Friday, January 7, 2011

the spectrum of Gender Identity

Hi, folks, Norma here. I'm so glad Kayleigh repurposed this blog, because this is a topic I'm thinking about a lot thanks to my gender dysphoria.

This is a time were things are in flux in the Trans community. I say Trans community because I lump both the Transsexual community and Transgender community into one Meta-community. I know a lot of transsexuals don't like this, and I'll address this at a later point. But since a lot of the issues overlap, it is useful to deal with them once instead of repeating myself repeating myself over and over again. And yes, I even include the Transvestites in this category, though I don't limit it only to men in lingerie. More on why below.

The team working on the Diagnostics and Standards Manual number five have talked some about the diagnosis of GID, or Gender Identity Disorder, and there is some traction toward removing it from the sexual disorders category. This makes sense because if you accept the standard model that sexual preference, biological gender, and Gender Identity are three separate things that may or may not interrelate then focusing on it as a sexual dysfunction makes it a case of the old Sesame Street song, "Which One of These is Not Like the Other." Of course Blanchard has a differing opinion on this, but since his is mired in GID as a sexual dysfunction and flies in the face of the other model it's easy to discount it as poor theory. However, there's a possible direction this may go that has people very concerned, because instead of classing it as a form of Body Dismorphic disorder, there is talk of removing it from the manual completely.

The most common reason for this is that they feel there is no reason to pathologize what is normal behavior, and that if it isn't treated as aberrant there is a possibility that society might stop viewing it as aberrant.

The term "Transphobia" has been thrown about from time to time, and the usual definition is that it is society's fear of someone exhibiting non-standard gender roles and the same behavior by individuals. This is, of course, an inaccurate term, as phobias always impact the life of the person with them in some negative manner -- someone scared of snakes isn't phobic, they're just afraid, while someone who is so scared of snakes that they can't see an electrical cord on the ground or a picture of a snake without freaking out is phobic. Since no one is running away from transvestites or other Trans folk, it's not a phobia.

If they pull the diagnosis, there's no clear idea of where SRS (Sexual Reassignment Surgery) will end up. Some fear it will go away, while others fear it will become a "surgery on demand" model. These options scare some people and delight others. The folks for the termination of the surgery cite the number of people who get surgery without really knowing what they're doing. (This is a clear failure of the process, of course, which was developed specifically to provide time to learn what it meant to do this) On the other hand, the folks looking for Surgery on Demand cite that you don't have to go through therapy, a year long experience of wearing a padded bra, and get two letters signed off to get a breast augmentation, so this policy discriminates against transsexuals by raising the expense of the surgery exponentially. I would contend that some slow down for an augment might be a good idea, because any surgery of this type probably needs some reflection, but I'm also sure that any suggestion of this will get the Feminists all over me like political candidates on a three dollar prostitute. I also don't think this change will eliminate SRS, though other methods might be required to determine if a Doctor will perform surgery or not.

So, how do I see it? I see Gender Identity Disorder as a spectrum, starting with transvestites and other crossdressers and ranging all the way to transsexuals. And I feel that someone should find the level they're comfortable with in a rational and slow process. Start out crossdressing, then if you feel it's not enough, look at some of the further options like aramization or hormones, progressing to reversible surgeries, and finally if that isn't enough go to SRS.

I'm not getting SRS. That's because Kayleigh enjoys that little piece of anatomy too much, and it's not all about me -- I'm not a narcissist. I was headed for SRS before we got involved but I now choose not to out of love for her. Fortunately my aramization didn't go far enough that I lost potency, either, because we would like to have a child together. But of course as soon as we do manage to conceive I'll start the process up again. How do I feel about the proposed changes to the DSM and the whole debate? If they're right and de-pathologizing GID makes it more socially acceptable, that's great. I'd love to live in a world where one's own gender expression was their personal choice. But I feel it's a long hard road coming. I doubt SRS will disappear, and I don't see Surgery on Demand becoming the norm either. Even in the most permissive situations the foreign clinics require a talk with their therapist to determine how the person will handle what they're asking for. I also think that seeing a therapist is a good idea even if it's not required for SRS. Living as an outcast in our society, especially one that many people would consider a freak, causes psychological problems. Depression, Obsessive/Compulsive disorder, narcissistic Personality Disorder, Borderline Personality Disorder, and of course Body Dysmorphic Disorder are common passengers with GID. I strongly feel that dealing with these problems first will provide much greater success for the Trans person when they find their comfort level.

At this point some of the Transsexuals are reading and saying, "Another damned Transgenderist who doesn't know what HE is talking about." (There is a disturbing tendency among the transsexual crowd to claim that anyone who doesn't agree with their personal view is a man who is either pushing an agenda or is grossly misinformed and clueless, and calling someone a man and using male pronouns in this crowd is often the worst insult they can lob, hence the male pronoun there -- I don't identify that way, but I understand the dysfunction behind it well enough to shrug their attempt at an insult off as proof that they're not open minded) You're entitled to your opinion, and I honestly don't have a feeling about it -- my identity isn't up to a group vote. But I'm sure if you're in the community you know a "fasttracker" who went from a male shaped person to a female shaped person in a year and a half, and who acts like, as the old moniker goes, "A man with breasts."

Slowing down is good. Very Good. And I'd also like to point out that I'm no novice to the fields of psychology and neuroscience, so perhaps an open mind is in order, as I very well might know something you don't.

I think this is enough for now. I have a lot more to say about a lot of things -- family, parenting, gender identity, and even mythological creatures. If you want to discuss any of this calmly and rationally, feel free to email or IM me.

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