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.
- 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 conceptualise 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.
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 transgender that one may have a child who has a particular genitalia but is the opposite sex in the brain. If many parents and troubled transgender 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 feminized 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 paediatrician 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, endocrinologists 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 transgender 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 transgender persons.
Dr. Carpenter noted that the Caribbean Sexuality Research Group (CSRG) offers some support to transgendered 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 paediatric 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.