Saturday, 31 August 2013

a wasted opportunity

Michelle LeBlanc is a well known and gravelly voiced transsexual woman here in Quebec and her book, chronicling her life and transition, has been on bookstore shelves for almost 2 years now.

Yesterday I was in a store and a woman very politely approached me wearing a friendly smile and said

"Madame may I ask you a question? I just read Michelle Leblanc's book and I loved it!"

I knew where she was going and wasting a perfectly good opportunity to do outreach I responded quicker than my brain could keep up.

"Oh but I'm not a transsexual madame" in a very friendly way so that she would not feel embarassed.

She turned a little red and responded "Oh excuse me madame!"

I returned with "I guess I am a little large for a woman and people do sometimes stare at the mall"

For the record I am 6' 1".

"But I am not the least bit insulted and I think you're a very brave soul for coming up to me as most people would not have done so"

She had such a kind smile and such an inquisitive look on her face but I had already taken a proverbial wrong turn at Albuquerque; which I now regretted.

Maybe it was the mood I was in or that I felt I had little time to think and maybe I was upset that I might have been perceived as anything other than a tall genetic woman.

Near the end of our exchange I asked "Why did you think I was a transsexual madame? I guess I don't look feminine enough" I had a big secure smile on my face to show her I was not the least bit insulted.

Her eyes widened and she said "oh no no it was just based on your size!"

She seemed so genuine that I took her at her word and thought to myself: Joanna you wasted a perfectly good opportunity for outreach.

If I bump into her again I plan to correct my error.

Wednesday, 28 August 2013

endocrine disrupting chemicals?

I was born in 1962 and certainly was exposed to EDC’s but is there something to this? Thanks to AQV for the heads up…

Transsexualism: An Unacknowledged Endpoint of Developmental Endocrine Disruption by Christine Johnson (her abstract to her thesis) states:

“In recent years, evidence has accumulated demonstrating that endocrine disrupting chemicals (EDCs) have the potential to alter sexual development at the organizational and functional level in many species, including humans, indicating that this class of chemicals may play a role in the etiology of transsexualism.

Although transsexualism has historically been attributed to social or psychological causes, little data exists to support these claims, thus requiring a closer examination of the evidence regarding changes in sexual development due to EDCs. Toward that end, this thesis considers data from studies examining hormonal signaling mechanisms and changes in sexual development observed in wildlife, laboratory animals, and humans exposed to EDCs, all providing a consistent picture that sex hormones and their receptors are highly conserved evolutionarily, finding similar effects of disruption in many species.

In order to place the data in context, a number of historical threads are examined, including: the use of chemicals in agriculture, the use of the pesticide DDT and the pharmaceutical drug diethylstilbestrol (DES), the intertwined relationship between chemical manufacturers and the military, and the history of transsexualism since 1950. The operation and function of the endocrine system is reviewed in order to provide the background to properly interpret findings from endocrine disruptor studies, focusing particularly on the hypothalamic-pituitary-gonadal (HPG) axis. Recent physiological data regarding the vomeronasal organ (VNO) is reviewed, demonstrating that the VNO is the organ responsible for detecting pheromones, or sexually-relevant chemically-based cues, and that exposure of the VNO to extremely low levels of putative sex hormones causes numerous autonomic system responses, including alterations in endocrine function in males. It is therefore suggested that the VNO plays a central role in the circuitry involving sexual development, and a hypothetical framework for testing this concept is provided.

Using this framework, a mechanism for the development of gender identity is proposed, suggesting that gender identity is determined via pheromones by comparing the self with others at an unconscious level. One consequence of this mechanism is that messages conveyed by pheromones can be regarded as signals that can be in contradiction from messages from society, leading to a paradoxical double bind, or a logical contradiction between messages that exist on different logical levels.

Another consequence is that there may exist a class of chemicals, pheromone disruptors that could interfere with pheromones in a manner analogous to endocrine disruptors. Further research must be performed to test this hypothesis since little data exists on pheromones in humans, but early data suggests chemicals may be found that interfere with normal pheromone function.

The prevalence of transsexualism is examined, finding that prevalence differences reported in various countries are not well explained by social factors. Also, it is observed
that existing studies have reported the prevalence of transsexuals seeking treatment over a specific time period, but this reporting method is not a measure of the number of transsexuals for each country, which is what the term implies to most people. Several recent epidemiological studies that address sexual changes from endocrine disruption are critiqued, finding that they are plagued with methodological weaknesses and contain a number of errors in interpretation. It is argued that instead of using epidemiological techniques, a more useful approach would be to perform demographic studies that map the birthplace of transsexuals in space and time to determine any patterns that may be related to environmental conditions. The lack of detailed data on transsexual demographics, especially in the United States where such data are completely lacking, has left a void where a lack of data has been interpreted incorrectly as a lack of effect.
The fundamental assumptions used in risk analysis and toxicology are reviewed in the context of recent findings that the effects of a chemical may be larger at low doses than at high doses and that thresholds for the endocrine system must be determined empirically, rather than by assumption of a dose-response curve and extrapolation from an observed toxicological endpoint. The use of invalid techniques by toxicologists has thus invalidated claims of chemical safety, and indicates that public policy based on these techniques are insufficiently protective of public health. Because few things are more important to the continuity of cultures than sexuality and social relations, a number of areas requiring further research are identified, and the need for education of the public is emphasized. I conclude that the existing evidence points towards chemical causes of transsexuality rather than social or psychological causes, requiring a shift in research priorities away from psychosocial studies towards physiological studies of transsexuals”

She concludes her paper by saying:

“Therefore, this thesis concludes that the single most important thing that can be done by advocates is to undermine these unexamined epistemological premises by educating the public of the evidence demonstrating a relationship between EDCs and transsexualism. When presented with evidence, contradiction in epistemologies can force a new perspective, enabling people to question the logic of what are ultimately self-destructive cultural beliefs. As the title of this thesis alludes, transsexualism is an unacknowledged endpoint of endocrine disruption, and all that is required to change this situation is simply acknowledgement. Then this knowledge becomes part of our cultural heritage and better decisions may result from this fuller knowledge of the facts. From this, beliefs can change; different beliefs lead to a different set of actions, and it is in the domain of action where this must ultimately be addressed. But before that can be achieved, habituated beliefs must be made visible."

From another source:

“Is it a coincidence that since the introduction of the chlorinated pesticides around 1935-1940 that the rate of transsexualism has been climbing steadily?
The first generation born after the introduction of pesticides was also the first generation to have significant numbers of transsexuals. The condition is virtually absent from the US historical record prior to 1952, when Christine Jorgensen made headlines. Every generation since has had higher and higher rates. Clearly researchers knew that sexual developmental changes were observed with DDT in animals as early as 1950, yet this information was ignored, deliberately or not. Fifty years later, large numbers and quantities of EDCs are being distributed around the globe without adequate consideration of the consequences”

Certainly food for thought but then why is only a tiny sliver of the population affected and not the rest? As the oldest of six children and the only gender disphoric it makes me wonder. I know I was not breast fed and my mother (like many of that time) used plastic bottles….

“Some researchers are investigating the health risks to children of endocrine disrupting chemicals (EDC’s) Bisphenol A, until 2010 a common component in the plastic used to manufacture plastic baby bottles, has been banned in most countries. In 2010, despite strong industry opposition, Canada was the first to ban BPA's use in baby bottles. Australia and the European Union followed in 2011. Several states in the United States had banned its use by 2011, and in 2012 a nation-wide ban was put in place

Tuesday, 27 August 2013

I won't have a caustic atmosphere

I’ve never had to ban anyone before from my blog and it pains me to do it. But when the discourse gets poisoned by someone’s personal vendetta against the big bad boogieman of the so called “transgender agenda” it just poisons the atmosphere.

For the record, I have no agenda nor do I have any interest in supporting people who expose themselves in women’s locker rooms or want to use their showers if they are biologically male. That is a tangent that I won’t follow because no one would defend that.

I am also not a spokesperson for the transgender umbrella. Whether people call themselves crossdressers, transvestites, transsexuals, gender variant matters not one bit to me as everyone has a right to live in a way that is true to their nature.

But when someone comes here repeatedly with the same axe to grind for a reason that is not entirely clear to me, it breaks down the civility of the discourse.

This blog was started for one reason only: to try and understand myself and hopefully draw feedback from others who have had the same experience; namely the desire from a very young age to express and comport myself in a way that diverged from my birth gender.

Having tried everything at my disposal to eradicate this desire and eventually culminating in gender therapy, I eventually had to simply admit that this is part of my intrinsic wiring.

However, coming to terms with it has not eliminated my interest in understanding the origin of what makes a tiny fraction of the population gender disphoric and this has been spurred on by the wide range of conjecture that exists on the web and elsewhere as to what causes this condition.

What irks me is the proposition by some that people like me are simply fetishists. Well this may be a convenient explanation for some and may fit in with their own agenda but it does not adequately explain my own behaviour.

What I do know is that I am a repeatable experiment. In other words, I have read my own almost exact story in the personal web pages of other people over the years. So I know I am simply part of the human condition. Harry Benjamin would have simply interviewed me and likely categorised me as a type III or type IV gender variant person; incidentally without calling me a fetishist. Benjamin very wisely stayed away from making conclusions about validity of transition or making moral judgements about what he observed which is why his work is soscientific and so well put together.

What has happened since the original writing of the transsexual phenomenon in 1966 is that the vacuum left behind Benjamin’s work has been filled with sexual politics.

So called “true transsexuals” (HBS type V and VI) wanting to distance themselves from crossdressers, transvestites or midler disphorics were happy to have the rest of us be fetishists and perverts except that Ray Blanchard was not necessarily kinder to them since by categorizing transsexuals by orientation he also implied that one was really a homosexual male while the other a paraphilic male. In fact this caustic theory basically pleased no one and angered almost everyone. Interestingly, Blanchard’s work was based on a sample of less than 250 patients he saw in his gender clinic.

Blanchard’s theory focused on the eroticism he observed from his patients to the idea of feminization. The sexual excitement that was brought on by this idea he termed Autogynephilia which essentially boiled down to the translation “love of self as a woman”.

The problem was however that while he accused all of his “non-homosexual transsexuals” (his term) of being essentially perverts, he negated to focus on the fact that a significant percentage of “homosexual transsexuals” also exhibited eroticism before transitioning. I can attest to receiving a long email I from a young homosexual transsexual who reported to me that she had also experienced what Blanchard called Autogynephilia and she was fine with it. It did not stop her from transitioning but just observd it to be something she experienced. She had always liked men and was very feminine looking in her picture.

Other studies have pointed to this phenomenon and there are plenty of testaments from many transsexuals including oddly enough the website of Anne Lawrence, Blanchard’s main disciple.

Decades ago transsexuals would omit or simply deny the presence of any eroticism for fear that it would disqualify them from being accepted for surgery so a proper picture was not assembled of what was actually going on.

In any event it appears that the presence of eroticism is not the big deciding factor in whether people transition or not so then what is it? Why are some people transitioning early and some doing it late and some happy living in between genders?

We don’t know.

We honestly and truly do not know and anyone who tells you different is either a liar or a charlatan. The lead of the Montreal Gender clinic who has been working with transsexuals for over 30 years could not tell me what causes this and most of what I read on the web or in books is contradictory and inconsistent.

What we have is inconclusive evidence on brain chemistry, no DNA anomalies to speak of and no genetic markers that would distinguish a transsexual from anyone else.

So what is the source of gender disphoria that drives the desire? We don’t know.
But just because some people transition and others do not does not automatically create a pecking order of validity. Having now transitioned does not make you a woman but then everyone else a pretender or a paraphilic; that is simply being disingenuous.

I have always stated here that I respect everyone. Whether you transition or not, I do not make value judgements on your life status or your choicees so long as the discourse here is civil and constructive.

However if you think that you can make value judgements based on your own conjecture perhaps as a way to alleviate some of your own issues by putting down others, you will not be permitted to comment on this blog.
I very much appreciate the feedback that most of you have given me and continue to provide and the continuing effort in this blog is mostly due to that positive reinforcement.

I strongly believe that gender variance is just part of the human condition even if the reasons for it are not entirely understood.

It’s as simple as that.

Monday, 26 August 2013

disphoria as not being a mental disorder


This is from Wikipedia but it rather well encapsulates the main arguments against gender disphoria being a mental disorder and instead more steeped in society’s non acceptance of gender variance or conversely as a birth condition.

Gender as a social construction

Gender characteristics are socially constructed and therefore naturally unrelated to biological sex. This perspective often notes that other cultures, particularly historical ones, valued gender roles that would presently suggest homosexuality or transgenderism as normal behavior. Some cultures have three defined genders: male, female, and effeminate male. In Samoa, the fa'afafine, a group of feminine males, are entirely socially accepted. The fa'afafine do not experience any of the stigma or distress typically associated with deviating from a male/female gender role, indicating that the distress that is so frequently associated with GD in a Western context is not caused by the disorder, rather it is a secondary result of social disapproval

GID as a birth defect

This argument is supported by physiological evidence, such as the presence of typically-female patterns of white matter and neuron patterns observed in the brains of male-to-female transsexual and overall longer instances of the androgen receptor gene. One rebuttal to this view is that these markers do not identify every individual who undergoes transition, and that using them to define transsexualism could falsely exclude some people from treatment.

Distress as a consequence of stigma

The DSM-IV-TR diagnostic component of distress is not inherent in the cross-gender identity, rather it is a result of social rejection and discrimination Dr. Darryl Hill insists that GID is not a mental disorder, but rather that the diagnostic criteria reflect psychological distress in children that occurs when parents have trouble relating to their child's gender variance.

One of the interesting things I have observed during my lifetime has been the change in social acceptance of gender variance. I offer as example an individual like Andrej Pejic himself an example of it and, while he seems to feel comfortable with his biological sex, he exhibits extreme femininity. In repeated interviews, he simply states that this is the way he is and that it is society’s problem if people think he is strange. The fact that Andrej is a celebrated model and has been lauded for his ability to be completely himself, shows how far we have come in the last 3 decades.

While I am not proposing that gender disphoria is or is not a mental disorder, it is interesting to note that increasingly there are more and more people being less stigmatized by the idea of revealing their natural penchant to display gender variance and, for at least some of these people, the draw towards physical transition may possibly be reduced through the removal of certain societal pressure to behave or dress in a manner expected for their birth gender.

Since gender variance has existed for as long as mankind has been on this planet, we have seen that in those cultures where it is not as discouraged those so inclined are more comfortable to express themselves and therefore less traumatized and distressed.

Had I felt the way I do now about myself all those years ago, I would have avoided a great deal of repression, secrecy and guilt over something which was clearly now in retrospect not such a big deal.

Indeed as I have come closer and closer to complete self acceptance, the attractiveness of transition has become proportionately reduced because my distress was only over fear that my behaviour was abnormal or disapproved of and not because it was causing me harm.

Saturday, 24 August 2013

language is important

Henceforth this blog will adhere to dealing exclusively with gender disphoria and how its sufferers deal with said condition.

This disphoria need have caused some degree of distress or impairment at some point in an individual's life and so I necessarily exclude drag queens, people who dress for kicks, or actors playing a role from this description.

I no longer want transgender versus transsexual battles here on this blog.

I am only interested in the concept of gender disphoria and how people deal with theirs. During my sessions with Helene, it was explained to me that in the hospital gender program they no longer use the term transsexual but only talk about gender disphoria and how to treat it.

The reason? Not everyone will ultimately deal with their gender disphoria in the same manner.

In Helene's group there are those well on their way to fully transitioning but there are also people like me who do not identify as full blown transsexual but are nonetheless strongly disphoric. I currently label myself as a type IV on the Benjamin scale and, while that typically means I am perennially stuck in the middle somewhere, I am still a candidate for some sort of treatment along with the transitioning group.

Helene has told me that some take hormones and no bottom surgery. Some live full time with no surgery while others like me are living part time as a way of coping. Her aim is simple: help you find your answer.

She does not want to push the idea of transition on anyone.

Not surprisingly she has told me that the younger group she has is the most uninhibited and the least affected by social convention. This makes complete sense as they have been less affected by societal convention than when I was growing up.

Still I would change nothing about my life since I am a creature of my time and my own circumstances. I also know for certain that I will never transition.

Friday, 23 August 2013

finding your joy

I needed to find the joy in my gender variance but it wasn't always there.

Instead, it was rather serious business.

This was something every fibre of my being compelled me to do but because it was taboo I was not to find any joy in it.

Sure it felt wonderful and relaxing but I thought it more a vice than part of my nature. This is why I have been concentrating on finding the joy in my expression of Joanna and, as she blossoms, I see more and more the payoff when I interact with others. I have truly begun to see this as a gift from God instead of a plague or a scourge.

Once you are out of your shell of culpability, people begin to see you differently and you in turn feed off their positive energy.

It's an amazing thing to watch.

I don't care for gender politics and I am not looking for special priviliges either. I don't particularly care if people call me a "man in a dress"; and what of it? That is essentially what I am. The only adjective I would add in front of the word man would be disphoric.

Gender variant people spend incredible amounts of energy arguing amongst themselves but I'm trying to whittle it down to one simple formula:

Got gender disphoria? Find a solution that works for you and try to find some joy in it.

Thursday, 22 August 2013

More brilliance from the experts...

Here is what brilliant psychiatrist Joseph Berger has to say:

“A prominent Toronto psychiatrist has severely criticized the assumptions underlying what has been dubbed by critics as the Canadian federal government's "bathroom bill," that is, Bill C-279, a private member’s bill that would afford special protection to so-called "transgender" men and women.
Dr. Joseph Berger has issued a statement saying that from a medical and scientific perspective there is no such thing as a "transgendered" person, and that terms such as “gender expression” and “gender identity" used in the bill are at the very least ambiguous, and are more an emotional appeal than a statement of scientific fact.

Berger, who is a consulting psychiatrist in Toronto and whose list of credentials establishes him as an expert in the field of mental illness, stated that people who identify themselves as "transgendered" are mentally ill or simply unhappy, and pointed out that hormone therapy and surgery are not appropriate treatments for psychosis or unhappiness.

From a scientific perspective, let me clarify what ‘transgendered’ actually means," Dr. Berger said, adding, "I am speaking now about the scientific perspective – and not any political lobbying position that may be proposed by any group, medical or non-medical."
‘Transgendered’ are people who claim that they really are or wish to be people of the sex opposite to which they were born, or to which their chromosomal configuration attests," Dr. Berger stated.

Some times, some of these people have claimed that they are ‘a woman trapped in a man’s body’ or alternatively ‘a man trapped in a woman’s body’."
The medical treatment of delusions, psychosis or emotional happiness is not surgery," Dr. Berger stated.

"On the other hand," Dr. Berger continued, "if these people are asked to clarify exactly what they believe, that is to say do they truly believe whichever of those above propositions applies to them and they say ‘no’, then they know that such a proposition is not true, but that they ‘feel’ it, then what we are talking about scientifically, is just unhappiness, and that unhappiness is being accompanied by a wish – that leads some people into taking hormones that predominate in the other sex, and even having cosmetic surgery designed to make them ‘appear’ as if they are a person of the opposite sex."
He explained that cosmetic surgery will not change the chromosomes of a human being in that it will not make a man become a woman, capable of menstruating, ovulating, and having children, nor will it make a woman into a man, capable of generating sperm that can unite with an egg or ovum from a woman and fertilize that egg to produce a human child.

Moreover, Dr. Berger stated that the arguments put forward by those advocating for special rights for gender confused people have no scientific value and are subjective and emotional appeals with no objective scientific basis.

I have read the brief put forward by those advocating special rights, and I find nothing of scientific value in it," Dr. Berger said in his statement. "Words and phrases, such as 'the inner space,' are used that have no objective scientific basis.

These are the scientific facts," Dr. Berger said. "There seems to me to be no medical or scientific reason to grant any special rights or considerations to people who are unhappy with the sex they were born into, or to people who wish to dress in the clothes of the opposite sex.

The so-called ‘confusion’ about their sexuality that a teenager or adult has is purely psychological. As a psychiatrist, I see no reason for people who identify themselves in these ways to have any rights or privileges different from everyone else in Canada," he concluded

Berger who is apparently smarter than the rest of us states the obvious: that there is no scientific evidence for being transsexual or transgender which is something everyone actually already knows. We have not found a trans gene nor a gay gene for that matter but that does not stop us from recognizing and allowing gay people certain rights in society.

Stephen Harper and his conservative government of ideological zealots are an example of what is often wrong in society. You have people who do not understand what goes on in the mind of a person with gender disphoria so they find their own more convenient diagnosis; in this case it is simply labelled unhappiness.

Speaking from personal experience I can tell you that I was less happy when I was trying to mask or suppress something that I have always known about myself. But wise people like Dr. Berger would have me and other gender variant people go back to his version of happy.

For me its not about toilets, its about the idea that so called experts can be so incredibly thick. Not everything is provable through science but people like Dr. Berger would have you believe that millions of people on this planet are all suffering from the same delusion.

Well bully for him.

Wednesday, 21 August 2013

the gender binary

With a few exceptions, most cultures do not actively encourage gender variance.

Males are to refrain from displaying what is perceived to be weakness by embracing their feminine side and, while women have a little more latitude in their dressing, they are also discouraged from appearing too masculine.

It seems we love our gender binary and feel reassured by it.

But nature is made for variations. We see them at every level and there are mutations and permutations for just about every facet of creation; so why not gender as well?

It’s certainly not hard to prove that gender fluidity is simply part of the anomalies we are also expected to find.

There is biology involved of course because the male has the role of protector and the female desires certain qualities in her man that embodies those traits which encourage strength and virility. Early man counted on these qualities for survival and for propagation of the species.

However, with the transformation from hunter/gatherers to creatures of leisure who work in offices and factories, our expectations that these traits remain rigid are, arguably, less based on need and more on convention.

The percentage of people who display gender variance is relatively small and it’s not as if it’s contagious. In other words, people will not line up to become more gender fluid by virtue of increased societal tolerance. But people fear what they do not understand and, as creatures often programmed with rigid religious dictates and parental expectations, we take many years to undo the pressures of those early demands.

I was reading a short article in the Washington Post yesterday where a pastor of a fundamentalist Christian church talked about being transgender almost as a flaw to be corrected and offered up to God. What struck me once again is how often people who do not experience or understand gender disphoria in a personal way feel perfectly comfortable advising those who do. Repent for your sins and you will be saved.

This is a view that I myself espoused when I thought that my own disphoria was due to a personal weakness or character flaw. The older I became and the better I understood myself, the more I grasped that I was simply one of those variances of nature who simply wanted to behave in a way that was natural to me; even if that inclination went against what I was taught as being normal.

Being my own worst enemy, I fought the good fight against those inclinations but, since coming out as transgender to friends and family, I have realized that all of that angst and turmoil was nothing more than wasted energy. No one has disowned me nor have I lost friends over it; in fact I have been lauded for my candour and my courage in sharing this side of myself with them.

I don’t need to conform perfectly to the gender binary; I just need to be myself.

Tuesday, 20 August 2013

always challenges

I’m settling more and more into routine.

I can now interweave my outings and simply have them be part of my everyday life without fanfare or hoopla. They have also started to be less complicated and I drive far less than I used to.

In the past, I would have driven to some mall to ensure more anonymity but now I am content to stay close to home and go into a coffee house or even a McDonald’s and simply sit down with my tablet and browse the web or write this blog.

I am spending less time questioning and more time living which is a big improvement because no amount of conjecture will solve the riddle which is my gender disphoria. Besides, I don’t need to justify myself to anyone save my children and my partner; all of whom understand that, for better or worse, this is part of my nature and always will be.

The next issue at hand is my son’s anxiety which will be front and center as the new school year begins.

We are certainly better prepared for it than we were and all the measures are in place to try and help him. The school is more aware of this epidemic which now affects one in four adolescents. It’s difficult to comprehend how this could have happened but I chalk it up to a combination of the faster lifestyle we live today coupled with the coddling we have given these children. In an attempt to give them better quality of life, we have perhaps shielded them too much from the realities of life and they more readily buckle under the weight of immersion into the societal cruelty that is high school.

The raging hormones coupled with attempts at defining yourself within that pecking order cannot be easy and I try to remind myself of this every time I am tempted to give my son advice on how to handle things.

My daughter, who is almost two years older, has already found her stride even as she also stumbles here and there. I am there for her too but she has established herself in the school life and has a stronger sense of who she is than does my son. She needs me less than he does.

There is certainly a loss of control one experiences when this happens because, unlike a physical injury, these types of situations leave you feeling helpless at times. You talk to them but sometimes nothing seems to help and you are left scratching your head.

As a person who has always tried to exert control over my own life, I have learnt much about myself and my limits in the process of dealing with this latest challenge.

Friday, 16 August 2013

my overlaps with the transgender community

Up until today I was a member of a site called pinkessence.

I left the site permanently this morning. This move was prompted by some rude behavior by one of the posters but I had already been contemplating my departure and that little incident made the decision much easier.

In my everyday life I have abandonned the idea of overlapping with the transgender community and that has been due to a lack of success in finding constructive real life relationships. Just because someone shares your penchant for women's clothes, that does not make for automatic friend material.

Yes I have found common ground online but not in the real world.

So I keep Joanna firmly rooted outside transgender circles which is probably just as well.

The last person I met approached me in a shopping mall in drab. He was there accompanied by his wife who was certain that I was a female but he was equally certain I was trans. In the end he approached me and after a pleasant enough conversation we agreed to exchange contact information. He was from out of town, a crossdresser and married to an accepting wife. Several months later we met up both dressed and shared a meal in the old part of the city. There were hints that there was little in common between us throught the evening but when he told me he moonlighted as a dominatrix, it was the final confirmation that we were not at all on the same wavelength.

For the record I am not a prude, but I will enjoy my online contacts and leave it at that.

Thursday, 15 August 2013

ain't technology grand?

I have posted virtually all of my blog posts on a small Samsung tablet.

I never go out as Joanna without it and never thought it would get this much use when I purchased it; I had certainly not expected to start a blog.

I very much advocate the use of this technology because its convenient, quick and light. It certainly beats paper and pen.

It makes me think how far we have come because when I started my career 25 years ago I was working with an amber screen desktop, floppy disks and a clunky dot matrix printer.

Today I can post my thoughts online from virtually any location in the world with the click of a button. The flip side of this advancement has been loss of privacy, online bullying, government spying on citizens, easier access to hate propaganda, etc.

It always brings a chuckle to my face when you read the type of information that people deem significant enough to post on their Facebook page; reinventing new ways to define the banal.

But with every great invention, there is always a flip side.

Wednesday, 14 August 2013

perspective

I have learnt much over the last year and it mostly relates to giving myself some latitude.

I wasn't raised in a way that allowed me to do this because everything needed to be analysed and understood fully before fully engaging.

Perhaps as a result, I am not a relaxed person and I catch myself having little outbursts of temper when I am not in full control.

My gender issues and, most recently, my son's anxiety battle are areas where I have needed to relinquish much of that desired control. In the process, I am learning some valuable lessons about myself.

So while the thirst still exists to find out the root of my GID, it's no longer mired in the exculpatory but instead driven by a complete certainty that what is accepted as dogma today is wrong and the theories written to explain my behavior do not fit.

Nevertheless I feel good about myself and when I am out as joanna, my head is lifted and I am myself only under different wrapping. It no longer feels, as it used to, like a guilt ridden indulgence to be tolerated but simply a part of who I am.

The laser treatments are over and so is the steady stream of purchases of female clothing. Joanna now has plenty of wardrobe.

In an effort to gain perspective, I am also trying to balance both sides.
If I am indeed on the fence between man and woman then balance is what will be required going forward.

With newly found respect for my female side I can now move firmly in that direction.

Tuesday, 13 August 2013

a brief acknowledgement...

Here is my list of online friends who have had significant positive impact on me over the last five years: Sherry, Danielle, Kelli, Donna, Louise, Stana, Marian, Susan, Jack, Lindsay, Pat, Lila, Julia, Rachel, Caroline and Chelle.

Thank you for your valued contribution towards sorting out my gender issues.

If I'm not quite there I am most certainly a lot closer than I was.

Monday, 12 August 2013

curiousity killed the cat?

You'll have to forgive me as I know this blog can be heavy handed at times.

Fact is, I was trained as a scientist and I have a curious mind so that my own behavior and that of others is often analysed instead of just being taken at face value.

In other words, you will not find a precedent in my past that says: do this because it just feels right. I am much closer to being there now of course because I am faced with using cross dressing as a survival mechanism to curb my disphoria but that fact does nothing to quash my natural curiosity.

Nothing I have read to date on the topic of gender disphoria is compelling or convincing enough to give a clear understanding of what gender disphoria is.

What we have instead is plenty of conjecture based on observed behavior; but that is not science.

Harry Benjamin had enough sense not to wade into the waters of conjecture but simply catalogued behavior and put people into approximate categories and since 1966 we have barely taken a baby step in developing some proper science.

My conjecture is speculative and I make no claim to truth but I will call into question things that appear stupid and irrational.

So please forgive my heavy handedness, it's the way I'm wired.

Saturday, 10 August 2013

the disphoric as paraphilic...

Paraphilia is defined as the experience of intense sexual arousal to highly atypical objects, situations or individuals.

But what happens when there is a strong connection to something in absence of arousal? Is this still considered a paraphilia?

Before AGP theory existed, we used the term transvestic fetishism to describe the act of becoming aroused by the wearing of women's clothing by a male. Typically such a male would begin acting out his fantasy at or after the age of puberty and develop a repetitive and self gratifying routine involving female clothing. This activity did not interfere with his identity as a male.

But what about those children who had already developed gender confusion due to their strong attraction to a female identity well before the age of puberty?

Proponents of AGP theory state that children as young as 3 can have erections when wearing clothing of the opposite sex which is evidence that their theory holds water.

This is indeed a stretch because speaking from personal experience, I did not experience an erection until after the age of 12 and I was able to enjoy expressing myself as a female in private without being hindered by one. Once the orgasms began to hamper my experience,I actively began my attempts to destroy my feminine side.

And here is where, I propose, we can separate disphorics from non disphorics.

Whereas the fetish transvestite relishes and actively seeks out masturbation while dressed, the disphoric is horrified by its first appearance. His identification to the feminine has just been marred by his burgeoning attraction to females and his parallel self identification as a female. These things are at cross purposes and, not unexpectedly, confusion reigns.

Deeply now aware that his attraction to all things female should be diverted towards an external target and not towards himself, the arousal that comes with the thought of feminization brings tremendous guilt and shame. Every time there is arousal, the thoughts and the clothes get put away or thrown out and there is a promise that it will never happen again.

But is it correct to label someone paraphilic without the intent or even the presence of sexualization which occurs before puberty? Perhaps but then the paraphilia would need to be hard wired and simply manifest itself at a later stage. But if this were true then you should show no signs of interest in female things until the onset of puberty when the sexual identity is constructed?

Why are so many of us fascinated from such an early age? I do not know but these questions put grave doubt into the validity of the paraphilic model because it does not explain the pre pubescent fascination and draw to the feminine in the first place and suggests that it was always sexually based; which is much too simplistic.

This does not jive with my personal experience nor, I suspect, with many of my readers' s.

Thursday, 8 August 2013

I was a teenage mall walker

During my bi yearly crossdressing periods, I had a massive urge to go out dressed but needed somewhere to go. The logical place became the mall but only if it was sufficiently sparse so not to send me into a sheer panic.

Back then I would dress in my little second hand Toyota and wait until the coast was clear before proceeding to the least frequented door of the shopping center. Once I was in it was all about looking inconspicuous as I walked down the ailes never looking anyone in the eye.

The sheer terror and the seriousness of it all brings a smile to my face today, but back then it was not a laughing matter.

My aim was always the same: enjoy that calming wonderful experience as a normal woman going about her daily business.

Back then I was slimmer and prettier but my complete lack of confidence, passable voice and poor female posture and walk gave me away. I remember one instance going into Sears to buy some pantyhose. I couldn't have been older than 20 and I was doing fine with the saleslady until she saw my large hairy and uncreamed hands. Once the jig was up she gave me an indignant upward sniff with her nose and held out the package to me as if it were a soiled diaper. Completely crushed, I took my purchase and skulked back to my vehicle.

I could have drawn energy from having passed as long as I did and just resolve to shave my hands and forearms and apply hand cream but instead I threw everything out in disgust promising myself never to do it again.

I played this charade until my early forties and earnestly believed that I could continue my bi yearly indulgence indefinitely.

My how we learn.

I could have enjoyed those years much better and simply have drawn energy from these outings but I was deep into denial and suffering from lack of self knowledge. The internet had not yet been invented by Al Gore (grin) and all I knew about crossdressing I learned from encyclopedia Britannica or seedy looking books at the library.

I look back on those days with more fondness than they perhaps deserve in large part due to the myopia that rose coloured glasses afford us when we glance into our past.

Yes I was a teenage mall walker and everytime my confident self steps into a mall in my high heels, I remember what effort it took to get here. I guess sometimes we need to get burned again and again to finally learn.

Wednesday, 7 August 2013

allow me to explain...

I suppose I should clarify a few things about where I am in my thinking these days on crossdressing and disphoria because it came up in the comments of my last blog entry.

Firstly, I feel really good. I am finally attaining a comfort level in accepting that I have disphoria and that I am tending to it through crossdressing. Having tried the alternative approach, this is now the only way to go.

Secondly I know in my gut and in my heart that there is no cure for what I have. Admittedly I am now past the point of wanting that elusive remedy that I so genuinely desired. But having tasted what it feels like to really be myself, I now realize I had been trying to amputate a part of my identity as a person and for no other reason that it does not fit in well with societal expectation.

I had my first clue of this five years ago at the hospital gender clinic when I earnestly went in demanding a cure and they offered me instead what they had offered countless other patients; namely self acceptance.

Why don't I believe I was a crossdresser then? Simple: a crossdresser practices and hones his craft. He embraces who he is and builds up a wardrobe. He is typically comfortable with his sexuality and is able to have normal relations with his wife. He is clearly able to separate his hobby from his real life as a male. He also does not need to imagine himself as a female to attain orgasm.

My sporadic dressing was then my feeble attempt at dealing with that embedded idea that I should be a female. But back in the early days, with so little information out there, I self identified as a crossdresser. I knew nothing about the concept of gender disphoria and mine ebbed and flowed just enough to allow me to suppress my feelings while of course dampening my soul and personality in unison.

As I started to delve more and more into the literature I began to see the difference between disphorics and non disphorics. For example, the typical crossdresser would begin at or after puberty and would establish a highly sexualized female image of himself. This was his kink or his turn on if you will.

Once I read the studies which showed that even full blown transsexuals experienced pre transition eroticism, was I then able to fully understand that the mere presence of some orgasms was not disqualifying these people from transitioning.

Am I the practical equivalent of a crossdresser today? yes I am. But instead of being a past time,it is the only recourse left to me and in establishing a female identity that allows me to curb my disphoria, I can try t maintain a level of normalcy.

Tuesday, 6 August 2013

beware of snake oil cures....

I used to read up on that elusive cure for crossdressing and honestly and diligently follow the advice that was prescribed.

Of course this was during the time that I actually believed that I was indeed a crossdresser. Dressing a few times a year did not really qualify.

I was instead looking for a way to cure my gender disphoria.

That feeling that somehow I needed to be female was never really too far from the surface. People who write these stop crossdressing pages are often fetishists who indulge in their fantasies and perhaps take countless pictures in a miriad of outfits.

They are sexually addicted to something and then reach an addiction level which eventually promots them to act and try to go cold turkey. Often these kids started in their mother's closet at or after the age of puberty.

My case was a little different and my disphoria has been with me from earliest memory. My crossdressing manifested itself very early and then went underground once it was discouraged. But after puberty and with signs of embarrassing eroticism, I did my very best to quash everything and bury it under the proverbial carpet.

Do I consider myself a paraphilic or a fetishist as per Ray Blanchard's theory? Absolutely not. Not only do his ideas not speak to my personal experience but I don't subscribe to the notion that toddlers can develop paraphilias. Anne Lawrence can believe what she likes.

But nonetheless, these websites disturb me because young gender disphorics can easily fall prey to the idea that they can cure their "vice" through suppression when nothing could be further from the truth. There is no known cure for gender disphoria and, speaking as someone who couldn't have tried any harder to eradicate mine, suppression is not a successful management tool as it will lead to depression.

Your failed attempts at suppressing something which, for you,is hard wired and natural will only lead to disappointment and frustration when you fail to defeat it.

It took me decades to understand this and my heart goes out to young kids who are still in search of who they are.

A rare polaroid moment...

Admittedly, I don't often post pictures here but this one is from this morning's outing. Since I am on vacation,my kids (being in their teens) are late risers and yours truly is an early riser, it affords me this little time in the morning to spend as Joanna. The pic was taken in the car before coming back in to change back into male garb.

Really appreciate those exchanges with the coffee merchants when I get referred to as "Madame"...

outreach

N and I were discussing over the weekend about my having a double life.

In wanting not to expose her to Joanna and in me wanting a fruitful experience, I have effectively been presenting myself as a woman and making acquaintances who don't know that there is a male me.

I never expected nor intended that all that practice with my voice was going to allow me to pass as a female to this extent and the inadvertent introductions have led me to new and unknown territory.

Truth be told: I really love it. I have never had so much pleasant and meaningful interaction with people as a woman.

N did bring up the issue of deceit and technically she is correct. However,I do tell the truth about myself with the exception of my birth gender.

I wonder if as I approach new levels of self acceptance, I might not be doing civilians as well as our transgender community more service if I just be open about my birth gender. In so doing I can perhaps do more outreach.

As things stand now, I never deny it if approached it's just that it almost never happens. Many may just see me and not bat an eyelash which is also a sign of how far we've come. The mere fact that they see me out and about and comfortable in my skin is its own kind of outreach.

Monday, 5 August 2013

yes I enjoy being a girl but....

......being Joanna is only part of that life.

I've come to realize that as I have come to embrace fully who I am, I don't need to choose to become female to enjoy basking in my own expression of femininity. It is part of my make up and that acceptance has been pivotal in making me feel whole.

Can I say that my cross gender expression will eliminate my gender disphoria? In a sense yes because by allowing myself the dignity to be who I am, I can remove a great deal of the confusion and the shame that was associated with my desire to dress as a female.

It is indeed my life, and I intend to take full ownership of it. It does indeed feel like I have a new lease on it and it's allowing me to better cope with challenges like my son's anxiety.

Sunday, 4 August 2013

my most important challenge

It's been a tough battle with my son's anxiety.

Because of it,I will likely need to cancel next week's trip we had planned to the States. He is panicking at the idea of spending 3 nights away from home and nothing I say is convincing him that he will be fine.

So I am cutting my loses and calling the hotels today to cancel the reservations.

It's a shame too because I had been really looking forward to spending a few days away with my 2. But in his current state he will be miserable the whole time. Therefore the alternative will be to plan daily activities and spend the 2 weeks bumming around.

This is not the worst thing that could happen mind you. I need to just stay positive and help him get over this bump in the road and,if we can conquer this challenge, there will be plenty of other opportunities for trips in the future.

This is the most important challenge on my plate and I can't afford to fail. His future depends on it.

Friday, 2 August 2013

yes I analyze but it gets me nowhere

N and I talked last night about my disphoria. She is actually fine with everything and always was from the beginning. It was me that had the problem all along. She understands that this is the way I am and she reiterated that on the phone to me.

I have virtually ceased all analysis of what makes me tick and have been instead focusing on being myself. I need to dress up as a woman and that’s all I need to know.

I will refrain from putting up stuff that is divisive on my blog but honestly I think we all know each other sufficiently well here that there is never any harm intended when I post things.

Ray Blanchard is a discredited theorist who did junk science. He did not find the origin for gender disphoria but simply categorised approximately 200 people that he treated at his clinic; and rather poorly I might add.

So in the absence of any real science, I will simply live my life until such time as something truly interesting comes along that catches my attention.

Peace to all.

Thursday, 1 August 2013

feeling good plus an epic fail

Lindsay in a comment to my last blog entry made me realize something important: you need to stick to what you are doing and establish it as a routine. In other words, even if my disphoria appears to be receding, I keep my cross gender expression constant and part of my life so that I no longer experience the roller coaster ups and downs.

My previous method was to cave in to my disphoria by indulging it and then tossing everything out. I now know this is an abject failure as a management tool.

What needs to happen is that I keep Joanna time a part of my life routine pure and simple and, since I don’t need to worry about guilt any longer, the schizophrenic indulge and purge cycles will be a thing of the past.

Yesterday after work I got dressed, went to the hardware store to get a few things for N’s dishwasher installation and ended my outing with a short trip to MacDonald’s for a strawberry milk shake and a sit down with my android tablet. It was pleasant and yet it was short and, because my frequency and extreme comfort is there, I can draw from the positive energy that it provides me as never before.

I cannot overstate what a difference the last year of reflection has done for me. It has literally saved my life because I have been able to take some ownership of my disphoria instead of allowing it to run amok in my life.

On another note, I read on the rationalwiki the following entry on Autogynephilia:

“...This leads to the biggest criticism from a scientific standpoint, in that the theory is speciously unfalsifiable. While at first, it seems like it would be possible to find a transsexual who is attracted to women, but does not erotically fantasize about having Lady Parts; the theory invites one to beg the question, and take it as fact that one is simply lying about not having such fetishes, because being attracted to women would mean you have autogynephilia, and thus be a pervert.

Entirely apart from being unfalsifiable, the "autogynephilia" label is used derogatorily to separate the "genuine" transsexuals from the "fake" transsexuals, a practice that has been around pretty much as long as transsexuals have ever been around, in order to denigrate undesirable transsexuals. This works within the theory, because the autogynephilia group is based on exclusionary criteria, so nearly anything can be used against a transsexual in order to castigate them from the "genuine" transsexuals into the designation of "autogynephilia". While it is obvious within the theory that even a single passing interest in a woman would "disqualify" one as "genuine", it is less apparent — because it's implicit in the categorization process — that even simply not looking feminine enough can be used to cast doubt upon the transsexual's actual motivations for transitioning.

Worse so, when any transsexual denies having any erotic fetishes about themselves, then this is used as conclusive evidence to show that they indeed actually are autogynephilic, because only an autogynephilic would lie about this. A wonderful catch 22 for anyone suspected of autogynephilia... which of course, could be any transsexual.

And finally at the tail end of all of this criticism, is that even the "genuine transsexuals", are labeled by the theory as if they were men. This allows proponents for the theory that are against homosexuals to dismiss all transsexuals very simply, either they're perverts or they are homos. None of them are allowed to be considered genuinely female, despite neurobiological indications to the contrary.

Autogynephilia, while being entirely unscientific as a theory, still has a use in describing a limited subset of transsexuals. There most definitely are people for whom autogynephilic is reasonably descriptive. But attempting, as this theory posits, to apply this broadly upon individuals as a catch all when they fail to match your expectations of what a genuinely transsexual person would be, is a most inappropriate application of reason....”

It is such an abomination as a theory and it bears repeating that, since I have removed myself from its trappings, I can now look at this as complete junk science that will one day be in a museum of absurdities along with frontal lobotomies as a cure for what ails you.

Not content with simply being a stupid and mean spirited theory, it also refuses to touch on the existence of FTM transsexuals; thereby completely failing the test of true science.