Letters Volume Twenty-Four
This is Volume Twenty-Four of the collected letters.
Wherein can be found the anonymous texts of actual letters written to me,and my answers in return. They are included because it has been suggested that the discussions are of value. The letters are presented as a rather loose, ongoing continuous dialogue between a hypothetical questioner, and myself.
You can write to me, too!
These are the Twenty-Fourth set of letters
Reference Topic Index
Relative ONLY to this volume:
For the complete list see main letters page.
about 'Two-Spirits' and Transsexuality
When transsexuality is a legitimate disability
Is the Catholic Church acting nicer towards the genderqueer?
Issues for the wife of the MTF transsexual explored
Can progesterone affect emotions?
I'm curious about
your opinion on "two spirited"
people. As I understand it, this is a term most common among
Native American peoples - historically - for those of us who have one
biological gender and the opposite gender identity.
Not quite. I have covered this somewhat in the article 'What is Transsexuality' on my site, but the 'Two-Spirits' business is just ...marketing, really. Let me explain.
All nonchristian peoples, around the world, throughout time, had ways of describing, and including transsexuals. Only with the advent of Islam, Judaism, and Christianity, did transsexuality and homosexuality become 'evil'. Now that it is considered 'evil', being Queer, including Genderqueer, is a scary thing to be. Thus efforts to establish civil rights are in effect. I will get back to this in a moment.
With regard to native American peoples, there are many, many ways of describing the transsexual. To the Navajo, or Dine, the transsexual is the 'Nadle', and the definition is pretty much what it is today. Also the same for the Sioux 'Winkte'. And so on. However the concept of 'Two-Spirits', recently in vogue within the gay community, is the inventive definition of only a few Northwest tribes, who have gathered political influence. The definition is not that of the transsexual, precisely, but rather more for the so-called 'transgenderist'. 'Trangenderism' is a meaningless, made up term created to be useful as a political unification for transsexuals, crossdressers, she-males, butch dykes, and intersexed individuals. Because transsexuals are such a rare biological phenomenon, and very clear in definition, they cannot hope to accumulate sufficient political power to gain any real civil rights, such as has gradually occurred for gay and lesbian people. The banner of 'transgenderism' allows transsexuals to jump into a shared classification with more numerous sex and gender deviations they otherwise have little in common with, for mutual benefit. The term 'Two-Spirit' is vague enough that all sorts of people, with all sorts of issues, can blanket themselves under it. Just like 'Transgender', only with an Amerindian flavor.
The addition of 'Two-Spirits' is a political inclusion for the benefit of some native American tribes, and is an attempt to create a term of inclusion that all native Americans could potentially rally around. Not all tribes would agree that anyone has 'two spirits', and would argue that the transsexual has only one spirit..or no spirit (not all tribes believe in souls to begin with...we are speaking of diverse nations here) that simply is stuck in the wrong body. The organizations that seek civil rights for Queer folks often go through phases of 'inclusion' for specific groups, in order to increase power and legitimacy. A few years back, the focus was on 'People Of Color', this year it is Amerindian transgenderism...kind of odd, since transgender is already included in the LGBT (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender) mission statements.
SO, to make all this simple, 'transgender' and 'Two Spirits' are current convenient political inventions without much real meaning of themselves. Each native tribal nation has it's own unique term and definition for what a person who is transsexual, or something not entirely unlike transsexual is, and there are hundreds and hundreds of tribes. 'Two Spirits' is essentially just a cheesy attempt to blend all of that into one label for easy marketing. Which could be useful, because civil rights are very nice to have. Just keep your head clear on the machinations, and don't try to use them for valid definition purposes.
My article defines such matters more clearly, though it does not address the political aspects as I have done above, rather the historical aspects alone. Give it a look, and it will clarify things.
line....labels are tools of convenience and purpose. What counts is
what you know yourself to be.
I am an advocate
with the <Somewhere In The USA Center for
Independent Living. One of the many things I do is complete
SSD/SSI applications for individuals with disabilities. I have
someone coming to my office next week to work on an SSD application
based on gender dysphoria. As you may or may not know,
"disability" is defined by the Social Security
Administration as a condition that prevents someone from working for
at least 12 consecutive months. Could you tell me how gender
dysphoria would meet this criterion?
There are four
main ways that being transsexual, could legitimately be disabling.
One way is that transsexuality is a condition marked by constant, and sometimes extreme misery. While not all transsexuals are completely dysfunctional all of the time from this misery -human beings can, as you have doubtless seen, endure amazing levels of constant pain and still function- it can reach critical levels from time to time. The pain of transsexuality also gets worse, as the years progress, until it is treated via transition and reassignment. Critical misery levels can incapacitate an individual for a time, and all too often lead to suicide. One additional side effect of being transsexual -until treatment solves the problem- is chronic and severe depression. This, added to the base misery, also can add to compete breakdowns. I must add, however, that if a transsexual so incapacitated does not in fact kill themselves to escape the pain, they somehow manage to find strength enough to become functional again, at least until another criticality. If they are given hope of transition, then their mood and functionality increases dramatically. The pain of transsexuality is caused primarily by a conflict between the physical sex of the brain, and the physical sex of the body. The inborn sex of the brain is interpreted by the mind as 'gender', an internal definition of self. This internal definition includes all functions of the living brain, including the internal kinesthetic 'body-map' that informs the mind of the condition and state of the body. The pre-transition transsexual suffers not only because they cannot live within society as their inner identity, but also because of a constant neurological conflict between their kinesthetic map and their actual body shape. The problem is comparable, in some ways, to 'phantom limb' syndrome suffered by amputees. It is caused by essentially the same portion of the brain. However, because sex and gender are such primal neurological issues, the suffering is quite grievous. This misery can be entirely eliminated by reconfiguring the body to match the brain that wears it. That is the point of hormonal transition and surgery.
A second way transsexuality can be disabling is if the individual is currently in the middle of transition, half-way between the sexes, and is thus considered to be a freak or a monster by other people. This half-way state, where the body is slowly reforming itself -transition takes between one and three years on average- makes holding a job, going to the store for food, or even going outside at all, an invitation to abuse, mockery, and sometimes fatal injury. Here the disablity is not precisely caused by transsexuality per se, but rather by the violent, dangerous, and cruel bigotry of the majority of the nontranssexual population. It is difficult to maintain a job, or even daily life, under the potential threat of being murdered, beaten, or otherwise dealt with as a subhuman monstrosity. It should also be noted that there are no civil protections -in most states- for the the genderqueer, and at the federal level no protection whatsoever. One can be fired without recourse, evicted without recourse, and otherwise dealt with without recourse. This all adds to misery and sometimes fatal levels of depression and hopelessness. This is compounded by the fact that qualification for surgery includes the requirement of living one full year as the target sex and gender. This full year cannot itself be entered -at least safely-until the transsexual has gone through the bulk of hormonal transition, which reshapes and reforms the soft tissues of the body. So, the full process of transition can take between two years (fast track, very young, easily passable, responds quickly to hormones) and as much as six years (older, less responsive to hormones, mostly unpassable, other complications).
A third way transsexuality can be incapacitating is that the newly post-operative transsexual needs several weeks, to a month, to fully recover from such major surgery. However, this is a temporary, and understandable situation. No heavy lifting!
The fourth, and
final, possible way transsexuality can be disabling is if, despite
all medical proceedure, despite all surgery and hormones, and effort,
the transsexual person simply fails to 'pass'. Passing is the
condition of being fully accepted as a human being of a given sex and
gender. This can occur because of several reasons....the hormones
failed to work (occurs in roughly 2% of all cases), the body frame
and skeleton, height and shape of the individual make acceptance
impossible (this is more the problem of the Male-To-Female
transsexual. Female-To-Male transsexuals generally succeed in passing
more effectively in any given time), or the person is too famous or
well known to be accepted. This can make employment, housing, and
physical survival difficult or impossible. Again, this is a problem
of being under siege from the general populace, and bigotry in
general, rather than physical limitation. Having to live the rest of
one's entire life under such a siege, under the potential threat of
being beaten or murdered, refused work or housing, inevitably leads
to chronic and severe depression that does physically incapacitate,
I wish to note one way in which being transsexual CANNOT be considered disabling. If after transition and reassignment surgery, a transsexual is fully passable, acceptable, and otherwise physically functional, there is no excuse for claiming transsexuality as a disability. It is virtually impossible to achieve post-surgical status without passing a formidable battery of tests, and acquiring the recommendation of two independant psychiatrists as to mental and emotional fitness. It should be noted that transsexuals are people too, and occasionally, rarely, a transsexual may simply be a 'loser' and abuse the system like any fool. I have seen this, and I am compelled to mention it. The point of transition and surgery is to cure, to solve, to eliminate the misery of transexuality by making the sex of the body fit the neurological wiring of the brain. Once this is done, and if the person is passable -and thus not in danger of being slaughtered or rejected by society- the problem is solved. The treatment of transsexuality has one of the highest success rates in all of medicine, for any proceedure, which is why -if you think about it- such treatment would be allowed to even exist in our culture at all.
Take no crap from the passable, socially acceptable, post-operative.
I was reading your
site and found your opinions on world
religions to be interesting, but out-of-date. As little as 8-10
years ago, my church (Roman Catholic) preached against gays (and, I
assume, would have found trans-sexualism to be totally
abhorrent). My husband is a trans-sexual, and I am a
heterosexual woman, so we don't know what is going to happen to us -
he just started his estrogen and electrolysis and wishes to
transition. I don't know how, or if, I am going to deal with
this - just got out of the denial phase and am spending mountains of
time reading, and on the internet, to try to decide what I,
personally, should do. Contacted my church, and, they suggested
we go together to speak to this father <A Priest. He
explained to us that the church now accepts that homosexuals and
trans-sexuals exist, and are worthy people, not freaks or
sick-os. We have a nun at our church who actually runs a
support group for gays and trans-sexuals! This is a big move
for the Church, don't you think?
This is most exceedingly unusual. I would cherish this situation. Out of the literally thousands of letters I recieve every year, yours is the first, and only, to describe such a supportive situation. After so many years of running my site, I like to imagine that I have developed some sense of what is a sincere letter, as opposed to an attempt to befuddle me, and were it not for my instinct telling me that your letter is utterly sincere, I would think it a prank!
Then again, the pope has been doing a bit of apologizing lately to the world for all of the some 16 millions of burnings, beatings, torturings, and other fun stuff the Church has been up to for the past 700 years, which frankly, very much surprised me. Perhaps things are becoming kinder in the world of Christianity! Apologizing for all if that is quite...amazing...really. I would not have imagined I would live to see such a thing, and here it is, this year. Change is afoot, perhaps.
Your supportive situation is, to all my current experience, rare, if not unique. Take advantage of it. I hope it becomes a common story, one day.
We are planning to retire soon - my husband will transition at that time, and need to decide on a place to live. Reading your saga helped a lot. We are East-coast people. My sister lives on <A Location, but she and her husband are not doing well with our news. My husband is very small (5'8" and 165 lbs) and will pass easily. Don't know about his head - his attitudes are so very typically male. He was brought up in an Italian immigrant family, so he has lots of deep-set macho details. What he, and I, would like to do is blend into a mainstream community, as cousins, or something. I told him he has to do the lying! We don't want to present as lesbians, or attempt to go into an alternative lifestyle community. Both of us are very straight-laced, and would not be comfortable in such a setting. Have any suggestions? We have been married for 30 years. Personally, I wish it would all go away. But I know it won't. I am still experiencing anger and confusion. He started the estrogen and electrolysis before he told me what his situation was, and that deceit is very hard for me to bear. He was a coward, and admits it. Just afraid - with good reason, of course. He has apologized again and again, but it is not the kind of thing that an "I'm so very sorry" can heal. So we have lots of problems. I have no therapist yet, nor do I have a support group. We live in <A Place In America - transferred here by his job 3 years ago. Can you help me with advice - personal and/or how to find a support group?
For resources, may I direct you to the Ingersoll Center, in my links area at the bottom of my index page. Ingersoll is the oldest and most respected gender center in North America, and they would very likely be able to suggest options in your area. If I remember correctly, there is a group in <A Place In America of some reknown, in fact, and I just might already have a link for on that page already, if memory serves. Check out the links area.
As for how to deal with how to stay together in the world, should you choose it, that is really up to whatever makes you feel the most comfortable. Every choice, every option, has consequences.
There is no reason you cannot present to the world as cousins, or sisters, or roomates, or whatever. However, keeping up this arrangement would mean having to avoid, and worry about, showing too much affection, concern, love, or attention to each other in a social context. In effect, you would have to keep a great number of secrets, which -in my experience- is a lot of work. Still, if being thought of as lesbian is too horrible, it is an option, and can be done. You can create whatever life you choose. In effect, you would be doing what lesbian couples have had to do for the last hundreds of years, that is pretending that they do not have a relationship or lifetime partnership, whilst still maintaining a relationship. 'Passing for straight'.
Of course, to avoid having to live in constant fear of discovery, to avoid the forever effort of keeping up false appearances, is entirely what all of the 'gay rights' business is all about. Living in fear of discovery is very difficult, long term. You both may want to think about the ramifications of such a choice.
I say this, because, really, in every realistic, rational sense, you are both Queer. Both. You always have been. Genderqueer is still Queer, so your spouse is a form of being Queer, and this form -transsexuality- is just as inborn as homosexuality is. You presumably love and are attatched...from all appearances devoted... to your spouse, and are trying to help her. (it is reasonable to call your spouse 'her' because if she really IS transsexual, she was born with the condition, and has simply been trying to cope with it for all these years the only way society has allowed, until recently).
If you fell in love with her, care for her, have stood by her, chose her over all other available mates, then this says something about what you are attracted to. Transsexuals cannot hide all that they are. They are often beaten, chided, or forced to overcompensate for the truth of what they are. They can never completely hide it. It is the truth of what they really are.
Therefore, it is logical to examine your own needs and true feelings. I am not saying that you are a closet lesbian. That is sexuality. But, there must be some reason you chose your spouse, and that reason includes all that they are...including the non male truth of their...for lack of a better term...soul. Indeed, because MTF transsexuality is the condition of having a brain wired in a naturally female manner -despite all of a lifetimes programming to be male, act male, think male- there must, reasonably, be some part of you that is more comfortable with another female as a partner. Again, this is not sexuality, it is not lesbianism, per se. It is a matter of choosing qualities of a life partner. Sexuality is a seperate issue.
In having choosen a transsexual partner, even one who tried very hard to pretend they were not (what other choice did a person of your generation have, really? Historically, most took their own lives. I do not think your spouse is a coward. Suicide is the cowards way out, in my opinion. Your spouse had no options, no hope, but soldiered on as best they could, in a very dangerous world. A world that -mostly- beats, burns, kills, and shuns the Queer of any stripe. I do not consider survival to be cowardice), there is information about yourself in your choices.
How do you want to live? In fear? In shame? You are what you are, and that is the sum of your decisions, needs, and choices in life. Life is too short, I argue, to live worrying about what others might think. But then, that is my experience, and I have faced the label of being Queer, or some shade of Queer, much, much longer than you, I suspect.
I offer that this situation you are in is as much an opportunity for you to understand yourself, as it is for your spouse, and that you need -in your own way- just as much help coping with it. Take care of you, too! Seek some councelling for yourself, if you can. What you are having to face is not easy for either of you. Your spouse may have to deal with a lifetime of suppression, repression, and the loss of being themselves, but you will have to deal with coming to terms with who you really are, to have chosen them above all others, and any issues and problems you may have been taught to have about that.
Far too often the spouse of a transsexual is overlooked, because the fuss of dealing with changing an entire body appears to outweigh the internal struggle of someone faced with a major revelation about their deepest motivations for making choices. You choose your spouse, and you had your own very real reasons, that define you. You almost certainly do not know them all. It can be tough to deal with, unless you are extrordinarily open minded.
offer that learning does not stop simply because one is at retirement
age. Indeed, it is the one quality that seperates the living from the
already dead-yet-walking. Discover yourself, even as your spouse is
trying to uncover themselves after years of enforced supression. You
spent a lifetime with this person. The 'why' of that is an entire
universe I suspect you have never explored. As they recover
themselves, you will inevitably wonder who you actually are, and what
you actually need and want from life. It might be courageous and
useful to find out.
I just read
your article about the second puberty an
I have a question about my situstion. Since the end of December
I have been on spirolactone. I am up to 125 mg a day. The other
day my doctor started me on 5 mg of proveria. I would like to
know if I can expect any emotional changes?
In a nutshell, yes. Are you on estrogen as well, or just proveria? Personally, I do not much hold for using progesterone, which is what is in proveria. Progesterone is the hormone that is released primarily during menstruation, and in and of itself will not significantly feminize you. It can help, according to some accounts, in the development of certain tissues, such as breast tissue, but it has the unfortunate side effect of greatly affecting emotional stability in many individuals. It definitely affected me, to the point of costing me my employment. I was a wreck. Off of it, I was fine again. It can be very powerful on some people.
Estrogen is the hormone that is actually the basis for transition, and works quite effectively all by itself. I offer that there is no need to suffer the emotional roller coaster of progesterone, since there is no hope of having a period. Why suffer for minor, and some would say unproven, benefits?
Estrogen also affects emotions, but to a lesser degree. All sex hormones affect neurology to some degree. That is reasonable. Progesterone is what causes PMS in nontranssexual women. It is...not for everyday, like estrogen. I really do not see a valid use for it at all in the transsexual.
That is my opinion.