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Rachael's story: A minority within a minority

Posted in: True Stories
By Racheal McGonigal - 19th September 2009

A change in gender identity can mean a loss of sexual identity, even total invisibility. Racheal McGonigal explains...


 

My name is Racheal McGonigal and I am a sex change female.

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Rachael McGonigal
Before I start in on this article let me predict that some within the Trans community will just say by writing this article I'm just whining. Others may say I'm seeking to be an elitist. Neither is correct. Hopefully some will see I am just speaking up from experience and not just listening to what others, with no experience, will say. I am not anti Cross-dresser either, and have many friends who are Cross-dressers.

Most Trans groups out there are heavy with non-transsexuals, being comprised largely of cross dressers who are still men. These groups are the ones who are being consulted by organisations such as the Ministry of Health and the Human Rights Commission.  While there are perhaps four or five sex change people in these groups who have experience of being a sex change, people who are non sex change are having input into a realm they know nothing about.

Sex changes have long had little to no voice. I know several sex changes and of several more. I have spoken to many of those I know about this matter and all seem to feel the same. I don't believe anyone actually knows how many sex changes, either MtF or FtM, there are in NZ. My friends and I guess that there are about 140 MtF sex changes. Who knows how many FtM sex changes there are, but it's likely to be less. We are the minority within the minority.

Sex change people are also the most needy of the whole Trans Community. But getting heard is not easy as there are few of us out here to speak up and we are often outnumbered in the Trans groups, so our issues are lost amongst the cries of the majority.


GETTING A LIFE

The problem is that when a person undergoes gender reassignment surgery they become whole. They are happy and released. They have achieved what they have sought for so long. When they go home, they tend to 'go stealth' because they have fought their personal fight and won. They just want to be left alone and live happily ever after. Who can blame them? Alas this also means the few vocal sex change people are trying to stand up and be heard against the many other Trans-people.

What are the needs of a sex change man or woman? Lots that to most mean nothing but to us are very real and important.

For instance, wigs or hair. I'm bald and the day I can't have my hair is the day I die. Yes, currently many would say my hair is over the top. Well actually it's over my bottom. Long and blonde to the butt. As I get older, it will shorten it but I will still need hair. But hair wefts and wigs cost a fortune. Cancer patients are entitled to a wig subsidy but are sex change or pre op Transsexuals? I don't believe so. The subsidy is a pittance anyway and unrealistic compared to the cost of the wig. A human hair wig will cost around $600 short to $1,200 shoulder length.  The current subsidy is $2280 spread over nine years or $400 per year. I wear my hair 24/7 and were I to do this with a wig, I would need a minimum of two wigs a year. So the current subsidy is a joke.

For my mental well being and appearance, I need hair removal by laser. Six to eight treatments costing approximately $300 a time.  And I need nails. Long nails give me the appearance of longer, more slender feminine hands and fingers. Also, some facial surgery might help and voice training.


WEIGHING UP THE RISKS

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Then there are the hormones. I went to a new doctor recently and asked for my usual script. "Oh you are a sex change now and only need half of what a pre op needs."  Yea right.

This is becoming a more common approach amongst the medical fraternity but where is the evidence for this? Who is making this assumption and why? I would guarantee it is not a sex change person and there has never been a sex change input into it. Medical professionals are paranoid about hormones, cancer and DVT. They treat us as Female which is nice but actually isn't true. We are not natal female but are natal males.

The Women's Health report in 2000 showed an increased risk of cancers in natal women. Cervical cancer. Well, I don't have a cervix. Ovarian Cancer? I don't have ovaries. Breast cancer? I have much less mammary tissue then a natal female and therefore less risk. The 2005 review of that trial actually showed those on HRT were significantly better off than those not on HRT. A complete reverse of what the trial first showed. Yes perhaps there is an increased risk of DVT but there is also a significant benefit shown in osteoporosis. It's been shown that the stopping of testosterone has increased my likely life span. The risks to me, a natal male are different than to a natal female and considerably less, but do the medical professionals see this or consider the benefits to me and people like me? No.

Ultimately, what is needed is some trials to be done to find out the truths.

What about social effects and retirement? When I have no hair, I am dead. You will never see me out in the supermarket with short stumpy hands and hair all over except on my bald head. I will be a recluse maybe, living alone, dependent upon the state, living a solitary life. I will have no way to find a man and what man would want me?

Recently, on two separate occasions, I spoke with firstly the owner of an electrical company employing eight electricians and then to who I believe was a lady GM of a large national women's clothing chain. Both were totally comfortable talking with me one on one. I asked them both the same question: If they had a position advertised and I applied and had the best credentials, would they employ me? Both answered the same, frankly and without hesitation: "No"

And both gave the same answer to my next question, "Why 'No'?"  Because they would worry what their customers would think. This is where the discrimination comes in and work is needed in the work place and society to stop it.

The high cost funding pool is currently still operating but needs review with regards to transsexuals. Currently gender reassignment surgery can only be conducted here in NZ by one surgeon. An alternative is the Thai surgeons who have far more experience and use more modern techniques. For the cost of one gender reassignment surgery in New Zealand, two could be funded if carried out in Thailand.


PUSHING AN EMPTY BARROW

The Human Rights Commission, Ministry of Health and the Trans groups need to look more closely into what they are chasing. On GayNZ.com recently there was a item titled "Transgender law changes: progress report". It would seem to me that the HRC, Genderbridge and other Trans groups, are pushing an empty barrow yet they are persisting and ignoring more important issues.

Why is the barrow empty? Because the act has already been changed and nowhere in it does it state that surgery is a requirement. That has also been proven in the Auckland Family Court in a June 2008 test case.

As to having "Gender identity" included under sex category, why? Under the Human Rights Act, 1993, gender identity is already covered  under (iii) Psychiatric illness; (iv) Intellectual or psychological disability or impairment; (v) Any other loss or abnormality of psychological, physiological, or anatomical structure or function:

Like it or not, transsexualism is regarded as a mental illness.

Why are people fighting for things that have already been changed or are covered when there are bigger and more important issues to be addressed. Issues to ensure Trans people are able to get employment fairly, can achieve a good standard of living, receive good medical treatment, proper and fair assistance.

While many of the things I have written about here relate specifically to sex change, they also relate to real transsexuals. After all surely most (not all) real pre-op transsexuals will seek to become post-op or sex change in the end.

It is the pre- and post-op transsexuals who need the help and not the cross dressers who can choose at any time what clothes they wear, and swap as it suits. Cross dressers can gain successful employment in a male role and party at night as a female. Because of this employment they can afford the wigs and hair removal etc. They can afford a social life. They aren't likely to be on hormones or to need specific medical attention.

Other people such as the intersexed also need their own sorts of help and are another minority within the minority.

But despite being minorities within a minority we are nevertheless real,  and desire to live our lives 24/7 being who we are.

- Racheal McGonigal


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Racheal McGonigal - 19th September 2009