Category Archives: history

DADT: The Battle and the Story

Introduction

I find it ironic that one of our most loved and charismatic presidents promoted the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy in the government (President Clinton) and that it still exists to this day. Right now in the Senate, according to the New York Times (NYT) as of yesterday afternoon the votes were 56-43, having the Democrats fall 60 votes short of a filibuster. All I can say is: WE”RE SO CLOSE!!

It was just this January that President Obama made a promise to the gay community that he was going to end the harmful DADT (http://thecaucus.blogs.nytimes.com/2010/09/21/senate-democrats-dont-filibuster-gay-service-ban/?ref=politics). Many of the comments that I read under this article stated that there was no research done on the repercussions on those in the military. The day after the above article was released, another one came out, detailing the stories of seven gay and lesbian people in the military, four of whom remain anonymous.

Gay Service Members Discuss “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell”

Throughout the stories, I felt myself sighing. Over the past year, I have encountered a family friend who served in the Air Force as a gay man and later became a psychologist. I’m not sure if he lived under DADT, but either way, I couldn’t believe that he could go through the Air Force as a gay man. Also, someone from my college just entered the Marine Corps and he is gay and sends one of my previous housemates letters from his training. Before he went I asked my friend “Why is he going? Isn’t he gay?”. I guess many of these stories that I just finished answered this question. They say its because you love the work you do, you think you are strong enough, and hiding doesn’t seem so bad when you are surrounded by a different kind of family, the Army family. Even with all of these things, it seems as if every individual broke under the pressure.

Here is an excerpt I found to highlight most of the readings:

“For anyone serving in the military, certain hardships come standard: long hours, too little family time, and yearlong deployments to name but a few. But because of “don’t ask, don’t tell,” my hardships seemed different from those faced by others.

Other soldiers don’t get enough time with their families; I’m prohibited from having a family. They spend a year of deployment isolated from their significant other; I was never allowed to have a significant other. They are obligated to never lie; I am told I must lie to keep my job. They work hard to “do the right thing, even when no one is looking;” I am fundamentally unacceptable to military service according to United States Code, and it feels like everyone is looking.

When people ask me why I stayed in, I tell them it’s for the same reason everyone else does: We are all dedicated to “taking care of soldiers.” There is no responsibility more serious than that, and also none more rewarding. Not only are we growing an effective Army that will keep people safe, but we also feel we are instilling soldiers with values and growing them into even better Americans” (Stephen Farell 2010: 1).

And this one:

“No mention of the exasperating home-improvement projects that my partner and I have faced, no discussion about the surprise anniversary getaway he had planned for us, no sharing of the struggles I faced while he was deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan.

The very things that all of us share, gay or straight, that bring us closer together, I had to avoid. Rather than lie and make up a cover story, I damaged the vital esprit des corps inherent to military life. The very thing that supporters of “don’t ask, don’t tell” fear will be eroded by openly gay and lesbian service members is already jeopardized by the inherent aspects of not “asking” and not “telling.”

Over the years I have had good days and bad ones — not unlike any other job. I love my job as a helicopter pilot, so the only bad days are those when I am placed in the unwanted position of having to lie or deceive my coworkers because of D.A.D.T” (Stephen Farell 2010: 1).

Also:

“I was not suicidal, but there were some dark days when I wondered what it would be like if I decided that I didn’t want to live any more. Being gay in the military under “don’t ask, don’t tell” really is a private hell. The psychological effect of feeling alone and depressed was more damaging to me than any emotional effect of being shot at or a bomb blast (both of which I have also experienced). The only thing worse for me was the loss of one of my soldiers” (Stephen Farell 2010: 1).

I recently heard a slam poet earlier, when I was still in my senior year of college, Andrea Gibson. I was surprised when she did a lot of poems about soldiers because whenever I saw a sticker on backs of cars saying “Support Our Troops!” I always sort of grimaced because I thought it meant supporting the war and what the troops were doing. After hearing her poems about bringing troops back home and about homophobia in the military the phrase “Support Our Troops!” started meaning something else to me. So now, SUPPORT OUR TROOPS! REPEAL DADT!

Conclusion

If you’re not obsessed with the L Word like I used to be and haven’t seen the scene in Season 5 (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jNjRVYVax5s) when Tasha gets discharged…yeah, made me cry. She also hires a lawyer and goes through the whole citing of cases where she has been found to be conducting homosexual behavior.

I don’t think a civilian will ever know what it is like to be in the military unless they have a loved one who is involved, or a friend, but even then, I don’t think I will know, even with reading the stories. After reading these stories, I definitely wish for DADT to be repealed, even if I don’t exactly know what it is like to be in the military, or how it will be changed if DADT is repealed.


MORE!! LINKS!!

Legal Defense Network: http://www.sldn.org/

OutServe: http://outserve.org/

Autostraddle’s Comments on DADT (there are numerous): http://www.autostraddle.com/on-countrymen-and-honor-60373/

http://www.autostraddle.com/dont-ask-dont-tell-hangover-day-60434/

http://www.autostraddle.com/lady-gaga-rocks-dont-ask-dont-tell-rally-and-if-you-dont-like-it-go-home-60233/

http://www.autostraddle.com/9-perspectives-of-john-mccain-60401/

http://www.autostraddle.com/repealing-dont-ask-dont-tell-its-a-thing-60113/

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Alice Dreger’s Blog: George Rekers, The Closet of Medicine, and David Reimer

Introduction

Alice Dreger is a professor of Clinical Medical Humanities and Bioethics at the Feinberg Medical School at Northwestern University. Her background and interests are in history, philosophy, and medical ethics. For a more extended biography, you can see the excerpt she has on Psychology Today (http://www.psychologytoday.com/node/43918) or on her page at Northwestern (http://bioethics.northwestern.edu/faculty/dreger.html).

What brings me to writing this article is some of Dreger’s recent articles about use of antibiotics for pregnant women to prevent CAH (congenital adrenal hyperplasia) and also, that I used many of Dreger’s books and articles for my thesis on intersexuality. Currently, Dreger blogs for Psychology today and is writing a book due to the Guggenheim grant that she received.

The article that I will talk about in this blog post is one about having “closets” in medicine. The person who Dreger talks about in her article “Cleaning the Closets of Medicine” published on July 21, 2010 in her blog entitled Fetishes I Don’t Get: Thoughts on Love, Life, and Lust mostly, is the psychologist George Rekers.

George Rekers and The Closet of Medicine

If you have not heard about George Rekers, here is an excerpt from the article:

“You may remember Rekers as the anti-gay-rights psychologist who hired a pretty young fellow via rentboy.com (a gay escort site) to lift his luggage and provide him massages during a ten-day vacation in Europe. Presumably the rub-downs did not coincide with the tender counsel Rekers claims he provided to the comely young gay “sinner” (Dreger 2010:1)

Reker was also one of the psychologists who worked on reparative therapies for homosexuality. When uncovering his many works done to say that homosexuality was basically a thing of the devil and turns out, he was a self-hating gay man, Dreger asks the question: Should we disregard all of his work? Should we count any of his work as reputable after what was revealed about his personal life and desires?

I feel like this question can be asked of anyone. For example, the last person I wrote about, John Money. After uncovering one of his most unethical cases on a nonintersexed boy (of a set of twins), David Reimer, Money’s reputation sunk, but yet, many of his theories about gender development are still part of a dominant paradigm.

David Reimer: The John/Joan Case

To backtrack, the David Reimer case started out with John Money trying to disprove one of his biggest critics, Milton Diamond, a biology professor. The case is most commonly referred to in medical literature as the John /Joan case and was made accessible to a larger audience through the book As Nature Made Him: The Boy Who was Raised As a Girl by John Colapinto.

The claim that Diamond made against John Money was that his scientific work was fundamentally flawed. The first point he made was that children are not fully psychosexually neutral at birth and gender malleable in terms of gender identity development because, as Money argued, enivornment is not the key contributor, but as Diamond argued, brain composition also played a part. Basically, what they were arguing about was the famed nature vs. nurture for gender argument.

The next few excerpts are from my thesis, which includes some points which I am beginning to rethink: mainly the sentence stating that none of Money’s previous empirical work should be disregarded. The one point that I think should be retained is that this case led to Money’s dominant treatment paradigm for intersex infants to being questioned first by Diamond and then over the next decade by the medical field and loudly by intersexuals themselves.

Thesis Section

Mostly what Diamond targets Money for is his gender identity theory, “… [Diamond] rejected Money’s theoretical conclusions that his findings provided insight into the psychosexual development in non-intersex persons” (Karkazis 2008: 66). In order to prove his theory, Money would need a biological male raised as female or vice versa. Soon, a case would be brought to Money that would change his reputation and would be key to Diamond’s attack of Money.

Diamond in no way denied that possibly Money’s interpretations may be correct, but stated that “their works shed no light on what [Money] called ‘normals’” (Fausto-Sterling 2001: 68). Money repeatedly used intersex and transgender people in order to say something about those who were born biologically male and female.

In order to dispute Diamond’s claim, Money started research on a normal. The Joan/John case, which is how it is known as in the medical world, documents the life of David Reimer who was assigned as a girl as a child after having his penis cut off in a circumcision accident when he was seven months old. Reimer’s parents, not knowing what to do with a boy without genitals, in desperation contacted Money after seeing him on TV. Money told them to reassign David as a girl, which is how he remained until senior year of highschool when he transitioned back to boy and obtained sex-reconstruction surgery.

This failure was revealed to the general population in the UK in the 1980s and in 2001 (by form of media) in the United States.

In 1980 the BBC produced a TV documentary on the John/Joan case….But the BBC reporters had found that by 1976 Joan, then thirteen years old, was not well adjusted. She walked like a boy, felt boys had better lives, wanted to be a mechanic, and peed standing up….In an attempt to bring the facts to light in North America, Diamond, in 1982, published a secondhand account of the documentary in the hopes of discrediting Money’s sex/gender theory once and for all (Fausto-Sterling 2001: 69-70)

In publishing this article Diamond argued that there be a transition to a new treatment paradigm. Diamond’s interest in this was to postpone surgeries for intersex infants.

Although the story of Joan/John is incredibly unfortunate and horrible, what has to be remembered is that it in no way disregards Money’s previous empirical work. “It does not follow, however, that the case invalidates Money’s other empirical research in intersex cases (or that of other researchers supporting his theory), nor does it follow that this case provides unequivocal support for Diamond’s theory” (Karkazis 2008: 75). In this case, what is more important to focus on is how Diamond’s theory about biology influencing gender identity began to reign again. Also consequently, intersex medical management began to change.

Diamond repeatedly hounded Money for citing this case, which Money used as false proof to show that environment heavily weighs on gender socialization: “Throughout the 60s and 70s [Diamond] published at least five more papers contesting Money’s views. In a 1982 publication, he recounted how psychology and women’s studies texts had taken up John/Joan ‘to support the contention that sex roles and sexual identity are basically learned’” (Fausto-Sterling 2001: 69). Unfortunately for Money, his failed case was publicly announced and also targeted for its ethical violations.

After publishing Reimer’s case, Sigmundson and Diamond suggested a set of revised guidelines to medically treat the intersexed. The guidelines are as follows: 1) intersex conditions are not shameful; 2) doctors need to involve the patient in the decision making process; 3) surgeons need to consider more than just the size of the phallus in gender assignment; 4) there should be disclosure that the surgery could take away sexual function and pleasure (Karkazis 2008: 83). “These suggestions proved controversial and engendered debates in part because they went against forty years of medical knowledge and practice. They were also based on little empirical evidence” (Karkazis 2008: 84). As years passed, doctors started to cite Diamond and Sigmundson, lending credit to what they said. The change in intersex surgery protocol and the opening of space for the intersex to be heard came about because of the

Changing cultural understandings of sex, gender, and sexuality (and their relationships), concomitant movements for the acceptance of non-normative sexualities, gendered ways of being, and bodies, the decreased authority of the medical profession, and the rise of principles of medical ethics were changing the context in which intersexuality was understood and treated (Karkazis 2008: 64)

By the 1990s the protocol started to be challenged and by 2000, it was almost dismantled. This started to come about because of the rise of the intersex voice.

Work Cited

Fausto-Sterling, Anne. Sexing the Body: Gender Politics and the Construction of Sexuality. New York : Basic Books, 2001.

Karkazis, Katrina. Fixing Sex: Intersex, Medical Authority, and Lived Experience . Durham: Duke University Press, 2008.

Conclusion

Why I point out first, the article by Dreger, was to show how medicine is not fallible. It was also to introduce the famed Alice Dreger, who I will no doubt talk about later.

Second, why I point this specific section is not only to point to medicine, intersexuality, and changing in relying on scientific articles, but researching what gender theories are based on. One of the most discussed theories in the first gender studies classes I took was the claim: gender is influenced by environment. When that claim was said, I was immediately skeptical as I came from a chemistry background. This claim, the environment hypothesis, was made bigger by the debate between Milton Diamond and John Money.

So I guess, to finish. What do you think? Should data still be relied upon when a researcher is found to hypocritical or unethical? And also, how is gender influenced?

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John Money

Introduction

I have recently been thinking about doctors, sexuality, and the field of psychology. One doctor, or rather, psychologist, who I know the most about who has been involved with sexuality is the famed John Money. John Money is the first doctor (PhD) to have created a medical protocol that was adopted across the world to treat intersex infants, starting in the 1950s. Below, I give a background of his work on intersexuality, which is an excerpt from my undergraduate thesis. The works that I cite are Katrina Karkazis’ book Fixing Sex: Intersex, Medical Authority, and Lived Experience published in 2008 (if you haven’t read it, its a great addition to the field), Alice Dreger Intersex in the Age of Ethics, and Anne Fausto-Sterling’s Sexing the Body: Gender Politics and the Construction of Sexuality published in 2001.

John Money is an important figure because, not only did he develop a protocol to medically manage intersex infants, but many psychological theories about gender identity development are based on his medical publications. Money is one of the most influential people in both the medical world and as a dominant paradigm in the United States. Money’s theories about the way one is properly supposed to develop has seeped both into the influences of people who write about child-rearing and into dominant consciousness. He is not simply a man that influences the lives of people who are intersexed, but every single individual.

John Money: The Man and the Doctor

John Money was the first scientist to create a universal treatment paradigm for surgery on intersex infants. John Money immigrated to the United States from New Zealand in 1947 to obtain a PhD in psychology from Harvard. While at Harvard, Money discovered his interest in hermaphroditism when he came upon a case of a child who was raised as a boy despite having a sexual organ akin to a clitoris. As his interest evolved, Money came to publish his doctoral dissertation on hermaphroditism. His dissertation called “Hermaphroditism: An Inquiry into the Nature of a Human Paradox” observed past surgical interventions as faulty because of the focus on gonadal tissue (Karkazis 2008: 48). He challenged this management because of its lack of focus on psychological dispositions of the person and physical developments at puberty, both of which could change. In order to prove his point “… Money did a comparative analysis of 248 published and unpublished case histories (from 1895 to 1951) and patient files, as well as an in-depth assessment of ten living individuals classed as hermaphrodites” (Karkazis 2008: 49) . Although Money found this to be true, his development of a protocol did not reflect his insight.

In his research, Money found few cases of homosexuality and stated most fared well psychologically, which he argued meant having a girlfriend or being married to a person of the opposite sex (Karkazis 2008: 50). Although Money was concerned for the most part with making gonadal tissue correlate with that of assigned gender, he also imposed his ideas of healthy sexuality. Money found it natural that those who were assigned the gender of a girl would be attracted to men and vice versa. If this attraction failed, the gender assignment and thus gender identity was contradictory. This also meant that Money judged a person’s sexuality based on the “sex of rearing” and when a person was homosexual, the psychological technique of rearing had failed. Money found that those who had the most gender identity contradictions fared the worst, which led him to later conclude that those who raise the child need to be convinced of the infant’s gender/sexual identity. Money in his analysis did not question external value structures, but focused on pervading systems and the individual.

Where before hormones played a large part in determining the sex of the child, Money claimed environment played a large part.  “These findings supported his emergent theory, expressed more fully in 1955, that the sex of rearing was a primary determinant of an individual’s gender role and psychosexual orientation” (Karkazis 2008: 50). Also, more interesting is that his study was based not on how it would change medical treatment but what implications hermaphroditic management would have for contemporary psychological theories concerning sexual behavior/desire and psychosexual roles.

After his dissertation, John Money came to Johns Hopkins in 1951 when he was offered a position as a professor. While there, he joined Lawson Wilkins, the only other medical practitioner who treated intersexuals. Lawson Wilkins started a pediatric endocrine clinic in 1935 called the Harriet Lane Home in Baltimore and organized a team of researchers to treat hermaphroditic conditions.  “Wilkins, seeing the merit of an interdisciplinary approach to intersexuality, assembled the first cross-specialty team to deal with infants with intersex conditions (Redick 2004)” (Karkazis 2008: 51). This team included Howard Jones, William Scott, Joan and John Hampson, and later in 1951, John Money. When John Money joined the team in 1951 he was the first pediatric psychoendocrinologist and “founded the Psychohormonal Research Unit to study ‘all the different types of hermaphroditism in order to discover all the principles of psychosexual differentiation and development that they would illuminate’ (Money 1986:10)” (Karkazis 2008: 51). Until the 1960s Wilkins was the director of the program and made treatment decisions that were carried out by Scott and James. Money and the Hampsons provided their psychological expertise and conducted outcome studies (Karkazis 2008: 51). Through this opportunity Money and the Hampsons started to develop their own theories and protocols for the medical management of intersexuality.

“Money and the Hampsons first introduced principles and protocols for the medical management of intersexuality in a series of articles published in the 1950s (Hampson 1955; Hampson, Hampson, and Money 1955; Money, Hampson, Hampson 1955a, 1955b, 1956, 1957, Money 1956)” (Karkazis 2008: 52). In these articles, Money used gender role/identity as a governing principle in influencing the way in which he recommended surgery be done. “Based on a study of sixty-five ‘ambiguously sexed people,’ the authors declared it inappropriate, even unwise, to rely solely on gonadal, hormonal, or chromosomal criteria for gender assignment” (Karkazis 2008: 52). Money and the Hampsons did further studies among 105 intersex individuals in which most of them (all except 5) had gender identities congruous with their gender assignment and rearing (Karkazis 2008: 53). From these studies, the researchers made a revolutionary proposition: “…they considered gender-role development a multistage process that relied on multiple attributes of biological sex and social variables but that could not be said to derive from these exclusively” (Karkazis 2008: 53). Through this reasoning, parents could rear a child towards a specific gender. Money and the Hampson’s proposal was to fill a gap, the gap that Money found in his dissertation.

Money’s budding theory of gender development, which suggested that sex of rearing was critically important for gender acquisition and development, filled this gap and, when coupled with surgical and hormonal treatment, could ensure that the child avoided physical developments incongruous with the assigned gender (Karkazis 2008: 54).

Critiqued by some for being culturally and environmentally deterministic, Money’s approach was applauded and applied by others. “Contrary to recent characterizations of Money’s theory as exclusively social, he actually suggested a complex system of psychological and physiological interaction and development” (Karkazis 2008: 54).

Given their belief in some flexibility and malleability in gender development and formation, Money and his colleagues proposed moving away from identifying an indvidual’s supposedly true sex and toward a new model of gender assignment that would take into account multiple biological variables of sex and its future development at puberty to select the optimal gender for the individual (Karkazis 2008: 55).

Now instead of sex, intersexuality became predominantly about gender, psychological health, and belonging.

This publication led to Money and the Hampsons establishing a treatment protocol for treating the intersexed. Instead of treating adults, they decided to manage infants in order to shape gender identity because according to Money gender identity developed around eighteen months of age. Therefore, the first suggestion they had addressed was when to assign gender to the infant. “They suggested a small window of flexibility and opportunity- until roughly eighteen months of age- during which gender assignment could be most successfully accomplished” (Karkazis 2008: 55) . In relation to this, they said that sex assignment should be made within the first few weeks of life. These recommendations were based on a “belief that successful gender assignment required complete certainty on the part of the child’s parents as to whether the child was male or female” (Karkazis 2008: 55). After age two, changing gender could cause psychological disturbance so assigning gender as early as possible was increasingly important. Also,  “According to Money’s theory, once sex assignment was made, surgery should be done as soon as possible so that the genitals could be made to match the assigned sex (Money, Hampson, and Hampson 1955b: 291; Money 1974: 216)” (Karkazis 2008: 57). In determining the need to do this they would weigh the functioning of the gonads and if treating an older child or adults, they would make sure genitals conform to gender of rearing (Karkazis 2008: 56). Money firmly believed in surgery because in making a person aesthetically look like a female or male, they became part of what was assumed to be the natural gender binary.  “Money and his colleagues believed that current techniques enabled surgeons to ‘make’ females, but not males; even though the surgical removal of the penis (or clitoris) left no clitoral equivalent, they argued that erotic feeling and sexual climax were still possible (see e.g. Money, Hampson, and Hampson 1955b: 288, 295)” (Karkazis 2008: 57). In providing reason for favoring surgery, Money said it would help with gender identification and rearing. “The reason for this was twofold: first, Money felt that the child was more likely to develop a proper gender role with genitals matching those of the assigned sex; second, parents troubled by gender ambiguity might waver in their commitment to raising the child in the assigned gender” (Karkazis 2008: 57-58). Of utmost importance to Money, was to highlight psychological health, one which was based on fitting social norms.

According to Money’s theory, all children are born essentially psychosexually neutral at birth, and thus surgeons can make any child any gender as long as the sexual anatomy can be made reasonably believable. For this reason, it did not matter how the genitalia looked originally, according to Money, because you could always teach gender or sex roles.  “…if children are to develop stable gender identities (and by consequence be happy and mentally healthy), they must have “correct” looking genitalia” (Dreger 1999: 11). Intersex surgery was more cosmetic because of the desired result to have a normal-appearing body. This normal appearing body would insure proper psychosexual development to what Money considered the proper gender and, in turn, assume the appropriate (hetero)sexuality. In choosing a gender, the child could be integrated into society if everything is done “to assure that the child and h/her parents believed in the sex assignment” (Fausto-Sterling 2001: 46).

Money also advocated being frank and truthful with the parents to minimize psychological disturbance. Yet in practice, Money said that parents should be told immediately if the child was a girl or boy because of the stigmatization of the intersex being labeled as “half-boy”, “half-girl”. He insisted that the parents be told genitals would be finished through surgery (Karkazis 2008: 59). Thus, the parents were not always told the full truth about the child’s condition and surgery was usually performed if discovered at birth.

Surgeries were performed if their were noticeable differences according to definitions of typical genitalia. Surgeries were done if boys were born with a phallus that was less than 2.5 centimeters; doctors would reduce it and proclaim the baby a girl. If a girl was born without a Y chromosome and had a clitoris longer than 1 cm the doctors would seek to reduce it because they  thought that “it will bother the child’s parents and interfere with bonding and gender identity formation” (Dreger 1999: 12). Hormone treatments were used later if needed, under the conditions that the individual had different ratios of testosterone or estrogen then was determined as normal by the medical field. Out of a commitment to do no harm doctors did not usually tell the parents or the children all that they knew because it will “confuse or complicate the family’s understanding of gender. All of the professional energy is aimed at producing a physically ‘right’ girl or boy who, presumably, the parents will then be able to raise in an unambiguous way” (Dreger 1999: 12). Surgery was intended to produce a heterosexual happy person who could have relationships with their family, without ever knowing they were born intersexed until later.

Before puberty, Money advocated giving the child information about their condition (Karkazis 2008: 59).  “Somewhat confusingly, then, Money and his colleagues advocated both honesty and concealment- a fact that may have led many clinicians to assume that given the option, concealment might prevent more harm and engender less confusion” (Karkazis 2008: 60). His form of concealment led parents to hide countless surgeries from children. Although his protocol was not full-proof, Money’s methods became the dominant model for over forty years.

Money is revolutionary because his methodology for treating the intersex took hold and persisted for an extended period of time. Money was the first person to suggest a multistage model to treat intersex infants and the first to provide a complicated view of intersexuality that recognized phenotypes of diagnoses and prepared for later physical developments (Karkazis 2008: 60). Also, his work and implementation of the protocol was met with widespread approval and integration.   “Following publication, the treatment protocols were quickly incorporated into medical practice and texts, and they achieved a remarkable dominance for the following forty years” (Karkazis 2008: 60).

Conclusion

This section epitomizes most of my thesis, especially the last sentence. My intention in my thesis or my argument, which is the last thirty pages or so, analyzes the current change in medical protocol. What I found most interesting in my readings is that medicine does not usually follow umbrella protocols, but addresses individual cases, unlike say, political public policy. I found this interesting and a rare occurrence in medicine which allowed for unethical decisions to be made such as concealment which as referred to by Money, was a vague concept.

I recognize in Money that what he did was revolutionary. In the end I still ask myself, as an aspiring medical practitioner, what I would do? If I was a parent, what I would do? As an intersex adolescent, what might I do? How would I feel? I have no idea. What is the right thing to do? And I still puzzle over that and always will.

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Encyclopedia of Androgyny

Introduction

I found this while searching around either on wikipedia or somewhere else and found it fascinating. It has a bunch of pictures and stories about people who are famous, through history, mythical people, and gods, who are androgynous. Its very interesting and here I will include a basic background about it.

The Encyclopedia of Androgyny

This is on the introduction page:

“The idea of androgyny has hounded humanity from its very beginning, whether you consider “the beginning” as a creationist, an evolutionist or through some other hybrid of standard mythology and spirituality. While the “creator” of the world, either God, Zeus or some other figure has been consistently portrayed as male, the immediate progeny of these creators have experienced some of the closest encounters with androgyny of all figures throughout history. God’s Adam, an archetypal man, was originally something more than, or daresay, other than a man. He was originally both man and woman, a creature from whom woman, Eve, was created. Adam became the first man only after Eve was taken from his rib. As a man, he was the remainder of a more complete organic and sexual being whose sexuality was not distinctly male or female” (http://www.androgynylist.com/intro/intro.htm).

Conclusion

This is a very interesting site to explore due to the variety that you encounter of the site. It has many categories, including the third sex fetish and andryogyny in body and soul. I highly reccomend visiting it and checking it out.

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Milk and No on Prop 8

Sean Penn is amazing. After seeing Milk, I felt inspired, renewed, and empowered. Harvey Milk , played by Sean Penn in Milk, was amazing and is definitely my new hero. He reminded me of myself in many ways. Half way or more through the movie, Harvey’s lover, Scottie, talks to him about a soap box speech Harvey just made. Scott, played by James Franco, confronts him about wanting people to be out, where Harvey referred to Scott as “his roommate” or acted as if he wasn’t there. Most of Harvey’s lovers had committed suicide because he wasn’t out. This reminded me of myself, not because my lovers have committed suicide or because I had hidden them, but because I tell people to out and I didn’t come out or feel comfortable with it until college. The movie made me become more aware of the division between personal and political, theory and practice. The movie also made me feel more passionate about what I want to promote, what I want to do, and how I want to go about doing it.

Harvey Milk was the first openly gay man to be put into public office in California. California is now known as one of the most open-minded states in the United States. It is known for voting democrat, for San Francisco, for Los Angeles (to much dismay from some), the Gold Rush, and one of the birth places of the Gay Liberation Front. Then, the castro district in SF was just about to be born, there were police riots, and there were a man and a singer who were trying to get homosexual teachers out of schools because they would convert the children to their way of life.

Sean Penn renewed the legacy of helping the minority, of bringing human rights into focus, and hate based on ignorance. The history of Harvey is not irrelevant, but is a lesson that is timeless. He is someone to look up to because he fought for what he believed in even though his way of having sex and openness about it was being openly targeted by authority. His courage and political will was not based on power, but more on love and the desire to help others like him.

After many attempts at gaining office in San Francisco, Harvey did not stop though he was discouraged. Prop 8 is something Harvey would be fighting against because it is blatant discrimination. There are many criticisms of the issue that the Prop is backing, such as it backs a white gay issue and is backed by the HRC, a human rights corporation. The Prop though, is not about gay marriage if you look at the wording. The Prop is about equality and rights. The Prop should not be about corporations backing it such as Google or car companies, which it was. The campaign needs to change to progress.

The thing that needs to be kept in mind is that the Proposition even got on to the ballot. That is the first step and it is a major step because it was in the spotlight. Harvey Milk was finally in the spotlight in 2008 and the film was a part of pop culture. Even straight people cried when Harvey died.  That is a step. Gay rights is having steps, small ones, but steps nonetheless.

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A Town in Oregon Elects the First Openly Transgender Mayor: Stu Rasmussen

Introduction

How exciting is this? Right after the election was over and Obama (yes!) became the President-elect this article was sent out to one of the listserves I belong to at school. Oregon elected its first trangender mayor: Stu Rasmussen. Stu, according to the article, identifies as a straight man and enjoys dressing up in high heels, a dress, and a wig from time to time.

The Article and Important Quotes

The article covers questions that the news and electors has about Stu. You can read the whole article here: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2008/11/09/americas-first-transgende_n_142503.html

“Rasmussen has been a fixture in Silverton politics for more than 20 years, and had twice before been mayor of the small city 45 miles south of Portland. Those terms, however, were before his breast implants and before the once-discreet crossdresser started wearing dresses and 3-inch heels in public.”

Also, another quote from the article:

“I am a dude,” he said. “I am a heterosexual male who appears to be a female.”

His longtime live-in girlfriend, Victoria Sage, told The Oregonian newspaper that she and Rasmussen have been an item for almost 35 years.

Conclusion

Basically this means a change in politics (hopefully…) and I hope that it keeps going on this path for all of the glbtq community. Obama has not spoken much about glbtq issues, though he did not support prop 8, but I still have my dreams set on the HRC (Human Rights Campaign) winning in the end.

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Filed under glbtq, history, News, Queer

Coming Out

Introduction

I remember hearing the words “to come out of the closet”. It seemed ridiculous. Why would I be stuck in a closet? Or anyone else for that matter? Why not under the bed? Or behind a mask? Why the closet? To this day, I’m not quite sure though now I refer to it as that sweater my aunt gave me that I was ashamed of wearing because it would give me a bad image. Wearing that sweater would be akin to coming out.

Before coming out, I remember stirring it around in my head. I never really did announce it, but talked about girls incessantly. I think people got the hint. For me, talking about the same sex or gender did not have any dangerous consequences except for possibly stares or people not wanting to be my friend. Many others, as I previously believed to be sort of a myth, got kicked out of their houses. I’m not sure if I could have survived if I was kicked out of my house, let alone want to survive.

“Coming Out” is only real because of the assumption of heterosexual desire. I would not be writing this if our country was not homophobic. Coming out in this day and age is getting easier for queer people, but mostly in urban areas. In rural areas, especially for trans people, it can be incredibly dangerous. One of the groups that is barely ever recognized in coming out are Intersex people because it is the most invisible in our clothed world. Coming Out also is not only for people who are queer, but for all stigmatized identities or marginalized invisibilities, for example: being a Muslim (post 9/11) in the US, being HIV positive,  telling someone you have a mental disorder, or mentioning that your family lived on welfare.

I commend all those who have come out and wish I could change beliefs and situations so that people could live safely while being themselves. This is for those who think about queer desires, those who wish to announce their social differences, and who want to recognize difference in themselves.

How to know you might not be straight

Ok, for some this is easy to know. For some, you might be in complete denial about staring at ads of Angelina Jolie and drooling (come on!).A lot of desires are stereotyped in terms of how someone dresses or behaves. For example, a man who likes to decorate and cook is gay or a woman who has short hair and listens to Tegan and Sara all the time is a lesbian or a bisexual person is in love with Johnny Depp but equally fawns over Scarlett Johannsen. People define themselves sometimes differently from how they sexually behave. For example, a man might have a wife, but on weekends go have sex with a man and call himself straight. Also, You can still be gay, bisexual, lesbian, etc if you have never had sex respectively with a person who you have desire for. Personal sexual tags correlate with sexual behavior and/or desire, but not all the time.

The thing is having desires has a range from being attracted to a person physically, emotionally, to their personality, etc (see Kinsey and Klien post). Desires also change across time. During your 20’s and 30’s you might be attracted to men and then when  you turn 50 you might want to live the rest of your life with a woman. Sexuality, Attraction, and Love are complicated.

Coming Out

Coming Out is defined on Wikipedia as:

the voluntary public announcement of one’s sexual orientation and/or gender identity. Being “out” means not concealing one’s sexual orientation, usually a LGBT (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender) orientation. This contrasts with being closeted which means concealing one’s orientation and identity. Being outed refers to having this information revealed, often without consent. Outing is the process of deliberately disclosing the sexuality of another who wants to keep this information private“(http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Coming_out).

Background

“Some people who identify themselves as lesbian, gay, bisexual, or who otherwise might prefer same-gender sexual activities or relationships, have engaged in heterosexual activities or have had long-term heterosexual relationships, including marriage. Well known examples include Sir Elton John and Oscar Wilde. Such apparently “heterosexual” behavior by people who would otherwise consider themselves gay or lesbian has often been regarded as part of being “in the closet” to create an illusion for acceptance by heterosexual surroundings. Imposed heterosexuals are to be distinguished from “out” bisexuals in long-term heterosexual relationships. Others who are “in the closet” have no heterosexual contact and simply want to protect themselves from discrimination or rejection by not revealing their sexual orientation or attractions .” (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Coming_out)

History

The idea of coming out was introduced in 1869 by the German homosexual rights advocate Karl Heinrich Ulrichs as a means of emancipation. Claiming that invisibility was a major obstacle toward changing public opinion, he urged homosexuals themselves to come out.

In his 1906 work Das Sexualleben unserer Zeit in seinen Beziehungen zur modernen Kultur (The Sexual Life of Our Time in its Relation to Modern Civilization)[1], Iwan Bloch, a German-Jewish physician, besought elderly homosexuals to come out to their heterosexual family members and acquaintances.

Magnus Hirschfeld revisited the topic in his major work The Homosexuality of Men and Women (1914), discussing the social and legal potentials of several thousand men and women of rank coming out to the police in order to influence legislators and public opinion.[2]

The first important American to come out was the poet Robert Duncan. In 1944, using his own name in the anarchist magazine Politics, he claimed that homosexuals were an oppressed minority.

In 1951, Donald Webster Cory[3][4] published his landmark The Homosexual in America, exclaiming, “Society has handed me a mask to wear…Everywhere I go, at all times and before all sections of society, I pretend.” Cory was a pseudonym, but his frank and openly subjective descriptions served as a stimulus to the emerging homosexual self-consciousness and the nascent homophile movement.

The decidedly clandestine Mattachine Society, founded by Harry Hay and other veterans of the Wallace for President campaign in Los Angeles in 1950, also moved into the public eye with many gays emerging from the closet after Hal Call took over the group in San Francisco in 1953.

In the 1960s, Frank Kameny came to the forefront of the struggle. Having been fired from his job as an astronomer for the Army Map service for homosexual behavior, Kameny refused to go quietly. He openly fought his dismissal, eventually appealing it all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court. As a vocal leader of the growing movement, Kameny argued for unapologetic public actions. The cornerstone of his conviction was that, “we must instill in the homosexual community a sense of worth to the individual homosexual,” which could only be achieved through campaigns openly led by homosexuals themselves. His motto was “Gay is good.” “(http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Coming_out)

Do not do this at home!

Ways to not come out (there will be a lot of pain and drama that would come your way if you did this…or maybe not? your choice)

1. In Anger

2. On the Internet (this is just tacky)

3. As Revenge

4. Through someone else

5. When you don’t want to

What is Key to Remember in Coming Out

So, after learning all about the history, the meaning, etc it is time to evaluate what you need in doing this and why you are doing this and what will happen when you do. Do it when you are ready. Ready to answer questions, see the response, and feel the response. Get a support system before and know that you are safe (most important!). Know that there are multiple responses that you can get, some very unexpected (especially from people who you thought would be accepting) and some very expected. They range from hostility to total acceptance and your parents or loved ones immeadiately joining PFLAG the next day.

Know that in doing this, you are not alone. There are many support services, such as hotlines, religious communities, PFLAG, and your local glbtq group (if you don’t have one, hotlines are super) to the accompanying stigma that comes with announcing your queer desires. Some of these are listed below and are on the HRC website in downloadable pdfs.

Next, you can go out and date, explore, get to know people, etc. and know that there is always a support system out there through anything (you’ll need it during a break up for sure).

Conclusions

Some identities that are not clearly visible (unless you have a girlfriend/boyfriend, are transitioning, have visible different facial structure, etc) are harder to tell people about than others. Bisexuality, Intersexuality, and being Trans or some of the most stigmatized identities to reveal within the queer community because they are not as easy to understand and are more rare statistically (though some people beg to differ). Coming out is difficult, confusing, and sometimes a big relief or disaster. In Coming Out, wherever you are, I applaud you. Coming Out is a political statement, sometimes better for your mental health, and will remain a social phenomena for years to come.

Resources

This site called “Out Youth” provides questions to ask yourself before you come out as LGBTQI, the dangers it might present, and the situations you might have to face/explain. This site also provides a book list, well know GLBTQ people, and multiple other useful resources. An interesting tidbit is this site is managed by people from Texas (woo!):

http://www.outyouth.org/resources/comingout.html

Coming Out Stories: These are especially helpful when you want to feel as if you are not alone. There are many people out there like you who can provide support, who you can ask question of, etc:

http://gaylife.about.com/od/comingoutstories/Coming_Out_Stories.htm

The HRC website (Human Rights Campaign): This provides amazing resources (of course) about how to come out in a community of color, as transgender, as bisexual, and has a comprehensive guide to coming out. They also have many factoids, resources and multiple other links of interest:

http://www.hrc.org/issues/coming_out.asp

Answers.com: This site provides a lot of answers, obviously, about how to come out to every possibly person who is involved in your life from your doctor, your spouse, your kids, your parents, etc:

http://gaylife.about.com/od/comingout/tp/tipshelpstories.htm

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Filed under Education, glbtq, history, Sexuality