Trans people not crazy: Time to say sorry

The Scavenger again and once again reposted with the permission of  Tracie O’Keefe and The Scavenger:

Trans people not crazy: Time to say sorry

By Tracie O’Keefe

The World Professional Association for Transgender Health (WPATH) has released a statement on its website urging the ‘de-psychopathologisation of gender variance’ worldwide. But while this is a good move, there is still much change needed within the organisation, writes Tracie O’Keefe.

After years of campaigning by many trans civil rights activists and members of WPATH the old psycho-pathologising guard within the organisation has been defeated.

They were a clutch of sexologists, psychiatrists, psychologists and psychotherapists who earned their living from proffering the concept the trans people were crazy.

However over the past 15 years many trans professionals have co-opted themselves onto WPATH’s board and, as I predicted years ago, the lunatics have finally taken over the asylum.

So all is well? No, not quite.

There are now many trans people throughout the world who will retain mental illness on their medical records for the rest of their lives. This will affect them when they apply for jobs, try to get a mortgage, seek medical or life insurance.

The medical records will probably not be expunged so when they fill out an application form and omit that their medical records state that they had a mental illness they will be committing fraud.

Some will never ever be able to work with children, get certain jobs, or be considered as trustworthy and reliable because of that medical record. Some medical schools are still teaching that transsexual, transgender or trans anything identities are mental illnesses.

Now that WPATH has released its statement de-pathologising trans people, will Dr Russell Reid, the consultant humanist psychiatrist and trans specialist who was harassed by a group of psycho-pathologising psychiatrists from Charing Cross Hospital in England (who were members of WPATH), be redeemed for not treating trans people as lunatics?

Russell told me he saw over 4,000 trans patients over the years and a few regretted transition – five officially. That was tragic for those patients who regretted transition but it was a clinical success rate of around 99% – not a success rate that many psychiatrists can claim.

To the remainder of his patients he was one of the kindest men they had ever met and over the years and when I practised in London I saw him save thousands of lives.

But those psychiatrists, who wanted to keep trans identities psycho-pathologised, went after him like a pack of rabid dogs, dragging him up before the General Medical Council (GMC), and tried to ruin his name. It was a witch hunt.

Russell was pounded for not maintaining the WPATH Standards of Care that now apparently don’t exist anymore in that form (namely saying trans people are nuts). Eventually the GMC found him guilty of rushing treatments and not communicating properly with patients’ GPs but as any specialist will tell you, we write thousands of letters to GPs over the years and probably only ever get a handful of responses.

Does this de-psycho-pathologising of trans people mean that doctors can now give hormones out like sweeties? I sincerely hope not because every life change deserves discussion.

Although as a therapist I do not pathologise trans people, I have required them to consider their options very carefully around medical intervention that may be irreversible.

I would take the same approach around someone considering a career change, marriage, divorce, or even committing themselves to a mortgage. Then when people have thought carefully I will support their decision. Everyone has the right to decide their own destiny.

Will surgeons now operate without referrals? I hope not. I have now seen 15 patients who have regretted their transition in other clinics and the recurring theme has always been the same: They never really talked things through before transition.

A surgeon has a clinical responsibility to ensure the patients are ready and suitable for all surgeries – especially those that are irreversible – and since they are not therapists they have to rely on mental health professionals’ referrals. When people are disappointed with reconstruction and plastic surgeries it is often because their expectations were unrealistic.

Now trans people are not crazy anymore, where will the money come from for treatment since they do not have a psycho-pathology?

The answer is simple: The money needs to come from sexual health programs, just like pregnancy, IVF, HIV treatment or menopausal services.

The dire consequences of pathologising trans people

Recently a copy of a short documentary from the UK of a homeless transsexual woman, Sheila, who lived on the streets in London in the 1960s and 70s, was released on the internet.

She is billed as transgender but I met Sheila and she did not identify as transgender but as transsexual. Please stop rewriting our history.

Sheila told me she was refused treatment by Dr John Randall in London. As was the case with many of Randall’s patients, this was because she was not his idea of what a woman should be. He just saw her as a delusional man who lived on the streets and fantasised about being a woman.

I remember she slept in derelict houses down by Shepherd’s Bush roundabout and under the Westway flyover in London. She kept all her worldly goods in a pram and pushed it up the Holland Park Road to the West End each day where she would play the violin to get enough money to eat.

On the way to college I would see her from the top of a red double-decker bus pushing her pram in the rain. Sometimes passersby would spit on her in the street, the police from Vine Street Police Station would harass and verbally abuse her in Soho for their amusement, sometimes working girls would give her money for a cup of tea, and the gangsters who ran the strip clubs would move her on so she did not frighten away the punters.

She had impeccable manners and was polite to all of them. I am not sure what happened to her but someone told me she had been found dead of pneumonia in one of those derelict houses in the early ’70s.

Sheila is one of hundreds of trans people I have seen die through rejection. Either they died in poverty when no one would give them a home or work, turned to drugs, were murdered by real lunatics, arrested time and time again in the sex industry or just ended it all by committing suicide.

Big Pearl grew breasts, then had them cut off, then tried to grow them again and eventually expired on the end of needle full of heroin. Her clinician was a person with no empathy.

Queenie, a trans woman so traumatised by being molested as a child, felt so judged by her psychiatrist that she never trusted a health professional again and also died from one fix too many, as did Stacy and many others.

Tom jumped under a train because his psychiatrist said he was too short to be a man and would not prescribe him testosterone.

I was locked in a mental asylum, strapped to a bed and pumped full of psychedelic drugs at the age of 11 for three years, often in a cell six feet by eight. From the window I could see the strait jacket cells and hear the patients screaming as I wondered if I would ever get out.

“You’re not a girl,” I was told. “Just disturbed.” But when I failed to masculinise in the way the psychiatrists thought I should, they still stuck to their guns and only released me at 15 when my GP threatened to expose them.

It was Maureen, a local drag queen who worked the streets behind a pub in the north of England, who fed me Sunday lunch when I struggled to make ends meet at college. Maureen had an occasional job but it was never long before she was fired again when staff complained about her identity and she went back to street-based sex work.

It was my friend Big Dyke Jamie with one eye who let me sleep on her floor when in the second half of my teens the psychiatrist with his cruel harassment drove me yet again to attempt suicide.

He denied me hormones and insisted I tried to live as a male, so I obtained them behind his back and told him what he wanted to hear, which seemed to change from month to month. Later we buried many of his patients in Earl’s Court cemetery as living on the margins drove them over the edge.

I remember the April Ashley, a former British model, telling me she was strapped to a hospital trolley and given Electro Convulsive Therapy (ECT) at 15 to convince her she was male. Then in the middle of her divorce case in the early 70s medics – including psycho-pathologising psychiatrist Dr John Randall from Charing Cross Hospital – declared her male even though it was clear she lived and identified as female.

The history of how intersex, sex and/or gender diverse people have been treated by the medical profession and society is littered with daily abuse.

This, however, is the history that WPATH wants to keep hidden as it magnanimously exhibits is benevolent charity. It is the history that it refuses to post on its notice board every time I draw it to their attention.

Time to say ‘sorry’?

The Harry Benjamin International Gender Dysphoria Association (HIBIGDA) – as WPATH was previously known – was the major body responsible for the official psycho-pathologising of trans people in the first place.

It was also WPATH (of which I am a self-confessed long-term professional member) that continued the illusion that trans people were crazy and howling at the moon.

Perhaps now might be the time for WPATH to make a public statement saying ‘sorry’.

After all isn’t the new nice association now full of very nice professional trans people themselves who don’t think all trans people are crazy?

Well, not quite.

It seems that WPATH is now dominated by the transgender fascista who believe only people who agree to call themselves transgender are the real sane ones.

All other trans people such as the transexed or transsexuals – like yours truly – are still as nutty as a fruit cake. In fact we are not only non-compliant, difficult, refuse to accept our ‘transgenderness’, we should also be excluded from the proper workings of that association.

Does anyone smell prejudice?

So, will ‘sorry’ do?

Not really. It will just be a hollow holler. To say sorry for past oppression while still being engaged with your present subjugation of people who are not exactly like you is not really sorry at all is it? It is just another game of tribalism and people making careers out of labels of a different kind.

Even if we are not mad as hatters anymore there is still so much work to be done in giving all intersex, sex and/or gender diverse (ISGD) people an equal playing field with the average Joe or Josephine.

Some people are intersex, some have issues about their physiological bodies and others about their gender performance.

Each person is an entity to themselves, so never assume you know exactly what people are. At my clinic we start with using the ‘Ask Etiquette’. You ask someone how they might like to be addressed and how they might identify. It is polite, after all, and very rude to call them transgender when they tell you they are not.

At the moment my friend Norrie is fighting to get back the world’s first ‘Sex Not Specified’ identity documents the New South Wales government in Australia cancelled when they realised how popular it might be.

There are always new frontiers to be forged and those on the edge who breach the barriers of ignorance to teach us, rather than those who set up barriers for their own gain.

As for WPATH and saying ‘sorry’, its board members developing an even bigger conscience, and changing the association’s name once again to a much less offensive one and to be much more inclusive?

We will see. Every dog has its day. Many of us survived and prospered, outliving the last lot of oppressors, and maybe we will survive the transgender fascista too. I’ve seen bigger miracles come to pass.

Dr Tracie O’Keefe ND, DCH is a sexologist practising at the Australian Health and Education Centre in Sydney, Australia. She is the author and/or editor of several books on sex and gender diversity, the latest being Trans People in Love.

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Don’t call me transgender

I have two or three books by Tracie O’Keefe and found them insightful and witty so I am delighted to have her permission as well as Katrina Fox’s permission (editor of The Scavenger) to republish these pieces from The Scavenger

Don’t call me transgender

Tracie O’keefe

Academics and equal rights campaigners are stealing many people’s identities by using ‘transgender’ as an umbrella term for sex and gender diverse people, says Tracie O’Keefe.

Sex and/or gender diverse people come in many forms: intersex, transexed, transsexual, transgendered, crossdressers, androgynous and people who abdicate all forms of sex and/or gender identification (sinandrogen).

Each of these identities are genuine, have their own validity, physical, psychological, social and legal dynamics, and are quite different from each other.

It’s amazing however how many people confuse sex with gender – even doctors, academics, professors and equal rights campaigners, but the two are quite different.

Sex, gender and GOD

Your physical sex is made up of your primary and secondary physical characteristics such as ovaries, testicles, penis vagina, mammary glands and a plethora of physical attributes. Some people are largely male and some largely female but no one is absolutely either, just as no one is absolutely black or absolutely white, nature likes to give itself options.

The clown fish can change its sex from male to female and mate with its brother if they are low on females. Genetic Optional Diversity (GOD) ensures the development, evolution and proliferation of species and always wants options, not necessarily binary or prison like the concept of absolute male or female. GOD also produces the lesbian lizards that are self-fertilizing, have no males in the species, but requires the dance of the beast with two backs by two females to create offspring. Isn’t GOD clever?

Gender is the game of interpretation of the sexes or for some the absence of stereotypical sex characteristic behaviors. You can change your gender performance without changing any of your physical characteristics, it just a pantomime. These are basic sexological definitions that have been set down for many years. If you were a sexologist you would not be able to miss this even if you had your thumbs in your ears and fingers over your eyes.

‘Experts’ adopt ‘transgender’ in health association’s name change

This is why it was confusing and embarrassing to me and many others as a members of the Harry Benjamin International Gender Dysphoria Association (HBIGDA – which proclaimed to be experts on transsexualism) when it changed its name to the World Professional Association for Transgender Health (WPATH). Didn’t the board members take sexology 101?

The association asked for suggestions for a new name that did not have pathology in its title and it received many suggestions. Strangely enough though, the board decided to give only three options on the ballot papers, none of which as a member I voted for.

The intention may have been good but the execution was wholly undemocratic and left many members deeply unhappy with the board’s attempt to rule from the top down.  It begs the question: How many board members authored books or wrote papers with the word ‘transgender’ in the title when they decided to make the vote Hobson’s choice?

Needless to say I did not change from being intersex, transexed or transsexual to become transgendered overnight. Nothing happened except the violation of my identity.

You may think I’m paranoid but in 2009 there was a discussion about this very issue on the WPATH discussion board and the moderator censored members’ points of view. Some members’ views, who did not tow the party line, were sanctioned from publishing.

I accused the board of pushing its own agenda without taking on members’ concerns and of censorship. I was informed that the notice board was only for posting events and then received further emails of discussion only about topics of which the moderator approved. The board did not put the full range of suggestions up for voting and one has to question why.

I know the board did not make this decision in ignorance because I gave a paper on this very matter to the then president so ignorance is no defence. It seems the transsexual mafia of HBIGDA has turned into the transgender fascista of WPATH, and some transgendered members are among them.

Many of us are not transgendered

From now on I shall use the phrase transexed instead of transsexual because many people assumed that being transsexual was about sexuality but for many it was about being a form of intersex, namely transexed.

I never changed my gender identity it was always female. I had my  body altered at 15 to reflect my correct sex characteristics and my gender has never been ‘transed’. If you look at picture of me at 12, I’m practically wearing the same thing then that I am now. I don’t do fashion – I’m too busy.

I don’t wish to be described as transgendered because I am not. To try and describe me as transgendered is inaccurate, uneducated and steals my identity. I have no objection to people describing themselves as transgendered if that reflects their experience but mine is not the same.

In the 1990s I wrote books advocating hormones and civil rights for transgender people but I was never one of them. Since then I have published books and wrote papers advocating for the rights of all sex and gender diverse people. My sex is female and I have lived as female for 40 years, even though I was registered as male at birth.  I don’t have a third sex or gender like transgendered.

Many of my transexed patients and friends have not become transgendered since the HBIGDA board members demonstrated their lack of respect. Nor did they become a third sex or gender that is other than male or female. They go about their business enjoying their identities as males or females for which they have often fought very hard to establish.

Not everyone is out and waving flags like me and those people are entitled to pass and enjoy their privacy no matter how unfashionable some campaigners may find that.

For many trans people who do not pass as their desired sex and gender the transgender label has allowed them to be accepted as this special category that takes them out of the binary male or female system. Instead of being failed as males or females they now get respect as being transgendered, but it is ‘other’, no mistaking.

For the many the transgendered label has allowed them to have a mixed identity in a place where sex and gender is a game of fluency. I get it. I support it. I understand it. I think it is a great thing for them, but not for me or some of my patients who have a strong identification of being male or female.

Who are the people gaining from transgendering us all?

There are academics that make a cushy living by constructing transgender theory out of groups of people who are really very different and need to be identified as separate groups with separate needs. It is nothing less than profiteering from social construction theory that has little basis in crosscultural realities. It is not science but branding, merchandising and profiteering.

There is also a group of clinician/academics who are still trying to indentify many trans people as having a mental illness. They are blind to the natural occurrence of sex, gender and sexuality diversity. For them transgenderism is often just as pathological as transsexualism was and a chance to improve their kudos by extending their pathological range.

Coincidentally the American Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM V) has had its launch cancelled for a year because of arguments between psychiatrists about over-pathologising human behaviour.

Sadly there are also transgender civil rights campaigners who show profound lack of respect for sex and gender diverse people who do not identify as transgendered and insist on calling us all transgendered. If you resist, you are labeled a dissident, betrayer of the cause, maladjusted or not being intelligent enough to see the big picture.

Then there are clinicians with little knowledge in sex and gender diversity who wish to make their money from transgender clients without really understanding the different sex and gender diverse groups. By confusing transgender people with transexed people the clinicians are setting up many of those patients for suicide later in life when the patient fails to get the outcome they needed.

The violation of identity continues with the gay rights movement tagging T onto the end of its GLBT acronymn to bump up the numbers and get more funding. But if you ask them what the T is for and what the issues are that pertain to each particular T group, they go blank. ‘Transgender’ they say as if it’s a password, not really knowing what transgender actually means or how mislabelling people steals their civil rights and their rights to privacy.

When Pakistan declared a third category to include transgender people in 2009 it was a disaster for many transexed people who identified as solely male or female. They could now be denied their right to be soley identified as male or female after transition.

It is fantastic for those who identify a third gender but not for sex and/or gender diverse people who only indentify as male or female. Transexed people could misindentified as transgender people and forced into a third gender with which they have never identified.

Sex and gender diversity: The new black

Salvation is, however, on the horizon for both the transexed (transsexuals) and for sex and/or gender diverse people in general.

The Australian Human Rights Commission adopted a new approach in its 2009 review of the legal rights of people who are sex and/or gender diverse. Its then Commissioner was blind so he was a gifted listener when people spoke to him.

The Commission was very sensible and used the phrase Sex and Gender Diverse People as an umbrella term to include all the people who may not be the average John or Josephine including intersexed people.

It is what is linguistically called open language and allows each group of people to consider their own identity as they so wish both by group and by individualism. Transgender is closed language and when used as an umbrella description it suffers from linguistic generalisation, distortion and deletion. It does not work. It’s like calling all non-Caucasians black. It steals experience and it misdescribes.

The Organization Internationale des Intersexes (Oii) also now accepts transexed (transsexual) people as members and sees them as part of the sex diversity spectrum, not necessarily asking them to categorically state a pathologised classification. It sees transexed people as intersexed. This means their treatment should be funded under sexual health programs and not under psychiatry.

We are not all the same. Many of us who are sex and gender diverse are not transgendered. I’ve signed on for one more year with WPATH as a clinician. It has no legal standing in any country, it’s just a trade organisation for those involved in a specialist section of the field of sex and/or gender identity.

WPATH does not encourage criticism, but as I once heard physicist Stephen Hawking say: ‘There is no science without criticism.’ One more year to be censored? I don’t think so.

Maybe one day the transgender fascista will be ousted just as the transsexual mafia were and all sex and/or gender diverse people’s identities will be respected equally.

Dr Tracie O’Keefe DCH, ND is a naturopath, psychotherapist and sexologist, originally from London, UK, who has been based in Sydney, Australia since 2001, where she is the director of the Australian Health & Education Centre. Tracie is the author of the books Trans-X-U-All: The Naked Difference and Sex, Gender & Sexuality: 21st Century Transformations and the co-editor of Finding the Real Me: True Tales of Sex & Gender Diversity and Trans People in Love.

Why does it seem like people can’t help picking fights?

I’m your basic left wing radical who supports all sort of folks equal rights.

Even when there is nothing in it for me.

Ending DADT.  I’m 62 years old and was stone anti-war during the war in Vietnam, when the draft was going on.  DADT has zero personal impact one way or another in my life or the lives of anyone I personally know.  I’m anti-military and don’t much like the way the US military is used.

Yet I still support the ending of DADT because it impinges upon the rights of those queer folk who choose to serve.

I support an inclusive ENDA even though the Lesbian portion has more impact on my life than anything related to trans-anything. Don’t argue bathroom with me.  That just a big dead red herring that the right wing pulls out as an all purpose Frankenstein Monster every time it needs to scare its band of moronic followers into action.

And leave poor Christie Lee alone…  Her case proves only one thing and that is that if you don’t have as much money and as many lawyers as a major insurance company you will lose.

Besides I’m for marriage equality.  End of freaking story.

Oh did I mention one of my BFFs who got her surgery about the same time I did has been married over thirty years to a guy who was in the military forever.

Not every one lives some sort of tragic life because they were born transsexual.  May I suggest a trip on over to Lynn Conway’s  Transsexual Success Stories.

This is not to say that the abuse suffered in childhood doesn’t take its toll.  Many of us spend time in therapy or have substance issues.

But every time WBTs try to compromise.  Try to stick their hands out in support or offer to work together as long as our differences are respected. Way too many transgender people who were born male start acting like abusive husbands or boyfriends.

They call us stupid bitches.  Oh and then there is their favorite one that we are “old and ugly” that gets used if we cite years of experience.

But if we say, “Fuck this shit, I’ve got better things to do than hang around and get abused.”  Then we are separatists.

Oddly enough WBTs don’t fare much better with the HBS/”Classic Transsexual” faction.  I got attacked by a sock puppet, a flower of many colors who has penned some sort of self published set of babblings about “Harry Benjamin Syndrome”.  Turn out Fleur Black aka Rose White aka Violet Gray came out at 57, a few years ago.  Like the troll in San Francisco who carries on like the southern bigot she is while wrapped in the bosom of protection of the most trans-protective city in the US.

Fortunately most of the Transgender Activists one meets in the real world…  And here is one way to tell who they are…  They don’t hide behind a bunch of aliases and sock puppets… They seem to share many common points and political goals. The basic protections offered by an inclusive ENDA, an interest in passing hate crimes laws, ending DADT and a support for marriage equality. All goals I am down with.

The big difference is one rarely finds them on mailing lists looking to pick fights with post-SRS women who might well be allies and support common cause if they aren’t required to embrace the transgender umbrella in the process.

There are of course the ultra right wing twerps.  Those on line people who claim to be “classic transsexuals” even though they have yet to get SRS and are barely into the stage of living 24/7.  Oddly enough they seem to share a common trait with many of the mailing list “always offended” transgender people. They like to pick fights and trash sisters who are many years post-op.

Of note: One rarely find F to Ms among either of these sets.

More Friday Night Fun and Culture

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Friday Night Fun and Culture

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