The Personal Politics of SRS

I’m afraid I have to collapse the wave function on the whole Schroedinger’s Genitals thing I had going for awhile: I’ve not had lower surgery.

Hopefully, that won’t encourage any creepy love-letters (yes, something I’ve actually dealt with. More than once).

The reason I’m mentioning that very personal, and very uncomfortable-to-mention, information is that it’s important for the context in which I’ve been navigating a lot of complex issues lately. A few weeks ago, I was contacted very unexpectedly and out-of-blue-ishly by the people who handle the assessment process for those in the Vancouver/Victoria area of British Columbia who are pursuing vaginoplasty (aka SRS, GCS, lower surgery, bottom surgery, etc.), and they were asking to set up an appointment for the in-person interview part of the assessment. [Read more...]

Blogathon: 21st Hour

Damn.

The birds outside are being total jerks right now. You have like no idea.

I also think it’s important for you to know that my favourite Marvel characters are totally Dr. Strange, She-Hulk, Mystique, Magneto and Emma Frost, while my favourite DC characters are Barbara Gordon, Commissioner Gordon, Renee Montoya, The Doom Patrol, Wonder Woman, Vandal Savage, Lex Luthor and Zatanna. And maybe Dick Grayson. He’s really warming on me lately.

Right now my brain is functioning quite strangely. Sleep dep and all. That stuff.

And as it happens, I’ve lately been questioning the concept of “neurotypical” lately. [Read more...]

Blogathon: 2nd Hour

Okay. 3.5 cups of coffee have been consumed, along with a carrot-spice muffin, and I just got back from getting my 75 ml methadone (dissolved, as always, in a sickly bittersweet orange tang solution) and that should kick in shortly. Should be able to hunker down here for awhile.

Also, it seems my dream was somewhat prescient of today’s actual weather. Dreary, wet, drizzly, gray… absolutely nothing to compel me to wish I was outside instead of in here blogging. What luck.

I guess? [Read more...]

Is Gender Identity Disorder A Disorder?

In 1973, homosexuality was largely removed from the DSM, or Diagnostic and Statistical Manual, the guide to diagnosis and classification of mental illnesses and personality and mood disorders for use by the psychological and psychiatric community. Initially, a vestigial diagnosis, “Ego-Dystonic Homosexuality”, was included in its wake but this too was ultimately shed in 1986.

This stood as a very significant step forward in the normalization and acceptance of homosexuality as a naturally occurring variance in human sexuality rather than a pathological disorder that required diagnosis and subsequent ethically, scientifically and medically dubious “treatment”. It was perhaps the first major success of the gay rights movement, and signified that progress was being made, that the fight was worth fighting.

Similar debates are now occurring within the transgender community regarding the inclusion of Gender Identity Disorder (or, alternately, Gender Dysphoria), in the current edition of the DSM. So much of the thinking goes, if declassification of homosexuality was such a significant achievement for gay rights, such a significant step in the direction of its normalization and acceptance, and was so deserved by the gay community, why does the trans community deserve any different? Are we, comparably, “sick” relative to the “healthy” nature of gay, lesbian and bisexual people?

But I’m not sure these two issues are comparable. I’m not sure it’s wise to assert that Gender Dysphoria is not a disorder. And I’m not sure that any theoretical, abstract benefits of removing it from the DSM would not be outweighed by massive and widespread harm, particularly to the least privileged members of our community, who are most dependent on asserting to the public, the medical community and those in power, that our access to things like hormones and surgery is a medical need, not a “cosmetic” dalliance or “lifestyle choice”.

There are five main points I’d like to address to make my argument on behalf of Gender Dysphoria. [Read more...]

The Comparison Of BIID and GID

I’m sorry, but I’m afraid it has to be another repost today. I’m dealing with some more nastiness right now that hit a bit too close to home. Just couldn’t finish the piece I was working on (“Is Gender Identity Disorder A Disorder?”). I know, I like repetition in titles. It’s a Gertrude Stein “after the flowers of friendship faded friendship faded” kind of thing. Will post it tomorrow, along with part two of my series on fourth wave feminism. This one is originally from Queereka.

A few days ago, Christina Stephens, a friend and partner of JT Eberhard posted a fantastic and fascinating piece on Body Identity Integrity Disorder over at Eberhard’s blog, WWJTD.

BIID, while one of those things that is widely “known of” (in the pub quiz night “ever heard of those people who voluntarily choose to have their limbs amputated” kind of way) is certainly not widely understood. Christina’s article was a wonderfully non-judgmental and well-researched look at the phenomenon. It basically stems from an incongruity between one’s internal “body map”, or the way that the mind or self “expects” the body to be, and the body’s actual physical configuration. This can create a profound sense of alienation, disquiet or disgust associated with a given limb, extremity, sensory ability or virtually any aspect of the body.

As is fairly common to these discussion, Christina referenced comparisons between BIID and GID, Gender Identity Disorder, the underlying condition that drives transsexuality. GID is also a disconnect between internal “body map” and the actual configuration of the physical body, in this case along the lines of gender. It creates a similar sense of alienation, disgust and so on. Specifically, Christina noted a similarity between the types of argument used against an individual with BIID’s right to elect for surgery to ease the incongruity between body and internal self, and noted how many of the same ethical justifications we’ve ultimately formulated for gender transition are applicable to “voluntary’ amputations or other procedures available to individuals with BIID.

These comparisons, however, have a tendency to put me very much on guard. In the comments, I expressed my discomfort with the comparison, with which I have a long and troubled history. I may, however, have jumped the gun a bit and reacted emotionally before giving it full consideration. [Read more...]

Pumping

A few weeks ago I went along to a live recording of the Caustic Soda podcast. It was a bit of dumb thing to do, because I hadn’t yet taken my methadone, it was a Sunday, it was running until eight, and the pharmacy closes as eight. So I had a nice (read: HORRIBLE) night and subsequent morning going through all kinds of nasty withdrawals. But still, I had a great time. I love the podcast, I love gross, weird, creepy, horrible, fascinating things, I love my friends, and all of that was there in abundance.

Though watching the show live, and seeing the images as we went, certain little aspects of the humour started to creep up on me that suddenly felt very uncomfortable. With images of people like the man with the immensely swollen tongue on a screen in front of us, I couldn’t entirely shake the sense that there was a human being beneath the deformity and human stories beneath the superficial analysis we were all, collectively, making and deriving our humour and entertainment from. Where did simply fascination with particularly unique medical phenomena, simple sciencey wonder and curiosity, end and the Coney Island Freak Show begin? Having been subject to the Freak Show Audience’s gaze myself, the notion of being complicit in such a thing, and of deriving my own entertainment from participating in that gaze did not sit well with me. I couldn’t ignore it, and couldn’t simply forget what it feels like to be on the other side of that relationship.

This all got very, very explicit when suddenly the subject of “pumping” came up. Pumping is the practice whereby women (the vast majority trans) inject free cement or silicone into their buttocks, hips, thighs or breasts to achieve a curvier, more feminine appearance. It’s extremely dangerous, yes, but also an extremely nuanced issue. But suddenly, there on the same screen where previously we had seen The Demon Core- Devourer Of Souls, The Man With The Giant Tongue, Dr. Jenna’s Worm-Addled Foot, The Man With The Immensely Swollen Testicles (or did he come later?), we now had a young, black trans woman who had been “grotesquely” shaped by the practice of pumping. And I was now in a room that expected me to laugh along.

The conversation, somewhat expectantly, given the skeptic-oriented panel and audience, went in the all-too-easy direction of chastising these women for having made such a “stupid” decision about their health. For having clearly just not thought things through. For having such an absurd (by THEIR white, middle-class, heterosexual, cisgender standards) idea of beauty and thinking they’d look better doing this. Why didn’t they just see a doctor? Why not pursue standard medical care? Why on Earth would anyone do something like that to their own body? Ewww!

It’s a pretty creepy feeling when someone poses a rhetorical question, meant to only elicit a response of “I know, WTF dude?!” and actually have an answer. Or at least a general sense of the scope of the question, where it leads. A sense that answers exist. [Read more...]

German Trans Girl Forcibly Institutionalized

Remember when I wrote about the 11 year old trans girl whose absentee father was trying to have her committed to involuntary inpatient psychiatric care because he believed she’d been “brainwashed” by her mother into having a female gender identity?

In some of the most appalling, disgusting news I’ve ever heard, the German courts have ruled in favour of the father, forcing her into the custody of psychiatrists who will, theoretically, attempt to “cure” her transgenderism. [Read more...]