I had a transgender friend who ended up commiting suicide. He was raised by a drug addict sister who started pimping him out at the park when he was 6 years old. I never was sure how much of his story was true as he wrote and spelled very well inspite of claiming to have dropped out of school at a very young age.
She committed suicide a few years after her surgeries. She fell in love with a woman who eventually broke up with her leading to the suicide.
I was very surprised when I found out he was transgender. The particular hobby we have in common is not practiced by any women that I know of in a serious fashion except one very masculine lesbian from back east. I am convinced that his sexual abuse led to mental illness and gender confusion.
You’re laboring under the misconception that a “mental illness” is something with a concrete physiological manifestation that could distinguish it from the opinion that a certain way of thinking/feeling/behaving is “an illness”.
Hence, if “there were a mental illness” which manifested with the symptoms of someone thinking they were in the wrongly sexed body for their gender, then all transgender people would be exhibiting that symptom and no easy distinction could be made.
Well, OK, technically the diagnoses of the hypothetical mental illness could include “has to also exhibit the symptom of jumping up and down and screaming ‘birdy birdy birdy’ in the key of E flat”, whereas the gender-identity symptom itself would be deemed insufficient. But in practice, in real life, psychiatric diagnoses are handed out with very little regard to whether someone matches the diagnostic and statistical manual’s list of symptoms perfectly. And aside from that, the symptoms therein listed are generally very open to opinionated interpretation.
In short, all psychiatric diagnoses are political. To label transgender identity a “mental illness” would be a political act. To label people who are gay or lesbian as “mentally ill” would be a political act. To label someone who is schizophrenic as “mentally ill” is also a political act, even if you don’t see it as such as quickly because we aren’t as politically organized around our identity.
Or, to put it another way, all the studies possible in the world can only discern that someone exhibits patterns that make them different. It remains always a value judgment to deem that difference an “illness”, and the question of who — those with the difference, themselves, or someone else? — gets to decide it is or is not an “illness” is very much a political question.
I’ve read about studies that indicate that transsexuals who undergo sex-change operations aren’t any happier (as judged by measureable statistics, such as suicide or substance abuse rates) than transsexuals who don’t have sex-change operations. This suggests that the whole gender-identity thing isn’t the real issue, but is just a symptom of a deeper psycological issue.
There are other ways to interpret that: for example if you experience years and years of unhappiness/alienation/substance abuse/mistreatment because you identify as transgender, the effects of those things aren’t going to instantly go away when you start living as your preferred gender.
But that doesn’t explain why transgender people overwhelmingly feel happier after they start openly identifying with the gender they feel is more “natural” to them.
Sex reassignment surgery has a lot of potential downsides, as any major surgery does, and it doesn’t magically and totally change male anatomy into female anatomy or vice versa. So it’s not surprising if even some people who really want SRS have mixed feelings about it afterwards.
But a vast majority of transgender people seem to feel positive about the fundamental step of having changed their gender presentation from their natal gender to the gender they identify with.
E.g., if a child born with a penis feels very strongly that she is a girl and instinctively identifies as a girl, then she generally becomes happier and better-adjusted, more successful, etc., when she’s permitted to express that identity and live as a girl, irrespective of whether or not she eventually gets rid of the penis.
That seems to suggest very strongly that gender dysphoria is not just some kind of “deeper psychological issue”, but a natural reaction to a rare but natural phenomenon: namely, difference between anatomical gender in the body and innate gender identity in the brain.
This is very different from psychological problems involving genuine delusions about matters of factual reality. For example, the stereotypical lunatic who believes he’s Napoleon—which is demonstrably a delusion, because Napoleon has been dead for centuries—doesn’t become a happy functioning member of normal society if people around him start pretending he’s Napoleon.
But the transgender girl of our example isn’t suffering from any such delusion about, say, the factual existence of her penis. She’s just recognizing that in her own thoughts and feelings, the existence of her penis doesn’t match up with the sort of person she naturally considers herself to be.
If you are suggesting that there is no such thing as physical brain trauma, cancer, tumor, or chemical imbalances, that would result in a diagnosis of mental illness, then I would suggest that you have no credibility on the subject.
If I may speak for AHunter3 for a minute, what he’s saying is roughly-
Psychology and psychiatry are still in their infancy
Beliefs that are considered normal and healthy in one time and place may be considered pathological in another.
The extent to which I agree with him varies, but I feel he represents a position vital to the cause of mental health reform.
Back To The OP
A lot of people seem to think that you walk into a shrink, get a diagnosis and then are scheduled for sexual reassignment surgery next week. In reality, it generally takes months of therapy before a patient can even get a prescription for hormones. During this time, the therapist and patient will both be looking for other possible causes.
This has been a controversial issue for a long long time. It was just a few years after Stanford University (IIRC) had made world-wide headlines by doing the first sex-change operation, that I heard that they had quit doing those. The word was, they had done follow-up studies on those patients and found that, for the most part, they weren’t any happier with their lives afterward.
This was in the mid-1960’s that I heard this.
About that time also, San Francisco Chronicle humor columnist Art Hoppe did a column titled “The Operation” about a (fictional, I think) married male patient with a family who, unhappy with his male body, went to Stanford for “the Operation” and came back home as a gorgeously beautiful long-silky-haired
Golden Retriever.(The column was also a parody, I think, on the movie Myra Breckenridge.)
On the other hand…isn’t it possible that in SOME…(note I said SOME) people,the transgenderism isn’t the problem per se…but rather a manifesation of a larger issue?In SOME(again note I said SOME) people I’ve noticed that it almost seems to be the manifesation of some weird personailty disorder.
Like the people with it are almost weirdly borderline personailty and are fixtated on strict gender roles…like they don’t understand that they can have those feelings, and not have it be specificly male/female…Exactly like Kate Bornstien…s/he was born a guy and basicly fell for the “oh if you feel this way vs that way you’re a male/female and there’s nothing in between” thinking…s/he discovered that gender was a lot MORE then strictly male/female…
Out of curiosity, what about a lunatic who understands and accepts the factual existence of her non-Napoleon body, but recognizes that in her own thoughts and feelings, she innately and instinctively is Napoleon.
I see there’s still a distinction in whether the lunatic feels better after being treated like Napoleon or the transgender feels better being treated like a woman, and that seems awfully important to me personally. But the “factual reality” distinction you’re making doesn’t seem valid. My lunatic still sounds awfully mentally ill.
Brain trauma, cancer, tumor, yes. Also tertiary stage syphilis, thyroid gland malfunction, and a host of other things. Those aren’t mental illnesses (although some of them once were categorized that way); they are physical illnesses that manifest with cognitive and emotional changes. As for chemical imbalances, it depends on whether you’re referring to the myth that there are specific chemical imbalances that cause depression, schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, etc, or if you’re simply referring to the possibility that a chemical can affect the brain and cause cognitive and emotional problems. (They certainly can).
ETA: And yes, physical conditions can most certainly result in a diagnosis of mental illness. Being in an off mood (or the doctor being in an odd mood) can result in a diagnosis of mental illness. Making decisions that the doctor thinks are poor decisions can result in a diagnosis of mental illness. Etc.