Thursday, June 26, 2014

Harper's War On The Middle Class

A shortage of skilled workers is the biggest challenge many Canadian businesses face today, Employment Minister Jason Kenney told a skills summit Wednesday, warning it could also jeopardize Canada's economic development in the future. 
The problem would continue to grow as the population ages, Kenney told the one-day conference, which brought together stakeholders to discuss the labour market, employee training and those under-represented in the labour force. 
Currently 30 per cent of the skilled trade workers in Canada are baby boomers, Kenney said, adding that they will soon retire. 
"They are going to take with them a lifetime of knowledge and skill," he said. 
It's necessary that an "informed national discussion" take place about the condition of Canada's labour market, in order to address future skills gaps, Kenney said. 
"We can acknowledge that we have inadequate labour market information and we need to do a fundamentally better job of getting granular information by region and industry," he said.
Coming from a minister of the government that has dismantled the ability of Statistics Canada to even perform an accurate, useful census of Canadians, that's almost funny - if it wasn't so tragic.

Of course, the Harper Conservatives don't like university educated people as a whole.  There's a reason for this:  people with a liberal arts based education don't typically vote conservative.  So, they've been quietly rejigging the funding for federal research grants (which are an important part of university funding) for several years.

Adjusted for inflation, granting council funding has been in serious decline since 2007-08. Funding for SSHRC has fallen by over 10 per cent in real dollars, while core support for NSERC and CIHR are down 6.4 per cent and 7.5 per cent respectively. Support for the indirect costs of research has declined by 7.9 per cent. Overall federal support for the granting councils is down 7.5 per cent in inflation-adjusted dollars since 2007-08. 
There's more.  Not only has the government been quietly reducing the amount of funding it makes available for basic research, they have been changing NSERC's focus to "applied research":
"Collaboration between government, applied researchers and the private sector is vital to building an innovative economy," said Minister Goodyear. "The College and Community Innovation Program supports research collaborations between companies and colleges. It illustrates the importance our government places on creating the conditions for innovation and entrepreneurship to thrive in this country."
What does this have to do with Harper's war on Canada's middle class?  A lot.

First of all, it has fundamentally undermined the core of the concept of University.  If you are taking a degree in disciplines like Engineering, Business or Law, it's great.  You're seeing money poured into your department hand over fist.  If you're interests are in other areas - the social sciences, the liberal arts, not so much.  In fact, the government has been actively discouraging research in these areas and enrolment in those fields of study.  Want to study something that is "politically sensitive" (like gender and sexuality issues for example)? Good luck getting funding.  It isn't going to happen.

The consequence?  First of all, when you hollow out the liberal arts programs, you effectively turn the university into a technical college.  It might be one with the right to confer degrees, but I can guarantee you that the people coming out of those programs are not the well rounded thinkers that should be coming out of universities.  

This suits Harper quite nicely.  He and his "base" have long been critical of "intellectual elites" (you know conservaspeak for people who think about things rather than simply accepting the sound bite du jour).  So turning universities into institutions which turn out highly focused specialists in various domains suits them just fine.  If you don't think too much about any one part of his government, he doesn't seem too bad.  Start to analyze his government in more detail, and the picture rapidly becomes quite horrifying.

Further, by limiting funding to universities, Harper has made the cost of attending so excessive that only the wealthy can really afford it.  So much the better, it reduces the number of people who are likely to be critical of his government (or his ideological successors' governments).

But this is only one facet of Harper's war on Canada's middle class.  Through a series of other actions - mostly by policy fiat - Harper has gone after Canadians even more blatantly.

Front and centre in this has been the Temporary Foreign Worker Program (TFWP).  This has been used as a tool to undermine the balance of the Canadian labour economy.  Especially since the government started allowing all and sundry to come in under this program.  Historically, the TFWP existed quite explicitly for importing people with skillsets that are unique, rare and virtually impossible to find locally.  Generally, that meant only a relative handful of specialists came into Canada in any given year, certainly not enough to impact the local labour market.  Then the government started to open it up to general labour.  

Run a restaurant?  Having difficulty "finding qualified help"?  Oh, well now you can solve this problem by bringing in a bunch of labour from another country.  The effect?  Employers could suddenly refuse to pay reasonable wages in areas where there is a labour shortage.  (after all, if you lived in the Phillipines for example, how are you going to know that Calgary's cost of living is high and labour market is tight?)  Further, a foreign worker won't know their rights as a worker in Canada, much less are they going to be willing to "rock the boat" when their employer effectively holds the keys to their continued residence in Canada (especially important if they are considering moving to Canada permanently).  

Although the government has recently announced changes to the program, the damage to Canada's labour market has been done.  Many traditional entry level jobs are no longer available to Canadian youth.  There are many stories out there of youth applying at the local Tim Horton's or other fast food restaurant and being told that they are "overqualified".  Another friend of mine who is a plumber's apprentice has been finding job postings for "entry level" positions demanding 3+ years of experience.  This is a posting which is obviously aimed at a TFW coming into Canada who is looking to get into the same trade in Canada that they were doing previously.  

Businesses are running about wringing their hands about the changes to the TFWP.  Oh goodness, how will they keep their doors open?  Well, the short answer is by offering reasonable wages and working conditions that are somewhat better than slavery.  

Regardless, Harper is working his ass off to create an economic environment where the oligarchy has all the marbles.  (a $600bn "dead money" fund lying around - now tell me why these businesses cannot pay a reasonable wage?)  Make no mistake, there is an active war on Canada's middle class and Harper's government is spearheading it.

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Oh The Dumbf ...

Over at "" (no, it's not a site about crossing roads), we find a Dr. White going off on gender identity in the wake of Time's June 9 article "America's Transition"  (hiding behind a paywall, a copy has appeared on Scribd here).

It's a somewhat appalling excuse for writing, especially considering that Dr. White holds a PhD.

Not surprisingly for Time, the author’s bias was thinly veiled:  “Almost one year after the Supreme court ruled that Americans were free to marry the person they loved, no matter their sex, another civil rights movement is poised to challenge long-held cultural norms and beliefs.” 
That certainly sets a tone. 
But she’s right.  Mainstream acceptance of homosexuality and the legalization of gay marriage virtually demand the acceptance of almost any other lifestyle. 
Why yes, being trans is something that people wake up and decide to be one morning for giggles.
In 1980 the Diagnostic and Statistic Manual of Mental Disorders of the American Psychiatric Association listed transsexualism as a mental disorder. That entry was later replaced by what psychiatrists called “gender identity disorder. In 2013, it was later modified to mere “gender dysphoria,” which is simply discomfort with the gender a person is living in. Quite a progression in just over three decades, moving from something to be cured to something to be enabled.
Wow... just wow.  In one paragraph, Mr. White has completely misunderstood the DSM, the purpose of it and the evolution of the diagnostic categories in it with respect to transgender people.  First, one has to recognize that the DSM is a descriptive document.  It describes a series of recognizable psychological conditions.  It does not provide any kind of statement as to what objectives treatment should pursue.

Second, Mr. White quite ignoring the work of WPATH over that time, which has evolved considerably from dealing with the polar extremities of masculine and feminine identities, having learned that a simple "transsexual / not transsexual" model simply did not describe the breadth and depth of this tiny community of people.

However, White's argument rests quite firmly on a more serious misunderstanding, and one which depends on a particular understanding of gender identity.

All seemed to be well. 
Time magazine called the case “strong support” for the view that masculine and feminine behavior can be altered.  A 1979 textbook used the case to discuss how human gender identity was flexible and plastic, and how being male or female was the product of social learning and conditioning.  Numerous psychology and sociology texts cited the case as proof that sex roles are basically learned. 
But people didn’t follow the case through to the end.  
Even with the injection of female hormones, the absence of male hormones coming from testicles, and being raised as a female, Brenda did not turn out as Brenda.  In the early 1990’s, a team of researchers caught up with the boy who had been turned into a girl to see how “she” was doing.They found that “she” was no longer Brenda.  “She” was now David – working in a slaughterhouse, married to a woman, and the adoptive father of three children. 
At the age of 14, Brenda decided to start living as a male, and at 15, was told that was indeed what “she” had been born as.  She then announced that “she” had always felt like a male and wanted to become one again.  Brenda was given a mastectomy, male hormones, and constructed genitalia.When researchers dug further, they found that the first time Brenda had been put in a dress, he pulled it off.  
When given a jump rope, he wanted to tie people up with it or whip them with it. 
At nine, he bought a toy machine gun when he was supposed to buy an umbrella. 
His toy sewing machine went untouched because he preferred to build forts and play with dump-trucks. 
He was never interested in make-up, but instead wanted to shave with his father. 
On a trip to New York, he found himself attracted to the Rockettes. 
He even felt the urge to urinate standing up. 
From this, researchers at Johns Hopkins felt they should go back and study other children who had undergone similar operations; boys who, for whatever reason, were born without full male organs, had then been fully castrated, and raised as girls.  Of the twenty-five they were able to locate, ranging in age from five to 16, every single one exhibited the rough-and-tumble play more characteristic of boys than girls. 
Every single one. 
Even at their early age, fourteen of them had already declared themselves to be, in fact, boys – against everything in how they had been raised.  
From this, and scores of other studies, Rhoads concludes that instead of thinking that the difference between the sexes is something learned, or imposed by society, it is rather something larger, something deeply rooted, in our very nature.  It’s part of who we are. It’s not a role that we take on; it’s the very nature of our being.
I get quite angry when I see these people attempting exploit the tragedy of John Reimer's life story to make claims that the case simply does not represent.  Reimer's story is a tragedy on many levels, not just its conclusions, and it offends me deeply that the religious right wing keep dredging it up to imply that transgender people are "deluded" or outright "wrong" in their self-perception.  I have addressed this in considerable detail in past posts here and here.

What the argument Dr. White is making fails to recognize is that during development, the differentiation of the body between male and female physiologies is not a singular event.  We know that genital differentiation takes place quite early in gestation but the brain differentiates takes place at a different time.
However, since sexual differentiation of the genitals takes place in the first two months of pregnancy and sexual differentiation of the brain starts in the second half of pregnancy, these two processes can be influenced independently, which may result in transsexuality. This also means that in the event of ambiguous sex at birth, the degree of masculinization of the genitals may not reflect the degree of masculinization of the brain. There is no proof that social environment after birth has an effect on gender identity or sexual orientation.
Knowing this well established fact, the wrap-up of Mr. White's argument is almost laughably sloppy reasoning:
This isn’t about what might truly be, to use the term no longer in vogue, true Gender Identity Disorder.  That would be something to be treated.  It is about maintaining that gender and sex, in a healthy psychology, is not something simply between our ears, but between our legs.  Sexuality is not like a favorite color – something to be chosen, or a preference – it is hardwired into our being.  
But that is precisely what our culture wishes to ignore. 
One of the great questions in all of human thought is “who am I?”  The answer is fast becoming, “I don’t know.”  It is as if our embrace of plastic surgery has led to a sense of being plastic ourselves, stripped of any sense of innate worth or identity.  If human beings have no fixed or permanent essence, if we are “plastic” – subject through technology to alteration, enhancement, mutation, control - then we may do what we will with ourselves. 
It's funny that with all of the evidence we have that White fails to see that it is entirely conceivable that someone may well be born with a feminized brain even if their genitalia appears to be perfectly normal.   In fact, I would go so far as to argue that in fact the transsexual is doing everything possible to maintain a healthy psychological state.

Saturday, June 21, 2014

Too Little, Too Late

The changes prevent employers in places with high unemployment rates from applying for temporary foreign workers in the lowest wage and skill groups in the accommodation, food service and retail sectors. 
A cap is also being placed on the number of low-wage temporary foreign workers an employer can hire at each worksite: 30 per cent of a worksite's employees starting immediately, dropping to 10 per cent by July 2016. 
Companies will also be required to re-apply each year to hire low-wage temporary foreign workers, instead of every two years. They'll pay more for the privilege, too: $1,000 per employee, up from $275.
Frankly, this isn't much more than a bit of window dressing.  It won't make any significant difference to the impact of this program - the damage is already done.  At most it will force businesses to start the process of weaning themselves off the program.

I see Alberta is already bleating about how awful these changes are.  I'd be sympathetic, but frankly this crying is nothing more than a bunch of bleating about money from a group of people who seem to think that hiring people is an unnecessary expense.

Business needs to wake up to the reality that running a business requires people.  Not automatons.  Looking at your people as "an expense" is a piece of 1990s MBA-speak that we need to shed.  People are an investment, not an expense.  Any business which views its staff as "an expense" is doomed to fail.  

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Cue The Persecution Complex 3...2...1...

Concerned Christians Canada was one of Craig Chandler's creations ... until he sold it to its current owner when the political heat got a little to much.

To nobody's surprise, according to CCC's Jim Blake, Ric McIver has been done a grave injustice by the National Post (and other media outlets) for talking about his participation in Pawlowski's "March for Christ" event.

Jen Gerson, with the National Post, wrote an article a couple of days ago stating that Ric McIver has ties to an “anti-gay” evangelical named Artur Pawlowski. 
Firstly, I worked closely with Artur Pawlowski on various Christian events (including the Night on the Street for the Poor, March for Jesus, public youth worship events, various Christian festivals, etc) and acted as a mediator between he and various officials on several occasions. I came to know Artur very well and can attest to the fact that I witnessed, on many occasions, Artur inviting people of all backgrounds and persuasions to various events he was involved in, or events that Street Church itself had hosted. I dare say that they would likely not have invited him to their events, by the way. 
Many people have accused him of being “anti-gay”, merely because he stands on the Bible as the truth, and stands for sexual relationships that align with it. But just because Artur is very vocal about the fact that he stands firmly against homosexual relationships and acts, and against the public promotion of that lifestyle, does not mean that he does not show compassion and a willingness to serve those practicing homosexuality at the table his ministry sets up. Week after week, I would see Mr. Pawlowski serve many of Calgary’s most downtrodden people and always showed a heart of service that is unparalleled in any community. Among those who came out, were people involved in homosexual relationships whom he would serve. He would talk with them, and pray with them, and for them, when they would allow him to. By doing so, he repeatedly and consistently demonstrated that he does not hate people because they identify themselves as homosexuals, rather he sees the homosexual lifestyle as a destructive force in a person’s life, whom he would say was created in the image and likeness of God.
Well yes, I'm sure Pawlowski likes to make a big show of all the "good" he is doing.  That is irrelevant here.  The issue is not even Pawlowski's event, or even the philosophical stance that Pawlowskis (or Blake's) understanding of Christianity take with respect to homosexuality as it is about the sincerity of McIver's damage control apology.
Secondly, I find it sickening that people like Jen Gerson are still writing such intolerant articles against Traditional Christian values. After all, we are told that Canadian society is a “tolerant” one, yet Jen in the clear tone of the article, would have us believe that since Ric McIver is merely associated to the likes of homeless advocate Artur Pawlowski, his leadership ability should be questioned and his candidacy denied. What seems clear from her June 14, 2014 article is the real truth of the matter, which is that she does not like social conservatives or social conservative values, and that she is willing to smear and defame any public figure that would hold those values, or who would in any way be associated with those who do.

Nobody is "persecuting" McIver for his beliefs here.  Calling out hypocrisy, perhaps.  Disingenuity?  Definitely.

Pawlowski is not just a "homeless advocate".  He is a man who wants to ram his religiosity down everybody's throat ... and does so regularly.  Don't believe as he does?  You're on the wrong side of his god.  He's well known for preaching against homosexuals, and we're supposed to ignore that because he helps the homeless?  Uh no.  It doesn't work that way.

Where McIver is concerned, the real question isn't just his association which Street Church and March for Jesus, but rather what are his sincere views.  Does he believe that GLBT people are lesser citizens?  Does he support Pawlowski's anti-abortion, anti-divorce stances?  Where does McIver stand?

Blake then moves on to try and give us a lesson in civics:

Perhaps Jen Gerson, and those like her, should take some lessons from the “real” Charter of Rights and freedoms that clearly states the following: 
Whereas Canada is founded upon principles that recognize the supremacy of God and the rule of law: 
1. The Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms guarantees the rights and freedoms set out in it subject only to such reasonable limits prescribed by law as can be demonstrably justified in a free and democratic society. 
Then under the section following called FUNDAMENTAL FREEDOMS: 
2. Everyone has the following fundamental freedoms: 
(afreedom of conscience and religion;(b) freedom of thought, belief, opinion and expression, including freedom of the press and other media of communication;(c) freedom of peaceful assembly; and(dfreedom of association. 
As seen above, the charter doesn’t just allow those identifying themselves as homosexuals or “gay” the liberty to live in sexually immoral lifestyles, Biblically speaking, it also allows perfectly reasonable and loving people to believe that the choices that these people are making are detrimental to them and to society as a whole. Similarly, there are those who believe that it is not compassionate to speak against abortion, or divorce, or premarital sex, or gambling, or drug addiction, or pornography addiction, or alcohol abuse, or drunk driving, or any such thing, and they are entitled to hold that opinion and to debate their viewpoint vigorously and even advocate for it. The same can be said, in a free and democratic society, for those who want to see the word “sin” restored to society, and who want to see traditional family values, virtue, integrity, honesty and morality to be promoted in society due to their merits.
Well, Mr. Blake.  Let me bring a few more details of interpreting the Constitution to your attention.  First of all, the premise statement about the "supremacy of God" is in the preamble, and mysteriously does not stipulate which particular notion of God is held to be "supreme", nor does any other part of the Constitution of this country stipulate any particular faith as having supremacy.  This is important, especially in a society where there are so many faiths practiced (and no small number of people who consciously choose not to practice any religion at all).

Second, Mr. Blake seems to misunderstand the fundamental freedoms in S2.  All of those are indisputably individual freedoms.  They do not extend beyond the individual per se.  Mr. McIver, Mr. Blake and everybody else in Canada all bear those freedoms without question.  That does not grant any of them the right to impose their beliefs upon others either directly or indirectly.

Further, Mr. Blake fails to understand one additional point.  Nothing in those freedoms shields anyone from the consequences of their exercise of those rights.  Mr. McIver is absolutely free to associate with Mr. Pawlowski's church, or whatever else he wishes.  Nobody will charge him with anything for it.

That said, Mr. McIver is a politician - a public figure - and one who is angling to become this province's next premier, and possibly the premier for the next four years after an expected 2016 election.  Mr. Pawlowski's preachings may well carry with it a price when it is put in front of the electorate.  Mr. McIver knew that when he started participating in Street Church events, and he knows it now.  When it comes to political figures, the public has a right to know what a candidate believes, and whether or not he would act on those beliefs legislatively.  McIver now has the unfortunately difficult job of convincing a public that has come to see homophobia as electoral poison that his association with Street Church doesn't influence his legislative beliefs.

Sincerity Is Hard In Politics

Apparently, PC Leadership Candidate Ric McIver hasn't learned that lesson.

After getting caught in a firestorm over ribbon cutting the "March For Jesus" event the same weekend that others were at the Edmonton Mayor's Pride Brunch, he issues the following rather flaccid retraction:

He says he blames himself for not doing his homework and calls the group’s rhetoric — quote — “ugly, nasty and mean-spirited.” 
He says he doesn’t believe in or support the Street Church anymore and his relationship with it is over. 
McIver plans to continue his run to become Alberta’s next premier and wants the group to remove his name and photos from its website.
Considering that McIver has appeared at these events for multiple years, it seems just a trifle implausible that he didn't know what the group represented.  In fact, given the known links between McIver and Craig Chandler (Chandler managed McIver's campaigns for Alderman in the 1990s, although publicly McIver distanced himself from Chandler after getting elected), and Pawlowski (the organizer of this march), it seems more than just a little unlikely that McIver didn't know what Pawlowski represented and believed.

More to the point, according to the National Post, McIver considers Pawlowski a friend:
Ric McIver is a regular at this city’s March for Jesus: In 2013, he cut the ribbon for the parade. Mr. McIver has said he considers the march’s organizer, well-known local evangelical Artur Pawlowski, a friend.
Let's be clear here, in the light of the long time connections between McIver and Pawlowski, McIver's dodges and attempts to minimize the meaning of what attending Pawlowski's march really means ring hollow.

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Time To Dissolve The Harper Government

Last week, the Supreme Court of Canada ruled that a warrant is required to gather evidence from a suspect's online activities.  
Police need a search warrant to get information from Internet service providers about their subscribers' identities when they are under investigation, the Supreme Court of Canada ruled Friday. 
The high court's landmark 8-0 ruling on online privacy issues came in the appeal of a Saskatchewan man facing child pornography charges. 
The case has implications for the federal government's current cyber-bullying bill, setting the stage for another political clash between the Harper government and the Supreme Court.
One would have thought that this ruling would have led to a little bit of rethinking and revision of the Government's Bill C-13 and S-4.
The Senate on Monday passed Bill S-4, known as the Digital Privacy Act, Geist reported on his blog. The bill, which has yet to pass the House of Commons, is meant to enhance privacy online, but privacy experts say it could end up doing the opposite. 
S-4 is being sold as “protection for Canadians when they surf the web and shop online,” and critics have lauded certain parts of the bill, such as those that would give the privacy commissioner greater powers and establish new penalties for privacy breaches. 
But critics say corporations would gain access to the private data of telecommunications users. The law would allow internet service providers to share subscriber information with any organization that is investigating a possible breach of contract, such as a copyright violation, or illegal activity. 
Telecoms would be allowed to keep the sharing of data secret from the affected customers. 
The bill could also remove court oversight of copyright lawsuits against Canadian consumers, potentially setting up the sort of “copyright trolling” seen in the U.S., in which music and movie rights holders often demand tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars from individual downloaders.
Instead, we get the Idiot-In-Charge, Justice Minister Peter MacKay, feeding us the following bit of sophomoric semantics:

Justice Minister Peter MacKay stunned critics Tuesday by suggesting the Supreme Court’s landmark privacy ruling last week upheld the government’s position all along. 
On Friday, the Supreme Court ruled that police cannot ask telecoms for customer data without a warrant. 
MacKay had defended this practice as legal. One government bill, C-13, would have given telecoms legal immunity for the volunteering of information to police. Another, S-4, would allow companies to share customer information with other companies without telling the customer. 
Despite the apparent contradiction, MacKay said in the House of Commons that the Supreme Court agreed with government because C-13 would not let police demand information without a warrant; they could only ask for it. 
“The Supreme Court’s decision actually confirms what the government has said all along, that Bill C-13’s proposals regarding voluntary disclosures do not, I repeat, provide legal authority for access to information without a warrant,” said MacKay. 
Asked for his response, Liberal justice critic Sean Casey broke into laughter for several seconds before saying, “You can quote me on that.” 
NDP ethics critic Charlie Angus said MacKay brought his own credibility into question by twisting the meaning of the court’s decision.
Had MacKay made such a claim in law school paper, I have the distinct feeling he would have been laughed out of the school ... the class at the very least.

The arrogance of this government has reached beyond all credibility.  We aren't talking about subtle misunderstandings here, but blatant twisting of the court's rulings.  This is not a government which understands and respects the legal frameworks of Canada's legal traditions, but rather a government which views the Constitution and in particular the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, as an impediment to its legislative agenda.

I am beginning to think that it is time for the people of Canada to demand that the Crown dissolve a government which is so clearly operating in contravention of the fundamental principles of law and the Constitution of this country.

Sunday, June 15, 2014

That Was Predictable

Way back in 2003 when the United States invaded Iraq (long before the Afghanistan mess had been anything close to resolved), I remember having a conversation in which I said that within 5 years of the US withdrawal from Iraq, that the country would founder in civil war.  (I believe much the same thing will inevitably happen in Afghanistan as well)

This week, we have seen the "insurgency" in Iraq transform from a few disorganized groups into a coherent military force not to be trifled with.

Anybody who is surprised by this hasn't been paying close attention since 2001.  The US military may have overthrown the local governments, but groups like al Qaeda, the Taliban and others still exist.  They may have "gone to ground", but make no mistake, they continue to operate and organize. These groups don't disappear magically because of a 5 year long military occupation.  (or even a decade)

If there is a single lesson to be taken from the last decade's worth of interventions in the Middle East it is this:  There are no short term interventions which will create a stable, long lasting democracy in that region.

There are thousands of reasons for this.  The Roman Empire is filled with examples of how even relatively long term direct interventions can fail to instil the sense of cultural trust required for a foreign culture to be willing to adopt the occupiers' desired form of government.  It takes decades, if not longer to build that kind of trust - especially when you arrived with hell at your back to begin with.

Second, where a western styled democracy is concerned, there is an enormous amount of cultural structures that must be in place before it has any chance of long term success.  The people must trust the idea of law as a just and reasonable thing, that justice is somehow apart from the notion of revenge, that the government will respect the rights of individuals and so on.  (I will, for the sake of this essay ignore the egregious violations of this trust in the last decade by governments in the western world ... that is another discussion for another day)

A people that has been subjugated by iron-fisted dictators like Saddam Hussein, or religious fanatics like the Taliban, will not have this trust.  The idea of walking down the street and being safe from the intrusion of government authority cannot exist under these circumstances.  Military occupation is similarly troublesome for similar reasons.  The authority is held not at the will of the people but by the force of arms and the threat of violence to the person.

For those of us who live in Canada, we can trace the evolution of our understanding of law as apart from politics, government as an agent good overall back through the history of England, from the retreat of the Roman Empire from the region, through the Dark Ages and the signing of the Magna Carta to the modern era in which the Monarchy exists more as a figurehead than anything else.

There is a long, gradual process of change that took place, during which the powers of the monarchy grew at first, and gradually ebbed away over time.  The Magna Carta represents the beginning of the real limits on the Monarchy, taking away the ability of England's Monarchs to act as capriciously as they had previously.  It created the idea of the Monarchy as limited in its powers and authority, and the idea of parliament as a guide to the Monarch.

Over the next several hundred years, the powers held by the Monarchy gradually devolved to the parliament, and in particular to the House of Commons.

If it took western societies the better part of a full millennia to evolve into the stable democracies we have today, we must recognize that the process did not take place in a vacuum of changing government, but rather the entire fabric of society changed along with it, enabling the government to become what was needed.  It would be foolish indeed to believe that a similar government can be created and imposed at gunpoint over the course of a little more than a decade.

Friday, June 13, 2014

Really, Dr. McHugh?

For reasons somewhat beyond my comprehension, the Wall Street Journal has decided to give Dr. Paul McHugh another podium from which to spew his nonsense.  "Transgender Surgery Isn't The Solution" is yet another attempt by McHugh to justify his hostility towards providing transsexuals access to gender reassignment surgery.  

I've taken McHugh's previous writings apart in Debunking Dr. Paul McHugh, but this is a new column, and he's tried to throw a few new angles in.  Unlike most anti-trans writers, McHugh tries to actually use some objective research to support his position ... like a lot of such people, he tries to twist it to suit his ends.
Yet policy makers and the media are doing no favors either to the public or the transgendered by treating their confusions as a right in need of defending rather than as a mental disorder that deserves understanding, treatment and prevention. This intensely felt sense of being transgendered constitutes a mental disorder in two respects. The first is that the idea of sex misalignment is simply mistaken—it does not correspond with physical reality. The second is that it can lead to grim psychological outcomes.
For all that many in the Trans* community direct their ire at CAMH's Dr. Zucker, they should be at least somewhat thankful that it was Zucker not McHugh sitting on the DSM V Gender Issues committee.  I fear the results of McHugh being on that board would have been far, far worse.

Thursday, June 12, 2014

An All Out Assault

The last couple of weeks of legislative activity in Ottawa have been distressing to say the least.  To call it an all out assault on Canada and Canadians is an understatement.

The Harper Government has been ramming through a series of legislation that comprise the single most overt attack on all that is good and reasoned in Canada.

I've already discussed my thoughts regarding Bill C-36, the Conservative response to the Bedford ruling on prostitution.  Unfortunately, what the Harper Government is ramming through is a more overt piece of legislation that makes a mess out of far more than prostitution.  It stands to make just about anything to do with sex illegal - from therapists to sex toys.

Then there is Bill C-24, which gives the Minister of Immigration rather broad powers to strip Canadians of their citizenship.  Quite rightly, a lot of Canadians are very concerned about this legislation.  This gives the politicians rather broad powers to strip people of their citizenship without any kind of real recourse in the courts.  Yes, they are talking about people who hold dual citizenship, but why on earth would we want to create an environment where there are two "grades" of citizenship?

It's been centuries since any civilized country engaged in banishing citizens who broke the local laws.

Bill C-13 is another piece of nasty legislation.  Framed in the rubric of addressing online bullying, this legislation gives the government unprecedented powers to engage in broad, invasive surveillance of Canadian citizens and their online activities.  In committee, Randall Garrison put forward an amendment which would have added gender identity to the hate crimes statutes (which are being amended by C-13).  To defeat that singular amendment, the Conservatives swapped out two CPC members on the committee who they thought might vote for it.

All of these are pieces in a larger mosaic of legislation that the Harper Government has put forth, sometimes as single issue bills, sometimes buried in the depths of omnibus "budget bills".  This government has been gradually attacking Canadian rights and freedoms at every turn.  Sometimes using subtle means, other legislation is much more blatant.

My guess is that Harper is doing all of this with an eye to wrapping up his legislative agenda (the one that he doesn't admit to) well in advance of the next election.  He's no doubt going to try and get Canadians to forget all of the legislative evilness that he has foisted upon Canadians in 2014.

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

It's Not Just About Trust

One of my news feeds dropped the following article this morning:  "Gender Transition isn't a Whim, so Why the Mistrust?".

After reading through it, the article is more or less the standard "I know I need this surgery, so why can't I get it on demand?" argument.

To a certain extent, I am sympathetic to this.  People who are transsexual usually know from an incredibly early age that they are, and what they need.  This is beyond question in my mind.

The notion of informed consent is pervasive in Western Medicine, and in general terms it works fairly well.  But, informed consent is a point solution to a specific problem.  Informed consent does tackle the understanding of what the effects of a specific form of medical intervention are.  Usually in terms of physiological issues, potential complications and so on.
When it comes to gender transitions, trans patients are often inappropriately held to higher account when compared to people opting for other kinds of medical care. Standards of care are effectively constructed on the assumption that trans patients are less able to provide informed consent. This is a serious problem. Beneath it lies the wider distrust society still has in why people want to transition and in whether they know their own mind. 
Typically, the standard for surgeries — from cosmetic plastic surgery to vasectomy, tubal ligation, and abortion — is simply informed consent. A doctor or surgeon talks with the patient and explains what they expect to happen, along with all of the risks and benefits and the relative likelihoods of them happening. This process also involves explaining available alternatives and the risks or benefits of doing nothing. After the patient confirms that they understand all of this, the doctor is said to have received informed consent for the procedure. 
A patient is required to be competent to make this decision and if they are unable to understand for some reason – if they are too young for example – another person, such as a parent, may be required to step in.
It took me a few minutes to figure out what bugs me about this claim.  The issue is not merely that it is a case of "informed consent" for Gender Reassignment Surgery (GRS), but rather that gender transition is a complex process that encompasses a wide range of actions and treatments.

Any one step of transition requires a degree of informed consent.  For example, starting cross-sex hormone treatment requires that the doctor and patient have a clear, coherent discussion of the effects of hormones - both short and long term, as well as possible side effects.  However, taking hormones is merely a facilitating step in the process of transitioning across genders.  One step of many that a patient is ultimately undertaking.

Gender transition is not one step.  Hormones and GRS are the tangible markers that most people can grasp.  What is much harder to understand is the long term process of social transition.  For some, it is an easy, almost seamless process, for others it can be much more difficult to make the adaptations they desire.
And it’s the gatekeeper model of healthcare in the US, UK and many other jurisdictions, typically involving a psychologist of psychiatrist, that creates an additional barrier. Although some (private) clinics in the US have finally begun to adopt a model where all that’s required for a patient to begin hormone therapy is their informed consent, genital surgery still requires psychologist or psychiatrist approval. Many surgeons require two letters — as set out in WPATH’s standards — at least one of which must be from a psychologist or psychiatrist with a PhD. 
In reality, the requirements for trans patients are even more stringent: in order to be permitted genital surgery – even if the patient elects to pay for it – patients have to demonstrate that they’ve been living in their transitioned gender role for a minimum of a year.
 I can appreciate the perception that there is a "gatekeeper" mentality in some areas.  Let's face it, your average GP or Endocrinologist simply doesn't have a lot of training in dealing with cross-gender patients, and as a result may feel profoundly uncomfortable providing treatment without the input of a psychologist who specializes in such matters.

Western Medicine has become very "siloed" in the last fifty years or so.  Most GPs don't have the tools to make specialized diagnosis and refer patients to specialists all the time.  Specialists are often so focused in their own domain that they really do not feel comfortable making assessments outside of that domain.

To some extent this can be addressed by training, but it doesn't necessarily resolve the ethical and practice guidelines considerations that all of these professionals are bound by.  It would be very nice indeed if there was more uniformity in this regard, but there isn't.  Even more unfortunate is that in some localities, physicians have been known to turn trans patients away on the basis of personal beliefs on the matter rather than practical medical guidance.

Is it "gatekeeping" for a GP to say that they want an assessment from a psychologist before providing hormone therapy?  If we are talking about a situation where the psychologist is trying to make the availability of the referral letter contingent on a long term therapeutic relationship, one might be a little bit concerned.

However, the WPATH SOC v7 addresses this quite explicitly:
The SOC do not recommend a minimum number of psychotherapy sessions prior to hormone therapy or surgery. The reasons for this are multifaceted (Lev, 2009). First, a minimum number of sessions tends to be construed as a hurdle, which discourages the genuine opportunity for personal growth. Second, mental health professionals can offer important support to clients throughout all phases of exploration of gender identity, gender expression, and possible transition – not just prior to any possible medical interventions. Third, clients differ in their abilities to attain similar goals in a specified time period.  
Further, the SOC sets out fairly clearly the basic criteria for GRS referral:
Criteria for metoidioplasty or phalloplasty in FtM patients and for vaginoplasty in MtF patients: 
1.  Persistent, well documented gender dysphoria; 
2.  Capacity to make a fully informed decision and to consent for treatment; 
3.  Age of majority in a given country; 
4.  If significant medical or mental health concerns are present, they must be well controlled; 
5.  12 continuous months of hormone therapy as appropriate to the patient’s gender goals (un- less the patient has a medical contraindication or is otherwise unable or unwilling to take hormones). 
6.  12 continuous months of living in a gender role that is congruent with their gender identity;
Although not an explicit criterion, it is recommended that these patients also have regular visits with a mental health or other medical professional. 
Rationale for a preoperative, 12-month experience of living in an identity-congruent gender role: 
The criterion noted above for some types of genital surgeries – i.e., that patients engage in 12 continuous months of living in a gender role that is congruent with their gender identity – is based on expert clinical consensus that this experience provides ample opportunity for patients to experience and socially adjust in their desired gender role, before undergoing irreversible surgery. As noted in section VII, the social aspects of changing one’s gender role are usually challenging – often more so than the physical aspects. Changing gender role can have profound personal and social consequences, and the decision to do so should include an awareness of what the familial, interpersonal, educational, vocational, economic, and legal challenges are likely to be, so that people can function successfully in their gender role. Support from a qualified mental health professional and from peers can be invaluable in ensuring a successful gender role adaptation (Bockting, 2008). 
The duration of 12 months allows for a range of different life experiences and events that may occur throughout the year (e.g., family events, holidays, vacations, season-specific work or school experiences). During this time, patients should present consistently, on a day-to-day basis and across all settings of life, in their desired gender role. This includes coming out to partners, family, friends, and community members (e.g., at school, work, other settings). 
Health professionals should clearly document a patient’s experience in the gender role in the medical chart, including the start date of living full time for those who are preparing for genital surgery. In some situations, if needed, health professionals may request verification that this criterion has been fulfilled: They may communicate with individuals who have related to the patient in an identity-congruent gender role, or request documentation of a legal name and/or gender marker change, if applicable. *Emphasis Added
Ms. McKinnon goes on to critique these requirements as follows:

More explicitly, such policies aim to force patients to experience and adjust to life in their transitioned gender role before providing treatment. The implied rationale, then, is that without living in your transitioned gender role, which may include changing your name or the style of clothes you wear, you can’t really know whether you want the surgery – and therefore can’t really provide informed consent. This “real life test”, as it very recently used to be called, is for the patient’s own good; if someone lived through the proscribed period of time and still wanted surgery, then the gatekeepers could be confident that surgery would be in the patient’s best interest. 
This is deeply problematic, though. This isn’t an informed consent model of healthcare, which is the universal model (in western cultures) for everything except healthcare for transgender people.
Here is where I beg to differ with Ms. McKinnon's assessment of the situation.  She seems to have conflated GRS with gender transition.  The two are NOT the same thing, although they are closely related to each other.  The claim being made is fundamentally that as long as the patient is able to give "informed consent" to GRS, they should be able to have access to it.

Superficially, this seems almost reasonable.  However, there are two enormous "buts" that must be discussed here.

First, unlike every other surgical procedure out there, GRS unequivocally changes the patient's status in many different aspects of their life, not merely in the relative privacy of our bedrooms.  As part of a broader picture of gender transition, it also affects the patient's social context and status, friendships, workplace and goodness knows what else.  Informed consent for GRS has to account for these realities somehow.

Second, we know that there are those who attempt to gain access to GRS who either are unsuitable candidates, or have not yet adapted to their chosen gender role in society.  Whether we are talking about characters like Walt Heyer (how he ever got approval for GRS is beyond me, but that was the early 1980s, a different era), or the person who early in their journey decides that they desperately need surgery *now* (I've seen it, and I personally have talked more than one such person out of their tree - at least half of them backed away from transition after that, and I respect them for having the strength and wisdom to recognize when to step away from the precipice)

One of the things that makes gender transition quite different from other conditions that doctors deal with is that it lacks clear diagnostic criteria that they can examine objectively.  In fact, there are no physiological symptoms that they can examine directly.  Is it unreasonable that the surgeons insist upon an objective third party assessment?

We also cannot ignore the political dimension of those who choose GRS and then discover that they made an awful mistake.  People like Mr. Heyer run around spouting a pack of lies a mile deep about about GRS, and ultimately make it more difficult for the rest of the trans* community to access the treatment they need.  This cannot be ignored, nor can we ignore the consequences for both transsexuals seeking treatment as well as the practitioners that they rely on.

But to argue that this contravenes the notion of "informed consent" is to assume that "informed consent" is a one way street.  It is not.  Informed Consent merely means that the practitioner has discussed with you the treatment that is proposed and its consequences.  In general, it starts from the presupposition that the practitioner has performed sufficient diagnostic assessment to be confident that this treatment will address the diagnosed condition, something which few surgeons will feel that they have the appropriate diagnostic skills for in the case of GRS.

What has changed is that although a psychologist's assessment is needed for a surgery referral, there is no explicit requirement for a long term therapeutic relationship.  (This didn't really exist in the previous SOC, but the current SOC is much clearer about it)

In short, Ms. McKinnon's position is based in large part on a misunderstanding of the nature of the WPATH SOC, and even more troublingly a failure to understand the ethical issues that a surgeon faces in providing GRS.  She tries to draw analogies with other "on demand" surgical options, but fails to acknowledge the unique aspects of gender transition in general.  No other medical process has such a profound impact on the life of the patient.

To proceed with caution has merits for both practitioners and patients in the long run.  A vasectomy can be reversed, a woman who has an abortion has the opportunity to become pregnant again.  gender transition is a process that is far more broad in its impact than just the patient.  Their social context changes, the people around the patient are very directly impacted, and so on.  "Undoing" all of that is difficult to say the least - at least as difficult as transition itself, and then there is the physical impossibility of "undoing" GRS.  To look at one part of the process - surgery - apart from all of the other aspects involved is incredibly short-sighted.

It may be frustrating, but a successful gender transition really does require many experts to contribute their expertise.  I would love to argue in favour of more open access, but the potential for serious harm to happen to someone whose motives for transition are unclear or they are ill-prepared for it is far greater than the implications of having a few cross checks in the system.  The world needs fewer Walt Heyers, not more.

Sunday, June 08, 2014

Bill C-36 Analysis In Detail Part 3: Advertising

The government is playing some very subtle games with the language in C-36.  In some respects, the language is ridiculously broad (e.g. the undefined nature of "sexual services"), in other areas they are getting remarkably specific.
Advertising sexual services286.4 Everyone who knowingly advertises an offer to provide sexual services for consideration is guilty of(a) an indictable offence and liable to imprisonment for a term of not more than five years; or(b) an offence punishable on summary conviction and liable to imprisonment for a term of not more than 18 months. 
Immunity — material benefit and advertising286.5 (1) No person shall be prosecuted for(a) an offence under section 286.2 if the benefit is derived from the provision of their own sexual services; or(b) an offence under section 286.4 in relation to the advertisement of their own sexual services. 
Immunity — aiding, abetting, etc.(2) No person shall be prosecuted for aiding, abetting, conspiring or attempting to commit an offence under any of sections 286.1 to 286.4 or being an accessory after the fact or counselling a person to be a party to such an offence, if the offence relates to the offering or provision of their own sexual services. 
The implication here is that a prostitute can advertise their own services, this is somewhat more generous than I had initially expected.  But, because of the other aspects of the law, this still ends up smelling like a form of entrapment.

Okay, an individual is allowed to advertise their services (so, no, your local Sun newspaper isn't likely to go bankrupt from a lack of advertisers), but you aren't, apparently, supposed to actually purchase those services:
286.1 (1) Everyone who, in any place, obtains for consideration, or communicates with anyone for the purpose of obtaining for consideration, the sexual services of a person is guilty of(a) an indictable offence and liable to imprisonment for a term of not more than five years and a minimum punishment of,(i) in the case where the offence is committed in a public place, or in any place open to public view, that is or is next to a park or the grounds of a school or religious institution or that is or is next to any other place where persons under the age of 18 can reasonably be expected to be present,(A) for a first offence, a fine of $2,000, and(B) for each subsequent offence, a fine of $4,000, or(ii) in any other case,(A) for a first offence, a fine of $1,000, and(B) for each subsequent offence, a fine of $2,000; or(b) an offence punishable on summary conviction and liable to imprisonment for a term of not more than 18 months and a minimum punishment of,(i) in the case referred to in subparagraph (a)(i),(A) for a first offence, a fine of $1,000, and(B) for each subsequent offence, a fine of $2,000, or(ii) in any other case,(A) for a first offence, a fine of $500, and(B) for each subsequent offence, a fine of $1,000. 
If this smells a little fishy to you, there's a good reason for it.  It is.  In today's world of mass surveillance, how much do you think it's going to take for the government to designate any phone or email address associated with "sexual services" as something to monitor and simply start grabbing any and all traffic related to that address/phone number?  (Hint:  It isn't difficult at all, and I suspect that the "anti-bullying" bill (Bill C-26) before parliament would allow them to do so without a warrant and still use the evidence against you in a court of law)

What's the net effect of this?  Fundamentally, it means that although someone can advertise sexual services, anybody "procuring" those services is subject to significant criminal penalties.  Under the surveillance capabilities today, it's almost impossible not to have any "communication for procurement" to be monitored except in isolated, private places.  In other words, creepy places where the "johns" can assert control and dominance through violence or the threat of it.

Because of the undefined (and therefore, presumably broad) wording of "sexual services", I wonder how this will play out for sex shops, BDSM dungeons and other businesses which cater to various sexual appetites that aren't necessarily prostitution per se.  Because a lot of those exist as legal businesses, separate from their owners and with employees, one is left wondering just how it is that those businesses will be able to advertise themselves without the owners being charged under these laws?

While I'm sure that this will make people like MP Joy Smith ecstatically happy, driving sex underground doesn't really solve any of the issues associated with prostitution as identified in Bedford.  (Ms. Smith is the same twit who wants to block all porn on Canada's internet)  There are aspects of this legislation which certainly start to create a blanket ban on any and all sexuality, and in particular the discussion of that sexuality.  These blanket proscriptions create interesting problems not only for prostitutes, but for others who are working in the sex industry, or work with sexual minorities of one sort or another for any reason.

One thing we already know from experience is that driving it underground won't address the very real and legitimate safety and security of the person issues that the Bedford decision raises.

Saturday, June 07, 2014

Bill C-36 Analysis In Detail Part 2

Bill C-36 casts a much wider net than I had first thought.

Traditionally, when a term is being used to define an offence, a definition of that term is inserted in S2 of the Criminal Code which gives a clear, understandable definition.  

Throughout the text of Bill C-36, the term "Sexual Services" is used constantly, but at no time is the term defined at all.  It is used, but never really nailed down.

For example, does C-36 place a BDSM "dungeon" under the concept of Sexual Services?  Or, for that matter, depending on how one looks at it, it could also encompass any number of "adult entertainment" businesses that are out there, which have traditionally sat on the edge - they are certainly offering sexual stimulus for sale, but not necessarily sex per se.

For that matter, what are the implications of offering sex toys or magazines for sale?  Or, for that matter, what about a sex therapist?  Does that constitute a "sexual service" under this law?  This is especially important when we are looking at the advertising restrictions part of this law.
“advertisement of sexual services”« publicit√© de services sexuels »“advertisement of sexual services” means any material — including a photographic, film, video, audio or other recording, made by any means, a visual representation or any written material — that is used to advertise sexual services contrary to section 286.4. 
Advertising sexual services286.4 Everyone who knowingly advertises an offer to provide sexual services for consideration is guilty of(a) an indictable offence and liable to imprisonment for a term of not more than five years; or(b) an offence punishable on summary conviction and liable to imprisonment for a term of not more than 18 months.
Depending on how this is interpreted, a lot of people could end up in prison for no worse an offence than having a web site for their business.

Friday, June 06, 2014

Dear Canadian National Firearms Association

How Dare You?
It is clear that Canada's excessive firearms control system has failed again. The excessive rules in place do not in any way increase pu blic safety, but merely contribute to an expensive and unnecessary regime which harms only those of lawful intent. Resources wasted on this fundamentally flawed firearms control regime could be better placed to support a health care system which could be better enabled to diagnose and treat conditions that put people's lives at risk.
Three RCMP officers lie dead today, two more seriously wounded and you try to use this tragedy to argue for less gun control?

At no time has the solution to gun violence ever been more guns.  We've seen that experiment tried in the US already, with its tragic price.

Fuck Off.


A Canadian Who Likes Being Able To Walk The Streets Without Fear Of Being Shot

Thursday, June 05, 2014

How The National Review's Williamson Gets It Wrong On Laverne Cox

Kevin D. Williamson is suddenly an expert on the topic of transgender and transsexual people it seems.  Or at least, he has appointed himself as an expert.

Titled "Laverne Cox is not a Woman", Williamson's column is a pretty basic attack on transsexual people and the issue of being cross-gender identified.  In its most fundamental sense, he is trying to erase the very narrative of transsexuals (and other transgender identified people):
The infinite malleability of the postmodern idea of “gender,” as opposed to the stubborn concreteness of sex, is precisely the reason the concept was invented. For all of the high-academic theory attached to the question, it is simply a mystical exercise in rearranging words to rearrange reality. Facebook now has a few score options for describing one’s gender or sex, and no doubt they will soon match the number of names for the Almighty in one of the old mystery cults.
Apparently the evolving language of an emerging field of study is just a bunch of academics trying to evade reality ... at least for Williamson.  Unfortunately for Williamson, it is not mere "rearranging words to rearrange reality" so much as seeking language that accurately depicts reality.  Had Mr. Williamson looked beyond his assumptions, he would have discovered that much of the modern language around cross-gender identity started with the "Benjamin Scale".  At this point in time, it became necessary to describe more than cross-dressing, and Benjamin made what seemed a reasonable approach at the time.  Since then, the understanding and language related to the broad notion of cross-gender identity has grown enormously, to the point of being daunting to those who do not spend significant time working with it.

It is not difficult to see why Williamson and his allies try to claim that this is just linguistic voodoo.  The semantics are complicated, and understanding the subtle distinctions that need to be grasped to fully appreciate the language involved is no small task.  Far easier to dismiss it as "irrelevant" or "magic" than to examine it critically.

Regardless of the question of whether he has had his genitals amputated, Cox is not a woman, but an effigy of a woman. Sex is a biological reality, and it is not subordinate to subjective impressions, no matter how intense those impressions are, how sincerely they are held, or how painful they make facing the biological facts of life. No hormone injection or surgical mutilation is sufficient to change that. 
Ah yes ... born with a penis = man, born with a vagina = woman ... and old and somewhat brain damaged way to look at these matters.  Unfortunately for Williamson, there is a distance to be covered between the social notions of "man" and "woman" - concepts which are mostly social, and the physiological sex notions of "male" and "female".  Physiological sex is fundamentally about the shape of the body, "man" and "woman" are primarily social constructs with roots in physiological sex.

DF Swaab 2007 states quite clearly the following:
 As sexual differentiation of the genitals takes places in the first 2 months of pregnancy, and sexual differentiation of the brain starts during the second half of pregnancy, these two processes may be influenced independently of each other, resulting in transsexuality. This also means that in the case of an ambiguous gender at birth, the degree of masculinization of the genitals may not reflect the same degree of masculinization of the brain. Differences in brain structures and brain functions have been found that are related to sexual orientation and gender. 
Research findings like this poke significant holes in the "has a penis = man" logic of people like Williamson. As many transsexuals can attest to, you can be born with a penis and never feel the least bit like a man.

Returning to Williamson's rather naive attack on transsexuals, we find a few more gems of logic:
Genital amputation and mutilation is the extreme expression of the phenomenon, but it is hardly outside the mainstream of contemporary medical practice. The trans self-conception, if the autobiographical literature is any guide, is partly a feeling that one should be living one’s life as a member of the opposite sex and partly a delusion that one is in fact a member of the opposite sex at some level of reality that transcends the biological facts in question. There are many possible therapeutic responses to that condition, but the offer to amputate healthy organs in the service of a delusional tendency is the moral equivalent of meeting a man who believes he is Jesus and inquiring as to whether his insurance plan covers crucifixion.
Oh yes, let's talk for a moment or two about the language of "delusion", shall we?  The DSM IV (and the drafts of the DSM V text I have reviewed) all contain a very clear statement regarding the issue of psychological delusion in transsexuals.  Quite specifically, there is a clause in there that recognizes that a transsexual is usually perfectly aware of the distance between their physical and psychological realities.  This isn't a delusion.

Gender Reassingment Surgery (GRS) is an imperfect solution, but at least for MtF transsexuals it enables a degree of physical congruence between self-image and body that otherwise is impossible to achieve.  Like many people, Mr. Williamson seems to view this is "mutilation".   Most transsexuals would disagree with good reason.

The question of the status of gay people interacts with politics to the extent that it in some cases challenges existing family law, but homosexual acts as such seem to me a matter that is obviously, and almost by definition, private. The mass delusion that we are inculcating on the question of transgendered people is a different sort of matter, to the extent that it would impose on society at large an obligation — possibly a legal obligation under civil-rights law, one that already is emerging — to treat delusion as fact, or at the very least to agree to make subjective impressions superordinate to biological fact in matters both public and private. 
As a matter of government, I have little or no desire to police how Cox or any other man or woman conducts his or her personal life. 
What Williamson is overlooking is the fact that the history of both sexual and gender minority communities is that they are traditionally oppressed by the state in a very explicitly.  It's all very well that Williamson doesn't wish to regulate how Laverne Cox lives her life.  What he is quietly ignoring is that the coercive power of the state has been used to suppress LGBT people, and gave rise to the hostility and discrimination that they experience.  This simple fact means that by definition, the matter of rights and non-discrimination requires active engagement on the part of the state to rectify past and present wrongs.
But having a culture organized around the elevation of unreality over reality in the service of Eros, who is a sometimes savage god, is not only irrational but antirational.
Here we have the last trope possible - namely that it's all about sex.  Williamson couldn't be more wrong if he tried.  Sure, most people want an active and satisfying sex life.  Some people achieve that, some do not.  While GRS certainly can play a significant role in helping achieve that goal, it is seldom the primary reason for it.  What Williamson appears to completely misunderstand is that bodily congruence is at the top of the list for most transsexuals.

I don't know what Williamson's criteria for "womanhood" are.  He doesn't really tell us, but I would suspect that a great many natal females would not meet his standards, whatever they might be.

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...