/ Nathan Eshelman

Remember Sybil

Orlando just had its 🏳️‍🌈 Pride Weekend, complete with a fair-like atmosphere downtown, thousands and thousand of sexual tourists, a rainbow themed parade, and an evening of fireworks. The parade's Grand Master was an 11 year-old boy who believes he is a girl. He was featured on the front page of the Orlando Sentinel and was being praised for knowing his true self and living his best life. He's eleven. We ought to remember Sybil.

Remember Multiple Personality Disorder (MPD)? The 1980 diagnostic manual called DSM-III defined MPD for the first time, but the psychiatric professionals in 1994 changed the diagnosis (in the DSM-IV) to Dissociative Identity Disorder (DID). According to Psychology Today the change was "to reflect a better understanding of the condition—namely, that it is characterized by fragmentation or splintering of identity, rather than by proliferation or growth of separate personalities." (PT, 9.21). Splintering rather than separate.

In other words MPD was not real, although it was really experienced. The professionals realized that the condition was not truly different personalities, rather one identity (person) that was a "fragmented" or "splintered" identity. The professionals then amended their definition, diagnostic criteria, and the name of the disorder.

The psychological community knew about these symptoms as early as the late 1700s, but it was extremely rare. In 1973, the book Sybil was published and cases began to skyrocket. Daytime Television began featuring persons with MPD and the amount of personas and complexities increased. Phil Donahue, Sally Jessy Raphael, and even Larry King interviewed persons with the disorder. The more exposure the disorder got, the more popular it became. Eventually the Soap Operas were on board as well: All My Children; One Life to Live; Guiding Light, and others all featured characters with MPD.

MPD was a cultural phenomenon, and by 1994 the psychological community realized that there were problems with the diagnosis. The reality was that this was not many different identities living in one person, but a fractured identity, due in part to traumas, abuses, and even cultural suggestions. The diagnostic manual pivoted in DSM-IV and again in DSM-V to reflect this. According to the article The Rise and Fall of Dissociative Identity Disorder in "The Journal of Nervous and Mental Disease", Dr. Joel Paris said, "once considered rare, [DID] was frequently diagnosed during the 1980s and 1990s, after which interest declined. This is the trajectory of a medical fad. DID was based on poorly conceived theories and used potentially damaging treatment methods."

Why I am bringing you down a Phil Donahue-induced memory lane?

We are experiencing a similar cultural phenomenon right now– a medical fad--as men, women, boys, and girls believe that are truly another gender trapped inside of a misgendered body. In 20 years we will have our own Sybil moment and realize that we have been removing the genitals of our children and injecting them with hormones because of a cultural phenomena that turned out to be "based on poorly conceived theories and used potentially damaging treatment methods." Our cultural moment tells us to affirm, affirm, affirm; when in reality we are destroying human bodies because the medical professionals have told us that this is the right treatment for this type of problem.

Soon we will have our Sybil moment.

Sybil was a fraud and eventually the egg on the face of society was exposed. According to a 2011 NPR article, "Shirley Mason was the psychiatric patient whose life was portrayed in the 1973 book Sybil. The book and subsequent film caused an enormous spike in reported cases of multiple personality disorder. Mason later admitted she had faked her multiple personalities."

She faked them, but we did not know that until after she sold 6 million copies; after Sally Field starred in the film; after the diagnosis rose to pop-cultural status; after daytime TV promoted it and popularized it and codified it as a "real thing."

But it's not real. Not all of one's thoughts are real and to be affirmed--hence the name disorder.

We will look back on this time in our society and we will lament the abuse we've subjected our children to. Gender identity disorders may be experienced, but they are not real. Can we stop abusing our children now? Remember Sybil's lesson. It's time for our society to repent. Remember Sybil.

Nathan Eshelman

Nathan Eshelman

Pastor in Orlando, studied at Puritan Reformed Theological & Reformed Presbyterian Theological Seminaries. One of the chambermen on the podcast The Jerusalem Chamber. Married to Lydia with 5 children.

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