The real reason many transsexual and transgender people hate the DSM and GID?
We don’t want to be perceived as crazy.
I am NOT Craazzzyyy!!!
Transsexualism, to be treated legally by the medical establishment, needs a diagnosis. In my case, and most typically for most transsexuals, I think, therapists diagnosed me with gender identity disorder (GID).
GID is a psychological diagnosis, as is another diagnosis I have been given, transsexualism.
When I started hormones in 1996, GID enraged me. I didn’t have a psychological problem, people with bipolar disorder or schizophrenia had psychological disorders.
“There is nothing psychologically wrong with wanting to change my gender!”
I had a medical problem and believed my interests as a transsexual female to male would be best served by creating a medical diagnosis, i.e. an endocrine disorder, for example.
A medical diagnosis would surely be better than a psychological one. A medical diagnosis had little social and medical baggage, I thought.
Being lumped together with people with autism or bipolar disorder terrified me.
I wasn’t demented, deranged or unhinged.
A deep seated fear of Crazy bubbled up from somewhere within my socialization. All my middle-class fears about not fitting in and being different was like adding gasoline to a fire.
Not me, nope. Just an ordinary, taller-than-average female to male transsexual in great need of hormones.
The system of gender socialization created the problem, I railed. The problem lay with society, not my mental state or mental health.
A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to a Disability Rights Meeting
I possessed no ability to see the flaw in my logic.
If I believed a system of gender socialization created behaviors some people deemed normal and others not-normal, mightn’t that also be true for other psychological diagnosis?
No. I wasn’t crazy, just pursuing a right I believed belonged to every human being, the right to define and express gender as each person desires.
Then I became aware of disability activism and the neurodiversity movement, an approach to disability that sees neurological conditions as a result of variations in the human genome.
Psychological disorders aren’t disorders at all unless considered by therapists, psychiatrists and the general public.
A person doesn’t need to be cured of their autism or tourette’s or bipolarity, neurological states that carry heavy social approbations, but accepted as part of the diverse human experience.
The striking similarities between this argument and transsexuals argument regarding unencumbered access to hormones free of social controls failed to impact me immediately.
I understood the arguments of the neurodiversity movement, and I’d like to be able to say today how I was struck smart instantly, but I would be lying if I said that.
In truth I bumped around my own internalized ableism.
Our society profoundly hates and loathes people with different-than-normal neurological conditions.
We joke about them, fear them, round them and murder them, corral them in institutions and betray them repeatedly with shock therapies, water treatments and all kinds of tortures more suited to an Inquisition chamber, not a modern medical establishment.
Oh, and if the person is also transsexual and taking hormones, we’ll be sure to take away their hormones, anytime we want.
Just because we can.
When the Corners Don’t Meet
When I learned medical authorities, particularly doctors, men and women sworn to do no harm, confiscated hormones from patients presenting with other issues/problems/concerns related to their neurological condition, my confusion began to lift.
Seizing hormones is a cruel punishment for a transsexual. How does taking them away from someone who feels suicidal make them feel less suicidal?
Around this same time a dear friend with an exceptionally strong form of bipolarity gave permission for several rounds of ECT or shock treatments. Doctors convinced this person of the efficacy of these treatments.
They ultimately went through several rounds, then stopped. We spoke not long after that.
“I’m sorry but there will be entire months, and maybe even years, of our relationship I won’t remember. I’ll probably never remember.”
Then this person said words that changed my life.
“You’re my memory keeper now.”
I couldn’t square this deal anymore.
What that FtM don’t to warrant a death sentence from people who are supposed to help? Or my dear, dear friend?
Why must we fix different neurological states?
When the objective goal is to make a person normal, perhaps we need to change normal.
At this point I had come full circle.
As a transsexual, I hated normal and realized disability and neurodiversity activists did as well.
One or Two Things I’ve Learned
My fear of being diagnosed with a psychological disorder is arbitrary and results from my wrong-headed beliefs.
Now I’ve learned psychiatric treatments often center around making a person productive, which I think codes out as “go earn the system some profits,” or unitary or stable, whatever that means.
Psychiatric treatments seek to make neurologically diverse people their kind of normal.
I can relate.
A therapist once asked me if I had ever tortured animals, all because I needed his professional okay to pursue top surgery.
The questions and tests and interviews facilitated by the diagnosis of gender identity disorder often seem more about the clinicians than me.
Now I’ve learned psychotherapeutic communities want control. They want to mold us into an image in which they see themselves. Whether or not we survive such extrusions, who cares? We’ll get a stamp of “normal” or we should die trying.
But the most important thing I’ve learned is that a diagnosis is a diagnosis.
Whether the diagnosis is medical or psychiatric, I must still navigate through a system of channels and locks controlled by people who may or may not have my interests in mind.
Medical diagnosis don’t offer better solutions. People with diagnosis of cerebral palsy, for example, or dystonia, can, and are, treated like children by clinicians.
I’ve learned that if you are a black man fighting against a system out to kill you, you’ll probably get diagnosed as schizophrenic.
I’ve learned what happens to a white woman fighting against the malaise of confined, middle-class womanhood.
Either way the cure – whether the diagnosis is schizophrenia or severe under stimulation – doesn’t address the problem, which is racism and misogyny.
Now I’ve learned few circumstances exist that warrant denying a person hormones because they have an additional neurological condition.
I’ve learned a person’s gender dysphoria and another neurological state can follow parallel paths and never intersect. Most therapists I’ve known misunderstand this phenomena, believing that gender can’t be independent of any other diagnosis, even a medical one.
I find it difficult to believe psychiatry a value-neutral proposition. Too many therapists have feed me and my people loads of crap. I’ve had to eat my share of shit sandwiches when it comes to managing my transsexualism, but I’ve always chosen to eat them.
It’s different when someone is shoving it down your throat, while sitting on your chest with their hands around your throat, implying you are abnormal because you struggle to eat the sandwich.
When I really listened to disability activists, sitting with my prejudices and discomforts, I realized a diagnosis is a diagnosis.
Now I’ve learned a medical diagnosis doesn’t make things better for people. A diagnosis of cerebral palsy or dystonia can, and does result, in being treated by like a child by clinicians.
Mostly I’ve learned how desperate middle-class people are for everyone to fit it, get along and keep a low profile.
When I worked at a social work school, a new coworker once called me in a panic.
“A man is sitting in the common area, shouting and biting his fist.”
“He has Tourette’s syndrome,” I told her after walking past the man to her office.
“We know him,” I said.
She smiled, sort of.
The social norming of my employer told her she needed to accept him. He had a right to sit in the common area and shout and bite his fist.
Her upbringing, however, suggested a different outcome.
Middle-class people prize quiet and social conformity.
Crazy is a very bad thing among the middle class. Your head is broke.
Now I realize my head is broke, too, when examined through the lens of extreme middle class blandness, gender conformity and the DSM.
Whether a little bit or a lot, a broke head is still broken. I needs diagnosis to get fixed.
When I fear crazy and rail against gender identity disorder and makes claims that I’m not crazy, I’m not really doing anything to change a system I say I hate.
The problem isn’t people who are neurologically different from me. The problem is the system that wants me to believe they are the problem.
Let’s work on changing the system, a twisted, violent thing that really is broken.