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U.S. Psychiatrists: Transgender No Longer a Mental ’Disorder’

by Jason St. Amand
National News Editor
Monday Dec 31, 2012

Officials from the American Psychiatric Association made a landmark announcement this month and said that the organization's guide to classifying mental illnesses would remove "gender identity disorder," CNN reports.

Before the term was removed, the manual, known as DSM-5, classified a man who believe he was supposed to be a woman as someone who was mentally ill. Now, the updated DSM refers to "gender dysphoria," which is for indivduals who feel distressed by their gender identity.

"I think it's a significant change," Jack Drescher, a member of the American Psychiatric Association, told CNN. "It's clinically defensible, but it reduces the amount of stigma and harm that existed before."

In 1973, homosexuality was removed from the DSM and Drescher said he thinks the removal changed the world's view on homosexuality. Soon after, other major mental health organizations followed suit and in 1990 the World Health Organization declassified homosexuality as a mental illness. Even though some still believe being gay is a mental disorder, research and clinical studies show that same-sex romantic attractions, feelings and behaviors are normal and positive variations of human sexuality.

According to CNN, officials left gender dysphoria as a diagnosis so transgender individuals can still receive health care coverage for hormone treatment, emotional counseling and other treatments.

"It will mark a significant lowering of the stigmatization that many trans people have faced," Mara Keisling, executive director of the National Center for Transgender Equality, said. "The changes help make clear that there is nothing pathological about having a transgender identity, and that the role of the mental health profession is to affirm and support individuals in being themselves in the face of societal misunderstanding."

Not everyone was pleased with the change, however. Kelly Winters, a transgender activist, took to her blog and wrote that the new criteria "represent some forward progress on issues of social stigma and barriers to medical transition care, for those who need it." She added, "However, they do not go nearly far enough in clarifying that nonconformity to birth-assigned roles and victimization from societal prejudice do not constitute mental pathology."

Dr. Dana Beyer, a public heath and LGBT civil rights advocate who once worked on the American Psychiatric Association's working group, wrote on the Huffington Post of the sociopolitical impact of the new category: "Our greatest accomplishment on the Working Group was reconceptualizing the state of 'being trans' from a mental illness to a normal human variant."


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