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.

The Life Not Lived. Another Life Lost. Listen to Your Child!

B6Fo2kqCQAAjezJA transgender teen from Ohio committed suicide on December 28th.  She was born a male, but strongly identified female from the age of four.  Unfortunately, her parents did have room for a trans child as it went against their religious beliefs.  Efforts at reparative “therapy” with “Christian” therapists seemed to simply drive the teen deeper and deeper into depression; until, seeing no way out, this teen stepped in front of a truck traveling down a highway at 2:30am, instantly dying in the process.

The teen, Leelah A., left a note on Tumblr, which is reproduced here in full.  Her parents still refer to her as “him” and have not acknowledged anything to do with Leelah’s gender identity.

“If you are reading this, it means that I have committed suicide and obviously failed to delete this post from my queue.

Please don’t be sad, it’s for the better. The life I would’ve lived isn’t worth living in… because I’m transgender. I could go into detail explaining why I feel that way, but this note is probably going to be lengthy enough as it is. To put it simply, I feel like a girl trapped in a boy’s body, and I’ve felt that way ever since I was 4. I never knew there was a word for that feeling, nor was it possible for a boy to become a girl, so I never told anyone and I just continued to do traditionally “boyish” things to try to fit in.

When I was 14, I learned what transgender meant and cried of happiness. After 10 years of confusion I finally understood who I was. I immediately told my mom, and she reacted extremely negatively, telling me that it was a phase, that I would never truly be a girl, that God doesn’t make mistakes, that I am wrong. If you are reading this, parents, please don’t tell this to your kids. Even if you are Christian or are against transgender people don’t ever say that to someone, especially your kid. That won’t do anything but make them hate them self. That’s exactly what it did to me.

My mom started taking me to a therapist, but would only take me to christian therapists, (who were all very biased) so I never actually got the therapy I needed to cure me of my depression. I only got more christians telling me that I was selfish and wrong and that I should look to God for help.

When I was 16 I realized that my parents would never come around, and that I would have to wait until I was 18 to start any sort of transitioning treatment, which absolutely broke my heart. The longer you wait, the harder it is to transition. I felt hopeless, that I was just going to look like a man in drag for the rest of my life. On my 16th birthday, when I didn’t receive consent from my parents to start transitioning, I cried myself to sleep.

I formed a sort of a “fuck you” attitude towards my parents and came out as gay at school, thinking that maybe if I eased into coming out as trans it would be less of a shock. Although the reaction from my friends was positive, my parents were pissed. They felt like I was attacking their image, and that I was an embarrassment to them. They wanted me to be their perfect little straight christian boy, and that’s obviously not what I wanted.

So they took me out of public school, took away my laptop and phone, and forbid me of getting on any sort of social media, completely isolating me from my friends. This was probably the part of my life when I was the most depressed, and I’m surprised I didn’t kill myself. I was completely alone for 5 months. No friends, no support, no love. Just my parent’s disappointment and the cruelty of loneliness.

At the end of the school year, my parents finally came around and gave me my phone and let me back on social media. I was excited, I finally had my friends back. They were extremely excited to see me and talk to me, but only at first. Eventually they realized they didn’t actually give a shit about me, and I felt even lonelier than I did before. The only friends I thought I had only liked me because they saw me five times a week.

After a summer of having almost no friends plus the weight of having to think about college, save money for moving out, keep my grades up, go to church each week and feel like shit because everyone there is against everything I live for, I have decided I’ve had enough. I’m never going to transition successfully, even when I move out. I’m never going to be happy with the way I look or sound. I’m never going to have enough friends to satisfy me. I’m never going to have enough love to satisfy me. I’m never going to find a man who loves me. I’m never going to be happy. Either I live the rest of my life as a lonely man who wishes he were a woman or I live my life as a lonelier woman who hates herself. There’s no winning. There’s no way out. I’m sad enough already, I don’t need my life to get any worse. People say “it gets better” but that isn’t true in my case. It gets worse. Each day I get worse.

That’s the gist of it, that’s why I feel like killing myself. Sorry if that’s not a good enough reason for you, it’s good enough for me. As for my will, I want 100% of the things that I legally own to be sold and the money (plus my money in the bank) to be given to trans civil rights movements and support groups, I don’t give a shit which one. The only way I will rest in peace is if one day transgender people aren’t treated the way I was, they’re treated like humans, with valid feelings and human rights. Gender needs to be taught about in schools, the earlier the better. My death needs to mean something. My death needs to be counted in the number of transgender people who commit suicide this year. I want someone to look at that number and say “that’s fucked up” and fix it. Fix society. Please.”

If you need help, there is help!  Do NOT give up on the chance to live as you should be.  Life is NOT an EITHER/OR question.  Sometimes life is an AND.  You can be transgendered AND live AND thrive AND cry AND grow AND have a life. 

The Trevor Project is a crisis and support organization for LGBTIQ teens.  They operate hotlines and a website.  From their contact webpage:

We’re here for you. Please call the Trevor Lifeline (866-488-7386) – it’s free and available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. You can also ask for help on TrevorChat or TrevorText.

Talk to us on the Trevor Lifeline (866-488-7386), over TrevorChat, or through TrevorText – our trained volunteer counselors are ready to listen.

TrevorText–  Available on Fridays (4:00 p.m. – 8:00 p.m. ET / 1:00 p.m. – 5:00 p.m. PT). Text the word “Trevor” to 1-202-304-1200. Standard text messaging rates apply.

TrevorChat – Available 7 days a week (3:00 p.m. – 9:00 p.m. ET / 12:00 p.m. – 6:00 p.m. PT).

http://www.thetrevorproject.org/

Study: Science and Religion Really Are Enemies After All [motherjones.com]

Are science and religion doomed to eternal “warfare,” or can they just get along? Philosophers, theologians, scientists, and atheists debate this subject endlessly (and often, angrily). We hear a lot less from economists on the matter, however. But in arecent paper, Princeton economist Roland Bénabou and two colleagues unveiled a surprising finding that would at least appear to bolster the “conflict” camp: Both across countries and also across US states, higher levels of religiosity are related to lower levels of scientific innovation.

“Places with higher levels of religiosity have lower rates of scientific and technical innovation, as measured by patents per capita,” comments Bénabou. He adds that the pattern persists “when controlling for differences in income per capita, population, and rates of higher education.”

That’s the most salient finding from the paper by Bénabou and his colleagues, which uses an economic model to explore how scientific innovation, religiosity, and the power of the state interact to form different “regimes.” The three kinds of regimes that they identify: a secular, European-style regime in which religion has very little policy influence and science garners great support; a repressive, theocratic regime in which the state and religion merge to suppress science; and a more intermediate, American-style regime in which religion and science both thrive, with the state supporting science and religions (mostly) trying to accommodate themselves to its findings.

It is in the process of this inquiry on the relationship between science, religion, and the state that the researchers dive into an analysis of patents, both in the United States and across the globe. And the results are pretty striking.

Click on this link to read the rest of the article:
http://www.motherjones.com/environment/2014/09/religion-quashes-innovation-patents

 

When Belief and Facts Collide [nytimes.com]

by Brendan Nyhan / nytimes.com

Do Americans understand the scientific consensus about issues like climate change and evolution?

At least for a substantial portion of the public, it seems like the answer is no. The Pew Research Center, for instance, found that 33 percent of the publicbelieves “Humans and other living things have existed in their present form since the beginning of time” and 26 percent think there is not “solid evidence that the average temperature on Earth has been getting warmer over the past few decades.” Unsurprisingly, beliefs on both topics are divided along religious and partisan lines. For instance, 46 percent of Republicans said there is not solid evidence of global warming, compared with 11 percent of Democrats.

As a result of surveys like these, scientists and advocates have concluded that many people are not aware of the evidence on these issues and need to be provided with correct information. That’s the impulse behind efforts like the campaign to publicize the fact that 97 percent of climate scientistsbelieve human activities are causing global warming.

In a new study, a Yale Law School professor, Dan Kahan, finds that the divide over belief in evolution between more and less religious people iswider among people who otherwise show familiarity with math and science, which suggests that the problem isn’t a lack of information. When he instead tested whether respondents knew the theory of evolution, omitting mention of belief, there was virtually no difference between more and less religious people with high scientific familiarity. In other words, religious people knew the science; they just weren’t willing to say that they believed in it.

Mr. Kahan’s study suggests that more people know what scientists think about high-profile scientific controversies than polls suggest; they just aren’t willing to endorse the consensus when it contradicts their political or religious views. This finding helps us understand why my colleagues and I have found that factual and scientific evidence is often ineffective at reducing misperceptions and can even backfire on issues like weapons of mass destruction, health care reform and vaccines. With science as with politics, identity often trumps the facts.

Click this link to continue reading the article:

http://www.nytimes.com/2014/07/06/upshot/when-beliefs-and-facts-collide.html?smid=tw-share&_r=2

Religious fundamentalism could soon be treated as mental illness [digitaljournal.com]

by John Thomas Didymus / digitaljournal.com
Kathleen Taylor, a neurologist at Oxford University, said that recent developments suggest that we will soon be able to treat religious fundamentalism and other forms of ideological beliefs potentially harmful to society as a form of mental illness.

She made the assertion during a talk at the Hay Literary Festival in Wales on Wednesday. She said that radicalizing ideologies may soon be viewed not as being of personal choice or free will but as a category of mental disorder. She said new developments in neuroscience could make it possible to consider extremists as people with mental illness rather than criminals.

She told The Times of London: “One of the surprises may be to see people with certain beliefs as people who can be treated. Someone who has for example become radicalized to a cult ideology — we might stop seeing that as a personal choice that they have chosen as a result of pure free will and may start treating it as some kind of mental disturbance.”

Taylor admits that the scope of what could end up being labelled “fundamentalist” is expansive. She continued: “I am not just talking about the obvious candidates like radical Islam or some of the more extreme cults. I am talking about things like the belief that it is OK to beat your children. These beliefs are very harmful but are not normally categorized as mental illness. In many ways that could be a very positive thing because there are no doubt beliefs in our society that do a heck of a lot of damage, that really do a lot of harm.”

The Huffington Post reports Taylor warns about the moral-ethical complications that could arise.

In her book “The Brain Supremacy,” she writes of the need “to be careful when it comes to developing technologies which can slip through the skull to directly manipulate the brain. They cannot be morally neutral, these world-shaping tools; when the aspect of the world in question is a human being, morality inevitably rears its hydra heads. Technologies which profoundly change our relationship with the world around us cannot simply be tools, to be used for good or evil, if they alter our basic perception of what good and evil are.”

The moral-ethical dimension arises from the predictable tendency when acting on the problem, armed with a new technology, to apply to the label “fundamentalist” only to our ideological opponents, while failing to perceive the “fundamentalism” in ourselves.

From the perspective of the Western mind, for instance, the tendency to equate “fundamentalism” exclusively with radical Islamism is too tempting. But how much less “fundamentalist” than an Osama bin Laden is a nation of capitalist ideologues carpet bombing civilian urban areas in Laos, Cambodia and North Korea?

The jihadist’s obsession with defending his Islamic ideological world view which leads him to perpetrate and justify such barbaric acts as the Woolwich murder are of the same nature as the evangelical obsession with spreading the pseudo-religious ideology of capitalism which led to such horrendous crimes as the murder of hundreds of thousands of civilians in four years of carpet bombing operations by the Nixon administration caught in a vice grip of anti-communist paranoia.

The power to control the mind will tend too readily to be used as weapon against our jihadist enemies while justifying the equally irrational and murderously harmful actions we term innocously “foreign policy.”

Some analysts are thus convinced that neuroscientists will be adopting a parochial and therefore ultimately counterproductive approach if they insist on identifying particular belief systems characteristic of ideological opponents as the primary subject for therapeutic manipulation.

On a much larger and potentially more fruitful scale is the recognition that the entire domain of religious beliefs, political convictions, patriotic nationalist fervor are in themselves powerful platforms for nurturing “Us vs Them” paranoid delusional fantasies which work out destructively in a 9/11 attack or a Hiroshima/Nagasaki orgy of mass destruction.

What we perceive from our perspective as our legitimate self-defensive reaction to the psychosis of the enemy, is from the perspective of the same enemy our equally malignant psychotic self-obsession.

The Huffington Post reports that this is not the first time Taylor has written a book about extremism and fundamentalism. In 2006, she wrote a book about mind control titled “Brainwashing: The Science of Thought Control,” in which she examined the techniques that cultic groups use to influence victims.

She said: “We all change our beliefs of course. We all persuade each other to do things; we all watch advertising; we all get educated and experience [religions.] Brainwashing, if you like, is the extreme end of that; it’s the coercive, forceful, psychological torture type.”

She notes correctly that “brainwashing” which embraces all the subtle and not-so-subtle ways “we make people think things that might not be good for them, that they might not otherwise have chosen to think,” is a much more pervasive social phenomenon than we are willing to recognize. As social animals we are all victims of culturally induced brainwashing whose effectiveness correlates with our inability to think outside the box of our given acculturation.

Holy health: Hospital program aims to boost community health [gazette.com]

by Barbara Cotter / gazette.com

Judging from the questions and statements in the survey that Patsy Janeba took one day, you could almost see her stretched out on a couch in a therapist’s office, mulling over her existence.

“In general, how satisfied are you with your life?”

“What keeps me up at night?”

“I suffer most with …”

This, however, was not your typical setting for deep soul-searching — though executives at Penrose-St. Francis Health Services believe it might be the perfect place to ask such questions. Janeba was at church, and she took the survey with the others at Trinity Lutheran Church to assess the spiritual well-being of the congregation.

The survey is one cornerstone of a relatively new Penrose-St. Francis program, the Church Health Project, part of the hospital system’s longstanding effort to boost community health and wellness by reaching people through their places of worship and emphasizing the connection between body and soul.

“Generally speaking, if you were to ask a church what its health care ministry would look like, they’d say, ‘We visit the sick and we bury the dead,’” says Penrose-St. Francis Vice President of Mission Integration Larry Seidl. “What we’re trying to do here at Penrose-St. Francis is ask the question: ‘What can a church do for its members to keep them well, or to be with them differently in the process of getting sick?’”

For about 13 years, Penrose-St. Francis has been helping churches create health ministries, with guidance from its team of Faith Community Nurses. Some of the 20 Colorado Springs churches that Penrose-St. Francis works with offer basic services, such as blood-pressure checks and flu-shot clinics. Others, including Trinity Lutheran, have a more robust program.

“It really depends on the church, and what resources they have” says Cynthia Wacker, head of the Faith Community Nurses. “We always encourage them to make sure they open it broadly enough so anyone interested in health and wellness — counselors, spiritual advisers, mental health professionals, chiropractors in the church — can be involved in the wellness of this church.”

Click to continue reading the article…

 

How 19-year-old activist Zack Kopplin is making life hell for Louisiana’s creationists [io9.com]

by George Dvorsky / io9.com

For Zack Kopplin, it all started back in 2008 with the passing of the Louisiana Science Education Act. The bill made it considerably easier for teachers to introduce creationist textbooks into the classroom. Outraged, he wrote a research paper about it for a high school English class. Nearly five years later, the 19-year-old Kopplin has become one of the fiercest — and most feared — advocates for education reform in Louisiana. We recently spoke to him to learn more about how he’s making a difference.

Kopplin, who is studying history at Rice University, had good reason to be upset after the passing of the LSEA — an insidious piece of legislation that allows teachers to bring in their own supplemental materials when discussing politically controversial topics like evolution or climate change. Soon after the act was passed, some of his teachers began to not just supplement existing texts, but to rid the classroom of established science books altogether. It was during the process to adopt a new life science textbook in 2010 that creationists barraged Louisiana’s State Board of Education with complaints about the evidence-based science texts. Suddenly, it appeared that they were going to be successful in throwing out science textbooks.

A pivotal moment

How 19-year-old activist Zack Kopplin is making life hell for Louisiana's creationists“This was a pivotal moment for me,” Kopplin told io9. “I had always been a shy kid and had never spoken out before — I found myself speaking at a meeting of an advisory committee to the State Board of Education and urging them to adopt good science textbooks — and we won.” The LSEA still stood, but at least the science books could stay.

No one was more surprised of his becoming a science advocate than Kopplin himself. In fact, after writing his English paper in 2008 — when he was just 16-years-old — he assumed that someone else would publicly take on the law. But no one did.

Click to read the rest of the article