Monday, 12 October 2009

Today's Battles.

Well, a few of the many over the last week.

First Cab off the rank, the Calgary Herald, where a state-funded school run by a Catholic diocese decided that they couldn't possibly have a transsexual teacher, as they were "insufficiently Catholic". Odd, since the guy is Lutheran, and that never caused a problem. Odder, in that the school isn't a private Catholic school, the local diocese just subcontracts to run it, so they're not allowed to discriminate based on religious dogma. Odder still, that they don't actually know what the Vatican says on the subject.

Staying in Canada, and in Toronto they're holding the III World Congress on Hypospadias and Disorders of Sex Development. With interactive surgical demonstrations on how to help Intersexed children. Or all too often, "help" them so that they are no bother to society.
When medics use the best possible techniques for determining “real” sex, they get it wrong 1 time in 10.

The average is 1 time in 3.

When they do get it wrong, the patient is diagnosed as mentally ill for stubbornly insisting that the sex they were surgically re-assigned to is incorrect.

There are several competing priorities: the first is to not upset society by having a child look different. This can lead to the child being persecuted when young. The second is to not upset the parents, who may reject and maltreat a child who looks different. The third is to end up with a child whose body is functional.

In order to reliably achieve the third aim, there must be a period of 3-7 years wait until the child can tell us what sex they are. Some children are bigendered, able to function in either gender role. Most are not, and so if you arbitrarily assign a sex at random, you end up with a bad result slightly less than 50% of the time. About 1 in 3.

However, without immediate surgery, the child may suffer rejection and abuse from the parents and society at large.

The obvious therapy is to change societal attitudes and provide therapy for the parents rather than surgically mutilate infants. This however has been deemed too hard, or would take too long. It’s easier to just castrate the kids, and after all, most turn out OK. The rest you can just label insane, and disregard them.

Doctors have seen far too many abused and rejected children, and wish to prevent that. They’re not monsters, they’re trying to do what they think is best… except that they have visceral revulsion of children who look different too, so are not objective.

On to the thriving metropolis of Kalamazoo, and an ordnance passed by the city council that would prevent overt discrimination against gays and trans people.
Aaron Davis: There are already laws in effect against discrimination so this new ordinance is something special. People need to understand this new ordinance. This new ordinance means that if a man that thinks he is a woman, he could just put on a dress and go in the girls’ restroom because he feels that way at that time. I say no. Because I have children, they don’t need to be exposed to that if we are at some public venue. So no again to special rights.
*SIGH*. My comment:
I can't understand Mr Davis' attitude. He must know that such laws are already in force in 13 states, covering 38% of the US population. And that such events as he describes don't occur. They haven't done, not once, in the 33 years since the first laws of this kind were passed.

Is it wilful blindness? Inability to understand the most simple concepts? Frightening gullibility? Or is he just pandering to bigots? In any event, it casts doubt on his suitability for any public office, even third assistant dogcatcher, let alone any position of responsibility in government.
Fortunately, the other commissioners have two brain-cells that fire consecutively. Unfortunately, the Big Lie is a political technique used by the unscrupulous that works more often than not. We'll see.

Finally on to the Washington Post, and a book review: The Tiny Differences in the Littlest Brains By Emily Bazelon : a review of PINK BRAIN, BLUE BRAIN - How Small Differences Grow Into Troublesome Gaps -- and What We Can Do About It By Lise Elio.

My comment:
The problem with philosophical and ideological theories is that they have practical consequences.

For example, it is common practice to castrate boys born with genitalia that is not deemed sufficiently masculine by the doctors and parents. Intersexed children with anomalous genitalia are usually surgically assigned a mostly female body as "it's easier to make a hole than a pole". In the 1 in 3 cases where the assignment is incorrect, and doesn't match the congenital neuroanatomy the child is classified as "mentally ill" with "gender identity disorder not otherwise specified", and surgery to correct the mistake refused on that basis.
I then went on to quote Prof Ecker on the subject, as well as The Story of 'R'. Most people don't know about this stuff you see, and see it as a harmless philosophical debate, with little application to reality.

I know different. Sometimes I wish I didn't.


Mercedes said...

You wrote:
"Odd, since the guy is Lutheran, and that never caused a problem."

This board is actually not supposed to discriminate based on religion when hiring, but typically does. Lutherans, Anglicans, those who "look" Catholic and have similar traditions get by.

"Odder, in that the school isn't a private Catholic school, the local diocese just subcontracts to run it, so they're not allowed to discriminate based on religious dogma."

Actually, the diocese doesn't run the board. In Alberta, some are partially subsidized by the Catholic church, and others are fully publicly funded. The Greater St. Albert School District No. idon'tremember27orsomething is the latter, so the diocese doesn't oversee it, the board does. This doesn't stop the diocese from stepping in on issues, though, i.e. the administration of HPV vaccinations.

That doesn't quite mean that it's Catholic in name only: it uses a curriculum modified for Catholic schools that is partially overseen by the Church, for example.

Also worth noting is that since the Delwin Vriend verdict, it is accepted in the courts across Canada that private schools are also not allowed to discriminate.

Some details based on comments others have raised:

In Alberta, one must be accredited to be a substitute teacher. Apparently in the US or parts of it, you don't need that kind of degree or investment (?), so people are asking what's the big deal, but in Alberta, subs go through the full process to become teachers.

People have been asking, "why not just teach at public schools?" He has in fact been trying, and done a bit of teaching for a public board there. However, his opportunities have been very small since the firing.

This is hitting the news as if it were new and "I don't want my kids exposed to that kind of person." In fact, there have been transitioning teachers in Alberta, going back as far as 1988. It is because of these precedents that the Alberta Teacher's Association has trans-inclusive policies for both teachers and students, and has been supporting Jan in this.

BTW, there is more significance to the Herald article. Author Naomi Lakritz has seemed to have been opposed to anything trans, making the Herald the one publication in Alberta that remained cold toward us since the GRS delisting. It's very encouraging that she spoke out here.

RadarGrrl said...

I caught a article off Lynn Conway about the conference in Toronto. Who's moderating at least two of the discussions? Ken Zucker. Once again, he's been able to get people that matter to listen to him.

MgS said...

Hi Zoe:

You forgot to mention your great comment at No Apologies.

Unfortunately, the odds of anyone on that forum listening to you are approximately zero ... as evidenced by this attempt to dismiss your reasoning.

Nicole said...

How come I wonder its accepted by medical "experts" that a wait of 3.7 years is beneficial in determining what gender a child is by asking them (despite any suggestion that they'd be coerced by parents), and that children three times that age who happen to be transsexual aren't afforded that same freedom and being offered HRT at a critical time in their lives?

I also vehemently disagree with any religion overseeing a curriculum to be taught to students, and also wonder why the hell parents think they have the right to determine what their children are taught in schools.

How will human kind ever advance with these attitudes?

Zoe Brain said...

Nicole - How come? Tradition.

If the kid is strongly gendered, if they've been assigned the wrong gender that will be obvious before puberty.

IS kid are *still* being surgically assigned the wrong gender. It's not just TS kids who suffer. But increasingly, both TS and IS kids are being listened to.

Because it is biological, it doesn't make a great deal of difference whether parental pressure is applied or not. You can rear a child in the wrong gender, but you can't *make* them the wrong gender. It appears to do them no harm to rear them in the wrong gender either, as long as when the signs are obvious that you *do* have it wrong, that you're prepared to backtrack.

Some children can function adequately in either gender role. They are bi-gendered. Bi-sexed would be a better term, but that would confuse things too much, that word has already been taken by a completely different concept.

I don't see a problem in rearing such bi-sexed children in the sex most in line with their bodies, or most convenient. They won't mind.

Those who are strongly cross-gendered though, try forcing them into the wrong sex, and you'll likely as not kill them. Killing them would be kinder, in fact.

Zoe Brain said...

RadarGrrl - I'm willing to listen to what Dr Zucker has to say before condemning him. No, it doesn't look good, but it's not impossible that he's abandoning the whole AGP theory in favour of a congenital gender identity.

Yes, he calls it "disorder" etc, but that's a relatively minor issue of terminology if it stops him from torturing kids. We'll see. OK, I'm a hopeless optimist.

Mercedes - thanks so much for your efforts in Alberta. It's difficult getting a complete picture from this end of the world. I was only in Edmonton a few days, but it seemed to me to be highly anomalous. They were even more right-wing than I was, yet on trans issues, and ONLY on trans issues, far more socially liberal than I'd expected.

The "reversion to type" appears to have met some significant grassroots resistance, and not just by those who vote liberal.

I think that you and others have had some significant impact there. You're making a difference.

Laserlight said...

"I also vehemently disagree with any religion overseeing a curriculum to be taught to students, and also wonder why the hell parents think they have the right to determine what their children are taught in schools."

You're free to disagree. Of course, if you feel that you should have the liberty to do what you want (for instance, get HRT/SRS/etc), you might also concede that other people should be able to do what they want (have some say in which school to send their kids to). One might define "liberty" as "not having to conform to what the neighbors think", and perhaps you'd agree that's a good thing?