The celebration of diversity and difference continues to be erased from social history. The new edition of the DSM-5, Psychiatry’s behaviour classification manual, suggests the parameters of social control are continuing to remove responsibility for behaviour from the individual to the state. The DSM has always been controversial, not least because of the relationship between naming behaviours as symptomatic of mental illness and drug production; ADHD and Ritalin being a prime example. New labels in the DSM-5 (due out in May 2012) include shyness in children, loneliness, grief and serial rape. Each one of these deserves attention, not least because of their un-holistic nature, but the one which horrifies me the most is the possibility that uncertainty over gender could be labelled a mental illness.
Sex and gender identity is still informed by a cursory glance towards the genitals at birth. There is no routine testing for chemical imbalances such as complete or partial androgen insensitivity syndrome in spite of hormones being the key triggers of foetal development from female to male. Intersex is an established medical condition and any search on ‘Gender Dysphoria’ will evidence the medical acceptance that individual ‘uncertainty over gender’ deserves scientific attention not any drug induced ‘normalisation’ process.
The movement towards acceptance of transgender identity, e.g. the lobbying group Press for Change, has empowered transgendered individuals to live authentic lives. This is how it should be. Identity is a fundamental component of our lives and history is full of horror when this clashes with social imperatives for order and control. The disjuncture between internal and external gender perception needs support. The worry is labeling gender dysphoria as a mental rather than a physical condition will mean it becomes a process of ‘normalisation’ rather than one which addresses its physiological roots.