There’s been a lot of discussion lately about the suicide of Christine Daniels / Mike Penner (October 10, 1957 – November 27, 2009). To briefly summarize, Mike Penner was born a genetic male, and around the age of 48 transitioned to female (Christine) and wrote about her transition and life as a sportswriter for the L.A Times. Because of her high profile, there was a lot written about the story (NPR). The transition included a painful divorce. About a year later she started using her old name of Mike Penner in her/his byline signifying some return to the male gender, and then suicide. So we are left with a lot of questions about what went wrong.
The incident raises the question of aftercare for post-transition individuals.
My experience is that people come into therapy when they want to transition, and very often their focus is on physical and practical matters, such as hormones, Sexual Reassignment Surgery (SRS), voice, facial hair, etc.. People have been focused on ‘transitioning’ for so long in their own private thoughts and the process is so involved that very often the individual and perhaps their therapist are not as focused on what happens afterwords. The gender dysphoria has been such a problem in one’s life that ‘transitioning’ comes to be seen as the solution.
Many other problems emotional and otherwise are understandably not addressed because of the overwhelming nature of gender dysphoria, and so it can be something of a rude shock to find these issues emerge after transition.
There also can be some level of dissatisfaction with the outcome of transition, one’s presentation, and various maintenance functions that are needed to maintain the gender identity.
Relationships with family, co-workers and others may be challenging. While the transgendered person has had a lot of time to think about their gender and transition, other people in their lives have had much less time.
For MTF (Male to Female) transitions, there’s the problem of suddenly experiencing sexism. In addition one might be suddenly seen to the outside world as lesbian, if one’s sexual orientation is towards woman. If someone has been living life from a place of male privilege, and never having been in a discriminated against group before, this can be a pretty big adjustment to make.
I can only imagine that Mike/Christine suffered from some of these problems. What has your post-transition experience been like? Did you seek any type of help specifically for post-transition issues?
Find out about Psychotherapy when dealing with Gender variance in yourself or someone close to you.