Clergy to Daines: Healthcare is vital

Signatures:
1) Montana Interfaith Network
Direct Contact: Executive Director Rev D Gregory Smith, STL, MA
montanainterfaithnetwork@gmail.com
406-442-5506

2) Bishop Karen P. Oliveto
The United Methodist Church
ExecAssist@MountainSkyUMC.org
303.733.0083

3) Rev. Dr. Marc Ian Stewart
Conference Minister
MT-NWy Conference United Church of Christ
marc@mnwcucc.org
406.657.0822

As leaders within our faith communities, we hold a deep respect for human life and recognize the inherent dignity of each person, regardless of his or her economic status. At our churches, we especially preach about upholding the dignity of all people: the poor, the sick, the imprisoned, the elderly, the hungry, the immigrant, and so on.

Because our faith calls us to care for others, we find the Senate GOP health care plan, the Better Care Reconciliation Act, reprehensible. Health care is a life or death matter. This unjust plan is destined to cause many members of our delegations undue hardship and suffering.

Senators who support this bill will be voting to take away health insurance from the elderly, the disabled, and children. Medical bills often drive families, especially those who struggle to make ends meet, into hunger and poverty. These families we speak of are our friends and neighbors whom we see each Sunday to gather in prayer and reflection.

Even with a longer timeline to phase out funding, the GOP health care plan would dismantle Montana’s Medicaid program. We know this program serves as a lifeline for many across the state. Currently Medicaid provides coverage for one in every three children in Montana. Medicaid also offers critical health services for people of all ages with disabilities to stay in their homes and live with dignity.

Where will these families go when they no longer have coverage and access to care? Where can our friends and neighbors turn when rural clinics are shuttered and small-town health programs are eliminated?

As people of faith, we believe health is a community value. Cold, virus, plague, disability, and death are not something we experience as individuals but are something we experience and react to through our schools, work places, health care networks, ecosystems, and faith communities. Our holy texts often describe ‘healing’ as a return to community, and this leads me to believe that caring for others in their time of need stands as the cornerstone of a strong community. In our congregations, we help our neighbors. We do the very best we can to help each other during hard times and serve our communities. While prayer, pastoral care, and loving friends are critical for holistic health, they cannot replace quality, life-saving, life-sustaining medical care.

On the topic of the health care debate, Senator Daines has said, “Government should serve the people it’s meant to serve.” Unfortunately, the Senate GOP attempt at a health care plan prioritizes excessive accumulation of wealth for the most powerful at the expense of ordinary people’s lives, health, and wellbeing.

This is not the faithful way forward. Our faith challenges us to heal the sick and care for the most vulnerable in our society. This Republican bill does the opposite. We urge our Senators to vote NO on the Better Care Reconciliation Act. Instead of making our health care system less accessible to those who need coverage most, Congress should strive to improve the system so that all Americans have the health care coverage they need. Lives are at stake.

BZN Gay/Bi Men’s Discussion Group Begins October 3

 

 

 

support-group-by-KLatham

The Bozeman-area Gay/Bi Men’s Group begins its Fall Session on October 3rd.

D Gregory Smith, MA, LCPC, LMHC, &
Erin Adams-Griffin, MSW, LAC,
Facilitators

This 8 week group will explore Dating, Relationships, Being Out, Mental Health, Communication, Community, Substance Use, Friendship, Sex, Being Healthy,- whatever you need to talk about!

FREE. Safe. Confidential.

Space is limited.
If you would like to participate or want more information, please call Greg at 596-2013

 

 

This group is funded by a grant from the Montana Department of Public Health and Human Services
to promote health and well-being in our local communities- administered by AIDS Outreach.

 

Flathead Gay Men’s Group Starts September 19th

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We Are Born That Way

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.

 

Diversity Series In Hamilton

This is big news for the Bitterroot- and I’m proud to be part of it. Click for larger version

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VIDEO State of Despair: Suicidal thoughts pervasive among sexual minorities

I’m also featured in this video at the Gazette website:

http://billingsgazette.com/news/local/state-of-despair-suicidal-thoughts-pervasive-among-sexual-minorities/vmix_6b072762-14c6-55ac-a1b2-4762aded46f3.html

Gender Transition a Question of Ethics?

Transition (literary journal)

I read an article by an ethicist who answered a question in the New York Times about the morality of gender transition pitted against the harm it may cause a family.  It is a Hobson’s choice, really, as there is no good answer in the end.  But, I guess that’s why ethicists get paid the big bucks.

Gender transition is selfish. No doubt about it.  But,  so is just about any medical treatment, alcohol recovery for instance.  Gender dysphoria might just as surely kill you as alcoholism in my experience.  Yes, I had both, and after several years of living in the proper gender and in recovery with all of the attendant hardship, heartbreak and happiness, I am perhaps uniquely qualified to say that both are a means of survival.  I had to do both, or neither would have saved me from myself, so bad was my sense of demoralization and hopelessness.

Yet, behind me lies a trail of loss, separation and broken relationships.  My decision to transition hurt other people whether or not their reaction may be perceived as just or warranted.  Thus, I might be rightly asked whether it was the right thing to do.  Was it just?  Was it ethical?  Or was it merely necessary irrespective of the consequences?

In reverse order, my need to transition was more than manifest at the time, so frail was my grasp upon a life not hell bent on personal destruction. Some may rightly conclude that my transition should not matter to others if I was going to be dead anyway, even if by my own hand.  At the time, and for all the years since I have believed that I would not have made it, but for transition and recovery.  But what if . . . ?

What if I had found recovery and reserved transition for later in life, if at all?  Of course, I was already 48 when I began.  But, might I have learned a way through recovery to live a sober life as a man, and still kept my job, my friends, my family and my marriage?  Is that possible?  Of course it is?  But is it likely?  That is a much more germane question, given the level of dysfunction following nearly half a century of gender confusion, fear, guilt, shame, ambiguity, etc., which was merely masked and drown out through alcohol dependancy.

The answer, then, is that it is much more likely that as the masks of dependency were stripped away, the difficulty maintaining the duality of self would have only grown worse, not better, and continually threatened the chances of recovery taking hold.  But, even If I could have made it through reliance on God, a sponsor and a recovery group, what difference would it have made.

Would I have kept the relationships and people I lost in my transition – my children, friends, colleagues and acquaintances who have all turned away?  Probably, but I must believe that those relationships would be strained as ever, particularly because recovery involves rigorous honesty.  It is our secrets which often make us so sick.  At some point, I would have had to tell my truth to the people in my life.  I could not have continued to live vicariously through cross-dressing in private, for it would seem ever more the lie.  And what then?  What purpose does it serve to tell the truth and not live it – to be honest, but not authentic?  Forgive me for waxing apologetically.

I never meant to hurt the people in my life, but, I still believe to my core that I did the right thing.  Moreover, I could not foretell a person’s reaction, and, though I knew them well, predictions and expectations of how a person will take the news of gender dysphoria are pure and painful folly.

Therefore, I had to step out in faith, reveal the dysphoria and prescribed treatment and then deal with the reaction.  It does not work the other way around, as there is no way to sort of test the waters before jumping in.   People have no frame of reference, no experience to fall back on when a trans person reveals themself, and they can no more control their reaction than I can.  It is a gut level, sometimes gut rendering response that typically involves either rejection or openness, if not confusion.  If a person can be open and willing to accept the trans person, there is a chance at a continued relationship.  However, if the knee jerk reaction is rejection the door may be firmly closed.  And I have second guessed myself enough times to know that the process of revelation makes very little difference in the long run.  Either a person gets it, or they don’t.  And there is simply no way to know ahead of time which it shall be.

Thus, the trans person can take only one of two paths.  They can remain forever inside their secret gender box with all the dueling emotions and resulting pain and dysfunction that hiding brings for the sake of their family and friends and to avoid the risk of emotional harm to others.  Or, they can stumble blindly and uncertainly along the path to authenticity, assuming the risk that not all will choose to go along.

Gender transition is not a question of right or wrong, per ‘se, but rather it is one of possibility, necessity and risk.  Can the trans person live without transition, and are they willing to assume the risks inherent in either choice – a life forever locked in dysfunction and incongruence, or one without the ones they love who also lose someone dear.