Sunday, October 19, 2008

The Real Life Experience

The real life experience (RLE) is a major part of the Standard of Care that transgendered inmates must pass in order to receive SRS while imprisoned. RLE is a process where transgendered people have to live in their preferred gender for a year in order to demonstrate that they can function in that gender role. The RLE is a discriminatory and oppressive imposition placed on transgendered people, instead of focusing on helping them cope with being who they are, the RLE is all about testing whether they can be who society wants them to be.
Social, legal and employment systems frequently support the false conceptualized pathway set up by the SOC, meaning that a person can’t legally change their names or gender without surgery. This makes it near impossible for transgendered people to have a successful social change of gender during the RLE. In essence they must live in the gender they identify with but are not given any of the rights associated with this.
The most discriminatory part of the RLE is that permission is needed to have a medical surgery by a therapist. The question should not be whether the individual has successfully completed the RLE but whether he or she is able to give informed consent for the surgery. Like in most surgeries if the patient is well informed and has a surgeon who is willing to perform the surgery, it should be allowed, especially since SRS’ are usually paid for by the individual.
Though it is definitely not the same, an example to illustrate my point is doctors don’t go around telling women who want breast enlargements that they must walk around wearing padded bras for a year before they are allowed surgery. Transgendered people do not want surgery for aesthetic reasons, they want to be able properly live as the gender they identify with, and shouldn’t have to jump through society imposed hoops to do so.