Live Chat: Your Questions About Living Transgender

As part of our series on living transgender, we’re hosting a live chat to answer any questions you might have about transgender or genderqueer issues.

The live chat will begin at 12 p.m. on Friday, January 24, and will be moderated by WBUR reporter Martha Bebinger. Joining her are the following panelists:

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From left to right: Unger, Moureau and Levi. (Courtesy)

Dr. Cecile Unger, OB/GYN who trained at Brigham and Women’s and Massachusetss General Hospital and is currently a fellow at the Cleveland Clinic where she is training in Female Pelvic Medicine & Reconstructive Surgery and developing a subspecialty in transgender women’s surgery and health.

Bianca Moureau, transgender advocate. A former patient at Boston Children’s Hospital, Bianca transitioned from male to female when she was 14. She was the first person in the country to have Medicaid pay for her surgery. Now 26, Bianca is applying to law school.

Jennifer Levi, runs the Transgender Rights Project at GLAD and specializes in transgender legal issues.

Feel free to leave your questions before the chat begins in the comment section below. As a reminder, please review our community guidelines before commenting.

Live Chat: Your Questions About Living Transgender
Please follow our community rules when engaging in comment discussion on this site.
  • Itsjustalila rinpoche

    Is this discussion over?

  • jnail7

    While the DSM-V adds the explicit language allowing for modifications to the Standards of Care with respect to the individual patient’s specific needs, what is the rational basis for proposing that an individual to live as their target gender (ie. gender expression) prior to medical surgical intervention? Especially considering if gender expression is different from gender identity. The analogy that I have seen for this is like asking a leg amputee to spend 6 months to a year walking before qualifying for a prosthetic leg. I guess my target question is why is informed consent not a universally acceptable threshold for treatment rather than place the patient at increased personal risk without the benefit of treatment? (My assumption is that extensive interviewing for proof of being informed and checks for co-morbidity of conditions that could hamper lawful informed consent would be taken first).

    • Karen St John

      The original Benjamin Standards of Care for someone undergoing surgical transition were implemented in the early 1960s because of how the different gender roles assigned to men and women. Therapists treating transitioning patients felt their clients needed to at least sort out how very differently their lives will go, and how much sexism would impact them if they manage to adapt. It served as a sorting process, with fail safe points for clients so they will learn life won’t just turn into a lark after they relaunch. The requirements were quite rigorous, more so than today’s version.

      While today the gender roles manifest themselves differently than they did in the early 1960s, they are still very much in place, and many therapists treating transsexual clients still feel ethically bound to the sorting and adapting process.

      Please understand I’m NOT lauding the divides and the inequalities between males and females in our world. They are utterly odious, and must come down! But that’s the very basic synopsis of the reasoning behind the Standards of Care, for what it is worth.

      • jnail7

        Thank you for responding. My concern is from a sociological point of view. Gender roles and expression will vary by culture and adherence to either will vary by individual. My assumption is that the current model for facilitating transition (Real life Experience before qualification for surgery) needlessly places these individuals at increased risks, economically, emotionally, physically, and mentally. I acknowledge that full surgery is not an option for some, to which the current model would not deviate from their chosen path. But for others who will pursue complete transition, would not having the physical dysphoria addressed first better allow for a more focused social transition? In my own investigations with post-ops, a common theme reported is “transition does not really start until after surgery”. What they describe is a sense of greater self-confidence and legitimacy when interacting with others as well as unfettered control on their gender expression (ie. no longer having to “prove” they are the gender they present as).

        So back to my original question, why not establish a clear curriculum of informed consent and focus on integration and coping therapies after? Let those that choose, convalesce from their surgeries in the safety and security of their former expressed self and formally transition without the distraction of the physical dysphoria. Basically, the social version of physical therapy, get the medical procedures done and then start training to regain normality of function.
        Again, I acknowledge that I may be lacking key information on this condition and why my suggested methodology is untenable.

  • Jenn Burleton

    At TransActive, we work closely with families of transgender children and youth on a broad range of issues and challenges they face. One of the issues for some parents/caregivers and their children is parental custody. More specifically, challenges to parental custody simply because the one parent is being supportive of their child’s gender nonconformity or transgender identity.

    My question is this: Why aren’t these parents receiving support from the major LGBTQ legal entities in nation and what can we do to change this? Often, the non-supportive parent receives legal assistance from neo-conservative, fundamentalist religious organizations and firms.

    Thank you.

  • Emily

    Thank you for covering this topic! I’ve seen balanced discussions of transgender issues more commonly in the last few months, but we still have such a long way to go. My question is about parenting: I’m not currently a parent, but I anticipate being a mother later in my adult life. My own parents are very conservative, and I assume they will become combative when I raise my children gently, without harsh guidelines around society’s understanding of gender.

    How can a parent of a transgender child, or a child who does not adhere strictly to gender norms, shield their child from criticism/hatred while teaching them that the world is a complicated place, full of people who may not understand you at first glance?

  • Candace Waldron

    Thank you for this story. As the mother of a transgender son who disclosed nearly a decade ago, it’s heartening to see more awareness, acceptance and resources now. As a parent who lived through the transition of my daughter becoming my son I too shared the experience of worrying he might regret his decision and having difficulty using new pronouns. It feels like referring to a whole new person when switching from she to he or vice versa and before I could get there, I had to mourn the loss of my daughter in order to welcome my son. So his transition brought about my own. What got me through it, and what will get other families through their transitions, is the light in their child’s eyes, the smile that returns, the confidence in their speech and their step when they are finally living in the world in a way that is congruent with their hearts and minds. For my son, my only regret is that we didn’t know more then so he might have transitioned sooner.

  • John

    Hi, and thank you for bringing up Nate’s great courage!

    I’m a married man from Africa. I don’t feel like i am a transgendered person, but since being brutally raped in my home town that male penetrations always makes me feel like I was a woman.

    It’s a terrible sin for africans to know what I feel like as you may know. but this is an inexplicably serious feeling. Although I have a wife and childrens, and I look like a regular man, I would rather be handled as a woman and that will makes me happy. I am a female person inside me but for great great and ever great FEAR, i can almost never revealed my self.

    What is the definition of my life???

    It would be a terrible shock and a wound for my wife, family members and friends to learn such a thing. Meanwhile, it would be great a relieve at least one person in my network knew about this.

    What is the definition of my life???

  • Guest

    Hi, my eldest is transgender, born female and raised by progressive parents (she) was given all gender clothing and toys and went through a wholistic education system, where the whole body is involved in learning and not just the brain. There were never any signs growing up that (she) should have been a boy. In fact (she) love doing ‘girly’ things above all else. (She) was bullied badly at school and has had some emotional trauma with a parent with cancer, twice. I have always been supportive but (she) feels I’m not because I just can’t get the pronoun change right. It’s the only thing I can’t do yet. I guess once the transition has been complete, if that is what (she) wants, then it might be easier. But for now she’s still my daughter and not my son. I can’t get past this. Can you give me some advice on how to begin this? Deep in my heart, I do want this to be a phase that (she) grows out of and can’t help but feel that this is driven by trauma. That doesn’t make it less valid, but I want to understand more. I’ve raised all of my children on the premise that as long as they are not hurting themselves or anyone else in the world, live honestly and be kind, they will be fine. If becoming a man in the world is what my eldest deeply desires I will support that no matter what. Reading the article above could almost be our story. Thank you.