One of the well known features of modern journalism is that most of what gets into papers isn’t actually written by the journalists, it is just re-cycled press releases. Therefore, if you have done something bad and want to put a positive spin on it, what you do is put out a well-written press release that contains the message you want put in front of the public. The chances are that it will land on the desk of someone who knows nothing about your work, and who will be only to happy to recycle what you have given them.
This is how news sources this week have been full of stories about the positive things done for trans people by the American Psychiatric Association in the latest release of their Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM V), which has just been published. Here’s The Guardian swallowing the Kool-Aid. Here’s Gay Star News doing the right thing and talking to trans activists but still missing half the story. And here’s Julia Serano having a rant.
As you may recall, the current revision of the DSM has been a massive exercise in political compromise between psychiatrists who are sympathetic to trans people, and those who think we are a bunch of disgusting and dangerous sex perverts. I blogged about this last year. So yes, the good guys have had their way, sort of. There is no longer such a thing as Gender Identity Disorder. It is now Gender Dysphoria, which has the benefit of being a term that most people are familiar with, though is probably still more negative than the Gender Incongruence that was originally proposed.
But, and this is a huge but, there is an entirely separate section of the DSM under which trans people can also be diagnosed. It is part of the section on “paraphilias”, which includes things like paedophilia and flashing alongside more consensual activities that conservative psychiatrists find freaky such as BDSM. Basically, if a trans person has an active sex life of any sort, then they can be diagnosed with Transvestic Fetishism because someone deems that they are sexually aroused by wearing clothing inappropriate to their “true” sex (and I used “sex” deliberately there as such people generally refuse to accept gender as a legitimate concept).
It used to be the case that we could laugh at this a bit because it applied only to people wearing women’s clothing, the so-called Autogynophilia. But in the final revisions of DSM V someone sneaked in a new “mental illness” called Autoandrophilia. Yes, it is now possible for women to be deemed crazy on the grounds that they are sexually aroused by wearing men’s clothing. What does this mean? Jeans? Shirts? “Boyfriend” sweaters?
This woman clearly suffers from autoandrophilia
My guess is that these diagnoses will be deployed mainly against trans people who are homosexual in their preferred gender, because the sort of psychiatrist who is going to persecute trans people is probably going to be homophobic too. But with an “illness” like this on the official register it isn’t too much of a stretch to see it being deployed against cis women whose attire is deemed insufficiently feminine. So remember girls, if you do wear pajamas in bed, make sure that they are pink.