Your Turn — I’ll let you in on a secret

Published 10:40 am Friday, September 30, 2022

Dove Standley

I was truly disgusted when I saw the blatantly transphobic and uninformed “opinion” piece The Farmville Herald allowed to be printed on Wednesday, September 28. In the same week that droves of students are performing walk-outs in protest of Governor Youngkin’s harmful and transphobic DOE policy updates, I found myself reading a piece that so egregiously misrepresented transgender healthcare and gender affirming practices that it can only do harm to an already at risk population.

I’ll let you in on a secret. Anytime someone uses the word “mutilate” to describe medical procedures that are supported by all major (credible) medical associations, you need to stop listening to them. They have either refused to educate themselves on the topic or are willfully misrepresenting the facts. That is not the kind of person who should be given any credence when discussing medical care.

As a transgender woman myself who has recently undergone gender affirming surgery, I can personally speak to just how difficult it is to obtain these procedures. My procedure required numerous letters from my PCP and multiple mental health professionals, over a year of painful and expensive electrolysis, and the huge personal expense of meeting my deductible and my out of pocket maximum before I was even discharged from the hospital. Keep in mind, I am an adult, with a full time job, and a very supportive husband. It took me years to make this happen. Parts of my post-operative rehab will still be ongoing a year from now. It is laughable to suggest that children are breezing through this medical red tape gauntlet on the whim of their parents.

Additionally, to insinuate that anyone would undergo the challenges of transitioning for the perceived “advantages” of being trans is a gross misunderstanding and misrepresentation of reality. It takes a certain level of privilege to see efforts to offset verifiable trends in discrimination and think, “That’s an unfair advantage.” Statistically as a transgender woman, I face an increased likelihood of being adversely affected by discrimination and (if my twice vandalized mailbox is any indication) hate/threats/violence. In the 2015 U.S. Transgender Survey, 46% of respondents reported being verbally harassed and 9% were physically attacked in the prior year because they were transgender. I also recognize that if this piece is printed, my candor may put me at even greater risk. That is the reality of being trans in America, particularly rural America.

Despite all the challenges of this process, and the challenges that will be a part of my life moving forward, I am happier and more confident than I have ever been. I am nearly unrecognizable from the version of me that was so close to suicide I had a plan and had to convince myself that my husband would be financially crushed by my lost income that I needed to at least wait until he could afford to lose me. In a recent response to Governor Youngkin’s proposed policy changes, the Virginia Rural Health Association cited a study indicating that “young adults who report high levels of parental rejection are eight times more likely to report attempting suicide and six times more likely to report high levels of depression.” Please, if you take nothing else from this piece, let that sink in. This is why we transition. Not for advantages in life. Not because someone in our life convinced us to change for them. We transition because it is impossible for us to live a happy and fulfilling life without doing so.

I was raised (indoctrinated) in a sheltered, homeschooled, very religious household. As a child, my parent-pleasing self thought I wanted to join the clergy. An upbringing without information or resources didn’t stop me from realizing my trans identity, nor will allowing kids to speak with someone safely about their gender “turn” cisgender kids trans. However, this support will hopefully help keep the transgender kids alive long enough to figure it out.

Dove Standley serves as Co-Chair for the Farmville Pride Board of Directors, and also serves on the Board of Directors for the Virginia Rural Health Association. She can be reached via email at Dove@farmvillepride.com.