Wednesday, December 30, 2009

I've Said It For Years Now...

The ReformaTories aren't about democracy.

This makes the third time that Harper has prorogued Canada's Parliament for political reasons since 2006, not to mention a snap election in fall of 2008 - just to avoid an economic meltdown.

Harper likes to whine and moan about how the opposition won't let things get through the process in the house, and then he turns around and prorogues parliament (killing every bill that is in the house), and forcing Parliament to waste more taxpayer time and money re-engaging the same damned process over bills that he's going to have to re-introduce as first reading bills.

I won't say that I'm impressed with Canada's Governor General right now - she granted Harper a prorogation last year before Christmas so he could avoid a confidence motion, and now she's granting him one this year for what reasons? Because he can't stomach the idea that his legislation is getting amended in committee? Mme Jean should have told Harper to man up and go back and do his job. This is an unnecessary, uncalled for prorogation.

Parliament will be prorogued for two months until after the Vancouver Winter Olympics, the Prime Minister's Office announced Wednesday.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper's spokesman Dimitri Soudas said a speech from the throne will be delivered on March 3, followed by presentation of the budget the next day. The session had been scheduled to resume on Jan. 25 after the holiday break.

Soudas said the prime minister spoke with Gov. Gen Michaëlle Jean over the phone earlier Wednesday.

The move to prorogue, or suspend, Parliament is widely seen as a strategic move by Harper to gain a majority on Senate committees while possibly also avoiding criticism over the Afghan detainee issue.

Give Harper a majority, and I think you'll see a side of the man that is only fit to bay at the moon.

Monday, December 28, 2009

Saying It Doesn't Make It So...

Sure enough, one of the organizations that claims to be affiliated with al Qaeda has claimed responsibility for the nutcase who tried to blow himself up on a plane.

Anyone familiar with terrorist organizations will recognize that the claim of responsibility often has little to do with actual involvement. This was a common tactic in Northern Ireland, and I have no doubt that the same thing is going on here. Unless they have video of this idiot "training" with them, or there is other evidence linking him to another organization, I am inclined to assume that the incompetent boob is another Richard Reid.


Okay, another incompetent moron decided to try blowing up an airplane. Somehow, I fail to see how this response by the US has any effect at all:

Frustrated passengers were searched not just at the usual security checkpoints, but also at the gates before boarding their flights.

Passengers said they were also barred from using any electronic devices and weren’t allowed to get out of their seat, even to go to the washroom, for the last hour of their flights.

Okay - more thorough searches I can understand. But restrictions on using electronics? Really? Just what does that have to do with the price of tea in China?

Or, come to that, banning people from using the washroom during the last hour of flight. That isn't just ridiculous, it's unsanitary. This guarantees that accidents will happen, and they'll happen in the cabin. (young children in particular, but also adults who are prone to air sickness come to mind) I fail to see what restricting washroom access has to do with anything security related. The only thing it does is get passengers on edge, uncomfortable and cranky.

This kind of response is a fear reaction with roots in any reality that I can think of. It doesn't make anyone safer than they already are. It isn't about security.

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Revisiting Anne Fausto-Sterling's 'Sexing The Body'

I read this book a couple of years ago, but recently some of her writing has come up in various discussions I've been having. I'll admit that when I reviewed my notes from a few years ago that I didn't entirely agree with her arguments when I read Sexing the Body at the time.

However, it was in reading this response to the book, I found myself re-examining my notes and re-evaluating things in the light of what I know and understand today.

At the time I read "Sexing the Body" a couple of years ago, I was well immersed in reading a bunch of somewhat unrelated work by Judith Butler, and my disagreements with Butler appear to have significantly coloured my understanding of Fausto-Sterling's work at the time.

However, looking at it today, I find myself thinking that there's a fundamental point that I agree with Fausto-Sterling on - namely that the current models for describing physical gender are far too limited for the realities that we are gradually, but persistently uncovering. Gender is about the only part of medicine which is absolute - we are categorized as "male" or "female" at birth and so it must remain for all time.

The clinician's response is to suggest that a model of gender that is a continuum removes any meaning from the term Intersex, rendering it unusable for diagnostic purposes. I agree that this will be a significant problem for clinicians - when an entire spectrum of variation arguably describes the notion of Intersex, the term Intersex ceases to be terribly meaningful.

But, this is hardly a new phenomenon in the world of diagnostics. The concept of gender identity has changed dramatically in the psychiatric literature since Harry Benjamin started researching transsexuality in the 1940s. Over 3 editions of the DSM, we have seen the concept evolve from describing fetishistic crossdressing, eventually to include transsexuals, and in the DSM IV, the GID diagnosis is surprisingly broad - providing diagnosis covering a wide range of cross-gender experiences.

However, Fausto-Sterling is not entirely arguing from a clinical, or biological standpoint. She is integrating in significant amounts of social and political discourse into her position. While the clinical categorization of someone's gender may become significantly complicated by a model which describes physical gender as a spectrum, we must also recognize the social and political aspects of gender, and that is where a spectrum is a much more important and powerful tool.

What a spectrum model does to clinicians is force the use of objectively correct language for each individual case. Someone who has Klinefelter's Syndrome, and someone who has Congenital Adrenal Hyperplasia cannot simply be categorized as "Intersex". This means that a more precise level of diagnosis and tracking will have to be undertaken - not a bad thing in the least.

Socially, however, this presents a much stronger foundation upon which to rest the conversations about the social and political aspects of gender that are ongoing parts of our cultural evolution. First of all, it takes the notion of biological determinism out of the picture. It removes the weapons of exclusion from all of the interested parties in gender discussion. The radical feminist that argues that MtF transsexuals aren't really women because they cannot bear children (I'm vastly oversimplifying the argument here, but I do find it ironic that the RadFem argument against transwomen boils down to the same biological determinism that feminism has fought for decades) Fundamentally, biology is then recognized as sufficiently plastic to accommodate a wide range of gender experiences and behaviours - and none of those should be seen as erasing anyone else's experience.

By taking biology somewhat out of the discussion, we can then move into a world of discussion social gender in its own right without the noise in the background of the internecine warfare that goes on between the various factions. It has always been clear to me that Feminist theory is on very solid ground when it is working from the context of the social constructs that are a significant part of our gendered life experiences - it has typically fallen apart quite badly when it has attempted to describe the underpinnings of gender at the level of biology and identity.

The real issues with gender in our society today exist as social issues - whether it is roles, expectations or demands placed on members of either sex. Feminism as a movement was born out of the recognition that our society had developed along patriarchal lines for centuries, and how that evolution was marginalizing half the population.

The treatment of both Intersex and transgender people in our society has arisen in part on the heels of feminism, and in part out of a recognition that there are groups where the imposition of "normal" as it applies to most of the population doesn't work so well. Marginalization and discrimination are rampant, and ill-informed treatment at the hands of medical professionals is all too common for both of these groups.

Appropriate treatment remains a problem for both IS and Trans communities. A more precise sense of diagnosis and classification will in fact work to the advantage of both groups. A more broadly based model of gender should permit greater individual autonomy with respect to treatment decisions, since each case must be examined individually. Hopefully, this will also have the benefit of making it easier for parents to move beyond the often panic/worry related treatment decisions that are so often made before an IS child is ready to make their own decisions.

I've argued before that when we are talking about humanity, it is important to view our attributes along the lines of spectrums - primarily because absolutes inevitably seem to encounter problems with exceptions. Where I disagree with Fausto-Sterling is in the interaction between mind and body. I am not at all convinced by the two constitute an "indivisible whole", which implies that they are distinct, but intertwined entities. Somehow, I'd rather leave this particular conversation open ended until we have a better understanding of how DNA and the complex chemistry that we all carry within us interact - to assume that mind is distinct from body feels a little too "pat" an answer, especially in light of the growing body of evidence that has raised the whole notion of transsexualism as being a subset of IS - a concept that a mere few years in the past would have seemed quite laughable. Then again, I haven't seen the bulk of neuroscience in the last decade or two that might lead towards a clearer understanding of the interaction of the body and the mind (or the intersection of). There is no doubt in my own experience that the chemistry of the body influences our minds in surprising and unique ways that should not be overlooked.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Is There An Intersection Where Transgender and Intersex Meet?

Over at A Word To The Wise, a thread is developing about whether there is any validity to the claim that Transsexual and Intersex conditions intersect with each other. This essay is intended to explore the implications of some "eureka" discovery being published that showed an unequivocal relationship between the two groups of conditions.

Allow me to open by clearly stating my own thoughts before I dive into the implications of some discovery drawing a clear line between transsexualism and some collection of intersex conditions. Personally, I find the idea intellectually appealing. The notion that transsexuals are a result of various biological factors resolves the issue of rationalizing some of the more difficult aspects of the transsexual narrative - such as the knowledge of being different long before any sense of social gender would be emerging. That said, as intriguing as the various bits of research are out there that suggest physiological factors at play are, they remain inconclusive to date. Inconclusive does not imply negation of the hypothesis however.

Intersex is an extremely broad term today - it covers everything from ambiguous genitalia (what used to be called "hermaphroditism") to an emerging array of chromosomal and genetic variations that result in various forms of sexual ambiguity. In fact, about the only thing it doesn't encompass yet are conditions which are seen as primarily psychological in nature.

The implications of subsuming transsexualism under the Intersex umbrella are enormous - but not necessarily bad.

(1) Shattering of the "Gender Binary"

I would argue that this change would all but destroy the concept of gender as a binary along "male/female" lines. The very existence of Intersex people on this world already calls into question the idea that there are only two physical genders. Including transsexuals would clearly demonstrate that physiological variations occur in ways that affect brain function and/or structure as well.

(2) Evolution of Gender (and Sexuality) Models

If the intellectual construct of the gender binary is rendered invalid, what replaces it? Ideally, some kind of "gender as a spectrum" model which recognizes that there are more than just two genders out there. This leads us back into the world (at least temporarily) of variations on the Kinsey scale - more likely loosely based on The Harry Benjamin Gender Disorientation Scale (which is modelled somewhat on Kinsey's).

When one views humanity as existing on a series of continua (for different attributes), it becomes a lot easier to accept as normal the presence of the unusual.

(3) Normalization of the Abnormal

The language of gender and sexuality that we have today tends to work primarily on the notion that there is "normal" and everything outside of that is "abnormal" (and hence, implicitly bad).

Both Intersex and Transsexual individuals suffer the negative consequences of this on a daily basis. Whether it is an over-eagerness to perform surgery on Intersex people to "normalize" their appearance, or the discrimination that anyone who appears gender variant can experience in using public washrooms.

In the long term, a broader understanding of gender than is currently typical will go a long ways towards removing the stigma of being different - regardless of the reason.

(4) Clarification of Gender Debates

Ironically, this would also be to the benefit of gender studies overall. Right now, we have a situation where theorists studying topics such as feminism are obliged to attempt to answer the "but what is gender?" question in order to have logically consistent models. This has produced some truly execrable results (such as Butler) which deny evidence already available. A more generalized view of gender would move those debates back into the world of the study of the social implications of gender - where people like Butler are much more able to form coherent arguments.

(5) Access To Treatment

Whether one is transsexual, or Intersex, accessing appropriate medical treatment is horrendously difficult right now. Most practitioners are ill-equipped to deal with such marginal populations, and the stigma that is associated with either is such that many practitioners are unwilling to even provide referrals to appropriately qualified peers.

Again, a more broadly defined view of gender would go a long ways to making it easier to shed the stigma that is associated with either condition. Normalizing a condition's existence goes a huge distance to making it easier for the professionals to be directly involved.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

And Then There's Reality

As if to further demonstrate the extent of the HarperCon$ lies to Canadians, the following turd falls from the sky and lands on Mackay's shoulder:

Three federal cabinet ministers and a senior government official met the head of the International Red Cross in the fall of 2006 as the humantarian organization tried to focus Canada's attention on alleged abuses in Afghan prisons, The Canadian Press has learned.

Precisely what Jakob Kellenberger told Peter MacKay, Gordon O'Connor, Stockwell Day and Robert Greenhill, then the president of the Canadian International Development Agency, in the Sept. 26, 2006 meetings is blanketed by diplomatic secrecy.

McKay was then Foreign Affairs minister, O'Connor was at Defence and Day was Public Safety minister overseeing Corrections Canada officers in Kandahar.

From my point of view, this is no surprise. Harper and his band of thugs have been so intellectually dishonest since they were elected, no amount of lies is really shocking. However, this Afghanistan prisoner transfer issue is a serious black eye for Canada on the world stage.

Along with Harper's obstructionist approach to the discussions in Copenhagen this past week, it can leave little doubt that under Harper, Canada's credibility as a significant, sincere player on the world stage has been seriously undermined...and it will only get worse the longer Harper is allowed to reside at 24 Sussex Dr.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

A Transgender Critique of Butler's Notion of Gender

This essay is a response to the the following question raised here:

I think I might grasp what you're alluding to here -- especially with regard to the social dimension of gender, and the interaction between biochemical input and gender realization -- but I'd very much like to hear what I assume will be your much more articulate assessment of what the Butlerian gender model leaves out.

I draw my understanding of Butler's view of gender primarily from her book "Gender Trouble" (available as an e-book), and "Performative Acts and Gender Constitution". (and yes, I have read her more recent book "Undoing Gender" as well)

In Performative Acts and Gender Constitution, Butler argues as follows:

Further, gender is instituted through the stylization of the body and, hence, must be understood as the mundane way in which bodily gestures, movements, and enactments of various kinds constitute the illusion of an abiding gendered self.
(* an aside - this will not be a detailed dissection of Butler's paper *)

This is significant to me because it foreshadows Butler's view of gender as primarily existing as a social construct, to some extent influenced by biology.

Significantly, if gender is instituted through acts which are internally discontinuous, then the appearance of substance is precisely that, a constructed identity, a performative accomplishment which the mundane social audience, including the actors themselves, come to believe and to perform in the mode of belief. If the ground of gender identity is the stylized repetition of acts through time, and not a seemingly seamless identity, then the possibilities of gender transformation are to be found in the arbitrary relation between such acts, in the possibility of a different sort of repeating, in the breaking or subversive repetition of that style.

There is a surprising irony in Butler's position. On the one hand, she dances around the concept of Gender Identity as having an individual reality, and then settles in a place where she ultimately ends up rejecting the concept, subsuming it under the social and biological aspects of gender.

Because there is neither an “essence” that gender expresses or externalizes nor an objective ideal to which gender aspires; because gender is not a fact, the various acts of gender create the idea of gender, and without those acts, there would be no gender at all. Gender is, thus, a construction that regularly conceals its genesis.

The problem I have with Butler's model is that it fails to successfully encompass a few key aspects of cross-gender (and in particular transsexual narratives).

First, there is a common dimension to many transsexual narratives (not all, but enough to be significant) that includes an awareness of being "built wrong" from an exceedingly early age - often before any socialization or 'gendered behaviour' is evident.

Second, is the dyssonance that transsexuals express with regard to their lives in their pre-transition gender roles. If gender were solely a matter of social construct informed by physical biology to some degree, it becomes extremely difficult to square the model with the expressed dyssonance. In Butler's model, there is no room for dyssonance. In some respects, Butler appears to try addressing the issue as one of 'discontinuity', but she fails to appreciate that while a transsexual's pre-transition identity may be externally continuous, that is not the internal experience.

Third is the situation of David Reimer. I do not claim that Reimer was a transsexual - such was unquestionably not the case, but his case is important and revealing of some key aspects of transsexual narrative.

It is very significant that when John was being raised as Brenda, he fought against being treated as a girl at every turn. Physically, and to the best of his knowledge, John had always been Brenda - and yet refused to be Brenda - not just in respect to social aspects of gender, but was also horrified by what puberty would bring. (artificially induced or not)

From a transsexual's perspective, Reimer's narrative is undeniably consistent with the 'built wrong' narrative so common among the transsexual population. There is no doubt in my mind that this should be seen as independently validating the notion that gender identity may exist and is not fully informed by either social or physical cues. (as an aside, I suspect that where there are some interesting phenotype variations that are being identified among transsexuals in more recent years.

If, as Butler proposes, gender is defined primarily in the context of social and physical cues, then one might imagine that the John Reimer story would have had a much different outcome. As it is, eventually Brenda learned the truth of her history and chose quite consciously to transition to living as John. A train of events that substantially calls into question a model of gender which is based solely upon social and physical factors. (* Butler attempts to address John Reimer's story in Undoing Gender, however my reading of her on that matter leads me to believe that she fails to understand some key aspects of the situation. *)

Similarly, I do not believe that Butler's model explains the dissonance that so many transsexuals describe as overwhelming their pre-transition lives. Butler's model suggests strongly that if one's body is physically of one gender, and the social signals received are consistent with that gender, then everything should be good, right? So why is that transsexuals so consistently report something dramatically different? Further, why is it that therapists have found that transsexuals are generally not responsive to the kinds of corrective therapy techniques that work well in other situations where cognitive dissonance is reported?

Where I fundamentally disagree with Butler is in her rejection of the notion of an abstract, but essential attribute of 'gender identity' as distinct from our physical and social gender behaviours. The problem that Butler's model faces is in the narratives of thousands of transsexuals - and those narratives reveal a significant incompleteness which leads many radical feminist thinkers to engage in tactics such as erasure in order to sustain the perceived validity of Butler's model in the dimensions where it has greater strengths - namely in the understanding of the socially constructed aspects of gender.

One More Step Back To The Dark Ages

Good grief, is it possible for the Alberta Government to be any more malicious?

Mental-health patients at Alberta Hospital will no longer get free toothbrushes, face soap, sanitary napkins, coffee or snacks after Alberta Health Services stopped covering the cost.

For those unfamiliar, the Alberta Hospital is the provinces primary mental health hospital. If somebody's mental health issues are serious enough to require hospitalization, then chances are they have very limited - if any - resources at all.

Tadra Boulton, spokeswoman for Alberta Health Services, said Alberta Hospital Edmonton was the only hospital in the province supplying patients with personal hygiene items and with slippers or sunscreen for comfort. That cost the system $70,000 each year.

Cutting that was "part of aligning and standardizing our supplies across the province," Boulton said. "In other hospitals and care facilities, patients bring in their own items or they have their own family bring in their own items."

Do I really need to point out that there are significant differences between mental health hospitalization and acute care hospitalization? If I go into hospital for surgery, chances are that I will be released within a few days. If I'm hospitalized for mental health issues, chances are that it isn't a well defined "few days" to stabilize the situation.

Even more distressing is that mental health issues often result in long term poverty for the afflicted because of a combination of inability to work consistently (or at all) and the collective misconception society has about mental illness in general.

"They're such a vulnerable group and frequently they are folks who lack financial resources to support themselves in the community, let alone when they're in the hospital," Harrison said. Often, their families have broken apart because of the burden of mental illness.

"Gosh, this seems like one more stress and pressure for the families and patients who are already stressed due to their illness and the burden on the family but also about the uncertainty about the future of Alberta Hospital Edmonton," Harrison said.

Once again, the Stelmach government is balancing its budget by attacking those who are among the most vulnerable in our society, and those who have little or no political voice.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

That Was Predictable

The next group to bear the brunt of the Alberta PC government's mendacity has just been revealed.

Alberta's plan to cut about $12 million from its People with Developmental Disabilities program is scaring disabled people and their families.

Mary Anne Jablonski, minister of seniors and community supports, blames the cuts — which amount to about two per cent of the program's $604 million budget — on the economic downturn.

There's a pattern at play here - and the pattern is firmly rooted in a combination of mendacity and cowardice. The Stelmach government picks target populations with little or no political voice to be the front line of their agenda to cut, cut, cut. All the while refusing to examine seriously consider how the government could improve its cash flow.

So ... who's gonna be next? You?

Defeatism - Harper Style

Not so long ago, Harper opened his trap and accused people who live in Maritime Canada of a culture of defeatism.

Then we have Harper's Subterranean Profile in Copenhagen - which bespeaks an attitude of his own defeatist attitude towards the climate portfolio.

Mr. Harper has staked out a difficult position at Copenhagen – arguing there is little room for Canada to toughen its commitments to reduce emissions, insisting that China and other emerging economies agree to binding targets; rejecting the 1990 base year against which emission reductions would be measures, and refusing to make a specific pledge of financial aide for the developing world.

In short, Harper has talked Canada into a position where Canada is now fundamentally an isolated nation on the world stage - all because our Prime Minister is neither able or willing to actually consider positions beyond whatever he has decided.

About that secure transmissions thing...

Insurgents tapping Predator Drone video

I don't know if I should laugh or cry. Frankly, it's quite hilarious to realize that the insurgents know precisely what kind of surveillance the Americans are using - and the fact it can be done with a $26 piece of software is just added irony.

H/T: Canadian Cynic

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Colvin Testimony Part II

That's going to leave a mark. Essentially, Colvin takes every single talking point that the HarperCon$ have played and turns it inside out with facts.

Minister of Foreign Affairs Lawrence Cannon has suggested that I “availed myself of the prerogatives of a whistleblower,” and that the government accordingly granted me whistleblower protections.

I am not a whistleblower. Rather, I am a loyal servant of the Crown who did his job in Afghanistan to the best of his abilities, working through internal and authorized channels.
Contrary to Minister Cannon’s suggestion, I testified in Parliament because I was summoned by the Committee and legally compelled to speak the truth. I feel it is my duty as a public servant, when commanded to appear before the Parliamentary Committee, to give evidence that is full, frank and fair. I feel duty bound to be frank and thorough in responding to the Committee’s inquiries.

It's not as if this is any real surprise, but it is refreshing to see a member of the civil service not being cowed by Harper's thuggery.

Colvin's Letter ... all of it.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Harper The UnAccountable

It's not like it's a secret - Stephen Harper's secrecy and heavy handedness makes him by far the most overbearing Prime Minister that Canada has had. (at least in this writer's memory)

To date, he has prorogued parliament twice, called a snap election once - all in a bid to continue clinging to power.

Rumours flying around Parliament Hill suggest that another prorogation is in the works - until after the Olympics - which would conveniently let the Afghanistan prisoner issue go quiet, and give the government more time to dispose of potentially embarrassing documents by declaring them "matters of national security".

“I can't imagine what reason they would have to prorogue the House,” she said, “especially when it's the Conservatives who make such a big deal of their legislation and their crime agenda and things being held up.”

Bills that have not received Royal Assent die when Parliament is prorogued. That means legislation, including the consumer protection act that the Conservatives have urged the Senate to pass without amendments, would have to be reintroduced in the new session.

Yes, therein lies the rub. The Con$ keep disrupting parliament, and then they turn around and whine that they can't get their legislation through. I think that tells us a lot about what they would do if they weren't limited by their minority status in the House of Commons - and it isn't good for Canada.

Just consider what the HarperCon$ are doing in Copenhagen, especially in response to this little gem, which simply proves that they are going to continue to play denialist, and allow one of the biggest contributors in Canada to run unchecked.

After the business in Afghanistan, and now this, it's hard to see how Harper's actions on the world stage are in any way "in Canada's national interest".

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Hmmm...So It's A Good Thing To Lie?

Apparently, Tony Blair thinks so. After all a pack of lies is what he used to justify participating in Bush II's invasion of Iraq.

In light of recent revelations of our own government's handling of the situation in Afghanistan, I'm beginning to think that there's a sense of entitlement among the neoCons in general - one that justifies lying to the public as long as it fills their needs.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Dear Mr. Gold: Shut Your Pie Hole

I was traipsing through The Bilerico Project, and found what has to be one of the most offensively ignorant things I've ever seen posted about transsexuality posted by Ronald Gold.

Given that Bilerico is a GLBT forum, I'm more than a little surprised to find something so blatantly ill-informed about transsexuality posted there. I would have thought that any writer for that site would at least do a smidgen of research before yammering on in a manner I would normally expect from the likes of Peter LaBarbera.

Let me state it categorically. There is no such thing as a male or female personality. Personality is not a function of gender.

So where does that put the concept of transgender? In my view, down the tubes! And that leaves the further questions of how transsexuals got to think the way they do, and what to do to resolve their dilemmas. I hope I'll be forgiven for rejecting as just plain silly the idea that some cosmic accident just turned these people into changelings. What happened, more than likely, is that, from an early age, when they discovered that their personalities didn't jibe with what little boys and girls are supposed to want and do and feel, they just assumed they mustn't be real little boys and girls.

Unfortunately, Mr. Gold is playing armchair therapist here - and disappointingly has absolutely no idea what he's talking about.

When a transsexual talks about 'feeling like a woman' (or vice versa), that is an articulation of something that comes from the same fundamental aspect of our being that makes up personality. It's not about "a male personality" or a "female personality" per se - it's about the relationship we have with our bodies, and more subtly how we experience our interactions with the world.

Mr. Gold's misunderstanding appears to be rooted in the notion that personality (in its core) is some kind of monolith, rather than a series of discrete attributes which intersect and interact with each other.

He gets even more ignorant though:

As for adults struggling with what to do about their feelings, I'd tell them too to stay away from the psychiatrists - those prime reinforcers of sex-role stereotypes - and remind them that whatever they're feeling, or feel like doing, it's perfectly possible with the bodies they've got. If a man wants to wear a dress or have long hair; if a woman wants short hair and a three-piece suit; if people want romance and sex with their own gender; who says they can't violate these perfectly arbitrary taboos?

This reads like it comes from someone with no experience at all with therapists, much less those rare specialists that care for transgender people. Mr. Gold's understanding of transsexualism is rooted in the physical and external and does not address the devastation that living with severe cognitive dissonance can cause. Transsexualism goes far beyond such a simplistic, externalized perspective. Transsexuals don't have GRS just so they can have sex with someone "in a socially acceptable manner" - it is far more important that body and soul be congruent. What happens between the sheets is a completely different discussion.

About all that this proves is that the GLB community is just as baffled by transsexuality as the straight world is. It is disappointing indeed that Mr. Gold could not be bothered to engage in dialogue with one of the many trans writers that contribute to Bilerico. Many of whom could have set his thinking straight long before he published such an ill considered screed.

Wednesday, December 09, 2009

Get Smart On Crime, Get Tough On Tories

*Sound not needed.

H/T: Sabina

Replacing Lie #1 With Lie #2

Having been soundly beaten about for lying about prisoner transfers, we now find Harper spewing more BS:

The Prime Minister said the facts have been clear for several years. He said in 2006 the military suspected abuse of an Afghan prisoner and steps were taken to correct it.

This bunch changes their stories more often than their underwear. A few days ago, they were swearing up and down that there was "no credible" evidence to Mr. Colvin's allegations. Yesterday, they had the good General spouting the party line - even when there was evidence to the contrary in the public sphere. Today, Harper's trying to claim that they did the right thing?

I don't know how anybody can possibly believe the lies coming out of this government - lies that are being told at the expense not just of Canadian soldiers, but at the price of Canada's reputation abroad.

Tuesday, December 08, 2009

Credibility Test

Who are you going to believe? The soldiers that were on the ground and recorded the events at the time they happened, or a General who wasn't anywhere near the scene?

Gen. Walter Natynczyk, Canada's chief of defence staff, told a parliamentary committee on Tuesday that Canadian troops questioned the man who was picked up during operations in Zangabad. But it was the Afghans who took him into custody, Natynczyk said.

"We didn't take this person under custody," he said.

Funny, that's not what the soldiers who were present claim happened:

In one well-documented case in the summer of 2006, Canadian soldiers captured and handed over a detainee who was so severely beaten by Afghan police that the Canadians intervened and took the detainee back. Canadian medics then treated the man's injuries. The incident is documented in the field notes of Canadian troops, recounted in a sworn affidavit by a senior officer and confirmed in cross-examination by a general.

I'll take the troopers on the ground for credible evidence, thank you. Natynczyk wasn't there, so he's working from a politicized, sanitized version of the situation, and was no doubt ordered to make his statements to lend credibility to the crumbling façade of Peter Mackay's lies on this subject.

So, not only is the government lying to Canadians about this situation, they are failing to explain the lack of action when it was clear that there was evidence of Afghan officials mistreating prisoners - regardless of who captured them.

Monday, December 07, 2009

Last Week's Lies Are Inoperative

Remember Harper & Co. swearing up and down that there was absolutely no evidence to support allegations of prisoner abuse?

Not so much.

So ... I wonder what this week's lie will be to cover up last week's that has been disproven?

Sunday, December 06, 2009

25 Years Ago

Marc Lepine murdered 14 women at École Polytechnique in Montreal. (Antonia Z. @ the Star has a great piece on this)

Twenty five years later, the Conservative government is trying to dismantle the long gun registry in this country. Completely ignoring the fact that legal guns in the home are among the most common tools of domestic homicide, and denying law enforcement personnel access to the best possible knowledge as to whether a gun may be in the home when answering a domestic violence call.

On page 33 (Pdf Pg 39) of this StatsCan report, it's quite clear that women are disproportionately at risk of being murdered by their partners or former partners.

Hardly surprising - this is a government which has been hostile to women needs from day one; has a very vocal and active group of MPs who are hostile to women's health issues and so on. Do you want to go back to the 1950s (or earlier)?

Think about it...

Thursday, December 03, 2009

Proving (or Disproving) Gender Identity

One of the complaints that are often levelled at transsexuals (and other transgender people) is that the claim of cross-gender identity is not verifiable (or falsifiable).

Superficially, there is a considerable amount of truth to this. Gender identity, like any other form of identity is essentially expressed only in the form of what an individual can articulate. This is particularly thorny when transsexuals assert an essentialism to their identity, and separate that essential aspect from the social and physical aspects of gender.

As a line of reasoning, it's not a bad tactic - in large part because it is hard to refute with the kind of absolute observation that it implies. But, we can also draw a few interesting lessons from the science of physics. Almost every subatomic particle we know about is understood not from direct observation, but from inference. Observations that confirm larger particles contain small anomalies that aren't quite predicted by the original model. Eventually someone comes along and comes up with a model which describes a new subparticle and the mathematics of that describe the anomalies seen previously.

I will take as a given that there is at least some agreement that gender itself contains multiple axis which intersect with each other. The three that are fairly obvious to me are as follows:

- Physical Gender: This is nothing more than physical sex characteristics - primary and secondary - the contribution of biology.

- Social Gender: The social context in which we each live. Some of us live as men, others as women; and a few live their lives somewhere in between - often adopting the label 'genderqueer'.

- Gender Identity: This is what is between our ears. It is about how we experience the physical and social aspects of gender, and ultimately our emotional response to that treatment.

Clearly, none of these three exists in a vacuum with respect to the others. Social gender is driven by how others perceive us - and first impressions are often the result of observed physical gender. Lastly, Gender Identity impacts how an individual responds to the physical and social aspects of gender.

So, on what basis do we infer the existence of gender identity as distinct from the physical and social aspects of gender?

First, allow me to point out that there is no precise definition of 'man' and 'woman' in our society. There are women who are drawn to behaviours we would often consider to be masculine; and there are men whose behaviours are surprisingly feminine. In other words, their behaviours do not fit what is considered "typical" for someone of their physical gender. This is the first point of anomalous data.

The second aspect of gender that is surprisingly diverse is the physical. As we are learning, just because someone is born with a penis and testes, they aren't necessarily male with respect to chromosomal sex; and a vulva and vagina similarly don't guarantee that the individual is explicitly female when chromosomes are examined.

The third piece of the picture is the very existence of cross-gender identified people - whether we are talking about crossdressers, genderqueer people or transsexuals is quite irrelevant. The fact is that we have a small but significant number of people whose personal narratives fall outside of the man/woman binary even if they are otherwise male (or female) with respect to their physical and social genders.

These three dimensions are key to my argument, for the represent the kind of anomalies in experimental data that led scientists studying physics to suspect that the particles which make up atoms were themselves made up of other, smaller particles. We have a small, but significant group of people who claim identities which do not align with what their physical and social gender experiences would suggest.

In the spirit of other branches of science, we can't just discard evidence because it is inconvenient. This evidence in part leads me to infer that there is a dimension to gender that exists outside of the observable physical and social aspects of the topic. If there wasn't, it's hard to effectively describe the existence of cross-gender identity. The existence of people who fall outside of the binary in the physical and social dimensions further suggests that these attributes exist along a continuum.

For the purposes of this discussion, I will assert that gender identity as an axis of human experience that interacts with the physical and social aspects of gender provides an interesting and significant completion of the model.

The problem of verifying this attribute is non-trivial. Until we take a look at the experience of successful transsexuals (by successful, I mean those who transition and live a balanced, healthy life in their chosen gender).

That I know of, there is no objective test that can be applied that will unequivocally show someone to be transgender. But then again, there is no objective test that proves that someone is innately homosexual, heterosexual or for that matter any other attribute of our personalities really.

So, to understand it, we must use inference, and in particular I turn to the narratives of transsexuals who transition successfully. A reasonably common feature of many transsexual narratives is a lengthy struggle with a crushing sense of dissonance resulting from the disjoin between their physical, social gender experiences and their identity.

As they progress through the process of therapy, hormones and real life experience (RLE), most transsexuals report significant improvements in their experience of the world as the dissonance that they had previously experienced is alleviated. Many describe a state of euphoria once they cease experiencing the dissonance that has been a part of their lives for as long as they can remember. (and it is not uncommon for cross-gender identity to be known and understood by the individual among their earliest memories)

If we can take these narratives at face value, then the experimental evidence is before us - namely that by taking steps to address the dissonance experienced on a daily basis, the dissonance is gradually relieved.

Again, applying a little bit of inductive logic, we can infer the existence of an unseen, but all too real, attribute that is influencing the individual's experience of the social and physical aspects of their gender. Not only is there evidence of an attribute having an impact on the person's experience of the world, but we can alter the nature of that impact for the individual.

Remember, that because we are dealing with an attribute that is not subject to objective examination, it is necessary to do examine it through subjective and inductive means. Consequently, the standards of care that WPATH publishes recommend a cautious, measured approach to treating people who present with gender identity related symptoms. For many transsexuals, transition periods of a decade or more are not unusual. This length of time speaks to a persistence and sense of purpose that cannot be overlooked, for it gives the therapists a great deal of time to evaluate the integration of the person throughout the process. There is research out there that makes it quite clear that for transsexuals, there is great benefit in transitioning.

The strongest evidence for the existence of gender identity comes in the form of how well transsexuals adapt to life in their chosen gender. While it may be true that a few are simply highly adaptable people, it is hard to believe that this would apply to all. Further, the fact that some people approach the notion of transition and then back away leads me to suspect that gender identity occurs along a spectrum, just like most other aspects of being human. (which is why I cited Intersex conditions earlier on in this essay - to make the point that even "absolutes" like male and female aren't necessarily as concrete as we might initially hope)

Further, if gender had purely social and physical attributes, then the tragic story of David Reimer would never have happened. Unfortunately it did, and in doing so, more or less destroyed the validity of any model that addresses gender purely as a social construct. The fact that David refused to be a girl, even when all of the social cues provided said otherwise, tells us a great deal about the persistence of underlying gender identity in individuals.

Have I demonstrated the existence of Gender Identity as an attribute separate and distinct from the physical and social aspects of gender? Not completely. What I have done is described the shape of the theoretical hole that gender identity fills, and pointed out that there is consistent - if somewhat subjective - evidence that the attribute's impact on an individual can be altered, although the attribute itself seems surprisingly difficult to alter.

Dear Mr. Adler: PFO

Charles Adler published a particularly noxious screed in the National Post the other day - presumably at the behest of the knuckle-draggers in the PMO that want to silence critics of the government's handling of of Afghan prisoners.

The fundamentals of Adler's tirade are nothing more than the usual "you don't support the troops" line.

This is incorrect. The issue isn't the troops. It's the orders that they have been given - and those come from command and the politicians. Let's be absolutely clear on that matter. The decisions about the handling of individual detainees happens on the ground, in the context of the moment and the standing orders the troops operate under. The orders they are given come from the command structure, and ultimately are directed substantially by the politicians.

So ... the issue here is the orders that told troops to turn over prisoners to a questionable regime. We already know that Mr. Colvin's e-mails made it to the Department of Foreign Affairs ministerial offices (then occupied by Peter Mackay).

It's apparent that at several points in time the military's command hierarchy put the brakes on those transfers over the course of 2006-2007, but subsequently resumed them.

The politicians involved did nothing to correct the situation - or if they did, it was so slowly as to be meaningless in terms of dealing with the issues.

The issue today is simple - why were our politicians so slow to address the issues of prisoner handling? AND - why are the Conservatives being so obstructive about getting the facts out?

Make no mistake, the war in Afghanistan is a war of occupation. We (NATO forces) are the invaders, and what is happening on the ground there has happened repeatedly in the past - not just the Soviet occupation, but every attempt to control that region over the millenia of recorded history. Canada is paying a high price in 'blood and treasure' to prosecute this war of occupation, and nobody has ever put forward a convincing case that Canada's security is truly benefiting from our presence over there. (Lots of jingoism, no substantive facts)

The issue is not about "supporting the troops" - it's about a government that doesn't understand why we are there in the first place, and has clearly lost its moral compass.

Tuesday, December 01, 2009

It Was A Matter Of Time

I figured sooner or later someone from the right wing would start commenting about Mike Penner (fka Christine Daniels) suicide.

Sure enough, someone over at "Opine Editorials" took up the cause.

Even if we were to all agree that "gender reassignment" was generally a good and legitimate thing, could it ever be possible... possible... that every so often, a person who seeks such a change could be doing so out of some problem that could be addressed in some way other than gender reassignment?

What an opening argument. It starts off with a bad assumption and goes downhill from there.

What's the bad assumption here? That people who pursue gender transition do so on a whim, and the treatment professionals involved just say "yeah sure, go ahead". Even the tiniest smidgen of research would have turned up this Wikipedia overview Sex Reassignment Therapy, and Standards of Care for Gender Identity Disorders which links to an online PDF copy of the WPATH SOC which most North American practitioners follow.

In other words, the treatment community is already aware that only a small fraction of transsexuals need to transition. This why steps like Real Life Experience (RLE) are an essential part of the process. I'll come back to this in a few moments, after I address the next bit of flawed logic in the argument.

I'll choose a less politicized situation as an analogy. A guy goes to a doctor and says, "I have back pain. I need pain pills." But maybe that specific patient doesn't need pain pills. Maybe the patient just needs a massage, or a chiropractic treatment. Maybe the patient is sleeping in a chair and should be sleeping in a certain kind of bed, instead. Even though the pain pills may dull the pain, would it be good to the doctor to continually write the patient prescriptions for the pain pills and not address the other things?

Providing treatment for Gender Identity issues is a little more complex than treating back pain. Among the myriad issues is the difficulty in confirming someone's stated gender identity in an objective sense. This is why it is very important that the treatment team and the client work very closely together as each step is taken.

Then the logic train comes completely off the rails:

... If any of them took Penner aside and implied that perhaps his identity as a male or female wasn't the heart of what was ailing him, and reassignment wasn't the way to go and that he should get some other help, that could have easily been the end of their career.

The fact is that very few people would know what was going on in Mike Penner's head. I would imagine that Mike/Christine had a lot going on, and it would have been difficult if not impossible for anyone except for a trained professional to pick up on some of the themes in his mind. Certainly, if any of my peers tried to play "armchair psychologist" with me, I can imagine I might be tempted to tell them exactly where to go and what to do when they got there.

Gender transition is no trifling matter, and certainly not something that should be taken lightly.

Clearly, Penner wasn't happy. Happy people do not kill themselves. I didn't know the guy, but perhaps that unhappiness has been there a long time, and Penner thought he'd be happier as "Christine". Apparently, he wasn't happy as Christine, since he reverted back to Mike. The gender confusion activists will want to deny that the "gender reassignment" trial was a symptom of something that was wrong with Penner.

There are so many things that this paragraph misses about this story that it more or less negates its own meaningfulness. Among the questions that it fails to ask - was Mike Penner socially isolated after transitioning from being Christine? What kind of support was his treatment team providing him? What other comorbid symptoms did Mike/Christine exhibit in therapy? Was he receiving treatment for those conditions?

The reality is that from several perspectives, Mike's decisions to transition not once but twice represent a key reason why the RLE aspect of the SOC are in place. Not everybody who experiences cross-gender identity needs to transition fully, and not everybody who explores the idea of transition stays there. Mike walked a long distance down the path of transition, and for reasons I don't know, decided that he was in the wrong place living as Christine.

It is a shame he didn't get whatever help he really needed. This could very well have been a death by political correctness.

Around about this point, I find myself getting quite angry with the false inference here that Mike's suicide is the fault of his attempt to transition and the support that he received as Christine.

Identity is a tricky thing to pin down. Many transsexuals spend decades of their lives trying to understand themselves - a fortunate few seek help . Transition itself is a path fraught with peril - both external and internal. It is critical at every step of the way that the client be as aware of their circumstances as possible, and that their treatment team be working with them every step of the way - precisely to avoid the unfortunate outcome that Mike Penner arrived at.

The author of the column over at "Opine Editorials" has really demonstrated much of the misinformation and ignorance that embody much of the public understanding of transsexualism and how it is treated.

Mike Penner's death is a tragedy, and every transsexual who has heard about it must feel the loss all the more poignantly for having walked through their own dark places to get to where they need to be. To infer that Mike's suicide has anything at all to do with the support of those around him when he transitioned to living as Christine and back to Mike is disingenuous, and ultimately disrespectful to both Mike and those around him.

Monday, November 30, 2009

The Question, Mr. Harper, Is When Did You Decide To Lie To Canadians About Afghanistan?

As usual, when confronted with a real political problem, Stephen Harper turns to the usual "when did you stop beating your wife" tactics:

Harper said that living in a time "when some in the political arena do not hesitate before throwing the most serious of allegations at our men and women in uniform, based on the most flimsy of evidence, remember that Canadians from coast to coast to coast are proud of you and stand behind you, and I am proud of you, and I stand beside you."

Canadians who have their brains switched on have long since realized that Canada's armed forces in Afghanistan are carrying out the orders they receive from their political masters in Ottawa.

The real issue is no longer about who knew what about prisoner mistreatment in Afghanistan, but it is now about the litany of blatant lies and distortions that have been spewed forth by Harper, Mackay and other members of the Conservative government.

Mr. Mackay has changed his story so many times in the last week or two that I'm not sure he even knows what the reality is himself. Mr. Harper's defense is what? To accuse critics of "not supporting the troops".

This isn't about the troops - it's about a government which lies blatantly to Canadians, and changes its story more quickly than it does its underwear.

Friday, November 27, 2009

So What?

Apparently Adam Lambert's performance at the American Music Awards has touched off a bunch of controversy.

Not on ABC, which apparently didn't approve of Lambert's stage show in which he French-kissed a band member and simulated oral sex.

Meh - whatever. Madonna did things like that back in the 1990s. What's the big deal? Oh right - Lambert's a guy - I suppose that makes all the difference in the world.

After all, Madonna and Britney Spears kissing is just hot - or so it seems; apparently when it's two guys it's suddenly a horrible moral failure.

Just as society holds women up to some nearly impossible double standards, this is one of those double standards for men - showing any kind of physical affection is taboo; showing it towards other men is beyond taboo. It's time we looked at some of these arbitrary rules and tossed them in the dustbin where they truly belong.

Frankly, Lambert's performance wasn't my cup of tea - but I don't really care what he does on stage - or off it come to that. It's up to me if I watch it or ignore it.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Why Do Conservatives Hate Public Accountability?

Perhaps it really is unique to the brand of political conservative that has arisen in Alberta, but whether we look at the federal scene or the provincial scene in Alberta, we see the same basic patterns emerging.

In Alberta, the provincial government has been steadily whittling away at anything that resembles meaningful accountability to the public for years. Alberta's legislature barely sits long enough to execute the semblance of parliamentary process; the government is awarding itself discretionary powers to act above and beyond the regulatory processes it created itself not so long ago.

Federally, what do we see? We see Mr. Harper trying to render critics - real or potential - mute. Either by force of law, such as making anything at all to do with Afghanistan prisoner handling secret documents, or by simply claiming that anyone who criticises the government's actions is lying or making claims with no merit.

Looking back over the history of the Harper government, I have not seen a government so focused on hiding reality from the Canadian people in years - with the possible exception of the Klein and now Stelmach governments in Alberta perhaps.

Whether it is Harper's intransigence in his handling of Omar Khadr, the Isotopes Affair, his abuse of prorogation of parliament, the costs of his Softwood Lumber Deal or the spending cuts he instituted in 2006, Harper has done everything in his power to avoid being accountable to Canadians when it matters.

It has become harder, not easier, under Harper to get information out of the government, and he has carefully pared down the ability of the public to get any visibility into the government and its actions - what is he hiding?

Bill 50 - And What It Tells Albertans

So, the legislature passed Bill 50 yesterday.

I have all sorts of problems with Bill 50, but in particular what it represents. Essentially, the Alberta Government has just removed public process from the creation of power transmission lines. If the minister decides that a given transmission line is "critical", then there is no regulatory process to vet whether the line is in fact critical, or whether it unreasonably affects people living along its route, or will unnecessarily hike electricity costs for Albertans.

This is a serious problem - the Stelmach government is setting things up so that they are even less accountable to the public than Klein was ... and Klein was pretty awful for accountability. Klein didn't like accountability much, and it appears that under Stelmach, it's about to take a turn for the worse.

We've already seen the first steps in this with Liepert's "Health Services Superboard", which both Stelmach and Liepert hide everytime something controversial is being done with the health care system in this province.

Now we have a situation where cabinet wants to appropriate the power to be the regulator and the lawmaker with respect to large infrastructure projects. This has the potential to be extremely destructive to participation in Alberta's democracy (which is already depressingly poor).

Last election, over 80% of the seats were decided by 22% of the eligible voters - Stelmach won on apathy. Think about it.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Inquiry Time

With the partisan nonsense that has been bouncing around this week regarding Afghan prisoner/detainee transfers, it's past time to call a public inquiry - one that isn't bounded by arbitrary rules that the HarperCon$ have come up with.

Harper has tried very hard to muzzle, or render ineffectual, the current parliamentary investigation, and I think in this case Amnesty International has it right:

We are, however, shocked, that at least 12 of his reports were not disclosed by the government during the course of Federal Court proceedings in 2007 and 2008, despite the fact that they were obviously of direct relevance to the issues before the Court and were certainly covered by requests for disclosure of documents that had been made by our legal team. Equally troubling has been Richard Colvin’s testimony as to the ways in which he indicates his reports were dismissed and ignored by senior officials. That your government has responded primarily by seeking to discredit and impugn Mr. Colvin’s credibility has been, frankly, wholly unacceptable.
In our view, therefore, there is no other option open other than to immediately convene a full, public Commission of Inquiry into all aspects of the laws, policy and practice that has governed Canada’s approach to handling prisoners in Afghanistan. We call on you to do so without delay.

The real issue here is what is the Harper Government trying to cover up? I can think of a few possibilities.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

If Colvin's Testimony is so "unbelievable" ...

Then we should be asking some really tough questions of Defense Minister Mackay in light of his top General's recent comments.

"We indeed did stop the transfer more than one time," he said. "At the same time, I don't want to throw out more information. There's a process that's undergoing and I know that the witnesses will be called forward for that process and give their testimony."

So ... Mr. Mackay, would you care to square last week's knee-jerk attempt to dismiss Mr. Colvin's testimony with the actions of the very department you are the minister for? Clearly the Canadian Armed Forces believed that something wasn't entirely right in the first place, so that tells me that Mr. Colvin's concerns had their share of validity - even in the absence of "absolute proof".

Just one more example of the Harper gov't lying to Canadians for political gain.

Friday, November 20, 2009

From Ideology Comes Sloppy Logic

I've heard about You're Teaching My Child What? for quite a while now and mostly dismissed it as yet another anti sex-ed book.

So, when I spotted this book review, I decided to spend a few minutes reading it to see if there was any reason to think that the book was anything worthwhile.

It isn't.

Although the author is an MD, it's pretty clear that the book is written to reinforce most of the complaints that the anti-sex-ed crowd loves to throw about.

Society has now gone from two STDs, syphilis and gonorrhea, to more than two dozen, some incurable and even fatal. Chlamydia is a common bacterial STD that can cause sterility, but can have no symptoms and is readily transferred back and forth between males and females unnoticed. The protection advocated by sex ed groups is a misnomer; condoms are little protection against many of these STDs. On the other hand, as the good doctor notes, all STDs are 100 percent avoidable, through abstinence, and then monogamy.

Uh huh. We all know just how well that policy works in reality.

Of course, when they turn their attention to sexual minorities, the argument degenerates into the usual "oooh - look how creepy this is".

...keep in mind that most of the “experts” spewing forth information on these websites are not physicians or psychologists or psychiatrists or educators, but are activists, and many are so gender confused because of their own behaviors and sex changes they don’t know who they are. Some are “peer educators,” and the rest would have been described as sexual deviants just 50 short years ago, as they dabble in every kind of unnatural behavior, then describe it, and share it with teens, encouraging imitation.

Oh yes, people who are GLBT are just soooo strange aren't they? Not so much in reality. But this has been part of the anti-gay arsenal for decades - an attempt to erase the person by lumping them into the category of "alien" and "bizarre".

Chapter Seven in the book, devoted to “Genderland” is a real eye opener. Blaming society’s culture for what they described as an assigned bipolar male and female gender system, the transformers described here make a serious departure from reality as they try to address the gender identity issues they have created. On some teen websites there are quizzes to help one determine one’s gender. (Gender is no longer biological fact, you see, but how one identifies oneself, e.g., female at birth now male or transgender, or intersex but identify as male.) This goes far beyond even the homosexual/heterosexual/transgender labels we’ve come to know, and is accompanied by new language; “ze” to replace “he” and “she”, and “hir” an alternative for “his” and “her.”

Let me point out a couple of things here - puberty - and therefore teen years - are when cross-gender identities become real issues for those who have them. There is little more horrifying than to see your body turn into something that you weren't meant to be.

Second, the language of "ze", "hir" etc. is not a commonly used construct in the transgender world. Those are terms that have emerged out of the world of gender and queer theory studies, and are not commonly used - even within the communities that would benefit from them in principle. Again, this is little more than more of an attempt to signal to the reader how unimaginably bizarre the world of cross-gender identities must be.

It’s hard enough, says Doctor Grossman, when teens and pre-teens feel mixed up about many issues, but the question “Who am I?” needs to be answered before the challenges of adulthood present themselves. Teens are not miniature adults. Theirs is a world of emotional intensity, with strong drives and hormone overloads. Documented in the book are expert findings showing adolescents have a lesser ability to reason. One neuropsychologist explained: “adolescents are more prone to react with ‘gut instinct’ when they process emotions but as they mature into early adulthood they are about to temper their instinctive ‘gut reaction’ response with rational reasoned responses.” Hard science reveals that it’s not a lack of information, but a lack of judgement that gets teens into trouble.

I'll agree that lack of judgment frequently does get teens into trouble. However, lack of information - especially about matters related to gender and sexual identity is asking for even more trouble. It's the teen years when sexual awareness and identity develop, and to blithely tell them to "wait until you're 20" is beyond daft, it's unrealistic. For those who struggle with gender identity issues, there are good reasons to make the information - along with access to appropriate therapists - available. Teens aren't stupid, and contrary to the popular fear-filled mythology of the religious right wing, hiding sexuality related subjects from them doesn't stop them from exploring. It never has, and likely never will.

Dr. Grossman makes clear in the book, which is very well documented, that the real goals of the sex education lobby are not to prevent pregnancy or disease, but to indoctrinate the young. It is this politicization of sex that will morally bankrupt our nation. The sex-obsessed want to spread their unnatural behaviors as they curry favor for dangerous and unhealthy sexual activity by relying on emotions and pleasures. They craft a false perception of the realities of free and open sex, desensitizing our youth to subject matter that used to be avoided in conversation among polite company.

And these sex transformers want to start earlier and earlier, with your child. Anatomically correct verbiage is to be used in kindergarden, and feelings expressed. Third graders are to have an exaggerated version of the birds and the bees talk. And teens, who are scared into avoiding tobacco and alcohol, are to be made to understand the pleasures of all types of illicit sex.

Oh yes, sex education is all about a political agenda. That's right up there with the alleged "Gay Agenda" (which I've never seen a copy of, but every homophobe out there is absolutely convinced it's real). This is another strawman argument, and by the sounds of this review, the entire book is essentially built on the same kind of silly, sloppy and hysterical reasoning.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Under All The Bluster ...

Is a reality.

The HarperCon$ have struggled mightily to silence Richard Colvin, failing that they then attempt to discredit not just what he says but the man himself.

Peter Mackay's attempt to discredit Colvin's sources and interviews is an interesting exercise in missing the point:

"There has not been a single, solitary proven allegation of abuse involving a transferred Taliban prisoner by Canadian forces,” he said.

However, there is considerable evidence out there of prisoners being turned over to the Afghan government, and being tortured.

We also know that we suspended prisoner transfers at one point, and the HarperCon$ tried to cover up the reasons for that.

So ... what precautions, if any, did the HarperCon$ order Canada's Armed Forces to undertake regarding the handover of prisoners? I'm putting better than even odds that the sum total of those precautions was nothing. In short, they continued to do exactly as Bush II did, and turn a blind eye to the abuse that prisoners were (and likely as not, are) being subjected to when turned over to the Afghan authorities.

In short, through a series of acts of omission, the Canada has become complicit in what are internationally recognized as war crimes - and Harper will do just about anything to cover it up.

I'm not saying that everything that Mr. Colvin has said is true - but the viciousness of the government's response, along with the desperation that has been quite apparent in their actions to suppress the current (and very limited) inquiry, leaves something lying about that does not pass the "smell test".

If it takes a judicial inquiry - and one that is unfettered by desperate politicians trying to save their electoral hides in particular - then we should undertake one on Afghanistan immediately. Canada cannot, and should not, ever be party to war crimes - or even have the appearance of being party to them.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

A Little Window Into The World Of The Anti-Gay Conservatives

I have often wondered what really makes the religious conservatives so rabidly hate-filled when it comes to homosexuality. It has often seemed to me that the anti-gay message is rooted in a particularly narrow, literalist view of scripture.

After reading this gem ... and in particular the comments over at No Apologies, I'm afraid I must revise my opinion.

The vitriol is not really rooted in any meaningful understanding of Scripture - at best, that seems to be an excuse - something that they can point to that allows them to justify not taking personal ownership of their feelings and reactions.

What needs to be understood about these people is that they are not content to be sodomites and just carry on with life. They want to promote that wicked lifestyle. We know this because God says so.

Hmmm...what an interesting set of inferences. First of all, there's an underlying wish that GLBT people would quietly stay in the closet - after all, why on earth would anyone that was GLBT want to be a full participant in society? When someone from the GLBT community does participate in our society's government, they are immediately accused of "promoting their wicked lifestyle" or "recruiting".

Underlying this seems to be two basic themes:

(1) A desire to keep the unknown ("the Others" in society) from being full and equal participants in society.

(2) Fear - plain old fear. Once you make another human being "the Other", it becomes easy to think of them as less than human; of being capable of all sorts of malfeasance and misdeeds.

In short, although the mask they draw over their words and deeds is made of the fabric of faith, it is but a mask. Underneath it lie attitudes steeped in fear and ignorance. When confronted with evidence that contradicts their assumptions, they will inevitably dismiss it out of hand, rather than trying to assimilate it.

12 Letter Synonym For Two-Faced

According to Runesmith, the word would have to be "C o n s e r v a t i v e".

I can't believe how utterly hypocritical the HarperCon$ are.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Watch Out ... It'll Gum Ya To Death

Calgary's city council decided to tackle the bugbear of pesticide use in the city. Perhaps to nobody's surprise they blinked, so the proposed bylaw will merely make recommendations.

Council voted Monday to direct staff to develop a pesticide control bylaw. But in an 8-7 vote, they rejected the idea of including a timeline for ending pesticide use in this city.

This particular excuse is just infuriating though:

"What about golf courses?" asked Mar. "What do people have the right to do on their own property? This is something that concerns me and concerned a lot of the other people that I've spoken with in council and administration and most importantly, how is this enforceable?”

Yes, John, it's so important that your golf courses have perfectly manicured, dandelion free greens ... for those in this city who can afford to play golf at least. Perhaps, instead of soaking the ground with poisons, we could do something innovative - like actually dig out the dandelions.

The Poor, Persecuted Christian ... and Reality

Over at No Apologies, we find them desperately trying to spin things into a case of "persecuted christianity" because Washington, D.C. might pass a law legalizing SSM.

In Washington, D.C., the Catholic archdiocese has threatened to end its charitable work in the city – the work of Catholic Charities – if homosexual “marriage” rights are passed and the state tries to force Catholic Charities to extend employee benefits to homosexual “married” couples. If this happens, homosexualists will be to blame for terminating important charitable aid to the needy.

Then there is reality - The Catholic Church is the one threatening to shut down it's charitable works in D.C. if the bill is passed.

What soup kitchens for the poor have to do with SSM is a bit of a puzzle, isn't it?

But officials from the archdiocese said they feared the law might require them to extend employee benefits to same-sex married couples. As a result, they said, the archdiocese would have to abandon its contracts with the city if the law were passed.

Oh, now I see. The Church is afraid it might have to treat gay employees as actual equals with respect to subjects such as benefits plans.

The reality here is that the Church is offended that it might have to treat all of its employees as equals for subjects such as paid benefits plans. In other words, the Church is about to lose yet another area where it can discriminate and treat gay people as second class citizens.

It's important to note that the law in question does not impinge upon the Church's autonomy with respect to deciding who it will or will not marry:

Under the bill, which has the mayor's support and is expected to pass next month, religious organizations would not be required to perform same-sex weddings or make space available for them.

In order to get its way, the Church is effectively making the clients of its charitable operations the victims. The denizens of No Apologies, are, of course, trying to spin this hostage taking as being the fault of those who back gay marriage. In effect, they are saying that the Church's actions are the direct result of the law changing, instead of recognizing that the Church has choices it can make. It could choose to simply extend benefits to same sex couples that are legally married - and there would be no issue. Instead, they choose to try using their charitable operations as a political lever.

Hardly something that one can blame the backers of the gay marriage bill in D.C. for.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Administrative: Captcha's Enabled

Due to a particularly irritating amount of comment bot spam recently, I have enabled 'captcha's on comments.

Hopefully this is only a temporary measure until the various spam lists this blog appears to be on expire.

That's Terrorism?

According to the wingnuts over at No Apologies, the mere threat of the GLBT community demonstrating against an anti-gay series of seminars is "terrorism".

No, I'm afraid that's just abusing the term. Stalking people and murdering them so that others will be intimidated out of legal practices like women's health care services, that's arguably terrorism of a sort. Anybody else remember Dr. Tiller's murder this year? Or Operation Rescue's various campaigns against abortion providers?

What's sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander. Look at the screaming, whining and bellyaching that comes out from the religious right wing whether it's about gay rights, marriage or abortion - the demonstrations are amazing, and when someone chooses to confront them using their own tactics it suddenly gets labelled "terrorism". There's a word for this - hypocrisy.

As for Mr. Lizotte, the man leading these sessions, he seems to be a francophone version of the usual anti-gay speakers. I would put even odds that I could find the same assertions that Mr. Lizotte makes on any of the usual anti-gay websites - with about as much real data to back them up.

Sunday, November 08, 2009

The PC's No Longer Represent Albertans

One only need look at this weekend's leadership review for Ed Stelmach.

Mr. Stelmach received a vote of confidence from 77.4 per cent of PC delegates eligible to cast ballots during a mandatory leadership review. The result of the secret-ballot vote was announced to the cheers of more than 1,000 people on Saturday night at the close of the party’s annual party convention in Red Deer.

Considering that less than half that number in the general population would vote for Stelmach, I'd say that 77% suggests that the PC party has officially lost touch with Alberta voters.

Stelmach is easily the weakest Premier this province has seen since Don Getty and by far the most out of touch with Albertans as a whole. (a neat trick, given how awful Getty was) That the party delegates chose to give him such a high approval rating says more about the party's sense of entitlement than anything else.

A premier who has bungled every major policy decision moment since the last election should be in deep trouble with the party apparatus. Instead, they give him a resounding vote of approval - as if the anointed one could not possibly make a mistake.

Thursday, November 05, 2009

And Alberta Was Surprised By The Turnout?

So ... the Alberta Government was "surprised" by the high turnout for H1N1 vaccination.

Then there's stories like this in the news. Normally we don't hear about multiple people dying of flu infections in one week ... much less people in the prime of life:

At least three of the four had "risk factors," Predy said, adding he could not release further details because of privacy concerns.

Predy said 70 patients across Alberta are in intensive care with H1N1.

About 26% of those hospitalized are children under nine years old.

The median age is 30, according to officials.

Not only will parents be scared for their children, but they should be worried for themselves too.

While the news stories don't help the public see this as "perfectly normal", or make them patient about waiting for vaccination. Anything that attacks people this quickly and kills those that we would ordinarily have thought to be at low risk is going to provoke a visceral reaction.

Any government that is surprised by this kind of response is seriously out of touch with reality.

Harper Attempts To Politicize The Civil Service

If you haven't heard about this, it's because it's another one of Dear Leader's lovely little partisan games - the kind of shenanigan that Harper doesn't want us to know about.

The Accelerated Economist Training Program invites highly educated people to develop careers in the federal public service, starting at a senior level.
But this year, for the first time, candidates need to provide more than a list of qualifications and good marks. They also must to write 1,000 words on the federal government's last budget, promoted widely as the Economic Action Plan.

This is so blatantly political it's ridiculous. I'd put pretty good money down on a wager that says this little turd of a question came down from the political side of things in Ottawa.

No doubt, Harper would dearly love to put a bunch of Reformatories into convenient ranks of the bureaucracy so that the Con$ could undermine another government.

If this question was really about evaluating someone's analytical abilities, there are a hundred other essay questions that could be asked, none of which imply to the candidate that they need to toadie to the fantasies of the current government.

Wednesday, November 04, 2009

More Dog Whistles From Harper's Back Benches

I said it when Harper was first elected, and I continue to stand by the claim that he is letting his back bench run amok with bills and other activities designed to play to the social conservative base deliberately.

He doesn't expect to have many of those bills get very far, and if he has to, he'll kill them off if he thinks that there will be a political cost to it (e.g. Bill 484 - for example) But ... because he can 'let his caucus vote "freely"' on these matters, Harper allows his caucus to keep their "social/religious conservative credentials" by voting for these bills.

The latest entry in Harper's efforts to keep his base happy emerges in the form of MP Brad Trost's petition to defund Planned Parenthood.

A petition calling for a stop to federal funding of the International Planned Parenthood Federation (IPPF) has been launched by Saskatoon-Humboldt MP Brad Trost.

Trost presented the petition to the House of Commons Monday. IPPF is funded through the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA) and, according to Trost's petition, "promotes the establishment of abortion as an international human right and lobbies aggressively to impose permissive abortion laws on developing nations."

Most people won't pay attention to this little turd of a petition - they rationally understand that IPPF does some real good in the world. The so-called "pro-life" crowd on the other hand thinks that anything to do with contraception and birth control is pure evil. It's not as if Trost hasn't opened his yap before - inevitably to groups like Lifesite, and conveniently closed-mouth towards mainstream media.

There's nothing hidden about Harper's agenda - you just have to know what to look for.

Tuesday, November 03, 2009

Mr Liepert, You Got Some s'Plainin To Do

Just what kind of monumental cock-up does it take for for a bunch of overpaid athletes to jump the queues for flu shots?

First of all this bunch of morons in Edmonton come up with a half-baked plan for rolling out H1N1 vaccine, and now we find out that rather than giving preferential treatment to medical and emergency personnel, the government was giving preferential treatment to the Calgary Flames?

Mr. Liepert, you give preferential treatment to that bunch and then bitch about those who stood in line for multiple hours to get a flu shot? Give me a break.

This puts Alberta squarely in the same place as both B.C. and Ontario where preferential access has been given to private clinics that charge a small fortune for people to have the dubious privilege of being their patients.

Someone remind me again what's so #%!##$@! great about privatizing health care? (Which I suspect strongly is precisely Mr. Liepert's goal - make things so awful that overpriced US-style insurance programs look good - so he can sell Alberta off to the private health insurance companies that have been lining the PC's pockets for so long)

Sunday, November 01, 2009

Why "My Genes Made Me Do It" Misses The Point

One of NARTH's favourite writers is a fellow by the name of Dr. Neil Whitehead. He has published a book entitled My Genes Made Me Do It which attempts to dispel the notion that there are genetic factors at play in the existence of homosexuality.

Not unlike Michael Behe's book "Darwin's Black Box", one doesn't need to be a specialist in the domain to recognize the logical errors in the arguments presented - no matter how hard the authors attempt to substantiate their position with diagrams, and serious looking statistical analysis.

In many ways, Dr. Whitehead falls into precisely the same trap that Behe did - he's so convinced of the rightness of his argument that he cannot see or recognize the glaring holes in his interpretation of the data.

Consider the following assertion in Chapter 1:

The implications of “many genes” for homosexuality would reflect what happened with the mice, or fruitflies: the typical genetic pattern would be a gradual change in the family over about 30 generations from heterosexuality through bisexuality toward homosexuality - a few percent with each generation. Similarly,homosexuality would only slowly disappear in the descendants (if any) of a homosexual person. Any other proposed mechanism is highly speculative and runs against the known evidence.

The flaws in this argument are many. First of all, it makes the incorrect assumption that evolution would have to progress through bisexual variations to arrive at a homosexual variation. There is absolutely no reason to suspect that this is the case at all, in fact the evidence overall could easily be read as implying that heterosexuality, bisexuality and homosexuality occur naturally and concurrently. This claim implies a determinism that in fact evolutionary theory does not actually reflect.

Similarly, Whitehead asserts that in such a scenario, homosexuality should die out, and yet it clearly does not. Therefore, argues Whitehead, homosexuality could not possibly be rooted in genetics. Again, this makes the false supposition that evolution is deterministic, and further that because a homosexual is less likely to pass their genes on to offspring, that it should die out - more of the "evolution is deterministic" line of thinking. However, it fails to take into account that there may be other reasons why the patterns that result in homosexuality persisting through many generations.

Further, even though we have sequenced the human genome, we should not be so naive as to believe that we have anywhere near a complete understanding of how the genetic attributes we can now describe respond to the surprisingly complex organic chemistry that fills our bodies and makes us tick. We have but begun to explore those very questions.

I'll skip ahead to Chapter 3 for now. Chapter 3 is where the author's bias and agenda is clearly stated:

We all tend to take our heterosexuality for granted as if it just happens. But it seems to develop slowly and steadily and to consolidate over about two decades - through clearly defined and documented stages. Psychologists are in broad agreement about the general stages of heterosexual development and unanimous about one thing: heterosexual orientation is not genetically determined.

This is a strange assertion, and one that seems to be quite at odds with the consensus statements from the APA on homosexuality:

What causes a person to have a particular sexual orientation?

There is no consensus among scientists about the exact reasons that an individual develops a heterosexual, bisexual, gay, or lesbian orientation. Although much research has examined the possible genetic, hormonal, developmental, social, and cultural influences on sexual orientation, no findings have emerged that permit scientists to conclude that sexual orientation is determined by any particular factor or factors. Many think that nature and nurture both play complex roles; most people experience little or no sense of choice about their sexual orientation.

This is subtly different from what Whitehead states. Whitehead conveniently leaves out is that the research is inconclusive with respect to causality. The lack of concrete evidence either way should not be interpreted as negation of the idea that there are biological factors involved.

In Chapter 5 (no I'm not deliberately skipping even numbered chapters, but Chapters 2 and 4 really don't say anything significant), Whitehead takes a stab at trying to explain the gender and sexual orientation of Intersex people.

Ironically, his interpretation of Money et. al. falls into almost exactly the same error that Money himself made - namely he confuses gender identity with social gender.

Social gender is largely learned through experience. It builds on gender identity to some degree. If we didn't learn it through experiences, then by what purpose would the natural segregation of male and female children in school years serve? Further, if gender was purely socialization, then the outcome of Money's experiment involving John Reimer would have been dramatically different.

Money's work with John Reimer actually can be understood as validating the narrative of many transsexuals, who almost universally claim that they felt "like the opposite sex" from a very young age (often well before any sense of gender is supposed to be understood by the child) - and transsexuals move towards transition with a surprising degree of persistence - seemingly without swerving once they start to understand themselves.

Whitehead, however, goes on to argue that because many Intersex people choose to remain in the gender role that they were raised in, that gender identity, and correspondingly sexual identity are in fact primarily learned.

Unfortunately, Whitehead has made a serious error in his theoretical construct in making such an argument. Instead of expanding his interpretation to encompass the percentage of Intersex people who do choose to transition to a different gender role as adults, he effectively argues that their story is not relevant and discards that evidence.

There is a fundamental construct out of Mathematics that Whitehead has clearly ignored or misunderstood - namely that of completeness. Mathematical completeness has a strong definition, but the principle applies to scientific theory as well. A theory that fails to encompass the breadth of the available evidence is either in need of revision, or it suffers from logical inconsistencies, and this is where Whitehead's arguments begins to fall apart.

Whitehead wants his reader to be convinced that in the absence of concrete proof of biological causality that sexual identity and behaviour are therefore learned. If something can be learned, it can obviously be "unlearned" or changed, right?

Well ... perhaps that is the case - after all transsexuals learn the social aspects of their chosen gender, often in the face of having transitioned later in life.

However, that does not explain in the least their stated motives for choosing to transition (or, in the case of some, making the choice not to transition).

For much of the rest of his book, Whitehead spends his time expounding on how various lines of investigation have "not turned up any conclusive evidence" in building his argument that sexual orientation is primarily learned behaviour.

Right now, based on much of what Zoe Brain keeps digging up, I think the interesting work is not going on in the causality of sexual identity, but in understanding gender.

The more of this evidence that gets published, the more convinced I become that to assume that we must all try to be heterosexual is deeply flawed. In no other respect to we expect people to fit into absolute categories. Even handedness is mixed - few people are absolutely left or right handed. I'm strongly left-handed myself, but even there, I find that there are things that I do right handed. There's no absolutes in life, and it seems to me that where we are talking about sexual or gender identity, we should not be attempting to impose some kind of absolute models either.

I think that the notion of gender, and sexual identities as occurring along a spectrum of behaviour, as discussed in this essay series is a more reasonable notion than looking at it as if it is all learned, or all innate. It is far more likely that it is actually a mix of factors, and none of us should assume that there is an absolute of any sort at play.

Whitehead's book is essentially a piece of apologetics for the ex-gay lobby. It depends on the classic logical fallacy that the absence of conclusive evidence is equivalent to negation. This is no different than the classic "gaps in the fossil record" arguments against evolution theory - it fails to prove anything, and does not acknowledge that the evidence is gradually getting filled in. Further, because it requires us to discard information in order to hold together, Whitehead's work is clearly based on a weak foundation.

Letting Your Biases Get In Front Of You

Yesterday, I ran across this essay on X(itter), and it annoyed me because the author makes all kinds of errors of both fact and reason.  Si...