Tag Archives: gender

WIN your gender? The New Normal at HOT 89.9

Innovative radio station HOT 89.9 in Ottawa, ON is hosting a “contest” with a prize of $40,000 in cash.  That’s 40 thousand frickin’ dollars, to spend as you see fit.

the new normal

Entries are open to Canadian transgender residents who are wanting to, or in the process of, transitioning. I checked the fine print and there is no age limit, so you young folk don’t be discouraged!

This is such a great opportunity and I wish more people in these types of positions would consider adding something like this to their philanthropy work. (A  few years ago I had a similar idea for a ‘Win Your Gender’ gameshow, but yeah, that didn’t fly. Everyone I pitched it to looked at me like I had three heads, and they didn’t want to know a single one of them.) 

Get more info on The New Normal contest by listening to the HOT 89.9 radio announcement. (Click the Soundcloud button below.)

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To enter the contest, go to their site here, and download the question document and fill it out. Once done, email it to newnormal@hot899.com and then sit back with your fingers crossed.

Submission deadline is September 30, 2015.

Yay! for the opportunity to live the life you want. 🙂

 

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The biological basis for transgender – part one

Studies point to genetic triggers of atypical gender identity. (That’s fancy-schmancy talk for transgender people are born that way, and there’s proof.)

Unfortunately, nobody is listening. The social stigma attached to gender diversity implies that it’s simply a lifestyle choice. That one can simply choose to be a particular gender just because they feel like it. Perhaps on a whim. When the reality is, Lady Gaga was right, you were born that way.

lady gaga

And because being transgender (or gender atypical) is not something you can see with the naked eye, folks tend to assume it’s all in your head. For the last 4 decades, medical doctors have shipped gender atypical folks off to the psychologists and psychiatrists. These very same psychologists and psychiatrists have then assumed (without any scientific evidence) that it must be a mental illness. A disease of the mind. Which, of course, carries its own social stigma, making gender variance a wildly and socially unpopular condition. (Historically, this was not the case. Before our patriarchal society came into full effect, gender variance was accepted and often revered – but that’s a discussion for another day.)

By defining transgender as a mental illness, these mental health professionals have inadvertently shaped much of the entire medical establishments (as well as the general publics) views on gender variant individuals. There is a popular notion in politics that transsexuals are psychopathological sexual deviants. These folks will switch genders in order to follow you into a public restroom and catch you unaware with your pants down. (Yes, Senator Plett, I’m talking to you.) These same alarmists also argue that we are all psychosexually neutral at birth, and that gender identity/expression is something that is nurtured or chosen.  But seriously, who would choose to live their life labelled with a socially unpopular mental illness?

Brae Carnes on her Facebook page, protesting against Conservative Senator Don Plett's Bill C-279 amendment by taking selfies in washrooms that do not match her gender identity and presentation.

Brae Carnes on her Facebook page, protesting against Conservative Senator Don Plett’s Bill C-279 amendment by taking selfies in washrooms that do not match her gender identity and presentation.

Now, because this condition is still (today) diagnosed as a mental illness (Gender Dysphoria) as noted in the bible of modern psychiatry, the DSM-V  (Diagnostics & Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, written by the American Psychiatric Association), nobody is looking at any scientific evidence of this phenomenon.  Medical doctors are not trained in gender variance (since it’s always been a “mental illness”) and mental health professionals (to whom this “disorder” currently belongs) don’t look at new medical science outside their area of expertise.

Remember female hysteria – the mental disorder attributed only to women? Yeah, it was in the DSM once too. Symptoms included emotional outbursts and various sexual urges. It was widely believed that women didn’t orgasm or enjoy sex, so any woman who exhibited these symptoms were either forced to enter an insane asylum or forced to undergo surgical hysterectomy. True story. (There’s a great movie on the subject here.) The American Psychiatric Association didn’t drop the term until the early 1950s, and actually, “hysterical neurosis” didn’t disappear from the DSM until 1980! (Vibrators were initially developed as a medical device to aid in the treatment of female hysteria.  <ahem> And in the 1950s, pornography became prolific with their use, thus shattering the long-held mental illness illusion. Hey, that’s right when the APA dropped the term, coincidence? Hmm.) I never thought I’d say this, but thanks porn.

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scene from the 2011 movie, Hysteria.

There are some researchers out there trying to get to the bottom of it, and so far, all of these studies point to biological origins of transgender. The proof is hidden in your genes.

I decided to do some research to make sense of the studies. The first questions that popped into my head had to do with fetal development. My own transgender daughter was born prematurely at 26 weeks gestation, and I can recall the specialists telling me these bizarre (and off-handed) little factual remarks, like, all biological males born before 27 weeks are left-handed.  At the time, I chalked it up to mysteries of the womb. Partly because that sounded like a cool sci-fi show, but mostly because I didn’t really care why. But now, I want to know more.

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My artistic skills – straight from my research journal notepad

The first interesting tidbit I came across in my research was that all developing embryos follow a “female blueprint” for the 1st several weeks of development. Some folks will try to tell you that this isn’t true, that all humans are biologically neutral at birth, and they would be correct if by neutral they mean female. You only need to look as far as your nearest nipple for the proof. Men’s nipples are equipped with both nerves and blood vessels, thanks to the first 2 months of gestation. (Don’t believe me? Pinch one. Did he say ow?) Further evidence comes in the form of the raphe line on his scrotum. It’s a scar, from where his vagina sealed up. OK, so it wasn’t quite a vagina yet, but the opening was there. It sealed up around the same time that his clitoris grew out into a penis and his ovaries dropped down into testicles.

So what happens to determine the biological sex? After about 60 days, the hormone testosterone kicks up for most of those with a “Y” chromosome – changing the genetic activity of the cells in the genitals and the brain. (I say kicks ‘up’ instead of ‘on’ because folks assume that testosterone is a ‘male’ hormone, but that’s another unfortunate term, as every single human body produces all three hormones; estrogen, testosterone, and progesterone.)  The changes to the genitals begin right away based on genetic instruction (“If Y is present then turn left, if no Y is present then continue straight ahead”), but the organizing effects of sexual hormones and differentiation in the brain doesn’t occur until the second half of pregnancy. That means that the genital-sex and brain-sex processes are independent of each other and chronologically separated during fetal development. And that’s fancy-schmancy talk for any number of things can go sideways and disconnect the two, and why wouldn’t they? Nature loves adversity. Maybe they were never supposed to match.

But sex ideology happens in the brain (as well as the genitals), and it happens during fetal development. This evidence would agree and support the Canadian Paediatric Society who have published that gender identity is fully established by the time a child is 18-30 months of age. And also, that it’s not a choice.

Are you still reading this? Hopefully you hung in there with me and found some of this interesting, and maybe even eye-opening. (And yes, I drew that picture of the baby, and yes, that’s the uterus it’s in and not actually resting peacfully on a wooden spoon.) I’m hoping that if we can help to ‘rein in’ some of the stigma attached to gender diversity, then I believe we’re one step closer to acceptance. Next time (in part two) I’ll share the brain-mapping and receptor gene evidence I’ve found. Until then, be hysterical, pinch some man-nipples, and share the knowledge. 🙂

 

 

 

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Filed under non-fiction, projects & events, transgender, world news

Self-sabotage in the words of… Phillip?

You know when you’re sitting around in the car waiting for someone, and you’re so bored that you start going through your Facebook newsfeed on your phone—clicking on all the posts that you didn’t give a frac about earlier in the day? Yeah, well that was me yesterday. Sitting alone in the dark, playing Russian roulette with strangers posts.

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First, let me clarify, I don’t normally click posts (even in extreme boredom) that look sketchy or are likely to piss me off. So, here was the link to an Upworthy video, titled: Homosexuality Is An Annoying Thing Someone Invented, So This Group Of Americans Is Un-Inventing It and I’m thinking—I don’t even want to know what that’s about.  So instead, I skim the comments, ’cause there’s plenty of those and I can be a bit of a comment whore. I mean, who isn’t, right? I’m pretty sure that’s what makes Tumblr an up-and-coming social juggernaut.

I should also clarify, I did not actually watch the video that bunched up all the knickers of the commenters, I guess I wasn’t that bored. Or maybe I just didn’t care enough. (Maybe you do, so go find it here.) Sometimes it’s just fun to start with nothing and then build the story backwards from the comments.  You have to have a fairly good understanding of comment player ratios though. I mean, how many of the educated versus uneducated, the douchebags versus the do-gooders and that sort of thing. (I affectionately refer to this as the science of Trollology.) It puts comments in perspective.

trollology-chart

While I may be a comment voyeur—somewhere in the forever alone statistics, “Phillip” is a comment activist. A rare contributor. (Since I have no comprehension of Bulgarian—written or otherwise—Phillip is what I’m calling him. )

Any comment that starts with Woah there!” on its own line… has my attention. I mean, Woah where? What’s happening? Who pissed you off? Tell me everything. I must know. (Because I’m sitting here in my truck with nothing better to do at the moment.)

And while I silently expected to be entertained with emotional trite—Phillip had me. He understood the basic underlying issue in all LGBTQ discussion. (In fact, most people issues, full stop.) He’s identified the chipped corner on the building blocks of all we know of each other today. The fact that we did this to ourselves. No, really. If we want to make things better, we need to stop pointing out differences—primarily our own. Just stop. Don’t be different. Just… BE.

Here’s his excerpt, and just for the sake of his own protection and anonymity (on the internet? Pishaw! Well, at least on this blog.) I obstructed part of his name.

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What do you think? Does that make sense to you? Does it make you angry? Serious? Are you emotionless? I’d really like to know. (I’d also like to update my pie chart with current stats.)

 

 

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My MTF Daughter: An open letter to her friends

My beautiful girl

My beautiful girl

I understand that there are a great deal of you out there struggling for the courage to tell your parents, family and friends who you really are.  I can’t even fathom how scary that must be.  Here I am born into a body that suits me just fine.  But I did have cancer once, so I know what it feels like to have that separation of mind and body and to also feel betrayed by that body. It’s not the same I know, but it’s a close as I can come to walking your walk.

When my extraordinary daughter confided in me that she was born in the wrong body, she did so in a letter. Well, an email really. As close as we are, she could not tell me this to my face. And I don’t blame her. In her email (sent from her bedroom to mine) she got right to the point in a single paragraph, and included explicit instruction not to speak to her about it in person. So, what did I do? I marched right in there and started a conversation.  She was so scared and nervous that it broke my heart. It no longer mattered what the conversation was, I just wanted her to feel comfortable to talk to me and be herself with me.  My girl was amazing.  She was quiet and patient and no matter what I said or asked, her response was a tentative and gentle “I love you.” Genius, right? That’s my girl.

It took a long time for life to return to “normal” but we found our groove and I learned to go at her pace. (Sometimes she had to remind me to slow down.) I took on the responsibility of telling the rest of the family, and I did so without her present. I assume acceptance, I don’t ask for it. But, people need time to digest. To ask questions, to understand what it is that we’re telling them. There is a lot of misinformation and misrepresentation out there that has left a negative stigma attached to transgender. It takes time to cut through that crap and undo the falsehoods. I found it easier to avoid the word transgender in the beginning. I came at it sideways and let my family know that my son was actually my daughter… with a hormone problem. A treatable hormone problem. And then I asked them for their help. People generally want to help. They want to feel useful. Giving my family members a task helped ease them into the transition of letting go of an assigned sex, and seeing her for the person she’s always been.

When it came time to tell her friends, my girl wrote them a letter too. This one was a little longer, a little more thought-out, and she planned to post in on Facebook the night that all of her friends would be at their grade 8 graduation. My girl didn’t want to attend, and I don’t blame her for that either. If you can’t party in sequins and lace, it ain’t a party.  Once she posted it, we sat together in a cuddle on the sofa on pins and needles waiting for the dance to end and the comments to begin. We were beside ourselves with fear, and the wait was excruciating. But finally, they came. They came in droves. And the support was overwhelming. It brought tears to my eyes and my girl was floating around on cloud nine. We hugged and danced and laughed at our own silliness. To all the people who left a comment of support on my girl’s Facebook page that night… thank you, thank you, thank you. From the very bottom of my mommy heart.

My girl has given me permission to repost that letter to her friends here. I hope that it may inspire some of you to find the words and courage to let go of all that you’re not, and live each day with who you really are.

Mackenzie-letter

**Update – You can read more of our story, or find tools for acceptance in my new ebooklet, an unwanted penis. Now available on Amazon, and coming soon to an e-retailer near you. Spread the word and help more of our youth gain acceptance from their parents. #anunwantedpenis

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My MTF daughter: An ordinary life with an extraordinary girl

For some reason or another, my blog has become less personal over the last few years. I’ve shared stories, news, videos and pictures, but nothing that is really personal—from the uberscribbling heart—so to speak.  That’s about to change. The uberscribbler is more than just an author, public speaker and social media junkie.  There are more stories to share, things that need to be said, and thoughts that I need to send out to the universe via the world-wide web. And so with a deep breath…

On Feb 9, 1998 I was in a delivery room at McMaster hospital in Hamilton.  I was 26 weeks into pregnancy and wildly distraught that I was losing my baby.  After a blur of white-coat activity, my second child came in to this world weighing 1121 grams. The celebration of life was announced to the room with three simple words. It’s a boy.

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15 years later, I find myself reflecting on that moment quite often. Announcing the biological anatomy of a baby at birth seems like a misnomer.  It has become a delivery room habit—almost a rite of passage for new parents. The sex of that child can mean different things, to different walks of life all over the world. For some parents, that determination can be crucial to their lives and that of the child.  In delivery rooms around the world, the air is thick with anticipation, until the obligatory sex declaration has been uttered.  It is then that life for that child begins—in an assigned role.

Sometimes nature gets it right and we don’t think it has—so we fix what we think it broke.  In this day and age, it is estimated that still more than 30% of the world’s male population (aged 15 and over) are circumcised.  From infancy.  Not from infection, or medical conditions, but just because—and without their consent.

Sometimes nature gets it wrong.  And I don’t blame her.  With all that we’ve done to her planet and the environment, it surprises me that we don’t see more birth anomalies as she digs in to protect herself—letting us know the only way she knows how.

It was 15 years ago my child was born with just such an anomaly. It wasn’t club feet, cleft palette, fused limbs, missing digits, dwarfism, intersex (hermaphrodite), down-syndrome or anything else that you could identify through sight alone.  According to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, 1 in every 33 babies is born with a birth anomaly (defect).  For as technologically and intellectually advanced as we believe ourselves to be, we still only count what we can see with our own eyes and observe through biology.  Anything that doesn’t match the majority is considered defective, like we’re some sort of assembly line where all end product must look and act the exact same way or it’s scrapped as faulty goods. We’ve instituted our own quality control on what it means to be human.

But what about the anomalies that you can’t see right away? The ones that require the collection of your other senses and the ability of the child to communicate?

mackenzie2

“Mommy, when I grow up… I want to be beautiful.” – Mackenzie, aged 3

I knew from a very early age that my child didn’t fit the mold.  I suspected that my son was not my son at all.  But this made me afraid. I angrily blamed society and its narrow acceptance of gender roles and made excuses to others who bullied and pointed fingers at my “sissy” feminine son.  Why is it OK for young girls to be a tomboy but not the other way around? I wrote letters to the President, the Premier, the UN, McDonald’s Corporation, and Mattel Toys asking them to use their positions of corporate power to stop perpetuating gender stereotypes. All the while, I ignored the pleas for help from my child and made assumptions that inevitably cost my child 14 years of true comfortable happiness. I violated my oath as a parent, which was to love unconditionally and do no harm.  Sometimes… doing nothing IS the harm.

It did not matter to my child if the world accepted them—only that I did. I adopted a new oath, “Love your child unconditionally, do no harm, and let them lead the way.

It was then that I learned the word transgender.

I’m not the kind of person that subscribes to labels.  I’m not racist or prejudice and I don’t put people in boxes.  I don’t like segregation.  People are just people—although I know as a society, we have a long history of unnecessary evil against each other.  I also don’t like the term “trans” (Latin for ‘beyond’) assigned to people.  There is nothing good, decent, or “right” about treating or referring to someone as beyond gender.  Giving them labels, and segregating them to their own groups does just that.  It points a finger at their different and unique individuality and infers that they are sub-human.  Not cool.  We don’t use the term transgender in our family, it is irrelevant.  Just as I don’t walk around the house referring to each other as Caucasian. We are what we are—and that is refreshingly unique.

It turns out that my son is actually my daughter, with a biological anomaly.  She was born with a hormone problem—too much testosterone in utero—which consequently led to the growth of testes and a penis. Her brain, personality and personal identity are all female, and always have been.  How did this happen? I don’t know, how do any birth anomalies happen?  All I can say is that we judged a book by its cover.

My daughter is so much more than just the sum of her biological parts. And I don’t want the cover to be her story. It’s time to move forward. As a parent, I have had to make some difficult decisions for the benefit of my child. I medically halted her puberty at 14 years of age, and I introduced her young body to estrogen.  When she is old enough, she will undergo surgery to correct this birth anomaly. (Currently covered under healthcare in some parts of Canada.)  I have received a lot of criticism over this, but I understand that people fear what they don’t know.  Fear and ignorance is the stuff that bullies are made of. I realized early on that any trouble I had with what my child was telling me, was more about me then it was her. I can never let my selfishness stand in the way of the absolute love and acceptance that my children deserve from me as their mother.  This was not a choice—for either of us.

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We are almost one year in now from her diagnosis. She is 15 years old, a junior in highschool, and she is a happy, confident, and self-aware teenage girl. She continues to teach me the value of courage, and I hold that lesson very sacred.  She is willing to lose everything to be true to herself and to help teach understanding for the acceptance of others like her. What could be more selfless than that?  It is with her encouragement, that I begin to tell you our story.

This is my beautiful girl in her own picture video showing her transformation.  It is an unlisted video, but she has allowed me to publish it here. Please feel free to offer her your encouragement and support, but please be age appropriate in your comments. ( I will never stop being her mother.)

**Update – You can read more of our story, or find tools for acceptance in my new ebooklet, an unwanted penis. Now available on Amazon Kindle, iTunes, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, and other e-retailers near you. Spread the word and help more of our youth gain acceptance from their parents. #anunwantedpenis

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whose idea was it to assign genders to toys?

In November, 2007, I wrote a letter to Robert Eckhart, the (then CEO) of Mattel toys, appealing to him to use his company’s power for good.  The letter is as follows:

Dear Mr. Eckert;

You are in a key and promising position to impact the children of the world in a very healthy and productive way that will affect their growing self-esteem and confidence, and you may not even know it.

Lately I have seen some very sobering statistics on our youth harassment and physical violence from the ignorance of gender bias and discrimination. It frightens me to think that we, as adults and parents, are ultimately responsible for every beating death of every child considered different by their own peers.

I’m a mother, and my 9-year-old boy loves to play with Barbie®. Already, at the age of 9, he lies to strangers in the pink Barbie® aisles of stores pretending to be purchasing gifts for friends and is questioning his own gender beliefs because of it.

Mattel is an industry leader. First in class, best in breed, a powerful deity creating standards to live by for our children. I understand that the marketing campaign is as it always has been, but does that make it right? The more power we possess do we not need to become more socially responsible? Our social equalities in law govern that each individual’s rights include the right to be free from sponsored social discrimination. Mattel’s marketing is having an adverse impact on our children. We are using traditional gender stereotyping of the toys, in a time when more and more of our youth are questioning their identities. This is an important implication in their development. Are they really born with some identity crisis? or are we socially impacting their gender decisions because they don’t fall into a traditional “girl” or “boy” category. Not only are we affecting their individual self-esteem but also perpetuating the prejudices of the children who judge and discriminate against them.

Toys are toys, there are no gender assignments for them. They are for all children of all colours, shapes, sizes, and genders to play with. Be the industry leader that you are. Make the innovative change, do it for the future of the children of the world. Imagine the press Mattel would make? See how powerful your footprint can be and raise the bar for your contemporaries.

I write this letter to you to ask , with total respect and kindness, if you could consider the possibilities that your position could make. Sometimes it does take a village to raise a child, and sometimes it takes the whole world to raise a healthy and happy one.

Sincerely Yours,

A similar letter was sent out to McDonald’s Corporation, The Prime Minister of Canada, The President of the USA, the United Nations, and even the Queen of England.   My young son and I worked on the letters together as an exercise in voicing our opinions and reaching out to affect change.

The first response came from the Queen of England—within a week.  A hand-written note full of expressed concern for my son and the gravity of the issue.  McDonald’s refused to “hear” that asking children if they want “girl” toys or “boy” toys with their Happy Meals was socially irresponsible.  They deferred the responsibility to individual stores in a one-paragraph standard reply letter.  The president of the USA and the UN never even acknowledged our letter.  The office of the Prime Minister in my own country sent me a standard 2-page pamphlet on bullying with an impersonal “dear sir” letter attached.  Oh, the irony.

Mattel asked me to call them and I eventually spoke with someone in their marketing department.    The ultimate response was that Mattel was giving consumers what they wanted. This was how the children of the world wanted their toys marketed to them.    I wondered if children could really know such a thing.  I mean, really—they just want to play with toys.

This morning a video was shared with me through Facebook that has finally given me the answer.  This is NOT what all children want.   This small child is as confused as I am on the subject.

Thanks Riley, I will forward your “video” answer to Mattel Marketing for consideration.

~uberscribbler

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