Defending our existence

Andrea Ayres at policym1c has an essay up entitled Transgender Rights:  Why they matter to everyone.

In the wake of Sweden declaring unconstitutional a 1972 law that forced transgender people to be sterilized prior to legal gender change, there apparently is renewed interest in the unequal treatment of transgender people.

While the U.S. does not require sterilization prior to a gender reassignment surgery, some states do require that the individual be labeled as having Gender Identity Disorder (GID).  At least until July of 2012.  The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders-V (DSM-V) replaced the term Gender Identity Disorder with Gender Dysphoria.

Gender dysphoria refers to emotional distress that may occur from “a marked incongruence between one’s experienced/expressed gender and assigned gender.”  Now the change does not eliminate all gender disorders.  An individual may still be identified as suffering from Transvestic Fetishism or Transvestic Autogynephilia.  The first refers to someone who becomes more sexually active when wearing the clothing incongruent with the sex they were assigned at birth.  The second, championed by an evil man (Ray Blanchard), refers to a person (usually a man, in Blanchard’s opinion) whose sexual impulse is connected with the thought of themselves as a member of “the opposite sex” (i.e. as a woman).  That is, roughly speaking, Blanchard believes transwomen who masturbate are autogynephiles.

The reason why this highlights continuing discrimination against trans individuals is because cisgendered individuals are allowed to behave in these matters without having their intentions questioned.  A cisgendered person is someone who self-identifies with the gender they were both with.  We would not think to question a cisgendered women’s desire to wear clothes, make-up etc, because she is acting in congruency with her societal role.

We don’t actually have a good figure for the murder rate of transpeople because the number of such murders is not data yet deemed necessary to collate.  That doesn’t begin until next year, under the command of the Hate Crimes Act.  But it is thought to be somewhere in the neighborhood of 9 times the murder rate of cisgendered people.

News coverage of any transperson worthy of note by the press stresses our transness rather than our value to our communities.

Trans individuals still fight for the right to exist, to be included, in our society.  I, as a cisgendered person, never have to think about my inclusivity.  It is generally assumed.  That is why our language, the pronouns we use day-to-day, must be more inclusive.  This may seem like a small step, but it isn’t.  Language has always been a reflection of our culture.  Our treatment of trans individuals is a reflection of our society and we have a lot of work to do.

Rarely do we encounter cisgendered people writing with such clarity about our situation from a supportive viewpoint.  It is rather most often the case that we are left to defend ourselves.  And in doing so, I can’t tell you how painful it is to have our statements classified as “self-serving”.

On Tuesday when I wrote about the Swedish decision I was challenged by one respondent.  No, that was not at here.  But I feel the need to provide an answer to his blathering, not to him (for I certainly formed the image of a “him”, not a “her”), but to the whole of humanity.  I don’t have the eloquence of Martin, nor do I have the time to do the many rewrites that might bring this closer to something Martin might have produced.  I can only do what I can do.

I’ll ignore for the nonce the fact that the response had nothing at all to do with forced sterilization.

I am not your enemy, but neither am I your friend on this very fundamental issue.  I do not understand why people who have undergone such a thing, for reasons I readily admit I do not comrprehend, should be placed in some category above others who have undergone different types of cosmetic surgery for reasons that strike me as none other than personal desire.

No, this person is definitely not our friend.  He describes us demeaningly in my opinion.  Classifying what for many of us is life-saving surgery as “cosmetic” (which even insurance companies have been disabused of by the medical establishment) is bad enough.  But to describe our journeys as nothing other than whim?

My main issue is my and my family’s standard of living.  How does supporting transgender rights help me and mine at all?  Why should I care?

Why should white people have cared about the treatment of non-whites?  That certainly didn’t advance the standard of living of those white people.  But as someone who marched for equal rights based on race in the 60s, who supported equal rights for women always, and who was fought in the trenches for equal rights for gays and lesbians, I find the attitude truly disturbing.

You should care because it is the right thing to do.  It’s the correct moral stance.  No one is free until all are free.

Gay people are different.  They’re born that way, just as much as straight people like myself are born the way we are.  I can easily understand that.  So can most heterosexuals.  But this transgender thing is something else because it requires optional surgery.  Expensive optional surgery at that.

So expensive that most ordinary Americans cannot even think of affording it.

Scientific evidence is actually stronger that transgender people are “born this way” than that gays are.  

As for the cost of the surgery?   Personally I had to pay a little less that $10K for my surgery.  Some pay more.  Some pay a lot more.  But the average American would not even consider having the surgery.  And most transpeople can’t afford what is available.  And in some cases what is available sucks, big time.  It’s not like there is any money spent by the medical community trying to improve or medical treatment.  Quite the contrary.

The vast majority of hospitals in this country will not permit gender affirming surgeries to be performed on their premises.

And most medical insurance refuses to pay anything for our medical process, so it is all out of pocket.

The most offensive comment to me personally was this:

Will you assist in making a more economically just society for all?  If yes, how?   Or is it all about you?

I have spent over 35 years of my life teaching young adults so that they can get a college degree and improve their standards of living.  For the last 13 years this has been done at a predominately black institution (the majority of students at Bloomfield College who are not African American are Hispanic).  I have not done that because it is “all about me.”  I became a teacher because that was the best way I could find, given my abilities, to help build this into a better world.

I apologize if that is not enough.

Transgender people are, first and foremost, people.  We are human beings who deserve just as much as anyone else the right to be who we are rather than who someone else tells us we must be.  Because we are only about 0.5% of the population (give or take), people like this responder, who I do not believe could ever have even met someone who is transgender as far as he knows and still have these misinformed opinions, believes that our battle to be recognized as fully human is misplaced energy.

I guess we should just crawl away and die.


I am reminded of a quote from John Scalzi I shared recently:

You don’t get extra credit for trying to be a decent human being.  That should be your default setting.

Let me add that it should not be up to us transpeople to justify our existence.  We exist because we exist.  Our lives are not a game…or a whim…or simple desire to be something we are not.  Our lives are livable because they are lived.   We only wish to live among you as who we are.

And that should be enough.  We just wish that people didn’t always try to make it so damn hard.  


    • Robyn on January 18, 2013 at 14:39

    …my normal Friday evening post will now be made early Friday mornings.  I’m not sure it will always be as early as this one however. 🙂

    • Robyn on January 19, 2013 at 04:31

    The lack of response everywhere I posted this makes me thing that people everywhere agree with the dude.

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