Category Archives: Social Issues

Gender Affirming Care

 

According to my former personal physician, Dr. Darren Reimer, who spoke at an event in Steinbach, “There is lots of evidence that gender affirming care is helpful.” Yet sadly, gender affirming care has been viciously and relentlessly attacked by conservatives around the world–from Russia to the United States. Dr. Rimer  said that much of this evidence is clinical. That means it has been tried and has worked! According to Dr. Reimer, “gender affirming care is real and effective.” It reduces gender dysphoria.

Some people experience debilitating  gender dysphoria which is the acute and chronic distress some persons experience of living in a body that does not reflect one’s gender and the desire to have bodily characteristics of that gender. This is not something invented by the libs. It is real. It exists. Conservative hysteria won’t make it go away.

Yet, notwithstanding it’s general acceptance by the medical community, conservatives have attacked gender affirming care with relentless hostility. I think the reason is that conservatives fear liberals will take advantage of such care to impose their presumed agenda to get as many people as possible to change their identity. I don’t know why liberals would want to that, but conservatives seem to believe this is part of the liberal agenda. On the other hand, I believe that the conservative view is part of their hysteria about sexuality. Hysteria is their agenda. Many conservatives believe that the only permissible sex is that between men and women and then only when each maintains their birth sex and gender.

In part the problem here is the fact that this battle is being conducted in the world of the internet gone mad. As John Oliver said, “So much of the fear of and arguments against transgender people comes from misinformation and misunderstanding. And maybe the biggest and most dangerous area of ignorance comes from the concept of gender affirming care.”

In US four states have already scratched access to such care and 15 more are considering similar legislation. According to Oliver, “They have been fuelled by a lack of basic knowledge about what of gender affirming care actually consists.”

As Michael Knowles, the host of his own TV show: said If a child walked into a doctor’s office and said Doc I want you to cut my fingers off, the Doc would say ‘you’ve got some problems kid we need to refer you to a psychiatrist.’ If the child walked into the same doctor’s office and said, ‘Doc I want you to cut my uterus out, that Doctor would say, ‘Oh you’re a wonderful brave person. You’re right we do need to cut you uterus out as soon as possible. Let’s get this young lady over to the operating room.’

That of course is nonsense in hi def. Many conservatives believe that as soon as child declares that he or she is trans, an immediate irreversible decision is made  to make the surgery happen. That just  is not the  way these things work.

This is what I understand about gender affirming care: In young children gender affirming care consists mainly of things like a social transition where the child is allowed to use a new name ,with the parent’s consent, or have a new hair cut or wear new clothes. They might get psychological supports to help them to avoid bullying or harassment. When puberty is onset a child, with parental consent, might be given puberty blockers to delay puberty. This can buy time for the young person to make a decision when older about gender identity.

If that treatment is later suspended endogenous puberty will resume.  It is not irreversible. It just gives time to think about it.

The next medical intervention is usually hormone therapy which boosts levels of testosterone or estrogen as the case may be. Opponents of such treatment claim this is experimental medical treatment, but that is not true. Some falsely claim it sterilizes people. There are some specific rare risks to fertility in some cases but according to the Yale School of Medicine, the effect is anticipated to be reversible if medication is discontinued.

Nonetheless, as a result of conservative hysteria many states are making efforts to ban gender affirming care.

According to Heather Boerner, in her article in Scientific American, earlier this year,  “A decade of research shows such treatment reduces depression, suicidality and other devastating consequences of trans preteens and teens being forced to undergo puberty in the sex they were assigned at birth).” Scientific American also said this in an introduction to the her article:Laws that ban gender-affirming treatment ignore the wealth of research demonstrating its benefits for trans people’s health.”

As Michelle Forcier, a pediatrician and professor of pediatrics at Brown University, said,

The bills are based on “information that’s completely wrong…[Those laws] are absolutely, absolutely incorrect” about the science of gender-affirming care for young people. “[Inaccurate information] is there to create drama. It’s there to make people take a side.

 

 

Here is the truth according to Heather Boerner in her Scientific American article:

“The truth is that data from more than a dozen studies of more than 30,000 transgender and gender-diverse young people consistently show that access to gender-affirming care is associated with better mental health outcomes—and that lack of access to such care is associated with higher rates of suicidality, depression and self-harming behavior.”

 

This aligns nicely with what our own Steinbach physician Dr. Darren Reimer said. In other words, (these are my words now) the misinformation is part of a culture war, not a rational argument, and as we all know, in any war, even a cultural war, truth is the first casualty.

 

 

Transitioning to Cats and Dogs

 

Have you heard this crazy story that claims some schools are inundated with children now wanting to transition not to another gender but to another species? I first heard about this from a friend who said it was happening in the Bible belt of Manitoba. She claimed children in school were demanding kitty litter boxes in school because they were transitioning to cats and did not want to make a mess? They also insisted graduation be held outdoors, more befitting cats.

 

I was stunned when I heard this claim and have since learned it is a growing claim by conservatives whose fears have been stoked to such extremes in the current culture wars. There is nothing like a cultural war to generate massive amounts of hysteria.

Does anyone think this is happening? I rather think it is another example of hysteria causing people to believe the craziest things.

I believe everyone should be free to explore their own sexuality freely, at their own pace and at their own time. They should not be shoved into anything by elders, whether they be parents or liberals, or conservatives.

 

Hysteria is also being fueled by the Internet which is governed by algorithms that reward the extremes. In other words, the more extreme the story the more likely it is that it will be spread far and wide on the internet. Stories about gender transitioning are not extreme enough any more as they once were. Transitioning to cats on the other hand, now that is extreme. 

If children are exploring their sexual identity as conservatives claim, where is the harm? Who is harmed by that? Whose freedom is impinged by that? Only the freedom of those who want to impose their sexual ideology on others–i.e. the conservatives in some cases, and liberals in others. Conservatives seem to me to be the ones getting hysterical about this issue but both sides are guilty.

As John Oliver said, “Watching the conversation around this, it is hard not to feel that to the extent there is any social contagion here, it is among adults who whip themselves into such a frenzy that they find themselves repeating some humiliating nonsense.”

 Hysteria is the contagion. Nothing more.

Soothing the Base by Attacking 12-year olds

 

A lot of conservatives have been rendered apoplectic by the issue of transgender rights. On the right it is the latest and greatest liberal whipping boy. Much of it can be seen in their jokes on the subject. Like this one by MAGA supporter: My name is J. R Magusi, and my pronouns are “patriot,” and “asskicker.” Or Garret Soldano, my pronouns, “conservative,” “patriot.” Or Matt Schlapp, chair of the CPAC, “I would like to declare something right now. My pronouns are “USA.” Or good old Ted Cruz, “My pronoun is kiss my ass.” Cruz is really tough when he goes up against 12-year old girls! All of these jokes are demonstrating of course that they don’t know what pronouns are. But more importantly demonstrating that they don’t get it. It is difficult to avoid concluding that politicians like Cruz don’t care about female athletes unless they can calculate that their supporters might enjoy watching an attack on young girls by grown men.

 

Yet, the issue is more important than bad jokes.  This year, according to National Public Radio, “There are over 100 anti-trans bills in state houses.” 12 states have already signed anti-trans laws. That is part of a campaign of violence and threats against trans people, among the most vulnerable minority in the USA  and Canada showing once again, that conservatives love to pick on vulnerable minorities. This is particularly true when their sexuality is in jeopardy. Besides schools, there have even been attacks and harassment in children’s hospitals.  How brave can conservatives get?

Of course, defense of trans people on the left has been weak-kneed if not hostile in defending this group. American conservatives are the ones talking about this issue. Clearly, they are acting like petty demagogues when they use the issue to show to their fans that they can make Democrats look ridiculous and weak, while they demonstrate “strength” by attacking unsupported youth. We have to remember this can inflict serious harm on vulnerable people. And when it is adults ganging up on young children it is particularly ugly.

 

It is also obvious that many of these laws have very little to do with what is really happening and everything to do with what the conservatives believe will please their supporters regardless of that fact.

Here is an example, of what I mean. Recently, 18 American states have passed laws banning transgender youth participation in sports. Is that really needed? Are there that many transgender people trying to swamp sports? One of those engaging in this is South Dakota Republican Governor Kristie Noem who made her bill a centre piece of her political campaign. Here is what one ad said, “In South Dakota only girls play girls’ sports. Why because of governor Christie Noem’s leadership. She has been protecting girls’ sports for years and never backed down. Now governor Noem has a bill that will give South Dakota the strongest law in the nation protecting female sports. Doing the work. Delivering results.”

She sure is brave isn’t she?

People like her love to fire up fears about female trans athletes having an unfair advantage and taking away opportunities from “real girls.”  As Time Magazine pointed out, “There are vanishingly few examples nationwide of trans athletes attempting to compete at all.” This is a problem mainly in the eyes of conservatives and their pundits. In South Dakota the head of their sports association was able to name  only one “one transgender female athlete.” That athlete graduated a few years. This was past news. Yet is the news Republicans think they can use to beat up on Democrats. As John Oliver pointed out, “There are more athletes in Noem’s ad than there are trans girls known to be competing.”  Of course, even if there were more of such athletes the real nub is that it is just plain wrong to discriminate against them.

The International Olympic Committee said it would not issue blanket bans, but approach each on a sport-by-sport basis. It also said its general fundamental principle would be that “no athlete should be excluded from competition on the assumption of an advantage due to their gender.” Does it make sense that a trans athlete can compete in the Olympics but not in under 12 soccer?

Parents seem to fear that children are plotting costly time-consuming transition campaigns just to win a city championship.  Would any child really do that? Would any child do that who knows how much abuse they will be subjected to? As John Oliver said, “So much of the conversation about anti-trans laws involves massively overheated rhetoric that does not match the actualities of kids’ situations.”

And when you get “massively overheated rhetoric” that is a pretty good sign that the real issue is not what the combatants claim. Usually this shows hysteria is at play.  This is a battle in a cultural war. That is the real issue. Wars can generate heat. Not 12 year old athletes in a local volleyball match.

 

Men are Men and Women are Women

I recently met a man whom I found very interesting.  He was a kind and gentle man in the true sense of that word. I found him instantly likeable for many reasons.

One of the things that made him interesting was that he had transitioned from the the gender he had been assigned at his birth. He used to be a woman, or was thought to be female. He believes he has always been a man though for a long time in the body of boy and then a man.

He looked like man completely.  He had a moustache and a beard.  He could clearly pass for a man and if we walked into a female washroom as he is required by law to do in some states he would have disturbed the women. I think they would have felt very uncomfortable with him there.

Here is my question: why do American conservatives want this. Why do they want him to use only female washrooms or perhaps gender neutral washrooms. Can someone explain that to me?

Reclaiming the Moral Ground in the Kulture Wars

 

Mallory McMorrow a Michigan politician found herself deep in the culture wars after she defended the LGBTQ community. A Republican colleague accused her of wanting to groom and sexualize children. She issued a spirited defense. She said that hate would only win if people like her stood by and let it happen. She provided a blueprint for Democrats to navigate the thorny issues of sexuality in schools, race, gender identity, that Republicans like Ron DeSantis had been using to gain support and money from their supporters.

 

Lana Theis, a Republican state Senator said this, to her supporters in a fund raising message :

 

“Progressive social media trolls like Senator Mallory McMorrow (D-Snowflake)…are outraged they can’t teach can’t groom and sexualize kindergartners or that 8-year-olds are responsible for slavery.”

 

McMorrow was justifiably angry, not only about her own treatment but all members of the LGBTQ community who are subjected to such vile hatred from the American right every day. McMorrow is upset at the Republicans who are weaponizing Christianity to target already marginalized people. She says of herself that she is a straight white Christian mother. But she was speaking for the marginalized LGBTQ community against the hateful attack from other white straight Christians. She wanted to reclaim her own identity and refused to let it be stolen by hateful others from her own group. She did this to break through the binary camps to express her own individuality that she would not allow to appropriated by hateful white Christians.

 

McMorrow was interviewed on Amanpour & Co. and said she wanted to “reclaim the moral ground” that others had tried to seize from her. That is how she believes liberals can win the Kulture wars. As McMorrow said, “We should not be attacking people just because they happen to be different. We can debate them; we can disagree with them; but we ought not to attack them with weapons of religion.

 

McMorrow also said,

“Christopher Rufo is one of those who has created moral panic culture wars of manufactured outrage. It started with critical race theory  and he said as much here in Michigan . He admitted there is so much power in attacking the LGBTQ community and the moral panic surrounding around sexuality. So it is the black community, the LGBTQ community, really any community that is targeted by this strategy.”

 

Targeting these people, she said, will not bring down inflation, or fix our infrastructure. The Republicans are playing on fear. She said, “Also it is not sexy to talk about policy when you can stoke fear and anger.

 

McMorrow emphasizes that this is not a Republican vs Democrat issue. She said she was elected in what was once Mitt Romney’s home riding because people did not want to hate the other.  Republicans who don’t want to hate Democrats voted for her!

 

Mitch McConnell said there were no policy issues in the mid-term elections. Just like there were none in the 2020 presidential election on the part of the Republicans. Their only platform was Trump! That is why they have manufactured Kulture War issues instead.

McMorrow acknowledged that people do not want to have sex acts described to very young children. But that is not the point. Even very young children see everyday that there are a lot of different people in the world that they are already meeting. Some families are different. Some have a mom and dad. Others have 2 moms or 2 dads or single parents or grandparent led families or a transparent. This is a fact. These people are there. You can’t wish them away. There is nothing wrong with openly discussing this, even at a very young age.

She says once we can meet like people we won’t have this fear mongering and the same language that we saw during de-segregation. Some people did not want their kids seeing black kids in school!

 

McMorrow says she has learned things from people like Father Ted Hespeller from Notre Dame who stood for some of the same values she stands for. He fought for many disadvantaged or marginalized people for much of his career. Martin Luther King was scorned by most white Americans at the time, though now that is often forgotten. Father Hespeller as a white man and head of a large institution took a big risk by walking with King. He was able to see his own privilege. He saw his neighbours being attacked, targeted and beaten and he wanted to reach out to them. That is the kind of faith McMorrow wanted.  Change is hard McMorrow says. We can recognize that but recognize our own place and reach out to help the marginalized and those who are being targeted. “How can we remind people that we all want the same thing at the end of the day? Those are the community family values that we all hope for our own kids.”

McMorrow thinks that this is how the Democrats might win the Kulture Wars. Simple, plain, real talk about families, neighbours, and friends. And how we can work together.  But maybe such hopes are pretty far-fetched. What do you think?

War is a very effective tool for firing up political support. That is just as true of Kulture Wars.

 

Toxic Masculinity; Toxic Femininity

 

 

 

When  recently I was frantically trying to see all 10 movies that had been nominated for best Picture, I never realized that the Oscars ceremony would so closely mirror the films and life. After they award show was over where Will Smith walked up to Chris Rock who was  introducing an award and made a poor joke about his wife I was amazed. It is amazing how much we can learn about life from art and about art from life.

 

I had noticed from the stunning film The Power of the Dog how masculinity could be toxic. Phil one of the two brothers in that film shows himself as a vessel of toxic masculinity when he mocks the “art” of Rose’ son Peter who he clearly sees as effeminate and weak. Later he comes to change his views, perhaps because of his own latent homosexuality. Then Peter is driven to extreme measures to protect his mother, much like Will Smith at the Oscars was driven to extremes to defend his wife from a perceived insult. This may have been brought on by the fact that  at a young age Smith saw his father beat his mother and always considered himself a coward for not defending her. At the Oscars he tried to be more manly and do better. Did he succeed or cruelly flop again?

I noticed that when at first Smith heard the poor joke about his wife that he was laughing and enjoying it. Then the camera switched to his wife who started laughing but quickly switched  to disapproval when she realized what was being said.  Did she communicate her disappointment to her husband? Did she goad him to act? That was not shown, but it was remarkable how quickly Smith’s manner change from jocularity to menace. It is also remarkable how quickly men can stoop to violence to defend the honour of their women. Do women like that?  Do they want their men to get violent in their defence? Sometimes it seems so. I was surprised to read 2 New York Times female writers  presumably, weak kneed liberals, say they thought Smith did the right thing?

I had just the day before watched the film The Tragedy of Macbeth. The tragedy was that Macbeth’s  wife goaded him into killing the king  and in doing so mocked his lack of courage. If that is not toxic femininity what is? When Macbeth hesitates to do the dirty deed she urges him to do it. This is part of what she said,

 

“When you durst do it, then you were a man;

…I have given suck, and know

How tender it is to love the babe that milks me:

I would, while  it was smiling in my face

Have pluck’d my nipple from his toothless gums,

And dash’d the brains out, had I sworn as you

Have done to this”

 

Then after he kills the king but still has doubts,  she mocks him and finishes hiding the evidence for him.

 

I realize that this entire Oscar  incident was coloured by the ugliness of a black man defending his insulted wife. Many a black man has been cruelly emasculated by such actions. Violence is deeply engrained in American and Canadian societies. This is true even in societies where black men react violently against other black men.  This is one product of centuries of oppression. Deep and persistent hatred has led to deep and persistent self-hatred. After all they learned it from their masters. What can be more cruel than that?

 

But to deny this painful and ugly fact, as we are urged to do by white supremacist pundits today, is to drive the hatred and resentment deeper where it can do even more perverted harm. Ugly truths must be faced. Denying them is not the way out. It just makes things worse.

 

What really bothered me about this incident at the Oscars was that about an hour or less later, when Will Smith won the award for best actor, and he stumbled through a tearful speech that included an apology to the Academy and fellow actors, but notably not Chris Rock, the audience erupted with applause.  What are the rest of us (including children who witnessed it) to think? Are we to think that violence is the answer to insults? That after all is the American way (with Canadians not far behind). Is this not how cycles of violence perpetuate themselves harming no one more than the victims turned aggressors?

 

Art can help us understand such questions, but it offer few clear and definitive answers.