News - June 1996

Transactivists protest APA -- call for end to "Gender Identity Disorder"

This afternoon over a dozen gender activists from the queer community, Transexual Menace (CT), Transexual Menace (NY), Transexual Menace (Men), and TOPS, demonstrated outside the annual meeting of American Psychiatric Association and called for an end to diagnosing transpeople as mentally disordered. The diagnostic category of "Gender Identity Disorder" (GID, also known as "gender dysphoria") is routinely applied to anyone seeking sex reassignment surgery (SRS).

Activists handed out over 1,000 leaflets [text follows]. Others held up signs saying "Keep Your Laws OFF My Body" and "Gender Euphoria NOT Gender Dysphoria." The demonstration continued for several hours while attendees arrived, many of whom stopped to chat with demonstrators. Some seemed shocked at the sight of so many black "Transexual Menace" T-shirts outside the convention hall, while others were amused, intrigued or supportive.

NY State Police had initially sought to move demonstrators from their site in front of the Jacob Javits Center where the Convention was held. They relented only when several members of TOPS, the national organization for trans peace officers, including Deputy Sheriff Tonye Barreto-Neto and Lt. Janet Aiello, showed their badges and identified themselves as fellow officers. They patiently explained why they were there and negotiated for half an hour, after which Police allowed demonstrators to stay. One trooper privately explained to demonstrators that he wanted to be supportive, having done papers on transexuality in college.

Dissension Over GID Within TransCommunity

In spite of the demonstration, removing GID as a psychiatric diagnosis has been a source of continuing dispute within the transcommunity. The diagnosis has enabled many transexuals to obtain insurance reimbursement for the $10-40,000 cost of SRS, without which they could never have afforded it. Notably, most of those at the demonstration who were transidentified were also post-operative.

Other activists point out this reimbursement has been accomplished at the expense of pathologizing an entire class of tens of thousands of people, including non-complaining crossdressers and transgendered people who have no desire for surgery. They further maintain the tide on reimbursement is clearly going out in the current political climate. Some have compared "GID" to "homosexuality" when it was a disorder: more a political than a medical category. Since they show no symptoms of mental impairment or disorder, they state they resent the diagnosis.

GID Used Against Other GenderQueers

GID has also come under increasing fire from the larger queer community, which has noted its use in obtaining "corrective treatment" for non-complaining gender-variant children as young as 2-4, as well as against "butchy" teenage lesbians and "nelly" teenage gayboys whose parents simply fear the stigma of queer offspring.

This has led some to seek a compromise strategy which, while removing GID as a mental disorder, would retaining some medical basis for reimbursement. They point out intersexed "corrective" [sic] surgery is routinely reimbursed without question, although it is often exclusively and openly cosmetic. In addition, they note that childbirth is also reimbursed but is not a disease or a disorder.

Queer Shrinks To Consider GID

Dr. Wynelle Snow, MD, a psychiatrist and member of Transexual Menace (CT), and Riki Anne Wilchins of Transexual Menace (NYC) met with members of the Association of Gay, Lesbian and Bisexual Psychiatrists during the convention, to air transgender concerns and seek the association's support. The AGLBP will be taking up the issues in its upcoming meetings. In addition, Dr. Snow is formally requesting the group change its name to include "Transgender."

General information: Jeff Walsh
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