Psychiatric “disorders” both come and go in response to contemporary cultural fads and determined special interests. For the sexual liberation movement the political advantage lay in having offending disorders removed. In 1973 it succeeded in getting the APA to remove homosexuality from its lexicon of disorders simply by vote of the membership.
Consider the remarkable phenomenon of transgenderism. A disorder of gender identity that afflicts a minuscule number of Americans has become a polarizing cultural cause celebre. Its influence—in capturing public attention and demanding social change—has been extraordinary, out of all proportion to the numbers of the gender-dissatisfied.
While the political left has fully embraced the transgender agenda as a “civil right” opposed by only the bigoted and hateful, many people see the movement as a concerted attack on traditional social mores and customs, an “in your face” assault on conventional standards, practices, and morality.
However, transgenderism as a normative lifestyle may be a hard sell. While fair-minded people can agree that gays or people with gender confusion should not be discriminated against, the general public doesn’t appear to be ready to accept gender as simply a social construct or that people can be whatever gender they choose. These contentions, the conceptual foundation of transgenderism, fly in the face of reality: the biological difference between the sexes.
The Contagion of Mass Delusion
Transgenderism would refute the natural laws of biology and transmute human nature. The movement’s philosophical foundation qualifies it as a popular delusion similar to the multiple-personality craze, and the widespread “satanic ritual abuse” and “recovered memory” hysterias of the 1980s and ‘90s. These last two involved bizarre accusations of child abuse and resulted in the prosecution and ruined lives of the falsely accused.
Such popular delusions are characterized by a false belief unsupported by any scientific or empirical evidence and have a contagious quality that overrides rational thinking and even common sense. This all-too-human tendency to suspend individual critical judgment and go along with the crowd is greatly facilitated by social media. Most important, however, the cause has received the imprimatur of “experts.” The very people who should know better have bought into the hysteria. Just as “mental health professionals” a generation ago supported the child abuse delusions, and even participated in prosecuting the unjustly accused, so too have they fueled the fire of the transgender delusion.
The transgender movement was greatly energized when The American Psychiatric Association (APA) in its 2013 revised edition of the “Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Psychiatric Disorders” (DSM-5) delisted “Gender Identity Disorder” as a psychiatric “disorder,” reclassifying it as “Gender Dysphoria.” However, rather than providing a scientific validation of the transgender agenda, the APA’s action was a remarkable abrogation of professional responsibility in the interest of political correctness.
Unlike medical diseases, psychiatric disorders have no diagnostic biologic markers—no physical findings, laboratory tests, or imaging studies. Psychiatric diagnoses consist of symptom checklists determined by committee consensus. It should come as no surprise that the process is exquisitely reactive to prevailing cultural and political winds. Absent biomarkers that define illnesses, there is no end to the mental and emotional conditions that can be called psychiatric disorders. It can be extremely profitable for an activist special-interest movement to succeed in getting its cause legitimized as a mental disorder, not least for a pharmaceutical industry poised to retarget psychotropic drugs to treat any new mental illness.
Activist Science Plus Relativism Equals Insanity
However, the process works both ways. Psychiatric “disorders” both come and go in response to contemporary cultural fads and determined special interests. For the sexual liberation movement the political advantage lay in having offending disorders removed. In 1973 it succeeded in getting the APA to remove homosexuality from its lexicon of disorders simply by vote of the membership.
Subsequently the movement conflated with postmodern relativism, in which there are no universal or transcendent values, only social and cultural conventions. The doctrine as applied to gender asserts that gender—male or female sex—is merely a social construct, not a biologic fact, and subject to change according to one’s desire. People can be of any gender they choose, an “alternate gender,” or even opt out of the entire gender construct.
Such was the agenda that the APA bought into when it dropped “Gender Identity Disorder” from the DSM-5. However, rather than simply eliminating the concept of gender identity since officially it was no longer a disorder, it created a “new diagnostic class” called “gender dysphoria.” This carried the assault on common sense even further, since now psychiatrists, the purported experts on distinguishing between fantasy and reality, put their stamp of approval on the transgender hysteria.
Only prelogical children and psychotic adults believe in magical thinking, that “wishing can make it so.” Yet “gender dysphoria” is characterized as “gender incongruence:” a feeling of dissatisfaction with one’s “assigned” (birth) gender, and a wish to be otherwise-gendered, makes one a different person. To reclaim one’s true (desired) gender identity may require sex-reassignment surgery, a treatment for the “new diagnostic class” of gender dysphoria sanctioned by the APA. The torturous vocabulary the DSM manufactured to label the possible gender spectrum variations would be laughable were it not so tragic.