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The Politics of Gender Identity Disorder

Posted Oct 02 2008 6:16pm

Gender Identity Disorder (GID ) is a clinical term referring to a persistent inability to accept one's own gender. Diagnostic criteria include: a persistent and strong cross-gender identification as well as a strong persistent discomfort about ones's assigned sex (gender dysphoria). While primarily diagnosed in children, cases of GID have also been identified in adolescents and adults. Intended as a diagnostic category to address problems experienced by transsexuals and transgendered patients, GID was first included  in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) in 1980.

There is an active controversy concerning use of the GID diagnosis and many activists argue for its removal from the DSM. They maintain that the existence of the diagnosis stigmatizes transgendered people (and, by association, all sexual minorities) by identifying GID as a mental illness. Other transgender activists acknowledge the value of the GID diagnosis for patients seeking sexual reassignment surgery.  Treatment of GID patients has given rise to recommended standards of care although a formal consensus among health professionals has yet to be established.

As part of the ongoing process designed to release the revised version of the DSM in 2012, the American Psychiatric Association announced on May 1 that Dr. Ken Zucker of Toronto's Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH) would be the chair for the Sexual and Gender Identity Disorders workgroup. Despite 03_08_Zucker_22_MED his prominence in gender identity research, Dr. Zucker's appointment has met with opposition due to his advocacy of reparative therapy approaches for treating GID in children. Lesbian and gay activists have also voiced concern over articles that he has written which apparently link GID to homosexuality although this interpretation of his work remains controversial.

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