Archive for April, 2009

Looking back, pushing forward

April 30, 2009

In The Life screengrabVia In The Life comes this useful overview of “the controversy raging over the inclusion of Gender Identity Disorder in the American Psychiatric Associations Diagnostic and Statistical Manual“, examining whether GID should be removed from the forthcoming DSM-V, or reclassified.

At the risk of oversimplifying and making sweeping generalisations, TS/TG adults are as reliant on a diagnosis of GID as we are pathologised by it, because healthcare systems around the world require the diagnosis before we can access hormones, surgery, etc. The challenge seems to be how to balance those needs with the destigmatisation of TS/TG people by both the medical profession and mainstream cis society.

That same pathologisation results in gender variant children being subjected to so-called reparative therapies by parents and mental health professionals that regard adult transsexuality or homosexuality as a “bad outcome”.

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(Cross-posted at Questioning Transphobia)

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APA Task Force reviews possible Gender Identity Disorder treatment guidelines

April 29, 2009

DSM-IV TRA possibly interesting development (or is it a stitch-up?) with regard to the DSM revision process seems to be suggested by this press release from the APA yesterday (link here to PDF):

ARLINGTON, Va. (April 28, 2009) – The American Psychiatric Association (APA) Board of Trustees has established a task force on the treatment of Gender Identity Disorders (GID) to address concerns about the relative lack of evidence-based treatment guidelines and to determine if guidelines should be developed. The task force was created on a recommendation by the APA Committee on Gay, Lesbian, and Bisexual Issues.

The board asked the task force to review the literature on the treatment of Gender Identity Disorder at different ages and to report back with “an opinion as to whether or not there is sufficient credible literature to take the next step and develop treatment recommendations.”

The board asked the task force to communicate with the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) work group on Gender Identity Disorder, which can serve as a resource on diagnostic issues during the term of the task force.

After the May 2008 announcement of DSM-V work group membership, the APA received many inquiries regarding the Gender Identity Disorders work group on treatment. These inquiries most often dealt with treatment controversies for GID in children, rather than issues related specifically to the DSM text and diagnostic criteria. While the diagnosis and treatment of mental disorders are inextricably linked, separation of the diagnostic mission of the DSM work groups from the evaluation of treatment issues is especially important.

At first reading it suggests that the APA is actually taking seriously the criticism received regarding (a) “the relative lack of evidence-based treatment guidelines” and (b) “treatment controversies for GID in children“.

Both these points seem to refer to reparative treatments for the condition – treatments which don’t appear to have had any meaningful success and indeed may have caused more harm than good.

But, of course, when the Task Force has been asked “to communicate with the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) work group on Gender Identity Disorder” – chaired by Ken Zucker – whose reparative techniques are under criticism here – and with Ray Blanchard (chair of the Paraphilias Subcommittee and inventor of the mental illness he terms autogynephilia) – well, it doesn’t really inspire confidence that this will be an unbiased, objective and independent review.

Plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose…

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(Cross-posted at Questioning Transphobia)

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Two trans women tortured and murdered in the Dominican Republic

April 28, 2009

Dominican Republic flagOn Top magazine carries a brief report (link here) on the torture and brutal murders of two trans women in the Dominican Republic.

NOTE: The following excerpt from the report contains some graphic descriptions which may be triggering.

Eduardo Padilla, 23, and Ramon Martinez, 26, were brutally tortured before being killed in the northern city of Santiago, Central Cibao Police District spokesman Col. Jesus Cordero Paredes said.

The police spokesman said one of the victims was stabbed 40 times, severely beaten in the genitals, arms and face and her eyes were torn out.

The second victim was found bound, stuffed in a bag with her legs broken. She also was stabbed and burned, Cordero Paredes said.

The spokesman said the pair were tortured in a “cruel” fashion. Two suspects are in custody; men the victims’ relatives identified as “friends.”

“Friends”? “Friends”? I cannot begin to understand how the victims’ relatives can possibly believe the people suspected of torturing and murdering members of their families are “friends”. And I can’t help but wonder, if Ms Padilla and Ms Martinez had been cis women, would their murderers still be thought of as “friends”?

I have this (probably misplaced) belief that the majority of cis people are actually good and decent folks who, even though they will never truly understand what it means to be trans, are at least capable of accepting us, and who would genuinely be horrified to learn that hate crimes against trans people are increasing at an exponential rate worldwide. What is starting to undermine my faith in cis humanity is the refusal to face the facts and the continuing failure to stand with us against this escalating spiral of transphobic bigotry and violence.

Equality Bill 2008-09

April 28, 2009

government portcullis logoThe House of Commons today (27 April 2009) publishes the Equality Bill in a trial format.

The text of the Bill is interleaved with that of the Explanatory Notes so that the two texts appear in parallel on facing pages, side-by-side.

The Bill and Explanatory note are available as a:

  • PDF with both texts side-by-side,
  • an HTML page with the texts side-by-side, and
  • an interwoven web page (HTML)

All versions are available on the Equality Bill page (link here)

(Via parliament.uk)

The Equality Bill is expected to come in to force sometime next year (2010).

Further, related links are to be found on the Government Equalities Office website (link here).

I also recommend visiting the Gender Spectrum UK forum (link here).

Some initial points arising from the GS-UK discussion:

  • Gender Reassignment Definition: The legal definition of “Gender Reassignment” no longer has the requirement for the process to be carried out under medical supervision.
  • Public Sector Equality Duty: The Equality Bill contains a public sector duty covering the seven strands of age; disability; gender reassignment; race; religion or belief; sex; and sexual orientation.
  • Association and Perception: Discrimination is banned in the Equality Bill if it is done “because of” gender reassignment (the old definition was “on grounds of” gender reassignment). Harassment “related to” gender reassignment (the old definition was “on grounds of” gender reassignment) is also outlawed.
  • School Education: Goods, facilities and services protection against discrimination because of gender reassignment is extended to include school education. But harassment related to gender reassignment within school education is not covered.
  • Religious Exceptions: Religious bodies are still allowed to discriminate in employment for certain posts.

It’s not yet clear to me (a) how this legislation will be enforced and (b) what the penalties will be for breaking the law.

More later…

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Previous related posts on this blog:

Say cheese

April 28, 2009

Backscatter X-Ray ImageA little over two years ago, the U.S. Transportation Security Administration (TSA) began trialling body scanners at airports in Phoenix, New York and Los Angeles to screen passengers for weapons, explosives, metal, plastic and liquids. They were immediately controversial for the way in which they ‘see’ through clothing – as evidenced by the image (click to embiggen). The software was modified by introducing a so-called privacy algorithm and faces were also blurred, but the resulting images still left nothing to the imagination.

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and the Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC) have fought against the use of these machines from the start – the ACLU objected to body scans because they were administered selectively (link here):

The ACLU is concerned that these searches have been conducted without good cause and based on profiles that are racially discriminatory. In addition, these machines are capable of projecting an image of a passenger’s naked body. We oppose using this as part of a routine screening procedure. Passengers expect privacy underneath their clothing and should not be required to display highly personal details of their bodies such as evidence of mastectomies, colostomy appliances, penile implants, catheter tubes and the size of their breasts or genitals as a pre-requisite to boarding a plane.

Millimeter Wave ImageLast year, the TSA announced it was increasing the number of airports provided with body scanners – click here to see the full list and a map of the locations. Two types of machines are currently in use: the backscatter X-ray type, and the newer millimeter-wave scanner.

None of this information is new, of course, but as William Saletan points out in his recent article at Slate (link here), a more wide-ranging change is now under way. In February, the TSA announced it would begin testing millimeter-wave scans “in the place of the walk-through metal detector at six airports” (San Francisco, Miami, Albuquerque, Tulsa, Salt Lake City and Las Vegas).

At these airports, everyone – not just people selected for secondary screening – would face the see-through machines. Anyone who objected would “undergo metal detector screening and a pat-down.” You might even get the “enhanced pat-down,” which includes “sensitive areas of the body that are often used by professional testers and terrorists,” such as “the breast and groin areas of females and the groin area of males.”

Robin Kane, the TSA’s acting chief technology officer, is quoted by Joe Sharkey in the New York Times (link here) as saying:

“The plan now is that all passengers will go through the whole-body imager instead of the walk-through metal detector”, he said.

“We’re just finishing some piloting in six airports in the primary screening position,” he said. Assuming tests continue to be positive, the machines will eventually be used at most domestic airports.

This is a complete reversal of the TSA’s original position, when it stated that body scanners would be a “voluntary alternative” to “a more invasive physical pat-down during secondary screening“. (Via)

When we consider the possible impact on trans people, it’s clear that there may be some very serious implications for those whose find themselves in the ‘no-match’ quandary, particularly in the light of the TSA’s previous statement that:

[...] terrorists actively look for ways to manipulate security protocols. Intelligence has also shown for decades, terrorists’ manipulation of societal norms to evade detection or use social engineering techniques to their advantage. Terrorists have successfully hidden explosives in these areas.

(Via)

In other words, your passport may say you’re female, and you may be presenting as such, but if the body scanner shows you to be male-bodied, there’s a good chance you’ll be pulled in for further investigation by the authorities. At least, this could be embarrassing and humiliating, exposing us to more discrimination and harassment – like we don’t get enough of that anyway. At worst, being outed for not conforming to a strictly enforced gender binary could place us in real danger – especially if the authorities decide you’re a suspected terrorist travelling incognito.

Isn’t it way past time discrepancies like these were resolved so trans people can travel freely regardless of how we self-identify, or what our gender presentation may be? Unfortunately, as always, the power to change this policy is in the hands of cis people. It’s hard not to think that, had there been any sort of consultation with trans people in the first place, this situation would never have arisen.

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Other, related posts about body scanners:

Close the CAMH Gender Identity Clinic – Facebook group

April 28, 2009

Close the CAMH Gender Identity ClinicThere’s a new Facebook group (link here) aimed at highlighting the controversial policies and practises which are carried out at the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH) in Toronto.

Lynn Conway has also posted a wealth of information on the TSRoadmap site (link here) about CAMH and its staff, including Ken Zucker and Ray Blanchard. In addition to their favoured ‘reparative therapy’ approach at CAMH, they have also been the subjects of some controversy following their appointments to the American Psychiatric Association’s Sexual & Gender Identity Disorders Work Group, which is charged with reviewing the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) – a hugely influential document which includes five different diagnoses for ‘Gender Identity Disorder’ (GID).

The Clarke Institute is a Toronto mental institution charged with serving gender-variant clients in the area. Under the direction of Ray Blanchard, it has become widely known as one of the most notorious facilities in the world in terms of controlling access to medical services.

According to their website they offer services, including for “those who wish to manage their cross-gender feelings and the expression of those feelings while remaining in their original gender role.” This is another way to describe reparative therapy similar to groups who claim to “cure” gays and lesbians.

Much of the anti-trans thinking in the world today emanates from The Clarke, long nicknamed “Jurassic Clarke” in the trans community for its regressive policies.

(Via TSRoadmap)

However, even a recent internal report has voiced concerns about “dismissive, condescending and authoritarian attitudes” at CAMH and cites the following key concerns:

1. Homophobia has been cited as one of 3 major internal issues
2. LGBTTTQQI issues are not part of the cultural competency of all staff
3. Although there are Queer & Trans-specific services in the Addictions program, these are not offered in Mental Health
4. The Gender Identity Clinic (GIC) and the Gender Identity Disorder Service (GIDS) have not been well regarded by some members of LGBTTTQQI communities due to negative experiences, underlying operational theories, approach, and treatment philosophy.

(Direct link here to PDF of the full report – and – direct link here to PDF of the executive summary)

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(Cross-posted at Questioning Transphobia)

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Here are the links to previous posts on this blog on DSM related topics (as mentioned above, Ken Zucker and Ray Blanchard of CAMH have also been appointed to the APA’s Sexual & Gender Identity Disorders Work Group, which is charged with reviewing the DSM):

Qatar: TS/TG people – human beings or behavioural deviants?

April 27, 2009

Qatari flagCompared with certain other Arab states – Saudi Arabia, for example – Qatar might appear to have relatively liberal laws, even though it’s still not as liberal as some other Persian Gulf countries. However, since the mid-1990s, Qatar has been undergoing a period of liberalisation and modernisation which brought many positive changes. For example, Qatar became the first Arab country of the Persian Gulf to extend suffrage to women. Nevertheless, the country still lags behind the UAE or Bahrain in terms of more westernised laws and though plans are being made for more development, the government is cautious. (Via Wikipedia)

Regrettably, with regard to TS/TG people, in some areas this caution seems to manifest itself in a rather old-fashioned but nonetheless toxic form of transphobia, as can been seen from a recent report in the Gulf Times (link here):

[...] Dr Saif al-Hajari, the deputy chairperson of Qatar Foundation for Education, Science and Community Development, described the emerging trend of “manly women” and “womanly men” as a “foreign trend” which, he said, had invaded the Qatari and Gulf communities as part of the “globalisation winds”.

Interestingly, the terms ‘manly women’ and ‘womanly men’ could have come straight from the pages of a reparative therapist’s manual and they are almost common currency amongst those transphobic cis women radical feminists who, believing that gender is absolutely a social construct, insist that trans people can only be deluded dupes and pawns of the patriarchy for undergoing medical transition when all we really need is a good talking-to, and perhaps a nice cup of tea.

And, at the same time as Dr Saif al-Hajari talks of the ‘globalisation winds’ that have ‘invaded’ the country, the Qatar Foundation’s own website (link here) makes much of its mission to prepare the people of Qatar and the region to meet the challenges of an ever-changing world.

There’s more than a hint of small-c conservatism about Dr Saif al-Hajari’s words, which seem curiously at odds with the wider trend towards a more liberalised society. And the rest of his comments don’t inspire confidence that he thinks TS/TG people should be treated fairly and with respect:

“This is an issue which can harm all our social and religious values.”

I would suggest that a society whose social and religious values can be threatened – in an unspecified way – by a tiny minority of people who self-identify in a gender other than the one they were assigned at birth, is a society which has far deeper fissures in its foundations than anything that could be caused by the existence of TS/TG people.

“It needs some sort of bravery to address it.”

Oh please, Doctor: just listen to yourself. Perhaps if you did some work on the subject, you would realise that the real bravery is exhibited by those TS/TG people who live in another gender role, in a country where kneejerk transphobic reactions – like yours – are not only tolerated, but given airtime on national television.

“I have never imagined that one day I can see such behavioural deviations in our streets, schools or universities.”

This is simply a rather embarrassing display of an irrational fear of any gender presentation that exists outside a rigidly defined, artificial – and, frankly, archaic – binary. ‘Behavioural deviations’, indeed. Such things are defined by human beings and can easily be redefined to include, as to exclude. From where I sit, the phrase ‘behavioural deviations’ comes very close to hate speech, and is all the more cause for concern when it emanates from a country with a long and proud history of interacting with a multitude of races, peoples, languages and religions.

Not content with out-and-out transphobic hate speech, Dr Saif al-Hajari then proceeds to introduce xenophobia and paranoia into his arguments:

“These cases of behavioural deviations we have are not working alone. They co-ordinate with similar groups on regional and international levels,” he added.

The implication seems to be that there is some sort of international conspiracy to influence otherwise fine, upstanding, morally correct citizens into becoming some sort of threat to the established order by means of questioning their gender identity and presentation. Even a moment’s research would expose this assertion for the laughable fallacy that it represents. We transition to survive; not to overthrow governments.

To a question whether foreign education institutes established in Qatar are responsible for the spread of the phenomenon, Dr al-Hajari said that Qatar Foundation, which is the umbrella of foreign universities in Qatar, should set up a mechanism to protect young people in such universities from “invading behaviours”.

“We need to educate the administrative and teaching staff of these [foreign education institutes] on the special traits of our society.”

Hmm. Socio-cultural rehabilitation, anyone?

We are expected to accept the phrase ‘the special traits of our society’ without question. I’d be very interested to know how Dr Saif al-Hajari defines those ‘special traits’, and where he obtains his authority to make such definitions.

As for “invading behaviours” – has Dr Saif al-Hajari never heard of mukhannathun? There have been TS/TG people across the Arabian Peninsula – across the entire world – for as long as there have been humans. This is not a new phenomenon, a ‘trend’ to be reversed or a conspiracy to be repressed: it is an established and internationally recognised condition with a considerable body of medical evidence to support its existence.

“Some foreign schools and universities hire staff hailing from communities that do not see any problem in what we think of as deviations. This is a problem that should be dealt with.”

Again, it is unclear precisely why Dr al-Hajari believes that TS/TG people are a ‘problem’ to be ‘dealt with’.

It must surely be a matter of concern for anyone with even a passing interest in equality and human rights that such a forward-looking country should apparently tolerate such regressive and repressive views being expressed by so senior a person as the deputy chair of one of Qatar’s best known private, chartered, non-profit organisations. Dr al-Hajari, it is time to leave behind these proposals for the inhuman treatment of gender variant people – you may not understand us, but you can at least accept us as the fellow and equal human beings we are, in all our glorious diversity.

My Manic & I

April 26, 2009

He wants to die in a lake in Geneva,
the mountains can cover the shape of his nose.
He wants to die where nobody can see him,
but the beauty of his death will carry on so
I don’t believe him.

He greets me with kisses when good days deceive him
and sometimes with scorn and sometimes I believe him.
And sometimes I’m convinced my friends think I’m crazy,
get scared and call him but he’s usually hazy.

By one in the morning day is not ended
by two he is scared that sleep is no friend.
And by four he will drink but he cannot feel it,
sleep will not come because sleep does not will it
and I don’t believe him.
Morning is mocking me.

I’ll wander the streets avoiding them eats
’til the ring on my finger slips to the ground.
A gift to the gutter, gift to the city
the veins of which have broken me down.
And I don’t believe him,
morning is mocking me.

Oh the gods that he believes never fail to amaze me.
He believes in the love of his god of all things,
but I find him wrapped up in all manner of sins.
The drugs that deceive him, the girls that believe him.
I can’t control you I don’t know you well
these are the reasons I think that you’re ill.
I can’t control you I don’t know you well
these are the reasons I think that you’re ill.

And since last have we parted and last that i saw him
down by a river silent and hardened
morning was mocking us.
Blood hit the sky.
I was just happy my manic and I
He couldn’t see me the sun was in his eyes
and birds were singing to calm us down.
And birds were singing to calm us down.

And I’m sorry young man I cannot be your friend
I don’t believe in a fairytale end.
I don’t keep my head up all of the time.
I find it dull when my heart meets my mind.
And I hardly know you I think I can tell
these are the reasons I think that we’re ill.
I hardly know you I think I can tell
these are the reasons I think that Im ill.
And the gods that he believes never fail to disappoint me
The gods that he believes never fail to disappoint me.
my nihilist, my happy man, my manic and I
have no plans to move on
The birds are singing to calm us down
And birds are singing to calm us down

lonely

April 26, 2009

lonely in a crowd
different from the rest
separate, apart
because of change,
experiences they can’t understand
choices and experiments taken
can I fit within their world
relate on some common level
when my life and theirs
exist on different planes

8/18/04 23:28

the gulf so wide,
land so foreign
in familiar surroundings

8/18/04 23:35

miles away
even at home

8/18/04 23:48

(Raymond A. Foss)

Angie Zapata murder – family statement

April 23, 2009

Via the Greeley Tribune:

zapata_family_via_greeleytribuneFlanked by his sisters, Ashley Zapata, Stephanie Villalobos and Monica Murguia, and his mother, Maria Zapata, Gonzalo Zapata issued a statement about the trial to the media Wednesday. The family did not answer questions.

The statement:

“Angie was my sister.

“She was a member of our family. We loved her very much, and we will miss her every day. Every day and every night our mom has to deal with great pain of … one of her babies being buried. Every day our siblings and I reach for the phone and realize we’ll never hear her voice. There’s no answer anymore.

“A part of our family is missing, stolen from us. Angie was 18, her life was just beginning. She was brave, she had guts, she had courage, and she was beautiful, fun and loving. She was our little sister.

“Through the last week, we’ve watched as our sister Angie was lied about in court, angrily as the defense presented an image of my sister that wasn’t true. Their strategy of tearing down my sister to make a monster look better will not work.

“It is clear: Angie was our sister, an aunt and a daughter. Life was sometimes difficult for her, and we learned along with her to understand she was born a girl with a body that was wrong for her.

“Above all else, she was honest. It took such courage to be who she was. She was strong, there was no reason to believe my sister was anything but strong and honest with everyone.

“This week, we are deeply saddened as we witnessed graphic details about the last few minutes of my sister’s life. A big brother is supposed to protect his little sister. It breaks my heart to think there was nothing I could do.

“My sisters, Monica and Ashley, when they saw what this monster had done, they wanted to hold her, to comfort her and make her feel better. It was hard to realize nothing could have been done.

“He stole something so precious from us.

“Only a monster can look at a beautiful 18-year-old and beat her to death. This monster not only hit my sister, but continued to beat her head in over and over and over until her head was crushed in. He left her there to die.

“He’ll (never) understand how angry we are at him and how much he has hurt us. This past week and half, we’ve seen attorneys working their hardest to seek justice for my sister. …

“We are grateful Colorado has tough laws that make it clear that attacking people because of anti-gender bias will be taken seriously. It will be prosecuted aggressively … in Weld County.

“In memory of Angie, we call on Colorado’s leaders to pass a federal hate crime law to protect everyone.

“Justice was achieved. A message was sent loud and clear that crimes target ing LGBT will not be tolerated in Colorado …

“Remember her as we do, as a beautiful, wonderful, precious teenager. She would want us to remember the happy times in her life. And make the world a better place.

“We will always love you Angie and we will always miss you, mija.

“Thank you”

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