Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Tennessee Trans

Looking Back: From gold medal to sex change

Andreas, left, who competed as Heidi, shown here with his wife, Ute.
January 26, 2004

East German Steroids' Toll: 'They Killed Heidi'


MAGDEBURG, Germany, Jan. 20 — Andreas Krieger opened a shopping bag in his living room and spilled out his past: track and field uniforms, a scrapbook and athlete credentials from the former East Germany.

The photos on the credentials looked familiar, but the face was fuller and softer, the hair covering the ears and draping down the neck. This was Heidi Krieger, the 1986 European women's shot-put champion, perhaps the most extreme example of the effects of an insidious, state-sponsored system of doping in East Germany.

The taking of pills and injections of anabolic steroids created virile features and heightened confusion about an already uncertain sexual identity, Krieger said, influencing a decision to have a sex-change operation in 1997 and to become known legally as Andreas.

"They killed Heidi," Krieger said.

More than 14 years after the fall of the Berlin Wall, and more than three years after criminal trials resulted in convictions of East Germany's top sports official and sports doctor, Krieger and a number of other athletes are still trying to resolve legal, medical and psychological issues related to the secretive doping program that was known by the Orwellian euphemism of "supporting means." Many of the athletes were minors at the time and say they were given performance-enhancing drugs without their knowledge.

Karen König, a retired swimmer, filed a civil lawsuit against the German Olympic Committee, contending that it inherited more than $2.5 million in assets from East Germany upon reunification in 1990 and thus bears responsibility to assist the former East German athletes.

She is seeking $12,500 in a test case, and as many as 140 former East German athletes, including Krieger, are deciding whether to file similar complaints. Last month, a state court in Frankfurt ruled that König's case could proceed. Indications are that the case could be settled out of court, according to German news reports.

Jens Steinigen, König's lawyer, said in a telephone interview that he was also exploring the possibility of suing the pharmaceutical company VEB Jenapharm, formerly state-run and now a subsidiary of the Schering AG Group. According to evidence in the criminal trials of the late 1990's, Jenapharm produced the steroid Oral-Turinabol that was given to East German athletes.

"We won't be able to make these wrongs undone, but the athletes can still use the money for medicine or therapy," Steinigen said.

As Krieger sees it, no amount of money could restore his health, which he considers harmed by steroid use and secondary effects. He experiences such intense discomfort in his hips and thighs, from lifting massive amounts of weight while on performance-enhancing drugs, that he can no longer sleep on his side. Only the mildest physical exertion is tolerable. Long unemployed, he now works two days a week as a clerk for a real estate agent.

On Tuesday, the same day that President Bush called for an end to steroid abuse in American sports in his State of the Union address, Krieger again told his own story, feeling compelled to shed more light on one of the darkest chapters in the history of performance-enhancing drugs.

As many as 10,000 East German athletes were involved in a state-sponsored attempt to build a country of 16 million into a sports power rivaling the United States and the Soviet Union, recent trials and documents of the East German secret police have revealed.

An estimated 500 to 2,000 former East German athletes are believed to be experiencing significant health problems associated with steroids, including liver tumors, heart disease, testicular and breast cancer, gynecological problems, infertility, depression and eating disorders. Some female athletes have reported miscarriages and have had children born with deformities like club feet.

In 2002, two years after the criminal trials ended, the German government established a compensation fund of $2.5 million for the doping victims, with a maximum payout of $12,500. Only 311 athletes, however, made claims — Krieger among them — by the deadline of March 31, 2003, according to Birgit Boese, a board member of Doping Victim Aid, an assistance group.

Some athletes were unaware of the fund, while others were embarrassed, afraid of losing their jobs, unable to gain full access to their medical files or unsuccessful in convincing doctors that their ailments were directly related to steroid use, Boese said.

"There was a lot of denial and still is," Boese said of the athletes. "Many have never, or only now, understood that they were abused by people they trusted."

Some of the most outspoken have faced harassment and threats. Ines Geipel, a retired East German sprinter who chronicled the doping system in a book, "Lost Games," said she had been confronted at readings in 2001 by former East German officials. As recently as Jan. 18, she said, an anonymous phone caller told her, "You know there is not much time left for you."

Neither she nor Krieger has been deterred. . . .

The First Man-Made Man . . .

July 2007

Rosette Royale


. . . The Story of Two Sex Changes, One Love Affair, and a Twentieth-Century Medical Revolution by Pagan Kennedy

When Christine Jorgensen stepped off a plane at Idlewild (now JFK) Airport in 1953, looking for all the world like Lana Turner’s long-lost cousin, she was repeatedly declared to be the world’s first transsexual. But history’s declared “firsts,” well, sometimes they turn out to be its seconds, even its thirds. And so, while sad, it seems necessary to break the news to Ms. Jorgensen and her fans: when it comes to being first to change one’s gender with the assistance of medical science, that title may very well belong to Michael Dillon, who, in the 1940s, shed his birth identity, Laura, to become the man he always dreamed of being.

Dreamed of? Well, as Pagan Kennedy tells it in her fascinating, though at times flat, The First Man-Made Man: The Story of Two Sex Changes, One Love Affair, and a Twentieth-Century Medical Revolution, Dillon’s experiences provided far more dustups than stardust.

In truth, Dillon’s troubles started early. Ten days after being born in England in 1915, the then-Laura lost her mother to sepsis. Her father, having left her and her older brother with two spinster aunts shortly after the mother’s death, died himself -- of drink -- when Laura was nine.

In her mid-teens, puberty played her a cruel trick, anointing her flat chest with unwanted breasts. In retaliation, she strapped them down with a belt. Even nastier, to Laura’s mind, was the day a boy, happening upon a gate while the two walked together, opened it for her with gallant honor. “Suddenly,” wrote Dillon in a journal, “I was struck with an awful thought...: ‘He thinks I’m a woman.’”

And so it went at Oxford, where she attended to university: everyone treated her as a female. No matter what she did -- joining the women’s crew team and advocating her teammates all don men’s clothing, procuring a stylish men’s hairdo -- she couldn’t get people to accept her as male. Her family, bristling at the gender-bending stories that trickled down to them, disowned her -- no minor offence, seeing as how her older brother was a baronet. But Laura could not help it. After all, she was sure that, inside, she was a man. . . .

Cuba surpasses world on same-sex, trans rights

Published Jul 8, 2007 8:08 PM

The Communist Party of Cuba has welcomed an update of the revolutionary Family Code to include same-sex and trans rights, reported National Center for Sexual Education (CENESEX) Director Mariela Castro Espín at the 5th International Culture and Development Congress held in Havana on June 11-14.

Journalist Dalia Costa reported from Havana on June 18, “If the initiative is approved, gay and lesbian couples would enjoy the same civil, patrimonial, inheritance, housing and adoption rights as heterosexual couples.” (caribbean360.com)

Costa added, “Norma Guillart, an expert involved in the work of a group of lesbians in CENESEX, told IPS that the reform would also recognize the right of any woman to assisted reproduction services, which are currently limited to married couples.”

Castro Espín said that in expectation of the legal changes, a request has already been filed with the Ministry of Public Health to provide reproductive assistance to three lesbian couples. (Cuban News Agency)

The amendment to the Family Code, Costa stated, would also “stipulate that the family has the responsibility and duty to accept and care for all of its members, regardless of their gender identity or sexual orientation.”

The planned reform, drafted by the Federation of Cuban Women (FMC) and backed by CENESEX, will be introduced to the people’s parliament as a draft law.

Same-sex marriage

Currently in the U.S., efforts by Republicans and Democrats—both political parties of capitalist big business—have pushed for reactionary legislation defining marriage as “between a man and a woman” solely to block the rights of same-sex couples.

But in Cuba, Article 36 of the Family Code of the revolutionary workers’ state was defending the rights of women emerging from colonial and imperialist patriarchal enslavement when it codified in 1975 that “marriage is the voluntary union between a man and a woman.”

In Cuba today, common law couples enjoy the same rights as married couples. And children all have the same rights, whether born to single women, couples who are unmarried, married, living together, separated or divorced. (caribbean360.com)

Ricardo Alarcón, president of Cuba’s National Assembly, stated in the spring, “We have to abolish any form of discrimination” against homosexuality. He explained, “We are trying to see how to do that, whether it should be to grant them the right to marry or to have same-sex unions. We have to redefine the concept of marriage. Socialism should be a society that does not exclude anybody.”

Castro Espín said that the proposal to add same-sex marriage to the Cuban Constitution will be taken up when that charter is next amended. “For now,” she added, “it is sufficient to reform the Family Code, which is recognized as a branch of Cuban law.”

In her presentation on the last day of the international congress, Castro Espín emphasized, “The political will exists to eliminate all forms of discrimination in our laws.”

“Laws by themselves are not sufficient for achieving real change,” she noted, but they are necessary to achieve forward momentum.

Trans rights moving forward

The proposed reforms to the Family Code also serve to bolster CENESEX’s 2004 national strategy to support the needs of transsexual and transgender Cubans. This plan, Castro Espín explained, “is already being put into effect.” (caribbean360.com)

The plan involves winning greater acceptance in the educational system and consciousness-raising among the revolutionary security forces.

Sex reassignment surgery—cost-free, like all forms of health care in Cuba—will be more available on request.

Twenty-four transsexual Cubans, who have won support from CENESEX since 1979, have applied for surgery. Many of them have already had their identity documents amended. Some 40 other Cubans have applied for sex-reassignment.

“Nearly everything is ready,” Castro Espín concluded. “An internal Public Health Ministry regulation has authorized the performance of this surgery by the specialized health services, and work has been carried out in training staff and acquiring technology, medical supplies and prosthetics.”

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