What Defines A Transgender?
What constitutes mental illness? If a female feels trapped inside her feminine body and wants to be a male, does that mean she has a physical problem or a mental one?
As stated in the most recent 1994 DSM-V (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders) used by mental health professionals, Gender Identity Disorder or Transvestic Fetishism is the diagnosis given to adults, adolescents and children with a “strong and persistent cross-gender identification.” The umbrella term for Transgender encompasses transsexuals, cross-dressers and others whose self-concepts otherwise do not align with the male or female label that they were given at birth.
New Less-Loaded Definition of Transgender
Transgender advocates are trying to persuade the American Psychiatric Association to rewrite or even remove the categories used to diagnose them as they feel the DSM-V Manual is discriminatory and implies that they have a mental illness.
The new fifth DSM-V Manual (being overhauled now) is considering the term “gender dysphoria” which translates to emotional distress. Points out Dana Beyer, a retired eye surgeon, who helped the Washington Psychiatric Society make recommendations for the chapter on “Sexual and Gender Identity Disorders, “ the new term switches the emphasis from a disorder that by definition all transgender people possess to a temporary mental state that only some might possess.”
Drawbacks of New Definition: Medical and Legal
However, the new definition while representing society’s increased awareness and understanding of transsexuals, also has its disadvantages. Since at least the 1980’s, the disorder definition has been used by doctors, mental health professionals and a growing number of health insurers to justify access to hormones or surgery for transsexuals. Without this term, transsexual patients may not be able to get reimbursed for medical services.
“Having a deep-seated condition recognized by the medical establishment is extremely useful in legal advocacy,” says Shannon Minter, Legal Director of The National Center for Lesbian Rights. “We rely on it even in employment discrimination cases to explain to courts that a person is not just making some superficial choice… that this is a very deep-seated condition recognized by the medical community.”http://The Washington Post, 7/21/12