Tuesday, September 15, 2015

The Cutting Edge-Sept 14, 2015

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


Lots of news this month so entries will by necessity be brief.  Hopefully, you can follow up on articles that whet your appetite from original sources.


In an opinion piece, Richard A. Friedman, professor of clinical psychiatry, examines the fascinating subject, “How Changeable is Gender?” in the NYTimes of Aug. 23, 2015.  He begins his treatise with facts illustrating that modifying one’s gender does not guarantee a lifetime of happiness as evidenced by high incidence of post-transition suicide and depression. He then moves on to discuss gender dysphoria in children and cites several studies tracking its persistence thru adolescence to adulthood.  His conclusion is that this experience in children is “highly unstable and likely to change.”  However, the longer dysphoria persists, say into adolescence, the more likely it is to signal a permanent condition.


Remember Ashley Diamond, the trans inmate who sued the State of Georgia for access to hormone replacement treatment and protection from prison rape?  In a surprise move, she was unexpectedly paroled after serving less than a third of her 12 year sentence for burglary.  The parole board issued a statement that her release was “compatible with the welfare of society and public safety….” NYTimes Sept. 1, 2015


Gay and transpeople are seeking a meeting with the Pope during his visit to the US in September.  They are asking him to take a stand on the issues of sexuality and gender that are increasingly dividing Catholics.  Lui Matsuo, 28, born female, has said he has identified as a male since a toddler, and is among a group of gay and trans Catholics looking forward to attending the 4-day upcoming World Meeting of Families in Phila. occurring just prior to the Pope’s visit. NYT July 29, 2015.


A lengthy and admiring portrait of Phyllis Frye appeared on the front page of the Sunday NYTimes, August 30, 2015.  Entitled “Once a Pariah, Now a Transgender Judge,” it describes the lifetime achievements of this pioneer.  In the summer of 1976, 28 year old Phillip Frye embarked on transition.  He had been forced to resign from the military for  ”sexual deviation,” had been disowned by his parents, divorced by his wife, and denied contact with his son.  With the encouragement of Frye’s 2nd wife, she embarked on a new life in which she could be forthright and authentic.  Today, at 67, she is this country’s 1st openly transgender judge. In the years between she earned a law degree, appeared on the Phil Donahue Show, and spoke out eloquently for gay and trans rights.


Transgress and Harbor View presses have released the 1st guidebook of gender transition written especially for youth.  Author, Seth Rainess, offers a roadmap of the many issues youngsters can expect to encounter on their journeys, including medical treatment options, dating and disclosure.  The title is “Real Talk for Teens: A Jumpstart Guide to Gender Transitioning and Beyond.


A proposal by the Obama administration bans any health program that receives federal funds from discriminating based on gender identity.  This rule is considered to be “the most significant affirmation of the rights of transgender individuals of equal treatment in health care and health insurance that has existed anywhere in the law” according to a prominent law professor.  This regulation must go through a public comment period before implemented. NYTimes Sept. 4, 2015.

Sunday, August 23, 2015

The Cutting Edge-August 23, 2015
Barbara F. Anderson, Ph.D., LCSW

Much to my surprise I found myself quoted at length on SFGate (June 6, 2015) in an article titled, “As transgender discussion increases, workplace improvement still needed.”  The article begins with a bow to Caitlyn Jenner, moseys through several examples of workplace violations leading to law suits, segues to the importance of mental health care and bingo!! There I am.  Six paragraphs are devoted to my philosophy of treatment, services offered and an example of a successful case.  After another page and a half of other professionals’ take on the field of TG care, the author winds up.  Aha!  The signature tells me that this was written by a Stanford University Journalism student who interviewed me months ago.  I wondered how that article turned out!!!

Caitlyn’s at it again.  According to the NYTimes, July 23, “I Am Cait” is a new E! reality series.  It premiered July 26th and “chronicles Ms. Jenner’s new life….”  Ms J’s children from her first and second marriages have refused to participate but (surprise!) Kim and Kanye, Kylie and Khloe will be in attendance.  On a more serious note, Caitlyn may face a manslaughter charge as a result of a fatal car accident on the Pacific Coast Highway in February of this year.  The NYTimes reports that “Ms Jenner was driving in a manner ‘unsafe for the prevailing road conditions’ when her sport utility vehicle rear-ended a Lexus, pushing it into traffic.” (Aug. 21, 2015)

With all the recent exposure of transgender issues in the media, interest has arisen concerning the number of transgender people.  In their column, The Upshot, the NYTimes, June 9, 2015, “Searching for a Best Estimate of the Transgender Population” addresses this matter.  Difficulty in getting an accurate count is due to several factors.  The Census Bureau does not inquire about gender identity; being fluid it is hard to define on a multiple choice list of options (there are more than 50 options on Facebook); accuracy is difficult to guarantee as many people are reluctant to admit to a non-conforming gender identity to avoid discrimination.  However, better data is important for policy-making in health, education, criminal justice, social services, sports, and the military.

nterestingly, the Census Bureau published a paper recently in which they “analyzed people who most likely were transgender, based on the fact that they had changed their name or sex with the Social Security Administration.”  Since the inception of the Social Security Administration in 1936, 135,000 (rounded off) people have changed their names to one of the opposite gender, and 30,000 changed their sex as well.  Of these, 65% were female-to-male and 35% were male-to-female.  A caution in considering this data:  people who have not changed their names, who have not notified the SSA, who transitioned before age 16, or don’t have a social security number, are not represented in the paper.  A second study, using survey rather than administrative data, estimated that 0.3% or 700,000 people identify as trans.  Gallup is continuing to study the matter using a sample of 350,000 people.  If you have not been rendered unconscious by the detail above, stay tuned for updated information.

How young is too young?  The New York Times is onto that issue as well.  In a June 17, 2015 story entitled, “New Girl in School: Transgender Surgery at 18,” Katherine Boone’s story is told. She is an 18 year old high school senior in Cazenovia, NY who experienced depression in her freshman year associated with the onset of puberty. Symptoms included suicidality and cutting.  At 16 she began estrogen and spironolactone.  There is no law against minors receiving hormones or surgery but insurers, including NY’s Medicaid, have refused coverage for these youngsters.  The question providers wrestle with is “whether  teenagers, habitually trying on new identities and not known for foresight, should be granted an irreversible physical fix for what is still considered a psychological condition.”  A surgeon who has done more than 30 operations on children under 18, is quoted as saying, “We’re trying to find the sweet spot….The problem is it’s not an age, it’s a situation.”  Dr. Paul Mc Hugh, a psychiatrist, is skeptical of surgery for sex reassignment “for a psychological condition and even more so for children.”

 The physician who opened the first sex-change clinic in an American hospital died July 31, 2015.  Howard W. Jones, Jr. (1910-2015) helped found the Johns Hopkins Gender Identity Clinic in 1965. Prior to that, he had pioneered gynecological surgery, primarily in infants born with ambiguous genitalia.  He is also credited with being the first American physician to fertilize a woman’s egg outside the uterus, 3 years after this was accomplished in England. (NYTimes, Aug.1, 2015)


Sunday, June 21, 2015


Barbara F. Anderson, Ph. D., LCSW
July 21, 2015


If you find yourself in Brooklyn, don’t miss the Brooklyn Museum’s exhibit, Faces and Phases, “an ongoing exhibit documenting black African lesbians and transmen.”  Zanele Muholi ‘s “incandescent” photographs of 250 people gazing” frankly, shyly, proudly, defiantly as [her] camera portrays people who are participating in making their own history.” The New Yorker, May 18, 2015.


The New York Times is at it again. It has devoted its complete editorial page to TG issues as part of its series on trans lives.  The June 6 column, “Let Transgender Troops Serve Openly” speaks for itself.  The nut of it is that there is an “absence of common-sense leadership on this issue by Pentagon leaders [forcing] commanders on the ground to develop a patchwork of unofficial rules.”  The writer presses Defense Secretary Ashton Carter to review the current ban on transgender troops and the type of policies needed to allow them to serve openly. <nytimes.com/trans-today>


Barnard College in NYC will begin accepting transwomen who are defined as “applicants who consistently live and identify as women, regardless of the gender assigned to them at birth.”  Although transmen are not eligible for admission, those women who transition after admission will be able to complete their education at the college.  Wellesley and Smith Colleges have similar policies while Mt. Holyoke is even more inclusive.  In addition to accepting transwomen, it also accepts transmen as well as those who do not identify as either gender.  Hollins University in VA requires that applicants have “completed the physical sex reassignment surgery and legal transformation from male to female.”  Transitioning from female to male is cause for loss of student status at this all women’s school.  New York Times, June 5, 2015.


On May 29, 2015, Caitlyn Jenner, appeared as Vanity Fair’s cover girl.  Photographed by Annie Liebovitz and dressed by Jessica Diehl, “the challenge was really about finding out from Caitlyn what this all means to her,” said VF’s fashion and style director.  For those awaking from a protracted nap, Caitlyn is the former Bruce Jenner, Olympian athlete and member of the Kardashian klan.  New York Times, June 4, 2015.


Sam Martin is one of a group of authors of children’s literature that incorporate trans characters in their books for young readers.  His first work of fiction is about a transgender teenage boy who falls in love with an older boy on a Cape Cod beach.  It is admittedly semi-autobiographical and published in the hope of helping youngsters to feel less alone with their awareness of their transgender identity.  The subject of gender fluidity has rarely been addressed in this genre and remains “one of the last taboos in a publishing category that had already taken on difficult issues like suicide, drug abuse, rape and sex trafficking.” Since 2004, when the first young-adult novel with a trans character was released by a mainstream publisher, 50 such books have been published, mostly for teens.  The next frontier is books for the 8-12 year-old reader.  One author, Alex Gino, identifies as genderqueer and has written “George,” about a boy who knows he’s a girl but doesn’t know how to tell family and friends.  So far, responses from parents have been positive.  New York Times, June 6, 2015


The American Medical Association (AMA), has come out (so to speak) with a statement criticizing the military’s policy barring TG troops saying “there is no medically valid reason” to disqualify them from serving.  The policy barring gay and lesbian troops was rescinded in 2011 and earlier this year the Army and Air Force issued a ruling that made it harder to discharge transtroops.  On the day following publication of this editorial, Secretary of Defense, Ashton Carter, is scheduled to deliver the keynote speech at the Pentagon’s annual GLBT pride event (who knew?).  The article predicts that “his words will ring hollow to talented and dedicated transgender service members if [he] fails to announce a review of the ban and movement toward its repeal.”  New York Times, June 8, 2015.


From the website of the Transgender Law Center comes this news item. “A San Francisco Transgender woman has settled her privacy and civil rights lawsuit with the CA Department of Motor Vehicles, the 2nd lawsuit of its kind against the DMV in the Bay Area in the past 4 years. In Mar. 2013, Jane Doe went to the DMV to change the gender marker on her ID.  The DMV employee became visibly angry and began to loudly lecture her on the ‘sin’ of being transgender….  In the settlement, the State of CA agreed to pay Ms. Doe almost $30,000.  The TLC will also continue to urge the DMV to incorporate transgender sensitivity into its ongoing employee training.” June 4, 2015

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

The Cutting Edge- May 2015

Barbara F. Anderson, Ph. D., LCSW


In the continued saga of Ashley Diamond, the transgender inmate who sued the state of Georgia for cutting off her supply of hormones and requesting safe housing within the prison system, the newest word (NY Times May 8, 2015) is that she received a transfer to a medium-security prison after being touched inappropriately by another inmate and then receiving a threatening note from another.  Stay tuned for word about her request for continued hormone replacement.


Current US Passport Guidelines.  In the past, a temporary passport with the revised gender marker was provided to allow for travel during the transition process, but those procedures are now defunct.  Currently, you can get the sex marker changed on a passport with a letter from a doctor.  No surgery or hormone therapy is required.  All requests to update the sex designation on a passport must use Passport Application Form DS-11, regardless of whether you have a passport already or not.  Obtain and submit the form in person at a Passport Acceptance Facility, such as your local Post Office.  You will need a certified copy of your name change order, an original letter from your doctor or a birth certificate with the corrected sex, and a new passport photo.  You will also need to submit 2 fees, one of $110.00 and a separate $25.00 execution fee. For more info. http://travel.stategov/passport/get/get_4855html Source: personal correspondence.


The New York Times published the “first of a series that looks at the state of transgender rights in America, how it has changed and the struggle ahead.”  They devoted the whole of the editorial page to “The Quest for Transgender Equality,” and it includes a comprehensive history of the movement’s trials and triumphs beginning with the incident at Compton’s Cafeteria here in San Francisco.  Three years before the Stonewall Riots of 1969, trans women rioted after being ejected Compton’s, one of the few safe gathering places for the community.  That same year, Harry Benjamin, an endocrinologist who had treated transpeople for years, published “The Transsexual Phenomenon” outlining how individuals could transition medically.  Public disclosure by prominent people such as actress Laverne Cox, whistle-blower Chelsea Manning, and athlete Bruce Jenner have brought positive attention to the community.  The extraordinary complexity of the experience has been written about in the popular media, allowing the general public to become informed about and comfortable with the subject.  Legislative changes have followed with protections and expanded access to relevant health care and procedures.  On the employment front, gender identity has been included among the areas in which discrimination is prohibited.  Future entries in this series will be covered in this column as they appear.


The 2nd in the series appeared 1 week later on May 11, 2015 and was solely devoted to an individual named Diane Schroer, a former Army officer who worked at the CIA in the late 1980’s.  Her story is told against the background of a young woman, Jenny who transitioned in 2013 at the same organization. 


The 3rd was published another week later, May 18, 2015, entitled, “Increasingly Visible, Transgender Americans Defy Stereotypes.”  This segment acknowledges the individuals who stand out in the movement starting with Christine Jorgensen’s SRS in the early 1950’s; the 1969 Stonewall Uprising in which Sylvia Rivera and Marsha P. Johnson figured prominently in founding the Street Transvestite Action Revolutionaries in NYC; Renee Richards’ legal fight in the ‘70’s to play tennis as a woman; Mario Martino, who in 1977 became the first TG man to publish an autobiography in the US; Lou Sullivan in the 80’s, who founded FTM International, a support group for TG men; Rhys Harper, a transmen and photographer who documented physical transitions online in the 90’s; and most recently, Harmony Santana, 19, who in 2010 was cast as the first trans actor to play a transgender character in a major role. For more info see <nytimes.com/trans-today>


Yet another TG inmate story, this time from New Boston, TX.  Joshua Zollicoffer, aka Passion Star, is challenging Texas’ “refusal to accept new national standards intended to eliminate rape in prison….”  Having been victimized by “sexual harassment, coercion, abuse and assault in Texas’ maximum-security prisons for men,” she demands that the state implement the Prison Rape Elimination Act of 2003.  Despite its passage 12 years ago, the final standards of how to prevent, detect and respond to abuse in custody took 10 years to be completed.  Even then, it took 2 more years for governors to be required to certify full compliance with the law. Today, only New Hampshire and New Jersey have done so. For the whole story, see the NYTimes, 5/13/15. Keep the faith.

Saturday, May 9, 2015

The Cutting Edge

Barbara F. Anderson, Ph.D., LCSW


Did you know that Inside Edition’s Zoey Tur became the 1st on-air trans reporter?  In an earlier iteration she was “Chopper” Bob—a helicopter pilot who covered the 1994 car chase led by O.J. Simpson.  Zoey began transitioning in 2013 and stated to US Magazine in their Feb. 16 edition, “There’s diversity in nature, why not in the media?”


The bathroom remains the last bastion to be breached giving transpeople free access to public accommodations.  According to a statement on the Transgender Law Center’s website, “multiple states are trying to make it a crime for transgender people to do something everyone does every day- use the bathroom.”  Florida, Kentucky and Texas have all introduced bills making it illegal for trans people to use bathrooms consistent with their gender identity. The penalty can be a fine or criminalizing both trans people and the building owners who allow free access.  Ultimately, this legislation can deny transpeople access to institutions such as schools, professional offices and subsequently limit participation in the full range of activities available to others.  Especially impacted would be the most vulnerable of our trans citizens, those who cannot change identity documents “because of systemic employment and health care discrimination.”  For a fuller discussion of this subject and action that you can take to oppose this movement, http://transgenderlawcenter.org.


In a subsequent posting, the TLC reports that the EEOC (Equal Employment Opportunity Commission) has ruled that “it’s not acceptable for employers to single out transgender people for harassment—including … forcing them to use a different bathroom than everyone else.”


“Many people believed Sisa Abu Daooh was a man until several weeks ago, when she publicly revealed her 42-year-old secret.”  So goes the story in the New York Times (March 26, 2015) titled, “A Woman’s Secret Life Posing as a Man in Egypt.”  It chronicles Sisa’s tale in which she worked more than 30 years among the shoeshine men of Luxor, Egypt.  She socializes, prays and dresses just as they do.  She decided to disclose her secret with her awareness that the police are accelerating their persecution of gay and gender dissonant individuals.  Amazingly, her story has been widely accepted because “there is no suggestion that her choice of clothing had anything to do with sexuality” but with the need to support her daughter after being widowed.  A human rights activist living in Egypt interviewed for this article explained, “while the state appropriately honors her for her courage, it imprisons others who call themselves transgender.  If the government cared about principles, not exploiting prejudices, it would respect people for being true to themselves.…”


Ashley Diamond is suing the state of Georgia for cutting off her supply of hormones.  She is a prison inmate, transgender woman, and client of the Southern Poverty Law Center.  After using female hormones for 17 years, they were abruptly discontinued in 2012 with her arrest for burglary. “In her lawsuit she asks the court to direct prison officials to provide her hormone therapy, to allow her to express her female identity through ‘grooming, pronoun use and dress, ‘and to provider her safer housing.”  For more info on this story see the NY Times Apr 6 & 7, 2015.


In California, a historic victory reinforced TG rights.  On behalf of Michelle Norsworthy, an inmate of a men’s prison, the Transgender Law Center won a ruling that “it’s illegal to deny transgender people access to essential health care, including gender-affirming surgery.”  In a different case, the Justice Department ruled that it is unconstitutional for state prisons to withhold hormone treatment. For more info: <info@transgenderlawcenter.org>

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

The Cutting Edge - March 2015

Barbara F. Anderson, Ph.D., LCSW


An article in the Pink News covers the controversy over B-52’s lead singer, Katie Pierson’s release of a song, “Mister Sister.”  Trans activists complain that they feel “misunderstood and patronized.”  The song appears on Pierson’s album, “Guitars and Microphones,” and was released in February.  In a letter to the Huffington Post a fan said, “misgendering is always wrong.  ‘Mister Sister,’ beginning with the title itself, is a reminder of the constant water-torture drip that transpeople endure day in and day out when we’re addressed as the wrong gender.”  Pierson defends her song saying it was meant to be about “the power of transformation and the joy of being accepted as you are, but more importantly, the joy of self-acceptance.”  You can watch the video on www.pinknews.co.uk/2015/02/18/b-52s-lead singer......and decide for yourself.


On August 17, 2013, transwoman, Islan Nettles, 21, was walking down a New York City street with 2 transfriends.  She was allegedly taunted with gay slurs by a group of 7 young men after which one beat her so violently that she died without regaining consciousness.  One of the group was arrested and despite his protestations of innocence in the killing, and the fact that another of the group admitted guilt, the Manhattan District Attorney’s office took 1 ½ years to build a case against the admitted killer!  On March 3, 2015 the case against him was eventually presented to a grand jury which indicted James Dixon on charges of manslaughter and assault. He was not charged with murder as proof of intent would need to be proved.  Despite evidence of gay slurs, no charges of a hate crime were entered either.  Such a charge would have required the prosecution to prove that the motive of the crime was that the victim was transgender.  The handling of this case so incensed the trans community that an advocacy group, the Trans Women of Color Collective, was formed.  One of its purposes is to highlight the “indifference the authorities show across the country to the killings of men transitioning to women.”  Lourdes Hunter, the director of the organization said, “the long delay in bringing charges against Mr. Dixon reflected the low priority such cases have among the police and prosecutors.” New York Times March 4, 2015


Closer to home, Taja DeJesus was killed on Feb 1, 2015 in the Bayview district of San Francisco. Her killer was found dead by his own hand the next day.  In the face of 6 transgender deaths in the year 2014, her death has galvanized the trans community to start the Indiegogo fundraising campaign to aid her family with funeral costs. Funds raised over and above the family’s needs will be used to help trans women of color. SF Examiner, March 4, 2015.


A feature story in the New York Times’ Style section of the Sunday edition of March 6, “Better Late than Never,” focuses on (guess what?) “late transitioners.”  The article recounts the varied stories of 7 individuals, 2 of whom hail from the Bay Area.  They’ve all taken the plunge late in life, one at 85 years of age.  And it seems that no one holds anything back-- from discussing the difference between having sex with a man versus a woman, to the itemized cost of facial feminization,--transpeople of a certain age tell all.  Professionals of course, were consulted for the article, including a Social Work professor who wrote her doctoral dissertation on “late-age transitioners.”  You may want to check out her website www.tosurviveonthisshore.com and consider participating in the project if you are over 50 years of age and identify as gender variant.

Sunday, January 18, 2015

The Cutting Edge-Jan 2015

Barbara F. Anderson, Ph.D., LCSW


Another wonderful article by Jennifer Finney Boylan, transgender author of “Stuck in the Middle with You: A Memoir of Parenting in Three Genders,” appeared on the Op-Ed page o f The NY Times, Jan 7, 2015.  The article focuses on the suicide of 17 year old Leelah Alcorn and Jennifer’s recollection of her own suicidal ideation.  I’ll quote liberally from her article as I could not do it justice otherwise. 


“Leelah was no mistake.  The world abounds with all sorts of ways of being human, one of which is being trans.  It is a tragedy that Leelah was never given the chance to be proud of who she was. And that she thought the only way to change the world was through her death.


“Suicide is a constant among transgender people; we are one of the most at risk groups in the country.  One study suggests that over 40% of us attempt it during the course of our lives.


“I was among that number.  In 1986 I stood at the edge of a cliff in Nova Scotia, looking down at the Atlantic, considering the plunge into the sea below.  Then I turned back.  Somehow here I am….


“My own life was saved in part by books. When I found Jan Morris’s 1974 memoir, “Conundrum,” it was as if I found a wormhole to another universe, a galaxy where people like me could thrive.  I wish I could have also given Leelah two more recent works:  Janet Mock’s “Redefining Realness” and Kate Bornstein’s  “Hello Cruel World.”  They might have made a difference.


“If reading provided me with solace, so did writing.  Keeping a journal, telling stories, inventing worlds gave me comfort until the time came when I had the agency to make my own choices….


“It may still be possible to fulfill at least one of Leelah’s wishes.  In her note, she wrote: ‘My death needs to mean something.  My death needs to be counted in the number of transgender people who commit suicide this year.  I want someone to look at that number and say, ‘that’s [expletive] up and fix it.  Fix society.  Please.’”


In November 1997 I published an article in my column for this newsletter entitled, “Did it Have to Happen?”  Like Jennifer’s piece, it focused on suicidality among the trans population.  As a therapist I emphasized the importance of psychological treatment in identifying and addressing depression and serious mental health issues before irreversible actions ensued.  In the spirit of the adage, “when you have a hammer, everything looks like a nail,” each of us offers the resource we have at hand.  I will certainly consider Jennifer’s suggestions and hope that she will include mine in forthcoming writing on the subject.


Once again the city of West Hollywood is in the forefront of liberal causes.  Not known as “Gay Camelot” for nothing, having been one of the first in the nation to pass a same-sex marriage law, known as a haven for gay people, painting its crosswalks in rainbow hues, now it has taken one more step to make transpeople feel welcome.  An ordinance has been passed prohibiting the designation of “male” or “female” on single stall public restrooms. All such facilities have to be labeled “gender neutral.” (New York Times Jan. 18, 2015)