Does Classical Music Have A Transgender Problem?

From NPR:

by Anastasia Tsioulcas
February 04, 2013

Yesterday, pianist Sara Davis Buechner published on the New York Times website a brave and moving account of her experiences as a transgendered person. “As David Buechner, born in the northwest suburbs of Baltimore in 1959,” she writes, “I became an internationally known concert pianist. But from the time I was a child, I understood that I was meant to be Sara.”

As David, she won gold at the 1984 Gina Bachauer competition and bronze at the Tchaikovsky competition in 1986, and performed as a soloist with top-ranked ensembles including the New York Philharmonic and the Philadelphia and Cleveland orchestras.

What she goes on to say, however, is that after her gender reassignment surgery, her once-flourishing career stalled out — at least in the United States. Buechner’s story has much larger ramifications than its impact within the classical music community, but her assertion that she was rendered unemployable in her home country is troubling, to say the least. She writes: “In the United States, once I came out as Sara, I couldn’t get bookings with the top orchestras anymore, nor would any university employ me.” At the same time, she continues, her career has bloomed in Canada and abroad, particularly in Asia. She adds:

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From The New York Times:  An Evolving Country Begins to Accept Sara, Once David

Published: February 3, 2013

Ten summers ago, on an early evening stroll in Bangkok, I met a baby elephant. The animal’s owner was walking him past the open-air food stalls of one of the city night markets where, for the price of five Thai baht, one could purchase a handful of bamboo stalks and feed it to the little fellow. Concentrating on the broken sidewalk under my feet, and wishing not to trip, I hadn’t noticed the elephant until I nearly walked smack into him, eyeball to eyeball. Needless to say, it was a startling encounter. In my beloved Bronx, I had bumped into plenty of interesting creatures but no elephants. Being in Bangkok for extraordinary reasons, and in need of good luck, I fished into my purse and found a coin. I patted the head of the elephant for good measure as he crunched up his vegetarian treat.

Two mornings later I was wheeled in for the surgery I had needed since childhood. It was a fearful experience being so far from the familiar comforts of my Grand Concourse apartment. There was no money in my bank for an American surgeon (who would have charged six times as much). Nor did I have medical insurance — not that it would have made any difference. In 2002, no American insurer would approve payment for transgender surgery.

As David Buechner, born in the northwest suburbs of Baltimore in 1959, I became an internationally known concert pianist. But from the time I was a child, I understood that I was meant to be Sara. In those days, there was no information nor discussion of anything outside the heterosexual template. Nor were there role models for transgender children.

But in 1975, when I was a teenager, Richard Raskind — formerly the Yale men’s tennis captain and a lieutenant commander in the Navy — had surgery to become Renée Richards. It was front-page news in The Baltimore Sun. For the first time, I understood that I was not alone. But I said nothing; in those days I would have been taken to a psychiatric ward to be straightened out.

In an earlier time I might have remained hidden. But I am fortunate to have grown up as part of a generation in which so many — black people, women, gays — fought and gained so much. Their bravery and integrity inspired me.

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Study debunks notion that men and women are psychologically distinct

From Raw Story:

By Eric W. Dolan
Monday, February 4, 2013

A first-of-its-kind study to be published in the February issue of the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology has dealt a devastating blow to the notion that men and women are fundamentally different when it comes to how they think and act.

“Although gender differences on average are not under dispute, the idea of consistently and inflexibly gender-typed individuals is,” Bobbi J. Carothers of Washington University in St. Louis and Harry T. Reis of the University of Rochester explained in their study. “That is, there are not two distinct genders, but instead there are linear gradations of variables associated with sex, such as masculinity or intimacy, all of which are continuous.”

Analyzing 122 different characteristics from 13,301 individuals in 13 studies, the researchers concluded that differences between men and women were best seen as dimensional rather than categorical. In other words, the differences between men and women should be viewed as a matter of degree rather than a sign of consistent differences between two distinct groups.

Numerous studies have examined gender differences between men and women. Carothers and Reis were able to find a whopping 3,370 articles on the topic in 2011 alone. The vast majority of the research examined the average differences between men and women. The research can easily be misinterpreted as finding that “Men are better at X” or “Women are worst at Y” — ignoring the fact that the studies are comparing averages and contain variance.

“The world presents us with a huge amount of information, so we often take shortcuts to help process it all (this is known as the ‘cognitive miser’),” Carothers explained to Raw Story in an email. “One of those shortcuts is a tendency to categorize things — it’s easier to think of 2 things (men are one way and women are another) than it is to think of all of the nuances of overlapping distributions, particularly if they’re not brought to our attention when we hear about an average difference.”

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Bullying study suggests ‘it gets better’ as LGBT youth get older

From LGBTQ Nation:

Monday, February 4, 2013

CHICAGO — It really does get better for gay and bisexual teens when it comes to being bullied, although young gay men have it worse than their lesbian peers, according to the first long-term scientific evidence on how the problem changes over time.

The seven-year study involved more than 4,000 teens in England who were questioned yearly through 2010, until they were 19 and 20 years old. At the start, just over half of the 187 gay, lesbian and bisexual teens said they had been bullied; by 2010 that dropped to 9 percent of gay and bisexual boys and 6 percent of lesbian and bisexual girls.

The researchers said the same results likely would be found in the United States.

In both countries, a “sea change” in cultural acceptance of gays and growing intolerance for bullying occurred during the study years, which partly explains the results, said study co-author Ian Rivers, a psychologist and professor of human development at Brunel University in London.

That includes a government mandate in England that schools work to prevent bullying, and changes in the United States permitting same-sex marriage in several states.

In 2010, syndicated columnist Dan Savage launched the “It Gets Better” video project to encourage bullied gay teens. It was prompted by widely publicized suicides of young gays, and includes videos from politicians and celebrities.

“Bullying tends to decline with age regardless of sexual orientation and gender,” and the study confirms that, said co-author Joseph Robinson, a researcher and assistant professor of educational psychology at the University of Illinois in Urbana-Champaign. “In absolute terms, this would suggest that yes, it gets better.”

The study appears online Monday in the journal Pediatrics.

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Barber and Crampton: Society Will Be on the ‘Verge of Total Collapse’ if SCOTUS Strikes Down Prop 8

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British House of Commons Approves Gay Marriage

From The New York Times

By and
Published: February 5, 2013

LONDON — The House of Commons voted overwhelmingly on Tuesday to approve a bill legalizing same-sex marriage in Britain, indicating that the bill is assured of passage as it moves through further legislative stages.

But in a major setback for Prime Minister David Cameron, who championed the measure, it appeared that more than half of the lawmakers in his Conservative Party voted against it or abstained.

After a six-hour debate, the Commons vote was 400 to 175 for the bill. The legislation, which applies to England and Wales, would permit civil marriage between same-sex couples, but specifically exempt the Church of England and other faiths from an obligation to perform such ceremonies. Some faith groups, including the Quakers, have said they want the legal right to perform same-sex marriages.

The bill still has to pass in the House of Lords, where delaying tactics by opponents are possible, but Mr. Cameron has said he plans to have it enacted into law sometime this summer.

Although 127 of the 303 Conservative lawmakers voted for the bill, 136 voted against, with 5 abstentions and 35 who registered no vote at all. Those voting against included two cabinet ministers, eight junior ministers and eight whips. The opening to the revolt came when party leaders decided to make the issue a so-called free vote, allowing lawmakers to break with their party without fear of disciplinary action.

The bulk of the votes approving the measure came from the opposition Labour Party and the center-left Liberal Democrats, who are allied in an uneasy governing coalition with the Conservatives. While Labour suffered defections of its own, its parliamentary bloc voted overwhelmingly for the measure.

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Lambda Legal Urges Court to Uphold California Ban on “Ex-Gay” Therapy

From Lambda Legal:

by Lambda Legal
February 5, 2013

Lambda Legal is urging a federal appeals court to uphold a California law banning “ex-gay” therapy on minors.

The law, known as SB 1172, prohibits state-licensed mental health providers from using dangerous efforts to change the sexual orientation of minors. It went into effect Jan. 1.

Yesterday, Lambda Legal filed a friend-of-the-court brief with the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals on behalf of 12 regional and national organizations that work with LGBTQ youth.

Hayley Gorenberg, Lambda Legal Deputy Legal Director, says:

The organizations we represent in this brief have experienced, observed, and cared for LGBTQ youth suffering the harms of sexual orientation change efforts. From community centers to therapists’ organizations to crisis hotlines, they have witnessed first-hand the casualties of baseless promises in the guise of ‘therapy’ to change sexual orientation and gender identity.  SB 1172 protects children and families from the trauma of this so-called ‘ex-gay therapy’ and the trail of fractured lives and ruptured families left in its wake.

So-called reparative therapy poses critical health risks, including depression, shame, decreased self-esteem, social withdrawal, substance abuse, self-harm and suicide. Youth are often subjected to these practices at the insistence of parents who don’t know or don’t believe that the efforts are harmful. But the risks of long-term mental and physical health consequences are particularly severe. In addition, when these efforts fail to produce the expected result, many LGBTQ children are kicked out of their homes.

Lambda Legal’s brief quotes an individual who underwent “reparative therapy” as a child:

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Pastor: ‘Little Tiny Fetuses’ on Women’s Wombs Caused by Birth Control

Pastor makes the case for religion making people stupid.

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The Catholic Church’s Convenient Morality

From The New York Times:

Published: February 4, 2013

Last week, the Obama administration proposed a further tweak to its rules about insurance coverage of contraception, trying to quiet religious organizations’ complaints that the edict tramples on their beliefs. Roman Catholic officials have been especially vociferous. Their moral conviction, they insist, cannot be slave to secular convention.

Except, that is, when it works to their advantage. When it profits them. And this two-tracked approach was illustrated by another recent news story, one that flickered onto and then off the public’s radar more quickly than it should have, and deserves a closer look.

The news story brought to light a wrongful-death suit by a widower, Jeremy Stodghill, in regard to his wife and the twin 28-week-old fetuses inside her when she died in a Catholic hospital, St. Thomas More, in Cañon City, Colorado.

The hospital’s lawyers argued that the woman’s death couldn’t have been prevented. As to whether proper medical attention might have yielded the delivery of two healthy baby boys, lawyers argued that the question was ultimately irrelevant, because wrongful death can apply only to people and, legally speaking, fetuses aren’t human lives.

This isn’t how the Catholic Church is supposed to see things. It’s the opposite. The church staunchly opposes abortion, holding that life begins at conception, and has even raised concerns about the morning-after pill. And the fetuses inside Lori Stodghill, 31, were four weeks past what’s generally considered viability.

Lawyers by nature use the best strategies available to them, in a brutal arena where failing to do so puts clients at a disadvantage. And the Colorado litigation is just one case involving one Catholic hospital, which may not have gotten any green light for its arguments from high-ranking church officials. In fact, Colorado’s three Catholic bishops on Monday released a statement that articulated their objection to the hospital’s legal approach and said it should be abandoned henceforth.

But the hospital isn’t some random outlier. It’s run by Catholic Health Initiatives, which operates 78 hospitals in more than a dozen states. And a habit of clinging to a religious identity one moment and abandoning it the next is visible beyond this case, especially in the church’s management of its child sexual abuse crisis.

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Meet Ilyse Hogue, new president of NARAL Pro-Choice America.

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The white South’s last defeat

From Salon:

Hysteria, aggression and gerrymandering are a fading demographic’s last hope to maintain political control

Tuesday, Feb 5, 2013

In understanding the polarization and paralysis that afflict national politics in the United States, it is a mistake to think in terms of left and right. The appropriate directions are North and South. To be specific, the long, drawn-out, agonizing identity crisis of white Southerners is having effects that reverberate throughout our federal union. The transmission mechanism is the Republican Party, an originally Northern party that has now replaced the Southern wing of the Democratic Party as the vehicle for the dwindling white Southern tribe.

As someone whose white Southern ancestors go back to the 17th century in the Chesapeake Bay region, I have some insight into the psychology of the tribe. The salient fact to bear in mind is that the historical experience of the white South in many ways is the opposite of the experience of the rest of the country.

Mainstream American history, from the point of view of the white majority in the Northeast, Midwest and West Coast, is a story of military successes. The British are defeated, ensuring national independence. The Confederates are defeated, ensuring national unity. And in the 20th century the Axis and Soviet empires are defeated, ensuring (it is hoped) a free world.

The white Southern narrative — at least in the dominant Southern conservative version — is one of defeat after defeat. First the attempt of white Southerners to create a new nation in which they can be the majority was defeated by the U.S. Army during the Civil War. Doomed to be a perpetual minority in a continental American nation-state, white Southerners managed for a century to create their own state-within-a-state, in which they could collectively lord it over the other major group in the region, African-Americans. But Southern apartheid was shattered by the second defeat, the Civil Rights revolution, which like the Civil War and Reconstruction was symbolized by the dispatching of federal troops to the South. The American patriotism of the white Southerner is therefore deeply problematic. Some opt for jingoistic hyper-Americanism (the lady protesteth too much, methinks) while a shrinking but significant minority prefer the Stars and Bars to the Stars and Stripes.

The other great national narrative holds that the U.S. is a nation of immigration, a “new nation,” a melting pot made up of immigrants from many lands. While the melting pot story involves a good deal of idealization, it is based on demographic fact in the large areas of the North where old-stock Anglo-Americans are commingled with German-Americans, Polish-Americans and Irish-Americans, along with more recent immigrant diasporas from Latin America, Asia, the Middle East and Africa.

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The cheated generation: lack of good jobs for young adults is creating a moral crisis

From The Washington Post:


New employment figures reveal young adults in the U.S. have nearly double (13.7 percent) the unemployment rate of the general population. Combine that with the still chronic underemployment of this generation, and we have a moral as well as economic crisis in the making.

These young adults call themselves the “Lost Generation”; they write about being “crippled by college debt and graduated into a struggling economy…[with] little chance to find gainful employment in their chosen fields.” They “take temporary jobs they are overqualified for.”

They are not lost; they have been cheated out of at least a decade of their lives.

Let’s be very clear. This is a moral crisis as well as an economic crisis because the promise of this “Millennial generation,” once labeled “confident, connected, open to change,” has literally been taken from them. “You shall not steal” (Exodus 20:15) is one of the most well known biblical precepts. But these Millennials have had their future stolen. They are literally not making a future, putting off marriage and having children, for example, because they cannot afford it; the future of their children, too, is being taken.

Make no mistake where the blame lies for this rolling catastrophe. The promise of this generation has been taken from them by risky banking practices. There is nearly universal consensus that the “Great Recession” was triggered by the high rate of defaults on subprime mortgages when the housing bubble burst. Ironically enough, the overreaching by banks in risky lending is hitting the young adult generation, who didn’t even own homes at the time, the hardest through the overall economic downturn and the continuing failure of the economy to produce good jobs.

The “employed superhero” of the #Occupy movement reveals this.

It gets worse. There is, in fact, a three and even four-generation crisis now, from Millennials, to their choice not to have children, and now even to their parents and grandparents.

Unemployed or underemployed Millennials are moving back with their parents, often unable to get a job that pays enough for them to live independently and also pay their student debt.

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Hard Times, USA: Would You Consider Thinking Differently About Poverty and Poor and Homeless People?

From Alternet:

A huge number of Americans feel vulnerable every day of every week, their future unknown. What are you going to do about it?

By Don Hazen
February 4, 2013

Editor’s note: There are more than one million homeless people in America, and 138 million people who live paycheck to paycheck. Many more are struggling, wondering how they’ll make rent or get enough food. Those numbers are astounding. This is America. Many proudly think our society is fair, but the evidence overwhelmingly shows that fairness in America is a myth. In the weeks and months ahead, AlterNet will shine a light on America’s economic injustice in an ongoing series, “Hard Times USA.” Since many have chosen to look aside, or believe the traditional ways of doing politics will fix things, there is still much to learn about how this problem will be solved, or not solved.

What do the words poor, hungry, homeless, destitute, and economic hardship mean to you? Would you rather not think about it? Can I ask you a harder question? Have you lost your empathy for people who may be down and out? Or maybe it is in reserve, waiting for a chance to be revitalized.

The ability of the U.S. to deal with problems of money, housing, healthcare, food and the basics of life for many millions of people, is pretty damn rotten. The problem is getting worse. Increasingly, as the gap between rich and poor keeps growing, more people may be less interested in and have less empathy for the people who are left out. That is what I am wondering about.

Some of us were lucky, some privileged, and some of us have been able to achieve a level of economic security where we never have to worry about the necessities for the rest of our lives. But a very large number of Americans, a shocking number really, feel vulnerable every day of every week. Their future is unknown. They don’t even how they are going to get through tomorrow.

And it is quite a range of people. More than 100 million are teetering on the edge in the working/middle-class and more than a million, depending on how you count (812,000 people live in the entire city of San Francisco), are homeless for some part of the year, living on the streets, in cars, or bouncing from street to shelter, barely surviving.

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China’s pollution reaches Japan. Next stop: California

From Grist:

By Philip Bump
4 Feb 2013

My wife and I used to have an annoying neighbor. There were various ways in which he was annoying — he would holler every Sunday during the Saints games and would stand outside talking on his cell phone at all hours of the night. But most annoying was the smoking. He’d stand under our bedroom windows and smoke, the smell drifting into our apartment. Of all of his infuriating tendencies, this was the worst.

But at least what wafted into our clothes and lungs while we slept wasn’t toxic smog. That’s the problem Japan is having with its neighbor to the west. From Agence France-Presse:

The suffocating smog that blanketed swathes of China is now hitting parts of Japan, sparking warnings Monday of health fears for the young and the sick.

The environment ministry’s website has been overloaded as worried users log on to try to find out what is coming their way. …

Air pollution over the west of Japan has exceeded government limits over the last few days, with tiny particulate matter a problem, said Atsushi Shimizu of the National Institute for Environmental Studies (NIES).

Prevailing winds from the west bring airborne particles from the Asian mainland, he said.

These particulates are the same sorts of dust and soot that set records two weeks ago in Beijing. They’re deeply unhealthy, leading to asthma, other lung afflictions, and even heart attacks. While the pollution in China has inspired a cottage industry of solutions — canned air, house-sized domes, special face masks — such innovation is likely little consolation to the Japanese.

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