Thursday, June 26, 2008

PFOX - Je T'Accuse

I've always been a little suspicious of PFOX, an ex-gay support organization. Part of me has suspected for a long time that this is nothing more than the anti-GBLT lobby trying to make itself look "compassionate".

This news release confirms my suspicions, and proves just how unpleasant these people can be.

“Homosexuals and their transgender activist allies hope to use this hearing as a way of forcing the imposition of gender confusion upon all Americans,” said Parents and Friends of Ex-Gays & Gays (PFOX) Executive Director Regina Griggs today. “Instead of treating transsexualism and cross-dressing behaviors as Gender Identity Disorders (GID) as defined by the American Psychiatric Association’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Democrats seem determined to make these behaviors into federally-protected minorities.”

“Why should Congress force Americans to provide workplace accommodations for people who are confused about whether they’re male or female? How can Congress force us to make believe that a man is really a woman or a woman is really a man?”

“If Democrats were truly concerned about these gender confused individuals, they’d push for expanded mental health services for GID. A person can’t change his or her sex – and many of these individuals think they’re a woman one day and a man the next day. Why is Congress catering to such insanity?”


This snippet shows us the extent of PFOX's ignorance and hostility towards transsexuals. Allow me to take a few moments to make my point, by dissecting the arguments they are putting forward one at a time.

Instead of treating transsexualism and cross-dressing behaviors as Gender Identity Disorders (GID) as defined by the American Psychiatric Association’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders


For those unfamiliar with the DSM-IV, it is essentially a lexicon used by mental health professionals to describe their client's symptoms and narrative to other professionals. The DSM-IV describes Gender Identity Disorder in fairly broad terms, with a bit of a narrative rooted in "classic" patterns for GID. It most clearly DOES NOT describe treatment.

The second point is that although each individual is unique, in the most severe of cases, the only real treatment available is ultimately gender transition. There will be some who only transition part-way, and a certain number who attempt transition and back away for a variety of reasons.

Why should Congress force Americans to provide workplace accommodations for people who are confused about whether they’re male or female?


By the time someone who is considering transition is talking to their workplace about their intentions, any sense of "confusion" should be long dispelled. By that point, they are taking concrete steps to make their lives congruent with their identity. (A dual-role existence is extremely hard to maintain)

There is a second insinuation here that I find particularly noxious - and that is the absolutist notion that someone who is transsexual is "confused" because their identity is at odds with their body. The insinuation is that the person is delusional in some capacity. Yet, there is no psychiatric evidence that the individual is in fact delusional. Transsexuals are typically quite coherently aware of their status - both physical and mental. To infer that someone who is in the midst of gender transition is somehow "confused" is deeply insulting to someone who has already looked dysphoria in the face and chosen to act constructively against it.

A person can’t change his or her sex – and many of these individuals think they’re a woman one day and a man the next day. Why is Congress catering to such insanity?


While in early stages of grappling with whatever coping mechanisms someone has created in order to survive their inner gender conflict that there may be periods of ambiguous behaviour and fluctuating identity, that is understandable in light of the often dramatic differences between the social roles that men and women face, not to mention the often severe social penalties for those who violate the "expected" role. Gender transition is a high stress process, and not one undertaken lightly.

The next ugly wart in this paragraph is the classic "biology is destiny" argument. This overlooks a key part of the transgender narrative - namely that their feelings of "not rightness" predate the age when most people become gender aware, and significantly predate any awareness of sexual identity. While it is impossible to change someone's chromosomal sex, there is no guarantee that a male body gets a 'male brain' associated with it - as most MTF transsexuals will attest.

While I am all in favour of making better treatment available to all transgender people, that will be for naught if the legal and social frameworks continue to discriminate against transgender people. Even more unfortunate is the fact that PFOX chooses to attempt to declare invalid the stories of those who have transitioned, and some five decades of background science that has shown gender transition to be a successful treatment in its own right - even in light the challenges that transsexuals face post transition. (and that's ignoring the kinds of obstacles that PFOX would create.)

1 comment:

arizonaabby said...

Thank you for your coherent deconstruction of PFOX's argument. I would add one additional point to your response.

PFOX complains that Congress's consideration of protection against workplace discrimination for transgender people is contrary to the proper treatment of those with GID. The fact is that transition is the only effective treatment ever found for GID (even electroshock therapy has proven ineffective in changing a transgender preson's internal gender identity to match their physical sex). Furthermore, transition is part of the treatment prescribed for GID by the World Professional Association for Transgender Health (WPATH -- http://wpath.org/index.cfm), the only worldwide professional organization dedicated to the diagnosis and treatment of transgender people. Their Standards of Care (http://wpath.org/Documents2/socv6.pdf), formerly known as the Harry Benjamin Standards of Care for the leading U.S. researcher in this field, are the accepted basis for transgender treatment worldwide. Those standards prescribe a path of treatment beginning with psychotherapy and progressing through cross-sex hormone treatment, at least one year of real life experience (living in one's target gender full time), and ending with genital reassignment surgery (GRS), aka sexual reassignment surgery (SRS) for those qualifying individuals who desire it and, in most cases, more importantly, can afford its considerable cost ($10,000 to $25,000 for MTFs, upwards of $100,000 and multiple surgeries for FTMs who desire phalloplasty).

By providing workplace protections against discrimination based on gender identity or expression, Congress would merely be recognizing that those being treated for a diagnosed medical, not mental, condition should not be denied employment simply because they follow the prescribed treatment for their condition.