Guest Blogger

We Exist

Filed By Guest Blogger | November 05, 2010 2:00 PM | comments

Filed in: Living, Transgender & Intersex
Tags: Kye Allums, NCAA basketball, transgender people

Editors' Note: Today's guest post comes to us from a midwestern transman who asked to stay anonymous. He is not comfortable having his name attached publicly, but felt compelled to write about this topic.

I wrote this post in response to some comments on an article about Kye Allums, the first openly transgender female-to-male person to play NCAA Division I basketball. exist.jpgMost of the comments on the article were positive since it was on a GLBT site; however, a few brought up several points that are typically used to refute the very notion of transgender people, such as the following:

... humans are either male or female. 'Transgender' people are not 'men' born into a woman's body or 'women' born into a man's body. They are simply men or women who are confused as to their gender ....

...those who believe themselves to be 'transgender' need counseling and perhaps medication like any other person with a mental of psychological disorder.

The fact is that there are some things in life that you cannot 'change' like your sex.....

To those of you who believe that there are two distinct sexes - that we are created physically male or female and that is all - you may be surprised to know that it is estimated that every day surgeons perform surgery on 5 newborn infants (without their consent and sometimes even without their parents' consent) in order to change their "ambiguous" genitalia to what some doctor decides is more "conforming."

In other words, there are many children born every day who cannot be immediately labeled as male or female based solely on their outward appearance. These individuals are referred to as intersex. Surgeons are literally performing sex "assignment" surgery on them at birth. So, hey, that kinda refutes your premise, doesn't it?

I'm not even going to go into all of the gender diversity that exists in nature, because we're talking about people here, not fish that spontaneously change sex or turtles whose sex is determined by the temperature at which their egg was incubated (these are both real).

Taking It a Step Further

Let's take it a step further: researchers have identified an area in our brains where our gender identity - our sense of who we are as far as feeling like a man or woman - is located. This can control things like our natural inclinations, our personalities, how we relate to other people, and our chemistry with people to whom we are attracted.

If our external, physical bodies can appear to be ambiguous as far as sex goes (whether due to genetic, hormonal, or other reasons or factors in human development), isn't it also possible for our brains (also a physical structure in our bodies) to be ambiguous as well? Or at least potentially "out of sync" with our exterior bodies?

Surgically or not, we get "assigned" a sex at birth. From that assignment (male or female), society expects that you will have a gender identity (a sense of who you are) that society recognizes as conforming with your assigned sex at birth. Unfortunately this is not always the case. In fact, in many cases it is incorrect to varying degrees.

Some of these people will identify as transgender as a way of indicating that their gender identity/assigned sex combination is not one that is typical. Some will feel so strongly about their gender identity that they will change their outward appearance to be in sync with it. I am one of these people. So is Kye.

Intersex people exist. I know many. Transgender people exist. I know a whole lot of them. Transsexual people exist. I know a whole lot of them too. From what I have read, this condition has been documented in so many different times, cultures, and continents as to be considered a general fact of human existence.

So, are we going to continue to say "people are only born male or female" when clearly that is not true? Are intersex people a mistake? Are transgender people a mistake? Is a person born with a genetic disease or no arms and legs a mistake? That seems to be a judgment call - in other words, an opinion.

God Doesn't Make Mistakes

Personally, I don't think any person is a mistake. I do believe in a force in the universe that I call God. I don't believe God makes mistakes. So, here's my question, people like myself and Kye have done what we needed to do to live our lives in what we know to be our truth. Why does that mean that we are saying "God made a mistake?"

God made us transgender, giving us a particular journey and particular obstacles to overcome. If the person born with the genetic disease seeks out treatment for that disease, is he saying God made a mistake? If the person born with no arms or legs gets prosthetic limbs, is he saying that God made a mistake? I don't think so.

We are all doing what we need to do to survive and overcome the circumstances that were handed to us. Maybe this is what God wanted us to do. Did you ever think of that?

My second question is: Why does it matter to you? What investment do you have in whether I am male or female? I have never understood people's need to define other people and tell them who they are.

You Will Never Truly Understand

Of one thing I am convinced: if you are not transgender, you will never truly understand what it is like. Period. You can imagine, you can empathize, but deep down, you will never really know the level of pain that can be involved. That's why you don't think it exists or you write it off.

It's okay that you will never know. I, for example, will never really know what it's like to be a black person in America. I can be told, I can empathize, but I can never really know that experience, and that's okay. However, I would never go around putting that experience down, saying it isn't real. I would never say to a person with no legs "God gave you no legs and that's the way it's supposed to be, so just live with it. God doesn't make mistakes."

The transgender people I know are, for the most part, very intelligent, high-achieving, upstanding people who have had the courage and the personal insight when the world pointed at them and said "This is who you are" to stick to their guns and respond "No, this is who I am" - sometimes at ages as young as three years old. Why can't we have a little human compassion and understanding? Why can't we be given the benefit of the doubt that maybe this condition is real? Why would we make this up?

Another thing I love is when people say "You can't change your sex." To them I respond "Can - and did." It reminds me of the Chinese saying "Those who say something cannot be done should get out of the way of those who are doing it."

A Final Point to Ponder

Here's a point to ponder: I was born with a female body yet I have lived successfully as a man for 12 years. If I am not transgender, how am I able to do this? I sincerely doubt that any non-transgender person could live successfully as the opposite sex for any extended period of time even if they tried because it is not something you can choose. It's something you are. I believe they would be as miserable in the opposite sex as transgender people are in their assigned sex.

If you are non-transgender, try living as the opposite sex and let me know how that works for you. Maybe then you'll have an idea of what it's like to not be allowed to be your true self.


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I am glad someone is bringing this up. It isn't a very popular topic because it is very complex. One in five women have PCOS, three percent of the population that is raised male are born with undescended testes. One percent remain cryptorchid. It is estimated one in five hundred to to one in one thousand of those raised male have an extra "x" chromosome with Barr bodies. Transsexualism is fairly rare in comparison to those who do not actually consider themselves male or female. Transsexualism exists, however. Sex is not similar to electricity where absolute poles exists. It is a lot more complex.

I skimmed through this last night. It is a very good essay that demonstrates how deeply the roots of sex binary prejudice penetrate and the illogic that is used among clinicians to perpetuate those prejudices.

http://oiiaustralia.com/wp-content/uploads/XXY-Paper-revised-draft-May-2010.pdf

Evidence of the attempts to preserve the traditional binary visual classifications
and reinforce the binaries via language, are to be found in the interpretation of XXY data
by researchers and their subsequent discourses. During a conference in the United States
Mulkern (2000, p.4) reported that even though Dr Meyer-Bahlburg claims very little is
known about the action and influence of the genes, he emphatically rejected any
suggestion XXY individuals were intersexed:

XXYs are not intersexed, defined as a condition where the phenotype
expression [physical appearance] of primary sexual characteristics is
at variance with one’s genetic sex…. But old myths/misunderstandings
live on…. (Mulkern 2000, p.4).

It seems, therefore, Meyer-Bahlburg’s definition efficiently discounts XXY as an
intersex condition. Nevertheless, analysed more closely, his definition is illogical and
inconsistent in itself, for it assumes that XXY is not an intersex condition even before it is
associated with a ‘phenotype expression’. Rather Meyer-Bahlburg seems to be suggesting that XXY actually exists within the binary of XY: thus, somehow, the extra sex
chromosome has disappeared from the equation. It also appears Meyer-Bahlburg is
perpetuating the idea that one’s physical appearance, and especially one’s genitals,
determines one’s sex and gender. Yet he himself admits he is at a loss to explain the
increased incidence of transsexualism amongst XXYs compared to the XY population
(Mulkern 2000, p.4). Possibly, Meyer-Bahlburg’s self contradiction is caused by his
inability to accept that one’s chromosomes may play a role in one’s sex and gender
identification. He is, therefore, drawing upon the comfortable binary myths, derived from
a discourse historically controlled by a patriarchal culture (Bing and Bergvall (2000, p.6).

Great post

nice to read somebody talking some common sense.

x

Meyer-Bahlburg is following the traditional definition of intersex conditions which focuses almost exclusively on "ambiguous" genitalia. Under this definition, 47 XXY is not considered a "true" intersex condition despite the decidedly feminized phenotype produced by the genotype.

There's a lot of common threads in the way intersex people and trans people are pathologized by the medical-psychological establishment, especially the constant obsession with what is or isn't between our legs.

Thank you, my brother, for this insightful piece about the barriers to human legitimacy in our affirmed roles that trans, and especially transitioned, people face. When intolerant folks ask me that inane question about God's mistake, I respond that old Doc Merrell, in my little Southern coal mining home town near the Mississippi River, made a mistake when he assigned me as "male" without extending the courtesy of asking me first.

As a fertile, mentally competent XXY androgyne who presents as an intersex bisexual transgender transsexual, without even trying hard, the medical community appears largely to be a bunch of ignorant and close minded arrogant bigots who understand nothing, are incapable of observing what is in front of their pie holes, and has, to date, brought forth little useful (unbiased, accurate, properly researched) knowledge on this subject.

The exalted academic medical community, like the rest of our inhuman society, abandons any pretense to rationality or useful thought as soon as it starts talking about males and females at all, rather than working with a continuum of masculinity and femininity.

As far as I can determine, even the most sympathetic and respected practitioners in the area of transgender medicine really don't understand the significances of what they are doing, even in such simple matters as prescription of TS hormone therapy, which, with doctrinaire authority based only on ignorance, decrees that males should be forced to be female and females forced to be male, rather than allowing each person to find their own comfort zone. Similarly, our primitive attempts at SRS offer few if any intermediate alternatives.

I have explored the fallacious medical reasoning that results from misapplication of binary classification models in the area of sex and gender in a recently published paper, which you can download in original form from: files.me.com/ldmjr/wyjtu1.

Having both XX and XY capability within my body’s cells, I have the best of both worlds, as my body responds to both masculinizing and feminizing hormones simultaneously. Perhaps this gives me a broader perspective on the challenge we all face.

Eliminating the defective application of statistical decision making techniques from medical research is a major long-term problem for human science that is hardly addressed at present, but invalidates far more misconceptions than just confusion over the concept of trangender. There clearly are practitioners who are open to learning and we must be diligent in educating them. My good friend Jennifer Barge (transhealthcoordinators.com) is a leader is this work of educating physicians to trans realities.

Hi Dan,

I downloaded your paper in the wee hours of the morning. I found it interesting. I will have to look at it more closely. I find the fact that you are fertile very interesting. I understand that the incidence of people who karyotype is underreported because it is estimated that one third of of people who have an xxy karyotype are fertile and do not end up in fertility clinics where they would be screened.

I have a lot of xxy friends. I find I have many things in common with many of my friends, physically and temperamentally. Many of the xxy people I am friendly with, I think, would consider themselves intergender or simply intersex with all the implications being intersex carries with it rather than transgender. I am aware there are many, maybe the vast majority, who do not consider themselves intersex but prefer to think of themselves as xxy males. I think most of my friends prefer to be thought of as being of an xxy karyotype rather than as having Klinefelter's Syndrome because they do not share all the characteristics that are commonly associated with the small sample of patients Klinefelter studied.

None of my xxy friends are transsexual. Transsexual people have specific needs that I know many of my xxy friends who are not transsexual have difficulty understanding. There is some comprehension, however, otherwise Michael Noble wouldn't have mentioned the high incidence of transsexualism in the xxy population separate from the general xxy population and much higher than the general population.

I find Michael's paper interesting because he points out in a way that is very clear that not only is gender socially constructed but it can be demonstrated very effectively that sex is also socially constructed. This, I believe, is very important to understand if anyone is going to understand the reality of the existence of intersex and transsexualism which are most often erased. In fact I find it very disconcerting how the phenomenon of transsexualism is dismissed and erased by the term transgender which is far too encompassing to have any meaning for people who are transsexual.

You wrote:

"As far as I can determine, even the most sympathetic and respected practitioners in the area of transgender medicine really don't understand the significances of what they are doing, even in such simple matters as prescription of TS hormone therapy, which, with doctrinaire authority based only on ignorance, decrees that males should be forced to be female and females forced to be male, rather than allowing each person to find their own comfort zone. Similarly, our primitive attempts at SRS offer few if any intermediate alternatives."

I have had a lot of problems with endocrinologists for the very reasons you point out. I would have to make this post much longer than it is already to elaborate what I have been through. I believe a lot of the reasons for this are because of the emphasis on transsexualism being a matter of gender when it is really about biological sex. Not everyone's body is the same. The notion of generic male to female "transgender" can be harmful and result in exposing people to unnecessary risks when it is poorly understood how different peoples bodies can be.

As far as SRS is concerned, I can assure you from my personal experience that there are very competent surgeons out there and it is a very efficacious procedure for most transsexual people. There is a lot of prejudice and misunderstanding about this which feeds into the problem of availability, cost, number of qualified surgeons available and training.

I have heard and read about many horrible experiences some intersex people have had with surgeries forced on them to conform to a sex of rearing. In such cases irreplaceable sensate erectile tissue is removed and there is a lack of homologous erectile tissue to construct a vagina. Many people who have such non consensual surgeries forced on them, also, often have profound gender identity and sexual orientation conflicts with the sex assignments imposed on them.

I am aware of xxy and androgen insensitive people who were raised male who had mastectomies in their teens, others who are upset with the masculinizing hormone therapies imposed on them. I was supposed to have masculinizing genital surgery in adolescence.

I don't want to overlook the fact that there are risks involved in any kind of surgery. I don't want to be insensitive toward anyone who has had bad experiences. I strongly sympathize with them and acknowledge that I was aware of such risks going into surgery. I am very grateful I didn't suffer any complications. I do think, however, characterizing SRS as something that is "primitive" feeds into the kind of prejudice and stereotyping people of transsexual experience are unfairly up against.

Brianna Harris | November 6, 2010 1:42 AM

Amen Brother!! As a post-op male to female transwoman I could not agree more. I, too, believe that "God" made me this way for a reason. He also made me intelligent enough and verbally proficient enough to speak out and to help to educate those ignorant asses out there that would pass judgement on us. I am not "confused" and I certainly am NOT mentally ill. I was born with a fairly major birth defect which I have since had corrected through Genital Reconstruction Surgery and I am now as I should always have been.

We still need transgender 101, even in 2010.

Regan DuCasse | November 6, 2010 12:22 PM

This is why I come here. This is why I thank folks who are willing and able to lend their experience to people like me who require and thoroughly embrace being educated on this.

I could never believe that there is only supposed to be one or two kinds of normal, and other factors of diversity or variance in our species is a defect.

DUDE!
You ROCK!
Everything you said I agree with. Its clear, concise and plain spoken. I wish those who don't come here would read it from start to finish. Just to gleen a bit, just a bit of insight into those of us who are part of the gender binary.

Wonderfully, thoughtfully written. For many of us it has taken a lifetime to sort through all the false assumptions both scientific and sociological to discover ourselves as transgendered people. I too believe God blessed me to be transsexual and finding this Truth has set me free to be the person God made me. I have never been happier.

Ricka

I know the author well. It's a crying shame that he wasn't able to put his name on this because he truly deserves every bit of the kudos coming his way for this post. Bravo!

Michael Noble | November 12, 2010 11:11 PM

Hello Edith,
Michael here, the author of the article on Representations of Klinefelter Syndrome. Many years ago, I was one of those advocating the addition of 'I' to the identity acronym GLBT. Now I realise this was a mistake, as it suggests to people that Intersex is an identity, and belonging to the GLBT identity spectrum at that. The problem is that most people born XXY have a clear male and heterosexual identity. We can argue all we like about how sex, gender and sexuality are social constructs, but its how each individual perceives or identifies themselves, be they XY or XXY, that matters.
I realise that the 'queerisation' of intersex threatens to silence all those intersex people who do not also identify as GLBT. Its bad enough for someone to discover they have an additional X chromosome, let alone being told that they are must also be queer!
My raising of this concern in other GLBT forums has met with howls of outrage.