The Courage to be Me

Here is something I wrote on my personal blog. I thought I would share it here as well, a few of my thoughts on transition and courage. I believe, as a community, we display unparalleled courage and conviction. It is part of what carries us through, and it is this community that helps prop us up when we feel our courage falter.

The idea of courage was one that haunted me for many years. For years and years, I longed to transition, but always felt that I did not have the courage to go through with it. When I heard of or saw post transition trans-women, I would think to my self that I wished I had they courage that they did. I fretted about courage while navigating a pretty successful career in law enforcement. One moment, I was chasing down known violent criminals, putting my life at the risk, and that night I would fall asleep ashamed for not having the courage to be me. I spent many years trying to reconcile these two seemingly opposing expressions of courage.

When the time came to transition, when I reached the point where I had to make a decision, I realized that it was not a lack of courage that kept me from transitioning. I had the courage to do it, to make the change, and yet I was still afraid. It was not society that I was afraid of, not my employer, but rather I was afraid of losing those close to me. I was concerned about what they would think. All my life, I had repeated a cycle of living up to the expectations of others, all the while failing to live up to my own expectation. It was not courage that I lacked, but rather I denied my own ability to stand up for myself, to put my needs before the expectations of others.

This was not an easy leap to make. While I appeared outwardly self confident, inside I was constantly worried about what others thought about me. Not only wondering if what I was doing was good enough, but fearful that someone would see through me, see that I was not what I presented as, see that I was trans. I was worried about passing as male, even during the years when I had all the physical and social attributes that made passing seem easy. It was the inability to reconcile my outward appearance with my inner identity that forced me to try and live up the the expectations that my outer shell created for me in society. Family, social, and career pressures. The kind of pressures that pushed me into a career in law enforcement.

Eventually, I left law enforcement. This was the first real move that brought me one step closer to transition. This was a kind of watershed moment for me. No other time in my life had I stood up for my self so fervently. I faced a lot of questioning and second guessing about my decision to leave law enforcement. But, this was the first decision that I truly owned. It was my choice. No one else made it for me, in fact, it went against the expectations I spent so many years living up to. It was a display of courage, a moment of self acceptance, a moment where I put myself before the outside pressures. I stood up to people I have never stood up to, in ways that shocked and surprised people. This change was not unlike the transition I am now going through, it strained relationships, some relationships that took a year or two to rebuild, relationships that I am still rebuilding. In many ways, transition in and of itself may set this rebuilding process back a few years, or it may help others to understand more clearly the decisions I made in the past. I believe it will shed light on who I am, why I did what I did, why I was the person that I was, it will explain me more fully to those I know. For almost everyone I know, it was really be the first time that I am truly able to be me. 

Does it take courage to make this step, to begin the journey of transition, to see it through to the point where one is living a life that is more true and genuine that they lived before. You bet it takes courage. The courage, though, is not necessarily the courage to face the world in a new gender role, though that is difficult, the courage is the ability to look deep inside yourself and be one-hundred percent true to yourself. The courage to cast aside the real and perceived expectations of those around you, and put your needs before the needs of their expectations. Going out in the world in a new gender role is certainly a process that creates fear and apprehension, but at this point, I am more afraid of living the rest of my life in my assigned gender role. Now, I can fall asleep happy that I am being true to myself, I no longer have to fret about my perceived lack of courage. I found my courage. We all have it in us. Have you found yours?

Advertisements

Transgender Access to Health Care

I want to start off by just apologizing for being a little haphazard in my posting here. I am hoping to get on a more regular posting schedule. I have had a lot of different things going on, and I have had a lot that I have wanted to write about but little time to do it. I do appreciate those who have stopped by to see what is going on here, and I look forward to writing more and engaging in some discussions of the topics and issues.

I just got off the Town-Hall conference call with Donna Rose, Jamison Green, and Becky Allison. I thought it was a good start, and I hope there can be more opportunities for our community to come together like this. I think one of the major benefits of calls like this is the breaking down of economic barriers. Today’s topic was essentially health care, and underlying the need for coverage is the need to break down economic barriers. Far too many in our community are unemployed or underemployed. For many, making the journey to a conference may not be possible for economic reasons. Calls such as this will help those members of the community to be able to reach out and interact with the Transgender community at large. I think this will also be of value to those who may live where there is no trans community to speak of. 

Now on to the topic. I think most of us have heard about the AMA resolution in June and the WPATH statement in July. These were both significant statements. I would like to start with the AMA statement, which was actually three statements related to removing barriers to careremoving insurance barriers, and removing financial barriers. The one thing that struck me was the repeated use of GID throughout the statements. They did, however, reference GID as a medical condition, and referenced not only the DSM but also the ICD. Now, I was not familiar with the ICD until this evening. I would appreciate information about it if anyone knows a little more about it, and how GID is treated in the ICD. I think that it is positive that the AMA referred to GID as a medical condition as opposed to a mental disorder. I am curious about how this statement in conjunction with the WPATH statement and other papers could serve to help legitimize our need for treatment if GID were removed from the DSM.

I am behind Kelley Winters’ efforts, my only concern being that we have another avenue by which can can continue to gain the medical treatments necessary to transition. I know some have argued that they do not want to be medicalized. To those I would argue, how can one justify medical treatment in the absence of a medical condition. I want to be medicalized, I just don’t want to be pathologized. I believe that part of our process towards equal health coverage is strengthening the medical need and the recognition of GID in the medical community as a medical condition.

I rather liked the fact the the WPATH statement included things such as chest reconstruction and FFS. As Jamison mentioned, chest reconstruction is the only surgery that many FTM’s want at this time, and for many of them, this surgery is very validating for their gender presentation. The WPATH statement acknowledges that the path to transition is about more than GRS. There are other surgeries and procedures, which some consider cosmetic, that go a long way towards helping to affirm ones gender identity and help make a transition more successful and less emotionally painful (I think anyone who has been through laser or electrolysis knows these don’t reduce physical pain!). 

I think one of the most powerful things in this statement was the AMA’s statement of dispelling the myth that treatments, procedures, and surgeries for trans people are cosmetic or experimental. For us, these procedures are necessary for us to be able to live a life that is more genuine and more true to who we really are. These procedures reduce the emotional stress that can cause so many other health problems. When it comes to insurance companies arguing about cost, I have a few examples of my own situation. Prior to coming out and beginning transition, I smoked almost a pack of cigarettes a day and I was borderline high cholesterol. Within days of coming out, I quit smoking. I stopped cold turkey, now that I was on the road to being me, I didn’t need that crutch. I also changed my eating habits and reduced my stress levels significantly. I was no longer eating the bad foods we eat when we stress eat, fast food, high fat foods, high cholesterol food, you know that stuff that tastes so good but is horrible for you. Since then, my cholesterol is half of what it was before. Not smoking and reduced stress are also significant. Essentially, I likely saved my insurance company easily hundreds of thousands of dollars by transitioning. I greatly reduced my risk of heart attack and stroke, reduced my need for cholesterol and blood pressure reducing medications, slashed my cancer risk each year that goes by, and greatly reduced the potential costs if depression were to lead to suicide or suicide attempts and the related hospitalizations. You tell me, which is better. I think I would take the road of paying for therapy for a few years, GRS and a few other procedures, and HRT. Over my lifetime I bet that it will cost them a lot less then the bypasses and other procedures I was headed towards! 

Another thing I did take away from this was the need for education. Educating our employers, the insurance companies, and the insurance brokers that our companies deal with. There were several stories of brokers discouraging Trans benefits, or pricing them too high to be affordable. I worked in the insurance industry for a brief period of time, and when you are a smaller company, you have little or no ground to negotiate when it comes to benefits. It all comes down to what can I and my employees afford, and what do we have to give up this year. The education has to start with the insurance companies and the larger companies that have the negotiating power. If every company listed in the Fortune 500 index said we want full coverage for out trans employees, I am sure that the insurance companies would take notice.

I find it interesting that many insurance companies offer full benefits to their trans employees, and yet make it difficult and expensive for other companies to provide the same benefits. I wonder about the concept of creating an index that would measure and rate insurance companies not only on the benefits they provide their own employees, but also on how they make the same benefits available to subscribers. Imagine being self employed and having to shop for health insurance with trans benefits, I am sure that is impossible, and if possible prohibitively expensive. 

We need insurance companies to recognize trans benefits as a fundamental part of any group or individual plan. Spread over a sizable group, the costs are negligible. I believe one study showed that it was pennies per premium. I will find that presentation and post it later, I think it was from an Out & Equal conference. If this is part of every policy, cost would not be an issue, and we would finally have equal access to health insurance and the procedures that we need. 

I look forward to future calls, and the discussions and actions that they will generate. There are a few things out there that are dividing some of us, we need to concentrate on many of the things that bring us together. We will always have differing opinions on how to tackle a particular issue, but I think we need to respect the diversity of opinions in this community. We are an educated community, and we need to realize that there is more than one way to approach an issue. Good night to everyone, and hope to talk about some of this more.

Review: ‘Transvestite Wives’ on BBC America

Edited to add: “Transvestite Wives” will also be shown again on Sunday, July 13, 2008 at 6:00 PM, if you missed it the first time around.

Last night, I caught the premiere of BBC America’s “Transvestite Wives” episode in their BBC America Reveals series. From their website:

Transvestite Wives looks at three transvestite relationships, as seen through the eyes of their wives and partners.

In the Scottish Highlands, Sheila discovered seven years into her marriage that her husband Dennis was a transvestite. In Newark, 20-year-old Sam, is embracing her 40-year-old partner Chris’ tranny lifestyle; and in Barnsley, Robyn, who has struggled to be accepted for her weight problem, at last finds happiness with her cross-dresser husband Dean.

I guess I shouldn’t have been surprised from the title, but none of the relationships had the trans partner in full-time mode. The couples were shown in both same-sex and opposite sex modes, although in the case of Sam and Chris/Rachel, we saw only Rachel for the majority of the episode.
Continue reading

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

An Oasis from a Failed Three Six Oh

“For millions of years, mankind lived just like the animals.  Then something happened which unleashed the power of our imagination…we learned to talk.”  Stephen Hawking

Thanks for stopping by.  If you were directed here by my 360 link, let me tell you a little bit about my intentions.

It seems as if our wonderful group of online friends have been scattered to the wind over a long period of time.  I met many wonderful people on yahoo360’s social networking service.  The only problem is that failed promises from yahoo in fixing it or creating something “bigger and better” continue to disappoint.   I hate seeing so many people being scattered to the wind.

This is, however, a blessing in disguise.  I ended up throwing my own blog on WordPress to cross post from the marginally operational yahoo360 site that I began with over a year ago.  What’s been happening since then has surprised me.

I’m making new friends, and many of them are not even within the small community of yahoo360.  In fact, many of them aren’t even transgendered.  Kinda cool.

I have invited some of these new people to join us here in this corporate blog.  Hence the name TRANScend GENDER.  It’s not just about being trans that makes us who we are, nor should it rule supreme in our thoughts and lives.  There is more to life than just life transgender.  And that’s why I want significant others or other non-trans friends to pipe in and share their ideas with me and with us.

And I don’t want any of us to lose sight in getting the support each and every one of us needs to get from here…to there, wherever that may be.

I just want people to find a place to come together and post what’s on their mind. A place where people can come to throw their thoughts into a blog where we can all view, review, and post comments. It’s also a place where we can share our own thoughts, and all of this without having to search or bookmark each other in 300 different places. Cross post from your own blog, 360 site, Myspace, or wherever. Contribute whenever you like. Comment whenever also. Do your thing, just do it with us!

Is that such a hard thing to do? we’ll see.

Lori D.