Dr. Jacqueline B. Sallade offers ideas for maintaining your mental health.
I, like you, look at the tabloid headlines on my way through the supermarket checkout line. Most of them are downright lies. But not always. Finally, I had to ask myself, "is Bruce Jenner really doing a sex change?" Normally, I don't concern myself with the Kardashian family. Actually, they aren't interesting, just a family of publicity seekers. Whatever.... However, I've worked with four transgender people in my 40 years of clinical practice, average one per 10 years. Certainly, not an authority. So, I'm a bit fascinated.
So, I googled Bruce, and it is true. The family, including ex-Mrs., is supportive, as far as I can read. Should I be shocked? Nothing shocks me. The people I worked with were ordinary human beings, just like us. Unlike the stereotype of trans-sexuals (my spelling), it isn't about sex. It's not about cross-dressing. It's about identity. Anyone can understand identity. It's who we believe we really are. We have cues in our life which signify our sense of being, like relationship connections, places of origin and major experiences, but mostly lifelong thoughts and feelings.
The first trans person was a large, athletic man who always wanted to be a girl. He liked who he was when he tried on his sister's bathing suits as a little kid. It wasn't just dress-up. It was a complete feeling of being real. He grew up, hung with the guys, married, and became a father. He wasn't gay. But he felt unreal, like a fake and always as if he was in the wrong body.
Another person was a female prison guard, in a relationship with another woman. She was a man in spirit, in feeling, in thought, in wishing she could become the husband, not the wife, of her lover.
The other two folks had lives, jobs, good ideas, average tastes, and decent morals, too. They had long histories of being half, misplaced, unreal and weren't mentally ill. They were intelligent, sensible and tortured people.
The sex change process is extremely hard, mentally and physically. It takes daunting courage and only from a feeling of desparation that life can't be lived otherwise can it be pursued. As a psychologist, my job was to make sure the person's motivation toward this process was pure, not with ulterior or unrealistic expectations, not based on delusionary thinking, and that the person had the mental strength to survive the process of change, including much social rejection.
Recently, I was talking with a lay friend about Bruce Jenner and my experience and he said, "That's enough!" It's hard to the average joe to be open, non-threatened by unusal problems and needs, but we are all just people.