On the Science of Changing Sex

The Truth Shall Set You Free…

Posted in Editorial by Kay Brown on March 19, 2010

CloudyI’m breaking from my normal policy of focusing strictly on the science of who we are, to address why I’m writing about that science.  Consider this a meta-discussion of the science.

Only a truthful exploration of who we really are can have any hope of bringing to an end the long suffering of so many in our community.  I lost my dear friend JoAnna McNamara, when post-op life could not end the real pain that she felt.  Over coffee, in my kitchen, she poured out her heart, telling me of so many painful events and unfulfilled hopes, losing her wife to divorce when she transitioned, not being able to find another, in-between strategizing about our transactivism and how to defeat  an odious anti-trans-bill in the Oregon legislature.  (We won, BTW.)  When I learned that she had taken her own life, I was not surprised, but I was deeply saddened.  For years, and even today, I would see something in the news and would think, I need to send a note to JoAnna… and then I remember.

So, I dedicate this blog to her memory, in the hope that we can learn more of who we are, who we really are, which may guide us towards better ways of dealing with our situations.

So who are we really?  The evidence, both scientific and simply by observation, shows that MTF transgendered people come in two flavors… and that there is a range of experiences for those two flavors.  One of those flavors is primarily gynephilic and autogynephilic, with identities and accommodations ranging from occasional cross-dressing to living full time as women with SRS and HRT.  The other flavor smoothly blends from very feminine androphilic males who live as women but don’t seek SRS/HRT to those who’ve had SRS/HRT, and finally to those who would be indistinguishable, in appearance and behavior, from girls/women by any save a physician.

I’ve been informed that many in the TG/TS community believe that this understanding of who we are means that those who accept this see TS women as less than women.  Frankly, there may be those… but I’m not one of them!

For the record:

I whole-heartedly experience and accept transfolk as they experience themselves.  We as transmen and transwomen deserve full respect as men and women, period.

So, why do I discuss the science in the language that I do?  Because that is how the literature is set up, both historically and presently.  For clarity sake, scientific descriptions of us have always used our original reproductive potential sex classification.  If I discuss the science in any other terms, I risk losing that clarity.  Although personally and socially, I am a woman (just ask my very straight husband !!!), and in no way “identify” as “homosexual” or any other term, I fully acknowledge that my apparent reproductive potential at birth was male.  Is that so shocking?  Is acknowledging that so hurtful of our community?  No.

Is discussing the biological and social etiology of who we are, and how we developed, so shocking, or hurtful of our community?  No.

Transphobic bigots don’t care what the science says… they would hate us even if we had 100% proof that our brains were 100% in accordance with our preferred social gender. Those that support and accept us would do so even if there was 100% proof that our brains were not so aligned.

Consider that the homophobes of the world are still hateful, though the DSM fully accepts being gay as a healthy variant of human sexuality.  Someday, autogynephilia will be accepted as such a healthy variant as well.  Heck, France has already acknowledged this.

Would not such acceptance come sooner, if those individuals who are autogynephilic, throw off the yoke of shame themselves first?

Addendum 4/7/2016:  JoAnna McNamara was a lovely woman with an amazing life.  While in college in the ’60s, she witnessed the senseless deaths of four of her classmates when the National Guard open fire on a peaceful anti-war protest at Kent State.  She earned a degree in engineering, married, had children.  But by the late ’80s, her gender dysphoria had grown to the point where she could no longer push it back.  Her transition cost her her family.  She returned to school to earn a law degree.  She then served on the staff of an openly gay male legislature in the Oregon House.  There she personally witnessed a backroom deal in which the transcommunity was thrown under the bus, excluded from the Oregon Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA) that was to protect gays and lesbians, as bargaining chip in negotiations.  She then changed her focus to helping transfolk with their legal wranglings with various government agencies.  In one case, she brought a complaint of employment discrimination to the Oregon Bureau of Labor and Industry, using the laws against discrimination against individuals with medical conditions to argue her case.  She won!  This became known in the local transcommunity as the BOLI Decision.  The forces of bigotry fought back the next legislative session by including a provision in a bill that would exclude transsexuals from such protections.  JoAnna asked me to work with her to lobby against the bill.

Using a one-two punch strategy, we would set up an appointment with a member of the legislature, then during the first part of the meeting, I would act like I was JoAnna’s assistant.  JoAnna did not pass well, so during this time, the legislative member and staff would assume that SHE was THE TRANSSEXUAL… and I was her non-transsexual female assistant… until the right moment came when I would out myself to explain that it was not just the inability to get hired as a known transsexual that was at stake, but that if one was already employed and one was discovered to be transsexual, one would then be fired, passed over for promotion, demoted, or harrassed to force one to quit, giving personal anecdotes of just such occurances.  The strategy worked.  We gained support for removal of the anti-trans language.  Then, when anti-trans forces clandestinely rearranged the public hearing schedule on the bill, JoAnna was apprised by a simpathetic staffer.  We had only 24 hours to rally the transcommunity, but using the It’s Time Oregon phone tree, we packed the house.  We won. The language was removed.

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