Y. Gavriel Ansara | Cisgenderism in Psychology: Pathologizing and Misgendering Children from 1999-2008


Objectives: This paper assesses whether APA’s recent non-discrimination statement on ‘transgender’ and ‘gender variant’ individuals reflects actual change in cisgenderism (the ideology that invalidates and pathologizes non-assigned genders that contrast with external designations and/or constructs people with non-assigned genders as a distinct class of persons or as effects to be explained) or indicates needed future change. We explore whether cisgenderism is increasing or not, whether research by mental health professionals is more cisgenderist or not, and whether cisgenderist research is particularly impactful or not. Exploring these questions allows us to engage in reflexive science about forms of cisgenderism in psychological methodologies and in psychological constructions of 'gender identity'/'expression'.
Design: This content analysis evaluates the language of articles (N = 94) on childhood ‘gender identity’/ ‘expression’ for two types of cisgenderism, pathologizing and misgendering, which contradicts children’s own gender assignations.
Methods: Original English language journal article records (e.g. abstracts, subject headings, titles, etc.) indexed in PsycINFO on childhood ‘gender identity’ and ‘expression’ published from 1999 through 2008 are scored by two coders for four types of pathologizing and four types of misgendering. Independent variables are Authorship Type and Impact Factor.
Results: Cisgenderism has remained stable overall. Mental health professionals are significantly more cisgenderist than other authors. Articles on children’s gender identity/ expression are increasingly impactful in psychology. Articles by members of an “invisible college” structured around the most prolific author in this area are significantly more cisgenderist and impactful.
Conclusions: Our findings reveal discrepancies between APA policy and predominant psychological approaches to young people with non-assigned genders, raise concerns about proposed gender diagnoses in DSM-5 and suggest actions needed to address cisgenderism in psychology.