Sunday, May 18, 2008

The Nationwide Attack on Queer and Trans Youth Continues

The systematic assault on queer, trans, and allied youth occurring in the United States may as well be federally sanctioned.

The murder of openly queer eighth grader Lawrence King by a fellow middle school student in February received a mere fraction of the press coverage devoted to similar school shootings. Sadly, I am sure that the circumstances of King’s death were ignored by faculty or teachers at most schools around the nation. I am even more certain that many teachers who knew about King’s death did not inform their students about it, and made similar excuses to some teachers at my school: “Students might get scared by it,” and “they’re so young, they won’t understand, and they will giggle at the word ‘gay’.”

The giggling of middle school students does not typically deter teachers from doing our jobs. But the popular media, the national public education system, and a political climate in which open homophobia is sanctioned don’t exactly encourage teachers to address these instances of hate inside our classrooms.

A public school teacher must swim upstream in order to touch on LGBT issues in any way beyond a simplifying and tokenizing “gay is okay!” – and sometimes that’s even going too far according to parents, or school districts, or administrators in his or her specific school. Educating students about the murder of Lawrence King and the very real, lived repercussions of homophobia and transphobia is an almost impossible sacrifice for individual teachers to make without strong networks of support and mentorship. The lack of discourse in schools about sexuality, gender, and expression that results from such a culture of repression is, quite literally, killing LGBT youth.

Does anybody care about the current status of queer and trans youth in the U.S.? Does nobody see the alarming rate of homelessness among LGBT children, particularly youth of color, in New York City? Does nobody hear about the singling out of queer youth of color by police officers on the Chelsea Piers in Manhattan? Has the plight of LGBT youth in this nation been so successfully erased by the federal government, by law enforcement, and by our schools that nobody in the United States sees what is happening?

Recently, several all-too-familiar faces in the push to invisibilize and dehumanize trans people have popped up, courtesy of the American Psychiatric Association. The APA recently appointed a committee to review and revise the DSM-V, which covers the diagnoses of Gender Identity Disorder. The committee will be headed by none other than Kenneth Zucker, a psychiatrist who is notorious for his efforts to “prevent” transsexuality, which have resulted in a great deal of violence and abusiveness towards trans youth. (See the Torontoist article at and a valuable Bilerico post at for more information on Zucker). The fact that Zucker is still considered qualified to speak as a psychiatrist at all is mind-boggling.

The committee will also include Ray Blanchard, who also has a long history of oppressive pathologization of transsexuality, particularly in trans women. The APA has released statements in the past few days, attempting to reassure those of us who are infuriated by such a blatant attack on trans people. They “explain” that there is absolutely no chance that homosexuality will return to the list of mental disorders. They "explain" that the DSM addresses criteria for the diagnosis of mental disorders, and not treatment recommendations or guidelines. So… everyone should just relax.

What a load of dung.

It looks to me like the APA is trying to cover its own ass by claiming that diagnosing is entirely separate from proscribing treatment for GID, which is ludicrous. No statement by the APA can erase Zucker’s and Blanchard’s deeply upsetting histories of violent transphobia and advocacy of "curing" children by forcibly squashing any indicators of their transsexuality. The APA may attempt to discourage and dissuade potential protesters, but it’s not going to appease my anger. On a daily basis, trans youth in the United States are denied the right to express their gender(s) and are aggressively ripped away from their identities. If Zucker and Blanchard have their way, by 2012 the violences done to trans youth in this nation will not only continue to happen but will be authorized by the APA.

1 comment:

  1. "its not going to appease my anger" yes. right on. great post.