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Friday, March 15, 2013

Do Transsexuals Discriminate Against Each Other?

I was exchanging emails with my friend Amanda who is a relatively new friend I met on Pink Essence. Amanda is a very sweet lady who is coming to terms with her gender identity later in life. This is not unusual for people in their 40's, 50's, 60's and even 70's or older. There just weren't any resources readily available to people of our age.

The few sources of medical research and psychological research suggested in the 1960's and 1970's that people such as me were extremely rare, so rare that the estimate of our population was around one in 33,000 (1:33000). In 1970, when I was 12 and went to the public library in Charlottesville, Virginia to read about people like me in books by Harry Benjamin, Robert Stoller and Richard Green, the principle authors of the time, Charlottesville, in 1970,  had a population of about 30,000. I knew this because on the Interstate signs for the exits for Charlottesville, they posted the population at that time.

 Can you imagine how alone I felt as a 12 year old? It was a terrible feeling and I continued to feel that sense of terminal uniqueness until about 1990 when I got a subscription to Compuserve and found live time chat called "CB channels". Compuserve was very expensive at the time. It cost over $6.00 USD an hour over the basic plan. It didn't take too long for someone who was dire in need to talk to people who were like me to run up a huge bill and this limited how often I could talk to another transsexual after weeding out the fetishists and people with various interests other than realizing their internal gender identity.

Just before that, I had taken a "mental health" day off from work and watched Geraldo Rivera's daytime talk show that afternoon. Marsha Botzner was on his show. She was (and is) the director of the Ingersoll Center and the next day, I called her in Seattle where she is located. She was the very first person like myself I had ever spoken to and that gave me a tiny glimmer of hope. She was extremely encouraging with me, but it wasn't until 1997 that I made the decision to begin taking baby steps to actively seek my own transition and stop living with the misery of living with my secret.

My dearest friend Christina and my wonderful beautiful wife Patty were my rock in beginning the painful process of coming to terms with myself and the world I live in. Although I had been helping other transgendered people, it wasn't until 5 years ago that I found the strength to seek therapy for my own gender dysphoria. I deeply appreciate what my therapist Dana has done to help me find my way on a difficult life journey. She had no experience with people such as me. I'm the only therapist around for about a 3 and a half hour drive who works with adult transgender people. She is a highly skilled therapist and had the courage and compassion to stretch herself in her own growth as a professional to help me. I could have easily skirted the standards of care in obtaining my hormones, but I followed the process that I ask others to follow. I believe in the WPATH Standards of Care and cannot exclude myself from following them.

Along the way, from time to time, I would run into someone who would tell me that because I hadn't already transitioned, gone on hormones and had my genital reassignment surgery, that I wasn't a transsexual and that I was something else, less than the person who made these observations and not worthy of being friends with this person. I was "otherized". I found this reaction to be very painful and it would often increase my sense of emotional isolation and being unacceptable. I know my sister Christina experienced a lot of the same treatment by some of the other transsexuals with who were we were acquainted online.

It saddened me greatly to learn that Amanda had formed a close friendship on a transgender social website with another person who identified herself as a transsexual. After being friends and with someone who Amanda considered a close friend for a while, the friend learned that Amanda has chosen to honor her spouse's wishes that she not begin hormonal reassignment therapy and to not appear publically in her authentic gender identity. Her friend was not supportive of her, instead she was quite incensed that Amanda has chosen to make a compromise to preserve the relationship of many, many years with her spouse. In fact, she was so upset with Amanda's decision that she decided to "unfriend" Amanda. Amanda, understandably, was quite hurt by her friend's shallow an insensitive attitude towards her.

Now I do not know who Amanda was referring to and I do not care to know her identity. I think that this person must be very insecure with her own identity to insist that every transsexual follow in lockstep and begin HRT and eventually (the sooner, the better?) have genital reassignment surgery. it really matters not a whit, in my opinion whether someone begins HRT or has the surgery to confirm they are, indeed, a transsexual. There are many among us, particularly those who are older and in committed relationships who choose to not make our gender identity not "all about me". We love our spouses and want to remain with them for the rest of our lives. So, we make compromises that we are able to live with.  We try to find a middle road that our spouses can support as well as what brings us a level of congruency that allows us to live as comfortably as we can. It isn't the best of all possible worlds, but it is what works for us as individuals.  Gladys Knight and the Pips got it right in their song, Leaving on That Midnight Train To Georgia- " I'd rather live with him in his world than without him in mine".

Relationship is about compromise. To be in an intimate relationships, we have to find a middle ground with our partner. It doesn't matter what that compromise is, as long as we can live with it. Having a transsexual identity has nothing to do with what we do about it. It's simply about the identity.

We transsexuals frequently resent being lumped into the "transgender" umbrella. To me this is understandable because we don't care for the thought that we are identified by the public as being many things we are not. However, that has never influenced my choice of my friends. They are my friends because of their character and not because of their identity. It is particularly distressing to me that some of us who identify as transsexual will choose to denigrate others who identify as transsexual because of the compromises they choose to make to preserve the most important relationships in our lives.

I'm so glad you are my friend Amanda!


  1. From my own experience growing up as a "mere" cross dresser...yes transsexuals do discriminate.

    I made the mistake of commenting on a few of my experiences on a certain social website and getting absolutely blasted by several "TS" persons or "Trans-Nazi's" (a term I picked up from a very popular CD blog)

    How sad is it when we feast upon our own?

    My theory is many who have "gone the distance" shouldn't have and are just bitter.

    No matter how we identify we all deserve our happiness and it should not be dictated by how much we have spent on our bodies.
    Amanda, I don't know you but understand what you have experienced.
    I'm your friend in trans sister hood matter what facet it is.

    1. Discrimination is prevalent within the fabric of society... And yes, our societal subgroup endures the same harmful frailties... I would imagine that it is a part of life's pecking order...

  2. Hi Sis,
    I can relate to so many similar things growing up. Very alone - what is wrong with me.

    You once asked was I going furthur with transitioning. I was one who said probably not due to keeping my family together. I just need to be able to be out as me from time to time.

    I am me however I apear to others. I like to talk with others of like mind, but don't live on web sites, and would rather just enjoy life with everyone instead of a closed group of people. I would rather go to a park, zoo, mall, natural landmark, waterfall, lighthouse, etc. than go to a bar.

    I find so much stress with ones who are always sizeing me up wanting me to fit their mold and if I don't condeming me. I am just another shade of pink...

    Well anyway I am doing good and look forward to getting together again in the near future. You know my e-mail. I also am glad that I do get two weeks to be me starting Monday, it just helps...


  3. Lauren, this blog touches on one of the many aspects of why the trans community is so disjointed. I have perceived a transsexual dominance concerning the voice of the transgender community which marginalizes cross dressers or other transsexuals who do not follow through with HRT, RLE and SRS. However, I have also seen self proclaimed ( and some are also diagnosed ) transsexuals who look down upon post-ops because we did not have the love or commitment to stay as "males" for our family.

    I don't believe most post-op transsexuals are bitter about their experience to the point of lashing out at other members of the trans community who have not gone post, rather they have a superior attitude which, considering the obstacles they had to overcome to get to where they are, engenders an attitude of bourgeois.

    But I feel WPATH has fed this transsexual, post-op hierarchy by the list of diagnosis requirements: to obtain HRT, go fulltime, acquire an orchiectomy or SRS.

    All of this banter and inner fighting among trans people has much do do with your earlier blog about the gender queer community rising among the youth. If society begins to look at gender as less binary and more blended I believe much of the in-fighting would dissipate. however I am not sure the day of accepted, blended gender will ever come to fruition.

  4. I don't think that society will ever get to the point where the gender binary will disappear because one's sense of gender is so deeply biologically wired that it can't be socially engineered away. There will always be a minority of people who have no sense of being male or female, but I don't see that minority growing. One has to consider the impressionistic nature of youth. If this is what they are being told by academia, some of them will run with it, but a large proportion will eventually question that and return to the gender binary. I see this phenomenon from the JMU students I work with. Their sociology and women's studies department push the idea of no gender, but it is only a minority of them who identify as genderqueer. Some of them are annoyed by the pressure the genderqueer students try exert to get them to abandon their gender identity in search of an idealized social structure. It annoys them to the extent they dissasociate themselves from the clubs because the members of the clubs ridicule them for not being swayed by an ideology and being who they genuinely are.

    I disagree with you about WPATH being responsible for this. Without WPATH, people such as ourselves would be totally disenfranchised from medical care and help to live our lives authentically. Over the years, WPATH continues to grow and the standards of care have been revised 7 times to reflect what we are learning about gender identity and gender expression. If WPATH were responsible for prejudice and discrimination between gender identies, then we would still be using the same standard of care they originally authored. I'm also 100% in favor of a standard of care. Why should transgender people be the only medical problem exempt from a standard of care? Having a standard of care is our only protection that the medicalcare we receive is peer reviewed and proven to be safe scientifically. Hormones aren't playthings and if you have buyer's remorse after having the configuration of your genitals changed, you are pretty well screwed. It happens, but it happens with less frequency due to having a standard of care in place. Besides, with 41% of transgender people attempting suicide at least once (compared to 0.12% of the general U.S. population). 35% of transgender people abuse alcohol and drugs to cope with their identity (compared to 9% of the general U.S. population). Transgender people suffer from horriffic rates of depression and anxiety. These statistics do not make for the basis of making good decisions without help in guidence from health care professionals.

    Prejudice and discrimination is not a one way street in the gender community. Genderqueers are quite militant towards those who have a well defined concept of their own gender identity, as I described with my student cohort from James Madison University.

    We in the gender community tend to take a narrow view of who is oppressed and who are the oppressors, just as here in the United States we tend to have a national egocentric view that prejudice and discrimination is the sole provence of those poor dumb slow white southerners (which is an attitude of discrimination and prejudice in of itself). Really, prejudice and discrimination is as old as man has existed on earth and I don't know of any culture on earth that doesn't find another culture or people to to be less than and treat them poorly.

  5. I don't see it as much in real life, getting together with girls in a metropolis, is more of a clickish type of discrimination. I try to just take it with a grain of salt when I get comments from personalities like that. I does take all kinds to make this world go round....and life is too short to let it get to you!

  6. I don't see it as much in real life, getting together with girls in a metropolis, is more of a clickish type of discrimination. I try to just take it with a grain of salt when I get comments from personalities like that. I does take all kinds to make this world go round....and life is too short to let it get to you!

  7. Lauren,you are such a sensitive,loving,compassionate woman.You are a gift to your friends,family,patients and most of all to me.I am a genetic woman.I was fortunate to be born with a body that is congruent in all aspects of what I would call "female." I never realized what a blessing this is and how painful and tragic it is to be born in the "wrong" body until I met you.I learned so much about your early life,your trials,despair,and courageous attempts at trying to find this congruency within yourself.I have nothing but compassion for all persons who are dealing with this lifelong confusing dilemma.From my limited perspective I feel we would all be much better off if we could see people from a more holistic point of view.We are so much more than our body parts.Men and women are not just walking,talking genitalia.As a genetic woman who has had her uterus and ovaries removed,I am no less female than when I was born.I have friends who have had mastectomies due to disease as well as loss of uterus and ovaries.How are we now to be classified? "She used to be a woman?"What about the man who is castrated due to testicular cancer and has to now take estrogen and consequently has beast development?Did he "used" to be a man?
    We are born with bodies (all imperfect in some way),and souls.We are so much more than our bodies.Gender is a holistic term.A way of seeing the world.A way of interacting with the world into which we were born.There is no question that men and women are different but the body is just one of the differences.De-friending someone who has made a different choice as to how to physically alter the body into which they were born in order to make themselves feel "whole" is about as shallow as you can get.

    1. This comment is so significant to what is in my mind and heart. I have been walking along this path ever since I was 11 (now 67) and will never look or live as a woman. But my personality is so strongly influenced by my female mind that there is no way to separate the parts. The whole is greater than the sum of the parts.

  8. Hi ya, and yes there is a discrimination by others who like the person you described in the blog hold a false conception that all must transition or you are branded as less than and not a true transsexual. I used to belong to a few sites and at first everyone is accepting but the site grows and grows beyond the power of the owner and without fail a group will seem to take over and where there was love an mutual acceptance a seed of hatred sprouts grows and blossoms and all that are different are driven off or become so disgusted that they leave. It was a few years ago referred as "Trannier than Thou" they go on about all they gave up and if don't do the same then you are not a true Transsexual. The true shame is those that are bitter should have really considered all the ramifications before going ahead. I noticed that those that do just that are never bitter towards others who are not yet ready due to finances, or a loved one such as your friend. I to have chosen to honor my loved one and have felt the same sting by others. I try not to be bitter to them and find it difficult at times but if I want to grow and have peace in my life I must for myself practice peace.