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Meeting the Information Needs of Transsexual People (1998)

Meeting the Information Needs of Transsexual People (1998)

©1997, 2013 by Dallas Denny

Source: Denny, Dallas. (1998, April). Meeting the information needs of transsexual people. AEGIS News, 1(13), 8.






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Meeting the Information Needs of Transsexual People

By Dallas Denny


The S in AEGIS stands for service, and that’s what the organization has always been about — providing service. Since our inception in 1990, we have strived to make high quality information available for free or at low cost to transsexual men and women so they can make informed decisions about their lives. We’ve been remarkably successful on many fronts, but we’re proudest of having played a significant role in the lives of thousands of transsexual and transgendered men and women who have contacted us. The information and referrals we have provided have helped many transsexuals learn about themselves and make wise decisions as they have embarked upon the difficult process of reassigning their sex. We have steered thousand of folks to caring and competent professionals who helped them put life-changing plans into effect. We have watched in amazement as males have become women, females have become men, and an increasing number of people have found comfortable space somewhere in between the two traditional genders.

You see, we have always known that it is not doctors who change the sex of transsexuals; transsexuals do it themselves. Transsexuals have been changing their sex for nearly fifty years, in ever increasing numbers, and they have been becoming more competent in going about it as they learn from those who have gone before. AEGIS and its predecessor organizations have touched somewhat more than twenty thousand lives, giving support and information that in many cases have given transsexuals the start they needed. We’ve watched in awe as those who contacted us in despair began to take control of their lives and proceed through sex reassignment and eventual surgery. It’s common for someone who calls us, full of doubt and misery, having decided to come to terms with their transsexualism, to be back in touch a year later for information about name change or to get suggestions for dealing with their employer when they go full time; then call us a year after that for referral to a surgeon, to call us a year or two after that for advice with their relationships; and to emerge, somewhere in this process, as a new community leader.

Of course, AEGIS is not the only source of support for transsexual people, but we have a barrel full of letters from people thanking us for being there and telling us that it was their contact with us which started a process of change and growth in their lives. Some have called on us only a few times. We held the hands of others all along the route. We are the only national organization with a primary focus on transsexual people (in fact, several national and local community organizations are known for being abusive to transsexuals who happen to call them). We know our work is critical, and we have done it well.

We’ve helped hundreds of professionals, too, by alerting them to the many problems with the medical and psychological literature, by giving them referrals to up-to-date books and papers, and by the provision of hands-on training which helps them to be compassionate and noncontrolling therapists. We’ve watched therapists we have educated grow into empathetic, knowledgeable professionals who effect the lives of dozens of transsexual and transgendered clients.

Our work has had a considerable impact on the literature as well, both in what we have written ourselves, and in giving others the tools they need to write. Chrysalis has been influential, and even articles from AEGIS News have been quoted in the professional literature. Our director’s annotated bibliography appeared in print in 1994, weighing in at more than 650 pages, and she has an edited text which was just published. Our work has helped to de-demonize transsexual and transgendered people, and has helped lead directly to a more empathetic and caring literature.

And we’ve done so much more —our National Transgender Library & Archive is, so far as we know, the largest publicly available collection of transrelated material in the world. We’ve held dozens of seminars and workshops. We’ve played a significant role in the starting of three conferences — Southern Comfort, the International Congress on Sex and Gender Issues, and the FTM Conference of the Americas. We’ve produced medical advisory bulletins and public service advertisements, warning about medical problems which affect transpeople and about which no one else has seemed particularly concerned. We’ve placed articles in trans-community magazines, alerting the community to medical dangers.

We know our information is first rate. Over eight years, we’ve built a mighty library with a 300+ page holding list. We maintain an extensive database of over 3000 caregivers and service organizations, and a bibliography of more than 10,000 books and articles about transsexualism. We’ve published a first-rate magazine, three newsletters, and several books, mailed out tens of thousands of information packets, produced a variety of educational material, and given away tens of thousands of booklets and pamphlets. We’ve sold thousands of books through our mail order bookstore. We’ve spoken to journalists, helping them shape their stories and articles (and in some cases, their books) in a respectful manner, and convinced television talk show producers to trashcan some absurd ideas for shows featuring transpeople. We’ve attended more than 30 national transgender conferences. We’ve written hundreds of letters in support of transpersons in crisis, applauded those who treated transfolk fairly in print, and criticized those who have attacked or ridiculed us.

We’ve been influential in other ways as well—our Executive Director was successful in gaining membership in the Harry Benjamin Association over the objection of the then HBIGDA Director that she was “just” a transsexual, and so was undeserving of membership; and she was among the first transsexuals to get something other than an autobiography into print. We’ve been an important voice in transforming the treatment setting from one in which we were grateful for and unquestioning of whatever courtesies and services professionals chose to give us to one in which we have the same rights as other consumers—believe it, in 1990, this was not the case.