Friday Night Fun and Culture: Marie France

When I read the interview of her and Chrissy Hynde earlier this week,  I thought cool…  there’s my Friday Night Fun and Culture.

Unlike some of my sisters who seem to think liking to see other sisters and brothers perform is something to be ashamed of I go out of my way to read memoirs, buy CDs, watch documentaries and got to restaurants run by other folks described by trans-prefixed words.

Yeah I know it really sometimes suck to have the world treat transsexual or transgender like it is a title when they never do that for straights.

But the alternative is not performing, writing or doing anything in life that might attract attention and that sucks even more.

There is a reward though that comes sometimes.

Occasionally some one will write me and say how something I wrote or did really meant something to them…

Every Namoli Brennet, every Jayne County, every Marie France, every Laura Jane Grace  out there might just make it easier for some transkid, who is being bullied in school and thinking of suicide to see that it can get better.

Doing something positive for these kids doesn’t require devoting one’s entire life to social work.

Hell when I was 15 I was contemplating suicide.  I had the feeling that I would never find a way to have a life worth living.  What saved me was the tabloid biography of April Ashley.

Marie France

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Ian Harvie Performs On Margaret Cho’s Beautiful Tour in Calgary

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Alberta Reinstates Healthcare Funding for Sex Reassignment Surgery

From Bilerico:

Also posted at:  Dented Blue Mercedes and

By Mercedes Allen
June 07, 2012

Reposted with permission

The Alberta Government has announced that it will be reinstating health care fundingfor sex reassignment surgery (often called gender reassignment surgery, and abbreviated as GRS by the province and its clinicians), effective June 15th.

In the recent provincial election, Premier Alison Redford was returned to power by an electorate that appears to have been hoping her government would track back toward progressive politics. Albertans have been watching to see if her government would indeed follow through, and in what manner. An Angus Reid poll placed Ms. Redford as the second most popular Premier currently in power.

The province had cut funding in 2009 as a “cost savings measure” – however, the $700,000 savings (provided for approximately 16 people per year) wasn’t even a sliver of the provincial health budget. Since then, the Province has been on shaky legal ground with the funding cut, since human rights tribunals have typically recognized the procedure as being medically necessary. It was for this reason that the Province of Ontario ultimately reinstated funding, and B.C. abandoned an attempt to defund the surgery. Judicial court rulings (eg.) in Canadian case law also indicated a likelihood that the medical necessity of GRS would be upheld.

The Trans Equality Society of Alberta responded to the announcement with a media release:

We are pleased that the current administration sees value in caring for all Albertan’s needs, enabling them to live happy, fulfilled lives. The return of this coverage, whose removal only saved Albertan’s $0.18 each annually, will give hope to those for whom GRS was previously out of reach. While there are many other issues facing Trans-identified Albertans, this is a huge step in the direction of respect and dignity for the Trans Community by the Alberta Government. Thank you for taking this important first step.

The American Psychiatric Association and American Medical Association both stress that sex reassignment surgery is a medical necessity, and a 2008 resolution by the AMA emphasized that insurance companies should cover the procedure.

Most Canadian provinces have some form of coverage for GRS, although some have problematic quirks of process or costs that can create barriers to obtaining the procedure, and some still do not fund sex reassignment procedures for trans men. In 2008, Nova Scotia’s Liberal Party added working toward GRS funding inclusion to their political platform, although it has not yet been accomplished in that province.

Internationally, several nations have also added coverage to their public health insurance programs over the past couple of years, including Cuba, Brazil, and Chile. Argentina recently passed the most comprehensive policies on trans enfranchisement, which included GRS funding, new name change guidelines, anti-discrimination inclusion in their human rights code, and legal protections from hate crimes. A number of Australian provinces are under renewed pressure to provide funding after an incident of attempted self-performed surgery in an act of desperation. There have been (trigger warning) at least three other major self-mutilation incidents reported in international media in the past year, including one person in China who self-castrated and then jumped to their death because they couldn’t deal with the pain. Although not all trans people decide that they require surgery, for those who do, it can be an absolute necessity.

Corporations have also been rapidly adding health plan coverage to their benefits programs, including Apple, Chevron, General Mills, Dow Chemical, Chubb, American Airlines, Kellogg, Sprint, Levi Strauss, Eli Lilly, Best Buy, Nordstrom, Volkswagen’s U.S. division, the University of Pennsylvania, Whirlpool, Xerox, Raytheon and Office Depot (note: some of these may not apply in Canada). According to the Human Rights Campaign’s Corporate Equality Index (CEI), over 200 major U.S. businesses now include trans-inclusive health care coverage featuring surgical transition-related care, including 50% of Fortune 500 companies – an increase of over 1500% in that group since 2002.

Alberta’s 2009 announcement was followed by a mass filing of human rights complaints. Due to changes in grandfather-through decisions, some of those complaints were negated when funding was given, and others are still in process. Due to the backlash at the time of the announcement, the province had eventually conceded to provide funding for people already in transition prior to the cut, to a maximum of 20 per year. A number of others who had not qualified for the “Phase Out” program (usually because of the timing of their first medical appointment after starting transition) had been typically offered GRS funding as part of a settlement during negotiation stages of their human rights complaints, but have not spoken to media due to confidentiality requirements.

Although this victory is huge, some concerns about medical access remain. It can be difficult or near impossible to find trans-friendly (let alone trans-aware) medical practitioners in several regions of the province. This can make it hard to even find general practitioners willing to treat people for medical issues that are not trans-related.

For transition care, there is one clinic in Edmonton (therapy only, currently with an 18+ month waiting list) – in Calgary, there is also a once-a-month trans health clinic operated by a psychologist and a family doctor who’ve teamed up to try to help, but the need is one that is difficult to fill with a once-a-month model. The previous Stelmach government had shut out attempts by the trans community to speak about these matters, and advocates are hopeful that this can now change.

On Wednesday, the Federal government voted to allow a human rights bill proposing protections for transsexual and transgender Canadians to committee for review and possible changes, toward a final vote. The bill had passed in the previous Parliament, but died in the Senate upon the election call.

(Here is a full backgrounder on why GRS is medically necessary. It is also available as a trifold brochure)

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Tracking the Pastors (Four and Counting) Calling for the Death of LGBT People

From Huffington Post:

Also posted at:

Transgender actress, advocate, and writer; star, ‘Lexie Cannes’

Reposted with Permission

I’ve been tracking these recent calls by pastors for the death of LGBT people on my blog, and a few readers are saying my headlines are misleading, but in doing so they seemingly excuse these pastors’ behavior by stating, among other things, that they were “just quoting Scripture” or “thinking out loud.” I disagree. Pastors are held in high regard by many in our society who look for guidance in their lives; therefore, a higher level of accountability is necessary. These “I wish they were dead… just kidding!” tactics ought to come with consequences that discourage further use.

Here’s where we are:

Pastor Curtis Knapp of New Hope Baptist Church in Seneca, Kan. said that God said that LGBT people should be put to death and that the government should be the one doing it:

“If there is a man who lies with a male as those who lie with a woman, both of them have committed a detestable act; they shall surely be put to death.” Oh, so you’re saying we should go out and start killing them? No, I’m saying the government should. They won’t, but they should.

Pastor Knapp continued:

Is it His word or not? If it’s His word, he commanded it. It’s His idea, not mine. And I’m not ashamed of it. He said put them to death. Shall the church drag them in? No, I’m not say that. The church has not been given the power of the sort; the government has. But the government ought to [kill them]. You got a better idea? A better idea than God?

Charles L. Worley, Pastor of Providence Road Baptist Church in Maiden, N.C., says an electrified pen will do the trick:

Build a great, big, large fence, 150 or 100 mile long. Put all the lesbians in there. Fly over and drop some food. Do the same thing with the queers and the homosexuals, and have that fence electrified till they can’t get out. Feed ’em. And you know what? In a few years they’ll die out. You know why? They can’t reproduce.

But he wasn’t done yet: “It makes me pukin’ sick to think about — I don’t even know whether you ought to say this in the pulpit or not — could you imagine kissing some man?”

Fortunately, in this case, more than 1,000 people showed up in this small town to protest Pastor Worley’s hate-filled sermon.

Mississippi state Rep. Andy Gipson, who is reportedly a minister at an undisclosed Baptist church, made a recent post on Facebook invoking Leviticus 20:13, a passage from the Bible that allegedly requires the death of LGBT people: “If a man has sexual relations with a man as one does with a woman, both of them have done what is detestable. They are to be put to death; their blood will be on their own heads.” In the ensuing uproar Gipson refused to apologize, saying he has overwhelming support: “To be clear, I want the world to know that I do not, cannot, and will not apologize for the inspired truth of God’s Word.”

Pastor Dennis Leatherman at Mountain Lake Baptist Church in Oakland, Md., is intrigued by the idea of killing effeminate and LGBT people:

To … have a tendency to be effeminate or homosexual is just as wicked as to have a tendency to be a womanizer. Sinful nature does not justify sinful behavior. Now what is our take? What is our response? I appreciate your bearing with me tonight. First of all, there is a danger of reacting in the flesh, of responding not in a scriptural, spiritual way, but in a fleshly way. Kill them all. Right? I will be very honest with you. My flesh kind of likes that idea. But it grieves the Holy Spirit. It violates Scripture. It is wrong.

Leatherman would like to kill us but won’t, because the Bible says it’s wrong. What a nice, reassuring thought from a man of God.

I am hoping for a quiet Sunday this time around.

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Western banks ‘reaping billions from Colombian cocaine trade’

From The Guardian UK:

While cocaine production ravages countries in Central America, consumers in the US and Europe are helping developed economies grow rich from the profits, a study claims, Saturday 2 June 2012

The vast profits made from drug production and trafficking are overwhelmingly reaped in rich “consuming” countries – principally across Europe and in the US – rather than war-torn “producing” nations such as Colombia and Mexico, new research has revealed. And its authors claim that financial regulators in the west are reluctant to go after western banks in pursuit of the massive amount of drug money being laundered through their systems.

The most far-reaching and detailed analysis to date of the drug economy in any country – in this case, Colombia – shows that 2.6% of the total street value of cocaine produced remains within the country, while a staggering 97.4% of profits are reaped by criminal syndicates, and laundered by banks, in first-world consuming countries.

“The story of who makes the money from Colombian cocaine is a metaphor for the disproportionate burden placed in every way on ‘producing’ nations like Colombia as a result of the prohibition of drugs,” said one of the authors of the study, Alejandro Gaviria, launching its English edition last week.

“Colombian society has suffered to almost no economic advantage from the drugs trade, while huge profits are made by criminal distribution networks in consuming countries, and recycled by banks which operate with nothing like the restrictions that Colombia’s own banking system is subject to.”

His co-author, Daniel Mejía, added: “The whole system operated by authorities in the consuming nations is based around going after the small guy, the weakest link in the chain, and never the big business or financial systems where the big money is.”

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OWS: rebuilding America’s political foundation

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Science Debunks Morning-After Pill’s Abortion Myth

From Ms Blog:

June 7, 2012

New York Times analysis has found that the morning-after pill—drugs including Plan B One-Step and Ella, which are taken to prevent pregnancy after sex—do so not by keeping fertilized eggs from implanting in the womb, but by delaying ovulation. Some pills also thicken cervical mucus so that sperm have difficulty swimming. However, labels on the inside of boxes for the pills say they may work by blocking fertilized eggs from implanting in a woman’s uterus—descriptions that have led to some religious groups, conservative politicians and others to claim that the pills cause abortion.

Dr. Donna Harrison, director of research for the American Association of Pro-life Obstetricians and Gynecologists, told the Times that using the pills is the “moral equivalent of homicide.”

Mitt Romney has been more straightforward, dubbing morning-after pills as “abortive pills.”

Although the websites of medical authorities, including the National Institutes of Health and the Mayo Clinic, have said that emergency contraceptives may prevent implantation of a fertilized egg, the New York Times has discovered that such a result is not borne out in scientific studies:

It turns out that the politically charged debate over morning-after pills and abortion, a divisive issue in this election year, is  probably rooted in outdated or incorrect scientific guesses about how the pills work.” [my emphasis]

These findings about how emergency contraceptives work would mean that drugs like Plan B One-Step and Ella “would not meet abortion opponents’ definition of abortion-inducing drugs.” In contrast, RU-486 can be called an abortion pill “because it destroys implanted embryos, terminating pregnancies.”

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On the Anniversary of Griswold, the Facts about Contraception

From ACLU:

By Sarah Lipton-Lubet,
June 7, 2012

On this day in 1965, the Supreme Court first protected the right to contraception. A 7-2 decision, Griswold v. Connecticut was joined by justices appointed by Republicans and Democrats alike. It opened the door to a world in which people are free to form intimate relationships, lead healthy sexual lives, pursue educational and employment opportunities, and decide whether and when to become parents.

And yet now, 47 years later, contraception has become a hot button issue. Much of the recent discussion has consisted of rhetoric such as then-Presidential contender Rick Santorum’s statement that birth control is “not OK, because it’s a license to do things in the sexual realm that is counter to how things are supposed to be”, or the Alliance Defense Fund’s assertion that providing insurance coverage for contraception “propel[s] [us] down an anti-pregnancy path”. On this anniversary, let’s celebrate with the facts:

• Virtually all sexually active women use contraception over the course of their lives. The figure is consistent across religious background. It’s a basic part of modern American life. Politicians may not always know it, but women do.

• Contraception is good for women’s health, and it’s good for the health of their families. Since Griswold, both maternal and infant mortality rights have declined. Controlling pregnancy spacing has positive effects on birth outcomes such as low birth-weight and premature birth. Pregnancy planning also helps women control a number of conditions that negatively impact their own health, such as gestational diabetes and high blood pressure. That’s why the Centers for Disease Control hails family planning as one of the 10 most significant public health achievements of the last century.

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The War on Contraception: It’s Time to Take Sides

From Huffington Post:

Posted: 06/07/2012

Today is the 47th anniversary of the Supreme Court ruling, Griswold v Connecticut, which granted married people the right to use contraception — it’s worth doing the math: it wasn’t until 1965 that the U.S. government permitted married couples to use contraception. (The court would not grant single people that right until seven years later, in 1972, just one year before Roe v Wade.) These very young laws have had a dramatic and positive effect on our country. The right to use contraception and plan our families has shaped our lives in ways that are fundamental. They have created a way of life that Americans now think of as their birthright.

The recent spate of anti-contraception efforts determined to roll back our rights to family planning can seem kooky, isolated incidents; extreme actions by extreme religious individuals, like Rick Santorum, or a handful of fringy groups. In fact, these attacks are coordinated efforts that involve the whole of the Republican party as well as the entire “pro-life” establishment. The war on contraception is real, mounting, increasingly successful and fueled by Americans’ dismissiveness of its potential success and seriousness.

Indeed, on this issue, we as a nation have never faced higher stakes in an election year. Mitt Romney has promised to “get rid” of Planned Parenthood, the nation’s largest provider of contraceptive services. He has pledged to end Title X, the nation’s contraceptive program for the poor. He has taken up the whole agenda of the anti-contraception movement, even going as far as referring to commonly used forms of contraception as “abortifacients” all in an effort appease the increasingly powerful pro-life movement which now defines the Republican party platform on this issue.

President Obama, on the other hand, has been nothing less than heroic on the issue of contraception. When the Republicans attempted to shut down the government unless Planned Parenthood was defunded, he was steadfast, and saved the organization from what would be a devastating blow. With the Affordable Care Act, he will ensure all Americans have unfettered access to family planning, something studies show American’s rely on especially in unpredictable economic times like we have now.

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Battling over Occupy

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International trade ‘driving nature loss’

From BBC:

By Richard Black
6 June 2012

Almost a third of threats to animal species around the world stem from trade to meet the demands of richer nations, a study concludes.

Forests are cut down for coffee and cocoa plantations, removing animal habitat; elephants and rhinos are poached to provide ivory to East Asia.

Researchers analysed the overall impact of all this on threatened species.

Writing in the journal Nature, they say management of supply chains and product labelling could help stem the trend.

The mainly Australian research team looked at nearly 7,000 threatened species drawn from the internationally recognised Red List.

These records were cross-referenced against analyses of more than 15,000 commodities and traced back through international supply chains.

The overall picture is one where goods whose production damages biodiversity flow from developing countries into their more prosperous counterparts – although this is becoming more complex as economies such as China quickly develop.

Previous studies have found that western demand for such commodities as Brazilian beef, Indonesian palm oil, Mexican coffee production and Vietnamese fishing was harming nature.

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Environmental collapse now a serious threat: scientists

From Raw Story:

By Agence France-Presse
Wednesday, June 6, 2012

PARIS — Climate change, population growth and environmental destruction could cause a collapse of the ecosystem just a few generations from now, scientists warned on Wednesday in the journal Nature.

The paper by 22 top researchers said a “tipping point” by which the biosphere goes into swift and irreversible change, with potentially cataclysmic impacts for humans, could occur as early as this century.

The warning contrasts with a mainstream view among scientists that environmental collapse would be gradual and take centuries.

The study appears ahead of the June 20-22 UN Conference on Sustainable Development, the 20-year followup to the Earth Summit that set down priorities for protecting the environment.

The Nature paper, written by biologists, ecologists, geologists and palaeontologists from three continents, compared the biological impact of past episodes of global change with what is happening today.

The factors in today’s equation include a world population that is set to rise from seven billion to around 9.3 billion by mid-century and global warming that will outstrip the UN target of two degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit).

The team determined that once 50-90 percent of small-scale ecosystems become altered, the entire eco-web tips over into a new state, characterised especially by species extinctions.

Once the shift happens, it cannot be reversed.

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Scientists uncover evidence of impending tipping point for Earth

From UC Berkeley News Center:

By Robert Sanders
Wednesday, June 6th, 2012


A prestigious group of scientists from around the world is warning that population growth, widespread destruction of natural ecosystems, and climate change may be driving Earth toward an irreversible change in the biosphere, a planet-wide tipping point that would have destructive consequences absent adequate preparation and mitigation.

“It really will be a new world, biologically, at that point,” warns Anthony Barnosky, professor of integrative biology at the University of California, Berkeley, and lead author of a review paper appearing in the June 7 issue of the journal Nature. “The data suggests that there will be a reduction in biodiversity and severe impacts on much of what we depend on to sustain our quality of life, including, for example, fisheries, agriculture, forest products and clean water. This could happen within just a few generations.”

The Nature paper, in which the scientists compare the biological impact of past incidences of global change with processes under way today and assess evidence for what the future holds, appears in an issue devoted to the environment in advance of the June 20-22 United Nations Rio+20 Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.

The result of such a major shift in the biosphere would be mixed, Barnosky noted, with some plant and animal species disappearing, new mixes of remaining species, and major disruptions in terms of which agricultural crops can grow where.

The paper by 22 internationally known scientists describes an urgent need for better predictive models that are based on a detailed understanding of how the biosphere reacted in the distant past to rapidly changing conditions, including climate and human population growth. In a related development, groundbreaking research to develop the reliable, detailed biological forecasts the paper is calling for is now underway at UC Berkeley. The endeavor, The Berkeley Initiative in Global Change Biology, or BiGCB, is a massive undertaking involving more than 100 UC Berkeley scientists from an extraordinary range of disciplines that already has received funding: a $2.5 million grant from the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation and a $1.5 million grant from the Keck Foundation. The paper by Barnosky and others emerged from the first conference convened under the BiGCB’s auspices.

“One key goal of the BiGCB is to understand how plants and animals responded to major shifts in the atmosphere, oceans, and climate in the past, so that scientists can improve their forecasts and policy makers can take the steps necessary to either mitigate or adapt to changes that may be inevitable,” Barnosky said. “Better predictive models will lead to better decisions in terms of protecting the natural resources future generations will rely on for quality of life and prosperity.” Climate change could also lead to global political instability, according to a U.S. Department of Defense study referred to in the Nature paper.

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Time For Outrage On Behalf of the Planet

From Common Dreams:

It’s Time to Fight the Status Quo

by Bill McKibben
Published on Thursday, June 7, 2012 by Solutions

My solution is: get outraged.

Having written the first book about global warming 23 long years ago, I’ve watched the issue unfold across decades, continents, and ideologies. I’ve come to earth summits and conferences of the parties from Rio to Kyoto to Copenhagen, and many places in between.

All along, two things have been clear.

One, the scientists who warned us about climate change were absolutely correct—their only mistake, common among scientists, was in being too conservative. So far we’ve raised the temperature of the earth about one degree Celsius, and two decades ago it was hard to believe this would be enough to cause huge damage. But it was. We’ve clearly come out of the Holocene and into something else. Forty percent of the summer sea ice in the Arctic is gone; the ocean is 30 percent more acidic. There’s nothing theoretical about any of this any more. Since warm air holds more water vapor than cold, the atmosphere is about 4 percent wetter than it used to be, which has loaded the dice for drought and flood. In my home country, 2011 smashed the record for multibillion-dollar weather disasters—and we were hit nowhere near as badly as some. Thailand’s record flooding late in the year did damage equivalent to 18 percent of the country’s gross domestic product (GDP). That’s almost unbelievable. But it’s not just scientists who have been warning us. Insurance companies—the people in our economy who we ask to analyze risk—have been bellowing in their quiet, actuarial way for years. Here’s Munich Re, the world’s largest insurer, in their 2010 annual report: “The reinsurer has built up the world’s most comprehensive natural catastrophe database, which shows a marked increase in the number of weather-related events. For instance, globally, loss-related floods have more than tripled since 1980, and windstorm natural catastrophes more than doubled, with particularly heavy losses from Atlantic hurricanes. This rise cannot be explained without global warming.”

Two, we have much of the technological know-how we need to make the leap past fossil fuel. Munich Re again: “Whilst climate change cannot be stopped, it can be kept within manageable proportions, thus avoiding the possibility that climate change tipping points will be reached.”

We need politicians more afraid of voter outrage than they are of corporate retribution.

What does this mean in practice? Go to China where, yes, they’re emulating the West by putting up lots of coal-fired power plants. But they’re also busy building, say, solar hot-water heaters: 60 million arrays, providing hot water for 250 million Chinese, almost a quarter of the country—compared with less than 1 percent in America. I could list here a long tally of solutions (wind, geothermal, conservation, bicycles, trains, hybrid cars, tidal power, local food) and I could list an equally long tally of policies that everyone knows would help bring them quickly to pass: most important, of course, putting a stiff price on carbon to reflect the damage it does to the environment. That price signal would put markets to work in a serious way. It wouldn’t guarantee that we could head off climate change, because we’ve waited a very long time to get started, but it’s clearly our best chance.

So, if we have an emergency, and we have the tools to fight it, the only question is why we’re not doing so. And the answer, I think, is clear: it’s in the interest of some of the most powerful players on earth to prolong the status quo. Some of those players are countries, the ones with huge fossil-fuel reserves: recent research has demonstrated that the nations with the most coal, gas, and oil are the most recalcitrant in international negotiations.  And some of those players are companies: the fossil fuel industry is the most profitable enterprise in history, and it has proven more than willing to use its financial clout to block political action in the capitals that count.

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