On the Science of Changing Sex

Folklore Gender Tests

Posted in Autobiographical, Transsexual Field Studies by Kay Brown on September 17, 2018

Kay BrownGender “tests” found in fiction and folklore… Or… Nailed It !!

When I was in middle school, one of my classmates, a friendly acquaintance and I were standing in an interminably long slow line for some reason I’ve long ago forgotten.  Bored and reaching for something to amuse herself she challenged me to a “gender test” to see if I was a “boy or a girl”.  It consisted of three items.

The first item was to light a match.  From a book of matches I pulled one out, turned it so that the wider edge aligned with the striker strip so that when I pushed it along away from me it wouldn’t bend in my fingers.  “Oops!” my friend says… I “failed”.  According to this test, women light their matches in this fashion while men pull the flat of the match head along the striker toward their body.  The theory is that women are more careful to keep the flame away from their fingers and body than men.

The second was to ask the testee to look at her/his shoe soles, the bottoms of their feet, while standing.  I no longer remember if I “passed” or “failed” this item of the test.  But I remember that men are supposed to turn their legs and ankle in front, looking straight down.  Women are supposed to bend their knee so that their foot rises up behind them and look over their shoulder.  It may be because of the difference in dress standards for men and women (boys and girls) in that age?  Men are wearing trousers while women are wearing skirts.  It may look unseemly for women wearing knee-length skirts to bend forward, but lifting their leg backward with such skirts is not?

Fashion does impose limits on movement or convenience.  In Huckleberry Finn, our hero runs away and hides by impersonating a girl.  An old woman tests and catches him out by tossing a ball of yarn while his hands are full holding a skein.  He instinctively pulls his knees together to form a larger catching surface.  Gotcha!  A girl, used to long full skirts fashionable in the mid-19th Century would have spread her legs instead to let the skirt catch the ball.  But, consider asking a woman in that era to look at the bottom of her feet encumbered by such a skirt.  She isn’t as likely to bend her leg up behind her, only to catch on her long skirt.  More likely, she would have lifted her skirt slightly and bent her leg, hidden behind the skirt (and much like a curtsy), and turned the ankle to look straight down.

The third and final item was to “look at your nails”.  I naturally held my hands out in front of me, my fingers straight.  “Oops!” my friend says, “you failed the test!  You do things like a girl.  You need to be more careful.”  She looked at me as though to tell me more but I cut her off, changing the subject.

When men look at their nails, they near universally bend their fingers toward their palms.  Women are far more likely to hold their fingers straight, bending their wrists slightly backwards.  Although this may be reinforced by the fashion of long nails, in fact, this “hyperflexion” as its called is very common in girls and feminine boys from an early age, even when not looking at their nails.

Later, in high school, as I was in the early process of coming out and socially transitioning, I sat having a friendly chat with one of my female friends who suddenly grabbed by hands exclaiming that she would teach me how to groom my nails.  She explained in a happy rush that boys didn’t groom their cuticles or trim their nails properly, etc.  “You need to learn how to gently push back your cuticles like this…” then stopped dead as she actually saw, really looked, at my nails for the first time… and saw that my cuticles were perfectly groomed.  “I groom them in the bath, push them back after they soften in the water.”  Up to that moment, I honestly had never given it much thought.  Of course I kept my nails clean, neat, and very slightly longer than most boys but not to the point where it would set my mother off on one of her ugly transphobic harangues.  I had been doing so for years.  My nails looked much like my friend’s!  My friend had made the erroneous assumption that I didn’t have a clue about feminine grooming skills.

Within weeks of that conversation, the narrative was flipped.  I was doing her make-up, as well as several others of my friends, anytime they had “big dates”.  There is a very telling inside joke told in the trans community about transwomen.  “How can you tell the difference between an early transitioner (HSTS) and a late transitioner (AGP)?”…   “An early transitioner is happy to do her female friend’s make up for them as she does it better… while a late transitioner needs her wife do her make-up for her.”

Speaking of nails and autogynephiles.  On a social media forum, I was corresponding with several women who were discussing transgender issues.  Some were welcoming my explanations of autogynephilic behavior and motivations and the obvious differences between HSTS and AGP transwomen while one clearly transphobic woman hatefully rejected the two type taxonomy declaring we were all “deluded perverts”… and deliberately tried to push me off the forum insultingly telling me to “Go do your nails!”.  Sigh…

I flashed back to the memory of my friend from high school… and several others.

It reminded me of an anecdote in Amy Bloom’s essay “Conservative Men In Conservative Dresses” in which a woman related how she was expected to clean up the dishes after dinner while her husband applied polish to his nails to allow him to express his “inner femininity”.  That image says volumes.

That in turn lead to another memory…

I’m on a blind date with a man who knew he would be meeting a post-op transwoman and was open to the experience.  I was told that he was a trust-fund baby, etc., so I had dressed nice to meet him at a trendy cafe.  One look told me that I had been lied to.  This man was clearly NOCD (“not our class, dear”) as the saying goes.  He was slovenly dressed.  He was poorly educated and boorish.  His family may have left him some money but he clearly was an unemployed bum, an unemployable LOSER.  I tried to find a polite way of ducking out early but he seemed to be unable to take a hint.  Further, he was absolutely fascinated by me and kept asking questions.  I wanted to avoid making a scene so was being as polite and hushed voiced as I could.  I was trying to avoid making eye contact as a way of discouraging him so focused on his hands resting on the table as he leaned toward me.  There was something odd about his hands.  Not only were they not really clean, his nails were a tad bit too long, They were rough surfaced, the ridges clearly visible, the cuticles ragged, poorly groomed… but wait… was that clear nail polish on them.  Oh My God!  This man was a secret cross-dresser, an autogynephile!  As this realization was sinking in…  suddenly something I had said in answering his questions about myself set him off.  He became quite excited, his voice raised a bit as he asked several more questions, which concerned me lest others overhear.  Then in answering a question about my childhood he burst out very loudly, “You’re a TRUE TRANSSEXUAL!”.  People at other tables clearly heard and turned to look at me.  I was mortified and no longer felt the need to be polite so looked him in the eye and told him to lower his voice and that I was leaving.  He tried to apologize but I ducked out.

Whew!  Good riddance… only it wasn’t.  He found out where I lived, what my number was… and stalked me for months, sending me gifts, notes, calling me.  My roommates had to sheild me.  I finally told him that if he didn’t stop, I would turn to the law… and told him that he needed to get therapy to deal with his obsession.  I also made it very clear that I would never date a cross-dresser which finally got through to him that I would never be his girlfriend.

External Further Reading:

Amy Bloom, “Conservative Men In Conservative Dresses”

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Pose: A Look at Transgender Realities

Posted in Autobiographical, Film Review by Kay Brown on June 30, 2018

Kay BrownMy husband and I have been watching a great new drama show on FX, POSE.  I don’t normally watch shows with a transgender theme.  They usually either misrepresent us, make fun of us, or we are the designated tragic losers.  But Pose is different.  As Janet Mock, one of the writers for the show and an important voice in how the show was developed and what issues it covers, said, the show “centers transwomen of color”.  Yes, it does that, and a whole lot more.  It also, by the simple statistical reality that transwomen of color in the US are far more likely to be exclusively androphilic early transitioners, the show centers “homosexual transsexuals” (HSTS).  I love the mix of black, puerto rican, and white transwomen in the show.  This being set in New York, that fits the local demographics.  (Here on the west coast, our mix also includes meso-american hispanic, Filipino, and chinese.)

I haven’t seen a single “late transitioner” being portrayed.  Even better, they don’t make the oft mistake of conflating the two types.  No, we see only one type, as they really are.

This essay is less a review than an educational exposition.  Because the show focuses on HSTS in a realistic way, in a way that I have never seen a TV show actually do before, it offers me an opportunity to connect the science, sociology, psychology, history, to a show that you can watch and connect the dots.

Not all of those dots are flattering.  In the very first episode we see Electra Abundance, a house mother of a collection of trans & gay youth, lead her crew on a caper to steal 18th Century court dress from a museum just so that they could outshine their competition at a Ball.  At least one of the crew, Angel, is a sex worker on the street.  In a later episode, we see a bisexual young man, one of House of Evangelista is a street drug dealer.  Yes, it was like real life, but it still hurts to see stereotypes of street kids, gay and trans alike, as petty criminals.  Electra and Angel have sugar daddies that help get them off the street.  On the other hand, we see Blanca, the mother of the House of Evangelista working a real job at a nail salon.  This too is very realistic.  Very few transwomen who end up on the margins of society when young ever climb very far on their own.

Speaking of throwaways, the show opens with heart wrenching scene of a gay teen being thrown out of his family by homophobic parents.  Blanca and Angel both relate ugly stories of being rejected by their families as kids.  (Been there, done that!)  The show gives us a glimpse of how transwomen form houses and in essence are the social workers that provide group homes for throw away queer kids.  They have been doing this for a very long time.

As the show is set in the late ’80s, there is an ever-present pall hanging over the characters, “the plague”, HIV/AIDS.  At the time, being HIV+ was literally a death sentence.  There is a powerful reminder that though thousands of people were dying, then President Reagan couldn’t even bring himself to mention it.  Homophobes literally saw it as ‘God’s Punishment’ on queer folk.  In the opening scene of the first episode, we meet Blanca as she learns that she is HIV+.  She is a strong woman and decides that knowing that she may get sick and die soon, she is determined to make the world a better place by creating her own house built on love and encouragement for her charges.  She hides that she is HIV+, but works to educate others on safer sex practices.  In another episode, we see AIDS patients in the hospital being treated as pariahs; in one case hospital staff refused to enter the room to deliver their meal.  In another vignette an older gay man cajoles three younger men to get tested at a clinic.  We see three of them joyful that they tested negative, but the older man is first devastated, then puts on a brave face to lie about his own HIV+ status.

Allow me to switch to a few personal anecdotes.  I’m 61 years old now… I lived through all of this.  We first began to suspect something was wrong with the first hints were a rash of young men getting a rare cancer.  I vividly reading a cartoon in the gay press, must have been 1980 (?) that read, “I’m glad I’m middle-aged… too young to get old man’s Karposi’s carcinoma and too old to get young man’s Karposi’s.”  I remember standing in line to see a movie at the Castro Theatre and recognizing Karposi’s lesions on a man’s face.  Then, gay men and HSTS transwomen started dying of lots of illnesses that shouldn’t have been killing them.  I remember talking to one of my childhood friends trying to explain all of this, including the various theories, some of them incredibly homophobic such as the notion that gay men were dying because of too much partying, drugs, and of course, sex.  But then it became more obvious that this was an infectious agent that was sexually transmitted.  The fear was palpable.

My own sex life took a very steep nose-dive.  I was then recently post-op, but I had been having unprotected sex with men as an exclusive bottom for years before that.  I had never even seen a condom.  Why should I?  It wasn’t like I was going to get pregnant, more’s the pity.  Sure, there were STDs… but antibiotics could take care if it.  I learned about and how to use a condom at a safer sex house party hosted by members of the Gay & Lesbian Alliance at Stanford.  Like the men in the show, I was too afraid to learn my HIV status when testing became available; but my good friend and sister transactivist, Joy Shaffer, M.D. then a medical resident working with HIV/AIDS patients in the hospital when many others refused, insisted.  Joy and her girlfriend Patricia went with me to the clinic.  They were obviously not in a high risk group, but got tested alongside me to offer encouragement.  I was negative.  I felt relief… but the fear was still there.  My sex life remained much more restrained for a good many years later, until I got married.

Public Service Advertisement:

Practice Safer Sex!  Keep and use condoms.  EVERY TIME!!  Learn about and take PrEP medications to reduce your chances of becoming HIV+.

Now, back to our regularly scheduled show.

Because this show has writers that are themselves early transitioners, we see some intimate details that aren’t usually portrayed.  For instance, we see in one episode that not only are HSTS obligate bottoms, but that they are also “avoidant”.  That is, that they would prefer not to have their pre-op genitalia touched during sex.  Just to make sure the audience understands that this is universal, both Electra and Angel have discussions with their sugar daddy boyfriends about it.  As Electra’s boyfriend puts it, “What?! You didn’t think I noticed you grimace when I touch you there?”  This detail, of course, is almost never discussed or portrayed elsewhere because most of those shows wish to portray young transwomen as sex toys for “chasers”.  In this same show, we learn that Electra’s and Angel’s boyfriends are both chasers, gynandromorphophilic.  That is, they both prefer pre-op transwomen and want to touch their lover’s pre-op genitalia.  Electra is faced with the prospect of losing her man if she has SRS, but decides to go ahead, for her own sake.  Angel, upon learning that her man is a chaser, is repulsed and loudly orders him to leave.

The writers seem to know their history.  In one of the episodes, we see Blanca angered by the blatant transphobia from the ‘straight looking – straight acting’ gay male crowd at a local bar.  She attempts to use civil rights style counter sit-in tactics to force the bar to accept her presence and to serve her.  But that bar uses bouncers and even the police to enforce their ‘no queens’ policy, deliberately insulting and misgendering her.  The gay men at the bar cheer as Blanca is arrested for no real reason.  I see this as a metaphor for the way that much of the larger gay and lesbian community mistreated the transcommunity from the early ’70s through the late ’90s.

The show is singularly refreshing and I look forward to viewing the rest of the season.

Further Reading:

Essay on correlation between non-white ethnicity and HSTS

Essay on HSTS being ‘avoidant’

Essay on gynandromorphophilia

Essay on historic transphobia in the gay and lesbian communities

External Further Reading

‘We’re More Than Capable’: Pose Stars Push Back on Cis Actors Playing Trans Roles by Maiysha Kai

Pose Writer Janet Mock on Making History with Trans Story Telling by Janet Mock

“When Are Trans Actors Allowed to Act?” by Hannah Giorgis in the Atlantic
The FX drama Pose is the rare example of a show that actually gives trans actors top billing—an effort made all the more urgent by a recent controversy that saw Scarlett Johansson cast as a transgender man.

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Detransitioners Are NOT The Enemy

Posted in Autobiographical, Editorial by Kay Brown on June 21, 2018

Kay BrownTransgender folks should not fear detransitioners.

When I was 18 years old, on my own, effectively disowned by my family.  (I say effectively, as I was given a meagre allowance with the stipulation that I was NOT to come home or be seen by any of the family’s connections.)  I was fully socially transitioned and was just beginning HRT.  I had found a room to rent with kitchen and bathroom privileges.  The owner, a young divorced mom with a young daughter and her twenty something brother lived downstairs.  Two other women rented rooms upstairs.  Oh… and they often had boyfriends spend the night… so this wasn’t some female only space by any means.  In fact, I even had a date with the brother, went to a Jr. College dance together.  I couldn’t really afford the rent, so I did babysitting of the daughter in exchange to lower it to what I could afford.  I should mention that I couldn’t afford to eat either!  I went hungry for weeks at a time.  One of my high school friends found out about that and organized a food drive for me.  I ate a lot of strange stuff from cans for a while !  After several months of this… well, disaster struck.  I got read and outed.  No one in that house wanted a transsexual in the house, I was forced to leave.

So much for the theory that if people know an LGBT person, their hatred will be reduced… not in 1975 it didn’t.

So, I had to find a new place, fast… and I didn’t have enough money to rent my own space, no matter how humble.  I didn’t know a single transperson.  I had never met a transperson.  I was completely alone, no community, no mentors, no one I could turn to.

I was told about a place called the Alternative Community Center, where they had a bulletin board listing housing.  I hoped that I could find an LGBT friendly space.  I inquired at a goodly number of situations… While I found plenty of L friendly spaces, some G friendly spaces… there did NOT seem to be any T friendly spaces… In fact, in one mixed house I got quite the cold shoulder, openly hostile and vile comments.  But as I walked out, one of the straight men, ran after me and excitedly talked to me, actually trying to flirt with me, then admitted he was a closeted cross-dresser (i.e. a gynandrophilic autogynephile)… and while he clearly wanted to be my buddy, he also wouldn’t stick his neck out to support my joining the house-hold.  I was becoming depressed and disparate.  Then, my luck changed.

A very butch lesbian had a room available in a rented house near the beach.  She explained that it was temporary, it being winter, the off-season, so she had rented it dirt cheap.  I could have the room dirt cheap.  Her name was Curly Hummingbird.  She was totally cool with me being MTF trans.  I couldn’t believe my luck.

Living there was comforting and I felt more than welcome.  Curly even set me up with a man.  She loved sharing with me that all her lesbian friends had the hots for me.  She didn’t tell them I was trans.  She also made it VERY clear that she too found me attractive.

As time went on, we had many late night discussions.  It turned out that she was a detransitioner.  She had lived for three years passing as a man.  Yes, when gays, lesbians, and straights were all horribly transphobic when confronted by an actual transperson, a detransitioner was my savior.

After several months, winter turned to springtime weather and the house rent went up.  Curly was moving on and so must I.  I thought I had found a new savior, a mid-twenties, self-described “straight” transwoman I had met at the Stanford Clinic’s “Grooming Seminar Series”.  But she turned out to be a predator instead (as I wrote about years ago in another essay).  So, I learned that transwomen could be even worse than detransitioners.

But interestingly, at that “seminar”, Dr. Laub, Sr., the surgeon of the clinic made an announcement that one of the popular members of that little community of autogynephilic transwomen had decided to detransition AFTER having SRS.  This sent shock waves through most of the attendees, save for one twenty-something lesbian identified post-op who philosophized that “he” had found what he needed on his life’s journey and that no one should feel sad about the situation.

Thus, the earliest lessons I learned in the transcommunity… detransitioning was real.  It happened.  It was not tragic… and they were not my enemy.

Having said that, I will admit that there is one very loud asshat of a detransitioner who clearly is our enemy, Walt Heyer.  But notice that he seems to be the lone voice, beloved by the transphobic alt-right and Xtian Right alike.  He is the exception that proves the rule.

Finally, I want to point out that someone who begins social transition and/or HRT but backs away from that in a short period of time should perhaps not be considered a detransitioner?  After all, we used to have a consensus in the caregiving community that there should be a “Real Life Test” period sufficient to determine if such transition and medical interventions were the right thing for a given individual.  Perhaps we need to view such “detransitions” as not being detransitions so much as having conducted the medical / social / psychological tests and found that they were not right and count that as a win?

Oh, Curly, if you read this, please contact me?  It would be great to catch up after all of these years.

Further Reading:

Essay on Tranwoman as Predator

External Further Reading:

“I Wanted To Take My Body Off”: Detransitioned

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Shameful History of Reparitive Therapy of Transgender and Gay Children & Youth

Posted in Autobiographical, Editorial by Kay Brown on June 11, 2018

Kay BrownThere is an ongoing ‘war of words’ concerning the best course of treatment for gender atypical & dysphoric youth.  Lately, as our society has learned to accept and even celebrate LGBT youth, there has been a reaction from religious and reactionary bigots who would wish to return to the days when parents and medical caregivers could treat gender atypicality as a serious psychiatric disorder that needed drastic interventions in and of itself, rather than a non-pathological variance found in all human societies.  So, perhaps its time to review the history of such interventions in the light of more recent scientific and humanitarian knowledge.

First, one must understand that historically, gender atypicality concerns were mostly focused on male children, sissies.  It was often assumed that ‘tomboys’ would outgrow it, but sissy boys would all too likely grow up to be homosexual or transsexual, both equally considered as disordered, criminal, and to be avoided at all costs.

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To understand the nature of a given intervention one must first understand the underlying assumptions about the etiology of gender atypicality, dysphoria, and sexual orientation that a given intervention was designed to address.  During the mid-20th Century several competing theories vied with each other but there was a common thread, that of a disturbance of nurture.  That is to say, that they rejected the role of biology and focused on the environment.  So, if the environment is broken, so will the child be.  From there, several theories emerge, first up, faulty family constellation, lack of “appropriate” role modeling, and the “Smother Mother”.

The faulty family constellation theory is from observations that many children grow up in so-called “broken homes”, where single mothers are raising children on her own, with no man in her life.  The theory is that a boy child simply has no male role model and thus learns only feminine behavior and identification.  But, this wasn’t true of all feminine boys.  So, another term was added, the “emotionally absent” father.  This was a man, who though physically present in the home, rejected his son and thus failed to mold the young boy’s behavior toward the “healthy” masculine norm.  Of course, a modern understanding would be that the boy’s femininity had been the cause of the rejection by a homophobic father, not the other way around.  Also, many masculine heterosexual boys had grown up in single mother households, so they had to add the term “vulnerable” to the description of the boys, that is to say, only those who were “vulnerable” to this absence developed into sissies.

The theory also holds that the mother in these families tends to ‘smother’ a boy, hold him close to her body for excessively long periods, ‘tie him to her apron strings’, etc., such that he can’t form a separate gender identity, or even any identity, of his own.

The intervention designed to ‘fix’ the faulty family constellation is to introduce a “healthy” masculine male role model to the boy and encourage identification and subsequent modeling upon that man.  Since it isn’t always practical to require a single mother to find a suitable husband willing to take on the task of ‘toughening up’ the sissy boy, the goal is to place the boy in therapy sessions with a suitable role modeling therapist.  For a pre-teen this would often mean “play therapy” with sex typed boys toys.  Ideally, there would also be family therapy where the boy’s father would be encouraged to take a greater role in the child’s upbringing and similar withdrawal of the mother’s involvement.  Playing with girl’s toys is to be actively denied, taking away beloved toys and dolls, often lampooned as “Drop the Barby” therapy.  Another aspect would be to restrict the boy from having female friends and require them to participate in single sex activities such as scouting, etc. where they are often exposed to peer disapproval and even bullying.  It sounds almost gentle and acceptable… but underneath, the message to the child is that they are not “ok”, that there is something wrong with them, that they are not lovable as they are, leading to reduced self-esteem and increased loneliness.

While we can all applaud the idea of family intervention to encourage more paternal involvement and bonding, the idea of decreased maternal involvement is simply not justified given that we now know that the faulty family constellation theory is just plain bogus.  Further, if a homophobic father can’t step up and bond with a feminine boy, that boy will need his mother’s acceptance all the more.  Further, placing the blame upon the mother for having “encouraged” the boy’s femininity in this manner is just plain evil.

{Personal Note:  At the age of ten, during the ’67-’68 school year, I was sent to such “play therapy” with Dr. Peters (you can’t make this stuff up), a tall bearded man in a large room filled with toys.  I don’t remember seeing any girl’s toys in the room, ever.  According to my parents, separately, since they divorced when I was a teen, I trust that they were both being candid with me, it had been the school psychologist who had insisted that I be refered to Dr. Peters and only Dr. Peters.  This would also explain why my teachers interfered with my female friendships and forced me to interact with boys in class, and there was nothing subtle about it.  —  What I find saddening about the episode is that in my case, the faulty family constellation theory is completely reversed.  My mother, though an amazingly capable and caring parent, was the one who became emotionally unavailable and rejecting.  It was my good fortune that my Dad was always a very warm, loving, caring, and devoted father to all four of his children… though, if we are all honest about it, I was likely his favorite.}

Another intervention that gained some currency in the mid to late 20th Century is, in effect, to place a child into a Skinner Box, that is to say, create a deliberate reward & punishment system, in therapy, in the home, and in the classroom, in which gender typical behavior is consistently recognized and rewarded, perhaps with tokens redeemable for desirable privileges, while gender atypical behavior is penalized.  This type of environment is often used in cases of extremely “disturbed”, aggressive, or violent children and teens where cooperative behavior is rewarded and aggression is penalized.  Here, the theory is that child is held to be “gender disturbed”, expanding the definition used for one class of children requiring extraordinarily harsh and controlling interventions to another.  There were a number of ‘therapist / researchers’ who have published and recommended such interventions using just this pathologizing language.

One of these, George Rekers, a self-hating closeted gay man, not content to label gender atypical boys “disturbed”, not satisfied with the stigmatizing term “effeminate” boy, coined the even more powerfully pathologizing and stigmatizing term “feminoid” in the manner of the racist stigmatizing of those with Down’s Syndrome as “mongoloid”.  One of Reker’s recommendations included abusively “spanking” (beating actually) young feminine boys when they committed some feminine behavioral infraction.  Interestingly, Rekers own research showed that such feminine boys were essentially like gender typical girls,

The amount of feminine play by the feminoid boys was found to be significantly greater than that of normal boys, but not significantly different from the predominantly feminine play patterns of the normal girls.”

Imagine putting a gender typical girl through this… yes, that’s the moral and psychological equivalent.  I can’t even begin to express how evil I find this so-called “therapy”.  And this is what some parents and pundits wish us to resume?

Special Note:

One of the most important and yet at the same time, distressing aspects of this shameful history is that these abusive interventions came out of the University of California Los Angeles (UCLA) in the late ’60s and ’70s.  At the very heart and center of this was Robert Stoller and Richard Green.  It was Dr. Green who gathered together these vulnerable gender atypical children to allow graduate students to conduct this shameful “research”.  Rekers, in his published paper on the “treatment” (read: torture) of Kirk Murphy (aka Kraig), thanks Dr. Green for providing him his victim.  Further, Dr. Green was personally involved in the research.  Knowing this has certainly lowered my esteem for Dr. Green who I had previously held in high regard.

External Reading:

https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/George_Alan_Rekers

http://www.cnn.com/2011/US/06/07/sissy.boy.experiment/index.html

What Are Little Boys Made Of?

References:

Rekers, G., Yates, C., “Sex-typed play in feminoid boys versus normal boys and girls”, Journal of Abnormal Child Psychology
https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/BF00917600

GEORGE A. REKERS AND 0. IVAR LovAAs, “BEHAVIORAL TREATMENT OF DEVIANT SEX-ROLE BEHAVIORS IN A MALE CHILD”, Journal of Applied Behaviorial Analysis (1974)
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1311956/pdf/jaba00060-0003.pdf

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Transphobic Propaganda Aimed at Parents of Transgender Kids

Posted in Autobiographical, Editorial, Transgender Youth by Kay Brown on June 9, 2018

Kay BrownI’ve been interacting with parents of transkids for many years now.  What they go through is heart wrenching.  I’ve talked to both supportive and non-supportive parents.  I’ve talked to even more transfolk, both those who were transkids and those who were adult transitioners.  Each was impacted either positively or negatively by their parents attitudes… but none were hurt more than those transkids who had been emotionally abused or abandoned by their parents as teens.

TransSupportUntil the advent of ubiquitous social media, the main means of “trashing trannies” was mass media and churches.  But now, with social media, parents of transfolk are bombarded with conflicting messaging from all sides and can have difficulty knowing which information to trust.  Just as in politics, there is now a great deal of “fake news”, propaganda, misinformation, half-truths, even outright lies to be found online.  Some of it from people whose only interest is to hurt transfolk because of religious or socially formed trans- and homophobia.  Some of it is from transphobic parents of transkids themselves.  There are even websites and discussion fora created by these very same parents bringing together such like-minded folks to create a wave of disinformation, fear, uncertainty, and doubt in others so as to bolster their own decisions to deny their own children the respect, agency, and medical services they so clearly need.

In this post I will actively gather such propaganda and explore how it works and why it is wrong.  My goal is to help parents recognize when others are trying to manipulate their emotions to effect their decision-making.  This will be an ongoing effort so this essay will be updated whenever I see or remember an issue that needs to be addressed.

Blaming the Internet and Other Transkids

A recent meme to question the validity of gender dysphoria in teenagers is the concept of “Rapid Onset Gender Dysphoria” (ROGD) in which being trans is described as a “social contagion”.  Gee… that’s just saying this is a “fad”… and like the old “phase” claim that transkids were discredited with in the past.  I’ve written an entire essay on this.

Therapy

In the past, it was near universal for therapy of gender atypical children, most often male, to mean attempts to “fix” them so that they were no longer gender atypical, as that was seen as a disorder in and of itself.  It was also believed, falsely it turns out, that if they could get these boys to be gender typical in their behavior, they wouldn’t develop into gay men.  Therapies ranged from gentle “play” with a masculine role model to direct punishing and shaming children for atypicality on one hand and rewarding gender typicality on the other.  Both philosophies encouraged parents to remove any and all cross-gender toys and activities and to shame children, especially boys, for such play.  Therapy for gender dysphoric teens was to “talk” them out of wanting to transition, usually by shaming them.  Today such therapy, along with therapy meant to “talk” gay & lesbians out of being homosexual, is recognized as being both ineffective and abusive.  Some states and countries have outlawed such practices.  Professional societies of therapists and physicians have declared them to be unethical.

{Personal note:  I was sent to play therapy as a ten-year old with Dr. Peters (you can’t make this stuff up) a tall bearded man as a role model.  While at home, my mother would jump down my throat if I so much as looked at a girl’s toy.  Of course, that didn’t work, so I was sent to talk therapy at 15/16, but knew enough not to talk about either my sexuality nor my gender behavior and identity so as to avoid any opportunity to shame me.  Thus, I know about these practices first hand.}

Today, most caring therapists and other caregivers recognize that gender atypicality is not in and of itself a disorder.  They also recognize that most young mildly gender dysphoric children will desist on their own as they near adolescence, so there is no need for drastic measures either way.  However, extremely dysphoric children need outlets for their gender expression and that attempts to suppress or change their innate behavior is abusive and will only result in low self-esteem and shame.  They also know that such children need reassurance that they are loved by their parents.  If punished for gender atypicality and/or expressing the pain of dysphoria, the bond between parent and child is put at grave risk.  And yes, some therapists and their caring families recognize that some pre-adolescents and adolescents are better served by social transition.

This new kinder and gentler approach to gender atypicality and gender dysphoria has led to disinformation put out by those who wish that they could continue to offer abusive  reparitive / conversion ‘services’, falsely claiming that such therapies do work.  Transphobic parents and members of the public also lament this situation and put out the lie that “affirming” therapists are forcing gender atypical children and teens to become transgender.

The basic truth is simple… just as it is not possible to “fix” LGBT people, it is not possible to force them to be LGBT against their nature.  Saying otherwise is an outright lie.

Another tidbit of disinformation is claiming that therapists regularly “ok” teenagers to get hormones with only one visit.  In over four decades of experience and discussions with literally… oh I can’t even guess the number of transfolk of all ages I’ve met or corresponded with.  It would have to be the hundreds now, the fastest I’ve ever heard of for someone to get their “letter” approving HRT from a psych professional was five one hour sessions.  And when others hear of that low figure, they are incredulous because most adults were required to have at least several months of weekly sessions and most had more, some over a year or more.  There’s a reason why therapists and psychiatrists are called “gatekeepers”.  For minors, it might be faster to get onto puberty blockers if they are seen in longer more intense sessions with at least one second opinion since the clock is seen as “ticking”, but to switch from blockers, or for an older teen, one already past puberty?  That will take longer.

{Personal Note:  I was that teenager who had only five hours in 1975, a record even for the Stanford Gender Dysphoria Clinic: three one hour sessions alone, one hour with my mother, and one hour with my father.  You may read about those interviews here.  And no, I have no real idea why I got my letter with so few visits, but if I had to guess, it was because I still had to wait until I was 18 because my parents refused permission… and that I had previously been in therapy that had been anything but “affirming”.  Interestingly, when I was 23 and had the funds for surgery, the surgeon, a private doc in Colorado, required two recent “letters” from psychiatrists.  I had six one hour sessions with one psychiatrist and one hour for the second opinion… this too was considered a record.  This one I did know why… emotional maturity, intelligence, and five solid years post social transition with a great work and education history.}

 Social Transition

transkids

Transkids after social transition

I see over and over claims that merely allowing a child to cross-dress or socially transition is a form of “child abuse” in and of itself.  I’ve even seen transphobes complaining that letting non-transkids know that transkids and transadults exist and should be accepted and respected, is a form of child abuse!  These claims are usually from the most virulently transphobic and homophobic members of the public.  However, there is a more subtle form of this parental shaming in that people claim that because many pre-teens who are gender atypical will not be gender dysphoric, that they are “forcing” their kids to be transgender.  This meme even floats in the gay and lesbian community claiming that parents do this because they are homophobic and would rather have a transgender child than a gay or lesbian one (!).  My own experience has indicated that homophobic parents are universally also transphobic, so the logic of this assertion is faulty and groundless.

Parents should be advised that many pre-teens who are gender atypical will in truth grow up to be gay or lesbian, but there is no magic bright line difference between transkids and LGB individuals.  That is to say, that from our current state of research, we can’t tell them apart… and indeed, there may be no etiological difference, that the difference may in fact be one of degree and not of kind.  We see cultural and life experience differences leading to differences in rates of gender dysphoria in different cultures and subcultures in what may be the same biological groups.  Given this, loving parents should be open to listening to the needs of their children as they grow up and be flexible in their hopes.

A recent meme making the rounds is that if a child is allowed to cross-dress as a pre-teen, to use a new name etc. they will have social and personal difficulty later when they desist from being gender dysphoric.  Some go as far as to say that this will cause them trauma, having spent years growing up presenting as the “wrong sex”.  But this only shows their own transphobic bias, valuing the lives and welfare of desisting children over persisting transkids.   Consider this from the viewpoint of persisting transkids, if having to grow up presenting as the “wrong sex” is traumatic and that transitioning is a social and personal difficulty at that later age, won’t these kids have had a similarly bad experience if they are not allowed to socially transition earlier?  Either both are true or neither is true.  Actually, the truth is that children who will desist later are still in pain now.  And desisting children detransitioning is no more traumatic than either type transitioning in the first place.  But the transphobic propagandists aren’t interested in nuance and dealing with things in such a way as to reduce pain for everyone on a day to day basis.  Remember this.  Their goal is not to help your child be happy and emotionally healthy.  They are only interested in frightening the parents of transkids into NOT allowing them to socially transition in the hope that denying them this at a young age will force them to not get puberty blockers, which will them force them to endure a puberty which will make it that much more difficult for them to transition successfully as adults, which will keep them from being “one of those people”.

One of the ugly issues I’ve seen thrown around is that of impugning the motives and values of various researchers and clinicians, on both sides of the issue of pre-teen transition.  Most professionals have nothing but good intentions.  Each has nuanced views because this issue is not black and white.  But many insist that it should be black and white… and thus will smear those who don’t agree with their own position.

After the age of twelve, social transition is, or at least should be, a no brainer.  If a teen was gender atypical and dysphoric as a preteen, their desire and need for social transition is one that they should decide for themselves.  In fact, attempting to socially transition is a great “test” since if it doesn’t help them, it will be an obvious fact.

Surgery

Perhaps the most common propaganda seen bandied about is the oldest.  In the mid-50s, as the public began to learn about transsexuality and its medical treatment, many were quick to note that “there is no such thing as a sex change”, as though that proved something profoundly debunking.  Well, this is both a true and yet misleading statement.  It is true in that no surgery, then or now, can take a fertile individual of one sex and result in a fertile member of the other sex.  What is misleading is that the goal of surgery was never fertility, but palliative.  It is to allow individuals who suffer, and suffer greatly, from somatic gender dysphoria to inhabit a body that approximates that of the opposite sex to a close enough degree that it alleviates their dysphoria.  Although many transfolk would love to be fertile in their new gender, they are willing to accept this trade-off to enable a good enough life.

Some people will point out that SRS sterilizes transfolk as though that were in and of itself medical malpractice, even incorrectly invoking the Hippocratic oath “to do no harm”.  This is a puzzling attitude since many medical issues are treated in such as way that also results in sterilization and no one calls that malpractice.  In fact, many healthy men and women chose voluntary sterilization which is an accepted practice.  For young adults (even if under the age of 18) to knowingly make the trade-off of continuing to suffer somatic gender dysphoria vs. accepting voluntary sterilization is a personal choice for them and them alone to make.

The next bit of propaganda is to describe the result of surgery as ugly, monstrous, or diseased to invoke visceral disgust.  Mary Daly, an extremely transphobic author in the 1970’s described post-operative transsexuals as “Frankenstein’s Monsters”, invoking the image of people hacked together by rogue mad scientist doctors.  Other comments focus on and exaggerate the potential for surgical complications.  Very recently (in fact, just this past week), I’ve seen an outright lie repeated and amplified in social media in which the result of Male-To-Female transsexual surgery is an “open wound” which is easily “infected”, rather than a functional neo-vagina.  What loving parent would want their child to experience such iatrogenic trauma?

A more subtle bit of misleading disinformation is to combine the two memes above, to describe the result of MTF surgery as taking functional male genitalia and turning it into “dysfunctional male genitalia” in an attempt to invoke disgust on one hand and parental concern for their child’s future happiness on the other.  The lie depends upon parents not being familiar with the cosmetic nor functional results because, lets face it, that’s not something to be bragged about in public.  So, I will attempt here, while remaining within socially acceptable bounds, to answer that, given that I myself have such “dysfunctional male genitalia”…   Ummmm… well… I’m VERY happily married to a straight man… and neither of us is unhappy with the results…  ‘nough said.

Another reason these particular talking points work is that parents hang onto the false hope that their child will desist and be heterosexual.  While it is true that pre-teens who are gender atypical but not particularly dysphoric are more likely to desist than persist,  such boys will most likely grow up to be gay, the girls may or may not be lesbian, given that many tomboyish girls are mislabeled as gender atypical.  These tomboyish girls will most likely grow up to be straight.  However, those teens who had been gender atypical AND notably gender dysphoric as pre-teens will not likely desist after age twelve.  Besides, one doesn’t perform surgery on pre- or even early teens.  One is required to wait until the late teens at the earliest and by then, it’s pretty obvious that surgery is right for those who know the trade-offs… and rationally chose to exchange genitalia which they will never use for those that they will joyfully use.

Another bugbear thrown around is the specter of post-operative regret.  I won’t lie in turn; this is a real phenomena.  However, what is not often discussed in the parental fora is that the vast majority of those who later regret SRS are “late onset”.  (If you are not familiar with this term and its implications, please see my FAQ.)  These are usually males who have successfully lived as adult men, very often married to women, fathering children, etc.  They previously had extensive sexual experience as men, enjoying their ‘original equipment’.  Post operative regret is nearly absent from “early onset” transsexuals.  And those few who were regretful weren’t regretting the loss of their ‘original equipment’ but complained of the rare complications that may occur with any surgery.

For parents of Female-to-Male (FtM) transkids, there is often fear that “top surgery” to remove/reduce unwanted breasts will be regretted as well.  This fear is especially potent in the mothers of FtM transkids because of the natural empathy one feels, of putting themselves into their child’s position and feeling angst at the thought of the loss of their own breasts.  Of course, this is putting their own shoes onto their child, instead of walking a bit in theirs.

Puberty Blockers

CoreyOne egregious lie that I’ve seen bandied about, even by physicians, is that puberty blockers cause permanent sterility.  They do not.  In fact, that was the whole point of puberty blockers, to reversibly delay the onset of puberty and its effects to allow teens some time to emotionally mature before making more permanent changes in the course of their sexual maturation.  Without such blockers, their bodies will make the decision for them… and this may be very much against their wishes (it certainly was against mine!).  Cessation of the blockers allows the natal puberty to resume, with no loss of fertility, unless other medical intervention is begun (such as cross-sex hormones).

Another outrageous lie that I’ve seen recently is the assertion that Lupron (puberty blocker) directly causes suicide.  I guess if one is going to lie, one may as well make it a whopper.  To be clear, there is NO reported association between puberty blockers and depression / suicidal ideation in transkids.  However, if a child who is extremely gender atypical and dysphoric experiences negative social and familial attitudes, that may be an independent source of stress leading to depression.  Depression is unfortunately common and people who are prescribed Lupron as adults are often under severe stress due to their underlying illness, leading to reports of depression.

I’ve also seen a rather strange assertion that having been on puberty blockers then switching to cross-hormone replacement therapy somehow leaves the child in a prepubescent state. In the sense that the child won’t experience the changes that would have occurred had they not been on blockers, namely for natal females breast development or for natal males, enlargement of the penis and testicles, voice deepening, beard growth, along with increased upper body strength, this assertion is true… and indeed is the desired effect.  So why the strange assertion that this is somehow a problem?  The meme is also sending the false message that somehow the child will remain forever looking like a prepubescent child, never to appear to be as a sexually mature adult.  The fact remains that cross-sex HRT will allow the child to mature with all of the cross-sex secondary sexual characteristics in a manner closely approximating that of the opposite sex, which is, after all the goal.

Perhaps the most bizarre bit of misinformation is that somehow, if an MTF transkid doesn’t go through the typical natal male puberty to sexually mature, they will never be able to experience sexual satisfaction.  While testosterone does cause human male brains to develop at puberty, estrogen and micronized progesterone, both part of HRT protocols, will do much the same.  In fact, though never published, there is very strong anecdotal evidence that MTF transkids experience very strong libido development on natural estrogen (E2) compared to other sources (e.g. premarin or estinyl-estradiol).  If you think about it for a moment, this makes sense… given that women have sexual drives as much as men do… and they never went through a male puberty!

It could be argued (and indeed I have so argued), that it would be better to switch from puberty blockers to HRT earlier than some clinicians insist upon waiting, so that the final results are better and so that the teens will appear to be maturing on the same schedule as their peers, for better social functioning.  There are also concerns about bone strength later in life which may be impacted by extended use of puberty blockers.  This is an argument for earlier HRT, NOT against the use of puberty blockers.

One of the most illogical arguments I’ve seen against the use of puberty blockers is twisting the statistics that most transkids who go on puberty blockers will persist and require HRT and perhaps surgery… as though being on puberty blockers caused them to persist (!).  This is a failure to note that desistors do so before puberty.  The fact that most persisters in puberty who go on blockers continue to be gender dysphoric is a non-causal correlation.  The fact is that persisters who are unable to obtain blockers or HRT at that age will also remain gender dysphoric and will seek out and obtain HRT at a later age (either on the street or legally when they reach majority as I did).  Refusing to provide blockers or HRT in puberty will not increase the rate of desistance but will increase the need for more medical / cosmetic interventions later on (e.g. mastectomy / electrolysis) and likely leave such an individual “funny looking” as an adult (e.g. wide hips on a transman, androgynous face and low pitched voice on a transwoman).

Hormone Replacement Therapy

The most common bit of propaganda about hormones is that their use will be “life long” as though that was somehow an evil in its own right to be avoided at all costs (even including living a life of unhappy gender dysphoria and social akwardness).

To make a personal digression, swallowing a few pills each day has never been a major issue for me these past four decades and some.  Far more impactful in my own life is the fact that I’ve been dependent upon asthma medication since I was five years old, medication which has far more harsh side effects (theophylline caused insomnia for years, rescue inhalers cause the heart to race and the lungs to itch uncomfortably, steroid inhalers increase the risk of fungus infection in the mouth and throat… and if the meds fail to control the asthma, a trip to the emergency room is needed or one could die, no joke) and far more expensive.

Those who have diabetes are similarly dependent ‘life long’ upon insulin, a life saving medication.

However, forgetting to take one’s hormones for a short period of time is NOT life threatening, nor even very uncomfortable.  A few weeks of not taking them, if one has not had their gonads removed, they will begin to produce steroids again.  If they have had their gonads removed, they may experience ‘hot flashes’.  While not comfortable, they are not life threatening.  The greatest danger is the potential risk for osteoporosis.  But this an increase in the risk, not a certainty.

A number of individuals point to HRT as being inherently dangerous, increasing the risk of blot clots, etc.  These risks are no greater than girls taking birth control pills and if one is seriously worried about it, one can simultaneously take baby asprin as a blood thinner.

Another bit of propaganda is to grossly exaggerate the risk of breast cancer from estrogen.  However, with decades of HRT use by transsexuals, we have only seen a small handful of cases which were certainly NOT indicative of increased risk compared to natal females.  In fact, the risk seemed to be at about the same level as natal males who were not transgendered.  (Yes, men get breast cancer too.)

Interestingly, the risk of some cancers is significantly reduced in transsexuals due to surgery and HRT.  For example, top surgery reduces the risk of breast cancer prophylactically.  Radical hysterectomy (as part of ‘bottom surgery’) eliminates the risk of ovarian cancer.  For MTF folk, SRS eliminates the risk of testicular cancer and reduces the risk of prostate cancer, as does HRT itself.

As well as claiming risks of cancer, I’ve seen outright lies that HRT causes mental illness!

Another gambit is to point to a couple studies that show that estrogen “causes cognitive deficits” in MTF transfolk, specifically reducing their mental rotational abilities, while also saying that testosterone reduces FTM transfolk’s verbal fluency.  The HORROR, HRT causes mental problems!  Actually, what they are measuring is the very tiny subtle differences already found in men and women in which men are very slightly better, on average, than women at mentally rotating three dimensional figures and women are very slightly better, on average, than men at verbal fluency.  These turn out to be influenced by hormones in the brain, so no surprise that they should influence transfolk on HRT.  But the effect is so small as to be almost impossible to detect in any one individual.

I think the silliest claim I’ve heard is that “Big Pharma” is pushing the diagnoses of gender dysphoria so that they can sell more hormones.  Given that gender dysphoria is extremely rare… but even if it is silly on the face of it, officials in the UK actually investigated that claim and debunked it.

Parents deserve accurate information, not propaganda and lies — from either side.

 

NOTE:  If you see anyone spreading these memes, please respond with a comment and a link to this post?  If you have seen other examples of false propaganda directed at the parents of transkids, please share them with me?   formertranskid@gmail.com

Further Reading:

Advice to Parents of Transkids

Shameful History of Reparative Therapy of Transgender and Gay Children & Youth

Further External Reading:

When Children Say That They Are Trans by Jessie Singal

Comments Off on Transphobic Propaganda Aimed at Parents of Transgender Kids

Rapid Onset Gender Dysphoria

Posted in Autobiographical, Female-to-Male, Transgender Youth by Kay Brown on June 6, 2018

Kay BrownIs this a newly emerging etiology?

Unless you’ve been under a rock the past few years, you will have heard of what many are describing as a new phenomena affecting natal female teens, “Rapid Onset Gender Dysphoria” (ROGD) to join the old duopoly of “Early Onset” and “Late Onset” gender dysphoria seen in natal males.  The description of the putative phenomena is that gender TYPICAL and not at all previously gender dysphoric girls learn through the internet and perhaps from friends at school about transgender issues and then suddenly, because of ‘social contagion’, seemingly out of the blue, declare that they are trans.  There have been a number of speculative hypothesis regarding the putative phenomena which I will explore here.

One hypothesis with a lot of weight of evidence is that this is merely the outsider’s term for “Tucutes” / “TransTrender” / “TrendsGender” in which teenaged girls with no real gender dysphoria take on the social position of “transgender”, from identifying as a pre-transition transman to more recently as “non-binary”, a social position that doesn’t require one to actually have to socially, and certainly not medically, transition.  Without doubt, this is happening.  I first met such an individual in 1980.  Their numbers have grown in the intervening years.  But this phenomena, annoying as it may be for some gender dysphoric transmen, is not a major cause of concern to medical professionals in that they rarely seek medical intervention.

Some within the transcommunity have argued that these young people, including those labeled “Tucutes” are in fact the female equivalent of “Late Onset” natal males in that they are autoandrophilic.  This too certainly exists.  While some sexologists and therapists will deny that autoandrophilia exists, I know for a fact that it does, as I had a very close friend since high school who clearly experiences it.  Absolute proof of existence N=1.  We have more evidence than just my one anecdotal one from the years of reports on the sexuality of androphilic transmen.  Such individuals do experience gender dysphoria, but of a notably different character and developmental arc than autogynephilic transwomen.  But just as with autogynephilia, not everyone with autoandrophilia will develop extreme gender dysphoria and thus a range of accommodations occur.

Of course, there is another hypothesis coming from the gay and lesbian community in which they claim that these teens are simply gender atypical lesbians who have been falsely convinced by “Transgender Ideology” that they must be transgender.  At the heart of this is a misunderstanding or deliberate disinformation about the nature of transgender etiology and experience.  Either there are true transsexuals and true lesbians and they shouldn’t be confused… or there are only lesbians and transgender ideology gives them a false sense of gender dysphoria.  The evidence suggests that neither is wholly the case. Gynephilic natal female people exhibit a range of gender atypicality and gender dysphoria.  How they accommodate these within a given culture is variable.  However, when extreme gender atypicality and dysphoria are accommodated by social and medical transition, these are typically labeled “early onset” even if they transition in their 30’s.  If with changing attitudes more such individuals are seeking to address their gender dysphoria at an earlier age, we would expect to see just what we are seeing today.

The question is, are all of those who are labeled with ROGD actually either tucutes or autoandrophilic?  Are some actually gynephilic gender atypical and dysphoric natal females who were simply not recognized or acknowledged as such?  I’ve come to suspect that many may be.

Consider that pre-adolescent tomboys have always been given greater latitude than sissy boys.  In today’s climate of empowering girls to pursue sports and allowed to wear jeans and t-shirts… just like boys, but over scheduled and constantly under parental supervision, with little time for personal choices and expression by privileged helicopter parents, the type that are active on social media, these girls may not have been acknowledged as being gender dysphoric… until the social pressures of adolescence to be heterosexual and feminine.

TransSupportConsider also that nearly half of these parents acknowledged that they knew that their daughter was attracted to girls BEFORE they had confided being gender dysphoric.  (Gynephilia is a key co-presenting factor in transmen.)  These parents also point to their children having other emotional problems, which for them mean that their gender dysphoria is just another symptom, failing to note that gender dysphoric youth living in transphobic households typically experience such problems.  One out of seven of these parents state homophobic attitudes while the rest say that they support LGBT people.  (Really?  Recall that support for same-sex marriage hovers at only 50%… yet 85% of these parents say that they support LGBT rights?  Anyone remember the 60’s cliche “We’re not racist… but our daughter will never marry a black man.” ?!?)

In recent interactions via social media that I’ve had with parents of teens who they claim have ROGD and further claim that means that they are “not really transgender” and they should NOT be encouraged, acknowledged, nor affirmed, I’ve had an extreme sense of deja vu.  What I sense is not that these teens are tucutes or ‘non-binaries’… as most of them have very laid back parents who allow their children to explore their place in the world, knowing that kids do that.  No, I sense both angry denial, genuine concern for their child’s welfare, combined with homo- and trans- phobia, saying “my child is not one of those people“.

Deja Vu

About that deja vu.  At this point I have to switch from academic exposition to personal anecdotal mode:

In very early ’75, at the age of 17, I had “come out” to my father about being transsexual (the word “transgender” did exist at the time, but it was reserved for heterosexual lifestyle cross-dressers = autogynephilic men and specifically excluded androphilic gender atypical MTF transkids).  The time and place had NOT been my choice, having been forced to do so by my mother.  (That’s a whole other story.  My parents were divorced and my mother had custody, as was usual back in the ’70s.)  He seemed calm and concerned, no anger or lamentation.  Instead, he suggested that we should seek professional advice and help.  I recognized an opening.

I had for some months been in contact with the Stanford University Gender Dysphoria Clinic.  I literally had in my possession, in my pocket, the contact information for them.  I gave it to my Dad who said that he would be contacting them.  I was astounded.  The clinic had told me that they would love to help me but that I had to have my parents make the arrangements.  But my mother had made it abundantly clear that she would never help me transition.  Now my Dad was opening the door for me!

I had several intake interviews with Dr. Norman Fisk, the man I would later learn had coined the term “gender dysphoria”.  At the time, I had no idea how influential and expert he was in the field.  He was just a guy who might be able to help me get medical help.  He asked about my sexuality.  I told him about the boy I had a crush on.  He asked me about my dreams for the future.  I told him about how I hoped to find a husband and adopt children.  I told him about my summer job as a nanny and of the two summers I volunteered teaching little kids to swim.  And sadly, I told him about how unhappy my parents were about my behavior and how I had been sent to therapists (who had been anything but affirming).

Then I had a joint interview with my mother and a week later another with my father.

During the interview, my father made it abundantly clear that he thought transsexuals were sick perverts.  Dr. Fisk assured my Dad that transsexuals were NOT mentally ill and that social and medical transition was the typical course of treatment.  My father then became very agitated, objecting, “My son is NOT transsexual.  I’ve never seen anything feminine about him.  This is just a phase!  It will blow over!”  Dr. Fisk knew better, having talked to me and more importantly talked to my mother.

My father focused on the fact that he and I had over the years gone fishing and hunting together (ignoring that during their courtship, so had he and my then teenaged mother).  That we spent hours working together on projects (that he usually chose).  That I was a Boy Scout (ignoring that he had insisted I and my two brothers join since he had been a Scout as a boy… and the deeply mortifying incident in which I had been kicked out of the first Troop though I had done nothing objectively wrong in any sense… but none of the boys wanted the “faggot” around… and that the Scout Master declared to my Dad with a sneer that I was “not Eagle Scout material”… and that my Dad had to find another troop for me to join that accepted queers).  At the end of the interview, my Dad stormed out making homophobic references to Dr. Fisk to me in the parking lot.  (Dr. Fisk was straight, married, and had a son near my age.  I learned that they lived only blocks from my mother’s house.)

The interview with my mother the week before was quite different.  Far from being in denial, she was petulantly resentful that she had such a first-born child.  “I have known for years that he wanted to be a girl.  But I thought that was [morally] wrong.  He was very different than his brothers.  All their friends were boys.  His were always girls,” naming several of my friends over the years, but couldn’t remember my friend who had been my only guest on my tenth birthday.  “Marian,” I interjected for the only time during the whole interview.  “He was always very prissy.  He would walk clear around even the shallowest puddles.  When he was little, I would put him in clean clothes on Monday and on Friday they would still be clean.”  She confirmed that I had been sent to a therapist about my behavior when I was ten years old… and again when I was 15/16.  She came away under the impression that she had spelled out all of the things about me that needed to be fixed, that Dr. Fisk and the clinic would endeavor to make me a normal, healthy, masculine heterosexual man and had shared that impression with my father.

So, it was a shock to my Dad that Dr. Fisk was recommending to him that my family accept that I was never going to be a masculine straight man.  That I was going to transition.  And when my Dad objected, offered this bit of advice,

“Denial will not serve.  You will win a few battles but lose the war.”

At home my mother began sharing comments such as sweetly asking, dripping with obvious false concern, “What will your friends think of you when they find out?”

“They already know,” I replied honestly, having grown used to the twisting knife within her tone.

“I could understand it if you were petite like your sister (at 12 years old, not yet fully grown she was 5’2″ – our mother was 5’5″ –  I’m 5’7″ – our brothers were closer to 6′).”

“That’s funny, Cassie (school friend) is 5’9″ and she has no problems,” I demurred.

“No man will ever love you,” she taunted.  I couldn’t answer back, it hurt too much, but I could feel my eyes smouldering with suppressed anger.

My father came over to see me and begged me not to transition, “You’ll be throwing away a chance for a career.  No one will hire you.”  I couldn’t answer him, having the same fears.  He also tried to shame me, telling me that I was embarrassing the family, that we all have our “cross to bear” and that I should think of my siblings and how they might be treated at school and by friends.  I replied that it was unfair that they should ask that I be extremely unhappy my entire life so that they could avoid some mild embarrassment.  In that same conversation he begged me to live as a closeted gay man, promising that the family would look the other way when I had boyfriends.  My thoughts on this were bitter, as that would put me in the same position as his gay brother, the one we weren’t allowed to meet or talk about.  He then tried to sweeten the deal by offering to pay for vacations in which I could dress up as a woman (!).

I lost my temper at that and loudly replied, “I am NOT a part-time woman!”

Conclusion

I hear that same combination of denial, anger, embarrassment, resentment, desperation, and socially & religiously motivated transphobia in those parents who now describe their teens as having ROGD. Which to them indicates that they are “not really transgender” and should not be allowed to socially transition nor allowed to use puberty blockers much less actual HRT.  These parents sound suspiciously like my parents.

Epilog

I think it worth describing how things went down after the events above, as a sincere warning.

Candice_Caltech

Kay Brown in college

I had already been in the process of social transition, presenting as a girl after school but continued to dress as a boy at school until graduation day.  But had already made arrangements for my high school records to be changed to my new name, female gender, and even to have it say that I attended girls P.E.  It became very apparent that my family, led by mother, was going to do everything they legally could to stop me from successfully transitioning.  Although I had been accepted at a four-year college, I was made to understand that I would not be supported if I continued to present as a girl, so was unable to attend.  I was kicked out of the house by mother and my father was not to take me in.  I started HRT right after I turned 18, forgoing food to buy them.  Using documents from the clinic, I was able to have my driver’s licence and social security ID changed to my new name and gender that summer.  I was given a meagre allowance for about a year with the proviso that I was NOT to show my face anywhere near home.  I attended community college part-time, as they were nearly free the next few years.  I became, in the modern vernacular, a housing and food insecure student.  It took me a few years, having no financial or social support or capital.  But I managed to climb back out of the hole that being effectively disowned had thrown me.  I established a career in Silicon Valley, first as a secretary at age 19, then working my way up.  At the age of 23, I had saved and borrowed enough for SRS.

After SRS, it was perhaps ‘barn doors’ and all… but slowly my folks then began to extend more social and financial capital to me… perhaps also in embarrassment when comparing how they had treated me compared to my siblings.  One had gone to Stanford as an undergraduate and was then attending Baylor Medical School while living in a condo provided by my mother’s family money.  Another was working as an engineer in Silicon Valley, living in a condo also provided by her money.  My sister was going to a small private college… oh… you get the picture.  I had earned a BS soon after SRS, on my own resources, combining credits from four different community colleges and all of my upper division credits earned entirely by examination.  I was then admitted to Stanford Graduate School.  At that point, my father began offering emotional and logistical support and a couple of years later, my mother’s family provided the down payment on a condo for me.

family

Kay, Jeff, Liz, & Reese

Over the years, my mother never really accepted me and we haven’t spoken in decades now, just as I haven’t spoken with any of my siblings.  Oh… and she was wrong.  One man does love me… and we’ve been married these past two decades and I did become an adoptive mom.

And my father was wrong.  My career took off.  I rose to executive rank and even founded and raised venture capital for a start-up which I sold to Samsung.  My father and I speak often… and he makes it clear that he loves and is proud of me.

So, if you are a parent of a transkid or a so called “ROGD” teen.  Please recall Dr. Fisk’s advice to my Dad.

“Denial will not serve.  You will win a few battles but lose the war.”

 

Addendum 9/3/2018:  The past week and some has seen renewed publicity regarding this putative phenomena of ROGD since the Littman paper was published.  I have been following this issue for much longer.  I chalked it up to standard parental denialism which I have written about for a decade now.  But I became disturbed by it when champions of MTF transkids approached me urging me to in effect throw FtM “ROGD” transkids under the bus.  They had been bamboozled by these parents in denial and what I now see as growing anti-transkid propaganda. The Littman paper does NOT document a new phenomena of social contagion among teens… it documents parental denial and rationalizations.  If there is any new social contagion phenomena occuring it is that the internet allows transphobic parents a means to create memes that can be used to bolster their denial and obtain social approval among their “transgender critical” peers for obstructing their teens.

Further Reading:

Essay on TransTrenders & Tucutes

Essay on Androphilic Transmen being Autoandrophilic

Advice to Parents of Transkids

Essay on Transphobic Propaganda Aimed at Parents of Transkids

References:

Lisa Littman, “Rapid-onset gender dysphoria in adolescents and young adults: A study of parental reports” (2018)
https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0202330

External Further Reading:

Brown University Statement regarding the Littman study controversy

https://thinkprogress.org/conservatives-complain-people-have-noticed-their-anti-trans-junk-science-is-in-fact-junk-ab9ee965b865/amp/

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The Elephant in the Room

Posted in Autobiographical, Transsexual Field Studies by Kay Brown on November 9, 2017

female_scientistOr, Is the “Third Type” of MTF Transgender Simply Mentally Ill ??

In the mid ’90s, during a conversation in my kitchen, where we often held our transactivism strategy sessions over coffee, JoAnna McNamara remarked one day that I was the only transsexual she knew who wasn’t mentally ill.  Actually, she used the term, “crazy”.  I was taken aback by her declaration and asked for expansion and explanation.  She listed a number of people we both knew in common and told me of other numerous examples.  Most of them were actually fairly reasonable examples of anxiety and depression associated with typical late transitioning woes (i.e. divorce, job loss, being regularly clocked in public, etc.).  But some of the stories about these same individuals involved episodes that would indeed indicate serious departures from rational behavior, most especially of delusions and even psychotic breaks, that she had either witnessed first hand or had credible accounts from others.

This fit with some stories that I have been told by a number of care providers who have confided in me… and of my own personal experience.

One of the most famous individuals I met was Angela Keyes Douglas, AKA Douglas Keyes.  When I first met Douglas, in 1977, s/he was living in Berkeley as… well… not really a woman so much as s/he didn’t really pass or even really try, and seemed totally oblivious to how people reacted to him/her.  It was obvious to me that s/he was “off”… and I mean “off“.  We maintained a distant connection for decades.  Douglas had SRS sometime in the ’80s and moved to Florida.  Eventually Douglas returned to living as a man full-time.  I would get mail from him that was off the chart “off“… sometimes friendly, sometimes threatening.  He claimed that he was a CIA or FBI agent and was turning me in for my “crimes”.  He also wrote about the “blue lizard aliens” running our government, when he wasn’t writing about the “Illuminati”.  Clearly, Douglas was psychotic, probably schizophrenic.

Another individual, who was never famous, was my roommate for a time in late ’77 early ’78.  I won’t use her name.  She was in her mid 20’s, very pretty, had transitioned and had SRS paid for by her family while in college and was then working as a computer programmer in Silicon Valley.  However, she was “off”… and I mean “off“.  I didn’t realize it when I first moved in.  Given her age of transition, I had initially thought she must be a transkid.  WRONG !  On the surface, she seemed sweet and put together, until you noticed that she never left the apartment except to go to work.  She had exactly one close friend, a lesbian who I believe she had a serious crush on.  She hated and was terrified of men, all men, but especially gay men.  She had this fixed delusion that all gay men were sexual predators out to seduce her, perhaps violently rape her.  It would seem that part of her motivation for transition was to escape the notice of gay men.  Oh… did I mention that she was heavily medicated on thioridazine?  Thioridazine is a powerful anti-psychotic prescribed as a treatment for schizophrenia.  Well, things went down-hill for us as roommates pretty fast when she discovered that I was actively dating… oopsie… men!  She went off on me one evening using homophobic slurs and after that began having and sharing with others a delusional paranoia fixed on me.  Obviously, I moved out after only a very short time.  In the mid-80’s, I accidentally ran into her in the lobby of a hotel.  I greeted her in a kindly and friendly manner… to which she responded like a startled rabbit and literally ran full tilt away from me!

I had another roommate, who again I will not use her name, who was subject to severe bouts of debilitating depression.  However, she also had times when she was filled with energy, able to achieve amazing things.  But there was a dark side to that energy.  During those times, she would hold very odd ideas, conspiracy theories, etc.  Sometimes, these ideas involved those close to her.  She also took dangerous, reckless, risks that would frighten me in the extreme when I was witness to them.  Perhaps you recognize the symptoms?  I believe that she suffered from bipolar disorder w/ paranoid delusions.

These examples are not the only ones that I have witnessed personally…

This issue has not gone unnoted in the literature on transsexuality / transgenderism.  Norman Fisk, in his seminal paper introducing the concept of “gender dysphoria syndrome” also wrote about the ‘third type’ that they saw applying for sex reassignment at the Stanford Clinic,

“Finally, many psychotic patients have a severe type of gender confusion.  Twenty percent of all of our patients contacting our program are overtly psychotic and of course are referred for or given appropriate psychiatric treatment.”

Could this explain the “third type” that consistently disavows ever having experienced either exclusive androphilia or autogynephilia, insisting that they represent a third type?  Well, no, not completely anyway.  We know that many who deny autogynephilia are in fact falsely making such a claim.  However, these psychotic individuals could represent a portion of them and thus serve as a true, “third type”.  On the other hand, they could simply be a subset of one or the other, or even of both, of the already well established two types, simply evincing a co-morbid condition.  That at 20 to 46%, this could alternatively mean that those who suffer from gender dysphoria are especially likely to have such co-morbid conditions, as Lawrence describes,

Some cases of MtF transsexualism are associated with and plausibly attributable to other comorbid psychiatric disorders, especially psychotic conditions such as schizophrenia or bipolar disorder. Á Campo, Nijman, Merckelbach, and Evers (2003) reported on a large survey of Dutch psychiatrists, who had evaluated 584 patients with cross-gender identification and possible GID; in 46% of these patients, the psychiatrists interpreted cross-gender identification as an epiphenomenon of other psychiatric problems, including psychotic, mood, dissociative, and personality disorders. Brown and Jones (2016) observed that, among 5135 persons (69% male) diagnosed with GID, transsexualism, or transvestism who had received care from the U.S. Veterans Administration, 32% had also received a diagnosis of “serious mental illness,” meaning “diagnoses associated with psychotic symptoms” (p. 128), including schizophrenia- and bipolar-spectrum disorders. Thus, comorbid psychotic disorders and other severe mental illnesses may account for some cases of MtF transsexualism in nonandrophilic persons who deny autogynephilia — and for some cases of MtF transsexualism in androphilic persons as well.

Mental illness within the transcommunity has been the elephant in the room.  It’s time we talked about it openly and compassionately.

(Epilog 11/12/2017:  JoAnna, herself suffering from serious mental illness, committed suicide less than a year after the conversation discussed above.)

Further Reading:

Essay on Clinical difference between the two types w/ allusions to differential vulnerability to mental illness

References:

Fisk, N., “Editorial: Gender dysphoria syndrome–the conceptualization that liberalizes indications for total gender reorientation and implies a broadly based multi-dimensional rehabilitative regimen.” (1974) Western Journal of Medicine
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1130142/

Lawrence, A., “Autogynephilia and the Typology of Male-to-Female Transsexualism: Concepts and Controversies”, European Psychologist, 22, 39-54. (2017)
http://www.annelawrence.com/autogynephilia_&_MtF_typology.html

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These Transsexuals Were the First Banned…

Posted in Autobiographical, Editorial by Kay Brown on July 26, 2017

Kay Brown 2010… from the US Armed Forces.  Here’s what they did next.

“A well regulated militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.”

I always interpreted this, our 2nd Amendment to our constitution to actually mean that the right to serve in the defence of our country, could not be “infringed”.   But clearly, bigotry and prejudice have prevailed over the centuries… as they did today when our current “Commander-in-Chief”, spouting more lies, but really serving the interests of bigots, re-instated the ugly and wholly unnecessary policy of excluding any and all transsexual and transgender people from military service “in any capacity”.  I believe whole-heartedly that this policy is unconstitutional on the face of it.

This policy has touched upon my own life and that of many other transfolk, both those I have known and admired, and those unknown, but still worthy of respect.

When I was in my mid-teens, my mother would leave brochures for the Navy around for my brother and I to find.  She tried very hard to get us both to join up.  I knew that was NOT for me, as I was trying desperately to transition as soon as I possibly could… and joining the Navy would not help in that effort.  Plus, hey, as an obviously gender atypical androphilic male, there was no way that I could pass as a straight man.  As it was, on my 18th birthday, my father came over to give me a combination birthday and high school graduation gift of a clock-radio, the only gift that I was given by anyone on this occasion.  He also informed me that I was no longer welcome to live in my mother’s house.  How brave of my mother to use my father to deliver the message.  I would not be welcome to stay at my father’s small apartment either… as it was too close to the family.  I would be given a small allowance if I remained away from the family from then on… to be a “remittance man”.  So, as I struggled to maintain myself, my brother soon joined the Navy to be trained as an avionics technician.

When I was 22 years old, in 1979, during a time of much stress, as I had been intermittently homeless and living in rather unsavory conditions at times, I was working as a very low paid electronics repair tech, a skill I had learned coming up the ranks from electronic assembler.  I had very skilled hands and could delicately remove and replace microelectronic components that most men could not.  One of our customers was an Air National Guard unit who didn’t have anyone who could fix the type of radios that I could.  One of their non-comms responsible for their electronics maintainance tried very hard to get me to sign-up.  As a pre-op transsexual, I knew that I could never do that as it was then well-known that the DOD policy was that no homosexuals nor transsexuals were allowed.  Being both androphilic and a pre-op, I would be considered doubly unqualified.  But I could REALLY have used the money and experience of serving.  (No soup for you!)

That year, I would meet two transwomen who had served in the military and both been discharged for being trans.

Joy_Candice

Dr. Joy Shaffer and Kay Brown in the mid-80s

The first was Joy Shaffer.  She had joined the Air Force as a teenager and served for something like 18 months as an avionics technician before events unfolded in which she admitted that she was trans.  She was administratively discharged, honorably, such that she was eligible for G.I. benefits which she used to earn a degree in biochemistry from CalTech, with honors, in only three years, transitioning there as a student.  When I met her a few months after her graduation, she was working as a research assistant for a scientist working to understand the biochemistry and epigenetics of osteoarthritis.  She was a named author on several peer reviewed papers including one in Cell.

clar05aThe other was Joanna Michelle Clark.  Joanna had been in the Navy, served aboard P-3 Orion subchasers, rose to Chief Petty Officer, thus our favorite nickname for her, “Chief”.  She, like so many other ‘late transitioners’ had been married.  But, as her gender dysphoria grew, she divorced, left the Navy, honorably, with no reference to being transsexual, and began transition.  She sought treatment at the Stanford Clinic in the early ’70s.  (She has some amusing stories about her own interviews with Dr. Fisk.)  Afterwards, she was recruited into the Army National Guard.  She had fully disclosed her earlier identity, medical status, and experience in the Navy.  As there were no policies concerning transsexuals at the time, she was inducted.  Ah… but folks at the Pentagon finally noticed her existence about a year and a half later.  They changed the policy and then booted her, dishonorably, for having violated the new policy!  She fought back but managed only to get her discharge changed to honorable, as she had never lied about her medical status at any point and it was the DOD who had changed their policies… and attempted to apply an illegal ex-post-facto charge against her.

This experience radicalized Joanna to become a true activist.  One of the first things she did afterwords was convince and work with Willie Brown to change California law to allow transsexuals to change their ID, including their driver licence, before SRS.

ACLUIn 1980, Joanna Clark, Joy Shaffer, and several other transsexuals, including myself, founded the ACLU Transsexual Rights Committee, with Joanna as the Committee Chair.  The committee worked on a number of initiatives including the issue of access to medical care which was under serious threat at both governmental and private insurance providers.  (Our nemesis, author of The Transsexual Empire, Janice Raymond was one of the culture warriors on the other side, writing transphobic whitepapers arguing against coverage for transition medical services.)  A key argument against medical coverage for SRS was that it was “experimental”.  I had insurance through my employer that should have covered my SRS, which I had gone deeply in debt (relative to my meager income at the time) to pay for.  But my carrier refused reimbursement based on “experimental”  I and an FtM transman who had been also refused reimbursement using this same “experimental” clause agreed to contest this rejection.  The committee put together a case for class action suit with ACLU backing and myself and the brave transman as key plaintiff.  But the insurance company stymied us by paying our claims and admitting that our surgeries were no longer “experimental”.  I thought we had won!  No, we got snuckered, the insurance companies started writing specific exclusionary language into all future policies.  We calculated that the cost of doing that exceeded the costs of coverage.  This was done out of bigotry, not rational business, just as the exclusion of LGBT people in the military is one of bigotry.

Joy went on to earn a medical degree at Stanford Medical School, became board certified in internal medicine, later to found a large private LGBT friendly medical practice in San Jose (“Silicon Valley”).  As well as having the largest transgender private practice in the world, Joy served on the front lines against the HIV/AIDS epidemic taking on patients when others wouldn’t.  When anti-retro-viral drugs started saving lives, she celebrated telling me, “We are fucking curing AIDS!”

Joanna, deeply moved by the growing death toll of the early AIDS epidemic went on to a new mission in HIV/AIDS education.  Violating copy right law, systematically pulled scientific and medical papers from behind paywalls and placed them on first a BBS then later a website, to disseminate lifesaving information on HIV/AIDS, work that she continues to this day.

Had the DOD not changed their policy so as to boot Joanna and Joy, both the transgender/transsexual and gay communities would have lost the services of some of our greatest champions and heroes.  Some good has come out of evil bigotry.

So, back to today’s announcement.  How many transsexuals, you know, the ones that actually “change sex” and need medical intervention are there in the U.S. armed services?  Forget those silly numbers that have been thrown around.  Using proper statistics of how many transfolk have actually transitioned in the U.S., the total is only 90,000 out of close to 300 million residents; with only 2 million Americans in uniform, that means only 600 transsexuals.  That’s it.  600.  Wow, that’s going to cost… far less than they already spend on little blue pills for men who can’t get it up.  And the DOD knows it.

For a short while, we thought that just maybe, this ban would be lifted completely… as the DOD was allowing transfolk to continue to serve with honor for the past two years.  But now that looks to have been false hope.

Given the ongoing story about this ban, it is important that this history be known.  Please share it widely.  (Note to media:  Please do quote from this material as desired.)

Further Reading:

Wikipedia Page on Joanna M. Clark

Essay on the true number of transitioned transfolk in the U.S.

Scientific American: Cost of Medical Care for Transgender Service Members Would Be Minimal, Studies Show.


Fun Reading:

 

All the Stars are Suns ebook completeSincerity Espinoza didn’t go looking for trouble, it found her. All she wants out of life is the chance to go to the stars but she is caught in a web of misunderstandings, political & legal maneuvering, and the growing threat of terrorist plots by religious fanatics. She has a secret that if found out too soon could mean not only her own death but the ruin of the hope for humanity ever going to the stars. But even amidst momentous events, life is still about the small moments of love, laughter, and sadness.   Available as an ebook at Amazon and Kindle Unlimited.

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Baby Hunger…

Posted in Autobiographical, Editorial, Transsexual Theory by Kay Brown on July 9, 2017

female_scientistOr, Rubbing Salt Into the Wound

A couple days ago, a young androphilic transwoman from Portugal, who has been a correspondent for several years, since her late teens, wrote to me asking my opinion of androphilic transwomen’s desire for children.  She, like me, definitely has always desired to be around and to mother children.  She had recently been employed as a caregiver at a children’s group home and had loved it.  She recently entered nursing school and looks forward to someday marrying a loving man and adopting children, preferably babies.  She thought it was be a good idea for me to write an essay on this topic.  So, here it is.

Stoller, in his 1968 book, Sex And Gender, described androphilic transwomen as ardently wanting children including mothering, indeed bearing, infants,

sex-and-gender-the-development-of-masculinity-and-femininityThe ultimate progression for the transsexual … has not yet been reached in our society: he would not only like to have is body appear completely female but he would like to have his internal organs so changed (for example, by transplants) that he would now have is own functioning ovaries and uterus, ultimately to bear a child truly his own.

Stoller described a typical androphilic transwoman and concluded with “The patient is now married and hopes to adopt children.”

When I was first interviewed by Norman Fisk at the Stanford Gender Dysphoria Clinic as a 17 year old in early 1975, I told him of my hopes and dreams of finding a husband and adopting children.  I recall telling him about how much I enjoyed the two summers I had spent as a swimming instructor teaching very young children and of the then previous summer employed as a nanny taking care of two boys, aged four and ten, from early morning to dinner-time.  I had of course, actively sought out babysitting jobs all through Jr. and Sr. high school, with a promise to all of my regular families that I would break any previous engagement for a job.  I don’t remember him making fun of me.

I achieved both of these goals, though it took a lot longer that I had anticipated.  There were many things that had to be achieved first and many pit-falls to avoid along the way.

There are many obstacles for androphilic transwomen to overcome before becoming an adoptive parent.  First, one must have the social stability, an excellent support network, and sufficient family income to afford to raise a child.  Many never reach that goal.  Having a husband with a good income is a dream that is often out of reach.  Second, one has to navigate a system that would much rather find a home for a child with non-LGBT parents, especially for newborns.  Adopting a newborn, even for middle-class non-LGBT families, is difficult as there are always far more prospective families looking to adopt a baby than there are babies available for adoption.  It is becoming easier in some locales for LGBT people to foster-adopt older hard-to-place children, but it still requires surviving an extensive vetting process.  That process will black-ball any who have even the most minor of criminal records.  One also has to have the temperament and above average parenting skills to take in a child who will come with emotional challenges and maladaptive behaviors from early life experiences in a chaotic birth home.  In many locales, in spite of recent legal and social advances for LGBT people, being transsexual will mean not being seriously considered as an ‘appropriate’ placement.

Candice2

Kay Brown with her adopted daughter Liz

I first became a licenced foster parent in California in 1984, almost by happenstance when Cassandra, a 14-year-old lesbian, needed a supportive home of the sort that I could provide.  Now, 33 years later, she still calls me her Mom.  In the early ’90s while living in Oregon, I sought to become a foster, hopefully adoptive mom of a younger child and carefully researched the possibility.  I put out on the transgender social networks looking for any who had been able to do so.  I found exactly one androphilic transwoman on the east coast who was fostering her sister’s children while her sister was in prison.  (Children’s Services gives priority to relatives for placement whenever possible.)  That was it.  One family.  Special case.  I was breaking new ground when seven-year old Liz was placed in my household.  (There were several women living there.)  Liz was adopted on her ninth birthday.  I have since found one other androphilic transwoman who foster-adopted three siblings sometime after me.

There is always the possibility of surrogacy.  But that takes even more socio-economic status.  I have only one reference that may qualify as surrogacy.  Dawn Langley Simmons, who was white, married a black man then apparently faked pregnancy timed to the delivery of a mixed race baby.  The sire may have been her husband or the baby may have simply been unwanted.  We don’t have the details.

There have also been tales and hints that some androphilic transwomen have been aided by close relatives or friends volunteering to be gestational surrogates.  But those stories are kept very private for good and sufficient reasons.

There was a private effort in the transsexual community to develop ethical  biotechnology that would allow transwomen to carry a child to term in ways not too different from that prophesied by Robert Stoller… but that research did not reach our final goal.  Now, there are new developments regarding uterine transplants that may offer the final key.  Sadly, I’m too old now to participate, but I most certainly would if I were younger.

We have enough evidence here to show that at least some androphilic transwomen do have an intense interest in being mothers of both infants and small children.  But actualizing that desire is extremely difficult for most.

So, we see that though it is difficult for an androphilic transwoman to find a loving husband and build a family through adoption, it is not impossible.  But one wouldn’t know that from reading the literature on transsexuality when they discuss whether transwomen are interested in children, have maternal feelings.

In the 1974 paper describing psychiatric grand rounds at UCSD, “Gloria”, a 20-year-old androphilic pre-op transwoman already in a stable relationship with a straight man reported that she too hoped to adopt a new-born, to which an oh so ‘kindly and understanding’ physician throws shade on her coping skills, her character, and her motives for wanting to raise a child,

No matter which way this goes, Gloria is going to have trouble adjusting. A normal woman has trouble when she bears a child or adopts one; this new woman is going to have many more troubles.  At this point she wants a baby because that is part of her image of being a woman. And yet I do not know whether she really wants a baby or whether this is just the image, just as she stated that she doesn’t feel sexy if she doesn’t have a vagina.

But then we come to the most ugly of all comments coming from John Money in an abstract of a case series paper from 1968 in which we can easily discern that he is lumping together androphilic and autogynephilic transwomen together when he writes,

“All 14 patients desired adoptive motherhood, with a preference for small children, though not newborn babies. In general, the group appeared to possess a feminine gender identity, except for a masculine threshold of erotic arousal in response to visual imagery and an unmotherly disengagement from the helplessness of the newborn.”

Remember how hard it is for a post-transtion transwoman to become a mother, especially of newborns?  Remember how the clinicians made fun of “Gloria” for wanting to be such a mother?  Now, do you think it is possible that transwomen can pick up on that negative attitude, perhaps realize that if they state a desire for what is clearly unlikely to happen that it might be interpreted as having unreasonable life goals?  (One of the selection criteria that clinics used in the ’60s was whether their clients had reasonable expectations for their lives post-op.)  Further, is it in fact a good idea to pine for what can never be?  So… calling them “unmotherly” for looking to adopt hard-to-place children rather than hoping for that one-in-a-million chance to adopt a healthy baby was just rubbing salt into the wound.

So ingrained is our view that interest in children is a measure of womanly virtue it effects how autogynephilic transwomen attempt to portray themselves.  A few years ago, continuing my search for transwomen’s experiences regarding adopting children, I chanced upon an online forum where a number of transwomen were discussing how one could tell the difference between a “transsexual” and a “wannabe” [sic] by whether they noticed small children or not.  Of course, they all congratulated themselves on their interest in small children, telling stories of how they had noticed children in social settings, as did the women, while the men in their company, or even other (presumably “wannabe”) transwomen, had not.  Curious, I traced down each of these transwomen’s identities (people leave a lot of breadcrumbs behind them) and discovered that every one of them was in fact a late transitioner and more than one of them had very masculine occupations and interests.  They had not evinced any notable efforts to pursue being motherly, indeed, some had barely maintained contact with their own children from marriages prior to transition.  Their participation in this discussion was more in line with social desirability bias, impression management, and self-enhancement than in honest self-evaluation.  It fits with the well-known (to cognizant clinicians at least) phenomena of autogynephilic transwomen editing their history, experiences, and desires to more closely approximate those of “classic transsexuals”.

We need to conduct research on whether transsexuals and transgender people of all kinds are interested in being parents.  Interestingly Michael Bailey suggested a great instrument for this task in his book the Man Who Would Be Queen:

TMWWBQ CoverINTEREST IN CHILDREN
1. I greatly enjoy spending time with young children.
2. I get a lot of pleasure from holding babies.
3. I would enjoy taking care of a baby for a friend or relative.
4. I daydream about having a baby of my own.
5. Often when I see babies, I experience warm, positive feelings.
6. When I think about it hard, I have strong doubts whether the
rewards of raising an infant are worth the work and responsibility. (reverse scored)

This could be seven value Likert scored from “Definitely Do NOT Agree” to “Definitely Agree”.  Any interested in conducting the survey?

Further Reading:

Essay on Robert Stoller’s description of a “typical” androphilic transsexual.

New York Times Obituary for Dawn Simmons

Scientific American: How a transgender women could get pregnant

References:

Judd, et al., “Male Transsexualism”, (1974) Western Journal of Medicine
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1130141/

MONEY, JOHN Ph.D.; PRIMROSE, CLAY, “SEXUAL DIMORPHISM AND DISSOCIATION IN THE PSYCHOLOGY OF MALE TRANSSEXUALS” (1968) The Journal of Mental and Nervous Disease
http://journals.lww.com/jonmd/Abstract/1968/11000/SEXUAL_DIMORPHISM_AND_DISSOCIATION_IN_THE.4.aspx


Fun Reading:

 

All the Stars are Suns ebook completeSincerity Espinoza didn’t go looking for trouble, it found her. All she wants out of life is the chance to go to the stars but she is caught in a web of misunderstandings, political & legal maneuvering, and the growing threat of terrorist plots by religious fanatics. She has a secret that if found out too soon could mean not only her own death but the ruin of the hope for humanity ever going to the stars. But even amidst momentous events, life is still about the small moments of love, laughter, and sadness.   Available as an ebook at Amazon and Kindle Unlimited.

 

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It was the best of times…

Posted in Autobiographical, Transsexual Field Studies by Kay Brown on June 21, 2017

Kay Brown 2010…It was the worst of times   Or, That ’70s Show

In the May 1974 issue of the Western Journal of Medicine, two back to back articles appeared, one from a number of doctors reporting on a grand rounds at UCSD hospital that included Robert J. Stoller and one from Norman M. Fisk.  Reading them both now is not only a window on the past, but explains where we are now and how we got here.

I can’t write about this period without flashing back on my own life and what was happening at the time.  In May of ’74, I was just about to turn 17, finishing my Junior year in high school.  My favorite class was “Individual Voice”, solo singing but I was also really enjoying one other class, “Cosmology; Stellar and Galactic Evolution” I was taking at a local college, taught by a NASA astronomer.  I got an “A” in the class, of course.  I was also summer job hunting and landed my dream job as a nanny taking care of two boys for a local family for $50 a week (~$250 in today’s money).  I was also desperately searching at the library for any and all information I could find on transsexuality and how I could get HRT and SRS.  That search led me to the Stanford Gender Dysphoria Clinic and Dr. Fisk.

In early ’75, after much drama with my parents, who were separated and soon to be divorced, I finally convinced them to let me go to the clinic (but failed to mention that they performed SRS, etc.), which meant first being evaluated by Dr. Fisk.  During the first interview, I got the very distinct impression that he didn’t believe a word I said, though it was all the absolute truth.  From his article, we can see why,

“The concept of gender dysphoria syndrome grew out of clinical necessity very much in an organic, naturalistic fashion.  This occurred because virtually all patients who initially presented for screening provided us with a totally pat psychobiography which seemed almost to be well rehearsed or prepared, particularly in the salients pertaining to differential diagnoses. It would be accurate to say that of the initial 30 to 40 non-psychotic patients screened, all presented as virtual textbook cases of classical transsexualism.  Remembering the old medical saw that “the last time one sees a textbook case is when one closes the textbook,” it was apparent that this group of patients were so intent upon obtaining sex conversion operations that they had availed themselves of the germane literature and had successfully prepared themselves to pass initial screening.  In some instances they had rehearsed friends, spouses and family members in a similar fashion.”

During a later interview, in the company of my mother, who with obvious disapprobation and the mistaken notion that the clinic was to “cure” me, answered his questions about my early childhood saying,

“He was very different than his brothers.  All of their friends were boys, his were all girls. … He was very prissy.  I could dress him in clean clothes on Monday and they would still be clean on Friday. … I’ve known he wanted to live as a girl for years.  I just felt that was wrong.”

In the next interview, in company with my father, who tried to argue with him about what should be done about me after learning that I had been diagnosed as transsexual, Dr. Fisk replied,

“Denial will not serve.  You will win some battles but lose the war.”

That made Dr. Fisk my hero for life!  And he should be a hero to every transsexual who has come after, since it is Dr. Fisk who changed the way transgender people are treated that continues today,

Within the first two to three years of our investigation, it became apparent that when non-fabricated or, more precisely, honest and candid psychobiographies were obtained from our patient population, there was indeed a great deal of diversity and deviance from what had been defined as the symptoms of “classical transsexualism.”  Moreover, the overtly present common denominator was the high level of dysphoria concerning the individual’s gender of assignment or rearing  … employing the diagnostic term gender dysphoria syndrome, our indications for surgical sex conversion therapy have been broadened. Patients now clearly understand that had they been interviewed five or ten or twenty years ago, they would have been diagnosed as not being classical transsexuals. These patients are informed that a diagnosis of transsexualism is not in our view the only valid criterion for deciding who receives surgical sex conversion. Moreover, we practice the rather pragmatic dictum that nothing succeeds quite like success and therefore our criteria for surgical sex reassignment or conversion are more phenomenologically oriented. … Obviously, by liberalizing the indications for sex conversion through conceptualizing patients as having gender dysphoria, we also are committed to provide a program for patients encompassing many factors related to a total overall rehabilitative experience. These include vocational counseling and guidance, psychological and psychiatric supportive therapy, grooming clinics where role-appropriate behaviors are taught, explained and practiced, legal assistance, and, probably of most benefit, an opportunity is afforded to meet and interact with other patients who have successfully negotiated gender reorientation or who are in various phases of reorientation. This program employs some former patients as counselors to persons with gender disorders.

But that’s not to say that my experiences with the clinic were all good.  In fact, personal repercussions of some of what Fisk describes in glowing self-congratulatory fashion were severe.  I’m not alone in experiencing these issues.  While Fisk’s liberalization had eliminated the absolute need for a differential diagnoses for purposes of determining who was to receive services, it has led to a false belief within the trans* communities that there are no differences on the one hand and to the harmful homogenization of treatment protocols on the other.  It is important to note that the Stanford clinic did know that there were in fact two types and organized their services around helping those most in need of “gender reorientation”.

Having seen the best of times… we now turn to the worst of times.

During psychiatric grand rounds at a UCSD hospital, a 20 year old androphilic transwoman is paraded in front of a large group.  The author of the article describing the event uses masculine pronouns to introduce her to his readers and give a bit of her history, then switches to feminine pronouns.  Here’s an excerpt,

“She was told that this interview would be part of a training session on transsexualism so that people in the Department of Psychiatry could learn more about it. She was also told that this session will have no bearing on her treatment, continuing evaluation, or the decision regarding her operation. She understands that coming here is entirely voluntary.  (The patient, whom we shall call Gloria, was escorted into the room. She wore women’s clothing, was heavily made up, and quite attractive.  She was introduced to Dr. Parzen, who interviewed her before a group of approximately 100 staff members and residents. The following are selected excerpts from that interview.)”

Does anyone today believe that “Gloria” didn’t fully understand that her voluntary cooperation was actually mandatory if she was to successfully navigate this clinic’s hoops?  Certainly she did given the times, as Dr. Parzen says,

“These patients become good actors and tend to be paranoid toward anyone who might push them to betray themselves in a way that might jeopardize their surgical treatment.  Gloria had already established a personal relationship with Dr. Millman, and his feelings about her will ultimately determine what will happen to her.”

The doctors had ultimate power of granting or denying services and transfolk knew it!  What’s interesting is that the doctors knew that the they knew it, but saw nothing wrong with this imbalance of power save for complaining about what transsexuals do in the face of such asymmetric power,

Certainly she is quite protective about herself at this point. She is awfully close to getting what she wants, and she isn’t going to tell me anything that might interfere with that. She does not know my orientation, and she isn’t crazy, and therefore isn’t going to present material that might be interpreted wrongly from her point of view.  Transsexual patients classically tend to be very manipulative and very secretive. They tell you what they want you to know, and they have learned through much experience to read and to manipulate medical staff.

I could go on with the odd ideation that these physicians have that relied on classical Freudian psychoanalysis, not to mention the incredibly disrespectful things these doctors said about “Gloria” and transgender people in general, but I don’t need to as the articles have been scanned and available for all to read.

Further Reading:

Essay on differential diagnoses and transsexual taxonomy use in the 1970s.

References:

Fisk, N., “Editorial: Gender dysphoria syndrome–the conceptualization that liberalizes indications for total gender reorientation and implies a broadly based multi-dimensional rehabilitative regimen.” (1974) Western Journal of Medicine
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1130142/

Judd, et al., “Male Transsexualism”, (1974) Western Journal of Medicine
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1130141/


 

Fun Reading:

All the Stars are Suns ebook completeSincerity Espinoza didn’t go looking for trouble, it found her. All she wants out of life is the chance to go to the stars but she is caught in a web of misunderstandings, political & legal maneuvering, and the growing threat of terrorist plots by religious fanatics. She has a secret that if found out too soon could mean not only her own death but the ruin of the hope for humanity ever going to the stars. But even amidst momentous events, life is still about the small moments of love, laughter, and sadness.   Available as an ebook at Amazon and Kindle Unlimited.

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