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Transgender Emergence


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Dallas Denny

Brief Review

_Transgender Emergence:  Therapeutic Guidelines for Working with Gender
Variant People and Their Families_

Arlene Istar Lev has produced a marvelous resource for helping
professionals who work with transsexual and transgendered persons and their
families.  Her _Transgender Emergence_ is a well-written and
well-researched examination of the purpose and practice of psychotherapy
and counseling of those who question or transgress gender norms.  She
provides, inside the covers of a single book, enough information to give
even the most inexperienced psychologist or counselor an understanding of
the issues involved in working with the target population-- but even
counselors who have treated many gender-variant individuals should read
_Transgender Emergence_.

Lev's discussion of postmodern gender theory-- essential for working with
gender-variant clients, but sadly, rarely taught to those in the helping
professions-- is especially thorough, written, despite the complexity of
the concepts described, in an easy-to-understand manner.  Notable also is
her discussion of the unfortunate ways in which gender variance has been
historically viewed by the helping professions, and her clear elucidation
of alternate viewpoints that do not presume pathology.  Lev understands
that a view of gender variance as pathology is a limiting one that causes
therapists to view anything the gender-variant client might or might not do
as a sign of that supposed pathology, and can make effective psychotherapy
possible.  She makes clear the disservice such theories of psychopathology
have done not only to gender-variant individuals, but to gay men and
lesbians.  In particular, she points out the unbalanced power dynamics in a
therapeutic relationship where the therapist holds the power to grant or
deny access to desired medical treatments such as hormones and sex
reassignment surgery.

Lev does her peers in the helping professions a great service by giving
them strategies and case histories that will help them work with
gender-variant clients without unconsciously maneuvering the client into an
outcome the therapist favors.  She points out, for instance, that a
diagnosis of transsexualism does not inevitably lead to gender
reassignment, and that many clients may choose to live in full-time
cross-gender roles without genital surgery.

Lev includes a section on the issues of the intersexed, which I hope she
will consider expanding into a book in its own right.  But perhaps the most
useful and valuable service is her repeated observations that
gender-variance does not occur in a vacuum; transsexuals and other
transgendered people have mothers and fathers, wives and husbands,
children, jobs, and positions in the community, and all of these must be

We should thank Arlene Istar Lev for producing a book that will educate and
sensitive helping professionals for many years.

Dallas Denny, M.A.
Editor, Transgender Tapestry Journal


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Updated: 1/20/07