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When I took on the office of Editor in Chief of the Crystal Chronicle, everyone expressed the fear that I would "burn out," but I've had a great deal of enthusiasm for the job. The Crystal Chronicle was a bit like my new baby, and I nurtured it into something of which I am quite proud. It's very gratifying to know that I've helped to change so many lives around the world, and I extend my most heart-felt thanks to all those who have given me their praise and support, both in person and by email!
Cathy and I set out with some simple but ambitious goals which I think we achieved nicely, in part through the influence of the Crystal Chronicle. First, we wanted to expand club membership. We did! We began with less than 20 dues-paying members, and our current count is about 40 members. Before Cathy and I are finished, we anticipate attracting at least 10 or 20 more. More importantly, the stage is set for unprecedented growth over the next few years, as Luann has been clearing dozens of people every month! Where are they? They're frightened to walk through our doors for the first time, but rest assured they're thinking about it. Sooner or later, most of them will start trickling in through our doors, and we could easily find ourselves with a membership numbering in the hundreds.
Second, Cathy and I wanted to encourage a lot of very timid people to hold their heads high and to walk forth with pride into the public mainstream. We did! Cathy and I are very proud of the personal growth we all have achieved in so short a time. We can go just about anywhere, do just about anything, and be accepted by just about everyone. None of us would have imagined that possible even a year ago. Even our meeting places reflect this new pride. Whereas we once met in a dingy hotel room, we now meet in two different churches, and many of our members have joined one of the church congregations.
Third, Cathy and I wanted to promote a better public image of transgendered people through educational outreach. We did! During our tenure, we and others in our community have talked to hundreds of people about gender identity disorders and those who have them. We as a transgender community have educated hundreds more people merely by our presence in public places. We have shown people by our example that we are not talk show freaks but that we are real, everyday people. Finally, through the Crystal Chronicle we have reached thousands of people, both transgendered and not, and we have changed the attitudes of a large number of our readers for the better.
Fourth, Cathy and I wanted to get Crystal Club members active in the transgender rights movement. While the personal growth of our members, as well as of the club itself, had been nothing short of phenomenal, we all seem to have our limits, and we of the Crystal Club seem to have reached ours. Out of respect for the trepidation shown by most of the Crystal Club membership for political activist efforts, several of us have founded It's Time, Ohio! and It's Time, Columbus!, thus keeping the Crystal Club an entirely social organization.
Beyond strengthening the Crystal Club, bolstering the self-confidence and self-esteem of its members, and helping the public to understand us better, I don't feel there's anything more I can give the Crystal Club that it would want or embrace. My only remaining seeds to sow are political and educational. My political ambitions are best achieved through my involvement with the It's Time, America! system, as Chairperson of It's Time, Columbus!, board member of It's Time, Ohio!, Editor in Chief of the Hourglass, and web mistress of the It's Time, America! web sites. My educational ambitions are best handled independently. I will soon be developing a continuing education class on gender identity disorders for recertification and relicensing of psychologists, social workers, educators, physicians, nurses, and attorneys. If my course is successful, I will be earning my living by traveling from city to city to teach these one-day classes. I hope to educate thousands of professionals about our community every year and thereby impact the lives and attitudes of hundreds of thousands or even millions of other people.
To achieve these things, it is first necessary for me to let go of some of my current commitments. Among these, of course, are my offices of Vice President and Editor in Chief, the latter of which requires a great deal of time on my part. There's not much more I can write that I haven't written already. I have brought the Crystal Club as far as I can bring it, and to try to drag it further -- to places it doesn't want to go -- would be torturesome for all. The Crystal Chronicle needs new blood and new ideas, perhaps as well as an editor more in tune with the sensibilities of the membership. We are fortunate to have among us a few people who I think are very well qualified to assume the editorship next February. One of them even has professional experience! I would like to start discussing ideas with those who are interested in the Crystal Chronicle about how to achieve a smooth transition in editorship. It will be quite a while before I step down, so there is plenty of time to "groom" a new editor. Those of you who worry that you will never see another article of mine need not worry. I'll just be moving my mostly political act to the Hourglass, and whatever I write that isn't political will still end up in the Crystal Chronicle, the new editor willing.
We can all be very proud of what we have achieved, both as an organization and as a community. We are not the same timid, closeted bunch that we were a year ago. We have a new sense of pride, dignity, and self-worth. Our membership continues to expand rapidly, as we achieve national, and even international recognition. As support groups go, the Crystal Club is fairly small, but we think BIG, and we have a very BIG reputation which we have earned honestly. I have every confidence that we will continue down the same path, growing at unprecedented rates into the Third Millennium.
I'm kind of in shock. Following this column is a statement about NOW (the National Organization of Women) released by GenderPAC. I had reposted this all over the Internet when I first got it, and there was almost no response. Either transpeople didn't realize what it means, or they are all in shock. In short, the largest women's organization in the world has joined us in our battle for civil rights. They have stood up for our right of self-definition. What does that mean? Well, for all transgenderists and transsexuals it means we are recognized as our gender of identity! It mean that they recognize all of us, crossdressers and trannies alike, as victims of the gender system and that they resolve that we should be supported! It may be the single most exciting thing since the Stonewall rebellion. (OK, it means I can use the ladies room without fear!) Seriously, this is major news. I cried when I first read it, and I scarcely dared to believe it was true.
This followed on the heels of a two point score with CompuServe. I had been going around and around with the management of HSX for a while now about the requirement that transgendered people had to "tag" themselves as being transgendered while in the forum. As a TS woman, I would not be allowed in the Women's section until I could prove I was postoperative. I still haven't gotten them to relax the requirements for the Women's Only section, but I did get them to change my account name and my forum name on the strength of my Social Security name change alone, so it is no longer necessary for me to wear a "tag," even though I am preoperative. My second victory concerns CompuServe's announcement that they were going to block access by minors to certain fora they considered "adult," including PrideTrans and Human Sexuality (HSX). CompuServe finally agreed to exempt PrideTrans from the adult only blocking. This means that younger transgendered people will still have free access to information about being transgendered.
Right after all that, I managed to change the way the Ohio DMV views name changes, and now I'm officially Cathy with a DL to prove it! Prior to this I was unable to even cash a check as my checking account and Social Security account were already changed over, but I didn't have a DL to identify myself with. Details on common law name changes in Ohio are in a separate article in this issue.
I had been using the last name Wood online and in public as a means of keeping myself from being prematurely "outed" in the past. Now that my name change is official, I'll be using my legal name, Cathy/Cathryn , I hope this isn't too confusing for some of you. I'm still the same ol' Cathy you all know.
Not very many people have signed up for the Weekend in the Park. Ladies, please let us know if you are going to attend or not. The Crystal Club annual picnic will be held from noon onwards on Saturday, September 27. at last year's location. More details will follow in the insert to next month's newsletter. We have decided that since the Christmas party is going to be the second Saturday of December instead of the first as in the past, we will be having a regular fourth Saturday meeting in November this year. Location with be the same as the regular meetings.
OK, who's going to step forward to be next year's president? I was serious about the demands on my time and I will not be able to continue next year as your president and really hope someone else values the club enough to step forward and take over. Please! Not to toot our own horns, but Sarah and I have brought this club a long way since we've taken over as editor and president. Our club has been growing by leaps and bounds and all this in a time when other clubs are facing declining memberships! Let's not see this go away for a lack of committed leadership in the future. How about a CD president next year? Someone with knowledge of writing web pages would also be needed to keep up the Crystal Chronicle Online. Our online newsletter is read by people around the world and is one of the best available newsletters in print and online. It would be a shame for this not to go on as well. All you need is a bit more modern computer than my kerosene powered model with Netscape 2.0 or newer. We can teach you the rest and provide you with a program that makes writing HTML documents easy.
Is there a doctor in the club? If you are in the medical field, I would very much like to talk to you about transgendered medical care issues. This is a very real void in Central Ohio and it needs to be addressed. You can reach me by e-mail at [no longer available]. You need not be "out".
Is there an interest in a "storeroom" for your femme things at our meeting place? Let me know. We may have the opportunity to do this in the future, but I'd like to know it's a real need and interest before I pursue it with the church.
See you all later,
a GenderPAC press release
After three years of ongoing debate and a final four days of intense dialog, the National Organization for Women (NOW) passed a transgender inclusion resolution on July 6 at its National Conference in Memphis, TN. The measure's success owed a great deal to the personal support of NOW President Patricia Ireland -- who had arranged for GenderPAC's Executive Director, Riki Anne Wilchins, to address NOW's National Board the prior Thursday -- as well as to intensive consensus-building effort by NOW Lesbian Rights Coordinator, Kimberlee Ward, and NOW-NJ State President, Bear Atwood.
"This was a landmark resolution whose time has clearly come... It's not just the resolution, but the acknowledgment that the transgender community is today's cutting edge. Transgender people are now doing the pioneering work in exposing artificial constructs of gender and breaking down the stereotypes and barriers which divide us all," declared NOW Action Vice President and long-time activist Rosemary Dempsey.
Agreed GenderPAC's Terri McCorcal, who had helped steer the resolution over three years, "In its own way, this was as historic a moment as NOW's affirmation of lesbian inclusion over 25 years ago. After all the debate, seven amendments, and scores of small compromises and dialogs, it was a truly emotional moment when nearly every hand in the Convention went up in support. Women who had worked on this for years were crying and hugging in the aisles."
The resolution had been originally introduced and unanimously passed at the NOW-NJ's State Conference in 1994. The next year, a dozen activists from the Transexual Menace showed up at the NOW's 1995 National Conference in Columbus, OH and gathered hundreds of signatures on petitions. The resolution was introduced from the Conference floor, only to be tabled to the National Board, where it languished in spite of apparently overwhelming support. The breakthrough came when NOW-NJ's Bear Atwood was able to arrange an invitation for representatives from GenderPAC and allied groups to address NOW's state presidents at their annual State Coordinators Conference in San Francisco last January. As a result, a number of State Presidents came out in support of the measure. In addition, Ms. Ireland herself was present at the presentation, and an invitation to address the full National Board came shortly thereafter.
WHEREAS, the National Organization for Women (NOW) has worked for the elimination of all forms of oppression in our society targeted at groups who are systematically mistreated; and
WHEREAS, the transgendered and transsexual communities confront oppression daily and are systematically mistreated because of artificial gender constructs in our society; and
WHEREAS, there is a lack of understanding and information on issues affecting transgendered and transsexual people; and
WHEREAS, one of NOW's goals is to eliminate all sex stereotypes including so-called gender roles; and
WHEREAS, NOW affirms and honors the right of people to self-identify;
THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED, that NOW and its sub-units encourage education and dialogue within NOW and other organizations on gender and sex stereotypes including those who are transgendered and transsexual people.
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, that NOW reaffirm its commitment to end all sex and gender stereotypes.
BE IT FINALLY RESOLVED, that we acknowledge that gender is a patriarchal social construct used to oppress women.
Transgendered people are invisible to most of the general public, and unfortunately they are invisible to the medical community as well. The nature of growing up transgendered in our society is one of great internalized guilt and shame for being "different" from everyone else we know. Most transgendered people live the largest portion of their lives in terror of others knowing about them, and this unfortunately includes our doctors. Modern medicine's enthrallment to the all powerful insurance companies only makes this worse. In order to obtain medical insurance one must waive all rights to doctor - patient confidentiality, and transgendered people know it. Even if a family doctor can be trusted not to blab to friends and neighbors about a patient's being transgendered, the fact is almost always going to find it's way into official medical records, records that are becoming less and less private everyday.
Transsexuals at some point become aware that they no longer have a choice and must do something about it. Some talk privately to their family doctors, and some of these doctors are compassionate enough to put them on estrogens quietly. I had known for years of my own increasing need for estrogens but was absolutely terrified of approaching a doctor about it. I avoided medical professionals to the extent I was able and was well aware that an entry of a gender disorder on my medical records would at the very least make future health insurance extremely hard to get. I am self employed and thus totally at the mercy of insurance companies, and insurance companies have no mercy.
When I discovered the Internet transgendered community I was in for an even greater shock. I was told of the HBIGDA standards of care, standards that required me to undergo psychotherapy before I would be allowed hormone replacement therapy (HRT). I had for most of my life sought out and devoured every word I could find about transsexuality. I had found and read the books by Stoller, Money, and the granddaddy of transsexualism, Harry Benjamin. Nothing had prepared me for the "Standards of Care" (SoC). This was particularly distressing because I had reached the same conclusion as Dr. Benjamin that I was born this way and that it was because of the chemistry of my female-wired brain that I quite simply was going to need estrogens in order to continue functioning. All the recent studies done on sexual dimorphism in the brain and brain structures are pointing in this direction. It's just about established fact now. My needs were medical, not psychological. The problem is that this is a "hidden" condition to the medical community, while the causes and treatments of our condition are left in the hands of a psychological community that simply won't search out these facts. Psychologists continue to treat our condition as a psychological one rather than a medical one, and it is in their continued financial best interest to do so.
I held off as long as I could. I self medicated with herbal estrogens, and the results only reinforced my conclusions. I did function much better on estrogens. The time came when I knew that the safety of my own health dictated I take real hormones and so I reluctantly subjected myself to therapy. I was extremely lucky and found a excellent, knowledgeable therapist. Unfortunately she was new to the region and thus did not yet have connections with other local professionals treating transsexuals. I quietly searched for and was given the name of a doctor who had been prescribing estrogens for transsexuals, and after getting my "letter" I started Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT). By that point I had read quite a bit about HRT for transsexuals and had already subscribed to an email list for hormone use. I knew what I wanted and what would be safest for me. That's not what I got. What I got was Premarin. My doctor wanted to bring my estrogens up slowly, which I agree is sound medical practice. I had stopped taking the herbal estrogens and started on a low dose of Premarin. It proved to be too low a dose, and many of my Gender Identity Dysphoria (GID) symptoms returned along with the additional peri-menopausal ones I suspected I'd get. I waited it out, and the dosage was increased to a less subtherapeutic dose after first adding an extremely low dose of an antiandrogen that I practically had to beg for. I don't think I would have gotten if it hadn't also been a diuretic. I found out these subtherapeutic dosages are the norm for my doctor, and so I recently decided to search out additional medical resources both for myself and others like me.
I have found myself in a unique position. I had slowly, with the aid of various transgendered online resources, began to rid myself of the guilt and shame of my transsexualism. I was not afraid to be "out" as a transsexual and thus started to find myself in a leadership role in the local transgendered community. This wasn't something I wanted; rather, I seemed to be one of the few willing to speak out. Because of this I was willing to contact the various medical referral networks, out myself, and inquire about health care for transsexuals. Was I in for a shock!
No one had any idea where to refer me. The consensus seemed to be that "no doctor would deny a person treatment because of being transsexual" and therefore that I shouldn't have a problem. I was finally referred to a young resident at one of the OSU community medical centers. She is quite nice, but she has no understanding of transsexuals or training as to their special medical needs. However, she and a colleague are willing to learn. They asked about the same resources I did and were told that the doctor I was seeing before was "the" doctor for transsexual HRT. In the end, she was unwilling to renew my Premarin prescription. I was told I must return to the doctor I had started to question. For a transitioned pre-operative transsexual who has been on HRT, estrogen is essential, not optional. I simply will not function well without it, and I can look forward to full menopause if denied it. Withholding estrogen from someone in my condition is on an ethical par with withholding insulin from a diabetic. It might not kill them quickly, but it will cause unneeded suffering and a possible shortening of life.
The problem is that we are very much invisible people. Our closets and fears mean we don't speak out, and we can safely be ignored by the medical profession except on a limited and case by case basis with the exception of a "ghettoized" care available from a single willing doctor. This must change. We are every bit as deserving of decent, compassionate medical treatment as anyone else. Our medical needs, while unique, are not difficult to provide. The information is available both on the Internet and in several books, and those members of our community who are medical doctors are willing to consult via phone and e-mail. Transsexual HRT is not brain surgery. It requires relatively little effort for a doctor to get up to speed on the subject once the resources are in hand. There is simply no reason for us to put up with substandard care. Estrogens are in the least abused category of prescription drugs, and yet my young resident friend was told she could not prescribe them for a genetic male without special training, training that is unavailable to her!
We can no longer afford to stand by and let the medical establishment ignore us. The cost is far to high. Already untold numbers of transsexuals commit suicide under the twin pressures of shame of their condition and a starvation of their brains for a simple available medication -- estrogen. Insurance companies must no longer be allowed to write blanket exclusions for all treatment of gender disorder as they do now. The total cost of treatments for transsexualism, from initial therapy through surgery, are far less than those for a single bypass surgery, and there simply aren't enough of us to amount to more than a mere drop in the bucket of health care costs. Still, insurance companies free to write us off and even deny us further coverage out of what must be transphobia. Our struggle for civil rights must include the right to decent medical care.
[Editor's note: Cathy's struggle went into "high gear" the day of this publication, as she phoned dozens of doctors, only to be turned down by each of them. The receptionist at one office, Delaware Family Practice, belonging to Drs. Tom and Patricia Hubbell, was particularly rude to her. She told Cathy, "There's nobody here who can help you with that. Probably there's no call for that around here anyway!" As Cathy was in mid-sentence, explaining that there is indeed a local need for transsexual HRT, the receptionist hung up on her. After collecting her wits about her, Cathy phoned me to "unload," and I was furious. Such blatant refusal of medical care on the basis of one's being transsexual is a clear violation both of the Hippocratic Oath and of the ethical standards of the AMA. I called the office, identifying myself with "Doctor" tagged on the front end of my name, asking to speak with Dr. Tom Hubbell. The receptionist said, "Right away, doctor!" When Dr. Hubbell answered the phone, I told him I had a "client" who was looking for a physician and that his name came up. (Cathy owes me a dollar for my professional services!) I asked him if he had experience prescribing Premarin and Aldactone, and he responded that he did. Those are of course two very commonly used drugs, particularly the Premarin. I then said, "so you wouldn't have any problem supervising a patient undergoing HRT with those drugs?" He responded that he wouldn't and asked why Cathy needed Aldactone. I told him at that point that she is a transsexual and needs the Aldactone to block her testosterone. After a few seconds of silence on the other end of the line, I asked, "That's not a problem, is it?" He quietly said, "No." I quickly said, "Great! Then I'll have Cathy call back and schedule an appointment. Please tell your receptionist that she'll be calling and ask her not to hang up the phone on her this time." Cathy called back and scheduled an appointment without any problem. Of course this was a temporary fix for Cathy and for the transsexual community. This system that permits refusal of medical care to the transgendered must be changed, and we will change it!]
Since I've undertaken my gender voyage I've been told I couldn't do many things. Because I'm stubborn, as many of you well know, I do them anyway. I've been told that I must give up cabinet making. I may later on, but it won't be because a lady shouldn't do that sort of work. Lately I've been told I cannot change my name in Ohio without a "legal" name change. I just did it and in doing so made it possible for others to do the same.
While not everyone would agree with me, I do believe that I was born transsexual for a reason. I believe that I finally had to deal with my transsexualism when I did for a reason, that the Goddess is guiding me on my course. When I first tried to get my Driver's License changed, the new license was snatched out of my hands at the last minute, just after having been printed out. I talked with representatives of the Ohio DMV, listened to their excuses and argued my case to no avail. I talked to the Ohio Civil Rights Commission and was told that as a transsexual I have no civil rights. I talked to the Ohio Attorney General's office and was told by a extremely rude lady attorney that my choices in the matter were limited to suing the State or getting a legal name change. I was advised by many of my sisters to just "bite the bullet" and do the change.
There are very good reasons why I didn't want to do a legal name change. A "legal" name change requires publication of a notice in the county of residence. If you live in Franklin County or one of the other large Ohio cities' counties, this notice can be published in a legal notices newsletter that only attorneys and bill collectors read. However, if you live in a rural county, as I do, your only choice is the local paper, which of course everyone reads. In Delaware county that means the Delaware Gazette. They publish their legal notices on page two in bold (and I do mean bold) print. Publishing there would mean you are out to everyone in the county, instantly, bigots and nice people alike. You point the bigots straight towards you and therefore become a target for hate crimes. Think it can't happen? Think again. Why do you think we keep our meeting locations and times confidential? The club gets a number of threatening calls to our screening number on a regular basis. There are people out there who want to hurt us.
A state that refuses to acknowledge basic civil rights for transsexuals demands that those same transsexuals publish their names and addresses in the local paper. It demands that they make themselves targets for hate crimes and discrimination against which it offers no protection. That simply is not fair.
Had I succeeded in getting my DL changed that first time, it would have only been because of sloppy procedure on the part of the clerk. No one but myself would have benefited, and the next TS to apply for a change of name and sex marker would have had the same problem. I don't think the Goddess let me have the new DL because I needed to change the system for the others. She held out the new DL and then took it away to drive home the point. I was supposed to do this "right". This is why I didn't take the advice of some other sisters to claim a Franklin county address and do the change there. It wouldn't have been right. I would have been cheating. I have no intentions of apologizing for my spiritual beliefs here. The message was clear to me.
Today, after a long, hard battle, I scored that victory for myself and for TSs statewide. It is not necessary to get a "legal" name change through the courts in order to change the name on one's driver's license. This is how I did it, and any TS can do it the same way: I had already changed my social security account name. This is fairly easy to do. A letter from your therapist with both your old name and your new name on it works just fine, but it must be the original, not a copy. For a second ID I used my Crystal Club ID card. The change in my Social Security account information was really all I needed.
I had been told repeatedly that the Ohio administrative code specifying the forms of identification required for driver's licenses and state ID cards requires me to have a "legal name change." It does not, and once I finally got my hands on a copy of the administrative code, that was plain to see. It says that if you cannot produce two forms of identification that show your legal name, birth date, and social security number, then you can use your court order for a legal name change and your old ID. It lists the criteria for the legal documents used to identify yourself. They must be "certified" or otherwise official and they must be verifiable. What I did was take my social security account card to the social security office and get a printout of my account information. The printout was stamped, making it certified. It had my new legal name, my social security number and my date and place of birth on it. It fit all the criteria listed. The secondary document requirements are much much looser. In my case my therapist's carry letter was more than enough. The key is that the printout from the Social Security people MUST be stamped, if not it isn't certified and you can be refused. The second part of the code gives examples of primary and secondary documents that are acceptable, and a printout from Social Security is listed as a secondary document. This means nothing! It is simply a list of what they will accept. By naming the criteria in the first part of the code, they established what is needed.
The same DMV office that refused me the first time had to accept my documents the second time. For what it's worth, a passport would have also worked but I'm not planning on leaving the country and I didn't want to spend the money required. So what happened on the gender marker? I asked the clerk to change it and she said she wasn't allowed to. I pointed out that nowhere in the law was gender or sex defined and that of seven different ways of determining sex, I was female by five of them, possibly mixed on one and only male by one. She almost bought it, asked her supervisor, and was told "no". I didn't fight it.
After my picture was taken, there was a mix-up on my new license. It stated that I needed an interlock device on my car for a drinking and driving offense. That isn't true so they had to change it and do it again. The new clerk asked if everything else was right and I said "I wish you'd correct the gender" She did. The new license was printed but the machine was acting up and the original clerk came by and asked if they had fixed the problem. She looked at my new license and said, "She can't have the 'F.' It's got to be done over again." They called the State office and found out that, no, Cathy isn't a woman according to the state. Once more something that would have been only for my benefit was shown to me, almost mine and then snatched away by the Goddess. The message is clear. The battle needs to be fought for all, not just slipped by for myself. In the meantime, I'm now officially Cathy and no one can say different anymore.
I'll get the "F" as well, and in such a way that all after me can do the same.
I've always held that if one shows one's best side and acts only with sincerity and good will, that one's acceptance by others is virtually assured. Apparently I have been mistaken. Apparently I have expected too much from others. What one seems to get when one conducts one's self in this manner is tolerance, which is not the same thing as acceptance. Tolerance is at best an absence of malice and is at worst self restraint against expressing one's hatred or bigotry; however, acceptance is approval. Tolerance is about appearance and is an epiphenomenon of good manners. Acceptance, however, is about attitudes and substance. Tolerance and acceptance are usually indistinguishable to the naive observer, but ultimately their differences become clear in the course of human interactions. Such was the case in the course of our dealings with the Ohio Division of the American Cancer Society.
My own dealings with the American Cancer Society (ACS) began when my mom was diagnosed with adenocarcinoma of the lung just before her 80th birthday. Unfortunately her first symptoms were neural, as the cancer had already spread to her brain. I was quite rattled by her condition because I was partially to blame for it, although admittedly in a way I could not have prevented. About a year earlier, my wife had outed me to my mom rather viciously, and that drove her into a state of depression, bringing about a series of life changes that sadly exacerbated her depression greatly. Had she not been depressed over my gender issues, her immune system would not have been suppressed, and that first cancerous cell almost definitely would have been killed in its infancy. While I realize I am not to blame for her cancer, I still drew a rather strong personal connection between her cancer and the plight of the transgendered. If nothing else, her cancer was testimony to the fact that cancer affects people of all walks, including the transgendered and their families.
As my mom's cancer progressed, I took on the job of caring for her myself, but the strain on my family and my sanity quickly became unbearable. That was when all the troops were mobilized in support of my mom and our family. My mom was admitted into the Grant/Riverside Hospice program, and the people with Hospice were wonderful to us, giving us the physical and emotional support we needed to endure the tragic episode. Among other things, several of the Hospice workers helped me to approach my mom about "Sarah" to bring closure to the matter. Until then, my mom had viewed "Sarah" as a bizarre stranger, but only two weeks before her death she came to know, love, and accept Sarah as her daughter. I don't know whether that would have been possible without the generous help of the Hospice workers. Needless to say, I, Sarah, transgendered daughter of a cancer victim, became very endeared to the entire cancer treatment infrastructure, including of course the ACS.
My late parents raised me to repay good deeds two-fold, so I, Sarah, felt a strong obligation to Hospice and to the ACS. After my mom's death, I requested that all her friends and relatives make charitable contributions to the ACS and the American Lung Association, rather than sending flowers. Moreover, rather than re-selling her thousands of dollars worth of fine clothes privately, I donated them to the ACS's Discovery Shoppe, their upscale resale shop. It seemed only right that her clothes should fill their racks. I also made it a point to shop there and refer other shoppers to them, since they need shoppers every bit as much as donors.
While the Discovery Shoppe volunteers and management were very happy to receive my donations and money, I felt I should give some of myself. I had time I could volunteer, and they needed volunteers, so I felt I should offer them my help. Specifically, I thought I should offer them my help as Sarah. First, it is Sarah, not "Jim," who owed them a greater debt of gratitude. Second, it was primarily a women's clothing shop, where Sarah would fit in much better than Jim. Finally, my wife had already broadcast the word about "Sarah" throughout my community, so my being more "public" in a quiet resale shop would not be a problem. The next time I was shopping there as Sarah, being lavished with praise from the volunteers over my clothing choices, I asked them about volunteering. "Oh, we can always use more volunteers," they exclaimed. They asked me to check back later with the manager, Cynthia Foster, making certain to give me her information.
The next day I called Ms. Foster and discussed with her my thoughts about volunteering. Actually it was a one-sided discussion, since she was rather silent on the other end of the phone. I broke the silence by suggesting that she probably didn't know anything about me and was probably expecting a rather loud, flamboyant person. I told her I am well mannered and present myself tastefully and that I would appreciate the opportunity to meet with her to allay any of her fears. We arranged to meet the next afternoon.
The day of our meeting, I dressed very professionally, not so much for the sake of the meeting, but because that evening I would be speaking to the GLBS group at OSU as part of a transgender panel. When I presented similarly at a professional conference the previous November, my adviser joked that I looked like a medical student. I walked into the Discovery Shoppe, head held high, confident in my presentation, and introduced myself to Ms. Foster. She seemed cordial at first, asking me to step into another room to chat with her.
While I was doing my best to explain to her why I wanted to volunteer and why it was important for me to do so as Sarah, and while I was discussing with her several myths about transgendered people, she was busily trying to invent excuses to turn me away. I asked her if she found anything distasteful or offensive about my presentation, and she replied that she did not; however, she said customers would probably be offended. I reassured her that people rarely if ever had negative reactions to me and that I wouldn't expect anyone to react negatively at the Discovery Shoppe. I elaborated that most of those who are intolerant are men who are insecure in their masculinity, unlikely customers at a shop that sells primarily women's clothing. She grudgingly acknowledged my point and then expressed that her mostly elderly volunteers would probably have a difficult time working with me. I recounted to her how friendly and complimentary they had been with me on previous occasions, even knowing my transgender status. Then she said that many of her customers would be taken by surprise -- that they often would walk about the store half clothed if they thought only women were there and that they could be very embarrassed and offended if they discovered after the fact that a transgendered person was present. While I had never observed any such behavior before, I could only ask her whether the same problem would present itself with me shopping there, either as Sarah or as Jim, or in the event a man would enter the store to shop for men's clothing unbeknownst to a woman in the dressing stall. She had no answer, but she suggested I could volunteer as Jim and work in the back sorting and cleaning clothing. Of course the possibility might often present itself that I would step into the front of the store, only to be standing face to face with a startled, half-naked woman! I told her that I would not be hidden in the back room in shame, that I was there to volunteer as Sarah, not Jim, but that I would be happy to work in the back provided I could also work in the front.
I continued to reassure her that I would be happy to identify myself as transgendered by wearing a button (e.g. "Transgendered and Proud!") and in fact would prefer to do so. She replied that not everybody would be able to read or would know what "transgendered" and/or the universal male/female biological symbols mean. I must admit she had me stumped. Of course a person who could neither read nor understand universal symbols would probably be quite accustomed to embarrassing moments such as walking into the wrong public toilet and seeing a row of startled men lined up against a wall!
I told Ms. Foster it was obvious (from her excuse making) I would not be getting a volunteer position at the Discovery Shoppe but that I still wanted to fill out a volunteer application form to be considered for some other volunteer position with the ACS. She reluctantly handed me a form, I imagine not being able to justify not letting me apply. As I filled out the lengthy form, I overheard Ms. Foster interviewing another prospective volunteer not ten feet away. Hardly any questions were asked, and half of the discussion focused on how badly they needed volunteers at that store. After a few short minutes, she asked the girl when she could start. I was very angry and resentful as the girl left, but I had to remind myself that it was not her fault that Ms. Foster was a bigot. With the strength and resolve of the lady Ms. Foster probably never had to be, I remained calm and collected and continued with the task at hand.
As I continued filling out the form, I was impressed with how positive my qualifications were. I suspect that some of their volunteers had never finished high school and had spent their lives as full-time housewives. Some of them had a hard time doing simple math and working a simple pocket calculator. As a person with the equivalent of a minor in mathematics (My university didn't award or acknowledge minor degrees.) and a Ph.D. in neurobiology, and as a theoretician with considerable experience doing computer and mathematical models of complicated acoustical systems, I felt I could probably add a series of prices correctly and even manage to calculate sales tax. Even more remarkably, I suspected I could calculate change correctly. OK, I admit I had an unfair advantage on the volunteers; I worked one summer of my youth as a cashier at Sears. Of course to be an effective volunteer in a fast-paced resale shop, one must know much more than how to press buttons on a calculator without chipping a nail. One must also know something about clothing. I already knew I had far better "clothing sense" than the women working there, as much of the clothing was seriously mislabeled (e.g. size 10 skirts tagged as size 16), and one of the volunteers was actually surprised I wasn't a size 6. (Yeah, right! In my dreams!!)
The most labor-intensive part of the application form was a list of volunteer opportunities. (I use the term "opportunities" loosely here, since "opportunity" can often be a cruel illusion.) There were perhaps a couple dozen volunteer positions which one could select. I selected probably half of them as positions I felt I could fill. I had two criteria for selecting each position. First, I had to be qualified to do the job well. Second, it could not be a job in which I could be hidden away from public view in shame (e.g. data entry). I have more pride than to let myself be hidden away. I'm a better person than that!
After I finished filling out the form, I handed it to Ms. Foster, who said coldly that she would hand it in for me. She told me the matter would be referred to her superior, Glenda Overbach (Vice President in charge of the Central Ohio region), who would likely be contacting me in reply. Although I knew that my application probably would not be dignified with a response, I smiled politely, thanked the manager for having been so generous with her time, and left. On my way out, I bade a couple of the elderly volunteers good-bye, and they reciprocated in kind, smiling sweetly.
After such time as it had become obvious I would not be hearing from Ms. Overbach, I called her on the phone. Ms. Overbach apologized for not having contacted, explaining that she thought the issue had been settled. I told her that I still wanted to know in what capacity I could volunteer for the ACS, which was why I submitted the application. Regrettably, I did not have the foresight to copy the application, and I had trouble remembering all of the possible volunteer positions I had checked on the form. I discussed what few of them I could remember and was turned down for each of them. Then Ms. Overbach suggested we organize a team and participate in the Relay for Life. I said that would be fine but that I was interested in finding out how I (or anyone else from the community I represent) could do volunteer work on a regular basis with the ACS. Despite repeated efforts on my part to pursue that line of inquiry, she kept returning to the subject of the Relay for Life, so I engaged her in that discussion.
During our conversation, Ms. Overbach strongly encouraged us to consider participating in the Relay for Life before seeking out volunteer positions with the ACS. I asked whether she felt that way because she would prefer to see just how well transgendered people integrate with the public, and she replied affirmatively. While other applicants are not required to prove themselves worthy of volunteer positions, we transgendered people are. I suppose that's reasonable to anyone of the frame of mind that we are somehow inferior or immoral people, so I humored her. In fairness to Ms. Overbach, she claims not to recall ever discussing our participation for evaluation purposes. Her suggestion also seemed to be an unspoken challenge, as though she thought offering us the Relay for Life would appease us but that we would be too frightened to participate in it. In any event, I told Ms. Overbach we would do the Relay for Life, but that it was with the understanding that we would then be considered for regular volunteer positions thereafter. She acknowledged that she understood, and so I signed up our team. Again, Ms. Overbach reports no memory of our having discussed this condition.
We ultimately participated in the Relay for Life at considerable personal sacrifice. I fronted the $100 registration fee for entering our team, which was $100 more than I had to give, and ultimately only five of us had not been intimidated by Ms. Overbach's clever challenge. Of that five, Mary Ann needed to attend the Transgender Law Conference concurrently in Houston, and Caitlyn was having heart problems, leaving Cathy, Stephy, and me. The three of us put in our best effort, walking over 80 miles to prove ourselves worthy of volunteering for the ACS. This effort was quite remarkable, considering Cathy's bad knee and Stephy's injured foot.
What came of the event, besides our having given the ACS our $100 and our having practically killed ourselves walking 80 miles to put on a good show? At first, people gave us some good, long looks, especially since I was wearing my "Transgendered and Proud!" tee-shirt. Nobody said anything, and nobody was rude. They simply noticed us, which was expected. As the relay progressed into the wee hours of the morning, others could see that we three trannies had been putting forth a rather heroic effort with precious little support. We gained their respect. Initial looks of curiosity later turned to occasional smiles of appreciation. Everyone there knew who and what we were, and nobody said or did anything to us that could be construed as rude or discourteous.
The ultimate proof of our acceptance was our use of the ladies' toilets. Prior to the event, I had talked with Nancy Minton about the restroom issue, explaining to her that both Ann Landers and Dear Abby say we should use the ladies' room. She replied, "If it's OK with Ann and Abby, it's OK with me!" We had to go to the toilet several times, especially considering that we were sipping water to remain hydrated, and we of course used the ladies' room. On most of our trips there, other women were also using the facility. They undoubtedly had little question about our gender and sex, especially considering they could read all about it on the front of my fuchsia tee-shirt; however, nobody commented to us, nobody seemed uneasy, and nobody complained. I ran into Nancy several times, and we chatted briefly. She is really a very nice person, but I'm certain she would not have been so nice if she had thought our presence had made other participants uncomfortable, particularly in the ladies' toilet.
I was very disappointed our little team did not have the woman-power and super-human endurance to complete the relay, but I was nevertheless quite pleased at our having been so well accepted. I felt surely we had proven ourselves to the ACS, and I was prepared to inquire once again about volunteer opportunities. Although I had initially intended to approach Ms. Overbach, another opportunity arose first. A short time before our participation in the Relay for Life, Cynthia Foster, the manager, had sent a message to me via one of the Crystal Club members, requesting that the Discovery Shoppe be Pink Listed. I had thought that quite ironic, considering the cool reception she had given me earlier. When I had returned earlier to inquire whether her attitudes had changed, I found out that she had resigned, and I was asked to discuss the matter with the next manager after one was found. Well, shortly after the relay, I was shopping in the Discovery Shoppe and overheard one of the volunteers telling one customer how desperately they needed volunteers and telling another customer the new manager was in the back. It seemed only appropriate that I approach the new manager and ask her to consult with Ms. Overbach about my suitability as a volunteer.
I first approached the elderly volunteer who I had overheard speaking with the other two customers. She was the same volunteer who had so many times showered me shamelessly with praise. I had previously told her I am transgendered, and she had remained very friendly and gushingly complimentary. However, when I told her I overheard her mentioning that they are desperate for volunteers, she leaned forward with a malicious glint in her eye and said, "Yes we are, IF they'll have you!" I asked politely to speak with the new manager about the possibility, and she reluctantly agreed. First she had to finish handling my purchase. While she was taking my money, she called me "he" and "him" several times to a coworker, clearly out of disrespect. I corrected her twice, politely both times, yet she continued in the same vein. Her rudeness was all the more disturbing because she was giving air to her bigotry in front of another customer. Finally she brought the new manager and told her, "HE would like to talk to you." I corrected her again, much more pointedly.
The manager, Ms. Donna McGarey, asked me to step aside into the same room where I had previously been rejected by Cynthia Foster. I introduced myself to her and gave her a short history of why I was there. I emphasized that I was approaching the Discovery Shoppe again because it was my understanding they wanted to be Pink Listed, elaborating that I would not consider the shop transgender friendly if transgendered volunteers were unwelcome there. I asked her if their unwritten policies had changed and whether they would consider having me as a volunteer. She pointed out several times that she was new and was unfamiliar with this issue -- that she would need to ask her superiors. I expressed my understanding of her position and asked her (later) to consult with Ms. Overbach and Ms. Minton about the matter, explaining my previous interactions with them. We discussed at some length why I wanted to volunteer there and why my being there would not be a problem. To her credit, she at least considered the possibility of my volunteering, as she asked me if I would be willing to work in the back. I replied that I would work in the back if I could also work in the front -- that I would not be hidden in shame -- that I'm better than that. During the discussion, she explained a few times that she had been told not to accept male volunteers at the Discovery Shoppe. I found that odd, since she apparently considered having me work in the back. Did she consider me male or female? I retorted repeatedly that I'm not "male" -- that I'm a transgendered female. She finally replied, "but you are male...... aren't you?" I elaborated that I am genetically male but that inside, where it counts, I'm female. She of course indicated her concern that the customers would be disturbed by my presence. I asked her if she found anything about my presentation disturbing, and she replied that she did not. We ended the conversation inconclusively, with the understanding that she would consult with her superiors and contact me regarding their decision. We parted with a smile and a handshake.
The next day I received a phone call from a very angry Glenda Overbach. She warned me not to "harass" the people at the Discovery Shoppe anymore, claiming that she had several witnesses to my "aggressive" encounter with the manager. I explained to her my reason for approaching them -- that Ms. Foster had requested they be Pink Listed, that I was told to talk with the new manager when they hired one, and that I considered my ability to volunteer at the shop a very good indication of just how transgender friendly they are. I told her that I understood by "proving" ourselves at the Relay for Life that we could be considered for regular volunteer positions. She told me that she had said no such thing. I emphasized that we had in fact proven ourselves not to be a problem in our interactions with the public and that she could contact Ms. Minton for verification. I added that I would be happy to meet with her so that she could see I'm not a freak. She replied sternly, "I know who you are!" I can only wonder how she knew which one of the three I was. I suppose Ms. Minton must have pointed me out to her. I don't know which person Ms. Overbach was, but I do know that (1) she did not have the common decency to introduce herself to me, after having pulled us into participating in the event, obviously at great hardship, and (2) no ACS representative treated us with the slightest hint of intolerance, I would presume even Ms. Overbach. Although I tried to engage Ms. Overbach in substantive discussion as to why she thought I was not acceptable as a volunteer, her arguments were evasive and insincere and ultimately distilled down to the diplomatic equivalent of "... because I said so!" She offered to discuss the issue at her next meeting, apparently to appease me, but I have not heard back from her.
It is with great disappointment and pain that I must accept that the Ohio Division of the American Cancer Society is a highly bigoted and hypocritical organization. The ACS is eager to receive our donations and thrilled to have us buy things from them, yet they are unwilling to acknowledge our worth as human beings, even at the very most basic level. They seem to regard us as defective and subhuman, and there is no place for defective, subhuman beings among the ranks of the American Cancer Society. Our only worth is our money. This realization is particularly painful to me in light of the previous ties I had with them during and after my mother's bout with cancer. I know my mother would have been hurt too,
I must reluctantly decline the Discovery Shoppe's request to be Pink Listed. The Discovery Shoppe is not transgender friendly. While the one volunteer a transgendered customer is most likely to encounter will express nothing but sweetness and light, behind her syrupy demeanor lies the shriveled heart of a hateful bigot, and she will likely talk badly about the customer once she leaves the shop. Furthermore, I can no longer in good conscience endorse the involvement of any Ohio transgender organization with the American Cancer Society, in view of the bigotry of their upper management. Instead, I think we should seek out more enlightened organizations that do accept us without prejudice and funnel our support to them.
Kenneth Setchell and his colleagues at the Children's Hospital Medical Center in Cincinnati have found that babies fed soy-based formulae (a milk substitute for babies who are milk-intolerant) are exposed to phytoestrogen levels as much as 11 times greater than most adults and up to 22,000 times higher than babies who are fed cow's milk formulae or breast milk. Phytoestrogens are substances in plants that mimic the female sex steroid estrogen. While their effects are not as strong as those of human estrogens, they nevertheless are strong enough to be used as herbal remedies. Herbal "hormones" are very widely marketed for use by postmenopausal women to replace natural estrogens, whose levels are severely diminished. One popular herbal mixture is even called "Change-O-Life." Herbal hormones are also used by preoperative transsexuals for body feminization. It is commonly accepted by transsexuals and medical professionals alike that these substances do result in limited feminization, including enlargement of breast tissues.
It should be a point of great concern whether soy phytoestrogens exert feminizing effects on babies, particularly baby boys. The most irreversible effects, of course, would be on brain development. During brain development, the cells of the brain differentiate under hormonal control to be either "male" or "female". Once differentiated, these cells cannot change "gender," irrespective of the hormonal environment later. Not surprisingly, the "gender" of the cells in the brain determines how the brain will wire itself and ultimately what patterns of thought and behavior will be exhibited. Boys and men behave as boys and men because their brains differentiated that way, and the same is true of girls and women. While most of brain differentiation occurs prenatally, some parts of the brain are still differentiating and maturing during the first year of life.
The inescapable conclusion is that male infants fed on soy milk may be at risk for having some parts of their brains feminized from the high levels of phytoestrogens, resulting ultimately in gender dysphoria. Whether soy phytoestrogens cross the blood-brain barrier is not well understood, but in all likelihood they do. Also, the particular effects of soy phytoestrogens are not well understood, although they are known to have a preventative effect on some hormonally related diseases, including heart disease and some forms of cancer. Clearly more research is needed in order to assess the effects, if any, of soy-based formulae on brain development.
In Gainsville, Florida, Dale Robb, a human resources counselor for the Agency for Health Care Administration, had been reporting to work with a progressively more feminized presentation, as is often occurs with transgendered persons. Robb's coworkers had never complained until recently, when she showed for work as Sabrina Robb. While she was dressed tastefully and violated no official dress codes, some coworkers claimed to have been offended and distracted. Her supervisor, Dotti Pohleven, reports, "He's an excellent employee and a great asset to the MediPass program. He's very dependable. He's thorough. We have, from time to time, contact with (Medicaid) providers and with clients, and it's been a concern what their reaction is. But it's too soon to really know if there's any reaction at all."
Because local officials saw Robb's presentation as a nonissue, U.S. Representative Cliff Stearns (R, Florida) has taken the lead in calling for the imposition of discriminatory dress codes which would prevent Sabrina from dressing appropriately to her preferred gender. He says, "It sends wrong signals to our children and people of this county if we tolerate these cultural values. I think the public would have a high level of discomfort with his work activities. That's why I feel pretty strongly about doing this. It's antithetical to our morals in Ocala."
Stearns cited two cases in a letter to Florida Senate President Toni Jennings and Speaker of the House Daniel Webster which he claims justify the imposition of a gender-discriminatory dress code. In the first case, the Supreme Court decided that the government can dictate the proper length of a police officer's hair. In the second case, the court ruled that, The First Amendment guarantees free speech and assembly, but it does not guarantee the government employ." Both Jennings' and Webster's offices are investigating the situation. Jennings' office has contacted the agency, but AHCA spokeswoman, Colleen David, reports that there have been no changes in AHCA policy. She points out that one of the agency's goals is to protect the rights of all the employees, as well as the public. She acknowledges that the employee dress code may require some revision but that Robb's manner of dress has not caused any substantive problems in the work environment.
Robyn Blumner, executive director of the ACLU of Florida, says, "Certainly the employer can and should tolerate differences in personal appearance and dress, but the likelihood is the court would find that the state employer is not constitutionally obligated to tolerate them." She added, "If he's acting like a disruptive influence, an employer should respond to that. The courts would uphold the employer's ability to regulate the workplace. If the employer is interested in leaving this guy alone to let him do his job, then leave him alone, and good for the employer for having an open mind about this."
by Dianna Mills
As most of you know, we will be having our annual "Weekend in the Park" on October 24th and 25th. In the past we have had a wonderful time and have been welcomed cordially by the park staff. It's a great chance to meet the public in a fairly safe environment. We have had no problems the past 2 years with anyone at the lodge and I'm looking forward to another great weekend.
At present, we only have 4 members signed up for cabins. We need to have at least another 4 people sign up to keep both cabins reserved. For the cost of $60.00 this is one of the least expensive outings that I know of. You will have the opportunity to spend from Friday evening until Sunday morning dressed, and will have a chance to have the pajama party that you always wanted to attend. Some of the gals may even choose to go down to the Jeffersonville Outlet Mall to do some shopping. The meal Saturday evening at the lodge is not very expensive and of course is optional. In the past we have had a nice time and the staff has been very accepting of our group.
Anyway, our regular October meeting will be held at the cabin, and all are welcome. If you choose just to come for the Saturday meeting, the regular $10 fee applies. If you choose to spend the weekend, the $10.00 fee is included in the $60.00.
I will have information about the event at our next meeting and hope that we find enough support from the group to allow us to continue having this event. If you are able to attend, please bring a deposit of $30.00 to our next meeting.
This tip comes from my very clever 9-year-old son John: If you're traveling and want to hide most of your cash in your purse where nobody would find it, just place it in an empty pump-type hair spray bottle. If someone snatches your purse, there's a good chance that he will loot it for your money and throw it in the trash, and if you recover your purse (which is probable), you will no doubt get your hair spray bottle back!
This related tip comes from a close colleague with considerable experience in bad neighborhoods. If a mugger demands your purse or wallet at gunpoint, shout, "Take it!" while throwing it on the ground behind him. Immediately run the other way, as though in a panic. Remember, all the mugger wants is your purse or wallet, and he would probably rather not commit a more serious crime such as murder or assault with a deadly weapon. He really could care less whether you escape -- unless of course he is disappointed with what he finds in your wallet or purse or finds something that would lead him to make further demands. Don't give him the chance!
Copyright © 1997 by the Crystal Club all rights reserved. Articles and information contained in The Crystal Chronicle may be reprinted by other non-profit organizations without advanced permission, provided the author and source is cited and a copy of the issue containing the reprinted material is sent to the Crystal Club within two months of publication. The opinions or statements contained in the Crystal Chronicle are those of the authors' and do not necessarily reflect the views of the editor or the Crystal Club. Furthermore, neither the Crystal Club nor the Crystal Chronicle editor assume responsibility for any consequences resulting either directly or indirectly either from advice or from any other materials contained in this newsletter. Contributions of articles are encouraged but may be altered with the author's intent retained or may be rejected, whether solicited or not. Absolutely no sexually explicit material will be accepted or printed. Contributions may be emailed directly to the editor or sent to the postal address below. The Crystal Club is a non-profit support group for transvestites, crossdressers, transsexuals, female impersonators, and other transgendered individuals. Spouses and significant others are welcome and are encouraged to participate. Both male-to-female and female-to-male individuals are welcome. Also, members from related organizations, helpful professionals, and approved guests are welcome when cleared through a Crystal Club elected officer. Club policies, meeting dates, locations, and fees are available on request through our address below. We will exchange newsletters with any other similar group. Send all correspondence to: The Crystal Club, P.O. Box 287, Reynoldsburg, Ohio 43068-0287. (614) 231-1368.