22 October 2012

The Rabbi Says We're Not Ill

A British rabbinical student is on a crusade.

All right.  You might think I'm getting my medieval history mixed up here.  But I assure you that, in fact, a young Londoner studying for the rabbiniate is indeed a man on a mission.

I'm not talking about his efforts toward ordination.  He is asking the contributors to, and editors of, the Diagnostic Statistical Manual to change something they've done since the third edition of said manual came out in 1980.

In DSM-III, transsexualism was included for the first time.  It was classified as "Gender Identity Disorder," the first known use of that phrase.  In DSM-IV TR, a revision of the fourth edition, GID was placed in a category of sexual disorders.  

DSM V is in the works.  Maxwell Zachs, the rabbinical student in question, wants to see the de-classification of transsexualism as a mental disorder in the new edition of the manual.  "Gender is not an illness," he explains.  "It's just a part of who I am, like being Jewish or a vegetarian or sometimes talking too much!"

While re-classifying people like me and him might remove some of the stigma and alleviate some of the prejudice we can experience, it is not as simple a choice as one might expect.

You see, medical practitioners and administrators, public health officials and even pharmaceutical companies rely on the DSM to help them set priorities and policies.  So do insurance companies.  

So, if we are re-classified as "normal," that might actually make it difficult for many of us to get treatments and therapy.  While very few trans people have insurance policies that pay for surgery, many (myself included) were able to get our hormones and visits with doctors paid for, and psychotherapy partially covered.  And I have been able to get mammograms and, since my surgery, gynecological care.

If transgenderism is no longer considered an illness or disorder, insurance providers might decide not to pay for those things.  And some practitioners might not provide their services.  

Plus, I have to wonder whether it would make it more difficult for someone to file a complaint of discrimination, much less a lawsuit.  Could some judge or lawmaker decide that because a transgender is not ill, he or she doesn't need legal protections and is simply pursuing a "lifestyle choice"?

This is very interesting and controversial, to say the least!

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