Archive for March, 2011

March 31, 2011

Intersex Babies: Boy or Girl and Who Decides? []

Surgery on Ambiguous Genitals Is Irreversible and Doctors Can Get a Child’s Sex Wrong

by Susan Donaldson James

Jim Bruce was born with XY male chromosomes but ambiguous genitals. Doctors couldn’t be sure if he had a large clitoris or a small penis and were convinced he could never live a “satisfactory life” as a man.

So shortly after his birth in 1976, Bruce’s external organ and testes were surgically removed and he was raised as a girl.

He struggled for years, preferring “rough and tumble” play and being attracted to girls.

“I was unhappy, but it was really difficult to ask questions,” said Bruce, now a 34-year-old writer from California.

When he was 12, Bruce was given female hormones so his body would feminize. Then, at 18, he prepared for a vaginoplasty — “designed to allow me “to have sex with my husband.”

But he knew something was wrong and, battling depression, sought his medical records when he was 19.

“I knew that I wasn’t a girl,” he said.

What Bruce discovered was horrifying. “I was sterilized at birth — and no one ever told me,” he said.

An estimated 1 in 2,000 children born each year are neither boy nor girl — they are intersex, part of a group of about 60 conditions that fall under the diagnosis of disorders of sexual development (DSD).

Once called hermaphrodites, from the handsome Greek god who had dual sexuality, they are now known as intersex.

Standard medical treatment has been to look at the genitals, determine the gender and then correct it surgically.

But now, many are challenging the ethical basis of surgery, knowing that gender identity is complex, and doctors can sometimes get it wrong, not knowing how a child will feel about their gender assignment when they grow up.

Advocates argue that surgery is irreversible and can have tragic consequences. In Bruce’s case, he has been rendered infertile.

In some surgeries on virilized girls with ambiguous genitalia, removing sensitive tissue and vessels can ultimately rob them of sexual sensation as adults.

Bruce was born with a DSD that prevented his body from producing enough testosterone to properly develop his genitals.

After discovering the truth, he transitioned back to a man, taking testosterone shots and having his breasts removed.

Today Bruce works with Advocates for Informed Choice, a legal group to that promotes the civil rights of those who are born with sex variations.

“It wasn’t that long ago, and parents were often led to believe they were doing the best thing for the child,” he said. “They still don’t know anything now, and they don’t do any follow up.”

At first he blamed his parents, but later realized, “they were only kids, 27 and 29, and they were scared. I never had any doubt my parents loved me very much.”

As little as a decade ago, the medical community thought of gender as a slate that could be erased and then redrawn.

Click to read the rest of the article




March 30, 2011

Quote of the Day: Getting Better

“It gets better when we decide to make it better and make the effort to confront bias, bigotry and fear, within ourselves and others.


It goes without saying that when making such efforts to consider one’s safety.  As my old driver’s ed teacher used to say, “Even if you have the right of way don’t be dead right.”

“The world is better with you in it, changing minds and lives one day, and often one person, at a time.”

– Helen

March 30, 2011

For your brain, romantic rejection is the same thing as being physically burned []

Annalee Newitz — When your sweetheart dumps you, there’s a reason why it hurts so much. It turns out your brain registers the psychological hell in exactly the same way it registers physical pain.

A group of scientists used fMRI scans to study the brains of people dealing with being rejected, and compared them to the brains of people experiencing physical pain. They found that the exact same regions of the brain are involved in processing both experiences. For humans, social rejection is tantamount to literal injury.

Write the authors in a paper published this week in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences:

We tested this hypothesis by recruiting 40 individuals who felt intensely rejected as a result of recently experiencing an unwanted romantic relationship break-up. Participants performed two counterbalanced tasks during functional MRI (fMRI) scanning: a Social Rejection task and a Physical Pain task. Briefly, the Social Rejection task compared Ex-partner trials, in which participants viewed a headshot of their former partner and thought about their specific rejection experience, and Friend trials, in which participants viewed a headshot of a friend who was the same sex as their ex-partner and thought about a recent positive experience they shared with that person. The Physical Pain task also consisted of two types of trials: Hot trials, in which participants experienced noxious thermal stimulation on their left forearm, and Warm trials, in which participants experienced nonnoxious thermal stimulation in the same area. Participants rated how they felt after each task trial using a five-point scale, with lower numbers reflecting more distress.

And indeed, they saw the same regions of the brain lighting up during both physical and mental tasks – specifically, “areas that support the sensory components of physical pain (secondary somatosensory cortex; dorsal posterior insula).” The researchers say that their work could shed light on why different kinds of social rejection can lead to physical pain and other ailments. Ultimately, they say, our brains reveal an intensely strong connection between emotions and physical sensations. An interesting area for future research would be whether witnessing somebody else’s distress also affects our brains the same way physical pain does – in other words, do we literally feel the pain of others?

Read the full scientific paper via PNAS!5787079/for-your-brain-romantic-rejection-is-the-same-thing-as-being-physically-burned

March 19, 2011

Because Nobody Listened, a Victim of Gay-Bashing Takes His Story to YouTube []

Matt Cherette — On March 7, 23-year-old Justin Alensa went into a Detroit gas station to buy cigarettes. He left, instead, with a fractured skull—thanks to a hateful, gay-bashing stranger. Justin begged for help. Nobody listened. Here, he tells his story.

Why did I post this video? Why should you pass it on? It’s simple: untold hate crimes occur every day across this country—not to mention the rest of the world—and, more often than not, the victims of these attacks remain anonymous. They don’t fall off of the radar, because they were never on it in the first place.

But a first-person testimonial from the victim of a hate crime?

Try sweeping that under the rug.

Stop the hate.!5783598/because-nobody-listened-a-gay+bashing-victim-takes-his-story-to-youtube

March 18, 2011

Sonnet of the Day: Shakespeare’s Sonnet 102

My love is strengthened, though more weak in seeming;
I love not less, though less the show appear;
That love is merchandized, whose rich esteeming,
The owner’s tongue doth publish every where.
Our love was new, and then but in the spring,
When I was wont to greet it with my lays;
As Philomel in summer’s front doth sing,
And stops his pipe in growth of riper days:
Not that the summer is less pleasant now
Than when her mournful hymns did hush the night,
But that wild music burthens every bough,
And sweets grown common lose their dear delight.
Therefore like her, I sometime hold my tongue:
Because I would not dull you with my song.

March 17, 2011

Breaking Up with Friends Online… And in Real Life

by Delia Lloyd

I broke up with a fellow blogger recently.

She doesn’t know it, of course. Because I don’t know her. In that curious online way in which we now Friend and Follow and Subscribe to many of our “friends,” you can just as easily unfriend, unfollow or unsubscribe to someone’s RSS feed and they won’t necessarily even know that it happened.

It was a weird experience for me, nonetheless, the end of this relationship. She was one of the very first bloggers that I began to follow, long before I launched my own blog. I followed her because she seemed wise and funny and edgy. Most of all, she had super-insightful tips on an array of topics that interested me concerning blogging and career change and work/life balance.

Over time, however, she began to blog less and less about these professional topics and more and more about her personal life. That didn’t bother me, at first. For starters, she has a super-interesting personal life. And she’s also got a terrific voice. And, let’s be honest, blogging is an inherently narcissistic activity. So if you don’t have a strong voice, it really doesn’t work. (Thank goodness for all of us that narcissism is no longer in the DSM…)

Still, the more I read her blog, the more I came to feel that I was going there out of some voyeuristic impulse, rather than than because I was getting all that much out of it. In other words, somewhere along the way, our relationship had changed and I didn’t feel that it was particularly healthy for me anymore.

And that was when I knew that it was time to break up.

Once she was gone from my life, I found that I didn’t really miss her. To the contrary, I felt a sense of relief. It was just like ending a long-standing romantic relationship that’s become unhealthy and unproductive, one where you can no longer remember why — exactly — it was that you first hit it off but, regardless, the chemistry simply isn’t there any more.

Which got me thinking that my online breakup with this blogger was a bit like breaking up with friends in real life.

We’ve all been there:

  • The childhood friend with whom you shared everything — even your chewing gum — but is now embracing social and political causes you can’t quite stomach.
  • The co-worker whose banter was fine at the office, but slipped into something more inappropriate after hours.
  • Or simply the person you befriended because he seemed cool at the time, but, upon closer inspection, turned out to have several bodies hanging on a meat cleaver in his basement refrigerator.

Sometimes those breakups can be painful, especially if you didn’t initiate them.

Sometimes they enable you to find a new equilibrium. I wrote not long ago about a semi-unhealthy best-friend relationship my daughter got into — and out of — last year. Once she severed that tie, I was sure that particular friendship was dead and gone. But now she and her old Bestie are friends again — albeit of a much more casual sort.

A big part of growing up is figuring out what’s important to us in a friend. But equally, it’s about realizing when it’s time to move on.

March 16, 2011

Thailand’s Got Talent Gets a Wonderful Transgender Surprise

Helen’s Note: The YouTube Title of the Video unfortunately reflects the ignorance and sensational approach of the person posting the video.  It does not reflect my views or that of the blogger originally writing about this wonderful transgender woman.

by Lisa Gagliardi

Appearances can be deceiving, as we learn here. Watch as the judges get quite a jolt when this lovely soprano quickly turns into a tenor.!5782107/thailands-got-talent-gets-a-transgender-surprise

March 15, 2011

How You Can Help Victims in Japan of the Devastating Earthquake, Tsunami, and Nuclear Disaster

From Huffington Post…

In response to the quake, The Red Cross has already launched efforts in Japan. Visit or text REDCROSS to 90999 to donate $10 from your phone.

Save the Children has also responded. Eiichi Sadamatsu of the organization released a statement, saying:

“We are extremely concerned for the welfare of children and their families who have been affected by the disaster. We stand ready to meet the needs of children who are always the most vulnerable in a disaster.”

The organization is currently organizing efforts and donations to its Children’s Emergency Fund will support outreach.

International Medical Corps is responding to the health needs of the disaster’s victims. Nancy Aossey, President & CEO, International Medical Corps said in a statement:

“We are putting together relief teams, as well as supplies, and are in contact with partners in Japan and other affected countries to assess needs and coordinate our activities.”

To donate or learn about other ways you can contribute to its medical response, visit Also, text MED to 80888 from any mobile phone to give $10.

The Japan Earthquake and Tsunami Relief Fund was launched at to garner funds that will be given to a variety of relief organizations helping victims of the earthquake. It has already raised over $100,000, particularly from concerned Twitter users around the world. The project page explains:

We are working with International Medical Corps, Save the Children, and other organizations on the ground to provide support. Our partners on the ground are working hard to provide immediate relief.

Salvation Army personnel are organizing efforts in Tokyo and will soon send a team to help the severely damaged city of Sendai, Japan. To contribute to earthquake relief, text ‘JAPAN’ or ‘QUAKE’ to 80888 to make a $10 donation or visit

Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) is sending two three-person teams to the Iwate and Miyagi prefectures in Japan. To learn more about the organization’s efforts or make a donation, visit

Other relief organizations are also sending representatives to disaster sites, including AmeriCareand Shelterbox.

MercyCorps is gathering donations for its overseas partner, Peace Winds Japan, which currently has personnel on the ground distributing emergency relief in Japan.

Along with an appeal for monetary donations, Operation USA has also announced efforts to collect bulk corporate donations of health care supplies. If you are interested in donating bulk medical items, visit

The International Fund for Animal Welfare will soon be deploying a team to assess needs regarding animal rescue. Dick Green, the organization’s emergency relief manager for disasters, wrote on IFAW’s blog:

“As we saw most recently in Haiti, major disasters require long-term planning and a concerted effort between NGO and governmental ranks to ensure that the greatest number of animals and humans benefit from the intervention.”

They are encouraging support through donations, which will be used to buy pet food, veterinary supplies, vaccines and other necessities for animals needing help.

March 15, 2011

Church’s transgender pastor grateful for life “beyond my wildest dreams”

By Electa Draper

Rev. Malcolm Himschoot knows about profound transformation.

Born female, Himschoot chose as a young adult to become male, despite fears he would be lonely, unemployable and cast aside by other Christians.

He made the decision, when 21, that he wouldn’t take his own life. To Himschoot, living meant making a leap of faith into gender transition.

He is now the married father of 3-year-old twins and the new pastor of a mainline, albeit liberal, Protestant church in Douglas County.

“I have a life beyond my wildest dreams,” the 33-year-old Himschoot said.

Parker United Church of Christ installed Himschoot as its spiritual leader this evening in the Mainstreet Center Auditorium.

“On this day we celebrate God doing a new thing,” said Pam Thompson, a church founder. “So let us come together in boldness and genuine humility.”

The church, founded three years ago, declared itself the county’s first Open and Affirming church, or ONA, and it quickly put its money where its proclaimed values were by hiring Himschoot when it was ready for a full-time pastor.

In this progressive denomination’s parlance, the Parker UCC is a “Whole Earth, Just Peace, God is Still Speaking” congregation. Parker UCC’s motto is: “We welcome everyone who welcomes everyone else.”

Click to read the rest of the article at the Denver Post

(c) Copyright 2011 – Denver Post

Read more:Church’s transgender pastor grateful for life “beyond my wildest dreams” – The Denver Post

March 11, 2011

Quote of the Day: What People Won’t Forget

“I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” 

– Mary Angelou


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 44 other followers