Understanding Gender Variances

design-expression-learn-247819I recently attended a workshop titled All In The Family: Gender Transitions Throughout The Lifecycle and purchased the speaker’s book titled Transgender Emergence Therapeutic Guidelines for Working with Gender-Variant People and Their Families by Arlene Istar Lev, LCSW, CASAC. One of the essential facets I walked away with was gaining insight into the world of the intersex; I was pleasantly surprised to learn the number of variances in intersex and the facts I had not ever acquired throughout any part of my career as a nurse. I continue to do as much research as I can on any given subject that I cover in any of the work I do even when it crosses over into the healthcare realm. I try to gain as much insight into the latest reports and can never possibly know everything, hence the reason we have specialists working in fields that are not well understood or addressed by every practitioner.

I currently live in Jacksonville, FL where the necessary protections for human rights continues to remain in the forefront of our brains and have left those of us who believe a human rights ordinance bill is needed for the LGBT community, bewildered, at best. In trying to understand the fears of some who argue that introducing a bill for LGBT protections against discrimination would be granting the LGBT special privileges. Last year, one of the city council members mentioned it could lead to necrophilia, while others who attended the hearings and opposed the bill, argued that we would see a rise in pedophilia and bestiality.

The resistance of those opposed to this bill is difficult to grasp, and while it was overturned and did not pass the majority voting in its favor, some of us were relieved, because we could see that if the watered down version had passed, this would leave our brothers and sisters in the transgender community at risk. Even with the watered-down version that was introduced early on as an amendment to the bill, many transgender individuals were mad and felt they had been thrown to the curb by the allies and LGB who supported the amended portion to bill 2012-296, which left out Gender Identity and Expression. Those in support of the amended bill claimed that they could return at a later time and introduce a bill for Gender Identity and Expression protecting the transgender community. Equality Florida’s Executive director, Nadine Smith, warned everyone that in accepting the watered-down version of bill 296, could result in a backlash and would not necessarily guarantee, that in the future, protections for Gender Identity and Expression would pass, as what happened to the city of Orlando, Florida where citizen tried and failed for a number of years. It wasn’t until the county of Orlando introduced the bill with full protections for LGBT, that an all-inclusive bill finally passed. Who can blame the transgender community of Jacksonville for feeling the way they do?

Where does the education begin? Does it start with language? Do we need to use the current definitions in the language and insist on a broader range of adjectives, which best describe individuals in the LGBT culture? What protections are there for individuals who are at risk for discrimination and hate crimes because of their gender variances? Does it only affect the homosexual community? Could we say that in learning what we have of gender variance within a human population that the heterosexual community is also at risk for discrimination and hate crimes? What about gender variance in the heterosexual community? Some heterosexuals deviate from expressing their gender. Who are some of our transgender individuals? Have some undergone surgery? What defines someone as transgender? Why do some transgender individuals consider themselves born with a birth defect?

There are between 70 and 80 variances of intersex individuals. Some of these intersex individuals receive their sex assignment at birth, and most of them are assigned as female. The practice to perform sex assignments on intersex is changing, and the current practice is taking a shift, according to Intersex Society of North America (ISNA), it is better to wait and allow the child to determine which gender they fit more suitably; gender not determined by the parent, but determined by the child. ISNA sheds light on a paradigm which compares the way we should treat intersex as a patient-centered model opposed to prior treatments which encouraged concealing the identity and treated it as an abnormality. According to the CDC, 1 in 250 births results in intersex; the statistics still don’t include all the other variances.  An internet site, Intersex Roadshow, maintained by Dr. Cary Gabriel Costello, reports that the birth rate for intersex could be put on par with the number of births born with green eyes. If this is true, it is an interesting comparison. Interesting because we seem to accept green eyes shamelessly while we marginalize intersex.

Shouldn’t a community maintain public decency towards intersex and come to recognize that there are individuals who received sex assignments at birth that misaligned them with their identities? After all, the statistics for infants born intersex are  2% of the population.  What about individuals who feel disjointed from their biological sex without being intersex? We do not have any idea who is intersex and cannot possibly identify those with anatomical differences because the treatment approach was shamefully hidden by parents, family members and sometimes even from the child. Many of these individuals grew up with their sex assignments are given at birth and with most of them receiving female assigned gender status at birth (FAAB), they didn’t necessarily feel female and in these cases were wrongly assigned as such. While everyone thought they had done the right thing in assigning these children a gender, they kept it a secret from society and in many cases from the child. The reality is that not all these children grew up feeling quite the same as those of their biological sex, causing a host of psychological as well as emotional struggles and shifting the anchored pillar within the family structure from its base.

The binary world only offers two options. Should there be more than two worlds from which to choose, since it is now clear that we have birth rates of intersex 1 in 250? The question comes to mind whether or not we should continue with the old binary model of male/female or move to a gender variant model which would broaden the spectrum for many individuals.

We have a population of individuals who are transgender, transsexual, and who gender express. All deserve a place at the table with the same rights and equal opportunities as everyone else. Some of these individuals are intersex while others just feel they were born with the wrong body parts and frankly, some prefer to dress any way they please. Is it time that we should be kind and gentle towards a population of individuals who do not fit the binary world of the Westernized nation? Is the Westernized nation civil when it behaves antagonistically towards individuals who are different? Is it any wonder that some of these individuals feel they were born with a birth defect? If the truth was hidden from them, doesn’t it stand to reason they would feel it was shameful to admit that they were born this way; especially if this is how their parents and the medical establishment behaved towards their anatomical parts? How is this any different for individuals who do not feel they connect to their biological sex when the world only offers the binary model?

What about sexual orientation? We know that transgender has nothing to do with sexual orientation. We do know that transgendered individuals have a sexual orientation just as anyone else does.

Here is an illustration that might help you understand the differences in sexual orientation and how transgendered individuals aren’t any different from anyone else.

You can be a pilot and be either heterosexual, homosexual, bisexual or asexual.  Insert attraction for the opposite sex; the pilot is heterosexual. Insert attraction for the same sex; the pilot is homosexual. Insert an attraction for both genders; the pilot is bisexual. Remove the sexual attraction; the pilot is asexual.

A transgender pilot could be any one of these individuals. A transgender pilot could be intersex. 

All four of the pilots share a common thread which is that they fly planes, must equally meet standards of practice and competency, standards of excellence, and maintain their licenses in meeting FAA standards of policies and procedures. They have nothing in common with each other’s sexual attractions or preferences other than they frequently fly in and out of airports. Again, their sexuality has nothing to do with what they do for a living or as a hobby.

My advice to those of you reading this is to really learn this because if you are interested in wanting to have an intelligent conversation on this subject, this will help you understand that there is nothing more to these differences. It has nothing to do with lifestyle.

You might want to consider, when having a conversation with others who are walled off to anyone who does not fit the binary model, by asking these individuals why they insist homosexuality is a lifestyle? Ask them to explain to you how lifestyles between heterosexuals and homosexuals differ? Should the topic of transgender come up remind individuals that 2% of the population is intersex? While not every transgender is intersex, it still remains a critical component and is categorized under the transgender umbrella of definitions.

If you have an opportunity to help reach one human being across the spectrum of many others, remind the individual that sexual attraction has nothing to do with lifestyle and transgender gender are those individuals whose identity differs from the social expectations of their biological sex. The more we dialogue, the more likely we are to close the gap on biases and prejudices that are derived from misunderstanding differences. Debunking rhetoric is far more heroic than continuing to allow it to stand in the way of truth. We fail at tolerance when we set up barriers, preach self righteously and stop listening.

This essay is written from my own point of view, and none of which I have written holds any bearing on Lev other than mentioning her beautiful book and making the reference to the intersex variances from her book.

To learn more about Gender-Variant People and Their Families, please consider purchasing Lev’s book titled Transgender Emergence. It is an excellent read and very informative, written for therapists who are working with gender-variant people and their families, it will help some of you understand the world of gender variances. To contact Lev, please visit

The internet sites below were used for this essay and are very helpful to anyone who might be interested in learning more about gender variances.

©An Goldbauer

http://www.choicesconsulting.com

http://www.isna.org/compare

http://intersexroadshow.blogspot.com/2012/03/how-common-is-intersex-status.html

 

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Diversity Matters

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In March of this year, Centers for American Progress released a report on why diversity in the workplace could help organizations improve their performance and increase their profit margins. http://www.americanprogress.org/wpcontent/uploads/issues/2012/03/pdf/lgbt_biz_discrimination.pdf

When businesses and large corporations lose opportunities in hiring the best of the most qualified and skilled labor force, cities are equally and adversely affected.

Discrimination drives away the skilled and qualified labor force. Companies compromise their fiscal stability and experience a decline in profit margins with net losses.

Centers for American Progress reports that the price of discrimination cases is a hefty one for businesses. The annual estimated cost of losing and replacing workers who leave their jobs because of discrimination amounts to $64 billion.

In fact, according to the Centers for American Progress, a Transgendered employee at IBM filed a discrimination suit against the organization. It cost IBM millions in unrealized profits. The cost of employee replacement occurs at a national rate of $5,000 – $10,000 for hourly employees and $75,000 to $211,000 for executives. In one aggregate study, employees who work in a hostile work environment will cost companies an annual $1.4 billion.

http://www.americanprogress.org/wp-content/uploads/issues/2012/03/pdf/lgbt_biz_discrimination.pdf

Shareholders recognize that companies with inclusive hiring policies improve their profit margins dramatically because the pool of applicants is comprised of the top performers. Shouldn’t we expect cities to adopt all-inclusive policies if cities rely on organizations’ financial earning power? Successful organizations contribute to cities in many ways. When businesses can no longer remain fiscally sound this affects the financial markets.

According to Scott Quehl of Brookings Research, it took Philadelphia and New Haven financial planning to recover their millions of dollars deficit. The cities were either at Junk Bond status or just above Junk Bond status. Investments were deferred, and short fix-it methodologies were running out. Their deficits prevented them from borrowing from capital markets at percentage rates that they could manage. By 1999, both cities recovered with a budget well exceeding their expectations. They improved by cutting costs and expenses among some strategies, one of which was to open their doors to a broader market. http://www.brookings.edu/research/articles/2000/06/summer-transportation-quehl

But, when corporations cannot attract well qualified, and skilled employees and cities cannot attract tourists, then the market shifts and results in lost earnings and fiscal instability.

The cost of relocating organizations to gay-friendly cities, where legal protections do exist for LGBT, might initially be a costly endeavor, but in recognizing a link between shifts in profit margins and a decline in employee retention rates, organizations realize that where they position their headquarters matters. If a company has inclusive policies which raise the bar, both regarding employee morale and regarding recruitment but have to risk losing opportunities in recruiting the best candidates for the job, isn’t it best that their shareholders, civic and corporate leaders speak out? Why when a city relies on the success of organizations, would it not offer protections and adopt inclusive policies as a matter of Best Practices when its’ leaders step up and speak out?

Are shareholders willing to ride the waves and if so, for how long of a period of time? After all, the bottom line is what matters, and when shareholders cannot see a return on their dollars, the risks in gaining opportunities by relocating to other parts of the State or country might outweigh the risks of losing investors. These concerns do concern those who are running the organizations.

According to authors, Dr. Robert Brown and Ms. Ruth Washton, of Packaged Facts, a division of Market Research which conducts research of the Gay and Lesbian Market in collaboration with another Marketing firm, WiteckCombs Communications, LGBT consumers spent 660 billion dollars in goods and services. The projections for 2011 were set at $835 billion, a rounded 21% increase in four years. LGBT have spent a trillion in consumer spending. Their spending across the globe accounts for 6%. http://www.witeckcombs.com/research_insights/harris_interactive.html

In fact, this number would be exponentially so many times more than this, if businesses global-wide were gay-friendly. Could we venture to guesstimate? The researchers report that Sixty-six percent of LGBT consumers indicated that they would purchase from a gay-friendly business even if the unfriendly companies offered lower prices and were convenient.

So why do cities refuse to adopt bills which otherwise would provide legal protections against discrimination for LGBT, if this would improve their economy social standards? How do we get venture capital to flow from booming industries to industries in need of capital?

When we cannot recruit the level of performers corporations to need due to the lack of protections, cities miss out on valuing cultures. Cities which have added value have in turn boosted their economy and their scores on a national level go up.

Folio FLOG Weekly reported in their online August 28th publication Activist and frequent City Commission critic Ed Slavin asked commissioners to amend the city’s Fair Housing Act during public comments.“It sends the message that St. Augustine is open for business, and our hearts are open,” Slavin told Folio Weekly after the vote. http://www.flogfolioweekly.com/?tag=st-augustine

Some of the business owners in Jacksonville, argue that they have the right to select to whom they will open their doors. But, if they are a public entity serving the public, can they? ACLU won a case in Vermont on behalf of a Lesbian couple, who were turned away after the Wildflower Inn learned that they were Lesbian and argued that they turned them away because of their religious beliefs. ACLU won the case based on the federal laws which prohibit discrimination. The message is an important one for business owners that clearly says to everyone – “Open your doors to the general public, you have to follow the same rules that apply to everyone else, and you can’t use your own personal religious beliefs to pick and choose who you want to serve. This is not a new idea.”

According to the Corporate Equality Index of 2004 firms such as some of these referenced moving forward have stepped up their Best Practices by incorporating diversity training, building diversity teams and ensuring that policies include the necessary language for training and protections of LGBT, along with providing sensitivity awareness training in recruitment practices.

If corporations cannot retain their top-performing employees because their city doesn’t offer protections for LGBT against discrimination, they are settling on a mediocre employee while long-term vested employees relocate to gay-friendly places in exchange for a better lifestyle.

Lifting the glass ceiling to people of color and the spectrum of gender matters a great deal if it means hiring or promoting someone who is qualified for the job. Sexual orientation and gender identity/expression are not what drive business away. What drives business into the ground is the lack of Best Practices and the focus on personal features that hold very little weight in regards to skills sets and performance.

The Williams Institute of Law at UCLA in October of 2011 – Economic Motives for Adopting LGBT-Related Workplace Policies – lists statements made by top 50 federal contractors. The following organizations made these statements.

Diversity and inclusion are part of Boeing’s values at the highest level. Having diverse employees, business partners and community relationships is vital to creating advanced aerospace products and services for our diverse customers around the world. The company’s commitment to diversity means providing a work environment for all employees that is welcoming, respectful and engaging, with opportunities for personal and professional development. This, in turn, increases productivity, quality and creativity and innovation.”

As HP has grown and expanded throughout the world, its workforce has become more diverse. HP believes that this diverse workforce helps the company realize its full potential. Recognizing and developing the talents of each individual brings new ideas to HP. The company benefits from the creativity and innovation that results when HP people who have different experiences, perspectives, and cultures work together. This is what drives invention and high performance at HP. We believe a well managed, diverse workforce expands HP’s base of knowledge, skills and cross-cultural understanding, which in turn, enables us to understand, relate and respond to our diverse and changing customers throughout the world, connecting them to the power of technology. Our overall commitment is reflected in our diversity and inclusion philosophy. http://williamsinstitute.law.ucla.edu/wp-content/uploads/Mallory-Sears-Corp-Statements-Tables-Oct2011.pdf

Centers for American Progress lists some of the corporations with these Best Practices. In looking at the corporations cited in the article by Crosby Burns, Research Associate for the LGBT Research and Communications Project at the Center for American Progress in Washington, D.C., the corporations are mostly positioned in markets where diversity is welcoming, and some protections exist.

http://www.americanprogress.org/wp-content/uploads/issues/2012/03/pdf/lgbt_biz_discrimination.pdf

Morgan Stanley and Bank of America along with J.P. Morgan, Pepsico, and IBM all have their headquarters in NY. While Microsoft has it’s’ in both Redmond, WA, and NY.

NYC has legal protections for LGBT. In fact, recently NYC’s mayor, Andrew Cuomo, signed a bill legalizing same-sex marriage.

Let’s look at corporate conglomerates such as Lockheed Martin whose headquarters is in Bethesda, Maryland and Dell’s in Austin, TX, all organizations along with Johnson & Johnson’s in Brunswick, NJ exist in cities where diversity is welcome. GM’s are in Detroit, MI which does not have legal protections for GLBT. Yet, Detroit benefits from the hiring policies GM has in place.

Joann Muller, Forbes Detroit bureau of the chief writer, reports that Tim Bryan, chairman, and chief executive of GalaxE Solutions, says “If you don’t capitalize on opportunities, you get left behind.”

Muller writes that the entrepreneurs and business leaders are capitalizing on opportunities to turn a city on the brink of bankruptcy, is to gain on realized profits. By bridging with Detroit’s police force in addressing solutions to a rapidly growing crime rate and offering protections to the citizens and collaborating with the city’s existing smaller businesses, funding programs which provide for green, sustainable agriculture in urban food. Whole Foods contributed $10 million to local companies to help them grow and become financially independent as business operations.

Jacksonville, FL continues to coexist despite the massive debt it carries. Civic leaders and CEO’s who run corporate conglomerates and small businesses have come to city hall in the recent year and months to encourage the city council members to pass legal protections for LGBT. Among these bigwigs were ex-mayors who reported seeing the backlash of a city which refuses to recognize gay rights. Some of them said a decline in employee retention rates and lost opportunities in hiring the most qualified and skilled individuals in the labor force. City council members in Jacksonville, however, were more concerned over their own small business operations despite expert witnesses such as educators and leaders from programs well versed in LGBT matters.

None of the arguments in favor of passing the human rights bill mattered. Some of the city council members in interviews with the press argued that LGBT would result in turning away their loyal clients who would live in fear that their rights would be placed at risk. They argued that Transgendered persons would pose a threat to their children and clientele, while others claimed it would be against their religion to accept the lifestyles of the LGBT and one city council member went as far as filing a bill 2012-377, pledging religious freedom. She also runs a congregation and has published books which address homosexuality as a sin. Sentiments shared by some of the citizens ran parallel with attorneys from the Family Research Council making a case against voting in favor of bill 2012-296 for fear that this would be damaging to families.

The data presented by some of the leaders shed light on what happens when inefficient hiring and firing decisions result in costly and harmful business practices. None of which seem to sway this group of city council members. What persuaded 17 city council members were the arguments from Family Research Council which were based on misaligned data while the caveat came from First Baptist Church whose leader, on YouTube, announced that they were pleased the city council heeded their advice and voted against protections of LGBT.

Shouldn’t legal protections against LGBT discrimination weigh considerably more when it affects the city’s economic downturn? Doesn’t a city have fiscal as well as social responsibility? Is Jacksonville caught in a gridlock of religious warfare? The arguments during the council hearings were mostly centered on religion. When the federal government has federal protections in place against housing discrimination, and small independent entities can discriminate, aren’t they in essence in violation of the federal laws if they are operating as public entities? Which does raise a red flag on the rental housing industry since they are managing public properties for rental income?

Is Jacksonville hedging towards a fiscal cliff? The answer is yes.  Many cities are facing fiscal cliffs by year end 2012. With the amount of debt Jacksonville is in can it afford a zero tolerance policy? COJ reported in their Quarterly Summary of August 2012 that the city has over 3 billion in outstanding debt. The short end of the story? When a city has to declare bankruptcy then who will provide and pay for public services? Who pays the garbage company for collecting garbage? Who pays the utility company? Who does or doesn’t receive their pension? Is this city in need of city council members who can serve its’ best interests without serving their own first and at the city’s welfare?

What are Jacksonville’s Best Practices? Are Jacksonville’s city council members operating in the city’s best interest when they avoid legalizing protections against discrimination for LGBT? What in the end will this cost the city?

Is Jacksonville placing itself at a competitive disadvantage compared to cities such as Orlando and Miami?

Will Jacksonville, along with these corporations, be adversely affected?

Will large corporations relocate?

Prosperous cities have recognized that narrowing their diversity pool ranging from tourists to employees are some of the reasons for economic shifts and the best way to avoid fiscal cliffs is to adopt Best Practices in providing policies that protect LGBT from discrimination. The best message a city can send is in opening her doors to a diverse market.

©An Goldbauer