Sunday, January 18, 2015

A Transgender's Faith Walt Heyer

I must confess that I can’t stop reading Walt Heyer’s books no matter how hard I try. I have read all of them. Best I can guess, my reason for this is probably similar to why I can’t stop gaping at highway accidents as my traffic lane slowly creeps past them. I’m somehow drawn to the macabre.

On balance, Walt is an excellent writer and I find his books to be both extremely interesting and mind boggling in a certain sense. “A Transgender’s Faith” is no exception. My major interest in this book lies in the fact that Walt readily admits to having made a huge mistake by successfully pursuing Sex Reassignment Surgery (SRS) and spending many years, as he indicates, “masquerading as a woman.” I find it quite refreshing to read about an individual who comes forward and says, "I was wrong." Although I enjoyed the reading, this is where my agreement with Walt ends.

There are obviously some unfortunate folks who, like Walt, have made very serious mistakes and really messed up their lives by having SRS. I have read about a few of them and it is clear that their cases are tragic.

In Walt's case and as described in “A Transgender’s Faith,” Walt is a guy who for about half of his life suffered with what he surmised was a pure case of debilitating gender dysphoria. So, about 30 years ago, after a few agonizing fits and starts, one of which including Walt getting breast implants, he had a sex change operation. He also underwent extensive cosmetic surgery to feminize his face and body. At the time both Walt’s emotional and moral state were so askew he never even informed his first wife and children about his plans.

I have no doubt that Walt means well in his books and that his motives are pure, but although I find them to be good reading, I must point out that Walt comes off as a huge victim of circumstances, heaping blame on everyone, including himself. It turns out that Walt’s obsessive urge to achieve SRS soon plunged him into oblivion. He readily admits that his problem was compounded by the fact that he also had a serious drug and alcohol issue. From what he described, Walt consumed copious amounts of illicit substances and alcohol. According to Walt, and I would concur, his propensity to escape from reality through substance abuse fueled Walt’s thinking and influenced his transition to a female gender role.

Soon after receiving his radical feminization procedures, Walt realized he had made a serious error but he tried to make a go of it anyway, living for years in a female gender role. One thing that Walt neglects to detail in his book and something I would have really liked to know are the more intimate details of Walt’s life as a woman. But for whatever reason, Walt does not address sexuality when he was living in a female gender role. Had he shared about this, it might have made his book just a bit more real.

Walt details that he now realizes at the time of his greatest gender concerns he suffered from Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder. This was compounded by another serious problem, which today is known as Dissociative Identity Disorder. Walt believes that the state of his mental health was a major factor in his "ill-advised" decision to transition. Other areas of blame fall to what he feels was a greedy and inept medical establishment and to the transgender community itself, the later Walt feels, greases the path to transition, making it an almost necessary imperative for the gender challenged. In addition to being unduly influenced towards embracing a female gender role by the TG community, Walt claims that he was misguided by a self-serving psychiatrist who, as Walt learned much later, himself had a clandestine substance problem.

When Walt transitioned, in addition to losing his manhood, he also lost his job and his family. After a time he also became drug-addled and virtually homeless. However, as Walt found out, where there is life there is hope.

Walt tells us how he eventually came to terms with who he really was. But whoever he was, although that person now had all the correct female parts, in Walt’s heart he felt he was an imposter. It was then that Walt finally realized that he had been misdiagnosed. He learned from new mental health professionals that he was not suffering from Gender Identity Disorder at all, as it was known back then. Walt began to realize that he was a victim of a Multiple Personality Disorder (Now Dissociative Identity Disorder). The sad thing for him is that his sex change had taken place when one of his female alter-egos was the operative persona.

There was now a period of time that Walt fluctuated between gender roles, often on a daily basis. Walt’s angst finally came to an end when he had an awakening and experienced Jesus Christ as his Lord and Savior. At the time Walt was also nurturing a friendship with a supportive woman, who later became his second wife. Today Walt leads an exemplary life as a man, working as a major proponent advocating against what he sees as others making the same tragic mistake that he did.

On one level, I totally agree with Walt. Having sex reassignment surgery is an exceptionally difficult road for anyone who embarks on this journey. It certainly isn't for most people who suffer from Gender Dysphoria. SRS requires a serious commitment, mental health stability and a calm, well-thought out and non-impulsive decision making process, hopefully by a clean and sober individual.

Fortunately for Walt, he found religion, a new relationship and he finally got his life on track. Keep in mind though that Walt did not suffer from your typical gender variance problem, but a serious mental illness where he was plagued by the mental imagery of several individuals who occupied his mind at various times. This is way, way different from severe gender dysphoric ideation.

My thinking is that if someone really wants to get Sex Reassignment Surgery and feels strongly enough that SRS is the right course of action for them, I support them in going for it. In so doing, I suggest that they make a well-thought-out and measured decision, employ the assistance of a strong professional team, be sure to be clear of the bounds of mental illness and eliminate substance abuse from their life before taking the road to transition.

Gender identity problems are extremely vexing to those who suffer from them and they can't be taken lightly. I think that the real answer is that we, as a society, need to change our narrow minded thinking about gender issues and not deal with this issue under the cloak of religion. The danger in doing so, or in imposing any religious doctrine for that matter, is that when we try to mandate our beliefs and ideas on others it often leads to a repressive, stagnant and oppressive society where violence and terrorism (or homophobia and transphobia) becomes the norm. This is all about the sickness of society, not a person’s gender variance, which is a normal occurrence among all organisms in nature.

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