Sunday, 11 October 2009

finding something worse

shut up and do as I say!

You may recall my ongoing correspondence with the British Library, about where books concerning transsexual people belong in the Dewey Decimal System, and where the condition of transsexuality itself belongs in that system - at the moment, it lives in the Sexual Orientation grouping, which is so obviously wrong that I wonder how the heck it got there in the first place. Along the way I learned a useful new word, ontology, which for our purposes here can be described as the way we organise and categorise things; or, as is often the case, 'experts' organise and categorise things, including, apparently, me. SteveL kindly provided a link to Clay Shirky's essay on the faults of ontology, which elegantly expresses the failings and limitations of this system.

Meanwhile, in the (slightly) wider world, there is trouble brewing over the medical categorisation of transsexuality. It exists (sort of) in DSM-IV, the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, which is the standard textbook cited in treatment. In that edition, it is described as 302.85, Gender Identity Disorder. Now, the next edition, DSM-V, is due to come out in 2012, and working groups are already working out what they think needs changing. And there are plenty of people who are unhappy about pathologising their condition by classifying it as a mental illness. On the other hand, the fact that it is classified in this way provides transsexual people with an access to medical and surgical services.

Now, it seems that there is a movement called Stop Trans Pathologisation 2012, and, using this umbrella term, someone called Dennis Hambridge has called for a demonstration outside Whitehall next week. And he's got a Facebook page for the occasion. Now, some people have expressed concerns about this call for de-recognition of a condition without proposing anything to take its place. And Mr Hambridge's response has been to delete their comments and ban them from the group. He evidently thinks that, as a cisgendered (a term he himself rejects) gay male, he knows better than us what is good for transsexual people. And, apparently, what is good for us is challenging the gender binary

Being transgendered is not a mental illness. We are simply part of the diversity of humanity. Gender Identity Disorder is therefore not a valid diagnosis. Homosexuality we removed as a mental health diagnosis diagnosis in 1987. For us to achieve true liberation and recognition we need to throw off this unjust stigma. We are not ill, just different

...Every day, almost everywhere around the world, Transexual, Transgender, Intersex people face violence, abuse, rape, torture and hate crimes. The only motive : they are not conforming to social stereotypes about the way they should appear and behave in society as men or women.
...Far from protecting Trans citizens, States and International bodies reinforce social transphobia through short sighted negligence or reactionary politics: To have their preferred gender identity recognised by society, if at all possible, they have to undergo forced sterilization or other major surgery. Yet, States do little to ensure Trans people get proper access to the health care they want or need. Adding insult to injustice, the World Health Organisation still classifies them as « mentally disordered ».
(My bold). It's hard to pin down what makes me uncomfortable about this, but that business of 'enforced sterilisation' reminds me of Julie Bindel's flawed critique, characterising us as 'survivors' of the 'sex change industry'. I get a feeling that Mr Hambridge wants us to be genderqueers in his brave new world, in the creation of which, apparently we are welcome as foot soldiers, but only if we ask no questions.

By the way, spelling is evidently not Mr Hambridge's strong point, and I notice that the umbrella Facebook group STOP Trans and Intersexual Pathologisation goal 2012 has several officers who describe themselves as 'trans rights proffesionals'. Sock puppets? Who knows?

Here is a link to RozK's description of her dealings with Mr Hambridge, and here is a link to Auntysarah's thoughts on the matter, for good measure.

Anyway, I'm certainly not going to be joining in the proposed demonstration. I may be unhappy about the DSM-IV classification, but until we come up with a good alternative solution, I'd rather stay at home than argue myself out of official existence. As Hilaire Belloc said, Always keep a-hold of Nurse, for fear of finding something worse. And yes, there can be something slightly infantilising about jumping through hoops for the medical profession, but it got me where I needed to be, and I met some good people along the way.