“BETWEEN TWO-SPIRIT”— Becoming a Woman at Sixty

“Between Two-Spirit”

Becoming A Woman At Sixty

Amos Lassen

Two-Spirit is a native American term used to describe Indians who fulfill both roles of a man and a woman : almost like a third gender.

As Chris Muth was nearing his 60th birthday, he had just dealt with a life threatening illness. He was a Professor of Management at a High School of Engineering in Geneva and decided that the time had come for a change. That change involved his becoming woman or as he said, he wanted to make his outside body conform to the way he felt within. 

When he was in his 20’s and studying at the University, Chris lived in a Commune in Zurich and joined a club for Transvestite Women and started to cross-dress for the first time in his life. When he met his future wife, his life took him on a straighter and more serious conventional path, and he settled down and became a father and a successful businessman before moving on to become a professor.

We are not told about the years in between but everyone was shocked when they discovered what the wanted to do so it is safe to assume that in that time, he had lived completely as a man. Even when he leaves Geneva for Thailand to have gender re-alignment surgery this is the first time any of his friends had ever seen him seen him wear women’s clothes.

 Filmmaker Laurence Périgaud actually met Chris by chance at a Conference on Transexuality just a few weeks prior to the start of filming this documentary. The movie begins with the surgery and covers the first year of transitioning. Chris’s Swiss Doctor explains that in cases of people wanting to undergo hormonal or surgical transition to the other sex there is the Harry Benjamin Code of Practice recognized by the World Professional Association for Transgender Health which determines the protocols that should be followed.  In Chris’s case the doctor allowed Chris to fast-track the whole process. He has barely been on hormones for eight months, and even more important is that he had never had to live openly as a woman for some time as all other patients do.  We assume that this is because of his age.

In Thailand the Doctor gave Chris a new softer more feminine face and altered his genitalia as well. When he recovered, Chris returned to Geneva to face the world, but only little by little.  At home she is Christa a new woman, but at work and in society he is still Chris the man.  This is not hard to do because so much clothing now is unisex. He had planned to come out to his employers and his colleagues at the end of the semester, but the rumor mill beat him to it.

 Chris/Christa’s world is conservative and his fellow professors and friends struggle to come to terms with the complete shock of his new identity and some have managed to do so but with a bit of reluctance. The School President offers her support but the Industrial Association, the professional organization that he is president of has asked for her resignation.   His ex-wife has filed for divorce and their daughter will have nothing to do with her father.

The film focuses only on the positive side of the transitioning making it a bit unrealistic and we, of course, question the decision to by-pass many of the crucial safeguards that are normally in place.   Nonetheless, Christa Muth is likable and personable and has a fine sense of self deprecating humor. She is brave and even courageous in recognizing that it’s never too late in life to become true to who you really are regardless of the consequences.   Where I live there are three people in their 80s who are transitioning and I admire their desire to do so. The movie was special for me in that my niece, an academic like Christa, transitioned at age 41 and was allowed to keep his tenure.

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