Thursday, March 20, 2014

No, Transition Does Not Absolve You Of Your Past

I'm sure that the far right is going to use this story in the war currently being conducted on transgender rights in both Canada and the United States.  

In fact, LifeSite has already picked up on the story:

According to the ABC News story, Donna Perry is trying to claim that she cannot be held accountable for murders that she committed prior to undergoing gender reassignment surgery.
When detectives interviewed Perry and asked why the murders had stopped, she replied, "Douglas didn't stop, Donna stopped it," according to the affidavit. 
The accused's reported defense that it was not Donna Perry but Douglas Perry who killed the women is headline-grabbing, but not necessarily a true reflection of how transgender people view their nonconforming identity, according to mental health experts.
I have enormous problems with this as any kind of defence in a court, and I would hope that her lawyers would advise against it as well.  Simply put, although it is hardly uncommon for transsexuals to talk about their pre-transition lives in a somewhat dissociated manner, transition does not produce a "whole new person".  More realistically, one is the sum of their experiences before and after transition.  Transition is an opportunity for enormous personal growth, but it hardly absolves one of what happened before transition.

"For some people, it's a metaphor: 'I was a different person before I came out,'" said Dr. Jack Drescher, a New York City psychiatrist who sat on the work group on sexual and gender identity disorders contained in the DSM-5 -- the latest edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual. 
"It's a certain way that they use the metaphor when transitioning for those who were very unhappy before and now are happy," he said. "But it's different when a person makes a claim that somehow they have no linkage to the person they used to be –- that would be more of a disturbed presentation." 
Having what is now called gender dysphoria in the DSM-5, does not necessarily mean that a person has impaired judgement, which is often a legal defense, according to Drescher. 
"It's wrong to generalize from this person's life – it's not typical of the transgender experience," said Drescher, who does not know Perry and is not connected to the case. 
Dr. Drescher makes some very clear points, and his second statement is in fact what I thought when I first read the article.  If Ms. Perry in fact thinks of "Doug" as a distinct entity quite separate from herself today, there could well be a much more serious psychological issue over and above Gender Dysphoria.

Regardless, I would very surprised if any court would accept core of the argument that is being made by Ms. Perry.  At its core, it implies that because she underwent gender transition that she cannot be held accountable for criminal acts which occurred before transition.

My concern is twofold.

First, I do not believe that Gender Dysphoria should be seen as sufficiently debilitating to result in a "not criminally responsible" finding.  It is a serious condition, to be sure, but I would find it extremely difficult to swallow the notion that someone who is transsexual is not capable of understanding the difference between right and wrong in making their day to day decisions.

Second, such a finding would effectively undo any equality rights gains that have been made in the last thirty years.  While I have no doubt that the writers at LifeSite News would be positively ecstatic with such an outcome, the consequences for the real lives of a lot of people would be devastating.

Most likely, I expect Ms. Perry will find that she is found guilty of murder, and locked away for the remainder of her life for actions done long before she transitioned.

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