Wednesday, 30 April 2014

my pipe dream...

The human brain is a fascinating organ.

Through it, we express our intellect, emotions and our gender identity and do so, for the most part, independently of biological plumbing. This is why we see variations, combinations and permutations of both sexual and gender identity. We see butch women, effeminate men, transmen, transwomen, transsexuals, pansexuals, bisexual, gay, straight, asexual and you can freely mix and match amongst the aforementioned categories.

Every person is a combination of both genders with the dominant normally aligning itself with our birth sex; however this is not always the case. We sometimes see masculinity and femininity being almost reversed in an individual while they remain comfortable with their birth sex.

Most people in fact retain a solid footing within one of the gender binaries but the transgendered brain seems to combine both in an unusual way with no obvious winner in sight. There is often a tug of war to establish dominance between a clearly male or female identity. For some, this struggle can endure a lifetime, for others it can mean a peaceful existence between both genders and for others a definite reversal of sexual and gender identity has taken place which requires correction.

None of this is predictable through biology but we know these variations have been taking place since humankind has existed.

With the advent of gender theory and the work of Magnus Hirschfield and then Harry Benjamin we began to see the first serious scientific study into gender variance and how it manifested itself in different people. With those early attempts at categorization came the inevitable comparisons between types and the all too human need to discriminate and discredit. None of this was found in the original work but showed up later in the personal writings of others who sought to legitimize their own situation through disparaging of others.

Later the work of Ray Blanchard would seek to build theories around only one group of individuals; namely male to female transsexuals seeking gender reassignment at his Alberta clinic. Not only was the size of the sample very small but female to male gender variant people were entirely excluded making the work completely unscientific and devoid of legitimacy. For Ray Blanchard you were either a fetishist male in love with the idea of feminizing your body or a homosexual male seeking to increase your choices of partners while reducing the stigma and discrimination that being gay in society entails.

Somehow Ray Blanchard was allowed to contribute to the DSM on issues pertaining to gender variance and transition.

The reality of what is actually going on is far more complex than the picture painted by Blanchard and what we instead have is a spectrum of human behaviour that illustrates the diversity of what it means to be human.

Because we are intrinsically complex creatures with tremendous biological variations, it makes sense that these same variations would also show up in the area of sexual and gender identity and they do; they always have.

The attempts at categorization and definitions have of course brought along an inevitable component – politicization. This is why see infighting and divisiveness in an attempt, by some, to establish more credibility for themselves.

What has not helped is that those who see themselves as mildly gender variant have been hesitant to step forth and be recognized. A heterosexual married crossdresser, for example, has no need or desire for notoriety and therefore shuns the spotlight but he would do well to be more visible because he is part of that spectrum as well. He could help legitimize the desires of those who want to be recognized as women due to their desire to live full time as such.

No one wants to be shunned or be seen as abnormal but we all are in some way.

Fully transitioned women may want to live in stealth and reject the transgender community while others embrace their origins and try to help as much as they can while being open about their surgery.

Times continue to change and society adapts to new realities (albeit very slowly).

I am not sure that we even need a biological tracer any longer. Just as there is no “gay gene” on record we do not require a “trans gene” to point the way forward. All we need is the will to recognize that there are people in this world who are by nature uncomfortable to subscribing to a binary system that does not adequately fit them. What each of them does to be true to their inside should be permitted if not celebrated because mentally healthy individuals is what we are after.

It has been shown that in cultures where gender variance is tolerated or even venerated that these people are comfortable in their own skin and are simply seen to be part of the fabric of that society. Every era has had communities like these and today we can point to places like Samoa, Thailand and India as examples of cultures where there is far less stigma around this issue.

Our conservative Judeo- Christian background in North America has made it difficult for gender nonconforming people to live openly as themselves but this is changing ever so slowly and as painful as the change might be for some, it needs to happen.

The fact is that gender variant people are never going to go away and sweeping them under the carpet or marginalizing them will not work.

The next decades should see a rewriting of the DSM and revision to public policies which respect the rights of decent and lawful individuals to live out their lives as they desire.

Transition will also be more of an option than a necessity for those who might see living their lives as a third gender to be more palatable than having to choose a side. If you want to that’s fine but it should not be because you feel obligated to. There should not be rules here and indeed we are seeing many examples of transgender people choosing to live out their lives as the opposite gender without opting for GRS.

The response to your situation should be consummate to the degree of your dysphoria; nothing more and nothing less.

Maybe it’s a pipe dream but it’s the way things need to be.


Sunday, 27 April 2014

Repeating myself...

I have been reading the entries I have made over the last few months and, aside from pointing to Jamie Veale's work and quoting the great work being done by Anne Vitale, I feel like I have said it all and I am just repeating myself.

I am therefore going into a slow burn with this blog.

N pointed out to me that I am just rehashing the same message and to be frank writing about my daily life experiences just does not interest me at all. This is also one of the reasons the male me is not on Facebook.

Going forward, I will only post things that really add to the discourse on the topic of gender dysphoria.

Wednesday, 23 April 2014

normal?

I want to talk about what is normal and what that means because I did touch on it two posts ago. Firstly I will state that no one is normal in this world and we all have different variations of behaviour, mannerisms and belief systems that make us unique.

Gender dysphoria (which includes Harry Benjamin types 5 and 6 and are otherwise known as full blown transsexuals) is considered to be an abnormality because it occurs in a tiny fraction of the human population. It also has no known biological tracer of any kind, which has made it easier for people like Ray Blanchard to come up with theories that have amounted to be nothing more than pseudo science.

The behaviour of people with dysphoria throughout history has been to somehow try and bridge the gap between their physical (birth sex) and internal sense of gender. There are countless of examples in history of men living as women and women living as men in order to try and align themselves with their internal selves. There was no way to surgically alter one self and the radical concept of physical gender transition is a relatively modern invention.

What makes gender dysphoria so aberrant for most people is that, unlike other physical or mental conditions, it touches on a fundamental issue of sexual identity which is something the vast majority of people never ever need to doubt.

People can understand or even somehow relate to a physical deformity or brain based conditions like schizophrenia, bipolar syndrome or depression but they cannot grasp why anyone would question their own gender identity.

Yes it is abnormality but it is a repeatable experiment.

Think about that for a second.

It is a repeatable experiment in which person left in complete isolation from others like themselves would experience the very same feelings and actions.

When I was very young and up to the pre internet era, I had no idea that there were others like me. When I first began to find the websites of others who had lived almost mirror image experiences to my own, I began to slowly realize that I was not alone and that others were experiencing the same feelings. In many cases the stories were eerily similar.

This meant that even if the global population was in the billions, there were still millions out there like me in the world.

Later at the hospital gender clinic I became part of their patient history and I was told that I represented typical behaviour for a gender dysphoric person. I surprised no one there and in fact surprised mostly myself as to how routinely my apparently aberrant behaviour was being viewed by the clinicians who treated people like me.

We are now at a new crossroad for developing a new understanding of gender variance.

The separatist and unscientific beliefs of the HBS radicals who wanted to distance themselves from the types 1 through 4 as well as the caustic theories of mean spirited crackpots like Ray Blanchard are about to make way for a new generation of thinkers which will develop a new understanding of what gender dysphoria is and how it should be dealt with in society.

Instead of being seen as an aberration maybe it should be seen as just another variation of nature. I would personally favour more options for people who do not see transition as they way to go and more tolerance for those who do not feel the need to conform to the gender binary.

You should never feel pressured to alter yourself surgically in order to feel like a whole person and you should not let society shoehorn you into being exactly male or exactly female if you do not feel as such.


Monday, 21 April 2014

If you feel stuck in the middle....

I feel pretty good for 51 years of age.

Sure there are small aches and pains here and there and I have some stubborn Achilles tendon issues on my right leg but things could be a lot worse.

I have allowed my brain (somehow intersexed at birth) to flourish as both male and female personas. Yes I am very much enjoying my time out as Joanna but I am also enjoying my time as a male and being a partner to my beloved N.

My secret to being happy has been in allowing myself the dignity to be a real woman (at least in my mind) and when I am out as Joanna I have rid myself of all doubt that I am female thereby removing any angst,apprehension or guilt about what I am doing.

If you, like me, also fall into a Benjamin type 3 or 4, there is no simple solution for you as full transition will be a mistake but then you will never be normal either; at least not "general society" normal.

So in following up on my last post, I think that the mind of the type 3 or 4 gender dysphoric needs to go through a complete mental transformation; one which rejects the typical two gender model which we were taught to adhere to. Once you accept that your sense of internal gender is not like that of most, you will be able to find a new set of gender expression guidelines that best apply to you.

It’s like fashioning a new type of compass that only applies to you.

Yesterday I went to Easter service and afterwards had a short coffee with Janet – an older lady who regularly attends Mass there and whom I have befriended. She has no doubt that I am a woman and when I am speaking with her I have no doubt that I am one either. It may be a trick of the mind but it works for me.

This new way of viewing my situation has helped avoid the “gender expression deprivation anxiety” which Anne Vitale has so succinctly coined and of which I spoke about a few posts ago.

It’s really good to live in a way I have always wanted to but was afraid to for fear of rejection and ridicule.

If you feel stuck in the middle, there may still be a formula that works for you; one which need not necessarily involve picking one gender over the other.