The Queer Psychoanalysis Society

“The Conference”: an excerpt from Gender’s Hourglass

In Gender Studies, Lacan, LGBT, Literature, Transgender on July 13, 2012 at 12:49 am

by Cybele Marcia Carter

Editor’s Introduction

        In her previous excerpt from Gender’s Hourglass, “The Institute”, Cybele Marcia Carter explored a fantasy that nearly all queer individuals share—the desire to go back in time to relive one’s adolescence armed with the knowledge of and security with our sexual and gender identity from the present. For Carter, this meant traveling back to a formative moment in time in 1972 when she was institutionalized for being transgendered. Carter writes in her introduction to the first installment:

 What I was (and still am) may have been diagnosed as a disease in 1972, but is accepted as (mostly) routine today – a transgendered female.  Neither my doctor, who recommended institutionalization, nor my parents or sisters at that time, understood what gender dysphoria (feeling born and trapped in the body of the wrong gender) or Gender Identity Disorder (GID) were.  They could not know that, while born as a boy, I had always lived with the certainty that I was female and should have been born and raised as a girl.

What fascinates me about Carter’s story is its testament to how gender and sexuality are discursively constructed. Most queer coming of age novels of the 20th century include some variation of a scene in which the character sees the word “homosexual”, “gay”, “lesbian”, or any term of queer identity in a novel, a dictionary, or encyclopedia and suddenly becomes transformed by access to textual authority. Just as an infant in Lacan’s mirror stage is born into the symbolic through the misrecognition of the self as a whole that must be maintained, I believe that this event of textual discovery for a queer youth is its own moment of misrecognition, an instance of being born into an identity category expected to wholly define the self that one must constantly strive to fit and resemble.

“Gay” is both a description of one’s self and an aspirational model to pursue for the self that subjects the individual to all of the expectations and limitations of that identity category. We are given language to inform the self, but it has an inherent, impersonal lack that can never satisfy the desire for psychic wholeness. A child born into the symbolic feels an inherent lack in themselves, and when a queer child first learns of a word for his/her gender or sexual feelings, they are deceived with a second moment of misrecognition that could make them believe that the feeling of lack was caused because they did not know they are this thing called “gay” and that by now knowing they are “gay” they have a wholly explanatory term for their self. Thus, part of maturing into a queer sexual or gender identity means realizing the inadequacy of all categories of identity, and developing strategies for signifying the self that use common terms and discourse to others in order to make one’s self legible without being reduced to a one-dimensional figure.

Carter’s story understands the importance of a queer youth to have access to language, knowledge, and discourse on gender and sexual identity. Yet, instead of having some enlightened clinician from the 70s to inform her teenage self, she supplies it herself from 2012. Her teenage self is not just given the message of “you are transgendered and that is okay”; she is granted all of the experience of growing into her gender identity over the course of the next 40 years. There is something in “queer experience” and living queerly between the lines of male and female–the lasting affect of navigating gender that informs gender identity in ways that the signifier/signified system of language excludes.

The Conference

The Gran mal conference would be, I felt, the make-or-break point of my efforts here at the Institute to form a new life; a new past, present, and future for myself.  If my explanations were convincing enough regarding my being born transsexual, and needing to live as a female being as important as breathing itself, then I would have the medical community here behind me.  And that was important in persuading my parents to let me remain Cybele and to begin taking female hormones.

But if I couldn’t persuade Kilroy’s colleagues to back me, I wondered if he would in turn back off from supporting me.  Nobody likes to swim against the tide or to go it alone, as I myself knew quite well.  Still, I knew I could count on Miss Williams’s support in any case; and perhaps she would convince the others on their own terms.

Miss Williams led me down the hall to the south side of the ward and used her elevator key to take us down to Level 1.  This was where a long hallway took us down into the actual hospital, with its own maze of corridors; until we found the conference room.  I was lost myself; but Emily had been there before, it seemed.

Now as for the room: perhaps you’ve seen, in old or classic movies such as Young Frankenstein, something called an “operating theater”.  This is a large room like an auditorium, or a small amphitheater: with banks of seats rising tier by tier so that all the attendees can get a good view of a platform, or stage, upon which a physician would perform an operation.  Or, in this case, introduce a rather unique patient.  As we entered through a set of double doors, I almost backed out.  Every one of the 50 or so seats in the theater were filled with white-coated physicians, psychologists and graduate students.  All eyes turned to me as I came in, blushing and flushed with my natural shyness.  Dr. Kilroy was standing beside a raised podium to my left, upon which a microphone was planted.

He smiled and waved us over, while addressing the audience:  “Ladies and gentlemen, esteemed colleagues, allow me to introduce my patient – Miss Cybele Carter – and her day therapist, Miss Emily Williams.”

The audience applauded politely.  There was, fortunately, a stool I could sit on beside the podium.  Fortunately, I say, because my knees were trembling.  I had seldom been the center of attention and felt wilted under the spotlights.  But Emily stood beside me, her left hand upon my right shoulder for support.  I sat demurely, hands folded in my lap, legs crossed at the ankles, as Kilroy handed me the mike and asked me to say hello.

“Hello,” I whispered, my eyes looking down towards my feet.

Then, the good doctor took over for a while, presenting the background of my case.

“My fellow medical professionals, I present to you this morning what I feel is a most unique psychological case.  The patient presented, who is 14 years old, was born a biological male, and given the name Mark Patrick Carter by his parents, Daniel and Franziska.”  I grew even more embarrassed at this, which Emily noted and squeezed my arm gently.  I looked up at her and smiled in gratitude; then dropped my gaze once more.  Dr. Kilroy went on.  “Mark grew up the youngest and the only boy in a household with three older sisters, their ages each spaced apart by approximately two years.  His father worked in construction: long hours and time spent away from home.  Thus, his boy was primarily raised in the company of females.

“At around age 4, while living on a busy street in Boston, Massachusetts, Mark was struck by a speeding automobile while crossing the street and suffered a fractured skull with coma.  Admitted to the Boston Children’s Hospital, he was operated on for the damage to his skull, and came out of his coma within a week or so.  Thereafter, he required some physical therapy to help overcome neurophysiological problems with his motor skills.  Eventually, the boy was released to his family, who by now resided in a quiet town along Boston’s south shore.

“It was about this time that Mark began to feel more inclined towards female than male appearance and behavior.  Specifically, he would rise in the dead of night in the bedroom he shared with his three sisters, and rummage through their drawers to feel and to wear their underwear over his pajamas.  He also experimented with putting on dresses from their closet.  At some point, he was caught – probably by his sisters – and spoken to sternly by his mother.  Although he seemed to relent from further cross-dressing, the urge to do so kept recurring throughout his life at ages 7 and 10.  From this point on until age 13, unbeknownst to anyone in his family, the patient practiced increasingly dressing as a girl using his sisters’ or mother’s clothing – either late at night while the others slept, or while staying home alone – his parents both working — apparently “too sick” to go to school.

“Last autumn, having just started the freshman year of high school in Pacifica, Mark was found out by his remaining sister at home on a “sick day”, wearing her slip and panties.  She told their parents, who eventually brought him to see me.  I agreed to take Mark on as a patient, not only for his perceived confusion of sexual identity, or gender, but also to help treat his shyness and lack of social skills with peers in school.  I also hoped to help create dialogue between the boy and his father, between whom some ongoing hostility was apparent.”

At this time, Kilroy caught his breath and sipped a glass of water at hand.  Then he briefly resumed his opening address.

“In recent months, the patient’s disposition had become increasingly neurotic and he appeared headed for a breakdown.  There was some additional trouble at school involving a girl who liked him (and vice-versa) and bullying from other boys at school and on the bus there.  As a result, the patient actually began to mimic the behavior of David, the protagonist of the short story “Lisa & David” by Dr. Theodore Isaac Rubin, which he had been assigned to read in a psychology class.  That is, his manner became increasingly paranoid, and he asked others – including his family members – not to touch him.

“At my recommendation, Mark’s parents agreed to institutionalize him here at the McAllister Institute on the Children & Adolescents ward, where has had resided for two weeks now.  But a change has come over his behavior here – a radical change requiring radical therapy, which I will explain.

“As of this moment, the male identity of “Mark” has disappeared, or at least submerged; to be replaced by the female identity of Cybele as you see before you.  The patient’s affect is unreservedly female, and may remain so fixed.  In a moment, I will ask first Miss Williams and then Cybele herself to explain why she believes that she is not male, but was born in a state of fluid gender that has allowed her to cross and transcend her biological identity – to be, as she phrases it, a truly transgendered female.  In this she follows the pattern of Christine Jorgensen, the first noted transsexual patient in our literature.  With her parents reluctant acceptance, I am  allowing her therapeutically to be herself and to dress and act appropriately for a 14 yr.-old girl.   Out of respect, we use the correct pronouns “she” and “her” to refer to Cybele; and I ask you to please do the same.

“But there is one other thing to note before continuing.”  Kilroy took another gulp of water, then came over towards me and draped his right arm across my shoulders.  I tried not to wince, but stared straight ahead at a point above and beyond the last row of seats, to avoid eye contact.  “Cybele Carter is an exceptional adolescent in more than one way.  Her pattern of thought is precise, logical, and seemingly adult.  She does not come across in conversation as precocious, so much as extremely mature.  And her intellect is literally off the charts, as our rigorous intelligence tests have determined.

“Although it currently defies explanation – “ here the doctor inclined his head towards me, and I turned and read in his expression caution about giving them the same explanation I had given him – “Cybele has somehow amassed a great deal of scientific and medical information about her transgender state that she wants to share with you.  You will be surprised by her responses to her questions.  You may feel free to use advanced medical terms and jargon with her.”

Becoming aware of the time himself, Dr. Kilroy said into the mike:  “As the hour is getting late, towards lunch time, and many of us are becoming hungry – “  He patted his own protuberant stomach, and there was a ripple of laughter from those assembled.  “ – we should start wrapping up now.  We’ll take one more question for Cybele, and then conclude.”

I felt relieved by this, and by Emily’s gentle squeeze of my shoulder.  I saw a woman in the first row stand and be acknowledged by Kilroy.

Then, looking directly into my eyes, she asked her question; and all my relief was replaced by new anxiety.

“Cybele, please tell us what you know of the protocols, including the risks therein, for feminizing hormonal therapy and for sexual reassignment surgery.”

I gulped, and the rest of the people in the room drew quick breaths.  In the heavy silence that followed, I felt very much put on the spot by this lady’s sharply intelligent question which required a sophisticated and detailed answer.  I knew that she knew this subject well.  But then, so did I.  Just then I remembered my notes, and picked them up, consulting and reading from them, at times verbatim.

I forced my mind to relax, and as I did the words began to flow from me.

“What Dr. Kilroy just said is all true.  Cybele Carter is a most unique individual in many ways, only some of which we have begun to explore in therapy.  Please allow us more time with Cybele before we reconvene next month.  Perhaps then she can clarify some issues and dispel further doubts.  But for now, we leave you with this understanding:  that Cybele is a truly transsexual being and an authentic female in all but physiology, and that is an area curable by modern medicine.”

“Now,” he finished, turning to Miss Williams, “I would like Cybele’s personal therapist to speak about her condition and therapy, followed by words from the patient herself.  Emily?  If you please?”

“Thank you, Doctor.  Good morning!”  Miss Williams faced the audience with a warm, infectious smile.  She then read from notes she placed upon the podium.

“What we know today about Cybele’s medical condition – perhaps I should say her birth condition – is relatively limited; but as a model for her, we can look at the story of Christine Jorgensen.  Christine Jorgensen (born May 30, 1926) was the first widely known person to have sex reassignment surgery—in this case, male to female.  Jorgensen was born George William Jorgensen, Jr., the second child of George William Jorgensen Sr., a carpenter and contractor, and his wife, the former Florence Davis Hansen. Jorgensen grew up in the Bronx and later described herself as having been a ‘frail, tow-headed, introverted little boy who ran from fistfights and rough-and-tumble games’.

“Returning to New York after military service and increasingly concerned over (as one obituary called it) her ‘lack of male physical development’, Jorgensen heard about the possibility of sex reassignment surgery, and began taking the female hormone ethinyl estradiol on her own. She researched the subject with the help of Dr. Joseph Angelo, a husband of one of Jorgensen’s classmates at the Manhattan Medical and Dental Assistant School. Jorgensen intended to go to Sweden, where the only doctors in the world performing this type of surgery at the time were to be found. At a stopover in Copenhagen to visit relatives, however, Jorgensen met Dr. Christian Hamburger, a Danish endocrinologist and specialist in rehabilitative hormonal therapy. Jorgensen ended up staying in Denmark, and under Dr. Hamburger’s direction, was allowed to begin hormone replacement therapy, eventually undergoing a series of surgeries.

“According to an article, ‘With special permission from the Danish Minister of Justice, Jorgensen had his [sic] testicles removed first and his still-undeveloped penis a year later. Several years later Jorgensen obtained a vaginoplasty, when the procedure became available in the U.S., under the direction of Dr. Angelo and a medical advisor Harry Benjamin.’  Jorgensen chose the name Christine in honor of Dr. Hamburger. She has become a spokesperson for transsexual and transgender people.”

Now it was Emily’s turn to take some breaths and sip her glass of water.  She turned towards me and bade me stand next to her beside the podium.

Addressing her audience again, Miss Williams said now:  “All that I have mentioned is the history and experience of one noteworthy transgendered individual.  But Cybele has her own story.  She is much younger than Miss Jorgensen was when she decided to enlist medical assistance to transition from being male to living as a female, permanently and for the remainder of her life.  After reading Jorgensen’s 1967 autobiography, I became convinced that she enjoyed her celebrity status.  But Cybele Carter doesn’t aspire to stardom.  She does not seek the limelight.  All she desires is to live presently as a girl and, later, with the appropriate medical help, become a woman.

“I feel confident, after spending the last few weeks with her one-on-one, that Cybele is making the right decisions for her life; but, being still a minor, she is not free to pursue transition on her own.  Her parents have expressed reluctance to her continuing in life as a female, and resisted strongly but did not entirely oppose our therapy involving her living here at McAllister as herself.  My view, which I believe Dr. Kilroy shares, is that Cybele is taking responsibility and ownership for her life and psychological health.  But I think it is up to her to convince you.”

She grasped my shoulder and gently prodded me forward a step.  “Cybele has, as her doctor mentioned, an amazing intellect and is a veritable fount of information about the nature and process of transgenderism, much of which appears wholly new to us.  Now, Cybele, please tell my colleagues more about yourself.  I’m sure they will find you as fascinating as I do.”

She moved the podium stool over so that I could sit upon it, microphone in hand, and see and be seen by the entire audience.

I coughed nervously before speaking, shuffling my own notes in my hands.  I had prepared to start off by wowing the medical attendees with my knowledge of trans biochemistry and physiology; but after the clinical references by Kilroy and Emily, I thought better of it and placed my papers on the floor.  I recalled some words Miss Williams had told me just this morning:  Try to relax, Cybele.  Just be yourself.  Let them get to know the real you.

“Good morning,” I began in a sweet but strong voice, my words amplified by the mike.  “My name is Cybele Marcia Carter, and I’m very happy and honored to be here today.”  This was followed by light applause.  “I appreciate the kind words and support I’ve received from Miss Williams, Dr. Kilroy, and the other staff and patients at the McAllister Institute.”  Still nervous, I ran my hands over my dress, smoothing it.

Trying to relax, I initially became less formal.  “So, why are we here today?  Why am I here instead of at home?  Well that’s simple and rather obvious, isn’t it?  Outside of here, I don’t fit in.  I don’t fit in at home because my parents and my sisters expect me to be Mark rather than Cybele: a boy rather than a girl.  Specifically, they require me to continue being the son and brother that I’ve always been – at least, in their minds.

“But life is complex, with various shades of gray between the polar extremes of simple black and white.  In fact, that’s a good way to characterize gender: as a spectrum between the complete opposites of 100% male and 100% female.  Although I doubt that any of you, trained in psychology, would buy into the notion of anyone being 100% this or that.  It’s much fairer to say that everyone has both a male and a female component to them.  Here I’m using standard defined terms of ‘male’ and ‘female’: what our western society views as established gender roles; as, for example, the stereotype of the 9-to-5 working husband and the stay-at-home domestic wife.  Even though stereotypes are gradually disappearing in our world, the ‘accepted’ sphere of the male involves working, breadwinning, hunting, repairing, and protecting; while the female sphere involves bearing and raising children, housekeeping, shopping, cooking, and socializing.

“Also, the appearance and attire expected of males – rough or coarse fabric, drab colors (i.e., The Man in the Grey Flannel Suit), the covering of one’s legs with breeches, and the lack of much adornment – differs markedly from what is traditionally expected of females: dresses or skirts which accentuate a prominent bosom, narrow waist, broad hips, and shapely legs; tight sweaters and tailored slacks; soft, sensual fabrics like silk and satin; and a wide variety of bright or pastel colors.  Not to mention the use of makeup, especially for eyes and lips; nail polish; and elegant jewelry including earrings.  And, for the most part, men have been distinguished (at least in this century) by shorter, close-cropped hair; while women have the choice of wearing their hair long and flowing, or done up in many more styles through the use of beauticians and hair products.

“A couple of exceptions to note before I move on.  First of all, in nature, among other animals besides humans, the distinction between male and female created by sexual dimorphism is reversed 180 degrees.  Male birds, for example, are brightly-colored while the females appear drab: see the difference between the male peacock and the undistinguished female peahen.  This is an evolutionary trait that attracts females, yet we humans have turned it on its head – who knows why?  And did any of you know that, in the early years of the 20th century, the color norm for baby boys and girls was reversed from what it is today?  Today we use blue for boys and pink for girls: but our grandparents’ generation saw pink as a much stronger and more vibrant color, suitable only for boys; and blue as more delicate, and unsuitable except for girls.

“But I’m talking about stereotypes rather than reality.  Our mothers’ generation, during the 1940s, donned pants and overalls and gloves and hard hats, and worked in factories building ships, tanks and planes while our fathers served in combat.  And some women even joined the service!  So for the first time in a long time, women were allowed to pull their own weight within the traditional male working world.  And after a brief retrenchment during the 1950s, by the late 1960s until today women (and girls) have become empowered once again and are joining the Women’s Liberation Movement in droves.  They want to be free of traditional, sociological, male domination.

“But my purpose is not to merely spout a feminist screed.  I’m simply addressing in advance a question many of you may be having, namely:  Why would a male want to become a female in our male-dominant society and world?  If it was a choice, there would be ample precedent for preferring today’s broader and less-traditional women’s’ roles over the entrenched male roles.  But ‘choice’ isn’t really a factor here.

“It may seem to some that I have ‘chosen’ to dress this way; to look and act this way; perhaps due to feelings of inadequacy as a boy.  Or perhaps, having ‘chosen’ early in my childhood to emulate my sisters, or merely to satisfy my curiosity about girl’s clothing and underwear, I developed a habit or an addiction that I find hard to shake.  Those might be plausible theories, and apply to others who appear like me; but they are not factual in my case.

“The evidence of my life strongly suggests that I was born transgendered; that some aberration in my chromosomes or my development in the womb – perhaps a sudden flush of estrogen through my fetus – moved me further down the gender spectrum from male towards female; and this I have sensed almost from the very beginning of my post-natal life.

“Any questions so far?”

As I caught my own breath and sipped some water, I saw several hands raised in the audience.  I addressed them one by one.  From a lady in the back row, a young, dark-haired woman wearing glasses.  She had the look of a graduate student or intern about her.

“Yes, thank you – Cybele.”  She looked serious as, consulting some notes she had brought, asked me:  “So, is it your contention that you are, let me see, transgendered according to nature rather than nurture?  Doesn’t the environment you were brought up in have any influence on your gender self-image?  I would think it would, given the preponderance of females in your family and an absent father – “

I cut her off.  “My father – he wasn’t an ‘absent dad’ in the sense one usually means.  I mean, he didn’t shirk his responsibilities to  myself or my sisters, nor to my mother.  He was a provider, and against his own choice had to work very long hours and commute some distance from home.  He was and remains a true father to me – I just wanted to correct any misunderstanding about this – and bonded with me as a child through his experience and my interest in boats and things nautical.”

“But,” continued the intern, “was the bonding one-on-one or was it group (family) oriented?  Did your father interest you in sports, like baseball or football; teach you how to fight; or get you involved in any traditionally male or father/son activities?

I paused for a moment, and then replied:  “I hear what you’re asking me, and no, I didn’t learn sports from my father, probably because he was never interested in professional athletics, except for boxing (which we watched together sometimes) and weightlifting – but there again he never really taught me how to do either.  He was a busy working man.’

“And to follow up my question,” the young woman pressed on: “Did you then concentrate on playing with your sisters, perhaps with dolls, and bonding more with them and your mother?  Because I would expect such behavior to lead to, or reinforce, experimental transvestism in you.  And to affect your friendships in and out of school – perhaps to develop more with girls than with boys?  Please address this area.”

“Well,” I said, “I won’t argue that I didn’t bond closely to my mother and sisters.  That arose partly out of my mother’s over-protectiveness of me, especially after my childhood accident.”  I then briefly described getting hit by a car.  “But from kindergarten on I always played more with boys than with girls, and had maybe one or two close friends at any one time.

“Still, at school, from the start I was teased by groups of boys (and sometimes girls) for being, I suppose, kind of quiet and shy and unathletic: qualities that, regrettably, have always been associated more with girls than with boys.  And especially as I got older, I was called names behind my back or to my face: sissy, girly, queer, faggot.  And perhaps that reinforced my self-image.

“But I certainly have what you would call ‘boyish interests’: war, battles, soldiers, guns, monsters, and science fiction.  I did not grow up playing directly with dolls, or Easy-Bake ovens, or playing house or having tea parties with stuffed animals.  But I do believe that, were I allowed to start engaging in feminine behavior at home, my interest in doing girlish things and having a girl’s interests would increase, while my interest in boyish things would decrease.  I hope that answers your question.  Let me take one now from someone new.”

There was a young male psychologist in the front row who caught my attention.  “Yes?” I motioned to him.

He smiled at me, not condescendingly, but with some warmth.  His eyes were piercingly intelligent, and his voice soothing.  “Miss Carter – Cybele – what are you interested in, besides being a girl?”

The question threw me somewhat off-kilter.  “What – what else am I interested in, did you say?”

“Yes,” said the man.  “Do you like television, movies, reading, being outdoors?  What are some of your favorite subjects in school?  Is there anywhere you wish you could travel to?  Or perhaps – what do you want to be, when you grow up?”

I collected my thoughts, trying to sift them through the filter of being in 1972.

“Well,” I began, “I love to read and to watch movies, and some television.  My favorite authors are Jack London and J.R.R. Tolkien.”  It was, in fact, Dr. Kilroy who introduced me to The Lord of the Rings my first time around here.  “As for movies, I like old classics like Casablanca and Gone With the Wind, as well as more … contemporary films such as …” Thinking, thinking.  “…such as, well, The Godfather (although I hadn’t seen it yet with my folks), uh, The French Connection, Patton, Klute, Midnight Cowboy…”

I heard some gasps, and the psychologist exclaimed:  “What!  You mean to say your parents allow you to watch X-rated movies??”

X-rated?” I asked, almost to myself.  “But none of those are … “ Then I stopped, and remembered that both Klute and Midnight Cowboy had an X-rating when originally released, although they would hardly merit a PG-13 in 2012.  To cover myself, I said:  “I’m sorry, I was running off movie names in my head before – of course I’ve never seen some of them but they sounded interesting to me.  But other favorites include, uh let’s see, oh: Funny Girl, West Side Story, The Graduate …

“You’ve seen The Graduate?” my questioner blurted.

I sighed.  This was tougher than I’d expected it to be.  “Just the ending – the part where this crazy man fends off people in a church with a cross, and jumps on a school bus with his bride?”  I deliberately confused the facts here.  “It was at a drive-in and I slept through most of it.”

There was visible relief in the psychologist and other members of the audience, including Emily and Dr. Kilroy.

“But to finish answering your question,” I continued to the last man who’d spoken, “What I wish to be in the future is one of you – a psychiatrist.  But one who specifically works with transgendered person like myself.”

Then an older woman – to whose raised hands Kilroy deferred – asked the following of me, and of my therapists:

“Hello, Cybele.  Dr. Kilroy and Miss Williams.  My name is Naomi Berg.  I am a psychiatrist, and specialize in helping my patients through the use of hypnosis.  I would like at this time to come forward and try hypnotizing Cybele, to elicit spontaneous answers to specific questions.  If, that is, no one minds?”  She raised her elegant chin and swiveled her glance around the room.  No one from the audience objected.

I saw my doctor frown, but Kilroy said:  “I have no objections in principle – have you any, Emily? No? – as long as Cybele is okay with it; but I reserve the right to monitor your questions and terminate the procedure if anything asked unduly upsets her.  Cybele?”  He looked at me and I returned his gaze.

“I … have no objections; but I’ve never been hypnotized and don’t know if I can be,” I replied.  Then, turning towards Dr. Berg, I said:  “You may proceed under Dr. Kilroy’s restrictions.

The woman, looking lithe despite her age in a dove grey pantsuit and granny glasses, came up the center aisle and sat opposite me in a chair pulled up for her.

I was, to say the least, a little nervous.  What I’d said about never having been hypnotized wasn’t true: in 1990, while living and working in Augusta, Maine, I had briefly seen a therapist who taught me self-hypnosis as a means of squelching my transgendered

Behavior – one of many mistakes I’d made in life my first time around.  So I knew it could happen: and, in a hypnotic state, my guard would be down, and I might let slip details about my time-travel or of the future.  I just hoped that Kilroy or Emily would stop things before I said the wrong thing.

“Now, Cybele,” Dr. Berg said softly to me, staring into my eyes with hers. “I want you to focus your attention on this.”  She reached into her pocket and held up a silver chain with a diamond pendant at its base.  Slowly, she began to swing I in front  of my eyes; all the while murmuring words to me in a monotone.  “Relax, dear.  Let the tension in your shoulders and neck fall away.  Let the muscles in your face relax.  Let your arms and legs become as yielding as rubber.”  At this point she gently stroked my arms with her soft hands; but my gaze never wavered from the pendulum swinging slowly before my eyes.  Then I heard the woman’s voice drop to a near whisper as she told me:  “Now your eyes are feeling tired and your lids heavy, Cybele.  You may close hem, but you will still hear my voice, and in your mind you will still see my pendant swinging; left, right, left, right, left, right …”

Before I knew it I was practically asleep, drawn deeply into a hypnotic state.  My entire body felt heavy and slumped in the chair I’d been given.  But I still heard Dr. Bergs soothing voice.  I remember this, and remember too my answers as she began asking questions: but when I spoke it was as though someone else was speaking through me – I seemed to answer with no volition nor hesitation.

“Cybele,” said Dr. Berg.  “I want you to answer me when I ask you a question.  You will remain totally relaxed and hypnotized until you hear me clap my hands.  Do you hear and understand me now?”

“Yes,” I replied without embellishment.  My voice was slow but soft and sounded very distant to me.

The woman stood up, facing me, and began a series of short, simple Q & A’s.

“What is your name?”

“Cybele.  Cybele Marcia Carter.

A pause, then:  “What was your full name at birth?”

“Mark Patrick Carter.”

“Were you born a boy?”

I apparently hesitated before answering.  “Yes … no … I don’t know.”

Dr. Berg sat opposite me again and leaned forward.  “Did you parents raise you as a boy?”

“Yes.”  I answered that with no delay.

Now the questions got more demanding.

“Cybele – are you a girl?”


“Why do you think that?”

My answer took a few moments, although I was not consciously parsing my words.

“I … have never felt like a boy.  I don’t like boys’ clothes.  I don’t like having short hair.  I want to look pretty like my mother and sisters.  I want to be quiet, and read, or sew, or dress up, or fix my hair … I don’t want to have to fight, or compete with boys, or … “

I trailed off, as  my hypnotized mind either had too much to say on this subject.

Dr. Berg brought me back with another question.

“Cybele – as a girl, do you like boys?”

I discovered later that this question gave my doctor and therapist a start – they hadn’t yet discussed sexual preference or gender attraction with me (even though I showed it on the ward and in our outing).

“I like boys,” I replied.

“Any boy in particular, Cybele?”


“Is he one of your fellow patients?”


“Is he your boyfriend?”


Of course, everyone knew the policy against romantic or sexual contact between patients.  But Dr. Berg continued in this same vein.

“Why do you like Brandon?”

“He’s cute,” I responded, eliciting a few laughs from the audience.

“Does he find you cute?”


Now Dr. Kilroy stepped forward.  “In the interest of time, doctor, let’s bring our patient back to answer some other audience questions.”  In part, he did this to avoid opening the can of worms that was my adolescent and adult sexual experiences.

Dr. Berg clapped her hands and brought me back to full consciousness.  Then she returned to her seat; while a man in the rear stood up rather than raise his hand, and asked:

“Cybele – what does it mean to be ‘transgendered’, and to be treated for it?”

My mind cleared immediately from the hypnotic state, all of which I fully recalled.  Now it churned to find the right words to say.  This was not a simple question; nor was my answer simple.  But it was comprehensive.

Speaking almost pedagogically, or rather pedantically, this is what I said.

Transgender means to cross gender boundaries established by societal ‘norms’.  Separation of genders has traditionally been important, particularly where matters of labor and intimacy are involved.  There are many ways of transcending one’s birth gender – by crossdressing, cross-living, adopting an androgynous appearance, or working in areas or positions usually reserved exclusively for one gender, such as homemaking and child-rearing by females and soldiering or hunting by males.

“As with sexuality, which is a separate issue, there is a spectrum of transgendered individuals.  Many male crossdressers, for example,  put on women’s clothing (especially their underwear) as a sexual fetish, for the thrill and the rush it gives them.  But they are most often heterosexual and have no desire to change their gender or live in that role: they do not suffer from what is termed gender dysphoria.  Similarly so for drag queens: usually gay men dressing for entertainment shows or for competitions.  (There are also female equivalents called drag kings.)  Many women throughout history have dressed as men to engage in their occupations, such as the musician Billy Tipton.  Our society condones female crossdressing in men’s clothes to a degree, such as women wearing their husband’s shirts to bed.  Beyond that, however, they face censure.

“Men and boys face complete censure any time they feminize themselves in their appearance or behavior, because our society values male qualities such as toughness and controlled emotions and strength over the converse.  Even girls and women today are encouraged to be more like men than ever before.

“But as for persons with this dysphoria, whether male or female at birth, they share the desire to rid themselves of those body parts that are incongruent with their gender identities; and to attain or enhance those parts that are congruent.  So, for example, a boy decides he wants to cut off his testicles and penis, which disgust him; or a girl wants to reduce or bind her breasts and increase the size of their clitoris to achieve penetration.  Such individuals fall at the opposite end of the gender spectrum from crossdressers: they are transsexuals.

“I am a transsexual.  I have had dreams and daydreams about self-mutilation to acquire a female form.  Of course I have not acted upon these; preferring instead to become medically-assisted in using hormones and surgery to achieve these goals.  But the first step is to work on changing my assigned gender identity to my true gender, both inwardly and outwardly.  I need to learn the lessons that every girl does to become a whole person and a mature woman.  Some things I know already; some I will only learn through experience until they become habitual.

“Towards that end I have worked to give myself the appearance and demeanor of an age-appropriate girl, as you see before you.”

A doctor in the audience raised his hand with a question.  “Yes?” I said.

“Miss Carter,” he addressed me.  “What is your perspective on the issue of ‘nature vs. nurture’ in gender identity?”

I’d expected such a question and had prepared an answer.

“Research,” I began, “has been performed, so I understand, on a pair of identical twins, born as boys with normal genitalia.  But because of a botched circumcision, one had his penis destroyed; and his parents, under the recommendation of a well-known psychiatrist” – here I stopped, without mentioning his name: Dr. John Money, of the Johns Hopkins Institute in Maryland, as cited in author John Colapinto’s nonfiction book  As Nature Made Him: The Boy Who Was Raised As a Girl – “opted to have surgery performed to reassign the child as a girl.”  I let that sink in before adding:  “What result from this ‘experiment’ is the finding that gender is hard-wired into our brains at birth; that is, prenatal hormones influence our brains – perhaps most specifically, our hypothalami  — to develop in such a way as to determine whether our temperaments and behavior are what we consider as typically ‘masculine’ or ‘feminine’.  That is a strong indicator that nature, rather than nurture, is the primary determiner of gender.

“However,” I added quickly before any other questions or comments were heard, “That alone does not explain why someone like myself – born with complete male genitals and, as far as I know, a normal XY gene structure – and not raised in any way as a girl, would develop as strong a cross-gender identification from birth.  Although it has yet to be proven, I believe that in the case of transsexuals there is also a biological underpinning to our psychological state.”

I was basically done on that subject; but of course questions started being flung at me – where and when was the study you mentioned done?; who was the psychiatrist involved?; how did I learn about it, when none of them knew of it?; and what happened to the boy who had been reassigned as a girl?  But I gave a look to Dr. Kilroy, and he fielded these questions for me by stating that the details of my sources would be made available to the conference attendees eventually – without giving a specific date.

I then spoke to my audience about the HBIGDA/WPATH Standards of Care (SOC).  I explained that the American Psychiatric Association (APA) permitted (or soon would permit) a diagnosis of Gender Identity Disorder (GID)  if four diagnostic criteria were met:

•Long-standing and strong identification with another gender

•Long-standing disquiet about the sex assigned or a sense of incongruity in the gender-assigned role of that sex

•The diagnosis is not made if the individual also has physical intersex characteristics.

•Significant clinical discomfort or impairment at work, social situations, or other important life areas.

I opined as to how I met all four criteria and therefore was afflicted with GID.

I went on to say that, if the four criteria were met, a diagnosis would be made under ICD-9 Code 302.8 for Gender Identity Disorder.  (This was a stretch, since this code wouldn’t be in effect for another year; but I hoped they didn’t know that!)  Then I explained how the International Classification of Diseases (ICD-10) lists three diagnostic criteria under Transsexualism (F64.0):

1.The desire to live and be accepted as a member of the opposite sex, usually accompanied by the wish to make his or her body as congruent as possible with the preferred sex through surgery and hormone treatment.

2.The transsexual identity has been present persistently for at least two years.

3.The disorder is not a symptom of another mental disorder or a chromosomal abnormality.

And, as before, I told those assembled that I did, indeed, meet this criteria.

“In the context of psychology, an individual uncomfortable with their assigned gender and wishing to alter it is said to suffer from gender dysphoria, or as specified in the DSM and in ICD-9 Code 302.8, Gender Identity Disorder (GID).  This describes me.”

I then hurried through my prepared statements, anxious that I would be interrupted before I said everything that I wanted, needed to say.  Unbelievably, no one interrupted me through this entirely scholarly lecture, which, if believed and once recalled, would advance the world’s knowledge and treatment of transsexual medicine by a good 40 years.

In short order, I told the audience of the importance of acquiring the sexual characteristics of a female, through the use of natural hormones and synthetic sex steroids.  I said that it was important to both annihilate my original male characteristics, by blocking testosterone production and effectively halting male puberty; and inducing the onset of female puberty through HT and eventual GRS.  But I carefully explained that, while surgery was presently performed only on adults, of at least age 18, that surgery during puberty would be much more beneficial in promoting a smooth transition into first girlhood and then womanhood.

And then I gave the audience the details about feminizing hormone therapy, bilateral orchiectomy and vaginoplasty;  and the additional plastic surgery that would keep people from ever suspecting that I was not born female.  I even went so far as to discuss specific cross-sex HT involving anti-androgens and androgen receptor-blockers such as cyproterone acetate and spironolactone.  I emphasized how a dosage of 100 mg/day would be efficacious in its antigonadotropic action; and that because spironolactone was developed as a diuretic, it also had an anti-hypertensive effect as a benefit.

And then I stopped, practically out of breath.

As I ended this long monologue, I saw slack-jawed expressions among my audience as well as staring eyes and furiously scribbling pens, taking notes.  After all, no 14 year-old of either gender spoke like this!

Even Dr. Kilroy and Miss Williams continued their awe of me, even though they knew the underlying reason for my intellectual and emotional maturity.

But as I finished, I sensed consternation in my audience.  The woman who had last questioned me moved closer to the podium and platform.  Taking the microphone, she stared first at me, and then hard at Dr. Kilroy.

“Doctor Kilroy … “ she started saying, low and slow; then wheeled around to face the audience: “Distinguished colleagues … ”  She seemed to be searching for just the right words, and found them.  Whipping back around towards me, Miss Williams, and Kilroy, the woman’s voice was precise, cold, and rising in volume.

“There is no way … NO WAY, I tell you! … that this fourteen year-old child can know or understand what she just said!  We here at this conference are highly-educated and trained medical professionals, from surgeons to psychiatrists, and yet … and YET! … speaking for myself, the comprehensiveness of information we’ve been given here today exceeds ANYTHING I’ve ever read or studied on the subject of gender and crossing gender boundaries!  YOU … “ here she pointed directly at me: “… cannot be what you appear.  Are you a dwarf, with stunted growth and smaller-than-normal body, perhaps much older than you appear?  Is someone feeding you this information through a listening device?  Or have you been extensively coached, and possess eidetic memory?  OR …” here she paused and swept her pointed finger at both Kilroy and Emily: “… is this some type of HOAX you’re perpetrating?!”

Now there was uproar in the room, which my doctor and therapist tried vainly to control.  The questioner had thrown down the mike and returned to her seat in disgust.  Questions and comments from the rest of the assemblage peppered the three of us at the front.  Finally, snatching up the microphone with a great screech of feedback that silenced the room, Dr. Kilroy thundered:  “PLEASE!  Ladies and gentlemen, PLEASE quiet down.  Now I realize we’ve reached a point of some concern and that some of our emotions are running high.  But I beg you to settle down and allow us to respond to the allegations and questions thrown at us!”

The room calmed just a bit.  Speaking directly to the still-fuming female psychiatrist in the front, Dr. Kilroy said:  “Dr. Markov  — Amanda – I understand your frustration over this seeming impossible situation.  Now, let me assure you – all of you! – of a couple of things.  First of all, this conference and the presentation of data to you today is no hoax.  My patient is the age she states, and although she does have perfect recall, we have not coached her.  Rather, she has taught us.  There is a further explanation of her extraordinary depth and sophistication of knowledge, but it is something I prefer to not discuss here, at this time – not until we have studied it further.  I would like instead to schedule a second such conference in one month’s time, at which things may be made better clear.”

He turned and looked at me, stalling for time.  He knew that I wasn’t prepared to reveal my origins; neither was the audience ready to hear, let alone, believe my explanation.  I understood that my doctor himself was still struggling with the notion of time-travel, although Miss Williams had no problem accepting it.

But now a man in the front row pressed the theme of doubt that had started.

“Cybele,” he asked me with some intensity; “Tell me – tell all of us – are you making any of this up, what you’re telling us?”

“What makes you ask that?”  I cried.

“Well,” the psychologist said slowly, “It’s just that – you seem very certain about wanting to be a girl.  Your focus on that one desire is very powerful.  I have to admit that it seems unusually or uncommonly so.  And your mode of speech is unlike that of any 14 year-old – girl or boy – that I can remember ever hearing.  I wonder if perhaps someone hasn’t coached you on what to say here?”

I grew indignant but tried not to show it.  “No, sir; nobody has told me what to say or how to say it.  This is my story in my own words.”

To my support, both Dr. Kilroy and Miss Williams spoke up defensively, reminding the audience that the things I spoke of and the way I spoke them had already been documented on the ward at McAllister.  The psychologist who’d questioned this sat back down.

But now, from an older-looking male doctor, came:  “Miss Carter, two questions if you please: first, just how much have you learned about genetics and developmental biology; and second, where on earth did you learn it?”

“Mostly from textbooks and medical journals in public libraries,” I replied.

The same physician (a neurologist) followed up by asking:  “Can you tell us which texts and journals you’ve read?  And how recent were they?”

Trying not to sigh, I answered:  “I can’t recall exactly at this moment, Doctor, but at a later time I may be able to recall some and make a list for you.”

Meanwhile, the physician who had asked the question was thumbing through a copy of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM)-II manual he’d brought along.  Of course, I knew what he would not find there.  So it was no surprise when he looked up at me and said:

“Cybele, I have looked through the DSM-II, with which you appear to be familiar; yet I find no mention of Gender Identity Disorder, GID, gender dysphoria, or transgender.  And in truth, as a psychiatric professional, I have never even heard of these terms being coined.  Has anyone?”  She asked this last to the audience, and there was some shaking of heads.  Now staring at me curiously, and perhaps a tad nervously, Dr. Berg inquired:  “How do you account for this, Cybele?  And how do you explain how your knowledge of this condition appears to surpass all of ours here?”

I looked over at Kilroy and Emily helplessly.  This inquiry was impossible for me to answer honestly.  I saw my doctor shrug, and Miss Williams whispered in my ear:  “Make something up. Like this …”  She gave me an idea.

Turning back to my questioner, I told some outright lies that I hoped would sound plausible.

“My parents,” I started to say, “have known about my condition for many years now.  Prior to entering therapy with Dr. Kilroy and coming to McAllister, I was taken to a number of prominent psycho-medical professionals, many outside this country.”  I began to embellish this.  “While in Europe, particularly in Denmark and Sweden, and later in Asia in Thailand, I learned more about the transgendered and transsexual state from advanced researchers working through experimental studies that have yet to be published.  They should begin to appear in American medical journals next year.  In fact, doctors in Europe are helping revise the DSM and plan to publish a third edition, DSM-III, next year.”  I registered some surprise among the audience, but others seemed to nod, as what I had just said was certainly true.

“In fact,” I wrapped up, “one major change from DSM-II to DSM-III will be the removal of homosexuality as a mental disease.”

“How is that, Miss Carter?”  the same man asked me.

Reciting parts of a Wikipedia entry by memory, I replied:

“Ronald Bayer, a psychiatrist and gay rights activist, explained that the first protest by gay rights activists against the APA began in 1970 when this organization held its convention in San Francisco. Gay rights activists disrupted the conference by interrupting speakers and shouting down and ridiculing psychiatrists who viewed homosexuality as a mental disorder. In 1971, gay rights activist Frank Kameny worked with the Gay Liberation Front collective to demonstrate against the APA’s convention. At the 1971 conference, Kameny grabbed the microphone and yelled, ‘Psychiatry is the enemy incarnate. Psychiatry has waged a relentless war of extermination against us. You may take this as a declaration of war against you.’

“Presented with data from researchers such as Alfred Kinsey and Evelyn Hooker, the seventh printing of the DSM-II, slated for 1974, will no longer list homosexuality as a category of disorder. After a vote by the APA trustees, and confirmed by the wider APA membership, the diagnosis will be replaced with the category of ‘sexual orientation disturbance’.  Or so I’ve been told.”

This unverified statement by me set a cat among the pigeons, as loud murmurs passed through my audience.  I saw and heard Dr. Kilroy striving to bring the meeting under control again, and looked at the clock on the wall.  Almost two hours had passed since the meeting started.

That seemed to end the session.  There was some scattered applause at first, which built up to a crescendo.  The participants rose and began to collect their things and leave; but were stopped momentarily by a final question from a loud-voiced young man in the second row.

“Excuse me!” his voice reverberated.  “May I ask Cybele one last, very short question?  If you please?”

There was a long pause, during which Kilroy and Emily looked at me.  I raised my eyebrows and shrugged as if to say:  Why not?  What the hell?

“Keep it short and quick,” said the doctor, nodding to the man, while others waited to hear the question and my answer.

“I’d just like to know,” the man asked me directly, but smiling as he did so:  “Cybele: you have such a beautiful but unusual name – where did it come from?”

I was nonplussed for a moment; yet the silence following this question was pregnant with anticipation by all in the room.  I had to answer it, and did so truthfully.

“I chose the name Cybele after the great mother goddess of the ancient near-East,” I stated.  “She was a Phyrgian deity, worshipped in west-central Anatolia (in modern-day Turkey) and later in Greece and Rome.  Cybele embodies the fertile Earth, a goddess of caverns and mountains, walls and fortresses, nature, wild animals (especially lions and bees).  Cybele’s cult in Greece was closely associated with, and apparently resembled, the later cult of Dionysus, whom Cybele is said to have initiated and cured of Hera’s madness. They also identified Cybele with the Mother of the Gods Rhea.  But the pre-Grecian Cult of Cybele involved ecstatic followers: acolytes were males who ritually castrated themselves, after which they were given women’s clothing and assumed female identities.  They were referred to by one 3rd-century commentator, Callimachus, in the feminine as Gallai, but to whom other contemporary commentators in ancient Greece and Rome referred to as Gallos or Galli.  Thus, Cybele seems a fitting name for someone like myself.”

I tried to ignore the astonished looks from the members of the audience, who slowly filed past me, thanking me personally before exiting.  Even Kilroy and Emily had been surprised by this last bit of revelation from me, which I had not previously spoken of.


Yes, these things happened the First and now Second times I was here.  But they are mere background for the more important stuff.


About the Author

Cybele Marcia Carter (1957 — ) is a transgendered author with a long and varied history.    Her first novel (published as Cybele) is a basically autobiographical story, with the exception of its science-fiction element and some artistic license in the creation of composite characters. The names of any and all real individuals in the book have been altered to protect their privacy. Cybele has spent much of her life coming to terms with her transsexualism and is now continuing on the road towards complete transition as a female. She has previously published under her birth name. Although she considers herself a resident of nowhere in particular, her heart yearns always for the rural and wilderness areas of Maine and Quebec. She lives alone with the exception of her cat.

Her novel, Gender’s Hourglass, is available as a Print-on-Demand softcover book through CreateSpace: It is also available as an eBook (Smashwords Edition) through most online retailers such as Amazon and Barnes & Noble.

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