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Posts from the ‘gender variance’ Category

An example of Trans-Phobia in Society

I’d written previously about internalized-trans-phobia and noted that one reason why this happens is that “trans-folk have been … misunderstood and the object of derision”.  The following is unfortunately a good example of this.

(This was taken at a June 27, 2011 press conference with Presidential candidate and former Pennsylvania Senator Rick Santorum)

…I was with a couple this weekend who live in Vermont, and they have a similar situation up in Vermont… and their second grader has to come home and deal with Transgender Children, who are talking about Transgender Issues in second grade.  These are things that are going to have a profound impact on children… when children are going to be forced to be taught about all of these issues that come with the implementation of gay marriage…it’s going to have a devastating impact on our children.  It’s going to have a devastating impact on families and it’s going to have a profound impact on religious liberties….

That’s one powerful little second-grader… destabilizing religion in America. (does this mean she doesn’t have to do her homework?)

Putting aside for a moment Senator Santorum’s obfuscation of the issues of Gay Marriage and Transgender Children, the Senator as a respected member of society, is transmitting with his words and even more with his tone, the idea that transgender children are ‘less than’, ‘other’ and objects worthy of derision and ridicule.  He is incredulous that a “normal” second-grader would have to associate and learn about his or her gender variant class-mate.

I would say that the Senator gets to be the poster-child for hate this week and can now consider himself to be a contributor to trans-phobia.

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On Regret of Gender Transition

There are some people who undergo a gender transition (either fully or to some extent) and then regret having done so and “de-transition”.  This post attempts to explore this phenomenon.

Some reasons why this might occur include:

  •  The person is not transsexual.  The person may have found by going through their transition that they are not in fact comfortable living in the other gender and that they feel either gender queer or more closely aligned with the natal gender.  Certainly instances of transitions involving surgery might have been prevented if there were a greater attempt to determine this beforehand; however, just like with non-trans issues, we often go ahead with things we think are right for us only to discover that they aren’t.  Sometimes the discovery just isn’t possible without trying it out.  The ‘real life experience’ (see WPATH’s standards of care) is an attempt to systematize this discovery process before any major surgeries.
  • Regardless of whether the person is truly transsexual or not, it’s possible that because of having lived so long with gender dysphoria and accompanying social and physical dissatisfaction, one may think of a full gender transition as a magical ticket to happiness.  I have seen this (sometimes unconscious) wish accompanied by other unrealistic expectations such as:  the idea that one will have a social community, better social skills, be more popular, etc.  When this turns out not to be true, there can be confusion and uncertainty that tends to focus on one’s gender transition.  It may be that the gender transition was in the person’s best interest, yet other causes of unhappiness and personal problems had not been sufficiently explored and worked through.  Sometimes with gender variant people, work on other problems are delayed because the gender issues tend to take precedence.
  • The person encountered too many problems with transition (i.e. dissatisfaction with their post-transition life).  These problems could include lack of family support, loss of partner, problems with transition in the workplace, disappointment with the outcome of surgery and problems “passing” as the new gender.  Additionally, transitioning is hard.  There are many hoops to jump through and one enters into a group of discriminated against people.  This can be exceedingly disconcerting for some.

Levels of regret

Certainly a person who has made a gender transition can have certain regrets that are not extreme enough to cause them to wish to de-transition.  The WPATH Standards of Care notes that “cases are known of persons who have received hormone therapy and sex reassignment surgery who later regretted their inability to parent genetically related children”.  Other less extreme regrets can involve loss of certain benefits of privileges commonly associated with one gender or another.

Some research on regret:

Pfafflin F., Junge A. (1992) Sex Reassignment: 30 Years of International Follow-up Studies after SRS: A Comprehensive Review, 1961-1991 [publication online]. Translated from German  into American English by Roberta B. Jacobson and Alf B. Meier. IJT Electronic Books.

This study looked at 70 previous studies and reviews on outcomes following sex reassignment surgery.  These included 2000 individuals from 1961 to 1991.  This doesn’t take into account individuals who transition without surgery.  About 70% of MTF individuals were satisfied and 90% of FTM individuals.

Krege S., Bex A., Lummen G., et al. (2001). Male-to-female transsexualism: a technique, results and long-term follow-up in 66 patients. BJU International. 88:396-402.

 This study shows little or no regrets possibly due to surgical advances.

Find out about Psychotherapy when dealing with Gender variance in yourself or someone close to you. email: info@amikaplan.net

Understanding Gender Dysphoria

While there are many social implications related to gender dysphoria that I’ve written about and will write about in the future this post focuses on the inner experience of gender dysphoria.

Gender Dysphoria is a fundamental unease and dissatisfaction with the biological sex one is born with (one’s body) which results in anxiety, depression, restlessness, and other symptoms.  The dysphoria often acts as a catalyst to change one’s body and gender expression (how one presents to the world) to be more in keeping with what is felt to be one’s gender identity (the gender that one feels oneself to be).

In simpler terms this means that natal (biological) males, who are gender dysphoric have unease, dissatisfaction and even disgust with their male genitals, body hair, angularity, facial hair, musculature and any other attributes that one typically identifies with “maleness”.  Natal females who are gender dysphoric can have similar feelings with developing breasts, fuller hips, long hair, menstruation and other attributes that are associates with femaleness.

The time of adolescence when sex changes become more pronounced is understandably a very difficult time for many transgender individuals.  Puberty blocking interventions are now becoming more common in dealing with this.

It can be difficult for people to express how one feels about one’s body, in part because people with gender dysphoria often wish to avoid of the whole subject.  I’ve heard many variations of “it just feels wrong” or “I don’t like it”.   The following is an excerpt from Dear Sir or Madam: The Autobiography of a Female-to-Male Transsexual (1996) by Mark Rees:

 One of the great battles was of The Bra.  I angrily spurned the bra which my mother bought me when I was fourteen.  To have worn it would be not only accepting my femininity, but accentuating it.  I could do neither.

I’ve seen that transgender individuals vary in the degree to which they are disturbed by their male or female organs.  Some will be extremely avoidant of them; not looking in a mirror, not going to the doctor, not going to the beach or pool so as to avoid putting on a bathing suit and not have sexual partners, etc.  Others can engage in these activities to some extent but may still feel uncomfortable.

For many transgender individuals being transgender is not just about wanting to live in the social role of the other gender (to some degree), but it’s also about a fundamental dissatisfaction with one’s body.

Find out about Psychotherapy when dealing with Gender variance in yourself or someone close to you. email: info@amikaplan.net

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