Andrew Solomon, despre sexualitati si identitati

Andrew Solomon, renumit psiholog si scriitor american, a vorbit sambata 14 iunie in fata unui public numeros in cadrul unei prelegeri intitutale Despre iubire, cu orice pret: sexualitati si identitati in secolul 21. Evenimentul a fost organizat de Asociatia ACCEPT si Asociatia TRANSform, cu sprijinul Ambasadei Statelor Unite la Bucuresti, in sala de cinema de la UNATC (Matei Voievod 75-77).

In interviul accordat Asociatiei ACCEPT, Andrew Solomon explica ce inseamna identitate si sexualitate, vorbeste despre afirmarea identitatii gay si despre diversi opozanti ai recunoasterii drepturilor LGBT ca drepturi ale omulului.

T: Astazi veti tine o prelegere despre sexualitati si identitatati in secolul 21. Ce inseamna sexualitate? Ce inseamna identitate?

Andrew Solomon: Sexualitatea este definita de atractiile pe care le simti, de cine te atrage, motivul pentru care esti atras de o anumita persoana, modul in care te trateaza societatea ca rezultat al atractiei pe care o exprimi, care sunt lucrurile pe care vrei sa le prezinti lumii si lucrurile pe care le tii ascunse.
Pentru mine, identitatea este un subiect de interes intrucat multe tipuri de sexualitate, precum sexualitatea mea ca homosexual, au fost considerate ca fiind o boala, dar din ce in ce mai mult sunt considerate identitati in Statele Unite. Folosim cuvantul boala sau patologie cand vrem discreditam un fel de a fi si folosim cuvantul identitate cand vrem sa sarbatorim un fel de a fi. Simt si sper ca schimbarea majora a secolul 21 este ca luam in considere ca identitati ceea ce am catalogat in trecut ca patologii.

T: Articolele si cartile dumneavoastra analizeaza numeroase subiecte, dar sunteti cunoscut mai ales pentru abordarea unor teme precum depresia si relatia dintre parinti si copii. De ce ati ales sa vorbiti despre aceste subiecte? Cum au definit trecutul si propria dumneavoastra identitate aceasta alegere?

A: Sunt convins ca identitatea si trecutul meu au definit temele pe care le-am abordat. Ambele carti (Demonul Amiezii: O Anatomie a Depresiei si Far from the tree: Parents, Children and the Search for Identity) au ca sursa autobiografia mea. Am scris cartea despre depresiei pentru ca am avut o depresie. Apoi am public un articol despre experienta mea ca persoana depresiva in revista americana The New Yorker. In luna in care a aparut acel articol am primit mai mult de 500 de scrisori de la oameni care au dorit sa imi impartaseasca experienta lor sau sa o comenteze pe a mea si am realizat ca era nevoie de o carte care sa ajute oamenii sa capete o intelegere profunda si fundamentala asupra depresiei si prin ce trece o persoana afectata de depresie.
Volumul Far from the tree a fost inspirat de experienta mea cu comunitatea persoanelor cu deficiente de auz despre care scriam pentru New York Times. Atunci am descoperit ca majoritatea copiilor cu deficiente de auz se nasc avand parinti care aud, ca acei parinti incearca sa-si integreze copiii in societate si ce de cele mai multe ori abia in adolescenta sau mai tarziu acesti copii descopera cultura oamenilor cu deficiente de auz, cultura creata pe baza comunicarii prin limbajul semnelor. Mi-am dat seama cat de similara este acesta situatie cu experienta unui homosexual nascut intr-o familie cu parinti heterosexuali, care in general cred ca ar fi mai bine ca al lor copil sa fie straight, si sentimentul eliberator care apare cand acea persoana descopera cultura gay, deseori in adolescenta sau mai tarziu.
O prietena a unei prietene avea o fata care are nanism; cel mai adesea persoanele de statura mica se nasc in familii cu parinti de inaltime obisnuita. Lisa a incercat sa se hotarasca daca sa-si creasca fiica cu o viziune de sine in care aceasta sa creada ca este la fel ca toti ceilalti, dar putin mai scunda, sau sa o directioneze catre imbratisarea unei identitati de persoana cu statura mica. Pe masura ce-si exprima nehotararea, mi-am dat seama ca este necesara o discutie continua despre experienta unei familii care se percepe ca fiind in esenta obisnuita si care are un copil extraordinar dintr-un anumit punct de vedere si cum aceste familii gestioneaza diferentele.

T: Ati fost criticat pentru analogia dintre dizabilitate si homosexualitate?

A: Nu am fost criticat foarte mult. Cred ca oamenii sunt mai critici daca doar aud acesta idee decat daca citesc cartea. Consider ca a existat o succesiune constanta a miscarilor pentru drepturi fundamentale si fiecare s-a inspirat din cea precedenta. Miscarea sufragetelor (n.r dreptul la vot pentru femei) a dat start acestor tendinte, apoi a venit miscarea pentru drepturile civile care milita pentru egalitatea minoritatilor rasiale din SUA, iar apoi a urmat miscarea pentru drepturi LGBT. A existat o tendinta pentru oamenii din fiecare miscare, ca urmare a acceptarii drepturilor lor de catre societate in general, de a spune ‘OK, dar stii, acum ca persoanele de culoare sunt egale, nu vrem sa ne compari cu persoanele homosexuale’ si consider ca aceasta afirmatie exprima un punct de vedere lipsit de generozitate. Cred ca generos este sa spui ‘Hei, avand in vedere ca inainte eram considerati bolnavi, iar acum nu mai suntem, cine mai doreste sa faca acest pas impreuna cu noi?’ pentru a intinde o mana persoanelor cu dizabilitati. Cand fac analogia intre homosexualitate si dizabilitate nu spun ca homosexualitatea este o dizabilitate si nici nu discreditez homosexualitatea. Cand fac aceasta analogie vreau sa subliniez ca notiunile noastre despre boala si identitate sunt notiuni fluide si ar trebui sa constientizam acest aspect.

T: Persoanele LGBT din Romania sunt unele dintre cele mai discriminate grupuri. Studii recente au aratat ca 60% dintre cetatenii romani s-ar simti foarte inconfortabil daca ar fi rude cu o persoana homosexuala. Care este sfatul dumneavoastra pentru copiii care vor sa isi faca coming out-ul fata de parinti? Dar pentru parinti?

A: In primul rand, consider ca din ce in ce mai multi oameni ar trebui sa isi afirme identitatea. Cu cat fac mai multi acest lucru, cu atat va fi mai usor. Odata, activistul Harvey Milk a fost intrebat de unii dintre asociatii sai mai tineri ce ar putea sa faca pentru miscarea drepturilor LGBT, iar acesta a spus ‘Du-te si spune-i cuiva’, iar acesta este un mesaj incredibil de important. Du-te si spune-i cuiva.
Cand spui ca 60% dintre romani nu se simt confortabil cu ideea de a avea un homosexual in familia lor, din acel procent de 60% sunt sigur ca cel putin 25% chiar se afla in aceasta situatie si nu cunosc acest fapt, nu sunt constienti de el. Ca atare, a iti face coming out-ul chiar face diferenta. Persoanele gay din SUA au inceput sa isi asume public identitatea motivate intr-o mare masura de criza SIDA – un motiv nefericit, dar care totusi a ajutat la daramarea unor bariere. Unul dintre mesajele cheie ale miscarii pentru drepturile persoanelor care traiesc cu HIV a fost Tacere = Moarte. Exista sentimentul ca atat timp cat ramai tacut cu privire la cine esti cu adevarat, nu te poti astepta la schimbari.
Cu toate acestea, nu e usor sa iti faci coming out-ul intro societate ca aceasta (n.r. Romania). Unele persoane devin vulnerabile si nu pot tolera asta. Cred ca ne-am putea astepta la reprezentari mai bune in mass media, deci persoanele care lucreaza in presa ar putea ajuta prin reprezentarea corecta a persoanelor si istoriilor personale gay. Cred ca este important ca oamenii sa inteleaga ca exista persoane gay la fiecare nivel. Persoane gay sunt in guvern, sunt conductori de tren, exista in comunitati de romi, sunt peste tot – ceea ce e foarte important. Ar fi minunat daca persoane gay cu realizari de marca si-ar afirma identitatea public. Stiu ca exista un actor faimos in Romania care este gay si a refuzat sa faca orice declaratii publice despre asta. Cred ca exista o datorie morala ca acesti oameni de succes sa vorbeasca despre faptul ca sunt gay, pentru ca, facand asta, dau posibilitatea unui mare numar de oameni care in prezent sunt disperati din cauza sexualitatii lor sa se gandeasca ca daca acea persoana e gay, poate ca e ok.

T: SUA si Europa Occidentala au facut mari progrese in recunoasterea drepturilor persoanelor LGBT. Situatia este foarte diferita in Europa de Est. Crezi ca valorile traditionale si religioase au vreun impact asupra acestei situatii? Sau alta este cauza?

A: Cred ca, din multe puncte de vedere, Europa de Est inca se reface dupa semnele lasate de mostenirea comunista, chiar si la douazeci de ani dupa (n.r. caderea acestuia) si are de recuperat teren. Bineinteles, exista lucruri extraordinare in aceasta zona.
Apectul religios este central in toate dezbaterile pe tema (n.r. drepturilor persoanelor LGBT) din toata lumea. Dreapta religioasa din Statele Unite este marele opozant al drepturilor persoanelor LGBT si motivul pentru care anumite drepturi nu au fost recunoscute. Eu sunt membru al consiliului director al National Gay and Lesbian Taskforce si unul drin proiectele noastre este centrat pe religiozitate si credinta – intram in contact cu oameni credinciosi, cu preoti si pastori, carora incercam sa le vorbim despre anumite subiecte, pentru ca este mult mai usor sa mergi inainte daca oamenii acestia nu ne considera dusmanii lor.
Ceea ce trebuie demonstrat este ca exista gay credinciosi pentru care religia este foarte importanta si ca principalele mesaje al crestinismului sunt dragostea, acceptarea, intoarcerea celuilalt obraz si lasarea judecatii in seama lui Dumnezeu. Pasajele citate foarte des din Biblie, care se presupune ca sunt impotriva homosexualitatii, se regasesc in aceleasi sectiuni unde exista informatii despre cum trebuie tratati sclavii si multe alte reguli, de exemplu ce poti si nu poti manca, carora nimeni nu le mai acord vreo importanta in ziua de azi. Nu exista niciun motiv ca o biserica sa predice despre orice altceva in afara de dragoste, deschidere si toleranta.

T: In universitatile de medicina si psihologie din Romania homosexualitatea este inca privita ca patologie. Care este rolul medicilor si psihologilor in redefinirea atitudinilor sociale legate de orientare sexuala si identitate?

A: Obligatia principala este, cred eu, recunoasterea faptului ca diversitatea nu este un defect, a faptului ca toti am venit pe lume in urma unui lung process de selectie naturala si mutatii, si ca, din punct de vedere medical, nu exista nicio dovada si niciun motiv sa sugereze cineva ca persoanele gay sunt bolnave sau nefunctionale. Acum ma aflu in Romania datorita publicarii cartii mele despre depresie si oamenii ma intreaba ‘ei bine, depresia e o identitate – o vezi intr-un mod diferit fata de identitatea gay?’ si le spun ca o vad complet diferit. Depresia este dureroasa pentru ca este intrisec dureroasa, pentru ca durerea este o caracteristica definitorie a acestei boli mintale si , ca alte afectiuni de acest gen, cauzeaza o suferinta emotionala intensa.
Singurul motiv pentru care e dificil sa fii gay este existenta prejudecatilor sociale si nu are nici o legatura cu natura homosexualitatii. Ca atare, cred ca doctorii trebuie sa inteleaga ca nu e util sa privesti homosexualitatea ca pe o patologie, intrucat oricum nu e o conditie tratabila sau vindecabila. Mai mult, atitudinea lor neaga faptul ca daca ingustam societatea in mod fascist ramanem cu o lume redusa si saracita, nu cu o lume pura si imbunatatita.

T: Care este mesajul dumneavoastra pentru activistii pentru dreptule persoanelor LGBT?

A: Primul meu mesaj este ca aceia dintre noi din zone poate mai iluminate ale lumii in ce ceea ce priveste acest subiect in mod particular va sustinem si va dorim tot ce e mai bun. Celalat sfat pe care vi-l dau este ca, desi schimbare este treptata si inceata, se intampla si nu trebuie sa renuntati. Faptul ca lucrurile se schimba frustrant de incet nu inseamna ca schimbarea e irealizabila. Cred cu tarie ca politicile din zonele liberale ale Statelor Unite se vor raspandi intr-un final si in zonele neliberale si ca politicile existente in alte tari in privinta drepturilor LGBT vor avea un rol si in aceasta parte a lumii. Batalia e lunga, nu se poarta singura, necesita multa enegie si dedicare, dar poate fi castigata.

Andrew Solomon, a renowned American writer and psychologist, addressed a numerous public on Saturday, June 14, holding a lectured titled Love, no matter what: sexualities and identities in the 21st century. The event was organized by ACCEPT and TRANSform Associations, with the support of the US Embassy; it was hosted by the Romanian Film Academy (UNATC).
In the following interview, Solomon discusses with ACCEPT the underlying meaning of identity and sexuality, talks about coming out as an empowerment tool and addresses a number of issues concerning the opposition to LGBT rights.

T: Today you are lecturing about sexuality and identity in the 21st century. What is sexuality? What is identity?

Andrew Solomon: Sexuality is the ways in which you are defined by the attractions that you feel: to whom you are attracted, why are you attracted in the way that you are, how does society treat you as a result of the attractions that you express or manifest, what are the things that you’re opened to the world about, what are the things that you keep closeted, all of those questions.
Identity is of interest to me because for a long time many sexualities, including sexualities such as mine as a gay man, were defined as illnesses and increasingly – in the United States at least – they have emerged as identities. I say that we use the word illness when we wish to disparage a way of being and we use the word identity when we wish to celebrate that way of being. I feel like the shift of the 21st century is hopefully that more and more of what we have treated as illness will be understood instead as identity.

T: Your articles have addressed a variety of issues. You are best known for your work on depression and on parents-children relationships. Why have you chosen to address these topics? How did you background and your own identity define this choice?

A: I am sure my identity and background defined my topics. Both books (The Noonday Demon – An Anatomy of Depression and Far From the Tree: Parents, Children and the Search for Identity) draw on autobiography. I wrote the book on depression because I had a depression. I then wrote an article about my experience of depression that was published in the New Yorker, an American magazine. In the month that it came out I had more than five thousand letters from people writing to tell me about their depression or to comment on mine and I realized there is a real need for a book that people could go to to gain profound and fundamental insight into what depression was and how it was experienced. So that was the engine for that book.
“Far from the tree” really came out of my experience writing about the deaf community for the New York Times, discovering that most deaf children are born to hearing parents, that those parents tend to try to incorporate those children into the mainstream and it is often only in adolescence or thereafter that they discover the deaf culture that is united around the shared use of sign language. And I said how similar that was to the gay experience of being born to straight parents, who by and large think you would be better off if you could only manage to be straight, and the liberation that can come in discovering gay culture, often in adolescence or thereafter.
Then a friend of a friend of mine had a daughter who was a dwarf and it turns out most dwarves are born to parents of full height. Lisa was trying to decide should she bring her daughter up to think she was just like everyone else but sort of shorter, or should she try to instill in her some sense of dwarf identity. As she narrated her bewilderment I thought there really is an ongoing discourse to be had about what happens when a family that perceives herself to be essentially normal has a child who is exceptional in some particular way and how do families negotiate those differences.

T: Have you been criticized for the analogy between disability and gayness?

A: I have not been criticized for it very much. I think when people hear only the idea they are more critical than they are if they read the book. I believe that there has been a steady succession of rights movements and that each of them has drawn on the one that came before. The Women’s Suffrage Movement for women to be able to vote started these tendencies, then came the Civil Rights Movement to provide equal treatment to racial minorities in the US, then came the Gay Rights Movement. There has been a tendency for people in each group as soon as they are safely over in the mainstream to say ‘OK, but you know, now black people are equal, we do not want you comparing us to gay people’ and I think this is a very ungenerous point of view. I think that the more generous thing to do is to say ‘Hey, we used to be thought of as sick and now we are not anymore, who else could make that crossover with us?’ So I would like to think of myself as reaching a hand out to the people who are experiencing disability. When I compared gayness and disability it is not to say that gayness is a disability and it is not to disparage gayness, it is to say our notion of illness and our notion of identity are fluid notions and we should be awake to that fact.

T: LGBT persons in Romania are one of the most discriminated against groups. Recent studies have shown that 60% of Romanians would be highly uncomfortable with having gay family members. What is your advice for enabling children to come out to their parents and parents accepting their children?

A: In the first place, I think what is necessary is for more people to be coming out. The more people come out, the easier it gets to come out. So the gay activist Harvey Milk was once asked by one of his younger associates what he could do for the gay rights movement and Harvey Milk said “Go out and tell someone” and that’s an incredibly important message. Go out and tell someone.
When you say 60% of Romanian are not comfortable with the idea of having a gay member of their family, of that 60% I am sure at least 25% do have a gay member of their family and they just do not know it, they are not aware of it. So coming out is the thing that makes the most enormous difference. The rush of coming out in the United States was triggered in part by the AIDS crisis, which was an unfortunate reason for it, but it nonetheless broke down the walls. One of the signature tag lines for the AIDS activist movement was “Silence=Death” and I think there really is a sense that as long as you remain silent about who you really are, you cannot expect there to be reforms.
Having said that, it is not easy to come out in a society such as this one. There are people for whom it creates too much vulnerability and more than they can tolerate or more than they can stand. I think we could hope for better representations in media, so anyone who works in the media and can bring about some representations of gay people and gay lives will help. I think it is important for people to understand that there are gay people at every level. There are gay people in government, there are gay people running trains, there are gay people in Roma communities and in poverty, there are gay people everywhere – it is the pervasiveness of the condition I think is important. It is great if some of the people who are gay and who have accomplished things come out publicly. I know there is a very well know actor here who is gay and who has refused to make any public statement about it. People like that, having achieved the success they have – I think there is a moral impetus for them to talk about the fact that they are gay because their doing so would allow a vast number of people who are currently despairing about their sexuality to think ‘oh, if he is gay, maybe it is OK.’

T: The US and Western Europe have made great strides in recognizing LGBT rights. The situation is very different in Eastern Europe. Do you think our take on traditional values and religion has an impact on this situation? Is it because of something else?

A: I think there are many ways in which Eastern Europe is still, even twenty years later, recovering from the legacy of communism and that there is catching up to do in various ways. There are also, of course, extraordinary things here. The religious aspect of it is central to the arguments that are taking place everywhere. The religious right in the United States is the big opponent of gay rights and is the reason that various rights have not been granted. I am on the board of the National Gay and Lesbian Taskforce and one of the projects of the taskforce is the faith project, which involves reaching out to people of faith – to ministers, persists, pastors – and trying to talk to them about these issues, because it will be much easier to make progress if these people do not hold us as enemies.
What needs to be demonstrated is that there are many gay people of faith for whom religion is very important and that the primary message of Christianity is a message of love and acceptance and of turning the other cheek and of leaving the final judgments to be made by God. The passages that keep getting quoted endlessly from the Bible – supposedly opposing homosexuality – lie in the same sections where there is information about how you should treat slaves and all kinds of other rules and regulations, what you can eat and cannot eat, and nobody pays attention to any of the others anymore. There is no reason for a church to be preaching any vision other than one of love and openness and tolerance.

T: In Romania, in medical and psychology universities, homosexuality is often still thought of as a pathology. What is the role of doctors and psychologist in redefining social attitudes on sexual orientation and identity?

A:The primary obligation, I think, is to recognize that diversity is not defect. We all came into being through a long process of natural selection and mutation and, medically speaking, there is no evidence and no reason for suggesting that gay people are sick or broken. I am in Romania right now because of the publication of my book about depression and people say to me ‘well, depression is an identity – do you see it differently than you see gayness as an identity?’ I said I see it very differently. Depression is painful because it is inherently painful, it is a defining characteristic of the condition and, as is the case of other mental illnesses, it entails intense emotional suffering. Homosexuality is difficult because of social prejudice against it, it has nothing to do with its inherent nature. So I think the idea is really for doctors to understand that treating it as a pathology in the first place is not useful, because it is not a treatable or curable condition in any case; in the second place, (this attitude) really denies the fact that if we narrow the society fascistically so that everyone is the same, what we have is a reduced, impoverished world and not a pure and better world.

T: What is your message for LGBT rights activists in this part of the world?

A: My first message is to say that those of us in the perhaps somewhat more enlightened parts of the world in this particular issue are here in support of you, and are wishing the very best possible to come. My other piece of advice is that change is gradual and slow, but it does occur, and not to give up, and not to feel that the fact that things are frustratingly slow means that they cannot happen. I really believe that the policies of the liberal parts of the United States will eventually spread to the illiberal parts, and I believe that the policies that exist in other countries on this particular issue will eventually come into play here. I think it is a long battle and it will take a lot of energy and a lot of dedication, it will not happen by itself, but I think it is possible to win this fight.

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