Chaz Bono can’t dance. And that’s a good thing.
October 4th, 2011
And I’m glad he can’t. Here’s why.
When it was announced that Chaz, a transgender man who was known to many as Cher’s daughter Chastity, would be competing on Dancing With the Stars, those who ‘love the sinner but hate watching him on TV’ threatened to boycott. The Christian Post did a good job of collecting the real-sounding excuses for objecting to Chaz.
“I personally do not mind watching Chaz,” wrote Callisandria2. “The problem is that I watch this show with my 10 year old daughter. I am sure the show will talk about Chaz and the controversy, and I am not ready to explain all of that to her yet. We just barely covered the birds and the bees. We always watch one show together, in the fall it’s DWTS, and in the spring it’s American Idol. Looks like we will try X-factor instead this season.”
Other fans were more blunt.
“Manufactured genitalia is not the conversation I want to have with my children,” said trident606.
Some fans had moral issues regarding Chaz Bono’s gender reassignment and refused to accept Bono’s “male” status.
Many posters were less concerned with Bono’s gender status than they were with the fact that he is not really a “star” in the first place.
“The name of the program is Dancing With the Stars. Since when is Chaz a star?” said an anonymous poster. “Okay, he starred in his own documentary about his transition to male, but other than that what has he done with his life? Stardom? Not hardly. I think I’ll pass on watching this season. Maybe they’ll get some stars next season.”
(Well… okay, I can agree with the last one. I do refer to the show as Dancing With the Has-Beens.)
But the show didn’t budge and the sinner-lovers didn’t boycott. And, as usual, DWTS is a hugely successful crowd pleaser. And, as it turns out, Chaz Bono can’t dance. At all. Even if you have a few cocktails. And squint.
Nope, Chaz Bono can’t dance.
Which is, as I said, a good thing.
Because while the judge express admiration for Chaz, they give him low scores. And on DWTS, the judges scores are combined with the viewers’ called-in votes to determine who will be eliminated. So unless the voters “save you”, your ability to impress the dance judges is what advances you each week. And so far this season, Chaz Bono has survived the first two eliminations with abysmal scores.
If Chaz could dance we might assume that his continued presence was due to fancy footwork or judge favoritism. But unlike the charming and Carson Kressely (who also appears to be a crowd favorite), Chaz’ continued presence can only suggest that DWTS’ voters have connected.
So just who are these viewers that are tuning to watch and vote for the transgender man with “manufactured genitalia”? Who is it that is choosing
Well, if you know a bit more about the demographic, you might understand how Jennifer Gray and Ralph Machio are “stars”. DWTS is the most popular show among adults ages 50 and over. The median viewer age is 60. When Aunt Thelma gets with her friends to watch, she’s the youngster in the room.
Yesterday, Chaz achieved a bit of an accomplishment: his dancing was even worse than the week before. Going into tonight’s elimination, he has 18 out of 30 point, three below his nearest competitor.
The odds are that Chaz will go. But whether or not the voters save Chaz Bono’s dancing feet, they’ve spoken their opinion loud and clear.
They may not fully understand why Cher’s little girl is now a rather hefty man with a beard, but he’s welcome in their living room. And that’s why I’m glad that Chaz Bono can’t dance.
Gender challenging caveman
April 6th, 2011
Questions about gender and gender roles are certainly not new ones. A recent excavation in the Czech Republic illustrate that atraditional sexuality was recognized
3,000 5,000 years ago. (Mail Online)
During that period, men were traditionally buried lying on their right side with the head pointing towards the west; women on their left side with the head facing east.
In this case, the man was on his left side with his head facing west. Another clue is that men tended to be interred with weapons, hammers and flint knives as well as several portions of food and drink to accompany them to the other side.
Women would be buried with necklaces made from teeth, pets, and copper earrings, as well as domestic jugs and an egg-shaped pot placed near the feet.
The ‘gay caveman’ was buried with household jugs, and no weapons.
Whether gay, transgender, intersexed, or for some other reason, exceptions to very rigid gender rules suggest a knowledge of divergence and perhaps even an acceptance.
Annabel – discussion thread
February 22nd, 2011
While the death of gay-themed book stores (and the waning of traditional book stores in general) has cut back on one’s ability to peruse shelves of books with gay themes and characters, there is still an abundance of gay literature available. You may have to search online, but it is there.
Books on gay politics, theory, history, biography and erotica abound. But nothing is more important than novels, books which tell our stories and which connect us to the world. Fiction removes the specifics of real situations and generalizes in a way that allows a reader to step outside their world, empathize with a character, and share a new experience.
And there are many many novels available which express the lives of gay men. Some of them are even worth the time to read. Fewer, but still present, are novels which share the dreams, passions and possibilities of gay women.
But novels – or fiction of any sort – which share the lives of the trans members of our community are almost unheard of. And what fiction that does include trans characters or stories can feel a bit like ‘oooh, look at the freak’ or Very Very Earnest, neither of which make for a particularly pleasurable read.
So when I ran across Annabel by Canadian author Kathleen Winter my interest was piqued. I picked it up on whim, and I’m glad I did.
Annabel isn’t strictly a trans story (the main character was born intersex) but it does speak to gender discovery and is likely to have feeling of familiarity to both intersex and trans people. This is not my story or my experience, so I can’t be much of a judge as to its honesty or accuracy.
While this book is not without some technical and literary flaws, I’m enjoying the story. However, I wonder what our trans and intersex readers think. Have any of you read the book?
Please share with us your perspectives on this book or on other trans literature.
NOTE: I’m still a few chapters from finishing – and no doubt there will be others who will want to pick up the book without having the story spoiled – so please don’t give away of the plot.
November 9th, 2010
There is currently a bit of a kerfuffle about the show Glee using the word “tranny” during their Rocky Horror episode. GLAAD is calling them in to have a little talk about it.
But here’s the thing, in a bigger sense, I still don’t know what appropriate term to use.
Yes, I know that the appropriate term is “transgender”, but I don’t think I’ve ever hear that used in a casual setting. It’s just too cumbersome and kinda clinical.
The first MTF transgender I knew was a loud brassy hippy-chick who was very kind to a naive young activist. She referred to herself as a tranny and, at the time, it seemed like everyone did. But while I know that term is still common among folks of a certain age who never thought of it as offensive, others find it to be an indication of disrespect.
Another friend of mine calls herself a T-girl. But I can’t say just how common that is. She may be the only one, for all I know.
So it’s a bit of an open question, I think. And one that is worth raising here as I know we have more than a few transgender readers. So I’ll ask you, our transgender folk (though others can opine as well):
Do you want to insist on “transgender”?
Some may. (I recall the lectures given to commenters on this site who made the fatal error of saying “transgendered”). But if so, is that a rule you keep for yourself? Do you always and only call yourself transgender?
Others may suggest that within friends other terms can be used. What might they be? What can we say that is not going to offend?
What can GLEE say that won’t offend? For that matter, is it even acceptable to be a sweet transvestite from transexual Transylvania anymore?
Anti-Gay OK State Rep Faces Transgender Challenger
June 9th, 2010
Oklahoma state representative Sally Kern, who has called gay people more dangerous to the country than terrorists, will face a transgender opponent, attorney Brittany Novotny (pictured), in the general election for the Oklahoma City seat this fall. Novotny, the state’s first known transgender candidate, filed papers to run Tuesday.
Both Novotny and Kern say that neither will make Novotny’s gender identity a campaign issue. We’ll just see how long Kern stays classy.
Congratulations Amanda Simpson
January 4th, 2010
President Barack Obama has named Amanda Simpson as a Senior Technical Advisor to the Commerce Department, where she will be working in the Bureau of Industry and Security:
“I’m truly honored to have received this appointment and am eager and excited about this opportunity that is before me. And at the same time, as one of the first transgender presidential appointees to the federal government, I hope that I will soon be one of hundreds, and that this appointment opens future opportunities for many others.”
Simpson brings considerable professional credentials to her new job. For thirty years, she has worked in the aerospace and defense industry, most recently serving as Deputy Director in Advanced Technology Development at Raytheon Missile Systems in Tucson, Arizona. She holds degrees in physics, engineering and business administration along with an extensive flight background. She is a certified flight instructor and test pilot with 20 years of experience.
As a fellow Tucsonan, I have had the rare privilege of knowing Amanda. She is not only a truly amazing, dynamic woman, but she’s a genuine trailblazer as well. She’s as been a local activist and former member of the City of Tucson Commission on GLBT Issues, and in 2004 she became the first transgender person to win the Democratic Nomination for the Arizona House of Representatives. She was recognized that same year as one of the YWCA’s “Women On the Move.”
Several of us gathered for a Christmas party on the Friday before Christmas. It was a bittersweet party since it was also our good-bye party for Amanda. We will all miss her here in Tucson, but we are also immensely proud and excited for her new opportunities in D.C. I can’t think of a more qualified person to advise the Commerce Department on the technical issues surrounding technology exports. Break a leg, Amanda!
Ft. Worth Adds Transgenders to Non-Discrimination Ordinance
November 11th, 2009
Ft. Worth City Council last night expanded the city’s non-discrimination ordinance to include transgender people by a 6-3 vote. City council also discussed a broader range of issues important to the LGBT community, including offering domestic-partner benefits and expanding the city health insurance plan to cover gender reassignment procedures, including sex changes. Discussions were contentious, both inside the packed hall and outside, where protesters from both sides had gathered. The Dallas Voice reports:
There were no arrests or major physical altercations, but there was plenty of taunting and some heated verbal exchanges. Participants from both sides later accused the other of elbowing and pushing, and one of the counterprotesters admitted to ripping a gay Pride flag.
A Most Unusual Methodist
September 1st, 2009
David Weekley is a bit unusual for a United Methodist Church pastor. For one thing, he’s a Caucasian pastor of a historic 95% Japanese-American congregation. And for another, he has for the past 27 years kept the secret that he was born female. (WestLinn Tidings)
Standing behind his pulpit, Weekley began his usual worship service. About halfway through, he paused to share a personal message he called “My Book Report.”
He told them that in 1984, just nine years after undergoing extensive sex-reassignment surgeries, he was ordained by the Methodist Church without telling anyone of his original gender at birth.
Following his story, the congregation, who had remained silent throughout his talk, broke into thunderous applause. Church members then proclaimed their support for their pastor.
Days may be difficult ahead for Weekley, as the UMC is one of the more conservative branches of mainline Christianity. But at present he has a supportive family, supportive congregation, and supportive region. And his testimony can perhaps reach hearts that already know and love him and serve to open eyes and expand thinking.
Transgender Vets Featured In Arizona Daily Star
February 23rd, 2009
Transgender people are often referred to as the silent “T’s” of the LGBT community. But Tuscon, for whatever reason, is home to a very active and comparatively visible transgender community, with many of them making up the most enthusiastic roles of community service via the Wingspan LGBT community center and the Southern Arizona Gender Alliance (SAGA).
But despite all that, transgender people aren’t as visible in the general community as you might think. So it was such a pleasure to see Tucson’s hometown morning paper, the Arizona Daily Star, feature on its front page the first part of an amazing two-part series by military reporter Carol Ann Alaimo on the hidden lives of transgender military veterans. The first part provides a look in the lives of four veterans, three of whom transitioned to women and one who transitioned to a man. The second part today focuses on the inconsistent medical care these veterans face in the VA health care system.
This invisibility in the military is an especially important story because experts believe that the proportion of transgender people in the military is higher than that of the civilian population:
A study titled “Transsexuals in the Military: Flight Into Hypermasculinity” — a classic still cited in college texts on gender issues — was written in 1988 by Dr. George R. Brown, then an Air Force captain and psychiatrist at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base in Ohio.
Brown found it curious that in a three-year period at the Midwestern base, he came across 11 men — eight current and former military, the rest civilians such as Defense Department staffers — all seeking treatment to become women.
Transsexuality is an issue “believed by many not to exist” in the armed forces, he noted. Yet each veteran told him nearly the same thing: He had enlisted hoping to “become a real man.”
A copy of Brown’s study from the prestigious Archives of Sexual Behavior is available on the Star’s web site (PDF: 676KB/11 pages). Brown’s findings on why transwomen might be attracted to the military was perhaps best illustrated by Erin Rus, one of the three women featured in the Sunday article:
Transgender people often sense their predicaments at a young age, Vanderleest said. That’s how it was for Russ, the former Army captain who has been living full time as a female since 2001. Even as a preschooler, she said, “I knew something was different about me.”
Joining the military was one action in a long list of things — playing football, becoming an Eagle Scout, getting married and becoming a father — that Russ hoped would still the inner sense of being born with the wrong anatomy. “You think if you do enough things of a male nature, then you will become male, and the female thoughts will go away.”
As with gay people, transgender people are barred from serving in the military. Erin’s military career came to a sudden end when she was pulled over for a routine traffic stop while dressed as a woman. The police officer wrote “a page long report on how I was dressed” and sent a copy to the military. The following Monday, Erin was called in to her commander’s office and threatened with a court-martial for conduct unbecoming of an officer. She was allowed to resign honorably.
That loss of talent in the military is a loss to the nation, as many of these vets typically served their country with distinction:
[Mick] Andoso, 51, retired in 1995 as a first sergeant. Back then, Andoso’s name was Master Sgt. Brenda Weichelt — who in 1994 was named one of the service’s top airmen for her work at the military’s Defense Language Institute in California.
Andoso still has a copy of an Air Force Sergeants Association magazine describing the award, and photos taken with the service’s top brass. Also among the keepsakes is a letter from Brenda’s last commander.
“You are among the few rare exceptions whose absolute dedication to duty, commitment to excellence and genuine concern for your service and your fellow airmen, set you so far apart that I can never forget your outstanding achievements,” it said.
The second part of the Star’s series goes more in depth on how the Veterans Administration deals with transgender veterans who come into the system for care. The U.S. bans transgender people from serving in the military, and that policy greatly influences the VA’s health care policies, where transgender vets are often denied treatments that experts say could help them most. (A few other countries, like Canada and Great Britain allow transgender people to serve, and will even pay for treatment, including sex-change surgery.)
Last June, the American Medical Association approved a new policy on the care of transgender patients, which calls gender-identity disorder a “serious medical condition … which causes intense emotional pain and suffering.” Untreated, it can lead to stress-related illness, depression and suicide. The AMA calls for all public and private medical providers to cover the cost of mental health care, hormone therapy and sex-reassignment surgery.
But the VA medical system does not conform to that policy. The National Department of Veterans Affairs specifically forbids VA hospitals from performing or paying for surgery, hormone treatments, psychotherapy, and other measures. Those policies are now under review.
The VA;s current policy also prohibits “any process or procedure involving genital identity revision,” an open phrase that is subject to wide interpretations from one VA hospital to the next or even one doctor to the next, resulting in huge disparities in patient treatment. Some hospitals have refused to treat transgender veterans for even routine medical conditions unrelated to their transgender status. VA hospitals in Tucson and Boston are seen as more generous in their treatments. Boston’s VA hospital even has a memo which specifies their policy on treating transgender vets (PDF: 176KB/5 pages), the only VA hospital to do so.
But even in Tucson’s relatively generous VA hospital, treatment can be uneven. Mick Andoso is happy with his care at the Tucson VA hospital, but others continue to experience problems:
[Diane] Steen, on the other hand, said she was denied hormone therapy at the local VA as she prepared for her privately obtained sex-change surgery. That forced her to find an outside doctor and cover the cost herself. “It all depends what doctor you get,” Steen said of VA care.
Erin Russ of Tucson, a former Army officer who is transgender and a VA patient, agreed. Tucson VA staffers “are mostly accepting. But there are a few who basically hold the line that we are crazy, and they refuse to deal with us on any other basis,” said Russ, who teaches transgender awareness workshops at Wingspan, the local gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender resource center.
Advocates for transgender veterans are working to change that policy soon.
Indianapolis Reporter Ignores Murder Victim’s Gender
January 24th, 2009
This isn’t the first time this has happened. We got caught with a similar situation not too long ago when we were presented with a report on a murder in Syracuse. Initial reports from the press were extremely ambiguous about Lateisha Green’s gender, calling her “Moses ‘Teish’ Cannon,” rather than the name everyone knew her by. Because I couldn’t determine exactly how Teish presented herself to everyone, I reflected the ambiguity of those early reports. After all, I have known people who truly are gender ambiguous and who insisted on not having it any other way. Nevertheless we were blasted for that ambiguity in the comments. But as the situation became more clear, we revised our reporting.
It was never our intention to stain Teish’s memory with an incorrect description of her gender. All we could do was rely in the reports that were presented to us. So imagine the offense we might have caused had we reported on a December murder in Indianapolis based on a WISH and WTHR reports which consistently referred to two murder victims, Michael Hunt, 22, and Avery Elzy, 34 as two men.
But this is Taysia Elzy, a transgender woman who was murdered along with her boyfriend.
Bil Browning and GLAAD were all over it. GLAAD contacted WTHR reporter Steve Jefferson and offered extensive resources for correcting the faulty coverage, including pointing out that the Associated Press style guide calls for reporters to “[u]se the pronoun preferred by the individuals who have acquired the physical characteristics of the opposite sex or present themselves in a way that does not correspond with their sex at birth. If that preference is not expressed, use the pronoun consistent with the way the individuals live publicly.”
According to GLAAD, Jefferson didn’t like the advice:
Instead of taking our advice the reporter rebuffed our educational efforts saying in an email, “I did not do this story based on lifestyle.” Jefferson furthered, “Our goal is to catch the killer- NOT promote your cause.” He also said he did not use female pronouns because he said the transgender victim “was NOT post-op.”
GLAAD included WTHR’s coverage as being among the worst in the nation for December, probably on the basis of Jefferson’s reaction.
Bil Browning’s reaction is perfect:
Actually, Steve, your job is to report the news. Your job is not to catch criminals, it’s to be an impartial, unbiased source of news and information without resorting to sensationalizing and disrespecting victims of a violent crime. This is why you are the worst journalist in the nation; you deserve the honor.
I’d go a little bit further. It is the reporter’s job not just to be impartial and unbiased, but also to report with clarity. Jefferson failed on all of these accounts.
WTHR’s coverage has just been updated toward a more ambiguous reporting. Her gender went from being incorrect to being unmentioned. It a small step in the right direction, but not far enough in my view. The revised reports are about as ambiguous as the first reports from Syracuse of Teish’s murder. WHTR hasn’t commented publicly on their reporter’s coverage.
Meanwhile, WISH’s reports have remained unchanged. They still describe the murder victims as “two men.”
Update: When I spoke to Bil Browning by phone earlier this afternoon, he told me about some new information that he would add to his post. That information is this:
I spoke with Carolyn Williams, the News Director for WTHR. The offensive article has been edited to conform with the AP Style Guide. Ms. Williams will also be speaking with her Station Manager about coordinating a diversity training session on LGBT issues with all area television stations.
Ms. Williams was very kind and understanding. E-mailing Ms. Williams with kudos for her prompt response and leadership would be more appropriate at this point!
A Truly Stupid Example of Transphobia
January 10th, 2009
Gainesville, Florida, has an ordinance allowing transgender persons to select whichever bathroom they find most appropriate. The haters and the fools have come up with a campaign to overturn this ordinance and to require transgendered persons to… well, I’m not sure exactly.
This is the television ad they are running:
Transgender persons – like any group – are too complex to make many absolute statements. But I’m willing to say with absolute confidence that there is not a single solitary male-to-female transgender out there that lurks around in public looking like this guy. And there isn’t a police force on the planet (much less Gainesville) that wouldn’t arrest this dude.
Ironically, however, this appearance would not be out of the question for a female-to-male transgender. And I just wonder just which bathroom the Citizens for Good Public Policy would want him to use.
Of course, their effort have nothing to do with where a T-girl pees. It’s just a cover for an anti-gay, anti-trans agenda.
The proposed amendment, if approved by the voters of Gainesville, will require the city’s civil rights categories (contained in the Code of Ordinances) to match the State of Florida’s civil rights categories. This action will remove two current categories—sexual orientation and gender identity disorder—as well as nullify current laws, such as the Gender Identity Ordinance, that specifically pertain to these categories.
The Good Citizens just want to have the right to discriminate.
Transgender Day of Remembrance
November 20th, 2008
Today is Transgender Day of Remembrance, a day set aside to remember those who were killed due to anti-transgender or anti-gender-variant prejudice.
Transgender Day of Remembrance began in 1999 to honor Rita Hester, who was stabbed to death on November 28th 1998. This year will mark the tenth anniversary of her death. The event has grown over the past decade to include memorials in more than a hundred cities in all over the world.
The Remembering Our Dead web site contains profiles of some 353 people who have lost their lives around the world — some of them, their names are unknown. In fact, we really don’t know the full extent of hate crimes motivated by prejudice against variant gender identity and expression. As imperfect as the FBI’s statistics of hate crimes based on sexual orientation are, they provide even fewer clues to what’s going on against transgender and gender-variant people. Federal law only mandates the collection of statistics for crimes based on sexual orientation, not sexual identity or expression.
To find a memorial event near you, please visit the Transgender Day of Remembrance website.
APA Statements on DSM Workgroups
June 3rd, 2008
Last week, we posted a statement from four transgender advocacy organizations on the American Psychiatric Association’s ongoing efforts to update the Diagnostics and Statistical Manual for its fifth edition (DSM-V). This week, we have two statements from the APA. The first one is about the DSM revision process, and the second one is about Kenneth Zucker’s participation on the DSM workgroup.
APA STATEMENT ON GID AND THE DSM-V
May 23, 2008
The American Psychiatric Association has received inquiries about the DSM-V process, particularly concerns about the Sexual and Gender Identity Disorders Work Group. The APA recognizes that this work group and others will address difficult and sometimes controversial issues. The APA’s goal is to develop a diagnostic manual that is based on sound scientific data, but also sensitive to the needs of clinicians and their patients. To this end, the APA has created a process that involves opportunities for review and input from persons with varied backgrounds and opinions.
Thirteen DSM-V work groups have been established to review all existing diagnostic categories in the current DSM. Individual work groups may propose revisions to existing disorder criteria, inclusion of new disorders, removal of existing disorders, or no changes to a disorder or its criteria. They may also propose revisions to the text that accompanies the criteria for each disorder. The Sexual and Gender Identity Disorders Work Group, chaired by Kenneth J. Zucker, Ph.D., has three subworkgroups:
- Gender Identity Disorders, chaired by Peggy T. Cohen-Kettenis, Ph.D.
- Paraphilias, chaired by Ray Blanchard, Ph.D.
- Sexual Dysfunctions, chaired by R. Taylor Segraves, M.D., Ph.D.
Each subworkgroup meets regularly, in person or on conference calls. They begin by reviewing DSM-IV’s strengths and problems, from which research questions and hypotheses are developed and then investigated through literature reviews and analyses of existing data. They also may further test research questions in field trials involving direct data collection. Because the work groups are limited in size, they may request outside advisors to assist them in these tasks, and to provide reviews and comments from other perspectives. Finally, in order to invite comments from even wider communities of researchers, clinicians, and consumers, the APA launched a web site in 2004, on which these groups can submit questions, comments and research findings, which are then distributed to the relevant work groups.
Based on this comprehensive review of scientific advancements, targeted research analyses and clinical expertise, the subworkgroups will develop draft DSM-V diagnostic criteria. After a period of comment, the subworkgroups will review submitted questions, comments and concerns. The final draft of DSM-V will be submitted to APA’s Council on Research, Assembly, and Board of Trustees for their review and approval. The final, approved DSM-V is expected to be released in May, 2012.
In summary, the DSM-V development process was constructed to achieve a thorough, balanced review of scientific data, with multiple levels of approval required, and opportunities for input from stakeholders. It is important to recognize that the DSM is a diagnostic manual and does not provide treatment recommendations or guidelines. The APA is aware of a need for more scientific and clinical knowledge about the best medical and psychiatric care for individuals with Gender Identity Disorder. To address this need, the APA Board of Trustees voted to create a Task Force to review the scientific and clinical literature on GID treatment. The members of this Task Force will be appointed shortly.
Statement on Dr. Kenneth Zucker and Gender Identity Disorder (5/23/2008)
Kenneth J. Zucker, Ph.D., C.Psych., the Chair of the DSM-V Sexual and Gender Identity Disorders work group, is a widely respected and pre-eminent scholar in the world of academic sexology research. As Chair of the work group for Sexual and Gender Identity Disorders, Dr. Zucker’s role is to coordinate and facilitate the work of the three sub-work groups addressing Sexual Dysfunctions, Paraphilias, and Gender Identity Disorders. Further information on the DSM-V development process can be found at [this web site].
Dr. Zucker has published 97 peer-reviewed journal articles, 48 book chapters, and a landmark textbook. His published work addresses psychosexual differentiation and its disorders, based on a wide range of empirical research studies on children and adolescents with gender identity disorder, with a focus on diagnosis and assessment, and their associated behavioral and psychological distress. As the current Editor of Archives of Sexual Behavior, the premier human sexuality research journal, he also has a wide familiarity with the disparate areas of sexual dysfunctions and paraphilias. Since 2001, he has been the Psychologist-in-Chief at the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH), is a Professor in the Departments of Psychiatry and Psychology at the University of Toronto, and is on the Scientific Staff (Division of Child Psychiatry) at the Hospital for Sick Children. He was the President of the International Academy of Sex Research in 2005-2006.
Dr. Zucker and his service team at CAMH in Toronto have the longest standing research-clinical service for children and youth with gender identity problems in North America. Since the mid-1970s, Dr. Zucker and his team have evaluated over 900 children and youth with gender identity issues. Dr. Zucker is one of the few researchers who is doing long-term follow-up of the patients he has treated.
The philosophy of Dr. Zucker’s team is to provide client-centered care that maximizes benefit and minimizes harm to each child or youth. The goal of treatment is a well-adjusted youth, regardless of ultimate gender identity or sexual orientation, who feels she or he has been genuinely helped by her or his healthcare providers. Dr. Zucker has offered a variety of treatment options, understanding that options may vary greatly with the age of the client. For younger clients, therapy options include helping the child to overcome discomfort with his or her body, i.e., helping clients learn to live comfortably in their natal sex. Diagnosis and treatment of other problems that may be present, such as anxiety, depression, or substance abuse are also available, as are services for family members.
For adolescent patients (including those who first came to the clinic as young children), Dr. Zucker follows the Standards of Care Guidelines of the World Professional Association for Transgender Health. The treatment options include helping patients make a satisfactory transition to the opposite sex, including the institution of hormonal treatment to facilitate transition. In some cases, treatment may include helping an interested adolescent obtain sex-reassignment surgery.
For all patients, regardless of age, the focus of therapy is the patient’s gender identity, not the patient’s sexual orientation. Dr. Zucker’s therapeutic approach has no relationship to so-called reparative or sexual conversion therapies that attempt to change homosexual orientations to heterosexual ones. The goal of his therapy is the opposite of conversion therapy in that he considers well-adjusted transsexual, gay, lesbian or bisexual youth to be therapy successes, not failures.
Colorado Gets Non-Discrimination
June 2nd, 2008
The Denver Post reports
Gov. Bill Ritter today quietly signed a controversial bill expanding the prohibition of sexual-orientation-based discrimination, over the vocal opposition of conservative Christian groups like Focus on the Family.
The bill bans discrimination based on a person’s religious belief or sexual orientation – including transgender people – in places of public accommodation, housing practices, family planning services and 20 other public spheres. Such prohibitions are already in place with regard to race.
Ah, poor Dr. Dobson. He’s just not as influential as he once was. I guess if you are willing to sell out your integrity for some skirmish in a culture war you lose the reputation necessary to influence public policy.
Opponents said the bill would have serious consequences, such as opening up Colorado public restrooms and locker rooms to all genders and transgender people, exposing children and women to sexual predators.
I guess Coloradans saw that none of these things happened in any of the other states to ban discrimination and figured Dr. Dobson was just lying again.
Transgender Advocates’ Statements on APA DSM Workgroups
May 30th, 2008
The American Psychiatric Association has convened several panels to discuss revisions to the Diagnostics and Statistical Manual (DSM), which is currently in its fourth edition (DSM-IV). It’s a standard practice for the APA to revise the manual every decade or so in order to incorporate knowledge generated by more current research.
The APA has begun the work of compiling the data for DSM-V, and that process has sparked several strange rumors around the Internet that really didn’t ring true with me. According to a few of these rumors, the American Psychiatric Association (APA) is poised to either reinstate homosexuality in the Diagnostics and Statistical Manual (DSM), or that the APA was going to decide to approve of sexual reorientation therapy. There is nothing however to suggest that anything like that will be happening.
But most of these rumors surround the diagnosis of Gender Identity Disorder (GID), which is of particular interest to the transgender community. These rumors are centered around two researchers who have been appointed to some of the working groups: Kenneth Zucker, who chairs the Sexual and Gender Identity Disorders work group, and Ray Blanchard, who chairs the Paraphilias subworkgroup under Zucker.
To understand transgender people’s concern about these two appointments, some background is in order. Kenneth Zucker and Ray Blanchard are associated with the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health in Toronto, Canada. This center resulted from the merger of four mental health centers, one of which was the Clarke Institute of Psychiatry. The Clarke Institute was the referral agency for transgender clients who wanted to surgically transition.
Many transgender clients found their treatment in the hands of the Clarke Institute degrading and offensive, feelings which were greatly magnified by the Institute’s main mission of treating sex offenders. Transgender clients often describe inappropriate and degrading tests and experiences at the institute. In fact, feelings run so deeply about the Clarke Institute that some transgender advocates have dubbed it “Jurassic Clarke.”, while others append the adjective “notorious” in front of the Institute’s name so routinely that one might be tempted to think that its official name was “The Notorious Clarke Institute.”
Because of the Clarke Institute’s history, virtually anything emanating from the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health is suspect among the transgender community, and those suspicions often radiate to the rest of the LGBT community.
Associations with the Clarke Institute however isn’t the only source of transgender advocates’ concerns. Also controversial are some of Blanchard’s theories on MtF transgender etiology that he calls “autogynephilia,”which many people find deeply offensive and off the mark. (Blanchard, on the other hand, is a leading researcher into what he believes to be the biological causes of male homosexuality.) Also controversial is Zucker’s approach to treating transgender clients, which involves counseling the client to take on behaviors and attitudes which are considered to be more socially appropriate to that person’s biological sex. This is an approach which raises alarm bells among gays and lesbians who recognize the parallels to sexual reorientation therapies, which may be the source of the rumors concerning homosexuality and sexual reorientation therapy that I mentioned earlier.
Today, we have a statement from four Transgender advocacy groups, which will hopefully provide some clarification on Zucker’s and Blanchard’s role in the DSM-V revision.
National Center for Transgender Equality (NCTE)
Transgender Law and Policy Institute (TLPI)
Transgender Law Center (TLC)
Transgender Youth Family Allies (TYFA)
On May 1, 2008, the American Psychiatric Association (APA) announced the composition of work groups to review scientific advances and research-based information to develop the fifth edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-V). The composition and scope of the work group on Sexual and Gender Identity Disorders and two subgroups are of great interest to transgender people and therefore to our organizations.
Though no consensus exists among transgender people about whether and how a GID diagnosis should be in the DSM-V, there is certainly agreement that decisions made by the APA about transgender and gender non-conforming people will deeply affect the lives of millions of transgender adults, adolescents and children.
We have met with and strongly encouraged the APA to closely adhere to its stated commitment to scientific process regarding diagnosis of transgender people. We are confident that a fair, unbiased review of current knowledge can result in a DSM-V that can move society toward a more rational and humane understanding of transgender people.
We encourage our transgender brothers and sisters to approach this issue with thoughtful consideration of all available information. To that end, we encourage transgender people and allies to remember that:
The naming of this working group on May 1 was not the commencement of advocacy around rethinking or revision of the GID diagnosis. Thoughtful advocates, within and without the APA, have been working on this issue for several years and they will continue to do so for several more, through at least 2012 when the DSM-V is finalized. We look forward to strengthening our relationships and positive communication channels with the many APA-affiliated professionals who are knowledgeable and understanding of transgender issues.
It is inconceivable that in the 21st century any credible scientist or medical professional would recommend any discredited treatment that would attempt to change a person’s core gender identity or sexual orientation. Such treatments have no empirical basis and are harmful. Importantly though, the DSM consists of diagnoses and not treatments. As such, the DSM-V will not offer any treatment recommendations for transgender people of any age.
The APA has created several mechanisms for thoughtful input into the DSM revision process from mental health professionals as well as laypeople affected by the DSM. We encourage transgender people and allies, especially mental health professionals, to utilize these systems to appropriately impact the process. In particular the APA has created a website through which written comments can be submitted. Additionally, as the DSM-V development process advances, working groups are charged with seeking the counsel and input of various advisers who will be selected from various clinicians, academics and other stakeholders. We will advocate for the inclusion of fair-minded advisors who are committed to providing only scientific, fair, reasonable and humane input. We are hopeful that these systems will help provide sufficient information to assure a fair and scientific process for the creation of the DSM-V.
Public acceptance of transgender people and anti-discrimination protections have been advancing swiftly. This is in large part due to scientific and medical advances, but also to the assertive, vigilant and intelligent activism of thousands of transgender people and our allies. While transgender people’s history with the psychiatric and medical professions has been, at times, fraught with misunderstanding and tainted by bigotry, we are optimistic that current and developing scientific research and clinical data will further the understanding of transgender issues among health care professionals and the public.
National Center for Transgender Equality (NCTE)
Transgender Law and Policy Institute (TLPI)
Transgender Law Center (TLC)
Transgender Youth Family Allies (TYFA)