Reid Vanderburgh - November 2006 Newsletter

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Moving toward an expanded life

November 2006 Newsletter


Articles in this issue: Next Big Thing Publication Pending - Really! Film Review


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The Next Big Thing
In the late 1990s, I met a young man and his mother at the Pride Parade in San Francisco. She was in her late thirties, and did not trip my “gaydar.” He was 14, and clearly in the throes of male adolescence, somewhat shy and without much to say to the adults around him.

The three of us had marched in the parade with a contingent from FTM International. I volunteered to staff a security checkpoint after the parade, as part of the contingent responsibility for providing volunteers. The young man’s mother staffed the checkpoint with me. We talked during our two-hour shift, and I learned why she'd been marching with FTMI. Had I been asked earlier, I might have said she had an FTM partner or family member, and was marching as a straight ally, with her son alongside. I would not have guessed that she is indeed a straight ally – with an FTM son transitioning in middle school.

Two years ago, I was contacted by the single mother of an 8-year-old “girl” who had been insisting from the time “she” could talk that “she” was a boy. Though mom wanted to be supportive, she had always wanted a daughter and had adopted a girl to achieve that goal. Warring with her desire to allow her child the freedom of self-determination was her own desire to raise a certain type of child. I could not tell her what she wanted to hear – yes, there’s something you can do to change this – and never heard from her again after two family sessions.

In the past year alone, I have worked with one family and met four others with children or adolescents transitioning within public school systems, in various parts of the country. This past year, I have also been contacted via e-mail by two other families in very rural America, many hundreds of miles from Portland, desperate for information. These families were not seeking any form of cure, but information about how to help their child actualize their gender identity, which did not match their bodily sex.

It seems that every passing year, the numbers of such cases I hear about increases exponentially from the preceding year. What does this mean? Are there more people who are growing up trans? Or are there more trans people growing up with supportive parents?

I can’t rule out the possibility that there actually are more trans people these days, since no one has yet determined what the etiology of trans identity is. However, I do believe that more parents are recognizing the nature of trans identity in their children (eventually) and are acting in their child’s best interests by researching how to proceed.

P/FLAG (Parents/Friends of Lesbians and Gays) has stepped up to the plate, recognizing the very different needs these parents have. P/FLAG Portland now has two board members who are members because of trans identities in their families (or themselves), rather than GLB identities. P/FLAG National has also embraced a new program, so new it does not yet have a website, Trans Youth Family Advocates. Their tagline says it all: “Our support means the world to them.” To contact this fledgling organization, send an e-mail to Kim Pearson, Family Advocate coordinator for TYFA.

For more information about early transition, see: How Young is Too Young?. I have also included a chapter on this topic in my new book.

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Publication Pending! Really!
My book “Transition and Beyond: Observations on Gender Identity” is now available for pre-publication ordering, which means that I will sign a copy for you if you order it now! Visit Q Press for ordering information. (Pre-ordering also means I will begin receiving royalties earlier than I would otherwise, which would be very welcome indeed) I did my first public reading of the book at my alma mater, John F. Kennedy University in the Bay Area, to a very enthusiastic audience. I have received cover “blurbs” by James Green and Kate Bornstein that are very positive in their support of my work. Upcoming readings (dates not set yet) include In Other Words Bookstore (Hawthorne), Queer Resource Center at Portland State University, and T/iRC (Trans/Identity Resource Center).

Chapter titles are:
1 – A Therapist’s Manifesto
2 – The Therapist’s Own Work
3 – Questions of a Skeptic
4 – Models of Gender Identity
5 – Effects of Hormones
6 – Available Surgeries
7 – Thoughts on the Standards of Care
8 – Early-Transition Therapy
9 – Who is my Tribe?
10 – Why IS Transition so Hard?
11 – The Ramifications of Disclosure
12 – Renegotiating Boundaries
13 – Parallel Processes: Addiction Recovery and Transition
14 – When Worlds Collide: Fundamentalism and Transition
15 – For Partners Only
16 – The Spectrum of Support
17 – How Young is Too Young?
18 – In the Best Interest of the Children
19 – Answers for a Skeptic

Appendices
Terminology
Frequently-Asked Questions
Range of Client Occupations
Common Patterns of Adult Children of Alcoholics
Harry Benjamin Standards of Care (excerpts)
Suggested Readings

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Film Review: Call Me Malcolm
Call Me Malcolm was co-produced by the UCC and Filmworks, Inc. The 90-minute film tells the story of Rev. Malcolm E. Himschoot’s transition process within seminary, and the difficulties he faced within his family.

Call Me Malcolm is part of the United Church of Christ’s effort to provide resources for churches and other organizations to explore and nurture God’s extravagant welcome that includes lesbian, gay bisexual and trangender persons,” said the Rev. Michael D. Schuenemeyer, the UCC’s minister for LGBT concerns.

I saw Call Me Malcolm at a conference I attended recently, focused on trans/spirituality. I enjoyed the film, as it did not focus strictly on Malcolm’s process, but included interviews with some of his seminary friends, and with his then-girlfriend (they have since married). Though his brother (a gay bioman) is interviewed in the film, as is his brother’s partner, Malcolm’s estrangement from his parents is noticeable by their absence in the film.

However, the fact of possible slow reconciliation emerged in the fact that his parents (to his surprise) did attend his ordination, which was the culmination of the film.

This wonderful film portrays well the alienation many trans people feel within religious systems, and that there is hope of retaining or regaining a place at the table, as one’s true self. For more information, visit the Call Me Malcom website. (This site takes some time to load if you have a dial-up connection)

©2006 Reid Vanderburgh. All rights reserved

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