Was the gender identity disorder of childhood diagnosis introduced into DSM-III as a backdoor maneuver to replace homosexuality? A historical note

J Sex Marital Ther. 2005 Jan-Feb;31(1):31-42. doi: 10.1080/00926230590475251.


Over the years, the DSM diagnosis of gender identity disorder (and its predecessors gender identity disorder of childhood [GIDC] and transsexualism) has attracted controversy as a mental disorder, for its diagnostic criteria, as a target of therapeutic intervention, and for its relationship to a homosexual sexual orientation. Another point of controversy is the claim that the diagnosis of GIDC was introduced into the DSM-III in 1980 as a kind of "backdoor maneuver" to replace homosexuality, which was deleted from the DSM-II in 1973. In this article, we challenge this historical interpretation and provide an alternative account of how the GIDC diagnosis (and transsexualism) became part of psychiatric nosology in the DSM-III. We argue that GIDC was included as a psychiatric diagnosis because it met the generally accepted criteria used by the framers of DSM-IIIfor inclusion (for example, clinical utility, acceptability to clinicians of various theoretical persuasions, and an empirical database to propose explicit diagnostic criteria that could be tested for reliability and validity). In this respect, the entry of GIDC into the psychiatric nomenclature was guided by the reliance on "expert consensus" (research clinicians)--the same mechanism that led to the introduction of many new psychiatric diagnoses, including those for which systematic field trials were not available when the DSM-III was published.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Child
  • Child Behavior Disorders / diagnosis
  • Child Behavior* / psychology
  • Child Psychiatry
  • Diagnosis, Differential
  • Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders*
  • Gender Identity*
  • Humans
  • Psychometrics
  • Reproducibility of Results
  • Terminology as Topic
  • Transsexualism / diagnosis*