Wednesday, 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.]