NOTE: This is a modified blog from one I previously wrote and posted elsewhere.
The Diagnostic Statistical Manual (DSM) contains the names, descriptions, diagnostic criteria, etc. of current recognized mental health disorders. There has been a debate as to whether or not to continue to include a diagnosis for someone who is born one gender but identifies as the other,. For now, the current diagnostic term used is Gender Dysphoria. The name was changed from disorder to dysphoria in the most recent edition to reduce stigma and help normalize this condition while continuing to include the diagnosis so that individuals could receive insurance coverage for treatment. The type of treatment provided continues to evolve, and there are many political and social reasons for and implications of every change made in the DSM. The fact is, mental health professionals disagree on whether or not gender dysphoria is a mental illness.
Some mental health professionals, like me, see this condition as an actual problem within the brain. Where the problem derives can be debated. For example, it could be a misfiring of chemicals in the brain, similar to the imbalance that happens for some with depression. Something that may or may not be able to be cured (such as is the case with a wide variety of mental and physical health problems). I do not believe that struggling with thoughts or feelings that you were born the wrong gender is a sin. I do believe that acting upon these feelings and attempting to change your gender through any means necessary including hormones and surgery is going against God. But, even if I did not believe this, I would still say attempting to change genders is a very harmful practice.
Think about it like this: If although I was born a female, I identify as a male to the point that I dress like a man, take male hormones, and have surgery to physically (to a certain extent) transition from a woman to a man, what guarantee do I have that this will alleviate my emotional suffering? What if I take those drastic measures, and regret it? What then? There is a reason Johns Hopkins stopped providing gender reassignment surgery years ago.
As a mental health professional, I cannot understand anyone supporting these harmful practices. Many people say this should be supported for the sake of acceptance. I say that you can accept someone as a human being worthy of compassion and love without accepting every action the person takes or belief the person holds to, in particular when you accept something that is harmful to him or her. We should care more about people than that.
As a society, we have got to stop going down this dangerous, slippery slope of anything goes. This idea that as long as people are happy, we should support them is harmful. We have no idea what the long-term impact of these decisions will be, and we are fooling ourselves if we choose not to believe that more, unhealthy behaviors will follow. As a society, we must stop attempting to normalize what is not normal.
Look at what is happening today. Take for example young children making the decision with the blessing from their parents that it is OK, healthy, normal to attempt to become the opposite gender. It is not okay for a 4-year-old little boy to decide he should have been born a girl, so he starts using a female name, dressing as a female, using the female restroom, etc. Yet, this is happening in our society. Many young children are confused and exploring at that age, and it is a tangled web we are weaving when instead of helping our children understand issues related to gender, we simply go along with their desire to be the opposite gender. (Which can never truly happen because all of the hormones, surgery, and opposite gender clothing in the world will not change DNA.)
No one suffering from gender dysphoria should ever be made fun of. We should treat these, and all, people with dignity, respect and compassion. We should encourage them to seek treatment from well-trained mental health professionals who can help them work through what is going on in their mind to trigger these unnatural thoughts and feelings. We should never encourage someone to attempt to become the opposite gender based on confusing and upsetting thoughts and feelings. We should love. And, Christians, we should pray.