Wednesday 31 March 2010

Tying it all together - They Shoot Horses, Don't They?

I'll start with another story of Equine Intersex. Because it doesn't just happen to Humans.

See previous posts here and here. And here, where the pigs get a look in too.

From CTV News in Canada:
TORONTO — When Sam Campbell's mare Koko began acting in a decidedly unmare-like manner, aggressive to people and trying to mount other females in the herd like a stallion, she was baffled by what was causing such behaviour. Well, it turns out that Koko was no lady in more ways than one.

Scientists at the University of Guelph discovered that the six-year-old "Paint" is a rare intersex, or sex-reversed, horse. Outwardly, Koko has all the characteristics of a mare but was born with internal testes that were juicing her system with testosterone and making her act like a stallion.

"I'd been training her and she'd be fine and the next day she'd go wild. Her behaviour was very erratic," said Campbell, who owns four other horses at her hobby farm near Cobourg, Ont., east of Toronto. "Then she started showing stallion-like behaviour, urinating on other horses' feces, mounting the mare horses."

"I'm thinking, what is wrong with this horse?"

Campbell said a local veterinarian she called in performed an ultrasound examination on Koko and found what looked like internal testes, a fact confirmed when the horse was taken to the University of Guelph's Ontario Veterinary College.
It was no wonder Koko became a problem when she was turned out with a herd of mares, said Chenier, "because she was a he, and rightly so acted like it."

But Koko's anatomy wasn't the only eye-opener for the Guelph specialists working on the case -- they found out she (or he) was not the only one.

"I was very surprised when Sam said 'I have another one at home that I think is the same,"' said Chenier, explaining that Koko's younger sister, Sequoia, had been born to the same mother, a mare called Angel that Campbell had purchased at a horse sale in nearby Lindsay, Ont.

Sure enough, an examination of Sequoia showed the filly also had internal testes, which like Koko's were surgically removed. They then discovered that Angel's sister, who had been bought by a different owner, had a female foal named Pandora that was also an intersex horse.

Professor Allan King, a specialist in animal reproductive biotechnology at the University of Guelph, said it is extremely rare to find three animals with the same genetic disorder.

"That's why we're quite interested, because it's a family rather than a random occurrence," he said. "We believe that it's inherited on the X chromosome. So their fathers were normal male stallions and their mothers are carrying this gene, which they're passing on to their offspring."

"It only comes to light when one of these animals is examined in a clinic."
"In my eyes, she was born a girl, she had some boy parts, but on the outside she looks like a girl," said Campbell, adding that since the removal of the testes, Koko is like a different horse.

"She's amazing ... Now she's very docile, she's a lovely horse, so much so that a friend's daughter asked if she could work with her and take her into the local schooling show," she said. "It's nice that I feel safe putting somebody's child on her, because before I wouldn't let anybody ride her but me."

"It's been a wild ride."
Tell me about it, she says ruefully.

I won't attempt to guess which particular Intersex condition caused the genital dysgenesis. 5ARD? PAIS? Neither will I speculate on equine psychology - whether this horse is more properly considered a gelding or a mare. Was the obnoxiousness a sign of hormonal influence, or possibly something akin to Gender Dysphoria in humans? I don't know, I don't even know how we'd find out. I have no idea how sexually dimorphic an equine brain is, nor how much influence endocrinology has. Probably not much, and quite a lot respectively, based on the quite different psychologies of stallions and geldings.

I do hope this horse is happier now, anyway. They may not be human, nor particularly bright (compared to, say, an African Grey Parrot), but they do have feelings.

I will point out though that human children are often given the same treatment. Their owners guardians - or the vets paediatricians, arbitrarily decide which sex they "really" are, and intervene accordingly. Two times out of three, the foal child can at least live with it.

And often humans only find out they're Intersexed when they go to a clinic as young adults. To find out why things aren't happening as they should be.

And sometimes children get treated worse than foals. Who would be so inhuman as to separate a foal from its mother?

From The Stony Brook Press, on the history of the Feminine Boy Project :
This project was funded by the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) from 1972 to1986. The original stated goal on the grants was “treatment of pre-homosexuality”–the, idea that if children were kept from stepping outside gender stereotypes, they wouldn’t turn out gay. When being gay was taken out of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) in 1973, the goal was changed to “treatment of pretranssexuality,” conflating gender identity and sexuality as the same, based in biased assumptions that anything other than stereotypical gender identities and heterosexuality were wrong. Children were declared “pathological” for behavior like boys playing with dolls, wearing dresses or helping in the kitchen, or girls climbing trees, playing with boys’ toys or wearing boy clothes.

This was collaboration between anti-LGBTI (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Intersex) members of the psychiatric establishment and the “religious right.”
When I read this, I was sceptical. Until a name caught my eye.
Richard Green is a colleague of John Money. Money instituted the “Money protocols” for nonconsensual surgeries on intersex children after forcing David Reimer to live as a girl (until Reimer changed back to male before killing himself). During the “experiment” Green co-wrote the book Transsexualism and Sex Reassignment. Green has made a career of pathologizing LGBTI people. This has included making inflammatory comments like his 1995 Dateline remark “plays with Barbies at five, sleeps with men at twenty-five.” While head of the now closed Human Sexuality branch of Stony Brook’s Psychology Department he got NIMH to approve nearly $1 million for the project.

George Rekers belongs to several anti-gay fundamentalist groups, published his essay “Gender Identity Disorder” through the notoriously anti-gay Family Research Council and is “scientific advisor” to National Association for the Research and Therapy of Homosexuality (NARTH), which claims to “cure” gays despite the American Psychiatric Association (APA) condemning “reparative therapy.”
Money's fraudulent research is infamous of course. The David Reimer case is an object lesson on how, while two in three Intersexed children may be able to live with an arbitrarily assigned sex, the other one in three cannot - because it's the wrong one, an they're not bigendered.

That doesn't prove any involvement by the "Religious Right" though. It was the other name, George Rekers, that rang alarm bells. Because I'd come across him before.
In January 2005, Pulaski County Circuit Judge Timothy White ... called Rekers' testimony "extremely suspect." He also accused Rekers of testifying solely for promoting his "own personal agenda."
Miami-Dade Circuit Court Judge Cindy Lederman ... said "Dr. Rekers’ testimony was far from a neutral and unbiased recitation of the relevant scientific evidence. Dr. Rekers’ beliefs are motivated by his strong ideological and theological convictions that are not consistent with the science. Based on his testimony and demeanor at trial, the court can not consider his testimony to be credible nor worthy of forming the basis of public policy."

Lederman may have been put off by the fact that Rekers said based on "research," a case could be made for banning Native Americans from adopting children.
Some other familiar names and places cropped up.
Several institutions were used to justify funding this dubious research and brainwashing children. Fuller Theological Seminary is a Christian fundamentalist college with anti-gay alumni including Billy Graham, Jerry Falwell and Rekers. Logos Research Institute is a “religious-right” think-tank promoting fundamentalist “science,” currently funding the edited edition of Darwin’s Origin of Species from actor Kirk Cameron and his colleague Ray Comfort (known as YouTube’s “Banana Guy” for claiming bananas disprove evolution). Green used Stony Brook to get most of the NIMH grants and to do most of the clerical, statistical and administrative work of this “study.” Most of the brainwashing went on at UCLA, though such other efforts happened at New York City’s Luke’s Research Hospital’s Childhood Gender Identity Unit (funded through the Roosevelt Institute).
Oh yes, good old UCLA's gender project... I've blogged about that as well..
“I was subjected to forced testosterone injections and used as a study subject against my wishes. These things happened (under the physical beatings and punishment -recomended by a therapist of a reparative mindset- the urging of my father and the all too eager compliance of UCLA doctors and researchers).”
The combination of Reckers and UCLA also jogged my memory. I'd blogged about that before.
Parents who brought their children to Rekers had to agree to participate in the "curing" of them. "Kraig," a four-year-old who participated in the UCLA Feminine Boy Project, was also monitored in the clinic's play-observation room. Only this time, it was his mother who wore the bug-in-the-ear, listening for her behavioral cues from the folks behind the wall. While playing, "Kraig would have seen her suddenly jerk upright, and look away from him toward the one-way window," Burke reports (based on transcripts of his case):

His mother was being prompted, through the earphones, by the doctor. She was told to completely ignore him, because he was engaged in feminine play. Kraig would have no understanding of what was happening to his mother. On one such occasion, his distress was such that he began to scream, but his mother just looked away. His anxiety increased, and he did whatever he could to get her to respond to him, but she just looked away. She must have seemed like a stranger to have changed her behavior toward him so suddenly and for no apparent reason . . . He was described as being in a panic, alternating between sobs and "aggressing at her," but again, when his distraught mother finally looked at him and began to respond, she stopped mid-sentence and abruptly turned away, as if he were not there. Kraig became so hysterical, and his mother so uncomfortable, that one of the clinicians had to enter and take Kraig, screaming, from the room.

Kraig's treatment continued in this vein. He was also put on the "token system" at home. Inappropriate, feminine behaviors earned him a red token, masculine ones, a blue token. Each red token earned him a spanking from his father. After more than two years of treatment, Kraig's behavior had turned around. He was now described by his mother as a "rough neck," and he no longer cared if his hair was neat or his clothes matched. But when he was eighteen, after years of being held up (under a pseudonym) by Rekers as "the poster boy for behavioral treatment of boyhood effeminacy," Kraig attempted suicide, because he thought that he might be gay.
I wasn't aware of the Creationist Connection though at the time. To continue:
Children were diagnosed using pseudoscientific “gender tests” including the “Barlow Gender-Specific Motor Test,” using stereotypes to “measure” gender identity by whether children sit/stand/move like men or women “should.” Diagnosed with “pathological gender development,” they would be recommended for invasive behavior modification, including placement in special playrooms where they would be repeatedly coached to choose gender-stereotypical toys with staff spying through mirrors. Behaviorists like Shasta Mead directly interacted with children, slowly gaining trust to reinforce stereotypical behavior, repeatedly suggesting they would rather wear or play with the “right” items. Children were made to wear wrist counters to monitor whenever they thought about playing with the “wrong” toys. Rewards and demerits were issued for “right” and “wrong” choices. Patients were enlisted to police childrens’ choices, throw out toys, force boys out of the kitchen and “steer” children more toward stereotypical choices at home as well as in the facility. This would go on until the child was declared “cured.”

This project was declared “successful,” though it succeeded only in traumatizing children. “Becky,” for example, was declared “successfully cured,” because the eight-year-old saw a male orderly old enough to be her father as her “boyfriend.” The “poster child,” called Kraig by Rekers and Kyle by Green, attempted suicide. This didn’t stop expansion of “Gender Identity Disorder” (GID) and “Gender Identity Disorder of Childhood”
I've blogged about the Barlowe Gender-Specific Motor Begaviour Test too.
The tests--many still used today--strike Burke as Orwellian. In one, a child being tested is asked to draw the figure of a person. Girls who draw boys first, predominately, or in positions of power and strength, are suspect, as are boys who draw princesses or mommies. The Barlow Gender-Specific Motor Behavior test examines such things as how far from the back of a chair a seated child's buttocks are--farther is "masculine," closer is "feminine." All the precision of science was applied in developing these tests to measure such things as the angle between the wrist and the hand, how often a child touched his or her hands together in front of his or her body, and how far the hips swayed as the child walked across the room. Especially damning for boys was a lack of hand-eye coordination.
The thing is... there's a grain of truth in the dross. Sex Identity is a function of neurology, and if the Lymbic Nucleus that appears to determine sex identity is cross-sexed, odds are that other parts of the brain are too. MRI imaging and crude behavioural tests have shown obvious sexual differentiation in cognitive functions such as instinctive ballistics calculations, and senses of smell and hearing. Yes, and even body language and instinctive behaviour. The one thing they got wrong was that this is based on neural anatomy set before birth, not a result of post-birth environment. And it appears to be immutable.

But worse is to come when you mix Religious Fanaticism, Pseudo-Science, and the Law.
In 1980 Dylan Scholinski, a young transgender man then named Daphne, was incarcerated in psychiatric institutions for four years for “Gender Identity Disorder.” His memoir The Last Time I Wore A Dress shows his school reported him to psychiatrists and he was diagnosed using the Barlow Gender Motor Test and treatment including forced makeovers. In 2000, a six-year-old child was taken away from loving parents for “exacerbating a mental disorder.” The “disorder?” Aurora Lipscomb told her parents she was not a boy but was a girl, and her parents supported her decision to live as a girl. Because her parents “exacerbated” her “gender identity disorder” the court took Aurora from loving parents and put her in a household where for four years she was forced to live as a Christian boy rather than a Jewish girl.
That was in 2000, in the USA. Not Spain in 694, where "The 12th Council of Toledo again called for forced baptism, and, for those who disobeyed, seizure of property, corporal punishment, exile, and slavery. Jewish children over seven years of age were taken from their parents and similarly dealt with in 694.". Or Portugal in 1497 :
Friday March 19, 1497 (the first day of Passover) Jewish parents were ordered to take their children between the ages of four and fourteen to Lisbon. On arrival in the capital, they were told that their children would be taken from them and given to Catholic families to be raised as good Catholics.
At the appointed time, those children who were not presented voluntarily were seized by the officials and forced to the font. Scenes of indescribable horror were witnessed as they were torn away by the royal bailiffs. ... In many cases, parents smothered their offspring in their farewell embrace. In others, they threw them into wells in order to save them from the disgrace of apostasy, and then killed themselves. Sometimes, even old men were dragged to the churches and forcibly baptized by over-zealous fanatics, who were under the impression that a general conversion of all the Jews had been ordered. The desired effect of forcing the parents to accompany their children into baptism rather than lose them for good was achieved only on exceptionally rare occasions. In all other cases, the unwilling neophytes, some mere babies, were distributed throughout the country, as far as possible from home, to be brought up in Christian surroundings.
More than thirty years later, the terrible scenes still lived in the mind of the old Bishop Coutinho. " saw many persons dragged by the hair to the font," he wrote. "Sometimes, I saw a father, his head covered in sign of grief and pain, lead his son to the font, protesting and calling God to witness that they wished to die together in the law of Moses. Yet more terrible things that were done with them did I witness, with my own eyes." The children of the Moslems, who were included in the edict of expulsion, were untouched. The authorities cynically confessed the reason. It was that there were lands in which the Crescent was supreme, and in which reprisals might be carried out!
History may not repeat, but it rhymes.

There you have it. The connections between topics I've blogged about over the years. The Science of Intersex. The mistreatment of Trans children, and the pseudoscience used to justify it. The enormities and sheer barbarity only possible to Fanatics who are convinced of their own Righteousness. Anti-Semitism. The use of the Law and Religion to inflict appalling cruelty, cruelty so severe no-one would dream of inflicting it on animals.

And it's happening today, right now. As you read this. Not in 694, nor 1497, nor even 2000. But today, in 2010.

I didn't intend to write such a long post, nor to tie things together. But as I wrote it, the connections between all of these things became apparent. The only thing I didn't include was the post about bananas. Oops, just did.

I guess that given my interests, my becoming some kind of "Activist" was inevitable. The things I find intolerable are all tied together you see. Fanaticism. Hatred. Ignorance. Cruelty. Hypocrisy. Mendacity. Pseudo-Science. Superstition. Legalised Inhumanity.

I can't hate though. Not just because it's unhelpful, but because so many in this saga are trying to do the right thing. Not all though, not all. While the vast majority whose views I oppose, and vehemently so, are doing what they see as right, just as I am, those who torture children, treating them worse than animals, get no benefit of the doubt. They're not opponents: they're my Enemy. How I pity them!

UPDATE : Ir's not just the parents who suffer. From HuffPo:
In 1998, the couple divorced and a year later Michael had gender reassignment surgery and changed her name to Monica. After that, Barbara went to court in their home state of Kentucky and successfully got an order prohibiting Monica from contacting any of their four children because she was now living as a woman.

But things soon got even worse for Monica. Barbara eventually remarried and she and her new husband petitioned the court to terminate all of Monica's parental rights so that the new husband could adopt the one child out of the four who was still then a minor.

The Kentucky trial court granted the petition after concluding that Monica becoming a woman meant that she had neglected her child and caused her grave emotional harm, necessitating the termination of her parental rights. That ruling was upheld by the Kentucky Court of Appeals in 2007.

Tuesday 30 March 2010

Seen on the Net

Firstly, a reminder in a comment of a wonderful site : Derailing for Dummies : A small extract:

If You Won't Educate Me How Can I Learn

Whilst seemingly simple on the surface, there is some intertwining subtext embedded within this one.

First of all, you’re placing responsibility for your education back onto the Marginalised Person™. As they are obviously engaged with these issues, and care about them, they are hopeful that Privileged People® may one day start listening and taking onboard what they have to say. By placing responsibility to educate in their hands, you tug at this yearning. You may even successfully make many question themselves and their selfish expectations that you utilise the hundreds upon hundreds of resources on the subject available to you as a Privileged Person®! After all, anyone who expects you to be able to research a topic by yourself also clearly expects you to be far more of a functioning adult than you're acting!
By insisting you can only learn if they right then and there sacrifice further hours of time going over the same ground they have so often in the past, you may also make them give up and go away altogether, enabling you to win by default.

But further, you give the impression that you really want to learn, but they’re holding you back! That’s right, using this tactic you can suggest that full understanding is what you crave - you want to be a better, more connected and compassionate person - but it’s not your fault! Nobody ever gave you the education! And now that someone is here who is so obviously qualified, they’re denying you your Privilege® given right to have everything you want handed to you on a platter!

Which brings us to another key component of this argument - it is very important, in conversations with Marginalised People™, to constantly remind them that you are, indeed, Privileged®. By demonstrating your belief that Marginalised People™ should immediately gratify your every whim, you remind them of their place in society. After all, they’re not there to live lives free of discrimination and in happy, independent and fulfilling ways! Please! Marginalised People™ exist for your curiosity and to make you generally feel better about your place in society and don’t let them forget it!

Point one to you!
A trap for the unwary - not to be the victim of it, but to inadvertantly be guilty of it onesself.

I'm immune to this one by the way. I don't actually mind educating, I quite enjoy it.

On to a fabulous piece of writing - though I personally believe that hatred is counter-productive. If someone is worth hating, they're usually worth neutralising. For that one should remain cool, calm, collected and unemotional - as one launches the missile that will take them out. For lesser threats, the verbal equivalent of a surgical strike may be adequate. In the hands of a true master, venomous wit can be truly poetic, though good examples are few. This one's possibly the best I've seen in recent times, at least the equal of Ambrose Bierce or Samuel Clemens at their best, and is from Ed Morrow:
I urge any and all to hate you and your kind, to loathe you, to taste bile at the thought of you, to shudder at your approach and rejoice at your departing, to see your shadow and draw back as from a viper. May your children hate you, your neighbors hate you, your mom, dad and Aunt Ida hate you. May your dog and his fleas hate you. I urge all people to band together into societies, clubs and fraternal associations to hate you. I beg them to relentlessly revile you, to rename fungal diseases and offal-eating insects after you, to, when they step in something loathsome, look at their shoe bottom and think of you. I urge the world’s artists to illustrate their hatred of you in paintings, sculpture, and, dare I say it, cartoons. May they be joined by the world’s writers whom I implore to write epics of hatred of you, the world’s musicians to compose songs of hatred of you, and the world’s dancers to choreograph interpretive dances of hatred of you. May Wal-Mart sell inexpensive T-shirts and coffee mugs embellished with “I H8 [insert your picture here].” ... At Christmastime, may the citizens of communities all around the world gather together in their public spaces, join hands in great circles, smile upon each other, and, while swaying rhythmically, harmoniously chant “We Hate (your name)! We Hate (your name)!” I beseech all the creatures that walk the land, all the fish that swim in the sea, and all the birds that flit through the sky to hate you. May the dirt beneath your feet hate you. May burning hot hatred of you grow till it provides an economical substitute for fossil energy. May amoebae evolve enough wit to hate you. If there be life on other planets, may it construct complex vessels and span the vasty depths of cold space to land in your back yard and sneer at you through your windows. If there is an afterlife, may all the departed, be they gazing down from Heaven, glaring up from Hell, or peering sideways from Purgatory, hate you. May every generation till the end of time hate you. And, if mankind becomes extinct, may the last learned men, before they, too, fade away, devise a self-perpetuating automaton to carry on hating you through the long, long eons till the very heat death of the universe. Then, I suppose, we can, wherever our spirits find final rest, stop hating you and just resent you.
Now there is a true master of the English Language. My rather abbreviated reply:
Ed – don’t hold back like that. Tell us how you *really* feel.
I intend using it myself - with attribution of course, so have made the few minor changes needed to make it all-purpose rather than specifically tailored to a particular individual. The sheer Artistry is far too good to waste on just one man.

Monday 29 March 2010

My PhD Work Summarised

Actually, I'm using Meta-GAs to optimise GAs. So the problem is more like trying to optimise the process of cooking, rather than optimising recipes. Is a Supernova likely to overcook the ingredients? And which planetary biosphere should we be selecting the ingredients from?

Crottled Greeps, anyone?

Yes, I was involved in Alarums & Excursions too, as this post from 2000 shows. And I have been known to commit Filk too.

And talking about Filk... the Classic You Bash the Balrog by Lee Gold. Now some 35 years old.

Or you can sing along to the tune of "British Grenadiers"...
Some die while hunting Owl-bears
Some die while hunting deer.
Some fry by flaming Balrogs,
Some simply disappear.
But of all the ways there are to die
There's one that I most fear:
The STAB STAB STAB in the small of the back
From my comrades at the rear.
I wrote that back in 1977, at university. And here I am, a third of a century later, older, but very obviously no wiser.

What can I say? The Era was that the spawned Slobovia.
Slobbovia, being a widely diversified culture, had a widely varied range of cuisines. Certain foods, however, were ubiquitous, such as the peasant staples of gravel and dirt and, of course, crottled greeps.

Nobody was sure whether greeps were cultivated, herded, hunted, fished or mined, or whether they were even greeps before crottling. Greeps when first introduced into the writing were the subject of some competitive and conflicting claims. Each player and story would correct the previous story as to whether the greep was animal, vegetable or mineral. The matter was finally settled when a biology student wrote an article about the migration of greep DNA through a variety of mediums during its life cycle, and so the various greep dishes depended on the point in the greep's life cycle at which it was harvested.
Which brings me back full circle in another way - to genetic algorithms once more.

Sunday 28 March 2010

Has anyone else noticed?

From Reddit :
Has anyone else noticed how many trans people, trans women especially, work in computer science/IT/engineering/other technical occupations? I mean, just look at this list:

Martine Rothblatt (Inventor of satellite radio)

Audrey Tang (Lead Perl designer, named one of the top 10 computer scientists in Taiwan)

Lynn Conway (Co-inventor of the modern microchip design process)

Danielle Berry
(Designed video games M.U.L.E. and The Seven Cities of Gold)

Mary Ann Horton (Usenet admin during the 1980s, and leader of the original "backbone cabal")

Deirdre McCloskey
(Award-winning economics professor at the University of Chicago)

Rachael Padman (Physicist at Cambridge University)

Stephanie Langhoff (Chief scientist at NASA Ames Research Center)

Megan Wallent (Microsoft executive, head of the Internet Explorer division of Windows)

(CEO and founder of Memset, voted best web host in the UK)

Joan Roughgarden (Professor of Biology at Stanford)

Amanda Simpson (Senior technical advisor to Bureau of Industry and Security, Deputy Director in Advanced Technology Development at Raytheon)

Sophie Wilson
(Designer of the Acorn micro-computer)

Rebecca Heineman
(Video game programmer at Microsoft)

And those are just the famous people; it doesn't include everyone who's stealth or semi-stealth.
Or even a few lesser lights. The odd blogger or two (some of them very odd) on subjects such as brains, science and software.

Friday 26 March 2010

Ada Lovelace Day

I don't think she'd mind me being late - I've been busy doing work on Genetic Algorithms for my PhD in Computer Science, and teaching HAZOP - Hazard and Operability analysis. So I missed the March 24th deadline. Traditional in Computer Science, I guess.

Part of the celebration of Ada Lovelace day is to blog about a heroine of Computer Science. But which one to choose? There's Ada herself of course. Ada Augusta King (nee Byron - yes, that Byron), Countess Lovelace. It's not inaccurate to call her the world's first programmer.

Or Rear Admiral Grace Murray Hopper perhaps. Inventor of possibly the world's first high-level language, COBOL, still in use today, and who introduced the word "debugging" into the English language.

Perhaps the many unsung heroines of Bletchley Park, and the Manhattan Engineering District. Or the programmers of ENIAC, women like Jean Bartik, Frances Spence, and Kathleen Antonelli.

As Wiki records about Frances Spence:
Although one of the original programmers of the ENIAC, her role as well as the other woman contributors were downplayed, due to the stigma that woman didn't like technology.
But for purely personal reasons... I'm going for Lynn Conway. In her own words:
In the 80's and 90's, Lynn went on to enjoy a wide-ranging, influential career, and a wonderfully adventurous, fulfilling and happy personal life. She is now Professor of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science, Emerita, at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, where she also served for many years as Associate Dean of Engineering. She now lives on country property in rural Michigan with her husband Charlie. They've been together since 1987.

However, for 31 years after her transition, Lynn carefully remained in "stealth mode". Only her closest friends knew about her past. Lynn knew of other transsexual women who had been socially ostracized, ghettoized, beaten, gang-raped, murdered or driven to suicide when "read" or otherwise discovered by brutal, hateful people.

For years Lynn lived with an ever-present sense of danger, fearful that exposure of her past could cause her to lose her civil rights, legal rights and employment rights, and to suffer estrangements in her professional and personal relationships.

In 1999, computer historians finally stumbled into Lynn's early IBM work. They tracked it down to her, and her past was revealed amongst her colleagues. Frightened at first, she gradually realized times might have changed enough that she needn't be afraid to be "out" now.

She can still be fired for being Trans in 38 states though. The times don't change without some prodding sometimes. And the value of Heroines is that they inspire us all, to achieve all we can for all Humanity, professionally and otherwise. Moving the mountain one teaspoonful at a time.

Thursday 25 March 2010

For those Americans that died.

I knew people who have died because ENDA was not enacted in 2007.

For those readers in the USA, please sign this petition. Not because some Aussie Bint asks you to - for that would genuinely be foreign interference in US affairs. But for those American citizens who have died because the bill was not passed then.

Wednesday 24 March 2010

Brains, Sex and Fruitflies

From PhysOrg :
In a paper published today in the journal Nature Neuroscience, researchers from the University of Glasgow and the University of Oxford, have shown that the gene known as 'doublesex' (dsx), which determines the shape and structure of the male and female body in the fruit fly, also sculpts the architecture of their brain and nervous system, resulting in sex-specific behaviours.

The courtship behaviour of the fruit fly has long been used to study the relationship between genes and behaviour: it is innate, manifesting in a series of stereotypical behaviours largely performed by the male.
"The dogma was that (the gene) dsx made fruit flies look the way they did and fru made them behave the way they did," explains Dr Stephen Goodwin from the University of Oxford, who led the research. "We now know that this is not true. dsx and fru act together to form the neuronal networks - the wiring - for sexual behaviour."

ru has so far been found only in insects; dsx, however, is found throughout the animal kingdom, where it plays a fundamental role in sex determination, and so is of particular interest to researchers.

Using a transgenic tool generated in his lab, Dr Goodwin and colleagues were able to map dsx throughout the fly's development using a fluorescent protein marker that illuminates areas where DSX is active. This highlighted profound differences in neural architecture between the sexes. In males, the researchers were able to show that dsx complements fru activity to create a 'shared' male-specific neural circuit; in females (where fru is inactive), dsx forms a female-specific circuit.
Importantly the researchers were able to manipulate these cells, impinging their ability to function, and show that these circuits are responsible for behaviours unique to the individual sexes.

"It has been suggested that there are only minor trivial differences between the neural circuits that underlie behaviour in males and females," explains Dr Goodwin. "We have shown that in fact there is quite a bit of difference in the number of neurons and how these neurons connect, or 'talk', to each other. These differences can have big consequences on the structure and function of the nervous system."
Just remember - we're only talking about fruit-flies here. We sgould be cautious about over-generalisation.

Interesting though, isn'y it?

Tuesday 23 March 2010

Blogging will be light this week....

Monday - meeting with Dean to discuss my scholarship - CHECK

Tuesday - work interrupted by explosion and fire at the Research School of Chemistry next door at 17:30 - building evacuated because of danger of toxic chemicals. There were casualties.

Wednesday - Deadline for paperwork to get paid for teaching. Presentation on "Meta Genetic Algorithms and Molecules" at 10:00

Thursday - Giving Lecture on HAZOP hazard and operability analysis at 14:00 with reference to the Flixborough disaster.

Friday - Deadline for paper to Artificial Life Conference in Denmark - paper must be ready for peer review, for submission by the 31st.

Saturday - work on camera-ready copy for paper and poster to the Genetic and Evolutionary Computation Conference (GECCO-2010) in Oregon

- preparation for presentation to the Research School of Chemistry on my PhD work.

Status: Frazzled

Sunday 21 March 2010

You don't have to be Trans or Intersexed

You don't have to be Trans or Intersexed to suffer the effects of Transphobia. Even the omission of a single letter "e" is enough.

From the Sunday Tribune of South Africa:
There is nothing manly about 36-year-old Durban mother Denise Abbah. She is quite pleasant and no one in their right mind would suggest she looks like a man.

Yet she was thrown into a men's prison cell for seven months, which resulted in her being raped and sodomised, she claims.

Now, six years after her release, Abbah wants revenge.

"I have been in hiding. My life has been turned upside down. I cannot go anywhere without people picking on me, calling me a man," says the Durban mother of five.
Abbah's alleged torture began in September 2002 when she was sent to jail to await trial for armed robbery, attempted murder and hijacking - she was later acquitted on these charges.

On the day of her arrest, Abbah says, prison authorities registered her as Denis instead of Denise and locked her in a cell with transvestites and male prisoners, where she claims she was raped and sodomised.

Even though she protested against the cell arrangement, she said her pleas fell on deaf ears.

"They just refused to believe that I was a woman. They thought I was a man who had undergone a sex change. I told them about my children at home, but it didn't help.

"When I told the female wardens that I was menstruating, they refused to believe me, saying the bleeding was a result of the sex change operation that I had," said Abbah.
"I will never be able to forget the trauma, torture and ridicule. I was made a laughing stock and everywhere I went people questioned whether I was a man or a woman," she said.

Abbah said it was time to get justice for what she had been through.

"My life was turned upside down when this happened. Everybody started reacting negatively towards me. My family disowned me because of what happened in prison.

"My father doesn't want to have anything to do with me and my mother died due to the harassment and stress this issue has brought on our family.

"I even tried to take my own life while I was in prison, but then I had to think about my children.

"Apart from them and my husband, I have nothing else to live for," says Abbah.
The saddest thing about this?
Abbah is expected to undergo gender testing ahead of her legal battle against the Department of Correctional Services.
To prove that her treatment was not acceptable, you see. As it would be for me if I was arrested for something I didn't do. Because I'm not cis-sexual, like her.

If you don't think that this is a big issue to you, because you're neither TS or IS... that might not save you. And if you think the consequences to her family life were bad, remember that for TS and IS people, this the norm. We're too used to it, too accepting that that's the way things are for us. It's sometimes difficult realising that others have different expectations. I consider myself incredibly fortunate that I've lost nothing, and objectively, in comparison with this woman and with very few exceptions, all Trans women I know, I am.

I've never been cis-sexual. So it takes me some effort to comprehend that for most people, such a thing would be considered an appalling violation of human rights, rather than something usual. And that, more than anything else, illustrates the concept of "cis-sexual privilege".

As you can see though, it doesn't take much to revoke your "Human Being" license. A clerical mistake omitting a single letter in your name can be enough. Perhaps, and this is just a suggestion mind you, it might be in your best interests to see that TS and IS people, not just "people like you", don't get treated this way, hmm? Just a thought.

UPDATE : More at News24, The Sowetan and The Mercury :
But the department of correctional services said the matter was struck off the roll in September last year. Spokesperson Sonwabo Mbananga said there was no case pending against the department lodged by Wilson.

"The case was struck off the roll and there have been no new papers that have been served on us," he said.

Today's the Last Day

I wasn't aware of that.

Lost Skills

Somewhere along the evolutionary path from proto-simian through hominid, something got lost. A skill possibly instinctive, but most likely cultural. Taught from generation to generation, "Monkey See, Monkey Do".

Now, though it's taken awhile, a network of interlinked computers spanning the planet is propagating this rediscovered knowledge.

How to peel a banana, properly.

Human see, Human do. It is our way to propagate knowledge through prosthetic memory though, be it cuneiform tablet or Internet video. It's our style, what we as a species, do.

Yes, I've tried it. The only bit that gets squished is the fibrous black bit on the end that no-one eats anyway, and the stalk provides a convenient handle. Be warned though, the end bit isn't anchored firmly to the skin, so the whole banana slips out rather easily if you're not careful and peel too far.

Friday 19 March 2010

It's all downhill from here....

From Gizmodo:

Humans, of course, are adaptive creatures, and the human mind is the most incredible biological machine in existence. All hope is not lost. We already develop coping mechanisms, and expanded experience often minimizes the impact of our declining cognition. (Experience is represented by "world knowledge" on the graph above.) But in an era during which anything seems possible, could we significantly alter the course of this graph?

Could we make the three green, three blue and four grey lines stay level...or even go up?
I intend to try.

Of course, the normal rules don't apply to me in some areas. If I'm lucky, not here either. Goodness knows, my neurology has taken some significant re-wiring recently.

Thursday 18 March 2010

For Readers in the USA...

The Employment Non-Discrimination Act, first introduced in 1994, would prohibit job discrimination against lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people. But LGBT people have never been able to achieve the enactment of the bill, known by the acronym of "ENDA".

Last year, the Administration's highest ranking gay official, Office of Personnel Management Director John Berry, indicated that ENDA was highest priority on the LGBT civil rights agenda.
"If we can get ENDA enacted and signed into law, it is only a matter of time before all the rest happens," he said. "It is the keystone that holds up the whole bunch, and so we need to focus our energies and attention there."
Hearings were held last Fall in the House and in the Senate to demonstrate the need for the bill, and testimony was heard on the severe unemployment, underemployment and harassment experienced by LGBT workers. Witnesses testified to the scientific studies demonstrating this.

But nothing has happened. Click here to find out why and join us in swarming Speaker Pelosi's office.

Please call Speaker Nancy Pelosi at 202-225-4965. Ask that the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, HR 3017, move to a vote.

Please be polite, but firm.

If you can't get through there, try the number of her local office in California - (415) 556 4862

After you call, please tell us how the call went by clicking here. If you get a busy signal or hang up, let us know that too.

A single phone call, even if it gets unanswered, could make a difference, if many of us do this.

As a darned furriner, an Australian, I have no right to take direct action. But I can and will encourage readers in the US to take it.

Wednesday 17 March 2010

Intersex and Surgery - The Hungry Beast

"The media is a hungry beast; it devours everything and is never satisfied."

Some fodder us more palatable than others though. ABC's The Hungry Beast program is edgy, and omnivorous. It tackles issues without the saccharine-laden BS normally served as a side-dish to make it go down smoothly to the general public, preferring acerbic wit instead. As I've found out from many people contacting me, it has a far larger viewer base than they know.

For Foreign readers who may not be able to view these clips, try this official YouTube version of the first one. I'm working on getting the second one available overseas too.

Tuesday 16 March 2010

52 Not Out

I was born on this day, 52 years ago. March 16, 1958. I was conceived before the first man-made object was put into orbit, and less than 13 years after the first atomic bombs were used on Hiroshima an Nagasaki, ending the Second World War.

Of course I was reborn less than 5 years ago, so my social development is more like a girl of 17.

Fighting for what she believes in, here and here and here and....

Here's a birthday present I received. One of many. This one from a G/F of mine, Diana.
Good morning ladies and gentlemen of the commission. It is unfortunate that we even have to be here today, and we can only hope that someday this won't be needed, but I don't believe it will happen within my lifetime, but I can only hope that it will within our children's. I want to thank all of you for allowing me to participate in this historic day of rule making that is so imperative to not only me, but too many. Rule making causes change and change is good, although change doesn't happen overnight, at least change continues here today. Oooooops!.......... Wrong audience!

In reference to the first question, "What can be done to get these points across" It's plain, simple and it works Education (please see below)

My answer to your second question of "Would you be willing to have the courage of your convictions and do that? Would you be willing to speak in front of a group of graduate/medical students?" - YES, and I do. I speak regularly at Universities Denver, Colorado, Colorado State, Naropa), High Schools, Federal Gov., Law Enforcement, Local and State Gov. as the list continues.

As many of you know, on March 25, 2008, I became a victim of a violent crime that left me fighting for my life narrowly escaping the dreaded Transgender Day of Remembrance (TDoR) list from a brain injury. Although I escaped the list this time I realized my odds are just as great to be on it the next year. After a couple of months of healing I hit a major crossroad in my life--why did I survive, do I quit transitioning, do I move away and become stealth, just what was I suppose to do. I was in deep turmoil where two galaxies were about to collide, de-transitioning meant certain death for me and I wasn't about to run away and hide again, I've been doing that most of my life. Now it was time for me to step forward to do my part in bringing us out of the dark ages, to help tomorrow's children from experiencing what happened to me.

I believe that everything happens for a reason and I was about to find my destiny. Moving forward a couple of months a fellow sister of ours was brutally beaten to death right here in my own back yard. Instantly the stigma that society has attached to us showed it's ugly face had Angie Zapata (victim) guilty of causing her own death, with Allen Andrade (convicted murderer) innocent, by means of justifiable homicide. Immediately the press took hold and made it headline news, causing the true ignorance of society to present itself in the comment sections of each and every story nationwide. Over the ensuing days and months our allies, advocates and educators came to the playing field. I watched intensely analyzing what worked and what didn't, some fought fire with fire while others educated with knowledge, linking that knowledge to where the facts could be found, continually increasing their creditability to the ignorance of society. Day by day, week by week, month by month I watched as change started to happen, moving that mountain one teaspoonful at a time!

Wow, it was really working, people that in the beginning were so ignorant from their bias, were becoming our allies, others in the state of confusion not knowing what to think, while even more were on their way to gaining another prospective (G.A.P.), and becoming another one of our allies. The impact in Colorado alone changed a very conservative county (Weld) where the tumbling tumble weeds grow, by returning a verdict of innocent upon our sister, while finding her assassin guilty of murder with the hate crime statue attached for the first in U.S. history against a transgender.

Realizing that you can lead a horse to water, but you can't make them drink, I started researching how I could make the most impact with helping society gain that new perspective. Understanding from my own experiences and frustrations that the majority of the older generation's were already set in their ways, I turned my focus to the middle age and younger generations in hopes that they would listen to their co-workers or children. Being ostracized by my older brother in March, 2007 from a closed mind I decided to experiment with my own family, I had nothing to lose, but everything to gain. Slowly I started building a new relationship with my nieces (brothers daughters), over the internet educating them along the way, and on the night of December 23, 2008 my brother invited me to Christmas Eve, the first family gathering I had been allowed to attend in almost two years.

Dealing with professionals and experts on an everyday basis including but not limited to politicians, lawyers, corners, surgeons, doctors, I.T. specialist, I realized how common it was that professionals too many times forget that not everyone holds the same level of knowledge and education as they do in their field of expertise leaving their customer/student lost and confused with no more of an understanding than they had in the first place. I see this happening constantly within our own community with the usage of acronyms such as HRT,FFS, SRS, TG and so on. The first time you use an acronym without explaining the meaning, you've lost your audience for good, all other efforts to get your point across become futile leaving both the educator and student frustrated pointing blame at each other.

Reflecting back to a class I took many years ago at CU titled "The Philosophies of Teaching and Being Taught" I decided to use the philosophy that if my students don't understand the material, it is I that must go back to the drawing board revamping my presentation to a level they will understand. Undoubtedly, I know someone here will want to come back at me saying that some just can't be taught which I will disagree with, but will agree with some are not ready or interested in the subject matter. You may find that if you approach some of these individuals at a different time and/or different circumstances you may have more positive results. In my presentations there is no holding back, when I tell my story, the tears flow, not by choice, but from necessity. Yes, there are some that I have yet to find the correct approach with, but I'm still searching for what will work and haven't given up. I can't stress enough how important it is that you change your material and focus to match the audience that your presenting to.

For example I'll use a different presentation for psychology grad students than I will for the general public, law or high school students. I have had very positive results modifying the presentations for the audience in which it is intended. In most cases I incorporate everyone that does not conform to the norms of society into my diversity training (race, religion, illness, eating disorders, disabilities, LGBT, ect.). By doing this I touch almost everyone's lives which increases my creditably and diffuses the thoughts that I'm out for my own personal agenda. With that being said, it is of the up most importance that all information in your presentation be based on actual facts and not folklore. Unfortunately, you will run across those who want to discredit you, so why help them, let them end up discrediting themselves.

When starting out on this part of my journey the philosophy I had was, if I could help one person gain that different perspective or save one life then all my time and efforts would be worth while. I'm not going to kid you by saying it was easy, it's a lot of work. After a year now, I know I've changed many. Don't try to be in a hurry, don't set yourself up for failure, it takes time to build your creditability and earn a reputation, but it has become so rewarding. Below are just a couple of many rewards I receive on a regular basis from college professors:

Dear Diana,
Wow. How do I give you feedback...? You are a beautiful, strong, humble woman. Your story-- and the feeling and sincerity with which you tell it... the compassion you have for the world despite it-- is one that, I believe, changed the lives of many students on Tuesday. Change nothing. I can imagine that, as you continue to grow-- as we all continue to grow-- your story will get richer, but where you are now-- it's so powerful.

Thank you-- for your bravery.

Hi Diana,
I hope you are well. I'm writing because I have been in touch with Boulder Pride about a visit to my School and Society class on March 16th at 2:00. They mentioned to me that they have someone that will be there, I think, but I really want you to come. You made such a powerful impact on my students last semester. I wonder if I'm being selfish with you! Please let me know if you are interested... or if it's just too much.

Take good care!
In the beginning I started by volunteering through Boulder Pride and now it's starting to become my second profession, imagine being greeted at the airport by a handsome gentleman wearing a suit, caring your luggage to the waiting Town car. What better way to earn a second income but by doing something you were willing to do for free and feel is of the utmost importance in creating change.

Everyone wants change to happen, but it's not going to happen unless it starts right here, within our own community. Yes, I do realize that putting myself out front increases my odds of another hate crime, but I'd rather die for speaking out, than to live and be silent.

I do understand the importance of stealth, but at the same time everyone needs to play apart. If you are fortunate enough to be wealthy donate. If you see an article, educate in the comment section. If you have the time, help with the administrative needs. If you see a fellow sister or brother in crisis, take the time to hold their hand and help them through it for you just may save a life. If the site needs a moderator, volunteer. If you need a local support group, create it. I could go on, but I think everyone gets the point by now. As many have said, if we want to move that mountain only we can make it happen one teaspoonful at a time!

I want to thank one of our own here at (this support site) for leading by example and help guiding me to the path that I have chosen to help create change. She always replies make it happen. If you've never watched her in action in the media's comment sections, you just may want to take the time to follow a major story and analyze, watch change happening before your very eyes. Although she isn't the only one, she is the one I watched, she is Zoe from OZ.

To effectively communicate, we must realize that we are all different in the way we perceive the world and use this understanding as a guide to our communication with others.

Thank you for reading and please remember that this is just one ladies opinion. Mine!
I've said it once, I'll say it again, as it bears repeating. The most miraculous part of my life, the greatest gift, wasn't the change. The healing that cured me. It was that it caused me to meet people like her.

And now I'm addressing you, the reader. You can do something. It doesn't have to be helping with Intersex or Transsexual issues, though Goodness knows, we can use all the help we can get. It could be something as simple as donating, voluntarily and of your own volition, your hard-earned moolah to the Red Cross, or a similar worthy cause. Even a few dollars a month makes a difference. It could even be something as simple and cost-free as letting someone in a side-street turn onto the congested road you're on. "Commit random acts of Kindness and Senseless acts of Beauty". Making the world just a little better.

It's contagious, you see. And no-one can foresee just how far the ripples of your actions will spread.

And yes, both Diana and I are available to speak to colleges, and schools, at psychology and medical lectures, at large forums and small, at commercial offices and government organisations, to lay the facts before the next generation, and this one too. We've already made a difference, and we've only just begun.

We're not the only ones. And at 52 not out, I'm just starting to get into the swing of things.

p.s. Subtitles:
HRT - Hormone Replacement Therapy
SRS - Sex Reassignment Surgery
FFS - Facial Feminisation Surgery
TG - Trans Gendered

Monday 15 March 2010

Sneak Preview

From the ABC's Hungry Beast programme:

This week on HUNGRY BEAST, reporter Ali Russell meets two intersex Australians – people born with both male and female physical attributes. Click on the video above to see an excerpt.

Zoe Brain, a 51 year old aerospace engineer, was born male but at the age of 47 her body spontaneously changed to female over the course of three months. Zoe’s case is particularly rare being 1 of about 100 cases like this in the world.

Natalie Kirk, a 23 year old graphic designer, was born with female anatomy except for underdeveloped ovaries. This means she has never gone through puberty. But she doesn’t feel entirely female.

Intersex is something we almost never hear about, but is surprisingly common – as often as 1 in 100 people. Despite this, the overwhelming majority of intersex people live in secrecy.

Zoe and Natalie are two of a very small handful who are willing to speak publicly about their experiences.

We will be hosting a live forum here after the show at 9:30pm AEDT. (On Wednesday 17th - that's 10:30 am GMT)

Both Zoe and Natalie will participate in the discussion along with Ali Russell, who produced and part-filmed the story. We’ll also be joined by Dr Milton Diamond, a professor of anatomy and reproductive biology at the University of Hawaii, Mānoa. In Zoe’s words, “Milton Diamond is to the science of sex and gender what Albert Einstein is to physics".

Neither Natalie nor Zoe has ever appeared on television before and they hadn’t met before the story was produced.
But we've been longtime friends via the net, and Nat comments here reqularly.

(Geek Interlude) I hadn't noticed the similarity in skull structure between us before. Genetically related, or a consequence of particular kinds of Intersex conditions, the way that those with various genetic anomalies sometimes have distinctive commonalities in facial structure?

I did notice that my forehead still shows the marks where I was hit by a crowbar around age 8. A recent CAT scan showed the brow sinus lower down had been partly crushed. Although I didn't appear unusual at the time, some Trans and some Intersex kids "smell funny". They have body language, vocabulary, and instincts that set them apart from their peers. Not all Intersex kids, though they may have an unusual appearance. But Trans kids, yes.

There's a reason why most Intersexed people aren't willing to decloak.

Sunday 14 March 2010

Geek Award of the Year 2003

Scale 1: 1,000,000,000
Length : 0.0000088 metres

From Nerdesque:
This Starship Enterprise NCC-1701D of Star Trek was fabricated by Takayuki Hoshino & Shinji Matsui, in one-billionth scale by 30 kV Ga+ focused-ion- beam CVD using phenanthrene gas for the The 47th International Conference on Electron, Ion and Photon Beam Technology and Nanofabrication Bizarre/Beautiful Micrograph Contest back in 2003.

To put it in context - you could line up ten of them end to end within the thickness of a human hair (about 90 micrometers on average - 17 to 181 µm according to Ley).

Friday 12 March 2010

Garcia-Fulgeras and Swaab.

From Latest and Greatest from two of the big names in the Science of Sex and Gender : Garcia-Fulgeras and Swaab.

Sexual Hormones and the Brain: An Essential Alliance for Sexual Identity and Sexual Orientation Garcia-Falgueras A, Swaab DF Endocr Dev. 2010;17:22-35
The fetal brain develops during the intrauterine period in the male direction through a direct action of testosterone on the developing nerve cells, or in the female direction through the absence of this hormone surge. In this way, our gender identity (the conviction of belonging to the male or female gender) and sexual orientation are programmed or organized into our brain structures when we are still in the womb. However, since sexual differentiation of the genitals takes place in the first two months of pregnancy and sexual differentiation of the brain starts in the second half of pregnancy, these two processes can be influenced independently, which may result in extreme cases in trans-sexuality. This also means that in the event of ambiguous sex at birth, the degree of masculinization of the genitals may not reflect the degree of masculinization of the brain. There is no indication that social environment after birth has an effect on gender identity or sexual orientation.
Note though that - Bisexuals may have an apparent change of sexual orientation, and the Bigendered may have an apparent change of gender identity (though I wish they'd call it sex identity). It's neither a strict binary, nor a strict trinary.

Severely Cross-sexed brains compared with appearances will be apparent when young. Milder cases, or cases where the psyche is strong enough to withstand severe societal pressure to conform without cracking under the strain of maintaining the pretence, will manifest later.

But in summary... I could have told them that. I must read it though to see if they have some new data on it. Hopefully so. While it would be nice to do more than just gather yet more confirming evidence, to do something more original, it's still needed at this stage. Yet another meta-study is also good, though not as good as having more data.

What's visible in the free preview is tantalising:
Boys and girls behave in different ways and one of the stereotypical behavioral differences between them, that has often been said to be forced upon them by upbringing and social environment, is their behavior in play. Boys prefer to play with cars and balls, whereas girls prefer dolls. This sex difference in toy preference is present very early in life (3–8 months of age) [1]. The idea that it is not society that forces these choices upon children but a sex difference in the early development of their brains and behavior is also supported by monkey behavioral studies. Alexander and Hines [2], who offered dolls, toy cars and balls to green Vervet monkeys found the female monkeys consistently chose the dolls and examined these ano-genitally, whereas the male monkeys were more interested in playing with the toy cars and with the ball....
What do you call a monkey that plays with a pink Rolls-Royce that shoots missiles, rather than dolls that just sit there, not interacting? Whose reaction to a doll that pees realistically is to try to take it apart to see how that's done? Or would have been, if it didn't look so much like the baby she wanted to have...

Thursday 11 March 2010

Gleanings from the Net

These should be separate posts, but I'm a bit busy with my PhD at the moment. So consider this a smorgasbord representative of this blog as a whole.

Fetal Cosmetology
These days, we’ve got a lot of questions about what’s been going on with the use of prenatal dexamethasone to try to prevent children from being born with atypical genitalia.

Some clinicians prescribe this steroid off-label for pregnant women suspected of carrying a 46,XX (female) fetus with 21-hydroxylase deficiency, a form of congenital adrenal hyperplasia (CAH). Such girls make extra androgens, and in the womb this may cause their genitalia to form more like something in between female and male. The goal of the prenatal “dex” treatment is to prevent that virilization.
More than a few prominent clinicians have serious reservations about prenatal dex, and have had them for years. There is evidence from animal studies that prenatal dex treatment leads to neurotoxicity – brain cell death. Studies of children exposed to prenatal dexamethasone in utero also indicate plenty of reason for concern. Evidence from human studies indicates an increased risk to the children of problems with working memory, speech processing, and anxiety.

Because the steroid is given before the sex of the fetus can be known, and because only some of the fetuses will have CAH, 87.5 percent of the pregnant women started on dexamethasone for this use are not even carrying an affected child. (In fact, half of the fetuses started on the treatment will be males.) They will not receive the treatment past the point at which their fetuses’ sex and CAH-status are accurately diagnosed; nonetheless, for a period of fetal development (including, obviously, brain development), almost 90 percent of those fetuses are being given a steroid that might harm them and can do them no good whatsoever.
Better brain-damaged than Intersexed, it seems. Better brain damaged than a 1 in 8 chance of Intersex, in fact. *SIGH*.

Atlanta Progressive News fires reporter for trying to be objective
Atlanta Progressive News has parted ways with long-serving senior staff writer Jonathan Springston. Apparently, Springston’s affinity for fact-based reporting clashed with Cardinale’s vision.

And, no, that’s not sarcasm.

In an e-mail statement, editor Matthew Cardinale says Springston was asked to leave APN last week “because he held on to the notion that there was an objective reality that could be reported objectively, despite the fact that that was not our editorial policy at Atlanta Progressive News.”
No comment necessary.

David Cope’s software creates beautiful, original music. Why are people so angry about that?
Dubbed “Emily Howell,” the daughter program aims to do what many said Emmy couldn’t: create original, modern music. Its compositions are innovative, unique and — according to some in the small community of listeners who’ve heard them performed live — superb.
Track 1 Track 2

Primate sexuality: comparative studies of the prosimians, monkeys, apes, and Human Beings

Especially good on the Turnim-Men of the Sambia, those with 5ARD. Definitely one for the reference list.

Archbishop Defends School's Rejection Of Lesbians' Children
Decision Said To Be In Line With Church Teachings

The archbishop of Denver on Tuesday defended a decision by a Catholic school not to allow two children to continue as students because their parents are a lesbian couple.

Archbishop Charles J. Chaput said it was a "painful situation," but the decision by Sacred Heart of Jesus parish school in Boulder was in line with church teachings.

Chaput said the school told the parents that one of the children could complete kindergarten and the other could complete preschool, but neither could continue after that.
My Son was disinvited from attending a Christian School for apparently similar reasons, during my transition, but before I started any treatment. I can't really blame them though. If it was my son being exposed to someone who was apparently rapidly changing sex, visibly differing from day to day... I'd be dubious of their resultant mental health, due to the process. Where children are involved, better safe than sorry, even though it's unfair. I think the similarity is therefore more apparent than real.

My comment :
It's all about appearances you see. Pedophilia is bad, but as long as it's covered up and doesn't create public scandal, not too bad. Children of remarried divorcees, or Hindus, they're allowed to attend because the unrepented sins of the parents (adultery and idolatry respectively) aren't on public display. But a lesbian couple, that's too obvious. Even if they're celibate, and so not committing sin at all, it's the appearance that matters, far more than anything else.

A Church can be a hotbed of sin, child molestation and cruelty. But such sins are private ones, only between the sinners and God, and not of any great consequence as long as they're concealed. Should even the most minor sin be engaged in publicly, or even appear to be engaged in even if not, that's far worse. Because it would no longer be a private matter, but one that would corrupt society. It must remain private, lest others be tempted.

And if some children have to suffer because of that, it's unfortunate of course, but no big deal. We have to prevent the passage of anti-bullying legislation that would protect kids who are gay, or seem to be gay, even if they die as the result. It's for a much greater good, to avoid the appearance of sanctioning homosexuality.

Some may mistake this for hypocrisy, but the Church has always been persecuted by the Ungodly.They take in this burden of private sin so others do not, thereby showing true charity.

Far better a multitude of actual sins in private than a single apparent sin in public, for the sake of society. We should all be grateful to them for bearing this burden. That's the theory anyway.

I... am not, I'm afraid.

But we have to pass the bill so that you can find out what is in it, away from the fog of the controversy.
- Speaker Nancy Pelosi. Again, no comment necessary. Pass the bill, then find out what's in it. *SIGH*

This Week In Holy Crimes
Over the last seven days...

California: Pastor Martin Richter arrested for sexually assaulting a 13 year-old girl. There may be other victims.
New Jersey: Pastor Gregor Woodcuff arrested on multiple counts of sexually assaulting an underage girl.
Minnesota: Pastor John Erbele pleads guilty to soliciting prostitution.
New York: Pastor Humberto Cruz convicted on ten counts of child molestation.
Delaware: Pastors Jamaar and Rhonda Manlove charged with 21 felony counts of mortgage fraud, possibly the largest such case in state history.
Missouri: Pastor Wayne Hudson charged with child molestation.
Alabama: Pastor Ralph Lee Aaron receives multiple life sentences for molesting four pre-teen boys and creating child pornography.
New Hampshire: Pastor Timothy Dillmuth charged with failing to report child abuse.
Louisiana: Pastor Burcham Warren pleads guilty to molesting an 11 year-old girl.
Minnesota: Pastor Danial Barnes sentenced to 11 years in prison for assault, burglary, and kidnapping.
Maryland: Father Thomas Bevan charged with multiple counts of molesting boys.
Wisconsin: Father Edmund Donkor-Baine charged with sexual assault.
Pennsylvania: Father Ralph Johnson charged with 45 counts of sexual abuse of a minor.
Florida: Father Kenneth Hasselbach convicted of possession of child pornography. Hasselbach was previously accused of sexually molesting an altar boy.
New York: Imam Zulqarnain Abdu-Shahid arrested for smuggling box cutters into a Manhattan jail. Abdu-Shahid has served 14 years in prison for a 1979 murder conviction.

This Week's Winner -
Australia: Father Richard Abourjaily has been reassigned from Sydney to Perth after being caught defrauding his congregants by claiming he had prostate cancer and desperately needed money in order to visit the miraculous healing waters of Lourdes, France. Abourjaily was previously dismissed from a seminary in Lincoln, Nebraska for pulling the same scam, but his Australian overseers totally swear he won't do it for a third time in Perth.
Ozzie Ozzie Ozzie! Oi Oi Oi! Gold! Oh my sainted Aunt and canonised Cousins.
Father Flader was confident Father Abourjaily would not lie a third time. "We can never be sure and we are all human but I think in any serious matter he knows the serious consequences and he will not lie about anything serious again," Father Flader said.

The move infuriated a fellow priest who, speaking on condition of anonymity, said: "What other victims will he now seduce?

"Why does the church just cover up scandal and just move priests about? Have we learnt nothing from the sex abuse scandals?

"Why wasn't he dismissed from the clerical state and sacked from the priesthood altogether?"

Father Brian O'Loughlin confirmed the priest was in Perth with the permission of Cardinal Pell and had been helping out in a local parish.

Father Abourjaily could not be contacted because was away on a "pilgrimage".
I didn't add the scare quotes. I thought that would be gilding the lilly.

Scott sticks to plan of targeting transgendered
As the Messenger previously reported, Rep. Scott entered the race for the Secretary of State job by declaring that he would “make it a priority to ensure transgender individuals will not be allowed to change the sex on their driver’s license in any circumstance.” Asked what problem this was intended to solve, he told the Messenger that it was all about “preventing people who are males genetically from dressing as a woman and going into female bathrooms.”

This left many people scratching their heads, wondering where there might be a public bathroom where they check your driver’s license before you enter. To add to the confusion, he told the Associated Press that the standard for determining one’s gender is that “you are who your DNA says you are.”

At a luncheon hosted by the Gerald Ford Women’s Club in Grand Rapids, Scott acknowledged in an interview that one’s gender designation on a driver’s license is not based on DNA testing. But when asked how he would deal with those whose DNA shows a mixed gender that does not fall easily into line with the simple male or female gender designation, he could only say that we should “take the subjectivity out of it.”
An agitated Scott had little to say about the reality of unclear gender for such people and others with similar kinds of transgender traits, declaring that “whatever you’re designated as when you’re born is what the government should recognize you as — no ambiguity there whatsoever.”
The Stupid... it burns....

Wednesday 10 March 2010

Inconvenient Exceptions

In my last post, I mentioned "inconvenient exceptions". Here's one case, inconvenient for my own views, which means I must change them to accomodate reality.

From The Scavenger :
EXCLUSIVE: 8 March 2010: The NSW government in Australia has issued what is believed to be the world’s first ‘Sex Not Specified’ Recognised Details Certificate in place of a birth certificate, writes Katrina Fox.

Norrie, a member of Sex and Gender Education (SAGE), a lobby group campaigning for the rights of all sex and gender diverse people has been issued with what is understood to be the world’s first ‘Sex Not Specified’ Recognised Details Certificate in place of a birth certificate.

This means that Norrie (also known as norrie mAy-Welby) – a resident of Sydney, NSW – is legally recognised as neither male nor female according to the Australian government.

Originally Norrie, 48, was born in Scotland and registered as male at birth. At age 23 Norrie commenced sex and gender conversion to female through hormone and construction of a vagina and was then issued with a gender recognition certificate as female in Australia.

But this did not work out for Norrie as zie (gender-neutral pronoun) did not feel comfortable living solely as a female so zie ceased lifelong hormone treatment and took up a neuter identity which is neither male nor female, resisting any further female or male normalisation.

In January 2010 doctors declared that they were unable to determine Norrie as either male or female as zie has no gonads, the hormonal system was atypically male or female, and Norrie’s psychological identity was neuter.

NSW Births Deaths and Marriages then issued the ‘Sex Not Specified’ Details Recognition Certificate in accordance with recommendations made by the Australian Human Rights Commission’s 2009 report on the legal rights of sex and gender diverse people proposing a greater scope of legal recognition be used beyond male and female for certain individuals.
I'm a member of SAGE, but can't claim credit here.

I fit the binary gender model really well. OK, I'm Intersexed, biologically I don't fit the binary sex model well at all. Not unless you think that sex is mutable.

The existence of inconvenient exceptions, people who don't fit the binary model, is seen with some justification as a threat to those like me. Why a threat? If I was cis-sexual, they wouldn't be. But as I had to give legal and medical justification for medical treatment, and legal document change, yes, they're a huge threat. Here am I, claiming to be a "real" woman despite appearances (and I hate that silliness about "real"), having to explain that yes, it's simply a case of female brain in male body, and no, I'm not a "third gender" and neither will I regret surgery, it's really necessary for me... and along comes a person like hir. Someone we even have to use neologismic pronouns for. Someone whose existence complicates the issues, and is darned inconvenient when you're trying to fit things into a simple model.

Someone who... is rather like me. My existence does for sex what zie does for gender.

The plain fact is, that biology is messy. Some people just cannot be categorised as male or female. Just as I have to fight for my rightful place within the binary model of gender, so I must fight for the rights of those outside that model. Not a "third sex" but a "not applicable". And you know what? It's the height of arrogance for me to tell anyone what their "real" gender or "real" sex is. I have to ask.

This is a baby step in one way. Note what was said:
...doctors declared that they were unable to determine...
Hir wishes or views were ignored as irrelevant. Had zie not been biologically, sexually neuter, zie would not have been permitted to have documentation that accurately recorded the reality of hir gender.

OII Australia has a mixed view:
Please leave intersex people out of identity politics. Intersex is anatomical differences and thinking that intersex has any connection to identity politics simply muddies the waters.

That aside, OII Australia is pleased that Norrie has received the first ‘Sex Not Specified’ Details Recognition Certificate and is grateful to NSW Births Deaths and Marriages for issuing it.

In doing so, NSW BDM has recognized the fact that not all human beings consider themselves a part of the sex binary.

The notion that this offers some kind of solution to parents of an intersex child misapprehends intersex and the problems faced by both the parents and children in this situation.

OII Australia does not agree that the identity of a child should be battled out on an already contested body. Children should be given a ‘conditional’ assignment of male or female and gender neutral names. When the child decides then they can then change their birth certificate under already existing regulations that allow for a change of designators because of a mistaken assignment at the time of birth.
It is one thing for a cogent and strong activist to opt out of the sex/gender binary and make it so in law. It is another thing entirely to expect a seven or eight year old to understand these issues and to face down the prejudice such a document would engender.

OII Australia is interested to know if this sex non-designator is available to everyone or is it only available to those who can show medical and/or anatomical non-binary inclusion. If it is not available to all people we consider it analogous to creating a third sex for those who have physical differences of sex. OII Australia opposes the creation of such a category.
I agree.

Assign a child an arbitrary sex on the Birth Certificate if you really must. Bring up the child as that sex. If they tell you it's wrong, re-do it. And when they get to the age of consent, allow them to opt out of the whole male/female thing if that's right for them. Don't insist on surgical or hormonal body modification. Allow it though, when they're old enough.

To a conservative, traditional, prim and proper straight-laced prig like me, this goes down like a lead balloon. I think the electorate will feel likewise.

Nonetheless.... and I've had to be dragged kicking and screaming to this conclusion...and this is not a matter or libertarianism gone bonkers, nor a fanatic "follow your own bliss" ideology.... this is the closest system I can think of that accounts for biological reality.

Spit. This complicates things, and will make it much, much tougher to explain to the great unwashed, who distrust this kind of Moonbattery and Idiocy. It threatens to undo a lot of my work.

Um.... can't exactly ask hir not to exist though... nor can I trample on her human rights and claim the same ones for myself.

From hir story:
Having gender markers as part of our legal identity is a problem for everyone facing gender discrimination, and anyone who does not fit the standard options of male or female.

Not everyone does, you know, with one in a thousand people being born with an intersex condition, and other people of sex or gender diversity, such as transsexuals in transition, or bigendered people who may identify as either male or female or both, according to the situation or time of day.

While many transsexuals may prefer to identify as whichever of the two standard sex options they see as appropriate, many other people of sex or gender diversity, and also many non-transgendered women, would prefer to not have sex listed as part of their legal identity.

It may be problematic or embarrassing or simply allow for sex based discrimination, which we've had enough of.
According to the TIME OF DAY??? Oh great. Here am I having spent ages pooh-poohing the whole notion that such a ridiculous thing could happen, that it's only in the fevered dreams of the ignorant, and now zie says something like that.

Is it true though? The fact that I've not come across it doesn't mean to say it doesn't happen. And I know that biology is messy, sex identity may crystallise late... what happens of it doesn't crystallise at all? Because it won't always.

Remember the Mantra, Zoe. Reality always wins, best surrender to it now and work around it. And besides which... arrogantly telling people what they "really" are rings all sorts of alarm bells in me.

I hope my readers won't mind if I , um, not exactly gloss over these inconvenient exceptions, but don't emphasise them, except in the Advanced Course. Some Lies to Children might be in order...though now I'm being arrogant in a different way.

Ah spit again. Trying to act ethically is hard.

Tuesday 9 March 2010

Coincidental and Unintentional

"The characters and incidents portrayed and the names used herein are fictitious and any resemblance to the names, character, or history of any person is coincidental and unintentional."

The Oracular Vulva

Cast of Characters:
Dr Paul McHugh as Dr. Budekind,
Dr Julianne Imperato-McGinley as Dr Fabienne Pappas-Kikuchi
John Money as Peter Luce
Theodore Albert Klebs as himself
and the Sambia tribe as the Dawats

...and far, far, far too many girls with 5ARD as Felicity Kennington.

Because when I say that 5ARD causes an apparent natural "sex change" in some ways... it's not completely true. The gender identity doesn't change. The one in three (we think) who are bigendered take on a new role. The one in three (we think) who are male cease being (effectively) trans men. And the one in three women whose bodies masculinise ... it's best not to dwell on lest our hearts break.

Budekind's full of it, by the way. I know two women who are only still here because the pistol misfired. And rather more who know the taste of gun oil.

So's Luce and Pappas-Kikuchi. Luce because he thinks its upbringing - it's not, it's neurological. And Pappas-Kikuchi because she thinks it's malleable, instead of a consequence of some people being bigendered (or rather, ambiguously sexed) neurologically. They both ignore the inconvenient exceptions.

More on that, and my evolving thinking on the subject, in my next post. Which involves a legal world first in the state of New South Wales, one that takes us one step closer to legality matching reality.

Monday 8 March 2010

We do things differently in Australia (Part II)

Again from Andrew Bolt:
Principles must be upheld even - or especially - when your own allies breach them.
Every time I get inundated with some Theocratic Wingnut BS, and wonder whether my ideological home is on the Left or Right, something like this gets said. Not always by someone on the Right, Norm Geras, an outright Marxist, has been known to say exactly the same thing. But more often on the Right than the Left.

There are real evildoers out there. I can think of a few well-known organisations on the Right of US politics that lie and persecute not out of conviction, but because "it's not personal, just business". It's how they get the donations flowing in from the rubes. I can think of many on the Left likewise.

But the vast majority on either side of politics are active not for personal gain, nor out of malice, but the opposite. They give a damn, and try to do the best they can according to their own lights. All too few of them realise that the majority of their opponents - with many exceptions, but still the majority - are doing the same thing.

Most dangerous are the Utopian Idealists, the ones so convinced of their own righteousness that no enormity is beyond them.

Of course, some say they're taken out of context. Only joking. From the NYT:
Mr. Ayers, who in 1970 was said to have summed up the Weatherman philosophy as: ''Kill all the rich people. Break up their cars and apartments. Bring the revolution home, kill your parents, that's where it's really at,'' is today distinguished professor of education at the University of Illinois at Chicago. And he says he doesn't actually remember suggesting that rich people be killed or that people kill their parents, but ''it's been quoted so many times I'm beginning to think I did,'' he said. ''It was a joke about the distribution of wealth.'
In 1967 he met Ms. Dohrn in Ann Arbor, Mich. She had a law degree from the University of Chicago and was a magnetic speaker who often wore thigh-high boots and miniskirts. In 1969, after the Manson family murders in Beverly Hills, Ms. Dohrn told an S.D.S. audience: ''Dig it! Manson killed those pigs, then they ate dinner in the same room with them, then they shoved a fork into a victim's stomach.''

In Chicago recently, Ms. Dohrn said of her remarks: ''It was a joke. We were mocking violence in America. Even in my most inflamed moment I never supported a racist mass murderer.''
Yeah, right. Sure it was.

But even then, some see what they're doing, eventually.
''Fugitive Days'' does have moments of self-mockery, for instance when Mr. Ayers describes watching ''Underground,'' Emile De Antonio's 1976 documentary about the Weathermen. He was ''embarrassed by the arrogance, the solipsism, the absolute certainty that we and we alone knew the way,'' he writes. ''The rigidity and the narcissism.''
The thing is... such genuine demons are the exception, rather than the rule. Most on the Left at the time were not malignant narcissists. They were good people, who saw a cause they could not just ignore, and did what they could for that cause.

Just like the activist members of the Young Pioneers. Just like the Komsomolsk. And yes, just like the HitlerJugend and Bund Deutscher Mädel and even the Peace Corps.

It is so farnarckling easy to pervert young people of good will into doing horrible things for The Cause. Or wonderful things.

The important thing is to never be inhuman. Never be hypocritical. Never accept something in your own side that you'd criticise the other side for.