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Re: Beyond Appearances: The Ambiguities of Sexuality (sic)

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  • Anna Michaels
    It ought to be astounding that a New York Times reviewer, compounded by all the editorial checking that publication must have, can write an article so
    Message 1 of 3 , Nov 1, 2002
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      It ought to be astounding that a New York Times reviewer, compounded by all
      the editorial checking that publication must have, can write an article so
      laughably (but also frighteningly) misinformed. Without seeing the book she
      is supposedly reviewing one cannot be sure if the book is as bad, but if
      the faults are in the book, it cannot excuse the reviewer being equally
      ignorant and reproducing it's huge errors.

      I was going to simply say that she fails to see that "sexuality" is not the
      central issue in being transsexual and ask if it could possibly be that
      people get confused by both words including "sexual", but reading the
      entire review from the NYT website reveals many more errors.

      Personally I prefer, avoiding that confusion, "Benjamin's Syndrome" instead
      of "transsexual", crediting that wonderful doctor, Harry Benjamin, who
      first (1966) published seriously, and compassionately, how the condition
      manifests, can be diagnosed, and can be resolved
      <http://www.symposion.com/ijt/benjamin/index.htm> and transformed so much
      for the better the lives of so many of us, not least a wonderful friend of
      mine who first experienced his belief, understanding and support in 1958,
      at 13, after 3 close suicides and more than 30 eminent psychiatrists,
      including Ivy League professors, had, over several years, basically (and
      some literally) told her mother to "get your fag son out of my consulting
      rooms".

      Sexuality is a matter of being attracted to others, or failing to be, or
      needing to attract others, sexually, which can lead to accepting a label of
      heterosexual, lesbian, gay, straight, queer, normal, bisexual, etc..

      Being Transsexual is one's own gender identity being at variance with one's
      birth genitalia, and the secondary sexual characteristics that, without
      helpful intervention develop later, and the social role expected to go with
      all of those, quite independent of sexuality. It's a condition, a medically
      treatable one (as explicitly recognised by the UK courts and many other
      legal systems), through changing the physical to match the identity, the
      need, to match the brain, a curable one. Logically one is not transsexual
      when such treatment has been completed; brain and body match, and most of
      us then identify solely as the sex we have fully become, and move on. For
      me transsexuality is a 30 years-past part of my medical history, only
      relevant to my painful infertility, my having no presentable birth
      certificate and not being allowed to marry. It has been demonstrated many
      times that my sexuality is no different to many, many women. Transsexuality
      is clearly not an ambiguity of sexuality.

      Obviously it is sometimes confusing for the less mentally gifted to
      understand that someone can have a mental gender, a gender of obviously
      innate reaction, or body image totally at odds with appearances. They might
      fail to comprehend that a transsexual girl attracted to boys would consider
      herself a heterosexual girl, and not a gay boy, even though she was born
      with male genitalia. A lot of "LGBT" groups, and "equality professionals"
      don't get it. But that girl probably felt she was a girl, or was intended
      to be one, long before any sexual desire emerged. After all, so many works
      on child development, based on solid research, now tell us that children
      identify with people of their gender very early and that cannot be changed.
      Children show more interest in those of the same gender before the age of
      one. Prof Bob Winstone tells vast audiences it comes inexorably from brain
      differences. Prof Eric Vilain was lecturing last week that those
      differences may well come from genes that express sexually dimorphically in
      the brain significantly before the gonads develop and change the genitalia.
      Prof Louis Gooren and colleagues have shown that it is visible in post
      mortems of adult brains, including of well documented transsexual people. A
      study heading for publication shows it in MRI brain scans, comparing many
      transsexual and control subjects. Identity, those one is more interested in
      as a child, feels safer with, listens to, watches, models oneself upon,
      turns to to learn how to cope.

      To consider sexuality to be the core of that sort of situation, rather than
      the mental gender, and the physical disparity, is to entirely miss the
      point.

      But then the article is riddled with such huge errors:-

      >New York Times
      >29 October 2002
      >
      >BOOKS ON HEALTH
      >Beyond Appearances: The Ambiguities of Sexuality By DINITIA SMITH
      >
      >Full text
      >http://www.nytimes.com/2002/10/29/health/29GEND.html
      >
      [snip]
      >In her new book, "How Sex Changed: A History of Transsexuality in the United
      >States," Dr. Joanne Meyerowitz, a professor of history at Indiana
      >University and
      >the editor of The Journal of American History, examines changing definitions of
      >gender through the prism of transsexuality, that most mysterious of conditions
      >in which a person is born with normal chromosomes and hormones for one sex but
      >is convinced that he or she is a member of the other.
      [snip]
      >......5-alpha reductase deficiency syndrome, in which a person is
      >genetically a male, but has ambiguous genitalia and may at first appear to be a
      >girl. At puberty, the person may develop testes...

      In that syndrome the testes are there from the foetal stage.

      [snip]
      >Of all the conundrums of identity, transsexuality is most imbued with the
      >contradictions between physical sex and sexual orientation...

      Not sexual orientation, sexual identity, gender identity.

      [snip]
      >...the distraught parents of a boy,
      >Bruce Reimer, whose penis was accidentally cut off during surgery for a
      >condition called phimosis, brought him to Hopkins. The case was first reported
      >in 1973 by Dr. Milton Diamond of the University of Hawaii-Manoa in Honolulu and
      >Dr. H. Keith Sigmundson of the Ministry of Health in Victoria, British
      >Columbia.

      Actually it was 1997 when they blew the whistle together, on Money's 1973
      (and following) false reporting of the case, in the professional press,
      although the lies about the supposed success of assigning the normally born
      and normally gendered male to become a female, which was being used as
      (false) evidence of gender not being inborn, was exposed majorly, and
      clearly, with Diamond's help, in a BBC documentary 'Open Secret', in 1979,
      and Diamond published a follow-up in Archives of Sexual Behavior,
      coinciding with a BBC follow-up in 1982 (as Medline shows). But
      "professionals", psychiatrists, psychologists, pediatric endocrinologists,
      and pediatric surgeons, ignored it and continued to abuse intersex children
      based on those false reports by Money.

      >Today, scientists, psychiatrists and psychologists have reached something of a
      >consensus about gender, saying that sexuality is determined by "psychological
      >sex" or "gender role orientation," possibly caused by hormones or genes.

      Transsexuality yes, not sexuality!

      >As a consequence of the sexual revolution and the Internet, which has
      >provided a
      >forum to organize, transsexuals have begun to demand the right to define their
      >own sexuality. Some male-to-female transsexuals have sex with men and call
      >themselves homosexuals. Some female-to-male transsexuals have sex with
      >women and
      >call themselves lesbians.

      Actually completely the opposite way around. A female to male who has sex
      with women considers himself a straight man (or bisexual), as would any
      other man, a male to female who has sex with men considers herself a
      straight woman (or bisexual), as would any other woman...

      >Meanwhile, scientists continue to ponder the meaning of sex. In 1995 another
      >Netherlands study suggested that a region of the hypothalmus may differ in size
      >in transsexuals from ordinary males and females.

      Actually the opposite; <http://www.symposion.com/ijt/ijtc0106.htm>, with a
      follow-up in 2000
      <http://jcem.endojournals.org/cgi/content/full/85/5/2034>, reported the
      central sub-division of the bed nucleus of the stria terminalis was
      remarkably similar to those of women with the male to females, and to men,
      in the case of the female to male (when a female to male was included in
      the samples in the second study).

      >....But, despite the studies, and
      >gains in knowledge, all these books point out gender's essential mystery.
      >Science is no nearer to determining what gender is than it was a century ago.
      >
      >"The definition of sex," writes Dr. Meyerowitz "was (and is) still up for
      >grabs."

      Only if one has totally failed to grasp all the concepts involved.

      Horrifying. Does the NYT have an ombudsman?

      Anna


      anna.m@...
    • Natasha Mitchell
      Dear Anna and colleagues, You may be interested in the following discussion broadcast this week on a national weekly radio program I host here in Australia
      Message 2 of 3 , Nov 4, 2002
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        Dear Anna and colleagues,

        You may be interested in the following discussion broadcast this week on a
        national weekly radio program I host here in Australia about the mind,
        brain and human behaviour called "All In the Mind"
        (http://abc.net.au/rn/science/mind/) (not to be confused with the BBC
        program, I'm with Australia's public broadcaster, the ABC). This week's
        program related to the discussion on this list - ie. attempts to grapple
        with the confluence/confusion between "sex" and "gender", and to some
        extent "sexuality".

        The transcript is at: http://www.abc.net.au/rn/science/mind/s714773.htm

        And Real Audio
        at:http://www.abc.net.au/rn/science/mind/audio/mind_03112002_2856.ram

        Certainly not a definitive set of interviews by any means (only a 1/2 hour
        program) but may be interesting nevertheless
        (The title for the program comes from Dr Milton Diamond, it is not my own)

        Natasha Mitchell
        Presenter/producer - "All In the Mind"
        Website: http://abc.net.au/rn/science/mind

        Science Unit, ABC Radio National
        Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC)
        GPO Box 9994
        Sydney, AUSTRALIA, 2001
        Ph: 61 2 8333 2219
        Fax: 61 2 8333 1414
        Email: natasha.mitchell@...

        Visit the ABC's new health gateway, "Health Matters": http://abc.net.au/health
      • Anna Michaels
        ... Thanks indeed for that heads-up . The opportunity to actually hear Prof Diamond and Jamieson Green for the first time was much appreciated. Your rapidly
        Message 3 of 3 , Nov 6, 2002
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          natasha <natasha.mitchell@...> posted:
          >
          >Dear Anna and colleagues,
          >
          >You may be interested in the following discussion broadcast this week on a
          >national weekly radio program I host here in Australia about the mind,
          >brain and human behaviour called "All In the Mind"
          >(http://abc.net.au/rn/science/mind/) (not to be confused with the BBC
          >program, I'm with Australia's public broadcaster, the ABC). This week's
          >program related to the discussion on this list - ie. attempts to grapple
          >with the confluence/confusion between "sex" and "gender", and to some
          >extent "sexuality".
          >
          >The transcript is at: http://www.abc.net.au/rn/science/mind/s714773.htm
          >
          >And Real Audio
          >at:http://www.abc.net.au/rn/science/mind/audio/mind_03112002_2856.ram
          >
          >Certainly not a definitive set of interviews by any means (only a 1/2 hour
          >program) but may be interesting nevertheless
          >(The title for the program comes from Dr Milton Diamond, it is not my own)
          >
          >With kind regards
          >Natasha Mitchell
          >Presenter/producer - All In the Mind
          >Science Unit - ABC Radio National
          >Australian Broadcasting Corporation

          Thanks indeed for that "heads-up". The opportunity to actually hear Prof
          Diamond and Jamieson Green for the first time was much appreciated. Your
          rapidly provided transcript and attached links were also of value, a model
          for radio and television producers.

          I'm afraid your other guest, the only Australian, didn't have much of a
          clue about what others experience, seeing the need for a body that matches
          one's brain as simply the following of societal values:

          >Felicity Haynes: But there will be some people who don't need to have a
          >penis constructed because their identity of 'maleness' doesn't require
          >that physiological change. There are others for whom it's desperately
          >>important because they want to mirror the image of masculinity the
          >society values. But for lots of those people it's impossible to either
          >afford the surgery, it's impossible to 'out' themselves in that way.

          Perhaps your programme's remit would sometime allow you to look at why
          Australians can no longer have sex reassignment surgery paid for publicly,
          and how misunderstandings like Ms Haynes' might have led to that?

          In appreciation,

          Anna

          anna.m@...
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