Friday, June 06, 2008

At the table

Oh man.

So I roll up to 1325 Mass Ave, which happens to house not only the National Center for Transgender Equality but also the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force and a shit-ton of other GLBT and sexuality related lobbying groups. (Mighty, mighty convenient.) I bumble my way past the building directory and into the elevator, and some compassionate guy there asks me where I'm going.

"The National Center for Transgender Equality." I proudly beam.

"Oh..." he says "are you David Jay?"

Holy shit. I am.

"I wrote a paper on you! You're awesome! Come on in!"

I wound up in a good 20 minute meeting with Mara Keisling, Executive Director of the National Center for Transgender Equality and all-around badass. I gave a quick overview of asexuality, and she raised some excellent points that I haven't seen talked about recently:

1) It's apparently not too uncommon for trans people, especially trans women, to use the term "asexual" to describe themselves during parts of transition. It seemed like this is considered a disempowering thing. While it's tough to say how much overlap there is with the ways that the term is getting used on AVEN, it seems like thinking about nonsexual empowerment coming out of our community could be useful in parts of the trans community where we're not currently doing active outreach. I know that there's already significant overlap between the asexual and trans communities, but crafting a specific "asexuality for trans people" education message could be interesting and very cool.

2) So I'm all listening attentively and Mara Keisling is all assertively putting her hand on the table and she's like:

"Are you all doing anything with the DSM?"

"I'd love to, but I don't think we have the capacity to target someone like the APA right now."

"You'd be surprised. There are several committees getting together now to discuss the DSM V. We've obviously been targeting the Gender Identity Panel, but there is another one which deals with fetishes and sexual disorders that would be in a position to amend the definition of Hyposexual Desire Disorder." (Not an exact quote, but you get the idea.)

Holy Shit!! Apparently the DSM panels HAVE to talk to outside advisers, including community advocates (thank you thank you thank you radical gay rights movement for paving the way here!). That means that if we put forward advisers who can discuss asexuality then it's their job, at least in theory, to listen. I'm getting more info from Mara, but we can send a fistful of grad school AVENites and friendly academics their way and pray for the best.

She also introduced me to folks from the Woodhull Freedom Foundation, who do sexual freedom lobbying and coalition building, and sold me about a group called the Sexuality Information and Education Council of the United States that does sex positive sex ed work and generally is connected in the Sex Ed world. All good people to keep in mind moving forward, we've got everything to gain from being on coalitions (if the votes are there on AVEN) and getting in with the sex ed infrastructure is Money.

To top it all off, I got introduced to policy and organizing staffpeople from the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, who do tons of grassroots organizing around gay rights around the country. They weren't really interested in us unless we could send people to their mobilizations, but if we can and it can get back up the chain it'll make us a serious player at the national gay rights table, which means that when we start having legislative things we want we'll be able to integrate them into the agendas of organizations with real money and muscle.

I am all a-twitter.

Hopefully AVEN chapters can get up and running and we'll get one in DC....


Ily said...

Cool! The DSM is the reason why I don't want to be a psychologist. The idea that illnesses can be voted in and out is just bizarre...

DJ DJ said...

Word. Though some lobbying around this can't hurt...

ACH said...

If we could take on the DSM, that would totally kick ass. An argument against hypoactive sexual desire disorder wouldn't be that hard to make (on several grounds). It's just a matter of finding someone knowledgeable enough on the subject to be able to do it. Any idea what kind of timetable would be involved?

Anonymous said...

Very cool. I would have loved to have experienced that elevator-moment firsthand!

I'm really excited about the potential of connecting more with the trans community. I'm wondering how we move forward (or even begin!) on that issue.

One of these days, I need to take some of your "let's-just-stop-by-DC-for-some-casual-lobbying lessons"!

Anonymous said...

This is such great news! One of the things I love most about being in DC is how accessible these groups are. And WFF is really nice. :D

Good work!

The Impossible K said...

This is awesome!! And it's so cool to think how this will positively affect asexuals in the future :D

Queers United said...

I'd be happy to start a petition to the APA via the internet, do you think that we could generate enough sigs to get something rolling?

DJ DJ said...

Let's hold off on a petition for now, I've got another scheme in the works. Details to be posted in a little while, email me if you're curious.

Anonymous said...

Voting on disorders? It doesn't happen in the APA. When homosexuality was removed, the majority of APA members were against it, but it wasn't a vote so their majority didn't matter. Like good science, it's about the consensus of the experts.