Transgender Therapy

2 min
at 10:43 PM

For a long time, the practice of psychiatry was to treat children who identified with a gender other than their genetic makeup as if they had a disorder and the Diagnostic Manual labeled it as such: 'Gender Identity Disorder'.

When the work on the new DSM V spilled over into public debate, the head of the committee, an experienced and influential researcher from Toronto, argued that what "comes closest to being a necessary variable for these children is that there was a parent (read here 'mother') fostering this belief." Most of these young children were boys. He argued that even if children were born that way, gender was malleable, and therapy needed. It was important to change the child's views, before adolescence.

Therapy involved getting the family to encourage the child to play only with masculine toys and strongly encourage play with boys. Also, the child was in therapy to help him understand what problem in his life he was attempting to solve by a wish to be of the other gender -- a conundrum for any person in therapy when the therapist starts from a particular belief, which likely is wrong.

Last month, it was announced that the Toronto psychologist was no longer affiliated with the clinic, which is being closed.

In the Bay area there is a large group of therapists who believe along with other major clinics in the world that what is needed is to accept and support the child as they come to understand who they are. We differ from some in that we , when appropriate, support a child's changing gender, even at a young
age.

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As many as one in 200 adults say they are transgender, and we are seeing many more children questioning their assigned gender, so the development in Toronto is welcome as many children will be
spared having to convince us of what we take for granted about ourselves.

With a Perspective, I am Herb Schreier.

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Dr. Herb Schreier works for the Department of Psychiatry at the Children's Hospital Research Center in Oakland.

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