Tuesday, 28 July 2015

A congenital disorder

Calie over at T-Central featured an entry today from a blog where the writer promoted the idea of transsexualism being a congenital birth disorder. While it is hard to argue with the premise that it is indeed a type of biological condition (a notion I actively promote in this blog), you will note that many of the entries in the rest of the blog take great pains to make the distinction between those suffering from a true medical condition and those she refers to as the gender variant or transgender.

There is only one thing wrong with her premise however: it is entirely unproven.

You will find no medical journal, authoritative book or scientific research which makes any sort of clear dividing line. Even Harry Benjamin, who arguably had the greatest exposure to this condition given his long and extensive patient history, had trouble making clear cut distinctions between patients. The best he could do is fashion an approximate categorization based on the intensity of the dysphoria they experienced. He also never made any value judgements about any of them.

Most of the members of the group I refer to, were people who transitioned in the 1960’s and 70’s and tried their best to disappear into the woodwork of society. They did so with good reason because the world was far from ready to receive them. Even with today’s level of education we still get the most enormously ignorant comments from people as any perfunctory look at the comments section of an article on transgender issues will illustrate.

The vast majority of these early transitions were by androphilic transsexuals who proceeded as privately and as quickly as they could and tried to make new lives for themselves in stealth. Many married and in some cases their own husbands did not even know about their past.

As this group ages and disappears you don’t see any new recruits taking their place. This is because society is slowly changing and there isn’t the same battle lines drawn between androphilic and gynephilic transsexuals. The biggest focus in fact became the work of Ray Blanchard who began writing on this topic in the late 1980’s and saw the condition strictly as a sexual deviation.

By all current evidence, gender dysphoria appears to be a graded phenomenon rather than an all or nothing proposition like some of these early activists believed. No one chooses it but rather it chooses you and you must deal with it in whatever manner allows you to live in balanced and healthy way.

For some that solution may be transition but certainly not for all.

The blog (which appears not to be updated any longer) can be found here

Saturday, 25 July 2015

the transgender brain

There is no conclusive evidence about the origin of gender dyphoria but one thing that seems to be clear is that the condition is not tied to overt femininity. Like in the non-transgender population, there are more feminine and less feminine people in our group. It does seem to somewhat line up with sexual orientation where the most effeminate boys would otherwise just be gay men.

But there are other people who are neither overtly feminine nor masculine who suffer from dysphoria and some might typically invest much energy trying to "man up" in order to avoid suspicion and to try and cure themselves of their condition.

One thing is clear: there are very effeminate men and very masculine women who do not suffer dysphoria and are perfectly happy with who they are. Therefore I think that the assertion that a male to female dysphoric having an intrinsically female brain is false. What is more likely is that the brain has been sufficiently feminized to create a conflict. But why for some and not for others? This remains a mystery.

Perhaps it takes a combination of factors to create a transgender individual and it takes only the absence of one of those to avoid the condition. This seems likely as this would help explain why flamboyantly gay men and butch lesbians suffer no gender dysphoria.

I know that in many ways I think like a typical male albeit one that is not overtly macho. In my daily life as a male few people would guess that I was different than any other man and yet I am. Part of this is due to my having rejected all feminine aspects of my personality while I was growing and needing to compartmentalize them into the person that would become Joanna.

I seem to be incapable of morphing these two animas perfectly together and I am not sure I want to at this point. One reason is that I don't favour androgyny for myself and want to be able to wear the female clothing I like without the worry of overt attention.

I don't think I will ever fully understand what makes me tick and, since I am as much a product of biology as social conditioning, trying to remodel myself at this age might be futile.

What I do see is that the less energy young people invest in their birth sex the more easily they assimilate the traits, mannerisms and thinking of their chosen gender role.



Tuesday, 21 July 2015

defining your own sense of gender

I wanted to post this story to show how a strong sense of who you are can make all the difference. While I know not everyone will want to present as female with a beard, this individual proves that you can earn even grudging respect by simply being yourself.

I might have preferred that they use the term gender outlaw than transgender woman in this article as this person has opted for no hormones or surgery but the point still stands: that you can define yourself on your terms.

Please go here for the story.

Friday, 17 July 2015

Out from the shadows

Kristen Beck and Caitlyn Jenner through their notoriety are showing us a different side of being transgender. They both came out in public and transitioned before our very eyes. Now they actively trying to serve as role models for all the different generations of transgendered people who fear being seen in public or being shunned by their families for simply being who they are.

In the past transgendered people would either live in the closet or hurry up and physically transition so they could blend into society. Those were the only options available back then.

Today even androphilic transwomen like Andreja Pejic and Janet Mock are transitioning publicly and embracing their nature instead of being ashamed of it. They want everyone to know that they weren’t born as genetic females and they are proud of the journey they have chosen for themselves.

This new way of seeing transgendered people has been hard fought and it will continue to tread new ground through public education, legislation and court battles. It will embolden those who up until now have lived in the shadows ashamed, scared and paralysed with fear due to fear of rejection.

I must admit that I never thought that this would happen in my lifetime and even as I know that we are not where we should be, my faith in the ability of most decent people to learn and adapt has been elevated to a new level.

Yes the haters and detractors will always be with us but the door to a brave new world has been opened and there is no going back.



Thursday, 16 July 2015

vigilance and education

if you wanted to see why transgender people need to educate themselves on how their situation is understood and perceived at the scientific, governmental and societal level, look no further than the video below for confirmation.

You won't be able to educate ideologically driven people like the woman arguing against Allyson Robinson during the interview but it's good to have the facts in hand when people accuse you of being mental ill. To her credit, Ms Robinson does a fine job of remaining calm when dealing with the profound level of ignorance of her fellow debater who seems to stem from the earth is flat crowd. As Allyson points out, her detractor might have been happy to fight for segregation back in the day and I find it hard to argue with that suggestion.

To insinuate that young children might be psychologically harmed though being taught by a transgender teacher is bad enough but to somehow incorporate the issue of genitalia into the discussion points to how low some of these individuals purporting to speak for family values will go.

The mind boggles.

Wednesday, 15 July 2015

Julia Serano on AGP

Prompted by one of its cheerleader's tweets about its denial among trans people, Julia Serano has written another blog entry on Autogynephilia. It’s no secret that I am a no fan of this crackpot theory if for no other reason that it has absolutely no scientific basis whatsoever and that none of its biggest proponents (with the exception of Anne Lawrence who seemed to like it as an explanation for her own impetus for GRS) has any firsthand experience with dysphoria.

As I have often repeated here: gender dysphoria is not driven by a sexual component but rather takes it on as an aspect when we enter puberty.

People like Ray Blanchard, Michael Bailey, Anne Lawrence, Alice Dreger and Kay Brown (who makes sure that everyone understands she is an androphilic transsexual woman in her blog) all subscribe to this pseudoscientific mess and all must have their reason for doing so. But any scientifically minded person with half a brain (and yes I include myself in this list) can dissect through it relatively simply as being shoddy science.

If the narrative you get contradicts the theory then ignore the narrative as lying – this has been the primary tactic of this cabal for the last 25 years. This is what you get when you base a theory solely on psychoanalysis. Meanwhile the real science still awaits.

The good news for the rest of us is that AGP is slowly but surely ending up in the dust bin of history.

Thank you Calie for featuring Julia’s blog entry on T-Central!

Julia’s blog entry can be found here.


Monday, 13 July 2015

Undoing the damage

If gender variance is just another anomaly among the miriad found in nature then many of us have suppressed ours at the expense of our well being and happiness.

Think about it.

If left to your own devices and with no intervention, your gender expression would have been based from the start on whatever made you comfortable. It was only when you were interfered with that your dysphoria had its true origins. A situation that need not have existed if you had been permitted to simply behave as you wished.

The erratic purge cycle that many of us went through was our earnest attempt to conform to the dictates of our society. This self imposed torture produced the effect of having us think we were mentally unstable for doing something which for us was perfectly natural. Yet we believed that we were weak for succumbing to behaviour we were taught to believe was aberrant.

The more you invested energy fighting your own natural impulses and failed, the more you thought that you were a lost cause and with time some of us sank slowly into despair.

Those of who were strong enough to ignore the pressure to conform were able to avoid this schizophrenic cycle. In my generation these people were the rare exception because we grew up in a rigid binary. Unfortunately they suffered the direct rejection that comes with outright rebellion.

So in essence we've had a hand in prolonging our own dysphoria by using denial as the weapon of choice.

But then all those years of self control can behave like a coiled spring and if we aren't careful we can suddenly jump into something we're not ready for. I am not suggesting by any means that this applies to all of us by the way.

My own slow and organic process of self acceptance took about 8 years. During this time I was able to experiment with my gender expression and see what worked best. I went through a questioning period and considered transition but then realized I didn't require it to be happy.

We spend all those decades weaving a narrative that allows us to fit in to society and it shouldn't surprise us that it takes another bunch to discover who we really are underneath.


Wednesday, 8 July 2015

A complex fusion

Most if not all of you also trace your gender issues back to your earliest memories. You have struggled with them and perhaps have now made peace and found a solution for yourself that has either eliminated your dysphoria outright or at least made it more manageable.

If you are a heterosexual gender dysphoric then at the time of puberty a permanent connection took place between your attraction to being female and your sexual intentions towards them. That connection has become permanently fused to your psyche.

When we began our sexual awakening at puberty we developped an interest in the opposite sex or perhaps in members of our own sex. This became an instrumental step in how your dysphoria would be managed going forward. If you were heterosexual you would attempt to reconcile the two but realize that it was probably best to repress your female tendencies in favour of attracting a mate. If you were homosexual the path forward seemed more natural and in harmony with your sexual desires towards members of your natal sex. For the highest levels of dysphoria, the two groups typically divide into what we know to be early and late transitioning transsexuals.

Recently I mentioned Alice Dreger and her association with the BBL school. This group sees this condition as an inconsistent model of alternate sexual orientation for the heterosexual group and as need to attract heterosexual men in the homosexual group. The idea being that desire to transition into a female is driven by sexual motives.

I don’t know anyone who has ever weighed the idea of transition (and that includes members from both sexual orientations) who does not trace their feelings to very early childhood. So in order for the sexual motive argument to stick you need to establish that sexual connection at the prepubescent stage. This is probably the weakest link in the chain for the BBL school as young children are only beginning to barely understand the concept of sexuality at this stage.

Children know the gender group they belong relatively early and then copy the role models set before them. The behaviour they first exhibit is based on what is natural for them and then they are either encouraged or discouraged depending on whether it falls within an acceptable range. A very effeminate boy might be told by his parents to play with trucks instead of dolls and not try to try on his mother’s shoes.

Once puberty hits we start to become sexualized beings. Our genitals start to become organs of pleasure and we learn we can have spontaneous erections and ejaculations. For the heterosexual gender dysphoric the desire to become a female and his sexual attraction to be with a female somehow become linked. There is no location target error; the problem is that he wants both and they are in direct contradiction with the natural order. Women are attracted to men so the dysphoric must desperately try to repair this problem in order to attract a normal female. Invariably he will do everything to suppress the dysphoria; often at the price of his happiness and mental health.

The purchase and purge cycle that most of us go through will begin here in earnest where we appease our dysphoria just enough to help us get through a tough period but then throw everything out in disgust for having failed. Here the sexual pleasure derived from the dressing experience is serving as a way of curbing the desire to transition instead of driving it along. We are disgusted with ourselves for finding our attraction to femininity has sexual overtones and react violently to it by throwing the clothes in the bin.

As we age and our testosterone levels decline the sexual aspect wanes but the dysphoria remains intact. This is why we will typically see a married man in his forties finally begin to address his problem in earnest and seek professional help.

All of this is in direct contrast to the idea that Blanchard proposes; namely that the transition desire is driven by sexual pleasure. Were that to be the case the crossdressing would only have begun at the time of puberty as it does for people who dress for fetish reasons. Most fetishists have never considered the idea of transition nor would they want to.

But there is another way for us and by doling out the right amount of cross gender expression that curbs your dysphoria you can establish a life that works. For some this may include hormones and surgery but for others neither will be required. The idea is to treat the dysphoria and take it seriously because suppression absolutely will not work.

If Harry Benjamin was right and this is a biologically sourced and graded disorder then psychological denial will only lead to discomfort and unhappiness. However thinking that we must become fully female in order to successfully treat our dysphoria may also be an erroneous assumption that some make for themselves.

You need to do what works but that means raising the level of protection and tolerance for gender variance in our society so that this becomes possible and thankfully we are already on our way.


Tuesday, 7 July 2015

Iran

I was watching a documentary on Iran where gender reassignment surgery is permitted and actually sanctioned and paid for by the government. The thinking behind this is that homosexuality is not permitted by the Qur'an and so the alternative is to have these young men be sexually reassigned into women.

The heart breaking part of all this is that many of these people are not the least bit gender dysphoric and yet they undergo the procedure only to satisfy the demands of their religion. The alternative is that they be stoned to death for practicing acts of homosexuality.

Dressing as a female is also not permitted because according to one cleric being interviewed for the documentary this only causes social disruption. Therefore the only alternative open to these misfits is the state sanctioned surgery.

One young woman who had been ostracized by her family grudgingly agreed to the surgery and, although clearly an effeminate gay male from the start who would have been happy not tampering with his genitalia, there she was a year later using prostitution as a way to get by. Ironically since she is not technically a natal female and cannot bear children, her religion grants her temporary marriage licenses that last one hour so that she can go to bed legally with men. The sadness in her eyes was overwhelming as she was being interviewed.

It is indeed a strange world we live in.


Monday, 6 July 2015

Alice Dreger

Monica sent me a link to Alice Dreger’s webpage where she answers questions about Ray Blanchard’s Autogynephilia theory. I thought I would comment on it.

In the text Dreger mentions that AGP denotes being sexually aroused by the idea of being or becoming a woman but also later states the following:

“a “philia” is by definition just a sexual orientation. I think which ones count as pathological is ultimately a social definition. Some have tried to argue that any philia that couldn’t lead to procreation is pathological. You can make that argument, but I think it is a social argument, as is true with so much of disease categorization in medicine, necessarily”

Well right off the bat we have a problem because if one’s orientation is towards oneself then why is a gynephilic gender dysphoric interested not only in women sexually but also in marrying and having children?

To answer my own question: it’s because gender dysphoria competes with normal sexuality instead of being an orientation in its own right. In other words we are back to the idea that gender variance does not equal sexual orientation.

This blog is on the record repeatedly at stating that the work of BBL (Blanchard, Bailey and Lawrence) is not really science but more a kind of pseudo science based on categorizing and inventing terms to describe things we have observed for many decades. True science would be the understanding the how and why something happens and no one has been able to do that to date.

This past Sunday morning I was listening to CBC radio which, to my pleasant surprise, was dealing with the topic of the transgender condition and the Caitlin Jenner phenomenon. The commentator wisely stated that although we do not have scientific proof, the sheer numbers and the insistence of people suffering from it speak volumes about its authenticity. Therefore it must be dealt with regardless of the lack of empirical evidence.

It’s unfortunate that, with the exception of Anne Lawrence, the people pontificating that the BBL work is correct have no personal experience with gender dysphoria to speak of. Anne herself seems to have a checkered series of incidents which have led to some people in the community to see her as a body modification fetishist rather than a true transsexual. Some have offered that it is a certain form of guilt that has driven her to wholeheartedly accept the diagnosis of her mentor Blanchard as applying to her.

Blanchard’s separation into two distinct groups of either a) the sissy boy who becomes woman or b) the self loving pervert who becomes woman has become his legacy. I use these derogatory terms because the language contained in his work and in the work of Bailey borders at times on the offensive; something which was noticeably absent in the work of Harry Benjamin.

Dreger does not mind if you use the women's bathroom next to her which is actually very nice for someone who thinks the transgender condition is a form of mental illness.

Regardless, I don’t care about whether she thinks someone is or isn’t a woman. I care about the subject of gender dysphoria and how it happens and on that front Alice Dreger’s webpage does absolutely nothing to advance our knowledge nor elevate the discussion.

For those interested, the page can be found here.







Friday, 3 July 2015

Game face

It’s not about clothes but in part it is.

The interesting thing is that presenting as Joanna makes it easier for me to express myself in a way that is quite foreign to the way I normally do. N brought this up to me the other day by asking me if my male persona was a fabrication to draw attention away from my transgender nature and, although I answered quickly that it was not, perhaps I was a bit rash.

I think we all learn to develop a game face that serves us well. Our true selves are not really out there for everyone to see but more a modified version that gets us through the daily routine without needing to think too much. The rest is left to our most private and inner most thoughts because truly being yourself would mean being vulnerable to a point that society is far from being ready for.

We learn this lesson early on in life when an innocent slip of the tongue is met with jeers and ridicule and it humiliates us into silence. Hence forth begins the development of a shield that allows us to conform so that we are not made fun of again.

Transgender people have to work particularly hard at this because we need to hide all traces that might raise suspicion there is something different about us. That mask tends to gel and become a default and fallback position.

When I go out, my clothing choice reflects my taste if I was a woman and I don’t think it would change much if I were to transition (which I have no intention of doing by the way). The only thing that would change is when I got home I would change into women’s shorts and tops instead of into men’s but that is a small difference. The earrings might stay on and the makeup would still come off. Would I still be the same person? Yes I most certainly would be.

But this is also why a change of plumbing or hormone intake is not in the works for me because I can honour my insides with a method that works well now. I won’t mess with it.

Gender is such a fragile thing that we don’t even know how to define it. Most people just think that it relates directly to biological sex but of course they would be wrong. It’s about how a person feels comfortable acting and presenting which, when it conflicts with accepted convention, is then to be frowned upon.

That rigid convention is breaking down slowly and transgender people are going to start filling that new ground with their own sense of themselves. Its behaviour, style of dress and conversational style all rolled into one and yet so much more that it can hardly be put into words.

The best descriptor is just being you.

Wednesday, 1 July 2015

Safe house

The beginning of the second half of the twentieth century saw the introduction of crossdressing social groups which catered to the needs of men who needed to express themselves as women. Society was such that there was no other recourse for these men to employ other than what amounted to secret societies where they could dress and behave as they pleased; far from the prodding and judgemental eyes of the general population and most importantly from their own families.

To the younger generation of today this seems like a strange concept but there was no other way to proceed. Consider that the drag balls of the early part of the century where homosexuals could express themselves in private had been subject to raids and arrests and in many if not most states it was a legal offense for a male to wear women’s clothing. Indeed some of Harry Benjamin’s earliest patients carried letters from the good doctor that they were under his care and supervision and were permitted to be dressed in such a manner. Many of the Jewel Box Revue impersonators (some of which eventually transitioned) were not legally allowed to wear their clothing outside of the performing stage.

Such was the state of affairs in the United States at that time and I suspect only marginally better here in Canada. Therefore it is not surprising that gender non-conformance on the part of heterosexual married men would take to the underground.

Some would attend these meetings only once a year perhaps for a few days. Most often they attended without the company of wives who were completely unaware of their husband’s penchant to behave and dress in this manner. It was a dysfunctional arrangement for all concerned as these men married with the intimate knowledge of something that was deeply entrenched in their psyche since childhood and yet they hoped could be done away with given the right level of willpower. Once having realised this was not possible the only recourse left to them was an escape hatch to relieve the pressure that the situation created. For many these societies were a saving grace.

I doubt today anyone under 45 has any firsthand knowledge of one of these groups. I myself never felt so compelled but I understand why someone would as the support structure they provided could be a great benefit to someone wanting to share this piece of themselves with like minded souls.

Yet there is something sad and depressing about this concept; that one's only recourse might be to join such a group as the only venue to express this important aspect of their personality due to fear of discovery.

These safe houses of the twentieth century are all but disbanded although I know that some people still swear by them. I see that the new generation expresses their gender variance far differently and much more openly than we did and that can only be seen as a good thing.

The other day my newest neighbour and I ran into each other in the subway and I broached the subject of my comings and goings as Joanna to see how he might react as I noted that his son had recently seen me dressed in front of our building. He said that he had also seen me and was glad that I felt comfortable enough to go out in a manner that made me feel happy.

I liked him before and but I like him even more now.