Is Being Trans Like Being an Immigrant?

From The New York Times:  https://www.nytimes.com/2019/04/03/opinion/is-being-trans-like-being-an-immigrant.html

Both involve a journey. And both are under assault by this administration.

By Jennifer Finney Boylan
April 3, 2019

Last week, a 9-year-old American citizen, Julia Isabel Amparo Medina, was detained at the Mexican border for 30 hours. Although she had made the trip every school day from her home in Tijuana, Mexico, to school in California, authorities claimed they could not identify her.

Back in January, two British women angrily accosted the human rights activist Sarah McBride after a conference that had brought together members of Congress and the parents of transgender youth. The women, members of a group that denies the humanity of transgender people, referred to Ms. McBride with male pronouns and accused her of championing rape and the erasure of lesbians.

On the surface, it might seem as if the detention of Julia and the cruelty of transphobes is unrelated. But both hatreds, in fact, rise from the same dark spring.

“People who have transitioned,” those anti-trans activists seemed to suggest, “aren’t sending their best. They’re bringing crime. They’re rapists. And some, I assume, are good people.”

Actually, unless I missed something, they didn’t say a word about people like Sarah McBride and me being good people. Mostly they implied, as the president once said of undocumented immigrants, that we’re not people. That we’re animals.

Comparing the trans experience to those of other marginalized groups is awkward, and not least because gender and race and poverty have different, if entwined histories. We conflate them at our peril.

Still, the narrative of migration can provide a helpful metaphor for the lives of some trans folks. This isn’t true for all of us, to be sure. But for someone who transitioned midlife, like me, it works pretty well.

I’m 60 years old now. I was 40 when I set out on the dangerous crossing that led from the place where I was born to these green fields of womanhood.

From my earliest memory, the old country — so to speak — felt like a foreign place; for me it was, at least at times, a place of hunger. I knew that if I stayed in the country where I was born — dear old BoyLand — I would never survive. And so I set out for this new land, the place I’d been dreaming of, one way or another, since I was 6 years old. In 2000, when I came out, I finally got my green card.

Continue reading at:  https://www.nytimes.com/2019/04/03/opinion/is-being-trans-like-being-an-immigrant.html

The Democrats Need a New Eugene McCarthy

From The Tablet:  https://www.tabletmag.com/jewish-news-and-politics/282679/democrats-need-new-eugene-mccarthy

Will we see a Democratic candidate like him—practically inclined to the liberal center, with a coherent moral outlook that used to be informed by a decent left—in the 2020 election cycle?

By Martin Peretz
April 2, 2019

The awakening Democratic presidential primary, with 14 declared candidates and at least nine possible more, amounts to a stark choice over the party’s future: left or center, identity-issue minded or pluralist, radical or incrementalist. In fact, we haven’t seen Left battle lines so dramatically etched for more than half a century, since 1967 and 1968, under the dual weights of a disastrous foreign war and a rising new generation determined for change. The hero of that Democratic primary, who pushed Lyndon Johnson out of the race, ignited the energy of America’s young, and set up the new fault lines along which the future of the party got fought, was Eugene McCarthy, Democratic-farmer-labor senator from Minnesota. For many of us who were part of the McCarthy campaign, it’s a new Gene McCarthy—not in form, but in values—that we want today.

For those who didn’t live it, it’s hard to imagine the sheer despair that crested in America in the summer of 1967. Vietnam was not just a quagmire but a killing field, sucking the potential of tens of thousands of Americans into a jungle war where rights and wrongs disappeared in the murk, even as its impacts scraped away at the country. All the buried fissures of a changing society—old versus young, producers versus consumers, suburbs versus inner cities, oppressed identities versus old solidarities—were rubbed raw, ready to bleed. And the political class wouldn’t listen—Lyndon Johnson was adamant about prosecuting the war, Richard Nixon was busy manipulating the social fissures the war exposed, and the most obvious candidate to challenge Johnson, Bobby Kennedy, was too canny a political animal to make a leap in the dark. 1967 didn’t feel like the apocalypse—but it felt like five minutes to midnight.

Into this atmosphere came Gene McCarthy, who, after spending the summer urging a personally remote and, in any case, a waffling Bobby to run, entered the race in the fall. Against the high drama of the times, his announcement was flat, basic, to the point: He said the war was immoral and wrong, he said it was eating away at the fabric of country, he said it had to end. But Gene, a second-term senator risking his reputation to challenge a sitting president in the middle of a war, believed in more than ending our involvement in Vietnam. A deeply contemplative man who’d been born into the lower-middle classes and come into intellectual maturity through Catholic education and postgraduate work in economics, Gene was a practical moralist: He held deep beliefs, but his appreciation of reality was too intimate to let those beliefs shade into didactic thinking. When he looked at Vietnam he saw not just a profound moral wrong but also a practically revealing one, of the fissures of a country not in freefall but in intricate transition. “We are no longer a frontier society,” he said, and he meant his campaign to both end the war and address the bigger change—to give more Americans more autonomy in a complicated world.

So, in an age where consumption and technology were becoming the main drivers of economic growth, Gene could imagine automated labor and high-skills-demanding employment putting a certain number of people out of work, and he thought you had to guarantee them an income: It wasn’t a sweeping theory, but Gene is, to my knowledge, the first major candidate to talk about limited universal basic income. He was also skeptical of the new military industrial apparatus and its tendency to promote systemic belligerence abroad, but he pushed back against people on the hard left who inflated that critique into opposition towards both international alliances of democratic societies and the capitalist system itself. Capitalism, he thought, had not just created the wealth we had, it was also the only system that was both independent of politics and could be politically corrected by democratic will. You can’t, Gene realized, deconstruct such a successful system: You have to work carefully within it.

On what we’d now call “identity issues,” Gene was similarly complex. Even as his campaign drew its strength from women, American Jews, high Protestants, middle class African Americans, and Irish Americans, Gene managed to respect historical differences without being imprisoned by them: Histories mattered, but people were individuals to him before they were anything else. He was suspicious of political actors who either papered over differences or made them the hinge on which politics turned: He thought they colluded in perpetuating segregations, not ending them. This focus on individuality meant he was a true integrationist: From the start of his political career, in the face of real intra-party resistance, he insisted that the only way to overcome centuries of segregation was to change zoning laws so that blacks and whites could live together. Alas, that turned out to be not as socially transformative as many of us had envisioned.

Continue reading at:  https://www.tabletmag.com/jewish-news-and-politics/282679/democrats-need-new-eugene-mccarthy

Friday Night Fun and Culture: Louis Prima and Keely Smith

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How ‘Real America’ Became Queer America

From The New York Times:  https://www.nytimes.com/2019/03/13/opinion/lgbt-trump-red-states.html

The Trump administration may be busy waging culture wars. But in the heartland, it’s never been a better time to be L.G.B.T.

By Samantha Allen
March 13, 2019

This may seem like a strange time to feel optimistic about the future of L.G.B.T. rights in America. But as a queer transgender woman who has spent most of her adult life in red states, hopeful is exactly how I feel.

In July 2017 — the same month that President Trump announced on Twitter that he would ban transgender troops — I left on a six-week-long road trip across the red states. I wanted to understand what motivated L.G.B.T. people to stay in the heartland at a time when some progressives were still pondering escaping to Canada.

What I learned on the way from Utah to Georgia only reaffirmed what I have come to believe over the past decade: Attitudes toward L.G.B.T. people are changing rapidly in conservative states, and no one inside the Beltway can stop it. This country’s bright queer future is already here, hiding where too few of us care to travel.

From a bird’s-eye perspective, it may not seem that life has changed for L.G.B.T. Americans in so-called flyover country. State laws prohibiting discrimination against them remain elusive in red states — although Utah notably passed one in 2015. But in their absence, midsize cities have become pockets of L.G.B.T. acceptance.

In the West, cities including Boise, Idaho; Salt Lake City; Bozeman, Mont.; and Laramie, Wyo., have passed L.G.B.T.-inclusive nondiscrimination ordinances in the past decade. Below the Mason-Dixon line, the list of cities with such laws includes Atlanta and New Orleans; Birmingham, Ala.; and Jackson, Miss. L.G.B.T. Texans have had to fend off all manner of horrific state-level bills, but if they live in Austin, Dallas, Plano or Fort Worth, they have solid local laws on their side. And Midwestern hubs like St. Louis and Omaha likewise offer L.G.B.T. protections.

The Human Rights Campaign, a national L.G.B.T. advocacy organization, is downright cheerful about this trend at a time when queer optimism feels in short supply. In the its 2018 Municipal Equality Index, the group’s president, Chad Griffin, wrote that “while cynical politicians in Washington, D.C., attempt to roll back our hard-fought progress, many local leaders are championing equality in big cities and small towns from coast to coast.”

And this progress includes transgender people. According to the group’s data, over 180 cities and counties in states whose electoral votes went to Mr. Trump in 2016 now protect employees not just on the basis of sexual orientation but gender identity as well.

Continue reading at:  https://www.nytimes.com/2019/03/13/opinion/lgbt-trump-red-states.html

 

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Could CDC Guidelines Be Driving Some Opioid Patients to Suicide?

As a senior citizen I am surrounded by people who live with chronic, often debilitating pain.  Is it right that people with pain have to suffer because drug addicts abuse drugs?  Further the Opioid Crisis really isn’t so much about opioids as it is about synthetic black market opioid substitutes such as Fentanyl.  But even there we are talking about drug administered to terminally ill cancer patients.

Years ago Niel Young sang, “The Needle and the Damage Done”.  The lesson I’ve learned over the years is that substance abusers abuse substances.  Eliminate the safer and less harmful and they will abuse ever more dangerous substances.  Prohibition didn’t work in the 1920s and the War on Drugs hasn’t worked since.

From Rolling Stone:  https://www.rollingstone.com/culture/culture-features/cdc-opioid-letter-patient-suicide-805564/

In a letter to the CDC, a group of doctors and advocates said the agency’s opioid prescription guidelines are having alarming consequences. But in the midst of an epidemic, where should doctors draw the line?

By EJ Dickson
March 9, 2019

Overall, we have every reason to believe that the opioid crisis is getting better, not worse. Since the Centers for Disease Control issued its guidelines dictating appropriate opioid prescription rates and dosages in 2016, opioid prescriptions have declined significantly. Overdose deaths have also been on the decline, though some health experts believe that effect might be temporary.

Two groups that have not benefited from increasing public health efforts to stem the opioid crisis, however, is people living with chronic pain and their health care providers. In a letter to the CDC that was published on Wednesday, a coalition of health care providers, doctors and patient representatives, writing on behalf of an organization called Health Professionals for Patients in Pain (HP3), issued a call for the CDC to “address misapplication of its guideline on opioids for chronic pain through public clarification and impact evaluation” — in short, to clarify its guidelines on opioid prescription for doctors, particularly when it comes to weaning patients off the drugs.

“Patients with chronic pain, who are stable and, arguably, benefiting from long-term opioids, face draconian and often rapid involuntary dose reductions,” the letter states. Often, alternative pain care options are not offered, not covered by insurers, or not accessible. Others are pushed to undergo addiction treatment or invasive procedures (such as spinal injections), regardless of whether clinically appropriate. Consequently, patients have endured not only unnecessary suffering, but some have turned to suicide or illicit substance use.”

“There’s no question that doctors have [historically] been too liberal in prescribing opioids,” says Sally Satel, MD, a psychiatrist and a lecturer at the Yale University School of Medicine, who coauthored the letter. “But in this pulling back, the pendulum has overshot in some instances, and it’s especially taken a toll on people who have been maintained on usually high-dose opioids for many years for excruciating chronic conditions.”

Currently, the CDC guidelines on opioid prescription recommend that doctors attempt to get patients to taper off the drugs. They also recommend that doctors avoid prescribing opioids for long-term pain management, and that any daily dosage should be below the equivalent of 90 milligrams of morphine.

Continue reading at:  https://www.rollingstone.com/culture/culture-features/cdc-opioid-letter-patient-suicide-805564/

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Friday Night Fun and Culture: The Kingston Trio.

Before Dylan, Baez and even Peter, Paul and Mary the Kingston Trio was bringing Folk Music to the campuses and coffee houses of the late 1950s.

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Meet the neuroscientist shattering the myth of the gendered brain

From The Guardian UK:  https://www.theguardian.com/science/2019/feb/24/meet-the-neuroscientist-shattering-the-myth-of-the-gendered-brain-gina-rippon

Why asking whether your brain is male or female is the wrong question


Sun 24 Feb 2019

You receive an invitation, emblazoned with a question: “A bouncing little ‘he’ or a pretty little ‘she’?” The question is your teaser for the “gender reveal party” to which you are being invited by an expectant mother who, at more than 20 weeks into her pregnancy, knows what you don’t: the sex of her child. After you arrive, explains cognitive neuroscientist Gina Rippon in her riveting new book, The Gendered Brain, the big reveal will be hidden within some novelty item, such as a white iced cake, and will be colour-coded. Cut the cake and you’ll see either blue or pink filling. If it is blue, it is a…

Yes, you’ve guessed it. Whatever its sex, this baby’s future is predetermined by the entrenched belief that males and females do all kinds of things differently, better or worse, because they have different brains.

“Hang on a minute!” chuckles Rippon, who has been interested in the human brain since childhood, “the science has moved on. We’re in the 21st century now!” Her measured delivery is at odds with the image created by her detractors, who decry her as a “neuronazi” and a “grumpy old harridan” with an “equality fetish”. For my part, I was braced for an encounter with an egghead, who would talk at me and over me. Rippon is patient, though there is an urgency in her voice as she explains how vital it is, how life-changing, that we finally unpack – and discard – the sexist stereotypes and binary coding that limit and harm us.

For Rippon, a twin, the effects of stereotyping kicked in early. Her “under-achieving” brother was sent to a boys’ academic Catholic boarding school, aged 11. “It’s difficult to say this. I was clearly academically bright. I was top in the country for the 11+.” This gave her a scholarship to a grammar school. Her parents sent her to a girls’ non-academic Catholic convent instead. The school did not teach science. Pupils were brought up to be nuns or a diplomatic wife or mother. “Psychology,” she points out, “was the nearest I could get to studying the brain. I didn’t have the A levels to do medicine. I had wanted to be a doctor.”

A PhD in physiological psychology and a focus on brain processes and schizophrenia followed. Today, the Essex-born scientist is a professor emeritus of cognitive neuroimaging at Aston University, Birmingham. Her brother is an artist. When she is not in the lab using state-of-the-art brain imaging techniques to study developmental disorders such as autism, she is out in the world, debunking the “pernicious” sex differences myth: the idea that you can “sex” a brain or that there is such a thing as a male brain and a female brain. It is a scientific argument that has gathered momentum, unchallenged, since the 18th century “when people were happy to spout off about what men and women’s brains were like – before you could even look at them. They came up with these nice ideas and metaphors that fitted the status quo and society, and gave rise to different education for men and women.”

Rippon has analysed the data on sex differences in the brain. She admits that she, like many others, initially sought out these differences. But she couldn’t find any beyond the negligible, and other research was also starting to question the very existence of such differences. For example, once any differences in brain size were accounted for, “well-known” sex differences in key structures disappeared. Which is when the penny dropped: perhaps it was time to abandon the age-old search for the differences between brains from men and brains from women. Are there any significant differences based on sex alone? The answer, she says, is no. To suggest otherwise is “neurofoolishness”.

Continue reading at:  https://www.theguardian.com/science/2019/feb/24/meet-the-neuroscientist-shattering-the-myth-of-the-gendered-brain-gina-rippon

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