By Ruthie Kovanen, Guest Columnist
Until December 2012, the American Psychiatric Association (APA) still classified being transgender as a mental disorder. Under the title, “Gender Identity Disorder” (GID), being transgender was stigmatized and invalidated.
After modifications made last December, the APA will release its newest edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5) in May of this year. The new edition will now use the term “gender dysphoria” rather than “gender identity disorder.”
In theory, this term will not be used as a means to invalidate the idea of being transgender, but rather to identify and diagnose the psychological stress some transgender individuals experience as a result of dissonance between mind and body.
Deeming transgendered persons “disordered” is very controversial. Fundamentally, it is ridiculous to consider someone “disordered” for not aligning with heteronormative gender codes.
Some argue, however, that keeping the label of a disorder will facilitate insurance coverage. Oftentimes, insurance companies have policies that necessitate the diagnosis of a specific “disorder” before providing coverage.
This argument for the preservation of a “disorder” status has not always proven successful. Take for instance Donnie Collins — a sophomore at Emerson College in Boston and a member of the Phi Alpha Tau fraternity. Born female, Collins’ insurance company denied her coverage when she sought a chest surgery.
Transgender people denied coverage for surgeries or hormone therapies is all too common. The unique twist to Collins’ story, however, is that his frat brothers organized a fundraiser in order to cover the $8,100 cost of his surgery.
The Phi Alpha Tau fraternity, alongside other supporters, raised nearly $16,000 and has decided to donate the remaining funds to an organization that helps fund surgeries for transgender individuals.
Like Emerson College, Pacific Lutheran University is making strides to become more inclusive as well. The recent and widely supported proposal for gender-neutral housing includes optional gender-neutral wings, bathrooms and bedrooms.
If passed, it will negate antiquated notions of a gender binary and set the stage for a more all-encompassing community.
Despite developments in the past few years — both at PLU and in the larger society — more progress can be made to secure gender equity.
The fact that being transgender is only now not officially considered a mental disorder is astounding. Moreover, there still exist misunderstandings of and intolerance toward the transgender community.
Until all people — regardless of gender identity — can feel accepted and embraced, there is more work to be done.
Ruthie Kovanen hails from the great state of Michigan, is a sophomore at Pacific Lutheran University and is studying anthropology, Hispanic studies and women’s and gender studies. Aside from reading and writing about feminism, Ruthie enjoys chatting over a cup of coffee, baking bread and spending time outdoors.