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Question MarkA reader writes: “I just read this extremely sad news about a transman in Belgium who chose to end his life (legally) after a series of unsatisfactory gender-confirming operations

“I wondered what your take on this news is, more from the perspective of the issues FTM people face than from the question of whether euthanasia should be legal (which is the primary focus of the HuffPost article). Though of course the question of whether euthanasia should have been authorized for this man’s situation is very relevant as well.”

I was also very sad when I first heard about this situation. And even though you said that you weren’t asking about my perspective on euthanasia in general, I’m going to put it out there anyway.

I am a supporter of euthanasia, assisted suicide, or similar arrangements. I believe that people should have as much control over their own lives as is possible, and that includes having control over their own death.

I think if someone is of sound mind, has been made aware of all the other options available, and has determined that death is the best option – not just for the moment, but over the very long haul of eternity – then that person should have the right to pursue the best option.

So based on that, I support what this man, Nathan Verhelst, did. According to everything I’ve read, he was living with unbearable psychological pain. He had to apply for the procedure, go through a waiting period, go through counseling, and so on, before he could die. He made the decision and stuck with it through months of waiting, so I feel as though this was a part of his life that he had the right to control. (more…)

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MaleFemale2One recent news item making the rounds is the story of Daniela, now Jait, Jr., who transitioned from male to female in his teens and has now transitioned back to male in his early twenties. This “detransition” was documented on MTV’s True Life: I’m Questioning My Gender Again.

I haven’t seen the show, so I can’t comment specifically on Jait’s situation, but of course, that doesn’t stop me from commenting completely. While “detransitioning,” or what I would call “retransitioning” or maybe “going back,” is not common, it does happen, and it can garner just as much sensationalism as transition itself.

Trans people sometimes cringe when something like this happens and is made public, because it can be used as fodder by those who want to point to a select, and very small, group of people and say that this is one reason why transition is not okay – because a person might regret it later.

So how do we respond to that – both publicly and internally? How do we reconcile these “detransitions” with what we know to be generally true about the need to transition? And how do we deal with detractors who jump on these very rare situations as if they were proof of transition’s folly and trans people’s “confusion”? It shouldn’t surprise my readers that I have some thoughts:

> First of all, I would like to point out that “going back” is not “going back and forth.” A Huffington Post article about Jait says, “Jait isn’t the first person to have gone back and forth like this,” and then points to sports journalist Mike Penner, who transitioned to female and lived as Christine Daniels before retransitioning and later committing suicide.

While it’s true that, particularly in decades past, some people have started transition and then stopped due to lack of resources and support, then later started again, this is far less common today, when information and resources are plentiful. And it is still not “going back and forth.” (more…)

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WomenIt’s 2013 and we are still arguing over the right to eliminate.

Colorado has some of the best laws in the country around the protection of trans rights, and our public accommodations law covers transgender and transsexual people, but we are still doing battle over bathrooms. Most recently, a six-year-old girl has been the target of discrimination when, despite our laws of protection, her school is not allowing her to use the girls’ restroom.

And now the state of Arizona, which brought us the most discriminatory racial-profiling bill in recent history, is back at it with SB 1045, which originally mandated discrimination against trans people and would pretty much force everyone, trans or not, to haul their birth certificates around with them in order to use public facilities.

Rep. John Kavanagh, a sponsor of the bill in the state legislature, has now “softened” it to allow, but not force, businesses and organizations to discriminate. He claims he did this in the face of public outcry. (Did he think there wouldn’t be any? He doesn’t know our Arizona trans community very well.)

So just as Colorado proves that a public accommodations law is not going to stop discrimination against trans people, Arizona is letting us know that it really doesn’t care.

And in the trans community, we know that laws such as the one making its way through the Arizona state legislature will negatively impact trans women the most. We also know that these laws are almost always based on an underlying premise of sexual predation.

In the face of all this, I would like to reiterate some of the points I make in Five Points for Non-Trans People About Public Restroom Use and add some additional points here:

> I lived as a girl and a woman for forty-two years. In that time, I used public women’s restrooms tens of thousands of times – at school, at work, in restaurants, in bars, in the mall, at concerts, and at every other possible public venue. In all of those years, not once – not once! – did I see the genitalia of anyone else in any of those restrooms. Over a period of forty-two years, I had no idea who was in the bathroom with me or what the other bodies in there looked like – nor did I care. (And I didn’t show anyone mine, either.) (more…)

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Are We Really Out of the DSM?

DSM5As last week went on, the headlines got curiouser and curiouser, but the general theme seemed to be “transgender is no longer in the DSM” and “being transgender is no longer a disorder” – and this was cause for a lot of celebration on Facebook and elsewhere.

But while there are some minor changes in the DSM-5 that might be cause to crack a small champagne bottle, the reality is that “transgender” never was in the DSM. Gender Identity Disorder, the official mental health diagnosis that leads some people to identify themselves as transgender or transsexual, or that leads some therapists or physicians to do so, was in the DSM (and still is, until the new version comes out next year).

And while GID is being taken out of this new edition, Gender Dysphoria is replacing it, with only some minor adjustments in diagnostic criteria. This could be considered a slight improvement, but most people diagnosed with Gender Dysphoria will likely continue to self-identify as transgender or transsexual, or will be identified as such by mental health professionals. GD appears to be basically the same diagnosis as GID – just with a new coat of paint.

“The change in title is positive, there are some minor positive changes in diagnostic criteria, and GD (will) be moved out of the sexual disorder chapter,” says Dr. Kelley Winters, founder of GID Reform Advocates and author of Gender Madness in American Psychiatry: Essays from the Struggle for Dignity. “But most of the criteria, like the old GID, continue to contradict rather than support social and medical transition and describe transition itself as symptomatic of mental disorder. Blanchard’s unconscionable Transvestic Disorder has gone from bad to worse, stigmatizing even more trans and GV people.”

The good news, according to Winters, is the fact that Gender Dysphoria is being reclassified and will no longer fall under the Sexual Disorder category, which she says “represents forward progress for trans and especially transsexual individuals.”

To help sort it all out, here are some recommended posts by Dr. Winters on the GID Reform Weblog:

The Proposed Gender Dysphoria Diagnosis in the DSM-5

Third Swing: My Comments to the APA for a Less Harmful Gender Category in the DSM-5

An Update on Gender Diagnoses, as the DSM-5 Goes to Press

Gender Dysphoria Diagnosis to be Moved Out of Sexual Disorders Chapter of DSM-5

Readers – thoughts?

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Trans symbolSome of you might be aware that I have gone to a once-a-week posting schedule for my blog. I will be posting every Monday for the time being, because there are some things going on in the near future that I will be focusing on.

The most exciting of these developments is the “Transgender Studies” class that I will be teaching at Metropolitan State University of Denver for the Spring 2013 semester. This is not a weekend seminar, but a three-credit, full-term class being offered through the Institute for Women’s Studies and Services as part of their Gender and Sexualities minor. I am not only teaching it, but I am designing the curriculum as well, and I couldn’t be prouder.

If you or anyone you know attends Metro State, please spread the word. This is an important class that is designed for anyone who wants or needs to know more about transgender and transsexual issues. It will benefit future therapists, educators, medical personnel, business people, politicians, and everyone else who takes it. No prior “transgender knowledge” is required, and there are no stupid questions. The class was just approved, so will be listed in the online catalog in time for November registration.

In addition to working on this class, I want to write some more “10 Tips” short books (10 Tips for Parents of Adult Trans Children is now available as a pdf download – see right sidebar) and start on some other projects. So for the immediate future, I will be posting on Mondays only. Thank you so much for your support, and thanks for reading!

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Our community seems sharply divided on the recent decision by U.S. District Judge Mark Wolf to allow convicted killer Michelle Kosilek to undergo transition surgery while in prison, paid for by the state of Massachusetts.

I understand the anger and frustration of those who have worked three jobs, sold their possessions, and still can’t afford to pay for this surgery. They think, “I have been a law-abiding citizen all my life and I can’t afford to have surgery, but a convicted murderer can get it for free? How fair is that?”

Probably not all that fair, actually. But, in my opinion, the Michelle Kosilek decision is about far more than one person – one murderer, even – getting her transition surgery covered by the state. I think there are some points that we have to look at with regard to this decision, all of which take Kosilek out of the equation entirely.

1. First of all, we have to examine whether or not federal, state, and local governments should pay for medical care for their prisoners. If the answer is yes, then the decision could go no other way. If transition is, in fact, medically necessary, and if, in fact, a civilized government provides health care to those who it incarcerates, then the government must provide medically necessary care to all its prisoners. It cannot discriminate on the basis of some false morality, or on the “worthiness” of the individual receiving the care.

We either treat our prisoners humanely or we don’t, and providing necessary health care is the humane thing to do. It’s not a matter of who “deserves” it and who doesn’t. It’s a matter of whether or not we are going to provide it to our prisoners – period. (more…)

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If you’re too young to remember the original movie The Stepford Wives (I didn’t like the remake), here’s a brief synopsis: Women in Stepford love housework. They dress as if they’re going to the Academy Awards just to go to the grocery store. They don’t age, their boobs are firm, and they love to have sex at the drop of a hat (or the drop of a man’s drawers), even with their aging, sagging husbands. And even with all the sex and glamour, they can still keep their homes spotless.

The women in Stepford are ultra-feminine, according to the standards of the day (the film was made in 1972, amidst the women’s rights movement of the time). They reject everything that the women’s rights movement stands for. In fact, they think it is ridiculous – after all, a woman’s job is to cook and clean and keep her man happy. If she can’t do that, she’s no kind of woman.

The women are able to do these things and think this way (in truth, they don’t really think at all) because the men in Stepford have learned how to create robots that look just like their wives and infuse these robots with some of their wives’ sensibilities, but not all of them – not the ambitious, even somewhat rebellious ones that make women want to pursue hobbies and careers and maybe leave the breakfast dishes unwashed for a while.

For the times, it was a movie that made a strong statement – and maybe that statement needs to be made again. A paper from Northwestern University’s Feinberg School of Medicine, appearing in the Journal of Bioethical Inquiry and reported in The Advocate, claims that U.S. physicians are “using a synthetic steroid to prevent female babies from being born with ‘behavioral masculinization,’ or rather a propensity toward lesbianism, bisexuality, intersexuality, and tomboyism.” (quoted from The Advocate report)

In other words, doctors are creating Stepford wives in the womb. Apparently, pregnant women who are at risk of having a child born with congenital adrenal hyperplasia (CAH), an endocrinological condition that can result in female fetuses being born with intersex or more male-typical genitals and brains, are being given dexamethasone, a synthetic steroid, to try to “normalize” the development of those fetuses. Note that the report says “women who are at risk” of having a child born with CAH – the medication is being received by fetuses who do not even have CAH, and, in some cases, by male fetuses.

And even if the female fetus does have the condition, it appears that not much is known about the long-term risks of giving this drug to pregnant women, both for the women and for the children who have been exposed to this drug in utero. The doctors who are administering this drug, and the women who are accepting it, are obviously more concerned about the “femininity” of these female children than they are about potential health hazards. The drug has not even been approved by the FDA for this purpose. (more…)

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