Thursday, August 25, 2011

BAR piece on Zucker, Blanchard & DSM workgroup

originally posted on LJ 6-1-08

So I'm sure that most of the folks who check out my blog are aware of the recent appointments of Ken Zucker & Ray Blanchard (among others) to the DSM working group that will hash out new gender/sexuality related "mental disorders" for the DSM. I have written at great length about some of the major problems with Blanchard's views of trans women and others on the trans feminine spectrum. Needless to say, I was not happy with their appointments.

An article recently came out in the Bay Area Reporter on the issue (full disclaimer: I am quoted in it) which went into great detail about the obstacles these appointments pose for trans activists. It also discussed some of the more over-the-top reactions it generated within the trans community, which included fears that the APA would put homosexuality back into the DSM or that Ken Zucker would advocate reparative therapy for young trans children in it (the DSM doesn't include therapies, only diagnoses).

What follows is a slightly edited post that I wrote for one trans-themed email group I was on in response to the negative reaction the article garnered (which included cries that the article was pro-Zucker propaganda). Let me state for the record that not all people on the list hold such views, nor am I accusing members on that list of being responsible for the aforementioned community reaction. The reason why I posted it there, and the reason why I am now including it in this blog, is to try to move some of the highly polarizing rhetoric within the community on this matter.

I was just as upset about Zucker's appointment, and especially Blanchard's, but there are many different paths that we can go down from here. And frankly, it pisses me off that some in the community will accuse other trans people of "identifying with the oppressor" or being victims of "Stockholm Syndrome" simply because they do not take a hardline depathologizing approach or because they feel that modest reform is the best we can hope for at this point. There are almost as many views on this matter as there are trans activists and advocates. For any of us to act as though we speak for the entire community, or to accuse people who don't 100% agree with us as being "the enemy" is highly arrogant, entitled and counterproductive...

anyway, here's that post:

hi folks,

i've been reading some of the posts about the BAR article here and I honestly have to say that I'm dumbfounded that some people thought that the article was *supportive* of Zucker. The 2nd paragraph in this LGBT paper said his work is hailed by ex-gay groups. That sets a tone that is carried throughout: his work is dubious. There are plenty of critiques of his work, there are trans activists quoted as equating GID with Persecuted Minority Syndrome, etc. Granted, the article contains quotes from him and the APA in defense, but this is a given considering that it's a newspaper article. If they didn't ask those folks for their take, BAR would be accused of bias.

And the point about the internet response, well, to be honest, I agree with the article’s take on that. All of the talk about putting homosexuality back in the DSM did make us seem like extremists and Zucker & the APA seem reasonable. Anyone whose done activism before can tell you that there are always at least two “fronts” one has to contend with in changing the system: one must confront the people/issue at the heart of the problem – in this case, the APA, DSM workgroup & the gatekeeper system more generally. But one also has to win over allies in the uninformed public. If we say unreasonable things (such as Zucker plans to put homosexuality back into the DSM – which some people are saying), the public will think we’re a little crazy and that Zucker and others are reasonable. That doesn’t bode well for us in convincing the public at large that we’re right and they are wrong. And without winning over allies outside of the immediate trans community, we may not be able to put the pressure we need to put on the APA in order to make them change their ways.

I also thought the article captured something that I see in my own community but which many people on this list seem to ignore: There is *huge* disagreement among trans people regarding what to do about GID. This list (at this point) seems to be made up of hardline de-pathologizers. While I agree with a lot of the sentiments expressed here, I can also tell you that there are *many* trans people out there who don’t want GID removed from the DSM, both because it currently allows one to access the means to physical transition, and because in a world where gender variance is still heavily stigmatized, being seen as having a “condition” does give one some legitimacy. For example, when I transitioned at work, I gave my boss a letter from my therapist saying that I had GID and that I was transitioning in order to correct that condition. My boss was very understanding. Had I just shown up to work one day without a letter, but wearing women’s clothing and asking people to call me Julie, I don’t think he’d be nearly as understanding. While I don’t like that fact, it is the truth of the matter.

It seems to me that the community at large is united about two things: 1) Zucker, Blanchard & others have dubious views/theories/methods that do real harm to trans people, and 2) we all would like to see transness depathologized without jeopardizing the legitimacy of our gender identities and our access to transition. But there is a great amount of disagreement within our community as to what is the best way to accomplish goal number two. That is where I think we need to be focusing our efforts.

The reason why I stopped participating in this email group is because almost all of the threads are about trashing Zucker & Blanchard & CAMH & Northwestern, etc. Anyone who knows my writings knows that I am strongly against these people’s views/theories/methods. While I can appreciate people wanting to vent about them (something I often do on my own), I honestly think that it distracts us from reaching any kind of consensus about how to get from point A to point B.

I also think that any attempt to flat out depathologize GID will fail unless an alternative system of some sort is established to ensure both our legal and physical transitions. Maybe that alternative system is a reformed GID diagnosis, or maybe it’s a medical (but not mental) diagnosis. Or maybe it involves working with caregivers and legal experts to ensure that gender variance will be recognized and transitioning allowed without any kind of formal diagnosis. I’m honestly not sure. But what I do know is that if we don’t ensure these things, we will find that a large percentage of trans folks will fight any attempt to remove GID from the DSM. These are the discussions we really need to be having now, rather than getting bogged down in debating whether or not it is fair to compare Zucker to Nazis or not....


No comments:

Post a Comment

***FYI*** I am no longer accepting comments on my blog. I explain all the reasons why on my aptly entitled blog-post I’m discontinuing comments on my blog. Here’s why....

If this post still has a "comment box," it is only because I overlooked/neglected it when I systematically locked all the comments. So please do not bother commenting, because I will automatically reject it. Please take no offense - it is a general blog-wide policy...