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 Maddow reported an “explosive revelation” that Psychiatrist Robert Spitzer had rescinded his controversial 2001 claim that sexual conversion, or sexual reparative, psychotherapies can change sexual orientation in gay and lesbian people.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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