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Born in the wrong body
What do you think the word "transgender" means?
Imagine your whole life growing up not knowing who you are or who you are supposed to be. Now I don't mean "you", as in who you want to be when you grow up, how you think you should portray yourself to others, or how your parents want you to be. What I mean is being completely trapped in a body that doesn't feel right. I'm not talking about being overweight, bulimic or not pretty enough. I am talking about feeling like you were born in the wrong sex, that you are transgender.
Transgender is an umbrella term for people whose gender identity differs from what is typically associated with the sex they were assigned at birth. Transgender people are defined according to their gender identity and who they portray themselves to be.
According to Gender Management Services (GeMS) Clinic, some people call this condition "Gender Identity Disorder" (GID), which means that someone has a "conflict between their physical gender and the gender he or she identifies as." Until recently, doctors treated GID with psychiatric therapy to address the causes and to try to help people accept their true sex. A person with GID might really have confused, conflicted, and mentally disturbed perceptions of his or her true sex, but his or her personal feelings must give way to the biological reality. (A.D.A.M. Inc & National Library of Medicine (U.S.), 1997)
The causes of GID, the Gems clinic says, are very difficult to understand and may vary. Some are physical, such as hormone disorders. Others are social. Children of divorced or emotionally distant or abusive parents are very likely to develop feelings of disgust or rejection of their own sex, by identifying as a member of the opposite sex, and then they develop GID or homosexual feelings.
Gender identity disorder in children regularly leads to same-sex attraction in adolescence, writes Dr. Rick Fitzgibbons, a Pennsylvania psychiatrist and principal contributor to the Catholic Medical Association's study: Homosexuality and Hope.
GLAAD's transgender Media and Education Program says a person's gender identity is subjective, determined by his or her own feelings and emotions. If a man feels that he is a woman, that feeling automatically overrides any biological evidence to the opposite. A person can be biologically male, but his gender identity can be female, male, a combination of both, or neither one. All that matters is what they feel on the inside. ("GLAAD's Transgender Media and Education Program| GLAAD, "2014)
However, James Bascom of TFP student action believes that when morals and science are involved, Natural Law, and self-evident reality are shown to mean nothing. What if a person's "internal sense" makes them feel that they are sexually attracted to a family member? Or children? If they are in a loving and consensual relationship with a child, why shouldn't their "internal sense" be respected and protected by law? Why not bestiality? Polygamy? (Equality's Next Victims: Transgendering Our Children," 2013)
Various studies by the American Psychological Association suggest that both biological and environmental variables might play a role in the development of transgenders, despite what people may think. Even though throughout society people have believed that "nature made a mistake" or "it is unnatural" to be LGBT. Today transgender is thankfully coming along in society. For some people it is now being acknowledged as "part of the human condition." (American Psychological Association, 2013)
According to a poll by GLAAD's Transgender Media and Education Program, "90% of Americans say they personally know someone who is Lesbian, Gay or Bisexual. However, only 8% of Americans say they personally know someone who is Transgender."
Perhaps it is because although one in two thousand babies that are born end up being transgender, most of them blend in with us. They have either already began transitioning and we cannot tell that they used to be a boy or a girl, or they have already undergone complete transition and now label themselves as the man or woman they were meant to be.
Some transgender people can be heterosexual, homosexual or bisexual in their sexual orientation. Some may be lesbians or gay men, but most are not. Male-to-female transgender people are known as MtF, transgender females, or trans-women. While female-to-male transgender people are known as FtM, transgender males, or trans-men. Still, other transgender people do not fit into either of these binary categories. ("It's complicated-Transgender terminology," 2013)
Most individuals who identify as same-sex attracted have had a long history of discrimination in society. Although most LGBT people are in fact raised traditionally in families that practice religious faith and are taught that being who they are is not okay, they still find it in themselves to "come out" and eventually they may be excluded from their communities, or lose their families and friends because of this belief that homosexuality is immoral.
We teach our children from a young age to love people from the inside, not just what's on the outide. We tell our children to be who they want to be, to love themselves and treat others how they want to be treated. Unfortunately, that is not always the case.
Look back at your middle school and high school days, can you remember how everyone had their group of friends, some having more friends than others. Not everyone could be the football star or the cheerleader. Some kids got along with everyone, some only had a few friends, and others were loaners.
In almost every group of kids there tend to be bullies. Deflecting their insecurities upon cowering loaners or people they were jealous of. Perhaps afraid of what people thought of them or the people in their lives, so they had to humiliate others to feel better about themselves. Were you one of those people? Did you know someone who was?
A lot of transgender people know that they are different from an early age, some used to play in their mother's or father's clothes fantasizing about being who they really wanted to be. On the outside however, they were unhappy trying to be who society wanted them to be. Some people sought out therapy or used drugs and alcohol to cope with not being able to be themselves. Some of the unlucky people who never found it in themselves the courage to come out or to change things, simply committed suicide.
Therapists are sometimes able to help transgenders find out what is really going on within themselves, who they want to be and how to be it. Doctors are listing themselves as LGBT friendly. Businesses and bars are allies to the LGBT communities as well. Some colleges and places of business are even offering health insurance allowing transgenders to get assistance with therapy, transitioning meds, and sometimes even the transition itself.
Transgender people also face large levels of discrimination and violence. In 2012, 53% of anti-LGBT homicide victims were transgender women.
According to a report by the National Center for Transgender Equality and The Task Force, transgender people are four times more likely to live in poverty, experience unemployment at twice the rate of the general population, with rates for people of color up to four times the national unemployment rate, and 90% of transgender people report experiencing harassment, mistreatment or discrimination on the job. 22% of respondents who have come into contact with police reported harassment, with even higher numbers for people of color. Almost half of them (46%) reported they were even uncomfortable in contacting the police for help. 41% of people who responded reported they had attempted suicide, that is compared to the small 1.6% of the general population.
Transgender people of color that are women face a very large rate of being incarcerated, homeless or of being murdered. Still in most states there is no protection for them. No legal protection for housing, health care, employment or other areas where individuals are discriminated against based on their expression or gender identity. ("Biology or environment," 2013)
In the documentary Becoming me: Gender within (Watson & Media Group, 2010) there was a FtM who had gotten a great job and when taken to Human Resources where they told him that if anyone gave him a hard time to let them know. They assured him that they would not tolerate any form of harassment, but then they themselves proceeded to tell him that he had to go to the first floor to use the unisex bathroom rather than the men's room on the fifth floor where he would be working.
No person should have to go to a job interview as a man, when they identify as a woman because they have a better chance of getting the job rather than being unemployed and on food stamps. A transgender should also be comfortable enough to go to a Doctor as themselves.
No transgender who has not fully transitioned wants to go to the Doctor, which is uncomfortable in the first place, and then have to surprise them with who they really are underneath their clothes. No human being wants to be repulsed by someone and unable to trust them with treatments or sometimes even refused treatment. They need to know where they can go for help. They should be able to be comfortable in a public restroom.
Most transgender people have families to take care of, homes to pay a mortgage on and they want the same lives as everyone else does. They want to have a nice home with a loving partner for life with kids and a white picket fence with dogs running around in the yard. They want to be good parents and be on the PTA. Some transgender people have already had kids, or adopt. Some transgenders have all of these things already, and they live regular lives. Your own next door neighbor that you love chatting with so much and BBQing with, they could be transgender and you would never know it. So why does it change when people find out someone is transgender? It doesn’t change who they are, they are still the same person.
Some people are brought up certain ways and it is hard to change their ways of thinking. It's hard to get people to take the necessary time, or to get the resources to obtain the education they need, to learn about the LGBT community and to not be afraid of what they don't understand.
In 2011, a Canadian couple made headlines for refusing to reveal the sex of their newborn child. The Mother, Kathy Witterick, declared that her 4-month-old baby Storm "should be able to develop it's own sexual identity without having to conform to social stereotypes or bow to predetermined expectations associated with gender." (Storm Gender Debate Rages in Canada As Parents Defend Right To Keep Baby's Sex A Secret," 2011)
Dr. Ken Zucker, the chief psychologist and head of the gender identity service for children at Toronto's Centre for Addiction and Mental Health, said that story has caused anxiety among people who are now wondering how they became who they are. ("Disorders of Sexual Differentiation| Bostong Children's Hospital," 2014)
The reason this story has gone viral and has been of so much interest is because it has activated an ongoing discourse of how does a child's gender identity actually get formed, Zucker said. There would be people on one side of the spectrum who would say that gender identity is completely hard wired and even if you don't chose a child's sex they are going to develop a gender identity in accordance with their biology, he said. And then there are people on the other side of the spectrum that say that gender identity is completely influenced by socialization.
Just how many parents choose this approach over the traditional no-tolerance approach is unknown. What is clear is that in the last few years, challenges to the conventional model have become increasingly common in the United States and Europe, in medical publications, among professionals, and parents themselves.
The climate has changed, said Edgardo Menvielle, head of one of the world's few programs for gender-nonconforming youth, at Children's National Medical Center in Washington. A lot of parents don’t even go to clinicians anymore. They go to websites and listservs, which influence how they think about gender. More parents decide that making their child conform to a gender will damage his or her self esteem, and I'd agree. I would argue it's not even ethical to say to a child, this is the gender you must be.
Only a few years go, such encouragement would have been hard to find, but the gay rights movement has made a big difference. Also, the visibility of transgender people whether it be someone running for office or competing on "Dancing With the Stars" has opened up a window for those who fall between genders. Though acceptance has not completely gone widespread, many school districts and local governments now ban discrimination based on gender identity or expression.
Transgender children now even have their own summer camp. Camp Aranu'tiq, in Connecticut. It is a camp where "gender-variant youth" can find a "safe place to relate to others like them, away from home." Fifteen Honorary Board Members include Chaz Bono, the transgender child or singer Chef, and Dr. Spack from Gems in Boston. (English, 2011)
Transgenders are people too. Just because they are different doesn't mean they should be bullied or put in mental hospitals. Just because they don't live how people think they should doesn't mean they are perverts or that they are going to harass anyone. They simply just want to be able to live their lives, as themselves. They struggle so much more than anyone could ever imagine.
If more people would be more open to being educated or educating others on these issues, there would be more room for love, tolerance, and understanding. This world could be a better place if we could all just love and support one another regardless of race, sex, gender and all the other reasons people bully or hate one another.
Why Support for Trans* Youth Matters
A.D.A.M., Inc., & National Library of Medicine (U.S.). (1997) Medical encyclopedia.
American Psychological Association. (2013, April) Transgender today.
Biology or environment? (2013, April)
Disorders of Sexual Differentiation| Boston Children's Hospital (2014)
English, B. (2011, December 11) Led by the child who simply knew- Metro- The Boston Globe.
Equality's Next Victims: Transgendering Our Children. (2013, January 3)
Five-year-old boy lives as a girl in youngest case of Gender Identity Disorder- Telegraph. (2012, February
GLAAD's Transgender Media and Education Program| GLAAD. (2014)
It's complicated-Transgender terminology. (2013, April).
Storm Gender Debate Rages In Canada As Parents Defend Right To Keep Baby's Sex A Secret. (2011,
Taylor & francis Online- The Effects of Hormonal Gender Affirmation Treatment on Mental Health in
Female to Male Transexuals. (n.d.).
Transgender at five: Tyler's story leads to outpouring of other stories- The Washington Post. (2012, May
Transgender Students Gain Visibility, and College Health Plans Respond- NYTimes.com. (2013, February
Watson, M.A., & Media Group. (2010, April 1). Becoming me: gender within [Video file]
What's So Bad About a Boy Who Wants to Wear a Dress?- NYTimes.com (2012, August 8).