A few years ago, when I was in grad school for my Counseling Psych Masters, right in the middle of a psychopathology class, I had a classmate who proudly announced that she was "OC without the D." She happily claimed that she was obsessive and compulsive, but yet considered it a good thing, and not a disorder. For me that was a quiet learning moment that I could relate too, in ways I was not yet ready to announce to my classmates.
A few years later I was happy to get a diagnosis that was labeled a disorder, but I knew that there was really nothing wrong with me. After all, my very experienced gender therapist stated very clearly that what I needed to do was the only way to live my life with "full effectiveness." Hindsight certainly proves her assessment correct.
A few years later, with the publication of DSM 5, the diagnosis name was changed to Gender Dysphoria. Some people were happy to take the word "disorder" out of the diagnosis, while others argued it was still laden with many issues.
For me, I was ecstatic, at the time of my diagnosis as for many like me, that diagnosis, that letter, was the key we needed to move to the place in our lives we knew we had to. Personally I did not care much about the label, as I had my classmate's definition firmly planted in my brain -- I could have "issues" with my gender identity, but it was not a disorder. This worked for me but I understood it did not necessarily work for everyone else.
Now, fast forwarding to the past few years where we have gender variance and transgender talked about daily in the various forms of media, the plethora of both reality and dramatic TV shows featuring transgender people, I suspect the general public may be getting an overload of information on this part of the population that I am part of. There are so many stories, so many possibilities, so many ways that we are gender variant, that even being in the trans community I still marvel at the uniqueness of each person's journey, opinions and view. It would be so nice if there were a neat box that we could wrap up and put under out holiday tree to inform everyone what it is like to be transgender.
We are told to tell and share our stories, and tell them we must and we should. There are as many stories as there are people, and some day, I dream, that the world will world will understand that the story of each of our own unique versions of gender dysphoria is not so much different that each person's personal story of their own life. Our stories really do not fit into a small box. Our stories are ongoing, living realities, which move, change and hopefully grow. I like to think of our stories the same way we think of investing in the stock market, where we are warned that past performance does not predict future performance. We do not need to be trapped in our story, we can write a new chapter each and every moment. In fact, I think we must, as this is what being alive really means! Oh, and this is not for just for those of us who may be transgender -- it is for everyone.
That psychopathology class I took, in one sense was teaching us to get a better understanding of the boxes and labels the "greater minds" collected in DSM IV that was used at that time. The most important learning I received in that class was not these boxes and labels, but when the professor stated that for our clients, their "diagnosis" would depend on which side of the Charles River (Either the Cambridge side or the Boston side) the counselor was. Observing the sides, the politics and negotiation to create DSM 5, brings me back to that main learning I received about the labels of diagnosis, which to me, lessened the value of the label.
So I have a diagnosis of GID. I needed it to move forward. Was I gender dysphoric? I think that is a strong affirmative. Was my experience the same as others? Probably this is somewhat true and somewhat not true. Could I explain this in a way others could easily understand? Probably not! I am pretty sure this may be true for everyone.
Whether or not you are transgender, I suggest there is really no way to hear only one story, or even hundreds or thousands of stories and come away with one single map that gives you the picture of what it is like to be gender variant, or not fit the gender binary model or transgender. Sure it would be simpler, but the fact is that it is far from simple, and that is OK!
If you keep insisting there is only one way for you to understand, I suggest you just may be.... dys-informed.
Grace Stevens is a transgender woman who transitioned at the age of 64 and holds a Masters Degree in Counseling Psychology. She is a father of three, grandparent of two, athlete, advocate and author of No! Maybe? Yes! Living My Truth, an intimate memoir of her personal struggle to transition and live her true life authentically as a woman. Grace is available for speaking about authentic living with Living on-TRACK, and Gender Variance Education and Training. Visit her website at: http://www.graceannestevens.com/. Follow Grace on Twitter: www.twitter.com/graceonboard .