Mercedes Allen

More on the DSM Controversy and The Next Step

Filed By Mercedes Allen | May 29, 2008 11:30 AM | comments

Filed in: Living, Transgender & Intersex
Tags: DSM V, gender identity, NGLTF, transgender

The National Gay and Lesbian Task Force have stepped up to become one of the first ally organizations to make a statement about the DSM-V Work Group selection (PFLAG has also reportedly been working on a statement). They write:

The National Gay and Lesbian Task Force is questioning the American Psychiatric Association's (APA) recent appointments of Kenneth Zucker, Ph.D., to chair the Committee on Sexual and Gender Identity Disorders for the revision of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-V), and Ray Blanchard, Ph.D., to serve as a committee member. These appointments are raising great concerns within the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community.

Zucker has built his reputation on the position that children can be directed away from nonconforming gender expression via therapy, while Blanchard has a long list of articles pathologizing commonplace expressions of sexuality and gender.

Rea Carey, Acting Executive Director of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force adds:

"We are very concerned about these appointments. Kenneth Zucker and Ray Blanchard are clearly out of step with the occurring shift in how doctors and other health professionals think about transgender people and gender variance. It is extremely disappointing and disturbing that the APA appears to be failing in keeping up with the times when it comes to serving the needs of transgender adults and gender-variant children."

I don't know the trans community's reaction to this statement yet, I suspect that some will say it doesn't go far enough, but I do certainly welcome the NGLTF's assistance in raising awareness of the issue, in whatever capacity they choose to get involved.

Other updates:

For as long as "Gender Identity Disorder" is treated as a mental health issue, I do believe that it is important at this step to develop some form of liaison body between the psychiatric community and transsexual advocates, something that would allow frank and open discussion of transsexual medical issues. Such a liaison committee could be within the APA, or the Association of Gay and Lesbian Psychiatrists (AGLP). The idea has its challenges. Aside from those trans advocates who are also medical professionals, there can be a language and process barrier involved. But a dialogue needs to be there nonetheless.

I would be happy to hear of such developments.

(Mercedes will be back with more and different topics when her career change workload lightens up, hopefully soon)

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Thank you for posting this, Mercedes. It's the kind of rational yet focused statement that we need to see, rather than the hyperbolic rants that have allowed the ApA to cover themselves with a patina of respectability.

There are a number of us trying to set up such liaisons and build relationships, and also working to focus the debate on the fundamental issues which drive everything else. In this age of cognitive science, when we have world leaders in the science of human sexuality willing to author a statement on what they called AGD, or "Atypical Gender Development," we have the tools to counter the pseudoscience of Blanchard and Zucker which is still being used to pathologize gender variant individuals and torment children.

The ApA has stated unequivocally that its deliberations will be driven only by science. Let's hold them to that.

Robert Ganshorn Robert Ganshorn | May 29, 2008 1:08 PM

Our trans brothers and sisters are where GLB persons were in the early 1970's. It is disgusting that organizations take on the trans phobic researcher who only comes into contact with people who have problems. It was because they only studied Gay persons with mental problems that the designation "mental disorder" was applied to us for so long. True, being a trans person is a more radical step, but it is just as important to an individual that they become the best damn person they can become.

It appears like some sort of body like you describe is needed, Mercedes. One thing that's struck me from following this story as it develops is the deep disconnect between the APA (who I'm sure think they're doing their best to help trans people) and trans activists. It's almost as if the former doesn't even know the latter exists.

Your trans brothers and sisters differ in one important aspect, those of us who are HBS require medical assistance to fully transition. Like gays and lesbians, those TG do not require this. What is playing out is what could be expected given the silencing and demonization of those of us who wished only to remove ourselves from an umbrella we didn't want to be under. At work behind the scenes is an agenda to remove medical justification for SRS (GRS) ironically because we are seen by those working towards this goal as the vanguard of the "gay agenda". It is the future treatment of HBS classic transsexuality that is at stake here and without treatment, upon GID crisis there will be a lot of suicides.

Many of us are gay or lesbian in orientation, some are not.

Jack Drescher, who assures us only science will be used, is already known for promoting a viewpoint that AIS women, an intersexed condition where the body is female from birth but the genetics are male, are men.........and if heterosexual, in his view actually homosexual by virtue of genetics regardless that most AIS women are not even aware of their condition until adulthood. He is hardly unbiased in his viewpoints and anyone who can openly declare that someone who is born with a female body and lives a woman's life is actually a man because of genetics is NOT to be trusted to be sympathic to the womanhood of transwomen or manhood of transmen.

"We only will use science" is shorthand for Blanchard and Zucker have done the research and all other viewpoints from outside the Northwest/Clarke viewpoint won't be considered because almost all studies that support medical treatment for HBS, classic transsexuality, come from Europe, not North America. It's a verbal con job being passed off here. You can bet all the European studies will be ignored because it's the APA (notorious for ignoring European medicine) running the show.

Paul McHugh is already very well known for his opposition to all medical treatment for classic transsexuality. It was McHugh that ordered a dummied up "study" with rigged criteria to shut down the Johns Hopkins gender clinic, the first in the US. McHugh is an old guard Catholic and his religion informs his research, he's quite well known in psych circles for this.

Several recent books and articles have exposed the almost purely political nature of much of the DSM in general, the drug companies having bought and sold a major percentage of those who write the criteria. That motive is just profit for drug companies, imagine the resistance when it is religion and professional egos driving the rewrite.

Thanks for keeping us updated, Mercedes. You've done an excellent job of covering this.

Mercedes, as a Canadian, living in, I believe, Edmonton, Alberta, I'm wondering if you know whether Egale Canada, which designates itself as the national Canadian LGBT organization, has at
least commented on this matter.

Its mandate is:

Egale Canada advances equality and justice for
lesbian, gay, bisexual and trans-identified
people, and their families, across Canada.

As of this morning, their website is silent.

It is interesting, considering that both Zucker and Blanchard are Canadians, working for, I believe, a generation at a Canadian institution, the Clarke Institute of Psychiatry, now part of the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health, in Toronto, Canada, that Egale Canada is still silent.

I believe you posted, somewhere, that you were in contact with someone connected with Egale Canada on this matter.

There is no question the American organizations you refer to are important.

Hopefully, like the character in the Robert Redford film, Brubaker, this is the "I'm getting ready to say something" moment for Egale Canada.

News: NCTE, the Transgender Law and Policy Institute, Transgender Law Center and Transgender Youth Family Allies (TYFA) issued a joint statement, viewable at I'd expect any response from egale to be much along that same line, now.

In answer to your question, people on the trans committee are in fact working on something (the nature of which I don't know), and an independent party was to have presented something to the board (I don't know the outcome of that, either). Whether or not egaleCanada will support the trans committee or not again becomes the question, but I do know that if egale hamstrings them again, at least one of them is not going to stand for it.

That is all I know. I'm not very well-liked by egale, due to the criticisms and HRC comparisons I've made in local publications (i.e GayCalgary), the purpose of which are actually to challenge them to action. Even the two on the trans committee who talk to me are very stand-offish.

Ironically, I'm not opposed to working with egale. I'm a bit leery of trusting them completely, but don't see their track history as something that can't eventually be healed.

But all of this is why it's upsetting that there is not enough interest or support to develop an independent national Canadian trans organization.

I'm not particularly well-liked by Egale Canada, either, having been purged from all my committee memberships, and expelled as a member, in 2007.

The last I heard was the Trans Issues Committee--which I chaired in 2005--had been dissolved in favour of some other, more easily managed from the top, structure.

It is curious that, continuing today, it can take days, weeks, even months for anything trans related to work its way, so excruciatingly slowly, through structures that move gay-related stuff through in hours.

Writing a press release on trans issues was subject to perfectly reasonable checks and balances--that happily never seemed to apply to gay issues, particularly marriage.

Go figure?

I've lost track of all the trans people, and others, who have left Egale Canada in disgust. Many, committed to anti-oppression, mandated as intersectionality in Egale's Constitution, left because of the ongoing violations of this commitment, Egale's treatment of trans people, and its obligations to us, being only one example among many.

Certainly, my work with Egale openned a number of doors I don't think I could have openned myself--I have met almost 10 MP's who have explicitly expressed their support for our human rights. But remained unknown during the period of the Civil Marriage Act--the 'gay marriage' law.

But when Egale Canada and various other LGB(T) organizations casually spread the misinformation that all LGBT people have human rights it is hard to attract natural allies.

This was precisely what Egale Canada committed to do in the 2005 policy I helped facilitate to adoption. To bring the supporters of gay marriage to our struggle.

But, again, under Egale Canada's leadership, the focus of LGB organizations and allies is turning towards the situation of gay and lesbian people in other countries. Egale's current focus is 'murder music' in Jamaica.

I've been aware of at least one effort to create a national Canadian T organization--but I suspect the pool from which we are drawn is so small and the misinformation so current, that hope is very difficult to muster and maintain.

And this added oppression--from those who know better--simply exacerbates the lateral violence that is the daily fare of marginalized people.

This is part of situation of our lives, as I'm sure you understand, that makes it very difficult for so many trans people to be out enough to do the sort of work both of us have done.

This is why the opportunities squandered by Egale Canada in recent years have been so destructive.

These acts are worse than silence.

As is Cyndi Lauper's support for BOTH HRC and Egale Canada.