Not My Child

I wrote a short version of this for a mailing list in 1998.

I was asked to turn it into an article which appeared Issue #19 of “Anything That Moves”

Disowning and Other Abuses of Transchildren

“You are not my child.”
“Get out you goddamned freak.”
“Get out and don’t ever come back.”
“Go live with the rest of the fucking queers.”

As a public service announcement of a few years ago said, words can hurt as badly as a fist, and cut as deeply as a knife.

There is a platitude that says that parents always love their children. It is not always true. LGBT/T children are regularly disowned – and the streets of the big cities are filled with these children. These kids don’t just “all of a sudden” get kicked out for no reason. They are the children who were caught dressing up at young ages, and had their love and emotional support withdrawn. They are the children of “religious” families who get kicked out because “God hates queers.” They are the children who have been abused by psychology, institutionalized with Gender Identity Disorder in institutions that try to make the boys act masculine and the girls act feminine… at least until they max out the psychiatric insurance.

All too often, kids who have been disowned and kicked out of their homes are told that they should strive to tame their parents’ wrath: “Send books. Keep the channels open. Try harder to make your parents understand. After all, they are your parents, and deep down they love you.”

You wouldn’t tell an abused spouse to keep trying to mend the relationship with her/his abuser. Don’t tell a disowned child to keep trying. Better advice would be to seek out the support and counseling needed to heal.

I know I probably sound cold beyond words, but some families are really toxic. One girl I knew moved here from Mexico with her family when she was three. After her parents became legal citizens, they legalized her brothers and sisters. Because she was a gender queer, they wouldn’t legalize her. They kicked her out instead. Another of my friends’ family read Kaddish [a Jewish funeral service] over her and declared her dead.

Gender psychologists classify transsexuals as “primary” or “secondary” depending on whether they came out (or were forced out) early in life, or later in adulthood, respectively. One of the main differences between these two groups is that Primary TSs are far more likely to have been thrown out of their houses and disowned for being obvious gender queers. Activist Riki Ann Wilchins calls this transparency – the inability to pass as “gender normal.” Gender queer kids never really enjoy the luxury of coming out. Many biological “boys,” unable to mask and hide their femininity, are out from day one, marked and labeled “sissies.” Hiding their gender differences and being able to come out in adolescence or adulthood are luxuries denied.

Sissy. Tomboy. Roll the two words around in your head and ponder the weight of both those words; contemplate the discordance of the two images. Tomboys are cute. They play “boy” games, run around in “boy” clothes, and are generally considered okay. They are not stigmatized – at least, not until they hit puberty.

On the other hand, little boys who play with dolls and wear “girl” clothes are immediately stigmatized. Sissies are beaten and harassed at school. If they are discovered dressing up and learning to perform the gender of their identity at home, parental love is withdrawn. I was hit with the reality of what I was one day when I was 11, when my parents caught me wearing my mother’s clothes. In an instant, I went from being a sissy to being a queer. In that instant, my life was turned upside down. A wall of ice descended, and I immediately felt the loss of my parents’ love. I realized I was no longer their child.

A few years ago, a woman who had thrown her gay son out because his queerness was against her religion publicly repented and wrote a really weepy book after her son did a half-gainer off an overpass in front of a semi truck. I don’t feel her pain. She was an asshole for disowning her son. Both she and her son would have been better off if she had found another church.

In late October 1998 the Georgian County Day School threw out “Alex” McLendon for adopting a female gender identity. A newspaper photograph showed her wearing jeans, sports shoes, and a long-sleeved striped T-shirt; the accompanying caption said Alex was dressed as a female. Basically, the clothes were neutral; they took on the perceived gender of their wearer. Now, Alex will be home-schooled because she identifies as female. She has already encountered the first reduction of her civil rights. Unfortunately, the chances are high that Alex will continue to encounter such reductions in her rights for the rest of her life.

In the highly accurate movie Ma Vie en Rose, a young transsexual child’s family is hounded from their house, her father from his job.

Gender queers are the most visible and least protected element of the BGLT community. They are the most likely to have suffered abuse, and to have emotional problems as a result of that abuse.

The persecution is real.

The very laws aimed at preventing the abuse of children in the labor market work against runaways and throwaway minors. To work as a minor legally, you usually need a work permit signed by your parents. If you don’t have a high school diploma, obtaining even minimum wage positions becomes highly difficult.

I know about these things.

I have lived some of them. I have been a sex worker. I was a drug addict – speed, coke, and pills. I have seen friends OD and die. I have seen a friend murdered because she was working the streets.

My Mexican friend ended up working the streets. She got busted, tested positive for HIV, and was deported to Mexico, where she had no one.

Sex work is, and has long been, a major source of income for throwaway kids. Aside from often being one of the only options available, it is also a powerful lure — to be paid for being desirable, to feel wanted and attractive when all their lives they’ve been told they are worthless. It’s sort of an antithesis to being told, “No one will ever love you or want you. Not a woman. Not a man. Not even a queer man or woman.”

Despite this fact of life, the trans community almost never mentions this disowned sector of itself. Support groups, journals (and more recently, the Internet) have been a major resource for communication within the TS/TG community, but within these forums, class differences often become apparent. Far too often, the poverty experienced by many transsexual women as a result of the stigma attached to their very being goes unacknowledged.

To judge the trans community by these forums, groups, and by the journals’ targeted readerships, the majority of MTF transsexuals appear to be middle-aged, currently or formerly married to women, and overwhelmingly attracted only to women. The idea of attraction to men is usually tacked on almost as an afterthought, applied to all except post-ops.

The transsexual community seems itself perpetually split between those who are protecting what security they have managed to accumulate, and those too busy just trying to get any at all — a divide which falls along predictable age and class lines. Where their money comes from is a question which largely goes unasked. The answers, when located in the back pages of urban papers, parts of Los Angeles’ Santa Monica Boulevard, San Francisco’s Tenderloin district, and parts elsewhere, are not different – they are a part of the trans community, and deserve a voice too.

What can we as a larger queer community do? LGBT/T continuation schools are a good start. Teen shelters that are open to runaway/throwaway transchildren would be great. Employment counseling and job placement would help. Sex workers need the same legal protections as non-sex workers, and the same right of dignity in profession. And for all transsexual and transgendered people, inclusion in civil rights legislation such as Employment Non-Discrimination Act, on a national level and in statewide initiatives which protect employment rights, would be wonderful.

Trans childhoods don’t have to be tragic. Having loving parents makes a difference. One child in San Diego was very fortunate — when she went to her mother and said, “Mom, I need to be a girl,” her mother acted supportively, and even helped her get surgery as a teenager1. But for every child fortunate enough to have a mother like that, at least five others are out hooking on Santa Monica Boulevard.

The persecution is real.

“Just Evelyn,” Mom, I Want to Be a Girl. 1998 Walter Trook Pub. Imperial Beach, CA. Lib. of Congress CC#; 98-84-72 ISBN: 0-9663272-09.

Suzan  is a baby boomer who came out as herself in the months before Stonewall, 1969. An openly sex-positive bisexual transwoman, she became politically active in the anti-Vietnam War movement, and then in the trans/gay/lesbian/women’s movements. She has now been post-op over half her life, yet remains in her words, “many things and still emerging.”

Joanne’s Observation

“Its neutering in another sense too. Because it denies what we can become. Containing us forever in the “you’re still what you were” world. Most HBS born leave that world behind.”

This is one reason I always call it either a “sex change operation” or “sex reassignment surgery”.  That is what it does and I have little tolerance for mincing words about what it does.

Gender seems like a word game that denies the reality of what the operation does.

If we are ever going to get past psychopathologizing we have to both cut the bullshit and reclaim the power of our own thinking about the matter.

Sometimes it seems like we are pandering or weaseling around about stuff because we are afraid some one will say harsh words to us.

BTW Joanne we should mutually put up links and are you running Google Analytics on your Blog?

Strange Expectations

I was one of those very co-operative sisters when it came to Stanford’s Program and all the follow ups.

Then came a movie called “Bladerunner”.  One of those films that made me think. Harrison Ford played the ostensible hero but I identified with the Replicants, a race created by cloning and manufacturing.

By the mid-1980s the researchers had pulled enough shit for me to start viewing them as the enemy.  Some of the stuff was so weird, the expectations so out of step with what was happening in the world that there was no way to check a box and answer their questions.

On some levels we are almost expected to disconnect the before from the after and the past shaped us even when many of the memories are unpleasent. One of the things about the movie that hit me was that Replicants emerged as adults without a childhood and their makers were attempting to implant false memories of a childhood that never existed.

I used the term Replicant in reference to how Judy Van Maasdam and those doing the follow-up were treating us. It is as though we were created and you want us to function in a stereotypical way.  It is as though we look human but aren’t quite.  She said that I was putting myself down when I said I was a Replicant in their eyes.  I told her that in the movie Replicant was the respectful term.  The slur was “skin-job” and that I had read the work of researchers who might just as well have called us “skin-jobs”.

But back to the memories.  I am writing a book and that has meant examining the aspects of what made me who I am.

I just reconnected with a friend from High School.  She was pretty, bright and kind to me.  She has made me aware that she and other kids watched out for me and were seriously pissed off with the bullies who picked on me.

Stuff like this shaped me.  Sometimes it seemed to me like we were supposed to deny our childhood and invent pasts that didn’t happen in order to please the researchers.

Sometimes and especially with many of the newer gate keepers and the language that gets used with all the gender stuff it seems as though we are expected to recite a set of incantations that would have seemed vaguely psychotic to many of us old timers.

I think I was right to call them on what was turning abusive.

God Doesn’t Make Mistakes!

Stop me if you’ve never heard that one and I’ll give you some context.

The following was on

Parents complain about disabled TV show host

There’s a really disturbing campaign of hate being directed at Cerrie Burnell, a host of the children’s television show CBeebies, who was born missing the lower section of her right arm.

“Is it just me, or does anyone else think the new woman presenter on CBeebies may scare the kids because of her disability?” wrote one adult on the CBeebies website. Other            adults claimed that their children were asking difficult questions as a result. “I didn’t want to let my children watch the filler bits on The Bedtime Hour last night because I know it would have played on my eldest daughter’s mind and possibly caused sleep problems,” said one message. The BBC received nine other complaints by phone.

When I was a little transkid we had a child in our class who was born with Cerebral Palsy.  I started having doubt about the God and mistakes thing at that point.

Those sorts of things upset parents who teach the infallability of the invisible sky daddy.

Then I learned that the Bible considered me a double abomination…  For something I was born.  And that these rules were in a couple of passages that had all sorts of weird rules that almost no one followed.

Part of the prejudice we get from religious people is voiced fairly often as:

“God doesn’t make mistakes.”  Now someone with an obvious physical manifestation sort of negates that one.

On the other hand having a less obvious birth condition allows them to psychopathologize us.

But that thing about not making mistakes.  That one created my own version of the Eppicurian Dilemma.  If God didn’t make mistakes then he must be malevolent to hand some of these things out at birth.  If he won’t cure things like transsexualism by making it go away no matter how much people pay for it to go away then god is either malevolent or impotent.


I get really sick of people excusing their bigotry using religion as a shield to hide behind.

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Harry’s Girls… Say What?

Brielle wrote: "True transsexuals or HB or WPATH, or Harry's Girls (I came up with that one) - It think there needs to be a distinction, a term that is defined by consensus and distributed to media to end all the confusion about the transgender umbrella."

I actually was one of the famous Dr. B’s patients.  In fact he wrote one of my surgery letters.

But I am not one of Harry’s girls.  Nor am I one of Dr. Laub’s girls.

They were my doctors not my parents.  In those days I was Jerry’s girl although in Berkeley slang of the time I was his “old lady” and he was my “old man”.

When I worked for the NTCU, ostensibly under the direction of SFPD Officer Elliott Blackstone it seriously pissed me off to be referred to as one of Elliott’s girls.  Pissed me off on a number of levels because we weren’t really trusted to run our own group.

I was a feminist and I never thought very much of the idea that women should give up their name and take some guy’s name if they married so the idea of being labeled as belonging to a Doctor I saw twice professional and several other time through the Erickson foundation seems pretty silly.

There is no such thing as a true transsexual because from my point of view transsexualism is something, a medical condition you are treated for. With me it is something Iwas treated for a long time ago and not something that is the entirety of who I am.

The only real test at present for “true transsexualism” that passes the Occam’s razor test is having had sex change surgery.

WBT/MBT are short hand ways of saying women born with and treated with SRS for transsexualism.  MBT is for those assigned female at birth who become men.

WPATH….  You don’t even want to mention Whittle/Burns WPATH or PFC on this Blog unless it is in a disparaging manner.

The first step in making a distinction is using TS & TG or Transsexual and Transgender. Correcting people who use just transgender.  Make it clear if someone tries to call you transgender that the correct term for you is transsexual.