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April 28, 2008

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When I saw the NYT article, I thought of Jenny Boylan's book, and how much harder it would be to find out later. Just the fact that they could communicate about it so early on says something about the strength of their relationship.

That transexual man who was on OPrah, because he's having a baby has thus far been considered legally married. He, however, changed his sex before he got married. I think that he lived in Oregon.

What the world needs now is love, sweet truth.

If the world can handle it.

There is no way that Denise is the first, especially in New Jersey. Must be a slow news day. I've known more than a few in the community in that situation. Some marriages do survive one partner changing sex. It isn't that common and it's sure not the majority but it does happen.

FYI I'm transsexual and in my experience most people don't care in the abstract. It is when it is a family member or someone close to that they freak out.

Since I am being so open here. In my own case, when I transitioned I was accused by my ex of being a pedophile. This is because trans = gay = pedo. I was only allowed court supervised visitation because in the courts mind if mom is concerned then it must be concerned. I haven't seen my children in 15 years. It sucks, it's really been horrible, but I'd do it all again. (I'd try to do it better but I doubt that would happen.)

I know that marriage is a state issue, but I would think that a federal law defining how sex is legally determined would be feasible. DNA would probably be the better choice,given the abilities of plastic surgery. It would create some silly situations, but at least it would be consistently measurable.

I know that marriage is a state issue, but I would think that a federal law defining how sex is legally determined would be feasible. DNA would probably be the better choice,given the abilities of plastic surgery. It would create some silly situations, but at least it would be consistently measurable.

I have always thought that, from the state's point of view, marriage is a predefined contractual relationship.

Marriage entitles the man to expect to sire the children. It entitles the woman to expect the man to help raise them. It sets the default terms for inheritance.

Perhaps we could get over the "ick" factor if we separate the legal relationship from the religious one. People would register as domestic partners, with variations possible concerning children. Separately they could go to a religious authority for a ceremony.

Currently neither has legal force without the other. It confuses people.

I think a better idea, Mike, would be to make gender legally irrelevant--why should the state get into the question at all? We're talking about the way people identify here, not about what a test reveals. And what about those people who simply choose to live as trans, as opposed to making the full transition? Better for the state to just butt out, allow consenting adults to form the kinds of unions they want to, and provide the same benefits to everyone, across the board.

noen -- wow, that is really sad about your children. I'm very sorry to hear that.

I want to thank you and the other transpeople (is that an ok term?) who have commented on these threads for sharing your perspective; it's very generous of you to give us "cissys" (heh) a window into your experience.

noen: That's awful about your kids. Truly awful.

One of the reasons I write about these issues is that I think so few people have any idea what this is like; and that since this is a blog that is not focussed on lgbt issues, we're more likely than, say, Pam's House Blend to have an audience who are unfamiliar with transmen and -women. If more people actually got what it's like, then perhaps the likelihood that some judge would be able to equate trans with gay with pedophilia (!) would diminish somewhat. In any case, I can only hope.

Incertus, I agree that taking sex out of the equation would be the way to go, but apparently that's going to have be done state by state, as the courts have pretty much held that marriage is a state isssue.

I have always thought that, from the state's point of view, marriage is a predefined contractual relationship.

Yup. This is an excellent example of why church and state should be separate. Looked at this way, banning same- sex relationships makes no more sense than requiring spouses to have different hair color.

I remember when I realized that if I had stayed in Texas, there would have been a point where I could have married either a man or a woman legally, though same-sex marriage in Texas was illegal. Kinda made all the rules seem sort of silly.

I would think that a federal law defining how sex is legally determined would be feasible. DNA would probably be the better choice

Really? You sure about that? If so then prepare to have your preconceptions about gender exploded. And as far as I know there really is no law defining who or what is male or female. I think the reason this is so is because biology would not support current prejudices.

hilzoy
If more people actually got what it's like, then perhaps the likelihood that some judge would be able to equate trans with gay with pedophilia (!)

My own particular case is complicated but it never really got adjudicated because I didn't have the resources to challenge my ex or the county. Legal assistance for the poor is virtually nonexistent. I also gave in quite a lot because I thought cooperating was the best way (and had my own shame and guilt going heavy duty too).

Thanks farmgirl - everything is fine.

One thing I have noticed over time is that when I tell my story it tends to overwhelm whatever one was talking about before. So to get back to the topic. "If you change your sex, are you still married?" One reason this becomes such a problem is that while the trans community is usually included with the larger gay/lesbian community we have some significant differences. The big one is that sexual orientation is not the same as gender expression.

However, the larger society still does tend to see effeminate men as gay and masculine women as lesbian and in my opinion it has only gotten worse is the past few years. But then I live in the midwest so... what do I know?

I would also support taking gender out of the equation. That would help immensely but in the end it's educating people (and leadership) that will help the most I think.

Our family is in a similar situation as Denise and Fran, although in our case it was the "wife" (me) transitioning from female to male. I did that about 10 years ago, and we'll have been married 21 years this summer. Because of the very fears Denise expressed, of having their marriage "dissolved," I have not gone so far as to legally change the F on my license to M. With two kids, now teenagers, we couldn't afford to have the structures of our family messed with, things like insurance, and all the other legal rights and responsibilities marriage gives a couple. This can be a little awkward when needing to show ID. Y'know, this bearded guy flipping out a license reading "SEX: F." :) Once we don't have dependents though, that F is gonna go.
Our family is quite active working for equal civil marriage rights.

Les GS: Thanks for your work and your story, and best of luck. (I'm trying to imagine the traffic cop's face when s/he sees the ID... and I hope you get to replace it asap.)

The comments above and in the story about determining sex from "DNA" are a bit misleading, as sexual expression is usually determined at the level of the chromosome, not the nucleotide. Which, of course, further raises the issue of the legal "sex" of people with unusual chromosomal configurations.

Theoretically, the state could draw a series of distinctions between people with various chromosomal configurations and/or acceptable levels of various hormones at various times during development, or various secondary sexual characteristics (expressed with or without resort to medical intervention). Then the people on one side of the line could only marry people on the other side of the line.

But I suspect only the Catholics and the Orthodox Jews would have the stomach for that kind of Byzantine, obsessive-compulsive, medieval nonsense.

Bob: Perhaps we could get over the "ick" factor if we separate the legal relationship from the religious one.

In the US, the UK, and in plenty of other countries around the world, the legal relationship of marriage has already been separated for many years from the religious celebration of marriage - and yet, as you see, people still get icky about the idea that a same-sex couple can marry or that being transgender does not have to end a marriage.

Perhaps what's needed is to have it clearly explained to Americans that in fact religious marriage in the US is an entirely separate thing from civil marriage: that a couple can have a religious marriage ceremony and not be legally married, or get legally married with no religious ceremony, or if they choose to do so, combine both legal and religious marriage in one event: in the US, mixed-sex couples are free to choose any of these options, and same-sex couples are free to choose to have a religious marriage ceremony, though not a legal one (except in Massachusetts).

It's a mystery to me why so many Americans apparently don't seem to comprehend this, because Bob is certainly not the first American to propose as a solution the situation that already exists in the US.

Mike: I know that marriage is a state issue, but I would think that a federal law defining how sex is legally determined would be feasible.

You're right, it would. The UK passed such a law four years ago: the Gender Recognition Act. Of course, nothing as impractical as DNA tests or mandated plastic surgery is required. Your gender in the UK is legally what it says on your birth certificate, and if you have changed gender, you can apply to change your birth certificate. There's no reason the US couldn't have a federal law like this: it would certainly be simpler than the current state-by-state business.

Dear Hilzoy. I trust you are well.

It seems to me most people are missing an obvious point about the Donald/Denise Brunner situation. Donald/Denise has NOT changed his sex or gender. GENETICALLY, he remains a male. All that his so called "sex change" has done is turn him into an emasculated male.

Sincerely, Sean

Dear Sean,

It seems to me most people are missing an obvious point about the Donald/Denise Brunner situation.

No, they're not. I suspect they're just better informed than you are. Forgive me this terseness; it's late, and I have to log off soon, and I have rather a lot to type before I do.

Donald/Denise has NOT changed his sex or gender. GENETICALLY, he remains a male. All that his so called "sex change" has done is turn him into an emasculated male.

"Gender dysphoria", "transgenderism", is accepted as a real health issue by all reputable medical authorities.

The notion that gender - male or female - can be pinned down by a DNA test is straightforwardly false. For example: roughly 1 out of every 500 people who present physiologically as male are in fact XXY. Google on Klinefelter's syndrome. Roughly 1 out of every 1500 to 2000 babies born are born with genitalia which cannot be determined to be male or female by a visual examination: more subtle forms of intersex are probably more common, if less likely to be "discovered", unless there's a problem.

There is no known correlation between chromosome patterns or intersex genitalia and transgenderism.

But, like it or not - and people who want to believe that human beings are either male or female and think this can be determined by DNA tests or physical examination usually don't like it at all! - some people simply are born or acquire in infancy the certainty that their gender is not what their body "says" it is.

As this essay, which you should read in full, defines it: "A transsexual is a person whose psychological sex does not match his or her anatomical sex."

If you think about it, Sean, you have probably known all your life you are male, and because this probably matches your physiological gender (and of course unless you have had a DNA test done, you can't know if it matches your chromosomes) you have never had cause to think about what it would be like if you had known all your life that you are male, but your body perpetually betrayed and confused you by being female.

Betrayal and confusion describe what trans friends have told me it was like to grow up with a body and a gender identity that they knew was not the one they should have. It is called gender dysphoria: it is a recognized syndrome: the cure is simply for the person who suffers from gender dysphoria to live as, and be recognized as, the gender they know they are.

You can argue that this is wrong or immoral, and these people ought to continue until they are unhappy, suicidal emotional wrecks, until they finally kill themselves, because that would be the moral way to treat them, and that it is immoral for someone with gender dysphoria to live a fulfilled and normal life as the gender they know they are.

But try to argue that the syndrome does not exist, and you merely make yourself sound like someone who has not troubled to even inform themselves of the basics before commenting: please do so.

Donald/Denise has NOT changed his sex or gender.

Te's changed one of them, at least.

GENETICALLY, he remains a male. All that his so called "sex change" has done is turn him into an emasculated male.

Would this mean you'd then oppose the marriage of a woman and female-to-male transgender?

For that matter, what about an XXY and an XYY?

I've known guys like Sean and trust me, they are often a LOT kinkier than they let on to be. One of the nice things about the revelations of the past few years is I feel absolutely normal compared to the typical republican. Craig, Vitner and the rest have done wonders for my self esteem. Thanks guys!

Heh. Noen's comment reminds me. Speaking as someone who used to work at a cross-spectrum porn site, you would be astonished at the volume of people on the Internet searching for tranny porn.

Given the common polar relationship between hostily to a thing and craving for a thing, it would not at all surprise me if people with attitudes like Sean make up a large portion of them.

the likelihood that some judge would be able to equate trans with gay with pedophilia (!) would diminish somewhat.

You also ought to distinguish between pedophile and pedosexual. There are for instance quite a few pedophiles (at least in the Netherlands but I assume that would go for other countries too) where pedophiles won't have sex with children even if they could. Often because they think it would be damaging for the children they love.

I think that changing genders as an adult is such a difficult and hard trajectory that I don't understand how people can assume the transgender person doesn't really feel a need.

I appreciate the fact that commenters have discussed "people like Sean" and their possible sexual predilections, rather than Sean himself. It would be good to keep on being clear about the difference, and perhaps being more clear about the pretty low likelihood that people who are members of some large group, like being baffled about trans issues, share any particular sexual anything.

I know that I, for one, would not like to have people speculating about my possible kinks on the basis of the most general facts about me.

The law views gender as "absolute". But, biologically, its a bit more complicated. There are cases of people who are born with "abiguous genitals". Some Females are more masculine than others, Some Males are effeminant. And, of course, with hormones and surgury, genders has become more "flexable" than ever.

This, of course, creates havoc with laws against "same sex" marriage.

An earlier commenter suggested that this is not at all the first such case, and that's definitely right. There's at least one very well-known story that became a well-known court case:
http://zagria.blogspot.com/2007/08/whatever-happened-to-paula-grossman.html

This type of thing scares me. I feel rather safe with my 10yr Marriage in the Houston area, but only because I have a good lawyer willing and experienced to fight for me in case someone challenges our marriage.

But if I move back to Colorado, where I was married (as a male) there are now laws in place to try and remove it because I'm a female and so is my wife.

Of course, I'm a dual citizen and in England we'd be perfectly fine and accepted.

It hurts that the place I love the most (Colorado Mtns) maybe the worst place for me to live.

Still, this is only 1 of the hundreds of ridiculous problems that are thrown at us. Still, I'm in Texas, on the coast and have had nothing but 100% support from everyone I've met down here (sadly not my own immediate family, who would rather disown me than change a simple perception.)

My spouse put it this way "dangly bits don't matter, you're the same person."

Dear Hilzoy:

Thanks for your kind comments about me. I do appreciate them.

If I haven't responded to Jesurgislac's comments, it's mostly because nothing we say will change each other's minds.

As a single, heterosexual male, I don't think I have many kinks! (Laughs!)

STILL feeling irritatingly tired from my gall bladder surgery, btw.

Sincerely, Sean

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