Friday, January 30, 2009

And The Peter Weighs In

Right on cue, leading wingnut over at AFTAH has weighed in on the Birth Certificate issues I mentioned yesterday.

Says The Peter(™):

First, it’s utterly reprehensible that anyone in the medical community would be complicit in facilitating a psychological disorder by amputating healthy body parts. There is a condition known as either apotemnophilia or Body Integrity Identity Disorder (BIID) that is characterized by the desire to amputate a healthy limb. It is useful for comparison in that it is thought by many to be closely related to Gender Identity Disorder (i.e., transsexualism), which society is increasingly accepting as a valid identity that emerges from biological influences and whose behavioral manifestations are morally legitimate.

Let's start with the obvious things here. Mistake number one is LaBarbera's insistence that transsexualism be compared to apotemnophilia. Frankly, I don't buy that argument to begin with. It rests upon the very shaky assumption that transsexuals transition and have gender surgery because they are fixated upon the physical change that surgery will bring. Except for Bailey/Blanchard/Lawrence, few in the medical community actually believe such a premise. The 'autogynephilia' hypothesis tends to rest upon declaring transsexuals as liars when they discuss motivations other than the physical for wanting to transition.

Unsurprisingly, The Peter cites Anne Lawrence. There's a lot about Dr. Lawrence I respect and admire - but her "autogynephilia" hypothesis doesn't impress me - especially when it runs contrary to so much other data.

Most people, rightly in my view, recoil in horror at this decision. But it is difficult to see how amputating a healthy arm or leg is substantively different from amputating a healthy penis or breasts.

If that was all that gender transition was about, I might almost agree with that. The reality is that gender transition is much more about what's between the ears than the physical changes. Yes, the physical changes are important - do not make the mistake of assuming I trivialize their role in transition - but they tend to reinforce and support the journey that the individual is making in their heart and mind.

Second, these two men remain men even without their penises, even with hormone-induced or prosthetic breasts, and even with hormone-induced female-ish voices. As I’ve written before, my mother was no less a woman following her mastectomy, hysterectomy, and oophorectmy than she was before her surgeries. The disordered desire of these two men does not change objective reality.

So...tell me, Peter. Since you clearly understand that womanhood (or manhood) is not completely tied to the physical, what makes you think that it is impossible that a woman may have been born into a male body?

Finally, these two men are not merely asking the government to become complicit in their disordered delusion; and they are not merely asking the government and all of society to accept their delusion as reality; they are also asking the state to commit fraud. They are asking the state to affirm in a legal document a falsehood. Even these two men acknowledge that they were born male. If they hadn’t been born male, they couldn’t have had a “sex-change” operation., it's not committing fraud. What The Peter is whining about is not fraud - any more than a name change is a commission of fraud. The government has every right (and likely a requirement) to keep the old and revised versions on file, just as they would with a legal name change.

To say that it is fraud, one would have to demonstrate an intent to deceive. In this situation, we must recognize that the Birth Certificate is an important document for someone establishing citizenship, or applying for a passport. Why should these people be subjected to additional scrutiny every time they apply for key identification documents?

The problem that The Peter has here is that he doesn't want to admit that transsexuals are real people, with real lives. He sees transfolk as sinful, delusional and liars.

Unfortunately, what he is wanting to propagate is a pattern of ongoing, systemic discrimination that someone who transitions across genders experiences. A birth certificate with an old name, or a wrong gender marker on it can very quickly turn into an excuse for being fired from a job, or one finds their passport application suddenly comes back with demands for more information or proof of something or another. Every time you apply for a passport, suddenly you go through the process of 'outing yourself' one more time to somebody (who probably doesn't care, but when transsexuals are assaulted or worse with frightening regularity, you never know)

Already the government has been complicit in this monumental deceit and delusion by allowing them to change their “gender” designation “on their driver’s licenses, passports and Social Security Card.” Just as the medical profession acts unethically when amputating healthy body parts in the service of a delusion, so does the government act unethically when changing legal documents to affirm a falsehood in the service of a delusion.

Unfortunately, he doesn't even know what a delusion really is:

A false belief based on incorrect inference about external reality that is firmly sustained despite what almost everybody else believes and despite what constitutes incontrovertible and obvious proof or evidence to the contrary. The belief is not one ordinarily accepted by other members of the person's culture or subculture.

Okay, let's explore this in the context of transsexualism for a moment. A transsexual presents at a therapist's office, and the commonly held assumption is that the narrative is "I'm a woman in a man's body". (A gross oversimplification of what really happens, but it will suffice for now)

So, from an external perspective, we have someone who is quite aware that they are physiologically male. There is no question of their awareness of this. The trickier question is establishing whether the person is in fact psychologically female.

The second part of the problem is harder to establish, and in fact is why the therapy process can be so important. Someone who has lived a good portion of their life in one gender will have a lot of adaptation to go through before they will be able to live successfully in their chosen gender. Whether the individual is willing and able to make that adaption successfully is a pretty good indication of how real the latter is. (Trust me - someone who is a man will not find it easy to fit into a woman's world - and the converse is also true, and is in fact one of the driving forces that leads transsexuals to pursue transition.

It's very hard to describe a transsexual as deluded. They are, if you read the literature, excessively aware of the reality of their situation, and the challenges that they face are a combination of internal and external stresses that need to be resolved.

LaBarbera is simply demanding that more obstacles exist for an already marginalized population. Where is the spirit of Christian teachings in that position?

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Bigotry Of The Ignorant

There are some things that just make me angry - and bigotry that is founded squarely in ignorance is one of them. In this case, one of my netbots dug up an article from "Touchstone" magazine's blog "Mere Comments" talking about some of the legal hoops that transsexuals have to jump through in order to be able to live their lives authentically and in peace.

However, these unfortunate "women" have been able to designate themselves as females on their drivers licenses, passports, and Social Security cards. This has some logic to it, as a patrolman stopping one of them on the road would be confused by M for male on the drivers license, possibly, though the photo would set him straight, perhaps.

I'll ignore the sniping use of quotes here, and the way that he's snidely talking about changing the gender marker on key documents. He's missing the point completely - there is an essential need to be able to make those changes. Most transsexuals do not want to 'out themselves' every time that they apply for a driver's license, passport or whatever.

I can't remember the last time I had to produce my birth certificate, so it is not likely that a change will really protect them from harassment--it's not like a transsexual will show his birth certificate to the guy sitting on the barstool next him.

I can only imagine that the author of this screed has never applied for a passport in either Canada or the United States. For the majority of the population, the birth certificate is one of the key documents for their application. There are two reasons for a transsexual to request an amended birth certificate. First of all, it reduces the issues and complications in applying for other civil and legal documents. Second, why should a transsexual be subjected to additional scrutiny every time they apply for legal documents such as passports? You have to expect that seeing a birth certificate with an old name and gender designation will raise all sorts of questions for someone processing a passport application, or replacing a lost driver's license.

The birth certificate is a historical document. At such and such a time in such and such a place so and so was born--and he was born with male equipment..... Now perhaps these two plaintiffs, who have altered their bodies, now feel entitled to alter history as well. The right to rewrite documented history is apparently now a Civil Right, denied because the surgery was done in Thailand.

The civil right being infringed upon here is the right to live one's life in relative peace, with a degree of privacy about one's past. If you have to 'out' yourself every five years to replace a passport, that just creates additional stress on the individual that is unnecessary. Remember, a transsexual is not a criminal for being transsexual.

The silly bit about this clown's rant is that he doesn't seem to recognize that the issuance of an amended birth certificate doesn't mean that the government destroys the original, rather, it means that there are two in the same file, one with a newer date. From a vital statistics perspective, there is no issue here - all that has happened is that the government has issued an amended document which enables someone to blend into the fabric of society with minimal disruption.

One of the commenters makes the following snide comment:

I think they should be allowed to change the sex on the birth certificate ... if they pass a blood test showing that they have changed their chromosomes.

This is the kind of ignorance that just makes me furious. This kind of ignorant attitude presupposes that gender is embedded entirely in the chromosomes. It isn't, and there's much more to gender than that, and it's beyond rude to make such a broad assertion. There are all sorts of psychosocial aspects to gender, as well as some aspects of identity which "just are" - and sometimes that 'just is' identity doesn't align with the body someone was born with.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

So Harper's Lease on Political Life Has Been Extended

So, Ignatieff decided to let the Con$ have their budget ... sort of.

I won't say I'm thrilled with this - Harper is a destructive PM, and the sooner he's gone the better in my opinion.

However, Ignatieff has done something that Dion never managed to do - position Harper so that he has to compromise.

Ignatieff's comments are interesting and articulate:

In the face of this crisis, we have a government that has mismanaged our public finances for the last two years.

The Conservatives chose reckless spending and irresponsible tax policy over prudence and fiscal discipline. They drove Canada towards a deficit—long before this recession began. And, in so doing, they harmed the federal government's ability to act in the national interest in times of crisis.

For that failure—the failure to plan and act responsibly as a government—we hold them responsible.

This is the first time any of the opposition parties have held the Con$ up to responsibility for their behaviour since taking power. Ignatieff has signalled that he's willing to reach back and slap the conservatives about for their irresponsibility from day one.

Yesterday's budget is a flawed document.

It doesn't go far enough to protect Canadians who have lost—or will lose—their jobs.

It extends EI benefits but fails to extend EI eligibility.

It opens the door for attacks on pay equity for women.

It does not seize on the wealth of opportunities in the green economy.

It breaks their promise to all provinces from only two years ago on equalization.

It attaches strings to infrastructure dollars that may delay projects and delay jobs.

It promises to sell government assets for cash, without saying which assets and for how much.

And it lacks a credible plan for getting us out of the $85-billion hole the government will dig us into over the next five years.

I like this summary of the budget's shortcomings. Ignatieff has called the Con$ervatives out on their failings in this budget, and in doing so has shown Canadians that unlike Dion he is able to articulate the failings of the Con$ clearly, and concisely.

Accountability is something that Stephen Harper has always said is important. I agree with him.

But this budget does not include one word about accountability.

We will require regular reports to Parliament on the budget's implementation and its cost — one in March, one in June and one in December.

Each of these reports will be an opportunity to withdraw our confidence should the government fail Canadians.

We will vigilantly monitor its effects on our economy and on every region of our country.

We will be watching like hawks to make sure the investments Canadians need actually reach them.

To be absolutely clear, this is the opposition doing their jobs - correctly. I must applaud this, because Ignatieff has just put Mr. Harper in a position where he is obliged not only to carry out the actions he has promised, but Ignatieff has guaranteed that there are multiple points of review - any one of which can be used to take down a government that is failing to enact its promises.

Ignatieff has just put Mr. Harper into the position of having to live up to his often promised, never delivered accountability - at a time when Canadians will be paying very, very close attention to their government's behaviours.

We Need "Conscience Laws" For This???

The religious bigots in both Canada and the US have been crying for so-called "Freedom of Conscience" rules/laws for medical practitioners.

I have said before that such laws will be used as a cloak behind which the free practice of bigotry and discrimination can be practiced. Even without such laws, we find things like this happening in Canada:

Andrea Markowski said she and her partner Ginette were stunned when the Winnipeg doctor told them during a "meet-and-greet" appointment she was uncomfortable accepting them as patients and had never treated "people like you" before.

The doctor said she only treated "husbands and wives," said Markowski, who is legally married to her partner of 18 years.

"It was like a kick in the stomach," said Markowski, who just moved to the city from the Northwest Territories. "It was definitely a traumatic and unexpected experience ... She is a doctor who is paid with public funds.

"I have a really hard time understanding how her religion affects her ability to care for me as a human being."

It gets worse...:

Dr. Kamelia Elias did not return phone calls seeking comment. But she told the Winnipeg Free Press that she has no experience treating gays and lesbians who have "sexual problems" and "a lot of diseases and infections."

Oh good grief. The classic line dredged up from the bottom of the swamps about GLBT people every time someone religious is looking for an excuse to justify their desire to be prejudicial and discriminatory.

Then we get the following bit of apologia from the clinic's medical director:

Gwozdecki said Elias interviewed the couple, took their medical history and had already initiated the doctor-patient relationship when one of the women asked Elias if she had a problem with their same-sex relationship.

Gwozdecki said Elias was upfront with her religious beliefs — which are opposed to homosexuality — and dis­closed she has not had exposure to les­bian patients.

Now, how comfortable or trusting of a doctor who has said "my religious beliefs declare you sinful" do you think those patients can possibly be? There's a clear message when the doctor says something like that - it's 'get lost'.

Yes, I accept that a doctor has some right to filter their patient list to those that they feel they can work with. But, when the grounds for refusing a patient are purely based upon a 'religious objection', but just as I cannot refuse someone service because of their religion, it cuts the other way - they cannot refuse me service because of their religion, or my own for that matter. Faith is a matter of personal freedom - to project it upon others is simply wrong.

In some ways, this is the absolute worst case scenario that could suddenly be "protected" under the auspices of so called "freedom of conscience" rules for medical practitioners. Finding a doctor is difficult enough these days, it is doubly so for GLBT folk precisely because of these kinds of behaviours.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

There Are Reasons I Don't Hire An Economist To Do My Accounting

So ... today's Budget Day, and Big Daddy's crew delivered the fantasy trip spending budget that had been hinted at. (I haven't had the time to look very closely at the spending portion of things yet - I'll start to take that apart later, after I've had a few hours to read it and think about it all)

But, it amazes me the logic that the Conservatives are using here. While a federal government budget is two parts prognostication, and one part actual accounting, we have to step back for a moment and wonder a little at the following:

The budget also vows to freeze EI premiums charged to employees and employees for 2009 and 2010, a measure that will cost Ottawa $4.5-billion over the next two years because the rise in claims will create a deficit it must cover.

So ... the government is expecting, and in fact planning on, an increase in expenditures; but it is going to freeze the incoming money stream? Actually, it's more twisted than that - they're going to freeze an income stream that is going to shrink. A ten percent increase in EI claimants isn't just a ten percent increase in the demands on the EI system, it also represents a reduction in the income the government has to work with in the first place.

I find this particularly ironic, since Conservative governments usually claim to be such great fiscal stewards and then they promptly overspend while shackling the government's ability to raise funds. (Remember, the HarperCon$ have been busily spending money like drunken sailors since 2006 - as long as it's for the military, they seem to have no restraint in their spending)

Monday, January 26, 2009

Good Message To Send ...

So, I see that the Pope has decided to rescind the excommunication of four bishops.

The bishops are members of the St. Pius X Society, which was founded in 1970 by a French archbishop, Marcel Lefebvre, in opposition to Vatican II reforms. They were excommunicated by Pope John Paul II in 1988 after Archbishop Lefebvre consecrated them in unsanctioned ceremonies.

One of these four is a holocaust denier:

Bishop Richard Williamson recently told Swedish TV: "I believe there were no gas chambers. I think that two to three hundred thousand Jews perished in Nazi concentration camps but none of them by gas chambers."

Brilliant tactics, there Pope. What's the message you're sending out to the world? If you are GLBT or a feminist, it's a really, really awful thing for the world. But someone who denies the mass slaughter of six million of the world's population in WWII? Not such a bad dude, apparently. But, this is the same loon who thinks that 9/11 is part of some larger conspiracy, and that women shouldn't be educated - so I don't think we're talking about the most broad minded of humanity somehow.

It's not like the world as a whole knows, or really cares, about some doctrinal squabbling within the Catholic faith. What they will see - I guarantee it - will be a hardline, conservative Pope cuddling up with what amounts to a neo-nazi in a cassock.

Good thinking! Just the image the Church needs to project right now.

Just How Is This "God's Plan"?

I've known for a long time that religious conservatives despise feminism. This is not surprising really, for feminism's very existence calls into question many of the fundamental assumptions about social lives and structures that are embedded in the scripture. So, if you are inclined to assume that scripture should be handled literally, feminism in all its forms is deeply unsettling.

In many respects, it comes as no big surprise to me that evangelical christianity has invented its own anti-feminist movement.

To the age-old question of “who is God,” Kassian complained, feminism answers, it’s up to you. And this, to Kassian, is a blasphemous statement of authority in and of itself, and even a sign of self-worship. “According to feminism, women decide, and ultimately, that means that they themselves are God.”

Actually not really. Feminism doesn't generally have anything to say about the concept of "God". However, what it does do is call upon women to think and act for themselves.

It gets better:

“Wimpy theology does not give a woman a God big enough, strong enough, wise enough, good enough to handle the realities of life in a way that enables her to magnify Him and His Son all the time… Wimpy theology doesn’t have a granite foundation of God’s sovereignty underneath.” Non-wimpy theology gives women both a God strong enough to see them through the worst of life, Piper continued, and also a set of non-negotiable mandates for life. Namely that submission is a wife’s divine calling, and truest form of power. “I distinguish between authority and influence,” he said. “A woman on her knees sways more in this nation than a thousand three-piece suited Wall Street jerks. There is massive power in this room, so I do not take lightly this moment.”

Now, personally, I don't buy the biblical 'man as head of the family' routine - I never have. Real families are active partnerships between the spouses, not situations where one partner places themselves in submission to the whims of the other.

Then, someone sat down and started pointing out the dark side of this woman-as-submissive mentality:

In June 2007, professor of Christian theology at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary Bruce Ware told a Texas church that women often bring abuse on themselves by refusing to submit. And Debi Pearl, half of a husband-and-wife fundamentalist child-training ministry as well as author of the bestselling submission manual, Created to Be His Help Meet, writes that submission is so essential to God’s plan that it must be followed even to the point of allowing abuse. “When God puts you in subjection to a man whom he knows is going to cause you to suffer,” she writes, “it is with the understanding that you are obeying God by enduring the wrongful suffering.”

When these clowns are telling women that the spouse who is beating them every couple of weeks is doing "God's will" and that women are meant to suffer at the hands of an abusive spouse, they are doing something far worse than the abuse itself - they are fostering the very grounds that abuse will flourish in.

Saddleback’s position is “typical evangelical fare on the subject of domestic abuse and domestic violence,” responds Andersen. Typical because, like other well-known and extremely influential evangelical leaders, Saddleback is pushing a message of “leave while the heat is on,” but only with the intention of returning to the marriage when the violence has cooled. This is the message that Andersen tracks from Christian leaders as prominent as megachurch pastor John MacArthur, Focus on the Family head James Dobson, and established Christian radio psychologists Minirth and Meier on the far-reaching Moody Media empire. “Everyone with a lick of sense knows that, in a violent marriage, the heat is never really off,” Andersen tells me. “Everything can be fine one minute, and the next minute you’re dead.”

I don't care what scripture says about wifely submission, or for that matter the man's right to beat his spouse. Abuse is abuse - and it is wrong. Period. If scripture says it's "okay", then the scripture is simply demonstrating that it is an artifact of an era long past, and it is time to move beyond interpreting it literally.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Was The 2008 Federal Election Illegal?

In reading the December/January issue of The Beaver magazine, I was reminded that in the wake of this past fall's election, Democracy Watch is suing the government claiming that Harper's election call broke the law.

Sadly, I think that Democracy Watch has it all wrong. While I have no issue whatsoever with the claim that Harper broke the spirit of his fixed election dates law, I think that Democracy Watch failed to notice that in fact nothing about that law actually limits the Prime Minister's discretion in asking the Governor General to dissolve parliament. It unquestionably obliges Elections Canada to set up the apparatus for voting on a fixed date, but it at no time obliges the sitting Prime Minister to ask the Governor General to dissolve Parliament prior to that date, nor does it demand that the Governor General sign the Writ of Election prior to that date.

Harper did not per se break his own law because his own law has absolutely nothing in it to constrain when an election is called. In fact, the real tragedy of Harper's Bill C-16 is that Canada already has fixed election dates, and has had them since the days of the old BNA Act.

From the Constitution 1867 Act: (Formerly known as the British North America Act)

50. Every House of Commons shall continue for Five Years from the Day of the Return of the Writs for choosing the House (subject to be sooner dissolved by the Governor General), and no longer.

It is only by tradition that our parliaments typically are dissolved somewhere after the end of the fourth year.

Harper's bill C-16 is, in fact, completely redundant, since the constitution already mandates that a parliament has a maximum duration of five years, after which it must be dissolved. All Harper had to do to make his law work was to limit the powers of the PM to demand early dissolution of parliament. He didn't do that.

As a result, although Harper has certainly broken the stated intent of Bill C-16, he actually has done nothing more than demonstrate that he holds Canada and Canadians in contempt. Not only is he woefully ignorant of our traditions and constitution, but he also has shown us that his disrespect for Canada will drive his legislative agenda. Truly ironic for the tradition of conservatism in Canada is to preserve that which is right and good about our nation, not to hold it in contempt.

Yesterday's Words Didn't Happen

Last week, Stelmach was threatening major budget cuts - a la the Klein approach of the early 90s. Of course, we all know how well that went - Calgary's still paying the price for that era.

"I don't want to underestimate the difficulties we're going to face as Albertans," Stelmach told the Calgary Herald. "We may go back to the same strategies we used in the early 1990s," he added.

The so-called Klein Revolution saw the government roll back wages and cut thousands of public-sector jobs to help escape deficits and pay off a $23-billion debt.

Those statements are apparently inoperative now. Or, so Stelmach would like us to believe:

Just last week, Premier Ed Stelmach told reporters in Ottawa the province may need to consider rolling back spending, akin to the days of former premier Ralph Klein, when it comes to budgeting for next year.

Back in Edmonton, the premier insisted he never used the word "cuts." On Thursday afternoon, cabinet ministers were not going to do it for him.

No, Ed, you simply invoked what Klein did in the early 90s - do you really think we're that stupid? If you're going to lie, try telling a fib we can't check the facts on so easily.

Personally, I think if we're going to talk about cutting back government, I'd say we start with blatant wastefulness like this.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Obama's First Week In Office

Well, if nothing else, Obama's made it quite plain in the last few days that whatever the "norm" used to be under Bush II, it is now over.

In ordering the shutdown of Guantanmo Bay, and stripping the CIA of their "black prisons" and 'torture tourism' programs, he has signalled that the United States is emerging from one of its darkest periods on the world stage.

Much of what Obama has done is really just the beginning of tearing down the secrecy and self-serving policies of Bush II / Cheney. I think that Bush II did more damage to the United States than anyone realizes yet. It will probably take Obama's first year to even begin the process of untangling the knots and disarming the booby traps that Bush II, and probably to a greater degree Cheney, created within the structure and operation of government. I hope that Obama will continue to repeal the various odious 'executive orders' and other rules that Bush II cooked up while sitting in the oval office which are destructive not only to the United States as a political power, but to its citizens as well.

If one thing became clear in the last 8 years it was that Bush II and Cheney were not - definitely not - open to the public about what they were doing. Nor did they have any respect for the fundamental principles of the rule of law and government openness. Obama has made it clear that he sees things quite differently.

While I do not expect to agree with everything that this president does, I have to give him credit for tackling some pretty odious issues head on within days of being sworn in.

(I see that the hand wringing over the disposal of the inmates at Guantanamo Bay has already begun. Of course, they only have half of the facts, and are completely ignoring this Presidential Order which is clearly intended to address that question in as reasonable way as possible.

What to do with the prisoners at Guantanamo Bay is not an easy question to answer - few of them can be charged with any crimes under US law. That means they should be released. However, there's good reason to believe that many of them have been badly mistreated while detained and interrogated. There is a very real possibility that the US finds itself 'holding a tiger by the tail' right now. Some of those detainees are going to go away quietly, but some will have become hardened in their hatred of the United States as a result of their treatment - they are apt as not to lash out and bite - hard. That is far from the last problem that these detainees present. Many of them are effectively homeless today. The countries that they called home deny their citizenship for fear of being accused of being complicit, if citizenship can even be established for them - far from an easily solved problem)

Thursday, January 22, 2009

NARTH Demonstrates Their "Science"

I see that NARTH has decided to brag about their recent appearance on Dr. Phil.

Here's Nicolosi's statement.

I took the position that children should not, however, be encouraged to think of themselves--and live as--as the opposite sex. All of the other psychotherapists disagreed with me.

An opening position that sits in direct conflict with the WPATH Standards of Care for managing transgender clients.

Psychological and Social Interventions. The task of the child-specialist mental health professional is to provide assessment and treatment that broadly conforms to the following guidelines:
1. The professional should recognize and accept the gender identity problem. Acceptance and removal of secrecy can bring considerable relief.

2. The assessment should explore the nature and characteristics of the child’s or adolescent’s gender identity. A complete psychodiagnostic and psychiatric assessment should be performed. A complete assessment should include a family evaluation, because other emotional and behavioral problems are very common, and unresolved issues in the child’s environment are often present.

3. Therapy should focus on ameliorating any comorbid problems in the child’s life, and on reducing distress the child experiences from his or her gender identity problem and other difficulties. The child and family should be supported in making difficult decisions regarding the extent to which to allow the child to assume a gender role consistent with his or her gender identity. This includes issues of whether to inform others of the child’s situation, and how others in the child’s life should respond; for example, whether the child should attend school using a name and clothing opposite to his or her sex of assignment. They should also be supported in tolerating uncertainty and anxiety in relation to the child’s gender expression and how best to manage it. Professional network meetings can be very useful in finding appropriate solutions to these problems.

Then Nicolosi goes on to pronounce the following:

"Gender-identity disorder is primarily an attachment problem." These words, spoken by me during the TV interview, were edited out, but they are critical to the understanding of gender-disturbed children. No one on the show discussed this issue.

Where to start with that steaming turd of idiocy? Besides being a classic reframing of the standard right wing 'blame the parents' approach to GLBT people in general, it's just plain wrong. Transsexuals come from all backgrounds, and most are disappointingly ordinary.

Experts in the area of childhood gender-identity disorder (GID) have found certain patterns in the backgrounds of GID children. A common scenario is an over-involved mother with an intense, yet insecure attachment between mother and child. Mothers of GID children usually report high levels of stress during the child's earliest years.

Besides the fact that Nicolosi conveniently doesn't refer to any published papers to substantiate this claim, the claim itself doesn't make any sense when held up against the stories of so many who have transitioned. Raising children is difficult, stressful work to begin with, and raising a child who is transgender - and expresses such at an early age - is going to be all the more so because most parents have no idea what they are dealing with.

The infantile dynamic of "imitative attachment" is such that "keeping Mommy inside" becomes truly a life-or-death issue - "Either I become Mommy, or I cease to exist." This explains why gender-disturbed boys are willing to tolerate social rejection for their opposite-sex role-playing--it feels like death to abandon this perception of themselves as a female.

This is pure conjecture on Nicolosi's part. We do not know enough about how personality develops to make such claims - especially with respect to what is going on in an infant's mind. The one thing I will say is that parents (and other adults) routinely underestimate just how much babies understand of what is going on around them.

No one on the Dr. Phil Show mentioned the implications of taking the opposite approach--actively preparing a boy for future sex-change surgery. Surgery can never truly change a person's sex. Doctors can remove the male genitals and form an imitation of the sex female sex organs, but they cannot make the simulated organs reproductively functional--nor can they change the DNA which exists in every cell of the boy's body to indicate that he is, and always will be, biologically a male.

For starters, this is neither news, nor is it filled with unstated implications. Again, I refer to the WPATH Standards of Care for a clearer sense of guidance in the treatment of youthful transsexuals:

Physical interventions fall into three categories or stages:
1. Fully reversible interventions. These involve the use of LHRH agonists or
medroxyprogesterone to suppress estrogen or testosterone production, and consequently
to delay the physical changes of puberty.
2. Partially reversible interventions. These include hormonal interventions that masculinize
or feminize the body, such as administration of testosterone to biologic females and
estrogen to biologic males. Reversal may involve surgical intervention.
3. Irreversible interventions. These are surgical procedures.
Fully Reversible Interventions. Adolescents may be eligible for puberty-delaying hormones as soon as pubertal changes have begun. In order for the adolescent and his or her parents to make an informed decision about pubertal delay, it is recommended that the adolescent experience the onset of puberty in his or her biologic sex, at least to Tanner Stage Two.
Partially Reversible Interventions. Adolescents may be eligible to begin masculinizing or feminizing hormone therapy as early as age 16, preferably with parental consent. In many countries 16-year olds are legal adults for medical decision making, and do not require parental consent.

Mental health professional involvement is an eligibility requirement for triadic therapy during adolescence. For the implementation of the real-life experience or hormone therapy, the mental health professional should be involved with the patient and family for a minimum of six months.
Irreversible Interventions. Any surgical intervention should not be carried out prior to adulthood, or prior to a real-life experience of at least two years in the gender role of the sex with which the adolescent identifies. The threshold of 18 should be seen as an eligibility criterion andnot an indication in itself for active intervention.

The term 'informed consent' echoes throughout the WPATH SOC. Nobody is talking about surgically altering anybody until the person is old enough to make their own decision on the matter - when they are old enough to make those decisions in the full knowledge of the consequences.

Further, Gender Reassignment Surgery is often necessary to remove the potential for discrimination to take place - namely the legal requirement for surgery before key identification documents may be changed to reflect the individual's chosen gender. Nobody undergoes GRS with any illusions about the limitations of that procedure.

We believe that every effort should be made to help a gender-disturbed boy accept his biological maleness, and be comfortable in life with the intact (not surgically mutilated) body with which he was born.

Again, I refer Mr. Nicolosi back to the WPATH Standards of Care for more practical guidance. Attempting to 'make' a transgender child act different than they express so openly is merely asking for that individual to grow up at war with themselves - a painful state to condemn anyone to. As I have stated before on this blog, and elsewhere, the ethical considerations of managing youthful transition are being actively studied and considered. The reason that the SOC today addresses GID in youth in the cautious way it does is explicitly because practitioners have already learned that GID in youth causes very real distress that needs to be addressed constructively, not suppressed or denied.

With this latest episode, NARTH simply continues to demonstrate what so many in the GLBT world have claimed for so long - that they exist not to do real research, but rather to put a face of legitimacy on the suppositions that religious conservatives make about transsexuals and other sexual minorities in the first place.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Reflections on Obama's Inauguration Speech

I wasn't going to say much about Obama's inauguration yesterday, however a regular reader sent me an e-mail that reflects on Obama's speech in a very Canadian context:

From Obama's inaugural speech comes the following statement;

"...To those who cling to power through corruption and deceit and the silencing of dissent, know that you are on the wrong side of history,..."

Although I'm sure that he wasn't specifically focussing on Harper you'd have to admit it pretty much nails Harper dead on.

.....corruption: examine the crooked scheme he used to funnel money to and from the various campaign headquarters during the 2006 election. Then he calls another election just before the inquiry into that, was due to start. The Chuck Cadman affair is another instance.

.....deceit: To many examples to list all, but one of the biggest ones is his twisting of the constitution and the lies that he very publicly spouted when the coalition was announced.

.....silencing of dissent: The direct control of every person in the Con party, the removal of people from jobs for daring to question him. (Think Garth Turner) The blackballing of oversight committees (Think of the firing of the lady that was in charge of the Nuclear Safety Committee when the medical isotope shortage happened). The removal of media from airports where the remains of Canadian Soldiers where being brought back.

Need I go on??

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Don't Plan on a Spring Election

Somehow, I don't think we'll be seeing a spring election, if this is correct ... nor will we see a coalition taking the reins in Ottawa.

Mr. Ignatieff has said the Liberals would support a “modest” temporary deficit to stimulate the economy, but has refused to specify exactly what “modest” means.

The Prime Minister, who met with Mr. Ignatieff on Monday, appeared to include the Liberals in his definition of an emerging compromise on the budget, which is needed to keep his minority government alive.

Unless, of course, Harper can't resist another "poke in the eye" partisan maneuver when Parliament reconvenes - in which case, I fully expect the opposition to take him down.

[Update: 7:52]:
I suspect that this is more posturing - although it is interesting to note that Ignatieff is not parroting the line that Layton and Duceppe have been using today.

While I suspect the coalition could be revived fairly quickly if need be, I don't think that's where this situation is likely headed.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Bush II: The Reign of Error

Tomorrow, the world will see George W. Bush step aside as President of the United States, bringing to an end one of the most disappointing presidential tenures that the world has ever witnessed.

Under Bush II, things went from 'not bad' to 'really awful' in short order.

(1) In the wake of 9/11, he started a heavy armour war in Afghanistan to smoke out a handful of people. (anybody else remember Osama bin Laden? yeah - we were supposed to find him in weeks, not years) Anybody with an iota of sense would have long ago realized that capturing someone like bin Laden doesn't take tanks, it takes stealth, intelligence and patience.

(2) Then he leveraged the limited success in Afghanistan and did a bunch of chest-thumping to justify finishing off what his father started in Iraq a dozen years before. I think we all know how swimmingly well that war has gone. We shouldn't ignore the blatant lies that he used to justify attacking Iraq - the mysteriously non-existent WMD's, among other topics.

(3) Guantanamo Bay - never before has a US President gone to such lengths to detain people in a legal no-man's land. In doing so, Bush II and his sidekick Dick Cheney created an environment which encouraged torture, abuse and maltreatment of inmates.

(4) We shouldn't ignore the systemic nature of the attitudes with respect to Guantanamo Bay, because they gave implicit license for the abuse of prisoners at Abu Ghraib.

(5) Under Bush II, the US government went from surplus to deficit, and the national debt has spiralled out of control as the government attempts to finance wars it has little chance of actually succeeding at.

(6) It certainly didn't help matters that Bush II encouraged people in the wake of 9/11 to "spend, spend, spend". People took that message to heart and leveraged their houses, using them as ATMs rather than long term investments. The result? Unheard of levels of consumer indebtedness, and rates of foreclosure on properties unseen since the Great Depression of the 1930s once the "housing bubble" popped.

(7) Tax cuts that served to benefit the very wealthy, and further downloaded the tax burden onto middle-income earners.

(8) Woefully inadequate oversight of the banking industry allowed it to lose sight of the fundamental principles of banking, succumbing to the atmosphere of greed that resulted from writing predatory mortgage loans, and then being able to resell them as "Asset Backed Commercial Paper". Separating risk and reward was a huge mistake, and where was the oversight?

(9) What he couldn't legislate, he passed into existence as "executive orders" and "rules" - some of which are so ill considered that they jeopardize people's health on the altar of "faith".

(10) Abstinence Only sex-ed. This is one of the great oxymorons of our time. Abstinence Only programs aren't about educating people about sex and sexuality, they're about scaring youth into not being sexual beings. Good luck with that - hormones are amazingly powerful things, as are instincts ... and teenagers will figure things out - sadly they may have more misconceptions about healthy sexuality than their grandparents did.

I'm sure I could come up with more if I wanted to. Needless to say, incoming President Barack Obama has his work cut out for him. He inherits a nation bruised and battered, it economy a shambles and its credibility on the world stage ruined.

On the other hand, when you start at the bottom, there's only one way to go, isn't there?

Sunday, January 18, 2009

They're Just Obsessed

I see that the Vatican is at it again - once more declaring GLBT people and their relationships invalid:

Society is organized around the relationship of the couple that is formed by a man and a woman. They find each other in conjugal life and in family life. In this sense, the couple and the family enter into the sphere of social life, and because of this, of civil law. The relationship between two persons of the same sex is not the same as the relationship of a couple that is based on the sexual difference. These two situations depend on structures that are not of the same nature. The homosexual relationship does not enter into this social sphere.

What absolute nonsense. There can be no question but that GLBT relationships enter the 'social sphere' - reasoning societies do not demand that their GLBT citizens live in complete isolation from the greater body of society, and therefore, their relationships unquestionably do enter into the social sphere, and that of civil law (which, ironically, is precisely what the SGM marriage debate has been about since day one - legal equality).

But, the rantings of the Vatican become even more insane:

egislators make an anthropological error when they want to socially organize homosexuality. They run the risk of provoking an intellectual confusion, as well as confusion of identity and relationships.

Ah yes, the old canard that GLBT people are 'confused' somehow. Yes, in the Vatican's collective mind (headed by Pope Ratz these days), if you are GLBT it is really just a delusion on your part. (Remember what I said before about the Pope declaring the narratives of GLBT people invalid - seems to me that this reinforces my perception of what the Pope said in his pre-Christmas speech to the Curia.

While I do not object to the notion that family is a common good in human civilization, I think it is folly to claim that there is "one true" family, and that all others should be subject to legal inequalities and systemic discrimination.

It should not be forgotten that confusion frequently favors insecurity, unstable relationships and violence, when legislators don't respect the fundamental sense of human relationships. The family is a common good of humanity that is not at the free disposition of legislators to respond to the subjective and problematic demands of today.

Yes, but acknowledging that GLBT people do form long lasting, stable families; and by a dozen different paths, there are children being raised in GLBT families all the time. If we are going to talk about insecure and unstable relationships, would someone care to explain to me why it is so many marriages break down, or one of the partners starts philandering about behind their spouse's back? I might consider some validity to the Vatican's remarks here if it wasn't for the fact that straight marriages aren't exactly wonderfully stable environments either - so to suppose that GLBT relationships deserve second class status based on such an assertion is ridiculous.

The cardinal simply underlined that homosexuality does not contribute favorably to the organization of individuals and of society. The exercise of homosexuality does not reflect the truth of friendship. Friendship is inherent to the human condition in that it offers relationships of proximity, help and cooperation, in a courteous and amiable climate. Friendship should be lived chastely.

That's because, like a heterosexual relationship, a homosexual partner relationship goes beyond the relatively pragmatic bounds of a 'platonic friendship'. To think that there is any material difference in the emotional bonds in a romantic relationship whether its participants are heterosexual or homosexual is quite ridiculous.

To assume that homosexual relationships are simply a "twisted friendship" is deeply insulting to the GLBT community as a whole, for it insinuates that members of that community are unaware of their feelings, or that they are distorted.

The Church maintains its preoccupation of welcoming and accompanying homosexual persons. Every person that has difficulties to live their sexuality properly is called to find Christ and to live, consequently, in accord with the demands of liberty and responsibility of faith, hope and charity.

Blah...blah...blah. Let me give you clowns a hint: there's an old saying: "You'll attract more flies with honey than vinegar". Start treating GLBT people as human beings instead of freaks who you'd prefer to hide in the cupboard and you might discover there's a whole class of very human people there - people who are surprisingly self-aware, articulate, and that form real, loving relationships.

When it comes to the GLBT of this world, it is quite clear that the Vatican is serving up quite a vile form of vinegar.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Tax Cuts Are Not Economic Stimulus

So, Harper wants to use tax cuts as part of the budget.

Mr. Harper vowed that the hefty spending, which will include tax cuts and relief for the middle class, will be temporary so as not to mire Canada permanently in deficit.

But some economic tools under consideration — including temporary tax cuts and other incentives to spend — could backfire, say a group of six high-profile economists. Such measures often don't result in extra spending by tight-fisted consumers during tough times. The budget should instead aim to fix employment insurance and other programs that protect the most vulnerable in a recession, they said.

Let's consider this for a moment. The idea is that tax cuts will stimulate spending on the part of consumers. That's a nice theory, but it only applies when people are feeling confident that they will have a job to afford that spending over the long run. (right now, next month may be "long run" for those working sectors like automobile manufacturing) You will not get people spending while they are worried about next month's mortgage payment - it's that simple.

There is a second aspect of this - which is simply a matter of basic accounting. With the unemployment rate rising quite dramatically, that will have a corresponding negative impact on government revenues since the bulk of those revenues come from middle income earners in one form or another. This places a second drain on government coffers as people claim EI benefits to carry them in the short term.

Then we have a government talking about opening the purse strings quite dramatically, increasing government expenditures. I do not necessarily object to deficit spending, but it is not prudent to further reduce government revenues at the same time - in fact it places the long term interests of Canadians in jeopardy.

Thinking on it, I begin to speculate that Harper is invoking Grover Norquist's thinking on government:

"I don't want to abolish government. I simply want to reduce it to the size where I can drag it into the bathroom and drown it in the bathtub."

This is a mentality that only someone who is in love with Ayn Rand's selfish world described in Atlas Shrugged - and it's well enough known that the current era "Neo Conservative" draws much of their social policy views from Rand-inspired ideals. Harper is a NeoCon - you do the math.

Undoing the long term damage that such a move will do is going to be quite nasty. It will involve tax increases, because paying off the debt resulting from the current economic situation will take revenue.

One last thought - it has been a series of failures of the "free market" to adequately regulate itself that has provoked the current crisis. Why would we want the government to govern less in the future?

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Dr. Phil & Focus on the Family on "Feminine" Children

I don't know where to start with Dr. Phil's show today.

Viewers flooded the message board with letters and impassioned opinions after Dr. Phil’s first show on gender-confused kids. This hotly contested topic is back on the table. Should parents support a child's decision to live as the opposite sex, or is it the parent’s job to guide the child into his or her biological gender?

The first thing that makes me angry with this is the use of the exceedingly misleading term 'Gender Confusion'. For someone purporting to have a decent background in psychology, he should know that "gender confusion" is an invention of the religious right, intended to denigrate and diminish transgender people as a whole.

Special Thanks

* Dr. Joseph Nicolosi
* Glenn Stanton
Focus on the Family
* Dr. Dan Siegel
* Dr. Michelle Angello
* Dr. Jo Olson
* Dr. Eva Cwynar

Great - so far, of those players, we have two people from known anti-GLBT organizations, and only one of the rest appears to have any qualfications at all with respect to gender and sexuality - Dr. Michele Angello.

Did the idiots at "Dr. Phil" even contact WPATH to get someone who actually specializes in gender identity issues?

Granted, I'm not sure anyone from WPATH would touch a program involving Dr. Phil, much less the inclusion of NARTH and Focus on the Family.

Instead, they bring in people who think that gender identity issues are trivial and easily dismissed, or that gender roles should be strictly enforced:

The question:
I have written Focus before (over the years) about how to handle the feminine behavior that my 8 yo son exhibits. He LOVES long hair. As a toddler he would put hi s blanket on his head and declare that he was a girl for the day. We eventually took the blanket away, but there has always been something in its place. He would rather braid his sisters' doll's hair than just about anything.

The other day I (Mom) got after him for playing w/ his sister's American Girl Doll. I raised my voice and told him to put it away "now!" Then I got myself together and spoke w/ him about how this desire to fix girl's hair honors God. I asked him to pray about it and told him I would too, but I am not gleaning any fabulous wisdom, yet. Until today, when I'm convinced, God lead me to this site, just at this time so I could post this question.

The response from FOTF's Stanton:
Thank you so much for your note. It is important to understand the age, and you say this boy is 8. That is a pretty advanced age for this kind of behavior, but do not fear. It is VERY important that MOM be the one that does the "scolding" of more feminine boys and dad do the "redirecting" play...good cop/bad cop kind of thing. Dad MUST be the good cop for boys, to help welcome them into this curious world of men.

It sounds like you are doing that, which is good. It will be important to talk to the boy about his desires and have him explore what is behind them...redirecting him gently toward masculine understanding of that, such as "Hey, some men have long hair. Some men are hair dressers." Connect a seemingly feminine interest with masculine ideals. What this will do and help with is helping understand the world of men, by connecting it to something he can currently relate to. It is the idea of moving the chess piece of gender understanding and identity one small move at a time.

This is important. My son dealt with, around the age of 4, loving to dress up with his sisters in their dresses and stuff. We did the above and it worked great.

Oh goody - this one's ripe. Not only do we implicitly blame the parents for this, he then suggests nothing more than rigid enforcement of gender roles based on stereotypes.

I have a newsflash for this idiot - if this child is transsexual, he already is - all of the attempts at behaviour modification techniques you can try are doomed to fail. The most you will accomplish is alienating and shaming the child into hiding how they feel.

If they aren't transsexual, then chances are that as the child goes through puberty, things will settle down into something quite normal. Frankly, the parents making the kind of worried fuss that they are is the problem, not the child's behaviour.

Blaming the parents is just downright offensive. Parents can influence a child's behaviour, but there are some things that simply cannot be influenced. Besides, just what is wrong with a boy that has "stereotypically feminine" interests? We nudge and wink at 'masculine girls' and call them 'tomboys', but it is some kind of tragedy when it's a boy? Please, get over it.

Dr. Phil gets a giant brickbat for giving the wingnuts a platform to spew their misleading, deceitful nonsense.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Treading Where Angels Fear To Tread

Note to the Reader: I'm using a fairly broad brush in my analysis. If something doesn't apply to your individual experience, please do not feel offended - this is a very high level view of things, and is not intended to cover every possible situation.

As the title suggests, this is a foray into an area of discourse that is potentially quite volatile.

Over at Véronique's place, the subject of whether it makes sense for Transgendered and Intersex to be 'tacked onto' the GLB movement came up in the comments. What follows are my own thoughts on the matter of whether "T and I" belong with "GLB".

I think this discussion exists on biological, social and political levels, and there are no absolute answers where these axis of information intersect.

The science today is inconclusive about the causal factors involved in transsexualism. However, there is a growing body of evidence that hints at biological factors that affect transsexuals (over at Zoe's place, she has more of the evidence summarized. This lends some weight to those who argue that Transsexualism is closer to the Intersex than it is to the GLB side of the equation.

There is a dark irony in this logic though, for the GLB communities have long argued that they were "born this way", an argument that similarly asserts a biological essentialism that I think is hard to ignore.

I do not want to lean too heavily upon a purely biological explanation at this time either. There are too many psychological factors at play that influence the development of personality and identity. Our understanding of those processes is far too limited to rule them out entirely in favour of the appealing essentialism that biology provides for. As I have argued before, biology is not destiny, and we should not by any means assume that a biological explanation is the only valid, conclusive underpinning for the condition.

Unlike many Intersex conditions, which have fairly clear physiological markers, transsexualism may only ever be described as a coincident grouping of loosely related markers; and the broader range of transgender expression probably never will be adequately explained in any cohesive sense. (Note: This does not imply that I think that transsexuals are "more valid" than other parts of the transgender spectrum, rather that I suspect that the biological understanding of transsexualism has a greater chance of being described by science.)

Socially is where the T and Intersex have more in common with each other than with the GLB population. Common social interests bring the GLB communities together socially. The very natural drive to find a partner in life gives a great deal of fuel to the social engine of the GLB communities. A relatively small minority in the general population, there is compelling reason to associate with each other, producing a fairly coherent sense of community.

Where the GLB community has a very natural reason to associate with each other socially, the T "community" is actually so broadly defined that it is in fact a mosaic of multiple distinct populations. While transgender support groups do exist, and they are in some dimensions social in nature, they are far from representative of the overall transgender population. The transsexual population is conspicuously absent from the membership of most of these groups. For a variety of perfectly valid reasons, a lot of transsexuals all but disappear off the community radar after they have transitioned - blending into the fabric of society. The transgender umbrella does not cover a coherent social community at all.

My experience with Intersexed individuals is admittedly limited - I've known one or two people who have told me that they were, but as far as I know they live pretty conventional lives as part of the broader society, and beyond political/medical advocacy do not seem to form social organizations per se that are focused on their status as Intersex. (a pattern which I find intriguingly similar to the general patterns describing transsexuals post-transition)

From a social perspective, although I accept that the GLB and T/I communities intersect, I do not think that they represent a logically coherent social community collectively. (even though the Gay Male subculture has a long history of Drag) Where the social fabric of the GLB communities has evolved on shared goals of socialization, the Transgender community intersects with the GLB for far different reasons. Certainly, the GLB community is more accepting of transgender people socially than much of the straight world is perceived to be, and that is particularly valuable for those who desire a social environment to express their identity, one should never lose sight of the fact that the underlying objective of (for example) a crossdresser is simply to socialize in their adopted gender, and they are not necessarily interested in a partner relationship. Complicating things further is that a Crossdresser who is "out" at social functions may still fear discovery by peers from other parts of their life such as work. These factors all contribute to a relatively superficial degree of integration between GLB communities and the Transgender community.

I have to imagine that unless someone who is IS happens to self-identify as GLB, that the interface between GLB and IS populations is even smaller than it is with the transgender population, and that those few IS people who fall into that category would integrate reasonably well since their social objectives would be fairly consistent with the GLB community as a whole.

Politically, there is an entirely different dynamic at play. For a variety of reasons, the public perception is that transgender behaviour is a form of sexual behaviour. Part of this is due to the long standing association between gay male culture and Drag. Additionally, it has taken the high side of thirty plus years to get most people to disassociate sexual identity from physical characteristics (and even at that, there are many who deny that distinction's validity), in many respects this is only just beginning with gender identity. In this respect, there is a cold, hard political reality that transgender issues are firmly embedded with GLB issues in the public arena. I do not believe that it is feasible to change this in the foreseeable future.

The second point is that the kinds of systemic discrimination that GLB and T/I folk experience are fairly consistent, and in general I doubt that there is any significant disagreement with respect to objectives. Nobody should be fired from their job, or denied access to medical care because of their gender or sexual identity.

Yes, the political goals do diverge in some respects, but the underlying goal is to erase the systemic discrimination that allows the obstacles to exist in the first place - at least forming a reasonably coherent political lobby based on common interest. While GLB people are currently heavily invested in the struggle to gain legal marriage rights, T people are struggling for other rights - such as the right to change the gender marker on official documents like passports and birth certificates. These are somewhat divergent objectives, but it is hard for me to imagine any reason why there would not be shared support, as both ultimately achieve the objective of making it easier for members of the respective communities to live their lives in peace.

The Intersex raise some interesting arguments with respect to individual autonomy and access to medical treatment. One of the most interesting bits of advocacy that I have seen from the IS community is the demand that IS children not be surgically altered until they are old enough to make the choice for themselves. I find this argument to be quite interesting, as it asserts that the individual should have the choice as to their physical status based on how their identity evolves - it is a line of argument that in many respects is parallel to the demands of transsexuals vis a vis medical treatment.

Yet, I can also appreciate that many IS folk would be uncomfortable with being associated with GLBT advocacy though. Even more so than for transsexuals, the experience is distinctly not related to sexual identity, and to tie their political objectives to the GLBT lobby creates a secondary perception in the public mind that many could perceive as deeply troubling. (In many respects, the perception that transsexualism is somehow related to the broader picture of GLB sexual identity is quite troublesome for many transsexuals)

Many IS folk no doubt experience much of the same systemic discrimination that GLBT folk experience - difficulties accessing appropriate medical care; hostility or friction if their gender status becomes known and so on. (What goes on an IS person's driver's license?, and how readily can they change that to reflect their reality?)

The mistake many make is in assuming that GLBT (and I) are in any respect a cohesive community on any level. At best, it is a social mosaic brought together by common cause and large scale misconceptions in the public understanding. Where there is strong common cause - for example legislation against discrimination - there is good reason for all of these communities to come together and insist upon inclusiveness. A piece of legislation like ENDA which does not include transgender and intersex folk is a deeply flawed piece of legislation, and one that perpetuates the very mythology that has been used against GLB people for centuries. (I was not impressed when I saw HRC agree to a transgender exclusive ENDA - that was not a constructive act

I can see T and Intersex issues (mostly access to appropriate care, and personal autonomy) as intersecting quite appropriately, and it is quite rational to argue that there are strong parallels in the obstacles that people face, whether they are trans or IS when interacting with the medical professions.

Shared political causes does not, however, mean that each of the populations has to feel a sense of social connection to the others. This is perhaps one of the most vexing aspects of the entire discussion. We have several disparate populations that should share a great deal of common ground politically, but share only limited social commonality.

These groups need to learn to work together on the political matters, and shed the implicit expectation that there is any need for shared social experiences. Further, the public needs to be educated actively about all three groups in a constructive manner, as it is in many respects public perceptions that have thrust the groups together in the first place.

I Wonder How Long ... will take for the ultra secretive Parliamentary Pro-life Caucus to adopt this bit of chicanery:

Representative Paul Broun (R-Georgia) believes the "greatest moral issue facing our nation" is the killing of unborn children, and that all Americans have a "moral and constitutional obligation" to protect every unborn child. That's why Broun, a medical doctor, has promised that the Sanctity of Human Life Act will be the very first bill he will introduce in every Congress until abortion is banned in the U.S. He notes the bill scientifically defines life as beginning at the point of fertilization with the creation of a human zygote.

I'll give Mr. Broun credit - he's up front about what his objectives are - unlike Ken Epp's terminally dishonest C-484.

Before you wander down that little legislative path, let's consider a couple of implications here:

(1) Not all fertilized eggs implant in the uterus. This is a biological given. Does this mean that a woman who has a fertilized egg is guilty of either involuntary manslaughter, or 'failing to provide the necessities of life' should this happen?

(2) Should a woman who has sex find herself suddenly obliged to stay away from alcohol, tobacco and other substances until her next period, or risk being charged with child endangerment?

(3) Consider miscarriage (also known as a natural abortion) - has the woman then committed a criminal act?

(4) Is a woman who as a result of exercise or other activities injures the fetus she is carrying, is she guilty of some kind of an assault?

(5) Consider the medical ethics problems raised by treating a pregnant woman. Suddenly the doctor is potentially facing lawsuits not just on behalf of the woman, but a second set of damages with respect to the fetus. (You just have to know this one is coming) What are the doctor's options when saving the mother damages the fetus? Or vice versa?

The list is practically endless - and it all boils down to a moral belief that demands that a pregnant woman is not considered to be able to make her own moral and ethical decisions about a matter that affects her as much as it affects the fetus.

It's a matter of time before one of Stephen Harper's band of wingnuts puts almost identical legislation before the House of Commons.

Quick, Call Lucifer!

We need a temperature check in Hell ... someone in the Vatican said something I agree with:

Cardinal Renato Martino, president of the Vatican's Council for Justice and Peace, made his comments in an interview in the Italian online newspaper Il

"Defenceless populations are always the ones who pay. Look at the conditions in Gaza: more and more, it resembles a big concentration camp", Martino, whose informal title is Vatican "justice minister", was quoted as saying.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Do These People EVER Read?!?

I see that the wingnuts have picked up on this article in New Scientist which describes the recently release draft guidelines for Endocrine Treatment of Transsexual Persons.

Says Wingnut Daily:

"The Endocrine Society has published guidelines advising that children as young as 12 be offered puberty blocking drugs to 'buy time' for a gender change."
And comes now an International Endocrine Society to claim there are "transsexual children as young as 12."


But how do these simple Society members prove who is a "transsexual"? A child says he or she "feels" like another sex!

Yet, this Endocrine Society has no statistical data or other evidence of early-witnessing wife or spousal battery or of sexual abuse, battery, or neglect of these children who claim to be in the wrong body.

Of course, if the idiot that wrote the Wingnut Daily article bothered to do even a smidgin of research, she would have realized that the authors have spent a great deal of time with the WPATH Standards of Care - and in fact, a lot of the guidance in the Endocrine Society's guidelines closely echoes the relatively cautious approach to dealing with non-adult transsexuals.

This comes as no big surprise, since not only is WPATH a sponsor of this work, a sizable number of its authors are also affiliated with WPATH. (Big surprise there - WPATH has been the primary organization for professionals working with transsexuals for thirty years).

I find it quite hilarious that the first thing that comes out of Wingnut Daily's writers is the accusation that transsexualism is somehow caused by some form of parental malfeasance. Nothing could be farther from the truth. Transsexuals come from all kinds of backgrounds. Some have been abused as children, but when so many are obviously from well adjusted, normal family situations, it seems spurious indeed to try pinning blame on the parents.

The Society, based on wholesale ignorance and the arrogance that commonly accompanies educated ignorance, would drug children "to postpone puberty and make it easier for them to change sex at the age of 16 if they still want to."

Really? Actually, a quick perusal of the bibliographical notes in those guidelines makes an awful lot of references to papers that I have read at one time or another on the subject, and a lot more papers (some 8 pages worth of bibliographical notes!) This is hardly "working from wholesale ignorance", especially not when WPATH (formerly HBIGDA) has been around since 1979, and professional investigation of transsexuals started in earnest with Harry Benjamin in the 1950s.

Further, the treatment guidelines do acknowledge where the amount of available evidence is weaker, and I would presume that there would be ongoing revision, just as the WPATH SOC have evolved over time. There is a rather interesting coding scheme which is described on pages 38/39 which is used to highlight the authors' assessment of the strength of the supporting evidence - which I find very interesting indeed.

Even those who believe in transsvestism admit that "transsexualism persists into adulthood in only 20 percent of boys who show signs of distress in childhood."

Hoo boy - where to start with this bunch of ignorant nonsense? First of all, cross dressing (often referred to incorrectly as transvestism) is not the same think as transsexualism. Second, the 20% persistence number is based on a study that Dr. Robert Green performed in the 1980s. What the great unknown here is what the outcome for Green's subjects would have been if the option to transition without 'double puberty' had been available - in other words had they been able to transition as part of their adolescence, what would the outcomes have been? In reality, only long term follow-up of Dr. Spack's patients will provide any real insight into this question.

Moreover, like the STD vaccines inflicted on innocent children by order of the State, no long-term, scientifically viable trials (30 years or more) have ever been documented that prove the harmlessness of these chemical insults to children's brains, minds and bodies.

Well, if we were talking about indefinite use, I might agree with this. We aren't. At most we are talking about a few years, and then either using cross-sex hormones or allowing nature to take its normal course.

Unlike what many people seem to be inferring from the mere existence of these standards, we are not talking about making this option available 'on demand'. The Endocrine Society has tied its recommendations quite closely to WPATH's SOC, and requires appropriate corresponding diagnosis from mental health specialists with appropriate backgrounds.

But then again, I suppose it is worth remembering that in the fetid minds of Wingnut Daily's writers, there is no such thing as a transsexual - all the evidence to the contrary not withstanding.

There's The Talking Point, Then There's Reality

Tom Flanagan vomits the following forth:

Canada changed from a constitutional monarchy to a constitutional democracy as the franchise was extended to all adults and political parties became national in scope. That evolution was recognized in 1982 in the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. Section 1 characterizes Canada as "a free and democratic society," and Section 3 grants the right to vote to "every citizen of Canada."

... In countries where coalition governments are common, parties reveal their alliances so that citizens can know how their votes will affect the composition of the executive after the election. In stark contrast, those who voted for the Liberals, NDP or Bloc in the last election could not possibly have known they were choosing a Liberal-NDP government supported by a secret protocol with the Bloc. ...

Put it all together, and you have a head-spinning violation of democratic norms of open discussion and majority rule. The Governor-General, as the protector of Canada's constitutional democracy, should ensure the voters get a chance to say whether they want the coalition as a government. They haven't yet had that chance.

He starts off with a lie - and it is a whopper. "Canada changed from a constitutional monarchy to a constitutional democracy"

Really, Mr. Flanagan? Are you sure about this? Last I checked the Queen was still our titular head of state. Your argument is specious - it starts from a false premise, and concludes a logical fallacy when held up to reality - as this letter points out so nicely:

Eugene Forsey: "It is the people's representatives in the newly elected House who will decide whether the minority government shall stay in office or be thrown out."

(It's also interesting that Flanagan didn't publicly postulate such an argument in 2004 when the Con$ were plotting coalition with the Bloc and NDP)

Perhaps Mr. Flanagan needs some remedial courses on the structure of Canada's government - he seems to have lost sight of them during his descent into neo-Con/neo-Rethuglican dogma.

[Update 11/01/09]:
With respect to Patrick's off-topic question, Wikipedia has phrased the role of the monarchy in our government quite well:

In theory, supreme legislative power is vested in the Queen-in-Parliament; in practice in modern times, real power is vested in the House of Commons; the Sovereign generally acts on the advice of the Prime Minister and the powers of the House of Lords are limited

In short, the Queen governs on the advice of her ministers. While she rarely exercises the power to intervene in the politics of the country, it is possible to do so:

Typically these powers are:

1. to dismiss a Prime Minister;
2. to refuse to dissolve Parliament;
3. to refuse or delay the Royal Assent to legislation.


[Update 12/01/09]:
Over at Northern BC Dipper's blog, I see someone claiming to be Tom Flanagan has posted a comment that reads:

Hi NBCDipper (whoever you are),

You’re quite right to pick up on that phrase in my most recent Globe column, but I didn’t actually write those words. The Globe’s editor changed them withut consulting me, and thereby altered the meaning. What I wrote was that the apologists for the coalition accuse others of not having paid attention in Political Science 101, which is actually quite different from what was printed. TEF

Okay, but it merely makes Flanagan's article a repetition of the same talking point that the HarperCon$ have been spewing since November last year. It is a talking point that is based on a blatant distortion of the structure and nature of Canada's parliamentary democracy. As far as I am concerned, Flanagan's argument remains specious - especially in light of the fact that the Con$ were negotiating just such a coalition in 2004.

Thursday, January 08, 2009

That Was Predictable

Sure enough, Winston Blackmore opened his mouth and the first thing he claims is that the charges against him are religious persecution:

“Tens of thousands of polygamists, among many different cultures, are hiding in plain sight all across Canada. They are known by their neighbours, police, legislators and the media just as we are,” he said. However those polygamists are accepted as active, valued members of the communities in which they live, he said.

“But they are not fundamentalist Mormons,” Mr. Blackmore added. “To us, this is about religious persecution. And persecution has always been about politics. Whatever else is involved in this, it is still all about politics.”

The argument that freedom of religion trumps the criminal code in this situation is intriguing. I think that the question that this raises is whether a specific religious practice is 'protected', regardless of whether it exploits people, or arbitrarily denies them other rights.

In the situation in Bountiful, there is the appearance of enough evidence to suggest that polygamy is in fact practiced by coercion. In which case, the situation falls well within the original intent of the polygamy laws - namely to protect people (in particular women) from exploitation.

What little I know of polyamorous relationships, they are seemingly more balanced than the situation in Bountiful - a relationship between peers, rather than what appears to be a basically subservient role for one or more members of the relationship.

The Bountiful situation is a much more rigid, inflexible model which places women in a position that inhibits their ability to exercise their individual rights under the Constitution.

So the question before the courts will in fact be whether or not the polygamous relationship that Mr. Blackmore is engaged in unreasonably restricts the rights of Mr. Blackmore's spouses to exercise their rights adequately.

I would argue that, for example, a religious believe that young males should be lashed to a stone and starved for six months would unreasonably restrict the rights of those lashed to the stone to exercise their rights. It would not be an unreasonable limitation on freedom of religion to consider that treatment criminal - likely along the lines of kidnapping, assault and unlawful confinement.

This is really the question which will ultimately end up before the courts in Canada.

More On Israel's Invasion of the Gaza

Apparently, in the minds of the right-wing-o-sphere, the right to defend yourself is unbounded where Israel is concerned. These people sit around scratching their heads, wondering why Israel is on the receiving end of such harsh criticism.

Well, bombing schools is a pretty good start for an offensive that is "not targeting civilians".

Of course, we can't ignore the fact that Israel keeps the Gaza - and other Palestinian lands - under lock-and-key. Borders are closed, the regions are fenced in and so on - effectively making the Palestinian territories open air prisons. You think that might just breed a little animosity both within the territories, as well as outside?

Now, Israel's all outraged over the fact that the denizens of the Gaza (and other territories, no doubt) are building tunnels to subvert the blockades - and are busily trying to destroy those too.

This will accomplish nothing. Israel will bomb the area back into the stone age, and the Palestinians will continue to smuggle in bombs, rocket making materials and so on. The violence will continue because both sides are party to the cycle they have created.

Sadly, Canada's current government seems to be blind to this reality, blaming Hamas for bombs that Israel dropped. (It strikes me that this is a little like blaming the wife when her husband beats her within an inch of her life)

When the Israelis and the Palestinians come to the negotiating table as equals, then and only then, will there be any meaningful progress. That means significant political change has to take place on both sides. Just as Hamas (or whoever the group du jour is) needs to replace bombs and rockets with diplomacy, Israel needs to do the same.

Peace will never be achieved as long as the language is that of occupier/occupied, and the instruments of communication are bombs.

Wednesday, January 07, 2009

This Is Going To Be Interesting

So, someone finally decided to lay charges in Bountiful.

“This has been a very complex issue,” said B.C. Attorney-General Wally Oppal. “It's been with us for well over 20 years. The problem has always been the defence of religion has always been raised.”

Mr. Oppal said some legal experts have believed that the charge wouldn't withstand a Charter of Rights challenge over the issue of freedom of religion.

“I've always disagreed with that,” he said. "Our belief is that it is a valid section [of the Criminal Code]."

Unless I miss my guess, but the arguments that will be used by the defense will rely heavily upon freedom of religion. Similarly, I expect that the prosecution will make arguments related to exploitation, and the social imbalance that has emerged in Bountiful.

Time to break out the popcorn and see what arguments are made in court.

Tuesday, January 06, 2009

I only half agree...

Peter Kent in today's Globe and Mail makes some interesting points while advocating that Ignatieff should not trigger an election in 2009.

However, his argument hits a major stumbling block when he writes:

Adding political uncertainty to the mix could only worsen our economic troubles. A responsible opposition would recognize that, for the present, steadiness is more important than changing the government through the conflict of election campaigning.

Well, perhaps, but such an act on the part of a "responsible" opposition only goes as far as the the governing party acting in a responsible fashion itself - something which we have not seen Mr. Harper's party do much of.

One can hardly call Harper's 'FU Canada' in November responsible government - it was a cheap partisan play, no more, no less. Given the times, it was among the most irresponsible things he could have done.

Such a statement would not give Mr. Harper a blank cheque. Further outrages would compel the coalition to defeat the government. But short of those, it should be held accountable not through daily debate and polling, but after enough time for the people to remake their electoral assessment.

I'm sorry, but debate in the House of Commons is very much a part of how any government is held to account. We should not lose sight of this reality - especially when the HarperCon$ are showing us a government even less accountable than that of Brian Mulroney's. Accountability is not just what happens at the ballot box, Mr. Kent - it happens every day that the house sits, and sit the house must.

Now, more than ever, it is vital to Canadians that Harper be held to his original commitment to "Open, Accountable Government", not the partisan shenanigans he has been playing since 2006.

Sunday, January 04, 2009

Yet Another Broken Promise

Remember the Listeria outbreak at Maple Leaf Foods last year? Remember Harper promising the public an 'arms-length' investigation of the whole sordid mess?

He has yet to appoint a lead investigator - which means he's either hoping that an issue that his cabinet ministers thought good fodder for really tasteless jokes, or he's still looking for someone who will give him the answers he wants to continue his program of slashing the very government programs intended to ensure the safety of Canada's food supply.

Saturday, January 03, 2009

Two Words Flaherty Apparently Doesn't Understand

Cash Flow.

So, we have a Conservative government on the threshold of pouring billions into the economy, and because of increased unemployment, government revenues will already be down, and this dimwit is thinking about tax cuts???.

Finance Minister Jim Flaherty said Friday he's reviewing options for putting more money in people's pockets through tax cuts as part of a multi-billion dollar stimulus package that will include infrastructure spending and help for laid-off workers.

The comments come as the finance minister prepares for a second meeting with his freshly minted council of economic advisers next week and amid fresh evidence that Canadian consumers are growing more pessimistic.

Do I really need to point out that the government needs the cash flow to pay out the billions in spending it's planning? To use a simple analogy, you don't downsize your job from a professional income and take out a bigger mortgage on your house at the same time - it isn't exactly great financial planning.

But, then, coming from a party which doesn't understand accountability in government, why should they have even an inkling what accounting and budgets are all about.

The Cass Review and the WPATH SOC

The Cass Review draws some astonishing conclusions about the WPATH Standards of Care (SOC) . More or less, the basic upshot of the Cass Rev...