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Sunday, October 28, 2012

Where are our Transgender Amish, Mennonite, Brethren, Hutterite Brothers and Sisters?

Recently I have been watching some of the episodes of Breaking Amish. I have an interest in their culture because they have a very similar background to the Old Order Mennonites who live in my area and live much the same as the Amish do. I also went to an undergraduate Church of the Brethren college and some of the students were Mennonites and what was considered "Old Order Brethren" My own faith grew in another denomination rooted in Anabaptism, Southern Baptist. Having grown up in a rural environment, I found all of these denominations interesting and their way of life attractive to me in some respects. I like the simplicity of the way they live, though I am much too spoiled by modern conveniences to want to adopt the lifestyle of the Mennonites and Amish. On a few occasions, I had the privilege to provide therapy to Old Order Mennonites who shared what it is like to live in their culture and I was appreciative of the opportunity to learn more about some of these folks in a way that is inaccessible to other people to get to know them.

In 1995 there was another similar show called Amish in the City. Both of these shows focused on Amish young adults leaving their community and finding out about a world and a life that is totally foreign to them. For some of these individuals, they are seeking to satisfy themselves that they want to live the traditional lives that they grew up in and for some of them, this is the beginning of a new life that is totally foreign to them and means leaving everything  including their families behind. It is not a decision made lightly or without consequence.

Having grown up being mindful of my Anabaptist neighbors, I began to wonder if there were transsexual Amish and Mennonites. I know they must exist; after all, we are not rare people, but uncommon and highly secretive. I can only imagine how lonely and terrifying it must be to know your gender identity is in odds with your body in such a closed society since it was so difficult for me growing up in a more open yet unaccepting mainstream American culture.

From time to time I would think about these folks and wonder what it is like for them, but I have never been able to learn anything about their existence and what they go through in their own quest for an authentic life. Do they live out their lives in quiet desperation, as many of us have? Or do they find some acceptance in their closed community. Somehow I do not think that is possible and that they must leave and be shunned for life if their true identity becomes known in these most conservative faith communities.

In my last effort to learn about the lives of our Anabaptist brothers and sisters, I came across the blog of an Amish gay man, Joseph Stalnaker. I was interested in his website and took the opportunity to contact him and ask if he knew about any transsexual Amish or Menonnites. He did not and hopes that they will reach out to him. He writes about issues related to our spirituality and the struggles of GLBT people who live in these closed religious communities. I found his blog to be really interesting and I would encourage those of you interested in spiritual matters to take a look and read some of his very thoughtful and informative articles. Here is the link to his blog:

Saturday, October 20, 2012

The Way You Do the Things You Do!

I read a lively discussion earlier today that was inspired by a Blog Rachel King wrote (on Pink Essence) about not being a victim and doing what you need to do in order to be true to yourself.  Rachel is quite right; she taught me to have more courage despite my fear. I'm further along for what she taught me. I thank you for that gift, Rachel, even though sometimes it didn't feel like a gift. But it was. 

If you have made the decision to transition, it isn't about how you feel; it is about doing it or accomplishing it. I feel horrible at times. Who wouldn't sometimes during this journey? No matter if I'm sad, afraid, angry, anxious, or depressed. I still have to live my truth. It may take me longer to do it, but I still need to do it. Even when we are successful in our journey, we may not always feel good about some of the things we accomplish, but we can rationally understand that the step in question is progress, its own reward. We will come to be able to enjoy what we have accomplished sooner or later (Hopefully sooner or right then and there!!).  

I've been on HRT over 3.5 years by now and one would think that after all that time I would have resolved the work problem. If it had been only my own welfare alone to think about, I would have left there and found somewhere else to work. But I have someone else to consider who I need to provide health insurance for and that is what I choose to do.  

I finally have come up with the alternative plan so things have begun to move forward with being employed as me. Not any of this particular aspect of transitioning has been pleasurable. But when I identified the alternative way to get this accomplished, I now have an option to work professionally and the problem is on its way to being solved.  Being able to be comfortable about who I am as well as BE who I am with my old business partner, ensures that this part of the process will be solved successfullly. Then I guarantee that I will feel good about the accomplishment.  

It's just not all about me though. Patty and I discuss sometimes for her it seems like this is the "only thing" I focus on. I suspect that is the case at times, but I think it is pretty much the same for all of us at one stage or another. My professional writing and giving workshops means that I spend a lot of time reading and researching, teaching. Managing my own transition certainly takes a lot of time because I also try to balance her needs with my needs. She also, is transitioning and I want her transition with me to be successful. This has been not been without some painful experiences for both of us. I understand that though she's known since 6 weeks after we met about my gender identity, to have an intellectual knowledge of one's spouse gender identity is very different experientially for the spouse once transition formally begins. So no, she doesn't always feel happy about my transition, but she gets on with it and comes to feel at peace and able to accept the changes in the life we share together. I’m a person who doesn’t usually make rash decisions. So sometimes transitioning crawls at a snail’s pace. Still, I’ve found while sometimes it takes longer than it should to accomplish a task related to transitioning, I have fewer things explode in my face.  

In graduate school I learned that you can change how you feel by changing your behavior. Or, you may allow your emotional self to guide your behavior. The former leads to eventual inner peace and happiness. The latter is a prescription for disaster. Right acting and thinking will almost always result in emotional serenity and happiness.   

Personally, I've learned that the only difference between a loser and a winner is that the winner got up one more time than the loser. If you don't want to be a loser, you have to get back up on your hind legs after you fall on your derriere. That's all. We all know how hard this journey is; we have all been knocked down, and sometimes it takes a pause to figure out what just happened and to gather your wits. Other times we bounce back up right away. Just keep getting up and in the end, you will be where you need to be, no matter how long it takes to do it right.

In the therapy work that I receive, my therapist Dana helped me to understand that past issues of having been abused are not happening to me now and I need not hang on to the emotional pain of what happened to me. I’ve learned to let go of the past and live in the moment. Yesterday is gone. Tomorrow is promised to no one. Be the best you that you can be!

Thursday, October 18, 2012

10,000 views as of today! thank you for reading my blog!

I want to thank everyone who has read this blog as well as particpated with your comments. I never dreamed that I would average over 200 views a week around the world from all the continents. I have gained a lot of pleasure knowing that my blog is being followed not only by a North American audience, but also by western and eastern Europe, a vast expanse of Asia, South America, Africa and Australia as well as the sub continent of India. It has transcended, various religions of the world. Some of the religions of the continents represented besides my own Christian faith include Islam, Hinduism, Judiasm, Buddism, and other spiritual beliefs that I am not aware of as well as those who are Agnostic or Atheists. I am glad all of you have been reading my  blog and I would hope that if you feel free from persecution, to please comment on the articles that I write. We will all learn more about the world and each other if you feel free and welcome to comment here.

I have so much to learn about what it means to be a transsexual in each of your countries and I hope in the next year that I will see more diversity of opinions from various cultures. It is as much about your comments as what I choose to write about or disclose about myself that makes this forum useful.

Again, thank you so much, I am humbled that so many of you find value in what I write!
Sherri Lynne Tancyus

A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to My Forum!

When someone posts a comment to my blog site, I get an email notifying me that the comment was posted. I have had a policy of open posting on my blog since its inception and appreciated dissenting posts as much as those who agree with my position on the matters that I choose to write about. 

Last week I wrote about a close friend’s announcement of her divorce. I was quite surprised Tuesday to find an ad homonym attack on me based on where I am in the process of transitioning and whether I “conflated” changing secondary sexual characteristics, specifically my “genitals” with changing my “gender presentation”.  This person also hid behind the cloak of anonymity which is usually the way people with a malignant agenda make these remarks. They lack the courage of their conviction to list their name or email address. I replied that I found the inquiry to be crude and because it was intrusive to my privacy. I stated that I would not answer this verbal assault. I was quite taken aback by the inappropriateness of the comment on this particular article more than the insinuated challenge of my integrity. I wasn’t particularly surprised that someone would make such a comment. I’ve experienced people like that before. Generally, they tend to be angry people and are bitter.

I discussed this comment with my niece Allie. She advised me that I needed to set my blog to moderate comments and I took this advice. I don't like having to do it as I appreciate the exchange of ideas openly. After all, I do believe in the principle of free speech. That is one of the principles that the internet was said to founded on and it is the cornerstone of Democracy. However, free speech does not extend to personal attacks in my opinion.

On the next evening I got another post to my blog from this anonymous person, this time moderated and not allowed to post without  my review and approval. Anonymous asked why was I "unable to or unwilling" to answer the original question and further challenged my “inability and hence refusal” to answer. Anonymous further escalated the attack by challenging my professional integrity. After all, “In light of my representation as a therapist a bit of candor would be in order… is not trust the cornerstone of your alleged profession?”

At this point, Anonymous no longer had a public forum for this intrusion. I chose to respond to this person off the blog. I stated that Anonymous and I do not have a therapeutic relationship, therefore this line of questioning is moot. A patient of mine asking the question where I stand in my transition is due an answer, provided it is in a context that benefits the patient therapeutically, but an anonymous person does not enjoy the privileges due between patient and therapist.

Then I asked Anonymous some questions of my own: Because Anonymous wishes to intrude upon my privacy and it is my personal decision as to what I choose to disclose about myself and what I deem personal and not open for discussion with my readers, I queried Anonymous about this person’s need to hide behind the cloak of anonymity to challenge me? Why does this person have a right to avoid revealing who they are or their email address while demanding me to answer extremely personal and intimate questions in a public forum?

I also made the observation that when an attack such as this is made, there is usually a hidden agenda. I asked if Anonymous would share that agenda openly with me so that we might discuss what it was. Hidden agendas originate from people who are passive- aggressive. They aren’t able to address conflict in a forthright manner, preferring to attack with innuendo.

I closed in responding by saying that I would be happy to discuss this with Anonymous politely and perhaps we could both learn something from this exchange, but I would not give Anonymous a public forum for this dialogue. Predictably, Anonymous chose not to respond in the last 24 hours. I doubt if I will hear from Anonymous again or learn this person’s identity.

I do have a fair idea as to the identity of this person based on their writing style and the ideological stance that was indirectly expressed, though I’m not absolutely sure who this person is. I have extensive experience in forensic mental health and I have profiled professionally for law enforcement. I am qualified as an expert witness in the judicial system at the Federal courts as well as the Upper and Lower courts of Alabama and Virginia, as well as the Juvenile and Domestic Relations courts.

 I would like to add that anyone who has followed this blog, attended my workshops, or has actually been a patient of mine pretty well knows the answer to the questions Anonymous asked. I am transitioning. It isn’t complete, though I have every intention to complete my transition as circumstances allow. No woman of transsexual experience enjoys being in transition. She feels even worse without the opportunity to transition, something that takes more than courage, it takes a lot of resources.

Those of us who are of transsexual experience generally do the best we can to become who we are if we have the opportunity. Some of are blessed with that opportunity and some of us will never have that chance for intrinsic and/ or extrinsic reasons. Those of us who transition, whether completely, or remain suspended in their transition to one degree or another, and those of us who never have the opportunity to transition because of whatever circumstance are no less than those who are blessed to complete their transition. None of us are less than women who were born and raised as girls and women either. The biological evidence mounts that this is not something we choose to do merely because of psychosocial reasons.

Friday, October 12, 2012

I Learned Some Very Sad News This Evening.....

I happened to check out my account on Pink Essence and learned some very sad news when I happened to look at the most recently posted blogs. I do this every now and then, once or twice a week. Tonight I learned that one of my dearest friends and sisters, "C" shared that her divorce was finalized today. Of course she was emotionally devastated, as any of us who have loved another person deeply and shared a majority of our lives in a marital relationship only to see it end, and not by our own desire or choosing.
"C" is such a loving and caring person, one cannot help but be drawn to her because of her sparkling personality. She is a deeply committed Christian, as I am, and the strength of her faith shines through her being, despite having lost so much in the exercise of her faith as well as seeking her own truth in Christ. In spite of the emotional pain of having lost so many relationships simply because she was born with a physical body that was not congruent with her spirit and soul, she has remained faithful and ministered to me at a particular dark point in my spiritual journey on a Sunday where I was able to attend her church with her. It was the first time in my life that I had the opportunity to worship as I am and by the grace of God, was also offered the sacrament of communion. I was so moved through the opportunity to come to worship and join in the mystery of becoming one with the body and blood of Christ that I had tears running down my face throughout the whole service and I then knew that I was acceptable as I am to the fellowship of Christians and to the God of my understanding. I felt truly blessed and healed of a great emotional pain. If it were not for "C" who accepted me as a sister and invited me to share her home, it might have been a long time for me to find a way back to a place in my own home area where I can be accepted and worship, without fear or shame, knowing I am perfectly acceptable to God as I am. I will never forget that first Sunday in June, a year ago from this past June.

“C” and I became acquainted on Pink Essence and I was drawn to her because of her open and friendly personality. I first had the opportunity to meet her at the Southern Comfort convention in Georgia in the fall of 2010, at the Keystone Convention in the early spring of 2011, again when she was a wonderful hostess when I gave another workshop at the Trans Philadelphia Health Conference in June of last year. As she lives in the North East, near some other dear sisters and nieces, I don’t get to see her very often, though I wish I could.

Those of us who share being a woman of transsexual experience are well acquainted to the pain of the loss of relationships with those we love the most and are intimately bonded with. It is such a common experience for us that it is a cliché and a stereotype of our life narrative. Sometimes this happens because we were not able to even accept ourselves and as a result we did not tell our spouses or partners. Other times, even though we have been honest and disclosed this most intimate and often emotionally painful part of who we are, having an identity that is contrary to the physical body in which we live since birth, is too much for even the most loving and deeply committed relationships to survive. It is probably the thing each of us fears the most as a consequence of living an honest life of integrity, even more than even losing our relationships with parents, siblings and other loved ones.

Tonight I grieve for “C’s” loss as I know she is heartbroken. I also live with the fear as many of us do, that even as strong as our marriage is, that there may come a point where Patty is no longer able to cope with that of which I ask in our relationship. It isn’t something that any one of us would wish on our worst enemy to have an identity in conflict with our biological bodies, though I am no longer ashamed of the reality of who I am. But it is sometimes too much to ask of a spouse even when they love us with all their heart.

“C”, please know that you are so in my thoughts and prayers and please know that though we live quite a ways away from each other, that I am here for you and I do care deeply about your pain.

I love you, dear sister.


Thursday, October 4, 2012

Do It Yourself Hormones: Is this a good idea?

I had a nice discussion with a lovely woman from Florida who came to my workshop at Southern Comfort two weeks ago. She had been on do it yourself hormones for awhile, stopped taking them and went back on them, but after she heard my comments, she changed her mind and was going to look into getting prescriptions and medical monitoring of her hormones.

I am someone who is not an advocate of doing it yourself, also sometimes known as D-I-Y. But I am also someone who has tried do it yourself, albeit a long time ago and it was only for about 3 or 4 months. I hope that this article will help people to reconsider the D-I-Y route and seek medical supervision.

My personal adventure with D-I-Y does not contain a horror story and I am not going to paint dire pictures of certain doom, illness or death, but there are potentially serious health complication that the D-I-Y person should be aware of and at least take some reasonable steps to minimize the potential for harm that exists with D-I-Y.

I have said before and I will say again, hormones are not playthings. Misuse of hormones can lead to heart, kidney and liver damage. They have the potential to raise blood pressure and cause heart attacks and strokes or fatal embolisms. Some people are not candidates for HRT because of other pre existing serious heart problems.

One of the most serious problems is that the pharmacies that one can obtain these hormones from do not require prescriptions. There is no guarantee that the drug you have purchased was manufactured with adequate standards to insure that the two milligram estradiol tablet actually contains 2 mg of estrogen. It may contain 2.5 mg or it might not even contain 1 full mg if estradiol. You just don't know what you are really getting. When you get a perscription filled, you are buying hormones that have been manufactured under rigorous standards and can feel safe that you are actually getting what you expect to be getting.

Many people who do it themselves ignore the need for regular blood testing every 6 months. This is important for many reasons. One reason is this is how physicians determine that your organs are not being negatively impacted by what you are taking. It confirms that you are getting proper amounts of hormones so that you can get the most benefit from taking them. You just might not be getting the serum levels of hormones up to where they should be in order to be most effective! It allows you to be aware of your cholesterol levels which can affect your heart and arteries and your liver. Adjustments can be made with other drugs, you don't necessarily have to cut back or eliminate HRT with this information if things aren't in balance.

One of the many reasons people don't go to their personal physician is because they continue to experience guilt and shame over experiencing gender dysphoria. That is something that occurs frequently and needs to be addressed, I've been there. I had literally had an old country doctor who was getting near retirement. My own guilt and shame at the time prevented me from going to him and telling him about myself. My solution was to ask my gynecologist to refer me to a female doctor as I'm not keen on having men seeing my body. So now I have a female primary care doctor who I can go to and talk to without feeling ashamed of myself. Whatever you have to do to get rid of the guilt and shame to have a health care provider you trust, please do it. You deserve nothing less than quality health care!

Another thing to consider is that you may be paying way over what you should for those black market hormones. Did you know that a prescription for 90 days of the maximum therapeutic dose of estradiol is $36.00 (U.S.) at Walmart, Kmart, Kroger or Martins for example of stores in my area? That's $12 dollars a month! That's dirt cheap. Most insurance companies' co pays would be higher than that. So isn't it worth dealing with your fears to find a competent practitioner you can trust? Then you know you are getting what you are supposed to be getting. How much is Spironolactone? $18.00 for 90 days at the recommended highest dose. Some of us take progesterone and there is some debate whether it is at all helpful or not in breast development. Generic progesterone is also inexpensive. My gynecologist prefers Prometrium because it is bioidentical to women's natural progesterone. It is expensive though. The maximum dose runs me a bit over $100.00 a month. In 6 more months I'll make a decision whether this is benefitting me or not in terms of breast development. If after 18 months on it and the results aren't that much, I'll likely discontinue it.

"Sherri, you don't get it, do you? I live in BFE (that is a remote place in Egypt). There is no doctor where I live who I can trust to go to or is willing  to prescribe HRT. I know this for a fact because I have called around."

Ok fair enough, not all health care professionals are as enlightened as I am or as enlightened as the ones who take care of me. I'll grant you that.

At least, go get your blood work done every six months, Please, please, PLEASE! get your liver and kidney functions tested and cholesterol too, even if you choose not to tell the doctor you are doing it on your own. We have a term for that. It's called HARM REDUCTION.

Speaking of harm reduction, being a member of WPATH, we strongly advocate harm reduction. What does that mean? It means that anyone who comes to see me on DIY hormones goes to the head of the class. I issue a letter of referral and give my patient the names of two, soon to be three doctors in my area who are willing to prescribe HRT for trans people. I give this letter on the second visit.  Harm reduction is the overriding principle and it is a principle supported by the WPATH standards of care. I want my patients to be safe!

Please consider these thoughts when you decide whether you decide to go see a doctor or do it yourself. You only get one shot at HRT and it has to be done right so that all we have to endure pays off on our journey to be who we truly are! What good is it, if one ruins her health on the journey?