Friday, April 04, 2008

The Examiner on Threats

There has been some "discussion" in our comments section about the threatening mail that was sent to Montgomery County County Council people over the gender identity nondiscrimination bill. I put that in quotes because basically it's one anonymous troll trying to act like we're making it all up. Whatever, The Examiner had a pretty good story about the matter, and they included some facts that might help us understand the situation.
A Montgomery County Council member who authored a bill that outlaws discrimination against transgendered people says she has been receiving death threats at her home and office and wants the county to provide additional security for her and her transgendered senior aide.

Officials in Council Member Duchy Trachtenberg’s office provided copies of multiple menacing and sexually explicit letters that she said were sent to her home and office through regular mail.

“Put an end to Bill 2307 or else you will not live that long,” a photocopy of one signed letter provided by Trachtenberg reads. Bill 2307 amends county laws to add gender identity discrimination to the lists of potential types of prejudice, but opponents have said they fear it will allow men access to women’s bathrooms.

A police spokesman said they have been notified about the alleged threats and are “taking appropriate measures.” Councilor getting death threats over bill to protect transgenders [Note: that link doesn't really work for me, but that's what I have]

Somebody might want to argue about the definition of hate mail, or whether this or that is a threat, but mail that tells somebody they will not live long is grounds for concern.

We know we are dealing with some nuts here, and I really hope one of them doesn't decide to be a martyr and do something. For one thing, any act of violence will generate a backlash in this county they will never recover from.
A conservative social group called “Citizens for a Responsible Government” recently turned in more than 30,000 signatures to allow voters to decide whether to repeal the measure on next November’s ballot. The group’s spokeswoman, Michelle Turner, told The Examiner her organization had nothing to do with any threats.

“It’s unfortunate that someone or some group of people has decided to take this route to express their frustration over this bill,” Turner said. “It’s certainly not anything that we would advocate.” In a letter to county officials, Trachtenberg claims she has received deaths threats over her home phone as well and that one of her senior staff members who is a transgendered woman, Dr. Dana Beyer, has also been targeted for “harassment.”

Ah, good, the Citizens for a Responsible Whatever do not advocate killing elected officials who sponsor bills they disagree with. See? It proves they are not extremists, like everybody says.

And hey, just a minute, I thought Ruth Jacobs was the President of that group, how come reporters aren't calling her for this information?
“I arrive and leave the [Council Office Building] each day with a dreaded feeling that this indeed may be the day that extremists act on their hatred and bigotry,” Trachtenberg wrote.

Trachtenberg asked the county to provide both her and Beyer with escorts when they enter and leave the office building, to regularly inspect building security cameras, to staff all public events with security and to require individuals to sign in with security when entering the County Council building. Council staff director Steve Farber said the county already provides security escorts to anybody who requests them, has police at public meetings and reviews security cameras.

Requiring people to sign in when they enter the council’s building would be a change in policy, according to Farber, that would need to be approved by the council.

“They would have to determine the value in doing that versus concerns about openness in government,” Farber said.

The thing is, this is a law that prevents discrimination against one tenth of one percent of the population, a group of people who really do get hassled and really do deserve to be treated like everybody else. Nobody's life is going to change, except perhaps for those few transgender people out there, who will be a little more sure they can get a job and keep it, get served in a restaurant, catch a taxi. Why is this, of all things, worth getting violent about?


Anonymous svelte_brunette said...

Threats against anyone’s life should be taken VERY seriously. I used to work at a major telecom company in Germantown with a guy by the name of Jeff Wilinski. He was asked to leave for sending out an e-mail after a guy he didn’t like left the company. The e-mail mentioned guns and the death of the person he didn’t like. This behavior unfortunately was not a one-time incident. He later made it into the news for similar activities:



April 04, 2008 8:20 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"I put that in quotes because basically it's one anonymous troll trying to act like we're making it all up."

Actually, what I said about you were these two things:

-that you are lumping all opposition mail together with these alleged threats in order to exaggerate and discredit the opposition

-that you are repeatedly trying to imply that CRG would do this and you have no evidence of this

I never said you were making it up.

Obviously, the police need to investigate this and it's possible that a CRG supporter did this. This is not likely, however, given that this action would not help CRG's cause. There are other more likely possibilities:

-a TTF supporter did this hoping to discredit opposition to the bill; TTF supporters are an unstable bunch as can be seen from some of the comments here

-some non-partisan nut is simply trying to get attention

-Duchy is fabricating the story for the same reason; this is less likely than the previous reasons but not out of the question when you consider that she has been publicly requesting the county provide types of security measures that she knows it is already doing; in any case, she is trying to get maximum advantage out of the situation

Anyway, let's hope the police will reveal the results of their investigation to prevent the political manipulation of ambiguity. And do so before the November election.

April 04, 2008 8:50 AM  
Anonymous svelte_brunette said...

Anonymous said:

“a TTF supporter did this hoping to discredit opposition to the bill; TTF supporters are an unstable bunch as can be seen from some of the comments here”

Threats against council members’ lives do not give ANY side a political advantage if one assumes that the truth will eventually come out. I think 99% of the population is aware of that.

I can’t speak for anyone else’s stability, but I think you would be disappointed to learn that various psychological tests I had to take all show that I fall well within the “normal” range for an adult. Kind of scary, huh?



April 04, 2008 9:26 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"Threats against council members’ lives do not give ANY side a political advantage if one assumes that the truth will eventually come out."

Problem is, the truth rarely does come out. This all happened a couple of years and, to my knowledge, the perpetrators were never identified.

"I can’t speak for anyone else’s stability, but I think you would be disappointed to learn that various psychological tests I had to take all show that I fall well within the “normal” range for an adult. Kind of scary, huh?"

I'm not disappointed at all, Cynthia, nor surprised. Both you and Maryanne have been unusually civil in your discussions here.

April 04, 2008 9:46 AM  
Blogger Dana Beyer, M.D. said...

Jim has not lumped anything together. There were death threats and there was hate mail. The police agreed to our interpretation of the content. One of the posters is, indeed, a CRG member, though Michelle has claimed she is not in a leadership position, I believe. So what?

In addition, with all the shouting about how the Council was inundated with emails and phone calls, many of those were more revolting than the stuff you guys post here. While Duchy and I are personally familiar with this filth, many of the younger Council staff were not, and that helped turn the Council against all of you. Attacking the Council President on Election Day didn't help, either, by the way, but you apparently can't help yourselves.

You have made your goals clear. I invited Theresa repeatedly to talk, and Michelle certainly has enough political experience to understand how to lobby legislation and amend bills. If that had been your goal, you could easily have put on suits, come to the Council and made your case. And you would have got some of what you asked for, because, I will say it again, there is nothing in this law about bathrooms and a clarification would have been accommodated had it been presented with respect. But all you could bring yourselves to do was send in Dr. Ruth and Reverend Grace, followed up with an Owens-Williams chaser, so you got nothing. There are rules, and you refused to play by them -- then and now. And it will cost you.
You think you're going to foment an extreme right-wing uprising in Montgomery County today? You probably couldn't even pull it off in Utah; the times are a'changing.

April 04, 2008 9:49 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"Jim has not lumped anything together. There were death threats and there was hate mail. The police agreed to our interpretation of the content. One of the posters is, indeed, a CRG member, though Michelle has claimed she is not in a leadership position, I believe."

You're doing it again, Dana. You are ambiguous here. Did this CRG member send a death threat or hate mail? Where is the police statement that they agree with you? They are obligated to investigate complaints.

I assume this one case you're talking about is this Kass woman. While what you posted from her is over the top, Theresa has told you Kass sends them "hate mail" too. Some supporter.

"There are rules, and you refused to play by them -- then and now. And it will cost you."

Did I read this week that Duchy has been meeting with political advisors at Council HQ, against county rules?

Just a small example, among many.

April 04, 2008 10:20 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"Nobody's life is going to change, except perhaps for those few transgender people out there, who will be a little more sure they can get a job and keep it, get served in a restaurant, catch a taxi."

I personally don't believe it will help transgenders do any of those things. What does everyone else think?

April 04, 2008 10:44 AM  
Anonymous Derrick said...


How do you sleep every night full of all that hate?

April 04, 2008 11:26 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Andrea- not anon
Ah,the old tactic- trying to put the blame on the other side. Then the distancing from the supporter/member(Sharon Kass and Tres Kerns come to mind -Anon supported Adol because of course there is some justification for screaming Heil Hitler in a public place- although I've only heard it in modern times from avowed Neo-Nazis previously) because they have taken the team view to extremes. How do Michelle, and Theresa and Ramblin' Ruth draw the line- how far into bigotry and hatred can you go before it is too far? Exactly what can you say or write to someone before it is beyond the CRG/RECALL/SHOWER stamp of approval? When you attract haters- it is hard to control them. The nuances of Showerhead limitations evade these people.

April 04, 2008 11:55 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"Ah,the old tactic- trying to put the blame on the other side."

I actually didn't do that. Jim has made scurrilous implications. I simply said that if you going to speculate without proof, the possession goes the other way. There is no reason to draw a conclusion on who is doing this, if anybody. But it does play into TTF's hand at a very convenient time. I'm sure the law enforcement authorities are considering the possibility that a fanatical TTF supporter did this to discredit CRG.

As far as associating CRG with anyone who opposes the transgender bill, surely you don't want that karma coming back at you. The asssortment of fruits and nuts that support TTF is not that appetizing.

April 04, 2008 12:52 PM  
Anonymous Derrick said...

Good news! :-)

Kansas City, MO City Council Extends Anti-Discrimination Protections to Gender Identity


WASHINGTON— Today the Kansas City, MO City Council unanimously approved an ordinance updating its anti-discrimination prohibitions to include gender identity. Kansas City joins more than 90 cities and counties as well as twelve states, the District of Columbia, and hundreds of private employers in prohibiting employment discrimination based on gender identity. The ordinance also prohibits discrimination in public accommodations and housing.

Councilperson Beth Gottstein, the measure’s primary sponsor said: "If our city code doesn’t protect everyone, it protects no one. I am proud that we have taken this action to make clear that no one in Kansas City should have to face discrimination."

Jim MacDonald, President of Four Freedoms, a local LGBT political organization, praised the Council for its unanimous approval of the ordinance: "This vote represents an historic moment for the LGBT community in Kansas City. Never before has there been unanimous council support for an LGBT rights measure. It is truly a mark of how far we have come."

The Human Rights Campaign congratulates Mayor Mark Funkhouser, the Kansas City, MO City Council, Four Freedoms, the ACLU of Kansas and Western Missouri, PROMO and the Kansas City Pride Democratic Club, who formed a coalition that worked for the passage of the ordinance.


April 04, 2008 12:57 PM  
Blogger Dana Beyer, M.D. said...

I don't have to provide the specifics of a police investigation, giving names and copies of the mail, etc. If you're interested, then you are free to pursue it.

If Michelle is getting hate mail from Kass she has my condolences.

As for Duchy, there have not been any allegations about her, only about a very part-time staffer who conducts political business off premises.

These District 4 stories are just routine political one-upsmanship.

Thanks for the KC story. Isn't Kansas City, MO just next door to Kansas? My God!

April 04, 2008 3:23 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"Thanks for the KC story. Isn't Kansas City, MO just next door to Kansas?"

I'd like to find out if they have provided any reasonable exemptions.

Kansas City, Misouri actually has a transgender police chief. Much like MoCo, this bill is completely superfluous. Transgenders are doing fine there. The truth is, if transgenders have the influence to pass one of these bills in any area then it shows it's not needed.

"If you're interested"

All I'm interested in is whether TTF has any evidence for their implying that CRG has made threats. I'm certain, though, if you did, you'd post it.

You guys are just sleazy.

April 04, 2008 3:32 PM  
Blogger Dana Beyer, M.D. said...

Who said CRG made threats? That was never stated, implied, or alleged. We received hate mail and death threats related to this bill, and we didn't receive them from our supporters.

Since it was CRG which is leading this campaign, with support from CWA and TVC and AFA . . ., they are responsible for the mail, even if none of their staff are directly responsible. Is that so hard to understand?

April 04, 2008 4:29 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"we didn't receive them from our supporters."

You don't know that, Dana- nor do we.

I'm giving you the weekend off.

Go crazy.

April 04, 2008 5:18 PM  
Anonymous Aunt Bea said...

I assume this one case you're talking about is this Kass woman. While what you posted from her is over the top, Theresa has told you Kass sends them "hate mail" too. Some supporter.

Kass is *exactly* the type of person who would support the CRWeirdos She is full of self-loathing of her own same-sex attraction and her hatred and intolerance spill out everywhere. Kass and Anon are like two peas in a pod.

April 04, 2008 5:46 PM  
Blogger Emproph said...

Truth Wins Out put together a list of some of her rantings, and links to her paper lambasting "Jews" for not being anti-gay enough - or at all.:

"Kass even had time that same month to publish a hate-based white paper, Jews and Gay Rights: How Social Approval-Seeking Has Led to the Betrayal of Judaism and the Fueling of an Insane Movement. The white paper repackages anti-Semitic propaganda into a tirade against gay Americans."

That paper BTW, is still on the CRC home page.

April 04, 2008 6:46 PM  
Blogger Emproph said...

Stunning said…
"Obviously, the police need to investigate this and it's possible that a CRG supporter did this. This is not likely, however, given that this action would not help CRG's cause. There are other more likely possibilities:

-a TTF supporter did this hoping to discredit opposition to the bill; TTF supporters are an unstable bunch as can be seen from some of the comments here

-some non-partisan nut is simply trying to get attention

-Duchy is fabricating the story for the same reason"

CRG and it’s supporters are known for diminished, if not entirely absent intellectual capacity -- as your statement above and subsequent “theories” aptly demonstrate. Not to mention the fact that they’re running on a supremacist platform that includes the criminalization and execution of GLBT Americans.

They’re not only murderers at heart, they want to make murder legal for the sake of adhering to their “deeply held moral beliefs.” So it really isn’t a stretch to imagine that one of their supporters would send hate mail and/or make death threats, because their expressed religious beliefs are based on a death threat.

What you propose to be the most likely scenario however, is this:

Least Plausible Hypothesis:

"ignoring all of the most reasonable explanations. This makes the desired explanation into the only one. For example: "I left a saucer of milk outside overnight. In the morning, the milk was gone. Clearly, my yard was visited by fairies."

There is an old rule for deciding which explanation is the most plausible. It is most often called "Occam's Razor", and it basically says that the simplest is the best. The current phrase among scientists is that an explanation should be "the most parsimonious", meaning that it should not introduce new concepts (like fairies) when old concepts (like neighborhood cats) will do."

April 04, 2008 7:26 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

One major flaw in emphroph's theory of "least plausible hypothesis", as he's relating it to anonymous' theories about the e-mails, is that "anonymous" listed a number of hypotheses -- not just the least plausible one. Thus, the parallel that emphroph should have drawn, if he was going to draw one at all, should have gone something like this: "I left a saucer of milk out overnight. In the morning, the milk was gone."

Option 1: "Clearly, my yard was visited by fairies."
Option 2: "Clearly, my yard was visited by a cat."
Option 3: "Clearly, the wind knocked over the bowl and the milk soaked into the ground."

Now, if you want to talk about a "least plausible hyptothesis," that "introduces new concepts when old ones will do," here's an example: "I look like a man. Everyone thinks I look just like a man. I have all male parts. I have the average amount of male hormones that other males have. I have the same male chromosones that other males have. Clearly, I am a woman."

Interested Reader

April 04, 2008 8:10 PM  
Blogger Dana Beyer, M.D. said...

Anon, when it comes to scientific reasoning you're extremely limited, but I will leave that to others.

As to your last little bit of comedy, you have a point. Assuming you believe yourself to be male, then to say:
"I look like a man. Everyone thinks I look just like a man. I have all male parts. I have the average amount of male hormones that other males have. I have the same male chromosones [sic] that other males have. Clearly, I am a woman."

Is absurd.

I will examine this piece by piece. First of all, you have no idea what "average amount of male hormones" is or means. Secondly, you have no idea what chromosomes you have, or what genes are on your chromosomes, or how those genes interact in the various regulatory pathways, or, more importantly, how they did so during your fetal development.

You know you have "all male parts"? How do you know? Are you sure? If you have a male gender identity, I will infer you have a male brain, at least as far as your sexual sense of self is concerned. But the rest of you? How can you be so sure?

Now, statistically speaking, the odds are really good that if:
a) You believe yourself to be a man
b) Have male genitals
c) Behave in some vague masculine manner and
d) Are thus perceived to be male,
then you, are, indeed, male.

However, if you have everything lined up under male except your brain, then you've got a problem, because then you are female. We call that transsexual.

In my case, because of my exposure to DES, I had:
a) Female brain
b) Male gonads and genitals
c) Male and female internal reproductive organs with resultant combined physiology
d) Low male hormones and resultant sperm limitations

Now there was no way anyone looking at me could tell this to be the case, so I was alone in my misery. It was only two years ago that the AAP recognized that the symptoms I had in 1964 were indicative of an intersex condition, and they had never noticed before because of the same willful ignorance and fear manifested by you and your kin. I coded and had to be resuscitated as a result, not that you'd care.

So you might want to pack your fairies away and learn some science and some history before you keep showing off your ignorance and hatred. Unless you're setting up a new, 21st century chapter of the "know-nothings."

April 04, 2008 8:56 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


Exactly how do you determine the you have a female brain ?

Do you take a test, do they do a CAT scan, what ?

I googled some of the tests and looked at the questions. They tend to classify "smart, successful, likes the outdoors, and aggressive" as male tendencies.

So I don't have too much faith in those tests.... and I really don't understand why NOW isn't up in arms that these "brain sex" quizzes rate "successful" as a male trait... or even "leadership" as a male trait. I find that offensive.

So, please elaborate, how do you determine what "sex" your brain is...

April 05, 2008 12:24 AM  
Blogger Emproph said...

""anonymous" listed a number of hypotheses -- not just the least plausible one."

Fair enough. Out of Anon’s three hypotheses then, one was the least plausible, one was next to the least plausible, and one was next to the one that was next to the least plausible.

"Thus, the parallel that emphroph [sic] should have drawn"

I wasn’t making a parallel argument, I was pointing to the definition of the logical fallacy that was being employed. The fairies example that the website used to demonstrate this definition is irrelevant.
And upon further review, I found this point to be quite worthy of note:

The Sentinel said:
"During the last two months, Councilmember Duchy Trachtenberg claims she has received dozens of threats, many of them death threats, from community members opposed to a bill she sponsored that guarantees civil rights for transgender individuals.

According to Trachtenberg, several people sent about 40 pieces of threatening correspondence to her home and office. Many of them were signed, she said, though some used fake names. Some were signed by members of Citizens for a Responsible Government, a group trying to get Trachtenberg's legislation repealed."

So we’re talking about 40 pieces of threatening correspondence AND several people, which pretty much moots all of anon’s singular-conspirator theories.

But for the sake of argument, let’s consider them anyway (but not necessarily in their original order):

Hypothesis #1 -some non-partisan nut is simply trying to get attention
(Read: non-partisan = no emotional investment in the matter)

Ok, let’s say it was some non-partisan nuts. Some group of nuts, or completely independent of each other nuts--of rogue rabble rousers, who have absolutely no vested emotional interest in the matter at hand, and who felt that the best way to experience fame anonymously, was to make someone feel bad in the most intimidatingly vilifying manner possible, by sending them hate mail and death threats, motivated entirely by the scant hope that their efforts would eventually be made public, and thereby they could all feel good about themselves.

To take it to it’s non-emotionally vested extreme, let’s consider that this rogue group consists of aliens on Mars with too much time on their hands who somehow got wind of what is going on in Montgomery County and decided that they had nothing better to do than to screw with Duchy Trachtenberg. Then let’s imagine that the guy who drives around my neighborhood with an ice cream truck is in league with these Martians to help them with their nefarious anti-Duchy Trachtenberg agenda.

Least plausible, next to least plausible, or next to next to least plausible? What say you IR?

The issue here isn’t even with the inanity of the possibility anon presented, but with why it would be considered legitimate enough to even bring up in the first place.

Hypothesis #2 -a TTF supporter did this hoping to discredit opposition to the bill; TTF supporters are an unstable bunch as can be seen from some of the comments here

So be it, but the vein of our “instability” rests on the ideology that all persons are of equal human dignity and worth, and should be protected and cherished equally as such. The argument here is that those who hold such a standard would arbitrarily be willing to make someone’s life a living hell.

TTF and it’s supporters see these issues (the bill, the curriculum, death threats, etc.) as being about real living thinking breathing feeling human people, as opposed to an anything-goes, ends justifies the means--no matter who it hurts, supremacist-political power-grab.

Hypothesis #3 -Duchy is fabricating the story for the same reason

Best one of all: Duchy Trachtenberg, so desperate to find support for her devastatingly unpopular gender identity cause, decided that the best way for her to garner public sympathy in the matter was to risk her entire public career, and her entire private life, by inventing several aliases, in order to send herself 40 pieces of hate and death-threat correspondence (not 39, not 41, but 40), using fake names for some and signing the names of CRG members for others, so that she could get the police and the FBI involved, to pursue a trail leading directly back to her that would result in public and private humiliation, heavy fines, and potential imprisonment, all in order to legitimize a short lived media story for the sake of political gain.

No anon, that’s something YOU would do.

April 05, 2008 5:31 AM  
Anonymous Robert said...

I think "Interested Reader" is really "anonymous". So who's using aliuses?

April 05, 2008 6:57 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

40 pieces of mail...

April 05, 2008 7:32 AM  
Blogger Dana Beyer, M.D. said...

I've discussed this before, Anon, but I will do so again.

The scientific evidence is primarily neuropathological, and I will not, I'm sure this will disappoint you, subject myself to an autopsy.

Recently there have been several studies from Europe showing differences in the striatum in a sexually-dimorphic pattern using fMRI and PET scans. I imagine within five years this data will be replicated and possibly usable for routine analysis. It's simply a function of machine resolution and data collection.

You know you have a female brain when you know it; same with a male brain. Everyone knows this. If I offered you $10 million to change your sex you wouldn't take it, not because you're enamored of your genitals, which you imagine to be the seat of your gender identity and who knows what else, but because you KNOW who you are.

As for NOW, members of NOW understand full well that the brain is sexually dimorphic. At the same time, when it comes to BEHAVIORS, there is far more overlap between the sexes than there is difference, and while statistics can be fun, the women's movement has always emphasized the personal integrity and autonomy of each individual woman.

April 05, 2008 8:54 AM  
Anonymous svelte_brunette said...

It was a nice change to read the TTF blog updates this morning and not have them ENTIRELY filled with snide comments. There were several points that I had planned to address but some of them have already been taken care of. I’ll add my own $0.02 to a couple of items though.

Anon asked:

“Exactly how do you determine the you have a female brain ?

Do you take a test, do they do a CAT scan, what ?”

As Dana has already pointed out, the brain dissection technique used by Kruijver, et. al. ( is not a particularly useful diagnostic or therapeutic tool for a living, potentially transgendered patient.

Obviously, a less invasive and destructive test would be more helpful. This test is currently known as the “Real Life Test” or “Real Life Experience” as described in the Harry Benjamin Standards of Care. (You can find the 6th edition here: The first edition was published in 1979 and detailed essentially the same triadic therapy system used by Christine Jorgensen’s doctors in the 1950’s (

The excerpt from the HBSOC below describes the Real-Life Experience. In the U.S., a successful RLE for a contiguous 12 month minimum is required before recommendations for genital surgery can be given. In other countries I understand the minimum may be 18 or 24 months.

“IX. The Real-Life Experience
The act of fully adopting a new or evolving gender role or gender presentation in everyday life is known as the real-life experience. The real-life experience is essential to the transition to the gender role that is congruent with the patient’s gender identity. Since changing one's gender presentation has immediate profound personal and social consequences, the decision to do so should be preceded by an awareness of what the familial, vocational, interpersonal, educational, economic, and legal consequences are likely to be. Professionals have a responsibility to discuss these predictable consequences with their patients. Change of gender role and presentation can be an important factor in employment discrimination, divorce, marital problems, and the restriction or loss of visitation rights with children. These represent external reality issues that must be confronted for success in the new gender presentation. These consequences may be quite different from what the patient imagined prior to undertaking the real-life experiences. However, not all changes are negative.

Parameters of the Real-Life Experience. When clinicians assess the quality of a person's real life experience in the desired gender, the following abilities are reviewed:

1. To maintain full or part-time employment;
2. To function as a student;
3. To function in community-based volunteer activity;
4. To undertake some combination of items 1-3;
5. To acquire a (legal) gender-identity-appropriate first name;
6. To provide documentation that persons other than the therapist know that the patient functions in the desired gender role.

Real-Life Experience versus Real-Life Test.
Although professionals may recommend living in the desired gender, the decision as to when and how to begin the real-life experience remains the person's responsibility. Some begin the real-life experience and decide that this often imagined life direction is not in their best interest. Professionals sometimes construe the real-life experience as the real-life test of the ultimate diagnosis. If patients prosper in the preferred gender, they are confirmed as "transsexual," but if they decided against continuing, they "must not have been." This reasoning is a confusion of the forces that enable successful adaptation with the presence of a gender identity disorder. The real-life experience tests the person's resolve, the capacity to function in the preferred gender, and the adequacy of social, economic, and psychological supports. It assists both the patient and the mental health professional in their judgments about how to proceed. Diagnosis, although always open for reconsideration, precedes a recommendation for patients to embark on the real-life experience. When the patient is successful in the real-life experience, both the mental health professional and the patient gain confidence about undertaking further steps.”

Undertaking the RLE can be both an extremely difficult and rewarding experience. Difficult because this is where the patient starts to lose things like a job, their spouse, access to their children, friends, and relatives. Rewarding because for the first time in a person’s life they can finally express themselves and interact in manner that is consistent with their natural instincts. Challenging because in the midst of potentially losing one’s career and family, the doctors involved must observe a noticeable improvement in the way the person deals with life, potential suicide, and negotiating all of their inter-personal relationships.

I have much more to write on this topic but unfortunately it will have to wait. I’ve promised to visit a family that’s going through a rough patch right now and could use some of my help. I’ll be bringing along my copy of “Fox in Sox.” Perhaps a discussion of tweedle beetles will help lighten the mood of the kids.



April 05, 2008 2:15 PM  
Anonymous svelte_brunette said...

O.K., I’m back; on to the rest of the post.

What is not mentioned in the Harry Benjamin Standards of Care (HBSOC) is that it typically takes several years for a person to get to the point where they feel comfortable and confident enough to embark on the Real Life Experience. Just reading excerpts from the HBSOC one might be inclined to believe that someone could be recommended for GRS (Genital Reassignment Surgery) a year after first visiting an accommodating therapist. Theoretically, this is true. Practically speaking however, I have never seen it happen this way. The general (non-scientific) consensus among my friends is that it takes roughly about 5 years to go through the entire process. Some people go quicker, others take much longer. The 1 year of RLE only comes at the very end of this.

So what’s going on for this 5 years? That varies from person to person, and depends on their family and job situation, their financial fortunes or misfortunes, and their own personal, religious, or cultural demons.

The issues listed below are issues that a typical transperson has to deal with before they get to the RLE. It is not intended to be an exhaustive list, but should highlight some of the difficulties, and if one ruminates for a while on what would happen if they had to cope with these issues themselves, in the context of their own family and career, I think it will become clear why the process is so arduous.

1: Spouse. The first reaction of a spouse to the news that their partner wants to change their gender is often something along the lines of “You want to do WHAT?! What the hell are you thinking?!” Often, (but not always) it gets worse from there. The spouse often feels lied to, deceived and “cheated,” but not in the usual sense that cheating implies in a martial relationship. It doesn’t help when the spouse learns that their partner has been trying to cope with these issues since their earliest memories of childhood; the response is typically “Well if you “knew” all along, why did you ever marry me?!”

Unfortunately, most segments of our society over the past several decades have taught children explicitly or implicitly that expressing gender behavior that doesn’t match one’s genitalia is inherently wrong. Punishment is meted out playgrounds across the country, particularly to little boys who tend to lean too effeminate. Parents also have an important impact; although most cases aren’t nearly as extreme as that of Ronnie Paris Jr., ( the message is clear. (He’s the 3 year old that was regularly abused and eventually killed by his father because he didn’t want him to grow up a “sissy.”)

Growing up, I thought is was my first name that caused kids to pick on and harass me – it ended in a “y,” like a number of girls’ names, and I thought THAT was the reason picked on me for being too “wussy”. I tried to get people to call me by my middle name, which was much more masculine, but for some reason that just never stuck. It wasn’t until a couple of decades later that I realized it probably wasn’t the “y” at the end of my name. It more likely my baby-blue jeans jacket that I got my mom to embroider a nature scene on -- complete with rainbow, trees and birds; or it may have been my green and orange nylon toe-socks, my un-kept longish curly hair, small size and high-pitched voice, or my particular liking for nylon print shirts with nature scenes – hey, this was the mid-70’s folks, and I was 10 years old – I just wore what I liked, what did I know?!

It wasn’t too long though before I somehow figured out what to wear, do, say, and act in order to minimize harassment. I also learned how to be the “class clown.” If the kids were regularly laughing at what I said, they were less likely to find cause to beat me up.

As children like me grow up, we learn all sorts of ways to rationalize away the fact that we sneak off with our sisters’ or mother’s clothes, pray every night to wake up as a girl, and wish we could just trade bodies – even if it’s with one the most unattractive, unkempt, and obviously doesn’t care about herself girl in class. Somehow we manage to convince ourselves that we are normal heterosexual males just like everyone is telling us because we have the boy parts to prove it. By the time we are adults and have a secret stash of clothes that no one knows about, we convince ourselves that it’s just a fetish, that it will go away once we are married or have a girlfriend.

Sometimes, it even works for a while. Unfortunately, getting married and having kids isn’t the cure for GID most of us hope for. Eventually, inexorably, it seeps its way back into our lives and fills every second that can’t be overflowed with the responsibilities of raising kids and supporting a family.

The spouse will also undergo their own form of Identity Disorder. They now have to contend with the fact that if they go out in public with their spouse, they may be perceived as a gay or lesbian couple. When it comes to “for better or worse,” this goes WAY beyond “worse,” and is an untenable change in the relationship.

2: Kids. This contentious issue is often brought up by the spouse, and taking them away in the course of a divorce is often used by spouses to keep their partner from transitioning. Very often, a transperson will delay transitioning as long as possible so as to minimize the impact on their children. Usually this is marked by a milestone in the children’s lives, such as graduating high school, turning 18, or graduating from college. In the case of one of my FtM friends, his plan was to wait until his oldest child turned 18 before killing himself – he didn’t want the kids to be forced to return to their abusive biological father. Fortunately, my friend managed to come a long way in his transition and didn’t end up killing himself.

3: Self-loathing. Despite of all the signs that should have been obvious in my youth, I kept telling myself that I wasn’t one of those “freaks” that would go and have a sex change… well, unless I’d tried everything else and nothing had worked. I always gave myself that “out.” Late in 1998 I finally had to come to terms with the fact that nothing that I had ever tried or was interested in or willing to try was ever going to make me happy; and not wanting to die a virgin simply wasn’t enough reason to live anymore.

There is a “look” that many transwomen have when they first manage to get up the courage to come to a support group. There is a dark, foreboding distance to their eyes, and a melancholy gloom in their never-smiling face. At first they don’t talk much, and you have to pull out even small responses from them. Over a period of months to years, they finally become comfortable enough with themselves to come to terms with the issues and start talking with others. Then one day they’ll come in and their face is entirely changed – there’s a spark in their eyes and even a smile on their face. Somehow, at some level, they managed to find a morsel of self-acceptance. I love it when I see this look – I know their chances at surviving GID have just gotten 1000% better.

4: Passing. Despite what we see in the movies and on television, the average “male” simply can not put on a dress and some make up and go out in public and be perceived as a female. Don’t believe me? If you’re male, try it for yourself, or talk some of your best buds into trying it and see what happens. Try visiting the local mall and record some of your experiences. Did it go well? Great! Now try showing up at work like that and see what happens – then do it for a whole week.

For the adult MtF, a serious expenditure in facial hair removal is usually necessary. I started electrolysis in 1999; at that time there wasn’t clear evidence that laser hair removal was permanent, so I didn’t try it. Electrolysis is painfully slow – typically one hair is burned out at a time. Hairs can only be permanently killed though if they are caught at just the right phase of their growth cycle. This means it can take many multiple treatments to finally kill a hair for good. For me it took FOUR YEARS of 4 hours per week of treatments to finally START having a face that might be passable with make-up. The cost ran about $800 per month. These days there are better lasers available, and if you have the right combination of light skin and dark hair, you can get a lot done more quickly and less expensively. A full course of treatment for an entire face will still run several thousand dollars though.

Even if the face is passable, there is still the matter of wardrobe. When you’re still “in the closet,” it doesn’t matter if the clothes are 10 years out of style, worn out, don’t quite fit, or are WAY to risqué to wear in public. Once you decide to go full time though, you need a complete and workable wardrobe. Unfortunately, the clothes that look so great in the magazines, on the models, or even on the mannequins don’t necessarily look good on you. Different folks have different features they need to maximize or minimize in order to pass most effectively, even if it’s not what they would prefer to wear. This involves trying on a lot of different clothes and figuring out what works and what doesn’t. This is probably the most awkward stages of transition. If you thought going through puberty the first time was bad, try doing it again 20, 30, or even 50 years later, fighting all the wrong changes hormones did to it the first time around.

Even if you get the wardrobe right and have all the hair removed, you’re not going to have much luck living as a woman if you’ve got a face like Arnold Schwarzenegger. If you’re an FtM with a D cup, living life as a man is going to be very difficult as well. Surgeries to modify or remove “secondary sex characteristics” are often required to live successfully in the chosen gender.

5: Finances. Electrolysis, surgeries, hormones, and therapy sessions don’t come free. Nor do divorces for that matter, which can make paying for transition even more problematic. Although I think an MtF can still get her “downstairs” surgery for under $25,000 at a couple of places, for many of us, this is just the tip of the iceberg for transition expenses. (My own transition took about $125,000 over a period of 6 years.) Only a small handful of insurance companies across the country will pay for any transition related expenses; most of them have exclusions for transition expenses explicitly written into their policies. For a large number of people trying to transition then, the duration of the process will be stretched out for years or even decades due simply to the lack of sufficient funds. This doesn’t stop them from transitioning though – it just means they end up in the “awkward” stage longer than they should.

6: Job. Many people do not want to hire or keep an employee who has indicated that they have GID, or that from appearances, may be a transsexual. This exacerbates the problem of finances noted above. Having laws in place that would allow those with non-conforming gender identities keep their jobs would be a HUGE help to a number of these people.

If you manage to negotiate your way through all or most of the previous issues, you’ll be ready to embark on the RLE and see if you’re ready to live life in the correct gender. If the therapist you’re paying for the last several years sees an improvement in your job, life, and social interactions, they will write a letter (a year after embarking on the RLE) confirming your eligibility for Genital Reassignment Surgery; if they don’t believe you are ready for any reason whatsoever, they do not have to write the letter. Assuming the first doctor gave you the required letter, you then have to visit with and convince at least one more doctor to write you another letter confirming your eligibility and readiness.

It may not be the kind of “test” people were expecting – you can’t fill out a form on some website or even stick your head in a machine and “scan” it to see if you have the right type of brain needed for the gender you choose to live. It’s not a perfect test either. There are still people who manage to bypass or pay their way around it, usually to their own detriment.

When followed conscientiously by both the patients and doctors however, it has proven an effective (if painful and laborious) way of successfully treating GID and getting folks into the right gender role for their brain for over half a century.



April 06, 2008 11:42 PM  

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