Responding to Dr. Keith Ablow’s Anti-Transgender Rhetoric
September 12, 2011 by Allyson Robinson, Deputy Director for Employee Programs, Workplace Project
I like to think I have a pretty strong stomach, but reading Dr. Keith Ablow’s response to the upcoming appearance of Chaz Bono on ABC’s Dancing with the Stars literally sickened me. It took me back to the early days of my own gender transition, and to a particular moment when all the shame, fear and uncertainty of hiding my true self finally became more than I could bear and I realized I needed help.
I was a seminary student at Baylor University in Waco, Texas at the time, though my family and I lived about half an hour away in a home provided to us by the church I served as pastor. Each day I would get in my car for the drive to school and begin weeping before I’d gotten out of the driveway. I’d done all I knew to live my life in the way I imagined God intended for me, as a man. I’d prayed countless hours, attended Bible studies on “Godly manhood,” memorized lengthy passages of Scripture and even sought an exorcism to have what I thought were demons cast out of me. Yet nothing had changed. In fact, things only got harder as time went on. It was painful and frustrating and it grew to challenge everything I believed.
Then one day, as I drove down a long, straight stretch of Interstate 35 to class in bitter tears, a thought entered my mind I’d never had before. I thought of a farm road that passed over the interstate a couple of miles ahead, and of the heavy concrete abutments that supported the bridge. I thought of how much speed I would be able to pick up before hitting those abutments if I pressed the gas pedal to the floor right now, and of how in just a moment my suffering could be ended. I thought of how I could save my family the shame I was sure they’d feel if they knew the truth about me.
And then, by some grace I still don’t understand, I realized that none of this was the answer. “I don’t know what I need to do to get through this,” I said to myself, “but I know it’s not that. I need to get some help.”
That evening when I returned home, I picked up the phone book and called a mental health professional. I made an appointment to see her, and when we met I shared with her what I’d experienced and asked if she knew how to help me.
Today I can say with certainty that my relationship with a competent, caring mental health professional saved my life. She helped me analyze carefully what I was feeling; she helped me understand that what I’d experienced wasn’t demons, but a well-understood and treatable medical condition. Later, she outlined for me what treatment might look like, giving me a concrete path to healing and wholeness, and even coached me on how to share with my wife, my children and others who loved me what was happening.
I shudder to think what would have become of me had my counselor been someone like Dr. Keith Ablow, who wrote last week that the time-tested Standards of Care for transsexual people by which I was treated are “very nearly insane” and a “destructive myth.” I wonder how much deeper my pain might have become as he tried to “pry loose every family secret” from a childhood that was, in reality, happy and secure – as he wrote he would like to do for Chaz. What un-truths might he have cunningly compelled me to believe about my parents, my siblings, my teachers and friends? Who would he have sought to scapegoat for my pain?
Today, contrary to what Dr. Ablow imagines in his article, I do not live in “a very dark place.” My experience of life is just the opposite – I live in the light of truth, honesty, wholeness and health. I enjoy family relationships far better than they ever were before I transitioned, with a wife who loves me deeply for who I really am (not who someone else demands in their ignorance I should be) and strong, confident children. I have meaningful work that supports my family and I worship in a church of my own tradition, Baptist, that embraces me, values my gifts, and is fighting for my rights. I experience freedom and peace and joy in ways I never knew were even possible before.
If only Dr. Ablow would realize that his advice is not the cure for darkness, but its cause.
Join HRC in telling Dr. Ablow his anti-transgender rhetoric is dangerous – sign our petition today.
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