Category Archives: politics

Suicide and LGBTQ Youth

Introduction

I just started watching the video Dan Savage does with his partner about teenage glbtq suicide and it started out “I went to an all boys catholic highschool…” (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7IcVyvg2Qlo). It reminds me of my adolescence, not only because I went to a catholic all-girls highschool, but also because I was becoming comfortable with my sexuality, my non-heterosexuality, my bisexuality, my pansexuality, whatever sexuality is, my sexual nature? Either way, my sexual self. What I knew about my sexual self as a sophomore was that I liked girls, I had crushes on girls. I was incredibly lucky because there was someone who was out who I latched on to and told about my sexuality. Either way, being a non-heterosexual person in highschool can be difficult. Highschool can be difficult. Being gay is difficult in America, most of America, unless you have a strong support network and even then, there are your peers, and community members, and others who might not be so supportive.

A very large issue in the glbtq community is the prevalence or wide occurrence of having depression sometime in life. Depression or prolonged sadness is common for many people and possibly because its becoming less of a stigma, depression is being revealed more, but it seems to be really common for gay youth. For this reason, there are many non-profits that combat and try to prevent glbtq youth from committing suicide (which are among the most likely to commit suicide of the youth population). The reasons for glbtq wanting to commit suicide may range from lonliness, societal stigma, secrecy, constant conflict at school or home, emotional or physical isolation, homelessness, and more. Every person’s experience with depression is unique.

What I am going to talk about in this post is something one of my good friends just brought to my attention, Dan Savage’s organization to prevent youth suicide among the glbtq population through his project called “It Gets Better”.

In Dan Savage’s video (which I provided a link for above) is the message “It Gets Better” and it will and it can. So, you can live a better life when you get out of a tough time. During the video the two (Dan and his partner) share their highschool experiences, how they met, how they have supportive family networks, and how they have an amazing family with their son, DJ. Then they share really cute memories, which you should watch the video to hear about. My favorite message is “you will find love and a community”. Truth Dan, Truth.

It Gets Better Project

Dan Savage, author of the sex advice column and podcast Savage Love, started a campaign called “It Gets Better” with his partner Terry after hearing about the death of Billy Lucas, age 15, on the eve of World Suicide Prevention Day (more here: http://www.examiner.com/sex-education-in-national/dan-savage-launches-it-gets-better-project-to-reach-out-to-lgbt-teens).

Savage’s message is that we can spread hope to others, simply through the internet, by being a supportive friend, family member, or community member. After being introduced by another friend of mine to Savage’s podcast “Savage Love” this summer I am extremely supportive of what Savage is trying to do. In his podcast Savage combats heterosexist assumptions about gender roles, relationships, and sex, which is one of the first steps as an individual to combat homophobia.

The Trevor Project

Another project that strives to prevent glbtq youth suicide is the Trevor Project. The Trevor Project is based out of Southern California.

On their website (http://www.thetrevorproject.org/about-trevor/organization) it states their vision:

“The Trevor Project is the national provider of life saving resources to LGBTQ youth and their families. We advocate acceptance and help prevent teen suicide by promoting mental health and positive self-esteem through a premiere on line destination, nationwide 24/7 call centers, and empowering social activities”

The Trevor Project is an amazing resource and on their website they state a strategic plan of how they are going to reach their goals of preventing suicide among glbtq youth.

Conclusion

A very large influence on teen depression is homophobia. Homophobia is not always a direct attack, but also comes in assumptions about desire and experience. Homophobia is oppressive, individually and to the lgbtq community because it makes being attracted to a person of the same-sex a stigma and that should not be the case.

When I was home the year before my senior year in college, three people committed suicide in front of train tracks. The city posted police cars at every stop in my city and they saved two kids lives. Our local glbtq organization spoke at a town hall meeting offering their services. I hope they save more kids lives because every life is valuable.

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Filed under Education, glbtq, News, politics, Sexuality, Youth

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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Filed under history, News, politics

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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Filed under Education, Feminism, gender, Health, history, politics, Sexuality

Bisexuality

Introduction

Within both the straight world and the gay world and whatever world you are from there are prejudices about bisexuality. Some of the most common ones are: they can’t decide, spread AIDS, they are not subject to homophobia or heterosexism, they will cheat, they’re in a phase (which sometimes may be the case for transitioning people who are gay), they’re unique cases, men can’t be bisexual, and they are promiscuous. There is also the claim that it is a myth.

According to Kinsey, most people exist somewhere on the scale from 1-5 (see earlier Kinsey post), meaning they are a little bisexual or have had a bisexual desire or experience sometime in their life. Bisexuality or bisexual desire is not rare, but seeing it is a different story. Since monogamy is the default or the norm within society people are assumed to be either gay or straight depending on what partner one may have at the time. Bisexuality also implies sexual and/or romantic attraction to men and women. This does not mean that being bisexual equates to having the same level or intensity of attraction to both men and women. It is not always an attraction that is split down the middle or stays constant and sometimes depends on being attracted to specific individuals, not widely men and women.

Recently, bisexuality has gained a bad reputation because of its association with Katy Perry, experimentation,  Lady Gaga, and pop artists adopting it for the sake of marketing to men who have wild imaginations. There have been a lot of misconceptions about what it is and how long it has existed for. Throughout time bisexuality and the expression of it has been represented differently across time. Today actresses and actors are coming out as bisexual, which is definitely a difference from the days of free love and also the Victorian period. Sexuality across time and geographical location varies. This exploration of it while be more general for the time being.

In this entry I will talk about being bisexual and identity. This is just a short introduction the topic, which I will probably expand on extensively later to talk about topics explicitly linked to people who are bisexual.

Origination of the Word

As is not well spread knowledge, the term homosexuality developed before heterosexuality, but over time the definition and associations have began to mean different things. Along with the term homosexuality and heterosexuality, the term bisexuality was coined in the 19th century.

Being Bisexual

Even though many people have bisexual desires, not many people are bisexual or claim bisexual identity. Many people who I have encountered today who have had a history of being romantic or sexual with both men and women have called themselves lesbians, straight, and pansexual. Labeling oneself bisexual has come to mean something negative because it represents the sexual binary and limits a person. Although this criticism is true and the b is included in the lgbtq acronym that no one can ever remember and is always being altered, the representation of people who are bisexual and express desire for both and have had girlfriends, boyfriends, lovers of both genders/sexes is still incredibly rare and stigmatized. Even more so than homosexuality (I argue).

Identity is a complicated thing. Many theorists argue about this saying the basis of sexual orientation is biology, socialization, and sometimes an interaction of both. I will not profess to understand it at all, because I really don’t, but I like wondering about it because its so complicated. So being bisexual for some is about identity, some about behavior and for some its political. Sexuality in general is a subjective topic.

Many researchers, sex researchers and psychologists, have claimed that men can not possibly be bisexual (a study done in 2005), that people are naturally bisexual (Kraftt-Ebing), and that people can not strictly be categorized as straight or gay (Kinsey). Sexuality is not that simple. Sexuality depends on context and individual and comfort level and arousal and many many other things. Studies inform opinions and may say something about sexuality but should not be absorbed as absolute truth, so I am always skeptical whenever reading something about sexuality, but also interested.

Conclusion

Basically, its complicated. Bisexuality is not simple and neither is homosexuality or heterosexuality. Heterosexism and homphobia affects us all and assumptions always make an ass out of you and me. So read up and get back to me.

Links

Wikipedia is always good: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bisexuality

Richard Von Krafft-Ebing thought that bisexuality was the natural state of being: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Richard_Freiherr_von_Krafft-Ebing

Recent coming-out of an actress in True Blood: http://www.okmagazine.com/2010/06/anna-paquin-on-being-bisexual-it-wasnt-like-it-was-a-big-secret/

The Bisexual Examiner: http://www.examiner.com/x-3366-Bisexuality-Examiner~y2009m7d15-Bisexuality-101-Am-I-bisexual

Ridiculous quiz: http://www.allthetests.com/quiz19/quizpu.php?testid=1155452146&katname=Test-yourself-in-questions-of-love

NY-Times Article: http://www.nytimes.com/2005/07/05/health/05sex.html?_r=1

Religious Tolerance: http://www.religioustolerance.org/bisexuality.htm

BiBasics: http://out.ucr.edu/pdf/BiBasics.pdf

Arousal patterns of bisexual men: http://www.psychologicalscience.org/pdf/ps/bisexuality.pdf

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Autostraddle

The other day I discovered a blog about “girl-on-girl culture” which made me laugh and also incredibly excited. This blog is definitely one of the most comprehensive lesbian blogs that covers pop culture, politics, contemporary news, and also has video.

Definitely check it out if you haven’t heard of it before: http://www.autostraddle.com/

The writers also include round-tables where they took about up-to-date feminist topics and also about self-identity (current round table is on intersectionality)

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Filed under Education, Feminism, gender, glbtq, politics, Pop Culture, Queer, Sexuality

Caster Semenya

Introduction

Caster Semenya is an 18-year old runner from South Africa who was about to compete in a 4000 meter run after she had run a previous race and won the gold medal. There had been reports that she was suspected of not being a woman because of her musculature and her deep voice (and I highly suspect people were sort of jealous) . This speculation led her to get an examination by the IAAF (International Association of Athletic Federations). A doctor from Otago tested and examined her and found her to have an intersex condition, meaning that she possesses both female and male gonadal tissue (she did not have ovaries or a womb, but possessed inner testes).

There is a lot of controversy going around her right now because she may not be able to keep her medal due to the tests showing she had three times the amount of testosterone a normal female would have.

Since sports is so divided because of supposed biological advantages and body compositions of men and women, Semenya may be banned from participated anymore in the competition.

Since ideas of gender are so built into self-identity and also are very emotionally bound (for example if someone accused you of not being man enough or much of a woman, you would probably be taken a back or maybe offended), this is a very sensitive issue. Many people in forums, on blogs, and on the news are now not considering her a woman. She has been raised all her life as a woman and ran as a woman and probably identifies as a woman. Her family did not report knowing of her intersexuality, nor does it seem to matter much . Since this supposed “discovery” of who Semenya really is, apparently she is not a woman anymore.

In a wordpress article (http://identityrevealed.wordpress.com/2009/09/10/man-or-woman-revisited/) I found out that You magazine did a make-over of Caster. All I can say to that is, interesting.

Intersexuality

In this section I want to highlight some things I find highly problematic and troubling with some of the reports on Semenya.

First, In the news people are referring to Caster as a ‘hermaphrodite’. Hermaphrodite is a controversial term and considered offensive because of its connotations with the authoritative power medicine has had over the bodies of people who have been born with both female and male gonadal tissue (ovaries and testes). The correct term, that is still used in science, would be psuedohermaphrodite because she does not have ovaries.  Hermaphrodite is an old term and is used in old scientific journals. DSD (disorder of sexual development) has been determined by the ISNA (Intersex Society of North America) and Alice Dreger to be the term that is to be used in scientific texts from this point on. This term is also considered offensive by some because of the use of “disorder” and the term VSD is more commonly used or “Variation of Sexual Development”. This population has been too often referred to as freaks, monsters,  not human, not woman, not man, in between, etc. Refer to them as they prefer. If they have been raised a woman, call them a woman. If they have been raised a man, call them a man. Its about respect, call them what they wish to be called.

Two, do not make it about gender identity. Just because Semenya has been found to have typically male gonadal tissue does not make her less of a woman. Gender is complicated. It is not just about biology or raising a person or self-identity. It is about all of the above and more and it is a personal thing and should not be contested publicly.

Third, I think most of this is a Western thing to be concerned with, gender. We are all about categories and who fits where and how so that they can have a certain role. Races and sports are all about categories and natural selection at its own form of visible entertainment. Displaying physical agility and ability started out as a Grecian thing, a male thing. Sports usually have been a Western male white thing. Since Semenya performed so well especially at something that has been so predominantly and historically white and Western, she is bound to come under scrutiny and one of the first things to be on the list is that since she performed so well, she must be a man!

Finally, LANGUAGE. For the last time, language. It is not a shame, a horrible thing, or “at worst” that she may be intersex.

Conclusion

Caster Semenya’s controversy in sport may lead to categorization about what makes a man or a woman, which IS problematic. In the past there have been distinctions about how much of a hormone, how long your clitoris or how small your penis is, how long your labia is, or how deep your vagina is, either makes you or leaves you short of being a “man” or a “woman”. Categories in popular culture are oppressive to individuals. The Western world is obsessed with people fitting and being able to fit into designated categories and sports has made this issue clearer. Be aware of what these categories mean to the individual before making policy or law about it because that is dangerous.

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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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Filed under history, News, politics, Pop Culture