Updated Aug. 20, 2012 to correct the full name of the APA from American Psychiatric Association to the American Psychological Association, and to reflect the fact that the changes to the DSM are not yet final.
August 13, 2012 (LifeSiteNews.com) – You are born with an XY or an XX chromosome, primary characteristics that will objectively develop one genotype: male or female. But now you can choose whether to be male, female, or something else—and when the American Psychological Association releases their new manual, it might be considered perfectly normal.
In May 2013, the APA will publish the DSM-5, the fifth edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders. A significant change that is currently being considered is the reclassification of Gender Identity Disorder to “Gender Dysphoria.” “Dysphoria” is a word meaning “emotional distress.”
Proponents of the change believe it is a positive step, removing the stigma of mental illness from a group of people—not all of whom feel the need for psychological counselling. Critics, on the other hand, including one former president of the APA, maintain that the change is motivated by politics, rather than science.
“We know there is a whole community of people out there who are not seeking medical attention and live between the two binary categories,” said Jack Drescher, a member of the DSM-5 Sexual and Gender Identity Disorders Work Group. “We wanted to send the message that the therapist’s job isn’t to pathologize.”
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The APA website defines a psychological state as a mental disorder “only if it causes significant distress or disability.” It continues, “Many transgender people do not experience their gender as distressing or disabling, which implies that identifying as transgender does not constitute a mental disorder.”
Dana Beyer, who helped the Washington Psychiatric Society make recommendations on matters of gender and sexuality, told the AP, “a right-winger can’t go out and say all trans people are mentally ill because if you are not dysphoric, that can’t be diagnosed from afar. It no longer matters what your body looks like, what you want to do to it, all of that is irrelevant as far as the APA goes.”
But Dr. Anthony Duk, a psychiatrist at the Inland Psychiatric Medical Group in Riverside, California, and member of NARTH (National Association for Research to Treat Homosexuality), told LifeSiteNews that the APA’s reframing would result in potentially harmful self-diagnosis.
“When you move from disorder to dysphoria, which is upset feeling, you lose objectivity. You ask how the patient feels, if they think they are dysphoric. Those that think they have a problem have a problem; those that don’t think they have a problem don’t.”
According to Dr. Nicholas Cummings, former president of the APA and Chair of The Nicholas and Dorothy Cummings Foundation, the problem with the proposed redefinition is that it may limit how much help people with gender identity issues are able to seek—and how much psychologists are comfortable giving.
“I think that [psychologists] are afraid to address the topic directly with their patients because they fear there will be repercussions from the APA,” Dr. Cummings told LifeSiteNews. “They fear a malpractice suit. It limits their response [to patients].”
Dr. Cummings explained that the APA believes gender identity is immutable and any psychologist who tries to help a patient change it commits malpractice, “which is interesting as there are patients who seek change. Change is very difficult and happens only in a minority of cases…but that doesn’t mean it can’t be done.”
Dr. Duk expressed concern that under the definition that is being considered by the APA children, who could normally experience gender identity confusion until age eleven, will be offered medications that will delay puberty so they can decide their sex.
“Pharmaceutical companies are trying to make money off of something that is contrary to the use of science and the Hippocratic oath,” Dr. Duk said.
Dr. Cummings said that the APA’s proposed redefinition “ is more of a political issue than it is scientific,” he said. “All this talk is based on politics, attitude—not science. If you try to be scientific, you choose to be a homophobe.”
“When treatment, whether psychological or medical, is determined by politics, it’s very frightening.”