Sidebars

Background - The Problem - Action

Although the American Psychiatric Association (APA) "cured" millions of people with the stroke of a pen by removing homosexuality as a mental disorder from its Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders in the mid-70s, "gender dysphoria" (DSM III and III-R) and subsequently "gender identity disorder" or "GID" (DSM IV) entered into the picture as a potential repressive and dangerous oppressive agent for lesbians and gays. Since many lesbians and gays do not conform to the heterosexual bipolar cultural gender paradigm, they have been and can continue to be oppressed by the APA and those who ascribe to their sexist and heterosexist modus operandi.

In response to this oppression, women's rights organizations along with lesbian and gay rights organizations have voiced concern and opposition to the APA's constricting definition of bipolar gender behavior which follows the "traditional" partiarchal and heterosexist models. The APA's fundamental tenet being that anyone who departs from their "assigned-at-birth" cultural gender role is "mentally disordered." Of course their inane presumption is absolutely ludicrous, but the point remains that it can be used as an oppressive tool to force compliance with the "traditional" cultural gender paradigms.

The following are various documents and commentary concerning GID:


APA Pathologizes Lesbian and Gay Youth in the U.S.A.
[from an Action Alert put out by the International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission (IGLHRC), iglhrc@igc.apc.org, 1360 Mission St. #200, San Francisco CA 94103; phone 415-255-8680, fax 415-255-8662]

In 1974, the American Psychiatric Association ceased to classify homosexuality as an illness, yet every year, hundreds of LGBT youth are confined to psychiatric institutions and subjected to "treatment" to change their sexual orientation.

One diagnosis which doctors use to justify this "treatment" is "Gender Identity Disorder." According to the current American Psychiatric Association's Diagnostic and Statistical Manual, symptoms of "Gender Identity Disorder" in girls include "Intense negative reactions to parental expectations or attempts to have them wear dresses or other feminine attire," preference for "boy's [sic] clothing and short hair," and identification with "powerful male figures such as Batman or Superman."

[The P.E.R.S.O.N. Project notes: Professional homophobes such as fundamentalist Lou Sheldon of the Traditional Values Coalition (the prime mover behind the recent Congressional hearings) use the label Gender Identity Disorder to portray our young people as sick and needing of conversion or aversion therapies. The practical, political implications of the APA's labeling are to wreak psychological and emotional damage on young people around the country EVERY day!]

The American Academy of Pediatrics, the American Medical Association, and the Child Welfare League of America have all taken clear positions against pathologizing lesbian and gay youth. However, the American Psychiatric Association continues to stigmatize young people who do not conform to socially imposed gender roles or heterosexual norms. The National Center for Lesbian Rights, the International Conference on Transgender Law and Employment Policy, IGLHRC, and several other organizations have launched a campaign to pressure the APA to change its position on this issue.

Letters should be sent to the APA outlining the following points:

1. The classification of "Gender Identity Disorder" as a disease presents a major obstacle to accessing health care. Youth who fear being labeled or incarcerated avoid seeking the care they may need to cope with the isolation, rejection and hostility that they confront in their daily lives.

2. As the leading organization of mental health professionals in the U.S., the APA has a special responsibility to ensure that practitioners provide competent and non-judgmental care to all clients, including lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender youth. The APA should follow the lead of American Academy of Peditrics, the American Medical Association, and the Child Welfare League of America in taking a stand against pathologizing sexual minority youth. Homosexuality in the adult population is not pathologized, and it should likewise NOT be pathologized in youth.

3. The APA should affirm the right of all people to receive competent health care on demand to achieve and maintain their self-defined gender identities.

SEND LETTERS TO:

Dr. Mary Jane England
President, American Psychiatric Association
1400 K Street NW
Washington DC, USA 20005

Dr. Chester W. Schmidt
Chair, Sexual and Gender Identity Disorders Working Group, APA
Johns Hopkins Bay View Medical Center
4940 Eastern Avenue, B3 South Baltimore MD, USA 21224


California NOW Resolutions:
Depathologizing "Gender Identity Disorder"

WHEREAS "Gender Identity Disorder" (GID) is listed in the American Psychiatric Association's (APA) Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-IV) and the DSM-IV defines mental illness, thereby shaping notions about normalcy and deviance; and

WHEREAS the DSM-IV criteria for the Diagnosis of "Gender Identity Disorder" creates and regulates heterosexist, sexist and bipolar gender stereotypes as "norms" for mental and social behavior in youth and adults, thereby rendering bisexual, gay, lesbian and transgender youth as inherently deviant; and

WHEREAS "GID" is used to pathologize and punish diversities of gender identification, gender expression, and sexual orientation, and is also used to justify forced psychiatric treatment of youth; and

WHEREAS "GID" is contradictory to the APA's own 1973 decision to depathologize homosexuality; and to the American Academy of Pediatrics, the AMA and the Child Welfare League of America's stances against pathologizing a young person's sexual orientation; and to NOW's previous opposition to pathologizing "Premenstral Dysphoric Disorder" and "Self-Defeating Personality Disorder"; and

WHEREAS NOW supports universal access to health care;

THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED that NOW supports the removal of "GID" as a DSM classification and will take the following actions:

a) Join with the National Center for Lesbian Rights (NCLR), the International Conference of Transgender Law and Employment Policy (ICTLEP) and other groups in the effort;

b) Authorize the Lesbian Rights Director to develop and implement an action plan on this issue with the involvement of the Lesbian Rights CIC, including making available materials such as the "GID" developed by California NOW;

c) Publish an article and suggested actions in the National NOW Times on this issue by early 1996;

d) Encourage chapters and states to educate their members about this issue and join the postcard campaign seeking removal of "GID" as a DSM classification; and

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that NOW recognizes and affirms the right of all people to competent health care, on demand, to achieve and maintain their self-defined gender identities.

Submitting member:
Jean Morrison, Chair, California NOW GID Issue Committee


Draft Resolutions from Texas Lesbian Conference 1996
(Developed in conference workshop, but never officially adopted by TLC)

Texas Lesbian Conference
Resolutions to Depathologize "Gender Identity Disorder"

WHEREAS "Gender Identity Disorder" (GID) is defined as a disorder in the American Psychiatric Association's (APA) Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fourth Edition (DSM-IV), it thereby shapes notion and concepts of normalcy and deviance in gender identity and its resultant expression; and

WHEREAS the DSM-IV criteria for the diagnosis of GID defines and promulgates heterosexist, sexist, and bipolar cultural gender stereotypes as "norms" for gender identity, expression, and behavior in youth and adults; thereby rendering lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender youth as inherently deviant; and

WHEREAS GID is and can be continued to be used as an oppressive societal method to pathologize and constrain natural diversities of gender identification, gender expression, and sexual orientation, and is and can be continued to be used to justify forced psychiatric treatment of youth; and

WHEREAS GID is contradictory to the APA's own 1973 decision to depathologize homosexuality and to the American Academy of Pediatrics, the AMA, and the Child Welfare League of America's positions against pathologizing a young person's sexual orientation;

THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED that TLC supports the removal of GID per se as a DSM classification of mental disorder and will take the following actions:

1. Join with the National Center for Lesbian Rights (NCLR), California NOW, and the International Conference on Transgender Law and Employment Policy (ICTLEP), and other groups in the effort;

2. Encourage all lesbians participating in TLC '96 to help create awareness of potential abuses and oppression of gender diversity through application of GID as a deviance from an artificial cultural "norm" for gender expression;

3. Support the Women's Caucus of the APA in the effort to remove heterosexist and sexist language from the DSM; and

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that TLC recognizes and affirms the rights of all people to develop and express a sense of self through an identity which should not be circumscribed by what society defines and sanctions as appropriate gender role behavior based on a sexist cultural model.


Remembering Ann Riordan -- she helped draft the TLC resolutions and was an incredible wit (albeit sardonic) and intellect. We'll miss her dearly.


Compiled by Tere Prasse


BACK to Article Index Page