Monday, 1 March 2010

Another Invented Disease

'Girls can cut their hair short...wear shirts and things...because it's okay to look like a boy. But for a boy to look like a girl is degrading, because you think being a girl is degrading.' - Ian McEwan, The Cement Garden (by way, I freely admit, of Madonna's 'What It Feels Like For a Girl')

We haven't talked about Psychology on here in a while; I mean Psychology as a science, rather than the areas in which other posts might trespass on ideas from the discipline. Which is something I really ought to rectify, because all the big beasts of the Psych world are currently getting together, emitting a series of low bass rumbles and high-pitched yammers at each other, and in the process secreting a new edition of the Psychologists' 'Bible', the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of the American Psychiatric Association, 5th Edition  or, to give it it's catchy and ever so slightly fetishy acronym, DSM-V.

I have a copy of DSM-IV on my bookshelf at home, acquired when I was studying Psychology at Sunderland University. It's an interesting book. It has a chequered history. For a long time, Psychologists listed 'homosexuality' as a disease in previous editions of the Manual - DSM-IV is, I think, the first edition which didn't, after a long and protracted campaign. Shamefully, one of the people involved in that campaign was Ron Gold, who, though he did good work on that issue, later ossified into yet another trans-hating cisgay man, spewing crap about how trans people don't really exist on sites like the Bilerico project (I'm not linking to Gold; hateful, cowardly betrayers of liberty will get no through-traffic from this site. Instead, because ze's sound, intelligent, thoughtful and, let's face it, quite the looker, have a gander at Tobi Hill-Meyer's Bilerico columns instead).

DSM-IV also, of course, includes the controversial condition 'Gender Identity Disorder'. Controversial not only because pricks like Gold think it doesn't exist (and even bigger oxygen-thieves like Julie Bindel apparently genuinely believe it was invented as a conspiracy by evil Psychlons to try and trap us all in some Mad Men 50s fantasy world), but also because many trans people resent the idea that they have a 'disorder'. In that respect some good work is being done in the new DSM, in that GID will be replaced with the much more open category of 'Gender Incongruence' which will, quite importantly, be regarded as a curable condition: people who suffer gender incongruence will be considered cured when they have SRS to realign their physical gender with their felt gender. Fair enough.

Of course, as the saying goes, nothing truly brilliant was ever designed by committee and so, of course, the inevitable academic horse-trading on these things means that, in order to satisfy crawling half-humans like Ray Blanchard, - a man so fucking anal that he decided the condition of wanting to have sex with adult humans needed to be technically codified in the same way as a paraphilia, for Satan's sake - we're also getting some rather hateful new syndromes tagged in on the back of Gender Incongruence, specifically 'Transvestic Fetishism' and 'Autogynephilia'. Here's Cheryl Morgan with more on this ugly little bit of theorizing.

There is an awful lot about all this that really incenses me. One thing is the way in which, as a discursive psychologist, I find it repugnant for privileged cis males to define psychological categories which write marginalised people out of their own narratives. But one of the other really annoying things is that, as Morgan points out, 'Transvestic Fetishism' and 'Autogynephilia' are parsed as applying only to 'men' who wear 'women's' clothing or 'imagine' themselves to be women.

Because, of course, it's obvious that girls would want to dress up like boys because, you know, when you're a boy, you'll get your favourite things, other boys check you out etc etc (of course, under Blanchard's categories, Bowie would probably be considered mentally ill for dressing up as a girl in the video for 'Boys Keep Swinging', which shows how medieval Blanchard's thinking really is - it being a truth universally acknowledged that if you think Bowie's wrong, you fail at life), whereas being a boy and wanting to be an icky, yucky, girl is, as any fule kno, clearly a sign of mental illness.

Well, I'm sorry, but if that's the case, then hullo clouds, hullo sky, and colour me fucking crazy. Because if Ray Blanchard is what passes for a supposedly sane human being these days, you can book me a one-way ticket to Arkham Asylum and throw away the key. But then again, it's worth remembering that one of the most disturbed villains in the Batman canon, Jonathan Crane, the Scarecrow was...a psychiatrist.

It's a good thing the Scarecrow's fictional, really. If he existed, they'd probably get him in to chair the DSM-V subgroup on costumed vigilantes.

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