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

A recent study that we all should read!

I found the link to this study along with a copy of the paper at Transgendernews, a yahoo group. Here’s the link.

http://www.intersexualite.org/Zucker_boys.html

I think you’ll find it quite enlightning about Zucker’s real agenda, but you should read it and make up your own mind.

Amber

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

 

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
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(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