Archive for the ‘General Interest’ Category

A biological explanation for homosexuality

Monday, December 7th, 2009

Ever since we briefly discussed the “gay gene” in class and whether or not the discovery of such a gene would be beneficial or detrimental to homosexuals, I have been extremely curious as to what kind of scientific literature is out there that discusses the biological basis of homosexuality.  The study that I found (it starts on page 2) focused on four cell groups found in the anterior hypothalamus, which is suggested to be involved in the regulation of sexual behavior and in the generation of male-typical sexual behavior.  It has been found that two of these cell groups have larger volumes in human males than in females, suggesting these cell groups play a part in sexual orientation.  This study found that one of these two cell groups was also twice as large in heterosexual men as homosexual men, suggesting a possible biological explanation for sexual orientation in male humans.

Promising marriage for sex not a crime in South Korea

Monday, December 7th, 2009

This article is about a new court decision in South Korea that struck down a half a century old criminal code that basically punished any man who engaged in premarital sex with a woman “who does not otherwise habitually engage in lewd conduct with the pretence of marrying her.”  Yet, this same court upheld a provision of the code that made extramarital sex illegal for the reason that the majority of South Korean citizens considers extramarital sex “improper”.  When I read the first part of this article I thought, “Alright, sweet!”  As I finished the last sentence of the article, however, I thought, “Really? You were doing so well.”  This article is a prime example of the state’s role in regulating people’s personal sexual choices.  Seeing as we have been discussing Warner’s argument that the government has “extraordinary power…over our innermost lives” and the dangers that come along with that, I thought this article was very fitting.

Women’s Rights and Health Care

Sunday, December 6th, 2009

Is This The Country We Want To Live In?

This video is a speech by Al Franken on the Senate Floor about women’s health care. Currently, there are laws in some states that allow women to charges higher premiums because they have been a victim of domestic violence? How is this justified? This is called a pre-exisiting condition in many cases. Women’s health issues are being addressed in a new amendment to the health care bill. As Al Franken says “This is a hugh step forward for justice and equality.”

Roman Polanski released on bail

Sunday, December 6th, 2009

So, the rapist of a 13 year-old girl who fled the country for 30 years after pleading guilty pays 4.5 million dollars and is under house arrest. But as the article states, “it’d be hard to find an isolation as splendid as this.” He is still living with his family in a 3 story villa in Switzerland. Poor guy.

Why does someone who FLED TO FRANCE get bail??? What is wrong with people??? He is the epitome of a flight risk, which is the entire point of bail!,0,6935446.story

Makeover to keep up or enforce stereotypes?

Friday, December 4th, 2009

The Sun-Maid raisin girl has gotten a makeover. She has been tweaked to keep up with today’s social norms. The girl featured on the boxes has been around since 1915 and has been updated several times in the last almost century. Is this a positive change? To keep the product from looking stale? Or is enforcing negative norms of how thin a girl should be. If you follow the link you will see the original Sun-Maid raisin girl had a rounder looking face, and appeared to be larger. The new girl is trim and fit looking. The company claims to be updating the appearance to advertise a healthy lifestyle. Is this woman actually what a woman at a healthy weight would be? Or is she undernourished? While the picture is drawn, and the woman isn’t real, the over appearance can affect the people who see the product even without buying it.

Religion and Homosexuality

Thursday, December 3rd, 2009

This statement from the Vatican will be sure to cause some problems with the LGBT community. I wasn’t entirely shocked when I read this, however I was surprised at Cardinal’s declaration that being homosexual is a choice.

Transgender Exclusion: Deeper than Health Insurance, Revisited

Thursday, December 3rd, 2009

As Irma brings up in her first post, “according to the Transgender Law Center, many transgendered individuals are denied health insurance altogether solely because they are transgender” (TLC, 1). Both Irma and Leigh Ann mention the broken arm/leg incident in which transgendered individuals have been denied coverage for a non-transgender related issue. This is clearly an example of stark discrimination; however it is not what this debate is centered on.  

Before I continue, I would like to remind everyone that the question presented by this debate is not asking whether or not whether insurance companies should cover transgender and transsexual people overall, it’s asking whether or not insurance providers should be required to cover medical procedures related to being a transgender or transsexual (refer to my previous blog post’s definitions segment to see which procedures these are). There’s a difference between an insurance company being required to cover a certain procedure, versus an insurance provider deciding to cover transgender people. As stated in my previous post, by requiring insurance coverage for transsexual and transgender services, we are required to consider them as victims of a mental illness.

Irma mentions the Harry Benjamin Standards of Care which, “strictly outline the diagnosis and procedure that must be followed for a true, medically necessary transition” (TAW, 2). What Irma doesn’t acknowledge however, is that these standards, which Transgender at Work highlights as “the appropriate standard[s] of diagnosis and treatment,” reinforce a dichotomous and inflexible definition of gender.  The Harry Benjamin Standards of Care state that “Two Primary Populations with GID Exist–Biological Males and Biological Females” (Harry Benjamin International Gender Dysphoria Association). If all insurance companies were instructed to meet the Harry Benjamin Standards of Care, not only would this reiterate the need for a diagnosis for an identity presumably wrong, but also reinforces the confusion of sex with gender, and the incidence of black-and-white, harsh, and narrow definitions of gender.

In her first debate, Irma referred to a segment of the Transgender Health Benefits article produced by Transgender at Work that also struck me as quite interesting. The article states that the best way to see if health benefits are discriminatory is to “see if the same procedures would be covered for non-transsexuals by the same plan” (TAW, 1). This would seem to be a reasonable strategy, however it only further stresses how being transgendered or transsexual is equivalent to having a disease. By calling for the comparison of mastectomies or hysterectomies being covered in the case of cancer to being transsexual, there is clearly a preexisting assumption that those who are transgendered or transsexual are tormented by an illness. I would argue that this assumption isn’t safe to make because not all of those who identify as transgender express a need for surgeries, or as Susan Stryker highlights “some transgender people question why gender change needs to be medicalized in the first place” (Stryker, 14).

Irma calls for my attention to the National Coalition Article for LGBT Health in her second debate. She mentions “suicidal ideation rates as high as 64% and suicide attempt rates ranging from 16% to 37% with most attributing their ideation or attempts to their gender identity issues” (NCLGBTH, 2). These percentages are definitely concerning, and are not to be taken lightly. However in my opinion, the suicide rates mentioned do not solely reflect the fact that insurance doesn’t guarantee them surgeries and hormone treatments, but rather the stigmas they face, personal concerns, and society’s refusal to accept transgendered individuals as people as a whole. This refusal to accept transgender and transsexuals by society is echoed by another troubling statistic: “on average, one transperson [dies] from hate crimes every month” (Stryker, 148). And while I still feel troubled denying someone the right to have a surgical procedure they feel is necessary to align themselves with their understanding of gender, I have even more trouble with legitimizing the stigma that labels them as mentally disabled.

Many commenters raised questions of what forms of action I would recommend along with my argument. Meghan specifically asks “how, then can coverage for transgender procedures happen? Is it through the health care system but with different definitions? Or is there a separate entity that should be made to provide funds to cover these procedures?” First, I would encourage all of you to think about what you would recommend, too (I do not have all the answers). However, I will set forth a few propositions (bear in mind that I am no expert):

            >>  Change the DSM’s definition of Gender Identity Disorder. An organization called GID Reform Advocates calls for the DSM to include “diagnostic criteria that serve a clear therapeutic purpose, are appropriately inclusive, and define disorder on the basis of distress or impairment and not upon social nonconformity” (Winters, 2).  Health Insurance and health care providers utilize the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) to direct their work, therefore changing its criteria would potentially lessen the discriminatory nature of GID. However, I would still be cautious with this action, because as Ashley points out in her comment, “the word “disease” is powerful. It is by definition harmful and abnormal.” Identifying transgendered and transsexual individuals as afflicted with disease has strong and negative connotations within society.  

            >> Remove GID from the DSM altogether, just as homosexuality was removed in 1973.

            >>  Develop other organizations. As the National Coalition for LGBT Health reports, “ a few urban, community-based health care organizations have developed their own local Trans Health protocols that do not require a prior GID diagnosis” (NCLGBTH, 3).

            >>  Expand the overall definitions of depression-like illness to include transgendered or transsexual people who are feeling “unfit” in their own skin. Treat them accordingly as people, who happen to choose not to conform to a stereotypical gender identity.

Ashley asks a revealing question in her comment: “is it fair to make them wait if they could gain access to insurance coverage under the umbrella of ‘disease treatment?” The answer to this question is a catch-22. As Stryker writes, “some people resent having their sense of gender labeled as a sickness, while others take great comfort from believing they have a condition that can be cured with proper treatment” (Stryker, 13). No matter what position you take on this debate, not everyone is going to be happy. It touches on a theme we discuss in class: being willing to face the consequences of the decisions you make. As Jaime writes, “treating Gender Identity Disorder as a “condition” or “disease” [is inevitable] in order [for them to gain access to] needed medical care.” I argue that this is not going to solve the issue at large, and therefore should not be required of health insurance companies.  

Jaime also brings up the incrementalist approach, stating that “the best way…is for change to take place incrementally; I am not necessarily saying that I think it is okay for us to continue to marginalize transgender individuals and deny them equal medical coverage, but I do think that the best approach to changing society’s view as a whole is by taking baby steps.” Considering the erosion metaphor brought up in class, the incrementalist approach is extremely time consuming. By supporting the incrementalist approach you are essentially patting the metaphorical rock on transgendered and transseuxals’ heads and saying “you can have the surgery, but you’re still diseased and mentally ill in our books.”

Meghan stated, “I do see some flaws in Rachel’s argument, though. I feel as if she did not tackle the question head on, rather she created a new argument in itself.” However, in my opinion, if a new argument can be made it’s not that the problem isn’t being tackled head on; it is showing that the original argument is missing something.

Just as the Transgender Law Center advocates, I am all for urging health insurance companies to stop discriminating against transgendered people or all people in general, but I am arguing they should not discriminate by mischaracterizing people as mentally disabled.  Discrimination, as we have discussed in class, is being selective based off of irrelevant facts or characteristics.  Being stigmatized as “diseased” in my opinion goes even farther than irrelevant categorization and is offensive at deeper, more fundamental levels.  Perhaps a new definition of “effective treatment” of transgendered and transsexual people would be: not only medically necessary “sexual reassignment surgery, hormone therapy, and real-life experience” but socially necessary actions that aim to remove the stigmatization of those who are choosing to challenge societal accepted gender roles (TAW, 2).  However in order to act accordingly, we must for the time being refrain from requiring insurance companies to broaden their discriminatory and “diseased” ways.


Harry Benjamin International Gender Dysphoria Association. The Standards of Care for Gender Identity Disorders (5th Version).

Stryker, Susan. “An Introduction to Transgender Terms and Concepts” and “The Current Wave”

TAW: Transgender At Work. “Transgender Health Benefits.”

TLC: Transgender Law Center. “Recommendations for Transgender Health Care”

NCLGBTH: National Coalition for LGBT Health. “An Overview of U.S. Trans Health Priorities.”

Winters, Kelley. “GID Reform Advocates.”

Anti-Rape Condom

Tuesday, December 1st, 2009

I found this as I stumbled across the Internet this afternoon. This is a little grotesque but I thought I would post it as it is relevant to some issues in SPP. This anti-rape condom could prevent rape and help to track the assailant. However, like many other anti-rape and sexual assault products such as mace and a whistle the cost of this measure is placed on the victim.

Changing laws

Monday, November 30th, 2009

We’ve spent a lot of time this semester discussing the rights of those who are not in the hetero-normative population in this world and this article coincides with that issue perfectly. Buenos Aires, Argentina did not allow gay marriage up until (around) a month ago when a judge ruled that it was unconstitutional to not allow homosexuals to marry. However, like many of the other cases we have discussed regarding rights of people, a different judge is at present trying to overthrow the ruling that it is unconstitutional to not allow gay marriage; she is trying to say that gay marriage should not be allowed. The article did not discuss the judges reasoning behind why this person wanted the law returned to the way it had been before the change.
Even though this second judge is a lower level judge and therefore cannot overturn the law, the attention brought up by this case makes it clear that not even those in power are in agreement with whether or not gay marriage should be legalized there in Buenos Aires as well as other places that have been considering making gay marriage legal.

“Men Are Better Than Women” (Dot Com)

Monday, November 30th, 2009

Dr. Phil is a television show viewed by millions of people around the world.  The show revolves around Dr. Phil giving advice on a variety of topics, ranging from raising children with autism to weight loss programs.  One especially ridiculous episode featured a man named Dick Masterson, who claims that “there is nothing more freeing to a woman than chauvinism.”  He goes on to describe his many offensive beliefs on air. This clip is available at his website along with many other ‘articles’ he authored, including “Feminism is a Business” and “Why Women Hate Sex”,  just to name a few.

When I found this site earlier this month I spent way too long reading what he wrote—nothing is backed up with any kind of evidence and it seems the man is simply spewing outlandish fabrications depicting women as a subspecies to men.  However, what was disturbing for me was not necessarily what he was writing but how many positive responses he received.  Check it out.  It made me stop and think about what an uphill battle gender equality truly is.