Is ‘gender disappointment’ a unique mental illness?

Medicine, Health Care and Philosophy 23 (2):281-294 (2020)

Abstract

‘Gender disappointment’ is the feeling of sadness when a parent’s strong desire for a child of a certain sex is not realised. It is frequently mentioned as a reason behind parents’ pursuit of sex selection for social reasons. It also tends to be framed as a mental disorder on a range of platforms including the media, sex selection forums and among parents who have been interviewed about sex selection. Our aim in this paper is to investigate whether ‘gender disappointment’ represents a unique diagnosis. We argue that ‘gender disappointment’ does not account for a unique, distinct category of mental illness, with distinct symptoms or therapy. That said, we recognise that parents’ distress is real and requires psychological treatment. We observe that this distress is rooted in gender essentialism, which can be addressed at both the individual and societal level.

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