Thursday, 30 April 2009

Women in IT

I read an article called A Painful Decision recently.
There has been some discussion in recent days in the Rails community about appropriate conference presentations, whether women feel welcome in the Rails community, and related issues. I don’t intend to review the entire mess here - you can find it if you want it. For what it’s worth, I think the original presentation was an inappropriate and regrettable mistake. However, far more disturbing to me are the reactions to the discussion on the part of some of the Rails community.

Folks, the idea that women are disproportionately underrepresented in engineering and software in general, and open source development in particular, should not be new and controversial in 2009 - anyone who cares to look can find such things as the FLOSSpols findings, or any amount of academic literature on the subject. Anyone who cares to take the time to actually talk to the women who are a part of the open source community will have no trouble getting an earful about how challenging it can be to participate.
...
But unfortunately for me, in parallel to the public discussion there have been private ones. I can’t reveal details without breaking confidences, but suffice it to say that a significant number of Rails core contributors - with leadership (if that’s the right word) from DHH - apparently feel that being unwelcoming and “edgy” is not just acceptable, but laudable. The difference between their opinions and mine is so severe that I cannot in good conscience remain a public spokesman for Rails.

So, effective immediately, I’m resigning my position with the Rails Activists

Commentary here, with my own contribution.
There's a number of issues here.

First, men and women tend to think differently, and have talents in different areas, just as men tend to be taller. This is a matter of biology, and on that basis alone, a reasonable mix in IT would be biased towards a greater proportion of males, depending on the exact developmental role. About 2:1.

Except it's more like 8:1 or even 12:1, rather than 2:1.In open source, 50:1.

It's no accident that there are more women in interface design, project management and architecture within IT either. Remember though that this is all statistical, just as there are short men and tall women, you should always look at individuals as individuals, not as stereotypes. Talents between the ears are what's important, and chromosomes are a poor guide to those.

Part of the problem is the discouragement talented girls experience at school because IT is a "male field". Part of it is that businesses are set up with men in mind, with stereotypically male aspects of bonding after work, of stakhanovite hours with no concession for having a Life, with hierachies and competition for "fastest gun in the west" rather than teamwork. The latter is particularly important in Open Source development.

Part of it is straight old-fashioned misogyny and the glass ceiling, but I think that's not as important as the other issues. It can get pretty bad though as a consequence of the other causes, trust me on that one. I invite all the straight guys to imagine what it would be like in a gay-only environment, with gay porn posters and bitchy jokes about "breeders", plus the occasional overt sexual harrassment and almost universal attempts to flirt. That's what it's like for many women in IT, all the time.

It's not as bad as it was. I'm 51, and can remember when things were a lot worse. Female medical students are no longer required to sign a pledge not to get married if they enter med school, as they were when I was in grade school. But Blacks don't have separate drinking fountains either, as they did then. "Better" does not mean "Good" or even "minimally acceptable".
TechCrunch delves into the issues more deeply, and I'd recommend you go there, as there's far too much to cover in just one blog post.

As a side issue (for once) there's a comment on the Telegraph that reads, in part,
If male and female brains operate differently, how do we account for transgender issues, and when the girls are as good as boys at all sorts of things... We can also change our hardwiring, look at concepts such as long-term potentation for example and treatments of depression.
You can guess how I answered....

Wednesday, 29 April 2009

Chromosomes 5,7 and Autism

From Genome Web :
The first common variant associated with autism has been identified and validated, according to a new study scheduled to appear online today in Nature. The paper, one of several autism genetic studies published online this week, supports the idea that autism involves altered connections between neurons or brain cells.

A team of researchers from across the US genotyped more than 10,000 individuals in an attempt to uncover genetic variants and copy number changes linked to autism and autism spectrum disorders. Their search turned up half a dozen common SNPs in a region on chromosome 5 between CDH9 and CDH10, cadherin genes coding for proteins that help glue cells together. One of these reached genome-wide significance and appears to account for roughly 15 percent of the population risk of autism.
...
An independent study led by University of Miami Institute for Human Genomics Director Margaret Pericak-Vance and published in the Annals of Human Genetics appears to confirm the connection between the CDH9/10 region and autism, suggesting neural cell adhesion plays a role in autism.

"Until now, no common genetic variant has been identified with such overwhelming evidence to support its role in autism spectrum disorders," Pericak-Vance said in a statement. "The identification of a common variant for autism is a monumental achievement. Researchers have been looking for clues about the genetic architecture of autism for decades."
...
"In most cases, it's likely that each gene contributes a small amount of risk, and interacts with other genes and environmental factors to trigger the onset of disease," Hakonarson said in a statement.
...
Meanwhile, in another autism genetics paper scheduled to appear in Molecular Psychiatry, a European research team did a high-density association analysis of regions on chromosomes 7 and 2 that were previously implicated in autism by the International Molecular Genetic Study of Autism Consortium in a few hundred families. That work suggests at least two genes on chromosome 7 — IMMP2L and DOCK4 — contribute to autism.
"Environmental factors in the womb causing a pre-disposition caused by several distinct genes to be triggered". Now where have I heard that before? Oh yes, it's our current "best guess" as to what is causal for Transsexuality, and for that matter, why phocomelia is triggered by Thalidomide in some cases and not in others.

See
Androgen Receptor Repeat Length Polymorphism Associated with Male-to-Female Transsexualism by Hare at al Biological Psychiatry Volume 65, Issue 1, Pages 93-96 (1 January 2009)

A polymorphism of the CYP17 gene related to sex steroid metabolism is associated with female-to-male but not male-to-female transsexualism by Bentz et al Fertility and Sterility , Volume 90 , Issue 1 , Pages 56 - 59

Again, the correlation is subtle, only a 5 or 10% increase in chance. But in the same ballpark.

There is no "autism gene" or "transsexual gene" or "phocomelia gene". There are genes that increase the chances significantly, allowing anomalous environmental factors (such as administration of Thalidomide or DES) to trigger the syndrome. And sometimes, it just happens, with no obvious environmental stimulus. If I was doing the research, I'd start looking for anomalous foetal environmental factors in cases of autism too. I think we have here a "meta-pattern", a pattern that patterns of development of different congenital syndromes follow.

Tuesday, 28 April 2009

Saturn 0.5

A 1/10 scale model of a Saturn 5 - 11 metres high.

Monday, 27 April 2009

The Heroes and Heroines of Laura's Playground

Transgender Suicide Report
For the last five years Laura's Playground has prevented Transgender suicides on line. The estimate of transgender suicides in our community is between 31% to 50% depending on who in the community we talk to. Few outside our Community acknowledge or believe these numbers including Dr Kenneth Zucker and Doctors Blanchard and Baily. Until now it's all been guesswork. Actual numbers were hard to come by as it is hard enough for families to admit there was a suicide let alone that the victims were transgendered. The fact is most medical examiners do not know if a person was gay or transgender due to families too embarrassed to report it. Here we have 5 suicide prevention crisis rooms in chat that are all busy. Our staff both moderators and supervisors are certified in youth suicide prevention. The fact is we have actual numbers not just an estimate. In a 5 year period here this site handled 78,800 suicidal crisis's online. They were of 3 types. Type 3 being suicide ideation, type 2 being suicide ideation with a plan and Type 1 being actual suicide attempts.

Type 3 = 46933 Type 2 = 20238 Type 1= 11629

In addition in a survey here over 50% of Transsexuals had at least one suicide attempt by their 20th birthday some as young as 7. This was also verified by chat transcripts of the crisis's especially in the early years.
...
When the Veteran's suicide rate went up 2% people rushed to fix the issue. When the teen suicide rates go up people are outraged and concerned. The transgender suicide rate is laughed at even by some who care for us. The fact is that our suicide rate as well as our estimated numbers 1-3 million are grossly underestimated. Why are people not outraged? It is likely that even the 50% high number is far too low. We are confident in our numbers and invite other high volume Transgender sites to try suicide prevention themselves. Their numbers will be very simlar to ours. To those that suggest that there is no transgender suicide problem we urge you to talk to our chat staff who deals with this every single day. They are the true heroes of our community. The horror stories they can tell you just can't be made up.

Saturday, 25 April 2009

Today's Battles

More like this week's - I've had a lot on.

There's the battle for Human Rights for TS people in Massachusetts - where Gays have had those rights for ages. And the same battle in New Hampshire - where again, Gays have had those rights for ages. A Battle for human rights for gays and the transgendered in Pennsylvania. It goes on and on.

Transgender bathroom bill: Disaster for schools :
As a former superintendent of the Greater Fall River Vocational School District and director of Diman Regional Vocational Technical High School and public high school principal in another state, I oppose House Bill 1728, a bill intended to protect transgender rights, because of its impact on public schools.
Of course he didn't bother checking with the school boards of any other school in areas already with such laws. Because the impact on them has been zero.

Still a long way to go to learn tolerance. A sympathetic article this time.
Recent news of Mike Costello's support for the so called "Bathroom bill" and the public outcry that followed shows just what a long way our community still has to go, to learn and practice tolerance. Our fear of anybody who doesn't fit what our culture determines as "normal" is the main cause of this public outcry. We can dress it up as "fear for the safety of our children in public bathrooms," but this is truly about our own fear of those who are different and whom we don't understand. I draw this conclusion not from being transgender, but from teaching gender studies and medical anthropology at the college level.
Yes, an article by someone who actually knows something about the issue. They exist. Then there are people who say things like this :
In this particular case, the announcement of the proposition of a new or redesigned law designed to serve a distinct few (less than 1.8 percent of the world population) is an attempt to 'right' nature’s laws and is in complete disregard to the religious and basic human societal beliefs of the voters of this particular region.
It's not often that explicit (if incoherent) calls are made for our extermination though as being "against natural law".
A small percentage of mishaps are recorded in the history of the world. Most do not survive in the wild and caring custodians end this condition at birth to avoid the inevitable process that we as “Christians” and who value the life of others no matter the pain and suffering that is caused by all involved are too cowardice to destroy such and clear the way for what you state is ‘normal’ when it is not.
Yes, we should be quietly killed at birth to stop others from having to endure the guilt from killing us later. Because he's a "Family Man" who "Values Life".

Moving right along...

To the Scanton Times-Tribune in Pennsylvania.
HB 300 would amend the Pennsylvania Human Relations Act to prevent discrimination against the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender population in the workplace, and Mr. Murphy expresses adamant opposition to this change.

The arguments contained in the letter are antiquated, nonsensical, and even downright offensive. It claims the passage of the bill “would be opening a ‘“Pandora’s Box’ so to speak” with the eventual protection of “every group under the sun.” It’s the old slippery slope argument used countless times in the past to justify discrimination.

In other words, if we now protect homosexuals, what deviant and fringe groups will get protections next? This type of thinking is bigotry at its worst, especially considering the LGBT community positively contributes to every sector of the workforce.

The letter also proclaims such expansion of the Human Relations Act “presents potential dangers to the general public” with no further explanation. This is nothing more than the typical scare tactic of being overly dramatic yet very vague at the same time.

Nearly two dozen states have amended their state civil rights laws to protect against this type of discrimination. More than a dozen municipalities in Pennsylvania have already prohibited such discrimination. Does Mr. Murphy not know the city of Scranton, some of which he represents, is one of those municipalities?
We get a lot of that.

Defending Angie's good name at the Colorado Independent :
DREAMS1939
I DISARGREE WITH THAT VERDICT I THINK HE SHOULD GET RELEASED OR CHARGED WITH MAN SLAUGHTER BECAUSE ANGIE SHOULD OF TOLD ALLEN STRAIGHT OUT THAT SHE WAS A MAN. BECAUSE IN REALITY WHO IS GONNA WANT TO SLEEP WITH A GIRL WHO STILL HAS A PENNIS AND DOESNT LET NO ONE KNOW I THINK ITS REALLY WRONG.
The usual mis=spelled incoherent rantings, nothing worth spending much time on. I replied simply :
You didn't see the trial did you? Didn't follow it,
Angie WAS upfront. Andrade knew days before the death, possibly longer. The prosecution proved that.

Back to the Newburyport News, and Rights of women, children ignored:
So ... if the lawmakers have their way, their pandering to the alternative lifestyles will soon result in men in the ladies' restrooms across this state. After all, transgenders must have their rights!
...
This issue, and all other "alternative lifestyle" issues, are constantly being muddied by those who are deliberately trying to confuse us by comparing their "plight" with racial prejudice. Apples and oranges. A person's color is not sinful, but some lifestyle choices are....
In the comments, we have to convince someone that Intersex conditions exist. I really wish high schools would cover this, even superficially, as that would get rid of the ignorance that fuels so much of the discomfort and even hatred.

To the Andover Townsman and Support of 'Bathroom bill' for transgendered an outrage :
As a constituent of Sen. Susan Tucker, D-Andover, I am appalled at her passionate support of the "Transgender Bill" - otherwise known as the "Bathroom Bill." This bill is a travesty of our religious mores and an outrage against every decent man, woman and child in the Commonwealth.

Tucker's attempt to disguise the true intent of this bill as protection for the civil rights of the transgendered is not honest and is an insult to our intelligence...
...
In recent months, we constituents in the Commonwealth have been outraged by criminal behavior and custom-tailored pension patronage laws. Now it seems that we have a new indignation to bear from Sen. Tucker which in essence will result in the corruption of and predatory use of our children.
It never seems to end. The stupid, it burns!

Another defence of Angie at MyFox Dallas/Ft Worth:
If Mr. Zapata had been truthful about his sexual orientation and told Mr. Andrade he was a man -- he would still be alive today.

This blog is not about a heterosexual being punished for a hate crime.

It is about the lies and deceit which must come with transgenderism can very likelly cost that person their life.
My reply:
Actually, the prosecution proved that Angie was NOT deceitful. That she told everyone about her situation. It was proven the killer knew at least 36 hours before the murder, and possibly long before that.

For some, it's not enough that trans women be killed. They must be killed and then slandered after their death, for being "deceitful".

This is the first time in 30 years that a pre-meditated murder of a trans woman - and there have been nearly a thousand - has been deemed to be murder in the first degree. The last case before this, the victim was stabbed 24 times, and the body dumped in a river. The murderer confessed, and was found guilty of ATTEMPTED manslaughter, because his victim might not have been transgendered.

The last time a murderer of a trans woman was found guilty of Murder One was in 1977.
Once More into the breach...

The New Mexico Independant, and Hate, sexuality and gender shouldn’t mix so easily. But it seems that some think that "God is in the mix", so to speak :
Darksilverstreak
"If a man lies with a male as with a women, both of them shall be put to death for their abominable deed; they have forfeited their lives." (Leviticus 20:13 NAB)

Sadly the Bible does say to kill gay men...at least "gay" in the sense of a man sleeping with another man.
There was some rebuttal here, about "the things that you're liable, to read in the bible, they ain't necessarily so". And some counter-rebuttal.
new_mexican
So who gets to say what in the bible is ok? Who? The bible says what it says and Christians are bound to follow it. It is the word of GOD,,,,,,
My reply :
Hope you don't eat shellfish. That's an abomination. (Leviticus 11:9-12, Deuteronomy 14:9-10)
Oh yes, and so is wearing clothing made of blended fibres, like polyester-cotton. (Leviticus 19:9)
And if your kids have ever mouthed off at you, you must kill them, just like you do gays. (Leviticus 20:9)
More from the Fundies over at the Patriot-Ledger, Keep the laws in line with the word of God. This one's so good, I have to quote it in full.
As an anti-discrimination measure, those refusing to acknowledge their true gender, as God created them, hate God.

He said that those who are not for Him, are against Him.

Supporters of the bill distort facts.

They seek to identify those who oppose the bill as the ones committing hate crimes.

In their confusion, they confuse legislators into believing that their rights are being denied.

It’s not hateful to desire to keep the laws of this country in line with the word of God upon whom this country was established.

The Bible is still used by our judicial system for the swearing of truth because it contains absolute truth.

Unfortunately, truth is being exchanged for a lie when despicable laws are enacted.

Gay marriage, abortion and now the attempt for a transgender law result in dire consequences.

The choice is actually a spiritual one – deny God and follow the enemy of our soul and nation, or choose to keep God’s unchanging laws.

Politicians are either bowing to the pressure of those with a liberal agenda orchestrated by Satan, or bowing to God who created them, male or female, not either/or.

MARY GEYER
You know, it's at about here that I start feeling picked on. Just a subtle impression, mind you, nothing definite. My reply, also in full, and in terms these people might just possibly understand.
I'm a fervent supporter of free speech. The way to answer bad arguments is with better ones. The way to discover the extent of hatred, bigotry and malice is not to suppress such speech, but to allow it to be uttered unhindered, and then to answer pointing out what it is wrong with it.

Everyone is entitled to their own opinions. No-one is entitled to their own facts though. Case in point : 'Also, you cannot deny natural law. A man is a man, and a woman is a woman. '

Yes, well, what about those born Intersexed? With bodies neither 100% male nor 100% female? What about those born looking like baby girls who then change later in life, and can even become fathers? There'd be close on 10,000 men in the USA who were 'born female' but have one or another unusual gene sequence that causes this. See: 'Gender change in 46,XY persons with 5alpha-reductase-2 deficiency and 17beta-hydroxysteroid dehydrogenase-3 deficiency' by Cohen-Ketternis

The evidence we have is that transsexuals are Intersexed, with cross-gendered neurology - and often other parts of their anatomy too. They make look mostly male, but are actually biologically female, or the reverse.

See the forthcoming seminar at the American Psychiatric Association:
S10. The Neurobiological Evidence for Transgenderism
1. Brain Gender Identity Sidney W. Ecker, M.D.
2. Transsexuality as an Intersex Condition Milton Diamond, Ph.D

The Bible is not so good as a science textbook. Rain doesn't come when windows in the beaten metal sheld over the earth keeping the waters above open. There are no storehouses of snow and hail. But one thing they did get right. Every primitive nomadic herding culture knows about Intersex conditions, they see them in their herds of animals.

See Matthew 19:12 'For there are eunuchs born of their mothers womb..' - so in this case, 'eunuch' doesn't mean 'someone castrated after birth', but 'someone born Intersexed'.

Isaiah 56:4-5 promises Intersexed people a special reward in heaven for the problems the bigoted and ignorant, the spiteful and malicious give them here on Earth.

Mary Geyer is bearing false witness. That is, she has uttered a falsehood in a legal context with the intent of damaging someone. Not only do her words contradict the facts, they also contradict the Bible.
Does she hate God? No, I think she's actually trying to do her best. But she's been blinded by her fear of the strange, the different.

When I'm ever in doubt, I always go back to basics. There are 2 basic commandments that all the others hang off, and if you find yourself violating either of them, you're doing things wrong and misinterpreting what the rules mean.

The 2 basic commandments are: Love God; Be Kind.

See Matthew 22 etc etc
I'm having some problems thinking kind thoughts about some of these people though. Not Mary G, but the guy who wants to exterminate me and my son.

We don't always win these battles. Here's one where we've suffered a significant defeat. N.H. Senate panel rejects transgender bill. And some of the comments continue the line of calling for extermination.
Liz54 wrote:
These people are freaks of nature and shouldn't be given any special rights and privileges. Thank God someone has the sense to speak up. As the ex-wife of such a freak, I'd like to see these people banned from the gene pool also. God or a higher power made you what you were born as, now live with it or you'll have freaks like "Michelle Kosilek" try to get the taxpayers to pick up the tab for "her" sex change. At least we no longer have that freak Sharpe around in Mass.
My reply :
User Image
ZoeBrain wrote:
A previous commenter wrote:
"I'd like to see these people banned from the gene pool also."

Given such public calls for our extermination, it would be diffioult to argue that we don't have just a teeny little problem with Human Rights here. And that the law prohibiting the persecution of other groups that have had similar problems shouldn't be widened.

It's the many who argue that these "Freaks" shouldn't be give equal rights that are the best arguments for such legislative action.
I have to keep that in mind. "You can't win, Darth. If you strike me down, I shall become more powerful than you could possibly imagine." Doesn't stop it from hurting in the meantime though. Yes, the more they rant and rave, the more sane and sensible we appear. But the constant drip drip drip of spiteful malice can't help but take it's toll. There's just so farnarckling much of it.

To the New Hampshire Union Ledger, and an article that treats us as fully human : Discrimination against the transgendered is wrong. From the comments though, the vast majority disagree with that thesis.
I am a liberal Nader voter, but I don't mind drawing a line at, "transgendered" as not a type of person at all. This is just a twisted and mistaken leniency where some control and limitation would be more appropriate and healthy for all, including the person in question.

Surgery for the purpose of furthering "transgendered" living should be absolutely illegal as a serious felony.
So often it's not a matter of Left vs Right, just some people who think we're too discomforting to exist. So they try to make sure we don't. By legislation if they can, and by other means if they can't. We're not "people" at all to them.

But we can speak out. As here, Transgendered woman testifies on 'bathroom bill' :
The state's Commission for Human Rights cannot pursue cases on behalf of transgendered individuals because that group isn't included in discrimination laws, according to commission Executive Director Joni Esperian, who testified in support of the bill.

"We have no basis to offer them protection," she said.

Many transgendered individuals, like Sarah Blanchette, of Somersworth, testified they were ridiculed, and — as in Blanchette's case — fired when they revealed their status to their employers. The way the laws are written, some said they were unable to pursue lawsuits.
...
Fuller Clark blasted those who "frivolously" nicknamed HB 415 "the bathroom bill." Republican lawmakers have argued the bill would allow a person of either gender to use any bathroom they please and lead to unsafe scenarios, like a male sex offender standing in a women's bathroom as long as he pleases.

"Nothing could be further from the truth," Fuller Clark testified.

She emphasized criminal laws like disorderly conduct are already in place to prosecute inappropriate bathroom behavior.

Lisa Mottet, a civil rights attorney who specializes in transgender issues, said illegal bathroom behavior "would remain illegal" if the bill is passed.

Fuller Clark said 13 states and about 100 municipalities have anti-discrimination transgender laws in place. She presented letters from human rights commissions in Colorado, Washington, and Iowa that said there have been no reported instances of bathroom misconduct in those states.

Pointing to those other states with transgender laws, Mottet said: "New Hampshire isn't breaking new ground here."

Testifying in opposition to the bill, Rep. Fran Wendelboe, D-New Hampton, said it would lead to "unintended consequences." Those with "mischief at heart" who use bathrooms and locker rooms inappropriately would get some "cover" if the bill is passed, she said.

Somersworth resident Muriel Ring, the mother of a transgendered daughter, called the focus on bathrooms "ridiculous."

"It's not about the bathroom. It's about finding a place to live," Ring testified.

Her daughter, born Ayshe, began living as a man after college. Now named Luke, he recently moved to San Francisco, Calif., because there is a more welcoming transgender community there, Ring said.

"I want our state to protect him as it does my other two children," she testified.

Blanchette, the second Somersworth resident who testified, said she was fired from her informational technology job in 2004 after she told management she would be living as a woman.

"I had been a good person. A good employee. But because I was different, they were allowed to get rid of me," said Blanchette, 57, who underwent a surgical procedure when she transitioned from a man to a woman.
Against the lies, the smears, the calls for our extermination, all we have is our personal testimonies. And our existence. Sometimes, as with the NH Senate committee, that's not enough. They don't listen. From the previous story on the rejection:
During the committee's deliberations, Senator Robert Letourneau, Republican of Derry, said the bill was too broad and could have unintended consequences.

Other committee members said the state's Human Rights Commission should be able to handle complaints filed by transgender individuals.
Well obviously they should, but they can't. The Commission's Executive Director said as much, explicitly. It just didn't register to the members of the committee that to many people, and to the law, we're not Human and are not entitled to Human Rights.

Friday, 24 April 2009

Equine Intersex

From Bloodhorse.com:
Year-and-a-half-old testing for anabolic steroids in racehorses produced some unusual results — including the discovery of a Standardbred filly that’s actually a male.

In Pennsylvania, tests showed a high elevation of testosterone in Arizona Helen, who was raced at the harness track Harrah’s Chester Racetrack and Casino, officials said April 23 during a session at the Association of Racing Commissioners International annual convention in Lexington. The test led to further tests that showed Arizona Helen’s white blood cells indicated she had the “XY sex reversal.”

Arizona Helen is an equine hermaphrodite, one of about 12 “sex-reversed” female horses.

“A few little curve balls have been thrown our way,” said Dr. Scot Waterman, executive director of the Racing Medication and Testing Consortium.

Kent Hastings of the United States Trotting Association said it was found that Arizona Helen has a vagina as well as testicular tissue.
Typical of Complete Androgen Insensitivity syndrome. It happens to H.Sap too, at a rate of about 1 in 13,000.
Arizona Helen is allowed to race as a male, and isn’t suited for breeding purposes.
Oh Jeez, they can't even get the sex right for horses. She's a mare. You could pump her full of testosterone and her cells would just ignore it. She has nothing of a stallion's strength, and probably doesn't even match the masculinisation of a gelding.

*SIGH*

Thursday, 23 April 2009

Not Guilty

In the trial of Angie Zapata, she has been found Not Guilty of the charge of being less than human.

Her killer, Allen Ray Andrade, on the other hand, has been found guilty of murder in the first degree, and with a bias crime enhancement. When he said
"It's not like I just went up to a school teacher and shot her in the head, you know what I mean? It's not like I went up to a law-abiding straight citizen."
The Jury thought otherwise, and thereby acquitted the murder victim of all charges.

Some people do not realise how big a deal this is. You see, in the last 30 years, close on 1000 transgendered women have been murdered in the USA. In many cases the prosecution proved pre-meditation.

But the last time anyone was convicted of murder in the first degree, merely for killing a "tranny" was in 1977. None since. Not once.

Here's a summary of the outcomes of the previous two cases where a trans woman was killed in the US, and they caught the killers:

Alexis King was shot in a drive-by that went wrong. Using an illegal firearm, the killer shot her once in the side, then once again in the back as she staggered away for help. But his van wouldn't re-start, so he ditched the gun before the police came. They found it though, with his prints on. He raised a "Trans Panic" defence. Verdict : Voluntary Manslaughter

Amancio Morales was stabbed 24 times by her killer, her body put in the trunk of his car, then dumped in a river. The killer fled to Mexico, but was arrested on his return as he'd confessed to friends and family what he'd done. He raised a "Trans Panic" defence. Verdict: ATTEMPTED manslaughter.

In Greeley, Colorado yesterday, a jury took only two hours to find Angie was a full human being, and that her death in a pre-meditated crime was murder in the first degree.

This is as big a deal as obtaining a conviction against a white man for killing a black teen in Alabama in 1950. It changes the rules.

In terms of the sentence for Angie's killer, it makes no difference. He was going to go down for 64 years without parole on the other charges. But in terms of the trial of Angie Zapata, it meant everything. Her validation as a human being.

Of course some disagree. From The Denver Channel
JOE says:
Today, 11:16:28
“MUCH RESPECT TO ALLEN ANDRADE HE INSPIRED MY NEXT TATTOO "ALL GAY THINGS MUST DIE" FREE ALLEN

ToTellYouTheTruth says:
Today, 14:41:58
“Murder should be punished by life in prison or death. Now, that being said, the trans gender community should WAKE UP and realize that people have LIMITS. We're trying to be tolerant, non-judgmental, and fair but then one of you PULLS A NASTY FAST ONE like this and BAM! We get dead man and a life wasting away in prison. You can't provoke someone and then act like the victim when the object of your antagonism explodes! No, the dude did not deserve to die, but had he lived, he should have been charged with sexual assault or rape, because his unwitting "partner" did NOT give his CONSENT to homosexual acts. At the very least Justin deserved a good beating.

Bettina says:
Today, 07:59:23
“What is happening in this world? This man was RAPED by Justin. How dare ANYONE go about their lifestyle (regardless of male or female) and lead another to believe they are who they are not! Yes, he will face his true sentence when he answers to God, who created each of us as we are, under Natural Law, not conditioned to be someone we weren't meant to be. God bless Allen Andrade and his family. Also bless the family of the Justin, the victim, and allow them to view this situation as an example of what can happen when we go against Natural Law, the way God created us.

Strongeztman replies:
Today, 05:09:06
“I must respond to the comment prior to mine…this product of 'Sodom and Gomorrah' is "not a creation by my Master or Savior in any way of the means…" he was the creation of people that cognizes as you and that has enabled people as such to behavior in the way that he died. this dude received what his hand asked for!!! He deceived the wrong man this time and "HELL" his surly lifted his!!! Read the book of "Romans" and acknowledge and accept the "Laws" of God regarding 'Sexual Conduct!!!" God has not and does not alter Thee 'Laws' that was ascribe for us to follow for the purpose to satisfy defile desire of mankind!!!
*SIGH*

Wednesday, 22 April 2009

Most Memorable Comment of the Week

Over at CNN's Legal Blog:
genie April 20th, 2009 4:12 pm ET

No I dont think alan is a threat to society I believe zapata was a threat to society because he was decietful ! so what if alan was a gang member what does that have to do with being mislead by a man posing as a woman. Thats gross !!!


Runners up:
Jason April 19th, 2009 2:23 pm ET

This was a reaction to a disgusting deceit bordering by abomination, arousing a negative passion with almost every normal person.

Tim April 19th, 2009 8:37 pm ET

I am a gay man and I hope that the defendant is not convicted of murder. You cannot deceive people like this and then expect them not to be pissed.

Will Sheldon April 20th, 2009 9:03 am ET

If I meet a woman and that turned out to be a man, that person will be in grave physical danger from me.

John April 20th, 2009 11:14 am ET

I don’t know why society goes along with this form of biological fraud. Gender goes down to DNA level; fiddling with the plumbing doesn’t change it.

Sebaschen Shaw April 20th, 2009 12:22 pm ET

i feel the offender should not be held reponsible for his action all because angie is really justin. He was born a male. It is actually a case of deception, any normal and sane person would of reacted the same way. I wish i was appointed jury duty to this case. I feel this not a hate crime and angie’s family knew she had a sex change because at her age 16 she would have had to have parental permission to proceed such surgical procedure, and they allowed her continue to perform sexual acts with out telling who knows how many men of his real gender. THis IS A CASE OF DECEPTION.

Mike April 20th, 2009 12:49 pm ET

In the case of gender, state of mind does not equal reality. I’d like to see a law protecting individuals who are misled into sexual contact by transgendered individuals. In the case where a person feels that under no circumstance would they ever have sexual contact with a person of the same gender, sexual contact resulting from the misrepresentation of gender should be punishable under law as either sexual assault or rape. Maybe then people like Andrade will have recourse other than their own form of justice


Special Troll award goes to
buster brown April 20th, 2009 10:20 pm ET

The THING got what IT deserved!!! I cannot believe a man is on trial for this.

Tuesday, 21 April 2009

Autogynephilia

Theoretical statements involving autogynephilia are a rather different matter. I have, at one time or another, advanced several of these, for example:

1. All gender-dysphoric biological males who are not homosexual (erotically aroused by other males) are instead autogynephilic (erotically aroused by the thought or image of themselves as females).

2. Autogynephilia does not occur in women, that is, biological females are not sexually aroused by the simple thought of possessing breasts or vulvas.

3. The desire of some autogynephilic males for sex reassignment surgery represents a form of bonding to the love-object and is analogous to the desire of heterosexual men to marry wives and the desire of homosexual men to establish permanent relationships with male partners.

4. Autogynephilia is a misdirected type of heterosexual impulse, which arises in association with normal heterosexuality but also competes with it.

5. Autogynephilia is simply one example of a larger class of sexual variations that result from developmental errors of erotic target localization.
Ray Blanchard, Origins of the Concept of Autogynephilia

In other publications, Blanchard has described it as a "paraphilia" - thus in the same class as paedophilia, necrophilia and other paraphilias.

I wrote an accurate though rather scathing description of Autogynephilia in a previous post:
Now the main competing theory is AGP (AutoGynePhilia) theory, a theory based in the Freudian concept that every single human motivation is sexual in nature. In AGP theory, the early transitioners are really gay boys who want to have sex with straight men. The late transitioners have a paraphilia, a fetish, that makes them want to have female bodies based on misdirected male sexual urges (Autogynephilia). This last is associated with talents for the military, computer science, or the creative arts for reasons unknown, and the neurological evidence is swept under the carpet as an irrelevant, unexplained phenomenon based on dubious evidence. As for FtoMs, they're all inexplicable and may not even exist. Any testimony by any TS women which contradicts this is a lie, and they must all be pathological liars as so many of them contradict it.

All men are heterosexual, gay, or liars too, bisexuality doesn't exist in men, those who say they're bisexual are gay. Except in transsexuals, where those claiming to be bisexual have to actually be non-gay to make it all work. And women are all bisexual. The evidence that many late transitioning women end up being androphillic is ignored as an unexplained phenomenon, or maybe they're just lying.
This is what AGP theory genuinely means in practice.

It is a basic building block of the theory that any expression of a transsexual woman's desire to have a female body for anything other than being able to attract men for sex is seen as a misdirected male sexual urge. Because if you gave cis-sexual women the questionnaire to detect autogynephilia in transsexual women, their answers would be completely different.

For some reason... this was not done. It was left till later. As Blanchard said:
All or none of the foregoing propositions may be true, false, or something in between. Their accuracy is an empirical question that can be resolved only by further research.
So those Transsexual women who had never felt the slightest trace of sexual excitement from the thought of having a male body, and indeed whose sexual thoughts relied on them having a female one, were regarded as paraphiliacs. This did not please them. Rather, they thought that if they had been sexually aroused at the thought of having a male body, they wouldn't be women. So it was a no-win situation for them, either way, they were regarded as male, regardless of their feelings. Many expressed their displeasure (actually "outrage" would be closer) in rather forceful, even pungent terms - being arrogantly informed that you're a sexually deviant male will cause that in any woman. Many just drew attention to the various inconsistencies of the theory. Ones you could drive a truck, several goods trains, and a complete Panzer division through, in line abreast. And quite a few were rather upset that one of the most easy tests of the theory, giving the same questionnaire to other women, had not been performed.

We now have the further research that Ray Blanchard mentioned. The test of his theory that this was a misdirected male sexual urge that he never got around to doing.
Autogynephilia, an erotic interest in the thought or image of oneself as a woman, has been described as a sexual interest of some male-to-female transsexuals (MTFs); the term has not been applied to natal women. To test the possibility that natal women also experience autogynephilia, an Autogynephilia Scale for Women (ASW) was created from items used to categorize MTFs as autogynephilic in other studies. A questionnaire which included the ASW was distributed to a sample of 51 professional women employed at an urban hospital, 29 completed questionnaires were returned for analysis. By the common definition of ever having erotic arousal to the thought or image of oneself as a woman, 93% of the respondents would be classified as autogynephilic. Using a more rigorous definition of “frequent” arousal to multiple items, 28% would be classified as autogynephilic. The implications of these findings are discussed concerning the sexuality of women and the meaning of autogynephilia for MTFs.
Autogynephilia in Women. Moser, C. Journal of Homosexuality (in press).

Ah. Well, that's no surprise to transsexual women. My bet though is that the sample size will be regarded as too small, that autogynephilia in cisgendered women isn't proven to be the same as in transgendered women, etc etc. All valid criticisms, by the way. But the until now uncritically accepted assumptions inherent in AGP theory - well, uncritically accepted by much of the psychiatric establishment, even if the endocrinologists and neurologists think it's arrant nonsense - well, they're open to some question now.

The competing theories can be summarised as follows:

The neurological theory states that gender is between the ears, and gender identity usually crystallises as the result of pre-determined neurologically determined tendencies and biases in sexually dimorphic emotional response and (to a lesser degree) sexually dimorphic thought processes.

That such atypical neurological development is causal in various other observed phenomena, such as TS women tending to have increased creativity, natural talent in certain professional areas, notably computer and military science.

That the reason there appears to be 2 distinct types, one young and boy-crazy, and one older and having greater fluidity in sexual orientation, is because young girls of all kinds, transsexual or cissexual, also tend to be boy crazy compared to older women.

And the reason older TS women tend to like the idea of having a female body, not necessarily to attract a man, is because all women tend to like the idea of having a female body, not because of some misdirected male sexual urge.

Finally, that cross-gendered neurology can affect both sexes, and although the details differ, the underlying etiology is the same, just mirror-imaged.

In contrast.....

The AGP theory is agnostic about formation of Gender Identity. Men are Men, Women are Women, that's it. Don't ask why or how.

It dismisses the neurological evidence as mere coincidence, an artefact of low sample sizes. More than the sample sizes used in formulating AGP theory by now, but still not adequate for definite proof.

Transsexual women are not women at all. They are either young, homosexual boys who want to get other boys into bed, even if it means losing their manhood, or mentally deranged older men with misdirected sexual impulses causing them to want their bodies to be female. Such misdirected sexual impulses are associated with certain professions, for reasons unknown.

The observation that cissexual women appear to have exactly the same desire for their bodies to be female as transsexual women is an artefact of small sample sizes, or a completely different phenomenon that coincidentally looks exactly the same.

And as for transsexual men? They're not explained at all, and may not exist.

When looked at that way - we can legitimately ask the question "Why has ANYONE treated this hypothesis seriously???" I think the answer is that there has been an unspoken axiom: that transsexual women are actually men. And all facts and evidence has to be interpreted in that light, no matter what intellectual convolutions it entails.
A few studies on homosexual males (19)(20) raise the possibility that transsexualism might, at the neuroanatomic level, literally represent a type of intersexuality.
Such a conclusion would certainly change the complexion of the nosological debate. One might then ask who is more delusional – the transsexuals who claim they are “women trapped in men’s bodies” or the person who continues to insist they are not. At
present, however, the empirical data are lacking to decide this matter one way or the other.
-The case for and against publicly funded transsexual surgery(PDF)
Ray Blanchard, Ph.D Psychiatric Rounds 2000 V4 Issue 2
19. Allen LS, Gorski RA. Sexual orientation and the size of the anterior commissure
in the human brain. Proc Natl Acad Scien USA, 1992;89:7199-7202.
20. LeVay S. A difference in hypothalamic structure between heterosexual and
homosexual men. Science 1991;253:1034-1037.

Even then, the work of Gooren et al on Transsexual women - not Gay Men - had been known about for 5 years.

Zhou JN, Hofman MA, Gooren LJ, Swaab DF. A sex difference in the human brain and its relation to transsexuality. Nature (1995) 378:68–70.

But if it was imperative that Transsexual women be regarded as men, that couldn't be used. Since then there has been a veritable mountain of evidence gathered of course. Ignoring it is getting increasingly difficult. But I have a feeling that they'll manage it, as Ray Blanchard is on the committee revising the DSM - the diagnostic standard manual for psychiatrists - and so just as autogynephilia as a mental disorder has been discredited, it will probably be listed there, as a paraphilia that only men with gender identity disorder suffer.

Monday, 20 April 2009

The Trial of Angie Zapata





I wonder how the prosecution is going to explain the forensic evidence. They claim that Angie had oral sex with her killer - but the forensic evidence says otherwise. They claim that her killer didn't know her status - though he was present at a court appearance 36 hours before, when her status was revealed in public. They claim that it all happened in seconds, and that the killer then just ran. But if so, how to explain the victim's purses and debit cards that he gave away or used?

And no, I'm not making a mistake here. There are two prosecutions going on here. One of the killer, and one of his victim. Because the only chance the killer has to get off scot-free is to convince the jury that he was the victim here. That it's not as if he killed a law-abiding citizen, but a "transgender", someone who by their very existence is a deceiver and a sex criminal. A rapist - even if they're celibate.

As can be seen in the CNN comments in the previous post, of the 234 responses, moderated responses to remove the trolls, fully 10% agreed with that proposition. That despite the forensic evidence to the contrary, that they must have had sex, because that's what those deceiving Transsexuals do, gulling poor innocent straight men into icky homosexual activities. And if those opinions are an accurate reflection of the jury's, then there'll be a hung jury, and he'll walk on the murder charge. That happened twice in the Gwen Araujo murder, and it was only on the third trial that the killers got convicted - not of murder, but manslaughter. Given that the killer is likely to be put away for a long, long time because of the "3 strikes" rule with another 2 felonies added to the 7 he's already committed, no further trial may be scheduled.

But most importantly to him, the killer also gets to live. Because if he's found to have knowingly associated with a "gay", then the Senora gang he's a member of will deal with him in prison. Fatally.

Personally, I think it more likely that if the defendant "snapped", it was because Angie did not "put out" for him. How dare she refuse, when she's a subhuman tranny? I think it more likely though that this was a planned robbery-murder. He's robbed others under similar circumstances before. But this time he gets to kill as well. Because it's not like she was a "law abiding citizen", Transsexual women get killed all the time, and no-one says anything about it. So what's the big deal? All he did was beat a tranny to death, he didn't take a gun and shoot a schoolteacher.

And if 2 people on the jury agree, he walks. I don't think the commentators on the TV know that that happens in such cases. Maybe if they look on the CNN comments, they may realise that though.

Sunday, 19 April 2009

The Killing of Angie Zapata - The Trial, Part 1




Remember, that is just one side, the prosecution's. Their job is to paint the defendant in the worst possible light. He is entitled to the presumption of innocence.

But I'm not bound by the rules of evidence, so I have access to some facts that the Jury will not. That the accused is a member of a homophobic gang, who in his brief time in custody, has already been part of three vicious assaults. He is a multiple felon, guilty of similar robberies when the victim was absent. That he confessed to the crime on tape, but did so after expressing a desire not to continue to talk, so that evidence was suppressed. Also suppressed, some unsavoury pictures taken by him on Angie's phone after her death, showing his state of sexual arousal in her car.

According to the (now suppressed) confession, the victim performed oral sex on him the previous day, but remained dressed and they slept in separate rooms.

While the victim was away, the next day, the accused found several photos that made him suspicious. When the victim returned, he deliberately sought confirmation of his suspicions by sexually assaulting her - grabbing her crotch. He then battered her into immobility when his suspicions had been confirmed. He covered the body with a blanket.

He then went about robbing the apartment, and calmly cleaning up evidence of his presence. When the critically injured victim "started to sit up and gurgle", he then took a fire extinguisher to deliberately finish her off with repeated blows to the head. Her referred to the victim as "it" in his confession.

He then continued to take everything of value, and then as the victim was not able to prevent it, being deceased, took her car in a felony auto theft.

We only have the accused's word for any of that of course.

Contradicting that is extensive evidence that Angie was open about her status, and told everybody about it. And the forensic evidence showing no evidence of sexual activity.

Similar cases in the past have either resulted in a deadlocked jury (Gwen Araujo murder) or acquittal (Kellie Telesford murder). This time... we might be lucky.

Or we might not, as the following comments on a CNN story about the murder show.

Quote:
Jackie April 17th, 2009 11:34 am ET

This is a sex crime committed by a transgender …they shoiuld be held to sex crimes just like rapist or pediphiles its not a hate crime its a sex crime.

Jackie
NJ


Quote:
D in Chicago April 17th, 2009 11:39 am ET

Send him for anger treatment only. She “he” deceived this man into having sex with another man, and he subsequently couldn’t get over it and was filled with humiliation and rage.


Quote:
D.Ysasi April 17th, 2009 11:40 am ET

This man reacted to the situation Zapata put him in, I do not believe he intended to kill this man/woman. My prayers are with the victim and her/his family, although I also believe Mr. Andrade was and is a victim himself………..Good Luck Mr. Andrade!!!


Quote:
Tom April 17th, 2009 12:06 pm ET

This is the worst kind of deceit. I think the real crime here is the fact that this poor guy has to suffer with knowing he was intimate with another male. He was the REAL victim. What did this he/she think was going to happen? All this political correctness is sickening. He should be sentenced to a lighter sentence and the dead guys family should have to pay for his counseling for the rest of his life.


Quote:
Caleb April 17th, 2009 12:09 pm ET

I feel for the accused..I’d vote not guilty on all charges..that thing was asking for it. HE got what HE deserved for pretending to be a girl. Whats up with this site calling him her???


Quote:
ed April 17th, 2009 12:09 pm ET

the defendant beat justin to death he didnt shoot or stab him. i would have done the same thing we need laws to prevent gays from doing this to people. society thinks homosexualty is ok that dont make it not a sin. approval is a JUDGEMENT as well as saying its wrong and sick.


Quote:
Jeffery Rogers April 17th, 2009 2:13 pm ET

re-criminalize these deviants, have them register as sexual deviant persons, rescind the gay rights laws and put morality back into a well ordered society. By the way any crime against persons has an element of hate so hate crime laws are bogus.


Quote:
Lord Is My Shepard April 17th, 2009 2:22 pm ET

The Lord Works in mysterious ways.


Quote:
Mark April 17th, 2009 2:37 pm ET

How can you not tell that this a man? To me he just exterminated one more peice of human garbage, and for someone to lie about their sex and have sexual relations with you IS rape! I really dont care who this offends because, homosexual behavior in general should be outlawed.


Quote:
mike April 17th, 2009 3:34 pm ET

By deceiving Allen, Angie raped him. The reason why rape is so heinous is because of the mental scarring and emotional pain that it causes the victim. In a rape case the rapist is similar to a hunter, in a transgender case the rapist is a trapper, either way the prey ends up being damaged.

If he/she knew that Allen was straight then imo that should be a crime. Although murder is wrong no matter what, a rapist being killed isnt as bad as an innocent person.


Quote:
Josh April 17th, 2009 3:44 pm ET

If the defendant was lied to by the victim then i completely support the defendant and feel no remorse for the victim at all and belive the defendant should be set free. On the other hand if he was aware of it actually being a male then it is a hate crime and he shoudl be punished accordingly.


Quote:
Brian April 17th, 2009 3:47 pm ET

Shouldn’t Justin be posthumously charged with a hate crime too? I think so.
It's not enough that the killer go free: the victim's family must pay compensation, and the victim "charged posthumously". They didn't even ask for that when Blacks were lynched in the 1920's.

While most of the commenters were supportive of the victim to a greater or lesser extent, there were far too many comments like this for them to be dismissed as a "lunatic fringe". And some of the "support" was lukewarm at best:
Quote:
isa April 17th, 2009 1:56 pm ET

I feel sorry for the defendatnt. I don’t think this was a hate crime. I hope he isn’t convicted of murder. All of this could have been avoided had Angie told the truth on the dating site to begin with. This is why you shouldn’t meet people on the computer. No I have nothing against sexual orientation some of my best friends are gay.


Quote:
Charisse April 17th, 2009 1:38 pm ET

Killing the guy/girl was wrong. Hate crime? I don’t think so, but i do think that these transgenders need to really consider telling the truth up front point blank period. Give the other person the option to go ahead with the situation or not. I can understand the rage, he was violated. Why do we have to have these bleeding hearts becuase gays and transgenders are so ridiculed? Oh well this is the life they CHOSE!


Quote:
Pedro April 17th, 2009 12:25 pm ET

Andrade was RAPED by Zapata. The transgendered should be punished, by law, for not informing their potential intimate partners before they are intimate. The laws should be changed to reflect this.

I in no way condone murder and Andrade should be punished, but this is no way a hate crime.

If HE (Zapata) would have informed Andrade, before they were intimate, then HE (Zapata) would most likely still be alive because Andrade would have made an informed decision.


Quote:
cea April 17th, 2009 10:40 am ET

Justifiable homicide…….Tricking someone into a homosexual act is just wrong. Probably shouldn’t have killed Him, but that would definitely skew your reasoning for quite a while.


Quote:
Michael Link April 17th, 2009 11:04 am ET

If it can be proven that Justin intentionally hid his sexual identity from Allen, then it is should be involuntary manslaughter.

Quote:
Jason April 17th, 2009 11:36 am ET

I am a 39 year old gay man. I have lived openly since I was 17 years old. I am always baffled as to why transgendered people can’t be honest. I do not think that Allen should be charged with a hate crime. I can understand if she deceived him. Doesn’t condone the fact that he killed Angie. I do believe that he should be found guilty of manslaughter. I hope this is an eye opener to all transgenders to always be open and upfront with anyone they plan on being intimate with.

Jason

Quote:
David April 17th, 2009 12:04 pm ET

Wow, If it was a surprise you cant put the guy away for 1st degree. I cant say I wouldnt seriously harm someone in that situation.


Quote:
bob April 17th, 2009 3:14 pm ET

2nd degree murder is what this guy committed.

When I was younger a gay man tried to feel me up, and it was absolutely justified when I hospitalized him in self defense.

Quote:
Jose B April 17th, 2009 3:36 pm ET

It lied to him. Yes, he over reacted and killed it which he shouldn’t have, however if JP didn’t lie to him, they wouldn’t have met to begin with. This is not a hate crime but a crime. People need to start being more honest with themselves as well as with others. Sad that this happened though but if that happened to me and I found she was an it, I’d be pretty pissed/embrassed and in rage as well. I would have felt semi-raped =\

I knew that this was the size of the mountain when I started digging with my teaspoon. I don't think many of my readers comprehended the magnitude of the problem though before now. Consider this Exhibit A, in the trial of America. Charged with Transphobia in the First Degree.

Saturday, 18 April 2009

The Photic Sneeze Reflex

Why some people sneeze when the sun comes out

I do. Repeatedly.
The nerves within the parasympathetic nervous system that coordinate sneezing feed into a part of our brainstem known as the medulla oblongata. A series of experiments conducted by researchers from Asahikawa Medical College, Japan, in 1990 showed this was the case for cats (Brain Research, vol 511, p 265), and it seems to be true for humans too since some people with damaged medullas lose the ability to sneeze (Neurology, vol 56, p 138).

Unfortunately, current brain imaging techniques are not sensitive enough to pin down exactly which neurons within the medulla control the sneeze response. It is within this elusive "sneeze centre" of the brain that the mystery of photic sneezing lies.

This mystery has a long history. In the 4th century BC, Aristotle asked why the heat of the sun prompts us to sneeze, whereas the heat of the fire does not. A partial answer came two millennia later, when the English natural philosopher Francis Bacon showed that his photic sneeze had nothing to do with heat at all: if he closed his eyes when going into the sun, he didn't sneeze even though the heat was still there.
I had no idea I was in such good company. Aristotle. Bacon. And it appears to be genetic
the correlation was too significant to ignore, suggesting photic sneezing is an inherited rather than acquired response to environmental conditions, as had previously been assumed. Subsequent studies have borne out that hunch, with patterns of inheritance suggesting that it is carried on a dominant gene (Birth Defects, vol 14, p 361), so anyone with just one copy would be afflicted. This is known as autosomal dominant transmission, giving scientists the unmissable opportunity to rename the condition "autosomal-dominant compelling helio-ophthalmic outburst" - ACHOO for short.
Oh dear.

But exactly what is the mechanism?
The answer to that, Bhutta suggests, might lie in another one of Everett's hypotheses: that the confusion arises in the way the medulla regulates our reflex actions. Everett originally proposed this idea to explain just photic sneezing, but Bhutta thinks it could explain all the strange sneezing conditions, since all of the triggers involve stimulation of a parasympathetic nerve response controlled by the medulla. When bright sunlight hits our eyes, our pupils contract involuntarily - a parasympathetic response. When our stomachs are full, the parasympathetic system kicks in to start our gastric juices flowing. When we think of sex, parasympathetic action stimulates blood flow to our genitals.

All these nerve responses flow to and from regions of the medulla close to where the sneeze centre is located. This suggests that far from being a neat system of discrete responses to individual stimuli, our reflex systems at their base in the medulla are often a tangled web of cross-talking nerve wires. Sometimes when bright sunlight hits our eyes, the parasympathetic system responds appropriately and our pupils constrict. But for certain people whose medullas are wired differently, sunlight triggers a different reflex response, such as a sneeze.
Which is why some people sneeze when they're full (I do), or when sexually aroused (NO COMMENT!!)
Nervous overkill is no deal breaker in the survival stakes as long as the right reflexes are also stimulated at the right time, so aberrant genes that cause confused reflexes in some individuals would have been conserved by evolution. "It's a mess," says Bhutta, "because it's never had to be anything else."

All this is just a hypothesis, not established fact, Bhutta emphasises, and is likely to remain so until we fashion better tools for studying the activity of individual nerve pathways in living humans. This is a sentiment echoed by Louis Ptácek, a neurogeneticist at the University of California, San Francisco. "People speak as if they know what the hell's going on," he says. "In reality, we don't."
There's a lot of that when it comes to our knowledge of neuro-anatomy. It fits though.

Friday, 17 April 2009

Today's Battle

Over at Canada's National Post. An article entitled : Colby Cosh: Mutilating the body to correct a delusion

I think you can guess the contents from the title. Actually, it does ask a very good question - about double-blind experiments to measure the effectiveness of treatment for GID - Gender Identity Disorder. There really hasn't been as much systematic work historically as we'd like. But enough, as I've said in my reply (yet to make it through moderation)
“In over 80 qualitatively different
case studies and reviews from 12 countries, it has been demonstrated during the last 30 years that the treatment that includes the whole process of gender reassignment is effective.”
- Pfäfflin, Friedemann & Astrid Junge -Sex Reassignment. Thirty Years of International Follow-up Studies After Sex Reassignment Surgery: A Comprehensive Review, 1961-1991

We know what happens without treatment too.

"GID, if left untreated, can result in clinically significant psychological distress, dysfunction, debilitating depression and, for some people without access to appropriate medical care and treatment, suicidality and death."
- Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (4th ed.. Text revision) (2000) (“DSM-IV-TR”), pp 678-679

The reason why there have been no double-blind experiments is for the same reason there have been none on other surgical procedures, such as appendectomy: the treatment works, and if not given, we know patients die or become very ill. We also know from other attempts at treatment that no other therapy that has ever been tried has been effective.

Finally, from the World Professional Association Standards of Care, the "best practice" in treating GID:
"Sex Reassignment is Effective and Medically Indicated in Severe GID. In persons diagnosed with transsexualism or profound GID, sex reassignment surgery, along with hormone therapy and real-life experience, is a treatment that has proven to be effective. Such a therapeutic regimen, when prescribed or recommended by qualified practitioners, is medically indicated and medically necessary. Sex reassignment is not "experimental," "investigational," "elective," "cosmetic," or optional in any meaningful sense. It constitutes very effective and appropriate treatment for transsexualism or profound GID. "


Not elective. Not cosmetic. And not optional.

So much for the question about the effectiveness of treatment.

Now let's get on to the biological basis. We knew that this treatment was the only effective one, but until recently, we had no theoretical basis for it, only the practical one that it had been observed to work when nothing else did.

There's a thing called "Intersex". It means being born with a body neither entirely male nor entirely female. Now TECHNICALLY it affects 1 person in 60. But only in maybe 1 in 1000 is it obvious.

It has been stated categorically by people with limited knowledge of the subject that XX chromosomes mean female, and XY chromosomes mean male.

While that is true for most people, it's not true for all.

CAH syndrome and De La Chapelle syndrome males have the 46XX chromosomes normally found only in women.

CAI syndrome and Swyer syndrome females have the 46XY chromosomes normally only found in men.

Most people with Kleinfelter Syndrome, 47XXY chromosomes, look male. But a few look female, and some have become pregnant.

Then there's those who get a "natural sex change" due to either 5ARD syndrome or 17BHDD syndrome. This can either cure or induce Transsexuality.

Transsexuality means "male brain in mostly female body" or the reverse. We can detect it from Autopsies and MRI scans, there's hundreds of medical papers on the subject now.

See the forthcoming American Psychiatric Assocn seminar:
S10. The Neurobiological Evidence for Transgenderism
1. Brain Gender Identity Sidney W. Ecker, M.D.
2. Transsexuality as an Intersex Condition Milton Diamond, Ph.D.

What makes us men or women is not between our legs, it's between our ears. A matter of biology. A Transsexual woman was always a girl, she had feminine instincts, emotions, thought processes, as other girls do. And was born that way. Her body had to be masculinised, either mostly or completely, or she'd be considered Intersexed instead if only partially.

This is a hideous condition, which, unless the body's endocrine system is modified with hormones, causes progressive neurological dysfunction. Surgery is also required in cases where the body dysmorphia caused by a cross-gendered neurology is extreme. It has the additional benefit of making the patient sexually functional - a benefit similar to restorative surgery after genital injury or amputation. I think few men would see surgical re-attachment with full functionality as "cosmetic" and "optional" should they have a severe accident.

Thursday, 16 April 2009

Every Time Machine Should Have a Copy

Stuck in a conspicuous place in case of emergency.


Curtsey to: Gizmodo

Wednesday, 15 April 2009

Appearance

This post is about appearance, and an appearance. It's about a woman with all the grace and poise of a 10-ton truck, and a pushed-in face that would not look out of place on a bulldog. A woman of 47 from a hicksville place, a spinster, unemployed and living alone with her cat. Never been married, never dated, never been kissed. Not just plain, Ugly. A joke. Hopelessly out of place amongst the young and the beautiful, the glamorous and sexy performers she was amongst. Strictly Comedy relief.

Now please watch this video.



She's not Trans. But the unpretty appearance, and her lonely life, would not be out of place amongst many late transitioners. They too would have looked in the mirror every day, and seen something worse than ugly, deformed and un-natural, until they transition. Un-pretty is a step up for them, not matter how bad they look, and no matter how solitary their consequent existence.

They too would have had to endure the jibe, the barbs, the rolled eyes and mocking laughter. They too would have had to have the courage to continue, to defy the world's mockery and scorn, and throw it back with a good-natured laugh. And they too would have been hurt as she was, because although you can tolerate it, the pain is just as real. You still feel it, even if you don't show it. You just get better at coping with it with practice.

And then... we have the sheer incongruity that she has the voice of an angel, one that belongs to a beautiful diva, not a frump. Not just a talent, a great talent. One that the world has missed out on for 47 years, losing the honour and privilege of listening to her voice because no-one would give her a chance. It is a great loss to the world, and entirely the world's own fault.

She is beautiful. We know that because once she starts to sing, her physical features are forgotten, and we can't help but be entranced by her inner beauty.

That is the first lesson. We take too great a stock on appearance.

Now for the second.

If she had the voice of a bullfrog, a horrible croak, she would be no less beautiful and courageous a person. The sheer defiance of the world's hostility that she showed, and the courage and good-nature with which she reacted to the barbs showed that.

I have been granted the privilege of being in the company of many such women. None that I can think of nearly as un-pretty as her, but many who are at best, plain. And some of whom are objectively pretty, even beautiful in the conventional sense too. But all of whom have had to show that same tenacity in the face of adversity, the same ability to carry on despite the hurtful remarks, the insults, and the hatred.

And all of whom would trade a million years of being told they had an "inner beauty" for one day of being able to look in the mirror and feel sexy and beautiful. Even the ones who really do look that way to others. It's part and parcel of being a woman.

If you want to know what being a late-transitioning transwoman is like, to have a true understanding, not merely an intellectual one, view that video again. She's not Trans, but that is really who we are.

My face is not too bad, but my body is like Susan Boyle's and has been since age 6. However, I have been granted the opportunity of exercising my talents before the world where she had not. My talents lie more in Systems Architecture rather than music of course. I'm glad that finally she may be getting the recognition and opportunity to excel that she deserves.

Tuesday, 14 April 2009

Blaming the Victim

Over at the Volokh Conspiracy, a generally excellent legal blog, a post which is... controversial to say the least.
In Greeley, Colorado, a trial will begin this week for Allen Andrade, who is accused of murdering Angie Zapata. Zapata (former first name "Justin") was a female transgender person. It appears that Zapata tricked Andrade into a sexual relationship. Andrade was led to believe that Zapata was a female in the conventional sense of the term; when he found out otherwise, he flew into a rage and beat Zapata to death.

Colorado law for sexual assault states that there is no "consent" if the consent "is induced by force, duress, or deception." Accordingly, Zapata may have perpetrated the crime of "unlawful sexual contact", which is a Class 1 misdemeanor and is subject to enhanced sentencing as an "extraordinary risk crime."
...
In contrast, Zapata was (on what appears to be an uncontested version of the facts, although the trial might reveal otherwise) criminal whose death resulted from unjustifiable retilation by the victim. Of course Zapata did not deserve to die, but people who perpetrate sex crimes by deception are not particularly sympathetic characters.
Neither are some legal bloggers.

Of course Zapata did not deserve to die, but .... well, it's understandable, isn't it?

My reply to the Author (though I said considerably more in other comments, relating to the case rather than the author's views) :
One question for Mr Kopel - if the accused had found pictures showing that the victim may have only been "passing for white", and sexually assaulted her to find out her pubic hair colour... would the victim have been a "criminal", and a person "who perpetrated a sex crime by deception"?

Or would a violent racist reaction be not a mitigating factor, but an exacerbating one?

What about if she "didn't look Jewish"?

How are those cases distinguished? Is it that homophobia/transphobia is acceptable, while racism is not? And if so, why?

Members of the KKK or Stormfront could justifiably feel aggrieved at their unfair treatment in comparison. They would feel just as strongly, and perhaps more so, at "racial defilement". Would not they have good reason to complain that the deception by the victim in not making their status obvious (with a yellow star say) amounted to a "sex crime" too, an even worse one?

Some "perfectly natural and acceptable" feelings deserve to be discouraged. That's why we have things like the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

If "Oh but that's different..." then please make a case as to why, one based on reason rather than your own personal feelings, or even those of a majority of people you know.

Mass(achussetts) Hysteria

I guess it's traditional, what with the Salem Witch Hunts and all. But it's a tradition that needs ending. Now.

From the Patriot-Ledger:
YOUR OPINION: Transgender bill is ‘insanity’

The Transgender Rights Bill, HB-1728, would allow men to enter women’s restrooms and locker rooms across Massachusetts, while giving special protections in the workplace and more to cross-dressers and transvestites.

If approved, this bill would put vulnerable women and children at risk and infringe upon everyone’s right to privacy.

The thought of my 5-year-old daughter going into a bathroom with a pervert! Come on, Massachusetts!

Let’s have a little respect. Who really thinks that some perverted hairy ape can toss on a wig, declare “itself” a woman and then go hang out in the locker room at the local health club?

Have you gone out of your minds?

This is insanity!
Yes it is. Not it the way she means though, it's Mass. hysteria.

Here's my reply. Feel free to CC to all Mass. journalists, and let them check out the factual accuracy.
There's no easy way of saying this, and insulting people is not the way to convince them they're wrong. People may just plain not have time to verify the facts, and have to rely on groups not blatantly and obviously lying in a hysterical scare campaign. But you're being played for suckers.

You see, the legislation doesn't mention bathrooms at all. It mentions 'public accommodations'. And the EXISTING legislation says that you can't discriminate in providing those on the basis of sex. That's right, if HB-1752 allows men in the ladies room, SO DOES EXISTING LAW. Yet this doesn't happen, and no-one is claiming it does. The whole thing is a hysterical, deliberate lie, designed to stampede the gullible, the ignorant, and most of all, those folks just plain too busy to do their own investigation of the issues.

I've seen stark terror over HB-1752 being expressed by Massachusetts residents commenting on this bill. People genuinely afraid for their children. Some of them from Cambridge, or Northampton, or Boston. All places that legislation like this has been in place for YEARS without them being aware of it. That's right, many people in MA are covered already by it. This just makes it statewide. The whole 'Bathroom Issue' is a Big Lie, endlessly repeated, just to allow the prejudiced and the bigots to continue in their prejudice and bigotry. It's not about Bathrooms, it's about employment, and that in the NE states, only 25% of transgendered people are in fulltime work. That over 50% have been fired at least once, not for what they've done, but for what they are. It's about transgendered people freezing to death on church steps, as they can be evicted at whim, and homeless shelters are legally entitled to exclude them. That happened to a Veteran recently, in Austin Texas, because she was transgendered. It's about making it illegal for paramedics to refuse treatment to people at an accident scene, as happened in Washington DC. Because she was transgendered. It's about doctors and hospitals not being allowed to refuse treatment for cancer, so the victim dies slowly in agony, as happened in Georgia. Because he was transgendered.

Please, look at the facts. 13 states and about a hundred cities and counties, many in MA, already have this legislation, and some have had it for 33 years with zero problems from it. None. Zilch. Zip.

So please, talk to friends in Boston, or Cambridge, or Northampton, and ask them if they've lived in fear. Northampton has had this legislation since 2005, Boston since 2002, and Cambridge since 1997! I think someone who have noticed any problems by now.

Even Jefferson County in Kentucky, not exactly a hotbed of progressive thought and liberalism has had similar legislation since 1999. Those who wish to terrorise you didn't mention any of those facts, did they? And you fell for it. Well, now you know better, and can go ask them some searching questions. If I were you, I'd be mad as hell about their lies.

Monday, 13 April 2009

This Time it's Personal

From iNews 880 am
Edmonton woman leads Gender Reassignment funding lawsuit
5:00PM 4/12/2009

As Alberta dives into a recession many things had to be cut from the provincial budget. That includes cutting funding for gender reassignment surgeries for Albertans with Gender Identity Disorder. The move saves about $700,000 in the provincial budget.

Edmontonian Sarah King, 33, is meeting with lawyers this week to file a lawsuit against the Alberta Government. Her own surgery was scheduled for next January, but without funding she won't be able to afford the procedure she says is way more than just cosmetic. "Without the surgery, we're caught in transition, we're caught as abnormal people in society. We're discriminated against. People have lost jobs, they have been disowned by family, they have lost friends. The surgery is so important, that without it, people could die. It's called suicide."

King hopes to get an injunction that would force the government to fund gender reassignment. She says about 20 people have joined the class-action lawsuit, and more sign up every day.

The Government of Alberta plans to spend $36.4 billion in the 2009 budget. King says the $700,000 needed to fund gender reassignment is petty change in comparison.

Meanwhile, King is urging all Albertans to support and sign a petition to re-list Sex Reassignment Surgery Funding in Alberta

My reply
I know two women in Alberta, you see .who are directly affected by this.

Women who have jumped through all the hoops, seen the psychs, gone through endocrine treatments, gotten first one and then another letter of permission saying that for them, genital reconstruction surgery is a medical necessity. It's a process that takes years. There's no other surgery where you have to prove your sanity to not just one, but two psychiatrists, no other medical treatment that makes you wait for years before you can even get on the waiting list. Only after surgery can they reduce the hazardous levels of medication they have to take, levels that carry real risk to their lives. And now, at the last hurdle, the hope that they've lived in for many years has been dashed - for 19c.

As the medical standards of care state, "Sex reassignment is not "experimental," "investigational," "elective," "cosmetic," or optional in any meaningful sense."

Alberta is not exactly a hotbed of liberalism. When I visited your province not that long ago from Australia, I thought "Great, a place which embraced conservative values, but also recognised medical reality, even if it was embarrassing and uncomfortable". My kind of place. To see it step backwards for 19c is... well, it's disappointing. OK, it will result in some deaths, and has already caused untold misery to my friends, but that's par for the course in most parts of Canada. Even though the data we have shows that sex reassignment surgery pays for itself over 5 years, the recurring cost of not providing it is higher than the one-off surgery cost. A good investment return, over 15% compounded. But politically a hot potato that few conservative governments have had the courage to pick up.

Now you've dropped it, and the long-term costs will be compounded by the inevitable human rights suits, win or lose. As I said, it's disappointing. I had thought better of you.
The cost of the surgery is 19c per taxpayer per year.

I ask all readers of this blog to go to the petition site and make their views known. As a personal favour to me, and my friends in Edmonton, Alberta.

Friday, 10 April 2009

Thursday, 9 April 2009

So what position does she play?

Darwin Central is one of my favourite sites, a place for rational conservatives. I like to think I'm one of them.

Here's a portion of a recent post though.
So, some claimed 34% of Americans already have to bow to the will of a "self-identified" minority so small it is statistically irrelevant. There is nothing even remotely good about that, IMO. I've refrained from commenting on these threads but I've read enough. I didn't want to offend anyone but you know what, who gives a f.ck about offending these people? They obviously have zero respect for the rest of society so the feeling is mutual. What kind of nerve does someone have who gets their dick cut off, takes hormones and has tits installed to tell me something is wrong with me because I think that is just insane?

Nobody has lied to me and nobody has duped me. I would say that it was quite the opposite. Somehow supposedly 1/3 of the American people have been duped into tacit approval of people's messed up, mentally disturbed sex-fetishes.
I don't think he knew that one of "these people" was posting on that thread. So I called him out on it.
The tits came naturally, and I didn't have a "dick" to cut off (not that that's done anyway...). But I'm one of "these people".

May I refer you to the DC University threads on the subject? Please read Transsexuality and Intersex and then Transsexuality Q&A

Then please get back to me, and we can discuss this rationally. By all means give any evidence you have that contradicts what I've written.

You have accused me of having no respect for society, and even said that's obvious. Well if so, proving that should be easy for you, and I invite you to try.

You've also said that you think gender reassignment is insane. Here the onus is on me to prove otherwise, as there's an excellent prima facie case that you're right. Hence the DC University threads.

One more thing. Yes, I do take what you've said personally.

If, after reviewing the evidence I've given, you still think that I am, and I quote, some one who is "messed up" with a "mentally disturbed sex-fetish" and with "zero respect for the rest of society " then I invite you to argue your case, and no apology would be appropriate for an honestly-held opinion with a rational basis, no matter how much I might disagree with it.

Just don't hide behind "I have no wish to give offense but..." and have the guts to say it to my face, rather than to a group not present here to defend themselves against your insults. I won't call you an ignorant and irrational bigot until you've proven that's what you are - I doubt that you're either. All I have now is evidence for a pardonable lack of knowledge on your part, a strongly held opinion based on a very limited grasp of the facts, and thinking that you could hide behind anonymity and not be confronted by one of "those people" you have no respect for to force you to justify your assertions about them. Well, I'm calling you out on it.

There's a lot in those threads, so I don't expect an answer soon. I do expect either a rational argument justifying your personal attack on me, or an apology. If I get neither, I won't let the matter drop, and will take it up with the moderators. Is a week long enough, or would you like more time? It doesn't have to be an ironclad justification, just a rational one.
As for the title of this post? It's from an old joke, with many variants. Here's one:
Boss: Johnson, we are giving you a promotion but you have to move to Montreal.

Johnson: Montreal! "Nothing comes from there except hookers and hockey players!"

Boss: Listen pal, my wife comes from there!

Johnson, without missing a beat replies, "No kidding! What position does she play?"
I believe that the answer, the antidote, to false, misleading or hateful "free speech" is not censorship, but more "free speech". I also agree with Woodrow Wilson -
I have always been among those who believed that the greatest freedom of speech was the greatest safety, because if a man is a fool the best thing to do is to encourage him to advertise the fact by speaking.
I need no encouragement of course. Er, wait, that didn't turn out right....

When passions are high, and matters are worth getting passionate about, sometimes a little humour can provide the social lubricant needed to ensure we treat others with the respect they deserve. And sometimes it just shows to anyone monitoring the debate just exactly what a humourless, ignorant and bigoted anal sphinctre one of the sides is. A win either way.

Wednesday, 8 April 2009

Mostly Armless

A regular reader and personal friend, Petra, put me on to this little story. One that I'd missed.

From Science Daily :
Phantom limbs, often described after amputation, are also experienced as an extra limb in patients who are paralyzed on one side following a stroke. Referred to as supernumerary phantom limb (SPL), patients can usually perceive these limbs as a vivid somatosensory presence of an extra limb, but generally cannot see or intentionally move them. In some unusual cases, however, patients have reported seeing their phantom limb or feeling objects or body parts with it, which indicates that multiple areas of the brain may be involved in SPLs.

A new study on a patient who experienced an SPL which she could feel, see and intentionally move is published in Annals of Neurology, the official journal of the American Neurological Association and the Child Neurology Society. It is one of the very few studies to investigate brain activity connected to SPLs.

The study involved a 64-year-old woman who suffered a stroke and was subsequently paralyzed on her left side. A few days after the stroke, she experienced an SPL starting from the elbow of her paralyzed left arm, which she described as “pale,” “milk-white” and “transparent.” She claimed she could move, see and even use the SPL to touch parts of her body such as her head and right shoulder, but that she experienced it only when she decided to “trigger” it intentionally. She even claimed to be able to use it to scratch an itch on her head, with an actual sense of relief. She also reported that the phantom limb could not penetrate solid objects
So far, nothing much new. Except there's this, which has come out of Left Field...
Led by Asaid Khateb of Geneva University Hospitals, researchers conducted functional magnetic resonance imaging scans to analyze the patient’s brain activity during actual and imagined movements of her healthy right hand, imagined movements of her paralyzed left hand and movements of the SPL.

The real movements of the right hand were associated the dominant activation of left areas of the brain associated with movement, perception of stimuli and visual processing, as expected. Similar but less extensive activations were seen with imaginary movements of the right hand. In contrast, imaginary movements of the paralyzed left hand showed dominant activation in areas associated with movement in right side of the brain. When asked to scratch her cheek with the SPL, areas of the brain associated with movement and vision were activated, which confirmed her report that she could see and move her SPL. In addition, a measurable sensory response was also detected when she scratched her left cheek with the SPL.
Who ordered THAT?? We can come up with some plausible explanations for brain activity in the motor section, either in the paralysed arm or the "new" one that's just been acquired. Clues as to how body image is mapped in the brain, something we have only the barest understanding of at the moment.

But when the imaginary arm scratches an itch, there's a measurable sensory response. We can't say the response is a figment of the imagination, something purely psychological. Not only does the patient say it's real, so does the MRI scan, objective rather than subjective evidence.

I'm not even going to try to formulate a conjecture on this one.

More at SwissInfo.ch, but as that was published on April 1st, there was a certain credibility problem.

When I first read this, I was immediately reminded of some stories by Larry Niven. Ones involving Gil "the Arm" Hamilton. Life imitating Art?

Anyway, another part of the puzzle. One that can't be wished away simply because it's inconvenient.