What needs to be done to help Transsexuals In Jamaica

Coming on the heels of the Miss Jamaica Universe’s group basically disagreeing with the inclusion of a previously booted transgender entrant in Canada albeit she allegedly was not clear on filling out the entry form to say she was born female, a local transgender voice has prepared a post to add her voice to the furore to look at related issues as this time.

I also feel is an opportune moment to help sensitize the public including L, B and G populations about transgenderism and transsexuals as several misconceptions abound and frankly there maybe many persons who identify as GLB but who maybe in fact transgender but do not know it or have sought the necessary consultations to find out.

see a previous post on the Jenna matter from Canada on my sister blog GLBTQ Jamaica on Blogger:

Transphobia: Miss Jamaica Universe Pageant rep says no to transgender entrant in Canada beauty contest

Miss Laura wrote:

Take the buggery law off the books; the buggery law hampers education about this topic. Jamaican’s on a whole consider transgender and transsexuals to be homosexuals. They are not aware that being transgender or transsexual is about a person’s gender Identity their sense of self and not sexual preference. Here in Jamaica people tend to group anything that is not considered normal (gay’s, Lesbians, transvestites, transgender, transsexuals, cross-dressers and the list goes on to be all homosexuals or as it is called (batty man, and sodomites).
Removal of the buggery law would open a door not for just gay men and women but it would also allow transgender people to feel a certain level of security knowing that the law is now on their side and can enjoy equal rights and protection.
I have heard people say that there are no transgender people in Jamaica. That’s just ridiculous and ignorant why would they state this as a fact? Well it is simple most transgender people don’t even know they are transgender or transsexual. They automatically are grouped with the gay community. Many transgender and transsexuals adopt the “GAY Life Style” hoping they would fit into the social landscape where there is friendship and protection and the possibility of feeling less of a freak and more of a normal human being.

Once the buggery law is repealed we can begin to make change in the way how people treat and associate the transgender community with homosexuals and lesbians.


What changes need to be made?
1. The health care system where transgender people can access to counselling, hormone treatments, and Sex Reassignment Surgery. At this time there are no health organisations offering transgender Services Island wide. Many transgender people access hormones mainly on the black market and or through if they are lucky a doctor who is willing to treat them on the QT. Some if they happen to have the financial resources access hormones by purchasing them online.

Many transgender people are often too poor because they cannot get jobs because of their transgender status. Many resort to prostitution due to being ejected from their families and have nowhere to go but the streets. Transgender and transsexuals seek refuge within gay communities as a means to survive.
Those lucky enough to leave the country and make their way to the US or the UK where they can access treatment and live in relative peace. Unlike here in Jamaica where you will most likely be beaten or killed because Jamaican s confuse gender with sexuality.

2. Educating the public about transgender and transsexuals will bring greater enlightenment to the masses, and change the lives of many who are wrestling with a gender identity conflict. Many transgender or transsexuals know they are different from an early age. Little boys seen playing with dolls many not be gay but might be or most likely are transgender or transsexual. Educating people of this will greatly improve the lives of these young children and lead them to a better quality of life and most likely a productive one and far from the thought of suicide.

3. Amendments to Labor laws preventing the discrimination against transgender and transsexual people in the workplace or from being denied job placements in both public and private sector organisations due to their lifestyle or mode of dress e.g. a transsexual living as a woman, dressing as a woman, but may not look feminine . Such a person would be seen as a freak and be automatically turn down for a job placement. Most transsexual’s transition late in life and this tends to be the norm in some cases some transition early in life if they have the support of family.

image from: transgenderzone.com

Late transitioning

A late transition equals less chance of passing unless that person had many expensive surgeries to undo the many years of testosterone exposure. Where early transition starting in the teenage years can have a favourable outcome where the masculine features can be reversed and made feminine under the effects of oestrogen will most of the time produce a passable young woman.

4. Amendments allowing transgender or transsexual men and women to have the same equal right like every other non transgender or transsexual man or woman.This means individuals should have the right to marry like non transgender /transsexual people. Have the right to have their identity papers altered to fit their chosen gender Identity without being judged and told that what you’re doing in the eyes of God is wrong.
Transgender/transsexual people should have the right to equal opportunities like all other peoples that make up our diverse culture.

ENDS

Over the many years of LGBT advocacy in Jamaica transgenderism has been given a back seat for too long and while a few voices speak intermittently on the issues surrounding same it is not enough to properly help the public to understand that there are many identities that abound in the human species and deciphering them is a must for us to co-exist. Major advocates seem not to have time to deal with this matter as decriminalizing buggery is far more important than the other inter and intra community matters that are parallel to men who have sex with men issues. Miss Laura is one of the few voices who have been consistent on the matter from the ground up.

Let us continue to listen to that voice and learn as only she can tell it from her own realities as a transwoman in Jamaica.

Miss Laura can be reached through this email lgbtevent@gmail.com

Peace and tolerance

H

Radio program “Love & Sex” on Sexual Identities & Transgenderism (Were you born in the wrong body?)

December 1st, World AIDS Day the Jamaican transgender community got a chance to voice their concerns through representative “Jane” on a radio program aired on Newstalk 93FM

named :Love and Sex” hosted by Jamaican Clinical Sexologist of The Caribbean Sexuality Research Group (CSRG) Dr. Karen Carpenter and co-host Gavin Walters. Sexual identities were the broader subject of the discussion as other variants and orientations were also examined. It is not very often the local transgender community gets an opportunity on the airwaves to share real information on their lives and to dispel the misconceptions about their community and the mix up with the Lesbian, Bisexual and Gay lifestyles.
Host Dr. Karen Carpenter made mention of Cuba’s lead in public education on sexual identities and their interventions with the various groups. She highlighted the outreach there as providing jobs and overlooking the packaging of persons but more so seeing people as people.
Dr. Marilyn Volker famed international Sex Therapist who has worked with transsexuals in the United Stated as well was also a guest on the one hour and forty two minute discussion touched on the possible causes of transgenderism to sexual orientations and identities.
(photo from GIRES) Gender Identity Research and Education Society UK

The opening dialogue before the interview also dealt with the differences between Transgender, Transvestite and or Cross dressers. Being the qualified person that Dr. Carpenter is she simply defined the differences.

  • Transgender – seems themselves as a different gender than the one they were born as physically also known as body dysmorphia or born in the wrong body. The person is unable to conceptualize themselves as the sex they are physical in. Sexual re-assignment surgery is used to make the changes for the individual.
  • Transvestite – Persons who like to dress in clothing of the opposite sex mostly for entertainment.
  • Inter sexual – persons born with undefined genitalia or sexual organs.
  • Drag Queens – Dr. Carpenter referred to famed diva Rupaul or males who wear female clothing either for entertainment or just comfort.

Dr. Marilyn Volker Adjunct Professor with the University of Miami Florida, Florida International University and Diplomat of the American Board of Sexology, Associate Fellow of the American Academy of Clinical Sexologists and teacher to Dr. Karen Carpenter was introduced. She also hosted a program Sex with Marilyn. She contributed much to the discussion.
She contributed among other things:

Sexual Identity: consists of four parts, Biology consisting of chromosomes and hormones persons need to look at the brain structure and not the sexual organs to determine the finality. Gender identity is the second part; it’s the brain that determines sexual identity not the genitals. i.e. male, female or in between no matter what sexual organ the person has. The there is gender role that means how persons appear or dress, if we went by what the sexual organs are and not what exist between the ears we may be dressing a child or person of a different gender. We must see children and people with the heart and not by outward appearance. Gender role is on the external, Gender identity is on the internal Sexual orientation is the last no matter what is between the legs of the person, or the brain orientation is who one is attracted to.
So a transgendered person could be right handed or ambidextrous, heterosexual, homosexual or bisexual. It is very complicated at times but bear in mind what’s between the legs and ears doesn’t necessarily match how a person dresses.
Dr. Volker referred to twin studies where pairs of twins have different orientations that suggest there is more than just parenting, social and chromosomal and hormonal structure of each person. A child in as far as identity is concerned that may be born with a vagina may get more male hormones when in the uterus it could develop a masculine brain with feminine private parts.
The term for matches in sync with brain identity versus physical genitalia is CISGENDER transgender is the opposite and doesn’t match. In one in every two to five thousand births there is some difference in chromosomes and hormones. There maybe ambiguous development during birth. When there is a combination of chromosomal hormones in the middle that leads to ambiguous genitalia it is called inter sexuality also called androgyny (outside of entertainment use for rock music). Androgyny comes from the Greek word “Andro” Male and “Gyny” Female suggesting behaviour roles as well identifying with a wide range of activities and feelings excluding biological concepts.
“Jane” the leading local transgendered voice was introduced to the program where she explained she discovered she was trans when she was six years old but never started the process of living as trans female until her late twenties. She explained she was born male growing up she acted effeminate and liked doing girl’s things. “Living in Jamaica one knows that kind of thing is not normal” so she hid it depicting a male persona even becoming a bully at school using it as a shield. She adopted a very macho personality using it as a shield and became in Jamaican terms “a girl’s man” i.e having many girls and hyper masculine or the stereotypical yard man. In doing so she tried to purge the feelings within and the guilt of growing in a Christian home with heathen thoughts. She adopted a destructive cycle while cross dressing in private with suicidal thoughts which temporarily relived the tension. She would often destroy and burn feminine personal possessions only to recycle the same actions all over again. She struggled with the fact that she was still a man; the early morning boner was like “alien appendage” to her. She also had a fiancée while as a man but eventually broke off the engagement; persons were shocked upon discovering her “change” as family shunned her save and except for her father surprisingly as mothers are expected to cope with this better, she has since become accommodating.
Dr. Volker responded by emphasizing doctors are now realising through brain scans, hormonal tests and chromosomal tests to say to parents with children who are possibly transgendered that one may have a child who has a particular genitalia but is the opposite sex in the brain. If many parents and troubled transgendered persons were told as early as birth what the proper diagnosis is then a lot of the problems similar to the ones described by Jane would have been avoided. She also touched on chromosomal issues as in X and Y versus hormonal levels in determination of the baby’s sex, usually in a female it’s XX and a male XY, there are children born XXY born with a penis but an extra female chromosome meaning they could look more feminine or look masculine on the outside with a penis with a feminised brain, things can occur during birth. Usually girls get XX patterns with more estrogen and progesterone while most boys gets XY patterns with testosterone and androgen sometimes there is a mix in the uterus where a mix of chromosomes like XXY leading to less masculine development somewhere. There may even be more testicular tissue in girls where this mix up occurs. The available tests now can see into the hormonal and chromosomal structures. The pediatrician can now ask a parent does the they like to or want to know the chromosomal structure of their child.
Jane continued that she harnessed the power of the Internet as there were few doctors in Jamaica who knew about transgenderism. She sourced her own hormones from the Internet, she looked at the Harry Benjamin principles of care and read where possible medical journals. Dr. Volker noted that several Trans persons have to teach their doctors about the issues. Jane noted her website was down at this time. She is aware of ten individuals in Jamaica living as women some of whom are lost in the gay community due to the lack of education for them. Dr. Volker said the important thing is what the brain is attracted to and not the physical. There maybe a heterosexual female born in a girl who has a penis her brain maybe attracted to a male who maybe mistaken as gay. There maybe need for a serious re-socialization process globally to deal with these new phenomenons. One would have to also go to gender specialists, endocrinologist to get more professional and detailed information.
Jane highlighted she is pre-operative transgender meaning she has not done the full sexual re-assignment procedure so she can father a child now but after surgery cannot have children naturally or get pregnant. She plans to have the surgery as soon as she can find the money.
In answering Dr. Volker’s questions on her orientation Jane responded bisexual. Dr. Volker continued to explain that gender identity and orientation differ in the trans world. She has worked with transgendered who have moved from having a penis while trying to be heterosexual male but their brain was heterosexual female but couldn’t express it as they would look as if they were gay on the outside,” it is confusing to persons going through the issues.” She emphasized the need for support. Jane continued on the lack of support systems in Jamaica except the Internet or possibly contacting JFLAG who may put one on to other transgendered persons.
Dr. Carpenter noted that the Caribbean Sexuality Research Group (CSRG) offers some support to transgender persons and runs a free clinic at the UHWI Psychiatry Unit which has been running for the last month by calling 977-0316 with a small registration fee of $500.00, leave a message for appointments as all calls are answered.
She also remarked on the misconception of homosexuality and paedophilia and the tabloid papers sensationalism creating the homo-negative perceptions over time. “The minute we find out someone’s sexual orientation is different from others we begin to monitor, oh they must be about to hit on somebody which is inappropriate.”
She highlighted that paedophilia happens when there is an economy is depressed and the power differential between the adult versus the young person despite sexual orientation is wide.On the matter of gender variant children from a caller to the program Dr. Volker suggested that the child be monitored by a pediatric endocrinologist or a child psychiatrist who understands gender. Children who present with the mis-match usually the assessment is done in early puberty where hormones may be administered dependent on the case to stop the actions opposite to the physical presentation but the sexual re-assignment surgery is left to later in life in most cases unless they were born with both genitals or intersex. (A practice which is opposed by some intersex activists)Program continues to the end.

Peace and tolerance.

H

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.