Feb 07

“You’re in the Wrong Bathroom!”: Transgender Myths

This is the book every trans ally needs to read this year. Cristina Arreola, Bustle, 2017, regarding “You’re in the Wrong Bathroom!,” a book that presents myths about transgender individuals

“You’re in the Wrong Bathroom!”: And 20 Other Myths and Misconceptions About Transgender and Gender-Nonconforming People, by psychiatrist Laura Erickson-Schroth and therapist Laura A. Jacobs, aims to educate people about some frequently held but misguided beliefs on this topic.

How do the authors, for instance, counter the title’s implied trans myth? With the important fact that “there are no documented cases of trans people assaulting anyone in a bathroom. Ever. In fact, trans people are far more likely to be victims of violence than perpetrators, and many groups keep statistics on the number of trans people murdered each year because it is so common” (Jacobs, HuffPost).

In the same HuffPost article Jacobs lists some additional trans myths that are addressed:

  • You’ve Never Met a Transgender Person
  • All Trans People Want to Be Either Barbie or Ken

  • Trans People Are “Trapped in the Wrong Body”

  • Trans People are Mentally Ill and Therapy Can Change Them
  • Laws Support Trans People

The facts regarding each, in brief, follow:

Chances are good that you actually have met a trans person—but may not realize it. The thing is,  many don’t have surgeries or gender reassignment, for one thing. Related to this, many transgender individuals now identify as “genderqueer” or “gender-nonconforming” or “non-binary” and aren’t interested in traditional concepts of masculine and feminine à la Ken and Barbie. They just are who they are and may not broadcast this in ways you’d necessarily perceive.

Evidence is lacking about the notion of being “trapped in the wrong body.” Some trans folks feel this way “while others understand their identities as more complicated, and as potentially involving choice rather than being predetermined by biology.”

Although being transgender is not a mental illness to be changed via therapy, listing “Gender Identity Disorder” as recently as 2013 in the DSM, the primary psychiatric diagnostic handbook, did serve to unfairly stigmatize. Similarly, the newer DSMs use of “Gender Dysphoria” remains problematic. Just because someone’s identity may be in variance with the mainstream doesn’t mean they have “dysphoria,” or dissatisfaction. And if they do, it’s likely to be a byproduct of oppression, one type of which is manifested when such unwarranted psychiatric diagnoses are misguidedly assigned.

Interestingly, homosexuality also was once a psychiatric disorder per the DSM, which in 1973 was eliminated, leaving “ego-dystonic” homosexuality as an option in a newer edition. Eventually “sexual disorder not otherwise specified” was all that remained for clinicians to misuse when seeing lesbian and gay clients. Today homosexuality is gone from the DSM, as transgender issues also deserve to be.

Jacobs additionally states regarding the myth of transgender mental illness:

Although being transgender is not a mental illness, trans populations do have higher than average rates of depression, suicidality, and substance abuse, though researchers have shown that this is largely due to social stigma and not being trans in itself. Trans youth in supportive environments show no higher rates of mental illness than their cisgender peers.

As for laws, federal protections for transgender people don’t look promising under the Trump administration. At this point, therefore, trans rights are sought and better achieved on various other levels, e.g., in cities and states.

For an excerpt from “You’re in the Wrong Bathroom!” click on this Bustle link. It’s Myth 12: Trans People Are a Danger to Others, Especially Children. Hint: they’re not.