Bathroom Bills and Your Right to Wee, According to Your Gender Identity(ee)

Bathroom bills are on the march across the United States.  Most of the states pursuing these “bathroom bills” are based in the South or Midwest of the country.  However, they may not be exclusive to these areas.  Either way, it is very disconcerting.

The gist of the “bathroom bills” is a ploy to allow discrimination against LGBTIQ based upon an exercise of “religious freedom”, “privacy issues”, and imaginary “safety issues”.  Most are sponsored by organizations that are virulently intolerant of anyone who is perceived as “not straight.”  Religion might be in their name, but it is historical patriarchal mechanisms which they are really supporting.  Thus, it is a structure that cannot tolerate any threat to loss of power or influence at it’s core.  This structure must constantly renew itself through immersion of people (aka students) into its values.  One way to do that is to engender fear and suspicion in the community (aka school) of anyone who is different.

This brings us to the issue of lawsuits and bathroom use for transfolk who are school-aged students, especially for middle and high school.  It brings up issues of support, rights, and safety, not only for the trans student, but for all students of every stripe, color, creed, race, gender, and orientation by restricting a student due to a trait or feature about said student(s).  Hence, it can be the beginning of a long and winding road of discrimination of class(es) of people.

One particular lawsuit in Virginia is winding its way to a possible Supreme Court showdown.  It is one in which there is a strong likelihood that the suit will be returned to the states due to the new Trump administration and their penchant for “traditional values”.

I don’t want to be a wet-noodle or a Debby Downer, but the efforts to secure a right to use the bathroom matching one’s gender identity is about to go on pause for a while in some states, and that would likely include Virginia.

I’m an old transwoman of over 20 years. I also counsel as an MFT those who are closeted or keeping secrets, or in an inquiry into their identity. These are not easy things to address.

Suing in federal court to identify a “right” to not be discriminated due to gender identity has moved forward by linking such suits to Title IX clauses prohibiting sex discrimination.  This linkage is thanks to the Obama administration creating rules with executive orders which altered the interpretation of sex to include gender identity.  A very logical and appropriate development, in my view.   But, forgive the pun, this area of law is still quite fluid. 

However, with this new Trump administration I believe it is extremely likely that these rules will be removed. In that case, pursuing nondiscrimination based upon gender identity does not necessarily have federal backing. And that means these battles against discrimination will return to the state level.

A law professor of mine once said, regarding suing for discrimination, that if you file suit, you better win. Because if you don’t win, you’ll not only be hurting yourself, but the entire class of people just like you.

Tread carefully. Work with the school districts to avoid going to court unless it is absolutely necessary. Consider accepting a compromise that does not demean, shame, or invoke suffering, especially if the motive of the school district is really about doing their best to protect and respect the trans student, as well as deal with other parents who act out of fears, not facts. Most of all stay safe.

Or as my father used to tell me, “It might be YOUR right. But don’t be DEAD right.” Good advice.

20 years ago when I came out, facing myself, and facing others, I made compromises in order to survive. There were no laws protecting Transfolk from any kind of discrimination.  In order to allay others’ fears. In order to keep my job. In order to have a place to live.  And in time people came around and wondered what all the fuss was about. I don’t want any of us to go back in time. But I don’t want anyone hurt, injured or killed either.

Lastly, do not take this as surrender or appeasement.  One must pick their battles while also maintaining their ability to function in the greater society.  It is sometimes a long and slow trudging process.  Moving forward is often done in small steps, through being real and allowing people to know you, and you getting your message out there in how you live your life, and how you speak about your life.

Facial Hints Sharpen People’s ‘Gaydar’ [livescience.com]

by Stephanie Pappas, LiveScience Senior Writer

People can judge with surprising accuracy whether someone is gay or straight — even when they’re looking at a black-and-white photograph, cropped of hair and identifying marks, and presented upside down.

The findings from a University of Washington study suggest people use a combination of clues from individual facial features and from the way those features fit together to make snap judgments aboutsexual orientation, said researcher Joshua Tabak, a graduate student in psychology.

“We may be doing this so efficiently that we may not even have to try to make this judgment,” Tabak told LiveScience.

Guessing sexual orientation

Tabak’s is not the first study to find that people can correctly guess a person’s sexual orientation from a photograph more often than just by chance. This “gaydar” isn’t infallible: The rate of correct guesses is usually in the high 50 percent to mid-60 percent range, Tabak said.

Still, that’s pretty impressive, he said, given that researchers use cropped faces without hair, jewelry or other possible hints about sexual orientation. [5 Myths About Gay People Debunked]

What earlier studies had not done was to tease out how people make these snap sexuality judgments. They might base it on individual facial features — nose or eyes — or they might look at how the features fit together in the face, such as how far apart the eyes are. Or it could be some combination of both.

Click to read the rest of the article…

Cynthia Nixon says she’s gay by ‘choice.’ Is it really a choice? [latimes.com]

By Karen Kaplan, Los Angeles Times/For the Booster Shots blog

Former “Sex and the City” star Cynthia Nixon says she is gay by “choice” – a statement that has riled many gay rights activitists who insist that people don’t choose their sexual orientation.

Here’s what Nixon, who recently shaved her head to play acancer patient in a Broadway production of “Wit,” told the New York Times Magazine:

“I gave a speech recently, an empowerment speech to a gay audience, and it included the line ‘I’ve been straight and I’ve been gay, and gay is better.’ And they tried to get me to change it, because they said it implies that homosexuality can be a choice. And for me, it is a choice. I understand that for many people it’s not, but for me it’s a choice, and you don’t get to define my gayness for me.”

The question of whether sexual orientation is subject to nature or nurture – or some combination of both – has been hotly debated for years. If it is not an immutable characteristic, that would imply that a gay person could be somehow transformed into a straight one. In other words, homosexuality could be “cured.” Which in turn implies that being gay is some sort of illness.

Hence, the offense taken to this point of view.

Nixon seemed to anticipate the controversy her remarks might generate. She also told the New York Times:

“A certain section of our community is very concerned that it not be seen as a choice, because if it’s a choice, then we could opt out. I say it doesn’t matter if we flew here or we swam here, it matters that we are here and we are one group and let us stop trying to make a litmus test for who is considered gay and who is not.” Her face was red and her arms were waving. “As you can tell,” she said, “I am very annoyed about this issue. Why can’t it be a choice? Why is that any less legitimate? It seems we’re just ceding this point to bigots who are demanding it, and I don’t think that they should define the terms of the debate. I also feel like people think I was walking around in a cloud and didn’t realize I was gay, which I find really offensive. I find it offensive to me, but I also find it offensive to all the men I’ve been out with.”

As expected, this did not go over smoothly with everyone. Writing on AmericaBlog Gay, John Aravosis wrote that Nixon “needs to learn how to choose her words better, because she just fell into a right-wing trap, willingly. When the religious right says it’s a choice, they mean you quite literally choose your sexual orientation, you can change it at will, and that’s bull.”

So, what’s the scientific evidence that sexual orientation is either a biologically determined trait or an actual choice?

Spanish study published in 2009 in the journal Investigacion Clinica summarizes the evidence forgenetic influences. Based on research comparing identical twins, fraternal twins and even siblings who were adopted, scientists have determined that 27% to 76% of the chance that one is gay is determined by DNA. The genetic influence appears to be greater for men than for women, according to the study.

Other stuff is probably happening in utero that influences one’s sexual orientation. As a review articlepublished last year in the journal Endocrinology explains, exposure to atypical levels of testosteroneand other steroids in the womb is probably responsible for some people being gay. Another review article, published last year in Frontiers in Neuroendocrinology, makes the same point:

“The evidence supports a role for prenatal testosterone exposure in the development of sex-typed interests in childhood, as well as in sexual orientation in later life, at least for some individuals. It appears, however, that other factors, in addition to hormones, play an important role in determining sexual orientation. These factors have not been well-characterized, but possibilities include direct genetic effects, and effects of maternal factors during pregnancy.”

One of those prenatal influences may be the number of males who have previously inhabited the mother’s uterus. It may sound strange, but Canadian researchers have found that “having one or more older brothers boosts the likelihood of a boy growing up to be gay,” as I explained in a 2006 Los Angeles Times story. As I wrote at the time, “The so-called fraternal birth order effect is small: Each older brother increases the chances by 33%. Assuming the base rate of homosexuality among men is 2%, it would take 11 older brothers to give the next son about a 50-50 chance of being gay.” Those findings were reported in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

In addition, my colleague Shari Roan wrote about a fascinating controversy surrounding treatment for a rare condition called congenital adrenal hyperplasia. The disorder can cause girls to be born with genitals that look male, making it hard to tell the baby’s gender. One treatment is to give women hormones during subsequent pregnancies to reduce the risk for siblings. But doctors have found that this approach has an unusual side effect:

“The treatment might reduce the likelihood that a female with the condition will be homosexual,” Roan wrote. “Further, it seems to increase the chances that she will have what are considered more feminine behavioral traits.”

This is all just the tip of the iceberg. But the scientific consensus seems to be that there is indeed a biological basis for homosexuality – though it’s not necessarily 100% determined by either genes or by environmental factors.

http://www.latimes.com/health/boostershots/la-heb-cynthia-nixon-gay-by-choice-20120125,0,2504094.story

 

U.S. to Take Another Look at Gay Blood Donation Ban [nationaljournal.com]

By Maggie Fox, National Journal

A policy that bars gay men from donating blood for life is “suboptimal,” advisers to the Health and Human Services Department said on Tuesday, and needs another look.

HHS asked a committee of experts on blood and tissue donations to reexamine the policy and see if there is a way to let at least some gays donate blood.

“If the data indicate that a change is possible while protecting the blood supply, we will consider a change to the policy,” HHS said in a statement.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration, an HHS agency, has banned blood donation by any man who has had homosexual sex because of the risk of the AIDS virus. Soon after the AIDS pandemic began in the 1980s, people such as hemophiliacs who received frequent blood transfusions or blood products began to become infected with the deadly and incurable virus.

Men who have sex with other men, including gay and bisexual men, have an HIV infection rate 60 times higher than that of the general population, the FDA says.  They have an infection rate 800 times higher than first-time blood donors and 8,000 times higher than the rate of repeat blood donors. Tests cannot pick up a new HIV infection in the blood with 100 percent accuracy; because blood is often pooled, many people may be at risk from a single infected donor.

But the Red Cross, always struggling with blood shortages, and other groups such as gay-rights organizations oppose the blanket policy. They say that there are other ways to screen out donors at high risk of HIV infection. Sen. John Kerry, D–Mass., has also been pushing for a change in policy.

“We’ve been working on this a long time in a serious way, and I’m glad Secretary [Kathleen] Sebelius responded with concrete steps to finally remove this policy from the books,” Kerry said in a statement. “HHS is doing their due diligence, and we plan to stay focused on the endgame – a safe blood supply and an end to this discriminatory ban.”

“This announcement by HHS means we’re moving in the direction of finally ending this antiquated and discriminatory policy,” agreed Rep. Mike Quigley, D-Ill.  “Senator Kerry and I will continue to push for a behavior-based screening process both in the name of fairness and a safer blood supply.”

Some of the questions the Blood, Organ, and Tissue Safety Working Group will ask: What motivates a man who has had sex with other men to donate blood? Can men understand what puts them at high risk of HIV infection? Will donors answer honestly?

“It is anticipated that the described studies will yield data for reevaluation of the current deferral policy and potentially establish safety of blood collection from a subset of men who have sex with men or other currently deferred donors (e.g. men with a history of abstinence from MSM behavior for a defined time period),” HHS said.

Other people with potential but unknown exposures to infectious diseases are banned from giving blood in the United States, such as people who lived in Britain in the 1980s, when bovine spongiform encephalopathy, also known mad-cow disease, was sweeping dairy herds.

http://www.nationaljournal.com/healthcare/u-s-to-take-another-look-at-gay-blood-donation-ban-20110726

Copyright 2011 – National Journal

The Damage of Anti-Gay Therapy? The True Story of George Rekers And “Kraig [boxturtlebulletin.com]

by Jim Burroway

In the summer of 1970, just before Kirk’s fifth birthday, his parents learned about a new federally funded research program at UCLA for young boys who were showing early signs of being effeminate. Concerned that Kirk was exhibiting some of the behaviors listed by a UCLA researcher on a local television talk show, Kirk’s parents decided to take him in for an evaluation and treatment. Ten months later, Kirk’s therapy was judged a success and his parents were reassured he would now grow up to be a normal, heterosexual man.

When Kirk was undergoing treatment at UCLA, he was under the care of a young grad student by the name of George Rekers. In 1974, Rekers and his mentor, Dr. Ivar Lovaas, published a landmark paper describing “Kraig’s” treatment — “Kraig” being their pseudonym for Kirk. That paper, which appeared in the Journal of Applied Behavior Analysis, was “the first experimental study on the subject of childhood cross-gender problems.” That paper launched Rekers’s career, first as an expert in childhood sexual development, and later as an anti-gay activist.

Kirk survived his ordeal, and he continued to grow up under relative anonymity. Neither he nor his family knew that he was the subject of nearly two decades of discussion among behavioral therapists working to change their clients’ sexual orientation. Through it all, Rekers wrote that Kirk had a “normal male identity, had normal aspirations for growing up to be married and have a family, and was well-adjusted as a teen-age boy in general.” The truth was far different. His suicide attempt at the age of seventeen was unsuccessful. But twenty years later, he took his life on December 21, 2003. He was 38.

Rekers’s career came to an end on May 4, 2010, when two reporters at The Miami New Times revealed that he had been photographed at the Miami International Airport while returning from an overseas trip in the company of a handsome, blond twenty-years-old man who Rekers found on Rentboy.com. Rekers protested that he had hired the escort to help him with his luggage, but his escort himself begged to differ. Rekers’s colleagues began distancing themselves from him, and he eventually resigned from the National Association for the Research and Therapy of Homosexuality (NARTH), a group composed of dissident therapists who believe that homosexuality is a pathology in need of treatment, despite the findings otherwise of every major medical and mental health organization.

Today we can reveal the full story behind the story. In an original BTB investigation, “What Are Little Boys Made Of?” we take you through extensive interviews with Kirk’s mother, brother and sister, ex-wife, friends, and others to bring you up to date on the truth behind Rekers’s “success.” We also investigate the state of psychology in 1970 when Kirk first came under Rekers’s care, and the profound changes that the profession underwent in the forty years since then — changes which Rekers steadfastly resisted. It is all right here.

http://www.boxturtlebulletin.com/2011/06/07/33401