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Thursday, October 6, 2011

Character Clinic: Bradley Morgan and Gender Identity Disorder

If you haven't taken my Personality and Plotting Survey, PLEASE DO SO NOW!! (2 minutes, tops.)

Today's character on the couch is courtesy of E.S., who is writing a literary fiction novel about 20-year-old Bradley. Bradley was physically and sexually abused at the hands of his father from the ages of 5-18. He's in a relationship with Curtis, who is supportive, but Bradley has an aversion to sex and often has nightmares/sleep terrors when sleeping alone. Also, Bradley likes to wear women's clothing, mainly at home. Sometimes he feels more comfortable when he's cross-dressing.

E.S. wants to know: Bradley feels like everything he owns and everything he does is marred in some way by his father. How can Bradley take his life into his own hands and escape the hold his father always had over him to make his life feel like it belongs to him, not his father? How can he stop being as utterly terrified of his father as he is and work up the courage to let himself be genuinely happy with his life and who he is? Also, what steps should he take with regards to his aversion to sex?

E.S. -

What you've got here is a homoerotic character-driven novel, but without much plot. You've raised some incredible issues that literary fiction could help shed light on, and I wish you well with it. But what I didn't see from your intake form for Bradley was much of a plot, so while you've got this angst-ridden anti-hero or sorts, I didn't read much that you are planning on doing with said angst-ridden anti-hero.

He's coming from a traumatic, shame-filled past, and his current narrative or life script is focused on how he felt as a young child. The regression he shows at night (almost child-like, needing to be held, etc) might be evidence of this, as well as a PTSD reaction, due to the fact that the abuse most likely happened at night. Bradley is going to need some therapy at some point in this novel to address these issues. It's unlikely that his relationship with Curtis, no matter how supportive, is going to be all he needs to "get past" his past.

As for getting past an aversion to sex, many sex therapists suggest to couples to try sensate focus. The link I've included goes into detail as to how a therapist might structure sessions, so I won't do that here. Needless to say, this is a therapeutically very popular way of handling aversion or discomfort for couples.

You mentioned that you think Bradley might have Gender Identity Disorder. I wanted to take a moment and hijack this mini-assessment to share with my readership a little more about this disorder and some other terms closely related.

Gender Identity Disorder can be exhibited in children or adults, with minor differences in what to look for. Basically, someone with GID might state over and over their desire to be the other sex. Males want to wear female clothes, and vise versa. These individuals generally embrace the stereotypical aspects of the opposite sex, such a man doing all the cooking and cleaning and a woman doing yard work. (Sorry! I said stereotypes.) And FYI, the American Psychology Association is looking to change the criteria for this disorder...and a few others...when the DSM-5 comes out. Check it out here.

However, I'm not sure that Bradley fits all the criteria for this particular disorder. Does he essentially want to be a woman? I realize he's attracted to other men, but that wouldn't preclude him wanting to a woman. Cross-dressing is just that, dressing in the clothes of the opposite sex. Taken to the most extreme, this could include one wanting to be a transexual, (someone who at the far end of the spectrum wants to undergo surgery to make the outside of their body match with the inside). But it could just be that Bradley is a transvestite - someone who cross-dresses (although cross-dresser is the preferred term). Another caveat would be if Bradley gets a sexual enjoyment from dressing in the clothes of the opposite sex. Then it would fall under a transvestic fetishism.

This can actually get pretty confusing, with all these terms! And trying to figure out which are politically correct, etc, can be overwhelming. If you have additional questions about this, just ask below.

Hope this has been helpful E.S.! Good luck to you.

1 comment:

Jessica Nelson said...

Very interesting assessment. It sounds like the writer could go a lot of different ways here.

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Both comments and questions are welcome. I hope you enjoyed your time on the couch today.