Understanding Transgender People

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Some people feel threatened or uncomfortable with the existence of transgender people living in society with them. As with homosexuality, taking the time to understand transgender people may reduce feelings of fear or threat. You also need to understand that transgender people do not choose to be the way they are but discover at some point that this is part of their makeup.

The American Psychological Association published an excellent article in 2023 called Understanding transgender people, gender identity, and gender expression which clarifies what is known about transgender include the following considerations:

  • Transgender is an umbrella term for persons whose gender identity, gender expression or behavior does not conform to that typically associated with the sex to which they were assigned at birth.
  • Sex as assigned at birth, refers to one’s biological status as either male or female, and is associated primarily with physical attributes such as chromosomes, hormone prevalence as well as external and internal anatomy.
  • Gender refers to the socially constructed roles, behaviors, activities and attributes appropriate for boys and men or girls and women.
  • Transgender persons have been documented in many indigenous Western and Eastern cultures from antiquity until the present day.
  • Genderqueer is a term that some people use who identify their gender as falling outside the binary constructs of “male” and “female.”
  • Cross-dressing such as with drag queens and drag kings is not indicative of sexual orientation.
  • There is no single explanation for why some people are transgender.
  • Sexual orientation refers to physical, romantic and/or emotional attraction to another person, whereas gender identity refers to one’s internal sense of being male, female or something else.
  • Transgender people experience their gender identity in a variety of ways and may become aware of their transgender identity at any age.
  • People who transition often start by expressing their preferred gender in situations where they feel safe.
  • The process of transition differ widely among transgender people.
  • Many obstacles may lead to distress, including a lack of acceptance in society, direct or indirect experiences with discrimination, or assault. But this does not mean that being transgender is a mental illness or disorder.

The National Center for Transgender Equality in an article titled Understanding Transgender People: The basics, adds the following considerations:

  • Someone who lives as a woman today is called a transgender woman while a transgender man lives as a man today.
  • Gender expression refers to how a person presents their gender on the outside.
  • When a person begins to live according to their gender identity, rather than the gender they were thought to be when they were born, this time period is called gender transition.
  • Some people undergo hormone therapy or other medical procedures to change their physical characteristics and make their body match the gender they know themselves to be.
  • Some transgender people identify as neither a man nor a woman and may use terms like nonbinary or genderqueer to describe their gender identity.

Suicide and suicide attempts have been studied in the United States and in India, reported in the Indian Journal of Psychological Medicine. Recent international suicide attempt rates ranged from 32% to 50% in various countries. Factors contributing to these attempts were found to include:

  • Gender based victimization.
  • Discrimination.
  • Bullying.
  • Violence.
  • Rejection by family, friends and the community, police and public.
  • Discrimination and ill treatment at health care centers.
  • Breakup of love relationships initiated by the partner.
  • Serious altercations with other family members.
  • Refusal of gender/sex assignment by the family members.
  • Financial problems.
  • Being diagnosed with HIV positive in the past few days or weeks.

Research also identified resiliency and protective factors reducing the probability of suicide attempts. These include:

  • Personal qualities such as assertive communication, self-advocacy, spiritual coping, honesty, integrity, avoidance of physical or verbal aggression, help seeking, being future -oriented, having personal goals, being outspoken, strong, friendly, outgoing, independent and determined.
  • Social support from family.
  • Online support from groups like the Trevor Project which provides telephonic, online, E-mail peer counseling, crisis intervention and online materials as well as information about suicide.
  • More inclusion of services specifically for transgender youth in wider teen-focused help programs.

With all the negative publicity and public outrage about transgender people, one good thing did happen recently. Judge James Moody issued an injunction against an Arkansas law banning trans youth and their families from seeking gender-affirming medical care. There is hope!

The End of Humanity?

Mark O’Connell wrote an article in the New York Review of Books called Hastening the End. His article was a review of Adam Kirsch’s book, The Revolt Against Humanity: Imagining a Future Without Us. The review starts with the question, “If humanity were to disappear from the earth, what would be lost?” In his opinion, our human civilization would cease to exist, but the Earth would be better off as well as all the other life forms remaining on Earth. Although not an optimistic outlook for humans, we seem to be well on our way toward extinction with some segments of our society clearly working toward self destruction of our representation on earth although not consciously. This is accompanied by a lack of real concern about sustaining our environment. Some thinkers discussed in the book think that the only way Earth can survive is without us. Some of us are willing to make at least modest efforts toward sustaining our environment, but so far this is far less than a total commitment to a viable future at least for humans. We remain fairly oblivious to the needs of Earth and to forms of life other than human. Thinkers discussed in this book see two alternatives for Earth’s survival. One is to remove ourselves by stopping procreation of our species. “No more babies!” leading to eventual extinction. The other is to adopt a part human/part machine existence for human-like beings. I have long hoped that humanity could come to its senses and find a way to live in a way beneficial to the Earth and its other than human inhabitants. Instead we off at best a way to somewhat minimize our destructive and parasitic relationship with the Earth and its other inhabitants. The longer we wait to discover realistic and effective alternatives, the less likely it is that we can do anything constructive in a timely manner. We need to stop taking baby steps and act courageously and decisively to save our Earthly home before it is too late.

What Are Friends For?

I value the friend who for me finds time on his calendar, but I cherish the friend who for me does not consult his calendar.

~Robert Brault~

I was thinking the other day that we tend to take friends for granted. We expect them to be there when we need them, to understand us and support our efforts.

I realized that all friends are not the same. We have acquaintances whom we greet when we see them. We usually know each other by name, briefly comment on the weather, sports or other shared interests and go on about our business.

Another group of friends consists of people with whom we may go to events, share tools or help out with major projects. They are not in our lives on a constant basis but seem to show up when needed, sometimes without being asked. We expect these friends to be aware of our needs and help out when they can. We do the same for them. We tend to be offended if they ignore our needs.

We have close friends who know more about us. We share with them the major struggles in our lives and expect them to know how we feel about most things. Even if our opinions do not agree, we expect them to respect what we think, as we do for them.

There is another level of friendship whose members have come to be known as soul mates. They know us better than we know ourselves. They can act as our conscience and can tell us things which would cause offense if we heard them from someone else. They are almost part of us and can sense what we think or feel.

These four types of friendship develop from acquaintanceship to deeper relationships over time if we let them. Some people don’t allow themselves to have many acquaintances, if any. They routinely ignore others’ attempts to share a friendly hello and make it clear that they do not want to share their lives with anyone. After a while people stop making the effort and leave them to their isolation.

We can return friendly chatter and keep our involvement at that level. Or we can begin to share some of ourselves and take an interest in others in return. As we discover what we have in common, interests grow and deepen. Again we have a choice of how much we are willing to share.

As we get to know and trust casual friends, they may eventually join the circle of our close friends. We know they will be there for us when we have a major crisis and we are there for theirs as well. We share deeply in each other’s joys and sorrows and sometimes seem like part of each other’s families.

Soul mates do not seem to be chosen. I don’t think we pick people out at any of the three previous stages and decide we would like them as soul mates. It just happens over time. It is almost as if we allow these people into our brains and emotional centers so that they become part of us. I don’t think everyone has a soul mate.

Many people are not comfortable sharing enough of themselves to allow this level of intimacy. No matter how many friends we have, it is our job to treasure them and let them know we appreciate them, as well as being there for them when they need us.

Action Steps

  • What do you expect from your friends?
  • Are your expectations realistic?
  • Do you expect more from your friends than you are willing to give?
  • Do your offer your friends the best you have?
  • Let your friends know how much you treasure them.

Selection from my book, Navigating Life: Commonsense Reflections for the Voyage, available at Amazon

Woke, Asleep or Clueless?

Manny Otike recently wrote an article in Democracy Guardian, GOP’s Antiwoke Jihad is Lazy Politicking. Republicans of an antagonistic bent have taken to casting anyone with liberal leanings into their imagined barrel of idiots, worshiping “wokism” as they they do with adherents of Critical Race Theory.

Let’s make sure we are clear about what we are discussing. Otike defines Critical Race Theory as “an academic framework that explains long-time racial injustices“. He defines Woke as “a word from African American Vernacular English otherwise known as Ebonics. The term woke was more recently adapted to mean awareness of racial and social injustices.” Now Woke is an umbrella term used by a militant faction of Republicans to deride any liberals they find objectionable. They blame on it anything they do not like in American society which rankles them.

As an example, these Republicans blame “wokism” for recent bank failures rather than the high risk loans formerly regulated by law until Trump ended the regulations which governed such loans.

DeSantis and other Republican politicians of his ilk bunch together under the term “wokism” things they do not like about American society. They are working hard to ban books, discussions or even the mention of racism or sexuality in schools, especially when it deviates from their standard of relationships deviating from their norm of one man and one woman. Also no mention of abortion is tolerated and they are working hard to ban it nationally regardless of the circumstances.

The anti-woke crowd is against open discussion, especially in schools, of just about anything they dislike and label “wokism.” They are against anything which does not fit into their anti-woke agenda. They expect their adherents to accept their simplistic biases as the last word on anything controversial. You don’t need your brain. You will be told what to think. Mantras take the place of any reasonable discussion. If you want to join this group, prepare to check your brain at the door. You don’t need to think. You will be told what to believe.

What We as a People Must Do About Anarchy

This is the last of my posts inspired by Adrienne La France’s article The New Anarchy published in the Atlantic. Today we will consider what we must do as a nation. You may have noticed that I have not mentioned Trump yet. Let’s do that now and get it over with. La France has this to say: Political violence in America unfolds with little organized guidance and is fed by a mishmash of extremist right-wing views. It predates the emergence of Donald Trump but Trump served as an accelerant. Trump made tolerance of political violence a defining trait of his party. No commentary is necessary. In periods of decivilization, ordinary people fail to find common ground with one another and lose faith in institutions and elected leaders. We are a very diverse population. In my opinion, we have benefitted from our diversity. To a large extent we have incorporated the strengths of divergent immigrant populations and forged a new culture of our own. Yet there are still people from various races and beliefs some of us have trouble incorporating despite our best efforts. There are no simple or easy ways to respond to political violence. LaFrance suggests developments which might lead to less violence:
  1. Holding perpetrators to account is critical.
  2. Improved economy.
  3. People getting tired of living in terror.
  4. Facing down those who use the language of democracy. to weaken our democratic system.
  5. Rebuking the conspiracy theorist who uses the rhetoric of truth-seeking to obscure what is real.
  6. Unmasking the terrorist who claims to love freedom.
These are a few of the specific developments we can bring about which will give us a healthier society and weaken the power of false promises made by those who propose violence in society. The reality is that violence is a way to crumble democracy or to gain revenge by those who seek power for their own ends and try to trample anyone who gets in their way. There is much more in this article about the challenges and opportunities awaiting a society coming together for our mutual benefit. LaFrance points out that this is not an easy process and will take generations to fully incorporate. We have met many challenges since the founding of our country but we still have more challenges awaiting us. I highly recommend this article to all who hope for resolution to our troubled times.

What to Expect from Our Leaders Regarding Anarchy


This is my third post on ideas presented by Adrienne LaFrance in her Atlantic article The New Anarchy. These ideas center on what we can and should expect from our leaders with regard to the threat of anarchy.

The author states that leaders in all parts of government must point out the dangers and single out perpetrators. She also states that violence must be confronted where it takes root, in the minds of citizens.

She sees it as the responsibility of our leaders to help us see when we going off track and undermining our civilization by attacking it violently and ultimately destroying the framework of our civilization.

I agree that violence does not just appear of its own accord. It begins with faulty perception of what is required to improve our way of life. There are people trying to take every opportunity to gain advantage at the expense of others and use power for their own priorities rater than for the good of our country. We will look at who this includes and what to do about them in more depth in the next post.

So where do these leaders come from? Some are interested in what is best for our country and for all of its citizens. At the other extreme are individuals who gain power through money where they buy influence or trade favors for electoral advantage.

We can’t just wait for leaders who will work in the best interest of our citizens. It should not be a surprise to find that our leaders end up in positions of authority and power through our votes.

We can elect protectors of our national values or people who use power for their own ends regardless of our needs. In that sense, the leaders we have are the result of how we vote. We all have responsibility for who our leaders are when we go the polls. We will look more closely at citizen responsibility in my next post.

Anarchy or War?

This is another post stimulated by Adrienne La France’s article, The New Anarchy in The Atlantic. She stated that violence in America, which was at a peak just before World War I, “temporarily quelled the violence.” I had never heard of such a thing.

I wondered what the connection could be. How could a world war cause a reduction in domestic violence. The only explanation I could think of is there is a thirst for violence in any given society and at least in a good proportion of its citizens. War can satisfy this thirst.

The author offered her opinion that part of the explanation was that those inclined toward domestic violence left the country so they would not be subject to military draft. This suggests to me that at least some people preferred to engage in antisocial violence rather that participate in the officially approved violence of war.

I thought back to times in my life when I might have been disposed to violence. Once when I was in middle school, I recall having had a bully in the neighborhood who terrorized me as well as anyone else who crossed his path. It finally reached a point where I felt called to action. On the way home from school he made a taunting comment to me. I tackled him into a snowbank, and stuffed as much snow into his shirt as I could. I never had any further trouble with him.

My friends and I developed a game in which we tied each other up and bound the person involved to a tree. Then we waited to see how long it took for the person to work his way out and get freed.

Once we wondered how long it would take for a girl to work her way free. We tied a girl’s hands behind her back. Much to our dismay, she became frightened and ran, slipping on some stones and scraping her face. This was the dumbest thing I had ever done and it took quite a while to be seen as human again.

After eighth grade I went to a residential seminary where violence was frowned on. Just my luck to attract another bully who took to making fun of my mild obesity with rather original names he created for his pleasure and my mortification. I plotted for some time ways to get him off my back. Somehow his behavior came to the attention of the priests in charge and soon he was on the bus back home. That was the last time I had trouble with bullies or needed to plan how to deal with them.

I have had a very peaceful life since then. My father and two of my uncles always seemed to be raging about something, but no violence erupted, at least that I saw. I had three other uncles who were models of peace for me. My most peaceful uncle became a priest. I never saw him as anywhere near violence. I learned at his funeral that he had participated in the battle of the bulge and that exposure to violence does not always lead to adopting violent ways.

Challenge Yourself to Share Your Love

You don’t choose your family.
They are God’s gift to you, as you are to them.

~Desmond Tutu~

Morals used to mean principles by which people lived. They were ways to make sense of the world, ourselves and our relationships. Morality was a word bandied about in this year’s election, but what does it really mean? I remember hearing a fair amount of talk about family values during the campaign without much explanation of any particulars.

When I listened closer, I did not hear much about what families, parents or children should do. Most of the focus was on what people should not do, such as abortion and gay marriage. This position implied that outlawing such practices would improve the quality of family life.

Even in families which profess strong adherence to a religion, there is still significant difficulty with infidelity, divorce, alcoholism, abuse and other problems. It does not appear that religious affiliation will always assure family harmony.

While the bible documents humanity’s struggle to come to terms with itself and with God, passages from the Bible have been used to justify genocide, war and many other destructive acts. It seems all too easy to forget there is a God who loves us all equally. Sometimes we are tempted to think we have special favor in God’s eyes and others are lesser beings.

Over the years, many religions have become institutionalized and fearful of growth. The end result can be a rigid set of rules, commanding what believers can and cannot do. At times, it seems there is more concern about the rules than about finding God. Some people appreciate a well defined path to salvation, absolving them of having to think about their path. Others have challenged tradition and forged their own way to God, sometimes being shunned or even executed for their efforts.

In the biblical story of the Magi, we learn about three wise men following a star in the heaven, avoiding entanglement in political intrigue and discovering Jesus, surrounded by animals and shepherds. There is something peaceful about this scene transcending traditional religions.

While moral guideposts can be helpful, we also need to look into our own hearts to see what lies there. What is important to us? Are we using the gifts God has given us to improve our lives and those of others whose lives we touch? Are we living what we believe instead of just professing our beliefs?

Spirituality transcends religion and connects us with God as well as with each other. In O Henry’s story, The Gift of the Magi, two spouses gave up their most precious possessions to enhance each other’s lives. It turned out that the things they gave up for themselves and bought for each other were less important than the love behind their choices. Our love for each other is the greatest gift God has given us. It is up to us to find ways we can share this gift with each other.

Action Steps

  • What does family mean to you?
  • Do you think of family rules or family love?Selection from my book
  • Do you th aink some people are more deserving of love than others?
  • How do you decide this?
  • Would feeling loved change a person for the better?

Selection from my book, Navigating Life: Commonsense Reflections for the Voyage, available from Amazon.



Thoughts on Anarchy: Its Causes

Adrianne LaFrance wrote an excellent and thoughtful article called The New Anarchy in the April 2023 issue of The Atlantic. I would like to comment on several points she made over my next few posts.

She writes that the conditions that making a society vulnerable to political violence are complex but well established:

  1. highly visible wealth disparity
  2. declining trust is democratic institutions
  3. a perceived sense of victimhood.
  4. intense partisan estrangement based on identity
  5. rapid demographic change
  6. flourishing conspiracy theories
  7. violent and dehumanizing rhetoric against the “other”
  8. a sharply divided electorate
  9. and a belief among those who flirt with violence that they can get away with it.

LaFrance does not state how these conditions were determined to be essential for societal vulnerability to political violence but seems to imply that are self evident and commonly accepted. If we look carefully at what goes on in the lower levels of our society, we can see all of these factors at work in creating decay and chaos in our social structure. This is not the only time in our history or in the history of other societies.

Next we will look at an interesting conundrum.

If we look at what has been happening in the past few years, we can see the presence of all of them. It seems to me that there may be other factors as well but her list gives us plenty to think about.

All of these factors have not arisen by chance. Over the course of time, we have demeaned and marginalized each other and not taken seriously the needs of all our citizens. Those left by the wayside have been most prone to suffer from the factors mentioned and to fall prey to anger about being left behind.

I’m Back

I know I said goodbye not so long ago and did not expect to be posting here again. In the past few weeks, I have received quite a number of likes for the posts I have made about my relationship with politics. I found it confusing, overwhelming and depressing.

Maybe I overreacted. I do not consider myself any kind of expert on politics and do not see myself as having any great insights into how to resolve the political conflict our country currently faces. What I do have is my bunch of concerns about where our political squabble are leading us and what they portend for the future of of our country and for the world.

I have decided to resume posting here and hope to share with you some possibilities for understanding our conflicts and ways we might be able to get past them and live in harmony. Please join me.

My next few posts will be my reaction to Adrienne LaFrance’s article in The AtlanticThe New Anarchy.