Mar. 23rd, 2011

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Don't get me wrong. From the off, and throughout TSS is a wonderful thing and has and will continue to help primarily transsexual people in their transition. But it's flawed in several places. Firstly in the funding requirements that tie it to participants being at least 'those who are considering a [transsexual] transition', and the largely prevalent anti-inclusion stance of one section of the steering-group. Secondly it's not completely integrated with local NHS's and doesn't necessarily take advantage of specialist services that may be available - like OT's! Thirdly is my purely personal view that ten weeks is a long time to spread essentially twelve and a half contact hours over (less individual Rickter assessments). Fourthly TSS's Life-Skills-Course(LSC) doesn't have a formal transition planning component - in a transition process that can take years, a persons participation in a LSC may well be in the distant past when a crisis happens. Having an ongoing tool to develop coping strategies from is something I see as very important as a support to transition.

Fifth and last, I've done Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) in one-on-one and groupwork environments, Psychoanalysis and Recovery as part of my attempts to cope with BPSD, and feel able to comment upon their comparative effectiveness to a very stubborn and strong-minded individual (Like any person who can tell the entire world their gender is not what they've been assigned at birth!). The first two try to tell you how to think as a theraputic device. I don't care what anyone says, thinking, 'I am male, I am male.', in response to my need to express my gender just wouldn't ever fly. In other words they aren't (subjectively to me) really suitable for use in transition. Recovery however can be used in any process where increasing and maximising wellbeing is important and the wellness and recovery plans (WRAP) can be used for diverse things like moving house or planning a trip as well as as a tool in increasing wellbeing in a mental health context. I had this idea when it struck me time after time in my Realising Recovery course (Google 'Lothian Recovery Network' if you're in Edinburgh and think you might want to know more), how many parallels Recovery has with a successful gender-transition.

What I'm trying to achieve is:

True transgender and opt-in intersex inclusion. The processes we go through in a gender transition are all very similar and involve many of the same factors and I consider it a purely artificial division for someone to class transsexuals as completely different to other parts of the transgender spectrum. A TS's transition may be permanent, may involve surgery, may be from an apparent cis-gender-identity to it's opposite, but that doesn't make a transsexual special or deserving of more support and nurturing than another transgendered or intersex person. We're all unique and all deserve support and nurture, and I'm determined to stick with that concept no matter the obstacles.

A tool that is effective, profound, far-reaching and easy to use. Ideally a person would be able to attend a short course - I'm looking at two days with a one-on-one meeting in the middle - to learn new concepts and be assisted to develop a transition wellbeing plan that they can take away and confidently use and modify it as their transition progresses.

Integration with NHS services. I hope to put things together in such away that a healthcare professional who is qualified to use Recovery and WRAP need only go on a short (ie: a couple of days max) course about trans-awareness and the specific adaptions to the transition wellbeing plan in order to be able to directly support transgender or intersex people referred to them by gender-specialists (or sadly more likely their GP in relation to mental ill-health related to transition). Two days training, doesn't use any expensive resources, provides a huge leap in capacity to support our community and will hopefully reduce the incidence of mental ill-health amongst us.

Integration with the 'Real Life Test'. This bit is for TS's. We (We, just for this bit, I'm just a girl unless I say so) transsexuals do face some individual difficulties, such as living in effectively a transitioned state full-time before we get hormones and then having second puberties and potential sexuality shifts in our two years of proving we have a clear and persistent identity as a cis-gender. I've been through that and though my gender specialist is a wonderful, compassionate, caring person, she's just one woman. I'd like to find a way for her to have help in supporting us through our two years. Better still if that can take place in our communities rather than a central hospital. Training Occupational Therapists in transitional recovery could provide that support, provide clinical evidence of us developing our identities over the two years and free up gender-specialist appointments for those who are currently in months-long waiting lists in both Edinburgh and Glasgow.

And why do I think I can do this? Well first of all the interest shown by others in my idea, from KJ, my co-conspirator, to clinicians in the fields of both mental health and gender. That's the most important bit - people who are trained to care for others think there's potential here. Because I'm a rarity, a woman who transitioned successfully with a (separate) mental health diagnosis, and am a trans-activist who believes in a rather idealistic version of better which comes down to equality for all, not some.

I've seen, helped develop and worked a lot on TSS, and haven't lost faith in what it is doing. But nothing can be a complete solution to a problem, and not everyone will find the same things useful. TR is sufficiently different to TSS that I believe they can co-exist as complimentary support, and that I won't encounter any conflicts of interest (or funding) working on both.

Most of all though, I think I can do all this because my intuition is telling me this is so right and exactly where I'm supposed be, doing what I'm supposed to be doing. I don't believe in predetermination, but maybe my combination of gender journey, concern for others in my community and mental illness was just the right one to get the idea with...

Others may claim to speak for (all) Scotlands transgender (transsexual) population. They don't, just on the basis I say they don't speak for me and I'm pretty sure I'm not alone in that. I on the other hand hope to help all of our transgender community to find voices to speak for themselves. I said I wouldn't stand for internal trans-bigotry and this is part of my response to that bigotry.

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