Family Research Council

The Transgender Movement and 'Gender Identity' in the Law

By Peter Sprigg Senior Fellow for Policy Studies

Virtually all people have a biological sex, identifiable at birth and immutable through life, which makes them either male or female. The transgender movement represents a denial of this physical reality.

A Mental Disorder

The belief that one is, or the desire to be, of a different “gender identity” from one’s biological sex has long been recognized as a mental disorder.[i] Psychiatrist Sander Breiner declares, “[W]hen an adult who is normal in appearance and functioning believes there is something ugly or defective in their appearance . . . there is a psychological problem.”[ii] Another psychiatrist, Rick Fitzgibbons, calls it “a fixed false belief . . . specifically a delusion.”[iii] Psychiatrist Paul McHugh declares, “It is a disorder of the mind. Not a disorder of the body.”[iv]

Those who choose not to live with the “gender identity” that corresponds to their biological sex are known as “transgender” persons. (Note: The tiny number of persons who are “intersexed”—born with a mix of male and female genetic or biological characteristics—are in a separate category and are not considered “transgender.”[v])

After extensive lobbying by transgender activists, the American Psychiatric Association changed the diagnosis of “Gender Identity Disorder” to “Gender Dysphoria” in 2013. It remains on the list of disorders, though, because, “To get insurance coverage for the medical treatments, individuals need a diagnosis.”[vi]

Causes and Treatment of “Gender Dysphoria”

While causality is difficult to determine, those who identify as transgender are more likely to have been victims of child sexual abuse or to have a history of trauma, loss, and family disruption.[vii]

Susan Bradley, M.D. and Kenneth J. Zucker of the University of Toronto, leading experts in gender dysphoria in children, have declared that “clinicians should be optimistic, not nihilistic, about the possibility of helping the children to become more secure in their gender identity.”[viii] Psychiatrists have reported that gender dysphoria often occurs with other mental health problems in adults, and that it “improved in parallel during treatment” for those conditions.[ix]

“Gender Reassignment” Surgery

Full transition involves hormone treatments, breast surgery (removal or implants), other cosmetic surgery, genital reconstruction, and a change of personal identification. However, not every person seeking to live as the other sex will undergo surgery.[x]

These surgical procedures are not always successful and can be extremely painful.[xi] A lifetime of hormone treatments can also have profound physical and psychological consequences.[xii] Psychiatrist Jon Meyer concluded that “surgery is not a proper treatment for a psychiatric disorder and it is clear to me that these patients have severe psychological problems that do not go away following surgery.”[xiii] High rates of suicide exist even among those who have already received gender reassignment surgery, which suggests that suicidal tendencies result from an underlying pathology.[xiv]

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