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Feb 06 2012

“Reiki For Trans People”

So I was fucking around on Twitter the other day, as I am often wont to do (@nataliereed84, hint hint hint), and happened to catch a re-tweet from some place called trans-health.com. This site has existed since 2001, but sort of fell under the radar for awhile before recently being purchased by transguys.com and re-launched this past December with some very spiffy, slick, professional-looking, doctor-y science-y medicalish graphics.

My initial reaction was interest and excitement. YES, absolutely what we need are good, reliable sources of health information for trans people. As I’ve mentioned, we are frequently put in the difficult and awkward position of having to educate ourselves about transgender health issues and guide our own treatment and care. Most doctors are not provided very adequate education about transsexuality, transgenderism, related treatments and our specific medical needs and risks. That requires us to take on a lot of the work ourselves. Unfortunately, the information that is available can be spotty, unreliable and difficult to navigate. There are conflicting messages, conflicting theories, and even conflicting interests turning the entire thing into a quagmire of politicization, monetary concerns, pseudo-science, theoretical and conceptual debate, alt-med foolishness and cultural stigma that buries science and accuracy and renders the process of conducting research into a mad-cap scavenger hunt… one that requires a certain level of critical thinking skills, skepticism and medical literacy that not everyone who needs to be able to sort the good information from the bad is going to possess.

So I was initially optimistic and hopeful that this seemingly well-put-together website was going to offer a nice, clean, comprehensible resource towards which I could direct people in need of reliable medical information about transgenderism.

I’m a naïve idiot like that sometimes.

One of the very first articles I noticed, as it cycled through the featured article graphic linky banner thingy, was “Reiki For Trans People”. My heart sank. But I gave it a click to see what it actually said. Maybe it would be an honest, scientifically valid appraisal of the relative merits of Reiki and the lack thereof. I’m a naïve idiot like that sometimes, too. But upon reading, my heart sank even further. Behold, and weep the tears of the damned:

“Reiki is different from most other forms of energetic support. Reiki practitioners are attuned with symbols to enhance the transmission of Life Force Energy (unconditional love). Without the use of these symbols, it is not Reiki. Reiki practitioners also do not “take on” the symptoms of any illness. Reiki practitioners are conduits— offering unconditional love for everyone’s highest will and best good. It is like a hose bringing water to a garden after a hot day— a nice, soothing, refreshing feeling. I am sure you have hurt your knee at one time or another. I know I have. When I do, I put both hands on the hurt place. That is Reiki. It is that simple. With clear intentions, you cannot do it wrong.”

Wait… what? What is this I don’t even…?

The same as putting your hands on a hurt knee? So Reiki is an instinctive reflex designed to help us quickly apply pressure to what may be a wound and may be bleeding? What? Or is it unconditional love? Am I unconditionally loving myself when I apply pressure to a wound? Is Reiki like masturbating your knee or something? DOES THAT PARAGRAPH EVEN MEAN ANYTHING?!? AUUUGGGHHHH!!!

“I was taught that before I start a Reiki treatment, I ask the client if it is okay to give that person a loving Reiki treatment. There are two reasons for this. This clearly states that they are open to the healing aspects of a treatment. This also empowers the client to accept their part in their healing. The practitioner is not the healer: the client is. The client accepts the energy and decides where it will go. Reiki cannot be forced on anybody. If the client does not want the energy, Reiki practitioners allow the energy to go into the earth for the best and highest use of the earth. That way, the energy is not wasted.”

Oh… okay. I think I get it now. It’s like Mati from Captain Planet or something. It’s a magic thing, a spiritual belief. But wait…

“Reiki is not connected with any religious belief. While there are some practitioners that have their own religious beliefs, I know other practitioners that do not. Unconditional love does not depend on a religious belief. It just is.”

Um… how are you defining religious belief here? Because if you’re talking about love and energy and earth magic, and you’re putting faith in these concepts, accepting that they “just are”, without any evidence at all, that is exactly the same as religious belief.

“Reiki is not a replacement for any medical treatment or drug. Reiki complements any form of healing modality, whether it be conventional or alternative therapies. I have worked with psychologists and psychiatrists and seen a marked improvement in my clients.”

And you’re sure the improvement wasn’t coming from a) the psychologists, b) the psychiatrists, c) the actual medical treatments you’re “complementing”, or d) time?

I’ll spare you all (and myself) the pain of continuing through the whole thing. If you’re feeling morbidly curious, though, you can read it for yourself. One more fun quote, though:

“a major portion of most of trans people’s concerns seem to be centered around their gender issues.”

No kidding!

I never would have guessed!

Needless to say, I was saddened by the presence of this article on what I’d hoped would be a nice, reliable source of helpful medical information for trans people. We’re in very desperate need of such resources. But when a site goes ahead and throws insanity like this into the mix, it only serves to further confuse the already difficult and terrifying process of transition and managing the health of a transgender body.

It’s not simply a little bit of harmless alternate theories being presented as an option. It is causing direct and real harm to our community. What we need is clarity, accuracy, and real research into our medical needs and how to improve our health, treatment and options. We need improvement in the medical community’s understanding of how to treat transgender patients. We need better understanding, based on evidence, research and proper scientific study. We need better access to information. We do NOT need the “unconditional love” of a stranger (conditional on payment, of course) and “healing energy pathways” and the alignment of our chakras.

Things are not good for us right now, and they could be a lot better. But undermining the credibility of those needs, exploiting our fears and trauma to sell ineffective “healing”, making the ability to acquire reliable information on transgender health more difficult, and muddying the discourse with nonsense like this is directly detrimental to helping our community’s legitimate needs be met and improving the state of transgender healthcare.

Come on Trans-Health.com… you can be a lot better than this.

27 comments

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  1. 1
    Jason Thibeault

    I suspect they can’t, actually, be a lot better than this and continue to be who they are. Which is, woo-peddlers pretending to care about your specific niche market.

  2. 2
    The Lorax

    Sigh, a thousand times sigh, for various reasons.

    Then again, if they re-launched just a few months ago, maybe they’ve done some re-organization and are still in a flux of improvement. Perhaps a well-written email (which you clearly can accomplish) would help steer them toward the more important issues, and away from the completely nonsensical ones? I think you’d be perfect for such a job, considering the quantity and quality of your work on FtB.

  3. 3
    Alexis

    “This also empowers the client to accept their part in their healing. The practitioner is not the healer: the client is. The client accepts the energy and decides where it will go.”

    I accept this healing energy and decide that it will go to my genitals, changing them from male to female. And it will fine tune my skeletal structure to effect a passable feminine appearance both in body and face.

    But first I think I’ll check with the JAMA, Lancet, etc. for peer reviewed studies. What? No such references? It must be a Big Med conspiracy to quash the competition!

    1. 3.1
      Sas

      I’m more worried that they’re gonna wanna put their hands there.

      1. Alexis

        And if it doesn’t work, I obviously am unconsciously blocking their otherwise awesome powers.

  4. 4
    FeministWhore

    “Reiki cannot be forced on anybody.”

    If only I’d seen this earlier.

  5. 5
    Anders

    I don’t know that ‘unconditional love’ would be love worth having.

    1. 5.1
      anarchic teapot

      If it really was unconditional, I might accept it. From my dog anyway, since dogs are daft enough not to know better.

      However, as has no doubt already been pointed out, this love is almost certainly conditional on parting with the moolah. It usually works out at a dollar or euro a minute, including “distant reiki” – I kid you not, it exists.

      I’ve been teasing the reiki bunch over at my own blog. There are some seriously sad and deluded poeple out there.

  6. 6
    Sivi

    @Anders

    Yeah, I start getting pretty twitchy as soon as that phrase is brought out.

  7. 7
    VeritasKnight

    Boom. Boom. Kaboom. That was my head exploding from the stupid.

    Seriously…you’d think that with so much bad advice out there, they’d do something that helps trans people, rather than just give them useless “advice”.

    1. 7.1
      Anders

      Useless “advice” sells soooo much better. After all, to really help trans people they would need surgeons and endocrinologists and stuff*. Here they just need quick mouths and a capacious conscience.

      *I freely admit that this is a guess as to what helps trans people.

  8. 8
    Janice in Toronto

    One more heap of burning stupid.

    Trans people have enough challenges without crap like this.

    Morons…

  9. 9
    Mark Freeman

    Maybe it got included because it used the word “transmission” in the first line.

  10. 10
    Jadzia626

    Alt-med woo peddlers often target vulnerable groups of people. They have been taking the last bits of money and quality of life from dying cancer patients for decades. They would have no problem exploiting trans people too.

  11. 11
    Christianne

    Ow.

    1. 11.1
      Christianne

      Okay. Apparently if I put “headdesk” between tag brackets, it wipes them out. Crap.

      It should read:

      *headdesk*

      Ow.

      1. Xanthë, Amy of my threads

        Since anything in angle brackets gets treated as a tag and probably ignored, what you wanted to type was a fake left-angle bracket: &lt;headdesk> ⇒ result: <headdesk>

        (It’s only for the left-angle bracket that this matters.)

  12. 12
    F [i'm not here, i'm gone]

    Holy. Fucking. Shit.

  13. 13
    Branwen

    This kind of shit is annoying — and every dollar and second sent to alt-med peddlers is money and time taken away from research into actually improving trans* health care (which isn’t much well funded anyway). Seriously… with this kind of effort we could have trials for MtF HRT, a cohort study, tissue engineering… but the trans* community in general seems averse to science, to my chagrin. Not that I blame them — much harm has been done to us in the name of science and medicine — but changing that requires dealing with the respective establishments instead of disavowing them altogether.

    1. 13.1
      Anders

      Agreed. There are so many studies that need to be done. Example: As I understand things, trans people have a two year waiting period living as their preferred sex before they can start treatment with hormones and whatnot. A study I’d like to see done is a long-term study if this actually improves objective outcome measures or if it is completely unnecessary. But such a study would be expensive and difficult to pull off.

      1. Natalie Reed

        Well, for the record, under the current iteration of the WPATH SoC, there’s a one year “real life experience” waiting period required before SRS, but hormones can be started immediately upon attaining approval and a GID diagnosis from a qualified psychiatrist (who can set their own standards for when they’re willing to provide said diagnosis and approval for treatment).

        So the SoC themselves are fairly lenient, however individual doctors may choose to impose stricter policies before administering treatment. Sometimes absurdly strict. One of the principle signs of a “gatekeeper” (who should always, if possible, be fired and replaced with a better doctor) is that they claim the SoC are stricter than they actually are, or dishonestly claim their own personal policies and requirements are in fact official legal requirements and “out of [their] hands”.

        Studies have indicated that the overall expressed satisfaction with transition has actually significantly improved over time as the requirements were eased and the SoC dialed back and made less strict. As ability to access treatment was made easier, the model of transition permitted to be broader (thus no longer obliging patients to be in for a pound if in for a penny), and a wider variety of patient histories being accepted as legitimate and deserving of treatment (thus no longer obliging patients to lie in order to access treatment), the horde of regretful transitioners that gatekeepers feared DID NOT APPEAR. Instead, the exact opposite occurred: patient outcomes improved, and the percentage of those who reported regrets dropped.

        (I think the percentage of individuals who claim to regret transition is currently less than 3% total, which is much lower than the percentage of cis people who report regret with common cosmetic / elective surgeries like BAS, botox injections or rhinoplasty, and the majority of the regrets with transition that are reported are mostly about social consequences resultant from stigma, bigotry, discrimination and alienation from family and friends rather than regret with the physical results of hormones and surgery itself, the latter being reported at rates of less than 1%).

        1. Anders

          And if you understand Gender Identity Disorder it’s easy to see why. Now, I don’t understand GID, but from the suicide rates I must imagine it’s as bad as living with a severe depression, which I do know about. And being forced to wait for treatment for a year just so I can jump through some hoops… this is legalized torture.

        2. Miri

          Even the one year waiting period seems pretty arbitrary. I fail to see what experiencing living as your target gender has to do with having genitals congruent with your gender identity. For those whose dysphoria is very much about their genitalia, it seems quite cruel to make presenting in a particular way for a pretty significant period of time (yes, after years pass, one year is not much, but a lot can happen in a year). It’s not like a person is incapable of living as a gender that does not match their genitalia, given that this is exactly what is required, so there doesn’t seem to be any real reason to deny people SRS at the time that they decide that it’s necessary for them.

  14. 14
    Michael Brew

    I was disillusioned by reiki long ago when I discovered one couldn’t use it to perform the Finger Bang. Well… I mean, not the kind I wanted…

  15. 15
    Tommie Bevan

    I have just started a blog about science related to TSTG including some medical issues. I would appreciate your comments and any suggested issues to tackle. You can see my resume on a blog page.
    Thanks
    Tommie

  16. 16
    Kevin Saldanha

    I was skeptical of any benefit of ‘touch therapy’ until I experienced it myself. It has nothing to do with ‘unconditional love’ or ‘energies’ but internal hormonal changes when there is a perception of caring by someone else (which can even be remote!)

    Please don’t write it off just yet… the power of touch and suggestion on physiology is a subject of intense study right now and producing some interesting results.

  17. 17
    Alanna

    I am not as familiar with reiki as I am with Healing Touch (www.healingtouchprogram.com), which is a similar energy modality, but which is governed by a code of ethics and standards of procedures. The founder of The Healing Touch Program was a nurse, and Healing Touch is affiliated with the American Holistic Nurses Association. There is robust science behind The Healing Touch Program, available on their website.

    When people talk about complementary healing, what they are (or should be referring to) is a treatment that helps speed healing from surgery, helps ease issues with fluctuating hormones, etc. It’s not a replacement for allopathic medicine. And it shouldn’t be all about the money – I know we run a free clinic so that clients can try it out and see if they experience benefits.

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