Transgender men and women no longer have mental diseases in France! Thanks to last month’s declassification, French health officials no longer categorize transgenderism alongside bi-polar disorder. This is great news, right?
For the most part yes, because it’ll help removes the stigma of being transgender — at least in the medical community. And such a move can also reverberate across cultural and societal lines. But the debate in the U.S., at least, about whether transsexual people have a “gender identity disorder” is often one of logistics. If it’s classified as a disorder, private health insurance and Medicaid can be required to pay for treatments. But if it isn’t a medically intertwined situation, good luck getting the government to pay for your hormone shots.
And even in France, the declassification doesn’t suddenly make it easy to be transgender there: “In practice, the declaration will do little to improve their legal or medical rights in the country. For example, transsexuals are still required to have a sex-change operation before they can change their gender in the eyes of the law. And to get the green light for surgery, they must still undergo extensive medical and psychiatric evaluations. ‘It’s a symbolic victory,’ says Georges-Louis Tin, president of the Paris-based IDAHO committee, which fights homophobia and what it calls ‘transphobia,’ or discrimination against transsexuals. ‘Transsexuals are no longer mentally ill,’ he says. ‘They’re normal citizens. But we haven’t yet reached the point where they’re allowed to make their own decisions instead of depending on doctors and psychiatrists.’”
Which for many (most?) transgender people is really the larger issue. Being forced to undergo surgery (and, thus, become sterile) in order to just get a driver’s license with your correct gender on it is one of those day-to-day obstacles. What doctors write about you in a textbook is not.