In May, the American Psychiatric Association announced the makeup of the team responsible for revising the fifth (and latest) edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, known as the DSM-V.
The DSM-V will serve as a manual for mental health professionals as well as policy makers and pharmaceutical companies concerned with mental health issues. As such, the views it presents will play a major role in shaping the national understanding and discussion of mental health as well as the legislative and regulatory climate on issues relating to employment discrimination and insurance coverage.
When the APA named the researchers, major alarm bells sounded in the transgender community when Dr. Kenneth Zucker surfaced as the head of the group on “Sexual and Gender Identity Disorders” The executive director of the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health in Toronto, Zucker is a chief proponent of the theory that children who fail to conform to typical gender identity in youth are merely indicating an eventual homosexual identity in adulthood, rather than as an expression of a core identity. This view is in direct contrast to the bulk of the scientific community which recognizes an inherent difference between gender identity and sexual orientation.
Zucker is also an advocate of reparative therapy for transgender or gender-variant children and youth. Sometimes known as conversion therapy, this school of thought refers to methods aimed at changing a person with primarily homosexual attractions to heterosexual, or at eliminating or diminishing homosexual desires and behaviors. According to reports issued by the American Psychological Association, the medical and mental health consensus in the United States is that there is no scientifically adequate research showing that conversion therapies are effective or safe, and there is some evidence that they are potentially harmful. Zucker’s approach to treating transgender and gender-variant children was documented as part of a recent NPR story on the subject — listen here.
Given his regressive and out-of-the-mainstream views, Dr. Zucker’s appointment to chair this working group has been met with heavy opposition from transgender and transsexual activists and their allies. This video diary below explains the case against Zucker’s nomination.
The stakes are high. With Zucker running the working group on “Sexual and Gender Identity Disorders,” there is a significant risk that the DSM-V will recommend reparative therapy and there is some risk that Gender Identity Disorder – the APA’s term for transsexuality – could be classified as a type of homosexuality, reversing the APA’s decision in 1973 to remove homosexuality from the manual thereby affirming that homosexuality is not a mental illness.
Co-written and researched by Naomi Sobel.