September '97 GenderNews

CONTACT: Riki Anne Wilchins, (212) 645-1753,
Online Editor: Clare Howell,

GenderPAC Board Endorses GID Reform

HWA and Meance to Demonstrate when Jocelyn Elders Addresses Lesbian Group

King Family Member Compares Gays to Prostitutes, Pedophiles, and Murderers

Intersex Community Angered Over Prime Time Live Piece on IGM

Queer Groups Demonstrate Again Over NYPD Torture of Haitian Immigrant


[New York, NY: 9 Sept 97] THE BOARD OF the Gender Public Advocacy Coaltion ("GenderPAC") has overwhelmingly endorsed a resolution calling for the reform of Gender Identity Disorder (GID). GID is listed as a mental illness in the American Psychiatric Association's (APA) manual of disorders, also known as the DSM. [Complete Resolution text follows after last release.]

In children, GID is used to diagnose and "treat" gender-variant children in the belief that otherwise they will grow up to be gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgendered. In, adults, GID is the diagnosis applied when a person requests hormonal treatment or sex- reassignment surgery, although there is no medical evidence that transexuality itself constitutes a mental illness.

The GenderPAC resolution was drawn directly from a policy statement on GID reform sent by NGLTF's Exec. Dir. Kerry Lobel to the APA's President, Dr. Harold Eist, earlier this year. It, in turn, was based on a policy position developed by the National Center for Lesbian Rights (NCLR) and the Transgender Law Project (ICTLEP).

An Idea Whose Time Has Come

Stated GenderPAC's Exec. Dir. Riki Anne Wilchins, "The near-unanimous support this resolution received shows that GID Reform is an idea whose time has come and there is now a solid consensus among national gender groups. National organizations now understand that it is impossible to wage a struggle for their longterm political survival when their very identities are considered a mental illness."

Wilchins also expressed her conviction that so-called "Fetishistic Crossdressing" -- a diagnosis used to stigmatize and "treat" crossdressers who enjoy wearing women's clothing -- must also be removed. "When psychiatry starts policing private adult gender or erotic practice, is no longer practicing medicine but enforcing social conformity."

Text of GenderPAC Resolution:

Resolution on Gender Identity Disorder

WHEREAS, The subject of Gender Identify Disorder (GID) has emerged in the media and within the LGBT/F communities as transgender visibility and activism continues to grow;

WHEREAS, GID is a controversial subject that deserves sensitive treatment and has broad implications for the civil rights, health and well-being of transgender people;

WHEREAS, GID is listed in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM), published by the American Psychiatric Association (APA) as a mental disorder;

WHEREAS, Although some transgender people use a GID diagnosis to qualify for hormone treatment, surgery and, in limited cases, anti-discrimination protections based on disability, the diagnosis is also broadly employed to pathologize transgender adults and, as documented by the National Center for Lesbian Rights, gender-variant youth (those children who exhibit behaviors deemed "pre-homosexual" or "pre-transsexual");

WHEREAS, GenderPAC is particularly concerned about the use of GID to stigmatize and mistreat gender-variant children and youth, whether they grow up to be gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgendered, or straight;

WHEREAS, GenderPAC is sensitive to the differences of opinion within the transgender community on GID and the implications of GID on insurance payments, civil rights and other issues of concern to transgender people;

WHEREAS, As the National Center for Lesbian Rights (NCLR) the the International Conference on Transgender Law & Employment Policy (ICTLEP) have documented, there is a growing number of jurisdictions with civil rights policies that prohibit discrimination against transgendered people without reference to GID, including the state of Minnesota and its cities, Minneapolis and St. Paul; San Francisco and Santa Cruz, Calif.; Seattle, Wash.; and Cedar Rapids, Iowa

WHEREAS, Many transgender activists believe these laws represent the beginning of a new era in transgender liberation -- a time in which they can attain equality and health care not through a diagnosis of "mental illness," but through a progressive and comprehensive civil rights agenda;

WHEREAS, The use of psychiatric diagnosis to stigmatize those who want to modify their bodies or gender is an integral part of the systems of gender oppression, homophobia, and sexism, which seek to impose strict binaries and punish all transgression;

THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED THAT, GenderPAC affirms that no one -- gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, intersexed, or straight -- should have to accept being pathologized as mentally ill in order to attain wholeness, completeness and civil equality;

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED THAT, GenderPAC supports GID reform (rather than eradication), where "reform" means another diagnosis -- possibly physical -- that does not pathologize transgender people or gender-variant youth and children;

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED THAT, GenderPAC also support increased funding for research on transgenderism and full participation by transgender people in health decisions that affect their lives;

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED THAT, GenderPAC denounces in the strongest possible terms the violence and discrimination suffered by gender-oppressed people, and supports their struggle for acceptance, visibility, and full social equality.


[New York, NY: 9 Sept 97] THE DIRECT ACTION groups Hermaphrodites With Attitude (HWA) and the Transexual Menace today announced they will hold a peaceful demonstration when Dr. Jocelyn Elders addresses the Mautner Lesbians with Cancer Fund-raiser at the Washington Hilton on Saturday, September 20th at 6 PM. The event is a $100 a plate dinner which is expected to draw over 2,000 well-heeled attendees. Dr. Elders is a former US Surgeon General under President Clinton, and has been considered a friend of women's and lesbian issues.

Advocate of Intersexed Mutilation

But Dr. Elders has also long been an outspoken proponent of Intersexed Genital Mutilation (IGM), a procedure in which infants are genitally cut to conform to cosmetic norms of male or female. Although most Americans associate genital cutting with African or Muslim cultures, according to noted Brown University medical researcher Dr. Anne Fausto-Sterling, 5 intersected infants are genitally cut in US hospitals every day.

SpokesHerms Angry at IGM

Declared HWA's Cheryl Chase, "The vast majority of these infants are otherwise unremarkable little girls whose clitorises just happen to be considere 'too large' by doctors. Lesbian groups must realize that these kids are often genitally cut because doctors believe that girls with large clitorises will grow up to be masculinized, lesbian women."

Her comments raise the issue of whether someone who has performed and continues to promote a procedure designed to control lesbianism is an appropriate speaker to address a lesbian group. Dr. Elders has been contacted by the national advocacy group Intersexed Society of North American (ISNA) on several occasions, but has so far refused offers to meet with ISNA spokes-herms or discuss her continued support of IGM.

Continued Chase, "Even in those instances when an infant's genitals are ambiguous, cutting a child to make them conform to cosmetic norms is barbaric and has no place in a civilized society."

Chase was herself was originally raised as a boy. At age 3, doctors clitorectomized her, removing her clitoris, and advised her parents to raise her as a girl. Like many IGM survivors, she has little or no genital sensation, cannot experience orgasm, and remains deeply angered and traumatized by her experience.

To underscore that only Dr. Elders is the target of the peaceful demonstration and their respect for the work of the Mautner Fund, HWA and the Menace have donated $100 to Fund in the name of intersexed infants.

Recent segments on ABC's Prime Time Live (Sep 3), Dateline NBC, and articles in the New York Times (May 13) and Newsweek (May 13) have all detailed the growing national controversy over IGM.

Contact: Cheryl Chase (707) 775-3121 CChase@Isna.Org

Date: Saturday, Sept 20th
Time: 5:30-6:30 PM
Place: Washington Hilton


[Sacramento, CA: 29 Aug 97] ADDING TO THE recent controversies surrounding the King family, Alveda Celeste King, niece of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., today said that her uncle would not support legislation benefiting gay men and lesbians.

"People can legally do what they want in their bedrooms," she said, "but don't expect us and our children to approve of, promote, or elevate sexual preference to civil rights status. What's next, civil rights on the basis of prostitution and pedophilia?" She went on to compare gay and lesbian civil rights to equal rights for "liars, thieves, and murderers."

Fundamentalist Inroads into Black Community on the Upswing

The Washington Blade reports that Ms. King's comments were made at a rally sponsored by an African American alliance that is working to oppose gay civil rights legislation. Fundamentalist groups such as the Christian Coalition and the Promise Keepers have been building ties to the black community, and heavily promoting their anti- gay agendas.

Leader Denounce Remarks, King Family Silent

Civil rights leaders from the NAACP and the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) were quick to denounce the remarks. Members of Martin Luther King's immediate family declined to comment on the controversy. However, in 1994, Coretta Scott King spoke in favor of the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA).


[New York, NY: 3 Sep 97] ABC's Prime Time Live aired a long-awaited segment on Intersex Genital Mutilation (IGM) this evening. The piece focused a on the contrast of a frightened mother and her child -- shown happily playing, a doctor dedicated to IGM, and "John Joan," a boy who had had his penis accidentally amputated and underwent IGM to be raised as a girl. Years later John decided he was really male, and underwent extensive surgery and hormonal therapy to correct his earlier assignment as female. John appeared only after ABC agreed to mask his face and voice.

Angry Reaction from Herm-Activists

The national advocacy group Intersex Society of North America (ISNA) expressed disappointment and anger over the segment, which had originally included footage of the activist group "Hermaphrodites With Attitude" demonstrating against IGM at New York's' Columbia Presbyterian Hospital. Said ISNA Exec. Dir. Cheryl Chase, "We are outraged that ABC show no `out' adult intersexuals, only one ashamed person with his face and voice erased. And no information at all was provided about support groups or the growing intersexed activist movement."

Continued Chase, "The segment heavily promoted the idea that we are all `one or the other,' and the only problem doctors have is cutting us up the right way. It doesn't occur to them that cutting any child for cosmetic and social reasons is barbaric and has no place in a civilized society."

Queer groups have begun to look more closely at IGM of late. Many children diagnosed as intersexed due to clitorises deemed to be "too large" are genitally cut in the belief that otherwise they will grow up to be masculinized, lesbian women.


[New York, NY : 29 Aug 97] AS THEY DID a week ago, members of the Transexual Menace participated in a rally against the police torture of Haitian immigrant Abner Louima.

Last week's demonstration was held in Brooklyn, outside the 70th precinct where police officers allegedly beat Mr. Louima, raping him with a toilet plunger and then shoving the handle into his mouth, breaking several of his teeth. Mr. Louima was allowed to lay bleeding and unconscious for hours in a holding cell, before being taken to a nearby hospital. He has been in guarded condition since, after undergoing a number of surgeries to repair a ruptured intestine and other internal injuries sustained in the beating.

The demonstration was organized by the Haitian Enforcement Against Racism (HEAR), and drew a crowd estimated at over 10,000, many of whom marched in a procession from Brooklyn, across the Brooklyn Bridge, to a gather in front of Mayor Rudy Guiliani's City Hall. Included among the marchers were other queer groups, including members of the Gay & Lesbian Anti-Violence Project (AVP) of NYC. One AVP staffer, activist Maura Barley, was among those asked to address the crowd from a stage erected for the occasion.

Said one Menace member, "In a gay movement which so often says, `we're about sexual orientation, not race,' it's great some groups continue to make those connections. Racism is a gay issue. And gay rights is part of any civil rights struggle."

(c) 1997 InYourFace, an on-line, news-only service for gender activism.
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For prior press releases, check the GenderPAC web site at http://WWW.Gpac.Org

Previous Issues of IYF News Roundup:
August '97
Mid-June '97
June '97
May '97
April '97
March '97

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