To The Editor #99

Letters to the Editor

Originally appeared in Transgender Tapestry #099, Fall 2002.


First, I want to thank you from the bottom of my heart for thinking my picture was good enough for the cover of Tapestry #97. Mariette Pathy Allen had mentioned that you might use her photo of me in a future edition. However, it was still quite a shock to open the envelope and see me staring back from the cover.

I?ve finally achieved my 15 minutes of fame. I think some of your readers might like to know how I managed to wind up on the cover. Well, contrary to what some of my sisters at my Tri-Ess support group, Chi Delta Mu of NY/NJ, think, I did not bribe anyone; however I didn?t do anything spectacular, either. I think it must have been a slow quarter without anything really noteworthy to put on the cover, so I was just good fill.

Thank you again for putting me on the cover (I bought four extra copies). I will always be proud of it. Keep up the great work with the magazine.

Robyn K

As much as your editor would love to take the credit, Larissa Glasser, our Art Director Extraordinaire, chooses the cover shots.


The Late, Great Directory of Organizations

Help! One of our favorite Tapestry features is missing! One of the most valuable functions IFGE performs is that of clearinghouse for information in the transgender community. As directors of Tri-Ess, we know our organization cannot possibly be all things to all people. Frequently, we have occasion to refer inquirers to groups other than Tri-Ess chapters, to help them access the type of support they need. In this function, your Directory of Organizations is truly a lifeline. We have no other effective way to know what organizations are available in a given locality. Imagine our dismay at not finding it in the Spring issue!

We know maintaining such a directory is a lot of work. We have always kept IFGE updated on contact information for our chapters, and will continue to do the same if the directory is continued. Please consider reinstating it, as it is one very valuable resource.

Jane and Mary F

We explained to the Fairfaxes that the reason for the directory?s disappearance was economic?it takes up many pages in a magazine with a reduced page count. The Fairfaxes were happy to learn that IFGE may publish the directory under separate cover. Details have not yet been worked out?Ed.



I recently read the article by Dallas in the Spring 2002 issue, concerning the Harry Benjamin International Gender Dysphoria Association. I agree that the time has come for change. We must take control of our own lives. We need caring people to help us, not roadblocks that hold us back. I would like to see comments from others in the transgender community; perhaps the subject could be covered in ?The Journal.? I have read the Harry Benjamin Standards, but know almost nothing about the organization or how to become a member. How do we, the ones most effected, bring about change?

Ronnie L

Membership in HBIGDA is limited to Membership in HBIGDA is limited to professionals working in a discipline relevant to gender identity issues?which describes almost every profession. Although it was not always the case, many members today are transsexual or transgendered. Your editor?s suggestion: join and campaign for change, if you think?as you obviously do?that it?s needed. For info, visit or contact Bean Robinson, Ph.D., 1300 South 2nd St., Ste. 180, Minneapolis, MN 55454, 612/625-1500,


Just a few words to pass along my support for your stance against the Benjamin standards. They had their time and place but as we have matured as a community we have also found out that there are many whose situation does not fall within the criteria. Keep up the good work!


Kristen, I?m not opposed to the HBIGDA Standards of Care, and I?m beginning to be alarmed that so many people seem to think so. I?d like to be clear that it?s my personal belief that the Standards of Care have been a boon for transsexuals, and that the restrictions they place on access to hormones and surgery have saved a great deal of human misery. It?s an opinion I share with many caregivers, and many transsexuals and transgendered people.

That said, it?s only our opinion. So far as I?ve been able to determine, it?s an opinion unsupported by empirical evidence. I?ve become increasingly convinced that without supportive data, it is professionally and ethically irresponsible to place restrictions to health care on a group of people based solely on their social identity. Without data about the efficacy of the Standards, we have no real idea whether they help or harm.

Am I calling HBIGDA derelict for having failed, after 20+ years of gatekeeping, to generate data to support the Standards of Care? In a word, yes.


Dallas Denny?s typically thought-provoking editorial in Tapestry #97 reawakened my contemplation of the issue of gatekeeping and the Standards of Care. I have long believed that endocrinologists and surgeons should bear responsibility for screening patients for treatment, referring to mental health professionals only if they (or more likely their screening nurses) feel uncomfortable about proceeding with hormones or surgery.

As with any ethical issue, there are many factors to consider, and I am having second thoughts about that position. While transpeople are just as capable as anyone else of making decisions about medical treatment, I have particular concerns about discontinuing the requirement for a letter to begin HRT. One of the purposes of mental health screening is to distinguish transgendered people from those who believe that they are transgendered, but are not. I doubt that endos would be willing to hire and train staff who have the necessary clinical acumen to make that distinction?nor do I believe that adequate time would be allotted for screening. Therapists, and particularly gender specialists, have the clinical expertise to screen out individuals who have no business starting on hormones because rather than being transgendered, they have a compulsion or an unresolved psychotic or dissociative disorder.

I?m much more comfortable with surgeons or their nurses screening folks for SRS. My understanding is that their screening process is extensive. If they had doubts about emotional stability, mental competence, or capacity to give informed consent, they would be free to refer for further evaluation or counseling.

If a letter continues to be required for beginning hormones, I?ll still see people who, not interested in therapy, just want letters. That?s fine. I don?t push therapy on people who don?t want it. I just screen these people, sometimes recommending that they seek therapy at some point, without attempting to create an unwanted therapeutic alliance.

With or without a letter requirement, I?ll continue to see folks who seek resolution of their confusion about identity and direction, and therapeutic assistance with the many issues that accompany being different and keeping a secret. With these clients, the therapeutic relationship usually remains untainted by power differential because we are working as a team to resolve their confusion and heal their fear and shame. Almost invariably I am comfortable with these clients moving forward in transition before they mention a desire to do so.

I do believe that experienced gender therapists must be flexible, using active clinical judgment in working with clients preparing for hormones and surgery, rather than rigidly adhering to a three-month/one-year rule. The Standards of Care are suggested guidelines, and there is great diversity among the people to whom they apply.

Virginia E

Thanks for your thoughtful response?Ed.


The Idealization of the Gender Called Woman

I write this in response to Judy Osborne?s piece entitled ?On Women, Men, and Nobody Else,? printed in the Spring 2002 Journal.

Over the years I have witnessed many members of this gender community idealize the gender classification called ?woman.? This has been a longstanding concern of mine. The image of ?woman? portrayed by media and influencing this community is vastly biased towards an unrealistic life experience, and unfortunately invites people to don their blinders. Let?s look at the full picture.

Judy says, ?I want to be a woman?as much a woman as I can learn how to be during each and every remaining moment of what I hope will be a long life.? Well, then, I say to you, Judy, and to all other ?women wannabees,? try on these models of womanhood:

*How about Third world women with

more babies than they can feed, babies

that are HIV positive.

* Or how about the woman beaten

regularly by her partner, her body

bruises somehow hidden when

she goes to the store.

* Or maybe the poor, indigent woman who

cannot find a job because college was

not an option for her. That option was

given to her brother.

* Or maybe you?d like the role of the single

mother, holding down two jobs to care for

herself and her three children.

* Then there is the middle-aged woman

who is out on her own, replaced by a

younger trophy who looks good on

his arm.

* Then again, you could become the

woman who walks the streets looking for

pay for her body so she can pay the man

her next month?s rent.

* Maybe you would like to try on the

experience of woman that involves

endometriosis, extreme pain with every

menstrual cycle.

* Or perhaps as a ?woman? you?d like to

experience being alone on an elevator,

wondering if you will make it to the floor of

your destination without being physically,

psychically, or mentally raped.

Judy, you say, ?We who were socialized as boys can be women?happy, swingin?, expressive, nurturing women. It just takes a bit of effort.?

Do not deceive yourself. Life in the culturally defined opposite gender is not nirvana and it takes more than ?a bit of effort,? even for culturally defined women. Both genders are restrictive, and the lives of thousands upon thousands of women are less than happy, swinging, and expressive. To find a community that you feel a part of is a worthwhile pursuit, but please expand your vision.

You say you need to ?start learning to sound, and look and act like other women.? I don?t think the lives of the women I?ve just described are the ones you want to sound, look and act like. Yet these experiences are part of the truth of a gender dualistic society. Please remove the image of ?woman? from the pedestal you and many others have created while living in bi-polar gender.

I invite Judy and all gender explorers to look deeper and see what it really is that you want.

Zantui R


Judy?s Response

There?s a lot wrong in the world, Zantui, a lot of injustices and tragedies that I ponder and mourn, just as you do. As you point out so well, being a woman is immensely difficult in many environments and societies.

I?m not clear about your message. Are you saying that I and others are just ?woman wannabees? because we haven?t experienced the difficulties and horrors of womanhood which you list? I have experienced some of them. You?re correct that I can?t experience others. I don?t have HIV. I?m not a third-world woman. I can?t be a mother or know the pain of endometriosis. I do have a friend who experiences that terrible monthly pain. She?s a lesbian and doesn?t choose to have children, which could help to alleviate her condition. She accepts me as a woman friend, even though I don?t know that pain. Couldn?t you, Zantui?

Would I choose to heap upon myself a significant number of the other tragedies and oppressions you list? No, nor would any other woman. Still, like any transsexual woman who lives truly and openly, I?ve had my share of painful losses and oppressions. Are they comparable to the ones you cite? Some are not, obviously. Others? Who knows?

Do I work hard enough to fix the oppressions and tragedies you list, and the enormous number of ills and tragedies that lurk beyond your list? Probably not. I try. I see oppression and violence and sexism in lots of places and do commit to working against at least some of these obscenities. My personal passion is helping to diminish the spiritual violence done to GLBTQ kids growing up in religions that oppress. As soon as these young people come to comprehend their differences, their faiths reject them. Some commit suicide; many more are damaged by the degradation heaped on them; still others hide their urgent needs even from themselves and begin to die inside. Too many get beat up, and some get killed as the direct result of hate-filled statements thundering from pulpits. The religions I?m speaking of limit women to diminished roles, adding even further injury to GLBTQ girls. Young girls internalize a special kind of damage from that.

It?s very scary for one of us to take the plunge into permanent womanhood, Zantui. At the moment we do that, we cannot know if our lives will be viable, if our loved ones will leave us, if we?ll be able to earn a living, if we?ll ever be happy. The path is steep. It?s hard work for someone who grew up a boy to become a woman. We commit ourselves deeply and arduously to the task. We have a lot to learn, a lot to experience, a lot of new connections to make if we get good enough to make them. Perhaps you?ve seen us stumble along the way. We do that often. We have our own set of obstacles, injustices, and tragedies to overcome. We earn our womanhood in different ways than you did, Zantui, but it?s a hard-won prize. We know we?re there when other women admit us into the tribe. I hope you can do that too.

Judy O

While there are many in the transgender community with naive notions of womanhood, your editor has never considered Judy Osborne one of them. We don?t find it at all surprising that she would aspire to be an empowered woman?what woman, transgendered or otherwise, doesn?t? Zantui, methinks you need to aim your guns elsewhere?Ed.


Pride, Prejudice, and Fear

Many think prejudice towards the transgender community comes only from backwater rednecks, but a lot of the prejudice is closer to home. Nothing hurts a community more than turmoil within, and the frail stability of the transgender community within the larger GLBTQ community is a prime example.

The gay community thinks the transgender community is feeding off their work. Transsexuals want to separate from crossdressers, and heterosexual crossdressers want nothing to do with anyone else. Wives of crossdressers think are being forced to support an alternative lifestyle?as if they are not in one themselves. Lesbians don?t want transsexual women participating in their organizations or events.

Being new to much of this, I fail to understand. Isn?t the greater goal increased acceptance and equal protection under the law?

I?ve been told, ?Uniting the transgender community is like herding cats. You get nowhere, and just piss off the cats.? I?ve learned this is true, but is being overcome. Historically, transgender groups would not talk to each other or participate in events together. This made working towards unity that much harder.

Don?t we all want to be accepted for who we are? Don?t we all want to have the right to be who we are, without fear? Don?t we want to keep our jobs, despite being who we are? Don?t we want to be able to walk the streets without fear of being beaten up?or worse? Don?t we want to have a voice in the GLBTQ community and in society as a whole? Doesn?t the pursuit of life, liberty, and justice mean the same thing to all of us?

Yes, there are differences between transsexuals and crossdressers. There are differences between male-to-females and female-to-males. Sexual preferences are different, and so are our fingerprints. Why does this stop us from working together?

If this were a question of race, most would find the situation abhorrent?so why, in our own community, do we accept prejudice from those who are different from us?

What does it cost to become a community? Nothing, monetarily, but we may have to open our minds, listen to one another, and communicate with each other. Every once in a while we may have to open our hand and help out a brother or sister. We may have to acknowledge we like each other and enjoy who we are. We may have to share ourselves with each other, cry on each others? shoulders, and actually show love for our fellow human beings. Very costly indeed?but nothing we can?t afford.

Joney H