It’s Time to Retire the Media’s Sad Transgender Trope

From Rewire News:

Transgender writers shouldn’t have to perform sadness or pain just to get published.

Katelyn Burns
Nov 26, 2018

Beyond all else, cisgender people have a compulsive need to imagine that transgender people are miserable. In telling transition stories, it’s often the pain that is centered—the pain of loss, of discrimination, or even physical pain. Those stories do nothing for trans people and exist merely to fulfill the voyeuristic need of curious cis people. Trans storytellers who are willing to dig deepest into their own trauma are thus too often elevated to the biggest media platforms.

In a New York Times op-ed published Saturday, trans writer Andrea Long Chu became the latest to take advantage of that dynamic, describing how she has become more depressed, dysphoric, and suicidal after starting hormones and claiming that her forthcoming bottom surgery won’t make her happy. Chu skillfully exposed her very raw pain on the country’s largest print platform, presenting a very important counter-narrative to the idea that trans people are universally happy after transitioning. The thesis of her piece is that it shouldn’t matter whether transitioning makes us happy or not, and fundamentally, she has a point.

But whatever she hoped for cis readers to take away from her piece, it’s overshadowed by her inaccurate and offensive claim that a post-op vagina is a “wound,” and her insistence that trans people aren’t happy after transitioning. “There are no good outcomes in transition,” she wrote, projecting her own transition difficulties onto everyone else.

The act of inverting a penis into a vagina is so extreme and offensive to society that misery is the only prerequisite justifying the procedure. “People transition because they think it will make them feel better. The thing is, this is wrong,” Chu wrote, before launching into a beautiful monologue detailing her own painful experience. But without qualifying that her statement is merely her own, she perhaps unintentionally asserts her own experience as universal. In truth, studies have shown that trans people are generally happier after transitioning and that most of their difficulties in life come from discrimination and social rejection.

Many trans people have responded to her op-ed by explaining that they are happy with their transitions, but Chu asserted later on social media that trans people lie about how happy we are after. As Chu noted, there is a basis for her assertion because trans people are forced to follow a script to satisfy the gatekeeping demands of cis therapists and doctors who determine who gets which treatment. The issue again is that this merely creates more fodder for the cis people who ultimately have the power to decide who gets to transition or not.

If none of us are happier as a result of transitioning, and anyone who claims happiness is a liar, how is transitioning an ethical treatment option for gender dysphoria? Why should we allow these tortured souls to serve in the military or even access these “mutilating” surgeries, one might ask. Chu is playing a dangerous game with transition care access currently threatened by the Trump administration.

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Must Trans Narratives Cater To Cis Audiences?

From Into More:

By: Eli Erlick
27 Nov 2018

Much like my testosterone blockers, the truth is a bitter pill to swallow. Andrea Long Chu’s recent polemical op-ed in the New York Times polarized the trans community. Within hours of the release of “My New Vagina Won’t Make Me Happy,” thousands of responses flooded social media. Some trans writers claimed it will harm trans people and cause cis audiences to doubt our transitions. Others applauded it for generating a discussion on trans dissatisfaction without petitioning to take away our healthcare. The piece’s central purpose, obfuscated by vague language and generalizations, is that trans people do not need to become happier to get access to the care we need. Chu contends we should be able to talk about our complex relationships to transitioning undisturbed by cisgender medical or psychological gatekeepers. Regret, unhappiness, and discomfort can and often do become part of this process. Yet we still deserve care. Nobody knows our own bodies and narratives like we do.

Chu’s op-ed distances itself from the “liberal counternarrative” to anti-trans pundits who claim that being trans is a “clinical delusion.” This liberal story — trans people are inherently suffering and must receive care to become happier –- is limited in scope and usefulness. Chu, like many other trans people, became viscerally less happy while transitioning. She explains that estrogen allowed her to access repressed emotions that make her feel worse. She still stays on hormones. Transition exacerbated her dysphoria, made her suicidal, and caused her to question transness. Yet, as she explains, “desire and happiness are independent agents.” She is arguing –- nebulously –- that we should not set happiness as the “benchmark of success” for trans healthcare. Rather, the desire to transition is enough. If we confine the ability to transition to the ideal of happiness, we may be allowing medical and psychological professionals to withhold treatment. They would judge our qualifications by a potential “successful outcome” (being happier). Wanting to transition is ample rationale for transitioning on its own.

Many critics pointed out that while Chu’s arguments are important and strong, the New York Times may not be the best venue for this op-ed. The newspaper caters to notoriously anti-transgender readers and writers, meaning the article will inevitably be misinterpreted. If your op-ed is in the New York Times, it probably isn’t that radical. But Chu never asserts that being radical was her intention. Her writing will almost certainly lead to people withholding care from trans communities, especially trans youth. Nevertheless, this critique also pivots Chu’s narrative on its palatability to cisgender people in power. It’s not pragmatic, but she never claimed that’s what she aims for. We shouldn’t have to lower our standards to respectability.

The other, more pointed criticism of the piece focuses on Chu’s decision to universalize trans experience by paving over the narratives of other trans people. She writes, “people transition because they think it will make them feel better. The thing is, this is wrong.” Perhaps this was wrong for her, but the majority of trans people, according to nearly every narrative, community space, and study, says otherwise. If we want to get exact with language, she is correct that transition “may make them feel better.” It’s not a guarantee. Still, the majority of trans people do, in fact, feel better when we transition. When confronted with this fact by trans researcher Samantha Allen on Twitter, Chu responded that trans people are simply lying to researchers and themselves when we claim that we’re happier.

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Torah, From a Transgender Perspective

From The Tablet:

Joy Ladin’s new book, ‘Soul of the Stranger,’ explores her intimate connection with God

By Shoshana Olidort
November 15, 2018

“If I were God, and I wanted to invent religion, and the material I had to work with was a patriarchal society, I would make the religion as patriarchal as I could,” Joy Ladin told me when we spoke by phone recently. This may seem like a surprising comment coming from a transgender Jewish poet and scholar, but Ladin is a person of faith and this stance informs the trans theology at the center of her new book, The Soul of the Stranger: Reading God and Torah from a Transgender Perspective, in which Ladin offers close readings of key biblical passages to question pervasive assumptions about a religiously mandated gender binary. For Ladin, God is not particularly invested in gender, and the patriarchal language of the Torah reflects a pragmatic rather than an ideological choice, a strategic move motivated by the need to perpetuate religion in a world in which, as she went on to explain, “people won’t transmit texts that deal with gender in ways they don’t understand.” Her statement echoes Maimonides oft-cited assertion that “the Torah speaks in the language of men.”

But while the language of the Torah is fundamentally patriarchal, Ladin’s reading reveals a surprising degree of flexibility and openness in the Torah’s treatment of gender. At the same time, Ladin—who has published 10 books of poetry and a memoir, as well as numerous essays—insists that her reading here does not aim to “queer” the Torah. “My goal isn’t to produce a different Torah,” she said. “I love the Torah as it is, in all of its strangeness, and I strongly feel that the greatness of the Torah is that we don’t have to change it for our perspectives to bring it to life and enable it to grow.”

Ladin’s book is hard to categorize: Neither strictly scholarly, nor purely autobiographical, The Soul of the Stranger defies boundaries as it moves between and across multiple genres, drawing on personal experiences to illuminate sacred texts, and using Torah as a mirror to reflect the complexities of human life. Reading the story of Jonah from a transgender perspective, Ladin suggests that the prophet’s predicament is one that resonates with the experience of transgender individuals who are desperate to “avoid living as the person (in Jonah’s case, as the prophet) they know themselves to be.” But Ladin is careful to point out that the trans experience, for all its particularities, is not something apart from but rather intrinsic to our shared humanity. “Trans experience is human experience,” Ladin said, because “everyone has experiences of not fitting assigned roles and definitions.”

Analyzing the creation narratives in Genesis, Ladin demonstrates that “Adam is human before he is gendered,” and that even when the Torah asserts the gender binary in Genesis 1:26-27, it does so without attaching any meaning, symbolic or otherwise, or assigning specific roles to gender. Ladin’s trans-reading of these texts seeks to foreground what she sees as the Torah’s fundamental ambivalence about the gender binary, a binary she sees “not as a divine decree but as a human invention.” Read through this lens, transgender identities, though they may seem “new and startling,” are in fact, according to Ladin, “direct descendants of the biblical genesis of gender.”

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From Facebook:

Aidan Comerford
Nov. 26, 2018

Us Irish have taken on a lot of British culture – their language, their football teams, their willingness to go into the ballot box and shoot themselves in the feet, stomach and face – but now there is something new rising up in British culture, that we must erect a hard border against: TERFs.

“What’s a TERF?” you ask. It stands for Trans-Exclusionary-Radical-Feminist.
TERFs don’t like the term, and I tend to agree. It’s not a good description, because there is nothing radical or feminist about them. Just as God-fearing Creationism was re-branded as cuddly Intelligent Design, TERFism is just good-old-fashioned transphobia, re-packaged with oh-so-rational bows.

Essentially, what we are looking at here is “Homophobia: Season Two.” Luckily, for Irish trans people, this movement is currently as British as Jacob Rees-Mogg’s monocle, but if the TERFs have their way, this show will soon be coming to an Ireland near you. (I think they might be trying to get us back for the whole “Jedward” thing.)

TERFs are doing cover versions of all of homophobia’s greatest hits. Stop me if you’ve heard these ones before:

– “Beware the trans agenda! Trans-acceptance is a cult!”
– “They’re using social media to groom the kids!”
– “Allowing trans people to use words like “women,” diminishes our womanhood.”
– “Transgenderism is a mental illness that can be cured without transitioning.”
– “No, this isn’t trans-conversion therapy, we’re just teaching kids not to give in to their…urges.”
– “Some of our best friends are trans people, and they agree with us.”
– “If we let boys identify as girls, it’s a slippery slope: should we buy kennels for kids who want to identify as dogs?”

I could on, but those are some of the classics.

TERFs also say that a proposed British “self-id” law, to make legally transitioning a little easier, will turn Britain into a dystopian landscape, with rapists in dresses roaming un-tethered through women’s safe spaces. There’s just a slight problem with that theory: Ireland has had a trans self-id law since 2015, and men continue to not require the right shade of lippy to abuse women.

In fairness to Irish people, unlike our British-Brexit-Brethern we have been doing a bit better in the ballot box of late. When we were warned that accepting gay marriage would turn Ireland into Sodom and Gomorrah, we collectively replied, “Turn Ireland INTO Sodom and Gomorrah?! You’ve clearly never been in a Galway Supermacs at 2am,” and, to our credit, we voted to support the LGBT community.

Now we need to redouble our support: British TERFs are coming to warn us that trans-acceptance isn’t actually decent or sound, it is, in fact, leading us into a misogynistic, patriarchal, fetishistic hellhole. We should answer them loudly, with one voice: “NO! That’s not trans-acceptance. That’s “Athlone” you’re thinking of.”

Unfortunately, to our shame, the current King of British TERFs is an Irishman: Graham Linehan. Yes, THAT Graham Linehan, the writer of “Father Ted.” Graham has mis-gendered and dead-named trans people on Twitter. Dead-naming is calling a trans person by their birth name, and it is equivalent to using the “F” word to describe gay people.

“No, not “fabulous,” Dougal.”

Perhaps, in Graham’s case, we could get the British to continue their fine tradition of claiming our successful writers as their own?

“Sure, there’s always one,” your Ma would say, and she would have been right, I think, except that this week Channel 4 aired a documentary called “Trans Kids: It’s Time To Talk,” by Stella O’ Malley, an Irish psychotherapist and writer.

Like me, Stella grew up in the 70s and 80s in Ireland. Like me, she thought she was a boy. She said, though, that around her mid-teens, her “gender confusion” was finally fully cured…by a good haircut – “it changed my life,” she says herself. (I’ve always had a bad haircut, which must be why I still feel like I’m a boy.)

Stella worried aloud that if she were growing up now, with all this new-fangled trans-acceptance, she would probably have transitioned, and then had to de-transition, even though kids’ haircuts are WAY better now.

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Age has nothing to do with it’: how it feels to transition later in life

From The Guardian UK:

Sat 17 Nov 2018

Early in October, Ruth Rose went on holiday to Corfu with a group of female friends she had known for years. They swam in the sea every day, making the most of the late summer sunshine. On the last morning before flying home to England, the women took one last swim and skinny-dipped so as not to have to pack their costumes away wet.

Such adventures would once have been unthinkable for Rose. But the surgery she underwent at the age of 81 has opened doors she would never have thought possible. “In some ways it’s like having new hips after being told you would be condemned to arthritis for the rest of your life,” she says. “You do it, and life begins again. And that’s what happened to me. Age has nothing to do with it.”

When we read about people transitioning gender, the focus is often on teenagers; in an emotive debate about access to school changing rooms and Guides camping trips, older trans people are rendered almost invisible. Yet there are more than five times as many adult as child gender identity patients in the UK. Some are now having gender reassignment surgery not just in late middle age, but well into retirement.

The numbers remain tiny, but they are rising; according to the NHS, 75 people aged between 61 and 71 had gender reassignment operations in the seven years to 2015-16, and that’s not counting people who quietly transition without surgery. These trans baby boomers are now beginning to challenge received ideas not just about gender but age, and the capacity of older people to live bold, adventurous lives. “I think people need to learn quite fast that older people no longer all fit the white-haired granny stereotype,” says Jane Vass, the head of public policy at Age UK. The charity recently published advice to older people who are transitioning, covering everything from the impact on state pension ages to what to write on death certificates.

“If it was ever true that older people were all the same, it’s certainly not now. And yet we still seem to respond as a society to a very narrow view of what ageing is,” adds Vass. Later life is full of changes, she points out, from the end of a career to the death of a spouse. Why wouldn’t it also be a time in which people embrace opportunities denied them in the past, before it’s too late?

It’s perhaps only now that many older people feel comfortable coming out, having grown up in a time when being trans was so steeped in shame and silence that many couldn’t even put a name to what they felt. “I remember as a child thinking, am I unique? Am I strangely perverted?” says Christine Burns, the 64-year-old trans activist and author of the social history Trans Britain: Our Journey From The Shadows. It was only in the 1960s, when the Sunday People newspaper began salaciously to out trans people – most famously the Vogue model April Ashley – that she understood she was not alone. “To see those stories, egregious as they were, helped in a sense. I always say that, on that Sunday morning, I learned there was a name for people like me, but also that it was worse than I feared.”

Half a century on, trans people undoubtedly still experience stigma and discrimination. Fierce debate about proposed changes to the Gender Recognition Act, which could enable people to identify themselves as trans rather than going through a drawn-out process of medical and psychiatric assessment, has turned trans acceptance into a political football. But for those raised in an era when men could be arrested just for wearing women’s clothes in public, the thaw in public attitudes is still striking. “When I first came out [in the 1970s], I got reported to the police and my employer, for being in charge of a company vehicle dressed as a woman,” recalls Jenny-Anne Bishop, the chair of the support group Trans Forum, who had gender reassignment surgery at the age of 59. “Now I’m as likely to have lunch with the chief constable to discuss hate crime reporting. It’s changed that much.”

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All Feminists Must Stand Up For Trans Liberation

From The Huffington Post:

Senti Sojwal

Nov. 20 is recognized as Transgender Day of Remembrance, when we honor the lives of those we lost at the hands of anti-transgender violence. In 2017, advocates tracked at least 29 deaths of transgender people in the U.S. due to violence, the most ever recorded. This fatal violence disproportionately affects trans women of color.

Trans people in the United States are more likely to be homeless, unemployed and lack health insurance, and they often live at the complex intersections of racism, homophobia, transphobia, sexism and classism. As we reflect today on the immense loss and violence the trans community faces, it’s critical that we as allies strategize our place in the movement for trans equity and justice.

One of the most prominent spaces where trans communities historically have been made invisible is within mainstream feminism. Transgender women and communities are largely excluded from prominent cultural conversations about gendered oppression, the harms of patriarchy, and how to advance and fight for gender equality, despite being the most vulnerable in a binary-enforcing culture.

And because feminists have long contributed to trans erasure, it is absolutely critical that feminists step up and put themselves on the front lines fighting for trans liberation today and every day.

Take, for example, the Women’s March ― of which pink “pussy hats” have become synonymous. Where the Women’s March included the leadership of many prominent women of color activists, the exclusion of trans women and the utilization of “pussy hats,” which equate a place in the movement for gender equity with having a vagina, was alienating to many trans and nonbinary people.

Trans communities have so much to lose under the Trump administration, so this blatant oversight is all the more problematic.

Since Donald Trump took office, this administration has taken numerous steps to roll back LGBTQ rights, from refusing to protect trans students to denying visas to diplomats’ same-sex partners to banning trans individuals from serving in the military and dismissing the advisory council for HIV and AIDS. Last month, The New York Times reported that the Trump administration is planning to exclude transgender and nonbinary people from its legal definition of gender, which, if implemented, would have devastating effects on trans communities’ access to health care, housing, education and civil rights.

However, the erasure of trans experiences and identities existed long before Trump came to power. When we look at the national conversation on gender equity and feminism, from the Me Too movement to the gender wage gap, trans women and communities continue to be left behind in favor of centering the experiences of cisgender white women.

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Standing Again at Sinai, Again: Jewish Feminism and Transgender Jews

From Lilith:

November 12, 2015

When we think about the achievements of feminism in the US, we usually think about how feminist political activity has changed, and continues to change, the status of women. But in demanding that American Jewish communities and institutions reconsider women’s place and status in them, Jewish feminists have also laid the groundwork for inclusion of transgender Jews by teaching the Jewish world to think about gender.

Marshall McLuhan said that whoever discovered water, you can bet it wasn’t a fish. Before feminism, in most Jewish communities, gender was like water to fish: an invisible, omnipresent medium that permeated every aspect of Jewish identity, from family life to religious practice to social roles to institutional priorities. Jewish families and communities automatically sorted their members by gender, assigning them radically different roles, responsibilities, resources and possibilities; everywhere, Jewish tradition, ritual, liturgy and sacred texts assumed and reinforced the idea that gender divisions were a natural part of Judaism and Jewishness.

American Jewish feminists were fish who discovered water. Though their names and writings were rarely mentioned in the upstate New York Jewish world I grew up in, the work done by Judith Plaskow, Esther Broner, Rivka Haut, Alicia Ostriker and so many others prompted even our backwater congregations to think about gender rather than to assume it, and to recognize that the automatic gendered allocation of roles (the most public, of course, went to men, and the most laborious largely were given to women) was not an inherent, unchangeable aspect of synagogue life, but choices we were making every day. As women in our communities started to question those choices and work toward changing them, everyone, even those defending traditional gender roles, found themselves thinking and talking about gender – and realizing that different members of same community often had very different ideas about what it means to be a Jewish man or a Jewish woman. Feminist theory, queer theory, and gender studies were never mentioned, but as synagogue members debated whether women could be rabbis and presidents, and whether omnipresent male pronouns needed to be changed in prayer books (do we really have to buy new prayer books?) and policy statements (isn’t it clear that “man” means “everyone”?), they were learning that maleness and femaleness and the language and customs that go with them are not fixed by biology or divine decree, but, like so much else in Jewish life, are subject to negotiation.

Thanks to the work of Jewish feminists, Jewish communities across the United States found ideas of gender multiplying like frogs in Pharaoh’s bed. Gender divisions were becoming a source of controversy, disruption, an endless font of inequity and grievance. Many non-Orthodox congregations responded by eliminating gender distinctions in ritual, institutional roles and prayers, creating forms of Judaism and Jewishness that don’t require Jews to be defined as, or to define ourselves, as male or female. (I saw how far we had come when my young son, who grew up with Sheila Peltz Weinberg as his rabbi, asked me one day if men could be rabbis too – a question that demonstrated both how much feminism had changed Judaism, and how hard it is to overcome our tendency to think of Judaism as bound up with and divided by gender.)

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Targeting gender identity for conversion therapy is just as wrong as targeting sexual orientation

From Medium:

Florence Ashley
November 17, 2018

In a recent article, philosopher Dr. Kathleen Stock expressed concern over the definition of conversion therapy put forward by Stonewall and major UK mental health organisations because it includes both sexual orientation and gender identity.

Her article raises two primary arguments against the inclusion of gender identity within the definition of conversion therapy. Firstly, she implies that gender identity isn’t unchangeable or harmless, unlike sexual orientation. Secondly, she argues that affirming gender identity would be tantamount to conversion therapy by omission with regards to sexual orientation.

Both arguments are unfounded. Her first argument is empirically mistaken, as available evidence doesn’t support the claim that gender identity is patently more malleable than sexual orientation. Even if it were that would not make conversion therapy ethical, as no evidence supports the claim that being transgender is harmful. Her second argument is theoretically mistaken, as it relies on a confusion between sexual attraction and sexual orientation labels. Although those who transition may change the label they use for their sexual orientation, it doesn’t make their sexual attraction vary: their sexual attraction remains the same.

Gender identity can’t be changed

She claims, correctly, that rejections of anti-gay conversion therapy are grounded in the beliefs that there is “little convincing evidence that a homosexual orientation can be changed after late childhood” and that “homosexuality isn’t harmful, either to the individual or wider society, so there’s no need to try.” The implicit message to readers is that this isn’t the case for gender identity and therefore that the parallel between anti-gay and anti-trans reparative therapy is illegitimate.

Contrary to her suggestion, we have good reasons to think that, gender identity can’t be changed after late childhood either. In a 2011 study from the Netherlands, all 70 youth who undertook hormonal puberty suppression continued to be transgender into adulthood. The World Professional Association for Transgender Health also explains that reparative treatments have “been attempted in the past without success, particularly in the long term.” Indeed, even practitioners whose practices have been likened to conversion therapy no longer attempt to alter gender identity after puberty because evidence suggests that it is fixed by that age. Even evidence that pre-pubertal youth’s gender identity can be altered has significant flaws and limitations, raising doubts as to whether gender identity is ever malleable.

Being trans isn’t harmful

Even if gender identity was malleable, altering it wouldn’t be ethical. It is morally objectionable to seek to change harmless traits which faced historical and ongoing stigma. Trying to make people straight would still be wrong if it was possible. Why would trying to make people cisgender be any different?

Though not expressly stated, I suspect that Dr. Stock’s suggestion here is that it is different because being trans is harmful to oneself and to others.

Although she doesn’t outright state it, her writing on the Gender Recognition Act reform come to mind when it comes to potential harm to others. Given how extensively this reform has been debated in the media, I won’t rehash it. Suffice to say, evidence that being trans harms others is far from forthcoming. On the contrary, a recent study published in Sexuality Research and Social Policy found no increase in criminal incidents in gendered spaces following laws granting trans people access based on their gender identity.

That being trans is harmful to oneself is no more evident. According to recent studies, supporting trans youth’s gender identities makes them as mentally healthy as the rest of the youth population. This confirms what trans scholars and advocates have been saying all along: stigma is the primary determinant of trans wellbeing.

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For Centuries, Jewish Tradition Has Recognized Trans People

From The Forward:

Elliot Kukla
October 26, 2018

The idea that there are two and only two sexes is relatively new.

This week, in a memo leaked to the New York Times, the Trump administration stated its goal to institute a federal definition of sex as “unchangeable, and determined by the genitals that a person is born with.” Furthermore, “any dispute about one’s sex would have to be clarified using genetic testing.”

Trump would like us to believe that this strictly binary view of sex is natural, scientific, traditional, and universal throughout history.

He is wrong.

Thousands of babies are born with ambiguous genitals every year. Still others have hormonal and chromosomal difference that lead to non-binary sexual development. Gender expression that is different from the sex one is assigned at birth exists in every human civilization, and in many parts of the animal world.

Jewish tradition is well aware of all of this natural variation.

As a transgender rabbi, I am frequently called upon to speak about the diversity in our sacred texts. There are at least six sexes in traditional Jewish sources: the “zakhar” (male) and the “nekevah” (female); the “androgynos” (a person with both male and female sexual characteristics) and the “tumtum” (an individual with ambiguous sex); the “saris” (a eunuch, either born or created); and the “aylonit” (born female, but later develops male traits).

The first time I encountered these figures, I was a 20-year-old queer gender misfit, studying in Orthodox Yeshiva, the last place I expected to find a gender role model.

In the secular world, I was used to being told I don’t exist. I am gender non-conforming, and I don’t pass as male or female. When I go to the DMV, check into the hospital, cross a border, drop my kid off at daycare, or need to pee, I usually need to try to fit into one of two and only two limited options for being a person — male or female — in order to have the basic rights of being a citizen.

In the past few decades, due to the work of countless activists, it has become a little easier to live. But now for the first time, Trump’s proposal would turn into policy the denial of our existence.

Trump would like us to believe this is a return to a mythical universal traditional past, but in fact, it is a denial of Judaism and many other sacred traditions.

In the Babylonian Talmud, we learn the story of a tumtum who becomes a parent of seven children (Babylonian Talmud, Yevamot 83b). In the same tractate, the radical claim is made that the first ancestors of the Jewish people — Abraham and Sarah — were actually originally tumtumim. According to this text, they only later transitioned genders to become male and female. (BT Yevamot 64a) According to a midrash, the first human being, Adam, was originally an androgynos. (Midrash Rabbah 8:1).

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We can’t define transgender people out of existence — and we shouldn’t want to

From The Daily Orange:

By Michael Sessa
Nov. 5, 2018

A now widely circulated and highly controversial memo from President Donald Trump administration’s Department of Health and Human services has proposed establishing a legal definition of gender as “male or female based on immutable biological traits identifiable by or before birth.” The move, a rebuke to a series of decisions by former President Barack Obama’s administration to loosen the concept of gender in federal programs, is as impractical as it is prejudicial.

Despite efforts to try, transgender Americans cannot be defined out of existence — nor should they be. In response to the memo, more than 40 students rallied on Syracuse University’s Quad on Wednesday to protest the federal proposal.

“Think about how we medicalize gender identity, reify gender dysphoria, and in the process delegitimize genders that involve far more than biology,” said Amery Sanders, a sophomore international relations major. “Think about how every time we say ‘being trans is not a mental illness,’ we reinforce the idea that being mentally ill makes you less of a valid person.”

Constrictive medical definitions of gender can just perpetuate stigmatization.

Scientifically, that narrow view of gender doesn’t even make sense. The American Psychological Association, the largest scientific and professional organization of psychologists in the United States, draws clear distinctions between sex and gender.

If the Trump administration’s standards were to be enacted, the federal government wouldn’t recognize nearly 1.4 million transgender Americans, according to The New York Times.

It’d simply be invalidating.

It’d open the floodgates of intense harassment and discrimination of an already targeted community. The FBI’s 2016 hate crime statistics showed a five percent increase in reported hate crime incidents from 2015.

The Trump administration’s efforts to squash the validity of gender identity isn’t just an abstract concept. It affects real people and real lives.

Though acknowledging the complexities of gender may be inconvenient for the government, we shouldn’t sort people into rigidly defined boxes. Hurdles like comfortability aren’t legitimate defenses against people’s humanity.

We, along with those in government, must recognize that the science of gender is complicated and evolving. We must also recognize that our actions — the words and the memos we write — have real repercussions on the way Americans treat their transgender counterparts.

We have to stand up to those who think they can challenge the reality of transgender people without thinking about the consequences of their objections. But we can also take solace, too, in the realization that no definition can erase people.

“There are some people in this world, in this government, who call us monsters, who think of our bodies and minds as freaks of nature,” Sanders said. “And I want to make all of them remember that monsters have teeth. And we run in packs. And we dig our dens deep. They can hunt us, root us out, take and take and take from us. They can take our skins, but they cannot take our souls.”

Transphobic Parent Activists Target Journalists With Misinformation About Pediatricians

From Forbes:

Tara Haelle
Nov 4, 2018

In advance of the annual meeting of the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), a poorly organized group of “parent activists” repeatedly spammed more than 45 journalists to spread misinformation about the AAP’s policy on caring for children and adolescents who do not necessarily feel comfortable identifying as the male or female gender they were assigned at birth.

These children might identify as transgender, might identify as a gender that is non-binary (that is, neither completely “male” or “female”) or might simply need time to figure out how they feel about who they are. The AAP released a policy statement last month with guidance for pediatricians on caring for these children. It’s that policy statement and the planned discussions about transgender youth care at the AAP meeting that these activists address.

Their primary concern is the incorrect belief that the AAP is forcing “powerful puberty blockers and hormones and bodily surgeries” onto their transgender and gender-diverse children. But that’s a far cry from what their policy statement, which promotes “gender affirmation care,” actually says. In fact, across its 10 pages, only a third of one page discusses pubertal suppression medication at all.

“The gender affirmation model is not necessarily based on treatment,” explained Jason Rafferty, MD, MPH, EdM, a pediatrician and child psychiatrist at the gender and sexuality clinic and at the adolescent health center at Hasbro Children’s Hospital in Rhode Island, and the lead author of the AAP statement. “The core is about creating a safe, nonjudgmental space to really receive these sorts of concerns and questions that kids and families may have so that you can begin to mobilize appropriate supports, whether it be behavioral health or family support or an alliance with your pediatrician to help explore some of these concerns.”

Sounds pretty radical, right? Giving children nonjudgmental support to ask questions without feeling frightened or shamed? That the statement the people spamming journalists have a problem with.

Why Write About This?

Typically, I avoid drawing attention to this kind of behavior because it’s not generally helpful to give oxygen to people sharing inaccurate statements and criticizing evidence-based policies. But I’m making exception for a few reasons:

1) The misinformation they share includes commonly held misconceptions by the public in general, so this is a good opportunity to educate others on what the AAP’s policy actually is and why the evidence-based policy is important for the physical, mental and emotional health of children and teens—including literally saving their lives.

2) Anyone who sends me more than a dozen identical copy-and-pasted messages from random email addresses that contain more than 1,400 words and an 8-page single-spaced letter attachment deserves to be called out not only for their false information but also their sheer stupidity in thinking this is an effective way to get me to take them seriously.

3) The lengthy statement says “it has been difficult to get much attention on the truth of gender identity due to the political nature of this topic” and includes this plea: “Do not let politics and fear keep you from the truth.” And so I won’t.

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Hate Unbound

From Robert Reich:

Robert Reich
Oct. 30, 2018

Demagogues rarely commit violence directly. Instead, they use blame, ridicule, fear and hate – and then leave the violence to others. That way, they can always claim “it wasn’t me. I don’t have blood on my hands.”

Of the tens of millions of Americans that the Trump-Fox News regime has made fearful, only a small percentage – say, a hundred thousand – have been moved to hate the objects of that fear.

And of those hundred thousand, only a relative handful – say, a few thousand – have been motivated to act on that hate, posting loathsome messages online, sending death threats, spray-painting swastikas.

And of that few thousand, a tiny subset, perhaps no more than a hundred or so, have been moved to violence.

But make no mistake: This lineage of cause and effect begins with Trump and his Fox News propaganda machine.

Politicians and media moguls have long understood that fear and hate sell better than hope and compassion, no matter how much we might wish it otherwise. But before Trump, no president had based his office on it. And before Fox News, no major media outlet had based its ratings on it.

Ronald Reagan stoked racism by bashing “welfare queens” and George W. Bush by airing campaign ads featuring “Willie Horton,” but fear and hate weren’t the centerpieces of either presidency.

The two political operatives behind these campaigns bear mention, though: Lee Atwater, who had also been chairman of the Republican National Committee and a senior partner at the political consulting firm of Black, Manafort, Stone and Kelly (yes, that Manafort and that Stone); and Roger Ailes, who went on to create and run Fox News.

Atwater and Ailes premised their careers on fear and hate. Ailes’s Fox News monetized fear and hate through phantom menaces like a “terror mosque” near Ground Zero, Barack Obama’s alleged connections to black nationalists and Muslims, and Sarah Palin’s fictitious “death panels.”

Trump took Atwater and Ailes to their logical extremes – building a political base by suggesting Obama wasn’t born in America; launching his presidential campaign by warning of “criminals” and “rapists” streaming across the Mexican border; and ending his campaign with an ad suggesting that prominent Jews — billionaire philanthropist George Soros, Goldman Sachs CEO Lloyd Blankfein and Fed Chair Janet L. Yellen — were in league with Hillary Clinton to control the world.

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‘Rapid-onset gender dysphoria’ is a poisonous lie used to discredit trans people

From The Guardian UK:

The anti-trans lobby is using bad science to attack vulnerable young people

Sun 21 Oct 2018

If you were to understand two facts about transgender people, I’d want it to be these: 1) that we have always existed, and 2) that we have always been under attack for existing.

Despite our many footholds throughout history, especially outside of the western colonial gaze, the narrative that we are a new phenomenon has been widely peddled as a tool to discredit and disqualify us from public life and push us out of view.

The latest in this line-up is a fast-growing conversation about “rapid-onset gender dysphoria” (or ROGD), which seeks to sate the observations of a number of parents that their children came out as transgender not only suddenly but from within a context of trans peers, groups and social media, and who are worried about the potential effects of online influence and peer pressure.

Except, like so many of the spurious ideas thrown at us, ROGD is not a real condition and never has been. The one paper on the subject, published in PLOS One – a journal that reviews only the technical aspects of the papers published, rather than the interpretation of the results – endorses the “condition” based upon the claims of 164 parent responses that met study criteria. This sample was based on online survey results sourced from three blogs that all have a strong anti-transgender history, with no testimony from any neutral or pro-transgender online spaces, or from the transgender children themselves – the people who best would be able to describe their experiences.

The World Professional Association for Transgender Health released a statement on the phenomenon, stating: “The term ‘rapid-onset gender dysphoria (ROGD)’ is not a medical entity recognised by any major professional association … therefore, it constitutes nothing more than an acronym created to describe a proposed clinical phenomenon that may or may not warrant further peer-reviewed scientific investigation.”

Dr Julia Serano, a researcher with almost two decades of experience in developmental and evolutionary biology, explores this further. Citing the far more well-researched history of gender dysphoria and client-supportive transition care, she writes “what’s ‘rapid’ about ROGD is parents’ sudden awareness and assessment of their child’s gender dysphoria (which, from the child’s standpoint, may be longstanding and thoughtfully considered)”.

When a young person comes out as trans, especially when a parent feels like it is out of the blue, it can feel like a rug is being pulled out from under one’s feet. For a parent who is struggling, the idea that some external influence is at fault can be an appealing one – but to fall back on bad science is not the solution. As Serano writes, “this is not a new type of gender dysphoria but rather a new name for a recurring parental dynamic”.

Despite this, the study has garnered a great deal of support from those in the UK and US, under the guise of “protecting” against diagnoses and treatments that are compared to a contagion.

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