Press

NGLTF Statement On Gender Identity Disorder

Date: 
December 13, 1996

The following statement on Gender Identify Disorder and transgender people by the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force (NGLTF) was prepared by Robert Bray, NGLTF communications director. The statement itself is attributable to Kerry Lobel, NGLTF executive director. Prior to the statement is background information and additional resources.

Background

The subject of Gender Identify Disorder (GID) has emerged in the media and within the gay and lesbian movement as transgender visibility and activism continues to grow. GID is listed in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM), published by the American Psychiatric Association (APA).

While some transgender people use a GID diagnosis to qualify for hormone treatment, surgery and, in limited cases, anti-discrimination protections based on disability, the diagnosis can be used to pathologize transgender people and "gender-variant" youth -- i.e., those children who exhibit behavior that may be viewed as "pre-homosexual" or "pre-transsexual." GID is a controversial subject that deserves sensitive treatment. It has broad implications for the civil rights, health and well-being of transgender people.

NGLTF has worked in conjunction with Transexual Menace, International Conference on Transgender Law and Employment (ICTLEP), National Center for Lesbian Rights (NCLR), International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission, FTM (Female-To-Male) International, Intersex Society of North America ("Hermaphrodites With Attitude"), International Foundation For Gender Education, GenderPAC, BiNet USA, Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation, and other gay/lesbian/bi/transgender organizations and individuals on the subject of transgenderism, transgender visibility in our society, and GID.

A useful resource on GID and its use against children is the in-depth "Information Sheet" produced by National Center For Lesbian Rights staff attorney Shannon Minter, 415-392-6257, shanminter@aol.com. A copy of the joint NCLR and International Conference on Transgender Law and Employment Policy (ICTLEP) statement on GID may also be obtained from Shannon Minter at NCLR. The City of San Francisco Human Rights Commission recently passed a proclamation opposing the use of GID against children by the APA. For a copy, contact the Commission at (415)252-2500. Transexual Menace has background information, a Q&A and other facts about GID and transgenders; contact Riki Anne Wilchins, (212)645-1753, riki@pipeline.com.

As NCLR and ICTLEP point out, there is a growing number of jurisdictions with civil rights policies that prohibit discrimination against transgendered people without reference to GID. These include the state of Minnesota and well as its cities, Minneapolis and St. Paul; San Francisco and Santa Cruz, Calif.; Seattle, Wash.; and Cedar Rapids, Iowa. In addition, the European Court of Justice recently held that employment discrimination against transsexual people violates the fundamental human right to be free of discrimination based on sex. Many transgender activists believe these laws represent the beginning of a new era in transgender liberation -- a time in which they can attain equality and health care not through a diagnosis of "mental illness," but through a progressive and comprehensive civil rights agenda.

NGLTF Statement

The following statement is attributable to Kerry Lobel, NGLTF executive director.

"NGLTF is sensitive to the differences of opinion within the transgender community on GID and the implications of GID on insurance payments, civil rights and other issues of concern to transgender people. Thus, instead of supporting wholesale GID eradication, we support GID reform. Reform means another diagnosis -- possibly medical -- that does not pathologize transgender people or gender-variant youth and children. Reform also means increased funding for research on transgenderism and full participation by transgender people in policy decisions that affect their lives.

"We are particularly concerned with the use of GID against children. Gender-variant youth, whether they grow up to be gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgendered or not, should not be stigmatized or mistreated because of a GID diagnosis.

"The struggle for transgender people in 1996 invokes the struggle of gay and lesbian people in the early Seventies when the National Gay Task Force (NGTF) was successful in helping remove homosexuality as a mental disease. We are aware that transsexual people have unique concerns in their lives, including medical treatments such as hormones and surgery, that are different from being gay or lesbian. However, we believe no one -- whether gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender or intersex (hermaphrodite) -- should have to accept being pathologized as mentally ill in order to attain wholeness, completeness and civil equality.

"NGLTF strongly supports civil rights protections and affordable health care for transgenders. We loathe discrimination and violence perpetrated against transgenders and stand in solidarity with transgender people in their struggle for visibility, inclusion, equality and justice."

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The mission of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force is to build the political power of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community from the ground up. We do this by training activists, organizing broad-based campaigns to defeat anti-LGBT referenda and advance pro-LGBT legislation, and by building the organizational capacity of our movement. Our Policy Institute, the movement’s premier think tank, provides research and policy analysis to support the struggle for complete equality and to counter right-wing lies. As part of a broader social justice movement, we work to create a nation that respects the diversity of human expression and identity and creates opportunity for all. Headquartered in Washington, D.C., we also have offices in New York City, Los Angeles, Miami, Minneapolis and Cambridge.