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Response to American Genders

Hi All,

I received a thoughtful and astute response to my guest blog post from last year, "American Genders: Transgender and Two-Spirit" by Jonathan Whittle-Utter.

In the interest of illuminating different perspectives on the current cultural discussion about transgender issues and lived experience, I wanted to share this person's feedback:

Hello, i'm seeley, a queer and trans east bay resident since '98. in online search the other day i came across jesse's site and this guest post by jonathan. i appreciate lots of what's posted on the blog, and thank you for sharing. i'm not on fb or the other social media networks which are linked at bottom of post, and saw no other way to publicly comment on the site, so i'm expressing concern about this writing here. in the fourth paragraph, jonathan starts to present a simplified take on a complex issue and doesn't account for a variety of trans people's experiences. as to the question, "If these culturally constructed stories and expectations were not in play, would the transgender child still grow up to feel so uncomfortable in their bodies?" many trans folk, including me, might say 'probably not.' as to the statement, "because adult sexual characteristics are largely a function of hormones that don’t activate until puberty, transgender children especially must derive their gender identity from their culture of origin"--it suggests that trans children derive their gender identities somehow differently than cis children, and disregards the experience of some trans children feeling uncomfortable with an assigned gender identity at much younger than puberty; numerous people report feeling aware of personal gender dissonance from the age of 3. re: the ninth paragraph points on epigenetics and neuroplasticity, such factors may indeed impact the forming relationships kids have to gender and their bodies, yet implying that ultimately no one should need gender confirmation surgery because we should shift how we culturally frame gender, is as simplifying a response as 'it's determined by solely biology and that's how we'll address it.' many trans people agree there's a range of cultural pressures influencing how free or not free we feel to claim what genders we affiliate with in whatever bodies we have. many also are choosing not to have gender-related surgeries, feeling dissatisfaction with the current medical models and options--a point neglected in the essay, which instead implies that all contemporary western culture-raised transfolk end up tracking in a medicalized, binary gender-conforming direction whereas traditional two-spirit folk do not. seeking response to the essay from a queer and trans friend who's a somatic therapist and bodyworker in san francisco, they replied, "I don't know that spiritual reverence offsets body dysmorphia...and my concern is about tokenism...why not spiritual reverence for the fat to offset fat phobia? True that cultural norming can be helpful, but can also become dogma." consider the threads that have come out regarding the recent unfortunate statements a cisgendered blogger for reality sandwich made, reflecting lack of care about or inquiry into trans people's actual relationships to gender confirmation medical measures. --as the post on ebtherapy is currently written, it engages a limiting idea that one can either accept the validity and importance of our current surgical and medical options or one can conceive of gender totally apart from those frameworks, but not both. though it's well-intended and i think has some valid points, it also approaches a slippery slope toward misrepresenting our complex realities in a way which is unhelpful. thanks for your consideration, seeley quest

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