Wednesday 30 September 2009

Very Fishy

From the Abstract of Widespread occurrence of intersex in black basses (Micropterus spp.) from U.S. rivers, 1995–2004 by Hinck et al, Aquatic Toxology 2009.08.001
Intersex occurrence in freshwater fishes was evaluated for nine river basins in the United States. Testicular oocytes (predominantly male testes containing female germ cells) were the most pervasive form of intersex observed, even though similar numbers of male (n = 1477) and female (n = 1633) fish were examined. Intersex was found in 3% of the fish collected. The intersex condition was observed in four of the 16 species examined (25%) and in fish from 34 of 111 sites (31%). Intersex was not found in multiple species from the same site but was most prevalent in largemouth bass (Micropterus salmoides; 18% of males) and smallmouth bass (M. dolomieu; 33% of males). The percentage of intersex fish per site was 8–91% for largemouth bass and 14–73% for smallmouth bass.
Intersex was not found in largemouth bass older than five years and was most common in 1–3-year-old male largemouth bass. The cause(s) of intersex in these species is also unknown, and it remains to be determined whether the intersex we observed in largemouth and smallmouth bass developed during sex differentiation in early life stages, during exposure to environmental factors during adult life stages, or both.
The fact that no IS largemouth bass were found suggests two alternative possibilities: the first, that the IS condition reduces lifespan in this species; the second, that something new has happened in the last 5 years.

Signs of jumbled hormones that trouble creatures from turtles to alligators have now turned up in a superstar of sportfishing - the largemouth bass.

Almost one in five male largemouths from rivers around the country had microscopic egg cells inside their testes, said Jo Ellen Hinck, a biologist at the U.S. Geological Survey who worked on a nine-year project to test fish from more than 100 locations.

Bass were among just a few kinds of fish where the study found those characteristics, which researchers labeled as intersex features.

And though she doesn't know why, Hinck said bass in the Southeast were especially affected.
The Apalachicola River was the only Florida waterway checked. Sixty percent of the bass tested at Blountstown were intersex.
While other scientists have tested obviously polluted rivers for damaged wildlife, this was the most comprehensive fish research yet, said Hinck.

His last research was published last month in the journal Aquatic Toxicology.

And it raised new questions, because bass in remote areas that seemed to have little pollution had the same issues as fish caught in cities.
The rates differ markedly geographically, suggesting a variable common to these IS "hotspots". But pollution per se doesn't appear to be responsible. A particular chemical may be. Or some other common environmental factor. And the causal mechanism is unknown, but appears species-specific.

Science is like that sometimes, more questions than answers.

Scooter and Cowboy Hat, circa 1962

I think it was on my third birthday that I got the Cowboy hat.

One of the few photos that exist of me. As I grew older, I became more and more self-conscious about my body. Not that anyone realised that, least of all me. I just didn't like having my picture taken, for some reason.

Google Maps shows that where the shed used to be is now the boundary of another house - it was a large block, and the new owners sold some - and the fields in the background, with the large tree in the middle, that's now the suburb of New Earley, with medium-density townhouses crammed cheek-by-jowl, and housing a quarter of a million people.

The past is another country. We are all immigrants from there, and can never go back.

Monday 28 September 2009

Putting the Nazi in FemiNazi

Playing the victim too.
We separatists are to tolerate Jew children, ex-Yid converts, “good” Jews, and the Aryans who would lay their lives down for them in our spaces – and in return for what? Are these Jew-lovers going to be as tolerant of our objections as we’re supposed to be of their Jew kith and kin? Or are we going to be called bullies and “police” the second we point out that their jew-spawn aren’t any better than the rest of them, that their marriages aren’t any better than anyone else’s, and that their christianised Yid friend is still just as Jewish as he was the day he was born? See, not only are separatists to tolerate the presence of these Jews – both in the flesh, and, unceasingly it seems, in the discourse of the Aryans who love them – but we’re then to stifle any opinions we might have on the matter, so as to spare the feelings of Aryans who give more of a shit about Jews than they do about the feelings of Aryans who’d rather not deal with them.
That is a close quote from AROOO. Not a Nazi site as such, but close enough. What was actually said - I swapped 2 linguistic tokens - was this:
We separatists are to tolerate male children, tranny males, “good” men, and the women who would lay their lives down for them in our spaces – and in return for what? Are these man-lovers going to be as tolerant of our objections as we’re supposed to be of their male kith and kin? Or are we going to be called bullies and “police” the second we point out that their boys aren’t any better than the rest of them, that their marriages aren’t any better than anyone else’s, and that their surgically mutilated tranny friend is still just as male as he was the day he was born? See, not only are separatists to tolerate the presence of these males – both in the flesh, and, unceasingly it seems, in the discourse of the women who love them – but we’re then to stifle any opinions we might have on the matter, so as to spare the feelings of women who give more of a shit about males than they do about the feelings of women who’d rather not deal with them.
This is a branch of Radical Feminism that is malignant. The degree of the malignity is illustrated by my first quote. I could have substituted other tokens, "White" and "Black" for example. Which tokens are used doesn't matter, and neither does the order: what matters is the underlying malignancy.

And rather than "stifling" such opinions, I think they should be exposed, and widely publicised. Along with the names of those that espouse them. "People" who object to "tolerating" male children.

Sunday 27 September 2009

The Effects of Hormones on the Brain

Two for the reference library:

Changing your sex changes your brain: influences of testosterone and estrogen on adult human brain structure by Pol et al, Europ Jnl Endocrinology, Vol 155, suppl_1, S107-S114 2006

Objective: Sex hormones are not only involved in the formation of reproductive organs, but also induce sexually-dimorphic brain development and organization. Cross-sex hormone administration to transsexuals provides a unique possibility to study the effects of sex steroids on brain morphology in young adulthood.

Methods: Magnetic resonance brain images were made prior to, and during, cross-sex hormone treatment to study the influence of anti-androgen + estrogen treatment on brain morphology in eight young adult male-to-female transsexual human subjects and of androgen treatment in six female-to-male transsexuals.

Results: Compared with controls, anti-androgen + estrogen treatment decreased brain volumes of male-to-female subjects towards female proportions, while androgen treatment in female-to-male subjects increased total brain and hypothalamus volumes towards male proportions.

The findings suggest that, throughout life, gonadal hormones remain essential for maintaining aspects of sex-specific differences in the human brain.
In other words, sex hormones cause gross changes in volume in some brain structures.


Neuroimaging Differences in Spatial Cognition between Men and Male-to-Female Transsexuals Before and During Hormone Therapy by Scoening et al J Sex Med. 2009 Sep 14.

Introduction. Neuropsychological abnormalities in transsexual patients have been reported in comparison with subjects without gender identity disorder (GID), suggesting differences in underlying neurobiological processes. However, these results have not consistently been confirmed. Furthermore, studies on cognitive effects of cross-sex hormone therapy also yield heterogeneous results.

Aim. We hypothesized that untreated transsexual patients differ from men without GID in activation pattern associated with a mental rotation task and that these differences may further increase after commencing of hormonal treatment.

Method. The present study investigated 11 male-to-female transsexual (MFTS) patients prior to cross-sex hormone therapy and 11 MFTS patients during hormone therapy in comparison with healthy men without GID. Using functional magnetic resonance imaging at 3-Tesla, a mental rotation paradigm with proven sexual dimorphism was applied to all subjects. Data were analyzed with SPM5.

Main Outcome Measures. Patterns of brain activation associated with a mental rotation task. Results. The classical mental rotation network was activated in all three groups, but significant differences within this network were observed. Men without GID exhibited significantly greater activation of the left parietal cortex (BA 40), a key region for mental rotation processes. Both transsexual groups revealed stronger activation of temporo-occipital regions in comparison with men without GID.

Conclusions. Our results confirmed previously reported deviances of brain activation patterns in transsexual men from men without GID and also corroborated these findings in a group of transsexual patients receiving cross-sex hormone therapy. The present study indicates that there are a priori differences between men and transsexual patients caused by different neurobiological processes or task-solving strategies and that these differences remain stable over the course of hormonal treatment.
Some things change, some things don't. The brain's plasticity is limited, and trans women don't have the neuroanatomy men do, regardless of whether they are on Hormone Replacement Therapy or not.

And another thing that doesn't change: the labelling of trans women as "transsexual men" even when reporting clear evidence that they're no such thing. *SIGH*

Dune Buggy

Dune Buggy on - Andrew's new favourite game. He's gotten to level 8 already - can you?

Friday 25 September 2009

The Face of the Persecuted

Testimony before a US Congressional committee on whether an employment non-discrimination act is necessary or not.

It doesn't get more blatant than that, does it?

Thursday 24 September 2009

Porcine Intersex

I've blogged about Equine Intersex before. Intersex conditions are found in all mammals though - reptiles and birds too for that matter. Amphibians. Fish. In some species, those which are dichogamous, they get a natural and complete sex-change.

Here's one genetic Intersex condition I wasn't aware of though:
Investigations into the relative abundance of Intersexual pigs (Sus sp.) in the Republic of Vanuatu.
The existence and great abundance of a unique form of pig intersexuality was verified on the northernmost islands of Vanuatu.

Morphological examinations were conducted on 54 pigs from the islands of Malo, Ambae, and Aore. Through blood analysis, estradiol and testosterone levels were derived. Subsequent comparisons of the estradiol/testosterone ratio yielded results consistent with "maleness". Fifty-one dental and mandibular measurements of the Vanuatu Sus. sp. specimens plotted within the feral swine target group.

Behaviorally, the Vanuatu intersex pig exhibits periods of aggressiveness that generally coincide with a sow in heat. When encountered in the "bush", the naravé (local name for the intersexual pig) is a stronger and more aggressive adversary than the "normal" native wild pig. Six gross dissections yielded totally male internal sex organs. Four separate graduations or phases of the intersexual condition are described according to their external genitalia. The phases of intersexuality appeared to be an inherited trait. Certain sows (called falé-ravé) are known intersex producers and 20% of their offspring will be intersexual.

A similar account is given by the Sakau people, but their interesting classification of the Naravé separates them into 7 groups according to their external genitalia. They are as follows(4):

1. Ndré-rasa - The "feminine" intersex - The external appearance is essentially that of the female, except for the presence, in adults, of tusks. The testes are situated within the abdomen. 2. Ndré-runedh - "sprouting coconut" intersex - Small projection by the vulva, with testicles sometimes descended into scrotum. 3. Ndré-narsogh - "sewn up" intersex - occasionally the urinary projection is situated in the scrotal region but the urinary external orifice is occluded. Soon after birth locals would make a small incision to allow normal urination. 4. Ndré-ghara - "fruit bat" intersex - the urinary projection is long and situated at the back of the testicles resembling the genitalia of the local bat. 5. Ndré-nau - "rat" intersex - Genitalia resemble those of the rat. 6. Ndré-ghor-ghor - "hidden" intersex - The urinary projection is smaller like that of the Ndré-nau, but it is not visible when viewed from behind. 7. Ndré-selet - "worm" intersex - There is a further enlargement of the corpus cavernosum moving the projection yet further on the abdomen with a resultant "worm-like" extrusion from the end.

These, as with the Authors classifications, commonly overlapped each other and at times were difficult to categorize. There does, however, seem to be a genetic influence involved in the inheritance of these conditions as certain families of animals in specific localities show there is clearly an inherited tendency to certain phases of this abnormality.
As with Intersex conditions generally, there are huge gaps in our knowledge here. It would seem that this is an ideal area to experiment in, a relatively small genetic pool, ethical considerations only appropriate to highly intelligent animals rather than people.... I hope the Southwest Pacific Research Foundation gets additional funding to follow this up.

Wednesday 23 September 2009

88, Not Out

Here's a finely crafted short film that touches the heart. Nothing of any great worth and moment in the grand scheme of things, just another ordinary, everyday heroine.

The kind of people you see every day. The kind of people whose lives should be celebrated, rather than many of the "celebrities".

It's pieces of art like this - for such cinematography is an art form - that makes me marvel at the diversity and talent of the human species. The editing, the camerawork, they are areas I know nothing about yet can appreciate good work when I see it, even if I lack both training and talent to do anything nearly as good. My talents lie in other areas.

Oh yes - I've been in contact with Ms Russell. The lump was benign.

Tuesday 22 September 2009

For a Friend of Mine

From Spider Robinson:


Earlier his year a brilliant surgeon, Dr. Andresz Busczowski, helped Jeanne Robinson beat back a rare and virulent form of biliary cancer. But it’s so rare even he can’t say how much time he‘s bought her, how soon it might recur—and her latest blood tests have been so discouraging they’ve now decided she needs to start chemotherapy as soon as possible. Besides the prescription drugs to counteract the chemotherapy, she needs special therapies and supplements, counseling, and extensive diet and lifestyle changes, to reduce her stress level and the strain on her liver to as close to zero as possible. All those things are expensive...and like many artists today the Robinsons were already running on fumes financially.

But Jeanne, a Soto Zen monk, has been spreading love and kindness in all directions for a long time. So her Buddhist sangha in Vancouver, her neighbors on Bowen Island, and friends as far away as Florida have all spontaneously come together to raise funds to help keep her around as long as possible. Your participation is welcomed.

Another way to help would be to buy their books from Amazon by clicking-through from the site, so Jeanne and Spider can get the affiliate commission. All three of us promise you an entertaining read.

A number of people have donated things - it's too late to get a Dinner with Harlan Ellison, but not too late to get rare, signed first editions from major SF authors, and all manner of unique memorabilia over at the Jeanne Robinson Benefit Auction at e-bay.

You can read Jeanne’s recent blog entry, The Third Act, to get a sense of how she’s feeling at

Checks made to 'Jeanne Robinson' can be sent to

First Credit Union,
Box 190
101-475 Trunk Road,
Bowen Island, BC
V0N 1G0

Donate by PayPal

Jeanne's Paypal account is here. Send via paypal to

Just click on the button if you have a PayPal account or a Credit Card.

Spider got one bit slightly wrong. It's not as far away as Florida. It's from as far away as Australia now.

Sunday 20 September 2009

A Comment so good.....

I wish I'd made it myself.

Regarding your contention Semenya "did cheat" because she and her trainers/handlers were allegedly aware of her IS condition, internal testes, etc., this is the crux of the issue- if rules are rules, then what are the applicable rules?

From the IAAF's own website-
6. Conditions that should be allowed:

(a) Those conditions that accord no advantage over other females:

- Androgen insensitivity syndrome (Complete or almost complete - previously called testicular feminization);

- Gonadal dysgenesis (gonads should be removed surgically to avoid malignancy);

- Turner’s syndrome.

(b) Those conditions that may accord some advantages but nevertheless acceptable:

- Congenital adrenal hyperplasia;
- Androgen producing tumors;
- Anovulatory androgen excess (polycystic ovary syndrome).

As I read the above, the *only* bit of wiggle room that might make the cheating accusation stick in Semenya's case is the part about "Complete or almost complete" would all fall to the question of whether or not her AIS is complete enough...and the rules don't define that.

Besides that, there's this-

B.Current IAAF Policy
In 1992,the Medical Committee recommended and the Council adopted the current policy on gender verification,which states:

1.The general “health check ” is strongly recommended,but no longer required.

2.Visual examination of the genitalia during the delivery of a urine specimen in the women ’s doping control station is a sufficient method of determining whether the athlete is male or female.The risk of a male being discovered during the doping control procedure is sufficient deterrent to prevent males from attempting to compete as females.

Seems to me that she did everything according to IAAF rules, so I fail to understand why she is being demonized rather than those who wrote those rules...?

Credit and Kudos to Tina.

Friday 18 September 2009

Curiouser and Curiouser

A Brain post from The Medical News :
Scientists from the Samuel Lunenfeld Research Institute of Mount Sinai Hospital in Toronto have discovered a molecular link between intelligence and curiosity, which may lead to the development of drugs to improve learning.

In a paper, published in Neuron, Dr. John Roder, Senior Investigator at the Lunenfeld, and Bechara Saab, Ph.D candidate at the Lunenfeld, studied the interaction of two proteins in a small region of the brain called the dentate gyrus (part of the hippocampus, which plays a role in long-term memory and spatial navigation).

For the study, the neuronal calcium sensor-1 (NCS-1), a protein which is known to affect the memory of worms and is linked to bipolar and schizophrenia in people, was increased by one-and-a-half fold specifically in the dentate gyrus of mouse models. This modest overexpression increased the ability of brain cells to change how they communicate with each other and gave the mice superior memory in complex tasks and a significant increase in exploratory behaviour (curiosity). Because the exploratory behaviour was only altered in safe environments, Dr. Roder and Saab believe they have discovered a region of the brain that generates curiosity and a model for how brain activity leads to curiosity.
Another part of the puzzle of how we think.

Thursday 17 September 2009

For Medicinal Purposes Only, of course.

From the New York Times :
In a study that will provide comfort to chocoholics everywhere, researchers in Sweden have found evidence that people who eat chocolate have increased survival rates after a heart attack — and it may be that the more they eat, the better.
Compared with people who ate none, those who had chocolate less than once a month had a 27 percent reduction in their risk for cardiac death, those who ate it up to once a week had a 44 percent reduction and those who indulged twice or more a week had a 66 percent reduced risk of dying from a subsequent heart event. The beneficial effect remained after controlling for intake of other kinds of sweets.
Make mine Lindt 80% cocoa mass dark chocolate please, three times a week. For medicinal purposes only, of course.

Wednesday 16 September 2009

It's not just humans

From the AFP :
The future of a female Australian racing horse was thrown into doubt Tuesday after its trainer revealed it was a hermaphrodite with internal testes and high testosterone levels, reports said.
Trainer Les Kosklin told Fairfax newspapers that officials raided his stables after the race, suspecting doping, and a swab revealed the pacer's testosterone levels were "through the roof".

An examination showed Tuscan Abbe had internal testes which were producing large amounts of the hormone, and she was found to have a male Y chromosome, Kosklin said.

The discovery put her future in question, he added, as it was unlikely she would be allowed to compete in mares and fillies events such as the Ladyship Mile.

"We might have to change that to the Miracle Mile (stallions event) now," Kosklin joked.

Fairfax said the case was not unique with Canada's Arizona Helen found to have male and female features this year, while Australian horse What Am I is also intersex.
I'll quote something I wrote about the other cases of Equine Intersex:
Oh Jeez, they can't even get the sex right for horses. She's a mare. You could pump her full of testosterone and her cells would just ignore it. She has nothing of a stallion's strength, and probably doesn't even match the masculinisation of a gelding.

Ignorance of the biology amongst sporting officials - and too often their medical advisors - is not confined to professional athletics.

But at least we don't have Bible-Thumpers denying the existence of Intersex conditions in animals. We don't have "GOD made you either male or female, end of story" or blaming it on "Man's Fall". We don't have ignorant Irish journalists shedding copious crocodile tears and writing "Sorry, Tuscan, saying you're a girl doesn't make it true". Because contrary to Mr Ed 1, horses can't talk.

1. Played by a gelding, Bamboo Harvester, BTW.

Tuesday 15 September 2009

The Next Step in Sports Testing?

Having read through literally thousands of comments in newspapers throughout the world... it really does feel like that.

Monday 14 September 2009

Segregation, Sex, Science and Sport

One of the most educated discussions on the segregation of the Sexes is over at Science and Sport.

While I don't agree with some of the premises, nor the conclusions, at least the discussion is rational and educated, based on science (mostly) and facts (most of which are accurate), rather than opinion, superstition, and misconception.

How at least some Intersexed people see the situation is elucidated in An Intersex Perspective on Caster Semanya. A sample (and you should really read the whole thing):
The main thing that saddens me about this story is the emotional tone of the commentaries. Other athletes, people on the street, and low media blogs are full of sneers and winks and nosewrinkled disgust. The major media bring in scientists and voice patronizing sympathy for how humiliating this must be for Caster, meanwhile capitalizing on the prurient interest in the story to gather viewer attention. Underneath it all is a widespread impulse to yank down Caster's pants and let everyone have a good look. It's a freakshow, with an intersex person the object of millions of prying eyes.

Some basic themes that will be familiar to anyone intersex arise over and over in the news coverage. There's ignorance of the very existence of intersex people, evinced in frequent speculation by laypeople that Caster must have had a sex change or engaged in doping. There's confusion of physical sex with gender identity, with detractors, including some of Caster's competitors, referring to her with male pronouns and speaking disparagingly of her butch appearance. There's racist scientific hubris, with Western sports scientists asserting that they can determine Caster's "true" dyadic sex after doing an exhaustive investigation of her chromosomes, hormone levels, anatomy, gonadal tissue, and psychology, while speaking derisively of the ASA's investigation as being unsophisticated. And most of all, there's the overwhelming belief in the myth of dyadic sex. Caster must be female or male; intersex cannot exist as a sex category.

One depressing sideline of this insistence that Caster must have a definitive dyadic sex is the regularity with which the term "pseudohermaphrodite" is raised by detractors. I've posted on how this term emerged in Western medical science to try to define away the existence of intersexuality ( see here.) Basically, in trying to erase the challenge intersex people place to the medical ideology of sex dyadism, doctors in the 20th century decided to call all intersex individuals who did not have ovotestes as their gonads "pseudohermaphrodites," no matter what their anatomy or experience. Somebody can be raised female, with average-looking genitalia and secondary sexual characteristics such as breasts, living a typical valorized heterosexual life, femme as can be (housewife, reader of romance novels, cookie-baker), yet all unaware, have internal testes and androgen insensitivity syndrome. If she goes to a doctor for treatment of infertility, suddenly she'll find herself labeled a "male pseudohermaphrodite." The medical term defines her as "really a man," not even intersex, let alone a woman. Anyone with testes is "really a man" according to this scheme of classification--which reveals the sex politics and semantics in supposedly "objective" science.

Those same politics emerge from the mouths of Caster's detractors. She is a "pseudohermaphrodite," they claim--not a woman, not even intersex, but a man trying to cheat honest female competitors.

Here's an irony for you. According to Western medical practice, the majority of infants discovered to be intersex are assigned female. This is done for surgical convenience (it being considered easier to remove an "inappropriate" penis than create an "appropriate" one), and due to a covert assumption about gender psychology, that women can deal better with gender ambiguity than can men. So we're assigned female, told we are "really women," subjected to mutilating infant surgery, expected to identify as female, not intersex, told to keep our medical history, if we know it, a secret, and sent out to live dyadic female lives. Many of us carefully live by the rules. But it turns out that if we do as we are told, we are still subject to being outed, discredited, mocked, and returned unceremoniously to the status of intersex oddity, as Caster's life illustrates--accused of breaking the rules.
A quick aside: the words "Hermaphrodite" and "Pseudohermaphrodite" are deprecated, just as are the words "Negro" and "Half-caste".

They can still be used as specific technical terms for a small number of IS conditions; "Hermaphrodite" meaning that both ovarian and testicular tissue is present, and "pseudohermaphrodite" meaning a person with cross-gendered fertility - a biological male capable only of female reproduction, or the reverse. And the latter term is not in general use.

Anyway... yes, this is how Intersexed people are treated, in general. The binary gender model is a good approximation, but it's treated as Revealed Truth, and anyone not fitting neatly and squarely into one or the other of the two recognised categories is anathematised. Even if that's very obviously the biological reality, with no question of "lifestyle choice".

Regarding the biology, and the mass ignorance thereof... in the comments section of the previous post, commenter "Sidney" wrote:
Hi Zoe,
After reading the Daily Telegraph of London, I read some of the 299 comments and per usual everybody has an opinion about something they know nothing about. All speculative! As a Urologist, who lectures on this very subject to medical doctors, let me tell you what I think I know from reading the AP from Pretoria, SA. Caster Semenya has a probable genetic Disorder of Sexual Development known as Partial Androgen Insensitivity Syndrome, probably Grade 5 or 6, where the external genitalia are female-like and the internal genitalia are vestigial testes, which produce Testosterone and Estrogen. I say probable because we cannot know if she has any ovarian tissue mixed with the testis tissue until these vestigial organs are examined under the microscope by a pathologist. This will probably never happen, unless it is presented to her as a condition for receiving female hormones. At this moment everyone is assuming she is an XY woman. Now somebody said she had three times the normal female Testosterone level, which according to this one lab gives her less than their normal male values. Now every lab has its own normal values and we have not seen any numbers. So here are the values from just one lab, not her testing lab.

Determination Normal Reference Value
Testosterone: Conventional units SI units
Female 6–86 ng/dl 0.21–3 nmol/L
Male 270–1070 ng/dl 9.3–37 nmol/L

But it doesn't matter what her serum Total or Free Testosterone is because the definition of PAIS implies that the cells which receive T cannot utilize it because their Androgen Receptors will not bind the T effectively. That's why she has female external genitalia at birth. Interestingly the research in this area is so complete that the Chromosomal mutation on the Androgen Receptor can be identified. Usually these women and I say women, because that is how they have been raised and gender identify as female, are diagnosed in their teens because they cannot menstruate or conceive. Now in truth I know no more about her physical condition than what I read in the newspapers. Is the London Daily Telegraph a tabloid or the cousin to the New York Daily News? Poor Girl !!!!
I'd put the UK Daily Telegraph at about the level of the LA Times. Not quite the WSJ, but not the late unlamented National Inquirer either. As is the Australian Daily Telegraph (which is the one with 299 comments).

To explain the grades of PAIS - partial androgen insensitivity syndrome - from the AIS Support Group :
Grades of Partial AIS

In AIS Grades 5 and 4, the clitoris is enlarged. In Grade 5, there may be partial fusion of the labia majora (outer vaginal lips), in which the posterior (back) portion of the labia form a web of tissue across the back part of the vaginal outlet. In Grade 4, this fusion extends further forward, covering both the vaginal opening and the true urethral opening. The cavity formed by the fused labia, through which urine exits, is called a urogenital sinus.

The labial fusion can be surgically divided, making the vaginal opening accessible for pressure dilation (a non-surgical way of lengthening the vagina). This division is a relatively minor operation, and is unlikely to adversely affect erotic sensitivity, but it should be performed by a physician familiar with this type of surgery. Vaginal dilation can be successful in Grade 4 AIS, and should always be attempted before surgical vaginoplasty is planned.

In Grade 3 and the more masculinized form of Grade 4, the labia are completely fused, so that the urethral opening is at the base of the clitoris/penis. The fused labia may have a rugose, or wrinkled appearance and form a bifid, or double, scrotum. The fusion is then more properly called 'labio-scrotal fusion'. The phallus has the appearance of a large clitoris, or a small, bent, penis, bound down in structures called chordee. The chordee is formed from the same tissues that form the labia minora in the female and the frenulum of the penis and the tissues surrounding the urethra (corpus spongiosum) on the underside of the penis in the male. It is not true that the presence of chordee makes erections painful.

In Grade 2, the genital appearance is that of a male with hypospadias, that is, with a urethral opening located somewhere on the underside of the penis. There may be an open gutter running from the urethral opening to the glans of the penis.
To say that Alice Dreger is a controversial character amongst IS and TS circles is like saying that the inside of the Sun is moderately warm. Certainly her spirited defence of Dr Bailey, her mentor, is, well, full of it.

Not so her article on Intersex generally. In fact, it's difficult to believe that it's been written by the same person. Another example of how opinions can differ between reasonable people, and that demonisation of one's opponents just because they obtusely differ from your own Perfect Opinion is almost always a mistake. One she's been guilty of too, I might add.

Anyway, her article is a polished summary of Intersex, one I'm going to keep as a reference for the layperson. One that's worth reading in toto1. And apart from going into the biology, she has something else to say too:
Why do you sound so grumpy about this sometimes?

Because honestly, this is not the first time these issues have come up. Why is Caster Semenya having her life tossed about in the international media like this? There’s no good excuse at this late date in history for sporting officials to still not have a clear policy about how they’re going to manage sex anomalies among athletes competing as women.

I’m also annoyed because the treatment of Semenya in a lot of the media has carried the message that “real” women are not powerful. It frustrates me that Semenya has had to get a pretty hair-do to compete as a woman in the court of public opinion.

Finally, I’m tired of seeing all my friends born with atypical sex have to face so much fear and stigma every time these issues hit the news. I wish that the media would realize, every time they cover these stories, they are impacting the psyches of every one out there who has a sex anomaly or who loves someone born with one. That includes lots of parents of wonderful little girls and boys who deserve to have their parents not worry so much about stupid public reactions to known conditions.

Which is to say: Please stop calling these people hermaphrodites! They’re our friends, neighbors, children, lovers, doctors, lawyers, teachers, military personnel, florists, counselors, bus drivers, and priests.
Not forgetting the odd (and sometimes very odd) Rocket Scientist.

Support for people with AIS:
AISSG - AIS Support Group
OII (Organisation Intersex International) Australia
Intersexnews Blog
Sophia Seidelberg (OII)
AISSG - Australia

1) For all fans of the Wizard of Oz, remember this: Outside of a Dog, a Book is Man's best friend. And inside a Dog, it's too dark to read.

UPDATE: Segregation, Sex, Science, Sport... and Suicide.
Lawmaker Butana Komphela, chair of South Africa's sports committee, was quoted as saying: "She is like a raped person. She is afraid of herself and does not want anyone near her. If she commits suicide, itwill be on all our heads. The best we can do is protect her and look out for her during this trying time."
ENOUGH! Even the strongest material has a breaking point.

Friday 11 September 2009

In re Caster Semanya

A post I've been cutting and pasting in various places, where ignorance and malice are equally mixed.

If the reports are correct, Ms Semanya has PAIS-6. Partial Androgen Insensitivity Syndrome grade 6, where grade 7 is Complete Androgen Insensitivity Syndrome (CAIS).

What this means is that she's almost completely immune to testosterone and other androgens. "Almost", but not quite completely. If she'd had CAIS, she'd be ultra-feminine, more so than standard factory model women. It's an open secret that most of the supermodels who don't have children have CAIS, as did Miss Teen USA 1991.

From the Internation Amateur Atletics Association rules on the subject :
(The crux of the matter is that the athlete should not be enjoying the benefits of natural testosterone predominance normally seen in a male)

6. Conditions that should be allowed:- Androgen insensitivity syndrome (Complete or almost complete - previously called testicular feminization);- Gonadal dysgenesis (gonads should be removed surgically to avoid malignancy);- Turner’s syndrome.

(b) Those conditions that may accord some advantages but nevertheless acceptable:- Congenital adrenal hyperplasia;- Androgen producing tumors;- Anovulatory androgen excess (polycystic ovary syndrome).

Unlike other women, she cannot get the full performance benefits of testosterone, since she's almost immune to the stuff. Having three times the female average could well be less effective when it comes to building muscle mass than a normal amount in an average women. Many female athletes have high natural levels of testosterone anyway - though still a third or less of an average male, and a tenth of a male athlete.

As regards the "dangerous condition" of internal testes, the danger isn't exactly immediate. There's a tenfold normal risk of cancer, and it would be wise to have 6-monthly checks, and gonadectomy if any pre-cancerous lesions are found, but that's it. At worst, 1 in 50, and the estrogen, the female sex hormone also produced by the testes, is useful for preventing oteopyrosis and other conditions, so it's swings and roundabouts. The real reason for gonadectomy is to stop other people from being upset about the idea of a woman with testes in her body.

I've stated the IAAA's policy - but that policy is not always followed. The Indian athlete Santhi Soundarajan had CAIS, but was stripped of her medals by Indian authorities, not because she had an advantage, but purely for being Intersexed, a sub-human. She attempted suicide shortly thereafter, as Ms Semanya may do.

She's an 18 year old girl from a backwoods African rural village who has given her all to become a world-class athlete. Now she's had the double blow of being told she'll never be able to have children, and having her life and ambitions shattered by a global surge of ignorant bigotry.

Some of which is apparent in these comments.

Oh yes, I'm Intersexed too. I'm also 51, a middle-aged woman old enough to be a grandma, and used to this kind of thing. She's only a teenage girl. Some here forget that.
For the depths of pig-ignorance and blind malice shown by some, go no further than the comments at the NY Daily News.

I've been contacted by a TV producer (in another context) about a programme on Intersexed people. She's having difficulty finding people willing to place themselves in the spotlight. Have a look at the many articles and comments all around the world, and you can see why.

At the risk of being tediously repetitive, I've had it easier than most, and I know it. It's only because of that that I don't worry about keeping a low profile. I live in a relatively well-educated and tolerant society, and although I'm not proud of my unusual medical situation, I'm not ashamed of it either. It's the way I was born, as some are born left-handed or colour-blind.

Some people have difficulty with that. Not the medical situation, but the fact that I neither advertise nor keep secret. That I refuse to feel ashamed, just because in their view, I should do. They don't know how to handle that. Someone who's honest, unashamed, but not, it has to be said, unafraid.

But if I don't speak out, who will? To those who have been given much, much is to be expected. I'm not even sure that I'm doing my part, I feel I could and should do more. Life - bringing up my son, and my PhD - gets in the way though, and there's only so many hours in the day.

More on AIS at the excellent site Second Type Woman.

Thursday 10 September 2009

The Hybrots are Coming!

Further to my post about Laminated Mouse Brains... progress on this front continue.

From the New Scientist:
A robot controlled by human brain cells could soon be trundling around a British lab, New Scientist has learned.
To make the system a better model of human disease, a culture of human neurons will be connected to the robot once the current work with rat cells is completed. This will be the first instance of human cells being used to control a robot.

One aim is to investigate any differences in the behaviour of robots controlled by rat and human neurons. "We'll be trying to find out if the learning aspects and memory appear to be similar," says Warwick.

Warwick and colleagues can proceed as soon as they are ready, as they won't need specific ethical approval to use a human neuron cell line. That's because the cultures are available to buy and "the ethical side of sourcing is done by the company from whom they are purchased", Whalley says.
I'm not convinced. Oh sure, at this point, there are no ethical issues, no question of consciousness. But to say that "Oh, it's the supplier's problem" concerns me deeply.

No it's not. It's not just the supplier's problem, it's what they're used for that's important too.

Progress will continue, you see. We need the ethical foundations laid now both to allow ethical experimentation to the absolute limit, but to absolutely prevent what will be a particularly hideous form of slavery. One that has until now remained within the realms of Science Fiction, in Saberhagen's Starsong.
Hell, a mass of fortified metal miles in diameter, received him and his racer through its main entrance. He got out of his ship and found himself able to breathe and walk and see where he was going; the physical environment in Hell was for the most part mild and pleasant, because prisoners did not as a rule survive very long, and the computer-brains of the berserker did not want to impose unnecessary stresses upon them.

The berserker devices having immediate control over the routine operations in Hell were themselves in large part organic, containing culture-brains grown for the purpose and some reeducated captured brains as well. These were all examples of the berserker's highest achievements in its attempts at reverse cybernation.
But at least the Berserkers didn't say "Oh, the source takes care of the ethical issues". It takes people to do that.

Wednesday 9 September 2009

A Pet Hate

Norton products.

I de-installed their anti-virus system using their recommended procedure as the pre-installed free trial period was about to expire. But it left behind some nasty stuff that protected me very thoroughly. Protecting me from being able to use FTP, or to use a new version of a browser, for example. For my own good, of course.

Because FTP was disabled, I couldn't access Norton's special removal tool to get rid of the cruft, as that had to be downloaded by, you guessed it, FTP.

Good that they provided such a thing, bad that the problem is so common that they had to. Very bad that they've known about the problem for ages, they just haven't bothered fixing it.

So manual surgery was needed on C:\windows\system32\drivers\. The first attempt disabled my Internet connection completely. I eventually got it working though, 6 hours of my time wasted on a piece of used food. But in the process of re-installing Firefox, I lost all my bookmarks, user names, cookies and passwords.

The picture is of Hallucigenia, an extinct animal of the Middle Cambrian. But I prefer to think of it as a Pet Hate.

Tuesday 8 September 2009

Milton Diamond's latest

Clinical implications of the organizational and activational effects of hormones.

Horm Behav. 2009 May;55(5):621-32

Debate on the relative contributions of nature and nurture to an individual's gender patterns, sexual orientation and gender identity are reviewed as they appeared to this observer starting from the middle of the last century. Particular attention is given to the organization-activation theory in comparison to what might be called a theory of psychosexual neutrality at birth or rearing consistency theory. The organization-activation theory posits that the nervous system of a developing fetus responds to prenatal androgens so that, at a postnatal time, it will determine how sexual behavior is manifest. How organization-activation was or was not considered among different groups and under which circumstances it is considered is basically understood from the research and comments of different investigators and clinicians. The preponderance of evidence seems to indicate that the theory of organization-activation for the development of sexual behavior is certain for non-human mammals and almost certain for humans. This article also follows up on previous clinical critiques and recommendations and makes some new suggestions.

Full article as a PDF via TS-SI

Monday 7 September 2009

A Diamond in Hawaii

Professor Milton Diamond - also myself, and my G/F Katie, another protandrous dichogamous pseudohermaphrodite.

It's no exaggeration to say that Professor Diamond is to the science of Gender and Sex as Albert Einstein is to Physics. Hopefully he learned something about us, he certainly taught me quite a bit.

He's also a really charming man, and his wife is equally gracious, as well as being a very, very impressive psychologist in her own right. Lovely people.

I've said it before, but the best thing about my change is the wonderful people I've had the chance to meet. People who I never would have met, or even heard of, if my metabolism hadn't staged a palace revolt.

Saturday 5 September 2009

IAAF Policy on Gender Verification

The International Association of Athletics Federation's 2006 policy on Gender Verification is available online as a PDF file.

Points of interest:
5. Reconstructive surgery and sex reassignment

- if sex change operations as well as appropriate hormone replacement
therapy are performed before puberty then the athlete is allowed to
compete as a female
- if the sex change and hormone therapy is done after puberty then the
athlete has to wait two years after gonadectomy before a physical and
endocrinological evaluation is conducted
(The crux of the matter is that the athlete should not be enjoying the
benefits of natural testosterone predominance normally seen in a male)

6. Conditions that should be allowed:

(a) Those conditions that accord no advantage over other females:
- Androgen insensitivity syndrome (Complete or almost complete -
previously called testicular feminization);
- Gonadal dysgenesis (gonads should be removed surgically to avoid
- Turner’s syndrome.

(b) Those conditions that may accord some advantages but nevertheless
- Congenital adrenal hyperplasia;
- Androgen producing tumors;
- Anovulatory androgen excess (polycystic ovary syndrome).

What is not covered in detail are the genetic Intersex conditions other than Turner's syndrome (45x). What if someone is a mosaic or chimera, 46xy/46xx? Hopefully, common sense will prevail, and the principle of The crux of the matter is that the athlete should not be enjoying the benefits of natural testosterone predominance normally seen in a male will be followed, regardless of exact cause. Conditions such as PCOS - polycystic ovarian syndrome - can easily cause a doubling or tripling of "normal" female testosterone levels, but not the 8-10 times seen in most men.

Male athletes often have natural values even higher, just as they tend to be larger than most other men. There are no skeletally ectomorphic (skinny) weight-lifters, regardless of how muscular they are, and no skeletally endomorphic (squat) sprinters, regardless of musculature, and athletes other than shooters etc tend to have more testosterone and human growth hormone than the average non-athlete. That's because when you get to the highest levels of competitive sport, you need a natural genetic advantage in addition to rigorous training.

I said "hopefully", because the treatment of some intersexed athletes who have "failed a gender test" has not always been in accordance with these principles. Moreover, they are guidelines, with no "bright line" saying "X amount of testosterone is OK, but X plus a smidgin is not". One has to take into account the natural variations over time too, a relatively smaller absolute amount, if constant, over a long period could be greatly more advantageous than a series of much higher peaks matched by troughs.

It's not simple.

Friday 4 September 2009

Thursday 3 September 2009

Some More Spectacular than others

From the BBC:
Each of us has at least 100 new mutations in our DNA, according to research published in the journal Current Biology.

Scientists have been trying to get an accurate estimate of the mutation rate for over 70 years.

However, only now has it been possible to get a reliable estimate, thanks to "next generation" technology for genetic sequencing.
Amongst other things, this means that "identical twins", those who were originally genetically identical before the embryonic clump of cells split into two individual foetuses, are unlikely to be completely genetically identical. In fact, it's likely that everyone has some cells of one genotype, and others of others, due to transcription errors during cell turnover.

Genetically, we are all unique. It's just that some of us have that uniqueness reflected more spectacularly than others.