Mental illness diagnosis widened to include ‘uncertainty over gender’

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.

Psychologists fear US manual will widen mental illness diagnosis. Mental disorders listed in publication that should not exists, warn UK experts.

rethinking sex and gender

The Caster Semenya female/male debate is currently raising awareness of sex but so far it seems the media have yet to address gender. A decade ago I challenged the accepted belief of  a genetic sex and a social gender. Informed by the literature of the time (Butler, Fausto-Sterling, Hausman etc) and supported by Press for Change the leading political group led by campaigners such as Dr Stephen Whittle, I collected first hand narratives from individuals with transgendered lives who described growing childhood realisations of their internal sense of gender conflicting with the sexual identity bestowed on them at birth.  I was privileged with insight into the cruelty of ‘normalisation’ practices as individuality was medically categorised into one of two available ‘sexes’. I saw at first hand how limited conceptions of a sexual binary were inadequate to reflect the true variety of human existence. Rethinking Sex and Gender highlighted the need for more flexible attitudes and understanding, called for wider recognition of AIS, Intersex and transgender identity and suggested the mismatch between externally identified sex and internal experienced gender should be further investigated.  All discrimination is based on divergence and a fear of difference. Legislation recognises human rights but does nothing to contest human prejudice. Transgendered and Intersex identities continue to challenge one of the most fundamental tenets of society; a fixed sex gender duality supporting the power structures of dominant ideology.