Mark Angelo Cummings — author, former occupational therapist, and social media personality — has been a transgender man for 12 years, but now says he is “ex-trans.” And, with his newlywed wife, he seeks to build a movement against gender transition.
“I have been a member of this community for a very long time,” Cummings tells The Advocate. “I considered myself a very strong advocate in the beginning, trying to educate people regarding this issue.” He cofounded the Internet program Transition Radio with his ex-partner Jessica Lynn Cummings for that express purpose.
Now he says he has a different lesson to teach:
“Educate people that they don’t have to do this, that they can live comfortable in their skin. Instead of gender specialists giving people letters to get hormones and surgery, let’s deal with the real issue they have, which is neurological impairment, mental issues.”
“The body’s not the issue, the brain is,” added Lynna Arielle Lopez Cummings, who married her cohost Thursday.
In this article, even though Lopez is the third woman in Cummings's life to take his last name, for the purpose of clarity, she is referred to by her maiden name, Lopez.
Lopez, who formerly identified as male-to-female transgender, continues to present in the feminine gender. The Santa Ana, Calif., native and Cummings, a Cuban by birth, live in Silver City, N.M.
“I accept that I was born male,” Lopez tells The Advocate. “I accept that I am biologically male. I accept that I will always be male. That’s immutable. It can’t be altered.”
“The original birth of who we are, I feel, in my opinion, is who we truly are," says Cummings. "The other is another part of us, I think a lot of us have a male and a female side. But those in the trans community tend to want to kill that initial side. And I believe that’s wrong. We should be allowed to present our gender-nonconforming self instead of [being] placed in a box” labeled male or female.
He directed us to use male pronouns here, “since people know me as ‘he’ for the 12 past years." Cummings says he and Lopez now identify as “two-spirit” or “gender-variant,” saying, “We all have this duality — it’s part of human nature; a male and female energy, something that I believe is very normal, but society doesn’t allow that.” He says he considers that he might be intersex. Online, he also refers to himself as dual gender, using both Mark and his female birth name, Maritza.
Cummings told his story to The Advocate by phone as well in Facebook posts and messages like this one:
“I was a hormonal nightmare growing up, problems with my reproduction organs, intermittent menses (4 times a year), enlarged clitoris, etc."
But Cummings says it was his mind, not his body, that started him down the road to transition, due to what he said was the power of suggestion. As he explained in our interview:
“At 37 years old, I went to an all-women’s resort with an my then ex-partner, and somebody asked me, ‘Hey are you an FTM [female to male]?' Because I was a female bodybuilder and I was in pretty good shape, and I was taking steroids to masculinize me. I had never heard what an FTM was before.
“I went on Google, and then all of a sudden, boom, wow! This is me.
“Who would want to feel as ‘less than’ all your life, being told that being a lesbian is incorrect, not right? Now, all of a sudden it was like, ‘I can be a man and then be looked upon as normal?’ Boom. Power of suggestion.”
“I went on Testosterone, and 5 months later, I had my precious breast and my amazing reproductive organs ripped out of me, all in a quest to be a ‘man.’
“What sane person does this, and what medical professional who swears to do no harm goes along with this diabolical plan? I am sorry but now that I have come to my senses and see what this vile community has become, I see the reason for the vileness and the darkness in its intent.”
He summed up his feelings and the campaign he and Lopez launched in three sentences:
“Gender dysphoria is a lie, I don't expect many to believe me or understand since you are still entrapped in your delusions. A woman can never be a man or visa versa, we can't change biology, and what the medical system has allowed for profit should be shamed and prosecuted.”
“I for one no longer identify as trans,” Cummings tells The Advocate, “because I no longer feel the term trans holds any water. I feel that’s a garbage term. It was coined in the ’90’s as a way to promote a product.”
In actuality, the earliest known example of the term's use was in 1965, by Dr. John Oliven, in a book about sexual activity published by Columbia University, as reported by Cristan Williams of The Trans Advocate.
Cummings criticized the 2013 shift by the American Psychiatric Association from classifying gender identity disorder as a mental disorder to using the current term, gender dysphoria, which it classifies as a clinical condition. “Gender dysphoria doesn’t exist,” he stresses to The Advocate, relying upon his professional experience to defend his claim.
“As an occupational therapist, I’ve studied the [Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders] backwards and forwards. ... Psychology at one point used to be thought of as fraud. I don’t really trust psychology very much — or psychiatrists for that matter.”
Cummings and Lopez expressed their strongest opinions on the subject of transgender children, using the word “exodus” to describe the sheer number of parents deciding to help their gender-nonconforming children pursue transition. He also argues “conversion therapy is no more harmful than transgender [treatments].”
The risk of suicide in children, which is an oft-cited statistic due to the alarming frequency of suicides by transgender individuals, is overstated, Lopez tells The Advocate:
“It’s billed as being the key critical component for helping a trans kid. They’re like, ‘Oh my gosh, they’re going to kill themselves if they don’t [transition].' Even Jazz Jennings’s page on her foundation’s website has a note showing where a little kid scribbled, ‘I want to kill myself.’
"It’s subliminal. It’s expected that these kids are probably going to end their lives if mom and dad don’t give them what they want. And it’s usually a Munchausen by proxy-driven mother and it’s always a kind of wimpy dad-kind of thing going on, mom wears the pants in the family.”
That claim, Munchausen Syndrome by Proxy, is a serious allegation; the medical term is "factitious diagnosis imposed on another" and is considered a form of child abuse. It is also a criminal offense. And on his Facebook page, Cummings accuses the mother of the best-known transgender child in America of that crime, and repeated in our interview.
“Jazz Jennings, thanks to me, came forward. I know the father, very quiet. Jeanette wears the pants in that family.”
Viewers can decide for themselves by watching Jazz and her family in a new reality series that debuted Wednesday on TLC, fittingly titled I Am Jazz.
Now 14, Jennings spoke exclusively with The Advocate about Cummings at the ESPYs Wednesday.
"I just don't understand ... why people can be so hateful, and they just have to bring people down," Jennings tells The Advocate. "All I can say is, please come to the path of love and acceptance and tolerance, and look at people for who they are on the inside, don't judge them for their labels. ... We are all people, and our main goal is to work together to come to this place in society where we can just have the freedom to be who we are."
“Let the kids be kids,” Cummings tells The Advocate. He and Lopez make the case that children should be allowed to present in any gender they choose, but they firmly object to any form of medical intervention, including drugs that delay or block the effects of puberty.
However, when asked what specifically should be done to help girls and boys struggling with their gender expression as they enter puberty, having to deal with developing breasts, beard growth, and other secondary sex characteristics, Cummings’s response falls short:
“People need to accept themselves for who they are … to accept the fact of who they were born as.”
“They should be given those opportunities to make those decisions when they are mentally capable of doing so,” Lopez tells The Advocate, suggesting the mid-20s would be the right age.
What then, for those whose bodies transform during puberty according to their genetic-coded design of overtly masculine or typically feminine shape, and the sexual characteristics that hormones impart? What about the experience even Cummings himself shared, that many transgender people share, of dysphoria when seeing a body image reflected back from the mirror that does not match one’s own mental image?
Cummings’s response steered the conversation in a direction that could not be anticipated:
“So let me ask you this," he posited. "People who have body dysmorphia, who feel their arm does not belong to them, is it OK for a doctor to cut off that arm? A perfectly healthy arm? See? This is all a mental disorder. “