From the NY Times: The Sea Horse, Our Family Mascot

I just came across this article, which struck me both for the personal connection between writer and subject (as twins) and for the complete open-mindedness and lack of judgement in it.

My twin brother, Eli, is jealous of sea horses. They are the only animal species in which the male gives birth to the offspring. Male sea horses have brood pouches where the female deposits her eggs. The eggs then hatch in the father’s pouch, where the young continue to live until they are expelled into the ocean after strenuous labor that can last several days.

Eli is a transgender man, and lived the first 20 years of our lives as my fraternal twin sister. I have plenty of memories of my twin as a little girl, as Emma, not Eli. More often, though, my memories adjust to represent Eli as I know him now, as my brother.

I am fascinated to read of how the desire for biological children is quite uncoupled from gender identity. I hope that one day Eli will find happiness as a parent.

Read the full article here.

MSNBC’s ‘Born in the Wrong Body: A Change of Heart’

[Update to the review: Josef has contributed to the discussion forum on the show here. Worth a read. ]

I knew that I wanted to write a post about ‘Born in the Wrong Body: A Change of Heart’ before it even aired, especially so because many of my friends told me they were reluctant or nervous about watching it for themselves. As someone who has not made a gender transition even once (let alone twice, or even three times!) I felt I could view it dispassionately and objectively.

However, after seeing it, I found myself affected in quite unexpected ways. The aspects that I expected to feel negatively about were just not there, and my overall reaction was very mixed – finding both positive and negative emotions rolling together leaving me … somewhat neutral. I have decided simply to write a synopsis of what we were shown, and leave it up to the reader to come to their own conclusions. I’m sure if this spurs you to watch the show, you can find it on YouTube, or coming up in MSNBC’s frequent re-run schedule.

I’m going to use the pronouns that (mostly) match the current gender presentation of the two people shown in the documentary. (If this offends you, I’m sorry – in a case like this, there simply is no “right way”.) Without further ado, here’s what we learn:

It was stressed up front that of all those who transition, only a very, very tiny proportion ever “go back”. In fact, I suspect the two subjects we follow were the only ones who could be identified and were willing to have their stories told. Most similar documentary programs feature three or more subjects to give a wider experience.
Continue reading

“Ma’am” fallout

Earlier this week, I blogged about getting my first intentional ma’am from a sandwich maker at the local Subway.  The interesting thing is that I wasn’t trying to “pass” at the time.  If you’re interested, you could read about it on my 360 blog, including a picture of me wearing what I wore into the Subway, I had Teresa take the picture when I got home.  (We live in the same house.)

Anyway, this isn’t about that, it’s about the after-effects of it.  It was a simple thing and I got a big kick out of it, after all I was just on my way to a service call on what was supposed to be my day off.  (I gotta tell the boss that he’s cutting into my “girl” time.)   After I left the Subway, I kept looking in the mirror trying to figure out what she saw that caused her to call me ma’am.  The incident kinda freaked me out after a while, I was thinking “have I changed that much already?”

That was just one of the things going through my mind, I had an emotional surge when it occoured to me that she was looking right at me when she said it, and that I actually could be gendered as female.   That’s always been one of my fears, not being able to pass.  It held me up for a long time, and here I passed without even trying!  Very strange!

It must have hit me pretty deep, because when I was doing my service call at a multiplex cinema and had to go to the bathroom, it was a tough decision to go into the men’s room.   I actually felt like I didn’t belong there.   Now lately, I’ve been wearing a hat so no one sees the lack of hair on the top of my head, it’s not very female.

It seems like it was a defining moment for me, it’s really hard to go back to “guy” mode after that, I’m still struggling with it.  I know that my fears have kept me sitting on the “gender fence” for a while now, it’s really getting to be time to move!   The biggest problem I have with that is that I’m so unprepared, having taken a different path to get here.  I’ve never been a public “cross-dresser”, I started HRT with no “public exposure” experience.  Maybe it’s time to get out of my comfort zone.

How did your first real ma’am affect you?  Did it make you crazy and frustrated like it did me?

A Slight Case of Cognitive Dissonance

My long-suffering significant other and I went to see Iron Man a couple of weeks ago. This, in itself, is not out of the ordinary: we’re movie people, so we see a lot of them. About halfway through the movie, though, I suffered a bit of a blow to my basic epistemology.

The set-up: I try to watch movies at the theater in one sitting. Sometimes, this isn’t practical: drinking one of the 55-gallon drums of soda they sell at the concession stand and expecting to make it through Titanic (all that water!) is probably foolhardy. Lately, I’ve had trouble with this because spironolactone is a pretty effective diuretic, so halfway through the movie, I had to relieve myself. I made a bee-line to the restrooms only to be stopped short. I momentarily didn’t know which one to use. Actually, this isn’t quite true; my first instinct was to use the ladies’ room, but I stopped myself from actually bursting into the ladies room. There was a brief and very disorienting sensation of confusion as I had to wrestle my brain into the mindset of my gender presentation.

At this point in time, I’m still pretty manly. I usually have some growth of beard to accommodate my electrolysis schedule, so I was in total “guy” mode when we went to this particular movie. And yet, I felt the planks of my gender presentation fall away beneath my feet. It was profoundly weird. I surmise from this episode that the hormones I’m taking are doing a big number on my brain. I also wonder about the dichotomy this suggests in the old mind/body problem. I’ve always “known” that I was a girl, or rather, that I should have been a girl, but this episode suggests that my neurochemistry DIDN’T “know” that I should have been a girl prior to being told so by hormonal intervention. Is this an example of the ineffability of consciousness divorced from the body? Is gender identity parsed and scattered through different sections of the brain, some more aware of it than others?

Y’know, I don’t know. And some of the implications of these questions trouble me.

Cheers.

Some thoughts on controversial Transgender theories

With all the talk lately about the people selected to revise the TG section of the DSM-4, I thought I throw my thoughts into the mix also.

Part of the controversial theory proposed by Dr. Ray Blanchard is dividing the trans community by sexual orientation (“homosexual transsexuals” vs. “autogynephilic”). Just the basic concept of dividing the the trans community by sexual orientation seems to be missing the entire point of the trans experience, it’s not about sex, it’s about gender. Gender identity and sexual orientation are two different things entirely.

I believe that there are trans people who could fit into the catagory of “homosexual transsexual”, but that’s only one part of the trans experience and certainly is not an inclusive description of a large part of the community. I also believe that there’s people who fit into the “autogynephilic” catagory, but I don’t think this description fits people who choose to fully transition, or even those who are forced to be, or choose to be “non-op” due to various circumstances. I think autogynephilia would be more appropriate to describe fetish cross-dressers, this is, after all, a sexual description, and not a gender identity model.

It’s my belief that, much like Freud, these “Doctors” can’t seem to separate sex drive from non sexual issues. Being sexually driven males of the species makes it difficult for them to remove sexual background from non sexual logic.

I’ve often wondered if “autogynephilia” is a description that applies to my experience – my gender issues have, in the past, had a strong sexual component to them. My question concerning this is, if my desire to transition is sexually motivated by autogynephilia, then why do I still have so much conviction about continuing my transition when the spiro has removed my sex drive and my ability to get and keep a strong erection. I’m impotent and totally uninterested in sex and sexual relations, and yet, I’m more convinced than ever that I’m doing the right thing for myself. The doubts and fears that I have about transition are about my ability to successfully blend into the general female population. “Passing” is important to me, but not for the purpose of a relationship, I just want to be accepted as a female person. (There’s an entire blog that could be written about the desire to be accepted.)

There’s so much more about being cross-gendered than any sexual issues, but some people, even health professionals, just can’t see past their own sexual biases. There are way too many successful transitions for this to be about sex. However, I have to ask the question, if transition was sexually motivated, is that a problem? If it results in a healthy, happy person who can live a fulfilling life for themself, does it matter what the motivation is? The desired result of any psychological therapy is a well adjusted person who can live a satisfying and fulfilling life, and transition is the only thing that has been proven to solve the issues faced by strongly transgendered people. No other therapy has been shown to be effective.

Personally, for me, no matter what else happens in my life, I don’t intend to ever go back to the testosterone driven life that I suffered with in the past. I’m hoping to make that permanent in the not too distant future, hopefully sometime this year, with a medical procedure known as orchiectomy. Another large stepping stone on the journey.