Sheri Berenbaum led a thought-provoking discussion about the often-debated topic of gender differences. An inquisitive crowd kept Berenbaum on her toes as she answered questions concerning whether gender differences are innate or learned. Drawing on over 15 years of research on congenital gender disorders—and using props such as Legos and make-up kits to illustrate her points—Berenbaum challenged the audience to "think outside the box" about the mix of social and biological factors that make us male or female. Sheri can be found on the web and also at her University, Penn State.
The Gender Police have drawn hard lines on people of my experience. We have the extreme Right who would say our very existence is an abomination and we have the extreme left who insist that we must identify as some blend of gender that is neither wholly male or wholly female. I find one as constraining as the other.
I wonder where it came from that if we were free and perfectly healthy individuals that if we identify as women, we are not respected as women or if we identify as men, we are not respected as men. This is the problem of the extreme Right. We simply want to live our lives and be left alone to the right of privacy as any other American Citizen.
The other side of the equation exists from the extreme fringes of Feminism and is solely an extension of Womens' Studies professor Janice Raymond's ideology. Even today as she rewrote a foreward to her book The Transsexual Empire: The Making of the SheMale. Even with her new forward, which is a rather shallow apology to transsexual women, she still sees us as victims of a patriarchy. She was unable to and continues to fail to recognize that we are woman who for many different reasons ended up at odds with our assigned gender. The majority of these do not involve obvious anatomical variations. For this reason being politically coerced into a continuum known as "Gender Spectrum" includes vastly different presentations because of vastly different etiologies, makes us pawns in a political struggle between Left and Right.
Interestingly, the most negative people about the realities of our lives both as individuals and in varying collectives include the extreme Right and the Extreme Left.
For one group, our very existence on the earth is anathamema. For the other group, our very right to a unified gender identity is sacriledge. I find both extremes both nullifying simultaneously.
At this time in our culture, very few who wish to fall under the umbrella of transgender identify as gender queer. They have every right to that identity. It's not my identity. I do not consider them to have the same orientation of gender or have much in common with me other than a political desire to be left alone and become the best me I can be.
Similiarly people who feel a mix of their genders but have no burning urge to match their physical being to their identity, may be known as transgenders, crossdressers or by other labels that they define themselves by, have every right to be left alone and become the best people they can be.
Simply put, I am a woman. This is not a sociological statement, nor is it a political statement. It is who I am. There are more women who were correctly assigned at birth and individuals such as myself who were not, but sought to correct that error. I do not identify as a third gender or a fourth or a fifth. I'm just a woman.
This is a dual journey that I travel. I am the gender therapist and the gender patient, I bring my experience, professional and personal to the therapeutic alliance. All therapists do that. It is somewhat more unique for my patients as I am also someone who has been going through a legitimate process per the standards of care established by the World Professional Association of Transgender Health, a body of which I am proud to me a member.
As many of you know, I have been developing a comprehensive health care system for transgender people in the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia. I have been instrumental in initiating the Speech and Language Department of my health care system to offer voice and communication therapy for transsexuals in order to be able to communicate in a gendered manner that is congruent with our identity.
In announcement to a health care online network, this program was rebuked with a harsh and in my opinion, unwarrented attack. The author of this attack who is a faculty member of a large institution of higher learning, stated that she found it highly offensive that such a program would state that the therapy offered would improve the ability to communicate in a more masculine or feminine style, depending on the preference of the patient. She stated that because of this, she would not wish to refer anyone there for voice therapy.
Personal disclaimer: I was involved in the initiative to develop these services, provided a number of training resources and linked them with other Speech and Language therapy professionals who are members of the World Professional Association of Transgender Health in their field who could be of further help in developing the program that we offer. In my opinion, they have developed a quality program that I myself have participated in and am so more than just comfortable in referring my patients who are interested in these types of services.
What I find to be most outrageous of this experience is the lack of forethought in the reckless condemnation of a service that person has no personal knowlege of, just a blind conviction of an ideology leading to the same type of rigid results that the extreme right can be accused of (and rightfully so at times).
This is why I always say that I have found as much as bigotry, prejudice and hatred on the far right and the far left.
The issue at hand that I object to is that this person made a judgement that this person knows better for you than you do, therefore would not even grant you the opportunity to decide if this service would be helpful to you or not. Considering the philosophical orientation of this person, I find as much patriarchy in the Third Wave Feminist theory as they railed against in the Second Wave of Feminism. Each wants to control you, just to a different end, but neither will be the one of your own determination.
A pity, isn't it? I've seen absolutely no growth since Janice Raymond.