APA Says Being Transgender is No Longer a Mental Disorder


Ben Fan
Staff Writer

On a college campus where acceptance reigns supreme, the latest news from the American Psychiatric Association (APA) is groundbreaking.  In the “Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM),” a manual written by the APA that classifies all identifiable mental disorders, homosexuality was declassified as a mental disorder in 1973.  It was certainly a big step for the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Queer/Questioning (LGBTQ) community, but there were some left wondering: when would being transgender attain equal status?  On Dec. 3, 2012, they got their answer: being transgender no longer qualifies as a mental disorder in the newly revised manual, the DSM-V.

So what was the big hold up? Previously labeled as having a “gender identity disorder,” transgenderism has recently been looked into and what psychiatrists found clearly did not represent a mental disorder. They found that people with the previously labeled “disorder” actually do not need to reach out for medical assistance of any sort and have moved to end the practice of therapists who pathologize people who identify themselves as transgender.  The new term assumed is “gender dysphoria.” In describing gender dysphoria, the APA says that it is “the emotional distress that can result from ‘a marked incongruence between one’s experienced/expressed gender and assigned gender.”

What does this change bring for individuals who identify themselves as transgender?  On the surface and in the eyes of the public, it seems to remove a degree of stigma associated with transgenderism, giving transgender people an equal standing in the eyes of medical professionals and in much of society.  However, without the label of “mental disorder,” it will be much more difficult for transgender people to reap benefits from medical insurance; insurers are more likely to provide coverage for a legitimate disorder, one listed in the DSM. However, without the status, they are less inclined to provide aid solely to an individual being transgender.  The money that insurance would have issued previously would have been utilized in sessions with a psychiatrist and such. Thus, if those who are believe themselves to be transgender would now like to have insurance cover their sessions, they no longer can as it doesn’t apply anymore as a result of the new revision.

With regard to students on campus, there are differing opinions on the issue.  First-year undeclared major Lori Ta believes the APA made the right call.

“I think it’s unfair in that transgenderism is a choice, it’s not a mental disorder because it’s not harmful to the individual’s mental state,” said Ta. “It’s unfair because the choices those individuals made are all up to them, not us to judge whether or not they’re sane.”

From an alternative perspective, first-year, actuarial science major Terrance Chang thinks that it is more of a mental disorder, “because you [are] born a gender, so I don’t think you could really change that.” Chang’s comment brings up the question of whether or not mental disorders as a whole are something that people are born with. If psychiatrists were to find that mental disorders occur at birth, then this revision may have to be recanted if transgenderism is labeled to be as such once again.

The decision is certainly a landmark for the LGBTQ community as well as the psychiatric field of study, but the long-term effects have yet to prove themselves. Society is gradually getting adjusted to homosexuality. Only time will tell how accepting or not college campuses will become of this kind of diversity.

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