It was a sign of the times that I was invited to give a talk about transgender issues to a group affiliated with WA Country Health Service.
For 80 minutes yesterday I presented an interactive talk to the Consumer Advocacy Group (CAG) within Wheatbelt Mental Health, in Northam.
It is certainly appropriate for mental health workers, consumers and affiliated groups to have educational talks about transgender issues even though being transgender is not in itself a diagnosis of any mental health condition. It’s still important because trans people do suffer a greatly increased risk of mental illness including suicide attempts, depression, anxiety and other conditions mostly likely caused by social isolation, family rejection, employment & housing discrimination, bullying, frequent innuendo about not being genuine, and of course, gender dysphoria.
We covered many topics including changes in terminology over recent decades especially in relation to the terms transgender, transsexual (rarely used nowadays), intersex, and non-binary. We looked a little at pronouns including the singular they, and of course I told them all about Mx (or Mix), a non-binary transgender title.
Several people contributed very interesting and insightful questions, comments and anecdotes. Two were staff psychologists with WMH and I was really impressed at their already well-developed and fine-tuned understanding of many of the issues. I was picked-up for a slip of the tongue when I said ‘intersex condition’ instead of ‘intersex variation’ because most intersex people don’t have any sort of physical or mental illness directly related to being intersex and need no treatment (unless they have suffered from some unnecessary medical procedure). What a pleasant surprise that was.
Whenever I talk about trans issues I always bring up intersex stories because we can all learn so much from the intersex experience. For one thing this really puts the lie to the notion there are only men and women walking the earth, and their often shocking interaction with the medical establishment is instructive. Most in this group had not previously heard the word ‘intersex.’
I had handouts for them briefly covering many topics and I believe six pages of that will be scanned and put in their minutes. Yay!
It was so good to interact like this with these good folk and educate them further. We all agreed that the general public has been getting more and more on the same page with the transgender community despite the misinformed rantings of a vocal few.