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.