Monday 31 July 2006

Four Pieces of Good News

The first : Medicare Australia came through, and I now have documentary proof of my medical sex, and also that I'm being treated for medical code 1269T. Which is to say, "Moderate to severe androgenisation in non-pregnant women (acne alone is not a sufficient indication of androgenisation)." And that Authority is required for this one, it's not a common-or-garden prescription, special authority has to be granted for this diagnosis by the Health Authorities.

I'm conveying the original by hand, along with a helpful letter from my PhD supervisor stressing the neccessity of international travel in the course of my studies, to the Australian Passport Office tomorrow. That should cause a feline-avian mixture.

The second : Some searching of the phrase "Manual of Australian Passport Issue" on Hansard brought me this little gem, from a senate committee back in 1996. :
Section 724 of the *Manual of Australian Passport Issue* refers to a letter that was sent to transgendered people. You have enclosed an extract from that letter in your submission to us, and I thank you for that. It is the letter sent to people who have the gender identity on their passports changed. You indicated that this letter was prepared on the basis of advice from the Attorney-General's Department. Is it possible I could have a copy of that advice?

Mr Hamilton —It is in theory, but never underestimate the capacity of a system to lose a piece of paper! I am sure we will not lose it on purpose. We will get it for you.

CHAIR —The letter indicates that the issuing of the passport does not indicate the government's view of the general legal status, but it is done as an administrative matter. Who made the administrative decision? What level was it made at? Was ministerial approval sought in making the decision?

Mr Hamilton —I am going to have to check the file. The ministerial submission does not cover that. These go back some years, I believe.
So it doesn't appear to be Subordinate Legislation with the force of Law, it's merely custom, tradition, and dates back over a decade. And based on what the Attorney-General's opinion of what the law probably was at that time.

There have been some significant legislative changes since then, not to say the Re Kevin decisions that make the whole thing hopelessly obsolete.

They're bound by the Law, and what the Law says is that they can ask for data to determine my Identity and Citizenship, and that's all.

The third : I managed to get my Laptop connected to my home broadband connection, rather than having to rely on the Wireless network at the ANU. This means I have Skype and other XP-only goodies available at home now, but there's something far more important. You see, the post-surgical gynacological exercises after the genital reconstruction surgery I'm getting are rather rigorous. In fact, 2 sessions of 2 hours per day. Very undignified, and requiring privacy. I can't afford 4 hours taken out of my day, so having a laptop to work on while, um, "dilating" will mean I can work as well as, well, not play, but.... I think I'll leave it at that. Biological dilation is recommended, but I won't be ready for that for some time, if ever.

The fourth : Is this. I'll quote it in full.
Venus, Mars, an Australian Passport, and Belgian Chocolate

Congratulations to Zoe, the brains behind A. E. Brain, on the first anniversary of her transition. You go girl!

Go check out Zoe's blog. Liberal, pro-Bush, and a space geek ... what's not to like?

I'm fighting legal battles, I'm making preparations for major surgery, I'm doing my PhD and being a parent, I'm continuing the process of Transition, and with all of that on my plate, something like this really makes a difference. I've had far too many e-mails and messages of support in my travails to enumerate, and this kind of thing really boosts my morale. Thanks. Thanks one and all.

Sunday 30 July 2006

Requiem for JAEsat

From :
A civilian Dnepr rocket built from a modified intercontinental ballistic missile failed to carry a clutch of small satellites into orbit Wednesday as it crashed just south of its Central Asian launch site, according to Russian wire reports.

The Dnepr’s engine apparently shut down prematurely just after rocketing spaceward from its Baikonur Cosmodrome launch pad in Kazakhstan, Russian space officials told the Interfax News Agency. The rocket was scheduled to launch at 3:43 p.m. EDT (1943 GMT) and reach orbit a short time later.
Today’s unsuccessful launch was slated to orbit a fleet of 14 CubeSat microsatellites built by 10 universities around the world. Additional payloads reportedly included a pair of satellites dubbed JAEsats, as well as others called BelKa, Baumanets and UniSat 4.

JAEsat. Otherwise known as the Joint Australian Engineering satellite, one of the three viable projects resulting from Australia's short-lived second space programme.

From Journal of Global Positioning Systems (2005) Vol. 4, No. 1-2: 277-283 :
JAESat is a joint micro-satellite project between Queensland University of Technology (QUT), Australian Space Research Institute (ASRI) and other national and international partners, i.e. Australian Cooperative Research Centre for Satellite Systems (CRCSS), Kayser-Threde GmbH, Aerospace Concepts and Auspace which contribute to this project. The JAESat project is conducted under the leadership of the Queensland University of Technology.
The CRCSS lost its funding some time ago, as I've already blogged about before. ASRI is an all-volunteer group, funded by a single minor corporate sponsor, and many private donations from individuals, most of whom aren't exactly well-off.
The JAESat mission outlined in Enderle (2002, 2004) will ultimately consist of two micro-satellites (see Figure 1) which will fly in a formation. The JAESat micro-satellite itself will have two components, a master satellite and a so-called slave satellite. The components of JAESat will be attached to each other during the launch phase and will be separated in space, after the release of JAESat from the launcher. The JAESat mission is designed to conduct a variety of experiments based on the mode of interoperation between the payloads on-board the two satellites. A communication link between the two satellites will be established in the form of a RF Inter-Satellite Link (ISL). It is anticipated that JAESat will be launched in 2006. Negotiations with a launch provider for a piggy back launch are ongoing. For this reason the final orbit is not definite yet. However, it is intended to have a circular, nearly polar orbit with an orbit altitude of about 800 km. The operational life time of JAESat is expected to be round 12 months. After the separation of the slave from the master satellite the two satellites will drift away from each other with a low drift rate.
But no more. Hundreds of person-years effort, blood, toil, tears and sweat, and now nothing to show for it but a lot of training in skills not valued in this country. Not much money wasted though: it was always been done on a shoestring, a second-hand shoestring, mended and patched and cobbled together by people working long hours without pay.

Of course, none of this made the papers. Neither did the efforts of a dozen Universities around the world who constructed the other, less ambitious satellies, the CubeSats.

The thing is, this was fully one-third of our space effort, second only to FedSat, and even longer in gestation. The other programme, Bluesat, is a simple student project, and even shorter of funding.

This is no way to run a Space Programme. We have the technology, the imagination, the engineering excellence. We even have the dreams, though currently a lot of those are in a crater in Kazakhstan.

Ah well. Better Luck next time. For there will be a next time, funding may come, funding may go, but the Dreams never die.

It would be nice if the heroes and heroines of this project were recognised in their own country though, instead of having to go overseas for their skills to be made use of.

Saturday 29 July 2006

They're Hiring

ARES Corporation that is.

If I wasn't doing a PhD, I'd be sorely tempted to send them my CV.

If I remember correctly, the last time I saw ARES corporation was in the old SPI game, Battlefleet Mars :

Simulation of interplanetary conflict in the Solar system during the late 21st century. Earth is dependent on extra-terrestrial resources, teh procurement of which is managed, executed, and controlled by privately owned conglomerates.

The game concerns an attempt by disenchanged employees of the corporation living in space and on Mars to seize the means of production to gain autonomy.

From a review:
You win the game by pushing the other sides Morale down so far that he
cannot fight on. This is done by winning battles, as well as sabotage and political interaction. Once per turn, each player rolls on the morale table. This gives a variety of results, including depressing the other side's Morale table, sabotage attempts (rolled for on a separate table), assassination attempts, truces and WORD support for Ares Corporation (Ares Corporation is the firm which owns and is supposed to control the revolting ships and planets). WORD (World Organisation forResource Development) is a sort of Earth government. Morale is also affected by control of Asteroids, the opposition's home planet and other strategic planets (like Jupiter). The map covers the Solar System from Jupiter inwards.

SPI's games were sometimes depressingly prescient. This one was from 29 years ago.

From some of the game's "Fluff" over at ProjectRho :

Violently the ship executed a maximum burn maneuver with her nine and twelve o'clock engines. Some of the datastream elements were now glowing red. "Damage report: two mike hit on plates 1023/24 negative critical. Integrity 80-80."

"Beautiful, Dee, You saved our jewels with that cut."

Ulans tapped his foot reflexively. On the blue cross hair showing on the main screen, a yellow dot bloomed. Six thousand kilometers distant, several people died.

"Gotum! Gotum!" Jacklin screamed in the interphone. "You're writin' the book, Dee baby! Writin' the book!"

What would you know about books Jacklin, thought Dieter -- besides which I do not feel well and have not the faintest idea of what I'm doing. The rest of the crew was shouting over the phones, estatic with victory. Bystanders he thought. Goddamned passengers. Me -- I'm doing it and I don't know it until I've done it.

"17 to main power...16" Jacklin began to recite the seconds remaining until the main laser had built itself a new charge. No sound, mused Ulans, no bang. They should put sound effects on these things so that you could hear a bang when you made a shot. The slight vibration and the glow on the screen wasn't enough. No real way to relate to that. Should be some noise.

Once again, the crew was slammed by heavy G-force as the ship responded to the almost automatic commands of Ulans' fingers. A loud whanging started up in some distant part of the Hercules. He could actually feel the deck rippling under his feet. Not so lucky this time.

"Damage report. Nine mike frontal hit on super B. Partial dislocation on six o'clock. Six isolated. Explosive decom in cell four, five, six, and F-2. Randalls and Chung do not respond. Losing power on three o'clock and associated vanes. Looks bad, Dee."

"What's happening with the rest of the task force?"

"They're 180 on the other side of Vesta doing a job on the remaining Company element. We're being tracked by a triple-A Company police ship -- most likely the transport Des Jardin."

"Can we run for it, Dee?"

Ulans looked through the datavisor at the blue figures on the main screen even though he already knew the answer.

"No chance. We've got maybe one shot as Kolnichok closes. Maybe I'll get fancy and burn him off. At worst, we'll wind up in the Company Can -- after all they don't want to blow up this ship -- they think they own it!" he lied. He knew he was going to die, but the rest of the crew was even more helpless than he so why burden them with reality?

Three little orange dots appeared on the screen. Look at him -- blowing out decoys even though he knows we're out of maneuver -- that Kolnichok, grinned Dieter. So which one is you, Joey, and which are the aluminum balloons? (Seven dots grew on the screen, all had slightly different vectors.) Now you know my heater can take you in one flash and you also know that one zap is all I'm going to get. And if I take it you've got a perfect excuse to blow me up for the honor of the company rather than recapture valuable property for the accountants. So what's it going to be? I think you shot off too many balloons too early Joey -- cause the other ones aren't making the course correction you just did. Ain't that you, Joe?

Ulans squinted and tapped his foot.
Let's hope we have more sense. I wouldn't bet on it though.

Friday 28 July 2006

One Year of Zoe

It's been exactly 1 year today since I stopped pretending to be a guy. I've never worn male drag since.

GOD it was a relief.

Thursday 27 July 2006

My Secret Weapon

From the UPI :
A team of U.S. and German researchers finds that flavanol-rich cocoa has circulatory health benefits including brain and cardiovascular blood-flow improvement.

Two independent studies, one in a healthy elderly population and another in young healthy women, demonstrate that the consumption of flavanol-rich cocoa can increase blood flow to the brain, according to the Journal of Cardiovascular Pharmacology, in a supplement that focuses on the potential health benefits of flavanol-rich cocoa.

The scientists found that the regular consumption of flavanol-rich cocoa resulted in a significant increase in blood flow in hypercholesterolemic postmenopausal women, suggesting that this cocoa may improve vascular function in this population with higher cardiovascular risk.

In addition, researchers coupled studies of platelet function in humans with in vitro studies with highly purified flavanols from cocoa. The results of these studies support that cocoa flavanols may have beneficial effects on platelets and that certain flavanols and flavanol-rich cocoa itself may also reduce the cascade of events that can lead to vascular damage.
I confess I used Chocolate Therapy to help me when I got the answer about my passport. Belgian Chocolate Sea Shells to be exact.

One of the more interesting effects of the hormonal change has been my reaction to Chocolate. Before, yes, it was nice, but that's all. Now.... OMG!!!

Wednesday 26 July 2006

The Passport War : Return Salvo #1

The first of many Return Salvoes. This one aimed at the Minister.
The Hon. Alexander Downer, MP

Passport Application submitted June 2005

Dear Mr Downer,

I have just been informed via phone that the Australian Passport Office has refused my application for an Australian Passport.

In a nutshell, the problem appears to be the gender on the application - female.

I have provided the APO with the following, all originals delivered by myself direct to the APO Office in the R.G.Casey building in Canberra:

Citizenship certificate in my former name
Name Change Document (showing a male gender as that was on my unchangeable UK Birth certificate) showing both former and current names
Medicare Card in the name of Zoe Brain
Drivers License in the name of Zoe Brain
Photo Student ID in the name of Zoe Brain
Last year's tax return in the name of Zoe Brain
Medical letter stating Zoe Brain is undergoing hormone therapy
Letter from the Federal Attorney-General about my marital status to Ms Zoe Brain
Letter from my former place of work confirming my odd medical condition, and the radical changes that happened before any therapy commenced.
Bank statements in the name of Zoe Brain
Credit card Statement in the name of Zoe Brain
Letter of Offer for my PhD in the name of Zoe Brain
Expired Australian Passport showing a male gender and former name
Current UK passport showing a female gender in the name of Zoe Brain

Plus of course the passport application via Australia Post, deemed to be in order at a passport interview, with signed photograph and referee's declaration.

I have been informed that this data was still not sufficient to establish my Identity to your (that is, your Department's) satisfaction. The application had been submitted to "Policy" and that was their determination.

I will soon be submitting a letter from my PhD supervisor at the Australian National University pointing out the necessity of Overseas Travel for me to complete my studies.

I am currently awaiting documentary proof by Medicare Australia that I am considered medically female, and that I have been authorised treatment for the condition "Moderate to Severe Androgenisation of a non-pregnant female". This will also be submitted.

My condition has arisen as the result of a medical syndrome, and is not the result of surgery. In the words of one of the medical team treating me, I am "endocrinally odd".

In view of the determination by Medicare Australia that I am female - or at least, more female than male - and in view of the recently issued UK passport stating my female gender, and bearing in mind Section 30 of the Australian Passports Act 2005, to wit:

Giving false or misleading information in relation to Australian travel document applications

(1) A person commits an offence if:
(a) the person gives information to another person; and
(b) the information:
(i) is false or misleading; or
(ii) omits any matter or thing without which the information is misleading; and
(c) the information is given in, or in connection with, an application for an Australian travel document.

Penalty: Imprisonment for 10 years or 1,000 penalty units, or both.

Then I am unable to apply stating a different gender. Moreover, my travel will involve journeys to the US. Given my somatically female appearance, to attempt to enter the US on an Australian Passport with anything other than a Female gender would invite very unpleasant consequences. If I attempted to enter on my UK passport, they would have to ask for proof of authorisation to return to Australia, and I'd have to show my Australian passport, with the same dire result.

Returning to Australia with a passport marked with anything other than a female gender, while the most superficial check of my Medicare card would show a female gender, may also invite problems.

In view of these facts, I request that you personally intervene, and state that you are satisfied as to my Identity and Citizenship in accordance with my passport application.

Barring that, please send me a letter to the effect that although you are satisfied at to my Identity and Citizenship, it is not feasible for me to obtain an Australian Passport through normal means due to unresolvable questions regarding my gender. This would allow me to apply for an Australian Declaratory Visa from the Department of Immigration and Multicultural Affairs.

Mr Downer, I have to travel overseas in November for specialist medical treatment unavailable in this country. Treatment I require to avoid a very real risk of cancer. As it is, I will be unable to return here to my home, and to my 5 year old son.

If the data I have already alluded to is not enough to establish to your satisfaction my Identity and Citizenship, then it is no exaggeration, and no hyperbole, to say that I am condemned to exile. And it's all the data I can provide.

Yours Sincerely,
Zoe Ellen Brain

Still to come: appeals to the Commonwealth Ombudsman, my local member, members of the ACT legislative assembly, I've given up on the Human Rights Commission but might hit them anyway (again), a senator who's a friend of the lawyer I'm getting advice from through the Postgrad Students Association. If I can get the APO to give me something in writing, an appeal to the Administrative Appeals Tribunal.

I've already registered as an Australian Citizen through the Australian Embassy in Thailand, so may get some consular help through back doors. I'll be sending them an e-mail too. Even if I get no joy from the APO, I'll try to pursuade the Department of Immigration and Multicultural Affairs to give me an Australian Declaratory Visa anyway. An e-mail to QANTAS about how to get "permission to board".

More countermeasures as I think of them. Having free legal services through the Postgraduate Students Association is a huge advantage too, it opens up all sorts of possibilities.

I recently had cause to review the hard data on Transsexual suicide. All sorts of figures have been bruted about. It's almost an article of faith that 50% commit suicide, and the figures in the 70's were undoubtedly higher than that. It's not that bad today though.

From King County Health
Both suicide attempts and completed suicides are common in transgendered persons. Studies generally report a pre-transition suicide attempt rate of 20% or more, with MTFs relatively more likely to attempt suicide than FTMs. There is some evidence that transsexual people are less likely to attempt suicide once they have completed the transition to the other sex.

Another form of self-harm in transgendered persons is genital mutilation. This is most common among transsexuals, although cross-dressers have done this as well. A 1984 study of a cohort of transgendered individuals who applied for services at gender identity clinics reported genital mutilation by 9% of the biologic males and breast mutilation was attempted by 2% of the biologic females.

From Google Answers:
5% of female-to-male transsexuals and 21% of male to female transsexuals have made a suicide attempt.
-- Source: The Great Divide (How Females & Males Really Differ) by Daniel Evan Weiss, drawn from data originally appearing in Archives of Sexual Behavior, December 1988 issue.

From Wikipedia :
Dutch researcher Peggy Cohen-Kettenis estimates that 40% of untreated transsexual people are either institutionalized or die prematurely.

From HIV Services Planning Council, Spring 2006 :
The medical terminology for transsexualism is Gender Identity Dysphoria, (GID).
As a group, people with GID have depression, low self esteem, high rates of un-employment or under employment, and a 30 to 50 percent suicide rate, one of the worst of any population subgroup in California.

Finally, one of the few pieces of hard data : the Official report Researching Lesbian Gay Bisexual and Transgender Issues in Northern Ireland :
The study carried out by Youthnet (Carolan and Redmond, 2003), commissioned by the Department of Education, involved a questionnaire survey and focus groups for young people.
A significant minority (29%) of young people who took part in the research had attempted suicide, and half of those who identified as transgendered had self-harmed.

More hard data : Medical Therapy and Health Maintenance for Transgender Men: A Guide For Health Care Providers:
Untreated transsexual patients have suicide rates as high as 20% while treated transmen have suicide rates of less than 1%.89,90 Interestingly, while in the general population, cisgender females attempt suicide more than twice as frequently as cisgender males, studies of transsexual patients show a higher number of suicide attempts in transgender females rather than transmen.91 It appears that in this psychological variable, transsexual women more closely resemble cisgender women and transsexual men more closely resemble cisgender men.

89 Lundstrom B, et al. “Outcome of sex reassignment surgery.” Acta Psychiat. Scandinavia. 70:289-294. 1984.
90 Kuiper, M and Cohen-Kettenis, P. “Sex reassignment surgery: A study of 141 Dutch transsexuals.” Archives of Sexual Behavior. 17(5):439-457. 1988.
91. Lundstrom, B, et al. “Outcome of sex reassignment surgery.” Acta Psychiat. Scandinavia. 70:289-294. 1984.

Basically the figures for Transsexual suicide rates are as rubbery as they are for the prevelance of Transsexuality generally. But no matter which set of figures you believe, they're pretty darned high. It's a deadly condition.

The thing though is..... if you've survived Transsexuality into your 40's without getting yourself killed, no mere bureaucratic persecution is going to phase you overmuch. Transsexuality may give you more determination, or it it may just be Evolution in Action : the old Nietzche bit, "what does not kill us makes us stronger". At Uni, I've been told that it's amazing how calmly and cooly I'm going about remedying this little problem of mine. I have to tell them that this stuff is nothing compared to living with Transsexuality every day. And it's true. It gives you a sense of perspective.

OK, tears, upset, anger. That's still there. But not enough to deter me from thinking about practical steps to remedy the situation. It's not even a "don't get mad, get even", just a calm, rational attempt at remedying a silly and intolerable situation, knowing that the odds are good, but being prepared for failure anyway.

Maybe we're a bit too calm and rational for our own good. Historically, Intersexed and Transsexed people have tried not to stand out, because standing out is dangerous. Maybe we should make a fuss. But if we did, would anyone care? We're just too embarressing.

Or maybe this is just good therapy, while I'm actually doing something practical to help, I don't worry quite so much.

Whatever. My brain works far better on this hormonal mix anyway, and if there's a way through this mess, I'll find it. You know what really helps though? The support I've had on various lists, in comments on this blog, and even blog articles such as this.

Thanks, everyone.

Three's Company

Three Bloggers that is. On Saturday, I had a very civilised and heartwarming (and only mildly alcoholic) lunch with two friends of mine, Matt and Morgan.

I can recommend the Tak Kee Roast Inn very highly. OK, the decor is typical authentic Chinese Restaurant, as found in Hong Kong, Singapore, Canton and elsewhere. Which is to say, spartan, clean and undecorated. As Morgan said :
A guy at the Kamberra wine-tasting centre described it as the school cafeteria that you’d been trying to put out of your mind.
Well, yes, that too. But the food was excellent and utterly authentic. I had the Roast Pork with Noodles, rather than my regular specialty, the Jellyfish and Pork Trotter. The others had various Laksas.

Happy memories, which I will use to wash out the taste of my recent distressing experiences with the APO. I might add that the case manager at the APO treated me with consideration, it's not his fault. It's Policy.

But I better not think about that too much, I have a 5 year old boy to parent, a PhD to do, an involuntary gender change to complete, and can't afford to break down in tears. Overmuch, anyway.

You know what? Compared to most attempting transition, I'm having it easy. Those who are Intersexed or Transsexed have to expect things like this. This and far, far worse.

Sometimes having a reasonably developed sense of proportion is a pain. Can't even feel sorry for yourself for too long. It's just that I'm not used to being a 3rd class citizen, my expectations are too high at the moment, that's all. I'll get used to it in time, and "getting used to it" doesn't mean passively accepting it without demur or complaint. It means not sitting around saying "poor little me", it means trying to help those even worse off, quietly working for correction of injustice, and living as rich and full a life as I can under somewhat trying circumstances.

Compared to the previous 47 years, it's a breeze. Trust me on that.

Tuesday 25 July 2006

A Bit Upset

I've just been contacted by phone by the Australian Passport Office to say that my application for an Australian Passport has been refused.

It was referred to the Policy Section, and the answer came down almost immediately.

I haven't provided sufficient documentation to prove my Identity and Citizenship.

I have provided them with the following:

Citizenship certificate in my former name
Name Change Document (showing a male gender as that was on my unchangeable UK Birth certificate) showing both former and current names
Medicare Card in the name of Zoe Brain
Drivers License in the name of Zoe Brain
Photo Student ID in the name of Zoe Brain
Last year's tax return in the name of Zoe Brain
Medical letter stating Zoe Brain is undergoing hormone therapy
Letter from the Federal Attorney-General about my marital status to Ms Zoe Brain
Letter from my former place of work confirming my odd medical condition, and the radical changes that happened before any therapy commenced.
Bank statements in the name of Zoe Brain
Credit card Statement in the name of Zoe Brain
Letter of Offer for my PhD in the name of Zoe Brain
Expired Australian Passport showing a male gender and former name
Current UK passport showing a female gender in the name of Zoe Brain

I mean, what the heck? How many hundred points of Identification data is this?

It's still not enough. I've also been asked to submit not one but two letters from registered medical practioners detailing the results of gynacological examinations, showing exactly what surgery I've had. None, as yet.

When I do have the surgery, it won't be a normal sex change, as I'm Intersexed, so it's unlikely in the extreme to meet their requirements.

The application is being held open, as I still have to get some documentation from Medicare Australia, proving my verbal statements. Documentation stating that I'm medically female, and have been specially authorised treatment under the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme for "moderate to severe androgenisation of a non-pregnant female" - something that can only be done on application by a specialist endocrinologist. It will then go up to Policy (ie the Minister) again. I have little hope of success. They already know this data, all this is is confirmatory evidence.

This is ridiculous. I've given them more than the website requires, far more. Yet it's never enough. All thoughts of common sense or rationality have gone overboard.

Quite seriously, common sense would dictate that if I have a Female UK passport, issued by the country I was born in, then on strictly "convenience" grounds I should have the same gender in an Australian passport.

The Australian Passports Act 2005 authorises the APO to determine my citizenship, and my identity. That's all. Not what I had for breakfast, not what surgery I have had, and not the exact configuration of my genitalia. How dare they question the health authorities decision? None of them pretend to any medical qualification.

Oh well. I'll have to send some pictures of my non-standard genitalia to the surgeon anyway, to let him know what he's up against. I might CC them to the APO. If they insist on an obscenely pornographic invasion of privacy, maybe I should give it to them.

Hey, I've already been about as humiliated as it's possible to be, having had to provide verbally intimate details of the most personal and private nature just to get this far. It's not hyperbole, nor exaggeration to say this is Bureaucratic Rape.

Sorry, I'm upset. Angry, hurt, but also determined too. Sorry, tears on the keyboard, more later when I'm a bit more myself.

Monday 24 July 2006

If it looks like a Nazi...

Heils like a Nazi, Goose-steps like a Nazi, and hates Jews like a Nazi...

Left : Hezbullah rally at Israeli border, 14 December 2001.
Right : NSDAP Rally, about 65 years earlier

Sunday 23 July 2006

Proprietary Interest

This is His Majesty's Thai Ship Pattani, an OPV (Offshore Patrol Vessel) of the Royal Thai Navy. She and her sister-ship Narratiwat, delivered in March this year, are the latest vessels to join the RTN.

I had a small hand in designing her computer combat system.

Although that work was over 10 years ago, it's impossible not to keep track of how things are turning out. I spent many an hour not just in the technical architecture, but giving detailed technical briefings to various RTN representatives, from Admiral on down.

God Bless Her, and all who sail on her.

Saturday 22 July 2006

Waxing Poetic

From an e-mail list I subscribe to. One which gives tips on personal appearance and such.


All hair removal methods have tricked women with their promises of easy, painless removal - The Epilady, scissors, razors, Nair and now...the wax.

My night began as any other normal weeknight. Come home, fix dinner, play with the kids. I then had the thought that would ring painfully in my mind for the next few hours: “Maybe I should pull the waxing kit out of the medicine cabinet.” So I headed to the site of my demise: the bathroom.

It was one of those “cold wax” kits. No melting a clump of hot wax, you just rub the strips together in your hand, they get warm and you peel them apart and press them to your leg (or wherever else) and you pull the hair right off. No muss, no fuss. How hard can it be? I mean, I’m not a genius, but I am mechanically inclined enough to figure this out. (YA THINK!!)

So I pull one of the thin strips out. Its two strips facing each other stuck together. Instead of rubbing them together, my genius kicks in so I get out the hair dryer and heat it to 1000 degrees. (“Cold wax,” yeah...right)!

I lay the strip across my thigh. Hold the skin around it tight and pull. It works! OK, so it wasn’t the best feeling, but it wasn’t too bad. I can do this! Hair removal no longer eludes me! I am She-rah, fighter of All wayward body hair and maker of smooth skin extraordinaire.

With my next wax strip I move north. After checking on the kids, I sneak back into the bathroom, for the ultimate hair fighting championship. I drop my panties and place one foot on the toilet. Using the same procedure, I apply the was strip across the right side of my bikini line, covering the right half of my vagina and stretching down to the inside of my butt cheek (Yes, it was a long strip) I inhale deeply and brace myself....RRRRIIIPPP!!!!

I’m blind!!! Blinded from pain!!!!....OH MY GOD!!!!!!!!!

Vision returning , I notice that I’ve only managed to pull off half the strip. CRAP!!! Another deep breath and RRIIPP!! Everything is swirly and spotted. I think I may pass out...must stay conscious... Do I hear crashing drums??? Breathe, breathe...OK, back to normal.

I want to see my trophy—a wax covered strip, the one that has caused me so much pain, with my hairy pelt sticking to it. I want to revel in the glory that is my triumph over body hair. I hold up the strip! There’s no hair on it. Where is the hair??? WHERE IS THE WAX???

Slowly I ease my head down, foot still perched on the toilet. I see the hair. The hair that should be on the strip. I touch. I am touching wax. CRAP! I run my fingers over the most sensitive part of my body, which is now covered in cold wax and matted hair.

Then I make the next BIG mistake... remember my foot is still propped up on the toilet? I know I need to do some thing. So I put my foot down.
NO!!!!!!!! I hear the slamming of a cell door. Vagina? Sealed shut!....
Butt?? ..Sealed shut!

I penguin walk around the bathroom trying to figure out what to do and think to myself “Please don’t let me get the urge to poop. My head may pop off!”
What can I do to melt the wax? Hot water!! Hot water melts wax!! I’ll
run the hottest water I can stand into the bathtub, get in, immerse the
wax-covered bits and the wax should melt and I can gently wipe it
off, right??? **WRONG!!!!!!!**

I get in the tub—the water is slightly hotter than that used to torture prisoners of war or sterilize surgical equipment - I sit. Now, the only thing worse than having your nether regions glued together, is having them glued together and then glued to the bottom of the tub... In scalding hot water. Which, by the way, doesn’t melt cold wax.

So, now I’m stuck to the bottom of the tub as though I had cement-epoxied
myself to the porcelain!! God bless the man who had convinced me a few
months ago to have a phone put in the bathroom!!!!! I call my friend,
thinking surely she has waxed before and has some secret of how to get me
undone. It’s a very good conversation starter - - - -
“So, my butt and who-ha are glued together to the bottom of the tub!”

There is a slight pause. She doesn’t know any secret tricks for removal but she does try to hide her laughter from me.

She wants to know exactly where the wax is located, “Are we talking cheeks or hole or who-ha?” She’s laughing out loud by now...I can hear her.
I give her the rundown and she suggests I call the number on the side of the box. YEAH!!!!! Right!! I should be the joke of someone else’s night.
While we go through various solutions. I resort to scraping the wax off with a razor. Nothing feels better than to have your girlie goodies covered in hot wax, glued shut, stuck to the tub in super hot water and then dry-shaving the sticky wax off!!

By now the brain is not working, dignity has taken a major hike and I’m pretty sure I’m going to need Post-Traumatic Stress counseling for this event. My friend is still talking with me when I finally see my saving grace.... the lotion they give you to remove the excess wax. What do I really have to lose at this point? I rub some on and OH MY GOD!!!!!!!

The scream probably woke the kids and scared the dickens out of my friend. It’s sooo painful, but I really don’t care. “IT WORKS!! It works!!” I get a hearty congratulation from my friend and she hangs up. I successfully remove the remainder of the wax and then notice to my grief and despair....
THE HAIR IS STILL THERE.......ALL OF IT!!!!!!!!!!!!!!.

So I recklessly shave it off. Heck, I’m numb by now. Nothing hurts. I could have amputated my own leg at this point.

Next week I’m going to try hair color....

Thursday 20 July 2006

Mad Scientists of the ANU

That's me in my lair at the Australian National University, with my PhD supervisory panel in the background.

15 months ago, I had the same general appearance as Shayne, the guy in the red shirt. But I had more hair.

The ANU expects its professors and senior lecturers to look the part, as you can see.

An Ad that tickled my Funnybone

Transition is difficult, with few opportunities for some good, clean, healthy fun.

This Ad (in Quicktime) though shows one of them. Although at my 30th High School Reunion I didn't get quite such an appalled reaction, there were plenty who were equally surprised.

The Brain Box

When I was a girl boy child, that was a common nickname - and nothing friendly about it.

Still, I can't think of a more appropriate name for this collection of equipment put together by the University of Manchester :
Scientists at The University of Manchester are to build a new type of computer which mimics the complex interactions within the human brain.

The aim is to build a computer which mimics how nerve cells in the brain interact in a bid to engineer more 'fault tolerant' electronics.

The computer will be the first of its kind and will be used to try and understand how, for example, the details of complex visual scenes are encoded by the brain.

Professor Steve Furber, of The School of Computer Science, will lead the £1m project funded by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council. The work will be carried out in collaboration with the School of Electronics and Computer Science at the University of Southampton, using technology supplied by industrial partners ARM Ltd and Silistix Ltd.

Professor Furber said: "Our brains keep working despite frequent failures of their component neurons, and this 'fault-tolerant' characteristic is of great interest to engineers who wish to make computers more reliable.

"Our aim is to use the computer to understand better how the brain works at the level of spike patterns, and to see if biology can help us see how to build computer systems that continue functioning despite component failures."

The computer will be designed with the aim of modelling large numbers of neurons in real time and to track patterns of neural spikes as they occur in the brain.

It will be built using large numbers of simple microprocessors designed to interact like the networks of neurons found in the brain. The aim will be to place dozens of microprocessors on single silicon chip reducing the cost and power consumption of the computer.

The difficulty in all such massively-parallel systems is the connectivity, and it's the connectivity that's being studied here.

Of course, to make it more like a biological system, they'd have to be Field Programmable Gate Arrays (programmable hardware) responsive to broadcast messages which would mimic the effects of hormones and cahnge their behaviour accordingly... it gets really complicated.

Wednesday 19 July 2006


The pictorial version.

Tuesday 18 July 2006

False Advertising is not what you might think. Though it's probably more useful to most of my readers that way.

This (with a small typo) and many others at The top 10 unintentionally worst company URLs.

A curtsey of thanks to reader Scott MacGibbon, who put me on to the Digg site where this was mentioned.

Monday 17 July 2006

Welcome to Visitors from Normblog

Over at Norm's place, he's just published a short-short story of mine.

When I put it for review at one support site, the initial reaction was "too bleak". Then we went through the numbers : 20%, with a possible 30% of successful transition. The reality is only 10% manage it. 20% recorded as suicide : the reality is 31% from the latest data I have. Of younger transsexuals who have been thrown out of home, one in 8 die of violence or suicide, according to one source. Certainly transsexuals as a whole in the USA are murder victims at 17 times the normal rate, over 5 times that of the next highest, that of young Black males (3 times the normal).

The story is actually far more optimistic than the reality.

As for the people in the story? The names and a few minor details were changed to protect the innocent. The figure for DES and Gender Dysphoria is correct, as I've blogged about before.

Here's a quote from a support site, just a few hours old.
Sunday was a very depressing but understandable day. On the way home from church J....... said we need to talk about our relationship.
The heartbreaker was when J..... said our marriage as husband and wife was over and she needed to get to the next level. She then told me she was going to take off her wedding rings.
I just cried.
After I got my emotions under control, I agreed with J.....
I asked her if I could be the one that took off her wedding rings.
She said that would be nice.
My feelings was that I was the one that put her wedding rings on in the first place and at this time, I thought the best thing I could do is to take her hand and ease the rings off.
It was sad.
I cried again and then we hugged each other.

She's not the only one who cried, after reading that. I'm in a similar situation - married, but we're no longer husband and wife. I wouldn't pass the physical.

Ah, Gender Dysphoria. The Gift that keeps on giving. To the victims, to their spouses, to their children...

If it wasn't for the massive sense of relief (I can't describe it) that the victims get when they give up trying to act in a role they are neurologically unsuited for, and just be themselves, then it would be extremely depressing.

As it is, it just makes people like me, those whose transitions have been relatively easy (so far...), more determined than ever to do what we can to help others. Any way we can. Blog entries, short stories, whatever it takes.

Saturday 15 July 2006

Hi Tech War

If initial reports are correct, then Iran is effectively at war with Israel.

The Israeli vessel that was hit was no patrol boat. It was a Saar 5 corvette, one of the latest and largest vessels in the Israeli Defence Force, and a ship with a very high degree of Stealth technology built into it.

For its size, the Sa'ar 5 Corvette design claims the lowest acoustic, infrared and radar signature.

It wasn't hugging the shore either. It was a full 10 km off the coast. The Egyptian merchant vessel that was hit by another missile launched at the same time was 60 km off the coast.

As for the missile that hit it - few such have a range of 60km. This appears not to have been an old HY-2 "Silkworm" or derivative, but the far more deadly and effective C-802 "Saccade", derived from the C-801 a 20% overscale copy of the MM-40 "Exocet".

The French supplied the Chinese with the drawings for the MM-40 some time ago, knowing the Chinese didn't have the capability for making such fine precision machinery. Close, but not quite.

So the Chinese built one 20% larger, with 20% greater tolerances, something they could do - to French chagrin. That was the C-801. They then built a far more capable version, powered by a small turbojet rather than a rocket, with a greater range, well over the 45 km of the C-801

The Chinese are known to have sold this technology to Iran. And it's not simple, to keep a missile system like this running requires a highly trained crew, spares, a large infrastructure. Unlike the "Katyusha" rockets, this is no "aim in approximate direction of enemy, light blue touch paper and retire immediately" weapon, it requires highly sophisticated fire controls and radars. It's also something not easily put in the back of a pick-up truck, it needs specialised vehicles.

In the 1983 Falkland war, the British found MM-38 Exocets launched from land very difficult targets to pick out of the land clutter background. It was on June 12th 1983 that HMS Glamorgan was hit by an MM-38 Exocet, aft in the Hanger Bay. The usual tactic is to turn away from a missile that's detected, but insufficiently localised to fire at it, and rely on jamming.

A similar thing may have happened to the Israeli vessel. One missile was jammed and went seeking other victims, the other hit the hanger bay aft.

The point is - this was not a misile from Hizbulla. This was a weapon from Iran.

Friday 14 July 2006

The situation in Lebanon

Is summed up by Israellycool, who's liveblogging the situation as it develops :
1:50PM: We're about to get medieval on Hizbullah.
The Lebanese Government and armed forces have proved themselves unwilling, or more likely incapable, of challenging Hizbullah's hold on South Lebanon.

Hizbullah's Iranian-supplied Frog-7 unguided rockets (called Zelzal-2) now have the capability of striking anywhere in Israel: and they have the will to use them, regardless of any diplomatic position or process. It is unconfirmed whether they're under the direction of Iranian "military advisors" or actual Iranian Revolutionary Guards, known to be in the area.
In October 2002 it was reported that Iranian Zelzal-2 short-range ballistic missiles had been delivered to Iranian Revolutionary Guard units in the Beka'a Valley in Lebanon. Israelis sources frequently claim that long-range rockets have been transferred to Lebanon, including 240mm versions of the standard 122mm 'Katyusha' rocket, and Iranian Fajr-3 and Fajr-5 rockets. Hizbullah typically refuses to confirm or deny such reports. However, in late October 2002 Sheikh Mohammed Yazbek, a senior Hizbullah official, hinted at the group's reach, saying that "all sensitive areas of the Zionist entity are within the range of our fire... wherever they exist".

We know from the attack on Haifa that 240mm rockets have definitely been supplied to Hizbullah.

From Middle East Intelligence Bulletin, Nov-Dec 2002 :
There have been conflicting reports as to whether the rockets are under the control of Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) or Syrian commanders. Following the September 11 attacks, Iran's Supreme National Security Council reportedly ordered the withdrawal of an unspecified number of IRGC personnel from Lebanon.10 In November, the Lebanese daily L'Orient Le-Jour quoted "well-informed sources" as saying that about 100 "Iranian experts who assist Hezbollah" had departed the country.11 There is no evidence that all IRGC personnel (or even most) were withdrawn, however, and there have been unconfirmed reports that some have returned. Most probably there is some form of joint Syrian-Iranian supervision over the long-range rockets.

No state can continue to exist when under random bombardment by an enemy that sits in an impregnable position. Impregnable not due to military considerations, but out of diplomatic ones.

The Zeizal-2's 600kg payload is quite adequate to carry a biological, chemical, or nuclear payload. If the latter were used from a site in Lebanon, Israel's retaliatory options would be limited. Who to hit - Syria or Iran?

The Jerusalem Post is now reporting that 700 Rockets and Mortar Rounds have been fired into Northern Israel so far. This is no sporadic, irregular terrorist attack, it is a major bombardment from a military force that cannot be ignored.

It's a showdown between Hizbullah or Israel. My bet's on the latter.

Wednesday 12 July 2006

The Best Argument Against Space Travel

It's over at The Space Review. And I do mean "it's over".
It would be difficult to argue that diverse and complex life, including humans, on a planet that is either sterile or inhabited by microbes would be a bad thing.

But the Voluntary Human Extinction Movement has a go anyway.

At least they're honest.

So many of the Religious Green Movement and Animal Liberationists appear to operate from a basis of self-loathing for humanity, rather than out of concern for the Environment or other living creatures. Many are not so much Pro-Environment or Pro-Animal as Anti-Human.

Meanwhile I would gladly see the extinction of the particular strain of virus that is making me feel awful, bitter and bitchy. My own immune system is doing it's bit towards that end anyway. Looking at it that way makes me feel better.

Tuesday 11 July 2006

Sex Runs Deeper Than We Thought

This one courtesy of reader Christine, to whom many thanks.

From NineMSN :
Thousands of genes behave differently in the same organs of males and females, researchers reported, a finding that may help explain why men and women have different responses to drugs and diseases.

Their study of brain, liver, fat and muscle tissue from mice showed that gene expression - the level of activity of a gene - varied greatly according to sex.

The same is almost certainly true of humans, the team at the University of California Los Angeles reported.
The smallest differences were in brain tissue, they found.

"We saw striking and measurable differences in more than half of the genes' expression patterns between males and females," said Dr Thomas Drake, a professor of pathology. "We didn't expect that. No one has previously demonstrated this genetic gender gap at such high levels."

Xia Yang, a postdoctoral fellow in cardiology who led the study, said the implications are important.

"Males and females share the same genetic code, but our findings imply that gender regulates how quickly the body can convert DNA to proteins," Yang said in a statement. "This suggests that gender influences how disease develops."

How does this apply to my case? I have absolutely no idea, sorry.
And I have the flu, so <insert pithy and insightful comment here> because I'm not quite up to that at the moment.

Monday 10 July 2006

The Case of the Disappearing Teaspoons

longitudinal cohort study of the displacement of teaspoons in an Australian research institute


Objectives To determine the overall rate of loss of workplace teaspoons and whether attrition and displacement are correlated with the relative value of the teaspoons or type of tearoom.

Design Longitudinal cohort study.

Setting Research institute employing about 140 people.

Subjects 70 discreetly numbered teaspoons placed in tearooms around the institute and observed weekly over five months.

Main outcome measures Incidence of teaspoon loss per 100 teaspoon years and teaspoon half life.

Results 56 (80%) of the 70 teaspoons disappeared during the study. The half life of the teaspoons was 81 days. The half life of teaspoons in communal tearooms (42 days) was significantly shorter than for those in rooms associated with particular research groups (77 days). The rate of loss was not influenced by the teaspoons' value. The incidence of teaspoon loss over the period of observation was 360.62 per 100 teaspoon years. At this rate, an estimated 250 teaspoons would need to be purchased annually to maintain a practical institute-wide population of 70 teaspoons.

Conclusions The loss of workplace teaspoons was rapid, showing that their availability, and hence office culture in general, is constantly threatened.
Read the whole thing.

Friday 7 July 2006

Skirting the Issue

It is exactly one year ago today that I first wore an article of female clothing.

Thursday 6 July 2006

North Korean Missile Tests Wrapup

From Fox News a few hours ago :
North Korea has between three and five missiles on launch pads ready for firing, but none of them are the long-range intercontinental type, FOX News has confirmed.

All of the missiles are believed to be short- to medium-range and are of no threat to the United States, but could reach U.S. allies like Japan.
On Wednesday, North Korea test-fired seven missiles, triggering international condemnation. The missiles apparently fell into the sea without causing damage or injuries.

Map from Daniel W. Drezner

And from Space Daily :
The US missile defense system was put to its first real test Tuesday and Wednesday with North Korea's launch of a long-range missile and a half dozen shorter range missiles.

US Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld said he was on and off the phone with top US commanders almost continuously for days before the missile tests.

"I received the notification of the launch of these missiles probably within of a minute of when they occurred," he told reporters before a meeting with Georgian President Mikhail Saakashvili.

Pentagon officials were circumspect, though, about how the multi-billion dollar missile defense system performed.

"What I will tell you is that each and every launch was detected and monitored, and that interceptors were operational during the missile launches that took place," said Pentagon spokesman Bryan Whitman.

"The commander of NORAD (the North American Air Defense Command) was able to determine rather quickly that the missiles didn't pose a threat to the United States or its territories," he said.

The North Korean Taepodong-2 was a dud, failing within 40 seconds of lifting off from a launch pad in eastern Korea, so no US interceptor missiles were fired, according to defense officials.

The other six medium- and short-range missiles landed in the Sea of Japan.

"The Taepodong-2 is estimated to have the range that could conceivably reach the United States and the fact that it failed is fact, but it does not change the nature of the launch," Rumsfeld said.

From Austin Bay at TCS Daily :
The six North Korean missiles on Tuesday are big news, but they aren't the strategic shocker. The shocker occurred in August 1998, when Pyongyang tested a long-range ballistic missile. That launch revitalized the United States-Japanese alliance and blew away any legitimate arguments that the United States could wait to develop and deploy ballistic missile defenses.

Pyongyang's 1998 test shot demonstrated that Japan and the United States -- and for that matter, Europe -- are vulnerable to rogue missile attack, and it's utterly false to argue otherwise. It meant U.S. diplomacy and the world economy are potential hostages to missile blackmail by regional tinpots.

Japan got North Korea's message. The Japanese also observed China's steady military modernization and concluded the logical, most impressive and most reliable "strategic balance" to China is the United States.

Japan and the United States began discussing a "joint ballistic missile defense shield" that would protect Japan, Alaska and Hawaii. Of course, such a system would also provide South Korea with a degree of protection, as well as the continental United States.

On June 23 of this year, the United States and Japan signed an agreement to jointly produce anti-missile missiles. The agreement formalized the existing (though often behind-the-scenes) cooperation on anti-ballistic missile (ABM) technology.

U.S. and Japanese military cooperation includes surveillance and tracking operations. A new early warning X-Band radar system is located at a Japanese Air Self-Defense Force base in Tsugaru, Aomori Prefecture. A U.S. spokesman said the radar would gather critical data on North Korean missile launches.

The United States will send several batteries of Patriot PAC-3 (Patriot Advanced Capability-3) anti-theater ballistic missiles to protect Okinawa. The PAC-3, unlike the Patriot PAC-2 of the 1991 Gulf War, is a true anti-missile missile. However, its range is limited and it is ineffective against long-range, high-speed intercontinental ballistic missiles. Still, the PAC-3 will add to a "layered" ABM defense that includes interceptor missiles on board U.S. Aegis cruisers and the handful of long-range ground-based interceptors located in Alaska and California. If the situation dictates, Okinawa-based Patriot batteries can quickly move to Japan and South Korea.

In May, the Honolulu Bulletin reported that the Aegis cruiser USS Lake Erie successfully intercepted a target missile using an improved U.S. Navy Standard-2 interceptor missile. The Lake Erie also test-fired an advanced Standard-3 anti-missile missile. Japan has destroyers with the Aegis radar system, which can detect and track ballistic missiles. The Japanese destroyers would operate as electronic eyes for a regional ABM system.

Wednesday 5 July 2006

Brain Re-wiring

From New Scientist :
A study of the "miraculous" recovery of a man who spent 19 years in a minimally conscious state has revealed the likely cause of his regained consciousness.

The findings suggest the human brain shows far greater potential for recovery and regeneration then ever suspected.
Within a few weeks he had stabilised in a minimally conscious state, which his doctors thought would last indefinitely. It did indeed persist for 19 years. Then, in 2003, he started to speak.

Over a three day period, Wallis regained the ability to move and communicate, and started getting to know his now 20 year old daughter – a difficult process considering he believed himself to be 19, and that Ronald Reagan was still president.

To try and find out what was going on inside Wallis's brain, Nicholas Schiff and colleagues from the Weill Medical College of Cornell University in New York City, used a new brain imaging technique called diffusion tensor imaging (DTI). The system tracks water molecules and so reveals the brain’s white matter tracts – akin to a wiring diagram. They combined this with more traditional PET scanning, to show which brain areas were active.

The team's findings suggest that Wallis’s brain had, very gradually, developed new pathways and completely novel anatomical structures to re-establish functional connections, compensating for the brain pathways lost in the accident.

They found that new axons – the branches that connect neurons together – seemed to have grown, establishing novel working brain circuits.

Surprisingly, the circuits look nothing like normal brain anatomy. A lot of the damage had been to axons that passed from one side of the brain to the other, torn by the force of the accident. But Schiff says that new connections seem to have grown across around the back of the brain, forming structures that do not exist in normal brains.

There were also significant changes between scans taken just two months after the recovery, and the most recent, at 18 months. Some of the new pathways had receded again, while others seem to have strengthened and taken over as Wallis continued to improve.

Krish Sathian, a neurologist and specialist in brain rehabilitation at Emory University School of Medicine in Atlanta, US, describes it as an amazing finding. “The bounds on the possible extent of neural plasticity just keep on shifting,” he says. “Classical teaching would not have predicted any of these changes.”

Did I ever blog about how much we don't know about this kind of thing? I have? Oh well, it's another data point.

Note though how long it took - 19 years. This is not so much a recovery as "learning how to become conscious", something newborns do in just a few years.

And in a related article :
A drug used to treat insomnia has paradoxically helped temporarily rouse three men who were each in a vegetative state following motor accidents, researchers claim. They believe that zolpidem (marketed as Ambien) activates dormant cells in the brain.
Before treatment with the drug, Patient L did not respond to any commands and showed no signs of language comprehension. According to Clauss, after taking his first, 10 milligram dose of zolpidem the patient could meaningfully interact with family, friends and strangers. He could name his favourite rugby player and make simple calculations.

The effects of the drug seemed to last for approximately 4 hours, after which Patient L would relapse into the vegetative state.

Patient N, who had been in a vegetative state for three years following a motor vehicle accident, showed no signs of language comprehension and was constantly screaming. With the drug he stopped screaming and appeared to react appropriately to scenes on television, laughing at funny moments.

Before taking zolpidem, Patient N scored 6 out of a possible 15 points on the Glasgow Coma Scale, a measure of responsiveness. With the medication, his score improved to 10. A coma score of 13 or higher correlates with mild brain injury while a score of 8 or less is generally considered severe brain injury.

The third man, Patient G, showed no response to language prior to drug treatment but could count to five after receiving the medication, the researchers write. His score on the Glasgow Coma Scale improved temporarily from 9 to 14 points.

All three patients have received daily doses of the drug since the study began.
Clauss and his colleagues have applied for a usage patent of zolpidem in brain damage. He says that drugs such as zolpidem, manufactured by Sanofi-Aventis, activate receptors for the neurotransmitter gamma aminobutyric acid (GABA) in the brain.

According to the researchers, brain injury may alter GABA receptors, causing regions of the brain to remain dormant. They speculate that zolpidem could possibly, temporarily, reverse this change.
Did I ever blog about how much we don't know about this kind of thing? I have? Must be short-term memory problems....

Sorry, I have to make jokes, otherwise instead of Patients L, N and G, they'd be people who have been terribly injured, and reliant on drugs to be able to add 2 and 2 - for up to 4 hours, anyway. And the loss of 19 years if Terry Wallis' life. The suffering of the families of these patients, never able to get closure.

Has anyone seen an Objectivity floating around somewhere? I appear to have temporarily lost mine.

Tuesday 4 July 2006

The Right Person to Ask

Well he should know, if anyone does. After all, he did head the KGB.

From the ABC :
More than 3,000 surfers voted on a question from Viktor, 29, on what Mr Putin thought about the re-awakening of the Cthulhu...

Monday 3 July 2006

Passport Issues

I can't say too much, things are still in progress. But I applied for an Australian passport over 4 weeks ago, along with all the Identification data required on their website and on their forms. In fact, I gave them more.

But it seems they have a teeny problem with it. The change of gender. It seems, and I must emphasise the word seems that they are unable to issue a passport with a different gender from one issued previously unless I provide evidence of having had surgery.

It also seems (and again I must emphasise that it's at an early stage) that they can't possible issue a passport with the old gender on, as, well, Medicare Australia can confirm that I'm not male, I'm female now. And I have a UK passport saying my gender is Female.

We'll see, but although I can legally exit the country any time I like, I can't get back in. Australian citizens have to travel back here using Australian Passports, they can't get visas for re-entry using foreign passports.

It's a worry. I need to do some international travel to attend conferences for my PhD. There's also a date in Thailand in November that I'm not going to miss, no matter what.

Saturday 1 July 2006

Memories Again

At the risk of being narcissistic... still it's my blog, and I don't think I overdo it.... this one's about my transition. Again.

One of the features of my experience is the recovery of significant and often painful memories, events long past. As I've said before, they weren't exactly "forgotten", just filed away somewhere and marked "unimportant... these are not the droids you're looking for..."

Most of them have been recovered now, well, so I fondly hope. It's never a comforting experience when one of them surfaces into my consciousness, but it's part of the healing process.

This one's from almost exactly 30 years ago.

The Australian Premiere at the newly-opened Sydney Hoyts Multiplex cinema of "Star Wars".

SF Fandom was there in force, including a gaggle of Trekettes. Now in those days (Oh Gosh I feel old saying that), before the Trek Movies, long before DS9 or TNG or Voyager or anything else, "Star Trek" meant "Star Trek : The Original Series". And the female uniforms were less than politically correct, straight out if the 60's in fact. Tunics with short-short skirts and black knee boots.

In one photo-op, I had a number - about half a dozen - of lithe, petite females in very revealing costumes using me as a perch, basically. One on each knee, one on each shoulder, and two others wherever they could drape themselves aluringly.

Why me? Because I was built like a quarterback, ridiculously broad shoulders, huge ribcage, strong... and because they knew they wouldn't be groped. I was an "honourary member" of the sisterhood, a "male auxiliary" if you like. Not gay, but I didn't "vibe" male, even then. Trustworthy. Harmless.

I'd just turned 18. And I wondered why I didn't feel any attraction. There I was, teenage guy, lots of very feminine flesh draped over me, and all I felt was.... jealousy. Envy. Wishing I was more than an "honourary member". Wishing I could have been one of them, with a body like theirs, though I doubt I would ever have had the Chutzpah to wear a uniform like that. Wondering why I felt that way, how come my instincts weren't normal? Glad that I got some "street cred" and envious looks from guys, it helped the act, gave me confidence that no-one would guess.

"Alan, you sly dog!"
"Hey, what can I say? Some guys have it, and some don't."

Validation as a male, something I wanted to be, tried so hard to be, something my body condemned me to be, yet no matter how I tried, I just didn't have the instincts for it.

At the time, I was more puzzled than anything. How come I felt so... comfortable amongst these girls. How come they thought like I did.

But now, from the viewpoint of 30 years later, that moment is unbearably poignant. If my recent metabolic storm had happened at age 12.... but even then, even at age 10, I was still broad-shouldered, big for my age. Too masculine. Femininity, so desperately desired and denied, was never in the cards, was never a realistic possibility.

Or so I thought.

No wonder that memory took 30 years to surface. Not just the facts, but the attendant feelings. Had it come earlier, I might not have been able to continue with the male act, and with no alternative, where would that have left me? A freak. A man-in-a-dress.

Now I'll never be able to wear one of those costumes. A woman nearly 50, and with a barrel ribcage? No, it's not on. But oh my, I'm not that far off.

The memory is terribly painful : but my situation is so wonderful now that I am left ruefully shaking my head at the whole absurdity of the situation.

In case my readers haven't guessed, having "Congenital Neurological Intersex", being Transsexual, really, really, really sucks. Doing something about it, no matter what the cost, is such an immense relief though.

I wonder where the other girls are now? And what would they think? Would it surprise them? Or would they just say "ah, that explains it". Food for thought. But they'd be 50 now, or nearly, and their days of wearing miniskirts and looking good in them are long gone. Who knows, I might even look better than they do now.

And that really would be Validation.