June 18, 2014

Clearing up the confusion about Transgendered People and Gender Non-Conformity: Getting the medical

 Clearing up the confusion about Transgendered People and Gender Non-Conformity: Getting the medical and psychological facts.

The word transgender has been in the news a lot lately. Last week Times cover story featured LaVerne Cox, the transgendered star of the Netflix series Orange is the New Black. This week in Syracuse Mayor Stephanie Minor urged state legislators to pass Genda, a bill to protect transgendered folks from discrimination and, on June 22nd, the Rev. Dr. Cameron Partridge will become the first transgendered person to preach at the Washington D.C.’s, National Cathedral.   

Although Time says that America is reaching a tipping point for transgender acceptance, there are other indications that many folks are still miss-informed and non-accepting. For example, the Southern Baptist convention recently passed a resolution specifically condemning both transgender surgery and any laws which protect transgendered civil rights. Locally, a Syracuse radio host openly made fun of transgender surgery on his show. 

In deed the phenomenon of gender non-conformity is still mysterious to most people. Today we’ll explain 1) what the transgender phenomena is, 2) clear up some common misconceptions about trans gendered people and 3) provide some basic facts that people need to know regarding this widely misunderstood and highly persecuted minority.

      What is gender dysphoria or the condition of being transgendered ?   What causes      gender dysphoria  or gender non-conformity?  What is transgender surgery?

To begin a word about terminology. The transgender condition is referred to by different names including, transsexual, non-conforming gender identity and gender dysphoria.

  • A transsexual is a person whose gender identity does not match his/her body. Many describe it as being trapped inside the wrong body.  (Just imagine for a moment what it would be like to look in a mirror and see a body which did not match the gender of person you knew yourself to be.)
  • The answer to this question is very complicated and is not fully understood. It is widely acknowledged that gender non-conformity is rooted in an organic cause. For some is it is a chromosomal ambiguity. For example whereas most folks are xx (female) or xy (male) there is a condition called Kleinfelter’s Syndrome, where in the person has some chromosome combination which is both xx and xy. For others, there may have been born with both male and female genitals. This is called and inter-sex condition. And for still others brain structure or anomalies in pre-natal brain development can result in this condition
  • Transgender or gender clarification or gender reassignment surgery is a medically necessary transition process (which also includes psychological and hormonal therapies) where in the outward physical appearance matches the inner self-awareness with respect to gender. Typically for male to female surgery, it involves removing the external sex organs and re-fashioning vaginal opening. It also can involve other surgeries to shave the Adam’s apple and other facial alternations. For female to male, it involves removal of the breasts, the reproductive organs, and a reshaping of the labia into a penis. (Transitioned males can’t impregnate women and transitioned females can’t conceive.)  

What are common misconceptions about Gender-Nonconformity?

--Transgender folks:

Are confused or mentally ill, 

Chose their “lifestyle”

Are say,

Are sexual deviants or perverts,

Actors or transvestites.

--Transgender surgery is not medically unnecessary.

What are the medical and psychological facts about folks who experience gender dysphoria or who seek or who have had transgender surgery ?

  • Gender dysophoria is not a mental illness and has an biological basis. (Gender-Non conformity is real.  It is not learned behavior and is not caused by parenting or trauma.)
  • Transgendered people are normal people in every way except for the disparity between their bodies and their gender identification. Although we think that one’s gender is always determined by ones external sexual characteristics, it is not always true. For transgendered folks, there own personal awareness is determinative.     
  • Transgender surgery is a medically necessary procedure (which brings a person’s outward physical appearance (gender-wise) in line with his or her’s internal self-understanding of his or her self. It is not frivolous.) 
  • Transgendered people are a heavily persecuted and discriminated against minority (who experience extremely high rates of suicide and homicide.)

The Rev. Michael Heath, LMHC, prepared these comments for Bridge Street 6 18 2014.

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