By Chelsea J. Wilhite (firstname.lastname@example.org)
bSci21 Contributing Writer
Karen Adell Scot is a 57 year old woman who lives in a small, rural town in California. In 2013 she began the process of transitioning from her public, male persona to her true, female self. When Vanity Fair released its July 2015 cover featuring the first pictures of Caitlyn Jenner (formerly known as Bruce Jenner), I asked Scot to shed some light on the environments in which transgender people have been raised.
Chelsea J. Wilhite: When you were a young child and engaged in what were classified as “feminine” behaviors, how did the adults around react?
Karen Adell Scot: I was instantly doubted as to the veracity of my authentic play as a girl. I knew I was a girl from two years old and played house, mommy, princess, and acted out what I saw other girls and women modeling. When I would want a scarf placed upon my head so I had the feeling of long hair, my mother would put it on as, to her, it seemed like play. Now I know that she would always take it off before my daddy came home from coaching and teaching PE. I first had stuffed animals and they were all girls. I played with them as if they were girl friends. I was a very solitary child as I was getting raped many times a week by the babysitter’s dad so I didn’t have many run ins with parents telling me that the toys were not female, like me.
CJW: How did their reactions to your behaviors influence whether or not you did those things again in their presence?
KAS: I never stopped acting like me until [I was] around five years old and entering school. My female self was covered up then, and I had to present as a little boy. I was very alone and also misbehaved because I was so unhappy. My brother was sociopathic and cruel. He would beat me because I was acting as a girl. He would hold me down by the neck with one hand and hit me over and over with the other fist on my shoulder and on my thigh. He called me horrible names and would torment me daily to stop acting like a girl. He is one of the reasons I was lost as “me” and totally behaved like a boy during school years.
CJW: When you engaged in what were classified as “masculine” behaviors (as a child and as an adult), what were people’s reactions?
KAS: They were very pleased with me. My father was a hyper-masculine football/track coach and a PE teacher. He expected me to be tough and to do sports. When I did them, he was happy. So, I was a girl playing tackle football from 7th grade through college. Masculine behaviors were promoted and feminine behaviors were not tolerated. I was shaped to continually present as a male. Yet, I was still female me inside.
CJW: How did their reactions to the “masculine” behaviors influence whether or not you did those things again?
KAS: Positive [attention] from family, especially from my parents, pushed me into what I call “Cultural Gender Inertia.” CGI is the unstoppable force that propels transgender people to behave as their assumed birth gender for so long. I kept doing the male behaviors as this took pressure off of me. I continued to drown and bury my real female self. This caused immense pain and loneliness. I never fit in with anyone and was nearly always alone.
CJW: What can behavior scientists do today to help make lives better for transgender people?
KAS: Scientists need to amplify to the general public the tremendous and repetitive research that shows the evidence for the congenital formation of transgender human beings as an alternate birth difference in the [continuum] that makes all of us slightly different. Psychologists and psychiatrists must mandatorily be trained in how to help transgender people to become their real selves to alleviate the gigantic and completely unnecessary suicide attempt rate from the stress of having a true gender brain in an opposite gender body.
Science needs to take the lead in demanding that Gender Confirmation Surgery, Facial Feminization Surgery, Electrolysis/laser and top surgery are guaranteed medical procedures covered by insurance by law, with scientists who do research in this area testifying before state Senates and Assemblies that this is necessary legislation it will have the power to pass into law. This will save so many lives.
Finally, science needs to step up the investigation into why we transgender people are who we are and publish it far and wide to stop the false culturally promulgated lies that all transgender men are just women posing as men, and transgender women are just men posing as women. We need to change the cultural paradigm in the world completely about what makes a transgender person and then re-educate about the truth in terms of gender. Transgender men were always men, and transgender women were always women.
CJW: Thank you for talking with me.
KAS: Thank you for letting me share my thoughts on this subject.
~Karen Adell Scot, Founder and Director of TRANSCARE, an organization that helps transgender people with their transitions and stands up for their rights. TransCare.Org.
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About the Author:
Chelsea Wilhite, M.A. has always wanted to better understand the world around us. As a television journalist, Chelsea worked her way up the ranks to produce the number one rated television news broadcast in the Fresno television market, an area covering five California counties. Along the way, she won two regional news Emmys and a Radio and Television News Directors Award for best news producer. In an effort to further her understanding of natural phenomena, Chelsea left television after more than a decade, turning to Behavior Analysis. She is currently a doctoral student at the University of Nevada, Reno. While behavior science research and instruction is now her primary interest, Chelsea never lost her passion for journalism and regularly contributes to behavior science oriented blogs, magazines, and newsletters.