Sunday, August 03, 2008

Gender in the Olympics: The NYT

This morning's New York Times has a fascinating piece today about gender in the Olympics. You know they test sometimes to make sure men don't compete as women, that's pretty easy to understand and goes back to the sixties, when it was believed that Communist countries were sending guys into the women's competition.

But when you look at it very closely, it turns out not to be actually possible to crisply classify individuals into one of two bins, into 100% male and 100% female. There are different measures and they give different results. In fact, the Olympics don't have a rule against transgender athletes competing, under certain conditions, it must be so-many years since their surgery and they must take such-and-such hormones.

I am tempting to copy and paste this whole thing, but it's so long. Well, it could be worse, I guess, I could have posted one my Sunday morning brain-dumps. I'll post some sections of it. This was written by Jennifer Finney Boylan, a transgender English professor and much-published writer.

First, I skip the catchy introduction...
On the surface, it seems reasonable for there to be some sort of system by which Olympians can be certain that female medalists really are female. The problem is that China’s tests are likely to produce the wrong answers, because they measure maleness and femaleness by the wrong yardsticks, and in the process ruin the lives of the innocent.

It would be nice to live in a world in which maleness and femaleness were firm and unwavering poles. People can be forgiven for wanting to live in a world as simple as this, a place in which something as basic as gender didn’t shift unsettlingly beneath our feet.

But gender is malleable and elusive, and we need to become comfortable with this fact, rather than afraid of it.

At the original Olympic Games, no gender testing was considered necessary. Back in 776 B.C., the Games were for men only, and they were conducted in the nude (with female spectators prohibited).

The modern era of gender testing began in 1968, at the Games in Mexico City, when it was believed that Communist countries in Eastern Europe were using male athletes in women’s competitions. (The truth was that some of the Eastern European athletes had been on a regimen of testosterone and steroids, giving them the physiques of young Arnold Schwarzeneggers.)

Over the past 40 years, dozens of female athletes tested in this manner have tested “positively” for maleness. That’s because these tests don’t measure “maleness” or “femaleness.” They measure — and not always reliably — the presence of a Y chromosome, or Y chromosomal material, which no small number of females have.

The condition, known as androgen insensitivity, occurs in about 1 in 20,000 individuals. Basically, a woman may have a Y chromosome, but her body does not respond to the genetic information that it contains. Some women with androgen insensitivity live their lives unaware that they have it. By any measure, though (except the measure of the Olympic test), they are women.

In 1996, eight female athletes at the Atlanta Games tested positively. Seven of these women were found to have some degree of androgen insensitivity, and one an enzyme defect. All were subsequently allowed to return to competition. The XY Games

In our county, a large part of the uproar over the new gender identity nondiscrimination bill comes from the implication that transgender women are "really" men in dresses. I think it's perfect to see how this question is addressed in the Olympics, where it is strictly necessary to make sure there are no "men in the women's locker-room," where it would be unfair to let men compete as women. A lot rides on the Olympics, there's a lot of hard work and money involved, and you can see these rules are important.

Skipping a little bit ...
You might think that gender testing at the Olympics is conducted to weed out transsexual women, who might be perceived to have some sort of physical advantage over natal females. Yet this is not the case. Since 2004, the International Olympic Committee has allowed transsexuals to compete as long as they have had sex-reassignment surgery and have gone through a minimum of two years of post-operative hormone replacement therapy. (As for the advantages that people born male supposedly have in competing against people born female, the combination of surgery and hormones appears to eliminate it entirely. Studies show that postoperative transsexual women perform at or near the baseline for female athletes in general.)

In the four years since the ruling, there have been no transsexuals — or at least no athletes who are open about it — in Olympic competition. But this year, Kristen Worley, a Canadian cyclist, came close to qualifying. If transgender athletes are now allowed to compete officially, and if gender testing has been shown frequently to render false results, then what exactly are the Chinese authorities testing for?

The Olympic hosts seem to want to impose a binary order upon the messy continuum of gender. They are searching for concreteness and certainty in a world that contains neither.

Most efforts to rigidly quantify the sexes are bound to fail. For every supposedly unmovable gender marker, there is an exception. There are women with androgen insensitivity, who have Y chromosomes. There are women who have had hysterectomies, women who cannot become pregnant, women who hate makeup, women whose object of affection is other women.

For most of us, the test proposed by "Doctor J" at the CRW blog would work: most people can just look down in the shower and know all they need to know about their gender identity. But that doesn't work for everybody, there is some complicated stuff going on with the chromosomes, the hormones, the whole body is involved here as sex and gender identity are not as tightly linked as we tend to think.
So what makes someone female then? If it’s not chromosomes, or a uterus, or the ability to get pregnant, or femininity, or being attracted to men, then what is it, and how can you possibly test for it?

The only dependable test for gender is the truth of a person’s life, the lives we live each day. Surely the best judge of a person’s gender is not a degrading, questionable examination. The best judge of a person’s gender is what lies within her, or his, heart.

How do we test for the gender of the heart, then? How do we avoid out-and-out frauds, like Hermann Ratjen, who said he was forced by the Nazis to compete as “Dora” in the 1936 high jump? (He lost, finishing fourth.)

A quick look at the reality of an athlete’s life ought to settle the question. Ratjen was male not because of what was in his genes, but because of who he was. He returned to his life as Hermann after the Berlin Games. “For three years I lived the life of a girl,” he said in 1957. “It was most dull.”

It’s hard to imagine a case like Ratjen’s recurring today, but if it did and he slipped through the cracks, then so be it. Surely policy for the Olympics — and civilization — shouldn’t be based on one improbable stunt perpetrated by Nazi Germany.

Nor should our county's law be affected by one improbable stunt perpetrated by the Citizens for a Responsible Whatever, who sent a man in a dress into the women's showers at a local gym, hoping to attract media attention.

Which brings us back to Stella Walsh [mentioned earlier in the story, a female Olympian who, after her death, was discovered to have male sex organs]. While the autopsy revealed that she had male sex organs, a chromosome test ordered by the coroner was more ambiguous. She may well have had androgen insensitivity or some other intersex condition. More important, she spent the whole of her life as a woman. She should be celebrated for her accomplishments as an athlete, not turned into an asterisk because of a condition beyond her control.

The triumphant fact of a life lived as a woman made Walsh female, and the inexact measurements performed by strangers cannot render her life untrue.

Maybe this means that Olympic officials have to learn to live with ambiguity, and make peace with a world in which things are not always quantifiable and clear.

That, if you ask me, would be a good thing, not just for Olympians, but for us all.

It sounds like the Olympic committee did learn to live with the ambiguity. It's hard to tell here how much of this year's absolutism is coming from the international committee and how much is coming from the Chinese hosts.

As grown-ups, we have to learn to live with the ambiguity here in Montgomery County. It usually works to put people into one of two boxes, you can tattoo an "M" or "F" on most people's foreheads and that will work. But it's just more complicated than that in some cases. Some people aren't what they look like. And those people need to be treated with respect, if they hail a cab the cab ought to stop, if they have to pee they ought to be allowed to use the restroom.

31 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Jim -- Comparing people who have been born with a deformity in their genital area with those who simply "perceive" themselves to be of another gender, is absurd.

There are people who are born with no legs. And then there are others who are born with legs but "perceive" that they have no legs--and they go through an operation to have their legs removed.

Just as, there are men who are born with no penis, and then there are those who '"perceive" that they have no penis -- and they go through an operation to have their penis removed.

The distinction is great. If someone wants to have his legs removed, most people would suggest that he needs psychological help, not an operation to remove his legs. Just, as, if someone wants to have his penis removed, most people would suggest that he needs psychological help, not an operation to remove his penis.

I know that you advocate differently, but how and why you do so is beyond me.

August 03, 2008 9:55 AM  
Anonymous svelte_brunette said...

Anonymous said:

“The distinction is great. If someone wants to have his legs removed, most people would suggest that he needs psychological help, not an operation to remove his legs. Just, as, if someone wants to have his penis removed, most people would suggest that he needs psychological help, not an operation to remove his penis.”

The fact of the matter is that people who want to remove their penis DO get psychological help – assuming they can afford it. If during the course of their psychological treatment it is determined that they are a victim of GID (Gender Identity Disorder), and don’t suffer from comorbidity issues, they are also given the option of hormone therapy – usually after they have lived “full time” in the chosen gender for at least 3 months. If the hormone therapy proves effective, and the first 3 months of RLT or RLE (Real Life Test or Real Life Experience) show an improvement in the patient’s ability to cope with their life, job, family, and friends, they will continue on with the RLT for at least a year before being eligible for a sex change operation, at which point they are required to get letters from 2 different doctors who will testify to the appropriateness of the surgical portion of the treatment. This is essentially the same treatment regimen followed by Christine Jorgensen nearly 60 years ago and Renee Richards over 30 years ago.

Some patients seek psychological help for years to avoid the surgical treatment for GID. They are often on powerful anti-depressants and try to make the most of their life while living in a drug-induced state designed to keep them from the “other cure” for GID which is suicide.

People with GID do not have a particularly pleasant choice of options when it comes to treating this medically recognized and entirely treatable condition. You can find more info on the treatment regimen by googling “Harry Benjamin Standards of Care.”

If someone can develop a pill that would eliminate the condition, they would have a lot of very grateful customers, and possibly even eliminate surgeries. Until that day, we are stuck making do with what is available.

Peace,

Cynthia

August 03, 2008 10:23 AM  
Blogger JimK said...

Theresa, gender identity is a complex characteristic, and it is impossible to dichotomize the entire species into male and female, even using sophisticated tests. As this article suggests, the best test is just to look at how a person lives their life. If they live as a male or female person, then that's what they are. I can't imagine what is so threatening about that!

JimK

August 03, 2008 10:27 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Jim, I am not Theresa.

If scientists started studying the brains of people who want to have their legs removed, or gamblers, or alcoholics, or prostitutes, or people who shoplift, or race car drivers or stockbrokers, or doctors, etc., etc., etc., I have no doubt that they could find things within their brains that differentiate them, and find that they live their lives a certain way.

However, what does that prove? That there are physiological differences amongst people, and that everyone has their problems and challenges to bear?

So, if this is the case...we come full circle to the fact that everyone has to deal with their own set of issues to deal with.

Besides, someone could perceive himself to be a doctor, but guess what? If he doesn't go through medical school, then he's not a doctor. He can "perceive" that he's a medical doctor, ask the County Council to decree to the world that "all who perceive themselves to be medical doctors are now medical doctors and it is discriminatory to not refer to the person as 'doctor'"....but in the end, he's simply NOT a medical doctor.

Why is this concept so hard to understand?

August 03, 2008 10:55 AM  
Blogger JimK said...

The concept is hard to understand because it's wrong. You don't go to school to learn your gender, you don't learn who you are from other people, this is part of your subjective experience and you yourself know who you are.

It's easy to talk about people cutting their legs off, what about people who get liposuction or face-lifts? What about people who pluck their eyebrows or, unlike me, get their hair cut occasionally? People modify their bodies all the time. This particular modification just seems to uniquely threaten you somehow.

Cynthia presented a perfectly lucid case. You and I may be just what we look like, but there are lots of ambiguous cases. There's nothing "wrong" with a surprising gender identity, unless you feel it is somehow your right to force others to conform to your expectations. When you meet a transgender person you will find that they are very genuine -- you can imagine, this is not an easy thing to go through! It's not something you do on a whim. And it is certainly no threat to anyone else if someone decides to change the way they express their gender.

JimK

August 03, 2008 11:06 AM  
Blogger Emproph said...

“And then there are others who are born with legs but "perceive" that they have no legs--and they go through an operation to have their legs removed.

I know that you advocate differently, but how and why you do so is beyond me.”


I saw a TV show like that as well. My first thought was that their past life memory as an amputee was what was causing it.

I realize you don’t believe in any of that, nor am I suggesting that Jim does, but if reincarnation is true, then it’s very likely that those experiential memories can bleed through into our lives today. More so for some than for others.

Again, I realize you believe none of this, but it at least answers the question as to how it might be possible to believe that “perceptions” such as “no legs” might actually be legitimate - and even if such “perceptions” are NOT legitimate in any reincarnation sense, then it’s still a mental-phenomenon worth exploring - at least for the sake of solving what you consider to be a problem.

As Cynthia very clearly elucidates:

“If someone can develop a pill that would eliminate the [gender identity] condition, they would have a lot of very grateful customers, and possibly even eliminate surgeries. Until that day, we are stuck making do with what is available.”

I think most of us can understand how “freakish” it must seem to want to change one’s physical gender, or have their limb(s) amputated, but at this point, the question remains, what better solution is there? And I ask that within the context that the suppression of the question itself, is causing more problems than the so-called “freakish” solution itself.

It’s not so much agreement with our perceptions that we’re asking for, it’s that we’re asking to be treated with respect when it comes to the depth and fortitude of what you may consider our perceptions to be “hallucinations.”

Is that really too much to ask?

August 03, 2008 11:39 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

“Hormone treatment and plastic surgery does not transform a male to female nor a
female to male. If that were the case, there will be a lot of surprised females who have
undergone surgical mastectomies or hysterectomies. To even assume plastic surgery
changes sex is an insult to these women. Since surgery cannot change sex, and
“thoughts” are too amorphous to be objective, biology must be the determinate.

Plastic surgery and hormone therapy may alter a person’s physical characteristics
but cannot alter the person’s sex. A woman who had a hysterectomy and mastectomy is a
woman. A woman who thinks she’s a man is a woman. Therefore, a woman who’s had a
hysterectomy and mastectomy and thinks she’s a man remains a woman.

Hormone treatment substantially increases risk of cardiovascular disease and liver complications. Longterm, high-dose androgen therapy is associated with impaired vascular reactivity in genetic females, independent of the effects of androgens on lipoprotein levels or vessel size. Androgen treatment in a male-to-female transsexual can cause recurrent myocardial infarction.
“The number of deaths in male-to-female transsexuals was five times the number
expected, due to increased numbers of suicide and death of unknown cause.”Based on
a study of 303 male-to-female transsexuals undergoing estrogen hormone treatment,
pulmonary embolism, cerebral thrombosis, myocardial infarction, prostatic metaplasia,
and breast cancer were not uncommon side effects of the hormones.

“Sex-reassignment” surgery is an experimental and likely unethical treatment
because it dramatically increases health risks while showing no objective evidence of
curing the mental disorder, gender identity disorder. A recent study revealed that major
complications can occur during, immediately and some time after sex-reassignment
surgery.

One of the most common and gruesome risks of a male-to-female SRS is a rectovaginal fistula which also includes a very high risk of infection.

Psychological distress is not unique to GID; it is a characteristic of a mental disorder, which is defined in the DSM-IV-TR as “a clinically important collection of symptoms (these can be behavioral or psychological) that causes an individual distress, disability, or the increased risk of suffering pain, disability, death, or the loss of freedom.”

Self-mutilation is defined as an “act that often alleviates pathological symptoms
such as a perplexing feeling of numbness, strangeness, and unreality in regard to one’s
body, thoughts, and emotions as well as to persons and objects in the environment.”
Among the different types of self-mutilation is genital mutilation. SRS is analogous to
genital mutilation. There is also a strong correlation between sexual abuse and GID.

A study of transsexual satisfaction in 1965 showed that
more than 33% attempted suicide post-surgery, and more than 25% appeared to have a schizoid or personality disorder.
To date, most of the American medical community still recognizes the amputation of a perfectly healthy limb as unethical and surgeons in the United States will not amputate the limbs of apotemnophiliacs.”
http://law.bepress.com/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=8309&context=expresso

August 03, 2008 11:39 AM  
Blogger Emproph said...

Thanks for the
"Transsexualism and the Binary Divide:

Determining Sex Using Objective
Criteria

Mathew Staver

Liberty University School of Law"

--
You forgot to mention the title of that article, which I just mentioned above, and therefore, forgot to mention that it was written by Mathew Staver.

Who's argument against gay marriage -- IN FRONT OF THE CALIFORNIA SUPREME COURT -- was that (@ the 8:10 mark):

"Same sex relations will not accidentally, unintentionally, in and unplanned fashion, produce children."

Not to mention that he also uses Paul Cameron by name as a reference in his book "Same-Sex Marriage: Putting Every Household at Risk."

Not to mention still: "A study of transsexual satisfaction in 1965 showed that"

1965? A nearly half century old study is the BEST you can come up with?

August 03, 2008 12:40 PM  
Anonymous svelte_brunette said...

Here is some more up-to-date information than that quoted before.

From http://www.avitale.com/developmentalreview.htm :

Although there is still some disagreement as to how gender dysphoria begins and who should qualify for hormonal and surgical intervention, there is a remarkable amount of agreement in several important areas. Most psychologists now agree that gender dysphoria qualifies as a subject of clinical attention separate from other disorders. Further, most clinicians agree that the gender identity beliefs these people hold are profound, deep seated, and non-delusional. Even more significantly, outcome studies now clearly indicate that when three conditions are met: a proper differential diagnosis, a significantly long trial period of living in the gender of choice, and a satisfactory surgical result, there is only a small incidence of post-operative regret. Indeed, in a review of the outcome literature Pfafflin (1992) reports that less than 1% of the female-to-male transsexuals who had undergone sex reassignment had any regrets. For male-to-female transsexuals the number was slightly higher at less than 2%. Later studies supporting Pfafflin's report include Bodlund O. et al., (1996); Cohen-Kettenis P.T (1997); Exner, K. et al., (1995); Rakic, Z. et al., (1996), and Smith Y. L. et al., (2001). It should be noted that satisfaction is measured by self report of improvement in the individual's psychosocial well being.

Since everyone, even an intersexed child, is raised as either a boy or a girl even in the most non-sexist environment (Stein, 1984), a chain of physiological and societal events begins at birth that propel the individual into a predetermined set of behavioral expectations. In a bicameral sexed culture, deviating from those expectations almost invariably results in social conflict. The individual's quality of life, his or her relationship with family, friends, career, legal gender status and the nature of his or her being in the universe, are all at stake.

If we keep in mind that gender identity is in reality a continuum, and if what one looks like may not correspond to what one feels like, we can expect a corresponding mild-to-severe range in gender related anxiety.

From http://www.pfc.org.uk/node/623 :

Dr Russell Reid, a clinical expert in the field, in a report to the court (submitted as an exhibit to the third Affidavit of Stephen Lodge - Volume I page 81) states that “It is clear that most patients benefit from Gender Reassignment surgery, and positive outcomes have been reported in areas regarding cosmetic appearance, sexual functioning, self esteem, body image, socio-economic adjustment, family life, social relationships and psychological status. The success rate for gender reassignment surgery is over 90%, with post operative complications including infection, haemorrhage, urethral stenosis, urinary incontinence, rectal fistula and vaginal stenosis. More serious postoperative complications include request for reversal and rarely attempted or completed suicide. New problems may emerge following reassignment surgery, although most difficulties will have been dealt with negotiating the real life test. Some individuals may need to come to terms with painful loss including jobs, families, partners, children and friends. Some are forced to move away from their familiar environment, and despite being confident in their new gender role, may still have difficulty adapting socially and being accepted by others.”

Dr Russell Reid continues (p82) “It is evident that most transsexuals experience a successful outcome in terms of subjective wellbeing, a sense of congruence between mind and body and sexual function. Gender Reassignment Surgery is relatively cheap and cost effective, requiring a one-off procedure in most cases. If successful, the patient’s quality and enjoyment of life is improved, and the need for psychiatric and hormone treatment is reduced.“ Dr Reid’s evidence is substantiated by a list of authors and brief summaries (p88-89).

Dr Green, another clinical expert, in sworn evidence states (p209) “Follow-up reports on operated transsexuals are generally quite favourable. An early comprehensive review of the follow up status of post-operative transsexuals from many centres was by Pauly (1981). Results with 283 male-to-female transsexuals were satisfactory for 71%, unsatisfactory for 8% and uncertain for 17%. For 83 female to male transsexuals results were satisfactory for 1%, unsatisfactory for 6% and uncertain for 13%. More recent series from single centres are also reported. One emanates from the Clarke Institute in Toronto. Reassignment was considered successful in 46 of 50 male transsexuals. It was also considered successful in all 61 female transsexuals (Blanchard et al 1989). In the Netherlands, of 55 male transsexuals, none regretted surgery and none had significant doubts regarding their status as women. Of 25 female transsexuals at least 90% were judged successful (Kuiper and Cohen Kettenis, 1988)”. His comments are substantiated by a reference list (p214-6).

Peace,

Cynthia

August 03, 2008 2:19 PM  
Anonymous Robert said...

Gender, gender identity and gender expresssion turn out to be much more complicated or detailed than a simple M/F dichotomy. Everyone has different aspects of what we define as masculinity and femininity in the ways they define themselves and the ways in which they present to the world (I for one watch nascar, wear boots, like pickup trucks and put glitter on my bald head; what are you to do with that collection of expressive behaviors). Most people do not express or present as entirely "masculine" or "feminine", and many people identify as neither.

Anonymous reminds me of the person who didn't believe in non-Eudlidean geometry: how could it be that parallel lines cross one another.

rrjr

August 03, 2008 2:39 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

August 03, 2008 3:09 PM  
Blogger JimK said...

Anon, it's bad enough to dump your political crap into the comments, but we don't need an article from The Onion here when people are trying to discuss something important and difficult. I deleted it and will delete others as I feel necessary.

JimK

August 03, 2008 3:23 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Oh, yeah. Important stuff like is gender what you feel like or what you act like or what your chromosomes say? That'll be a very important topic until gender is defined the way the gay agenda wants it defined.

I'm fine with everyone having their own fantasies. Just don't make laws saying I have to play along.

Playting sexual fantasy games is much more important than whether Al Gore is a pompous alarmist trying to promote massive economic burdens for not much effect.

August 03, 2008 3:47 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

bluck

bluck-bluck-bluck

bluuuck

"Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama is backing away from a challenge by Republican rival John McCain to hold a series of town hall meetings, agreeing to only three debates in the fall. Obama advisers say the Illinois senator doesn't want to take any chances"

August 03, 2008 3:58 PM  
Anonymous Aunt Bea said...

"...someone could perceive himself to be a doctor, but guess what? If he doesn't go through medical school, then he's not a doctor."

Thank you, Anon, for pointing out that Liberty Counsel's Mathew Staver, Esq. suffers from Doctor Identity Disorder. Maybe he and Dr. Phil can start a DID support group.

August 03, 2008 4:00 PM  
Blogger JimK said...

Anon, The Onion is satire. The story you posted is fiction.

JimK

August 03, 2008 4:25 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Let's hear it for the next generation.

Thanks, Mary.

August 03, 2008 5:55 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm the one who originally brought up the "doctor" analogy and I actually think Jim and others are right -- it's not a good analogy. Trying to make the transition from Caucasian to Chinese would be more analogous -- it's just not going to happen, even if a blond dyes her hair to black, has an eye operation, etc.

Also, I believe that people here treat gender too cavalierly. We revere the male and female genders and their corresponding reproductive organs because it is the way that we reproduce ourselves generation after generation. It is not an arbitrary thing; it's vital to our existence.

August 03, 2008 8:21 PM  
Blogger JimK said...

Anon, say transgender people do not reproduce -- I don't know if that's strictly true, but let's go along with what you said. That would mean approximately one tenth of one percent of the population would not reproduce. Do you think that would have any effect on the survival of the species? I would tend to assume there may be some adaptive value in having these surprising and inspiring individuals among us.

Further, remember there are lots of other reasons people don't reproduce. Like, they take the pill or use condoms, or they are sterile or infertile for one reason or another.

Nobody is being "cavalier" about gender here. Transgender people have to go through a gut-wrenching decision process, they live a reality that diverges from others' perception of them and they have to figure out a way to reconcile that divergence. Nobody here has been casual or cavalier about it, we are just suggesting that it is better to accept that some people need to make these changes. Theirs is a very difficult and lonely road, and it should be our duty as good citizens to support them, not to make it even harder for them.

JimK

August 03, 2008 9:08 PM  
Anonymous svelte_brunette said...

Anonymous said:

“Also, I believe that people here treat gender too cavalierly. We revere the male and female genders and their corresponding reproductive organs because it is the way that we reproduce ourselves generation after generation. It is not an arbitrary thing; it's vital to our existence.”

There are nearly 6.7 BILLION people on the planet. Just today, nearly 182,000 people were added to that number, (http://www.worldometers.info/ ) and that amount just keeps rising. Remember when China was only 1 billion people? We now add the number of people to the planet about every 15 years. How long do you think we can do this before we start running out of food? This can’t go on forever. The mass of the planet earth is finite. There is only so much food this poor planet can grow in a year.

Scientists have already estimated that the maximum number of humans that can live sustainably on the earth is in the neighborhood of 2 billion people ( http://dieoff.org/page99.htm ). Let’s say they are underestimating things by a factor of 3, and that the “real” number is closer to 6 billion. We will reach twice that number in about a century. ( http://www.ecology.com/features/population/index.html )

Will we ever actually reach that point? Or will scarcity of food cause enough wars to kill off sufficient people to let the “winners” live? Or, as we further overgrow our planet, will some opportunistic disease (MRSA? multi – drug resistant tuberculosis? a mutant strain of bird flu?) find the nearly limitless supply of human flesh a convenient food source and intervene to cut numbers back to a more manageable size? Will God intervene?

The biggest threat to “our existence” is NOT a limited capacity of those with gonads to reproduce; it is the unsustainable belief that we can “go forth and multiply” ad infinitum.

Human societies have overgrown the limits of their geographical location before. We have skeletons of their civilizations scattered over much of the planet. The children of those cultures walked to other parts of the planet and started anew. The problem now is that we no longer have that option. If we run out of food where we live and try to go somewhere else, we will bump into other people’s children looking for food. Human history has shown that we have a terrible habit of solving this kind of resource conflict through war.

The food shortages we see in the news now are probably just a small window on what we can expect in the future. Is this the kind of world we want our children to grow up in?

I personally believe that the world will be a far better place if we can focus our energies on the QUALITY of human life, rather than trying to fill some imagined shortfall in the QUANTITY of human life.

Peace,

Cynthia

August 03, 2008 9:46 PM  
Blogger Dana Beyer, M.D. said...

Jenny is a great writer. I recommend her book, "She's Not There," and particularly the afterword by her friend, the Pulitzer-Prize winning novelist, Richard Russo. Some of the Anons on this blog might learn a thing or two.

I think Wyatt sums it up when he suggests we're cavalier about ourselves. It highlights not only a complete lack of imagination, but, more importantly, an unwillingness to engage, to discover just what this life is all about.

I just returned from three weeks at Harvard and had the opportunity to really get to know 74 other people, and they got to know me. Some of them come from places on the ideological spectrum to the right of Wyatt, but because of the structure of the course, and who they are as individuals, they challenged themselves to look beyond their own worlds and explore those of others, particularly mine. I learned from them, they from me, and it was a fantastic experience for all of us.

Wyatt, you might want to try getting out occasionally.

August 04, 2008 8:25 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Whoever wrote that comment about "cavalier", could you please explain to Dana the Daft that you aren't the person D the D usually refers to as "Wyatt".

The usual anon, who didn't read most of this dull thread of comments, wouldn't insult wahoos like that.

August 04, 2008 8:50 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"to discover just what this life is all about"

and what did you discover, Dana?

August 04, 2008 9:47 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"I learned from them, they from me, and it was a fantastic experience for all of us."

Tell us more, Dana. What did you learn from those on the right of the ideological spectrum?

August 04, 2008 9:50 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I am the "anon" who wrote about the cavalier attitude (and I am not Wyatt).

When I spoke of the cavalier attitude that I perceive that people have here toward the beauty of our reproductive genetalia, I wasn't suggesting that our population would be harmed if a few individuals did not have children. I was suggesting that the average person's very protective attitude toward maleness and femaleness is deeply rooted in awe and reverence of the the role that their corresponding organs play in the beauty of making a human life. Our genetalia is inextricably intertwined in that creation, and the fact that some people can hate that part of themselves so much that they actually have it removed -- that's a tragic turn of events.

I understand that some people will always hate their genetalia enough to remove them, and, as someone suggested yesterday, as long as I have not been a part of it, I could simply watch, sadly, from the sidelines.

However, Bill 23-07 forces us to accept this hatred by overtly and complicitly demanding that we be a part of it. If we accept this piece of legislation, we are accepting that this is the true definition of "gender." Most people do not believe that Bill 23-07's language is the true definition of "gender" and feel that it is unacceptable to the extreme. If I see a man in the women's bathroom, and I have to think: "I will not complain because the law tells me that he is rightfully there, perceiving himself to be a woman, and this person might bring charges against me for complaining, and win because the law says that it is so" -- then the law has forced me to accept this definition of gender.

I perceive (and I know that people here respect the word "perceive") that it takes little or no true imagination to go through the step of having one's genitals removed. It is such a literal thing to do with so much finality to it --that imagination is completely lost in the act.

During our darkest moments in life, probably all of us have wished, at some point, that society would change their attitudes so that whatever it is that ails us will be seen as right and good and acceptable. However, once we break through our darkness, we are able to see that this type of coddling, on the part of society, would ultimately have done us no good. Because, if it takes a law to make us feel validated, then we have veered off of the best spiritual path for us. We all know that when we have done something truly good and right, that no law or validation is needed from anyone.

How much more imaginative is the person that can overcome mental obstacles and find beauty and happiness within the body he is born with?

August 04, 2008 12:06 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Well said.

It's also worth saying that this self-hate is part of what's wrong with homosexuality. Homosexuality, as commonly present in our society today, usually involves one male taking a female role and the other the traditional male role, although both are generally parodying a warped perception of actual heterosexuality.

The bottom line is that this form of homosexuality is, in essence, sado-masochistic, where one partner basically tries to destroy his true nature and the other partner participates by assisting their partner's masochistic tendency, basically becoming a sadist.

At least, they usually only harm themselves. Worse is the type of homosexuality practiced by early Nazis where both partners retain fully male roles and, as a result, don't form relationships that participate properly with civilized society.

How can anyone say this stuff isn't a mental illness?

August 04, 2008 12:33 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"Anon, The Onion is satire. The story you posted is fiction."

Really?

I thought Gore-Al actually blasted his infant son into space to escape the imminent destruction of our planet.

You gotta admit, it sounds like Al.

August 04, 2008 1:09 PM  
Blogger Dana Beyer, M.D. said...

What can one say? Raising the significance of one's genitalia above that of one's mind (and brain)? How materialistic can you get?

August 04, 2008 5:07 PM  
Anonymous svelte_brunette said...

Anonymous complained:

“If I see a man in the women's bathroom, and I have to think: "I will not complain because the law tells me that he is rightfully there, perceiving himself to be a woman, and this person might bring charges against me for complaining, and win because the law says that it is so" -- then the law has forced me to accept this definition of gender.”

Oh Anon, it is FAR more insidious than this. Although there is still much debate over just how many gays / lesbians (anywhere from 1.5% to 10% of the population) there really are and even more so how many transsexuals there are (anywhere from 1 in 1,000 to 1 in 30,000) the chances are the “man” you see in the woman’s restroom is more likely to be a butch lesbian than a transwoman.

The first person to use New York’s gender identity statute (which actually included language about restrooms, and was reference by MoCo’s Health and Human Services Committee in their memo) was not a transman, or a transwoman, or a Christian woman challenging the assault on her privacy rights, but a WOMAN who was unceremoniously hauled out of the restroom for looking too much like a man. (http://www.nydailynews.com/news/2008/05/13/2008-05-13_woman_mistaken_for_man_settles_ladies_ro.html )

She won $35,000, and the restaurant is having sensitivity training.

So now you have to ask your self “Is this person who kind of looks like a man really a woman who’s comfortable in her own body and doesn’t give a transsexual who’s having a hard time passing, and if they ARE a transsexual, what’s between their legs? Oh, and which way are they going???... This is going to look pretty stupid if I complain about a WOMAN in the ladies’ room.”

Peace,

Cynthia

August 05, 2008 8:25 AM  
Anonymous svelte_brunette said...

The last post suffered a partial deletion somewhere along the way, making it difficult to read. Here is what is should have said:

So now you have to ask your self “Is this person who kind of looks like a man really a woman who’s comfortable in her own body and doesn’t give a *^%# what people think about how she should dress, or a transsexual who’s having a hard time passing, and if they ARE a transsexual, what’s between their legs? Oh, and which way are they going???... This is going to look pretty stupid if I complain about a WOMAN in the ladies’ room.”

Sorry for the confusion.

Cynthia

August 05, 2008 8:31 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"Anonymous"
Breath-takingly audacious and incredibly ignorant - you said: "this self-hate is part of what's wrong with homosexuality. Homosexuality, as commonly present in our society today, usually involves one male taking a female role and the other the traditional male role, although both are generally parodying a warped perception of actual heterosexuality."
You are suddently the universe's foremost expert in homosexual practices and feelings? If you got your nose out of the PFOX and Focus on the Family propaganda for once in your life, you might actually learn that your perception and description of homosexual behaviors is off-base, inaccurate, ignorant, and delusional. I think you are just acting out your own closeted homosexual desires!
Diogenes

August 05, 2008 10:11 AM  

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