Monday, June 24, 2013

Hong Kong starts to embrace transgender issues

"I didn't feel trapped in the wrong body, but mismatched - my inner self was somehow mismatched with my outer body," says Kaspar Wan as he happily poses for photos in a park near his home. The sun's out and Wan, who usually goes by his nickname Siu-keung, talks candidly about his life - one that started as a girl.
For years Wan struggled with gender dysphoria, a condition in which someone is uncomfortable with his or her biological gender. He strongly identified with the male psyche, and wanted to be a man.
Growing up, he says, "to make myself comfortable with the 'girl' identity, I would position myself as a 'boyish girl'. But as I got older, the uncomfortable feelings grew stronger. I knew I didn't want to become a woman".
Eventually, in December last year, Wan underwent a subcutaneous mastectomy - a complete upper-body surgery in which most of the breast tissue is removed. "After the surgery I only had a couple of small scars. The surgery is fairly simple."
But, for Wan, that procedure ended years of emotional turmoil.
"It was the best decision I've made. My only regret is not having the surgery earlier," says the 34-year-old freelance video producer. "I spent many years struggling with body issues. I couldn't look at my reflection in the mirror. I was unhappy, stressed and confused and would ask myself whether or not I was a homosexual. I just didn't fit in and the feelings of isolation made me think about suicide.
"As far back as three years old, I have wanted to be a boy. Now I've had the surgery, I can face myself."
Transgender issues have been in the limelight following a groundbreaking decision by the Court of Final Appeal last month that allowed a transsexual woman, "W", to marry her boyfriend, forcing the government to make a U-turn on marriage laws.

Sunday, June 16, 2013

This Woman Is the First Transgender Navy Seal

While gays and lesbians celebrated the repeal of Don't Ask, Don't Tell two years ago, freedom of personal expression in the military still has its limits: Transgender men and women still can't serve in the ranks.

 That might change after America gets to know Kristin Beck. For 20 years, Beck served as an enlisted petty officer in the elite Navy Seals, amassing seven warzone deployments, a Bronze Star, and a Purple Heart -- as well as a tour in Seal Team Six, the secretive unit that went on to kill Osama bin Laden. Born and raised as Chris Beck, she was a man's man -- a football player, avid motorcyclist, and war hero.

 But Beck never felt entirely comfortable as a man. Shortly after retiring from the service in early 2011, she began to transition -- "working toward my own peace as a woman," as she recently put it on Twitter. It's a story she's telling publicly for the first time in a new memoir, "Warrior Princess: A U.S. Navy SEAL's Journey to Coming out Transgender." As another former SEAL who knows Beck said on his own blog: "While Chris was always a little different I had no idea what was lying under the surface, as I'm sure a lot of people will have the same experience."

 On one hand, maybe Kristin's revelation is not all that remarkable. After all, plenty of hardened vets get out of the service and let their hair down, whether literally or figuratively. On the other hand, her experience could leave many Americans asking: Why *doesn't* the military permit transgender folks to serve openly?

 The truth is that the armed forces like neat, easy categories -- it's naturally hard to get millions of uniformed service members organized for battle, or anything else -- and so commanders don't deal well with individuals whose answer to "sex" on a checkbox form reads like a Facebook relationship-status update: "It's complicated." Then there are the ethical and personal hang-ups of critics who think anyone outside of typical gender norms is mentally ill or morally depraved. As The Atlantic put it last year, when discussing the status of transgenders, "[M]any military members are afraid of what they don't understand."

 Beck is hoping her story will help break down some of the suspicions and misconceptions surrounding transgender people; she's active on Twitter, and sounds like a typical "operator," as the military's elite troops are called -- criticizing warzone soldiers who stay off the battlefield and frequent on-base Burger Kings and movie theaters. And she arguably had it harder than her all-male colleagues in the Seals, waiting until after retirement to come out and transition, even though she states she had feelings of unease with her male identity since she "was a little boy." Imagine trying to keep those feelings inside while working for two decades in a community of warriors whose unofficial motto is "The only easy day was yesterday."

 Clearly, she's not alone in her desire to serve her country and still be her own person. A 2011 survey by the National Gay and Lesbian Taskforce estimated that 20 percent of all transgender Americans serve in the military -- a rate that's double that of the "traditional" U.S. population at large. And just last week, the Navy agreed to change another transgender veteran's sex on her permanent records -- an unprecedented move.

 "They're acknowledging that transgender people exist and not completely off their rockers," vet, Autumn Sandeen, told local reporters.


Saturday, June 15, 2013

Basic TG/TS/IS Information by Lynn Conway

We learned in Lynn's story that she was born and raised as a boy, and later in life was changed into a girl by female sex hormone treatments and major surgical procedures. Because of this past, Lynn is sometimes called a woman. Why did this happen to Lynn, and what is transsexualism anyway?

In order to understand transsexualism, we must first answer some basic questions about gender. What is Gender Identity? Where does it come from? What events occur in nature that interfere with correct assignments of gender? These pages aim at answering these questions. Links are then provided to further information on gender identity, transgenderism, transsexualism and intersexuality, and to information about methods and technology for physical gender modification.

Knowledge in this area is under rapid development. There are challenges in defining, separating and "labeling" the different phenomena, and in making estimates of frequencies of occurrence. There are also differing interpretations of the underlying science, and differing points of view about the evolving social and medical protocols for resolving these conditions.

However, much more is known about gender identity than just a few short years ago, and those new understandings are very much worth sharing and building upon. The taboo on this area has also been broken, so that we can openly discuss these important issues without fear, shame or embarrassment.

As we'll see, far more people suffer from gender-identity conditions than previously suspected, and the lives of millions of people are impacted by gender-identity issues. The key to improving the quality of those lives is better knowledge and more widespread understanding of that knowledge.