By Margie Nichols, Ph.D. Many people are puzzled and confused by what seems to an explosion of people who identify as transgender, genderqueer, gender fluid, or something else that is not ‘male’ or ‘female.’ Even to LGB folk, the changes seem to have occurred almost overnight. So let’s start our exploration of trans issues by explaining what happened. In the 1970’s and 1980’s, the common wisdom was that sexual orientation and gender identity were totally separate things, unrelated to each other. The gender binary – the idea that there are two distinct sexes, male and female, biologically determined- was unquestioned. ‘Transsexuals’ were nature’s mistakes, a female brain trapped in a male body, and female to male transsexuals were thought to be rare. ‘MtF’ transsexuals- natal males with a female identity- yearned to be perceived as women and to fit into mainstream heterosexual society by ‘going stealth’ – keeping their history as males hidden. They rejected -and were rejected by -the newly emerging gay community. At the same time, the gay male community embraced the male macho ideal, and drag queens and ‘sissy’ men were marginalized even in the gay ghetto. Lesbians were more accepting of ‘dykes’ or ‘butches,’ but suspicious… Read more »
Category: Queer Mind: LGBTQ and Beyond
In this video, the second part of our series on children who are gender non-conforming, IPG Executive Director, psychologist, and sex therapist Dr. Margie Nichols explains what these kids need from their parents: unconditional love and support, the freedom to be who they really are, contact with other kids like them – and advocacy. To see Part 1, click here.
Dr. Margie Nichols, psychologist, sex therapist and director of IPG Counseling, and Courtney Zehnder, IPG Social Media Staff and counselor for LGBTQ and gender variant kids, tackle a difficult subject. On August 12, 2012, the New York Times Sunday Magazine’s cover story was called “BoyGirl – What’s So Bad About A Boy Who Wants To Wear A Dress?.” Courtney and Margie made this video to further educate anyone who wants to learn more about these kids, but especially parents, friends, and family – and the kids themselves. They explain what different terms mean, why these children express themselves differently, and how you can support them. In part 2 Dr. Nichols will speak more directly to parents about how they can help their gender variant child.
IPG just initiated supportive counseling groups for gender variant and transgender youth, and for their parents. We’re realizing that most people are woefully misinformed about these kids, so we came up with a list of facts that we hope will counteract the stereotypes and falsehoods: 1. It’s Not a Binary, It’s a Spectrum. We’re used to two or three categories of gender: male, female, maybe transgender. But lots of people, especially young people, don’t fit into these boxes. Many kids are GENDER NONCONFORMING, GENDER VARIANT, or GENDER ATYPICAL. Like boys who enjoy wearing dresses. These child’s mother wrote a children’s book about him called “Princess Boy.” 2. It’s Not ‘Dysphoria’ It’s ‘Minority Stress.’ The psychiatric term for what we are calling gender nonconforming/variant/atypical and transgender kids will be called ‘Gender Dyphoria’ in the new DSM, the ‘psychiatric Bible.’ ‘Dysphoria’ is shrink-talk for mildly to moderately depressed. You’d be dysphoric too if ….as research has shown….. you were the most likely of your peers to be bullied, most likely to be rejected by parents and/or abused by parents, and most likely to become homeless. Dysphoria is NORMAL when this happens. And it’s even worse if the kid is pressured to conform. … Read more »
Something remarkable happened last week in the scientific community, and the story is unfolding, finally being picked up by the mainstream media via Rachel Maddow of MSNBC in her April 18th interview with Gabriel Arana. In ‘My So-Called Ex-Gay Life,’ Arana wrote a moving account of his own horrific experiences with ex-gay ‘reparative’ therapy, the Christian Right’s ‘treatment’ intended to make homosexuals ‘go straight.’ Arana reports that Robert Spitzer, whose defense of ex-gay counseling in 2003 fueled far right Christian homophobes, now wants to ‘retract’ his original article. Moreover, Spitzer is said to have asked the Editor of the Archives of Sexual Behavior for such a retraction and was refused. The Editor of the Archives is Ken Zucker. Yes, the same Zucker who is head of the sex/gender work group for the upcoming fifth revision of psychiatry’s ‘Bible,’ the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (DSM). The same Ken Zucker who practices ‘reparative therapy’ of his own. Only Zucker’s is not ‘ex-gay’ therapy, it’s ‘pre-gay’ – he works with gender variant children and tells parents if they enforce strict gender role adherence in their child they may be able to prevent transgenderism, if not homosexuality. He is sometimes called ‘throw away the… Read more »
Today, Robert Spitzer revealed the content of the letter he is sending to Ken Zucker, editor of the Archives of Sexual Behavior, the journal that originally published his study that concluded that ‘ex-gay’ therapy worked for highly motivated individuals. This article has been the single most influential piece ‘ scientific evidence’ that the Christian Right has used to justify conversion/reparative/’ex-gay’ therapy. At the time of publication in 2003, many people were shocked because Spitzer had been the ‘inside man’ within the American Psychiatric Association who spear-headed removal of homosexuality from the DSM, the list of ‘official’ psychiatric disorders. It’s less surprising when you realize that neither Spitzer nor most of the other barely 51% of psychiatrists who approved removal actually thought gays were normal. They considered it a ‘sub-optimal adjustment’ born of either hard-wired genetics or bad parenting, depending on your theoretical orientation. But in 1973 they decided it didn’t rise to the level of a psychiatric “illness,” even though clearly – a lamentable outcome. Psychiatrists supported civil rights for queers kind of the same way they supported civil rights for disabled people. If that’s your take on homosexuality, then it makes sense that if there is a way to… Read more »
By Margie Nichols, Ph.D. “One of the criticisms leveled against the APA for removing homosexuality as a disorder is that science does not advance by a vote of hands. These critics forget that any list is produced by a group of people who vote for or against it in the first place. “ —Charles Silverstein, Ph.D. I’ve just read an article written by my friend and colleague Charles Silverstein, a psychologist who was instrumental in helping get homosexuality removed from the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual in the early 70’s. In a piece to appear in an upcoming newsletter of a division of the American Psychological Association, Charles recounts the history of how the removal came about from the point of view of a gay professional activist in New York. He begins in 1972, with the disruption by gay activists of a meeting of behavioral psychotherapists who used ‘aversion therapy’ – electric shocks to the body – to ‘cure’ homosexuality, . That led to a presentation to the Nomenclature Committee of the American Psychiatric Association. The “Nomenclature Committee” determines what is in the DSM – the “Bible” of psychiatric illness. Literally, the Nomenclature Committee at the time decided by vote what… Read more »
Book Review by Michael Moran, L.C.S.W With the tragedy of Rutgers student Tyler Clemente’s suicide this past September, the pivotal importance of positively impacting mainstream culture of the issues and experiences our lesbian and gay children face has painfully hit our radar. Too many lesbian and gay adolescents continue to be harassed — GLSEN’s recent National School Climate study indicates that 84.6% of LGBT youth are verbally harassed, 40.1% are physically harassed, and 52.9% experience Cyberbullying*. As troubling as these statistics are, it is equally concerning that too many parents lack the understanding or ability to discuss sexuality openly with their adolescent children, too many teachers and school administrators lack the training to skillfully mitigate harassment when it occurs, and too many school systems and communities lack the resources necessary to effectively address these concerns. It is not a pretty picture. As social workers, we hold the responsibility to look this squarely in the eye, name it for what it is, and do what we can, with what we have, right where we are. Fortunately, we have leaders pointing the way, shining a flashlight toward our next steps for lasting change. Michael Lasala’s insightful exploration of sixty-five families, Coming Out,… Read more »
By Margie Nichols, Ph.D. By coincidence, as the news about a drug that can ‘de-masculinize’ female fetuses hit the blogs, one of my sex therapy listserves began a fascinating discourse about the prevalence of PCOS in female to male transgender people. Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS) is a genetically transmitted syndrome with some potentially distressing symptoms and consequences. However, in the population of young women presenting themselves for hormone treatment to transition from a female to a male body, PCOS is relatively prevalent. Since PCOS is a syndrome caused by an excess of androgens – male hormones – in biological female, this again raises the issue of hormones in both gender identity and sexual orientation. Certainly hormones could not be the sole factor determining these complex psycho-social phenomenon, but it looks like they may play a role and that the two- gender and orientation – are at least partially intertwined.
by Margie Nichols, Ph.D. What we now call ‘intersex’ conditions – children born with a whole variety of biological variations that can result in ambiguous or mixed gender – have long been interesting because of what they might tell us about how genes and hormones effect not only physical characteristics but also behavior. For example, Congenital Adrenal Hyperplasia is a condition that affects genetic females. Medical specialists believe it results from over-exposure of the female fetus to androgens – male hormones. CAH girls not only sometimes exhibit some male body characteristics – they also tend to be tomboys and, as adults, while most are heterosexual a higher than expected number are lesbian or bisexual. Makes one think about the role of hormones is sex-stereotyped behavior – and sexual orientation. But a physician named Dr. Maria New is promoting the use of a drug called dexamethasone for women carrying CAH girls to use while they are pregnant. This drug is not FDA approved for this use and has never been tested in pregnant women before. But it is increasingly used to prevent ‘abnormal behavior’ in CAH girls. As Sharon Begley reports in Newsweek, New and a colleague suggest that women having little interest in… Read more »