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Brynn Tannehill
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Brynn Tannehill is originally from Phoenix, Ariz. She graduated from the Naval Academy with a B.S. in computer science in 1997. She earned her Naval Aviator wings in 1999 and flew SH-60B helicopters and P-3C maritime patrol aircraft during three deployments between 2000 and 2004. She served as a campaign analyst while deployed overseas to 5th Fleet Headquarters in Bahrain from 2005 to 2006. In 2008 Brynn earned a M.S. in Operations Research from the Air Force Institute of Technology and transferred from active duty to the Naval Reserves. In 2008 Brynn began working as a senior defense research scientist in private industry. She left the drilling reserves and began transition in 2010. Since then she has written for OutServe magazine, The New Civil Rights Movement, and Queer Mental Health as a blogger and featured columnist.

Brynn and her wife Janis currently live in Xenia, Ohio, with their three children.

Entries by Brynn Tannehill

Transgender Day of Remembrance: A Call to Action for Trans People and Our Allies Alike

(14) Comments | Posted November 20, 2014 | 9:06 AM

The following is a transcript of my keynote address at Transgender Day of Remembrance Louisville.

Before I talk about building a movement that is more inclusive of transgender people and our issues, including violence against us, I'd like to talk about what led us to this moment in time and...

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Myths About Transition Regrets

(32) Comments | Posted November 18, 2014 | 8:00 AM

Every few months I find myself reading something written by a person with no actual psychological, psychiatric, or medical training expounding on why they believe transgender people aren't real, shouldn't be allowed to transition, or just need some old-school "reparative therapy" complete with screaming, pillow whacking and cuddling...

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A Come to Jesus Talk on Transgender Youth

(137) Comments | Posted November 4, 2014 | 4:09 PM

This past week, the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) held a National Conference on "The Gospel, Homosexuality, and the Future of Marriage." The Conference made headlines when the President of the SBC, Dr. Russell Moore, disavowed reparative therapy and instead encouraged choosing celibacy. While encouraging life long...

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Feminist Issues Are Transgender Issues

(7) Comments | Posted October 15, 2014 | 1:20 PM

Earlier this month, the president of the National Organization for Women, Terry O'Neill, published a blog post on The Huffington Post titled "Why Transphobia Is a Feminist Issue." It was an excellent and much-needed piece given recent debates about where transgender issues fit with feminism. It also follows...

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8 Things Parents of Trans Kids Want You to Know

(8) Comments | Posted September 17, 2014 | 3:35 PM

After writing a blog for the Huffington Post debunking myths and misperceptions about transgender children, I was inundated with messages from parents of transgender children thanking me for it. In the conversations that followed, I realized that there was something missing from it though: the perspective of the...

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The Difference Between Tolerance and Acceptance

(14) Comments | Posted September 9, 2014 | 7:48 PM

Often, I see the words "acceptance" and "tolerance" being used interchangeably. The LGBT community often talks of building a tolerant society, but it is by no means enough. There a world of difference between tolerance and acceptance. Living someplace that is merely tolerant without acceptance is like an existence within...

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Being a Trans Ally: Where to Begin

(88) Comments | Posted August 22, 2014 | 9:02 PM

Perhaps no athlete in the modern era has endured more unwarranted ugliness than MMA fighter Fallon Fox. Her history as a transgender woman has opened her up to abuse and made her Public Enemy No. 1 to crowds. Her latest opponent, Tamikka Brents, is no exception. In a...

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Fighting Back Against Anti-Transgender Talking Points

(25) Comments | Posted August 4, 2014 | 10:04 PM

Since the publication of Time's recent cover story "The Transgender Tipping Point," there has been a spate of conservative op-eds in retort, including ones featured in the Chicago Sun-Times and the Wall Street Journal, and online on conservative websites such as The Federalist. The attacks follow a predictable set of...

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The New 'C' Word

(145) Comments | Posted July 24, 2014 | 8:37 PM

No, I'm not talking about that one. I'm talking about "cisgender," or "cis" for short, which is a term used to describe anyone who identifies with the sex (and gender) they were assigned at birth. It is essentially the opposite of "transgender" and stands in for "non-transgender."

There are some...

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To Those Who Laughed

(107) Comments | Posted July 3, 2014 | 5:46 PM

You know who you are. You tittered, guffawed, and otherwise found Ray Jessel's song on America's Got Talent about drawing the line at dating a transgender woman hilarious. You chortled because of the unspoken implication that "that one little flaw" is actually a huge problem. You went along...

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What's Next in LGBT Law

(9) Comments | Posted July 1, 2014 | 4:22 PM

The speed with which court cases are overturning laws and state constitutional amendments limiting marriage equality is breathtaking. Since the Supreme Court handed down the Windsor decision, striking down the "so called" Defense of Marriage Act, 15-plus consecutive federal cases have struck down marriage bans. In less than one year,...

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Dispelling Myths, Misconceptions and Lies About Gender-Nonconforming Children

(47) Comments | Posted June 10, 2014 | 9:43 AM

Recently, a video about a transgender child in California named Ryland Whittington went viral. It is beautiful and moving and shows the power of unconditional parental love:

Sadly, like every other conversation about transgender children, the comments section was often unkind. Scanning the comments, I saw the same poorly thought-out ideas keep popping up. Many of them were similar to things said about transgender adults, but others were particular to transgender children.

I think it's time to put these misconceptions to bed.

1. Children are too young to know these things or make these decisions.

The overwhelming consensus of the psychological community is that gender identity is formed by the age of 2 or 3. The consensus of the medical community is that sexual dimorphism of the brain occurs in utero as a result of exposure, or lack thereof, to androgens. In other words, gender identity and expression are determined before a child is even born. It is only at 2 or 3 that they can express it.

Even those psychologists who push for "reparative therapy" to "normalize" gender-nonconforming children acknowledge that if a child is still asserting a particular gender identity at the age of 6, the odds of it changing are exceedingly small.

2. You are whatever your bits say you are.

In utero, the reproductive organs develop and differentiate earlier than the brain does. When the brain later develops in ways that typically differentiate between male and female, it is based on whether or not the androgens are present and received. Usually, because the gonads are already in place and producing minute amount of hormones, this differentiation allows the brain development to match the typical pattern. When something (such as endocrine-disrupting chemicals) interferes with this process, you can get a mismatch between phenotypes.

A person's sense of self and their gender identity and expression are based on what's between their ears. Who you are as a person is defined by gray matter, not by genitalia.

3. Gender-nonconforming behavior and identities are a result of something the parents did.

Usually this line of attack is meant to imply that the children grew up in a broken home, or that somehow the parents were gender-nonconforming or ultra-liberal or somehow encouraged it. I have spoken with many parents of transgender kids who live in conservative, religious, two-parent military families with both parents filling stereotypical gender roles. Wayne Maines became an advocate for his transgender daughter and transgender children nationwide despite previously having a very conservative philosophy and values that suggested that transgender children did not exist. Watching his child grow, he could not deny the fact that she was indeed a girl, not a boy.

But these stories are all anecdotal. Let's see what research has to say about the matter:

There is no proof that postnatal social environment has any crucial effect on gender identity or sexual orientation.

Next.

4. If you just made them behave like a proper boy/girl, it would fix the "problem."

Let's look at the two of the most famous case studies of trying to "fix" gender-nonconforming children. There was George Reker's case study of "Kirk," and then there was the case of David Reimer, who was raised as a girl after a botched circumcision. In both cases, trying to cram these children into a box they didn't fit in ended up killing them.

Nearly every parent of a transgender child I have met has told me that they reached a point of acceptance when they realized that they had a choice: either accept their child or lose them altogether.

5. My kid said he is an elephant. Does that mean I should put him on an all-peanut diet? No! These parents are just being indulgent of a child's fantasy.

We've already discussed that this isn't a fantasy; there are biological origins, and simply identifying as male or female is not abnormal. However, this reminds me of nothing so much as the same sort of ill-considered opinions that people have about raising other special-needs children.

It also bears repeating that the majority of parents who have children who have socially transitioned reached a point where they feared for their child's life. Suicidal ideation is common even in very young in transgender children.

I cannot say this more plainly: You do not have a right to question or judge a parent's decisions when they fear for their child's life.

6. When I was young I was a tomboy, and I didn't turn out to be transgender.

Individuals saying this sort of thing may have demonstrated some cross-gender behaviors but not a persistent cross-gender identity. This is a key difference between the two, and such comparisons represent a false analogy.

7. If you let them socially transition, you're just setting them up to be bullied.

This is another form of blaming the victim. Shouldn't we focus on preventing bullying rather than making the victim conform? We do not accept that forcing kids to act "less gay" is right. We don't like the idea that avoiding being raped is the victim's responsibility.

The parents of transgender and gender-nonconforming children aren't to blame if their children are bullied. More often than not, they are already doing everything they can to keep their child alive and happy. If blame is to fall anywhere, it more rightly belongs on those doing the bullying, and on school administrators who allow it to happen.

8. They're giving 10-year-old children hormones!

No. Doctors are prescribing Lupron, which blocks the onset of puberty. This drug is already being used on children who aren't transgender to prevent precocious puberty. The reason that doctors block puberty in transgender children is that forcing a transgender child to go through the wrong puberty is more or less irreversible, does permanent harm in terms of ongoing dysphoria and results in greater difficulty living in their target gender.

9. What if these kids change their minds?

For children who haven't undergone any sort of medical treatment, they transition back socially. However, after age 6 to 8, this becomes very uncommon. If they are on Lupron, they stop taking it, and puberty proceeds as normal, just as it would for a child who had been given it to stop precocious puberty.

According to Dr. Norman Spack, who specializes in this field:

[A]t the time that puberty begins -- that means between about age 10 to 12 in girls, 12 to 14 in boys, with breast budding or two- to three-times increase in the gonads in the case of genetic males -- by that particular point, the child who says they are in the absolute wrong body is almost certain to be transgender and is extremely unlikely to change those feelings, no matter how anybody tries reparative therapy or any other noxious things.

At the age of 15 or 16, if the child is still asserting a cross-gender identity, there is almost zero chance that this will change. Then, and only then, are cross-gender hormones administered.

In short, the medical and mental-health protocols are designed to only take permanent medical steps after everything possible has been done to ensure that this is the correct course of treatment. Until that point, everything is reversible. Along the way, however, steps are being taken to minimize potential harm to the patient whether or not they are transgender.

10. These kids should have to wait until they're 18 before doing anything medically (including puberty-blocking drugs).

By that time it is too late. Puberty has already given them a body that can't be easily fixed. Medical science can attempt to mitigate the harm, but at that point it is expensive and painful, and the results only partially compensate for the effects of going through the wrong puberty. In short, forcing them to wait can (and often does) cause massive, irreparable harm.

2014-06-09-PostFFS.jpg
Facial surgery is only partially effective, and it is costly and painful and can require up to 11 hours of anesthesia.

11. You transgender activists want to force all these children down a medical track.

No. No. And a thousand times no. I have met the parents of gender-nonconforming kids. These kids may express themselves differently but do not have a cross-gender identification (e.g., they are a boy who identifies as a boy but likes things that are gender-stereotyped as more feminine). I absolutely do not want children who are simply gender-nonconforming going down a medical track.

What parents of transgender and gender-nonconforming children want is the same thing that every other parent wants: for their children to be happy, safe, loved and protected. If medical care will help their children go out into the world with every chance of achieving their potential and having a fulfilling life, then they will fight tooth and nail for it.

It's what any good parent would...

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Freedom of Religion in the Workplace

(6) Comments | Posted May 19, 2014 | 4:24 PM

Recently there has been a spate of instances where private entities have been punished for perceived anti-LGBT stances. In December it was the Duck Dynasty fiasco. In April, Mozilla CEO Brendan Eich resigned after it came to light that he had donated $1,000 to the Proposition 8 campaign...

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Discarding the World's Labels and Embracing the Gray

(2) Comments | Posted May 12, 2014 | 1:31 PM

Click here to watch the TEDTalk that inspired this post.

One of the classic thought exercises in quantum mechanics is Schrodinger's cat. The imaginary cat is sealed inside a lead-lined box along with a radioactively unstable atom, some poison, and a sensor that releases the poison...

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RPM vs. PER: Comparing ESPN's NBA Statistics

(0) Comments | Posted April 22, 2014 | 2:27 PM

Recently, ESPN offered a new single metric statistic for NBA basketball: Real Plus Minus (RPM). This metric measures how well a team does offensively and defensively with any given on court, and compares it with how well the team does at each with that same player off the...

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Sticks and Stones May Break My Bones.. But Words Can Kill the Soul

(90) Comments | Posted April 15, 2014 | 9:33 AM

Yesterday, the LOGO network announced that they would shelve the Drag Race episode featuring the "Female or She-male" contest. They also stated they would no longer include the "you've got she-mail" segment at the beginning. GLAAD, who had been urging LOGO to address the issue, applauded...

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Papers, Please

(20) Comments | Posted April 4, 2014 | 4:49 PM

Imagine for a moment you work at a U.S. military base as a contractor. You step out of a bathroom after using it, and are immediately confronted by someone with base security. He demands you present identification proving your gender, otherwise he will arrest you. Your mind races, blood pounds...

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How Not to Sound Like a Creationist to a Trans Person

(21) Comments | Posted March 18, 2014 | 5:41 PM

Most people who consider themselves progressive agree with the overwhelming scientific evidence of global warming, and the 99.9 percent of climatologists who support the theory. They trust science, reason, evidence and research when they support evolution as well. Same with the idea that sexual orientation is an inborn trait, rather...

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Do Transgender Athletes Have an Unfair Advantage?

(92) Comments | Posted March 7, 2014 | 2:32 PM

Perhaps no transgender issue brings out more anger than the idea of transgender women competing in athletics. This was evident again when a female transgender CrossFit athlete was told, in writing, by the CrossFit governing body that she cannot compete as a woman. She in turn filed suit....

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13 Weird and Interesting Observations From the Marriage Equality Survey

(16) Comments | Posted March 3, 2014 | 8:51 AM

Recently, a large-scale study on the demographics of marriage equality came out. Some of the data in it was pretty much in line with what other polls are saying. However, with the vast amount of data collected, there were some things in it that were either illuminating, or...

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