NEW CASTLE, Pa., May 4, 2015 – In the media’s efforts to sensationalize and capitalize on the gender identity issues of former-Olympian Bruce Jenner, pundits have struggled to address him in a politically correct manner. The public is apparently fascinated by this man who feels he is a woman trapped in a man’s body, but the situation is challenging to understand.
Normally, people could turn to the objectivity of science and get some guidance from experts who have thoroughly studied gender identity disorder, but even the experts appear so caught up in the desire to be politically correct that few would dare publicly call Jenner a man.
Sadly, the field of psychology has a history of abuse thanks to the unethical behavior of bigoted and unethical researchers who did great harm to LGBT individuals. LGBT individuals are human beings who deserve to be treated with dignity and respect.
Transgendered people struggle every day to cope with feelings and thoughts that are beyond their control. It is not acceptable to target them with hatred or treat these people as a source of entertainment. It is also not acceptable for anyone to tell others how they feel and how they are supposed to feel.
On the other hand, it is not acceptable for LGBT activists to expect people to support their lifestyles, nor is it acceptable to use science to force others to enable a distorted version of reality. Although it is necessary to assess the destructive impact of research and prevent abuse by ensuring that research subjects and patients are treated as human beings, science must retain its objective nature in order to deliver accurate insights.
Those in the world of psychology can strive so hard to be politically correct that practitioners avoid offending individuals by enabling them. In doing so, medical professionals and researchers create official support for LGBT behavior and suppress legitimate views that LGBT behavior is dysfunctional.
There is a mountain of research on LGBT individuals, yet the limitations of that research prevents it from being used to support or criticize LGBT behavior. The first thing people need to understand about all scientific research is that it can rarely answer the direct, broad questions that people encounter on a daily basis. What research does is provide data and support for the views of researchers. Given enough research, scientists are able to assess what and when conclusions are most likely valid.
The field of psychology, in particular, struggles to answer simple questions, because human thought and emotion are extremely diverse. Psychological research is also often reliant on the subjective input of research subjects and culturally dependent. At the same time, psychology consists of numerous schools of thought that range from the highly philosophical, subjective nature of psychoanalysis to the highly scientific, objective nature of behaviorism.
Defining notions of “normal” and “healthy,” for example, becomes extremely complicated due to the difficultly in limiting all possible sources of bias. In a natural science like biology, gender can be defined by the absence or presence of the “Y” chromosome while abnormal physiology is fairly easy to identity. The biologist’s perspective is that transgendered individuals are biological males and females suffering from some abnormality that leads them to resemble or identify more closely with the opposite sex
That said, biology may shape a person’s psychology, but psychologists cannot so easily come to the same conclusion as biologists. The limitless variations of human thought, feelings, and cultural norms make it difficult to classify someone as psychologically normal or abnormal, i.e., in need of intervention or not. This is why mental health professionals tend to approach mental illness in terms of how a disorder affects individuals and those in their lives by assessing the emotional impact of the disorder and the functionality of the person.
The need to avoid personal bias and judgment in order to properly serve patients means that mental health professionals must be careful with how they address and approach their patients. They must consider the emotional and psychological impact of their assessments instead of offering bluntly honest statements. Where a little diplomacy can make anyone a more effective communicator, however, it is very easy to start telling people what they want to hear instead of what they need to hear.
Research can be conducted only to access the harm cultural attitudes cause LGBT individuals; it cannot answer the moral, ethical and long-term, broad impact on society of enabling LBGT behavior.
Furthermore, the true test of any scientific conclusion is the ability to step back and reconcile the new thinking with the old thinking.
Gender identity and sexual attraction, for example, can be expressed as spectra of when an individual identifies with male or female traits and when someone is sexually attracted to individuals of the same or opposite sex. Measuring sexual attraction and then labeling it “sexual orientation” in order to conclude that pure heterosexuals are statistically only a small sample of the population serves as an example of bias distorting the reality of sexuality by ignoring the biological role for sex.
In the case of transgender individuals, people with gender identity issues certainly feel more like the opposite sex, but they are not biologically the opposite sex. A man may think he is a woman in a man’s body, but he is a man who suffers from a disorder. This reality will not change, even if everyone in the world denies it.
Frankly, the world of psychology appears to lack effective treatments for gender identity disorders.
Allowing someone to undergo “gender reassignment surgery” is akin to giving cancer patients morphine to ease their suffering. This, of course, raises concerns that mental health professionals are not striving to find new treatments for a disorder that is extremely difficult to treat.
The desire to be politically correct appears to take precedence. It is becoming more acceptable for a patient to ask for gender reassignment surgery than it is to seek behavioral modification to correct their gender confusion.
From an ethical standpoint, gender reassignment surgery is very similar to genital mutilation. A medical professional who supports self-harm like cutting, but only under medical supervision, and women choosing to engage in the cultural practice of genital mutilation would have absolutely no credibility. It is certainly unethical to assist in the suicide of a depressed individual who has undergone years of failed invention.
Labeling people who suffer from illnesses like clinical depression and schizophrenia as deviates can exasperate their symptoms while undermining any trust these patients might have in their caregivers. Indulging the patients’ views and rationalizing their symptoms as “acceptable,” “healthy” or “normal,” however, only enables their illness. While gender confusion is difficult to understand and treat, the same principle applies.
Instead of enabling the dysfunction of people who suffer from gender identity disorder, they must strive to find better treatment options, which can also help mental health professionals treat other identity disorders.
Unfortunately, expert psychologists strive to be politically correct in order to avoid offending and isolating those in need of their help. Political activists, in turn, use the field of psychology to legitimize their own views on LGBT subjects. This opens the field to political and social pressure that silences opinions that dissent from the most influential people and most widely accepted view. In turn, this does a disservice to the field of psychology and those who benefit from that research.