Monday, 31 August 2015

parenting

When I examine my own history with my mother and father, I realize that their mix of personalities likely contributed towards the development of my gender dysphoria.

As I have often repeated here, I am from the Harry Benjamin school of genetic predisposition, but it’s important to note where the sociological aspects contribute in the development of the child.

Having a strong and controlling mother and caring, bookish and slightly distant father was probably not the best combination; neither was having two sisters immediately follow me in the birth order. I have a brother who is 5 years younger and he is as conventional a male as you can get. He was even dressed up by my sisters repeatedly with no ill effects on his gender identity.

Each person’s set of circumstances is entirely unique and, having read so many narratives over the years, I see no clear patterns emerge that would clearly point to why someone develops gender dysphoria. But there are likely some elements that carry more weight than others.

If a child over identifies with the mother rather than the father this could certainly cause some confusion and I suspect it must have been the case for me. For the longest time in my life, my mother was someone I could go to for guidance and I would favour her over my father especially if the issue was emotional in nature. My father became my source of guidance on more pragmatic questions.

Regardless, my psyche and hence my gender identity have been concreted. Now as I look back it was my inability to embrace that altered identity that created a problem since it did not coincide with a social norm which I was expected and to which I tried to live up to.

Now that our social roles are being relaxed, people can be who they are instead of worrying about measuring up to something artificial. It might also be that we end up reducing the number of surgical procedures for people who now really shouldn't need them to try and shoehorn themselves into a rigid binary they can't possibly fit into.


Sunday, 30 August 2015

correcting misconceptions

Julia Serano has had to start moderating the comments on her website. All because people who have never experienced gender dysphoria deem themselves worthy of pontificating on gender and how things are supposed to be.

Well I would gladly trade places with those people so they could experience dysphoria for themselves. They would clam up awfully quickly.

We don't get this type of willfull arrogance elsewhere. People don't argue with those suffering other conditions and yet some deem themselves qualified to weigh in on this one. I read many comments ranging from those on the hateful dimwit fringe to the relatively educated but its astounding how much this issue perturbs and excites people.

Transgender people don't ask to be this way so if the general public takes that as a starting premise it will be that much likely that they won't be so cavalier with their opinions regarding something they cannot possibly understand.

Recently I had to explain to a friend I have known for 30 years what the difference is between gender identification and birth sex. For him they were one and the same and of course for most people they are. Once I explained the distinction to him he completely understood. If we all do that for our close circle of friends and family we will do our part to educate.

We can't control the haters but we can educate those who are open to listening and learning.

Saturday, 29 August 2015

becoming more visible

Finding a practical comfort zone as a transgender person is not simple. Even if we say to ourselves that we should just not care about what others think we do because we are human. We seek approval and want to be loved and accepted; ideally while being able to present in a way that we are comfortable.

The world naturally and viscerally rejects the concept of a transgender person. Why? because it is confusing, to some visually disturbing and a foreign experience to most people. They simply cannot relate to the feelings that have always been part of our lives.

These constraints force us into a situation where we must literally ignore what people think of us because (simply put) a lot of people are going to disapprove of you. Many in your own family and circle of friends will not understand why you are doing this to yourself (and to them).

Therefore what is going to need to happen is that enough transgender people live openly thus becoming an unavoidable fact of life. People need to see us day in and day out and eventually realize that we don’t form part of an evil conspiracy. We go to our jobs, we see our friends and we want the same things out of life that they do.

There are enough activists out there now that the tide has truly begun to turn but I think it will take at least another generation before we are accepted as part of the fabric of society. To be where gays and lesbians are now will take at least that long.

In the grand scheme of history that is not a very long time at all.

I am doing what I can at my age while realizing that I am towards the tail end of a career that has seen me as a male for its entirety. However I don’t care if I am recognized on the street by someone who knows me and would be happy to explain. I don’t deny myself the right to go anywhere with the exception that in either mode I am not likely to go clubbing at 1 am. It’s just not the type of person I am.

When you get to an internal comfort zone you know it. It’s a peaceful feeling that you are honouring you right to present yourself in a way that you feel comfortable. If that method is to live partially as a male and partially as a female then so be it. No one has the right to define that for you.

In the province of Quebec you can now change your gender marker and name to reflect your own sense of identity without necessarily having undergone HRT treatments or reassignment surgery. The government has recognized that gender identity is less about plumbing than about how you feel and how you wish to express yourself.

No most people won't be lining up to make these changes, but for the little fraction of the population for whom this is important, it makes all the difference in the world.


Thursday, 27 August 2015

"Don't forget the broccoli"

Yesterday my daughter saw me dressed for the first time. No nothing exploded and no one (to my knowledge) rolled over in their grave.

I was just going to step out and grab a coffee and in the process get a few groceries as I am prone to do. I normally do that after work and always in Joanna mode. She was in the process of re arranging her room as she will be staying with me a couple of nights a week while she attends a local college.

She peered up from the her activity just long enough to look at me and say: "don't forget the broccoli!"

As previously stated I needn't even have concerned myself in the least but, as someone who years ago would have been horrified at the prospect of disclosure, I can't but help marvel a little at how unfazed she was. Makes me wonder how I ever thought there was ever anything to worry about.

It might just be that the world that I grew up in no longer exists.


Wednesday, 26 August 2015

sex and gender

Gender non-conforming people have always been with us and yet it was only really beginning in the 20th century that we began to try and truly attempt to analyse what made them tick. This began with the work of people like Alfred Kinsey and Magnus Hirshfeld as well as Harry Benjamin who tried to put some form of scientific rigour and categorization to try and explain behaviour that had existed as long as people have been on this planet.

The results were mixed and what we ended up doing was akin to putting a harness on a wild stallion. The lack of scientific evidence for an origin of the desire to express one’s gender in opposition to one’s birth sex led to dead ends everywhere. However what we also discovered is that the range of expression was actually more varied than we had imagined. Kinsey found much the same thing when he began to study the sexual tastes (through very private questioning) of people who on the surface looked to be normative in every sense. Behind closed doors, people were doing all kinds of things proving that the range of human sexuality was more expansive than first imagined.

As a result of the Kinsey work, we began to see how gender variance fit into the picture in that people who identified as neither, both or the opposite gender struggled to find their place in a world that only valued hetero normative sex and then only for the purposes of procreation.

As western society became more sexually liberated in the 1960’s we began to see more concrete evidence of the tastes that people held but the question of gender variance remained more of a taboo subject. Even as we saw cases like Lile Elbe, Christine Jorgensen and April Ashley transition, the world still saw these people more as rare anomalies rather than as the more extreme cases of a spectrum that was larger than generally suspected.

Males were exposed to such extreme scrutiny that secretive societies were formed in order to express even the most basic forms of gender variance. This would not have happened if the social malleability existed that would allow them such expression. As a result such activity for outsiders became associated with schizophrenic and abnormal behaviour when in fact it was just a safety valve for men who felt otherwise completely repressed to display their femininity.

Virginia Prince and other activists would attempt to show that these heterosexual men were in every other way normal. They were your banker, your doctor or your milkman and in fact they were. It’s just that they had no other outlets. Some were just happy donning dresses and performing menial tasks that they saw their own mothers do; all in the aim to express something almost primordial in their psyches; something which is to this day still not fully understood.

With the loosening of gender restrictions we are seeing the behaviour in the pure light of day and we see that it is no more bizarre than that of sexual practices of everyday people. The myth that everyone has heterosexual intercourse in the missionary position for the sole purposes of conceiving a baby has been essentially wiped out and the next frontier will now be gender identity and expression.

Tuesday, 25 August 2015

relationships

There seem to be so few winners when transgender people come out after years of secrecy and nowhere is the impact more keenly felt than on relationships. Even when entering into one with pre knowledge, there are no easy solutions. This is especially true for the gynephilic male to female.

The vast majority of genetic females are genetically wired to sexually desire a man. We can explain to them and to ourselves that gender identity and orientation are not always related but doesn’t do anything for a woman who thought she married a normal man.

When the transgender person enters into a marriage early in his life he often thinks he can drown that part of himself in the bathtub; I know I did. So the marriage is entered into with an earnest belief that he is not deceiving anyone. Once the dysphoria reaches a fever pitch (typically after the age of 40) something must be done or risk a mental breakdown.

The transgender person once self realized suddenly wants to expand the exploration of what they believe to be their true gender. But in the wake of that new found freedom is a partner often left feeling justifiably betrayed and angry.

The challenge for the woman then becomes how much they love their partner beyond a gender stereotype. But that is a lot to ask of a person who is not predisposed to be attracted to another woman. In truth it’s not uncommon to see some couple remain together strictly for practical reasons and due to a bond formed out of a shared history. The romantic love (which by now has likely waned regardless of this issue) now disappears entirely and is replaced by a friendship. This is probably the best case scenario with the worst being outright divorce.

That very precarious balance between gynephilic MtFs being true to their identity while being with a genetic female is almost impossible to attain without much compromise on both sides. I know of people who have not transitioned strictly because of the love for their partner and have found other ways to cope with their dysphoria.

People who crossdress on occasion and who’s dysphoria is relatively mild can usually find some form of compromise with a loving and understanding partner. As one cranks up the dysphoria levels, however, the solutions become increasingly hard to find.


Monday, 24 August 2015

we the tedious

A lot of people out there in cyberspace are commenting about how fed up they are of reading stories about the transgender. I suppose I can understand but at the same time I am disheartened at the intensity of the antipathy expressed.

To those who are so fatigued I apologise if you find us tedious.

However I and a host of others were fed up of hiding. I think those complainers will have to tolerate our stories for just a little longer because we are now witnessing the next great social revolution and it was long overdue.

As a long misunderstood and discriminated against group, coming out into the daylight could not come soon enough. Doing it in this dramatic and whirlwind fashion was maybe a bit much for some but that is sometimes the price of social progress.

Those who don't want to read about us don't have to. Maybe just keep your prejudice and ill will to yourselves?



Friday, 21 August 2015

an interesting series

There is a series of videos on YouTube by Transline Hollywood that I find interesting. They focus on specific issues facing transgender people and is hosted by a genetic woman who, most of the time, interviews Suzanne - a transgender male to female who lives part time as a woman.

One particular video which caught my attention dealt with the subject of transgender dating. The guest on that segment was a transitioned woman named Leigh who looked to be in her late fifties. In her previous life she had been living as a gay man.

If you watch the video you will see Leigh explain that she transitioned in her early fifties which is somewhat unusual for an androphilic transgender woman. She states in the video knew she felt she was a female very early on and told her parents but after being counselled against it by a therapist, she decided to continue living her life as a man.

Contrast Leigh with Suzanne who was married twice to women who knew about her transgender nature.

Leigh is now married to a man and living as the woman she always felt she was. She is an example of how we can be talked out of things by a therapist who may or may know how to deal with transgender individuals. Of course the opposite can also happen in that we can be talked into entering into a transition process that may ultimately not be for us.

I find the series enlightens and deals with the topic in a light but informative fashion and can serve to educate people who may know little to nothing about the subject. Here is a link to the video....


https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5pT96jlClJ8









Thursday, 20 August 2015

a question of faith

My religious upbringing has always had me pondering the legitimacy of modifying one’s body in order to align it with our self image. I am fortunate that I have not had to face a level of dysphoria so extreme that I could not survive another day as a male but it makes me wonder about those who feel that way.

I was watching a program where a religious school denied a 10 year old transgender girl from attending class as her chosen gender. Her parents had not encouraged her in any way and from a very young age she had been firm in her identity as a female. Finally and somewhat grudgingly her parents accepted her as a girl and allowed her to live that way. They were shocked when the school denied what they had allowed their own daughter to do.

These are not easy questions because they go to the root of what fundamentalist Christians believe: God does not make mistakes. If you were born a male then that is how you should live.

Clearly there are people who transition who perhaps should reconsider but these young very insistent trans kids seem not to waver in their determination. They don’t outgrow their identification the way my nephew outgrew his penchant for wearing princess dresses. If that young child ends up transitioning have they done the right thing?

I don’t believe that it is for us to judge.

I am now and always have been a maverick within the faith I was raised in because I needed to understand why I was to believe something. Faith without reason was not a path that I could take like some fundamentalists have done. I believe in evolution while at the same time understanding that the atheist mantra of everything comes from nothing is incredibly presumptuous. It’s akin to saying that the house they are staring at built itself and presumes that human intelligence can compete with a force which conceived an entire universe.

Therefore I have decided to accept that I cannot know all given my human limitations.

The people who are often the most adamantly against modification of the human body are those who are least well placed to understand what dysphoria is like. They feel they can pronounce themselves based on a logical argument in an area where it cannot possibly govern. The mind of a person with extreme gender dysphoria cannot rest until it finds resolution and if that includes gender reassignment surgery which produces a better and more whole individual then they will know they have not erred.

Conversely I am glad that Joel Nowak and Third Way Trans are out there reminding us that transition is not the way for everyone and that mistakes can and are sometimes made.


Wednesday, 19 August 2015

sticks and stones...

For decades people who felt neither perfectly male nor female have lived the best way they knew how in societies that ran the gamut between openly hostile to wholly tolerant. This meant that some lived entirely in the closet while some were accepted as a third gender.

Our western society has moved along on the spectrum of acceptability. Since the days of the Phil Donahue show where perplexed audience members struggled to understand what heterosexual cross dressers were all about, we have moved forward in our understanding and tolerance of gender variance.

The new cross dresser of today has more latitude than ever but they don’t call themselves that. The under twenty five year olds see themselves as either androgynous, gender variant, non-binary or perhaps use no terms at all because they don’t need to. Their behaviour is increasingly being seen as part of a mosaic that stretches beyond what we used to think was acceptable.

That need for definition was more relevant when people were desperately afraid of what they were facing. They wanted to know if a person was a cross dresser or a transsexual when in truth sometimes neither term applied. What would they call Billy Tipton: a woman who lived full time as a man without surgical intervention?

In response, the term transgender has been adopted as a catch all term for the many variances we see out there in the world. In all of its wonderful messiness we see people living lives on their own terms and defying specific definition.

The terms transvestite and transsexual have been dropped from our lexicons as being anachronistic and insulting to the people they presumed to describe and I suspect the term cross dresser will come next; if for no other reason than it tries to define people who display a very wide range of behaviour and for whom the dressing is only part of the entire portrait.


Tuesday, 18 August 2015

our newest challenge

We have come to a fork in the road where we never imagined we’d be. People are asking themselves what makes a man or a woman and the ensuing opinions sometimes fall along political lines.

Very broadly, conservative people tend to think of birth sex as the determining factor whereas liberals tend to be more in tune with the idea that the identity in our brain is what determines our true gender.

This is an issue that is increasingly coming to the foreground as transgender people are more visible and enter into our mainstream existence. They want to join the scouts or enter a beauty pageant and suddenly we are faced with a dilemma. This will only be happening more frequently as transgender people, because they don't desire to or cannot, do not begin their new lives in stealth.

But what should be the right answer?

I think the common sense approach would be to let people be who they are. Already we suffer enough discrimination along gender lines without the transgender question being present. Women tend to be paid less for equal work and are generally seen as being less stable employees because of the question of pregnancies and maternity leaves. I know this is slowly changing but we are not where we need to be.

Now add the explosive cocktail of the transgender question and things get even more complex.

I feel that having these questions rise to the surface is a good thing because it forces us to examine them and not bury our heads in the sand and plead ignorance. What we are seeing of course is an explosion of ignorant comments and opinions but that is to be expected. It took me many years to begin to understand my own condition so how can we expect the public to suddenly get it overnight?

No these changes will not come easily but they will come whether some people like it or not. Transgender people are challenging the courts and the institutions that have been built along a gender divide that wasn’t always fairly established nor justifiable.

What will hopefully happen is that by closely re-examining our basic beliefs we will witness a new level of tolerance which provides better outcomes for all.


Monday, 17 August 2015

a clear ruse

Before I explain what this post is all about, I will provide some personal background.

I am now and always have been attracted sexually to women and have never been interested in men. My gender dysphoria has been present for as long as I can remember and prior to being married I had never had sex with a woman. I had come close but Catholic guilt would have eaten me alive but it was certainly not for lack of desire because just holding a young woman's hand that I fancied would give me an erection.

When I got married I was 32 years of age and I was already damaged goods. My dysphoria had fused itself to my sexual being since, by the age of puberty, I had been having spontaneous ejaculations while crossdressed. Before puberty my cross dressing had no sexual overtones to speak of.

The only way I was able to help conceive my children was by imagining myself as a woman which was something which greatly confused and perturbed me. Since I had not had sex with a woman before marriage, I didn't realize just how abnormal my sex life was going to be going forward.

Now fast forward to the work of Ray Blanchard and the following imaginary interview:

Joanna: "Dr. Blanchard what do you call this abnormality of mine?"

Blanchard: "That's easy Joanna, you have Autogynephilia"

Joanna: "What is that Dr Blanchard?"

Blanchard: "Well it's the propensity for a male to fall in love with his own image as a female"

Joanna: "And why and how does this happen Dr. Blanchard?"

Blanchard: "Well we don't know but that's the word I invented for what you have"

This is what I call a gotcha moment.

By now you have all seen that this is a ruse because by labelling something you are not explaining it. It therefore falls into the category of pseudoscience and if this blog achieves no other objective than to debunk the kind of work that tries to pass for science it will have been worth the effort.

One day someone will explain why this happened to me and to others like me but that will have to wait a little longer. Science is about explaining cause and effect and connecting the dots and anyone with even a hint of scientific curiosity can see we are a long way off from some sort of credible explanation.

The reason this would be good is that it would once and for all put a nail in the coffin on the suggestion that being transgender is a lifestyle choice, self induced hypnosis or a form of mental delusion. It is very much a real thing and like all things in this life, there is a plausible explanation waiting for someone to discover it.

Thankfully, not many people still pay attention to Blanchard's work but it represents a cautionary tale about the dangers of letting people who have never experienced dysphoria first hand and who clearly have an agenda gaining traction with the psychiatric community.


Saturday, 15 August 2015

seeking professional guidance

When the DSM changed the nomenclature from gender identity disorder to gender dysphoria the psychiatric community was acknowledging that they no longer considered the condition to be a mental disorder. This was good in that the stigma was removed for those who care about such things and I think most transgender people should.

Having it remain a mental disorder left one with the impression that this was the product of a delusional mind and that despite its offer of treatment, the psychiatric community was saying it could provide a solution without necessarily standing behind the patient’s claims.

After all, this was the same method used by Ray Blanchard who, while recognizing that his patients benefited from transition, wrote about them much like the man who thought he was Napoleon. They were to be pitied and helped but not necessarily to be believed.

This is why my scepticism of the psychological community remains strong and why I think it’s important to act as your own healer while perhaps relying on other gender dysphorics for comfort and support. If nothing else, at least they understand your situation first hand.

Even when I was confessing my life story to the trainee sexologist at the hospital gender clinic, I realised that what she was mostly doing was letting me use her as a sounding board. Not to say that it was not a cathartic experience but most the heavy lifting came years later when I had to confront my own monsters during many quiet moments of reflection.

The mind is amazing organ in that it can talk itself in and out of things. We train it over time and some things become hard wired and take an enormous amount of time to undo. The more you were a product of brainwashing the more work you would need to do to find a new baseline for your thinking. We live in our prisms and filter truth in our biased fashion which is why what we have been taught can often become a formidable obstacle.

The treatment method for your dysphoria is a highly personal thing and you cannot nor should you expect absolutes to apply. One of the best things I read was the website of Chriss Pagani who herself questioned most of what was considered sacrosanct by many in our community. She was one of my models when I was mired in my heaviest questioning periods. Turns out the right question wasn't whether I was a woman or not but rather what would be the best method to treat my gender dysphoria.

My opinion is that seeking professional guidance when you need it is good but at the end of the day no one can tell you what to do or how to proceed.


Thursday, 13 August 2015

We have the conversation

My daughter and I spoke on the phone last night and I brought up my lifestyle and how I crossdress on a daily basis. She was basically fine with it all as I expected.

The only thing she mentioned was that it might take a little bit to get used to seeing me dressed. In answer to that I reinforced the point that I would never push this side of myself on her and she need never see me. However with her staying with me two nights a week, the chances of her not are somewhat slim.

But then she said something that impressed me. She told me that it would be insulting to me not to have that part of myself respected. She found it to be a strong and valid part of who I am and she was going to support it.

My daughter is part of that generation for whom these issues are far less important and traumatic. Two of her close friends already identify as gender non-conforming and they have no trouble expressing that openly.

As it turns out, I needn’t have been the least bit concerned about how our conversation might go.

Tuesday, 11 August 2015

"She has caused me far too much grief"

When I look at my own life long battle with gender dysphoria, I credit two things with keeping me from doing anything about it: my strict Catholic upbringing and my willingness to want to please my family and conform to expectations. It was really not something I ever questioned until the pot started to boil over in my early forties and I had to face it head on.

Jack Molay wrote something recently in a comment on someone else’s blog that really made me think. He wrote:

“I am not in love with my inner woman. She has caused me far too much grief”

I cannot argue at all with those words because they very adequately describe my own life experience. Gender dysphorics don’t go looking for their condition but rather it happens and they deal with it in the best way they know how. If the world were devoid of prejudice this would not have been a problem but the fact that it is means that most of us suffered greatly for being different and we did so from a young age. We also learnt to be deceitful so we could hide our true feelings.

Sometimes I reflect on I would ever want to push a magic button that would remove my dysphoria for good; after all it has shaped so much of who I am today. Why remove something that has made me grow in ways I could not expect?

Monday, 10 August 2015

of clothes and changes coming

I no longer shop for women's clothes in retail stores. In fact, I rarely buy clothing at all.

Over the last few years, one of the ways I was challenging myself was by engaging sales clerks in an effort to increase my confidence while out in public dressed as a woman. With that milestone well behind me, if I buy anything at all its more likely to come from a thrift store.

Shoes have traditionally been bought from Payless due to the size selection and cheap prices but they aren't always the comfortable choice. Therefore I have turned also to online purchases from websites that carry women's larger sizes.

The shoes pictured below were not long ago purchased from a site called Long Tall Sally which caters to taller women. They are stylish, comfortable and, most importantly,not too high. I don't purchase from transgender sites because I find they sometimes tend to over price their items.

With my daughter set to sleep over a couple of nights a week in order to be able to make her 8 AM class, I need to clear out her bed of my winter clothes. I also need to have a little talk about my dressing in that although she knows I do it she has never actually seen it. Now it will become almost an inevitability and I want to assess her comfort level with seeing me dressed. She has already stated its not a problem but nevertheless I want to make sure.

I am hoping I need not change out of women's clothes at the spur of the moment when something comes up last minute. On the other hand I don't want to force it on her nor flaunt it and will let her set the tone.