Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Addendum: No more addenda

This blog was started to try to counteract the nonsense about transsexualism that is all over the internet. It reaches very few people. Nonsense prevails, and it seems to be getting worse, not better. One obscure blog can't change that.

At least an individual can escape from it and simply live life as it was intended. Hopefully that's you, if that's what you want. Everyone deserves a decent life.

When someone who is born transsexual completes treatment and then lets go of their birth defect, after a time something happens. The person can no longer truly remember having been any other way. They haven't forgotten their past, but the present is so strong that it colors everything that came before. And that only makes sense. Being the sex that's right for us is vital in a fundamental way that no one who has not experienced the discrepancy we have can really understand. The unreachable star for someone who was born transsexual is to have been born non-transsexual. The closer we can come to touching that star, the better.

(I imagine this might work better for women born with male anatomy than for men born with female anatomy. My only experience is with the former.)

We try to balance generosity with self-care. Occasionally, we might help someone with the same congenital condition or share our past with someone when there is reason to do so, but we must move beyond our birth condition so that we can grow into complete human beings. Unless we become complete human beings, any help we offer or sharing we do will be useless and perhaps even harmful. Thus, the balance is vital, both for ourselves and for others.

I say "we" and "our." I can really speak only for myself. I know what works for me. I am confident, however, that I am not alone in this.

Some do not leave their birth condition behind for reasons of their own. That is their choice. And of course there are others who cross-dress, bend gender, or live as. I cannot speak for any of these people. I just hope that they do not cause problems for those of us who were born transsexual, get treatment, and then need to move on. We do have certain needs, such as to change our documentation. We do not need a backlash.

So even though—or perhaps because—I have a low tolerance for nonsense, I need to leave the online battle against nonsense to others.

I hope never to read another post about "passing."

I hope never to read another post about getting gender performance "right" but claiming it's not a performance.

I hope never to read another post from someone who has not finished transition or who has not even started claiming to know what being the opposite sex is all about.

I hope never to read another post devaluing another's lived experience. People walk in their own shoes. They don't walk in anyone else's.

I hope never to read another post from a man in love with his own female illusion.

I hope never to read another post conflating sex and gender.

That last one will be more difficult. But at least the frequency can be reduced.

Best wishes,


Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Addendum: Take your medicine

The web seems to have more and more stories from people who consider their being transsexual, or transgender, or that supremely nebulous term "trans," simply as a variant from normal, like being left handed. They embrace their difference. They celebrate their difference. And they generally let others know that they are different and feel fine about it.

If that's how people experience their lives, fine with me. It's not for me to question the validity of their experience or to insist that it must be something other than the way they perceive it. So why do these same people question the validity of those of us who experience being transsexual as a medical condition that needs to be treated, and who leave the condition behind once it has been treated?

Truly, there is nothing pathological about being gender-variant. How we express ourselves, whether it's as society expects or something quite different, is just part the spectrum of being human. Societal expectations can be very restrictive, and there have always been those who break convention.

But that's gender. And gender is not sex. There have also always been those of us who knew we had been born the wrong anatomical sex. Since about the middle of the last century, medical science has been able to help us. We do all that we can to have what should have been ours from birth: the anatomical characteristics of the sex opposite the one we were labeled with when we were born. The principal medical interventions are hormone therapy and sex reassignment surgery. Once treated, we live whatever kind of life we want as the sex we always knew we should have been. Our gender expression is whatever feels right to us.

The important thing is that we knew we needed all that was medically available in order to live a normal life. That's why we take hormones. That's why we undergo surgery. We were born with a medical condition, and we have it treated as well as possible. For those for whom the diagnosis was correct, the treatment is remarkably successful.

Without medical intervention, we suffered. We could not embrace our condition. Many if not most of us tried, sometimes very hard. All the effort we made was to no avail. It wasn't weakness on our part. No one pathologized us. We followed no one's agenda. We simply recognized what we needed and had the matter taken care of.

Those who are outside the norm for sex or gender or both and consider themselves to be happy and healthy the way they are, more power to you. Whatever is going on with you, if you don't feel that it's a medical condition that needs treating or fixing, then please just be happy.

There is one question though. If your variance is not pathological, not a medical condition, then why do so many undergo hormone therapy? Seriously, if there's nothing wrong with you, then why are you treating this wellness with a very invasive medical procedure? Changing your sex hormones is not the same as undergoing a surgical procedure, but it's a major change.

You say there's nothing wrong with you. You don't need surgery. But you take hormones. I don't have a problem with that. Your body, your business. But I do have to wonder about the reasoning behind it, and about this claim that your condition is not medical. Something doesn't add up.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Addendum: The language of love

There are women. Women are adult female human beings. Most are born anatomically and neurologically female. A relative few are born neurologically female but anatomically male—a congenital disorder—and so must take corrective steps in order to be as fully female as possible in body as they are in their brain. Once they have done so, they are simply women.

There are also trans women. And even transwomen. I can't explain about them because I don't really understand. That's no matter, however, because they are more than willing to explain about themselves. It's their quotidian reality, and they are rarely quiet about it.

I read on the one hand that there is nothing wrong with their bodies, just the way they are. And yet I also read that they have, somehow, always been female. Not just neurologically, apparently, but completely female. And thus their having been reared as male was a mistake. And yet there is nothing wrong with their bodies. And yet usually they take hormones. I find this confusing.

I admit that I'm a bit old fashioned. For me, words have meanings apart from how I might feel about them. Using words in standard ways allows us to communicate with one another. But some people feel words and their meanings are not something to respect but rather something to manipulate, even to destroy.

In his novel 1984, George Orwell posited something similar. The totalitarian government in the book has invented Newspeak, a sharply reduced form of the English language, which was known as Oldspeak. "Ministry of Truth" (meaning propaganda) is Newspeak. So is "war is peace." The idea behind Newspeak is that when you control language, you control thought. If you can't express a concept with language, how can you actually think it?

An important Newspeak word is doublethink, which means holding two contraditory thoughts in one's head at the same time. "Female penis" is not a phrase that occurred in 1984, but it certainly has an Orwellian ring to it.

Those who do not think of themselves simply as women spend a great deal of time and energy trying to explain the unexplainable. "Female penis" is only the tip of the iceberg. Some conflate sex and gender. Others denigrate sex and promote gender as being more important, saying that what's between your legs doesn't count. They are women by their own assertion. They are women because they claim to be.

Those who use Oldspeak, also known as English, are called "transphobic." A transphobe can, of course, be someone who fears or hates transsexual or transgender people. In the language of Newspeak, however, a transphobe is someone who does not accept the party line or the "new reality." A transphobe is someone who calls a spade a spade and refuses to bend or even break the language to accommodate the wishes of some people for black to be white and hate to be love.

I feel sorry for heterosexual men and lesbian women in the future. I never, ever condone violence, but really, it's going to get difficult. Someone is going to have to figure out how to ask, delicately, that all-important question: "Are you the kind of woman with a vagina or the kind with a penis?" Because really, lesbian women and straight men don't care about any "cotton ceiling." They're attracted to adult females with the parts they expect. And there's nothing wrong or bigoted or transphobic about that.

There are male-assigned-at-birth people who want to be seen as female. There are MAAB people who take hormones but retain their male sex organs, wholly or partially. There are MAAB people who don't like the gender roles people tend to expect from them. None of this bothers me. It's their lives.

What bothers me is when people try to pretend reality doesn't exist, that it can be changed by how we speak of it. What bothers me is the twisting of language until saying anything clearly becomes difficult. What bothers me is the assertion that your sex, excuse me, gender, is whatever you claim it to be, and that some governments go along with this. What bothers me is the unfounded assertion that certain rights are owed and that anyone who questions those so-called rights is benighted rather than simply talking sense.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Addendum: "Out" is third-sex

With increasing visibility of people born transsexual (as well as gender-variant people) in the media, people probably think they know who and what people born transsexual are. In fact, they don't. Or rather, they know only about those born transsexual who are willing to "out" themselves, to be public, and to discuss their lives.

People, we live among you, and you don't even know it.

One of the fundamental divisions is not between those born transsexual and those who characterize themselves as transgender or some variant of that label, but rather between those who are "in" and those who are "out." Never shall the twain see eye to eye. And never shall the general public know any more about people born transsexual than they can learn from the "out" segment of the population.

I don't know if those who are "out" are a minority or a majority. I suspect the former, but how can anyone tell when the rest of us are virtually invisible, except for a few blogs written under pseudonyms? Those blogs, read by few and unlikely to be read by the general public, are the only way we can show what our lives are like, lives in which we simply live as the women and men we are. There is no "trans" in our lives. We do not go on television to tell people our former name, to show old pictures, and to discuss what our transition was like. Our stories are never told in articles in the Huffington Post. The only stories that are told are of people who are "out." And that means the picture is fundamentally skewed, or at least incomplete.

Take a look at that section in HuffPo, which falls under "Gay Voices" (a red flag right there). If it seems fine to you, then you have no idea who and what we are.

And yet most of us will not compromise our privacy. Because as soon as someone knows you were born transsexual, even the most enlightened person will see you just a little bit differently. They will, in fact, see you as different in that particular way, even if it really has nothing to do with your current life. They will always know that you were assigned a different sex at birth and brought up as a child of that sex. Even most of those who are reasonably enlightened have no idea that we have had to deal with a congenital disorder.

As for the unenlightened, the majority of people, forget it. They will show no mercy. Most of the comments about Miss Universe Canada contestant Jenna Talackova, a strikingly beautiful young woman, were disgusting and ignorant. And those are only the ones that the online sites allowed to be published.

People born transsexual who are public about their birth defect seem to think that being visible helps understanding. So far, that seems not to be true. I imagine it might change a few minds, but for the most part, anyone who is public is seen as a freak. The beautiful ones are called fake. The not-so-beautiful are "men in dresses." People born transsexual who are "out" might have correct sex markers on all their documentation, but by being open, they basically "third sex" themselves. Any understanding this engenders is fundamentally flawed.

That means that the people who watch documentaries and interviews and read articles will never know what the lives of most (I think it's most) people born transsexual are like. They know only about the "third sex" types. I'm guessing most people would be surprised to know how normal our lives are. We wouldn't make good TV or compelling reading. We're just not that unusual.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Addendum: Grasping at straws

At this point, there is no definitive answer as to the cause of the congenital disorder called transsexualism. Even though there are only tiny differences between the brains of males and females, those differences are important, especially the one that tells us whether we are female or male. There is evidence that the brains of those born transsexual are more like those of the sex they say they are than those of the sex their anatomy dictates. And it's reasonable to assume that the brain and body in these cases were virilized (or not) differently, since hormone-induced changes to the brain happen at a different point in gestation than hormone-induced changes to the rest of the body.

Still, no one knows why this happens. And some are determined to find some kind of reason—or perhaps justification would be a better word.

So some look at chromosomes. Somewhere between one in 500 and one in a thousand boys is born with the karyotype 47,XXY or its variant 47,XXY/46,XY Mosaic (meaning some cells have 47 chromosomes while others have 46). Those with 47,XXY are anatomically male, except in extremely rare cases (which happen with 46,XY as well) in which the SRY gene is not expressed on the Y chromosome. It's the presence and activation of SRY that determines maleness. The extra X chromosome does not change this.

All boys born with a 47,XXY karyotype have certain characteristics that are not overt, such as lower fertility. Some also exhibit certain physical characteristics, which are called Kleinfelter Syndrome (Kleinfelter Syndrome is not a synonym for 47,XXY). Regardless of symptoms, which can include gynecomastia, those with 47,XXY (minus the rare exceptions) are all male. Even though it is usually classified as an intersex condition, it is not so in the same sense as something like true hermaphrodism is. There are no female reproductive organs present as a result of 47,XXY (although 47,XXY can be co-morbid with other intersex conditions).

Nonetheless, 47,XXY and 47,XXY/46,XY Mosaic are sometimes trotted out to explain transsexualism. The lack of correlation does not stop people who feel a need to justify their condition, nor does it stop certain media from taking such justifications at face value.

Some with 47,XXY are also transsexual and change anatomical sex from male to female. But most who change anatomical sex from male to female are 46,XY, and most who are 47,XXY are not transsexual and do not change sex. Whatever causes transsexualism, it is independent of the number of chromosomes or the presence of an extra X.

It is unfortunate that misinformation abounds—that 47,XXY males are "partly female," that 47,XXY males are more likely to change sex, that 47,XXY explains sex change. A woman born transsexual (male-bodied) whose karyotype is 47,XXY and who exhibits typical Kleinfelter symptoms such as broader hips, less bodily hair, and gynecomastia might well end up being pleased with those symptoms, but the characteristics are only coincidentally feminine. They neither cause nor compel a sex change. There are also 46,XY nontranssexual males who have gynecomastia, whose hips are broader than normal, who have less bodily hair, whose testosterone levels are lower than normal, and whose fertility is reduced.

Transsexualism, as rare as it is, exists in people with 46,XY, 46,XX, 47,XXY, various Mosaic patterns, and pretty much any other viable karyotype that exists. Just as most people with 46 chromosomes are not born with transsexualism, most people with other chromosomal arrangements are also not born with transsexualism. If someone born transsexual feels a need to justify changing sex, they should seek the justification elsewhere rather than promulgate harmful misinformation.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Addendum: pronouns

Some people lament, or complain, that others won't use the pronoun of their choice to refer to them. They figure, what's the big deal? This is what I want, and it's no skin off your nose to comply with it. It's a matter of respect.

There's one problem with this: pronouns are not normally something we choose.

We go through much of life making snap judgments about the world around us. It's how we function. It's the part of our brain that uses heuristics—rules of thumb—to deal with information quickly. Sometimes, this intuitive system is wrong, but usually it's right, or at least close enough. Heuristics aren't much good at dealing with unusual or novel situations, but they work quite well for most of what we encounter on a daily basis.

When a person refers to another person as "her" or "him" or addresses a person as "sir" or "ma'am," that is generally coming from intuition. And it's an intuition about the other person's sex. The other person presents a number of clues—without any conscious effort—as to which sex they are, and the observer processes those in the blink of an eye, also without any conscious effort. A gendered term isn't about how we feel. It's about how others perceive us via the senses of sight, hearing, and smell.

Why gendered pronouns and terms? Because it's built into our brains. However primitive it might be, it's important to us whether a person is female or male, just as it is to any animal. The world is not binary with regard to gender. But there is such a thing as sexual dichotomy. No one can wish that away. It's fundamental to our species.

Some people have difficulty with sexual dichotomy and don't like the pronouns that automatically come their way. They don't feel like a "her" or a "him." They might feel the opposite. They might feel like a "they" or some variant on gender neutrality. And they want others to respect that.

Respect is good. But in this case, it is also difficult because it's counter-intuitive. And anything that's counter-intuitive slows you down and makes you work. It's not that this is a bad thing. It's just not the way we usually operate. If we always had to operate that way, we'd bog down completely. Life moves too quickly to ignore our heuristics.

If someone is a friend, we make the effort. We honor their choices and how they feel about themselves. We don't whine. We don't say how difficult it is for us. We don't make excuses. We just do as well as we can and get better at it over time. And if we can't, then maybe we and the other person are not such good friends.

Out in the wide world, it's a different story. Intuition and heuristics are still going to prevail. No one knows how you feel about yourself. No one knows what your preferences are. They will go by what they perceive. A person with thinning hair and a beard shadow who growls in a baritone voice is unlikely to hear "ma'am," regardless of how femme they dress, just as a person with a smooth face and broad hips who speaks in a gentle alto is unlikely to hear "sir," regardless of how butch they dress.

Sometimes, what a person wants is simply unreasonable.

There is one sure way to hear the gendered pronouns (and other gendered terms) that you desire—give off the clues that people expect. Make it easy for people's intuition. Be the sex that you feel you are—and that does not mean conforming to gender stereotypes.

Of course, this will not work if what you feel is not what shows, or if what you feel is something that doesn't fit with sexual dichotomy. If that's the case, you're in for an uphill battle, and it's likely that you will expend a great deal of energy fighting it. Choosing pronouns that are counter-intuitive means making other choices as well. Best wishes to you.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Addendum: Trans-

When is a prefix a word? When no one wants to say what the root is.

On a dating profile, a person says that they are trans. What information have they conveyed? How is a potential date supposed to interpret this?

The term transsexual is specific. To be born transsexual means to have a congenital defect in which the sex of the body and the sex of the brain (to oversimplify a bit) are out of sync. The cure is to change the hormone balance, surgically alter the sexual characteristics of the body, and allow the person to live as the sex their brain tells them they are. Male to female—straightforward. Female to male—more complicated, but the general idea is the same.

If the term transgender was non-specific, the term trans seems to be even more so. That seems to be why some people like it. They can convey that they are vaguely part of the already vague LGBT while saying almost nothing about themselves. "Trans" seems to mean anyone who is not male-bodied who lives as male in a societally acceptable masculine fashion, or female-bodied who lives as female in a societally acceptable feminine fashion, or anatomically intersexed (intersex, itself an overly broad term, is always separate from trans-anything).

You can't tell the players without a scorecard. In fact, you can't tell the players with a scorecard, because there are so many different scorecards.

People born transsexual, whether pre-op or post-op, whether lesbian, gay, bisexual, or asexual, even those who eschew "normal" gender expression, should avoid the non-word "trans" like the plague. If you were born transsexual, there is no need to obfuscate. And once you have successfully dealt with your birth defect, there is no need for any "trans" word at all.

Sadly, the non-word is everywhere. People who should know better use it and perpetuate the obfuscation, often in the name of some sort of inclusiveness or political correctness. People who do know better use it intentionally to obfuscate. When your purpose is to baffle people with bullshit, to deconstruct reality, to destroy the ability of words to convey specific meaning, then the last thing you want is anyone knowing what you are actually talking about.