Friday, 30 April 2010

Um, Yes

The reality is usually somewhere between the two extremes.

Singapore's new multi-role corvettes have some unusual capabilities...

They bought them from Taiwan.

Thursday, 29 April 2010

The UN Jumps the Shark - Again

From :
The United Nations (UN) has been known to do some puzzling things in the past. Usually they conduct business in any manner they wish and answer to no one. Another example of that is happening right now in what has already been called one of the most illogical moves the UN has made in recent memory. With little more than a passing mention, the UN elected Iran to its Commission on the Status of women.

This is the same Iran that recently passed a law which could lead to women being imprisoned for having a suntan. The same Iran which has backed its clerics who stated that God would rain down fury on the planet as has been happening with earthquakes and volcanic eruptions because women are immodest. The same Iran which not only allows but requires that “immodest” women either be lashed or stoned to educate them while punishing them.

The Commission on the Status of Women is a panel of ten, meaning Iran will not be lost on the shuffle of dozens of voices in this position. Iran will be serving a term of four years at which point they may or may not seek another term. Iran recently gave up their bid for a seat on the U.N. Human Rights Council which was thought to be a ridiculous reach they had no prayer of attaining. Why anyone thought it was a good idea to give Iran any oversight into gender equality and the advancement of women which is the sole purpose of the Commission on the Status of Women is puzzling.

The U.N. had to know this was going to draw criticism if anyone heard of it in advance. The Iranian bid for this seat was self characterized as a covert campaign. The U.N press release announcing it was a mere blurb buried, actually nearly hidden, some 2,000 words into the document. What is disturbing is that Iran received their seat by acclamation which means that there not only was no open vote, but that a vote was not requested by any of the member states which includes the United States.

Understatement of the year award:
Why anyone thought it was a good idea to give Iran any oversight into gender equality and the advancement of women which is the sole purpose of the Commission on the Status of Women is puzzling.

Hope. And Change. Wonder what the US State Department - under Hillary Rodham Clinton - could have been thinking of when this one went down? Something else, probably.... something more important.

Wednesday, 28 April 2010

Kulula Airways Livery

From Eric Fiesley, of the Australian sceptics list:
Kulula is a low-cost South-African airline that doesn't take itself too seriously.

Click to Embiggen.

Tuesday, 27 April 2010

Product Recommendation

The best alarm clock I've ever had - a Birthday Present I got for myself a few weeks ago. Nothing starts your day like the sound of "EXTERMINATE!".

Monday, 26 April 2010

A Letter to President Obama

Mirrored from Pam's House Blend, a letter by a friend of mine, PO Autumn Sandeen.
Dear President Barack Obama,

My name is Autumn Sandeen, I'm a retired, disabled Fire Controlman, First Class Petty Officer; I retired in 2000 from the U.S. Navy after twenty years of service. Thumbnail link: FC1 Autumn Sandeen, USN (Ret.)You may know my name already, as I was one of the six military veterans who handcuffed ourselves to the White House fence on Tuesday, April 20th, 2010, to put pressure on you to include the repeal of Don't Ask, Don't Tell in your submission of the Defense Authorization Budget. I am writing today to bring to your attention the discriminatory behavior I was subjected to as a transgender woman by your federal law enforcement officers.

I am a strong, confident transgender woman.  I served proudly as a Persian Gulf War Veteran onboard the USS Gary (FFG-51) as a Close-In Weapons System technician during that war. I was awarded both a Navy Achievement Medal and a Gold Star in lieu of a second award for my service at Naval Station Long Beach's Shore Intermediate Maintenance Activity. I served onboard the USS Coronado when the ship was awarded a Unit Commendation. I'm also a disabled veteran; my VA Disability Rating is 100%, and is a service-connected disability. When I handcuffed myself to the White House fence, I wasn't an impersonator wearing a costume; I was proudly wearing an appropriate uniform for my gender identity.

Sir, I engaged in civil obedience to pressure you because you told us we should.

Specifically, you stated the following to an lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) audience on October 12, 2009:  

Now, I've said this before, I'll repeat it again -- it's not for me to tell you to be patient, any more than it was for others to counsel patience to African Americans petitioning for equal rights half a century ago...

If we are honest with ourselves we'll admit that there are too many who do not yet know in their lives or feel in their hearts the urgency of this struggle.

...And that's why it's so important that you continue to speak out, that you continue to set an example, that you continue to pressure leaders -- including me -- and to make the case all across America.

So, five other veterans and I, spoke to you with our actions.

President Obama, your Park Police took me down from the White House Fence; I was placed on the side of the police van where the other two female veterans in our group were seated. When we were about to be searched at the Park Police processing center, I informed the officer who was to search me that I was transgender. Image: Autumn Sandeen's Department Of Defense Military Retiree And Veterans Administration Disability Identification CardsWhen I went up to the processing window to identify myself, I told them I was transgender, and had male genitalia and female breasts, and that I identified as female. When the Park Police were preparing an identification bracelet for me, it initially identified me as a female.

However, before the Park Police placed the identification bracelet on my wrist, they asked me a second time -- and only me -- what my actual "given name" is, even though the officers had a copy of my military retiree identification card with my legal name of Autumn Violet Sandeen.

I never lied about my sex and gender to any officer during the entire 26-hours I was detained.

After initial processing, my five peers and I were loaded in another police van for transfer to the DC Superior Courthouse. This time, I was put in the side of the van with the men instead of the side with the women. I believe the officer who drove that van was Officer Walker -- he was a well-built man with reddish hair in his 20's or 30's.  He accelerated rapidly from each stop, late-braked to each stop, and sped through turns and over speed bumps.  As your representative, this officer represented you poorly.

When we arrived at the DC Superior Courthouse, Officer Carr of the Park Police also represented you poorly. Specifically, when he was identifying the make-up of the prisoners to the corrections officer who was going to be processing us, he identified the six of us in the following manner (emphasis added):

There are two women, and three men -- Well, really four men, and one of them is an impersonator.

During our overnight stay, policies for treatment of transgender prisoners were generally followed at the DC Central Cell Block - up until the point just before I was to be transferred.

Two officers came to my holding cell, and told me there was some confusion on my gender. I told the two officers I had male genitalia, female breasts, and a female gender identity. As they walked away, I overheard the senior officer tell the junior officer that my answer meant I was a male, and that I must have told other officers that I was female-suggesting I was trying to deceive them.

Then the female identification bracelet was cut off, and a second bracelet that identified me instead as male was attached to my wrist. At that point, I was transported to the DC Superior Courthouse. This time I was to be processed as male instead of processed as female because of the change of my wristband.

President Obama, U.S Marshals processed me into the DC Superior Courthouse. Apparently, these federal officers thought it was humorous that I, as a uniformed transgender veteran, was being processed into this U.S. Government facility. Many of them were pointing and laughing at me. The one caucasian, female U.S. Marshal who had her curly blond hair up in a bun -- dressed in a fuchsia, lightly ruffled blouse, a black blazer and slacks--kept raising her fist up and yelling out "Go Navy."

My peer female protesters -- Cadet Mara Boyd, and Cpl. Evelyn Thomas -- were in a holding cell behind the U.S. Marshal's station. They heard that same U.S. Marshal in the fuchsia blouse state the following to one of her peer officers (emphasis added):

"Did you see it? The nerve of it to be wearing a Navy uniform. Did you see the shim in the Navy Uniform?"

Calling transgender people "it" is clearly a way of dehumanizing transgender people. "Shim" a relative to "she-male" is also a dehumanizing term to identify transgender people.  President Obama, your U.S. Marshal calling me "it" and "the shim" is the equivalent to calling an African-American by the n-word, or calling a Gay-American by the antigay f-word, it is absolutely unacceptable.

I believe the behavior of your U.S. Marshal's sent the message to the prisoners that your representatives wouldn't protect me if these prisoners had sought to physically harm me -- because I was a less than human, a "shim."  At no time did any officer correct or dissuade any of the other officers from such offensive behaviors.  In fact, they seemed to feel comfortable in doing so around each other, even in front of other prisoners.

President Obama, you should be able to identify the U.S. Marshal who raised her fist and yelled "Go Navy" several times, and called me "it" and "shim" because there is a fixed camera facing the U.S. Marshal Station. I've asked Jeff Lynch of the DC Trans Coalition to help me file a Freedom Of Information Act request for that segment of video -- because I too would like to see the video, and I'm sure too that many others would like to see it as well.

I spoke to my friend Allyson Robinson after my court hearing; Allyson is the Secretary of the International Foundation for Gender Education (IFGE), and the Associate Director Of Diversity at the Human Rights Campaign (HRC). She also is a West Point graduate, a former Patriot Missile Battery Officer who left the Army as a Captain. She is also transgender. When I told her that I had been called "impersonator," "it," and "shim," by your federal law enforcement officers, she responded:

I'm appalled by the slurs used against my friend and fellow veteran Autumn Sandeen. Such treatment at the hands of officers of President Obama's executive branch, which is under specific orders not to discriminate against transgender people in hiring, speaks volumes about the work that remains to be done by our allies in positions of power.

President Obama, I remember the words you spoke so clearly years ago when asked about whether you supported transgender inclusion in the Matthew Shepard Act and the Employment Non-Discrimination Act:

"Absolutely. The transgendered community has to be protected. I just don't have any tolerance for that sort of intolerance. And I think we need to legislate aggressively to protect them."

I am now asking you to act on those words, President Obama, and show your intolerance for the kind of intolerance your representatives within the Park Police and the U.S. Marshals showed to me because I'm transgender. If they spoke about me with such inappropriate language, I'm sure they show that level of intolerance to other transgender prisoners too.

I am respectfully asking for you to initiate a full investigation of the events between my arrest and court hearing, and hold those who engaged in improper behavior accountable.

I would also ask that you initiate a review of the policies for handling transgender prisoners within all federal police agencies and federal corrections facilities, as these all fall under your executive branch of government.

I personally approached this civil disobedience action with honor, courage, and commitment -- the core values of the U.S. Navy -- and my honor, courage, and commitment was met with disrespectful and dehumanizing epithets by your representatives in the Park Police and U.S. Marshals.

And please remember, President Obama, you asked us to put pressure on you, and we are and will continue to do so. We White House Six acted with honor and dignity to put pressure upon you to put repeal of Don't Ask, Don't Tell within your submission for the Defense Authorization Budget. Please do.



Autumn Sandeen

FC1    USN (Ret.)

God have mercy on them. You see, we keep our cool - and keep the evidence. Those responsible will be identified.

Sunday, 25 April 2010

Subjecting kids to weirdos undermines standards of decency

No, that's not from a blog written by an opinionated nutcase, one of the many small-minded bigots ranting about The Jew, or the Purity of the White Race, or the International Communist Conspiracy... it's from a mainstream newspaper. To wit, the Washington Times.

Titled an "editorial", it repeats almost verbatim the talking-points of the TVC, the Traditional Values Coalition, one of the many recognised professional hate-groups like the Aryan Nation or the Ku Klux Klan.

I left a few choice comments. How could I not, when an editorial states quite openly:

Discrimination is necessary

Especially when they're talking not about discrimination as evaluation, but discrimination as persecution.

Here's the KKK TVC-written article in a highly influential Washington publication this "editorial"'s content was lifted from:
Lafferty: Employment Bill Threatens Easy House Schedule
Not quite verbatim - the editor re-phrased it - but the same talking-points.

The news magazine that published it has since stated that they weren't aware that the TVC was listed as a Hate Group - that they'd just done the equivalent of publishing as fact a press release by the American Nazi Party - also on the Hate Group list.

And a rebuttal, in the same tone, in the same magazine:
Weiss: ENDA Offers Jobs Protection

This is what the TVC says about the definition of "sexual orientation" in ENDA. From their own website:
In the next few weeks, President Obama, Speaker Pelosi, and their homosexual and transgender allies will attempt to ram through the so-called Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA).

What you may not know is that ENDA normalizes and provides special federal protection for 30+ bizarre sexual orientations listed by the American Psychiatric Association – the so-called “Dirty 30.” These 30+ fetishes include behaviors that are felonies or misdemeanors in most states.

ENDA’s “Dirty 30” includes such bizarre criminal acts as incest, pedophilia, prostitution, beastiality, and cross-dressing. If we don’t act today, Obama and Pelosi will normalize these disorders by federal law on April 21!
Just to make absolutely certain that Ms Lafferty is deeply involved in, and even obsessed by, such matters, here's what she says amongst friends at Liberty University:
Lafferty: What are those "isms" and "philias"? You can be aroused by stumps of amputees. And we brought that up during the hate crimes thing because what if you have an employee working at the VA and someone has just come back from Iraq and they have this orientation. You can't fire them. What about the family that's upset that they've been aroused by their family member? It's disgusting. And it's tragic for the victim.

Um, men that want to rub their bodies up and down women. That's on the list, that might become a protected class.

Fecal matter. Their involvement with fecal matter. Or urine. Transvestism. The list goes on, I'm not naming all of them. Children. Animals. And so we really need to draw a line in the sand.
Yes, she's actually saying that passage of ENDA will cause amputee veterans to be molested.

This is what the Act actually says:
(9) SEXUAL ORIENTATION- The term `sexual orientation' means homosexuality, heterosexuality, or bisexuality.
That's what makes them a "hate group". They lie, quite blatantly and deliberately, to try to vilify a particular part of society. They spew lies and distortions so rapidly that one can't keep up - expose one and five more take its place.

But maybe they are merely ignorant. Maybe just lazy. Maybe they haven't read the bill, they're just mistaken. Except.. there's also a link from that article in their website, to another article, also on their website. Which states, in part:
ENDA describes “sexual orientation” as homosexuality, bisexuality and heterosexuality...
It's not ignorance. It's malicious and deliberate lying. It's what they do, and trust that if they just repeat the lies loudly enough an often enough, even mainstream newspapers will publish their lies, as they're so often too busy to check them. Or, as with the Washington Times, omitting the more bizarre claims so as to seem more credible.

Saturday, 24 April 2010

Bartending as an Art Form

I wonder how an Alien race would view this? Really, we're a remarkable species. Wouldn't it be wonderful if there was another civilisation with equally impressive dynamic art, in ways we can't even imagine?

Friday, 23 April 2010

Today's Battles

A special Massachusetts edition, for a state that has had equal rights for gays for some time, and even for trans people in some major cities... but has yet to pass statewide legislation that would protect trans people.

Background, from the Patriot Ledger:
Gay rights are emerging once again as a wedge issue in a Massachusetts governor’s race.

Since Saturday’s GOP convention, two gubernatorial candidates – Republican Charlie Baker and independent Timothy Cahill – have announced that if elected, they would veto a transgender equal rights bill pending in the state legislature.
“We’re not even low-hanging fruit to kick around,” Gunner Scott, executive director of the Massachusetts Transgender Political Coaliton and a Plymouth native, said Tuesday. “We’re on the ground, so I don’t see what they gain from kicking the trans community.”

The proposed legislation would change the state’s hate crime laws to include transgender people as a protected category, and it would make sure employers can’t fire or overlook job applicants who are transgender.

Opponents have criticized the bill as unsafe and an attack on privacy.

They have focused on a section that they argue would allow, for example, a transgender woman who was once a man to use a women’s public bathroom.

Both Baker and Christy Mihos delivered speeches at the Republican state convention in Worcester on Saturday saying they oppose the “bathroom bill.”
The same old same old. Okay, so after quoting the usual list - one that grows longer every time I use it - of medical and scientific journal articles in support of my position, this is what I wrote:
Bottom line: Boy brain, girl body, or the reverse.Nothing to do with psychology, or morality, just anatomy. Neuro-anatomy.

For reasons we don't fully understand, those with feminised lymbic nuclei end up with a feminine gender identity. We have a good theory as to why this is so, one that works on experimental animals - we can reliably induce transsexuality in them by appropriate hormonal manipulation in the womb - but obviously we can't experiment on humans, so it must remain a theory only. All we can do is make the observation that it's from birth, and show that no amount of shock therapy, torture using electrodes on eyeballs, psychotherapy, cognitive therapy, psychoanalysis, psychotropic drugs, or even lobotomy can change that. They've all been tried over the last 60 years.

The problem is that the only medical intervention that works to relieve the terrible distress, distress the usual anti-depressants and anti-psychotics are useless against, is to align the endocrine system, the hormones, with the brain's anatomy. In severe cases, for the amount of cross-gendering can vary, they need surgery too, but we try to have minimal intervention. No surgery is without risk. The problem is that the hormones change the body, so genitalia becomes inconsistent with appearance in the more common, less severe cases.

And that causes problems with 'gender confusion'. Not as far as the patient goes - they're not confused - but society at large, many of whom think 'XX is girl, XY is boy, the rest is Librul BS'

It's not that simple.
'PATIENTS: A 46,XY mother who developed as a normal woman underwent spontaneous puberty, reached menarche, menstruated regularly, experienced two unassisted pregnancies, and gave birth to a 46,XY daughter with complete gonadal dysgenesis.' -- J Clin Endocrinol Metab. 2008 Jan;93(1):182-9.

So what does this have to do with laws? Well, in MA, 40% of Trans people are unemployed. 60% are below the poverty line. Because of bigotry, and because of ignorance. Because of people who say 'I'm OK with gays, but...' or describe results of autopsies, MRI scans, and gene tests as 'Mental mast(u)rbation' and can't even spell it correctly. The kind who *know* the Earth is Flat, it's just common sense.

The kind who get stampeded into panic by tales of drinking the blood of Christian Children, or Perverts in Bathrooms, or Paedophilia being made compulsory, or any of the other standard scare campaigns, completely divorced from the facts. And because of the unprincipled politicians on both Left and Right who pander to them.

MA already has some of its largest cities covered by such legislation. If there was a genuine problem, I think *someone* would have noticed in the last 35 years since such laws were first passed. They would have found at least *one* case, in the 40% of the US population covered by such laws.

It's long past time this situation was corrected.
And on to Boston Globe.
Charles D. Baker, who came to last Saturday’s state Republican convention hoping to focus squarely on the economy, taxes, and jobs, has sparked a heated debate over a divisive social issue by deriding a transgender-rights bill cosponsored by his running mate, state Senate minority leader Richard R. Tisei.

At issue is a bill that would make it illegal to discriminate on the basis of “gender identity or expression.’’ Social conservatives have dubbed it the “bathroom bill,’’ contending it would sanction unisex bathrooms and locker rooms.

On Saturday, after critics of the bill highlighted Tisei’s support for the legislation in phone calls to delegates and in petitions at the convention, Baker quickly issued a flier calling it the “bathroom bill’’ and saying he would veto it if elected.

Yesterday, gay rights activists accused Baker of a “flip-flop on transgender employment protections’’ because Harvard Pilgrim Health Care, which he led from 1999 until last year, has a stated policy “to hire, train, and promote our employees without regard to race, religion, gender, [and] gender identity,’’ the legal term for transgender people.

“It appears Charlie Baker was for transgender civil rights before he was against them,’’ DeeDee Edmondson, political director of MassEquality, a gay rights group, said in a statement. “Given Harvard Pilgrim Health Care’s history of protecting employees from discrimination based on gender identity, which happened under Charlie Baker’s watch, we were surprised to hear of his opposition to the Transgender Civil Rights Bill.’’

A spokesman for Baker, Rick Gorka, said yesterday, “Saturday’s comments stand, and that’s Charlie’s position on the issue.’’
My comment -
Frj256 wrote: "Do we have to wait until a woman is sexually attacked in a restroom to realize that this is a stupid bill. "

Well, we've been waiting for 35 years in some places which have had legislation like this. Oh there's been attacks - but not by perverts "pretending to be transgendered". Let alone the transgendered themselves.

Not once.

Not in 35 years.

And since 40% of the US population is already covered by legislation like this - including Cambridge and Boston for goodness' sake - I think *someone* would have noticed the Dire Consequences(tm) that have been predicted. Since, you know, large parts of the state are already affected. And have been for a decade, Or two.

Can we please not have such traditional scare campaigns any more, no tales of drinking Christian Children's blood, no Perverts in Bathrooms, no Compulsory Paedophilia or any of the other classics? They're getting old.
OK, so I'm repeating myself. But so are they, they deserve no better. And again, at the Boston Globe :
This should be a simple matter of medical fact, and human rights. Most people aren't ignorant - they just lack knowledge about this medical area. There's a difference.

But having said that, there's so much genuine ignorance as well, so much superstition, and it has to be said, so much pandering by opportunistic politicians to the ignorant and superstitious, that it's anything but simple.

Whether you call this a "birth-defect", or the PC term "natural variation", it's still the same thing: a group of people who have been dealt a bad hand at birth. Then they get persecuted on top of that by those who are ignorant and fearful of the unknown and unusual. Let's not do that any more, OK?

And please - no talk about drinking Christian children's blood, or perverts in restrooms, or making paedophilia compulsory, or any of the other scare campaigns.
On to the Boston Herald, where a comment read :
Transgender and Transsexuals are all equally mentally deficient, we need to outlaw sick and twisted doctors who perform surgeries on these poor mentally disturbed people.
I just cut, pasted, changed a few words, added a dose of snark as seasoning. They give McDonalds arguments, I give McDonalds replies - with a dash of Habenero. Sometimes it seems like it's over 1,000,000 sold too.

But I have a bottomless well of electrons. I'm not about to run short any time soon.

Thursday, 22 April 2010

Another one

Just how many Intersexed or Trans women are Rocket Scientists anyway?

From Forbes:
In 1990, 6-year-old Jenesis Rothblatt's lips turned blue. The little girl gasped for breath, could not climb stairs and was soon in the intensive care unit of Children's National Hospital in Washington, D.C.

The disaster began a transformation for Jeni's father--and a change in the way drugs for rare diseases are developed. Martin Rothblatt, a lawyer and businessman, turned his childhood passion for outer space into founding a series of companies that made him millions of dollars. First came GeoStar, a GPS-based navigation system, in 1986, then an early satellite radio company called Worldspace and finally Sirius Satellite Radio ( SIRI - news - people ) in 1990. In 1994 he underwent gender reassignment surgery and changed his name to Martine. Now a she, 55, Martine remains married to Jeni's mom.
Um... yes. That happens sometimes.
When Jeni became sick, Martine felt useless. "I was an expert in satellites, and I didn't know anything about medicine," she says. Jeni had pulmonary arterial hypertension (PAH), a rare and fatal disease that is caused when the artery between the heart and lungs is damaged. With 200,000 cases worldwide, PAH was too uncommon to win drug-development money. Martine Rothblatt sold her telecom stock and started a $3 million foundation to fund research, but three years went by without any progress.
As you do when your child's life is at stake.
Everybody else in biotech had a Ph.D. or an M.D., so Martine decided to get one, too. The late John Vane, a 1982 Nobel laureate in medicine who was advising United Therapeutics, hooked Rothblatt up with bioethicists at the University of London. At the time there was a raging controversy over efforts by Novartis to create genetically modified pigs whose lungs and other organs could be transplanted into people. Some virologists worried that retroviruses in the pigs could be transmitted to people via the transplants. This infuriated Rothblatt, because those lungs could save the lives of PAH patients who had run out of options. She wrote her thesis on how the research could be ethically conducted and earned her Ph.D. in bioethics in 2001. Pig-to-human organ transplant research remains banned.
*SIGH* She tried. And yes, after transition, you have so much more ability to deal with things. Need a PhD? Go get one. Even when under the stress of knowing your child is dying, and depending on you.

It's no easier after transition, that's for sure. It's just that your capabilities expand.
At first telling investors that she was going to charge a high price for a treatment for people like her daughter gave Rothblatt "a sour taste" in her mouth. But the availability of treatments changed the nature of PAH. There were 75 specialists in PAH in the U.S. when Jeni got sick. Now 10,000 doctors treat it. Pfizer, Actelion and Gilead Sciences ( GILD - news - people ) all market pills for PAH. The disease is still invariably fatal, but patients are living much longer, in some cases decades after diagnosis.

In 2004 Rothblatt and her wife, Bina, cofounded a nonprofit, the Terasem Movement, dedicated to promoting the idea that science can radically extend the human life span. She says that medicine will allow human beings to "transcend commonly accepted limits" of human life and calls futurist Raymond Kurzweil, who promotes similar ideas, "the smartest guy on the planet." Kurzweil also serves on United Therapeutics' board of directors.

Jeni Rothblatt, now 26, doesn't disclose what medicines she takes, but she is doing fine. She works at United Therapeutics, setting up town halls in the online virtual world of Second Life, where Martine can interact with all 410 of her employees, whom she calls Unitherians.
Look, our peculiar neurology gives us unusual talents - some of us at least. Just as we have unusual difficulties. To those that have been given much, much is expected, and it would only be ... right? balanced? correct? just? appropriate? all of the above? to put whatever talents we have to good use for the species. A Duty of Care, if you will. "Radically extending human life span" is something that should be doable. And worth doing.

Hmmm... I must contact my co-author. Wonder if our work could be useful to them...

She's a gal after my own heart. Just a bit brighter than me though.

Wednesday, 21 April 2010

Heroes and Heroines

Some Veterans chained themselves to the White House fence, in mute protest against president Obama's two-faced policy - his words in favour of repealing DADT - "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" that persecutes gays in the military - and his actions doing exactly the opposite, blocking all congressional attempts to overturn it until after the November elections, when they'll be no longer able to do so.

In doing so, they committed two separate crimes. One against "public order", the other various violations of the Universal Military Code of Justice, which states that it is illegal to support a cause while in uniform. Actually, it says "partisan cause", so there's some wiggle-room there.

Lt Choi is in particular danger. He's not been discharged (yet), but this is his second offence. Unless he's physically restrained, there will be a third, a fourth, as many as it takes.

PO Sandeen is my friend. She's also in an even greater danger. As a veteran disabled by her service, she's nominally still in the armed forces as a reservist, and dependant on her pension as her only source of income. Worse, trans women who are arrested - no need for niceties like charges, trials or convictions - often face assault, rape and murder while on remand. They will usually either be locked in a punishment cell, or put in amongst the general male population as playthings.

The thing is... that Trans people would be continued to be discharged from the US Armed Forces even if DADT is repealed. She's acting out of principle, to make her nation one worth fighting for, and risking her life in the process.

Their Commander in Chief is unhappy with them.

The arrests were deemed a matter of "National Security" so filming it was prohibited. Even though that meant closing a public park, and over the press's objections.

Some footage was taken from within the white house grounds anyway.

Biographies of the protestors (from Pams House Blend)

Lt. Dan Choi served as an infantry officer with the United States Army in Iraq in 2006-2007. Choi graduated from the United States Military Academy at West Point and is fluent in Arabic. In June 2008, he transferred from active duty Army to the New York National Guard. After coming out on The Rachel Maddow Show in March 2009, he was notified that the Army had begun discharge proceedings against him. Choi is a founding member of KnightsOut, an organization of West Point alumni that advocates for the rights of gays and lesbians to serve openly in the military, and he speaks frequently in support of rights for LGBT members of the military.

Capt. Jim Pietrangelo II, a former infantryman and lawyer originally from Ohio, served in the United States Army until he was discharged in 2004 under the Don't Ask, Don't Tell policy. Pietrangelo fought in Iraq in 1991 as an infantryman and returned as a JAG officer for the second Iraq War. As he was readying for a third combat tour, he was honorably discharged for declaring he is gay. Pietrangelo sued the government, charging that the policy is unconstitutional. He appealed to the Supreme Court, but in June 2009, the Supreme Court rejected the case and refused to intervene, at the request of the Obama Administration.

Petty Officer Larry Whitt was born in Barnwell, South Carolina, and grew up in Florida. Fulfilling a lifelong goal, Whitt joined the Navy after high school and served for 12 years. He received the Outstanding Sailor Award aboard the USS Compass Island, was a Sailor of the Month aboard the USS Caloosahatchee, and retired as a Petty Officer First Class. He was stationed with the Office of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Pentagon, and received a Joint Service Commendation Medal, two Good Conduct Medals, and a Navy Expeditionary Medal. Whitt was honorably discharged in October 1982, after he requested discharge for fear of being turned in for being gay. Currently, he is the Color Guard Coordinator for the Florida Gold Coast Chapter of American Veterans for Equal Rights in Ft. Lauderdale.

Petty Officer Autumn Sandeen was born in Northridge, California and raised in Los Angeles's San Fernando Valley. Sandeen joined the United States Navy in 1980 as a Fire Controlman. She served on two Guided Missile Fast Frigates as a Mark 92 Fire Control System technician, and one Guided Missile Fast Frigate as a Mark 15 Close-In Weapons System technician. Her last ship was the Third Fleet Command Ship, the USS Coronado, where she served as a Mark 15 Close-In Weapons System technician from 1996 to 2000. She retired after 20 years as a Fire Controlman First Class. At the end of 1999 and beginning of 2000, Sandeen was sexually harassed by a subordinate and Executive Officer for being perceived as an effeminate gay male. After retiring from the U.S. Navy, she was awarded a Veteran's Administration Service Connected Disability rating. She began transitioning as a male-to-female transsexual on February 6, 2003. As a transgender activist, she has worked with many transgender advocacy organizations. She is currently the transgender chair of DOD FedGlobe, and she writes for the blog Pam's House Blend.

Cadet Mara Boyd
, originally from and currently residing in Ann Arbor, Michigan, completed three years in the Air Force ROTC program at the University of Colorado at Boulder and graduated in the top ten percent of her basic training class before she came out as a lesbian to her commander in the fall of 2002 and was honorably discharged under the Don't Ask, Don't Tell policy in June 2003. Before she came out, Boyd held the position in her cadet detachment of Cadet Captain, Character Development Officer, having been nominated by the officer cadre and cadet corps to handle the character development and moral guidance of the entire detachment. Boyd's ROTC scholarship, which had paid for two years of nonresident tuition, was revoked upon her discharge, and the government demanded that she repay her scholarships and book stipends. Boyd ended up with $30,000 of tuition bills to pay. Boyd returned to UC Boulder and completed her degree, but she is still paying back the scholarship debt.

Corporal Evelyn Thomas
, who was born in Los Angeles and grew up in Texas, joined the Army National Guard and then the U.S. Marine Corps. She served at Camp Pendleton for four years until another Marine found a letter in her locker about her relationship with a woman. She was then honorably discharged in 1991. In October 2009, Thomas founded a ministry for gays in the military who fear they may be discharged for speaking openly to base chaplains about their sexuality. The Sanctuary Project Veterans is a ministry of Pilgrim United Church of Christ in Carlsbad, CA, and it provides a safe haven, support, legal advice, and services for soldiers harassed due to the Don't Ask Don't Tell policy.

Autumn is my friend. I can do nothing to protect her, and she went into this fully realising the likely consequences - and the substantial risk of the less-likely ones. I tell myself that I mustn't worry too much, that the odds are pretty good that nothing untoward will happen. Then I remember incidents like this one:

From lezgetreal:

The vote to find McRae guilty was eleven to one, but at 2pm today, the trial was declared a mistrial after the jury let the judge know that they were deadlocked.

The conviction of McRae may have been hampered by the fact that his victim, Duanna Johnson, was murdered in November 2008. McRae’s beating of her took place in February of that year. At last known, Johnson’s murder has never been solved. She was one of a number of transpeople murdered in Memphis at the end of 2008 and early 2009.
Bad things happen to people like her when arrested. People like Autumn. People like me.

So the next time someone congratulates me for my efforts - I wish they'd give the credit to a real heroine like Autumn. If she's still alive. She probably is. Almost certainly. Even though more trans women have died in Australia awaiting trial than Australian soldiers have been killed in Iraq.

Tuesday, 20 April 2010

Discworld Short Stories

I'm a Terry Prachett fan. I haven't read all his works - not quite - but close. So it was with much joy that I've found some hitherto unread Discworld and Roundworld short stories of his that I wasn't aware of existed. And they are online.

Death - and what comes next
Turntables of the Night
Troll Bridge
Theatre of Cruelty
A Collegiate Casting-Out of Devilish Devices
The Sea and Little Fishes

In context:

Monday, 19 April 2010

The Man Who Sold Out The Moon

How much was the now defunct effort to return to the Moon going to cost each American Taxpayer?

Try this calculator.
NASA has spent more than $9 billion on development of the Constellation project and the Ares rockets over the last six years. President Obama's fiscal 2011 budget would end funding for the Constellation Systems program, initiated by NASA in 2005 to return astronauts to the Moon by 2020 and later to Mars. The administration says the program is behind schedule and cannot achieve its goals without budget increases. Constellation would need an additional $3 billion annually beyond fiscal 2010.
Now Constellation needed mending with a new one. But now it's clear that to Obama, it's all about "US Pride" and "Showing the Flag". Prestige. Basically, one huge publicity stunt. Not about colonisation. Not about using our disabled twin planet as a testing ground for how to live off-Earth.

Saturday, 17 April 2010

Must Catholics Persecute Transsexuals?

I'm mirroring this from the site Catholic Answers. Many controversial posts disappear, as the poor moderators are overwhelmed by the torrent of posts about Priestly Paedophilia, so haven't been quite as careful and fair as they usually are.

Must Catholics deny Transsexuals and the Intersexed Human Rights?

The Magisterium has not said so.
The Congress of American Catholic Bishops has not said so. (UPDATE: As of May 19 2010, they have said so)
The Pope has said so though.

First, to show that the Vatican thinks it would be best to legally deny gays human rights:
The Vatican expressed similar concerns in a 1992 letter to Bishops of the Catholic Church – authored by then-Cardinal Ratzinger, now Pope Benedict XVI – regarding legislation to “make discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation illegal,” which according to Ratzinger, “may in fact have a negative impact on the family and society.”

“Even when the practice of homosexuality may seriously threaten the lives and well-being of a large number of people, its advocates remain undeterred and refuse to consider the magnitude of the risks involved,” Cardinal Ratzinger wrote. “’Sexual orientation’ does not constitute a quality comparable to race, ethnic background, etc., in respect to non-discrimination. Unlike these, homosexual orientation is an objective disorder and evokes moral concern.”

“Including ‘homosexual orientation’ among the considerations on the basis of which it is illegal to discriminate,” Ratzinger wrote, “can easily lead to regarding homosexuality as a positive source of human rights…(and)…to the legislative protection and promotion of homosexuality.”
-- Americans For Truth About Homosexuality

What Human Rights are we talking about here? Let's look at the list of rights in the legislation ynder consideration that is deemed to have a "negative impact on the family and society".

To be allowed to use:
(1) restaurants, soda fountains, and other eating or drinking places, and all places where food is sold for consumption either on or off the premises;
(2) inns, hotels, and motels, whether serving temporary or permanent patrons;
(3) retail stores and service establishments;
(4) hospitals and clinics;
(5) motion picture, stage, and other theaters and music, concert, or meeting halls;
(6) circuses, exhibitions, skating rinks, sports arenas and fields, amusement or recreation parks, picnic grounds, fairs, bowling alleys, golf courses,
gymnasiums, shooting galleries, billiard and pool rooms, and swimming pools;
(7) public conveyances, such as automobiles, buses, taxicabs, trolleys, trains, limousines, boats, airplanes, and bicycles;
(8) utilities, such as water and sewer service, electricity, telephone, and cable television;
(9) streets, roads, sidewalks, other public rights-of-way, parking lots or garages, marinas, airports, and hangars; and
(10) places of public assembly and entertainment of every kind.
That from Bill 23-07 in Maryland, and opposed by the Thomas More Legal Centre.

While these do not in themselves appear to be especially dangerous, the danger is that by supporting the granting of any such rights, the church will be seen to be tolerating homosexuality. That is such a bad outcome that catholics must actively oppose such measures, by whatever means necessary. I'll talk about the means later, and give justification for my statement there.

The argument against Homosexuality has since been expanded, as being against Natural Law. Why is it against Natural Law? Because it causes confusion between the two God-ordained sexes, and anything which does that is dangerous to humanity's survival. There is a Human ecology, just as there is a Global ecology, and this must be protected against such threats to the Natural Order. Anything that confuses the sexes is dangerous, and must be legally suppressed. Well-intentioned laws granting or maintaining existing human rights for anyone who confuses the sexes are thus dangerous - and so presumably should be opposed.

About Natural Law, and the danger to human survival of Intersex - things between male and female - and a call to speak up on this issue:
(The Church) must also protect man from self-destruction. What is needed is something like a human ecology, correctly understood.

If the Church speaks of the nature of the human being as man and woman, and demands that this order of creation be respected, this is not some antiquated metaphysics. What is involved here is faith in the Creator and a readiness to listen to the “language” of creation. To disregard this would be the self-destruction of man himself, and hence the destruction of God’s own work.


To carry our reflection further, we must remember that the problem of the environment is complex; one might compare it to a multifaceted prism. Creatures differ from one another and can be protected, or endangered, in different ways, as we know from daily experience. One such attack comes from laws or proposals which, in the name of fighting discrimination, strike at the biological basis of the difference between the sexes. I am thinking, for example, of certain countries in Europe or North and South America.

Now onto the means of opposition, and showing that opposition to the existence of Intersexed and Transsexual people is a separate but related issue to opposing Homosexuality. They're all dangerous to humanity's very survival in their own right.

First, to show that such opposition is more important than merely spreading Christ's message, and that all levels of Catholic organisations are involved in organising the opposition to human rights for these people:

HAMTRAMCK (Oct. 10) – Nearly a dozen religious leaders in the City of Hamtramck and a nationally prominent lawyer will speak at a campaign kick-off rally for the group Hamtramck Citizens Voting NO to `Special Rights’ Discrimination.

The rally will be held Sunday, Oct. 12th, from 5 to 6:30 p.m. at the Knights of Columbus Hall, 9632 Conant St. Admission is free.
The keynote speaker will be Brian Rooney, attorney for the Thomas More Law Center and legal expert on discriminatory “gay rights” legislation.

Below is a list of speakers scheduled…
• Rev. Andrew Wesley, pastor of St. Ladislaus Church and co-chair of the group Hamtramck Citizens Voting NO.
• Masud Khan, president of the Al Islah Islamic Center.
• Abdul Latif Azom, imam of Al Falah mosque.
• Abdul Salam, imam of Masjid Un Nur mosque.
• Adbo Zindani, secretary of Eiman Islamic Complex.
• Amin Alwagah, representing Algalazali mosque.
• Saleh Algahaim, president of Eiman Islamic Complex.
• Dzenan Kalanac, imam of Bosnia Islamic Center.
• Mohammed Shehab Khan, imam Baitul Islam mosque
Yes, that is correct, a Catholic priest leading. and the Knights of Columbus providing facilities, for an almost entirely Islamic conference to organise legal persecution.

He noted the campaign was highlighted by a rally at which three Catholic priests and six Muslim imams spoke out against the proposed ordinance.

“We salute Father Andy Wesley for his courage and leadership in being the first to stand against this discriminatory ordinance at a time when the city’s political establishment and news media were intent on demonizing and caricaturing anyone who dared oppose homosexual activists’ fraudulent ‘rights’ agenda,” Glenn said. “
Glenn also said the defeat of the ordinance would not have been possible without the efforts of campaign manager Jay McNally, a Catholic activist who commuted from Ypsilanti to manage the winning campaign, and the Thomas More Law Center, which provided legal counsel to the campaign and a regular speaker at campaign rallies, attorney Brian Rooney.
The point is, that it wasn't just homosexuality that was the issue here. Again, from AFTAH:
Not content with adding the discriminatory “sexual orientation” language to city law, homosexual activists and their political allies succeeded in adding the words “gender identity” as well.
This “gender identity” language is so radical in its potential effects that even openly homosexual Congressman Barney Frank, D-Mass., refuses to include it in his federal “gay rights” legislation.

Yes, that's right. Many gay rights groups and prominent Gay politicians oppose human rights for Intersexed and Transsexed people. This is not a matter of "homosexuality by stealth". Neither is it a matter of Red vs Blue - Hamtramck voted for Obama 4:1.

The same day that the New Hampshire Senate voted in favour of same-sex marriage, they voted unanimously to stop Intersexed and Transsexed people from enjoying the same human rights Gays have had in that state for over a decade.

From about the Catholic attitude to that bill:
New Hampshire Alert: “Transgender Rights” and the “Bathroom Bill”
by Brother André Marie March 18th, 2009

Legitimizing perversity is a fetish for some legislators. New Hampshire House Bill 415, dubbed by conservatives, “the Bathroom Bill,” is an effort to protect the rights of people who voluntarily mutilate themselves in the futile pretense that they have changed their God-given gender to another one.

I await comments.

Is it the case that

a) Despite this evidence, of course the Catholic Church isn't against human rights for gays and those born with anatomy neither wholly male nor wholly female. Just because the Thomas More Legal Centre, various prominent Catholic Activists, multitudes of priests and religious, the Vatican itself in letters to bishops, and Pope Benedict himself encourage such legal persecution, that's all just matters of individual conscience. The Church itself would never condone denial of human rights, and it's insulting to say they do. Only anti-Catholics would say so.

b) That the Church does this, but is perfectly justified in doing so, because the fight against homosexuality is so important. It is unfortunate that the Transsexual and Intersexed are collateral damage.

c) That the Church does this, but is perfectly justified in doing so, as the existence of Gay, Intersexed or Transsexual people contravenes Natural Law, and they endanger all Humanity. (This appears to be the view of His Holiness).

d) Something else.

Please give URLs and quotes to justify your thesis, as I've had to do.
I made a vow at my son's baptism that he brought up in the Catholic faith. I take vows seriously, but they're not making it easy.

Friday, 16 April 2010

Obama's Space Plan

From the UK Daily Telegraph
President Barack Obama will on Thursday unveil a "bold and daring" new space mission to send astronauts to Mars months after he scrapped a project to return to the Moon.
His plan? Hope. And Change.

From the AP :
CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. – President Barack Obama boldly predicted Thursday his new plans for space exploration would lead American astronauts on historic, almost fantastic journeys to an asteroid and then to Mars — and in his lifetime — relying on rockets and propulsion still to be imagined and built.

"I expect to be around to see it," he said of pioneering U.S. trips starting with a landing on an asteroid — a colossal feat in itself — before the long-dreamed-of expedition to Mars. He spoke near the historic Kennedy Space Center launch pads that sent the first men to the moon, a blunt rejoinder to critics, including several former astronauts, who contend his planned changes will instead deal a staggering blow to the nation's manned space program.
The biggest criticisms of Obama's plans have been that they have lacked details and goals.
Obama sought to explain why he aborted President George W. Bush's return-to-the moon plan in favor of a complicated system of public-and-private flights that would go elsewhere in space, with details still to be worked out.

"We've been there before," Obama said of the nation's moon landings decades ago.
Obama also said his administration would rescue a small part of the moon program: its Orion crew capsule.

But instead of taking four astronauts to the moon, the not-yet-built Orion will be slimmed down and used as an emergency escape pod for the space station.
One problem - no plans for a man-rated booster to take it there.

It's not so much a plan, as a statement of intent for a plan to be made by someone, details to be worked out by future administrations. Meanwhile in the here-and-now, the 10,000 jobs that were going to be lost will now only be 8000. Oh Joy.

I've said before that the Constellation program had gone off the rails. Obama was right there, it needed mending with a new one. But what do we have now?
White House science adviser John Holdren summed up Obama's program as "a faster pace in space, more missions to more destinations sooner at lower cost."
Details to be worked out later, when it's more convenient. Hope! And Change!
"We want to leap into the future," not continue on the same path as before, Obama said as he sought to reassure NASA workers that America's space adventures would soar on despite the impending termination of space shuttle flights.

Obama did not predict a Mars landing soon. But he said that by 2025, the nation would have a new spacecraft "designed for long journeys to allow us to begin the first-ever crewed missions beyond the moon into deep space."

"We'll start by sending astronauts to an asteroid for the first time in history," he said. "By the mid-2030s, I believe we can send humans to orbit Mars and return them safely to Earth. And a landing on Mars will follow. And I expect to be around to see it."
In other words... "when I'm safely out of office. It's someone else's problem, and their fault if they're incapable of fulfilling my grand vision of Unicorns and Rainbows."

Thursday, 15 April 2010

PhD Progress

What does this mean? Well, to determine the minimum energy conformer - shape - of this molecule through exhaustive search would take 177,000 energy calculations. Each of which takes about an hour for one node on the National Computational Infrastructure network.

In fact, if we used all the nodes, all 140 TFlops, it would take about 4 months.A Teraflop is a trillion floating point operations per second.

We managed to find a way of doing it in less than 400 energy calculations (each taking quite a few Teraflops in its own right BTW). I'll have to check, but I think this is the molecule where we found a lower energy conformer than the one expected from X-ray crystallography of the solid state.

If so... we've found something no-one else in the world knows.

My work has been on formulating a systematic way of "tuning" genetic algorithms so their performance is good on a particular class of problems. "Tuning" has always been an art, rather than a science. My hypothesis is that for certain classes of classes of problems, this can be systematised.

The first class of problems I've worked on, along with a post-doctoral computational chemist, is determining the minimal-energy conformers (shapes) of molecules. This class of problems is firmly within the class of classes I'm interested in. We have good reason to believe that the harder the problem within a given class is, the better the relative performance becomes - but I wasn't expecting an improvement so great. I think it's an anomaly, but only further experimentation will determine that.

Now I have to consider whether to keep on doing more and more in this area, or to try to apply the same technique to other problem domains - my original intention. I'm no Chemist, but it looks like we may have attained the "Holy Grail of computational chemistry" here, as one real chemist put it.

Since the beginning of February, my co-author and I have produced three papers, one short paper and a poster for international conferences, and have given three presentations to the Research School of Chemistry and School of Computer Science at the Australian National University. This graphic is from one of them.

So if my blogging has been a bit lightweight recently - please forgive me. I've been a busy little Zoe. And my co-author, who actually made that graphic, has been just as frenetic in his activity. He's good. Really good. He should be - he's a former student of mine.

One thing he said to me when we first started collaborating though gives me an uneasy feeling:
I've been waiting for you, ZoBie-Wan. We meet again, at last. The circle is now complete. When I left you, I was but the learner; now *I* am the master.

Wednesday, 14 April 2010

Myth Busted

See Wikipedia on the subject.

Curtsy to Fred Kiesch.

Tuesday, 13 April 2010

The Psychopathology of “Sex Reassignment” Surgery

The Psychopathology of “Sex Reassignment” Surgery : Assessing Its Medical, Psychological, and Ethical Appropriateness, R.P. Fitzgibbons, P.M. Sutton, D.O’Leary , National Catholic Bioethics Quarterly 9.1 (Spring 2009): 97–125.
Is it ethical to perform a surgery whose purpose is to make a male look like a female or a female to appear male? Is it medically appropriate? Sexual reassignment surgery (SRS) violates basic medical and ethical principles and is therefore not ethically or medically appropriate. (1) SRS mutilates a healthy, non-diseased body. To perform surgery on a healthy body involves unnecessary risks; therefore, SRS violates the principle primum non nocere, “first, do no harm.” (2) Candidates for SRS may believe that they are trapped in the bodies of the wrong sex and therefore desire or, more accurately, demand SRS; however, this belief is generated by a disordered perception of self. Such a fixed, irrational belief is appropriately described as a delusion. SRS, therefore, is a “category mistake”—it offers a surgical solution for psychological problems such as a failure to accept the goodness of one’s masculinity or femininity, lack of secure attachment relationships in childhood with same-sex peers or a parent, self-rejection, untreated gender identity disorder, addiction to masturbation and fantasy, poor body image, excessive anger, and severe psychopathology in a parent. (3) SRS does not accomplish what it claims to accomplish. It does not change a person’s sex; therefore, it provides no true benefit. (4) SRS is a “permanent,” effectively unchangeable, and often unsatisfying surgical attempt to change what may be only a temporary (i.e., psychotherapeutically changeable) psychological/ psychiatric condition.
One for the reference library. Just to show how bad an EPIC FAIL can be here. It would take me months - literally - to refute each of the errors. Or I could just tell them to read my blog, and follow up the hyperlinks to the referenced articles.

SRS mutilates a healthy, non-diseased body.
One with cross-sexed neuro-anatomy, to make it consistent. I think the authors would consider any woman with male genitalia unhealthy be definition.

Such a fixed, irrational belief is appropriately described as a delusion.
Except by, you know, psychiatrists, as there's a technical definition that GID doesn't meet, no matter how much the authors may wish it did.

it offers a surgical solution for psychological problems such as a failure to accept the goodness of one’s masculinity or femininity, lack of secure attachment relationships in childhood with same-sex peers or a parent, self-rejection, untreated gender identity disorder, addiction to masturbation and fantasy, poor body image, excessive anger, and severe psychopathology in a parent.
It's all the parents fault. Right.....

It does not change a person’s sex; therefore, it provides no true benefit.
Apart from you know, keeping them alive.

SRS is a “permanent,” effectively unchangeable, and often unsatisfying surgical attempt to change what may be only a temporary (i.e., psychotherapeutically changeable) psychological/ psychiatric condition.
Even though not a single case has shown itself to be "psychotherapeutically changeable" in over 60 years. It must be because, well, just because. God says so. Just not in Scripture.

And anyone who engages in treating these people... must be mad. Literally psychopaths, according to the authors.
Are therapists who evaluate such persons too willing to take these claims at face value? Sander Breiner, in an article titled “Transsexuality Explained,” points out such a misperception is in itself a psychological problem:
The authors manage to quote extensively Blanchard, Bailey, McHugh and also Janice Raymond. I didn't think it would be possible to reconcile such wildly different viewpoints, whose only commonality is transphobia. But they did.

They even managed to regard Zucker as being a great healer of transsexual children. What they don't say - what they may not even be aware of - is that he considers them "healed" if they're turned Gay, rather than being straight transsexuals.

Read it and weep.

Monday, 12 April 2010

Today's Battles

The same old same old. But while they continue, so will I.
From the Catholic News Agency:
In a recent letter sent to school superintendents throughout the country, the American College of Pediatricians (ACP) cautioned that it is “not a school’s role to 'affirm' a student’s perceived personal sexual orientation.” The ACP also said that “rigorous studies” show that children and adolescents who initially experience gender confusion or same sex attraction no longer do so by the age of 25.
My reply :
The American College of Pediatricians is a front group for some religious conservatives. Few of the members are actually doctors. Those that are lend an imprimatur to what would otherwise be seen as just another ideological tract, full of misleading interpretations of work that the authors have distanced themselves from.

A Christian Psychologist who specialises in the area has written a critique of their mendacity.

It's at

" While there may be some useful information here, I do not agree with much of what is claimed. The essential claims are that the site is “a non-political, non-religious channel presenting the most current facts on the subject.” In fact, the presentation is one-sided with old research and reparative theory dominating the content."
Nothing on the site is from the last 8 years. Most is based on preliminary research of 20 to 40 years ago, which has since been debunked by later studies in more detail, and with better controls.

It is most unfortunate that non-specialists in the area will be misled by a deliberate attempt by those with an ideological bias to confuse them as to what the research states.
Then there's Don Surber's Blog at the Daily Mail:
A confused little boy wants to use the girls room. Rather than say no — or yes if everyone thinks he’s a girl — the state of Maine goes through this mental contortion with it bureaucracy — just why does Maine need a human rights commission? — that in the end is too intellectually dishonest to admit that one size does not fit all in the law.
. He may have a point. The problem though is with the comments, which show more than anything else why Human Rights Commissions have to get involved.
So a 12 yo mixed up kid is going to set policy for a state’s educational system....
This balderdash is a horny teen’s dream. These idiots have never worked in a secondary school and seen the effects of hormones. ....
A 12-year-old boy may be confused. He may also be harrassed trying to use the boys’ restroom and he’s out of place in the girls’ restroom. Obviously he needs mental health care. At school, probably he should use the boys’ restroom and the boys should leave him alone if he’s being harrassed.
Gender is biological but can be confused. Pretending that gender-sorting is discrimination really is silly.
Check your equipment at the door, boys and girls and go the right bathroom for Pete’s sake! This crap about being transgender at the ripe age of 12 is absolutely nuts, unless there is a physical deformity like hermaphrodism. Otherwise, tell the little goofball to wait till college before making dumbass decisions about lifestyle.
Anyway, I commented in my usual style. Minimal opinion, maximal evidence.
Not a confused little boy – a confusing little girl.

Trans children aren’t confused about their gender. Others around them are though, as they think it’s just common-sense that you’re the sex you appear to be.

And that’s true. It *is* common-sense. Just like it’s common sense that the world is flat. When you go down to the corner shop, when you use a street directory, it makes no sense to treat the world as being round. It’s only when you travel long distances that reality becomes apparent, in exceptional cases.

I’ll quote from just one of the hundreds of medical and scientific papers on this. These are not “psychological” or “sociological” studies. Not religious or political tracts either. They’re anatomical articles, based in MRI scans and even autopsies....
Regular readers of this blog will know what comes next. For others, just look at the tag "reference" - and welcome!

Thursday, 8 April 2010

CAH and Play

Two for the reference library:
Prenatal hormones versus postnatal socialization by parents as determinants of male-typical toy play in girls with congenital adrenal hyperplasia” Pasterski VL, Geffner ME, Brain C, Hindmarsh P, Brook C, Hines M Child Dev 76(1):264-78 2005
Toy choices of 3- to 10-year-old children with congenital adrenal hyperplasia (CAH) and of their unaffected siblings were assessed. Also assessed was parental encouragement of sex-typed toy play. Girls with CAH displayed more male-typical toy choices than did their unaffected sisters, whereas boys with and without CAH did not differ. Mothers and fathers encouraged sex-typical toy play in children with and without CAH. However, girls with CAH received more positive feedback for play with girls' toys than did unaffected girls. Data show that increased male-typical toy play by girls with CAH cannot be explained by parental encouragement of male-typical toy play. Although parents encourage sex-appropriate behavior, their encouragement appears to be insufficient to override the interest of girls with CAH in cross-sexed toys.
Androgen and psychosexual development: core gender identity, sexual orientation and recalled childhood gender role behavior in women and men with congenital adrenal hyperplasia (CAH).” Hines M, Brook C, Conway GS ,J Sex Res 41(1):75-81 2004
We assessed core gender identity, sexual orientation, and recalled childhood gender role behavior in 16 women and 9 men with CAH and in 15 unaffected female and 10 unaffected male relatives, all between the ages of 18 and 44 years. Women with congenital adrenal hyperplasia (CAH) recalled significantly more male-typical play behavior as children than did unaffected women, whereas men with and without CAH did not differ. Women with CAH also reported significantly less satisfaction with the female sex of assignment and less heterosexual interest than did unaffected women. Again, men with CAH did not differ significantly from unaffected men in these respects. Our results for women with CAH are consistent with numerous prior reports indicating that girls with CAH show increased male-typical play behavior. They also support the hypotheses that these women show reduced heterosexual interest and reduced satisfaction with the female sex of assignment. Our results for males are consistent with most prior reports that boys with CAH do not show a general alteration in childhood play behavior. In addition, they provide initial evidence that core gender identity and sexual orientation are unaffected in men with CAH. Finally, among women with CAH, we found that recalled male-typical play in childhood correlated with reduced satisfaction with the female gender and reduced heterosexual interest in adulthood. Although prospective studies are needed, these results suggest that those girls with CAH who show the greatest alterations in childhood play behavior may be the most likely to develop a bisexual or homosexual orientation as adults and to be dissatisfied with the female sex of assignment.
One problem - about one in ten people with 46,XX chromosomes and CAH identify as men, not women. So there's an issue of terminology.

Let She who is without sin...

Posted on the Facebook Site of the Charleston Baptist Congregation
May I suggest you say some prayers for the Itawamba Agricultural High class of 2010.

I'm in Australia. Even I've heard of what was done by them.

In these days of the Internet, no questionable action done when one is young and impressionable will be forgotten. Already their names and pictures of their faces have been archived. ... See more

Had they just confined their shunning to a homosexual girl, perhaps they might have gotten away with it. But to include those with intellectual disabilities too, that gives an impression of mean-spirited bigotry, and is wholly un-Christian.

I doubt that they meant this to happen. But it did. The pictures of the girl-on-girl kissing and the anal groping some of them engaged in at their not-prom don't help either.

Comparisons are already being made with similar events:,5131613

In theory, as I'm on the "opposite side" - not homosexual, but intersexed, born "from my mother's womb" with a body neither male nor female (see 1st line Matthew 19:12), I should be joining in the "public lynching of the bigots".

I do think that their act was mean-spirited. But they're kids. I don't want their lives to be blighted by one minor act of unChristian behaviour, that equally unChristian people will use against them. There's no-one so unCharitable as someone who persecutes others out of a feeling that they're doing the right thing. As they did. And now is being done to them.

Please could the adults in the congregation urge them to get legal advice here, and perhaps issue an explanation, with expressed contrition. Don't attempt to cloak it in religious convictions - because the intellectually disabled were exclud

Just in case you hadn't heard what was done, here's the facts.

A lesbian girl requested permission to come to the school prom wearing a tuxedo.

Her request was refused, and when she took it up as a civil liberties issue, the school cancelled the prom entirely. Dropping heavy hints that it was all this girl's fault.

The courts heard the matter - and let the school off lightly, as the school administrators promised that they'd hold a prom, and not exclude her from attending.

And so they did.... at the same time as the "real" prom, set up by the parents. The fake, official prop was attended by only 7 other students, including two with intellectual disabilities. Now Constance, the lesbian girl, knew about the "real" prom - but didn't show up there as she hadn't been explicitly invited. It was a matter of principle.

Now here's the facebook entry of one of the students.
Caul here, I'm all about havin fun. You know, get a couple cocktails in me, start a fire in someone's kitchen, maybe go to Sea World, take my pants off. Anyway, I've become kind of famous for my signature catch-phrase... WHAMMY!
I think he'll be more famous for other things now.

As Christwire put it: Victory For Mississippi-style Segregation! School Holds Great Prom For Cool Heteros, Separate Event For Lesbians & The Retarded

OK, they may deserve the lynching they're getting. But you know what? How many of us didn't do something we are now thoroughly ashamed of when we were young? Should we too have an albatross hung round our necks in perpetuity?

So while it's really tempting to re-post the pictures of these little bigots... because the same mob had run out of town someone who's trans just a few months before...I won't. My conscience won't let me.

Some Activist, eh? I'm hopeless at it.

We should never let our political, ideological or religious beliefs stop us from acting with simple common humanity. No matter how good it might feel to bathe in righteous anger.

I won't condemn those who feel differently though. Nor will I say they're not acting with justice tempered with mercy.

Tuesday, 6 April 2010

Light Reading

Because I'm feeling burnt out after working over Easter. Still, I made the deadline.

The Prevalence of Transgenderism.
To summarize
  • There are some estimates based on indirect methods and counting those seeking treatment specifically some form of surgery & we know that this is a small percentage of overall people with gender variance.
  • no direct studies on prevalence of GID have been done
  • doing an accurate count is complicated by the fact that those counted are those who are “out” as being transgendered and seeking some form of treatment, and also those who have transitioned may not wish to be counted.
Hate 101: Gay and Lesbian Transphobia – The Causes
It wouldn’t be until the 1980’s and 1990’s that it would be understood that being gay or lesbian was quite different from being transgender, and that the two were unrelated. Prior to this, however, the medical profession would harm both the gender variant and homosexuals, which would trigger a serious backlash from lesbian feminist groups and their leaders.

What most do not understand about the requirements for GRS during that period is that transwomen were expected to be the epitome of feminine virtue, as defined by men who themselves enforced a patriarchal hierarchy within their own profession. Transmen, inversely, were expected to be the epitome of masculinity. For a transowman to be lesbian, or a transman to be gay, was not allowed, ever. To not conform to stereotypical heterosexist patriarchy meant disaster for transgender patients, on levels one cannot comprehend unless one is themselves transgender.

Rather than take on the medical profession that enforced these gender stereotypes, however, feminists would instead go after the transgender persons themselves. MTF’s were seen as perpetuating and enforcing the patriarchy, while FTM’s were seen as victims of it. When it was later learned that some transwomen were also lesbian, they were seen as potential sexual predators. Transmen who turned out to be gay were once again seen as being dominated and motivated by the patriarchy.

Gay men had a different, and more simplistic, take on transgender persons. All were seen as self-loathing homosexuals seeking societal approval by undergoing a procedure that mutilated them. This view is still quite popular today, as older gay men seek to reassert these false perceptions (see my earlier open letter to Ron Gold).

These false assumptions, promoted and perpetuated by a heterosexist patriarchy, would dominate gay and lesbian views about those who are transgender to this day. Even certain gay and lesbian community leaders would promote and perpetuate these myths, likely in and of themselves to gain acceptance amongst cisgender heterosexists, believing that in oppressing one group, they can somehow gain acceptance from their oppressors and put an end to their own oppression.
2X Chromosomes Informative Transgendered Thread
First, some terminology; Transgendered: Someone varying from from gender norms, or non-conforming to their legal sex. Used as an umbrella term for everything from drag queens (conditionally) to transsexuals.

Drag Queen: Someone who entertains by displaying exaggerated female characteristics. Does not HAVE to be transgendered or transsexual. Although there is sometimes overlap, there are plenty of drag queens who identify completely as men, and simply wear drag for money or for fun.

Cisgendered: Someone who doesn't deviate from social gender norms, and/or feels that their birth sex is correct inside and out. This term is preferred by most trans people over terms like "real/normal men" or "real/normal women" which are very invalidating. Try to imagine someone saying to you, regardless of your gender, "Sometimes I forget you aren't a 'real' wo/man." Doesn't feel nice does it? Prefacing sexes with the word "genetic" or "natal" is also unoffensive.

Transsexual: Although some definitions vary, from what I have experienced working in the trans community, a transsexual typically is the most "extreme" end of the transgendered spectrum. It usually is someone that feels a strong compulsion against their birth sex, and usually takes corrective measures to become recognized in their proper sex. This could be as little as dressing as their preferred gender and getting a legal name change, and as far as taking hormones and getting sexual reassignment surgery. Pretty much anyone who takes measures like hormones/surgery can fit under this term, but this is not the rule for all transsexuals.

Gender queer: Someone who doesn't conform to socially constructed gender norms, but doesn't necessarily feel compelled to alter their physical sex. This is usually more about expression and less about identity. Lots of groups can fall into this category, cross-dressers, transvestites, androgens, ect. It probably wouldn't even need to be a category if society was less rigid with gender expectations.

FtM: Female to male transsexual

MtF: Male to female transsexual

Post/pre/non-op: Operative status of transsexuals. Post-op has had SRS, pre-op hasn't but is planning to, and non-op is a transsexual who has elected not to undergo full SRS. It is usually very rude to ask a transsexuals operative status, unless they have made it clear that they are OK with answering personal questions. SRS: Sexual Reassignment surgery, the surgical process of altering someone's sexual organs to acquire the characteristics of the desired sex.

Now some misconceptions;

"All transwomen are just homosexual men who get surgery to get straight guys./Transgendered is a sexuality "

This is the one of the most egregious presumptions someone can make. Sexual orientation and gender identity are completely different spectrums, the reason this is probably believed is because for a MtF to exist, they must have been, by social definition, "gay male" at some point if they like men. Creating a catch 22, the problem lies in the fact that there are plenty (in my experience 30%) of MtF trannsexuals that are primarily attracted to women, and some that don't discover that they are attracted to men until after their transition.
Well, yes, now that you mention it....

Then there's this from Indian Today.
Laxmi Narayan Tripathi, a transgender, had no problem receiving an invitation to work for human rights issues at the United Nations. However, she wasn't as lucky when it came to the snooty Bombay Gymkhana that boasts memberships of Mumbai's rich and famous.

Late on Friday, when Laxmi arrived at the Bombay Gymkhana, she was rudely told that she was "unwelcome" and hence could not walk the famed lawns of the 135-year-old institution.

"I was invited as a speaker at a function hosted by the Mumbai branch of an international network that deals with science and technology. I went there at 9 pm and was stopped at the gates. Later, the hosts stepped out and took me inside. I was talking to a few people and my speech was yet to start," Laxmi said.

"An hour later, the gymkhana CEO Brigadier (retd) R.K. Bose walked in and told the hosts that I was not welcome at the Bombay Gymkhana..."
No-one does supercilious snark like the English. And I was born in the UK. I know exactly how to deal with snobbery - with condescending arrogant superiority. My comment is the equivalent of a most unladylike kick between the big toes, hitting them right in the inferiority complex that distinguishes the snob from the aristrocrat.

I rarely try to inflict hurt on people, even if deserved. This time is an exception, as it may just lead to better behaviour in future. One can but hope. Here it is -
All civilised clubs treat invitees - especially invitees who have been invited to speak on technical issues beyond the ken of the members - as honoured guests, be they prince or pauper. Even if they are not speakers, a Lady is still a Lady. I can see that while the Gymkhana may ape the trappings of civilisation, it most obviously has missed the essentials. They have treated a lady in a churlish fashion, unworthy of the chivalry that is part and parcel of being an officer and a gentleman. I do not deny that the brigadier is an officer, Neither do I deny that the Gymkhana's members are those of great wealth. The same can be said of any parvenu. I can see though why they wouldn't like their behaviour publicised around the world. For it is only clubs of the more common sort that do not require members to be gentlemen, only wealthy.The rest would blackball them for an incident such as this.

And after that... I suggest you visit Professor Bainbridge for his post on The Greatness that is Top Gear. Beacuse everyone deserves a break sometime.

Monday, 5 April 2010

A Small Victory in Wisconsin

As I've blogged about before, the Wisconsin Inmate Sex Change Prevention Act is one of the more odious pieces of legislation. The prison rules prevent prisoners from paying for their own treatment, and any medication that they obtain has to be through the prison system, otherwise it's confiscated as contraband.

This means that trans prisoners on prescribed hormonal medication have it discontinued. With the predictable results.

From the Washington Post:
Some of the plaintiffs had been on hormones for years before the law was passed. They included Andrea Fields, who had taken hormones since 1996. Before the law was blocked, the inmate's hormone dosage was cut in half, which led to nausea, weakness, loss of appetite and hair growth, according to court records.

The prison medics argued that they should be allowed to prescribe hormones in appropriate cases. They didn't have the budget to deal with the additional costs of the suicides, the suicide attempts, the anti-depressants and anti-psychotics, the sedatives and continuous suicide-watch expenses. They saw the patients health, both physical and mental deteriorate too. From the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel
Earlier, Kevin Kallas, a psychiatrist and mental health director for Wisconsin's prisons, testified he opposed the law banning hormones.

Besides in federal prisons, hormones are given in all of the Midwestern states surveyed by the Department of Corrections, he said. Kallas called hormones a "medically necessary" treatment in some, though not all, cases.

Kallas said patients who are taken off hormones typically need counseling, drugs and hospital stays instead, suicide treatments that are more expensive than the hormones, which cost $675 to $1,600 a year. Kallas said he did not know of any other medical treatment that the state Legislature has banned in prisons.

Now comes a Federal Court Order recognising the injustice.
After careful consideration, the court concludes that the defendants’ application of Wis. Stat. § 302.386(5m) to these plaintiffs constitutes deliberate indifference to the plaintiff’s serious medical needs in violation of the Eighth Amendment inasmuch as enforcement of the statute results in the denial of hormone therapy without regard for the individual medical needs of inmates and the medical judgment of their health care providers.

The court further finds that Wis. Stat. § 302.386(5m) is unconstitutional on its face under the Eighth Amendment because it bans the use of any Wisconsin State resources or federal funds passing through the government to provide hormone therapy and, thereby, requires the withdrawal of any such ongoing hormone therapy for inmates in DOC facilities without regard for the medical need for that treatment.

The court further finds that Wis. Stat. § 302.386(5m) prevents DOC medical personnel from evaluating inmates for treatment because such evaluation would be futile in light of the statute’s ban on such hormone therapy. Furthermore, the application of Wis. Stat. § 302.386(5m) to the plaintiffs violates the plaintiffs’ constitutional right to equal protection because there is no rational basis for treating the plaintiffs differently than similarly situated inmates.

The court further finds there is no rational basis for Wis. Stat. § 302.386(5m) and that the statute is invalid on its face, as it violates the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment.
Back to the WaPo again:
Sen. Ted Kanavas, R-Brookfield, one of the measure's sponsors, called the ruling absurd.

"This is another prime example of a liberal judge, far removed from the mainstream, overturning the will of the people," he said in a statement.

Van Hollen spokesman Bill Cosh said lawyers were reviewing the decision and considering an appeal.

If the ruling stands, taxpayers will likely be required to pay the inmates' legal fees, which Dupuis called substantial.
The question is, since the cost of giving Hormone Replacement Therapy is far, far less than the costs of dealing with the consequent health problems ... how much extra is the Wisconsin Taxpayer willing to pay just so Trans inmates suffer and die?