One of the most important things in a relationship is having your own autonomy – or getting to make decisions for yourself. If both or all partners get to be in charge of their own lives, then you have a great foundation for making room for each other and growing together. When one person controls another person, it’s easy for the relationship to become abusive. In a healthy relationship each partner should have control over themself.
Some of the decisions you should be free to make include decisions about
Sleeping and eating – what, where, when, and how much.
Medications, hormones, surgical decisions, self care, and time alone.
Declining to be a partner’s sole source of support, or having boundaries to the support you can personally provide.
Where to go and who to spend time with.
Social reputation, which information is shared with whom.
Ability to say no: to sexual activities and physical intimacy, alcohol and other drug use, unsafe situations like drinking and driving or transphobic social situations.
Diary, journal, passwords.
Important documents eg. tenancy, immigration, work, school, WINZ, identification, passport.
Private communication and support networks, such as social media, email, phone, personal messages.
Personal expression: clothing, hairstyle, language and mannerisms.
Income: how it’s made, how it’s used, and who can access it.
Culture, cultural knowledge, values, language, history, beliefs, spiritual or religious practice.
If you are controlling your partner
If you are controlling your partners decisions, there are steps you can take to relinquish control over them and let them make their own decisions. The same is true for anyone who is controlling your decisions.
For the person in control, the first steps are often the hardest: recognising that controlling a partner is a problem, accepting that they have been participating in an unhealthy dynamic, and taking personal responsibility for making changes.
Anxieties, fears, insecurities, and beliefs or values can all play roles in how comfortable we are accepting that others can change, and allowing them the freedom to do so. Some people find it helpful to talk with a counselor or another adult they trust, or look for resources about healthy relationships.
Respect your partners gender and sex characteristics
Always use the name and pronouns they choose, and never say they’re not a ”real” woman, man, or trans person for any reason – including the way they dress, the name they use, their hobbies, their attractions or sexual orientation, the ways that they like to have sex or not have sex, or what you imagine life was like for them growing up. Even if you’re really angry at them; criticise the behavior you’re upset about, never invalidate their gender.
Respect your partners body
Respect their body, including the words they use to talk about it, and their choice to take or not take hormones and have surgeries or other medical treatments. Respect their right to make contraceptive and reproductive choices, and to use protection against STIs and HIV. Respect their ‘no’ if they don’t want to use alcohol and other drugs, or be around drug use if they struggle with it. Respect their mobility, hearing, seeing, and sensory or other accessibility needs.
Respect your partners sexual boundaries
Respect their boundaries, including the ways they are comfortable with being touched or not being touched, and sexual activities they don’t want to do or times they don’t want to do them. Sometimes you might feel rejected if they say no to cuddles, sharing a bed, or hooking up, but pressuring them will only make them feel that you don’t care what they want. Show them how much you love them by never manipulating them into sex or other kinds of affection.
Respect your partners autonomy
Respect their ability to make decisions for themself about the daily things they need in their life. This includes decisions about when and where they sleep, what and how much they eat, needing time to be alone, and not always being the person to take care of your emotional or other needs. Respect them as a whole person; accept responsibility for your share of the child care or house work and do not treat them as an extension of yourself. Don’t expect them to fulfill your ideals or fantasies of what someone of their gender, or someone with their sex characteristics, should do.
Respect your partners other relationships
Respect their other relationships, including with whānau, friends, kids, other partners, and ex-partners who they are friends or family with. It’s healthy for your partner to spend time with other people they care about, and sometimes they need to spend time alone too. It can be scary learning to trust, but controlling them just means pushing them to make a choice between you, and everyone else they care about. Even if they choose you in the moment, no one can can choose that in the long run. Don’t push them away by isolating them from others.
Respect your partners safety
Don’t put them in dangerous situations such as drinking and driving, or going places they will be exposed to transphobia or other harm.
Respect your partners emotions, mental health, neurodiversity, and wairua or life force
Be honest with them, make time to talk with them about things that are important to them, have patience to work through difficult emotions without blaming them, putting them down, or becoming abusive, accept responsibility for your own emotions and actions, and only expect them to take responsibility for theirs.
Respect your partners economic situation
Respect their economic situation, including their choice to do sex work or to not do sex work, do not prevent them from working or take their money or expect them to pay for your expenses. If they have work or study the next day they can’t stay up all night, so letting them sleep is part of supporting their economic situation.
Respect their privacy
Don’t tell other people personal information about their sex characteristics and/or gender, their body, their HIV status, or the ways they have sex or don’t have sex. Don’t share their private photos, videos, or messages. Do not insist that they share with you the intimate details of their past sexual experiences. Don’t insist on knowing their passwords, reading their email, or having access to their social media.
Respect their culture
Respect their whakapapa, their people, their language, their values, their spiritual or religious practice, and the land they’re from. Respect the histories of their people, and the ways in which gender and sex characteristics might be thought about differently than in your own culture. A healthy relationship has room for difference and can celebrate each others diversity.
A common question which many trans women ask, is what their estrogen levels should ideally be. They have often asked for a higher dose from their prescribing doctor, and been told no, there are too many risks, and that their current level is within the normal ranges. The maximum pmol/L cited by doctors is often 200 or 250. However, this is against best practise.
If an adult is on a dose resulting in a lower pmol/L than the above, they should be given a higher dose if desired, unless there are sound medical reasons to keep their dose lower.
A sound medical reason may include hormone sensitive cancers or other medical conditions that are not well controlled. If liver and kidney concerns are the reason, these can be minimised by switching from oral estrogen to patches, gel, or cream, as these bypass the liver and kidneys. It is also possible for your prescribing doctor to advocate for estrogen implants (such as those available in Australia) to be made available in NZ through Pharmac.
If a patient is being told no repeatedly without what they consider to be a legitimate medical reason, they have the right ask in writing:
“I am not seeing results and would like to increase my estrogen dose. Please tell me if this is possible, and if not; what is the medical reason?”
They may also wish to add that the national guidelines recommend up to 500 pmol/L, and the endocrinology society guidelines recommend between 367.09 and 734.19 pmol/L.
If there are sound medical reasons for keeping the patients dose lower, the clinician then has the opportunity to write these down in a way that the patient can understand. It also gives them the opportunity to make sure they understand the risks and best practise, before writing it down, to ensure they won’t be found to be wrong later.
GMA would like to acknowledge the enormous amount of work being done by trans people, advocates, and healthcare workers to bring gender affirming healthcare in Aotearoa up to standard. We also wish to acknowledge that there is still bias, negligence, and malpractice from some healthcare providers, and that this can have a devastating impact on their patients’ lives. If you are a trans person struggling to navigate the healthcare system, please get in touch with us as we may be able to assist you in finding out what your options are.
Showing at Penthouse Cinema 22 Nov 2020, the film ”Ambisexuality: Seeing More Colour in the Rainbow” was advertised to include a panel discussion by GMA National Coordinator Ahi Wi-Hongi, Dame Catherine Healy DNZM, Georgina Beyer MNZM, and director James Watson.
Gender Minorities Aotearoa explains it’s position on the concepts the film discusses, and why Ahi did not speak at this event.
Content Warning: Film trailer contains transmisogynist slurs. Article discusses genitalia using medical terminology.
”There are more colours to the rainbow than you might realise. While awareness, acceptance and inclusion around sexual orientation has been increasing, there is one expression that is virtually unknown: ambisexuality. To fill this gap in the spectrum, director James Watson spent more than 20 years undertaking doctoral studies and writing a book which focuses on the men who love and admire non-operative trans women. – Film Advertising
As you may have guessed, the topic is cis men who are attracted to trans women, but specifically only if the trans woman is ”non-op”, meaning that she has a penis. According to the write up:
”Ambisexual people have not been recognised by the LGBT or straight communities and they experience extreme prejudice and marginalisation.
It’s ok to stop and take a breath.
We recognise that it is in fact trans women who this prejudice is being directed toward, and that men who will only have sexual relationships with trans women in secret, are – at the very least – complicit in this prejudicial treatment.
There is no shame in being a coward. But it does have it’s price. Those who want to have a very specific sexual experience with a trans woman in secret will often have to visit a sex worker and pay for her services.
Broadly speaking, most men and almost all clients of sex workers who are attracted to trans women identify as heterosexual, though some may identify as bisexual, pansexual, or transamorous, etc. When men are predominantly attracted to trans women only on the condition that the trans woman has a penis, they are generally referred to as a ”chaser”. Our Trans 101 Glossary defines a chaser as:
”A person who sees trans people (usually trans women) as inherently sexual, and sexually objectifies them. As opposed to someone who simply is predominantly attracted to trans women; a chaser does not view trans women respectfully as whole people with humanity and agency, but rather as players in a sexual fantasy.”
We are not opposed to the existence of chasers, as trans sex workers need clients and chasers are their bread and butter. However trans women are not interested in being valued only for their penis outside of a work relationship. Even within work relationships, many trans women prefer clients who don’t fetishise their penis excessively.
As ”recreational” relationship partners, chasers are more likely to only value trans women for the sex acts they can do with their penis, to keep the relationship a secret, and to be abusive partners in other ways.
The effect of promoting chasers as having a legitimate sexual orientation is that it supports the thinking behind common coercive relationship practices. Examples include when partners of trans women pressure them to not-have genital reconstruction surgeries (GRS), or pressure them to use their penis to have sex in ways that they do not want to.
Written by the director, the book “Ambisexuality: The Anatomy of Transerotic Desire” coins the concept of the ‘Elective vs Extant’ typology, which was defined as choosing to “appropriate some female sex and gender attributes but not others” vs “complete their transformation”. One of the reasons we find this extremely offensive are that this ‘choosing’ is framed as ‘choosing to stay masculine’, which we reject.
There are many issues around access to healthcare, including the enormous cost of surgeries which are severely under-funded and difficult to access. Most trans women can’t think about planning GRS as their healthcare is uniquely undervalued in NZ society. Trans women’s experiences include a huge diversity of embodiments, given the massive range of procedures and practices that exist. Thus, there is no meaningful divide between trans women who have or have not taken steps toward different surgeries or medical treatments.
Beyond issues of access and diversity, we reject that a woman’s penis is masculine – if a woman is ‘feminine’ and has a penis, then her penis is part of her feminine self. We support that women should not have to change their bodies to be considered feminine, complete, or “extant.”
We had (and have) a genuine interest in seeing the film and discussing the nuances and differing perspectives on a seldom-made-public topic. We offered the above feedback to the director, and let him know that Ahi is not a trans woman so another member of GMA staff would speak instead. We also had a request:
“Many trans people and our supporters may attend if we publicise the event, but they will likely also bring criticisms about legitimising chasers via the term ‘ambisexual’, and potentially also bring lifetimes of trauma about sexual partners and wider society obsessing over their genitals. In light of this, we would like to see a copy of the book or e-book, and a copy of the film beforehand, so our promo can be accurate and include a nuanced content warning.
Unfortunately, as we were invited a little over a week before the event and provided our feedback and request just 4 days prior, the director was unable to provide us with a copy of the film, book, or e-book.
We would love to hear your thoughts, and are hoping to hold a community workshop on sex and sexuality for trans people at the upcoming Wellington PRIDE Festival 2021.
Any one of these parts on their own can be transphobia.
Stereotypes are widely held ideas about a certain group of people, which are oversimplified generalisations.
Prejudices are unjustified preconceived opinions, attitudes, thoughts, and feelings about a person, which often come from believing in stereotypes about the group they belong to.
Prejudice function in 3 main ways:
– Maintaining an exploitation/domination relationship (keeping people down). – Enforcing social norms (keeping people in). – ‘Disease avoidance’ (keeping people away).
Discrimination is the actions (including failure to act) based on prejudice.
This can include interpersonal discrimination in one’s private life, e.g. social exclusion, bullying and harassment, physical and sexual violence.
It can also include discrimination in public areas of life, e.g. exclusion from human rights protections, exclusion from other legal rights, exclusion from or discrimination in housing, healthcare, the justice system, accessing goods and services, recreation and sport, education, employment, etc.
Examples include: requiring medical interventions in order to gain an accurate birth certificate, landlords refusing to rent to trans tenants, inadequate access to appropriate healthcare services, schools or employers not taking action to keep students or employees safe.
67% of trans people report experiencing high levels of discrimination in NZ, 44% experienced this in the past 12 months (vs 17% of the general population).
Cognitive; thoughts about people.
Overgeneralised beliefs about people may lead to prejudice.
”Being trans is a sexual fetish”, ”They are dangerous”.
Affective; feelings about people, both positive and negative.
Feelings may influence treatment of others, leading to discrimination.
”I am genuinely afraid of sexual violence from trans women”.
Behavior; positive or negative treatment of others.
Holding stereotypes and harboring prejudice may lead to excluding, avoiding, and biased treatment of group members.
”I want to stop trans women from using women’s bathrooms” ”Trans people should be sterilized to change their birth certificate”.
It is very common for trans people to be stereotyped in a variety of ways, and to experience stigma and discrimination across all areas of life. The impact of widespread transphobia is the key factor in the disparities faced by transgender people.
These disparities include: being bullied in school (21% vs 5% general population), being forced to have sex against their will (32%, vs 11% of women in the general population*), poverty (trans people’s median income is half the median income of the general population), going without fresh fruit and vegetables (51%) and putting up with feeling cold (64%) – 3 times the rate of the general population, being asked invasive questions during a medical visit (13% in the last year), reparative [conversion] therapy (17%), avoiding healthcare visits to avoid being disrespected (36%), high levels of psychological distress (71%, vs 8% general population), suicidal ideation (56% in the last year), suicide attempts (37%).