Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Speaking to university classes & professionals

Wow! What an opportunity we have each time we speak to a university class!
It's always surprising to find that so few people have interacted with anyone in the Transgender world. Many have friends that are gays or lesbians, but they (lesbians and gays) are NOT Transgendered.
Here are two brief explanations: Transgendered folks have GENDER issues, not sex issues. Gays and Lesbians are generally happy with their gender; people who fall into the Transgender side are not: they include the TQI+ area (Transsexuals, Questioning individuals, Inter-sexed folks [who used to be known as hermaphrodites] and the plus refers to a plethora of other initials now being used by those who have not found their place within their gender.

There is a difference between sex and gender: Your sex is between your legs - most folks were born either male or female . Your gender is in your brain. With most folks, the two match; with those in the Transgender world, their bodies tell them one thing, and their brain tells them another. Many Ts and Is are still closeted/stealth, and so it is that few people know that a relative or friend may fall into the Transgender categories. That being said, there are some of us who are willing to speak to classes, social service forums and other gatherings to make certain that professionals are aware and knowledgeable on the subject of the Transgender community.

Because we, Angela and I, are fortunate to still be happily married, we are unusual within the Transsexual community since most couples end up divorced when someone changes sexes. Most Ts lose jobs and their entire family: spouses, parents, children, extended family and their closest friends - Not all, but most. It's unfortunate. Here's my view: if you love the person, it doesn't matter. In fact, if you were to look at it another way: society would expect one to stay with a spouse who was paralyzed by an accident or stroke. They'd say, unequivocally - "they're the same person." But, tell "society" that your spouse is going to change gender, and the usual first question is, "how could you even consider staying with them?!" Isn't that strange? It is to me.

We have been very blessed: Our family is in tact. Our parents and extended families are supportive and accepting. My friends have remained steadfast. However, very few of Angela's friends remained with us. We have since made fast friends with many who know Angela as a Transsexual. Our son-in-law and his family are accepting as well. Again, that is not the case for most in the Transgender world, particularly not for those who are Transsexual.

Back to the speaking subject: The students, often masters level or above, and professionals have excellent questions. They are interested and inquisitive. We always applaud those who ask questions! We find that most are happy to learn those in the Transgender community are not freaks and weirdos, just normal folks with families who happen to have an issue with their gender. They are just like us - you and me. You'll be surprised by how many folks that you now know that will come out of the closet one of these days and tell you they are Transgendered. It will be great if you can remain part of their lives, as family or friend. You'll find they are delightful to know. I promise, because I'm married to one - and it was the best thing that could have happened. Angela's transition freed her to be her delightful self, free from a life of hiding who she really was.

If you are in the Transgender community, please follow the Harry Benjamin Standards of Care. Make your transition easier and healthier for you and for those around you.

Read a bit more about us in the San Francisco On the Couch feature:

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