from Gender Identity Disorders
The A.P.A. Monitor recently ran a story describing the growing conflict over the diagnosis of Childhood Gender-Identity Disorder. The article, "Researchers Probe Factors Behind Gender Disorders" in the June 1997 issue, should be of considerable interest to NARTH psychotherapists.
One of the interview subjects was Kenneth Zucker, Ph.D., Director of the Child and Adolescent Gender-Identity Clinic at the Clarke Institute of Psychiatry in Toronto, and author of the 1995 book, Gender Identity Disorder and Psychosexual Problems in Children and Adolescents. Dr. Zucker is a prominent defender of treatment for this disorder.
The Monitor describes the type of scenario that brings a GID child into treatment:
"A mother walks into her bedroom and finds her 4-year-old son smearing lipstick on his mouth and wearing her high heels. A 6-year-old girl spends all her time playing with boys, and repeatedly says she wants to be a man when she grows up."
Parents react in one of two ways to these youngsters, says Dr. Zucker; either they see the behavior as acceptable--dismissing it as a stage the child will outgrow, or even a sign that they've done a good job and raised their child in a "progressive" manner--or else they see the behavior as a problem.
Such behavior signals the need for a clinical evaluation, according to Dr. Zucker. Many other psychologists, however, dismiss such behavior as normal.
Gender-atypical behaviors and a pervasive dissatisfaction with one's gender are not only indications of GID, but forerunners for the development of homosexuality and bisexuality. Psychiatrist Richard Green, M.D., direct of research at Charing Cross Hospital in London, reported in a study of 44 GID boys-- most of whom had not been treated--that nearly 80% became gay or bisexual, according to the Monitor.
Clinical estimates put the instance of GID at about one child in 1,000. Research is showing that "As these youngsters grow into adolescence and adulthood, their ambivalent gender status sometimes translates into sexual preference for the same gender, or into less sexual interest in the opposite sex," the Monitor reported.
Dr. Zucker says hormonal disorders and imbalances may explain some of these anomalies, but parents can also influence their child's gender behavior. Depression in the mother, or a parent's preference for a child of the opposite sex, he says, can lead to abnormal gender behaviors in the child.
Treatment of childhood GID is under attack by some gay and feminist advocacy groups, which are pushing to have the diagnosic category deleted. These critics claim that efforts to change gender behavior represent nothing more than homophobia in the parents--that is, bias against homosexuality as evidenced by an attempt to prevent its development in their child. These critics say it is not the child that should change, but society--which should affirm a wide range of cross-gender behaviors as well as homosexuality and lesbianism--so then there will be no need for a parent to seek treatment for his child.
Clinton Anderson, the American Psychological Association's officer for gay and lesbian concerns, is one of the outspoken critics of a treatment for the GID diagnosis.
Dr. Zucker defends retention of the diagnosis. His priority is "helping these kids be happily male or female," but he also acknowledges that the treatment process does, in some cases, apparently avert homosexual development.
Studies by Dr. Zucker and other researchers show that children with GID have more psychological problems in two ways; with their own dysfunctional families, and in their peer relationships. Dr. Zucker focuses on the children's unhappiness; GID boys, in particular, tend to suffer depression and withdrawal. Preschool children with GID also show a high rate of insecure attachment.
The article reports that APA's Committee on Lesbian, Gay and Bisexual Concerns and the Committee on Women are currently discussing the GID diagnosis, and will draft a resolution to depathologize childhood gender-identity disorder. The resolution will go to APA's Council of Representatives, and possibly to the American Psychiatric Association for consideration in its next interim revision of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, according to A.P.A.'s Clinton Anderson as reported by the Monitor.