May 28, 2014

How I found out my husband is a woman inside and what happened next

Photo: Robin Beckham
Buried Treasure, a Love Story

By Sally Molay, Guest Blogger

Different but the same
Where I stumble across the surprise of my life

"He is no different than he was yesterday. He is straight and he loves me."

These were the first thoughts I put on paper after I found out that my husband, Jack, is transgender, a woman in a man's body.

I was literally dizzy for days, and very frightened. But I was also eager to find the truth about the man I loved and I was overwhelmed thinking about how lonely he must be carrying this huge secret, scary on his own, how frustrated and sad. My heart was breaking for him. (Pronouns are difficult in this case. I use the ones Jack use.)

This is how I found out: I stumbled across his pseudonymous twitter account, which linked to a blog authored by the same pseudonym, a person living as a man, but perceiving himself as a woman. Some days later, I gathered the courage to read more and learned that, in his own words, he was attracted to women and happily married. Knowing this gave me a measure of security.

But so much remained unresolved: If I confronted him, would he freak out? Would I freak out? Would I still be attracted to him, knowing there was a female identity inside the body of the man I loved? The blog went back seven years. Could I live with the fact that he had kept this from me all that time? Could we make it work?

May 19, 2014

Anne Vitale on Crossdreaming in Middle Age

What happens to gender dysphoric crossdreamers when they enter middle age?
Illustration photo by Volodina

The psychotherapist Anne Vitale has written a very interesting book on various transgender conditions -- including various shades of crossdreamer -- called The Gendered Self.

I am taking the liberty of quoting the book liberally, as I think the book contains an important discussion of the gender identity struggles of adult crossdreamers, crossdressers and transgender.

Gender expression deprivation anxiety

Vitale points out that mid-life brings up new challenges for what I call crossdreamers -- especially the gender dysphoric ones (i.e. those that suffer from what Vitale calls "gender expression deprivation anxiety").

"Decades of trying to overcome their increasing gender expression deprivation anxiety begins to weigh heavily on the individual. Family and career are now as deeply rooted as they will ever be. The idea of starting over as a different sex seems impossible."

These persons often show up in therapy offices with symptoms mimicking depersonalization disorder, depression or generalized anxiety disorder, Vitale points out. They complain of panic attacks, irritability, sleeping disorder, inability to concentrate and weight loss.

Some disconnect from their families emotionally. Others find it hard to keep up their job performance. Some get suicidal at this stage.

The problem is that the feeling of dissonance does not go away as you get older. It might just as well get stronger.

The life of John

Vitale tells the story about John, a 51 year old male assigned medical research scientist, married for over 20 years and with three children, who came to her after a severe panic attack.

May 12, 2014

On the Various Shades of Transgender

Photo: anopdesignstock 
On why it is impossible to draw firm and unambigious borders between the different shades of transgender.

faekingit over at tumblr asked the following question:

"Though I’ve seen other people do this before, I’m curious to get my own responses.

Yes, I’m truscum, but I’m open to listening to answers without flipping out and threatening you with death or something. I probably won’t even reply unless there’s something I want to correct.

And the question is this - what exactly makes you another gender if you don’t experience sex/body dysphoria (not dysmorphia, keep in mind the difference)? How do you feel, say, in the case of a demiboy, “partially male”, without using gender roles and stereotypical expectations and gender expression to describe it? Answers are appreciated; ignore it if you want since I’m “disgusting true scum”.

The question forced me to try to simplify the complex matter of sex, gender and transgender in a way that makes sense, even for those who do not know all of the background. It is an impossible task really, but this was my attempt:

"I am gender dysphoric, so I can relate to your view of the world. But let me try to answer, anyway, as I believe much of the fighting going on in this area is caused by some basic misunderstandings.

People do not agree on what they mean by gender. In the social sciences it refers to culturally defined mores and ideas. In biology it refers to the end effect of a complex interplay of biological, environmental and social factors. Needless to say, your choice of point of view here makes a huge difference.

Blank slate vs. biology

Personally I find the "blank slate" idea of everything sex and gender being cultural or political hard to understand. We are also animals, with all the instincts and drives that this entails.

But it is equally clear that much of what people understand as typically male or female is cultural. Female liberation has shown us that there are few differences between the sexes as regards personality traits, abilities, temperaments and expressions.

Dimensions of gender

So none of the following dimensions alone determine whether you are a man or a woman. Nor can they be used to decide whether you feel like a man or a woman:

1. Personality traits, including abilities
2. Sexual orientation
3. Genitals and other bodily features
4. Femininity or masculinity, in the sense of a drive towards expressing whatever your culture defines as being such.

May 9, 2014

Survey of truscum transsexual separatists

raeltran over at tumblr has published a survey of truscum.

Truscum is a predominantly online phenomenon playing out on the social media site tumblr. This is group of transsexuals who are trying to appropriate the word "transgender" for themselves, and forbid non-transsexual gender variant people from using it. For some reason they feel embarrassed by using the word transsexual, but think the term "true scum" is a good one.
Photo: Bs/Wei, thinkstock

I am not sure to what extent this survey is representative, but if it is, it gives us some interesting information about the composition of the  truscum  separatist tribe.

1. Most of them are female to male transsexual.

Unlike the previous separatist movement, the "Classic Transsexual/HBS tribe", they are men (assigned female at birth).

This rhymes with my general impression: The younger generation of trans women are not following the separatist line. This also helps explain the lack of co-operation between the old female and the new male  generation of separatists.

2. The truscum are young. 

Over 80 percent are between 15 and 25 years old.

This may partly explain their lack of knowledge of transgender history. It seems to me that most of them truly believes the word "transgender" equals "transsexual". I do not think they are lying or trying to deceive (at least not most of them). This paradox can only be explained them lacking an understanding of transgender history.

3. 75 percent are white and  73 percent are American. 

All the respondents come from English speaking, Anglo-Saxon/Irish, countries.

In short: We are talking about a movement predominantly driven by American white men.  This may partly explain their desperate need to purify the word transgender from crossdresser/crossdreamer/genderqueer contamination.

In the US we see an increasing acceptance of transsexuals following the traditional "men trapped in a woman's body" narrative. We do not see a similar acceptance of non-dysphoric and non-transitioning transgender people, who often are considered sexual perverts by "experts" and laypeople alike. In other words: Expelling crossdressers, crossdreamers, girlfags and other questionable individuals from the transgender movement may allay any suspicions people have of the truscum being "unclean".

That being said: The great majority of truscum accepts that non-binary identities are valid with gender dysphoria.  In this they differ from the previous generation of separatists, where most required gender dysphoria and a strong identification with the traditional interests, abilities and temperaments of their target sex.

See also:
"You are not one of us!" said the separatist transsexualTruscum and the Transgender War of Words

realtran has also written a post on the reception of the survey, which is worth reading.

PDF-version of survey (date May 9 2014)

May 6, 2014

What happens to crossdressing and crossdreaming in the ICD-11 manual?

As noted in my previous post, the recent edition of the Amercian psychiatric manual, the DSM-5, has gone a long way towards depathologizing some transgender conditions. Gender dysphoria, for instance, is no longer considered a mental illness.
Peggy Cohen-Kettenis

Note that DSM subworking-group members Peggy T. Cohen-Kettenis and Jack Drescher are also members of the World Health Organization’s Working Group on the Classification of Sexual Disorders and Sexual Health.

This group will address sex and gender diagnoses in WHO's forthcoming revisions of the International Classification of Diseases (ICD-11).  That manual is expected to be published in 2017. The WHO most often follow up changes made in the DSM.

The current manual has two different sections on crossdressing,  one clearly referring to what I call crossdreaming, and one referring to the mythical mirage of the asexual crossdresser. It is all pretty bizarre, if you ask me. (More about this here!)

Some countries have already made changes to the current ICD-10 edition, removing the sections on "transvestism".

In a recent paper the ICD-11 Working Group on the Classification of Sexual Disorders and Sexual Health, states that it "believes it is now appropriate to abandon a psychopathological model of transgender people based on 1940s conceptualizations of sexual deviance and to move towards a model that is (1) more reflective of current scientific evidence and best practices; (2) more responsive to the needs, experience, and human rights of this vulnerable population; and (3) more supportive of the provision of accessible and high-quality healthcare services."

Before the a preliminary WPATH consensus meeting the working group had proposed the term "transsexualism" to "gender incongruence", moving gender incongruence out of the chapter on mental and behavioral disorders, and deleting the categories "dual role transvestism" and "fetishistic transvestism".

In other words: Not only is the ICD-11 process moving in the same positive direction as the DSM; it is taking this process further, suggesting that one removes crossdressing and crossdreaming altogether.

If the ICD-11 takes crossdressing and crossdreaming out of its manual, it will be very hard for the Americans to keep the "transvestic disorder" in the  DSM.

May 2, 2014

What the DSM-5 says about terms like transgender, transsexual and gender dysphoria

The recent edition of the American psychiatric manual, the DSM-5 distinguishes clearly between the broader umbrella term transgender and the much narrower term transsexual. The text gives, in fact, a pretty good summary of the dominant model of gender variance. It is time transgender people get a chance to read it.

In the transgender debate words like "transgender", "transsexual" and "gender dysphoria" are used often without there being any clear, common understanding of what the terms really mean.
Photo: Janka Dharmasena

Unfortunately sex and gender is one of the most controversial topics around. We need love to thrive and be happy, and any real or perceived threat against the possibility of finding real love and affirmation as a sexual being can therefore be life threatening.

Because of this people seem to be willing to do anything to be included in the category of "normal", to the point of excluding other  people from the transgender community, often by attempting to  take full control over the meaning of essential words.

The purification of the term transgender

This especially applies to so-called transsexual separatists. Some of them redefine the word "transgender" to mean any gender variant person who is not like them ("classic transsexuals" and the HBS tribe). Transgender people can therefore not be "real transsexual women", as they see it.

Lately we have also seen separatists who want to appropriate the word "transgender", in effect redefining it to mean the same as the word "transsexual" (the truscum tribe). The end result is the same: The expulsion of all transgender people who do not adhere to their idea of what it means to be a real woman or a real man.

Discuss crossdreamer and transgender issues!