Fitting Into Their Own Skin
For some, the emotional freedom gained by gender transition has been worth the complications.
For many of the hundreds of transgender men and women in the Los Angeles area, recent social and medical changes have lightened the burden of living outside the mainstream. Bengtsson found support where she assumed she would meet rejection; Mike Hernandez, a lawyer who transitioned from female to male 10 years ago, has watched the emergence of a true community with increasing hope and serenity; and for Mona Rios and Boe Randal, parents of a 10-year old daughter, the discovery that they were not alone has profoundly changed their lives.
Throughout history, there have been men who lived as women and women who lived as men, but it wasn’t until 1952 that the well-publicized “sex change operation” of Christine Jorgenson brought the concept of transsexualism into the American consciousness. For subsequent decades, transsexuals were considered shocking figures–at best, mentally conflicted; at worst, morally corrupt.
But in the last 10 years, as treatment of gender dysphoria has evolved, the once closeted and isolated population of transsexuals in this country has become more open and unified. In the wake of the gay and lesbian liberation movement, this newly dubbed “transgender” community has grown in number, diversity and social presence. Brought together by the Internet and emboldened by alliances with the gay and lesbian community and their own increasing numbers, transgender people are forcing society to reconsider, once again, its definition of gender, sex and civil rights.