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Sunday, July 26, 2015

A Poor Role Model: Transsexual Reporter Assaults Fellow Journalist

One of the things I think is important for people who are transgender and choose to be public about their gender identity is that they do their best to present a positive image of transgender people in public. What one does in their private life is generally of no interest to me unless they are seriously violating the rights and the safety of others.

I was very disappointed to see news reports that this past week on a Headline News Network episode of Dr. Drew. Breitbart news journalist Ben Shapiro and Zoey Tur, a reporter for the television show Inside Edition, who is public about her gender identity, were debating whether Caitlyn Jenner, formerly known as Bruce Jenner Olympic Decathlon Gold Medalist, deserved to be given the honor of being awarded the Arthur Ashe Courage Award.  This award is given to sports figures who exemplify courage off the playing field by ESPN sports network.

While it is evident that Mr. Shapiro is uninformed about the condition of Gender Dysphoria (formerly called Gender Identity Disorder), some comments he made towards Ms. Tur were extremely insulting and demeaning (He called her "Sir"). Her retaliatory behavior by grabbing him by the neck on television and threatening to "send him home in an ambulance" was grossly inappropriate and by putting her hands on him, she committed an assault and battery upon his person. Anyone who touches someone else without their permission meets the criminal definition of assault and battery.

Ms. Tur's bad behavior did not end live on television. She further threatened him saying "I'll see you in the parking lot" and several days later tweeting that she would like to "curbstomp" him.

Not only did Ms. Tur represent herself and others who are transgender poorly in a very negative light, she generated some significant negative attention to the transgender community as a whole by her impulsive and thoughtless behavior. She squandered an important opportunity to distinguish herself from someone who is ignorant and bigoted towards others who suffer from gender dysphoria. Mainstream society will not remember his comments, but they will remember Ms. Tur's comments and behavior.

The vast majority of people are not transgender, nor to their knowledge have they ever met someone who identifies as transgender. There just aren't that many of us. Most of us who experience gender dysphoria are rather secretive about it, fearing negative reactions from others. Ms. Tur certainly didn't help the community join and be accepted into mainstream life by her actions. My opinion is that she failed us all badly whether one is transgender or not. No one should carry on and act the way she did in response to verbal comments, no matter how distasteful the recipient of such remarks find them. There are better ways to handle bigots and transphobic people.

For those who do know about my former life as a male, I want to be a positive role model for other transgender people. I want to be seen as someone who is more like anyone else in our culture than different. I want to be seen as making a positive contribution than being seen for my differences and negative actions. Yes, it is an added burden, a consequence of having had a transgender identity, but it really isn't one that is so difficult to carry.

What do you think?

Friday, July 24, 2015

Women I Admire: Beatrix Potter Revisited

Beatrix Potter by King cropped.jpg

This evening I had the pleasure to watch a movie that I had wanted to see several years ago when it was in theaters, but for some reason did not get to see. The movie, entitled Miss Potter starred Rene'e Zellweger as Beatrix Potter and was released in 2006.

I have had the pleasure of reading every biography about Miss Potter that I could find in the public library after rediscovering her wonderful artwork and her beautifully innocent and entertaining children's stories as an adult. I remembered how much I loved Peter Rabbit as a child and at that time in my adult life I had also found a place where a very large rabbit warren was. I spent countless summer evenings watching the rabbits come out and interact with each other. That contented time led me to rediscover Miss Potter's stories and artwork.

While I have always preferred the written word to movies made from novels and historical works in print, I do have to say that the movie Miss Potter did represent much of her life story accurately and in ways that moved my spirit and I am glad that I have finally had the opportunity to see this movie.

The film was exceptionally done in a way that accurately captured the life of an extraordinary upper class woman who grew up in Victorian England. It was a time when women of her social class and stature were expected to marry and stay at home to manage a household staffed by servants and have children. In Victorian times, upper class children had limited interaction with their parents and were mainly raised by the household servants and they were educated at home. It must have been such a lonely life for a small child.

Miss Potter, who remained single into her thirties did not expect to marry and was content with her water color paintings and writing children's stories based on all the pets that she had.

The movie does not include this in its story, but as a young woman, her paintings of plants and fungi were so detailed and accurate that they were of the quality to be included in professional journals and texts. They were so accurate that she applied for membership in the Royal Botanical Society. Her membership application was rejected however, not because the quality of her work was not to their standard, but she was disqualified for membership because women were not accepted as members.

What was a tragic dismissal of a unique talent resulted in her turning to using her drawings of her pets to illustrate her brilliant children's stories. They were quite successful and she became an independently wealthy woman. The movie leaves the impression that she ended up being much more wealthy than her parents who were very well off.

Miss Potter's life continued to be plagued by tragedy. She fell in love with the son of her creative works publisher, Norman Warne. They were engaged, a promise of marriage that her parents, particularly her mother objected to as her fiance was considered to be of a lower social class. After their engagement, he fell ill with a respiratory illness and died just prior to their intended marriage date.

Miss Potter though, overcame this terribly sad experience and used her worth to begin buying land in the Lake District of England. This is a place that I have always wanted to visit as I learned of it in college while studying the Romantic Poets.

Miss Potter was able to amass large holdings of land in the Lake District and left them to the National Trust to be preserved for their beauty. She also became known for breeding Herdwick sheep and was elected to the association of sheep farmers and breeders.

Miss Potter's personal life did have a happy ending after all the emotional pain she suffered through her younger years. She later married an attorney, William Heelis and they had many happy years together.

The first article on my blog I wrote on Beatrix Potter can be found at:

For a much more comprehensive account of her life, please visit the Wikipedia article at this link:

Sunday, July 12, 2015

An Essay on the Transgender Healthcare Experience

Today I would like to share an essay that I wrote for a contest for the University of Virginia health care system. Unfortunately, I missed the deadline to submit my essay, but I think that my readers would like to read about my experience interacting with health care in the United States during and after my transition. Here is what I wrote about my experiences:

 Identity seems like such a simple thing, but it can be anything but that. Identity can be as simple as seeing a beautiful bird and thinking, “Oh! There is an indigo bunting!” or seeing a piece of crystallized rock and saying to a friend, “That’s quartz.” Sometimes identity is not so simple; does this fish have 17 dorsal spines in its fin or are there only 16? It can make a difference in what species of fish you are identifying.

Identity in the health care system is something that we hold to be so important that a whole canon of law on how to go about correctly identifying a person, about protecting that person’s identity as well as her identifying health care information has emerged.

What happens when someone whose true identity has been hidden for many years, perhaps almost all of one’s life suddenly becomes known to the health care system? This is the situation a transsexual finds herself in when she makes the decision to live an outwardly authentic life that reflects her true identity. It is also the situation health care systems find themselves in when the patient who has always been identified as male becomes a woman outwardly and legally, matching her experience of her internal identity with her outward appearance and her day to day social life.

When a person such as myself transitions and begins to live authentically in public after many years of maintaining a false pretense, it is not necessarily easy, especially at first. However it becomes natural after a relatively short period of time. I have always known who I was, the difficulty was in shedding the layers of armor built to protect anyone else from knowing who I was. It didn't take very long at all though to feel as natural and comfortable as any other woman in my daily life.

Fortunately, I was able to recognize that while my very public transition was voluntary for me, it was not voluntary for my coworkers and patients as well as my loved ones. Those who have remained in my life, thankfully almost everyone who involuntarily transitioned with me did so with fairly little difficulty and successfully made the transition with me.

Yes, mistakes were made along the way. What I found to be most helpful in facilitating my transition for these people was to grant them grace and not get upset when mistakes were made by using my old name or using the wrong pronoun in referring to me. Being mindful of the involuntary nature of their position was a way for me to extend good will and gratitude for finding acceptance and understanding with my transition.  They were getting a more open and authentic person to work with. Who wants to work with someone who has to live a lie? I wouldn't and I would feel sad for that person and would want them to be who they are and be all they can be. It’s why I do what I do for a living.

Working in health care as well as being a recipient of health care has been an interesting experience in becoming public with my identity. For most of my life a change of public gender identity, was just not done. Health Care, just as the rest of society, is slow to react to the truth that not as rarely as we once thought, poorly understood biopsychosocial factors create a split between gender identity and a  body habitus that does not match one's gender identity. My experiences have ranged from inconvenient to mildly embarrassing to being subjected to flat out discrimination by Health Care. Mostly my experiences were those of being inconvenienced and on one occasion it was rather embarrassing. On that occasion I was pretty sick with the flu which only added to my misery at the the moment.

Because I work in healthcare, I also transitioned on the business side of the organization and I can only say wonderful things about my supervisor and Human Resources. The transition happened with very little fanfare which is how I hoped it would be. I am very thankful to my employer.

Getting the health care system to identify me correctly was not as easy as managing the rest of my legal identity. It was a pretty simple process to get the world to legally say that Lauren Tancyus is a female. Legal name change: file the court form that I filled out myself and pay a fee. Driver’s license: one form to be signed by a health care professional to change my gender to female on my license and one form to get my legal name on my license along with a small fee. The court notified vital statistics in the state I was born and my new birth certificate (unfortunately with the WRONG gender due to that state’s laws) was sent to me with my new legal name. I went to Social Security and filled out the form to have my name changed. I notified the Board of Social Work and they changed my name and gender on my Social Work license for free. All in all it was fairly simple with no frustrations along the way to become legally identified as who I am.

Now getting the health care system to recognize me as female and my legal name change was not as smooth and seamless as getting my legal identity changed. I knew that my medical information needed to reflect who I am. I coordinated with my wonderful office manager Carmen to change my identity in the system with permission from our Health Information Management department. I provided the needed legal documentation which was entered into the system. All seemed right with the world!

About 5 months later, I went to one of my health care system’s prompt care outpatient offices on a weekend. Imagine my surprise when I registered with my legal female identification and my health insurance card reflecting my correct identity, only to be called back by my male name by the health care professional who would treat me. It was extremely embarrassing to me. Much worse was when I got to the pharmacy and found the prescriptions in my male name even after I explained to the treating physician that my legal identity was now female. I did not have any old identification with me and felt too sick to go home and come back. My only option was to out myself to the pharmacy staff, personal and private information they did not need to know to perform filling these prescriptions, if only Health Information Management had performed this task correctly when I gave them my new legal identity information.

  Fortunately, they were wonderfully kind and under the circumstances quite merciful to me in not insisting I go home to get the old identification in order to fill my prescriptions. They also made no issue of my gender transition. That at least, was a very positive experience during that unhappy episode of my health care.

I contacted Health Information Management about this experience and told them how embarrassed I was on top of being pretty sick at the time. They investigated the complaint and found that while some things had been changed to reflect my gender and name change, others had not which resulted in my unpleasant experience. I was assured that policy and procedure would be updated so that this did not happen again to someone else. I was also given a very sincere apology from the director of medical records. As far as I’m concerned, in correcting this problem, health care worked well and I consider my grievance with the health care system resolved. I think that this reflects my attitude in that for Health Care, my transition was involuntary for them while it was voluntary for me. Health Care can be behind the curve in this area, but I do see an effort being made to change these problems and get up to speed.I'm glad that my experience will pave the way to make life easier for someone else in the future.

In all of Health Care, there is only one area that the transsexual interacts with that fails most of us catastrophically. It is within the domain of Health Care Insurance, or for me at least with my health insurance to be subject to bigotry and discrimination and that is the failure to cover my health care expenses related to the treatment of my gender dysphoria. Not a dime of my treatment was or is eligible to be covered by the insurance coverage I have through my employment in Health Care. Even though my condition is medically recognized and the treatments I have had are considered medically necessary, I am left with no avenue to become whole. I am blessed however that I was able to personally pay for most of the medical care that I need. There are so many more like me without the resources even to do that. Imagine how they must suffer! I can certainly say that my quality of life would be so much better even as improved as it has become. To deny my healthcare insurance coverage for transgender health care is unconscionable. It puts medical care out of reach for some of my most important health care needs.

The message received is that as far as my healthcare insurance company is concerned, my identity is not a valid identity. It is a very stigmatizing message from my insurance company, in my opinion.
In terms of providing quality health care for transgender people, I would give my health care organization pretty high marks. I have one of the largest mental health practices in Virginia serving transgender patients and generally see 5 or 6 individuals a week. I have been able to successfully coordinate other health care services for transgender people to be provided by our organization. We offer speech therapy, endocrinology, aesthetic dermatology, psychiatry and gynecologic services all leading to referral for gender reassignment surgery and we provide the necessary services for after care post gender reassignment surgery. We offer every needed service except for gender reassignment surgery itself all in one system. I see this as tremendous progress for people whose identity changes in the health care system and I am very proud of that accomplishment for Health Care.