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Being Gay Isn't A Mental Disorder Anymore; Being Trans Still Is

The last word Kelley Winters would ever use to describe herself is disordered. But that’s exactly how the medical profession describes her. Forget for a moment that Winters is a well-spoken Ph.D. in electrical engineering from the University of Idaho who went on to have an impressive 29-year career at Hewlett-Packard before retiring this June. Winters, who was born male, is transgender. And to receive the medical care she needed to transition, she had to be officially diagnosed with gender identity disorder — the psychiatric term used to describe people who feel their gender identity doesn’t match their birth gender.

Winters agreed to the GID diagnosis so that she could live her life as a woman, but she refused to accept it. Instead, she founded GID Reform Advocates, an organization committed to changing how psychiatrists view and classify transgender men and women. Her ultimate goal? To remove GID from the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, the physician’s bible for diagnosing mental health problems.

“The current diagnosis of GID,” says Winters, “carries the same burden of social stigma that homosexuality did for gays and lesbians before 1973.” When the American Psychiatric Association voted to remove the diagnosis of homosexuality from the DSM on December 15, 1973, it was a watershed for the gay rights movement. “With homosexuality no longer classified as a mental illness,” says psychiatrist Jack Drescher, past chair of the APA’s Committee on GLB Issues, “it removed the rationalization for discrimination, and it made the question about whether gays should be accepted as full citizens a moral one.”

Kelley and I are acquaintances.  She’s one of the smartest people I know…well, just period.  The quote above is from The Advocate‘s November 20th issue

She makes the point that one can follow completely the standards of care for Gender Identity Disorder (GID), hold down a great job, and be well adjusted — and still forever be considered mentally disordered, much like well adjusted gays and lesbians were considered disordered until 1973. 

That the D in GID stands for disorder is a point not lost on the religious right, — and our congresspeople.

It was easier to remove LGB folk from the DSM because there were no medical treatments involved — being gay doesn’t mean you need testosterone shots.  Identifying as a transman often entails testosterone shots though — how does one treat a transsexual then without labeling the transgender experience a disorder?

That’s why Kelley founded GID Reform Advocates.  Riffle through the website if your curious on how one could treat transsexuals without labeling transmen and transwomen as mentally disordered.

H/t: Jack Drescher, MD

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Autumn Sandeen

Autumn Sandeen