Sunday, December 03, 2006

The NYT on Gender Variance

The New York Times had a very nice article yesterday about gender identity. Surprisingly good, actually.

From the CRC's shrieks of outrage, I surmise that this is a topic that really upsets some people -- boys who feel like girls inside and girls who feel like boys. I admit I don't really understand what sets them off, but I think it must have to do with people failing to submit to the authority of the majority. Like, if most boys act like the stereotype, then why can't the rest of them just play along?

Well, I can't read their minds, but that's my best theory.
OAKLAND, Calif., Dec. 1 — Until recently, many children who did not conform to gender norms in their clothing or behavior and identified intensely with the opposite sex were steered to psychoanalysis or behavior modification.

But as advocates gain ground for what they call gender-identity rights, evidenced most recently by New York City’s decision to let people alter the sex listed on their birth certificates, a major change is taking place among schools and families. Children as young as 5 who display predispositions to dress like the opposite sex are being supported by a growing number of young parents, educators and mental health professionals.

Doctors, some of them from the top pediatric hospitals, have begun to advise families to let these children be “who they are” to foster a sense of security and self-esteem. They are motivated, in part, by the high incidence of depression, suicidal feelings and self-mutilation that has been common in past generations of transgender children. Legal trends suggest that schools are now required to respect parents’ decisions. Supporting Boys or Girls When the Line Isn’t Clear

I had the opposite thing happen when my daughter was little. I was at a university, and the Developmental Psychology students sometimes used her for research. They'd observe her, interview her, whatever they do. But the thing was, when she was little, like two and three years old, she loved pink. She loved Barbies and ponies and cute stuff. And this drove those grad students absolutely nuts. They were just sure we were forcing her into traditional gender roles or something. Now, at eighteen, she's all t-shirts and blue jeans, we haven't seen anything pink around the house for years, she grew out of that phase. But look, here's the point: a kid knows who they are.

Anyway, it seems straightforward enough to let the kid work it out.
“First we became sensitive to two mommies and two daddies,” said Reynaldo Almeida, the director of the Aurora School, a progressive private school in Oakland. “Now it’s kids who come to school who aren’t gender typical.”

The supportive attitudes are far easier to find in traditionally tolerant areas of the country like San Francisco than in other parts, but even in those places there is fierce debate over how best to handle the children.

So this would be the CRC's paranoid fantasy that tolerance of one thing will lead to total destruction of all norms. No ... the fact is, it doesn't make any more sense to discriminate on the basis of gender identity than sexual orientation.

A person is what they are -- but some people seem to take rejection of differences as the default position. What's so hard about just accepting that there is a lot of variation among people?
Cassandra Reese, a first-grade teacher outside Boston, recalled that fellow teachers were unnerved when a young boy showed up in a skirt. “They said, ‘This is not normal,’ and, ‘It’s the parents’ fault,’ ” Ms. Reese said. “They didn’t see children as sophisticated enough to verbalize their feelings.”

As their children head into adolescence, some parents are choosing to block puberty medically to buy time for them to figure out who they are — raising a host of ethical questions.

While these children are still relatively rare, doctors say the number of referrals is rising across the nation. Massachusetts, Minnesota, California, New Jersey and the District of Columbia have laws protecting the rights of transgender students, and some schools are engaged in a steep learning curve to dismantle gender stereotypes.

... "block puberty medically?" ... Can somebody tell me what that means? I don't know, that sentence just seems like a kind of hit and run. Do they mean parents of kids who do not have an easy-to-grasp gender identity? Or parents in general?

Look, I've got two teenagers. Are they saying here that there's a cure for puberty?

Or are they saying that if somebody's kid is different they give them steroids or something?
At the Park Day School in Oakland, teachers are taught a gender-neutral vocabulary and are urged to line up students by sneaker color rather than by gender. “We are careful not to create a situation where students are being boxed in,” said Tom Little, the school’s director. “We allow them to move back and forth until something feels right.”

The vocabulary thing is tough. Does anybody know why the English language has to have two sets of pronouns, one for males and one for females? We do pretty much the same things, why do we have to use different words? As this article notes, it sometimes happens that somebody doesn't fit immediately and intuitively into one or the other of those categories.

We had a rude member of the citizens advisory committee refer to a transgender woman as "he," and the rest of us let it pass one time. Second time was going to be a problem. On the other hand, nearly everybody has had it slip accidentally, the right pronoun just doesn't rise to the surface in the instant. It seems to me that a quick apology remedies the discomfort, in that case, but what do I know? I'm just an adult bovine creature in a china shop when it comes to these things.

This story is really good:
For families, it can be a long, emotional adjustment. Shortly after her son’s third birthday, Pam B. and her husband, Joel, began a parental journey for which there was no map. It started when their son, J., began wearing oversized T-shirts and wrapping a towel around his head to emulate long, flowing hair. Then came his mothers’ silky undershirts. Half a year into preschool, J. started becoming agitated when asked to wear boys’ clothing.

En route to a mall with her son, Ms. B. had an epiphany: “It just clicked in me. I said, ‘You really want to wear a dress, don’t you?’ ”

Thus began what the B.’s, who asked their full names not be used to protect their son’s privacy, call “the reluctant path,” a behind-closed-doors struggle to come to terms with a gender-variant child — a spirited 5-year-old boy who, at least for now, strongly identifies as a girl, requests to be called “she” and asks to wear pigtails and pink jumpers to school.

Ms. B., 41, a lawyer, accepted the way her son defined himself after she and her husband consulted with a psychologist and observed his newfound comfort with his choice. But she feels the precarious nature of the day-to-day reality. “It’s hard to convey the relentlessness of it, she said, “every social encounter, every time you go out to eat, every day feeling like a balance between your kid’s self-esteem and protecting him from the hostile outside world.”

Think back. You've known kids like this. What makes a big crisis out of it? Hint: it's not them, it's us.

A little more:
Both sides in the debate underscore their concern for the profound vulnerability of such youngsters, symbolized by occurrences like the murder in 2002 of Gwen Araujo, a transgender teenager born as Eddie, southeast of Oakland.

“Parents now are looking for advice on how to make life reasonable for their kids — whether to allow cross-dressing in public, and how to protect them from the savagery of other children,” said Dr. Herbert Schreier, a psychiatrist with Children’s Hospital and Research Center in Oakland.

Dr. Schreier is one of a growing number of professionals who have begun to think of gender variance as a naturally occurring phenomenon rather than a disorder. “These kids are becoming more aware of how it is to be themselves,” he said.

In past generations, so-called sissy boys and tomboy girls were made to conform, based on the belief that their behaviors were largely products of dysfunctional homes.

Among the revisionists is Dr. Edgardo Menvielle, a child-adolescent psychiatrist at the Children’s National Medical Center in Washington who started a national outreach group for parents of gender-variant children in 1998 that now has more than 200 participants. “We know that sexually marginalized children have a higher rate of depression and suicide attempts,” Dr. Menvielle said. “The goal is for the child to be well adjusted, healthy and have good self-esteem. What’s not important is molding their gender.”

The literature on adults who are transgender was hardly consoling to one parent, a 42-year-old software consultant in Massachusetts and the father of a gender-variant third grader. “You’re trudging through this tragic, horrible stuff and realizing not a single person was accepted and understood as a child,” he said. “You read it and think, O.K., best to avoid that. But as a parent you’re in this complete terra incognita.”

The biological underpinnings of gender identity, much like sexual orientation, remain something of a mystery, though many researchers suspect it is linked with hormone exposure in the developing fetus.

Studies suggest that most boys with gender variance early in childhood grow up to be gay, and about a quarter heterosexual, Dr. Menvielle said. Only a small fraction grow up to identify as transgender.

That's a good place to leave it off. There's a lot more to this article -- click the link and learn a little bit here. HERE it is again (it may require free registration)).


Blogger Theresa said...

Ok Jim.
I am going to be brutally honest here.

by your examples, you would have had folks telling me, at a young age - that I was really a boy.

I am not a boy or a male.

I am simply a strong, pigheaded female. That does not by definition make me a male.

I am the oldest child, was long awaited for and doted on, and quite spoiled (as is, unfortunately, my oldest child).

I hated dolls. I loved legos. I didn't like dresses - I preferred comfortable clothes. That changed when I entered teenage years - but before then my mom tells me that I fought her every time she tried to put me in a dress. I loved climbing trees. My dad told me I could do anything that I wanted to do - I was the smartest little girl in the world. I started the
"secret explorers club" with requirement being that you had to stay in the treehouse behind the beachhouse during a thunderstorm to be a member. (I found the bylaws the other day when cleaing the attic - quite amusing).

I could go on (and on...)

My point is that I think the road you are headed down is dangerous. If you start heading down the "oh, your sex is determined internally, and not by your external showings" - you could do a lot of damage to the tomboys of the world.

Just because you are a tomboy doesn't mean that you are "really internally male" for goodness sake.

Strong independent female is not equal to male.

To imply so is really very derogatory to the female sex.

December 03, 2006 5:22 PM  
Blogger JimK said...

Theresa, did you think you were a boy? I haven't heard you say so. Do you understand, some people really feel that they are the opposite of their physical sex?

Your outrage is misdirected here. Nobody is telling anybody what they "really" are -- people tell us what they are.

In fact, it sounds like you advocate just what this article says -- you went out to play "boy games" in jeans and t-shirts, and it appears that the grown-ups around you permitted that.

That's all this article is saying.

You say that you changed in your teens -- some people don't.

And ... just like the nuts get more upset over male homosexuality than lesbians, there is a much stronger reaction to a boy wearing a dress than to a girl wearing pants. But you, by your own autobiographical account, should be standing up for a kid's right to be what they are.


December 03, 2006 5:50 PM  
Blogger Mark Angelo Cummings said...


like you most people confuse being a tomboy girl with gender deviance or variance. There is a difference you know. If you were to study this subject intensly the scientific evidence points at a hormonal mix combination that creates what we call The Gender/Sex continuum or spectrum. In this continuum you star with perfect alignment between your gender which refers to the identity a person has which by the way is hard wired in the brain at 8 weeks time. The brain can develop into a boy brain, girl brain both or neither. If all goes well in the developmental pathway, gender and sex should be aligned or congruent. Gender and sex have two distinct meaning, gender as I mentioned earlier, is your identity that what you see your self as. Sex on the other hand refers to the physical component of you, your genitals, gondads and reproductive organs. We all star the first 8 weeks of a life as females, its the default system. When androgen is introduced to the fetus the defferentiatations take place. Now the fetus will comence the masculinization process. But for this to take place certain factors are involved. Receptors, genes, and hormonal mixtures all need to be working synergisticly for the concruency to take place. There are lots of scientific evidence on this, you should look into it. Obviously, you were not the cookie cutter feminine girl, therefore your mix and time were off. This however does not make you a transgender or gender deviant person, you just fell into the first few levels of the continuum. The folks that are close to the level 10 are those who Identify as the opposite gender that their physical sex demonstrates. Its pretty amazing this stuff, but to be ignorant and try to put your two cents in without the proper knowledge is just not right. Its hard enough to try to educate parents and our backwards society. Lets listen to our children and what they feel. Children do have rights you know.

Mark Angelo

December 03, 2006 5:56 PM  
Blogger Wolfgang said...

hi Jim,
You asked about the "blocking puberty" issue. What it is is blocking the estrogen or testosterone so that they can't cause the physical changes of puberty. This allows for the optimal transition later.

For example, when a transman (female to male) such as myself goes through female puberty, he develops female secondary sex characteristics that make transition more difficult later. I started at age 36, and now I've got breasts that have to be surgically removed, wide hips and short stature that I can't do anything about, etc.

Testosterone causes a lot of changes at any age, but if a transguy can block puberty until he reaches the age of consent, he can prevent breast growth, hip growth, etc. Better yet, if he's certain of his gender at puberty, he could start testosterone treatments then and go through male puberty in an almost completely normal way.

December 03, 2006 8:20 PM  
Blogger Dana Beyer, M.D. said...

Yes, Jim, I concur. There are estrogen blockers for transboys and androgen blockers for transgirls so they don't have to go through the miserable physical changes associated with puberty, many of which require surgery to correct and some, like a deeper male voice, which cannot yet even be surgically corrected.

It's an awful feeling going through the wrong puberty, and that is compounded by having to live with those changes for years or decades and then having the cost and medical risk to correct them.

December 03, 2006 11:46 PM  
Blogger Dana Beyer, M.D. said...


I really find your bitterness hard to fathom. Had you been reading my threads you would know that no one has ever thought you were a trans boy. Apparently you never did. Earlier you remarked how your husband would laugh at the thought of you as a man. So? Who ever called you a man? Has he? I expect that you are both fully cognizant of the difference between masculine and feminine behavior, on the one hand, and a male or female gender identity on the other.

I would have loved to have received the freedom to be myself when I was younger just as you had. Why would you want to deprive any child of that fundamental freedom? Why would you want your child to be miserable? And where do you get the certainty that you know better these days how others feel? You seem quite adamant in this post that you knew exactly who you were and what you wanted. How can you deny that to anyone else?

December 03, 2006 11:54 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Theresa said, "by your examples, you would have had folks telling me, at a young age - that I was really a boy."

There was only one example given of a direct interaction with a potential transgender child and no one told the child anything. The child's mother asked:

"‘You really want to wear a dress, don’t you?’"

I agree with JimK. "Nobody is telling anybody what they "really" are." It is people like Theresa who constantly tell each of us who we "really" are and what our sexual role is supposed to be rather than accepting us for who we know we are.


December 04, 2006 7:38 AM  
Anonymous Willow said...

Exactly, it's all about US telling other people who WE are, not them telling us who we are. And the blocking of puberty isn't really a blocking to my understanding, it's more of a delay to give the child time to decide for themselves. I'm assuming that the blocking would merely involve hormone neutralizers and not any kind of hormone to induce any kind of pubescent sex characterisitics. That said, I think that supporting children in thier exploration of gender is harmless at worst. I know such support may have helped me avoid much of the pain I suffered growing up, including bouts of depression that wrecked my junior of highschool and still have scars from.

December 04, 2006 5:54 PM  
Blogger Dana Beyer, M.D. said...


You're correct as to what hormone blockers are. They block the effects of the target hormone. One COULD induce the desired puberty associated with one's brain sex at any time. Doing so after the undesired puberty is blocked simply makes the desired puberty that much easier on the mind and body.

But with these teens the protocol is to block the unwanted puberty until the individuals are sure of their choice.

December 05, 2006 12:11 AM  
Blogger Theresa said...


Okay, I don't think it is letting a kid "be who they are" to have them take medicines to block puberty. I think that is a sick thing to do to a child and I hope the first really screwed up kid sues his parents and doctors and has them all thrown in jail.

I also don't think it is okay to tell a kid to wear a dress when they want to wear jeans - and if they want to wear a dress and they are a boy - well fine, let them. As that boys mom I would certainly warn him about the teasing and then let him do it. And let them deal with the ostracism this will bring... I wouldn't do a darn thing to stop the backlash either.

But under your screwed up sense of reality, you would have the mother's of tomboys thinking that perhaps they should investigate gender blocking drugs - and potentially do great, great damage to the children of our society. All the guidance of our doctors, some of whom of course will do anything if you pay them to....

I hope Dr. D's clinic down at National Childrens center gets sued, and soon, before they hurt any more kids.

Did you all happen to forget that Transgender is a "gender identity disorder" as classied by the AMA ? Or do you all only use the AMA reference when convenient (stupid question).

December 05, 2006 7:40 PM  
Blogger Wolfgang said...

Theresa wrote: "Okay, I don't think it is letting a kid "be who they are" to have them take medicines to block puberty. I think that is a sick thing to do to a child and I hope the first really screwed up kid sues his parents and doctors and has them all thrown in jail."

Theresa, I don't think anyone can adequately explain to you the level of suffering a trans child endures when going through puberty and developing physically in the opposite direction of his or her brain gender. It's great that kids have this option.

December 05, 2006 7:52 PM  
Blogger Randi Schimnosky said...

Theresa, no one was suggesting telling a kid to wear a dress when they want to wear jeans. In fact quite the opposite, we're suggesting letting the kids decide what they want to wear.

December 05, 2006 9:40 PM  
Blogger Dana Beyer, M.D. said...


I will again extend my invitation to you for coffee so you can look me in the eye and repeat what you have just said. Our words are here for you to see on this blog. Why not go back and review before you speak?

No one has ever suggested that tomboys should be put on hormone blockers, and that mother did not force her child to wear a dress instead of jeans. How can you say such obviously untruthful things? It's not as if this is a particularly long thread.

"Great damage to the children of our society"? Who are you kidding? How many such children do you think there are like this? There are more today, probably because of endocrine disruption, but, really now, there simply aren't that many.

You really have no clue as to what it is like to be trans. Being a tomboy just doesn't cut it.

As for the GID diagnosis, yes, it's still there, a remnant of 1990. No one is denying that. It's just that it is not used much these days except for insurance purposes. I have already pointed out to all of you the evolution of our scientific understanding. And the bottom line is that when you have a condition which is not amenable to any kind of psychotherapy, drug or otherwise, yet is amenable to a social gender transition and surgical reassignment, then you're not looking at any kind of disorder of gender identity but a neuroendocrinologic developmental intersex phenomenon. You're an engineer; I think you can figure this out.

December 05, 2006 10:01 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"As for the GID diagnosis, yes, it's still there, a remnant of 1990."

Let's see the score, here:

APA says homosexuality not a disease

TTF agrees

APA says transgender is disease

TTF disagrees

APA says bestiality not a disease

TTF abstains

I'm glad TTF now realizes that the APA is not infallible. Please stop trying to make the rest of us think it is- when it fits your agenda.

December 05, 2006 10:46 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

If the DSM calls it a disorder (not a "disease", by the way), insurance companies can be persuaded to pay for treatment, which is expensive and requires medical specialists. I seem to remember David Fishback posting a link here to an insurance company's page on that, and it was very informative.

Anon here wants to equate "disease" with "there's something personally wrong with you." You wouldn't say that about the flu, or polio, or lupus, or anything else.

In the case of GID, many people do want treatment to relieve them from the distress, just like people want antibiotics when they have an infection. And the treatment makes them well. In the case of homosexuality, there is no treatment, and it turns out there's nothing wrong with them, beyond having to deal with intolerant people. They don't have to change themselves, they need to accept themselves. They just have to learn to be who they are, in a sometimes hostile world.

December 05, 2006 10:57 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Anon said APA (American Psychiatric Association) says homosexuality not a disease

TTF agrees

TTF is in some good company. Here's a partial list of other groups who agree homosexuality is not a disease:

American Medical Association
American Psychological Association
American Academy of Pediatrics
National Association of Social Workers
American Psychoanalytic Association
American Counseling Association
American School Health Assocation
National Association of School Psychologists
American Association of School Administrators
National Association of Secondary School Prinicpals
American Federation of Teachers
National Education Association
Interfaith Alliance Foundation
National Education Association
New Ways Ministries

December 06, 2006 8:45 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Why is it relevant what position principals, administrators and teachers take on whether certain abnormal desires constitue a mental disease?

December 06, 2006 12:01 PM  
Anonymous MCPS Mom said...

I'm not one of them but during many years of being a mom with kids in public school, I've observed that teachers, principals and administrators spend a lot of time with a lot of students. When these education professionals encounter students with any of a wide variety of problems, they refer them for appropriate special services (budget permitting, of course). Their experiences with vast numbers of students probably proved to them that the APA was correct. All normal healthy kids can learn as long as they aren't bullied and mistreated by others.


December 06, 2006 5:48 PM  
Blogger Randi Schimnosky said...

Anonymous, all recorded history has shown that same sex desires are normal for a minority of the population. Pyschological testing has shown gays are indistinguishable from straights in terms of mental health

December 06, 2006 6:15 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Well, sure. If you consider a propensity to depression, suicide, alcoholism, drug addiction, random amd anonymous promiscuity, risk-taking sex, sado-masochism, exhibitionism and low self esteem to be mentally healthy.

Then, they're just like straight arrows.

December 06, 2006 6:42 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"I'm not one of them but during many years of being a mom with kids in public school, I've observed that teachers, principals and administrators spend a lot of time with a lot of students. When these education professionals encounter students with any of a wide variety of problems, they refer them for appropriate special services (budget permitting, of course). Their experiences with vast numbers of students probably proved to them that the APA was correct. All normal healthy kids can learn as long as they aren't bullied and mistreated by others."

You talking about public schools?


That's really funny.

December 06, 2006 6:44 PM  
Blogger Randi Schimnosky said...

Anonymous, You don't have anything to back up your rant, you're just making crap up. We've heard enough of your B.S. go take your meds and shut up.

December 06, 2006 8:34 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"you're just making crap up"

you wish

December 07, 2006 8:49 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"You don't have anything to back up your rant"

No, nothing other than the facts.

December 07, 2006 8:58 AM  
Blogger Randi Schimnosky said...

Put up or shut up anonymous. Let's see a reputable source for your "facts".

December 07, 2006 11:35 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"You talking about public schools?


That's really funny."

I was talking about Montgomery County Public Schools, the finest in the nation.


December 08, 2006 7:57 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Oh, I thought you were talking about national associations of public schools.

Wait....YOU WERE!

What are you trying to pull here?

December 08, 2006 8:20 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"Put up or shut up anonymous."

Or what?

You'll wish me ill?

December 08, 2006 8:21 AM  
Anonymous MCPS Mom said...

Nowhere in my statement did I mention "national associations of public schools". You should not put words into people's mouths. I taught my kids that lesson early on, but I guess you either missed it or were never taught it.


December 08, 2006 9:08 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

You also never mentioned MCPS.

I was paraphrasing these organizations:

"American Association of School Administrators
National Association of Secondary School Prinicpals
American Federation of Teachers
National Education Association"

If you recall, the conversation was about whether members of these association are experts on mental health.

Now, go do something therapeutic. Like ironing.

December 08, 2006 9:57 AM  
Blogger JimK said...

Anon, I'm getting tired of your bullshit. The threshold for what gets deleted just shifted.

Bring the discourse up a few notches or you're gone.


December 08, 2006 10:01 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

You should start an ironing business.

You'll make a fortune as you sort through all your phobias, delusions, and obsessions.


December 10, 2006 5:03 PM  

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