apa_logoSaturday 1st December was a quiet landmark for trans* people around the world.

The American Psychiatric Association ratified the content of DSM-V (the latest and updated version of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders – to be officially released in May next year).

In DSM-V, the outdated diagnosis Gender Identity Disorder has been deprecated, in favour of Gender Dysphoria. The point of this is to bring to an end the outmoded view that being gender-nonconforming, and suffering from gender dysphoria, was in and of itself a mental illness, which needed “curing”.

In my view, gender dysphoria is not a condition, it is the symptom of a condition – which could probably just be called Gender Incongruity. We experience distress (dysphoria) because there is an incongruity between our gender and our body. The way to cure the dysphoria is to address the incongruity (by whatever means are most appropriate to the individual – which may include hormones and/or surgery). Attempting to “cure” the dysphoria in and of itself would be like having a patient who’s in so much pain it makes them cry out, and assuming the best treatment was to anaesthetise their vocal chords.

The significance of the ratification of DSM-V spreads far beyond the US, since many healthcare bodies around the world use the DSM as a reference point for diagnosis and treatment. So this is a big deal on a global scale.

Of course, there are countries around the world who consider gender-nonconformity to be a mental illness (as they do homosexuality too), and many of those countries are using outdated versions of the DSM (which used to support those views) as backup to their prejudices. Hence the older DSM versions have a lot to answer for, in their contribution to the suffering of many in the past and present. Let’s hope the new version eventually overwrites the older ones in the minds of the prejudiced around the world, and enables people to get help with their gender incongruity and dysphoria, instead of just stigmatising them as “mentally unwell”.

[I was tempted to give Benjamin Rush some make-up, but decided not to buy into gender stereotypes – though by modern standards, ze looks suitably androgynous :cool:.

Surreal fact: when I googled Gender Dysphoria to find an image to go with this blog-thing, I found that APA logo in google images, right slap-bang next to a photo of… me. I am a little creeped out by this.]


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