Friday Night Fun and Culture: Alabama Shakes

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Sex redefined

From Nature:

The idea of two sexes is simplistic. Biologists now think there is a wider spectrum than that.

Claire Ainsworth
18 February 2015

As a clinical geneticist, Paul James is accustomed to discussing some of the most delicate issues with his patients. But in early 2010, he found himself having a particularly awkward conversation about sex.

A 46-year-old pregnant woman had visited his clinic at the Royal Melbourne Hospital in Australia to hear the results of an amniocentesis test to screen her baby’s chromosomes for abnormalities. The baby was fine — but follow-up tests had revealed something astonishing about the mother. Her body was built of cells from two individuals, probably from twin embryos that had merged in her own mother’s womb. And there was more. One set of cells carried two X chromosomes, the complement that typically makes a person female; the other had an X and a Y. Halfway through her fifth decade and pregnant with her third child, the woman learned for the first time that a large part of her body was chromosomally male1. “That’s kind of science-fiction material for someone who just came in for an amniocentesis,” says James.

Sex can be much more complicated than it at first seems. According to the simple scenario, the presence or absence of a Y chromosome is what counts: with it, you are male, and without it, you are female. But doctors have long known that some people straddle the boundary — their sex chromosomes say one thing, but their gonads (ovaries or testes) or sexual anatomy say another. Parents of children with these kinds of conditions — known as intersex conditions, or differences or disorders of sex development (DSDs) — often face difficult decisions about whether to bring up their child as a boy or a girl. Some researchers now say that as many as 1 person in 100 has some form of DSD2.

When genetics is taken into consideration, the boundary between the sexes becomes even blurrier. Scientists have identified many of the genes involved in the main forms of DSD, and have uncovered variations in these genes that have subtle effects on a person’s anatomical or physiological sex. What’s more, new technologies in DNA sequencing and cell biology are revealing that almost everyone is, to varying degrees, a patchwork of genetically distinct cells, some with a sex that might not match that of the rest of their body. Some studies even suggest that the sex of each cell drives its behaviour, through a complicated network of molecular interactions. “I think there’s much greater diversity within male or female, and there is certainly an area of overlap where some people can’t easily define themselves within the binary structure,” says John Achermann, who studies sex development and endocrinology at University College London’s Institute of Child Health.

These discoveries do not sit well in a world in which sex is still defined in binary terms. Few legal systems allow for any ambiguity in biological sex, and a person’s legal rights and social status can be heavily influenced by whether their birth certificate says male or female.

“The main problem with a strong dichotomy is that there are intermediate cases that push the limits and ask us to figure out exactly where the dividing line is between males and females,” says Arthur Arnold at the University of California, Los Angeles, who studies biological sex differences. “And that’s often a very difficult problem, because sex can be defined a number of ways.”

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Finally, Some Reliable Research on Trans Kids Like Mine

From The Advocate:

My child is a member of the first generation of kids allowed to live transgender lives from a very young age. Until now, we parents have been making it up as we go along.

BY  Marlo Mack
February 11 2015

When the suicide of transgender teen Leelah Alcorn made headlines last month, my friends with nontransgender children made a point of congratulating me on my parenting: “That won’t happen to your child because you’re doing it differently,” they said. Perhaps that’s true, but I don’t yet know for sure. The fact is that no one really does.

My child, at age 3, told me she was a girl. She looked me in the eyes and said, “Mama, something went wrong in your tummy that made me come out as a boy instead of a girl.” She wanted to go back inside me so she could come out again as a girl.

Since age 2, she’d been begging me to dress her in the pretty clothes she saw little girls wearing and had been obsessed with the things little girls often love, like princesses and fairies and the color pink. At first I assumed the whole thing was a phase. I said she could like pink and play with dolls, but that she had a boy body, so she was a boy. When she kept asserting her girlhood, I did what parents do — I went looking for advice from the experts. I took my child to our pediatrician and more than one therapist, including a psychologist who specialized in working with kids like mine — boys who feel like girls, girls who feel like boys.

I was desperate for answers to my long list of questions: Should I actually let my child switch genders at age 4, or should I mandate life as a boy? What were the chances that my child would change their mind? And would there be long-term damage if we switched from boy to girl and then back to boy? On the other hand, what were the risks of forcing the kid to continue to live as a boy when such a thing caused my child so much misery?

In every case, the experts I consulted had the same response to my questions. They didn’t know. They shrugged their shoulders apologetically, made some vague recommendations, and admitted that there wasn’t really any reliable research on kids like mine.

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New Transgender Hospital Program Introduced To Dallas

From CBS Dallas:

DALLAS (CBSDFW.COM) – Children’s Medical Center in Dallas has unveiled the first pediatric transgender program in the Southwest.

15 year old Kammie is the first person to publicly speak about the program and she is not releasing her last name.

“I’ve dealt with ridicule. I’ve dealt with my whole family just kind of disowning me because they didn’t under it” says Kammie.

Kammie’s mother says it has been a difficult transition that she first noticed when her son, Cameron, was about 18 months old and preferred playing with girls’ toys. “I grew up a very devout member of the church of Jesus Christ Latter Day Saints” says Christina Pippin, Kammie’s mother. “I was excommunicated when I made the decision to embrace my child. But I was going to embrace my child before I was ever going to lose her” Pippin says.

Children’s Medical Center call is the GENECIS program – the Gender Education and Care, Interdisciplinary Support Program. According to the hospital it focuses on helping children and teens with issues surrounding gender dysphoria, when a person does not identify with the gender they were assigned at birth. Doctors say Gender dysphoria is frequently associated with mental health conditions such as depression, anxiety and suicidal thoughts.

“They feel like they don’t belong to either gender, so when they’re very young, it’s hard” says Dr. Ximena Lopez, Endocrinology for Children’s Medical Center. “They’ve gone through very stressful puberty and at that time they have attempted to kill themselves, a lot of times, and so I think parental support is key.”

“There was no point in living an unhappy life and so then I started contemplating suicide” says Kammie. “You know that’s a big thing with transgender children because it’s not openly talked about around schools and places like that” she adds.

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Guess Which “Liberal” State Has 500 Laws Aimed at Oppressing the Homeless?

From Alternet:

On the heels of a damning new report, the Right to Rest campaign pushes for statewide legislation to stop discrimination against homeless people.

By Alyssa Figueroa
February 18, 2015

Cities in the United States have a long history of criminalizing the public presence of people they consider undesirable. In the late 1800s, Southern cities established “sundown towns,” laws that restricted black people from being outside after sunset. Throughout the 19th century, cities ratified “ugly laws,” banning people who were diseased or deformed from being outside. During the Great Depression, California cities passed an “anti-Okie” law, making it illegal to assist poor people entering the state.

Today, society’s target is homeless people. Beginning in the 1980s when the federal government slashed the affordable housing budget, cities have enacted thousands of laws to criminalize basic human needs such as resting, sleeping, standing, and sitting, as well as acts like panhandling and food sharing.

That’s why the Western Regional Advocacy Project, a network of homeless advocacy groups on the West Coast, is pushing to pass the Right to Rest Act in Oregon, Colorado and California this year. The act, the first of its kind, would protect all residents’ right to rest, allowing people to occupy and use public spaces without fear of discrimination. The legislation was written based off interviews with more than 1,400 homeless people. It would also serve as a model legislation that could be enacted in every state across the nation.

While representatives in Oregon and Colorado are sponsoring the bill, no one has yet been willing to sponsor the bill in California. February 27 is the last day for the bill to be introduced into the legislature for this session—meaning if no one puts their name on it, the act is out for this year. The final push to get the Right to Rest Act introduced in California comes on the heels of a new research report revealing the extent of the criminalization of homelessness.

Paul Boden, executive director of WRAP, said, “The fact that we have the most in-depth research by far in California and we’re having the hardest time by far getting a sponsor for the bill is a really sad statement about the politics of business and gentrification in the state.”

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