US wages and salaries rise at record-low levels

From World Socialist Web Site
By Andre Damon
31 October 2009

Employment costs in the US rose at the lowest annual amount in at least 27 years, according to data released Friday by the Labor Department. Stagnant wages and salaries are the outcome of government policies designed to lower the living standards of workers.

 

Over the past 12 months, the Labor Department’s Employment Cost Index rose by 1.5 percent, marking the lowest wage and salary growth since these figures started to be collected in 1982.

Meanwhile, compensation costs for the three-month period ending in September increased by 0.4 percent, among the lowest level since quarterly records began in 2001. This figure was unchanged from the previous quarter, and up slightly from the 0.3 percent growth in the first quarter of the year.

In the 12-month period before September 2008, employment costs rose by 2.6 percent.

These figures were led by falling government wages, which shrank by 0.1 percent in the third quarter, while benefits rose by a smaller-than average 0.3 percent. Compensation costs in private industry rose by 0.5 percent, with benefits rising 0.3 percent.

The decline in government wages is a direct result of policies initiated by states and cities in response to their budget crises. Local governments have laid off thousands of teachers, city workers, and bus drivers in response to their budget shortfalls. Those workers who remain have been forced to take furloughs and pay cuts.

In Detroit, Michigan, for instance, both city workers and teachers have been told to take a 10 percent pay cut.

These cuts are the direct outcome of the Obama administration’s policies, which have left states to fend for themselves amid falling tax revenues. The administration has made it clear that states must balance their budgets through spending cuts. Many states are required to have a balanced budget, and nearly all have resorted to wage and salary cuts, together with layoffs, to meet their obligations.

Consumer spending, meanwhile, fell significantly in September, according to figures released Friday by the Commerce Department. Spending fell by 0.5 percent last month, negating a good chunk of the 1 percent gain in the previous month. Disposable income for households also fell by 0.1 percent in September, in the fourth consecutive monthly decline.

The fall in consumer spending, the largest since December, is in part the result of the end of the government’s cash-for-clunkers program on August 24. Economists have said that this program, among others, accounts for much of the increase in third-quarter consumer spending and GDP.

Lori Helwig, an economist at Merrill Lynch, told MarketWatch that she expects consumer spending to grow 0.5 percent in the last quarter of the year, down significantly from the 3.4 percent growth in the third quarter.

The Commerce Department said Thursday that the US economy grew at a rate of 3.5 percent in the third quarter of the year, after falling consecutively for three quarters. However, as numerous commentators have pointed out, this so-called recovery is unsustainable.

The Financial Times wrote on Thursday, “Household disposable incomes actually fell during the quarter, by 3.4 percent, but consumer spending rose, also by 3.4 percent. This is not a pattern that can be sustained for long.” The uptick in spending was largely financed by the government’s cash-for-clunkers program, along with homebuyer tax credits, which will expire later this year.

A picture of the real state of things emerges from these figures. Real wages in the US are declining, while consumer spending can only be maintained, at least in the short term, by government stimulus programs.

Meanwhile, the real living conditions for regular people are becoming more and more intolerable. Wages for non-managerial workers have fallen by 1.4 percent so far this year, according to an article in USA Today, and are on track for even further declines. The official unemployment rate has reached 9.8 percent, and when one takes into account discouraged workers and people who are underemployed, it is at 17 percent.

While the Obama administration has spent trillions to bail out the banks and financial speculators, it has done next to nothing to address the massive employment crisis.

The White House released a report on Friday cynically claiming that its stimulus program had “saved or created” 640,239 jobs, based on data from a non-governmental monitoring board. This is based largely on inflated estimates of how many additional jobs might have been destroyed—in addition to the far higher figure that have in fact been destroyed.

The number of workers the federal government has actually employed in new projects is miniscule—estimated at 30,000 by the administration itself in a report released earlier this month.

In some states, the impact of federal programs has been negligible—including about 400 in Michigan, which has the highest unemployment rate in the country at 15.2 percent.

In reviewing these figures, the Associated Press found significant reporting errors, with certain new positions being counted as many as five times. The analysis showed that, based on the government’s records, the figure should have been 25,000, not 30,000.

Similar overestimations were quickly discovered in the figures released on Friday. For example, the Salt Lake Tribune reported that the White House claimed that 6,598 jobs were saved or created in Utah. “But discrepancies were easy to find,” the newspaper noted. “Some entities seemed to create their own criteria, while others double counted employees over multiple contracts. The most common error appeared to be counting temporary or part-time work as a full-time job.”

Since the recession began in December 2007, 7.6 million jobs have been eliminated from the economy, and 3 million since Obama’s stimulus program was approved. Even if one were to accept the government’s estimates, a stimulus program that would address the unemployment crisis would need to be at least ten times the size of the one that has been passed. Instead, the Obama administration has rejected any further stimulus measures.

In fact, mass unemployment has been part of a deliberate policy, allowing for corporations to exploit workers’ fears over the poor labor market. The financial and corporate elite has used the economic crisis it created to carry out a massive redistribution of wealth. The bank bailouts will be paid for through attacks on the working class—including austerity measures, cuts in social programs and a continual attack on wages and benefits.

Fox News anti-intersex rant

By Curtis E. Hinkle

Below is some commentary from Fox News which landed in my email box this morning. I felt compelled to analyze this because it is typical of the right-wing anti-intersex, irrational thinking which passes as logical. Fox News is a channel I have blocked on my TV because I consider it to be racist, homophobic and nothing but a propaganda network for the Republican Party.

First of all notice that the writer uses “hermaphrodites” as the example, probably for comic and derogatory impact on the readers. As we know the hate crime bill which was passed into law has nothing to do with intersex people or protecting intersex people from hate crimes, but we end up being the example used in this commentary.

The author then pretends that people who are being charged with hate crimes are actually being prosecuted because of thought crimes, as if thought crimes are not already an important part of US law and many of these thought crimes are a result of the very same right wing thinking which is propagated by Fox News. The Patriot Act is definitely replete with thought crimes. As an example, right here where I live, a fellow member of an organization I am part of was arrested a few years ago for simply carrying a poster which condemned the war in Iraq during a visit by the former President Bush. He was charged with being in a “No Free Speech Zone”. Despite many appeals, the charge was upheld and he spent a long time in prison.

Conspiracy is a thought crime. One does not have to carry out the crime, just think about it and discuss is. That is very different from the Hate Crime legislation and that is the serious flaw in the Right Wing’s argument that Hate Crimes are thought crimes. You cannot be arrested for a hate crime or charged with a hate crime just for
thinking about it. You have to act on it.

I am not in favor of outlawing freedom of speech or thought. I am in favor of outlawing hate crimes and making sure that people are not targeted because someone thinks they belong to some identity group which the individual may or may not even agree with. It is not about what the writer says when he writes that we should identify just as human. It is about others who would divide us into groups and kill us. If they do that, they should stand accountable both for making such divisions within humanity and then acting on it because it is a form of madness which humanity desperately needs to end.

FOX COMMENTARY FOLLOWS

———————————————————————————————
President Obama signed the National Defense Authorization Act, which by some weird circumstance also includes hate crime legislation.

Now, I’m no fan of hate. Hate in all forms is ugly, even when performed by beautiful people (that’s a shout out to Stephanie Von Pratt, who turned me down for my senior prom). But here’s what I don’t get: If I kill someone, I’m a killer. But hate crime law says that I also broke a new law, one that has to do with my thoughts when I
committed said crime.

So it’s a thought crime more than a hate crime. Which begs the question: How can a thought be against the law?

Now I can barely read, so I don’t want to get too deep into this, but if I were to kill my co-host Bill Schulz, whether I hated him or not, that’s a crime. But, if we find out later that he was a sequential hermaphrodite, one might say it could be a hate crime.

I don’t get that at all.

What of terrorists? Does the fact that they hate us make their crimes worse? Not to them; punishment is meaningless. Which is the real truth about hate, anyway: Hate crime laws won’t stop hate or crime. It’s an after-the-fact gesture that does nothing to stop evil.

Even more, focusing on the killer’s outlook diminishes the victim. It’s no longer Bill Schulz is dead, but “Bill Schulz, the sequential hermaphrodite, is dead.”

Humanity should come before identity. We need to see people as people, not as part of groups. We know bigotry is bad. But murder in any form is so substantially worse, that it needs no footnote.

And if you disagree with me, then you’re probably racist.

Source:
http://www.foxnews.com/story/0,2933,570527,00.html

Friday Night Fun and Culture

A blast from the disco era of the late 1970s. Alicia Bridges passed away a couple of years back but my fond memories of dancing until dawn first at the Palms and later in the Santa Monica Blvd area after hours clubs. It was a wonderful time, those days before Reagan and AIDS

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“Queer” Community

One of our commenters, Nome has been rather upset with me because I do not embrace “queer” as a label.  Or queer community.  I realized from her e-mail address that she is probably still a student and has a completely different take on the term “queer” than do people who lived in a pre-Stonewall world or even the heady days of 1970s gay and lesbian liberation.

There was a time in 1969 when Gay subsumed Lesbian in the same way that “Man” and male pronouns were supposed to include women too even though the opposite would be more logical since woman actually does include man as part of it and she does include he.

Feminism made the erasure of women’s voices unacceptable.  It meant that in order to work together gay men had to accept using a different word for lesbian women.  As a result we have Gay and Lesbian Centers and strings of initials that give priority to the one that people identify as.

The dreaded identity word.  In the LGBT/T etc string, identity is actually little more than a place marker.  Rather than transgender or even transsexual I long ago realized the truth to the phrase “feminism is the theory, lesbianism is the practice.”  Putting women first and asking the question is this or that good for women or bad for women has guided my politics for many years.

But lesbian community… If that means laughing along and relating to the jokes told by Wanda Sykes in her HBO special we watched last night before the absolutely must see HBO film Schmatta.  Or reading lesbian feminist writers and campaigning for LGBT/T issues then I am part of a community.  But then that means I am a part of a lot of other communities too. Including the photography and folk music communities, the anarchist/socialist communities, the activists for media reform, the anti-WTO and Fair Trade, Not Free Trade communities.

I obviously still care about the interests of people with transsexualism and transgenderism even if I do not see there being some form of overarching “transgender as umbrella” community.  The reality i discovered over 40 years ago when I first came out was just as there was no one particular “gay as umbrella” community there is no “trans community”. For that matter there isn’t a “transsexual community” among those of us who are either pre or post SRS.  Post-op lists dissolve in the same sorts of differences that other larger “communities” do.  Sartre described hell as other people.  The paradox is in the existential loneliness of the group where to assert self-hood negates submitting to a collective identity.

If we are individuals rather than cogs in a machine, then identity politics that require the subsuming of self and the existential individualism of self for membership in  a hierarchically determined collective, where proper identity is dictated, and deviation from that collective identity is cause for great gnashing of teeth and rending of garments accompanied by great wailing moans and accusations of betrayal, then the identity politics of “community” are doomed to failure.

Queer as an anarchic, outlaw position makes an oxymoron of the phrase “queer community” unless one uses a reading of queer as gay with a subtext of sameness.  This immediately becomes problematic given the traditional male sex linkage to the term queer and the historical hegemony of  gay male erasing lesbian.  This along with the historical association of queer with those who exercise an often terrorist level of control over  LGBT/T people.  Queer is the insult that accompanied beatings, imprisonment on laws that made our very being a criminal offense, lobotomies and other horrific acts aimed at curing.

It bears many commonalities with the usage of “nigger” by Black rappers, who are aware of the connotation.  Yet like “nigger” it has the potential to limit LGBT/T people to the negative stereotypes connotative with the historical associations.

The focus on “queer” like the focus on “transgender” tends towards a form of nationalism of the sort that divided the Black militant organizations such as Ron Karinga’s group US from the Marxist and revolutionary Black Panther Party.  It says that “we are the only people who care about our problems and therefore our sole point of focus should be upon our problems”.

This divisive narrow focus upon the politics of identity rather than upon agreed upon issues allowed the rabid right wing to rise to power and thrust into a 30 year period of reactionary politics that have destroyed American industry and the rights of all working people.  It has been a mind set of, “Yes, so and so is good on X,Y, Z but they haven’t spoken out strongly enough on my particular position therefore I won’t work for them even though they are good on many other issues that affect my life.”

As someone who had her sex change operation so long ago that it was done at the time when they had just gone from obsidian operating instruments to bronze, my connections to trans anything are awfully faint.  The issues of transgender people and laws impacting them are something I support not out of identity but rather out of their being human rights issues.

Perhaps rather than identity politics we should return to issues oriented politics.  Lately I have been listening to a lot of Woody Guthrie, Pete Seeger, Weavers and Almanac Singers as well as reading Dorothy Healey’s book California Red: A Life in the American Communist Party.  One reason to study history is to learn to avoid the errors of the past.

The New Deal era under Roosevelt was actually a high point for progressive politics in America.  Those politics didn’t die under McCarthyism, they continued through the 1970s.  When World War II started the communists and other progressives formed something called the “Popular Front”.

What slowly bled all the progressive movement energy away was only partially the right wing and reactionary influences even though they played a role. What really did in the liberal, progressive coalitions that included not only different minority groups but labor was increasing factionalism based on identity.

The largest movement I was a member of was the anti-War in Vietnam Movement, the longest enduring have been the feminist and LGBT/T movements.  What those movements have in common is that they are more issues oriented than identity based.  The long enduring movements recognize there are differences including different interests with in and among those involved in the respective movements.

Transgender on the other hand has been very Satalinistic, more similar to the Black Nationalist movements in demanding one identify as transgender or else one is an enemy.  Not allowing post-SRS women to be post-Transsexualism as well as post-op has resulted in more anger, in-fighting and wasted effort than most realize.

Further the insistence that we are queer or gender transgressive silences us, particularly those of us who are older and have the same concerns as not only older L/G folks but as older straight people.  Interests that may involve National Health Care, Reindustrialization.  Ending Free Trade, the G20 and WTO and stopping the economic race to the bottom.

Some may find it unacceptable that I am interested in the rights of all workers to organize around issues such as “Living Wage Standards”, The Employee Free Choice Act but those are matters not limited to LGBT/T worker and especially not to just transsexual or transgender workers.

In short I believe it is time to call an end to all the identity crap and the usage of identity as a basis of movements and to replace identity politics with issues based politics and coalitions rather than “communities”.  While it is important to think locally it is equally important to reach beyond local and act globally.

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Obama Signs Hate Crimes

From The Advocate

http://www.advocate.com/News/Daily_News/2009/10/28/Obama_Signs_Hate_Crimes/

By Kerry Eleveld

President Barack Obama signed the hate-crimes law Wednesday, flanked by family members of Matthew Shepard and James Byrd Jr., saying the law “protects people based on what they look like, who they love, how they pray, or who they are.”

President Barack Obama Wednesday signed into law the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act as part of the 2010 National Defense Authorization Act.

“After more than a decade of opposition and delay, we’ve passed inclusive hate-crimes legislation that protects people based on what they look like, who they love, how they pray, or who they are,” Obama said, addressing the crowd. “I promised Judy Shepard when she saw me in the Oval Office that this day would come.”

Obama went on to thank Sen. Edward Kennedy for his dedication to seeing that the bill was passed. Before leaving, he kissed Judy Shepard on the cheek and shook hands with her husband, Dennis, and son, Logan.

Because the hate-crimes measure was attached a defense bill, the signing was an unusual mix of defense officials and advocates for the hate-crimes legislation.

Alongside Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, Adm. Mike Mullen, and the chairmen of the respective Armed Services Committees, Sen. Carl Levin and Rep. Ike Skelton, stood LGBT elected officials and the family members of Matthew Shepard and James Byrd Jr. (his sisters Betty Byrd Boatner and Louvon Harris), for whom the hate-crimes measure is named.

President Obama will host a reception in the East Room of the White House beginning about 5 p.m. to commemorate the enactment of the hate-crimes law. Guests will include Atty. Gen. Eric Holder and a broad spectrum of civil rights leaders, including LGBT advocates.

The president is expected to make brief remarks about 6:05 p.m.

AFA: Hate-Crimes Bill Is Un-American

Ever notice how all these Christo-Fascist bigots have hegemonically colonized the word “Family”?  It is almost as though they have gone through their lexicon and substituted ‘family” every place where the more appropriate term would be “fascist”

What part of the American value of equal treatment does this neo-Nazi moron Wildmon just not get?

Time to tell these fascists, “America love it or leave it.  Embrace the Constitution or get the hell out of our country.

Posted on Advocate.com October 27, 2009

http://www.advocate.com/News/Daily_News/2009/10/27/AFA__Hate_Crimes_Bill_is_Un-American/

The American Family Association, a self-proclaimed pro-family advocacy organization, on Monday criticized the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act as “simply un-American” and encouraged its members to contact Congress members who supported the legislation.

“The law created by this bill is exceedingly dangerous and represents a huge step toward normalizing homosexual and transsexual behavior in this country,” said AFA president Tim Wildmon in a press release.

“It creates a kind of caste system in law enforcement, where the perverse thing is that people who engage in non-normative sexual behavior will have more legal protection than heterosexuals,” added Wildmon. “This kind of inequality before the law is simply un-American.”

Bryan Fischer, the AFA’s director of issues analysis, also critiqued the bill, which  amends the 1969 federal hate-crimes law to include crimes motivated by a victim’s actual or perceived gender, sexual orientation, gender identity, or disability.

“Despite the protests of homosexual activists, this is a communist-style law against politically-incorrect thoughts, since there are enhanced criminal penalties that aren’t based on what somebody did but on what they were thinking at the time,” said Fisher.

The AFA sent out an action alert on Tuesday to its 2.6 million-member network. The alert informs members how their representatives voted on the bill and urges them to contact Congress members who supported the legislation.

“We must let every senator who voted for the ‘hate crimes’ bill know that his vote will not be forgotten when he stands for re-election,” reads the alert.

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Assimilation Happens

One thing that should be obvious but often isn’t is that “transsexual” really doesn’t belong in the LGBT/T category once one is post-SRS.

It is there because of how laws and politics work rather than how lives are lived.  Discrimination in matters of employment and access to medical care are obvious issues.

WBTs have been called “separatists” for just going off and assimilating.  Calling people who post all over the place “stealth” is a bit of a joke considering how easy it is to track ISPs even when folks use sock puppet e-mail. But let’s assume that most people who have assimilated  are only out in the world of 3D to a select circle of friends or for certain purposes.

It isn’t some separatism for most of us.  It is lack of common interests.  I have known a number of sisters who were involved in the bar and even ball cultures, who found themselves excluded from those scenes once they had SRS.

Once you have had SRS queens no longer relate to you as being one of the gang.  If you do not limit your involvement in their scene they will ask you why and you find yourself labeled as both odd and having made a mistake.

Having a vagina others you to people who live as women but keep their male parts.  Queens put their post-SRS friends they used to see as sisters on pedestals and tell them how brave they are while gossiping behind their backs,  “Well, she got her surgery and thinks she is better than us (forgetting that they put us on the pedestal to begin with) so why is she still hanging around us?”

The message is that we no longer belong there.  Time to move on with our lives.

Of course the activists then accuse us of separatism and deserting the community while conveniently forgetting how every year at Pride Day the same dozen people show up and how most of the “community” is dressed in sequins and riding on one of the bar/club floats.

After a few years even when one is an activist being part of that same dozen people starts to feel like being part of a severely marginalized Trotskyite Faction.  What is the point?

Perhaps it is different for those who come out through the IFGE route but I suspect it isn’t.

I know it isn’t if one is part of Tri-Ess and actually comes out as transsexual, I’ve read Tapestry in the past and have heard the stories at gender groups of how old CD friends are uncomfortable and nasty towards anyone who realizes they are not transvestite but are actually transsexual.  I’ve had transgender friends tell me the same thing about how they were put on a pedestal when they went full time.  Told how lucky they are that they can now dress full time. Never mind that the transgender sister has taken the down elevator on the socio-economic scale.  Comments like that are why transgender sisters who live 24/7/365  call episodic transvestites fetishists.  It isn’t so much that they fetishize the clothes as they hegmonically covet the lives of sisters willing to pay the price in order to live their lives according to their inner needs.

The main reason I believe “transgender” should be limited to only those living 24/7/365 is because, like transsexuals they have their lives colonized and objectified by those of the transvestite class.

At the same time people who are transgender either  because that is where their internal compass has landed, or due to economic issues, face conditions the majority of post-SRS sisters are less likely to face such as violence, ghettoization and denial of both economic opportunity and social safety nets.

The Day of Remembrance will soon be upon us.  I post articles regarding the murderous violence and senseless slaying of TS/TG sisters even though it isn’t a part of my world where violence more often takes place in the form of denial of health insurance, loss of work due to layoffs and fraudulent financial practices on the part of corporations.

While I will mention DOR the likelihood of my going to an event is very slim.  Not because I am afraid of “outing myself” or because I am disinterested but more out of a sense of futility and having to work.  The same reason I missed Pride Day.  Going to something like this requires planning and the arranging of time, a commitment that conflicts with day to day life in a Nickel and Dimed world.

As time passes after SRS the world of TS/TG is less an active part of life.  Even for those of us who blog and consider ourselves activists.  It takes little effort for me to be transgender inclusive on so many issues.  I learned that while working towards adding gender and perceived gender to the hate crimes laws of California.  It isn’t like adding a few phrases that protect transgender folks to any bill aimed at protecting gay and lesbian folks really makes that bill harder to pass.

Yet there are so many causes, so little time and most of my causes are bigger than the identity politics of the “Transgender Community”.  Part of why I have called a moratorium on  name calling, other than feeling like it is sort picking on people who have a harder life than I do, and not wanting to add to their oppression, is that engaging in name calling takes energy away from more important causes.  Like universal health care, hate crimes laws, ENDA, Same Sex Marriage, defending the environment, women’s rights etc.

Of course my working for any of a menu of causes that are positive for me means automatically extending those protections to all.  See I’m not some Ayn Randian right wing moron who is all hooray for me, fuck you.  I actually believe in equal treatment and the right to human dignity.

But as I said assimilation happens…  Even for activists who step beyond identity politics.

It happens for most post-SRS folks without them even trying, indeed it sometimes seems that folks who remain crusaders almost have to constantly make an effort to make themselves visible as transsexual.  The exceptions to this are those who are physically obvious although working retail and having encountered many people whose appearances are different, even odd.  It sometimes seems that facial hair is the only real give away.   I don’t know about some folks but for most of us assimilation seems inevitable.

Particularly if you are authentic and not pretending.  The goal was to be a woman, SRS removes the ties that bind one to those who stay transgender and time does the rest.

More about Infant Sex Assigning Surgery vs. TS Alien Space Abductions

Recently I received an e-mail from On the Issues magazine one of the many left wing and feminist publications I read.

And y’all thought I was brilliant enough to think up all the stuff I write and report on myself but I actually do quite a bit of research regarding some of the things I write and call upon a number of sources beyond the internet.  This one fell into my lap as I was pondering how to follow up last week’s major post.

I came to some pretty radical conclusions once I realized that both Tree and Laurent were compulsive liars who poisoned the entire pool of information regarding intersex people in a way that Agnes never did.

Remember Agnes didn’t let the doctors keep on thinking the conclusions they had come to regarding her.  I’ve been around long enough to recognize there are all different levels of honesty and ethics among those of us who were born transsexual but none the less I am saddened by the blatant liars whose sheer lack of ethics cause them to think nothing of creating a whole level of fantasy that both harms actual people with physically apparent intersex conditions and allows them to trash people born with transsexualism, a less obvious form of intersex condition.

The catalyst, the motivator for the original article was a “spazzer”* on a GID reform list who had loudly accused Dr. John Money of surgically mutilating her and making her into a boy.  This person posted from New Zealand.  This immediately set off my bullshit detector.  John Money wrote thousands upon thousands of pages reporting on research regarding the development of sex and gender.  He was in the nurture school but even he postulated that sex/gender identity was fixed before 18 months.  John Money didn’t do the circumcision in the David Reimer case that went awry.  For that matter, while John Money probably observed surgeries preformed on intersex/transsexual people it is highly doubtful he ever wielded the knife as he was a psychologist and not a surgeon.

Further his career as a professor and professor emeritus was at Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore, and a world away from New Zealand. The story told by the spazzer combined both elements of ignorance regarding actual intersex with geographic improbability.

Nonetheless there non-consensual surgery is routinely performed on male infants, circumcision is at best of questionable medical value but considering the rarity of actual adult SRS prior to 1970 I found myself asking the question.  “What sorts of non-consensual sex related surgery are historically the most common?  The answers were circumcision, female genital mutilation and castration.

I also have the feeling that one of the more common cases dealing male infants is probably bringing down non-descended testicles along with hypospadias repair.

Many other forms of intersex are not apparent at birth.  Forms such a CAIS, extra x or y chromosomes or conditions such as those alleged of Caster Semenya have something in common with transsexualism in that they are not discovered until the person is later in life.

This brings us back to those basic procedures:  Male circumcision is perhaps the most widely practiced in the Western World.  It was initially circumcision gone awry that led to the unfortunate case of David Reimer, not surgery aimed at correction of an intersex condition.  While Dr. Money appears to have acted unethically and far too enthusiastically  regarding the opportunity to study some one with the potential to prove or disprove some of his theories regarding gender identity development, this was not dealing with an intersex person. Further, even though male circumcision is considered a simple procedure it quite probably has more consequences than commonly thought as well as more complications.

Female circumcision is a euphemistic name for a barbaric practice once far more wide spread than it is today.  While it is now most commonly found in Muslim as well as non-Muslim African nations it is still practiced in certain circumstances in the West.  As misogynistic and monstrous as this is this is not where I am going in this article.

Male castration is another practice that is limited in Western society.  Freud aside, males including male Doctors tend to view castration on someone else with the same horror with which they would view it if it were performed on them.

In the late 19th and early 20th Clitoridectomies were performed on girls and women as a way of curing masturbation.  Freud’s misogynistic theories may have inadvertently furthered this practice as he ascribed to the idea that clitoral orgasms represented an immature form of female sexuality and that wholesome mature female orgasms were vaginal.

As I said in the earlier piece on this subject in adult sex reassignment surgery it has always been easier to surgically reassign people from male to female.  Interestingly enough many of the early male to female procedures were aimed at creating a “sensitive vagina” rather than a clitoris and often left people like myself without a clitoris.

Male doctors place a high value on the role of women being to please a man, so much so they ignored the fact that natal female’s vaginas are not the source of orgasms and that their clits are.  What were they thinking?  Oh well this was before Our Bodies, Ourselves and feminist writings about the “myth of vaginal orgasms”.  On the upside as a result of the work of Lonnie Barbach and Betty Dodson as well as consciousness raising sessions at the Women’s Building in LA helped me find the remaining nerve bundles and with the help of a Hitachi Magic Wand I learned how to reach orgasm.

When looking at the probability of a number of alleged infant intersex procedures given the taboos that were until recently in place regarding adult transsexuals one has to assume that most of these procedures were aimed at placing the infant in the category they were perceived as truly belonging in rather than “reassigning the infant” based on arbitrary factors.

That brings us to the following article first published in On the Issues

The Tyranny of the Esthetic Surgery’s Most Intimate Violation
by Martha Coventry

Big clitorises aren’t allowed in America. By big, I mean over three-eighths of an inch for newborns, about the size of a pencil eraser. Tiny penises, under one inch, aren’t allowed either. A big clitoris is considered too capable of becoming alarmingly erect, and a tiny penis not quite capable enough. Such genitals are confounding to the strictly maintained and comforting social order in America today, which has everyone believing that bodies come in only two ways: perfectly female and perfectly male. But genitals are surprisingly ambiguous. One out of every 2,000 babies is born with genitals that don’t elicit the automatic “It’s a girl!” or “It’s a boy!” Many more have genitals that are perceived as “masculinized” or “feminized,” although the child’s sex is not in doubt.

The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends surgically altering these children between the ages of six weeks and 15 months to fashion their bodies into something closer to perfection. Everyone can then breathe easier, except for the child, who may well spend the rest of her or his life trying to let the breath flow easy and full through the fear and shame created by such devastating surgery.

On a November night in 1958, I was playing in the bathtub in the cheery, country home of my childhood. I was six years old. My mother came in and sat on the edge of the tub, her kind face looking worried. I glanced up at her, wondering, “Time to get out so soon?” She told me that I had to go to the hospital the next day for an operation. I knew this was about something between my legs. My chest felt tight and there was a rushing sound in my ears. I begged not to go. Please. But my mother told me only that I must. Not a word was said about what was going to happen or why. The next day, it took the surgeon 30 minutes to make a U-shaped incision around my half-inch clitoris, remove it, and put it in a specimen dish to send to the lab. He then closed the wound and stitched the skin up over the stump.

Take no comfort in the fact that this took place 40 years ago. Today, most parents and doctors in this country are still unable to see that a child has a right to her or his own sexual body, even if that body is deemed “abnormal” by their standards. If a parent is uncomfortable, a doctor can be found who will be willing to make irreversible changes in the child’s body, in order to ease that discomfort. My gynecologist told me about a case in which he had been involved the year before: A woman brought her five-year-old daughter to his office in Minneapolis; the mother felt that the child’s clitoris was too big. He examined the girl and assured the mother that her daughter would grow into her clitoris, which was no longer than the end of his little finger. The mother left. A few weeks later, he was called into an operating room to help another doctor who had run into trouble during a surgical procedure. On the table, he found the same little girl he had seen earlier. She was hemorrhaging from a clitorectomy attempted by the second doctor, from instructions he had read in a medical text. My physician stopped the bleeding, and managed to keep the girl’s clitoris mostly intact.

Continue reading full article at:
http://www.ontheissuesmagazine.com/1998summer/su98coventry.php

Yet when one looks at all the “intersex” narratives in Transworld one rarely sees mention of this most common of all procedure and instead one hears all sorts of fantastical stories that there doesn’t seem to be a whole lot of coverage of in medical journals.

Given the temptation to plead intersex surgical treatment as a reason for my less than perfect genital with their lack of a clitoral structure along with the graft site scar as a way of avoiding suddenly becoming “Transsexual Suzan”** in the eyes of someone I was hoping to develop a serious relationship with I can empathize with someone exercising that option.

However once that story gets repeated too many times by too many people giving into the same temptation we find ourselves faced with a fictitious monster of a transsexual created myth.  All created due to shame of admitting the truth about ourselves.

Call it stealth, call it compartmentalization of information or what ever you want but too many of us have lied out of shame and have created a myth that goes far beyond the harmless sweet loving lie of intimate relationships.

Further these trans-created fictions threaten to prevent serious research that may show a real biological cause from being taken seriously.

I promise that this is not the last post regarding this subject and that more will follow.

* “Spazzer” British slang for a person who fakes being learning disabled or simply fakes terrible ignorance to which they are firmly attached.

**”Transsexual Suzan”  One of the realities of our lives and one which encourages us to be stealth is that our medical histories supersede all other factors in our lives.  We could win a Nobel Prize and yet were our medical history to come out the piece of information that would precede our name would not be “Nobel Prize Winner” but rather “Transsexual” or worse “Transgender” ______ formerly _____ would  be deemed the most important aspect of our entire life and all our accomplishments.

New York State: Ruling Eases Transgender Name-Change Process

As an anarchist I believe that people should have the existential freedom to choose to change their name if they wish and that all people should have the right to have this legal change of name handled in an identical manner.  This goes for the African American or Native American whi wishes to adopt a name they believe more culturally appropriate, to couples who wish to retain or change their last name upon marriage.

People who are transsexual or transgender should not have to meet some form or other of special requirements as that is not only anti-freedom but is a violation of a right guaranteed them by the Constitution in that it treated them in a way that is patently unequal in that it subjects them to meeting requirements other petitioners do not have to meet.

From The New York Times

October 21, 2009, 5:52 pm

http://cityroom.blogs.nytimes.com/2009/10/21/ruling-eases-transgender-name-change-petitions/

By Sewell Chan

Should a transgender person seeking judicial permission to change her or his name be required to furnish medical documentation justifying the change?

A panel of justices in State Supreme Court in Manhattan ruled on Wednesday that the answer is no. The ruling was a victory for the Transgender Legal Defense and Education Fund, a nonprofit advocacy organization.

The fund had brought the case on behalf of a transgender man, Olin Yuri Winn-Ritzenberg, who had petitioned the New York City Civil Court seeking to legally change his name from Leah Uri Winn-Ritzenberg.

In February, a Civil Court judge in Manhattan, Manuel J. Mendez, denied the petition, ruling that Mr. Winn-Ritzenberg first had to provide a letter from a physician, psychologist or social worker documenting the “need” for the name change.

Michael D. Silverman, the executive director of the transgender advocacy group, argued that the state’s common law generally allows an adult “to change his or her name at will, for any reason,” and that transgender petitioners like Mr. Winn-Ritzenberg were being held to a higher standard. About 10 other people, all in Manhattan, have approached the fund with similar reports of having their name-changing petitions denied for the same reason Judge Mendez gave.

Advocates like Mr. Silverman note that not all transgender people take steps like hormone-replacement therapy or sex-reassignment surgery; many take the view that gender is socially constructed, or not even a stable or meaningful category altogether. The fund’s Name Change Project connects transgender people seeking to change their names with lawyers who work for free or for low cost.

Three justices — Douglas E. McKeon, Martin Schoenfeld and Martin Shulman — on Wednesday reversed Judge Mendez’s ruling, voting unanimously to grant Mr. Winn-Ritzenberg’s petition. They found that he had “satisfied the requirements for a name change” under state law, and wrote, “In the absence of fraud, misrepresentation, or interference with the rights of others, the name change petition should have been granted.”

They added, “There is no sound basis in law or policy to engraft upon the statutory provisions an additional requirement that a transgendered-petition present medical substantial for the desired name change.”

“This ruling confirms that each one of us has the right to be known by a name we choose,” Mr. Silverman said. “That choice can’t be second-guessed by doctors, therapists or anyone else just because someone is transgender.”

Mr. Winn-Ritzenberg, who is 26 and pursuing a master’s degree in social work at Hunter College, said in a statement after the ruling was issued: “This ruling means that I can finally change my name and move forward with my life. My gender transition has been a very personal journey, and no one is in a better position to decide that I need to change my name than I am.”

Sweden – Sex-based prenatal brain differences found… [2009-10-23 PhysOrg]

Submitted by Andrea B.

http://www.physorg.com/news175527913.html

Psychology & Psychiatry

Sex-based prenatal brain differences found

October 23rd, 2009

Prenatal sex-based biological differences extend to genetic expression in cerebral cortices. The differences in question are probably associated with later divergences in how our brains develop. This is shown by a new study by Uppsala University researchers Elena Jazin and Björn Reinius, which has been published in the latest issue of the journal Molecular Psychiatry.

Professor Elena Jazin and doctoral student Björn Reinius at the Department of Physiology and Developmental Biology previously demonstrated that genetic expression in the cerebral cortices of human beings and other primates exhibits certain sex-based differences. It is presumed that these differences are very old and have survived the evolutionary process. The purpose of the new study was to determine whether they appear during the process of brain development or first upon the conclusion of that process. Identifying the initial genetic
mechanisms that prompt the brain to develop in a female or male direction is a long-range research objective.

The Uppsala University researchers analysed data, on the basis of sex, from another extensive study of the prenatal human brain.

“The results show that many of the genes situated on the Y chromosome  http://www.physorg.com/tags/y+chromosome are expressed in various parts of the brain prior to birth and probably provide a developmental basis for the sex-based differences exhibited by adult brains,” according to Elena Jazin.

More than a third of Y-chromosomal genes appear to be involved in sex-based human brain differentiation. Some of the genetic activity in question is evident in the adult brain, while other of it only appears at earlier stages of brain development http://www.physorg.com/tags/brain+development. It is yet unknown whether the differences in genetic expression
http://www.physorg.com/tags/genetic+expression among female and male brains have any functional significance.

“The findings are consistent with other factors, such as environment, also playing a role in how we develop,” emphasizes Elena Jazin.

Knowledge of the development of sex-based brain differences is of potential significance for the treatment of brain disturbances and diseases. A large number of psychiatric illnesses, including depression and autism, affect men and women differentially.

“Taking account of sex-based differences is crucial to the study of normal and abnormal brain activity,” according to Elena Jazin.

-

Source: Uppsala University (news
http://www.physorg.com/partners/uppsala-university/ : web
http://www.uu.se/en/ )

© PhysOrg.com 2003-2009

Friday Night Fun and Culture

The Dresden Dolls:  Girl Anachronism

Posted in Uncategorized. Comments Off

Portugal – Campaign launched to end classification of transsexualism as ‘illness…

Portugal – Campaign launched to end classification of transsexualism
as ‘illness…’ [2009-10-23 Portugal News]

http://www.the-news.net/cgi-bin/article.pl?id=1033-7

24th October 2009

Edition: 1033

Campaign launched to end classification of transsexualism as ‘illness’

A campaign that aims to end the classification of transsexuals as individuals who suffer an ‘illness’ as well as educating the general population that sexual diversity not limited to the male and female genre was launched in Lisbon this week.

Identical events were held simultaneously in 38 cities in Europe, Latin America, the USA and Asia, to promote the Stop Trans Pathologisation 2012 movement that has been organized by more than 180 international associations.

Transsexualism is a condition in which an individual identifies with a physical sex different from the one they were born with. A medical diagnosis can be made if a person experiences discomfort as a result of a desire to be a member of the opposite sex, or if a person experiences impaired functioning or distress as a result of that gender identification.

“The aim is to demand an end to the classification of non-conforming gender identities, like transsexual and intersexual [hermaphrodites] individuals, as mentally ill on reference documents belonging to the World Health Organisation’s American Association of Psychiatry (AAP), which will be reviewed in 2012 and 2014”, said Sérgio Vitorino of Portugal’s Pink Panther Association, which is promoting the event in this country.

Sérgio Vitorino believes the long process that individuals wanting a sex-change are subjected to leaves them open and vulnerable to social marginalization.

“Contrary to what happens in Spain, sex change procedure in Portugal drag on for many years and people cannot live their lives to the full, because until they have completed the medical and processes they cannot alter their name or their genders on their identity documents”, he explained.

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Senate Passes Transinclusive Hate Crimes Legislation

Below are announcements from:

National Center for Transgender Equality

(October 22, 2009, Washington, DC) In an historic move, the United States Senate, by a vote of 68 to 29, joined the House of Representatives in passing The Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act, which will be the first federal law to include gender identity and transgender people. Once signed by the President, this law will add sexual orientation, gender identity, gender and disability to the categories included in existing federal hate crimes law and will allow local governments who are unable or unwilling to address hate crimes to receive assistance from the federal government. President Obama has indicated that he will sign the bill into law.

“Transgender people have been waiting so many years for assistance from the federal government in addressing the rampant and disproportional violence that we face,” noted Mara Keisling, Executive Director of the National Center for Transgender Equality. “Today we move one step closer to our goal of ending violence motivated by hatred.  Everyone in America deserves to live free of fear and of violence. We know that the dedicated leadership and hard work of Senator Kennedy and Representative Conyers and many other legislators made the passage of this bill possible. Words can’t really express our gratitude for their commitment to equality for all people.”

In the past, federal law has only mentioned gender identity in a negative context, such as explicitly excluding transgender people from the Americans with Disabilities Act. The passage of the hate crimes bill marks a significant turning point from the days in which the federal government contributed to the oppression of transgender people to today when federal law takes action to protect our lives.

The Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act will have a number of positive impacts. First, it will help educate law enforcement about the frequent hate violence against transgender people and the need to prevent and appropriately address it.  Second, it will help provide federal expertise and resources when it is needed to overcome a lack of resources or the willful inaction on the part of local and/or state law enforcement.  Third, it will help educate the public that violence against anyone is unacceptable and illegal.

Transgender people continue to be disproportionately targeted for bias motivated violence. Thirteen states and Washington, DC have laws which include transgender people in state hate crimes laws.

National Gay & Lesbian Task Force: Passage of federal hate crimes bill marks ‘milestone for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender Americans’

October 22, 2009

MEDIA CONTACT:
Inga Sarda-Sorensen
Director of Communications
(Office) 646.358.1463
(Cell) 202.641.5592
isorensen@theTaskForce.org

“With his signature, President Obama will usher in a new era — one in which hate-motivated violence against lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people will no longer be tolerated.”
— National Gay and Lesbian Task Force Executive Director Rea Carey

WASHINGTON, Oct. 22 — The National Gay and Lesbian Task Force Action Fund called today’s Senate passage of federal hate crimes legislation “a milestone for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender Americans” and the entire country. The Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act will help protect people against violence based on sexual orientation, gender identity, race, religion, gender, national origin and disability by extending the federal hate crimes statute. It will provide critical federal resources to state and local agencies to equip local officers with the tools they need to prosecute hate crimes. The House passed the bill Oct. 8. It now moves to President Obama, who has vowed to sign it.

The Task Force has been a key leader in the effort to secure an effective and full government response to hate crimes against lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people in the United States, beginning with the launch of its groundbreaking anti-violence project in 1982, up to today’s victory. Get more details here about the Task Force’s longtime work on hate crimes.

Statement by Rea Carey, Executive Director
National Gay and Lesbian Task Force Action Fund

“Today’s vote marks a milestone for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender Americans. The hate crimes bill now shifts to the president. With his signature, President Obama will usher in a new era — one in which hate-motivated violence against lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people will no longer be tolerated. Our country will finally take an unequivocal stand against the bigotry that too often leads to violence against LGBT people, simply for being who they are.

“Americans are hungry for this type of positive change. They do not want to see their LGBT friends, family, neighbors and co-workers subjected to violence simply for living their lives. Laws embody the values of our nation; when this critical legislation becomes law, our nation will — once and for all — send the unmistakable message that it rejects and condemns hate violence against its people.

“We thank all the federal lawmakers who have supported this effort, both today and over the years. We are on the cusp of a new, and better, chapter in America.”

More on the Task Force’s work on hate crimes legislation

Passage of hate crimes legislation stems from decades of work, much of it spearheaded by the Task Force, including:

  • In 1982, the Task Force founded the groundbreaking anti-violence project, the first national organizing project for anti-LGBT hate crimes.
  • In 1990, the Task Force secured the Hate Crimes Statistics Act, in large part justified by the Task Force’s own statistics on hate crimes against LGBT people. The Hate Crimes Statistics Act was pushed so that national data could build the foundation for a hate crimes law.
  • Murders and arsons, some anti-LGBT and others based on race and other characteristics, led President Bill Clinton to call for a White House Summit on Hate Crimes in 1997, attended by then-Task Force Executive Director Kerry Lobel, where she delivered a petition signed by LGBT people all over the country asking for a serious response to anti-LGBT hate crimes. Out of this meeting, the Hate Crimes Prevention Act (the predecessor to today’s legislation) was written; it fixed several problems with the existing hate crimes law on race, religion and national origin, and added sexual orientation, gender and disability to the law.
  • In 2001, the Task Force started its work to add gender identity to the bill. Over the course of years and bringing along coalition partners, the Task Force secured a “gender identity” addition into the House legislation in 2005, with the Senate bill becoming transgender-inclusive in 2007.
  • The Task Force continued to advocate for the bill’s passage, repeatedly activating its membership.
  • In 2009, when the hate crimes bill was added to the Department of Defense authorization bill and a death penalty provision was added in the Senate, the Task Force spoke out about the immorality of inclusion of the death penalty and activated its grassroots to urge the provision be struck from the final language. The conference committee ultimately removed the capital punishment language.
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$325,000+ in salaries for Zucker & Blanchard to pathologize trans people

Last week Andrea James (TS Roadmaps) was kind enough to post a snippet of  ” Alien Abductions and Claims of Improbable Intersex Conditions in Online discussion Groups”  along with a shout out and link .

This week she exposes the exorbitant salaries paid to Zucker and Blanchard to further their abusive pathologicalization of people with transsexualism.

From Andrea James
From my newest tsroadmap.com article:

Transgender taxpayers in Canada help foot the bill for their own pathologization, helping to pay nearly $328,000* in 2008 to two conservative Toronto psychologists working to turn back the clock on the rights of sex and gender minorities worldwide.

Public disclosure documents show that Ray Blanchard was paid over $172,000 in 2008, and Kenneth Zucker was paid over $155,500. Both men work at the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH) in Toronto. This former “lunatic asylum” is home to the most notorious and regressive facility in the world dedicated to preventing and “curing” gender non-conforming behavior in children and adults.

Both Blanchard and Zucker are also heavily involved in the political push within psychology to continue labeling sex and gender minorities as disordered and diseased. Homosexuality was depathologized in 1973, but these men have an obvious and substantial financial interest in not just maintaining the status quo, but in expanding the definitions of sexual “disorders” that can be applied to all people. Their CAMH clinics are major recipients of taxpayer funds via the provincial and federal healthcare systems in Canada, so more “disordered” people mean more money for their clinics and themselves.

The full article discusses their reactionary opinions about sex and gender minorities, why both men headed to Canada during the Vietnam War, and why their “support” for transpeople is tied to their job security.

*Figures are in Canadian dollars. That totals over US$300,000 based on current exchange rates.

Full article:
http://www.tsroadmap.com/info/zucker-blanchard-salary.html

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Pinked

Yesterday was my day off and we went to see the Michael Moore’s film Capitalism: A Love Story down at the Magnolia Theater in the Village.

Afterward we went to a Borders Books so I could use one of the discount coupons they bombard me with.  Among other things I picked up a paper copy of Mother Jones Magazine.

From Mother Jones Magazine

Articles like this one are reason enough to support the independent muck raking and nay saying publications such as Mother Jones and In These Times

http://www.motherjones.com/media/2009/09/code-pink

Code Pink

By Lauren Sandler | Mon October 12, 2009 7:00 AM PST

WHEN MY DAUGHTER WAS BORN about a year ago, I was suddenly buried in pink. The only gender-neutral clothing appearing on my doorstep was the brown uniform of the guy delivering piles of packages containing untold yardage of powder-pink cloth: pale-pink blankets to swaddle pale-pink diaper covers, monochromatic onesies and rompers that redundantly announced “baby girl” in contrasting embroidery. (Thank God my generous gift givers did not send any of those bow-festooned headbands designed to confirm the femininity of a bald infant.)

We’ve come a long way from my early-’70s childhood. Those were good days to be an ungirly girl: I wore work boots while sharing a sandbox with the progeny of some of the authors of Our Bodies, Ourselves. In those circles, it would have been absurd to suggest that girls’ clothing be exclusively stitched with butterflies and blossoms or that boys be clad in T-shirts emblazoned with something requiring an engineering degree to build. Such totalizing distinctions were seen as defunct at best, and at worst, harmful. Yet many of the self-described feminists who had dressed their own children in primary colors and overalls were now deluging me with enough pink to adorn a Barbie convention. What happened?

Maybe they were just buying what’s out there. Kids’ clothing stores are sharply divided into boys’ and girls’ sections, with no demilitarized zone in between. Healthtex touts its toddler boys’ line as “rich with fun, rough and tough images of cars, dinosaurs and animals in vivid bright colors”; its girls’ line is “adorable with flower art and embroidery in light and airy colors.” Restoration Hardware’s nursery designs are exclusively pink or blue, as is almost all of Pottery Barn’s kids’ line. Everywhere you look, American kids appear to be waging a national color war.

Despite the aura of old-fashioned wholesomeness that surrounds it, the pink-blue phenomenon is actually a fairly recent one. Only in the last century have American babies worn any color at all: Throughout the 19th century, children of both sexes were dressed in long white gowns. When gendered palettes came into vogue in the first two decades of the 20th century, boys were assigned pink and girls blue. This was a nod to symbolism that associated red with manliness; pink was considered its kid-friendly shade. Blue was the color of the Virgin Mary’s veil and connoted femininity. In 1918, Ladies’ Home Journal advised mothers that “pink, being a more decided and stronger colour, is more suitable for the boy, while blue, which is more delicate and dainty, is prettier for the girl.”

By the late ’30s and early ’40s, the color code flipped. It’s not entirely clear why—Shirley Temple’s light-pink dresses? Navy-blue wartime uniforms?—but by the time the baby boom kicked in, the his and hers hues we take for granted were firmly established. Pop psychology and salesmanship intertwined as trade publications urged clothing store managers to segregate boys’ clothing from girls’ after age two, since little boys “feared” being perceived as girly. In 1959, the New York Times quoted a children’s clothing buyer, “A mother will allow her girl to wear blue, but daddy will never permit his son to wear pink.” Conveniently, the fashion split also meant that families with boys and girls had to shell out for at least two separate new wardrobes—for the rest of the kids’ childhood.

Fast-forward five decades, and the marketing of color-coded gender differences has entered a new phase—one that author Peggy Orenstein has described as the “relentless resegregation of childhood.” Whether fueled by anti-feminist backlash, third-wave feminists reclaiming their girliness, or the trickling down of the Juicy Couture aesthetic, bruiser boys and dainty girls are big business. The ITP—infants, toddlers, and preschoolers—apparel market is expected to be worth $20 billion next year. Disney recently announced plans to expand its $4 billion Princess franchise, originally aimed at three- to six-year-olds, into baby products. The brand’s head told the Wall Street Journal that the move was merely a response to “highly gender aware” moms who’d tired of cute yet asexual characters like Winnie the Pooh. The Princess line even has its own dedicated shade of pink: Pantone 241. As Lise Eliot, a neuroscientist and the author of Pink Brain, Blue Brain: How Small Differences Grow Into Troublesome Gaps—and What We Can Do About It, wonders, “In today’s hypermarketed world, what niche is easier to exploit than male or female?”

Yet beyond sapping parents’ paychecks and offending feminist sensibilities, does the current wave of pinkness actually have any negative effects on kids? After all, it’s not as if gender equality defined the epoch when babes were all tangled up in the lacy hems of white gowns. Pink itself isn’t the problem; it’s the message it conveys. That troubling message, explains Eliot in her sharp, information-packed, and wonderfully readable book, is that girls and boys are deeply dissimilar creatures from day one. She argues that the pink-blue split shapes some enduring assumptions about babies’ emotional lives—at a time when girls’ and boys’ brains are almost entirely alike. Eliot notes a study in which researchers concealed infants’ sex by dressing them in gender-neutral garb or referring to them by a popular name of the opposite sex. When adults were asked to describe the babies’ behavior, the “boys” were often said to be “angry” or “distressed”; the “girls” were thought to be “joyful” or “quiet.” Throw in some pink headbands and suddenly baby girls are from Venus.

Kids quickly get wrapped up in the pink-and-blue world. In an investigation into what was termed the PFD—Pink Frilly Dress—phenomenon, a team of social psychologists from New York University found that as early as age two, children’s sense of gender is heavily based upon notions of color and dress, with little girls becoming adamantly attached to pink. One mother reported that she had to prove to her three-year-old daughter that every single pink article of clothing she owned was in the laundry—literally showing her the soiled clothes—before the little girl would agree to wear any other color. (To be fair, that’s pretty typical picky toddler behavior.) Likewise, kids latch on to gendered toys like Thomas the Tank Engine (blue) and Dora the Explorer (pink). When offered a choice of a typical “boy” or “girl” plaything, three-year-old boys are 97 percent more likely to pick a toy like a truck.

Plenty of arguments have been made for why children gravitate toward trucks or dolls—boys like motion, girls are nurturing—yet no one has reliably proved that kids are hardwired with these preferences. As Eliot points out, “neither trucks nor dolls existed a hundred thousand years ago, when the human genome stabilized into its current sequence.”

But the theory that the PFD is rooted in our evolutionary past dies hard. Two years ago, neuroscientists from Newcastle University suggested that women are drawn to pinks and reds because their prehistoric ancestors had to be attuned to ripe berries and feverish infants. Early men, on the other hand, were connoisseurs of blue—a sign of good weather for hunting. Fortunately, most academic responses to this study suggested that it was a shade of bovine-manufactured brown.

But no matter how dubious their results, the media buzz about such studies adds to the popular suspicion that we can’t defy our evolutionary urges, which feeds back into the idea that it’s harmless—and maybe even essential—to indulge our kids’ inner princesses and train engineers. “The more we parents hear about hard-wiring and biological programming, the less we bother tempering our pink or blue fantasies,” writes Eliot.

Yet is pink really the gateway color to painting your nails in science class or an appearance in Girls Gone Wild? Buried in the PFD study is the reassurance that the pink phase is just that; many elementary-school-aged girls told the researchers that they had outgrown pink and now refused to wear it. Does that mean that these girls have also shed the “math is hard” mentality that we fear lurks in the folds of crinoline? Perhaps: Notably, the pink tidal wave has crested at the very moment that girls have caught up with—and often outperform—boys in the classroom. Now pundits and parents fret that it’s boys who are getting left behind, victims of a new bias against boyishness.

Clearly, trucks and tiaras are not destiny. Despite the racing set in my childhood bedroom, I still can’t drive a car, much less fix what’s under the hood. My closet is stuffed with high heels and dresses with cinched waists. I’d like to think that I chose my girliness, not the other way around.

And I’m ultimately more freaked out about the prospect of my daughter wearing tween-size thongs than pint-size princess outfits. Besides, I’ll admit that bright pink lights up her cheeks, and I’m happy to pair it occasionally with some cargo jeans from the boys’ department or a charcoal shirt. I’ve had quite a few of those on hand ever since I dumped a mass of pink presents into a giant lobster pot on my stove top, poured in some dye, and turned them a lovely shade of gray.

See Also: http://womenborntranssexual.com/2009/04/26/green-blankets/

Abstinence-Only Education Shouldn’t Make the Cut

NOW Press Release: http://www.now.org/lists/now-action-list/msg00404.html

Abstinence-Only Education Shouldn’t Make the Cut

Abstinence-only education is dangerous and ineffective, and has no place in our health care reform legislation. But Senator Orrin Hatch’s (R-Utah) abstinence-only-until-marriage amendment has been tucked in with the health care reform legislation — and we need your help to strike it when it reaches Senate floor. Women everywhere need the Senate to support comprehensive sex education programs, not ideological crusades.

Take action NOW!

Tell your senators…
take action

After taking action, please support our work!

Action Needed:

Please take time now to call or e-mail your senators to urge that the Hatch abstinence-only-until-marriage amendment be eliminated from health care reform legislation, and that they strongly support a comprehensive approach to sex education.

Two amendments regarding sex education were passed with the health care reform legislation in the Senate Finance Committee: one by Chair Max Baucus (D-Mont.) authorizing federal funding for comprehensive sex education programs and one by Sen. Hatch to restore funds for abstinence-only programs.

When health care reform legislation reaches the Senate floor, we need to ensure Congress only supports a comprehensive approach to sex education and does not promote dangerous and ineffective abstinence-only-until-marriage programs that put young women and girls at serious risk. In contacting your senators, you can use our formatted message or create one in your own words.

Background:

The Good News:

In the Senate Finance Committee, The Responsibility Education for Adulthood Training amendment passed 14-9 with Sen. Olympia Snowe (R-Maine) joining all the Democrats voting in favor. The amendment offered by Sen. Baucus (D-Mont.) provides $75 million for states for evidence-based, medically accurate, age-appropriate programs to educate adolescents about both abstinence and contraception for the prevention of unintended pregnancy and sexually-transmitted infections (STIs), including HIV/AIDS, as well as for research and evaluation.

These types of sex education programs provide students with information they can use and have a proven track record of decreasing unintended pregnancy and STIs. They give young women and girls the knowledge that empowers them to live their lives without fear of STIs and pregnancy.

Reviews of published evaluations of sexuality education, HIV-prevention, and adolescent pregnancy-prevention programs have consistently found that they:

  • do not encourage teens to start having sexual intercourse
  • do not increase the frequency with which teens have intercourse, and
  • do not increase the number of sexual partners teens have.

Instead these programs can:

  • delay the onset of intercourse
  • reduce the frequency of intercourse
  • reduce the number of sexual partners, and
  • increase condom or other contraceptive use.

The Bad News:

Also in the Senate Finance Committee, Sen. Hatch’s amendment to reinstate $50 million per year to the failed Title V abstinence-only-until-marriage program passed by a razor-thin margin of 12-11 with Senators Blanche Lincoln (D-Ark.) and Kent Conrad (D-N.D.) joining all the Republicans voting in favor. The Title V abstinence-only-until-marriage program expired on June 30, at which time nearly half of the states had refused it both because of the restrictive nature of the program and the fact that overwhelming evidence revealed these programs to be ineffective, dangerous for young women and girls, and a waste of taxpayer dollars.

These programs rely on negative messages about sexuality, distort information about condoms and STIs, and promote biases based on gender, sexual orientation, marriage, family structure, and pregnancy options.

Unrealistic Images of Women Make Love Your Body Day More Important Than Ever

NOW Press Release:

http://www.now.org/press/10-09/10-15.html

October 15, 2009

For years now, advertisers and fashion magazines have airbrushed photos to turn models into the latest beauty ideal. Women and girls are constantly bombarded with these artificial images — fantasies they can’t possibly live up to in real life.

This Photoshopping of models and celebrities has really gotten out of hand lately. Self magazine felt the need to digitally slenderize singer Kelly Clarkson before putting her on the cover of its “total body confidence” issue, even though Clarkson has said that she is comfortable with herself just the way she is. Model Filippa Hamilton recently revealed that she was fired by Ralph Lauren for being too big, despite being a size four. Hamilton is the same model who appeared in a Ralph Lauren ad that was so aggressively retouched that she appeared emaciated and completely out of proportion.

If models can’t catch a break, how can the rest of us hope to have a healthy self-image? Starting at younger and younger ages, eating disorders, low self-esteem, and a preoccupation with appearance plague women and girls, sometimes with disastrous results. “In my teenage years, I was hospitalized for anorexia,” said eating disorder survivor and NOW Action Vice President Erin Matson. “I remember a fellow patient winning a modeling contest while she was on a pass from the hospital. The only way to end the glorification of unhealthy beauty stereotypes is to stand up proudly for real women’s bodies.”

That’s why the NOW Foundation is celebrating its 12th annual Love Your Body Day on Oct. 21. This campaign is a giant shout out to the fashion, beauty, diet and advertising industries: No more fake images! Show us real women, diverse women, strong women, bold women. And to the women and girls who are targeted by messages telling them that the key to success and happiness is manufactured beauty, we say: It’s okay to “Be You” — the true you is beautiful.

Many different kinds of Love Your Body events will be held across the country on Oct. 21. Contact the NOW Foundation to learn more.

More Information:

Kelly Clarkson Photo Retouched to Make Her ‘Look Her Best’, Janet Mock People Magazine

Size 4 model: I was fired for being too fat — Former Ralph Lauren model Filippa Hamilton is 5′ 10″ and 120 pounds, Today MSNBC

Alien Abductions and Claims of Improbable Intersex Conditions in Online discussion Groups

Over the last 15 years or so that I have been on line I have evolved from some one who read and posted on various “Trans” Usenet newsgroups and internet forums to first a member of a number of “Trans” mailing lists.  Some 9 years ago Tina and I started the Women Born Transsexual mailing list.

I started this Blog in mid February.  Add to this some 40 years of experience since coming out.  This means I have met hundreds, if not thousands of people over the years who have had their lives impacted by association with one or more trans prefixed words.  I’ve read most of the major literature, a ton of biographies.  Some much more factual than others and some much better written than others.

I have a pretty wide ranging knowledge base in a number of fields, something typical of those with life long liberal educations supplemented with autodidactism.

This means I’ve read a number of works regarding intersex conditions including John Money and Anke Ehrhardt’s Man & Woman/Boy & Girl as well as the more popular John Money and Patricia Tucker book Sexual Signatures: On Being a Man or a Woman.  Another Book on the subject is Dr Richard Green’s Sexual Identity Conflict in Children and Adults.

Not only have I read these works but prior to writing this I went to the library and pulled them from their shelves.  Now you might say, “But both Green and Money and Money are discredited monsters?”

I would agree with you except for one thing and that was their co-editing of the Johns Hopkins book Transsexualism and Sex Reassignment in 1969-70.  They later drifted with times to far more conservative positions with the rise of the far right wing in both the US and GB.  Green was probably never a friend to people with transsexualism but Money was.

In the early days of Sex Reassignment Surgery they decided if one were intersex or transsexual based on one of the cruder tests, a buccal smear and slide stained to look for Barr Bodies, the inactivated x chromosome found in females but not males.  For obvious reasons the majority of these tests came back negative.  Nonetheless many doctors including Dr. Benjamin as well as the Doctors at Stanford where I had my SRS looked at some of us and said, “There is definitely something going on here that our tests are not finding.  You were too feminine before starting hormones for there not to be.  Matters like pelvic structure etc.

But as early as 1970 Doctors had become wary because they had been burned badly in a case circa 1960 at UCLA by someone known in the literature as Agnes.  Her case is documented in Harold Garfinkel’s book Studies in Ethnomethodology.  For those not familiar with the story of Agnes, Agnes was a transsexual to female person who got SRS at UCLA Medical Center in the late 1950s or early 1960s.  She presented herself as an intersex person with male genitals and “spontaneously appearing” female secondary sexual features. She claimed these secondary sexual characteristics just developed and swore she did not take any legally or illegally obtained female hormones.

She talked a good act and managed to get one of the first SRS operations that were performed at a major university research hospital in the US.  Now I can understand why she did what she did as there were maybe a half dozen places in the world where one could actually get SRS in 1960 and many of them were iffy.

The doctors loved her.  Oh, they wrote journal articles about her for JAMA and other prestigious publications.  Then a year or two later Agnes fessed up, she was transsexual and those female secondary sex characteristics were the result of her having first stolen her mother’s hormone tablets and later forging scripts for hormones and were not “spontaneously occurring”.  But the books and journal articles were already out there.

Now the doctors who had written them appeared to be either morons or dupes taken in by a con artist.  Of course they failed to ask the most important question of all, “why?”.  Why indeed?

The obvious answer is desperation at being born transsexual in a time and place when one knows SRS is possible but so rare as to bear comparison to early manned space flight that was occurring contemporaneously.  Something you knew was possible but so rare as to appear impossible for you to do.  Agnes did what she had to do, but she poisoned the well in the process.

All transsexual claims to being intersexed from that day forward were looked upon as being suspect. For what it is worth I can empathize with what those doctors must have felt.  Agnes not only flat out lied to them when they were trying to help her but made fools out of them as well.

In doing this Agnes also selfishly damaged study into transsexualism as an intersex condition. At that point it was decided that transsexual and intersex were distinct condition and not overlapping and intertwining ones as earlier researchers had postulated

When I went to Dr. Benjamin and he examined me he observed that I had under developed genitals and was physically rather feminine.  But that was pretty much as far as that line of examining me went.

I was receiving public assistance at the time and the social workers in Berkeley thought I would be a perfect test case to attempt to get the government to pay for SRS.  The social workers saw me as completely sane and thought I was a great candidate to help set a precedent.  So I was examined by four different psychiatrists who all found me sane.  Unfortunately those were also the early days of Nixon and his killing of the War on Poverty and Great Society programs that were helping people with transsexualism become something other than sex workers.  Instead of them helping me because I was sane and deserved rehabilitative help the new requirements of the more conservative government directives required me to be mentally disturbed and receive permanent disability.

As an autodidact and someone who was working at the NTCU the doctors with the Stanford program were open to discussing details with me and other of the more educated sisters that weren’t discussed with those who lacked the knowledge to actually ask the questions.  They were open to input from those of us with carefully considered insights.

After my evaluative screening session with Dr Fisk.  I asked him, “In your opinion, nature or nurture?”  His honest answer was, “We don’t know.  In your case and the case of some others we think nature yet with other people we think nurture.” He then asked me what I thought.

My answer was a bit of both nature and nurture and that I found it hard to not think it was physical with some of the sisters I met and at the same time a lot of people who came to our office seemed pretty crazy.

The thing was that with Hopkins in the 1960s and Stanford in the early 1970s the Gender Identity Clinics were not just places we went to for SRS. They were also research centers.  Right from the start they faced a good deal of opposition from people who wanted to shut them down.  The Benjamin Standards of Care and perhaps even the GID as diagnosis grew out of efforts to continue to provide SRS to people with transsexualism.

Quite a few doctors believe it is physical just as many people with transsexualism do.  We don’t make elaborate claims of various forms of intersex that are contradicted by our lives. One of the biggest contra indicators of would be fathering children.  Even those of us who liked boys and never became parents generally tend to not claim improbable intersex conditions.

In the 1990s a couple of people popped up and started appearing every where from the on-line world to the talk shows, magazines and the indexes of serious books.  Those people were Cheryl Chase and Kiira Triea.

Interestingly they reared their heads about the same time the talk shows were entranced with Satanic Child Abuse Cults, The McMartin School in Southern California and the supposed million (or some ridiculously high number) of missing children.  A number that would have factored out as a child from every school class room in the country and would have had every newspaper in America filled with little else than stories of missing children.

I’ve heard a lot of stories about all these infant sex reassignment surgeries.  Heart breaking stories from people who would have had to have had this surgery in the 1950s or 60s.  Supposedly vast numbers of people were operated on.  Expensive complex procedures in a nation where  sex reassignment surgery on adults was extremely rare and the techniques were just being developed

Do I doubt that surgeries were done?  No…  But I would pretty much bet no where near as often as Tirea and Chase who were then heading up ISNA implied they were.

I was on some of the same mailing lists as Kiira, along with Heike Boedeker, a strangely abusive European who came and went around 2000.  At one point Kiira made some claims that triggered my bullshit detector.  As a result I began doubting her veracity.

One of those claims was involvement with the Berkeley Women’s Music Collective at a time when Sandy Stone, a WBT was getting seriously trashed by certain lesbian feminists.  I had photographed a number of the women who recorded for Olivia Records, the label that the Berkeley Women’s Music Collective recorded on and there was material in Feminist and Lesbian History archives that I had access to.  I checked and didn’t find her there.  Now she could have used a different name, perhaps Denise Tree and yet I really didn’t find much there but I was reminded of something I had seen happen in the LA Feminist community.

I was involved with Renaissance, a trans-group with Jude Patton, Carol Katz and Joanna Clark (Sister Mary Elizabeth).  Someone came to meetings and photographed some of us.  Those photos were featured in a feminist publication in conjunction with an excerpt from Janice Raymond’s then doctoral thesis, which went on to become The Transsexual Empire.  When these came out my position was one of, “So what…  I experience patriarchal oppression and I am a hard working feminist with good solid politics.”

But this other sister claimed she was actually not transsexual but was really intersex.  I didn’t think much of it at the time and she wasn’t claiming to be intersex and trashing transsexuals by claiming to be realer than the lumpen masses of women born transsexual.

In that same time frame (circa 2000) I started hearing a lot about Bailey and Blanchard as well as their crackpot theories regarding androphilia/autogynaphilia as the motivating force behind transsexualism in T to F people.  One mailing list I was on (Trans-Theory) was invaded by an extremely vicious cabal of people who were sock puppets hiding behind various aliases.  They engaged in a brutal assault of people’s sense of self worth accompanied with occasional threats.

One claimed to be intersexed with CAH and accompanying salt wasting.  Okay, that sounded reasonable.  But why was she coming to a mailing list for Transtheory and pushing Bailey/Blanchard and Lawrence along with praising Janice Raymond?

As time has gone on Andrea James of TS Roadmaps has investigated both Triea and Chase.  She credibly alleges them to be frauds as do others.  ISNA has fallen apart.

This leaves people with far more credibility such as Sophia Seidelberg and Curtis Hinkle of OII to pick up the pieces and undo the damage done by someone who has become the J.T. Leroy of the intersex movement.

Of note I have noticed that the people who appear to be genuine tend to not be overtly hostile to people with transsexualism who do not tend to appropriate their narratives.  Along with our appearing in the same books of early research the approach to sex reassigning that people with transsexualism have of not having such surgery performed without our consent offers a model for people with intersex conditions who wish to exercise existential agency in determining via surgery their membership in one sex or the other.

Even young children are capable of making their desires known regarding which sex they consider themselves to be in a way that infants are not.  Consent and self determination should always be the critical factors not doctors or clergy acting as authority figures.

As I said OII has to undo the damage done by Triea.

But it is not an easy task as I have discovered on a mailing list for the discussion of the removal of the GID Diagnosis from the DSM.  Like many mailing lists this one seems to have died and only the rot from within remains as it has been taken over by the wailing of people with kitchen sinks full of improbable and often contradictory combinations of intersex conditions.

People who in spite of living as men and never having taken hormones are more women than post-SRS WBTs who have lived 10-20-30 or more years as female.

Surgeries performed I guess while they were carried aloft by space aliens in flying saucers because the likelihood of them having been performed in the time frame, location or by the named person seems virtually nil.

The other thing I have noted is that people making these claims often share a common trait that makes me suspect they have Munchausen’s Syndrome as along with these improbable intersex conditions they also often claim some sort of horrific physical disability or disease.  I suspect one is a spazzer (some one who pretends to have a rather profound learning disability).  Either way these people are like vampires sucking the life out of groups in a way I have seen ever since I first became involved in feminist and LGBT/T causes.

Their requirements for attention are boundless.  They find offense and attack back even postings or in a group statements that have nothing to do with them.

I have seen such people come into gender support groups and destroy them by taking the focus of these groups from mutual support to giving all attention to the person so beset by such a terrible history of abuse.  The classic case seen in the media is J.T. Leroy who claimed to having been a child sex worker, the product of an abusive trailer park “white trash” family.  I will grant you the books were labeled fiction but people interpreted them as autobiographical.  The author J. T. Leroy was a fictional being, a middle aged woman who got another woman to pose as this reclusive and evasive transgender person who was not only an author but who was HIV+ and had lived the life of her characters.

When the truth comes out everyone feels taken and people with legitimate claims suffer.

Transsexualism is in all probability a legitimate intersex condition, more nature than nurture.  The evidence keeps mounting for it being physical and although there continue to be staunch defenders of transsexualism being a product of flawed socialization their case seems to offer little beyond increasingly meaningless jargon and post modern babble.

As such people with transsexualism and people with legitimate intersex conditions have far more in common than one would imagine when listening to the people who sound as though they were abducted by space aliens with their improbable claims.

Ridiculous Study Blames Feminism for Non-Existent ‘Happiness Gap’ Between Men and Women

From Alternet:  Original posting at:

http://www.alternet.org/reproductivejustice/143260/ridiculous_study_blames_feminism_for_non-existent_%27happiness_gap%27_between_men_and_women_

By Barbara Ehrenreich, Tomdispatch.com
Posted on October 14, 2009, Printed on October 14, 2009

http://www.alternet.org/story/143260/

Feminism made women miserable. This, anyway, seems to be the most popular takeaway from “The Paradox of Declining Female Happiness,” a recent study by Betsey Stevenson and Justin Wolfers which purports to show that women have become steadily unhappier since 1972. Maureen Dowd and Arianna Huffington greeted the news with somber perplexity, but the more common response has been a triumphant: I told you so.

On Slate’s DoubleX website, a columnist concluded from the study that “the feminist movement of the 1960s and 1970s gave us a steady stream of women’s complaints disguised as manifestos… and a brand of female sexual power so promiscuous that it celebrates everything from prostitution to nipple piercing as a feminist act — in other words, whine, womyn, and thongs.” Or as Phyllis Schlafly put it, more soberly: “[T]he feminist movement taught women to see themselves as victims of an oppressive patriarchy in which their true worth will never be recognized and any success is beyond their reach… [S]elf-imposed victimhood is not a recipe for happiness.”

But it’s a little too soon to blame Gloria Steinem for our dependence on SSRIs. For all the high-level head-scratching induced by the Stevenson and Wolfers study, hardly anyone has pointed out (1) that there are some issues with happiness studies in general, (2) that there are some reasons to doubt this study in particular, or (3) that, even if you take this study at face value, it has nothing at all to say about the impact of feminism on anyone’s mood.

For starters, happiness is an inherently slippery thing to measure or define. Philosophers have debated what it is for centuries, and even if we were to define it simply as a greater frequency of positive feelings than negative ones, when we ask people if they are happy, we are asking them to arrive at some sort of average over many moods and moments. Maybe I was upset earlier in the day after I opened the bills, but then was cheered up by a call from a friend, so what am I really?

In one well-known psychological experiment, subjects were asked to answer a questionnaire on life satisfaction, but only after they had performed the apparently irrelevant task of photocopying a sheet of paper for the experimenter. For a randomly chosen half of the subjects, a dime had been left for them to find on the copy machine. As two economists summarize the results: “Reported satisfaction with life was raised substantially by the discovery of the coin on the copy machine — clearly not an income effect.”

As for the particular happiness study under discussion, the red flags start popping up as soon as you look at the data. Not to be anti-intellectual about it, but the raw data on how men and women respond to the survey reveal no discernible trend to the naked eyeball. Only by performing an occult statistical manipulation called “ordered probit estimates,” do the authors manage to tease out any trend at all, and it is a tiny one: “Women were one percentage point less likely than men to say they were not too happy at the beginning of the sample [1972]; by 2006 women were one percentage more likely to report being in this category.” Differences of that magnitude would be stunning if you were measuring, for example, the speed of light under different physical circumstances, but when the subject is as elusive as happiness — well, we are not talking about paradigm-shifting results.

Furthermore, the idea that women have been sliding toward despair is contradicted by the one objective measure of unhappiness the authors offer: suicide rates. Happiness is, of course, a subjective state, but suicide is a cold, hard fact, and the suicide rate has been the gold standard of misery since sociologist Emile Durkheim wrote the book on it in 1897. As Stevenson and Wolfers report — somewhat sheepishly, we must imagine — “contrary to the subjective well-being trends we document, female suicide rates have been falling, even as male suicide rates have remained roughly constant through most of our sample [1972-2006].” Women may get the blues; men are more likely to get a bullet through the temple.

Another distracting little data point that no one, including the authors, seems to have much to say about is that, while “women” have been getting marginally sadder, black women have been getting happier and happier. To quote the authors: “… happiness has trended quite strongly upward for both female and male African Americans … Indeed, the point estimates suggest that well-being may have risen more strongly for black women than for black men.” The study should more accurately be titled “The Paradox of Declining White Female Happiness,” only that might have suggested that the problem could be cured with melanin and Restylane.

But let’s assume the study is sound and that (white) women have become less happy relative to men since 1972. Does that mean that feminism ruined their lives?

Not according to Stevenson and Wolfers, who find that “the relative decline in women’s well-being… holds for both working and stay-at-home mothers, for those married and divorced, for the old and the young, and across the education distribution” — as well as for both mothers and the childless. If feminism were the problem, you might expect divorced women to be less happy than married ones and employed women to be less happy than stay-at-homes. As for having children, the presumed premier source of female fulfillment: They actually make women less happy.

And if the women’s movement was such a big downer, you’d expect the saddest women to be those who had some direct exposure to the noxious effects of second wave feminism. As the authors report, however, “there is no evidence that women who experienced the protests and enthusiasm in the 1970s have seen their happiness gap widen by more than for those women were just being born during that period.”

What this study shows, if anything, is that neither marriage nor children make women happy. (The results are not in yet on nipple piercing.) Nor, for that matter, does there seem to be any problem with “too many choices,” “work-life balance,” or the “second shift.” If you believe Stevenson and Wolfers, women’s happiness is supremely indifferent to the actual conditions of their lives, including poverty and racial discrimination. Whatever “happiness” is…

So why all the sudden fuss about the Wharton study, which first leaked out two years ago anyway? Mostly because it’s become a launching pad for a new book by the prolific management consultant Marcus Buckingham, best known for First, Break All the Rules and Now, Find Your Strengths. His new book, Find Your Strongest Life: What the Happiest and Most Successful Women Do Differently, is a cookie-cutter classic of the positive-thinking self-help genre: First, the heart-wrenching quotes from unhappy women identified only by their email names (Countess1, Luveyduvy, etc.), then the stories of “successful” women, followed by the obligatory self-administered test to discover “the role you were bound to play” (Creator, Caretaker, Influencer, etc.), all bookended with an ad for the many related products you can buy, including a “video introduction” from Buckingham, a “participant’s guide” containing “exercises” to get you to happiness, and a handsome set of “Eight Strong Life Plans” to pick from. The Huffington Post has given Buckingham a column in which to continue his marketing campaign.

It’s an old story: If you want to sell something, first find the terrible affliction that it cures. In the 1980s, as silicone implants were taking off, the doctors discovered “micromastia” — the “disease” of small-breastedness. More recently, as big pharma searches furiously for a female Viagra, an amazingly high 43% of women have been found to suffer from “Female Sexual Dysfunction,” or FSD. Now, it’s unhappiness, and the range of potential “cures” is dazzling: Seagrams, Godiva, and Harlequin, take note.

Barbara Ehrenreich is the author of 16 books, including the bestsellers Nickel and Dimed and Bait and Switch. A frequent contributor to Harper’s and the Nation, she has also been a columnist at the New York Times and Time magazine. Her seventeenth book, Bright-Sided: How the Relentless Promotion of Positive Thinking Has Undermined America (Metropolitan Books), has just been published.

© 2009 Tomdispatch.com All rights reserved.
View this story online at: http://www.alternet.org/story/143260/

The Sum of All We Are

By Tina S.  (My life partner)

I seem to constantly read all about various and sundry “trans/post-trans folk” who present themselves as simple, “pure” folk who never did anything prior to transition/coming out.  They are a virtual tabula rasa prior to emerging from the surgeons knife.

I do not quite understand how that can be.  It’s one of my firm beliefs that we WBT/post-op folks are among the strongest willed people around.  We overcome barrier after barrier to get where we want to be  –  then, even after being rejected by most of the people that had been our friends, support system, we continue to move forward until (eventually) we reach a point of balance in our lives.

It can take varying lengths of time  –  often years after our SRS.  How often have we seen folks on line who rail against various forms of trans-phobia, folks who claim they will NEVER “pass”, will NEVER be accepted as women (and blame “society”, or various other institutions), do an Emily Latella (“never mind”), and quietly leave the internet.

In addition, it seems that many folks want to downplay all the experience they had prior to transition  –  even though the same experience often gives them the strength (and financial wherewithal) to get through transition to SRS.

I was reminded of this when I saw the obit. of a friend I went to University with.  I hadn’t seen him for 22-23 years when he walked into a nursery (plants) I was managing (this back in the early 1980′s).  Upon seeing me he went into full reminiscence  –  it was all about a “wild” summer we spent together at good old Syracuse University   —   to him it was a highlight of his college days.  He went on about our drunken antics at length  –  it was his “time of wildness” before “settling down”.

I didn’t have the heart to tell him it was just one of many for me.  It was just one of an entire history of insane summers, winters, springs, and falls, that had been my life  –  and, though memorable, it wasn’t even in the top five (maybe the top ten).

Perhaps that’s one reason he was an executive at IBM, with a comfortable life, and I was still struggling to “find my way”.

I was sober by this time, but I was too new at it to incorporate most of my past experience into my life.  In truth, it was only after I “came out” that I actually “found my way”.

Prior to that I had a very exciting life, full of very varied experiences  –  some of which would likely lead to a jail sentence, if I were to do them today, in the overly repressive atmosphere we have embraced.

Now, I understand why many trans/WBT/post-op folks do not want to remind the world of their past.  It seems we do not want to remind anyone we were once seen as men.  It makes us a target.  Undermines our claim to be women.  At the same time, that experience does not have to be seen that way.  All that stuff is what has made us who we are today.

Granted, we have changed.  We have a deeper understanding of both ourselves and the world.  We have seen first hand the reality of male privilege, understand where it actually served to benefit us  —  have experienced its loss, and have come to terms with ourselves (hopefully), and our new lives.

Today we are the sum total of ALL our experience  –  the problem is to incorporate it into our lives while understanding it might be inappropriate.

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