The American Psychological Association (APA) adopted a resolution that accepts gender as a nonbinary construct, finds gender dysphoria is not a mental illness, and warns that gender identity change efforts (GICE), better known as conversion therapy, are detrimental to a person’s health. The highly influential APA is the country’s leading psychological professional group representing over 122,000 members, and its policies help define treatment practices for mental health and beyond. While in the past gender dysphoria and same-sex sexual attraction were considered mental diseases by the APA, the highly influential group now calls for practices and educational efforts that affirm gender is a nonbinary construct.
“Psychologists understand that gender is a nonbinary construct that allows for a range of gender identities and that a person’s gender identity may not align with sex assigned at birth,” the resolution stated in its opening.
The adoption of the resolution was hailed by experts and activists who had long advocated for a more science-based, medically-accurate designation of gender in health care, as well as demanding equal rights and treatment under the law.
“There is no question that denying a person’s gender identity is wrong,” Alphonso David, president of Human Rights Campaign, said in a statement. “It’s detrimental to their mental health, their physical health, and their overall sense of self-worth—and this includes young people.”
The resolution noted in the past that the APA conflated gender with physical markers, attributed concepts of masculinity and femininity on a strictly binary basis, and created systems of treatment and designation that affirmed cisgender people as normative while advocated treatment practices that discriminated against and marginalized transgender and nonbinary folks.
Conversion therapy was singled out in the resolution as particularly dangerous. The pseudo-therapy attempts to change sexual orientation and gender identity, and has been widely discredited by experts and victims alike. The resolution concluded that any “attempt to change an individual’s gender identity or expression is inappropriate” because the “incongruence between sex and gender in and of itself is not a mental disorder” and any attempt to change a person’s gender can be harmful and detrimental to their well-being and overall health.
The APA also approved a listed of points in the resolution that corrected past misperceptions about gender and identity, and urged practitioners to help clients understand and affirm their gender rather than forcing them into an incorrect binary-based gender.
The resolution was welcome news to David, who noted the new consensus reinforces the need to allow trans people and their health care providers to provide proper gender affirming treatment, rather than blindly following politically or ideologically attempts to rewrite science.
“It is incredibly dangerous when strangers can legislate personal healthcare decisions,” David noted.