These Aren’t the Droids You’re Looking For: Gender Diversity, Scapegoating and Erasure in Medicine and Media

From GID Reform Blog:

Kelley Winters, Ph.D.
GID Reform Advocates
April 21, 2012

On the April 18th broadcast of The Rachel Maddow Show, Dr. Maddow reported an “explosive revelation” that Psychiatrist Robert Spitzer had rescinded his controversial 2001 claim that sexual conversion, or sexual reparative, psychotherapies can change sexual orientation in gay and lesbian people. Quoting an interview of Dr. Spitzer in The American Prospect, Maddow celebrated the historical significance of Spitzer’s reversal for the gay rights movement, calling it,

step one in what we’re now going to see as a real change, a real reckoning, in antigay politics.

Sadly, Dr. Maddow only told half of the story. For four decades, Robert Spitzer has played pivotal roles in mental health policies, not only on sexual orientation, but on gender diversity as well. This week, Rachel Maddow and other journalists turned a blind eye to Dr. Spitzer’s failure to retract a lifetime of trans psychopathologization, stereotyping gender identities and expression that differ from assigned birth roles as mental disease. This omission speaks to the marginal status of trans people within the GLbt rights movement and progressive media, as much as Spitzer’s omission speaks to trans marginalization by mental health policymakers. Shifting stigma from one oppressed class to a more oppressed class is not real change.

At the 1973 annual meeting of the American Psychiatric Association, Robert Spitzer played a central role in arguing for declassification of same-sex orientation as mental illness:

In the past, homosexuals have been denied civil rights in many areas of life on the ground that because they suffer from a ‘mental illness’ the burden of proof is on them to demonstrate their competence, reliability, or mental stability.

This led to the gradual deletion of sexual orientation categories from the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) between 1973 and 1987. The DSM is published by the American Psychiatric Association and remains the medical and cultural definition of mental disorder in North America. As Chairman of the DSM-III and DSM-III-R Task Forces and chief editor of the diagnostic manual, Spitzer oversaw removal of the last major vestige of gay diagnosis, “Ego-dystonic Homosexuality,” from version III-R.

However, while depathologizing same-sex orientation, Dr. Spitzer simultaneously directed a massive expansion of trans-pathology diagnoses in the DSM. In 1980, a new category of Gender Identity Disorders (GID), including a Transsexualism (TS) diagnosis, was added to the class of Psychosexual Disorders in the DSM-III. The TS coding was paradoxical and controversial for many trans people. Many community advocates and medical providers agreed (and do today) that some kind of diagnostic coding was necessary to facilitate access to medical and/or surgical transition care for those trans and transsexual people who needed it.  On the other hand, defining a medical transition coding as a mental illness, rather than a treatable medical condition, contradicted access to hormonal and/or surgical transition care and encouraged gender conversion, or gender-reparative, psychotherapies– unsubstantiated treatments attempting to change gender identity and shame trans and TS people into the closets of their assigned birth roles.  Vulnerable trans and gender nonconforming youth were targeted and institutionalized as a consequence of diagnostic criteria based on nonconformity to birth-assigned stereotypes.

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Vast Mexico Bribery Case Hushed Up by Wal-Mart After Top-Level Struggle

From The New York Times:

Confronted with evidence of widespread corruption in Mexico, top Wal-Mart executives focused more on damage control than on rooting out wrongdoing, an examination by The New York Times found.

Published: April 21, 2012

MEXICO CITY — In September 2005, a senior Wal-Mart lawyer received an alarming e-mail from a former executive at the company’s largest foreign subsidiary, Wal-Mart de Mexico. In the e-mail and follow-up conversations, the former executive described how Wal-Mart de Mexico had orchestrated a campaign of bribery to win market dominance. In its rush to build stores, he said, the company had paid bribes to obtain permits in virtually every corner of the country.

The former executive gave names, dates and bribe amounts. He knew so much, he explained, because for years he had been the lawyer in charge of obtaining construction permits for Wal-Mart de Mexico.

Wal-Mart dispatched investigators to Mexico City, and within days they unearthed evidence of widespread bribery. They found a paper trail of hundreds of suspect payments totaling more than $24 million. They also found documents showing that Wal-Mart de Mexico’s top executives not only knew about the payments, but had taken steps to conceal them from Wal-Mart’s headquarters in Bentonville, Ark. In a confidential report to his superiors, Wal-Mart’s lead investigator, a former F.B.I. special agent, summed up their initial findings this way: “There is reasonable suspicion to believe that Mexican and USA laws have been violated.”

The lead investigator recommended that Wal-Mart expand the investigation.

Instead, an examination by The New York Times found, Wal-Mart’s leaders shut it down.

Neither American nor Mexican law enforcement officials were notified. None of Wal-Mart de Mexico’s leaders were disciplined. Indeed, its chief executive, Eduardo Castro-Wright, identified by the former executive as the driving force behind years of bribery, was promoted to vice chairman of Wal-Mart in 2008. Until this article, the allegations and Wal-Mart’s investigation had never been publicly disclosed.

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Writer Eric Alterman tells Moyers liberals need to regain ‘fighting spirit’

From Raw Story:

By David Ferguson
Saturday, April 21, 2012

Writer and historian Eric Alterman appeared on the April 20 edition of “Moyers and Company” to discuss his new book The Cause: The Fight for American Liberalism from Franklin Roosevelt to Barack Obama.

In a wide-ranging and thoughtful discussion, Alterman makes the case to Bill Moyers that while social liberalism is flourishing, economic liberalism has fallen on hard times. The majority of people in the United States believe that racism is wrong. Acceptance of the idea of same-sex marriage has charged ahead with surprising speed. And yet, only a tiny minority of people in the country self-identify as “liberal.”

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The Discipline of Tending to Our Own Planet

From Truth Out:

By David Krieger
Sunday, 22 April 2012

We live in a vast universe made up of billions of galaxies, each of which is made up of billions of stars. Our home is a small planet that revolves around a small sun in a remote galaxy. It is just the right distance from the sun so that it is not too hot or too cold to support life. It has air that is breathable, water that is drinkable and topsoil suitable for growing crops. In the immensity of space, it is a very small dot, what astrophysicist Carl Sagan referred to as a “pale blue dot.” Our Earth is the only place we know of that harbors life. It is precious beyond any riches that could be imagined.

One would think that any sane, self-reflecting creatures that lived on this planet would recognize its beauty and preciousness and would want to tend to it with care. In Antoine de Saint-Exupéry’s classic book, “The Little Prince,” the prince says: “It’s a matter of discipline. When you’ve finished washing and dressing each morning, you must tend to your planet.” But that is an imaginary planet with an imaginary little prince. On the real planet that supports life, the one we inhabit, there aren’t enough of us who exercise such discipline and tend to our planet with loving care.

Think about how we have managed our planet. We have allowed the planet to become divided into rich and poor, where a few people have billions of dollars and billions of people have few dollars. While some live in greed, the majority live in need. We have parceled the planet into entities we call countries and created borders that countries try to protect. We have created military forces in these countries and given them enormous resources to prepare for war and to engage in war. Annual global military expenditures now exceed $1.6 trillion, while hundreds of millions of humans live without clean water, adequate nutrition, medical care and education.

We have eagerly exploited the planet’s resources with little concern for future generations or for the damage we cause to the environment. Instead of using renewable energy from the sun to provide our energy needs, we exploit the Earth’s stores of oil and transport them across the globe. We have turned much of the world into desert. We have polluted the air we breathe and the water we drink. In our excess, we have pushed the planet toward the point of no return in global warming and then argued global warming as a reason to build more nuclear power plants.

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Female genital mutilation ‘offered by UK medics’

From The Guardian UK:

GP, dentist and alternative medicine practitioner are filmed allegedly offering to carry out or arrange FGM

Press Association, Saturday 21 April 2012

As many as 100,000 women in Britain have undergone female genital mutilations (FGM) with medics in the UK offering to carry out the illegal procedure on girls as young as 10, it has been reported.

Investigators from the Sunday Times said they had secretly filmed a doctor, dentist and alternative medicine practitioner who were allegedly willing to perform FGM or arrange for the operation to be carried out. The doctor and dentist deny any wrongdoing.

The practice, which involves the surgical removal of external genitalia and in some cases the stitching of the vaginal opening, is illegal in Britain and carries up to a 14-year prison sentence. It is also against the law to arrange FGM.

The procedure is widespread across parts of Africa. Victims are rarely given anaesthetic and frequently suffer long-term damage and pain.

Research suggests that every year more than 22,000 girls in the UK and up to 6,000 in London are at risk of the potentially fatal procedure.

The Metropolitan police said that since 2008 it had received 166 reports of people who feared they were at risk of FGM. Across all 43 forces in England and Wales, no one has ever been convicted of the offence, according to the Sunday Times.

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In a Real World of Real People Can True Human Values Prevail?

From Common Dreams:

by Caroline Arnold
Published on Sunday, April 22, 2012 by Common Dreams

Republicans seem to have adopted the position that humans act always and only according to cold calculations of how to maximize their personal rewards and minimize their personal costs.

This economic theory, called Homo economicus, conceives of humans as maximizing individuals – knowledgeable, rational and selfish.  It postulates that each person desires only his own profit and pleasure, always knows enough to determine his own best interest, and always reasons or calculates his benefit before acting, and that these individual decisions account for all social and economic organization – both societies and markets.

Critics have pointed out that real people do a lot of things a true Homo economicus would never do. Homo economicus would reason that it is pointless to vote, except against policies or politicians who threaten his personal rights or private gain, would see no reason to return a lost wallet, would never leave tips, volunteer to help neighbors, or serve their nation in the armed forces.

It’s pretty obvious that people don’t always and exclusively act in their own self-interest. Indeed, if they did we would have no families, no churches, no schools or governments, and probably no civilization at all.

Growing Artificial Societies: Social Science from the Bottom Up, Epstein & Axtell,1996, explores the premise that all social and economic organization – and the “invisible hand” that regulates markets – is based on individuals acting rationally for self-interest and asks the question, “Does the microworld of individual behaviors really add up to the macroworld of economics?”

The first Sugarscape was a landscape (computer screen) with little “agents” (red dots) and piles of sugar (yellow dots). The agents had behavioral rules about how they could move, and were given internal states: their “preference” was to find sugar and consume it. Those who found sugar “lived”; those who didn’t, “died”.

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Where No City Has Gone Before: San Francisco Will Be World’s First Zero-Waste Town by 2020

From Alternet:

A future without landfills? SF is already 78% of the way there — but the hardest part is still ahead.

By Sven Eberlein
April 18, 2012

Last month, the millionth ton of food scraps, coffee grounds and soiled paper from San Francisco’s mandatory composting program returned to residents’ dinner tables in the form of fresh, organic foods grown by local farmers using the city’s nutrient-rich compost as fertilizer. Coming on the heels of the city’s 2009 municipal ordinance requiring city-wide source separation of all organic materials, the first large-scale urban food waste and composting program in the country has not only helped reduce the city’s greenhouse gas emissions to nearly 12 percent below 1990 levels; it’s also catapulted San Francisco to a staggering, nation-leading 78 percent waste diversion rate.

Just a few years ago, a zero-waste city was considered a futuristic scenario. Now, the city by the bay is on track to be the first and only North American city to achieve this impressive goal — and it plans to get there by 2020.

For San Franciscans like myself, life without the “Fantastic Three” — the simple, color-coded cart system consisting of a green composting, blue recycling and black, often smaller trash cart — has become unthinkable. Putting banana peels and used tissues into an empty quart of ice-cream is part of our routine. Trips to cities without composting bins feel like visits to strange planets in distant galaxies. The fact that we could so quickly get used to skittle-sized garbage bags while our compost bags are bulging with leftovers speaks not only to a well-conceived program and the adaptability of San Francisco residents, but to the potential of reaching similar milestones anywhere else in the U.S or abroad.

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Super Rich The Greed Game

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Ann Romney, Working Woman?

From The Nation:

Katha Pollitt
April 18, 2012

Has Ann Romney ever worked a day in her life? CNN pundit Hilary Rosen, not a Democratic strategist, said no way, prompting torrents of outrage from Fox, Republicans and New York Times columnist Frank Bruni, who loves his mother very much. Bertrand Russell, in his witty essay “In Praise of Idleness,” wrote, “What is work? Work is of two kinds: first, altering the position of matter at or near the earth’s surface relatively to other such matter; second, telling other people to do so.” Clearly, between the houses and grounds, the five kids, the Cadillacs, the husband, the business socializing, the campaigning and, let’s not forget, that dog, Ann Romney has altered the position of much matter. Since it is not possible to run smoothly a multimillion-dollar multi-mansioned domestic establishment for seven people without at least some paid help, I’m guessing she probably instructed others in the proper positioning of matter as well. By Russell’s definition, Ann Romney has probably done a lot more work than I have. I sit at my desk and hours go by in which I seem to have hardly altered the position of anything, including myself.

But the brouhaha over Hilary Rosen’s injudicious remarks is not really about whether what stay-home mothers do is work. Because we know the answer to that: it depends. When performed by married women in their own homes, domestic labor is work—difficult, sacred, noble work. Ann says Mitt called it more important work than his own, which does make you wonder why he didn’t stay home with the boys himself. When performed for pay, however, this supremely important, difficult job becomes low-wage labor that almost anyone can do—teenagers, elderly women, even despised illegal immigrants. But here’s the real magic: when performed by low-income single mothers in their own homes, those same exact tasks—changing diapers, going to the playground and the store, making dinner, washing the dishes, giving a bath—are not only not work; they are idleness itself. Just ask Mitt Romney. In a neat catch that in a sane world would have put the Rosen gaffe to rest forever, Nation editor at large Chris Hayes aired a video clip on his weekend-morning MSNBC show displaying Romney this past January calling for parents on welfare to get jobs: “While I was governor, 85 percent of the people on a form of welfare assistance in my state had no work requirement. And I wanted to increase the work requirement. I said, for instance, that even if you have a child 2 years of age, you need to go to work. And people said, ‘Well that’s heartless,’ and I said, ‘No, no, I’m willing to spend more giving daycare to allow those parents to go back to work. It’ll cost the state more providing that daycare, but I want the individuals to have the dignity of work.’” (Don’t be fooled by the gender-neutral language—he’s talking about mothers.) In 1994 he told the Burlington Business Council that “work is ennobling” and that “we will do everything in our power to make sure that people who are on welfare have an opportunity and an obligation to go to work, not after two years but from day one if we could.”

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speak up. stand out. be proud.

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Dear 15-Year-Old Me: I’m Writing to Tell You It Got Better

From Huffington Post:

04/ 5/2012

Yesterday was a tough day for you. That time you spent in the bathroom will forever remain in your memory.

You made your admission to yourself. It was in your head before, but yesterday felt like your first real recognition of it. You held onto that sink so tightly as you leaned over it. You faced yourself in the mirror that hung above it. The sink held you up as your knees weakened. Your grip got tighter, your stare more intense. You felt like you were looking into your heart, your soul. You stared for what like felt like hours but was only seconds. You hardly blinked. Then the tears came. “I am gay.” You sobbed aloud. Your posture slumped as you heard those words over and over in your head. “What are you going to do?” you asked yourself. The sink caught your tears. You weren’t expecting an answer.

Panic set in. It overwhelmed you. It was a feeling of loss. All the things you thought you would never have raced through your head: the wedding, the spouse, the family, the children, the home. You thought you would never have the life that you could see everyone else living. You were different, and you acknowledged it yesterday. How were you going to carry this secret forever? How were you going live a lie? You felt so alone. This would never be a part of you. You thought you couldn’t do it. Why you?

You will look back in time. You will wonder: were you talking to yourself in that mirror, or was your ego talking to you? You know that part of you that wants to fit in with society and feels safe when it thinks you’re just like everyone else?

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Breaking: Prop 8 judge questions if Supreme Court will take case

From The Bay Area Reporter:

by Matthew S. Bajko
April 18, 2012

The federal district judge who found California’s ban against same-sex marriage unconstitutional questioned if the U.S. Supreme Court would take up the case during a talk in San Francisco Thursday afternoon.

Vaughn Walker, the now-retired chief judge of the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California, told a Commonwealth Club audience April 19 that there is reason to believe the case will end in the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals, where it is currently on appeal.

“There is some question if the Prop 8 case will go to the United States Supreme Court,” said Walker, who oversaw the Prop 8 trial and issued his ruling striking down the antigay ballot measure in 2010. “Because of the narrow grounds the 9th Circuit ruled on, they could turn down that case.”

When Walker issued his decision in what is known as Perry v. Brown, he not only ruled that voters who enacted the measure in 2008 were in violation of the due process and equal protection clauses in the U.S. Constitution, he also found that gays and lesbians had a constitutionally guaranteed right to marry.

But a three-judge panel for the 9th Circuit did not reach the same far-sweeping conclusion in its 2-1 decision released in February. While they agreed with Walker that the passage of Prop 8 violated the equal protection clause, the appellate majority said the question of same-sex marriage being a protected right would have to wait for another case, and likely another court, to decide.

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Socialist candidate favored to beat Sarkozy in French presidential run-off

From Raw Story:

By Agence France-Presse
Sunday, April 22, 2012

PARIS — Socialist Francois Hollande will beat Nicolas Sarkozy in the second round of France’s presidential election by 54 percent to 46, according to the first opinion polls after Sunday’s first round vote.

A survey by the Ipsos institute commissioned by French public television and the daily Le Monde predicted a majority of those who backed candidates eliminated in the first round would switch to the frontrunner in the run-off.

A separate poll by Ifop for Europe 1 radio and news weekly Paris Match predicted a similar margin, with Hollande winning by 54.5 percent to 45.5 for the incumbent right-winger.

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