Tag Archives: transition

Trans*forming the Dialogue – Questioning the Transgender Experience

Trans_forming the Dialogue Logo

Hello everyone, Una Nowling here. I am participating in Trans*forming the Dialogue, Simmons College’s Online MSW Program’s campaign to promote an educational conversation about the transgender community. By participating in this campaign, I will be offering my perspective on what TO ask and what NOT to ask trans*people.

As an activist and “out and loudly proud” transgender woman who works in several professional fields, I am often asked to give lectures on the transgender experience as a whole, as well as specific transgender subtopics. I typically speak at public fora, Pride events, churches, schools, universities, and civic centers. And as part of my opening myself up to the world, I am very frank about my history – I talk about the sexual assault and abuse I suffered, for example, not because I especially enjoy doing such, but because almost certainly there’s someone in my audience who has suffered the same, and been living in silence for years. I invite and will answer almost any question which is asked of me, because my goal is to educate. I do not speak in detail about my genitals and surgeries, and that is my only boundary.

But what about the typical transgender person whom one may meet? Many well-meaning cisgender persons are naturally very curious about us, and this puts transgender persons on the spot, even when they are among friends. They not only are not activists who want to be “out and loudly proud,” they simply want to live, and love, and work, and play, and worship, and be the protagonist of their own life of positivity. Their own personal “American dream,” if you will.

Here are some of my tips for the cisgender folks out there who want to learn more about our people.

First, before you ask any question, ask yourself “is this the sort of question I would ask my grandmother?” Would you, for instance, ask your grandmother if she had had “her penis chopped off?” Or “are you really, really sure that you’re female, or could you just be having a bad month?” Or even “how do you know you’re not a lesbian, grandma? Maybe you should give it a try?” Of course you wouldn’t.


What on earth did you just ask me?

First and foremost, don’t ask us questions which call into question our very existence. Asking us “are we really sure we’re transgender?” essentially overlooks the years of gender dysphoria, body dysmorphia, internal struggles, and heart-rending agony which we have gone through to come to accepting that we are transgender. Many of us would have done anything, climbed any proverbial mountain, to have just had an ordinary, average gender identity. This is one reason why, according to the National Transgender Discrimination Survey, 41% of transgender persons have attempted suicide. Outside of a few transgender celebrities or very lucky persons, most transgender persons are going to face job discrimination, family rejection, sexual assault, bullying, physical violence, and even murder – on top of having to deal with gender dysphoria. If that sounds like fun, please stand on your head.

Don’t ask about our genitals. I confess that I have neither the time, nor the professional qualifications, to understand why laypeople will walk right up to a transgender person and ask them questions about genitals that they wouldn’t even discuss with their physician. Would you ask a friend at church if her breasts were real or not? Many of us are asked that on a daily basis.

Hot dogsNo…just, no.

Don’t ask us questions about our personal romantic and sexual relationships and preference. For one thing, many of us are still working it out, and it’s a highly painful subject. For another, it’s just none of your business, unless you happen to be making a romantic pass at one of us (in which case, go you!). A large number of us will lose our spouse or long-term partner as a result of transition. Within my own transgender community, the rate of divorce as a result of one partner transitioning is over 90%.

It’s generally considered gauche to ask about our specific medications, surgical techniques and procedures, and the cost of transition. Can you imagine asking a co-worker in the middle of a conference call, “hey Bob, generally speaking how do you feel about digital rectal prostate exams versus PSA screenings?” In addition, please note that for many of us a trip to the physician is even less fun than it would be for anyone else, as nearly 1 in 5 transgender persons report having been refused medical care. Last week I myself was a victim of this, having had two physicians refuse to treat me, and having been subjected to a transphobic tirade by a nurse.

NurseElle Driver from “Kill Bill” would actually have been a better nurse than the one who repeatedly and deliberately misgendered me.

There are some “borderline” questions you can ask, if your relationship with the transgender person in question is positive and long-standing. You may be able to ask “how has your family taken the news?” or “are you going to be alright at work?” Just keep in mind that a very large percentage of us will or currently face ostracism or even violence by family members – in fact, 57% of us will experience significant family rejection as a result of transition. In addition to that, 90% of us have or will face harassment or discrimination on the job, and we suffer from double the rate of unemployment as the general population as a result of “coming out.” A large number of us have lost our church community as well, so again, be sensitive of that when asking about topics of personal faith.

Many ask us about Laverne Cox, Caitlyn Jenner, Chaz Bono, and other transgender persons who are in the media. Just as my spouse is English and has in fact never met Queen Elizabeth, almost none of us will have any “inside information” on public figures. Nor do most of us really want to discuss in detail The Crying Game or Dallas Buyers Club. I will however feel free to bore you with discussions of third-wave feminism and Mad Max: Fury Road.

Not quite a positive media portrayal of a transgender person, just in case you were wondering.

Questions which show innocent curiosity and compassion are normally going to be welcome. I’m sometimes asked about the community, from the standpoint of how large and diverse we are. I’m sometimes asked to tell the story of my personal journey, with no qualifications placed on my telling, and many of us will talk a little about our history to those who listen. Other good questions help to define how people should interact with us. Ask us “what name do you prefer I call you from now on?” or “how should I refer to your gender from now on?” Please note that for those of us who are still not fully “out,” some patience may be needed on your part to remember the proper identifiers to use depending upon the context.

Most of us will be grateful to receive questions such as “how are you coping with this? Are you receiving support? Are you doing alright? Would you like to go shopping with me? Would you like to meet my family?”

But above all, the single best question which I believe we transgender persons can be asked is simply:

“How may I help?”

Helping_Hand

Information about Simmons College

Simmons College is the third US women’s college to accept students who identify as transgender. Their admissions policy may be found here, and the official announcement of their change in policy may be found here.

References

Grant, Jaime M., et al. Injustice at every turn: A report of the National Transgender Discrimination Survey. National Center for Transgender Equality, 2011.

VITAL UPDATE: Quality of Life in Treated Transsexuals

Woman_Scientist

The research never stops here at Transas City, and I’ve recently completed another batch of lengthy literature reviews to update one of our landmark pages, Quality of Life in Treated Transsexuals.

The full details are available at the links herein, but to summarize the update:

  • More than 350 technical papers and journal articles have been reviewed.
  • From 2004-2015 inclusive, 33 studies were found which met the criteria for determining quality of life changes in transsexual women and men as a result of medical transition (blockers, hormones, and/or surgery).
  • Of the 33 studies found which were within our time frame, 26 studies (79%) indicated a conclusively positive impact on quality of life as a result of transition. Another 5 studies (15%) yielded mild or uncertain results, and only 2 studies (6%) found a negative quality of life as a result of medical transition.
  • In short, 98% of the studies reviewed found that at worst no harm was done via medical transition.

I believe that once again, this research which we have conducted shuts down firmly the anti-transgender criticisms that neither hormone therapy nor surgery are necessary medical procedures for transsexuals. Please share the link below, which contains charts, summaries, and full literature citations, to help us publicize this update, and feel free to drop it into debates with “the usual suspects.”

Quality of Life in Treated Transsexuals.

A Lost Piece of Transgender History, Now Found and Freely Available

McLeod_CharlotteAfter her surgery made the world news on December 1, 1952, Christine Jorgensen inarguably entered the history books as the first of the “Atomic Age” transsexual women. But the second Atomic Age transsexual woman is unknown by many in the community. Her name was Charlotte McLeod.

Soon after her transition McLeod that said she was working on an autobiography, but she soon ceased mentioning it. No complete autobiography was known to be published, but in 1956, McLeod sold what she had developed for an autobiography to the men’s magazine Mr. This autobiographical article was so rare I did not even confirm it existed until nearly 3 years into my research into transgender history, and through a series of serendipitous events I was able to find an original copy in very good condition.

In keeping with the scholarly and historical preservation goals of Transas City, this short autobiography of Charlotte McLeod is offered to the world free of charge for download in high-resolution. My checking of its copyright status indicates to me that it falls in the public domain, as it was published prior to 1964, but the copyright was not renewed after that date. I do not demand attribution nor any consideration, but I’d like to ask that out of fairness you reference myself, Una Nowling, as the provider of it.

I encourage you to download and save this document somewhere safe, so this important piece of the history of our people will not be lost again.

McLeod, Charlotte – “I Changed My Sex”

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  1. Pingback: Archival Photographs of Transsexual Woman Charlotte McLeod | Transas City (Edit)

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Transgender Man’s Transition is Celebrated by His Parents in a Classy Manner

This article shows a very inspiring and classy way in which the parents of 19-year-old Kai Bogert announced their support for his transition. They took out an advertisement in the Brisbane Courier “retracting” their earlier birth announcement of their daughter.

The photo says it all folks. This is certainly a show of support by Kai’s parents which he shall never forget.

Teen gets sex change, parents retract newspaper birth announcement in heart-warming fashion – Australasia – World – The Independent.

TRANSforming Normal – Book Hopes to Show Different Side of Transgender Community

Faith
For 58 years, author Faith Eileen Bryan lived what any reasonable person would call a “normal” life – married, with a family and a career. Faith also was not Faith; she was “John,” the name given to her at birth by parents who never knew their son was really their daughter.

“For me, “normal” was defined in the standard gender binary terms,” says Bryan, author of an upcoming new book, TRANSforming Normal: Ten Stories That Will Change How You See Transgender People. “You were either a boy or a girl.”

Bryan, 61, who came out as transgender in 2012, says society is redefining what is considered normal and acceptable in terms of the growing LGBT presence, and part of that transformation must include how society perceives transgender people.

“I believe there is a general perception that transgender individuals are somehow flawed, not ‘normal’ or in some other way do not make a positive contribution to the social construct,” Bryan says. “This work hopes to portray our community in its most human terms.

“We have careers and families, dreams and hopes like anyone, yet we do this in the face of extraordinary amounts of misinformation, blind hate and ignorance. This is what TRANSforming Normal is about … showing that transgender people are just like anyone.”

The book, projected for Summer 2015 publication, tells the stories of 10 remarkable people who work in a variety of careers: an air traffic controller, a baggage handler, an advertising sales person, a movie director/HIV counselor, a writer, an attorney, a chemical engineer, a beauty pageant director/politician, and a performance artist.

Oh, and they all just happen to be transgender, and all are actively working to advance equal rights for their LGBT sisters and brothers.

“These are vibrant and passionate people who care about others,” says the author. “People need to know that we’re not all drag performers or sex workers. Most of us have jobs, families, mortgages or rent payments, and dreams of something better. In other words, we’re normal human beings.”

Bryan, a former newspaper journalist and editor with 30 years’ experience who now teaches business and management for an online university, says this topic is not widely covered in previous works.

“A substantial body of scholarship exists on this topic that is based in scientific and medical research, and political discourse,” she says, noting there is a growing discussion of the increasing social impact of the transgender community.

“This book seeks to shine a positive light on that aspect of the transgender reality and to help fill the gap in understanding that exists between the societal mainstream and our community,” says the author. “My hope is that my book with help foster understanding where little exists.”

To donate to this project, go to https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/790423631/transforming-normal or http://www.gofundme.com/es9mgs

To learn more about the author and to read her blog, go to http://www.faitheileenbryan.com

Trans[ition] in Iran

IranTrans

The World Policy Institute has published a very informative and interesting article on the lives of transgender people in Iran. Why should you care about this? For one reason Iran is one of the very few Muslim countries where being transgender is not in itself a crime – with a qualifier, of course, that you are expected to transition if you ever want to have sexual or marital relations of any kind.

In fact, this places Iran in the odd position of performing more gender transition surgeries than any other country except Thailand (2012). It was the Ayatollah Khomeini of all people who paved the way for easily available SRS in Iran, as a result of a 1985 reissuing of his fatwa declaring support for transgender persons and transsexual surgery.

The problem in Iran is threefold, however. The first is that considerable gatekeeping exists for transition and SRS, although the cost is covered by the government. Second, many homosexuals feel pressured into, and sometimes fake being transgender to be allowed to be with their loves and to marry. Finally, just because the government recognizes that transgender people have the right to exist and to surgery doesn’t mean Iranian society accepts them. In fact, discrimination within Iranian society is harsh and sometimes deadly.

I invite you to read and learn.

Trans[ition] in Iran | World Policy Institute.

Mayo Clinic to Create Transgender Clinic for Holistic Assistance

MayoClinic
This article is sort of a mixed bag of news (including a reference to Paula Overby, who is a transwomen running for Congress in Minnesota who I’ve posted about before, but which contains a note on a new program at the Mayo Clinic.

“I’m in charge of setting up an integrated clinic for transgender care,” said endocrinologist Dr. Todd Nippoldt. “It will involve initial medical care and hopefully, eventually, will have surgical care available. Right now, it’s primarily with the hormonal therapy and then psychology- and psychiatry-type management.”

The pilot program is expected to be considered for formal adoption this fall, leading to potential formation of Mayo’s new Transgender and Intersex Specialty Care Clinic, Nippoldt said.

The program will help patients who are new to the area connect with primary-care health providers who have made it known to the specialty care clinic that they are open to seeing transgender patients.

 

“We would get them hooked up in their primary care either at Mayo, with someone who is comfortable, or at Olmsted (Medical Center) there’s several patients that I’m following that have their primary care there,” Nippoldt said.

This level of buy-in from the Mayo Clinic will undoubtably add more credibility to treatment and consideration of our people.
Transgender people find society gradually accepting – PostBulletin.com: Local.

Transas City Brief Report: Sleep Disturbances from Hormones

Cannon Percale SleepSeveral transgender folks I’ve met have remarked on changes in their sleep patterns after being on hormones. It’s likely that a large part of this is due to stress from coming out, potential breakups with a spouse or family, unemployment, or other social-mental factors. However, it’s interesting to see if the hormones themselves make a difference in sleep quality.

Sleep studies which focus on exogenous hormones are rare, and in this Brief Report I talk about the findings of a study where sleep patterns of transwomen were found to change very slightly while being on hormones. Unfortunately, no study of transmen was done. I’m going to look out for further research, but right now I’m finishing up a full report on deep vein thrombosis risk.

The brief report can be viewed at this link: Brief Report: Sleep Quality on Hormones.

Transas City Brief Report: Skin Changes on Hormones

Palmolive_-_Both_Men_and_Women_are_Pleased_50

Exclusive to Transas City: I’ve investigated and written a brief report on the results of two studies which examined in detail the effects of hormones on the skin quality of transgender men and women. Acne prevalence is covered as well. I believe the results of this study will help give transgender persons an improved idea changes to their skin which should be expected while on hormone therapy.

The brief report can be viewed at this link: Brief Report – Skin Changes

Transas City Brief Report: Hair Growth on Hormones

Barbasol_-_For_Best_Results_Shave_with_Barbasol_2_1950

Exclusive to Transas City: I’ve investigated and written a brief report on the results of a study which examined in detail the effects of hormones on transgender men and women. The results which were studied included hair growth rates, density, thickness, and timing over a 12-month period on both the face and the upper abdomen. I believe the results of this study will help give transgender persons an improved idea of the typical hair growth changes which should be expected while on hormone therapy.

The brief report can be viewed at this link: Brief Report – Body and Facial Hair Growth

Stephenie, At Last – A Powerful Story of a Transgender Life Delayed

I’ve read hundreds, perhaps thousands of transgender stories, and this is one which is powerfully told within just a couple of pages, and which moved me to tears.

Stephenie Vieweigh had a secret she kept for 63 years, a secret which tore her apart and led her to a near-suicide 6 years ago. Stephenie – then known as Stephen – was a transgender woman. Very sadly for Stephenie, her time as her true self was limited by cancer. Even worse, she had to suffer an additional indignity of being forced to present as male in order to find a place to live. Finally, at the end, she met compassionate people who helped her pass from this world as the woman she was meant to be.

Rest in peace, Stephenie. I promise to fight harder for the rights of elderly transgender persons.

Stephenie, At Last | Dixie’s Land: Robin Rayne Nelson’s Photojournal.

UPDATE: Quality of Life in Treated Transsexuals

Rockwell_Girl_at_Mirror
I’ve made a major update to my meta-study of the quality of life of treated transsexuals. Essentially, this research effort was started by me so I could fight trolls on the internet who kept digging out one study or another and crowing “See? See? Hormones and surgery don’t really help you freaks.” My review has been expanded from 21 to 28 studies ranging from 2004-present, and the results are 78% of all studies from 2004-present find a significant improvement in quality of life from transition, 15% of studies find mixed results or little improvement (but not a decline) in quality of life from transition, and only 7% find a decline in quality of life from transition.

Please link to my page below when you want to shut the haters up. A full summary and bibliography of every single study included is given, but for those who don’t want to read the Great Wall of Text, skim the table at the top of the article.

Quality of Life in Treated Transsexuals – A Meta-Study by Una

Mom Announces Rebirth of Her Transgender Son

Its-a-boy-transgender-son-announcementOften times parents take the news that one of their kids is transgender in stride, but they still struggle with how to tell everyone else — or even if they should tell other people.

Jodi Gholson Oliver made a declaration that so many of us (especially with very young kids) would be afraid to do. She didn’t just quietly inform a select few that her son Jes is transgender, she celebrated it with a new birth announcement on Facebook. In a relatively short post, Jodi honored her son, explained the change, and let people know that she would not tolerate negativity or inappropriate questions.

While Jodi didn’t plan for her post to “go viral,” it has and it’s inspiring people across the country to send her family comments full of good wishes. Jes even got in on the act and shared her post on Tumblr where it has received more than 162,000 notes to date. I think I see a pattern of family pride, love and acceptance here.

My So-Called Queer Life — Cissexism through Biological Determination

Subtitled, “On why it’s not okay to assume trans women experienced male privilege,” this is an engaging short essay which I was directed to by my friend Amanda. The essay should be of most interest I think to younger transpeople, and families of younger transpeople, as important advice on how to combat assumptions that we transsexual women “had it easy” in our early lives.

My So-Called Queer Life — Cissexism through Biological Determination: On why it’s not okay to assume trans women experienced male privilege.

One Woman’s Life After Coming Out As Transgender

Sarah McBride is the first openly transgender woman to work in the White House, and in this article by WAMU, she talks about her life and experiences. Specifically, her coming out process, with her friends, her family, and her employer.

This reaction from Joe Biden is heartwarming.

But she had a lot of support. Not only from her family, but from another clan: the Bidens. After coming out, McBride got a call from Delaware’s Attorney General Beau Biden. She had worked for Biden during his 2006 and 2010 elections, back when she was known as “Tim.”

“First he used my correct name and accurate pronouns and said, ‘Sarah, I just wanted you to know, I’m so proud of you. I love you, and you’re still a part of the Biden family,'” she says.

She says the “cherry on top” came right before President Obama’s second inauguration, during an event at the Vice President’s home.

“I went up to the Vice President to get a picture, and without saying anything, the Vice President saw me and he grabbed my arm and he said ‘Hey, kid, I just wanted to let you know I am so proud of you, and Beau is so proud of you, and Jill is so proud of you. And I’m so happy that you’re happy.’ And he gave me a big hug,” she says, adding that it was inspiring to see the Vice President, his family, and the Governor of Delaware embrace not only her, but also the broader transgender community.

One Woman’s Life After Coming Out As Transgender | WAMU 88.5 – American University Radio.