Hey, did ‘ya see the headlines? “ABC News Editor Don ‘Dawn’ Ennis Comes Out As Transgender” Now generally, I do not appreciate it when the media is the news, but hey, this is really big news! A career professional at a company known throughout the modern world is transgender, and is going to transition on the job! Yea, that is big!
I applaud Dawn’s courage and decision to transition. I hope she will continue to have a long and distinguished journalism career with one of the great news organizations.
However, I admit that I have been critical about the manner in which she couched her announcement. Her coming out statement included this: “Ennis said she suffers from an ‘unusual hormonal imbalance,’ and blames her mother, who fed her female hormones as a child to prolong a commercial acting career.”
“I have a rare medical condition — nothing deadly or infectious — but it has resulted in an unusual hormonal imbalance,” she explains. “One so profound that I don’t resemble the man you first met 10 years ago.”
My posts today have demonstrated my concerns.
“This is good, but to seize upon a “rare medical condition” as the result of a hormonal imbalance induced in childhood seems a wee tad disingenuous. It seems much more authentic to just claim our true selves unabashedly.”
I got a few tepid responses, including one from a transwoman who was the successful plaintiff in a now notorious federal circuit court discrimination case which established as a matter of law (at least in that circuit) that Gender Identification Dysphoria (GID) is a “serious medical condition.” And so it is true.
I replied: “I could not agree with you more, but our “medical condition” is not the one which Dawn is asserting. Many of us feel & assert that we were born TG, not forced to become TG by some post womb atrocity purposely committed by our mothers. I don’t believe for a moment that you really accord the feeling of being born in the wrong body to mere eccentricity, but you seem to be asserting as much. I also do not agree that gender incongruence can be induced by merely ingesting hormones as a child. It seems like Dawn’s assertion is more of an attempt to legitimize her nature in the eyes of a misunderstanding and judgmental public by reference to some scurrilous outside influence, rather than just claiming her true self as many of us have had to do. Yes, it is disingenuous and a disservice. BTW, I have read, understood and applauded the legal argument “Gender Identity Disorder (GID), is a serious medical condition.” I do not see that Dawn’s assertions are analogous merely because of the “rare medical condition” language in which she has framed the legitimization of her transgender nature. So, there ‘ya have it.”
A friend wrote: “We must just continue to push through to make the world safe and accepting for all. Trans is. No need to legitimize it. It’s already legit. Takes a huge amount of personal courage to be who you are without apology or justification whether you are trans, intersex or uniquely average….”
Another friend wondered: “Can I attribute it to her being somewhat new at this, especially at being SO out?” She is always the compassionate peacemaker, and I admire that quality in the few people I know who truly possess it.
My response: “Yes, of course. I admire your compassion. The difficulty is that, like a friend of mine says, when we make shit up, we come to believe it, and when we believe it we have to defend it. Thus, I came to believe the lies I told myself to justify my existence, while all the while no justification was ever necessary (Just as my friend so eloquently stated). I am what I am! I am a transexual! I celebrate me. And because it is so, because I am authentic, other people embrace, love and accept me too. Honesty really is the best policy.”
And that brings me to the point of this piece. (For shame that it took so long, I know).
If you have ever had to disclose your transsexual identity to anyone important in your life, you realize immediately that most people have a great deal of difficulty wrapping their heads around the concept. Many people simply do not understand. And there is scant “medical science” to assist them. They cannot run to the Physician’s Desk Reference, for instance, and read about the scientific, double blind, controlled study of the effect of too much exposure upon a fetus of what turns out to be opposite sex hormones while in utero. But, that is the current, most widely accepted theory on the cause of GID.
Many would dispute such an unscientific theory as mere poppycock. The simple truth is that even the best, most widely accepted theory does not help the larger world to understand and accept trans people. Now here’s the rub.
A very important person in a high profile international news organization is suggesting an even more novel theory – not hormone over exposure in utero, but, hormone over exposure during childhood. However, the science that we do know suggests that this is unlikely. Gender identification is fixed by age three and is extremely difficult to change after that. (Pamela J. Kalbfleisch, Michael J. Cody (1995). Gender, power, and communication in human relationships. Psychology Press. pp. 366 pages. ISBN 0805814043. Retrieved June 3, 2011; Ann M. Gallagher, James C. Kaufman, Gender differences in mathematics: an integrative psychological approach, Cambridge University Press, 2005; “gender identity.” Encyclopedia Britannica Online. 11 Mar. 2011). So, unless Dawn’s commercial acting career was in full swing as an infant or toddler, the exposure to hormones would not likely have had the impact which she ascribes to them. Personally, I am rather dubious if they would have that effect even earlier.
Don’t get me wrong. The hormones would have an effect on her emotional state while she was taking them. Just ask men who have been treated with Depo Prevara (Reduces sex drive, compulsive sexual fantasies, and capacity for sexual arousal. Some users show increases in body fat and reduced bone density. There may also be other “feminizing” effects such as gynecomastia (development of larger than normal mammary glands in males), reduced body hair, and loss of muscle mass). Most of these effects are considered reversible when use is discontinued.
Likewise, introduction of anti-androgens and estrogen therapy is a treatment option for men with prostate cancer. It produces some of the same side effects, including changes in sexual desire, including loss of libido, changes in facial or body hair growth, and mood changes including anxiety, frustration, anger, depression and emotional outbursts. When my late father-in-law began hormone therapy for his prostrate cancer we teasingly suggested he would grow boobs and develop a new interst in picking flowers. Unfontunately, cancer occurred throughout his body and took him before we could test that theory.
While some might quip about possible similarities to Pre-menstrual Stress, a uniquely feminine phenomena, with the exception of sympathetic reactions in some men, there is simply no medical evidence that the introduction of female hormones to men cause them to be confused about their gender; or, to believe that they are actually women, or, that they were born that way, that they can do nothing to change that, and that they are no longer able to live in this binary culture unless they are able to become the woman that they believe inside that they have always been. I suspect the same would be true for a small boy.
So, as a person who has painfully experienced these things over the course of forty eight years in the wrong body, I do take exception. Yes, it is a wee tad disingenuous to assert that post-utero forced use of opposite sex hormones causes GID. It suggests that a transperson can be made that way instead of born that way. And, if they can be made that way, they can choose not to. That is not the experience of the trans people I have become associated with over the last several years (1500 or so). We are born that way. We did not and cannot choose to be trans. Who would? And it is a profound disservice to their courage and integrity to suggest otherwise.