Sunday, December 30, 2012

Before Transgender?

As you all know, some of us who have been on this planet for awhile grew up in the information dark ages and what I called the gender "black out".

I found this story from The New York Times Magazine about Ethel Person by Stephen Burt.

In the 1970s,  she one of the first mental-health researchers who tried to meet cross-dressers, transsexuals and (as we now say) transgender people on our own turf, or on our own terms. She visited cross-dressing societies and drag-queen balls; she interviewed all the transsexual patients of the celebrated Dr. Harry Benjamin, and she drew on those visits, those interviews and on hard-to-find publications, including porn. At once a sexologist in the tradition of Alfred C. Kinsey, a psychoanalyst in the tradition of Freud and a writer sympathetic to feminist critique who knew a sexist culture could change, Person asked how we come to see ourselves as men or women, gay or straight or neither, and how to help people whose sense of self causes them pain."

To out this in perspective, I was close to graduating college in 1971. Here's another excerpt:

Person's results make unsettling reading." In papers like “The Transsexual Syndrome in Males” (1974) and “Homosexual Cross-Dressers” (1984), Person and her collaborator, Dr. Lionel Ovesey, distinguished “core gender identity” (whether we think we are truly men or women) from “gender-role identity” (whether we act macho or demure, no-nonsense or girlie-girl) and both from sexual-object choice. Those distinctions can seem obvious now, but they had to be explained at length back then, when those explanations — for psychoanalytic thinkers like Person — often led to broad claims about unconscious origins."

For all of us who lived through this era, this is a good short read. For those that didn't this is a great look at a few of the processes which have opened transgender information doors today. Follow this link.


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