Monday 24 March 2014

The Social Construction of Sex

The Social Construction of Sex - Pacific Standard: The Science of Society - Alice Dreger

This, then, brings us to the issue of gender identity. Gender identity can be described as the internal feeling of being a boy, girl, man, woman, or something else. Is gender identity socially constructed—that is, are people taught to feel like one or the other?

When I started doing intersex work,I thought so. I thought we were taught to feel, act, and behave like girls and boys. But I don’t think that anymore. That is to say, sure we’re taught these things, but many of us probably get our core gender identities as much from our biological origins as we do from our gender educations. I’ve met too many people who, in spite of careful gender educations—sometimes even intensive gender educations—just clearly felt the gender assigned to them was the wrong one. I’ve also seen a lot of evidence from intersex that prenatal hormone levels correlate with gender-type behaviors, gender identities, and even sexual orientation. (Correlate, not cause! But correlations can be useful clues to causal factors.)
On this note, let me just say this: People who think gender identities, gender roles, and sexual orientations are all socially constructed are the most naive biological determinists I’ve ever seen. They think all human brains are completely without structure when it comes to these things; we all have empty slates in our skulls at birth. No, we don’t! Really!
In fact, I think we can’t know that much about any individual person’s biology without a huge amount of study on that person—and even then, it’s hard to know much. (I think the same is true about an individual person’s social history.) In this sense, I’m much less of a strict biological determinist than the social constructivists people incorrectly lump me with. I happen to think that, for any given child, we can’t predict with certainty what gender identity or sexual orientation she or he will grow up to have, even if the child is raised in a very sex-role-strict culture. Some will go against our best guesses and educational attempts—we know that again from cross-cultural studies, where transgender, lesbian, bi, and gay children and adults show up again and again.
Yup. That sums it up pretty well.

Friday 14 March 2014

US MilitaryTransgender ban

From the AP

An independent commission led by a former U.S. surgeon general has
concluded there "is no compelling medical reason" for the U.S. armed
forces to prohibit transgender Americans from serving and that President
Barack Obama could lift the decades-old ban without approval from
Congress, according to a report being released Thursday.
"We determined not only that there is no compelling medical reason for
the ban, but also that the ban itself is an expensive, damaging and
unfair barrier to health care access for the approximately 15,450
transgender personnel who serve currently in the active, Guard and
reserve components," said the commission led by Dr. Joycelyn Elders, who
served as surgeon general during Bill Clinton's first term as
president, and Rear Adm. Alan Steinman, a former chief health and safety
director for the Coast Guard.

At least a dozen nations, including Australia, Canada, England and
Israel, allow military service by transgender individuals. Transgender
rights advocates have been lobbying the Pentagon to revisit the blanket
ban in the U.S. since Congress in 2010 repealed the law that barred gay,
lesbian and bisexual individuals from openly serving in the military.

"At this time there are no plans to change the department's policy
and regulations which do not allow transgender individuals to serve in
the U.S. military," said Navy Lt. Cmdr. Nate Christensen, a defense
department spokesman.

Monday 3 March 2014

Scientists Discover Children’s Cells Living in Mothers’ Brains - Scientific American

Scientists Discover Children’s Cells Living in Mothers’ Brains - Scientific American
Women may have microchimeric cells both from their mother as well as from their own pregnancies, and there is even evidence for competition between cells from grandmother and infant within the mother.
It's more complicated than most people think. Our bodies are not static, they are performance art. We are not defined completely by our DNA.

Sunday 2 March 2014

A Re-run of Munich. If we're lucky...

See also Munich Agreement
The Munich Agreement was a settlement permitting Nazi Germany's annexation of portions of Czechoslovakia along the country's borders mainly inhabited by German speakers, for which a new territorial designation "Sudetenland" was coined. The agreement was negotiated at a conference held in Munich, Germany, among the major powers of Europe, without the presence of Czechoslovakia. Today, it is widely regarded as a failed act of appeasement toward Germany. The agreement was signed in the early hours of 30 September 1938 (but dated 29 September).
If the EU gets its act together, then stationing a few special weapons under Ukrainian control might defuse the situation. They gave up their own in return for a guarantee. We must make good on that promise, or return the capability to them. And let Putin know that those are the two options - which would he prefer?

UPDATE : Ukraine calls on NATO to make good on guarantee.

1997 Charter on a Distinctive Partnership between the North Atlantic Treaty Organization and Ukraine:

14. NATO Allies will continue to support Ukrainian sovereignty and independence, territorial integrity, democratic development, economic prosperity and its status as a non-nuclear weapon state, and the principle of inviolability of frontiers, as key factors of stability and security in Central and Eastern Europe and in the continent as a whole.
15. NATO and Ukraine will develop a crisis consultative mechanism to consult together whenever Ukraine perceives a direct threat to its territorial integrity, political independence, or security.
16. NATO welcomes and supports the fact that Ukraine received security assurances from all five nuclear-weapon states parties to the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT) as a non-nuclear weapon state party to the NPT, and recalls the commitments undertaken by the United States and the United Kingdom, together with Russia, and by France unilaterally, which took the historic decision in Budapest in 1994 to provide Ukraine with security assurances as a non-nuclear weapon state party to the NPT.