There has been a lot of deliberation as to validly of transgender as a rational position. I’ve been part of these online debates and one objection that has come up frequently is the assertion that being transgender is somehow a ‘mental illness.’ This visceral claim needs no proper retort as its intention is clearly malicious. These types of personal attacks are what’s known as ‘gaslighting.’ Gaslighting is a form of an ad hominem (i.e. attacking the person, not the argument). It is said to be in-part a persona of mental illness and controlling behavior. A sufferer would project their insecurities on others by calling into question their sanity. Let’s be objectionable though by addressing only the validity of this claim. And to be completely fair the term transgender is still rapidly evolving. It’s only been in recent years that science has made significant progress in connecting this phenomenon to a biological basis. Yet, what needs to be addressed are some of the outdated assumptions still held by the general public that are antithetical to the scientific consensus. This is one of those major objections because to accept it would almost mark the end of the conversation.
People who normally use this argument equivocate the use of the terms transgender with gender dysphoria and treat the two terms as if there synonymous. They’ll usually quote old now defunct studies, or rehash well-known misnomers from the historical DSM series and the American Psychiatric Association (APA) in support of this claim. But what they don’t understand is that the two terms are indifferent, and regardless of the political-climate surrounding this issue, the APA does not treat transgender as a mental psychosis. New studies have shown that not all transgender people have gender dysphoria. Gender dysphoria is only a mental illness when it becomes dysphoric (i.e. significant distress in accepting their gender identity.” This definition is reflected in the official term “gender dysphoria” which gives emphases on dysphoria (significant distress). This distinction is clearly stated in the DSM5 fact sheet, which states the following, “It is important to note that gender nonconformity is not in itself a mental disorder. The critical element of gender dysphoria is the presence of clinically significant distress associated with the condition” (“Gender Dysphoria,” n.d.). And, if we look through the APA classification of the transgender vs gender dysphoria fact sheet it affirms the following, “A psychological state is considered a mental disorder only if it causes significant distress or disability. Many transgender people do not experience their gender as distressing or disabling, which implies that identifying as transgender does not constitute a mental disorder” (“What does Transgender Mean,” n.d.).
This is also reflected in the APA standard treatment for transgender individuals helping them cope and accept their gender identity. It is in no way treated as a mental psychosis. And now psychologist are becoming more confident about the fact that gender dysphoria may not necessarily present in a person who is transgender. This is a fact shared amongst mental health experts, clinical psychologist Dr. Robin Rosenberg is quoted as saying “it does not cause the individual distress! For instance, many transgender people, those who identify with a gender different than the one they were assigned at birth, are not distressed by their cross-gender identification and should not be diagnosed with gender dysphoria”.
If you think this is all some wild supposition or conspiratorial theory tell me if this sounds familiar. When the APA struggled to update the DSM2 in 1973 with newer progressive views on homosexuality. An updated was made to the DSM3 in 1980 which replaced homosexuality with “ego-dystonic homosexuality”—homosexuality that causes significant distress for the individual. That diagnosis however was completely removed in 1987 and now homosexuality is obviously no longer considered a mental disorder. This is the same playbook we see with gender dysphoria and the DSM series. If I could call myself Michel De’ Notre-dame, I would predict that the term gender dysphoria will likely be phased out in much the same way. For now though, let’s refer to its proper term as it is used by the APA & DSM series, which defines gender dysphoria as significant distress for individuals struggling to cope with their gender identity.
Update July, 2020: The World Health Organization, properly known as WHO, have revealed that it will revise its publication for the International Classification of Diseases (known as ICD-11), a global classification for statistical clinical data on psychological research. According to the international research institute Human Rights Watch it has been reported that the WHO will completely remove the term gender identity disorder, so that it may be reclassified as ‘gender incongruence‘. The WHO will also revise its classification, listing it as a ‘condition of sexual health‘ rather than a mental disorder. These changes were first supposedly recommended in 2014, by the APA Executive Director Gwyndolyn Puryear Keita PhD. In a personal letter addressed to T. Bedirhan Ustan PhD., who is responsible for leading the WHO’s international classifications research groups (ICD, ICF, and other health classification systems), suggested to Ustan that he revise the WHO terminology on gender identity disorder and that it be rechristened as gender incongruence. It may have taken years but these changes were officially approved in March of 2019. This newest revision to ICD-11 is welcomed by human rights and Queer advocacy groups who argue the archaic use of the term ‘disorder’ stigmatizes its vulnerable communities. The United Nations (UN) has already accepted the new ICD-11 guidelines and will expect its member states to adhere to these newer standards by 2022. The United States is no longer obliged to aqueous as they withdrew from the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) in 2018. It is still unclear whether the APA will adopt these changes. However, the APA is not officially affiliated with the United States government or any government body. Oh, and who predicted this back in 2016? I am Nostradamus! ( ^_^)