Friday, December 21, 2012

The Cutting Edge December 21, 2012

THE CUTTING EDGE-December, 21, 2012

By Barbara F. Anderson, Ph, D., LCSW

The Transgender Law Center’s Legal Director was featured on ABC’s public affairs show,
"Beyond the Headlines,” on Nov. 18, 2012.  The focus of the show was the “widespread discrimination faced by transgender people,”  especially, employment and health challenges.  Statistics were cited indicating that trans people face unemployment at twice the national rate.  Also mentioned was San Francisco’s Health Commission which voted to establish a program that includes SRS as part of the City’s universal health care plan, making San Francisco the first city in the US to approve such a measure.

Along the same lines, the ACLU issued a paper, Discrimination Against Transgender People, (undated) but viewed on Dec. 10, 2012.  It speaks of the organization’s  commitment to trans people who meet “a wide variety of discriminatory barriers to full equality.  They sometimes face difficulties meeting their basic needs (getting a job, housing, or health care) or in having their gender identity respected (like in the simple act of going to a public restroom).”  The article goes on to note that trans people “face a range of legal issues that LGB people rarely do: identity documents not reflective of one’s gender, sex-segregated public restrooms and other facilities, dress codes that perpetuate traditional gender norms, and barriers to access to appropriate health care.”  The ACLU believes that “the struggles against anti-LGB and  anti-transgender discrimination are best waged collaboratively.  Much of the discrimination faced by transgender people comes from the same place as does anti-gay discrimination:  LGBT people challenge society’s norms on how men and women ‘should’ act (in their gender expression and in the relationships they form).  Truly eliminating LGBT discrimination depends on eradicating gender stereotypes, and fighting gender identity discrimination does that directly.”

 “Gabrielle Ludwig, Transgender Basketball Player, Makes Championship Game Debut” is the headline in the online, HuffPost Gay Voices article, Dec. 2012. Fifty year old, m-t-f Ludwig, is a twice divorced mother of 3 who made news after playing on a California junior college basketball team.  She last played college basketball in 1980, more that 20 years before she transitioned.  “Though decades older than some of her teammates (and at 6ft 8in, substantially taller),” she was praised by her coach as being “the most dangerous player in the state.”   Her statement to USA Today follows:  “If they see me as a normal person and we are not the bogeyman and love life and raise kids just like you, maybe some of this mystery of who these people are will be taken away and there can be more blending into society.  People are afraid of what they don’t know.  I am willing to put myself out there.  It was not like that before.  It was just about playing basketball.  It’s about more because I see an injustice.”


Wednesday, November 21, 2012

The Cutting Edge-November 21, 2012

                                                   The Cutting Edge-November 21, 2012
                                                     Barbara F. Anderson, Ph.D., LCSW

A directive issued by the Department of Veterans Affairs is about to expire Nov. 30, 2012.  It deals with the provision of health care for transgender and intersex veterans.  Its purpose is to establish policy “regarding the respectful delivery of health care to transgender and intersex Veterans who are enrolled in the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) health care system or are otherwise eligible for VA care.”  It states that treatment provided is “compatible with generally accepted standards of medical practice … to promote, preserve, or restore the health of the individual.”  While treating those before, after and not interested in sex reassignment surgery, they do not”provide SRS or plastic reconstructive surgery for strictly cosmetic purposes.”   For more information about this directive and whether another is to follow upon its expiration, contact Specialty Care Services: (202) 461-7120

Let the Dandelions Grow: A Poetic Portrait of a Transsexual Journey and the Human Condition is a newly published volume of poetry by a woman who spent her first 65 years as a man.  It deals with the experience of aging and facing one’s mortality with anger and wit.  The author, a professor and therapist, Lee Ann P. Etscovitz, Ed.D., MFT, tells of the pain and frustration of being born into the wrong body in a unique verse form.  It is available from Amazon.

Boy? Girl? And Other Questions is the title of a NY Times movie review of Nov. 12, 2012.  It refers to “Turning’ a documentary about the band, Antony and the Johnsons.  “Turning” follows the group as it plays cities like London, Rome, Madrid and Paris.  The Johnsons perform Antony Hegarty’s songs, one of which begins “I asked him, ‘Are you a boy or a girl?’” while behind a screen “13 women and  transsexuals pose on a rotating stand…” Thus the title of the movie.  Interviews by Antony Hegarty of the 13 individuals reveal their struggles—with varying degrees of insight. 

On Tuesday, Nov. 20th, a day of remembrance was held for transgender persons throughout the world who have been killed for their spiritual journeys in the last year. In Chicago, Denver, Tucson, Ariz., New Orleans and many other U.S. cities, candlelight vigils were held, during which a litany of names of those who have died violent deaths was sounded. Day of remembrance.  This article was written by James and Evelyn Whitehead, Nov. 19, 2012.  This is an edited reprint of their article.
Catholics joined in this celebration as November is the month in which they honor All Saints and All Souls, remembering those who have gone before. Another claim on the Catholic community is the church's commitment to social justice. The violence against transgender persons -- including bullying of children, the adult experiences of discrimination at work, physical intimidation and even murder -- cries out for protest from a faith community that has a commitment to peace and justice.
More and more Christian communities are becoming aware that the transition the transgender person faces is, in fact, a spiritual journey. The United Methodist Church has published a valuable guide, "Made in God's Image." In it, they write, "We understand our gender diversity to be a gift of God, intended to add to the rich variety of human experience and perspective," and "the problem is not in being different, but in living in a fearful, condemning world."

A Lutheran parish in San Francisco has created a renaming ritual to celebrate the completion of a transgender person's transition and welcome the person into the community. In doing so, this gathering is following our tradition of renaming individuals who have come through life-transforming changes.

A Catholic sister has developed Trans Awareness Evening to introduce more of the faithful to the challenges and hopes of transgender members. She also offers simple ceremonies of blessing for persons preparing for gender-confirming surgery.
Such ministries are responding to the Christian heritage of a community of faith as both sanctuary and sacrament. In medieval times, the church building often served as sanctuary to protect the life of fugitives; today, churches might renew this ministry of welcome and protection of transgender members.
In the broader US culture, a process of appreciating the experience of transgender lives is under way. Film director Lana Wachowski ("Cloud Atlas") talks openly of beginning life as Larry before transitioning to Lana. Transgender young adults find their transitions less fraught by years of denial and fearful pretending.
But even as these encouraging changes take place, it behooves us to pause in respect for those transgender members of our community who have been victims of violence. So we gathered in solidarity and in prayer on Nov. 20.
James and Evelyn Whitehead have long been associated with the Institute of Pastoral Studies at Loyola University Chicago. A major focus of their teaching and writing is the vital links between sexuality and spirituality. Currently, they are examining the experience of transgender adults and the pastoral responses of communities of faith.]

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

The Cutting Edge-October 23, 2012

                                                               The Cutting Edge-Oct 23, 2012

                                                Barbara F. Anderson, Ph.D., LCSW
“Born Free and Equal: Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity Booklet” has just been released by the United Nations Human Rights Office.  It is a new publication listing human rights laws for LGBT people.  The 60-page booklet highlights 5 main obligations requiring national attention:
                      Protecting people from homophobic violence
                      Preventing torture
                      Decriminalizing homosexuality
                      Prohibiting discrimination
                      Safeguarding LGBT people’s freedom of expression, association and peaceful assembly
For more details:

An article, Transgender Malaysians Challenge Religious Laws (New York Times Oct. 7, 2012) discusses Shariah (Islamic) law and its impact on transgenders and others who crossdress.  “Muslim men are banned from dressing or posing as women … and offenders may be sentenced up to six months in prison, fined as much as $325.00, or both.”  Four Malaysian transwomen challenged the law in civil court, arguing that it violates their constitution which guarantees freedom of expression and bans discrimination.  Support groups say that in the 1980’s, a fatwa (a religious edict) was issued forbidding Muslims from having SRS.  If the plaintiffs receive a positive ruling, they will no longer be prosecuted for dressing as women in the state in which the case was heard and will set precedence for future cases in other localities.  One day later the suit was dismissed.

“Transgendered Kids can Use Whichever School Washroom they Wish”   is an article appearing in the Toronto Sun (Oct. 3, 2012) the Toronto District School Board ruled that choice should be determined by the child’s “view of whether they’re a boy or a girl.”  No doctor’s note or “identity documents” will be required.  This decision is a result of a “human rights decision in 2011 that was based on a complaint by a transgendered student.”

“California has become the first state to ban the use for minors of disputed therapies to ‘overcome’ homosexuality….” So begins an Oct. 1, 2012 article in the New York Times.  Reading further, the article expands the focus from homosexuality to “gender expression,” thus prohibiting treatments designed to discourage cross gender identification.  Opponents of the law maintain this is a “violation of free choice,” implying that some children may wish to rid themselves of their transgender feelings.

October was Domestic Violence Awareness Month, a time to recognize that 1 out of 4 individuals – of any gender identity or expression, of any sexual orientation – has experienced domestic violence.
There is a widespread myth that domestic violence is a crime in which men abuse women. The reality is that 25-33% of all individuals have been in abusive relationships and both abusers and victims can be of any gender. Some studies suggest that transgender and gender non-conforming individuals may
experience domestic violence at rates higher than the national average. Possible reasons transgender
people may have elevated rates of domestic violence include never having learned healthy relationship skills or believing that violent relationships are the best a transgender person can hope for. (Sounds like blaming the victim to me!!!)

Even though violence occurs across all genders, services are not always offered on a gender-inclusive basis, with male-identified victims often being refused services.  Transwomen have also reported many experiences of discrimination when attempting to access domestic violence services.  This disparity between who is impacted by domestic violence and who can access services makes it vital that the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) include a provision prohibiting discrimination against LGBTQ victims.  This information was abstracted from a news item dated Oct. 9, 2012 on the FORGE website  >>.  FORGE, founded in 1994 provides peer support to the TG community.  It is the 1st organization to receive significant direct federal funding.  Statement in parens is by the author of this column.

In Brief:  “A Transgender Story: My Daughter, My Son” appeared in the LA Times Oct. 7, 2012.  It is a mother’s perspective on watching her daughter’s transition.

The University of Victoria houses The Transgender Archives, a tremendous resource for community members, researchers and students.

Saturday, September 22, 2012

The Cutting Edge September 22, 2012

                                                              The Cutting Edge- September 22, 2012
                                             Barbara F. Anderson, Ph.D., LCSW
The cover article of the Sunday Magazine of the New York Times, August 12, 2012, was entitled, “What’s Wrong with a Boy Who Wears a Dress?”  The author, Ruth Padawer describes her article as “a new approach to parenting gender-fluid children.”  The accompanying photos by Lindsay Morris were taken at a weekend camp gathering for boys who enjoy expressing their femininity with other like-minded peers as well as their families and siblings.  The article features vignettes of families in which there is a “pink boy,” one who occupies that middle space between traditional masculinity and femininity.  For an up-to-date approach that has moved beyond stereotyping and corrective therapy, this article fits the bill.

The American Psychiatric Association (APA) issued an official position paper on Aug. 16, 2012. They recognize that transgender and gender-variant individuals can benefit from medical and surgical intervention.  They advocate for the removal of impediments to care and support health insurance coverage for gender transition treatment.  They oppose exclusions of coverage for such medically necessary treatment when prescribed by a physician.  The full report can be accessed at:

A Transgender Parents’ Support Group meets on the 3rd Saturday of the month (10am-12noon) at the San Francisco LGBT Community Center.  Their advertising blurb reads:  “Are you or your partner a transgender parent?  Or thinking of becoming a parent?  This is an opportunity to connect with your peers and get mutual support.  The first half of the hour is usually spent socializing, with the remaining time dedicated to group discussion.  Drop-ins are welcome, but ongoing attendance helps to establish group rapport.”  BTW, I asked to attend in order to see if the meeting would be helpful to any of my clients but was refused. 

An article on (September 4, 2012) reports “Prisoner’s sex change surgery ruled as the ‘only adequate treatment’ for her.”  A convicted murderer, who has been living as a woman in an all-male prison, has been granted the right to have sex reassignment surgery.  She has been receiving female sex hormones and will now get surgery under her Eighth Amendment Right to adequate treatment for a “serious medical need.”  Influencing the judge’s decision is the fact that the inmate had tried self-castration and attempted suicide while incarcerated.  On a somewhat inflammatory note, the article states that “taxpayers will be footing the bill for this medical procedure…. It is not known if the Massachusetts Department of Corrections will be filing an appeal.  This is likely to spark an outrage since the people of Massachusetts will be paying for the prisoner’s sex change surgery.  The ruling is highly controversial on many levels and will drive further debate over the subject of sexual identity.”

Concerning retaining or restoring fertility in a male-to-female individual taking feminizing hormones, a physician states, “I know of several documented cases where an MTF pre-op, having dropped or diminished estrogen use, was able to [impregnate], sometimes inadvertently….  My best advice for fertility preservation … is to go off hormones for at least 6 months.  [In]fertility is most certainly reversible although libido and erectile function may be less so on a long-term basis….”

On a related subject, there has been some buzz about the possibility of a male-to-female individual becoming impregnated and carrying a fetus to term.  At this time there is little optimism that this will ever be possible, but who knows?  Research on the subject of Transplantation of Female Genital Organs by Brannstrom & Diaz-Garcia in 2011 focuses on transplantation between genetic women.  The authors state that “considerable advances have been made in research during the last 25 years…. Uterus transplantation has been proven to be a feasible procedure” in animal models and researchers predict the first successful attempt in humans will occur within 2-3 years.  On Sept. 18, 2012, the NYTimes published an article saying doctors in Sweden have performed the first two mother-to-daughter uterine transplants.

Brief notes:  Springer has published “Men Trapped in Men’s Bodies: Narratives of Autogynephilic Transsexualism” by A.A. Lawrence.   According to the publisher's blurb, this book is the "first to document extensively the feelings and experiences of autogynephilic male-to-female transsexuals in their own words.... [It is also] first to address comprehensively autogynephilic eroticism as motivation during sex reassignment."  This rarely covered and controversial subject is a must read for professionals as well as consumers.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

The Cutting Edge June 2012

                                                                        THE CUTTING EDGE
                                                                  Barbara F. Anderson, Ph. D., LCSW
A notice dated March 27, 2012 has come to my attention describing an organization that provides monetary grants for sex reassignment surgery.  The JIM COLLINS FOUNDATION “is a non-profit, all-volunteer organization whose mission is to provide financial assistance to transgender people for gender-confirming surgeries.  Founded by two transgender people in 2008, the organization operates on individual donations and is run by a board comprised of medical professionals, attorneys, and activists.  Last year the JIM COLLINS FOUNDATION gave away its first grant to Drew Lodi, a transgender man on Medicaid who resorted to collecting cans toward his surgery expense.

“‘Not every transgender person needs surgery as part of their transition.’  says Dru Levasseur, co-founder of the JIM COLLINS FOUNDATION and national transgender rights attorney.  ‘However, we’ve seen first-hand the significant harms that transgender people face when they cannot access treatments that their doctors deemed medically necessary.  The JIM COLLINS FOUNDATION is proud to provide some assistance to people who face discriminatory barriers to coverage in public and private health insurance.’

“This past year, the foundation received over 300 applications, many from people who were desperate for assistance.  A nation-wide selection committee comprised of anonymous transgender individuals chose the 2012 grantees based on financial need.  Thanks to the generous donation of pro bono services from Dr. Christine McGinn at the Papillon Center in New Hope, PA, the foundation is able to fund two surgeries this year.  Dr. McGinn is one of the nation’s leading surgeons specializing in gender-confirming surgery and an out transgender person herself.”  Their website is

A revision of the current Diagnostic and Statistical Manual, rev. IV, is in process as we speak. The DSM is the “bible” of mental disorders to which mental health professionals pledge obeisance when they complete the insurance forms presented by trans clients at the time service is rendered.  Along with other information, insurers require that a diagnosis be given in order for treatment to be covered. Currently, most trans clients receive a diagnosis of Gender Identity Disorder (GID).

 A prominent Bay Area physician objects to this diagnosis saying, GID “is a misnomer.  The ‘afflicted’ individuals often have no doubt about their gender identity; it just doesn’t match their genitalia or societal expectations.  The real problem is gender dysphoria, the discomfort with one’s assigned gender or the profound feeling that one is in the wrong gender.”  He suggests an alternate category, Gender Dysphoria Disorder (GDD), which emphasizes the significance of the discomfort and depathologizes the client’s sense of his/her own cross-gender identity.  He adds, “gender variance [alone] is not a sign of a mental disorder” and illustrates this by citing trans people, the bi-gendered (those who present at alternate times), androgynous (those who present ambiguously) and intersex people (those with ambiguous genitalia) who may not suffer from gender dysphoria.  Nor is complete transition an indication of the resolution of gender dysphoria.  In future columns I hope to point out progress made on improvements in diagnoses impacting on the trans population in the DSM revision

More will follow on this subject as developments occur.

In brief:  The Advocate’s commentary featured an article, “14 Reasons That Made 2011 Great For Trans People.”  Here are some of them:
                  More state and local laws have passed TG anti-discrimination laws in 2011 than in any prior year.
                  The White House has hosted 2 major meetings—one with a group of advocates to discuss a range of trans-related policy issues and another with trans anti-violence advocates.
                  The 1st openly trans actor, Harmony Santana, got a major award nomination for her portrayal in “Gun Hill Road.”  She was nominated for best supporting actress by the Independent Spirit Awards.
                   Trans health policy improved with the American College of Obstetrics & Gynecology issuing a policy statement on proper treatment of trans people.
                   Shaun Donovan of HUD, became the 1st sitting Cabinet Secretary  to give a keynote address to a major trans organization, the National Center for Transgender Equality. He acknowledged that he was the first “but I will not be the last.”  He also has the distinction of being the highest ranking U.S. official to support marriage equality.
                    The results of the 1st National Transgender Discrimination Survey were published. Sixty-five hundred people responded and the study has become the most up-to-date resource for understanding the extent of barriers facing trans people.
                    The US Department of Veterans Affairs issued a directive spelling out what constitutes the respectful treatment of trans veterans.

Responses, reactions and corrections are welcome.
Dr Anderson can be reached at

The Cutting Edge May 2012

                                                                   THE CUTTING EDGE
                                                          Barbara F. Anderson, Ph.D., LCSW
This is the first article of what I hope will be a monthly column designed to bring to readers of DEVIL WOMAN issues that are currently being discussed by professionals dedicated to the welfare of the transgender community.  I hope to report on topics discussed in the media, at conferences, in journals, chat rooms and on listserves.  Where appropriate, I will give citations for those of you who wish to follow-up on a particular matter.  Entries will be brief, pithy (I hope) and engaging, stimulating your curiosity and hopefully, your optimism.  My ultimate intention is to encourage you to educate and advocate for yourselves in the realms of health care, legal rights, and other arenas that impinge on the well-being of your community.

A sampling of topics to be aired follows: pregnancy in transwomen; denial of hormones to the incarcerated; proposed changes to the DSM5; therapy and support groups that include both transmen and women; financial aid for SRS; the role of midwives in the care of pregnant transmen and many other subjects as they come to my attention.

Therapists are discussing the virtues and downsides of mixing transmen and women in support/therapy groups.  The plusses are that this could encourage a coalition of disparate groups.  There is little interaction between these groups although they have interests in common.  They both have to interface with the medical and psychological community; they both have a history of victimization and discrimination in employment and use of public facilities; they struggle with evaluating whether being diagnosed in the DSM is in their best interests and lastly, they tell me their clothes don’t fit right.  On the other hand, passing is less challenging for FtoMs; surgical options differ greatly; and the issues of growing up trans seem to affect individuals in each group differently.  For better or worse, it was agreed by most participants in the discussion that homogeneous groups fare better as common interests and experience make for a more congenial and trusting group environment. This has been my experience as well, but it was interesting for me to hear the issue raised again.

A discussion about pregnancy in male-to-females was very interesting.  It was initiated by a psychotherapist on behalf of her client who had read of such a possibility and was inquiring of the larger professional community if this is a realistic expectation.  Several cases were described in which natal women carried extra-uterine and abdominal pregnancies to term and which resulted in live births. A physician participating in the discussion felt this to be a very risky process and suggested encouraging transpersons to consider sperm donation, cryopreservation, or adoption as safe and proven satisfying methods of creating a family.

A discussion on the dangers to transgender people of travel abroad garnered advice from an attorney in response to a tale told by a traveler to Turkey.  She described being “grilled by the border guard and customs officer.”  Unwisely, she was travelling under her femme name while having a passport in her given male name.  She had declined to carry the letter given to her by her therapist attesting to her transition.  Inexplicably, her medications were confiscated before she was allowed on her way.  The attorney stated that, “travel is problematic where the documentation carried does not match the presentation of the traveler.  Everyone should emphasize a ‘Know Before You Go Approach.’  A simple call to the Department of State would have alerted this person to countries where entry would be difficult.  Also, this is not just a problem of international travel (though that is where we hear most
about it.)  Within the United States, since the laws vary as to the identity of trans individuals, the same rule applies…”Know Before You Go.”

Brief notes: An article in Bloomberg Business Week (3/26/12) reports that the US Supreme Court refused to consider reinstating a Wisconsin law that banned hormone administration or SRS for prison inmates.  Bypassing all the double negatives, that translates into the affirmative statement that inmates are entitled to treatment.  If SRS is ever provided, I’m sure it’ll make the news as well.

A forthcoming publication that sounds useful is “Transgender Family Law: A Guide to Effective Advocacy” by Jennifer Levi, Dir. of the Transgender Rights Project.

Responses, reactions and corrections are welcome.
Dr. Anderson can be reached @

Monday, August 13, 2012

The Cutting Edge- July 2012

 Barbara F. Anderson, Ph.D., LCSW
An article in the LA Times dated April 15, 2012 carries the headline, LAPD plans separate jail for transgender suspects."  A 24-bed facility will be opened in an effort to avoid violence by the general population of inmates against transprisoners.  This unit will house "biologically male and female suspects who identify themselves as members of the opposite sex...."  Until the present time, these prisoners were housed with those of the same biological sex.
This has come about as part of a larger policy of concern about the welfare of trans inmates.  Officers are instructed to treat such individuals with respect and courtesy on the street and are prohibited from searching suspects for the sole purpose of determining their sex.

Chair of the Transgender Working Group, Karina Samala said, “This is a new LAPD.” The TWG was formed in 2007 to work with the police department on developing  TG-friendly policies.  Many meetings were held, a survey was developed and a report with recommendations for policy changes was issued.

In the same vein, the newest edition of the Standards of Care was published by the World Professional Association for Transgender Health (WPATH) in Sept. 2011. According to Dr. George Brown, the  updated the section on “Institutionalized” persons was tested in court and the ruling was that a “real life experience” a prior condition for SRS, can occur in prisons.  More about the newest edition of the SOC in future columns.

The NY Times of April 27, 2012 featured Carletta Sue Kay, a k a Randy Walker, in their article, “His Wig May Be Askew, but This Singer Has Range.”  The article goes on to say, “When Carletta Sue Kay takes the stage, it can take the uninitiated by surprise.  The singer is over six feet tall, with a figure more like a wrestler’s  than an ingenue’s, and is typically a mess; wig askew, vintage dress often missing a sleeve or other home-made alterations, red lipstick unevenly applied.

“Is this a performance art piece?  An elaborate joke?  But then Carletta—also known as Randy Walker, 47, … veteran of the San Francisco music scene for the last 15 or so years—opens his mouth, and  all doubts fade.”  He is said to have a “dynamic range and sings with his whole body” and his “female alter ego has been enthusiastically received by local audiences since he started performing as Carletta around 2007.

“Mr. Walker said his fan base was largely straight and he did not consider himself a drag queen, per se or ‘a trannie.  I hate that people try to work that as a marketing stratagem,’ he said.”  Later in the article he “wonders if he has become a transvestite since he began performing as Carletta.”

Last month, in my brief section, I noted that Shaun Donovan of HUD, became the 1st sitting Cabinet Secretary to give a keynote address to a major trans organization.  To expand on that, he pointed out several advances made by the administration in the interest of transgender people.  Transwoman, Amanda Simpson, was appointed to the Office of Personnel Management which prohibits discrimination on the basis of gender identity.  Most recently, the Office announced that federal departments must include gender identity among its protected classes of employees.  Metro Weekly on April 27, 2012 covered this story in detail.  78% of transgenders say they’ve experienced workplace discrimination.  However, this policy can be overturned by the Supreme Court.  For now, activists see this breakthrough as “one more locking piece in that puzzle.”  For more detail,

In brief: The Transgender Economic Empowerment Initiative (TEEI) is a collaborative program between the SF LGBT Community Center, the Transgender Law Center and JVS (?).  Their promotional material says they match dynamic people  with sustainable jobs in safe workplaces.

In the “rose by any other name” category, a plastic surgeon in Chicago objects to the terms, “sex change operation, gender reassignment surgery and genital reassignment.”  He sees these terms as suggestive of making a choice to switch genders and  thus, inappropriate.  Instead, he performs “gender confirmation surgery.  This is not about choice; it’s about using surgery as one of the therapeutic tools to enable people to be comfortable with their gendered self.”

I’ve listened in on some conversations about telemedicine and distance counseling with transclients.  Talk has been positive with regard to evaluating people in prison when highly skilled professionals are not available to assess applicants for hormones or surgery.  More controversial is on-going psychotherapy with transpeople who live in remote areas or who are too closeted to seek counseling locally.  I for one, have had positive outcomes with clients I have already known and counseled in a traditional setting.  The downside is that insurance will not reimburse for sessions that are not face-to-face in person.

Responses, reactions and corrections are welcome.
Dr. Anderson can be reached @

The Cutting Edge August 2012

                                                                 THE CUTTING EDGE
                                                         Barbara F. Anderson, Ph.D., LCSW
In his newest book, “In One Person”  the noted writer, John Irving, introduces the reader to Billy Abbott, a teenager beset by confusion about his sexual orientation and gender identity.  According to the NY Times reviewer, Janet Maslin, humor yields to pathos as time passes and he encounters the era of AIDS.  Ms Maslin criticizes the author for “his blunt politicking for a full understanding of gay and transgendered identity [which] sits uncomfortably with his zany side.”  Although a mixed review, sounds like a book worth reading.

On a less literary note, a well-received episode on the TV show, “Glee” featured a transgender character, Unique.  This contrasts with “Work It,” a short-lived show that focused on 2 unemployed men who try to counter the effects on their lives of the recession by seeking work as women. It met disdain on several fronts by viewers as well as two advocacy groups and was cancelled after 2 episodes.  A NY Times review of recent TV offerings addressing LGBT lifestyles asks, “What’s missing? The outrage.  The cultural battlefield of television has changed markedly since the 1990’s, when conservative groups and religious figures objected to Ellen DeGeneres coming out and ‘Will & Grace’ coming on.”

A Business Wire article on The Depository Trust & Clearing Corporation, described its recent policy offering employees “new transgender benefits that include sex-reassignment surgery and related prescription drug treatment…. It illustrates our commitment to an open and non-discriminatory environment where transgender persons are welcomed to our diverse and inclusive organization.”  In formulating their benefit package, DTCC has followed the guidelines set by the World Association for Transgender Health (WPATH), an international organization committed to establishing and promoting the highest standard of health care for trans people.  Other financial services organizations offering TG health benefits to their employees are American Express, Bank of America, Barclay’s Capital, Credit Suisse USA, Goldman Sachs, JPMorgan Chase & Co. and Wells Fargo & Co.

A CBC (Canadian Broadcast Company) 2-part radio show, “Ideas” aired recently. The Gender Trap, Part 1 deals with the belief that men’s and women’s brains are hard-wired to learn differently.  This has been used to justify gender stereotyping and to route men and women into discrete occupations.  It has also given rise to a number of best-sellers such as; Men Are From Mars, Women From Venus; The Female Brain; and The Essential Difference.  The program explores both sides of the debate. 
The Gender Trap, Part 2 describes the Toronto family that decided not to reveal the gender of their newborn baby to any but a few people.  When the story of Storm became public, a “storm” of controversy ensued.  This program describes the story fully and the resulting debate.  The programs can be heard on podcast-

Brief notes: In an e-mail exchange, a psychiatrist posits that trans children “may in general be more advanced cognitively…I think of this in terms of having to think creatively…i.e. when a 2 and a half year old discovers that he/she is in the wrong body... it takes on a need to think creatively on how to deal with the world in ways the average child does not need to deal with.”  The writer continues, “studies of creativity in children have a checkered past and most have found it is a difficult subject…to assess.”

Argentina became Latin America’s 1st nation to legalize gay marriage 2 years ago and in May 2012 passed a gender rights law.  It gives people the legal right to officially change their gender without a court appearance and obligates health care companies to provide them with surgery or hormone therapy on demand.
HUD secretary, Shaun Donovan, states that new regulations being proposed by HUD will “prohibit discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity in several of the federal agency’s programs—from government-backed mortgages to public housing.”