Author Archive

Open Letter to the American Psychiatric Association

(or view the Word document from the website),

A network of communities in Calgary, Edmonton, and rural Alberta.

For information, contact:

Mercedes Allen,

For Immediate Release.

Calgary, AB, Canada (26may08). Bearing in mind that:

  • Transgender advocates are privy to a far wider sampling of transgender persons than clinicians typically are, and;
  • Community advocates have access to a greater degree of information due to more frequent and frank discussion with community persons, and;
  • The transgender community is experienced in advocating for itself medically and is able to recognize a serious cause of concern,

… it is the hope of the Alberta community that the American Psychiatric Association will listen to and weigh our concerns with the seriousness they deserve.

We, like many in the transgender community, are deeply troubled by the appointment of two persons to the Sexual and Gender Identity Disorders Work Group currently charged with revising the entries for Gender Identity Disorder in preparation for the release of the fifth edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-V). We do realize that the doctors in question quite probably really do wish to help people and believe that they are doing so – it is not their personalities we have issue with, but their views to achieve this. We also realize that the DSM does not recommend treatment, only diagnoses – however, one of the diagnoses apart from “Gender Identity Disorder” is also at issue, and there is also the likelihood that given the sanction by the APA as foremost experts on the diagnosis, they will also be conferred with the perception of being foremost experts on the treatment of these conditions.

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Dr. Marshall Forstein, Chair of the Work Group on Practices Guidelines on HIV Psychiatry for the American Psychiatric Association (not to be confused with the American Psychological Association), has written a reply to the drive to have Drs. Kenneth Zucker and Ray Blanchard removed from the Work Group developing the revisions for “Sexual and Gender Identity Disorders” for the planned DSM-V.  In it, he writes:

“I hope that what I have written makes us pause a bit before we do something to alienate even our supporters and friends in the American Psychiatric and the American Psychological Association who have been very pro-gay and pro-trans in their deliberations so far. There will always be a vocal minority that claim otherwise, but the process is vetted by many people committed to scientific integrity and evidence.”

I and others have been accused of scaremongering in the ongoing debate(s) surrounding this issue.  Dr. Forstein has some excellent points for us to examine.  Some of the other aspects and debates, though, I still stand behind.

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Update on Zucker, Blanchard and the Revision of the DSM

For those who are concerned about the establishment of an adherent to reparative therapy (Dr. Kenneth Zucker) and another seeking to entrench “autogynephilia” (a pathologization of treatment of non- “homosexual transgender” transfolk) in the DSM-V, there have been some new happenings.

One letter writer reports receiving an email from the APA which states that:

“The Sexual and Gender Identity Disorders Work Group, chaired by Kenneth J. Zucker, Ph.D., will have 13 members who will form three subcommittees:

    * Gender Identity Disorders, chaired by Peggy T. Cohen-Kettenis, Ph.D.
    * Paraphilias, chaired by Ray Blanchard, Ph.D.
    * Sexual Dysfunctions, chaired by R. Taylor Segraves, M.D., Ph.D.”

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(crossposted in several places, and people are welcome to forward this on freely to others in the transgender and GLBT communities, as I see this as being very serious — Mercedes)

A short time ago, I’d discussed the movement to have “Gender Identity Disorder” (GID, a.k.a. “Gender Dysphoria”) removed from the DSM-IV or reclassified, and how we needed to work to ensure that any such change was an improvement on the existing model, rather than a scrapping or savaging of it.

Lynn Conway reports that on May 1st, 2008, the American Psychiatric Association named its work group members appointed to revise the Manual for Diagnosis of Mental Disorders in preparation for the DSM-V.  Such a revision would include the entry for GID.

On the Task Force, named as Sexual and Gender Identity Disorders Chair, we find Dr. Kenneth Zucker, from Toronto’s infamous Centre for Addictions and Mental Health (CAMH, formerly the Clarke Institute).  Dr. Zucker is infamous for utilizing reparative (i.e. “ex-gay”) therapy to “cure” gender-variant children.  Named to his work group, we find Zucker’s mentor, Dr. Ray Blanchard, Head of Clinical Sexology Services at CAMH and creator of the theory of autogynephilia, categorized as a paraphilia and defined as “a man’s paraphilic tendency to be sexually aroused by the thought or image of himself as a woman.”

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Trans Panic Takes to New Heights

I suppose that it’s a testament to just how effective the trans panic defense is perceived to be at swaying public sympathy and potential jury favour that it can be levelled at people who are merely trans by association.

In 2006, Grace Soon set fire to the home of her estranged husband, former church minister Stephen Chin, killing him.  She is now facing charges of mansalughter, the case being heard by the Supreme Court in New South Wales, Australia.

Her defense is focusing on the humiliation and hurt she experienced as a result of Chin’s dalliances with transsexual prostitutes, during one of which (in 1999), he experienced a fall that left him a quadriplegic.  Another incident resulted in the infecting of Soon with venereal disease.  This history is being referred to as “exceptional and compelling” evidence of the emotional trauma that Soon was experiencing when she’d committed the act.

The couple had already been seperated for seven years by the time the arson occurred, and the trigger most likely was the fact that Soon felt her property was being threatened by Chin’s filing for divorce.  But wow, it’s the “wholly extraordinary circumstances” of the case that has the defense claiming that the 20 months already served has been long enough and Soon deserves to be released.

Considering the planning that had taken place, carefully determining when Chin’s caregivers were off the premises, counting on his limited mobility, and the use of trans hysteria by association to attempt to weasel out of a manslaughter conviction of any significance, trans panic has hit a new high.

Or low, as the case may be.

Gives Good Headline: How the Media Loves its Sex Changes

Not too long ago, Calgary City Council voted whether to change the title of “alderman” to something ungendered, such as “alderperson” or “councillor.”  They voted the idea down, leaving them the last major Canadian city yet to do so.

In covering this, the Calgary Sun had a field day, printing the headline, “Council Nixes Sex Changes.”  Yep, anything to give good headline.

And of course, there’s so many people that you can’t pick on, anymore.  You can’t make a bogeyman out of someone because of their race or because they’re female or because they’re handicapped — you can’t even make them sound like their existence is a danger to society because of their sexual orientation, either… unless yours is a religious press. 

Transgender people are another matter entirely, and it is still socially acceptable to ridicule, insult, deride and speak epithets about anyone who doesn’t fit strict “male” and “female” gender stereotypes.  Even sitting to pee can be seen as a reason to lampoon a man.  And if you crossdress or are a transsexual, it’s open season.  Sometimes, I think we should get a medal for providing ample work for comedians and media people.

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“First Same-Sex-Marriage, Then Polygamy Hell,” They Warned.

Periodically, I’ve seen the argument come up in the discussion of the fight for same-sex marriage rights in the U.S.  It usually goes like this: “if we allow gay people to marry and erode the definition of marriage, the next thing we know, we’ll have to recognize polygamy.”  Some of this is becoming more poignant as more and more people are being removed from Warren Jeffs’ compound, and the polygamist Mormon offshoots are garnering more press.

There’s a similar storm brewing in Bountiful, B.C. where up to 1500 residents are considered to be practicing polygamy.  But you know what?  Canada has same-sex marriage.  And strangely, nobody’s worried that this will empower the polygamists in the courts.  No, the RCMP are worried, instead, that they would lose such a criminal case in court because the charges could be seen as violating freedom of religion, where they have a much stronger case. 

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