Wednesday, November 27, 2013

`The Cutting Edge-November 2013

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


The World Professional Association for Transgender Health (WPATH) is preparing for its bi-annual conference in Bangkok, Thailand in Feb. 2014.  A featured speaker will be Antonio Guillamon, MD, PhD who will speak on “The Brain of Transsexual Persons.”  A summary of his presentation  follows: “The brain structures and mechanisms that support gender identity are unknown.  One way to approach this topic would be to compare males and females with dysphoria to those who do not feel dysphoria.  Two decades of research into brain differences in our laboratory, working with several species, including humans, has produced 2 main ideas.  First, sex differences are seen in complex networks and differences in any given structure must be approached in this context.  Second, sex differences in the brain can take 1 of 2 morphological patterns; in some structures males show larger measurements than females while in other structures the opposite is true.

 “…post-mortem studies of hormonally treated m-t-f transsexuals have reported that 2 nuclei, which are located in the hypothalamus… are feminized.  The idea that the brain[s] of transsexual persons might be feminized in m-t-f transsexuals or masculinized in f-t-m transsexuals has attracted media attention and become popular.  It also seems to fit with the idea of being trapped in the wrong body.  However, findings from post-mortem brain studies include the effects of the cross-sex hormone treatment and the suggestion of brain feminization in m-t-f transsexuals might be an over-simplification of how the brain actually is in transsexuals before they receive hormone treatment.”  For more information on Dr. Guillamon’s talk, see WPATH’s website @


“Trans-Kin Update: Support for Family & Friends of transgender People” recently won the international Book Award in the Gay and Lesbian Non-Fiction category.   According to Eleanor Hubbard (who may be the author/editor/publisher) “this guide has helped countless significant others, family members, friends and allies” to deal sensitively with TGs.  For more info:

New Jersey joins California as only the 2nd state to prohibit licensed therapists from engaging in conversion therapy.  This is the now-discredited form of psychotherapy designed to “cure” patients of homosexual and transgender thoughts and behaviors.

Pakistan’s TG community, along with intersex and cross-dressing  individuals are known as  “hijras.”  These male-bodied people identify as women and have faced discrimination  and ridicule for centuries.  Segregated, they have usually earned their living as dancers, circus performers, sex workers, and beggars.  In 2012, a Supreme Court ruling allowed them to obtain IDs that permit them to vote and acknowledge them as the “3rd gender.”

On November 4, 2013, 18 year old Sasha Fleishman was set afire while dozing on an Oakland bus.  Sasha identifies as “agender” and though appearing male, was wearing a skirt, according to his father.  “Being agender simply means that a person doesn’t feel that they are either a boy or a girl, according to Mr. Fleishman.  A 16 year old high school student is in custody as a result of footage available on a security camera.

Know the name William T. Vollmann?  Refreshingly, a New York Times feature (Nov. 14, 2013) presents a positive story about a cross-dresser who is accomplished and confident that he is OK.  In the article, “The Self Images of a Cross-Dresser,” Mr. Vollmann,  “the absurdly prolific author and National Book Award winner…has developed a female alter ego named Dolores ….”  She is the subject of his new edition of photos and paintings, “The Book of Dolores.”  The author is 54, straight, the father of a daughter and married to a physician.  He began cross-dressing “seriously” about 5 years ago after meeting some “girls’ in the Tenderloin.   They took an interest in him and he responded, researched the subject of the Noh theater dancers and Kabuki actors of Japan, and writing a short book (504 pages) on the subject.