This Saturday, the American Psychiatric Association board of trustees approved the latest proposed revisions to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, what will now be known as the DSM-5. This marks a historic milestone for people who are transgender and gender non-conforming, as their identities are no longer classified as a mental disorder. Homosexuality was similarly declassified as a mental disorder in 1973.
Until now, the term “gender identity disorder” has been used to diagnose people who are transgender. For conservatives, this has provided rhetorical carte blanche to describe the entire trans committee as disordered, delusional, and mentally ill. In some cases, this diagnosis has even been used to discriminate against trans people, with claims that they are unfit parents or employees, as examples. On the other hand, insurance companies have been more willing to cover the expenses associated with transition under this language, because treatment for a disorder is considered medically necessary, rather than cosmetic.
The new manual will diagnose transgender people with “Gender Dysphoria,” which communicates the emotional distress that can result from “a marked incongruence between one’s experienced/expressed gender and assigned gender.” This will allow for affirmative treatment and transition care without the stigma of disorder. Earlier this year, the APA also released new health guidelines for transgender patients, as well as a position statement affirming transgender care and civil rights. Both documents align with a new standard for respecting trans people in the medical community.
It was only after homosexuality was declassified as a mental disorder that ex-gay ministries formed, protesting the medical community’s decision to affirm non-heterosexual orientations. Some dangerous ex-trans ministries exist already and are championed by Focus on the Family, NARTH, PFOX, and other anti-LGBT organizations. It’s possible that these efforts may similarly increase in the wake of this DSM revision.
For further discussion on this topic, please see the follow-up post, “The Complicated Question Of Diagnosing Transgender Identities.”