I read an article in the past, which has since been removed, about people using gender identity disorder in court as a defense for criminal action. This made me think more generally about the idea of people having “disorders.” What are the ramifications for giving something like gender dysphoria the label of being a condition or disorder?
On the one hand, I appreciate the label of disorder or condition because it shows the seriousness of gender dysphoria and/or crossdressing addiction. These can become serious problems in a person’s life causing extreme anxiety and distress, and possibly even suicide. They can also cause people to make unwise and risky decisions, with the consequences of losing a marriage or a job. And from personal experience, sometimes when I was crossdressing it was like I would lose my head and couldn’t think clearly. Crossdressers often call this the “pink fog.” So because of the dangers and seriousness of crossdressing and gender dysphoria, giving a label to a condition such as “gender identity disorder” or “transvestism” can be helpful in some ways. People take disorders seriously.
On the other hand, labeling these conditions sometimes helps to give people excuses for their actions. If I have a disability, or gender identity disorder, then I could conclude it’s not my fault, and there is nothing I can do but to act on it and live as the opposite sex.
In our society in general, I think psychologists and the general public love to label too many things in order to explain away sin. Someone is not greedy or selfish, they just have a personality disorder. This person is not an evil murderer, this person is insane and needs psychological treatment. We have a tendency to want to explain all human behavioral problems in terms of conditions and disorders that can be labelled. Even worse, we then think the right counseling or the right drugs will solve these problems and conditions that we have labeled. We are an over-medicated society. They need to take into account the Christian worldview. As Christians, we know that all people are born messed up, broken, and sinful. We all have different problems. We all do sinful things. And we don’t need to give a label of “disorder” to every sin in our lives in order to excuse our actions.
Instead, we take responsibility for what we do. We need to realize we all have some improper desires, and we need to learn how to resist them. We all have tendencies that we need to keep controlled. We all have emotions we have to keep in check. We all have sins that we need to be forgiven for through Jesus.
Of course, I do believe the are real biological conditions that affect people’s behavior. Some of them need to be labelled and treated with drugs, for example depression caused by hormonal imbalances, or schizophrenia. But we should not be so naive and trusting of the psychological community all the time. Counselors so easily diagnose things as a disorder, but how do we know if they are right or if they are just calling a bunch of actions, feelings, or thoughts by a name because they don’t know how to explain it and don’t want to call it “sin”?
Is gender identity disorder a real condition or disorder? I’m not so sure there is a biological cause. This is highly debated of course. Regardless, there is another problem about giving gender dysphoria such a label. Giving it a disorder label gives it more power as a real thing outside the person, like a disease or cancer or something out of their control. The same goes with crossdressing. I’d rather say crossdressing desires are desires that some people develop and need to be resisted because crossdressing is an unhealthy harmful sinful addiction. I’d rather not say someone has a gender identity disorder. I’d rather say someone is confused about their gender and some of their feelings and beliefs about what it means to be masculine or feminine are not correct. If we label either one as a disorder outside the person, then the person has little hope of change. They might feel they should just accept their desires and give in, because there might be no cure for the disorder. But if we just look at the desires as simply desires, we realize we have the freedom to choose which our desires to give in to or not. We can choose our actions and over time even change some of our feelings. We might feel more like a woman than a man, but we do not have to let that feeling control us. We might feel like putting on a dress, but we don’t have to let that desire control us.
If it was proven that gender dysphoria is caused by some kind of biological issue, then a label as a disorder would make a lot of sense. But even if it were proven, this would still not entail suggesting that people start living as the opposite sex. They should still be helped to live as the sex they truly are, but given counseling and compassion to deal with the gender dysphoria that they experience because of the biological condition. Altering their healthy body, having them pretend they are a different sex than they are, and having others view them as that other sex as well, all because of a biological condition causing them dysphoria, that is not a sensible solution. So even if this biological condition was proved someday, my response would be the same as it is now. I have great compassion and mercy for those with gender dysphoria, knowing that they did not choose to have it (whether or not biologically caused, they still did not choose it). So they need our compassion, our listening ears, and we need to help them to be content with the body and sex that they have, and learn to manage the dysphoria as best as they can in an imperfect world. This is what we would do with an anorexic person as well. We would give her great compassion and mercy, but also help her to be content with her body, not giving in to the delusions in her mind.