14 July, 2008

What's 'normal' sex?

This month the American Psychiatric Association announced the names of “working group” members who will guide the development of the new Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, or DSM, the codex of American psychiatry.

Not surprisingly, given the DSM’s colorful history, particularly when it comes to sex, controversy erupted within days of the announcement, especially over membership of the Sexual and Gender Identity Disorders working group, which will wrestle with questions such as: Are sadomasochism or pedophilia mental disorders? Are dysfunctions like female hypoactive sexual desire disorder (low sex drive) psychiatric issues, or hormonal issues? Perhaps the most important question is whether, when it comes to many sexual interests and issues, it’s even possible or desirable to create diagnostic criteria. At least one petition, spearheaded by transgender activists, is being circulated to oppose the appointment of some members to the Sexual and Gender Identity Disorders work group and its chair, Kenneth Zucker, head of the Gender Identity Service at the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health in Toronto, Canada. The petition accuses Zucker of having engaged in “junk science” and promoting “hurtful theories” during his career, especially advocating the idea that children who are unambiguously male or female anatomically, but seem confused about their gender identity, can be treated by encouraging gender expression in line with their anatomy. Read on >>

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