May 2008

The Question of Gender

It was the headline "wrong body" that put my radar up. The article ["Second Nature," March] then proceeded to verify my concerns as doctors were quoted as experts, Prozac was prescribed to a seven-year-old, and the explanation for the "phenomenon" of so-called "gender dysphoria" was one which looked closely at the genetic code.

I was disappointed in this article's lack of attention to a simple fact: the social component to the construction of gender. While Max Potter impressively covers left and right field of a complex topic, the basic element of culture and society as influence in her "dysphoria" was completely ignored.

I was taught that gender is learned and sex is ascribed. Lucia was not torn because she was born "into the wrong body;" rather, the wrong society. Choosing Box A or Box B as we so narrow-mindedly package gender may not accommodate every citizen's complex makeup as sweetly and simply as we would like. The incapacity to embrace alternatives to our normative view of sex and gender surely contributed to the suicidal nature of this child.
Merissa Nathan Gerson
St. Louis

You give great hope to those of us who are transsexual and who have experienced the challenges of a life that many cannot fathom. I am a 57-year-old transsexual woman. I was born in 1951 and always knew that something was wrong. I knew that I was born a boy, but that I was inherently a feminine creature. It was a very difficult existence. I did not experience the wild range of emotions attributed to Lucia, but rather withdrew into myself. Of course, puberty was the most difficult and scary. In fact, though born a male and having passed through puberty, I was never really a boy. I had three younger brothers and I was never ever like them. I enlisted in the U.S. Air Force at 19 years old. I did well in the military and had an opportunity while assigned to duty in Albuquerque to experience cross-dressing, but it was at this time that I realized being a drag queen would not be enough for me. Upon my honorable discharge, I came to San Francisco and enrolled in the Stanford Gender Dysphoria Program. The rest is all history. I am now a successful public affairs officer for a federal agency. I am living happily with my significant other and have been with him for more than 30 years. Life is good. My point in writing is to simply say that many of us transsexuals have done what we did because we had to. There were no other choices for living a happy life.
Genie Gibson
via e-mail

The article "Second Nature" details the journey of a boy who feels "trapped" in his body. So his parents let him dress in frilly things and encourage dance class. Then they braid his hair and give him lip gloss. All of that technically falls within parental prerogative, but when they foist hormone therapy on the child—to delay puberty, encourage breast development, and keep the voice higher in pitch—there is something fundamentally and morally wrong with that. Let him grow up and after coming of age if he wants to become a she of his own volition, that's fine. But a 10-year-old is not capable of making that kind of life-changing and permanent decision. The therapists, counselors, doctors, and parents who shift his chemistry or alter his body must not be allowed to proceed with their ghastly experiment on a child. As a society, we say enough. This is child abuse and we plead for intervention.
David Rupert

I just read your article on Lucia. Thank you for writing such a touching article that showed the human side of being transgendered as a child and what the parents have to endure. Thank God Judy and Michael have handled this situation with such dignity and compassion for their daughter. As hard as it has been on them, they have saved their daughter from a life of torment. That she can live her life free of the constant conflict that she would have had to go through if not allowed to live as the girl she is. You see, I am also transgendered and did not finally get the courage to transition until the age of 49. I lived a life as a child knowing, but being afraid to say anything about how I was really a girl instead of a boy. Of course, back then they tried to cure you, so it may have been a blessing not to have said anything. But it led to a difficult life. I was fortunate that my transition as a police detective with the Aurora Police Department went smoothly and with little fanfare. Life is good now.
Renee Grahn
via e-mail

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