Warrior Princess
June 4, 2013 6:42 AM   Subscribe

Kristin Beck, a former Navy Seal who was once a member of Seal Team 6, has just published a memoir Warrior Princess in which she describes her journey to coming out as transgender. Reports on the book and Beck are at the Atlantic Wire and SOFREP.

Beck first came out publicly to her colleagues on linkedin. Beck says the response from her former colleagues was supportive:

Soon, the responses from SEALs stationed all around the world suddenly started pouring in: "Brother, I am with you ... being a SEAL is hard, this looks harder. Peace" * "I can't say I understand the decision but I respect the courage. Peace and happiness be upon you...Jim" * " ... I just wanted to drop you a note and tell you that Kris has all the support and respect from me that Chris had ... and quite possibly more. While I'm definitely surprised, I'm also in amazement at the strength you possess and the courage necessary to combat the strangers and 'friends' that I'm guessing have reared their ugly heads prior to and since your announcement. ..."
posted by Area Man (97 comments total) 30 users marked this as a favorite
 
Great story. I wish her well.
posted by clavdivs at 6:54 AM on June 4, 2013 [1 favorite]


Wow. Some lives are so intense. That's the only word I can think of for how I imagine this particular experience to be: working through the notion that you're transgender and a woman while in such a hyper-masculine environment. I also hope it goes well for her.

It's astounding how much the American culture has changed with regard to gender, sexual identity and "unconventional" relationships in just a generation, even when you consider how much further it has to go.
posted by crush-onastick at 7:04 AM on June 4, 2013 [6 favorites]


Holy mackerel, what a story. I pity any poor fool who tries to hassle her down the road.
posted by jquinby at 7:05 AM on June 4, 2013 [2 favorites]


If that ain't the pretty gold star on top of bad ass mountain. Added to my reading list. I can only imagine the strength it takes to do all that, and then to be open about it.
posted by petrilli at 7:12 AM on June 4, 2013 [4 favorites]


The best part is her fellow teammates showing love and support. The troops, as always, get over these things so much faster than the people supposedly worried about them.
posted by mightygodking at 7:16 AM on June 4, 2013 [14 favorites]


Pretty amazing story. And it's especially touching to see the supportive / congratulatory responses from the SEAL community -- a real testament to the strength of bonds forged by "brothers-in-arms".

I'm forwarding this story to a few of my pro-military / socially conservative friends. It will blow their minds (in a good way I hope).
posted by BobbyVan at 7:20 AM on June 4, 2013 [2 favorites]


Is there any barrier to the President ordering the military to allow transgender members or would that have to go to Congress too? It's an astounding oversight in the DADT repeal.
posted by Drinky Die at 7:24 AM on June 4, 2013


LinkedIn should pivot to make this their entire business model.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 7:28 AM on June 4, 2013 [2 favorites]


And it's especially touching to see the supportive / congratulatory responses from the SEAL community -- a real testament to the strength of bonds forged by "brothers-in-arms

This is and has always been stronger than anything, even prejudice.

That said, this kind of support, from what I've seen, tends to be one-off. People are still prejudiced on the whole, but just "don't count" the person they went to war with in it.

Is there any barrier to the President ordering the military to allow transgender members or would that have to go to Congress too? It's an astounding oversight in the DADT repeal.

It wasn't an oversight. Transgender members actively serving in the military is going to be a huge, huge deal primarily because physical fitness standards are severely different between men and women, and failing those physical standards is grounds for the boot. Deciding what the transgendered fitness standards would or should be would take better minds than mine. But the reasons for the differences are based on biology, not gender, so it wouldn't be an easy thing to fix.
posted by corb at 7:28 AM on June 4, 2013


Would hormonal therapy affect the level of fitness? I guess it would, but I have no idea.
posted by cx at 7:38 AM on June 4, 2013


A note on physical fitness standards: corb is referring to physical fitness tests that every service member has to pass regardless of his or her actual job. The physical requirements of actual jobs (e.g., artillery soldiers must be able to lift artillery shells to load them into the guns) are not gender-based.
posted by Etrigan at 7:45 AM on June 4, 2013 [5 favorites]


Good for her. And good for the SEALs for supporting her.
posted by zarq at 7:45 AM on June 4, 2013


Transgender members actively serving in the military is going to be a huge, huge deal primarily because physical fitness standards are severely different between men and women, and failing those physical standards is grounds for the boot. Deciding what the transgendered fitness standards would or should be would take better minds than mine. But the reasons for the differences are based on biology, not gender, so it wouldn't be an easy thing to fix.

There are a lot of complexities there, I agree. There should be some studies to assess how the strength level of transgender men and woman should be assessed.

Regardless, a different problem here is that the military is viewing being transgender as a mental illness. That is a whole different question. If someone is willing to delay hormone treatments there will be no impact on physical fitness.

The military's ban on transgender members stems in part from the idea that such people are mentally ill, and thus, unfit to serve. As spokeswoman for the Department of Defense Eileen M. Lainez, put it: "DoD regulations don't allow transgender individuals to serve in the military, based upon medical standards for military service."
posted by Drinky Die at 7:48 AM on June 4, 2013 [4 favorites]


Would hormonal therapy affect the level of fitness? I guess it would, but I have no idea.

It would have an affect on the ability of fitness. Trans women taking estrogen tend to lose muscle mass and ability to gain muscle as easily. The opposite for trans men taking T.
posted by trogdole at 7:48 AM on June 4, 2013 [3 favorites]


It wasn't an oversight. Transgender members actively serving in the military is going to be a huge, huge deal primarily because physical fitness standards are severely different between men and women, and failing those physical standards is grounds for the boot. Deciding what the transgendered fitness standards would or should be would take better minds than mine. But the reasons for the differences are based on biology, not gender, so it wouldn't be an easy thing to fix.

This probably wouldn't be hard to figure out if the military were inclined to bother. Seriously, if this is the only 'good' reason they've got to bar trans people from the military, I bet we could find a bunch of trans people to work out and see what fitness standards they meet. It'd take a couple months, but that'd be it.
posted by hoyland at 7:49 AM on June 4, 2013 [2 favorites]


I'm glad the Atlantic mentioned that even though "Don't Ask Don't Tell" was repealed and Gay and Lesbian men and women can now serve openly, transgender men and women are still barred from entering the military.
posted by zarq at 7:49 AM on June 4, 2013 [1 favorite]


I can imagine that as much progress as the military has made from DADT to the present day, allowing transgender servicemembers is just a bridge too far right now. While it may be that reservations to allowing this are couched in terms of physical fitness standards, I would suggest that the driving impetus is that the military typically lags the rest of American culture in inclusiveness; when transgendered people are more readily accepted into widespread American culture, that's when it would seem that the military would fall into line and allow them to serve, as well.
posted by MoonOrb at 7:51 AM on June 4, 2013 [2 favorites]


hoyland: "Seriously, if this is the only 'good' reason they've got to bar trans people from the military, I bet we could find a bunch of trans people to work out and see what fitness standards they meet."

As Drinky Die mentions, they use the APA's definition of Gender Identity Disorder which classifies it as "mental illness." The military discriminates using the excuse of medical disqualification.
posted by zarq at 7:52 AM on June 4, 2013 [1 favorite]


Well, not the "impetus." I think the impetus is discrimination. I should have said the "more plausible explanation" for this.
posted by MoonOrb at 7:52 AM on June 4, 2013


I would suggest that the driving impetus is that the military typically lags the rest of American culture in inclusiveness; when transgendered people are more readily accepted into widespread American culture, that's when it would seem that the military would fall into line and allow them to serve, as well.

I'm not sure about that. I have the impression that the military does a better job with racial discrimination and inclusiveness than other parts of U.S. society, and has actually been something of a leader in that area.
posted by Area Man at 7:55 AM on June 4, 2013


Reminder that transgendered is not a word. Transgender is an adjective, not a verb.
posted by trogdole at 7:55 AM on June 4, 2013 [2 favorites]


Reminder that transgendered is not a word. Transgender is an adjective, not a verb.

Sorry about that.
posted by Area Man at 7:55 AM on June 4, 2013


As Drinky Die mentions, they use the APA's definition of Gender Identity Disorder which classifies it as "mental illness." The military discriminates using the excuse of medical disqualification.

I'm taking that as not a 'good' reason. Because, really, if someone tries to defend that one, I'm so done.
posted by hoyland at 7:57 AM on June 4, 2013


As a side note, GID is gone from the DSM-V and the military will no longer be able to hide behind that. (Well, it's much more complicated, but (really) short version.)
posted by hoyland at 7:59 AM on June 4, 2013 [2 favorites]


Reminder that transgendered is not a word. Transgender is an adjective, not a verb.

Sorry. Thanks for pointing that out to me.

I'm not sure about that. I have the impression that the military does a better job with racial discrimination and inclusiveness than other parts of U.S. society, and has actually been something of a leader in that area.

This is an interesting point, and one I was considering when I wrote my earlier comment. My feeling is still that the military's record on social issues is pretty uneven, but that they still lag the general trend in American public opinion. Certainly the military doesn't wait until the overwhelming majority of Americans approve of, say, gay people serving, or non-white people serving before officially instituting a policy approving it; but on the other hand, it's not like the military was ahead of these issues, either. But I understand where you're coming from.
posted by MoonOrb at 8:03 AM on June 4, 2013


hoyland: " I'm taking that as not a 'good' reason. Because, really, if someone tries to defend that one, I'm so done."

I'm certainly not saying that it's a good reason. But as far as I've seen, it's the only reason they give. It's possible that the APA might have to change their classification before the military alters their policy.

We can speculate all we want about the military's concerns about classifying transgender men and women by strength and ability. I'm just unsure that anyone in the military's actually making that argument to defend the policy.

hoyland: "As a side note, GID is gone from the DSM-V and the military will no longer be able to hind behind that. (Well, it's more complicated, but short version.)"

It's about fucking time.
posted by zarq at 8:04 AM on June 4, 2013


Area Man: "I have the impression that the military does a better job with racial discrimination and inclusiveness than other parts of U.S. society, and has actually been something of a leader in that area."

Yes. Sort of. It's very complicated.

Integration took 25-30 years, starting with African-American servicemen first being allowed to serve during WWII, and ending with open, integrated housing in the late 60's. Culturally, it happened right before and then during the same period as the civil rights movement. There were also multiple administrative, social and legal hurdles that had to be cleared within the military for integration to take place -- not the least of which were the passing of the old guard, and the need for more troops as we waged two different wars.

All of these changes were imposed and enforced from the top down, which isn't easily possible in civilian society, but made making sure they were applied and stuck to easier. It was getting them in place that took the most time and effort.
posted by zarq at 8:10 AM on June 4, 2013


From the Atlantic article: "By contrast, Beck includes dozens of pictures from her deployments and her life at home, pre- and post-transition, in Warrior Princess."

I wonder if that's because the Standard Narrative requires that we trans people give cis people's prying eyes full access to our histories? More trans people are embracing our pre-transition lives, it's true; but it's also long been de rigeur for us to submit our biographies to cis people for judgment, too. I guess I'd have to read the book and see how it presents her life.
posted by jiawen at 8:16 AM on June 4, 2013 [2 favorites]


It's about fucking time.

Well, there's still going to be something in the DSM, which is kind of inevitable . The big fight is about where it goes, what to call it, precisely how narrowly-defined you make it and I'm not sure that's fully been decided (though I think they finally have a name). But, yeah, the military's position is weakened, particularly if the eventual version excludes post-transition people (which, er, the draft version didn't).
posted by hoyland at 8:16 AM on June 4, 2013 [1 favorite]


Well, there's still going to be something in the DSM, which is kind of inevitable . The big fight is about where it goes, what to call it, precisely how narrowly-defined you make it and I'm not sure that's fully been decided (though I think they finally have a name). But, yeah, the military's position is weakened, particularly if the eventual version excludes post-transition people (which, er, the draft version didn't).

I may have misread or forgotten, but I believe it's going to be listed as Gender Dysphoria, and won't be listed as a Disorder.
posted by trogdole at 8:20 AM on June 4, 2013


I may have misread or forgotten, but I believe it's going to be listed as Gender Dysphoria, and won't be listed as a Disorder.

Yes. And escaped the 'sex disorders' chapter. I think it's off on its own somewhere. But I can't figure out what it'll actually say. I think the sexual orientation stuff is gone. There may or may not be the 'actually causes distress' criterion. (I think this is where the post-transition thing becomes an issue. Someone who has transitioned may well not be experiencing distress about their gender, but the insurance company wants them diagnosed with something. It looks like they made a sub-category to solve this problem, but I don't know what happened with the distress criterion.)
posted by hoyland at 8:27 AM on June 4, 2013


Good for her.
posted by rmd1023 at 9:08 AM on June 4, 2013 [1 favorite]


MetaFilter: the pretty gold star on top of bad ass mountain.
posted by Halloween Jack at 9:36 AM on June 4, 2013 [3 favorites]


I tried out for SEALS in Boot Camp.

I knew I never had the upper body strength to make it through BUD/S. But I did pretty good on the test, until the last swim segment. My arms were fried from all the pullups/pushups up front, and when my time started getting long, I started remembering I already has a guaranteed job in a different area of special ops where I sit in a nice comfortable airplane instead of picking leeches off my nuts somewhere.

As a Navy vet with coupla tours in places you've read about, more power to her.

She's a bigger badass in so many ways, than any man who wants to snicker, I guaranfuckingtee you that.
posted by timsteil at 9:48 AM on June 4, 2013 [4 favorites]


It seems that to be a real SEAL you must prove it by writing a book...there are now more books by SEALS than all the rest of the non-SEAL military put together.
posted by Postroad at 9:52 AM on June 4, 2013 [3 favorites]


Yeah, not including transgender people in the repeal of DADT was deliberate, not an oversight. There's been a 20+ year debate in the gay rights community about when to include transgender rights in with gay/lesbian/bi rights. Some people argue that all sexuality discrimination is the same and it's wrong to not fight for all gender-related rights at the same time. Others argue that transgender rights are harder to achieve, that US society is ready for sexual orientation rights but not transgender rights. This issue is often hotly controversial within the queer community. Human Rights Campaign, one of the leading gay rights organizations in the US, is a particular lightning rod; many transgender activists vocally hate the HRC.

I didn't realize that the Navy still specifically excludes women from being SEALs. Also Army spec ops.
posted by Nelson at 9:54 AM on June 4, 2013 [1 favorite]


The only instance in the DSM-V is "Gender Dysphoria," of which the main component is "emotional distress." The hope is that trans people who have addressed their dysphoria to their satisfaction (wherever that is for each person) and are living happy, healthy lives will no longer meet that criteria and cannot be said to have any kind of mental issue. This is the DSM-V's note on the change (pdf). And this is a lengthier explanation that was done to suggest the change. I intended to link to the actual diagnostic criteria but their site seems to be having some difficulties.
posted by Corinth at 10:00 AM on June 4, 2013 [2 favorites]


jiawen: From the Atlantic article: "By contrast, Beck includes dozens of pictures from her deployments and her life at home, pre- and post-transition, in Warrior Princess."

I wonder if that's because the Standard Narrative requires that we trans people give cis people's prying eyes full access to our histories? More trans people are embracing our pre-transition lives, it's true; but it's also long been de rigeur for us to submit our biographies to cis people for judgment, too. I guess I'd have to read the book and see how it presents her life.
Interesting point. OTOH, it is an indisputably powerful tool for engendering empathy. I can envision being born black, but I can't really understand what it is to live as a black person until I read The Autobiography of Frederick Douglass, or Black Like Me, or even Uncle Tom's Cabin.

But I've been exposed to narratives of slave history and ghetto life from my early childhood. Growing up in a small midwestern town, where homosexuality "existed" only as a slur hurled at weirdos and cartoonish depictions on TV, even "emotionally learning" that LGB people are "just like me" takes some work to comprehend - even though I've supported gay rights since early pubescence. It was simply outside my experience, like life on a reservation. Trans- people, wanting to have different genitals, or marking themselves with gender indicators that contrast with their physical sex... Narratives are so damned useful.

So, "submit our biographies to cis people for judgment" - well, absolutely there is judgment. Humans judge. Bigots are probably less likely to read them, of course; there's an implication of a sympathetic audience in the self-selection of the readers. They're actively trying to understand more of something that is beyond their experiences so far. Overall, I think it's a case of the brave standard-bearers and frontrunners in the fight for trans- rights exposing their stories as an intentional sacrifice of privacy for the greater good of public understanding.
posted by IAmBroom at 10:11 AM on June 4, 2013 [3 favorites]


Nelson: "There's been a 20+ year debate in the gay rights community about when to include transgender rights in with gay/lesbian/bi rights."

That language makes it sound like trans people need permission from GLB people to be in the queer rights movement. Not only do we not need to passively "be included", we always have been in the queer rights movement, from the earliest days. And talking about the "gay rights community" excludes bisexual folks and lesbians who don't identify as gay, too. Dunno if you intended the meanings implicit in your words; just thought I should point that out.
posted by jiawen at 10:33 AM on June 4, 2013 [4 favorites]


... which is somewhat reminiscent (to me) of Soujourner Truth's attempts to be heard as part of the Suffrage movement, when early suffragist leaders were worried that their goal would be tangled up with the struggle for civil rights (and, tactically speaking, it certainly seems easier to achieve one goal than many at once).

Not that trans people need to be part of the LGB movement, but that treating trans rights as a separate "mission" from LGB equality has parallels there.
posted by IAmBroom at 10:37 AM on June 4, 2013


So, "submit our biographies to cis people for judgment" - well, absolutely there is judgment. Humans judge. Bigots are probably less likely to read them, of course; there's an implication of a sympathetic audience in the self-selection of the readers. They're actively trying to understand more of something that is beyond their experiences so far. Overall, I think it's a case of the brave standard-bearers and frontrunners in the fight for trans- rights exposing their stories as an intentional sacrifice of privacy for the greater good of public understanding.

I think this misses the main driver of cis consumption of trans stories, which is really just a desire to gawk and rubberneck. Even trans people telling their own stories, either as a product of cultural hazing or the maze of the cisnormative publishing apparatus, can be pretty exploitative. How many "positive" documentaries make sure to include scenes of trans women putting on their makeup to suggest some level of artiface of identity? Most, that I've seen. Trans people who do speak out often aren't just sacrificing their privacy, but often some dignity and agency. It's possible and maybe even likely that exposure is a net positive, but we ought not to underestimate how much cisnormative ideals drive trans narratives and what it costs us on the downswing.
posted by Corinth at 10:40 AM on June 4, 2013 [3 favorites]


IAmBroom: "So, 'submit our biographies to cis people for judgment' - well, absolutely there is judgment. Humans judge. Bigots are probably less likely to read them, of course; there's an implication of a sympathetic audience in the self-selection of the readers. They're actively trying to understand more of something that is beyond their experiences so far. Overall, I think it's a case of the brave standard-bearers and frontrunners in the fight for trans- rights exposing their stories as an intentional sacrifice of privacy for the greater good of public understanding."

As I see it, there are two problems here:

One, that this requires minorities to allow majorities to pry before the majorities will deign to give them rights. It is definitely useful, helpful and important for trans people to get our stories out there so cis people can understand better what we're going through. Ultimately, though, I think it's important to emphasize that this isn't our responsibility; it may be tactically helpful for us to help cis people understand our struggles better in this way, but that's not something we 'owe' cis people in exchange for being treated as human.

Two, trans people are required to comply with a standard narrative before we can get our rights. We're forced to shape ourselves into a preset narrative before we can get (what passes for) respect from cis people. That will necessarily warp the kinds of respect that we can get, and ultimately warps the truth.
posted by jiawen at 10:42 AM on June 4, 2013 [3 favorites]


And that if a trans person decides not to share their story, and someone finds it out, they'll usually end up being cast as a 'deceiver', intent on tricking people into believing that they are 'actual' women or men.

So as much as trans people telling their stories out of their own volition is a good thing, for cis and trans people alike, it tends to lead the idea that those stories are owed.

The thing I like about this particular story, though I haven't read the article due to work's firewall, is that it doesn't sound like it's the same story. The preset, as jiawen put it. And the more nonconventional stories that are not just published, but are actually read and heard, the less trans people, especially trans women, will be thought of as stereotypes and tropes.
posted by trogdole at 10:51 AM on June 4, 2013 [2 favorites]


Overall, I think it's a case of the brave standard-bearers and frontrunners in the fight for trans- rights exposing their stories as an intentional sacrifice of privacy for the greater good of public understanding.

I'm sorry, but...

'[B]rave standard-bearers' reeks of privilege and elitism. They don't need your medal and you aren't entitled to re-label the invasion of privacy and dehumanizing, demoralizing process of having their life laid bare for judgement as a 'sacrifice' in this context (that it is noble-to-you and self-initiated). Every person is due dignity and it is not up to you to label whether its loss is 'ok' or 'not ok.'
posted by Fuka at 10:54 AM on June 4, 2013 [1 favorite]


Isn't it possible that one reason why the author included lots of information and pictures of her pre-transition life is because there is a great deal of public interest in Navy Seals? I've seen lots of books about Seals on the shelves and have seen several articles in the last couple of years about the Seals and, in particular, Seal Team 6. Presumably, she did and saw things in dangerous parts of the world that will be of interest to readers.
posted by Area Man at 10:58 AM on June 4, 2013 [1 favorite]


Isn't it possible that one reason why the author included lots of information and pictures of her pre-transition life is because there is a great deal of public interest in Navy Seals? I've seen lots of books about Seals on the shelves and have seen several articles in the last couple of years about the Seals and, in particular, Seal Team 6. Presumably, she did and saw things in dangerous parts of the world that will be of interest to readers.

Did you notice at the cover of the book? It's textbook 'OMG Trans woman 'used to be a man'!' (It is admittedly kind of hard to know what the cover art would otherwise be because these sorts of memoirs are usually written by people semi-obscuring their identity. The copy of Bravo Two Zero I read just says 'Bravo Two Zero' in big letters on the cover.)

It seems like this thread probably needs a link to TAVA, though their website hasn't been updated since 2010.
posted by hoyland at 11:07 AM on June 4, 2013


You know, people want to tell their stories. I've interviewed people professionally, I've talked to homeless people when I worked graveyard at a 24-hr news-stand, I've made internet pals, I've talked to opposing coaches when my kids play sports, and people want to tell their stories. They don't all want to tell them so publicly, but everyone wants to be heard and wants to be validated in some way.

So the fact that many trans people DO tell their stories is natural. Because everyone wants to tell their story, and having lived life as a different biological sex is a really big part of one's story! So many trans people spent so many years not talking about who they are, not sharing their inner lives with anyone. I think it must be a huge relief to put that all behind you.

Now that's not to say that a trans person will, or should, feel obligated to introduce herself as "Katie, who used to be a man," but I also don't know that it's fair to suggest cis people are, in all cases, pressuring trans people to tell their history. I think there is a basic human need to communicate and connect with other people, and trans people feel this need as much as anyone else. It's just some are more public about it than others.
posted by Mister_A at 11:12 AM on June 4, 2013 [1 favorite]


As usual, I'm not being very clear. Obviously, none of us have read this book. Odds are none of us know this woman. Given how trans stuff is usually presented, it's hard to believe she wasn't encouraged (or pushed) to include loads of pictures. It's possible we're wrong and she talks a lot about how she feels about those pictures or whatever in the book, but skepticism's not a bad default reaction.
posted by hoyland at 11:13 AM on June 4, 2013 [1 favorite]


Nelson: "There's been a 20+ year debate in the gay rights community about when to include transgender rights in with gay/lesbian/bi rights."

jiawen: " That language makes it sound like trans people need permission from GLB people to be in the queer rights movement. Not only do we not need to passively "be included", we always have been in the queer rights movement, from the earliest days."

I realize that you both likely know far more about these issues and the history behind them than I do.

Looking back at the last 40 years and taking them as a whole, I think people like Jim Fouratt's and Janice Raymond's actions and rhetoric did a hell of a lot of damage. They created a narrative in which transgender men and women were dismissed and marginalized, rather than properly represented by the rights movements they had helped found. In pushing transgender men and women out of the GLF and then attacking them, Fouratt and others literally helped define and emphasize the way being transgender was perceived negatively by the public, gay and straight alike. They established a separation where none should have existed, and encouraged bigotry.

I think that as a result, the modern GLBT rights movement often only focuses on transgender equality as an afterthought. ENDA, etc. We can trace many of the problems and divisions between the two groups to the initial years after Stonewall.
posted by zarq at 11:25 AM on June 4, 2013 [1 favorite]


Hell of a story. Thanks for posting.
posted by rtha at 11:25 AM on June 4, 2013


To Beck's surprise, her former SEAL buddies were supportive, even ecstatic
I don't know why that would be surprising. Outside the community sure.

It seems that to be a real SEAL you must prove it by writing a book...
Quiet professionals.
Although this is a very different kind of story so...
I wonder if they'll make a video game out of this story though.

It would have an affect on the ability of fitness. Trans women taking estrogen tend to lose muscle mass and ability to gain muscle as easily.
I don't know about the chemistry there. But plenty of guys hitting the bottle pretty hard. Alcohol affects muscle mass as well.
Different goals there of course. But the bottom line remains actual performance regardless. It would be tough to say someone can drink as long as they can meet standards, but not get hormone treatments if they can meet standards.
posted by Smedleyman at 11:28 AM on June 4, 2013


> but I also don't know that it's fair to suggest cis people are, in all cases, pressuring trans people to tell their history.

Not in all cases. But I don't think the few times when that's not the case outweighs all the times it is. There is a big difference between people wanting to tell their stories, and people pressuring anyone who is an 'other' to explain everything about that 'otherness' to them, without any thought for that person's feelings, regard, or privacy.

In the case of this book, none of us can answer that. But in general, it's a lot more on the prying side.
posted by trogdole at 11:41 AM on June 4, 2013 [2 favorites]


Integration took 25-30 years, starting with African-American servicemen first being allowed to serve during WWII

Not to derail, but black troops have served in every American conflict since the Revolution. If you mean, "officially allowed to serve in integrated units," that happened in Korea.
posted by Rangeboy at 11:48 AM on June 4, 2013


Rangeboy: " Not to derail, but black troops have served in every American conflict since the Revolution. If you mean, "officially allowed to serve in integrated units," that happened in Korea."

I meant, serve in equal positions to and alongside white troops.

Eisenhower started integrating African American and Caucasian troops in '44, during WWII. Prior to that, they were segregated and in both the Army and Navy, Black troops were mostly relegated to manual labor positions -- truck drivers. (Stevedores/Dockworkers in the Navy.) WWII also saw the first promotion of African Americans to officers in the Navy -- the Golden Thirteen.
posted by zarq at 11:55 AM on June 4, 2013


Mister_A: "You know, people want to tell their stories. I've interviewed people professionally, I've talked to homeless people when I worked graveyard at a 24-hr news-stand, I've made internet pals, I've talked to opposing coaches when my kids play sports, and people want to tell their stories. They don't all want to tell them so publicly, but everyone wants to be heard and wants to be validated in some way.

So the fact that many trans people DO tell their stories is natural. Because everyone wants to tell their story, and having lived life as a different biological sex is a really big part of one's story! So many trans people spent so many years not talking about who they are, not sharing their inner lives with anyone. I think it must be a huge relief to put that all behind you.

Now that's not to say that a trans person will, or should, feel obligated to introduce herself as "Katie, who used to be a man," but I also don't know that it's fair to suggest cis people are, in all cases, pressuring trans people to tell their history. I think there is a basic human need to communicate and connect with other people, and trans people feel this need as much as anyone else. It's just some are more public about it than others.
"

When trans people tell their stories, they do so in a culture that attempts to make certain demands and is very efficient at substituting cis expectations for trans realities. All I'm trying to say is that you should be aware of this and be cognizant of the way that society channels trans people, trans narratives and trans identities into ideas and forms palatable to cis people. There is usually a certain amount of kissing the cis ring that has to happen for most trans stories to ever reach cis consciousness in the first place, and that should be forefront in your mind when reading something like this.

I'm not saying that's what happened here - I've not read the book - but it happens a lot, and this could very, very easily be more of the same stuff. I've actually got to go to the pharmacy to pick up HRT refills now, but I'll have more thoughts later.
posted by Corinth at 12:05 PM on June 4, 2013


Actually, it was John Lee, Eisenhower's deputy for logistics, who proposed integrating white combat units in '44. Patton and other commanders refused, and Eisenhower did not force the issue. Thus integration was on an ad hoc, voluntary basis in the European theater; although the black troops who were allowed to fight alongside their white counterparts distinguished themselves, particularly in First Army. Widespread integration in the Army did not occur until late '50/early '51, after the Chinese entry into the Korean conflict, and wasn't official until late spring of '51.

But as I said, this is something of a derail, although the larger history of how the military has either led or followed the rest of the country in expanding equality of opportunity is a fascinating story.
posted by Rangeboy at 12:11 PM on June 4, 2013 [2 favorites]


!!! That's interesting! I learned something! Thanks, Rangeboy. :)

I also apologize to everyone for derailing the thread. The subject fascinates me too, and I get a little carried away.
posted by zarq at 12:18 PM on June 4, 2013


I still can't find any way to buy this that isn't on kindle.... :( Maybe I've missed it, but is thre a plan for it to be in deadtree? Can't find any indication. :/
posted by blackfly at 1:27 PM on June 4, 2013


Another story of crossing from male to female life: economist Deirdre McCloskey -- includes free download of memoir (this month).
posted by lathrop at 1:50 PM on June 4, 2013


Another issue with allowing transgendered people to join the military may be the medical care required. I freely admit my vast ignorance of the actual medical issues of gender reassignment, but there are plenty of medical conditions that bar a prospective service member from joining, many of which don't necessarily pose a physical risk but require consistent treatment, which may or may not be available, for instance, on FOB Middleofnowhere, Afghanistan. The military doesn't like the idea of having any service member on a long course of treatment that wouldn't allow deployment away from specific medical care.

I genuinely don't know the ongoing care requirements for people who have made the transition. Would those requirements be a hindrance to deployability?
posted by Etrigan at 2:04 PM on June 4, 2013


Fuka: '[B]rave standard-bearers' reeks of privilege and elitism. They don't need your medal and you aren't entitled to re-label the invasion of privacy and dehumanizing, demoralizing process of having their life laid bare for judgement as a 'sacrifice' in this context (that it is noble-to-you and self-initiated). Every person is due dignity and it is not up to you to label whether its loss is 'ok' or 'not ok.'
And your answer reeks of pointless pugilism.

Frederick Douglass was a brave standard-bearer. So was Jackie Robinson. So was Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Harvey Milk, Martin Luther King Jr...

Your condescending claim that I don't have the right to judge whether someone's loss is 'ok' is completely off the mark. I have a perfect right to admire those who have sacrificed for great causes. Show me some of that due dignity you claim I am due.
posted by IAmBroom at 2:12 PM on June 4, 2013


Corb, sorry but your comment is based on bollocks. Other western armies, such as the UK and Australia, have members who are transgender - I know individuals in each of those two armies who joined as men and are now serving as women. Not allowing trans* people to serve is based on the same prejudice that denying homosexuals was based on.
posted by Megami at 2:14 PM on June 4, 2013 [2 favorites]


I genuinely don't know the ongoing care requirements for people who have made the transition. Would those requirements be a hindrance to deployability?

It's tricky because it's very difficult to generalise. Mostly, I think, you'd be concerned about hormones, which are going to break down a few different ways.
  • people not on hormones (because they never were and never intend to, they stopped, they haven't been but intend to in the future, etc). It's not apparent to me this would pose any actual problem
  • people on exogenous hormones who produce their own hormones (but the wrong ones). AFAIK, there's nothing bad about losing access to hormones from a physical point of view. People do it intentionally and unintentionally all the time. Whether a person is okay assuming that risk is a different question and depends on the individual. I suspect the military would not be interested in actually having a conversation about the feasibility of people in this position joining.
  • people on exogenous hormones who don't produce their own. AFAIK, you need some sort of sex hormone else bad things happen like losing bone density. (I'm hazy on this. This is a combination of trans-related knowledge and high school biology, so hopefully someone can elaborate.) The military would surely say no and I (as arbiter of these things, obviously) would think that's a defensible policy.
What happens to people who acquire one of those conditions while in the military? Are they kicked out or are they assigned some job they can safely do? I mean, people do develop diabetes all the time. You wouldn't want to send a diabetic to the middle of nowhere, but somewhere with reliable supplies would be entirely reasonable.
posted by hoyland at 2:28 PM on June 4, 2013 [2 favorites]


Etrigan: "Another issue with allowing transgendered people to join the military may be the medical care required. I freely admit my vast ignorance of the actual medical issues of gender reassignment, but there are plenty of medical conditions that bar a prospective service member from joining, many of which don't necessarily pose a physical risk but require consistent treatment, which may or may not be available, for instance, on FOB Middleofnowhere, Afghanistan. The military doesn't like the idea of having any service member on a long course of treatment that wouldn't allow deployment away from specific medical care.

I genuinely don't know the ongoing care requirements for people who have made the transition. Would those requirements be a hindrance to deployability?
"

From your link:

"c. Major abnormalities and defects of the genitalia, such as a change of sex, a history thereof, or dysfunctional residuals from surgical correction of these conditions. "

"The causes for rejection for appointment, enlistment, and induction are transsexualism, exhibitionism, transvestitism, voyeurism, and other paraphilias."

"(5) Hermaphroditism. "

Truly, our military is on the cutting edge of 1950s medicine.
posted by Corinth at 2:31 PM on June 4, 2013 [4 favorites]


What happens to people who acquire one of those conditions while in the military? Are they kicked out or are they assigned some job they can safely do? I mean, people do develop diabetes all the time. You wouldn't want to send a diabetic to the middle of nowhere, but somewhere with reliable supplies would be entirely reasonable.

Depending on the severity and the length of their service, service members who acquire a chronic condition that would have disqualified them from entering the service are not automatically kicked out. For instance, there is (or at least used to be -- I haven't been a personnel officer for a while) a whole protocol for accounting for HIV-positive service members each month as part of every unit's strength reporting while simultaneously not exposing them as HIV-positive to any but the minimum number of people in the unit.
posted by Etrigan at 2:35 PM on June 4, 2013 [1 favorite]


people not on hormones (because they never were and never intend to, they stopped, they haven't been but intend to in the future, etc). It's not apparent to me this would pose any actual problem

Does this mean people who (again, sorry for not knowing the terminology) present as one gender but remain physically the other gender? That ties into the male-female dynamic that the military still hasn't quite figured out. Even in the tiniest FOBs with gender-integrated units, men and women don't sleep in the same rooms and almost always have separate bathroom facilities (even if only "From 7 to 8, this is the women's shower unit"). There are some exceptions, but they pretty much all lead to issues eventually (in my experience), and the renewed focus on sexual assault won't help that any.

people on exogenous hormones who produce their own hormones (but the wrong ones). AFAIK, there's nothing bad about losing access to hormones from a physical point of view. People do it intentionally and unintentionally all the time. Whether a person is okay assuming that risk is a different question and depends on the individual. I suspect the military would not be interested in actually having a conversation about the feasibility of people in this position joining.

The military tends to treat "it depends on the individual" with blanket policies. It's just easier. It's not necessarily the ideal response, but it's not specifically anti-transgendered-persons.

(splitting this into two responses)
posted by Etrigan at 2:43 PM on June 4, 2013


> Another issue with allowing transgendered people to join the military may be the medical care required..
.. I genuinely don't know the ongoing care requirements for people who have made the transition. Would those requirements be a hindrance to deployability?


Again. It's transgender. Transgender is an adjective, not a verb. You wouldn't say gayed people or blacked people. You don't say transgendered people.

Now, as far as deployability, I'm not in the military but I can't see it being any kind of a problem. I'm trans, I started my transition 1.5 years ago, and the only thing I need are two (or 3) bottles of pills a month. I imagine most places they're deployed to receive medicine, no? Like in the example above about diabetics, I'm sure they can get insulin. If someone can get insulin, I think a couple bottles of pills would be fine. Trans men on testosterone take shots* of it. Again, if someone can get insulin to take those shots, you can get T to take those shots. Nothing else required really.

Now, as the surgery, I would assume they would treat it like any other surgery. We have an opening on x date, you get y amount of time to recuperate, and then you go back in the field on z date. As to how they would decide on surgery, that would depend on the way they look at it. Bottom surgery for either gender, and mastectomy for trans men are listed as recommended treatments for trans individuals, because they're known to decrease dysphoria, depression, and the ilk, and make the individual happier and healthier.

I would assume they would cover it, but who knows? Maybe they'd make it a requirement that you have to have it before you're accepted. Skip over the whole changing room/shower issue as well. Maybe they would require it at a certain point. Maybe they wouldn't require it, and it'd be up to the individual.

But the point is, they can do it. They just don't want to. Trans women are icky, and that's all it boils down to. Nobody ever argues a flying fig about trans men.** But trans women are freaks and perverts and rapists, and shouldn't be allowed to do anything, much less join the military.

*Generally, not all the time.
** I know that's technically untrue, but it's pretty darn close to it. The military would have to deal with the logistics of both genders, but the arguments that lead up to letting trans people in will focus on trans women.

posted by trogdole at 3:21 PM on June 4, 2013


Would those requirements be a hindrance to deployability?

In terms of what happens or what is supposed to happen?
posted by Smedleyman at 3:29 PM on June 4, 2013


Does this mean people who (again, sorry for not knowing the terminology) present as one gender but remain physically the other gender?

Yes and no. There's a whole trans 101 speech about how talking about someone's 'physical' sex or gender* is complicated that I'm sort of skipping and sort of giving. If you take hormones for a while and then stop, you'll have some essentially permanent changes and some changes that reverse (fully or partially). For example, I believe breast growth for women is basically permanent, as is voice change for men. But something like fat redistribution will reverse. If you've never taken hormones, you may have 'socially transitioned', where people (hopefully) call you your name** and use the appropriate pronouns for you and so on, but not done any sort of medical transition. The 'system' assumes people socially transition, then start hormones then have surgery (and usually assumes they do all three).*** But what order people actually do things and how much time separates things varies. Some trans men have top surgery without/before taking hormones. I don't think surgery first is an option for trans women, aside from people who needing an orchiectomy for other reasons.

*There's a whole 'do we want to use sex or gender here' issue, too. I'm not doing well at coming up with a short explanation right now.
**It's not obligatory to change your name when you transition, but of course loads of people do.
***Interestingly, the Standards of Care, which is kind of the manifestation of the expectations of 'the system' in the US, doesn't actually completely assume this trajectory, but in practice there's a bias towards it.


That ties into the male-female dynamic that the military still hasn't quite figured out. Even in the tiniest FOBs with gender-integrated units, men and women don't sleep in the same rooms and almost always have separate bathroom facilities (even if only "From 7 to 8, this is the women's shower unit"). There are some exceptions, but they pretty much all lead to issues eventually (in my experience), and the renewed focus on sexual assault won't help that any.

I agree this is a problem, but it's not a 'real' problem. It's firmly in the 'problems the military has that they ought to be solving' category, much like the 'how do we treat women' problem. Why aren't these real problems? They're rooted in transphobia. Trans people don't pose a problem given a renewed focus on sexual assault--they're getting caught up in an assumption that people with one set of genitals can't but help trying to get in the pants of people with another set of genitals. (In fact, gender non-conforming people* probably stand to gain a lot from the military taking sexual assault seriously--they've got to be a demographic whose complaints are not taken seriously.) But that's not actually a reason they couldn't draw up a set of policies and go for it. They could even try to make the policy not shit the first time round, but that might be asking for too much. Has anyone ever drawn up a policy on trans issues that wasn't about the fears of cis people?

*As I understand it (which means 'I heard second hand'), since the repeal of DADT there's been a push towards making grooming standards much more gender normative.
posted by hoyland at 3:43 PM on June 4, 2013 [1 favorite]


The military would have to deal with the logistics of both genders, but the arguments that lead up to letting trans people in will focus on trans women.

Part of the problem with this is that the military has never quite adjusted well to regular women, let alone transwomen. There are still a lot of complaints about women's PT (physical training) standards, and the usual bitter statement (even pre-trans awareness) is "I wish I was a chick so I could be lazy and slow." I can't imagine having trans added to the mix would make this better.

In addition, there's a lot of casual nudity and interaction with said nudity. I vividly remember a woman in my basic training class who wouldn't take her clothes off in the group showers, and the platoon guide was ordered by the drill sergeant to bathe her. Mind you, that would also be a problem for transmen, but I think they would be more vulnerable to rape.

*As I understand it (which means 'I heard second hand'), since the repeal of DADT there's been a push towards making grooming standards much more gender normative.

Sadly, grooming standards have /always/ been super gender normative. When I first got in, I had buzz cut the back of my neck so I could be more effective, but I got read the riot act and told to grow it out. They regulate the length of nails and the color of nail polish and which can be worn by men and women.
posted by corb at 4:56 PM on June 4, 2013


All of that just sort of reinforces why this isn't likely to happen any time soon (I agree it's not soon likely), but doesn't really go to whether it should happen, right?
posted by MoonOrb at 5:04 PM on June 4, 2013


It's transgender. Transgender is an adjective, not a verb.

I apologize.

Also, I should make clearer the following: I am in the U.S. Army, currently in the Reserves but previously spent more than a decade on active duty, including time as a personnel officer and in recruiting (not as a recruiter). I do not speak for the Army. The things I say here are not reflective of official Army policy, except as I interpret it based on my experience and reading. I do tend to give the U.S. military as an institution more credit than it deserves, but I am capable of admitting when it is doing things wrong. I don't think I personally suffer from transphobia, but I admit that I have somewhat less exposure to transgender people than I otherwise would, having spent a significant portion of my life in the military; I don't think I would care whether a fellow Soldier was transgender. I recognize that I'm in the minority, and that there is a huge component of transphobia in military regulations and in the military culture.

That said, there appears to be a wide variation in the medical requirements of transgender people. Judging from the responses in this thread, I agree that the military is being overly broad in saying all transgender people are ineligible for military service. However, the issues I noted should not simply be hand-waved away.

Now, as the surgery, I would assume they would treat it like any other surgery.

That's the issue, though: the military doesn't really want anyone to sign up with a known condition that warrants medical treatment. Part of that is that any medical treatment carries risks of complication, and the military would rather you incur those risks yourself and then get back to them after you seem to have overcome them. Another part of it is that it necessarily takes the service member out of commission, and the military sees no reason it should bother accepting someone with a known condition that will take them out of commission for any amount of time. As I noted, there's that huge list of conditions, some of which could obviously be cleared up, that disqualify a person. I mean, "A reliable history of anaphylaxis to stinging insects" is one of those disqualifying conditions, even though it's trivially easy for a person to carry an EpiPen (and it's another of those things that disqualifies you from enlistment but not from service -- I've known at least three people in the Army who carry EpiPens; I presume they all discovered their allergies after joining).

Skip over the whole changing room/shower issue as well.
(knitting together two different people's responses to essentially the same point that I made)
I agree this is a problem, but it's not a 'real' problem. It's firmly in the 'problems the military has that they ought to be solving' category, much like the 'how do we treat women' problem. Why aren't these real problems? They're rooted in transphobia.

As much as we (you and I and the military) would collectively like for it not to be an issue, it is, and it continues to be. I'm not saying that it's a problem as in "Oh no, teh icky queers are staring at my junk!", but the men-and-women-living-together dynamic is a huge problem, as evidenced by the sexual assault rates, and it's hard enough for the military to solve when it's just cis men and cis women to deal with. I would love for it not to be such a huge problem, and there are certainly things that should be done, but it's going to take at least a generation* to solve.

* -- By "generation," I mean the period of time it takes to turn junior leaders into senior ones, which is about a decade and a half (e.g., the Gulf War generation has just about turned over the reins to the War on Terror generation; I suspect the latter will be much better equipped to solve some of these problems, having dealt with such things as DADT-era LGBT service members and women in combat).
posted by Etrigan at 5:25 PM on June 4, 2013 [2 favorites]


That's the issue, though: the military doesn't really want anyone to sign up with a known condition that warrants medical treatment. Part of that is that any medical treatment carries risks of complication, and the military would rather you incur those risks yourself and then get back to them after you seem to have overcome them. Another part of it is that it necessarily takes the service member out of commission, and the military sees no reason it should bother accepting someone with a known condition that will take them out of commission for any amount of time.

While this is true, they cover things like plastic surgery (there are regularly things in the press about the US Army paying for breast implants for example). And the number of people out of commission for gender re-assignment surgery (or other treatment like that) will always be very small and probably not really an issue. But I get your point - these are issues that will be thought about and potentially used as arguments against.

As for the issues of different genders working and living together and the issues that already come about with cis-gendered people, let alone with trans* - again a good point. And while the armies I personally know about - the UK and Australia - also deal with these issues, I would say that for whatever reason the US military has more of a problem for cultural reasons. If anything, opening up service to transgender people might help improve the situation if it brings yet more attention to the importance of improving attitudes to gender, equity, sexual assualt and other issues.

Thanks for your contributions in this thread BTW - I for one am really appreciating your POV.
posted by Megami at 11:58 PM on June 4, 2013


While this is true, they cover things like plastic surgery (there are regularly things in the press about the US Army paying for breast implants for example).

This is more geared toward family members (hence the references to TRICARE, which is the military's health insurance plan).

This is a more direct discussion of the actual program, but it predates the bad times of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan -- basically, the reconstructive surgeons that the military kept on hand for years didn't have a lot to do day-to-day back in pre-2004, so they would do cosmetic surgeries (for the record, service members had to pay for the implants out of pocket and take accrued normal leave (which is like vacation time, while sick leave is essentially free in the military)) just to keep up their practice. I have no idea whether it's still done to any measurable extent, given the number of combat-related reconstructions that are now being done.
posted by Etrigan at 4:29 AM on June 5, 2013 [2 favorites]


That's the issue, though: the military doesn't really want anyone to sign up with a known condition that warrants medical treatment.

One of the frustrating things here is that, like with gay people, transgender people are already signed up anyway. The potential complications of their situation remain even if they are trying to conceal or change who they really are. It just makes their distress worse if they can't be treated when they feel they need it.
posted by Drinky Die at 5:00 AM on June 5, 2013 [1 favorite]


One of the frustrating things here is that, like with gay people, transgender people are already signed up anyway. The potential complications of their situation remain even if they are trying to conceal or change who they really are. It just makes their distress worse if they can't be treated when they feel they need it.

Getting my military hat back on...

Right now, if being transgendered is something that you always realize in your childhood/early teens, then it's something you presumably already know by the time you enter the military. So the military answer, I'd suppose, would be that it doesn't matter. If you are, then you knowingly lied on your enlistment forms and to recruiters, which is dishonorable. So there's no reasons to make special accomodations for dishonorable individuals. The difference between that and HIV is that you presumably got HIV afterwards, so it's something that is not your fault that happened to you while you were a soldier.

I think if being transgendered were something that could strike at any time, then the military would have a lot more accomodations for it. And even if they decided to medboard you out, they might actually give a percentage or severance pay for it.
posted by corb at 5:24 AM on June 5, 2013


> Right now, if being transgendered is something that you always realize in your childhood/early teens

I'm only going to address the part where that is just not true. Some people have gender dysphoria but have no idea why or what it means til late teens, early 20's, or even later. Hopefully that will change as there is more information and trans issues become less taboo. But it just not true that everyone knows from the time they're a kid. That's part of the cis-defined trans narrative.

Also, again, it's transgender not transgendered. It's an adjective, not a verb.
posted by trogdole at 5:37 AM on June 5, 2013 [1 favorite]


Right now, if being transgendered is something that you always realize in your childhood/early teens, then it's something you presumably already know by the time you enter the military.

People frequently don't realise they're trans until adulthood because they don't have the language to talk about what they're feeling and, of course, everything they've ever been told is that they're not trans. When people tell you they knew when they were three, they may still not have figured out what that three year old knew until they were 25 or 35 or 50 and then it's 'Oh, duh, well that makes sense now.' Or, believe it or not, they figured it out as a kid but had no idea that transitioning was possible. This presumably is increasingly rare due to the internet, but does happen.

It's the same sort of thing that leads people not to figure out they're gay at 13 or whenever, except that it's easier to figure out gay people actually exist.

psst... the adjective's 'transgender' not 'transgendered'
posted by hoyland at 5:39 AM on June 5, 2013 [1 favorite]


When people tell you they knew when they were three may not have figured out what that three year old knew until they were 25 or 35 or 50 and then it's 'Oh, duh, well that makes sense now.

Oh, that is actually really helpful. So it's more "In hindsight, I always knew something was wrong" not necessarily, "When I was a kid, I knew exactly what was wrong and could clearly articulate it."

I don't actually rememer if on the military medical tests they specifically ask you if you feel comfortable in your gender or if you're a womanly woman or a manly man. It's been ten years, my memory is shit. (Etrigan? You have any idea?) If they don't ask about gender-dysphoria type stuff, then that would erase the "You were dishonorable by lying" angle (which, as I recall, is what they used to say about LGBT soldiers, which is the other reason I'm glad they ended DADT).

I think, though, that if gender dysphoria always exists early on, the military would probably mark it as a pre-existing condition, which would mean that even if you got out, the VA wouldn't treat you for it, and they might discharge you.

That's part of the cis-defined trans narrative.


I don't think there is a cis-defined trans narrative, so much as there's a cis-confused-perception-hazy-understanding-of-trans-narrative. We know what we're told, as it were.

Now, it's totally possible that what we're told is what people consider to be most likely to be palatable to us, but I'm not sure that really counts as defining the narrative.
posted by corb at 5:47 AM on June 5, 2013


(So basically: trans is the noun, transgender is the adjective? Is there a specific way for the verb of becoming trangendered?)
posted by corb at 5:48 AM on June 5, 2013


Agh I did it again but I swear that was by accident. I'm leaving it so people don't think I'm erasing evidence of my screwups.
posted by corb at 5:49 AM on June 5, 2013


Oh, that is actually really helpful. So it's more "In hindsight, I always knew something was wrong" not necessarily, "When I was a kid, I knew exactly what was wrong and could clearly articulate it."

Certainly some people can articulate it (see our repeated posts about trans kids, after all), but lots of people can't articulate it or maybe they could, but didn't because they know it's 'unacceptable' and manage to kind of forget about it for 20 years or even did articulate it and suffered abuse as a result. But, yeah, not being able to articulate it until later is pretty common.

I don't think there is a cis-defined trans narrative, so much as there's a cis-confused-perception-hazy-understanding-of-trans-narrative. We know what we're told, as it were.

There are sort of two different groups of cis people here. There are people like doctors (and judges and whoever writes the DMV's policies) who totally do get to decide what the 'right' narrative is in a very literal way and deny treatment (or document changes) to people who don't conform to it. It's only relatively recently that there are any trans people included in that conversation. (For some kind of example, there's the name of a prominent British trans person on the current version of the Standards of Care whose name isn't on the previous version. There may have been other trans people involved in the previous version whose names I don't recognise.)

Then there's everyone else. Who largely do only know what they're told and aren't sitting down and deciding the narrative. But collectively we've been conditioned to wring our hands about whether trans people know they're 'sure' and 'what if they change their mind?' and so on. Society's happy when a trans person says they knew they were trans from the age of three, when this person is stereotypically masculine or feminine, when they want genital surgery and so on. Which isn't really an individual person's 'fault'--we all grew up steeped in transphobia, pretty much no matter what. But there is an individual burden to listen when people say 'Yeah, that's not really how it works for me' or 'That's not how it works for everyone, so we shouldn't write a policy that insists on having had surgery X'.

(So basically: trans is the noun, transgender is the adjective? Is there a specific way for the verb of becoming trangendered?)

Basically, always an adjective. So 'a trans person' not 'a trans'. Similarly 'a transgender person'. When you need a verb, you could say things like 'George realised he was trans in college' (is this what you meant for 'becoming transgendered'?) or 'George transitioned when he was 27.'
posted by hoyland at 6:35 AM on June 5, 2013 [1 favorite]


When you need a verb, you could say things like 'George realised he was trans in college' (is this what you meant for 'becoming transgendered'?) or 'George transitioned when he was 27.'

No, I think "Transitioned" is a really easy term to grasp, as far as I understand it's not the process of becoming trans but the process of openly becoming trans? Kind of like "coming out of the closet" for lesbian/gay folk? But I mean more, if everyone has different narratives, and for some people it doesn't exist early and then does later, is there a verb for going from one to the other? Kind of a word for the happening? Ie, how do you say, "George was completely a girl yesterday, but is a boy today. He (insert X word here)." I think that kind of thing, if it exists, could definitely be useful for the military thing. Basically, trying to beat the pre-existing conditions if possible, if trans is not a thing assigned at birth. Again, I don't know!

But collectively we've been conditioned to wring our hands about whether trans people know they're 'sure' and 'what if they change their mind?' and so on.

I think - and I'm slow-thinking here - those thoughts aren't so much conditioning as fear. Not fear of trans people, but fear of it-could-happen-to-me fear. The kind of fear that makes everyone clutch their babies tighter after a shooting, or something. So for cisfolk who are now really secure in their gender, we sometimesn think back to the times we doubted we wanted to be it (for women, often overlaid with 'man, society sure treats ladies shitty!') and think, "Ohmygod what if someone had taken me seriously, what if I wasn't a lady now and couldn't have babies to love or this family and life and body that I love?" And because people are really good at empathy for things that they understand on some level, it becomes, "ohmygod what about those poor people that this might happen to?"

We don't really understand the difference between "I wish I was a boy" and "I am a boy" thinking very clearly yet - certainly not in an internal way. So thus, these fears are really strong. I think you're right, this will clear up a lot with more information, but for now, that's why I think they exist.
posted by corb at 6:47 AM on June 5, 2013


hoyland, thanks for your willingness to provide explanations. I know it often isn't fun to be in that position, particularly if it is something you've had to do frequently.
posted by Area Man at 6:58 AM on June 5, 2013


> But I mean more, if everyone has different narratives, and for some people it doesn't exist early and then does later, is there a verb for going from one to the other? Kind of a word for the happening?

Being trans isn't a thing that happens to people, and I think that's where you're confused. It's something that you are born as (insofar as I have ever seen or heard of)*. So their isn't a term for what you're asking, and that can confuse some people. Transitioning is when you change your gender medically, socially, or legally. As for what you could potentially call what you're describing, I've seen most commonly "realized x was trans". Because that's what it is. A realization.

*There's a lot more gray area when you get into transsexual individuals vs transgender individuals. Because transgender individuals may not define themselves on the binary, such as genderqueer people, etc. I can't speak for anyone but myself, but I have known trans people who are not on the binary spectrum that do not agree with having been that way since birth. To those people I know, it's more of an acceptance that gender is fluid, and moving with that fluidity. A lot of older transsexuals I've spoken to have this mindset that you have to be on the binary, identify as the opposite gender as your assigned sex, and have to have surgery to correct it. And that's not how it is for everyone.
posted by trogdole at 9:10 AM on June 5, 2013


Area Man: "hoyland, thanks for your willingness to provide explanations."

Seconding this, and also thanks to trogdole, corinth and jiawen and everyone else who has been kind and super patient with those of us who aren't as knowledgeable as we could be.

Most of what I have learned about trans people and what they deal with comes from MeFi comments like all of yours. Y'all have repeatedly taken the time to explain and educate and debunk misunderstandings, and I suspect that must be tedious and frustrating and at times a thankless task. It's greatly appreciated.
posted by zarq at 9:42 AM on June 5, 2013 [1 favorite]


trogdole: Reminder that transgendered is not a word. Transgender is an adjective, not a verb.
English doesn't work that way. You don't get to choose which words are not allowed in the language, nor does logic dictate the formation of words absolutely.

Transgendered: 13,500,000 results
Transgender: 1 32,100,000 results

"Transgendered" is an adjective, according to Merriam-Webster, the Free Dictionary, and Dictionary.com, in a quick search.

I think what some people have been trying to say in this thread is that they find "transgendered" to be offensive, because they think it implies there is a transition period between (cis-)gender and transgender (and that therefore every transgender person "made a choice" at some point, as with the much-disproven anti-gay narrative).

That's OK. We strive for inoffensive discourse on Metafilter. But it's still a word.
posted by IAmBroom at 10:22 AM on June 5, 2013 [1 favorite]


So the military answer, I'd suppose, would be that it doesn't matter. If you are, then you knowingly lied on your enlistment forms and to recruiters, which is dishonorable. So there's no reasons to make special accomodations for dishonorable individuals. The difference between that and HIV is that you presumably got HIV afterwards, so it's something that is not your fault that happened to you while you were a soldier.

We are kind of on different wavelengths here again. I'm more interested in people who aren't asking for a a lot of medical accommodation for transition. The transgender people already serving fit that bill. They would not have signed up if they had a different plan. If someone wants to identify as transgender but not take any medical steps, there is simply no justification for not letting them be open about it and providing mental health services to make sure they are doing okay. There may be some who are in the military for the wrong reasons, "make a man out of me" type stuff for transgender women for example. It's better they can be open about their feelings instead of just lying.

I guess I think of it as a condition with a wide variety of severity. Someone who needs hormone treatment and surgery is going to be in a very different situation than someone who doesn't. The point isn't that those things don't pose challenges, but that the response of "No Transgender people, ever" is not the rational response to those concerns. You don't want to sign up blind people, but if someone just needs glasses it might be a different case.
posted by Drinky Die at 11:05 AM on June 5, 2013


Okay, this is the nuclear option, but Google just gave me 11 million results for 'faggot'. Some of those are going to be about sausages, but 'it's a perfectly good word because people use it' sounds like a pretty crap argument there. Because that's what your argument is about, even if it's dressed up as empiricism and pedantry.

And, of course, my faggot example is going to include pages explaining that 'faggot' is offensive and in the near future, this page, but that happens with your 'transgendered' example. In fact, most of the first page of results for me are using 'transgender', including, in fact, Merriam-Webster.
posted by hoyland at 2:26 PM on June 5, 2013 [1 favorite]


Ie, how do you say, "George was completely a girl yesterday, but is a boy today. He (insert X word here)." I think that kind of thing, if it exists, could definitely be useful for the military thing.

'Coming out' works.

The word X probably is 'socially transitioned', but that sounds kind of awkward to me. (Maybe other people have different opinions.) Maybe, in a military context especially*, the fact that one doesn't necessarily flip a switch and poof! new gender! is a stumbling block. If George is a coworker, then maybe that's kind of what happens. "On June 1st, I'm called George, you're calling me 'he' and don't hassle me in the men's room." But on June 2nd, George probably isn't going to be pissed at you if you call him 'she' (as long as you're not doing it intentionally and being super obvious about that or something). But if George is a friend, probably especially if he's a close friend, he maybe didn't pick a date and just asked you to switch name/pronouns, maybe at the same time, maybe at different times, possibly long before he comes out at work. On the other hand, maybe the military is particularly well-suited to the coworker coming out scenario--the military wields way more power over people than HR does.

*Take that with a grain of salt. I'm basically wildly speculating.
posted by hoyland at 2:54 PM on June 5, 2013


As well as the fact that those 'definitions' really aren't. And you can tell me I don't control the English language, but transgendered is NOT a word. 'Of or pertaining to the full or partial reversal of gender or sex'? That makes no sense. You can't say someone transgendered. It would not make sense. Those girls are transgendered doesn't work either. That's just adding on a pointless out of place 'er'. It's not a word.
posted by trogdole at 3:51 PM on June 5, 2013


[I would suggest strongly not turning this into a "let's all argue about one user's personal idiolect" argument, please.]
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 4:39 PM on June 5, 2013 [2 favorites]


corb: I think, though, that if gender dysphoria always exists early on, the military would probably mark it as a pre-existing condition, which would mean that even if you got out, the VA wouldn't treat you for it, and they might discharge you.

Just from my support group, I know at least three trans women who get their care from the VA. I think this includes having bottom surgery, but I haven't asked them what their exact financial responsibility was. They certainly get hormones and checkups and mammograms and the like.

I don't think there is a cis-defined trans narrative, so much as there's a cis-confused-perception-hazy-understanding-of-trans-narrative. We know what we're told, as it were.

Now, it's totally possible that what we're told is what people consider to be most likely to be palatable to us, but I'm not sure that really counts as defining the narrative."


There is one and it does. Trust us.


corb: "I think - and I'm slow-thinking here - those thoughts aren't so much conditioning as fear. Not fear of trans people, but fear of it-could-happen-to-me fear. The kind of fear that makes everyone clutch their babies tighter after a shooting, or something. So for cisfolk who are now really secure in their gender, we sometimes think back to the times we doubted we wanted to be it (for women, often overlaid with 'man, society sure treats ladies shitty!') and think, "Ohmygod what if someone had taken me seriously, what if I wasn't a lady now and couldn't have babies to love or this family and life and body that I love?" And because people are really good at empathy for things that they understand on some level, it becomes, "ohmygod what about those poor people that this might happen to?"

This is an incredibly generous reading of transphobia and cissexism. Maybe this is what you experience, but I guarantee you this is not what gets trans people mired in gatekeeping nonsense, or patronized, or thrown out of the house, or portrayed as clowns on TV. It's also not what gets them killed and fired and mocked. You are vastly overstating the amount of empathy that exists for trans people in Western culture. And, I mean, I know this is one of your pet issues, that "society sure treats ladies shitty," but society treats trans people even worse. I'm not trying to kick off the oppression olympics, but the pressure not to be trans is surely greater than the shittiness of being a lady (this is more or less why I struggle so hard with passing and the conditional cis privilege it brings), and so your feared osmosis of poor cis girls being mistakenly binned as trans and directed onto the life-ruining testosterone superhighway just doesn't happen.


Drinky Die: "There may be some who are in the military for the wrong reasons, "make a man out of me" type stuff for transgender women for example. "

Fun fact: I seriously considered trying to join the French Foreign Legion for just that reason. Three years ago I was in a really weird, crappy place!
posted by Corinth at 11:41 AM on June 6, 2013 [3 favorites]


Beck is going to be on Anderson Cooper 360 tonight.
posted by homunculus at 1:54 PM on June 6, 2013


I think this includes having bottom surgery, but I haven't asked them what their exact financial responsibility was. They certainly get hormones and checkups and mammograms and the like.

IIRC the VA is banned from paying for 'sex changes' or some such crappy wording (I haven't found the actual law). It looks like the current situation is that they'll pay for/provide therapy and hormones but not surgeries (probably making good use of Congress not knowing what they're talking about when they wrote the law). Whether this reflects the situation on the ground, I don't know. (I do know the situation a couple of years back was really uneven, with every VA hospital understanding what they could and couldn't do differently.
posted by hoyland at 2:42 PM on June 6, 2013


homunculus: "Beck is going to be on Anderson Cooper 360 tonight."

Oh man, is there one of those bingo card things written for this? I mean, we've got 'gratuitous use of former name' in the tweet itself. In a mere 140 characters!

(To elaborate, Beck was not a public person prior to this book coming out. Anyone who met her pre-transition can probably connect the dots ("Transgender ex-SEAL with surname Beck? Hey, wait, I met a SEAL called Beck.") and the rest of us have no need to know her previous name except to satisfy some prurient interest in trans people. Her old name coming up naturally somehow is one thing, but this is just trying to be sensational. On the plus side, it's a good bet it won't wrest the title of 'worst interview ever with a trans person on CNN' away from Larry King. Anyone remember that one?)
posted by hoyland at 2:51 PM on June 6, 2013


Transgender Soldier Meets the President:

"Now, with LGBT Pride Month upon us I can’t help but think about something else. The President shook my hand and thanked me for my service. He called me “sir” and “young man.” I wonder what he would say or do if he knew I was transgender. How would he react if he knew that when I enlisted in the Army just over 4 years ago, I had not enlisted as the “young man” that I had always known myself to be. What if he knew that during basic training a thick bun of curly hair rested under my combat helmet and beret, or that during Advanced Individual Training in September 2010 I came out as transgender and decided to live my life authentically, full time as man. What would he say then? What would he do?"
posted by Corinth at 5:48 PM on June 6, 2013


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