On a certain petition…

24 Oct

PLEASE NOTE: I would kindly ask that you read my entire post and my reply in comments at the end before attacking me. I very much see the other side to this issue and don’t automatically claim im right. I do want you to try to see where im coming from before you accuse me of things I am not saying though. Respectful debate is welcome, attacks because you did not fully read are not. I am also a bit sad I have to add this note.

I keep getting sent a petition online about declassifying gender identity as a mental illness. You may have seen it; it’s the one with Jenna saying trans people aren’t sick. I really do understand the intent of the petition but I wanted to bring another perspective.

Firstly, I would say that most trans people would agree that gender identity issues do bring with them a great degree of mental distress. We live in a society that does not accept us, frequently we lose family and friends, have high rates of poverty, and are often the targets of bigotry and violence. This has led to very high rates of depression, anxiety, and other mental illness in the trans community. One need only look at the extremely tragically high suicide rates to see that trans people are suffering as a whole. I think that makes it fair to classify gender dysphoria as a serious contributory factor to mental illness much in the same way that diabetes contributes to a host of associated illnesses. Having gender identity does not automatically cause mental illness but it certainly increases the likelihood that you may experience one.  That alone makes me reject the point of this petition but I have a much bigger issue that really bothers me:

What is wrong with being mentally ill?

Much of the thrust of this petition seems to imply that being associated with mental illness is something to be avoided at all costs. That is an extremely ableist position to my mind. I have dealt with mental illness for years and it does not invalidate me as a person. It is not something that makes me someone you should avoid. Being mentally ill is just a condition I live with much like I live with being diabetic. Seeing my community put out a petition that says there is something wrong with me really bothers me. I have dealt with years of stigma from being trans and I would like to remove that stigma; but it is wrong to stigmatize another community to make us somehow acceptable.

Currently there is a new push to have gender dysphoria treated like cancer, a condition that needs treatment but isn’t a mental illness, but allows us to have coverage. Ask yourself why you are making this distinction and what it says about attitudes towards the mentally ill. Perhaps instead of this petition we could put some working into de-stigmatizing both mental illness and trans identities.  Everyone’s acceptance and success is conditional till everyone is treated with respect and dignity.

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3 Responses to “On a certain petition…”

  1. waywardweed October 24, 2012 at 1:04 pm #

    Thanks for the new perspective.

  2. The Meerkat (@longhundred) October 24, 2012 at 9:52 pm #

    While there is no shame in mental illness, it is offensive to classify certain things as such. I hold no shame in being aneurotypical (severe anxiety issues), but I am offended that others see my being trans as one of the things that contributes to that. Consider: would you support homosexuality being considered a mental illness again? In many cases, it leads everything you listed.

    > Perhaps instead of this petition we could put some working into de-stigmatizing both mental illness and trans identities.

    Why are those considered mutually exclusive goals?

    • annarenees October 24, 2012 at 10:06 pm #

      Firstly let me say that my most serious problem is with the tone of the petition and the tone of the debate around the petition. It is very invalidating of those who suffer from mental illness. I would also like to point out that there is a major differance between homosexuality and gender identity issues in that there is no need for medical intervention in the case of homosexuality but there is frequently a need of medical intervention in the case of gender identity issues. Many trans people need medical care related to hormones, surgery and other care related to their status. In many jurisdictions this requires medical criterea in order to have it covered. For those in this situation (I am one of them) I need to have a diagnosible condition of some sort to get covered for my trans related health care. This is not true of homosexuality.

      People are also thinking of mental illness in the wrong way. Many mental illnesses, such as PTSD, and depression are caused by external factors. I find gender dysphoria to be one of these conditions. Some people handle it just fine but for many of us the stress put upon us because of this causes fairly severe suffering. The new criterea for gender dysphoria recognizes this and does not say being trans is the illness but it is the suffering related to the condition, mostly due to lack of acceptance and such. Basically if you are totally ok and healthy being trans you don’t have the condition, what is being listed is the people who do suffer because of it. One look at the suicide rate in our community shows that it is not an insignificant number. If this is delisted then those people would perhaps lose access to the health care they need (me almost for certain)

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