I have no control over how others use a word that came about simply to save typing a phrase out over and over again
Wed 28 Nov 2018
Recently my colleagues discovered that I happen to have a peculiarly niche level of internet notoriety because I used to blog a lot. It was a critique of a strong strand of transphobia in British media referencing a trans-ally piece I wrote a decade ago that clued them in. Due to a short series of blogposts from 2008, I have retrospectively been credited as the coiner of the acronym “Terf” (Trans Exclusionary Radical Feminists). I suspect I’m merely the first person who wrote it on a website that still exists – I wonder how many Elizabethans already used words now attributed to Shakespeare long before he (or the Jacobean actors whose annotated Folio transcripts are the earliest extant versions) incorporated them in a play?
It was passionate trans women activists online whose strong advocacy of their right to exist as women in the world showed me just how dehumanising the trans-hostile rhetoric is from some radfems about them. Yet as a cis-het woman with a mainly digital activism history, I have been credited while contributions of dedicated trans inclusion advocates such as Lisa Harney to those discussions have been overlooked. The pseudonyms common back then do complicate attributions, but it’s also an ongoing problem in this feminist discussion – it’s rarely been trans women who are handed the microphone to voice their own experiences, although social media has meant they they could build their own platforms, have their concerns heard, and some at least addressed.
The Guardian’s own Opinion pages on transgender issues outline the divisions regarding trans-inclusion advocacy vs trans-critical hostility, proving once again that feminism is no monolith.
I do find the renewed interest over the last few years in writing of mine from a decade ago disconcerting. The Terf acronym has long since left that particular discussion (and me) behind, and been weaponised at times by both those who advocate trans-inclusion in feminist/female spaces, and those who push for trans-exclusion from female-only spaces. I have no control over how others use a word (as it has now become) that came about simply to save typing a longer phrase out over and over again – a shorthand to describe one cohort of feminists who self-identify as radical and are unwilling to recognise trans women as sisters, unlike those of us who do.
So how did I come to be writing about transphobia and trans-exclusion in the first place? Because I was running a Feminism 101 FAQ blog with a tight focus on factual information.
As that blog gained first an audience and then a community, non-FAQ posts began to appear. Then I was sent a blurb promoting an event associated with the Michigan Womyn’s Music Festival [Michfest]. I posted it and then rapidly edited with disclaimers that should have been there from the start as commenters sent me on a rapid learning curve regarding trans-exclusion issues both specific to Michfest and in general. I later posted An Apology And A Promise on that blog, following a post on my primary blog, which seems to include the earliest instance of “Terf” online:
implicitly aligning all radfems with the trans-exclusionary radfem (TERF) activists, which I resent”
I also mentioned another term which didn’t catch on, perhaps at least partly because it was less ambiguous about who exactly was being described:
After a bit more reading, I think the trans-exclusionary set should better be described as TES, with the S standing for separatists. A lot of the positions that are presented seem far too essentialist to be adequately described as feminist, let alone radical feminist.”
For most feminist cis women considering the rights and safety of trans women rarely intrudes upon our feminist practice until somebody wants to exclude trans women from our spaces and expects us to agree. That’s when we realise women we know have very different reactions to the question of whether to include trans women as part of our sisterhood, or deny their womanhood and exclude them.
The Trump administration’s petition to the Supreme Court Friday to bypass the appellate courts and rule on the president’s policy of banning transgender people from serving in the armed forces has been described by one transgender service member as a “desperate and cowardly tactic.”
The leapfrog request filed on Friday to the Supreme Court has become a standard operating procedure for President Donald Trump’s administration, as it seeks to skirt the appellate courts entirely on various policy decisions aimed at unraveling Obama era accomplishments.
Typically, the Supreme Court does not review cases until at least one appeals court has weighed in. The Supreme Court rules stipulate the court will only intercede before an appeals court ruling “only upon a showing that the case is of such imperative public importance as to justify deviation from normal appellate practice and to require immediate determination in this court.”
“It’s a desperate and cowardly tactic. He wants to undermine our rights and erase the people he loathes, but he is clearly afraid of the full attention his toxic policies deserve,” Jack Schuler, a transgender man and former U.S. Marine signals intelligence linguist turned U.S. Army soldier, told Newsweek.
Representing both the president and Defense Secretary James Mattis, Solicitor General Noel Francisco wrote in his petition that the Trump administration’s transgender ban, known as the Mattis policy, satisfies the Supreme Court’s standard for review. The solicitor general said the issue is of “imperative public importance: the authority of the U.S. military to determine who may serve in the Nation’s armed forces.”
Francisco argued that prompt action was needed because district courts erred in their decision to grant preliminary injunctions, which prevented the Mattis policy from taking effect.
It was a day of ironic contradictions: The Trump administration filed the petition on the same week as the Transgender Day of Remembrance, an annual observance that honors the memory of those lost to anti-transgender violence, and just a day after Thanksgiving, when most Americans are out searching Black Friday deals and not the day’s headlines.
Schuler told Newsweek that the president’s political tactics are easy to spot. But the stark paradox on Friday centers on the White House request coming on the same day the president bashed a federal district court judge for striking down a version of Trump’s travel ban, prompting a rare rebuke from Chief Justice John Roberts.
Continue reading at: https://www.newsweek.com/donald-trump-transgender-ban-military-1231958
Nov 26, 2018
Beyond all else, cisgender people have a compulsive need to imagine that transgender people are miserable. In telling transition stories, it’s often the pain that is centered—the pain of loss, of discrimination, or even physical pain. Those stories do nothing for trans people and exist merely to fulfill the voyeuristic need of curious cis people. Trans storytellers who are willing to dig deepest into their own trauma are thus too often elevated to the biggest media platforms.
In a New York Times op-ed published Saturday, trans writer Andrea Long Chu became the latest to take advantage of that dynamic, describing how she has become more depressed, dysphoric, and suicidal after starting hormones and claiming that her forthcoming bottom surgery won’t make her happy. Chu skillfully exposed her very raw pain on the country’s largest print platform, presenting a very important counter-narrative to the idea that trans people are universally happy after transitioning. The thesis of her piece is that it shouldn’t matter whether transitioning makes us happy or not, and fundamentally, she has a point.
But whatever she hoped for cis readers to take away from her piece, it’s overshadowed by her inaccurate and offensive claim that a post-op vagina is a “wound,” and her insistence that trans people aren’t happy after transitioning. “There are no good outcomes in transition,” she wrote, projecting her own transition difficulties onto everyone else.
The act of inverting a penis into a vagina is so extreme and offensive to society that misery is the only prerequisite justifying the procedure. “People transition because they think it will make them feel better. The thing is, this is wrong,” Chu wrote, before launching into a beautiful monologue detailing her own painful experience. But without qualifying that her statement is merely her own, she perhaps unintentionally asserts her own experience as universal. In truth, studies have shown that trans people are generally happier after transitioning and that most of their difficulties in life come from discrimination and social rejection.
Many trans people have responded to her op-ed by explaining that they are happy with their transitions, but Chu asserted later on social media that trans people lie about how happy we are after. As Chu noted, there is a basis for her assertion because trans people are forced to follow a script to satisfy the gatekeeping demands of cis therapists and doctors who determine who gets which treatment. The issue again is that this merely creates more fodder for the cis people who ultimately have the power to decide who gets to transition or not.
If none of us are happier as a result of transitioning, and anyone who claims happiness is a liar, how is transitioning an ethical treatment option for gender dysphoria? Why should we allow these tortured souls to serve in the military or even access these “mutilating” surgeries, one might ask. Chu is playing a dangerous game with transition care access currently threatened by the Trump administration.
By: Eli Erlick
27 Nov 2018
Much like my testosterone blockers, the truth is a bitter pill to swallow. Andrea Long Chu’s recent polemical op-ed in the New York Times polarized the trans community. Within hours of the release of “My New Vagina Won’t Make Me Happy,” thousands of responses flooded social media. Some trans writers claimed it will harm trans people and cause cis audiences to doubt our transitions. Others applauded it for generating a discussion on trans dissatisfaction without petitioning to take away our healthcare. The piece’s central purpose, obfuscated by vague language and generalizations, is that trans people do not need to become happier to get access to the care we need. Chu contends we should be able to talk about our complex relationships to transitioning undisturbed by cisgender medical or psychological gatekeepers. Regret, unhappiness, and discomfort can and often do become part of this process. Yet we still deserve care. Nobody knows our own bodies and narratives like we do.
Chu’s op-ed distances itself from the “liberal counternarrative” to anti-trans pundits who claim that being trans is a “clinical delusion.” This liberal story — trans people are inherently suffering and must receive care to become happier –- is limited in scope and usefulness. Chu, like many other trans people, became viscerally less happy while transitioning. She explains that estrogen allowed her to access repressed emotions that make her feel worse. She still stays on hormones. Transition exacerbated her dysphoria, made her suicidal, and caused her to question transness. Yet, as she explains, “desire and happiness are independent agents.” She is arguing –- nebulously –- that we should not set happiness as the “benchmark of success” for trans healthcare. Rather, the desire to transition is enough. If we confine the ability to transition to the ideal of happiness, we may be allowing medical and psychological professionals to withhold treatment. They would judge our qualifications by a potential “successful outcome” (being happier). Wanting to transition is ample rationale for transitioning on its own.
Many critics pointed out that while Chu’s arguments are important and strong, the New York Times may not be the best venue for this op-ed. The newspaper caters to notoriously anti-transgender readers and writers, meaning the article will inevitably be misinterpreted. If your op-ed is in the New York Times, it probably isn’t that radical. But Chu never asserts that being radical was her intention. Her writing will almost certainly lead to people withholding care from trans communities, especially trans youth. Nevertheless, this critique also pivots Chu’s narrative on its palatability to cisgender people in power. It’s not pragmatic, but she never claimed that’s what she aims for. We shouldn’t have to lower our standards to respectability.
The other, more pointed criticism of the piece focuses on Chu’s decision to universalize trans experience by paving over the narratives of other trans people. She writes, “people transition because they think it will make them feel better. The thing is, this is wrong.” Perhaps this was wrong for her, but the majority of trans people, according to nearly every narrative, community space, and study, says otherwise. If we want to get exact with language, she is correct that transition “may make them feel better.” It’s not a guarantee. Still, the majority of trans people do, in fact, feel better when we transition. When confronted with this fact by trans researcher Samantha Allen on Twitter, Chu responded that trans people are simply lying to researchers and themselves when we claim that we’re happier.
Continue reading at: https://www.intomore.com/impact/must-trans-narratives-cater-to-cis-audiences
From The New York Times: https://www.nytimes.com/2018/11/28/us/houston-catholic-church-raid.html
By Laurie Goodstein
Nov. 28, 2018
Dozens of local and federal law enforcement officers conducted a surprise search of the offices of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston on Wednesday, looking for evidence in a clergy sexual abuse case that has ensnared the local archbishop, Cardinal Daniel N. DiNardo, who also serves as president of the United States Catholic bishops’ conference.
The raid in Houston is the latest sign of crisis in the church, with prosecutors growing more aggressive in their search for cover-ups of abuse, and the bishops — led by Cardinal DiNardo — hamstrung by the Vatican in their efforts to carry out reforms.
The church is under a barrage of investigations around the country. Attorneys general in at least a dozen states have opened inquiries, and the Justice Department has told bishops not to destroy any documents that could relate to sex abuse cases. Last month, the attorney general in Michigan executed search warrants on all seven Catholic dioceses in that state.
The scene outside the archdiocesan offices in Houston on Wednesday morning was extraordinary, with police cars lined up on the street and about 50 uniformed officers headed inside, some carrying boxes to hold evidence.
As the public face of the American bishops, Cardinal DiNardo has encouraged full cooperation with law enforcement, and his archdiocese struck the same tone as its offices were being searched. The archdiocese said in a statement on Wednesday that “the information being sought was already being compiled,” and that characterizing the search as an involuntary “raid” was unjustified.
But the assistant district attorney in charge of the investigation said that a search of the church offices was necessary because the Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston had turned over only a portion of the evidence.
“We anticipate there being a large volume of records,” said J. Tyler Dunman, an assistant district attorney and chief of the special crimes bureau for Montgomery County, who is in charge of the case. “What we’ve been provided is nowhere near what we expect to find.”
Investigators were searching primarily for records on the Rev. Manuel LaRosa-Lopez, who was arrested in September on four felony counts of indecency with a child. “But if we come across additional documents or evidence of criminal conduct,” said Mr. Dunman, investigators would gather those up, too.
Father LaRosa-Lopez worked for the archdiocese for decades. Cardinal DiNardo had assigned him to work in a parish and appointed him as the vicar for Hispanics for the archdiocese, despite knowing that Father LaRosa-Lopez had been accused in 2001 of molesting a teenage girl.
Continue reading at: https://www.nytimes.com/2018/11/28/us/houston-catholic-church-raid.html
From Science Nordic: http://sciencenordic.com/ageing-population-good-us-and-planet
By: Nancy Bazilchuk
November 23, 2018
A smaller population can create a more sustainable society, and the costs associated with the world’s ageing population are manageable. That is according to ecologists writing in a new opinion article in the scientific journal Trends in Ecology and Evolution.
“As the nations of the world grapple with the task of creating sustainable societies, ending and in some cases reversing population growth will be necessary to succeed. Yet stable or declining populations are typically reported in the media as a problem, or even a crisis, due to demographic ageing,” writes ecologist Frank Götmark from Gothenburg University, Sweden, along with co-authors from the US and Australia, in the article.
“Overpopulation leads to serious problems, including excessive consumption, deadly conflicts over scarce resources, and habitat loss leading to species endangerment,” he says.
The UN population report from 2017 shows that 14 per cent of countries in the world have a declining population, including Japan, the Czech Republic and Estonia. And they estimate that 32 per cent of all countries will have decreasing populations by 2050, according to the press release.
Continue reading at: http://sciencenordic.com/ageing-population-good-us-and-planet
Joy Ladin’s new book, ‘Soul of the Stranger,’ explores her intimate connection with God
By Shoshana Olidort
November 15, 2018
“If I were God, and I wanted to invent religion, and the material I had to work with was a patriarchal society, I would make the religion as patriarchal as I could,” Joy Ladin told me when we spoke by phone recently. This may seem like a surprising comment coming from a transgender Jewish poet and scholar, but Ladin is a person of faith and this stance informs the trans theology at the center of her new book, The Soul of the Stranger: Reading God and Torah from a Transgender Perspective, in which Ladin offers close readings of key biblical passages to question pervasive assumptions about a religiously mandated gender binary. For Ladin, God is not particularly invested in gender, and the patriarchal language of the Torah reflects a pragmatic rather than an ideological choice, a strategic move motivated by the need to perpetuate religion in a world in which, as she went on to explain, “people won’t transmit texts that deal with gender in ways they don’t understand.” Her statement echoes Maimonides oft-cited assertion that “the Torah speaks in the language of men.”
But while the language of the Torah is fundamentally patriarchal, Ladin’s reading reveals a surprising degree of flexibility and openness in the Torah’s treatment of gender. At the same time, Ladin—who has published 10 books of poetry and a memoir, as well as numerous essays—insists that her reading here does not aim to “queer” the Torah. “My goal isn’t to produce a different Torah,” she said. “I love the Torah as it is, in all of its strangeness, and I strongly feel that the greatness of the Torah is that we don’t have to change it for our perspectives to bring it to life and enable it to grow.”
Ladin’s book is hard to categorize: Neither strictly scholarly, nor purely autobiographical, The Soul of the Stranger defies boundaries as it moves between and across multiple genres, drawing on personal experiences to illuminate sacred texts, and using Torah as a mirror to reflect the complexities of human life. Reading the story of Jonah from a transgender perspective, Ladin suggests that the prophet’s predicament is one that resonates with the experience of transgender individuals who are desperate to “avoid living as the person (in Jonah’s case, as the prophet) they know themselves to be.” But Ladin is careful to point out that the trans experience, for all its particularities, is not something apart from but rather intrinsic to our shared humanity. “Trans experience is human experience,” Ladin said, because “everyone has experiences of not fitting assigned roles and definitions.”
Analyzing the creation narratives in Genesis, Ladin demonstrates that “Adam is human before he is gendered,” and that even when the Torah asserts the gender binary in Genesis 1:26-27, it does so without attaching any meaning, symbolic or otherwise, or assigning specific roles to gender. Ladin’s trans-reading of these texts seeks to foreground what she sees as the Torah’s fundamental ambivalence about the gender binary, a binary she sees “not as a divine decree but as a human invention.” Read through this lens, transgender identities, though they may seem “new and startling,” are in fact, according to Ladin, “direct descendants of the biblical genesis of gender.”
From The New York Times: https://www.nytimes.com/2018/11/21/health/fgm-female-genital-mutilation-law.html
By Pam Belluck
Nov. 21, 2018
More than two decades ago, Congress adopted a sweeping law that outlawed female genital mutilation, an ancient practice that 200 million women and girls around the world have undergone. But a federal court considering the first legal challenge to the statute found the law unconstitutional on Tuesday, greatly diminishing the chances of it being used by federal prosecutors around the country.
A federal judge in Michigan issued the ruling in a case that involved two doctors and four parents, among others, who had been criminally charged last year with participating in or enabling the ritual genital cutting of girls. Their families belong to a small Shiite Muslim sect, the Dawoodi Bohra, that is originally from western India.
The case, the first to be brought under the 1996 law that criminalized female genital mutilation, has been closely followed by human rights advocates and communities where cutting is still practiced and whose members have moved in growing numbers to the United States and other western countries.
On Tuesday, Judge Bernard Friedman of the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan ruled that Congress did not have the authority to pass the law against female genital mutilation and he dismissed key charges filed against the doctors and removed four of the eight defendants from the case.
“As laudable as the prohibition of a particular type of abuse of girls may be,” he wrote, prosecutors failed to show that the federal government had the authority to bring the charges, and he noted that regulating practices like this is essentially a state responsibility. He rejected arguments that the law allowed for such a federal prosecution because Congress has a right to regulate commerce or health care or can enact laws to support international treaties that the United States has signed.
“Federalism concerns deprive Congress of the power to enact this statute,” Judge Friedman wrote. He added in the 28-page ruling, “Congress overstepped its bounds by legislating to prohibit FGM” because “FGM is a ‘local criminal activity’ which, in keeping with longstanding tradition and our federal system of government, is for the states to regulate, not Congress.”
Gina Balaya, a spokeswoman for United States Attorney Matthew Schneider in Detroit, said, “We are reviewing the Judge’s ruling and will make a determination on whether or not to appeal.”
Lawyers for the defendants have argued that the Dawoodi Bohra practice is a protected religious procedure and is not mutilation but rather a “ritual nick” that doesn’t remove the clitoris or labia as do some forms of cutting.
Peter Henning, a law professor at Wayne State University and former federal prosecutor, said the judge’s ruling appeared to be solid and that, while 27 states have their own laws criminalizing the practice, other states would need to pass laws or use existing assault or abuse laws if they wanted to bring charges.
Continue reading at: https://www.nytimes.com/2018/11/21/health/fgm-female-genital-mutilation-law.html
Nov. 26, 2018
Us Irish have taken on a lot of British culture – their language, their football teams, their willingness to go into the ballot box and shoot themselves in the feet, stomach and face – but now there is something new rising up in British culture, that we must erect a hard border against: TERFs.
“What’s a TERF?” you ask. It stands for Trans-Exclusionary-Radical-Feminist.
TERFs don’t like the term, and I tend to agree. It’s not a good description, because there is nothing radical or feminist about them. Just as God-fearing Creationism was re-branded as cuddly Intelligent Design, TERFism is just good-old-fashioned transphobia, re-packaged with oh-so-rational bows.
Essentially, what we are looking at here is “Homophobia: Season Two.” Luckily, for Irish trans people, this movement is currently as British as Jacob Rees-Mogg’s monocle, but if the TERFs have their way, this show will soon be coming to an Ireland near you. (I think they might be trying to get us back for the whole “Jedward” thing.)
TERFs are doing cover versions of all of homophobia’s greatest hits. Stop me if you’ve heard these ones before:
– “Beware the trans agenda! Trans-acceptance is a cult!”
– “They’re using social media to groom the kids!”
– “Allowing trans people to use words like “women,” diminishes our womanhood.”
– “Transgenderism is a mental illness that can be cured without transitioning.”
– “No, this isn’t trans-conversion therapy, we’re just teaching kids not to give in to their…urges.”
– “Some of our best friends are trans people, and they agree with us.”
– “If we let boys identify as girls, it’s a slippery slope: should we buy kennels for kids who want to identify as dogs?”
I could on, but those are some of the classics.
TERFs also say that a proposed British “self-id” law, to make legally transitioning a little easier, will turn Britain into a dystopian landscape, with rapists in dresses roaming un-tethered through women’s safe spaces. There’s just a slight problem with that theory: Ireland has had a trans self-id law since 2015, and men continue to not require the right shade of lippy to abuse women.
In fairness to Irish people, unlike our British-Brexit-Brethern we have been doing a bit better in the ballot box of late. When we were warned that accepting gay marriage would turn Ireland into Sodom and Gomorrah, we collectively replied, “Turn Ireland INTO Sodom and Gomorrah?! You’ve clearly never been in a Galway Supermacs at 2am,” and, to our credit, we voted to support the LGBT community.
Now we need to redouble our support: British TERFs are coming to warn us that trans-acceptance isn’t actually decent or sound, it is, in fact, leading us into a misogynistic, patriarchal, fetishistic hellhole. We should answer them loudly, with one voice: “NO! That’s not trans-acceptance. That’s “Athlone” you’re thinking of.”
Unfortunately, to our shame, the current King of British TERFs is an Irishman: Graham Linehan. Yes, THAT Graham Linehan, the writer of “Father Ted.” Graham has mis-gendered and dead-named trans people on Twitter. Dead-naming is calling a trans person by their birth name, and it is equivalent to using the “F” word to describe gay people.
“No, not “fabulous,” Dougal.”
Perhaps, in Graham’s case, we could get the British to continue their fine tradition of claiming our successful writers as their own?
“Sure, there’s always one,” your Ma would say, and she would have been right, I think, except that this week Channel 4 aired a documentary called “Trans Kids: It’s Time To Talk,” by Stella O’ Malley, an Irish psychotherapist and writer.
Like me, Stella grew up in the 70s and 80s in Ireland. Like me, she thought she was a boy. She said, though, that around her mid-teens, her “gender confusion” was finally fully cured…by a good haircut – “it changed my life,” she says herself. (I’ve always had a bad haircut, which must be why I still feel like I’m a boy.)
Stella worried aloud that if she were growing up now, with all this new-fangled trans-acceptance, she would probably have transitioned, and then had to de-transition, even though kids’ haircuts are WAY better now.
Continue reading at: https://www.facebook.com/aidancomerfordwriting/posts/943593709179246?__tn__=K-R
By Rachel Lipstein
November 26, 2018
On a Friday evening in October, before the New York première of “Man Made”—a documentary about the world’s only all-transgender bodybuilding competition—the film’s creators gathered at a tin-ceilinged bar in Chelsea called Underballs. (The bar is situated beneath a meatball shop.) T Cooper, the film’s forty-six-year-old director and co-writer, in a blue-velvet blazer and a neat beard, cast around for the small plates of meatballs that were arriving from upstairs. “I went with the chicken,” he said, before conversation turned to vegetarianism. The party grew noisy as film types and activists arrived, though there was also an undercurrent of tension. Five days earlier, the Trump Administration had released a memo announcing its intention to revoke federal recognition of trans and intersex people. Guests alluded darkly to “the news” and “this week.” Andrea Jenkins, a Minneapolis city councilwoman and the first trans person elected to public office in America, wore a shirt bearing the word “HUMAN.” Taj Smith, an activist who had been campaigning to uphold an anti-discrimination law in Massachusetts, in the midterms, said, “It takes about seven conversations for people to actually be able to identify that this is about something that’s bigger than bathrooms.”
Cooper had arrived in New York from a film festival in Tennessee, but the journey to Underballs began four years earlier, when he moved with his wife and co-writer, Allison, to Atlanta. A friend posted a photograph online from a nascent bodybuilding competition, which was open to anyone who identifies as a trans man. The image showed five participants posing at a bar in the city—the inaugural venue. “I hate the word bravery, ’cause when people tell me I’m brave I want to give them the finger,” Cooper said. But he was awed by the participants’ bravery, and by “how many versions of masculinity, and trans masculinity, were celebrated and welcomed.” Cooper is a novelist, TV writer, and a journalist, and he initially considered writing about the competition. But he eventually concluded that it should be filmed, even though he had never made a feature-length documentary before. His friend Téa Leoni, an actress and an executive producer of the film, recalled that, after speaking with him for about twenty minutes, “I thought, Somebody’s got to do this. And T knew—and I knew—that it should be T.”
“Man Made” begins where it ends: at the 2016 Trans FitCon competition. It opens in the “pump-up room”—a storage area at a hotel in Atlanta—where the men wear tight briefs and lift weights, waiting to be called onstage. The film then flashes back, and follows four contestants as they prepare for the contest. It is ostensibly a competition documentary, but its real attention is on the subjects’ personal lives. Early in the film, Dominic Chilko, a twenty-six-year-old Minnesotan with a roguish smile, undergoes a long-awaited top surgery. Afterward, groggy from the anesthesia, he tells his mother that it feels strange not to have breasts anymore. His mother, with Midwestern pragmatism, replies, “But you didn’t want ’em. So . . . there you go.” Later, Chilko, who is adopted, drives to meet his birth mother, psyching himself up in the car the way he would at the gym. They share a microphone-crushing hug, their expressions identical. “This beats, like, every fuckin’ moment I’ve ever had, like, including my top surgery,” he says. “And everybody knows my top surgery was my shit.”
By Robert Barnes
Nov 23, 2018
The Trump administration on Friday once again asked the Supreme Court to bypass the usual legal process to take on another controversial issue — President Trump’s decision to ban transgender people from military service.
Solicitor Gen. Noel Francisco asked the justices to consolidate the challenges to the ban — which so far have been successful in lower courts — and rule on the issue in its current term.
The challenges are to the administration’s order that would prohibit transgender men and women from enlisting, possibly subject current service members to discharge and deny certain medical care. The order reverses an Obama administration policy allowing transgender men and women to serve openly and to receive funding for sex-reassignment surgery.
Federal judges so far have prohibited the Trump order from being implemented.
“The decisions imposing those injunctions are wrong, and they warrant this Court’s immediate review,” Francisco wrote.
Trump in July 2017 surprised military leaders and members of Congress when he abruptly announced the proposed ban in several tweets. Trump said he was “doing the military a great favor” by “coming out and just saying it.”
Challengers have used such statements to argue that the directive is the result of discrimination rather than a study of how allowing transgender personnel affects the military, and lower court judges largely have agreed.
“There is absolutely no support for the claim that the ongoing service of transgender people would have any negative effect on the military at all. In fact, there is considerable evidence that it is the discharge and banning of such individuals that would have such effects,” U.S. District Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly wrote in a case filed in the District of Columbia.
The U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit is scheduled to hear an appeal of the ruling next month.
When I saw this in the New York Times, “I went uutt-oohhh. Some crazy ‘trannie” just violated “Tina’s Law” which says: All Trans-folks, who are surgery tracked should be require to keep their mouths shut until at least 2 years have passed getting said surgery.”
Not the worst rule on-line and one that keeps people from looking back and thinking, “Geez I can’t believe I was stupid enough to have made that particular pronouncement.
BTW she is wrong about post-SRS vaginas being surgical wounds forever. Couple of years down the road and our main concerns other, than pregnancy and cervical cancer, which aren’t going to happen, are pretty much the same as natal women. Things like yeast infections etc.
I’m really kind of disappointed because I see her as a fresh voice saying things that need saying.
From The New York Times: https://www.nytimes.com/2018/11/24/opinion/sunday/vaginoplasty-transgender-medicine.html
By Andrea Long Chu
Ms. Chu is an essayist and critic.
Nov. 24, 2018
Next Thursday, I will get a vagina. The procedure will last around six hours, and I will be in recovery for at least three months. Until the day I die, my body will regard the vagina as a wound; as a result, it will require regular, painful attention to maintain. This is what I want, but there is no guarantee it will make me happier. In fact, I don’t expect it to. That shouldn’t disqualify me from getting it.
I like to say that being trans is the second-worst thing that ever happened to me. (The worst was being born a boy.) Dysphoria is notoriously difficult to describe to those who haven’t experienced it, like a flavor. Its official definition — the distress some transgender people feel at the incongruence between the gender they express and the gender they’ve been socially assigned — does little justice to the feeling.
But in my experience, at least: Dysphoria feels like being unable to get warm, no matter how many layers you put on. It feels like hunger without appetite. It feels like getting on an airplane to fly home, only to realize mid-flight that this is it: You’re going to spend the rest of your life on an airplane. It feels like grieving. It feels like having nothing to grieve.
Many conservatives call this crazy. A popular right-wing narrative holds that gender dysphoria is a clinical delusion; hence, feeding that delusion with hormones and surgeries constitutes a violation of medical ethics. Just ask the Heritage Foundation fellow Ryan T. Anderson, whose book “When Harry Became Sally” draws heavily on the work of Dr. Paul McHugh, the psychiatrist who shut down the gender identity clinic at Johns Hopkins in 1979 on the grounds that trans-affirmative care meant “cooperating with a mental illness.” Mr. Anderson writes, “We must avoid adding to the pain experienced by people with gender dysphoria, while we present them with alternatives to transitioning.”
In this view, it is not only fair to refuse trans people the care they seek; it is also kind. A therapist with a suicidal client does not draw the bath and supply the razor. Take it from my father, a pediatrician, who once remarked to me that he would no sooner prescribe puberty blockers to a gender dysphoric child than he would give a distemper shot to someone who believed she was a dog.
Naturally, a liberal counternarrative exists, and it has become increasingly mainstream. Transgender people are not deluded, advocates say, but they are suffering; therefore, medical professionals have a duty to ease that suffering. In this view, dysphoria is more akin to a herniated disc — a source of debilitating but treatable pain. “Gender dysphoria can in large part be alleviated through treatment,” states the World Professional Association for Transgender Health in its Standards of Care. Dr. John Steever, an adolescent medicine specialist at the Mount Sinai Center for Transgender Medicine and Surgery in New York City, told The Times last month that a gender-affirming approach seeks to “prevent some of the traditional horrible outcomes that transgender or gender-nonconforming youth have ended up with,” including increased rates of depression, suicidal ideation and substance abuse.
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Climate breakdown could be rapid and unpredictable. We can no longer tinker around the edges and hope minor changes will avert collapse
Wed 14 Nov 2018
It was a moment of the kind that changes lives. At a press conference held by climate activists Extinction Rebellion last week, two of us journalists pressed the organisers on whether their aims were realistic. They have called, for example, for UK carbon emissions to be reduced to net zero by 2025. Wouldn’t it be better, we asked, to pursue some intermediate aims?
A young woman called Lizia Woolf stepped forward. She hadn’t spoken before, but the passion, grief and fury of her response was utterly compelling. “What is it that you are asking me as a 20-year-old to face and to accept about my future and my life? … This is an emergency. We are facing extinction. When you ask questions like that, what is it you want me to feel?” We had no answer.
Softer aims might be politically realistic, but they are physically unrealistic. Only shifts commensurate with the scale of our existential crises have any prospect of averting them. Hopeless realism, tinkering at the edges of the problem, got us into this mess. It will not get us out.
Public figures talk and act as if environmental change will be linear and gradual. But the Earth’s systems are highly complex, and complex systems do not respond to pressure in linear ways. When these systems interact (because the world’s atmosphere, oceans, land surface and lifeforms do not sit placidly within the boxes that make study more convenient), their reactions to change become highly unpredictable. Small perturbations can ramify wildly. Tipping points are likely to remain invisible until we have passed them. We could see changes of state so abrupt and profound that no continuity can be safely assumed.
Only one of the many life support systems on which we depend – soils, aquifers, rainfall, ice, the pattern of winds and currents, pollinators, biological abundance and diversity – need fail for everything to slide. For example, when Arctic sea ice melts beyond a certain point, the positive feedbacks this triggers (such as darker water absorbing more heat, melting permafrost releasing methane, shifts in the polar vortex) could render runaway climate breakdown unstoppable. When the Younger Dryas period ended 11,600 years ago, temperatures rose 10C within a decade.
I don’t believe such a collapse is yet inevitable, or that a commensurate response is either technically or economically impossible. When the US joined the second world war in 1941, it replaced a civilian economy with a military economy within months. As Jack Doyle records in his book Taken for a Ride, “In one year, General Motors developed, tooled and completely built from scratch 1,000 Avenger and 1,000 Wildcat aircraft … Barely a year after Pontiac received a navy contract to build anti-shipping missiles, the company began delivering the completed product to carrier squadrons around the world.” And this was before advanced information technology made everything faster.
The problem is political. A fascinating analysis by the social science professor Kevin MacKay contends that oligarchy has been a more fundamental cause of the collapse of civilisations than social complexity or energy demand. Control by oligarchs, he argues, thwarts rational decision-making, because the short-term interests of the elite are radically different to the long-term interests of society. This explains why past civilisations have collapsed “despite possessing the cultural and technological know-how needed to resolve their crises”. Economic elites, which benefit from social dysfunction, block the necessary solutions.
From The Huffington Post: https://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/transgender-daughter-mother-body_us_5bec5a21e4b057089767c9f6
I stand in the dressing room, turning to the side, running my hand over the bulge of my tummy, dipping it in over the line caused by my underwear. I notice the way the dress clings just a little too much over my hips. At 45, there is no denying that I have my mom’s body, but on this particular day it is OK. Over the last few months, I have finally realized just how lucky I am to have her body ― a body that matches my gender identity ― because over the last year, my daughter Ava has revealed to me that she knows she was born in the wrong one.
I remember, years ago, watching my mother in similar dressing rooms as she tried on skirt after skirt in search of one cut in a way to flatter her body rather than draw attention to her “problem” areas. I won’t let myself gain that extra 20 pounds, I thought back then. I’ll keep my weight in check so the pear shape I inherited from her won’t be accentuated, I promised myself. I spent a good 30 years trying to keep my genetic predisposition under control, starting at the age of 12. It was three full decades of criticizing my reflection in every mirror and store window I passed and waging a war with everything I ate, or even thought about eating, before I eventually embraced an exercise routine. And though I’ve been able to successfully fight off that extra 20 pounds, there has been no denying the changes my body has undergone in the last five years since turning 40.
On this particular day, as I study ― rather than scrutinize ― my body in the dressing room mirror, I wonder what my daughter has thought as she’s watched me get dressed. I picture my teenage self observing my mom moisturize her entire body after her shower, her hands moving up her leg to her thighs and over her hips, and I think about how many times my kids have walked into my bathroom while I am doing the same thing. I wonder about the differences between how I would see my mom versus how my daughter sees me. I would look at my mother’s body and think of all things that were “wrong” with it, while my daughter looks at my body and sees the body we define as female ― a body she wants for herself.
“How long do you think I’d have to be taking estrogen before I start developing some breast tissue?” she’s asked me. I’ve spent years making jokes about how awful my sagging breasts look ― breasts that sag because they’ve had the privilege of nursing three kids. I’ve complained about all of the times they have been squished into mammograms and eventually MRI’d to keep close watch on some suspicious areas. I’ve lamented all of the clothes I can’t wear because I always have to wear a bra, while she awaits the development of her breasts as some kind of proof or validation of the woman she is.
“You know how most girls have thighs that are wider and curve at the top? Is there any exercise that can help mine become like that?” she’s asked. I explained to her that I think exercise will build up her muscles, but she should do whatever exercise she wants if she enjoys it and not worry about that. I think about all the times I’ve noticed my thighs splay out when I sit on a couch, or the times I’ve cropped them out of a photo. While I’ve always hated my wide “child-bearing” hips ― the same ones that my mom and all five of her sisters have ― she is eager for hormones to redistribute some fat to the same area of her body. Why have I always thought that my thighs and hips betray me ― even though they are, in fact, exactly as they should be ― when my daughter’s entire body betrays her?
I escaped the Catholic Church when I left home.
By Corky Siemaszko
Nov. 18, 2018
The call for action against the “Forces of Organized Perversion” landed in the inboxes of conservative Roman Catholics across the country just before Election Day.
“Have you had enough?” activist Randy Engel wrote in a column that first appeared on the conservative website RenewAmerica.com. “Or will you wait until the Homosexual Collective’s hobnail boot is pressed on the neck of your prone body or that of your child or grandchild before reacting?”
“Cast your vote for God, family, and nation,” she wrote.
Many Catholics say they are worried that activists like Engel are the vanguard of a new offensive by ultra-conservative Catholic groups that see the growing acceptance of LGBTQ Catholics by Pope Francis and other reformers as a mortal threat to their church.
Websites like Church Militant, LifeSite News and the Lepanto Institute are ratcheting up the rhetoric while replacing polite and prayerful discourse with personal attacks on supporters of gay Catholics, they say.
Meanwhile, anti-gay activists have increasingly been disrupting gatherings of LGBTQ Catholics and their supporters, a phenomenon first reported by the National Catholic Reporter. Just this month, a group of Dominican nuns in suburban Milwaukee hired security guards to keep more than two dozen anti-gay protesters off their property where they were hosting a retreat for gay clergy.
Fordham University theologian Jason Steidl has coined a name for them.
“I call them the ‘Catholic alt-right,’” Steidl told NBC News. “We haven’t seen anything like this before. I think they are part of a bigger cultural movement. These people have hitched their wagons to Trump’s presidency, to his tactics.”
They have also tried to weaponize the Pennsylvania grand jury report released in August that named more than 300 “predator priests” to scapegoat homosexuals, never mind that many of the 1,000 victimized children were girls.
“They inject fear, hatred and homophobia into religious discourse,” said the Rev. James Martin, a Jesuit priest and author of “Building a Bridge: How the Catholic Church and the LGBT Community Can Enter into a Relationship of Respect, Compassion and Sensitivity.”
“They use the same tactics as the political alt-right: lies, personal vilification and demonization of minority groups,” he said.