Are Partners of Trans Necessarily LGBT(Q)?

Over at Helen Boyd’s blog, the question comes up of whether partners of transpeople identify as being under the LGBT umbrella – Helen herself says “I’m the Q that gets left off a lot,” which makes sense to me. I wanted to leave a comment but I’ve never been able to successfully register on Helen’s site to do so, so I decided to make a post of my own to discuss the topic.

In order to be attracted to, and have a successful relationship with someone who is considering, or has crossed over the gender barrier, does a person need to have a little Q in them? I suspect the answer is yes but I’m well aware that this is a very sensitive subject touching on not only how the cisgender* partner self-identifies, but also how their transgender partner might feel about the way s/he is seen in relationship to her/his cis partner once s/he has fully transitioned. If a wife considers herself straight while married to a man, and continues to consider herself straight after her spouse has transitioned to become a woman, wouldn’t that mean that either she still sees her spouse as male, or that she no longer feels that erotic energy towards her mate? Neither of which would seem, to me, to be a good thing for either spouse. Or is there a way to really and truly feel that you are only attracted to one gender, except for the unique and singular case of the person you have already spent much of your life with? I’d still argue that in this case, there’s a little queerness creeping in!

There’s also the question of the difference between a relationship that started before transition was even contemplated, and a relationship that didn’t begin until after transition was complete. In the latter case, I would assume that someone who was prepared to make a lifetime commitment to a post-transition partner with all that that entails would already have identified themselves as a little off the straight track, although I can see that for the trans partner, having someone willing to make that commitment while remaining firm in his/her straight identity would be very affirming. (I’m not talking about post-transition relationships where there has been no disclosure, as that’s a topic in and of itself.)

I’m not a big believer in labels myself, but in the case that triggered the original post (the application of LGBT scholarships), I suppose it is important to “find what fits”. Those of you out there reading who are in relationships right now, how do you (or your partner) view this? Does it apply? What possibilities have escaped my notice?

* Editor’s Note:  “Cisgender” refers to a person whose gender identity and biological sex, as assigned at birth, match.  Contrast that to a transgender person in whom those factors diverge.

Soulforce, Willow Creek, and Me – by Julie Nemecek

Evangelical Christians have to be one of the mainline groups in America who frequently show their disapproval of any lifestyle or marriage other than that of being between one man and one woman.  I happened to read an article yesterday about a group of Gay and Trans Christians who are trying to build bridges into the Evangelical Christian community.  Perhaps reaching BACK and extending the hand of love towards Christians is a good idea.  I guess you won’t know until you try.  As long as they don’t break out with the stakes and gasoline.

The following commentary was reprinted with permission by Julie Nemecek, the founder of Julie Nemecek Consulting, a full-service consulting firm specializing in diversity consulting, training, and advocacy.     You can learn more about her from her main blog at http://julienemecek.blogspot.com/ and her web site at http://julienemecek.com .

Soulforce, Willow Creek, and Me

(or why I drove 500 miles this weekend)

This weekend Joanne and I were in Chicago as part of a Soulforce action group. The American Family Outing (see http://soulforce.org/ ) was conceived as the beginnings of a movement to increase the understanding and dialogue between lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) Christians and the evangelical church. Six key churches were selected for visits between Mothers’ Day and Fathers’ Day. Once the date for the visit was set letters and phone calls went out in an effort to get a face-to-face meeting with the Soulforce group and the senior pastor and as many staff members as possible. The church that our Soulforce group visited was Willow Creek Church near Chicago.

Willow Creek is a 38-year old mega church with an average weekly attendance of over 22,000. The784,490 square foot building is beautifully sited on a 155 acre site, including a 5-acre lake that is used for some baptisms. (Winter baptisms happen in a large, glass, hover-craft baptismal platform that floats on air as it is moved out to the platform.) The church has 350 full-time employees, 150 part-time staffers, and 12,500 regularly serving volunteers. Their weekly budget is $550,000.

On Saturday our group met at a community center in the Boystown area of Chicago (just north of Wrigley Field). Our 29 members included two sets of parents with their adult gay sons and one set of parents who lost their daughter to suicide (as told in the award-winning documentary For the Bible Tells Me So). There was a gay couple with their three kids, a lesbian couple with their son, and a lesbian couple with their service dog, Riley. There was a straight ally (the son of evangelists Jim and Tammy Baker), a number of gay or lesbian couples and us . . . the transgender couple. There were five ordained ministers in the group, 2 PhDs and a mix of ages and sexes. Two couples have June 17th weddings planned!

We reviewed the non- violent, reconciliation principles of Jesus, Ghandi, and Martin Luther King, Jr, that define Soulforce’s approach. We shared our own stories and heard from former members of Willow Creek Church. We watched a 2006 teaching session by one of Willow Creek’s pastors. The Willow Creek teaching session was filled with much misinformation and false teaching. It helped us focus on our goals for the next day.

There was a gentle, wounded, but positive spirit among this group of Christians that came from all over the country to be together for this weekend. We clearly sensed the presence of Christ in our midst as we prayed together and heard more about each others’ faith journeys. Our four hours together helped make this diverse group a people a cohesive Body of Christ.

On Sunday we arrived at Willow Creek at 10 AM for a tour (at Willow Creek’s invitation). There were some non-Willow Creek protestors near the campus entrance proclaiming their “Christian” certainty of our destination in hell. Most of the group had a white top and we all wore name tags indentifying us as part of the American Family Outing. With the white shirts; nametags; presence of our mascot, Riley; and loving couples holding hands as we walked, we turned a few heads as we toured the massive, high-tech, church village.

At 11:15 AM we were ushered to reserved seats near the center front of the mezzanine section. The rock-star like stage had a 17-member worship team that led us into a meaningful time of worship. They had a VERY adequate sound system. The speaker for the day was a guest mega church pastor from Cincinnati. He had a powerful message about the importance of serving others as a way of expressing Jesus’ love. We wondered if this including LGBT “others” as well. The guest pastor referred to Willow Creek as “the most influential church in America” in part because of their regional churches and the many churches that are part of the Willow Creek Association.

After the service we were led to a private meeting room where we ate together (wonderful boxed lunches provided by the church) and talked casually around tables arranged in one large, open-in-the-middle, rectangle. There were 29 of us allowed at that meeting and 5 people from Willow Creek including their founding (and current) pastor, Bill Hybels.

Both sides shared their issues and concerns in a very gracious dialogue. The Willow Creek staff seemed genuinely taken back that our emphasis was on committed, monogamous, loving relationships and families . . . not sex. One of our group members said, “We’re just like everyone else; too busy with our lives to have much time for sex!” Pastor Hybels also responded in disbelief on hearing that many gay and lesbian Christians are being told to marry heterosexually if they expect to be part of a church. One of team members is a survivor of “ex-gay” therapy. He went through $35,000 of therapy – including electroshock treatments – before he came to reject this hateful treatment and accept the truth at God made him as he is and the problems people had with this were their problems and not his. He now works with thousands of others who suffered ineffective – often harmful – indignations because they wanted to be welcome in unwelcoming churches.

For our part, we were surprised and pleased that Willow Creek’s own 30-year study of homosexuality has led them to conclude that: (1) Sexual orientation is unchangeable. and (2) Sexual orientation should not keep someone from being received into their church. They acknowledged that 6 of the 7 verses used to condemn homosexuality are irrelevant; really referring to other things. Unfortunately, they still felt that one Genesis text supported their position that gay and lesbian members must commit to celibacy to become members. We told them how this perspective has caused many in their congregation, because of their love for Willow Creek, to live lives of deception and secrecy in order to be accepted and still enjoy sexual expression in their committed relationships.

As we looked for action steps at the end of over 2-hour meeting, we agreed to continue the dialogue. Bill Hybels also indicated that their church will continue to study to subject and that he would begin to speak out against the misinformation that some Christian groups publish. We then, stood, held hands, and prayed together.

Please pray that God will use these visits for His glory and the healing of the Body of Christ.

Blessings,
Julie

“Tragic End for Lesbians” news report

To some people, they may find it strange that I, being born “biologically male” means that my attraction to women would be considered heterosexual.  However, I have always identified internally as a lesbian, and this has created a problem between my spouse and me.  Working this out logically through reason is really not as easy as it sounds because of the flood of emotions that are evoked in even discussing this.

Well, just when I think I’ve got problems, I stumble onto something that makes me see how others in other cultures or societies are pushed well beyond their own limits.

Take, for example, the following news report from India by Queer Media Watch.

http://qmediawatch.wordpress.com/2008/05/24/pinknews-tragic-end-for-lesbian-couple-tormented-by-family-pressure/

From the site:

“A lesbian couple who committed suicide by setting themselves on fire have been put to rest in a joint cremation this week. Christy Jayanthi Malar [38] and Rukmani [40] set themselves ablaze after their families took objection to their “unnatural relationship.”

“This is common in India where there huge social and legal pressures to live a heterosexual lifestyle. The alarm was raised when smoke was seen coming from Mrs Malar’s home. When neighbours went in they found the bodies of the two women held in an embrace.”

A senior police told The Times of India newspaper:

“We can’t say the relatives pushed the women into suicide. “They might have verbally abused them, but that was to bring them back to normal life.”

Jeez, what the hell is wrong with the world today?  Obviously a LOT.

You can read the rest of the article here

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.

Advocate won’t examine own responsibility for “pregnant man” story

My friend Peter points to a piece in the Advocate which asks:

As the media world buzzed about the “pregnant man,” trans activists stayed relatively mum. Now we’re asking: Has Thomas Beatie’s public exposure hurt the transgender movement?

When Oregon trans man Thomas Beatie first told the world that he was pregnant in The Advocate in March, readers learned that he transitioned about 10 years ago, underwent a double mastectomy, and began testosterone injections. He and his wife, Nancy, decided to have a child, but because of a hysterectomy years ago, Nancy couldn’t carry the baby. So Beatie stopped his hormone injections, underwent artificial insemination, and, after several doctors refused to treat him, finally found an obstetrician who would. His pregnancy, he wrote, was “free of complications.” Health complications, maybe, but it would not be without other difficulties.

For all the personal trials Thomas Beatie has endured, his decision to go public may cause even broader political and cultural implications for the transgender population as a whole. And some trans people worry that the sensational—and occasionally nasty—media coverage that’s appeared since the article was published is only the beginning.

[…]

Beatie, however, did have one complaint that might have been lost in all the baby news. He said he reached out to transgender organizations before he went public. Half never called back; most of the others discouraged him from the exposure. Ultimately, they said, they were worried.

[…]

“We may hear all kinds of noise in terms of morality and ethics, but to me it’s just that,” adds [transgender activist Donna] Rose, who says she has no problem with Beatie speaking out. “We heard the same noise when people first started talking about test-tube babies. But then the discussion faded.” Rose is wary of spelling out all the things that could go wrong with the trans man’s pregnancy, saying, “I don’t want to give our enemies a road map on how to hurt us.”

Which may point to why, for the most part, LGBT and trans groups have stayed relatively quiet about this story. Though some have issued press releases condemning the sensationalized press coverage, none of the national organizations The Advocate contacted would say what plans, if any, they have to counter possible backlash—like Oregon laws becoming more restrictive toward trans people.

One thing that doesn’t seem to be mentioned is that he wasn’t actually the first transman to become pregnant.

But the second thing, the more important thing is this:

The Advocate is an LGB(t) news source, and they were the first ones to break the story by printing Beatie’s account of it. They ran with the story even after the trans organizations asked him to please be careful about what he doing.

This new article in the Advocate talks about Beatie’s decision. But where is any coverage of their own news sense in running this article? Where is the account of the internal debate about whether they should run “the pregnant man” story? How many transgender organizations did the Advocate speak to before publishing it?

In the linked article, they also ask what the transgender organizations are going to do about countering the backlash.

That’s not what I care about.

The trans orgs are the ones who will have to live with the backlash. But it’s not their job to counter it.

I want to know what the Advocate, an LGB(t) publication, plans to do to counter the backlash from the article they chose to run.

Screw this whole victim-blaming crap of dumping the responsibility on transgender organizations. Trans groups didn’t publish this story — the Advocate did.

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