One of the first and strongest voices for human equality.
This is one of my favorites- never treat anyone as simply an option.
While I continue to struggle to get along in the world with my GID (Gender Identification Dysphoria), articles like an opinion piece in the Washington Times today, displaying its JID (Journalism Identification Dysphoria), do not help. On a day when another headline read; “Ex-gay Christian ministry closes, apologizes to LGBT community,” I was also entreated to lines like these:
“Real girls and their parents reacted with the outrage that anyone not blinded by political correctness would have expected.”
“Sixteen states and the District have similar laws, according to something called the Transgender Law & Policy Institute.”
“The rights of the majority — in this case, for real girls not to have real boys use their toilet facilities — are subordinated to a vanishingly small minority, albeit one with political clout way out of proportion to its numbers. School restrooms are just the start, with locker rooms and showers after phys-ed next on an agenda that’s all about breaking down the real and traditional differences between the sexes.” http://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2013/jun/19/transgenders-and-toilets/#.UcM8JqIlSC4.facebook. (Emphasis added by the author).
Clearly, the Times does not know weather to wax sensationally or rationally. Or, perhaps this is the whole problem with the political right – they just don’t know how to talk about people with whom they take issue without relying on insulting, inflammatory rhetoric like that above. I apologize ahead of time if the right is able to prove me wrong on this. In any event, a professional journalist should be held to a higher standard, even in their opinions, although I must forgive “THE WASHINGTON TIMES” (Only By line) its professional lapses, given its apparent internal confusion about journalistic integrity and its own identity.
So, what is a “Real girl” Mr. Washington Times? (Oh, did I just make an assumption that a man wrote this article? You bet!) Is a “Real Girl” defined only physically, by her appearance, by her genitals? Or is it the heart, mind and soul that make a girl real? Is it a combination of the physical, spiritual, emotional and intellectual? Perhaps. I know what my biases are, but, for the sake of Pete, does the Washington Times really want to limit gender to a static, stereotypical definition? Do I have to be barefoot, pregnant and subservient to a husband in order to be a “real” woman? The Washington Times might as well print their publication on papyrus in cuneiform. (Really ancient, as in pre-dating the dark ages).
Now, of course, the existence of “real” women suggests the existence of “real” men too. And what do they look like? I won’t even hazard a guess. But, I will bet it is “traditional.” Well, at least the Washington Times definition of traditional “real” men and women that it can trace for about the last century and to its Puritan, Anglo-Saxon cultural roots only. In truth, the differences between genders anthropologically speaking is much more fluid. (See, http://genderoutlaw.wordpress.com/2008/05/10/transgender-warriors-by-leslie-feinberg/)
Now, the Washington Times prints that trans people have some kind of “political clout.” Never mind that trans people are routinely excluded from health insurance policies for health related circumstances, and that they the are often the most highly discriminated against class of people. (See, http://www.hrc.org/files/assets/resources/hrcTGguide.pdf). Heck, even local ordinances designed to provide anti-discrimination protections often have transgender exceptions – especially when it comes to bathrooms. So, what political gain does this imagined “clout” provide to a trans person?
And what about me – a post-op trans women? If I can not fit the Washington Times definition of a “real” woman or a “real” man, am I real at all. The IRS thinks so. So does the DMV, the local Election Administrator, the DFWP, my bank, my church, my work, my friends, and even all two of my enemies. Heck, I even have a credit score. Yes, I’m real, and I wish the Washington Times would get there too.
The historic litigation in the case of M.C. has profound significance for many in the intersex community. Advocates for Informed Choice (AIC) is publishing a series of personal responses to the M.C. litigation. The first in this series is by longtime intersex activist and former AIC staff member Jim Ambrose (formerly Jim Bruce). This piece originally appeared on AIC’s blog, June 5, 2013.
“M.C. will spend the rest of his life paying for his caretakers’ actions.” – Erica K. Landau, Huffington Post
Where would I begin? I asked myself that question every other hour after AIC asked me to submit my reaction to the filing of the Crawford case. Hell, I’m asking it right now. I worked for AIC from 2009 to February, 2013 so I knew this case was coming for a while. That said I had a feeling it wouldn’t get filed, that it’d slip away or rather be taken away. I wasn’t alone in feeling that simply filing the lawsuit, just filing it, would be monumental. Looking back it was kind of like when an 8 year-old thinks Christmas is an oasis (7 months away!), too far off to comprehend day-to-day and so the kid resigns himself to childhood drudgery. Because, come on, nothing exists that far in the future least of all everything you ever wanted.
But, on the morning of May 14, 2013 The Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) and Advocates for Informed Choice issued a press release detailing how a group of professional adults irreparably harmed a child in South Carolina. I gazed at my laptop as a press conference took place right in front of some giant brick courthouse. Attorneys representing a child called M.C. stood in a semi-circle behind a podium, and there was Anne! Anne, who will argue breathlessly that ‘They Might Be Giants’ was the greatest band of the 20thcentury, was right there on the Primetime Live at 5 Eyewitness News! Ever-measured Anne gently explained what she knows she can prove: That what happened to M.C. was unnecessary, arrogant and brutal.
You see, for me, the most difficult aspect of intersex advocacy is making this complex issue understood by any audience. Intersex stuff is nothing but sprawl. It gets everywhere: sex, genitals, going to the bathroom, hormones, clothing, fitting in, not fitting in, showering, sports, inclusion/exclusion, sex again, interpersonal connection, how we all sleep at night, self-determination, the opportunities we give ourselves and take from others and contentment. You know, the basics. These items are hardly approachable because most educated folks often fail to even understand the difference between sex and gender. So tell me how a kid is to know what a numerator is if they struggle to count to 10?
So, then two of the bravest people I may ever know did something most intersex advocates (myself included) thought could never happen. They stood in front of cameras, on record, in their son’s hometown and demanded justice. Pam and Mark Crawford denounced the needless removal of their son’s genitals and reproductive organs as “a careless and reckless action,” and that the State of South Carolina “disfigured (M.C.) because they could not accept him for who he was.” When I glanced down to watch the seconds peel away on the web clip I noticed my hands and knees were trembling. No. I was shaking all over. That’s when I realized Pam bears a passing resemblance to my own mother. My mother has that red hair, those sturdy-yet-stylish eyeglasses, and a voice that tells a careful listener suffering is something you do alone.
The thing is M.C. and I (along with many intersex people) share a similar childhood narrative. We both endured early years of ghastly cosmetic genital surgery, the loss of our reproductive organs and silence. But, M.C. was adopted by the Crawford family. I never saw the inside of an orphanage. M.C. has a sense of self and of his safety. My sense of self was gray, disoriented. I did not feel safe. M.C. has a voice that he uses. I had a voice too, but if I’d shared that voice with my parents I would have told them I was lost. M.C. used his voice to inform his family that he is a boy.
Pam projected her voice. I can hear it as I type: “The adults involved are sending him the message that your body is not acceptable and has to change in order for you to be loved.” I know how true those words are. I, and many intersex advocates, have articulated versions of them to those in power for the past 20 years. But, hey, why should highly-educated clinicians listen to a handful of surgical ingrates? History tells us that appeals for mercy through testimonials of truth and suffering have never been enough to effect institutional change. Those words from a proud and committed mother of an intersex kiddo in front of most of the world are not an appeal for mercy. They are a shot across the bow.
Pam’s unshakeable words found a spot in me I thought I’d grieved out. Out and away. I’d say it was unbearable save for the fact that I knew thousands of other intersex people were witnessing the Crawfords’ demonstration of love and belief in their son. I shared May 14, 2013 with many people, especially the ones no longer with us. And, frankly that experience reminds me how alone I was for so long, how alive I am now and, finally that resilience brings liberation to those residing on the right side of history.
Jim Ambrose is a worker bee at The Interface Project. #justice4mc
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.
WOMEN’S HEALTH IN MONTANA (DHHS REGION VIII) Female Population of MONTANA
Total state population: 989,415 (492,748 females; 496,667 males)
Health Status (Age-adjusted§ percent of adult females)
In poor general health: 4.4%
Activity limitation due to poor phys/mental health: 8.9%
No natural teeth: 5.4% Sources: 2010, BRFSS
Access to Care (Age-adjusted§ percent of adult females) No health insurance coverage (under 65): 21.2%
No personal doctor or primary care physician: 79.2% Saw a dentist in past year: 61.5%
Fact sheets are now available for each of the 50 states and the District of Columbia. Each fact sheet presents a snapshot of demographic characteristics as well as a variety of health status indicators for females within the area. These include:
· Health Status
· Access to Care
· Health Conditions and Risk Factors
· Preventive Services and Screenings
· Prenatal Care and Pregnancy Risk
· Birth Outcomes
· Sexually Transmitted Infections
· Violence and Abuse
· Mental Health and
· Teen Health
For complete Montana stats, click here.
I was moved today by the story of a young (30) trans woman who wants be a mother. Not surprisingly, she is plagued with fears of the unknown. Her parents have disowned her because she had the courage to reveal her truth. What if her child did the same? Can she find a man who can embrace her and walk with her and a child as a family? Though she has much love to give, she searches for someone to give it to. It is a familiar story, tragically repeated amongst so many trans persons.
It is one that daily resonates with me. (Only, it is my children who have disowned me.) “Who will love me?” I often wonder. “Who can love me?” is the great trans lament.
“I realized that gender transition, even under the best of circumstances, is unequivocal and unforgiving. It required of me everything I had, and then some. I was still paying for it. Yet, there was no compromise, no half measure. I had to make my way in the world as a woman or not at all. I had been blessed and fortunate to have done so as quickly as I had and with relative ease. Still, I was resigned to accept the fact that some pieces would never be complete. I doubted that I would overcome gender identity discrimination in Montana, and it did not seem likely that I would find a man who could accept me and love me as the whole person that I am. I had a whole heart, and I wanted the person who could take the hard part and love that too. (The “Hard Part” by Dave Wilcox). I wanted the person with whom I could share every secret so that secrets would be no more. That person was not to be found.
I began to accept that too, as I mused about just who would want a trans woman for a partner. In the ordinary course, a heterosexual male is looking for a heterosexual woman, not a heterosexual trans woman. Guys, with few exceptions, think it’s just too freaky for them to accept. A lesbian woman likewise does not want a lesbian trans woman, as we are sometimes perceived as something less than a real woman. And I get that. Even though I have this hunger to be known, I’m not like the girl next door.”
TransMontana, pp 281-82. (I try here to write for the entire trans community – not just me.)
So, I try to stop speculating about what might or might not be. I have no control over what is yet to come, so must try to let go of fear. My life is now – not some distant point in the future. It is right here, right now. I must live it, even though not as full or complete as I might like. I have peace and joy in whom and what I am. I may be a social enigma, but I know in my heart that I am whole as a woman, even though born as a man. I believe in myself. That gives me great comfort and strength. Thus, I am able to interact with the rest of the world with honesty, authenticity and integrity. And if I may find someone who can love me like that, well, it will have been worth the wait.
And then share it.
Let’s make this happen!