Transsexualism And Discrimination
Religious and cultural notions relating to sexuality have confoundedly provided a strong basis for the thriving negative perceptions about transsexuals. In contrast, the paradigm shift and the dynamic nature of the society necessitate an overhaul into the long-held ideologies about sexuality to mitigate the paranoia arising from the predominant notions and which is directed at trans-sexual persons. These notions have created a harsh living environment and in fact some transsexuals have found problems related to employment. One of the most recent cases of the predicament facing transsexual individuals in the society is that of Mia Macy, who was denied a job placement by the Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms (ATF). Mia Macy applied for a job vacancy at the ATF in 2011 indicating that she was male but by the time the hiring process was coming to conclusion, she had changed her name and now her she was female. She later launched a lawsuit against the ATF claiming that she was denied the employment (as a ballistic forensics expert) based on her transsexual identity. The ruling of the US department of Justice gave the Transgender advocates and Macy a reason to feel a relief after the department made a ruling that ATF should offer employment to Macy, pay her for damages and all the lost income besides covering her legal fees together with backdated salary.
Previously, in the past year, the Equal Employment and Opportunity Commission made a ruling to the effect that Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights prohibits employee discrimination based on the gender identity of the employee. This ruling is a ground breaking achievement because while it might have seemed that transgender persons do not have a legal redress for their plight the constitution has actually provided While the Equal Employment and Opportunity Commission made the ruling binding across all public agencies, the ruling emanated from the Mia Macy case. Discrimination and stigmatization against transsexual individuals therefore infringes in the fundamental rights and freedom assured by the constitution. Moreover, as already highlighted, globalization which denotes the radical transformation of society from national or traditional forms of expressions to the international perception of matters has redefined sexuality where all forms of sexual expressions are perceived as acceptable as long as they are expressed personally and consensually.
Theoretical Background of Transsexual Gender Identity
There is a recently developed theory suggesting that gender identity is encoded in the brain at an early stage in human development. The theory proposes that humans acquire gender identity through encoding of the identity in the brain at intrauterine stage of human development. This theory, referred to as intrauterine theory of gender identity has been used to elucidate on transsexualism as a form of gender identity where many studies and authors have argued that transsexualism is a possible gender identity given that sexual differentiation of the human brain takes place during the second phase of pregnancy while the sexual differentiation of the actual sexual organs takes place during the first 1 to 2 months of pregnancy. This implies that the relative masculinization of the human brain may not reflect the comparative masculinization of the genitals.
While the intrinsic aspects of the intrauterine theory are not within the coverage of the present inquiry, intrauterine theory is not the only theory attempting to explain gender identity. There are other theories that have been developed in the recent years that also attempt to offer a theoretical orientation to help in understanding gender identity and reduce or mitigate victimization of transsexual people in the society. One such recent theory is the transgender theory, which attempts to integrate and emphasize the physical embodiment of gender and sexual identity. It achieves this by integrating the socially constructed aspects of an individual’s identity with the self and puts them in the perspective of the individual’s lived experience. It is through this theory that we can reconcile the feminist scholarship and odd conjectural scholarship on the backdrop of social work practice to help in social advocacy as far as issues transgender interactions and group identity are concerned. The emergence of the transgender theory was a considerable leap in the fight against the oppression of certain gender and sexual identities including the transsexual individuals in the society. This theory is helpful in providing a better understanding of the transsexuals, working with them and empowering the transsexual people thereby providing a basis for building of working coalitions between the transsexuals and other socially oppressed groups.
Besides intrauterine theory and the transgender theory of transsexualism, the behaviorist psychology had initially created a mark on the subject of gender identity when it emerged in the 1950s to 1980s where its philosophical foundation relating to gender identity held that a child, when born is a tabula rasa or blank slate upon which other aspects such as gender identity are imprinted as the child interacts with the environment. The deviation between this understanding and that fronted by the intrauterine theory of transsexualism is evident in that the intrauterine theory traces the marks of gender identity from the early stages of human development before birth hence rejecting the idea of being born without an identity only to be implanted through environmental interaction.
The perspective taken by the behaviorist theory and understanding that accompanied has continually caused a lot of stigmatization of transsexuals and transgender people by bringing them out as people who are sexually deviant. The theory provided a viewpoint, which saw the transsexuals as individuals have a type of mental illness of some kind since, according to its premises, they failed to properly socialize and integrate proper gender identity into their minds. As a point of emphasis in respect to the disservice done by the behavioral psychology viewpoint, transsexualism is even listed as a type of gender identity disorder under the psychopathological disorders in the DSM of mental disorders.
Differentiating Transsexualism from other gender related misnomers
Gender and sex are clearly distinct aspects of the human person and this has created the unending debates since the advent of behavioral psychology in the early parts of the 20th century. Since then there several aspects of gender identity that have been developed to describe attributes that accompany the various gender identities. It is however essential to differentiate them in order to have a clear focus and meaning as the current discourse progresses. Gender dysphoria is a condition that has unremittingly been described as a misery as concerns matters gender. It is a state where gender and physical sex are in conflict.
Gender dysphoria and transsexualism are used interchangeably and are identified under the DSM-5 as a condition where the gender of the individual as expressed or experienced by the individual is different from what other people would assign to the individual. In case the individual in question is a child, the DSM-5 directs that the desire to be another gender different from what others can assign the child be either present or verbalized by the child. The diagnosis offered by the DSM-5 tends to treat gender dysphoria or transsexualism as psychopathological and therefore as a mental illness or disorder it deserves special treatment.
Various critics have argued against the classification of the DSM-5 by arguing that the classification lumps sex and gender together. This has a problematic take for the critic because in addition to gender being a separate subject from sex, gender is mainly an essential component of a person’s identity while sex is the physical form and function. The intrauterine theory of gender identity discussed above shows that there can be an intersection between the two features in that the human brain is prearranged and organized in many sex-differentiated ways. The brain forms the seat of identity. The dilemma of the transsexuals stems from the fact that the difference between the physical form and function (called sex) and the other component of identity (or gender) forms the very central part of the issue. Thus a transsexual individual born to all physical appearance within a particular physical sex in form and function is aware of belonging to a gender identity opposite to all visible and discernible physical indications. This difference between what the observer sees and what the transsexual experiences or expresses generates a conflict that forms the core of the initial suffering endured by transsexuals at the onset of the awareness about their identity.
However, looking at the intricate connection between the onset of the transsexual identity and the onset of the conflicts that arise there is some sort of concern that must be brought out in that there needs to be a treatment for the psychological condition that is likely to arise out of confusion between how the individuals view themselves and how the society at large views them. If the agony that accompanies the confusion is not treated then this can easily lead to the individual’s self destruction. When the gender dysphoric person does not get help or the process of achieving treatment is in itself agonizing then it can be a sure way of creating immense havoc in the life of the individual to an extent of boosting the self-destruction nature of the expressions. It has been documented that about 50% of transsexuals do not live beyond the age of 30 and they mostly die by their own hand; an apparently factual aspect that has come to be known as the 50% rule. The resolution of the American Medical Association recognizes that if transsexual individuals are not given access to treatment or their condition left untreated it can result to clinically serious psychological distress that may be accompanied by dysfunction debilitating depression and even tendency to commit suicide in cases of persons who do not receive appropriate medical attention and treatment.
Transsexualism is different from cross-dressing (or transvestitism) and partial transgender alteration. It is also not same as transgenderism. Transsexualism is mainly concerned with the gender identity of an individual and the needed correction to fit the physical form of the individual to the identity. On the contrary, transvestitism or cross-dressing is essentially a sexual fetish that is expressed after puberty and the cross-dresser does not have any desperation to redress a physical mismatch. This means that the transvestite only achieves satisfaction by dressing and appearing as the opposite sex. The behavior that accompanies transvestite is not biologically rooted in the pre-natal processes but probably environmentally-acquired or learned. This activity is predominately expressed in males as opposed to transsexualism that is equally expressed in males and females. Transsexuality and homosexuality are also distinct although they can coincidentally appear in conjunction. Moreover, transsexuality and homosexuality are both created by the same mechanisms. Transgenderism is broad and encompasses aspects that include even transsexuals.
The future of the Transsexuals in the Society
The current discourse emanates from an interview conducted with an expert in transgender matters and which focused on understanding the progress made in lessening the negativity associated with transgender identities as well as the projected future of transgender individuals in the society. The first question in the interview related to how the public has perceived transsexuals and whether there is any change in the way the public perceives people with transgender identity. The replies from Kate Lindeman showed a disparity between what the public perceives and the law. For instance, transgender persons in our society have been placed in obscurity in terms of how the law protects their welfare yet there is legal provision for protection of transgender persons against discrimination in places of interaction such as places of work.
Discrimination against the transsexuals has been an ongoing practice in the society and the recent ruling where the department of justice ordered the Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms commission to pay for damages and hire Mia Macy is an example of what happens to transgender persons out there in the larger society and in their places of work. While the ruling offered some relief, it is important to realize that the basis of the ruling was a legal framework that has been existent since 1964. In their ruling, the judges in the Mia Macy case cited the 1964 Civil Rights Act under Title VII and clearly spelled out the implications of the Act pointing out that the Act provides protection of the transgender persons against discrimination at the workplace. Yet these notions have not only been amongst us but have also created a harsh living environment for the majority of transsexuals who have found problems related to social interactions and employment. Globalization has created a global village where ideas and cultural norms are shared so fast but this globalization which denotes the radical transformation of society from national or traditional forms of expressions to the international perception of matters has redefined sexuality where all forms of sexual expressions are perceived as acceptable as long as they are expressed personally and consensually.
Despite the realization that discrimination and stigmatization against transsexual individuals therefore infringes in the fundamental rights and freedom assured by the constitution, the public still grapples with acceptance of the reality. But the question that still lingers in the mind of any concerned individual and which gender advocates should have a keen interest in is what should be done to change the public perception about transsexuals? One stride that has been made in the right direction is the cropping up of many gender advocacy groups, agencies and not-for-profit organizations. These bodies have been instrumental in creating the much needed public awareness on equal rights of the marginalized groups specifically the transsexuals. Besides the public awareness campaigns by these bodies, they have also provided a platform for transsexual individuals to open up, tell their story and allow others to feel part of the society. This opening up also helps in advancing the spirit of advocacy further than just telling the story as it allows the advocacy groups and bodies as well allowing the policy makers to see through the eyes of the transsexuals and take from the perspective of their own lived experiences.
The significance of having transsexuals come up and tell their story was revealed in an interview where Janet Mock gave her story as a transsexual and pointed out that she did so to encourage other transsexuals to come and share their story. This, Janet Mock pinpoints, can help the transsexuals to live and dream better and drive away the lineless associated with being shunned by the larger society.
In 2011, Janet Mock came out in public as a transsexual woman after years of living in private life but accepted that coming out is still a very personal decision and has both political and social ramifications. These ramifications have had an impact on the person no matter what the person’s standing in the society or level of celebrity enjoyed by the individual opening up. For this reason, transsexual is a delicate subject since even encouraging people to disclose their transsexual identity would imply they are ready to take care and absorb all the mentioned ramifications at personal level.
Therefore, even though opening up about the transsexual identity is important and a fundamental pillar in advocacy and policy making, it would be morally inappropriate to compel individuals to disclose their identity. In short, the war on discrimination against transsexuals and transgender persons is a war that cannot be won in a single day but thorough public campaigns must be carried out to prepare the society and change the perceptions of the larger society about transsexuals. Without these undertakings, the society will continue to perceive transsexual people as mentally ill with psychopathological disorders and not as normal people with different sexual identity distinct from heterosexual identity, bi-sexual identity or any other sexual identity that is now acceptable in the society. Meanwhile, as that stigmatization continues, transsexual people will continue wrapping themselves behind the veil of obscurity and fear of more stigmatization associated with coming public.
Is the future promising in terms of the fight against discriminating against transsexuals and people with transgender identity? The future of the transsexuals in the society looks promising in that based on other related identities in the society that have gained comparatively wider acceptance while were faced with similar dilemmas in the past.
Solutions to Discrimination
Promotion of open dialogue about love, acceptance and sexuality are just but some of the ways that discrimination can be reduced and increase the value in the lives of the transsexuals in the society. To achieve the feat of open dialogue, love and acceptance the public and of course everyone must be educated about the diversity and its value. The world, which has become a global village is teeming with diversity that the only way to improve the value of human existence and interaction is through appreciating it as an essential part of the survival of mankind.
Formulation of policies that are implemented to the letter is one of many ways to handle discrimination against the transsexual individuals in the society. Discrimination can be in diverse areas of the society including provision of health care services. Services such medical health insurance may want to discriminate the transsexual individual based on their policies of categorically excluding individuals classed as mentally ill persons and therefore this exclusion may include transsexuals since they are categorized under the DSM-5 as persons with GID or Gender Identity Disorder as part of mental illness. In resolution 122 (A-08), the American Medical Association opposes exclusion of transsexual individuals from insurance plans. The AMA resolution points out that this exclusion represents serious violation of individual rights and demonstrates discrimination based on gender identity of the individual patients. It is discrimination based on gender identity of patients because the insurance plans and coverage are often availed to normal patients suffering from diseases such as hysterectomy or breast augmentation, in which insurance plans exclude persons with transsexual identity from the plans.
The theoretical background of transsexualism shows that the initial attempts to debunking the issue of the transgender identity were basically hinged on the understanding fronted by the behaviorist psychological perspective that essentially viewed transsexuals as persons suffering from serious psychopathological disorders. These perspectives meant that the society viewed the transsexual individuals as people who resisted implantation of the right identity since gender identity was basically viewed as environmentally acquired cue given that a child was thought to be born without gender identity but as a blank slate. Later theoretical perspectives have clearly brought out a better understanding to the subject of transsexuality and transgender identity. Such theory is the intrauterine theory that explains the origin of gender identity as beginning before birth.
Despite the progress made in developing philosophical basis for understanding transsexualism through the development of more dynamic theories that incorporate many factors into the fabric that make them, transsexual individuals in the society are still faced with various problems. Stigmatization, victimization and discrimination are some of the prominent ways transsexuals are viewed as different from the rest of the society members. Discrimination in the work place, discrimination with respect to medical service provision and health insurance coverage has been documented.
The solutions to the discriminations lie in a number of actions that lie at the individual level or the societal and organizational level. At the individual level, coming out and talking about individual’s lived experience can help in bringing out more understanding of the nature of circumstances the transsexuals face and help in formulating policies that are more precise. Nevertheless, this option leaves both social and political rami9fications on the part of the individual transsexual. At the policy-making level, policies should be formulated and implanted as well as legal framework followed through proper interpretation. Lastly, public awareness should be increased to provide the public with proper information that can allow promotion of love, acceptance of diversity in sexuality and increase understanding of the value of diversity in human interactions.
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