MichFest Workshop Challenges Womyn-Born-Womyn Policy and Medical Practices: “Disordered or Just Different?”

From:  Science and Sexuality: The Biology of Sexual Identity, Sexual Orientation, and Intersexuality.

Posted by Veronica Drantz, PhD

July 18, 2010

MichFest Workshop Challenges Womyn-Born-Womyn Policy and Medical Practices: “Disordered or Just Different?”


I will present a workshop at the Michigan Womyn’s Music Festival (MichFest) on Friday, August 6th, from 12:30 to 2:30 pm in the Media Tent. This presentation is the same talk entitled “Disordered or Just Different? Myth, Science and Sexuality” that has been well-received at two other venues recently (see previous posts). The title is shortened to “Myth, Science, and Sexuality” to meet the publishing specifications for the 2010 MichFest booklet.

As in last year’s workshop, I will summarize the last fifty years of research on core sexuality in mammals (genital development, sexual identity, sexual orientation) with emphasis on the organization-activation mechanism. Intersexuality in various forms will be explained and brain work regarding sexual identity and sexual orientation will be emphasized. This year’s workshop will culminate with a sharp focus on the damage that the gender binary notion and John Money’s legacy continue to cause. The audience will be updated on the anti-scientific and barbaric policies of the pediatric profession and the psychiatric profession regarding intersex babies and transsexual people respectively.

The damage can be traced to a goofy assumption that the gender binary is natural and to a failure to distinguish between sex and gender. People who clearly refute the gender binary are treated as freaks and threats rather than as the evidence that the gender binary is incorrect. Even though these human beings who are not “Adams” or “Eves” are looking at and talking to us, the culture does not see or hear them because to do so would challenge societal structure. The culture clings to the stupid Adam and Eve notion that has been the source of so much grief for people who are naturally and innately sexually different: gay and lesbian people, transsexual people, and intersex people.

Education of the public about the established scientific facts concerning core sexuality is the best way to end this unnecessary and destructive suffering of innately sexually-different people! The MichFest audience is especially important because it is primarily a lesbian audience. I feel an obligation to educate my lesbian sisters about what I know as a physiologist regarding core sexuality generally and the “womyn-born-womyn” policy of the MichFest organizers particularly.

As I did last year, I will make sure the audience understands that all the science is against the idea of the organizers’ womyn-born-womyn policy regarding who is welcome to attend MichFest. The feeling that causes sexual identity is the result of how the brain is organized during fetal development and is not the result of genital anatomy or learning and experience! What is learned is how to navigate in the culture as the sexual being you were born as. How much trouble you run into depends on the culture.

I attended MichFest during its first year and many years thereafter when I was a much younger lesbian and when there was little hard science concerning core sexuality. I didn’t give any workshops back then because the science on sexuality was in its infancy. But now is different. This will be the 35th year for MichFest!!! A remarkable accomplishment! Also remarkable are the scientific findings on core sexuality that have accumulated over the years since the MichFest organizers conceived of their womyn-born-womyn policy. Lesbians need to be scientifically informed about innate sexuality and should be at the forefront of celebrating all the natural sexual variations of women-identified people.

Posted by Veronica Drantz, PhD

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An Appropriate Response to Street Harassment

From Infoshop Newshttp://news.infoshop.org/article.php?story=20100717191111378

Saturday, July 17 2010 @ 07:11 PM UTC

You got a real sexy walk, mama. Can I be your boyfriend? Look at THAT! Are you a fag or a dyke? Hey, you with the legs! Can I ride? Don’t get mad, baby, lemme hit that! What—I was just trying to say hi.

by Dykonoclast
Boston Anti-Authoritarian Movement #33

You got a real sexy walk, mama. Can I be your boyfriend? Look at THAT! Are you a fag or a dyke? Hey, you with the legs! Can I ride? Don’t get mad, baby, lemme hit that! What—I was just trying to say hi.

Random sampling of some remarks to which I am subject pretty much every time I leave the house. And no, it doesn’t matter what I’m wearing or how long it’s been since I’ve showered. I am invariably regarded by much of the male population as a walking (or bicycling) fuckhole. And no, it’s not just from poor men or men with dark skin. And no, I am not fucking flattered by it —a glance in the mirror or the words of my l—overs are far more convincing than ‘Hey, Mrs. Jugs!’ from some douche with no self control. And no, these men are not ‘just being friendly’ and no, they are not ‘just trying to get to know me.’ Most things that are said to emboobened folks on the street are not conducive to starting conversations, let alone starting a healthy socio-sexual relationship.

I hate that this is such a personalized narrative that I’m writing here because I’m writing about an extremely widespread phenomenon that affects most, if not all, people marginalized for their sex or gender presentation. Street harassment is a highly effective way men have of defining and controlling public spaces as masculine male spaces. The rest of us are interlopers and we are reminded of this every time we have the gall to appear in public. It’s effective because it keeps so many of us in fear.

To have one’s delusions of being a sovereign human being worthy of respect dashed repeatedly every time one leaves one’s house is utterly soul is utterly soul crushing. Many have been the times I have elected to stay in rather than face a leering male public and I strongly suspect that street harassment plays a role in why agoraphobia afflicts twice as many women as men (agoraphobia = fear of being in public spaces).

To counteract the thoroughly isolating and disempowering effects of street harassment, projects have arisen around the world from Hollaback websites (started in NYC, now represented in most major cities, including http://hollabackboston.blogspot. com to Blank Noise Project in New Delhi, India. Hollaback sites encourage folks to send cell phone pictures and stories of harassers to be posted online, Blank Noise arranges street occupations and media projects. There is also stopstreetharassment.com which is a fantastic resource for global information, stories, resources, resistance campaigns, and it also exists to promote a forthcoming book of the same name, the first of its kind.

As exciting and inspiring as it feels when learning about activism around street harassment, that all tends to evaporate when the next sleazy fucker verbally ejaculates on you. Again. And again. Every available option is exhausting and draining; either continue in silence or yell back. Neither guarantees your safety. Many anti-street harassment activists advocate for legislation recognizing street harassment as a crime for which punitive measures are to be enforced. But can we really expect police to react appropriately to these situations if we call them? These are the folks who arrest you for disorderly conduct and disturbing the peace if you call them after your asshole partner hit you. Cops are the ones who call you a lying slut if you call them after someone raped you and they’re the ones who let your rape kit sit untested in a lab for years, decades, or for all eternity. I know I’m not the only one who has been sleazed at by cops on the street. It’s clear whose side the police are on. Even if we could expect police to take our plight seriously, do we really need more people locked up? With 1 in 31 folks in the US already under punitive state supervision, it should be abundantly clear that the state and their punishments are not the solution.

Some reality: not all of the New Jersey 7 are out of prison for defending themselves as Black lesbians against a man who promised to ‘fuck them straight’ in 2006 before physically attacking them. With more convictions to come, Shakida Bowers and Nichelle Carter are two teenaged girls imprisoned in Virginia for the next few decades because, at the age of 15, they fought back against an adult man who groped one of them, and are now being held responsible for his death in a ‘gang-related mob attack.’ In 2008, Mildred Beaubrun was shot dead at age 18 by some harassers she declined to fuck. March 6th 2010, 15-year-old Shayla Raymond was killed fleeing her harassers. A few days later, a man in NYC was so incensed at getting rejected by a woman that he followed her into the shitter at a bar and beat her unconscious. Broken eyesocket. Shattered jaw and ‘other injuries’ including the possibility that he sexually assaulted her.

I complain about street harassment a lot. It happens to me a lot. It actually happens to women and queers and genderqueers and trans people all over the world. A lot. And a lot of people, particularly the men I talk to about it, never really know how to react. Asshole randos on the street aren’t really part of a community we can hold accountable. Lucy Parsons once wrote, ‘Anarchists know that a long period of education must precede any great fundamental change in society.’ So if you are blessed with the kind of male privilege that keeps you from comprehending the reality I’m describing here, maybe you should use it in defense of the rest of us.

Brainstorm some ways of challenging these repulsive behaviors, whether in yourself, your friends, or asshole randos on the street.

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