There was great debate over how to approach Gender Identity Disorder when the latest edition of the Diagnostic Statistical Manual was being developed. The DSM-5 task force settled on Gender Dysphoria. Some people believe that it is harmful to diagnose a transgendered individual. If that is the case, then it is harmful to identify anything as mental illness. It is difficult and painful to be diagnosed with a mental illness. No one wants to be diagnosed with Schizophrenia, Borderline Personality Disorder, or any other diagnosis. At the same time, many individuals express that their diagnosis comes with a mix of emotions. Some experience denial. Some experience relief (“Glad to know I am not going crazy…there is something wrong in my brain and I can receive help for this.”) Some experience sadness or anger. Regardless of the response, the diagnosis can be a helpful part of the process.
Truly, the intent is never to harm, but to shed light on a real problem. Ultimately, a treatment plan is developed with the intention of helping the person find relief from their suffering. Peace, Hope, Wholeness. People who have addictive or eating disorders struggle with the desire and drive to engage in harmful behaviors. They find some momentary relief from their actions, but it’s temporary. The conflict that leads to the addiction, binge eating, etc. always returns. Until the underlying problems are dealt with. Mental health professionals accept them as people who are worthy of dignity and respect, while at the same time caring enough about them to help them see how their behaviors are harmful. We meet them where they are with the sole goal of helping them get better.
The same should be true for those with gender dysphoria.
Society says that it is perfectly fine for those who are born as females to believe in their minds that they are males (and vice versa). As a result, there is this belief that we should accept them as their preferred gender – the gender they believe they were intended to be. They thought goes that this will solve the issue; that the inner turmoil will disappear as long we allow people to live “authentically.” But is it really authentic? This is not a joke – I cannot be a different age, race, or ethnicity just because I believe I was born in the wrong year, skin color, or culture. Likewise, I cannot be a male just because I believe I was born with the wrong genitalia. Changing the external will never change the DNA. Diagnosing the problem and compassionately attempting to help a hurting person is not what is harmful. Engaging and furthering culture’s lie is what is harmful.