Disorder

Edgie 'edgehog, by Lisa Lees

Am I disordered, dysphoric, or what?

In 1995 I received an official diagnosis: DSM IV 302.85. What does that actually mean?

In simple terms, gender identity disorder (now gender identity dysphoria in DSM V) means that the way I feel does not correspond with the way my genitals looked at birth. Because no one can tell what a baby is feeling and thinking, they latch onto a single observable feature and proceed to chart the entire course of a new life.

Am I sick, or crazy, because my feelings are not what they were expected to be? How much sense does it make to say that because I adamantly state that I feel a certain way, my body must be modified so that people are more likely to believe me? (What else do laws mean that state that changing one's official gender marker depends on having had irreversible surgery?)

A touchy subject. Many trans people would prefer to not be labeled as mentally ill, but need the help of an official diagnosis to proceed with what they feel they need to do. It's generally not about using health insurance, which often excludes anything related to GID, but about convincing family, friends and the HR department that one isn't just making this up and choosing to wreck one's life on a whim.

I don't intend to argue about gate-keeping and the whole Harry Benjamin / WPATH one true way of doing things, but I found the little contact I had with an official gender program to be extremely irritating, frustrating and humiliating. (See my essay on enforcing the binary.)

My take on this is that although I clearly am different than most people, I am not mentally ill. I do not have a medical / mental problem that needs to be fixed so that I am, or appear to be, normal. Perhaps if I had been born without GID I would have been perfectly happy with my birth body. I don't know and I cannot know, because I cannot truly conceive of what that would mean and how it would feel.

I do not believe there is a 'cure' for GID. I cannot change the way I have felt all my life. Hormones and scalpels can do only so much, and though that may help satisfy need (for one's safety) it falls far short of desire. Twenty years of effort have shown me how hopeless it is to try to change how other people feel about me and where I fit in their ideas about sex and gender.

The only cure for GID is to change world culture to have a more realistic view of the meaning of sex and gender. That's going to take a long, long time.