noah-eatonPlease join us on Wednesday, August 27th, from 11:45am-1:00pm for the Sexual Health Series at Q Center

Noah “Hibiscus” Eaton, co-organizer & diversity ambassador for Sex-Positive World and a genderqueer model, will present a talk on Neurodiversity and Sex.

RSVP at http://hazelden.org/lgbtq

 

It’s an old joke among sex educators: “I’m sexually sophisticated; he’s promiscuous; she’s a slut.”

Or: “What I like is adult entertainment; what she likes is erotica; what he likes is pornography.”

Or: “I’m spontaneous; he’s impulsive; she’s out of control.”

You get the idea.

When I think about our upcoming topic, “Neurodiversity and Sex,” some of those jokes don’t seem so funny.

In the last half-century, we’ve seen a major paradigm shift in the way we think about sexuality. In the mid-20th century, in spite of the hard work of Dr. Kinsey, Masters and Johnson, and other pioneering sex educators, most Americans still thought that heterosexual, monogamous, P/V intercourse was the only kind of “normal,” “healthy” sex. Which, of course, made everything else that two (or more) people might like to do in bed appear “pathological,” symptomatic of some sort of dysfunction in the way those people were raised.

1b02_neurodiversityv3Most of us have gotten over that way of thinking, thank heavens. Homosexuality no longer appears in the DSM, and diagnostic judgments about common sexual variations such as crossdressing, transgender, and consensual BDSM are on their way out.

We’re a long way from making that jump when it comes to people whose brains don’t necessarily work the way ours do, though. Many clinicians still think of autism, Asperger’s, ADHD and other neurological conditions as pathological, instead of as normal variations in the way human minds work.

In the realm of sexual variations, clinicians who have gotten over their judgments about non-normative sexuality generally find that their patients are more willing to work on their actual problems – substance issues, depression and other mood disorders, compulsive and obsessive behaviors and more – in the therapeutic environment. Once patients know that mental health practitioners are not going to blame every issue in their lives on their “pathological” sexuality, they are able to get to work on what was actually bothering them (as well as feeling happier, more whole, and more actualized in their sexuality).

And yet, many of us still feel the need to treat our patients whose neurological “fingerprint” is a little different than the ones we’re used to as though they are mentally ill. How many patients are failing to seek treatment for treatable issues because they fear their problems will all be blamed on their atypical neurological processing? What’s wrong with this picture?

Before transitioning to my role focused on LGBTQ programming at Hazelden Betty Ford Foundation, I was once asked to co-facilitate a group for people struggling with an issue that is part of my life as well. I had a hard time not breaking into disbelieving giggles when I heard the initial request for my involvement. A little voice in my head wanted to know if this was some sort of covert treatment plan – if someone way over me in the org chart had decided the best way to address my problems was to put me in group with a staff psychologist and have me “cofacilitate.”

I’m sure that’s not the case. Well, pretty sure, anyway.

Being asked to help people with the same issues as mine, when I still wrestle with those issues every single day, seemed either very absurd or very smart – maybe both. In the end, we found it worked best to support our patients in creating their own intuitive strategies, rather than attempting to enforce conformity with mainstream solutions. This experience is why I am so excited about our choice to have upcoming guest Noah “Hibiscus” Eaton present on Neurodiversity & Sex; it reflects the deep value of direct experience when discussing these differences.

neurodiversityI shared with Noah my own sense of being overwhelmed by the breadth of the term “Neurodiverse” – encompassing, as it does, both zher autism and my ADHD, as well as a raft of other differences – and suggested that we consider copresenting the topic. Together we will share our thoughts about the meaning of “neurodiversity,” before Noah focuses more specifically on autism and sexual health, and I speak a bit about ADHD and sexual health.

Noah, a spokesperson and model for both genderqueerness and neurodiversity, is in a unique position to share the similarities and differences between the way clinicians are learning to approach sexuality and gender issues, and the way we’re still approaching neurological differences.

I’ve been greatly impressed by reading Noah’s thoughts on sexuality via social media. Some of us do better communicating through writing, speaking, technology, PowerPoint… in this way, like so many others, we’re a diverse species. I look forward to supporting Noah in getting outside of zher comfort zone and taking on the challenge of speaking to an audience about a group that desperately needs advocacy and empowerment in terms of sexual health. Whether or not you or someone you know has a connection to the idea of neurodiversity, I hope you’ll consider joining us for this free presentation and learning more about sex.

Whenever we learn more about sex, our world seems to get bigger.

Join us on the Last Wednesday of every month, high noon at Portland’s Q Center (4115 North Mississippi Avenue) for a one-hour lunch-and-learn event open to both community members (recovering, GLBTQI, sex-positive, PDX) and professionals (therapists, educators, and other providers). This presentation is free to attend. Lunch is $10. Professionals receiving AASECT CE credit pay $25 total for lunch and CE certificate.

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