Friday, 20 September 2013

goodbye

This will be my last blog post.

I have come to the end of my journey of coming to terms with my own gender disphoria as well as examining the latest thinking on sex and gender; a journey which began many years ago and went into overdrive in 2007 just prior to having my stroke.

I hope that at least some of you have found my blog enlightening and informative. I know it’s been a highly therapeutic process for me. I apologize in advance for the schizophrenic nature of some of the posts during the most volatile weeks and months, but it was the first time that I truly challenged myself head on to ask that most basic question: who are you and why are you gender conflicted?

I now understand that although my gender disphoria is permanent, I am now all right with that. After much reflection and reading I seem to fit the model of a type IV transsexual as defined by Harry Benjamin but of that I can’t be certain; in the end these are just definitions developed by human beings.

My litmus test is how I feel internally. Am I feeling guilty or conflicted? Not any longer.

I trust that those of you who have followed my ramblings and have given me so much feedback will forgive me if this blog simply disappears. Some of you will no doubt be glad. I for one am glad for the experience and for the new friendships.

I have no interest in chronicling my latest purchases or putting up pictures of myself in my latest outfit. Even as I don’t find others who do this self indulgent and I truly enjoy perusing Stana’s latest posting on Femulate, I will leave that to her and others. I find people like her inspiring.

I am going to go about living my life now.

If I have challenged and inspired some of you then I am glad. If others have been angered by my analysis there was never any harm intended as I feel that whatever gets you through life happy without doing harm to others is important. Life is short and so fleeting.

I have a woman that I love by my side and two great kids still to get through their teen years.

Peace to all of you and thank you.

It's all about disphoria

This will be my last in a series of analytical posts on gender disphoria.

As I illustrated in my last post it’s really all about gender disphoria. That being said, the origin of said disphoria is not yet understood.

My suspicion is that it is rooted in biology and something happens to the fetus which creates this predisposition to desire to be the other sex; whether its exposure to pesticides, endocrine disrupting chemicals or other sources is not yet known.

Its pervasive nature, so powerful and so immune to eradication by the individual strongly suggests a biological core.

As we have seen in the studies and interviews with post operative transsexuals, there is eroticism preoperatively to the idea of feminization present in both types and both have high degrees of satisfaction with their adopted gender once transition is determined to be the course of action. If the disphoria is potent enough, the only recourse appears to be hormone therapy and GRS which will effectively cure the conflict between mind and body and lead to much improved life quality.

The differences in behaviour seen in both types of MtF transsexuals, is often explainable by their sexual orientation. Homosexual disphorics are more likely to transition earlier due to an early acceptance of their effeminate nature and their sexual attraction to their own sex; given a choice between being a woman and a disphoric homosexual male, it’s really no contest.

Heterosexual disphorics are far more likely to ignore their feelings and try and conform to expectation. Given that they are attracted to the opposite sex and desperately want to be “normal” in order to be acceptable to their female partners as well as to society, they will do their utmost to suppress their gender confusion and simply assimilate the best way they can. Holding their breath leads to the invariable explosion typically after the age of 40.

Gender disphoria seems to have a severity scale which often determines whether someone will transition or not. Harry Benjamin even alluded to it when he began to classify his patients into types, ostensibly measuring the severity of their affiliation with the other gender; his type IV being essentially caught in the middle and being the most conflicted.

Ray Blanchard proposed that non homosexual disphorics have a paraphilia and homosexual disphorics are simply gay men but this model is simplistic and does not go towards a root cause for the gender confusion which is present.

Why would a homosexual male seek reassignment surgery to romantically and sexually attract males and, conversely, why would a heterosexual male be sexually aroused by having a female body?

Blanchard’s typology suggests distinctions between MtF transsexuals, but does not speculate on the causes of transsexualism and in fact criticism of the research and theory has come from John Bancroft, Jaimie Veale, Larry Nuttbrock, Charles Allen Moser, Julia Serano, and others who say that the theory is poorly representative of trans women and reduces gender identity to a matter of attraction.

Another huge mistake of Blanchard has been ignoring FtM transsexualism which even further erodes his work. He has failed to explain why women want to become men and in fact there are a significant number that indeed do transition; if not in the same numbers that we see in MtFs.

Thursday, 19 September 2013

the lame duck of eroticism

Although I am no advocate of Ray Blanchard or Anne Lawrence, it is interesting to note their distinction between their homosexual and non homosexual subjects and how eroticism played into their findings.

I myself fit the non homosexual model proposed by Blanchard (autogynephilic if you will) and I have no argument with this observation but only propose that the originating disphoria forms part of a pre-existing condition. If it can be proven that paraphilias are pre-wired and rooted in biology then I would need to accept that Blanchard would be correct. This has not yet been proven however.

What is significant to note in the following article by Anne Lawrence is how the presence of eroticism is not a measure for legitimacy in a transition. Lawrence found that a significant portion of so called “classic” or homosexual transsexuals also experienced sexual fantasy before transition.

This is an excerpt from “Men trapped in men’s bodies" by Anne Lawrence:

“It would be a mistake to conclude that if autogynephilic transsexuality is in large part about sexual desire, then it is somehow suspect, or is less legitimate than homosexual transsexuality. Although the focus of this essay is not on homosexual transsexuality per se, I do want to say enough about it to dispel any mistaken notions that homosexual transsexuals are the "real" transsexuals, or that their motivations are exclusively non-sexual. Neither is true. By definition, transsexuals are those who undergo sex reassignment as a treatment for gender dysphoria. The gender dysphoria of autogynephilic transsexuals is every bit as real as that of their homosexual counterparts. And it matters not a whit if that dysphoria stems in whole or in part from an inability to achieve sexual satisfaction in one's existing body or role. Autogynephilic transsexuals have just as much claim to being "real" transsexuals as their homosexual sisters.

And homosexual transsexuals are not exactly devoid of sexual motivations themselves. Colleagues who have spent a lot of time interviewing homosexual transsexuals tell me that they can best be thought of as very effeminate gay men who do not defeminize in adolescence. Nearly all go through a "gay boy" period; and their decisions about whether or not to transition are often based in large part on whether they expect to be sufficiently passable in female role to attract (straight) male partners. Those who conclude they will not pass usually do not transition, no matter how feminine their behavior may be. Instead they accept, perhaps grudgingly, a gay male identity, and remain within the gay male culture, where they can realistically expect to find interested partners. This self-selection process explains the intriguing observation that transitioning homosexual transsexuals tend to be physically smaller and lighter than their autogynephilic sisters. (6) The bottom line is that in homosexual transsexuality, too, a sexual calculus is often at work. Transsexualism is largely about sex -- no matter what kind of transsexual one is.

Although Blanchard's research was rigorously performed, it is also important to understand its limitations. First, it was conducted on a clinical sample: a group of males sufficiently distressed or symptomatic that they chose to be evaluated. Second, in order to partition his subjects into categories based on sexual attraction, Blanchard used a deliberate seeding technique to ensure that four clusters would result.

While this may be useful and valid for statistical purposes, a look at the graphic data reveals that the clusters are not really that distinct. The bisexual and homosexual clusters are particularly arbitrary in their separation, which argues against any rigid typology, and suggests the hypothesis that at least some bisexual transsexuals might comprise an intermediate type.

Third, at the risk of stating the obvious, Blanchard merely found statistical correlations, albeit highly significant ones, between several of the variables he examined. This does not imply that the patterns he discovered will necessarily hold true in any particular individual case. There will always be exceptions.

Finally, none of Blanchard's subjects had actually undergone gender transition and sex reassignment surgery -- they were simply males who were gender dysphoric, and who said they felt like they were, or wanted to be, women. Blanchard has never tested his ideas in a group of post-operative male-to-female transsexuals.

I tried to confirm Blanchard's theories among a group of postoperative transsexual women at the 1996 and 1998 New Woman's Conferences, using an anonymous survey method.

In 1996, ten out of thirteen of the women, fully three-quarters, said that " self-feminization was erotic" for them. And over half of the women said that "self-feminization had been their primary erotic fantasy prior to transition." In 1998, somewhat better prepared, I asked a question specifically written by Blanchard.

In answer to it, five of eleven women, nearly one half, agreed that before surgery, their "favorite erotic fantasy was that they had, or were acquiring, some features of a woman's body."

Additional evidence for the importance of autogynephilic fantasy in transsexuals who have actually undergone surgery comes from Maryann Schroder's unpublished Ph.D. thesis, "New Women." Five of her seventeen postoperative subjects described having been aroused by autogynephilic sexual fantasies prior to surgery.

Why is it that autogynephilia, which is so readily reported in these small groups of postoperative women, has received so little attention? I think there are several reasons.

Among transsexuals, autogynephilia is not quite respectable as a topic for discussion. For one thing, many transsexuals have a passionate dislike for the Clarke Institute, and tend to dismiss out of hand any findings that have come from it. Therefore Blanchard's ideas are not often talked about; and when they are raised, they tend to get shouted down. Shame is undoubtedly another deterrent. It is probably just too threatening for many transsexuals to admit that they have had autogynephilic fantasies, and especially to admit that autogynephilic sexual desire may have been one of their motivations for seeking sex reassignment surgery.

People are understandably reluctant to admit to having a paraphilia -- more popularly known as a perversion. Most transsexual women want to be seen as a "real women," and it is widely understood that paraphilic arousal is almost exclusively confined to men. Transsexuals who admit to autogynephilic arousal may not be seen as "real women" -- and may not even be seen as "real" transsexuals.

Therapists and surgeons undoubtedly have their own reasons for ignoring autogynephilia. Most therapists are accustomed to thinking about transsexuality using more traditional, gender-based formulations. The idea that there may be sexual motivations for transition may seem to them "untidy," and not consistent with their paradigm.

Accordingly, they may think that autogynephilic sexual desire in transsexuals is rare and aberrant. And since their clients are often unwilling to talk about their autogynephilia, who can blame the therapists for thinking so? Moreover, most therapists and surgeons would probably find it difficult to acknowledge that when they give approval for sex reassignment surgery, or perform it, they are sometimes simply helping a transsexual woman act out her own paraphilic sexual script.

Personally, however, I do not find the idea that transsexual women sometimes seek SRS for sexual reasons to be especially problematic, even when that sexuality is essentially paraphilic.

The real question is not what one's motivation might be, but whether sex reassignment surgery improves the quality of one's life. The overall level of satisfaction following SRS is extremely high. And the evidence thus far seems to demonstrate that those transsexual women whom one would expect to be autogynephilic -- late onset, sexually attracted to women, etc. -- tend to do about as well after surgery as those who present younger and who are sexually attracted to men”

Wednesday, 18 September 2013

More on Jack Molay's article

We know very well that sex identity does not automatically equal gender identity.

The article explains that if you set up a culture where there are no significant pressures to present and behave as per your birth sex and if sex and gender identity are unrelated you should theoretically see less people conforming to expectation of how a man or woman should dress and behave and therefore observe a greater degree of gender variance.

If women are no longer required subscribe to the feminine ideal (which was one of the goals of the North American feminist movement in the 1960’s) then you should (again theoretically) see more women dressed in more casual and perhaps androgynous attire. Conversely, if men are not expected to be extra manly then you should see more androgyny from them as well. This would be a more logical expectation than what he is observing in his home country.

What he is postulating is that for non-gender conflicted people, there is a core identity in which your birth sex and gender identity line up; maybe not perfectly but they generally line up. If you remove constraints on how to dress and behave through liberation of the sexes (such as in a country like Norway) yet still observe no change in gender presentations it tends to signify that this core identity of ours is rooted in biology. Most men don’t dress like women and most women don’t dress like men simply because they have no desire to.

Yet not only are Norwegian women opting to dress very much like women but apparently in an exaggerated form of femininity which runs counter to expectation since theirs is not a society with strict gender rules such as 1950’s America. They are secure women and yet have a strong affinity for their femininity and dress in a manner that can also be considered alluring and sexually desirable.

The logical conclusion then is that gender variant or disphoric people are also behaving and dressing in a manner that is in alignment with their own internal core gender identity. In their particular case, however, it runs counter to their birth sex. In other words, gender disphoria has roots in biology which is something I have felt and known for a very long time even if there is no conclusive proof at present.

Tuesday, 17 September 2013

The core gender identity

Jack Molay has written a nice piece on his crossdreamers website that I want to feature here. Without posting the entire article I will only preamble the beginning by explaining the context and then include the conclusion as an excerpt.

In a nutshell, he uses Scandinavia (and more in particular Norway) as an example of a social experiment where the high level of equality between men and women has seen a stronger distinction between the gender presentations instead of the reverse. Women appear very feminine (almost Barbie doll like) and men appear quite masculine.

He argues that if gender identity were socially based then you should be seeing more of a blurring between the sexes instead of a sharper distinction and argues that Norway, as one of the most gender egalitarian countries on the planet, provides proof of how much core gender identity is primarily biologically predetermined.

Inherent in your sense of gender is also the aspect of being sexually desirable which is why many gender conflicted people (myself included) experience what Ray Blanchard termed autogynephilia.

I include Jack’s main conclusion:

“Norway can be understood as a social experiment aimed at determining whether there is a biological core to your sex identity.

If "gender identity" was socially constructed only, you would expect to see a convergence of male and female gender expression in Norway. What you see is the opposite.

For me this is a clear indication -- although not proof -- of a deep felt need to be read as a man or a woman. I suspect that this need is related to sexuality in the broader sense: to sexual desire and the longing to be desired. This need is not limited to heterosexual persons.

If there is such a basic sex identity, it is clear that it is not defined by temperament, abilities or other personality traits. If there are any differences at all between men and women in this respect, they are marginal and only valid on an aggregated statistical level.

Nor is this sex identity defined by specific symbols or ways of behavior. Men and women make use of the symbols they have at hand. There are many cultures where long loose hanging hair and a narrow waist would be considered a sign of masculinity.

Moreover, this instinct varies in strength. There is always a minority of people who feel unease when asked to choose between being male or female.

This leaves us with an instinct that entices most boys and girls, men and women, to express their sex identity with whatever symbols the surrounding culture may provide. Such an instinct could be compared to the hunger instinct. The feeling of hunger encourages you to eat, but the preference you may have for particular types of food is cultural.

This sex identity instinct would explain why kids at a certain age reduce their playtime with kids of the opposite sex. They make boy-clans and girl-clans in order to be able to test out their roles as boys and girls. The Barbie look of the modern Norwegian woman could be understood as an extension of these games.

This would also explain the need many transgender feel to make use of the symbols of their target sex. If this is the case, crossdressers crossdress in order to express an inner sex identity. In this context a male to female crossdreamer's urge to dress up as Barbie makes perfect sense. The crossdresser is doing exactly the same as Norwegian XX women do.

In such a model it becomes impossible to take the sex out of sex, in the sense of distilling a kind of "womanhood" that is totally devoid of sexual desire. The drive towards recognition as a woman definitely has a strong sexual component. But that does not mean that you can reduce femininity (transgender or non-transgender) to sexual desire -- no more than French cuisine can be reduced to a count of calories..."

On flatter ground

I met Sabrina this past Sunday morning after Mass and she was so happy to see me. She had been having some problems with her mother and so she went to live with her father for several weeks. Her life was in a bit of flux for a while but finally things were falling back into place.

I did not have a lot of time since I wanted to see N for noon but we managed to chat for about 45 minutes.

Sabrina told me that she recently got a new job working at another Starbucks less than 1 km from the one in which we first met.

You might recall that we originally met at the Starbucks I frequent after Mass and we would banter as she prepared my espresso. Since leaving her employment there, we have met several times for coffee and she has advised me in how to deal with my son and given me confidence since she surmounted her anxiety in spite of her parents being not particularly helpful due to their being focused on their own miseries.

The interesting for me in all this is how much a real experience this has been; the ability to be myself and almost forget that I am presenting as Joanna. I have been advising this girl as an older person with more experience and she has been advising me on dealing with an anxious teen. All the while I have been basking in that positive energy that I draw from when I allow the Joanna part of my soul to be free.

The positive in all of this has been a corresponding waning of my disphoria which allows me to be able to function in life as a much happier male.

This is all I have ever required. I knew it as a child but was forced to unlearn it; so simple and yet so incredibly complex all at the same time.

But to get to where I am now I had to remove layers of dogmatic and societal programming and my own misplaced culpability; no easy task.

It was uphill all the way for the longest time, but my how much better it feels to be able to walk on flatter ground.

Monday, 16 September 2013

Sex and gender

Sex and gender are normally related and for most people there is a direct and nearly perfect link between the two. The vast majority of men and women fall within an acceptable level of masculinity and femininity which our society expects and deems acceptable.

While sex is commonly understood to be based on a person’s biological features: the penis, testicles, vagina, uterus, etc., that anatomically define a person as male or female, gender is used in several ways. It may refer to gender roles or expression: the behavioral characteristics considered "masculine" or "feminine" in a particular culture at a particular time. These can range from hair and clothing styles to the way people speak or express emotions. Gender may also refer to gender identity: our internal sense of ourselves as a man or woman.

We have all met and known men or women who reverse the expected norms of behaviour for their physical sex; flamboyantly feminine men or very masculine butch women with comportment that runs counter to expectation but yet have no desire to become the other sex. Why not?

Conversely there are people who, on the surface, appear to have had no measureable signs of gender incongruity and yet end up transitioning at a later point in time claiming that their disphoria was extreme and they could no longer live in a manner congruous with their birth sex. You never saw it since they seemed to embody the archetypal male or female.

To all of this add the issue of sexual orientation and you add another layer of complexity. Some externally feminine men could be mistaken for gay until you learn that they are husbands and fathers while some very masculine women are perfectly happy married to men.

So clearly there are exceptions to the rules. There are people who buck the trend of expected orientation as well as gender presentation and identification and, in some cases, simultaneously.

Is it possible that gender incongruity or disphoria exists as an independent entity? On the surface at least it appears to.

I remember as a young child feeling conflicted about what this meant for me and as I learnt about the world around me I realized that what was expected of me was not entirely where my natural inclinations went. I was expected to conform to certain gender guidelines of behaviour and dress that fit my birth sex.

It took me just over 50 years to figure out that, whatever the reason for these inclinations, they are there to stay and might as well get used to them and even enjoy them.

I am finally at peak strength and my thinking is clearer than ever.

Finally a note to Jack Molay: keep doing what you are doing. In the process you may be jangling some nerves but when you get close to some uncomfortable truths that’s what often happens.

Sunday, 15 September 2013

why not just keep a journal?

This blog is starting to outlive its usefulness.

N even asked me today "why don't you just keep a journal?"

I suspect she's right.

I began it as an exercise in introspection and only made it public because if it could help someone else then it would be a worthwhile thing.

The other reason was to examine some of the theories on gender that existed because I have found that the more I have read over the years, the more I have discovered that there is a dearth of real understanding and science on the topic.

The internet is full of conjecture and speculation.

As I have stated before, I won't write a blog chronicling my personal life. There is not enough interest there on my part plus what would be the point?

I have arrived at a point where I am happy. I have a woman by my side whom I love and who loves me as i am, two beautiful children and a good career. Plus I have my health.

I am not lacking very much.

Being Joanna makes me happy and that is the ultimate litmus test isn't it? Suppressing her over my life has made me unhappy.

So I need to reflect on whether I have much more left to say. Nevertheless, it has been a very interesting and highly therapeutic process.

Saturday, 14 September 2013

september already?

Joanna has seen her life improve markedly and steadily over the last 5 years but even more so over this past year.

I have been able to convert my female identity into a known person and establish contacts to remove the loneliness of doing this on my own.

I don't blame N one bit for not wanting to participate but by having chats with merchants and coffee with my acquaintances, I have eliminated the problem of needing to find other transgender people to do things with.

Don't get me wrong in that I would welcome the overlap but I just haven't found the right match close to home.

Keeping these worlds separate is saving my life and I feel energized and invigorated. I can breathe without the guilt that was strangling me.

N need not fear about anything because what I am doing is essentially tame. I love her and no one else but the overlap with these women has been a Godsend. It's helped erase my need to keep mulling over transition and given Joanna a more concrete constitution.

I do feel the progression over the last year and a half and I can scarcely believe that I got to where I am.

Friday, 13 September 2013

Lives lived...

Today I include two excerpts from two separate articles on the life of David/Sonia Burgess who was by all accounts an excellent parent, an upstanding citizen and one of the finest immigration lawyers of his generation.

In 2010, now living as Sonia Burgess, she was pushed into a subway track by a deranged person she was trying to help. Burgess was an example of a human being and not a gender stereotype. He grew up in a single parent home and was raised by his mother. His entire life he had gender disphoria and late in life had begun addressing it by living in a way that was more reflective of the way he felt inside.

“David Burgess was regarded as one of the finest immigration lawyers of his generation. The decisions he secured in the British courts and the European Court of Human Rights featured significant landmarks for the representation of asylum seekers and transgendered people.

Burgess had graduated from St Catharine’s College, Cambridge in 1969. He went on to co-found his own legal aid law firm, Winstanley Burgess solicitors, six years later. It was there, as senior partner, that he began to specialise in asylum work.

In 1987, a decision awarded in favour of 52 Sri Lankan Tamil asylum seekers changed British law to allow asylum seekers the right to appeal against refusal of asylum before having to leave the country. Before that no such right was guaranteed. In 1991 he took up the cause of “M”, a Zairean asylum seeker, and brought contempt proceedings against Kenneth Baker, the Tory Home Secretary. The victory was described by one of the leading experts in academic law, Professor Sir William Wade, as the most significant constitutional case for more than 200 years.

His first victories in securing full legal rights for transgendered clients were equally ground breaking. In the 1980s he represented a female-to-male trans client, Mark Rees, who wished to have the gender on his birth certificate altered. He campaigned for the right of Stephen Whittle, a female-to-male trans parent, to be legally recognised as the father of his children.

In 2005, Burgess separated from his wife of 20 years, with whom he had three children, and began the transition from David to Sonia. She continued to work as a lawyer under the name David, but lived thereon as Sonia.

Sonia Burgess died in 2010 after she was pushed from the platform at King’s Cross under an approaching tube train. Senthooran Kanagasingham, who lived as Nina and was awaiting gender reassignment surgery, was charged with Burgess’ murder and jailed for life. After the verdict, Sonia’s daughter, Dechen Burgess, told the court, “She was trying to help Nina. Ideally we would like Nina to recognise the harm she has done to many lives, but we hope she can one day reach such a place so she can live life in fullness as our father would have wanted.”


And from an article in the UK Guardian written in January of 2011:

“On the day that Burgess was killed, he was living as a woman and yet working as a man. He was open about his lifestyle to anyone who asked, but he also had separate groups of friends: those who knew him as David and those who knew him exclusively as Sonia. He allowed only his closest confidants to see him in both guises and, as numerous of his acquaintances will attest, he shied away from mentioning his achievements, preferring instead to draw out the person to whom he was talking. The vast majority of those who knew him as Sonia, such as Christina Beardsley, knew nothing of his remarkable professional record. Those who knew him as David had little inkling that, for the past five years, he had been living as a vivacious and attractive woman, shopping for clothes in Zara, getting his ears pierced and undergoing electrolysis to remove his facial hair.

When Sonia fell in front of that tube train last October, the rush-hour commuters could have had no idea about the extent of her uniqueness. And for many of Sonia's friends, her untimely death was the final tug on a ball of thread that would unravel her extraordinary story.

On 17 November, a funeral service for Sonia Burgess was held at St Martin-in-the-Fields, an impressive, grey-stone, porticoed church that overlooks Trafalgar Square. The church was filled with around 600 people from diverse backgrounds – lawyers, university contemporaries, former asylum seekers, members of the transgender community and countless others who, in some way, had had their lives touched by the person they knew as either David or Sonia. His three children stood up to deliver a eulogy about the father they had known, slipping easily between female and male pronouns as they talked. It was, everyone agreed, a moving tribute to an exceptional person.

As he sat in the pews casting his eye over the congregation, it struck Ian Baker as ironic that his friend would have been "utterly and acutely embarrassed by it all. He could never have imagined that so many people felt that way about him."

In the weeks and months after his friend's death, Baker has found it difficult to come to terms with David's absence. "You take people for granted in life. You don't stand back and think, 'How does he fit into the scheme of things?' Then, when he's gone, you suddenly realise." He looks down at the carpet for several seconds, his head tilted to one side, his fingers fidgeting. Eventually, he speaks. "You realise: I've never met a more compassionate person." And he sounds relieved, as though, after two hours' conversation, he has finally managed to find the right words”



Thursday, 12 September 2013

class warfare

Perhaps I haven’t been clear enough for some but I don’t mind repeating it: this blog deals with my own experience with gender disphoria and how to best treat it.

It does not specifically target gender politics because I will say that my attitude is generally live and live and let live. But when I see that things make no sense I will comment on them of course.

If you are a man who dresses as a woman or a woman who dresses as a man then you have every right to do so. You may even have a particular situation at your workplace where this is permissible and perhaps even encouraged; I say more power to you.

I also don’t believe for one minute that allowing transgender people some measure of dignity, leads to societal chaos or anarchy. They deserve to not be killed, molested, raped, beaten in the streets or have any harm done to them whatsoever.

For example, so long as they respect the law and behave in an appropriate manner they deserve to use the restroom that reflects their gender presentation. A MtF transsexual who has received HRT treatments but has had no bottom surgery should be able to use a stall in the woman’s restroom rather than risk physical injury by using the men’s. Conversely they should maybe think twice about using the women’s shower at their local gym. This is basic common sense.

We have entered a period in our human development where the tenets of gender are being openly questioned and challenged. What does it mean to be male or female and how do those people who don’t feel a perfect allegiance to either fit into the picture?

As I have mentioned before, some cultures have a place for these types of people and they are even honoured in them. Our society with its more traditional Judeo Christian values has tended to frown upon any divergence from the norm and to do so is even sinful. I know this is how I grew up and I believed strongly that homosexuals, transsexuals, transvestites, etc were sinful people. Since I belonged in that group therefore, I must be sinful as well is what I believed.

But the gender politics born out of the earnest attempts to gain recognition for transgender people do not originate in the serious research; they were started by the human beings who were themselves being diagnosed.

If you read Harry Benjamin’s book (or any other scientific work on the subject) nowhere will you find a pronouncement as to who is a woman or who is not; who has a valid claim for transition or who does not. He dealt strictly with observed behaviour and then a process of categorisation reflecting the severity of a condition.

Once you put people into categories, however, that’s where the fun begins.

The type V and VI looked down on the type IV and of course everyone looked down on the poor crossdressers.

This is human nature. The well educated look down on the less educated; the rich look down on the less rich and so on.

I must state categorically however that I myself already have all the rights I need since I am using a technique to manage my disphoria that is not illegal (at least not yet).

But what about those people who decide to take hormones but no bottom surgery? What about those people who want no hormone treatments but just desire to dress and behave as the gender they feel most comfortable presenting as?

I don’t have a problem with letting these people be. It’s actually very simple and actually very Christian on our part to just let them be. They form part of the fabric of society and have done so since humans have been populating this planet.

Since I have come to terms with my own disphoria, I have found a new internal peace that has allowed me to love myself and others more.

Once you get to that place you realize that you have nothing to fear.

Wednesday, 11 September 2013

no group therapy for me

By now I would have been starting with Helene’s group but here we are in September and I never made the call.

The more I reflected, the more I came up with the same answer that they cannot help me. Sitting in a room with people in various states of transition will do nothing for me.

Moral support? Perhaps yes that is something that this venue could provide but little else.

My fear is also that by entering into such a group you open yourself up to the potential for having a little transition cheerleading section. I know Helene promised me that this would not be the case but in the end I was not sufficiently convinced.

The secret for a disphoric like me is management and when I explained my own plan to Helene in our private meetings, she thought it was a good one. Everyone has their own.

My aim as always is to stay away from hormones as well. I think they will only add to the turmoil that already naturally resides in my brain.

She told me that I am one of the best read and informed people she has met in her practice and I flat out admitted to her that my emotions betray me and that fundamentally I know I am suffering from an illness. Gender disphoria is an illness and caving into its allure is not necessarily the answer any more than wishing to be black and having the plastic surgery to accomplish it would be the right answer.

I am sufficiently torn to understand that making a change to the other team would be a mistake.

On another note, I visited a friend last week who has been diagnosed suddenly with pancreatic cancer. I have known him for 11 years and he is one of the more decent individuals I have had the pleasure to work with and also call my friend. I pray for him and his family all the while knowing that its one of the toughest forms of cancer to defeat. He is only 53 years old.

Life is like that. It appears senseless sometimes.

The other night as N and I spoke on the phone she mentioned my disphoria and that in dealing with it all my life I was able to be more sensitive to the plight of others who may be different in society. I think she is right and that sometimes through our own crosses we can serve as inspiration for others to continue to carry theirs.

I know my brave friend has inspired me.

Tuesday, 10 September 2013

From the opposite perspective

Here is an excerpt from an article which Calie features in T central this week. The article is written by a lesbian woman called Roey Thorpe and it’s titled “Where have all the Butches Gone?”

“In the company of lesbians of my generation and older, I frequently hear conversation about how much things have changed since we were young. And invariably, someone asks: Where have all the butches gone?

The question is driven in part by nostalgia, and in part by discomfort with what seems to have been a shift in the way young lesbians think about gender.
And the first question often leads to others: Why are all the butches becoming men? Why can’t they understand that gender is a social construct, and that women don’t have to conform to a feminine ideal? Isn’t that what we were fighting for — a world in which women could wear tool belts and neckties and do anything we damn well please, without the constraints of gender?

At its very core, this was the vision of the feminist movement, and lesbians more than anyone understood how transformative this could be.

Years ago, I asked the same questions, but today, this conversation makes me uncomfortable. Because I am of this older generation, I have seen things change —and not change — for a long time.

I have, in my life, loved many butches. My relationships and affairs have almost always been with masculine women and, more recently, with trans men as well.

In my experience, for as long as I have found myself in intimate circumstances with butches/studs/masculine-identified women — from way back when I was too young to be in the bars where I was meeting and going home with them — a curious thing happens. Once there is enough trust established, I become witness to a moment of confession. The confession goes something like this: "I don’t know how to explain this, but I don’t exactly feel like a woman. I mean, I’m butch, and that’s close, but honestly, I’m not sure what I am....."

So what is happening here?

These butch women were able to function in society because their manner of dress and behavior, while not celebrated or encouraged, were at least more readily tolerated than that of men wearing dresses. They were effectively able to lead their lives as virtual trans men minus the testosterone shots and the surgery.

This is of course the double standard of our society in that a man in a dress is to be ridiculed but a woman in men's slacks and shirt is at worst a butch. In other words, to aspire to be male is admirable while to aspire to be female is shameful.

Thorpe mentions in the article that some of these women were fighting against the feminine constraints of how to dress and behave that society put on them. She states:

“Why can’t they understand that gender is a social construct, and that women don’t have to conform to a feminine ideal?”

Should the same not be true for males then?

But what has prompted at least some of these women to become trans men? I think that the increasing acceptance of transgender people in our society has emboldened the resolve of those with gender disphoria to do what they have always wanted to; namely live as the men that they have always aspired to be.

While it is true that statistically more males are diagnosed with gender disphoria than women this could have something to do with the fact that all fetuses start off life as females. But indeed there are also women who suffer from gender disphoria.

For me, this phenomenon shows that with the higher profiles of transgender people in society and with the slow but increasing acceptance of gender variance, we are seeing people do what they have always wanted to do but were afraid to.

This may not always lead to full transition and indeed some will live in a gender state that feels comfortable for them. Some transmen for example, will live without penile implants just as some MtF transsexuals currently live without bottom surgery.

Monday, 9 September 2013

We've come a long way...

I am a biological male and intend to stay that way for the rest of my life. That has always been my aim and this blog was started only to examine why, since a very young age, I have been drawn to the idea of being female and expressing myself as such.

In the process I have sought and received feedback from other disphorics in order to encourage an open dialogue. It has been a wonderful learning experience.

If transition was ever weighed it was in the spirit of trying to understand if that might not be the best solution for a person like me. I now know that it is not.

Whether my own disphoria is caused by exposure to EDC’s prenatally and/or sociological factors is now irrelevant.

What remains now is the intellectual curiosity of what are the likely causes of gender disphoria in general and how it should best be treated.

A few posts ago, I featured an excerpt from an article that discussed the accommodation approach versus the reparative. The former approach would involve respecting the inclinations of the child towards their preferred gender while the latter would attempt to have them adjust to their birth gender.

One consensus of the article was that there is no one size fits all approach and each case should be treated individually; another is that most experts (including the reparative Dr. Zucker) agree that once gender disphoria carries over into adulthood it is there to stay.

I am in that latter situation but I have found a way to cope. Would the technique I am using now have worked back when I was in my teens? Well it did but I scarcely permitted myself to employ it because I thought I had to eradicate all traces of my inclination towards gender variance.

Might I have benefited from the reparative approach when I was a child? Possibly yes.

We don’t live in Samoa or Thailand but I do think that more tolerance of gender variance in our society is part of the answer for people like me. The progress we have made in my own lifetime astounds me and I can scarcely imagine what another 25 years will bring.

We need to remember that it’s not like this is disease that is contagious. People who exhibit gender variance represent a tiny sliver of the population and an even smaller percentage than that of homosexuals in society.

But I am not seeking special rights since crossdressing is not against the law where I live. In fact I am just happy being able to publicly express myself in the way I do whether people know I am a male or not. It no longer matters to me because the fear of discovery is no longer there.

I see the change most in the young generation. They impress me and the treatment I have received at their hands at makeup counters and coffee shops and dress shops when I wasn’t quite passing as well as I do now has been nothing short of astounding.

We have indeed come a long way.

Saturday, 7 September 2013

my dinner with N

N and I had a lovely meal last night during which we discussed many things; one of them being this blog and how much I have written in the past about transition.

It's true that I have weighed the idea but now I have closed the door on it.

She is ok with the dressing and as long as it remains only dressing then we will be able to make a go of it as a couple.

She knows I am more than a crossdresser but that's all right by her and that kind of acceptance of who I am is a hard thing to come by. In fact when we met again four years ago after a 23 year hiatus, she had less trouble accepting me than I did.

Back then I told her I was a crossdresser because that's what I genuinely believed at the time.

But even knowing the truth that she knows now, she is still able to look at the whole person which is amazing to me.

I enclose a picture from early this morning...

Friday, 6 September 2013

A note about notoriety

I don’t think that trans-activism is always a voluntary thing.

Take the example of Kristin Beck who, by virtue of her very public announcement and history as a navy seal, has little choice but to be a very visual flag bearer of sorts.

For one, Kristin currently makes for a large and unconvincing genetic woman; at least for the time being. She is tall and muscular and walks more like a man. This, by the way, is not a criticism but an observation as I wish her well.

But for another, I know she actually relishes her role in the spotlight and she has talked about running for some sort of office in 2015.

Then there is Chelsea Manning who is already a target of derision.

There are those who already view her transsexualism as a perversion or aberration of nature but in addition she will, unfortunately, be plagued with being a divulger of state secrets; even if those secrets involve unpleasant activities performed by her government for the so called ‘public good’.

If you transition early, are slight and feminine and not in the public spotlight then your chances of passing under the radar are increased. However I have read testimonials of even people like this who live in constant fear of discovery and are plagued with self doubt.

For me this all goes back to the idea of societal tolerance and sensitivity.

Due to the sheer number of transsexuals, albeit small compared to the population at large, makes it that not all will fly under the radar of public notoriety.

Some will relish the spotlight and some will shy away from it at any cost.

There have been stories of people living for decades in stealth only to be discovered and have their lives turned literally upside down.

All of this has challenged the public’s perception and sensitivity on the issue of gender variance.

Kate Bornstein, who is a self-proclaimed gender outlaw, transitioned at the age of 38. She has continued to challenge the tenets of gender through questioning what makes a man or a woman and has been genuinely interested in understanding what is inherent in biology versus what is learned due to societal conformance.

So as long as people continue transitioning in adulthood, society will be continually challenged by how to incorporate them back into the fold in their newly adopted gender role.

If nothing else, the public awareness makes it that the stigma and shock wears off.

People go about their daily life and the earth continues to turn on its axis.

We may not live in Samoa or Thailand but we are adjusting the same way we adjusted to the idea of homosexuality.

Moving forward with a positive attitude

Yes I am a borderline transsexual but I’m OK with that now.

I have determined that I can manage my life with this knowledge and that I no longer need any more counselling on the matter.

What are they going to do for me anyway? Show me how to cope?

I am already doing that now to the best of my ability. By presenting part time as a woman I can temper my disphoria and not allow it to compel me into transitioning.

Plus I love N, I love my children and I won’t sacrifice that.

Before I understood anything about gender disphoria, I blamed myself exclusively for all of it. I was to blame for desiring to be a female. It was my vice and my compulsion but as I gathered enough self knowledge and learned to understand myself, I realized that no matter how hard I fought nothing was going to change so I might as well adapt.

Perhaps I could have been one of those children that could have been rehabilitated by someone like Zucker. But I kept silent and played in my room alone and went into my mother’s closet when no one was home.

If you keep silent no one can help you except yourself.

My kind of help was to ignore and repress which made things worse and now, as an adult whose disphoria is permanent, I have found a formula that works and I am going to go with it. My sanity and my happiness as a human being hinges on it.

When I am out as Joanna I am recharged and without the guilt that used to follow an outing I can allow that boost of energy help the male me to thrive and be happy.

My doing something as simple as yesterday's visit to a mall I had not been to for a long time and having merchants greet me in such a positive fashion is the kind of boost I thrive on. A short conversation in a dress shop about the manager’s upcoming vacation is the stuff that keeps me happy because it allows Joanna to be real if but for a few hours.

If you ask me to explain it I am unable to except to say that instinctively it feeds the soul in a way that I do not comprehend. The combination of factors that made me this way are increasingly less important than the way I manage my life going forward.

The next series of steps will revolve around becoming truly whole and finding as much balance as I can so I can be the best partner and parent that I can be; disphoric or not.

Thursday, 5 September 2013

Contrasting approaches to childhood gender disphoria

This an excerpt from a 2009 article titled “Gender Identity Disorder in Childhood – Inconclusive advice to parents” by Alice Dreger which addresses the two approaches when dealing with gender disphoric chidren; namely the therapeutic approach proposed by clinicians like Zucker versus the accomodation approach:

You’ll notice that the advocates of the accommodation model act as if theirs is the “progressive,” even gender-radical approach. So the TransKids Purple Rainbow Foundation says that they “will strive to encourage families to allow their children the ability to grow up free of gender roles.” Sounds good in theory, at least to most parents who think of themselves as “progressive.” But in fact, the accommodation approach moves your child from being a girly boy or a boyish girl to being a girly girl or a boyish boy. Using the accommodation approach means going from having a William-in-a-dress to having a Julie-in-a-dress. And that may seem pretty attractive to you—no matter what your identity—since it might allow your family to look “normal,” taking away the unrelenting stress of having a “different” child, reducing the cruelty you and your child encounter from those who cannot bear a William-in-a-dress. The accommodation approach might also mean you are more likely to end up with a straight daughter than a gay son, and again, that might take some of the stress off you. (This, by the way, is the approach taken in some very conservative societies, like Iran, where being homosexual is utterly unacceptable, to the point that homosexual people are pressured to transition sex to keep everyone appearing straight.)

By contrast, the therapeutic approach might in the long run leave you with a child who more obviously challenges social norms of gender. And, in the short run, the therapeutic model implies that your family is the problem, that you all have work to do. That, again, might make you more inclined to settle for the accommodation approach, which says your child and your family are not the problem.

There is reason to believe, as accommodation proponents claim, that the stress children and their families feel when the children have GID is caused by social intolerance. Some of that evidence comes from Samoan culture. If a young Samoan boy acts very girlish and identifies with girls, he is incorporated into the category of fa’afafine, or what Westerners would call a “third gender” category. Fa’afafine literally means “in themanner of a woman.”

A biological male living as a fa’afafine adopts a more feminine gender role, and this includes choosing male sexual partners (who are themselves considered straight by all concerned). The vast majority of fa’afafine have no interest in a biological sex change; they are happy living without biological interventions. Researchers Paul Vasey and Nancy Bartlett have shown that most fa’afafine children do not suffer distress over gender atypicality; the culture has a system that accommodates their “difference.”8 (A similar system exists in some Mexican subcultures with the category of “muxe,” although whether muxe children experience distress has not been well studied.)

So why shouldn’t you just go with the accommodation model?

Well, mostly I am hesitant to endorse that approach because we do not know what will happen with that approach. We don’t live in Samoa, and we have no stress-free fa’afafine category; we live in a place where most feminine boys end up as gay men. So what if it turns out, as it seems to with many American men who were gender dysphoric as children, that your child’s dysphoria dissipates within a few years and he stops insisting he’s a girl? Well, if you’ve followed the accommodation approach for those years, you now appear to have a daughter named Julie, in a dress, with a penis, insisting she’s a gay boy. One clinician told me that she has seen adolescents in this situation—adolescents who, as children, were “accommodated” with a public gender change, who then had their gender dysphoria dissipate as they grew. She is concerned that they cannot seem to bring themselves to tell their parents they don’t want to change sex after all, after all the family has already gone through. And what if the therapeutic approach—or even just avoiding the accommodation approach— could eventually make William feel comfortable with his natural-born body? Wouldn’t that be a good thing? It would mean that he keeps his penis and his testes—and, therefore, his full sexual sensation and his fertility; that he does not have to go on lifelong hormonal replacement therapy; and that you all can skip the challenges of changing his sex medically, legally, and socially. All other things being equal, that seems pretty good. That might seem worth the work and social cost of avoiding accommodation.

As Ken Zucker, an advocate of the therapeutic approach has pointed out, if yours were a black family and William were insisting he is white, the right approach would not be to ask doctors to help make
William white.9 Zucker and his colleagues would advocate helping Williams learn, instead, that they can be comfortable with their bodies.On the other hand, Zucker (like most therapeutic clinicians
who treat GID) accepts the overwhelming evidence that adults who are transsexual are better off after medical sex reassignment, and he recognizes that a number of children with GID will “persist” in their transgenderism. Thus, proponents of both models—therapeutic and accommodation—would agree that, if it turns out that William is going to end up as Julie, knowing and accepting that early will make your child’s life easier.

For one thing, you will make the emotional adjustment earlier, presumably causing your child to feel less conflict and rejection. But there’s an even more important reason for early acceptance of eventual transition: If clinicians believe early enough that your child is going to transition sex eventually,
then they might use Lupron, a drug that reduces production of estrogen in females and testosterone in males, to delay onset of natural puberty.10 That would mean William/Julie will not enter full-blown puberty and thus will not become more masculine from a natural male hormonal surge. Later, in
adolescence, Julie could start using feminizing hormones to go through something more like a feminine puberty. That would mean prevention of masculine secondary sex characteristics—like a deep male voice, an Adam’s apple, and masculine facial and body hair—which would mean Julie would not have to
work to try and undo those traits later. As you would suspect, evidence suggests that transsexual adults who “pass” better do better socially, and your child will pass better if she or he can begin planning for the physical transition early. The challenge, of course, is identifying the children in which gender dysphoria will persist.

There are two important points you need to take into account here: First, although gender dysphoria sometimes dissipates after early childhood, if it persists into adolescence, it appears to be here to stay. Second, the use of Lupron for puberty-delay in children with GID is an off-label use. It has not been approved by the Food and Drug Administration for that purpose, and we have no good data about possible long-term negative physical or cognitive effects of using the drug this way. And some children have trouble tolerating Lupron physically.It is not a magic pill.

Notably, we are beginning to see clinics emerge that take a sort of revised therapeutic approach, probably best represented in the work of psychologist Peggy Cohen-Kettenis in Amsterdam. This approach seeks to be less concerned with gender atypicality than both the traditional therapeutic and accommodation approaches are, and most concerned with the child’s and family’s functioning. The idea here is to diagnose and treat functional problems (such as separation anxiety, disorganized
parenting, and depression) if they exist, so that regardless of which gender the child ultimately exhibits, the family is well. Cohen-Kettenis and her colleagues report that the gender dysphoria of the children in her clinic population sometimes dissipates. (Whether this happens because of the clinical interventions remains unclear.) But when a patient’s gender dysphoria persists, Cohen-Kettenis and her colleagues
assist the child and family with psychological and medical preparation for sex reassignment. This is basically a pragmatic approach that tries to leave children and their families as well off as they can be; it privileges individuals’ well-being over particular identity outcomes (gay, straight, transsexual or not).

The final batch of advice I would give parents of children with GID is the advice I give all parents facing optional interventions: Try to identify the real “problem.” Is it that your child is not a typical boy, or is it that he is anxious, sad, or constantly wanting more attention than you give him? Figure out exactly what you are worried about and what your goals are. How do you want your child to end up? When answering that question, try to come up with an answer that is in your child’s best interests while keeping in mind that you will also be subtly inclined to do what makes your own life easier, better, or happier. (That’s the nature of human parenting.)Then find out the goals of the person recommending a particular intervention, see if they match yours, and ask what evidence there is that the intervention will result in particular benefits or harms. (Anecdotes are not reliable forms of evidence.)Consider the possible conflicted interests of the recommender; that doesn’t mean you give up on that person, it just means you be aware of biases.

Don’t believe anyone who tries to sell you a sure bet. Parenting is fundamentally about uncertainty, and no one can change that. Lastly, try, if at all possible, to put what is best for your child above what would make you proudest. I think if you consider the matter long enough, you may agree that children do not ask to come into our lives to make us proud; they do not ask to come into our lives at all. Instead, what they want is for us to make them proud by loving them through difficulty. The shape love should take is often unclear, but love is what we as parents must shape out of our fears, anxieties, desires, and hopes.”

Wednesday, 4 September 2013

two persons one body??

On page 139 of Harry Benjamin's book the Transsexual Phenomenon there is the life story of someone referred to as Ralph; a MtF transsexual (at the time age 67 and operated upon at age 58). In one portion Benjamin states:

"Many transsexuals have, in a sense, two identities, male and female, but this should not be confused with those cases of dual or multiple personality described in the psychiatric literature. Rather, the two identities are a practical, if strange, way of dealing with a real problem: the male identity which the individual is often obliged to assume in his contacts with others, and the female identity which he believes to be his true one, and which he assumes in private or when dressed as a woman.

In Ralph's case, the problem was formulated by him as Ralph = male = body; Clara = female = mind. Between these two, a dialogue would often be conducted, again as is not uncommon among transsexuals. Today, Clara remarks that "Ralph is now (since the operation) dead. Poor Ralph, he tried so hard to make a go of it." Ralph had "tried to be a man, but was always a woman." Clara, in those days, "was a woman, but was deformed by being trapped in the body of a man." Whenever Ralph would put on women's clothing, Clara would "take over completely" and Ralph would "cease to exist." Yet, Clara was always aware of Ralph's existence and dreaded the moment when she would have to yield to Ralph again - that is, have to go back to pretending to be a man and perform a man's functions in the world. Ralph always lived only for the moment when Clara could again take over and the painful pretense could end, at least for a time. When the transsexual is operated upon, this dichotomy and dialogue is finally ended, so that it may be said that an integration has been achieved."


I can identify with this passage quite well as in a sense there appears to be an almost schizophrenic situation at play here. There are'nt two people residing in the same body but yet two distinct personalities need to exist; one that needs to exist and work in the world and the other the true person wanting to be free.

As someone who is able to still go back to a male persona but relishes the time I can spend as a female, this passage does touch me in a very personal way and I can relate to it.

But what I have been finding is that as I have incorporated Joanna into my life in a more serene way, it has not taken away my desire to present as a male. In other words, I can put Joanna's things away and not feel the strong pangs of regret by going back into male mode.

In Ralph's (now Clara) case this was not a workable option but she still managed to make a go of it for 57 years presenting as a male which is quite remarkable.

Monday, 2 September 2013

I feel pretty good

Marian had a blog entry recently where she discussed arriving at a point of feeling "normal" presenting as a woman.

Well after living part time for over a year I can definitely say that I am there. There isn't the slightest hint of self conciousness present and I am simply enjoying the experience to the fullest of simply being myself.

It took long enough to get here, but now that I am it feels right. There is no better way to describe the feeling; it simply feels right.

Lives don't get erased and given where I am in mine I think I have chosen the only solution possible; namely to continue to feed that part of my soul that's always needed to be fed instead of starved.

At least it feels like I have a choice and thank God for it. Were my disphoria to be worse, I might have tipped into the type V category and then be compelled to transition just to retain my mental health.

As it stands now, I think I'm going to make it this way and as the days and months go by, I am feeling more reassured that things won't get worse.

I feel so completely at peace as Joanna and, truth be told, if I were forced into transition by some external imaginary circumstance, it wouldn't be the hardest thing in the world to get used. Not many males on this planet would find that option palatable but then I am not a normal male.

That incredible comfort and that inner joy of just being able to attend Mass, grocery shop or have a coffee with a friend as Joanna has given me a new lease on life. There is no longer fear, shame or embarassment to be who I am and it is beyond liberating to be able to feel this way.

On another note, my son was able to attend his entire first day of class which brought a ray of hope to my heart that we might finally be turning the corner on his anxiety. All I can say to that is Amen and Hallelujah