A few notes on the history of the term “Gender Dysphoria”
Dysphoria has never been a precise term. It literally means “hard to
bear” and refers to suffering, depression, restlessness and anxiety. Norman Fisk, the psychiatrist who coined the term “gender dysphoria”, used it to
describe a wide range of psychological distress concerning sex and gender that often lead the sufferer to
want to change their sex, from “true” transsexuals to people with
psychosis. Fisk worked at the gender clinic at Stanford University as part of a team researching transsexualism and sex reassignment. He found that many different kinds of people were coming to him
looking to change their sex, not just those who fit the current criteria
for transsexualism. This included fetishistic transvestites, “masculine”
lesbians and “effeminate” gay men, psychotic people and sociopaths,
among others. He created the term “gender dysphoria syndrome” because transsexualism wasn’t broad enough to describe all people with “gender disorders” or who were distressed enough to want to change their body. It was never intended to refer only to what transsexuals experience, quite the opposite in fact.
It’s important to note that by “gender” Fisk was also referring to biological sex as well behavior, social role and psychology. What most people today would categorize separately as sex and gender, Fisk grouped together under “gender”. What some trans and dysphoric people describe as sex dysphoria would have been included as a form of “gender dysphoria” by Fisk.
Fisk wrote that “gender dysphoria syndrome” could
present itself in a wide variety of forms and arise for many different
reasons. He thought that transsexualism was the most extreme form of gender dysphoria and probably had biological
causes. He also believed that dysphoria could be rooted in psychosis,
neurosis or sociopathy, that some gay people were gender dysphoric and
that transvestism was also a form of gender dysphoria. He thought that
some gender non-conforming gay people and some transvestites unconsciously took on the symptoms of
transsexualism and sought out sex reassignment to become more socially
acceptable and escape the stigma of being “perverted” or
otherwise ”deviant”. Thus Fisk used “gender dysphoria syndrome” to describe
all manner of “gender disorders”, regardless of if he thought they had biological,
psychological or social origins.
If you’re a gay person who ever felt enough distress about your sex or gender to the point where you wanted to change your body, guess what? “Gender dysphoria” was invented to talk about people like you. It’s part of the history of how gay people, especially gender non-conforming gay people, have been pathologized and medicalized. Fisk explicitly talks about how some homosexuals have gender dysphoria and goes on to to say that some seek out a transsexual diagnosis and want to change their sex due to social pressures and stigma. Lesbians today talking about how we’re dysphoric or how we took on a trans identity and transitioned due to misogyny, lesbophobia and other social pressures aren’t straying too far from the original thinking behind the term. In fact, we’re more faithful to the original conception of “gender dysphoria” than people who insist that only trans people have dysphoria and that it’s entirely rooted in biology.
Whether we should be content with this term is another issue. Do we want to use a term invented by a (presumably) straight male doctor to talk about people with “gender disorders”? It was developed to better classify those deemed abnormal in terms of how they relate to their physical sex and sex role. It’s been used to mark some women as disordered, as psychologically and perhaps even biological distinct from “normal” women. It was never meant to empower us. It certainly wasn’t created to help us move towards greater social and political liberation.
Fisk created the term partially to legitimize operating on patients who didn’t fit the criteria for transsexualism. This included some patients he saw as gay people and transvestites. The thinking was if these patients could adjust well to living as the other sex and were committed to doing so, why not operate on them? It was easier to make the patient happier by changing their body than to change society to accept the person as they were. Do I really want to use a term invented by a man who could’ve approved me for surgery even if he thought I was a self-hating lesbian caving into social pressure?
I’m not telling anyone to stop using the term “dysphoria” to describe their experience. I still use it. It fills a void. We need some kind of language to talk about what “dysphoria” is presently used to describe. But it’s good to be aware of where that term comes from and the thinking behind it and it’s good to question whether we should work towards new language in the future. Uncovering our history makes us stronger and expands our perceptions. We need to understand how we came to this present situation where many women continue to be pathologized for not fitting the female sex role and end up pursuing transition for social reasons. The better we understand how we got here, the better equipped we’ll be to get beyond this mess and create a world where no woman is “dysphoric”.
Fisk, Norman M: Gender dysphoria syndrome: The conceptualization that liberalizes indications for total gender reorientation and implies a broadly based multi-dimensional rehabilitative regime. Western Journal of Medicine 120:386-391, May 1974
does anyone else feel like this photo looks like a norman rockwell painting?
i’m not sure if it was intentional but idk i think there’s something really beautiful about this. like taking a very non traditional family and allowing the viewer to watch them through the wholesome/respectful rockwellian lens
Do you think there is a possibility Norman is alive ? My friend told me about how at the end of that chapter you just seem him in awe.With no confirmation of his death. My friend said they could of asked him to be a scientist to work for them a parallel to the mama choice. When the kids are escaping we see normans ghost in Ray's mind.I concluded this could be The author confirming his death buy this could also be just his guilt/emotions towards Norman at this moment thinking he is dead thoughts?
I’ve actually wanted to make a post on this for a while! Sorry it might be a bit long!
I’m certain Norman is alive. First of all, he’s a main character and part of the key trio and I just don’t think it makes sense for him to die before the end of the first arc, but I do understand the necessity of removing him from the plot for a while. The Norman on the wall I feel was meant to cause us pain by reminding us of his absence and show the children are aware of it, but it is just the children’s feelings of guilt.
Remember back in the early chapters, where Norman says that he always gets what he wants? Well at this stage before his shipment all he wants is to live. He’s desperate not to die (which is perfectly understandable dear god. It’s only been a few months since he found out the truth of the farm but always had to hope of escape) Unlike Ray who’s been accepting his death since the age of 6 this is where Norman really realises that he is going to die and it actually gives me physical pain, he’s only 11! Him being only 11 though is another reason his shipment doesn’t sit right with me. We know that Krone told Grandmother about the children’s escape and them removing a child in order to make it more difficult can’t be ruled out as a possibility but they don’t know the children, why would they remove Norman who is the most intelligent of the Top 3 before his prime? 12 is when they are at their best which is why Ray’s shipment isn’t until his birthday so why would Norman be sent off before then? 11 years of cultivating him just to kill him early? If they wanted to eradicate an escape the easiest way was to remove Norman. Emma is reckless and Ray gives up easily while Norman is logical and passionate. The other children relied on him and removing their pillar while also shattering the ideal of ‘all of us together’ would kill any normal child’s motivation. I suspect there is something else lined up but I also don’t think Norman went to that gate to die. The idea of him becoming a scientist and such is not one I’ll rule out. Mama said that there is only one route of survival open but why would she bother learning about a route of survival that’s of no benefit to her? As a female her only route was was the Mama programme but someone had to be Ray’s father. Someone had to drop the Minerva pen for Krone. There has to be somewhere that the male adults come from and (based on our current knowledge) they are either raised for purpose at headquarters or from the farms.
Now Norman’s trunk may just have a few things in there to avoid the other children in his room from becoming suspicious of why he wasn’t packing, but I think he probably had an escape of his own planned. Norman had planned for almost every situation he can’t have ruled out the possibility of an early shipment but what was his largest concern? That Ray or Emma would be sent out in his place. The demons largest concern? Maintaining their image. If Mama came running up to the house in a panic and was suddenly ‘RAY DARLING THE COUPLE WANT YOU AS WELL, QUICKLY PACK A BAG!’ all the kids would be confused and asking ‘what happened to Norman?’ while Emma; Don; Gilda and everyone else who was aware of the escape would have hope that it was possible. It was risky but his only option of leaving and protecting everyone was to leave at the final moment.
Another thing that sort of bothers me about him dying is of course this final panel. The only dead body of Norman’s we’ve seen is in Emma’s mind, but also that face…He looks confused and frightened but I just think that Norman who has never given up on anything would look….I don’t know but more desperate, more depressed if he had truly given up. There are a few reasons we might not have seen Norman’s dead body. One of them is that the chapter can only be so many pages long and showing his corpse and all would have filled a final page that would be better filled showing Emma and her reaction to this in order to cause an emotional reaction to us poor readers. Another reason might be to give us false hope so that Norman’s death is confirmed at a later date it’s even more heart breaking and we experience our grief all over again. I don’t think Norman will return this arc, but he’s continued to help the children in his absence through his preparations. He’s simply too important to be gone from the plot completely.