Depathologization. Sounds complicated: it’s not. For behind the fancy ideological word lies a stark reality. This is a campaign about power, and control and respect.
Who, in the end, will dictate the futures that trans people may choose for themselves? Will support for the transgender community always to be predicated on the basic, insulting premise that, at some level, we’re all a little bit mad? Or will, finally, the medical profession wake up to the fact the world has moved on – and it is no longer up to them to define and limit the trans experience?
On the one side this is about professional self-interest: a group of mainly white, male, middle-aged, middle-class psych professionals who claim that no-one but they can fully understand trans-ness – and therefore it is up to them to decide who shall receive ‘treatment’, who shall be cast into the outer darkness. On the other, like the perennial underdogs in a Hollywood movie are a growing number of trans folk who have looked around, seen what the medics are offering and declared ‘we’re not going to take this any more’.
Hence today’s campaign, as well as a longer running, slower burning argument over the Diagnostic Standards Manual, the ‘bible’ of the American Psychiatric Association (APA), now in the process of formulating its fifth addition, in the teeth of fierce opposition from a trans community sick and tired of having their condition labeled a ‘disorder’.
The issue has its origins in the dim and distant past – not long after the psychiatric community decided that female masturbation was not a disorder after all, but some decades before they accorded the same courtesy to homosexuality. This was the point when the world first became aware that not everyone was happy with their gender presentation and advances in surgical techniques were, for the first time, allowing the possibility that something could be done about this.