Last evening on the progressive radio station Nationwide News Network, NNN Co-founder and friend of mine from Aphrodite’s P.R.I.D.E Jamaica, APJ appeared on the Love & Sex weekly show hosted by Dr Karen Carpenter. Satiba her pseudonym has made radio appearances before with the same host who is a board certified Clinical Sexologist and operates the possibly only professional clinic for assessment for transgender persons alongside other issues such as intersex matters, sexuality concerns and as far as erectile dysfunction.
The discussion overall was edifying and bearing by the quality of the calls in the call back section and the questions asked, some change in thinking seems eminent, given the resistance by way homophobia and the confusion if not conflation between gender identity and sexual orientation issues. The other guest on the show seems to display that quite nicely as the individual was not sure if they were transgender or not as while presenting as female they declared that they were not considering surgery to remove his penis or any re-assignment surgery as such. The longstanding issue of gay, bisexuals or gender neutral persons who present as androgynous also seem to label themselves as transgender without accessing or confirming same with a requisite professional. Some concern had been raised elsewhere but not on the show as I expected, on the lumping of other identities and sexual orientation as a way of reprieve from homophobia; as the heightened visibility given social media and such makes it seem attractive to some who self diagnose as transgender.
While the term transgender was explained by Dr Carpenter as an umbrella term to include persons who do elective surgery for cosmetic reasons without having any issues with gender identity, such as transsexuals for example or persons in the sex trade/porn industry (the old 80s she-male phenomenon in the US) some more emphasis should have been placed on addressing the conflation with homosexuality versus gender matters and advising persons what the differences are. Some effort was made at the near end of the two hour show to look at the difference in fairness to the guests and host but it was a little too late for me although the tail end of a radio show tends to be remembered by listeners than the beginning unless some memorable occurrence was in play at the top.
I was also expecting some emphasis on the re-assignment surgery bit as people need to understand that such procedures when it comes to genitalia cannot be simply reversed and one cannot ‘switch’ from one gender to another; the younger guest on the show seems to believe the aforementioned as they espoused they were interested in a butt lift, breast implants and other enhancements, all this while keeping a penis although they identify as a woman. Transgenderism is more about the mind of the individual and not necessarily the anatomical considerations as not all persons who feel they are ‘born in the wrong body’ can even qualify for re-assignment surgery.
The pre-surgery assessment that is usually conducted prior to ascertain the fitness and hormonal levels for so identified persons can also reveal much as to the continuation to full transition or not. There are persons identify as transgender but who cannot go all the way to surgery as their biology would not accommodate the full hormonal treatment/interventions, seeing that said treatment courses are for a lifetime so as not to reverse to the assigned gender and physiology of the party involved.
The mentioned assessment for children who display opposite gender traits by a requisite professional was commendable as Satiba drew on her own experience as she never had the family support in her transitioning journey. As highlighted on this blog and on sister blogs on Wordpress organizations such as JFLAG and others did not take these issues seriously in the early days although the coined term “Allsexual” appeared in their name. Satiba like so many others had to effectively fend for themselves; she sought out information on her own and after moving from doctor to doctor finally found one who was aware of the matters arising. Dr Carpenter mentioned the clinic at the University of the West Indies and asked interested persons to go via the Love & Sex Facebook page and on Twitter. I was expecting however some clarification on the gender non conforming behaviour in children and that that in and of itself is not a marker for someone to be deemed transgender.
Some 1500 persons are believed to be transgender living in Jamaica according to Satiba who referenced a research project that was conducted some years ago and documentary evidence supports. Overall it was a good show but given previous opportunities like this that still are too rare far more was delved into in a shorter air time and given this was a two hour show more should have come forth in my view. I hope Dr Carpenter will do a follow up sometime in the future. Thankfully the calls were civilised this time around as evidenced before terms such as ‘mad’ have been used by some to insult and belittle transgender folks who go public.
Finally the use of certain terms while commendable for those already in the know versus opening the knowledge base of those we want to win simply flew over the heads of the latter; terms such as transvestite, gender neutral (which was explained when a male caller asked for an explanation) and others were barely glossed at, I guess due to the myriad of advertisements and breaks that came during the two hour show (advertisers like the show I imagine) but the breaks sort of broken the flow of the discourse with recaps to (re)connect the audience. Maybe the structure of the show when discussing LGBT issues needs to be rehashed or tighten given the sensitivities involved.
Peace & tolerance