Dr. Keith Ablow recently advised parents not to “let [their] kids watch Chaz Bono on ‘Dancing with the Stars’” in an article on FOXNEWS.com. Ablow made an appearance on “The O’Reilly Factor” in order to expand on his remarks. In the article and TV segment, Ablow argues that exposure to transsexuality causes children to become transsexual.
First, I should explain some things in case you don’t know what all the hubbub is about. Chaz Bono currently appears on the TV reality show “Dancing with the Stars.” Chaz, a self-identified man, was born Chastity, the daughter of the famous singers Sonny and Cher Bono. (Some of you may remember the debut of Chastity on his parents’ TV program, the “Sonny and Cher Show.”) Later in life, Chastity came out as a lesbian. At age 40, Chaz finally realized that his gender identity did not match his biological sex. As a result, he had a sexual reassignment surgery (more specifically, a mastectomy.)
Perhaps that last sentence made some of you feel uncomfortable. If so, I invite you to ask yourself why. Regardless of your opinion about sex-change operations, let’s clear some things up. Yes, Chaz Bono was born with a vagina. Yes, Chaz Bono identifies (and has always truly identified) as a man. And yes, he had a sex-change operation in order to feel comfortable in his body. No, that doesn’t make him a pervert or a psycho. No, that doesn’t make him a sexual deviant. And no, that doesn’t make him less than a human being.
Now that that’s cleared up, let’s explore some important terms to help understand gender identity. In Women's Voices, Feminist Visions, Susan Shaw and Janet Lee describe gender as the way “society creates, patterns and rewards our understanding of femininity or masculinity.” Sex is defined as “the biological identity based on genitalia.” There are some people who distinguish themselves as transgendered. Transgendered individuals identify with and/or express a gender different from the one that they are associated with at birth (i.e. different from society’s prescribed gender based on their biological sex). Other individuals identify themselves as transsexual, meaning that they desire hormone therapy and sexual reassignment surgery in order for their sex and gender to be congruent. By these definitions, Chaz Bono can be described as transsexual, since he used hormone therapy and sexual-reassignment surgery in order to externally become the man he has always internally identified as.
It is a common misconception to assume that trans-persons are just gay. In fact, trans-persons may identify as heterosexual, homosexual, bisexual, or asexual. Be careful to distinguish the difference between sexuality and gender identity, as they are two separate topics of conversation.
Now that the important definitions and distinctions about transsexuality have been clarified, let’s explore Ablow and his article. According to FOXNEWS.com, Dr. Keith Ablow is a “psychiatrist and member of the Fox News Medical A-Team” (as opposed to the B-Team?). As a M.D. psychiatrist, Ablow is presumably knowledgeable about psychiatric prescription drugs and the human body. His resume is quite impressive: his website lists Brown University and Johns Hopkins School of Medicine as his alma maters. He completed his psychiatric residency at New England Medical Center in Boston and he is an Assistant Professor at Tufts University School of Medicine. Nowhere on his website, however, does he list any formal education or training in the areas of psychology and counseling. The truth is M.D. psychiatrists receive absolutely no formal training in psychology and counseling. Although Ablow may be very knowledgeable about psychiatric drugs, he is no expert in counseling patients. Of course, this does not stop him from portraying himself as an expert counselor. In his article, “Don’t Let Your Kids Watch Chaz Bono On ‘Dancing With the Stars,” Ablow advises parents “not to allow their children to watch the episodes in which Chaz appears.”
His argument is quite simple: “the last thing vulnerable children and adolescents need, as they wrestle with the normal process of establishing their identities, is to watch a captive crowd in a studio audience applaud on cue for someone whose search for an identity culminated with the removal of her breasts […]” Ablow fails to point out that “no evidence exists to suggest that watching a transsexual on television causes children any harm.” Evidence, however, is evidently not important to Ablow’s argument. In addition, he suggests that a transsexual should “try every available medication to impact mood, thought, and perception before going under the knife.” Again, no peer-reviewed articles have ever concluded that such “treatment” is effective.
Logically, Ablow’s argument disintegrates. The factual evidence for his claims simply does not exist. Instead of acknowledging this, however, Ablow attempts to make his argument by trying to fool the audience into thinking he is a compassionate physician. He claims that he “would have gone to the ends of the earth to help Chaz Bono if she had come to [him] for help.” He says he “would have been relentless […] would have used everything [he] know[s] about medication to help her […]” would [even] have allowed "[her] to undergo gender reassignment surgery.” What Ablow would really do, however, is allow his personal biases to affect the way he would “treat” a patient. Although he appears to be compassionate, he also says he “would wish her well with a life that had veered, seemingly unavoidably, into a very dark place.” By saying this, Ablow admits that even if Chaz is happy after his gender reassignment, Ablow could not accept Chaz’s happiness. Ablow is so egocentric that he cannot even recognize happiness for his own patients if it is incongruent with his prejudicial views.
He ends his article with even more judgments. He judges Chaz for choosing to be who he is and for bringing awareness to transsexual issues. He claims that Chaz’s decision to “promote gender reassignment surgery in the media as a happy triumph” gives Ablow the right to publically chastise Chaz’s transsexuality “because [Ablow] cares about you, too, and your families.” Excuse me while I go barf.
But Ablow has a point, even when he’s not trying to make one. In his article, he diagnoses Chaz with gender dysphoria disorder. The DSM-V (which has not yet been officially released) describes gender dysphoria as “a strong desire to be rid of one’s primary and/or secondary sex characteristics because of a marked incongruence with one’s experienced/expressed gender.” The American Psychiatric Association (APA) publishes the DSM, which stands for Diagnostic and Statistics Manual for Mental Disorders. The DSM is the “Holy Bible” of the American mental health community. If a mental health professional does not know how to properly diagnose a patient, she or he refers to the DSM. Filing medical insurance claims for mental health services requires a DSM diagnosis. In essence, the DSM carries a lot of weight in the business of American mental health, and (unfortunately) it still considers transsexuality to be a mental disorder.
Luckily, the APA has a history of reversing and revising its stances on psychological disorders. For example, homosexuality was considered a mental disorder in the DSM-II, originally published in 1968, until the APA reversed its stance with a revision in 1973. The revision was only made possible because of Dr. John Patrick Spiegel, the president-elect of the APA. Dr. Spiegel was a closeted homosexual who secretly enacted a masterful strategic political plan for the revision by organizing other closeted gay echelons of the APA. (A beautiful and well crafted account of this story can be found on This American Life’s Episode 204: 81 Words by Alix Spiegel, the granddaughter of Dr. Spiegel, who won a Peabody Award, Livingston Award, and Dupont Award for her work).
The point is that the APA has admittedly made mistakes in the DSM before, and is currently making a mistake in its classification of transsexuality as a mental disorder. Many scientists and mental health professionals share this view. In her article, “Unnatural Selection,” Dr. Joan Roughgarden says, “research that eschews those archaic assumptions about gender and sexuality is routinely marginalized, swept under the rug, ignored, avoided, and ridiculed.” In essence, the scientific community will not accept any challenge to the historical pattern of gender discrimination in science. Dr. Norman Fisk agrees with Dr. Roughgarden. He argues, “The differential diagnosis aimed at clearly identifying a subgroup of patients termed transsexual is in many instances a rather non-productive effort.” With no evidence that transsexuality qualifies as a mental disorder, why does the APA insist on defining it as one? The only explanation seems to be an "archaic assumption" about gender identity. That’s not science; it’s discrimination.
 Barbara J., King. "Sex, Gender, And Dancing With Chaz Bono." 13.7: Cosmos and Culture. NPR News, 29 Sept 2011. Web. 2 Oct. 2011.
 Shaw, Susan, and Janet Lee. Women's Voices, Feminist Visions. 3rd ed. New York: McGraw-Hill, 2007. 124. Web.
 Feitz, Lindsey. "Key Terms: Definitions and Examples." Intro to GWST 1112-2. University of Denver. Denver. 14 Sept 2011. In Person.
 Shaw, Susan, and Janet Lee. Women's Voices, Feminist Visions. 3rd ed. New York: McGraw-Hill, 2007. 129, 131. Web.
 Shaw, Susan, and Janet Lee. Women's Voices, Feminist Visions. 3rd ed. New York: McGraw-Hill, 2007. 130. Web.
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 Spitzer, Robert L. "Homosexuality and Sexual Orientation Disturbance: Proposed Change in DSM-II, 6th Printing, Page 44." PsychiatryOnline.com. APA Assembly, 07 June 1973. Web. 1 Oct 2011.
 "Episode 204: 81 Words." This American Life. WBEZ Alliance: Chicago, 18 Jan 2002. Radio. 1 Oct 2011.
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