Wednesday, May 14, 2008

The Ups and Downs of Being Trans

Catching Up

It has been a busy month or so and on review there's been a lot of good locally, but a lot of downs elsewhere. I have been honored to help facilitate the transition of a local woman at her place of employment, an educational institution. So many made my path easier for my transition - and one in particular had direct impact on my future, Lori Buckwalter, who nearly singlehandedly got protective laws enacted in Portland, Oregon, my hometown. Knowing I could not be fired was crucial to my building the strength to proceed. In the past week or so, I have offered trainings to her employer's Human Resources department (nearly all of the staff, not just top brass), the bulk of the managers and supervisors in her department and also to her directly affected co-workers. Being so directly involved has been a most rewarding experience. I wish her all the best in her new life.

I hope now to translate this experience into a consultancy locally to aid employers and/or transitioning employees in this process as it is now the law in Kansas City. There are many wonderful people already engaged in this work and many resources available via the internet. My plan is to be readily available to help shepherd the understanding and policies that are required for appropriate and thorough development.

But life for transgenders seems to be unraveling at the national level. Joe Solmonese, the executive director of the Human Righ*s Campaign (remember, there is no T in HRC!) went to Atlanta - the scene of his famous speech at Southern Comfort just days before the "betrayal" on ENDA - to talk to the transgender leaders there. Rather than apologize for bailing on the trans community last fall, he "apologized" that he "misspoke" to those people at Southern Comfort, which is the largest transgender gathering in the United States. His comments were on September 14th...the first public indications of tossing transpeople out of ENDA came around nine days later. Here is what he said:

I ask you...what part of
"...always being clear that we do not support, and in fact oppose any legislation, that is not absolutely inclusive and we have sent that message loud and clear to the Hill"...did he get wrong? The apology isn't that he misspoke, the apology that matters is that HRC strategically messed up, underestimated the damage that would (and did) ensue and will now stand firm for inclusion. But he continues to say that HRC will back a non-T ENDA if and when it finally gets introduced into the Senate. Sen. *ed Kennedy is to lead the effort in that chamber. Historically he hasn't been any more supportive than Barney Frank in the House.

And speaking of Rep. Frank, he has recently been making the media rounds most staunchly defending his "strategy", even suggesting that the majority of gays and lesbians support this. Well, United ENDA comprised over 300 LGB and T organizations at national, state and local levels. And the poll that is referenced for this supposed "support" was conducted by surveying HRC's data base and paid for by HRC using an HRC-friendly pollster at Hunter College. Not, to my way of thinking, something that comes anywhere close to passing the smell test. What hurt most was to see Rep. Frank gloating (ok..that's my adjective) about his political acumen in a publication back in my hometown of Portland in support of a local candidate there. Stay in Massachusetts please.

Lastly, but most importantly, came news that Dr. Kenneth Zucker has been appointed the chair of the study group that will work on Gender Identity for the planned revision of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual due in 2010 or so. Joining Dr. Zucker is Ray Blanchard an early proponent of "autogynophilia", a concept that has no traction with reputable therapists or the American Psychiatric Association (and now he's involved in writing the "standards"?) and both are viewed with extreme dislike by the trans community - myself included. Dr. Zucker has stated that our gender identities are "malleable". He claims there is a parallel case to David Reimer, who has a young child had a botched circumcision and whose parents, under the aegis of John Money, opted to have a vagina created and then to raise David as a girl named Brenda. David's tragic story was the subject of the book "As Nature Made Him" by John Colapinto. It's a very interesting, but sad read. David took his own life in 2003.

Now, Dr. Zucker says there is another botched circumcision case like David/Brenda, who is doing "just fine" as a woman in life. Of course, this is what John Money kept saying in his updates of the "John/Joan" case. And, of course, as the apparent therapist in this "new" case, he can't make public who this person is. Does she even exist? Sorry...I'm not going to take his word for it. His comments are available on YouTube, but "embedding" the link as like the one above has been "disabled by request". Hmmmmmmmmmmm......

Fortunately, now that the word is about about the Zucker and Blanchard appointments, the firestorm is fully engaged. The trans community from around the world - I just read a story from Australia - is banding together to protest these appointments. If you care about who we are, I ask you please sign this petition:

It is not overstating the case that our very future depends on this. Zucker believes we can be persuaded to change our minds ("Malleable" is his word). Caring, appropriate transitions will cease. The standard will become "reparative" therapy, the type already decried by the APA as performed by some religious based groups like Exodus International on those "afflicted with same-sex attraction disorder". Ours is such a small community - we could mass all our voices and it still might not make much of a dent. We need allies. We need you. Now.

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