Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Media Fail Chelsea Manning Transition

Last week the American media collapsed under the awesome burden of reporting on a person who had changed their name from Bradley to Chelsea, and publicly transitioned from a male to female gender identity. And one of the worst of them was that paragon of liberalism, NPR.

It's like when a woman marries, and Nancy Smith becomes Nancy Jones -- you don't insist on continuing to use her maiden name. You might slip, and you might even always think of her as a Smith, but if you are talking about her you say "Nancy Jones." Nothing political, it's just that that's her name now.

Tell me, what sense does this make: "Bradley Manning said today that he has changed his name to Chelsea and will now be addressed as female." That is exactly what the media were doing. Try this: "The Army private formerly known as Bradley Manning has changed her name to Chelsea and announced that she will now be addressed as a female." Because that's her name now. It used to be Bradley, now it's not. Now she's Chelsea.

Here's Bitch Magazine talking about it -- good article.
In light of Chelsea Manning—formerly known as Bradley Manning—announcing her name change and preferred gender last week, news outlets were stumbling over themselves in stories reporting on the convicted Army private's transition. Only a handful, including NPR, have revised their policies to refer to Manning as a woman.

Although almost all of the news stories on the name change have included Manning's words, "I also request that, starting today, you refer to me by my new name and use the feminine pronoun," most decided to interpret the statement in their own, unique way. Some outlets, like the initial interview with The Today Show, alternated awkwardly between masculine and feminine pronouns.  Many media outlets decided to completely ignore the statement they quoted and just stick to "Bradley," "he," "him," and "his" as if nothing had ever happened.

The worst policy of all came from National Public Radio. On Friday, after major outcry from listeners, cultural critics, and activists, NPR announced "we have evolved" and NPR's Managing Editor for Standards and Practice Stu Seidel issued new guidance on referring to Manning. Apparently, NPR will rethink how its stations refer to transgender people in the future:
On the pronoun front, the best solution is the simplest: If we're going to use a new name for a transgender person, we should change pronouns as appropriate. In this case, we should refer to Manning as a "she." This is a matter of clarity and consistency. We just can't tie ourselves in knots trying to avoid pronouns every time we tell the Manning story.

While we need to have clarity, we also have a responsibility to tell full and complete stories, whether we're reporting on an artist using a stage name or a prominent transgender person making a public request for a name change. If the person's earlier identity is relevant to a story, we have a responsibility to make that clear for our audience.

This policy makes a lot more sense than their previous system, which was explained thusly in The New York Times:
National Public Radio will continue for now to refer to Private Manning as "he," according to a spokeswoman, Anna Bross. "Until Bradley Manning's desire to have his gender changed actually physically happens, we will be using male-related pronouns to identify him."
What does this statement even mean? How exactly would NPR want Manning to validate the worthiness of her preferred prounouns? Would NPR want periodic photographic evidence tracking Manning's physical transition from male to female? Would they be requesting exclusive access to her medical records so they can determine when she undergoes gender reassignment surgery?  At what point will Manning's body be traditionally feminine enough to merit a feminine pronoun? NPR Changed its Horrible Policy Misgendering Chelsea Manning
I think the bottom line is this: gender identity is real. Chelsea Manning is not a guy dressed like a girl. The person who was known as Bradley Manning was misnamed and mislabeled, and has corrected that.

You will sometimes hear it described as a person "having the wrong body" or "being the opposite of their biological gender," but I think it is easier to think of it as the doctor making a mistake. The baby comes out, they hold it up and take a look, the doctor checks a box on the birth certificate and there you go, paint the nursery pink or blue and pick a name that fits. Gender is most often correlated with observable genitalia, but sometimes it isn't. The doctor just got it wrong.

This article goes into some depth, I will skip down a little.
It's fantastic that NPR has "evolved" so quickly and come to recognize the error of its reporting on Manning.

But now it's strange that NPR is among only a handful of news organizations to change their policies and admit that they should improve their language. Will it be years before NBC, ABC, CBS, and CNN come around? CNN's policy is just as unfair as the one NPR scrapped: "CNN's policy is to reference Manning with masculine pronouns since he has not yet taken any steps toward gender transition through surgery or hormone replacement therapy."

It's understandable that media is scrambling over this issue. Manning's public change of gender identity is the first transition that has received this much attention. Therefore it makes sense that news organizations might have some trouble figuring out how to report this kind of story. But that's why GLAAD and the National Lesbian Gay Journalists Association have policies to help inform coverage of trans* folks.

Both GLAAD and the National Lesbian and Gay Journalists Association issued statements instructing journalists on how to report on transgender individuals. Sources like MSNBC and Salon who previously misgendered Manning have admitted their mistake and tried to make amends by not only updating their stories but instructing fellow reporters on how to follow suit.
It's not that it's politically incorrect, it's just incorrect.

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Don Dwyer, Pillar of Decency

The thing is, if you're going to dish it out you gotta be able to take it. Or to put it another way, "Let he who is without sin cast the first stone."

Anne Arundel Delegate Don Dwyer was definitely casting stones when we first met him at the Citizens for Responsible Citizens' 2005 Hate-Fest. He strode to the podium like a Southern preacher, shouting at the audience and TV cameras that he was "spreading the hate of homosexual activists ... and the fear of what is going to happen if we don't do something about it." His voice rattled through the rafters and the crowd loved it. You can listen to his talk and read the transcript HERE.

Such a good man. Such high moral principles.

As The Sentinel (behind a paywall) quoted leaders of the CRC at the time:
"The CRC does not endorse any of the speakers or support their topics per se," explained [CRC leader] Fisher. "... Several members of the CRC were uncomfortable with Del. Dwyer's talk and others felt that his and some of the other speakers' information needed to be out in the public for debate and awareness, even if it was controversial."

"As far as Mr. Dwyer goes, I thought we made it clear that the speakers should not have strong religious overtones," said Turner. "When he started his comments, I was a little taken aback. But a number of the members said they were glad he spoke the way he did." The Sentinel Reports
So you assemble the nuttiest collection of people Montgomery County can scrape together, and Don Dwyer is actually too nutty for them, even.

In 2006, Dwyer tried to remove Baltimore Circuit Court Judge M. Brooke Murdoch after she found Maryland’s same-sex marriage ban unconstitutional. Dwyer has also tried to impeach Attorney General Doug Gansler, after he announced in 2010 that Maryland would recognize same-sex marriages legally performed in other jurisdictions.

About a year ago he broke a five-year-old girl's skull and injured six other people while boating, drunk, on a Maryland river. At that time he claimed that legislators who voted for the state’s same-sex marriage bill contributed to his alcohol abuse.

This week he got arrested for drunk driving. CBS Baltimore:
Busted again. Anne Arundel County Police arrest an outspoken conservative lawmaker who just weeks ago pleaded guilty to operating a boat under the influence — this time for driving a car while intoxicated.
Anne Arundel County Police arrested him just after midnight in Pasadena. He was pulled over after an officer spotted his gray Cadillac eastbound along Route 100 near Edwin Raynor Boulevard.

“The officer was immediately concerned for the safety of everyone on the road,” said Justin Mulcahy, Anne Arundel County Police spokesman. “It was driving erratically to say the least. It crossed over several lanes of traffic multiple times, onto the shoulder several times as well, even getting in front of vehicles.” Del. Don Dwyer Arrested For DUI; Pleaded Guilty To Drunken Boating Earlier This Month
Obviously this guy is a mess.

I am not inclined to gloat over some idiot's fall to disgrace. He's got a problem and does not seem motivated to deal with it, well that is going to be hard on his family and he is going to hurt more people eventually if he keeps it up.

If he hadn't been so offensive in his denunciation of others I wouldn't have mentioned this.

The problem is that this contrasts so starkly with his moralistic statements about gay people. His behavior forces you to ask: what is worse, being gay or cracking kids' skulls and driving on the wrong side of the road, drunk out of your head?

This is a man who judges other people and throws his weight around like he's better than them, when maybe he should show some humility and allow peaceful people to live their lives happily.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Sexual Orientation Data, the Good and the Bad

Two stories this week seemed to be woven into a larger narrative about privacy and information. Well, three. There was the one where the Detroit police force measured everybody for bulletproof armor and then sent a spreadsheet out to the entire department with every woman's weight and bra size listed. It was an accident, but that's what happens if you are not careful.

A few days ago, a guy in California went to the doctor for an exam.
The tests revealed he was B-12 deficient, and had high blood pressure and high cholesterol -- conditions that he called "normal for me."

When Moore, who is openly gay, went back to the Manhattan Beach office to discuss the findings, the nurse gave him the results of his physical.

Among other diagnoses, the doctor listed "Homosexual behavior (302.0)," according to medical records obtained by NBC4. "Homosexual behavior" was also listed as a chronic condition on Moore's patient plan.

"When I look up code 302.0 and its sexual deviancy or mental illness, and that code has been removed or suggested heavily not to be used since 1973," Moore said.

"My jaw was on the floor. At first, I kind of laughed, I thought, 'Here's another way that gay people are lessened and made to feel less-than,' and then as I thought about it and as I dealt with it, it angered me," Moore said.

He later returned to the office, at the suggestion of an attorney and friends, to let the doctor explain her decision. He said when asked, the doctor defended her position.

"I was dumbfounded," Moore said.

Asked how one could treat homosexuality, the doctor said that "is still up to debate" and that the sexual orientation is "still being thought of as a disease," Moore said. SoCal Doctor Diagnoses Man as Gay, Patient Says
In the 2013 ICD-9-CM (International Classification of Diseases, 9th Revision, Clinical Modification), "Homosexuality" is listed in the index with the phrase, "omit code." The code 302.0 is for "Ego-dystonic sexual orientation," that is, it is for a patient who is distressed about their sexual orientation. Which this guy is not.

The man was not concerned that his sexual orientation was documented, but was alarmed that it was coded as a diagnosed condition. The 300 series is listed as "Mental disorders."

The doctor's office refunded his $30 co-pay, and he is not going to sue or even tell the doctor's name. His point:
"If I was a 14-year-old in a small town in Indiana, where I'm from, and I had a doctor tell me or my parents that I was sick because they thought I was gay, it would've been very damaging," he said.
In contrast, yesterday the publisher of a journal called LGBT Health posted a press release summarizing research they had published.
New Rochelle, NY, August 13, 2013—Recording the sexual orientation and gender identity (SOGI) of individuals in their health records would greatly facilitate identifying the unique health needs and health disparities of LGBT individuals, leading to improved quality and outcomes of their health care. The advantages of reporting this information and the growing support for including it in electronic health records (EHRs) are described in an article in LGBT Health, a new peer-reviewed journal from Mary Ann Liebert, Inc., publishers, launching in fall 2013. The article is available free on the LGBT Health website.


"The Obama Administration has taken significant strides toward increasing LGBT data collection on health surveys," said Cahill. "Right now the federal government is considering whether to include SOGI as standard demographic questions in Stage 3 meaningful use guidelines, which set the standard for data collection in EHRs. We believe that including SOGI measures in these guidelines would dramatically increase our understanding of LGBT health disparities and our ability to address them."

"While there is no question about the benefits of collecting such data, some concern has been raised about the security of the EHR and potential misuses," says Editor-in-Chief, William Byne, MD, PhD, Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, New York, NY. "In addition to addressing how to best elicit the data, Cahill and Makadon also address such implementation concerns." GBT Identity Data in Health Records Would Improve Care, Reduce Disparities
The case can be made for collecting potentially meaningful metadata on a patient, if only for research purposes. Do they smoke? Exercise regularly? What is their sexual orientation? These things can help in diagnoses and treatment plans, and at some level the information can be used for group comparisons, as suggested in this article.

But we all know the problem with that. Right here in our sleepy suburban county someone went into the database at Shady Grove Adventist Hospital and queried information on an abortion patient who had died and smeared that person's name in public, with no consequences. If you have personal metadata in a medical database, you can be sure that it won't be long before someone breaks into it or misuses the information somehow.

In the past few months the American public has realized that confidential data are not confidential at all. Government agencies are watching our every move, using phone data, traffic-camera data, Internet data, prowling through databases owned by Google, Yahoo, Facebook. Do you really think your medical information is secure from prying eyes?

This issue is about sexual orientation but it is bigger than that. Some parts of a person's life need to remain private, and sometimes private things are shared with a doctor, or with the IRS, or in an email message to a friend. Now that everything is digital we need a system to maintain personal confidentiality.

Normally when there is villainy afoot the government will be expected to step in to block it. The irony here is that the government is the worst offender. What agency would you want in charge of protecting your confidential information? Yeah, I couldn't think of one, either.

It seems that there might be long-term benefit in capturing sexual identity information in medical data, along with other health-related variables. Sexual orientation and gender identity should not be entered as diseases, but tracking such variables can help medical science predict and understand trends in disease.

It is something like nuclear power unleashed in our parents' lifetimes, this technology is so new that we don't know how to handle it. There will be some disasters and in the end some good will also come from the power to communicate and analyze huge datasets. At this stage in the information revolution's young life we need to learn to contain it, to control access to confidential information so that tyrannical governments, criminals, and gawkers don't trot our secrets around in public and use them against us.

The potential benefits can be seen but we are not yet ready to take it outside the sandbox.

Thursday, August 01, 2013

Thousands of Ex-Gays Descend on Washington, DC

July was, apparently, "Ex-Gay Pride Month," and the ex-gays scheduled a giant demonstration in Washington, DC, for the day before yesterday. RightWingWatch has the story, and I am stealing borrowing heavily from their post on the topic.

Sandy Rios of American Family Radio interviewed the organizer of Ex-Gay Pride Month, Christopher Doyle. As she said, "Tomorrow in the nation's capital, thousands of ex-gays are descending to be heard." You could hear the italics in her speaking voice. Literally.

If you listened to that, you heard him say that "Washington DC is the only jurisdiction in the United States that ex-gays are a protected class against discrimination." What is he talking about? Explained here: PFOX Loses, Claims Great Victory. That was 2009, and they're still saying this.

As RWW put it:
Well, despite the expectation that “thousands of ex-gays” would partake in Ex-Gay Pride Month, fewer than ten people showed up for the big event.

Besides Doyle, ex-gay activists Greg Quinlan of Parents and Friends of Gays and Ex-Gays (PFOX), Richard Cohen of the International Healing Foundation and Douglas McIntyre of Homosexuals Anonymous also participated.



Wow, look at the crowds! As far as the eye can see.

The "ex-gay community" would do best not to hold public events. It just makes it too easy. It is much better for them to cry that they have been bullied into hiding by homosexuals.