Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Gender- My Notes

I took oodles of notes while watching NatGeo's Explorer "Sex, Lies, and Gender." If you missed the show, you will get a lot of info from what I'm posting below. I would pause, rewind, and so on to get the info. I tried to be as accurate as possible! *** We want to believe that gender is binary. That's just not true." sex therapist Dr Tiger Devore He says there are millions who don't fit into those categories- gender variant. There are those whose brains overide their bodies. Some posess male and female sex organs. intersex individuals are far more common than commonly thought- perhaps as high as 1 in 250. Many people born intersex aren't even aware. Story of Rudy Alimez. Soldier. After Gulf War, he suffered a back injury and got an MRI. MRI showed ovaries and an underdeveloped womb. Felt unhuman, dead inside, freak of nature. Not a man, not a woman. Believes he was surgically altered. Parents refuse to discuss his birth. He knows he wasn't born in the hospital but was treated in the hospital. Dr. Devore shared guidelines followed for surgical decisions regarding intersex infants. The idea that gender can be assigned and learned came from John Money. he believed children were gender neutral at birth and were then taught to be male or female by parents reinforcing their gender. It's estimated that 5 intersex surgeries are performed in the US every day. Devore strongly disagrees with gender assignment surgeries. Leads to lack of sensation in genitals, depression, lack of sense of self, sense of mistrust, etc. They lesson is materialistic and plastic- plastic surgery to change appearance, to make them "normal." Devore worked closely with Money. Devore is also intersex. At birth, he was hypospatius (penis like phallus but urinary opening at the base, giving a vaginal appearance). The doctors said they needed to make him into a boy- surgically. He had surgeries through out childhood, damaging him physically and emotionally. Infections, surgeries. He has had more than 20 surgeries in his lifetime. In 2006, the Academy of Pediatrics Journal recommended a more cautious approach to surgery. Rudy Alinez feels betrayed by his parents and mistrust toward the medical community. Feels he was butchered. He tries now to move forward with his life but is working to embrace his female gender identity. She has changed her name and is considering sexual reassignment surgery and feels happier than she's been in a long time. Gender goes beyond our physical bodies- our minds can determine gender identity. Josie. Lives as a girl, has a penis. 7 years old. Had fits as a young child when given boy haircuts, wear a boy uniforms, wear boy swim trunks. Insisted she was a girl. They began to let her be a girl- at home. Life became more peaceful when she was allowed to be a girl. Soon, she began to fight being forced to go as a boy to school. The parents had to make decisions about letting her go out as a girl. Family was living on Air Force base in Japan. When the family began to allow her to go to school as a girl, she was tormented, as was the family. Even with the torment and teasing, Josie continued, over and over and over, to go to school, to go out in public, as Josie, as a girl. It is estimated that 1% (3 million people) are transgendered in the US. Some believe this number is higher. Scientists have been studying the brains of deceased transgendered males and then compared them to the brains of typically gendered men and women. Also studied the genetic structure and found less testerone production. Dad talking about the goals and aspirations he had for his son. He had to mourn the loss of his son. By accepting Josie's gender, they are bucking the advice of many experts. A growing number of mental health professionals believe that acceptance is the way to move forward and develop healthy individuals. Preparing for puberty... adam's apple, testosterone, lowering voice, sperm production. Puberty blocking hormones have been developed. A delay in puberty could provide the time needed to mature emotionally and make permanent decisions about gender when they are more emotionally mature. The family hopes for understanding and acceptance. Devore says that the social structure is built on male/female binary model. Biological truth is that there is a broad range of sex identity between male and female and most people want to do whatever they can to eliminate that. India- male, female, third gender called hedra. Born intrasex, some been castrated, some are anatomically female. All hedra are considered a third gender. Recognition doesn't mean acceptance. Hedra are societally shunned in India but find acceptance amongst their own. Nearly impossible to find housing, a job. They beg from shopkeepers- most shopkeepers comply, preferring a hedra blessing to a hedra curse. Hedra also commonly resort to sex trade. The hedra they highlighted had come to America for college, returned to India and was shunned. Progress has been made in terms of accepting those who are transgendered but more frequently, they are still considered "freaks, adnormal, etc." Biologist Joan Roughgarden has shown that gender variation among humans is natural. She points to plant and animal kingdoms. She has documented that we are surrounded by living beings that are beyond male and female. Talking about all of the animal life forms that are hymaphrodytic. Some start male and become male or start female and become male. In addition, there is a long list of animals that might be considered transgendered. How common is gender variation on the entire? From fungi to plants, insects to mammals... approximately half of all species on earth exist outside the binary male/female gender assignments. Gender variance is normal and natural. Sexual difference is to be celebrated, encouraged, understood. Not something to be eliminated and punished.


Lori D said...

I'll be interested to read your reader's comments, so I'll be checking the lil' box below that says, "Email follow-up comments..."

My biggest observation from the show was the repeated feeling that finally they, (I included), no longer felt like a "freak of nature," or "abnormal." Understanding the science behind gender means understanding differences in all of us.

Today I passed by two males. While I like to think of myself as an attractive woman, as I passed by one of the men made a comment to the other one about me to the effect, "Damn! Not bad!" My small ego boost was immediately quashed when the other man, who knew of my past, told him, "Awww, no way, that's gross!" and mentioned to him that I was "a man."

Getting away from ignorance and standing proud is a tough road to hoe, but I'll stand proud nonetheless.

♥ Braja said...


Eternal Lizdom said...

I would love some good discussion on the topic as well, Lori.

What I most took away from the show was the example of Josie. Even when faced with classmates and other parents who tormented her, teased her, called her names... she knew who she was and she wasn't going to dress like a boy just because that's what they wanted. The sheer joy she had at being female (when they got her new birth certificate, when dad talked about the photo shoot they had done), the absolute certainty, the pride. I am excited to see how these kids grow up- these kids who have parents who understand gender variance and who support and love their child no matter what.

I don't know that society will ever be at a place where we fully recognize the gender spectrum or where we see anyone who is not a "normal" male or female as still just as normal... but we can hope, right?

Lori D said...

You're right, and watching Josie's determination and bravery reminds me how much fear I had when I was a young child. Being scared into silence is something no child should ever face, and it took me years to break the silence and give up on what others thought about me. This is simply between my God and me, and after years of soul searching and Bible reading, I realized He loves me just the same!

Eternal Lizdom said...

That's right, Lori. He loves you as you are, as He created you.

What I was most looking forward to in the show was the scientific stuff. When they talked about the difference in the brain of a transgendered male and a "normal" male and "normal" female and that the transgendered brain more closely resembled the female brain... that has to feel good to transgendered people. Because it proves that it's not just something like mental illness, you know? That you are truly and uniquely different biologically, chemically, hormonally, whatever. It's not just "in your head."

Michelle said...

I saw the show last night (recorded) and was pleased to see how well the show was. I was touched by Josie's story. Like Lori I was scared into playing the male roll. With the abuse that my brothers and I got from our father, I was to afraid to tell him until I was an adult. It's sad that with all the research that has been done so far, that so many of the trans kids feel they still need to hide.
Overall I felt they did a good job of covering our community.

Eternal Lizdom said...

As a mom, I was really affected by the stories of the parents of the people highlighted in the show. Parents refusing to share birth details, hidden surgeries, botched and numerous surgeries, mutilation of genitals, the fear, embarassment, shame. I truly hope that there is a shift and that more and more parents are raising their kids like Josie. I hope that I am raising my kids in such a way that I am open to their growth as people and not trying to influence gender (I tend to follow their lead so I think I'm good there). I was very touched when the dad said he had to mourn for his son... I understand that but hadn't thought of it that way.

A friend of mine is involved with Trans Youth Family Allies and that's how I learned of this show- Josie's family's support group is TYFA. I'm glad there are groups out there like TYFA to provide guidance and help to families and young people going through gender variance acceptance.