“People like you and I are virtually invisible”

I thought this comment (left last night by Juniper) was really on point and relevant to what I am concerned with right now so I wanted to feature it in a post (I know not everyone reads comments here.)   I am also including the reply I just wrote.

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Hey Joel,

I think that it is very important that the gender spectrum be as inclusive as possible and that all kinds of differences in gender expression are supported in textbooks and are visible in the media.

At this time, I see no viable visibility in the media for people who are androgynous, de-transitioning, or who meet the textbook criteria of transgender but chose to live and accept their bodies. A young person who is gender-variant may feel that they have few options but to pursue transition or to live inauthentically. People overwhelmingly hear in the media that surgeries and hormones are absolutely necessary for people who are transgender to live meaningful and happy lives.

There is no representation in the media for people who live quite well and enjoy balanced and well-adjusted lives yet radically defy gender stereotypes.

Our story is not told. People like you and I are virtually invisible.

So, what happens to the kid who is questioning their gender? They look into their options and literally see a DEAD END. No matter what they do, no matter how far they go with surgeries and hormones, they cannot change their DNA or their root socialization. How can they be sure that society will change their perception of them? Can they be sure that they will “pass?” Can they be sure that the secret of their sex at birth will ever be exposed?

They hear that it will be difficult to find a life-partner, that the surgeries are prohibitively expensive and that they will never be 100% like other men and/or women. They learn that surgeries and hormones can only do so much.For instance, if they are FtM, it is unlikely that they will ever have a successful “bottom surgery” even after paying $100,000. And if you are 5’1 as a woman … guess what … you will be 5’1 as a man.

They hear from the media that their future is bleak. This is a lot of stress for a young person to handle. They seek support in the transgender community and there is no Transgender “Pride” parade but rather a Trans Day of Remembrance to remind them that suicide and murder are very real outcomes in their community and that they are disproportionally at risk.

Do you know how many women are raped or killed by boyfriends and stalkers? My god – if women’s history month was all about rape, I would have killed myself a long time ago!

Where is the support to believe in one’s inherent worth? Where are the examples of (so many) people who have lived long and well WITHOUT surgeries or hormones? Where are the stories of people who have survived extreme challenges and suffering yet have moved courageously forward to detransition and reclaim their lives?

Our voices are silenced as we are made out to be the “enemy” … We are called TERFs or transphobic or “failed transitions.”

No wonder young “transgender” people commit suicide. They are trying to find themselves and figure things out and when they seek help they are told that they have no option but to change themselves if they want to be loved. No one tells them that they are perfect just as they are. No one tells them that there are many ways to live. No one says “Hey, I made it … I am happily married, I have a good life … it will get better … I was a lot like you in High School and I am glad that I kept my body as it is and/or that I learned to love myself for who I am.”

Many people who are diagnosed as transgender may not be aware that there are lots of ways to live outside of the gender lines. More perspectives need to be shared so that young people can decide for themselves what what resonates, and feels right for them.

  • Joel Nowak says

    (Edit)

    Thanks for this. I am going to feature this in a post. I really think that it is important that these alternative narratives to being Trans start getting heard. There is an embargo on these voices currently, with these narratives being ignored or removed from internet forums virtually nobody (aside from social conservatives) interested in publishing them or writing about them. (I applaud Michelle Goldberg among a few others for writing about this stuff.) There are alternative narratives to the Trans that don’t look like Walt Heyer’s judgemental and one dimensional “repent or die” blatherings … but when all people hear is that crap they get a very distorted view of how open and liberating some of those narratives can be (compared to the increasing rigidity of the Trans movement).

 

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Beautiful Lights Going Out

Since march three children who identified as trans have suicided here in San Diego County. This is ripping apart my community. I am not talking about the just LGBT community, I am talking about large swaths of the ENTIRE community of where I live … this is casting a dark shadow over the entire county. Some people that I have a lot of respect for are doing a lot of work right now to educate – to try to improve tolerance and understanding. But I don’t think that is enough. I still think there is something fundamental we are missing. We need to keep thinking. Or, if we think we might have some of the answers, we need to start speaking out about what they are. This post is not the place to do that. This is for Kyler, who’s story is linked below. It is also for his mother and all who are trying to heal. That process is only now just beginning.

http://www.10news.com/news/grieving-mother-says-transgender-son-was-bullied-online-052515

Need resources related to suicide prevention awareness or just need to talk?:

http://www.suicidepreventionlifeline.org/

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Youth

Me
My long ago and far away

There have been a number of recent events that have motivated me to finally get around to start writing this blog (I’ve thought about it a long time!) I hope to write about a few of them in the coming days. One I haven’t mentioned yet is that I have a longtime straight male friend who’s adolescent child has changed gender presentation and the family is now considering next steps. The other day we had coffee and a long talk that got me thinking about what to say to someone in his position without being judgmental or trying to advocate a certain viewpoint. When I got home that night I started writing my first blog post. My friend has been incredibly supportive of his child’s gender exploration – I am actually surprised because for years I avoided my friend because I thought he would hate and judge me because I had transitioned. He is much more open minded than I gave credit for. I should have known better and for that I feel guilt because I let a lot of years slip by.

So anyway, we have talked about his child a few times and I always try to be supportive and just talk straight to him as objectively as I can about what I know without trying to influence him to push his child in any direction. I do worry though that a lot of kids and parents are starting to see changing genders as being a lot easier than it is. Real life isn’t an anime cartoon – decisions have very real and lasting consequences. Unfortunately up until recently the “detransition” related sites, articles and blogs I would see were not (in my opinion) particularly helpful. I don’t think that becoming reactionary helps anyone or that attacking the trans community for a personal decision that is now regretted really achieves anything productive other than making a difficult societal discussion much more tense and difficult. Just because in my own case I think that I have found out, for my own path, “transitioned” isn’t where I want to be, that does not mean that I need to start trumpeting my personal truths as some sort of gospel that I think others should believe or follow. I see other people doing this and it pisses me off. To me it is yet another way people try to validate or feel better about their own life choices by trying to get others to agree with them. I can’t say this enough – we are all on different paths. As the saying goes, and I truly believe this, your mileage will DEFINITELY vary.

All that being said, there are some life experiences and personal observations that I have made over the years that might be helpful for someone to hear. Maybe it will make someone modify their path towards transition. Or maybe, just as easily, it might make them even more confident in the path they are on towards gender congruity by seeing someone else work through some of these issues (with the theoretical reader coming away from reading my blog with the thought that – “yeah that was kinda interesting – but I can see what that person is dealing with does not apply to me. I am secure in my choice of gender presentation.”)

I can’t say this emphatically enough – I think the resources that exist today (support groups, clinics, doctors, websites) are a very good thing. I just think they need to continue their natural evolution and in many cases need to expand the conversation. I really do think we are still in the stone age when it comes to talking about gender and transgender issues. I know it seems like we have come so far in being able to talk about this stuff but the conversation has really just barely started. It’s just a blip.

A couple of distant memories recently returned to me when I started blogging. Although I had totally forgotten about this for many years somehow, I just remembered my fruitless search to find someone to help me sort out my dysphoria when I was around the same adolescent age. I can remember the only resource I could find was a number in the local phone book for some sort of transsexual support line. I was too afraid to call it from my parents phone so I went to a pay phone and try to call from there. Nobody ever answered. Eventually I stopped calling. When the next phone book came out the number was gone.

There was another long forgotten but recently recalled desperate incident that I think I must have blocked from my memory because I felt such shame in the aftermath. This happened before I was old enough to drive. I remember I had my mother drop me off at the local university medical center using the faux premise that I needed to go to the medical library to do a book report for school. In reality I went to various departments, literally walking down hallways and trying to get up the nerve to ask someone if there was a program or treatment for someone who had gender confusion. After about an hour of pacing and wandering around in absolute agony I finally worked up the nerve to approach someone and tell a complete strange the most intimate secret of my young existence. At first they had no idea what I was talking about and then I watched their eyes turn from bemusement to maybe something approaching mild sympathy as they said that, no, unfortunately they had absolutely nothing like that there and they had no idea where I might find the kind of help I was looking for but all the same they wished me luck and I scurried away. My mom picked me up from my “school report research” and I went home horribly discouraged and depressed (not to mention really embarrassed.) To say that I felt like a degenerate freak would be an understatement. In reality though I was only a confused and lost kid.

I think it is fantastic that a youth in a similar position today doesn’t have to face such obstacles. And it is wonderful that parents can access resources that help them discuss and think about these very complicated concepts. In the end I have no advice for my friend on how to interact with and support his child. What I do have are my thoughts and my personal experiences (internal and external) and I want to at least offer them to him so they can be added, if he chooses, to his rapidly expanding mental collection of information on the subject. I have learned what I should have known all along – my friend will not be guided by prejudice nor be swayed by shallow talking points. He will do just fine on his own.

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