Helen G // 1 June 2008
Further to my recent blog posts Mad as hell (cross-posted here at The F Word) and Still mad: more on DSM-V/Zucker/Blanchard, I see that Mercedes Allen has published on her blog the contents of an Open Letter to the American Psychiatric Association.
As a transsexual woman, I – like many other gender variant people – have a keen interest in the details of the appointment of the Sexual and Gender Identity Disorders Work Group, which has been tasked with revising the entries for Gender Identity Disorder in preparation for the release of next edition of the influential Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, which "is expected in May 2012".
The letter has been drawn up by AlbertaTrans, a network of communities in Calgary, Edmonton, and rural Alberta and voices the deep concerns felt about the appointment of Messrs Zucker and Blanchard. The professional histories of these men has produced "a model in which one form of treatment […] is advocated for transgender youth, a second […] for a small number of transgender adults with a particular sexual orientation […], and a third […] for transsexuals of other sexual orientations — and this still leaves a few unexplained anomalies".
The letter continues:
"This combination of philosophies threatens to bring about a situation in which surgical intervention is mandated for non-consenting and non-aware infants with indeterminate genitalia, while surgical intervention is opposed for a significant number of consenting adult transsexuals."
Such a situation is clearly topsy-turvy and anyone (be they gender variant or not) with even a passing interest in the administration and implementation of fundamental human rights in the context of medical treatments for GID (Gender Identity Disorder) will be deeply concerned about the possibility of this outcome being enshrined in the revised DSM.
Update, 5 June: Miriam at Feministing has blogged about the DSM-V situation; most notably she says that she’s received an email from one of the two most controversial of the appointees to the GID review board, psychologist Ray Blanchard. The gist of his message is that (a) he is not transphobic and (b) that he does not support reparative therapy ("the attempt to change homosexual orientations to heterosexual orientations").
I, for one, welcome these two clarifications but am disappointed to note that he remains silent on the contentious issue of autogynephilia. In the absence of a rebuttal of his belief in this laughably insulting concept, I can’t help but wonder if he still believes in it; if so, perhaps this is likely to colour his views and contributions to the DSM-V review process.
It is interesting to note the arrival of this email so soon after another email (posted in full at Quench Zine, link here from Marshall Forstein (Chair of the Work group on Practices Guidelines on HIV Psychiatry for the American Psychiatric Association), which seeks to clarify the differences between the DSM-publishing APA (American Psychiatric Association) and the other, non-medically oriented APA (American Psychological Association).
Clearly, the American Psychiatric Association is aware that there are many concerns regarding the controversial appointment of the members of the review panel. Unfortunately, it will take more than a couple of carefully-worded emails to allay the fears that many trans* people have regarding the future definition and classification of transsexuality in the revised DSM, and the impact of those changes on the lives of all of us who have been diagnosed with – and are undergoing treatment for – this condition.
Further update, 7 June: Autumn Sandeen has posted links to a collection of four documents forwarded by Dr. Drescher, who is an appointee of the same DSM-V workgroup as Drs. Zucker and Blanchard. The documents are from a variety of sources and include an overview of the GID review process released by the American Psychiatric Association on 9 May – see also PFC’s News Archives.
The biggest surprise to me, though, is not in any of the contents but in the fact that the whole controversy only began on 1 May – not even six weeks ago. It already seems like the whole sorry state of affairs has been dragging on for ever.
(Cross-posted at bird of paradox)