Friday, 25 April 2008

Today's Battle

Over at the Massachusetts Eagle Tribune, where a local legislator would prefer to see transsexual prisoners die, even if keeping them alive is a lot less expensive:
"I want to put into the law something that there is fairly widespread agreement on," Tarr said yesterday. "That this is a procedure that shouldn't be paid for, especially when the budget is tight and the Department of Corrections is strained to perform basic functions."

If passed, Tarr's bill would prohibit any use of public money to pay for "sex reassignment surgery" for anyone held at any of the state's jails or prisons.

The state couldn't pay for hormone replacement therapy for any person in jail or prison, unless a doctor approved the therapy for something other than a sex-change operation. And it couldn't pay for laser hair removal treatment.
The bill also is backed by Essex County Sheriff Frank Cousins.

"He doesn't feel that is an appropriate use of taxpayer dollars," said Paul Fleming, a spokesman.

There are no Essex County prisoners requesting a sex change, Fleming said.

Here's my reply - one expressing a minority opinion, alas.
I congratulate Senator Tarr and Sherrif Cousins for their courageous and principled stand, sticking to their guns despite all the medical and scientific evidence, and the greatly increased costs to Massachusetts taxpayers of this bill.

From the World Professional Association for Transgender Health:
"Sex Reassignment is Effective and Medically Indicated in Severe GID. In persons diagnosed with transsexualism or profound GID, sex reassignment surgery, along with hormone therapy and real life experience, is a treatment that has proven to be effective. Such a therapeutic regimen, when prescribed or recommended by qualified practitioners, is medically indicated and medically necessary. Sex reassignment is not "experimental," "investigational," "elective," "cosmetic," or optional in any meaningful sense. It constitutes very effective and appropriate treatment for transsexualism or profound GID."
From the only other state to have this kind of legislation, Wisconsin, which has now spent hundreds of thousands of dollars in legal costs as the result:
"Earlier, Kevin Kallas, a psychiatrist and mental health director for Wisconsin's prisons, testified he opposed the law banning hormones.

Besides in federal prisons, hormones are given in all of the Midwestern states surveyed by the Department of Corrections, he said. Kallas called hormones a "medically necessary" treatment in some, though not all, cases.

Kallas said patients who are taken off hormones typically need counseling, drugs and hospital stays instead, suicide treatments that are more expensive than the hormones, which cost $675 to $1,600 a year. Kallas said he did not know of any other medical treatment that the state Legislature has banned in prisons."
If this bill was not so immensely costly, their bravery in putting it forward would not have been recognised - although coming as it does with the full support of MassResistance, the Hate Group (You'll find them on the list just under the "Nation of Islam" and the "American National Socialist Workers' Party") that would have been brave enough.
See a previous post on the Wisconsin situation.

Now I'm sure that the well-organised GLB (and occasionally T when it's not inconvenient) Massachusetts human rights groups are all over this. Well, maybe not. The sound I hear here in Australia emanating from the Commonwealth of Massachusetts sounds more like crickets chirping.

And in other news, the great state of Tennessee proves yet again why it was the venue for the Scopes Monkey Trial. From the Nashville Scene:
A bill in the legislature that would have made it easier for sex-change recipients to get Tennessee driver’s licenses, passports and other documents died quietly last week thanks to a bizarre amendment by House Republican Leader Jason Mumpower.

Tennessee is the only state in nation with a law preventing sex-change recipients from retroactively revising the sex designation on their birth certificates to correspond with their new gender identity. The law makes it difficult for those who have undergone such surgical changes to get driver’s licenses and other documentation, because obtaining such critical documents invariably requires a birth certificate.

This year, a group of House Democrats sponsored legislation that would have dispensed with this piece of unnecessary moralizing, er, law. The Dems withdrew the bill after Mumpower attached an amendment that would have essentially created a new category of sex.

“A birth certificate can be amended with the designation MTF,” Mumpower tells the Scene, “designating male to female, or FTM designating female to male.”

Asked why Tennessee would need such specificity when no other state or the federal government requires it, Mumpower says, “I’m not a representative in any other state.”
What wit! I mean, it's not as if we're talking about Real People here, or the effective withdrawal of valid birth certificates from them. They don't matter, they're not real. Not to him, anyway.

Just apart from the transsexual issue, what about people who are Intersexed, and whose BC gender has since been found to be medically incorrect? Are these to be mislabelled in this way?

It's worth noting that Senator Tarr is a member of the House Ethics Committee, and also the Bristol TN/VA Rotary Club. The Rotarian 4-way test in ethics is as follows:
* Is it the truth?
* Is it fair to all concerned?
* Will it build good will and better friendships?
* Will it be beneficial to all concerned?
No more need be said.

The story is misleading in one way though. While it is true that Tennessee is alone in having a law expressly forbidding correcting the gender on birth certificates, both Idaho and Ohio don't allow it either, as a matter of policy or as the result of court decisions. Ignorance and Bigotry is not the province of Tennessee alone.


Anonymous said...

I live just 15 miles from the border with Massachusetts and I haven't any reports about this case. But of course Zoe Brain has! I will tell you the trans lobby, if you can call it that, is more interested in getting "gender identity" added to the states anti-discrimination laws. There was a big push at the state house for that about a month ago.

p.s. The paper in your originnal story is the "Lawrence Eagle Tribune".


Christine said...

Would this also apply to post-op prisoners that are hypogonadal?? And do they still reserve the right to file civil suit against the prison system if they develop osteoporosis or other conditions that develop as a result of being denied medication?

I would expect this kind of policy in Alabama, not Massachusetts. How disappointing.


Anonymous said...

I wonder if much of the problem is that people simply don't realize that these things can happen involuntarily, as happened to you? I wonder if such prejudice is driven at least partly by the belief that anyone who is transgendered has chosen to be so? (and therefore "have only themselves to blame" and sundry other cliches)

Perhaps a greater awareness of the complexities of the problem would help.

Zoe Brain said...

Dave, I can absolutely, positively, definitely guarantee that transition is never "chosen" in any meaningful sense of the word.

Unless you say that those jumping from burning buildings when the pain from their burning flesh gets too much do so quite voluntarily.

To extend the analogy, I was on a balcony that collapsed before the flames got too close, that's all.

As for myself, although my transition wasn't volitional, I didn't have to get complete genital reconstruction. I could have just had orchidectomy and urethral re-plumbing, a "barbie doll" surgery with no vagina constructed. It would have been simpler, safer, and cheaper.

But I wanted to look normal, and to feel normal, for the first time in my life. I wanted the possibility of something like a normal love life, even if it was likely I'd die a virgin. To that extent, I was selfish, and it was a choice, I could have lived without it if I had to. Much as a man who had been emasculated in an accident could live without surgical re-attachment. The desire for surgery would be comparable.

I can't be intellectually dishonest enough to say that it wasn't a choice for me, while it was for others. I'm good at self-deception, but not that good. The only real difference between myself and the standard model TS women was that I lacked their courage, and their desperation (pick any two).

As regards people not being aware of involuntary transitions like mine, I'm afraid that there are only four reactions.

The most common is to ignore my existence completely.

The second most common is to say that I'm in such a tiny minority that I have to endure persecution to ensure the sanctity of "traditional family values".

The third most common is to be accused of wanting to normalise the deviant and deformed, and being an "attention seeker".

And the last is that people like me should be euthenased, or at least banished from contact with the rest of humanity, without resources for survival, "for the greater good".

I take comfort from the fact that the last is not the most common reaction, but the rarest.

Of course, that's the reactions of the bigoted and prejudiced. Those who are merely ignorant tend to be sympathetic, or at least, uncomfortable with the situation. But they also tend to be somewhat sympathetic and uncomfortable when they believe that it is volitional anyway. They disapprove of something they see as dangerous and immoral, but they don't hate.

Anonymous said...

Fortunately, regardless of what legislation Massachusetts passes, as Wisconsin is already learning, the 8th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, which bans "cruel and unusual punishment, has been interpreted to require appropriate medical care for all persons in federal, state and local jails and prisons. Therefore, if a federal judge decides that the treatment is medically necessary, the state will be required to make it available and pay for it whether they like it or not.

Anonymous said...

Zoe, I apologise if I seemed to be quarantining some people from the wrath of bigots while leaving others to the wolves-- not my intention.

I simply thought that learning more about it, and the real issues involved, might force some people into a re-evaluation. Simplistic world-views often don't survive in the face of real-world facts.

Zoe Brain said...

Dave, no apology is neccessary!

Really. Look, there's plenty of real issues, I'm not going to concern myself with "political correctness", "treading on eggshells" etc.

Similarly, I hope you took my words in the spirit they were given, a clarification (not even a correction).

It's no big deal, no reasonable person could possibly have been offended or anything like that by what you said.

Simplistic world-views often do not survive in the face of real-world facts: but in some people, they can be surprisingly resilient. Especially if people have a lot invested in those simplistic world-views, and would be required to make large changes in their opinions if they were abandoned. We should recognise that, and not think too ill of some who are too scared to change initially. We just have to keep on plugging.

We should also recognise that Xenophobia is found in every human psyche, it has some evolutionary advantages (as does Xenophilia...)

Some just use excuses to justify hatred, not hate because of their excuse. Remove one excuse, they'll find another.

I find that in a minority, not exactly a tiny one, but really not that large. Large enough so that they're really good assets - for those who are on the fence see reason and kindness on one side, and irrationality and hate on the other, and that can tip the balance in their opinions.

If most people weren't basically good, and that includes most of those who oppose us, there wouldn't be any point in letting them know what the situation truly is, as they wouldn't care.