Response to Dr. Jack Drescher and the NY Times About Childhood Transition: Part 1, by Kelley Winters

From GID Reform Weblog by Kelley Winters:

Kelley Winters, Ph.D.
GID Reform Advocates
July 5, 2013

Reposted with permission

The Sunday Dialogue feature of the June 30 edition of the New York Times responded to the recent Colorado Human Rights Division ruling in favor of Coy Mathis, a six year old transgender girl who sought the same equal treatment and facilities access as other girls at her public school. The Times editors turned to Dr. Jack Drescher, a New York psychiatrist who served on the Work Group on Sexual and Gender Identity Disorders for the DSM-5, the diagnostic manual of mental disorders published by the American Psychiatric Association. Dr. Drescher  could have taken this opportunity to acknowledge young Ms. Mathis’ remarkable courage and tenacity. He could have taken this teachable moment to note the barriers of intolerance and injustice that transgender people face as children, both in and out of the closet. But, instead, Dr. Drescher said this:

Actually, no one knows whether Coy will continue to feel that she is a girl when her body develops further, since most children like her grow up to be gay, not transgender.

Although Coy has identified as a girl, lived happily as a girl and attended school as a girl since kindergarten, Drescher’s statement impugns her legitimacy as a girl and suggests that her strong sense of gender identity is a likely just a passing phase. The statement not so subtly passes judgement on the Mathis family for allowing Coy to be herself as she sees herself. Although the “passing phase” mantra is heard frequently among psychiatric policy makers and institutional researchers in recent years, serious questions remain. Is this prediction based on scientific evidence? And, what exactly is meant by, “children like her”?

Conflating Gender Expression with Gender Identity

Young children, like Coy, who strongly, consistently and persistently identify as other than their birth-assigned sex, and who have fully lived in their affirmed gender roles, have been criticized while left unstudied by researcher/policymakers who publish literature on gender variant youth. Since the early 90s, most study populations have instead been selected by much broader diagnostic criteria for Gender Identity Disorder in Children (GIDC) from the DSM-IV and IV-TR, published in 1994 and 2000. Under these controversial criteria, children could be diagnosed with GIDC strictly on the basis of gender nonconforming behavior, with no evidence that they identified as other than their birth-assigned gender. Therefore, children who were intensely distressed by their birth-sex or assigned gender roles (gender dysphoria) were not distinguished from larger numbers of effeminate male-identified boys or masculine female-identified girls. Under these criteria, gender expression that differed from birth-assigned roles was deemed psychopathological, no matter how happy, functional and well adjusted the child. Moreover, children who conformed to birth-assigned stereotypes were exempt from GIDC diagnosis, no matter how gravely distressed with those roles and even if conformity was compelled under duress or physical punishment.

In 2000, Bartlett, et al., noted shortcomings in the GIDC criteria:

…it appears that a minority of children diagnosed with GID have a sense of discomfort with their biological sex.

Concerns about broad false-positive diagnosis of children who were never actually transgender and potential therapeutic abuse of youth suspected of being “pre-gay” led to revision of the Gender Dysphoria in Children category in the DSM-5 in 2013. Its criteria were tightened to resemble the prior DSM-III and DSM-III-R GIDC categories, requiring evidence of desire or insistence of other than the birth-assigned gender. In other words, the childhood diagnosis was restricted in the DSM-5 to gender dysphoric children in conflict with their birth-sex or assigned role, not merely gender nonconforming. However, sample bias resulting from old diagnostic flaws in the DSM-IV and IV-TR was not subsequently acknowledged by researchers who based their studies on GIDC diagnosis. Dr. Drescher’s remark about Coy Mathis was informed by dated research and old attitudes that conflated gender nonconformity with gender dysphoria, not controlled studies of children who actually resembled Coy.

The Doctrine of Desistence

Medical and public policy have long been influenced by research, suggesting that gender variance from birth-assigned roles in young children will most likely “desist” by adolescence and adulthood, when they will identify with their birth-assigned sex. Dr. Kenneth Zucker, of the Toronto Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH) and chairman of the DSM-5 Work Group on Sexual and Gender Identity Disorders, is the most prolific proponent of the 80%-desistence assumption. In 2006, he remarked to the New York Times:

80 percent [of preadolescent gender variant children] grow out of the behavior, but 15 percent to 20 percent continue to be distressed about their gender and may ultimately change their sex.

This “it’s just a phase” stereotype, has been repeated for many years and has underpinned policies that keep gender dysphoric children in the closets of their birth-assigned gender.  It is based primarily on studies at Dr. Zucker’s own practice at CAMH and at VU University Medical Center in Amsterdam. Since 1994, sample selection for these studies has relied on diagnostic criteria for Gender Identity Disorder in Children (GIDC) in the DSM-IV and IV-TR. In fact, Zucker and his colleagues at CAMH were instrumental in defining these criteria. As discussed earlier, these criteria required only gender nonconforming behavior for diagnosis, and not necessarily evidence of gender dysphoria  (persistent distress or incongruence with birth-sex or birth-assigned gender role). Gender dysphoric subjects in the resulting study samples were diluted by gender nonconforming children who were not gender dysphoric.

Therefore, much of this research actually suggests that the majority of children who are merely gender nonconforming, and meet the overinclusive GIDC criteria in the DSM-IV and IV-TR, will not be gender dysphoric later in life and will identify with their birth-assigned gender. However, some researcher/policymakers have inexplicably interpolated the 80%-desistance assumption to a smaller subset of children who are gender dysphoric. They have arbitrarily substituted “gender dysphoria” for “gender identity disorder” or “gender variance” in their literature, even though these terms have widely disparate definitions. As a consequence, there are concerns that these studies have scooped up large proportions of gender nonconconforming kids who were never actually gender dysphoric, found them still not gender dysphoric at puberty, and then declared them “desistent” in the literature.

In his NY Times commentary, Dr. Drescher went further still, applying the desistence doctrine to an even smaller subset of extremely gender dysphoric children like Coy Mathis, who have surmounted formidable barriers to live a real life experience in their affirmed gender roles at school. However, the Toronto and Amsterdam studies  discouraged  real life experience social transition before puberty and therefore lacked validity for “children like her.”

While mental health researchers and policymakers may not know Coy’s inner gender identity, there is a real chance that she does. Unlike those of past generations, Coy has been given a chance at a childhood, a life, without closets, without shame and without punishment for behaviors and expression that would be ordinary or even exemplary for other children. The real questions are, whether this chance should be taken away from her, and on what scientific basis?

In his response comment in the Times, Dr. Drescher called for “less polemics and fewer opinions presented as hard facts.” We might start with closer scrutiny of the 80%-desistence doctrine. In the meantime, Coy Mathis is busy defying false stereotypes, political attacks and media sensationalism by being herself in her Colorado first grade classroom. American psychiatry could learn a lot from this brave little girl.

© 2013 Kelley Winters, GID Reform Advocates

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How Do You Know When President Obama is Lying? MSNBC’s “Progressive” Hosts Won’t Tell You

From Alternet:

Despite his words, Obama will go to extreme lengths to prevent whistleblower Edward Snowden from securing asylum in Latin America.

By Jeff Cohen
July 7, 2013

I was a young person when I first heard the quip: “How do you know when the President is lying? His lips are moving.” At the time, President Nixon was expanding the war in Vietnam to other countries and deploying the White House “plumbers” to commit crimes against antiwar leakers.

Forty years have passed. Sadly, these days, often when I see President Obama moving his lips, I assume he’s lying.

Like Nixon, our current president is prolonging an endless, borderless and counter-productive war (“on terror”) and waging a parallel war against “national security” leakers that makes the plumbers’ burglary of Daniel Ellsberg’s psychiatrist’s office look almost quaint.

The World War I vintage Espionage Act, originally used to imprison socialists for making antiwar speeches, has been used by the administration against whistleblowers with a vengeance unprecedented in history: eight leakers have been charged with Espionage under Obama, compared to three under all previous presidents. The Obama administration has prosecuted not a single CIA torturer, but has imprisoned a CIA officer who talked about torture with a journalist. National Security Agency official Thomas Drake, who was unable to get abuses fixed internally, now has a criminal record for communicating with a reporter years ago about sweeping domestic surveillance.

So there I was watching Obama’s lips move about NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden at a June 27 press conference. Saying he wouldn’t be “scrambling military jets to go after a 29-year-old hacker,” Obama added that he would not “start wheeling and dealing and trading on a whole host of other issues, simply to get a guy extradited.”

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A word with Wendy – Equal pay for equal work

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The Snowden video sequel and Brazil fallout

From The Guardian UK:

The worldwide debate over US surveillance which the NSA whistleblower was eager to provoke is clearly emerging, Monday 8 July 2013

Whistleblowers are typically rendered incommunicado, either because they’re in hiding, or advised by their lawyers to stay silent, or imprisoned. As a result, the public hears only about them, but never from them, which makes their demonization virtually inevitable. With that fact in mind, we published – almost a month ago – a 10-minute video interview with Edward Snowden to enable people to hear directly from him about what he did, why he did it, and what he hoped to achieve.

For the last two weeks, Snowden has been unable to speak publicly as he attempts to secure asylum. During that time, all sorts of accusations, innuendo, and other demonization campaigns have been directed at him by political officials and various members of the US media.

Today, we published below another video of new excerpts from the interview which Laura Poitras and I conducted with Snowden, this one 7-minutes long. It was filmed in Hong Kong on June 6. The video is taken from the extensive footage Poitras filmed as part of the documentary she has been making on the surveillance state. The new excerpts can be seen here.

In these new excerpts, Snowden addresses directly many of the questions that have been raised and much of what has been said about him. Whatever one’s views are on NSA surveillance and these disclosures, assessments should be formed based on all of the evidence, including Snowden’s words, rather than exclusively on unverified government assertions.

In the Washington Post today, the greatest whistleblowing hero of the prior generation, Daniel Ellsberg, has a truly superb Op-Ed arguing that, in light of radical changes in the US since his leak, Snowden was absolutely right to leave the US. He also writes:

“Snowden believes that he has done nothing wrong. I agree wholeheartedly. More than 40 years after my unauthorized disclosure of the Pentagon Papers, such leaks remain the lifeblood of a free press and our republic. One lesson of the Pentagon Papers and Snowden’s leaks is simple: secrecy corrupts, just as power corrupts.”

I encourage everyone to read Ellsberg’s entire argument, as few people have greater authority than he to speak about courageous whistleblowing. Relatedly, NYU Journalism professor Jay Rosen and Charles Pierce have both written about what they call “the Snowden effect”: the tidal wave of revelations about US surveillance policy stemming not only from the documents he enabled us to report, but also the resulting unprecedented focus on the Surveillance State. Writes Pierce: “Whether he likes it or not, this is the ‘national conversation’ that the president said he wanted. Edward Snowden, world traveler, international man of luggage, made it impossible to avoid.”

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Don’t Wait for the Revolution—Live It

From Yes Magazine:

When pranksters and creative organizers create temporary utopias, the experience leaves us wanting more—and ready to work hard to get it.

by Andrew Boyd
Jul 05, 2013

We can’t create a better world if we haven’t yet imagined it. How much better then, if we are able to touch such a world, experience it directly, even live in it—if only to a partial degree and for a brief moment. This is the idea behind “prefigurative interventions,” actions that not only work to stop the next dumb thing the bad guys are up to, but also enact in the here and now the world we actually want to live in.

These kinds of interventions come in all shapes and sizes, from modest artistic gestures like John and Yoko’s 1969 “WAR IS OVER! (If You Want It)” Times Square billboard, to utopian-flavored mass movements like Occupy Wall Street with its free libraries, communitarian ethic, and experiments in direct democracy.

“You never change things by fighting the existing reality,” Buckminster Fuller advised. “To change something, build a new model that makes the existing model obsolete.” A brilliant insight, but he’s only half right, because the best direct actions—and social movements—actually do both.

Consider the lunch counter sit-ins of the 1960s. They were not only brave acts of resistance against the racism of the Jim Crow South, but they also beautifully and dramatically prefigured the world the civil rights movement was trying to bring into being: blacks and whites sitting together as equals in public spaces. The young students didn’t ask anyone’s permission; they didn’t wait for society to evolve or for bad laws to change. In the best spirit of direct action, they walked in there and simply changed the world. At least for a few moments, in one place, they were living in an integrated South. They painted a picture of how the world could be, and the vicious response from white bystanders and police only proved how important it was to make it so.

Many people at the forefront of the nonviolent civil rights movement were moved to action by their spiritual commitments. Be it the “Do unto others as you would have others do unto you” of the Golden Rule, or Gandhi’s call to “Be the change you want to see in the world,” the ethical traditions of many religions have a powerful prefigurative dimension. When people of faith try to live out their deep principles, actually walk their talk, they tend to come up against power in ways that can wake a nation’s conscience. Jesus himself (who promised that anyone who followed his teaching would always be in trouble) was one of history’s more brilliant prefigurative campaigners. He didn’t merely argue that true greatness comes from humbly serving others, he illustrated it by washing his disciples’ dirty feet. By socializing with outcasts, visiting lepers, and always raising up the “least of these,” Jesus didn’t simply prophesy a future beloved community, he made it manifest.

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Bradley Manning trial hears of outlook on life in months before leaks began

From The Guardian UK:

WikiLeaks source’s comments read to court by woman with whom he held online chats between February and August 2009

in Fort Meade, Monday 8 July 2013

Bradley Manning hoped to use his knowledge of politics, world affairs, philosophy, art and science to better serve his military commanders and save lives in the battlefield of Iraq, his court martial trial in Fort Meade, Maryland, has heard.

As the defence phase got under way at the most significant trial of an official leaker for decades, the court heard Manning’s own words uttered just months before he began transmitting hundreds of thousands of classified documents to WikiLeaks. “im reading a lot more, delving deeper into philosophy, art, physics, biology, politics then i ever did in school [sic],” Manning was heard to have written in early 2009. “whats even better with my current position is that i can apply what i learn to provide more information to my officers and commanders, and hopefully save lives.”

Manning’s comments were presented to court through testimony from Lauren McNamara, a transgender woman whom Manning befriended online shortly before his deployment to Iraq in November 2009. McNamara read to the court from a web chat that she engaged in with the army private between February and August 2009.

McNamara, who was a man at the time of the chat called Zachary Antolak, told the court that Manning had shared with her his views on politics, global affairs and his private life. “We were just a couple of people talking about our lives, and he shared his various experiences and interests.”

McNamara said that Manning had been concerned about saving the lives of families in other countries, of non-combatants and soldiers alike. Reading from the chats, she quoted the soldier’s own remark that “im more concerned about making sure that everyone, soldiers, marines, contractor, even the local nationals, get home to their families.”

In drawing out the views that Manning held shortly before he was sent to Iraq, the defence is walking a very fine legal line. The presiding judge, Colonel Denise Lind, has ruled in pre-trial hearings that the defence is not allowed to present evidence on the army private’s motives for leaking to WikiLeaks – that must be held back to the sentencing phase of the court martial, if presented at all.

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Operation Exodus: The Snowden Accompaniment Flytilla to Political Asylum in Venezuela

From Common Dreams:

by Robert Naiman

On Friday, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro announced that Venezuela would offer political asylum to NSA whistle-blower Edward Snowden.

Regardless of what happens next, President Maduro’s announcement was world-historical. With his announcement, Maduro has invited Americans to live in a new world: a “multi-polar” world in which the U.S. government’s power is limited, not by a single “superpower adversary,” but by the actions of many independent countries which are not U.S. “adversaries”; countries which agree with the U.S. on some things and disagree with the U.S. on other things, as is their right; countries which do not always accede to U.S. demands, as is their right. The day after Snowden claims political asylum in Venezuela, the U.S. and Venezuela will continue their robust economic trade; in particular, Venezuela will continue to be one of the top four suppliers of foreign oil to the United States.

It’s a general constant in human affairs that no-one likes to be told that they have too much power for the general welfare. Nonetheless, we’re all capable, when we want, of seeing things from the other guy’s point of view.

And from the point of view of most people in the world, it’s not a good thing for the United States to have too much power in world affairs; from the point of view of most people in the world, it’s not a good thing for any one country to have too much power in world affairs.

The limiting of U.S. power is no reason for Americans to panic: we’re going to be fine. The day after Snowden claims political asylum in Venezuela, we’ll still be responsible for a fifth of the world economy; we’ll still have an absurdly huge military; we’ll still have a veto on the U.N. Security Council. We’ll still be able to go to sleep peacefully in the knowledge that no-one’s going to be invading or occupying us any time in any future that we can see – something that, unfortunately and unjustly, many people in the world still cannot do.

Obviously, the U.S. government has a claim on Mr. Snowden. He was a U.S. government employee, and as such signed agreements about not disclosing classified information.

But it’s just as obvious that there are important, competing claims to the U.S. government claim; and if these competing claims trump the U.S. government claim on Mr. Snowden in this case, most Americans will be better off.

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Edward Snowden on Why He Stood Up to the NSA: Mass Spying “Not Something I’m Willing to Live Under”

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Where the Hell Is the Outrage?

From Campaign for America’s Future:

July 9, 2013

From the first breath of life to the last, our lives are being stolen out from under us. From infant care and early education to Social Security and Medicare, the dominant economic ideology is demanding more lifelong sacrifices from the vulnerable to appease the gods of wealth.

Middle-class wages are stagnant. Unemployment is stalled at record levels. College education is leading to debt servitude and job insecurity. Millions of unemployed Americans have essentially been abandoned by their government.  Poverty is soaring. Bankers break the law with impunity, are bailed out, and go on breaking the law, richer than they were before.

And yet, bizarrely, the only Americans who seem to be seething with anger are the beneficiaries of this economic injustice — the wealthiest and most privileged among us.  But those who are suffering seem strangely passive.

As long as they stay that way, there will be no movement to repair these injustices. And the more these injustices are allowed to persist, the harder it will be to end them.

Where the hell is the outrage? And how can we start some?

John and Paul

Paul Krugman ruminated about inflation-free unemployment the other day, and he was feeling pretty grim. Krugman is frustrated that clear prescriptions for this kind of economy — prescriptions born in John Maynard Keynes’ day — aren’t being followed. What John proposed then, Paul’s proposing now.

But he’s not optimistic.  “We can probably have high unemployment and stable prices in Europe and America for a very long time,” writes Krugman, “and all the wise heads will insist that it’s all structural, and nothing can be done until the public accepts drastic cuts in the safety net.”

One source for Krugman’s pessimism is the extensive political science research showing that “the level of unemployment matters hardly at all for elections; all that matters is the rate of change in the months leading up to the election.”

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How capitalism’s great relocation pauperised America’s ‘middle class’

From The Guardian UK:

As long as workers could wrest gains from capitalism, the system was safe. But with production offshored, that bargain blew up, Tuesday 9 July 2013

Detroit’s struggle with bankruptcy might find some relief, or at least distraction, by presenting its desperate economic and social conditions as a tourist attraction. “Visit Detroit,” today’s advertisement might begin, “see your region’s future here and now: the streets, neighborhoods, abandoned buildings, and the desolation. Scary, yes, but more gripping than any imaginary ghost story.”

Detroit, Cleveland, Camden and many other cities display what capitalism left behind after it became profitable for capitalists to relocate and for new capital investments to happen more elsewhere. Capitalism and its driving profit motive first developed in England before spreading to western Europe, north America and then Japan. Over the last two centuries, those areas endured a growing capitalism’s mix of horrific working conditions, urban slums, environmental degradation, and cyclical instability. Capitalism also brought economic growth, wealth for a minority, labor unions and other workers’ organizations. Writers like Dickens, Zola, Steinbeck, and Gorky saw that capitalism’s workings clearly, while those like Marx, Mill and Bakunin understood it critically.

Workers’ struggles eventually forced capitalists to pay rising wages, enabling higher living standards for large sections of the working classes (so-called “middle classes”). Capitalists and their economist spokespersons later rewrote that history to suggest instead that rising wages were blessings intrinsic to the capitalist system. How wrong that was, as I describe below.

Capitalists eventually had to reach beyond their original bases in Europe, North America, and Japan to the rest of the world. Capitalism’s growth required enlarging its hinterland from the agricultural regions near the industrial centers where modern capitalism began. That initial hinterland had provided food, raw materials and markets for the commodities flowing increasingly from the growing urban capitalist centers. The hinterland also sent refugees fleeing from declining job opportunities there to work in and crowd those centers.

As capitalist growth accelerated across the 18th and 19th centuries, more hinterland was required. The response included formal and informal colonialisms that encompassed much of the planet outside its capitalist centers. Capitalism thereby reorganized the whole world’s economy to serve as provider of raw materials, food, labor supplies and markets.

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