The Becky Blog

 

July 31, 2004

Very busy, and frankly just worn-out, from the day job lately.

Not that there hasn't been any news. The Kantaras case has been reversed in appeals court. From the Associated Press on July 23:

Transgender people cannot marry under Florida law, a Florida appeals court ruled Friday in setting aside a high-profile divorce ruling between a man -- who once was a woman -- and his wife.

The 2nd District Court of Appeal in Lakeland said people who undergo sex changes aren't recognized by their new gender under Florida's marriage laws, which ban same-sex marriages. The ruling affects an untold number of Florida marriages; people are not required to prove gender when seeking a marriage license.

The ruling came in the case of Michael Kantaras, a Pasco County resident who underwent a sex change operation in 1987 and then married his wife, Linda, two years later. His attorney, Karen Doering, called the court's Friday decision "ridiculous.''

Michael Kantaras divorced his first wife in 2002 and was awarded custody of two children - one child which was his ex-wife's from a prior relationship, the other a daughter she bore in 1992 following artificial insemination.

The appeals court said there was no legal marriage for the Pinellas Circuit Court to dissolve, and remanded the custody aspect of the case for further proceedings.

"The controlling issue in this case is whether ... the Florida statutes governing marriage authorize a postoperative transsexual to marry in the reassigned sex,'' the court wrote. "We conclude they do not.''

Florida's Legislature needs to take up the issue of deciding specifically if transgender people can marry in Florida, the court said. Until lawmakers recognize sex-reassignment procedures in state marriage law, the court said, a person's biological sex at birth is what's to be considered when determining if a marriage is valid.

Doering now wants the case considered by the Florida Supreme Court. "Michael Kantaras is a man,'" Doering said. `"Michael Kantaras has been a man since 1987 when he completed
treatment. This court has just turned common sense on its head.''

Kantaras, 45, has since remarried - a union he's being told is not valid, Doering said.

Attorneys for Linda Kantaras applauded the ruling.

"The law cannot permit a person to change their sex like one changes clothes,'' said Orlando attorney Mat Staver of Liberty Counsel, a conservative law group. "This case is a tremendous victory for traditional marriage and common sense ... A few hormones and plastic surgery do not change a person's sex.''

I am SO SICK of hearing the words "traditional marriage" as a euphemism for anti-GLBT hatred and discrimination. "Like one changes clothes," indeed. Attorney Staver's appalling ignorance can be traced to his own conservative prejudices. I am very worried about the prospect of taking this case to the Florida Supreme Court at this time.

Next comes this attack from the United Kingdom. Apparently the Guardian is the Brit equivalent of Fox News.

David Batty
Friday July 30, 2004

There is no conclusive evidence that sex change operations improve the lives of transsexuals, with many people remaining severely distressed and even suicidal after the operation, according to a medical review conducted exclusively for Guardian Weekend tomorrow.

The review of more than 100 international medical studies of post-operative transsexuals by the
University of Birmingham's aggressive research intelligence facility (Arif) found no robust
scientific evidence that gender reassignment surgery is clinically effective.

Chris Hyde, the director of Arif, said: "There is a huge uncertainty over whether changing someone's sex is a good or a bad thing. While no doubt great care is taken to ensure that appropriate patients undergo gender reassignment, there's still a large number of people who have the surgery but remain traumatised - often to the point of committing suicide."

Its review warns that the results of many gender reassignment studies are unsound because researchers lost track of more than half of the participants. For example, in a five-year study of 727 post-operative transsexuals published last year, 495 people dropped out for unknown reasons. Dr Hyde said the high drop out rate could reflect high levels of dissatisfaction or even suicide among post-operative transsexuals. He called for the causes of their deaths to be tracked to provide more evidence.

What garbage! These people dropped out like all transsexuals drop out - they are happy, blended members of society who want nothing more to do with the "community." This attitude on our part, while it is surely the right of every transsexual, is going to come back to harm us, as I've tried to state in my essay "Say It Loud."

...When they came for me, there was no one left to stand up.

We are coming under attack, my friends. The gay and lesbian lobby are too large for our enemies to destroy, but they perceive we are vulnerable. This is a time to network, to be courageous and to speak out when we can make a difference. The next few years may be very difficult.


August 27, 2004

Alphabet Soup

GID, from DSM to ICD?

The debate goes on all over the Internet. Transsexualism, or "Gender Identity Disorder" (GID) is still listed in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM). This listing, implying that GID is primarily a mental condition, is reinforced by the Standards of Care (SOC) of the Harry Benjamin International Gender Dysphoria Association (yes, it's HBIGDA). In the prelude to the current edition of the SOC are the words prominently featured: "The Gender Identity Disorders are Mental Disorders."

Except some of us think they aren't.

In a world where there was no social or religious stigma attached to being born transsexual, there would be no emotional distress or conflict associated with our condition. One would simply acknowledge the existence of gender identity feelings contrary to biological sex, and begin receiving appropriate medical treatment. I submit that this confirms my opinion that transsexualism is a biological disorder, not a mental disease, and as such it belongs in the ICD (the International Classification of Diseases) - the classification manual of medical disorders. This would allow for medical treatment to be covered under all insurance.

Unfortunately we do not live in such a world. The awakening to knowledge of such gender identity feelings leads to conflict, rejection, and shame - all imposed from others. This indeed may be an emotional disorder, but this emotional disorder is not transsexualism. It is "situational adjustment," "interpersonal conflict,' whatever - I don't know the codes, but they are diagnoses apropos to conflict, rejection, and shame from any source, of which transsexualism is but one.

Removal of transsexualism from DSM and inclusion in ICD would remove the idea that we are mentally ill. The words "perversion" and "deviation", which caused me to delay transition 20 years when I read them in Stoller's book, would disappear as descriptors of our lives. The idea that we have a mental illness is what motivates the fundamentalist crowd to want to "cure" us by reparative therapy. This needs to be effectively dismissed by correctly classifying transsexualism as a biological condition.

I refuse to go along with the language of servitude and stigmatization that implies I was born with a mental illness. I was not. Yes, by the time I broke down and gave up the "straight" façade I was pretty screwed up, but it was such a "situational adjustment" disorder and was quite correctable through good therapy AND TRANSITION. Now I don't have any such diagnosis.

I don't see how it can be any more clear than that. We can stay as we are and accept our stigmatized role, or we can lobby for proper changes that allow for a division between medical and emotional disorders, with proper treatment for each.


September 5, 2004

"All of Us See Through the Glass Darkly"
Bill Clinton

As we all are keeping President Clinton in our thoughts and prayers for successful coronary bypass surgery, let's look at selections from his very pertinent comments given at New York's Riverside Church before the start of the Republican Convention.

Political involvement dictated by faith is not the exclusive province of the right wing.

Religious values can include commitment to the common good, concern for the poor and vulnerable, the middle class families, the preservation of our God-given environment, unity over division, and for truth in campaign advertising.

We have a curious situation in American where the religious right has tried to turn all who disagree with them into two-dimensional cartoons. I read a very moving article in one of our newspapers a few days ago in which someone in the president's hometown said all the Democrats cared about was abortion, gay marriage, and being weak on defense.

I have never met anybody that was pro-abortion. That is not what pro-choice means. It just means we don't want to criminalize the choice. I'm not ashamed to believe that gay people shouldn't be discriminated against, and I don't believe Jesus ever had much to say about that. When Charlie Rangel fought in Korea and John Kerry fought in Vietnam they did not ask what their political party was before they let them put a uniform on.

The other party is about to convene here, putting on its once-every-four-years compassionate face. They have claimed the exclusive allegiance of America's "real Christians."

I looked at the recent meeting of the Southern Baptist convention where the president went. One of their leaders was wearing a button and giving it to everyone else and it said "I'm a Values Voter." - implying that those of us who disagreed with them didn't have any values. For them, values are anti-abortion, anti-gay rights, concentration of wealth and power. But as I said, Jesus didn't have much to say about what they say the values of Christians are today.

And yet these people really do believe they are in possession of absolute truths. You won't hear about it during this convention. They'll put up their other face. But the truth is that when it all comes down to it, a lot of the religious absolutists believe that all other issues are irrelevant, that all who disagree with them are somehow almost non human, certainly not deserving of basic consideration. Therefore it's nothing but right to concentrate wealth and power in the hands of those who share their values and to constantly assert that whatever position they decide to take is right regardless of the inconvenient evidence.

St. Paul contrasts light today with light in heaven with God. He says, "For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known." We have no choice but to have a charitable attitude toward each other. It is wrong to demonize and cartoonize one another and ignore evidence and to make false charges and to bear false witness. Sometimes I think our friends on the other side have become the people of the Nine Commandments. It is wrong to bear false witness because we all see through the glass darkly.

I'll never forget the conversation in 1993 with the then president of the Southern Baptist Convention, a man I like very much and whose sermons I still watch on TV when I get a chance. He's a great pastor but he belongs to the "values voter" crowd. He looked at me and said, "I just want an answer, not a political answer. A straight yes and no answer. Do you believe the Bible is literally true or not." I said, "Pastor, I think it is completely true. But I don't think you or I or anyone else on earth is smart enough to understand it."

I believe President Bush is a committed Christian. I believe that his faith in Jesus saved him. I believe it gave him a purpose and direction to his life. But that doesn't mean that he doesn't see through a glass darkly and know in part just like the rest of us.

You know near as I can tell from reading the scriptures, Jesus only got mad two or three times. One time was when he was talking to the money changers in the temple. And then he got kind of testy when he said "Even as you have done unto the least of these you have done to me." And someone said, "But master when did we ever see you hungry and not feed you, lonely and not house you, imprisoned and not visit you?" And he said, "Even as you had not done to the least of these, you have not done it to me." In the book of James, the prophet says, "I will see your faith through your works."

It bothers me. When you hire somebody you hire imperfect people who see through a glass darkly but they do make choices and choices have consequences.

...That's what I believe in. I say again, don't let someone tell you you?re weak because you don't agree with everything somebody else does.

And don't let somebody say you're not a good Christian because your views on certain issues don't fit the party line on the values voters crowd.

And remind them that all have sinned and fallen short of God's glory and all of us see through the glass darkly.


I'd vote for him again right now if he could run...


September 10, 2004

"A Defining Moment in Our History"
by Andrea James

A detailed analysis of the Bailey-Blanchard-Lawrence model and the organized response it prompted from the trans community. Andrea, and Lynn Conway, accomplished a most difficult "herding cats" task in bringing together so many diverse talents to place this issue into perspective.

Read the essay on Andrea's "Transsexual Road Map" site
or dowload and print the PDF File.


October 11, 2004

I can't imagine it's been ten years. Thank you, Dr. Schrang.


October 12, 2004

A More Important Anniversary

Matthew Wayne Shepard

December 1, 1976 - October 12, 1998

Never forget
Never be silent
Never again.


November 14, 2004

Creating Change

Back from temporary blog burnout, and on my way back from St. Louis to Phoenix.

I attended the annual Creating Change conference of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force over the past several days. Trans activists such as Mara Kiesling and Marsha Botzer had suggested the conference to me, and I was pleasaed to see how much I learned.

The whole idea of activism seems incomprehensible to some of my online friends. They wonder what my motives must be - what would motivate anyone to remain a visible trans person. Isn't the whole idea, they say, to finish transition and to enjoy this wonderful woman's life, free from any unpleasant memories of the old one? (I find it interesting that most of these friends are known to me only through pseudonyms, so complete is their disconnect.)

Well, no, that's not my whole idea. I haven't come this far in life to retreat back into another closet, to live in fear of being discovered. I've been through that once, and once is enough. I am not at all ashamed of the road I traveled to reach this point.

Anyway, "stealth" is not an option with the old Web site here, and that is all right also. But is there more? Do I go beyond the information clearing house, the transition story, the spiritual writings and the blog, to an active participation in the GLBT political arena?

I think it's appropriate. There are a small number of trans women and men who are carrying this load. I can be of help. I have this condition, apparently a medical issue, called "absence of stage fright." I can't figure out how I acquired it, but it's definitely not a carry over from past life. It's new. If I know my topic - trans, cardiology, spiritual, whatever - I don't mind speaking to crowds. Sometimes I appreciate help in formulating the message, but I can be a messenger when the need arises.

As far as political activism is concerned, it seems that we have both trans-activism on its own, and as a part of the GLBTSITQ (don't ask) movement. In recent months it is the broader movement which I have been exploring. I've been able to be more active in GLMA, the Gay and Lesbian Medical Association. At the recent Annual Meeting in Palm Springs I gave a lecture on Hormone Therapy for Transgender Patients, and it was a very great honor to receive one of GLMA's annual Achievement Awards. I hope to participate more in GLMA and to encourage other trans physicians to do the same. It is obvious that we are very welcome in the organization.

As far as the Task Force is concerned, trans activists have been welcome there for years. Marsha is currently Vice Chair of the Board, and Mara was one of the speakers at the opening plenary session. It was so nice to see old friends again. Some I had seen at earlier meetings this year, but I had been away from others such as Erin Swenson for many years. Among the number of new friends I met, I must mention Kelley Winters of the GID Reform organization. Kelley has spent a great deal of time and effort working on reform of the GID diagnosis, as I've discussed earlier in the blog entry "Alphabet Soup."

I may have to revise my thoughts from August. The information is persuasive to suggest that we don't have enough physical, laboratory, or diagnostic study criteria to move transsexualism into the ICD exclusively. Even if we did, the lack of accuracy for any one test (see "Professor Bayes and the Litmus Test") would mean some persons would be misdiagnosed. For now, it seems appropriate to retain a listing of some sort in the DSM, but the description and diagnostic criteria are much in need of modification. That's what Kelley has been doing, including a presentation to the American Psychiatric Association. I hope to lend myinput to proposed revisions. Of course the revisions will still have to be approved by the APA, which is by no means guaranteed; but perhaps my input as a physician will be helpful. We'll see...

There were skills training sessions on so many topics, including lobbying and legal issue for trans needs. One which was very helpful for me was "Coalition Building," presented by a team from NCBI, the National Coalition Building Institute. We had a superb assessment of current trans community issues from Jamison Green, and an excellent presentation on how to deal with confrontation with "religious" activists from Michael Adee, the field organizer for More Light Presbyterians.

I would highly recommend the Task Force and Creating Change for anyone interested in more of an activist position. The 2005 conference will be in Oakland, California, and hopefully the weather will be much warmer. It'll take me a day in Phoenix to thaw out.


November 25, 2004

Hope

Do you dread the holidays? I think more people dread the holidays than are willing to admit it. For every family whose members all love to reunite for special occasions, there are others where there is dread of spending a day or two with persons with whom you've had nothing in common for years. There's a high incidence of stress and argument, with all the post-stress complications they bring.

Trans women and men are more susceptible to holiday angst than many others. Whether you are:

  • Completely closeted (pre or post transition!) and fearful of discovery
  • Struggling with family unhappiness over your issues
  • Already "out" and less than welcome
  • Alone and depressed, dreading the "home and family" holiday emphasis

Please know you aren't alone. So many of us share your experience, and we keep you in our thoughts today and through the end of the year.

There are more years ahead, and there is always hope for better times, if we work all year around to make them better.

Peace and light,
Becky


December 25, 2004

On this Christmas Day, I wish you the love and peace of which we read in the story of God's action in human history. Always look ahead and consider what wonderful possibilities may await in the year to come.

The United Church of Christ has chosen "God As Still Speaking" as its message to the world at this time. The quote from the late Gracie Allen, "Never place a period where God has placed a comma," emphasizes our belief that God still speaks to us in modern times, offering insights possibly not perceived by other generations.

The UCC has produced short television ads which share the message that we turn no one away from our churches, regardless of ability, age, race, economic circumstance or sexual orientation. One such ad was scheduled to air on all the major broadcast and cable networks in November.

The debut 30-second commercial featured two muscle-bound "bouncers" standing guard outside a symbolic, picturesque church and selecting which persons are permitted to attend Sunday services. Written text interrupted the scene, announcing, "Jesus didn't turn people away. Neither do we." A narrator then proclaimed the United Church of Christ's commitment to Jesus' extravagant welcome: "No matter who you are, or where you are on life's journey, you are welcome here."

While the ad was accepted on the cable networks, it was rejected by CBS and NBC. CBS's reasoning was this:

"Because this commercial touches on the exclusion of gay couples and other minority groups by other individuals and organizations, and the fact the Executive Branch has recently proposed a Constitutional Amendment to define marriage as a union between a man and a woman, this spot is unacceptable for broadcast on the [CBS and UPN] networks."

So, a privately owned broadcast network feels it must allow censorship from the Executive Branch.

UCC General Minister and President Rev. John H. Thomas responded by saying, "It's ironic that after a political season awash in commercials based on fear and deception by both parties seen on all the major networks, an ad with a message of welcome and inclusion would be deemed too controversial." UCC Communication Ministry Director Rev. Robert Chase added, "We find it disturbing that the networks in question seem to have no problem exploiting gay persons through mindless comedies or titillating dramas, but when it comes to a church's loving welcome of committed gay couples, that's where they draw the line."

To see the "bouncer" commercial, as well as other ads in the "Still Speaking" campaign, please visit the United Church of Christ main site or the Still Speaking site referenced above.


blog index

becky@drbecky.com