Going back to Ottawa last week was great in some respects, in others, not so much. I have to admit grinning internally as I’d listen to students 2nd guess my gender when they’d discuss things amongst themselves. And I got braver about using the right washroom. The biggest challenge will come next week when I’m with colleagues. Everything will be in the hotel so that will make things easier but it will still be interesting. It does press the need for my name change, to officially come out to colleagues and to move forward with necessary surgery (the heat this weekend highlighted the need for top surgery — just sweat with so many layers on trying to hide things).
All-in-all I will admit to being very lucky. Transmen really do have it easier compared to our trans sisters. And white trans individuals have more leeway than POC trans individuals. Lately, however, I’ve been reading on the internet about some of the hate-filled comments others have made about transwomen. What seems to be one of the most distressing ones is attacks from individuals that society might view as trans. Two sites I frequent recently erupted into battles over transsexual/transgender versus HBS.
Those who are free of resentful thoughts surely find peace — Buddha
Harry Benjamin Syndrome (HBS) is the idea that the body was deformed at birth and thus surgical sexual reassignment surgery is needed to “cure” one self. Often it is linked to intersex disorders (intersex is a range of disorders that result in the genitals being ambigous; you can find out more here) but the thing to remember is that HBS is not intersex. And to date, HBS (sometimes referred to as “true transsexualism”) hasn’t been validated by peers or accepted by the APA/AMA. For me, this is important. For those that view themselves as having HBS, if it resolves what they feel it does within themselves, then that is good. I cannot view myself that way because it does deny where my past was, which is still something I want to honour as it is part of who made me the person I am.
One of the biggest challenges with HBS, in my opinion, is that there is a perceived view as to what makes a transsexual and how a transsexual should look. There is a huge desire that a transsexual look perfect and pass perfectly; anything less suggests not beng “true”. Add to that a desire to not be associated with transgender (that is, gender different people who may be pre-op, no-op, etc.) as well as the LGBTQ community at large and it creates an unfortunate schism in the overall community. Granted that this is their choice, that is fine but often what has been happening is a deliberate attempt to go after those that choose another path that they are more comfortable with. I respect a person’s choice to transition or not; to view themselves as having HBS or not; to just be. Anything else would advocate that they should suffer in life and that goes against my desire to stop suffering as per my buddhist leanings. Maybe I do not fully understand all that they have experienced when they got to this point and something in their life has given them reason to hate (and, yes, I will use the word hate since that is what it’s like reading sometimes) those that do not adhere to HBS.
Life is 10% what happens to you, and 90% how you respond to it.—Unknown
I can somewhat understand the cis-gendered butch’s hatred towards an FtM but there is a mythos that all FtMs were former butches and this is incorrect. This is akin to the idea that all MtFs were drag queens and flambouyant gay men. And while some go towards what society defines as male or female there are many that do not. None of these are incorrect thoughts. They are just different than what society expects, whether mainstream or within the LGBTQ society. I do, however, have a hard time understanding the issues that are between the HBS and the overall trans community. I know that some of it is that for many HBS they do not see themselves as trans, if I understand what I’ve read about it correctly, and rather see themselves as per their gender but with a birth defect. And that’s fine.
I’m not advocating a “Kumbya” moment here but rather a respect of differences since each of us cannot walk along another’s path and remember that not all of us will fit or would want to fit Hollywood’s definition of “woman” or “man”. As a whole we need to avoid falling into the trap of judging by the cover of the individual. One would think that the recent sensation of Susan Boyle had, at the least, taught us that, no?