Join 3,512 readers in helping fund MetaFilter (Hide)


Tim to Kim
February 7, 2009 2:38 PM   Subscribe

German-born Kim Petras may be the world's youngest transsexual. Wanting to be a woman since the age of 2, she began taking female hormones at 12 and had gender reassignment surgery at 16. She's also an aspiring pop singer.
posted by MaryDellamorte (129 comments total) 1 user marked this as a favorite

 
at 16?! How did his parents manage not to have him taken away? Why were they NOT in the news for this? I am all for gender reassignment but this is ridiculous.
posted by parmanparman at 2:52 PM on February 7, 2009


Doesn't this happen all of the time in Brazil?
posted by The Giant Squid at 2:54 PM on February 7, 2009


Er, parmanparman, I think the correct term is "her".

There was a discussion on the blue a while back about how fraught the ethical decisions surrounding young transsexuals. The younger someone starts taking hormones and getting reassigned, the more successful the total operation and the ability to "pass." Waiting until someone is 18 can mean the difference between looking like the gender they want to look like and looking like a man in a dress or a woman with a spotty beard.

On the other hand, is this a decision that children can make for themselves? What do you do?
posted by schroedinger at 2:57 PM on February 7, 2009 [2 favorites]


parmanparman: according to the links, she was in the news a couple of years ago for this. Perhaps in Germany they don't think it's enough of a big deal to take children away? It's not like the parents forced her; she knew all along and likely was the driving force behind the decision.
posted by divabat at 3:05 PM on February 7, 2009


Well, there goes the new server...
posted by Ian A.T. at 3:06 PM on February 7, 2009 [8 favorites]


Not a fan of her music. But it's great she's getting this kind of support to be herself. Good for her.
posted by radiocontrolled at 3:06 PM on February 7, 2009


Von Tim zu Kim (pictures)
posted by F Mackenzie at 3:17 PM on February 7, 2009


If you think you are the wrong sex, then there is something wrong with your mind, not your body. "I'm a woman trapped in a man's body" is about as rational as "Guns don't kill people, people kill people".
posted by milkwood at 3:17 PM on February 7, 2009 [3 favorites]


The talk page of her wiki entry is depressing as all get out.
posted by the latin mouse at 3:17 PM on February 7, 2009 [1 favorite]


Youngest? I could have sworn they talked about and interviewed the family of one such child in the documentary Middle Sexes.
posted by munchingzombie at 3:18 PM on February 7, 2009


Well, there goes the new server...
posted by Ian A.T.

HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA
posted by milkwood at 3:18 PM on February 7, 2009


I think it's odd that she wishes to be publically known as transsexual given the amount of discrimination trans people face, vide the first comment here. However, I have nothing but full and unlimited support for trans people transitioning as soon as possible. If you this is a bit extreme, and maybe she should have tried living as male for a bit, would you also suggest that lesbians try liking men for a little bit? You know, kiss a few boys, try to think of men sexually until they're 'grown up' enough to make the 'decision' that they want to fuck women?
posted by Sova at 3:20 PM on February 7, 2009 [16 favorites]


Since they don't have mind reassignment surgery yet milkwood, what do you expect to happen?
posted by Foosnark at 3:20 PM on February 7, 2009 [3 favorites]


Good thing she got the hormone treatments early. Testosterone seems to be something of a one-way trip.

One day, brain science will have advanced far enough that we can get some kind of hint at what's going on, early. Intersex babies could have plumbing that matches their brains, rather than the current system, which sounds like something of a crapshoot. I imagine it would be a lot easier to get hormones and finally SRS if doctors could do a scan of the brain and say, "Well, looks like your daughter really is a boy on the inside."
posted by adipocere at 3:20 PM on February 7, 2009 [1 favorite]


I wish I could still be amazed at the constant infantilization directed by transphobes at transfolk.
posted by Pope Guilty at 3:22 PM on February 7, 2009 [14 favorites]


I saw this the other day and searched around for other links because it seemed odd. And it was true, which gave rise to a couple of other thoughts. Firstly - that's a really pretty (now) girl. Second, while I really dont care one way or the other if someone wants to be one gender or another and there are medical means to make that possible, I'm scratching my head a little as to how he figured that out at age two, or heck even later. I think my biggest thought at age two was remembering where to poop. And then on the creepy side, given her parents involvement and the kind of "marketing" of the girl and her story, there's something niggling in the back of my head that this smacks of a scam, or worse, some mind-blowingly horrendous abuse.

I really hope I'm wrong and she finally got what she needed to be happy with herself.
posted by elendil71 at 3:23 PM on February 7, 2009 [1 favorite]


posted by milkwood at 12:17 AM on February 8: If you think you are the wrong sex, then there is something wrong with your mind, not your body. "I'm a woman trapped in a man's body" is about as rational as "Guns don't kill people, people kill people".

1. So there's something wrong with her mind now? That's just a depressing view.
2. Your examples aren't even remotely the same thing.
posted by Foci for Analysis at 3:25 PM on February 7, 2009


milkwood: If you think you are the wrong sex, then there is something wrong with your mind, not your body. "I'm a woman trapped in a man's body" is about as rational as "Guns don't kill people, people kill people".

That's not relevant. There's known way to resolve the mental component so people instead choose to resolve the physical component.
posted by hupp at 3:25 PM on February 7, 2009


So what do they do with the, er, leftover penises? Weave 'em into baskets? Not-at-all-kosher hot dogs? Rope? Droopy straws? Recycle! It's good for the environment!
posted by jamstigator at 3:41 PM on February 7, 2009


milkwood: You define transsexualism as a mental disorder? OK, then I define your choice of hairstyle as a mental disorder. Let your hair grow long in its natural manner, don't deny your true nature.
posted by LogicalDash at 3:41 PM on February 7, 2009 [4 favorites]


people often regret hairstyles, but a little bit of time (and no surgery) takes care of that.

with sex reassignment, not so much
posted by rr at 3:45 PM on February 7, 2009 [1 favorite]


If you think you are the wrong sex, then there is something wrong with your mind, not your body. "I'm a woman trapped in a man's body" is about as rational as "Guns don't kill people, people kill people".

Shouldn't even reply to this comment, it's so nonsensical. But in the off-chance milkwood is actually concerned more with the mind-body problem than the "wtf" one: I think what you're saying is kind of true, although the way you frame it is (literally) problematic.

Genesis P-Orridge has a lot of poignant things to say about bodies, and did so in this kinda amazing Radar article about her/him(?):

Gen, who now prefers to be referred to as s/he, told me that most strangers—including doctors, members of his yoga class, and local residents in his working-class Latino neighborhood—tend to assume he is female. But pandrogeny isn't about the pain of being a man trapped in a woman's body, he explained; it's about the pain of being trapped in any body at all .

Well, that's how I see it, anyway. But trans people of course run the whole wide spectrum.
posted by theefixedstars at 3:47 PM on February 7, 2009 [6 favorites]



people often regret hairstyles, but a little bit of time (and no surgery) takes care of that.

with sex reassignment, not so much


Well done there, you managed to link to a google search, how fantastic of you. Had you actually bothered to read any of the results, you would find an academic paper which stated the following:

None reported outright regret and only a few expressed even occasional regret.


You want to guess the next two words I'm gonna type...?
posted by Sova at 3:51 PM on February 7, 2009


Some people think that they should not have functioning limbs. These people desire to have their limbs amputated. Should that be considered to be a mental disorder?

What if someone doesn't like his race and has a series of operations to change his skin color and facial features? Should that be considered a mental disorder?
posted by flarbuse at 3:52 PM on February 7, 2009


Whatever. We're dealing with such an incredibly small amount of people here, why don't we give them the benefit of the doubt instead of getting together to trumpet "You'll be SAHHHH-REEE...!!"

Sure, there is sometimes regret afterward, and the suicide rate for post-op transsexuals is troubling. But all that is covered in the counseling people receive beforehand, and almost no one gets that operation without being made acutely aware of what may follow.
posted by hermitosis at 3:53 PM on February 7, 2009 [1 favorite]


hermitosis: is the suicide rate for post-ops higher than pre-op transpeople? Because (and this is not at all directed at you, hermitosis), god knows why, with how this subject is going over on MeFi, it's kind of a bitch to not fit into the categories everyone thinks you naturally should.
posted by theefixedstars at 3:56 PM on February 7, 2009


I don't understand the name of the procedure. It gives a misleading impression of what is possible though medical technology today. We should call facelifts "age reassignment".
posted by specialfriend at 3:58 PM on February 7, 2009


(...I do worry that there's going to be a small but vocal group of transpeople who will become conservative christians and say that the health care community was evil to let them/encourage them to have any kind of access to gender reassignment. Maybe that's inevitable. But people are people. They do all kinds of things to alter themselves with the technology that's handy. Living within a body is hardly ideal.)
posted by theefixedstars at 4:01 PM on February 7, 2009


Wanting to be a woman since the age of 2

What in the hell does a two year-old know? I probably wanted to be a firetruck when I was two.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 4:04 PM on February 7, 2009 [8 favorites]


flarbuse and milkwood, hey, guess what! There are hundreds of sources on these here interwebs, talking about transpeople, what they go through, and how they arrive at the (often agonizing) decision to transition, that deal with your rather ignorant assumptions that of course, they're just mentally ill.

Maybe you should read some of them, here's a good place to start, I'm sure there are Mefites who can recommend others.

And a good rule of thumb is this: just because you don't understand a: transgenderism and b: a specific mental illness off does not mean a=b.
posted by emjaybee at 4:09 PM on February 7, 2009 [9 favorites]


I can't find much in the way of conclusive statistics worth posting. There's this, but their concern is based on how many transsexuals dropped out of the study. I see other studies that show an incredibly low rate of post-op dissatisfaction or suicide.

I do know for a fact, though, that these are definitely topics that are discussed exhaustively during the counseling that pre-op individuals receive. If a person has mental conditions that put them at high risk for suicide, then procedures like this are basically no-go.

What in the hell does a two year-old know? I probably wanted to be a firetruck when I was two.

I really, really hate this argument, or joke, or whatever you want to call it. It came up a lot in the last thread, too. It's incredibly dismissive and condescending.
posted by hermitosis at 4:13 PM on February 7, 2009 [12 favorites]


I'd like to reach out of the screen and smack some of you sexist bastards upside the head. Fuck y'all and the horse you rode in on.
posted by five fresh fish at 4:19 PM on February 7, 2009 [15 favorites]


What in the hell does a two year-old know? I probably wanted to be a firetruck when I was two.

I really, really hate this argument, or joke, or whatever you want to call it. It came up a lot in the last thread, too. It's incredibly dismissive and condescending."

----

The observation is one of the most replicable in the literature: Whether tested in 1893 or 1999 (West & Bauer, 1999), among adults in Western cultures, the average age of earliest memory is age 3 to 3½ years. - APA Online

Kim has a memory from the age of two? A memory of thinking "I'm the wrong sex?"

A record-setter in more ways than one, I'd say.
posted by Joe Beese at 4:21 PM on February 7, 2009 [2 favorites]


Kim has a memory from the age of two? A memory of thinking "I'm the wrong sex?"

So let me guess, you don't know what "average" means do you? Can I also venture a guess that you're a straight white male who has always felt pretty comfortable being so? Ass.
posted by hermitosis at 4:23 PM on February 7, 2009 [11 favorites]


I still want to be a firetruck. Firetrucks are awesome.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 4:26 PM on February 7, 2009 [6 favorites]


Joe Beese, with all due respect, fellah, let's pretend she was actually remembering something she felt when she was 3 1/2. How does that change things?
posted by theefixedstars at 4:27 PM on February 7, 2009


I still want to be a firetruck. Firetrucks are awesome.

You just want to be a firetruck so you can have a big hose!
posted by MaryDellamorte at 4:29 PM on February 7, 2009 [4 favorites]


I probably wanted to be a firetruck when I was two

Thank God I'm not the only one!

[sheds a tear, then, grunting, squats and expells 4 litres of used motor oil all over the sidewalk]
posted by CynicalKnight at 4:29 PM on February 7, 2009


I think the point is not that Tim wanted to be Kim at age two, it's that Tim wanted to be Kim at age two, at age three, at age four, at age five, at age six, at age seven, at age eight ...

That having been said, the bar really has been lowered for SRS. I know one extraordinarily unstable person who had one (although this is in Thailand) and one in the US gearing up for one. Their counselor is post-op, which is just ... a terribly bad idea. Talk about bringing your own issues to the session. It isn't like twenty years ago, when near Herculean effort was required to get the surgery, so you had few false positives but an awful lot of miserable false negatives.

That's why I think we need better science for understanding the human brain, so people with the wrong bodies can get the right ones, and people who have other issues masquerading as gender dysphoria can get the help they need, too.
posted by adipocere at 4:35 PM on February 7, 2009 [4 favorites]


What in the hell does a two year-old know?

Well, she presumably still wanted it at age three, four, five, six, seven, eight, nine, and on and on. What age will people accept as legitimately knowing what she wanted. I know gay people who realized they were gay at age seven or eight. In their twenties now and, yep, still gay.
posted by arcticwoman at 4:36 PM on February 7, 2009


I'm not a fan of the transgender phenomenon (for one, because I'm not big on the concept of gender at all; for two, because I just can't get my head around "make me what I am"), but I believe even more strongly that people should be allowed to make informed decisions about what to do with their own bodies.

Which is exactly why I don't think kids should be getting sex changes: There is no way this was an informed decision. A person would have to first know their body before rejecting it, and getting hormones from the age of twelve would make that impossible. A person seeking greener pastures would probably best be advised to at least wait until spring. Those bits being removed, do you even know what they're capable of?

Wanting to be a woman since the age of 2 is all kinds of fucked up. As if a two-year-old--or a twelve-year-old, or even a sixteen-year-old--can understand what that even means. Hell, I'm not even sure I do.

We don't let kids get tattoos, because kids are stupid and tattoos are permanent. Ditto here.
posted by Sys Rq at 4:38 PM on February 7, 2009 [2 favorites]


theefixedstars: "Joe Beese, with all due respect, fellah, let's pretend she was actually remembering something she felt when she was 3 1/2. How does that change things?"

"Fellah"? Is that irony or something?

I suppose you could argue that it would be evidence that Kim wanted this change so, so bad that she was driven to hyperbole to express its intensity.

But since the first newspaper link is to a page with a "Weird True Freaky" section and the second newspaper link is to the Daily Mail - a tabloid whose editorial policy Wikipedia describes has having a "anti-LGBT, anti-abortion view, based upon 'traditional values'", I would attribute the original error to indifferent reporting of what they consider a freak show.

Which is another way of saying that this was an uncomfortably news-of-the-weird post to begin with.
posted by Joe Beese at 4:42 PM on February 7, 2009


I think a lot of people who react strongly (on both sides of this issue) are reacting without completely thinking the situation through.

On one side, it is entirely possible that the parents of this girl were abusive in the way they reacted, questioned, and propelled their child. We've seen just about every form of abuse there is and this is entirely possible. If Munchausen-by-proxy happens, so can this.

On the other side, I've known a couple people who are gay/trans from childhood to adulthood, and it was blindingly obvious that they were "different" from a very young age. I don't think it's unfair to consider them different and I don't think it's unfair to wonder where that difference came from...perhaps for no other reason than to help them handle their difference more effectively and safely.

A 'male' friend of mine growing up was effeminate in the extreme. 'He' moved, talked, wrote, and acted different than other boys. At the end of high school he started living as a woman, and society didn't help him much. Without work he turned to the sex trade and a very few years later he was killed by a customer. I don't have any doubt that if society treated him differently this story would have been much different.

All that being said, he was different *mentally*, not obviously physically. His brain made him act differently. Maybe that difference will ultimately be treatable and maybe it won't. Will you all be as accepting (or not) whatever choice those people make?
posted by Kickstart70 at 4:45 PM on February 7, 2009


People seem to accept there is a real possibility that your mind can be one sex, and your genetic makeup another. I don't want to be fascile, but what is somebody believes they are, say, a bird - and such people do exist - do you find a surgical solution to make them look more avian?
posted by milkwood at 4:45 PM on February 7, 2009


This is so fucking depressing. I spent a lot of time figuring out who I am and then to hear that somebody decided they wanted to switch their sex at age 2? Sweet black baby jesus, don't let my mother find this.

"You were 10, why couldn't you figure out you wanted to be a big shot lawyer or doctor, huh? That kid over there, he switched his fucking sex by 16, while your damn ass was wandering about the country at 24, "trying to find yourself", what the hell?!

Thanks for wrecking the curve Kim.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 4:49 PM on February 7, 2009 [6 favorites]



theefixedstars: "Joe Beese, with all due respect, fellah, let's pretend she was actually remembering something she felt when she was 3 1/2. How does that change things?"

"Fellah"? Is that irony or something?

Sorry, joe beese, I meant the "fellah" as a term of affection, cuz I like you even though we disagree here. (And your profile says mr.)

I get your point about the Daily Mail. I wasn't sure if you were echoing the "what does a two year old know" sentiments. Which I think are kind of stupid in that they ignore a lot about biology and what it means to be human.
posted by theefixedstars at 4:52 PM on February 7, 2009 [1 favorite]


I'm not a fan of the transgender phenomenon (for one, because I'm not big on the concept of gender at all;...

So is there even an answer possible that would convince you? I mean, I'm sure you accept sexuality as intrinsic, but if you don't accept the concept of gender 'at all', then you certainly can't understand that gender too can be 'known' instrinsically. If a lesbian can know in childhood that they like women, then how different is it for a girl to know he is a boy, or vice versa?


I don't want to be fascile

Well, tough luck.
posted by Sova at 4:53 PM on February 7, 2009 [2 favorites]


milkwood: There exists a community of people called furries who do in fact wish to possess animal-like characteristics. They often get together at conventions and wear elaborate costumes.

If they wanted to get some kind of weird new cosmetic surgery in order to bring the fantasy into full effect, I'd say go for it. Because they're not fucking bothering anyone. What difference does it make how out of the norm their tastes are? These people still hold jobs and get married and will be mourned by someone when they die. If they want to live in an unusual way, why fucking stop them? If it grosses you out, then don't hang out with furries or trannies or whatever.
posted by LogicalDash at 5:01 PM on February 7, 2009 [2 favorites]


If you this is a bit extreme, and maybe she should have tried living as male for a bit, would you also suggest that lesbians try liking men for a little bit? You know, kiss a few boys, try to think of men sexually until they're 'grown up' enough to make the 'decision' that they want to fuck women?

First of all, homosexuality and transsexualism are two TOTALLY different issues, and secondly, they both involve huge, life-changing decisions (not to be, but to admit and commit) that should be made with as much unwavering certainty as possible.
posted by Sys Rq at 5:03 PM on February 7, 2009


flarbuse and milkwood, hey, guess what! There are hundreds of sources on these here interwebs, talking about transpeople, what they go through, and how they arrive at the (often agonizing) decision to transition, that deal with your rather ignorant assumptions that of course, they're just mentally ill.

My comment you referenced was:

Some people think that they should not have functioning limbs. These people desire to have their limbs amputated. Should that be considered to be a mental disorder?

What if someone doesn't like his race and has a series of operations to change his skin color and facial features? Should that be considered a mental disorder?


I brought up two other examples and asked if they should be considered mental illnesses. If your answer to either is different than your answer to transgendered people, then I would ask you to distinguish why one is a mental illness and one is not. At no point in my original comment did I say that transgendered folks have a mental disorder.
posted by flarbuse at 5:06 PM on February 7, 2009


First of all, homosexuality and transsexualism are two TOTALLY different issues

You want to explain why they differ? I mean, really differ, and not just, 'well, I like LGB people, but not T, so they're different to me'.
posted by Sova at 5:07 PM on February 7, 2009


Sys Rq: homosexuality and transsexualism are two TOTALLY different issues

I agree, though you have to accept that the "GLBT" used by so many activist groups does not help people who are ill-informed learn the different issues.
posted by Kickstart70 at 5:09 PM on February 7, 2009


I think its kind of interesting that her doctors were willing to do an orchiectomy, if that's what they did, before she reached "adulthood" (arbitrary line that it is). There's a significant physical difference for folks who start hormones early in puberty rather than as adults, but as far as I understand about the biology, the long-term physical impact of surgery wouldn't be different if it was performed for someone at 18 vs. 16. (And for those anxious about a 16 year old making a permanent decision about her body, I wonder if you think your reasoning abilities were significantly different at 18 from when you were 16. I don't think mine were, though I'm honestly not sure if I'm average in that respect.)
posted by serazin at 5:14 PM on February 7, 2009


Kim has a memory from the age of two? A memory of thinking "I'm the wrong sex?"

The Daily Mail article says she started calling herself a girl at age two. That information more than likely came from her parents, or if from Kim herself, was second hand information.

And as has been noted, the key is that she wanted to be a girl at two, three, four...and so on to 16.
posted by cmgonzalez at 5:17 PM on February 7, 2009


She seems happy, and it looks like this decision was not made rashly or without due caution. Is there some reason we can't leave it there?
posted by 0xFCAF at 5:31 PM on February 7, 2009 [6 favorites]


People seem to accept there is a real possibility that your mind can be one sex, and your genetic makeup another. I don't want to be fascile, but what is somebody believes they are, say, a bird - and such people do exist - do you find a surgical solution to make them look more avian?

Doesn't the genetic makeup decide both those things - both mind and the rest of the body, though? The problem comes when the genes that control those different parts don't agree and you get a female mind trapped in a male body, vice versa, and the whole spectrum inbetween.

Now show me how human genetics can somehow create an avian brain inside a human body.
posted by ymgve at 5:44 PM on February 7, 2009 [2 favorites]


If they wanted to get some kind of weird new cosmetic surgery in order to bring the fantasy into full effect, I'd say go for it.

They do.
posted by Tenuki at 5:45 PM on February 7, 2009 [1 favorite]


SO not her natural hair color.
posted by Mr. Anthropomorphism at 5:54 PM on February 7, 2009


My two-year-old often mentions that she's a girl, and that other kids are girls or boys, and that Mama is a woman and Papa is a man. Two-year-olds are aware of gender.
posted by The corpse in the library at 5:56 PM on February 7, 2009 [2 favorites]


If my daughter tells me she is a boy trapped in a girls body, you can bet I'm gonna sit up and take note. What kid is just going to come up with an idea like that out of the blue and then just keep hammering on that theme over and over for years if they don't really believe they are different? My heart goes out to anyone in that position; they are strong enough to be who they really are, not what we think they should be. It is the very definition of the word "individual".
posted by nola at 6:07 PM on February 7, 2009 [8 favorites]


milkwood: Tenuki beat me to mentioning Stalking Cat. I'll go ahead and give my nutshell version of the ethical argument surrounding extreme body modifications of that type, which goes something like this:

Con: By any reasonable definition, this is self-harm.
Pro: But it doesn't hurt anyone else, and it's done after substantial consideration and thought. Many activities that are self-harmful are not forbidden (certain sports, lesser body modifications, smoking, etc).
Con: But here the desire and the rationalization are both guided by abnormal mental processes.
Pro: Even if that were so, he isn't in immediate danger of death or unnecessary suffering, so it can't be right for society to force mental health treatment upon him.
Con: But it's gross and I don't like it.
Pro: Then don't look at it. Or, if you like, try to reason with him.

And that's about it. To me, the interesting thing about this case is that the reassignment was done before the age of majority in Germany. The ethical issue presented here is what the balance of power between the child and parents should be prior to the age of majority. In this case, all parties agreed that the assignment was appropriate. But what if that were not the case?

Obviously, having the parents unilaterally decide in favor of reassignment without the child's consent would be terrible. On the other hand, giving the parents unlimited veto power also seems somewhat extreme. What if one parent agrees and the other disagrees? Lots of ways to look at it, but they're all questions that ultimately turn on the laws and social norms of the particular country.
posted by jedicus at 6:08 PM on February 7, 2009


Kim has a memory from the age of two? A memory of thinking "I'm the wrong sex?"

So let me guess, you don't know what "average" means do you? Can I also venture a guess that you're a straight white male who has always felt pretty comfortable being so? Ass.
posted by hermitosis at 6:23 PM on February 7

You can go ahead and venture to guess whatever you want, but doing so in a public forum allows others to see your racist and sexist views. Wait, there's more to it than 'just' racism and sexism; it's also that you are also venturing to guess that he's a straight white male, which of course makes him wrong wrong wrong. I am venturing to guess that you believe that being white, male, and straight means that he cannot have a valid opinion here, and/or his own point of view?

Who's the ass?
posted by dancestoblue at 6:16 PM on February 7, 2009 [3 favorites]


Although the music isn't anything I'd listen to, I say good for her.

Also, Rae Spoon, whose bio & promo materials tout him as one of the world's only transgender country singers, has been making some great music.
posted by various at 6:18 PM on February 7, 2009 [1 favorite]


First of all, homosexuality and transsexualism are two TOTALLY different issues

No they are not. Every thing we feel and everything we know flows from one place, our mind. I don't think I'm a man because I want to and I don't like women because I choose to, I just do, I just am. And because I'm in the majority I have the luxory of never having to think about it, and better yet never having to explain it. But it does not change the fact that I am, and I didn't pick this model I was born this way. It's like yelling at a someone because they have red hair, it is the stupidest way a behaving.
posted by nola at 6:20 PM on February 7, 2009 [7 favorites]


So is there even an answer possible that would convince you? I mean, I'm sure you accept sexuality as intrinsic, but if you don't accept the concept of gender 'at all', then you certainly can't understand that gender too can be 'known' instrinsically. If a lesbian can know in childhood that they like women, then how different is it for a girl to know he is a boy, or vice versa?

It would probably explain a lot that I am and have always been a dead-centre bisexual, was very confused as a child, consider gender to be entirely irrelevant and its dichotic roles artificial, and do not understand at all the concept of black-and-white gender and sexuality. So, yeah, there's really no convincing me.

you have to accept that the "GLBT" used by so many activist groups does not help people who are ill-informed learn the different issues.


In all honesty, I hate all four of those letters for all the personal reasons I just explained,
plus a generally hippy-dippy aversion to labels, man. But, really, it's because the one that applies to me makes it a bit difficult to identify with the defining characteristics of the other three. I don't say this as a representative of the great lumping-in known as B, but as an individual who is occasionally a bit frustrated by that.

Also, the L is redundant.

You want to explain why they differ? I mean, really differ, and not just, 'well, I like LGB people, but not T, so they're different to me'.

I meant different as in "please do not conflate gender and sexuality." I most certainly did NOT say I "like" any group of individuals any more than another. I am not transsexual, ipso facto they are different from me in that regard; whether I "like" them is immaterial.
posted by Sys Rq at 6:22 PM on February 7, 2009 [1 favorite]


It's like yelling at a someone because they have red hair, it is the stupidest way a behaving.

Not directed at you Sys Rq
posted by nola at 6:25 PM on February 7, 2009


Also, the L is redundant.

As a lesbian, it's fucking well not redundant to me.

And as a woman living in a male-dominated culture, gender's certainly relevant to my life.
posted by rtha at 6:33 PM on February 7, 2009 [8 favorites]


I meant different as in "please do not conflate gender and sexuality." I most certainly did NOT say I "like" any group of individuals any more than another. I am not transsexual, ipso facto they are different from me in that regard; whether I "like" them is immaterial.

Um, I wasn't conflating sexuality and gender, just giving an example of how certain things are intrinsic to humans, and therefore pretty pointless to ignore and/or resist. I think most people got that, y'know.

Also, you did say: I'm not a fan of the transgender phenomenon.... Maybe I read it wrong and you simply don't have all their records. Or did you mean it another way, as in, 'I'm not a fan of the bisexual phenomenon...'? You must understand how that reads, and it's hardly an agnostic position.

I'm going to bed, send me an email if you like fruitless discussions that drag on forever with no possible conclusion, and I'm sure I'll rustle something up.
posted by Sova at 6:55 PM on February 7, 2009



Wanting to be a woman since the age of 2

What in the hell does a two year-old know? I probably wanted to be a firetruck when I was two.


Not that I don't find you comment funny as hell. I can remember telling my mom I wanted to be a dinosaur when I grew up, but I just have to say that people (no matter how young) have feelings and desires and those feelings and desires are real. At the age three I realized I was attracted to women. I was not confused about it in any way and knew knew if just as well as I knew the sound of my mothers voice. When I was four I asked my dad if I could kiss a girl the way he kissed mommy, first he asked me If I was a girl or a boy and I said "I'm a girl silly" and he said "people can kiss who ever they want as long as the other person wants to kiss them back". I knew I was a girl and I knew I wanted to kiss girls. Being three years old did not change change that fact.
posted by SheMulp AKA Plus 1 at 7:10 PM on February 7, 2009 [4 favorites]


What in the hell does a two year-old know? I probably wanted to be a firetruck when I was two.

I really, really hate this argument, or joke, or whatever you want to call it. It came up a lot in the last thread, too. It's incredibly dismissive and condescending.


What, suggesting two year olds may not be the best judges of what they want and whether it's a great long term idea is a "dismissive and condescending"?

Great, I'll let my two year old not brush her teeth and run on the road. It's what she wants, who am I to disagree?
posted by rodgerd at 7:11 PM on February 7, 2009


My two-year-old often mentions that she's a girl, and that other kids are girls or boys, and that Mama is a woman and Papa is a man. Two-year-olds are aware of gender.

My daughter has started playing a game where she tries to assign us our opposite roles. "Mama, you are Daddy. Daddy, you are Mama." She's also aware that she will be a woman, while her half-brother will be a man (and that "One day, Lias will have stubble like Daddy!". So, yes, two year olds can be adept at not just gender, but playing games with the idea for giggles. I don't think she's exceptional in that regard.
posted by rodgerd at 7:14 PM on February 7, 2009


Sys Rq: Who said transgendered people or trans-allies had a black-and-white view of gender? I know some lovely people who are neither gender. Or possibly they are both; I don't know either of them well enough to get that nosy. But anyway, it's called being genderqueer.

(And only a guy or, I suppose, a very lucky woman living in the West could say that gender is irrelevant, but I see that rtha beat me to it.)

Waaaay up-thread to adipocere: While I can see where you're coming from on feeling uncomfortable with her age (since I'm guessing that's the issue), every transperson I've spoken to has made it clear that the hoops they have to jump through even today are ridiculous and often quite psychologically damaging in their own right. They're expected to jump through hoops acting in appropriately masculine or feminine ways with their future at stake. If they don't succeed, well, no surgery. If they do succeed, then they have radical feminists going on about how transfolk people (especially MTFs) "parody" the genders and prove that it's all social - and then they proclaim their theories to the press and kick MTFs out of the Michigan Womyn's Festival and just, in general, team up with other random liberal-ish types like Sys Rq to make transpeople's lives hard where you'd think they might find some welcome. I mean, jeez.

(NOTE: NOT FEMINIST-IST. I am one myself. But I hate radical feminist transphobia.)

Now, I don't know how well you know these two soon-to-be-operated-on acquaintances of yours, but if I may:
1. Are you sure they haven't gotten previous counselling? Because I really can't see someone getting operated on in the US without it.
2. Assuming you're right that they're unstable, how do you know they won't stabilize after getting used to having a body that matches their internal sense of gender? The psychologically troubled transpeople I've known largely had issues because, you know, it kinda sucks to have the wrong body and to know that large swathes of the world population want to insult you/kill you/constantly dissect your mental state despite never having met you for it. I mean, jeez, I'm in the right-gendered body and I have enough problems.
3. In the nicest way possible, because I like you and also my mum raised me that way, is it really any of your damn business? Because, honestly, it seems sort of dirty pool (not to mention a good example of cis-privilege) to cast doubts on someone's candidacy for major surgery if you're not intimately involved in the process, and then to use those doubts as A Cautionary Tale of the Horrors that Could Happen if, I dunno, ten thousand other things besides Kim Petras' case were to happen. And if you were intimately involved, you would know that getting gender reassignment surgery is not, contrary to what you imply, a straightforward process even today.
posted by bettafish at 7:19 PM on February 7, 2009 [2 favorites]


First of all, homosexuality and transsexualism are two TOTALLY different issues, and secondly, they both involve huge, life-changing decisions (not to be, but to admit and commit) that should be made with as much unwavering certainty as possible.

I would agree with this, in that homosexuality is a matter of what you feel attracted to, and transsexualism has to do with who you think you are. So it is a really good idea for you to use the identity you feel you are for a bit before you make any surgical changes that would physically cement that identity.

But I believe this is a requirement of most transsexual surgeries; along with the pre-surgical consultation, in the US at least many states require transsexuals live as their desired gender for a while before allowing them to get the surgery.
posted by schroedinger at 7:29 PM on February 7, 2009


I wish I could take back having participated in this thread. I regret being part of the cis-gendered/non-trans way of thinking that allows us to believe we are somehow experts in other people's life experiences. I would have better spent my time thinking about how to help make metafilter a more comfortable, welcoming place for trans folks.
posted by serazin at 7:36 PM on February 7, 2009 [9 favorites]


What, suggesting two year olds may not be the best judges of what they want and whether it's a great long term idea is a "dismissive and condescending"?

Great, I'll let my two year old not brush her teeth and run on the road. It's what she wants, who am I to disagree?


rodgerd

Pardon me but I think you are overreacting just a bit. No one is saying "Lets let the kids play in traffic" the point is that children are people, very small people but people and if they have something to say about who they think they are and how they feel about where they fit in the world then we should listen. It is still not fair to dismiss a child's view because of lack of experience. No one said anything about letting kids go free into the world with no guidance.
posted by SheMulp AKA Plus 1 at 7:55 PM on February 7, 2009 [2 favorites]


ALL TRANSGENDERED PEOPLE ARE WELCOME HERE!

How's that, Serazin?

At least, they're all welcome in my section of Metafilter!
posted by PigAlien at 7:58 PM on February 7, 2009 [3 favorites]


I think gender reassignment surgery should be mandatory, along with foreign exchange study programs. There would be much less war in this world!
posted by PigAlien at 8:00 PM on February 7, 2009 [1 favorite]


It doesn't matter how I look at it, this is the medically sanctioned mutilation of a young boy who has some emotional problems.
posted by milkwood at 8:07 PM on February 7, 2009 [1 favorite]


Gender is a special and extremely sensitive category. If I told a blonde haired person she has darker hair in places and is almost a brunette, she may find the comment odd, but is unlikely to take offense. Now imagine I tell her that she has masculine qualities and is almost a man.

I don't see any rational reason that we should not play around with the signifiers of gender, besides not wanting the social stigmas against gender ambiguity. I know I wouldn't wear clothing that looks too feminine, not to mention nail polish or makeup to work, because the social repercussions of playing around with those boundaries are not worth the fleeting enjoyment I may get from it.

I can't think of a good rationale for a stigma about gender fluidity or non-conformity in a modern society. So we end up with a few awkward crushes on people with the wrong genitals, or maybe a few more sexual pairings that can't produce offspring, with modern life expectancy we are definitely in no danger of not reproducing with enough fecundity as a species. As humans we are capable of getting over gut level reactions whether the source be biological or social, and we have huge amounts to gain and very little to lose by trying to get over our gender hangups.
posted by idiopath at 8:13 PM on February 7, 2009 [1 favorite]


I remember playing with ideas about gender just like rodgerd's daughter, and my parents were quite mellow about it, if not as cool as SheMulp AKA Plus 1's dad. And that episode wore off.

I think there is a qualitative difference between a child playing around and evincing severe consistent distress over years.

We don't know the details of this person's history so we can't tell whether this is stupid parents encouraging a whim or sensitive ones bowing to an innate sense of identity. I don't feel able to pass judgement without the kind of snooping I can't condone. There is way too much outrage based on hypotheticals in this thread.
posted by i_am_joe's_spleen at 9:02 PM on February 7, 2009


Coming in late here, but I was under the impression that people seeking gender reassignment surgery have to undergo a pretty heavy-duty battery of psychological testing beofre surgery. If they did that here, and there's no medical issues tied to age (IANAD), I really don't see how age is really an issue in this case.
posted by jonmc at 9:03 PM on February 7, 2009


milkwood is not making an argument, he's just airing his prejudices. Hopefully this won't convince anyone.
posted by LogicalDash at 10:17 PM on February 7, 2009 [3 favorites]


Why does anyone care what other people do with their bodies? I've never been able to figure that one out. The human organism is so amazingly complex and each one of us so different, it seems natural and obvious to me that some people will have gender dysphoria. Nothing surprises me, really, and as long as people are allowed to seek their own happiness, I'm good! Its not my job to question what other people's happiness is, unless it interferes with my own.
posted by PigAlien at 10:43 PM on February 7, 2009 [2 favorites]


Personally, I think this is a case by case situation. My stance is that a reputable psychiatrist should evaluate the person before greenlighting the surgery, as some people are impulsive and immature at an age of consent, and some people are entirely sure and mature below that age (assuming the parents also approve). IIRC, a psychological examination is pretty much required if you seek such surgery. Since this person is past or at least in the very late stages of puberty, the doctors probably behaved properly. Any younger would be unethical, since a person is an adolescent at that age.
posted by mccarty.tim at 10:50 PM on February 7, 2009


She is no where near the youngest. The youngest have it happen to them before they can even speak, as babies with questionable genitalia. Their parents and doctors decide for them and then it is done. Thankfully, this is starting to change.
posted by caddis at 10:55 PM on February 7, 2009 [4 favorites]


Twelve seems too young to be putting someone on hormone therapy. I know the longer you wait the less they can accomplish, but puberty isn't just about physical changes. It really alters your brain in significant ways.

I don't think it would be a stretch to think some people confused about their gender become more comfortable with themselves as that process unfolds. Of course, it can also make the whole schism between mind and body much worse.

There are no simple answers here, no "you must be this old to make a rational decision", the best course is to let a therapist pay intense attention and only make the final decision at the last possible moment.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 12:29 AM on February 8, 2009


I am venturing to guess that you believe that being white, male, and straight means that he cannot have a valid opinion here, and/or his own point of view?

Jesus, I get so tired of listening to straight white males playing the victim on Metafilter -- and I'm a straight white man.

God alone knows how the rest of you must feel.
posted by PeterMcDermott at 1:21 AM on February 8, 2009 [12 favorites]


Great, I'll let my two year old not brush her teeth and run on the road. It's what she wants, who am I to disagree?

So they did the surgery when this kid was two, did they?

Nope. They waited another TEN years before starting the hormone treatment, and FOURTEEN years before doing the surgery.

Hardly a rush to fucking judgement.
posted by PeterMcDermott at 1:23 AM on February 8, 2009 [2 favorites]


What, suggesting two year olds may not be the best judges of what they want and whether it's a great long term idea is a "dismissive and condescending"?

You'd have a point if we were talking about gender reassignment on a toddler. But we are not, which means you're just being a jackass.


It doesn't matter how I look at it, this is the medically sanctioned mutilation of a young boy who has some emotional problems.

Yah, well, it'd help if you'd look at it with open eyes and even a modicum of knowledge. You make your statement in complete ignorance of how Kim, her family, and her doctors determined that early surgery was the best decision.

I will assert that you also make your statement with near complete ignorance of what transsexualism is, have not read the stories transsexuals have told of their experiences growing up, and do not understand the significant distress transsexuals face when maturity comes out of the blue and does the exact wrong thing to their bodies.

On behalf of Kim: Fuck you, you ignorant asshole.


Twelve seems too young to be putting someone on hormone therapy. I know the longer you wait the less they can accomplish, but puberty isn't just about physical changes. It really alters your brain in significant ways. I don't think it would be a stretch to think some people confused about their gender become more comfortable with themselves as that process unfolds. Of course, it can also make the whole schism between mind and body much worse.

Much the same can be said to you. Go do some self-educating. You'll find that people who are transsexual at a very young age aren't particularly "confused" about their gender: they know that it is wrong. Making them go through the horrifying process of sprouting secondary sexual characteristics is cruel, psychologically damaging, and stupid.


I am venturing to guess that you believe that being white, male, and straight means that he cannot have a valid opinion here, and/or his own point of view?

As a straight, while male, the dipshit has never had to deal with wrestling with problems of genderism, sexism, racism, and self-identity. He's been able to just happily truck along, perfectly content to be what he is and the advantages he has by lucky dint of his colour and sex.

So stuff that in your pipe and smoke it, jackass.


Footnote:

"Also, the L is redundant." As a lesbian, it's fucking well not redundant to me.

I think the gist was that the "G" covers both sexes. Unless I'm uninformed, and it turns out that in the LGBT community, only males are gay.
posted by five fresh fish at 1:33 AM on February 8, 2009 [6 favorites]


Fuck me blue, I used the wrong word. I should have been writing "transgendered" in that message.

My apologies to the transgendered for that mistake. I is teh dumb soemtimes.

furiousxgeorge: On re-reading your post, I perhaps should not have included you in my response to those assholes. I think you're wrong, but at least you recognize that for a transsexual, the longer the wait, the worse the damage.

On the other hand, you do use the word "confused," which is not accurate and is in fact quite inappropriate when discussing transsexuals.
posted by five fresh fish at 1:40 AM on February 8, 2009


Goddamnme, I did it again.

Goodnight.
posted by five fresh fish at 1:41 AM on February 8, 2009


I honestly don't think this is so much of an ethical question, as it is a technological one. The real problem here is we haven't advanced medical science to the point where some 17 year-old from Buttfuck-Jesus Texas can on a drunken whim say "Well shee-it, I'm going to spend the summer as a woman."

Think I'm joking? Well consider: 150 years ago, this debate would have been seen as bizarre, because there was no way people could even conceive of regimen of surgery and drug therapy turning a man into a woman, or vice versa. So the question really is, how long will it be until sex changes are considered as routine a procedure as say, breast implants, or capping teeth?

And when I say it's a matter of time, it's really a matter of money. I can't help but think if we had a sex change initiative on the scale of the moon shot program, we'd reach the goal of casual ses changes in a couple of decades. But much as I respect the man, I can't see President Obama going before Congress and making a Kennedy style speech on sex changes. So unfortunately, we'll have to leave it to the whims of the free market.
posted by happyroach at 1:47 AM on February 8, 2009 [3 favorites]


*deep breath*

First off, she's not the world's youngest transsexual person; the world's youngest transsexual person has just been born. Oh! There's another one now! She's the world's youngest recipient of SRS. She's certainly not the youngest transitioner, since there are plenty of kids who complete social transition before puberty.

If you think you are the wrong sex, then there is something wrong with your mind, not your body. "I'm a woman trapped in a man's body" is about as rational as "Guns don't kill people, people kill people".

It's considerably less risky to tinker with surface stuff than it is to randomly hack into the brain with a scalpel hoping to cut out the transsexual bit. Oh? You meant psychotherapy? Reparative therapy? Been tried. Doesn't work. Treat reports of "ex-transsexuals" with the same scepticism you would bring to reports of "ex-gays".

I'm scratching my head a little as to how he figured that out at age two, or heck even later.

She figured nothing out. When did my brother figure out he was a boy? He didn't! When did I figure out I was a girl? I didn't! I always knew, which created a bunch of painful incidents during childhood and really, really hurt during adolescence. As soon as I found out what a transsexual woman was (Eurovision 1998), I was all, hey, that's me. That information is a little more common these days.

So what do they do with the, er, leftover penises? Weave 'em into baskets? Not-at-all-kosher hot dogs? Rope? Droopy straws? Recycle! It's good for the environment!

Everyone always wants to know about THE SURGERY. I'm a little sick of us always being defined by THE SURGERY, but here we go: the penis is inverted and pushed inside, and the really sensitive bit under the foreskin is turned into a clitoris. It's the testicles that are thrown away; or, in my case, sent off to help with HIV research. I'm not entirely clear on how my balls help with science, but I'm assuming it's just because they look spiffy in the lab coats.

Some people think that they should not have functioning limbs. These people desire to have their limbs amputated. Should that be considered to be a mental disorder?

What if someone doesn't like his race and has a series of operations to change his skin color and facial features? Should that be considered a mental disorder?


I admire your ability to use your amazing powers of common sense. I'm amazed that no-one thought of - let alone debunked - those arguments before! Please, tell me more.

That's why I think we need better science for understanding the human brain, so people with the wrong bodies can get the right ones, and people who have other issues masquerading as gender dysphoria can get the help they need, too.

The problem with that is, what if we have 80% understanding, and transsexuality has two possible causes but we only know about one? We end up denying treatment to genuine cases. Until we have super space science and understand everything there is to understand, it's better to rely on testimony.

Which is exactly why I don't think kids should be getting sex changes: There is no way this was an informed decision. A person would have to first know their body before rejecting it, and getting hormones from the age of twelve would make that impossible.

Please understand that what you are saying here is based on your understanding of your body and mind. Don't generalise from your experience.

She seems happy, and it looks like this decision was not made rashly or without due caution. Is there some reason we can't leave it there?

Silly thing! Trans people are bad and wrong! We need education from the smart cis people who've read three news articles and done a google search in order to overcome our lifetimes of experience.

If my daughter tells me she is a boy trapped in a girls body, you can bet I'm gonna sit up and take note. What kid is just going to come up with an idea like that out of the blue and then just keep hammering on that theme over and over for years if they don't really believe they are different?

This. The world is extraordinarily gender-aware, and the fact of your apparent gender is rammed down your throat from birth to death. To go against that - and face everything that means - takes certainty. We don't do it lightly or without thought.

consider gender to be entirely irrelevant and its dichotic roles artificial

There's quite obviously a real element to sex and gender, otherwise there wouldn't be so many transsexual people. Or are we all unenlightened?

I regret being part of the cis-gendered/non-trans way of thinking that allows us to believe we are somehow experts in other people's life experiences.

Thanks for this :)

It doesn't matter how I look at it, this is the medically sanctioned mutilation of a young boy who has some emotional problems.

Awesome! It's nice to see all this drilled down to "mutilation" and "emotional problems" again.

Coming in late here, but I was under the impression that people seeking gender reassignment surgery have to undergo a pretty heavy-duty battery of psychological testing beofre surgery. If they did that here, and there's no medical issues tied to age (IANAD), I really don't see how age is really an issue in this case.

This is the case. But I would add that, even after counselling, surgery is not the end point. First there is HRT and a long while spent living "in role" (two years in the UK right now, on the NHS at least). Then, only after the individual has demonstrated that they are happy, well-adjusted and able to live in said role. They are usually required to be in work - or other significant activity - so that they can prove they haven't just spent the two years hiding from everyone in a dark room.

Surgery is also not the super-important be-all and end-all of transition that people make it out to be. I didn't have surgery until eight years after I transitioned; I just didn't get around to it. Afterwards I feel a hell of a lot more comfortable and I kinda wish I'd fast-tracked myself, but before I had a perfectly happy life.

Twelve seems too young to be putting someone on hormone therapy. I know the longer you wait the less they can accomplish, but puberty isn't just about physical changes. It really alters your brain in significant ways.

Generally speaking those "significant ways" don't affect a transsexual person's perception of their own sex.

Anyway! Good for her, and well done to her parents. If I'd known what a transsexual person was at the age of twelve, and I wasn't paralysed by fear, I would have tried to do what she did. She got to spend her childhood as who she was, without every moment runied, hiding behind an elaborately constructed stone man, and for that I'm extraordinarily happy for her; and a little bit envious.
posted by ArmyOfKittens at 2:33 AM on February 8, 2009 [28 favorites]


It would probably explain a lot that I am and have always been a dead-centre bisexual, was very confused as a child, consider gender to be entirely irrelevant and its dichotic roles artificial, and do not understand at all the concept of black-and-white gender and sexuality. So, yeah, there's really no convincing me.
OK, SysReq, I'm gonna talk to you one queer to another. Something was supposed to happen when you realised that your sexuality and gender weren't exactly the way society expected them to be. You were supposed to develop some fucking empathy. What went wrong? You've been handed the biggest object-lesson in Why Telling People How To Desire And Identify Is Fucked Up that anyone could ever have wished for, and the fact that you still don't get it is starting to look bad. Being bi and a bit genderqueer doesn't mean you get to slot your own characteristics into some kind of generic Mad Lib speech about how it's actually your particular configuration that is the Supreme Ideal For All Mankind. It means you get to realise how self-serving those speeches always are.
posted by Acheman at 3:34 AM on February 8, 2009 [12 favorites]



furiousxgeorge: On re-reading your post, I perhaps should not have included you in my response to those assholes. I think you're wrong, but at least you recognize that for a transsexual, the longer the wait, the worse the damage.


No problem, this discussion is an ethical, moral, scientific, psychological, and social mine field. We aren't gonna talk about it without some misunderstanding and some areas of disagreement.

I think you are underestimating the amount of gender confusion out there, it really isn't black and white. Some people just feel wrong in their body but can't place why, and sometimes letting the natural course take place corrects that.


Of course, for a true transsexual that doesn't happen, but my point was you should wait for serious stuff like hormone treatment until it is sure. There are changes you can't reverse from that.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 3:40 AM on February 8, 2009


First of all, homosexuality and transsexualism are two TOTALLY different issues, and secondly, they both involve huge, life-changing decisions (not to be, but to admit and commit) that should be made with as much unwavering certainty as possible.

It's not a decision.
posted by Pope Guilty at 5:52 AM on February 8, 2009



It's not a decision.


Read what you quoted.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 6:35 AM on February 8, 2009 [1 favorite]


I think the gist was that the "G" covers both sexes. Unless I'm uninformed, and it turns out that in the LGBT community, only males are gay.

Not to derail further, but generally, if people (gay people) start talking about "gay", it often defaults to "male" even if they don't initially mean it that way. I call myself gay, sometimes, or queer or dyke or lesbian - I change it up. So to make things crystal-clear for those in the back, I think it's important to keep the big ole L-word front and center. Because when the default is assumed to be male, even unintentionally, a lot of people get left out.
posted by rtha at 7:30 AM on February 8, 2009 [8 favorites]


Sys Req: First of all, homosexuality and transsexualism are two TOTALLY different issues, and secondly, they both involve huge, life-changing decisions (not to be, but to admit and commit) that should be made with as much unwavering certainty as possible.

Generally, the point of doing puberty-blockers is to delay the irreversible decisions until someone is older.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 10:06 AM on February 8, 2009


Something was supposed to happen when you realised that your sexuality and gender weren't exactly the way society expected them to be. You were supposed to develop some fucking empathy. What went wrong?

I think what SysReq is saying is significant mostly because it's such a common feeling among feminists--we've been taught that gender is completely a social construct, that we're women no matter what we're into wearing or doing or being, which doesn't really mesh up well with the idea of surgically and hormonally changing one's sex to create a new gender.

While I agree that empathy is necessary in all situations, I think society could learn something from these feminists. I think it was on that 20/20 special about transkids where I saw a segment about a twelve year old transgirl. Her parents had been very freaked out when she was little because she (then he) wanted to play with her twin sister's toys. The parents also referred to her as "clingy" and "girly." They took all the toys away from her, and then when she started to insist she was a girl--to me, a really logical reaction for a kid--took her to therapy. I don't think that this is necessarily the parents' fault, but I also couldn't help but think "Let the kid play with whatever she wants! Liking pink or clinging to her mother has no relationship to what's in her pants!"

Years ago, I read a biography of a transwoman who, before surgery, considered keeping part of her penis. I don't remember if she brought it up with her doctor, but the idea was totally taboo and forbidden; during the transition, you're supposed to wholly embrace your new sex. Why would you want to keep part of your penis, to be something in between? But if we're changing our genitals, what's wrong with being something in between, or being whatever we want to be? I think this attitude impacts MTF transexuals more strongly than FTM transexuals, if only because bottom surgery sucks so utterly for FTMs. I've known many more transpeople who were female at birth whose gender identity was something in-between rather than male or female, and I really wonder if this has to do with the stringent requirements requirements for surgery imposed on transitioning people by the medical community.

I think finally embracing gender as a social construct would be beneficial because it would lessen the need for surgery (which, like any plastic surgery, has risks involved) and HRT (which is associated with various types of cancer, an increase of tumors). Medical transitioning is serious stuff, and in my ideal world, the necessity for it would be mitigated by embracing women with male genitalia as women and men with female genitalia as men and letting all sorts of people in between be whatever they damn well please--it would certainly be a safer place for kids born with ambiguous genitalia and eliminate the need for doctors to make those decisions for people too young to make them themselves. I don't think it would eliminate the need for sex reassignment completely, of course, but it would let it be a last resort, which isn't what it is in our society now: it's the only answer, really, for people whose gender identities don't match up with what's in their heads, because if you feel you're different than your genitals, our society now treats you like you're just a freak.

I'll get down off my soapbox now, but I do want to say this: kids can have absolutely incorrect ideas about gender and sex, even as it's something they're highly aware of. When I was a kid I insisted that babies with long eyelashes were girls. I had cartoons to thank for that, but I think the key is that little kids are still learning.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 10:11 AM on February 8, 2009 [3 favorites]


PhoBWanKenobi: Well, there is a lot of criticism within the transgender community regarding the "standard narrative" which emphasizes gender role non-conformity and the idea of a single path that ends with full surgical interventions.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 10:42 AM on February 8, 2009


PhoBWanKenobi: Well, there is a lot of criticism within the transgender community regarding the "standard narrative" which emphasizes gender role non-conformity and the idea of a single path that ends with full surgical interventions.

Ah, I realize that what I wrote could be read as a critique of the trans community; I meant more that these are attitudes that need to enter the mainstream, especially as most (though certainly not all) medical professionals who ultimately hold the cards in these situations are members of the mainstream, where rigid gender roles, rather than the identity of the individual, are emphasized.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 10:49 AM on February 8, 2009


Oh, I'm sorry. I just wanted to elaborate that the trans* community has been wrestling with the issue of role vs. identity and how it relates to legal and medical transition and practice for a while. There is a lot of frustration out there with the way that transgender identity in childhood is presented as all about the toys.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 11:06 AM on February 8, 2009


I like how everyone just carries on with this debate even after someone who is trans comes in to talk about the problem of cis-gendered people posing as experts on these issues. And when I say, "like", I mean, I think its incredibly disrespectful.
posted by serazin at 12:02 PM on February 8, 2009


Acheman: Believe it or not, I already know that I'm not omniscient. No "Supreme Ideal," just one person's perspective. The comment about my personal backstory was intended to clarify to the few folks who, like you, mistook my previous admission of puzzlement for HATE OMG HATE, which is 100% not the case.

My unshakable beliefs on the issue of gender (i.e. that it is nothing more than physical attributes and societal artifice), and my personal experiences of same, are simply not compatible with the fundamental transgender notion of male and female. One person's beliefs do not invalidate another's, and it was certainly not my intent to do so.

If a girl is born with a boy's body, or vice-versa, and it's such a problem that it must be dealt with surgically, by all means, go for it. (Although, for purely ethical reasons, I still think surgery should be put off until adulthood.) But, being as I am and seeing the world the way I do, I just plain don't get it. If Boy and Girl are equal...it just doesn't compute.

But understanding is not necessary for empathy. People are people, and anguish is anguish. I don't need to be punched in the face to know it hurts. I can't grok the "...trapped in a..." concept, but if it's even a little like torture, I'm all for fixing it.

Lest there be any lingering doubt: I absolutely empathize with transgender people; I absolutely recognize their very real and unenviable struggles; I absolutely admire the immeasurable courage and determination necessary for transgender people to simply live comfortably, I absolutely cheer with all my heart those who make it that far, I absolutely mourn the loss of those who don't; I absolutely believe transgender people should be afforded all the same rights and privileges as everyone else.

Okay? Okay.
posted by Sys Rq at 12:21 PM on February 8, 2009


I like how everyone just carries on with this debate even after someone who is trans comes in to talk about the problem of cis-gendered people posing as experts on these issues. And when I say, "like", I mean, I think its incredibly disrespectful.

So . . . we're not allowed to discuss it at all?

I'm not posing as an expert. I can't speak for transpeople, and I don't purport to. That being said, I've had many trans friends. Making the world a more welcoming and accepting place for them (and for me, this includes loosening my perceptions of gender norms to make it a more welcoming and accepting place for them at any stage of the transition--after all, pre-op is a time when a huge amount of harassment and violence towards transpeople occurs) is incredibly important to me. Shutting people like Sys Req out of the discussion, much less cis-gendered people who would advocate for the transgendered is a bad, bad idea. While I'm sure Army of Kittens and other transpeople get tired of fielding questions from the cis-gendered (the weariness is palpable, and I don't blame her!), that doesn't mean that increasing understanding through respectful and empathetic discussion isn't important. Because it is. Incredibly important. I mean, people get murdered because of ignorance and fear and lack of understanding.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 12:32 PM on February 8, 2009 [1 favorite]


Sorry, Sys Rq.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 12:33 PM on February 8, 2009


I think that males should ignore feminism, straight people should pretend they've never heard of homesexuality, and white people should say that they know nothing about racism. Because the only way a minority group is ever going to achieve mainstream equality is if people not in that group have nothing to do with the debate. Yea?
posted by jacalata at 12:35 PM on February 8, 2009 [3 favorites]


"You must be a straight white male - you're an ass!"

"You realize that's a sexist racist thing to say, right?"

"I'm sick of straight white males playing the victim!"

Shouldn't that complaint be directed at the person performing the victimizing, rather than the person who noticed? That's not "playing the victim", that's just "paying attention".
posted by roystgnr at 12:47 PM on February 8, 2009


I expected better from you, MetaFilter.
posted by you're a kitty! at 12:50 PM on February 8, 2009 [1 favorite]


Years ago, I read a biography of a transwoman who, before surgery, considered keeping part of her penis. I don't remember if she brought it up with her doctor, but the idea was totally taboo and forbidden; during the transition, you're supposed to wholly embrace your new sex. Why would you want to keep part of your penis, to be something in between?

This sort of thing is rather problematic, definitely. There are a lot of "non-op" trans people out there, and they have vastly different reasons for not wanting the operation: some just don't feel that bad about their existing genitals, or they like them; some don't want to exchange functioning reproductive tissue with non-functioning; some don't think the quality of the results is good enough to go on the table. But most of the diagnostic and legal framework around trans people is built around the assumption of surgery, particularly where trans women are concerned, and so there are outside pressures involved, from the moment you start treatment, to get that surgery; obsess over it, even. I believe it's a pain in the face to get a Gender Recognition Certificate (the patronising term for all the fucking around with birth certificates the UK government does) if you're a non-op trans woman, for example. This is, of course, complete bullshit, but one of the problems of being trans is that no-one seems to trust you to know your own mind.

But if we're changing our genitals, what's wrong with being something in between, or being whatever we want to be? I think this attitude impacts MTF transexuals more strongly than FTM transexuals, if only because bottom surgery sucks so utterly for FTMs. I've known many more transpeople who were female at birth whose gender identity was something in-between rather than male or female, and I really wonder if this has to do with the stringent requirements requirements for surgery imposed on transitioning people by the medical community.

I would agree with this. I think there are other factors at work within some butch lesbian communities that relate to this, but I'm far from an expert on that so I won't presume.

I think finally embracing gender as a social construct would be beneficial because it would lessen the need for surgery (which, like any plastic surgery, has risks involved) and HRT (which is associated with various types of cancer, an increase of tumors). Medical transitioning is serious stuff, and in my ideal world, the necessity for it would be mitigated by embracing women with male genitalia as women and men with female genitalia as men and letting all sorts of people in between be whatever they damn well please--it would certainly be a safer place for kids born with ambiguous genitalia and eliminate the need for doctors to make those decisions for people too young to make them themselves. I don't think it would eliminate the need for sex reassignment completely, of course, but it would let it be a last resort, which isn't what it is in our society now: it's the only answer, really, for people whose gender identities don't match up with what's in their heads, because if you feel you're different than your genitals, our society now treats you like you're just a freak.

I mostly agree with this, but if I were to say it I wouldn't stress that SRS (and HRT) are last resorts to quite the same degree. My experience ANECDOTAL EVIDENCE ALERT suggests that a very large proportion of trans women have had their lives vastly improved by HRT and SRS and undoubtedly would have similar needs under a more permissive society. I'm also not down with defining gender as a whole as an entirely social construct since I believe, like most things in this area, that it is a mixture of the social and the meaty; proportions may vary according to recipe.

I'll get down off my soapbox now, but I do want to say this: kids can have absolutely incorrect ideas about gender and sex, even as it's something they're highly aware of. When I was a kid I insisted that babies with long eyelashes were girls. I had cartoons to thank for that, but I think the key is that little kids are still learning.

I would pull this up, though. Much of the dissonance experienced by trans children is not in what they see in other people, but what other people see in them.

PhoB, I'd like to thank you for not saying, "If society abolished gender as a concept we would all be freer, therefore trans people must suffer now." I don't want to suggest that you'd ever say that, of course, but some of your comment reminded me of sentiments I've seen from other people.

I like how everyone just carries on with this debate even after someone who is trans comes in to talk about the problem of cis-gendered people posing as experts on these issues.

Speaking only for myself, I have no problem with cis people discussing trans issues in general; it's only when people with no experience in the field at all make AWESOME COMMON SENSE statements that it really starts to get to me. Fortunately, those people seem to have gone away.

If Boy and Girl are equal...it just doesn't compute.

I wouldn't ever suggest that the existence of trans people means that men and women aren't equal. I wouldn't even suggest that our existence proves that there are innate differences that do not necessarily rigidly divide along the line of male and female or masculine and feminine, although I believe something along those lines. All I would suggest is that the existence of trans people proves that there is some small part of the brain wired to sex, and that sometimes this bit can get wired wrong. The book Whipping Girl by Julia Serano goes into this sort of stuff at length.
posted by ArmyOfKittens at 1:20 PM on February 8, 2009 [4 favorites]


serazin: Don't make assumptions about how we identify.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 1:21 PM on February 8, 2009


I'm also not down with defining gender as a whole as an entirely social construct since I believe, like most things in this area, that it is a mixture of the social and the meaty; proportions may vary according to recipe.

I constantly have arguments about this with even my feminist SO. Thanks in a large part to my education into feminism, I tend to default to this thought process: Since we don't know what aspects are biological or social, it's safer to assume all aspects are social because making assumptions in the opposite direct increase discrimination against women and men who don't fit into the gender norms. I think a lot of feminists, especially old schooley ones (the ones in that recent FPP about lesbian separatist communities, for instance) think this way--but this assumption clearly fits poorly with the experiences of many transpeople. Which is a shame, because we're all out for the same goal, really--acceptance and equality.

PhoB, I'd like to thank you for not saying, "If society abolished gender as a concept we would all be freer, therefore trans people must suffer now." I don't want to suggest that you'd ever say that, of course, but some of your comment reminded me of sentiments I've seen from other people.

Oh, no, of course not. The system sucks, that's for sure. But I would never fault people who are just trying to do their best within it.

Anyway, I'd like to thank you, AoK for respectfully responding to me and others upthread. Despite the presence of a lot of tripe on this thread, it's been a valuable discussion for me, and I hope at least few others.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 1:32 PM on February 8, 2009 [1 favorite]


I am completely blown away by the sheer volume of transphobic comments in this thread. Did we recently start giving away free mefi accounts at lgf or something?
posted by Baby_Balrog at 1:42 PM on February 8, 2009 [5 favorites]


I constantly have arguments about this with even my feminist SO. Thanks in a large part to my education into feminism, I tend to default to this thought process: Since we don't know what aspects are biological or social, it's safer to assume all aspects are social because making assumptions in the opposite direct increase discrimination against women and men who don't fit into the gender norms. I think a lot of feminists, especially old schooley ones (the ones in that recent FPP about lesbian separatist communities, for instance) think this way--but this assumption clearly fits poorly with the experiences of many transpeople.

I kinda agree, actually; that's a pretty level-headed way to look at it. Julia Serano distinguishes between physical sex, subconscious sex, and gender expression, and I like this division; physical and subconscious sex being innate (and aligned, and thus invisible, in most people) and gender expression/identity being loosely connected to the former and very much influenced by social gender roles.

I don't think that gender expression/identity is why most transsexual people transition; it's certainly not why I did. Transsexuality is about the physical and subconscious sexes being out of sync, and transition is about aligning them. Is it possible that I am a more feminine person than I would have been if I'd been born a cis woman, because my need to "pass" has influenced my gender presentation? Possibly, although I'm lucky enough to "pass" without putting in any effort at all, and I know several trans women who identify and present as butch lesbians. I think a lot of trans trans women get shit for "overdoing" femininity, which is unfair: when "passing" is important to maintain employment or to stay out of physical danger, throwing on a little more lippy is preferable to the alternative. So I do think trans women like that, in a post-gender world, would be much more androgynous. But some of us would still be hyper-feminine, because that's how we were built :)

I vary. Some days I'm super-feminine, other days I'm almost butch. Like a lot of women, my gender identity and presentation changes with my mood. But my subconscious sex remains the same: I'm still a woman, and I always will be.

apologies for shoving "pass" into scare quotes, but I hate that word and its connotations: that the act of "passing" is an active act, that we're deceiving everyone we meet into believing we're this or that sex. ugh.
posted by ArmyOfKittens at 1:58 PM on February 8, 2009 [2 favorites]


A passing thought regarding HRT: we have several "thinking" systems within our bodies. There is the brain, yes, but there is also the endocrine system. The endocrine system is a signalling system, just as the nervous system is. And it interacts with the nervous system — which means that it is part of our mental makeup, our sense of self.

When puberty hits, little wonder, then, that transgender children are distressed: a chunk of their sense of self is at odds with the sense of self they've been living with all their life.

Going out on a limb: It would not surprise me were it shown that HRT started at puberty results in a reduced need for sexual reassignment surgery. When one's hormones match one's greater mental state/sense of self, I'll bet the presence or absence of dangly bits is a lot less important; it's not like we're hyper-aware of our groin all day (at least, not as adults). Reassignment would probably be a matter of making one's body compatible with the expectations of others more than of one's self.
posted by five fresh fish at 2:32 PM on February 8, 2009


fff, a problem with that is that after a while on HRT your body becomes a sort of chemical war zone. Before SRS I was on an injection and two types of pills, and I'd tried all sorts of different combinations to try and get an HRT regimen that wouldn't give me the sorts of joint pains I'd been having (I have hypermobility syndrome, which turned into chronic pain after HRT exacerbated it). After, I'm on a single pill once a day - that I forget to take half the time - and my joints are returning to how they were when I was 21. I'm an extreme case, yes, but in general it's sensible to try and keep the amount of time you're on such high doses of HRT down to under a decade.

I can't say whether or not I would have needed SRS as much had I started HRT at 12 instead of 21, but I will say that I was pretty damn comfortable with myself and my body for most of my twenties, and I thought I only really needed the operation in order to get my HRT dose down. But after... wow. It's like I've had my eyes half-open all my life until now. I never could have predicted how much it would change things for me, but I'd have to get pretty deep into TMI territory explaining why :p

Also,

it's not like we're hyper-aware of our groin all day (at least, not as adults)

Try tucking for a day. You'll be hyper-aware... :D
posted by ArmyOfKittens at 2:54 PM on February 8, 2009


HRT plus deactivating the inappropriate gland, then.
posted by five fresh fish at 3:17 PM on February 8, 2009


SysRq, I think as far as gender-as-a-whole is concerned we're on something like the same page, funnily enough. But I don't think that having any sort of views on gender makes it OK to say things like "I'm not a fan of the transgender phenomenon". I'm pretty sure you will, at some point in your life, have had experiences of people treating you like a specimen rather than a person; if none come to mind, it's simple enough to imagine how you'd feel if someone was talking about "the bisexual phenomenon" as if it were some kind of bizarre fad rather than the very substance of your life. And I'd gently suggest that if your 'unshakeable beliefs' are such that they can't even begin to accommodate transgender experience, they may be due for a revision.

But yes, your absolute reassurances were reassuring.
posted by Acheman at 4:42 PM on February 8, 2009


OP: You mean.. HE began taking hormones at 12.. and HE had surgery at 16.. only then did he become she. Unfortunately, SHE will never be able to have a baby, unlike a certain Mr. Beatle, who was lucky enough to start out as a girl before becoming a boy, thus allowing him to cling to the most cherished aspect of womanhood. I wonder which cherished aspect of manhood Ms. Petras will cling to... but we won't find out until later, nor will she.
posted by ChickenringNYC at 5:36 PM on February 8, 2009


ChickenringNYC, a key point here is that Kim has always been a girl. You've got the causation backwards: Kim didn't become a girl because she had HRT and SRS, Kim had HRT and SRS because she's a girl, and she wanted to make her body fit right.

Think about it. (I'm going to assume you're male for the sake of argument, apologies if I'm wrong--) If you, you yourself, had your genitals operated on and got pumped full of hormones, would you be a woman? No? You'd still know you were a guy in your head, right? You'd know that because you've always been a guy. Now you'd just be a guy who felt uncomfortable because he suddenly had weird genitals and too much estrogen. Well then, same goes for Kim, just the other way around.

And I think you mean Thomas Beatie, not "Beatle." My impression of Beatie's motives has been more that, hey, he wanted kids and thought it was pretty cool that his body could still do that, rather than bearing children as some kind of fulfillment of feminine identity. Not that it's really any of our business.
posted by hippugeek at 6:07 PM on February 8, 2009 [4 favorites]


[reads Chickenring's post, bangs head against wall]

Good god.
posted by five fresh fish at 6:22 PM on February 8, 2009


OP: You mean.. HE began taking hormones at 12.. and HE had surgery at 16.. only then did he become she. Unfortunately, SHE will never be able to have a baby, unlike a certain Mr. Beatle, who was lucky enough to start out as a girl before becoming a boy, thus allowing him to cling to the most cherished aspect of womanhood. I wonder which cherished aspect of manhood Ms. Petras will cling to... but we won't find out until later, nor will she.

OP here. Glad you decided to chime in with your semantics bullshit. Who the fuck cares? Also, not being able to have a baby does NOT mean you aren't a woman. There are plenty of people who were born women that are not able to conceive or choose not to conceive. That does not make them any less of a woman than a woman that is able and wants to bear children.
posted by MaryDellamorte at 6:37 PM on February 8, 2009 [2 favorites]


To all the people who have used this thread to express suspicion, incredulity, and ignorance:

If this is how you react to a complete stranger's gender identity issues, in which you have no stake, how do you think you would react if this was your child or family member, in whose life you felt seriously invested? Do you realize the harm you could cause? Most of us don't magically become more enlightened when an issue suddenly strikes close to home -- if anything, those times only amplify our fear and denial. If you ever want to be of real use to a loved one who winds up dealing with this kind of confusion, you'd better start opening your eyes and ears now.
posted by hermitosis at 7:35 PM on February 8, 2009 [1 favorite]


[few comments removed - metatalk is available for your griping-about-the-site needs]
posted by jessamyn at 8:12 PM on February 8, 2009


I want everyone to be happy.
posted by Divine_Wino at 8:18 PM on February 8, 2009


Thanks, fff (and jessamyn!). I'll waste no more energy in that direction, and trust that everyone else understands I was NOT calling anyone a mutant. Yeesh.


You know, this is clearly still a difficult topic, but overall I think we're making progress as a community. Thinking back to previous threads about trans issues, it seems like more people now have a grasp of the complexities involved, and that community pressure is increasing in the direction of respectfulness. Teh Stupid still comes out sometimes, but it's outnumbered by sincere interest in understanding and being supportive.
posted by hippugeek at 9:20 PM on February 8, 2009 [1 favorite]


[Seriously, Metatalk if this needs to happen but cut out the back-and-forth in here now.]
posted by cortex at 9:57 PM on February 8, 2009


Since we don't know what aspects are biological or social, it's safer to assume all aspects are social because making assumptions in the opposite direct increase discrimination against women and men who don't fit into the gender norms. I think a lot of feminists, especially old schooley ones (the ones in that recent FPP about lesbian separatist communities, for instance) think this way--but this assumption clearly fits poorly with the experiences of many transpeople.

Worse, the diversity of views within the feminist movement means that transpeople within it tend to get attacked on multiple fronts. It's pretty much impossible to defend themselves when being simultaneously attacked by those who think transpeople unhelpfully promote gender difference as biological and those who seek to exclude transpeople from the movement entirely because they have the wrong chromosomes and will therefore never be "real" women. (And my experience has been that the Seps tend to fall into the latter group rather than the former.)

I think a lot of trans trans women get shit for "overdoing" femininity, which is unfair: when "passing" is important to maintain employment or to stay out of physical danger, throwing on a little more lippy is preferable to the alternative.

This is the another area in which transpeople can't win, since the overemphasised femininity tends to be read as a sign of complicity with patriarchal norms by the former group and as offensive parody equivalent to drag by the latter.

It's a bad deal all around; the movement alienates willing contributors, transpeople get shafted by the very people who ought to be most accepting of them and the endless circular debates around the subject consume energy that would be better spent on closing the pay gap.
posted by the latin mouse at 1:20 AM on February 9, 2009 [5 favorites]


« Older The first female White House chef, a naturalized P...  |  The title says it all: Pets W... Newer »


This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments