Archive for Sexology
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V. Congress of the European Federation of Sexology (EFS)
XIV. DGSS Conference on Social Scientific Sex Research
Berlin, June 29 - July 2, 2000
Awarding the Magnus-Hirschfeld-Medal for Outstanding Contributions to Sex Research to Milton Diamond, Honolulu, HI
Laudation for Milton Diamond
by Erwin J. Haeberle, Berlin
when we first met in Honolulu 30 years ago, the University of Hawaii was the most exciting place in the world for anyone interested in the study of sex.
More by accident than by design, the Manoa campus had become home to some of the most innovative sexological minds of that time: Harvey Gochros in Social Work, Vince DeFeo in Anatomy, Ron Pion in Gynecology and Obstetrics, Jack Annon in Psychology, and you in Biology. Together, this group of pioneers represented an American academic avantgarde, a AAA providing the roadmaps to all of us cuising the highways in search of sexual knowledge.
Being new to the field, I learned as much as I could as fast as I could from all of you, and this helped me to conceive of my textbook of sexology and eventually to bring it to a successful conclusion. From my main base in San Francisco, I regularly visited Hawai'i and thus also saw many installments of your 30-hour TV series on human sexuality that was aired by the state's Public Television station in the early 1970's. As far as I know, this was the very first TV series of its kind anywhere, and it did much to create a more enlightened public attitude toward sex that today still distinguishes Hawai'i from many other states in the US.
Especially remarkable about your TV series was ist inclusiveness. For example, I remember quite clearly one episode dealing with the sexuality of the handicapped and featuring severely handicapped, but quite active participants in wheelchairs. That was unheard of in those days and, for the first time, created a public awareness of this hitherto suppressed issue. And it became a burning issue indeed when the first severely wounded GIs returned from the war in Vietnam and refused to accept the obsolete role as sexual cripples.
Later, you also developed a series of TV programs for professionals that could be used to teach sexual medicine and also educational TV programs on STDs for the State of Hawai'i. When, in the 1980s, the HIV epidemic reached Honolulu, you immediately took a lead role and, as the chairman of the "Hawai'i AIDS Task Group" helped coordinate all major governmental, public, military and private agencies dealing with this now threat to public health. I remember quite well how, for years, we exchanged materials and papers on AIDS prevention, and how tireless your committment was.
This committment also led you to sharing your experiences with your colleagues in Japan, where you have long been a well-known and higly respected figure. Your book "Sexual Decisions" became the first college-level sexuality text in Japan, and so your book on AIDS was also promptly translated into Japanese and later into Chinese. Indeed, you are almost equally well known in China, where we met several times at international conferences. There I could admire at close range your sure touch when dealing with our Asian colleagues, an ability acquired over many years on your "home island" Oahu, where your office is very apppropriately located on "East-West Road", the perfect place for your mediating role between the US mainland and the Pacific region.
I am stressing your accomplishments as a teacher and cultural mediator first, because it was this side of you that I encountered first. Only later did I become familiar with the scientist and undaunted researcher Diamond. Here again, your interests have been all-encompassing, from the role of hormones in both animals and humans to biological, psychological, and social problems of reproduction, from childhood and adolescent sexuality to sex education, from sexually transmitted diseases to pornography and various forms of compulsive sexual behavior, from sex offenses to drug addiction, from sexual anatomy and physiology to sexual orientation.
I remember quite well your opening lecture on bisexuality at the Reichstag ten years ago, when, after the opening of the wall, we were able to hold a conference on that topic in the newly united Berlin. Your overview of the biological facts provided the basis on which our subsequent discussions could unfold, it it was published in both the German and English edition of our congress proceedings. Happily, some of the other participants are again present today. Of course, there will never again be a sexology conference at the Reichstag. Indeed, ours was the last congress in that building before it was gutted and reconstructed as the home of the new German paliament.
Since that time, you name has increasingly been mentioned in connection with another important sexological area of research - gender and transgender issues, and especially intersexuality. Here, your persistent questioning of standard procedures and blindly accepted "truths" has done much to reopen a scientific debate that had died down much too early. As a result, many infants born with ambiguous genitalia now have a chance to encounter more sensitive doctors who will try to avoid surgical procedures that might foreclose future options for their development. Your recommendations for the management of such cases are increasingy finding acceptance with all concerned. At the same time, everyone else has gained a much deeper understanding of human sexual and gender development.
This great, still largely unsolved riddle of nature and culture was also what fascinated our great sexological pioneer Magnus Hirschfeld, whose constant harping on "sexual intermediate stages" irritated many of his colleagues and, indeed, made him the laughing stock of cartoonists and the popular press. Today we can see that his scientific "instinct" was sound, even if he remained unable to frame the issue in the terms accepted today. He really "was on to something", and it is therefore more than appropriate that you, dear Mickey, should now accept the medal named after Hirschfeld.
So, here it is: Well deserved and awarded with joy in a building designed by an American architect in the area where Hirschfeld's institute formerly stood.
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