Thursday, June 3, 2010
PRIDE presently is supposed to be a mostly American invention coming out of the Stonewall events in the late sixties, other jurisdictions have added their own historical experiences such as Brisbane, Russia, Canada and The UK. LGBT pride or gay pride is the concept that lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) people should be proud of their sexual orientation and gender identity. The movement has three main premises: that people should be proud of their sexual orientation and gender identity, that diversity is a gift, and that sexual orientation and gender identity are inherent and cannot be intentionally altered. The use of the abbreviated gay pride and pride have since become mainstream and shorthand expressions inclusive of all individuals in various LGBT communities.
The word pride is used in this case as an antonym for shame, which has been used to control and oppress LGBT persons throughout history. Pride in this sense is an affirmation of ones self and the community as a whole. The modern "pride" movement began after the "Stonewall riots" in 1969. Instead of backing down to unconstitutional raids by New York Police, gay people in local bars fought back. While it was a violent situation it also gave the underground community the first sense of communal pride in a very well publicized incident. From the yearly parade that commemorated the anniversary of the Stonewall riots began a national grassroots movement. Today many countries around the world celebrate LGBT pride. The pride movement has furthered the cause of gay rights by lobbying politicians, registering voters and increasing visibility to educate on issues important to LGBT communities. LGBT pride advocates work for equal "rights and benefits" for LGBT people.
Symbols of LGBT pride include the LGBT rainbow flag, butterfly, the Greek lambda symbol, and the pink as well as black triangles reclaimed from their past use.
Historical Background:Advocates of gay pride have used history to point to oppression as well as differing levels of acceptance of homosexuality throughout history. The ancient Greeks did not conceive of sexual orientation as a social identifier, as Western societies have done for the past century. Greek society did not distinguish sexual desire or behavior by the gender of the participants, but by the extent to which such desire or behavior conformed to social norms. These norms were based on gender, age and social status. "Lesbian" derives from the name of the island of Lesbos,which was famous for the poet Sappho, who wrote love poetry to female lovers. Homosexuality in the ancient Roman Empire is considered to have been widespread but was tempered by the complex social systems of the society.
During Medieval times all forms of sexuality began to be repressed by the church as the message of heaven and hell gained popularity. As technology fell behind, simple luxuries such as clean running water and proper sewage became a thing of the past. This caused horrible conditions and disease. People began to believe that they were suffering from the wrath of God, blaming immorality. Any and all forms of homosexuality became not only shameful but punishable by death.
Homosexuality in ancient Greece
and Homosexuality in ancient Rome
Symbols of the Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, and Transgender Movements
The Catholic Church and Homosexuality
Pride celebrated worldwide
In 390, the first law banning same-sex love was enacted in Rome, making it punishable by death.
Pride! but the problems on the ground still are real .......
In our most recent history though, it is disheartening that many activities that were once expected to occur during this period have died or discontinued, there were film festivals, art auctions, other forms of entertainment and forums/workshops as well that were helpful to the community to realise who we are with ordinary LGBTQ persons participating. Sad that the only advocacy group once again has failed us as a GLBTQ community in this regard to fuse our resolve in oursleves as proud people despite the problems we face literally on a daily basis. The closure of the MSM housing project for example under the watch and deafening silence from JFLAG is a further indication that we are representationless as a community as only certain issues seem to be of priority while others are cast aside for whatever reasons at the risk of violence due to displacement. Yes we may be proud as individuals as we assert ourselves as a natural survival instinct mechanism but it is sad we can't get the activities required on a larger scale to fuse the subgroups under the GLTBQ umbrella towards solving some of the inter-community issues that need urgent attention. Small cell groups however are doing what they can given their limited scope and resources availabe, many individuals would like to offer more but the present systems overlook or ignore such voices.
The GLABCOM (Gay Lesbian Allsexual Community) meetings that were discontinued in Kingston in late 2008 has been meeting constant stalls in efforts by some to restart them. Frankly in my estimation there is nothing to be proud of in this vein presently given the set of circumstances that prevail. We have an advocacy system for the most part now being driven by funders who now basically dictate how those activities ought to operate as we have failed to properly carry out basic continuity of previous interventions, ideas and strategies that would have produced tangible results and a seemingly special club decides what happens on that level excluding desenting voices like this one and others as was evidenced in the recent IDAHO event, the wider community was never made aware in a meaningful way of what IDAHO actually entails let alone a planned activity in Jamaica.
What is happening to our lesbian and bisexual women in terms of the corrective rape typed instances of violence meted out to them with very little assistance or concern from the advocacy quarters on these problem that has been on the increase since 2007 is worrying as well. Not even so much as public outcry on the matter to bring attention to it or some forumatic discourse on the issue at the comunity level.
The invisibility in a sense of our transgendered community members is disturbing to say the least, one prominent pre-operative trans woman is homeless presently and literally sleeps on a cot in an office ironically situated close to the JFLAG facility while many others just on the face of it seemed disillusioned on the lack of recognition. Sad.
Let us still celebrate PRIDE on an individual level non the less but we cannot and must not overlook these and other serious issues friends, I am sure there are many others you may know of as well in your own corners. See how best you can play however small a part in adding improvement of the lives of our brothers and sisters out there.
Peace, tolerance and PRIDE
Monday, May 31, 2010
Gender variance is an atypical development in the relationship between the gender identity and the visible sex of an individual. In order to understand this atypical development, it is necessary, firstly, to understand something of the typical development of these elements of our make-up. Many in the scientific and medical professions recognise the terms ‘gender’ and ‘sex’ as having distinct meanings. ‘Gender identity’ describes the psychological recognition of oneself, as well as the wish to be regarded by others, as fitting into the social categories: boy/man or girl/woman. These social categories generate expectations of gender roles, that is, how we are expected to behave in society. ‘Sex’, on the other hand, is usually understood to represent the physical differentiation as male or female, indicated by the external appearance of the genitalia and the presence of gonads (testes in a boy/ovaries in a girl) which will determine reproductive function, and differences inbrain structure and function. Typically, gender identity, gender role and sex characteristics (known medically as the ‘phenotype’) are consistent with each other and with the underlying chromosomal pattern: 46,XX for a girl, 46,XY for a boy.
Typically, every fetus derives one sex chromosome from the mother; this is always ‘X’. The second sex chromosome is provided by the father and may be either ‘X’ or ‘Y’. Typically, a fetus having one X and one Y chromosome will develop as male because genes on the ‘Y’ chromosome play a vital role in triggering the complex cascade of hormones which masculinise (virilise) the fetus, ensuring that his brain, genitalia and gonads are congruent. Typically, a fetus having two X chromosomes will develop as a female so that her brain, genitalia, gonads and organs of reproduction are congruent with each other. So, the way the fetus develops and functions, in terms of sex and gender identity depends, in part, on its innate sensitivity to particular hormones, as well as the availability of the relevant hormones. These influence the sex development of the brain and other sex characteristics in a way that is consistent with, and typical of, each gender. Animal experiments have indicated that there may be, in addition, direct genetic effects on the brain development which are not mediated by hormone input. Whatever the various routes leading to differentiation, typically, an XY baby, showing the external characteristics consistent with the male phenotype will grow to adulthood identifying himself as a man. Conversely, an XX baby, showing the external characteristics consistent with the female phenotype will typically grow up comfortably identifying herself as a woman.
This scenario applies to the majority of us. Despite considerable gradations, we are close enough to one end or the other of the gender/sex spectrum that we never question whether or not our gender identity is consistent with our gonadal and genital sex. Since this is true for most, it is assumed to be true for all babies—that what you see is what you get. So, despite the fact that the baby’s gender identity cannot be discerned accurately at birth—since it depends, to a large extent, on the early development of the brain which is invisible—it is assumed to be consistent with the visible sex. So when ‘male’ or ‘female’ is entered on the Birth Certificate, a consistent and unchanging gender identity is inferred and, effectively ‘assigned’, at that time, on the basis of external appearance alone. Typically, this inference is accurate enough…
…but it is not always so. The gender/sex spectrum is complex. A few individuals do not fit comfortably into what we think of as typically male or female. For a variety of reasons, one in 100 or so babies is born with some kind of sex differentiation anomaly. This could be, for instance, because the pregnant mother has additional hormones in her system, which she has absorbed from, say, medication or the environment, and which she has passed on to the fetus, or the fetus, itself, may be insensitive to the influence of certain hormones. Occasionally, sex/gender anomalies may be associated with unusual chromosomal patterns, for instance, 47,XXY, 47,XYY, 45,XO, 49,XXXYY, or even a mosaic (more than one chromosome pattern in different tissues of one individual). The possible permutations are numerous. The degree of discomfort any resultant variation may cause to an individual depends on the nature and the degree of that variation from the typical. In a few instances, there can be a serious risk to health. On the other hand, in many cases the effect is so slight that the condition remains undiagnosed or, at least, requires no medical intervention. In some, the manifestations may not be discernible at birth or for many years, so diagnosis is delayed.
One example of such a condition will demonstrate just how complex this subject is. An individual with complete Androgen Insensitivity Syndrome (cAIS) has XY chromosomes so one would expect the presence of a ’Y’ chromosome to be associated with an individual who has a penis rather than a clitoris, whose gonadal material develops into testes rather than ovaries and whose brain takes on ‘male’ characteristics. However, in the case of cAIS, despite the presence of the ‘Y’ chromosome, the fetus has a degree of insensitivity to androgens (testosterone, dihydrotestosterone) and is, therefore, not subject to their masculinising influence. The result is a mixture of female and male characteristics: the baby is born with the external appearance of a girl and retains female brain characteristics; she grows up identifying herself as a woman. It may be only at puberty, when the failure to menstruate is apparent, that the underlying condition is diagnosed. This XY female has no uterus, often a shortened vagina, or none, and undescended testes. ‘Partial’ AIS will lead to varying degrees of the condition, including one where assignment of sex (and, therefore, inferred gender identity) is not straightforward owing to the ambiguous appearance of the genitalia at birth. Some paediatricians would assign the baby as a boy, others, as a girl.
Gender Variant People
Many anomalies such as AIS can arise causing inconsistent development between the various elements by which we know ourselves to be either a man or a women. Among the larger group embracing all these varieties, there is a small subgroup of individuals who experience gender variance. The personal experience of this state is sometimes known as gender dysphoria (dysphoria means ‘unhappiness’). The impact of genetic and/or hormonal factors on their fetal development appears to cause parts of the brain to develop in a way which is inconsistent with their genitalia, gonads and, usually, with their chromosomes. This may give rise to another, rather different, example of XY women, that is, individuals whose visible physical sex appears to be that of a man, but whose brain has some female characteristics and whose gender identification is, therefore, that of a woman. Or, conversely, gender variance may occur the other way round. An individual having XX chromosomes and the visible physical sex of a female, may have some male brain characteristics and therefore, identify as a man. So the issue of one's gender identification, whether as a man or as a woman, or even neither (which occurs only rarely), is rooted in the brain, and is regarded by the individuals concerned, and is demonstrated by research, to be largely determined pre-birth and more or less stable thereafter.
Thus the experience of extreme gender variance is increasingly understood in scientific and medical disciplines as having a biological origin. The current medical viewpoint, based on the most up-to-date scientific research, is that this condition, which in its extreme manifestation is known as transsexualism, is strongly associated with unusual neurodevelopment of the brain at the fetal stage. Small areas of the brain are known to be distinctly different between males and females in the population generally. In those experiencing severe gender variance, some of these areas have been shown to develop in opposition to other sex characteristics and are, therefore, incongruent with the visible sex appearance.
Gender Variant Children
Very rarely, children may express this incongruence between gender identity and the genital sex, but their discomfort is not always easy to identify. Symptoms of unease with the assigned gender role and the visible sex appearance are often only apparent to the individuals concerned and may not be understood even by them. If these children are unable to articulate their unease, their discomfort may grow through adolescence and into adulthood, as their families and society, in ignorance of their underlying gender identity, relentlessly reinforce gender roles in accordance with their physical appearance alone. However, some children are able to express a strong cross-sex identification, and sometimes insist on living in the opposite role. In particular, the increasing disgust with the development of secondary sex characteristics experienced by young people during puberty may be taken as a strong indication that the condition will persist into adulthood as transsexualism. Therefore, in carefully screened individuals, hormone blocking treatment may be given, before pubertal changes become apparent, so that these young people have more time to decide in which gender role they can achieve lasting personal comfort. There is no evidence that raising children in contradiction to their visible sex characteristics causes gender variance, nor can the condition be overridden by raising children in strict accordance with a gender role that is consistent with their visible sex.
Those who are not treated in adolescence may continue to struggle to conform; they may embark on relationships, marriages and parenthood in an attempt to lead ‘normal’ lives by suppressing their core gender identity. Ultimately, however, they may be unable to continue with the charade of presenting themselves as something they know they are not. The artificiality of their situation drives individuals to seek treatment to minimise the mismatch between the brain and the bodily appearance. They experience an overwhelming need to be complete, whole people and to live in accordance with their internal reality. Until this is achieved, the personal discomfort is such that it leads to great unhappiness and sometimes to suicidal feelings.
For many, ‘Transition’ to live in the gender role dictated by the brain may be the only way forward if they are to avoid a life of psychological torment. This will often be assisted by treatment to achieve physical re-alignment of the sex characteristics, involving hormone therapy and corrective surgery. Transition marks the change in social status from man to woman or woman to man but the process does not change the gender identity of the individuals concerned, rather, it confirms their core gender identity by bringing their sex characteristics, especially their visible ones, and their gender role into line with it. Research indicates that this treatment is highly successful.
However, the level of discomfort varies widely from individual to individual, and personal circumstances also impinge on how those experiencing the condition respond: for instance, some may take hormones, but not have surgery or undergo transition of their gender role; some may become reconciled to their discomfort and learn to live with it. So, psycho-social factors may play a role in outcomes, though they appear to play no part in the causation, of the condition.
Gender variance, whilst it may be associated with a great deal of stress, is not caused by psychopathology or mental illness, rather, the stress may be understood to be a normal response to the internal biological conflict. The condition cannot be overcome by psychological or psychiatric treatments alone.
Sexual Orientation among Transsexual People
The term transsexualism does not indicate, or refer to, sexual orientation, i.e. a person’s preference for a sexual partner of the opposite, or of the same sex/gender. Trans people may identify as straight, gay, lesbian, bisexual, or asexual. Some trans people say that, until the process of transition is complete, they cannot tell what their future sexual preference will be. It may remain the same; it may change. A trans person who has always been attracted to women may remain so. Or not. A trans person who has always been attracted to men, may remain so. Or not. During the process of transition, the issue of sexual orientation may be of little interest to the individual concerned, since the issue of gender identity is uppermost in his or her mind.
I think it’s important to start with thinking about the purpose of your communication, and that is just to come out to them, to come out of hiding and let them know who you are and what you’ve been struggling with. I’m making the assumption that you also wish to remain as close as possible to your family, and be accepted and hopefully supported by them in the future.
There’s also the question of if you should come out at all. If you are dependent on your parents/family (under 18, or if they are paying for college, etc…) then you need to think of the very real possibility of their cutting you out or off. The last thing you want to be is a homeless transgendered youth. If this is the case, then it may be wiser to spend some time finding and getting support before proceeding.
If you decide that the time is right and it’s safe to come out to them then…
My experience has been with Transgendered clients, that a letter works best. The letter has several advantages over face to face communications.
You get to take your time and think about what to say and word it perfectly.
You can have a friend, therapist or supportive person read it over first and give you feedback.
You can’t be interrupted.
The recipient can go back and read it again and take their time with it.
Why a letter and not an email? Well, it’s more personal, email can be a little cold.
What to say:
I’m of the school of thought that you should just say it in your own words as clearly and plainly as possible. I think it can be good to also include the following:
Reassurance that you love them and want to remain connected and hope that they will be supportive.
Reassurance that this is not their “fault”.
A little bit about your struggle with gender over the years, your experience, coping, isolation, etc… (be specific! It will help them empathize with you)
A few recommendations of books, articles or support groups in their area
and I recommend to ask them specifically not to respond right away, but to take some time (a week) before they respond. Let them sit with it. This will weed out any immediate bad response and let them cool down.
Just as you would tailor a cover letter for a job you may need to tailor your coming out letter for different family members. Your parents are two (or maybe more than two) separate people, invite them to respond individually.
What not to say:
No need to talk about specific long term plans/timetables or surgeries in your coming-out letter. Remember, the purpose of the letter is to let your family know that you are transgendered. Period. Future plans are better left for future communications. Why? Because just digesting the fact that one has a trans son/daughter/brother/sister is enough to begin with. Remember, you’ve had a lot of time to think about this and are ready to move ahead. They are just learning of this for the first time and need to absorb it. I think its ok to gently allude to the fact that changes might be coming in the future, but I wouldn’t go father than that in your first communication on this topic.
There is no need to go into the etiology of transsexualism here. There are too many conflicting theories biological and otherwise, and even if you knew the origin of your being transgendered, it wouldn’t change it.
If you get a positive response that’s great! Otherwise stay calm, even if you get a negative first response. Give them time.
Don’t be reactive to a negative response. Be the adult (or if you don’t feel it, just pretend). Remember the long term goal is to have them be connected to you and supportive. Keep the long term goal in mind in all your communications with them.
It does happen sometimes that parents have a very negative response and even reject you outright. This can be very hurtful and disappointing. When this happens, again, don’t be reactive no matter how you feel. Keep the long term goal in mind. It’s easy to “write them off”, but ultimately unsatisfying if you want to have your family.
A few things to do with a negative reaction:
Communicate that you are open and ready to talk when they are,
Be empathic with their difficulty in accepting/understanding/assimilating this information. Understand that they need time and may have a religious/cultural basis of understanding that can’t be overcome quickly.
Express your wish and hope that it will change over time.
Ask what you can do to help them accept this?
You know your family best, so keep that in mind when crafting your coming out communication.
Here are some other perspectives on how to come out to your family:
coming out, hormone, surgery, and other letters
http://www.videojug.com/interview/how-to-come-out-to-your-family-and-friends-as-transgender video ‘How To Come Out To Your Family And Friends As Transgender’
Article ‘Coming Out to Family as Transgender’ fromThe Human Rights Campaign
Transsexual Road Map – Family issues
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thank you for your donations via Paypal in helping to keep this blog going and related costs. Please continue to support me and my allies in this venure that has now become a full time activity. When I first started blogging in late 2007 it was just as a pass time to highlight GLBTQ issues in Jamaica under then JFLAG's blogspot page but now clearly there is a need for more forumatic activity which I want to continue to play my part.
Activities & Plans: ongoing and future
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Faces and names witheld for the victims' protection.
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Recent Homophobic Incidents
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Steps to Take When Contronted or Arrested by Police
b) Only give name and address and no other information until a lawyer is present to assist
c) Try to be polite even if the scenario is tensed) Don’t do anything to aggravate the situation
e) Every complaint lodged at a police station should be filed and a receipt produced, this is not a legal requirement but an administrative one for the police to track reports
f) Never sign to a statement other than the one produced by you in the presence of the officer(s)
g) Try to capture a recording of the exchange or incident or call someone so they can hear what occurs, place on speed dial important numbers or text someone as soon as possible
h) File a civil suit if you feel your rights have been violatedi) When making a statement to the police have all or most of the facts and details together for e.g. "a car" vs. "the car" represents two different descriptions
j) Avoid having the police writing the statement on your behalf except incases of injuries, make sure what you want to say is recorded carefully, ask for a copy if it means that you have to return for it