On the Science of Changing Sex

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 HSTS.  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

https://www.hindawi.com/journals/schizort/2014/463757/

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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 gender dysphoric.  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.

These people weren’t just involved with the ACLU, but with other key early organizations offering medical and legal advice and even in the formation of what is now WPATH.

Little known is the real hero of those very early days, transman Reed Erickson, who put his fortune to work helping both the gay and trans communities.  Through the ’60s and ’70s, he supported the Erickson Education Foundation, whose Executive Director, Zelda Suplee, an iconoclastic non-transsexual woman, was a lifeline, on the phone and through the mails, for many transsexuals who would otherwise have been all alone.  Zelda was a firm believer not only in the transsexual community, but in nudism and reincarnation.  Once, as I drove the three of us to a meeting of transactivists, Dr. Joy Shaffer asked her, “Do you really believe in that stuff?”  Zelda quipped in reply, “It beats television!”  When Erickson was no longer there to support the foundation and its work, these transfolk stepped in.

In the ’70s, Joanna and Jude Patton also worked very closely with fabulously openly gay Paul Walker to continue the educational work of the recently defunct Erickson Foundation, forming the Janus Foundation to publish and distribute the educational pamphlets from the Erickson days and to eventually found the Harry Benjamin Gender Dysphora Association (later renamed World Professional Association for Transgender Health (WPATH).  One night in the mid ’80s, Paul Walker, Joanna, Joy, and I were bar hoping in San Francisco, when we entered a bar that Paul liked to frequent, catering to mostly transwomen of color.  The patrons took one look at the towering whiteness of Joanna and informed us that “This is a private club.”  Joanna, with her typically irreverent, and oft dangerously inappropriate, sense of humor, loudly quipped, “Busted!!!”.  These would be the serious activists that pioneered efforts to work with lawmakers and the courts, physicians, surgeons, clinics and scientists… to earn legal and medical recognition, to enable the majority of transfolk to transition and receive appropriate and respectful medical and legal services.

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 with the ACLU 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.

Addendum 2021:  Well, it looks like Biden put an end to the ban.  But let us never forget that this was NOT done out of the goodness of his heart.  Remember the ban STARTED during the CARTER administration, one of the most kind hearted, but Xtian Evangelist, Presidents we’ve ever had.  Even good people can do evil things.  It is up to us, those who are the potential victims of bigotry, to be every vigilant to defend our rights and freedoms.

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.

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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

 

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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 transsexuals 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/

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It’s Just Not Fair!

Posted in Autobiographical, Transsexual Theory by Kay Brown on June 4, 2017

Kay Brown“Life just isn’t fair.”

That’s what I heard as a child and I learned deep down that it’s true.  Life just isn’t fair.

For years now, I’ve seen news articles, blog posts, and internet fora discussions around the issue of transfolk and of course intersex folk and athletics.  The word that keeps coming up, especially from those who oppose allowing them to participate in sports, is that it isn’t fair to women.  But as I hope to convince my reader, sports and athletics have never been about what’s fair.  And its not really about transfolk per se.

First, lets talk about “fair” and how life isn’t.  When I was nine years old, my mother, a serious jock herself, decided to enroll my brothers and I in competitive swimming.  We joined the Mountain View Dolphins coached by Mr. Tom Bottom.  If that sounds familiar, it’s because you may have read that Steve Wozniak and Steve Jobs were also on the Dolphins.  But I mostly hung out with Patti Jobs, also on the team.  I tried for months to get faster.  But no matter how hard I tried, I just couldn’t swim fast.  Heck, I couldn’t even keep up with the others during regular practice, much less a race!  Eventually, Coach Bottom told my mother that it was useless and I was asked to leave the team.  I never even entered an actual competition race.  I would never be an athlete.  My heart was in it, but my heart wasn’t.  Life just isn’t fair.

Yes, I know that sounds odd, but one has to understand, that my cardio-pulmonary system just couldn’t deliver.  I had severe exercise induced asthma and poor heart-lung capacity.  I was and remain chronically anemic.  I also lacked overall muscle strength.  I was poor at every sport.  I was a short, skinny slip of a thing that couldn’t run, couldn’t throw, couldn’t bat.  At school, I knew instantly which team I would be on the moment that they started to pick teams, since I would be picked dead last, after all of the girls (though two of the girls were near the top of the pick list many weren’t good at sports either, but all were better than me).  No one wanted me on their team and they made it very obvious, derisively so.  Children can be cruel and some adults aren’t much better.  Life just isn’t fair.

To make it even more cruel, my three siblings as well as my mother were good athletes.  My father had been keen on sports as well, active until a heart condition forced him to cut back.  My memories of family dinner table conversations are dominated with discussions of times and scores for swimming, volleyball and softball (our mother), gymnastics (my sister), water polo, and diving.  While I sat silent, not participating, as I was just not an athlete.  Life just isn’t fair.

The younger of my two brothers was an elite athlete.  He was winning swimming races since he was six years old.  Being an elite swimmer got him into Stanford University as an undergraduate upon the strong recommendation of the university swim coach.  (While I was disowned for being transsexual and unable to go to the state college because of lack of financial support.  Life isn’t fair.)  Eventually, he would compete in the Universiade and if Carter hadn’t insisted that we boycott the Olympics in Moscow, he would have competed there as well.  That had been his burning ambition for years.  He even had the number ’80 in big characters on his bedroom wall growing up.  But… Life just isn’t fair.

handSo what was going on?  Perhaps my family just won the genetics lottery and I lost.  Or it may have been a more complicated story… and interestingly, there are hints that it might have a deep connection with why I am transsexual.  It turns out there is a very strong connection between cardio-pulmonary capacity, 2d:4d digit ratios, and athletic ability, all influenced by testosterone exposure in utero and perinatally.  Those with high testosterone exposure in utero later develop larger and stronger hearts and lungs (as well as generally being stronger overall).  There is a statistical correlation between having a low 2d:4d ratio and athletic performance, especially for speed at running and swimming.

finger vs sexMy 2d:4d ratio is very high, 1.06 which is quite literally “off the chart”, so one would predict that I would be a very poor athlete.  While the verdict isn’t quite in yet, there is also tentative evidence that high 2d:4d ratios are correlated with male androphilia and gender atypicality, including being an MTF transkid.  Life just isn’t fair.

Regardless of whether the above is true, opponents of transfolk, especially of MTF transwomen, competing in athletic events and sports, are right about one key fact.  Men, on average, do have greater physical strength and cardio-pulmonary capacity ON AVERAGE.  That is to say, that both men and women, boys and girls, vary in their natural athleticism on Gaussian curves that largely overlap but are offset from one another.  I don’t have the data handy so I can’t list the effect sizes.  But my point is that because of this offset, the elite men will beat the elite women, nearly every time, unless something about being female is privileged in a given event (e.g. figure skating advantages shorter, lighter women with a lower center of mass).  One never hears complaints about transkids like me who lose at every event to all of the girls.  We only hear complaints about the very tiny minority of transkids and especially adult transitioners who win at the elite level.  And yes, statistically, we do expect that for “late transitioners”, that at the elite level, such transwomen will have the advantage of having a long history of higher testosterone exposure that begins to privilege males begining in utero.  While HRT and SRS will reduce current levels of androgens and result in decreased muscle mass, it will not erase the advantage of earlier exposure, most especially upon cardio-pulmonary capacity.

But for MTF transkids, the story is very different.  Research shows that they (we) are smaller, lighter, and less muscular than gender typical males (including “late transitioners”) even before puberty blockers or HRT, but we are lumped together by the public and even by the so called “transgender community”.  Add in the recent move to treat transkids with puberty blockers until later adolescence to switch them to feminizing Hormone Replacement Therapy?  These transkids have NO advantage over natal female girls, but are being falsely treated as if they did.  Life just isn’t fair.

The real issue is something deeper.  One obvious reason is simple lack of empathy, the willingness to ignore how excluding transkids from athletics, especially team sports with their peers, is cruel and heartless.  But this has never been about being “fair” and certainly not about “sportsmanship”.

Here is where I change the subject a bit and introduce a conjecture that I have long been exploring.  I can’t really call it an hypothesis, since I don’t really know how to test it.  I don’t believe that athletics and sports in general are about “fair” in the ethical sense because if it was, we wouldn’t be so freaked out about “doping”.  I know, you think that makes no sense, but bear with me.

First, consider professional sports.  At the deepest level, these are entertainment businesses, first and last.  One would think that anything that increased the entertainment value would be encouraged.  After all, action movies aren’t anything like real life, they are pure entertainment.  So why does the fact that Barry
Bonds using medical advances to improve his performance on the field bother his fans, and thus his employers?  This can’t be about economics because the value of the entertainment is improved by his increase in the ability to hit home runs.  It can’t be about “fairness” because all of the other players could also have access to this technology which would further improve the entertainment value of their performances.  Yet, the public and thus the businesses collectively ban their use.  We actually do want Barry Bonds to have lots of testosterone fueled muscle.  But we want that testosterone to come from his testicles, not a test tube.

It always struck me as odd that in all sports and athletic events, the participants can use any and all crazy training and health regimes to improve their performance except for those that actually work.  We ban steroids.  We ban stimulants.  We ban blood oxygen carrying capacity enhancers.  Again, everyone could use them, so this isn’t about “fairness”.

No, something deeper is going on.  I believe that something is related to peacock feathers and deer antlers.  It is related to the deep-time evolutionary need to compete for mates and to evaluate the genetic fitness of potential mates.  We don’t want amazing athletic performance for its own sake.  We want the ability to stack rank potential mates on their genetically endowed performance.  In ancient times, the young people of a community would have had events which allowed comparisons with each other.  And it would be obvious who was the healthiest, who was most likely to sire or bear the healthiest and strongest children.  We evolved to have such contests and to observe such contests, to be rewarded for such participation and observation.  This explains why we don’t like ‘doping’ or transfolk and intersex folk winning these contests (again, no one complains about them losing).  On some deep level, we feel anger and disgust at anything that interferes with our ability to rate potential mates or allow others to so rate us, because our children will only carry 50% of our own genes, and we want those 50% to have the best genetic partners as we can find.  At this deep level, athletics is about having sex.

Since deep down, this is about sex, competing for mates, and evaluating mates, intersex and transsex people need not apply.  If this was truly about fairness, we would say, well… that intersexed woman (e.g. Caster Semenya) or that MTF transkid did win the genetic lottery… if in an unusual path.   But because we know that she can’t actually bear children, we feel disgust, revulsion, and tell everyone “it isn’t fair”.

Life just isn’t fair… and we instinctively want our children to have the best chance at success.  We don’t want our athletics and sports to be truly “fair”… no we want them to be as cruel as possible… to weed out the weak and inferior and reward only the strong, healthy genetic stock who will give us strong healthy children and grandchildren.  Life just isn’t fair.

Epilog:  Life just isn’t fair.

But life can bring surprising twists.  Less than a decade after I was kicked off the Dolphins by Coach Bottom, I would again see him nearly every day.   Mr. Bottom taught history at my second high school, he coached that school’s swimming and water polo teams.  He was also one of my saviors, as he approached me during my Senior year with an opportunity I sorely needed.  I had been diagnosed as transsexual at the Stanford Clinic.  I was coming out to friends, classmates, and a select few of my teachers.  I was getting ready to refuse to participate in boys’ P.E., stealing up my strength to face down officialdom about being trans… when Coach Bottom offered to let me teach the one and only student who didn’t know how to swim, instead.  Coach Bottom knew that I spent summers teaching little kids to swim.  He knew I knew how to be a strong and fast swimmer… but that I just couldn’t swim fast myself.  So, I spent the last term of my highschool years, as a swimming instructor, a P.E. teacher in effect, with one student.

Life may not always be fair, but it can sometimes be, in the end.

Further Reading:

Essay on 2D:4D Evidence Supports Role of Low Testosterone in MTF Transkids in Utero

Essay on 2d:4d Digit Ratio History

Further External Reading:

“First Female Wrestler Wins State Championship” against the BOY’S

“Reading the Body: Finger Length Ratio Predicts Athletic Ability” by Martijn van Mensvoort

“As We Rightfully Applaud Yearwood, We Must Acknowledge Many Questions Remain” by Jeff Jacobs

“Male Athletes with Higher World Rankings are Better Looking” by Sam Wong

“How Steve Jobs swimming failure became unlikely source of inspiration” by David Pierini

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Cognitive Dissonance and Vector Transform Miscalculations in Transgender Tensor Space

Posted in Autobiographical, Editorial by Kay Brown on June 2, 2017

Kay Brown 2010Tension said the Tensor
Tension said the Tensor
Tension Apprehension and Dissention have begun

I am turning 60 years old this week.  This means that it has been 42 years since I transitioned full-time the same week I turned 18, graduated from high school, and was informed that I was being kicked out.  Much has happened since then, both personally and within the transsexual and transgender communities.  In the vein of “ya either laugh or cry”, offered for your consideration are random dialogs and events over the decades.  The events were real, only the names have been changed to protect the guilty.


In early ’75, I’m 17 years old, in my bedroom in my mother’s house, which looked like an unused spare bedroom, devoid of personal touches, always neat as a pin, ready for that unexpected guest to occupy it; my father is pleading with me not to be transsexual, “No one will hire you.  You will never have a career.  Just live as a man.  We will look the other way when you have boyfriends over.”

I think bitterly, but don’t voice my thought, “yeah… just like you and the rest of the family treat Uncle Charles!” (my father’s closeted gay brother, the one we were never allowed to meet or talk about).

My father then goes on, attempting to bargain with me, bribe me, “If you stay living as a man the rest of the time, I will pay for vacations where you can dress as a woman.”

I lost it! He was confusing me with a transvestite or a drag queen?  I actually yelled back, out loud, “I AM NOT A PART-TIME WOMAN!”

It’s just after my 18th birthday in mid ’75 and I’m sitting in the waiting room of Chope Hospital for an appointment to meet Dr. Laub, the surgeon with the Stanford Gender Dysphoria Clinic.  Since the room is large, crowded, and noisy and I’m hard of hearing, I’m sitting right next to the receptionist window and the clinic door so I won’t miss them call my name at the appointed time.  A young woman steps out of the door and looks expectantly around the room as though to see someone she recognizes.  Her face indicates that she is giving up but calls out, “Candice Brown?”  I stand up right in front of her upon which she visibly startles.  She then glances at the clip board again, then at me, and asks me to follow her.  During the physical exam, a nurse, Dr. Laub, and the young woman, who turned out to be the director of the clinic, make remarks about my naturally feminine looking appearance and total lack of a beard, the director saying, “… and not even on hormones yet!”

Candice_Caltech

Kay Brown in college

I’m at a “Grooming Seminar” at the Stanford Gender Dysphoria Clinic in early ’76.  This is touted as one of their services for “complete gender reorientation” offered by the clinic, but in reality, another “hoop” one had to jump through.  I had been living as a girl, attending a junior college, since the previous summer.  I attend in the hopes of getting my “letter” approving me for SRS.  It is the very first time that I’ve ever met any other “transsexuals”.  During a break, several transwomen, all much older, are crowded, towering, around and over me, making me very uncomfortable as they alternately comment on my looks, my age (just 18 years old), even my body, in an obviously lascivious and simultaneously jealous way.  One of them asks about my romantic life.  I mention that I’m dating some young men.  One asks,

“How is that possible?!?”

“They ask me out, I say yes,” I shrug.

Both they and I are confused by the encounter.

In the summer of ’77, after two full years post full-time social transition and HRT, I agree to meet my father’s new fiancee, just she and I.  I had heard from one of my brothers that she was not very bright and only a few years older than I.  I’m sitting next to her dressed, much like she was, as a young woman, face lightly made up, with natural long hair in the bright warmth of the summer sun, in a public place so that I could leave in haste in case the interview became ugly, as so many with others of my family had in the past.  During our short encounter she attempted to reassure me that she was “OK” with me being “homosexual” and that she “knew all about it” because she had seen The Boys In The Band.

I looked at her for a moment with my mouth open in shock and silence!  I swallowed what I wanted to scream at her, “How clueless are you?  I’m transsexual, not a gay man!”

Once again, I’m at a “Grooming Seminar” in late ’77.  One of the events specially scheduled for this day is a make-over session in which a make-up expert has been brought in to demonstrate how to use make-up to allow one to pass.  She asks for a volunteer.  As the only ‘young transitioner’ in the audience, well-known to the others to wear almost no make-up beyond mascara and eye-liner, I was by general acclamation “volunteered” with much cat-calling and barely suppressed jealous jeering, as I was literally compelled toward the stands by gentle pushes and shoves.  As I join the make-up artist on the stage, this young woman does a serious double-take.  She looks at me, looks at her make-up selection, and despairs.  I later learn from her that she had been told to expect that she would have to cover heavy five-o-clock shadows and coarse ruddy complexions.  She examines my face, noting that I was as smooth skinned as she is without a trace of beard (I had never grown one, never needed electrolysis.)  She asks,

“You have such lovely complexion, what do you use to cleanse and moisturize?”

“Cold cream and rubbing alcohol.”  I answer honestly.  I could barely afford to eat, much less buy expensive skin creams!

“Really?” she asks incredulously, pausing to consider what to do, ” I don’t know what to do.  I don’t have the right make up for your face!”  Which brings more titters and cat-calls from the far older transwomen in the audience who are clearly enjoying her discomfiture, likely having anticipated this development.  I feel my face blush pink from embarrassment.  “Hold on, I know…” as she grabs her purse and pulls out her own personal travelling make-up kit.  Turns out, we have identical coloring.  She makes-up my face such that I look like a beauty magazine model.

During the late summer of 1978, I’m working hard campaigning, as just one of thousands, against California Prop. 6, the Briggs initiative that would have made it unlawful for LGBT folks and our allies to be school teachers.  One very late evening, after campaigning all afternoon, I’m dead tired, too tired to drive home safely so a really butch lesbian I had been working with toward the end of the evening invited me to crash on her couch at her nearby house for the night, which I gratefully accepted.  The next morning, she notices my bare feet, since I had taken off my shoes and socks before settling on the couch the night before, but left on my blue jeans and “No On 6” campaign T-shirt.  This woman takes one look at my painted toenails and starts a long rant on patriarchal / heterosexual standards and how lesbians “like us” shouldn’t buy into them; That I shouldn’t be painting my nails or wearing make-up, etc.  I realized that since I was stealth and passed as female, working so hard against Prop. 6., that she assumed that I must be a lesbian (female and gynephilic).  I then also realized from some of what she said that she was a truly femmephobic and transphobic, “radical feminist”.  I thanked her for letting me crash, and got out of there as expeditiously as I could before trouble arose.

It’s 1982 and I’m at the Gay & Lesbian Alliance at Stanford (GLAS) Halloween party.  I’m a graduate student at the University.  I’m dressed as an 18th Century society lady.  I meet a really cute, tall, young man who seems to be my “type”.  We dance, laugh, then finally drift outside onto a veranda where we can hear each other without shouting.  I’m feeling the chemistry, but also that he is holding back a bit.  Finally, he blurts out, “Are you a guy or a chick?”  My heart sinks.  This is not going to go well.

“Why?” I ask, “Does it matter?”

“Well yes.  If you are a guy, I’d like to take you home tonight.  If you’re a chick, no.”

“Well, then we have a problem.  Because the only people who need to know that are the ones who are taking me home already.”

Being a post-op transwoman, there was no way that he would be interested once he found that out, no gay man ever is.  But I was feeling puckish and perhaps a bit miffed.  You could see this really put him in a bind.  He was REALLY interested in me and really hoping that I was a ‘guy’.  On the other hand, if I wasn’t and he took me home, this would not be to his liking.  He pulled away, politely.  I later got word from a friend who I’d known for a while that the young man had asked him only minutes afterward if I was “a guy or a chick”.  He had answered, “I wouldn’t know.  I wouldn’t be so rude as to ask.”

Some weeks later, at another GLAS event, the same young man came up to me and said, “You’re a chick.”

“Oh, how are you so sure?”

“Because I saw you going to class dressed as a chick.”

It’s the mid-80’s and I’m at the Billie De Frank Gay and Lesbian Community Center, volunteering at various functions.  I started with just staying after to help fold, stack, and store chairs.  Then I began helping put away the sound equipment, coiling cables and power cords, etc.  Then I was asked to come in early to help set up the sound systems.  Eventually, I was helping to run the sound board during concerts, mostly Wymyn’s Music.  There was a book store in the front of the center, run exclusively by women.  Because many of the volunteers at the book store overlapped with the folks that ran the concerts, I was on friendly terms with them.  One day, they invited me to a pot-luck at one of the women’s houses.  It would have been churlish of me to refuse.

During the dinner, things were going fine.  But after the meal, they all sat down in the living room to watch a video.  It was a lesbian burlesque / strip tease video.  The women, especially one really big bluff dyke, were hooting and hollerin’, making sexual comments.  She struck me as worse than most straight men in objectifying women’s bodies.  Me, I was both bored and bothered.  This was NOT my sexuality!  I silently withdrew, first to clean up in the kitchen, then out the backdoor so they wouldn’t know how I repulsed I was.

I was never invited back.  They must have finally figured out that I didn’t belong with them.

ACLUAt a political gathering in the summer of 1982 of several dozen transsexuals, mostly ‘late transitioning’ transwomen and their wives, a woman asks my friend Joy,

“Where is your Significant Other?”

“I’m single.”

“Oh, then who did you come with?”

“My friend,” pointing at me. 

“I’m confused.  Then why are you here?  Most of us only came to support our SO’s,” having looked me over and decided that I wasn’t transsexual either.

“I’m a member of the ACLU committee.”

“Oh wait, you mean that YOU are TS?  OMG!  I’m sorry, I thought you were one of us.”  (meaning, one of the natal female wives and girlfriends)

At an FtM conference in late ’99, where I had been invited to give a talk on TransHistory, a very similar dialog occurs as a transman and his wife ask me,

“Where is your husband?” as he has noted my wedding ring, making the assumption that I’m one of the non-TS wives of a transman attending the conference.

“He’s at home.  He’s not interested in these sorts of events.”

“Ummm… then when are you planning to transition?” as he looks me over, obviously both admiring my trim figure in a cute feminine outfit while frowning in confusion and some disapproval, now assuming I’m a wannabe FtM.

“Transition?  I did that over twenty five years ago!”

“You’re MTF?  Wow!” as he gives me an even more admiring gaze, “Wow!”

Young transitioning, androphilic transwomen, being a small minority, get this all of the time.  We don’t look “transgender” and even other transfolk aren’t that familiar with us.

Late transitioning transwomen believe that there is only one type, so they tend to make invalid assumptions.  During a discussion at a local political meeting where all of the ‘late transitioning’ transwomen are huddled together discussing their military service, one snags me and asks,

“So when were you in the military?”

“What?  They don’t let TS folk in the military!”

“Of course not, I meant before the change…”

“They don’t let minors join either.”

CedarStar_porch

CedarStar

On another day, it doesn’t matter when, as similar events happened several times… and I’m having a discussion in my kitchen with a transwoman I invited over for coffee to discuss transactivism plans.  She makes a comment about one of my roommates, assuming that she is my girlfriend, wondering aloud if she will mind that she is there.

“What makes you think that she and I are an item?”

“Well, you live together.  And it’s obvious that you are affectionate with each other.”

“We have separate bedrooms.”

“But….”

“We have separate bedrooms.  I’m not into women.  I’ve been dating men since I was a teenager.”

“But, if you are only into men, how come you’re hanging out with me?”

“Because I thought you were interesting as a person.  I wanted to talk about working together.  This isn’t a date!”

Serious misunderstandings between myself and late transitioning transwomen have happened repeatedly in my life.  It is understandable, if one knows that people tend to project their own motives and world view upon others as their working assumption until proven wrong.

Candice2

Kay Brown with her adopted daughter Liz

It’s the late-90’s, I’m with my adopted daughter, Liz, at a large social gathering at the private home of a much older transwoman, literally a rocket scientist, that includes a fair number of late transitioning transwomen in Silicon Valley.  Everyone there is “cool” about transgender folk and I’ve been introduced, and thus ‘outed’ as being trans, before I even got there.  A middle-aged woman approaches me,

“Your daughter is so well-behaved and lovely and looks so much like you.”

“Yes, it’s amazing.  I guess we both just got lucky that way.”

“So where is her mother? Is she here, or is this your weekend to babysit?”

“I’m her mother.”

“Oh… oh yes, of course you are.  I meant her real mother.”

“If you mean her birth mother, I wouldn’t know, I’ve never met her.”

“Huh?”

“I adopted Liz.  I’ve never met her birth parents.  And no, this isn’t my weekend to ‘babysit’.  I’m her mother!”

I wanted to scream at this woman who was so completely clueless on multiple levels.  First, she assumed that I was Liz’s sire, that her birth mother was my wife or ex-wife.  I wanted to scream, “NO, I’m not her FATHER.  I’ve never even FUCKED a woman in my entire life!  Oh for fuck’s sake, I transitioned a decade before Liz was even born!”

Its 2009, I accompanied a young protégé, a 20-something transwoman to Trinidad, Colorado so that she wouldn’t be all alone as she underwent SRS and the painful first days afterwards.  I stayed at a B&B owned by a lesbian.  It was billed as a very trans friendly place where transfolk and their families / friends could stay during and after their hospitalization.  Perfect, I thought.

Well… not so perfect as it turned out.  The first few days went well as I got along well with the relatives of the transfolk, who except for exactly one 17-year-old, were all classic autogynephilic transwomen.  The non-transfolk, all female, staying at the B&B were clearly self-congratulating themselves for how supportive they were of their transgender relative.  The owner of the B&B was friendly, and tried to get me to partake in smoking grass and staying up late to get more than tipsy on hard liquor with her lesbian friends.  As I never drink more than a few sips of wine with dinner, never use pot, and am habitually an early to bed, early to rise type, she was very disappointed in me.

But, after being there several days, as my young protégé lay in the hospital bed recovering, there was some rather animated discussions among the family members of the transfolk at the B&B, it became clear to me that they all thought I was my young protégé’s mother.  Further, it became clear that even though all of these people had transfolk as relatives, spouses, or lovers, they didn’t really have a clue as to certain aspects of trans-life, history, or medical etiology.  I said something that could only be properly understood if one knew that I was trans… Oopsie!

The owner of the B&B suddenly turned to me and said, “But YOU aren’t transgender!”.

“Yes, I am.  I had SRS in this very same place twenty-eight years ago.”

“But you are so womanly!”

Yes, that is a verbatim quote, which tells volumes of her perception of and attitude toward the many transwomen that she had met over the years of operating her B&B.

It took several more minutes of question and answers before they actually believed me.

But this was a very bad move on my part, outing myself… even to this ostensibly trans friendly environment.  Where before I had been simply a woman to them… suddenly, I was no longer in that social category.  I was the “other”.

189511_1005083648024_5819_n

Jeff and Kay saying their vows

I’m at a trendy wine bar in 2013 in Sacramento the evening after having spoken, by invitation, on a panel at a women’s conference earlier.  The conference organizer is drunk, loudly outs me to several other women, then tells me that she has dated transwomen before, making it very clear that she finds me attractive.  She and her friend stand on either side of me, penning me in as they proceed to hit on me, her friend taking my hand and suggestively stroking it for a moment, then puzzled, notes my wedding and engagement rings, soldered together as one, asks,

“What’s this?”

“My wedding ring.  I’m married.”

“You’re married?”

“Yes, I’m married.  His name is Jeff.  We have a daughter, Liz.”

“I thought you were transgender…”

family

Kay, Jeff, Liz, & Reese

I wave my hands, shaking my head, as I pull away to make a timely exit to walk back to the B&B for the night.  The next morning, I have a very serious talk to the conference organizer about her inappropriate behavior, explaining why it is not cool to out transwomen in public, nor to hit on them so aggressively, assuming that we are all sexually attracted to women.  She was shocked.  She sincerely thought that ALL transwomen were attracted to women.

Over forty years of embarrassing misunderstandings.  I sincerely hope that with greater visibility of transkids, they will experience far fewer of these…

Further Reading:

The Invisible Transsexual

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What the NEXT Wave of Transgender Activists Need to Know

Posted in Autobiographical, Editorial by Kay Brown on December 9, 2014

CloudyThis post marks five years of writing on the subject.  It seems a good moment to stop and reflect on the reasons I’ve been writing, and to explore what has changed in my lifetime.  I’ve tried to keep the material mostly about the science and its implications.  It hasn’t always been easy, as there is in the background, from what I would call the “Second Wave” of transactivists, a powerful and very ugly, campaign of disinformation.  Why do I say, “Second Wave”?  Because I, and a few folks I knew from the ’70s and very early ’80s, were the “First Wave”.

Christine Jorgensen would undoubtedly have to be called the first, as she wrote and spoke about her life in the hopes that others like her would have a better life in the future. I still keep in my “memory box” a small ticket stub from the day that I attended a talk she gave at a local community college in February of ’76.  After she spoke, she welcomed the small cluster of transwomen who surrounded her, hoping to speak with their heroine.  Christine took a special interest in me, teasing me as a “Baby TS, all of eighteen years old!”

Silvia Rivera is of course oft mentioned when she spoke out from the streets of New York.  I’m sad that I never got the chance to meet Silvia before she died.  Other street warriors came forward, but their efforts were, sadly, largely symbolic, yet important none-the-less.  One of these was Angela Keyes Douglas.  I was with her the evening that she typed the infamous Sister letter that Janice Raymond would later, falsely, use as an example of transsexual misogyny, in her transphobic book, The Transsexual Empire.  Angela angrily pulled it fresh from her typewriter and asked me to review it.  It dripped with hyperbolic sarcasm, angry as she was over the transphobic treatment of Sandy Stone over her employment at Olivia Records, the seminal Womyn’s Music publisher.  I too was angry at the treatment that Sandy was enduring, being on friendly terms with her as well, but I diplomatically reported, “It’s too full of anger to do any good.”  Angela snorted, snatched the letter back from me, and posted it.  Even then, in ’77, it was very clear that Angela’s mind was deteriorating from progressive paranoid schizophrenia.

Joy_Candice

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

Little known is the real hero of those very early days, transman Reed Erickson, who put his fortune to work helping both the gay and trans communities.  Through the ’60s and ’70s, he supported the Erickson Education Foundation, whose Executive Director, Zelda Suplee, an iconoclastic non-transsexual woman, was a lifeline, on the phone and through the mails, for many transsexuals who would otherwise have been all alone.  Zelda was a firm believer not only in the transsexual community, but in nudism and reincarnation.  Once, as I drove the three of us to a meeting of transactivists, Dr. Joy Shaffer asked her, “Do you really believe in that stuff?”  Zelda quipped in reply, “It beats television!”

ACLUIn the late ’70s came Joanna Clark, Jude Patton, and Joy Shaffer, who I’m proud to say invited me to join them in founding the ACLU Transsexual Rights committee.  (That’s me in the middle.)  Joanna and Jude also worked very closely with fabulously openly gay Paul Walker to continue the educational work of the recently defunct Erickson Foundation and to eventually found the Harry Benjamin Gender Dysphora Association (later renamed World Professional Association for Transgender Health (WPATH).  One night in the mid ’80s, Paul Walker, Joanna, Joy, and I were bar hoping in San Francisco, when we entered a bar that Paul liked to frequent, catering to mostly transwomen of color.  The patrons took one look at the towering whiteness of Joanna and informed us that “This is a private club.”  Joanna, with her typically irreverent, and oft dangerously inappropriate, sense of humor, loudly quipped, “Busted!!!”.  These would be the serious activists that pioneered efforts to work with lawmakers and the courts, physicians, surgeons, clinics and scientists… to earn legal and medical recognition, to enable the majority of transfolk to transition and receive appropriate and respectful medical and legal services.

From these early, daring days, came those that soon followed, expanding the ranks of organizations that took our early cutting edge openings, to expand it and now in most of the Western World we have nearly the legal recognitions and protections we need, with a few exceptions that we can all soon hope will be only a sad memory.

In the early ’90s, transactivists across the Western World began actively lobbying their governments.  In late ’96, transactivist lawyer, JoAnna McNamara asked me to work with her lobbying the Oregon legislature to address language in a new bill that would have stripped transfolk in that state of protections that JoAnna herself had only recently won in admistrative ‘court’.  I worked fulltime, alongside her, as we made appointments to speak to key legislators, using a deliberate one-two punch, in which she, as an older transitioner, not very “passable” would be assumed to be “the transsexual” discussed how transphobia worked to deny employment opportunities to transwomen like her.  As I sat quietly taking notes, I was assumed to be her natal female assistant… until I spoke up about what discrimination awaits transwomen like me who pass, but are later discovered by their employer… The sudden shocking realization would cause the legislator to rethink their opposition to our position.  It reached a climax in a public hearing about the bill in which the room was packed with transactivists that JoAnna and I had hurriedly put together on very short notice.  We won.  The anti-trans language was removed from the bill in committee.  Six months of full time lobbying paid off.

But from the very late ’90s came a Second Wave that took the previous work for granted… and started a new, and in my own personal opinion, disturbing direction. Not content with being able to transition and obtain legal recognition, these new activists have decided that they could bend the truth to their will, to use the power of the internet to coerce our best allies, the clinicians, therapists, medical practitioners, scientists, and even other transfolk, to ignore decades of clinical and scientific evidence regarding the uninvited dilemma that is transsexuality and transgender sexuality.  To my shame as a transwoman and transactivist, transfolk I knew and previously respected began waging a vicious propaganda and slander campaign.

But first a bit more background:

CedarStar

CedarStar

I first met Dr. Anne Lawrence in ’95, when Dr. Joy Shaffer brought her to have dinner at CedarStar, my Portland communal house.  While I prepared dinner, Anne and Joy explained Blanchard’s theory.  OF course, I totally understood and agreed, since I had been first educated about the very same issue when I was but 18 years old by my world wise transwoman of color friend, Marcella, who explained “older transistioners” as “… just TVs that need a bigger fix”.  I remember being amused at the thought that the scientists were finally proving it.

I first heard of Lynn Conway in 1982 from Joy’s father, who was a professor of electrical engineering.  Prof. Shaffer had proudly informed me that Lynn was also transsexual, offering the information to strongly encourage me to finish my undergraduate degree and apply at Stanford Graduate School, urging me to study to become an engineer like Joy’s younger sister was at the time, (joining my boyfriend’s mother in chorus, who being an engineer herself, also wanted her son’s girlfriend to be an engineer). I finally met Lynn in the late ’90s, when she wrote to me regarding my TransHistory class I was teaching at the Harvey Milk Institute in San Francisco.  I had taken advantage of the web to post my class notes, which brought me to her attention.  I was very happy to finally meet this famous transsexual Silicon Valley pioneer.  Of course, during our conversations, during her frequent visits, over dinner, lunch, and at my house, etc.  I had a chance to explain Blanchard’s two type taxonomy.  I was under the honest impression that she understood and agreed with it.

Then, in 2003, Lynn called asking me to join her in protesting Bailey’s new book that she thought was so dangerous, The Man Who Would Be Queen.  Though I hadn’t read it, I had no interest in protesting what I personally believed was true.  Seriously, I can’t imagine what would lead Lynn to believe that I would join in a fight to deny the science I knew to be true.  But, I was not to take the steps that lead to this blog until I read Alice Dreger’s history of the horrendous behavior of these ‘Second Wave’ transactivists. In 2008, I read Alice’s article, Bailey’s book, and corresponded with a number of the players, including Bailey and Kiira Triea, who became a friend as a result.  I was horrified.  I was also ashamed; ashamed for our community, ashamed for my earlier cowardice for not having tried to stop Lynn and the others.  These people, our community, behaved abominably.  They attacked the very people who were working hard to understand us, to help us.  They falsely vilified both non-transfolk and transfolk alike, members of our own community… and established a poisonous atmosphere of fear and intimidation that persists. As Bailey and Kiira wrote in 2007,

“Beyond denying the role of autogynephilia in MtF transsexualism, some transsexual activists have mounted attacks on those who publicly disagree with them. In 2003, the first author published a book, The Man Who Would Be Queen, about male femininity, including MtF transsexualism. The section on transsexualism included summaries of Blanchard’s theory illustrated by transsexual women of both types whom he had met, and who agreed to let their stories be included. Upon publication, there was a firestorm of controversy among some MtF transsexuals. Most notably, the transsexual activists Lynn Conway (2006) and Andrea James (2006) led an internet “investigation” into the publication of the book. Conway (2004) likened the book to “Nazi propaganda” and said that it was “transsexual women’s worst nightmare.” As a result of Conway’s and James’s efforts, a number of very public academic, personal, and professional accusations were made against the first author. None of these accusations was true (Bailey 2005). The attacks on The Man Who Would Be Queen were precisely an attempt to punish the author for writing approvingly about Blanchard’s ideas, and to intimidate others from doing so.  The second author was also attacked by some of the same transsexuals after she helped create the Website transkids.us. This website was created by a group of homosexual transsexuals, or “transkids,” their nonclinical name for themselves, to educate the clinical and research communities in the wake of the controversy regarding The Man Who Would Be Queen. The writings on the site both endorsed Blanchard’s distinction between homosexual and autogynephilic MtF transsexuals and criticized the standard feminine essence narrative as being both false and harmful to homosexual MtF transsexuals. Subsequently, Andrea James (2007) conducted highly personal attacks on individual transkids (including the second author), urging that these transkids be exposed and asserting that they were “fakes” because they would not reveal their identities publicly”.

As an example of this attempt to intimidate those who might speak out… and “discredit” those who do, James spent a year trying to figure out who the last of the transkids.us website authors, “Cloudy” was… while simultaneously attempting to convince the trans-community that “Cloudy” was yet another “fake”.  After she discovered that I was “Cloudy” she attempted to intimidate me by email and phone, in which Conway participated in a minor way.  James, failing to intimidate me from further writing on this subject, produced a scandalously scurrilous webpage, describing me as both “fringe” and… well… you can search for it yourself.

Let my experience be an object lesson for the NEXT wave of transactivists.  It is not enough to work to change the world… we need to make sure that we ourselves maintain the values that we would wish in others: respect, cooperation, open-mindedness, kindness.  We need to stand up against bullies, even our own… NO, Especially our own. Above all… we need to maintain and reward a search for the truth, even if it is an uncomfortable truth.

References:

Bailey, J. Michael – Triea, Kiira. “What Many Transgender Activists Don’t Want You to Know: and why you should know it anyway” – Perspectives in Biology and Medicine, Volume 50, Number 4, Autumn 2007, pp. 521-534 DOI: 10.1353/pbm.2007.0041

Alice D. Dreger, “The Controversy Surrounding The Man Who Would Be Queen: A Case History of the Politics of Science, Identity, and Sex in the Internet Age” – Archives of Sexual Behavior, June 2008, Volume 37, pp 366-421 DOI: 10.1007/s10508-007-9301-1

Alice D. Dreger, “Galileo’s Middle Finger – Heretics, Activists, And The Search For Justice In Science“, 2015

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One in Twelve

Posted in Autobiographical, Editorial, Transsexual Field Studies by Kay Brown on August 27, 2013

Kay BrownOne in twelve transsexuals is murdered.  That was the ‘back of the envelope’ estimate that I made back about 15 years ago for my transhistory class that I taught at the Harvey Milk Institute.  As I had posted some of my notes and power point slides on a website for that purpose, it was picked up by many in the LGBT community, much to my amazement, to become one of those unquestioned internet memes, but it had morphed to one in twelve “transgendered”.

One in twelve “profoundly transsexual” MTF (NOT “transgendered” people — It’s important to know that only 90,000 Americans have transitioned – yet over a million people are assumed to be “transgendered” by the press.) was my estimate of how many of us were murdered in our (shortened) lifetimes.   That math was based on two numbers available to me at that time.  First that the estimate of how many “profoundly transsexual” transwomen there were was one in 11,200 male births, from a study in the Netherlands; second that at the time I made the estimate, that approximately one “early / transitioning” transwoman was murdered a month in the United States.  Either number may have been wrong, or subject to change over time.  However, with those numbers I estimated that of the 260 million US residents in the late ‘90s, 11,600 would be such “profoundly transsexual”.

I defined “profoundly transsexual” as those born males living full time, or nearly so, as women socially since an early age.  This by definition excluded private cross-dressers and part-time transfolk, who would not be exposed to transphobic violence in their daily activities, and those who transitioned later in life, that is to say, that it excluded the majority of so called “transgendered” people.  If one “young transitioner” is murdered per month, and one can normally expect to have had a life-expectancy of 80 years, then the lifetime risk of being murdered is approximately one in twelve.  An actuarian may take issue with my simplistic treatment, but the math is basically sound.

But, as I have been at pains to explain here on this blog, there are two types of transwomen, Autogynephilic (AGP / “non-homosexual”) and transkids (exclusively androphilic transsexuals), which do not have the same risk profile.  As I shall explain further, it is transkids, (i.e. exclusively androphilic) transsexual women who bear the significantly greater risk.

(If you are not familiar with the two types, please read this FAQ and this essay describing the two very different populations:  A Clinical View)

Further, this issue is not an academic one for me.  In keeping with the feminist credo that “the personal is political”, I share with my reader that my own life has been touched with transphobic violence.  When I was a teenager, I suffered a number of attacks and beatings, directly due to my gender atypicality, perceived (correctly) sexual orientation toward men, and my transgender status.  One of the worse beatings I suffered was when I was 14 years old, when two older boys, who layed in wait along my path through a dark orchard just a block from my home, first taunted me, then beat, knocked me to the ground, and proceeded to kick me viciously, all the while yelling homophobic slurs.  Their exact words included,

“FAGGOT!”

“PANSY!”

“PANTYWAIST!”

“YOU THINK YOU’RE A GIRL?”

“YOU MAKE ME SICK!”.

Candice_Caltech

Kay Brown in college

Fast forward about five years, when I was 19, a good friend of mine, Tere, invited me to go with her to a beach party her crowd was throwing.  Tere was also my brother’s girlfriend, someone I had known for a number of years from high school.  Mind you, I had been out as both trans and into guys in high school, so a number of the kids at this party knew who and what I was.  Somehow, I stupidly didn’t think this might be a problem.  A couple hours into the party, after having had a good time talking with, and gently flirting with a number of cute young men, I was lured some distance from the party, where perhaps seven or eight young men surrounded me and started taunting me and laughing among themselves, “Are you a boy or a girl?”  “Hey, let’s pants it and see”…  At that point, I was terrified, knowing full well that after they had torn off my clothes to reveal my pre-op body, that I would be beaten and kicked by four times as many, older and stronger, young men than when I was 14.  To my everlasting relief Tere jumped into the middle of the boys at that point and yelled, “You leave her alone!”  In the sudden confusion of her interruption, Tere grabbed my arm and escorted me at a very fast walk to my car.  I have no doubt that had Tere not intervened, I would have been hospitalized, at best, or killed at worst.

In the news, only this past month, was the beating death of 21 year old Islan Nettles on a street of New York City, the beating death of 16 year old Duane Johnson and the severe beating and attempted rape of her roommate, Kiki, in a slum of Jamaica, and the video recorded beating of a young transwoman in a park in Russia.  The “one in twelve” number may not be exactly correct… but it certainly seems to me to be close.  The website, “Remembering our Dead” has long memorialized these murders, but it fails to note that most of these deaths are of transkids, not their older and far more numerous AGP “sisters”.  Note that most of these murders are perpetrated by younger men… and their victims are mostly young transwomen.

Perhaps a couple more random examples that have stuck in my mind, to illustrate my point? In 1978, the transkid community in Los Angeles was saddened and horrified to learn of the death and mutilation of a young transwoman whose body was found in a dumpster with her (silicone enhanced) breasts slashed.  It was understood that she was to be seeing a new beau that evening.  About a decade ago, a young transwomen was murdered at a party in the San Francisco East Bay Area by a group of young men, several of whom it was later learned, had had erotic encounters with her before they had learned of her pre-op status.

I used to be confused by the motives of the young men who perpetrated these horrible crimes.  But one late night drive in my car, I chanced to tune in a talk radio show in which the topic was transsexuals. Led by a ‘phobic shock jock, his callers revealed their anger and hatred of young transwomen, especially pre-op transkids, who had “fooled” them into dating them.  Listening carefully, I learned that their reactions were driven by a very special form of “homosexual panic”.  The classic “homosexual panic” is created in insecure straight men when a gay man shows romantic or erotic interest in them.  The thought that then goes through their mind is, “oh my god… a gay man thought I might be gay too!”  But, though the anger and hatred may be great, it isn’t nearly the threat to an insecure man that the certain knowledge that, in the case of a cute transwomen, they had without any doubt been romantically and erotically attracted to a male bodied person, “oh my god, I’m turned on by a guy!”  The violence that that realization evokes is explosive and unreasoning.  Add to it young men in groups, men who need to prove to themselves and their buddies that they aren’t “fags”… perhaps add some alcohol or other mild intoxicant, the result is one or more beaten and dead young transwoman.

Of course, none of the above has been corroborated by careful study.  So, to any researchers who may find my blog, I suggest the following protocol to test my hypothesis.  Present to two groups of young heterosexual men a photo of a very attractive young woman.  Ask them to write an essay on what a perfect first date with this woman might entail.  Half of the men you then inform that that the woman was “actually a boy who is hoping to “get a sex change” but is still pre-op”, the other half do nothing.  Then test both groups for implicit anger and animosity to transwomen and gay men, as well as their feelings about their own sexuality.  I’m betting that the group who is told that their “dream date” woman is a transsexual will exhibit a great deal more anger, transphobia, homophobia, and sexual orientation anxiety.

If I’m right, we can contrast this experience with transphobic discrimination experienced by older AGP transwomen.  Not to put too much of a fine point on it… ummm… lets be honest, fewer of them inspire as much erotic interest in younger men, the men most likely to perpetrate these crimes.  Fewer of them will date any man without that man knowing their full medical history, given the statistically known fact that few of them live “deep stealth” or successfully pass well enough.  All of this on top of the fact that most AGP transsexual women will have no interest in flirting with and dating any men.

Thus, although it is still a ‘back of the envelope’ calculation, when we subtract the number of older AGP transwomen, we can infer that one in twelve MTF transkids really is murdered, and their greatest risk exposure is when they are fairly young.  Given that more transkids are people of color than AGP, this risk is also falling disproportionately upon transwomen of color, as noted by Shelby Chestnut in Matthew Fleischer’s story on Islan Nettles,

“If nothing else, Chestnut hopes Nettles’ death will bring to light the tremendous violence faced by transgender women—particularly transgender women of color.  Seventy-two percent of anti-LGBT murders in America affected people of color and 53 percent of those were transgender women”, Chestnut said.  “The only way to end anti-LGBT violence is to keep talking about it and let the public know that incidents like the one that left Nettles dead are hardly uncommon, Chestnut said. Victims of hate violence also need to have the courage to come forward and tell their stories.  Reporting violence helps end violence,” says Chestnut. “Unless we know where violence is occurring, we can’t do outreach in the area. We can’t reach out to the general public know that anti-LGBT violence shouldn’t be tolerated.”

I would add that it’s time that the larger LGBT community recognize that there are two types of transwomen, and that our lives, as transkids, including our risks of transphobic violence, are quite different from the far larger autogynephilic “transgender” community.  We need to do several things to fix this continuing violence.  One, pass anti-discrimination laws so that young transwomen can work in decent jobs.  Two, pass higher minimum wage laws so that working people can support themselves.  Three, pass laws ending the use of the so called “gay panic” defense (as California already has).  Four, add transgender / gender expression to anti-hate crime laws.  Five, help educate law enforcement about who is really at risk and why (and stop pretending it is “all transgender people”.

(Addendum 10/4/2015:  In the past year, the number of MTF transkids being murdered reported in the media has increased.  But a disturbing new meme has also been circulating to the effect that these transkids are all “just prostitutes” and it has nothing to do with being “transgendered”.  This is disturbing on two fronts:  First is the obvious dehumanization and victim blaming; the second is the failure to understand that though some, but not all, of these victims had resorted to ‘survival sex’, the need to exchange sex for food and shelter is a direct consequence of being a transkid, disowned by one’s family at a young age, forced to live on the street with no skills or social capital.  Transkids are by no means the only young people to be so disadvantaged in this manner, but the percentage of transkids that find themselves is this situation is very high.)

(Addendum 2/3/2018:  I continue to see the disturbing meme that transkids being murdered were all “just prostitutes”, even though careful review of the actual lives of the victims shows that is not universal nor was it the immediate cause of the “homosexual panic” rage that lead to their deaths.  Sigh… But I also see an incredible effort being made by a very transphobic minority of women who wrap themselves in the feminist flag to “debunk” the ‘one-in-twelve’ meme.  Sadly, they continue to misunderstand that it is NOT about the larger autogynephilic transgender community.  Though of course, that would be largely because the larger autogynephilic community has also misapplied the phenomena to themselves.  The combination is that two different groups are arguing about something that simply never applied.  So, of course the numbers don’t tally!)

(Special Note: If you were refered to this page from Quora, please note that this individual is not an expert as claimed.  And their “just so story” of a friend who hides in their house because of this “one in twelve” statistic is likely not at all true, but if that person exists, is far more likely to be suffering from agoraphobia, a serious mental illness that is not related to being transgender.)

Further Reading:

Demographic data on the number of transsexuals in the United States.  You may have read that there are almost one and a half million “transgender” people in the U.S.  This is only the number who “identify” with transgender people, the vast majority being heterosexual men who cross-dress in private.  The actual number who have transitioned is only 90,000, and even then, most are “late transitioning” / autogynephiles.

Essay on the large number of teenagers and young adults who falsely claim to be “transgender”

Clinical differences between MTF transkids and AGP MTF transgendered.

External Reading:

“Lil Duval Jokes He’d Kill a Sexual Partner If He Found Out She Was Transgender: ‘I Don’t Care, She’s Dying'” by Titiana Cirisano

“Trans Women and Femmes Are Shouting #MeToo — But Are You Listening?”

References:

http://news.yahoo.com/transgender-woman-dies-beating-front-nypd-precinct-201642369.html

http://www.usatoday.com/story/news/world/2013/08/11/jamaica-transgender-teen-murdered-by-mob/2639995/

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/08/20/russian-transgender-woman-beaten_n_3779723.html

http://www.buzzfeed.com/dominicholden/evidence-contradicts-police-account-of-possible-anti-transge#.odGmvNbPp6

 

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Losing Kiira

Posted in Autobiographical, Editorial by Kay Brown on November 4, 2012

Cloudy“My heart has joined the thousand, for my friend stopped running today.”
–Richard Adams, in Watership Down

Two days ago, on the 2nd of November, my friend and collaborator on the transkids.us website, Kiira Triea (AKA Denise Magner), died of cancer.  I am not alone in mourning her loss.  Her sister will miss her most.  But our mutual friend, Alice Dreger will miss her acutely.  Alice has written a fitting tribute to Kiira on her blog, far better than anything that I will be able to write.

I first corresponded with Kiira in early 2008, as I had just discovered Alice’s article on the contretemps surrounding Bailey’s The Man Who Would Be Queen and wanted to learn as much as I could about the events for myself, as I felt an irrational personal guilt for not having paid attention to what happened in 2003.  I felt guilty for not having spoken out against the rampant ugliness at the time.   I needed to do something.  In Kiira, I found a path forward.  We corresponded at great length and had long, almost weekly phone calls.  After a year or so of these conversations, I gathered the courage to finally speak out and write an essay of my own to add to those already on the transkids.us website.  I knew full well that I was inviting down the wrath of those who opposed the science that Bailey had written about… and was not disappointed.  However, I had joined good company.

With Kiira’s encouragement, I began this blog to explore and explicate the science… to tell the truth.

Our correspondence and conversations also covered our personal lives.  Strange, that in Kiira, whose biology was so different than mine, I should find a kindred spirit.

Correspondence and long distance phone calls are all well and good, but no substitute for face to face, in person dialog, so a few years ago, I bought her tickets to travel from her home in Maryland to my home in California, as Kiira and her sister were as poor as church mice.  My daughter and I picked her up at the airport.  From her writing and her wicked, witty, dialog during our phone conversations, I had always pictured her as a strong, almost Amazon-like, warrior.  Instead, she was a frail, delicate, very feminine middle-aged woman who I felt concern for her lest the cold California winter winds whisk her away.  She spent a week at our house, during which I had the uncomfortable feeling that I was seeing in her a deep pain that could never be healed.

Though I will miss her, I sincerely hope that she can now find healing balm.

Addendum 11/25/2012:

When I began to write this blog, Kiira impressed upon me the guidelines that she and the other contributors to the Transkids.us website followed, of keeping the essays largely non-personal, only describing ourselves to the extent necessary to explain who we were as a population, not as individuals.  This had two purposes.  First, it protected the identities of the young people who were involved in creating the content of the original 2004-2005 website (whose identities and photos she DID share with me).  Second, it was an effort to be as objective as is humanly possible regarding the differences between the two types of MTF transwomen.  This effort to protect the identities of the contributors allowed a number of people who opposed publishing and exploring documentation of the differences to question whether such individuals even existed,  even to the extent of stating and/or insinuating that Kiira made up those individuals as a “hoax”, in an effort to cast doubt on the information contained on the website.  In a way, it was an unearned complement to Kiira, as it presupposed that Kiira had the literary talent to write in what even a cursory examination of the essays will show are completely different and consistent writing styles, the individual “voices” of those very real young transwomen.  The simple truth was that Kiira loved these kids, and as the website-mistress, worked hard to protect them from being “outed” and libeled, by those same opponents.  Opponents who have shown themselves to be devoid of honor and decency, having gone to great lengths to vilify and smear those who have merely said or written about the science or politics of the transcommunity.

Those in the trans-community who know, or just suspect, who I am, know that from my many years of transactivism and personally aiding transfolk of all kinds, that I would never participate in any “hoax”, and that I would never do anything I knew would harm any individual or community.  Kiira is gone.  I have inherited her mission.  I intend to maintain the existence of the transkids.us website largely untouched, as she created it, to honor her and those young transwomen who created it.  But her passing has left me to my own ideas of how I should explore the differences, both scientific and political, here on my own blog.

Further Reading:

Essay on Responsibility and Bullying in the Transgender Activist Community

Book Review of Galileo’s Middle Finger by Alice Dreger.

 

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“Sherman, set the WayBack Machine to 1978”

Posted in Autobiographical, Transsexual Field Studies by Kay Brown on December 18, 2011

female_scientist“Sure Mr. Peabody!”

In the late summer of 1977, at the tender age of 20, the folks at Stanford made it known to me that I was then eligible for SRS, having been living full time as a young woman for two years, etc.  Those two years had been great.  I was happy.  I was getting along with people.  Folks treated me well.  I had boyfriends.  But two years of dating with a proscribed, ‘no fly zone’ was growing very old.  I really looked forward to being post-op.  All I really needed was the money.  But as a young secretary, the cost of SRS was greater than a year’s gross salary!  I got a better paying job as an electronics assembler, but I was still barely making ends meet.  For months I had been trying to save up money…  Saving more than 10% of my take-home pay would be difficult.  How could I ever afford it?  It would take more than a decade!  So in early 1978, I turned to my folks, hoping that they had changed their minds and were now ready to help me.  My mother was totally unmoved.  My Dad had another proposal.

My Dad instead proposed that I should seek psychotherapy for my “problem” from a certain Dr. Stoller in Los Angeles, for which he would pay.  My Dad hadn’t liked Dr. Fisk, the shrink at Stanford, who three years previously had told him that he should be supportive, not obstructive, “You will win a few battles, but lose the war.”  So, my father had asked around for someone else and Stoller had been recommended.  I had also heard of Stoller, of course.  I understood that he was a psychiatrist.  I blew off the suggestion, with extreme prejudice.

But now, as I have been researching our history and the science for this blog, I realize I missed out on meeting a very interesting man.  I have a feeling we would have got on swimmingly.  That’s not to say that we would have agreed.  Oh no!  Stoller, along with many psychiatrists of the mid-20th Century, was suckered into Freud’s pseudo-science cult of psychoanalysis.  Stoller’s works are redolent of the type of confirmation bias and untested, and often untestable, assertions built upon assertions, like sand castles on quicksand, all accepted as true, and precious little of it actually so, found in non-scientific texts.  (Resolutions of Oedipal Conflicts; Seriously?)  A modern reader, educated in experimental psychology, neurology, and rigorous scientific method, must wade through a morass of useless psychobabble to find the occasional gem of insight.  But still Stoller had a keen mind and was very observant.  When he stuck to direct observation, leaving behind for a moment any superfluous psychodynamic formulations, he was brilliant.

Green, writing of and quoting Stoller, said,

Sex research published in science journals typically reports extensive samples, assessed by questionnaire, and analyzed statistically. To this, Stoller complained, ‘‘Sex research is camouflaged by large samples, hidden in tabulated columns, and dissected beyond significance by statistical packages. Although statistical techniques may enable us to corroborate or deny a hypothesis, they do not produce one’’

I couldn’t agree more.  One needs to get to know the populations one is studying to gain insights that may lead to hypotheses.  Although, I trust the insight only after the statistics prove out the hypothesis.

One hypothesis from Stoller that needed (still needs?) testing is that his “true transsexuals”, which he later called “primary transsexuals”*, avoid using, or allowing their male partners to touch, their penis in sexual encounters.

*(Likely to tweek Oversey and Person who were using that term for asexual transsexuals, which they mistakenly thought were not autogynephilic, but that is a subject for another essay).

It would be instructive to read a description of Stoller’s “true” or “primary” transsexual to learn just who he meant by these terms.  From his 1968 book, Sex and Gender, starting on page 190:

sex-and-gender-the-development-of-masculinity-and-femininityLet us briefly describe a typical male transsexual.  The patient is twenty-five years old. She is dyed-blonde, well-rounded “woman” who in none of the ordinary mannerisms of life (smoking cigarettes, walking, crossing her legs, blowing her nose, gesticulating, etc.) in any way reveals she was ever a male.  She points out that she had the same mannerisms when living as a male, when she seemed bizarre.  She recalls no time in life of not wanting to be a girl, of not feeling extremely feminine, of not having interests and daydreams that seemed to her the same as those of normal girls.  Her earliest memories, starting around the age of three, already show this very feminine attitude.  As a boy, she was treated with ridicule by the other boys, despite which she maintained her same feminine behavior.  …  her daydreams from the start were that she was a woman being made love to by a man. … She hated to masturbate and says she did so only once a year or less, not because of conscious guilt but because it so concretely demonstrated her anatomical maleness.  …  She began going out with men and having sexual relations.  However, she never permitted a man to touch or see her genitalia, since they were such a source of shame; she defined as normal any man who made no such attempts.  …  Some months before I first met her, she made contact with an operated transsexual, who suggested that they live together (not sexually, of course).  She did so, and at the point for the first time she went through the preparations that were so lead to her being able to pass successfully as a female.  …  She was so successful that she very shortly found herself a job, being hired unsuspectingly as a woman.  …  The patient has now married and hopes to adopt children.

I sincerely hope that this young woman did succeed in adopting, as I did, and found it as rewarding.  I hope she has grandchildren.  She should be in her late sixties or early seventies by now?  This description is totally in keeping with what I understand as the feminine androphilic MTF transkid “homosexual transsexual” (HSTS).

Note the characteristics that Stoller attributes to this typical “true” or “nuclear” transsexual: Atypical gendered behavior since very early childhood, consciously gender dysphoric from childhood (early onset), exclusively androphilic, interested in children and being a mother, and emotionally stable, mature, and nurturing.  Stoller insisted that the “true” or “primary” transsexual universally avoided, did not allow, contact or visual notice, of her genitals.  Person and Oversey flatly rejected this claim.  Stoller and Person&Oversey duked it out in their respective books and papers, relying on reference to psychoanalytic theory and psychodynamic formulations, citing counter examples.  Sigh…

I could regale my reader with an anecdote of my own avoidant behavior… but adding one more anecdote does not help.  The plural of anecdote is not data.

Hypothesis were meant to be tested.

Fast forward to 1990 when Leavitt and Berger attempted to do just that.  I wrote about this before, but let’s review.  The authors used Blanchard’s Modified Androphilia Scale in an attempt to identify and segregate exclusively androphilic MTF transsexuals from the larger pool of SRS candidates.  But, as the authors admit, this was inadequate.  Not only did they not separate the HSTS from the bisexual group, but they also caught up heterosexual and asexual types as well.  As we’ve seen, pseudo-androphila and social desirability bias both lead many AGP transsexual SRS candidates to overstate any sexual interest in men, downplay any interest in women, and strongly downplay a history of erotic arousal to cross-dressing. But, when L&B separated by actual sexual behavior, they separated the types quite well as evidenced by the data.

Type:             Avoidant            Pleasure     Inactive

Number                 n=15              n=30         n=36
Age                          29.9                32.8          34.5
SD                              4.2                 7.5             9.6

Full
time:                         4.9                 3.1           0.73
Transition:             25               29.7            33.7   (mean age – mean time post transition)
Married:                    0%            23%             47%
Penis “OK”             6.7%           83.3%         33%
Fetishistic              6.7%           33.3%         50%
Sex w/ female:       0%             33.3%         58%
Attraction to
females:                     0%             33.3%        70%
Male toys               16%              46%            50%
Male playmates   16%              37%           47%

Rorschach sex#   0.7               6.4             5.7    (high score indicates “disturbed” sexuality)
F+%                          70.5             57.8          51.1   (score below 70.0  indicates poor reality testing)

MMPI Scales:
Pd                              61.1            70.4          68.3  (high scores indicate anti-social tendency)
Sc                               57.7           70.1          68.3  (high scores indicate “odd” thinking and social alienation)

The Avoidant group fits Stoller’s profile of the “true” transsexual to a T.

(Addendum 12/24/2011: It appears that there may be one (or two) autogynephilic individual out of the fifteen who also states that she is comfortable with her penis, who was sorted into the “avoidant” group.  This may be an artifact of the rules by which the sorting was performed; To be in the avoidant group, one had to have had at least five sexual encounters with a man and no more than five of those times have allowed that man to touch ones penis.  Thus, an individual with relatively few sexual encounters may have actually had a high percentage of them wherein that individual allowed penile contact, up to 5/5 = 100% in fact.  In the future, if this study is replicated, I recommend using an additional rule wherein there is a low percentage cut-off as well as a fixed numerical cut-off.)

The Inactive group is clearly heterosexual, with some of them possibly being the so called asexual (actually automonosexual). While L&B remarked from the strong similarity of the MMPI and Rorschach tests that the Pleasure group was essentially the same as the Inactive. As the pleasure group includes individuals who admit to being sexually attracted to women, including some who have been married, they, as a group, represent a bisexual group. Is it possible that the pleasure group also included etiologically HSTS individuals? The data can’t be used to rule this out, but I personally don’t believe so. Why would an exclusively androphilic, non-autogynephilic male who is very comfortable with having sex using their penis want to be rid of it? The data bears out Blanchard’s typology of exclusive homosexual (non-autogynephilic) vs. non-homosexual (and thus autogynephilic) transsexual etiologies.

(Addendum 2/21/2012:  Actually, we can use the data to rule out the possibility that etiologically HSTS individuals were in included in the pleasure group.  If the pleasure group was a mixture of HSTS and autogynephilic bisexuals, then we would expect the scores on the Rorschach and MMPI scores to be intermediate between the avoidant and inactive groups.  Instead, they are nearly the same as the inactive, if anything, these scores are further away from the avoidant group’s scores.)

In Leavitt and Berger’s own words,

Transsexuals who are sexually active with males but do not allow their penis to be involved in sexual activity share a constellation of traits and experiences that generally conform to characteristics of the nuclear transsexual (Buhrich and McConaghy, 1977). The picture of the nuclear transsexual conveyed by the literature is that of sustained, nonfluctuating femininity, developmental patterns involving a preference for girls’ games and company, aversion to rough-and-tumble activity in early childhood, later patterns involving a desire to posses a woman’s body, to live in society as a woman, and to attract heterosexual male partners. The nuclear transexuals experience intense disgust and aversion for their penis and deny a history of heterosexual orientation or fetish arousal. If patients in the Avoidant group are accepted as nuclear transsexuals, then only 18.5% of our sample meet those criteria. This implies that most of our sample seeking reassigment are not nuclear transsexuals (Newman and Stoller, 1974).

Thus, Stoller’s hypothesis that HSTS transkids universally are “avoidant” has been born out by this study. We should not be surprised by this observation, because it forms a natural truism; A male bodied person who was not motivated by autogynephilia and felt comfortable with their genitalia, would not be likely to actively seek out its removal.

Addendum 8/1/2014:  I added another essay on this topic, using a very recent paper that adds evidence to the above hypothesis.

References:

Richard Green, “Robert Stoller’s Sex and Gender: 40 Years On”
http://www.springerlink.com/content/rr775w4408071213/

Robert Stoller, “Sex and Gender, On the development of masculinity and femininity” (1968)

Frank Leavitt and Jack C. Berger, “Clinical patterns among male transsexual candidates with erotic interest in males”
http://www.springerlink.com/content/fp15j71n57474k1l/

 

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