The word “dissent” is usually associated with those courageous opponents of the Soviet regime during the Cold War but may well be applied now to psychologists and psychiatrists opposed to strange diagnoses. Dissidents usually state unpleasant truths and are silenced by denunciation, ostracism, or imprisonment. While dissident psychologists are unlikely to be sent to a physical gulag, they are sent instead to a social one wherever ideology infiltrates the profession. The important thing is that there are dissident psychologists who are willing to risk it.
Recently, some psychologists and psychiatrists publicly disagreed with the heavy lobbying by activists to normalize Gender Identity Disorder (GID) by removing it from the category of “disorder.” The most recent edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorder, volume 5—the DSM5, used the world over—says transgender individuals wanting to change gender are no longer disordered but have Gender Dysphoria; that is, they display “a marked incongruence between their experienced/expressed gender and assigned gender.” This is a huge change. It means that transgender persons don’t feel well in their current identity as a man or woman, like you don’t feel well if you have a headache, but they are not disordered. But many psychologists know that this is just not true. GID does exist and deserves compassionate treatment as a mental health problem.
It is important to realize that our understanding of disorders does change over time. In the nineteenth century, many were diagnosed with “hysteria,” but psychologists came to think better of it; later on, some believed lobotomies would help people and we know that was very wrong and they were stopped; and now some think there are any number of genders and that this is perfectly normal. But this is changing something we had right in the first place. Of course, no one has to swear total undying allegiance to the DSM5—but psychologists and psychiatrists are expected to accept most of what it says, so that there is a general “consensus” on what is a disorder or not. This works reasonably well with major disorders such as bi-polar disorder or schizophrenia, but the recent politically-motivated removal of GID from the diagnostic manual has caused unusually high levels of division among psychiatrists and psychologists.
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One prominent dissident is Paul McHugh, American, Catholic, and very forceful in his critique. Formerly chief of psychiatry at Johns Hopkins Hospital, McHugh had worked on the original sex-change project set up there in the 1960s before he had second thoughts. Yes, here is a psychiatrist who admitted he was wrong. He came to see the dire consequences for those swept along by the transgender agenda, saying that the focus on fluid gender “has taken on cult-like features,” has “its own special lingo” and “Internet chat rooms providing slick answers to new recruits, and clubs for easy access to dresses and styles supporting the sex change.” McHugh even alarmed some members of the chattering classes for a while by quoting results from long-term research on the consequences of sex-change operations:
Most shockingly, their [i.e., the transgenders’] suicide mortality rose almost 20-fold above the comparable non-transgender population. This disturbing result has as yet no explanation but probably reflects the growing sense of isolation reported by the aging transgendered after surgery. The high suicide rate certainly challenges the surgery prescription.
In 1979, McHugh shut down the gender identity clinic at Johns Hopkins, explaining that a study found that most of the people who had undergone this type of surgery “had much the same problems with relationships, work, and emotions as before. The hope that they would emerge now from their emotional difficulties to flourish psychologically had not been fulfilled.” Surgical treatment for transgender youth, he added, is like performing liposuction on an anorexic child. He described post-operative transgender women as “caricatures of women” because the surgery “failed to change many of their male traits,” and believed that the transgendered suffer a disorder of assumption. He stated, after examining the evidence painstakingly, that:
With these facts in hand I concluded that Hopkins was fundamentally cooperating with a mental illness. We psychiatrists, I thought, would do better to concentrate on trying to fix their minds and not their genitalia.
Another American psychiatrist, Dr Richard Fitzgibbons, reached similar conclusions, stating that reassignment surgery is a “category mistake,” offering a surgical solution for psychological problems, and more importantly, can endanger people’s lives. He notes that the largest study to date of the long-term psychological state of post-SRS (Surgical Reassignment Surgery) persons was an analysis of over three hundred people who had undergone surgery in Sweden over the past thirty years. This 2011 study demonstrated that persons after sex reassignment have considerably higher risks for mortality, suicidal behavior, and psychiatric morbidity than the general population. In his comprehensive study of the existing literature on the subject, Fitzgibbons also notes that, within certain subgroups, youth acquire more status by being transgender than being gay and a connection between autism and transsexual thinking has been found.
Another psychologist, William Kilpatrick, states that in his view, “delusional thinking has become a main feature of the modern mind” and that it is tragic that not only are youth entangled in it but it also has been taken up by professionals who should know better. In a recent article entitled “The Normalization of Delusional Thinking,” he states:
All of a sudden, a significant percentage of our social and intellectual elites have succumbed to the delusion that a girl can be a boy, and a boy can be a girl, or whatever he, she, ne, ze, zir currently desires to be. This is not merely a rebellion against social convention, it’s a rebellion against reality.
If this rebellion was personal or localized, it could be contained. But as Kilpatrick (along with Canadian psychologist Jordan Peterson) notes, there is a more sinister motivation: it is evidence of a creeping totalitarianism ensnaring Western institutions and disciplines. There are authorities in Western societies who want to punish those who fail to honor the delusion—even authorities in the psychology profession. The punishment is taking the form of public denunciation, deregistration, and legal charges in some cases. Here psychiatry and psychology, as in Soviet times, are being coerced into accepting the new political orthodoxy, and denunciations on mainstream media always help to undermine resistance. However, the dissidents mentioned above, and several others (Australian psychologists among them), have stood firm and refuse to accept the delusions.
A young boy on the Australian program 60 Minutes, 14-year-old Patrick Mitchell, became a powerful witness to recovery from his transgender process. Patrick indeed had an identity problem, saying of his confusion, “I didn’t know who the person staring back at me was.” After being diagnosed with Gender Dysphoria and after a year of taking body-altering hormones, he says that one day he woke up and realized he did not need to change genders, saying, “I realized that I could be happy without completely changing who I am.” Commenting on Patrick’s situation, Professor John Whitehall of Western Sydney University said that the call for transsexual surgery was a call for help to deal with the underlying psychological illness, but gender ideologues are making matters worse by normalizing an illness and calling it health. His words echoed those of Dr. Michelle Cretella, president of the American College of Pediatricians, who believes that approving the erroneous gender categorization of those afflicted with Gender Dysphoria is a form of psychological abuse.
So-called “professionals” may disagree but young Patrick did us all a favor; he stated the truth that just because you may feel like a different gender does not mean you are. If they actually cared about the health and well-being of those diagnosed with Gender Dysphoria, gender activists would do well to listen to him. And the dissident psychologists can quote him to other youths, giving them hope that there are remedies when identity conflicts beset them, without body-altering surgery. Truth has a way of eventually triumphing over noisy attempts to deny it. With the help of the dissenters, others like Patrick will come to learn this, too.