Listen up people, I am about to ask you to sign a petition. This is not something I do very often, and I wouldn’t be doing it if I didn’t think it was important. My apologies if some of you are offended by this, but so it goes.
Many of you will know that homosexuality used to not only be considered a crime, but also a mental illness. As recently as 1973 the American Psychiatric Association (APA) listed homosexuality in its Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM). Thankfully that has now changed. However, what most of you probably don’t know is that the DSM still includes an illness known as “Gender Identity Disorder” (GID). While this is used as the basis for diagnosing adult transsexuals, it is also often used as an excuse to “treat” children whose behavior is seen as “abnormal” by parents and conservative doctors. And by “treat” I actually mean “torture”, because basically it involves beating and otherwise punishing the kids for “inappropriate” behavior until such time as they learn to conform to what the adults are expecting of them. The primary reason given for this “treatment” is often to prevent children from becoming homosexual, and naturally it appeals strongly to homophobic parents. These days, as gay rights have gained a certain amount of traction, it is often presented instead as preventing children from growing up transsexual, because while persecuting gays is now unacceptable in some circles, persecuting the transgendered is still very much a popular spectator sport. The effect, however, is still the same: kids get bullied into conforming to conservative views of appropriate gender behavior.
Given the overwhelming success of “treating” transsexuals by the novel method of taking them at their word and helping them to live in the gender they prefer, there has been considerable pressure on the APA to remove GID from its list of illnesses. However, a working group set up by the APA to look at revisions to the Sexual and Gender Identity Disorders section of the DSM includes two of the strongest proponents of this sort of cruel “therapy”, Kenneth Zucker and Ray Blanchard. With these people on board (on Zucker is chairing the group) it seems likely that the new DSM will not only still include GID, it will also redefine transsexuals as dangerously perverted.
Obviously very few of you will have much close contact with actual transgendered people because they are a fairly small minority. But this is really just a symptom of something much wider and much more dangerous. The question to ask yourself is whether we really want to go back to a world in which social norms are enforced by declaring anyone who transgresses against them to be “mad”. Remember, it was not that long ago that a woman could be committed to an asylum simply for becoming pregnant outside of marriage.
There is an online petition, and you can find it here. It isn’t the best written petition in the world – it reads like it was written by someone who was upset and angry at the time – but it is the one we currently have to work with. This isn’t a matter of national politics, so you don’t have to be a US citizen to take part. I’ve signed it. I hope that some of you will consider doing so too. Thank you.