Gender identity disorder is a term that has been used for children and adults who believe they were born into the wrong gender. Activists contend that calling it a “disorder” is stigmatizing to trans-identified people.
The new term in the DSM-5 will be “gender dysphoria.” Gender dysphoria means emotional distress over one’s gender. Gender dysphoria is considered more neutral and less stigmatizing. Calling it "dysphoria" implies a temporary mental state rather than a mental disorder. The change could help trans people who are sometimes the victim of the law, for example, a trans parent could lose custody of her children because she's seen as having a "mental disorder."
Others are concerned that the change might make it harder for trans people to get their insurance companies to pay for surgery and hormones which are often a part of transition for trans people.
I contacted the National Center for Transgender Equality for their opinion on this change and this is what they said:
The National Center for Transgender Equality is pleased about the much needed changes to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (DSM) that were approved by the trustees of the American Psychiatric Association. According to NCTE’s Executive Director Mara Keisling,"When the DSM-V is published in the Spring, it will mark a significant lowering of the stigmatization that many trans people have faced. The changes help make clear that there is nothing pathological about having a transgender identity, and that the role of the mental health profession is to affirm and support individuals in being themselves in the face of societal misunderstanding.”
Overall, the changes are positive, though insufficient is several respects, most notably the outdated and inappropriate diagnosis of Transvestic Fetish Disorder, which remains in the DSM for now. According to Keisling, “NCTE is heartened both that change is possible and that we know trans people will continue to advocate with the APA and other professional associations until trans people are fully understand and treated fairly.”
Since 2009 transgender activists have been pushing the American Psychiatric Association to recognize three points:
- That gender expression and gender identity which differ from gender at birth do not constitute mental disorder.
- That medical treatment, including hormonal therapy and surgery for those who need it, is medically necessary and should be covered by insurance policies.
- That the APA take a stand against discrimination based on gender identity or gender expression and to support people to be legally recognized as the gender they choose.