Transgender/Transsexuality in the Media
This is a topic that continues to interest many. I put together this hub based on a paper I wrote for a class. There is much confusion in today's society surrounding the 'trans' terms and ideas. The following is a brief analysis and description of the transgender topic portrayed in the media; Specifically, Transgender MD, a television show that aired on the Discovery Fit and Health channel, in April of this year; Also, The Tyra Show has discussed this topic numerous times, and I chose the show that aired in 2009, featuring transgender children. Please feel free to leave comments and let me know what you think. :)
One of the most exciting times in a pregnant mother’s life comes at the five month mark; when she finds out what sex her baby is going to be. From then on, heavy expectations of gender roles are placed on the child, continuing into adulthood. There is a common idea in society that tells us physical genitalia, or sex, determines what gender a person is, but what happens when a person’s gender is the opposite of his or her physical sex? This is a topic that continued to interest me the entire semester and I chose to investigate it further.
I discovered an intriguing television program on The Discovery Fit and Health channel, titled, “Transgender MD.” It was about a gynecologist, Dr. Marci Bowers, who has a practice in Trinidad, Colorado. Dr. Bowers is one of the top gender reassignment surgeons in the country. She is also transgendered. The show featured her practice in Trinidad, which is also the only gynecologist office for a few hundred miles. A good majority of the town sees Dr. Bowers for their general gynecological needs. Everyone knows that Dr. Bowers is a transgendered doctor and it doesn’t seem to bother them. The few women interviewed for the show described her as caring and compassionate, also saying that they didn’t care who, or what, she had been in the past.
The show explained that people from all over visit Trinidad for gender reassignment surgery. They featured a transgendered woman, Erin, who had come to make the male to female transition complete. Erin was a bit nervous, but ready to complete her transition. Her dad had come along for support. After her surgery, she planned to stay at The Morning After, a house for people to recover from their surgery, with the support they need to successfully complete their transition, physically and emotionally.
This was a phenomenal program. It was an honest look into a foreign, almost taboo, topic. The viewer was given first-hand accounts from a respected doctor in the field, as well as, someone going through the transition process. I think this program would be an excellent addition to future classes. My favorite part was a quote from Dr. Bowers at the end. She said, “You have to have empathy for what is going on in a person’s life.” This holds true for all of us.
I also found an episode of The Tyra Show, featuring transgendered children. There was Joey, a little boy, who at age four, started telling his parents that he was a girl. At first, his parents were reluctant to accept this change, but Joey insisted that he was a girl; he wanted to wear skirts, dresses, and bikinis. The parents finally accepted it, and Joey became Josie. She explained to Tyra that she had always known that she was a girl, but wasn’t physically able to tell her parents. She also expressed that she was much happier now that she was able to be herself. The saddest part of Josie’s story was the reaction of other parents when Josie started wearing girl clothes to school. The parents were quick to toss around negative names and labels at an 8 year old. This behavior trickled down to the children and there were a few times when Josie was beaten up. However, this never deterred her from being happy with who she is.
I think this would be another great reference for future classes. So often we hear the stories of older people finally coming to terms with their identity and making the transitions necessary to become the right gender. The common factor among these stories, are the reports of how they all knew at a young age that their gender didn’t match their sex. The children featured on the show bravely told their stories and showed that they were not going to let negative thoughts and feelings keep them from being happy.
There are a variety of tools used to aid in the transition of gender. I found a case study done on a 16 year old girl, “B,” who had requested gender reassignment surgery. She had known from an early age that she was a boy, dressed the part, and participated in “boy-like” activities. It was noted that she did well in school, but at age 7, was put into psychotherapy due to her oppositional and disobedient behavior. At age 12, she contemplated suicide at the thought of facing puberty, and once again, was put into psychotherapy. She was put on triptorelin to delay puberty. This treatment made her feel better about herself, but she was not happy to learn that her gender identity would not change. She feared being a “transsexual” and the stigma that was attached. Her parents were not thrilled by the idea of gender reassignment surgery and sought help from a gender clinic. At this clinic, they gave a series of cognitive tests to “B.” Her scores were average, compared to a Dutch normative, and showed she had no serious issues. Her only problem was that she felt insecure about herself and she was moderately depressed. She was ashamed of being in the “trans” category, which made it hard to make and keep friends. It was noted that she was close to her mother, but her father had trouble accepting her “trans” identity, due to his own background.
Treatment for “B” included family therapy sessions, focusing on conflicts with each of her parents. She also had individual sessions that focused on her shame and insecurities. Small group therapy with other FM adolescents helped “B” realize that she could be like other people her age. This helped her overcome the psychological aspects of being transsexual and she decided to start hormone treatment after high school. This treatment saw an incredible improvement in her self-esteem. “B” also sought out surgical changes, having her breasts, ovaries, and uterus removed. At a one year follow up session, “B” explained that he was adjusting to the male role well and was very happy with his life. His feelings of inadequacy had disappeared and he had no intention of ever living as a woman again. He was very grateful for being able to undergo the transition at such an early age and had no regrets.
There has been much debate over the age at which a person should be able to start hormone treatment. While lowering the age could result in more “false positives,” overall, it should increase the percentage of those who would transition easily into a cross-sex role before secondary sex characteristics had the chance to develop. The most important advantage of pubertal delay, as noted in the study, is that no irreversible changes are made. However, the drawbacks include: adolescents might consider pubertal delay as a guarantee of gender reassignment surgery and will be less likely to engage in introspection; and the delay of puberty would widen the gap between the adolescent and his or her peers, increasing the risk for harassment. This case study helps support the idea that pubertal delay could be a useful tool and could potentially be beneficial in selected cases.
The study held true with what I learned in class and with what I saw in my media portrayals. The adults portrayed feelings of unhappiness, insecurity, and the feeling that something was lacking, all while trying to hide their true identity. Once they were able to tell their families and friends and got the support, they reported feelings of happiness. The children were able to express themselves to their parents at an early age and were content once they were able to live in their true identity. The case study shows that early treatment leads to success and happiness. I think the future holds promise for the transgendered population.
These are the publications from which I found my information.
Cohen-Kettenis, P.T., and SHM Van Goozen. "Pubertal Delay as an Aid in Diagnosis and Treatment of a Transsexual Adolescent." European Child & Adolescent Psychiatry 7 (1998): 246-48. EBSCO. Web. 29 Apr. 2011.
"Transgender MD." Transgender MD. Discovery Fit and Health. 19 Apr. 2011. Television.
"YouTube - Transgendered Children - Tyra (Part 1)." The Tyra Show. WPIX, 27 Jan. 2010. YouTube - Broadcast Yourself. 27 Jan. 2010. Web. 30 Apr. 2011. <http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2mYvj6bEpQM>.
"YouTube - Transgendered Children - Tyra (Part 2)." The Tyra Show. WPIX, 27 Jan. 2010. YouTube - Broadcast Yourself. 27 Jan. 2010. Web. 30 Apr. 2011. <http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OB-L_HkW_eI>.
"YouTube - Transgendered Children - Tyra (Part 3)." The Tyra Show. WPIX, 27 Jan. 2010. YouTube - Broadcast Yourself. 27 Jan. 2010. Web. 30 Apr. 2011. <http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ET24xPi5gVM>.
"YouTube - Transgendered Children - Tyra (Part 4)." The Tyra Show. WPIX, 27 Jan. 2010. YouTube - Broadcast Yourself. 27 Jan. 2010. Web. 30 Apr. 2011. <http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=U43ydgQchuU>.
"YouTube - Transgendered Children - Tyra (Part 5)." The Tyra Show. WPIX, 27 Jan. 2010. YouTube - Broadcast Yourself. 27 Jan. 2010. Web. 30 Apr. 2011. <http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TuBzgQYy3YA>.