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American Psychiatric Association to remove term ‘gender identity disorder’ from manual

Monday, December 3, 2012
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ARLINGTON, Va. — The American Psychiatric Association has voted to eliminate the term “gender identity disorder” and replace it with “gender dysphoria” when diagnosing people who are transgender.

The board of trustees of the APA, meeting in Arlington, Va. on Saturday, approved the change as part of the soon-to-be-published 5th edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) — the definitive guide to psychiatry used by mental health professionals in the U.S. and worldwide.

The new terminology marks a significant change in the professional nomenclature referring to the transgender community, which had been classified as suffering from a mental disorder.

Mara Keisling, the founding Executive Director of the National Center for Transgender Equality, told LGBTQ Nation on Monday that the trustees action was an “amazing step forward and while not perfect, is a huge improvement for diagnosis and treatment.”

LGBT blogger and political analyst Zack Ford noted that “until now, the term ‘gender identity disorder’ has been used to diagnose people who are transgender.”

“For conservatives, this has provided rhetorical carte blanche to describe the entire trans committee as disordered, delusional, and mentally ill. In some cases, this diagnosis has even been used to discriminate against trans people, with claims that they are unfit parents or employees, as examples,” said Ford, writing for Think Progress.

A potential shortcoming of the APA decision is that insurance companies have been more willing to cover the expenses associated with transition under the former language, because treatment for a disorder is considered medically necessary, rather than cosmetic.

Homosexuality was similarly declassified as a mental disorder in 1973 by the APA after significant lobbying efforts by gay rights pioneers Dr. Frank Kamney and Barbara Gittings.

The DSM, published by the American Psychiatric Association, is an enormous tome that defines every mental disorder. The new definition will diagnose transgender people with “gender dysphoria; the emotional distress that can result from a marked incongruence between one’s experienced/expressed gender and assigned gender.”

The change will allow for affirmative treatment and transition care without the stigma of “disorder.”

The APA’s governing board earlier this year had released new health guidelines for transgender patients, and an accompanying “position statement” that specified affirmation for proper care and civil rights.

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