Gender Identity Issues Can Harm Kids’ Mental Health: Study []

By Lisa Esposito / HealthDay Reporter

MONDAY, Feb. 20 (HealthDay News) — New studies show that children struggling with their gender identity also face higher risks for abuse and mental health problems, including post-traumatic stress disorder.

Children with gender identity disorder show a strong, persistent discomfort with their biological sex. They identify with and display behaviors usually seen in the opposite sex.

One study, from Children’s Hospital Boston, looked at the emotional and behavioral problems of children and teens referred to its specialty clinic for evaluation and possible medical treatment.

“The study only focuses on kids who experience profound distress or [sadness] with their changing bodies, so the psychiatric manifestations of that distress include much higher risks for self-injurious behavior, depression, suicide attempts and anxiety,” said Dr. Scott Leibowitz, a pediatric psychiatrist affiliated with the hospital’s Gender Management Service.

Ninety-seven patients younger than 21 were included, 43 born as males and 54 as females. Forty-three patients already had psychiatric symptoms, 20 reported self-mutilation and nine had attempted suicide.

The studies appear online and in the March issue of the journal Pediatrics.

Dr. Walter Meyer III, author of an accompanying journal editorial, said many problems arise from the reactions these children face at home and in school.

“These kids are really normal — they just want to be the other gender,” said Meyer, a psychiatrist who works with transgender patients at the University of Texas Medical Branch, in Galveston. “The ones who are well-adjusted and well-accepted by their families and at school don’t have the psychiatric issues.”

The other study, from the Harvard School of Public Health, looked at long-term data on nearly 10,000 young adults, average age 23. Those who rated high for childhood gender nonconformity were more likely to report physical, psychological and sexual abuse as children. They were almost twice as likely to have post-traumatic stress disorder as young adults.

“Gender conformity” relates to how children express themselves — through their clothes, their interests, their mannerisms — and how these behaviors mesh with what’s typical for their biological sex.

One expert said the study is “important,” and that it helps tease out why these kids have trouble coping.

It “tests one of the key proposed factors — childhood abuse,” said Stephen Russell, a professor of family studies at the University of Arizona. “There has been concern that parents may react to gender nonconformity in harsh ways. This is perhaps the first study to show evidence of that and of the lasting implications for health.”

Fear of the unknown is part of the problem.

“We’ve seen in studies of gender nonconforming LGBT [lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender] youth that what most people think of as abuse comes from a place of concern and fear on the part of parents — that is, they think they can help their kid by ‘toughening them up’ or teaching them to ‘fit in,’ ” Russell said. “Many parents literally have no framework for understanding gender nonconformity in children.”

Meyer, meanwhile, said he sees signs of growing awareness and acceptance, spurred by the media. Once parents are onboard, treatment can begin, sometimes quite early, he said.

“At age 5 or 6, treatment is mainly psychotherapy and working with family to help them [kids] adjust,” Meyer said. “Sometimes that means reassuring them and letting them dress up at home. Some might start school taking on a new gender.”

Pent-up need for treatment appears to exist.

Since Children’s Hospital Boston established a Gender Management Service in 2007, the population of gender nonconformists seeking treatment quadrupled.

“By having clinical services that are specialized and interdisciplinary, you’re providing an avenue for parents to come and present for treatment,” Leibowitz said. “That brings a lot of people out of their closets, so to speak, and shows this is a less stigmatized issue, so that people can get the appropriate assessments and treatments that they deserve.”

Some children receive treatment to delay puberty and buy them time while deciding whether to proceed with a gender change.

Puberty blockers, which are not covered by insurance, are expensive. “Injections can cost upwards of $1,000 a month.” Leibowitz said. Newer implants cost about $3,400 for two years.

Blocking irreversible changes of puberty has advantages for those who eventually opt for full gender transition, through cross-sex hormones or sexual reassignment surgery, Leibowitz said. “In their bodies and appearance, they will be perceived by society as the gender they affirm and thus have healthier outcomes,” he explained.

“We as individuals who do not experience an incongruence between our minds and bodies take for granted how easy life is,” Leibowitz added. “You just need to meet one child and one family to see how this impacts their lives.”

Mental Health Problems Plague Transgender Kids []

by Stephanie Pappas /

Kids who are distressed because they feel their physical body doesn’t match their gender suffer from high rates of psychiatric symptoms, such as depression and suicide attempts, a new study finds.

In a sample of children and adolescents treated at the Endocrine Division at Children’s Hospital Boston, young people who experienced distress about the “mismatch” between their body’s sex and their mental gender had high rates of psychiatric complications (before any gender treatment). Kids who don’t get treatment, whether for financial reasons or because their parents aren’t supportive, likely have higher rates of psychiatric problems, said study researcher Scott Leibowitz, a psychiatrist at Children’s Hospital Boston.

“Individuals who are not transgender take for granted what life must be like when our minds and bodies are incongruent with one another,” Leibowitz told LiveScience. “Personally, I’ve seen so many kids who experience such high levels of distress with their changing bodies that it impairs their emotional and social functioning,” he said.

Mind-body mismatch

Transgender people — people who feel that their biological sex does not reflect their true gender — have astonishingly high rates of mental health problems: A 2010 survey found that 41 percent of transgender people in the U.S. have attempted suicide.

Researchers attributed those rates to discrimination and stigma, as well as a lack of laws protecting transgender people from employment discrimination. Poor insurance coverage of hormones and other treatments to help a transgender person transition to their desired gender also account for the rates, the researchers found. [5 Myths About Gay People]

But the mismatch between mind and body alone can be a major source of psychological pain, Leibowitz said. Of 97 patients who came to the Endocrine Division for hormones and other treatments related to gender identity disorder between January 1998 and February 2010, 44.3 percent had significant mental health histories. Twenty percent had self-mutilated, and 9.3 percent had attempted suicide at least once. About 37 percent were taking psychiatric medication.

Treating gender identity

Growing up, many children experiment with cross-gender behaviors, but very few of them will grow up to experience distress about their biological sex. Persistent gender identity disorder is rare: In the Netherlands, where gender-treatment programs are well- established, only about 1 in every 10,000 to 30,000 people seeks treatment.

When young people start puberty and experience serious distress about their bodies developing into a gender they don’t identify with, there are solutions, Leibowitz said. The medical standard established by the Endocrine Society and the World Professional Organization for Transgender Health call for treatment with hormones that suppress puberty in teens who have not yet undergone major physical changes. These treatments “buy time,” Leibowitz said, preventing the development of secondary sex characteristics such as breasts or an Adam’s apple while kids mature mentally enough to make decisions about whether they’d like to transition to a new gender. These treatments are reversible.

Older teens, ages 16 or 17, can begin to make decisions about taking estrogen or testosterone to promote the sexual characteristics of the gender they feel they are. Puberty-suppressing treatments are also used at this stage to lessen the doses — and thus side effects — of these hormones. The effects of cross-sex hormone therapy are partially reversible.

At every step of the way, Leibowitz said, families and children are counseled and evaluated to be sure they’re ready for treatment. Doctors counsel young children and their families, but do not treat them with drugs or hormones unless their gender identity distress persists at puberty.

The cost of not treating can be high, as the new study, published today (Feb. 21) in the journal Pediatrics, highlights.

“Without treatment, a lot of these kids are prone to psychiatric disorders, including depression, suicide, self-mutilation, anxiety,” Leibowitz said.


The Painter Who Subverted Gender Norms Before It Was a Thing []

Note from Helen Hill MFT: Peter Gluck was one of the earliest transmen (female-to-male).  The author apparently does not understand gender norms as well as she thinks she does!  Gluck is a HE, not a SHE.

by Jenn /

I’ll be honest: I don’t know much about visual art. I mean, I’ve seen it. I’ve spent time wandering the rooms of the Tate looking thoughtful. And I’ve done my share of staring at naked saints on Italian mezzanines. I’ve never cried about that kind of art. But I’ve come to realise that the times Ihave had feelings about it have been when I knew a little bit about the person behind it. That’s why Vasari wrote The Lives of the Artists, right? Self-Portrait with a Bandaged Ear wouldn’t be so great if we didn’t know lead-poisoning made Van Gogh sever his ear and give it to a prostitute. And Tracy Emin’s sketch of a woman masturbating probably wouldn’t have caused so much fuss if we didn’t expect to see her staggering around Soho at 4 a.m., with a half-empty bottle of red and her left boob hanging out (that actually happened).

So with that in mind, there’s someone I think you should really know about (if you don’t already). Her name is Gluck and she might be someone you’d have wanted to sleep with if you’d been alive in the twenties.

I only know about Gluck because once I got lured into a gay walking tour that went by her house. Then I saw a self-portrait. Then I started reading the internet. And although there’s not much out there about her, Gluck’s life and work are relevant. Why? Because they are among the only visible things of that time that probably represent YOU, had you been a queer Englishwoman before the Second World War happened.

Gluck is a bit like the Gertrude Stein of the oil-paint world, in that she was strong-willed, androgynous, and a bit rude. She also had a studio where lots of lesbians used to hang out. She is brilliant because she ignored pretty much every social rule about gender by doing a lot of things that were considered inappropriate for a woman of that class and time. Also, her paintings are really good.

She was born Hannah Gluckstein in 1895. That means she was born in the Victorian times, when women had almost NO rights and the suffragette movement was only just starting to happen. Her father was an Englishman who owned the J. Lyons and Co. coffee empire, her mother was an American opera singer, and her brother grew up to be a conservative politician. In other words, they were rich and conventional.

No surprises that they wanted her to first get educated, then get married. But she found her way to art school instead. Not only that, she cut off all her hair and started wearing men’s clothing. By the time she’d finished school she had abandoned her family name completely, and answered to nothing other than Gluck. This was because she wanted to be known by her art and not by her gender. On the back of publicity prints of her paintings she wrote “Please return in good condition to Gluck, no prefix, suffix or quotes.” And she even resigned from a prestigious art society because someone had called her Miss Gluck on a letterhead.

This woman was a fighter. And the attitudes people had towards her are still really resonant today; walking around London in tailored shirts and gentleman’s shoes, her father thought it was all just a pose. And her mother put it down to a kink in the brain. But it didn’t stop them from giving her a huge private income that allowed her to have a house in London and a studio in Cornwall.

There she spent time painting and (I like to imagine) having lots of girl-sex. Romaine Brooks even came over from Paris to visit and paint her portrait. The painting is calledPeter, a young English girl and it’s really awesome (at left, click to enlarge). Not only does Gluck look hot in the portrait, it probably made people of that time revaluate their conventional ideas about gender by bringing androgyny a tiny bit closer to the mainstream.

Gluck painted everything. In Cornwall she painted landscapes; in London she painted party scenes from the dance floor of the Pavilion. She was famous for her portraits of women and her beautification of their sass and arrogance in a society still mostly confined to good behaviour. When she started an affair with the famous florist Constance Spry, Gluck started painting flower arrangements. And during the war she painted soldiers shooting pool or just hanging out.

We should definitely salute her. She defied her family’s conservatism, was openly out, didn’t give a fuck what society thought about her gender identity, and she made some incredible art. And if that wasn’t enough, she seems to have had a list of sexual conquests en ratio with Shane’s (given the not-that-progressive nature of that era as a whole). One of her most famous paintings is calledMedallion (at left), a celebration of her marriage to socialite Nesta Obermer.

As it’s not lawful to get gay-married in 2012, we have to assume this marriage was more figurative. Nesta used to call her Dear Tim or Timothy Alf, which is cute. But eight years later she broke it off on account of the fact Gluck was getting demanding and possessive.

The sad thing is this: I do not think Gluck aged well. She became cantankerous and her confidence turned into arrogance. She was allegedly totally heartbroken about Nesta, which is something that didn’t stop her pursuing Edith Shackleton Heald (the first female reporter in Britain’s House of Lords) almost immediately. The two quickly shacked up together in Edith’s country estate and spent the next 30 years in a turbulent relationship that made Gluck stop painting and disappear from the public eye. Instead of making art, she started a 10-year war with commercial paint manufacturers, insisting there be a higher fixed standard of art materials available. Luckily for us, she did do one more show before her death in 1978. Instead of party scenes and women, the show was full of love-loss, wasted years and death; the most famous painting is a decaying fish-head entitled Rage, Rage against the Dying of the Light.

It’s a real shame that Gluck is not better known outside the art world. Her life and work is a significant (albeit small) slice of our history. Even if she died sad, she had a pretty remarkable life, being a queer woman subject to the same attitudes and issues that we face almost a century later. Given the time she was incredibly brave, and so completely at ease with her own sexuality that I think she deserves a little bow from all of us.

A Salute To Dani Bunten, A Transgender Video Gaming Pioneer []

Note from Helen Hill MFT: The views in this article (and any article on my blog) do not necessarily reflect my own views, but I feel they should be voiced and discussed because of their profound importance in whether one transitions, has surgery, or explores other options of gender expression.

by Luke Plunkett /

There are plenty of legends in the world of video games whose names will fly off the tongues of casual fans. Nolan Bushnell. Trip Hawkins. Shigeru Miyamoto. Will Wright. Sid Meier.
It’s a shame, then, that so few can name another of the all-time greats, Danielle Bunten Berry.

Or, as she was known before 1992, Dan Bunten.

The designer born as Daniel Paul Bunten in 1949 is important to video games for any number of reasons, some trivial, some vital to the progression of the entire medium.

Her first game, 1978′s Wheeler Dealers, was the first ever PC game to be sold in a printed box instead of a sleeve or plastic bag, a necessity born of the game’s inclusion of a custom controller.

In 1983, Bunten’s Ozark Softscape released one of the first games for Electronic Arts, and also one of the greatest cult hits in the history of the PC, MULE. A multiplayer… economic strategy… thing, MULE wasn’t a big seller, but it was very influential amongst developers, and retains a fanbase and community site even to this day.

In 1984, Bunten released the amazing open-world title The Seven Cities of Gold, a game she only made when she wasn’t allowed to make something very similar to what would become Sid Meier’s Civilization. Which wasn’t released until 1990.

In 1988 she designed Modem Wars, the world’s first PC game that could be played across multiple computers in an online environment.

In 1992, Bunten designed Global Conquest, the world’s first PC game from a major publisher that could be played across four computers online.

Then, sadly, things went a little off the rails. In the same year, Bunten’s third marriage fell apart, and in November 1992 she did something she’d been contemplating for a while: she underwent sex reassignment surgery.

Now known as Danielle (or simply Dani) Bunten Berry, she would never maintain as high a profile as she had enjoyed while a male. While continuing in games development, and continuing to work on pioneering the online interactivity of players, she quickly grew to resent her decision to undergo surgery.

“Being my ‘real self’ could have included having a penis and including more femininity in whatever forms made sense”, she would later write. “I didn’t know that until too late and now I have to make the best of the life I’ve stumbled into. I just wish I would have tried more options before I jumped off the precipice.”

In 1997, while working on a new, improved version of MULE for the internet age, Dani was diagnosed with lung cancer, and passed away a year later at the of 49.

Her work never made much money, with only Cities of Gold selling enough to be called a “hit”. Wheeler Dealers sold 50 copies. MULE, as important as it was, only sold 30,000.

But Bunten’s legacy hasn’t been determined by sales. It can be measured in her influence on the industry and the developers who followed in her footsteps.

Nearly every game Bunten designed or worked on turned out to be well ahead of its time, especially when it came to the possibilities for bringing multiple people together in the same game. That kind of vision made her a star to other developers.

“That was something kind of visionary of his: that he kind of saw the day when games wouldn’t just be for hardcore gamers,” says Civilization creator Sid Meier, a friend of Bunten through thick and thin. “People would play more casual games – people playing together, people playing on networks, people cooperating instead of being competitive. He kind of saw this evolution of gaming that was still pretty far off in the future.”

In 1998, just before she passed away, she was given the Lifetime Achievement Award by the Computer Game Developers Association. In 2007, she was inducted into the Academy of Interactive Arts & Sciences.

And perhaps most touching, when completing the blockbuster The Sims, designer Will Wright dedicated the game to Bunten.

Dani Bunten is survived by her three children (from previous marriages as Daniel Bunten), who now operate a company which trades under the name Ozark Softscape (Bunten’s old development studio), and which “manages their father’s intellectual property and digital legacy”.

If you’d like to read more on Bunten, this recent Arkansas Times piece gives a great insight into not just her legacy, but her personal life as well.

Total Recall is a look back at the history of video games through their characters, franchises, developers and trends.