29 October 2014

Don't Tell, Don't Transition--Not Yet, Anyway

Even after the repeal of "Don't Ask, Don't Tell," transgender people who live--and want to serve--in the gender of their mind and spirit aren't allowed to be in the Armed Forces.  A trans person who begins his or her transition is supposed to be discharged, under current rules.

However, there is a widespread expectation that the ban will soon be repealed.  As a result, Captain Sage Fox, who had been an Army Reservist for fourteen years, received a call she hadn't anticipated:  a call from her commander telling her that she could continue to serve in her preferred gender.  She would even have permission to be called "ma'am" and use the female latrine.

Or so she--and her commander--thought.

A short time later, her orders were reversed.  She wasn't exactly discharged, at least as the Army defines it.  Instead, she was placed on Individual Ready Reserve, meaning that she could be called back to duty but, in the meantime, would not show up for training, draw a paycheck or have access to benefits. 

In other words, the Army was, essentially, disowning her without discharging her, leaving her in a career and legal limbo.  So, trans people are being advised not to come out because of scenarios like Captain Fox's.

Or that of someone named "Hunter", who is transitioning to male.  Even though his hair is short and testosterone has done its work on him, he still has to use a female latrine (which causes women to flee) and, when attending formal dinners at the officer's school, wear a form-fitting jacket and skirt.

The question of allowing trans people to serve as who they are is much greater than it seems:  Our estimated population of 15,000 in the Armed Services actually represents a somewhat higher percentage than in the population as a whole.  Many serve for years, or even decades (as Captain Fox did) before having their "epiphanies" that cause them to begin psychotherapy, hormones and the other aspects of a gender transition. 

The irony is that trans men and trans women are drawn to enlist for essentially the same reasons.  One, of course, is job prospects. But another is the hypermasculine culture of the military.  To a non-trans person, it makes sense in the case of female-to-male transgenders.  But male-to-females also want to be in such an environment as a way (that ultimately doesn't work) of suppressing their femaleness or, at least, accentuating maleness they may or may not have.  In other words, it's the same sort of impulse that drives some to become police officers or firefighters. (My therapist told me she's treated a number of male-to-female trans people who worked in those professions, as well as the military.)  It's also the same sort of impulse that led people like me to spend lots of time in sports and physical training--or any number of closeted or manque gay men to marry women. 

Some of us (male-to-females) are also motivated by a "desire to serve our country", in the misguided way we're taught to understand it.  Again, just like our female-to-male bretheren.  And gay men.  And lesbians.  And straight people.


28 October 2014

E-Mail Error Exposes Identites of Transgender Patients

You've been going to the clinic for a while.  Hopefully, you have--or are developing--a rapport with your doctor and therapist.  Perhaps you've begun to take hormones--or it's not far in the future. 

But you're still going to work under the name you were given at birth, in clothes and hairstyles deemed appropriate for the gender in which you were assigned.  Maybe your friends, family--or spouse or kids--don't yet know what you're doing.  You're preparing yourself for the "right" moment, whenever that comes, to "come out".

Or, perhaps, you're living in the gender of your mind and spirit.  But, to do that, you moved to a new community and, maybe, into a new line of work.  None of your neighbors or co-workers--or students or instructors, if you've decided to go back to school--knows about your former life, and you want to keep it that way.

Then the worst happens. At least, it's one of the worst possible things for someone in your situation.

Such a thing happened in Glasgow, Scotland.  Someone at the Sandyford Clinic in that city sent out an e-mail announcing an upcoming event to 86 patients.   That e-mail included recipients' e-mail addresses in the "to" section.  Worst of all, some of those addresses included all or part of the patients' names and birthdates.

I'm willing to believe that the error was accidental, as the clinic stated.  But that, for me, makes it even more worrisome, for it's a reminder that it doesn't take malice or violence to put us in danger. 

27 October 2014

Church Reinstates Minister Defrocked For Helping His Son

When I was researching gender-reassignment surgeons, I read about Dr. Stanley Biber, whose practice my surgeon, Dr. Marci Bowers, continued.

Dr. Biber worked at Mount San Rafael Hospital in Trinidad, Colorado--a facility founded by the Sisters of Charity.  Even though the hospital was in the process of being taken over by the Trinidad Area Health Association by the time Biber started performing the surgeries in 1968, there were still Sisters associated with the facility.  Also, some members of the TAHA were, to put it mildly, conservative.  So Dr. Biber had to conduct his surgeries "underground", so to speak.  

Given that he had established his reputation as a surgeon, having worked at the hospital for several years before that first GRS, he was able to convince anyone who questioned him that he was, in fact, doing other surgeries.

I thought of that as I read about Rev. Frank Schaefer.  Granted, what he did "under the radar" was very different from what Dr. Biber did.  But the Methodist minister suffered in a way that Dr. Biber could have.

Rev. Schaefer secretly performed a same-sex marriage--his son's-- in Massachusetts.  At least, it remained secret for a few years.  Then, a member of his conservative Pennsylvania congregation got wind of it and filed a complaint, which led to his being defrocked--even though he promised never to perform another same-sex marriage.

Given the climate of the time and place in which he worked, Dr. Biber could well have lost his hospital privileges--or even his medical license.   That he didn't is--if you'll indulge me in using a religious term--a miracle.

Now the judicial council of the United Methodist Church has ruled that the Pennsylvania church jury was wrong to defrock Rev. Schaefer.  The council based it ruling on "technical grounds", but emphasized that their decision should not be interpreted as support for gay marriage.