Friday, December 20, 2013

Transition Deconstructed ~ Huffington Post

ARTICLE: Recently I read pieces on The Huffington Post that gave the viewpoints of two people: One is transgender and transitioned after getting married, and the other is her former spouse. Many of the themes were very familiar to me because of my own recent history. Married for almost 13 years. Three children. Feelings of hurt, anger and betrayal. Almost everyone who knew me was shocked when I came out, because of the extremely masculine persona I had carefully cultivated since I joined the Navy in 1993.

The comments section below the HuffPost piece about Chiristine Benvenuto is very long, with more than 750 comments. A number of themes in the comments section kept jumping out at me, over and over again. Many people observed that each piece only represented one side of the story, and that it was difficult to discern what really happened. As someone who has remained married through transition, I saw an opportunity for us to give a more unified perspective. After I drafted this article, Janis, my spouse, edited and added to what I wrote. She made sure it reflected her viewpoint accurately when answering the most frequent themes, questions and opinions expressed in the comments.

(This articles has many sections like this, but these are my favorites)
"Couldn't you have just kept doing what you were doing?"
By the time most trans people come out, they have been hanging on by their fingernails for years. When they come out to their spouses as trans, they have reached the end of their rope. Whatever coping mechanisms they had in the past are no longer working. In my case these coping methods were leading me down the path toward divorce. If there was another way, we would have found it.
The perception that there is a certain amount of "gleefulness" as people begin transition has some truth to it. Imagine being in prison for a couple of decades and suddenly dealing with the seemingly endless possibilities of being on the outside. The highly regimented life at the Naval Academy is a good analogy, too. After years of living in a highly regimented atmosphere, after graduation I saw a lot of people around me reveling in their newfound freedom. Sometimes that revelry wasn't particularly constructive or well thought-out, but it was natural and understandable.
"Couldn't you just take antidepressants and be happy being a [birth-assigned gender]?
If antidepressants cured gender dysphoria, don't you think most trans people would happily take the blue pill? No electrolysis, no surgery, no hormones, no social stigma, just... normalcy? If it worked that way the APA, the AMA, the World Professional Association of Transgender Health (WPATH) and other organizations would certainly make antidepressants the standard course of treatment, because it would be the path of least harm.
Simply put, just like being gay, there is no "cure" that will "fix" a transgender person. Reparative therapies don't work, and the only thing that seems to treat it effectively is working to align people's physical selves with their own mental self-image.
It isn't for lack of trying. Every kind of behavioral, aversive, therapeutic and pharmacological treatment you can imagine has been tried in the past as a cure for gender dysphoria. In the end none of them worked.