November 30, the Tampa Bay Times published the story of Floridian, Gretchen Molannen, a woman from Spring Hill with a rare type of sexual dysfunction called persistent genital arousal disorder (Anton, pg. 10). Having struggled with it for 16 years, it took its toll on her physically and psychologically, and hindered her ability to perform at work, to the point where she’d given up on working altogether, relying on the support of her boyfriend in order to get by (Anton, pg. 10-1). According to the article, back in August, she filed for disability and at a hearing described her condition to a judge in a St. Petersburg courthouse (Anton, pg. 10-1).
In September, she got her response. Her claim had been rejected. According to the letter, although Molannen “…has severe impairments, they do not meet the criteria of any listed impairments…” (Anton, pg. 11).
The letter also went on to refer to her disabled brother, who she used to support. The judge who had heard her case, B.T. Amos, said that she was trying to get disability for "pecuniary gain" (Anton, para. 50, 79)…
December 1, Gretchen Molannen was found dead in her home. After several suicide attempts in the past, she had finally succeeded. I personally heard about this from the reporter of her story, Leonora Anton, when I’d called to ask about her, the day it came out.
Little is currently known about persistent genital arousal disorder, what causes it as well as what effective treatments are available (Anton, pg. 11). Due to the debilitating nature of her condition which prevented her from maintaining a stable income, Gretchen didn’t have financial access to many options; it had been hard enough just to keep her head, never mind a roof over it (Anton, pg. 11).
I am appalled that someone could be denied help, especially on the same breath that admits that her impairments were severe. On behalf of her and other people out there whose lives are affected by PGAD, I am petitioning Social Security to acknowledge PGAD as a legitimate disability. Perhaps this way, it will get the attention it needs, then no more people will have to suffer like Gretchen did, and she will get the closure she deserves. In the meantime, do what you can to help spread the word! Contact your reps, your press, your friends, everyone!
Here is the link to her full story: http://www.tampabay.com/news/health/medicine/article1263980.ece
Here is a link to the American Disabilities Act of 1990: http://www.ada.gov/pubs/adastatute08.htm#12102
Anton, Leonora LaPeter. “Trapped in Sexual Agony.” Tampa Bay Times [St. Petersburg, FL] 3 December 2012. Print.
--. “Persistent genital arousal disorder brings woman agony, not ecstasy.” Tampa Bay Times 30 Nov., 2012. Web. 4 Dec., 2012. http://www.tampabay.com/news/health/medicine/article1263980.ece
Disability (1), under the American Disabilities Act of 1990, Title 42, Chapter 126, Sec. 12102 [Section 3] is described as “(A) a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities of such individual; (B) a record of such an impairment; or (C) being regarded as having such an impairment…”
Also in the ADA under the same section, Major life activities (2) are classified in parts (A) “In general” and (B) “Major bodily functions.” In part (A), “major life activities include, but are not limited to, caring for oneself, performing manual tasks, seeing, hearing, eating, sleeping, walking, standing, lifting, bending, speaking, breathing, learning, reading, concentrating, thinking, communicating, and working.” In part (B), “a major life activity also includes the operation of a major bodily function, including but not limited to, functions of the immune system, normal cell growth, digestive, bowel, bladder, neurological, brain, respiratory, circulatory, endocrine, and reproductive functions.”
Beneath this is (3) “Regarded as having such an impairment;” in part (A), “An individual meets the requirement of ‘being regarded as having such an impairment’ if the individual establishes that he or she has been subjected to an action prohibited under this chapter because of an actual or perceived physical or mental impairment whether or not the impairment limits or is perceived to limit a major life activity.”
Gretchen presented empirical evidence of her condition and how it had affected her life, and still she was turned down. No one should be denied help when they have impairments so severe, regardless of the location of the affected area, that they cannot support themselves, let alone seek adequate treatment, especially when this is admitted by a judge or other decision-maker to be true. On behalf of the late Gretchen Molannen and all others who are affected by persistent genital arousal disorder, please recognize PGAD as a formal disability.