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Family Ties (that bind)

My aunt sent me this e-mail/link today. The link is for a “recovered” transsexual whom I agreed to meet with almost 2 years ago as my family was struggling to accept my being transgender. They thought if this person could be saved then I could be saved as well.

http://www.leaderu.com/stonewall/pages/jerry_l.html

Here is my response to my aunt and a glimpse into what struggles I face from a family point-of-view.

While I have met with and heard Jerry’s amazing story firsthand it does not mean that he and I are on similar wave lengths. Yes, many trans people share a very similar story, but along the way there are instances where the individual story line takes a different path from what others may go through. I respect what Jerry went through & even respect that much more the fact he realized what was best for him before it, perhaps, could have been too late for him to recover. Our stories may be similar in some ways, but, it is very different in others.
 
Sure, while I was first attempting to deal with my feelings I thought that sex was the only way to express the woman in me. And for a few years I did things that I am not proud of to try and express those feelings outwardly towards men. Thankfully I managed to survive a few instances that could have turned ugly, and I now know that I was acting out in an un-healthy and, unnecessary manner. Many never get a chance to learn that lesson. Many lives get cut short because they put themselves in the dangerous position of thinking sex is the answer. I have been lucky to learn that lesson before it was too late for me. Sex doesn’t equal respect.
 
If I recall correctly before I agreed to meet with Jerry I laid out the proposition of my family needing to meet with my therapist as an equal payoff for me meeting with Jerry. Out of love for my family I agreed to meet with Jerry knowing full well you all would never offer on your own to meet with my therapist afterward. I now re-extend the offer for you all to meet with my therapist. You could do this with me there or without me there. It doesn’t matter either way. Meet with her and don’t even tell me about it if you choose. But one thing is for sure you all need to let go the idea of me and Jerry being similar to the point that I will wake up one day and feel the need to ask God for forgiveness. I did ask for forgiveness, but, it was not for being who I am. It was for being the shell of a person I used to be and for my actions while I was lost for the first 30 or so years in the vast ocean of life.
 
Until you can grasp the idea that most of my life was spent in a depression filled fog in which I was unable to express my feelings about what I was going through you will not be able to feel happy for me that I am now no longer living with that fear and depression. Depression is a powerful thing as you know and having been there I am very determined to not go back into that chasm again. I do still get down sometimes just like anybody else would but for reasons that aren’t so much about who I am but for who it is my family can’t accept. I have nephews that are told I am sick and that is why I don’t call them. I have a sister that is scared (I think) to reach out to me in fear of being rejected by the family for trying to understand my situation. I have three very beautiful cousins who are like my sisters that perhaps feel the same way. I have an aunt that tells me she serves an awesome god that loves all the creatures he creates but somehow fails to recognize that her awesome god made me this way for a reason. Unfortunately I have a mother who is stuck in the middle of watching her two oldest children fight like two kids on a playground that want the best seat on the swing set.

Since I have moved to Columbus I have accomplished things I only used to dream of doing. I enrolled in college (this time because I wanted to) and made the honor roll 2 terms in a row. I have been accepted into a program being sponsored by the United Way of Central Ohio that is training me, as a member of the GLBT community, in what it will take to one day be in a position to help those less fortunate than I am. I have found a job where I can be my self and not feel the fear of being rejected by co-workers because I may be different in the eyes of the customers I interact with on a daily basis. I am only one person, but, I am a face of the Ohio Historical Society. Everyday and at every special event OHS puts on I am trusted to be in a place, not where I can’t be seen, but, rather, in a place out front like any other trusted employee should be: greeting the public. Since December of 2007 I have been on the board of Trans Ohio. My duties have involved speaking at OSU and a few other places to show that I am just a person dealing with many of the issues facing everyone in today’s world. The minor difference being that I happen to be transgender, or, at least, minor in my mind, anyways.

For all I have put my family though I am truly sorry, but I refuse to accept all the responsibility for what has happened since I came out to my family. Why, you ask do I not accept all of it? The reason for that is due to the fact that from the day that I came out I have been told how wrought with sin I am. I’ve been told there is no possible way that I would be welcomed back into your homes if this is the path I am taking. I have been, basically, put in exile in (your) hopes of being saved from my destiny.

I understand you miss me, Aunt Lisa. I miss you too. We used to be so close. You are one of the reasons for the kind of person I am today and believe it or not there are still people who think I am a good, caring, understanding person who is always willing to listen to others in order to try and help them work out a problem they may be going through. I always wanted to tell you sooner than I did, and there is a reason I told you first. You were one that I trusted to understand what it was I was going through, and ultimately you are one that I hope can stand by my side as my Aunt, as a supporter, and as some one that loves me for who I am today. Not the person you thought I used to be. The values that I was taught by those closest to me while growing up remain with me to this day. For that I thank you from the bottom of my heart.

Just because I now live as the female I should have always been doesn’t make me any less of a person in my own eyes. In fact, the self respect I have gained by taking control of my autonomy tells me there is potential for great things in my future. Agreeing to disagree is a cop-out on all of our parts. Doing that does nothing to address the real issues at hand. I can no longer pretend to be Marcus for the sake of being semi-welcomed back into everyone’s lives. How would you have felt if I rejected you after confessing to me your eating disorder you struggled with years ago? I realized how difficult it must have been to tell me, and for you trusting me with that piece of you I felt that much closer to you. I felt that much more love for you. I didn’t get angry for you not telling me sooner. I chose to try and understand that side of you, and to love you as you were at that moment.

I’ll never stop loving my family, ever. But until we can all come to terms with me being transgender, until everyone stops feeling sorry for themselves and for me, and that I am so helplessly lost we may forever be stuck at the impasse of what it truly means to love some one unconditionally. Diversity, Love, Family, those words have more powerful a meaning when we actually take the time to comprehend what those words enable us to understand.

Sincerely,

Karen M. Patrick

 

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.

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.

News concerning the DSM – V. (a.k.a. “uh-oh.”)

The following was posted on Transadvocate.com website. I’m reposting it because like Mercedes, I see this as a very consequential and momentous event in the psychological and medical treatment of transgendered people. — Lori Davis
>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>

(crossposted in several places, and people are welcome to forward this on freely to others in the transgender and GLBT communities, as I see this as being very serious — Mercedes)

A short time ago, I’d discussed the movement to have “Gender Identity Disorder” (GID, a.k.a. “Gender Dysphoria”) removed from the DSM-IV or reclassified, and how we needed to work to ensure that any such change was an improvement on the existing model, rather than a scrapping or savaging of it.

Lynn Conway reports that on May 1st, 2008, the American Psychiatric Association named its work group members appointed to revise the Manual for Diagnosis of Mental Disorders in preparation for the DSM-V. Such a revision would include the entry for GID.

On the Task Force, named as Sexual and Gender Identity Disorders Chair, we find Dr. Kenneth Zucker, from Toronto’s infamous Centre for Addictions and Mental Health (CAMH, formerly the Clarke Institute). Dr. Zucker is infamous for utilizing reparative (i.e. “ex-gay”) therapy to “cure” gender-variant children. Named to his work group, we find Zucker’s mentor, Dr. Ray Blanchard, Head of Clinical Sexology Services at CAMH and creator of the theory of autogynephilia, categorized as a paraphilia and defined as “a man’s paraphilic tendency to be sexually aroused by the thought or image of himself as a woman.”

Drs. Blanchard, Zucker, J. Michael Bailey (whose work has even gone so far as to touch on eugenics) and a small cadre of others are proponents of dividing the transsexual population by sexual orientation (”homosexual transsexuals” vs. ”autogynephilic”) and have repeatedly run afoul of the World Professional Association for Transgender Health (WPATH, formerly HBIGDA), and openly defied the Standards of Care that WPATH maintains (modeled after the original SoC developed by Dr. Harry Benjamin) in favor of conversion techniques. Blanchard and Bailey supporters also include Dr. Alice Dreger, who re-stigmatized treatment of intersex, controversial sexologist Dr. Anne Lawrence, and Dr. Paul McHugh, who had set out in the begining of his career to close the Gender Clinic at Johns Hopkins University and has been one of our most vocal detractors.

An additional danger that gay and lesbian communities need to be cognizant of is that if Zucker and company entrench conversion therapy in the DSM-V, then it is a clear, dangerous step toward also legitimizing ex-gay therapy and re-stigmatizing homosexuality.

I am not familiar with others named to the Work Group. It would be worthwhile looking into any history with WPATH that they might have, to know if we have any positive advocates on board, or just more stigmatizing adversarial clinicians. They may be appointed primarily to address other listings categorized as ”Sexual and Gender Identity Disorders,” I don’t know. They are:

* Dr. Irving M. Binik, McGill University, Montreal, Canada
* Dr. Peggy T. Cohen-Kettenis, VU University Medical Center, Amsterdam
* Dr. Jack Drescher, New York Medical College, St. Luke’s-Roosevelt Hospital Center, NY
* Dr. Cynthia Graham, Isis Education Centre, Warneford Hospital, Oxfordshire, UK
* Dr. Richard B. Krueger, NY State Psyciatric Institute and Columbia University, NY
* Dr. Niklas Langstrom, Karolinka Institutet, Stockholm, Sweden
* Dr. Heino F.L. Meyer-Bahlburg, Columbia University, NY
* Dr. Robert Taylor Segraves, MetroHealth Medical Center, Cleveland

The APA press release states that for further information regarding this, to contact Rhondalee Dean-Royce (rroyce@psych.org) and Sharon Reis (sreis@gymr.com), though it’s possible that they may govern the press release only, rather than have any involvement in the decision to appoint Zucker. The APA itself is headquartered at 1000 Wilson Boulevard, Suite 1825, Arlington VA, 22209. Their Annual General Meeting is currently being held (May 3-8, 2008) in Washington, DC.

I’m poorly situated (Western Canada, with no travel budget) to lead the drive for this, which I see as a very serious danger to the transgender community. So I am calling on the various Transgender and GLBT organizations to band together to take action on this, and will assist in whatever way that I and AlbertaTrans.org can.

I am also calling upon our allies and advocates in the medical community and affiliated with WPATH to band together with us and combat this move which could potentially see WPATH stripped of its authority on matters regarding treatment of transsexuals.

– Mercedes Allen, May 5, 2008