Sunday 7 March 2010

We do things differently here in Australia.

We do things differently here in Australia. The right-wing party are the Liberals. And the ultra-conservative commentators are sane.

Case in point: Far Right commentator Andrew Bolt's latest:
The first such case was that of “Alex”, when the Family Court allowed gender reassignment procedures for a girl who’d clearly been deeply traumatised by her parents and seemed to me to need treatment of the mind rather than the body. I was appalled by what was done to her and by what was decided.

On the facts outlined in this second judgment, I cannot see similar reasons to be so alarmed. The judge is cautious, the parents loving, the experts united on most of the critical points.

I can’t be sure a mistake isn’t being made, but I know I can’t judge better than those who must.
Look at that. A commentator who has the courage to say that he doesn't have the competence to come to an informed decision on a controversial issue. One involving Red Meat to his right-leaning readership.

Here's my reply. It's long, and for that reason may not make it through moderation. Other comments I've made in the past, just as controversial, have. Another difference between the USA and Australia, our Right Wing Death Beasts are not afraid of challenge. I know, I'm one of them, remember?
For those interested in the degree to which really competent people have spent much time, and much worry, over what the right thing to do in such cases is, please see: Ethical Concerns Related to Treating Gender Nonconformity in Childhood and Adolescence: Lessons from the family court of Australia.

It's no exaggeration to say that Milton Diamond is to the science of sex and gender what Albert Einstein is to physics. Here's what he had to say in his analysis of the Alex case:
The judge’s approach to Alex was extraordinary, exemplary, compassionate, cautious, and well-informed. He was not bogged down with rhetoric of gender construction. Alex’s dignity, best interest, current needs and future potentiality were the court’s only concerns.

The role this judge assumed was equally extraordinary. In Judge Nicholson, Alex found a father with whom to share the burden of this monumental personal decision. It was as though the judge sat with Alex at the kitchen table and asked the questions a good parent might ask of the child and of the medical experts, in deciding what course to follow.
I know this kind of thing is outside most people's experience. I can't blame some for thinking this is some Leftist idealistic nonsense, idiotic academics playing games with people's lives.

But if they study the science, look at the MRI scans, and above all, talk to transsexual and intersexed people (the latter having been born with bodies neither wholly male nor wholly female), they'd soon question their "everybody knows" ideas.

Here's what Professor of Urology Sidney Ecker wrote to me, after his presentation (along with others by Milton Diamond and Norman Spack) to the American Psychiatric Association at their annual meeting:
Hi Zoe,

Yes, we gave our presentation to 60 plus psychiatrists from the US, AU, FR, IT, EU, UK, Holland etc.

We spoke for 2 1/2 hours on why cross gender identity was a normal inherited variation of humans. We showed how Transgender Brains think, smell, and hear like the opposite sex. We presented internationally accepted guidelines for hormonal treatment of transsexuals to be published Summer 2009.

Here are my slides and with my participants' permission I shall send you theirs. We are now in print in the APA Syllabus and soon in the APA Journal this summer. I am checking if we were recorded.

My greatest personal compliment came from Frank Kruijver, from Holland, whose research of the human brain in TSs started it all. He thought we have taken his work very far in our understanding of the human brain. Hope you can do something with this.

Sid Ecker, M.D.
One more thing - if these kids don't get appropriate hormonal and surgical treatment, over half will attempt suicide before age 20. By age 25, only half remain alive. It really does feel that bad.

Hopefully, within a few decades, medical science will have advanced enough so these kids will be fully functional. Able to bear, or father children respectively. Meanwhile, we do what we can. Because we've tried everything else in increasingly desperate attempts to stop these kids dying miserable, horrible deaths, and we have been trying for 60 years as they continued to die.

This is the only thing that works. We now know why. MRI scans and autopsies have confirmed it. I'll just give the titles of a few of the hundreds of papers on the subject:

Male-to-female transsexuals show sex-atypical hypothalamus activation when smelling odorous steroids by Berglund et al Cerebral Cortex 2008 18(8):1900-1908;

Male–to–female transsexuals have female neuron numbers in a limbic nucleus. Kruiver et al J Clin Endocrinol Metab (2000) 85:2034–2041

Sexual differentiation of the human brain: relevance for gender identity, transsexualism and sexual orientation. Swaab Gynecol Endocrinol (2004) 19:301–312.

A sex difference in the human brain and its relation to transsexuality. by Zhou et al Nature (1995) 378:68–70.

A sex difference in the hypothalamic uncinate nucleus: relationship to gender identity by Garcia-Falgueras et al Brain. 2008 Dec;131(Pt 12):3132-46.

A polymorphism of the CYP17 gene related to sex steroid metabolism is associated with female-to-male but not male-to-female transsexualism by Bentz et al Fertility and Sterility , Volume 90 , Issue 1 , Pages 56 - 59

Androgen Receptor Repeat Length Polymorphism Associated with Male-to-Female Transsexualism by Hare at al in Biol.Psych. Vol65, Issue 1, Pp 93-96

This isn't just one group of rogue pseudo-scientists in one lab, pushing a politically-acceptable line in a few selected journals.

These are multiple independent groups, in labs all over the world. Psychologists, Neurologists, Geneticists, Urologists, Paediatricians, many different fields of study, and all finding the same evidence, and coming to the same conclusion. A conclusion that is anything but politically popular.
Will I convince him, or his readership, of the correctness of my views? I don't know. I do know though that Andrew Bolt is not closed-minded. He'll give my views a fair hearing, and any objections he makes will be ones based on rationality, possibly different but reasonable interpretations of the same facts.

We do things differently here in Australia.


Anonymous Woman said...

Things like making harmless video games illegal, when the rest of the civilized world can play them.

Or attempting to filter and control the internet.

And making naked pictures of women with A cup size or less illegal.

It's good to know that if i were to visit there and flash a guy with a camera, i've turned him into a pedophile.

Women like me don't have enough media-induced self-esteem issues as it is. We need more.


A paragon of liberal thinking, all right.

Battybattybats said...

I agree with Anonymous T-Girl that while this is a good instance Australia has plenty of issues.

For our goods, like voting in womens vote early on, we have bads.

We don't even have a bill of rights, not even a weak human rights act, on the federal level. And the commentators on the right trotted out all the tired nonsense when the Human Rights Community Consultation was going on. A big point that came up repeatedly from opponenets of a rights act was it'd allow for same-sex marriage.. rather reminiscent of the objections to one at federation of equal treatment based on race being an undesirable consequence.

This may be a good sign, i hope you'll have some positive updates for us on that. Australia has much to be proud of.. but we have our shames and outrages too.

And with evidence that increased adult access to pornography correlates to a drop of sexual violence and that the rise of violent videogames corresponds to a drop in game-playing demographics violent crime in many countries we seem to be basing decisions on wowsers and on methodologically suspect psych lab tests and not looking at the evidence of the broad effects.

And that a-cup thing... WTF are they on wasting time and money and efforts on that and not getting effective policing, rehabilitation and most importantly preventative treatment, of the real thing!

Bunny said...

The thing I notice about Australia is that their bloggers spend an inordinate amount of time blogging about things going on in the US.

One might get the impression that they are more comfortable assessing others flaws than considering their own.

Either that, or they just like tapping into the larger readership of Americans who have nothing better to do than screw around on the internet :-)

Anonymous said...

I even hear that the toilets flush the other way! :D Seriously, whenever I hear things from Australia I have to throw my definition of "liberal" into sharp reverse, and it strips the gears like you wouldn't believe.

It's just like in the US, where apparently "liberal" means something totally different from my understanding. Decades of political framing can accomplish a lot.

Kevin Rudd unbellyfeel liberal.

Zimbel said...

Interesting... Andrew Bolt is a far-right commentator for Australia? From reading several pages of his blog, were he a U.S.A. commentator, I'd probably label him as "moderate" save on a couple of issues.

Zoe Brain said...

Zimbel - take it from me, he's right of centre here. As far right as Rush Limbaugh is by US standards.

ATG - The national embarrassment that is the Rudd (Labor - think AFL-CIO wing of the DNC) government's pandering to the one or two genuinely loony theologues re censorship will not stand. It will be ignored, worked around, and widely ridiculed until it's quietly put out of its misery.

Zoe Brain said...

JGG - with the internet, it's easier for me here in Canberra to take the pulse of what's happening in, say, Maryland than it is for Western Australia. And often it's more important to me.

You have to remember that we have the population of Texas, in an area the size of the continental US. The capital cities of each state each hold about half the state's population, more or less, and the closest ones are nearly a thousand miles away from each other.

I've been to New York more often than I've been to Adelaide. Both are infeasible to travel to except by air.

Rather than making us isolationist here at the backside of the world, we have to know about everywhere else. What happens in the NY state elections matters at least as much in my daily life as the elections in South Australia, and the US presidential elections matter far more than a neighbouring state's.

Anonymous Woman said...

We made our point of support here for those there that asked for it.

It wasn't just an hour, as some news reports would have you believe. Your government servers buckled and crashed off and on for the day.

Rudd has some more fun waiting for him. You could probably bet on it.

Zoe Brain said...

Tut Tut! How terrible! Guess we'll have to add all sites to blacklists as they contain porn, and allow no traffic in or out. Think of the Children!

Anonymous said...

I'm watching Operation Titstorm with glee. IMO Anonymous is just stretching its legs at this point.

I pay attention to things in the US partially because I live 3km from the border, partially because trends in the US have a tendency to affect everyone else (so much so that it's almost a crystal ball), and partially because I have friends there and care about what happens to them.