Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Transgender Trouble

Like a lot of people who identify as having Harry Benjamin Syndrome, I object to the use of the label "transgender" to refer to me. While this is objectionable to those of us with HBS, it is also harmful to others who are included under the imagined "transgender umbrella."

One aspect of the so-called "transgender" paradigm seems to be that all people considered to be under the transgender umbrella are basically the same, with the only differences being a matter of degree. That is, the only "real" difference between a cross-dresser and a "transsexual" is the degree to which they feel their "gender discomfort." This of course is not remotely accurate.

Another aspect of the transgender paradigm is the belief in a sort of "transgender hierarchy." This view seems to hold that there is a ranking to the various types of transgender person. The most common such scencario holds that crossdressers are on the lowest rung, followed upward by transgenderists (people who live full time, but who do not desire surgery), then pre-op "transsexuals", with post-op "transsexuals" at the top of the heap. Other versions may include a broader group of catergories, such as differentiating between crossdressers, and "transvestites," which are defined as those who only have a fetishistic desire to crossdress, or drag queens.

All of this is silly enough, but it leads to view that is actually dangerous, the idea that one can "advance" up this hierarchy. Now, it is entirely possible that someone might misindentify as a crossdresser and actually be a "transsexual," just as it is possible that someone might identify as a "transsexual," but actually be a crossdresser. But this quickly become obvious. A person who is truly HBS is not going to remain comfortable with the concepts associated with crossdressing. If, for example, such a person joins a group like Tri Ess, they will quickly discover that they have nothing in common with others who identify as crossdressers. If they research the subject, they will soon discover that they do not relate to the ideas often expressed by crossdressers.

But, in other cases, a person who really is a crossdresser will decide, for various reasons, that they wish to pursue SRS. The problem with this, is that a crossdresser derives his desire to crossdress, and his pleasure, from the idea of being a male dressed as a woman. If he ceases to be a male, then he loses that. He may try to replace that with the idea that he used to be a man, and for some that works, at least for a while. But for many, as the truth sinks in, they become depressed.

The simple bottom line is, those who are happy as crossdressers should stay crossdressers. If they feel the urge to advance they should fight it at all costs. They will never be happy as women, no matter how much they may try to convince themselves otherwise.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Fake ID

San Francisco, where I live, has decided that it will join some other cities in issuing ID cards, mainly to aid illegal immigrants. I am not completely happy with that idea. I mean, I favor the idea of helping people who wish to come here to work, but there do need to be some controls. This is the sort of thing that could be exploited by those whose purpose is not benign.

Because of pressure from the "transgender" they have decided to leave "gender" off of the cards . Just another reason I am really getting tired of their politics. Now, when I got my California ID (I don't currently have a driver's license, since I don't currently need one) it had my legal name, and listed my sex as female. This is in accordance with state rules that allow one to get a license with the sex changed if one is in transition towards surgery. Of course, that rule gets bent a lot, but that is another issue.

What I found extremely interesting is that someone from the Family Research Council objected to the new policy because it perpetuates the idea that "gender is a social construct." I bet he would be very surprised to discover that I, a person with HBS, who he would probably reject if he knew that, totally agrees with him on that particular issue.

I don't believe that at all. I believe that gender is inherent, intrinsic, and immutable. One is born with a brain that is wired either male, or female, and nothing can change that. If the brain does not match the body, then the proper term is Harry Benjamin Syndrome. Otherwise, while one might choose to behave in a manner that is inconsistent with both one's birth sex, and gender, that does not change one's gender.

Of course, I believe people have the right to live their life as they please, as long as they don't do anything that harms, or has the potential to harm, another. But I also believe in being honest.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

What's Wrong With Being Stealth?

The simple answer for transsexuals, or better, those with Harry Benjamin Syndrome, is "Absolutely nothing!" A lot of so-called "transgender activists" spend a lot of time whining about how people should be "out, loud, and proud" about being transgender. They heap attacks on anyone who dares "hide" claiming it is out of fear, or shame. And simply put, that is a complete load of hogwash.
Here is it is, another National Coming Out Day. Trangender activists will again demand that transsexuals "come out of the closet." And I will repeat what I have said many times before, "The closet is not applicable to transsexuals." You see, the primary reason for being stealth is not shame, or fear...it is because the alternative is to continue living a lie.
If you are "out," then it is pretty much impossible to live as the person you really are. As I have pointed out to many, people may say that they accept you as a woman, but they often qualify that to the point of it being meaningless. In fact, I have referred to this as being a "Woman, but...." as in, "Yes, she is a very nice woman, but....she used to be a man." No, I was never a man. I tried to pretend to be one, and I finally gave up and stopped trying to do that. Now, why would I want to link myself to that past?
Some actually seem to relish their "dual" status. They seem to want to keep one foot firmly in the past. I don't. I hated that life, and I want no part of it.
So, no thanks. I will pass on being "out, loud, and proud." No, instead, I am simply a woman, and proud of it.

Friday, September 28, 2007

The Problem with ENDA

Well, Barney Frank is about to have his way, and attempt to pass the Employment Non-Discrimination Act without including gender identity as a protected class. He argues, as he has for years, that Congress is just not ready to include "transgender" people.

Unfortunately, Frank has a point.

The "transgender" activists are reaping what they have sown. Transgender is a very broad term, so broad as to be effectively meaningless. And the terminology used in most laws protecting "transgender" people is deliberately vague, so as to be as inclusive as possible. The problem is, not all "transgender" behavior is equal. What most people probably envision when speaking of "transgender inclusion" is protecting people who are transsexual, and who are either in the process of transition, or who are post-transition. What the law, unfortunately would do, is extend protection to just about anything that can be claimed as related to "gender identity." For example, it would theoretically protect crossdressers who suddenly decide to show up for work dressed as a woman.

The law only seems to have two limitations. It does not apply to churches and it would not force people to share facilities where total nudity is inevitable. It does not contain any provisions that would prevent people from effectively deciding what their "gender identity" is on a daily, or even more frequent, basis. Imagine if an employee is a crossdresser and insists that when the mood strikes "him," he will show up for work dressed "en femme." Now, some might say, "So what?" And in some cases, that might be a legitimate question. But suppose he is in a position that requires public contact, and well, his appearance is a bit less than credible. Imagine that problems that might cause for his employer.

Sadly, we have a situation where there is not good outcome. If the law passes with the current provisions for protecting "transgender" people, it will create a nightmare situation that may well result in serious backlash. If it passes without those protections, then any and all discrimination, including that against peoeple with legitimate medical needs, such as those with Harry Benjamin Syndrome, will become totally legal anywhere where there are not already laws in place.

Wednesday, September 5, 2007

The Neverending Story....

The never ending story...

Anyone who has ever seen a typical horror film knows how it ends. The monster/serial killer/villain appears to be dead, everyone breathes a sigh of relief, the scary music starts up, as suddenly the monster/serial killer/villain sits up/reaches out of the grave/grabs the nearest potential victim by the throat, before being finally dispatched to the great beyond.

I had that same feeling recently when the Michael Bailey controversy, which we all thought had finally died down, roared back to life with the release of Alice Dreger's rather biased take on the entire mess entitled "The Controversy Surrounding The Man Who Would Be Queen: A Case History of the Politics of Science, Identity, and Sex in the Internet Age. Archives of Sexual Behavior" which is to be published in an upcoming edition of the Archives of Sexual Behavior.

Michael Bailey, for the benefit of those few who have not heard of this issue, is a psychology professor at Northwestern University. He wrote a book a few years back entitled "The Man Who Would Be Queen: The Science of Gender-Bending and Transsexualism." The book was a rather nasty attack on male to female transsexuals based on Ray Blanchard's rather bizarre theories that divide all transsexuals into two groups. According to Blanchard, we are all either gay men who become women to attract straight men, or we are straight men who are in love with ourselves as women. Bailey wrote the book to counter the idea that transsexuals are really women. He was trying to counter this view, which Randi Ettner presented in her excellent book, "Confessions of a Gender Defender."

So, one might ask, what's the big deal? Unfortunately, that is a hard question to answer. The simple bottom line is, the response to Bailey's rather nasty little book has turned out to be more than was warranted. Bailey's book did not have the effect that the author clearly intended, or that transsexuals feared. In the larger scheme of things, it turned out to be of little real consequence.

Still, Bailey's book was a nasty attack on transsexuals. It contained much misinformation, most of it based on Blanchard's pseudo-scientific claims about transsexuals. Blanchard is affiliated with the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health, formerly known as the Clarke Institute, in Toronto, Canada. The CAMH is notorious for its approach to the treatment of transsexuals. For example, it requires a year of living in the target gender before the patient is allowed to take hormones. This is far beyond any reasonable standard. The Standards of Care only requires 90 days of therapy. It is difficult, at best, for most people to accomplish the CAMH requirement. On top of that, they have a long standing reputation for only allowing low doses of hormones, far below the amounts needed for any therapeutic effect.

When Bailey's book came out, a lot of transsexuals feared the worst. It was thought that this book would be interpreted as fact and would lead to increased discrimination. In truth, it failed to make much of a mark. It got a small amount of notice from the right, but was otherwise largely ignored. Unfortunately, that did not stop some from reacting quickly to address the issues in the book.

The reaction was, at times, excessive. And those involved have admitted as much. But, the counter-reaction from the Bailey side was not much better. Bailey himself tried to remain above the fight, allowing others to make the attacks. For example, one somewhat notorious net-kook by the name of Willow Arune attacked Andrea James viciously, making numerous false claims. Arune also make false accusation of anti-Native American bias against Lynn Conway. That these attacks were made with the knowledge and at least tacit approval of Michael Bailey is obvious.

Eventually, things seemed to settle down. Bailey's book faded quickly, and things seemed to be largely forgotten. Until Dreger was called in to stir the pot again. The article makes two things clear. First, that Bailey really is not a nice man, especially as regards transsexuals, and secondly, that some people are not willing to let this matter end.

The article presents a very biased, one sided version of the events. In the first part, which is, one would presume, a reasonably accurate history of why the book was written, Bailey is exposed for his biases. In the second part, Dreger shows her own biases. It distorts the facts, and is largely a piece of yellow journalism.

And so, the battle began again. The dust is again settling. Is the monster finally dead? Or will their be a sequel?

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Some thoughts on "Transgender."

Welcome to my blog....

My name is Jennifer. For privacy reasons, I will just leave it at that. You see, unlike so many who call themselves "transgender," I am not "out, loud, and proud." Then again, I am not transgender. I had a condition known as Harry Benjamin Syndrome (formerly transsexualism) but now I am simply a woman. Still, in the hopes of helping others, I have decided to discretely discuss some of the issues surrounding this condition.

I would like to start by discussing a term that has come into common use, "transgender." Most people are familiar with it from it use as part of the more common "Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender or LGBT."

Let's start by looking at the term itself...


Hmmm, "trans" meaning to change, or cross over...."gender" meaning, well, gender. So, it appears to mean "to change gender." So, I guess the next question is, "What do we mean by gender? Now, that is a more involved question.

Originally, gender was primarily a language term. Some languages, in particular the Romance languages that developed out of Latin, use "gender." That is, word in languages like Spanish, French, and Italian can be either masculine, feminine, or neuter. For example, in Spanish, the phrase el niño mean "the boy," el being the masculine form of "the" and niño being the masculine form of "child." Likewise, la niña means "the girl," with la being the feminine form of "the" and niña being the feminine form of "child."

Now, that is a very simple example of a much more complex subject. But, or topic is not Spanish. In more recent times, the term "gender" has been adopted to refer to that which makes a person intrinsically a man or a woman. Now, I didn't say, male or female...that's generally a matter of sex, that is whether you are an "innie" or an "outie." That is, penis equals male, vagina equals female. But, man or woman, which is more of a spiritual, mental, emotional sort of thing.

To put it in more scientific terms, social scientists have come to realize that even though for the vast majority of humanity their inner sense of being male or female matches their physical sex, in rare cases, this is not the case. That is, some people are born with the mind of a woman, but the body of a man, or vice versa. There is actually a physical basis for this, which will be discussed in a later article.
So, they decided to separate this inner sense of being man or woman from sex, and they used the term gender to describe it. As some put it, gender is what is between your ears, and sex is what is between your legs.

So, it would appear that "transgender" simply means to change one's gender. But it is not that simple. Gender is, as far as can be determined, immutable. That is, one cannot change this inner sense of self by any known means. So what does "transgender" mean?
Well, while some would use the above definition anyway, others would say that it means to "transcend" or "transgress" gender. This is popular among people who don't care for the binary gender paradigm, the idea that people are either men or women. At the extremes, some of these people identify as gender variant, or gender queer. They deliberately attempt to appear as a mix of both male and female. Some go so far as to demand that people refer to them by so called "gender neutral" pronouns, such as "zie" and "hir." One problem they run into is that there is no generally accepted standards for such pronouns, so what usually results is simply confusion.

Now, since the simple meaning of the word does not seem to work very well, we need to look a little deeper at what "transgender" really means. Let's start at the beginning....
Before people started using transgender, the world was a lot simpler. There were transvestites and there were transsexuals. Transvestites were men, usually straight, who liked to wear women's clothes, often for erotic reasons. Women, of course, often wear men's clothes, but nobody seems to care that much, perhaps because doing so for erotic reasons is pretty much unheard of. Transsexuals were people who were born one sex, but who believed that they should be the opposite sex.
Then, a transvestite who used the pseudonyms Charles Prince as a male, and Virginia Prince when presenting as a woman. Prince became some of an activist for transvestite rights, and wrote several articles on the subject, as well as starting the group that would come to be known as Tri Ess, a sort of social club for transvestites.
Prince also developed a rather strong dislike for transsexuals. Some have suggested that this resulted from Prince being turned down as a candidate for sex reassignment surgery (SRS). Whatever the reason, Prince did not like transsexuals, and worked very hard to convince people to not have the surgery.

Prince was fond of coming up with newer terms to replace "transvestite," One, crossdresser, has become common. Others failed to catch on. One of the terms Prince coined in the 1970s, which some still use, was "transgenderist," which Prince defined as a person who takes on the characteristics and lifestyle of a member of the opposite sex full time, but without any plans to have SRS.

Over time, some people, believing that there was strength in numbers, decided that it would be a wise political move for people who were transvestites, transgenderists, gender queers, and transsexuals to unite under a common umbrella term. The term that was chosen was, of course, "transgender." Exactly when this term moved from describing people who did not wish to have SRS to being an umbrella term but it was probably sometime in the 1980s. By the 1990s it had entered common usage.
I think the best way of describing the current use of "transgender" is that it is an artificial social/ political construct that attempts to unite a diverse set of behaviors into a single entity. Unfortunately, it simply doesn't work.

The term "transgender" has come to be applied to an ever expanding collection of identities and behaviors. These include, transvestites, crossdressers, transgenderists, drag queens, drag kings, effeminate gay men, masculine lesbians, bois, sissy maids, androgynes, genderqueers... and who knows what else. Oh, and according to some, transsexuals.

Many transsexuals object to being included under the label of "transgender." It links them to groups that they have nothing in common with. In fact, locally, here in San Francisco, it is increasingly being urged to speak in terms of "transgender and transsexual," because of just such objections.

And to make things even more confusing, some people define transgender as referring "to a person who is born with the genetic traits of one gender but the internalized identity of another gender." Such a definition includes transsexuals (actually, it is a good definition of transsexual) but excludes the others who fall under the transgender umbrella. For example, transvestites have a male gender identity. In fact, for transvestites, having that male gender identity is important. They want to be men dressing as women.
So, the next, obvious question is, "Why do so many insist on including transsexuals under the transgender umbrella?" Well, like so much that surrounds this issue, there is no single, simple answer. There are actually several distinct reasons.
First, there are the die hard "transgender." These are people for whom "transgender" has taken on a meaning that is, quite simply, beyond reality. They are the true believers for whom "transgender" is not just an artificial construct, but a very deeply held part of their identity. At the extreme are those who do not identify as male or female, but as "transgender."
These true believers become terribly distraught if someone dares question the concept. To them, transgender is not just an artificial construct. It is a very real thing. They will attack anyone they think should identify as transgender, but who doesn't. They literally try to force the label on people. These people think that they are the leading edge of great societal revolution. They seem to think that humanity is just waiting, every so anxiously, to be lead by them to a new golden age of freedom from the very tyranny of gender. And if all of this sounds almost like some sort of bizarre religion, well it almost is.
Of course, that is all pure bunk. The vast, overwhelming majority of society is quite happy with the binary gender system, and is not remotely interested in being saved from it.

The next group are those who see "transgender" as more of a political cause. For them, "transgender" links them to the greater LGBT whole. They view themselves as being part of a great political movement. Sometimes the lines between this group, and the true believers gets fuzzy. They believe that they can ride the coat tails of things like gay marriage, and laws prohibiting discrimination against gays to winning protections for "transgender" people.

The problem with all of this is that "transgender" is, for political purposes, a very meaningless concept. The rights needed by people with HBS are vastly different in many ways from the rights needed by crossdressers, and others who fall under the transgender umbrella. For example, in almost every state, it is possible for a person to have their birth certificate changed after SRS. Unfortunately, some who are transgender will decide that that right should be extended to anyone who wishes to make the change. I'm sorry, but that is ludicrous. Changing a birth certificate recognizes a very real, physical change bringing the body into alignment with the brain. Providing this for anyone who claims to be transgender simply renders the entire thing meaningless.

Another area where the "transgender" label causes problems is employment rights. There is no question that transgender people need employment protections. Some studies show unemployment rates for transgender people as high as 70%, and that figure comes from San Francisco where such laws exist. Now, the question is, how should such a law work? It is one thing to say that you cannot fire someone for being "trangender." It is another to say that you have to always allow someone who is a crossdresser to come to work dressed as woman whenever it suits them. That sort of thing just alienates people.

Then there are those who use "transgender" because it is the "politically correct" term. Again, this is particularly common here in San Francisco, where LGBT is a major force in politics. But, it just creates confusion. For example, the City of San Francisco's employee health plan speaks of providing "transgender health benefits," including paying for hormones and SRS. But "transgender" people don't need surgical benefits, transsexuals do.
And finally, there are simply those who use "transgender" because they don't know any better. The term has become so common, that many people simply use because it appears to be the correct term. That is why I tend to correct people when they do this.
The bottom line is simple. Transgender has become such a broad term that it is rapidly losing any real meaning. That, and people who are transsexual, or as prefer, HBS, simply are not transgender.