Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Transgender Spirituality by Sakhi Bhava (REVIEW)

Gender issues have been around for a long time, and are likely to have existed for as long as human beings have. It isn’t that far-fetched to think that at least a few of the first male hunters of woolly mammoth may have wished to trade this dangerous pursuit for the relative warmth and safety of the cave and child rearing. And, no doubt, for some of our early female ancestors, the thrill of the hunt was much more appealing than being relegated to satisfy the needs of babies and tending the home fires.

In any case, in the more recent and written history of western civilization, gender dysphoria was first observed and documented in the mythology of the ancient Greeks, then alluded to in the Old Testament, and has since surfaced in classic literature over the centuries. Gender Identity Disorder has been studied as a psychological phenomenon since the late 19th century, originating with the early works of Sigmund Freud, the founding father of psychology.

Because this condition has persisted for countless eons, the emotionally painful and often misunderstood condition known to the professional and gender community as Gender Identity Disorder (GID) is soon to be officially and simply known, as per the new release of the diagnostic bible for the profession of psychology, the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual V (DSM-V), as Gender Dysphoria. This is defined as a persistent unease with having the physical characteristics of one's gender, accompanied by strong identification with the opposite gender and a desire to live as or to become a member of the opposite gender.  For now, though, it is still known as GID. Because GID seemingly cannot be cured, many people believe that it is not actually a malady, but a naturally occurring state. Gender identity issues can sometimes be addressed by transition to the opposite gender role or, less dramatically, they can be controlled and/or incorporated into one’s life. They can also be suppressed, rationalized and ignored but, alas, they cannot be eliminated from the psyche.  It stands to reason then that so-called "gender dysphoria" must therefore be a normal human condition and not a disorder. Gender identity issues may be problematic only insofar as there are societal prejudices fostered by the one-two punch of organized religion and a paternalistic-based, bi-gendered society.  Therefore, for all practical purposes, the term “Gender Identity Disorder” is a misnomer.

The timing could not be better for the release of  Transgender Spirituality, by Sakhi Bhava, a well-researched, academic, and learned work about what’s right with being a transgender individual. Eloquently tracing the history of this issue from the pre-historic era to modern times, the author makes the case that for MTF transgender individuals, the drive to emulate the feminine, is clearly a spiritual attempt to, as Carl Jung theorized, get in touch with the “Anima” or female side. This is a natural attempt to achieve wholeness and spiritual completeness and not a disorder. For those of us who continue to experience severe guilt and shame in relation to our crossdressing behavior, this book can be a breath of spring and a way to normalize a behavior that is really only frowned upon by the Judeo-Christian culture, but is and has been acceptable to other societies, both great and small throughout the history of mankind. This informative and well-written book is a great read and a great value.

[Reviewed by Samuel]

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