Wednesday, 28 February 2007

The Costs of Treatment

This post isn't about the financial cost of the hormones, or the surgery, the mandatory psychiatric and endocrinological tests, nor even the cost of a new wardrobe, or electerolysis for that matter. 400 hours at US $100 an hour for the latter is not unknown, and Facial Feminisation Surgery is around US $40,000 these days. Not covered by insurance, of course.

No, this is about the other costs, as exemplified by the Fine Citizens of Largo, Florida. I quote from the Associated Press, via the Sun-Sentinel :
LARGO, Fla. -- The City Commission of this small Tampa Bay community voted late Tuesday to begin the process of firing the city's top official -- less than a week after he announced plans to pursue a sex-change operation.

The 5-to-2 vote begins a three step process to remove Largo City Manager Steve Stanton, 48, the city's top official for 14 years. He confirmed rumors last week that he was a transsexual.

Stanton, who built a solid reputation as a forceful and energetic leader, hoped to keep his $140,000-a-year job as he underwent the gender reassignment process.

"It's just painful to know seven days ago I was a good guy and now ... I have no integrity," Stanton told the commission Tuesday. "My challenge here has always been that someday I was going to leave this organization. So I am going to do it with a smile on my face."

Stanton can appeal the decision. He will be placed on paid leave while the city begins the legal process to end his contract. The council must vote again to formally fire him.

Mayor Patricia Gerard and Commissioner Rodney Woods cast the dissenting votes Tuesday.

"He's done a great job for us," Gerard said. "He's done what we asked him to do and taken the heat over and over and over again and now we're going to turn on him."

Commissioner Mary Gray Black said Stanton's surprise announcement last week "caused stress, turmoil, distraction and work disruption" in the city. His contract says he can be fired without cause at any time.

"I do not feel he has the integrity, nor the trust, nor the respect, nor the confidence to continue as the city manager of the city of Largo," said Black, who introduced a resolution to fire Stanton on Monday.

About 500 people attended the 3{ hour special meeting at Largo City Hall on Tuesday to debate Stanton's fate. Dozens of people signed up to speak to the council, some praising Stanton and others saying the exposure of his secret life undermined his ability to lead the city.

City officials have received hundreds of e-mails about Stanton's announcement, most calling for his removal.

Commissioner Gay Gentry praised Stanton, but supported his firing.

"I sense that he has lost his standing as a leader among the employees of the city," Gentry said. "We have need of an organizational leader that employees will follow."

Largo is a city of about 76,000 about 22 miles west of Tampa.

Stanton, who is married, said he has not yet scheduled the surgery, but is undergoing counseling and hormone replacement therapy in preparation for the operation.

The city council had given Stanton generally good reviews for his management of the city's $130-million budget and roughly 1,200 employees. The council gave him an $11,000 annual pay raise in September, with Black casting the lone dissenting vote.

That's what happens to people like us. People like me.

Meanwhile, the Poll at the St Petersberg Times, which has run some editorials very supportive of Stanton, is now running at 3:1 in favour of crucifixion firing her.

Still, 50 years ago, they may have done the same thing if they found she had been "passing for white". Transsexuality - the new Black.

Opinion Shaping in Malta

Well, they replace the word "intersex" with "transgender" throughout, and inserted a typo or two. But Malta Today published a letter to the editor from me, The Truth about Transgender Issues the other day, in response to an opinion piece by Ms Anna Mallia.
I quote from Ms Anna Mallia’s opinion piece last Sunday: “It is true that a transsexual is a person who identifies himself or herself completely with the opposite sex, believing that the wrong sex was assigned at birth. It is also true that transsexuals think and feel emotionally in a way typically considered appropriate to members of the opposite sex, and may undergo surgery to modify external sexual characteristics. But it is also true that a transsexual did not go through menstruation, does not have reproductive organs, and as such cannot fall under the definition of ‘woman’.”
And what exactly is the definition of “woman”?
I experienced monthly bleeding when I was 12, though it was through my urethra as I did not then have a vagina.
“Then there is the uterus, the vagina, the breasts… all these render a person a female by gender. I am not a medical doctor, but I am sure that those who have had a sex change do not satisfy all these conditions, so why are they called ‘females’ in terms of the law?”
I have breasts, a vagina, but no uterus. I also have 46xy (male)
chromosomes. The author of this paper obviously isn’t a medical doctor, or she would realise that many women would not fit her restricted definition. For example, all those women who have various transgender conditions, all those women who have had hysterectomies or mastectomies. On the other hand, a few people who have been biological fathers would fit the bill!
Men are men, women are women, but about 1.7 per cent of people are neither 100 per cent male nor 100 per cent female. Categorising this minority is not an easy task in some cases, and it’s complicated by the rare conditions like 5ARD, in which a person’s apparent sex changes over their lifetime. It’s bad enough for such people to have to go through the psychologically distressing and often biologically dangerous natural changes without bureaucrats, and medically ignorant opinion shapers denying their human rights.
Other people with less spectacular transgender conditions such as Harry Benjamin’s Syndrome (transsexuality) or Mixed Gonadal Dysgenesis (pseudo-hermaphroditism) or any of the hundreds of other medical conditions: Turner Syndrome, Swyer Syndrome, Kleinfelter Syndrome, Androgen Insensitivity Syndrome, Congenital Adrenal Hyperplasia… any of these people who have the courage to endure hormonal and often surgical intervention to make their bodies as consistently male or female as they can be should not be discriminated against in law.
I wonder if the author has had her genes tested recently? You see, there are many women who are genetically male, yet who have CAIS. There are even a few with other, more rare conditions, who have birth to children yet are genetically male. Many transgender women aren’t aware of their status until they go to a fertility clinic to find out why they can’t get pregnant.
I wonder if Ms Mallia would be happy to renounce her womanhood if she found that she too was an unknowing victim of one of these conditions?

Zoe Brain,
Australia
Moving the mountain, one spoonful at a time. And yes, I did have monthly bleeding when I was 12. It's still not certain whether this was from a resolved sinus, or a recurrent infection. 6 months ago, I would have bet on it being an infection, due to the ultrasound results. But from the slight peculiarities found during my surgery, it's now indeterminate. Story of my life really!

Tuesday, 27 February 2007

Thinking the Unthinkable

While watching the Secret Life of Brian ( below )

The thought struck me. This was 20 years ago. Can anyone imagine anyone today making Monty Python's Life of Ali? He's not the Prophet, he's just a Naughty Boy....

But if not, why not?

For that matter, where is the Festival of Light now, protesting against the anti-Christian and anti-Jewish hatred preached in so many mosques in the UK these days? Is it that they are united with other religious bigots, or is it that they prefer soft targets, and do not have the courage to put their lives on the line for their Faith?

Monday, 26 February 2007

Beautiful Daughters

The story of some extraordinary women putting on a play. Guaranteed to cause a few tears in all but the hardest hearts. A free Streaming Video in 5 Parts, also available for a few dollars through the iPod store.

I'm proud to be in irregular correspondence with some of these women.

Friday, 23 February 2007

The End of Mankind

A little game, where you play the next successor to the Black Death and Spanish Influenza - Pandemic - The End of Mankind. Agame not to be sneezed at.

Thursday, 22 February 2007

In Case You Hadn't Noticed...

From the New York Times :
A truck bomb that combined explosives with chlorine gas exploded in Baghdad on Wednesday, and officials said it may represent a new and deadly tactic by insurgents against Iraqi civilians. It was at least the third such attack in a month.

A pickup truck carrying canisters of the gas, which burns the skin and can be fatal after only a few concentrated breaths, exploded near a diesel station in southwestern Baghdad. The explosion killed at least 2 people and sent 32 wheezing, coughing victims to the hospital, Interior Ministry and medical officials said.
You'd think that the use of Poison Gas - a Weapon of Mass Destruction - by terrorists against civilians might just rate a bit more publicity. Especially since it's the third time. They're still practicing, they haven't gotten the mixture and dispersion pattern right yet to kill hundreds and wound thousands. But give them time, and they will.
The bombing involving chlorine gas on Wednesday followed an explosion on Tuesday north of Baghdad of a tanker filled with chlorine that had been rigged to explode, killing 9 people and wounding 148, including 42 women and 52 children. At least one other attack with chlorine occurred, based on the American military’s statements issued to describe attacks in Iraq, on Jan. 28 in the Sunni-dominated Anbar Province, when 16 people died after a dump truck with explosives and a chlorine tank blew up in Ramadi.

The attacks seem to have been poorly executed — burning the chemical agent rather than dispersing it — but Iraqi and American officials said they see a pattern emerging, an apparent effort to bring a new level of fear and havoc to Iraq as a new security plan for Baghdad takes shape.
Oh sorry, they're not "terrorists", they're "militants", at least, according to the NYT.

Wednesday, 21 February 2007

26th Anniversary

It is my 26th wedding anniversary today. I don't know if it will be my last. Please wish us luck, and may the best happen, whatever that is. We're both just living one day at a time now.

Tuesday, 20 February 2007

Silicon Brains

From MIT's Technology Review :
An ambitious project to model the cerebral cortex in silicon is under way at Stanford. The man-made brain could help scientists understand how the most recently evolved part of our brain performs its complex computational feats, allowing us to understand language, recognize faces, and schedule the day. It could also lead to new neural prosthetics.

"Brains do things in technically and conceptually novel ways--they can solve rather effortlessly issues which we cannot yet resolve with the largest and most modern digital machines," says Rodney Douglas, a professor at the Institute of Neuroinformatics, in Zurich. "One of the ways to explore this is to develop hardware that goes in the same direction."

Neurons communicate with a series of electrical pulses; chemical signals transiently change the electrical properties of individual cells, which in turn trigger an electrical change in the next neuron in the circuit. In the 1980s, Carver Mead, a pioneer in microelectronics at the California Institute of Technology, realized that the same transistors used to build computer chips could be used to build circuits that mimicked the electrical properties of neurons. Since then, scientists and engineers have been using these transistor-based neurons to build more-complicated neural circuits, modeling the retina, the cochlea (the part of the inner ear that translates sound waves into neural signals), and the hippocampus (a part of the brain crucial for memory). They call the process neuromorphing.

Now Kwabena Boahen, a neuroengineer at Stanford University, is planning the most ambitious neuromorphic project to date: creating a silicon model of the cortex. The first-generation design will be composed of a circuit board with 16 chips, each containing a 256-by-256 array of silicon neurons. Groups of neurons can be set to have different electrical properties, mimicking different types of cells in the cortex. Engineers can also program specific connections between the cells to model the architecture in different parts of the cortex.
So we're ready to start making silicon brains, right?
Not exactly.
We have now invented bricks. We have yet to invent architecture.
"We want to be able to explore different ideas, different connectivity patterns, different operations in these areas," says Boahen. "It's not really possible to explore that right now." Boahen ultimately plans to build chips that other scientists can buy and use to test their own theories of how the cortex operates. That new knowledge can then be built into the next generation of chips.
Regular readers of this blog will realise just exactly how much we don't know about how the brain works. The idea of this piece of equipment is that scientists can try out various hypotheses about how bits of the brain function, and see how close to reality their models are. Then refine, and try again. Continue as needed.
Unfortunately it's not clear from the article whether any of the really complex stuff is being modelled. You see, the architecture merely describes electrical and data connectivity. As one commenter put it :
When a transistor models a neuron, it models parts of its electrical properties and perhaps also wiring pattern. But seldomly, it takes into account all of its intricate chemical and physical functionality. The temporal aspects stemming from deprivation of neurotransmitter, enhancement of synapses, gene expression leading to additional receptors and the like, are most often not inherent in the silicon models presently suggested and I would question whether they are part of Boahen's but will appreciate it if it is the case.
Exactly. We know enough about the electrical signals to know that they are both amplitude- and frequency-modulated, at least simple(!) pain signals are.

I can see this technology being useful for testing various hypotheses, and even modelling simple neurological structures in isolation, such as retinas. But unless there is significant computational capability built into the connections, not just the neurons, it will not be a particularly good model of what happens in any biological brain. "Not particularly good" may just be enough to be useful though. We shall see.

Monday, 19 February 2007

Science vs Faith Flowcharts



UPDATE: I will add that much of Theology more resembles science than faith : the experiments are usually gedankenexperiments, thought-experiments, working out the consequences if one particular scriptural interpretation was true, but are experiments nonetheless.

Friday, 16 February 2007

Testosterone and Ethanol

A dangerous combination. Rather than "Man bites Dog", here's a story from the ABC :
Man attacks shark

An Eyre Peninsula man is the talk of the town after catching a bronze whaler shark in his hands and wrestling it up onto a jetty.

Phillip Kerkhof from Louth Bay was at the local jetty when the 1.3-metre shark began chasing squid lures.

He says he climbed down a ladder and began to follow the shark in shallow water.

"I just snuck up behind him and eventually I went for the big grab and I fluked it and got him," he said.

"He's just thrashing around in the water but then he was starting to turn around and try to bite me and I thought 'well, it's amazing what vodka does'."

The only damage from the dangerous species was a bite mark to his jeans.

"It's not something I'd recommend to do. When I sobered up I thought about it and I said, 'I'm a bit of an idiot doing it'," Mr Kerkhof said.
Only in Australia.

The Scooter Libby Case

I have an interest in US politics, as should everyone in the world. What happens in the US affects us all - which can be a bit of a worry since we have no direct say in it.

Many of my readers are American, and most will be aware if the trial involving who revealed the not so secret identity of a CIA office worker (and former field agent), whether Iraq sought Uranium from Niger (not Nigeria), and who leaked what to who and when.

The rest of the world isn't aware of this : it is, after all, a manufactured witch-hunt to try to bag some big-name Republican scalps, but it was obvious the Republicans could delay and obfuscate past one election and even two, even if they were guilty.

Anyway, I finally came across an excellent explanation of the whole affair, one that covers all the salient points. It's over in Ann Althouse's comments, by one Stephen B. Waters.

...in the end, the whole enchilada appears to be that Joe Wilson, a State Department has-been so obsessed by his own vanity that he outed his own wife and who a year earlier said uranium was sought by Iraq in Africa before he said it was not sought by Iraq, was used as a cheap, throwaway dirty trick by the Kerry campaign to dupe lazy pseudojournalists from the NYTimes, Newsweek, WaPo, Time, and NBC, which led Senate Democratic politics-is-a-dirty-game-players like Chuck Schumer, to push for a rabid, unfettered special prosecutor like Fitzgerald, who, in a previous life bested by attorney Scooter Libby, then broke all the DOJ rules in fruitless a hunt to bring down Dick Cheney, and whose investigation immunized the wrong people and didn't follow up the simplest leads that would have lead to Richard Armitage, the original leaker of non-covert operative Valarie Plame Wilson's identity, who likely leaked Plame's relationship to several journalists because of a turf war with the CIA, an organization that, like State, also has leaked like a sieve whenever the bureaucrats disagreed with the administration, and that, like State, has yet to be held accountable by the equally irresponsible Department of Justice.

Exactly. It reflects little credit on anybody, and also tends to explain some of the bogosity and mishandling in US political and economic affairs.

Thursday, 15 February 2007

Hot Wheels

Just plain quirky and interesting. A small work of art too.

RoadRace

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Wednesday, 14 February 2007

Gender for Christians

In my peregrinations in the web, I've found quite a number of well-meaning Christians making pronunciamentos on Sex and Gender, universally decrying any attempt to, as they see it, "blur the line" between the sexes for political purposes. They see it as moral corruption, and so are forced by their consciences to make a stand. Many "love the sinner but hate the sin", though alas, not everyone does. But more do than not, and that speaks highly of them.
I've written to many authors, trying to at least correct errors of fact. I've had few responses. OK, I've had one response, from a student at the Baptist "Liberty Unbiversity", which read as follows:
Please note first of all that is article was NOT meant to address the issue of people who are BORN transgender. Rather, my position is that people who are born male or female and then attempt to alter their sex because they feel they can no longer identify with that sex pose a potential problem to society.

Also please note that due to the overwhelming response to my article, this is a generic response that I am sending to all people who took the time to email me.

For virtually everyone, chromosomes provide the best and easiest way to determine sex. In an extremely small minority of cases, deformities may complicate question. Because gender roles are so deeply ingrained in the Bible, it would be unacceptable to encourage anyone in society to attempt to change their sex because of a minute number of cases. In this light, determining sex based on chromosomes provides the most practical solution.

This article was not meant to be a biology lesson, as you have noticed by my removal of scientific terms. My intent in writing the article was to explore the idea of "Sex Reassignment Surgery" as an attempt to alter sex - something that I, and conservative Christians, feel cannot be changed.

Thank you for responding to my article.

Respectfully,
Jennifer Thurman
Her Essay "DNA and Gender" is no longer available in the archives of the Liberty Champion but it was all about how 46xx is female, 46xy male, and that was all there was to it. In particular the statement "there are no intermediate chromosomes" was made, thereby denying the existence of 47xxy. The implication of her reply is that there are far more people wanting to surgically "change their sex" for morally suspect reasons than the "tiny minority" who have a biological problem. I doubt she has any idea of how many "sex change" operations there are, nor how many Intersexed people there are.

Ah well. She was polite, well-meaning, and respectful. I wish all were.

But now I've found what could be the definitive reply to all such articles, as it attempts to answer real and troubling questions from a Christian perspective. It's over at Ex-Gay Watch and is called The Scientific Problem With Sex Dichotomies. Read Entire.

UPDATE : I've had a stimulating and useful exchange of e-mails with Ms Thurman. Her compassion and passionate attempt to do what is Right and full of Christian Love come through in all she writes. Alas, some of those who have attacked her have done so with spite and hatred. She mentioned that merely in passing, yet I could tell how hurt she was. She didn't deserve that.

Her latest reply is now available. Now there are areas of her reply I really must take strong exception to, and have written to her accordingly. But I've tried to do so in the same gentle spirit that she has shown when writing to me.

Tuesday, 13 February 2007

Stress and Tummy Fat

Regular readers who have been following the hypothesis about what the heck happened to me were last told that it looked as if I had non-neoplasmic Cushing's syndrome. Certainly I had huge amounts of excess cortisol.

But maybe there's another explanation. From Science Daily :
Non-overweight women who are vulnerable to the effects of stress are more likely to have excess abdominal fat, and have higher levels of the stress hormone cortisol, a study conducted at Yale suggests.

While past studies have examined cortisol response in overweight women, this is the first study to show that lean women with abdominal fat have exaggerated responses to cortisol.
...
Cortisol affects fat distribution by causing fat to be stored centrallyaround the organs. Cortisol exposure can increase visceral fatthe fat surrounding the organsin animals. People with diseases associated with extreme exposure to cortisol, such as severe recurrent depression and Cushing's disease also have excessive amounts of visceral fat.

"Everyone is exposed to stress, but some people may secrete more cortisol than others, and may secrete cortisol each time they face the same stressor," Epel adds. "We predicted that reacting to the same stressors consistently by secreting cortisol would be related to greater visceral fat."

After the first exposure to stress, women with greater abdominal fat felt more threatened by the study's stressful tasks, performed more poorly on them, and secreted more cortisol. They also reported more life stress. By the third exposure to stress, the lean women with abdominal fat still consistently secreted more cortisol in response to stressful lab tasks, compared to women with peripheral fat.

"It is possible that greater exposure to stressful conditions or psychological vulnerability to stress has led them to overreact to stressors in their daily lives, so they have had greater lifetime exposure to cortisol," Epel said. "Cortisol, in turn may have caused them to accumulate abdominal fat. Genetics, however, also play a role in shaping reactivity to stress, as well as body shape."
So if I can just get over the stress of a slowly disintegrating marriage, my figure might look better.

Because one thing's sure: HBS causes levels of lifetime stress that are off the scale. Maybe that's what caused the huge levels of cortisol.

So much we don't know, so much we're guessing. But we'll get there in the end.

Monday, 12 February 2007

Sexual Chemistry

One of the really interesting (Ok, upsetting and disorientating too) things that I've found with my rapid sexual change with constant gender is the amazing tiny differences between male and female that I had no idea about.

Some examples: From NeuroEndocrinology Letters :
The vomeronasal organ (VNO), also termed Jacobson's organ, is a special part of the olfactory system(s) and can be found in most tetrapods at least in the embryonic stages. In most mammals, it is located above the hard palate on both sides of the nasal septum and consists of a pair of blind-ended tubes that open into the nasal cavity. In some mammals, it is connected to the oral cavity by the nasopalatine duct. Receptor cells in the epithelium of the mammalian VNO are not equipped with cilia [24, 25, 26] and their axons extend to an "accessory" olfactory bulb, that projects directly into the limbic system, bypassing the thalamus, and thus cortical integration. Simply put, the VNO is representative of an accessory olfactory system [27] that directly translates olfactory cues into neuroendocrine responses. In the past, the VNO was believed to exist only in lower mammals, and only at embryonic stages in primates. However, recent data have shown that the VNO also exists in adult humans [28]. Monti-Bloch and Grosser [29] found the adult human VNO responds to picogram amounts of human skin pheromones with depolarization. These findings suggest, that the human VNO may function as a pheromone detector as it does in other mammals. However, so far there is no evidence that the human VNO is connected to a functional accessory olfactory system. This lack of evidence, in the past, has caused considerable scientific debate about whether or not there is such a thing as a human pheromone.

We don't consciously smell the pheremones, the attractive odours, of those we are sexually oriented towards. No, thus system bypasses our sense of smell, the chemicals hit the Jacobsen's organ, and instantly our brains get hit by neurotransmitters that start turning us on.

At one point on my peculiar metemorphosis, I was excuding both male and female pheremones, and responding to both. It was most confusing, and I'm very glad that is over. I definitely respond to male pheremones now.

But what about the nature of the response? I'm taking enough hormones now to feminise a football team, but serum oestrogen level is low. Does that mean my cellular receptors are binding to the oestrogen very well, or is my liver just re-processing it quickly? I think the former, but we'll have to see. One thing we do know about oestrogen levels is the way they effect women's choice in men. From the BBC :
Taking the contraceptive pill appears to change women's taste in men.

Psychologists have found that women who are taking the pill tend to fancy macho types with strong jaw lines and prominent cheekbones.

However, women who are not taking that form of contraception seem to be more likely to go for more sensitive types without traditionally masculine features.
...
Lead researcher Tony Little said: "Where a woman chooses her partner while she is on the pill, and then comes off it to have a child, she may find she is married to the wrong man."

The study found women on the pill appeared to make equally inappropriate choices when picking a man for a fling.

They were more likely to choose a "caring" man with feminine features.

Conversely, those not on the pill were more likely to choose a macho male for a fling.
Oops. When you can get pregnant, you tend to choose lousy fathers, when you can't get pregnant, you tend to choose good ones who may not be so exciting in the sack.

Which might explain why I'm not attracted to Neanderthals. Well, I can't get preggers... and I'm taking the equivalent of 4 contraceptives a day....

If I ever do go to bed with a guy, a prospect I consider exceedingly unlikely, I'm afraid it will be because I love him. Sorry, much as intellectually I feel I should be more relaxed about sex, I'm not. I'm interested in possible Husband material only.

Psychologically, the fact that I can examine my own internal feelings and see that that is the problem causing my lack of interest in guys despite the chemistry, shows that little Zoe has come a long way. I thought there'd be a danger that I'd be boy-crazy, wanting to try out the new equipment and have enjoyable, natural, normal sex for the first time in my life. And that would be nice, I must admit.

Now I find I want love instead. Or as well as.

Maybe I should be around women who are breastfeeding more if I want a fling. From Science Daily :
Breastfeeding women and their infants produce a substance that increases sexual desire among other women, according to research at the University of Chicago.

"This is the first report in humans of a natural social chemosignal that increases sexual motivation," said Martha McClintock, the David Lee Shillinglaw Distinguished Service Professor in Psychology at the University, and the lead researcher in a team at the University's Institute for Mind and Biology. Chemosignals are substances that while not necessarily perceived as odors, nonetheless have an impact on mood and menstrual cycles when absorbed through the nose.

The researchers found that after being exposed to the breastfeeding compounds for two months, women with regular partners experienced a 24 percent increase in sexual desire as reported on a standard psychological survey. Women without partners experienced a 17 percent increase in sexual fantasies after exposure for the period.
...
Further study is needed to determine if the chemosignals the team discovered are pheromones. In order to be pheromones, researchers much show that the substances operate "in the context of normal daily interactions with breastfeeding women and their infants. Ideally, such a study would also demonstrate how these effects would have increased the evolutionary fitness of individuals who used this system of social communication during human evolution," McClintock explained.

Other research suggests that women living in early societies produced children when food resources were plentiful. The chemosignal would have been a way of encouraging other women to reproduce when circumstances were optimal.

In 1998, McClintock and other researchers at the institute produced the first evidence of human pheromones.

We are not biological robots, programmed by chemistry, unlike ants and bees. We're not even slaves to chemistry, with limited choices, like dogs and sheep. But we are affected by chemistry, and unaware of it as it bypasses the normal conscious sense of smell. Knowing that, we can make allowances, and act rationally.

Not that there ever was much rational in Love.

Friday, 9 February 2007

Homophobic Bastardry

I'm a strong supporter of the Howard Government. In the Big Things, they've done the right things, and the smaller areas of less importance where they screwed up I could forgive them for. Errors, rather than malice and injustice.

But not this time.

Even before my Metabolic Whoopsie, despite my own Homophobia, I supported same-sex partnerships. I'll quote myself - or rather, a guy called Alan :
Enough. More than Enough. Let's show some common decency and humanity and make the law non-discriminatory when it comes to marriage. There's plenty more discrimination in other areas, far too much of it in fact. As for Churches - let them follow their own dogma, or conscience, or both. This isn't a religious question, it's a matter of law, justice, and common humanity.


Then came the ACT Civil Unions Bill 2006, which was duly unanimously passed with bi-partisan support by the ACT (Australian Capital Territory) legislative assembly. A bill which would have incidentally helped me enormously.

This Act was vetoed with unseemly haste by Federal Cabinet.

Well, the ACT Legislative Assemblky tried many times to find out exactly what the Federal Government objected to in the legislation. They changed it, and chamged it again, and eventually watered it down so much that the Civil Partnerships Bill (Union was deemed too close to the union of marriage) was a weak shadow of it's former self, the absolute minimum, less than a heterosexual "de facto" relationship, and only valid within the confines of the ACT, a tiny part of the country. Less in some ways than the already existing same-sex registries that operate in States. You see, the Federal Cabinet can't over-ride a State legislature, only a Territory one, and even then the convention has been to reserve this power for emergencies, and after parlimentary debate. No Longer.

The Federal Cabinet hasn't even waited for the bill to be passed before disallowing it.
The Australian Capital Territory government changed the bill’s phrasing—using the words “civil partnership” instead of “civil union”—but that did not change the mind of the Attorney General.

"I indicated [to ACT Attorney General Simon Corbell] that while a number of changes had been made, there still remained significant issues that likened the civil unions to marriage that the Commonwealth found unacceptable," Ruddock said to the Australian Sunday Times.

Mr. Ruddock was especially disturbed by the fact that children under 18 would have been allowed to get married under this bill.

"The civil unions could have been simply arrangements for adults, but they were specifically modified to include those who were below the age of 18 years where parental consent or the consent of a court was obtained," he said to the Australian Sunday Times.
Oh for Goodness sake, parental consent or a court order is required! This is a Red Herring, discriminatory too.
He was also upset that, under the bill, same-sex couples would be allowed to have traditional wedding ceremonies, like straight couples do. He believes this would hurt the straight marriage ceremony.
How?
Seriously, how could what some people choose to do hurt the sanctity of marriage?

No matter, if the bill was changed, they'd manufacture a new objection. Perhaps the word "Partnership" would be too strong. Or some such. As for telling the ACT what would be acceptable, how about this for breathtaking hypocricy.
...Mr Corbell said the federal government's reasons for overturning the bill were weak and vague.

"It just beggars belief that we have a commonwealth government that really isn't able to give any substantive argument and just says, 'well we think it offends the institution of marriage,' well, what does that mean?" Mr Corbell told ABC Radio.

Mr Corbell expressed concern that the federal government did not give enough feedback on the bill, but Mr Ruddock said there was reason for that.

"It's not for me to draft measures to say 'this is how you should do it'.

"I think they would regard it as an affront to their legislative function for the commonwealth to presume we should tell them how to draft their laws," Mr Ruddock said."
In other words... we don't like it, we can't tell you why, you just have to guess, and it's all your fault if you get it wrong as we can't possibly interfere.

This isn't just political gamesmanship. It's evil. It's persecution.

Now I don't have a dog in this hunt, as the Americans say. The part of the bill that would have helped me was dropped - any GLB-friendly legislation always drops the T-friendly stuff at the first sign of opposition, we're used to it.

This is Bastardry, and no government which does it can be allowed to stand, no matter how good they may be on other issues, and how bad the opposition may be. They must be punished, so no-one ever tries this kind of thing again.

Thursday, 8 February 2007

The Best Medicine

My Hormones are all over the place, and I find myself crying with loneliness, here in my room. I've seen my partner and my little son for about 2 hours over the last week, they hardly ever sleep here any more. And when they do, the little bloke's too tired, or I'm dilating. When Carmen and I are together, we still get moments of the old closeness that we've always had, reading each others minds, or as near as makes no difference. Getting each other things before being asked.

I'm not the kind of woman who gets lonely easily, I rather like being on my own. Or I used to. I did way back in boarding school, in my little flower garden in the forest, that was 40 years ago. For nearly 10 years of my working life, I've stayed in hotel rooms or in officers accommodation rather smaller than most jail cells, alone, reading, and quite happy. No friends nearby, no-one to talk to.
When you're in a body you're ashamed of, when you feel ugly and un-natural, this seems quite alright.

But now... I'm sure it's the mones. I mean, I saw a friend of mine just yesterday for a whole two hours. We see each other often at least twice, sometimes three or four times a year. More often than I see any other of my friends.

So why am I crying? Why do I feel lonely? It could be that my subconscious thinks I deserve more now. Well if so, it's sadly mistaken, Canberra is notorious for being populated with single women "of a certain age" and their feline companions. It really is the case that all, or nearly all, of the good ones are married or gay or both, and besides which, the concept of any form of intimate relationship terrifies me. It's early days yet, but perpetual chastity seems better and better every day. Physically, the chemistry is there for me to be attracted to guys, but mentally, no. I've had too many years doing the male act, too many years of testosterone screwing up my sexual orientation, and worse, too many years associating intimacy with never relaxing, but being called on to perform the hardest, most difficult part of the male act, the bit I had to do if I wanted children, yet the bit that felt so terribly wrong and perverse.

I've had 25 years if aversion therapy to sex, and I think it's worked so well that I don't want to be cured of my problem now. A surprise, considering I deliberately went to the best surgeon on the planet for increasing my chances of being able to have a normal love life. Just in case my initial thoughts were wrong.

So why am I so lonely? Maybe I'm not such an Ice Maiden (accent on the Maiden) after all. Or maybe it's just the mones. Or maybe my life has been, as it is for virtually all TS people before treatment, terribly alone and now I feel it.

So what's a Geek Girl like me to do? Well curtsey to the inimitable Ninme for finding something that makes me smile, something appropriate to my mood too.



Laughter is the best medicine : but when you're crying, just a smile is as good.

Tuesday, 6 February 2007

Sunday, 4 February 2007

Letter to the Editor

Quoted in the Daily Telegraph letters section of February 3rd 2007:
Sex-change delusion

Sir - Every profession has members of whom colleagues are deeply ashamed. I am a consulting psychiatrist, and I am appalled at the ignorance shown by my German colleagues who have approved the wish of a 12-year-old to "change sex" (Telegraph.co.uk, January 31).

The notion of a person being "trapped in the body" of someone of the opposite sex is nonsense. If someone genuinely believes that, then they are indeed delusional. They are suffering from a psychiatric disorder, and the treatment of delusions is not with hormones and genital surgery.

Far more likely is that the person is plain unhappy with who they are, and the treatment of unhappiness is not with hormones and genital surgery either.

Dr Joseph Berger, Toronto, Canada
Dr Berger is the most outspoken member of NARTH, the National Association for Research & Therapy of Homosexuality, though he is not and has never been a member of the WPATH, the World Professional Association for Transgender Health.

Dr Berger is best known for his eccentric views on child health and bullying.
NARTH Scientific Advisory Committee member Joseph Berger said on a blog in reaction to a San Francisco Chronicle article on gender identity issues, “I suggest, indeed, letting children who wish go to school in clothes of the opposite sex - but not counselling other children to not tease them or hurt their feelings.

“On the contrary, don’t interfere, and let the other children ridicule the child who has lost that clear boundary between play-acting at home and the reality needs of the outside world.

“Maybe, in this way, the child will re-establish that necessary boundary.”
and
“Here in cold Canada, I often talk with mothers of small children who routinely complain about how difficult it is to get their children dressed in the winter in the multiple layers of clothing they need to go off to school. I suggest to them that they make it clear to their children that they will leave home — or that the school bus will come — at such-and-such time, and they will go whether they are ready or not. I suggest that going just one day in their pajamas or underwear will be enough to “cure” them of their procrastination.”
After some unfortunate incidents, NARTH has quietly disavowed Dr Berger's views, and removed his controversial articles from their website. According to their website:
Sex differentiation takes place immediately as the male or female begins to develop within the womb. The sex hormones --primarily estrogen and testosterone--have a significant impact on the behavior of males and females. Why do boys typically like to play with trucks and girls like to play with dolls? Feminists usually claim this is the result of socialization, but there is growing scientific evidence that boys and girls are greatly influenced by their respective hormones.
...
Males and females are not only markedly different in the hormones that drive them, but they are also different in the way they think. The brains of men and women are actually wired differently.
...
To be sure, gender-distorting prenatal abnormalities do affect some individuals, and may increase the likelihood that such an afflicted person will later self-identify as transgendered or transsexual (and in some cases, homosexual).

But barring such unfortunate developmental errors--- which we should not normalize as if they were not disruptions in normal growth and development--the simple truth remains: maleness and femaleness are innate and integral parts of our human design.
It is unfortunate that this eccentric and outspoken individual has been given the opportunity to express his controversial and distinctly minority viewpoint "as a consultant psychiatrist" without challenge or explanation of his
background.

Zoe Ellen Brain

Friday, 2 February 2007

A Piece of Cake

Cooking is where Art meets Science. In fact. if we ever do meet the traditional small green furry creatures from Alpha Centauri, it's likely that Humanity's unique artistic contribution to the United Federation of Planets will be... food preparation as an art form. Here's some examples of High Art, from Jane Fisk.





She decorates cakes you see. And my personal favorite, from Terry Pratchett's Discworld

Thursday, 1 February 2007

That's Why They Call It "Rocket Science"


Deset, Devyat, Vosem, Sem... That countdown in Russki brings back memories of interesting weapons test tapes during the Cold War. I'm sure my Russki opposite numbers found some of our tests just as interesting.
This attempted launch though was of a civilian satellite, from Sea Launch using a Russian Zenit booster. From the looks of it, they had successful main engine start, then a loss of thrust just as the clamps were let go. The results, as can be seen, were spectacular, and Sea Launch's one and only launch pad is going to look distinctly second-hand. Of course, in the Rocket Biz, it's not a "failure", anything at all unexpected, from a transient sensor glitch to an Earth-Shattering Kaboom is an "anomaly".
Here's an example:

That was a liquid-fuelled Delta-II launch vehicle, with solid-fuel auxiliary boosters. Solid-fuel rockets are a pain, especially when you're near where one hits. You see, solid rocket fuel burns hot. It burns quite happily underwater, or soaked in foam, it contains its own oxidiser. It produces lots and lots of hot gasses that transfer the enormous heat to everything around it, melting glass, causing aluminium to burn, etc etc. A solid-fuel anti-ship missile doesn't really need its warhead going off to give you a Very Bad Day.
Having many tons of burning solid fuel raining down in lumps like that is not conducive to the good health of anyone outside a bunker.
Another view showing the size of the explosion, taken from further away, is available here. More Fun with Rocket Failures below - including a static structural test showing that the assembly wasn't quite strong enough.