Sufficient Scruples

Bioethics, healthcare policy, and related issues.

October 20, 2011

Patriarchal Progressives

by @ 5:09 PM. Filed under Autonomy, General, LGBTQ Issues, Personhood, Sex, Theory, Women's Issues

Jill Filipovic, at Feministe, has a great post up on objectification of women within liberal activist circles. It was prompted by the much-commented assholery of one Steven Greenstreet, who took video footage of female demonstrators at OWS protests and put it up on Tumblr, out of context and with no purpose other than inviting leering at the “Hot Chicks of Occupy Wall Street”.

Jill righteously calls him out for it (as did many others):

The deflecting from legitimate concerns, and the fact that the OWS “public” includes a lot of men who think it’s ok to treat women at a protest like we’re there for their visual fulfillment, troubles me. No one is saying, “Don’t find women attractive.” . . . No one is objecting to the fact that straight men are attracted to some women (fun fact: straight women are also attracted to some men! So really, no one is pissed about attraction, I promise). What people are pissed about is what Rebecca Traister says:

“The larger, simpler argument, outside of consent or permission, is: This video is sexist. It’s an example of women participating in public life — political, professional, social — and having their participation reduced to sexual objectification. That’s what happened here, nothing more, nothing less.” . . .

Emphasis mine. . . . [C]reating a blog and a video dedicated to showing women at a protest with the sole purpose of reminding dudes that women at the protest are hot? That does reduce women to objects of male attention. It’s another reminder, for women, that how seriously we’re taken and how valuable we are depends on how sexually attractive we’re deemed.

Read the whole thing; she’s got good things to say. But the part that really triggered something for me was this:

Frankly, the kinds of dudes who would come to the OWS protests because they heard there are hot chicks there? Are not the kinds of dudes I want to be protesting with. I would hope they’re not the kinds of dudes that most progressives would want to be protesting with — but judging by the lefty-dude reaction to Steven Greenstreet (hi Matt Zoller Seitz, looking at you!), that’s not the case. It’s disappointing.

To say the least. And far too common, from way back. It’s no secret that supposedly “progressive” groups have always been rife with sexism and sexual pressuring, and it doesn’t seem to be getting better. Progressives have never been immune to human failings, including stereotyping and bigotry of the kind that they supposedly abhor but sometimes don’t recognize in themselves; the long fight for acceptance in progressive movements of gays and transexuals is one case in point, and the difficulty many white (and especially male heterosexual) liberals have in recognizing and acknowledging their own privilege is another. But the LGBTQ community, people of color, and other marginalized groups, though still embattled, have by now to a considerable degree been granted by progressives the one thing many persist in denying to women: recognition of the fact that they have real interests, problems, and worth that must be taken seriously. The situation is far from perfect, and not everybody agrees on how the tensions between different progressive constituencies should be resolved, but in most cases they are acknowledged, and the human pain and human interests that lie at their heart are given due deference. Except in the case of women.

To be sure, progressives are not right-wingers. They don’t overtly hate women. They don’t gleefully consign them to death by deliberate neglect at the hands of sniffy sex-negative religious bigots. They don’t dishonestly and cynically strain moral concepts – often ones introduced and championed by progressives – such as “informed consent” to create barriers to the very autonomy they are intended to protect. They don’t penalize the fact of women’s having sexual natures – just the opposite! But in too many cases they don’t grant them the respect and freedom needed to act on their own natures and seek their own good. Just as with conservatives, women exist for far too many progressive men for the purpose of their gratification – an impersonal usage that erases those women as persons themselves.

Which leads me, finally, to the question that came up for me on surveying this latest stupid and distasteful incident: how, exactly, are these dipshit “progressive” men progressives? What goes through their heads, what process takes place in their heads, such that they wind up thinking things like “let’s go to the OWS protest and photograph women’s breasts!”? How, when they are called out for that, do they expend so much energy defending their childishness and sexism? Why do they not care about offending or humiliating their supposed fellow activists – about derailing or undermining the movement they claim to support – about embarrassing that movement by acting in a regressive manner and then elevating their own bad behavior into the limelight? More particularly, what is it that allows progressives to empathize with everyone but women, even women in their own movement? What allows them to hear everyone else’s protests at mistreatment, and dismiss those of women out of hand?

In a way, I suppose it has something in common with the denial and self-absorption that allowed Southern slave-holders to rationalize their own crimes. Patriarchy is its own form of slavery, more complex and less overt, but very real, and it is very hard to acknowledge you are doing wrong when your entire lifestyle, all its comforts and conveniences and pleasures, derives so much from others’ service to your needs. It is easy to protest obvious wrongs that don’t require you to change your own life to amend. But progressive men, in many cases, are no better than the privileged classes of the Confederacy, of apartheid South Africa, of Wall Street itself, at admitting that their own satisfaction depends on bending others to their desires, against their will and at the denial of their basic human personhood.

You can’t be progressive just for causes you aren’t invested in, at the expense of people you don’t like. Being progressive means wanting to live in a better world – not just wanting to take down the most guilty in this one and then carry on regardless. Being progressive means checking your privilege, living the dream you envision, being part of the solution – all slogans that have at their heart the basic truth that you have to be as critical of yourself as you are of others, or more so, since you can only really change yourself.

You aren’t a progressive if you mistreat women. You aren’t a progressive if you think progressivism is defined as rallies, protests, and events, rather than a mindset that is grounded on a world in which people are treated with respect, by everyone, starting with yourself. You aren’t a progressive if you go to events but don’t treat the people there with regard. You aren’t a progressive if you revel in your own privileges at the expense of the pain and diminishment of others, then feel hurt because you’ve decided that whatever superficial support you feel for “the cause” entitles you to use others for your pleasure and then resent it when they object.

If you’re not a progressive for any of these reasons, you’re little better than a reactionary even if you vote the right way. You’re pro-choice? Great. You don’t think being pro-choice encompasses the choice to control, and present, your own sexuality on your own terms? You’re not a progressive, and you’re a pain and an embarrassment to those who sincerely try to be.

October 1, 2011

Complexities of Transexual Procedures, and of Progressive Healthcare

by @ 7:35 PM. Filed under Access to Healthcare, Autonomy, Biotechnology, General, Healthcare Politics, LGBTQ Issues, Medical Science, Provider Roles, Theory, Women's Issues

There’s a great post up at Skepchick, discussing a supposed regimen for “natural” transexual procedures for female-to-male transitioning. Debbie Goddard (@DebGod) responded to a question from a writer who was approaching the FTM transition but was uncertain about surgery and hormone therapy, and had heard about a program of exercise and “natural” supplements similar to that used by “natural bodybuilders”. DebGod’s response and the discussion that ensued fascinated me. I encourage people to read it; then I’ll have some comments to make.

What got me onto this is that there’s just so much cool stuff in this post and the comments thread. I don’t have anything to say about the basic question of natural transitioning, but I want to point out several things that come up in the discussion.

First, it’s interesting that this post arose on a skeptic (i.e., atheist, anti-paranormal) site in the first place. Transexuality isn’t inherently an issue for skeptics, but the questioner identified as a skeptic and was apparently feeling vulnerable as both a transexual and a skeptic, so sought out a welcoming community. He found the right place: DebGod happens to be gender-queer, and is knowledgeable about transexuality and a former bodybuilder, and the community of readers was supportive. From some of the comments, it appears that many perceive the skeptical community as not uniformly welcoming for LGBTQ people – something I hadn’t known or expected. This post included some interesting discussion of LGBTQ issues among skeptics, and raises questions that – especially in light of the recent conflict over misogyny among skeptics (notably involving another prominent Skepchick poster) – I hope the skeptical community will take the opportunity to address.

More importantly, DebGod’s response is a model of careful and helpful analysis. She gives her own background, with appropriate disclaimers, then lays out the issues clearly and concisely. She notes red flags with the claims being made (no professional credentials, buzzwords, trademarked terminology, skeptical responses from people directly affected). She then reviews the suggested procedure, notes that it relies heavily on biochemical supplements, comments intelligently on their purity and efficacy, and discusses the vague distinction between “natural” and “non-natural” that the promoters take advantage of. She seeks information from a more knowledgeable source. Shen then concludes by running down all the issues this analysis raises, categorically, giving pros and cons for each and pointing out dangers. This is a really well-done, intelligent, well-argued analysis, at least as good as that commonly seen from Quackwatch or prominent skeptics like PZ Myers.

What I really like about DebGod’s analysis is that she is carefully value-neutral in all of this. Though it’s clear that there is much to be worried about in this suggested regimen, she never takes it on herself to make other people’s decisions for them. Her final statement is a clear and balanced sketch of the relationship between all the competing factors – health, personal goals, available support, and insurance or income – that influence a decision among the many different options for transitioning; she doesn’t declare any of them right or wrong for any individual, but makes it clear that each may be better or worse under different conditions. She includes just a single sentence offering her opinion that the “natural” process is too risky and low-benefit, but clearly identifies it as her own perspective and doesn’t insist that anyone else has to adopt it. She really gets her role as guide and analyst, as opposed to parent, judge, or dictator – something that so many culture-critic blowhards, and even many licensed professionals, can’t accept.

As she notes:

When it comes to gender identity and transsexualism, where you want to go, who you want to be, and how you want to do it is up to you, of course.

– a message that needs to be heard more widely, and not just regarding transexualism.

That leads to another issue that comes up obliquely, but importantly, in the comments. The medical community’s response to transexualism has been mixed, in ways that have generated a lot of resentment in the T/Q community even when the doctors and psychologists thought they were being helpful. For many years, transexuals seeking medical treatment in the US were commonly required to conform to the so-called “Harry Benjamin Standards of Care” (now the “World Professional Association for Transgender Health Standards of Care”), requiring extensive counseling and explicit authorization from multiple psychologists, and a set period of pre-treatment life in the transitioned gender, before professionals would agree to provide the requested treatment. Those standards have been eased but still exist. Many critics have pointed out that this is not only paternalistic but unnecessary – transexual patients have a higher level of success and satisfaction with their treatment than patients of many other conditions, including cosmetic procedures, that do not involve such heavy-handed gatekeeping. The professional societies – starting in the 1950s, when this work was extremely controversial – saw themselves as protecting patients and preventing harmful mistakes, while also going to lengths to provide treatments that more conservative caregivers would have prohibited in the first place. Patients, however, saw it as condescending, offensive, and wasteful of time and money. (Note that in other parts of the world, clinical standards for transexual therapy are much looser or non-existent; there is no known epidemic of regretful genderflippers.)

There are some very interesting comments from “natalie1984” noting that the sex-reassignment gatekeeping system has been eroded in recent years, and along with it the stereotyped view of what it means to “really” be transexual or gender-dysphoric in the first place. Not only has therapy become more accessible, but what kind of therapy and what therapeutic endpoint the patient seeks have also been thrown open. As she notes: “Now we’re all able to simply work out for ourselves who we are and what we want from transition, and what will make us feel happiest”. She speaks with understanding of why many healthcare professionals are not current on T/Q issues, and simply encourages patients to find caregivers they are comfortable with. There’s also an interesting exchange further down the thread between her and one of the promoters of the natural therapy. She comes across as uncompromising but smart, thoughtful, and understanding.

There’s more, including the politics of gendered pronouns, but even just this adds up to a rich and complex discussion, with intersections between skepticism, healthcare autonomy, gender issues, and, vaguely, perhaps some philosophy-of-science stuff. What this post brings up for me is the deeply connected ways in which such issues always do surface in any similar debates over the proper application of facts to values – that is, the use of science or medicine to achieve chosen goals in human lives, and the conflicts that arise between those who control the science and those whose goals are at stake. It is common in ethics and philosophy of science to emphasize the “fact/value distinction”, but real cases often dredge up facts – and perceived facts – from many aspects of our lives, and competing values that arise from very different lived perspectives.

In this one issue, the skeptical community provides a useful mindset for analyzing clinical claims, but has also been charged with hostility to the LGBTQ community in whose interests those questions are asked. The “natural health” community offers the autonomy and self-direction that many patients want, but also harbors liars and scammers. The doctors who invented the sex-assignment gatekeeping system that so many transexual people hate did so as a way to make it possible for those patients to get care than had never previously been available. It is impossible for anyone to assert an exclusive claim to the moral or epistemological high ground here.

This stuff is hard, and, like so many progressive programs, requires a dedication to working through all the implications of a given position, and to striving to make one’s positions more defensible, more responsive, and more accepting. Every one of these communities – the skeptics, the healthcare professionals, the alternative-health promoters, and to some degree the LGBTQ population as well – have work to do in that way. Some of it has been done, though, and some of it is being done now, over at Skepchick. Good start.

February 10, 2011

Outing the Hypocrites: It’s Not Just for Gays Anymore!

by @ 3:14 PM. Filed under General, Healthcare Politics, LGBTQ Issues, Reproductive Ethics, Sex, Women's Issues

This is by far the least important of recent political incidents, but something about the Christopher Lee story demands comment. Lee was a married right-wing Republican Congressmember from New York who advertised for hookups on Craigslist, lying about his age, profession, and marital status, until a woman he flirted with found out who he really was and passed the information on to Gawker, which re-printed their entire e-mail exchange. When confronted by Gawker, Craig Lee at first evaded the truth and deleted his Facebook page, then submitted a letter of resignation from Congress barely one hour after Gawker broke the story.

This is funny, in the way that bad things happening to bad people are always funny, but, aside from the speed of his panicked reaction, the only thing surprising about a married sex-negative right-winger’s dishonesty and hypocrisy is that he appears to actually be heterosexual. For myself, not being a sex-negative right-wing bluenose, I’m not generally inclined to stand in judgment of other people’s sex lives. I would normally regard whatever promises of monogamy he made to his wife as an issue between them only, and I don’t regard lying about your age on Craigslist to be exactly the kind of transgression that rises to a Constitutional level. The fact that he chose to resign without even waiting to see the political consequences of his behavior speaks to his state of mind, but not to any rule of Congressional probity that I would think was necessary.

In fact, I had stopped reading Gawker after their nasty “expose” of Christine O’Donnell’s drunken hookup from the past; though O’Donnell’s a weird and creepy reactionary, the fact that she may actually like sex is not something to be held against her (the fact that she wants to criminalize it for other people is).  Treating sex as some sort of scandalous behavior is wrong, often sexist, and plays into the right wing’s tactic of using people’s sex lives to punish them. Gawker, however, puts a trenchant point on this particular case:

Lee[‘s] support for “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” and vote to reject federal abortion funding suggests a certain comfort with publicly scrutinizing others’ sex lives.

That’s what caught my attention about this case, and made me think it might be worth discussing, even though the basic content – dude gets some on the side, is embarrassed to be found out – should not in itself be a public issue. But there is a special kind of hypocrisy in engaging in private behaviors you want to criminalize or punish on other people’s parts. And there’s an argument for publicizing hypocritical behavior of that kind.

You can make an analogy here to the “Frank Rule” – the informal guideline for outing closeted gays in politics formulated by Barney Frank: people have a right to privacy, but those who seek to invade others’ privacy by punishing or criminalizing what should be a private matter have no expectation of privacy in that regard themselves, which is to say that closeted gays who promote anti-gay policies should be outed, but those who do not overtly work against gay rights should not be, even if they’re conservative in other ways. For similarly private issues other than homosexuality, I would think a parallel rule is reasonable: people have a right to be left alone, unless they refuse to leave others alone, in which case they should be regarded as fair game for scrutiny of their own behavior in its relevant aspects.

That raises the question whether this Craigslist idiocy (dumbass used his own name, picture, and Facebook account) is relevantly similar to the kinds of behavior Lee had previously devoted himself to demonizing – specifically, the sex lives of women and gays – to make his extramarital peccadilloes worth revealing or discussing. (Again, Lee resigned in such a flighty panic that almost nobody actually had discussed it. But it was Gawker’s expose that triggered his resignation, so we can ask whether Gawker itself should have broken the story, and whether it’s fair game for continued discussion now.) You could argue that, because his sexual pursuits were heterosexual, and he himself wasn’t having an abortion, his antipathy to other kinds of sexual autonomy does not implicate his own meandering. But that’s exactly the kind of straight-male privilege that most sexual discrimination turns on, and that leads wingnuts like Lee to believe they have the right to criminalize sexual freedoms that they don’t personally happen to need or want.

This case should be seen as an issue of sexual freedom pure and simple – the right of an individual to make their own sexual decisions and accept their consequences as a private matter. Lee should have that right, in regard of his skeezy hetero Craigslist trolling, just as gays should be free to seek and indulge the relationships they prefer, and women should have the authority both to own and indulge their own sexuality and to control their bodies in service of that end. Lee wants to strip those rights from everyone else, knowing that he will continue to enjoy almost unfettered privilege in his own sex life. When his openly-published Craigslist ad was revealed (along with his private e-mails), he complained that he had been violated:

A spokesman for the Congressman confirmed that the email address belonged to Lee, and that he had deleted his Facebook account because [Gawker’s] initial inquiry had him fretting about “privacy.”

But Lee’s career has been devoted to destroying the privacy of more than half of all society, in its most vital dimensions, not by revealing lame e-mail come-ons but by stripping them of control of their lives and sexual identities – in fact, subjecting them to imprisonment on such grounds in some cases. The issue is not whose privacy is being invaded, or what acts are subjected to scrutiny and punishment, but the simple fact that sex is used by people like Lee to punish other people, and they should, at the very least, not be allowed to enjoy immunity from that same punishment on those same grounds.

The fact that he cheats on his wife is a tawdry and ordinary hypocrisy that is of no concern to anyone but them – it’s a kind of lie he tells her, and is contemptible in its own way but not a public matter (we’re surely not going to start cashiering Congressmembers for lying). But Lee and those like him would like to think that their sexual preferences enjoy a privileged status, one that not only gives them immunity for their own behavior but the right to denigrate and demonize those whose preferences are different. Everyone should enjoy privacy in their sexual lives (note here the vicious hypocrisy in Lee’s claim of a right of “privacy” to commit “adultery” while working against the right of privacy in women’s lives that underlies their right to abortion). But if Lee is going to decimate the vital privacy that protects the most persecuted aspects of people’s lives, he can hardly claim the trivial right to privately hook up on Craigslist behind his wife’s back. Outing Lee in this case is an affirmation that his right to sexual freedom is not just equal to, it is exactly the same right as, that of homosexuals to live their lives without interference, and of women to make their own sexual choices. The only difference is that the stakes in Lee’s case are so much lower.

October 11, 2009

National Coming-Out Day

by @ 2:21 PM. Filed under Access to Healthcare, Autonomy, Child-Rearing, General, Global/Community Health, Healthcare Politics, LGBTQ Issues, Reproductive Ethics, Theory, Women's Issues

Today is National Coming-Out Day (one day after President Obama promised yet again to repeal the “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell” policy and work toward fuller equality for all people, and yet again did nothing tangible about it).

I don’t have much to say about that, except to offer support and the wish that the homophobia that infects our society, among other lingering forms of discrimination and prejudice, will soon fade, and “coming out” can be the act of celebration and affirmation that it should be, rather than an act of courage and risk-taking in the face of dangers that should not be allowed  to exist.

I’ll note, by way of parochial hyper-focus, that the pressures and threats that impede coming out and living openly in one’s chosen orientation have health consequences as well as many other harmful impacts; they cause stress and depression, create barriers to healthcare access, often result in abusive or discriminatory treatment in emergency care, and not infrequently result in violence. And of course the pervasive legal discrimination LGBTQ people face, in particular regarding health insurance, visitation and decision-making rights for gay couples, and barriers to assisted fertility and adoption, are also health and family-rearing issues as well as being rank discrimination in the basic sense.

Ending homophobia for reasons of good health is an odd and circumlocutory approach to the problem, but it’s one reason among many. Simple moral necessity is a better one. It’s long past time.

March 13, 2007

Blog Against Sexism II: Sexism Still a Health Issue

by @ 3:40 PM. Filed under Access to Healthcare, Autonomy, General, Global/Community Health, Healthcare Politics, LGBTQ Issues, Medical Science, Personhood, Provider Roles, Reproductive Ethics, Research Issues, Sex, Women's Issues

“Wendi Aarons” contributes an open letter to the McSweeney’s collection:


February 6, 2007

Dear Mr. Thatcher,

I have been a loyal user of your Always maxi pads for over 20 years, and I appreciate many of their features. Why, without the LeakGuard Core™ or Dri-Weave™ absorbency, I’d probably never go horseback riding or salsa dancing, and I’d certainly steer clear of running up and down the beach in tight, white shorts. But my favorite feature has to be your revolutionary Flexi-Wings. Kudos on being the only company smart enough to realize how crucial it is that maxi pads be aerodynamic. I can’t tell you how safe and secure I feel each month knowing there’s a little F-16 in my pants. . .

Have you ever had a menstrual period, Mr. Thatcher? Ever suffered from “the curse”? I’m guessing you haven’t. . . .

Last month, while in the throes of cramping so painful I wanted to reach inside my body and yank out my uterus, I opened an Always maxi pad, and there, printed on the adhesive backing, were these words: “Have a Happy Period.”

Are you fucking kidding me? . . .


July 17, 2006

Two Cultures?

by @ 8:41 PM. Filed under Autonomy, General, Global/Community Health, Healthcare Politics, LGBTQ Issues, Personhood, Provider Roles, Reproductive Ethics, Research Issues, Sex, Theory

The word is now going out from last week’s Bioethics & Politics conference, organized by Glen McGee at the Alden March Institute in Albany. (I am so sick that I couldn’t attend!) Wesley Smith’s take on it is interesting. He was a prominent representative of the conservative side at the meeting, and participated in a panel discussion. He comments that he views the field of bioethics as a kind of public policy debating ground, in which competing societal visions vie for social influence:

I suggested that (macro) bioethics [bioethics “which tries to impact public policy, culture, and the methods by which {clinical} bioethics is conducted”] is not a discourse and not a matter of bioethicists being “neutral arbiters” of complex moral dilemmas. Nor, is it a profession, as there is no specific training required to become a bioethicist, no state licensing, no professional discipline, etc. Rather, mainstream bioethics is a political and social movement, and like all such movements, seeks to implement policy based on a distinct ideology. . . .

The cause of the divide is fundamental: Mainstream bioethicists reject the intrinsic value of human life and instead have embraced personhood theory. Those of us perceived to be in the other camp, accept the intrinsic value of human life. This divide is too wide for the two sides to reach accommodation. Thus, we will always be in conflict.

But, this is good. These conflicts are how democracies decide important issues. Moreover, we will not decide how it all turns out. The people will through our democratic institutions. Thus those of us in the fray owe it to society to vigorously and energetically debate these matters. But how we do that is important. The people have a right to make informed decisions based on accurate information.

Without accusing Smith of being disingenuous, it seems to me there is a great deal of that is both wrong and highly politically convenient (to the conservative side) in these remarks.


July 10, 2006

Why We Fight

by @ 2:42 PM. Filed under Access to Healthcare, Autonomy, Child-Rearing, General, Global/Community Health, Healthcare Politics, LGBTQ Issues, Sex, Theory, Women's Issues

The New York Times Magazine has a wrenching photo-essay on the incidence and universality of “child brides”. Girls are forced unwillingly into marriage with, and frequently sold to, husbands rapists often generations older than themselves – either to avoid the cost of raising a “useless female”, to raise money, or to cancel family debts. The practice is almost inescapable:

Globally, the number of child brides is hard to tabulate; they live mostly in places where births, deaths and the human milestones in between go unrecorded. But there are estimates. About 1 in 7 girls in the developing world (excluding China) gets married before her 15th birthday, according to analyses done by the Population Council, an international research group. In the huge Indian states of Rajasthan and Uttar Pradesh, the proportion is 36 percent; in Bangladesh, 37 percent; in northwest Nigeria, 48 percent; in the Amhara region of Ethiopia, 50 percent.

But that’s not the worst of it.


June 16, 2006


by @ 4:45 PM. Filed under General, Global/Community Health, Healthcare Politics, LGBTQ Issues, Medical Science, Sex

I just came across a comment on another blog, to the effect that today’s medical students were not even born when the AIDS epidemic was officially recognized in 1981.



June 5, 2006

Coming Soon: The “Defense of Non-Mutant Marriage” Act

by @ 9:35 PM. Filed under Access to Healthcare, Autonomy, BioFlix, Biotechnology, Child-Rearing, Disability Issues, General, Global/Community Health, Healthcare Politics, LGBTQ Issues, Medical Science, Personhood, Provider Roles, Reproductive Ethics, Research Issues, Sex, Theory, Women's Issues

Saw the X-Men movie this past week, and was struck by how explicitly the “biological deviance” theme was brought out in the plot. Of course, that is the main driver of plot tension throughout the three movies (and to some degree in the original comic books, I gather, though I haven’t read them). But, even more so than in the first two movies, the third installment delves into the bio-politics of “normalcy” and prejudice, in interesting, though somewhat complicated, ways.

It’s a juicy subject for a worthwhile discussion, and a welcome sign in these days of otherwise unbridled bigotry and repression.


May 11, 2006

Yet Another New Bogus “Disorder”

by @ 11:25 AM. Filed under Child-Rearing, General, Healthcare Politics, LGBTQ Issues, Medical Science, Reproductive Ethics, Research Issues, Sex, Theory

The bioethically-oriented religious right has a strange history of inventing imaginary disorders with which to accuse or disparage people whose lives or behavior they disapprove of – or to scare others out of behavior they might choose if left to their own devices. Examples include the pretended “post-abortion trauma syndrome”, as well as the repeatedly-disproven “link” between abortion and breast cancer. There is also the bizarrely counter-factual harping on the dangers of contraception and abortion, never presented in comparative context, which would demonstrate them both to be vastly safer than an unwanted pregnancy. And there is a lot of weird nonsense heard about pornography, masturbation, television shows, magazine covers, and whatever other source of titillation pushes the right’s always-armed sex-panic buttons.

Beyond abortion and women’s sexuality, though, without doubt the one issue that prompts more purely delusional pseudo-scientific spewing is the question of homosexuality – its source, its practice, and its consequences. “Answers” to the befuddling question what “causes” homosexuality are legion. It will surprise no one to discover that James Dobson, purveyor of so much amusing right-wing bloviating, has discovered yet another such theory – one he claims is “being discussed in the child development clinics and in the universities throughout the country and around the world”, none of which seem to have heard of it.


May 2, 2006

Guidelines for Acceding to Patient Requests

by @ 6:04 PM. Filed under Access to Healthcare, Autonomy, Biotechnology, Disability Issues, General, Healthcare Politics, LGBTQ Issues, Medical Science, Provider Roles, Reproductive Ethics, Sex, Women's Issues

Jay Sennet posts his “Trans[sexual] Political Agenda” – a cri du coeur on the subject of outsiders’ cluelessness about the lives of those with non-normative gender status or identity.

  • Understanding medical personnel who don’t treat us like freaks.  Those that do should be excommunicated from their profession.  Criminal charges should be vigorously pursued at all times where appropriate.
  • Cheap, barrier free access to healthcare insurance. 
  • Retiring the Harry Benjamin Standards of Care.
  • The removal of transsexuality and all trans-related diagnosis from the DSM.
  • A federal requirement that all states must recognize requests for gender changes on birth certificates – no amendments.
  • A permanent ban on the “trans panic defense.” 
  • Permanent, federally supported anti-discrimination legislation for employment, credit, public accomodations and anything else the feds can do to protect us from all the asshats and assclowns in the u.s.
  • The creation of legal gender categories other than m or f.  Make it legal to carry multiple forms of identification that have “contradictory” gender information.
  • A federal requirement that trans prisoners be sequestered for safety.
  • A criminal category for prisons and mental health institutions that stop hormones of inmates.
  • He do like to stir shit up.


    April 24, 2006

    Another Disgrace from a President’s Council Member

    by @ 11:51 AM. Filed under General, Healthcare Politics, LGBTQ Issues, Sex, Theory

    Many had (somewhat) higher hopes than in the past when Dr. Edmund Pellegrino was recently named to take over the chair of the President’s Council on Bioethics from the execrable Leon Kass. And early returns suggested a freer sense of intellectualism within that body: more-open dissent, in distinction to the persecution dissenters faced under Kass, and a broader range of opinion flowing out of the Council under Pellegrino. But it was too much to expect that the overwhelmingly conservative membership would now incline to any higher sense of purpose, or more-inclusive understanding of what bioethics should be, than in the past. Today, Council member Robert P. George has disgraced himself – while acting in his personal capacity, not within the Council, it should be noted – by not merely endorsing but campaigning for anti-gay discrimination in company with conservative religious bigots.

    George, I emphasize again, was acting outside the Council, in a private capacity. And the position he takes – for a Constitutional amendment prohibiting civil rights (marriage) for gay citizens nationwide – is not outside the range of common opinion in these degraded times, though it is certainly an ugly and shameful one. His conduct does not strictly reflect upon the Council, and certainly not its Chair, who, to his credit, has reversed the policy of retaliation upon holders of unapproved opinions that had been pursued by Kass. As a mere exercise of the right of opinion, or of personal political prerogative, George’s action is immune to reproach. So I am not arguing that the Council is implicated in this action, or that George’s endorsement of official discrimination directly incriminates anyone but himself. However, I cannot overlook what this says about the kind and quality of Council membership, and its ramifications for public bioethics in what it is increasingly hard to regard as a liberal democracy.


    March 21, 2006

    FDA Challenge: A Rational Blood-Donation Policy

    by @ 12:00 PM. Filed under Access to Healthcare, Biotechnology, General, Global/Community Health, Healthcare Politics, LGBTQ Issues, Medical Science, Provider Roles

    A good idea seems to have reared its head at the FDA; it will be interesting to see what happens to it.

    The FDA Blood Products Advisory Committee has responded favorably to a request initiated by the American Red Cross, the American Association of Blood Banks and America’s Blood Centers to revise its donor-deferral policies for men who have sex with other men, reducing the exclusionary period in which they cannot donate from lifetime to one year after their last homosexual contact – the same waiting period as for others who have experienced higher-risk sexual encounters.

    Unfortunately, we know what happens to good ideas at the FDA, especially on sexual-health issues.


    February 15, 2006

    Abstinence Only . . . (we mean it!)

    by @ 11:20 AM. Filed under Autonomy, General, Healthcare Politics, LGBTQ Issues, Reproductive Ethics, Sex, Women's Issues

    It just occurred to me what it means to take some of the right wing’s wackier policies literally.

    Among their most visceral phobias are gay marriage and “illicit” sex.

    Across the nation, “abstinence only” policies are increasingly mandatory, and they are the official policy of the George Bush administration (beginning with his term as governor of Texas). Christian groups are increasingly outspoken against sex of whatever form – outside lifelong monogamous heterosexual marriage, that is. (Among other crusades, “abstinence” is the major part of the administration’s official policy on AIDS in Africa: they believe it is their business to tell adult Africans whether they may or may not have sex, not just legal minors in the US public school system. There is also some sort of weird vengeance movement afoot to nullify Michael Schiavo’s Catholic marriage to his long-time fiance, apparently as revenge for having thwarted the right wing’s designs on his late wife’s healthcare.) The point is clear enough: nobody falls outside their authority to dictate – mostly to prohibit – sexual behavior, and only religiously-defined marriages within the conceptual purview of their understanding of the “meaning” of those marriages is a valid context for sex.

    And, of course, gay marriage is right out – no way, nohow, no circumstances.

    Add them up and it means that the official policy on sexual relationships for adult gays – throughout their entire lives, no matter the circumstances or the relationships in which they find themselves – held by the evangelistic right wing is identical with that held by the Catholic church hierarchy: no sexual behavior of any kind whatsoever at any point in one’s life is allowable or deserving of respect or protection. (Note that this is Scalia’s position as a matter of Constitutional law.) You can only have sex if you are married, and gays may not get married – in both cases because the right wing wants it that way.

    Aside from the perverse psycho-sexual discomfort and simple bigotry this betrays, its arrogance is breathtaking. It is astounding to imagine that other people’s most personal life choices are regarded as fair game for intrusive and coercive policymaking based upon nothing more than one’s own personal preference. Of course I realize how naive it is to say this – this is exactly the way policy has been made for decades, if not centuries, in the areas of heterosexual sex, birth control, abortion, gay sex, inter-racial sex or marriage, and on any number of other issues. It is obvious how much “irrational animus” drives the anti-marriage movement. It is surely no discovery of mine to carry those policies to their logical conclusions.

    But when you consider the breadth of breathless Nosey-Parkerism the right wing considers its god-given mandate, the results can sometimes leave you reeling. The United States of America has, as its official foreign policy on one of the most significant international crises the world has ever faced, the position that adult Africans must be encouraged not to have sex? The US has any policy on whether adult citizens of other countries should or should not have sex? Who dreams up this crap? Who goes into foreign policy with the intent of regulating the sex lives of adult citizens of other nations? And finally, is there not a hint of “sex-crazed African savages” stereotyping caught up in this policy? At the same time, why is it the government’s business whether its gay citizens have sex or not? Why is it the government’s business, at all, whether or how anyone has sex? Is this an appropriate exercise of constitutional democracy in a liberty-loving country? Should we not ask why the functionaries of our government – in the midst of a budgetary crisis of their own making, a looming Social Security shortfall they are actively deepening, and the never-ending quagmire of what they persist in calling a “war” – are spending time and money dictating people’s sex lives?

    February 6, 2006

    The Unspeakable in Pursuit of the Inexplicable

    by @ 3:35 PM. Filed under Autonomy, General, LGBTQ Issues, Sex, Women's Issues

    Virginia is currently debating a state equal-protection bill that includes a sexual orientation non-discrimination clause . (The state currently has no non-discrimination law. There is a traditional non-discrimination order issued by each incoming governor, but it is up to the will of each governor in turn. The previous governor, Mark Warner, added sexual orientation as a protected category, and the current governor Kaine, renewed it; now they are trying to finally write the order into law.) There is also a non-discrimination clause appended to the state budget bill. Democrats are hoping that Republicans who voted for the state’s anti-gay-marriage amendment will support the anti-discrimination bills as a way to reduce their Bigotry Quotient just a bit.

    Good enough, as it goes. But superloon state Delegate Mark Cole is opposed, on this unique ground:

    “Sexual orientation is a broad term,” said Del. Mark L. Cole (R-Fredericksburg), who has proposed amending the budget. “There are eight different sexual orientations, including pedophilia and bestiality. I think we’d be opening up Pandora’s box and allowing judges to interpret what that means.”

    (The article notes the bill explicitly exempts “orientations” defined as “deviant” by the DSM.)

    OK, skipping right over the human rights angle, let’s get to the juicy stuff: eight sexual orientations, “including pedophilia and bestiality”? Huh?

    Try as I might, I can’t figure this out, or even find out where it comes from.

    It harkens back to an old game of trying to define sexual categories – a practice we are increasingly finding is a forlorn hope. People’s desires seem to elide seamlessly from one focus to another – a little bit more of this, less of that – and encompass a broad range of sexual outlets, not all of them involving sex play with human partners. (In this, the likes of Mark Cole and Rick Santorum are correct, though not in a good way.)

    “Sexual orientation” seems more a convenient shorthand than anything. In fact, we find here another parallel between sex-identity discrimination and racial discrimination: both depend upon membership in categories which it is impossible to define scientifically, but which have real social meaning. Being “gay” or “straight” tells us little about a person, and in fact is not necessarily a predictor of who they commonly, or ever, have sex with. Similarly, race is notoriously difficult to define other than as a set of broad genetic patterns. But in both cases society pins group-membership labels on individuals, and individuals themselves embrace or reject the labels as seems best to them. That the labels are vague demarcators, and surely not behaviorally dispositive, does not mean they cannot impose compelling identity boundaries – ones that are not necessarily limiting or unwelcome, but which also can be the basis of real – and in no way vague – discrimination.

    So the hunt for a finite number of clearly demarcated sexual categories is a waste of time – but also a pursuit that has been indulged in by many, often with good intent. It’s probably time to put that aside, and if it isn’t, Mark Cole’s mean-spirited and ignorant stupidity has surely pushed us closer to that day when “gay”, “straight”, and “bisexual” will sound as quaint as “octaroon”, “quadroon”, and “mulatto”.

    Even so, I still want to know what his eight categories are! If two of them involve children and animals, that leaves six others . . . . Perhaps male and female categories for each of “gay”, “straight”, and “bisexual”? But we don’t usually think of the male and female “versions” of those categories as different sexual identities, just different sexual practices. Perhaps, instead, we can assign one category to fetishism, and three more to the usual triumvirate. That gives us a total of six categories accounted for (of which half do not involve an adult human partner) – and two more remaining which are, presumably, even more exotic than bestiality or fetishism. (Maybe I’ve misjudged Mr. Cole – he’s a pretty swingin’ dude!) Incestiality? (Or, perhaps, “insectiality”? Do the “beasts” of bestiality have to be mammals?) Onaniality? (That would suggest that most people have at least two sexual identities, however, since they rarely give up this one after initiation into another.) I just don’t know.

    C’mon, Mr. Cole – don’t keep us waiting! What are the “other” categories? We could throw a hell of a party in your honor if you’d only come clean!

    UPDATE: I have sent the following e-mail to Delegate Cole’s office. I’ll let you know what response I get.

    Date: Mon, 6 Feb 2006 15:47:55 -0500 (EST)
    Subject: Delegate Cole’s Anthropological Discovery
    From: “Kevin T. Keith”

    Dear Delegate Cole:

    You are quoted by the Washington Post (, in the context of pending bills to provide non-discrimination protection to Virginia citizens under state law, making this remarkable statement:

    “‘Sexual orientation is a broad term,’ said Del. Mark L. Cole (R-Fredericksburg), who has proposed amending the budget. ‘There are eight different sexual orientations, including pedophilia and bestiality.'”

    Could you please identify the eight categories and provide some sort of instructions for the more exotic ones?

    Thank you,

    – Kevin T. Keith

    February 3, 2006

    “Conscience Clauses” – All That Need Be Said

    by @ 3:34 PM. Filed under Access to Healthcare, Autonomy, General, Global/Community Health, LGBTQ Issues, Provider Roles, Reproductive Ethics, Sex, Theory, Women's Issues

    Jill at Feministe hits the nail on the head with this post on healthcaregiver “conscience clauses” – with regard both to their basic conflict with the duty to the patient, and the truly frightening extremes many of these new laws go to.

    I couldn’t have said it better myself, so I didn’t.

    December 5, 2005

    Hawaiian Supreme Court Invokes “Personhood” Standard in Fetal-Death Case

    by @ 7:08 PM. Filed under Autonomy, General, Healthcare Politics, LGBTQ Issues

    The State Supreme Court of Hawaii has taken a refreshing approach to fetal-injury issues by squarely confronting the question of fetal personhood as a pre-requisite to any finding of legal liability for harm to a fetus. Specifically, in a case involving a woman who admitted using methamphetamine shortly before giving birth to a baby who died two days later from the effects of meth, the Court held unanimously (though with three separate opinions) that the fetus prior to birth is not a legal person, and thus the woman cannot be convicted of manslaughter – there being no “man” in question at the time of her actions leading to the death of the baby.

    The main opinion in the case makes for good reading. It offers an interesting survey of practices on this issue nationwide, noting that most jurisdictions do not allow prosecution of pregnant women for harms to the fetus accruing prenatally, but that most jurisdictions do allow such prosecutions against third parties (other parties who injure the woman while she is pregnant). It then goes on to note that the ABA Model Penal Code requires that “the defendant’s conduct must occur at a time when the victim is within the class contemplated by the legislature” – meaning that the victim must be the kind of entity covered by the law, at the time the alleged crime occurs, for the results of the action in question to count as a crime against that victim. And since a fetus is not a legal person, acts against a fetus are not crimes against a person (except where expressly stipulated to be so by legislation, as many states have done).

    Having established that the offense of reckless manslaughter contains a conduct element and that the conduct must be directed against a “person,” the final sub-issue is whether the HPC’s definition of “person” includes a fetus. We hold that it does not.

    According to HRS § 701-104 (1993), “[t]he provisions of [the HPC] cannot be extended by analogy so as to create crimes not provided for herein; however, in order to promote justice and effect the objects of the law, all of its provisions shall be given a genuine construction, according to the fair import of the words, taken in their usual sense, in connection with the context, and with reference to the purpose of the provision.” . . . Thus, in the present case, we interpret the relevant provisions of the HPC in accordance with the foregoing maxims of statutory construction.

    According to the “fair import of the words, taken in their usual sense,” HRS § 701-104, a fetus is clearly not one “who has been born and is alive.” HRS § 707-700. The plain language of the statute is clear and unambiguous, and therefore we need not go any further

    A concurring opinion by Justice Acoba puts it precisely (and even invokes “strict construction” to explain why expansive reading of “person” cannot be permitted):

    [A]t the time of [the] offending acts there is simply no person (i.e. one who has been born and is alive) in existence as to whom the conduct can be said to have been directed. . . .

    [A] strict construction of the statute would preclude the interpretation that HRS § 707-702(1)(a) applies when a woman’s prenatal conduct causes injury to a fetus later born alive. [emphasis original]

    Much of this case hinges on the fact that Hawaii law expressly defines a “person” as “a human being who has been born and is alive.” Thus, the dispute was a somewhat technical one over whether certain acts – that would be crimes if perpetrated on “persons” – constitute crimes when perpetrated on beings who are not persons under the legal definition but who later become persons and then suffer from those acts. This decision thus provides little protection against the growing wave of inflation of fetal legal standing and protection. The coordinated move to write fetal protection into every possible aspect of the law is sweeping away the long-standing common-sense definition of fetuses as non-persons, and this decision will not roll back that tide.

    However, it is worthwhile to see the Court taking seriously this distinction anyway, and to see that there is still room within the law for a more reasonable view of the relative moral standing of persons and fetuses, especially of women and the fetuses who inhabit their bodies. I suspect this case will spark a backlash (already visible in the right-wing blogosphere) in the direction of granting personhood to fetuses in Hawaii and the other fiew states in which this is not yet done. But for now, Hawaiian law seems to recognize an obvious biological fact, which puts prenatal there on a much-welcome footing.

    November 7, 2005

    Making it Clear: Loss of Choice is One Step to Full Patriarchy

    by @ 6:13 PM. Filed under Access to Healthcare, Autonomy, Child-Rearing, General, LGBTQ Issues, Personhood, Reproductive Ethics, Sex, Women's Issues

    Jim Rudd, Director of the “Christian Street Preachers Alliance” (abortion clinic harassers), makes the dangers of the anti-choice movement perfectly clear. He is convinced – in a roundabout and somewhat deranged way – that freedom of choice has “destroyed marriage” in America by – in his own words – undermining patriarchy, and the purpose of opposing choice is to restore hardline patriarchy to American families under the law.

    OK – so it’s insane, but at least it’s clear. There’s no room now for misunderstanding what the anti-choice position is about.

    Along with this, he’s (predictably enough) het up about gays, insisting that they’re part of the conspiracy because he can’t think of any reason for them to support choice other than that they share with feminists a desire to destroy families. Really.

    When I started preaching in front of abortion clinics several years ago, I was perplexed by the large number of homosexuals who were “abortion activists.”

    I asked myself then, “why are homosexuals so militant in their support of abortion?” “Why do they spend so much money and effort defending “a woman’s right to choose?” “What is the political connection?” As I searched for answers to these questions, I began to understand why feminists and homosexuals both defend abortion so vehemently. . . .

    Before 1973 our civil laws recognized that when a husband and wife conceived a child that: the husband was the father; the wife was the mother; and together with their child they constituted a “nuclear family.”

    However, with Roe v. Wade the Court ruled that there is no child at conception. Today, the State calls the child in the womb a “potential life,” and as long as the child is in the womb the husband is called the “prospective father.”

    In effect, Roe v. Wade stripped the husband of his right to be legally recognized as the father of the child until the child is actually born. By doing this, Roe destroyed marriage and the family at their core by defiling the marriage bed at the moment of conception. . . .

    The State strips the man of his God ordained authority both as a father and as a husband at the moment of conception. In effect, the State maintaining “…a woman’s right to choose” changed American society from being a patriarchal society to a matriarchal society. The father of the child is only the father of the child by permission granted him by his wife.

    Aside from betraying his complete ignorance of the law (there is no legal status called “prospective father” or anything like it, and the law explicitly recognizes the interest of the father in the fetus – that was the whole point of Alito’s dissent in Casey that has gotten so much attention lately), and aside from the laughability of calling America a “matriarchal” society, he couldn’t be clearer about the connection he sees between male authority over women and the denial of women’s rights to control their pregnancies. This is exactly what feminists have been saying about abortion from the beginning, while the right wing has consistently tried to cast the issue in other terms. Here, though, an ultra-right Christian makes it perfectly plain: the anti-choice position is a matter of patriarchy – of male control over women’s fertility. And he not only favors that, he’s got a plan to restore it.

    Both feminist and homosexual activists are very much aware of the political and legal ramifications of Roe v. Wade. Since 1973 they have made an extraordinary effort and spent huge quantities of time and money reinforcing the feminist/matriarchal agenda. . . .

    While they funnel millions of dollars into political efforts and support candidates that they know will protect Roe from congressional override, their attorneys are systematically winning one court battle after another and are succeeding in redefining marriage and the family to accommodate their criminal sexual desires of fornication and homosexuality (i.e. domestic partnership benefits and same sex marriage).

    Here is the key point: For the Church to pour resources into defending the Christian definition of marriage and family in our society without Congress first overturning Roe v. Wade is folly. It is meaningless to defend something that has already been destroyed. One cannot defend something in civil law if it does not exist. It must first be established in the law. The Christian definition of “marriage” and “family” in our society depends entirely upon the legal recognition of life at conception. . . .

    [T]he Church can reclaim its “covenant-keeping” stewardship of the “moral order” in America if the United States Congress overturns Roe v. Wade by specifically instructing the Judiciary to recognize the “personhood of the child in the womb from the moment of conception.”

    Once our society guarantees the child at conception “due process of the law,” abortion becomes illegal, the marriage covenant is “re-established,” and patriarchy is reinstated in the nuclear family and the extended social structure. Thus, Christian men reassume their covenant-keeping responsibilities in the home, the Church, and the civil society.

    Again, he’s confused on the law and immersed in a bizarre and primitive theology – but he’s far from alone in either of those things. And that theology is aimed squarely at stripping women of their independence, most especially in any matter related to sex, but in all others as well.

    Oddly, he could have resolved his own confusion about gays simply by listening to himself: it’s perfectly obvious why gays (especially lesbians) are strongly supportive of abortion rights – they have as much interest as straight women, possibly more, in not being forced to submit to patriarchy. It has nothing to do with “accommodat[ing] their criminal sexual desires” – they are motivated not to be straight men’s slaves whether or not they accomodate their criminal sexual desires. And lesbians have as much interest as other women in having abortion rights available when they need them, even if they need them less often. If he knew any gays, he might have asked them about this – it’s hardly a secret.

    But the real message of this garbled and perfervid gibberish is that the extreme right wing has engaged a war against women. That fact is hardly new and hardly unknown, but occasionally they say it right out loud, and Jim Rudd has done so today. I can’t see why anyone would not be terrified of this movement, whether or not they think abortion is a good idea – or could fail to see the link between abortion rights and women’s freedom when the misogynists themselves state outright that destroying the former is necessary to, and the first step en route toward, destroying the latter.

    If you hadn’t believed it before, believe it now.

    October 12, 2005

    Seeing Through the Confusion on Miers Nomination

    by @ 1:52 PM. Filed under Access to Healthcare, Autonomy, Biotechnology, Disability Issues, General, Healthcare Politics, LGBTQ Issues, Personhood, Provider Roles, Sex, Women's Issues

    AJOB has a strongly worded cut-to-the-chase editorial that puts the Miers nomination in the perspective of pending bioethics cases before the Supreme Court as it is currently composed. Noting that many such cases are in the pipeline, and will continue to arise over contentious issus into the future, they point out that the Court is evenly divided on the Oregon right-to-die case it is currently considering, and conclude that it’s almost unthinkable a Miers confirmation would not tilt that case and every other like it to the right. I think they’re correct on this:

    As conservatives continue to pretend to object to Miers’ nomination on the grounds that she might not be conservative enough (if you believe that, I have bridges to sell), this the most political appointment in the history of the Supreme Court is about to go to the Senate where, if confirmed, Miers would no doubt tilt such rulings toward the conservative. And that, friends, ends the question of where the nation’s jurisprudence on bioethics issues like stem cells, abortion and euthanasia will go. Is there really any question that the confirmation of Miers would mean a quick and sharp shift in Court positions on abortion, euthanasia and stem cells, among a dozen other bioethics issues that will come before the Court in the coming decade?


    Yet the “GOP is not satisfied” charade continues, suppressing what should be a deafening echo of protest against this nomination by commentators from the left.

    Note: I wish would begin signing their editorials. Glenn McGee is the chief editor, and presumably the source of most of these blog posts, but others also contribute. Names would be helpful.

    June 12, 2005

    The Rules (For Your Life According to Someone Else’s Vision)

    by @ 1:12 AM. Filed under Autonomy, Child-Rearing, General, Healthcare Politics, LGBTQ Issues, Sex

    [Note: A consensus is growing that, because the young man mentioned below is still a minor and is in a very vulnerable position, bloggers should remove direct links to his blog or uses of his name. I have removed them below and made minor revisions to the text to avoid using his name. I can say, though, that I have seen his blog and it appears to me to be authentic.]

    Lindsay at Majikthise alerts us to this appalling story:

    [Name deleted] is a very courageous 16-year-old guy from Tennessee who recently come out to his parents. He’s also a damn good writer who has been blogging about their hateful anti-Christian reaction.

    [His] parents have decided to ship him off to a self-professed “Safe Place” known as Refuge–a Christianist residential program that promises to turn kids straight.


    June 10, 2005

    Defending Traditional Marriage

    by @ 8:20 PM. Filed under Autonomy, General, LGBTQ Issues, Sex

    When did miscegenation become OK?

    There are the high-profile examples, of course: in the late 50s, Sammy Davis, Jr., enjoyed a series of public relationships with various blond bombshells that netted him a lifetime of harassment and death threats, while still commanding the loyalty of legions of black and white fans; later there was Clarence Thomas’s wife, who struck a blow for women’s independence in 1991 when she declared that Anita Hill was a psychotic who “was probably in love with” the man she claimed had sexually harassed her. And, in 1967, “Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner?” was released as a serious social drama, in which dreamboat black man Sidney Poitier is judged barely acceptable by liberal white parents willing to stretch their own principles to the point of martyrdom; in 2005 it was remade as a comedy in which Ashton Kutcher is adjudged an imbecile by every living person in the United States including Bernie Mac.

    So, I guess we can say that some time between the late 50s and now, something changed. Popular, wealthy, and privileged blacks went from a point where they could satisfy their jungle desires for relationships with whites if they were willing to risk their careers and their lives, to a point where they could publicly reject whites as not measuring up to their standards. And, between the late 60s and the early 90s, where once it was barely imaginable that a black man would be an acceptable in-law in the eyes of “enlightened” society, it became possible for white women married to black men to dictate to black women how they should let black men treat them – and be applauded by white Republicans for doing so. It appears, then, that at some point in the 70s or 80s, it became possible in US society for inter-racial couples to present themselves as standing inside the accepted social picture of what married couples were supposed to look like.

    But there’s more.


    June 9, 2005

    Bush Administration Launches Covert War on Transsexual Immigrants

    by @ 5:57 PM. Filed under Autonomy, Healthcare Politics, LGBTQ Issues, Sex, Women's Issues

    The Bush Adminsitration has sicced the Department of Homeland Security on a new class of – as they see it – legally invisible non-persons: transsexual immigrant spouses of US citizens.


    June 8, 2005

    A Short, Fragile History of Freedom

    by @ 10:34 PM. Filed under Access to Healthcare, Autonomy, Healthcare Politics, LGBTQ Issues, Reproductive Ethics, Sex, Women's Issues

    Many blogs have noted that yesterday was the 40th anniversary of the landmark Supreme Court decision in Girswold v. Connecticut – the case that established the right of married couples to use birth control. The timeline of consequences of that case deserves to be filled in.


    June 6, 2005

    Taking the Gloves Off

    by @ 12:16 PM. Filed under Access to Healthcare, Autonomy, Healthcare Politics, LGBTQ Issues, Personhood, Reproductive Ethics, Sex, Women's Issues

    The religious-right’s war on America has become increasingly aggressive and decreasingly covert over the period of Bush’s tenure in office. Their agenda has not changed, but the increased confidence they have gained has made them less circumspect and even, more and more, outrightly triumphal in their pursuit of their aims. Right-wing politicians have gone from coded shout-outs to their extremist base (like Bush’s pointed appearances at Bob Jones University, or his references to Dred Scott in a debate question about abortion – sound-biting a current talking point that claims embryos are being held in “slavery”) to a kind of taunting defiance of the separation of church and state, and of the interests of those who have not signed on to their doctrinal Crusade.

    Governor Rick Perry of Texas has rung in with a gratuitious, symbolic insult added to his signing-away of young Texas women’s rights over their own bodies – not only did he sign an abortion-restriction bill, but went out of his way to do so in an evangelical church on Sunday, then put his signature on a state Constitutional amendment – which does not require a governor’s signature – banning gay marriage, in the same venue. He even managed to get in a little dig at the Jews.

    On the bright side, though he’s a flaming asshole, as Molly Ivins points out he has excellent hair.


    June 2, 2005

    Photo-Ops With Adopted Abandoned Frozen Snowflake Children: The Newest Creepy Fad

    by @ 12:00 PM. Filed under Autonomy, Child-Rearing, Healthcare Politics, LGBTQ Issues, Personhood, Reproductive Ethics, Sex, Women's Issues

    Apropos of the issue of the definitional power of euphemistic language, the NY Times today has an article on a growing movement among opponents of abortion rights and embryo research to “adopt” unused embryos left over from IVF procedures (i.e., to arrange to transfer them to women who are not the ovum donors, who will gestate them in order to prevent them being discarded or used in research). While the practice itself is not necessarily problematic, the organized movement in favor of such transfers is rife with manipulative language and demonstrative grandstanding. President Bush’s recent awkward baby-kissing was staged among a group of “adopted-embryo” children, and apparently such displays have become popular among right-wing politicians.



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