Abstract

abstract:

Self-harm among queer and trans youth has often been read in two ways: either as a mental health issue in the disciplines and professions of psychiatry and psychology or along the line of queer negativity as a refusal of the normative aspiration of health, prosperity, and reproduction. The medical discourse considers self-harm behaviors as an abnormality, away from the course of an individual's health, self-preservation, and development, which are considered to be natural. At the same time, many queer theorists critique such norms and, accordingly, such pathologization, and they argue that because of dominant heterosexual norms queer lives are often cast as abnormal and wrongly interpreted as a form of self-harm. In this essay, I consider both possible readings as inadequate for understanding the various meanings that self-harm actions may carry. While it is important to address the issue of queer and trans youth mental health, as well as to point out their possible resistance to heterosexual norms, I argue that self-harm may be the result of various causes, and its meanings cannot be exhausted by these two readings alone. Neither of these models are sufficient to explain all self-harm actions, as we cannot expect to explain all self-harm actions with one model. After discussing their limits, I offer a phenomenological reading of blogger Adrian Loya's narrative of gender dysphoria and self-harm thoughts, and I show how the anxiety and thoughts of self-harm are triggered by the transphobic gaze of others. In this instance, self-harm cannot be seen as arising from within the self but rather as arising from others. The self-directed violence is at first directed at the individual by and from hostile others who do not recognize or acknowledge the harm they cause, which has to be made manifest through other means, self-harm behavior being one of them. In this way, self-harm can be seen as a coping mechanism in that it is a silent protest—to manifest the harm that is so normative that it remains invisible to others, and thereby to manifest the social injury silently done.

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Additional Information

ISSN
1527-9383
Print ISSN
0891-625X
Pages
pp. 422-433
Launched on MUSE
2019-09-06
Open Access
No
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