Gender and Mental Health

I went to see “Girl, Interrupted” when I was 16, fresh out of my own stint at a psych ward and looking for hollywood to help me glamorize what was really a pretty boring experience.  The film was set in the past, although historical thinking wasn’t it’s strong suit, it created a kind of genderqueer mythography about the hospital.  Housing a collection of girls who were interrupted in their quests to be different – there was winona with her teenage rebellion from school, a lesbian who wasn’t able to be out and proud, an anorexic woman who wanted to stay a child, and the sexy sociopath played by angelina jolie.

My first hospital featured few sexy sociopaths, no clea duvall, and overall little gender nonconformity.  But then again, I don’t remember a lot of it because of the tiny black holes made by shock therapies.

As an adult in a psych facility, you are allowed very little gender. Or, at least, very little gender performance.  No makeup, no clothing with buttons or ties, def. no high heels, not even shower gel or conditioner that smells like girl. Everyone does art time together and we all visit the gym together to shoot basketballs to pass the time.

Overall, this synchs with the “sex is between your legs and gender is between your ears” philosophy of gender (which has lots of issues of course). When you’re on a psych ward, what’s between your ears gets relabelled in terms of compliance and functioning.  did you take your meds? how did you sleep? are you crying all the time? these are the important questions… and yes, these questions are the same for men and women, for both and neither.

Reclaiming the hospital as a queer space is somewhat problematic also because of the extreme monitoring of all bodily functions. (i mean ALL). There are tons of hierarchies and lots of badness and overall just a lot of time. But no gender.


1 thought on “Gender and Mental Health

  1. Very interesting! I’ve never been hospitalized for anything. I’m actually pretty terrified of it. I wouldn’t talk about anything important in therapy as a kid/teen because I was terrified they’d lock me in a psych ward if they knew my true thoughts. That’s not to say I didn’t need it. I probably did and still do but I’m still pretty terrified of it so I avoid it. It’s interesting to read someone’s perspective who has been through it.

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