The construction of Gender Dysphoria at 'Classifying Sex: Debating DSM-5'

Davy, Zowie (2013) The construction of Gender Dysphoria at 'Classifying Sex: Debating DSM-5'. Psychology of Women Section Review, 15 (2). pp. 63-67. ISSN 1466-3724

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Abstract

On the American Psychiatric Association’s (APA) website the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition (DSM-5), is promoted as the “most comprehensive, current, and critical resource for clinical practice available to today's mental health clinicians and researchers of all orientations” (American Psychiatric Association, 2012a). The manual is ‘comprehensive,’ indeed; it has grown in size since its first edition to over 900 pages in its current DSM 5 incarnation. We could argue as Farley, the former president of the American Psychological Association, does that the DSM authors are contributing to an increase in “the relentless production of disorders and pathologizing of normal extremes” (Gornall, 2013: no page no.) and the facilitating of mental illnesses. In response to the publication of the DSM-5, a two-day conference at the University of Cambridge took place: Classifying Sex: Debating DSM-5, at which discussants debated the potential impact of the manual’s criteria for pathological, paraphilic and by default ‘normal’ sexualities, gender identities, and psychiatric practice. The delegates considered amongst many other topics the role of power and evidence, at least that is how I understood many of the contributions to the debate.

The panel that I was invited to contribute to featured Kenneth Zucker (Chair of the Sexual and Gender Identity Disorders workgroup of DSM-5) to whom I was to critically respond. In this reflective commentary I would like to focus on power and evidence because Zucker has previously described the DSM’s international influence as spreading from clinical care, clinical training to clinical research (Zucker, 2010b). Moreover, in Zucker’s conference talk: The Science and Politics of DSM-5 (Zucker, 2013) it invoked these conceptual frameworks. Zucker’s intriguing first presentation slide read: “Power is the ultimate aphrodisiac (Henry Kissinger 1973).” This was followed by a slide illustrating the sum of publications Zucker and the other Chairs of the DSM-5 working groups had published accompanied by Zucker’s remarks that these publications were part of the reason why they were selected by the APA’s Board of Trustees (BOT) and as Chairs of their respective work groups. This generated in me a sense that power and evidence to support these tangled, conflicting positions of power were being played out in a number of domains, profiting from many tactical partnerships (Foucault, 1998 [1984]): the BOT, the contributors to the working groups, the academe and in some cases the (parents of) patients themselves through data from the clinics.

Keywords:DSM, Gender Dysphoria, Power, Psychiatry, Pathologising, bmjcheck
Subjects:L Social studies > L510 Health & Welfare
L Social studies > L431 Health Policy
L Social studies > L320 Gender studies
B Subjects allied to Medicine > B130 Pathology
Divisions:College of Social Science > School of Health & Social Care
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ID Code:12624
Deposited On:04 Dec 2013 15:46

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