Annette's Letter to ABC
By Anne Vitale Ph.D. Editor -- Mar 25, 2022
Notes on Gender Role Transition
Anne Vitale Ph.D. Editor
Annette's Letter to ABC
Annette T. was disturbed by comments made on a television show called "The View." The show is a production of the American Broadcasting Company airing each weekday morning. It is a talk show about women's issues hosted by women. She decided to respond to what she felt was their insensitivity and ignorance regarding transgender issues. I include her letter here as an excellent example of how people can stand up for their rights to be respected as individuals. Of course, Annette signed her full name to the letter. In the interest of keeping her gender status private over the vast expanse of the internet, she has asked me to not use her full name here.
If you wish to contact the author, please address any remarks you may have to Annette@avitale.com. I will be glad to pass them on to her. A.V.
Dear Hosts of "The View"
On April 2, 1998, the hosts of your show aired a segment that included a discussion concerning a transsexual woman police officer. It seemed the discussion was not meant to be taken too seriously, and jokes were made about the situation. I don't mind at all the use of humor, but much of what was said was incorrect and misleading, and based on ignorance and insensitivity. Transsexual women and men are not sick or weird freaks. We are human beings with a treatable medical disorder, and as such we are to be treated with dignity and respect.
I am a transsexual woman. I was born female. I am in my brain, and in my heart and soul, every bit as much a female as the hosts of your show. I was, however, born with a male body. In other words, my gender identity is female, but my biological sex is male. It feels to me as though my male body is a kind of birth defect. This discrepancy creates a condition known as gender dysphoria (called Gender Identity Disorder in the DSM-IV). This is a life-long condition until it is medically treated. Those of us with this condition suffer tremendously because of the deep shame and anxiety that is caused by a rigid, ignorant society that won't let us be who we are and resists our efforts to obtain treatment.
Gender identity is established during fetal development and in the vast majority of cases matches the physical body. Once in every 10,000 or so births and aberration occurs where the gender identity does not match the physical body, later developing as gender dysphoria. Once gender identity is established it cannot be changed. Many treatments over the years have been tried and all have completely failed to change gender identity.
The only treatment that works is to change the body to fit identity. The nature of the treatment is both psychotherapeutic and medical. It is regulated by Standards of Care developed by the Harry Benjamin International Gender Dysphoria Association (HBIGDA), an organization of medical and psychotherapeutic professionals who treat transgendered individuals. As I transition from male to female, my team of professionals includes a Ph.D. psychologist who is my therapist and counselor, a medical doctor who prescribes hormones and monitors my general health, and a highly skilled surgeon who will perform sex reassignment surgery (SRS), which is scheduled for me in a few months.
The decision to change one's sex and to live in one's true gender does not come easily. And we do not do this in a vacuum. Family, marriages, children, friends, jobs, and careers are all seriously affected. To be sure, the people in those situations do not think transsexuality is a joke.
I take large doses of female hormones (estrogen and progesterone), and an anti androgen that blocks the absorption of testosterone. Over time the hormones bring physiological and emotional changes that are both dramatic and wonderful. The treatment culminates in SRS where the penis is reconstructed, the testes are removed, and a fully functioning and cosmetically correct clitoris, vagina, and labia are constructed. This is serious, irreversible, and highly effective surgery that none of us takes lightly. And it is necessary for those of us who are true transsexuals, just as necessary as any other medical condition for which surgery is the treatment. Thus, Debbie's insensitive remark that we must be "sick" if we want to "do the Lorena Bobbitt thing" is incorrect and judgmental.
The idea of SRS to many people who are unfamiliar with transsexuality can be titillating and funny. It is not a joke. Nor is it "self-mutilation" as Joy so confidently and incorrectly proclaimed it. Would she call heart surgery to repair a defect or brain surgery to remove a tumor "self-mutilation"? There is no difference.
We are not sick, nor are we freaks to be laughed at. We do not want to "do the Lorena Bobbitt thing" and "become" women. We are women, born with a medical condition for which there is a highly effective treatment. Its availability to us is a beautiful miracle. Our lives can be transformed from a miserable, unhappy, painful hell, to a gloriously wonderful, happy adventure. Through treatment we are able to build and fully live new lives, and that is nothing less than a precious gift, a blessing from the Universe.