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Transgenderism, transsexualism, and gender identity

Personal stories by transsexuals
of success and difficulties transitioning

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Numbers:

According to Lynn Conway:

"Approximately 30,000 to 40,000 postoperative transsexual women [MTF] live in the United States, and many thousands more are now in the process of gender transition here. These numbers are much larger than commonly assumed by the public because a veil of invisibility hides the true nature and extent of the transsexual condition. Especially hidden are large numbers of highly successful women who have fully transitioned. The reason is that most successful women live in "stealth mode" or are "woodworked". They leave their pasts behind and hide in plain sight in order to avoid social stigmatization and get on with their new lives. Their personal successes insure that they assimilate and blend right into society."

"Recent calculations indicate that the condition occurs in about 1 out of every 250 to 500 children born as boys, and that about 1 in every 2500 males in the U.S. has already undergone surgical sex reassignment."

She suggests that transgender individuals:

"... need to learn of the profound advantages of undergoing gender correction while young, as opposed to living in angst in the wrong gender for decades and then finally transitioning, in desperation, late in life. If parents can just learn to see that their transsexual child is really a 'girl with a physical problem' rather than a 'boy with a mental problem', then that child's future is especially hopeful. With parental love and support, a young transsexual girl can now reach for her dreams, and go on to live a full and joyous life as a woman."

Unfortunately, there are many transgender persons who transition later in life. Many of them find that their eventual success is preceeded by a long series of difficulties, rejections, roadblocks, and even violence during their interval of transition. 4

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Commonly felt discrimination and rejection:

Dr. Paul Daverio, a surgeon who specializes in gender reassignment surgery, writes:

"For individuals who are going through such a psychologically difficult time, the effects can be devastating. This may include prolonged periods of social isolation as well as rejection by family and colleagues." 1

The personal story of Lou G. Sullivan:

He was born Sheila Jean Sullivan. He started transitioning from female to male at the age of 27. He contracted HIV in 1986 and died of AIDS in 1991 at the age of 39. In his short life, he was a founding member and board member of the GLBT Historical Society in San Francisco. He was a transgender homosexual. That is, he was identified as a female at birth, recognized himself as transgender, lived as a male, and had a homosexual orientation.

He also founded FTM International, an advocacy group, which was largely responsible for a major change in the medical and mental health communities: Sexual orientation and gender identity are now recognized as being separate concepts. That is, a person who is transgender may have a homosexual, heterosexual or bisexual orientation, as defined by the gender to whom they are attracted. But prior to the 1980s, FTM transgender persons who were gay were rejected for sex-reassignment surgery. At the time, they were not recognized as having a legitimate form of gender dysphoria. He mounted an effort to have homosexual orientation removed from a list of objections which prevented FTM candidates from being accepted for surgery. 5,6

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A personal story of a high school student:

Blake Williams, 18, born Emily Williams, is a FTM transsexual who started transitioning from female to male in late 2006. He says that he has been bullied and verbally abused at the three schools that he has attended in Colorado since that time. He has asked local boards to initiate training to sensitize their staff in the issues that challenge lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) students. He said: "We need to be protected from the hate, the bullying. We want to be treated as human beings."

Principal George Stone of Aspen Valley High School has asked his staff to refer to Williams as a male, but vetoed William's request to have permission to use the male bathroom.

Referring to discriminatory practices, Ayden Merino, a freshman at the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs, said: "This doesn't stop at high schools. It goes on in colleges. They can't even figure out what kind of dorm room to put us in."

Nancy-Jo Morris leads the transgender support group Peak Area Gender Expressions. She said: "Those of you who are not transgender may not understand us. But you know when people are being mistreated."

Blake has dropped out of Aspen Valley High School because he didn't feel safe. He and about 25 other protestors took part in a demonstration at the school, advocating for a reduction in hatred and harassment. 3

Personal stories of transgender seniors:

Shannon Minter of the National Center for Lesbian Rights described the plight of older transsexuals, including:

bulletAlejandro, 72, female-to-male (FTM) transsexual: In failing health, he moved into an assisted living facility. Almost immediately, some of the other residents demanded that he be asked to leave. One month later, his tenancy was terminated. There was no federal, state or local law in place that could have protected him.

bullet Lisa, 60, male-to-female (MTF) transsexual: She was employed as a professional but was fired almost two decades previously as she transitioned. She has not been able to find employment since. She cannot afford gender reassignment surgery (GRS) and is often homeless. But without having undergone GRS, she is refused access to the local homeless women's shelter.

bulletMack, 68, pre-op FTM transgender: He suffered a stroke. His sister and legal guardian placed him in a nursing home. She dressed him in female nightgowns and referred to him by his female birth name. When Mack was able to make his wishes known about his name and clothing, the staff concluded that he was confused. He has become increasingly withdrawn and depressed.

Stephanie Kay Steven's story:

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"TrannyGirl15"'s discussion about success in transitioning:

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"Selece77" compares her appearance before and after transitioning:

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Internet websites containing personal stories by transsexuals:

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References used:

The following information sources were used to prepare and update the above essay. The hyperlinks are not necessarily still active today.

  1. Dr. Paul Daverio "Sex reassignment surgery," Tokai Clinic, at: http://www.jujinclinic.com/
  2. Sue McMillin, "Transgender teen decries hate at schools," Colorado Springs Gazette, 2008-DEC-05, at: http://www.gazette.com/
  3. Shannon Minter, "Legal and public policy issues for transgender elders," National Center for Lesbian Rights, 2003, at: http://www.nclrights.org/
  4. Lynn Conway, "Transsexual Women's Successes: Links and photos," 2001 to 2011, at: http://ai.eecs.umich.edu/
  5. "Transgender Day Of Remembrance 2012: 50 incredible transgender icons," Huffington Post, 2012-NOV-20, at: http://www.huffingtonpost.com Sullivan is described as #22. However, no photograph is shown.
  6. Lou Sullivan, Wikipedia, as on , at: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lou_Sullivan

Copyright © 2008 to 2014 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Original posting: 2008-AUG
Latest update and review: 2014-FEB-15
Author: B.A. Robinson

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