Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Doubters and Non-Believers

The only people who don't know about Natasha at this moment are her father and step-mother and a few of our very distant friends (and, of course, most people here in town). This morning, I told my brother and sister-in-law. Before I tell you how they reacted, I need to explain what their faith is:

K and E are Messianic Jews. I'm sure you all know what a Jew is (without the horns and bag of gold around the neck, of course). Religiously speaking, Jews believe that there will be a second coming of a messiah. A Messianic Jew believes that Jesus will be that messiah. They are kosher, too, and observe the Sabbath (no cars or stuff from Friday at sundown to Saturday at sundown. Yeah, I know. They sound kinda like Christians, what with the whole Jesus thing. That's for another blog. For now, you get the idea. In addition, K & E have refined their beliefs in certain ways. They object to homosexuality and abortions, for starters. In general, though, they are good people. They will always be there if their family needs them and, regardless of whether or not a person will end up in Hell for lack of faith, they will pray for you.

I was very unsure about how they would take this news. I had predicted that they would send their children out of earshot, and I figured that they would not change their feelings for me or our kids. I did think that they might tell me that Natasha would not be welcome in their home or at the rare family get-together. That didn't happen, though.

K and E were calm but clearly shaken. So far, no one has expected to hear that J was going to become Natasha. My brother took notes, since I started out by explaining that my spouse had Harry Benjamin Syndrome (not officially, but it's pretty much what's going on). I made sure that they understood this was a medical condition that affected gender, as opposed to a "sexual preference." What my brother focussed on, however, was my comment that neither of us want this to be happening.

He said: "If you don't want this to be happening, then you can't accept it." What he meant was that we should be willing to do WHATEVER we could to try to stop it from happening.

K and E have had back luck with the medical industry. E had been misdiagnosed for years, resulting in a lot of pain and stress, until they found out through their own research that she was allergic to gluten. My brother hoped that I would be willing to accept that doctors (and psychologists) don't always know everything and that, perhaps, there might be a cure out there that they don't yet know about.

My brother wants me to be open to their god... my god, technically, since I'm a Jew, too. If Natasha and I, or maybe just I, were willing to open up to the possibility of a higher power (we're atheists with some spirituality), the result might very well be an unexpected cure. He couldn't guarantee that, but with hope there is possibility.

So, I guess that went over well. I told him that I would consider it, but in my heart, I can not believe in something I don't believe in. :-)

I don't know how many people are still in denial. I do know that one of my brothers-in-law does not want this to be happening. I wouldn't call it denial because he talks about it rationally. I think he's still in something like a state of shock. He just found out that Natasha will, indeed, transition entirely and I think he thought she was going to try to live in limbo... or maybe he knew it would happen but not very soon (not that it will happen very soon unless you consider a few years to be soon).

In a way, I think that my brother-in-law is like my brother. Both understand what is happening and accept that this is a truth; yet, they also want to find a way to stop it from happening more than want to let everything progress. Trust me: I'm with them. I would MUCH rather someone find a way to "cure" transsexualism without the gender reassignment. If someone could discover how to reassign the brain to match the body, well, wouldn't that be preferred? Natasha says that at this point, she wouldn't want to go back. But would she really say no if, having not yet had GRS, she could stop taking hormones and her brain and body would align and her wife and children and friends and family would not have to continue through this process with her? This is not reality, though, and while I understand their desire to find another choice, I am not looking for it anymore. I accept reality as it is so that I can look into the future with a sense of certainty. I think that works better than looking into the future with a sense of uncertainty, at least about this. I think that would be too stressful, preventing me from fully embracing my spouse's new outer identity.

I love my brother and my brother-in-law for caring so much about me and my spouse. I love that they so very much want to find a better outcome for us. I wish they would stop looking for their own sakes. I don't think they will.


Ariel said...

I know about Messianic Jews. Other Jews, as you probably know, don't consider them Jews. They consider them Christians. I think they have a point. But that's for another post, as you say.

Personally, I would not use the term "Harry Benjamin Syndrome." That isn't an official term. It was made up by some people who wanted to separate themselves from the unwashed transsexual or trans-whatever masses. It has an association with intolerance and homophobia. Just so you know.

Yes, we probably do need a better name for the condition than transsexualism or Gender Identity Disorder, but HBS ain't it. Sadly, it's tainted.

Sounds like you explained it well. It's unfortunate, however, that you inadvertently gave your brother a hook to grab onto--that neither you nor Natasha wants this to happen. I understand what you mean, but he clearly did not.

You might tell them that the track record so far for any god curing people of being transsexual is very poor. :)

I think it's especially difficult for men to accept. It can be inconceivable to anyone who isn't transsexual, but I think it's especially so to men. They simply can't imagine it.

It seems that you made as good a start as you could. I hope things go well from here.

Teagan said...

Sounds like things went as well as they could have at such an early stage. I'm thankful for that, for both of you.

I won't comment on the religious part of the post except to say that my ex-wife has told me that if I accepted Jesus Christ that I wouldn't feel the need to transition anymore.

I'm with Ariel on the "HBS" thing. In trans circles, it's considered somewhat of an elitist term. If you read up on the HBS controversy, you'll find that if Tasha said she was an HBS'er, she'd be shouted down.

So how are *you* doing?

Natasha said...

For the record, I don't claim to have HBS. I understand why Casey presented it that way to her brother though. It sounds more "official" and "medical" and she was really trying to soften the blow for him as much as possible.

My relationship with my brother-in-law has always been cordial, but not warm. Our families do not spend a lot of time together even though we live minutes apart. Casey and I are not believers and therefore are not really accepted in their house where we may unwittingly (or wittingly) influence their children with our secular world view. So it goes. I want my wife and kids to be welcome there, but if I should not be, I wouldn't really be all that upset. I haven't been to their house since Thanksgiving 2008 and haven't seen them since I started transitioning. So...

And as for my brother (not the one I just told)...he'll get over it once he remembers it's not about him.


Casey said...


It was not my intention to offend anyone. Shame on me for not checking with the community first. :-D

I'm just kidding, but seriously, I just wrote something about the need for this community to stick together. When I research HBS, it seemed not only quite legitimate, but a definite foothold on the climb toward covered medical treatments. Oh well. I'm not picking this battle. :-)

@Teagan, I am doing well, thank you. I saw your video about flipping your shoe. So very funny! I can't do it at all. I'd be afraid that the heel would pierce my eye!

I'm relieved that the house is quiet again and I'm waiting for Natasha to get some happy pills. For now, I'll be content to throw snow balls at her and sip lots of hot chocolate by a roaring fire this weekend in Aspen. It's my first time there. I hear the flight really sucks.

Happy trails!

Ariel said...

I wish Harry Benjamin Syndrome hadn't been coined by certain people who shall remain nameless. They are not about the community sticking together. Quite the opposite. And it's too bad, because it would be a pretty good name. Maybe it will lose its taint over time.

Anne said...

Hi Casey.

Pretty serious stuff. Perhaps this might help. When I was very, very young. I was raised Catholic. I was very devote, to the point of considering the priesthood as I grew older. But I digress.

My point is that I had, and still do, have a very deep and abiding Faith. In short, I AM a believer. I have been witness to too many miracles to not be. I am also a realist and a pragmatic hedonist.

I can tell you in all sincerity that God's Will, WILL be done. Believe me when I tell you that despite being fully cognizant of God'd power and awesome might, I stubbornly, and in the end, futilely, fled His 'hounds of heaven' until ultimately I could run and hide no more.

Perhaps if you were to put this to your brothers in this light, they would have an easier time understanding. If they are as devout as you describe, they will appreciate submission to God's will, and the prideful and foolish hubris of questioning it.

I realize how bizarre this must sound to a non-believer, and I have no problem with that. However, in your brothers' case, they MIGHT understand. Let me know if you think I might be able to help. We will be in AZ. usually through the end of March, maybe into April, depending on how hot it gets.

Or...I could just tell you the cold hard truth, which you already know. Just like Alzhiemers, there just plain, AIN'T no cure....short of a miracle, and sadly, I have yet to hear about one of those.


Common Teri said...

Fairly difficult to explain this to people and especially family. My boys are now 25 and 13 when I first tried to explain this transgender condition. I wasn't crossdressing or doing anything trans related at the time but I knew these thoughts weren't going to subside in fact they were getting stronger. I tried my best to explain how the need to be a woman was part of this condition and that it got stronger over time and was getting harder for me to suppress. One son said with all sincerity. "then we will find a cure". Trying to hold back the tears all I could say was. "maybe we can".

7 years later I transitioned. But I haven't had GRS mainly because I can't afford it but partly because I still believe I might be able to beat this.

Anne said...

Teri. I am asking this in all sincerity. Too my knowledge, NO ONE has beat this. I know one individual, who through a super human effort, is able to SUPRESS IT, but the emotional cost is unimaginable.

I see you write these words time and again, followed by an equal number declaring the opposite. I know about the "struggle". Been there. Done that.

What in your opinion would constitute, "beating this", in your opinion?

Casey said...

@ Anne - As non-religious as I am, I completely understand where you, and my brother, are coming from (my brother-in-law, by the w. . ay, is not religious. He's just stubborn). I have a feeling that K and E will be praying about this for a while, no matter what Natasha and I do, but I also think that the subject won't come up. But if it does, I will definitely use your suggestion. I'm not sure if it will work, though, because his god, the Old Testament god of the Hebrews, doesn't have his hand in everything. That's as far as I can go with this conversation without becoming frustrated with the paradox of preordination and free will. :-)

@ Teri - Inasmuch as I am able as a spouse, I feel for you. As I said, I do hope that there is some way to orient the brain rather than the body. Yet, my instinct tell me that even if it does happen, it won't happen for a very long time and, for us at least, it will probably come too late (meaning that Natasha will have gone through GRS). For your sake... your mantal sake... I strongly urge you not to continue to look into the future for that kind of cure. I know that you can't afford GRS right now (neither can Tasha), but it may be in your better interest to think of your future in terms of WHEN you can completely transition, if that is truly what your mind and body want. If, however, there is a part of you that does not instinctively want it, then perhaps there IS something else going on that is not TS. Is that possible?

Natasha doesn't WANT this to be happening, but she NEEDS to do this, as painful as it is to be on this path. Just remember that you are not alone and that those who do love you truly will be there for you. Your son, I think, just wants you to be happy, so if you explain that this tough road will, eventually, do that for you, then I suspect that he will walk that road with you.

@ Ariel - One can hope... :-D It's just too bad that the wrong people got ahold of the right idea. He didn't coin the term, but he certainly was doing groundbreaking research that would have made transsexualism a covered medical condition. AAARGH!