Sunday, April 18, 2010

Sloppy Reasoning

I've long been of the opinion, and have said so in many different contexts, that if you don't know WHY you believe what you believe, then you don't have much credibility to claim that belief. You are just parroting what someone else told you. An unexamined position isn't worth holding.

Sometimes, that will even lead you to a position that's not in your own selfish interests.

Certainly, there are limits. If you tell me you believe, or disbelieve, in evolution, you don't have to hold a doctorate in Biology AND theology to have an informed and credible opinion. but you DO need to have reasoned it out within the knowledge base you do have, and not just say "a scientist (or a preacher) told me so it must be so."

In fact, that's actually a pretty good example. Have you ever thought about how many people would say "I don't believe in evolution" while breeding, or being in the market for, a specific breed of dog or horse or rose or whatever? the REASON there are Beagles and Spaniels and Dalmatians or whatever, is BECAUSE of the forces of evolution - albeit most of those breed differences generated by the direction of human breeders.

What you really mean to say is, "I don't believe evolution explains everything that is attributed to it by many" or some such. Saying "I don't believe in evolution" is just lazy or ignorant. And no, for the record, I myself don't believe that evolution as currently understood can possibly account for the diversity of life we have now but I won't ever get into such a deep discussion on this blog, it was just an example. But do I "believe in evolution"? Oh yeah. Just not in the caricature of evolution most people talk about because they never gave much THOUGHT to what they were saying.

So why am I bringing this train of thought up tonight? Because most people who speak out with an opinion on transsexualism (and homosexuality too, for that matter, but that's not my pony to ride, I already have my hands full) have never given 10 consecutive minutes thought to the subject - what it is or why it occurs or how to deal with it. And far less than that to the implications of the uninformed opinions to which they are so married.

Take for example this article on CBS News on the reaction of one religious lobbying group to the potential vote on the Employment Non-Discrimination Act.

Let me be clear, I have no problem with one objecting, on the basis of personal freedom, to ENDA. I'm sympathetic to the idea that "It's my business and I'll hire any darn person I want to - or not." BUT, that particular freedom was gone long ago when you lost the right to not hire a black or a Jew or whatever. so if you want to oppose the bill from that angle, THINK about the implications of your position and be intellectually honest enough to tell me you think being forced to give equal consideration to black applicants is also an imposition on your freedom. If you can't or won't make that claim, then you undermine your own position.

Let me go even further here and say that I am not unsympathetic to the idea that we should consider the impact of anything we do as a society on our children. I think it's a mistake to be cavalier about that. So I do not mean, here, to attack the position the group takes out of hand. But that said . . .

The statement released by the Traditional Values Coalition demonstrates exactly the sort of lack of thought about the implications of your stated beliefs that I'm talking about. Even if they happened to hold the right position, they don't have a lot of credibility because their own statements indicate they haven't given much thought to their position. rather, they are mouthing the knee-jerk "traditional" opinion and then flailing for an argument that supports it.

Witness this quote from Executive Director Andrea Lafferty (discussing the group's concern about schools being forced to hire and retain transgender persons as teachers):

"Every state will be forced to recognize transgendered and transsexual individuals as part of a protected class," it said in a statement. "Schools will then be forbidden to reassign any teacher undergoing a so-called sex change because this would be considered 'discrimination.' Thus, children will be trapped in classes taught by men undergoing a so-called sex change to become women and will be taught that it's normal behavior." (Emphasis theirs.)

The bill "protects what is listed in the American Psychiatric Association's Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders as a mental illness, Gender Identity Disorder (GID)"

Tell me, dear reader, can you spot the flaw in her logic? No, I'm not talking about the derisive "so called" dig (hardly becoming of a religious group, but not what I'm speaking of), nor am I speaking of the use of "trapped with" as if we are dangerous perverts (though I know there are probably readers of this blog who think just that).

No, that to which I refer is this:

The bill "protects what is listed in the American Psychiatric Association's Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders as a mental illness,

One wonder if Ms Lafferty would wish to see those who have clinical depression, for instance, fired from their jobs as teachers, or anything else, because of their mental illness. Is it the position of the TVC that ALL mental illness is a disqualifying factor for employment protection?

Mind you, I'm not speaking here of a person who cannot preform the duties of their job, or engages in misconduct because of their illness such that the employee has to let them go, I mean simply the existence of and treatment for the condition.

You see, Ms Lafferty has painted herself into a rhetorical corner. In the first place, she defines her opposition to the employment of transsexuals as teachers a being rooted in our "mental illness." Okay, fine, let's say she's right and we are required by the DSM to discuss this as a mental illness.

What that means then, by direct logical implication, is that what we have is a CONDITION that is not of our making or in our control. there goes all your knee-jerk remarks about perversion, or "lifestyle choices." Once you concede that you are dealing with a non-elective condition, rather than a choice, then you MUST, if you are intellectually honest, consider our situation in the same manner as you would any other mental illness. you are therefore required to argue that ALL mental illness disqualifies one from employment protection, or you must admit that, like all other mental illnesses, the transgendered can only be terminated for cause (i.e the condition causes conduct which is inconsistant with the goals of the employer such as a kleptomaniac stealing from the company).

Now, one can argue that transitioning in front of a school full of other people's kids IS a just cause. I disagree as I will explain below, but that's not the point. the point is if you want to argue that they should be fired for cause, that is NOT the same as arguing they should not enjoy protection simply because they are mentally ill.

Now, while its not the point of this column (really, the article cited was just a nice illustration of the point I wanted to make) since I am transsexual and since I do hold (for a few more months) a Mississippi Teacher's License, I can't resist weighing in on the point at hand.

Let me lift another quote from Ms Lafferty:

Thus, children will be trapped in classes taught by men undergoing a so-called sex change to become women and will be taught that it's normal behavior."

There are two things wrong with this statement, one self evidently sloppy, and the other a matter of differing opinion.

On the former: in this same statement Lafferty points out that this is, in her position, a mental illness. Nothing about requiring employers to not terminate a person simply on the basis that they have and are being treated for a mental illness involves implying that this is "normal." It is not "normal" to be bi-polar, or have clinical depression, or anything else that is in the DSM (else it wouldn't be there) nor is it "normal" to be treated for it. It's not "normal" by the way to have cancer or be a paraplegic. "Normal" is an irrelevant word here.

Of course, Ms Laffery doesn't really mean "normal" what she means is "right." But since she resorted to pointing out it is a mental illness, her rhetoric prevents her from then citing morality (since it can hardly be immoral to have a non-elective and diagnosable condition any more than it could be said to be immoral to be bipolar or have heart disease).

But the words she chose to use are there, and being "normal" is not a qualification for getting or retaining employment anywhere in this country. The question is, does your abnormality interfere with your ability to do the job. If the law passes and the prediction that transsexual teachers remain in the classroom comes to pass - and I agree it will, I have some online friends who are teachers and HAVE transitioned on the job (in states where we are already protected by law) and, by all accounts, have not irreparably traumatized any children- the fact that this happens will say nothing to the children about the "normalacy" of being transsexual.

It will, however, say something about showing human decency and respect to people who are not like yourself, even those which make you uncomfortable, so long as their actions do you no harm. I should think that's a lesson worthy of teaching anyone's child.

And that is why, in the end, there's more to be gained from the passage of this law as it applies to teachers than possibly anywhere else. You see, your children and grandchildren don't live in a convent, they live in a messed up world with messed up people. If you lived in this town, or most any other of any size, your 9 year old son or 7 year old daughter has a considerable likelyhood of running across someone like me in your local Wal-Mart. They very possibly have a lesbian aunt or a gay cousin. Do you really think your child can go through life without knowing about people like me?

If not, don't they need to know at some point what to think about us? Tell the truth, if you are one of those who believes I'm mentally ill, or a pervert, are YOU going to sit your child down one day and introduce the subject to them on your own initiative and explain to them that there are crazy men in the world who think they are women? if you said yes, chances are you will lie about other things too. The only way your kid gets to know what you think about all this is if your pastor happens to make a passing reference from the pulpit some Sunday (which many are loath to do) or if they actually have occasion in their life to have to encounter one of us.

The fact is, if your child is sitting in my history class one August and they find out that female teacher was "once a man" then that gives you, if you are an active and involved parent, a golden opportunity to share your values with your child. You can explain whatever you view of how I got this way is, and you can discuss the reality that the child lives in a world where God's rules (as you see them) are not always followed and what the Christian reaction to such people should be (love them, pray for them, that IS what you were thinking, right?).

For those of you who are not so judgmental, it's still a good thing for your kids to learn WHY people like me are the way they are, rather than just listening to some ill-informed idiot telling them we are just perverts. The appearance of a transsexual teacher in your child's classroom provides a wonderful teaching moment where everyone can learn more about the subject itself (because who knows, it might be their own brother or sister who's the next TS they meet) but more importantly, about displaying respect and human decency to all people while we have to share this world with each other.

In my not so humble opinion, if you don't want your kids to learn about being decent to other people, even when you disagree with them, you have a lot bigger problem than them being exposed to some icky transgender person.

Lastly, before you start telling me about the dangers to your children represented by a transsexual teacher, I invite you to cite me a case of such students being materially harmed emotionally or otherwise by having such a teacher. Since such teachers DO exist, surely there's an example of some kid turning gay, or setting a cat on fire, or something because of their confusion about their teacher, right? Let's see the evidence. And be sure, by the way, to demonstrate no other kids ever turned gay or burned a cat too, just so we know you have a valid case.

My contention is, that just like Ms Lafferty engaged in sloppy logic and inconsistent reasoning in constructing her statement, even so the entire assumption that a transsexual teacher somehow harms her students is nothing more than an emotional knee-jerk claim, rather than the product of reasoning and sound logic.

Do you, gentle reader, know WHY you believe what you believe? About ANYTHING? Or do you wait for sloppy minds like Ms Lafferty's to tell you how to think?

Saturday, April 10, 2010


Well. Here we are.

If you are local and see me out from time to time, you will probably be (more) confused by what you see in the coming weeks. For almost six months now I have, as much as it's within the limits of my physical form, been presenting myself to the world as a female full time. I consider myself to be a woman and ask those who deal with me to accept me on that basis. I understand this can sometimes be awkward but that comes with the territory.
I took it as an obligation, for the sake of consistency and credibility, that I had my hair and makeup done well, my outfit was coordinated, I had a bra properly padded, and so forth. Not that there are not a great many genetic girls who think little or nothing of going to town without makeup or whatever, some of them without a bra I guess. But they don't have years of testosterone to compensate for and I do.

It seemed to me that if I was going to ask the world to take "Laura" seriously, it was my obligation to be serious and consistant about the presentation. It was and is a source of some frustration at home that I would not willingly "run to the store" without making sure my presentation was consistent, but I think a lot of my credibility depends on that.

Sadly, now, I'm in a situation where I probably will be giving back whatever credibility I may have gained, but it can't be helped. Beginning today, and continuing for potentially as many as three years, you won't see most of that stuff. There will possibly be the occasional exception, and certainly what you see won't be very masculine (if I can help it!) but it won't be fully female either, unless circumstances at home permit.

But if this must be done, it will not be done without my explaining what has led to this unfortunate (in my opinion) circumstance. I have little regard for what people think of me, but I do have considerable concern for the message I send about my brothers and sisters who are struggling as I am with this condition. That being the case, I want to be crystal clear about why I do what I do and if that requires me to "talk out of school" a bit you'll have to forgive me. I don't see a way around it and if I have to do this I'm determined to speak my peace.

First - background and reasoning:

It is a fact that in terms of my own personal inner feelings, the last six months has been a string of absolutely unbroken joy, save for one major factor. Oh sure, there are a couple of things I'd like to have had happen differently - I'd like to have heard fewer (or no) "sirs", I'd like to have not gotten the bum's rush out of that one ladies room, I'd like it if my dad had a different attitude but none of these were unexpected and none of them really disturbed my joy much at all. On the other hand, I've had so much happen that thrilled my soul that words fail to express it.

But that one thing, happens to be a very important thing. The simple fact of the matter is this - my wife cannot and will not accept me as a woman. In all this time there's been no sign of progress or growth, or a willingness to grow, towards some sort of tolerance. the knee-jerk solution is to just split up, but as much as some people would like to see her put my crazy ass out, the reality is that she's not ready, practically or emotionally, to be without me. As much as I'd love to preserve the relationship, I have to honestly say that if she's not going to love me (not necessarily sexually or romantically, but more than "friendship" too) as a woman, than I really wish she was. She's an amazing woman and she deserves a man to be a man to her and treat her right.

But she insists she doesn't want that and it's apparent to anyone who looks she's not ready to be a single parent either. In fact, the emotional blow might be so severe that it goes beyond not "making the trains run on time." And as if that wasn't enough, such a breakdown would obviously have a drastic impact on our kids.

Now, do I THINK this would happen? No. My opinion is that if she threw me out or I left it would be very hard for a short while, as any divorce is for the injured party, and she would recover, find a (hopefully) good man and have a much better life. But I don't KNOW that it would work out that way and the cost of being wrong is far too high for me to be comfortable with.

So here I am - I can't in good conscious just leave, and I can't make the kids live with the conflict that arises from trying to force her to accept me as a woman.

So beginning today, I'm packing away the dangly earrings and the skirts and the bras - for now. I won't lie, it feels like cutting off a leg. I will have to go out and ask for a job as "him" and the thought of that kills me. I'll have to see the same people who've seen me try to transition every day for six months and they will naturally think "what the hell is up with this guy?" (and I can't stop and explain my very practical reasons to each of them). But it's the price that must be paid.

One can argue, I assume, that I should have simply waited until the kids were grown in the first place, that I went too fast or shouldn't have done it in my hometown or whatever. Okay, fine, argue whatever you want on those points. It's not like there's a rule book for this sort of thing. If I'm guilty of anything, it's that I assumed that all the pablum about "love conquers all" was true. Well excuse me for busting up your fairy tales but it doesn't. There are, in my experience (and a lot of other people's too, if we are honest) situations in which it simply doesn't. I believed that, as hard as it would be, in the end she would love me enough that we'd get through it. Maybe I assumed too much.

But then, to be clear, we still might. As I write this she offers that it may well be that if I go back and take the transition more slowly, perhaps we can find our way through this. It would certainly be the best outcome as far as I'm concerned. But even should that happy outcome ensue, I still believe that for all the pain and anguish, I did it right to this point, and I'll tell you why.

There are two reasons - first, one of the things she said about this is that before I went full time, she "didn't take it seriously" that I ever would. whatever drama has resulted, this much we everyone now knows - I am serious. If I had continued to "take it slow" there would never have been the occasion to "move the question" so that she and I could see where she would come down on the point.
Secondly, a slow gradual transition that takes years to accomplish (I did in fact move gradually to prepare for going full time and took 14 months to get to that point) provokes much confusion, speculation, and gossip among the public. As I said before, I care little for what people think of me but in this community, I'm the most visible (but not the only, chew on that) representative of the phenomena of trannsexualism. It IS important to me be try to present as "clean" an understanding of what is involved as possible. It is in fact the driving motivation behind the existence of this blog.
Whatever might be lost because I "dial back," at least in the coming days if I'm wearing women's jeans or whatever, there won't be any confusion about why. I know for a fact that during the year before I went full time, there were those who passed their time speculating what it meant that, for instance, I was shaving my legs. That sort of speculation would have only increased if there hadn't been a "coming out" effected by going full time.

So even though it might not have gone smoothly at home, I don't think I need to apologize for the fact that I went full time when I did, it was a necessary obstacle to overcome.

Second - clearing up confusion:

As much as some folks out there would love to gloat and claim victory, as much as some people would like to say I'm simply crazy as hell and don't know what I want, as much as some people would love to say that this just proves that all people who claim to be trans are simply mentally unstable people who go around making a spectacle of themselves for no good reason - I reject all that nonsense.

What I do here I do specifically for the purpose of protecting the welfare of three people I love more than anyone else. I do it temporarily (it can't be short enough to make me happy but it will under no circumstance be longer than three years since that is when my youngest son is on his way to being 17). I specifically declare and insist that this says NOTHING about how I identify myself, or what I believe myself to be, or what my future is. This is, at worst, the price which must be paid for taking 25 years to accept myself.

But be very clear, whether you like it or not or approve or not, I am LAURA, I am NOT Gerry in my heart and soul. Don't make the mistake of assuming I suffer any confusion on that point. What I do to spare the feelings of those I love doesn't constitute an admission on that point that I was wrong or unclear.

Oh, and by the way, those of you who couldn't have anything to do with me when I had a bra or makeup on? Don't come around trying to "reward me for good behavior" now. I have an obligation to bend, for now, in order to try to create a happy outcome for the woman I love (whether that's with me or without) but I have no such obligation to anyone else. If you don't like, approve of, or feel comfortable with Laura, then you don't feel comfortable with ME, there is no one else here.

Hopefully, this too shall pass, and pass quickly) and I can go back to making progress, for there are many many miles left on this road. In the mean time, I'm sorry for the appearance of confusion and I'm very grateful for the support of those who've shown there love to me in the past few months.

I will continue to write about my journey here, for this too is a part of it, and hopefully I'll say something that matters.