Article as to Transsexual Brain Structure

I’m in a sort-of-online debate with someone who sent me a link to an article in “The Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism.”

The article is named “Male-to-Female Transsexuals Have Female Neuron Numbers in a Limbic Nucleus.”

I’ve read about this study, but as I recall this is the first time I’ve seen this article.

The definition of “transgender” has been problematic to nail down, not least since the underlying concepts of “gender” and “sex” are (when carefully pondered) quite complex and the superficial view tends to lead to the sort of problem that would suggest that a better definition is needed. Also, “transgender” is intended to be a sort of “umbrella” concept under which many different types of gender-related conditions are categorized and yet not conditions like “transvestite” or “cross-dresser” or “drag queen” (not that I’m implying anything negative about any of those terms).

The implied definition of “transsexual” as per Wikipedia is “Transsexual people identify as a member of the sex opposite to that assigned at birth, and desire to live and be accepted as such” and for now anyway, that definition works for me.

I’m working through the article. It’s highly scientific (which is great) but it doesn’t make for easy reading. Still, were more people to read this particular article, or even part of it, I think it’d help for there to be a lot more understanding as to the underlying issues, in fact … in hard, proven, scientific fact.

Part of what I find most interesting about this study is (and I’m speaking in broad terms here) that the scientists found a part of the brain that is structurally very different between genetically integrated males and genetically integrated females, and that transsexual male-to-female folks (like me, presumably) were found to have a similar brain structure to genetically integrated females, and that transsexual female-to-male folks were found to have a similar brain structure to genetically integrated males. In other words, the shape of the genitalia didn’t prevail. Transsexual girls had female brain structure similarities with non-transsexual girls (whom I refer to as genetically integrated girls).

Before this study, facts were still facts, in the same sense as the nature of lightning didn’t change thanks to Benjamin Franklin’s work on the subject.

Still, the study’s conclusions of “it’s physiological” make for a different situation that had it been purely psychological.  This makes it, to my relief, even more unreasonable a position to ascribe a negative morality to the transsexual condition.

I hasten to add that, even if it were a psychological condition with no known or demonstrable physiological underpinnings, it would still not be any less real and would still not be a proper condition for someone else to persecute or attack. The physiological aspect just adds yet one more layer of realism.

Like the work of Newton, I think that this work will trigger fundamental cultural changes — in this case, how the world deals with transsexual men and women.

As a transgender, transsexual girl I have for decades struggled with feeling like a girl while having a male-shaped  private parts. Two years ago, I decided to stop the downwards spiral of despair in my life. I decided to live as the woman I am. This decision was based on making peace with myself at a psychological level.

Later, I read about this study. These facts are highly validating, and I appreciate them as such. If my brain physiologically has a female structure, it would not surprise me, but I have no proof that it does. I didn’t go get an autopsy done; I’m not dead. Based on my own introspective psychological observations, I conclude that I’m female brain-wise and that’s good enough for me. I don’t feel the need for an MRI or a post-mortem to validate my conclusion (emphasis on “my”).

Each person gets to make his or her own lifestyle decisions. Such a decision doesn’t violate others’ rights, and as such is fundamentally 100% OK, i.e., such an individual is totally functioning within his or her own rights regardless of any combination of being openly transgender, transsexual, gay, bi, transvestite, cross-dresser, drag queen, etc. And if that person’s family and friends are unreasonable, that doesn’t change the basic principles.

Even if it is or were 100% a choice, whoever makes that choice doesn’t have to justify it to anyone whose cultural norms happen to clash with that.  There is actually always an element of choice. For example, someone who is a transsexual girl can choose to live openly as such or can choose to hide the fact. Whoever expects the latter isn’t being reasonable. It is for others to respect that person’s right to choose how to live his or her life, whether any onlookers like it or not.

If we were to argue the relative merits of lifestyle choices, it would be appropriate to point out that none of these non-mainstream lifestyle choices ended up with innocent people being lynched, or shot, or burned at the stake — nor with a battered wife, a rock-hard liver or clogged arteries.  If anything, folks who choose to be open about their non-mainstream transgender etc. lifestyle could stand on relative merit.

We don’t have to go there. Individuals get to make choices and live with the basic consequences. These should not have an extra layer of difficulty added on due to others’ harassment.

As an example, smoking has its own set of benefits and problems. In the sort of society that I advocate, the latter should not include being hassled by those who disapprove of smoking. Ditto for being openly transgender.

Feeling Self-Consious

I understand how the first few steps down the transition-your-lifestyle road are intimidating.

When I first realized I’m basically a girl and needed to start living accordingly, I was so self-conscious. I bought one nice dress and one pair of high-heeled shoes and when I was in the SF Bay area where nobody I knew would be likely to see me, I’d go to remote places and practice being out and about so I could get used to the new me.

I recall thinking that a city dump would be as remote a place as any at 2 a.m. so I went there and walked around, not realizing there was a security guard on duty even then. I was mortified when he saw me.

Fast-forward to last weekend, 18 months later or so when I stayed at a nice hotel in the SF Bay area and bought myself a nice In-N-Out burger which meant walking into a restaurant room full of people who look at whoever just came in and walks up to the register and places an order.

I was wearing my tight LA Idol Jeans and my 6″ heels. I walked in there, placed my order and made chit-chat with the cashier lady. I felt good and  I looked good, with my make-up just so. The next morning, I went down to breakfast in the hotel lobby area. I didn’t have my make-up on yet, and I still looked and felt just fine. There was some or other confusion as to whether or not breakfast was included in the price of the room, and this involved me walking back and forth to the front desk in my 6″ stilettos several times and talking to several people. I was fine with that too.

I recall feeling overwhelmed one day about 15 months ago and I bought a mouse-colored wig. A wise friend asked me what I was doing and I explained that I’d planned to wear that instead of my blonde wig (my hair was short at the time; nowadays it’s long and the wig is long-retired). This way, I explained, I could blend in and not be stared at so much. My friend reminded me that I’m a 6′ tall, athletic transgender girl with showgirl legs and a curvy butt and there was no way I would ever blend in. I might as well just learn how to deal with being highly visible.

It reminds me of a scene in the movie “Hunt for Red October” where the one submarine is in dire straits and a torpedo is coming right at it, about to destroy it. It turns out the best thing for the submarine to do was to go full speed into the torpedo and destroy it before it could arm itself.

Similarly, my own approach has been to face obstacles and resistance head-on, including my own trepidations — but they nevertheless existed, to a great extent.

So, if you feel self-conscious, I hope my story helps you …

Modeling & Validation

A key issue that seems to be common among many transgender girls is feeling materially deficient, aesthetically.

Puberty tends to be the worst time for us. At a time when the genetic girls around us were being beautifully transformed into curvy, pretty ladies, our own bodies became misshapen relative to how our brains are wired: female. No wonder that even in the latest version of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of the American Psychiatric Association, the concept of “Gender Dysphoria” is alive and well as the opposite of, well, euphoria.

My own unhappy reaction at the picture in the mirror became a downward spiral a few years ago. It was hard to be motivated to remain healthy. After I formally realized I’m transgender and I committed to live accordingly, I am a year or so later in good shape as to my body fat percentage, my blood pressure is perfect, I am in great health and so on.

I’m still flat-chested and I don’t like that. But, I do what I can with what I have. I’ve read about ab exercises that make my shape more hourglassy due to a thin middle instead of wider hips. My butt is curvy due to lots of exercising. My legs and tummy are toned and muscular. My long blonde hair has grown out nicely and my Invisalign is helping my teeth be more straight.

I have gradually evolved to look good enough to where I’m in quite high demand as a part-time stripper and model, even though I am flat-chested. I made $400 this weekend in two and a half hours, modeling in (initially, anyway) a sexy dress, black thong, black bra and 6″ black stilettos.

I didn’t have to undergo massive facial surgery or get butt implants or breast implants in order to look good enough to do this. I still look forward to all three of these procedures so that I can feel better yet about my looks, but it feels good to know that I do not have to look like Marilyn or Barbie so as to be able to earn money with my looks.

Money tends to be an objective measure of value, so this definitely helps with my self-confidence, too.

In case someone wants to point out, politely or otherwise, that sometimes a paradox is interesting in its own right (e.g., someone who looks to some extent like a girl but has male-shaped body parts ‘down there’) — I agree. But, that wasn’t the theme of these last two sessions nor do I plan to entertain clients whose main agenda is morbid curiosity nor have I ever been approached as such. 🙂

Survey Feedback To Marriott Hotels Residence Inn

I have many good things to say about my stay at a Marriott Hotels Residence Inn, earlier this week. Being transgender, I have a relatively unusual situation and had a relatively unusual experience. Albeit most positive, it was not perfect.

The company just sent me a nice “thank you” email and asked if anything could be improved, so I replied as follows:

* * *

I was delighted with your staff and everyone was super-nice.

However, one wrinkle is that I’m transgender and not everyone knew quite how to deal with that.  I look and sound like a weird mix of male and female.  In fact, I AM a weird mix of male and female.  This weirds many people out, which is one more reason why I think your staff is wonderful.

Regardless of how they felt, they treated me in a way such that I felt accepted and warm.

The thing is, though, I’m basically female and my driver’s license as presented at check-in says “Female.”  I’m in the process of changing my name and I’m planning to do more voice training and facial surgery, which will all help me to come across as more female than not.  Until then, it’s understandable that folks might as yet call me “Sir” even though I tend to cringe at it, not least since I go out of my way to wear feminine clothing, feminine make-up, feminine shoes, etc. I even walk and move in a feminine way.

Perhaps if it were pointed out to your staff that someone is basically female even though she’s got a deep voice, large hands and a square jaw, it might make them feel more comfortable because they’re not humoring a male guest who likes to wear female clothing in public, but they’re just basically dealing with a girl as a girl (albeit one with a genetic chromosome problem that caused her to be born with a mix of parts).

So, even though I was sometimes called “Sir” it was still a nice visit.  A little bit of extra staff training so that someone is called “Ma’am” if her driver’s license at check-in reads “Female” would be nicer yet.  Typically, if someone goes out of their way to look female even though there are male cues, then it’s probably a good guess that she’s transgender.

Until relatively recently, being transgender was considered a mental health issue.  It’s only recently become declassified as such and recognized as a genetic issue.  So, it’s a relatively new thing for transgender people to be out and about as I was at your Inn, as opposed to operating in stealth mode.

If it’s too much of a mine-field for your staff to guess someone’s gender, then perhaps a good policy might be to teach folks to omit the “Sir” or “Ma’am” as opposed to guessing incorrectly.

Anyway, these are minor issues, and your staff was a delight in spite of any of this.

Thank you!

Thinking Beyond the Obvious

I’m located in Northern Nevada. I like it here, and yet … the concept of being transgender remains misunderstood in some circles hereabouts.

The less-savvy folks hereabouts might until recently have waved their arm at the horizon and assumed a rude facial expression of the issue being self-evident as to the earth being flat and not a sphere. This mindset doesn’t deal well with subtleties that go beyond the perceptually obvious.

Undaunted at having lost the flat-earth argument, this concrete-bound type of mentality continues to deal with issues the same way. Such folks will point to the body parts of a transgender girl ‘down there.’ If it’s an “outie” as opposed to an “innie” then, well, that settles the question of gender, for them. For people with this approach to concepts: consistent with how they live the rest of their lives, what’s in a person’s pants is vastly more important than what’s in a person’s head.

With that sort of emphasis, it’s not surprising that this mindset struggles with the concept of someone being a transgender girl based on how her brain is wired, period.

But, insisting on a flawed concept doesn’t make it any more valid. Science has shown that the earth isn’t flat, and that some people were born with female brain wiring and  a male reproductive system. If someone ignores the “brain” half of the picture, they’re welcome to their misconceptions — but they are misconceptions.