Being transgender is not a mental illness | Riley J. Dennis

Being transgender is not a mental illness | Riley J. Dennis


Lots of people like to make the claim that
being transgender is a mental illness. Some of these people just straight up hate
trans people and use “mentally ill” as a derogatory meant to insult us. But some of these people have good intentions
and say that being trans is a mental illness because they know that many trans people need
access to hormones and surgeries to feel okay. For the first group, I think they’re just
lashing out because they don’t understand what it means to be transgender, and that’s
scary for them. It’s the same reason people used to say
that all gay people were mentally ill. I mean, there are certainly people who still
believe that today, but it used to be a much more common belief. Homosexuality was even listed in the DSM-2
as a mental disorder. The DSM, by the way, is the American Psychiatric
Association’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, which is the standard used in the US to diagnose people with mental illnesses. If someone is afraid of trans people or gay
people and is determined to believe that they’re all mentally ill, then I don’t think there’s
anything I can say to change their mind. But, for the second group of people, who are
just trying to make sure that trans people still have access to necessary medical care,
I think this is just a misunderstanding of the difference between gender dysphoria and
being transgender. So, to go any further, we need some definitions. And the problem with definitions is that for
every word, there is often a lot of conflicting definitions, and it’s very rare that we
all agree on the same one. Definitions for certain words can vary widely
between dictionaries, and words that have recently gained new meanings or connotations
might not be accurately described in every dictionary. Dictionaries are meant to describe how we
use language, not dictate how we use it. Often, when it comes to a field with rapidly-evolving
language, like transgender issues, our best bet is listening to the experts in that field
who have come up with the most accurate definitions possible based on their experiences. With all of that being said, we need to decide
on definitions for the word “transgender” and the phrase “gender dysphoria”. Let’s start with transgender. This is the Oxford Dictionaries’ definition
of transgender. “Denoting or relating to a person whose
sense of personal identity and gender does not correspond with their birth sex.” You’ll notice this definition doesn’t
include any kind of binary, which leaves room for non-binary transgender people. We’ll talk about that more in just a minute. This is Dictionary.com’s definition of transgender:
“noting or relating to a person whose gender identity does not correspond to that person’s
biological sex assigned at birth.” You’ll notice that this definition is also
not binary. And this is the Merriam-Webster’s definition
of transgender: “of, relating to, or being a person whose gender identity differs from the sex the person had or was identified as having at birth.” And it also includes an older, more binary
definition, which is: “of, relating to, or being a person whose gender identity is opposite the sex the person had or was identified as having at birth.” There are small discrepancies between all
three of these. The Oxford Dictionaries says “birth sex”
instead of “sex assigned at birth” or “sex the person was identified as having
at birth”. And the Merriam-Webster includes a definition
that is more binary than the other two because it says that a gender identity can be “opposite”
of another gender identity. But those are just dictionaries. How do the experts and trans rights groups
define being transgender? Well, the American Psychiatric Association’s
definition of transgender is: “The broad spectrum of individuals who transiently or
persistently identify with a gender different from their natal gender.” The National Center for Transgender Equality’s
definition is: “Transgender people are people whose gender identity is different from the
gender they were thought to be at birth.” And GLAAD’s definition of transgender is:
“A term used to describe people whose gender identity differs from the sex they were assigned
at birth.” So what does all of this mean? It means that we can’t agree on a single
definition of what it means to be transgender. But, these definitions do all have a lot of
in common. Most of them agree that being transgender
doesn’t fall within a binary, which means that non-binary people can be transgender
because they identify with a gender that is different from the one they were assigned
at birth. Most of these definitions agree that a person
has an “assigned gender at birth” rather than a gender they were born as. And all of them agree that it is a self-identification
— it’s a way that people identify themselves. So I would argue that the best definition
of transgender is: “An umbrella term used to describe people who don’t identify with
the gender they were assigned at birth.” And now that we have a definition for transgender,
we need a definition for gender dysphoria. This is the definition given by the Oxford Dictionaries, but the problem with this definition is that it’s binary. It says that people can only identify as male or female, and it positions them as opposites of each other. We’ll get more into the binary stuff in
a second, but first, let’s look at a couple other dictionary definitions. This is the Merriam-Webster definition, which
doesn’t use binary language at all and calls gender dysphoria a “distressed state”
or a “psychological disorder”. The problem with this is that, technically, gender dysphoria is not classified as a disorder anymore. In the DSM-4, gender dysphoria was called
Gender Identity Disorder. But when the APA came out with the DSM-5 in
2013, they dropped Gender Identity Disorder and added Gender Dysphoria. They were very clear that Gender Dysphoria
is not a disorder, and this change was made with the intent of depathologizing that experience. And lastly, this is the Dictionary.com definition,
which also doesn’t use binary language and describes gender dysphoria as a psychological
condition rather than a disorder. So, when it comes to gender dysphoria, dictionaries
really don’t agree with each other. But when talking about gender dysphoria, we really need a solid definition that everyone can agree on. The best place we can go to for that is the
professional organization that actually diagnoses gender dysphoria: the American Psychiatric
Association. In the DSM-5, the newest edition of the DSM,
the APA says, “Gender dysphoria refers to the distress that may accompany the incongruence
between one’s experienced or expressed gender and one’s assigned gender. Although not all individuals will experience
distress as a result of such incongruence, many are distressed if the desired physical
interventions by means of hormones and/or surgery are not available.” You’ll notice that this definition is not
binary, and that’s because the APA believes that gender non-binary people can experience
gender dysphoria. That’s why the Oxford Dictionaries’ binary
definition seems outdated. When diagnosing gender dysphoria, the APA
doesn’t say anything about the “opposite gender”; in fact, they say “the other
gender or some alternative gender”, intentionally making room for non-binary identities. This is the criteria for diagnosing gender
dysphoria in children, and this is the criteria for diagnosing gender dysphoria in adolescents
and adults. In both cases, the person needs to have experienced
an incongruence between their experienced gender and assigned gender for at least 6
months, and that has to be associated with “clinically significant distress or impairment in social, school, occupational or other important areas of functioning.” For children, they have to experience at least
6 of their 8 criteria, and for adolescents and adults, they have to experience at least
2 of their 6 criteria. So you’ll notice that the requirements for
being diagnosed with gender dysphoria are pretty strict. This is where I want to make a distinction
between Gender Dysphoria as a medical diagnosis, and gender dysphoria as a thing that people
experience. Because you can have feelings of gender dysphoria
without hitting all of the criteria for a diagnosis. For instance, if someone has feelings of gender dysphoria for less than 6 months, they won’t be diagnosed. If someone feels distress but not a “clinically significant” amount of distress, they won’t be diagnosed. But that feeling of distress, whether diagnosable
or not, is gender dysphoria. So let’s set aside Gender Dysphoria as a
diagnosis for a second and just talk about gender dysphoria as a thing that people feel
and experience. Here’s the APA’s definition again, and
this is where I need to clarify another thing. I think a common misconception when talking
about gender dysphoria is that people think it means the incongruence between your experienced
gender and assigned gender. However, it’s really talking specifically
about the distress associated with that incongruence. So, as the APA says, you can experience an
incongruence between your experienced gender and your assigned gender without experiencing
distress related to that. And that’s why there are some trans people
who don’t experience gender dysphoria. Because they feel an incongruence between
their gender and the gender they were assigned at birth, but they don’t feel distress over it. And gender dysphoria isn’t the incongruence
itself, it’s the distress caused by the incongruence. All trans people experience some kind of incongruence
between their gender and the gender they were assigned at birth — that’s kinda the definition
of being transgender — but their levels of distress because of that can vary wildly. Some trans people experience very significant
distress, some experience mild distress, and some don’t experience any distress at all. So, given the definitions of what it means
to be transgender and what gender dysphoria is, I think it’s pretty clear that they’re
different things. The definition of transgender doesn’t say anything about distress, which is what gender dysphoria is. So while lots of transgender people do have
gender dysphoria, it’s not a requirement for being transgender. But, look, I understand why people might get
defensive about trans people who don’t have gender dysphoria or who have less severe gender
dysphoria being included in the definition of transgender. For a lot of trans people with severe gender
dysphoria, they feel like they suffered, and they had to go through all this trauma, so
every other trans person does as well. And for some cis people, they see other trans
people suffering, and they think that that has to apply to all trans people. It’s like suffering has become a rite of
passage, where some trans people want to make sure that every other trans person suffers
the same way they did. But I really think the goal here should be
to minimize suffering, not to push for it to continue. We should be happy if trans people are suffering
less. Just because some trans people suffer in a
particular way, doesn’t mean that all trans people will suffer in that same way. It’s even possible that some trans people
suffer without talking about it. But either way, I think it’s pretty messed
up if you have to prove that you’ve suffered an arbitrarily significant amount to be considered
a True Trans person. That’s not an official definition anywhere,
and I’m glad that it’s not. Basing an identity on how much you suffer
seems like a pretty bad idea to me. Imagine if we only let people identify as
gay if they proved that they suffered from pretending to be straight earlier in their
lives. That would be ridiculous. The goal should be to make people feel accepted
in their gender or their sexuality as early as possible so that we can get rid of or at
least minimize their suffering. So, gender dysphoria and being transgender
are not the same thing. They often go together, but they are not synonymous. Now, okay, what about trans people who have
such severe gender dysphoria that they are officially diagnosed with Gender Dysphoria
under the DSM-5. Are they all mentally ill? Well, not exactly. There’s no clear answer on if medically
diagnosed Gender Dysphoria is a mental illness or not. And this probably won’t surprise you, but
we can’t even agree on a definition for what mental illness is. Here is the definition from the Oxford Dictionaries,
which says that mental illness is a disorder. But, as we’ve gone over before, it’s widely
accepted that Gender Dysphoria is not a disorder. Here is the definition from the Merriam-Webster,
which is very broad and could include almost any kind of mental health condition that affects
your everyday life. And here is the Dictionary.com definition,
which says that mental illness is only used to describe psychosis or severe neurosis. And Gender Dysphoria is definitely not either
of those things. But, of course, those are just dictionaries. Here is the APA’s definition of a mental
illness, which is more broad and pretty similar to the Merriam-Webster definition. However, the APA doesn’t seem to call Gender
Dysphoria a mental illness. But it also doesn’t seem to say that it
isn’t. And other organizations have differing views
as well. The UK’s National Health Service says plainly
on their website that Gender Dysphoria is not a mental illness. So, I don’t think we can get a clear answer
out of all of this, and I don’t think we need one. If a trans person feels that that the term
mental illness describes their experience with Gender Dysphoria, that’s totally okay. And if a different trans person experiences
their Gender Dysphoria in a way that doesn’t feel like a mental illness to them, that’s
okay too. This is obviously a field where terminology
is developing quickly, and mental illness might have different connotations for some
people than it does for others. Just a few years ago, we were calling this
a disorder. So who knows what we’ll be calling it in
another few years. For now, diagnosed Gender Dysphoria can be
a mental illness, but it doesn’t have to be. So, to recap, being trans is not a mental
illness, but a lot trans people have gender dysphoria, and some of those people have severe
enough gender dysphoria that it can be diagnosed, and some of those people experience their
diagnosed gender dysphoria as a mental illness. At this point, I think there are some people
out there who would like to point out that the World Health Organization currently classifies
transgender identity as a mental disorder in their International Classification of Diseases. However, the current version, the ICD-10,
was released in 1990, so it’s a little outdated. The WHO is currently working on the ICD-11,
which is expected to be released in 2018, and for that version, they will most likely
be depathologizing transgender identity in a way that is similar to how the APA handled
it when moving from the DSM-4 to the DSM-5. The reason the WHO is doing this is because
transgender identity itself doesn’t meet the criteria for being considered a mental
disorder. Study after study has found that the number
one reason that trans people suffer is a lack of social acceptance, not anything inherent
to their identity. One study from 2016 in The Lancet Psychiatry
journal found that, for trans people, “Distress and dysfunction were very common, but not
universal, and were more strongly predicted by experiences of social rejection and violence
than by gender incongruence, consistent with the perspective that these reflect the result
of stigmatisation and maltreatment rather than integral aspects of transgender identity.” Another study from 2012 found that having
supportive parents was a huge factor in whether trans youth were depressed or attempted suicide. For trans youth with unsupportive parents,
75% experienced depressive symptoms. For trans youth with supportive parents, that
number was only 23%. Likewise, for trans youth with unsupportive
parents, 57% attempted suicide. For trans youth with supportive parents, that
number dropped all the way to 4%. Transgender people are more likely to commit
suicide than cisgender people. The National Transgender Discrimination Survey
found that in 2011, 41% of trans people had attempted suicide, compared to only 1.6% of
the general population. But remember that that’s a correlation and
not a causation. Being trans doesn’t inherently make people
suicidal, but being bullied and harassed and misgendered and attacked does often make people
suicidal. The problem is societal stigma and lack of
acceptance, not transgender identities. Like if society at large decided to hate some
random group of people, that group wouldn’t suddenly be mentally ill — they would be
the victims of discrimination. And even in the instances where Gender Dysphoria
does require treatment, the most effective treatment is transitioning. That looks different for different people. There are a bunch of different ways of transitioning,
from social things like changing your name or pronouns, to medical things like taking
hormones or having surgery. Letting people transition in the way they
want to transition eases their gender dysphoria and makes them happier. It’s really simple. Trying to convince trans people that they’re
not really trans — you know, conversion therapy — that just does not work, and it only causes
them to suffer more. I hope all of that made sense and explained
why being trans is not a mental illness. You can check out my sources and some links
for additional reading in the description below. Thank you so much for watching this video,
and I’ll see you next time.

100 thoughts on “Being transgender is not a mental illness | Riley J. Dennis

  1. how much you wanna bet a bunch of people are gonna not watch the video, not look at my sources, and just be like "but i think being trans is a mental illness because i feel like it is!" 😒 don't bother engaging with those people. they won't listen to facts or logic.

    also, this video was super time consuming to research and edit, and it will probably barely make any money through ads. if you'd like to support the production of more videos like this, please consider donating to my patreon or paypal ✨

    patreon: https://www.patreon.com/rileyjaydennis
    paypal: https://www.paypal.me/RileyJayDennis

    and if you can't afford to donate, that's totally fine too 😊 sharing this video would help out a lot though! thanks everyone 💕

  2. i love you i love you i love you i love you i love you i love you i love you you're an amazing well spoken woman and i'm so glad you use your platform well.

  3. This is why I really want science and social stuff to be seperated
    Objectively it is a disorder, however socially you shouldn't treat trans people with disrespect or not accept their way of life
    But you don't treat someone with a disorder with disrespect… so it's confusing

  4. Then why are you required to see a psychologist before transitioning? The discrepancy between your gender and scientifically measurable reality is in your head, so it certainly looks factual that it is a delusion existing in your head.

  5. But it really is though, look, I've had a gender identity issue some years ago. I would stand in front of the mirror and I couldn't recognize the person looking back at me. It made me feel insecure and depressed and I didn't know what to do with it. I cried often and I literally just didn't want to do anything anymore. But after a while, a couple years, this feeling faded away and I felt comfortable being me again. So, all in all, it was in my head, it was because of all these transgenders putting that thought into my head that made me develop this disorder. It is the moment that I kept telling myself these thoughts were ridiculous that I eventually started believing it.

  6. You have to have dysphoria to be trans!! If you don’t have gender dysphoria there is no way that you can possibly be trans!

  7. 21% percent of Americans believe that Transgender is a disorder.

    Both sides of the argument is absurd. We are just going to need for that new report by professionals to come out somewhere in 2018.
    Let’s see who is correct 🙂

    I’m not Transgender, but I don’t care, just be you. UGH!

    Edit: Don’t even think about complaining about it’s a disorder or if it’s not we (humans)are not sure.

  8. I agree with all the statements mentioned, but I don't understand how you can experience incongruence between your gender and one's assigned at birth and don't experience distress because of it at the same time

  9. It's all about sex and how society has decided to react to this… the other day the WHO decided to dropp this but Body integrity identity is still a disorder because it doesn't have the organization and political support as the former. So… it seems that it's all about what Society, and not science, rules and determines what's acceptable.

  10. For future reference, please consult the ICD-10, the diagnostic system used in pretty much everywhere else in the world outside the US…

  11. Look: I worked with a trans person he to she. She had her penis removed and a month later she ended her life! She didn’t need her penis removed she needed psychological help 😢

  12. I do have a question- I am a woman I don’t know what it feels like to be a woman because I am a woman and never felt anything other than that. What does it feel like to be a woman when you were not born in that body ?

  13. Thank you for posting this. As a trans person whose only experiences with dysphoria came as a direct result of ill treatment by their parents (i.e. "boys don't like to sit in the house and draw pictures, that's girl stuff, you will get outside, you will play with your hot wheels in the hot sun like I did when I was your age, and you will like it and enjoy it or I'll BEAT THE EVERLIVING SHIT OUT OF YOU!!!!!one" – in other words, my parents were crazy), it's refreshing to see someone using various dictionary definitions as well as medical and psychiatric definitions to calmly explain that having gender dysphoria is not a requirement to be trans, nor is being trans or having gender dysphoria a mental illness. While drawing pictures in my bedroom never felt like a "girl" thing to me and I have identified solely as male for the majority of my life (I had some hints when I was younger, such as wondering at the age of 15 when my boobs were going to sprout, but I never "felt female," as it were, during those years), a few years back I noticed that there are quite a few feminine traits in me, including some phantom body parts that aren't normally present on guys. And sometimes, to some friends online, I refer to myself in the feminine. But aside from the monstrous behavior of my parents, I never really had any reason to be distressed by the incongruence of my assigned gender with my gender identity. I am comfortable with my masculine body and my feminine "aura," I suppose you could call it. There are too many gatekeepers in the world who want to dictate what I can and can't be based upon their own biases and experiences, and they really cause a lot of problems.

    Sad, though, that you've gotten so many dislikes. Can't be because you were drama-mongering, because you weren't. You were calm, you quoted several dictionaries and referred to multiple studies by medical professionals… in short, you "did your homework." Why this is deemed to be so "bad" is beyond my comprehension.

  14. I’m proud of every disillusioned person who agrees that this is an illness. Clearly a spiritual disease too because listen to the justification for unnatural desires. 🤦🏻‍♀️🙄

  15. Who is more trusted Karen with red hair that scream a lot and had no schooling or a doctor that went to school for 8+ years

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