Fuck Gender.

I read this piece at Cornell this past Thursday (along with a few other things):

 

I’ve recently been reading Lou Sullivan’s biography and I’m having trouble with it because some of it cuts too close to the bone for me.

I’m not sure how he came to understand he was a gay man when there was little or no awareness of either gay men or trans men, but he did, and I’m astonished by that. I’ve been hanging out on the edges of gender dysphoria my whole life but never really named it that. Genderqueer, gender neutral, genderfuck: these were the words I started using to talk about myself back in 1985.

There’s a photo of me in masculine drag from when I was 16 and found out I would have been named Doug had I been assigned male at birth. My nickname in high school was The Gentleman – not because of my class, but because I opened doors and took care of women in ways that more closely resembled gentle masculinity than anything else.

I feel sexiest when I feel like Adam Ant or Rufus Wainwright. Feminine forms of sexy have never, ever appealed to me – not when I was skinny, not when I was fat, not when I was an hourglass. I’ve spent a lifetime trying to make curves straight lines with little success. Only now that I’m older and lose muscle mass at an alarming rate have my jeans started to fit my hips in ways I don’t hate.

I have always resisted identifying as trans, maybe because I grew up raised my 2nd wave feminists who wanted to get rid of gender for good and feminist reasons. Maybe because I grew up in an era of trans activism where people who needed medical and legal intervention really, really, really needed the healthcare industry and the legal precedents to be recognized as people at all. Priorities, you know?

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Five Questions With… Reid Vanderbergh

Reid Vanderbergh is a therapist in private practice in Portland, Oregon who began his transition in 1995, and started taking hormones in 1997, at the age of 41. He went to Portland State University and then did his MA in Couseling Psychology at John F. Kennedy University. He is a member of the WPATH (World Professional Association for Transgender Health, formerly known as HBIGDA), the IFGE, as well as the American Asssociation of Marriage and Family Therapists. He is the author of Transition & Beyond, published by Q Press

(1) As far as I know, you are the only therapist who is also trans to write a book about transness. Do you worry about people assuming you’re biased (in a good or bad way)?

As far as I know, no other trans therapists have published books about working with trans clients. I have had the experience of people assuming I am biased in the direction of transition; usually, those who make this assumption are related in some way to a client considering transition. However, when this comes up, I explain to them that I am not biased toward transition, precisely because I DO know how difficult and life-changing this process is. Therefore I don’t approach it lightly.

Now that my book is out there, I expect this question to come up among people who don’t know me, and also don’t know any clients who have worked with me. I hope people will ask me the question directly, rather than making the assumption that because I’m trans and did choose physical transition, that I automatically assume that’s the path for all my trans clients.

The one arena which worries me somewhat around this question of bias is academia. I’m hoping my book will be used as a text; my fear is, if I am seen as a community member writing about my own community, my book may be “suspect” because it may not be considered objective enough for academic credibility. Being subjective has been considered the ultimate faux pas within academia. Not that I think this as a valid view – I think the ultimate experts on a lived experience are those who undertake it – but I do fear this attitude may affect acceptance of my book within academia.

Continue reading “Five Questions With… Reid Vanderbergh”