Thursday, 30 June 2016

if I had a do-over

If I were young today how would I proceed to live my life? This is something I have sometimes asked myself.

Armed with the kind of information that transgender teens possess today and not doubting my mental health would I do anything differently?

I cannot really answer that of course because I don’t regret my life. I lived it to this point the best way I knew how with the information I possessed in a world with a different set of constraints than those of today. I simply got used to hiding and figured that it was the right way to live at the time but it was far from easy. Sometimes it’s nice to reflect on what it would have been like not to have felt obliged to.

I thought I was supposed to suffer through things and try to change something that I actually couldn't. This only produced frustration and guilt.

So now on my own again I get even more time to spend looking inward and take stock of my life to this point. It will be the first time in years that I get to do that because the death of my father in 1995 kicked off a series of events that dramatically shaped the next 20 years.

Wednesday, 29 June 2016

now its anorexia...

The Federalist keeps trying and for that you have to give them credit.

If it’s not trotting out Walt Heyer its now comparing being transgender with having anorexia nervosa. Yes the condition where you slowly starve yourself to death if people don’t get you to treatment.

Moira Fleming who has suffered from this condition herself suggests we treat the dysphoria like the mental illness which makes the trans person look in the mirror and hate their “wrong” body the same way that an anorexic thinks they’re fine instead of looking emaciated. Her point goes back to the popular mantra “just because you think you’re woman and fix all your parts doesn’t mean you are one”.

For me this misses the point because the treatment that works is always the correct one. This means that if a transition saves a life then it is as much correct as giving food to the anorexic. Ms. Fleming is actually more concerned about the legalistic and biological aspects of what defines a woman which doesn’t really interest me all that much.

I am more interested in preventing the suffering of people with gender dysphoria.

If a young or older person transitions and their life is better why does it have to bother people like Ms. Fleming quite so much? but then those who write for periodicals like the Federalist are conservatives and of course this issue rubs their rhubarb the wrong way.

What makes a man or a woman is actually not as obvious as Ms. Fleming would like to believe but don’t try to tell that to people who prefer to think in black and white. Which must make it that much more disappointing for the folks at the Federalist that gender dysphoria is a recognized medical condition.

Remember how I always say here that people should stick to subjects they know something about before making judgements? Well this is one of those times and Ms. Fleming might want to stick to writing about anorexia.

http://thefederalist.com/2016/06/27/why-is-transgender-an-identity-but-anorexia-a-disorder/

Tuesday, 28 June 2016

wig woe resolved

I was looking for a way to fix a problem with one of my wigs. The cap is too large and it tends to slip back ever so slightly with prolonged wear. Therefore since I really like it, I had to find a way to fix it to my head more securely so this wouldn’t continue to happen.

After reflecting on it and even surfing on YouTube for suggestions (which were actually more complex than what I wanted), I suddenly had a brain flash: use two-sided tape; to be more specific turn a piece of tape in on itself in order to expose two adhesive faces.

I placed the wig on my head and then proceeded to put three pieces strategically just where the forehead meets the natural hairline. This turned out to be a great idea because the wig stayed in place without so much of a hint of movement over the 2 hour period that I wore it. The tape I used was surgical adhesive tape you find at any drugstore but I suspect a number of other types would do the trick as well.

If you have had this issue as well, I highly recommend this solution as it is cheap and quick.


Monday, 27 June 2016

all walks of life

Transgender people come from all walks of life and they cover every possible profession so its not surprising that they include stand up comedians.

But there is always something more impressive about a person who can walk out in front of millions and take a risk but even more so when they are open about their identity and their past.

Kudos to Julia Scotti...

Sunday, 26 June 2016

The repentance of Diamond Dee

Diamond Dee makes me think a little of Walt Heyer. No their stories are not identical but neither was really transgender.

When you watch this video you won’t likely recognize yourself in it. Diamond had a sexual addiction problem so severe that he ended up having gender reassignment surgery without even actually suffering from any gender dysphoria whatsoever. I am hard pressed to even make the connection between the two.

Like Mr. Heyer, he was ushered through the system by people who clearly were not up to the task of determining whether this was a patient fit for such a procedure.

Diamond understands this and now wants to help others not make the same mistake.

The unfortunate thing in all this is that people hungry to discredit actual transgender people will pounce on this case along with Mr. Heyer’s and decry the insanity of it all.

However if anything Diamond’s case proves that there are all kinds of people in this world who will do all kinds of things without the proper reflection.



Saturday, 25 June 2016

Transgender Q&A



What causes gender dysphoria?
We don't currently have an explanation

Does transition work?
Yes for some people very well.

Does it work for everyone?
No

How do you know whether transition will work for you?
You don't but its a long process of reflection that typically decides what path will be taken.

What is the post transition satisfaction percentage between gynephilic and androphilic transsexuals?
Statistically comparable

What is Autogynephilia?
An invented condition that states that the arousal experienced by gynephilics is the sole driver in their desire for transition and a sexual orientation in its own right. This is not provable scientifically nor is establishing motivation.

What causes arousal to becoming a woman to be a component in the dysphoria of gynephilics?
We don't currently have a definitive explanation. One possibility is that at puberty the orientation becomes intrinsically fused to the dysphoria and hence the wish to be female becomes tinged with sexual ovetones which wane with increasing age. The dysphoria, if untreated, remains intact.

Is it possible that cross gender arousal in gynephilic transsexuals is a symptom of their gender dysphoria?
Yes absolutely

Do some transsexuals change sexual orientation post transition?
Yes but many do not.

Why don't androphilic transsexuals experience this same arousal?
The simplest explanation might be that they are not attracted to women hence they find nothing about them or their clothing arousing. This is also observed in any homosexual male who crossdresses such as a drag queen. However some pre-transition androphilics do experience body conversion fantasies during intercourse just not in the same percentages as gynephilics according to interview data (see Anne Lawrence).

Are there only two types of transsexuals as per Blanchard taxonomy?
No his taxonomy left out female to male transsexualism as well as late transitioning homosexuals

Does every therapist and/or researcher working in this field accept the Blanchard model?
No researchers, therapists and noteable transgender activists such as Kelley Winters, Anne Vitale, Julia Serano, Jamie Veale, Andrea James, Lynn Conway as well as others reject it or are indifferent to it.

Did Blanchard consider Androphilic transsexuals to be true transsexuals?
Blanchard makes no such hierarchical distinction in his writings.

Are transgender people mentally ill?
If you define mental illness as incapacity to function in daily life, hold down important jobs or have fulfilling lives then the answer is clearly no.

Why are many in society hostile to transgender people?
Because it upsets the accepted wisdom that many hold that the binary is rigid and unflinching and that birth sex determines gender identity which has been proven false most markedly so in the transgender.

Friday, 24 June 2016

how this blog has changed over time

Back in 2012 this blog started with a very personal tone. I was going through a crisis of identity and needed a vehicle to express my frustration. My making that journey public was to try and get and give feedback to others who also might be going through it.

Over time the emphasis and tone changed and it became more technical because I wanted to get into the topic and examine every crevice in order to understand myself.

I haven’t found all of the answers because we don’t possess them all but the journey has helped me immeasurably. Along the way I have found kindred spirits who have shared their struggles with gender dysphoria and how they have dealt with it in their lives.

I was given many talents and one big hurdle to overcome. Others have theirs and no one is immune from the hardships that sometimes come our way. That struggle has shaped who I am as a person, made me stronger and honed my curiosity about things more than if my life had been simpler. Of course I had a hand in making things more complicated because I refused to accept myself and if any of you still harbor this resistance I strongly urge that allow yourself the dignity to be yourself.

This blog is now about finding a balance between positive stories and videos to inspire us, sharing some of my own personal reflections and of course keeping up the technical aspects because this subject so fascinates me and we know so little still. It is also full of people trying to propagate their own myths.

I know I am mostly writing for people close to my generation because the young won't have to face the same prejudice and resistance that we did. For that I am very thankful because the world that they will grow up in will be that much more welcoming than ours was.

Having said all that, I hope you stick around for the ride.


Thursday, 23 June 2016

floating

At 53 years of age it’s not too late to start over with someone else and yet that pull seems to subside with age. By now I know what things work and which don't and my eyes are far more open to the realities of life than when I was 20.

We tend to see more clearly what we want and what is right for us and our tendency to want what others have is very much lessened.

Some who are in relationships want out and those outside of them want in; perhaps a gross generalization but you get the idea. I have now spent almost twenty years with two people and it’s perhaps time for a long break to focus on myself. There is no perfect situation in this life but as long as I have my mental and physical health whatever comes my way will be part of its unexpectedness. I have no appetite to search for anything or anyone anymore.

I was thinking recently that if you had told me 10 years ago where I would be today I would have thought you were completely insane but then such are the twists and turns of this life where nothing seems to be predicable.

It might just be time to float like a leaf on a river and see where the current takes me and do so happily.


Wednesday, 22 June 2016

tribute from an ex-spouse

Whatever we think about Caitlyn Jenner, she has had to go through the difficult pain of living with gender dysphoria before finally acting on it at the age of 64.

Linda Thompson married Bruce Jenner in 1981 and found out only some years later that this was crippling him. The marriage ended but Linda writes very genuinely and kindly of the good times they spent together and of the wonderful children that they brought into the world.

I find this short testament she wrote to be both moving and honest and really brings home what many of us experience. My own battle with gender dysphoria helped seal the end my own marriage but at the same time I look back and realize that things sometimes happen for a reason.

If you haven’t read Linda’s tribute to Caitlyn you might want to.

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/linda-thompson/bruce-jenner-linda-thompson_b_7080918.html


Tuesday, 21 June 2016

my own worst enemy no longer

I have long been my own worst enemy.

Living in the dark ages before the internet I had to police and control my "problem" without help from anyone for I dare not ever divulge it. All that negativity leaves scars on your psyche even if on the surface my life seemed fully under control. I just willed it to be that way.

So even now any modifications and small adjustments are made with a scrutiny honed from years of feeling like I didn't have the right to follow my own instincts.

Since 2012, this blog has been my therapy and my vehicle for exploring this weighty subject. During that time the advancement we have made as a community has been nothing short of extraordinary.

My own self-acceptance has been longer than it could have been and now I am working on removing the vestiges of the rigorious machinations that every action I took received. This subject was so serious for me that I had fashioned obstacles at every turn which were stifling me.

People who have never questioned their gender don't have to overthink things like we do. Hence, for my own sake I have focused my energy on ceasing a practice which had become virtually hard wired.



Monday, 20 June 2016

the hardest thing in the world

In this video CiCi gets it right. The hardest thing in the world is to be yourself; most especially when that rubs against the grain of a whole host of people who have nothing better to do than weigh in on your life.

When you watch this video remember the words "own it!"

Sunday, 19 June 2016

under closer scrutiny than normal

Leticia is someone I've known for about 4 years now. She used to work at the Sears at a mall I would frequent and we hit it off. We are both of Latin origin and our common maternal language of Spanish helped kick start a casual friendship. We would meet at that same mall from time to time and catch up over coffee.

For her I am a divorced mother of two teens and knows nothing of my trans history. It just happened that way.

About a year ago they discovered a benign growth in her brain and she's been closely monitored by a specialist.

So when suddenly our proposed meet up at that same mall turned to an invitation to her house it was not without some trepidation that I accepted. I suddenly had visions of meeting her husband or daughters and being very closely scrutinized.

I turned up at her door 2 hours later and we sat in her kitchen for a while. Her middle daughter was home and I met her and that went well. Then her sister Eva showed up and the three of us talked over coffee for what must have been about an hour.

Then the doorbell rang and someone she used to work with was suddenly at the door with her fiancee. Now we were five people sitting at her kitchen table talking. Turns out this ex-colleague's father has been diagnosed with lung cancer which was the same type that killed my father 21 years ago. So we discussed that and Leticia's own treatment regimen. After a while I decided to leave them all be and bid them all farewell.

So if I was worried about being under such close scrutiny I needn't have because it all went very well.

Just maybe they didn't seem to have doubts because I didn't.

Saturday, 18 June 2016

trans-puberty

There is a kind of puberty period that one passes as a transgender person. I never really noticed it that much until I looked back and realized I was going through it.

At first it’s about how one dresses and presents. This is typically in a very over the top and stereotypically feminine manner. It eventually gives way to a more pragmatic style that combines fashion with practicality and comfort.

Then there is the mental aspect which also changes. We go from a kind of scared teenager afraid of our own shadow and morph into a presentable person who is not afraid to go out into the world and just be. This process can typically take many years and is directly related to how much energy and time we have invested in traditional male roles in order to fit into society.

I am now at that stage of comfort and security and when I present as Joanna and I no longer second guess myself or look over my shoulder to see who might be staring. Being comfortable in your own skin should be paramount to any person but especially for a transgender one who faces a much higher degree of scrutiny unless you pass flawlessly. Even then your own lack of self-confidence can conspire to betray you.

People love a confident person who smiles and is happy and they tend to want to reflect back what they see.

Over time my clothing choices have become more pragmatic due to the length of my outings and where I am going. Hence practical flats have become a staple for walking for example. Not that I ever wore a cocktail dress to the mall but I needed to learn what biological women already know.

In that sense the sartorial element has become more a way to help present as Joanna rather than as a focal point and all my past impractical purchases have slowly found their way to the good will.

Just don't try and take away my practical low heel pumps.





Friday, 17 June 2016

Benjamin revisited

In Zagria’s recent post on the 50th anniversary of Harry Benjamin’s “The Transsexual Phenomenon” she refers to a section in the book that I personally identity with:

“The transvestitic urge (fetishistic or transsexual) contains an element of addiction. Larger "doses" may be required for certain individuals as time goes on. Therein may lie a ‘progressive’ nature of TVism in some instances. If untreated and uncontrolled, ‘dressing’ may be desired more and more frequently and even the idea of physical changes through hormone treatment or through an operation may be gaining ground, particularly in unfavorable - that is to say, constantly stimulating - surroundings. Here psychotherapy and proper guidance at the right time may help, provided a transsexual tendency is not too deep-seated. Such seemingly progressive aggravation of transvestism was rarely noticed under treatment, although it did apparently occur in a few cases. However, later on, these patients proved to be initially unrecognized transsexuals. The opposite was more frequently observed: under estrogen medication, the desire to ‘dress’ became often less demanding and less sexual and the inability to indulge grew somewhat less frustrating. The explanation probably is that the libido was reduced in its intensity through estrogen and since the transvestitic urge is part of the libido, it was likewise lowered. But I am anticipating a later discussion. The foregoing ... (if repetition may be permitted) apply chiefly to that form of transvestism that is its own purpose, which is to say that it is not the chief symptom of transsexualism. As soon as physical changes are desired, it ceases to be true transvestism, and inclines toward transsexualism (Type IV). The full and complete transsexual (S.O.S. V and VI) finds only temporary and partial relief through ‘dressing.’ I have even met transsexuals who would not ‘dress’ at all.” What good is it?" they said; "it does not make me a woman. I am not interested in her clothes; I am only interested in being a woman." That is the true transsexual sentiment.” p113-4/52-3

This is sometimes the hardest part to understand about where you fit.

If you, like me, fall into this grey zone of being a type III or IV it makes you second guess yourself. Being in the middle is challenging because the lower echelons don’t want to be a woman while the upper ones very much do and feel themselves to be hence they transition.

My search for self-understanding has taken a little longer in part because I seem to be right in the middle.

Benjamin even sometimes got the original diagnosis wrong as witnessed by the following excerpt from his book:

"By the end of 1964, a total of 249 male transvestites were observed in my offices, either in New York or in San Francisco. Of these, 152 were diagnosed as transsexuals. This figure, however, may actually be higher as some transvestites do not reveal their true intentions during the first few interviews. In some others, an apparent transvestism may gradually seem to progress into transsexualism with or (more likely) without any treatment and patients originally diagnosed as transvestites (of the II or III type in the S.O.S.) are actually transsexuals (V or VI on the S.O.S.). A few of them are among the 51 cases operated upon."

Hardly the stuff of exact science.



Thursday, 16 June 2016

someone l can relate to

I am very frank in this blog and if it helps someone to cope with their gender dysphoria, then it will have been worth it. I am not trying to be sensationalist and no longer need to hide from who I am. I also view my existence much more dispassionately than when I was dealing with the paralysis of shame and guilt over being transgender.

In this light, Anne Vitale’s 2003 article titled “The Gender Variant Phenomenon--A Developmental Review” contains a reference to one of her patients that I can relate to. You might recall that she is the one who coined the excellent term "Gender Expression Deprivation Anxiety" to describe what many of us experience.

In the text she describes this patient thusly:

“John, a 50 year-old genetic male, medical research scientist, married (23 years), father of three children aged 20, 17 and 7, phoned me after experiencing a panic attack severe enough to require emergency attention from paramedics at the airport on his way to give a presentation at a conference. John gave me only his first name and informed me that I was the first to be told what he was about to tell me. He said he was "gender dysphoric" and that he was "desperate." Feelings that were once "controllable through sheer force of will," had increased to where he now was having protracted periods where he would close his office door, lie on the floor and weep quietly while curled up in the fetal position, holding his genitals in pain. Other than intrusive and repeated fantasies of being female, he had refused to allow himself any overt form of female gender expression. He reported feeling that if he was to cross-dress and be caught, he would dishonor his wife and family. Having attained international recognition for his work, he was also concerned about his professional reputation. The only other form of temporary relief came through masturbating, often up to five times a day.

Our work together over the last three years has been slow. However, with the help of extensive individual, group, and family psychotherapy, augmented by estrogen replacement therapy, with the full permission of his family, John has recently taken on a female name and is living full time in the female gender role. She is in the process of renewing and redefining her relationship with her family, and has successfully returned to work after an extended leave of absence”.

For the last few years I have been using masturbation to help control my dysphoria and put the feelings “back in the box” even if only temporarily. This means that when I come home from an outing I will try and put away thoughts of wanting to be Joanna by perhaps trying to reconnect with the guilt that an orgasm in women’s clothes once held for me. The orgasm no longer happens without some effort but it is nevertheless a tool in my arsenal to cope with my dysphoria.

With age, the relief periods have become quite short and I find being Joanna to be easy and comfortable such that without the crossdressing that I engage in on a daily basis the pressure would be too much for me to endure.

Anne's patient permitted herself no such outlet so the pressure built and built until panic attacks inevitably ensued.


Wednesday, 15 June 2016

the bad news for FOX

Well here is some good news.

The average FOX News viewer is 68 years old and white and you know what that means: it is a dying population. The politically and socially conservative (some would say regressive and prejudiced) news program has a population that is waning and completely out of touch with the more progressive and younger generation that is replacing it.

I only need to look at my children to realize how much more tolerant they are over issues that we just did not even discuss when I was their age.

The world is fast becoming a global village and we can no longer hide much. People are out in the open and there is little left to expose regarding the variances we see out in societies in every country of the world.

So while stupid and intolerant people have their own tailor-made news network for now, I have a lot of hope for future generations who will live in a more open world than mine was.

I still hope to have a number of years of witnessing this great change in society where people can be free and not persecuted for who they are.

Now that would be something to see because after the Orlando tragedy we could use a little more tolerance in this world.

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2550377/The-average-age-Fox-Viewers-68-majority-politically-conservative-white.html


The average age of viewers that watch Fox News are 68-years-old and almost all of them are white

Tuesday, 14 June 2016

being tall doesn't always mean being read

I used to fret about being too tall to be seen as a woman but then I learnt something: my worrying about it was affecting my demeanor such that the lack of confidence was having more impact than the actual height itself.

Now I am in stores and sometimes a sales girl will tell me how nice it must be to be tall. They see me as a tall woman and that has a lot to do with my change of attitude.

I now focus more on movement, demeanor and mostly just being happy with myself. The latter has by far the most impact and even the most perfectly dressed and petite person will stand out without that.

It’s all about attitude.


Monday, 13 June 2016

at a snail pace

Before puberty my dressing was just a normal part of who I was albeit hidden but after puberty it suddenly became something I began to see as a dysfunctional problem. I felt I needed to eradicate it if I was going to have a "normal" life.

Naturally the binge purge cycle that ensued post-puberty only reinforced my belief that I suffered from a problem. What I did not realise back then that this was gender dysphoria which I had no hand in creating.

Back in the 1970's there was very little literature available to us and in my desperate attempts to cure myself I suppressed as hard as I could until the pressure built once again to an insurmountable level. That cycle lasted for many years until I knew I needed to tackle this head on.

So it’s not that you crossdress that is so much the challenge but understanding what motivates it. If you enjoy it as relaxing activity that you indulge in from time to time then that is wonderful. If you are probably able to fit it into your life in a healthy way all the better. But for us who are gender dysphoric it's a little more insidious in that can form part of a strategy of management that sometimes doesn't fully work. I mentioned my GP's patient for whom this technique does not work and feels she must transition.

Admittedly going back and forth is not simple for me and I am trying to focus on my previous life commitments above all; mostly to my children. But even then I have yet to convince myself that full time living is for me. This is why I have been approaching the treatment of my dysphoria with such painstaking slowness.

By doing this I focus on remaining balanced and not jump into anything. My only promise to myself has been not to tamper with my body in any way as I don't view that as a necessity or even as a wish.

To a great extent a kind of social transition has already taken place but what remains to be seen is the final resting point. In other words, does the male clothing ever entirely disappear from my closet? Right now that remains doubtful.

I've only ever done important things methodically in my life and I would approach this issue no differently.

It's the only way I know how.

Sunday, 12 June 2016

transgender is not "normal"

Here is a well put together video by a young medical student. She clearly understands the subject and is responding to another video replete with ignorant comments made by someone else.

Watch and enjoy...

Saturday, 11 June 2016

the gap begins to close

When I was growing up we had no latitude in expressing gender in any other way than what was expected of us. Boys and girls had very defined gender roles they were to follow. In today’s world that is beginning to change and people with gender dysphoria are seeing other possibilities for themselves.

Androphilic transsexuals have always had a more logical if not easy path to transition since their gender identity and orientation align but gynephilics (certainly of my generation) chose to fight and conform until the dam broke later in life.

What we are seeing today is the age of transition gap between gynephilics and androphilics closing. This means that gynephilics are starting to see that dealing with their dysphoria can include the option of transition instead of suppression. They are thinking past the traditional role expected of them and choosing a different path where they can live as a lesbian woman rather than live a lie.

They are all over YouTube hiding in plain sight.

Therefore the old predictable model of late-transitioning gynephilic versus early-transitioning androphilic may be slowly disappearing.

Most of us who grew up in the 1960’s and 70’s invested a great deal of energy in trying to fulfill the male role. This means that it’s not an obvious way back for those who us who may want to transition later in life.

This is why dealing with your dysphoria earlier in life is always the preferable option.

Friday, 10 June 2016

wiping the dust from our feet

The transgender issue brings out such vitriol in some people.

If we think about it, most people are motivated by wanting to be accepted and loved but also sometimes motivated by fear. Those opting for the latter, weigh in on other’s people’s experiences with their own myopic vision which is colored by their limitations.

When I was young I understood nothing about homosexuality so I parroted what I heard and assumed that it was a choice. For many years this stereotype remained with me unquestioned. As I grew older and thought about it this belief made less and less sense and it culminated in a good friend of mine admitting to me that he was gay and how he struggled with it for so long. In the end he reached a state of self-acceptance and has been very happy for many years.

My original belief had been based on bias and misinformation I had acquired and not facts.

The internet is full of polarizing opinions on the subject of being transgender and people with their own personal agendas are weighing in. Once again, many are doing so with little information and with no real intent to understand. Instead they want their version of reality promoted.

That is not the same as truth.

It is hard sometimes to read ignorant comments and it makes us realize just how much work remains to be done. But in the end we must admit that human ignorance will not be wiped out entirely despite our best efforts. The best answer to ignorance is to live a fulfilling life, full of dignity and intelligence. Instead of anger and scorn you show people that their opinions do not affect its quality.

Like the apostles before us, sometimes the best defense in places where our presence is not desired is to simply wipe the dust from our feet and move on.


Wednesday, 8 June 2016

trans versus fetish

There seems to be two schools of thought which seem diametrically opposed but, for me, actually contain some overlap. These are that you are either transgender or you have a fetish.

That there is a sexual component connected to being transgender need not come as a surprise. After all how can you express a wish/need to be another gender and not have aspects of that desire be at least partially sexualized?

Today people have more choice than ever and can self-label as they like. Some are more content calling themselves a fetishist while others prefer the label transgender but if you examine their lives you may find a great degree of overlap between them.

For me, the "rubber hits the road" question is this: are you going to be happier living as the other gender yes or no? it’s actually that simple. Forget about the stigmatization of fetish = bad versus transgender = good. That is being moralistic where no such judgment should apply.

To pretend that transition does not work for some people who have experienced sexual fantasies to the idea of changing sex would be disingenuous because clearly it does.

I used to fall for this trap myself and now I don’t think it’s actually even possible to have male anatomy, be attracted to women and desire to be a female and not have that intrinsic contradiction show up in your sexual fantasies.

The trick is to understand this element exists and own it but also think past it. Because if that sexual component is the only thing that drives you towards a sense of gender identity you might be making a grave mistake. An erotic component need not necessarily invalidate a transgender identity. Just as one can enjoy expressing femininity and not feel in any way transgender.

The secret it to understand where you reside in that spectrum and proceed accordingly and that is easier said than done.


Tuesday, 7 June 2016

a visit to the doctor

I saw my doctor yesterday and besides the usual questions about my health he asked how I was managing with my dysphoria. I am one of only three patients among the 1,500 that he regularly sees who have experienced it. That puts us at 0.2% of his practice which is not far from the accepted percentage of transgender people among the general population of 0.3%.

Of the three, I am the only who has not transitioned or plans to. One did so 20 years ago while the other is in the process of embarking on a full transition at the age of 60.

I told my doctor that I am fine living the way I am and that I can put up with the dysphoria assuming that I can dress regularly. If it works why mess with it.

He told me that this transitioning patient could not go back and forth between male and female presentations. I can understand that as this is not for everyone.

My being on my own again is not changing anything and I am doing what is right for me. Should those feelings ever change I would then proceed perhaps to a social transition at most. My doctor thought that if I could maintain this type of lifestyle it might be best rather than embark on the full transition journey. He was basing his opinion on what this other patient was experiencing.

When he told this person that she was being brave, she apparently gave him the same response that I did which was: it’s not about being brave but more about running out of road and having little choice left.


Monday, 6 June 2016

sticking to the basics

As I become older I have become less formally religious and more spiritually-minded. This has meant abandoning a lot of the trappings of religion and adopting a wider and less intransigent view of the role of the divine in my life.

Let’s admit something: we don’t know anything about the nature of God. We cannot even conceptualize it because it is beyond our abilities as human beings. So it comes down to faith and the idea that we come from somewhere and our life is supposed to have meaning.

We have all sat there and stared up at the stars reflecting on the vastness and nature of the universe. Everything operates like a Swiss watch and yet there is randomness and chaos at the same time. It is hard to deny that there is vast intelligence behind it all and even if you go back to some big bang there is an origin point we cannot go beyond.

Many religious faiths espouse unyielding and unflinching elements that can inflict rigidity and possibly even stunt our spiritual growth. The most orthodox practices even resort to telling people what to wear or what to do during specific times.

A good analogy might be a verse in Corinthians:

“When I was a child, I spoke as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child: but when I became a man, I put away childish things”

This resonates with me as I endeavor to concentrate on the basics. Love your fellow human beings, yourself and to try to do good things for others while we are here on this earth. Everything else seems to fall away as pageantry that does not harm these objectives but does not add to them either.

My Catholic upbringing helped shape me but to some degree also enslaved me with a rigidity that prevented my self-acceptance. I have no one to blame because it was my own interpretation of what I was taught and my silence conspired to only make things worse.

But when you really reflect on it, even those basics I am trying to stick to are hard enough to succeed at.


Sunday, 5 June 2016

damaged goods

Rethinking everything I thought I understood about this issue took years which only proves that even people like me can have some degree of neuroplasticity in our brains.

There is a lot of effort involved in unlearning prejudices and preconceived ideas and studying this subject in depth was the only way that was going to happen for me. My background in physics and engineering almost demanded it.

In a way I've always envied people that go more by feel and don't need to delve into things. They know who they are and what they need to do. Now that I am older I see more value in that than ever.

I say this not just about being transgender but about everything.

As it turns out there was far more wiggle room in my life than I had imagined but I lived it as if there was an invisible container around me and I dare not step outside its boundaries. On the other hand living this way forged my discipline so I shouldn't complain.

A comment that Emma made the other day to one of my posts made me think. She said that for a long time she felt like damaged goods and that is exactly spot on. What a terrible thing to think and how many more of us felt the same?

But now in my fifties it feels so liberating its hard to even put into words.

Saturday, 4 June 2016

one person's journey

Some people transition later in life and Grace Stevens did so at 64 years of age.

In this Huffington Post article she chronicles some of her experience and long struggle with her gender identity:

"It was another snowy Friday morning, and I met my son and eight-month-old grandson at the mall. I always treasure these walks on the rainy, cold or snowy days where we can chat about almost anything.

My son started telling me that the afternoon before, he had ESPN radio on in the background, as he is a stay-at-home Dad taking care of the eight-month-old and his three-year-old sister. He said he had heard the guys on the radio talking about the latest stories about Bruce Jenner possibly transitioning genders at the age of 65. He said that, normally, he would have ignored it, except for the fact that I, his father, am a transgender woman. He went on about how the guys on the radio were ranting about how they don’t understand how, or why, a 65-year-old man would ever want to become a woman. Since I transitioned at the age of 64, I told my son that instead of whining that they didn’t understand — why they didn’t try to find out?

My son responded to me that even though I transitioned, and he accepts me completely, there are still so many things about transgender people that he does not understand. I know he is not alone, so perhaps I can help.

My name is Grace Anne Stevens, and even one decade ago, I did not have the words to understand all the deep feelings inside of me that kept fighting the outward “reality” that I was a man. I was in my mid-50s, and had three adult children trying to figure out their own lives, while I — the loving and supportive father, was battling a personal turmoil that no one could see. I was divorced and on my own after 25 years of marriage, and at the age of 58, returned to school to get my master’s degree in Counseling Psychology. Four years later, at age 62, I graduated having learned, among other things, that many of my classmates were trying to figure themselves out too.

This was a crucial time for me. I was finally able to come to terms with the reality that I was transgender, in fact, transsexual, and made my decision to transition. Not only did I find community, but I became a leader in the community. Over the past six years, I’ve met and become a trusted resource of hope and knowledge for many people on similar journeys, but that was not my only transition. I no longer work full-time in the engineering field. I now work as a mental health clinician in a substance abuse clinic. I do transition training in the corporate world and speak in schools. My work is dedicated to increasing transgender awareness, and helping others to support those in their groups who transition.

You’d be surprised by how busy I am. I devote many hours trying to find the words to help people understand what they don’t know about the transgender journey. As a transgender woman, father, mental health counselor and author, I’ve devoted myself to shedding light on what it’s like to come out as transgender. My book, No! Maybe? Yes! Living My Truth, is my story. I wrote it to defy the conventional wisdom that roots transitioning in secrecy and shame. The reality is confusing, and the words, for anyone, are hard to find. But those words must be found, because the decision to transition deserves understanding and respect.

So, that brings me to Bruce Jenner. We don’t know, but if the reports are, in fact, true, his own journey will be unique to him as mine was to me. I know it was challenging enough for me at age 64 to transition as a private person. For Jenner, a famous and beloved Olympic athlete living in the very public and over-exposed world of the Kardashians, we can only imagine his challenges. So, for those tempted to feed off of what will surely be sensationalized speculation, I offer three points of firsthand knowledge to help understand being transgender:

• Sex is not the same as gender: Sex refers to biology and anatomy, while gender is both a psychological sense of self, and a set of cultural defined norms that are expected to be adhered to.

• Being transgender is not a choice: We are just beginning to understand that, like sexual orientation, our gender identity is pre-wired in our brains.

• Transgender people have appeared in all cultures throughout our history, with some cultures accepting and honoring them and others rejecting them.

In our culture, the typical norm is: sex = gender = sexual orientation. When one is young and realizes their sense of self does not fit the norm, they often go in to hiding, and they find ways to overcompensate to keep their “secret.” The fear of not belonging and abandonment overshadow the inner need to be authentic. However, for many people, the hiding cannot last forever.

Most are often surprised, or even shocked to hear of someone transitioning gender in their 50s, 60s, 70s or even 80s. What we see is just the tip of the iceberg, not the lifelong internal struggle, or the decades of hiding and denial, or the lying to oneself about an unquestionable personal reality. We must go deep enough to understand, because only then can we have compassion for a transgender person who has been carrying such a heavy burden in isolation for so long.

What many don’t see is that for many transgender people the act of “coming out” and transitioning means to realize the loss of everyone and everything achieved in life, knowing you cannot go on living a lie. It is a conscious decision to live your authentic life after the years of hiding. It is knowing that to become visible is to accept your personal truth, because it outweighs the risk of losing what has mattered most in life until now. This is what is crucial to understand.

Reality is that, too often, editorial decisions are made to debate personal choices on the national stage. The game is to generate heat, not light, so the transgender conversation typically begins and ends with: “I don’t understand.” There is no acknowledgement of how difficult it is to make the choice to live as one’s authentic self. I can only hope that by telling my story, I can help shape an informative conversation grounded in knowledge and compassion. Our words have power, and when we find the right ones, understanding might not be so difficult. Let that be our goal."




Friday, 3 June 2016

The Atlantic gets it right

This very well written article summarizes the anxiety over bathrooms and, as I have been saying in my blog, there is more to it than first meets the eye. People aren't comfortable with the idea that gender and its expression might be fluid.

They may not care what you do in private but who you are is another story all together and this issue brushes up against something that is immutable for some people.

A worthwhile read to be sure..
http://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2016/05/americas-profound-gender-anxiety/484856/

Thursday, 2 June 2016

demagoguery

One thing that is universal is that as long as people have populated this planet there are those who presume to speak with knowledge they clearly don’t possess. They take their own life experience and use that to pronounce themselves on how things should be instead of how they are.

It’s a universal phenomenon and applicable to any issue you can think of.

If I could change one thing it would be that. If you lack the proper information about an issue and cannot relate to another person’s experience simply mind your own business and don’t pretend that you can counsel them.

The driving force behind this phenomenon is human fear and prejudice. We fear what we don’t understand and assume the worst.

Look at the fear and loathing coming from conservative circles over transgender bathrooms as an example. The hyperbole is staggering and suddenly transgender people are being portrayed as molesters rather than as people who don’t want to be persecuted for who they are.

This is fear mongering and pandering to the lowest common denominator.

Donald Trump, who is a demagogue in his own right, uses this strategy to perfection. He spews unintelligible statements and changes his mind on a daily basis on a variety of issues he barely understands but he does so with conviction say his supporters. They are as half-witted as he is and no more educated because we unfortunately live in an era of anti-intellectualism and faux-news that panders to a captive base.

I used to not understand how someone like Hitler was able to rise to power but now I do. Demagoguery can do much if you wrap it in patriotic speeches which fan the embers of deep-seated prejudices.

Human nature is what it is and some things improve while some get worse. It just seems to happen in cycles.


 

Wednesday, 1 June 2016

a model not meant or designed to help

There’s a simple reason why gender therapists who treat gender dysphoric people don’t wade into the origins of the condition: they are there primarily to help the patient and not to theorize about something we don’t fully understand.

When I was being treated at the Montreal General Hospital Gender Identity Clinic and, presuming they had bought into Blanchard’s toxic work, they could have told someone like me the following:

“You are an Autogynephilic transsexual whose primary driver for transition is that you get turned on by the idea of being a woman”

Or to an androphilic:

“You are a confused homosexual sissy boy who mistakenly thinks he ought to be a woman”

Well of course they wouldn’t and you can imagine that not many patients would see the treatment through if they did.

Gender therapists are there to help relieve the stress and confusion of people who have lived with gender dysphoria in many cases for decades. Their job is to assist them make up their own minds about what is best to improve the quality of their lives.

Blanchard’s theorizing of a two type taxonomy has instead served people with an agenda and these (in no particular order) are:

• Some older androphilic transsexuals who feel their legitimacy is threatened by allowing the possibility that gynephilics can also suffer from gender dysphoria
• Trans-exclusionary radical feminists (no explanation required)
• Truscum who are radical female to male transsexuals
• Conservatives and orthodox religious people who think all gender dysphorics are mentally ill

Who is pushing his work most online? Give you three guesses but the answer is all of the above. It’s not the gender therapists because they don’t have an agenda other than to help the patient.

I have my own proposition in that there is no such thing as a two type model but instead people from both sexes who suffer from gender dysphoria and experience it differently through the prism of sexual orientation. This is closer to the model that Harry Benjamin proposed and more than likely the correct one.

Blanchard’s model (now pushing 30 years of age) loses its universality since he left out female to male transsexuals who are clearly very much a real thing and far more visually present than they were in the late 1980’s. He also left out late-transitioning gay males (think Zagria of Gender Variance Who's Who fame).

As I posted here recently, even Anne Lawrence (one of the strongest and best-known defenders of Blanchard’s work) has rightly questioned its provability in her own writing.

To complicate matters further for Blanchardians, the only way their model can come close to working is that every single woman-loving patient who claimed to have a prepubescent history of gender dysphoria would need to be lying. This does not inspire confidence because I am betting the vast majority told the truth.

I know I certainly did because my naïve belief at the time was that they would be able to cure me.

Instead I eventually settled for self-acceptance.