30 November 2014

What Was That About Bathrooms?

As I've mentioned in other posts--as well as a piece I wrote in The Huffington Post--it seems that every time a city, state, country or workplace is about to enact (or even talk about) a law or policy that would allow us the same rights and protections everyone else enjoys, someone brings up bathrooms.  Such a person expresses his or her transphobia by whipping up fears that guys will dress like girls so they can go into women's bathrooms and peek at our privates.

I've actually asked such people whether they know of any instance in which such a thing happened.  They change the subject or get angry, as if I'm advocating rape.  But I have yet to hear of any incident like the ones they fear.   In my experience cross-dressers--let alone trans people--are in bathrooms for the same reasons most people use them:  We take care of business and, perhaps, fix our hair, makeup or clothing.  And, if we enter with someone we know, we might chat or gossip.

On the other hand, plenty of trans women--and men--have been assaulted in bathrooms.  A trans woman in Washington DC is one of the latest victims.   She was attacked in a restaurant in Dupont Circle, in the northwestern part of the city.

 

29 November 2014

Post #1500. Thank You For Reading

Today this blog reaches another milestone:  Post #1500.  

When I started this blog, a year before my surgery, I had no idea of how many posts I would write or how long I would keep this site later.  Now I'm here, more than six years after my first post, and five after my surgery.  And my other blog, Midlife Cycling, is, in a way, a spin-off of this one.

I have thought about winding this blog down. But I told someone about it last week, and she exhorted me to keep it going.  I will: I just don't know how often I'll post.  But I don't think I'll run out of material, whether from my own life and from the world of transgender--as well as lesbian, gay, bisexual and otherwise gender-variant--life, politics, art, literature, health care, education and other areas.

Thank you for reading!

28 November 2014

FDA Panel To Discuss Lifting Ban On Blood Donations

One interesting irony in my transition came about two years into it.  There was a blood drive in the college in which I was teaching at the time.  I'd donated at other drives in other workplaces, so I had no qualms about doing so again.  Besides, colleagues were also giving theirs.

I knew there was a ban against gay men donating, but I didn't know what, if any, rules were in place for trans women on hormones.  The screening nurse didn't get that far:  One of the first questions she asked was whether I'd traveled abroad within, if I recall correctly, the previous year. 

I nodded, and she shook her head.  "I'm sorry, you can't donate.  She even showed me the relevant passage in the policy about donors.  

Oh well, I thought.  I haven't tried to donate since then; maybe I will one day, if I'm allowed.

What got me to thinking about that was hearing that a panel of FDA advisors is meeting next week to consider lifting the ban on blood donations from gay men.  The prohibition was enacted more than three decades ago, as AIDS outbreaks were rapidly turning into a worldwide epidemic.


The American Red Cross and America's Blood Centers, the organizations that sponsor most blood drives in the US, say that the ban has no scientific or medical rationale. 

The FDA is not required to follow the advisors' recommendations, and those in the know say that the ban probably won't be lifted.  However, the word on the street in Washington says that current policy would be amended so men could donate only if they haven't had sex with other men within the past year. 

27 November 2014

A Rainbow Hand Turkey?

If you grew up in the US, you probably made "hand turkeys" for Thanksgiving.  If you still make them, don't worry:  I'll keep our secret! ;-)

If you grew up in my generation, you probably were in the closet at the age when you were making "hand turkeys"--and possibly long after that.  So you did things the way your straight cisgender classmates, friends, family members and teachers did them.

If you'd been "out", would your "hand turkey" have been different?  Hmm....

From Gay In The Berkshires
Or maybe it would've looked like this:


From Affirmation

Happy Thanksgiving!

26 November 2014

On Immigration, Obama Helps Everyone But Us

We've all heard that "politics make strange bedfellows."

Well, even with that in mind, it's really strange to see the TEA party and LGBT people upset with President Obama over the same issue: specifically, the immigration plan he announced last week.

Of course, our objections are not the same as those of Mitch McConnell and his acolytes.  They think Obama said "Let 'em all in!" In contrast, some of us--or those we love--could be kept from entering or returning to the US, or from living without fear of losing our jobs, places of residence and the communities we've joined or made for ourselves.

One part of Obama's plan calls for granting short-term deferred action and working rights to parents of US citizens and legal permanent residents who have been in this country for at least five years.  While that is laudable, it also fails to take into account that undocumented LGBT immigrants are far less likely, due to marriage and adoption laws, to have children who are US citizens.  Moreover, many LGBT people have close, and even critical, relationships with nieces, nephews and other extended family members who are not considered in the plan.

In other words, this part of the plan devalues LGBT family relationships, whether or not that is Obama's intention.

Another part of the plan that doesn't take such relationships into consideration is the one calling for provisional waivers of unlawful presence to include the spouses, sons and daughters of lawful permanent residents and the sons and daughters of US citizens.

Aside from its failure to consider LGBT family relationships, the plan also doesn't acknowledge that some LGBT asylum-seekers are fleeing persecution, violence and even the threat of death in their native countries.  It also doesn't take into account that LGBT immigrants are fifteen times as likely as other immigrants to be sexually assaulted in detention centers.

Many LGBT people heard Obama's promise to champion our causes and voted for him.  At times, he has lived up to that pledge.  But this time, he's dropped the ball--and I'm not talking about the one on the court.

25 November 2014

Aggravated Homophobia

Even by the standards of a region not known for its hospitability to LGBT people, Gambia stands out for its official homophobia.

Last month, the West African nation's president approved a law mandating life imprisonment for some homosexual acts. 

The US State Department, among other organizations, has condemned President Yahya Jammeh's action. They also "expressed concern" about the arrests of four men, nine women and a 17-year-old boy. According to Amnesty International, Gambian forces beat the suspects and threatened them with rape if they didn't confess. . 

Upon reading that, I couldn't help but to wonder whether male soldiers were threatening the male suspects with rape. Now that's an interesting way to get them to confess to homosexual acts, don't you think?

Before the law was passed, homosexual acts by men or women were punishable by up to 14 years in prison. In a perverse way, Gambia can be said to be a paragon of gender equality in that part of the world: In some neighboring countries, as well as some in other parts of the world, male homosexual acts are punished, but sexual acts between two women are not. ? And, President Jammeh might even claim that his country is protecting the vulnerable. Some of the acts punishable by life imprisonment are classified as "aggravated homosexuality". They include acts of homosexuality with people who are disabled, drugged or under 18. The term also applies to suspects who are parents, guardians or other authority figures over the person with whom he or she engages in same-sex practices.?

I'd love to know whether there is such a provision for people who have sex with members of the opposite gender who are disabled, drugged, under 18 or who are wards of the accused.

The term and definition of "aggravated homosexuality" was adopted from Ugandan law. Is there a "race to the bottom" in the human rights sweepstakes of Africa, or something?

24 November 2014

A Female Cop Who Started To Live As A Man

Even though it's right in the middle--the capital, no less--of one of the most Republican states in the US, Austin is often described as one of the most "progressive" cities in the United States.  I have never been there, so I only know what I've heard and read about it--which includes claims that it's also the most segregated city in Texas.  That doesn't surprise me, as the skin colors in "progressive" or "liberal" enclaves tend to run from Golden Neutral to Alabaster.

Whatever the truth about Austin's community mindset, the city should be lauded for this:  It now has its first transgender police officer.  Greg Abbnik joined the force ten years ago.  For most of those ten years, Greg was known to fellow officers, and the community, as Emily.  

Others may hate it, but I just loved this sentence from the KXAN report:  "Joining as a woman, it wasn't until this year that he says he really started living".  

The italics in that sentence.  But my congratulations to Senior Officer Abbnik are.

23 November 2014

Buried In The Wrong Gender

Ask any transgender person what his or her greatest fears are in this life, and you will probably hear about being slandered, harrassed, beaten, fired or evicted--and of losing longtime relationships with family members, friends and colleagues-- simply for being who he or she is.  

I have experienced all of those things.  So have many other trans people.  I am fortunate in that I am alive to tell about them.

Which leads me to another great fear many trans people have:  What will be done with, or to, us in death.  Even if we have been stripped of all of your dignity when we are alive, we can be deprived of whatever is accorded to other people in death.  At least, that is what can happen in most states if we change our names, take hormones and live and work in the gender of our mind and spirits but, for whatever reasons, don't undergo the surgery that makes us members of that gender in the eyes of most people and the law of most places.

That is what happened to Idaho trans woman Jennifer Gable.  Last month, she suddenly died from an aneurysm.  That was shocking enough to those who loved her, but what happened next was even more stunning:  In her open casket, she was presented with short hair and in a suit, as a man. 

Her paid obituary gave her name as Geoffrey Charles Gable and mentioned the details of her birth, baptism, membership in a church, marriage (which ended in divorce) and work for Wells Fargo Bank.  There was not a word about the way, or the name under which, she lived the last few years of her life.  

As appalled as I am, I am not surprised:  Idaho is still one of four US states (Kansas, Ohio and Tennessee are the others) that will not change the gender on a person's birth certificate even if he or she has gender reassignment surgery.  Knowing that, I suppose it's a victory of sorts that her death certificate lists her as "Geoffrey AKA Jennifer Gable". 

22 November 2014

The Worst US Cities for LGBT Rights

I normally don't praise much about USA Today.  But they have an interesting article in today's edition in which they show how, although the tide is turning in favor of LGBT rights, there are still places in this country where  gays, lesbians, transgenders and others in the "spectrum" have been left high and dry--or, if you prefer, stranded on desert islands.

According to the article, of the five worst US cities for LGBT rights, the worst is in Mississippi (Southaven), the next three are in Texas (Irving, Lubbock and Mesquite) and Great Falls, Montana rounds out the list.

How long will those cities and states be stubborn, er, hold out?

20 November 2014

Transgender Day Of Remembrance 2014

Today is Transgender Day of Remembrance.

If you've been following this blog for some time, you know that I commemorate this day every year, with a blog post and by participating in an event that memorializes those of us who were killed simply for being who we are--and for those who were killed because someone thought he or she was one of us.

A typical TDOR event includes a reading of victims' names and hometowns, if they are known. (Too many of us lack homes and documentation.)  I still recall reading the name of Brian McGlothlin, shot in the head with a semi-automatic rifle on a Cincinnati street by someone who hated him for wearing women's clothes.  

On the night I read his name, my gender-reassignment surgery was a little more than eight months in my future. I remember feeling that I had navigated some treacherous currents in my journey from living as a man to life as a woman, but knowing that there still could be all sorts of storms and other dangers ahead. (I didn't even know the half of it!) Even if I'd lived and worked in an environment where no one knew about--or had reason to suspect--my past, my life could still be endangered by someone who "outed" me.

I also couldn't help but to think about an old friend of mine, Corey,who committed suicide because she (I have chosen to remember her as the female she was in mind and spirit) simply could not bear the burden of having to carry herself in a man's body.  I do not mean to trivialize people like Rita Hester --whose murder in the Boston suburb of Allston in 1998 led to the first TDOR the following year--or Shelley Hiilard, Islan Nettles, Amanda Gonzalez-Andujar or Gwen Araujo when I say that I have always thought of Corey as the victim of a murder, of a hate crime. What else but the hate and hostility she encountered and feared could have driven her to hang herself from the rafters of the drafty building in which she lived?

So, while I plan to commemorate those of us who were shot, stabbbed, beaten, run over by trucks, immolated--or some or all of the above--because someone couldn't bear the thought of us being who are, I also will remember those who simply couldn't bear the hostility, the discrimination we've faced. Whether the bullets, the slashes, the beatings were inflicted by a random stranger, a date or the victim's own hand, we need to remember every one who was killed by hate and the cowardice that allows it, not only to exist, but to be directed against some of the poorest and most vulnerable members of our society:  those who do not follow their culture's dictates about what a person must, or must not, be because of the "M" or "F" on their birth certificates.

18 November 2014

R.I.P. Leslie Feinberg

Sad news:  Leslie Feinberg has died.

Of course, she is best known as the author of Stone Butch Blues, the first coming-of-age story about an LGBT person many of us read.  But she also became the sort of scholar I admire most:  an independent one.  While her writings on gender identity and gender politics (Her last words were: "Remember me as a revolutionary communist!") are widely cited in academic circles, she herself was never affiliated with any university.  In fact, she stopped attending school around the 10th grade, but would still receive her high school diploma.

Her life and work gave us important lessons on how we can, and how we must, evolve in our sexual identities and gender expressions.  Though she, for years, lived  as a "butch" lesbian, she later identified as a trans person, though not as a trans man. Near the end of her life, she said she had "never been in search of a common umbrella identity, or even an umbrella term, that brings together people of oppressed sexes, gender identities and sexualities".  Instead, she believed in the right to self-determination for members of oppressed individuals, groups, communities and nations.

Her philosophy was encapsulated in her use of she/zie and her/her for herself.  As far as I know, she did not try to convince other people that they should use the same pronouns, though which ones they use are important.  Still, she pointed out, "people have been disrespectful of me with the right pronoun and respectful with the wrong one".  

I find such comments particularly interesting because when I first read Stone Butch Blues, years before I began my own transition, I was struggling, as I had been for a long time, to find a language and other means to express my own gender identity and sexual inclinations.  They didn't fit into the terms I'd been given--boy/girl, man/woman, marriage, even love--because such terms could only be hetero-centric because they were taught to me, however unwittingly, in hetero-centric ways.  As Jess, the lead character (and, some would say, a stand-in for Leslie Feinberg herself) in SBB says, "I need 'butch' words to describe my 'butch' life".  Jess's girlfriend, Theresa, understood as much but needed to hear it from Jess, who has shut herself down emotionally because of the brutality and violence she's experienced.  To Jess, like others in the lesbian subculture of the time (early 1960's), that lack of emotion is her butch identity and what gets her "props" in that world.  But it also led to the breakdown of her relationship with Theresa.

Even if you don't identify on the "spectrum", the book is interesting in all sorts of other ways.  For example, the story begins in Buffalo, where--at the time Jess "comes out"--there were still many blue-collar jobs to be had, and butches like Jess worked in some of them.  Jess would leave that city and move to the other end of New York State, to my hometown.   Later, when she returned to Buffalo, she found that her lesbian friends had died, moved away or married men.  There was no more blue-collar work; instead, her old friends were working as store clerks or night managers, or not at all.  

Aside from the history lesson, SBB taught me (and many other readers) much else.  When I read Christine Jorgensen's autobiography as a teenager, I was interested in, but not absorbed by it.  Part of the reason was (what I felt) her very mannered way of telling her story.  But more important, aside from feeling that I was male only in my genitalia (which I hated), I found little in common between me and her.  Most important of all, I didn't get the sense of Ms. Jorgensen's evolution, much as I hate to use that term.  I never had a real sense of how she came to see herself as the female she was, let alone how she explained it to herself or anyone else.  What I couldn't articulate then was that she eschewing one proscribed role (that of a man of her times) and taking on another (a woman of the 1950's).  Of course, it wasn't her job to instruct me or anyone else on how to perceive and express our self-identity.  But I would not find any insight on how I could define, let alone express, what I knew to be true,--or intellectual or spiritual sustenance for the journey of becoming myself.  Ironically, one of the first places in which I found such things was in SBB, the story of a butch lesbian who later comes to understand her own version of her trangender identity.

Then again, Leslie Feinberg and I were more alike than I ever could have realized.  After all, we are both transgenders who are attracted mainly (actually, in Feinberg's case, entirely) to women.  She identified as a transgender lesbian; I think of myself as a trangender bisexual with lesbian tendencies, though my lesbian tendencies are decidedly of Feinberg's butch variety.

And I'll admit that the one and only time I ever met her, I felt attracted to her.  Yes, in that way.  I mean, why wouldn't I be?  She was smart:  my first requirement.  And she was--at least when I saw her--disarmingly warm.  Perhaps her warmth disarmed me only because I was expecting to see the "stone" character she portrayed in her book.  And, finally, I will never forget the way her face lit up I told her my name:  One of her characters is also named Justine.

17 November 2014

The Transsexual Person In Your Life

Even though in some circles, people have become more accepting of--or, at least, more willing to accept-- trans people, parents, siblings, friends, co-workers and others are still shocked and not sure of how to act when someone they've known for years or decades (or all of their lives) announces that he or she is trans.

There are a number of resources available.  Today I came across this very good one from the Gender Centre of Australia:




The Transsexual Person In Your Life

Responses to frequently asked questions, frequently held concerns

Reviewed July 1st 2008

About this document

This was written for people who have recently learned that someone in their life identifies as a transsexual or has decided to undergo gender transition. Since many people have not previously had the opportunity to learn about transsexualism and other gender issues, they frequently have a lot of questions, and may or may not feel comfortable directly asking the transsexual person these questions.

A few notes about terminology

The community of people dealing with gender issues is large and diverse, and terminology about these issues is continuing to evolve. We will try to follow usages commonly accepted by many people in these communities, but apologize in advance if we unwittingly offend anyone who uses different words for their experiences.

About the terms "transsexual" and "transgendered"

We are using the term "transsexual" to refer to people who are undergoing or have undergone gender transition ("sex change"). "Transgendered" is a broader term, generally used to include any person who feels their assigned gender does not completely or adequately reflect their internal gender. Transgendered people may or may not take steps to live as a different gender.

About the term "opposite sex"

Modern Western culture is very invested in a strict two–sex ⁄ two–gender system, where the two categories are constructed as opposites. Many transsexual and transgendered people (and lots of other folks, too!) feel that this model is too restrictive to accurately describe their own sense of their gender. Since the phrase "opposite sex" is based on this restrictive concept, we will avoid that term in this document, in favor of such descriptions as "another sex" or "the target gender expression." (We will occasionally use the phrase, in quotes, if we are specifically referring to the restrictive two–gender system.)

About "sex" v "gender"

Social scientists make careful distinctions between these two terms. "Sex" generally refers to biology, to the actual form of the human body, including such factors as chromosomes, genital configuration, and secondary sex characteristics, while "gender" refers to the social meanings and characteristics associated with certain types of people.
In this document, we will attempt to adhere to this usage, but not too strictly. Because transsexuals combine sex and gender in various ways, sorting out exactly what is about "sex" v what is about "gender" can get a little tricky.

Contents

Section I: General information about transsexualism and gender transition;
Section II: Responses to common reactions and feelings about transition; and
Section III: Other resources, Web links, Books

Section I: Overview

What is transsexualism?

Transsexualism is a condition in which a person experiences a discontinuity between their assigned sex and what they feel their core gender is. For example, a person who was identified as "female" at birth, raised as a girl, and has lived being perceived by others as a woman, may feel that their core sense of who they are is a closer fit with "male" or "man." If this sense is strong and persistent, this person may decide to take steps to ensure that others perceive them as a man. In other words, they may decide to transition to living as the sex that more closely matches their internal gender.

What is involved in the transition process?

The answer to this question varies depending on the needs and desires of the individual choosing the transition process. An individual may choose any combination of social, medical and legal steps that will help that person achieve the greatest level of comfort with their body and social roles.
Social steps might include asking to be referred to by a different name (perhaps one generally given to people of the "opposite sex") and different pronouns ("she" instead of "he" or vice versa), dressing in clothing traditionally worn by people of the sex they wish to be perceived as, and taking on mannerisms frequently associated with that sex ⁄ gender.
Medical steps might include hormonal treatment to achieve an appearance more consistent with the target gender expression, and ⁄ or surgery to further modify the appearance. There are a variety of surgical options to alter the transsexual person's body to help them achieve the greatest comfort with their gender expression. The transsexual person may choose some, all, or none of these surgical options.
Many transsexual people also work with the courts in their area to achieve legal recognition of their new name and gender. Steps taken vary depending on the location.

What causes transsexualism?

No one knows the answer to this question, although there is much research currently in progress investigating it. Among the theories being investigated are genetic influences, in utero hormonal influences, and other brain structure ⁄ brain chemical influences.
Human sex and gender are very complex, and it is unlikely that any simplistic analysis will definitively answer this question.

What is the treatment for transsexualism? Is there a "cure?"

Treatments for transsexualism based on attempting to change the individual's sense of their own true gender have proven ineffective. Accepted treatments are based on helping the transsexual person's body and presentation match their inner sense of their gender, usually through hormone treatment and surgery.

How common is transsexualism?

The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (D.S.M.– IV), fourth edition, says the following (© 1994, American Psychiatric Association):
Prevalence: There are no recent epidemiological studies to provide data on prevalence of Gender Identity Disorder. Data from smaller countries in Europe with access to total population statistics and referrals suggest that roughly 1 per 30,000 adult males and 1 per 100,000 adult females seek sex–reassignment surgery.
Because these numbers reflect only people who have sought traditional medical treatment, they do not reflect the total numbers of people who have some experience of gender discontinuity.

Is transsexualism a modern phenomenon?

While advances in medical science have only in the last few decades made it possible for individuals to transition with the aid of hormones and surgery, transgendered people have existed throughout history in many societies.
Jennifer Reitz's "Natural History of Transsexuality" provides a brief historical overview.

Is transsexualism the same as homosexuality?

No. Transsexualism is about a person's core sense of their gender. This is a separate issue from the gender of the people they are attracted to.
Just like any other individual, a transsexual person may identify as heterosexual, gay, lesbian, or bisexual. For example, a person raised as a man who transitions to living as a woman may identify as heterosexual, in which case she would seek relationships with men, or lesbian, in which case she would seek relationships with other women.

Section II: Responses to common reactions and feelings about transition

The person I thought I knew is becoming a stranger.

A person we know who undergoes gender transition will very likely look and sound quite different after their transition. A person we've known as a woman, for instance, may change his hairstyle, grow facial hair, speak with a lower voice, and adopt an entirely new wardrobe. But he's not likely to adopt an entirely new personality or set of values, and our history with this person is unchanged. Think of any person you care about, and ask yourself what qualities you value most about her or him. You are likely to think of qualities which are not gender–specific, such as sense of humor, intelligence, and loyalty. These qualities are not likely to change as a person undergoes gender transition. In fact, a person who undergoes gender transition is in a process of becoming more comfortable with himself or herself, and so their positive qualities are likely to be enhanced.
It can be scary when someone in your life tells you they need to make such a major change, and it's understandable that you may feel you don't know this person as well as you thought. But if you continue to spend time together, you will likely be comforted to find that they are in many ways the same person you have always known.

Altering the body through surgery seems like mutilation.

This is also an understandable response. To those of us who are comfortable with our assigned gender, the idea of altering those parts of our bodies that are most associated with our gender can feel alien, frightening, and disturbing.
Another person's decision to alter parts of their body can feel threatening. It may help to remember that a person undergoing transition from, for instance, a male to female gender expression, is not making a blanket statement about the value of malehood or the validity of your gender expression. She is simply seeking to become more comfortable in her body.
Sex reassignment surgery is the aspect of gender transition that is most difficult for some people to understand, and you may never feel comfortable with it. That's okay. But that discomfort doesn't preclude honoring another person's choice, treating them with respect, and even supporting them through their gender transition.

I can't imagine the person ever seeming to me like the sex they want to be.

It's hard to let go of our perceptions of someone we've known for a long time. Changes in a person's appearance and behavior can occur gradually, and may be difficult to perceive if you are in regular contact. But if you pay attention to how strangers react to the person, it may help you to see these changes. On the other hand, the gradualness of the change may help you to adapt to the new gender identity step–by–step. You may be surprised, in time, at how completely you accept the person's new chosen gender.
It is true, however, that some people who undergo gender transition will continue to have significant characteristics of their previous gender identity. Some male–to–female transsexuals, for instance, may be unusually tall for women, while a female–to–male transsexual may have small features. It may help if you avoid focusing on these specific things, but rather honor the person's chosen gender, and try to see them as they see themselves.

How can I support this person in their transition?

There are many ways you can be helpful. Perhaps the most important is to convey your intention to be supportive to the person in transition. Let them know you want to be an ally, and ask them what they need from you. Then, to the extent you are able, offer them the support they've asked for.
We can offer a couple of specific ideas as well. First, you can adopt the use of the person's new name (if they've chosen one) and appropriate gender pronouns. This change can be uncomfortable at first, and you may slip up once in a while, but eventually this change becomes habitual and comfortable. This small but very important step will demonstrate that you take the person's decision seriously.
You can also try to maintain your previous relationship with the person, whether that's the intimate relationship of close friends or once–a–month bowling buddies. Gender transition is new territory for many people, and hence can be scary. "Hanging in" with the person in transition despite feelings of discomfort with the process can be a very supportive act.
Also, you may ask the person in transition how you can help in letting others know about their transition. They may want to tell people themselves, or they may be grateful for help "spreading the word." There may be certain contexts––the softball team, a church you both attend, or the workplace––where your assistance in telling others and expressing your support will be appreciated. Let them be your guide in this.

Section III: Other Resources

Internet Resources on Gender Issues: General Resources

The International Foundation for Gender Education (I.F.G.E.)
"A leading advocate and educational organization for promoting the self–definition and free expression of individual gender identity. I.F.G.E. is not a support group, it is an information provider and clearinghouse. I.F.G.E. maintains the most complete bookstore on the subject of transgenderism available anywhere."
Gender Education & Advocacy (G.E.A.)
"Gender Education & Advocacy is a national organization focused on the needs, issues and concerns of gender variant people in human society. We seek to educate and advocate, not only for ourselves and others like us, but for all human beings who suffer from gender–based oppression in all of its many forms "
Jennifer Reitz' Transsexuality Page
A lot of good information for trans folks, as well as some interesting general info about gender issues. Sections include: "What exactly is Transsexuality?; The reasons to cherish being transsexual; Why you don't want to be a woman or a man; What can I expect long term?; What is it like to be transsexual?."
Paper Cuts on My Soul
Some great educational handouts and pointers to other resources. A wonderful archive of trans folks' letters announcing their transition.
Transsexualism And Gender Identity Disorder
Dr. Anne Vitale's site. "The intent of this web site is to educate the reader to the psychotherapeutic issues of gender identity."
Standards Of Care For Gender Identity Disorders
Issued by the World Professional Association for Transgender Health Inc.. This outlines suggested protocols transsexuals must conform to receive treatment from participating medical professionals.
Gender Public Advocacy Coalition (GenderPAC)
"GenderPAC works to end discrimination and violence caused by gender stereotypes by changing public attitudes, educating elected officials and expanding legal rights."
F.T.M. International
"F.T.M. International is the internet contact point for the largest, longest–running educational organization serving F.T.M. transgendered people and transsexual men."

Resources specifically for male–to–female transgendered ⁄ transsexual people

Transsexual Women’s Resources
Dr. Anne Lawrence's page contents includes a lot of good information about hormones and surgery, plus pointers to other resources, including resources specifically for young transsexuals.
Renaissance: Transgender Information & Support
A "transgender education organization and the largest open membership support group in the world." Primarily for male–to–female trans folks, including cross–dressers and others.

Information for family, friends, employers and others

T.G.S. – P.F.L.A.G. Frequently Asked Questions
Webpage associated with the T.G.S. – P.F.L.A.G. mailing list, a list "for support of parents, family, spouses and friends of transgendered people and transgenders who wish to discuss family or other personal relationships."
TransFamily
"TransFamily is a support group for transgendered and transsexual people, their parents, partners, children, other family members, friends, and supportive others. We provide referrals, literature, and over–the–phone information on all transgender issues "
A Parent's Dilemma, the Transgender Child
Well–written article by counselor and gender specialist Gianna E. Israel.
A Lover's Leap of Faith
A Speech Given at the Friends (Quakers) for Lesbian and Gay Concerns Midwinter Gathering, February, 1999. The lesbian lover of an F.T.M. writes from a faith–based perspective about her partner's gender transition and its effects on her.
Human Rights Campaign's Transgenderism and Transition in the Workplace
"A guide that examines transgender workplace issues, including a discussion of the law and strategies for dealing with transitioning on the job." For both workers and employers.
Transsexualism: Notes for Employers
"This document is intended to provide guidance to Managers and Employers of persons diagnosed with Transsexualism. It details the current legal position [in the U.K.] regarding such persons' employment rights, and makes recommendations for "best practice" ways of dealing with transsexualism in the workplace."

Books

Most of these books can be ordered from the I.F.G.E. bookstore.
Boenke, Mary (ed.) Trans Forming Families: Real Stories About Transgendered Loved Ones. Waterford Press, 1999.
Brown, Mildred L. True Selves: Understanding Transsexualism–For Families, Friends, Coworkers, and Helping Professionals. San Francisco: Jossey–Bass Publishers, 1996.
Burke, Phyllis. Gender Shock: Exploding the Myths of Male and Female. Anchor Books, 1996.
Cameron, Loren. Body Alchemy: Transsexual Portraits. Pittsburgh, Pa U.S.A.: Cleis Press, 1996.
Cole, Dana. The Employer's Guide to Gender Transition. Waltham, Ma U.S.A.: I.F.G.E., 1992.
Devor, Holly. F.T.M.: Female to Male Transsexuals in Society. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1997.
Israel, Gianna E., et al. Transgender Care: Recommended Guidelines, Practical Information, and Personal Accounts. Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 1997.
Kirk, Sheila M.D. Feminizing Hormonal Therapy for the Transgendered. Blawnox, Pa U.S.A.: Together Lifeworks, 1996.
Kirk, Sheila M.D.Masculinizing Hormonal Therapy for the Transgendered. Blawnox, Pa U.S.A.: Together Lifeworks, 1996.
Kirk, Sheila Pa U.S.A. and Martine Rothblatt, J.D. Medical, Legal & Workplace Issues for the Transsexual. Blawnox, Pa U.S.A.: Together Lifeworks, 1995.
Bornstein, Kate. Gender Outlaw: On Men, Women and the Rest of Us. New York: Routledge, 1994.
Califia, Pat. Sex Changes: The Politics of Transgenderism. San Francisco, California: Cleis Press, 1997.
Feinberg, Leslie. Transgender Warriors: Making History from Joan of Arc to Rupaul. Boston: Beacon Press, 1996. Also see Leslie's website.
Wilchins, Riki Anne. Read My Lips: Sexual Subversion and the End of Gender. Ithaca, N.Y. U.S.A.: Firebrand, 1997.
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16 November 2014

An Australian Judge Gets It

In Australia, a child who wishes to undergo the second stage of gender transition--which involves, among other things, taking hormones--has to apply to the Family Court for permission.  There, cases are decided according to the standards of Gillick Competence, which are used to deem whether or not a child 16 years of age or younger is able to consent to his or her own medical treatment, without parental interference or involvement.

Now Family Court Chief Justice Diana Bryant wants to see her court's jurisdiction tested in cases involving medical treatment for transgender issues.  From my understanding (I know nothing about the Australian legal system), it would mean that a test case would have to go before the full bench of the Family Court, then the High Court.


Judge Bryant was responding, in part, to a recent episode of a television program which tells the stories of transgender children as they struggle, legally and socially, to live their lives as the people they are.  That program, as well as her own research, has convinced her that transgenderism is "completely innate".  She also notes that "society is changing about these issues" and, as a result, "the system needs to respond".  


According to her, and published reports, many doctors and parents aren't happy that transgender kids in their care have to go to court to prove their competence to judges, some of whom are not as knowledgable and perceptive as Judge Bryant.  As Jamie, a 14-year-old transgender said, " I don't think it's necessary that we have to back to the court so they can decide if I'm Gillick competent, 'cause that's just up to the doctors and parents, I think".


I hope that more judges--and others who have the power to make decisions for kids like Jamie--listen to her, to Judge Bryant and everyone else (including ourselves) who know what we, in our minds and spirits, are. Then, perhaps, not so many of us would be consigned to lives clouded by depression, stalled by substance abuse and other self-destructive behavior and punctuated--or, worse, ended--by suicide attempts.


15 November 2014

A Towering Napoleon

For me, this was lunch the other day.

The menu at the Olympic Flame Diner called it "Eggplant Napoleon", one of the day's specials.  I didn't even ask what it was; I ordered.



It tasted even better than it looked.  I mean, how can you go wrong with eggplant, fresh tomatoes, extra virgin olive oil, some Feta cheese and a few sprigs of parsley on top?

I definitely would order it again.

I know this has nothing to do with transgender issues--unless, of course, you count a "girls' lunch" in that category.  But I wanted to share something I enjoyed.  If you've been reading my "gloom and doom" (or what I call "realistic";-)) posts, you deserve it!

14 November 2014

Prescription Insurance Blues

My current employer recently changed the way it funds its employee health insurance policies--and its prescription plan.

I haven't been to a doctor since the change, which took place on the first of last month.  However, yesterday I went to pick up a refill for my estrogen (Premarin) prescription.

The last time it was refilled, in August, I received a 90-day supply for a co-pay or $45.  That had been the cost almost from the time I had my surgery, about five years ago.  Before that, I was paying ten dollars for a 30-day supply.

When I went to the Callen-Lorde pharmacy center, the clerk told me that, according to the current plan, I am allowed only 30 days at a time.

That, in and of itself, would have been nothing more than an inconvenience. But the next bit of news she gave me could have a real impact on my life:  It's now $81.24 for that 30-day supply.

When I called Express Scripts, who manages the plan, the person kept on saying "I hear you, I hear you."  When I asked for an explanation, he said, "Well, it costs more now."  Well, duh.  He said I'd have to contact the insurance company, whose name he didn't have.  

"That price is for in-person pick up," he said.  "If you want it mailed to you, you can get a 90-day supply for $243.72."  Now, the highly atrophied part of my brain that does math couldn't make the calculation on the spot, but it didn't sound like a discount--and, of course, it isn't.  


"So how did the price more than quadruple in the three months since I last got my prescription.  Did cows become an endangered species or something?"
(Premarin comes from pregnant mares.) He repeated, "It costs more now."  Then he gave an ever-so-helpful suggestion:  "You should call the insurance company."

That office--or, more precisely, the office of the person who administers the plan for my employer--was closed by that time.  I left two voice mail messages yesterday: one in the morning, one in the afternoon. The second time I called, I was switched to the main number, where I was told the person I needed to talk to was "out to lunch".  On Friday, you know what that means.

I hope to hear from her on Monday.  How, exactly, does a drug I need go from $45 for a three-month supply to $81.24 for one month?

13 November 2014

Gender-Neutral Sports

Time was when you couldn't use "gender", let alone "transgender", in the same sentence with "sports". 

Thankfully, we've been seeing more high-level trans people in various sports.  I like to think that had I transitioned when I was young, I might be one of those athletes.

The best part is that the category of "gender neutral sports" is expanding and now includes martial arts and basketball, as well as quidditch.

But where's cycling?  I can hardly think of a more gender-neutral sport.

Image
From The Signal,the newspaper of Georgia State University,







12 November 2014

Will They Strike Surgery Out Of The Requirements?

Those of us who live in New York City often decry our state's lawmakers, who tend to be more socially and politically conservative than their counterparts here in the Big Apple. "Those upstate Republicans" in the state Senate are, in our view, responsible for everything retrograde that burdens our city and state.

For example, they spent decades blocking the inclusion of language that would extend the provisions of the state's non-discrimination laws to transgender people.  The same year they first rejected such a proposal--1971--they also passed the Urstadt Law, which took away the City's power to pass local rent regulations more stringent than those of the State.

But there's one city-state discrepancy that can't be blamed on the "upstate Republicans":  If you were born anywhere in New York State except for the five boroughs of New York City, you can change the gender on your birth certificate on a recommendation from your doctor, psychotherapist  or, in some cases, other health-care professionals whose services you used.  On the other hand, if you were born in the Bronx, Brooklyn, New York (Manhattan), Queens or Richmond (Staten Island) counties, you have to undergo gender-reassignment surgery.

The five boroughs of New York City constitute one of the 57 jurisdictions in the US that has responsibility for its own birth registration.  Most of those jurisdictions are states, and someone applying for a change in his or her birth certificate (or, in some states, a new one)  would write to the state's commission of health or its equivalent. Most states require proof of GRS or an equivalent procedure (as Georgia, where I was born, does); a few (including California, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont and Washington DC) do not and a few other states (Idaho, Kansas, Ohio and Tennessee) will not change the gender on a birth certificate for any reason.

So, interestingly, I had about the same experience in getting my new birth certificate from Georgia that I would have had if I'd been born in New York City.  To be fair, the folks in the Peachtree State processed my application quickly and I had my new birth certificate within days. 

I don't know how quickly or slowly the  process works here in the Big Apple. But it would almost certainly go more smoothly--and be easier on the applicant--if transgender advocates' testimony at a City Council Health Committee hearing the other day have any effect.  They are calling for passage of a proposal that would eliminate the requirement for surgery, and Gretchen Van Wye, Assistant Commissioner of the Bureau of Vital Statistics spoke in favor of such a legislative move.

The City Council could vote on the proposal by the end of this year.



11 November 2014

Transgender Veterans And The Benefits They Can't Use.

Two months ago, WNYC--a local public radio station--aired this segment about the troubles transgender veterans face in using their benefits:


10 November 2014

Fact Sheet: Gender Nonconforming Youth In Schools

The Sylvia Rivera Law Project in New York has created an excellent fact sheet about gender non-conforming students:



09 November 2014

What A Day (Date)!

Today's post won't be about transgender issues--at least, not directly.

That's because I was struck by how many historical events happened on this date, and I just had to talk about them.


You probably know about two of them.  If you think one of them was great, you think the other was terrible.


I am referring, of course, to the fall of the Berlin Wall (Was it really 25 years ago?) and Kristallnacht.


For all that I denounce the ways in which my native country abuses its power in the world, I still that the US and its allies can be made to offer a better life for their citizens in ways that totalitarian and collectivist states can't.  That is why I, like most people who have no connection to the Soviet system, think that puncturing that partition in the old German capital allowed a light to stream in.  Whether that light is used to make our lives brighter or turned into a kleig that breaks us down is still, I believe, a question that has not been decided, though it we are being nudged toward the answer most of us wouldn't want.


Mikhail Gorbachev, the Soviet premier at the time, is widely hailed as a hero in the West even if his policy of "glasnost" and "peristroika" inadvertently led to the collapse of the empire he headed.  Not surprisingly, leaders of the old Soviet heirarchy as well as anti-nationalists of the states formerly included in the Soviet Union despise him as much of the world reviles Hitler.


Speaking of the latter:  One of the most perversely brilliant things the Fuhrer (or, more precisely, his propoganda minister, Joseph Goebbels) did was to foster the perception that the burning of homes and looting of buinesses belonging to Jews in Germany, Austria and the annexed areas of adjacent countries--and the killing of some of those Jews--was a spontaneous popular uprising in response to a young Polish Jew's assassination of a German embassy official stationed in Paris.  


It is often argued that this deception is what rallied young Germans to "defend" their country. What it did, of course, was plunge the world into darkness. Hmm...Where else have we seen anything like that?


As for being plunged in darkness:  On this same date in 1965, nine northeastern US states and parts of Canada experienced the largest blackout when a switch in a power station in Niagara Falls failed.  I remember that one well:  I was seven years old and, being accustomed to seeing my Brooklyn neighborhood illuminated by tall streetlamps and light from neighbors' windows, simply could not comprehend what had just happened.  Nor, for that matter, could most of the adults in my neighborhood.  


What I recall most clearly, though, is my father not coming home from work that night.  I think it was the first time I experienced that.  He, like many others, took the subway to and from his job in Manhattan.  Thankfully, he hadn't yet boarded a train before the lights went out and was thus spared being marooned in a pitch-black tunnel as so many other commuters were that evening!


What I wouldn't know, until much later, was that on that same day in 1965, a former seminarian named Roger LaPorte immolated himself in front of the United Nations in protest of the Vietnam War.


Believe it or not, the events I've mentioned aren't the only  ones of note to have happened on this date:   Napoleon Bonaparte declared himself the dictator of France.  Teddy Roosevelt left the White House for what would be the first official visit outside the US by an American President.  The Kaiser abidicated and fled to the Netherlands as Germany declared itself a republic.  And the great Russian writer Ivan Turgenev was born.  As if he needed more material to work with!



08 November 2014

Why We Don't Come Out

Most people don't realize that, for all of the advances made in attaining equality for LGBT people, we still face suspicion, hostility; the prospect of losing our friends, families, jobs and housing; and even the risk of violence against us.

That is one reason why, even as the social and legal climate are changing, nearly half of all LGBT people don't come out to anyone:



Moreover, the reasons why some of us don't "come out" are depressingly familiar:



and the repercussions of "coming out" are still too common:




These charts came from an excellent article Tabitha Speelman wrote for The Atlantic last year.

07 November 2014

A Frontier Of Transphobia In Healthcare

On the whole, I've been a bit more fortunate than other trans people in my experiences with health care providers.  I was able to find a doctor who treated many trans patients and he referred me, as needed, to others who were affirming or who, at least, cared enough only to use the right pronouns.

Still, in the early part of my transition, I had an encounter with some nasty, transphobic nurses at the New York Eye and Ear Infirmary, to which my ophthalmologist sent me.  The nurses laughed, used every derogatory term ever invented and made rude gestures.  The receptionist witnessed everything; I told her I was leaving; she summoned the doctor who talked to me in a reassuring way and promised that if I ever went there again, neither those nurses nor anyone else would treat me that way again.


A decade has passed since that incident.  Still, I think about it from time to time, especially when I hear or read about mistreatment to other trans people.  Even so, I simply can't imagine what a small but very visible group of trans people experiences.  I'm talking about pregnant trans men.

To tell you the truth, I'm not sure of how I'd react upon seeing a pregnant man. I don't think I'd make rude comments or be mean in any other way.  Still, I'm not sure I could stop myself from staring.

Knowing that, I can only imagine how it must be for them to go out in public every day, let alone deal with health care providers.  Most, I'm sure, would treat them as best they knew how.  But if some health care providers can be as mean and rude as the nurses I encountered at NY Eye and Ear, I can only imagine what it's like for those pregnant trans men.

06 November 2014

Why Parental Support For Trans Youth Matters

For two years, I co- (as a volunteer) a group for LGBT teenagers and young adults.  It was one of the more rewarding--and heartbreaking--things I've ever done.

One of the things that made it rewarding--apart from knowing (or hoping, anyway) that I helped--was seeing just how smart and resilient young people can be.  The heartbreak came in knowing the circumstances of some of those kids--especially the ones whose parents threw them out of their homes when they "came out".

After a while, I didn't have to ask--and the kid didn't have to tell--for me to know that he or she had suffered such a fate.  Much of that had to do with the kids' body language and overall bearing which, of course, are a reflection of how confident or beaten-down the kid was.

Having seen such things, I wasn't at all surprised to learn the results of a study conducted in Canada two years ago.  In six different categories of well-being, trans youth with supportive parents did much better than those with unsupportive or hostile parents.  The only thing that shocked me was just how stark the differences were between the two groups of trans kids.

 

05 November 2014

This Elephant Didn't Make It Into The Room

Contrary to what you've heard, not all Republicans won their elections yesterday.

Of course, here in New York, Rob Astorino lost his bid to unseat incumbent Governor Andrew Cuomo.  That, really, was no surprise at all.

Perhaps the same can be said for Lauren Scott's defeat.  After all, she lost in a heavily Democratic and blue-collar district of Sparks, Nevada.  Although it's not California or New York, Nevada has many union workers, which is one reason why it "tilts" (but is by no means predominantly) Democrat.

Had she won, she would have been the first openly transgender person elected to statewide office in the United States.  She also would have been one of the most centrist or left-leaning Republicans:  Although she became disillusioned with her former party, the Democrats, she claims she still shares its professed stances on social issues and human rights.  However, she explains, she disagreed with the party on issues of taxation and business development, which led her to become "non-partisan".  Soon she realized, however, that "non-partisan candidates rarely win elections", which led to her decision to run as a Republican.

In all, the sum of her stated positions is more palatable to me than that of most other Republicans.  On the other hand, you have to wonder just how much to trust someone who joined a party just because she thought it would make her more electable.


 

04 November 2014

Voting While Trans

Today is Election Day in the US.  Many of us can't vote on what, for us, is the most basic issue of voting:  actually having access to the voting booth.

You see, some states have instituted voter ID laws, or made the ones they already had on the books even more restrictive.

Those laws keep trans people from voting because many of us live in a legal limbo in which we can get one kind of ID but not another in our names,  and the jurisdictions in which we live will only accept the kind of ID we can't get.

As an example, some states won't allow us to change the names on our drivers' licenses until/unless we've had gender reassignment surgery--even if we've changed our names in the local court.  Or we've changed our state IDs but the local boards of elections still list us under our old names. 

I was in a really peculiar situation:  After changing my name, I was able to get a new state (non-drivers' license) ID with my chosen name and a female gender marker.  I also got a passport as a woman named Justine, but was not allowed to renew it as such until I underwent my surgery.

Anyway, I will leave you with this "Voting While Trans" guide:



 

03 November 2014

What We Say


We've been called names and heard mean, hateful comments.  There's really not that much we can do about those unless we can stop the haters from hating and bullies from being vicious.

However, many otherwise well-meaning people make comments or use terms that make us cringe.  I know I did before I "came out" and started my transition. 

The well-meaning but ignorant are at least educable.   This chart might be a good place to start, even if I don't think its title works:




From Rebloggy




02 November 2014

Day Of The Dead

In Mexico, today is celebrated as el Dia de Muertos, or the day of the dead.  The holiday originated with indigenous people, and current ways of celebrating it can be traced back to the Aztec beginning-of-summer festival honoring the goddess Mictecacihuatl  (If anyone has an Aztec spell-check, let me know!)  After los conquistadores arrived in the 16th Century, the holiday was moved to the beginning of November to coincide with the Roman Catholic feast of All Saints' Day.

In France and some other countries, families leave crysanthemums on the graves of deceased relatives on Toussaint.  (During my childhood, many Italian-American families did the same thing.)  In one of her essays, Marguerite Yourcenar observed that autumn rites are among the oldest and most universal, and are held after the last harvests, when "the barren earth is thought to give passage to the souls lying beneath it".


In the spirit of this day, I offer a poem from--who else?--Emily Dickinson:

Because I could not stop for Death – 
He kindly stopped for me –  
The Carriage held but just Ourselves –  
And Immortality.

We slowly drove – He knew no haste
And I had put away
My labor and my leisure too,
For His Civility – 

We passed the School, where Children strove
At Recess – in the Ring –  
We passed the Fields of Gazing Grain –  
We passed the Setting Sun – 

Or rather – He passed us – 
The Dews drew quivering and chill – 
For only Gossamer, my Gown – 
My Tippet – only Tulle – 

We paused before a House that seemed
A Swelling of the Ground – 
The Roof was scarcely visible – 
The Cornice – in the Ground – 

Since then – ‘tis Centuries – and yet
Feels shorter than the Day
I first surmised the Horses’ Heads 
Were toward Eternity –