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Political Puberty….

It might be said that since last May, a year ago, I have come back and been more active again in the Libertarian Party. The last 6 months for me since really re-establishing contacts and being involved in doing good works, like with Outright Libertarians, and spreading the message of Liberty, There have obviously been growing pains within the party. Many are the same old, “thick”vs. “thin” arguments (essentially those who are “pure” and those who subscribe to only part of the philosophy, but are politically active), and the inevitable arguments about those who are radically principled, and those who are “pragmatists”.

Lately this exploded in a major way, almost as soon as I entered the national level scene after getting my bearings in a new place and a new home, with a new job.

As a GSM (Gender and Sexual Minorities) person, and one of the few prominent trans people in the Liberty movement, its really hard not to end up in a national level spotlight, I have never been particularly afraid to stick up for my own principles, even when it places me at odds with those I care about (honestly, you cannot be trans, and survive this long without being able to do just that), and evidently, who knew? People like what I have to say, and what I stand for. I never feel completely comfortable in any sort of spotlight, but here I am, again, as it always happens in communities I am part of. I’m honestly not that special, and to be honest, I am more proud of people like Traci Baker, who is young, principled, and has wisdom that I only came by later in life. I know I have said this before, but I strongly strongly believe that the young people we foster in Liberty today, will be the leaders who ultimately lift us out of the power of an omnipotent State, and I am truly grateful to know so many young Libertarians, and young people in the Liberty movement as a whole.

I entered back in just as the Libertarian Party and the movement as a whole has made some incredible strides. I know people complain about Gary (and especially Bill Weld, given his extraordinary flip in the last months of the election that made many of us feel like like we had been betrayed), but the fact are that despite their faults, they put us in an incredible position, but we have an issue, and its largely one that hampers us from growing more, in a time where growth should be even higher, especially with the discontent with how the Election actually turned out (Don’t blame me…. I voted Libertarian!)

The issue is….

Political Puberty.

If anyone was to look at our Party, right now, they would see the same belligerence that hallmarks those going through puberty, and the conflicts that one goes through, in that uniquely hard period of life.

Lots of this focuses on our current Vice Chair, whom I can honestly say, is actually a very principled person (despite being the same type of boneheaded 20-something as I was at his age, that in and of itself can be infuriating – as it’s one of those things people need to learn on their own) , as Larry Sharpe said, the strongest advocates for Liberty are the converted, and I can honestly say, from when I was involved before, our party has grown, and we have a LOT of the converted. We also have those, like myself, whom may have been pragmatic minarchists at one time, have moved further and further into Civil Anarchism. This also carries with it the zeal of the Converted.

In January, Arvin Vohra, the aforementioned Vice Chair of our National Committee, had made some statements that were false about the treatment of trans children in this country, I also felt he did not have the information, that should be needed to come up with a rational reason for saying so, and it also was the same type of arguments that those who are anti-trans use when trying to stoke misunderstanding and hatred toward trans people. Outright tried to contact him, then made a statement publicly and I moved on.

Then came VetGate. Similar situation. Arvin made sweeping comments about Veterans… and I felt this was the same thing, the same pattern…

I am convinced that Arvin meant no harm (but certainly caused it), but maybe didn’t consider that now that we’ve hit our Political Puberty, that we’re making gains, we’re attracting people from all walks of life, that the rules might have changed in the level of influence his comments could have. He did dig in, because he was convinced on he underlying truth of his statements, and there was, certain a grain of truth to them, but we had to go looking deep. Deep beyond the hurt, the pain, the rawness that he touched there. It felt like a kick in the teeth, that the Vice Chair of the third largest and fastest growing political Party in the US felt the need to alienate those members of our party, many doing tireless work for Liberty, many times because of what they experienced.

I think in many ways, he didn’t realize the difference between how a child political party is treated (they may say some immature things) to what is expected from us in our transition to Political Adulthood. The Game changed, and Arvin was still playing the same game of the last 4 years…

The problem with social media is this: Unless you pay attention to what you say, and trust the people you say it to, then it always has the potential for some harm and blowback. In this case, it harmed a lot of outreach efforts, the ability for us to welcome all to Liberty. Many State affiliates found their efforts hampered, seeing as one of the best demographics to target are those who felt that their service would help enable Liberty for all, and maybe it didn’t. Current members felt betrayed, and many packed and walked away, with good reason; a lot of work was undone by some unwise choice of words.

We should have these conversations with each other, sometimes we even need people as blunt as Arvin to keep us honest, but these days, we need to blow up on Mom (Democratic Party) and Dad (The GOP), not everyone around us…. so we must all take care, unless we are around people we trust, to make sure that we’re managing perception. Trust me, every kid going through puberty has their issues, and they certainly seek support from their friends, but most people are still working hard at school, or sports, many don’t see the internal struggle from the outside, and many will never get involved in the party on the level my colleagues and I are. Lets get Straight A’s in the minds of those who are going to register Libertarian in those states where in some cases, its the first time we can, the voters who want us to help fix things, not argue like Mom and Dad are arguing.

Let’s be different, and when we’re all grown up, we’ll be better people for it.

(PS):

I had a nice talk with Arvin at the LPRI Convention yesterday, and I am personally satisfied he understands these things now, and I salute my colleagues who are Vets who were patient with him in Q&A, and I especially thank Larry Sharpe, who has been about as patient as can be, under the circumstances, and for sharing his knowledge. And I will thank Arvin for finally being humble enough to see where he’s wrong, and where he is still right.

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A Brighter Vision of Freedom

I have gotten a lot of vitriol from a lot of LGBT people in this election season, for expressing my lack of support for Hillary Clinton, that somehow, I am a “traitor” and an enemy of the LGBT movement. However, I think I, have given this much thought. I have been a libertarian over 20 years (and my personal experiences have shaped this, I am no fan of government overreach into personal lives) although not always part of the Libertarian Party. So let’s see what that means, and why, as an LGBT person, I’ve chosen to support the Johnson/Weld ticket.

lib·er·tar·i·an
libərˈterēən/

noun
1.an adherent of libertarianism.
“libertarian philosophy”
2.PHILOSOPHY
a person who believes in the doctrine of free will.

When I was younger, free will was taken from me. I was in a places that can only be described as “Brainwashing Kids for Profit” – but it was also supported by very high ranking government officials, including former President and DCI, George H. W. Bush, and former President Reagan, as well as his wife, Nancy.

In this place, I was starved, beaten, humiliated, deprived of sleep, and raped. All in the name of curing me from 1) A non-existent drug problem (I had tried and done cannabis, as well as nitrous oxide, but nothing else), and 2) the fact that I had expressed cross-gender feelings throughout my childhood.

In this place were also others with either mental illness, eating disorders, and learning disabilities – though their “diagnosis” sounded like nothing official. Eating Disorder was the same – Drug Problem was the same, but if you were LGBT – you had a “sexual compulsion”, if you had mental illness or a learning disability, you were a “Behavior Problem”.

In this time, I spent absolutely no time alone, we were not allowed to read, watch TV, know anything that was going on outside, we were cut off from friends and family (and only family that had been brainwashed by them in “parent raps” and “sibling raps” were allowed to see us, and we were not allowed to talk to them unsupervised. We weren’t even allowed to talk to each other, except if it was to tell some story about our “pasts” – where we gave it the spin that everything that happened to us, even childhood sexual abuse was our fault, we had to “take responsibility” (is it any wonder that victim blaming gets my hackles up so much?).

As a result, I knew what it was like to live under totalitarianism. We were all encouraged to rip each other apart in “raps” and humiliate each other, and for the most part, the inmates ran the asylum, as long as you were sufficiently brainwashed to be placed in a position of “responsibility”.

After I got out, I had a MUCH better appreciation of individual liberty. I also have an extreme issue with being critical of nearly everything. I am a made skeptic.

Flash Forward – 22 years – 2016 Election

I have spent a lot of time in my life fighting for individual freedom. I fought against institutions like the one I was in (that are still in some form or other still existent, including places run by WWASP (Robert Lichfield, a known Republican fundraiser owns WWASP) and Aspen Education (which is owned in part by Bain Capital, which in turn is owned in a large part by Mitt Romney). I have been an LGBT rights activist and presenter, I have worked in Sexual Freedom communities, and my latest activism is in Drug Policy. I have a background uniquely suited for these fights because of my experiences.

While while I have been a card carrying ” Libertarian Party member, though not active for about 5 years,  I believe strongly in the Johnson/Weld ticket, while yes, I feel they have no chance in Hades of winning, I think that their platform is important for the social change this country needs.

Here’s why.

1. Johnson and Weld are pragmatists – they understand not everyone is ready to hear a “pure” libertarian message, and while I personally believe in legalizing all drugs and instituting harm reduction programs, and they do as well, for the most part, in a recent Town Hall on CNN, Governor Johnson really only said that he was in favor of immediate legalization of Cannabis. He knows that selling the country on full legalization at this point would be a non-starter.

  1. Governor Bill Weld was not only an ally, but a supporter and institutor of major change in Massachusetts during his governorship of LGBT people, vocally espousing equal rights for all, instituting a council on LGBT matters, and even supporting LGBT youth. To this day, his is the only program that I have seen completely change a state in it’s views in LGBT rights, and MA still is one of the best states to live in regarding being LGBT. In fact, both Governors, Johnson and Weld have done more for LGBT equality that Hillary Clinton has ever done. When she was still claiming to be against gay marriage, Bill Weld especially was for it.

    3. Johnson’s policy on illegal immigration is much more positive. He was the governor of a border state. He feels that people SHOULD be allowed to come here, work, support our economy, and have visas. He does not believe people should be here illegally, and wants to offer work visa amnesty to current illegal immigrants. He says it should make it easier to deport those breaking the law, but also allow for good hardworking people to work towards citizenship and pride in the United States.

    4. They are both anti-war. We’ve lost too much and we can’t handle the damage we’ve done to our own soldiers (and under Johnson/Weld, I could see a better handling of our crisis with Veterans, and more support for treatments such as MAPS MDMA PTSD treatment protocols)


    5. Economically, He wants to do away with Crony Capitalism, our system in which corporations are the biggest influence in government, where they give money and lobby in order to gain special tax incentives and breaks, and policies that only benefit corporations.

6. Johnson is running on a positive platform, where he – despite his obvious distaste for Trump, refuses to say anything overly bad about him other than criticizing his stance on immigration in very strong terms. He isn’t running a negative campaign, and is putting for solutions to nearly every issue this country is facing today front and center, and doing it in a way that makes me proud to be a libertarian.

And it’s that vision that I am voting for in a current two-party system that is so broken that we have to choose between a Charlatan and a Corporate Crony.

People may say “but that’s throwing away your vote” – but it’s not, and it’s not even a “protest vote”, it’s a vote for what I believe in, it’s a vote for optimism, and it’s a vote to break the two party system. The reason, you see, is that if the Libertarian Party gets enough votes this election, they have automatic ballot access in all 50 states, and debate access (which we are fighting hard for this election cycle, to get more exposure, so that Governor Johnson can stand at a podium with Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump and say “This is our positive vision, it’s pragmatic, and well thought out, and sane”, and hopefully convince the American People that we are better than this.

And it’s that vision for the future that I am voting for, because Americans need Pragmatic Hope, not the same thing that we’ve been facing for the last 16 years, which is vitriol, xenophobia, corporate cronyism, racism, violence towards LGBT people, and the highest incarceration rate in the world.

That’s not a “Land of the Free”, but Johnson and Weld’s vision is, and us Americans need hope in that vision.

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New Strategies for New Psychoactive Substances Policy Day in NYC

This post is really just a repost of an informal brain dump after the conference today that I posted on Facebook, so it’s a lot more informal than other blog posts… I want to get information out there fast, and I will write more of an analysis article over the weekend. I am excited and exhausted by today.

I’m both encouraged and a little discouraged at the monumental amount of work that we, as sensible people, who want sensible drug policy, have to do here in the US to really fix the damage a system that has existed since the 1880’s and just gotten more complicated and mixed up in racism, economic class disparity, and pretty much every “ism” and “phobia” the US has had since even before slavery ended… is going to take – there are some really really intelligent multi-disciplinary teams working on this… from all walks of life, and across almost all political spectrums. Its encouraging to see that, and if anyone that solve it, it is those people.

The sheer magnitude of it is really hard to even comprehend though, I thought the troubled teen industry and private thought reform places were bad enough and pervasive, that’s only a small part of this, and it’s really sometimes too much for my brain to actually fit around.

A large amount of people were familiar with – specifically Straight Inc. and the spinoffs, which was heartening. I felt years ago that we were voices in the Wilderness, and very few would hear our voice. I am seeing our voice, especially with the help of Maia Szalavitz actually having been magnified. The very problem of who the government has turned to as experts in these fields are mostly quacks who won’t even entertain any loosening on Prohibition because it benefits them to keep it going is a known piece of the puzzle.

The magnitude of the “NSP” (mostly research chemicals of all types) problem is a lot bigger than I thought… I’ve seen small pieces of it and was horrified, but our response to it now is heartening, the understanding that data collection, working with law enforcement, decriminalizing possession and use, getting users on board with anonymous data collection. Working with the community to make things better, we are seeing this in Wales. and I was really impressed by the WEDINOS program … if anything that would get me to leave the Computer arena, it would be getting a chance to work on something like that… I think it’s exactly the type of thing I envision what would happen if Law Enforcement, DanceSafe and EcstasyData and being able to collect data on substances found in a given area, keep up on trends, educating users… it’s like amazing. I can’t say enough about that, it’s like everything I could want to see in a harm reduction program that is research based.

I met some really awesome people coming from really awesome places from sociologists to pharma people to activists to historians to journalists… it was really incredible to see. I need to do more of this… I got burned out, and I need to really control my burn, but it’s something I’m really passionate about and its not retraumatizing ALL the time …. (sometimes…. when Maia described Straight Inc and spinoffs, I almost cried… that was tough to hear, because sometimes I look at it as if it was just part of what I went through to get here, and then realized I would be and am outraged it is still happening – nobody deserves that….

I think that might be everything, I did have some questions written down sort of as thought provoking things that came up, and I was good, I didn;t monopolize, and everything I said I thought were things that added to a big picture, and people said it made them genuinely think.

But some were answered in the course of the discussion, and some may have gone unanswered, this is largely from the harm reduction portion, because I am fascinated with the idea of reducing harm to add freedom.

A harm reduction specialist working in the South Bronx, when talking about the K-2 usage reported wildly different effects across batches… I had this question:

Are the possible reasons why we have seen so much varied response to these drugs, the fact that both synthetic cathinones and synthetic opioids have also been found adulterating synthetic cannabinoids?

More General:
Cannabis vs. Synthetic cannabinoids, cost – why? is it the legality or ease of testing of cannabis use that drives K2/Synthetic Cannabinoid use?

and one point I brought up is that a lot of the resistance to ending the drug war doesn’t just come from policy-makers who have outlived their usefulness (if they were ever useful at all… looking at DuPont here… who still has his hand in the cookie jar) but also from the fact there are large parts of our country, our state even driven by the corrections industry, the law enforcement incentive to seize property, the people that their jobs would be severely effected by an end to the results of the drug war. Abstinence only type rehab centers have a lot riding on it, and many are policy-maker types – so called “experts” – this leads to a really bad environment for fixing anything – something has to give.

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Of Music and Men: Economic Repercussions of Discrimination.

Bruce Springsteen cancelled a concert in North Carolina, citing solidarity with trans people, and calling out the NC government for discrimination under the color of law. Good for him, it was absolutely the right thing to do, and while ultimately, this doesn’t hit NC any more than him canceling a show due to illness would, its ruffled feathers of the privileged, who think, just because they lose money on the hotel or travel plans, they are the ones aggrieved. HB2 isn’t just about bathrooms.

HB2 removes the legal right to sue for changing the law, effectively removing a path to the Supreme Court for those affected. It’s a reaction to both gay people getting the right to marry, and to the way they did it. In this sense, its not exactly more than a political temper tantrum, like Government Shutdowns, because they can’t work with a black president clearly chosen by the people to be Chief Executive. There has to be repercussions to this type of action, on a social and economic level. It worked somewhat with apartheid in South Africa, and people are using economic power to fight it in states where political recourse is difficult.

I want to preface this by saying, I am not a liberal, while this represents a socially liberal point of view, I am sure that both sides will disagree vehemently in several ways. The beginnings of this trans-apartheid is largely because of government intervention on the parts of both sides, but largely the liberals who felt they should address something like gay marriage any way but “The government should stay out of marriage”. Gay Marriage activists consistently threw trans people under the bus since the 80’s, but thats a discussion for another time. Nobody holds no blame here, except the trans people affected.

In the case of North Carolina, reactionary GOP politicians have decided, much in the way of the Drug War to criminalize a certain class of people, who weren’t doing anything criminal, however they are doing it in a way that is much more blatant. When you shove something down someone’s throats without any type of real strategy, this is what happens. That’s why they are called “Reactionaries”  – they react to social change in extreme ways. Going further, it removes the right to sue for things like gender discrimination (which also affects women too, so women should be quite upset that a patriarchal government wants to shut them up too).

When people complain about a loss of livelihood or money, because Bruce Springsteen cancelled one date, they are effectively saying that their loss of a couple hundred dollars is more important than the livelihood threatened of hard working, and or the most part, “normal” trans people, who just want to be able to have the same opportunities as others.

As a trans person, I depart very far from the usual rhetoric of authoritarian progressive liberalism, I think when government is given too much power over people’s private lives, and their own decisions for themselves, that it almost always is either corrupted, or had a corrupted vision to begin with. The fact that trans people have had to fight for 40 years for recognition in this country in something as simple as economic protection, is a result of us having to fight to be included in a list of “protected classes”, while gay people seem to have weathered this, they did so by turning their backs on trans people, promising they’ll come around back later on and clean it up.

I usually use the Drug War as an example. Paternalism allowed the government to outlaw and make decisions about antiwar activists practicing free speech and black people, and it was intentionally so, obscured by the rhetoric that the government is looking out for its constituency. The “Bathroom Bill” is not just about bathrooms, but literally removes the legal right to challenge such a bill, removing the path to recourse that is guaranteed by our Constitution.
I personally believe that the government is not needed to make decisions for people, it’s there to provide services best provided by a central authority (such as a standing military and infrastructure), but it’s reach should be limited. Both on the federal and state level. The removal of the ability for local municipalities and the people locally to make decisions, flies in the face of the underlying principal of the GOP. When it suits an agenda, they are perfectly willing to throw out the principles of their party, in order to react to what they see as an affront to their own beliefs.

Because of this belief, and how effective it was over time in terms of “Apartheid” in South Africa I completely think Bruce Springsteen is both within his rights to cancel a concert in a venue in which some fans may not be able to enjoy his concert comfortably (due to the “Bathroom Law” – have you ever had to go to the bathroom at a concert, its uncomfortable for any number of reasons, but now add on fear mongering, and potential danger to a trans fan, and that is more than a reason to cancel), and chose an effective measure of protest.

In a free society, people’s best recourse is essential Boycott – if I don’t agree with something, I refuse to participate. If enough people agree, it will hit the area affected, and hopefully get them to elect representatives in state legislature that won’t put the livelihood of citizens who are largely not agreeable to it (and some who are) in jeopardy.

The fact that North Carolina is home to one of the biggest companies that have supported trans rights over the last 32 years (I used to work there, IBM, in Research Triangle Park, they formulated a LGBT policy that has protected their employees in 1984 – and yes this has been an issue that long, even longer), that employs many trans people who are in tech fields, has been a draw for those talented people, and this affects all of them, may at some point lead to a lot of economic loss for North Carolinians.

These actions SHOULD have a real effect on the economy of places that limit Constitutional protection for discrimination purposes. With no real legal recourse/challenge available under that law, not allowing private companies and citizens to choose for themselves and their establishments, you have created an authoritarian (and largely theocratic) police state in NC that is actually policing people’s genitals and identity. Furthermore, it establishes one that removes the rights of women of all types to sue for harassment or discrimination. When there are little repercussions, and they have blocked any action of legal ones, the only ones left are economic and social. Which is the way it should be.

In this sense, Bruce Springsteen not only stood in solidarity with trans people, but he “put his money where his mouth is” and “let money talk”, and nearly overnight, it had the desired effect of shocking people into realizing, that this is a real economic problem for NC.

Kudos, Mr. Springsteen, I have never been so proud to have grown up in NJ (and a town mentioned in your music). Thanks for the support, in the best way possible.

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Experiment: Success?

I’ve always been an experience junkie, I’m a storyteller by nature (as well as being a natural scientist and social analyst), so experiences and memories are like food to me. I go through periods where I have really intense experiences, safety first always, but I’ve never been shy in taking chances. I experienced some major trauma when I was young and there’s something about that type of experience that makes you want to live life to the fullest. I tend to overload myself sometimes.

I never engaged in hookup culture, so I set out on a year long experiment (I also as a lifelong lesbian (I am also trans, MTF, but I transitioned 20+ years ago) decided in that year I was also going to try sex with men) to try this thing that all my younger friends were taking part in (it might be said, the average age of my friends is about 10 years younger than me, and some as young as their early 20s). However that’s a story for another time…. or lots of stories. During that time I was also Djing in a sex club twice a month, so lets say hookups were easy to come by, but it also resulted in stories that could fill a book.

So what happened when the experiment was over?

To be honest, I’m a 42 year old woman, happily single, disillusioned with both trans and lesbian communities in general, because I am typically not a joiner. I march to the beat of my own drum. I had all this time to myself and I established a long time ago, after my 2nd divorce and then a relationship with the person who is now my best friend, that I am more than fine with my own company. Independence was a gift, and I was running with it. I moved to a new apartment, one that I could theoretically have people over, and it remain private (before this I had like 3 other roommates, and honestly I am a private person).

So I settled into a nice relationship with myself. I sometimes joke that I should marry myself…. my first two marriages were civil ceremonies with domestic partnerships (Gay marriage was not legal at the time), and I still want my big wedding (even a slightly butch girl has to dream sometimes of that wedding dress). But I digress, I did say I was a storyteller, right?

So over the past few months, I have settled into a great poly relationship. With Ms. Hitachi, my Body Wand (ok, its not a Hitachi but I have burned out 5 of them in my time, Body Wands are more durable, recommend highly), and Bertha, my Electric/Acoustic Bass guitar, and I may be happier than I have ever been, in terms of where I am at regarding my relationships. My primary sexual relationship is with Ms. Hitachi, and my emotional well being is looked after by Bertha…

I have had so much time for myself, and my own growth. I went back to school for biochemistry, and I have more time to spend on studying, I have written almost enough material for a third full-length album, and the money I save on social events is going to hiring a real producer. I spend more time with friends, and go out to see other friends play music. I feel productive.

I am ok, I don’t need a romantic relationship to be happy, I just need to be doing something fulfilling. NSA sex was fun, but definitely not fulfilling… and until I find someone who can give me the space I need, I am really ok with where I am at. It’s ok to be single, and it’s ok not to go seeking out sex, just because I happen to be horny. Ms Hitachi is always waiting for me when I get home in her seductive manner, while I dream about some combination of Mary Lambert, Penelope Garcia, and Ann Wilson. This is ok. I am ok, maybe even better, and emotionally stable, than I have ever been.

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Reparative Therapy is Bad Medicine, even if it “works”.

In a recent Op-Ed for the New York Times, Dr. David Friedman, a professor of clinical psychiatry at Weill-Cornell Medical School, asserts that transition does not help transsexuals, and going one step further rails against parents and professionals helping children transition earlier and earlier, and then makes a case for “reparative therapy” for transgender kids.

Dr Friedman,

I have also shared your concern with children transitioning, probably because my own transition occurred in my early 20’s, and I felt I had more tools to understand gender roles, and what I was willing and not willing to conform to. I was lucky, I had an amazing therapist, who challenged my assumptions, made it her job to inform me as to what issues transition and ultimately surgery would help alleviate. She also made it her job to inform me that transition or surgery was not a “cure all” .

In terms of education, I am more educated than the norm. Besides forays into sociology and psychology, philosophy, computer science,  music/sound engineering, and physics; I decided at a late age to go to grad school for Biomedical Engineering and Pharmacology. I know a little knowledge can be dangerous, but I want to focus on some bioethics questions, while focusing on my personal experience as a transgender woman.
It feels like you are starting with a set of assumptions. You know what they say about assumptions; We all know what they say about them, right? Well, it’s that the premise that the assumption is based has to be true for the assumption to be of any use. What did you think I was going to say?

Now some of my own assumptions may be wrong, but I think there’s a few that must be challenged, even if only to challenge public perceptions of what you wrote. If I can misunderstand, especially in terms of some of what might have come off as passive-aggressive language, referring to transgender identity as a “cherished belief”; then so can many others. I can tell you, my gender identity had been written in stone from about the age of 4. After having some bad experiences, a child of my intelligence quickly learns never to say anything about it; Of course. Up until it got more safe to do so.

The first assumption is that transition is considered a final step. Transition is not the end game. Transition is a beginning. That first step to standing on our own as an individual. Life just began when I was transitioning. Transition isn’t easy. In fact I’d say that the process of such, is one of the most difficult journeys anyone can take in their lives. Even 20 years later, I have difficulties in society because I am a transgender woman. I learned how to cope with them. I learned how to have confidence in my own ability to survive what the world threw at me. I am happy I got the actual transition part done early though… it made things a lot easier as a transgender 41 year old (especially because I am also autistic, preparation can be key) . Thats for sure. My therapist certainly put me on notice that it would not solve my problems, except those of not feeling at home in a body that was in-congruent to my personal identity. That is a pretty big problem, one worth solving. However, it brings to mind one of the things I would look for in a followup study to the Swedish study you mentioned, I would also start asking some harder questions, ones about intake treatment to gender transition. While I have spent a fair amount of time criticizing WPATH for being gatekeepers, I think they are right in one sense, therapy – with emphasis on certain things, including managing expectations about post-transition, is extremely helpful.

Having a lot of knowledge about how socio-economic conditions effect the same things, I’d like to point out that correlation does not equal causation. You’ll notice that they point out a point in the historical period they studied where things changed, hospitalizations dropped, etc. Those years were between 1989-2003 – where something obviously changed. When I notice that there is a change in expected variance in my own research, I look for some other potential cause. I am am running a series of benchmarked statistics, and something drastically changes, the first thing I would look at is a variable I didn’t take into account.

I was a transgender teenager who dare not come out at that time, in the 80’s and early 90’s. I remember what it was like to think that transitioning and the ostracism that came with it would be more destructive to the self, than transitioning. A few years later I changed my mind. What could change my mind? Well one was the advent of the Internet. The Internet became a life line for a lot of transgender people. Suicide rates of those who transitioned were not significantly higher, during the period we all started leaning on each other. So maybe, what’s needed is more support.

The other factor in changing my mind, was the results after having experienced “reparative therapy”.

You are absolutely right about one thing. Transition does not solve any problem but one we feel with ourselves. It doesn’t change how others feel about us. It doesn’t change the fact that many transgender individuals are disowned by their families, or simply not accepted by them (honestly, being called by my “dead name” by my family hurts more than if I was just not a part of them anymore).

It doesn’t change the long term stress and trauma of how the rest of the world treats us. However, what you don’t get is that historically, even in cultures that revered those who were gender-variant, there was no real changing one’s gender identity. Even when accepted, one knew the role they were meant to play in terms of their society, and while changing the body was not always possible, they did live, work, and carry relationships as their non-birth assigned gender. They still had identity based around gender – even if there were potential 3rd and 4th genders available to them in society. If I identify as female, and I want to carry on relationships, especially romantic ones as such, sometimes physical transition makes us much more secure in those personal exchanges. I cannot overemphasize the value of this. I am a bisexual transwoman. I certainly feel more accepted as who I am and have less questions about how a partner may see me, because I am post-transition. I wish I could take it one step further, but health conditions have led to me not being able to have surgery. This is ok, I’ll take what I can get; however I don’t underestimate the value of this.

Yes, if people were more understanding, this would be less painful, but people are in fact as attracted to genitals, or unattracted to them, as they might be attracted to the person. I’ve had many situations where my lack of surgery was potentially an issue, for both male and female partners. If I had the power to change that right now, I definitely would.

So, lets add prolonged stress to the issue, both before and after transition. Sometimes traumatic stress. Just because someone may have had surgery, does not make them better able or not able to address the ostracism that can go with transition. Before transition we have the stress of not presenting who we are honestly to the world. Afterwards, we have the stress of people thinking we’re freaks, “faggots”, and crazies. It might be enough to drive some…. well…. crazy. Higher incidence of depression than cisgender counterparts, higher incidence of PTSD, Higher incidences of sexual violence lead to similar issues, you leave out so much from the holistic equation here. While there is definitely a correlation between certain things, you’ve left out the causes, even while citing them as something that should change in our society much earlier in your Op-Ed. As a result, I am not sure using cis-gender individuals as a control group in the Swedish paper would prove or disprove anything about transgender people and the incidence of mental health and physical health effects leading to an earlier death. It only establishes a correlation between being transgender and higher incidence of mortality, even after transition.

The second assumption you seem to be starting with is that there is no data at all on whether reparative therapy for gender dysphoria works, so we should try it on transgender people.  I’m going to quote you, as I understand you might have been criticizing the (honestly a bit illogical jump) that other trans activists claim the “wait and see” attitude, is like reparative therapy. However, and you can correct me, you seem to advocate for getting data on the efficacy of “reparative therapy” on gender dysphoric patients. Which means of course, using those methods to treat a subset vs. another method.

“I think that criticism is misguided. First, there is abundant evidence that reparative therapy is both ineffective and often harmful, while there is no comparable data in the area of gender dysphoria. Second, unlike sexual orientation, which tends to be stable, gender dysphoria in many young people clearly isn’t. Finally, when it comes to gender dysphoria, the evidence for therapeutics are simply poor to start with: There are no randomized clinical trials and very few comparative studies examining different approaches for this population.”

Yes, for one, it would be difficult to get some of these numbers, as there are probably less transgender people willing to be tortured and brainwashed. However, as a person who has been through it, I would say – to even go there, and suggest that it may be a solution is unethical at best, it’s advocating for worse torture, and a lifetime of post-traumatic stress.

In case you didn’t realize, most reparative therapy is achieved through a combination of things, including shame, humiliation, physical abuse (including sleep deprivation and starvation), and in some cases even sexual abuse. These things aren’t always publicized, but as someone who has been through it… I can tell you, it took nearly 20 years to be able to reconcile what had happened to me in the name of treatment. We don’t need numbers to say that this type of treatment (of any child – or adult for that matter!) is even more unethical than letting kids transition earlier and earlier.

I have another suggestion all together.; you mentioned other interventions; how about trained therapists who aren’t there to judge, or even guide, but to prepare kids for transition; if they so choose. Maybe minimizing potential issues of keeping tabs on hormone levels and only using anti-hormonal regimens when it is obvious that puberty is imminent. I still think the value of not having to deal later with the effects of secondary sex characteristics (as in body hair) is worth it in the long term for a child who may decide to transition. A lot of the difficulties adults who transition have are because of that.

We all know treatment modality regarding psychiatric and even physical conditions, can yield vastly different results, ABA vs. things like DIR in autism are hotly discussed and debated, much hinging on debate about whether certain parts of ABA are ethical, though they may produce results in the short term, is the nature of ABA more harmful long term? I think the contrast between coming up with an effective therapy guide and modality that stays within ethical boundaries, or using methods that are considered “reparative therapy” is much more stark and obvious than the ABA vs. DIR question. You are essentially advocating concentration camps for transgender children.

To advocate for reparative therapy over preparation for the potential transition, at which point you make it their choice, when they are old enough to make that decision for themselves,which may solve some of the issues you point out, is unethical simply based on method. How can we say a harmful method is ethical? How can we say what amounts to torture is ever ethical?  By the way, old enough to make that decision for themselves, includes a maturity that with some kids is present fairly early, it’s not with others, we shouldn’t give a hard and fast age. With adults, we shouldn’t be playing gatekeeper at all.

This preparation may help mitigate a lot of what your concerns are psychologically; and you are correct to be concerned medically.

However, the last assumption you make is another one of moral and ethical obligation of the professionals in our lives.

It’s my body. If I have been notified about potential risk vs. benefit in a currently available treatment, and I decide to go through with it, then I will avail myself of such treatment. While I do believe your heart is in the right place, outcomes with the currently accepted treatment still seem to be better than those without, and certainly much better than the several (6) outcomes I have seen of transgender people being subjected to so-called “reparative therapy”, including myself, all as teens and young adults. In fact in all six cases I have seen of transgender people being subjected to such, all experienced long term post-trauma symptoms; and with the exception of myself and one other, a struggle with gender identity long term, because of the struggles they had gone through. Even if it did work to achieve a goal (which for some was very short term, of “identifying” as their assigned birth gender) – the methods are so heinous as to lose any moral high ground in terms of treatment… PTSD and Gender Dysphoria are bad independent of each other. But to cause one while attempting (probably unsuccessfully) to treat the other is just Bad Medicine.

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What Makes a Woman (Rebuttal)

In an opinion piece in the New York Times, Elinor Burkett writes a sincere but disjointed analysis of what she thinks the ideas put forth by Caitlyn Jenner and Chelsea Manning and Caitlyn Jenner’s coming out as somewhat of a hyper-feminine socialite type of woman. She felt like this portrayal of a woman set back Feminism and was at odds with it. She cites the fact that Lawrence H. Summers was pretty much crucified for saying there were differences in brains between male and female – but when Caitlyn Jenner claims that her brain was “more female than male” that she was put on a pedestal and given awards for courage.

During most of the article Ms. Burkett still uses the male pronoun to refer to Ms. Jenner – but at the end concedes to support Trans people. However her words prior to that were anything but supportive.

I understand that at some level, as she expresses that she has fought most of her life to challenge the idea that women should be put in a box, that there is no stereotypical woman (at the same time saying that Caitlyn Jenner seemed to be representing a stereotype).

I understand her anger – as I think that the words that Trans people use to describe their experience can be problematic in that way – it reduces identity to a series of minor differences in the brain, however studies done on brain differences are very consistent about part of what they think may be indicative of identity – however the stereotype that a woman is more sensitive emotionally or that one fits into a woman-box is as preposterous as that men fit into the “man box” – and honestly – I think the unfortunate words that Ms. Jenner and Ms. Manning use are an incomplete explanation at best – and damaging at worst.

When I was diagnosed intersex (Klinefelter’s Mosaicism, which means that 1/3rd of my cells are 47,XXY) at 37 years of age – which was indicated because of my whole host of autoimmune and neurological issues (including autism), I had a few Trans people say that they wished they were intersex. Of course they didn’t take into account that being intersex was a medical disability for me.

One may ask why this idea was important – because after all, in my mind, I wished I wasn’t – my autism – I had learned to see as a gift in some sense, but the other physical and neurological problems had cursed me my whole life. Even sex reassignment sat beyond my reach, as recovering from such major surgery would have been difficult and arduous – and could cause issues with healing. I had to learn to deal with my body on terms I had never wanted to, and was difficult, at best.

However – I think – and I felt it and somewhat still do, that Trans people have all kinds of expectations to explain why they feel the way they do. The need to have some kind of explanation ready, leads to inconsistent and incomplete ideas being put forth. Up until recently, the DSM classified being trans as a mental illness, and before that, a paraphilia. So in some ways we need to take into account society’s judgement coming out in Ms. Jenner’s explanation.

I transitioned early for the time period – I was 22 when I started, and in many ways – I experienced – even earlier the “drip, drip, drip” of social experiences common to many women. However in Ms. Burkett’s words – I would never experience difficulties because of menstruation or the fear of being pregnant after sex with a man because they may have forgotten to take their birth control (by the way – not sure most lesbians experience that particular feeling either – and they are decidedly women). She also mentions a whole host of other “female” experiences, including men talking to their breasts and objectification, humiliation finding male work colleagues had bigger paychecks, and fear of not being able to ward off rapists.

While Ms. Jenner may not have experienced those things – Ms. Burkett is discounting experiences of many transwomen, many who are the target of physical violence including rape, and she assumes that transwomen don’t experience objectification (when many are seen as fetish objects – especially when they “pass” well.) The experiences of many Trans women are exactly the same. I am 90% sure that my male colleagues were paid more than I was throughout my career in IT, and I have had people objectify me and talk to my chest instead of towards my face. More problematic, however in that reducing a woman’s experience to all these things – she puts women right back in the box. She isn’t taking into account that “woman” can be a wide range of experience and an infinite range of possibilities.

Yes, Ms Jenner has enjoyed a healthy heaping of male privilege – many Trans women would not disagree with this idea, in fact once upon a time – I generally placed Trans women into two different types (erroneously) – but one of them was those – like me that transitioned younger and had the typical struggles women – and even specifically Trans women have (in some cases – the “drip” of the gendered environment can be even harsher on many Trans women, especially those who do not “pass” as well, or cannot afford surgeries), and the other personified in our popular culture now as Caitlyn Jenner. They spent most of their life accruing male privilege, and then used it all to make an overnight transition – including feminization surgeries. Ms. Burkett is somewhat correct in her assessment of this. It’s a split in Trans communities that many Trans women have an issue with as well. However – to call gender a “social construct” flies completely in the face of almost any hard science look into this. We can look to identical twin experiments in epigenetics to see where there might be more to gender identity than a social construct. The lovely Laverne Cox and her cisgender identical twin certain come to mind. They were raised in the same environments, and have the same genes, yet something caused them to be different. It ignores the high amount of cross gender feelings among those with intersex conditions that were assigned one gender at birth, and it certainly ignores the experience of the late David Reimer, who was “made female” at birth and given hormones by Dr. John Money – and who came to regard himself as male again and said he never “felt female” – despite being treated as one for his whole childhood. Any scientist would start looking for another cause or something associated with gender identity that is not purely social.

She goes on to lament the loss of female identifying words – specifically regarding the word “vagina” – and how it seems many Trans people (arguably a small percent and probably the loudest – so it’s understandable why she feels this way) are protesting events like Martha Plimpton’s “A Night of a Thousand Vaginas” and even presentations of Eve Ensler’s “Vagina Monologues” as “exclusionary” (for what it’s worth – as a Trans woman with no vagina or uterus – I actually agree – that reproductive rights are an issue that concerns people who can carry children – but in my mind – it concerns all of us having the right to control our bodies). She feels it is wrong to include Trans men who still have working reproductive organs – but why should they be excluded from the same rights – and I can certainly see where they would have an issue of being called “women”. I think in terms of medical access – gender neutral language that includes Trans men and those who do not ID as women who need reproductive care is important too. It would be criminal to turn them away or not provide care, or make them feel unwelcome. This is an area where I don’t feel it is erasure of women’s experience – but instead including those who may need care who aren’t of that experience.

As usual, the radical voices in the Trans community are the loudest however – and yes – any radical or reactionary faction will by nature have extreme points of view. This is not the opinion of all Trans people.

She also goes on to say that “Three times as many gender reassignment surgeries are performed on men” (again invalidating the fact that transwomen are women – while towards the end claiming to be supportive of Trans rights) – not taking into account that gender reassignment for Trans men is still – and has been since I could remember – been stuck in the stone ages. This is where male privilege has served Trans women much better than Trans men – as doctors can create a mostly functional vagina much easier than they can create a mostly functional penis – in fact I dont think much research has gone into how to do this.  The closest thing to working GRS for Trans men is an operation where they release an enlarged clitoris (via testosterone) from the clitoral hood – creating a small penis. I personally think the disparity is criminal – but the reason for the difference in amounts of surgery between Trans women and Trans men is because of that – not because “men” feel constrained to break out of society and out of the man box – so they become women. That idea is truly preposterous – even on it’s surface.

So by getting many facts wrong, using language that shows how she really feels about Trans people in general, I question her sincerity on being supportive of the right to self-identify, even though she seems to say this at the end of her opinion. I understand she feels that the changing world is invalidating her and many cisgender women’s experiences – and she may have some valid feelings – but many are based on incomplete information, misconceptions and fallacies, and her words of support at the end come off as disingenuous, at best, because of the consistent need to invalidate Trans experience as women (and men) just as she says that Trans experience invalidates hers. There is a completely compatible view in feminism amongst those who are cisgender and transgender women – and the men that support us, but she doesn’t seem to want to find the common ground as many women do – who have different experiences of identity.

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