Another Spectrum

Personal ramblings and rants of a somewhat twisted mind

Being transgender is a mental disorder!


In most liberal democracies being transgender is not considered a mental disorder. For example, in Aotearoa New Zealand we are able to self identify as M, F, or X (Male, Female, or indeterminate/unspecified) and have driver’s licence, passport etc issued accordingly, and our anti-discrimination law provides the full protection regardless of how we self identify.

So I was somewhat surprised today to discover that a country that I’ve always considered to be liberal and tolerant still officially classifies being transgender as a mental disorder. That country is Finland

An email came across my desk from Amnesty International NZ which included the following:

He was just a child when he was first told he had to be sterilised.
Sakris Kupila has never identified as a woman, the gender marker assigned to him at birth. Yet the 21-year-old medical student must endure daily embarrassment because his identity documents say he is female. In Finland, the law requires that he be diagnosed with a “mental disorder” and sterilised before he can legally change his gender identity, a violation of his human rights.

For Sakris, the choice is clear. He opposes this cruel and humiliating treatment and is bravely defending the rights of transgender people by fighting to end the law. Despite the threats and hostility, Sakris won’t stop until the fight is over.

A quick search of the Internet seems to support that email. There even appears to be restrictions on “gender appropriate” names. However many of the same Web sites, also state that reconstructive surgery is also required in NZ. This is not accurate: medical treatment, (no mention of surgery) is required only if you wish to apply to the Family Court to have your gender changed on your birth certificate. And the Family Court seems to be taking an incrementally liberal view of what medical treatment actually entails. Accepting what one finds on the internet is fraught with dangers

Birth certificates are a public record in the same way as marriage certificates, death certificates and name change records. Personally I don’t see a need to change the gender recorded on a birth certificate if one chooses to identify differently, as that was what one’s gender was perceived to be at the time of birth, but I appreciate others will hold opposing views. Perhaps when gender is no longer considered binary, and one is free to move along a spectrum without judgement then legal requirement to place everyone into often poorly fitting boxes will disappear.

One immediate solution to the issue of gender identity would be to not record a gender on birth certificates. Personally, I’d be in favour of that. In this day and age why is it needed? What purpose does it serve? Perhaps someone can enlighten me on why gender needs to be recorded but not eye colour or a finger print or a dna print for example.

As an aside, I’m curious about what ‘gender appropriate’ names are. Is there some official list of male  and female names? What happens when someone wants to invent a new name or wants to use a foreign name? What’s wrong with being able to choose any name one wants? Admittedly, in Aotearoa New Zealand there are restrictions: names must consist of the letters A through Z and must not contain numerals or punctuation (with the exception of the hyphen). So while I can’t register V8 I could register V-eight. I can’t register 愛莉, but I could register Airi. If I felt so inclined, I could register late for breakfast, or Judy Is Beautiful, or even I am an arse-hole.




Author: Barry

A post war baby boomer from Aotearoa New Zealand who has lived with migraines for as long as I can remember and was diagnosed as being autistic aged sixty. I blog because in real life I'm somewhat backwards about coming forward with my opinions.

29 thoughts on “Being transgender is a mental disorder!

  1. Gender needs to be recorded while marriage is different for straight couples. So, no. It should not be a matter for the government to record. Just as newspapers should not report the race of a person unless it is clearly relevant, so sex or gender need not be recorded, because it creates expectations based on stereotypes which may not be correct about the individual.

    • I can understand that where there are legal restrictions based on gender at birth (such who one can marry), recording it on a birth certificate is convenient, but such restrictions no longer apply here and in many other countries. I feel it’s now past its “use by date”.

      I agree that it creates expectations based on stereotypes which may not be correct about the individual.

  2. Why the government needs to know race is also troubling. Labels labels… Maybe at a certain age you should be able to choose your own name and sex? That might be an ideal change.

    • I don’t know where that poll daddy came from. Never seen that link in my stuff. Edit out if you would please. Thanks

      • It’s something i see in every comment when using the Android WordPress App, but not in a browser. Very occasionally WordPress seems to screw it up and insert multiple copies of it. It seems to be when someone adds a second comment while waiting for moderation of their first comment. I only moderate a contributor’s first comment. Editing the polldaddy out is not easy on a 4″ screen so there’s a chance I might mess it up. Appologies if I do

        • That’s fine. Just to clarify. You are misguided in your thoughts about atheism. Most accepting and well read group I know. Sorry if your threatened by it but ultimately there is no reason to be. Not believing in gods because there is no evidence of one is an honest approach at life.

          • What do you think my thoughts on atheism are?? Why do you think I feel threatened? Why do you think I believe in a god?

            • “but I think the message is very clear as it is, and that is that atheism is a very bad thing indeed”. Are these your thoughts or your thoughts about the posting. That is where I lost you

            • That is what the message implied in the modified transcript. It has the same validity as the original transcript that implied autism is a very bad thing. Absolutely none.

            • Barry I apologize. I am commenting on another blog and messed up

            • You can delete all my comments and I’ll try again. Lol

  3. Those are some very interesting thoughts, Barry! I’ve considered similar ideas. Imposing gender/gender roles on children seems almost as cruel to me as encouraging child transition seems to anti-trans folks. I think your idea of choosing a name/sex later in life, maybe right around puberty, when those things begin to become real/relevant to our lives makes sense, especially if 3 options were available as you’ve said is the case in NZ.

    • It was Jim- who suggested choosing name and gender later in life. However, here we aleady have the oportunity to do that from the age of 16 onwards. For gender, a statutory declaration is required, but one is free to use whatever name one wants without formal registration, although that may make proving one’s identity somewhat more difficult should the need arise.

      Although choosing to identify as a gender different from that assigned at birth doesn’t raise legal obstacles within NZ, it does raise issues when travelling outside New Zealand. For example, if travelling on a passport with gender identified as X, entry to many countries will be denied. The USA, for example, does not recognise a passport as valid if the holder’s gender is X.

      Just as I don’t see the need to include one’s gender on one’s birth cerificate, is there really any need for gender to be recorded on any official document (or unofficial document for that matter)? Having a choice of M, F or X does not really acknowledge that gender is a spectrum.

      • Oh! Sorry for the mix-up! I found your blog by randomly searching through posts with the transgender tag and commented a bit hastily after reading. Thank you for getting back with me at any rate!

        Truthfully, in the world we live in, I believe that there is need for government ID. I’ve written about it in my own blog if you would like to read it. I believe that gender self-identification is very important to identity and personal development/growth but I also believe that, at the state level, recognition of gender under the law is important to protect people and maintain societal order, such as preventing creepy men (i.e. NOT trans women or natal women) from dressing up as women to intrude on private areas designed for women. In a better world, I would certainly have it be as you describe but I don’t feel that we are there yet in most any society, unfortunately.

        • Though, all that said, I can see how systems like I support could be a big problem for someone like Sakris Kupila. There should be a pathway available for people like him also. I can’t say I’m quite sure what such a system might look like, but it will give me something interesting to ponder.

          • Sakris wouldn’t have a problem living as a male in NZ from a legal point of view. He self identifies as male. End of the matter.

            However there is a small section of society that is less open minded – remnants of the section that my life unpleasant many decades ago – that would prefer people such as Sakris didn’t exist. But now our human rights legislation provides protection against discrimination based on gender identity.

        • I’m not sure what you mean by government ID. No such thing exists here.

          I’m somewhat confused by you saying on the one hand self identification is important for personal development, and on the other hand the state needs to know everyone’s gender to protect women from “creepy men” whatever that means. Do you mean “predatory men”? If so, isn’t it the “predatory” part that needs to be countered rather than the “men” part? Isn’t this really about the purpose/intent of entering a women only area?

          And in New Zealand, what happens to those who identify as X? Should they be barred from women only areas too?

          I am someone who has been at the receiving end of considerable bullying and several violent assults simply because I didn’t know how to present as male (or female). If the social conditions that exist now had existed in the 1960s I would probably have self identified as X. Back then it wasn’t an option.

          • Sorry for the confusion again. I’ve learned recently that these topics can be challenging to talk about between people of different societies due to this sort of factor. In the US, we have several forms of government ID: Birth Certificate, Social Security Card, and Driver’s License most commonly.

            As part of the gender transition process in most states, we undergo a rigorous legal process to change our names and gender markers on our various forms of ID. This process takes about 1-2 years to complete in most cases and criteria for the process will vary from place to place. Where I’m from, 3 months of psychotherapy is required leading up to Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT) with a qualified endocrinologist, and at about that same time, you will appeal to the courts to change your name, a process that takes about another month.

            After being on HRT for around 6 months and demonstrating commitment to transition, your doctor can write a letter of approval which can be used to change your gender marker (M or F only here) on your various forms of ID. It used to be that gender confirmation surgery was also required to make this change in my state, but thankfully this has changed in recent years. I feel that requiring surgery is unnecessary and I would also say that HRT shouldn’t be necessary either, but at the very least, a demonstration of commitment and show of stability to your gender via psychotherapy should.

            A common fear over trans women in particular is that our existence opens the door to perverted, voyeuristic men who would put on women’s clothes to invade women’s spaces. ID regulations like the ones I’ve described above protect people from such fears because any such man would never be able to prove legitimacy as someone like myself, who has been through the process, can. In cases where the justice system intervenes (meaning police/courts become involved with a grievance someone reported), these changes to our IDs show our legitimacy and give us provable legal allowance to be in women’s spaces if MTF and men’s if FTM.

            Unfortunately, nothing about this kind of structure has anything inherent to it that would be beneficial to someone like yourself. As such, I would whole-heartedly support the addition of a third option like NZ’s “X” to our governments in the US, though I have difficulties imagining how it might work logistically in terms of spaces segregated by gender.

            How do you feel about that such spaces from your perspective as someone who doesn’t identify as male or female? Do you tend to integrate among males? Or are spaces not segregated by gender at all in NZ?

            • And yes, I’m in agreement with your assertion that it is the predatory nature which is to blame in any individual caught imposing themselves unwantedly upon any space.

              But how to distinguish the predators from people like myself within justice systems?

            • Say a transphobe saw me in the women’s restroom, recognized I am trans, and then called the police on me and proclaimed me predatory when the truth is I was just minding my own business and wanted to use the restroom. Without my ID, what protects me from any story the transphobe might tell the police and/or courts in their account of me?

              And conversely, if a predatory man actually were to put on a dress with the intent of invading a restroom and a woman rightfully called the police on him, what protects her? How can the police know to trust her claim that this is a predatory man and not a trans woman just trying to use the restroom unless he lacks such ID?

            • I acknowledge that policing in NZ and America are quite different (our police aren’t armed for example), but such claims and counter claims would normally be quite easy to resolve quickly. For example it would normally take only a few phone calls to ascertain whether the “man in a dress” self identifies as a woman. If he doesn’t then his intent becomes very suspicious – even more suspicious than a man in male attire being in a women’s restroom. At the very least he’d likely be charged with loitering with intent.

              And would having an ID wouldn’t necessarily be much help. The transphobe could still accuse you of some offence. For example far more women in restrooms are assaulted by other women than are assaulted by men (in or out of a dress).

            • Those are certainly fair points. It may be that I am biased in favor of ID because it hasn’t been a serious burden on myself to obtain it and I’ve had the perception that it protects me in these ways, but suppose I really can’t claim to know how such conflicts might unfold in either scenario to be completely honest. I’ve never once experienced any such conflict. I’ve never even so much as had anyone express discomfort with me in real life. It simply doesn’t happen to me. I wish all trans women could be so lucky.

            • See my other comment. Predators don’t typically self identify as a woman in their day to day activities.

            • You’re certainly right about that. It is a very good point and I can’t imagine it would be terribly difficult for any investigator to establish if necessary.

            • Birth certificates can not be a form of identity as they are a matter of public record and anyone can obtain a copy of anyone’s birth certificate for a nominal fee. All that it’s useful for is to confirm that a person with the specified name was born on a specific day in a specific town.

              We don’t have anything even remotely equivalent to a Social Security Card.

              I normally carry a driver’s licence only when I have a need to drive, and as I have mentioned, it is a relatively simple matter to change the name displayed on the licence and also the gender, although the gender is not displayed on the licence itself.

              So most of the time I don’t have any form of identification with me apart from a medical emergency bracelet which briefly describes my condition and a phone number of the organisation that holds my emergency details. Most people here would be hard pressed to find convincing proof of identity at short notice.

              The law here recognises self identification as one of three genders – all one needs to do is make a statutory declaration that you are, or intend to, live as the nominated gender. It’s only necessary to apply to the family court if you wish to change the gender recorded on the birth certificate. In this case the law requires “appropriate medical treatment” but doesn’t define what it is. Gender reassignment surgery is not required, and the family court is becoming more liberal as to what appropriate medical treatment means.

              Kiwis tend to be rather pragmatic and usually common sense holds sway over precise legal definitions. In fact some of our laws are vague so that the “spirit of the law” is more important than the “letter of the law”. We don’t have a written constitution and much of how our government is run depends on convention. It seems to work in our case as we have considerably higher levels of freedom than the USA and the lowest level of corruption in the world. I mention this because although one can identify as gender X, there doesn’t seem to be any legislation regarding segregated spaces (or anything else regarding X for that matter). It’s a case of using common sense, and only if that fails then it will be up to the courts to clarify the issue. So far as I’m aware no specifically gender X cases have come before the courts.

              There’s a mix of gender specific (M & F, no X) and gender neutral spaces here. I use specifically male spaces if there are no neutral ones. In the past it was the only safe option available. Gender specific locations and events have always made me uneasy, and I avoid them as much as possible. Social events here frequently end up with a specifically male grouping in one place and a specifically female grouping in another. My wife always ends up with the males, and I tend to drift uncomfortably between the two. I’m much more comfortable if I can find a small group of mixed company instead.

              I’m now in my late 60s and the social climate i grew up in is very different than that which exists today. I was in my mid 30s before homosexual acts between consenting males was decriminalised. From my teens onwards, I was forced to act male as a matter of survival. (Read my post last meal if you want know what happened to males who weren’t considered masculine enough.) But it took me a very long time to understand how one should act at being male. I think in my case it is related to my inability to read social cues. I knew there were physical differences between males and females and that girls could wear dresses and boys couldn’t, but I was totally unaware of any social expectations that were gender specific.

              Over the decades, I have learnt to act male and non-autistic with limited success, but it till remains an act and can get rather exhausting at times, more so as I get older. Since I learnt that I was autistic only 7 or 8 years ago, I have begun the process of allowing myself to become the real me (although I’m not sure what that really is). Although it’s probably unjustified these days, I still have an inbuilt fear of being at the receiving end of physical violence if I don’t present sufficiently male when in public so it’s going to be a slow process.

            • That is all so interesting! Thank you for sharing all of that information and your experiences with me, it was very insightful to read as I don’t know much about NZ. I’ll try to read the other article you recommended and reply in greater detail to this comment later but for now I don’t have time. Thanks again!

            • Thank you for liking my article and following my blog! I’d love to hear your thoughts if you read any of my work.

  4. Trans here. I completely agree that gender shouldn’t be recorded because it’s meaningless (especially for the 2% who are intersex). And I have no idea what “gender appropriate” names are. Doesn’t that change frequently throughout history?

  5. sterilization makes me incredibly sad. I cannot understand how that could be viewed as an okay thing to do. Human rights really should be a higher priority than labeling and harming people who are different than the norm.

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