After reading Dean Spade’s article, Resisting Medicine, Re/modeling Gender, I was particularly interested in his discussion of Gender Identity Disorder. I had read a little about GID in previous gender classes, but they way in which he approached/analyzed it interested me.Gender Identity Disorder is known to occur within children at an early age and has the potential to carry on into adulthood. When children are believed to have GID, this involves “…childhood participation in stereotypically gender inappropriate behavior” (Spade, 24). This seems pretty straightforward; a boy with GID will gravitate toward playing with dolls and will avoid being aggressive, while girls will gravitate toward playing with trucks, wearing boy clothes, and will avoid playing with dolls ect.

So yes, people know that GID exists in children, but I wanted to find some opposing viewpoints of individuals about how they think that GID reveals itself in children.

While researching for various opposing beliefs, I happened to come across an episode of the Dr. Phil show that was dedicated entirely to the debate about children with Gender Identity Disorder. Of course Dr. Phil had parents on this episode whose children were “gender confused,” but he also had a psychiatrist and researcher who were able to contribute to the conversation and offer their own opinions and views about the topic.

The psychiatrist, Dan Seigel, believes that children are born in a certain way, and it’s not just their genitalia that constitute whether they are a girl or a boy. He strongly asserts that a child’s brain is on a different scale than one’s genitalia, and that a child’s brain may get a different gender identity despite their visible genitalia. He also makes an effort to point out that even though our society creates gender roles that are so black and white, our brains are on completely different scales/spectrums, which is what allows GID to occur in children. To further elaborate on Seigel’s position, I’ll let him do the talking:

(Speigel begins talking around the 4 minute mark)

In contradiction to Seigel, Dr. Phil then introduces a researcher, Glenn Stanton, who works for a Christian-based organization called “Focus on the Family.” Stanton specifically studies gender as a social phenomenon, or social construction. In other words, he is interested with how the parents play a role in the shaping of a child’s gender. It’s evident that he disagrees with Seigel’s claims, and believes that parents are the ones who should be held responsible for guiding their children into their appropriate gender. In other words, he looks at children as being a blank canvas, but with genitalia, and it is up to the parents to paint the appropriate onto their children, based on reproductive organs. And again to further elaborate, I’ll let Stanton do the rest of the talking:

(Stanton begins talking around the :41 second mark)

Both men obviously have very different opinions on how, and why, children obtain GID, but their juxtapositions mirror very similar arguments around the notion of Nature vs. Nurture. Seigel very deeply roots his research in the influence of nature upon GID in children, where Stanton takes the nurture route. Regardless, both men have valid and intriguing points, but it’s ultimately up to the parents of these children to decide how their Gender Identity Disorder will be handled.

-Aubrey Merrell