By I have my own personal Thanksgiving. It was entirely out of pure, blind luck that I kept my mouth shut when young. I didn't know how transsexuals were treated - or rather, maltreated and mistreated - in the 60's and 70's. Had I known, I would have been terrified. And the mistreatment continues to a lesser extent.
From The Gender Gulag at GIDreform.
In 1995, Dr. Deidre McCloskey, a renowned professor of economics at the University of Illinois, Chicago, was taken from her home by sheriff’s deputies with “a warrant for arrest for mental examination.” Dr. McCloskey was a transsexual woman who had come out of the closet to her family prior to social transition, Deidre’s sister, a psychologist, held intolerant views of gender diversity and, like Mrs. Phelps’ nineteenth-century husband, was easily able to procure a civil commitment to a psychiatric ward.That was 1995. But before then, it was much, much worse. When I was a girl.
Dr. McCloskey was incarcerated not once but twice at her sister’s insistence.
Deidre was interrogated by psychiatrists who displayed utter ignorance about gender dysphoria and the transition process. She was labeled as “manic,” resulting from “latent homosexuality,” decades after the American Psychiatric Association had removed same-sex orientation from the classification of mental illnesses. One psychiatrist demanded, “Are you a homosexual?” “Do you wish to become one?” When Deidre responded “no,” that she was attracted to women, the doctor was incredulous. Reflecting old stereotypes confusing sexual orientation with gender identity, he responded, “Well, then, why are you doing this?”
To regain her freedom, Dr. McCloskey was forced to pay $8000 in legal fees and, astonishingly, was billed $3000 by the hospitals that falsely imprisoned her.
April’s “treatments” included drugging her with ether while doctors exacted, “Why do you want to be a woman?” Later, the interrogations were punctuated with sodium pentathol injections. Ashley was given massive doses of male hormones. Finally, she was placed in a public ward and administered electroconvulsive therapy.I could so easily have been one of them...
Phyllis Burke, author of Gender Shock: Exploding the Myths of Male and Female,  told the heartbreaking story of Jamie, a transsexual woman who survived fifteen years of hospitalization from age six. “Jamie did not do boy things, and would not lie about it,” Burke explains. Admitted in the late 1950s, Jamie was drugged and given numerous electroconvulsive shock treatments over the span of her imprisonment:“The treatments never became less painful, and there was nothing more painful than the shock, not even the rapes by the male patients, not even Mother and Father never returning.”At twenty years old, following an extremely painful ECT treatment, Jamie escaped the institution and made her way to San Francisco and transition to an affirmed life. Jamie asked Ms. Burke to find as many children like her as she could and write about their stories,“No one is talking about them, … but there are still kids in the hospitals.”
Harsh punishment of gender variant youth occurs in outpatient as well as residential settings. Dr. Arianna Davis today is an advocate for trans and intersex communities and GID reform. Though born with an intersex condition and expressing a strong female identity at a very early age, she was assigned male and later diagnosed as mentally ill for not comporting to that assignment. Arianna was subjected to a gender-reparative therapy regimen at UCLA in the 1980s:It wasn't just the children who were the victims here. Parents who dearly loved their children and were terribly distressed by their unusual, apparently abnormal, behaviour were acting out of ignorance, and the best of intent. They consulted the best professionals, the experts in their fields, and were commanded in no uncertain terms to torture their children "for their own good". To physically and mentally abuse them, despite their personal heartbreak, if they were to be responsible parents. How many of these parents have suffered the tortures of hellish guilt as the result? How many children have been estranged, have grown up to hate rather than love them? How many have suicided? And how many parents became brutalised and thuggish to their other children too?“I was subjected to forced testosterone injections and used as a study subject against my wishes. These things happened (under the physical beatings and punishment -recomended by a therapist of a reparative mindset- the urging of my father and the all too eager compliance of UCLA doctors and researchers).”Dr. Davis’ story raises the point, a painful memory to so many of us, of how physical violence from parents of gender variant children is encouraged by intolerance from the mental health professions – what has been called, “the sissy-whupping method.”
Sadly, the APA never discouraged analogous gender-reparative therapies attempting to change gender identity or suppress gender expression. Indeed, the dictum of “First, do no harm,” does not seem to apply to the treatment of gender variant people within American psychiatry. Nor do the bounds of human compassion and decency, when it comes to enforcing conformity to assigned birth sex. For example, Dr. Ron Langevin of the University of Toronto Clarke Institute of Psychiatry (today known as the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health) promoted inhumane aversion treatment of cross-dressing individuals assigned male at birth in his 1983 book, Sexual Strands: Understanding and Treating Sexual Anomalies in Men.You see... it didn't work. They knew it didn't work. So they upped the currents, almost to the point of charring the flesh. This wasn't "ECT", electro-convulsive therapy under anaesthetic, the idea was to intentionally inflict pain. To Torture into compliance. Not in one session, or two, or three, but in dozens of torture sessions, 41 in the case mentioned. And it still didn't work.
Reminiscent of a scene from Anthony Burgess’ A Clockwork Orange, Langevin described chemical aversion therapy to “cure” cross-dressing,“In chemical aversion therapy, the patient is first administered nausea inducing drugs. When he indicates that he feels sick, his favorite female clothes used for crossdressing are presented. He should touch them and look at them as best he can. Then he is overwhelmed by the need to vomit. The clothes are withdrawn and the procedure repeated several hours later.”Next, he noted the advantages of “electrical aversion” in offering greater “control” over timing. He described the treatment of a patient.“The conditioning stimuli were pictures of women wearing panties which were followed by the unconditioned stimulus, electric shock. The shock level was set so the patient found it so uncomfortable, he wanted it stopped. In addition to seeing pictures, he was instructed to handle panties and to imagine himself wearing them. After 41 sessions, he said he was no longer troubled by the “fetish” but a month later, it spontaneously recovered.”
What they would have done about someone like me, who wasn't particularly interested in female attire, I don't know. Tortured me until I fit a recognised diagnostic pattern which they could then attempt to "cure"? Stranger things happened. No, I think they would have tried something like this, something I know I would have been vulnerable to. I had a mild taste of it, you see, with the first "expert" I consulted, back in July 2005.
Finally, Dr. Langevin introduced a newer form of “shame aversion therapy” used on a “transvestite:”I had the only 15 seconds of suicidal ideation I've ever had in my life after a "mental health professional" harangued me at high volume the day after I went "fulltime". Two days after I was threatened with rape because I no longer "passed" as male in my normal attire.“the patient was required to crossdress before a disinterested group of men and women who watched him without reaction or comment. … In this case, shame replaces electric shock … the patient was evidently experiencing shame. He was in tears as he crossdressed and had a look of anguish on his face. He attempted suicide the following day according to the investigator.”
I was told by this "expert" how much my behaviour was damaging my child, and commanded to cease taking hormones immediately. Except of course, I wasn't taking any... and if my continued existence was damaging my son, well, you can see where my thought processes were going. Had my hormone levels been remotely normal, I would have recognised his misjudgment immediately, and ignored his views. As it was, it took a while. Had I been less than emotionally healthy, yes, it could have been a fatal error on his part. As it was, within 24 hours I'd recovered.
I don't blame (well, not overmuch) some medical professionals for being ignorant of the issues. The field is fast evolving, we are a minority, and few will have seen more than one or two of us amongst the delusional, the attention-seekers, and the just plain selfish. But I do blame any medic in any area where they consider it quite usual to kill a proportion of their patients. And that is what they were doing, driving them to suicide with "cruel and unusual punishment" for committing the crime of not fitting their theories.
It is time for the APA and the mental health professions to extend an apology to all who have been imprisoned or traumatized in the course of these treatments.I'm not sure it is. I do feel though, and feel strongly, that an in-depth and very public investigation of past treatment should be conducted. Not so much a "Nuremberg" looking to punish the guilty, but an inquisitorial fact-finding inquiry into what has been done in the past, and what all too often continues to be done to children, right here and now.
The apology can come later. First comes the acknowledgement of the crimes, and most importantly, ceasing to commit them.
And I am giving the most heartfelt thanks that I concealed everything. I lucked out.