DSM-5 Falls Short on gender dysphoria revision, ICD 11 Update

image from GIRESUK (other images added as a visual aids for non experts on transgender issues understanding)

The following are aspects of the a presentation by a leading transgender and Gender Dysphoria Reform advocate, it is a summary by Kelly Winters Ph. D of recent changes to gender related diagnostic categories in the DSM-5, published last month by the American Psychiatric Association, and proposed changes for the ICD-11, scheduled for publication in 2015 by the World Health Organization.  It is based on proposed revisions to the ICD-11 presented by Drs. Geoffrey Reed, Peggy Cohen-Kettenis and Richard Krueger at the National Transgender Health Summit in Oakland last month and on discussions at the Global Action for Trans* Equality (GATE) Civil Society Expert Working Group in Buenos Aires last April.

There are two primary issues in medical diagnostic policy for trans people. The first is harmful stigma and false stereotyping of mental defectiveness and sexual deviance, that was perpetuated by the former categories of Gender Identity Disorder (GID) and Transvestic Fetishism (TF) in the DSM-IV-TR. The second is access to medically necessary hormonal and/or surgical transition care, for those trans and transsexual people who need them. The latter requires some kind of diagnostic coding, but coding that is congruent with medical transition care, not contradictory to it. I have long felt that these two issues must be addressed together –not one at the expense of the other, or to benefit part of the trans community at the expense of harming another.

also see from my sister blogs:  Being Transgender Is No Longer A Mental Disorder ?…………… and Gender Dysphoria Diagnosis to be Moved Out of Sexual Disorders Chapter of DSM-5 ……. The “D” Switcharoo? plus more HERE

The DSM-5 Falls Short, Despite Some Significant Improvements

The new revisions for the Gender Dysphoria diagnosis in the DSM-5 are mostly positive. However they do not go nearly far enough. The change in title from Gender Identity Disorder (intended by its authors to mean “disordered” gender identity) to Gender Dysphoria (from a Greek root for distress) is a significant step forward. It represents a historic shift from  gender identities that differ from birth assignment to distress with gender assignment and associated sex characteristics as the focus of the problem to be treated. This message is reinforced by the August 2012 Public Policy Statement from the American Psychiatric Association, affirming the medical necessity of hormonal and/or surgical transition care. In another positive change, the Gender Dysphoria category has been moved from the Sexual Disorders chapter of the DSM to a new chapter of its own. Non-binary queer-spectrum identities and expression are now acknowledged in the diagnostic criteria, and the APA Working Group has rejected pressure to add an “autogynephilia” specifier to falsely stereotype and sexualize trans women. Children can no longer be falsely diagnosed with this mental disorder label, strictly on the basis of nonconformity to birth assignment.

However, the fundamental problem remains that the need for medical transition treatment is still classed as a mental disorder. In the diagnostic criteria, desire for transition care is itself cast as symptomatic of mental illness, unfortunately reinforcing gender-reparative psychotherapies which suppress expression of this “desire” into the closet. The diagnostic criteria still contradict transition and still describe transition itself as symptomatic of mental illness. The criteria for children retain much of the archaic sexist language of the DSM-IV-TR that psychopathologizes gender nonconformity. Moreover, children who have happily socially transitioned are maligned by misgendering language in the new diagnosis.

More troubling is false-positive diagnosis for those who have happily completed transition. Thus, the GD diagnosis, and its controversial post-transition specifier, continue to contradict the proven efficacy of medical transition treatments.  This contradiction may be used to support gender conversion/reparative psychotherapies– practices described as no longer ethical in the current WPATH Standards of Care.

Finally, the Transvestic Disorder category in the DSM-5 is even more harmful than its predecessor, Transvestic Fetishism. Punitive and scientifically capricious, it only serves to punish nonconformity to assigned birth roles and has no relevance to established definition of mental disorder. The Transvestic Disorder category has been expanded in the DSM-5 to implicate trans men as well as trans women, with a new specifier of “autoandrophilia,” apparently pulled from thin air without supporting research or clinical evidence.

The ICD-11, a Historic New Approach

icd-11-book-cover

The 11th Revision of the International Statistical Classification of Diseases and Related Health Problems (ICD-11) is scheduled for publication in 2015 by the World Health Organization (WHO). It is a global diagnostic manual that contains chapters for both physical medical conditions and mental conditions. In contrast to the DSM-5, the ICD-11 holds promise for unprecedented forward progress on both issues of social stigma and barriers to medical transition care.  At the National Transgender Health Summit in Oakland last month, members of the ICD-11 Working Group for Sexual Disorders and Sexual Health confirmed proposals for  substantive changes in gender and transition related codings.

The Working Group has proposed a historic shift of transition related categories, now labeled “Gender Incongruence,”  out of the Mental and Behavioural Disorders chapter (called F-Codes) entirely. It is to be placed in a new, non-psychiatric chapter, called “Certain conditions related to sexual health.” The Incongruence title is distinct from DSM-5 dysphoria title, to clarify that this is no longer a mental disorder coding.  They have also proposed to eliminate victimless sexual paraphilia categories from the manual, including: F65.1: Transvestic fetishism. A similar category describing dual gender individuals, F64.1: Dual-role Transvestism, would be deleted as well. These changes have the potential for enormous progress in reducing both stigma and barriers to medical transition care, for those who need it.

When implemented, they would effectively obsolete the new psychopathology categories of Gender Dysphoria and Transvestic Disorder in the DSM-5.

There are also questions and shortcomings in the current  ICD-11 proposals.  While the proposed children’s coding of  Gender Incongruence of Childhood is no longer a mental disorder label,  any pathologizing coding of happy gender nonconforming or socially transitioned children, who are too young to need any medical transition or puberty-blocking treatment, is highly controversial among clinicians, families and community members.  The diagnostic criteria for children, like those in the DSM-5, still emphasize nonconformity to anachronistic gender stereotypes as symptomatic of sickness. The adult and adolescent criteria have copied ambiguous language from the DSM-5 that cast desire for transition, in itself, as pathological. Worse yet, false-positive diagnosis of happy post-transition subjects inadvertently contradicts rather than supports medical transition care.

The ICD-11 Working Group for Sexual Disorders and Sexual Health should be commended for advancing these historic reforms. However, it is important that Group members listen to the remaining concerns of community members and supportive care providers.  Adults and adolescents needing access to medical transition care, or pubescent youth needing puberty blocking medications, require a clearer description of the problem to be treated. Young children, who may only need information, monitoring and support, have very different diagnostic needs and diagnostic risks than adults and adolescents.

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Offensive Terminology to Avoid when presenting Pro-Gay pointers ………

In light of recent letters to the newspapers and the seemingly over zealous race to bring certain issues to light several mistakes have been presenting themselves to be problematic in our defense and almost playing to the hands of the homophobes while crashing our very points we wish to present, one such letter in the Gleaner recently started off with the term “homosexual lifestyle”

Offensive: “homosexual” (n. or adj.)
Preferred: “gay” (adj.); “gay man” or “lesbian” (n.)

Please use “lesbian” or “gay man” to describe people attracted to members of the same sex. Because of the clinical history of the word “homosexual,” it has been adopted by anti-gay extremists to suggest that lesbians and gay men are somehow diseased or psychologically/emotionally disordered — notions discredited by both the American Psychological Association and the American Psychiatric Association in the 1970s. Please avoid using “homosexual” except in direct quotes. Please also avoid using “homosexual” as a style variation simply to avoid repeated use of the word “gay.” The Associated Press, New York Times andWashington Post restrict usage of the term “homosexual”

Offensive: “homosexual relations/relationship,” “homosexual couple,” “homosexual sex,” etc.
Preferred: “relationship” (or “sexual relationship”), “couple” (or, if necessary, “gay couple”), “sex,” etc.

Identifying a same-sex couple as “a homosexual couple,” characterizing their relationship as “a homosexual relationship,” or identifying their intimacy as “homosexual sex” is extremely offensive and should be avoided. These constructions are frequently used by anti-gay extremists to denigrate gay and lesbian people, couples and relationships.

As a rule, try to avoid labeling an activity, emotion or relationship “gay,” “lesbian” or “bisexual” unless you would call the same activity, emotion or relationship “straight” if engaged in by someone of another sexual orientation. In most cases, your readers, viewers or listeners will be able to discern people’s genders and/or sexual orientations through the names of the parties involved, your depictions of their relationships, and your use of pronouns.

Offensive: “sexual preference”
Preferred: “sexual orientation”

The term “sexual preference” is typically used to suggest that being lesbian, gay or bisexual is a choice and therefore can and should be “cured.” Sexual orientation is the accurate description of an individual’s enduring physical, romantic, emotional and/or spiritual attraction to members of the same and/or opposite sex and is inclusive of lesbians, gay men, bisexuals and heterosexual or straight men and women

Offensive: “gay lifestyle” or “homosexual lifestyle”
Preferred: “lesbian,” “gay,” “bisexual”

There is no single lesbian, gay or bisexual lifestyle. Lesbians, gay men and bisexuals are diverse in the ways they lead their lives. The phrase “gay lifestyle” is used to denigrate lesbians and gay men, suggesting that their sexual orientation is a choice and therefore can and should be “cured”

Offensive: “admitted homosexual” or “avowed homosexual”
Preferred: “openly lesbian,” “openly gay,” “openly bisexual”

Dated term used to describe those who are openly lesbian, gay or bisexual or who have recently come out of the closet. The words “admitted” or “avowed” suggest that being gay is somehow shameful or inherently secretive. Avoid the use of the word “homosexual” in any case

Offensive: “gay agenda” or “homosexual agenda”
Preferred: “lesbian and gay civil rights movement” or “lesbian and gay movement”

Lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people are as diverse in our political beliefs as other communities. Our commitment to equal rights is one we share with civil rights advocates who are not necessarily LGBT. “Lesbian and gay civil rights movement” accurately describes the historical efforts, by gay and straight people alike, to achieve understanding and equal treatment for LGBT people. Notions of a “homosexual agenda” are rhetorical inventions of anti-gay extremists seeking to create a climate of fear by portraying the pursuit of civil rights for LGBT people as sinister.

Another disturbing twist the putting into “past tense” transgender to pronounce or write it as “transgendered” one cannot be past something of which they are in other words one cannot now say they are something after being diagnosed as transgender. The Jamaica Observer for example makes that mistake in a recent article

Other terms to remember to use properly

Lesbian, Gay and Bisexual Glossary of Terms

Biphobia
Fear of bisexuals, often based on inaccurate stereotypes, including associations with infidelity, promiscuity and transmission of sexually transmitted diseases.

Bisexual
An individual who is physically, romantically, emotionally and/or spiritually attracted to men and women. Bisexuals need not have had equal sexual experience with both men and women; in fact, they need not have had any sexual experience at all to identify as bisexual.

Civil Union
Legal recognition of committed same-sex relationships in Connecticut, New Jersey & Vermont (see IN FOCUS: Civil Unions, Domestic Partnerships and Adoption).

Closeted
Describes a person who is not open about his or her sexual orientation.

Coming Out
A lifelong process of self-acceptance. People forge a lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender identity first to themselves and then may reveal it to others. Publicly identifying one’s sexual orientation may or may not be part of coming out.

Domestic Partnership
Civil or legal recognition of a relationship between two people (domestic partners) that sometimes extends limited protections to them (see IN FOCUS: Civil Unions, Domestic Partnerships and Adoption).

Gay
The adjective used to describe people whose enduring physical, romantic, emotional and/or spiritual attractions are to people of the same sex (e.g., gay man, gay people). In contemporary contexts, lesbian (n.) is often a preferred term for women. Avoid identifying gay people as “homosexuals”

Heterosexual Man / Woman
A person whose enduring physical, romantic, emotional and/or spiritual attraction is to people of the opposite sex. Also straight.

Heterosexism
The attitude that heterosexuality is the only valid sexual orientation. Often takes the form of ignoring lesbians, gay men and bisexuals. For example: a feature on numerous Valentine’s Day couples that omit same-sex couples.

Homosexual
Outdated clinical term considered derogatory and offensive by many gay people. Gay and/or lesbian accurately describe people who are attracted to members of the same sex.

Homophobia
Fear of lesbians and gay men. Prejudice is usually a more accurate description of hatred or antipathy toward LGBT people.

Lesbian
A woman whose enduring physical, romantic, emotional and/or spiritual attraction is to other women. Avoid identifying lesbians as “homosexuals,” a derogatory term.

LGBT / GLBT
Acronyms for “lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender.” LGBT and/or GLBT are often used because they are more inclusive of the diversity of the community.

Lifestyle
Inaccurate term often used by anti-gay extremists to denigrate lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender lives. Avoid using. As there is no one heterosexual or straight lifestyle, there is no one lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender lifestyle.

Openly Gay
Describes people who self-identify as lesbian or gay in their public and/or professional lives. Also openly lesbian, openly bisexual, openly transgender.

Outing
The act of publicly declaring (sometimes based on rumor and/or speculation) or revealing another person’s sexual orientation without his or her consent. Considered inappropriate by a large portion of the LGBT community.

Queer
Traditionally a pejorative term, queer has been appropriated by some LGBT people to describe themselves. Some value the term for its defiance and because it can be inclusive of the entire LGBT community. Nevertheless, it is not universally accepted even within the LGBT community and should be avoided unless quoting someone who self-identifies that way.

Sexual Orientation
The scientifically accurate term for an individual’s enduring physical, romantic, emotional and/or spiritual attraction to members of the same and/or opposite sex, including lesbian, gay, bisexual and heterosexual orientations. Avoid the offensive term “sexual preference,” which is used to suggest that being gay or lesbian is a choice and therefore “curable.”

Sodomy Laws
Historically used to selectively persecute gay men, lesbians and bisexuals, the state laws often referred to as “sodomy laws” were ruled unconstitutional by the U.S. Supreme Court inLawrence v. Texas (2003). “Sodomy” should never be used to describe gay, lesbian or bisexual relationships, sex or sexuality.

TRANSGENDER TERMINOLOGY TO AVOID

PROBLEMATIC TERMINOLOGY

PROBLEMATIC: “transgenders,” “a transgender”
PREFERRED: “transgender people,” “a transgender person”
Transgender should be used as an adjective, not as a noun. Do not say, “Tony is a transgender,” or “The parade included many transgenders.” Instead say, “Tony is a transgender person,” or “The parade included many transgender people.”

PROBLEMATIC: “transgendered”
PREFERRED: “transgender”
The word transgender never needs the extraneous “ed” at the end of the word. In fact, such a construction is grammatically incorrect. Only verbs can be transformed into participles by adding “-ed” to the end of the word, and transgender is an adjective, not a verb.

PROBLEMATIC: “sex change,” “pre-operative,” “post-operative”
PREFERRED: “transition”
Referring to a sex change operation, or using terms such as pre- or post-operative, inaccurately suggests that one must have surgery in order to truly change one’s sex.

PROBLEMATIC: “hermaphrodite”
PREFERRED: “intersex person”
The word “hermaphrodite” is an outdated, stigmatizing and misleading word, usually used to sensationalize intersex people.

DEFAMATORY TERMINOLOGY

Defamatory: “deceptive,” “fooling,” “pretending,” “posing,” or “masquerading”
Gender identity is an integral part of a person’s identity. Please do not characterize transgender people as “deceptive,” as “fooling” other people, or as “pretending” to be, “posing” or “masquerading” as a man or a woman. Such descriptions are extremely insulting.

Defamatory: “she-male,” “he-she,” “it,” “trannie,” “tranny,” “gender-bender”
These words only serve to dehumanize transgender people and should not be use

Transvestite
DEROGATORY see Cross-Dressing in US standards but locally the term has been used to separate a transgender person from a drag queen in our advancing culture in the mainstream.

TRANSGENDER-SPECIFIC TERMINOLOGY

Transgender
An umbrella term for people whose gender identity and/or gender expression differs from the sex they were assigned at birth. The term may include but is not limited to: transsexuals, cross-dressers, and other gender-variant people. Transgender people may identify as female-to-male (FTM) or male-to-female (MTF). Use the descriptive term (transgendertranssexualcross-dresser, FTM or MTF) preferred by the individual. Transgender people may or may not choose to alter their bodies hormonally and/or surgically.

Transsexual (also Transexual)
An older term which originated in the medical and psychological communities. Many transgender people prefer the term “transgender” to “transsexual.” Some transsexual people still prefer to use the term to describe themselves. However, unlike transgendertranssexual is not an umbrella term, and many transgender people do not identify as transsexual. It is best to ask which term an individual prefers.

Transition
Altering one’s birth sex is not a one-step procedure; it is a complex process that occurs over a long period of time. Transition includes some or all of the following cultural, legal and medical adjustments: telling one’s family, friends, and/or co-workers; changing one’s name and/or sex on legal documents; hormone therapy; and possibly (though not always) some form of surgical alteration.

Sex Reassignment Surgery (SRS)
Refers to surgical alteration, and is only one small part of transition (see Transition above). Preferred term to “sex change operation.” Not all transgender people choose to or can afford to have SRS. Journalists should avoid overemphasizing the importance of SRS to the transition process.

Cross-Dressing
To occasionally wear clothes traditionally associated with people of the other sex. Cross-dressers are usually comfortable with the sex they were assigned at birth and do not wish to change it. “Cross-dresser” should NOT be used to describe someone who has transitioned to live full-time as the other sex, or who intends to do so in the future.Cross-dressing is a form of gender expression and is not necessarily tied to erotic activity. Cross-dressing is not indicative of sexual orientation.

Gender Identity Disorder (GID)
A controversial DSM-IV diagnosis given to transgender and other gender-variant people. Because it labels people as “disordered,” Gender Identity Disorder is often considered offensive. The diagnosis is frequently given to children who don’t conform to expected gender norms in terms of dress, play or behavior. Such children are often subjected to intense psychotherapy, behavior modification and/or institutionalization. Replaces the outdated term “gender dysphoria.”

Intersex
Describing a person whose biological sex is ambiguous. There are many genetic, hormonal or anatomical variations which make a person’s sex ambiguous (i.e., Klinefelter Syndrome, Adrenal Hyperplasia). Parents and medical professionals usually assign intersex infants a sex and perform surgical operations to conform the infant’s body to that assignment. This practice has become increasingly controversial as intersex adults are speaking out against the practice, accusing doctors of genital mutilation.

GENERAL TERMINOLOGY

Sex
The classification of people as male or female. At birth, infants are assigned a sex based on a combination of bodily characteristics including: chromosomes, hormones, internal reproductive organs, and genitals.

Gender Identity
One’s internal, personal sense of being a man or a woman (or a boy or girl.) For transgender people, their birth-assigned sex and their own internal sense of gender identity do not match.

Gender Expression
External manifestation of one’s gender identity, usually expressed through “masculine,” “feminine” or gender variant behavior, clothing, haircut, voice or body characteristics. Typically, transgender people seek to make their gender expression match their gender identity, rather than their birth-assigned sex.

Sexual Orientation
Describes an individual’s enduring physical, romantic, emotional and/or spiritual attraction to another person. Gender identity and sexual orientation are not the same. Transgender people may be heterosexual, lesbian, gay, or bisexual. For example, a man who becomes a woman and is attracted to other women would be identified as a lesbian.

Sex and Gender Terminology ……….. a review

Shared by  Dr. Cary Gabriel Costello of Transfusion

In order to gain expertise in a field, you need to learn the terms that are used by people who are knowledgeable about it. The more of the terminology you know, the more sophisticated you can be in discussing the field, which is empowering. For example, if you know nothing about how a car works, and you open up the hood, you may just see a bunch of unidentifiable chunks of metal and wire, and call it all “the engine.” If your car isn’t working well, you can’t do much about it. If you learn to identify a couple of basic things—say, the dipstick so you can check your oil, and the battery so you can jump-start your car—you’ll have some minimal competence to deal with common automotive issues, but you still won’t know how a car works. But if you are taught to identify the ignition system, the engine block and valves, the cooling system, the transmission, the fuel system, and how the components interrelate, you can have intelligent conversations about cars and car maintenance that will stand you in good stead if you need to buy or repair a car.

When laypeople don’t know a lot about a field and hear people with expertise use the field’s terms of art, the laypeople may consider the terms overly precise, obfuscatory, or simply irritating. Laypeople may snort when winetasters talk about the wine having a “nose,” a “shoulder,” or a “finish.” Those unfamiliar with American football may laugh at positions like “tight end” and “nose guard.” To the cooking novice, it may seem silly to distinguish between sautéing and searing, or roasting and braising. But if you want to learn to appreciate wine, follow a football game, or cook good food from scratch, you will find that the terms of art are actually very important.

In studying sex and gender, you will come to use language that is a lot more complex and precise than that used in ordinary streetcorner conversation. At first, the terminology may strike you as confusing, or making tiny distinctions that seem unnecessary. But as you move through the course and learn more, you’ll find the terms allow you to have much more sophisticated discussions.

That said, below you’ll find a guide to the terminology that will be employed in this course.

  1. Sex Spectrum: an array of physical differences, defined by:
    1. Primary sexual characteristics: those sexual differences present at birth:
      1. Genital characteristics: differentiation of the fetal phalloclitoris into penis/scrotum or clitoris/labia. The degree of differentiation varies.
      2. Gonadal characteristics: differentiation of the fetal ovotestes into testes or ovaries (which occasionally does not occur).
    1. Secondary sexual characteristics: differentiation of the body under the influence of the sex steroid hormones (testosterone, estrogen, progesterone), typically at puberty. The body normally produces both masculinizing (testosterone) and feminizing (estrogen, progesterone) hormones—the ratio of these determines the relative masculinization/feminization of the body as follows:
      1. Testosterone effects: growth of bodily hair, growth of facial hair, increase in upper body width, increased muscle mass, growth of the larynx leading the voice to lower, fat deposition in abdomen, increased size of penis/clitoris, increase in libido, production of semen/lubrication, increase in sweat and oil production, increase in size of testes and sperm production, irritability.
      2. Estrogen/Progesterone effects: growth of nipples and breast tissue, increase in pelvic width, softened skin and ligaments, increase in subcutaneous fat, fluid retention, cholesterol regulation, fat deposition in hips and thighs, proper spermatogenesis/ovulation, regulation of menstrual cycle, irritability.
  1. Sex Categories: a manner of dividing the sex spectrum into socially-recognized units. In Western societies, there are three sex categories, defined under the authority of medical science as follows:
    1. Female: a person ideally possessing a vagina, labia, a clitoris of less that 0.5 cm at birth, ovaries, a uterus, XX chromosomes, and an estrogen-dominant hormone profile.
    2. Male: a person ideally possessing a penis of length greater than 2 cm at birth, scrotum, testes residing in the scrotum, a prostate, XY chromosomes, and a testosterone-dominant hormone profile.
    3. Intersex: a person whose intermediate position on the sex spectrum fits neither the ideal male or female category, including:
      1. those with intermediate phalloclitoral genitalia;
      2. those with internally ambiguous gonads and/or reproductive anatomy;
      3. those with chromosomal variation (e.g., XY individuals with ovaries, vagina, clitoris; those with atypical sex chromosomes such as XXY or XYY); and
      4. those whose hormone-dominance causes their secondary sexual characteristics to contrast with their primary sexual characteristics.
  1. Social Sex Assignment: the assignment of an individual to a particular socially validated sex, usually at birth.
    1. Dyadic sex assignment: in Western societies, all infants must be categorized as either male or female on their birth certificates. Those classified as belonging to the intersex category must receive either a male or female assignment.
    2. Other sex assignment systems: other societies have nondaydic social sex assignment systems, such as triadic systems (male, female, other) and quadratic systems (male, female, both, neither).
  1. Gender Roles: cultural norms applied to people of different assigned sexes in a given society, including occupational roles, appearance standards (clothing, grooming, cosmetics), emotional norms, and interests. Gender roles are categorized as:
    1. Masculine: the collection of norms for male-assigned people in a given society
    2. Feminine: the collection of norms for female-assigned people in a given society
    3. Additional gender roles: neutral or additional gender roles specific to a given society
  1. Gender Identity: the subjective experience of identifying with a gender role—the internal knowledge that one is a man, a woman, or a member of an alternative gender.
    1. Cis gender identity: gender identity that matches one’s assigned sex
    2. Trans gender identity: gender identity that does not match one’s assigned sex, which may lead to:
      1. Gender transition: to move from following one set of gender roles to another, changing characteristics such as clothing, grooming, cosmetics, and pronoun used; sometimes accompanied by:
      2. Sex transition: to move from one social sex assignment to another through medical treatment with hormonal alteration of secondary sex characteristics, and/or surgical alteration of anatomic sex characteristics (chest, genital, gonadal, laryngeal, etc.)
  1. Gender Expression: individual self-presentation as a member of a given gender, including:
    1. Gender-conforming expression: self-presentation that is strongly in accord with the normative gender role expectations of one’s society;
    2. Androgynous expression: self-presentation which does not align strongly with polarized male or female roles; and
    3. Gender-transgressive expression: self-presentation that defies the traditional expectations for a person of a given gender identity (e.g. feminine men, masculine women).
  1. Sexual Identity: the sex or gender alignment of partners in sexual attraction, including:
    1. Dyadic sexual orientation frames: in which one must know the dyadic sex/gender of both individuals in order to classify them as:
      1. Heterosexual: being attracted to a person whose sex and gender are dyadically opposite of one’s own
      2. Homosexual: being attracted to a person whose sex and gender are the same as one’s own (i.e., gay men and lesbian women)
      3. Bisexual: being attracted both to dyadic sexes
    2. Directional sexual orientation frames: under which one need only know the sex and gender of the person desired to assign the desiring person as:
      1. Androphilic: being attracted to people with male sex and gender
      2. Gynephilic: being attracted to people with female sex and gender
      3. Androgynephilic: being attracted to people who are androgynously gendered or intermediately sexed
      4. Pansexual: being attracted to people independent of any particular sex or gender status or identity

Are SGL Men here lesbophobes continued ………..

In part one of this post/question that was asked on my sister blog GLBTQ Jamaica on blogger way back when I was apart of JFLAG, Jamaica Forum for Lesbians Allsexuals and Gays in April 1 2009 I took a brief look at the issue at the time as same gender loving women who attended the then (GLABCOM) Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual Community meetings though small in numbers complained bitterly of how over bearing the men were and that they were not able to speak openly, by extension the complaints also stretched to the party scenes and the general behaviour or gay men as well where they also had problems with men especially effeminate men using up the dancefloor space and not allowing others to enjoy their money as it were.

The matter was raised earlier this week by a female friend who saw the old post and wanted to discuss it some, she said that things have certainly changed as with the increased use of social networking (thank God) we are now able to understand the issues and thinking of the groups under the LGBTQI umbrella she continued that more and more lesbians in particular seem to like the effeminate component in gay men and seeing that the subject came up during a transgender discussion on cross dressing, tranvestic issues and how the males in particular presented themselves publicly in drag she said the community is getting more comfortable or tolerant with those issues.

She is right and I concur as we not have ways of discussing issues better outside of the advocacy structure devoid of over intellectualizing the issue thus talking over the heads of the not so bright members of the community hence leaving them out. What is also noticeably changing is the response from the butch community who once were very aloof towards effeminate men in particular (this is not to suggest it was a wide spread aloofness) but I think with the importation of the African-American swag culture that is also embraced by effeminate men in their daily public movements and with clothing becoming more unisexual (along with a national metro sexual craze on in earnest thanks to Vybz Kartel) these powerful aesthetic influences have helped to soften how the groups respond to each other.

It is now fashionable in a sense to see stereobutches for example with cross dressers at selected clubs and parties now as they break the gender norms that once were held in high regard. Same gender loving men especially those at the lower socio economic levels where most of the loudness and caustic comments sometime came from towards lesbians now are embracing and tolerant now probably now more than in recent history. The stinging use of words like “Manroyal” and likening butches to be too manlike or male have since died down on the face of it and in fact the more a butch in particular or a stud to a lesser extent presents as such is the more acceptable by the guys. Probably another influence is the more public scenes of transgender persons and the recognition and declaration of their orientation in the community publicly. The cross dressing phenomenon interwoven into the swagg culture as mentioned before is a major factor for me in this change, as this is probably a timely discussion …..

given that we are ending Pride month internationally. If this trend continues though it should auger well for the community in the long run, one particular space where same gender lovers, transgender and bisexuals are certainly getting some social release is at The Oasis Lounge in Kingston which is a membership social group but non members are welcomed to discuss issues on a Wednesday night or so. The troubling part of the inter community phobia though is the intense bi-phobia now along with bi-invisiblity from the national advocacy structure. Many same gender lovers have openly expressed their disgust at bisexuals with all kinds of stereotypes attached including their inability to be monogamous and their potential to carry disease and infections such as HIV. Serious work is needed there and I am doing my small part in trying to highlight those issues as best, I encourage you my readers to also try to sift through the issues while using your own experiences as a backdrop to finding solutions.

In a previous post on some of the concerns and discussions elsewhere I looked at how the issues were being looked at on the ground, although it may not be a reflection of the entire community clearly.

See : The Biphobia in the community (Gay, Lesbian) maybe higher than thought

here is an excerpt:

“As we continue to delve inwards to find out a little more of where we are unofficially of course we are learning more especially from a younger more vibrant LGBT body politic.

On the strength of a series of discussions on bisexuality and how persons felt during April and May of this year we saw the obvious signs that many same gender loving persons have a perception that somehow persons who are double gender lovers or bisexuals are untrustworthy, more risky in regards to sexually transmitted diseases with HIV/AIDS and may not be able to be monogamous. The opposite also is true for the bisexual representatives who have responded some in very tersely worded responses. The poll photographed above was floated on social networking site Facebook to get a further glimpse into what persons were thinking on the issue a large percentage the respondents saying yes to the question:
“Do you believe bisexuals should declare themselves so prior to entering a long term relationship?”
The other comments are not as kind and will not be posted here but suffice it to say we have to begin to address this issue I feel, if we as lgbt people are asking the mainstream to be tolerant of us then why aren’t we tolerant of a section of the community that has their own orientation issues to deal with, this is also sadly with the absence of the main advocates who are more interested in the Buggery Law than the inter community cohesiveness as well, biphobia by default as I have termed it.”
and Why Is There Biphobia in the Lesbian Community? as to some possible answers.
The answer therefore is a resounding NO given the pointers above, do you agree? (lgbtevent@gmail.com)
Peace and tolerance
H

Getting The Balance Right: Gender Equality Is Common Sense

Olivia Grange, Guest Columnist, Minister of Youth, Sport & Culture

You can tell a great deal about a country by the way it treats its women and children. The status that they occupy in the hierarchy of the society is usually a good indicator of whether the country is progressive or backward, oppressive or caring. What can we say about Jamaica?

The recent complaint by a young exotic dancer that she was gang-raped, allegedly by five policemen, has caused the nation to reflect on its gender relations. The allegations – though yet to be proved – have brought into focus the treatment of women in this country.

Over the years, Jamaica has made progress at lifting the status of women and girls. Nationally, we have accepted the principle of gender equality and the need to eliminate all forms of discrimination against women and girls. By and large, ours is a society in which a young girl feels free to make her choices and to live as a liberated, confident woman.

Gender equality is still years away. In fact, no country has yet achieved it. Women are still a minority in politics and in company boardrooms. However, Jamaica has made significant progress in the process of gender equality through a partnership involving women’s groups, non-governmental organisations, government and the many enlightened brothers who realised that none is free until all is free; and that there will not be harmony until basic human rights are equally guaranteed to all, without regard to sex.

Upholding each other’s human rights

As a nation, we have put much effort into advancing the status of women and girls. We must be similarly zealous at protecting the progress made and upholding each other’s human rights. We are our sister’s and our brother’s keeper.

While we are not in a position to pronounce a verdict in the case of the young exotic dancer from St Catherine, the allegations have shocked us as a people. We are rightly concerned and disturbed by them. It is imperative that there is a speedy investigation and that justice is done.

Violence against women and girls is of critical concern. It is a human-rights violation. We are serious about ending gender-based violence; and we have made strong efforts to address the problem through initiatives designed to increase knowledge and understanding of the root causes of gender-based violence. The initiatives include workshops, seminars, public addresses and discussions in the media targeting schools, communities, churches, select groupings and the general public.

Additionally, we have been working towards eliminating gender-based violence through policy development and implementation, as well as legal reform. We are reviewing legislation to ensure that they give adequate protection to women and girls; and we are also training and sensitising stakeholders in the justice system, including magistrates, about critical gender issues.

Jamaica joined the rest of the world in observing the 100th anniversary of International Women’s Day on March 8. We launched the National Gender Policy which sets out the framework for gender equality in Jamaica. The policy addresses critical gender-inequality issues and seeks to address systemic imbalances facing both men and women.

The Ministry of Youth, Sports and Culture is also focusing on a policy to address sexual harassment, especially at the workplace. The Sexual Harassment Policy being drafted will pave the way for the legislation on sexual harassment. As part of the policy-development process, the ministry, through the Bureau of Women’s Affairs, is embarking on a campaign to sensitise the public on sexual harassment, which is usually a subtle but persistent form of gender-based violence that affects both men and women. Several public-sector and private-sector employees have received training in the issues involved in sexual harassment to enable them to identify it, prevent it from happening, and assist employers and human resource managers to develop policies and guidelines for their organisations.

The ministry also provides financial and technical support to select women’s and men’s organisations such as the Women’s Crisis Centre and Fathers Inc, which work to provide a safe environment for women.

Outdated and discredited beliefs and practices are at the heart of the wide range of human-rights violations that women face. We know that culture and behaviour change cannot be achieved without the full involvement of our men and boys. In this regard, we are committed to the integral involvement of men and boys in the design, implementation and delivery of gender-sensitive programmes.

Male Mentorship Programmes

Last year, we launched the Male Action Groups in Communities and the Male Mentorship Programme in Schools as part of our strategy to challenge all harmful cultural practices and to encourage those practices which will enhance positive development.

We cannot lose the fight to end gender-based violence. It is ultimately the job of governments to address gender inequality and the low status accorded to women. However, all of us must work to eliminate this multi-faceted problem which affects all ages, ethnicities and all groups right across society. The progress we have made so far has come about as a result of our working together.

Together, we will achieve gender equality, the state when our rights, responsibilities and opportunities are not determined by the fact that we were born male or female. Can anyone seriously doubt that the world will be a happier place when we achieve this? It is the common-sense thing to do.

Olivia Grange is the minister with responsibility for women and gender affairs.

Jamaica Gleaner Company

Diphallus: a rare condition in which a man’s penis is duplicated

The first known case of this condition was reported in 1609. Typically only one of the organs is fully formed, but there have been occurrences in which both penises are fully functional! This strange disorder affects an estimated 1 in 5.5 million men.

It’s very uncommon for both penises in diphallus to be fully functional. Usually one of them only has rudimentary functionality. While it might sound awesome, most people would rather not have it. In 2006, for instance, an Indian man in Uttar Pradesh had his second penis surgically removed.

Duplication of the penis is an extremely rare anomaly. Approximately 100 cases have been reported since the first case report by Wecker in 1609. There are broadly three types of diphallus,viz. true diphallus with two independent penises, bifid phallus that may be glandular or complete and pseudodiphallus having a rudimentary phallus in addition to the normal penis. Numerous associated genitourinary and gastrointestinal anomalies have been described with diphallus.

Journal of Indian Association of Pediatric Surgeons

more here in the  Journal of Indian Association of Pediatric Surgeons

When diphallia is present, it is usually accompanied by other congenital anomalies such as renalvertebralhindgut or anorectal duplication. There is also a higher risk of spina bifida. Infants born with PD and its related conditions have a higher death rate from various infections associated with their more complex renal or colorectal systems.

It is thought diphallia occurs in the fetus between the 23rd and 25th days of gestation when an injury, chemical stress, or malfunctioninghomeobox genes hamper proper function of the caudal cell mass of the fetal mesoderm as the urogenital sinus separates from the genital tubercle and rectum to form the penis.

  • Those in possession of a diphallus tend to be sterile, due to either congenital defects or difficulties in application.
  • Urine may be passed by both penises, by only one, or through some other aperture in the perineum.
  • A range of duplication types have been seen, ranging from organs that fissure into two, to the presence of two distinct penises positioned at some distance from each other.
  • Most diphalluses lie side by side and are of equal size, but they can be seated atop one another, with one distinctly larger than the other.
  • Most men with diphallus learn to use it for intercourse, though they cannot penetrate two partners at the same time.

This rare condition has been documented in pigs and other mammals.

Diphallia is a medical condition and should not be confused with genital bisection, which is an elective procedure which involves the splitting of the penis. There have been many cases of diphallia males leading excellent sexual lives able to have full penile vaginal intercourse. Some diphallia males have fathered babies with their female partners. Most male babies sired by diphallia males have normal penises.

Meanwhile:

Supernumerary body parts are most commonly a congenital disorder involving the growth of an additional part of the body and a deviation from the body plan. Body parts may be easily visible or hidden away, such as internal organs.

Many additional body parts form by the same process as conjoined twins: the zygote begins to split but fails to completely separate. This condition may also be a symptom of repeated occurrences of continuous inbreeding in a genetic line.

It has been suggested that deliberately adding supernumerary limbs to humans may be possible, as a form of body modification.

Specific types of occurrence

Specific types of additional body parts include:

Peace and tolerance

H


Female Masculinity: Disrupting Standards of Beauty and Redefining Womanhood

BY ARIELLE LOREN of Clutch Magonline

When I declare, “I am a beautiful woman,” what image comes to mind? Am I smoothly brown-skinned with a figure 8 frame? Am I thin with a flat stomach? Am I stunning with some extra curves?

What about if I have arms of Kobe Bryant? Or the legs of Usain Bolt? Can I have the jaw line of Barack Obama?

Would I be “woman” enough for you? Perhaps, you wouldn’t call me a woman at all. You’re not alone and I’m not pointing the finger. Womanhood and femininity remain inextricably intertwined causing female masculinity to be outside the norm. Thus, your visual discomfort is expected.

The truth is that I don’t have the characteristics of Bryant, Bolt, or Obama. I probably look like your stereotypical image of a “beautiful” Black woman (with a crazy afro); however, I know women who look the opposite. The need to redefine beauty standards and womanhood goes beyond “liberal” ideology and discussion. It’s about women’s empowerment, self-confidence, and inclusion. It’s about recognizing that not all women, even if solely a minority, have to look like each other. It’s bigger than the discourse of body image and weight in popular culture. This is the need to confront the taboo of female masculinity and pay homage to all the women who have lived outside the standard of beauty for too long. In fact, we should chuck the standard all together.

Female masculinity remains a touchy issue for many women, mainly because it often intersects with hard conversations about gender and sexuality norms. Yet this conversation is necessary and also represents a reflection of the deepest fears about ourselves.

How many of us have felt our bodies were wrong or not good enough? Our breasts too small? Too large? Donks too fat? Or perhaps too flat? Shoulders too broad? Face too hard?

The list goes on . . . but let’s take it to the next level.

Imagine having your womanhood questioned. Picture having your self-identified gender rejected by society. Could you take being criticized for your lack of femininity? Perhaps you’re masculine by choice, but what if it’s simply by nature. Your muscles bulge in all the wrong “woman” places. Your body simply doesn’t curve like that coke bottle. It may be like a large, long plank of wood. Despite all of this, you still bask in being a woman and wish that other women would accept you into this sacred community.

When we look at Caster Semenya, what do we see? Is she “beautiful” in our eyes? Be honest, did we wince when we saw her picture for the first time? Does her intersexuality make us uncomfortable in defining her as a beautiful woman?

Could Serena Williams possibly tone her muscles down a bit so they wouldn’t measure up to some of her boyfriends’? Will she ever be deemed a “beautiful” woman with some of her more masculine features?

What about in terms of fashion? Do we secretly wish that Janelle Monae would put on a dress sometimes? If she wasn’t “cute” and petite, would we put her into the “beautiful” woman category?

Here’s one that will make your brain stir: are transgender women allowed into the sacred space of womanhood even though the majority retain physically masculine characteristics?

Yup, I’m sure that one went over the head. Before you start throwing e-beer bottles, I promise that I’m going somewhere with this.

“Beautiful” women shouldn’t have to be feminine. From the time we were little, we’ve had Barbie dolls with proportioned breasts and butts thrown at us with matching feminine attire and a few too many pink accessories. Not all of our mothers looked like this, nor our grandmothers or our aunts, so why do we continue to support this messaging? I have aunts that haven’t worn a pair of heels in their lives! I couldn’t pay some of my female friends to wear a dress if Oprah’s inheritance was on the line (okay, maybe that’s a bit drastic). On the natural side, how many women do we know who could rival some men in physical stature? By solely promoting femininity as beautiful, what type of message does that deliver about the inclusiveness of womanhood? What are we teaching some of our current young girls about beauty and sisterhood? How are you shaping the definition of womanhood? Are you forcing a make-up bag and dress into the arms of your friend, sister, or daughter?

Whether we are masculine by choice or natural design, there should be a space for our reflections to be beautiful amongst other women. This is not about male acceptance; this is an intrinsic conversation amongst all of us who share this wonderful, yet challenging, experience of being a woman. While beauty starts from within, self-confidence can be propelled through the strong support of sisterhood. Remember the women who uplifted you when you doubted yourself. It is no different here.

The next time you see a masculine woman, tell her that she is beautiful. She’s not pretending to be something she is not. She simply is expressing herself without barriers, pretenses, or femininity.

Confusion around changing sexual orientation for trans-gendered persons

Prepared by A. B. Kaplan of TG Mental Health

There is a commonly heard idea in the transgender literature and community asserting that the transgendered individual will sometimes change sexual orientation after transitioning.

I have found that many patients come in with this belief.  Arlene Istar Lev (2004), a family therapist, clinical social worker and gender expert notes that “gender transition can have a tremendous impact on sexual orientation, sometimes affecting one’s sexual interests…” and in the next paragraph “Sexual orientation is not malleable and cannot be changed through force or will” (p. 301).

There seems to be a good deal of confusion and disagreement on the topic in the transgender community.

Putting aside for a moment the fact that transitioning is a long process with no particular end point (where a change in sexual orientation could be assessed) and can often mean different things to different people and that most transsexuals do not have surgeries;

perhaps what is really happening in these cases is that individuals are choosing partners more for the complex array of factors that help the individual feel confirmed in their authentically felt gender rather than for their desirability based on their maleness or femaleness.

Just thinking about this logically for a minute one sees that claims of so called “reparative therapies” on non-trans homosexuals have been thoroughly debunked over the past few decades (for summaries see Haldeman, 1994; Drescher, 1998  and Bright 2004).

What bit of alchemy would then achieve this momentous transformation on the transsexual?  Hormone replacement therapy?  By this same logic, scores of menopausal lesbians taking feminizing hormones would have suddenly switched to becoming attracted to men.

A 1998 research paper titled “Changes in the Sexual Orientation of Six Heterosexual Male-to-Female Transsexuals” by Christopher Daskalos of the Department of Sociology, Arizona State University asserts that

“These respondents stated that before transitioning they had been sexually orientated towards females. After transitioning, these same respondents reported that they were sexually orientated towards males. Five of the six respondents reported having various sexual encounters with males since transitioning. The respondents explained the changes in their sexual orientation as part of their emerging female gender identities. Three of the respondents claimed that the use of female hormones played a role in changing their sexual orientation” (from the abstract p. 605).”

The paper was challenged in the same journal in a letter to the editor by Anne A. Lawrence (an arguably controversial figure in her own right due to her advocating the concept of  ‘autogynephilia’) who noted that “Daskalos purports to document dramatic changes in the sexual orientation of six of his transsexual informants – changes that seem to have occurred almost effortlessly.  However, a careful reading of Daskalos’ paper reveals that he has demonstrated no such thing” (p. 581). Her reasons include that sexual behavior is not the same as sexual orientation, that (a somewhat dated idea) “Sometimes such self-reports may be conscious deceptions, designed to increase the likelihood that the transsexual will qualify for sex reassignment surgery” and that “In other cases, such self-reports by transsexuals may reflect the autogynephilic fantasy of sex with a male partner” (p. 581).

However none of these refutations shed light on the reasons behind changes in behavior.  I believe Dozier’s (2005) comments from her cohort of 18 trans men to be most in keeping with what I have seen with trans people in my practice:

Respondents also challenge traditional notions of sexual orientation by focusing less on the sex of the partner and more on the gender organization of the relationship. The relationship’s ability to validate the interviewee’s masculinity or maleness often takes precedence over the sex of the partner, helping to explain changing sexual orientation as female-to-male transsexual and transgendered people transition into men (2005, p. 297).”

I’m interested in hearing your thoughts.

References:

Bright, C. (2004). Deconstructing Reparative Therapy: An Examination of the Processes Invovled When Attempting to Change Sexual Orientation. In Clinical Social Work Journal, Vol. 32, No. 4, Winter 2004 (_ 2004)

Daskalos, C. (1998).  Changes in the Sexual Orientation of Six Heterosexual Male-to-Female Transsexuals. Archives of Sexual Behavior, Vol. 27, No. 6, 1998

Dozier, R. (2005) Beards, Breasts, and Bodies: Doing Sex in a Gendered World. In Gender & Society, Vol. 19 No. 3, June 2005. 297-316

Drescher, J. (1998).  I’m Your Handyman: A History of Reparative Therapies in Journal of Homosexuality,Vol. 36(1) 1998

Haldeman, D.C.  (1994) The Practice and Ethics of Sexual Orientation Conversion Therapy. InJournal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, Vol. 62, No. 2, 221-227

Lawrence, A. (1999) Letter to the Editor. Archives of Sexual Behavior, Vol. 28, No. 6, 1999

Lev, A. (2004). Transgender Emergence. Binghamton, NY: HaworthPress.

Trinidadian Transgender sister …… WOW

Should you ask, Jenny Jagdeo will tell you that she’s “a woman who has had corrective surgery”.
She untangles the gender bender from a breezy balcony in San Fernando, while the after-work traffic beeps and buzzes in the background.

(OMG she is FIIIEEERRRCCCCEEE!!!)

“I tell people that I was born a woman in a man’s body,” she explains with a voice of half-husk, half brass. “At no point in my life have I ever seen myself as being male.”
Her hands are soft. There’s no squareness of jaw or suppressed stubble to whisper that she is anything other than her image suggests. Her body and lashes are both extra long with a gentle curve. She’s gorgeous when she smiles. And the 35-year-old pulls no punches while sharing a story of equal parts heartbreak and triumph.
It started in Friendship Village. She describes her childhood as “perfect”. But that isn’t because she had once been a perfect little boy. Jenny now reminisces that neither neighbours nor schoolmates gave her a hard time.

“They could see a difference in me but they never discriminated against me in any way. It was like a little girl growing up in front them. I didn’t play boyish games, wear boyish clothes or do boyish things,” she remembers. “At that tender age it was there.”
But when, around 12, a rush of hormones washed sexual attraction to the surface, Jenny struggled.

“When puberty takes you and you start feeling attracted to a certain sex,” she explains, “that is when you realise: ‘well now trouble start’.”
Jenny had heard about men who had sex with other men. But even as a preteen she knew that her dilemma wasn’t just about who she would eventually sleep with. It went to the core of how she felt who she was. She makes the distinction with halting clarity.
“There are gays who are guys that like other guys. Transvestites are males who dress like females. Being transsexual, though, is being a woman but not having the body of a woman. I could not live in a man’s body and be with a man. If I had to do that I would rather die. I had the choice of being gay. That was so depressing to me that it made me sick.”
Her adolescence was traumatic, culminating with a suicide attempt at 18. The sex reassignment surgeries she’d researched and longed for felt like fiction. One saw the odd cross dresser sashaying around San Fernando. But she was clear that duct tape and eye shadow wouldn’t make her whole.

Jenny guesses that her parents and siblings had long reconciled that she was homosexual. But until she opened up to a psychiatrist after trying to kill herself, she hadn’t let anyone on that her raging, internal conflict was about gender rather than sexuality. She acknowledges that when she started wearing women’s clothes, it was traumatic for her family.
“That went down rocky roads,” she says with a loaded chuckle. “My father sought help from aunts and my grandmother. His friends and people in the public would tell him: ‘your son gay’, ‘your son dressing like a woman’ or ‘something is wrong with your child’. But I had my family’s support even though it was stressful on them,” she says.
By then, abuse from strangers was secondary to the savage war waged between her body and mind.
“I reached a stage where I decided that this is my life and no one is going to take it away,” she says.
Resolve was informed by hope. The psychologist and two psychiatrists who treated her over the course of three years had named her internal war: gender identity disorder.
Jenny also found a friend who understood and inspired her. That friend had had a sex change.
“You can’t just wake up one morning and say you want the operation,” Jenny says. The journey began with the detailed reports of her mental health caregivers. She was then referred to a doctor who performed a “hormone transplant”. This involved removing the testicles and starting a course of female hormones. For Jenny it was a second puberty-just as dramatic but a better fit.
They were subtle, valued changes. Small breasts. Smoother skin. Less facial hair. Mood swings. Two years on she had a surgery to create a vagina.

It takes time to adjust. At first the rooms that would suddenly go silent when she entered, then fill with hushed gossip, were difficult.
“It was so uncomfortable because you would see the lips moving and not be sure what they were saying. Half way into a session I used to want to leave but then I realised I had to make myself comfortable for other people to be comfortable with me. If I show fear, fear will always be there,” she reasons.
She accepted an invitation to a new church on that premise. Although she grew up Hindu, Jenny was open to Christian fellowship. She assumed the invitation was a gesture of acceptance. It turned out to be a campaign to have her revert. And it ended badly when a group rallied to get her thrown out. Jenny assures that the experience didn’t shake her faith.
“What did I do that was so wrong?” she asks. “What evil have I done to anyone?”
She’s had her share of taunts and they’ve overwhelmingly come from women.
“Men are mostly fascinated,” she says, “but some women have some sort of jealousy that you can transform into a beautiful woman and they aren’t. But why is that? These women do not take the time to make themselves look good because they say they have a husband and children. No, love. That is not true. How hard is it to keep your hair beautifully groomed, wear lovely clothes and put some make-up on your face? True beauty comes from the inside. But these people do not focus on that. They’d rather ridicule you.”
Then there are the men. Screening romantic partners is a painstaking job. She says she “interviews” them to be clear about their intentions. Asked at what point she reveals that she was born physically male, Jenny responds that there’s no need.
“Everybody in San Fernando knows me. It’s no big secret,” she says. Jenny’s pet peeve is that many view her as a novelty. She supposes that the terms “sex change” and “transsexual” create the impression in men’s minds that she has undergone a transformation solely for the sake of sleeping with them.

“It’s not like you’re a woman and they treat you like a woman. They treat you like a sex object and expect you to be some sort of sex siren. But what can I do that a normal woman can’t?” she asks.
What of the sexual identity of men who are interested in her? Jenny denies that they are homosexual and says that she tries to weed out the bisexuals.
“A homosexual is a homosexual. He only wants to be with men and can’t stand the sight of a woman. As for bisexuals, the minute I find out that he may want to see me as a man too, I put a full stop. I express and show myself as a woman and when a man looks at me he is straight to the bone. His friend might tell him ‘boy, I see you talking to that thing. You know that was a man’ and wonder if he is gay. But there is nothing about being gay in that,” she sets out.
Jenny is also resolute about demanding blood tests for Sexually Transmitted Infections (STIs) when a relationship progresses. It doesn’t endear her to some suitors but she says that she has seen the ravages of AIDS and, besides, has enough on her plate without throwing HIV into the mix.
She acknowledges that many of her transgender peers find themselves either involved in sex work or being supported by men because they can’t find mainstream jobs. Jenny has channeled training in dress making, hair styling and make-up application into a career. She is in high demand, designing and sewing for everything from bridal parties to beauty pageants and working as a freelance make-up artist in “Hair by Jowelle” a high end salon owned by Trinidad’s most famous transsexual.

The positive, if not smooth, trajectory of her life was jolted by a devastating medical condition this year. A pinched nerve that had been wrongly diagnosed as arthritis for a couple years suddenly rendered her paralysed in the lower body. She was told that it would have to heal itself. After a few miserable, immobile weeks, she decided it was time to walk. And she did. Now she uses a stick. To passersby it’s a tragedy. Her doctors know it’s a triumph.
“Through willpower we can do anything,” she says. “The greatest power on this earth is your mind.”
Life has taught her that through hard lessons.