presented by a stellar collection of New York City educators and mental health providers.   

LIVE STREAMING (WITH CE’S) IS AVAILABLE FOR REMOTE ATTENDEES! 

8:15AM — Welcome Address

8:30AM — Keynote Address by Margaret Nichols, PhD
“Kink is Good: BDSM in the Context of New Models of Sex and Gender Variance”

10:05AM — Zhana Vrangalova, PhD
“Myths and Realities of Consensual Non-Monogamy”

11:05AM — Dulcinea Pitagora, MA, LMSW and Michael Aaron, PhD
“The Kink-Poly Confluence: Community Intersections and Clinical Approaches”

12:05PM — Lunch Break

1:20PM — Michael Aaron, PhD
“Facing Your Shadow: The Healing Potential of Psychological Edge Play”

2:20PM — Rosalyn Dischiavo, EdD, CSES
“Metamorphosis: Braving Transitions in Polyamorous Relationships”

3:30PM — David Ortmann, LCSW
“Age Play: Eros, Practicality, and Walking the Edge”

4:30PM — Panel Discussion & Final Words (optional)

produced by
Michael Aaron, PhD and Dulcinea Pitagora, MA, LMSW

*PROGRAM APPROVED: The AltSexNYC Conference has been approved by the New York State Education Department’s State Board for Social Work as a continuing education provider (# 0314) for licensed social workers. 

*PROGRAM APPROVED:  This program meets the requirements of the American Association of Sexuality Educators, Counselors and Therapists (AASECT) and is approved for 6.5 AASECT CE Credits. These CE Credits may be applied toward AASECT certification and renewal of certification.

A portion of the AltSex NYC Conference proceeds will be donated to the Community-Academic Consortium for Research on Alternative Sexualities (CARAS) in appreciation of their continued dedication to supporting and promoting excellence in the study of alternative sexualities. 

For more information, visit AltSexNYCconference.org.

Midtown Manhattan

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Sliding Scale Appointments Now Available!

I have the pleasure of announcing that beginning this summer I will be working under the supervision of Dr. Kelly Wise, psychotherapist and AASECT certified sex therapist. I’ll be taking on a limited number of sliding scale appointments at his Union Square office, working with individuals, couples, non-traditional relationships and families, and current or former sex workers dealing with issues across the spectrum of gender identification/expression, sexual orientation/expression, D/s dynamics, relationship status, intersections thereof, and beyond. Please contact me directly via email or my contact page for more information, or call me at 917-675-3446 for a free 15-minute phone consultation. I will continue working at PCGS and my private practice as well, and if for some reason we won’t be able to work together, I recommend taking a look at ManhattanAlternative.com, a referral listing for alternative lifestyle affirmative providers.

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I think I just saw my therapist in leather.

A point of clarification: The title of this post is not a direct quote from myself or anyone else in particular, though I am fairly certain that these words have been uttered before, in a paraphrase if not verbatim. I bring up this idea because the potential for crossing paths with your therapist, or your client if you’re a therapist, is something that you tend to think about and perhaps anticipate when both of you run in relatively small circles. I mentioned in the GO Magazine interview that outing myself was a conscious decision for several reasons, but one of the reasons that I did not happen to mention in that interview was that I am active in the communities connected with my intersecting identifications, and therefore chances are very likely that I will run into people I’m doing therapy with. When your own identifications result in something reminiscent of the rainbow Venn diagram below, and you find value in interacting socially with others who share those intersections, you just might see your therapist in leather, or they might see you in latex, or you might notice them interacting with a partner or partners.

And then what happens?  What do you do?  What would you expect your therapist to do?

rainbowVenn

There’s no one correct answer to the above questions, because the answer will depend on both the therapist’s and the client’s comfort levels, though the agreed upon answer should go in the more conservative direction, the one that most protects the therapeutic relationship and most allows for progress back in the therapeutic environment.  Because I tend to work with people who run in some or all of the same circles that I do, I like to address the issue of a potential path-crossing at some point in our work together, as early on as makes sense.

The conversation might go something like this: I bring up the potential of running into each other outside of our usual meeting place, check in with them to see how they feel about that potential, and let them know I have a uniform code of conduct when I find myself in that situation.  Which is, if I happen to inadvertently make eye contact, I might smile and nod, but I will not approach someone to speak to them out of respect for their privacy and discretion, and I will likely move to another area, or make a decision to leave if that seems more appropriate and protective of the therapeutic process.  If someone approaches me, I will certainly say hello, but I will not engage in prolonged conversation, and in our next session together, we would discuss thoughts and feelings that came up around meeting in a different context.  Finally, I would check in with them to see how they feel about that process, see what their specific preferences might be, and come to a mutually consensual agreement.  This is a fairly standard way of handling such situations, according to what I’ve heard from colleagues and supervisors.

There are therapists who would avoid engaging with clients outside of the therapeutic environment at all costs, and in more mainstream communities, it is much easier to accomplish this. When there are limited venues in which to interact socially with like-minded people however, I don’t see the need to avoid engagement. In fact, I feel as though being an active part of the community is a form of autoethnography, a process in which “you use your own experiences to garner insights into the larger culture or subculture of which you are a part” (Patton, 2014, Kindle Locations 3895-3896).  Understanding yourself and understanding the community/ies you’re a part of is an active and ongoing process, as is therapy. Likewise, therapy is an active collaboration, as is community, and I encourage my clients to take an active role in their process, just as I do in mine.

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IDAHOT: May 17!

From APAGS GradPsychBlog:

“On May 17, 1990, the World Health Organization declassified homosexuality as a mental disorder, and since 2005 the International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia, and Biphobia (IDAHOT) has commemorated that day. It is a global occasion for individuals, groups, and organizations to take action on topics related to lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) individuals and to advocate for more accepting public policies. Each year a global focus for IDAHOT is chosen and this year’s is LGBT youth.”

idahot

Read more!

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Cross-post: Thinking Globally about Sex and Gender

A couple of years ago I discovered a document called the Yogyakarta Principles on the Application of International Human Rights Law in relation to Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity, created in 2006 in Yogyakarta, Indonesia by the International Commission of Jurists and the International Service for Human Rights, on behalf of a coalition of human rights organizations in reaction to egregious international human rights violations pertaining to individuals marginalized for their sexual orientation and/or gender identifications.

Screen Shot 2015-04-14 at 9.58.52 AM

The introduction to the Yogyakarta Principles begins with…

“All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights. all human rights are universal, interdependent, indivisible and interrelated. sexual orientation1) and gender identity2) are integral to every person’s dignity and humanity and must not be the basis for discrimination or abuse” (p. 6).

…and ends with…

“The Yogyakarta Principles affirm binding international legal standards with which all states must comply. they promise a different future where all people born free and equal in dignity and rights can fulfill that precious birthright” (p. 7).

I’m an advocate for every clinician and educator’s (and every human, really) reading this document in its entirety, which is why I decided to post this on the ManhattanAlternative.com blog, and is why I’m cross-posting it here as well. Though the abridged principles listed as follows can be interpreted differently depending on context and experience, thinking critically about them as they stand here is a useful exercise in itself:

  1. The right to the universal enjoyment of human rights.
  2. The rights to equality and non-discrimination.
  3. The right to recognition before the law.
  4. The right to life.
  5. The right to security of the person.
  6. The right to privacy.
  7. The right to freedom of arbitrary deprivation of liberty.
  8. The right to a fair trial.
  9. The right to treatment with humanity while in detention.
  10. The right to freedom from torture and cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.
  11. The right to protection from all forms of exploitation, sale and trafficking of human beings.
  12. The right to work.
  13. The right to social security and to other social protection measures.
  14. The right to an adequate standard of living.
  15. The right to adequate housing.
  16. The right to education.
  17. The right to the highest attainable standard of health.
  18. Protection from medical abuses.
  19. The right to freedom of opinion and expression.
  20. The right to freedom of peaceful assembly and association.
  21. The right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion.
  22. The right to freedom of movement.
  23. The right to seek asylum.
  24. The right to found a family.
  25. The right to participate in public life.
  26. The right to participate in cultural life.
  27. The right to promote human rights.
  28. The right to effective remedies and redress.
  29. Accountability.

Some interesting questions to ponder:

Which of the above principles most affect you on a regular basis?

Which have you fought for in terms of your personal experience?

Which might you have taken for granted?

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Learning the Language of Grief

This week I was asked to facilitate a suicide bereavement group in collaboration with Persist Health Project to support those who had recently lost someone important to them.  This person also happened to be a leader in their community, and someone who had offered support and strength to many beyond their immediate circle of loved ones.  We sat together that morning in an effort to learn and teach each other the language of grief.

Please note, the following does not represent mine or any one else’s voice in particular, and is not meant to be a distillation or summation of all voices present, but represents a few of the ideas and feelings that were shared as our thoughts and emotions intersected and diverged.

We sat facing each other and talked about our emotions, the emotions of those who knew the person well and had seen them recently, and the emotions of those who had only met them once or twice but had been affected deeply by their fierce activism. Collectively, we were sad, shocked, confused, angry, numb, hurt, speechless, frustrated, anguished, heavy, isolated, overwhelmed, afraid, hopeless, guilty. We also felt love for the person who is now gone, and for others in our respective and intersecting communities. We also felt hate for the forces in the world that make life so difficult to live at times, and for the internal forces that can exist within individuals that sometimes lead towards destruction. We wondered what it means to die, to kill yourself, to exist after someone you care about kills themselves, what anything means, whether anything really has meaning, how meaning changes, how emotions change, how things can get better, then worse, then better, how nothing stays the same. We talked about wanting to take care of each other, and to take care of ourselves, and not always knowing how to do either. We talked about how sometimes taking care of yourself is a way to take care of someone else important to you, and asking for help for yourself is a way to help your community. We asked a lot of questions, and the most concrete answer was that there is sometimes no answer, because sometimes the answer is in the asking.

We talked about the different ways we react at different times to different people after something like this happens. We talked about the importance of self-expression, about fighting the good fight, about listening to music, about engaging all senses, about communication, about sex, about feeding yourself, about simply existing, about just being there, about sitting in uncomfortable silence, about trying, about letting go of meaning making, about asking for help.

It’s hard to talk about death and about grief because it’s not something we’re ever really taught to do in Western culture, so it’s like learning a new language. In the silence that comes with not knowing what to say or how to feel about things like suicide or grieving, there can be loneliness and isolation, and even those who seem to be the most prosocial and surrounded by support can be lonely and isolated and not seem like they are at all.

An experience like the one I describe above can never be encapsulated or distilled down in a way that accurately represents each individual’s perspective, but I will leave you with some thoughts that I feel are useful to contemplate.  Self-care can be as simple as becoming aware of one’s internal processes and emotions, even if that awareness is that there is a certain lack of awareness or ability to be aware.  Learning how to communicate transparently and empathetically with others is a work in progress that is not always easy, and can be clouded by grief.  Engaging with and strengthening our respective and intersecting communities can be active ways to support those we care about while strengthening our own support systems.

Finally, if I were to voice a take home message, it would be this: We sat facing each other.  It wasn’t about the sitting, or the direction we were sitting, but we shared space.  People came out to share space together, to take care of each other, to take care of themselves.

I will be offering free therapy sessions at the Persist Health Project office to those in mourning in the wake of this tragedy on Monday afternoons through April. Contact me directly through email or call 917-675-3446.

Some additional resources:

Parachute NYC provides alternatives to hospitalization for people experiencing emotional crises.

The Support Line is a free and confidential phone service operated by peer staff that offers support and referral services to NYC individuals experiencing emotional distress: 646-741-HOPE.

1-800-LIFENET is a free, confidential, multi-lingual, mental health and substance abuse information, referral, and crisis prevention hotline available to anyone at any time.

The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline—by calling 1-800-273-TALK (8255) you’ll be connected to a skilled, trained counselor at a crisis center in your area, anytime 24/7.

The Action Alliance for Suicide Prevention is a public-private partnership advancing the Surgeon General’s National Strategy for Suicide Prevention.

The Trevor Project is the leading national organization providing crisis intervention and suicide prevention services to lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and questioning (LGBTQ) young people ages 13-24.

Persist Health Project is a peer-led, community-based health and community organizing project based on Brooklyn, New York that provides health referrals, health education, mental health services, herbal health services, peer support, job training, and leadership development for communities involved with and/or impacted by the sex trade.

ManhattanAlternative.com is a network of therapeutic service providers in New York City who are sex-positive, affirmative, and have expertise related to issues that kink, poly, consensually non-monogamous, trans, gender non-conforming, and/or LGBQ-identified individuals face.

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NCSF Guest Blog: Disclosure and Outness as a Therapist with Intersecting Atypical Identifications

I was recently exchanging emails with NCSF (the National Coalition for Sexual Freedom)’s Susan Wright about ManhattanAlternative, and she asked me to elaborate on my motivation for organizing the collaborative.  Our conversation inspired me to write the following, which NCSF subsequently posted as a guest blog

 

Excerpt:

Prior to starting my practice as a therapist, I was confronted with contradicting perspectives on the therapist’s disclosure of personal information to their clients.  The prevailing thought behind this in the mental health field is that the therapeutic environment is not a place for therapists to disclose too much about themselves—therapy is about the client, not about the therapist, and disclosing personal information might distract clients from the therapeutic process for a variety of reasons.  Having said that, recent research has shown potential benefits in certain types of disclosure, particularly when the therapist is a member of a sexual minority group, and the client in question might feel safer with a therapist who shares their marginalized identification(s).

Read more…

 

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Call for NYC Alt Lifestyle Affirmative Providers!

Great news! I’m putting the finishing touches on ManhattanAlternative.com, a network of therapeutic service providers in New York City who are sex-positive, affirmative, and have expertise related to issues that kink, poly, consensually non-monogamous, trans, gender non-conforming, and/or LGBQ-identified individuals face.

I hope to provide people seeking affirmative health care with as many options as possible, so my goal is that the network of providers be as inclusive and diverse as possible. Therefore, I am putting a call out to ask for therapists and health care professionals of varying races, ethnicities, gender expressions, and abilities to contact me directly via therapy@DulcineaPitagora.com or fill out the Provider Application Form if they are interested in being listed as a kink/poly/trans/LGBQ-affirmative provider.

Please pass it on—thank you!

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The Intersection of Gender Roles and BDSM Power Roles

I was so pleased when the National Coalition for Sexual Freedom—an organization which I have long admired for their tireless support of alternative lifestyles—asked me to submit a guest blog for their site, and posted a excerpt on the presentation I gave at the Woodhull Sexual Freedom Summit in 2014 based on my paper “The BDSM Power Exchange: Subversion, Transcendence, Sexual (R)evolution.”  The excerpt they included was chosen because it aligned well with one of their main goals, which is to debunk the historical pathologization and criminalization of BDSM.  I wanted to share with you the excerpt below as well, which looks at the intersection of gender roles and BDSM power roles and the potential for subversion and sexual (r)evolution.

sexual-r-evolution3

[…]

An individual’s gender expression is arguably the most visible set of physical characteristics used by society to form assumptions about what is acceptable behavior. This type of automatic social profiling can be exceptionally stressful for those being profiled, as there is no viable way for individuals to fulfill societal expectations of idealized stereotypical gender roles. Many BDSM participants find relief from such societal constraints within the parameters of the BDSM power exchange, and often experience a subsequent release of stress that can be quite therapeutic1.

Research that explores BDSM interactions from a normative (i.e., non-pathologizing) perspective is a relatively new phenomenon, and research that explores a subversion or displacement of gender roles within BDSM interactions is quite rare. Historically, the literature has suggested that BDSM interactions might be more contingent on gender and/or sexual orientation than power dynamic, likely due to the historical bias that assigns feminine-presenting individuals to submissive sexual roles, and masculine-presenting individuals to dominant sexual roles2. In order to refute the “the myth of the alpha male,” a study was conducted in 2008 positing that social dominance in females had been traditionally overlooked in research, by biologists and psychologists alike. The study involved the administration of questionnaires to a relatively large sample (N = 1723) of children in grades 5 through 10, reporting self- and peer-ratings on aggression, social motivation, and interpersonal influence. Their findings showed patterns in females that had typically been associated with male dominance, as well as patterns in males that had typically been associated with stereotypical (i.e., less dominant) female behavior; in other words, the study suggested that social dominance exists outside the realm of gender-specific norms3. This tendency toward gender skew was further refuted in Hawley and Hensley’s 20092 study of feminine power, which reported higher preferences for submissive fantasies in men than women.

One common theme described in BDSM activities as deliberately contrary to traditional patriarchal society is the common pairing of feminine dominants and masculine submissives4. Exaggerated parodies of subjugation, oppression, and exploitation emphasize an inequity of power that is not always weighted in favor of men or masculine gender representations; thus, BDSM interactions have been described as parodying traditional heteronormative sexual interactions5. The relationship between gender and power dynamic was examined in a qualitative study in which 24 participants from the BDSM community were interviewed regarding their sexual behaviors. The transcriptions were coded in order to determine common discourses, or “underlying systems of meaning” (p. 297), and the data showed several instances in which power dynamics were found to diverge from gender identification5. One common theme described BDSM activities as deliberately contrary to mandates of traditional patriarchal society, effectively ridiculing, undermining, and deconstructing mainstream sexual interactions toward the goal of exorcising subjugation and oppression5.

Taylor and Ussher’s findings directly counter arguments that many radical second- and some third-wave feminists have put forth against BDSM—that it reenacts and fosters the male-dominated structure of society, and therefore that consent in BDSM interactions is not valid4. Reminiscent of the means by which paraphilic disorders remain included in the DSM, these assertions are based in philosophical beliefs and political arguments; there has been no empirical research conducted to support these theories. As noted, the research that has been conducted shows that the power structures established by BDSM participants can in effect de-gender power dynamics through pointed subversion and personal choice. The devaluing of consent in BDSM interactions due to an ostensible association with misogyny effectively strips BDSM participants of agency and reduces them to a stereotype. In other words, to say that BDSM participants are not capable of giving consent because outside viewers may misunderstand the meaning of their actions negates self-determination and further stigmatizes this sexual minority group4.

[…]

McClintock’s6 exploration of the intersection between fetishism and gender power suggests that the prevalence of BDSM continues to expand due to a desire in modern societies to challenge mainstream social constructs of power, gender, identity, and erotic expression. BDSM power roles are said to complicate and/or supersede traditional power roles by subverting socially ingrained power dynamics through the creation and enactment of interactions that pointedly appropriate the privilege to punish6. There is no default method of behavior or expression in BDSM; instead, there is a conscious disruption of conformity, which can serve to free the individuals involved from the pressure of conforming to mainstream society, thereby providing psychological relief1. The parameters of a BDSM scene can provide a safe space where any gender can adopt any power role, thereby challenging the constraints of stereotypical gender expression6, and allowing for an expansion, elaboration, or contradiction of an individual’s typical gender expression in daily life. Participants can fluidly inhabit different sexual identities within or across BDSM scenes, mocking the idea of an expected and fixed identity, freeing individuals to expand their exploration of erotic desire, fantasy, and self-identification4,6. The vast array of scenarios and activities that fall within the realm of BDSM encourage many participants to seek an evolution of their sexuality and definition of self. Furthermore, many BDSM interactions deconstruct the expectation that erotic acts should be genitally focused, in the exploration of non-genital, atypical erogenous locations on the body or in the mind for arousal4,6. This displacement and diffusion of arousal challenges the notion of conventionally enacted sexual stimulation, and allows for an ongoing expansion of physical and psychological outlets of sexual satisfaction.

[…]

_____________

1 Pitagora, D. & Ophelian, A. (2013). Therapeutic benefits of subspace in BDSM interactions. [PowerPoint slides].

2 Hawley, P. H. & Hensley, W. A. (2009). Social dominance and forceful submission fantasies: Feminine pathology or power? The Journal of Sex Research, 46(6), 568–585.

3 Hawley, P. H., Little, T. D., & Card, N. A. (2008). The myth of the alpha male: A new look at dominance-related beliefs and behaviors among adolescent males and females. International Journal of Behavioral Development, 32(1), 76–88.

4 Hopkins, P. (1994). Rethinking sadomasochism: Feminism, interpretation, and simulation. Hypatia, 9(1), 116-141.

5 Taylor, G. W. & Ussher, J. M. (2001). Making sense of S&M: A discourse analytic account. Sexualities, 4(3), 293-314.

6 McClintock, A. (1993). Maid to order: Commercial fetishism and gender power. Social Text, 37, 87-116.

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