In Memoriam: Wynne Wagner

A friend of mine died yesterday (Tuesday August 30th, 2011).  We weren’t that close at the end.  In fact, I kept my distance perhaps more than I should have.  She was a good soul and a kind-hearted woman who helped me at a time in my life that was most difficult.

Years ago when I had no place to live, she took me into her home.  Years ago when I believed I had no friends, she was my friend.  She helped me become the therapist that I am.  She helped me understand the frailty of life and the challenges that come with it.  I did not deserve her kindness; yet she bestowed it without hesitation.

She worked in the film business – in post production.  She worked with the best of the best; people like George Lucas, Francis Ford Coppola, and Ben Burtt.  She worked on many great films including  Amadeus, Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back and Apocalypse Now.  She rose through the ranks to become a vice president of post production engineering for a major studio.  Not only did she work with the best, she was one of the best.

She faced daunting health issues which simply made her more resolved.  Wynne led an amazing life.

I am better for having known her and for her having been a part of my life.

Goodbye Wynne.  You were the best.

“Somebody should tell us, right at the start of our lives, that we are dying. Then we might live life to the limit, every minute of every day. Do it! I say. Whatever you want to do, do it now! There are only so many tomorrows.” – Pope Paul VI

Quotes of the Day: Perseverance

“We often suffer, but we are never crushed. Even when we don’t know what to do, we never give up.”  – 2 Cor 4:8

“Age wrinkles the body. Quitting wrinkles the soul.” – Douglas MacArthur

“Perseverance is failing 19 times and succeeding the 20th.” – Julie Andrews

“The greatest glory in living lies not in never falling, but in rising every time we fall.” – Nelson Mandela

“Even after a bad harvest, there must be sowing.” – Seneca

“Never give up… and never surrender. “ – Cmdr. Taggert / Galaxy Quest

LAX Begins Transgender Sensitivity Training []

5 August 2011
by Bridgette P. LaVictoire

Being transsexual is neither easy nor exactly something that is absolute in terms of expression and surgeries. For some (myself included), surgeries are an absolute. It is necessary to have the final surgeries in order to be as completely female as possible, but others never have bottom surgery or only have the orchiectomy or any procedures that go part way. This is a problem for the Transportation Security Administration.

A recent settlement between Ashley Yang, 29, and the TSA means that TSA managers are having to undergo transgender sensitivity training. Yang was employed as a screener for two years at LAX, but was fired for using the women’s restroom. Yang had also been ordered to dress like a man and to pat down male passengers.

According to Kristina Wertz of the San Francisco-based Transgender Law Center, “Ashley lives her life as a woman. Her co-workers recognized her as a woman. Passengers recognized her as a woman. But her employer didn’t. She was asked to hide who she was just in order to earn a living.”

According to the Huffington Post:

The settlement, reached in December and completed last month, also called for Yang to receive five months of back pay and a five-figure award for pain and suffering.

TSA spokesman Nico Melendez said he could not discuss details of the case because of privacy rules. But he confirmed that the required training of managers started this summer and was ongoing.

Melendez, who reports that LAX has a staff of 2,500 security officers and 100 managers, stated “It’s part of the world we live in today. We need to be aware of transgender issues not only for our co-workers, but for passengers.”

Yang went full time in 2006, which was two years before she applied to work for the TSA. It was reported that “Her interviewer never doubted that the delicately featured candidate with artfully applied makeup and finely arched eyebrows was a woman, she said. Her California driver’s license identifies her as female.”

The report also stated that:

She informed the agency she was transgender before a background check revealed the name she used when she was a man. The agency reminded her that agents had to be the same gender as the passengers they search and asked whether she had gone through sex reassignment surgery, which she had not.

When she showed up for training, Yang was told that according to TSA regulations she would have to pat down men and was offered a position working with baggage. She insisted that part of the job’s appeal was working with people.

She was then told she would have to cut her long, highlighted hair, follow the dress code for male agents and use the men’s bathroom, she said. She obtained permission to wear a wig instead, but was told to buy one with “a more male look.”

Yang said she settled on a short Afro, but passengers and co-workers weren’t convinced. Because of her feminine appearance, she sometimes received inappropriate comments from men who were surprised to find a woman frisking them, Yang claimed.

She said men made comments like, “I haven’t had a girl touch me for a long time,” or, “Does this mean you are going to buy me dinner?”

Agents who did not know she was transgender would call her over to search women. After management became concerned that hair length requirements would violate the rights of some religions adherents, she was allowed to wear her hair in a bun.

There is much more to the report and it can be read here.

The story is not uncommon. From 2004 to 2007, I was required by Coastal Georgia Community College to use the gender neutral bathroom on campus rather than the women’s room due to potential problems from women on campus. One student did complain when she thought I was using the women’s restroom. Like Ms Yang, I have not had the full surgeries, but do look incredibly female.

It is disheartening that this is going on. What is more, the new security rules also mean that many trans people are facing the horrific choice of flying to their destination and getting shown to be trans or finding alternative means of getting to their destination.

‘Primetime Nightline’ Explores Transgender Childhood Issues []

by Shula Asher Silberstein

A new special about transgender childhood issues is set to air on August 31, 2011. The special, which is an episode of the Primetime Live news series, interviews three transgender children and adolescents, their families and experts on transgender issues.

Stories like this are important not just for the mainstream population, which may not be aware of the issues transgender individuals face in childhood and beyond, but also for transgender kids and teens. 33 percent of transgender adolescents attempt suicide, many after being kicked out or otherwise rejected by their families. Hopefully, the special will help show these kids and their parents that there is nothing wrong with them and that they deserve the same happiness as everyone else.

The special explores the lives of three transgender youth: two trans girls and one trans boy. One of the trans girls is pre-pubescent and will soon be taking medication to stop her body from developing male secondary sex characteristics, while the other is a young adult who is traveling to Mexico to have feminizing surgery. The trans boy is an adolescent who is taking testosterone to help his body match his gender identity.

These topics may make some parents uncomfortable. If the special explores them appropriately, however, it may help parents to understand why allowing children as young as ten to express their gender identity is not only proper parenting, but is psychologically and medically necessary for these children.

The special also profiles Charles Kane, a confused rich person who was able to bypass normal medical channels to have a sex-change operation without exploring his actual gender identity and then had a second procedure to change back to male. It’s unfortunate that Kane, who had more money than common sense, is profiled at all. Bigots love to hold him up as an example of how all transsexuals are unhappy, confused people who should not be allowed to change sexes. The truth is that Kane was never transsexual to begin with and didn’t take the time to explore his gender identity before rushing into surgery. Conversely, transsexual people often spend years working with therapists to clarify their gender identities and must save up for their operations. Hopefully the special will neither spend much time on Kane nor suggest that these children will have experiences anything like his.

The special airs on August 31, 2011 at 10 p.m. Although some parents may feel the material is inappropriate for children, any parent who has questions about his child’s gender identity should watch it with the child and discuss the child’s feelings about gender.


Study Confirms Vaccines Don’t Cause Autism, Some Still Disagree []

By Margaret Hartmann

The researcher who helped popularize the belief that vaccines cause autism has already been discredited several times over, but just to be sure the government had scientists check again. Once again, they found that parents shouldn’t be worried about having kids get their recommended shots, but unsurprisingly, anti-vaccine activists are still insisting that the research is wrong.

The latest analysis was performed by the highly-respected Institute of Medicine, and included a review of the vaccine for measles, mumps, and rubella, which some still say causes autism. Dr. Ellen Wright Clayton, the chairwoman of the panel, told the New York Times, “The M.M.R. vaccine doesn’t cause autism, and the evidence is overwhelming that it doesn’t.” The report found that most children who have adverse reactions to the shots have preexisting conditions that are made more apparent by the vaccine. The study states, “In some metabolically vulnerable children, receiving vaccines may be the largely nonspecific ‘last straw’ that leads these children to reveal their underlying [problems].”

The government requested the review to determine if parents who claim their child became ill from a vaccine should be compensated. Children who develop conditions that scientists believe may be linked to vaccines, such as seizures, inflammation, fainting, allergic reactions, and temporary joint pain, can ask for compensation, but the new analysis confirmed that autism shouldn’t be on the list.

In response to concerns from parents, the government has asked the Institute of Medicine to review vaccine safety a dozen times in the past 25 years. Dr. Clayton said the researchers are very confident in this latest finding:

“We looked at more than a thousand peer-reviewed articles, and we didn’t see many adverse effects caused by vaccines. That’s pretty remarkable.”

The government hopes to convince parents that there’s no reason to be afraid of vaccinations, yet somehow adding one more study to the large body of medical research that says the shots are safe doesn’t seem to be changing many people’s minds. According to Sallie Bernard, president of the anti-vaccination group SafeMinds, the jury is still out on the link between autism and vaccines. She said:

“I think this report says that the science is inadequate, and yet we’re giving more and more vaccines to our kids, and we really don’t know what their safety profile is … I think that’s alarming.”


Women who get Botox viewed as cold and vain compared to women seen to age naturally: study []


Botox may smooth your wrinkles but it can cause you to look worse in the eyes of others.

New research suggests that women who pay for the freezing injectible are viewed by others as vain and cold, compared  to women who rely on skin creams to smooth wrinkles.

The study, conducted by the University of Toronto, examined social perceptions of women who rely on a variety of anti-aging techniques, including avoiding the sun, using skin creams, Botox, and facelifts.

The results showed that the less a woman tried to interfere with aging naturally, the more positively her personality was viewed by the participants in the study — at least when the participants were told the subject was using Botox or other methods, implying a woman might not want to advertise her anti-aging regimen and aim for the most natural look possible.

It’s interesting to note that the participants were divided into two different age groups, those with an average age of 18 and those with an average of 70, with each reading descriptions of women and their anti-aging techniques and then judging the women’s characters based on the descriptions.

The older participants generally had more positive feelings toward women who used any type of anti-aging techniques than the younger ones did, but all of the participants felt more warmth toward the women who didn’t use Botox, believing they were less vain.

Thanks to a previous study, it is known that facial freezers such as Botox may not just impair the expression of emotions, but also the actual perception of them. Another new study suggests that the wrinkle smoothers might keep you from understanding other people’s feelings, too.

According to an article in USA Today, researchers from the University of Southern California and Duke University compared Botox- and Restylane-treated patients to a group that got a muscle-amplifying gel while they were trying to identify people’s emotions on computer images.

“People who use Botox are less able to read others’ emotions,” David Neal, a psychology professor at USC, concluded and told the paper that people try to understand others’ emotions partly through mimicking their facial expressions, so “if muscular signals from the face to the brain are dampened, you’re less able to read emotions.”

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