The Future for Gender Variant People

Gender Variance is an issue that has been extensively researched for many decades. Despite the existence of gender-variant individuals in every culture and throughout time, many people are unaware that diversity in gender expression and sexual formation is a naturally occurring phenomenon. Gender variance confronts widely held assumptions that children born as males will act like ‘boys’ and children born as females will act like ‘girls’. This imposed stereotypical stigma has affected gender variance negatively. As time has changed and new research is exposed, the future for gender variance is expected to change many aspects of societal norms (Clamson, L., Diamond, M., Riley, E., Sitharthan, G., 2013). The current and future objectives are to contribute to information, resources and curriculum development in the education of professionals, schools, parents and the community in supporting gender variant people.
According to Riley (2013), the needs of gender-variant people as identified by parents, transgender adults and professionals can be represented by the acronym H-A-P-P-I-N-E-S-S. These needs are: to be Heard; to be Accepted; to have Professional access and support; to have Peer contact; to have access to current Information; Not to be bullied, blamed, punished or otherwise discriminated against; to have freedom of Expression; to feel Safe; and to have Support. Riley’s representation of a gender variant person’s needs is broken into three main components: The feel of acceptance and to be heard, resources, and support.
The feeling of acceptance for a gender variant person is the beginning of change. This begins with being heard. This need allows a gender variant person permission to discuss gender with their family and friends, creating an environment that provides them with a safe and comfortable environment for the interaction. “Transgender adults described their suffering due to being unable to share their concerns and feelings about their gender in various ways, as reflected in the following comments from the data: ‘I thought if I told anyone they might put me away in some mental institution. I dared not even tell anyone’” (Understanding Truth & Gender Diversity, 2011, web). Being heard allows a gender variant person to have freedom of expressions to be accepted where they are valued, respected and loved unconditionally by family and friend and being referred to in the preferred gender (Clamson et al, 2013). Acceptance in a household environment creates a safe place for a gender variant person. A safe place for gender variant people is where they will not be bullied, blamed, punished or discriminated against (American Psychiatric Association, 2013).
Resources for a gender variant person is a big component whereas information is accessible. The availability of resources is a way for gender variant people to better understand who they are and what might help them to become more comfortable with the acknowledgement that gender and sex is different (Clamson et al, 2013). Dr. Mustanski (2013) who wrote Resources for Parents of Gender Variant Children, highly recommends any gender variant person or a family or friend of a gender variant person to come to Impact: The LGBT Health and Development Program website for resources. Mustanski highly encourages this website to better understand gender variance and alternatives to helping or adapting to the changes a gender variant person may make. Additional resources are in the Report of the APA Task Force on Gender Identity and Gender Variance (2009), written by American Psychiatric Association (APA). This Report of the APA Task Force provides an in depth analysis and direct resources to help gender variance in all aspects possible for better understanding themselves.
Support is the key component for a gender variant person (Clamson et al, 2013). According to Recognizing the Needs of Gender-variant Children and Their Parents (2013, web), “The need for support includes the need for proactive intervention compromising emotional and physical support from professionals, family, friends, peer, educational, community, financial, legal and governmental support”. Support from professionals includes counseling and medical practitioners with the knowledge and expertise to recognize gender variance people and provide necessary means in helping them. Family, friends, peer and community support provides a safe place for gender variant people, allowing the freedom of expression without being “bullied, blamed, punished or otherwise discriminated against” (Riley, E., 2013, web). “November 20th is the national Transgender Day of Remembrance that is a day to honor those who have lost their lives for daring to live openly” (Antonia, 2013, web). Educational support entails the education that sex and gender are two different pieces that define a person and the gender a person decides to take role of. Financial, legal and government support entitles gender variant people to have access to the needs and resources for transition of gender with protection and security of the same rights as a non gender variant person.
Although there is no real cause of the conflict of a person to have a mismatch in their gender and sex, researchers continue to explore this area. The future for gender variant people very inconclusive at this time but the research continues for the best interest of gender variant people (Clamson et al, 2013). The continuing exploration is for hope to find a cause or better treatments to those whom are diagnosed such as contributing to information, resources, and curriculum development in the education of professionals, schools, parents, and the community in supporting gender-variant people. Ultimately, gender variant people seek for is social acceptance without hiding their true gender.


The Controversy of Gender Variance

For decades, there have been many controversies about what is normal and what is abnormal when it comes to human sexual behavior (Halgin, 2013, p. 47). In the past, homosexuality was regarded as a mental disorder but later disregarded in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorder (DSM) (Herek, 2004, p. 6). With the deletion of homosexuality in the DSM, the concept of Gender Identity Disorder (GID) arose in the DSM-IV. Now with the name change from GID in DSM-IV to Gender Dysphoria in DSM-V, the debate continues (Halgin, 2013, p. 47). Traditional Values Coalition argues that gender variance should be viewed as a mental disorder and implies that transgender people have psychological problems who need help rather than societal approval (Halgin, 2013, p. 48). On the contrary, Kelly Winters argues that “diagnosing gender variance as a mental disorder has imposed the stigma of mental illness and sexual deviance upon people who meet no scientific definition of mental disorder” (Halgin, 2013, p. 48). In agreement to Winters’ argument of gender variance, many people are falsely diagnosed “due to the DSM failing to distinguish the intrinsic distress of gender dysphoria from that caused by external societal intolerance” (Winters, p. 48).

According to the American Psychiatric Association (APA, 2013, web), The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) is the standard classification of mental disorders used by mental health professionals in the United States. “It is intended to be applicable by clinicians and researchers of many different orientations (e.g., biological, psychodynamic, cognitive, behavioral, interpersonal, family/systems). ‘Making a DSM diagnosis’ consists of selecting those disorders from the classification that best reflect the signs and symptoms that are exhibited by the individual being evaluated (APA, 2013, web). This implies that anything “diagnosable” within the DSM is a mental disorder regardless of the name or title given, resulting in the stigma being imposed upon gender variant people.

According to the DSM, Gender Dysphoria is diagnosable in the DSM by the following base components:

A marked incongruence between one’s experienced/ expressed gender and assigned gender, of at least 6 months’ duration, as manifested by certain criterion (APA, 2013, p. 453).

The condition is associated with clinically significant distress or impairment in social, school, or other important areas of functioning (APA, 2013, p. 452).

Although the change of Gender Identity Disorder changed to Gender Dysphoria in DSM-V is to avoid stigma and ensure access to insurance coverage that supports mental health for individuals who see and feel themselves to be a different gender than their assigned gender (APA, 2013, web), they fail conceptually. The failure is due to the section of “supporting mental health” because gender variant people are not mentally ill. The DSM “does not acknowledge the existence of many healthy, well-adjusted transsexual, and gender variant people or justify why we are labeled as mentally ill” (Winters, 2013, p. 55). According to Winters (2013, p.48) the DSM fails to distinguish the intrinsic distress of gender dysphoria from that caused by external societal intolerance. For example, a survey of nearly 6,450 transgender and gender nonconforming people was conducted by the National Center for Transgender Equality and the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force.  This survey found that as many as 63 percent of respondents experienced some form of discrimination due to bias about their gender identity. The discrimination included the loss of a job, bullying and even physical and sexual assault. As many as 41 percent of respondents reported they had attempted suicide — a rate 25 times higher than that of the general population (Glicksman, 2013, p.36). In Glicksman’s finding, it is easy to conclude that the stress imposed to these transsexuals is caused by the external societal intolerance; inadequately diagnosable to criterion B of Gender Dysphoria.

Although there is no real cause of gender variance, there lacks to be research in the difference of the” intrinsic distress of gender dysphoria from that caused by external societal intolerance” (Winters, 2013, p. 48). The exploration is for hope to find a cause or better treatments to those whom are gender variant without being diagnosed. Gender Dysphoria being diagnosed due to the DSM criterions can be falsely diagnosed due the evidence that Criterion B is leveraged toward significant distress or impairment in important areas of functioning, which is not by the individual but due to societal norms.