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A look at transgendered people with Celia Hooper

Part 1 of 2

Published: Thursday, December 3, 2009

Updated: Monday, January 18, 2010 09:01

Dr. Hooper was one of the first to publish a research article on transgendered people and the various issues that arise in a transgendered person’s life. According to Hooper, many transgendered people are born with intersex traits, which are defined as, “[A] difference or ambiguity in gender morphology (structure) usually noted at birth, but sometimes not until later. Causes vary and can include Klinefelter’s syndrome (genetic), endocrine abnormalities, and timing defects,” in Voice and Communication Therapy for the Transgender/Transsexual Client, a book to which Hooper has contributed. Dr. Hooper has been counseling transgendered people for about three decades now, and focuses on the verbal and nonverbal communication aspects of behavior. She explained that when she first decided to work with a “trans” person, that she wanted to present them with a sort of “menu” of behaviors to choose from, because we all behave on a scale between male and female. Some of us are extremely feminine, some extremely masculine, and some in between somewhere. In order for one to find where the most comfortable place is for one’s self, there needs to be a wide range of choices that are laid out across the female-male spectrum. Intersex traits are fairly common, and in some cases they are pronounced enough that doctors and/or parents often feel it is best to “pick” a gender and sex for the child. According to Hooper, many times the decision proves to be the wrong one later in life for transgendered people, and they often feel as though they are the wrong sex and/or gender. Keep in mind that gender and sex is not the same thing. Sex is the physical and genetic attribute which indicates whether a person is male, female, or a mixture of the two. Gender is the psychological and social manifestation and expression of the sex, and is both individually and culturally shaped, i.e., female or male behaviors vary among cultures and people. According to Hooper’s experience, transgendered people come from all areas of society with a variety of socioeconomic statuses and vocations. She noted that several of the groups of transgendered people she has worked with were highly educated individuals with such jobs as lawyers and doctors. Hooper also explained that many who identify as transgender often go through a phase of adjustment, where they are trying to find a point of equilibrium in how they behave and what gender roles they eventually adopt. She also explained that often the person goes from one extreme to the other for a time, and then often finds where they fall along the male/female spectrum when making their transition. According to Hooper, some geographic locations are more accommodating to transgendered people, such as Australia and Hawaii. She explained further that often when people do make the decision to make a transition in gender, that it does not always mean they have decided to change their body. Many do not have surgery to change their appearance and sex, while others do. It really depends on the individual as to whether they have surgery or not. Some may not be able to afford surgery, as it can cost anywhere from $50,000 to several hundred thousand dollars to have a well done surgery, depending on the amount of physical change the individual wants.

Dr. Hooper also explained that during helping a person transition, a counselor is held up to certain standards. One set of guidelines that are required for all counselors to follow are the Harry Benjamin guidelines, which explicitly explain how a transition is to be handled. One of the well known requirements is that if the person desires to have surgery to change his/her sex, the individual must have the approval of a therapist or counselor. In order to acquire this approval, the person must live as whatever they wish to be for a year or more. In other words, a person wishing to have a sexual reassignment must live as that sex and corresponding gender for at least a year before they are approved for surgery. In transitioning, a person may often face some very challenging scenarios and the process may be very difficult. But thanks to people such as Dr. Celia Hooper, the transition for many is made very positive overall and proves to be one of the most beneficial changes a person might undergo, since doing so may mean finding a greater sense of self worth and individuality as well as a greater sense of comfort in one’s identity and expression thereof. The next article will focus on these various challenges, their causes, and other experiences that the typical transgendered person faces and how they are best handled.

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