On the Science of Changing Sex

Flipping the Bird

Posted in Book Reviews by Kay Brown on March 22, 2015

Flip_the_bird

Book Review:  Galileo’s Middle Finger – Heretics, Activists, And The Search For Justice In Science, by Alice Dreger

Dr. Dreger’s latest book could be described as a coming of age story as it chronicles her journey from naive graduate student to a world class activist historian, seeker of Truth, Justice, and the American Way.  She truly is a super-hero, if any real, live human being can be.  Hers is a journey into social justice activism, only to find that many of the self-styled activists were searching for anything but social justice.

Dreger’s introduction to activism was the result of meeting modern examples of the very injustice that she had previously documented had occurred to people in the 19th Century when their bodies didn’t conform to the expected norms for males and females, the so called “Hermaphrodites”, which today we called “intersexed” or “people with Disorders of Sexual Development” (DSD).  Writing about her academic work on 19th Century treatment of intersexed people,

“…It ended up pushing me into two unfamiliar and intense worlds: contemporary sex politics and contemporary medical activism.  That’s because, thanks to the Internet, by the time I came to this topic, in the mid-1990s, something was going on that the Victorian doctors would never have imagined: People who had been born with various sex anomoalies had started to find each other, and they had started to organize as an identity movement.  Labeling themselves intersex, many gather under the leadership of Bo Laurent, the founder of the Intersex Society of North America, and after reading my Victorian Studies article, some of these intersex activists, including Bo, contacted me.  A couple wrote me simply to complain that they found some of my language offensive, apparently not realizing I was relaying Victorian rhetoric in my article.  By contrast, Bo got my work.  And she asked for my help in changing the way children born intersex were treated in modern medicine. … I hastened to tell Bo, “I’m a historian; I study dead people.”  However, once I understood what was really going on at pediatric hospitals all over the nation – once I understood that Bo’s clitoris had been amputated in the name of sex “normalcy” and that this practice was still going on – I felt I had to assist in her efforts.”

Dreger rose to that challenge, taking on a leadership role in the fight to end medically unnecessary surgeries on children with ambigous genitalia.  This entailed taking on the medical establishment, confronting them, insisting that they re-examine their protocols in the light of real damage to real people.  It took a while, years, but the work of these activists with whom Dreger worked, began to seriously effect the desired change.  While the work is not truly complete, it is well on the way.  In her book, she details the long hours, the difficulties encountered, but most importantly, the need for such evidence based activism, that the work of these activists was based on demonstrating the real outcomes of these surgeries, which diverged greatly from the view previously held, that these surgeries helped.  If the book went no further, it would be worth buying it.

But Dreger’s work, and her life, as she took a new position at Northwestern University would take another turn,

“It was shortly after this time that I took on a new scholarly project, one that without warning forced me to question my politics and my political loyalties … This was a project that suddenly changed me from an activist going after establishment scientists into an aide-de-camp to scientists who found themselves the target of activists like me.  Indeed, this project soon put me in a position I would never have imagined for myself; vilified by gender activists at the National Women’s Studies Association meeting and then celebrated at the Human Behavior and Evolution Society by the enemies of my childhood hero, Stephen Jay Gould.”

In 2003, J. Michael Bailey had published his book on femininity in males, The Man Who Would Be Queen.   This had set off a firestorm among a group of autogynephilic transwomen who took exception to Bailey’s effort to popularize Ray Blanchard’s research which had shown that there were two etiologies leading to gender dysphoria, that there were two (and only two) types of transwomen, as different as night and day, one that was gynephilic, autogynephilic, and gender typical until they announced their intention to transition –  and the other that was exclusively androphilic and gender atypical since birth.  This led to a number of serious accusations of wrongdoing by Bailey, to which Dreger was asked by her friend Paul Vasey to investigate.  As Dreger expresses her initial reluctance,

“Still, I thought I knew from my background in science studies and a decade of intersex work how to navigate an identity politics minefield, so I wasn’t that worried when in 2006 I set out to investigate the history of what had really happened with Bailey and his critics.  My investigation ballooned into a year of intensive research and a fifty-thousand word peer-reviewed scholarly account of the controversy.  And the results shocked me.  Letting the data lead me, I uncovered a story that upended the simple narrative of power and oppression to which we leftist science studies scholars had become accustomed. – I found that, in the Bailey case, a small group had tried to bury a politically challenging scientific theory by killing the messenger.  In the process of doing so, these critics, rather than restrict themselves to argument over the ideas, had charged Bailey with a whole host of serious crimes, including abusing the rights of subjects, having sex with a transsexual research subject, and making up data.  The individuals making these charges – a trio of powerful transgender women, two of them situated in the safe house of liberal academia – had nearly ruined Bailey’s reputation and his life.  To do so, they had used some of the tactics we had used in the intersex rights movement. … but there was one crucial difference: What they claimed about Bailey simply wasn’t true.”

Here, I have to break from the usual traditional book review to share my own experiences in this story.  I personally know most of the players.  I was an active participant in Bo Laurent’s work, meeting with her on several occasions, donating money, and helping her in a minor way to raise funds from the transsexual community.  One of those transwomen who donated was at the time, also a friendly acquaintance of mine, Lynn Conway, one of the “trio of powerful transsexual women”.  The other two were Andrea James, who I had never heard of before, and Deirdre McCloskey, who my good friend (and college roommate) Dr. Joy Shaffer, had spoken of highly.  It was reading Dreger’s lengthy paper on the Bailey affair that upended MY life, led me to become friends with Kiira Trea and eventually to write this blog at her encouragement.  This blog is the direct result of Dreger’s history of the Bailey affair.  I can think of no greater testament to the power of a scholar’s work, than that it should inspire others to action.

But Dreger’s story is only just beginning,

“You can probably guess what happens when you expose the unseemly deeds of the people who fight dirty … Certainly I should have known what was coming – after all, I had literally written what amounted to a book on what this small group of activists had done to Bailey.  But it was still pretty uncomfortable when I became the new target of their precise and unrelenting attacks.  The online story soon morphed into “Alice Dreger versus the rights of sexual minorities,”  and no matter how hard I tried to point people back to documentation of the truth, facts just didn’t seem to matter.”

I must share, that I too was vilified by these same transwomen, when I openly supported Dreger, Bailey, Blanchard, and Lawrence.

Because of her experiences, Dreger set out on a new scholarly journey,

“Troubled and confused by this ordeal, in 2008 I purposefully set out on a journey – or rather a series of journeys – that ended up lasting six years.  During this time, I moved back and forth between camps of activists and camps of scientists, to try to understand what happens – and to figure out what should happen – when activists and scholars find themselves in conflict over critical matters of human identity.”

The result of those journeys is her new book.  It explores intersex, transgender, indigenous peoples of the South American rainforest, back to intersexed people again.  Its quite a journey, of which I can only barely touch upon in this review.  While I read the entire book with great pleasure, here I chose to focus on the section dealing with transgender and Bailey’s book and its aftermath.

In delving further into the book, one finds gems like this,

“When people ask me how transgender is different from intersex, I usually start by saying that intersex and transgender people have historically suffered from opposite problems for the same reason.  Whereas intersex people have historically been subjected to sex “normalizing” hormones and surgeries they have not wanted, transgender people have had a hard time getting the sex-changing hormones and surgeries they have wanted.  Both problems arise from a single cause: a heterosexist medical establishment determined to retain control over who gets to be what sex.”

She even has a very insightful explanation of why the “trio”, and many others in the autogynephilic transwomen’s community, went to war against Bailey,

“To understand the vehemence of the backlash against Bailey’s book, you have to understand one more thing.  There’s a critical difference between autogynephilia and most other sexual orientations; Most other orientations aren’t erotically disrupted simply by being labeled.  When you call a typical gay man homosexual, you’re not disturbing his sexual hopes and desires.  By contrast, autogynephilia is perhaps best understood as a love that would really rather we didn’t speak its name.  The ultimate eroticism of autogynephilia lies in the idea of really becoming or being a woman, not in being a natal male who desires to be a woman. … The erotic fantasy is to really be a woman.  Indeed, according to a vision of transsexualism common among those transitioning from lives as privileged straight men to trans women, sex reassignment procedures are restorative rather than transformative… For Bailey or anyone else to call someone with armour de soi en femme an autogynephile or even a transgender woman – rather than simply a woman – is at some level to interfere with her core sexual desire.  Such naming also risks questioning her core self-identity … When they felt that Bailey was fundamentally threatening their selves and their social identities as women – well, it’s because he was.  That’s what talking openly about autogynephilia necessarily does.”

There’s a wonderful bon mot moment in the movie, Desert Hearts, when a lesbian scholar vows that she will have her revenge on a homophobe when she writes her memoirs.  In this book, one could say that Dreger takes her revenge on McCloskey, Conway, and especially James by revealing evidence that they are not only autogynephilic, but knowingly so, as Dreger reprints text from an email from Andrea James to Anne Lawrence in 1998,

“A definition is inherently inclusive or exclusive, and there’s always going to be someone who doesn’t feel they belong in or out of a definition.  I got body slammed by the usual suspects in 1996 for recommending a Blanchard book.  Sure, he’s pretty much the Antichrist to the surgery-on-demand folks, and I’ve heard some horror stories about the institute he runs that justify the nickname “Jurassic Clarke.”  However, I found many of his observations to be quite valid, even brilliant, especially in distinguishing early and late-transitioning TS patterns of thought and behavior.  I’ve noticed in most TSs, and in “surgery addicts” especially, a certain sort of self-loathing, a drive to efface every shred of masculinity.  While I readily admit to my own autogynephilia, I would contend that my drives towards feminization seem to have a component pushing me from the opposite direction as well.”

Dreger goes on,

“OK, THIS WAS FASCINATING.  A prior admission to autogynephilia from James and what seemed to amount to the same from McCloskey – plus something very much like an ongoing tacit admission from Conway? – lying behind the attempts to bury Bailey.  All that spoke to motivation on the part of Conway et al.”

Personally, I find this damning, as James has made a special point of defaming a number of individuals in the transcommunity for supporting Anne Lawrence, Bailey, or Blanchard.  She writes scurrilous material on her website against Dreger, Bailey, Blanchard, Lawrence, and many other notable transwomen, including myself; all for writing about a phenomena of which she admits she experiences.

Dreger recounts her year of research on the Bailey affair, detailing the ways in which Conway and James attack Bailey and how she was able to discover the truth of the matter, setting the record straight.  She also recounts how these two transwomen then turned on her, attempting to blacken her name with the same tar filled brush.  In the end, it becomes clear, that though the experience was unpleasant, it lead her to connect with a number of other scholars who have wrongfully been attacked and vilified by other groups, in other fields.

At the end of the book, Dreger lays out recommendations for society and especially for social justice advocates, to follow an evidence based approach.  I would like to think that I would qualify as an exemplar of her recommendations, in my conduct of this affair and of my previous, and definitely of my future, activism.

Further Reading:

Book review by Jessie Singal

I highly recommend purchasing and carefully reading this book:

http://www.amazon.com/Galileos-Middle-Finger-Heretics-Activists/dp/1594206082

 


 

Fun Reading:

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

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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, my roommate, Dr. Joy Shaffer asked her, “Do you really believe in that stuff?”  Zelda quipped in reply, “It beats television!”

ACLUBut in 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.  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* languange 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 respected turned from respectability toward waging a vicious propaganda and slander campaign.

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 also 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

 


 

Fun Reading:

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

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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


Fun Reading:

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

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It Gets Better…

Posted in Editorial by Kay Brown on October 10, 2010

CloudyRecent events across the nation have focused attention on bullying and cyber-bullying of young gay men and boys. As a kid, in elementary school, I was subjected to my share, of course, but not above the ordinary amount I saw that went on, unchecked. Frankly the worst of the bullying seemed to be reserved for the one really fat kid in our class, who was subjected, nearly daily, to a song-taunt:

Donovan, Donovan… Fat as a Wha…le…
No one you see… Is fatter than HE….

{Sung to the theme song from the TV show, “Flipper”.}

But, freshman year in high school, I was targeted by a sizable crowd of bullies, who did more than taunts, as my locker was trashed, my bicycle vandalized, knocked out of chairs in class, pushed down the stairs, knocked down and stepped on by cleated-shoes, knocked off my bicycle into on-coming automobile traffic… and ambushed in an orchard, badly beaten and kicked by two boys who yelled homophobic slurs, with one phrase ringing in my ears down through the years, “You think you’re a girl? You make me sick!”. Appeals to the school administrators only earned me more scorn, as they felt I was the source of my own problems.  Fortunately, our family moved to another town where the high school had a ‘zero tolerance’ policy for bullying and violence.

So, it is with great sorrow to learn that feminine / gay boys today are still being targeted today in middle-america. But I am heartened to see the recent public response, most especially the “It gets better” campaign.

If you are a youngster, especially a feminine boy, gay, or transkid, contemplating choices for your life, I need to tell you; It gets better!

My life is filled with joy. I have an adoring (straight) husband. I have an adopted daughter, now in her 20’s, whose growth from a seriously abused toddler (before I got her) to a happy and productive adult is a source of pride and wonder. I have a career with accomplishments that few could boast. I live in a neighborhood of friendly, honest, and decent people. I am loved and respected.  It gets better.

It gets better.