Saturday 27 June 2009

Aiding and Abetting Launched in July 2001, the Catholic Exchange website has distinguished itself as the premier Catholic portal on the Internet.... We currently receive thousands of visits each day.

From Catholic Exchange:
Legalizing Deception: Why “Gender Identity” Should Not be Added to Anti-discrimination Legislation

Persons who present themselves in public as the other sex say they need such protections because they are afraid of violence. This fear is real. When someone is deceived — particularly in such a personal matter has the sex of an intimate partner or potential spouse — anger is an understandable reaction. Violent acts can never be condoned, but if such legislation is passed those who have been deceived will be denied any legal recourse and the deceivers will be portrayed as victims.
Which is why Trans people should be denied actual rather than nominal legal protection from violent acts. Not that violence can be condoned of course.

Because if violence against Trans people was actually illegal, or existing laws enforced, then the murder victims would be portrayed as, well, victims. And the killers would have no legal recourse, they'd face prosecution for what they did. This is a Bad Thing in the Catholic Exchange's view.

Not that violence can be condoned of course. Just... allowed. Legally, not morally.
If “gender identity” is added to anti-discrimination legislation, the lie of “sex change” will be taught in the schools. It won’t be long before we will have children’s books about how Johnny’s daddy is now Johnny’s mommy and everyone is living happily ever after.

It's Andrew. My son's name is Andrew, not Johnny.

Attack me, it's one thing. Attempt to make my son's life more difficult for having the grave misfortune to have such a peculiar parent, that's another. People may differ in opinions as to my own actions, but this "premier Catholic portal on the Internet" opines that it would be highly desirable that my son be persecuted for that.

And should I get upset by that, it's just a sign of mental illness, "narcissistic rage".It's not enough that we suffer, we must be made to suffer in silence or sustain additional slurs.

Now I'm not saying that all Catholics share the author's views, let's be clear on that. I'm not saying that most do, as I don't believe that either. I'm not even saying that many do, though that's only because I lack insufficient evidence to prove that beyond any doubt. But where is the outcry from those Catholics who deplore these views?

It's called Aiding and Abetting.

Crossposted from the Catholic Answers Forum

Friday 26 June 2009

A Fine Point of Etiquette

A recent e-mail:
Hi Zoe, I am looking for the Author of this article to ask him some more technical based questions on specific aircraft PCN's.

Hope you can help,


Ok, we have two interesting issues here. Supposing you think the person you want to contact has had what is colloquially known as a "sex change". Or maybe you've misunderstood, and are contacting a relative, a sister perhaps? How do you broach the subject? To get it wrong would be a gaffe of not just massive, but truly Cosmic proportions. Bidenesque.

On this one - don't sweat the small stuff. The author handled it exactly right. Say who you're trying to contact, making no assumptions.

The next interesting issue of etiquette is how does the receiving party answer? Say "I had a sex change - fortunately, they had one I liked." or similar? Or just acknowledge that they're the party being contacted, while pretending not to notice the Elephant in the room.

Again, don't sweat the small stuff. If it's necessary to mention it - as when being contacted by a former colleague with the possibility of meeting up some time to say hello - then do so. "You might have noticed a few small changes since we last met...". But if it's not necessary, don't bother. They're not interested in your life story, just trying to find someone who might be able to help.

Well, that's how *I* handle it, anyway.

A Personal Note

Saw my Endo on Tuesday - and for the first time everything's stable, no need to adjust medication. It's still at an outrageously high dosage, especially for someone who has no sex glands, and in theory I should be able to manage on far less - that is, if my metabolism was anything like normal.

But we know it isn't. And my system is thriving on it, rather than being stressed by it. This is "normal" at last for me, the aftershocks of 2005 have dampened. Now all I have to do is lose some weight...

Thursday 25 June 2009

Blue and Green

Actually... they're the same colour, cyan. For an explanation, see Bad Astronomy.

And yes, I checked, by making a pinhole template and viewing a small part of the picture in isolation from the rest.

Wednesday 24 June 2009

False Witness

It's one thing to make a mistake (she says ruefully), but another to persist in telling malicious lies.

Example of a mistake soon corrected : from the Illinois Family Institute :
In the article entitled "Hate Crimes Bill Moves to Senate" (5/5/09), we mistakenly stated that the American Psychiatric Association's actual definition of "sexual orientation" includes paraphilias. The APA's Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-IV) classifies "sexual orientation" as heterosexual, homosexual, and bi-sexual. The 547 mental disorders called "paraphilias" specifically involve non-human objects, physical pain, or unwilling partners as in pedophilia. IFI apologizes for the error.
They still oppose the bill -
IFI remains strongly opposed to this "Hate Crimes" legislation. S. 909 is dangerous, unconstitutional and a threat to our freedoms.
But although one can argue they are mistaken in that belief too, at least they're honest.

Not so others.

From The Tips-Q Boiled Frog Blog:
Would This Nice Man and His Daughter Lie to You?

You bet your ass they would. That is Louis Sheldon and his daughter, Andrea Lafferty, of Traditional Values Coalition. They have managed to compile an impressive assortment of lies, innuendo, fear mongering and distortions into a single email blast. About the only thing that stands up to scrutiny is the fact that there is a hate crimes bill under consideration in the Senate and it is "S.909." Apparently truth is not a traditional value.
For example:
S. 909, the so-called hate crimes bill will protect a multitude of bizarre sexual orientations – including pedophiles and sexual sadists – but will threaten pastors who may give a Biblical teaching on the gay agenda. It ensures that crimes against a transgender, drag queen, gay man or lesbian are treated more harshly than a sexual assault on a child. Under this measure, pedophiles are a protected class. As a result, if a parent assaults a pedophile for molesting a child, the parent can be convicted of a hate crime and receive an enhanced sentence. The Senate version is based on fake “Findings” to justify federal intrusion into local law enforcement.
More on just how mendacious this is, later.

But there's more -
A pastor’s sermon could be considered ‘hate speech’ under this legislation if heard by an individual who then acts aggressively against persons based on ‘sexual orientation.’
Whereas the bill actually states, quite categorically,

Nothing in this Act shall be construed to prohibit any constitutionally protected speech, expressive conduct or activities (regardless of whether compelled by, or central to, a system of religious belief), including the exercise of religion protected by the First Amendment and peaceful picketing or demonstration. The Constitution does not protect speech, conduct or activities consisting of planning for, conspiring to commit, or committing an act of violence.


Nothing in this Act shall be construed to allow prosecution based solely upon an individual’s expression of racial, religious, political, or other beliefs or solely upon an individual’s membership in a group advocating or espousing such beliefs.

Moving right along, to a report with many references over at The Progressive Pulse:
North Carolina Conservatives are lying about sexual orientation and gender identity to bully the anti-bullying bill into submission. To defeat SB 526, the School Violence Prevention Act, Republican House Minority Leader Paul Stam and the Christian Action League have been claiming the existence of 30 sexual orientations as listed in the DSM-IV, the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-IV-TR) of the American Psychiatric Association. No such list exists. It is a fabrication of conservative Christians used to defeat any legislation that can be presumed to protect the human rights of gay people.

Whether through ignorance, invective or indifference, Stam and the Christian Action League have been falsely equating sexual orientation and gender identity with sexual disorders or deviations and have perpetuated a myth originated by the American Family Association that incorrectly references and misquotes the DSM-IV-TR. The American Psychiatric Association would describe this as “irrational discrimination based on gender or sexual orientation.” The Christian Action League compounds the error by variously attributing the bogus “list” to the American Psychological Association and to the American Psychiatric Association, two separate professional organizations.

The DSM-IV-TR (DSM-IV Text Revision) describes sexual orientation as sexual attraction to males, sexual attraction to females, sexual attraction to both or, sexual attraction to neither. It does not describe sexual orientation as a mental disorder.

According to the DSM-IV-TR gender identity refers to an individual’s self perception as male or female. “The term gender identity … should be distinguished from the term sexual orientation.” The DSM-IV-TR does not describe gender identity as a mental disorder.
The report (and please read the whole thing, it's far too extensive to quote) goes on to give the facts, quoting the document in question, and even sleuthing out the origin of this malodourous falsehood.

This lie originated with an organisation calling itself the Christian Action League. And the purpose of this lie was to allow gay and transgendered children to be targetted for bullying as they have been in the past, with the bullies acting with impunity.

This hurts me in many ways. First and foremost, it hurts the children. Second, hypocrisy of such breathtaking scale offends my sense of justice. But thirdly, it maligns many people who I am honoured to call friends. No, not TS or IS people, I'm talking about actual Christians, who do not deserve to be lumped in with these False Witnesses.

Tuesday 23 June 2009

What causes gender variance?

That's the title of a blog post that contains an impressive list of articles touching the subject, over at GenderLines.
Well … the short answer is simply that we don’t really know for sure. There’s plenty of evidence that shows the biology of gender variant people to be unique, in terms of our genetics and brain structure and stuff, but the problem is that we haven’t a clear idea yet of what causes these biological variations. There are plenty of possible causes, but nothing where scientists can say with 100% certainty “This is it.”

Of course, it’s debatable if there is even a single cause – with such a complex biology touching on brain chemistry, our endocrine system and even our genetics, there are quite possibly many factors at work that all influence a developing baby in the womb.

Subsections include:

general research on gender variance - Overarching studies and general research looking at the causes, indications and effects of gender variance.

female biology and sexuality Studies on female sexuality, gender, biology and other subjects that might be of relevance to people who are gender variant. and opportunistic mating in women (2009, biology letters)

male biology and sexuality Studies on male sexuality, gender, biology and other subjects that might be of relevance to people who are gender variant.

puberty General research on the biological and mental changes that take place before and during human puberty.

gender differentiation General research on the biological differences between human males and females and how those differences come about.

gender socialisation This research focusses on how social interaction and development, especially at an early age, influences the formation of gender roles and expectations, social ability and other characteristics. Also included are so-called “nature-vs-nurture” studies that posit purely environmental rather than biological origins for gender.

natural gender variance There is a strong argument that variation in sexual preference and gender identity is a natural phenomenon, and indeed, homosexuality and gender variance are observed in wild populations right along with intersex, and at least as far back as we’ve recorded history, transgender and homosexual people have been known to varying degrees.

biomass pollution Scientists are observing unprecedented levels of deformity and intersex conditions due to widespread pollution. Marine animals especially have been hard-hit due to high levels of estrogen-mimicking chemicals. Humankind is also not immune to this phenomena, with male sperm counts in continual decline and undermasculinesed boys being born more and more often.

diethylstilbetrol (des) Diethylstilbetrol was a medication widely prescribed from the early 1940’s until the mid 80’s as a menopause control and general hormone replacement therapy, and as an anti-miscarriage medication for pregnant women. It has since been found to be a powerful teratogen, causing widespread deformity of children born to mothers who were exposed to or used it during pregnancy. More interestingly, so-called DES-sons have a 20-fold increase of hypospadia, where the urethral tube opens on the underside rather than at the tip of the penis, and have demonstrated greatly increased incidences of gender dysphoria/transsexuality.

brain structure Some of the earliest research looking for the causes of transgenderism focussed on the brain structure, and specifically structures within the hypothalamus. This research is ongoing and has arguably given transgender individuals their loudest argument yet for acceptance and legal/medical recognition.

hormonal This research focusses on hormonal variations amongst transgendered people, and on possible influences early hormonal variation may have on brain structure and gender identity.

genetics Recent research into the etiology of transgenderism has focussed heavily on genetic indications, and late 2007 and 2008 have seen a number of interesting studies published that do indeed indicate a definite genetic component.

anthropometry Anthropometry is the measurement and statistical sampling of physical characteristics. As it relates to transgender individuals, this research looks for typically female measurements in transwomen and typically male measurements in transmen.

asperger’s and autism I’ve read in a few places now that asperger’s syndrome is up to four times as likely amongst transwomen as amongst the population at large. Unfortunately I’ve been unable to find any studies to corroberate this, but many of the same endocrine disrupting chemicals that get blamed for intersex and transsexual biological variation also feature in autism and aspergers. Interestingly, autism and related disorders have been theorised to be a form of a hyper-masculinized, structuring brain.
polycystic ovarian syndrome Polycystic ovarian syndrome is an endocrine condition that affects about 5% of cisgendered women. It causes the body to produce excessive amounts of androgens, leading to masculinisation. Up to a third of female-to-male transsexuals suffer from this condition.

the effects of HRT This research focusses on the effects that HRT have on transitioning gender variant people, both in the short term as well as long term health consequences.

body image Body image forms a major part of Gender Identity Disorder. This research studies variations in the image transgender people have of themselves and their bodies.
There's a number of papers I wasn't aware of - but the list is nowhere near complete. It's not so much the contents though as the framework that is outstanding, and I think I'll be stealing it as an organising template. I hope to send some updates under those categories to Mina, and see if we can get a definitive list of useful articles.

Monday 22 June 2009

How I got Fooled

I refer to this post.

I first picked up this story from a credible source at Beginning Life.
I then checked with another credible source, Laura's playground.
I then cross-checked with TopShelf, a source of lesser credibility, but which showed activity by someone of that name for over a year. I even chased up the identity of her Aunt Edeyn aka Edeyn Hannah Blackeney, who has been posting for years.

Lacking access to police records in NY - and I wasn't even sure that that was the correct state - and knowing from past experience that such episodes don't always make the papers, I wasn't too concerned that there was no immediate report within 24 hours.

I was concerned when there was nothing after 48, and that the usual problems with details hadn't been resolved. I kept looking, and as soon as the story looked like a hoax, I reported that.

Worse, it looks like I've been fooled before. Same way.

Fool me once shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me.

The only good thing, as I wipe the egg from my face, is that no-one actually died this time.

Friday 19 June 2009

I'm getting really fed up of things like this happening

UPDATE: From Laura's Playground
I have pulled the story about Rachel Roo as the story can't be verified. Things just didn't add up. This morning we traced the IP and there is no story in the local paper in that town. A story of this nature would be in the public domain. Roo has been a staff member here for a year and has never made up stories before. " It appears to be a hoax and one that is in very poor taste and hurting the trans community heavily in a time when we are fighting very hard to be understood."

I extend my sincerest apologies for reporting the story without verification. I Posted it because I thought I knew the person personally and was grief stricken. I was upset over the loss and verification wasn't first on my mind. We were all fooled. I feel like such an idiot.
It looks like we were lucky.


This in the last 24 hours:
I am having a very difficult time right now. I am a moderator on another site and we have a Forum and we have a Chat. Raychel 'Roo' was 18 in March. She died in intensive care last night. One of our teen Moderators, she lived in New York and was a post op teenage girl, and a dancer. She was headed to the Juliette School in the Fall. Now she is dead.

Her father was killed and her mother lost her arm in a terrible car crash last month. At one of the trials on this, one of the lawyers outed her. Her town had a very negative reaction.

She had life threats, she and her mother. The police had them under protective surveillance. The police left at noon yesterday. By two o'clock she was assulted. Last night she died.

She rode her bike to go to the store. She never came home. They found her bike in a dumpster. Late that evening they found her. She had been assaulted with a sledge hammer, they think, judging from the bruises all over her body. Her knee caps had been broken. She had been gang raped. They buried her alive.

She worked her way out of the almost grave and crawled for three hours to get help. She was put in the ICU and given little chance to survive. Last night she died.

The facts are skimpy, speculation reigns. Supposedly kids from a nearby school came after her in a van. There were no fingerprints. She had no semen after the rapes so it shows premeditation as they used condoms. She was so beat-up her organs just went into shock and she died.

Our whole group is sick and horrified. I am having a difficult time just writing this. I need to for two reasons, to tell her story and to say 'please be careful!' Last night we lost a sister, and one of our own.

I am fed up of people saying "there is no evidence of a problem".
I am fed up of people saying "oh, it's a consequence of the Fall".
I am fed up of people saying "the wages of Sin is Death, she brought it on herself."

Most of all... I'm fed up that something like this happens every few weeks. Some worse than others. She was only 18, a wonderful life ahead of her, and instead of being humanely shot in the head (as about half of our dead are), was in the unlucky half that are tortured to death instead.

UPDATE: See the comments about some important issues. Serious doubts about the veracity of this article have been raised, but until more data comes in, we can't tell if these are justified. There is credible data both for and against right now.

Thursday 18 June 2009

Learning the Wrong Lesson

John Derbyshire at the National Review on Manned Space Missions:
The famous great tourist sites of Peking stand as testimony to that period of vigor. Among its other glories, though they left us with no monuments to admire other than a few scattered steles, were the seagoing expeditions of Zheng He. In seven voyages from 1405 to 1433, Zheng and his “treasure fleets” carried the imperial banner to Southeast Asia, the Indian Ocean, Arabia, and the east coast of Africa.
So far, so good. Zheng He's explorations, if followed up, would have meant Mandarin rather than English would have been spoken in the New World, and would be the de facto lingua franca of today. But they weren't.
There were no colonies established as a result of the treasure fleets, no trade routes opened up, no alliances formed, no enlargements of understanding among China’s educated classes. The Ming court decided, at last, that the whole business was too costly. The records of Zheng’s last two expeditions were destroyed in a court intrigue, and China commenced the retreat into incurious bureaucratic despotism from which she was awoken only 400 years later, when European traders came banging on the nation’s doors.

Now, as we approach the 40th anniversary of the first Moon landing (July 20), you have to wonder if history is repeating itself. America’s manned space program was a grandiose public-works project, government-initiated and government-funded, like Zheng’s expeditions. Its achievements, like theirs, were sensational but content-free.
I agree completely. The whole US manned space effort is a monument to Pork rather than a serious long-term effort for space exploration and colonisation.
Manned space travel always was, and still is, a pointless extravaganza project of no practical or scientific value — a Zheng He expedition for our time. In the bumptiousness of early-imperial triumphalism — a new dynasty established in China, a great war won by America — government can get away with stuff like that. Then, as domestic lobbies clamor for more of the national fisc (“If we can put a man on the Moon, why can’t we . . . ?”), as the people are tamed by long peace, turning away from great events to their small daily affairs, as a mandarinate of unimaginative scholar-bureaucrats consolidates its grip on the society, priorities shift.

If we were wiser and more frugal, we would have just shut down the whole pointless business after the Apollo program, as the fifth Ming Emperor stopped the treasure fleets.

And the result of that was that eventually "European traders came banging on the nation’s doors". Not because voyages of discovery were wastes of time and money, but because they weren't. It was because the Europeans persisted, and without political in-fighting, and the Chinese did not. Because there was no immediate gain, they gave up all exploration as a waste of resources - just as John Derbyshire is advocating we do.

And unless the US really gets its act together, and treats manned spaceflight as something more than a political football and a source of pork for state constituencies, with funding withheld at whim, it will be Mandarin that will be the language not of Earth, but the whole Solar System.

Because the Chinese have learnt the right lesson, while John Derbyshire - and most US politicians with him - have learnt exactly the wrong one.

Wednesday 17 June 2009

26 Weeks

One for the reference library - from Dr Leonard Sax's Montgomery Center for Research in Child and Adolescent Development:
Sex differences in the brain begin in the womb. About midway through pregnancy, the testicles of a developing baby boy start churning out testosterone in huge quantities, comparable to what an adult man produces. These sex hormones bind to brain tissue and begin to transform it. Between 18 and 26 weeks gestation, the developing brain is permanently and irreversibly transformed. Israeli scientists Reuwen and Anat Achiron have found that if you do a regular ultrasound examination when a woman is 26 weeks pregnant, you can distinguish a female brain from a male brain. At 26 weeks!

Source: Reuwen Achiron, Shlomo Lipitz, & Anat Achiron. Sex-related differences in the development of the human fetal corpus callosum: in utero ultrasonographic study. Prenatal Diagnosis, 2001, 21:116-120.

This in utero study confirmed the findings of a previous anatomical study in which investigators examined the brains of babies which had died before birth.

See: M. de Lacoste, R. Holloway, and D. Woodward, "Sex differences in the fetal human corpus callosum," Human Neurobiology, 1986, 5(2):93-6.

Structural sex differences in the human brain

Take a slice of the brain from somebody who's just died. Shave the slice very thin with a microtome (an instrument like a carrot peeler). Look at that translucent peel of brain tissue under the microscope. One group based primarily at the University of Lausanne in Switzerland has specialized in doing this work for more than ten years. They have employed computerized quantitative cytological techniques, using computer algorithms to measure the volume of individual nerve cells and the number of connections made by individual nerve cells, in specific areas of the brain. They have found that
"fundamental gender differences exist in the structure of the human cerebral cortex."
Source: Theodore Rabinowicz, Jean MacDonald-Comber Petetot, Peter Gartside, David Sheyn, Tony Sheyn, & Gabrielle de Courten-Myers, "Structure of the Cerebral Cortex in Men and Women," Journal of Neuropathology and Experimental Neurology, January 2002, 61(1):46-57. The quotation comes from page 52 of this paper.

It is not the case that every area of a girl's brain differs from every area of a boy's brain. The Lausanne group studied cells in the cerebral cortex, the most advanced part of the brain. Specifically, they studied cells in Layer IV of the cerebral cortex, that part of the cortex which receives input from other cells.

One research team recently compared brain tissue from the brains of young girls and young boys. They found that sex differences in the structure of the brain were obvious, even in babies -- especially in babies. The differences in the photomicrographs of the brain tissue are so dramatic that they are readily visible to the naked eye.

Source: María Elena Cordero, Carlos Valenzuela, Rafael Torres, Angel Rodriguez, "Sexual dimorphism in number and proportion of neurons in the human median raphe nucleus," Developmental Brain Research, 124:43-52, 2000.

Tuesday 16 June 2009

Nova Orionis

From the SF short story Planet Killer:

“Like Nova Orionis?” Kevin asked. The death of the star formerly known as Betelgeuse had been a spectacular learning experience for two generations of human astronomers, and the radiation pulse was still fifteen light-years from the Solar System.
6500 Light Years away lies the Crab Nebula.
Recent analysis of historical records have found that the supernova that created the Crab Nebula probably appeared in April or early May, rising to its maximum brightness of between apparent magnitude −7 and −4.5 (brighter than everything in the night sky except the Moon) by July. The supernova was visible to the naked eye for about two years after its first observation. Thanks to the recorded observations of Far Eastern and Middle Eastern astronomers of 1054, Crab Nebula became the first astronomical object recognized as being connected to a supernova explosion.

Rather closer, at about 600 Light Years away lies the star Betelgeuse (α Orionis), which according to current theory, is an incipient Type II Supernova, just like SN 1024. One day, it's going to blow. And that day might be rather sooner than we thought.

Once the massive star builds up an iron core and begins to run out of fuel in the outer shells, it is doomed. Its death is accelerated by the fact that at the increasingly high core temperatures set up by successive stages of fusion processes, neutrino emission increases. Neutrinos flood out of the core unobstructed by the higher layers, robbing the star of energy.

The end comes quickly. The star collapses in on itself, producing nuclear fusion and fission reactions that absorb energy and accelerate the collapse, quickly compressing the stellar core to incredible densities. The core collapse is announced by a huge burst of neutrino emission. The core is squeezed so heavily that it forms into a tiny but ultradense "neutron star". The biggest stars form an infinitely tiny and dense "singularity" that wraps spacetime around itself, becoming a "black hole" in space.

A neutron star or black hole cannot be compressed further, and following the burst of neutrino emission, the infalling matter "rebounds" in a "core bounce", resulting in a tremendous explosion that tears the star apart. This is a Type II supernova, and it can be as bright as a billion Suns for a few weeks, emitting heavily in the ultraviolet.
The first sign of such an event would be a giant star shrinking, collapsing in on itself. Such a contraction could be quite rapid, over a few decades or less. And guess what?
Nobel Laureate Charles Townes announced evidence that 15 consecutive years of stellar contraction has now observed to be occuring by UC Berkeley's Infrared Spatial Interferometer (ISI) atop Mt. Wilson Observatory in Southern California. Reported on June 9, 2009, the star has shrunk 15% since 1993 with an increasing rate. The average speed at which the radius of the star is shrinking over the last 15 years is approximately 470-490 miles per hour.

According to the university, Betelgeuse's radius is about 5.5 A.U.s, and the star's radius has shrunk by a distance equal to half an astronomical unit, or about the orbit of Venus. Some theorists have speculated that this behavior is expected for a star at the beginning of the gravitational collapse at the end of its life. The mass of Betelgeuse puts it in range to become a neutron star or possibly a black hole.
The trouble is... until we observe such a thing, we can't be sure if our models are correct. It could be that the star will start to pulse, in a series of cycles of expansion and contraction of increasing amplitude, until it finally goes over the edge. Or it may be as inexorable as falling off a cliff, the process accelerating rapidly in one titanic high-energy event.

If we had highly directional neutrino detectors, we could observe what's happening and make some accurate predictions. Unfortunately, a highly directional neutrino detector would require the ability to move small planets or large moons around to narrow the field of view. A bit beyond our current engineering abilities.

Still, it could be that some time between 10 and 100 years from now, we'll have a star easily visible in daytime, and brighter than a full moon for several months, fading but still a brilliant pinpoint for a couple of years afterwards.

The direction of the axis of spin is nowhere near us, so there's no possibility of the gamma rays from the initial explosion being focussed our way. 600 Light Years is none to far away to be if that was the case. Anyway, the only effect on the biosphere would be a minor disruption of nocturnal creatures' routines. Dark Nights will only happen when it's overcast.

Monday 15 June 2009

Today's Battles

About Chaz Bono again. From TMZ:
We know a lot more about Chaz Bono's decision to become a man, and there's one thing he wishes he did differently -- that he had done it sooner.
-- The process has been going on for a while now. Chaz is taking hormones. As for when he's having the breasts removed -- no date has been set. That operation typically is the marker when judges allow someone to legally change sexes.

-- Cher has known about this for a year.

-- Chaz underwent a tremendous amount of psychological counseling before beginning the physical process of transitioning.

-- Chaz has considered himself a man for as long as he remembers.

-- As for wardrobe, we're told Chaz doesn't think a lot will change because he's been wearing mens clothing for a long time.
In other words... the typical, almost stereotyped, transsexual narrative. The details change, but the story's the same. As are the reactions.
6. I am transgendered. I have been reading a lot of comments on previous posts about Chaz' transition, and to be honest it breaks my heart. Being transgender/intersex already makes you hate yourself enough. It doesn't help when people are cruel in pointing out how disgusted they are by your existance. We get treated like ish because of a mess up when we were developing in the womb. Google it. It's a gene that gets activated by hormonal imbalance in the womb, which in turn gives us the wrong brain for our bodies. We'd give anything to have been born normal.

Posted at 11:40AM on Jun 13th 2009 by A. Williams

11. instead of calling HER a HIM why not call her an IT, that is terribly disgusting, and no wonder she confused about herself, look at her parents! am sick of hearing about this homo thing, its getting to get out of hand, US straight people dont run around saying what our sexual preferences are. keep your private lives private! instead of prop 8 for gay marriages, why they not just try to get sodomy legal? world is turning into nothing but a bunch of freaks!!

Posted at 11:50AM on Jun 13th 2009 by baby

14. Sexuality and Gender are not dichotomies, people. They are spectrums. It doesn't help when you call Chaz "it" or "she" as this is person, first of all, and, more importantly, self-identifies as a male. If you cannot see a person who is transitioning to a new stage in his life, it says more about your shortcomings than anthing else.

Posted at 11:53AM on Jun 13th 2009 by Carrie Precum will work at Hooters
30. This 'thing' is just a disgusting waste of human flesh. I hope she/he/it kills itself so we don't have to hear about it again.

Posted at 12:31PM on Jun 13th 2009 by Benny Barnes

38. Freak. Freak. Freak. Freak. Freak. Freak. Freak. Freak. Freak. Freak. Freak. Freak. Freak. Freak. Freak. Freak. Freak. Freak. Freak. Freak. Freak. Freak. Freak. Freak. Freak. Freak. Freak. Freak. Freak. Freak. Freak. Freak. Freak. Freak. Freak. Freak. Freak. Freak. Freak. Freak. Freak. Freak. Freak. Freak. Freak. Freak. Freak. Freak. Freak. Freak. Freak.

Everyone's thinking it, I'm just saying it.

Posted at 12:43PM on Jun 13th 2009 by Princesspink


Calling "IT" a "HE"

Posted at 12:57PM on Jun 13th 2009 by Jane Doe

50. She is definitely not a "he", although an "it" may be more appropariate. Why do these weirdopeople want to announce all their wackiness? Who cares? Go back in the closet.

Posted at 1:22PM on Jun 13th 2009 by observer

142. FREAKKKKKKKK!!!!!!!! SHE needs serious psychological HELP! If God wanted to make her a man, God would have done it himself. God doesn't make mistakes!! SHAME ON HER!!!!!

Posted at 7:52PM on Jun 13th 2009 by chris
And then we have articles like this one:
Instead of dealing with the myriad tangible, pressing issues at hand, Claman et al. -- and how many are in the et al. camp on the Assembly is anybody's guess -- are peddling a poorly crafted proposed ordinance addressing what essentially is a nonexistent problem. Has there been a rash of discrimination against gays? Do people seek them out to be mean?

Deny them housing? Refuse them loans? Fire them? Say ugly things about their shoes? Not so you'd notice. At a packed hearing last week on the ordinance -- about 88 of the 317 people who signed up to testify actually had their say; the rest get another shot Tuesday -- there was ample grumbling and various anecdotal accounts about such things, but few actual complaints filed with offices such as the Equal Rights Commission.
Er... maybe because such persecution is legal, and the Equal Rights Commission doesn't deal with it. No competent attorney would advise their client to pursue a case against an action that isn't actually illegal.

Some just don't believe the comments I quoted above actually exist.

This Blog is being archived by the Australian National Library. In future years, people will have a look at comments like those, and wonder how anyone could think that way. I quote the bigotry, the ignorance, the hatred, the irrationality, the cruelty, and the denial for posterity. And do what I can to fight it, by rational argument, or even just by turning over the rock to shed some light on the issue. to show that yes, we really do have a problem.

Sunday 14 June 2009

The Enemy

Yes, I'm not Gay, but The Enemy makes no distinction. And there are many reasonable human beings who disagree with me - but they're opponents. No, this is The Enemy, who says I'm not human.

Saturday 13 June 2009

Today's Battles

At Outside the Beltway,, and FiveThirtyEight, all attempting to educate people about Chaz Bono.

The last one is interesting, as it's not often that people don't bother to disguise their feelings:
"Many of them do have some form of surgery, sometimes affirming a gender different from the one they were raised in. If these people choose to live with someone is not intersexed, does that make them a family? What if they also live their life as a the same gender? What about transsexuals? If they are wearing a skirt, are they only a family if their partner isn't?"
You should be changed completely to the gender in which you have more chemicals in your body. So if you have 60% male and 40% female chemicals, you should be changed totally to a male.

Transsexuals do not count as people.
I tried to respond at The Tizona Group, but it seems they were too afraid to let my comment through moderation. Someone warned them that I might be along two hours previously... Here it is, anyway. Maybe they're just being slow.
Rather than being confrontational… can we have a reasonable discussion here?

One that’s likely to involve medicine, biology, theology, ethics, exegesis of scripture…

My starter for ten : this article by Tim Blair. That’s to show you where I’m coming from.

It will be nice discussing with and hopefully informing some rational people for a change. And anyone who links to PACO Enterprises is a kindred spirit.

I’m not out to convince, or to tell you what to think. I am out to inform, so you can make up your own mind from an informed perspective.

And as there’s a ginormous credibility gap to be overcome lest I be seen as just another peddler of fashionable nonsense and Moonbattery, it’s up to me to provide the extraordinary evidence that extraordinary claims require. Feel free to ask questions.

Let’s start with a presentation recently given by Professor Ecker, MD, at the American Psychiatric Association.

My thesis – which I’ll expect you to require me to prove – is that Chaz is a guy. Always was. But some guys are born looking female. And only about 1 in 3 of those, those born with 5ARD or 17BHDD syndromes, get a natural “sex change”. The rest have to do what Chaz is doing.
We'll see what happens.

Friday 12 June 2009


From the Scientific American :
When an Iraqi reporter threw his shoe at President Bush, University of Washington neurologists were delighted. But not because of politics. The fling was just real-world evidence of a theory they were testing. As the shoe flew, Bush ducked while Iraqi Prime Minister Maliki, who was standing right beside him, barely flinched. The reason, the researchers say, is that we have a dual vision system. Our brains "see" things well before our eyes do. Their report is in the June 11th issue of the journal Current Biology.

The scientists contend that Bush ducked because his brain’s action pathway categorized the trajectory of the shoe as a threat well before his perception pathway began to track its flight. Meanwhile, Maliki realized the shoe wasn’t headed his way and didn’t take evasive action.
Such "Reflex Actions" are common when harmful stimuli are applied to peripheral nerves in extremities. When we touch a hot plate, the heat and sensor signals from the nerves in the area of contact journey to the spinal column, where they trigger a "flinch" signal to the muscles, long before the signal travels up the spinal column to the brain. The reaction is literally thoughtless.

This minimises damage from obvious causes of harm. It's a short-circuit, a product of evolution, that means a threat that is very simple and utterly unambiguous can be dealt with simply, and in minimal time to decrease damage.

This is a similar effect, but with one important difference: the optic nerves are already directly connected to the brain, to minimise the delay time. But even that's not enough. There is unconscious processing within the brain, quite complicated processing, that will recognise incoming threats and trigger a rather more complex response than a mere flinch. One involving many muscles, the act of ducking, long before the conscious mind is aware of what is happening.

Rather more of our processing power than we like to think is, well, unthinking. Disconnected from conscious thought. Consciousness appears to be a higher-level product of the mind. Morevover, when learning how to walk, or to drive a car, we can change the brain in ways that cause the formation of complex subroutines to handle quite intricate tasks. All the conscious mind has to do is to think about what the desired result is, and the trained reflexes cause the various muscles to contract (moderated cybernetically with feedback from the nerves and optics) so that the desired result is accomplished, without conscious thought.

You could say that when it comes to ducking, consciousness is not all it's quacked up to be.

This reticulation of processing is common in many military systems. Well, common in the ones I've had anything to do with architecting, anyway. You distribute the processing as close to the effector and sensor as much as you can. Thus a sensor such as a radar will have an internal track extractor - but also report the raw data up the "chain of command" so more subtle effects can be detected using multiple sensors, though this will be delayed.

Once the "higher brain functions" in the Combat System, which are a composite of automation, manual evaluation, and computer-aided manual evaluation, decide on what to do - "shoot at target X with weapon Y using data from sensor Z" - then commands are given to form a "firing chain", an association of weapon and tracker (and thus target). The "higher brain functions" then have no further role to play, other than to receive reports on how the engagement is progressing. The rest is reflex.

One great advantage you have in making such systems is that you can have backups - so if the primary "higher consciousness" is damaged, you still have some capability through local control. The system is ductile, bending not breaking, slowly degrading rather than failing all at once. There's little actual redundancy though - every bit of processing is used with no wastage, when things are going well. You get absolutely the best possible performance. The idea is that even when things are going badly, the system should still work 'well enough' though.

Before the second Terminator movie, I called the two ways of making reliable systems "The Battleship and the Blob". In the first case, you armour-plate the software such that threats can't penetrate. You hope. But eventually, a threat will be too great for the armour to withstand, and the system will be damaged badly, possibly fatally. In the second case, even a minor threat will cause some damage. But you can fill it full of holes, and like The Blob, it keeps on coming. Even a threat big enough to shatter any armour plate in existence will just blow great chunks off, it will still advance, inexorably, just diminished a bit. The difference between Terminator I and Terminator II.

When it comes to data processing in safety critical systems, the "blob" approach is similar to the way that higher animals work. A case of Art imitating Life.

Thursday 11 June 2009

Double Standards

When Barak Obama has strong political links with trendy leftist terrorist bombers Bill Ayers and Bernadine Dohrne , the left-leaning media and blogs say nothing or defend him.

When his former preacher, someone whose sermons Obama has listened to and applauded for many years says "them Jews ain't going to let him talk to me.", the Left is silent on the issue.

When David Letterman makes a mistake, and instead of talking about Sarah Palin's 18 year old daughter being raped, he refers to her 14 year old daughter, what does the National Organisation of Women, or any Feminist Organisation say about such odious sexism? Nothing. With a very few honourable exceptions, the "Progressives" are silent.

And meanwhile....

On the Right, we have Far Righters who have previously spoken glowingly about a NeoNazi's writings suddenly deciding that National Socialism is Socialism after all, and thus of the Left, when a nutcase shoots up a Holocaust Museum.

We have others on the Right who would rub salt into the wounds for someone shot on the steps of a Church.

And then there's the back-peddling when a homophobe shot up a church in Knoxville, Tennessee not that long ago.
“The future looks bleak...I’m absolutely fed up! So I thought I’d do something good for this country — kill Democrats ‘til (sic) the cops kill me.”
“I’d like to encourage other like-minded people to do what I’ve done... If life ain’t worth living anymore, don’t just kill yourself. Do something for your country before you go. Go kill liberals.”
And few right-wing commentators deal with the problem that conservatism has in its midst.

The cycle feeds on itself : tu quoque, until it's no longer Left vs Right so much as Sane vs Insane.


I called out the National Organisation of Women, simply because I was so disappointed in a group that had before now deserved my support. It was with a sense of disillusionment. But... there's this now : National Organisation of Women Inducts David Letterman into "Hall of Shame".
The sexualization of girls and women in the media is reaching new lows these days -- it is exploitative and has a negative effect on how all women and girls are perceived and how they view themselves. Letterman also joked about what he called Palin's "slutty flight attendant look" -- yet another example of how the media love to focus on a woman politician's appearance, especially as it relates to her sexual appeal to men. Someone of Letterman's stature, who appears on what used to be known as "the Tiffany Network" (CBS), should be above wallowing in the juvenile, sexist mud that other comedians and broadcasters seem to prefer.

On that point, it's important to note that when Chelsea Clinton was 13 years old she was the target of numerous insults based on her appearance. Rush Limbaugh even referred to her as the "White House dog." NOW hopes that all the conservatives who are fired up about sexism in the media lately will join us in calling out sexism when it is directed at women who aren't professed conservatives.
Well Said. And here's one conservative who always has and always will.

Wednesday 10 June 2009

Today's Battle

At the Memphis Commercial Appeal:
Darlene, 58, gingerly climbed the stairs to use the bathroom, past a framed box of ribbons and medals, military honors presented to David, the man she used to be.

Two years ago, David, a retired Air National Guard Lieutenant Colonel who served as a navigator and fighter pilot, told his wife, Mary, something he'd kept inside all his life. He was a woman in a man's body.

It tore through their 37-year marriage like shrapnel, and formed a chasm so wide between Darlene and her son that the young man now considers his father dead. They haven't spoken in two years. Darlene is forbidden from seeing her two grandsons.

Ask about the pain of thousands of plucks of electrolysis to remove hair, facial feminization surgery, breast augmentation and finally genital reassignment surgery, and Darlene explains professionally like an officer.

Mention her grandchildren or the pain she caused her wife and son, and tears stream down like rain.
Some of the less supportive comments needed answering. So I did.
Posted by ZoeBrain on June 7, 2009 at 8:58 a.m.

Darlene isn't the only former fighter pilot I know who has transitioned. Officially, the USAF didn't have female pilots in combat in Gulf War I, but in fact, they did. They just looked male at the time.

Transsexuality is devastating, not just to the immediate victim, but the family too. Still, so are many other congenital conditions. So is Cancer. Though many cancers have a lower mortality rate without treatment. And cancer victims are not routinely persecuted as morally corrupt because of their condition.

There'll be some who won't believe it's a congenital medical condition, but a "lifestyle choice". The evidence of brain scans and autopsies says otherwise, as do some rather more simple tests. As Professor Ecker MD said in a recent presentation to the APA on the subject:

"We showed how Transgender Brains think, smell, and hear like the opposite sex."

And the MRI images and so on show why this is so. All the claims about "female brain in male body" turn out to be literally true. It's an intersex condition, like hundreds of others, where the body is neither wholly male nor wholly female.

See seminar s10 at the APA annual meeting:
S10. The Neurobiological Evidence for Transgenderism

1. Brain Gender Identity Prof. Sidney W. Ecker, M.D.
2. Transsexuality as an Intersex Condition Prof Milton Diamond, Ph.D.
3. Novel Approaches to Endocrine Treatment of Transgender Adolescents and Adults Norman Spack, M.D.

Lots of people commenting on this article are saying it's a waste of space, time etc. for such a minority. But they'd never dream of doing that for, say, Multiple Sclerosis - a condition that's not as common, and is arguably no more devastating to the sufferer and their family.

No preacher would rail against people with MS as having a morally corrupt lifestyle, and saying that they should be banned from employment by all God-fearing folk. And people with MS are not murdered at a rate 17 times greater than in the average population, nor have 6 women been shot in the head in Memphis in the last 2 years just for having MS. Police don't beat up people just for having MS, and no trial for murder has ended in acquittal because the defendant claimed that he didn't know the victim had MS, and when he found out, he just snapped.

Treatment for MS is not routinely excluded from health insurance policies. Neither is it specifically excluded in the Americans with Disabilities Act, nor from treatment offered by the VA for veterans.

So yes, I think this article is worthwhile. I'm also encouraged to see how relatively few comments there have been calling for a public lynching of the victim. The word is getting out there, slowly, and articles like this help inform the public.

And in return received an honour I will always cherish.
Posted by Darlene on June 7, 2009 at 5:49 p.m.

in response to ZoeBrain

Thank you.
Thank You, Darlene. For your courage and your service to us all. Of course, being an EWO in an F4 requires some courage too, and you served your nation then as well.

Tuesday 9 June 2009

No More Icing

From :
The proposed legislation, marked up June 4 by the House Appropriations commerce, justice, science subcommittee, trims $483 million overall from U.S. President Barack Obama's $18.7 billion budget request for NASA next year. The $670 million cut to the 2010 manned exploration request would leave $3.21 billion, which is less than is available for the effort this year.
In his opening statement at the markup hearing, Mollohan said the cut should not be viewed as a diminution of the subcommittee's support for NASA's human spaceflight activities. "Rather, it's a deferral taken without prejudice; it is a pause, a time-out, to allow the president to establish his vision for human space exploration and to commit to realistic future funding levels to realize this vision."
The Augustine committee is yet to meet - but it's obviously Execution first, trial later.
Other recommendations contained in the bill include a $77 million reduction in NASA's proposed space operations budget, which includes the space shuttle and international space station; a $6 million reduction in science; and a $332 million shift in funds from the Cross Agency Support account to a new budget line-item included in the subcommittee's mark. Dubbed Construction and Environmental Compliance, the new account would be funded at $441 million. Congressional aides said the new line item and accompanying funds are aimed at consolidating NASA's various construction efforts into a single pot of money.
All the easier to plunder and divert to those with the right connections. That's the Chicago way. The same pattern as has been shown in the Auto industry and elsewhere.
Following the markup, the subcommittee posted on its Web site an exhaustive list of earmarks sought by its members. According to the document, money tapped for NASA earmarks totaled close to $15 million.
This is the one area that will show growth. Earmarks - pork for the pork barrel.

I've said before in other articles that NASA is not there to do space exploration - though of it does, that's icing on the cake. No, it's to share money to the right congressional districts. That's changing now - instead it will be going to those with the right connections. And that means the funds have to be diverted from the little work that's actually being done.

No more Icing.

Monday 8 June 2009

The Last Firework Night?

The Australian Capital Territory is the only jurisdiction in Australia where some things are legal. Prostitution. X-Rated Videos. Fireworks.


Bottle Rockets of course have been banned for over a decade. As have crackers. But yes, the ACT still allows such dangerous devices as Roman Candles and Sparklers.

Of course, there are a few minor restrictions.... from the Office of Regulatory Services :
Fireworks are dangerous explosives and are traditionally used by people over the Queen's Birthday long weekend.

In the ACT, there are strict rules about how fireworks are supplied, bought and used. All consumer fireworks in the ACT must be approved by the Government and sold to you by licensed people.

Am I able to buy consumer fireworks?
You can only buy consumer fireworks in the ACT if you are over 18 years old and live in the ACT.

How can I buy consumer fireworks?
Consumer fireworks can only be purchased from people licensed to sell them.

To purchase fireworks, you must provide the person selling the fireworks, identification that shows:
· your age
· your address
· a photograph of yourself.

You will be given a receipt, which will show:
· the name of the person who sold you the fireworks and their licence number
· the date you were sold the fireworks
· your name and address
· the identification papers provided to prove your identity
· the fireworks you purchased
· where you propose letting off the fireworks
· your signature.

When can I be supplied with consumer fireworks?

You can only be supplied with consumer fireworks between
8am on the Friday immediately before, and 5pm on the Sunday of, the Queen's Birthday long weekend.

*Please keep your receipt as it is your approval to have and use fireworks.

How should I store my fireworks?
The person named in the receipt must ensure that fireworks are:
· kept in the package they were sold in
· stored in accordance with the instructions.

It is an offence not to do so. The maximum penalty is $2000.

When can I use consumer fireworks?
You can only use fireworks during the Saturday and Sunday of the Queen's Birthday long weekend between 5pm and 9pm.

It is an offence to use fireworks at any other time. The maximum penalty is $3000.

Who can use my consumer fireworks?
The only people allowed to use your consumer fireworks are:
· the person named on the receipt
· anyone under the direct supervision of the person named on the receipt.

If you use a consumer firework without authorisation you may be guilty of a serious offence.

The maximum penalty for using a firework without authorisation is $75,000, imprisonment for 3 years or both.
And now it's likely they'll be banned altogether.
Industrial Relations Minister John Hargreaves has made a submission to cabinet to make the Queen's Birthday fireworks weekend illegal and ministers will vote on the issue later this month.
There are genuine safety issues, and I wouldn't mind having eye protection being mandatory. But 3 years in jail for letting off an unauthorised Roman Candle?

At some stage, we have to let some of the fun back into life. And some of the risk. If we don't teach our children how to manage risk when the worst thing that can happen is some burnt fingers, they won't know how to manage risk later, with dangers that can be immediately lethal.

In the meantime, as this may be the last ever fireworks night, my son was treated to enough fireworks to last from 5pm to 9pm on Sunday, and a few on Saturday as well.

Two Puberties

Via Cee Bee to Cee's Friend Feed, a comparative pictorial in the Morning News of some women going through puberty, comparing young girls who are the "standard factory model" with those forced to take a detour along the way.

From the description:

The series is a correlation of two stages of transformation, pairing teen girls (12-14) with like adult male-to-female transsexuals. The Teen and Transgender Comparative Study is currently showing at The Hammer Museum in Nine Lives, curated by Ali Subotnick.
I find the pictures strangely disturbing, so I can't blame anyone else for feeling the same way. But I know, to the innermost core of my being, that all these women are going through the same frightening, wonderful changes. That they all share the same innocence, and the same vulnerability. They're all just girls, you see. You have to look beyond superficialities.

Sunday 7 June 2009

A Significant Update

I wrote a post about some shock-jocks' bigotry last week.

Well, it seems the story got picked up a few days afterwards by a number of organisations, and publicised.

Please have a look at this important update.

And another important development.. this is what their website shows now.
UPDATED JUNE 7TH, 2009, 11:50AM









Freedom of Speech is something I fervently believe in. But that does not mean that advertisers should be forced to pay for it. It does not mean freedom from criticism. It does not mean freedom from consequences.

Hopefully this announcement is sincere, and not merely a device to stop the pain in the hip-pocket nerve. But in any case, as they say in Latin, "Cuius testiculos habeas, habeas cardia et cerebellum."

Saturday 6 June 2009

I thought the Onion was meant to be satirical #2

Every single talking point in this video has actually been brought up as a serious proposal in one or another state legislature the USA, and Federally in Australia. A few of the bill's contents are actually local law.

If you think I exaggerate, here's what a reminder of what MassResistance said:
"…transgender/transsexual” activists… want to offer your children on the bloody altar of transsexuality — pulling them into sex-change operations involving unimaginable bodily mutilations and hormonal manipulations.

The culture of death has created a compulsion in the souls of the homosexual radicals and their "trans" allies, driving them ever further into new perversions. There is no bottom to this pit of depravity, and they will drag many innocent victims along with them: the young, the lonely, the psychologically and physically wounded, the confused – including some of your children and grandchildren, family, friends and neighbors. There will be no safe haven. You cannot cocoon in your homes or churches. Our public schools, businesses, public accommodations (which may include churches), your employers and insurers, will all be forced to yield to yet-undefined perversions, protected by law."

Friday 5 June 2009

Brains and Sexual Orientation

There's one group who provide positive proof that a cross-gendered sexual orientation sometimes has a neurological cause. That is, kids whose behaviour from an early age is typically cross-gendered.

I've been unable to find good data about sexual orientation in later life for the transsexual kids who exhibit cross-gendered behaviour early, but suspect they all grow up to be straight, the classic "primary transsexual" described by Benjamin, just as the non-TS kids who exhibit similar behaviour grow up to be gay. And that's the majority of them. Only 1 in 3 of such children are transsexual. Moreover, most women with CAH syndrome, while tomboyish in early childhood, appear to be mostly straight in later life. So our understanding here is limited.

This may help though. From the LA Times :
The brains of gay men resemble those of straight women, according to research being published Tuesday that provides more evidence of the role of biology in sexual orientation.

Using brain scanning equipment, researchers said they discovered similarities in the brain circuits that deal with language, perhaps explaining why homosexual men tend to outperform straight men on verbal skills tests -- as do heterosexual women.

The area of the brain that processes emotions also looked very much the same in gay men and straight women -- and both groups have higher rates of depressive disorders than heterosexual men, researchers said.

The study in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, however, found the brain similarities were not as close in the case of gay women and straight men.

Previous studies have found evidence that sexual orientation is hard-wired. More than a decade ago, neurobiologist Simon LeVay reported that a key area of the hypothalamus, a brain structure linked to sexual behavior, was smaller in homosexual men compared to heterosexual men.

The latest study, led by Ivanka Savic of the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm, was significant in that it looked at areas of the brain that have nothing to do with sexual behavior, suggesting there was a basic biological link between sexual orientation and a range of brain functions.

"The question is -- how far does it go?" said Dr. Eric Vilain, who studies human sexual development at UCLA and was not involved in the study. "In gay men, the brain is feminized. Is that limited to particular areas or is the entire brain female-like?"

Vilain said his hunch was the entire brain was not feminized because "gay men have a number of masculine traits that are not present in women."
The area under study is different from the ones Dr Veronica Drantz has so much evidence about, and I refer readers to her excellent presentations.

A group that is anomalous is one of particular interest to me. Trans people who transition late in life. Because 1 in 3 of those have their apparent sexual orientation change. Are they actually bisexual, and suppressing one attraction for psychological reasons - one before, the other after? Maybe not, for about 1 in 10 (we think) are apparently gay (attracted to men) while looking male, and lesbian afterwards. Or the reverse. It's far more common though to appear to be straight before, and straight after, transition. It's just that the definition of "straight" reverses polarity....

My problem though is that I'm in this group. Ok, IS rather than TS, but here that's probably irrelevant (though may not be). If my apparent reversal of polarity is psychological (or mainly so), as is very plausible, then I'd be probably be psychologically incapable of being sufficiently objective to make judgments about that.

OTOH... it could be that the very common 6-9 month delay after orchidectomy (or similar incapacitation of gonads) before change of orientation reflects physical changes in the brain, possibly due to the cessation of cross-gendered hormones and anomalously increased receptors for the correct ones.

This could be tested by having MRI scans as in the Swedish experiment, during the process of transition. See what effect the hormones have on neuroanatomy, comparing TS people whose orientation changes with those that don't. Getting a significant sample size could be a problem though, as you can't tell who will switch and who won't. Or at least, I couldn't, it was a vast surprise to me when I changed from asexual/lesbian to sexual/straight. Not to others though, it was one prediction that the psych I saw thought was likely at the time - but didn't tell me till after it happened, so as not to bias the result. Score one for the psychological theory.

Of course there might be different causes for the same effect, or both causes could play a part, as could the departure from cellular receptors of various neurotransmitters.

I think I'll have to leave that to other researchers though, as there's evidence that I'm incapable of seeing things clearly here. I must recuse myself.

This is one time where I'll just have to let my instincts guide me, to accept things regardless of cause, and lie back and enjoy it. Hmmmm... that doesn't seem too bad a fate, come to think of it. And I wouldn't be thinking of England either.

Thursday 4 June 2009

Facebook : The New Generation

A hilarious site with lessons for us all. Yes, all - because if you're not already, one day you'll be middle-aged too. With children, or nephews and nieces. Who will expect you to act like, well, adults. Responsible adults.

Oh Crap. My Parents Joined Facebook.

Like this father, whose facebook contained a quiz result his daughter was highly embarrassed by...

Tuesday 2 June 2009

Feminism and the Brain

From, a post that contradicts what has been an article of faith amongst second-wave feminists.
For almost 40 years, that era's Western feminist critique of rigid sex-role stereotyping has prevailed. In many ways, it has eroded or even eliminated the kind of arbitrary constraints that turned peaceable boys into aggressive men and stuck ambitious girls in low-paying jobs.

Feminists understandably have often shied away from scientific evidence that challenges this critique of sex roles. After all, because biology-based arguments about gender difference have historically been used to justify women's subjugation, women have been reluctant to concede any innate difference, lest it be used against them. But, in view of recent scientific discoveries, has feminist resistance to accepting any signs of innate gender difference only created new biases?
Basically, yes.
Now a spate of scientific analyses, based on brain imaging technology and new anthropological and evolutionary discoveries, suggests that we may have had our heads in the sand, and that we must be willing to grapple with what seem to be at least some genuine, measurable differences between the sexes.

The most famous of these studies, anthropologist Helen Fisher's The Anatomy of Love , explains the evolutionary impetus for human tendencies in courtship, marriage, adultery, divorce, and childrearing. Some of her findings are provocative: it seems, for example, that we are hard-wired for serial monogamy and must work very to maintain pair-bonds; that highly orgasmic women enjoy an evolutionary advantage; and that flirtation among primates closely resembles the way young men and women in a bar show their sexual interest today.

Moreover, in her description of our evolution, Fisher notes that males who could tolerate long periods of silence (waiting for animals while in hunt mode) survived to pass on their genes, thus genetically selecting to prefer "space." By contrast, females survived best by bonding with others and building community, since such groups were needed to gather roots, nuts, and berries, while caring for small children.

Reading Fisher, one is more inclined to leave boys alone to challenge one another and test their environment, and to accept that, as she puts it, nature designed men and women to collaborate for survival.
It is this mismatch that is causal for much of the distress in transsexuality. Being lumped in the wrong group causes a dissonance, not one that can be overcome through willpower or psychotherapy.

I conjecture - though proof either way is lacking - that much of transgendered behaviour can be explained by a partially cross-gendered brain, in some areas. And the areas will vary between individuals. This increases the probability of a cross-gendered sexual orientation, and when the cross-gendered behaviour patterns are obvious at an early age, is a definitive indicator for it. That much we have proof for.

When the cross-gendering also involves body-image, as it often does, as well as sexual response (though possibly not sexual orientation) and other sexually dimorphic instinctive behaviour, that's when we're confronted with "classic transsexuality".

Classical second-wave feminists are correct that the existence of transsexuality challenges their whole basis of belief, the unquestionable axiom that all the significant differences between stereotypical male and stereotypical female behaviour is purely a matter of social condition. But it's not just transsexuality that does this, all of the neurological studies that show a distinct and bimodal pattern of behaviour do too.

This wouldn't be seen as threatening, except for one crucial and undeniable fact : that biological differences between the sexes have almost universally been used by the Patriarchy as an excuse to oppress women. Almost without exception, and for hundreds and even thousands of years. They still are in many parts of the world. There is a definite and very highly probable danger that these results will be too.

The results must therefore either be suppressed, denied, and ignored, or accepted and the dangers faced head-on. Denigrating the results, and attacking an already oppressed minority group, one already treated by the Patriarchy as pariahs is far easier and safer.

Of course that's tough for the women in that minority group, but self-deception is a powerful force, and the more guilty some feel, the more fanatic they become in their oppression to prove that the oppressed deserve all they get. That part of human nature at least is gender-invariant.