PATHWAYS
An affirming newsletter for the gender variant community
In This Issue
Movie Event
Healthcare Events
In The News
ARTICLE HEADLINE
Deconstructing Gender
Join Our List
Join Our Mailing List
OUTFEST Wednesday Movie Event
 Ma Vie En Rose
(my life in pink)
Wed., Nov. 19th
6:30pm Absolut pre-screening cocktails
7:30pm Screening
American Cinematheque at the Egyptian Theatre
6712 Hollywood Blvd, L.A.
Tickets $7 (members) $10 (non-members)
Purchase at the door or via fandango.com
Click here for more info
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Milk - The Harvey Milk Story starring Sean Penn ... look for its' premiere the first week in December!
Healthcare Events
 aids ribbonBeyond the Basics: A Comprehensive Approach to Advancing Transgender HIV Prevention and Care, a forum hosted by the Office of AIDS Programs and Policy (OAPP) and the Los Angeles County HIV Prevention Planning Committee (PPC).  This event will bring together the transgender community and providers to discuss current strategies and new directions in addressing HIV infection among transpeople living in Los Angeles County. 
Date: Wednesday, 11/12/08 Time:  9:00 A.M. to 4:00 P.M.
 Registration and continental breakfast begin at 8:00 A.M.       On-site parking is free, and lunch will be provided.  

Please register for the event  by November 7, 2008 by e-mailing Theresa Watts at twatts@ph.lacounty.gov.   

Click here for more info  
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tg med workshop

 The Center Orange County is proud to present the third in a series of Know Your Rights workshops for the Orange County transgender community.
 
Presented by: Dr. Madeline Deutsch, M.D.
Date: Saturday 11/15/08
Time: 3 p.m.-6:30 p.m
.
 
Cost: FREE!
 
Location: The exciting Orange County location will be revealed when you RSVP.
 Contact: Esther Wang at 714-534-0862 ext. 105 or esther@thecenteroc.org
 
Learning Objectives:
* Become an informed patient.
* Learn about the facts and fictions of trans healthcare.
 *Discover what it feels like to be in charge of your own medical care. 
*
Learn techniques for teaching your doctor or health care provider how to care for you.
In The News       

 Stand Up and Be Counted:   

National Survey Launched by National Center for Transgender  Equality and National Gay & Lesbian Task Force
 
An important National Survey is currently underway in hopes of documenting the multiple stressor and sources of oppression and violence against gender non-conforming people.  This research is an important component to establishing data to argue for reform on behalf of the gender variant community, and to raise awareness of the continued fight for civil liberties within the trans community. The data gathered will assist our community in pressing for policy reform in our health-care, academic, legal, and political institutions. 
All transgender and gender non-conforming people are urged to participate in this research by completing a brief, confidential and electronic survey compiled  experts in social research, transgender advocacy and policy reform.
 
Click here  to participate in the survey.
  _______________________

No on Prop 8

GID REFORM
 
Mental Health Professionals
Encouraged to Speak Up for
GID Reform
Mental Health Professionals who are trans-affirming are asked to support GID reform. Go to www.gidreform.org 
to learn more about this issue
to add your voice to the debate. Its important that we engage in this dialogue and advocate for the gender variant community that is currently being assigned mental health diagnosis for what is a non-pathological variance in gender identity and expression. There is much concern that the current DSM V committee is not adequately trans-affirming, or representative of the broader trans-liberation movement. Please add your voice and advocate for the community you serve.
 
Issue: # 2 Nov/2008
Greetings!
 
footprintsWelcome to the November edition of PATHWAYS.  I hope as you read, you will come away with both inspiration and information.   If you have any comments, questions, or ideas for future newsletters, feel free to contact me at lisa@genderpath.com
Deconstructing Gender Assumptions
Its not we don't know that can hurt us. Its what we know for sure, that just ain't so.
                                      - Mark Twain
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Gender is one of those ideas where "what we think we know for sure" can really hurt us. I'll give you some examples of what many of us think they know for sure about gender.
1. That gender is determined by your anatomy.
2. That gender is either male or female.
3. That gender is static and unchanging.
Really? Are you sure about that? One of my passions as a therapist, is helping people who are new to the gender variant community, question gender assumptions. Assumptions like these can cause us to misunderstand or exclude our friends and loved ones in the gender variant community.
 
My first experience with challenging gender assumptions came when I was a very young girl. Growing up in a deeply religious community, my life was bound by gender rules and norms that would profoundly shape my life. I came to understand and observe that the only jobs for women in my religious community involved cooking and babies-neither of which interested me. By the time I was 12, I was hearing very clear teaching that women were inferior and should be silent and obedient to the men in authority. Because I was not male, my interests and gifts would have no value. I felt devalued and angry. It took a long time, but I'm finally comfortable with my voice and my life as a "female", though in many ways, I challenge the conventions of my upbringing. I've been a single mom, I'm educated, I have a career, I'm outspoken, and I'm not gender conforming in my choice of partner. I believe these gender "rules" were very constricting and damaging. In my work as a therapist, I am dedicated to supporting people in the expression of themselves that is most authentic and healthy. Our ideas about gender can enhance or they can constrict this aim.

Whether it's a straight man, who can't allow himself to cry, because he sees it as a threat to his masculinity; or new parents working out gender roles in relationship to child-rearing in a postmodern world, our relationships and roles with each other are bathed in the subconscious influence of gender. And when someone is struggling to express their true gender identity, they often face objections from well meaning friends and family, which are rooted in these assumptions.

Here are a few that seem to go unquestioned. So let's take each one and consider whether they are true.
Assumption 1: Gender is determined by your anatomy.
This assumption goes almost unchallenged. But genital determination of gender is not simple. There is a confluence of genetic, hormonal, chromosomal and genital characteristics and processes that go into the physical sex that an infant presents at birth. Because these process overlap and intersect at several points during the embryo's development, and because there are so many examples of this process resulting in a less than clear picture (see #2); we cannot easily assume that anatomy always lines up with gender identity.

Further, there is research to support the idea that "there are female brain structure in genetically male transsexuals that support the hypothesis that gender identity develops as a result of an interaction between the developing brain and hormones" (See Nature, 1995). That means that although a natal male may anatomically have a penis, he may have hormonal influences that have shaped a "feminized brain".

The trans liberation movement has challenges this assumption and asserts that one's intra-psychic experience of gender identity (one's experience of their gender) is most important in determining gender ( the social construct of male or femaleness).

Many people experience their gender identity as being different than their sex (natal gender). They experience a profound oppression once they become conscious of this -whether they are eight years old, or 12 or 42. When we insist that people act and dress and behave according to the "rules and roles" associated with their biological gender; and their gender identity is in conflict with that; it is a form of psychological suffering that we inflict. The freedom to express one's gender identity and to be the authority on one's gender identity, is an issue that is of great import in our current civil rights discourse.

Assumption 2: Gender is Binary: Male or Female
The second assumption, that gender is either male or female is related to the first, and there are good reasons to question this binary view. First, an estimated 1 in 2000 babies are born with inter-sexed conditions. These conditions are the result in chromosomal and hormonal anomalies that cause ambiguous genitalia, sterility, and androgynous physical presentation. This ambiguity in gender has historically been treated as a "psychosocial emergency" for the family and society.

In years past, doctors often taken action to clarify the physical anatomy of inter-sexed children through surgeries that sought to reinstate a clear presentation of gender, regardless of the psychological and physical trauma to the child. The idea was that because anatomy=gender, the child would not suffer the anguish associated with confusing genetalia. Many incidences such as this have been documented to end tragically, as the children grew to adulthood and claimed their "true" gender, or reported the tremendous suffering they endured as a result of these "treatments". Today, intersexed people are more organized and vocal about the need to let children develop naturally, rather than trying to force them into a box that doesn't fit.

Assumption 3: Gender is Fixed and Unchanging
This evidence also lends itself to challenge the third assumption here: that gender is fixed and unchanging. Think about it. Even if you have never questioned your gender, you have probably had some shift in your conception of maleness or femaleness as you express it. For example, many men find that their masculine identities shift as they become fathers. Similarly, many women, find that their conceptions of their gender roles shift as they enter mid-life.

The idea that gender could be a fluid, rather than a fixed concept, is one that has been important in the trans-liberation movement. There are many in the queer community who want to see gender categories reflect the diversity of the community that falls in between and outside of this M/F binary system. They want the freedom to be themselves. Many want to embrace their queer identities without the dis-identification that is part of a binary system. I.E. I am female, therefore, I am not male. For many, this is simply not an accurate reflection of their experience.
Its vital that all of us evaluate our assumptions about gender. Because it is what you are sure you know, that just ain't so, that can get you into trouble! And, can cause you to unknowingly discriminate against a person who doesn't fit in the box. As we expand our awareness of the broader conversation and experience, of gender variant people, we can become more inclusive in our thinking, our language, and our hearts. 
 
 Resources and Recommendations
Bornstein, Kate (1994). Gender Outlaw: On Men, Women, and the Rest of Us  Bornstein is a true gender outlaw. She claims to fit in neither box, and she challenges us with humor and honesty to look at the assumptions and myths about the gender binary in our culture.
Calapinto, John (2000) As Nature Made Him: The Boy Who Was Raised as a Girl This is the account of David Reimer, and his twin. Born a boy but due to a botched circumcision, was surgically altered and given hormones and raised a girl. David suffered tremendously due to this secret and displayed the courage to question the gender label he had been given. This story explores the discussion of gender and the treatment of an inter-sex child that resulted in tragedy.
Eugenides, Jeffrey (2002) Middlesex This is a wonderful read. Callie is a teen girl-like no one you've met before. On her journey of self discovery, she challenges our ideas of gender, sexuality and desire.
Feinburg, Leslie (1999) Trans-liberation: Beyond Pink and Blue Essays on the trans-liberation movement and the challenge of gender myths.Classic.
Zhou, J., et.al., "A Sex Difference in the Human Brain and Its Relation to Transsexuality", Nature, 378: 68-70 (1995).

The Intersex Society of North America (ISNA) is devoted to systemic change to end shame and secrecy and unwanted genital surgeries for people born with an anatomy that someone decided is not standard for male and female.
 lisa - headshotBe well and happy,
 

Lisa
Lisa Maurel, MFT
714.390.8189