Archive for August, 2011

August 31, 2011

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

August 30, 2011

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

August 30, 2011

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.

August 30, 2011

‘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.


August 30, 2011

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.”


August 30, 2011

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.”

Read more:

August 20, 2011

Saturday Lite: “No Time”

“No Time” to slow down…

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August 20, 2011

How to Stop Working and Go Home at Night []

By Alan Henry

Many of us can’t wait to pack up and head home at the end of a long workday: we count down the hours and as soon as our shift is up, we’re out the door. For others, there’s a stigma to leaving on time, or worse, we have a difficult time forcing ourselves to leave the office, whether or or not we love our work. Here are some ways to break the cycle of working late and get your evenings, and sanity, back.

You might not have the willpower to just leave on time at the end of every day, you may feel like you have to stay late, or maybe you’re on a roll or your coworkers are still there. Still, there are ways to coax yourself to leave.

Make Leaving Worth Your While

If you provide yourself an incentive (or by contrast, a punishment) to get out of the office on time, you can trick yourself into wrapping up your work every day at the same time. It may not cut to the core of why you get lost in your work, or feel like you have to work late, but it does provide you a reason to get out of the office on time. Here are a few suggestions:

Have a family member call you each day. If one of your primary concerns about working late so frequently is that you’re missing out on time with your spouse, partner, friends, or children, one great way to get that jolt back to reality is to have one of them call you when it’s time for you to head home. You’ll need to sit down and talk this over with your family, and you’re explicitly telling your family to force you into coming home every night, but those are good things if they achieve the desired goal. Talk it over with them and ask for their help.

One of my colleagues at former job used to get a call from his wife or daughter when they knew he should be packing up to head home. It wasn’t enough to have dinner ready when he got home, he needed a bit more motivation to actually stop working and leave the office. Hearing his daughter’s voice at the end of the day was just enough motivation to make him want to go home and see her. Alternatively, enlist some friends to call or SMS you to remind you that it’s time to leave the office-or to meet you after work.

Schedule an activity right after work, every day. If you’ve been meaning to get into shape, take a yoga class, or volunteer at a local charity, making sure you sign up for activities that will force you to leave the office at a regular time every day is a great way to stay active, do something with yourself outside of the office, and give yourself incentive to leave the office every day on time.

For some people, getting a gym membership is enough to encourage them to not waste the money they spend every month and get out of the office and to the gym every day. For others, it takes a little more: meeting a friend at the gym every day at the same time, for example, or signing up for a sports league or volunteer shift that begins at a time that requires you to pack up and leave the office at the end of your day if you want to make it to your next obligation on time.

Click to read the rest of the article

August 15, 2011

The Most Important LGBT Group You’ve Never Heard Of []

By Andrew Harmon

How to conduct an accurate count of the American population — an estimate that controls congressional seat allocation and the disbursement of billions in federal dollars to cash-strapped states and municipalities — is a reliable flashpoint of controversy when the U.S. Census rolls around every 10 years.

What seems to have drawn little controversy in the release of the 2010 Census over the past several months, however, is a Los Angeles–based LGBT research organization that partnered with the federal bureau to present the most detailed information to date on gay and lesbian households.

The data might seem humdrum without political livelihoods or budgets at stake, but the public has now seen a clearer snapshot of the LGBT population thanks to weekly installments over the summer from the Charles R. Williams Institute on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity Law and Policy at the University of California, Los Angeles, School of Law, and the final state-by-state data set will be released next week. It’s part of a larger approach from the group that uses research, not rhetoric, to ensure LGBT people are visible.

The census does not inquire as to the sexual orientation or gender identity of respondents. But it does ask whether a person’s relationship with an adult of the same sex is described as “husband/wife” or “unmarried partner” as well as whether same-sex couples are raising children. Researchers have found, for instance, that 11,572 same-sex couples reside in Kentucky, where voters passed a constitutional amendment in 2004 banning gay marriage by a 3-1 margin. In North Carolina, 6,290 households headed by gay couples are raising children in a state that already statutorily bars them from marriage — showing what’s at stake if voters follow in the cruel direction of Kentucky and another 28 states and approve an anti–marriage equality constitutional amendment next year.

Rural counties often show higher rates of couples with children than urban and suburban ones, and regional media have steadily reported the dramatic increase in same-sex couples identifying their relationships, leading one fringe lawmaker to react by calling the rise “regrettable.”

“The influence of the church plays a factor here. We have more churches today … that are saying homosexuality does not go against biblical truth,” Oklahoma state representative Sally Kern told TheOklahoman last month. “Another factor is homosexuality is being taught in our schools as a normal and acceptable lifestyle, so when that happens, you are going to have more young people coming out of school who have a more favorable attitude towards homosexuality.”

But for the rest of us, numbers like LGBT Census data from a California think tank provide a statistical weapon. The Census results further countered long-propagated stereotypes that the LGBT population is wealthy, white, and living in urban gay neighborhoods. Upcoming reports from the Williams Institute will offer greater insight into some of the most pressing and headline-grabbing LGBT issues, including a demographic portrait of binational gay couples, who lack immigration sponsorship rights because of the Defense of Marriage Act.

Click to read the rest of the article….

August 15, 2011

Is High Blood Pressure Caused by a Virus? []

By Alasdair Wilkins

High blood pressure, also known as hypertension, is one of the leading risk factors behind strokes, heart failure, aneurysms, and other deadly serious medical conditions. But here’s the weird thing about hypertension: we don’t actually know what causes it.

That may sound like a strange thing to say – surely, high blood pressure is the result of poor diet, or perhaps a genetic predisposition? And yes, both lifestyle choices and genetics have been shown to be correlated with hypertension, but they don’t actually cause the condition. In 95% of all cases of hypertension – a category known as essential hypertension – there is no medically recognized cause at all.

That may be about to change, thanks to researchers at the cardiology center of Beijing Chaoyang Hospital. They report the first conclusive evidence of a link between the human cytomegalovirus (HCMV) and essential hypertension. HCMV is a common virus that infects most people at some point in their lives, but it often remains completely dormant, and so shows no symptoms.

But when the virus does become activated, it can then cause high blood pressure, a condition exacerbated by all those genetic and lifestyle factors. This knowledge could have a huge impact on the fight against controlling hypertension, and by extension working to prevent strokes, serious heart conditions, and other deadly diseases. If we can create a vaccine for HCMV, it could radically cut down on the incidence of essential hypertension.

Researcher Yang Xinchun explains:

“If we can get conclusive evidence of the relationship, we can get better medical vaccines and remedies for hypertension. It is the first time someone managed to find this relationship…so we need to undergo more tests with a wider scope of patients.”

The researchers stressed that a vaccine is still a long ways off, so it’s still crucially important for those with hypertension or at risk of the condition to control the other risk factors. Since we can’t change our genetics either, that pretty much comes down to altering diet and lifestyle to help control one’s blood pressure.


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