Of Interest
September 18, 2015, 12:00 AM

Understanding Transgender: Who, What, How, Why


Growing up in America during the 1950’s seemed to be a more stable time in our society.  The war was over, couples were having many children, and hope was in the air.  People rarely questioned marriage roles, sexual orientation, or work place inequality.  If you turned out different from “the norm” or you questioned the cultural wisdom of the day, you were often ignored, discriminated against, or punished.  If you did not like your role in society, you would have to fight very hard to live an authentic life.   

But as the 1960’s evolved, people revolted against limitations imposed by societal norms.  The Civil Rights movement, Title IX, attempts at the Equal Rights Amendment, the sexual revolution, the ordination of women, and other human rights advocacy programs came about because people demanded equal rights for all people as well as the freedom to carve out their own destiny. 

By the 1970’s society began to notice that there was quite a diversity among people and that not everyone would fit into a nice, tidy box.  This became obvious to me when I worked as a pediatric nurse in a major medical hospital in Boston.  Being assigned to the surgical ward, our plastic and urological surgeons would often do surgeries on children who were born with mixed genitalia, determining who would become a boy and who would become a girl.   From physical observation, it was sometimes difficult to determine who was who because it was during the time before DNA testing was perfected.   I often wondered if the chosen surgery was the right one.

By the 1980’s, the gay rights movement came into its prime.  While society once thought of most people as falling into one of the two extreme categories (attracted to women or attracted to men), the Kinsey studies showed that most people are in fact not at one extreme of the continuum or the other, but occupy some position along the scale.

Now that we are well into the 21st century, understanding gender identity has come to the forefront.  Gender identity is how people think of themselves in terms of sex (man, woman, boy, girl).  In the past year, three transgendered persons (all of whom had been born with female sex characteristics but now consider themselves men), visited Trinity Church.  None of these folks have joined the church as they are members from other Christian denominations.  However, it did make me think about my need to better understand gender identity issues here in Amador County. 

Unlike biological sex, gender identity is a psychological quality that can’t be observed or measured (at least by current means), only reported by the individual. Like biological sex, it consists of more than two categories, and there's space in the middle for those who identify as a third gender, both (two-spirit), or neither.

Since transgender persons are often misunderstood, denied the right to be authentic, and bullied, many commit suicide.   Since we are compassionate people who respect the dignity of every human being, I think it is time for all of us to better understand this aspect of human diversity.  To that end, Compassionate Amador is joining with the Trinity Health Ministries to sponsor a public community forum to better understand transgender people:  Who, What, How, Why!  Please join us for a compassionate and informative community conversation to hear transgender youth, their parents, and leaders speak about their journey.  This forum will be held on Friday, October 2, 7-9pm at Jane’s Hall (behind Trinity Episcopal Church) on 430 State Hwy. 49 in Sutter Creek.  Go to www.trinitysuttercreek.org for more information.

by the Rev. Karen Siegfriedt, Rector of Trinity Church

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