Gender Identity Disorder requires serious study

September 19, 2009

The Jasper controversy continues at Susan’s support forums as the people there come to grips with the reality of what transgender has become.  It is increasingly difficult to justify the subordination of so many different individuals to the concept of transgender when people’s needs and goals are so varied, and so often at odds.

One group in particular that I feel is being done a grave disservice are the core transgender people for whom the word really came to have meaning.  Leaving aside Arnold Lowman’s/Virginia Prince’s “transgenderist” for the moment, the person who is currently most typified by the transgender label is someone quite different from the fetishistic crossdresser that was the target audience of Transvestia.

Cassandra writes about her experiences as counselor to people in gender support groups, and her thoughts make a lot of sense when considering my own experiences.  There are usually all sorts of people who attend these meetings, not all of whom would consider themselves transgender in the sense you get from the internet cadre.  There are sometime crossdressers, the occasional person passing through transsexual transition, fetish-based transvestites, and of course the full-time transgender people.

All of them have their own different life courses and their own needs.  Some only want to express themselves in a safe environment, some want to see their feelings echoed in others, some want to engage their sexuality in a public place, and some are the people whom Cassandra says “wear the label transgender most comfortably”.  It is this last group that I’d like to talk about, because despite the current talk they seem particularly ill-served by the cobbled-together association that has come to be “transgender”.

I used to believe that all transgender people had at their core the same issue.  Not being transgender myself, I had only the dogma and edicts from the most vocal people that claimed to represent the whole group to go by.  I deferred to their pronouncements because my personal philosophy is live and let live.  Being an outsider to their group, I had no basis to judge the truth of their statements.

At this point it is safe to say that transgender is not a monolith as is presented politically to the world at large.  It is many different people who feel lost, and are looking for answers.  With the benefit of experience and hindsight, I now believe that “transgender”, that core group that speaks of Gender Identity Disorder as their primary issue, is a distinct group of people who deserve to have their needs addressed by proper medical and/or psychiatric authorities.

“Gender Identity Disorder” itself is a poorly understood condition, one which I didn’t used to accept as real because it has been talked down into an issue of self-expression by outspoken transgender politicians, much the same as “transsexual” has been subsumed and talked down.  But if you’ve ever known anyone who has serious problems with society’s imposed gender, you know it goes beyond role strain.  And it tortures them.

Whatever demons chase those who suffer from this problem must be fleshed out by people who can help, and handled for the benefit of those who suffer from this affliction.  I don’t think this can happen as long as this issue is trivialized by those who speak for the transgender yet don’t themselves suffer from it.  I find it just as shameful when they subjugate people with GID as when they subjugate people born with the transsexual condition.

A big part of the problem is that when people attempt to come together to discuss these issues and gain an understanding of them, those who place themselves in “leadership” roles within that forced “community” stifle all talk.  No research will be done on GID because those who have the problem are marginalized by their own community, and subsequently mislabeled by the psychiatric profession, which portrays them all as fetishistic sexual deviants.  I fail to see how core transgender people are served by this situation in that community.

I’d like to close with something I wrote in that thread on Susan’s.  The thread was subsequently locked, so no responses will be forthcoming.  But it’s something we need to talk about with people on the other side of the fence.

One comment I’d like to make for clarity is that men and women born with the transsexual condition do not experience “GID” in the sense that it is used with respect to transgender issues. “GID” most properly describes people who do not have the transsexual “syndrome”, and whose problems seem to orbit around “gender roles” and “gender presentation”.

I think this is another source of confusion that facilitates the mixing of two separate conditions, transsexual and transgender, together. For the transsexual-born, societal gender is a consequence of the physical condition, not the cause. I’m not certain what causes a putative “transgender” condition. It is a condition that causes a person significant distress which we currently don’t understand fully. This of course has nothing to do with bohemian types who simply do not care about societal standards, aka “genderqueer”.

These are three separate things that people have a tendency to mix together. I’ve modified my views on “GID” since my initial belief it was a freedom-of-expression issue. I’ve come to believe that there are people who do experience serious problems with their “gender” that go beyond the role strain that everyone feels at one time or another in a restrictive society. At the same time, this is not related to the problem of those who are born differently, aka transsexuality.

It does everyone a disservice to ignore the truth, because that ignorance feeds an atmosphere of denial and leads away from getting the proper help to those who need it. Physical transition is not a panacea for “GID”, and the current practice of pushing hormones and surgery as a solution for it is harmful. We need a better understanding of what causes GID before psychology or psychiatry can address it.