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This used to be a blog dedicated to one of my interests, dream interpretation. I have decided to expand it to include thoughts about pretty much Everything.

Monday, September 2, 2013

Trying to be an ally to transgender people

The Bradley Manning story a couple weeks ago has gotten me thinking.  First of all, I'm trying to decide where I stand transgenderism in general, and secondly, Manning's desire that the prison medical system perform his/her sex change operation, specifically. 

From a broad perspective, even though I wasn't raised this way, I have seen the light, and I try to be an "ally."  The list below is from the website in the previous link.
Ten ways to support LGBT persons:
  1. Don't assume everyone is heterosexual.
  2. Do not ever out anyone. Just because you might know, don't assume that others do.
  3. Avoid anti-gay jokes and conversations.
  4. Create an atmosphere of acceptance.
  5. Use all inclusive language. Use "partner" instead of "boyfriend" or "girlfriend."
  6. Actively pursue a process of self-education. Read and ask questions.
  7. Acknowledge and take responsibility for your own socialization, prejudice and privilege.
  8. Educate others: one-on-one, group programming, teachable moments.
  9. Interrupt prejudice and take action against oppression even when people from the target group are not present.
  10. Have a vision of a healthy, multicultural society.

It's more a theoretical and political game at this point, as I only know a handful of homosexual people, none of which are very close friends (I live in a tiny town!) and I don't think I personally know any transgender people at all.  (If I do know someone who's transgender, it's not obvious!)  I think, given my situation, I'm doing a pretty decent job on these items. Once I move to a bigger city and get more exposure to a diverse population, then I'll be really tested on these things, though.  This post is about #6: "Actively pursue a process of self-education. Read and ask questions."  So I have a lot of questions.

I find it easy to support homosexuality.  The homosexual people I have met (that I know about) are all wonderful, normal, well-adjusted people contributing amazing things to society.  I don't feel that their attraction to the same sex is weird or aberrant, or in any way more disgusting than any other kind of sex.  (All sex is gross, if you think about it...)  Homosexuality occurs in many species of animals, and we've seen it all throughout human history as well.

I'm having a harder time getting my head around transgenderism, though. As I understand it, transgenderism is less about attraction, and more about personal identity. A person feels that their biological gender doesn't match their internal gender, and this causes discomfort.  After some thought, I'm realizing that I'm having a hard time with this, because transgenderism conflicts with a core belief of mine: naturalism.  I believe that humans should strive to live in harmony with Nature as much as possible.  I want to believe that with very few exceptions, most people could live long-term (pharmaceutical) drug-free, if they were in the right natural conditions and ate the right natural diet (unless they have been wounded). I've been accused of being a hippie, and I admit, I lean that direction.  So the idea of someone needing to have a medical surgery that wasn't even remotely possible before, what?, 60-ish years ago, and to maintain their new gender by taking (laboratory-created) hormones every day, just to feel like they belong in their own skin, sounds unlikely to me.  There's no way to know if this occurs in animals, since they can't speak to express their mental conditions.  But why would nature allow that to happen?  What evolutionary advantage would this condition bestow?  If that's really what people believe they need, just to be themselves, they must have a deep-seated fear and suspicion of the entire universe, which could be so cruel as to cause them to be born incapable of self-expression without major surgery.

Transgenderism, as I am understanding it anyway, also conflicts with my belief in personality and gender as a complex thing, not an absolute one.  I believe strongly that no matter the person's biological gender, all of us have both archetypally-masculine and archetypally-feminine personalities inside of us.  (I suscribe to the multimind theory.)  Ideally, a well-integrated (or individuated) ego lives in a lovely balance of all the internal personalities working together, all with adequate opportunities for expression at the right times.  So every male has inner females as part of his identity, and every female has inner males.  I don't think I believe that gender is absolute, beyond the biological sense.  On the outside, I'm an adult woman, but on the inside, I'm lots of things.

Don't get me wrong; if someone wants to go get the operation, whatever. It's their business.  Just because I don't personally "get it," doesn't mean I'm going to judge them for their choices.  I'd like to think I could be friends with a transgender person, if given the chance.  But when it comes to forming an opinion about whether public money should pay for somone's sex change operation, I balk a bit. Is it really a necessity for the patient's health?  (In the case of Bradley Manning, he has done so much for our country, I feel he should get whatever he wants. I'm talking more on the theoretical side now, though, trying to work out my feelings on the topic of gender change operations.)
 
What's the damage if we don't pay for such a major surgery?  Transgender people claim mental anguish.

Believe me, I know mental anguish.  I'm not trying to dismiss any agony that someone might go through.  Exactly the opposite, actually; I believe that the best way through mental anguish is by facing it, wallowing and working through it, one difficult day after another.  You'll never hear me say "buck up and get over it."  But is it remotely possible that the anguish might be misplaced? Could there possibly be a deeper wound that the patient isn't willing or able to face, and for whatever reason, a set of genitalia becomes the scape goat?  Would it be possible to balance all the inner genders and any inner turmoil, via healing and individuation, and come to peace with the biological lot one has received in life without resorting to the surgeon's knife?

I don't know. I don't know how to find out.  Maybe one of my intelligent and sophisticated readers can help me see what I'm missing.  I'll be the first to admit, my knowledge of this topic is very limited.

1 comment:

  1. Hi I found your post online and felt the need to respond. I found a lot of problems and since you are asking for information here is some. I am not an authoritative voice, I am not transgender, but I hope I can point out some issues.

    “…I'm having a hard time with this, because transgenderism conflicts with a core belief of mine: naturalism.”

    I’m sure you can fit ‘transgender people’ within your worldview but maybe your beliefs need to be augmented if you want to be a non-judgmental ally.

    You look to scientific/zoological evidence (patterns in ‘nature’ that corroborate with human behaviour). While humans are animals, animals are not humans. We can (and should) contest such a binary, but remember that humans are not neatly comparable to animals and such comparisons not be used to dictate human normalcy.

    You say that transgenderism conflicts with your ‘belief in personality and gender as a complex thing, not an absolute one’: This ASSUMES that ‘transgenderism’ (and transsexuality) is absolute with no variation, that trans people are homogenous beings who prescribe to stereotypical gender ideals and belief in an essentialist identity that is mute and rigid. I would encourage you to do more reading on the subject matter, including books and articles by trans people to inform yourself.

    “I believe strongly that no matter the person's biological gender, all of us have both archetypally-masculine and archetypally-feminine personalities inside of us.”

    Using the word “both” reifies that “gender” is merely made up of “two” ways of being. Also, saying people have archetypically-masculine and archetypically-feminine personalities inside of us’ suggests a belief in an absolute/innate/essentialist gender.

    But when it comes to forming an opinion about whether public money should pay for somone's sex change operation, I balk a bit. Is it really a necessity for the patient's health?

    In short: yes it is necessary.

    “Could there possibly be a deeper wound that the patient isn't willing or able to face, and for whatever reason, a set of genitalia becomes the scape goat? Would it be possible to balance all the inner genders and any inner turmoil, via healing and individuation, and come to peace with the biological lot one has received in life without resorting to the surgeon's knife?”

    You are pathologising trans people (a huge problem and something you should never, ever do as an ally) and refocusing genitals as the site of (or evidence of) gender. Many transsexual people do not modify their genitals for various reasons, relating to personal choices, politics, economics, or a combination of these and others.

    It does not matter that your beliefs about ‘nature,’ ‘gender’ or ‘medicine/surgery’ are incongruent with your conceptions about transgenderism/transsexuality. This is beyond the point. The point is that transgender people exist and you do not get to decide whether or not they are valid, healthy, or normal.

    I hope this was helpful and I wish you all the best in your pondering.

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