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More comments on controversial trans-theory

I wanted to revisit the subject of Autogynophelia, because it seems to me that, the way it’s described, it seems to fit me as well as anything else that I’ve read.  I actually went to the link provided in an earlier post and read the information given there, and as I read the article, I started to see a lot of myself in the description.  It was actually quite depressing to realize that I fit the profile pretty well.  It took me several days to come to terms with that realization, but having previously come to terms with the fact that I wanted to be a girl and that it’s not some horrible disease, but rather, a condition shared by a lot of people, made it easier to come to terms with this description.  I must add that I don’t think that it applies to all of us, but I think it applies to some of us.

I don’t think AutoG has anything to do with early onset gender confusion, I think that would be more properly termed ” a prenatal intersex developmental abnormality”.  AutoG just doesn’t fit the conditions, in my opinion.  Neither does “homosexual transsexual”, because many early onset gender variant people are attracted to people of the opposite physical sex.

I’m still trying to figure this thing out myself, but some things I know about myself are:  I don’t remember any gender confusion as a young child, I was a sensitive little boy, but I don’t remember any confusion about my gender before the onset of puberty.  If my memory is somewhere near correct, my gender confusion started with puberty, but it took me a while to even realize what was going on in my head, probably several years.  By the time I was 15 or 16, I knew what it was, I just didn’t know what to do about it.

There’s always been a sexual connection to my cross-dressing, it did seem to get less over the years, but that may have been because I was trying to supress that part of it, I really didn’t want it to be about sex.  I have always felt more comfortable in “girl” mode, I still would rather be a girl than a boy, it makes me happy.

However, what got me to thinking about this whole AutoG thing is that I still get an “arousal charge” when I first change from the “old me” to the “new me”, especially if I’m excited about how I’m going to look when I’m done transforming into Amber.   It’s interesting that I made 2 discoveries at about the same time.  My body is no longer devoid of basic sex drive due to HRT, it seems to have adjusted somewhat to the current balance of hormones and and I now have a slight bit of sex drive.  That “thing” between my legs is still mostly dead, but not entirely now.  Of course, that’s what led to the discovery that I’m still capable of being turned on by getting dressed.  It doesn’t react very much, it’s just the nerve twinge, but that’s enough to know what’s going on.  I’d like to think that it’s just a residual artifact, but, at this point in my life, I need to be honest with myself.

So, I come to the 20 dollar question, does this mean that I shouldn’t transition?  I’m not really sure about that one yet.  I’m continuing to stay on course while I think about all this heavy stuff, in fact, I was just prescribed Provera by my Endocronologist yesterday, which made me a happy camper all day.  It’s interesting that this point, I haven’t found any reason to stop transition other then this latest injection of illogical doubt.  I realize, logically, that this latest “label” doesn’t really mean much, I still want to be a woman, I still feel like I should be a woman, and I suspect that I already think like a woman.  I’m not a mind reader so I’ll never know for sure, however, I relate more easily to women then men.

I’d be happy to read any thoughts or comments that the rest of you might have on this, some input on this might be helpful to me.

Mercedes Allen responds to accusations of scaremongering

On a post to her personal blog, and cross-posted to Bilerico and Transadvocate, Mercedes Allen reflects on the responses to her original Uh-oh post, including several that have been reported here and elsewhere.

I and others have been accused of scaremongering in the ongoing debate(s) surrounding this issue. Dr. Forstein has some excellent points for us to examine. Some of the other aspects and debates, though, I still stand behind.

Mercedes goes on to respond directly to Henry Hall’s comments:

Henry Hall accuses me of scaremongering with regard to my concerns about removing any diagnosis of GID from the DSM, without some better model to replace it…
…I am not fearmongering: I am saying, don’t cut the trapeze rope until we know that the next bar is within reach.

She also acknowledges the importance of Dr. Marshall Forstein’s statement by saying:

I can admit that my own personal panic led me to overlook the fact that the DSM itself does not recommend treatment. I was wrong and my inexperience got the better of me. This is not a small point, and we need to take some comfort in that. Scaremongering? Perhaps, though not intentionally.

Read Mercedes’ thoughtful and comprehensive response here.

Zucker: Is he a DSM-Villain or not?

If you’ve been reading any transgender blogs or journals lately, you’ve doubtless seen concern about the appointments to DSM-V working groups on gender identity disorder. (If you haven’t, here’s an example from TRANScend GENDER.)

The following isn’t written by me, but I received it in email via the Southern Arizona Gender Alliance mailing list, where it was forwarded by someone who knows the author. Dr. Stephen Russell originally sent this reply to the University of Arizona LGBT Faculty/Staff/Graduate Student Organization mailing list.

Friends and colleagues:

I have been receiving and reading the emails about Ken Zucker for the past several days, and feel that I must respond. The emails and blogs mischaracterize his work – I know Dr. Zucker, and while we do not fully agree on issues about sexual and gender orientation / identity and its development, I know Dr. Zucker to be a person who is concerned about the welfare of children and youth. My experience is that this concern is what motivates his (controversial) work.

I have been in communication with Dr. Zucker about this, because I wanted to hear from him directly, as the reports did not match with my reading of his published work and my personal experience with him. First, he has never used “aversion therapy” (which involves mild electroshock or nausea-inducing stimuli). Related – reparative/conversion therapy is a method that has been used to attempt to change adult same-sex sexual attractions to opposite-sex sexual attractions – he has not practiced or endorsed this form of therapy.

Here is what he writes about his therapeutic work:

The “gender-positive” therapeutic approach that I use with young, pre-pubertal children who have gender identity conflict is to try and help them feel comfortable with their bodies so that when they are adolescents or adults they do not feel so uncomfortable in their own skin that they need to seek out hormonal and surgical sex-reassignment. We know already from several follow-up studies of young children that the majority “lose” their desire to change sex, with or without therapy, and many develop a comfortable sexual identity as gay, lesbian, or bisexual and are comfortable in their own skin. As an important aside, when we see adolescents in our clinic who are severely gender dysphoric, we are very supportive, after a careful evaluation, in helping them transition to the opposite gender, including the use of hormonal blockers and/or cross-sex hormonal treatment.

I realize that this explanation may still be objectionable for some – but it is a far cry from the descriptions of Dr. Zucker’s work that are being circulated.

Dr. Zucker’s understanding / conceptualization of gender dysphoria in children is well-represented not only in science, but in the queer community. He is grappling with very complex questions – questions about which “we” in the queer community don’t have full consensus. We have to acknowledge that there is no solution to the DSM that will unify science — or our communities.

Finally, keep in mind that he began this work years ago, before there existed the scientific or community debate and discourse about these issues that we have now … if you read his published work, it has evolved in the last 10 years.

I worry that we undermine good research – and well-informed advocacy – in a world driven by polemic blogs.

With some hesitation, and respect,

Stephen

Stephen T. Russell, Ph.D.
Professor, Fitch Nesbitt Endowed Chair in Family & Consumer Sciences
Director, Frances McClelland Institute for Children, Youth & Families

Of Dr. Russell, the person forwarding the email to the SAGA list writes: Stephen’s field of study is GLBT youth, particularly the risks youth face when coming out, and he is well respected (and a very nice person). He’s also a gay man. So he has both personal and professional interest in the issue of Zucker’s appointment.

I don’t have a strong take on what’s right or wrong here, but I feel it’s important to provide this perspective in addition to the others that are circulating currently.

Schrödinger’s Cathouse Redux

This is a post from my old blog(s) (What? Leftovers againnnn?). It got just about zero attention when I originally posted it two years ago, and  got even less when I reposted on my wordpress blog, but it remains one of my favorites even if I was content to let it fade into the electronic aether. Then Lori asked me to repost it here, and who am I to argue. Enjoy:

Oh, you can’t help that,’ said the Cat: ‘we’re all mad here. I’m mad. You’re mad.’
‘How do you know I’m mad?’ said Alice.

‘You must be,’ said the Cat, ‘or you wouldn’t have come here.’

–Lewis Carroll, Alice in Wonderland

 


Schrödinger’s Cat is the most notorious animal in physics. The experiment runs something like this:

 

A cat is placed in a box, together with a radioactive atom. If the atom decays, and the geiger-counter detects an alpha particle, the hammer hits a flask of prussic acid (HCN), killing the cat. The paradox lies in the clever coupling of quantum and classical domains. Before the observer opens the box, the cat’s fate is tied to the wave function of the atom, which is itself in a superposition of decayed and undecayed states. Thus, said Schrödinger, the cat must itself be in a superposition of dead and alive states before the observer opens the box, “observes” the cat, and “collapses” it’s wave function.*

All of which leads to the curious tendency of quantum mechanics to limit not only what human beings know, but what we CAN know. This may explain why Schrödinger later said of his involvement with quantum physics: “I don’t like it. I’m sorry I ever had anything to do with it.” The irony of Schrödinger’s Cat and Heisenberg’s Uncertainty Principle–which states that we can know either a particle’s position or its velocity, but not both–is that they were formulated by Germans. For a German scientist to throw up his hands and say “We can’t know!” rather confirms the validity of these principles to me.

Two centuries earlier, another German put a different spin on this. Immanuel Kant describes an object that is “not an object of sensible intuition.” A transcendent object, he calls it, and one that is out of the realm of observation. This is a noumenon, a thing in and of itself. And like Schrödinger’s Cat, we can’t know what it is.
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Transgender Realities – Videos featuring SAGA’s Michael Woodward and Amanda Simpson

Today making its way into transgender-related news was a link to the Southern Arizona Gender Alliance interview entitled “Political Perspectives: Transgender Realities,” a 1/2 hour program produced by Access Tucson. The show is being shown via Access Tucson through the month of May but has been divided into three parts on YouTube, and now here. It’s a worthy watch, and SAGA’s Michael Woodward and Amanda Simpson did a fantastic job with the interview.

Part 1:

Part 2:

Part 3:

I want to go to Vaginaland!

For something a little bit lighter check out this video:

My thanks to Thought in My Pants , where I found this video by following a random link.

Happiness

Ok, so I have finally decided that the time was right for me to step up and say something here.  

Why are so many of us so afraid to feel happy?  It is guilt?  Is it that nagging feeling that everything is in the process of falling, or about to fall apart?  Do we worry so much about everyone else that we lose sight of ourselves through all of this?

Yes, transition is a stressful and often painful thing.  But why do we do it?  To be ourselves of course, but also to find personal happiness.  I find that far too often we spend the majority of our time talking about the negatives of transition and how bad things are either for ourselves or the others around us.  I’m not discounting the fact that many people lose everything to this, but in the end are we not happier than when we began?  And if not, why?

I can truly say that before transition I did not know what happiness really was.  I may have thought I did, but I really didn’t.  If I recall all of the times I thought I was happy, none of them hold a candle to how I feel now.  Now before I go on I should probably mention a few things for those who don’t know.  I’m 33 years old, MTF, been transitioning since September 2007, and have been on HRT for 7 weeks.

In the last week or so I have begun to see the world in a different way, and begun to thing differently about things.  Difficult to articulate all that I feel right now, but the overriding thing has been the tremendous amount of joy and happiness I am feeling.  Granted I have been much happier than ever before since beginning transition, but the last little while has been completely off the scale.  

It feels like living inside joy.  As if joy itself were something tangible that you could just reach out and grab!  I have my share of challenges and difficulties through all of this, but I am so happy with my life now that is doesn’t get me down for very long anymore.  I see my future, and its very bright.

People have often accused me of seeing things in an overly positive light.  To that I say, “Why not?”  Keeping a positive attitude about things has truly saved my life.  I wake up everyday and tell myself how amazing it is to be alive, and how great the day is going to be.  And you know what?  It usually is.

Take today for example.  I was standing in the flower section of my local supermarket looking for fresh flowers for my Mom when I was approached by a very nice man who, to make a long story short, told me I was beautiful and asked if I would be interested in grabbing a coffee with him at the cafe in the store.  Now even though I turned him down, it made my whole day to get that kind of attention!  It let me know that I really have arrived and my path is the right one.

So I say take the time to feel the happiness and joy that transition brings to you.  After suffering through all the dark years that we do, I think we deserve to let ourselves be happy.  Don’t let the fear and guilt stop you.  Life is too short for that.  Don’t you agree?

Video Interview – Introducing MARI AND ABBY

Lori’s Life Transgender Episode 15 – MARI AND ABBY

I wanted to introduce you to two people on the blogroll, one of whom has been quite active around these neck of the woods lately (and I like it!).

Mari and Abby paid a visit to Tucson last week to attend the Tucson Folk Music Festival, and I had the opportunity to get out of the house and catch some great tunes with some terrific friends that evening.

Hope you like.
Lori

Blogged with the Flock Browser

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Educating the World – Person to Person

I had a rather cool experience recently which showed me how small the world is – and how the right approach can cause people to be accepting even when you don’t expect it. My friend Abby suggested I share it with you all.

It all started one day at work – I was at lunch with my boss, co-worker G. and my trusty retirement-age volunteer worker D.

G. was talking about practicing guitar with his Tucson-based death metal band the night before and his musical history and aspirations. After some time, D. said to G. “You don’t happen to know a musician called something Blackstone, do you?”

G: “No, I don’t think so…”
D: “I forget his first name… something beginning with B…”
Me: “Bruce, perhaps?”
D: “That might be it. Yes, because the interesting thing about him was that he was in the paper recently…”
Me: “Oh, yes – I know him.”
D: “Yes, the paper wrote about him – he came out as a cross-dresser. So, how do you know him?”
Me: “Um… oh, the paper my husband worked for wrote an article about the band he is in…”
D: “Maybe that was the article!”
Me: “Oh, no… you read the recent one about the IFGE conference. The other one was back last year some time.”
D: “Oh, okay. Anyway, he does wonderful cabinetry. He did our whole kitchen. Very nice guy.”
Me: “Yes, he is.”

And that might have been the end of it. Except that, of course, it wasn’t. On reflection, I sent this email to D. after he’d left for the day:

You might be amused by this video that a friend of ours made, interviewing Bruce right after he’d talked to the Arizona Daily Star reporter

D. only volunteers for us one day a week, and he didn’t return my email, so I was a little apprehensive going in to work the next Wednesday. As I was walking up from the parking lot, I saw him, and he stopped to wait for me to catch up. He had a broad grin on his face and the first thing he said to me was:

“Thank you for that video link you sent me with Bruce in it. We really enjoyed watching that one! Yup, that’s our Bruce!”

I felt so happy to have been a part of helping educate the straight, white middle-class neighborhoods of Northeast Tucson!

On hearing of the reaction of D. and his wife, Bruce said:

Thank you for letting me know about [D. and J.] They are repeat clients of mine and great people.

Since I am becoming more and more out, I realize that eventually the knowledge of who I really am will inevitably creep into my work life sometimes. This has caused me a little bit of concern because I am self employed and loss of income can be frightening … so far as I can tell there have been no consequences to my business by my being out. So , thank you for letting me know about [D. and J.] – it’s also good in that [they] are now far less likely to have a negative reaction to other trans people.

The message I hope to get across is that it is truly worth it to share your true selves and those of your friends with others, even if you think they may not be accepting. Their reaction will often depend upon your demeanor as you talk to them. I tried to be as matter-of-fact as I could be, presenting the fact that I knew “that side” of Bruce as perfectly normal and natural. Whether you are yourself transgendered, or a SOFFA, you have a role to play, large or small, in educating the rest of the world.

Are We Maladaptive?

Okay, so I got myself into a bit of a tiff with Abby down below. Here’s the link.

In general, the conversation is about how GID should be classified in the DSM. The tendency, obviously, is for us to want a kinder, gentler revision…one sensitive to our feelings, and easier to schlep to the public than something like “autogynephilia”. Ideally, we’d get it removed entirely.

That doesn’t seem likely to me, of course. Unlike homosexuality, transsexuality requires treatment (currently that treatment involves hormones and surgeries…hopefully that will always be the case). And as long as treatment is necessary, the doctors will need a set of diagnostic criteria…hence the DSM.

But maybe I’m wrong.

Maybe gender dysphoria is a physical ailment, as I’ve so often heard said, rather than a mental one. Maybe it’s like having kidney stones. Kidney stones often require surgery, but I’m pretty sure they’re not listed in the DSM.

Maybe we can prove that gender dysphoria is like kidney stones.

Harkening back to my undergrad days and my Abnormal Psychology class (thank you Ms. H.!), along with the help of Google, I was able to dredge up the criteria for mental disorders.

For a given behavior to qualify as a mental disorder, it must meet these four points:

  • Statistical Infrequency
  • Deviation from Social Norms
  • Personal Distress
  • Maladaptiveness

The first two are obvious…we meet those. No argument here.

Personal Distress seems obvious. Yes, the dysphoria we suffer causes us distress. The same was (and still is, occasionally) said of homosexuality. Is it the dysphoria itself that causes the distress, or the way the rest of the world treats us? I suppose that question can only be answered by the individual.

The one that really gets my goat, though, is the maladaptive piece. According to one website I looked at:

A behavior pattern or characteristic is “adaptive” when it is constructive, helpful, healthy and contributes to the person moving in a valued direction.

A maladaptive behavior is the opposite then…a behavior that is destructive, unhelpful, unhealthy, and contributes to a person moving in a non-valued direction. The site gives the example of heroin use as being maladaptive (duh).

So what behavior are we talking about here? If we’re talking about having gender dysphoric feelings and not acting upon them, then yes, I’d say that’s a maladaptive behavior. But shouldn’t we be looking at it the other way? Shouldn’t we wait until a person does act upon a feeling, then judge whether it’s adaptive or maladaptive? To use the example above, the urge to use heroin is only maladaptive when acted upon; to not act upon it is responsible, and therefore adaptive. I’m going to go out on a limb here and say that the same standard should be applied to all such observable behaviors. And most times that I’m aware of, acting upon gender dysphoric feelings results in a person “moving in a valued direction” (except, of course, where Personal Distress rears its head).

Is this going to be the case for everyone? Probably not. There may be people out there who meet all four of these criteria. And there’s no reason the DSM can’t include an article that addresses the needs of these individuals…they did it for homosexuality. But for the rest of us – and every successful transition is another case study the DSM crew should look at – is there a way we can be excluded from the onus of GID and still receive the treatment we need?

To be perfectly honest, even I’m not convinced by my argument. Obviously, being transsexual is not like having kidney stones. And while I think the whole adaptive/maladaptive thing is interesting, I’m sure I’m not the first person to think of it. Sadly, it’ll take more than an hour’s worth of Google research before I’ll be able to completely repudiate decades worth of mental health research, but in the meantime, there are a few people out there who can make those kind of claims.