Saturday, November 30, 2013

Dog Meat With a Side of White Savior Complex

Could you imagine eating a dog or cat for dinner? I couldn't. I couldn't imagine eating any living creature. For personal reasons, I've been a vegetarian for the past 20 years.

Even among people who do eat meat, I'm hard pressed to think of someone who would eat a dog or a cat. I suspect in a country where we have many different sorts of people, there is likely one or two in modern America who would enjoy dining on a grilled dog fillet. Those people, however, are way outside the norm. As a society, we've largely decided on some animals as a source of food (cows, chickens, hogs) and other animals as pets (dogs, cats).

I know this hasn't always been the case. In her book Being with Animals, Barbara J. King wrote extensively about how early humans would eat dogs. It was likely our making meals of dogs that helped domesticate them into the furry companions many of us now enjoy. The most aggressive dogs, King wrote, would be the first to be bashed in the head and cooked for dinner. Those who were cutest, sweetest, and most affectionate were allowed to live, follow us around, reproduce, and become part of our communities.

Dogs are no longer regularly consumed as food in the Western world (though they are consumed as subjects of animal research). In other parts of the world, eating dogs has been part of traditional cuisines and indigenous medical practices throughout history. There are many regions in which dogs are still consumed for food or health.

While most Americans would look askance at people eating dogs, there are those people who do eat odd food in our society. Maybe a rural southerner who eats squirrel, an African American family that eats hog jowls or chitterlings, or perhaps a recent Chinese immigrant who eats chicken feet. We all know that those people is code for people who aren't White or otherwise fail to fit in with the middle class upwardly mobile depiction of what America is.

Maybe we don't all know that.

There is some minor tolerance in our culture for White middle class Americans to eat food that falls outside the norm--food those people eat. White folks can safely venture into an ethnic restaurant and have a culinary adventure. An exotic evening eating that strange food that those people eat.

Our judgements about what people eat for food are an interesting phenomena to explore. Whether it be moussaka or dog, what we consider acceptable and unacceptable foods reveal a complex set of social, cultural, and societal values and preferences.

A few days ago I came across a tweet that caught my eye about dog meat. It was a call to send a post card to President Park Geun-hye of South Korea. There is a long history of eating dog meat for nourishment and health in some segments of Korean society (see here for an excellent article about dog meat trade in another Asian country).

Puppies and kittens are adorable creatures. Why wouldn't I want to immediately send off a postcard to President Park Geun-hye? She should ban this practice immediately because--well, why? Because I am a white man that thinks dogs are pets and not food? Does she--or anyone in South Korea for that matter care what I think? Why would my viewpoints on what appropriate foods are matter?

We freely sign petitions, fire off emails and tweets, post angry Facebook statuses, and otherwise express our White Western displeasure with how the rest of the world conducts their business. We swoop in to save people (and animals) without really spending much time pondering whether anyone asked to be saved, whether anyone actually needs to be saved, and what our motives are for wanting to play the role of savior. We don't think about the larger constellation that exists in another country--traditions, cultures, values, economics, religions, and every other factor that goes into any given situation.
  • Who decides what needs to be changed? 
  • Who decides what is right or wrong in this world? 
  • What set of values, morals, and assumptions are these decisions based on?
I've wrestled with these questions ever since I was challenged during my dissertation defense by my  chair, Susan Hawes. In the course of questioning me about my research, she commented that what I suggested spoke to moral relativism. We were discussing homonegativity when Susan asked me how I determined what was right or wrong. I felt uncomfortable making a global statement that something was wrong when my judgement was based on my own personal values. I didn't have an answer for Susan then. I still don't.

Eating dogs isn't right for me. It breaks my heart to think of the trusting lovable dogs that are used for food. However, who am I to say that this is any more wrong that eating cows, ducks, or hogs? Are my values and mores superior to those of someone else? How would I begin to decide what was better?
  • Are there absolute rights and wrongs in this world? 
  • Who determines what those things are? 
  • Who gets to decide?
  • How do they decide?
On a practical level, I grapple with this issue daily in my work as a psychologist. I'm not sure it's my role to make determinations about what is right or wrong for a person in my role as a psychologist--except where I am required by law.
  • Should I stay with my girlfriend?
  • Do you think I should look for a new job?
  • Why can't I cut my arms and legs if it makes me feel better?
  • Is it worth being alive when I'm in so much pain?
  • My boyfriend beats me and I kind of like it. Is that wrong?
  • Why is god punishing me?
  • How can I feel better?
  • Why am I gay?
So many questions for which I have no answers. I often drive my patients crazy because of my refusal to answer with anything but more questions. On the other hand, I often also drive my patients crazy when I'm directive and hold too firmly to an idea about how I think they should be in this world.
I went to the doctor, I went to the mountains
I looked to the children, I drank from the fountain
There's more than one answer to these questions
pointing me in crooked line
The less I seek my source for some definitive
The closer I am to fine
--Indigo Girls
On a legal level, I am charged with protecting my patients from suicide, intervening if my clients are planning a homicide, and notifying authorities about children, elders, and people with disabilities who are being physically or sexually abused. The field has developed taxonomies of behaviors that are considered abnormal or aberrant. Protocol based therapies exist to ameliorate a variety of unwanted symptoms ranging for negative self worth, to erectile dysfunction, to vaginismus, to test taking anxiety.

Without thought, I can impose my viewpoint on how a person ought to function or behave through the theories and interventions of my profession. Is that moral? Is that right? 

Do any of us have the moral authority to sit in judgement of another culture or an individual? We inflict so much damage upon other people when we use our own values to judge another from culture that has a different set of values.

Do we have the right to demand a culture act in a way that suits our wishes and desires? Is it useful for us to send postcards and sign petitions asking Korean people who eat dog meat, and have done so for centuries, to stop? Did they ask for our opinion or help?

What makes us think we are any more right than they are?

Are we helping them or our we helping ourselves?

In sending a postcard have we built capacity for the people of South Korea to build their own animal rights movement? Does sending a postcard to the president of South Korea give us the sense we've done something so we can feel a release of energy and pat ourselves on the back? Do we save the animals even if it means we destroy a culture and tradition?

  • Are we that important that we can make those sorts of decisions?
  • Do we best help people by making them change?
  • Do we help by sharing the tools, resources, and experiences of our world so cultures and societies can build their own change movements?
  • Are there some moral outrages that are so outrageous that intervention is required? 
  • How do we decide what outrages merit this level of intervention? 
  • Have these interventions ever worked? 
  • Are their other options? 
Questions, and more questions, and questions as yet unformulated.
No answers please.
--Martha Crawford
After the page break are highlights from Twitter.

Slip of the Tongue | Girl, What is your Makeup?

Occidental College professor Mary Christianakis asked her students to make mash ups to inspire the viewer to take a critical perspective on a topic. One of her students, Samantha Figueroa, created the following clip. 

The complete text of the words of Adriel Luis that were spoken in the clip are after the page break.

Friday, November 29, 2013

Thanksgiving | The 45 Top Influencers of my Irreverent Ways as a Psychologist

So many people have come in and out of my office since I started figuring out this business of the therapeutic enterprise. In 1990 the very first person I ever worked with walked through my office door. He was a survivor of childhood sexual abuse. I was terrified--I was still a teenager and had absolutely no idea what I was doing. Two decades later he wrote to me and thanked me for being such a kind listener. 

Since then there have been 1,000s of people who have walked through my door. Each have left with me some piece of learning--some knowledge of the human experience. I'm thankful for what you have taught me. Time has sadly obscured some of your faces. Still, when I look back, so many of your stories remain vivid in my memory even if I've lost a connection to your physical presence. I often see glimpses of you in my office in the present day, standing around my patients and I, reflecting back lifetimes of experiences.

My work and skill--fairly or not--is built upon these memories over my past 25 years of work. 

I've been thinking a lot over the past few weeks of the other people who are in my office with me. I've had so many teachers who have helped me find the pieces that I needed in order to become a psychologist. 

It being Thanksgiving weekend, I thought it might be an interesting process to make a list of those people who stand with me when I work. I will add more as they come to mind. 

Lorene Mihalko - Yeah. My mother. The first psychologist I knew.
Michael Dwyer, Ph.D. - My mother's teacher and then years later mine.
Robert Mayerovitch, Ph.D. - My piano professor who taught me to slow down and be patient.
Denise Youngblood - The high school psychology teacher who knew before I did.
Sherri Bair, Ed.D. - Piqued my interest in how television reflects our psychologies. 
S. Lee Whiteman, Ph.D. - His big smile, warm heart, wisdom, and curiosity still follow me around. 
Nancy Gussett, Ph.D. - Her self discipline finally got me look for my own.
David Prock - The first person ever to make it okay to talk about the dark side of life.
Daniel Kirk, Ph.D. - The English professor who made the room quiet so I could tell my stories and truth.
Claire Cygan Young - Gave me the first client I ever worked with.
Edwin Hollander,  Ph.D. - Drove me nuts demanding that the whole world conform to the bell curve.
Manolo Guzm├ín, Ph.D. -  Gave me the courage to explore the New York that I needed to find.
Helen Marshall - Taught me to love, respect, and believe in those who no one else did.
Stephen Friedman Ph, D. - Taught me to talk out of turn and discard the rules.
Zora Meisner - Who showed me powerful lessons can be learned from those I dislike.
Mary Chipman - We discovered it together. Didn't we? And truffles. And catalogues. 
Jody Tellfair, Ph.D. - My therapist who noticed everything--every time--without demand.
Amy Barto - Who showed me a social conscious with boundaries.
Rev. Richard Sering - The holy man who made me make a promise.
Barbara Fields - My other therapist who made it okay to play. 
Steven James, Ph.D. - The professor who gave the space to be iconoclastic.
Judy Harden, Ph.D. - The first professor to convince me I have a gift to develop.
Shoshana Simons, Ph.D. - The woman who took years to bring me out of my shell.
Harriet Lubin - The professor who silenced me for critiquing orthodoxy. 
Maggie Jackson, Ph.D. - The professor who told me I had every right to critique orthodoxy.
Lisa Drogosz, Ph.D. - The young psychologist that convinced me to return for more
Maryann McGlenn, Ph.D.  - My first supervisor who gave me (a little) room to be myself.
Marshall Rosenberg, Ph.D. - The peacemaker and student of Carl Rogers.
Diana Shultz, Ph.D. - Still working on forgiving you for ripping up page 6 of a 5 page paper.
Glenda Russell, Ph.D. - Launched me on my journey learning about social constructionism.
Janis Bohan, Ph.D. - Her clear observations helped me see bigger pictures
Robin Cook-Nobles, Ed.D. - Everything, Robin. Your gifts are endless.
Lisa Desai, Psy.D. - Who made me feel safe enough to think multi-culturally.
Judy Jordan, Ph.D. - The most human, real, and honest person I've met. 
Barbara Lewis, M.D. - The first physician who thought I had important thoughts.
Peter Baldwin, Ph.D. - Who showed me anything is possible and I can be free.
Daniel Brown, Ph.D. - Introduced me to hypnosis and changed everything. 
Susan Hawes, Ph.D. - My dissertation chair who rescued me when I needed it.
Ken Garni, Ed.D. - I still laugh like a crazy Frenchman. I just close my door now.
LaTonya Sobzack, Ph.D. - I hope you still laugh like a crazy Frenchman
Kim Davenport, Psy.D. - You too. Keep laughing.
Paul Korn, Ph.D. - Courage. 
Wilma Busse, Ph.D. - You just rock in all ways. 
Kathryn Jackson, Ph.D. -  Her quiet nature showed me to look deeply.
Linda Field, Ph.D. - Who knew a psychologist could be playful and disciplined?
Joe Shay, Ph.D. - Next time you interview me I'm brining a sandwich, and I'll be just one man talking.
Joan Wheelis, M.D. - You reminded me to decide what kind of therapist I wanted to be. 
Debora Carmichael, Ph.D. -  You called me into the water and let me know it was okay.
Louise Ryder, Ph.D. - Who let it be okay to be human and imperfect.
Amy Briggs Bledsoe, Ph.D. - My hardcore friend.
Jennifer Strong, Psy.D. - Rainbow bright. You know what I mean?

Saturday, November 23, 2013

God is calling you to understand this as an issue of justice

"Today is the 40th anniversary of the riots around the Stonewall in an area not too very far from here. This afternoon out on those sidewalks there will be all kinds of people who are celebrating and rejoicing. Rejoice with us because something huge has happened in the last 40 years. And part of the way that you're celebrating today, all of you, is to be giving a cup of water to people who pass by. I want to tell you it is a very dangerous thing to be doing. It is a very holy thing that you do when you offer that cup of water. You are representing the community of Christians, and Jews, and Muslims who are 95% the source of all the oppression we LGBT people have experienced in our lives. So when you offer a cup of water bearing the name of Christ as it says in our doctrinal today you are the oppressor offering a cup of water to the oppressed. They get it. They get the act of compassion. My question is do you get it? Do you get it? Do you realize the important thing that you do by giving a cup of water to those people out there who have been hurt by us and be continue to be hurt by us? This is not about tolerating gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender people. This is not about being nice. It's not even about being compassionate. This cup of water is about justice and we are not yet in a place in this country where we believe  the full and equal rights of gay and lesbian people are a matter of justice. We're not there yet. It's not enough to pull the people out of raging stream that are drowning. We have to walk back upstream and find out who is throwing them in in the first place. It is not right what our churches and synagogues and mosques have done to us as has been done to others before us and it will take an act of commitment on your part to undo it. And be willing to pay a price. We have never made progress neither in our religious institutions or our culture unless someone has been willing to pay the price. It's that tough systemic work both within our religious communities and the culture that we must be committed to changing. And those of you who are heterosexual, we need you desperately. I think God is calling you to understand this as an issue of justice. To a lot of people across this great nation what is happening here this afternoon is a total nightmare. I'm here to tell you it is no nightmare. It is God's dream coming true before your very eyes. Amen."

Bishop Gene Robinson quoted in the documentary Love Free or Die

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Dear Young Therapist: Are You Ready to Jump?

Hieronymus Bosch / The Stone Cutting / Prado
The anti-psychiatry movement has garnered increasing popularity within the last few years. Criticisms have been lodged against the medicalization of the human experience. In particular, many observers have noted the increasing movement toward pathologizing human suffering and categorizing that pain as a psychiatric disorder requiring medical intervention.

This phenomena isn't particularly new. As long as we've had emotions, we've sought ways to control experiences that are viewed as unpleasant, unwanted, or otherwise out of the norm. Starting in at least neolithic times, we attempted to drive out unwanted behavior through trepanning--drilling burr holes into the heads of those suffering. In fact, it is still occurring, assuming this website isn't some sort of strange parody. In our quest to help alleviate suffering we've also tried hydrotherapy, cold wet sheet packs, continuous baths, hot boxes, metrazol therapy, insulin induced shock, electroconvulsive shock, magnets, and lobotomies


I've worked with clients who have undergone all of these treatments with the exception of trepanning. I'm not that old. The video below offers glimpses of many of the various treatments. 

And then there is psychotherapy. So many kinds of psychotherapy.

The director of training of my postdoctoral fellowship, Joseph Shay, once handed us a list of every type of therapeutic intervention for mental illness that he could find. It ranged from some of the ones mentioned in this YouTube clip, to primal scream therapy, to dialectal behavioral therapy. We laughed at some and mostly we felt superior because we were being trained in the modern best practices.

As I've written before, Joe reminded us that in 10, 20, or 30 years we'd look back on our careers as psychologists and be horrified at what we thought constituted good therapy. Times change. We move forward. Joe taught us to remember that we have always tried our best to help, we can only help in the ways we know, and we can only know what we know when we know it.

We get better.

The Beasts of West Point

Pierre Boulat/Cadets of West Point 'Beast Barracks'
So this image by Pierre Boulat took a little bit of digging to find. I originally found a cropped version that was fairly resistant to giving up it's secrets.

Life Magazine ran an article on October 14, 1957 about the Beasts of West Point. Pictured to the left are Beasts James Schall (right) and Don Couvillion (left) who are "learning to dance so they will be gentleman as well as officers."

For more images of vintage men and their relationships (some gay, some straight) visit: Two Men and Their Dog;Adam and Steve in the Garden of Eden: On Intimacy Between MenA Man and His DogThe Beasts of West PointVintage Men: Innocence Lost | The Photography of William GedneyIt's Only a Paper Moon;Vintage Gay America: Crawford BartonThese Men Are Not Gay | This Is Not A Farmer | DisfarmerDesire and Difference: Hidden in Plain SightCome Make Eyes With Me Under the Anheuser BushHugh Mangum: Itinerant PhotographerTwo men, Two PosesPhotos are Not Always What They Seem,Vintage Sailors: An Awkward RealizationThree Men on a HorseWelkom Bar: Vintage Same Sex MarriagePretty in Pink: Two Vintage Chinese MenMemorial Day Surprise: Vintage Sailor LoveMemorial Day: Vintage Dancing SailorsThe Curious Case of Two Men EmbracingThey'll Never Know How Close We WereVintage Love: Roger Miller Pegram,Manly Affections: Robert GantHomo Bride and Groom Restored to DignityThe Men in the TreesThe Girl in the OuthouseTommy and Buzz: All My Love,Men in Photo Booths, and Invisible: Philadelphia Gay Wedding c. 1957. You can also follow me on Tumblr.

Saturday, November 9, 2013

Vintage Men: Innocence Lost | The Photography of William Gedney

Self Portrait / William Gedney / Duke University Libraries
"William Gedney, a photographer and teacher of photography at Pratt Institute and Cooper Union, died of AIDS yesterday at his home on Staten Island. He was 56 years old. Mr. Gedney, a teacher since 1969, was the recipient of Guggenheim and Fulbright fellowships. An exhibition of his work, ''Eastern Kentucky and San Francisco,'' was staged in 1968 at the Museum of Modern Art. Mr. Gedney's pictures are in the collections of that museum and the George Eastman House in Rochester.

He is survived by his parents, William and Violet Gedney, of Bradenton, Fla., and a brother, Richard, of Westlake, Ohio." (New York Times Obituary, June 24, 1989)

So many lives have been silenced by AIDS. The numbers of people erased by a virus that can't be seen by our eyes is overwhelming. I don't think our society has come to realize the enormity of what has been torn away from our collective wealth. AIDS has killed at least 619,000 Americans and 25,000,000 people worldwide. (

Self Portrait / William Gedney / Duke University Library
I can't even begin to comprehend what a loss like that means. An entire generation of gay men removed from the planet. A generation of gay men left behind with no elders, no mentors, and no one to hold the memory of where we came from and where we hope to go. 

I might not be able to capture the enormity of what was lost. I can, however, introduce you to one life lost. The Duke University Libraries have carefully and thoughtfully made enormous amounts of their collections available to the public for research, wonder, and casual exploration. I previously discovered Hugh Mangum in their archives. Last night I discovered the photographer William Gedney

Gedney is mostly widely known for his images taken from his window on Myrtle Avenue in Brooklyn (also here & here),  as a Fulbright scholar in India (here, here, and here),  and his unbelievable stunning pictures of the Corbett Family.  

In the book What was True: The Photographs and Notebooks of William Gedney, Sartor and Dyer write that the artist's photographs
are remarkable in their sympathetic and quietly sensual view of the world. Gedney's unobtrusive view reveals the beauty and mystery of individual lives. They illuminate the rare, lyrical vision of a photographer who, while living a reclusive personal life, recorded the lives of others with remarkable sensitivity and poignancy.

Gedney was on scene in New York City documenting the gay and lesbian liberation movement in the late 70s. Capturing a moment of freedom and hope sandwiched between the turbulent 60s and the impending deaths in the 80s and 90s from AIDS, Gedney recorded moments of lost innocence.

William Gedney / Duke University Library / June 25, 1978

Friday, November 8, 2013

Slave Memorabilia: On Sale at eBay

New York Historical Society
Some years ago I spent time in Louisville Kentucky. The memory that stands out most is driving through Bourbon country in a red convertible listening to music just a little too loud. I think both myself and the people I encountered shared a mutual appreciation of the exotic animal we found each other to be.

I was recently reminded of this trip while reading a post on the blog "We are Respectable Negros" entitled "eBay Removes Holocaust 'Memorabilia' From Its Website. Why do they Continue to Sell Artifacts Related to Enslavement of Black Americans?"

While driving around in my rented red convertible, I happened upon a store specializing in selling Africana items. Toward the back of the store I wandered myself right into another world. The shopkeeper had a display case of tools used by white slave owners to maintain the system of brutal oppression over human beings with darker complexions.

I was overwhelmed.

Pictured on the above: "According to a letter that accompanied these shackles upon their donation to the Historical Society in 1921, they were cut off teenage slave Mary Horn of Americus, Georgia, by Colonel William W. Badger of the 176th Regiment New York Volunteers, more than a year after Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation. Mary is said to have belonged to a Judge Horn, who riveted the irons to her legs with his own hands to prevent her from walking to the next plantation to see her beloved, George. George begged Colonel Badger to free Mary from her shackles and supposedly held her over an anvil while Badger cut them off."

I read about slavery. I studied the Civil War. I thought I knew a lot about the era. As a young doctoral student at a progressive institution, I was developing an awareness of the ways in which what I know is a representation of the view of the world that people with power and privilege have.

Myriad are the things that weren't included in the lesson plans that my teachers provided me.

So there I was in the back of an Africana store face-to-face with manacles that bound the feet of human beings, whips that were used to enforce a system of terror upon their backs, tags that identified  and categorized what kind of property a particular human being was, and numerous price lists.

It was an overwhelming and powerful experience to be so close to something that for me, a white man, seems as remote as anything else I might read about in a history text book. I must have just stood there for 20 minutes looking silently. I don't even know if I moved. The owner of the store ended up standing next to me silently as well. The distant was no longer distant for me. Slavery was a tangible experience through those manacles that someone once was forced to wear--and strangely (or not) the oppression our country engaged in became even more incomprehensible for me.

I thought about buying the manacles. I thought about touching them and holding them. I ended up doing neither. It didn't feel like they were mine to touch or own. It felt like it would have been a violation to have done either.

The shopkeeper gave me hug. I thanked her and walked out of the store without saying another word. They seemed unneeded.

15 years later I'm still thinking about that store and experience.

I can see the complicated ways in which items from the Holocaust or slavery might be powerful items/tools for people to make deep and transformative connections to a distant past. I also worry, and believe, that very few people would actually respect these objects for what they are: a piece of a humanity that was discarded that should be honored, revered, and remembered.

I hope eBay shoppers think long and hard about what it means to own these items--and what it means to have owned people--prior to their purchase. 

There aren't any refunds. 

Saturday, November 2, 2013

Dear Young Therapist: Perspective is Everything

When I was in fourth grade I became somewhat obsessed with learning about the native people of the Americas. I poured through all the age-appropriate books in my school and public libraries, wrote age appropriate papers, and made a few age appropriate art projects. 

Somewhere tucked away in a box is a coffee stained crayon drawing that I made depicting the life of Seminole Indians. Mr. Sturgeon, my fourth grade teacher pictured on the left, wrote me an apology for the coffee stain. 

I was particularly fascinated with the people who lived in Central and South America: The Aztecs, Incas, and Mayans. The age appropriate books I read showed images of the savagery of the Aztecs. My young mind was particularly aghast over their sacrifice of humans to their sun god. I was horrified at the descriptions of beating human hearts being removed from people with flint knives. I worried about how that must have felt for both the sacrificed as well as the priest wielding the knife. 

It was such a strange juxtaposition--being attracted and repulsed at the same time. 

What I didn't know in fourth grade was that the history I was learning was from the perspective of the conquerors. We tell stories of native peoples as savages, in part, to reinforce a white Western European superiority. 

Myriad are the things that weren't included in suburban grade school lesson plans.

Searching for Love

It's always interesting what brings readers to my blog.  Through the blogger platform, Google offers some analytics that show me what doors people pass through into my blog. I'm left to my own devices to decipher what the motivations are for seeking out those doors to pass through.

Here are some of the most popular searches that brought readers to my blog in the past week. 

  • Therapist fall in love with client
  • I love my client
  • Do therapists fall in love with clients
  • Does my therapist really care about me
  • In love with my therapist
  • I love my therapist
I think a lot of you out there are trying to understand love. It's a shame that therapists have an aversion to talking about it.