Patients have reported more acceptance from their health care providers, co-workers, family and friends. Because of organizations like the Transgender Law Center, the National Center for Lesbian Rights and the World Professional Association of Transgender Health and others, being transgender is no longer a mental illness. Many more work and housing protections are now in place and the general public is understanding that being transgender is normal. I think having shows like
“Orange is the New Black” and “Transparent” have helped to break this stigma. This is not to say that transgender and gender-variant people are not violently killed or bullied, shamed or humiliated.
In regards to the youth that I work with, I have experienced more understanding and acceptance of from their parents than ever before. These parents want to understand their child and seem to want to give them the support that they need, knowing that the suicide rate among these teens is high. Since my training is in family systems, I will encourage as many family members as possible to attend one or more sessions so that I can help educate and guide them through the process. I have been pleasantly surprised every time a parent phones me on behalf of their child wanting to become knowledgeable, supportive and informed about what being transgender or gender-variant is and what it’s not. These families want to help their child become happier and healthier and do whatever it takes to get them there. In working with the parents, it can be painful realizing that your daughter is now your son. All your hopes and dreams for them will have to change. Many parents talk about having to mourn the loss of their child. All the pictures, all the plans are shattered in that moment. In time, parents are able to come on board and embrace their child in the gender that feels more congruent with who they are. It’s not always easy and it doesn’t always end well but there has been a vast improvement in most cases. I have worked with many families that are embracing their children and want my guidance in helping their children transition at school, with friends, with siblings and with their community. I will also give the parents information on support groups and online resources such as TYFA, Transforming Families and other organization in their state. Educating people takes time but change can and does take place. We must learn to release judgement of each other and work together to honor our differences.
I have come to the realization that judging others is toxic and only separates us from one another. This message came in loud and clear when I saw the Broadway company’s production of “Kinky Boots” at the Pantages Theatre in Los Angeles. The play stars Kyle Taylor Parker who plays Lola and Steven Booth who plays Charlie. The talent was amazing and I recommend everyone see it. The production features Lola who might be considered a crossdresser or transgender. Life has been tough for her been but she insists on living life that way regardless. Luckily for her she meets up with a shoe manufacturer and together they design and produce tall, kinky red shiny boots and other provocative shoes for men who want to dress as women or be women. Throughout the story, we come to see that a group of people coming from different backgrounds and belief systems learn to release judgement of each other and work together and honor their differences rather than judge one another. It is only through their differences that they are able to bring creative energy to the table. Just because a situation seems dire at first, things can and will change over time. I was touched, moved and impressed by the entire production but especially by Kyle Taylor Parker. He blew me away. He was spectacular and his voice was outstanding.
And over time, the events that GWLA have put on or that I have been a part of over the past 20 years have changed as well. When I was on staff at The Los Angeles Gender Center, we would throw a yearly holiday party at The Abbey in West Hollywood. It was well attended and very fun. There was always lots of people, good appetizers and good conversation. The staff was engaging and festive, yet there was mixed acceptance from people outside the venue. I believe that the lesbian and gay community and the transgender community don’t often find the need to mix with one another. Sure, there are times and situations where the two shall meet but being transgender doesn’t make you gay and being gay doesn’t make you transgender.
Gender Wellness of Los Angeles recently held their 2014 holiday party at Rockwell Table and Stage. Many of you may remember that in 2011 we raised and donated $2,000. to the organization TYFA (TransYouth Family Allies) which is a non-profit group that empowers transgender youth and their families. This was our second party at this venue and I want to thank my friend Wayne Elias for taking such wonderful care of us. His staff was professional, kind, supportive and went out of their way to accommodate us. Our party was lovely. People mingled and more people came than expected. Everyone loved being outside, getting to know each other and socializing with new people and old friends. Many came dressed for the very first time and were over the moon excited. I was shocked when one person bet me that she would come dressed for the first time and then chickened out. I agreed to wear a dress for probably the 4th time in my entire life if she came dressed and a few days before the party, she declined. I was relieved because I didn’t have to buy a dress after all. Well, to my surprise, she came dressed in pants and within the hour changed into a dress for the very first time in public. I lost the bet and I hate losing bets but didn’t mind losing this one. The party was scheduled for two hours and it ended up going for more than 5 hours. Now that’s a party!
I have been truly touched this year by my clients, by all the providers that we work with and for all our readers out there. It is my hope that GWLA grows in 2015 by bringing on additional clinicians and interns. Please help me make this happen. Stay tuned for 2015. Changes are coming! Until next time…….