Leelah Alcorn’s Last Words, Ctd

Andrew Sullivan —  Jan 5 2015 @ 10:19am

Three readers keep the thread alive by questioning the second emailer in this post:

“Why are all gender non-conforming kids being actively encouraged to transition or to take puberty-blocking drugs?” really made my blood boil. I have a young relative who is trans, and I remember the great pain he had when his parents held back at first from fulfilling his wish to get puberty-blocking drugs because they were afraid that his transgenderism might have been just a phase. I highly suspect that there are many more trans youth who clamor desperately for such drug treatments than there are parents who choose on their own that their kids need to go on hormone-blockers.

A transexual writes:

Your reader asks why gender non-conforming kids are being pressured to transition, saying “maybe in a subset of the community this is advisable”. I greatly appreciate this acknowledgement, but I realize that to a transexual person this “maybe” sounds like denial of something most basic. All transexual people face a great deal of pressure not to transition from all directions, including their own rational selves.

This includes gender non-conforming folks, even some transexuals, who see transitioning as a sad and even threatening capitulation to norms. Let me testify that there are definitely transexuals who benefit from transitioning and definitely benefit from some intervention at an earlier age. Also, one can be a teen or younger and be diagnosed (and I bring in the medical aspect intentionally). I know it is unpleasant for the queer community to include this “subset” who seek surgery and hormone therapy, who make it a medical thing.

I’m a transexual woman who transitioned in my thirties. I’ve been successful beyond my hopes, but I am somewhat lucky, physically. I have support, a good job, anonymity, and an understanding boyfriend. My teens were before internet, so I don’t know what they are going through now, but I can imagine. I clipped newspaper articles on Renee Richards that I hid in terror.

When the internet did arrive, I navigated through the cross-dressing sites and greatly mixed emotions. Women’s clothes and gender transgressions were by themselves momentarily thrilling, I suppose (I’m not especially femme), but they were ultimately depressing. I had a dark time when I saw no options or felt that I had missed my opportunity. I had missed it, but I’ve managed to make up for it to a degree that is remarkable, but also far short of what is possible. I’ve had lots of surgeries, too many revisions. Ultimately, I’m satisfied, but there is a cost to waiting.

Of course, kids who begin transitioning early will regret what cannot be undone or redone. Such is life.

A different view from a self-identified “cis-woman”:

“What’s wrong with ugly women?” This, This, a thousand times this! How is the prospect of transitioning to being a slightly more masculine-looking woman worse than the prospect of wrongly taking early interventions to change your sex???  Children who delay gender-changing medical interventions might be unhappy with their looks in adulthood? Welcome to being an adult human!

If, at 13, I could have taken a pill or hormones or doused myself in battery acid in order to look like Cindy Crawford, I absolutely would have done it. That doesn’t mean it would have been good for me.  Feeling, at your core, that you are a woman with the wrong body is a world away from feeling, at your core, that you are meant to be pretty. Most people don’t have that choice, and those of us without the money to buy a new jawline or more slender wrists (mine look like tree branches) must learn to live with those deformities.

What Leelah went through sounds terrible, and I cannot imagine what it must be like to have those feelings and have NO ONE listen to you, or for everyone to tell you how wrong you are. But there is a difference between the kind of intolerance Leelah went through and loving parents who just want the best for their child and want to wait for medical interventions.  Her parents were doing what they thought was right: thoughts born of a sheltered and intolerant world-view, but genuine thoughts and feelings, nonetheless.