Why I Rejected Catholicism and Christianity 60 Years Ago and Embraced Reform Judaism Recently

One very important word to remember.  Misogyny, the hatred of women..  Along with the hatred of LGBT people.

Reform Judaism.  Women Rabbis and Cantors. LGBT welcoming.

Plus the whole bit about “The Trinity”  That one didn’t seem very Monotheistic to me.

Catholic Bishops Agree: Anything but a Woman

The push to allow married men to serve as priests isn’t progress. It’s another form of misogyny.

By Sara McDougall
Oct. 30, 2019

he modern Catholic Church is beset with serious problems. Among them is that not enough men want to be priests. Over the past three weeks, 184 bishops gathered at a Vatican summit to seek solutions for the Amazon region in particular, singled out because of myriad crises it is facing, including environmental devastation, violence and a shortage of priests to serve the needs of the faithful there.

The bishops’ solution: Do anything other than ordaining women as priests.

On Oct. 26, in a “revolutionary” decision, the bishops gathered at the Vatican voted 128 to 41 to allow an exception to what has essentially been a 1,000-year ban on the ordination of married men as priests. They recommended this change for only certain parts of the Amazon and for only married men already made deacons, meaning men already allowed to perform marriages and baptisms, but not to officiate at mass, which only priests can do. It is now for Pope Francis to decide whether the decision goes forward.

It is surprising in many ways that the bishops made this decision. Allowing a married man to be a priest violates several longstanding rules. They voted as they did despite the tremendous importance of chastity for the Catholic Church and the old idea that sexual activity is a pollutant that cannot be allowed near the holy ritual of the mass. They voted in favor of married priests despite a longstanding fear that for a priest to have a wife and a family would lead to serious conflicts of interest. There is a legend that the word “nepotism” was invented in honor of the grasping nephews of popes who sought and obtained more than they deserved thanks to their powerful uncles (and “nephews” we can sometimes see as a euphemism for “sons”).

These potential conflicts of interest and other dangers that family influence and obligations bring, therefore, are something Catholic authorities have long recognized and have eagerly sought to prevent. They voted as they did despite the symbolic importance, too, of the idea that a priest be united to only one spouse, the Church, just as Jesus Christ was united in an exclusive bond with the Church.

All of that paled in comparison to letting a woman, even a celibate woman, act as priest.

To be sure, there are good doctrinal reasons for this, if one wants to find them. According to the laws of the Catholic Church, known as canon law, that priests might marry or not is man-made law, therefore mutable, while the exclusion of women is divinely ordained. But the priesthood itself is a man-made invention, an amalgam of Judeo-Roman and other traditions, refined and also only rather belatedly attached to the mass, a ritual performance that re-enacts and celebrates the most important tenets of Catholic faith.

Continue reading at: Catholic Bishops Agree: Anything but a Woman

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No wonder Wall Street fears Warren and Sanders – they speak for the people

From The Guardian UK:  https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2019/oct/27/donald-trump-elizabeth-warren-bernie-sanders-joe-biden

Donald Trump’s victory showed right v left is irrelevant but he made anti-establishment fury work for those in charge

Sun 27 Oct 2019

In the conventional view of American politics, Joe Biden is a moderate while Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders are on the left and Donald Trump is on the right.

This conventional view is rubbish. Today’s great divide is not between left and right. It’s between democracy and oligarchy.

There are no longer “moderates”. There’s no longer a “center”. The most powerful force in American politics today is anti-establishment fury at a rigged system.

Four decades ago, when America had a large and growing middle class, the left wanted stronger social safety nets and more public investment in schools, roads and research. The right sought greater reliance on the free market.

In those days, a general election was like a competition between two hotdog vendors on a long boardwalk extending from left to right. To maximize sales, each had to move to the middle. If one strayed too far left or right, the other would move beside him and take all sales from the rest of the boardwalk.

This older American politics is now obsolete. As wealth and power have moved to the top and the middle class has shrunk, more Americans have joined the ranks of the working class and poor.

Most Americans – regardless of whether they were once on the left or right – have become politically disempowered and economically insecure. Nowadays it’s the boardwalk versus private jets on their way to the Hamptons.

As Rahm Emmanuel, Barack Obama’s chief of staff and former mayor of Chicago, told the New York Times: “This is really the crack-up. Usually fights are Democrats versus Republicans, one end of Pennsylvania versus the other, or the left versus the right. Today’s squabbles are internal between the establishment versus the people that are storming the barricades.”

In 2016, Trump harnessed many of these frustrations, as did Sanders.

The frustrations today are larger than they were in 2016. Corporate profits are higher, as is CEO pay. Markets are more monopolized. Wealth is more concentrated at the top. Although the official unemployment rate is lower, most peoples’ incomes have gone nowhere and they have even less job security.

Meanwhile, Washington has become even swampier. Big corporations, Wall Street and billionaires have flooded it with money and lobbyists. Trump has given out all the tax cuts, regulatory rollbacks and subsidies they have ever wanted. The oligarchy is in charge.

Continue reading at:  https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2019/oct/27/donald-trump-elizabeth-warren-bernie-sanders-joe-biden

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How Italians Became ‘White’

From The New York Times:  https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2019/10/12/opinion/columbus-day-italian-american-racism.html

Oct. 12, 2019

Congress envisioned a white, Protestant and culturally homogeneous America when it declared in 1790 that only “free white persons, who have, or shall migrate into the United States” were eligible to become naturalized citizens. The calculus of racism underwent swift revision when waves of culturally diverse immigrants from the far corners of Europe changed the face of the country.

As the historian Matthew Frye Jacobson shows in his immigrant history “Whiteness of a Different Color,” the surge of newcomers engendered a national panic and led Americans to adopt a more restrictive, politicized view of how whiteness was to be allocated. Journalists, politicians, social scientists and immigration officials embraced the habit, separating ostensibly white Europeans into “races.” Some were designated “whiter” — and more worthy of citizenship — than others, while some were ranked as too close to blackness to be socially redeemable. The story of how Italian immigrants went from racialized pariah status in the 19th century to white Americans in good standing in the 20th offers a window onto the alchemy through which race is constructed in the United States, and how racial hierarchies can sometimes change.

Darker skinned southern Italians endured the penalties of blackness on both sides of the Atlantic. In Italy, Northerners had long held that Southerners — particularly Sicilians — were an “uncivilized” and racially inferior people, too obviously African to be part of Europe.

Racist dogma about Southern Italians found fertile soil in the United States. As the historian Jennifer Guglielmo writes, the newcomers encountered waves of books, magazines and newspapers that “bombarded Americans with images of Italians as racially suspect.” They were sometimes shut out of schools, movie houses and labor unions, or consigned to church pews set aside for black people. They were described in the press as “swarthy,” “kinky haired” members of a criminal race and derided in the streets with epithets like “dago,” “guinea” — a term of derision applied to enslaved Africans and their descendants — and more familiarly racist insults like “white nigger” and “nigger wop.”

The penalties of blackness went well beyond name-calling in the apartheid South. Italians who had come to the country as “free white persons” were often marked as black because they accepted “black” jobs in the Louisiana sugar fields or because they chose to live among African-Americans. This left them vulnerable to marauding mobs like the ones that hanged, shot, dismembered or burned alive thousands of black men, women and children across the South.

The federal holiday honoring the Italian explorer Christopher Columbus — celebrated on Monday — was central to the process through which Italian-Americans were fully ratified as white during the 20th century. The rationale for the holiday was steeped in myth, and allowed Italian-Americans to write a laudatory portrait of themselves into the civic record.

Few who march in Columbus Day parades or recount the tale of Columbus’s voyage from Europe to the New World are aware of how the holiday came about or that President Benjamin Harrison proclaimed it as a one-time national celebration in 1892 — in the wake of a bloody New Orleans lynching that took the lives of 11 Italian immigrants. The proclamation was part of a broader attempt to quiet outrage among Italian-Americans, and a diplomatic blowup over the murders that brought Italy and the United States to the brink of war.

Continue reading at:  https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2019/10/12/opinion/columbus-day-italian-american-racism.html

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I listened to the Supreme Court argue about my rights as a trans person. I have never felt more frustrated.

From Vox:  https://www.vox.com/first-person/2019/10/10/20906610/supreme-court-transgender-discrimination

There was a lot of talk about bathrooms during cases about work discrimination.

Oct 10, 2019

At an early point in Tuesday’s Supreme Court oral arguments, I realized I had to pee. This was despite having just ducked into the ladies’ room to relieve myself before reporters were called into the press gallery. Maybe it was the large latte I drank on my walk to court. Maybe it was my anxiety, which was rolling through my gut as I prepared to listen to people argue over my civil rights as a trans person.

This, it turned out, was fitting. As soon as the first two of three cases over LGBTQ employment rights under Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act got underway, it was clear to me that what was really on the justices’ minds was also what was on mine: my bathroom usage. The first hour of arguments were over two cases in which gay men had allegedly been fired for being gay, and though neither case had anything to do with gender identity, that didn’t stop even liberal justices Sonia Sotomayor and Ruth Bader Ginsburg from bringing up the most obsessed-over of all trans issues — bathrooms and who gets to use the ones labeled “women” and who gets to use the ones labeled “men,” an argument often led by conservatives.

The “big issue right now raging the country is bathroom usage. Same-sex bathroom usage,” Sotomayor said. According to the official transcript, the word bathroom was uttered nearly 20 times during arguments for a case that, again, had to do with work discrimination based on sexual orientation. The bathroom talk continued into the third case, which was at least about trans rights — but it was about the right to work free of discrimination as a trans person, not about where we pee.

While I get that Sotomayor knew bathrooms were bound to come up and perhaps wanted to beat everyone to the punch, this “raging” issue she described has long been dominated by conservative furor over “men in women’s bathrooms.” It was frustrating to hear cisgender justices argue about bathrooms and religious exemptions when what was at stake was my right to earn a living. The consequences of their decision could affect not just my livelihood but millions of people in the LGBTQ community.

The US trans community had been watching the trans rights case before SCOTUS, R.G. & G.R. Harris Funeral Homes v. EEOC, roll through the justice system for quite some time — and doing so with an imminent sense of dread. According to a 2015 National Center for Transgender Equality survey, 30 percent of all trans people have experienced discrimination in the workplace for being trans. Lack of employment opportunities has led to increased levels of poverty within the trans community and made access to gender-affirming health care more difficult. These numbers could get much better, or much worse, based on the justices’ decision.

On Monday, I spoke with Aimee Stephens, the trans woman at the center of the case who was fired from her job as a funeral director and embalmer almost immediately after coming out to her employer, and came away impressed with her cool optimism. But I’ve still been quite anxious about the outcome. Not this court, not with these five conservative justices, I thought. Trans people don’t ever get breaks in these situations.

Continue reading at:  https://www.vox.com/first-person/2019/10/10/20906610/supreme-court-transgender-discrimination

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Rabbi, 77, arrested at Extinction Rebellion’s Bank of England protest

Republicans Only Pretend to Be Patriots

From The New York Times:  https://www.nytimes.com/2019/09/23/opinion/democrats-republicans.html

And Democrats need to expose them for what they are.

Sept. 23, 2019

Republicans have spent the past half-century portraying themselves as more patriotic, more committed to national security than Democrats. Richard Nixon’s victory in 1972, Ronald Reagan’s victory in 1980 and George W. Bush’s victory in 2004 (the only presidential election out of the past seven in which the Republican won the popular vote) all depended in part on posing as the candidate more prepared to confront menacing foreigners.

And Barack Obama faced constant, scurrilous accusations of being too deferential to foreign rulers. Remember the “apology tour,” or the assertions that he had bowed to overseas leaders?

But now we have a president who really is unpatriotic to the point of betraying American values and interests. We don’t know the full extent of Donald Trump’s malfeasance — we don’t know, for example, how much his policies have been shaped by the money foreign governments have been lavishing on his businesses. But even what we do know — his admitted solicitation of foreign help in digging up dirt on political rivals, his praise for brutal autocrats — would have had Republicans howling about treason if a Democrat had done it.

Yet almost all G.O.P. politicians seem perfectly fine with Trump’s behavior. Which means that it’s time to call Republican superpatriotism what it was long before Trump appeared on the scene: a fraud.

After all, a true patriot is willing to make some sacrifice, to give up some personal or policy goal, in the national interest. Can anyone point to any prominent figure in the modern Republican Party who has done that?

In fact, the periods in which Republicans worked hardest to wrap themselves in the flag and question Democrats’ loyalty were also periods in which the G.O.P. doubled down on its usual domestic agenda of making the rich richer. Even as George W. Bush’s administration was hyping the war on terrorism and leading America to war on false pretenses, the party was pushing for tax cuts: “Nothing,” declared Tom DeLay, the House Republican leader at the time, “is more important in the face of a war than cutting taxes.”

But if Republican superpatriotism has always been a fraud, why were so many Americans taken in? After all, polling suggests that except for a brief period after the extent of the Iraq debacle became clear, the public has consistently viewed the G.O.P. as stronger than Democrats on national security.

My guess, although I’d love to see some serious research from political scientists, is that for most of the past half-century the G.O.P.’s patriotic posturing dovetailed with its domestic political strategy, which centered on hostility to the Other.

Continue reading at: https://www.nytimes.com/2019/09/23/opinion/democrats-republicans.html

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How evangelical and right-wing media spread a false story about health care for trans youth

From Media Matters:  https://www.mediamatters.org/daily-wire/how-evangelical-and-right-wing-media-spread-false-story-about-health-care-trans-youth

Right-wing and evangelical websites, as well as their social networks, amplify misinformation and build outrage against the LGBTQ community

by Kayla Gogarty & Brianna January

Major right-wing and anti-LGBTQ outlets, in particular Ben Shapiro’s The Daily Wire, posted content based on misconstrued data from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to falsely suggest that drugs used to delay puberty are deadly for trans teens. The story — which began with debunked reporting from a U.K. tabloid — received high engagement on social media after right-wing and evangelical media apparatus boosted it.

The story was shared multiple times on Facebook by Daily Wire personalities like Shapiro, Michael Knowles, and Matt Walsh, as well as other popular conservative pages such as PragerU. The misinformation followed a familiar path of right-wing figures boosting lower-engagement content to higher-profile social media platforms so it reaches a larger audience.

Content pushing this anti-trans misinformation have accumulated at least 165,000 interactions in total, and anti-trans group The Kelsey Coalition is leveraging the same misconstrued data to fearmonger about gender-affirming medical care. In its September 27 report, NBC News noted that evangelical and right-wing outlets helped the story go viral, and the outlet debunked several of their claims.


Right-wing outlet Daily Mail published misleading information on puberty blockers that earned low Facebook engagement

On August 25, right-wing U.K. outlet the Daily Mail published an article that misleadingly claimed that England’s National Health Service (NHS) “is investigating issues around hormone-blocking drugs.” Also known as puberty blockers, hormone-blocking drugs “are medicines that prevent puberty from happening” to help transgender youths’ bodies “better reflect who [they] are.”

The article referenced comments Jackie Doyle-Price, parliamentary under-secretary for health and social care, made to the U.K. House of Commons on July 23, which did not specify that the NHS was investigating any drug or raise alarm about puberty blockers. In fact, she said that “the treatments available on the NHS, particularly for children, are appropriate.”

The Daily Mail specifically pointed to Doyle-Price’s comments that she is “working with NHS England to do a proper review of the research around this service and the ethics of it to establish a proper framework for consent” for young people seeking assistance from NHS’ Gender Identity Development Service. An NHS spokesperson told NBC News that “no special review is being launched” into puberty blockers and “noted that all transgender health care services are regularly reviewed.”

The Daily Mail article earned less than 500 interactions on Facebook, according to Crowdtangle’s Google Chrome extension.

Conservative outlet National Catholic Register picked up the story and earned over 8,400 Facebook interactions

On September 18, conservative outlet National Catholic Register published an article that linked to a reprint of the Daily Mail article and repeated its false claim about an NHS investigation into puberty blockers. It also misleadingly claimed that “thousands of deaths” and “more than 41,000 adverse events” were associated with the drugs based on a misrepresentation of data from the FDA.

NBC News debunked that claim, noting that the “‘thousands’ of people who die while taking these drugs are likely the terminally ill cancer patients who receive hormone blockers to fight hormone-sensitive cancers, like prostate cancer, according to experts.” Joshua Safer, executive director of the Mt. Sinai Center for Transgender Medicine and Surgery, told NBC News that the conservative outlet was not relying on an individual study for its conclusions and was instead looking at “a big smorgasbord of reports and so the problem with that is you don’t even know that those deaths are connected to the agent they are reported to be connected to.” Safer noted that hormone-blocking drugs are also used to treat “infertility and certain types of cancer, particularly prostate cancer,” so any deaths connected to their use are “much more likely” to be associated with those conditions than the drugs themselves.

National Catholic Register also interviewed anti-trans endocrinologist Michael Laidlaw, who is a medical consultant for the Kelsey Coalition. The Kelsey Coalition is an anti-trans group for parents who advocate against accepting children’s gender identity. Laidlaw is one of the few public-facing members of the group and uses his position as a medical professional to give its arguments a veneer of credibility.

National Catholic Register’s article earned more interactions on Facebook than the Daily Mail’s, with around 8,400 interactions.

Continue reading at:  https://www.mediamatters.org/daily-wire/how-evangelical-and-right-wing-media-spread-false-story-about-health-care-trans-youth

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Transgender surgery linked with better long-term mental health, study shows

From ABC News:  https://abcnews.go.com/Health/transgender-surgery-linked-long-term-mental-health-study/story

By Dr. Danielle Weitzer
Oct 8, 2019

Surgery can be scary for anyone, but gender-affirming surgery for transgender people may provide better long-term mental health benefits, according to new research from the Yale School of Public Health.

Researchers looked at mood and anxiety disorder health care visits, antidepressant and anti-anxiety prescriptions and hospitalizations after a suicide attempt. These measures were assessed for 10 years before and after receiving gender-specific hormone and surgical treatment.

The study found that the likelihood of being treated for a mood or anxiety disorder was reduced by 8% for each year since the last gender-specific surgery.

“This study extends earlier evidence of associations between gender-affirming treatment and improved mental health,” Dr. Richard Bränström, senior author of the study and associate professor at the Karolinska Institute in Sweden, told ABC News.

Compared with the general population, regardless of surgery or hormone treatment, transgender individuals are about six times as likely to have had a mood and anxiety disorder health care visit, more than three times as likely to have received prescriptions for antidepressants and anti-anxiety medications and more than six times as likely to have been hospitalized after a suicide attempt, according to the study.

The study showed hormone treatment was not significantly related to any reductions in mental health treatment compared to surgery.

“The exact reason for this we don’t know, but the group diagnosed with a gender incongruence diagnosis receiving hormone treatment, but not surgery, is a very mixed group,” Bränström said. “The process of being diagnosed with a gender incongruence diagnosis and receiving gender-affirming treatment is a long process and it is likely that this process can be stressful.”

That finding puzzled Dr. Dana Rofey, associate professor of psychiatry and pediatrics at UPMC Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh, who added, “I am surprised by this and wonder if the right time points [with regards to the transition] were investigated.”

Rofey was not involved in the study.

Doctors say it may be important to first independently assess mental health problems affecting transgender individuals.

“We do not use gender-affirming treatments, either hormones or surgeries, to treat psychiatric disorders like clinical depression or anxiety,” said Dr. Hansel Arroyo, director of psychiatry and behavioral medicine at Mount Sinai’s Center for Transgender Medicine and Surgery. “These mental health issues should be directly addressed by a mental health provider and can be independent of the presence of gender dysphoria.”

“We know that people who are clinically depressed will often have a bad surgical outcome including poor wound healing, longer hospital stays,” said Arroyo, who was not involved in the study. He suggested that physical healing may become impacted: “People will often have difficulty taking care of themselves post-surgery.”

Continue reading at:  https://abcnews.go.com/Health/transgender-surgery-linked-long-term-mental-health-study/story


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Froday Night Fun and Culture: Stan Rogers

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Friday Night Fun and Culture: Pentangle

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The Long, Unscientific History of His ’n’ Hers Brains

From Slate:  https://slate.com/culture/2019/09/gender-and-our-brains-gina-rippon-review.amp

Science has tried for centuries to prove that men’s brains are different from women’s. A new book takes a withering look.

By Laura Miller
Sept 23, 2019

Sarcasm is a rare and underappreciated mode in science writing, which tends toward wonderstruck lyricism or, when the situation demands it, sober concern. But sarcasm is exactly the tone called for when your subject is centuries of flimsy scientific research designed by men to “prove” that you, and 50 percent of the human population, are inferior. Of all the bracing virtues in Gina Rippon’s Gender and Our Brains: How New Neuroscience Explodes the Myths of the Male and Female Minds, Rippon’s sarcasm is surely the most savory. Rippon, a professor emeritus of cognitive neuroimaging at Aston University in the U.K., argues that the extent and significance of the biological differences between the brains of men and women have been greatly exaggerated by generations of scientists and, especially, by the popular press. In recent years, developments in her own discipline, particularly fMRI imaging, have been used to bolster pronouncements about the inherent distinctions between the “male” and “female” brain, even when the evidence for such conclusions is rickety. This ticks Rippon off.

Her response is to dissect the shortcomings of these various studies with a withering, pragmatic scorn that reads a bit like a secretly recorded trash-talking session in a lab break room. And Rippon has plenty of grist for her mill. Going all the way back to the 18th century, when science began to replace scripture as the preeminent authority for many Westerners, Rippon describes how researchers began looking to the brain to justify the different social roles assigned to men and women and the behaviors encouraged in each. She calls this approach “an area of entrenched opinion” that “has been the ongoing focus of just about every research discipline from genetics to anthropology, mixed with history, sociology, politics and statistics.” The scientists who produced this work started with an assumption (that women and men have distinct destinies as ordained by nature, rather than God) and set out to find the evidence to prove it. Lo and behold, they discovered just what they were looking so hard for—except when they didn’t and had to hurriedly change the rules.

Brain size was a key focus of this theoretical fancy footwork. Men, on average, have larger brains than women, and this was deemed to be the source of men’s obviously superior mental abilities. However, it turned out that brain size varies with body size, and, as John Stuart Mill pointed out, “a tall and large-boned man must on this showing be wonderfully superior in intelligence to a small man and an elephant and a whale must prodigiously excel mankind.” Attempts to adjust the comparison for variations in body size, as Rippon relates, “didn’t come up with the ‘right’ answer either.” By such calculations, the Chihuahua, whose brain is enormous relative to its body, should be the most intelligent breed of dog. (“This is known in the business as the Chihuahua paradox,” writes Rippon, in just one of many quips that make an endearingly dorky counterpoint to her disdain for poorly conducted research and slanted conclusions.)

Women weren’t the only people targeted by this sort of research. In the late 19th century, a property called “orthognathism,” which could be judged by the angles in a human profile, was seized upon to prove that European males were superior in intelligence to central Africans, who were in turn better than orangutans. Then, disaster struck: “Women, on average, turned out to be more orthognathic than men,” Rippon reports. But “fortunately, help was at hand”: An anatomist figured out that children, too, had exaggerated orthognathism, demonstrating that women were actually just overgrown kids. Crisis averted! In one particularly embarrassing 19th-century incident, a sophisticated volumetric formula was used to calculate the skull capacity of students of both genders, as well as 35 leading members of the Anatomical Society in Dublin. But (oops!) several of the anatomists turned out to have relatively diminutive brain pans. “The discovery that these eminent men’s heads were on the smaller side,” Rippon writes, “magically created a large number of instant converts to the conclusion that linking skull capacity to intelligence was obviously ludicrous.”

Continue reading at:  https://slate.com/culture/2019/09/gender-and-our-brains-gina-rippon-review.amp

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When Kids Are Straight Until Proven Otherwise

From The Atlantic::  https://www.theatlantic.com/ideas/archive/2019/08/harmful-presumption-kids-are-straight/596185/

Many gay preteens know early on that they are somehow different, but lack the parental and social support that heterosexuals take for granted.

Aug 24, 2019

The 12-year-old drag star Desmond Napoles is one of a growing number of kids who have embraced an LGBTQ identity at an early age. He has already come out as gay. Recent postings on his Instagram feed, which has 181,000 followers, feature him posing in a purple wig with red lips pursed, or in a rainbow dress at Brooklyn Pride. He recently appeared in an ad for Converse’s 2019 Pride collection. “He is spreading the message that it is okay for kids to drag,” his mother, Wendy Napoles, told Gay Star News. And to “explore their identity and express themselves, without shame, without hiding.”

Her son may be precocious, but most queer kids remember feeling different very early in their lives. The clichés of this childhood contrariety are well known: Gay boys, sometimes adopting an effeminate gait and an ironic manner, shy away from raucous play with their gender peers; lesbian girls, throwing on baggy clothes and hard hats, are ever ready for a physical fray. These are stereotypes, but queer kids often tip their hand. Years later, a family photo surfaces—of a boy holding a doll, say, as his brothers roughhouse nearby—that, in retrospect, makes the story seem obvious. These unwittingly campy childhood photos also communicate a reality generally overlooked in society: Budding queer identities have nonsexual elements that often form long before puberty, signaling what lies ahead.

Nevertheless, seeing preteens involved in drag shows—an age-old staple of LGBTQ culture, often performed in gay clubs—makes a lot of people uncomfortable. Critics have accused Desmond’s mother of allowing her son’s sexualization and exploitation. After another preteen boy performed drag in Ohio, state Republicans proposed legislation barring these performances, linking them, without evidence, to child trafficking.

Over time, American society has been steadily making peace with gay adults, gay marriages, even gay political candidates. Yet it still broadly pretends that people are straight until, at some point after age 18, they proclaim themselves otherwise. Parents and schools have long recognized the need to accommodate nascent heterosexuality in wholesome ways—for instance, by organizing school dances and providing basic education about how the reproductive system works. Queerness, in contrast, is widely understood to be inherently and only sexual; by this logic, all things LGBTQ should be relegated to adult spaces, preventing children’s premature sexualization. This explains why the backlash to preteen drag performers like Desmond has been so fierce—and why so many queer kids, with their difference manifesting as awkwardness, are forced to tread the rough waters of adolescence with no social support.

When I was 7 or 8 years old, the mother of a classmate visited my Manhattan school, offering to paint the girls’ fingernails. Despite loving the New York Jets and being, in many ways, a traditionally masculine boy, I wanted my nails adorned similarly, not understanding or caring that this adornment was a female-only privilege. And while both the teacher and this parent cautioned me against it, telling me something like “This is for girls,” I was stubborn. Eventually, they agreed to paint my nails, but only with a clear coat––probably to prevent my being mocked. This well-meaning effort failed, and the derision from my fellow students sent the clear message that certain feminine behaviors were to be avoided. Still, my vague gender nonconformity continued through childhood: I certainly tried on somebody’s high heels at some point; I clamored for female family members’ jewelry, wondering how their necklaces and bracelets would look on me; I was absolutely obsessed with my mother’s engagement ring.

“Should I have known you were gay based on that?” she asked me not long ago, half-jokingly. To which science replies: Probably.

Numerous studies have shown that children who eventually come out as gay, lesbian, or bisexual—scientists call them pre-homosexual, or pre-GLB kids—demonstrate more childhood gender nonconformity in their speech, body language, and choice of activity than their pre-straight contemporaries do. These reports have also produced evidence of a “dosage effect”: The more gender nonconformity someone shows in childhood, the more likely they will identify as gay, lesbian, or bisexual as an adult.

Continue reading at:  https://www.theatlantic.com/ideas/archive/2019/08/harmful-presumption-kids-are-straight/596185/

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Religious right, conservatives pivot homophobic junk science formula to demonize the trans community

From Holy Bullies and Headless Monsters:   https://holybulliesandheadlessmonsters.blogspot.com/2019/10/religious-right-conservatives-pivot.html

Alvin McEwen
Thursday, October 03, 2019

Reposted with permission

Conservatives like Ben Shapiro (top photo) are helping religious right sites like LifeSiteNews (bottom photo) convert their formula of anti-gay junk science to anti-transgender junk science. With the help of amplification.

On Thursday, via Media Matters, we learned that conservatives and the religious right teamed up to spread a lie about health care among trans youth:

Major right-wing and anti-LGBTQ outlets, in particular Ben Shapiro’s The Daily Wire, posted content based on misconstrued data from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to falsely suggest that drugs used to delay puberty are deadly for trans teens. The story — which began with debunked reporting from a U.K. tabloid — received high engagement on social media after right-wing and evangelical media apparatus boosted it.

 . . . Content pushing this anti-trans misinformation have accumulated at least 165,000 interactions in total, and anti-trans group The Kelsey Coalition is leveraging the same misconstrued data to fearmonger about gender-affirming medical care. In its September 27 report, NBC News noted that evangelical and right-wing outlets helped the story go viral, and the outlet debunked several of their claims.

NBC News said the following:

A recent article published by Catholic news outlet LifeSiteNews alleged that the drugs used to treat gender dysphoria in some transgender children are linked to “thousands” of deaths.

. . . The problem is: the “thousands” of people who die while taking these drugs are likely the terminally ill cancer patients who receive hormone blockers to fight hormone-sensitive cancers, like prostate cancer, according to experts.

Joshua Safer, a professor of medicine and the executive director of the Mt. Sinai Center for Transgender Medicine and Surgery, said Lupron, or leoprolide acetate, is used for treating precocious puberty, infertility and certain types of cancer, particularly prostate cancer.

Prostate cancer is worsened by the presence of certain hormones, so people fighting this disease are sometimes given hormone blockers — puberty blockers — to slow the cancer’s progression.

“I think all they did is went into the FDA database and looked at reports,” Safer said. “There’s no study here, that’s just a big smorgasbord of reports and so the problem with that is you don’t even know that those deaths are connected to the agent they are reported to be connected to.”

This distortion of science by conservatives and the religious right isn’t new. A while back, some of the same parties used this formula to attack gays and lesbian – junk science mixed with cherry-picked science and amplified. I’ve covered this “formula” on several occasions and thus have many examples of it:

1. Distortion – Lesbian and gay relationships are generally violent:

A study in the Journal of Interpersonal Violence examined conflict and violence in lesbian relationships. The researchers found that 90 percent of the lesbians surveyed had been recipients of one or more acts of verbal aggression from their intimate partners during the year prior to this study, with 31 percent reporting one or more incidents of physical abuse.” – Comparing the Lifestyles of Homosexual Couples to Married Couples, Family Research Council

There is a higher rate of violence in lesbian and homosexual relationships than in married, heterosexual relationships. A study in the Journal of Interpersonal Violence examined conflict and violence in lesbian relationships. The researchers found that 90% of the lesbians surveyed had been recipients of one or more acts of verbal aggression from their intimate partners during the year prior to this study, with 31% reporting one or more incidents of physical abuse. – Same-Sex Parenting is Harmful to Children Says REAL Women of Canada, Lifesite News

Truth – According to the Journal of Interpersonal Violence’s own web page:

The Journal of Interpersonal Violence offers the most up-to-date information on domestic violence, rape, child sexual abuse and other violent crimes . . . Focusing on both victims and perpetrators, the journal examines theoretical links between all types of interpersonal violence, exploring the similarities and differences between these types of crimes.

In other words, the Journal of Interpersonal Violence tracks domestic violence, as well as other violent crimes. Those surveyed in journal articles are the victims of violence, verbal or otherwise, because this is what the journal is designed to track. However, what religious right groups are doing here is the equivalent of taking a study of domestic violence in the African-American community published in the Journal of Interpersonal Violence and using it to allege that black relationships are indicative of violent behavior.

2. Distortion – Homosexuals have a lot of sex partners and their relationships do not last:

Studies indicate that the average male homosexual has hundreds of sex partners in his lifetime, a lifestyle that is difficult for even “committed” homosexuals to break free of and which is not conducive to a healthy and wholesome atmosphere for the raising of children. A. P. Bell and M. S. Weinberg, in their classic study of male and female homosexuality, found that 43 percent of white male homosexuals had sex with five hundred or more partners, with 28 percent having 1,000 or more sex partners – Homosexuality, Placing Children at Risk, Family Research Council

Truth – Bell and Weinberg’s study was compiled in the 1970s. They used the study to write the book Homosexualities: A Study of Diversity among Men and Women. In Homosexualities is this statement:

“. . . given the variety of circumstances which discourage homosexuals from participating in research studies, it is unlikely that any investigator will ever be in a position to say that this or that is true of a given percentage of all homosexuals.”

3. Distortion – Gays have a short life span

“In a major Canadian centre, life expectancy at age twenty for gay and bisexual men is eight to twenty years less than for all men. If the same pattern of mortality were to continue, we estimate that nearly half of gay and bisexual men currently aged twenty years will not reach their sixty-fifth birthday. Under even the most liberal assumptions, gay and bisexual men in this urban centre are now experiencing a life expectancy similar to that experienced by all men in Canada in the year 1871.” – Getting it Straight, Family Research Council

One epidemiological study found that “gay” men lose 8-20 years off their lifespan. – Several reasons to oppose same sex marriage, Concerned Women for America

According to a study that appeared in the International Journal of Epidemiology, homosexual behavior risks cutting years off the lives of “gay” men. Examining the homosexual community in Vancouver, Canada, the study said: “In a major Canadian centre, life expectancy at age 20 years for gay and bisexual men is 8 to 20 years less than for all men. . .” – Sexual suicide, The American Family Association

Truth – In 2001, the researchers of this study complained about how it was being misused. They explained what they actually meant and how it is not feasible to use their work to claim that gay men have a “short life span.”

It used to be that these lies told about gays and lesbians were simply cited by anti-LGBTQ talking heads in the media and their allies in statewide anti-LGBTQ groups and members of various legislative bodies when they attempted to kill various pro-LGBTQ bills. Things have definitely changed. Not the lies, mind you, but the amplification of the lies. The ability of conservatives and the religious right to amplify these lies via their networks give their reach more power. It also makes it more difficult for us to refute the lies before they do our community major damage.  Media Matters pointed out the trajectory of the fake story about puberty blockers:

Right-wing outlet Daily Mail published misleading information on puberty blockers that earned low Facebook engagement 

Conservative outlet National Catholic Register picked up the story and earned over 8,400 Facebook interactions 

Led by LifeSiteNews, evangelical right-wing outlets boosted the story 

The Daily Wire picked up the story, and its network of right-wing Facebook pages helped it earn more than 165,000 interactions 

Anti-trans group the Kelsey Coalition leveraged the same misconstrued data as part of a new campaign

Clearly, the religious right and their conservative allies can’t rely on the truth to attack the LGBTQ community. So, unfortunately, they are relying on amplification and repetition of lies to beat us down.

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Andrew Sullivan Is Coming for Your Children!

From The Advocate:  https://www.advocate.com/commentary/2019/9/23/andrew-sullivan-coming-your-children

Republicans Don’t Believe in Democracy

From The New York Times:  https://www.nytimes.com/2019/09/16/opinion/republicans-democracy.html

Do Democrats understand what they’re facing?

Paul Krugman
Sept. 16, 2019

Item: Last week Republicans in the North Carolina House used the occasion of 9/11 to call a surprise vote, passing a budget bill with a supermajority to override the Democratic governor’s veto. They were able to do this only because most Democrats were absent, some of them attending commemorative events; the Democratic leader had advised members that they didn’t need to be present because, he says, he was assured there would be no votes that morning.

Item: Also last week, Representative Adam Schiff, the Democratic chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, issued a subpoena to the acting director of national intelligence, who has refused to turn over a whistle-blower complaint that the intelligence community’s inspector general found credible and of “urgent concern.” We don’t know what the whistle-blower was warning about, but we do know that the law is clear: Such complaints must be referred to Congress, no exceptions allowed.

On the surface, these stories may seem to be about very different things. The fight in North Carolina is basically about the G.O.P.’s determination to deny health care to low-income Americans; the governor had threatened to veto any budget that didn’t expand Medicaid. The whistle-blower affair probably involves malfeasance by high government officials, quite possibly President Trump, that in some way threatens national security.

What the stories have in common, however, is that they illustrate contempt for democracy and constitutional government. Elections are supposed to have consequences, conveying power to the winners. But when Democrats win an election, the modern G.O.P. does its best to negate the results, flouting norms and, if necessary, the law to carry on as if the voters hadn’t spoken.

Thus, in 2016 the voters of North Carolina chose a Democrat to govern the state; the immediate G.O.P. response was to try to strip away most of the governor’s power. Last year Democrats won a majority of the votes for the state legislature, too, although Republicans retained control thanks to extreme gerrymandering. But they no longer have a veto-proof majority — hence last week’s power grab.

Similarly, last year America’s voters chose to give Democrats control of the House of Representatives. This still leaves Democrats without the ability to pass legislation, since Republicans control the Senate and the White House. But the House, by law, has important additional powers — the right to be informed of what’s going on in the executive branch, such as complaints by whistle-blowers, and the right to issue subpoenas demanding information relevant to governing.

Continue reading at:  https://www.nytimes.com/2019/09/16/opinion/republicans-democracy.html

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What My Kippah Means to Me

From The Tablet:  https://www.tabletmag.com/jewish-life-and-religion/289824/what-my-kippah-means-to-me

As a butch lesbian, wearing a yarmulke connects me to my people—and to myself

By Olivia Swasey
September 9, 2019

The first kippah I ever bought for myself was blue. It came in the mail with the mezuzah for my new apartment, and I held the skullcap in my hands, turning it over and over. It was silk, with a border of embroidered date palms. The blue was even prettier in person, rich and deep with a hint of green, like a Mediterranean sea. It was perfect. And I was petrified.

I had asked the rabbi at my new Reform synagogue in Akron, Ohio: Do women wear kippot to shul here? How socially acceptable would it be for me to try wearing one? Kindly, he told me that it wasn’t unusual in progressive Judaism for women to wear them, and that if it would bring more meaning to my prayer, then I was welcome to wear one. I tried it out, wearing a black satin kippah from the basket by the door to the sanctuary, overly conscious of it while I davened, my bowing growing hesitant out of fear that it would fall off. I spun a worst-case scenario in my head in which my kippah would fall off during the Aleinu, causing everyone around me to turn and laugh. But it didn’t happen. Even when it did fall off once, no one said anything when I picked it up and put it back on. I started keeping hair clips in my pocket anyway, just in case.

Wearing a kippah from the basket slowly became a little less nerve-wracking, and I began to enjoy incorporating it into my practice. But I spent less time at this synagogue in Akron than I did at the Hillel at my university 20 minutes away, and there, I was still hesitant even to borrow one for a service. I had decided that if I was going to wear a kippah at Hillel among my peers, I wanted it to be my kippah. But to me, owning my own kippah instead of just borrowing one felt like a huge leap—by buying one for myself, I was committing to wear it all the time in services. It was a commitment that I was willing to make, but it was also a decision I didn’t make lightly.

Here, at Hillel, in a room full of my peers whom I saw multiple times every week, I was terrified of what people would think. Most of the men wore kippot, but no women. I would be the only one, and I knew that I would stand out. Even though everyone knew who I was, knew what I looked like, knew that I was gay and liked it that way, I was deeply afraid of being rejected by my community.

I should be clear here: I was not raised Jewish. Neither of my parents was involved in organized religion, so my sister and I were raised completely secular with only partial knowledge of other people’s religious practices. Their point, I have been told, was that they wanted my sister and me to make our own choices, rather than having belief thrust upon us. My mother, a spiritual woman, impressed upon us the importance of respecting the life within all things, and the existence of a higher power. Because I didn’t attend a church, synagogue, or mosque growing up, I didn’t feel the traditional pressures that young gay people like me often feel from their religious communities. But for me, something was missing. I wanted to find a religious community—I was searching, as it is sometimes called. And then I went away to college, and I found a community that clicked. I decided I wanted to convert to Judaism when I was 19, and I completed my conversion a week before my 22nd birthday.

Something big happened that first year I was at college: I had a sudden revelation about my sexuality, owed completely to the inimitable Leslie Feinberg and hir novel Stone Butch Blues. I came to the realization that I was butch—not an incorrect woman, but a different kind of woman, one whose understanding of womanhood was actually a subversion of it. At college, I was finally finding the freedom to be the person I always knew myself to be, able now to dress the way I had never felt comfortable dressing before, and to at last be open to finding love as my true self. As a butch lesbian, I strongly prefer to wear men’s pants, shirts, and ties; to keep my hair in a masculine style; to not wear makeup; and of course, to date women. After I began dressing differently, people treated me differently, too. Everywhere, people were just a little less friendly, a little less talkative. But I didn’t care. I wasn’t going to change for anybody. I was finally me, and no amount of homophobia was going to change that.

Continue reading at:  https://www.tabletmag.com/jewish-life-and-religion/289824/what-my-kippah-means-to-me

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