Wednesday, December 27, 2017

Intertwined, Interrupt, Interfere, Intersex

I'm back and it's been less than two weeks! Who's proud of me?

I've been thinking about this post since I finished the last one and figured no time is better than the present! Sorry, Christmas puns are happening.

Anyway, I don't have much of a life update at this time (maybe soon, who knows?) other than Christmas fun times which included good food, only 2 houses instead of the usual 3 (or proposed 4), and some sweet gifts including some video games and two cute Link action figures! It was a bit sad celebrating without Sarah's parents who just moved to Florida after our wedding in September, but I don't think they were too upset about it considering it was gorgeous down there and they were wearing shorts while we were bundled up. Maybe next year we'll head down there for the week and I can be in a pool or hot tub on Christmas morning...

Enough daydreaming - let's get to some more knowledge! Last time I said I would go over a few terms, but to not confuse anyone I am going to go over Intersex in this post by itself, as it is not related to the other terms that I said I would review. Intersex is regarding someone's sex assigned at birth, not their gender identity or expression/presentation.

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Intersex: Someone who is born and does not fit within the traditional binary (male or female - remember this for later) classification either due to genital, chromosomal, or hormonal differences. Okay, but what does this mean in simplistic terms? Long story short, most of the time this occurs when a baby is born and the medical staff cannot determine based on first glance if the infant should be assigned male or female. This is commonly due to the infant's genitals not meeting certain criteria regarding length of the penis. If it's the "right" size upon birth, the infant is assigned male. If it's under a certain size, the infant is assigned female. However, there is a grey area which will usually be the basis of the determination/assumption that the child is intersex. I say usually, because, that is not always the case. There can be children who are born, assigned male or female, and not realize that they are truly intersex until puberty when hormonal changes begin to occur.

Many children who are born intersex are "treated" immediately at birth by means of surgery, hormones, and other methods to make the genitals appear more "normal" by societal definitions. This approach falls under the "concealment-centered model of care", and was developed out of Johns Hopkins University under the main guidance of a psychologist named John Money in the 1950s. For more information about this, check out this link. To go even further, you can also read a book called 'As Nature Made Him: The Boy who was Raised as a Girl' by John Colapinto which tells the true story of John Money's most infamous case of twin boys where one was raised as a girl to prove his method that gender can be taught. Have some tissues nearby, you'll be tearing up with this one.

Fact: Intersex is different than transgender, and is not related in any way to sexual or romantic attraction. Someone who is intersex can be Gay, Bi, Lesbian, Queer, etc. Again, how someone is assigned at birth, or how they identify, does not correlate in any way with whom someone is attracted to.

If you're interested in learning more about this topic, here are some great resources to check out - and as always, let me know if there's anything specific you'd like me to go over, or reach out with your questions!

What is Intersex?
How Common is Intersex?

Other sources:
Intersex Society of North America
Intersex Initiative

[ Next time: Androgynous, gender non-conforming, gender neutral, non-binary ]

Monday, December 18, 2017

Holidays, Reflections, and Gender - oh my!

Over the past three months I've been bus at work, busy with volunteer activities, and busy trying to get my life in order a bit. Now it's the holidays and it's crazy, but we're making it work. Between PFLAG meetings and responsibilities, and speaking at Zucker Hospital for a Psychologist meeting, and my day job - it's been nonstop for me. Then add in holiday shopping and prep, and the blog kindof got tossed to the side - sorry!

I'm here now, and ready to chat a bit about what I've been doing along with add to our definitions!

It's amazing how we make time in our lives for things that we truly care about. PFLAG has become such a part of my life, I'm not sure what I was doing with my spare time before it. What did I do with 1/4 of my Sundays that I now spend at meetings? How much more manageable was my personal email inbox? Now I get to meet with amazing parents and children from the TGNC (Transgender, gender non-conforming) community, provide support, and educate people who need it. This position has opened up so many opportunities and I'm so thankful for it every time I make a difference in someone's life. 

In working with PFLAG, I have gotten some offers to speak at different facilities, or participate in community events. The latest was speaking at Zucker Hillside Hospital for some psych providers in a small meeting setting. It was so great to meet the providers and be able to speak for them and answer questions about certain situations or personalities that they work with. To know that I'm not yet a trained professional but could have an impact on those who help others in a professional setting really means a lot to me. It's events like these that help solidify the idea that I should become a licensed professional and see clients in a home setting, and helps encourage my self-esteem in believing that I'd actually be successful at it. 

To continue reflecting on the past year, it's unbelievable that just a few months ago, I married my best friend, and the love of my life. I think everyday about how lucky I am to have her, and to have someone who is always in my corner - no matter what. Someone who has been my rock, throughout not only the bumps of my transition, but also life in general. 

Thank you, 2017, for being both the most foreboding and yet personally momentous year so far.

Onto the knowledge! Something that came up both in the last PFLAG meeting as well as when I spoke at Zucker, is the idea of identity versus presentation/expression. So let's break it down:

There are three main aspects to this discussion; Sex assigned at birth, Gender Identity, and Gender Expression. 

Sex assigned at birth is self explanatory (mostly), and is how you are assigned when you are first seen by medical staff in the hospital. You either get assigned Male or Female, it get's printed on your birth certificate, and then your life begins. Aside from Intersex individuals, this part of life is pretty straight-forward. (I can go over Intersex next post! I'll try to get to it this week, but you all know me by now so we'll see)

Gender Identity is, literally, how someone identifies their gender. This is something that is internally recognized. This is not something that anyone would know just by looking at another person. Internally, a person will identify their gender (using whatever labels, if any, that they would like) and this will determine what pronouns they would like to be referred to with. There are many different pronouns, and don't be upset if you weren't aware of that, and try not to be too hard on yourself if you have trouble with someone's pronouns or if you make a mistake. Please just do your best, and get comfortable with using them away from the person so that it will make it easier to use them when the individual is around or you are addressing them to other people - practice makes perfect!

Gender expression is the way in which someone dresses, styles their hair, walks, talks, etc - it is the way that someone displays themselves to the world. This can include painted nails, dyed hair, specific items of clothing, jewelry, etc. 

The important thing to remember here is that none of these things are related. I'm sure that made your eyebrows cinch together, but hear me out. 

An individual can be assigned female at birth, identify as male, and still wear items of clothing that might traditionally be considered female. Or perhaps this person wears makeup and jewelry, but uses male pronouns. Conversely, a person can be assigned male at birth, use male pronouns, but prefer long hair and women's items of clothing. (I can also address androgynous and gender neutral next time, since I would get into it here but then this post won't end anytime soon haha)

So a good general rule, is don't assume someone's pronouns simply based on what they are wearing or how they have their hair, or if you know what sex they were assigned at birth. You never know!

To wrap up: Sex assigned at birth does not always correlate with how someone will identify later in life, and don't assume pronouns based on someone's gender expression. 

There are so many different types of people on this planet, we should try to accept everyone for who they are and make this world a safer place for all - no matter what. 

Happy Holidays everyone!!

Bonus: Here's the Gender Unicorn from the TSER website!