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Boys in the dollhouse, girls with toy trucks.

Camille's voice fills with rage and pain when she talks about her childhood. "My punishment for being a feminine little boy was that I was dumped in a state hospital at age 6," she recalls. "I was given electroshock treatments and other forms of torture as punishment for acting like a girl. This was the 1950s, and the treatment for little gay boys back then was torture. And the treatment today is exactly the same."

What has changed, some experts say, is the means by which the mental health industry has perpetuated homophobia and the abuse of gay children. According to frontline activists, the American Psychiatric Association has invented mental health categories -- specifically, gender identity disorder -- that are meant to pathologize homosexuality and to continue the abuse of gay youth.

GID is defined in the APA's Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders as "a strong and persistent cross-gender identification," one that is manifested in such activities as a preference for cross-dressing in boys or a predilection for male playmates in girls. Health professionals who treat the supposed disorder and those individuals who have been treated for it agree that GID is merely another means of categorizing effeminate boys and masculine girls as emotionally disturbed and in need of treatment.

"It's all semantics," says Shannon Minter, staff attorney for the San Francisco-based National Center for Lesbian Rights, an organization that represents gay and lesbian kids who have been abused in the mental health system. "GID is just a different way to express homophobia. It's only about keeping kids from growing up to be lesbian or gay."

Some mental health professionals don't disagree. Joseph Nicolosi, a clinical psychologist and executive director of the Encino, Calif.-based National Association of Research and Therapy of Homosexuality, believes there's little distinction between sissies and tomboys and children with GID. "You could call it a matter of semantics," he says. "But GID is a psychiatric diagnosis, and there's a 75% correlation between early childhood GID and adult homosexuality. Parents don't want their kids to grow up to be homosexuals. Call it homophobia if you like, but parents would rather have heterosexual children. Those are the facts."

Those facts are what's behind the continuing torture of gay and lesbian youth, according to some activists. In her just-published autobiography, The Last Time I Wore a Dress, San Francisco artist Daphne Scholinski reports that gender identity disorder was first listed in the Diagnostic and, Statistical Manual in 1980, one year before she was institutionalized and diagnosed with GID. "The important thing to note is that this was the first time the DSM was updated after homosexuality was removed from the books [in 1973] as a mental disorder," she says. "They just switched GID for homosexuality so they could continue to persecute gay kids under the guise of psychiatric medicine."

"There's been a lot of controversy about GID," says Laurie McQueen, project manager for the fourth and most recent edition of the DSM, issued in 1994, "and pressure from several groups to remove it from the manual. But there's no plan to change that category or its criteria at this time. "

The true definition of GID is maligned and misunderstood, according to Dr. Kenneth Zucker, head of the Child and Adolescent Gender Identity Disorder Clinic at the Clarke Institute of Psychiatry in Toronto. "One of the criticisms we always hear is, `You're trying to prevent homosexuality,'" says Zucker, coauthor of Gender Identity Disorder and Psychosexual Problems in Children and Adolescents. "Nicolosi may want to pathologize homosexuality, but most of us just want to make a child feel better about being a boy or a girl. If parents want their kids to be straight, it's because they want them to have an easier life."

But many doctors who treat children with GID tend to abuse their power, according to Scholinski's mother, Deborah Bacquel. "These guys are used to dealing with naive suburban moms who run when they hear the word `gay,'" she says. "When Daphne's doctors told me they could fix her sexuality, I was furious. I wasn't trying to make her straight. She had other issues to deal with, and I just wanted her to be well."

Not every parent is as compassionate. Six years ago, Lyn Duff says, her mother institutionalized her at the age of 15. "She had me ... placed in an institution for kids with sexual disorders," recalls Duff, whose mother did not respond to telephone inquiries from The Advocate. "Pretty much everyone there was gay."

In the hospital Duff underwent aversion therapy to "cure" her of her lesbianism. "They would show me photographs of naked women and force me to smell ammonia until I vomited," she says. "But the boys had it worse, because they got hooked up to this big machine that administered shock whenever they became aroused." Duff was also subjected to word-association tests. "They trained me to picture a filthy gutter every time I heard the word `girl' spoken. That one took a while to shake."

Duff escaped from the hospital and eventually sued for divorce from her mother, and custody was granted to a lesbian couple with whom Duff was acquainted. But most gay kids who fall prey to a GID diagnosis aren't so lucky, Minter says. "Most parents continue to be intimidated and mystified by the psychiatric community," he insists. "That's why we can't rest until we get this ludicrous GID diagnosis off the books."

But the APA manual isn't the problem, according to at least one activist. "I think the parents themselves should be institutionalized, " says Ariel Rachels, a transgender lesbian who was once diagnosed with GID. "If a child wants to be another gender, it's his or her choice. These kids are just expressing who they think they really are."

Nicolosi, who's writing a book titled Preventing Homosexuality: A Parent's Guide, insists, "The parents bring me kids who are unhappy. It's my job to increase the possibility of a heterosexual future for these effeminate boys. No one's getting hurt here."

That just isn't true, according to Camille (who did not want her last name used for this story). Camille didn't escape the mental health system until she was grown and has since changed her gender. "They took homosexuality off the books and replaced it with GID," she says, "because gay men and women started to stand up for their rights as human beings. So the doctors said, `OK, we can't control the adults, so let's target the kids.' This is how much gay people are hated. And they won't stop until we're all gone."
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Article Details
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Title Annotation:gender identity disorder
Author:Pela, Robrt L.
Publication:The Advocate (The national gay & lesbian newsmagazine)
Article Type:Brief Article
Date:Nov 11, 1997
Previous Article:Separated at birth.
Next Article:Soul survivor.

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