A guest post by Static Nonsense at Questioning Transphobia entitled Intersections of Disability and Transgenderism raises some important points that apply to the campaigns to remove GID from the DSM and ICD that govern mental health issues:
But it sometimes goes to extremes. All too often people are quick to point out that they're not crazy. People with mental illness are crazy, and people shouldn't conflate the two. Trans people aren't loony like those real loony people are. Which causes a whole mess of problems a la ableism, psychophobia and a combination of misunderstanding and misinformation.
For one, it isolates trans people with mental illness, even when they don't relate. Because suddenly, they are those real loony people. The ones being targeted, within a community they're seeking support from.
Something I've had to do in trans 101 discussions is to be mindful of how discussing trans can impact others. Part of explaining who we are and how that's different from things like, say, sexual orientation, sometimes involves clarifying what we're not -- otherwise, there can be a withdrawal or push-back reaction when we violate false expectations, such as if someone were to accept me under the assumption that I'm trans because I like men, and then I show up with my wife. So it becomes a case of: "We're not all gay, but it shouldn't matter if we were," etc.
Likewise, people assume we all (MTF, at least) live high-risk lifestyles -- we don't necessarily, and it's fair to say that, but (remembering economic and coping realities) it shouldn't matter if we do. That's been my problem with the HBS/classic transsexual philosophy too, how explaining the difference between transsexual and any other form of trans descends into being a vilification of any other form of trans. Finding acceptance should never mean denigrating someone else in order to do so.
A part of decolonial thinking involves being aware of how what we say can impact other communities and people who overlap communities, i.e. by intersecting bases of prejudice. Every human has a right to dignity and respect, and even choice is a slip-shod basis upon which to attempt to make blanket judgments or deny that.
Being trans of itself is not a mental illness, but it shouldn't matter if it was.
You would think that we would have more empathy for the way mental health issues are regarded. More likely, the subject is button-pushing enough that we simply don't want to.
But keeping in mind how prevalent such high-function conditions as anxiety disorder or depression, and stress-related issues are in society, it's something that our community will need to recognize just as much as any other. If you honestly sat down with the DSM and scrutinized every individual on earth, I'd bet you'd be hard-pressed to find anyone who could say they've never experienced anything that resembles something that is catalogued within during their lifetime (which is in fact one problem with the way the DSM has evolved).
National Institutes of Mental Health (NIMH) recently reported findings that at this moment in time, around half of American teens are currently experiencing a clinically-classified condition, with nearly one in four experiencing impairment from a mood, behavior or anxiety disorder. Bipolar, obsessive compulsive, autism spectrum, schizophrenic, dissociative identity, panic and developmental conditions are inevitably going to be things that some in our community will face.
Because of the way we have to hide who we are prior to transition, agoraphobia and social anxiety disorders may occur in our community more often than is typical. There are aspects of pre-and early transition that lend themselves to behaviour and attitudes that resemble Borderline Personality Disorder, causing that diagnosis to sometimes be made as an alternate to GID. And Post Traumatic Stress is also something that we need to recognize, because there are aspects of trans experience that can often cause the development of it.
Asperger's Syndrome is one condition that bears scrutiny, since a few early studies have found a higher-than-typical incidence of it in our community. Having lived for seven years with someone diagnosed with Asperger's, I've known an unusual number of people in the trans community with the diagnosis and have observed a percentage of undiagnosed people within local communities with many of the same behavioural patterns and predispositions. I do tend to think that either 1) there is something about trans experience that can replicate Asperger's-like behaviour in some personality types, or else 2) that as biological traits that might predispose one to trans identity become known, we will find that perhaps one of these traits is likely to also be linked to Asperger's. It is suspected that Asperger's has a biological origin (as may other autism spectrum conditions, Bipolar, Schizophrenia, some forms of depression, OCD, some eating disorders and more). There could also be a third explanation, I suppose -- I'm only equipped with enough information to speculate. And please note that I am only talking about a percentage of the trans population -- maybe 1:50 to 1:20, but that's still a notably higher incidence than in the general population, which is sometimes pegged at 1:5000.
While there is a strong push to have Gender Dysphoria removed from the DSM and ICD, another evolution of thought on the subject is to "define disorder on the basis of distress or impairment and not upon social nonconformity." This recognizes that transsexuality itself shouldn't be regarded as a mental illness, but the societal biases against trans people can generate forms of anxiety, minority stress, a kind of survivor stress and conditions resulting from coping, of which PTSS is one. I recognize that there is a need to destigmatize transsexuality, and also that as long as any diagnosis exists it will be used against us (and in fact, if GID were dropped tomorrow, anti-trans people would simply allege that we're all transvestic fetishists -- Kelley Winters has issued a statement on the proposed revision to TF/TD that is well worth reading), but maintain that many are dependent on the current model for medical access, recognition and sometimes health care coverage who need to be thought of until there is a reliable alternative developed. The GID Reform proposal remains a reasonable way of balancing destigmatization and access, at least until that can happen.
Yet Another Binary
Part of the issue is that we're looking at yet another manufactured binary, which assumes that one is either totally healthy or dangerously mentally ill. And yet we know that the most common mental health conditions don't work that way. Mental health is the most underfunded, underestimated and under-respected aspect of human health, and the ongoing squick about it that our society has which drives sufferers into the closet is not helping anyone further themselves in our society, or in our own community.
(Crossposted to DentedBlueMercedes)