Over the last 15 years or so that I have been on line I have evolved from some one who read and posted on various “Trans” Usenet newsgroups and internet forums to first a member of a number of “Trans” mailing lists. Some 9 years ago Tina and I started the Women Born Transsexual mailing list.
I started this Blog in mid February. Add to this some 40 years of experience since coming out. This means I have met hundreds, if not thousands of people over the years who have had their lives impacted by association with one or more trans prefixed words. I’ve read most of the major literature, a ton of biographies. Some much more factual than others and some much better written than others.
I have a pretty wide ranging knowledge base in a number of fields, something typical of those with life long liberal educations supplemented with autodidactism.
This means I’ve read a number of works regarding intersex conditions including John Money and Anke Ehrhardt’s Man & Woman/Boy & Girl as well as the more popular John Money and Patricia Tucker book Sexual Signatures: On Being a Man or a Woman. Another Book on the subject is Dr Richard Green’s Sexual Identity Conflict in Children and Adults.
Not only have I read these works but prior to writing this I went to the library and pulled them from their shelves. Now you might say, “But both Green and Money and Money are discredited monsters?”
I would agree with you except for one thing and that was their co-editing of the Johns Hopkins book Transsexualism and Sex Reassignment in 1969-70. They later drifted with times to far more conservative positions with the rise of the far right wing in both the US and GB. Green was probably never a friend to people with transsexualism but Money was.
In the early days of Sex Reassignment Surgery they decided if one were intersex or transsexual based on one of the cruder tests, a buccal smear and slide stained to look for Barr Bodies, the inactivated x chromosome found in females but not males. For obvious reasons the majority of these tests came back negative. Nonetheless many doctors including Dr. Benjamin as well as the Doctors at Stanford where I had my SRS looked at some of us and said, “There is definitely something going on here that our tests are not finding. You were too feminine before starting hormones for there not to be. Matters like pelvic structure etc.
But as early as 1970 Doctors had become wary because they had been burned badly in a case circa 1960 at UCLA by someone known in the literature as Agnes. Her case is documented in Harold Garfinkel’s book Studies in Ethnomethodology. For those not familiar with the story of Agnes, Agnes was a transsexual to female person who got SRS at UCLA Medical Center in the late 1950s or early 1960s. She presented herself as an intersex person with male genitals and “spontaneously appearing” female secondary sexual features. She claimed these secondary sexual characteristics just developed and swore she did not take any legally or illegally obtained female hormones.
She talked a good act and managed to get one of the first SRS operations that were performed at a major university research hospital in the US. Now I can understand why she did what she did as there were maybe a half dozen places in the world where one could actually get SRS in 1960 and many of them were iffy.
The doctors loved her. Oh, they wrote journal articles about her for JAMA and other prestigious publications. Then a year or two later Agnes fessed up, she was transsexual and those female secondary sex characteristics were the result of her having first stolen her mother’s hormone tablets and later forging scripts for hormones and were not “spontaneously occurring”. But the books and journal articles were already out there.
Now the doctors who had written them appeared to be either morons or dupes taken in by a con artist. Of course they failed to ask the most important question of all, “why?”. Why indeed?
The obvious answer is desperation at being born transsexual in a time and place when one knows SRS is possible but so rare as to bear comparison to early manned space flight that was occurring contemporaneously. Something you knew was possible but so rare as to appear impossible for you to do. Agnes did what she had to do, but she poisoned the well in the process.
All transsexual claims to being intersexed from that day forward were looked upon as being suspect. For what it is worth I can empathize with what those doctors must have felt. Agnes not only flat out lied to them when they were trying to help her but made fools out of them as well.
In doing this Agnes also selfishly damaged study into transsexualism as an intersex condition. At that point it was decided that transsexual and intersex were distinct condition and not overlapping and intertwining ones as earlier researchers had postulated
When I went to Dr. Benjamin and he examined me he observed that I had under developed genitals and was physically rather feminine. But that was pretty much as far as that line of examining me went.
I was receiving public assistance at the time and the social workers in Berkeley thought I would be a perfect test case to attempt to get the government to pay for SRS. The social workers saw me as completely sane and thought I was a great candidate to help set a precedent. So I was examined by four different psychiatrists who all found me sane. Unfortunately those were also the early days of Nixon and his killing of the War on Poverty and Great Society programs that were helping people with transsexualism become something other than sex workers. Instead of them helping me because I was sane and deserved rehabilitative help the new requirements of the more conservative government directives required me to be mentally disturbed and receive permanent disability.
As an autodidact and someone who was working at the NTCU the doctors with the Stanford program were open to discussing details with me and other of the more educated sisters that weren’t discussed with those who lacked the knowledge to actually ask the questions. They were open to input from those of us with carefully considered insights.
After my evaluative screening session with Dr Fisk. I asked him, “In your opinion, nature or nurture?” His honest answer was, “We don’t know. In your case and the case of some others we think nature yet with other people we think nurture.” He then asked me what I thought.
My answer was a bit of both nature and nurture and that I found it hard to not think it was physical with some of the sisters I met and at the same time a lot of people who came to our office seemed pretty crazy.
The thing was that with Hopkins in the 1960s and Stanford in the early 1970s the Gender Identity Clinics were not just places we went to for SRS. They were also research centers. Right from the start they faced a good deal of opposition from people who wanted to shut them down. The Benjamin Standards of Care and perhaps even the GID as diagnosis grew out of efforts to continue to provide SRS to people with transsexualism.
Quite a few doctors believe it is physical just as many people with transsexualism do. We don’t make elaborate claims of various forms of intersex that are contradicted by our lives. One of the biggest contra indicators of would be fathering children. Even those of us who liked boys and never became parents generally tend to not claim improbable intersex conditions.
In the 1990s a couple of people popped up and started appearing every where from the on-line world to the talk shows, magazines and the indexes of serious books. Those people were Cheryl Chase and Kiira Triea.
Interestingly they reared their heads about the same time the talk shows were entranced with Satanic Child Abuse Cults, The McMartin School in Southern California and the supposed million (or some ridiculously high number) of missing children. A number that would have factored out as a child from every school class room in the country and would have had every newspaper in America filled with little else than stories of missing children.
I’ve heard a lot of stories about all these infant sex reassignment surgeries. Heart breaking stories from people who would have had to have had this surgery in the 1950s or 60s. Supposedly vast numbers of people were operated on. Expensive complex procedures in a nation where sex reassignment surgery on adults was extremely rare and the techniques were just being developed
Do I doubt that surgeries were done? No… But I would pretty much bet no where near as often as Tirea and Chase who were then heading up ISNA implied they were.
I was on some of the same mailing lists as Kiira, along with Heike Boedeker, a strangely abusive European who came and went around 2000. At one point Kiira made some claims that triggered my bullshit detector. As a result I began doubting her veracity.
One of those claims was involvement with the Berkeley Women’s Music Collective at a time when Sandy Stone, a WBT was getting seriously trashed by certain lesbian feminists. I had photographed a number of the women who recorded for Olivia Records, the label that the Berkeley Women’s Music Collective recorded on and there was material in Feminist and Lesbian History archives that I had access to. I checked and didn’t find her there. Now she could have used a different name, perhaps Denise Tree and yet I really didn’t find much there but I was reminded of something I had seen happen in the LA Feminist community.
I was involved with Renaissance, a trans-group with Jude Patton, Carol Katz and Joanna Clark (Sister Mary Elizabeth). Someone came to meetings and photographed some of us. Those photos were featured in a feminist publication in conjunction with an excerpt from Janice Raymond’s then doctoral thesis, which went on to become The Transsexual Empire. When these came out my position was one of, “So what… I experience patriarchal oppression and I am a hard working feminist with good solid politics.”
But this other sister claimed she was actually not transsexual but was really intersex. I didn’t think much of it at the time and she wasn’t claiming to be intersex and trashing transsexuals by claiming to be realer than the lumpen masses of women born transsexual.
In that same time frame (circa 2000) I started hearing a lot about Bailey and Blanchard as well as their crackpot theories regarding androphilia/autogynaphilia as the motivating force behind transsexualism in T to F people. One mailing list I was on (Trans-Theory) was invaded by an extremely vicious cabal of people who were sock puppets hiding behind various aliases. They engaged in a brutal assault of people’s sense of self worth accompanied with occasional threats.
One claimed to be intersexed with CAH and accompanying salt wasting. Okay, that sounded reasonable. But why was she coming to a mailing list for Transtheory and pushing Bailey/Blanchard and Lawrence along with praising Janice Raymond?
As time has gone on Andrea James of TS Roadmaps has investigated both Triea and Chase. She credibly alleges them to be frauds as do others. ISNA has fallen apart.
This leaves people with far more credibility such as Sophia Seidelberg and Curtis Hinkle of OII to pick up the pieces and undo the damage done by someone who has become the J.T. Leroy of the intersex movement.
Of note I have noticed that the people who appear to be genuine tend to not be overtly hostile to people with transsexualism who do not tend to appropriate their narratives. Along with our appearing in the same books of early research the approach to sex reassigning that people with transsexualism have of not having such surgery performed without our consent offers a model for people with intersex conditions who wish to exercise existential agency in determining via surgery their membership in one sex or the other.
Even young children are capable of making their desires known regarding which sex they consider themselves to be in a way that infants are not. Consent and self determination should always be the critical factors not doctors or clergy acting as authority figures.
As I said OII has to undo the damage done by Triea.
But it is not an easy task as I have discovered on a mailing list for the discussion of the removal of the GID Diagnosis from the DSM. Like many mailing lists this one seems to have died and only the rot from within remains as it has been taken over by the wailing of people with kitchen sinks full of improbable and often contradictory combinations of intersex conditions.
People who in spite of living as men and never having taken hormones are more women than post-SRS WBTs who have lived 10-20-30 or more years as female.
Surgeries performed I guess while they were carried aloft by space aliens in flying saucers because the likelihood of them having been performed in the time frame, location or by the named person seems virtually nil.
The other thing I have noted is that people making these claims often share a common trait that makes me suspect they have Munchausen’s Syndrome as along with these improbable intersex conditions they also often claim some sort of horrific physical disability or disease. I suspect one is a spazzer (some one who pretends to have a rather profound learning disability). Either way these people are like vampires sucking the life out of groups in a way I have seen ever since I first became involved in feminist and LGBT/T causes.
Their requirements for attention are boundless. They find offense and attack back even postings or in a group statements that have nothing to do with them.
I have seen such people come into gender support groups and destroy them by taking the focus of these groups from mutual support to giving all attention to the person so beset by such a terrible history of abuse. The classic case seen in the media is J.T. Leroy who claimed to having been a child sex worker, the product of an abusive trailer park “white trash” family. I will grant you the books were labeled fiction but people interpreted them as autobiographical. The author J. T. Leroy was a fictional being, a middle aged woman who got another woman to pose as this reclusive and evasive transgender person who was not only an author but who was HIV+ and had lived the life of her characters.
When the truth comes out everyone feels taken and people with legitimate claims suffer.
Transsexualism is in all probability a legitimate intersex condition, more nature than nurture. The evidence keeps mounting for it being physical and although there continue to be staunch defenders of transsexualism being a product of flawed socialization their case seems to offer little beyond increasingly meaningless jargon and post modern babble.
As such people with transsexualism and people with legitimate intersex conditions have far more in common than one would imagine when listening to the people who sound as though they were abducted by space aliens with their improbable claims.