March 28, 2018

What Transphobic Norwegian Doctors can Teach Us about the Diversity of Transgender People

The major Norwegian clinic for transgender people is run by  doctors who are invalidating large sections of the transgender community. This  tells us a lot about how old stereotypes and prejudices among  gate keepers can ruin the lives of young trans people.


You'd better live up to the stereotypes if you want to get help from the transgender university clinic in Oslo. Photo: olgakr.
A progressive country...

As a Norwegian I am happy to say that we have some of the most liberal gender identity laws in the world. A trans person who wants to get legally recognized as their true gender, fills in an online form,  and that is all there is to it. There are no gate keepers in the legal sphere.

Morevoer, "transvestism" has been removed from the Norwegian version of the international medical manual, the ICD-10, and is no longer considered a mental illness. The same applies to being transgender in general.

...with a reactionary trans clinic

But getting your true gender legally recognized does not necessarily get you the medical assistance you need.  The National Treatment Unit for Transsexualism (Nasjonal behandlingstjeneste for transseksualisme, NBTS) at The University Hospital of Oslo has controls people's access to  surgery and does so in a very restrictive way.

I know of many trans people who have been denied any kind of help if they have admitted to erotic crossdreaming fantasies, for instance, or if they have not lived up to gender stereotypes as regards dress code, interests and mannerisms.

In the end it got so bad that Amnesty International got involved, arguing that the whole policy was in violation of trans peoples' human rights. (I have written more about this here.) 

A white paper has proposed a whole new regime, basically arguing that more clinics should provide services of this kind, in that way removing some of the power The National Treatment Unit for Transsexualism  has today.

Doctors show their true face

That has turned out to be a very wise recommendation, indeed. In a recent article in the major Oslo newspaper Aftenposten, leaders of the NBTS express opinions that are undeniably transphobic.
Among traditionalists Jazz Jennings is the perfect
transgender girl. God bless Jazz Jennings, but
the fact is that a large number of trans kids
are forced to hide who they are. 

The arguments they use to invalidate trans people are the  ones readers of this blog will know far too well:

Trans people who come out during puberty or later, and who do not visibly express their true gender through gender stereotypes throughout childhood, are not considered the right kind of transgender.

Anne Wæhre og Kim Alexander Tønseth from NBTS address the minister of health, Bent Høie, in their article, arguing that his liberal policy for transgender people has backfired.

The recent upsurge in young people approaching the clinic is, as they see it, the result of a "misguided and misplaced kindness mixed with minority activism and professional conflicts."


On why some trans people do not come out until after puberty

The main reason for why some transgender people do not seek help until after puberty is found in social repression and stigmatization.
According to conservative gate keepers real
transgender people come out before puberty.
Photo: Wave Break Media


In my article on Anne Wæhre og Kim Alexander Tønseth and the transphobic attitudes found at The National Treatment Unit for Transsexualism (NBTS) at The University Hospital of Oslo, I have argued that there is no mystery why some transgender people do not come out, and seek help, before after puberty has had some effect.

Here are some alternative explanations:

The identity-defence model

Dr. Jaimie Veale and Dr. Terri C. Lomax have suggested that this is about personality profiles. The late bloomers are people pleasers who have desperately tried to live up to the expectations of family and friends, unlike the more extrovert and uninhibited trans kids who refuse to adapt.

Their "identity-defence model" looks at the degree of gender-variant identity developed, and whether defense mechanisms are used to repress this identity.

They put it this way:
We believe that an introverted child is likely to have less confidence to express this gender-variant identity, and it is also possible that children with greater impulse control, agreeableness, or conformity are more likely to cognitively avoid their gender variance. 
They suggest that as far as transgender people goes, the outgoing personality types are more likely to become attracted to people of the opposite sex (male to female loving men and female to male loving women), while the shy and introvert transgender people – those who repress their true gender – are more likely to find members of their target gender "exotic" and therefore "erotic".


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