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Reparative Therapy…. Seriously…

California Gov Jerry Brown just signed a bill banning the heinous practice of reparative therapy for children. In case you are scratching your head as to why I care, reparative therapy (also known as conversion therapy) is psychological treatment developed under the notion that gay people are psychologically fixable by engaging them in an intensive process of convincing them they are not in fact, gay. In layman’s terms, brainwashing. For those of us in the transgender set, it is pretty concerning that such a therapy exists to begin with, especially since those who subscribe to such a fallacy are highly likely to throw us into that grand pile of humans allegedly in need of repair.

Yeah, I’m going to skip the social science history lesson here since Wikipedia covered it pretty well. Before I do my usual jag left into topics with not much more than a whimsical relationship to this, I will say a few things simply because I like to rant. I simply can’t believe such a “therapeutic technique” managed to persist! None of the science supports it, great harm can and has come of it, and again, the methodology is nothing more than attempted brainwashing. As per my usual schtick, I hold the faith based only crowd responsible for this, as the only plausible explanation for this still existing is that if you believe the bible trumps scientific observation, and the bible says homosexuality is not part of the natural order of things, it must therefore be either a choice or psychological defect. I still fail to grasp the notion of a deity directly inspiring or personally writing a holy text, then filling all of creation with profoundly inherent contradictions just to fuck with us a little bit.

This did raise a personal question. Actually I’ve been asked it before, but never talked about it here. If a therapy or cure were developed to make us not transgendered, would we do it? This is a tough one, right? I’m not saying if it could have prevented it in the first place – I think that most of us will agree would have been nice. If I was simply born female, I may have put my energy into doing something productive instead of utilizing an increasing logrhythmic proportion of my potential to attempt not being trans, then burning up the rest in dealing with transition when that didn’t work. Or I might have ended up raped and left for dead somewhere, but we’ll never really know either way unless I decide to jump from a bridge and get a glimpse of alternate reality from some buttinsky angel.

What about right now though? What if I could bring back ‘Michael’ as the real deal and not a shell of responses and habits aimed at perpetuating and passing the identity? Sure I’ve made some changes that can’t really be undone, but I was never that keen to grow a beard anyway. My marriage would be saved, my son would have a daddy instead of a maddy, I wouldn’t worry so much about losing my job, I could go into dark and scary places without worrying about jack shit, no more wardrobe worries, no more hormonal cycles, no more taking 2 hours to get ready in the morning, no more weird looks (well, I got those anyway, but for different reasons), and so on. I could be just a normal married, middle age dad clawing his way up the corporate ladder. But I also wouldn’t be me.

I have no idea how much my trans-ness really makes up the sum of my being. I’m plenty of things that have nothing to do with my gender identity. Everyone can make a big old list of personal attributes, good and bad, that make up what they consider to be themselves. On paper they seem separate and distinct; building blocks that when put together somehow resemble a person. Reality is nothing like that of course. We are a lot more like cake. OK, a really complicated cake with so many hundreds of ingredients that Julia Child herself would start flinging F-bombs and shooting her signature Colt 45 in the air if she had to make, but still. Take any one thing out and it’s going to fuck up the rest of it because everything is so hopelessly intertwined as to be inextricable. Even if so, it would end up being a soufflé or beef bourgeon without just that one little pinch of zazz.

Without my trans, I’m not really me. Plus, we have no idea what it’s really keeping in check as well. Without that core portion of my identity, I might be a real asshole. Sure, ‘Michael’ wasn’t, but ‘Michael’ was just a drab looking me going through the motions of being male. Turned into a real boy, ‘Michael’ just might be a real piece of work. The kind of guy who speeds through puddles to splash the poor schnooks at the bus stop, or asks you to come help him move his really heavy stuff and then feigns a back problem. Yeah, I don’t know that, but I really can’t be super sure either. I do know myself now after 40 years of not, so the idea of jumping over to something new sounds like more of a gamble than I really like to take.

The true frightening idea about this is that you can’t really change something so inherently intrinsic to a person.  My brain is female, and for so long was locked down, shackled in the basement of my subconscious. Staved, beaten down, and existence denied. When you are your own jailer, you know just the right torture to inflict to break your own will. I’m free though now, and no longer capable of being complicit in my own imprisonment. Maybe reparative therapy could chain me back, kicking and screaming, and sink me back in the deep end, but not for long. I learned too much the first time. I’m sure it’s no different for anyone else, and why I applaud Mr. Brown.

About michellelianna

I'm a transgender woman now in the maintenance stages of transition having all the electrolysis and surgery one can reasonably be expected to undertake. While busy exploring my new world, I took to blogging about it with dubiously popular results. I don't have quite as much to say as I used to, but I'm not quite done yet either.

3 responses »

  1. It is amazing to me that pharmaceutical companies are coming up with new diseases every month just so they can sell a cure, like female sexual dysfunction, which in Victorian times was called female hysteria, when the vibrator was invented and used to treat the “dis-ease.” Fortunately for trans people like us today, they been revising the language in the DSM-IV-TR (text revision) in anticipation of the DSM-V to come out in 2013 that will help alleviate the stigma of our experience as trans people as a mental disorder.

  2. You can’t change who you are, nobody else can ether, we are what we are and that doesn’t need fixing, it leaves a real mark on a child that’s been through this kind of abuse, some carry it in worse ways than others do but all carry it their whole life.
    I found that Religion is based on lies used to control and to dominate those that they wish to keep ignorant and guilt ridden, the same thing a child abuser or any other creep would do to maintain control.
    We learn more when we listen, maybe we should learn to listen better and learn something for a change, its still hard for me to talk about, I worry about being understood.
    I don’t understand much about what drives people like this but I have learned not to let them cheapen my existence but it has left me working every day on the damage to my self esteem.
    “Becky” I also feel Michelle is back:)
    Love ya,

  3. Hi Sis,

    This ties nicely into your post about CSA. You do seem to have come out of your funk and are back to your brilliant writing. I am so glad.

    I like your point that we don’t get to where we are in life without the complete sum of everything that leads up to it, good and bad. You would think by now, people would understand that even the tiniest wrinkle in the past changes the future. If they didn’t see It’s a Wonderful Life, they must have at least seen one of the Back to the Future movies.

    Most importantly, why is it that certain groups of people feel the need to fix other people. Thanks for the offer, but I’m working hard on fixing myself and I think I’ve got a good grip. Leave your narrow-minded religious dogma out of my life.

    I do know of people who have been forced through reparative therapy, and it is the most vile, evil thing that any human being can do to another. Killing is kinder, because it doesn’t leave the scars.

    Great angle on a tough topic.




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