May 27, 2015
The following was written by Diane Ehrensaft, Director of Mental Health at the Child and Adolescent Gender Center at University of California, San Francisco. Ehrensaft’s clinic is devoted to the controversial practice of sterilizing pre-pubertal children with off-label medications which stunt the growth of their genitals and reproductive system, preventing them from ever maturing. The formerly healthy children are then made dependent on cross-sex hormones, and the medical system, for life. Ehrensaft’s rationale for this practice is outlined in the writing excerpted below. The full text can be read here.
[*For the sake of clarity, each usage of the term “gender” in the text below has been replaced with the term “sex-role”.]
“In traditional theories, it is assumed that children clearly know their own [sex-role] by the age of six, based on the sex assigned to them at birth, the early knowledge of that assignment, the [sex-role] socialisation that helps a child know how their [sex-role] should be performed and the evolving cognitive understanding of the stability of their [sex-role] identity. Yet if a child deviates from the sex assigned to them at birth or rejects the rules of [sex-role] embedded in the socialisation process, they are assumed to be too young to know their [sex-role], suffering from either [sex-role] confusion or a [sex-role] disorder.
Following this logic, if you are “cis-[sex-role]” (your sense of your [sex-role] matches the sex assigned on your birth certificate), you can know your [sex-role], but if you are trans-[sex-role] or [sex-role]-nonconforming, you cannot possibly know.
Yet a macro survey of trans-[sex-role] adults conducted in the US indicated that a large proportion of respondents knew at an early age what their true [sex-role] was – they just kept it under wraps because of social stigma in their childhood years. So we could say that [sex-role]-creative children can possibly know their [sex-role] – and do, at a very young age.”
“Over the course of time, if we do not impose our own reactions and feelings on the children, like the ones above, and allow a space for their [sex-role] narrative to unfold, the [sex-role] they know themselves to be will come into clearer focus. From there we can give them the opportunity to transition to the [sex-role] that feels most authentic, followed later by the choice to use puberty blockers to put natal puberty on hold and later cross-sex hormones to bring their bodies into better sync with their psyche.
If we do not give them this opportunity, they may feel thwarted, frustrated, despondent, angry, deflated – feelings reflected in the symptoms correlated with being a [sex-role]-nonconforming or [sex-role]-dysphoric child. The root of these symptoms is not the child’s [sex-role], but rather the environment’s negative reactions to the child’s [sex-role].
When acceptance and allowance of the child to live in their authentic [sex-role] replace negation or suppression of a child’s nonconforming [sex-role], the symptoms have been known to subside or disappear completely, much to the surprise of those caring for the child. We might even consider [sex-role] as the cure, rather than the problem, privileging the child’s ability to not only feel, but know their [sex-role].”
September 23, 2014
December 9, 2013
I was definitely not one of the “I knew since I could think” trans people, but then again, I have always had my head in the clouds. I didn’t even begin to question my gender until 23, but looking back it makes a lot of sense.
WALL OF TEXT!
So while I don’t remember asking my parents when I would grow a penis like my brother, I do remember the fits I pitched since kindergarten over wearing formal girl clothes (my only memories from going to the opera, and my grandfather’s funeral). I also roleplayed exclusively as male (or neutral), and all of my closest stuffed animals were male by default. If chick flicks are correct, I also may have been one of the only young girls to never daydream about my wedding, and I told my mom at 11 that I never wanted babies because pregnancy grossed me out. She said I would change my mind, but I never did.
Then when I hit puberty, I wrestled with the question of “am I a lesbian?” I wrestled because it didn’t make sense – I was definitely attracted to guys, and yet all of my heroes were male. Every character in book or movie, every musician, every real life friend, that I identified with most was male (I did have close female friends as well, but they were never of the ultra-girly persuasion; and even then I preferred mixed company above all). At 15, my parents made a rule that every other Sunday at our casual-dress church, I had to wear a skirt or dress. I still remember the day some of the girls passed me a note saying how pretty I looked in my dress; they meant to make me feel good, but it made me feel terrible.
College was a happy time of doing whatever I wanted and making friends with whoever I wanted. I didn’t think about gender much. But when I got my first serious boyfriend, I was mystified by a vague sense that my being female put a limit on the love I could give; it felt as though our relationship would simply “make more sense” if I were male. Interestingly enough, I’m pretty positive to this day that he is gay. I felt this way with my second serious SO as well, and even though I love(d) him and married him, I felt deeply uncomfortable with every formal situation, including (especially..) our marriage. I didn’t feel like myself, and it made me doubt our love. Everything felt fake and off.
Soon after being married, SO and I ditched gender roles and things seemed to improve. But strange things kept cropping up – I began a collection of thrift store leather shoes, but I just knew that I didn’t like them like a girl liked them – more like how a gay man likes shoes. We talked about how we didn’t want children, and yet even though the thought of being a mother makes me want to blow my brains out, I connected with the idea of being a dad. Then, we left our religion. The archaic gender roles I had been bucking against we’re no longer there, and yet, I was surprised to find that I connected even less with being female, even when I felt free to be whatever kind of female I could dream of. Then began the depression after sex – mostly if we did light, stereotypical roleplaying. Then I just got depressed after every time we had sex, no matter the kind.
Around this time, I discovered transgenderism. At first I thought it wasn’t legitimate. Then I thought it was. Then I knew it was. The respect and admiration I had for the whole slew of male role models I had collected over the years suddenly morphed into a deep jealousy of sorts. I threw out my lingerie. Stopped wearing makeup. Started binding. Stopped shaving. Starting thinking of myself as a man, not as a woman who didn’t quite fit in, even with herself. I told my SO. I told my brother, my mom, and my best friend. The depression after sex instantly disappeared. People (and dogs!!) started thinking I was a man as well, or at the very least a lesbian.
That’s where I am now. I’ll admit that I still go back and forth on whether or not this is “real” – sometimes even in the same day. But what I do know is that I feel prouder, taller, and healthier than ever before in my life.
I’ve known I wanted to be girl for my entire life. When I was a kid and even a teenager I spent a lot of time imagining ways that would transform me into a girl. I though of everything from magic spells, aliens performing experimental surgeries, mad scientists unleashes nanobots, pills, etc. I frequently found myself imagining myself as a girl in everyday situations such as watching TV or attending school.
I started to find that I was attracted to men in my teenage years, although I still had a physical reaction to women. I didn’t want to admit that I was “gay”, so I simply told myself that I was bi. I watched nothing but lesbian porn because I knew I’d have a reaction to watching anything with a man in it, and I was scared of that. I frequently found myself putting myself in the place of the women in these pornos, and those fantasies would often lead to imaginary sex with men with me as the woman. After all, it isn’t gay to have sex with men if you’re a woman.
I should probably mention that I spent my teenage years in Alberta, which is basically Texas Junior. It’s not a very progressive province. I was scared to admit that I was attracted to men because I was bullied enough growing up with having to deal with any potential homo/trans-phobia. This attitude lead me to repress any “non-manly” feelings and desires that I had. I figured that I might be able to “fix” myself if I could only be more of a man. I also bullied my two younger brothers a lot for showing any signs femininity at all.
Towards the end of my teenage years and the beginning of my 20’s I started experimenting with new types of porn because lesbian porn simply wasn’t doing it for me anymore. I eventually found furry porn (short lived) and that lead me to futanari and “shemale” (hate that word) porn which lead me to transformation and gender-bender porn. At the same time as I was doing this I started running into significant problems academically.
I had moved half way across the country to attend university in Ottawa. I completely bombed my second and third year and ended up failing out. I simply couldn’t deal with all the problems I was having alone. I had no friends, and I constantly lied to my family over my academic status. Without anyone to push me forwards I just sort of stalled. I eventually got some help and therapy to help with my social anxiety. I was eventually able to get special permission from the university to start taking classes again. I’m now half way through my 3rd year and I’m doing much better, although things are by no means going as well as I’d like academically.
During this time I hit some real lows. I started to consider that my issues might stretch beyond simply anxiety. I also started to learn about transgenderism by coming across the occasional article/story/post/etc on Reddit. It was like everything suddenly made sense to me. I came to the conclusion that I was trans and that I wanted to pursue transition.
This realization came about 1.5 years ago. Unfortunately I had sort of let myself go due to hating just about everything about my physical appearance. I spent the next year working on losing weight and generally improving how I treated my body. I was able to drop from 200 lbs all the way to 132 lbs, giving me a BMI of 18.5. I’ve been able to fix a lot of the problems I have had with my skin and hair, although years of neglect have done their damage (stretch marks huge pores, uneven skin tone, etc). There were times during this period where I flipped back and forth between deciding to transition or not, although these were mostly caused because I’d look at myself and think that there was no hope. At one point I actually shaved my head and lost about 4 inches of hair that I really wish I had right now.
I started hormones 5 months ago and things have been much better for me since then. I still have issues that I’m working on, but overall I’ve been doing better than I ever have. My biggest concern at the moment are some of my decidedly masculine facial features (nose, brow ridge, and facial hair mostly), but I know that all of those can be fixed with surgery. I’m saving for FFS and focussing on my studies. I know that deciding to transition was the best decision of my life. I don’t even regret my previous academic and social failures because they are what led my life in the direction of transition.
The following is an excerpt from the Gay Lesbian and Straight Education Network (GLSEN) “Model District Policy for Transgender and Gender Non-Conforming Students”, produced in conjunction with Mara Keisling’s National Center for Trans Equality.
Full PDF here:
From the GLSEN website: