Larry Nuttbrock came up last night and talked about his paper on the long term costs of trying to break transpeople, specifically the costs of major depression and suicidality.
He didn’t call it, that, of course. The paper is called “Psychiatric Impact of Gender-Related Abuse Across The Life Course Of Male-To-Female Transgender Persons.” He shows a statistical correlation and maybe causation between suicidality & major depression in later life and abuse in earlier life. In other words, he gives numbers to be used as tools for professionals to get grants to address this shit.
I listened to him, and I watched the twenty five or so transpeople in the room, the ones who stayed after the students snuck out at 9; apparently starting late was a bad idea as well as being disrespectful to the audience.
As I listened, though, to the quantification of abuse required to do statistical analysis, I thought about differences in abuse between classes. One of the papers offered reported that out of the over 500 respondents, around 50% of the black and hispanic/latina were HIV positive at their first interview, less that 5% of the caucasian respondents were. This may be a race thing, but I suspect it is more a class thing, as in this country, class and race have a high correlation. There are middle and upper class people of color, of course, and lower class caucasian people, but they often get erased by statistical methods as outliers.
That trans-paradox that Nuttbrock talks about, being both vulnerable and resilant, probably comes from him only talking to survivors, those who have made a bubble for themselves in the world. That’s always the problem with statistics; they are always reductive, starting with the questions asked, continuing to the selection of the sample, right through the interpreting of the results. They may give insight into a population, but they can never be rehydrated to inform us about any specific individual, and most especially on who slipped through the screen of the sample, or even through the screen of the survey.
But I also know that the medical policy world needs numbers to justify resource allocation, so I am glad people like Mona Mason and Larry Nuttbrock are working so hard to get them, even if numbers without narratives seem wispy to me.
It’s hard, though, to quantify abuse. The way many middle-class caucasians learn to keep peace in the family is by teaching the principles of self-abuse. I don’t mean mastrubation, of course, but rather that internalized self-policing, so often based in internalized self-loathing, that gives us an internal zap whenever we do anything that might be, well, queer. We learn to keep our choices “appropriate,” circumscribed, sealed.
I know that my abuse is mostly self-abuse. I have been turned into my own jailer, my own dastardly inquisitor. Preemptive abuse to avoid making waves and rocking the boat. In my case, and I suspect in the case of many others, being broken isn’t a one time thing, rather it is a process set in motion, a worm released, a pounding unleashed, that continues deep in the core of so many of us. Even if we do tend to rise above it, it still exists at our core, eating away at us, making us hold back, mistrust and wait for the third gotcha.
I don’t know the cost of breaking trannys in any statistical way. But I do know the cost of breaking trannys in a personal way, in my heart and in the stories of many of those there last night that I know well. I know how broken they still are.
Will the future be better? Ari Lev says she is scared to see so many therapists willing to help but without knowledge, and her heart is broken when she is asked to help another 16 year old who got testosterone without anyone around them understanding the costs or rammifications of that choice. We may want to be nice now, but without knowledge or understanding of the lifetime challenge of living a gendered life in a gendered world, it is not simple at all.
The cost of breaking trannys, well, it’s broken trannys.
What does a grown-up transperson look like anyway?
Such a struggle.