Would you rather be diagnosed with “Gender Incongruence” than “Transsexualism”? The International Classification of Diseases, which is worldwide unlike DSM which is for the USA only, is being revised. It may influence the DSM. Rather than being classified as a “psychiatric disorder” GD, or GI, might be placed in a separate chapter for “Sexual and gender related health”.
How you frame a diagnosis affects what people think of it, and what you do about it. If it is a psychiatric diagnosis, is it merely that psychiatrists are most qualified to make it, or does it stigmatise you? I believe I am a woman, or at least I want to express myself as a woman, and perhaps alter my body. The medical help I want is hormones and surgery, and counselling support to manage that change successfully and comfortably. Together, these alleviate my distress. From the point of view of fourteen years after transition, I want people to have assessment to find whether anything underlies that distress and desire, and to explore less dramatic options for alleviating distress, but from the point of view of immediately before transition I had made up my mind, and would call that assessment “gatekeeping”, which is oppressive. We know what we need. Give it to us.
Should distress (or “dysphoria”) be part of the diagnostic criteria? Well, that is a way to take away stigma from sexual fetishes. Getting aroused by high heeled shoes or whatever is perfectly healthy, and not a diagnosis for a classification of diseases. Only distress might justify medical intervention- not to make the patient normal by taking away the desire or arousal, but to alleviate the distress. That is an imperfect analogy for us. Doctor, I am not distressed at all by wanting to transition, only by society’s norms that I should not, and because of how difficult it is. I am not mentally ill. Medical intervention is justified because I am gender incongruent.
Making distress irrelevant, and focussing on the need for hormones and surgery, makes other outcomes apart from transition seem less appropriate. Then I would have found that liberating; now I find it disturbing.
Is a psychiatric or other medical diagnosis a stigma? I don’t think diagnosis is more of a stigma than being trans itself is. Cis people realise doctors are involved: if they accept me, they accept that; and if they do not accept me, that makes it no worse. The diagnosis might reduce stigma- if I transition, people might think I was being unwise, but having a doctor go along with it might reassure them.
We experience discrimination. I don’t feel adjustment of the narratives we use to explain ourselves will alter that, much: I do my best. This is what I want to do. This is who I am is the necessary basic narrative- if you can’t say that, no narrative will reassure you except temporarily; if that does not let others empathise and accept you no other narrative will.
from society- acceptance, however we choose to dress or present
from doctors- discussion of all the options, understanding of all the pitfalls of “work male, play female” and support to do that if chosen; and making us take full responsibility for hormones and surgery so giving them to us if we ask. A Real Life Test- you can be rewarded by hormones and surgery if you express female for a year and Never Lapse- is completely the wrong answer. Instead we should be encouraged and supported to play and explore.
Medical treatment needs paid for. We need our medical treatment, including surgery, quite as much as any other person needs medical treatment. Single payers or insurers should pay for it.