This essay is a collection of my thoughts regarding the Blanchard-Bailey-Lawrence taxonomy for classifying transsexuals as well as the recent publication of Bailey's book, The Man Who Would Be Queen. Although I abhor the theory and prejudices put forth in that text, I am not asking for that book to be censored or banned. The only way to fight an idea is to speak out. This essay is about me and how that text can and does affect me.
A Brief Background
Regarding Transitioning Young
Where Do I Fit?
Why I Transitioned
My Experiences with Anne Lawrence
I am 24 years old. I transitioned to living full-time last August. My life is rather boring and innocuous since I am a graduate student in computer science. My intent is to earn my Ph.D., and I recently fulfilled the requirements for my Masters. My department, as well as my immediate family, has been very supportive. I've been told I pass quite well and have even had some people not believe me when I tell them about my past. In general, though, I am just another CS geek girl, which does happen to make me unique from a statistical point of view.
I am also pre-operative. I finish my RLT in August, and my
therapist has guaranteed me that he will give me the priceless
letter. So, when is my surgery? I don't know. It's not a pressing
issue. I'll probably fit it in somewhere during my time in grad
school. Maybe. Keep this attitude of mine in mind.
Right now, my transsexualism is a minor facet of my daily life. To many friends and colleagues, I'm just another computer science graduate student with a really bad flair for the sarcastic. I am not political about being transsexual. I'll answer questions for those who ask, and on the rare occasions, I do my best to correct misinformation. That's it. For now, I feel that making a good life for myself is more important.
The urge to do something more is always there. When I finally admitted to being transsexual, I found little on the Internet for supporting transitioners in my age group (Katie's site is one of the few exceptions). I have to admit to being lucky in how supportive my colleagues, friends, and family have been. They helped me through all this, but I know other young transitioners don't have this same luxury. While I can't be there to support them, I will do my best to make the path less treacherous for them.
As I will explain more and more throughout this essay, the
BBL taxonomy is not only inaccurate but also damaging to the life
According to the BBL taxonomy, my motivation for transitioning is directly related to whether or not I'm a homosexual or autogynephillic transsexual. Assuming that his taxonomy is scientifically valid and what should be at the basis of all GID diagnoses, which type am I?
As I have said, I am 24 and transitioned at age 23. I pass very well. I am attracted to men. According to my kindergarten teacher, I was a lot more sensitive that the typical boy. Ergo, I must be a homosexual transsexual.
However, aside from the sensitivity, I was not very effeminate as a child. Though I was short and not very athletic, I still fought and played in the mud. I loved to build things (usually spaceships or robots) with my Legos and Tinker Toys. Also, I was not attracted to men in high school or college simply because I knew I was not gay. In other words, I dated women because it seemed to be the right thing to do. Math and science were my favorite subjects in school. I loved computer games. I'm now a computer scientist, which according to the Bailey transsexual type test I'm 90% of the way to being autogynephillic. Oh, and I used to masturbate when I was in female garb, although I always felt disgusted afterwards. I guess that makes me 190% an autogynephile.
I honestly feel that neither category, due to their gross generalizations, applies to me. My life is certainly not driven by my sex drive. Yes, I would love to get married. Unfortunately, that involves dating. Except for one REALLY bad blind date (due to his personality), I have not been on any dates with any guy since I transitioned. Sure, I would love to not be lonely, but in the grand scheme of my life, dating is not even in my top five priorities.
Recall that I have no real hurry to have SRS. To me, it's not sexually needed at the moment, although I wouldn't mind going through all that annoying tucking routine every day. If I ever date anyone for a long period of time, it will be because we both find life better when spent together, not because his penetration of me makes me sing out the "Battle Hymn of the Republic." (Sorry, but that was the best euphemism that I could think of for having an orgasm or two).
Oh, and I mentioned that I pass as a young woman very well. It helps that I'm naturally short and petite, but a big part of why I succeed is that I dress like most women in computer science do: jeans and a simple top. And sneakers. I love my sneakers. Makeup? I use powder occasionally and some concealer to deal with the late-night-bags-under-the-eyes problem. The concept of lipstick and eye-liner mystifies me.
Where do I belong? Column A or Column B? I don't know. I'm
not trying to argue that I'm an exception to the BBL taxonomy.
My point is that if I were trying to transition under the BBL
taxonomy, would I be permitted to begin hormones or live full-time?
Since I do not fit either of the partitions, I can imagine that
to actually transition would be a major uphill (i.e. up a cliff
face in a blizzard) battle.
As I have said, I cannot justify under these extremes why I transitioned (by transition I mean living as a woman; I am not currently sure about SRS). I am not sexually pleasured by the process, but I am also lacking a giant libido. As I tell my male friends, if were to be a homosexual transsexual, I should be offering to suck them off all the time. Any attempt to conjure that up as a mental image causes my brain to do the equivalent of a blue screen of death.
Here's why I really transitioned. I could never answer the age-old question, "What do you mean that you feel like a woman?" I don't know. However, I did know that I was not a boy and could no longer go on being perceived as one (and the implied gender stereotypes). It hurt to be presumed to do boy things and be viewed as a boy.
I'm not alone in feeling this way. Katie, who I mentioned earlier, also feels this way. Katie is a post-masters graduate student in psychology (in fact the only other MTF grad student that I am aware of). She mentions a similar reason for transitioning as mine on her page. While I'm here, I'll mention that her field of study grants her a sharp eye for discussing the research aspects of the BBL taxonomy. She discusses the scientific issues and flaws very well in two essays: here and here. I'll leave it to her to express the scholarly concerns of the theory since she does it quite well.
This leads me to my main point. The BBL taxonomy questions and distorts why I transitioned. It can damage my life. Without a "sound and scientific basis" to my transitioning, scary questions arise:
I know the answers to all these questions, but it's how other
people respond that shapes my life and the life of other transsexuals.
Starting in March of 2002, Dr. Anne Lawrence was the physician that managed my hormone regimen. At the time this essay was written, I have changed physicians. My reasons for changing physicians were not because of her support for Bailey's book or the recent posting about her on Andrea James' website. Instead, my reasons are what I will outline here, although I must admit that the incidents in Anne's past would have made me drop her much earlier than I actually did.
Due note that the following are my recollections of visits with Anne and are therefore undocumented. Still, I believe they demonstrate what can happen when the BBL taxonomy is used by a therapist.
Before my first session with Anne, I spent the previous night looking through her web site, which I had only perused briefly when I was looking for a (non-hormone) therapist in the Seattle area. I had not heard of the autogynephillic model till that night. Using the exam on her site, I determined that I had to be autogynephillic. In many ways, I agreed with this at the time. I was certain that I was not a homosexual transsexual as she described it.
When I saw her the next morning, I was put through the traditional interrogation of why do I want to go on hormones. This was the first time that I ever felt the gate keeper syndrome. I tried summing up my explanations, and looking back, I see that I was focusing on topics like clothes, hair, etc. I know that there was no sound of confidence in my voice, and I was certain that she was going to deny me hormones.
To be fair, there was another issue at hand. I had the intent of transitioning by September, thus giving me only six months on hormones. I agree, as did my therapist that although it was a tight schedule, I could do it. When Anne questioned me on this, I mentioned her comment on her page about living one year full-time is not absolutely necessary before SRS. She considered that to be something completely different.
In the end, I did get started on hormones. However, in follow-up visits, I felt insulted and cheapened by comments on her part. For instance, after making a comment on how one of my female friends was complaining about her hips, Anne commented, "It's funny. We [meaning transsexuals] all want big butts and breasts." I felt sick after hearing that. I let the comment slide, but at no point have I ever wanted either of those. Another time, she broached the issue of breast implants with me. I said I would likely never want to them, which surprised her since all MTFs get breast implants.
At the suggestion of my regular therapist, I never mentioned to Anne about my preferring guys. In our first session, I told her about the relationships I had in high school and college with women. As far as she knows, I'm a "lesbian." Given her adamant belief that such a tale of a sexuality change occurring is best met with skepticism, I did not want to defend my own sexuality.
In summary, I found myself telling Dr. Lawrence what she wanted
to hear. It's fairly easy to scour the Internet and pick up on
the "right" answers to tell a therapist. I never wanted
to do that. If I was to be diagnosed as transsexual, I wanted
it to be by telling the truth, not what a therapist wanted to
hear. That is why I made the special point of avoiding such cookie-cutter
answers with my regular therapist. In my experiences with Anne,
however, I had to play the game. She was looking for certain answers,
so I regrettably gave her those answers, despite what I really
felt and thought.
I have had to lie. I have bit my tongue. I have been called man and a fairy. I have argued on a popular online message board why I feel Bailey's book and its pseudo-scientific theories are dangerous.
I would love to go to bed and wake up tomorrow ignoring all this. It would be the easier way. I cannot do that.
In January 2002, after returning home from spending the holidays with friends and family, I asked myself a question, "Are you willing to give up everyone you have ever cared about just to find peace with yourself and the world?" I was not talking about suicide.
I did not lose everyone when I transitioned. They see me now as a happier person. They are happier because I'm happier. This is a happy ending for the supporting cast.
As for the leading role, I am now who I always wanted/needed to be. To many, I am just a nameless girl you see on the bus or at the store. Just one of many women. I like that feeling. I'm happy.
Was this all worth having to lie and be insulted and accused of following only my horniness? Yes.
That doesn't mean I or anyone else who is transsexual has to
lie or be insulted or accused like that.