Transsexuality redefined

Identifying as transgender is no longer to be taught as a psychological disorder after changes are made to psychiatric handbook

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August 7th, 2013 11:20 am| by admin
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Danish medical students will no longer be taught that people identifying as transgender suffer from a psychological disorder, reports the news site etik.dk

Thorkil Sørensen, the psychiatrist responsible for the chapter on transsexuality in the psychiatric handbook used by medical students, 'Psykiatri. En lærebog om voksnes psykiske sygdom', has decided not to classify it as a disorder in the newest edition.

“If it is not experienced like a disorder then it should not be defined as a disorder,” Sørensen told etik.dk

The current handbook classifies transgender individuals as suffering from Gender Identity Disorder (GID), but Sørensen thinks this is inaccurate.

“Now I would say that identity insecurity applies to a certain group of transsexuals, but not to all of those who identify as transgender,” he said.

The change to the Danish textbook follows a new definition that was included in the fifth edition of the American Psychiatric Association’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5).

In DSM-5, GID has been replaced by Gender Dysphoria. This describes people who are unhappy with the gender they are born with or the gender roles they have been assigned.

“With [DSM-5's] definition, the focus is on the person’s mental state,” Sørensen said. “If you are dysphoric, it means you are unhappy. But not all people who are transgender are unhappy.”

Jack Drescher, a member of the APA subcommittee who worked on the revision, argued that the change was needed to add more cultural context to people who identify as transgender.

“We know there is a whole community of people out there who are not seeking medical attention and live between the two binary categories,” Drescher told the gay news site advocate.com. “We wanted to send the message that the therapist’s job isn’t to pathologise”

Psychologist Karina Lins argued that the definition is sensible.

“There are plenty of people who have come to terms with their identity and who don’t have a problem with their body not living up to their expected gender,” she told etik.dk “People who are at ease with their condition and don’t experience any problems with it should not be diagnosed or found to have a disorder.”

The DSM-5 changes incited a heated debate late last year, with many LGBT activists arguing that the new definition still needlessly stigmatises trans people.

"LGBT Denmark would prefer that being transgender was entirely removed from the list of symptoms and that trans people are treated the same as other people with health needs," spokesperson Vibe Grevesen told etik.dk

In June the government turned down a proposal by far-left party Enhedslisten to have transsexuality removed from the official list of psychiatric disorders. No party supported the proposal and Socialdemokraterne (S) argued that work was already being done by the WHO to find a new definition and approach to trans people.

“In this case it is wrong to move forward if international experts are already further ahead with other systems,” Flemming Møller Mortensen (S) told Information newspaper. “There need to be first movers, but in this case it looks like someone else has taken the initiative.”

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