New ABC Family Series “Becoming Us” about families with a transgender parent

From the ABC Family web site:

“Becoming Us” follows Ben, an ordinary Midwestern teenager, going through a unique situation. After his parents’ recent divorce, Ben learned that his dad is transitioning into a woman, Carly. In the series’ opener, “#WelcomeToMyWorld,” Ben is struggling in school, and his parents, Suzy and Carly, are not happy about it. Ben’s girlfriend, Danielle, would like to introduce Carly to her father, who is also transgender, leading to an awkward shopping trip for the four of them. And Ben’s sister, Sutton, returns home to Evanston to plan her upcoming wedding.

“Becoming Us” is produced by Ryan Seacrest, Eugene Young, Rabih Gholam, and George Moll for Ryan Seacrest Productions, as well as Paul Barosse.

The Spectacle of Bad Faith in Matters of Equality

What is “bad faith” in matters of equality [and stereotypes]

 “…it is only necessary to act in the customary, ordinary, usual, even polite manner. Nonetheless, I doubt that any of us who does so is totally without the knowledge that something is wrong.

  • To slide into decisions without allowing oneself to realize that one is making any;
  • to feel dimly that one is enjoying advantages without trying to become clearly aware of what those advantages are (and who hasn’t got them); 
  • to accept mystifications because they’re customary and comfortable; 
  • cooking one’s mental books to congratulate oneself on traditional behavior as if it were actively moral behavior;
  • to know that one doesn’t know; to prefer not to know;
  • to defend one’s status as already knowing with half-sincere, half-selfish passion as “objectivity” –

This great, fuzzy area of human ingenuity is what Jean Paul Sartre calls “bad faith.” When spelled out the techniques use to maintain bad faith look morally atrocious and appallingly silly. That is because they are morally atrocious and appallingly silly. But this only shows when one spells them out, i.e., becomes aware of them. Hence this one effort among many to do just that.”

Russ, J. (1984) How to Suppress Women’s Writing, London: The Women’s Press.

The Spectacle that is Jenner

JennerPlayboy_pe2By Helen Hill MA MFT

The “celebration” of Caitlyn Jenner (noticeably, spelt without the signature Kardashian “K”) that
took place on the recent cover of Vanity Fair had enormous potential to open minds, alter perceptions, and glaringly challenge the status quo of what it means to be a “man,” a “woman,” and that mysterious third category—“trans.” And yet it did not. Not only did it not live up to its potential in breaking societal male/female constructs, but it came strikingly close to a celebration, not of Caitlyn Jenner, but of the 1950s female pinup archetype.   (It seems not a coincidence that the Jenner Vanity Fair cover looks astoundingly similar to a 1950s Playboy bunny.)  Or, as we know it, what some sexists (both male and female) in Hollywood think a woman “should be.” Why am I not surprised? Jenner, Vanity Fair, and the business that is the Kardashian family is, at its core, pure Hollywood.  And that, in itself, should be a concern.

To me, the Caitlyn spectacle is currently no more than a Hollywood-celebrity-guy becoming a Hollywood-celebrity-girl whose “transformation” has played strongly to rigid gender and sexuality stereotypes standard in the Business, and whose femininity was oversexualized by a magazine catering to a traditional celebrity aesthetic. And I am shocked at how easily some applaud the pursuit of extreme stereotypes of gender as some kind of reflection of the acceptance of transfolk into the greater culture.  It seems that, in America, as in Hollywood, image is truly everything.

There are thousands of transfolk whose body types don’t fit the “normal,” much less the celebrity-desired aesthetic. These people have not been offered TV shows, high profile interviews, or thousands of notes of support. Far from it! These people have faced rejection over and over and over again; they have lost jobs, housing, health care, families, neighbors, religious communities, and more because of their departure from “normal.”   Many have lived homeless despite having PhDs or other graduate-level degrees, highly-sought after skills, and excellent ethics and work habits.  Coming out as their true selves put them in an “untouchable” caste to be ostracized and set aside.  It cost them everything.

So many paid dearly. I paid dearly.

Most of all, my children and my ex paid dearly.

In other words, the people I love most paid the highest price for me to finally face myself and become a real human being, and, hopefully, a kind and decent one too.  And it is on me to honor them by working hard every day to be that good and loving person they believed in when I didn’t believe in myself.  I can never tell you what I owe them.  They are truly the best part of me.

I am one of the lucky ones. I can put a roof over my head. I have some friends who love and accept me. I don’t ask for much, just please don’t hurt me.

But seeing how willingly young men and women accept this celebrity culture aesthetic and ignore the rest of us who don’t fit it, leads me to believe nothing has really changed.

With this new Caitlyn media craze and the related information and perceptions (and misinformation and misperceptions) now inserted into our cultural discourse, I and other “normal” transfolk have to again confront our own ideas of gender and how we manifest our gender in this world. I question myself to make sure I am me. And I strive to express myself safely so that I am not harassed, bullied, jobless or homeless.

As of now, everything I’ve seen about this messy business with Jenner is about adopting extreme gender roles—first as the ultimate male (Olympic champion), and now the ultimate female (sex and glamour). Someday Jenner will figure out what is really the best manifestation for herself. It almost seems as if it is a caricature, a set of extreme ideas of gender being manifested.  It seems unreal and I cannot relate.  The celebrity trans norm cannot help promote safety and security for “real” transfolk without the cadre of supporters or the backing of millions of dollars. But then again, this transformation was about Bruce and Caitlyn. It was not about me or you.

Jenner could not be where she is without the fact that thousands of us have gone before, without fanfare, without support, and without acceptance, must less tolerance.  We’ve trudged through when it wasn’t popular, newsworthy, or safe.  No awards are given to those of us who have survived horrific conditions to build our lives anew.  But then again, we weren’t looking for any.  It is the height of irony that Jenner is receiving an award for what thousands of transfolk have done for years, and continue to do, sacrificing everything in the hope to live in quiet and simple dignity.

Transfolks continue to be bullied, harassed, sexually assaulted, and murdered.  Even this week. None of what Jenner is doing, nor what the celebrity culture is promoting, has or will change that, in my opinion.

In all of this, the celebrity class divide has remained such a chasm that Caitlyn and her supporters still don’t see the rest of us, must less muster any empathy or compassion for our plight. Where are our voices in all of this? Where is the support? Where is our story?

As of now, it seems that Jenner and Hollywood haven’t changed a damn thing about gender stereotypes. And that they may have done more harm than good with the sexualized Vanity Fair spread.

I would ask that, and continue to have hope that, as time goes on other trans celebrities or leaders will welcome the monetary and emotional support that they receive and give it back to the cause and their peers who are still suffering deeply each day. Donate photoshoot fees (I’m speaking directly to you, Ms. Jenner) to clinics, housing services, job advocates and other services that reach out to those transfolk who do not fit gender stereotypes and who are not welcomed by society with open arms. Do your part to help those who helped pave the road before you. Be a good and kind girl, guy, man, woman, trans person. Honor all humanity.

The Life Not Lived. Another Life Lost. Listen to Your Child!

B6Fo2kqCQAAjezJA transgender teen from Ohio committed suicide on December 28th.  She was born a male, but strongly identified female from the age of four.  Unfortunately, her parents did have room for a trans child as it went against their religious beliefs.  Efforts at reparative “therapy” with “Christian” therapists seemed to simply drive the teen deeper and deeper into depression; until, seeing no way out, this teen stepped in front of a truck traveling down a highway at 2:30am, instantly dying in the process.

The teen, Leelah A., left a note on Tumblr, which is reproduced here in full.  Her parents still refer to her as “him” and have not acknowledged anything to do with Leelah’s gender identity.

“If you are reading this, it means that I have committed suicide and obviously failed to delete this post from my queue.

Please don’t be sad, it’s for the better. The life I would’ve lived isn’t worth living in… because I’m transgender. I could go into detail explaining why I feel that way, but this note is probably going to be lengthy enough as it is. To put it simply, I feel like a girl trapped in a boy’s body, and I’ve felt that way ever since I was 4. I never knew there was a word for that feeling, nor was it possible for a boy to become a girl, so I never told anyone and I just continued to do traditionally “boyish” things to try to fit in.

When I was 14, I learned what transgender meant and cried of happiness. After 10 years of confusion I finally understood who I was. I immediately told my mom, and she reacted extremely negatively, telling me that it was a phase, that I would never truly be a girl, that God doesn’t make mistakes, that I am wrong. If you are reading this, parents, please don’t tell this to your kids. Even if you are Christian or are against transgender people don’t ever say that to someone, especially your kid. That won’t do anything but make them hate them self. That’s exactly what it did to me.

My mom started taking me to a therapist, but would only take me to christian therapists, (who were all very biased) so I never actually got the therapy I needed to cure me of my depression. I only got more christians telling me that I was selfish and wrong and that I should look to God for help.

When I was 16 I realized that my parents would never come around, and that I would have to wait until I was 18 to start any sort of transitioning treatment, which absolutely broke my heart. The longer you wait, the harder it is to transition. I felt hopeless, that I was just going to look like a man in drag for the rest of my life. On my 16th birthday, when I didn’t receive consent from my parents to start transitioning, I cried myself to sleep.

I formed a sort of a “fuck you” attitude towards my parents and came out as gay at school, thinking that maybe if I eased into coming out as trans it would be less of a shock. Although the reaction from my friends was positive, my parents were pissed. They felt like I was attacking their image, and that I was an embarrassment to them. They wanted me to be their perfect little straight christian boy, and that’s obviously not what I wanted.

So they took me out of public school, took away my laptop and phone, and forbid me of getting on any sort of social media, completely isolating me from my friends. This was probably the part of my life when I was the most depressed, and I’m surprised I didn’t kill myself. I was completely alone for 5 months. No friends, no support, no love. Just my parent’s disappointment and the cruelty of loneliness.

At the end of the school year, my parents finally came around and gave me my phone and let me back on social media. I was excited, I finally had my friends back. They were extremely excited to see me and talk to me, but only at first. Eventually they realized they didn’t actually give a shit about me, and I felt even lonelier than I did before. The only friends I thought I had only liked me because they saw me five times a week.

After a summer of having almost no friends plus the weight of having to think about college, save money for moving out, keep my grades up, go to church each week and feel like shit because everyone there is against everything I live for, I have decided I’ve had enough. I’m never going to transition successfully, even when I move out. I’m never going to be happy with the way I look or sound. I’m never going to have enough friends to satisfy me. I’m never going to have enough love to satisfy me. I’m never going to find a man who loves me. I’m never going to be happy. Either I live the rest of my life as a lonely man who wishes he were a woman or I live my life as a lonelier woman who hates herself. There’s no winning. There’s no way out. I’m sad enough already, I don’t need my life to get any worse. People say “it gets better” but that isn’t true in my case. It gets worse. Each day I get worse.

That’s the gist of it, that’s why I feel like killing myself. Sorry if that’s not a good enough reason for you, it’s good enough for me. As for my will, I want 100% of the things that I legally own to be sold and the money (plus my money in the bank) to be given to trans civil rights movements and support groups, I don’t give a shit which one. The only way I will rest in peace is if one day transgender people aren’t treated the way I was, they’re treated like humans, with valid feelings and human rights. Gender needs to be taught about in schools, the earlier the better. My death needs to mean something. My death needs to be counted in the number of transgender people who commit suicide this year. I want someone to look at that number and say “that’s fucked up” and fix it. Fix society. Please.”

If you need help, there is help!  Do NOT give up on the chance to live as you should be.  Life is NOT an EITHER/OR question.  Sometimes life is an AND.  You can be transgendered AND live AND thrive AND cry AND grow AND have a life. 

The Trevor Project is a crisis and support organization for LGBTIQ teens.  They operate hotlines and a website.  From their contact webpage:

We’re here for you. Please call the Trevor Lifeline (866-488-7386) – it’s free and available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. You can also ask for help on TrevorChat or TrevorText.

Talk to us on the Trevor Lifeline (866-488-7386), over TrevorChat, or through TrevorText – our trained volunteer counselors are ready to listen.

TrevorText–  Available on Fridays (4:00 p.m. – 8:00 p.m. ET / 1:00 p.m. – 5:00 p.m. PT). Text the word “Trevor” to 1-202-304-1200. Standard text messaging rates apply.

TrevorChat – Available 7 days a week (3:00 p.m. – 9:00 p.m. ET / 12:00 p.m. – 6:00 p.m. PT).

The Strange Case of An 18th-Century Sex Change Surgery []

by Alice Robb /

One day in 1779, a London couple, seeking treatment for their seven-year-old daughter, showed up at the Soho Square Dispensary for the Relief of the Infant Poor. The first doctor thought she might have a hernia. The second had a different idea.

“I shall not trouble the reader with the surprise into which the parents were thrown when I first told them their child was not a girl, as they had supposed, but a boy,” wrote the second doctor. The case was recently discovered in the archives of the University of Kansas and written up in the latest issue of the journal Sexualities.

mistakenIn the early 2000s, Carol Warrenthen a professor of sociology at the University of Kansaswas researching the history of electricity in the college’s rare books library when she noticed an old pamphlet with an eye-catching title: “The case of a boy who had been mistaken for a girl; with three anatomical views of the parts, before and after the operation and cure,” by a surgeon called Thomas Brand. “I was looking through a bunch of materials that had been shoved together, and this one appeared,” recalls Warren.

According to Brand’s report, published in 1787, he noticed an “irregularity” in the patient’s “external parts.” After further examination, he concluded that the child’s “part, which had the appearance of the labia pudenda, was in fact the scrotum,” and suggested an “operation to free the penis from its confinement.” He went ahead and made some alterations, enabling the childwhose name is unknown“to urinate standing up, wear trousers, and enjoy the privileges of being a male.” Brand, who practiced at the Royal Hospital at Greenwich, was “not a quack,” according to Mary Fissell, a professor of the History of Medicine at Johns Hopkins who I spoke to on the phone.

Eight pages long, with three illustrations of the child’s anatomy, the pamphlet may describe one of the earliest instances of sex-change surgery. “The first case that I found (in America) was in the 1840s, and it was received quite critically by fellow physicians,” writes Elizabeth Reis, author of Bodies in Doubt: An American History of Intersex and professor of women’s and gender studies at the University of Oregon, in an email.

Brand saw the operation not as sex change, but as a means of returning the child to his “proper” gender; Brand seemed to believe that only two distinct sexes were possible. He denied the existence of hermaphrodites, although he was familiar with the concept: “The term ‘hermaphrodite’ is properly understood as an animal that has both the male and female organs equally and perfectly formed,” he wrote. “But,” he goes on, “There is no reason to believe that such a case ever had existence in the human subject.”

Brand’s attitude toward sex and gender was consistent with the predominant view of his time; according to eighteenth-century norms, sex was a medical fact that had nothing to do with choice or personal expression. In fact, neither the patient nor his parents seem to have even been consulted. “Gender wasn’t conceived of as a form of identity,” says Warren. “It was conceived of as a form of body.” The idea of a person being “transgender,” of course, is not something that would enter common conception until about two centuries later.

Click on the link continue reading the article…