What's Up, Doc?

Would removing transgender from the list of mental disorders do more harm than good?

BY Sue Rochman

October 31 2007 11:00 PM ET

The last word
kelley winters would ever use to describe herself is
disordered. But that’s exactly how the medical
profession describes her. Forget for a moment that
Winters is a well-spoken Ph.D. in electrical
engineering from the University of Idaho who went on to have
an impressive 29-year career at Hewlett-Packard before
retiring this June. Winters, who was born male, is
transgender. And to receive the medical care she
needed to transition, she had to be officially diagnosed
with gender identity disorder -- the psychiatric term used
to describe people who feel their gender identity
doesn’t match their birth gender.

Winters agreed to
the GID diagnosis so that she could live her life as a
woman, but she refused to accept it. Instead, she founded
GID Reform Advocates, an organization committed to
changing how psychiatrists view and classify
transgender men and women. Her ultimate goal? To remove GID
from the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental
Disorders, the physician’s bible for diagnosing
mental health problems.

“The
current diagnosis of GID,” says Winters,
“carries the same burden of social stigma that
homosexuality did for gays and lesbians before 1973.”
When the American Psychiatric Association voted to remove
the diagnosis of homosexuality from the DSM on
December 15, 1973, it was a watershed for the gay
rights movement. “With homosexuality no longer
classified as a mental illness,” says
psychiatrist Jack Drescher, past chair of the
APA’s Committee on GLB Issues, “it removed the
rationalization for discrimination, and it made the
question about whether gays should be accepted as full
citizens a moral one.”

Tags: World

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