Major Points: Every reputable mental health or medical association in the US denounces conversion or reparative “therapy” as harmful to its victims.
The United Nations defines reparative “therapy” of transgener people as torture.
The UN calls for national laws prohibiting conversion and reparative “therapy” and calls for prosecution of those who violate those laws.
Americans, particularly “Christian counselors” continue to engage in this practice, even though it is based on pseudoscience and its practice denounced by every reputable medical organization.
“Leelah’s Law” is being proposed to stop reparative “therapy” in the US on a national level, both in the interest of stopping the torture of children and in helping prevent more needless suicides.
I’d like to thank Lexie Cannes for bringing the UN report to my attention.
NOTE: This post was written for Leelah’s Law: Support the Ban on Conversion Therapy and is reprinted here. This post may be reproduced only if it is reproduced in its entirety, including copyright notices.
© Jody Ann Malsbury & The Transgender Human Rights Institute.
There is nothing therapeutic about so-called reparative “therapy.” The American Psychoanalytic Association (APsaA), in its 2012 “Position Statement on Attempts to Change Sexual Orientation, Gender Identity, or Gender Expression” stated:
Psychoanalytic technique does not encompass purposeful attempts to “convert,” “repair,” change or shift an individual’s sexual orientation, gender identity or gender expression. Such directed efforts are against fundamental principles of psychoanalytic treatment and often result in substantial psychological pain by reinforcing damage in internalized attitudes [emphasis added].
In fact, all other reputable medical and mental health professional associations in the US have denounced this practice: The American Psychiatric Association (APA), the National Association of Social Workers (NASW) the American Psychological Association (APA), the American Medical Association (AMA), and the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), just to name a few.
We Americans pride ourselves in being technologically innovative, socially advanced and somehow superior to the rest of the world. Despite the recent revelations about GW and the Torture Report revealing war crimes committed during his reign of terror, we Americans don’t generally view ourselves as barbaric people who torture children. Well, not so, according to the United Nations.
…“members of sexual minorities are disproportionately subjected to torture and other forms of ill-treatment because they fail to conform to socially constructed gender expectations. Indeed, discrimination on grounds of sexual orientation or gender identity may often contribute to the process of the dehumanization of the victim, which is often a necessary condition for torture and ill-treatment to take place.” [emphasis added] (page 19)
Discriminating against, denying or trying to change someone’s gender identity or gender expression is clearly dehumanizing, as it seeks to malign or erase a core part of someone’s concept of who they are. Among recommendations in the report were for all nations:
… to repeal any law allowing intrusive and irreversible treatments, including forced genital-normalizing surgery, involuntary sterilization, unethical experimentation, medical display, reparative therapies” or “conversion therapies”, when enforced or administered without the free and informed consent of the person concerned. [emphasis added] (page 23)
“Without the free and informed consent of the person concerned.” Why would someone consent to what the UN itself has defined as torture? In any case, a minor child is legally unable to provide informed consent, therefore, any parent who subjects their child to so-called reparative or conversion “therapy”—clearly defined as torture by the UN—is violating at least 3 of the UN’s recommendations:
- Torture (child abuse, really) in the form of reparative “therapy”
- Lack of informed consent
- Lack of consent by the person concerned.
Finally, the UN report also calls for all nations to:
Promote accountability for torture and ill-treatment in health-care settings by identifying laws, policies and practices that lead to abuse; and enable national preventive mechanisms to systematically monitor, receive complaints and initiate prosecutions…. [emphasis added] (page 21)
I guess we’ll have to wait and see when Leelah’s Law is enacted to see what the likelihood of anyone actually being prosecuted will be.
Jody Ann Malsbury, MSW
LCSW, Retired; license no longer active
Clinical Social Worker & Psychotherapist
The Transgender Human Rights Institute is the first 501(c)3 transgender international human rights organization specifically organized for transgender rights worldwide.
© Jody Ann Malsbury & The Transgender Human Rights Institute. This post may be reproduced only if it is reproduced in its entirety, including copyright notices.
- Transgender Teen’s Death a Call to Action (hrc.org)
- Want to stop LGBT teens from committing suicide? Ban conversion therapy (dailydot.com)
This post may piss some people off. If it pisses you off, please click on “About”, choose “This Blog” and read that page, particularly the last part about the purpose of this blog being my documenting my journey in understanding transgender and intersex issues and attempting to normalize the experiences of cisgender people to encourage them to take a similar journey.
I am being open and honest about my experiences and feelings, as ugly as some of them may seem to some of you. I’m a 55 year old cisgender woman who was socialized at a time when transgender people essentially did not exist: I have biases that I am trying to unlearn and am working to own my cisgender privilege. But I’m only human and 55 years of no information and misinformation is a lot to unlearn and it takes time; any cisgender person reading this needs to know that their feelings — their uncomfortable feelings of confusion, embarrassment, tentativeness about asking questions at the risk of offending anyone, etc. — are normal. It is difficult knowing someone as one gender, learning they are another and then adjusting to their transition, using the correct name, pronouns, etc., and transgender people need to realize that when we screw up it’s not always due to malice.
I have a transgender friend I met online 2 years ago before she came out publicly as trans. So I knew her by her birth name (I will use the name “Ron” — not her actual birth name) and her picture on Facebook was of a middle-aged, balding, male-bodied person.
I was involved in conversations when she chose her new name (I will call her “Carrie” — not her real name), and in private all of our friends called her by her new real name. But in public I could not do that, and her name still showed up as “Ron” and her pic was still of that same middle-aged guy.
Obviously, I would never out anyone, but I felt very uncomfortable calling my friend “Ron” and I knew that doing so would also make it even more difficult for me to see her as a woman as she transitioned, so I started calling her by her last name. This may sound weird to some, but seeing the name “Ron” accompanied by a male-bodied picture made it very difficult for me to see Carrie as a woman. I had to see my friend Carrie as a woman and I had to do everything I could to force my mind to ignore or forget information that might make me not see her as the woman she is.
I was “there” when Carrie came out publicly and it was a relief to be able to call her by her real name all the time. She changed her Facebook profile pic to a female picture, but it was a cartoon character, not a picture of her. So I have not been able to get that male-bodied pic of a middle-aged balding “man” out of my head, and with the name “Ron” associated with that pic in my head, it has been an onerous task getting the pronouns right when I talk to people about Carrie (without using her name, of course) and her transition. I would never deliberately misgender someone, but as a visual person, that picture has been stuck in my brain for 2 years and I have not been able to get it out.
Well today I finally saw that Carrie has posted pictures of herself on Facebook (and WordPress). Hallelujah! I realize that this is my issue and not Carrie’s or any other trans person’s but my difficulty with getting pronouns and gender straight in my head with conflicting visual cues is a valid experience and it gives credence to families’ and friends’ struggles with “getting it right” when someone they’ve known for many years comes out as trans. It is difficult for us cis people to “transition” with your transitioning for very real and understandable reasons that have nothing to do with transphobia, so please be patient with us.
Seeing what Carrie really looks like now makes me pretty confident that “Ron” and the image of “Ron” will quickly fade and I will no longer have any difficulties with pronouns when it comes to Carrie (and she looks great!) Carrie, if you see this: I wish I could express how confused, conflicted and guilty I have felt about my difficulties seeing you as a woman… all because of that stupid picture. ♥
I think it can be frustrating for communities when allies of that community, when they’re questioned or challenged, or critiqued, say, “Hey, wait a minute, don’t critique me, I’m your best friend, I’m an ally.” It’s like when white people point to the number of black friends they have, or men talk about the “binders full of women” that they’ve hired.
Columbia University Professor
More than once, a gay white man has angrily accused me of man-bashing and even called me a homophobic gay-bashing bigot (!) when I’ve pointed out their cisgender, male white privilege and the fact that most of the LGB…uh T civil rights movement has been focused on the rights of cisgender gay white men and has largely benefited cisgender gay white men, while largely neglecting issues affecting non-cisgender, non-male identified and other “queer”* individuals who do not identify as “gay,” and people of color. Here are words of enlightenment from a gay cisgender white man who actually gets it… with a description of how he got to “getting” it.
*The word “queer” is in quotation marks because I grew up in an era when this word was considered a slur. While I realize that younger people have chosen to “reclaim” the word and recognize that it does have its usefulness as a descriptor, I still have some discomfort in using it.
The following has been reprinted in its entirety from the Advocate:
BY JEFF KREHELY
FEBRUARY 07 2014 8:00 AM ET
The first thing an ally needs to know is that listening comes first. Following the recent controversy around Janet Mock’s appearances on Piers Morgan Live, this is the one message I hope self-professed allies can take away.
Unfortunately, I’m not sure they are.
Here’s what happened. Morgan hosted Mock, an incredible transgender advocate, on his show Tuesday night to discuss her autobiography, Redefining Realness. In the course of so doing, Morgan focused a good deal of the interview on her gender confirmation surgery, and the disclosure of her gender history to her boyfriend. Text on-screen said she “was a boy until age 18.”
To Morgan, the interview went off without a hitch. But Morgan, while an advocate of legal rights for transgender people, doesn’t seem to have a whole heck of a lot of understanding around the lived experiences of transgender people. Twitter, on the other hand, does. And transgender women of color and allies spoke up.
And it just got worse. In the follow-up interview, Morgan and a panelist essentially boiled it down to this logic: she talks about these subjects in her book; we talked about it. She was biologically male at some point, so calling her a boy is fine.
As Mock so astutely noted, sometimes well-intentioned and good people can be really offensive. And many of you reading this right now may still not get how offensive Morgan’s line of questioning, and lack of inquiry about other parts of her life, really is. But keep reading.
Being good, well intentioned, or liberal doesn’t mean you get it. And it doesn’t make you an ally. I know something about this myself — having worked in social justice for more than 15 years, I’ve had to do a whole lot of work to get to the ally point.
I was a 27-year-old openly gay man when I first met someone who openly identified as transgender. He was the boyfriend of a colleague of mine. And he was incredibly forthright about his journey and provided me with my first opportunity to understand what “gender identity” was all about.
I felt supportive, but I didn’t get it. And I wasn’t all that inclined to believe that his challenges were particularly wrapped up in mine. At that time, what are now known as LGBT organizations were very much about the L, the G, and sometimes the B.
Most white gay men like me — even liberal ones — didn’t have much incentive to pressure LGBT groups to expand their agenda, especially as the right-wing led efforts to outlaw our right to marry. Because of my own privileges, that was my main cause and my sole source of oppression in 2004 America.
A couple of years later, I stumbled into a professional LGBT job. And even though I could be hired with very little cultural competency when it came to transgender people, things suddenly came to a head. In 2007, gender identity was dropped from the House’s version of the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, and the LGBT movement declared war on itself.
I didn’t yet understand how keenly transgender people needed workplace equality. But the political wonk in me saw the fissure that had happened. And I knew if we couldn’t come together as a movement, we might as well surrender to the far right.
I was an advocate, but I wasn’t an ally.
But in the course of my work — directing research at the Movement Advancement Project — we decided to do a deep-dive on transgender issues. That meant a partnership with National Center for Transgender Equality and the Transgender Law Center.
We approached this research as we did all other projects, which meant that the first step for us was to interview and listen to advocates, researchers, and others who were squarely in the issue space. We spent several weeks reading pretty much everything that had been written on what transgender people go through in our country, including many first-person accounts of the struggles, strengths, and resiliency that define the lives of so many transgender people.
Mara Keisling at NCTE and Masen Davis at TLC were both incredibly patient with my learning curve, and it was clear to me they had had spent many seconds, minutes, and hours explaining transgender issues to other people like me. I was also struck by how effortlessly and sincerely they supported and understood LGB issues.
I’m not sure exactly when it happened, but at some point in doing this research, I finally understood what it meant to be an ally. I could suddenly see the common connections among the LGB and the T, as well as appreciate the stark differences and the many gradations in between. I also naturally felt a responsibility to treat transgender issues with as much — actually, probably more — passion as I did LGB issues.
Which is not to say that I’m an expert on all things transgender, or that I can ever really understand what it means to move through our culture as a transgender person. But I do know that almost every transgender person has to fight to be seen for who they truly are. And that transgender people — especially transgender women and even more so, transgender women of color — face harassment and violence in living authentically.
So back to that line of questioning. When CNN chose to label Mock “a boy for 18 years,” the network was complicit in denying Mock’s own truth — that she never identified as a boy. When Morgan dwelled on her disclosure to her boyfriend — without the addressing the fact that many transgender women have a legitimate fear they’ll be beaten or killed at the point of disclosure — they perpetuated the transphobia that fuels this violence.
Today a reporter wouldn’t think to ask my husband and me, “Who’s the wife?” But a network can still continue calling Mock a boy without blinking an eye.
I was an advocate for legal rights long before I was an ally. And being an ally is a continual process. As the conversations between Piers Morgan and Janet Mock are endlessly debated on Twitter, it strikes me that self-proclaimed transgender allies — which Morgan consistently asserts he is — need to step back and make sure they’ve done their homework.
It takes time and it doesn’t make for great ratings. But it’s the kind of work that creates change and — ultimately — liberation for all.
JEFF KREHELY is the chief foundation officer of the Human Rights Campaign. Interested in becoming a better ally to the transgender community? Check out HRC’s FAQ, the National Center for Transgender Equality, the Transgender Law Center, and the Trans People of Color Coalition.
…her interview with Carmen Carrera and Laverne Cox.
…and learns nothing from her own so-called “teachable moment.”
Reprinted from the Huffington Post
Posted: 01/14/2014 1:19 pm
Producer and host, ‘TransMilitary’;
member of the Board of Directors,
National Lesbian & Gay Journalists Association
Katie Couric totally missed what she referred to as the “teachable moment” in her interview with Carmen Carrera and Laverne Cox. Sadly, what she did do is reinforce the reality that society as a whole has a long way to go in coming to understand who they know themselves to be.
Couric’s questions said more about her — and her audience’s — ignorance of what is it to be human than it did about their lack of knowledge of being transgender.
At the crux of the situation is that sex does not equal gender. When we’re born we are assigned a sex based on what genitalia is seen between our legs. The error occurs when we make assumptions on someone’s gender based on that sex assignment label.
Assigning someone as female at birth does not mean their gender is female. Assigning someone as a male at birth does not mean their gender is male.
Gender can been seen with three different elements: 1) Who you know yourself to be, 2) how you express yourself to the world, and 3) how the world sees you.
Sex organs do not define gender. Regardless of what we have beneath our clothes our gender is defined in ways beyond our body. Further, the gender we know ourselves to be is a deeply personal experience — if we have the courage to explore it.
No one would ever ask, “Katie, what does your vagina look like today? You’ve given birth twice, right? Has it lost any elasticity?” So why should she ask Carrera what status her genitalia is currently in? How is that Couric’s or her audience’s right to know? And how is that relevant to the gender Carrera knows or expresses?
Asking about sex organs is a) inappropriate and b) shortsighted to understanding the experience of being transgender.
If Couric was more aware of her own gender she would never dare view Carrera as a person who should have to describe the anatomy between her legs. While it may be very personally pertinent to how Carrera feels as a human being, it is no one’s prerogative to use her genitalia or state of transition to make a judgment on her gender. It’s simply not relevant to how we should see Carrera.
With class and compassion Carrera and Cox seized upon the “teachable moment” themselves, highlighting the horrific violence, oppression and discrimination transgender people face. But what doubled the disappointment was that Couric did not listen. She had a list of questions in her head and could not lead the dialogue appropriately. She hadn’t even bothered to learn correct vocabulary, making her use of “transgenders” majorly cringe worthy.
Nonetheless, whether we are transgender or not, why should anyone care what anyone else’s genitals look like? We are all born with what we have and the only reason someone may assert that our body is ‘wrong’ is if that body doesn’t meet the expectation placed upon it. Remove the expectation and allow that human being to just be. Only we know what it’s like to experience being ourselves. Neither Carrera’s nor Couric’s genitalia define the “correctness” of their bodies.
People who are not transgender, who do indeed identify with their sex assigned at birth, are known as cisgender. I would make a guess that Couric is cisgender.
The cisgender obsession with transgender people’s sex organs indicates that cisgender people don’t really know enough about what defines their own state of being. Quite frankly, if as Couric says, “it’s still a mystery to some people,” then go read a biology book or Google it. Stop and think about what defines your own gender. Does Couric really think that it’s her own vagina that makes her a woman? If you’re curious as to the pain level of gender reassignment surgery (GRS) imagine the pain level of any other surgery. Or ask about the fearful pain of isolation due to cisgender lack of self-awareness and awareness of others.
If Couric wants to give a platform to raise awareness and understanding of what it is to be transgender, then she should help her audience come to understand gender dysphoria. Help them understand what it is like for the world to tell you that you’re somebody who you know deep down inside that you’re not. She should ask what it is like to find the courage to realize this. Then ask how you find the incredible bravery to share those thoughts and feeling with another person. Finally, in spite of transgender people facing massively higher rates of murder, rape, unemployment, homelessness, and many other terrors, ask how they find the valor to be who they authentically know they are.
After all of this, Couric’s response to the outcry was this is a “teachable moment.” Yeah, thanks to Carrera and Cox who made the lemonade! Okay, Couric’s train wreck did get people talking, which is always a good thing. But there was no apology. And how much did she, her employer, or her audience learn when today there’s a link on her website to “Meet the Children Who Feel They Were Born in the Wrong Body”? Really? If anything had been taught this should read, “Meet the Children Who Do Not Identify With Their Sex Assigned At Birth.” And again, there was no apology.
To understand more about being transgender we need to talk more about being human. We’re all assigned a sex at birth, but we don’t all agree with the gender that is associated with that original label. Some courageous people actually have the wherewithal to speak up, do something about it and live their life authentically, which is a lot more than many cisgender people do in the world.
Follow Fiona Dawson on Twitter: www.twitter.com/fionajdawson
- Being Transgender Is Not About Surgery (transcister.wordpress.com)
- Watch Two Trans Advocates Take Katie Couric To School (bilerico.com)
- Op-ed: Can The Media Please Stop Focusing on Trans People’s Bodies? (advocate.com)
- What Katie Couric Could Have Asked Her Transgender Guests Instead Of ‘The Question’ (thinkprogress.org)
- Laverne Cox shuts down Katie Couric when asked about her genitals (thegrio.com)
- Breasts, Penises, Vaginas and Why It’s Time to Look Past Them (bethlandau.com)
- Laverne Cox flawlessly shuts down Katie Couric’s invasive questions about transgender people (salon.com)
- Katie Couric Responds To Controversy Over Invasive Question About Transgender Guest (kiramoorescloset.wordpress.com)
- Katie Couric responds to controversy with Laverne Cox and Carmen Carrera (rollingout.com)
This is a story about Emma, a trans girl, mostly told by her mother. I first saw this on Suzan’s blog at http://womenborntranssexual.com/2013/06/22/emma-60-minutes/. After the video I have posted “grades” for the parents and the media regarding their behavior and apparent attitudes. (Preview: The media passes, but barely.)
The parents get an A+ for being totally supportive of Emma and honest and open about their experiences with Emma’s transgender status, particularly in such a public forum. The only fault I found with the mother is her reference to Emma not being “normal,” although this may be a language difference (there is a substantial difference between American English and Australian English)—she may have meant “not conforming to the ‘norm’ or the average, in which case she would be using “normal” as a statistical term.
Oh, where to start? The media gets a passing grade for covering the story at all, not over-sensationalizing and not acting like total morons. However they need to:
- STOP misgendering Emma by referring to her as a “boy.” Emma has never been a boy. She has ALWAYS been a girl.
- STOP misgendering Emma by referring to her as the parents’ “son.”
- STOP misgendering Emma by referring to her by her birth name. Her name is “Emma.” Have some respect and call her by her name. Do YOU like people calling YOU by an incorrect name?
- STOP, STOP, STOP misgendering Emma by using incorrect pronouns, and
- *F*F*S* it is not “in her her head.” Emma’s gender as a girl is real and it’s not going away. Is YOURS?
As I mentioned, I should have given the media an “F” for these behaviors. I begrudgingly gave them a passing grade for covering the story, not being totally insensitive and not being complete assholes—only partial ones.
The process or a period of changing from one state or condition to another.
Undergo or cause to undergo a process or period of transition: “we had to transition to a new set of products”
passage — change — crossing — transit
I have neglected this blog for a long time (geez! almost a year!) not because I don’t think it’s important, but because I have a lot going on in my life and writing is not easy for me. Actually, it’s because I am transitioning.
I am not trying to minimize the experiences of trans* people nor trying to equate my transitioning to gender transition, but there are some similarities, which I hope I can adequately articulate and not get my trans* friends pissed off at me (screw the RatFaux-Feminists.) I believe that many people are in constant transition, continually evolving, developing new relationships, learning from those people & those relationships and from other life experiences. I’m not sure that all people are continually transitioning, as some seem to stagnate and not appear to learn anything, nor do they seem to grow or improve as human beings (e.g., NOMmers, Westboro Baptist Church, and other fundamentalist christians who cherry-pick the bible to justify their ignorance and hate, etc.) I like to think that I am continually learning, growing, and becoming a more complete (not necessarily better 😉 ) person. Perhaps that is delusional thinking, but I am going to indulge myself anyway. After all, this is my blog and I am Queen. 😀
There are all kinds of life transitions and we celebrate many of them: Births, birthdays, onset of puberty, questioning and/or realizing that one does not adhere to society’s cisgender and/or heterosexual norm (I did NOT say “normal”— “norm” is a statistical term), coming out (or deciding not to) as transgender, lesbian, gay, bisexual, pansexual, etc., obtaining a driver’s license, a new job, voting for the first time, buying a car, starting high school/college/graduate school, graduations, starting/ending relationships, engagements, marriages, civil unions, anniversaries, divorces (yes, there are people who throw divorce parties), buying a house, relocating, children moving out of the house, onset of perimenopause and menopause, illnesses, changes (and possible limitations) related to aging… and, finally death—our own and those of family and friends. Some of these transitions are marked with single events, while some take place over a period of time. In talking to my trans* friends, I would conclude that coming out as transgender, real-life experience (RLE) (i.e., appearing in public dressed, groomed and presenting as one’s true gender,) beginning hormone therapy, and sex reassignment surgery (SRS) are among the major transition points in the life of a transgender person’s gender transition.
Before I try to describe my current transitioning (i.e., my rationalization for neglecting this blog, lol,) I am going to describe some events in my own life that may explain why I feel comfortable with trans women, and perhaps why I feel less comfortable with trans men (see my blog entry “A Penis? Uh… NO, thanks… No Penis for Me!” for my diatribe against trans men attending women’s colleges.) First, another definition:
Definition: A transgender person is someone whose personal idea of gender does not correlate with his or her assigned gender role. It does not exclusively refer to transsexual persons, i.e. those who are transitioning or have transitioned from one gender to another; all transsexual persons are transgender, but not all transgender persons are transsexual. A transgender person is anyone who fully accepts a gender identity—androgynous, hermaphroditic, intersex, transsexual, third gender, bigender, or otherwise gender non-conformist—does not match his or her assigned gender [emphasis added.]Common Misspellings: transgendered
At the risk of completely alienating all of my tran* friends, I am going to say it:
~ ducks, runs & hides, wondering how to get into Witness Protection… ~
According to the broad definition of “transgender” above, I contend that I would, in fact, be considered transgender.
Now, TAKE A DEEP BREATH! Allow me to explain. Again, I am not trying to equate my experience with those of my transgender sisters who are transgender in the conventional sense, i.e., born with a hormonal system and/or body parts (i.e., sex) that do/does not match their gender. I am a cisgender woman with all of the female parts (some people would argue vis-à-vis the presence of breasts, but hey, I’m 54 years old and… well… what goes up, must come down 😉 ) there has never been any question about this. But I received some confusing childhood gender-related messages and I have never been one to take on any role that someone else has decided and assigned to me.
I would say that a person begins developing their identity as a person with their name and assigned gender. What are the questions we ask when someone has a baby? “Is it a girl or a boy?” and “What is her/his name?” are the first 2 that come to my mind. And I would imagine that their name and presumed gender are the first 2 things a baby learns about themself from most parents (I don’t remember laying the gender thing on my daughter until later when I told her to be careful not to fall and crack her head open because her brains might fall out and she would turn into a boy….)
Let’s start with my name. I have a boy’s name. Okay, “Jody” is more common as a girl’s name now, but it is almost always spelled with an “i” or “ie” (or “ee”) instead of a “y”, and it was certainly uncommon back in the dark ages when I was born. When I was 3 or 4, Santa called me “Judy.” Yes, this could have been a simple & understandable error, but it’s happened my whole life whenever someone screwed up my name (which happened frequently) and already knew I was female. On the other hand, substitute teachers would take attendance, asking, “Jody? Where is he?” It was never, ever, ever “she.” And everyone, when learning that I am, in fact, female and my name is, in fact, spelled with a “y” would inform me that I spell my name “the boy’s way.” Dammit! I was a girl! And dammit! I didn’t pick the stupid name or decide how to spell it!
Until the 4th grade, my mother made me keep my hair short despite the fact that I wanted long hair. I don’t know whether my desire for long hair had anything to do with expressing femininity, I just wanted long hair, dammit! I do remember at least once or twice someone mistaking me for a boy in a very public way when I was prepubescent. It was humiliating—obviously, as I still remember it. In any case, despite having very thin hair due to a thyroid problem, at 54 years old my hair is almost down to my waist and if it would grow any longer, it would be even longer.
I remember how happy I was when my mother allowed me to pick out my own clothes—even those I would receive as Christmas and birthday gifts. I really hated some of the clothes she bought for me before that. I recall 1 specific incident about a teacher thinking that my raincoat belonged to a boy and this was expressed in a public and very humiliating manner. I’ve never gone for a lot of pink, ruffly lacy crap.
When I started elementary school, girls were not permitted to wear pants to school. Yes, this is true. When the policy changed and I told my mother I wanted to wear pants, at first she didn’t believe me (and I was a painfully honest child, so that created other issues) and then she reluctantly allowed me to wear “nice” pants, but only twice/week. I was what then was called a “tomboy” and didn’t like wearing dresses because I was very active and dresses are not conducive to, for example, doing cartwheels. I didn’t play with dolls or other “girl” toys (I never had a Barbie) and preferred to play outside, riding my bike, climbing trees, digging in the dirt or exploring the woods.
I clearly remember being at a community swimming pool with my entire family (I must have been about 11) and my parents very loudly discussing the hair on my legs and whether it was time for me to start shaving my legs. I was already extremely self-conscious (I think my mother had already started telling my sister that she was “the pretty one” and I was “the smart one”; you can imagine the messages we got from that!) and this public humiliation made it worse. And, no, my mother did not allow me to start shaving my legs for a couple of years after that even though kids made fun of my hairy legs.
Despite my perception that I had a body resembling that of a young boy, I started dating at 12½ and was “boy-crazy” for years. It wasn’t about sex: I didn’t have sex until almost 19. I came from a family that did not express love or affection either verbally or physically in any meaningful way, so that probably accounts for most of my need for romantic relationships (I couldn’t stand having anyone else touch me), but maybe I was also trying to prove my femininity… to the world or to myself. I don’t know. (Having recently been told by a rather, shall I say, “voluptuous” woman that I have the body of an adolescent boy, I LMAO and took it as a compliment! At my age that is definitely a good thing! Poor old witch didn’t mean it as a compliment though.)
In school I always did well in math & science which I was not “supposed” to do because I was a girl. Can you believe that BS? But I also did well in foreign languages and everything else. The one clear identity I always had was that of student (and employee) with a role to achieve and excel. And for the most part, I did. But I didn’t have a clear sense about what it meant to be a woman. When someone walked into a room with their baby, I was more likely to leave the room than I was to do the baby talk thing. I refused to let anyone push me into traditional roles but encountered pressures and stereotypes (especially when working in a male-dominated field) on an ongoing basis. Even when I changed fields and entered the female-dominated field of professional social work, I wasn’t the stereotypical social worker because I’m not the warm and pleasant touchy-feely outgoing type person that everyone likes; in fact, I’m quite introverted and don’t give a rat’s ass whether people like me or not.
When the biological clock kicked in and I gave birth to my daughter at 36, I assumed the role of mother in addition to employee. Naturally I wanted to excel. I read baby books, went to La Leche League meetings, read more books, talked to friends, read books, decided to ignore conflicting information I received from people I didn’t trust & to trust professionals and my own instincts, & read more books. I used cloth diapers, breastfed and made my own baby food. I did my best as a single parent to give my child the love, support & sense of identity I never got while growing up.
When I became disabled & no longer able to work I was absolutely devastated. Work had always been at the core of my identity, and until my daughter was born, my entire identity essentially revolved around work. When my child ended up in foster care (through no fault of mine—a very loonnngggg and unpleasant story) and having had my only remaining real identity in essence ripped from me, I was lost. I had been forced into several major transitions in my life but was so busy grieving the losses that I did not recognize the opportunities that these overlapping transitions precipitated by these horrendous life-altering events had provided for me.
I became an advocate and activist for LGBT people and others on Facebook. I learned about issues and hate groups, and helped get some hate pages/groups shut down on Facebook. I met 100s of new people, made new friends and revived friendships that had been inactive for decades. I learned the word “pomosexual” and have appropriated it to describe my sexual orientation. I learned the word “cisgender” and learned that I am one. I learned a lot about gender and am starting to wrap my head around the concept of non-binary gender. I learned (mostly by reading) a lot about transgender issues and developed friendships with several transgender women who I consider my sisters. I have learned about myself and learned to let the little things go and deal with the big things more calmly (which came with a price.) I know more about the foster care system in the State of Florida than anyone would ever want to know (it’s even worse than people think it is.) I learned that even people smart enough to graduate from law school can be too stupid to learn to understand that bipolar disorder is a medical—biological—disorder of the brain. I learned that you can’t fix stupid and no matter how good a parent you are and how you raise them, some kids just don’t turn out the way one would expect them to.
During and prior to that period of transitioning, I was subject to physical, psychological and emotional trauma and there were times that my life was literally in danger. I developed Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and continue to meet the full criteria for the disorder, although I am less frequently exposed to the source of trauma and lethality has been diminished by making some changes in my life. One of the things I had to do to survive during that time was to numb myself emotionally and I continue to experience “feeling[s] of detachment or estrangement from others” and “restricted range of affect (e.g., unable to have loving feelings.” Therefore, a primary goal in my current period of transition is to take back my life: i.e., to re-establish a stable sense of personal identity, become more functional physically & cognitively, work towards experiencing a wider range of emotions, feel productive—giving something back to the world, and find more purpose in my life. So, that’s what I’ve been doing. I think writing this has served some of these purposes. Why the hell you read it is beyond me. 🙂
How in the world can anyone look at Josie and see anything other than a beautiful little girl? All of my transgender/transsexual friends were once this little girl. For most of them, the world they lived in at the time was even more hostile than it is today and they had to live with the pain of feeling like a freak, being treated like a freak (or worse) and feeling the need to lie about who they really were for decades. Most were bullied any many the survivors of all types of violence: beatings, stabbings, rapes, etc., some at the hands of their own families. Most are currently in some stage of transition—some just contemplating starting RLE, i.e., real life experience, living full-time in the gender in which they are (vs. the one they were assigned at birth) and a few completed transition and sex reassignment surgery decades ago. A handful are still unable to live their lives as their real selves because of their own personal circumstances.
Whenever you see a trans* person, whenever you hear someone use the word “tranny” or tell a rude joke about transgender or transsexual people, or when you see a trans* person being bullied or harassed, think of this little girl Josie, and F-F-S, DO something—say something!
Please click on the picture of Josie, below. A new tab will open and you will be taken to the website. The video should begin automatically and the next one should begin when that one finishes; this should continue for a total of 6 videos. When finished watching the videos, close the tab to be returned here. I have included links to all 6 videos, in case you cannot watch all of them now and need to come back later. 😀
Transgender Child Predicts her Future. Josie Romero, an 11-year-old transgender child, reads a personal essay about her life today and what she sees in the future.
Living a Transgender Chlldhood, Part 1. Josie Romero, born a boy, believed she was born in the wrong body. By age 6, she was living as a girl.
Living a Transgender Childhood, Part 2. Fearing that Josie was becoming emotionally unstable due to her growing boy body, her mother Venessia decides that controversial hormone therapy could help her child.
Living a Transgender Childhood, Part 3. A moment of indecision from Josie Romero brings everything into question.
Hormone Treatment “Buys Time” for Transgender Kids. Dr. Norman Spack, one of the first American doctors to treat transgender with hormone “blockers,” explains how these puberty-suppressing drugs “buy time” for them.
First-TIme Doctor Visit for a Transgender Child. Nine-year-old Josie and her mother, Venessia pay their first visit to Dr. Johanna Olson, a pediatrician who specializes in transgender children at Children’s Hospital Los Angeles.
If you’re cisgender, have you ever even thought about these things? Probably not—you probably take these things for granted because you have “cisgender privilege.” Trans* people have to consider all of these on a daily basis.
30+ Examples of Cisgender Privilege
Use public restrooms without fear of verbal abuse, physical intimidation, or arrest.
Use public facilities such as gym locker rooms and store changing rooms without stares, fear, or anxiety.
Strangers don’t assume they can ask you what your genitals look like and how you have sex.
Your validity as a man/woman/human is not based on how much surgery you’ve had or how well you “pass” as non-transgender.
You have the ability to walk through the world and generally blend-in, not being constantly stared or gawked at, whispered about, pointed at, or laughed at because of your gender expression.
You can access gender exclusive spaces such as the Michigan Womyn’s Music Festival, Greek Life, or Take Back the Night and not be excluded due to your trans status.
Strangers call you by the name you provide, and don’t ask what your “real name” [birth name] is and then assume that they have a right to call you by that name.
You can reasonably assume that your ability to acquire a job, rent an apartment, or secure a loan will not be denied on the basis of your gender identity/expression.
You have the ability to flirt, engage in courtship, or form a relationship and not fear that your biological status may be cause for rejection or attack, nor will it cause your partner to question their sexual orientation.
If you end up in the emergency room, you do not have to worry that your gender will keep you from receiving appropriate treatment, or that all of your medical issues will be seen as a result of your gender.
Your identity is not considered a mental pathology (“gender identity disorder” in the DSM IV) by the psychological and medical establishments.
You have the ability to not worry about being placed in a sex-segregated detention center, holding facility, jail or prison that is incongruent with your identity.
You have the ability to not be profiled on the street as a sex worker because of your gender expression.
You are not required to undergo an extensive psychological evaluation in order to receive basic medical care.
You do not have to defend you right to be a part of “Queer,” and gays and lesbians will not try to exclude you from “their” equal rights movement because of your gender identity (or any equality movement, including feminist rights).
If you are murdered (or have any crime committed against you), your gender expression will not be used as a justification for your murder (“gay panic”) nor as a reason to coddle the perpetrators.
You can easily find role models and mentors to emulate who share your identity.
Hollywood accurately depicts people of your gender in films and television, and does not solely make your identity the focus of a dramatic storyline, or the punchline for a joke.
Be able to assume that everyone you encounter will understand your identity, and not think you’re confused, misled, or hell-bound when you reveal it to them.
Being able to purchase clothes that match your gender identity without being refused service/mocked by staff or questioned on your genitals.
Being able to purchase shoes that fit your gender expression without having to order them in special sizes or asking someone to custom-make them.
No stranger checking your identification or drivers license will ever insult or glare at you because your name or sex does not match the sex they believed you to be based on your gender expression.
You can reasonably assume that you will not be denied services at a hospital, bank, or other institution because the staff does not believe the gender marker on your ID card to match your gender identity.
Having your gender as an option on a form.
Being able to tick a box on a form without someone disagreeing, and telling you not to lie. Yes, this happens.
Not fearing interactions with police officers due to your gender identity.
Being able to go to places with friends on a whim knowing there will be bathrooms there you can use.
You don’t have to convince your parents of your true gender and/or have to earn your parents’ and siblings’ love and respect all over again.
You don’t have to remind your extended family over and over to use proper gender pronouns (e.g., after transitioning).
You don’t have to deal with old photographs that did not reflect who you truly are.
Knowing that if you’re dating someone they aren’t just looking to satisfy a curiosity or kink pertaining to your gender identity (e.g., the “novelty” of having sex with a trans person).
Being able to pretend that anatomy and gender are irrevocably entwined when having the “boy parts and girl parts” talk with children, instead of explaining the actual complexity of the issue.