My Great Journey Part 3
In this post, I would like to explore some scientific and sociological issues surrounding being transgender.
A Science Lesson
During the course of dealing with my chronic pain, my doctors noted that my testosterone levels were extremely low. It turns out that narcotics suppress the production of testosterone and other various hormones in the body. So for over four years, I was on testosterone therapy. The doctor kept asking me if I felt better with the testosterone, and the answer was no, it wasn’t benefiting me. In fact, earlier this year, along with my awakening, I realized that it was making me feel very wrong. One of the first steps was to stop using the testosterone, and that has helped some, although with stopping the pain medicine, I am now making some testosterone, so it’s a mixed bag.
Along with the hormone levels I asked one of my doctors to order genetic karyotyping because I was wondering if I had Kleinfelter’s – a condition where a male has XXY chromosomes. The extra X chromosome results in many physical features that I have. It turns out that I am normal 46XY, but that’s not the whole story.
For a detailed description of the science behind gender dysphoria, I recommend reading Prof. Lynn Conway’s outstanding website, www.lynnconway.com – in this website she goes into great detail on all the science and sociological issues surrounding being a transwoman.
Briefly, though, gender dysphoria has many causes. There are many who have differences in the Hypothalamus, due to various hormonal sensitizations in utero. These differences can result, for instance, in transwomen having neurobiological processes much more like cis-gendered women, than like cis-gendered men. It is important to note that not all transgender people have these issues.
Also, in addition to a host of genetic marker variants, such as Kleinfelters and Complete Androgen Insensitivity Syndrome (a condition where women are 46 XY but do not respond to testosterone at all) there are myriad other genetic variants that can impact gender identity. Many of these variants are not able to be tested for currently. For others, while tests exist, they are very expensive, and only done where the person’s health issues mandate such testing, for instance in the case of infertility.
In my case, while I imagine that I have some such variances, I have not had testing for these, and in any case it doesn’t matter. In all likelihood I am sterile, as Susan and I never had children, despite many times having sex without birth control. In the end, whatever genetic or brain variants I have, I have. There is no need to test for them, because knowing the results of such testing as is available, won’t change my identity, or impact on my health in any way.
I can only speak to my experience as a transgender woman. When I began Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT) with a testosterone blocker and Estradiol, I almost immediately noted a change. I felt much calmer and more contented that I ever had in my life. Many transwomen experience this on starting HRT. Please note that if a cis-gender male were to start this HRT regimen, it would be emotionally and physically devastating. This is a very good test of whether one is a transwoman, and it is one of the reasons transgender people must be on HRT for at least a year, before they can become candidates for Gender Confirmation Surgery.
Safety of Transgender People
In the United States, sadly, there is an epidemic of murders and suicides of transgender people. The causes of this are varied, including ignorance and lack of support by the broader community, and frustration, desperation and pain, among the transgender community.
November 20 is observed every year as the Transgender Day of Remembrance (TDOR). On each TDOR, transgender communities remember those who have been lost to violence in the previous year. Many communities also celebrate local victories in attaining support for the transgender community. In many ways Olympia WA is at the forefront of this, including a trendsetting policy on police working with transgender people.
For those who are transgender and in crisis, I urge you – please do not harm yourself. There are many, many resources out there for you to get help. Call 911, contact the Trans Lifeline, go to your hospital or mental health crisis clinic or call a friend or family member, or your clergy person – just don’t hurt yourself. You are too valuable.
For those who act out against transgender people from a standpoint of hate, ignorance, or from religious beliefs, remember the following: The Talmud teaches that to take a life is to destroy the world. Jesus worked towards peace among the disaffected in his community. Gandhi was all about peace. Islam literally means peace.
So PLEASE – do not act as judge, jury and executioner against transgender or other LGBTQ people. No religion allows that, and you are committing a greater sin by hurting someone. Consider that before you act out of your self-righteous holiness…
I welcome feedback, but please keep it polite and friendly.