The Cutting Edge - June 2013
Barbara F. Anderson, Ph.D., LCSW
Does the name Rituparno Ghosh ring a bell? He was an award-winning, internationally known Bengali film director who died last month at the age of 49. Most relevant to this column is the fact that he was “an unabashed cross-dresser [who] cut a striking figure in Indian culture as he frequently sported lavish clothes, dangling earrings and eyeliner.” He is reported to say, “I don’t consider myself a woman, and I don’t want to become a woman.” The obituary goes on to say he reveled in his ‘gender fluidity—the fact that I am in between.’” He identified as a “womanist” rather than a feminist and his films dealt with “complicated and sensitive subjects like divorce, widowhood, homosexuality and gender identity.” (New York Times, June 2013)
The NYTimes reports “South Carolina: Sex Surgery Unnecessary, Lawsuit Alleges.” The Southern Poverty Law Center, a legal advocacy group, claims that the State of So. Carolina “should not have surgically altered a 16-month old child in its custody who was born with both male and female genitalia. The suit was brought on behalf of the child’s adoptive parents and is intended to restrict the practice of medically unnecessary sex assignment surgeries on infants.” The child, now 8, Identifies as a boy, according to his parents who state, “They disfigured him because they could not accept him for who he was… not because he needed any surgery.” In recent years physicians and those once identified as hermaphrodites recommend that at birth a gender assignment be made but that no surgical intervention occur until the individual is old enough to participate in any medical action. BTW, the currently accepted term for such individuals is intersex. (May 15, 2013)
A mailing I received from WPATH (World Professional Association for Transgender Health) advises members that the World Health Organization is currently developing the next version of the International Classification of Diseases (ICD-11) and there are proposed changes to the section dealing with gender identity. We as members of WPATH are invited to participate in internet-based field-studies of the proposed diagnostic guidelines. I’m pleased to belong to an organization that is so highly recognized as having sufficient expertise in the field of gender identity studies to be invited to participate in this venture.
A notice from The Transgender Law Center advises that “CA Bans Insurance Discrimination Against Transgender Patients.” California’s Department of Managed Health Care (DMHC) “has ordered California’s health plans to remove exclusions of coverage based on gender identity and expression.” Masen Davis, president of the TLC says this move “will save lives.” The directive applies to HMOs and PPOs regulated by the DMHC and insures that insured individuals cannot be arbitrarily denied medically necessary services simply because they are transgender.
Also from the TLC, “Victory for 9-Year-Old Transgender Student!” When 9-year old, Trace, told his classmates he was a boy, He was summarily suspended from school for 3 weeks. Upon his return his “special education plan…severely limited his ability to interact with his peers.” From general education classes he was reassigned to special ed. with severe restrictions. TLC wrote a letter to school officials advising them that their actions were illegal and in response, Trace was reinstated in his prior school program.
Yet another notice from the TLC states, “American Medical Association Supports Accurate Birth Certificates for Transgender People.” In the article they “hail the recent decision by the AMA to pass a resolution stating that, they support policies that allow for a change of sex designation on birth certificates for transgender individuals based on verification by a physician that the individual has undergone transition according to applicable medical standards of care.” Additionally, the TLC is working to pass a bill in California to simplify the costly and burdensome process of amending one’s birth certificate.
Two new books of interest are on the stands. “Stuck in the Middle with You, A Memoir of Parenting in Three Genders,” by Jennifer Finney Boylan, a transgender parent, is described as a “brilliant work on raising--and being--a child…. It includes conversations with Edward Albee on the essential qualities of parenthood; Anna Quindlen on marital love; [and] Augusten Burroughs on lasting parental influence.” It is described as blending intimacy and wit, soul-searching and humor, happiness and pain.
“The Rebellion of Miss Lucy Ann Lobdell” is described as “a well-crafted ‘memoir’ of an unforgettable person.” Although apparently fictitious, no author is listed. Ms. Lobdell’s obituary in the NYTimes dated Oct. 7, 1879 described her life as a child in the backwoods to her participation in dancing school which she attended disguised as a man, winning the heart of a young woman. She passed for years on the western frontier, was arrested and tried for the crime of wearing men’s clothes and broke out of jail with the help of her wife to whom she had been unwittingly married by a judge. Could this be the first same-sex marriage in America? (New York Times Book Review)