Culture war rages on in 2010 election, with female soldiers

Washington Post

Susan Jacoby

The most nausea-inducing and (unintentionally) comic quote of the mid-term campaign so far comes from Carly Fiorina, the ousted CEO of Hewlett Packard who won the California Republican senatorial primary last week. Explaining her anti-abortion stance to the San Francisco Chronicle, Fiorina said, “I myself was not able to have children of my own, and so I know what a precious gift life is. My husband’s mother was told to abort him. She spent a year in the hospital after his birth. My husband is the joy of her life, and he is the rock of my life. So these experiences have shaped my view.” So all of those pro-choice feminist moms don’t know what a precious gift life is? Or perhaps Fiorina wouldn’t be so opposed to abortion if her husband had turned out to be a disappointment to her or his mother? There is nothing more pathetic than the spectacle of someone who probably would have been a “moderate” Republican 20 years ago trying to cozy up to the Christian right and the Tea Party by discovering strong anti-abortion convictions. But the craven spectacle of female candidates like Fiorina using their womanhood to bolster their anti-choice credentials underlines the important fact that even at a time when the economy is said to be the overwhelming problem on everyone’s mind, cultural issues continue to play a critical role in American politics.

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Freedom to be does not Require a Ton of Rationalizations

One of the reasons I am able to support things like inclusive ENDA and ending DADT is that I base that support on those issues being human rights issues.

I was on a mailing list for some12 years called “Trans-Theory”.  When it functioned as a coffee house or existential bar it was a place to bounce ideas off and test some reasoning.  Too often it deteriorated in to a place of fighting where people tried to shove Bailey/Blanchard and all sorts of anti-transsexual crap down our throats as theory.

The list is dead because in the end looking for “a” trans-theory that is universal is like trying to have one term that fits all. MY life partner, Tina is right, “There is no such thing as trans-theory.”

But there are tons of rationalizations out there. Many reflect deeply held faith based misogynistic beliefs. Many others are aimed towards relieving guilt about being different.

I believe but cannot prove that transsexualism or transgenderism is innate just like sexual orientation. But I also know that even were we to find a lavender gene waving a picket sign that says “We’re here, We’re queer. Get over it!”. One that one could see in a standard science lab microscope, the bigots would turn around and use that against us.

Freedom to pursue happiness as long as you do not harm others shouldn’t require the meeting of a whole lot of specific standards before you are allowed to do it.

The standard should be the existential courage to act. It takes a good deal of that courage to go out in the world and say you want to be treated like a member of the sex you were not assigned at birth. Suzannah reminded me that we actually used to discuss the philosophical elements in those days of smoking weed, clubbing and 4:00 am breakfasts. One of those topics was the prejudice against those who take what is thought of as an ascribed trait and turn it into an achieved one.

But there was another aspect about society in those heady times of the 60s-70s. There was far more acceptance of personal styles and down right eccentricity. And it was okay to play self consciously with one’s image while being aware of the affect that had on how the world around us perceived us.

One of the biggest problems with much of the modern “transgender as umbrella” world is that so many of the folks who comprise it lived rigidly defined lives playing rules of gender to pass as members of the sex they were assigned at birth. Many simply switch to a different set of rules.

The San Francisco and Los Angeles scenes I lived in during 1960s and 70s often ignored the rules of gender marketed by conservative right wing control freaks and religious fanatics.

Freedom simply requires the courage to live freely even in a culture of oppression.  I have been reading a lot about the McCarthy Era and I find myself asking what took so long for these people I consider radicals to stand up and challenge the authority of Joe the Drunk McCarthy and his queer cohorts Hoover, Tolson and Cohn.  Cohn died of AIDS, Hoover/Tolson were not as closeted as the press let them be.

The difference between the New Left of the 1960s and the old left of the McCarthy era was a refusal to be intimidated.  Not in the face of the Klan, not in the face of the churches, not in the face of police.

It was still illegal to cross dress in the 1960s yet people did and they took the arrests and fought them in court.

I didn’t have a whole lot of rationalizations for being transsexual.  I was deeply unhappy and felt trapped in a male body.  I was sick and tired of the constant bullying and abuse I had to endure for being physically feminine.  I wanted to be female because I felt I would be happier and enjoy the same pleasure of life that straights did.  Straight is such an inadequate word because the heterosexuals in the movement and the world of the arts and hippiedom are often as queer as those in the world of LGBT/T folks.

Yes we were curious about why we were transsexual.  By the mid-1970s we pretty much figured out there were a lot more of us than the “experts” thought.  We also had often come to the conclusion that there was something different about those of us who got genital surgery and those who did everything but.  And that was okay… Why?  Because if was fucking well okay to be different and still be considered an equal human being.

Freedom to be is a human right.  Freedom to pursue happiness is in the American Declaration of Independence.  It doesn’t say you are free to do this but only if you can pass these particular tests.

I view the post-1980 amassing of rationalizations as well as the euphemization of the language that substitutes gender for sex to be exercises in cowardliness. Granted the ultra right wing Christo-fascist, homophobic racists of the Republican Party who enjoyed a 30 year reign of terror had a role in the rise of the rationalization culture.

But is the answer really trying to market TS/TG to these people who are little better than Nazis or is it to ACT UP.  I dug on the Transsexual Menace more than most of the trans-activist organizations that dress in the nice suits and dresses and speak politely to bigots.

The reason I get so disgusted with TS/TG folks, especially those who embrace HBS and labels like “Classic Transsexual” is that they throw out the same shit that the ultra right wing bigots do when they attack TG folks.  But TG folks are equally guilty when they throw out the ultra right wing line about inverted penises.

The circle game goes round and round.  We still aren’t free and we still are scapegoats.  Ever get the feeling that those in power are the ones who benefit when oppressed people fight among themselves instead of confronting the real enemy?

Has Psychiatry Become Unhinged? This Doctor Says Yes

From Alternet

Posted By Martha Rosenberg On June 16, 2010 @ 5:51 am

At a press briefing at the American Psychiatric Association meeting in May in which new research about olfactory reference syndrome (people who think they smell) and links between depression and allergens was presented, a reporter’s pointed question took many aback:

“How do we know your work won’t be used to make bad breath or hay fever mental disorders?” the reporter asked the researchers, whose smiles faded.

The reporter was Daniel Carlat, MD and his new book, Unhinged, The Trouble with Psychiatry — A Doctor’s Revelations about a Profession in Crisis, continues the shots-across-the-bow to the psychiatric establishment.

Doctors who join pharma speaker bureaus? “Hired guns.”

The Vagus Nerve Stimulator for depression? “A blemish on the reputation of both the FDA and American Psychiatry.”

The popular ADHD diagnosis? “A judgment based on the psychiatrist’s best guess.”

Prescription drug costs? “Neither the patient nor the doctor…foots the bill.”

Joseph Biederman, MD’s promotion of Risperdal at Massachusetts General Hospital? “The MGH department of child psychiatry had allowed itself to become a research factory for various drug companies.”

Antidepressant effectiveness? “Only about half — 51 percent — of trials are positive.”

The psychiatric field itself? “Many of the leaders of our field have allowed themselves to become paid puppets of the pharmaceutical industry.”

Unlike industry exposes by former pharma executives, Carlat has not left his field and continues to hold a faculty position at Tufts and see patients. And though he assails psychiatric training and education, research, current practice, biotechnology, turf battles and trends — other fields add knowledge he says; psychiatry adds diseases — anti-psychiatry activists will find him a moderate:  He still prescribes the top psychoactive drugs, has taken them himself and even defends the efficacy of electroconvulsive therapy (ECT.)

(In an amusing anecdote in Unhinged, Carlat starts to have a panic attack in a sauna hot light airplane and finds he has no anxiety meds with him. He ends up using cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) techniques on himself — and they work.)

Because psychiatry deals with non-measurable phenomenon — even the serotonin theory of depression isn’t chemically proved he writes — it has over embraced the certitude of psychopharmacology to compensate, he says. But do psychiatrists, motivated by mysteries of the human mind and the desire to help people, really want to become mere “pill pushers” whose only contact with patients is 15 minute “med checks” as they hand  patients off to less trained professionals for “therapy”?

“If I did therapy exclusively [as opposed to med checks] I would have to take a 40-50 percent pay cut,” Carlat admits in one of many passages that show he is not exempt from the criticism he levels. In fact, many first heard of Carlat in 2007 when his article about promoting the antidepressant Effexor for Wyeth (now Pfizer) for a year, called Dr. Drug Rep, ran in the New York Times magazine.

In an interview, Carlat told me he got less “pushback” from that article than one that ran in the magazine in April called Mind over Meds that provoked another psychiatrist at the American Psychiatric Association (APA) meeting last month to attack him.

“Mina Dulcan, MD [Chair of Child Psychiatry at Northwestern Medical School] was signing textbooks and when I introduced myself she said, ‘How dare you write in the New York Times that your therapy training at Mass General was terrible, and that you had a so-called great awakening,’” Carlat told me. “How are you any different from the drug companies, writing your article to sell your book and newsletters? What a disservice you have done to psychiatry!’”

Carlat publishes the Carlat Psychiatry Report, a monthly CME newsletter and the Carlat Child Psychiatry Report edited by Caroline Fisher, MD from the University of Massachusetts Medical School, Worcester.

And there has been other fallout, says Carlat. He voluntarily resigned his elected seat as Massachusetts representative to the APA Assembly, a governing body, upon publishing Unhinged.

“In Unhinged, I support the idea of psychologists prescribing medicine and the development of a new training program that would be a hybrid between medical school and psychology graduate school,” Carlat told me. “Even though I was asked to stay on as representative, I didn’t want to put my colleagues in uncomfortable positions.”

Why would changing psychiatric training and even who prescribes meds make colleagues uncomfortable?

Unhinged, The Trouble with Psychiatry–A Doctor’s Revelations about a Profession in Crisis. By Daniel Carlat. Free Press, 256 pp., $25

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