I’m going to introduce a rather challenging topic this month. Challenging, not because
of any cultural or societal issues, but because of three very different reasons. The first
relates to my own learning curve on the topic. It has only been over the past few years
that I have been close enough to people who identify themselves as transgender persons
to ask the questions I feel I need to ask in order to truly understand the underlying
psychological, emotional, physical, sexual, and intellectual energies that combine to
make up the complexity of the individual. Up until then, my knowledge came solely
from books, which I felt was like reading about men, without ever really meeting one,
or understanding that every single one is uniquely different.
The second reason this article is so difficult is that although there are some generalities
that can be made about individuals who identify as transgender persons, just like we
can say that men in general are less in touch with their emotions than are women,
we can all come up with examples of men and women who don’t meet this generality.
Finally, the specialists who work in the field of research on Transgender Persons and
the Transgender Community do not agree on many of the issues that relate to the
Transgender Persons. Plus, there are significant differences between those individuals
transforming from male to female and those transforming from female to male.
So let’s start out with a definition – and please, folks – don’t write me if you don’t agree
with this one. There are any number of definitions. I’m just going to present one with
which most of us in the health community are comfortable. Let me add here, that
being a Transgender Person is in no way considered a mental health or an emotional issue.
Sometimes, however, the societal and family discrimination associated with it can
cause significant emotional pain for the individual.
The following definition comes directly from The American Psychological Association:
Transgender is an umbrella term for persons whose gender identity, gender expression,
or behavior does not conform to that typically associated with the [gender]
to which they were assigned at birth. Gender identity refers to a person’s internal
sense of being male, female, or something else; gender expression refers to the way a
person communicates gender identity to others through behavior, clothing, hairstyles,
voice, or body characteristics. ‘Trans’ is sometimes used as shorthand for ‘Transgender.’
While Transgender is generally a good term to use, not everyone whose appearance
or behavior is gender-nonconforming will identify as a ‘Transgender Person’.
It is also important to note what Transgender is NOT. Transgender has nothing to
do with: a) Genetic Sex: (XY, XX, XYY, XXY, etc.) There exist also people with more
than 3 sex chromosome; b) Physical Sex: (male, female, combination, androgynous).
This category reflects outward sexual appearance at birth, including the presence or
absence of typified sex organs; c) Sexual Orientation: 4 (same sex, other sex, multiple
sexes, neither sex). This category refers to the sex and/or gender to whom someone is
physically or romantically attracted.
To clarify, Transgender has nothing to do with Sex and everything to do with Gender.
That is why the term Transsexual can be so misleading and why the term Transgender
is less confusing and causes less projection on the part of the uniformed. To confound
the issue even further, many people who this article defines as Transgender reject the
term altogether, along with other related terms (Transsexual, Crossgender, etc.).
In closing for this month, I’d just like to add that none of the ways of identifying oneself
is a CHOCE nor is it a choice as to how one chooses to live. They are all biologically
determined. I hope by my putting the information out I have educated some of you
who were brave enough to stop and read about a topic that many simply do not
discuss and do not even know who to ask [you might be surprised]. In the next issue
of Southern Maryland Woman, I will provide more direct questions and answers on
what someone who identifies as a Transgender Person must face as he or she transitions
from one gender to another, or how parents may wish to respond [and NOT
respond] if their child is exhibiting signs of gender identity issues.
GENDER IDENTITY GROUP - I’d also like to announce the start of a group for all persons
who identify as or who have questions about being TRANSGENDER; or perhaps are
dealing with body dysmorphic disorders in some other way. I am opening up this
group to anyone in the community who is addressing related concerns in his or her
life, no matter where you are in the process of your transition or whether you are just
questioning your sexual identity. This group is not for parents or loved ones of Trans.
Start Date: July 2, 2014
When: Every Wednesday Night
Schedule: Meets weekly
Commitment: Weekly attendance, unless out of town or ill
Time: 7:15 – 9:30 [2 hours 15 minutes]
Fee: $75.00 per meeting [scholarships available]
Age: over 18, or 16 with parental approval
Transgender people continue to face discrimination in all aspects of life across our
country. It is my hope that this group in some small way cam begin to educate our
community and over time end discrimination and ensure that Transgender people
have access to equal rights and opportunities.