Tuesday, December 19, 2017

Created Male *AND* Female - The Conjunction is important

It has been a while since I last posted to this blog, but I have been moved to action by a horrific attack on transgender people by so-called "religious" leaders who should know better, spearheaded by pernicious officials at the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops' Office of the Family.  The following is my response:

Created Male *AND* Female: An Open Letter TO “Religious” Leaders

December 19, 2017

Dear “Religious” Leaders: 

I have seen your letter of December 15, 2017 promulgated at the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops website, at http://www.usccb.org/issues-and-action/marriage-and-family/marriage/promotion-and-defense-of-marriage/created-male-and-female.cfm

You begin your letter by claiming a commitment to marriage as the foundation of society, but only if that marriage is a “union of one man and one woman.”  The emphasis on heterosexual unions is rooted in six biblical references Gen, 2:24, Mt. 19:5-6, Mark 10:8, 1 Cor. 6:16 and Eph. 5:31 to becoming “one flesh.” But what about your rejection of those of a same-sex attraction whose commitment of love and fidelity move them to becoming “one soul?” We see this in one passage, 1 Sam. 18:1-3.

And it came to pass, when he had made an end of speaking to Saul, the soul of Jonathan was knit with the soul of David, and Jonathan loved him as his own soul. And Saul took him that day, and would not let him return to his father's house. And David and Jonathan made a covenant, for be loved him as his own soul.

You claim that the one man, one woman marriage is a “natural marriage,” but that is a heterosexist notion, Becoming “one soul” is just as natural for gay and lesbian couples, as becoming “one flesh” is for straight couples.  And doing otherwise is the unnatural.  Your promotion of opposite-sex marriage and denigration of same-sex marriage is the first evidence of your animosity against people who are created by God to be different.

You who are the scribes and Pharisees f the modern era do not heed the lesson of Mt. 7, and in this letter, show yourselves to be like the foolish man that build his house upon the sand (Mt.7:26).

Beginning in error, you compound the error by attacking transgender and intersex people, who are created by God to be different.

In your letter, you cite the words Gen. 1:27 but fail to understand their significance of the conjunction “and” in the context.  After you share the idea that human beings were created “male and female” in the image and likeness of God, you proceed in the rest of your letter to separate that creation solely into beings that are “male *or* female” – and there is a difference.  You assume that sex is naturally “male or female” though that is not true, either biblically, culturally, or scientifically.

In Mt. 19, Jesus acknowledges more than two sexes – while he starts in verses 4 through 6, he refers to the “one flesh” concept that is the foundation of heterosexual marriage.  But 1n verses 11 and 12, Jesus points out that this message is not intended for all, but only to “they to whom it is given” (meaning in context, those who are heterosexual and cissexual).  But then, in recognition of the teachings found in Isaiah 56, Jesus points out that “male and female” is not merely “male or female” but also includes people referred to as “eunuchs.”

12 For there are eunuchs, who were born so from their mother's womb: and there are eunuchs, who were made so by men: and there are eunuchs, who have made themselves eunuchs for the kingdom of heaven. He that can take, let him take it.

Transgender and intersex people are created by God as transgender and intersex people. The science shows that we are “born so from our mother’s womb” and some of us seek gender confirming surgeries so that we can fit into binary socio-cultural expectations that we be “male or female” even though we were created different.

Indeed, the reality of gender cannot be separated from one’s sex, but those whose genital tracts are shaped differently, or whose brains followed one gender path while their genital tracts developed differently, or those whose bodies develop entirely along one line but, aside from a complete androgen insensitivity gene expression, might have turned out developing entirely along the other path.  Binary sex, arbitrarily dividing “male and female” solely into “male *or* female” is a cissexist concept that is an affront to the diversity of God’s creation, and to the very concept of a respect for the inherent worth and dignity of every person to which you scribes and Pharisees pay only lip service.

Sexual difference within the variability of being “male and female” is in reality more complicated than seen through  the overly simplistic heterosexist cissexist lens of seeing people as naturally “male OR female” – and as you write “sexual difference is not an accident or a flaw—it is a gift from God that helps draw us closer to each other and to God.”  So, then, why do you reject the inherent dignity and worth of transgender and intersex people who God cleaved differently out of that inchoate “male and female” creation?

Know this, that the gender dysphoria experienced by transgender and some intersex people is not a discomfort with one’s actual sex, but rather a discomfort with the arbitrarily-defined cultural binary sex to which one was incorrectly assigned in the first place.

If it is your responsibility to “respond … with compassion, mercy and honesty” then why do you persecute us?

Children are not told that they can “change their sex.”  However, some children assert, correctly, at an early age, that they really do not belong grouped together with the sex they were assigned at birth – that is not their inherent sex, despite external genital evidence.

It does these children who are different great harm to suppress their natures as gender-different.  Other children should be taught to respect the worth and dignity of those relatively few who are gender-different, just as Jesus did.  Unlike you who wish to stifle the natural diversity of God’s creation, I call upon parents and our medical institutions to not harm these children. (And that includes stopping the barbarity of infant genital mutilation still sometimes practiced on intersex infants.) I agree that “The state itself has a compelling interest, therefore, in maintaining policies that uphold the scientific fact of human biology and supporting the social institutions and norms that surround it,” but those words do not mean what you advocate them to mean.

In your letter you create a “straw man” that makes it seem that transgender and intersex people operate under the notion “that a man can be or become a woman or vice versa” rather than recognizing that it is possible for a transgender person to have been created by God having a brain and genital tract that do not match up in a cisgender manner.  So instead, you would rather condemn transgender children to suffer “ridicule, marginalization, and other forms of retaliation” so that you can preserve your cissexist blindness in the face of biblical truth and scientific developments about the natural world.

Your call for policies to uphold a person’s sexual identity is good, but for your limitation to the diversity of “male and female” to be cleaved solely into a cissexual male *or* female.  The privacy, safety, worth and dignity of transgender and intersex people is as relevant and important to all is the dignity of cisgender people – and yet in your blindness you do not see Truth. If you truly believe in “authentic support” for those who God created to be different, you will rescind and reject your letter.

Joann Prinzivalli
Serva Servarum Deae

This open letter is intended in particular for the following modern scribes and Pharisees who signed the December 15, 2017 letter:

Most Rev. Joseph C. Bambera 

Bishop of Scranton
Chairman, USCCB Committee on Ecumenical and Interreligious Affairs

The Most Rev. Dr. Foley Beach 
Archbishop and Primate
Anglican Church in North America

The Rev. John F. Bradosky
North American Lutheran Church

Most Rev. Charles J. Chaput, O.F.M. Cap.
Archbishop of Philadelphia
Chairman, USCCB Committee on Laity, Marriage, Family Life and Youth

Most Rev. James D. Conley
Bishop of Lincoln
Chairman USCCB Subcommittee for the Promotion and Defense of Marriage

The Rt. Rev. John A. M. Guernsey
Bishop, Diocese of the Mid-Atlantic
Anglican Church in North America

Rev. Dr. Matthew Harrison
Lutheran Church–Missouri Synod

Imam Faizal Khan
Founder and Leader
Islamic Society of the Washington Area

Most Rev. Joseph E. Kurtz
Archbishop of Louisville
Chairman USCCB Committee for Religious Liberty

Archbishop of Pittsburgh
Orthodox Church in America

The Rt. Rev. Eric V. Menees

Bishop, San Joaquin
Anglican Church in North America

Rev. Eugene F. Rivers, III 
Founder and Director
Seymour Institute for Black Church and Policy Studies
Church of God in Christ

Rev. Dr. Gregory P. Seltz, PhD 
Executive Director
The Lutheran Center for Religious Liberty

The Rev. Paull Spring 
Bishop Emeritus
The North American Lutheran Church

Rev. Tony Suarez 
Executive Vice President
National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference

Very Rev. Nathanael Symeonides 

Ecumenical Officer
Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America

The Rev. Dr. L. Roy Taylor
Stated Clerk, General Assembly
Presbyterian Church in America

Andrew Walker 

Director of Policy Studies
Southern Baptist Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission

The Rev. Dr. David Wendel 

Assistant to the Bishop for Ministry and Ecumenism
The North American Lutheran Church

Paul Winter 

Sunday, June 28, 2015

From the High to the Low: The problem with Right Wing Reactionary attitudes toward LGBT people

In an article:

In a fast-changing culture, can the GOP get in step with modern America?  

in today’s Washington Post, writers Philip Rucker and Robert Costa put some interesting bookends on their article that illustrate the essential problem with reactionary conservatism – an inability to see facts or recognize truth in the face of deeply-ingrained bigotry.

The first example is Presidential candidate Mike Huckabee, at a pizza parlor in Iowa.  He’s set up by a local Baptist pastor:

(From the article:)

“America going down the wrong roads morally. . . . God decreed unchanging standards in Scripture, but society keeps changing — and fast. . . . I saw a commercial this morning about a transgender show, and everybody was praising it.”

Huckabee responded by declaring that the standard of all truth is the Bible. Distorting the laws of nature, he said, is akin to playing the piano without a tuning fork — or baking a cake without the proper measurements of salt, flour and sugar. “You’re going to have a disaster on your hands,” he said.

Huckabee, who has ministerial credentials himself, has proven himself willfully blind to the biblical message of acceptance toward transgender people.  Readers of my blog are familiar with Isaiah 56, Matthew 19:12 and Acts 8 – but apparently these don’t appear in Mike Huckabee’s bible.

The problem with Huckabee and other riders in the Republican presidential clown car who are striving to be just like him on LGBT issues, is that their expressed and very un-Christian bigotry only fans the flames of bigotry in their constituency.

The grass roots of conservative reactionaries are still a part of the problem – and the article closes with this:

The night before in Osceola, Tawny Waske, 49, was celebrating her eighth wedding anniversary with her husband, Tim, at Nana Greer’s Family Table restaurant when Huckabee walked in to shake hands and answer questions. She, too, fretted about cultural changes.

“It’s legalized here for gays [to marry], and we just bite our lips,” Waske said. “As a Christian, we’re taught to love the sinner, not the sin. But tolerance only goes so far.”

Waske brought up ABC’s prime-time special this spring on Jenner’s gender transition.

“Is it him? Her? It? I don’t even know what to call it,” she said. “You know, don’t shove this down my throat.”

Tawny’s blindness is typical.  There she is, wearing a wedding ring, and openly celebrating the anniversary of the celebration of her legally and religiously sanctioned right to freely and frequently copulate with her husband – after all, her marriage is all about breeder sex.  If I had her attitude and projected it back at her, I’d be disgusted by the fact that she flaunts a wedding ring and dares to shove her dirty but legally/religiously sanctioned sex relationship down everyone’s throat.  I’ll bet there were innocent children in that restaurant who should not have been exposed to any knowledge of that relationship built on sweaty, grunting, baby-making copulation.  Why, I’m sure people at other tables were afraid that she and her husband were going to start “doing it” right in front of everyone else! (Remember, those aren’t my thoughts and attitudes – I’m just adopting her attitude and turning it back at her.)

She calls Caitlin Jenner an “it?” Really? 

The sad thing is that Tawny Waske and her immoral ignorant bigotry is typical of those whose exposure to LGBT people has moved transgender people from oblivious invisibility to objects of derisive disgust.  It is very difficult for me as a transgender woman to understand Tawny’s uneducated ignorance. However, one can only hope that she, whose ugly thoughts expose her as an un-Christian ignorant breeder pig-creature bigot, can one day evolve into a decent human being.  I have hope in the possibility that she might learn something.

When an ignorant breeder sow like Tawny calls me an “it” it shows that she is willing to treat me as less than human. (Okay, I really do think of her as ignorant, and bigoted, but the farm animal references are only due to my angry and disgusted reaction to being called an “it.” How dare she go there!)

When ignorant breeder sows like Tawny vote, we end up with elected officials who are as ignorant and bigoted as they are (or pretend to be ignorant and bigoted to get elected) – and laws that treat me, and people like me, as less than human.

But I still harbor the hope that she can intellectually and spiritually evolve to a point where she and people like her can become human enough to be able to treat me as a human being.

I know I am not an “it.” And when Tawny can recognize me as a human being, maybe I might be able to characterize her as something more than the ugly animal she shows herself to be when she dehumanizes people like me.

What Tawny needs is an education.  She seems to think that gays and trans people are sinners, and that she has been taught to “hate the sin and not the sinner.” 

One problem is her Christianist religion (It’s not really Christian).  Her evil religion feeds that deeply-seated bigotry.  Unless the leaders of her religion change their tune, it will be that much more difficult for Tawny to have the grounding to be able to understand the truth.

When religious and political “leaders” like Mike Huckabee, who should know better, play to this audience and support its continued bigotry, it only delays the day when Tawny and her ilk ever “get it.”

I thank the writers of this article for exposing the deeply-seated sleaziness in the GOP leadership and base – now, what can we do about it?  There are a few Republicans who are working toward making it a kinder, gentler party – but the evil resistance is strong, and possibly getting even stronger.

Friday, June 26, 2015

Analyzing Chief Justice Roberts' lies and misstatements in his marriage dissent

It has been a long time since I've posted anything here!

I’ve taken the opportunity to analyze the lies, misstatements of fact, and incorrect assumptions contained in Chief Justice Roberts’ dissent in today’s marriage decision.

At numerous points, Chief Justice Roberts repeats one lie, over and over – as if by repeating it would somehow make it true.  This is a propaganda tactic, and should be recognized as such.

the meaning of marriage that has persisted in every culture throughout human history

to retain the historic definition

For all those millennia, across all those civilizations, “marriage” referred to only one relationship: the union of a man and a woman

“a social institution that has formed the basis of human society for millennia, for the Kalahari Bushmen and the Han Chinese, the Carthaginians and the Aztecs.”

“This universal definition of marriage as the union of a man and a woman is no historical coincidence.”

“The premises supporting this concept of marriage are so fundamental that they rarely require articulation.”

None of the laws at issue in those cases purported to change the core definition of marriage as the union of a man and a woman.

the understanding of marriage that has existed for our entire history

One need only study some history to realize that the Romans had several different forms of marriage, the People of Israel and Judah had numerous different kinds of marriage.  Most cultures and civilizations have had all sorts of different kinds and forms of marriage, and different rules as to who could marry whom, and what the relative rights of the parties are.  And there is no universal “one man, one woman” rule, whether it be for life or otherwise, “throughout human history.”

And yet, this false and irrational lie is one of the central features of Chief Justice Roberts’ opinion.

Chief Justice Roberts writes “Although the policy arguments for extending marriage to same-sex couples may be compelling, the legal arguments for requiring such an extension are not.”  But it isn’t merely policy – it’s a matter of having a better understanding of the Constitution and of the evolution of marriage in this country since colonial times, than the Chief Justice is willing to admit.

He writes: “And a State’s decision to maintain the meaning of marriage that has persisted in every culture throughout human history can hardly be called irrational.”

It can certainly be called irrational as the central assumption is false – the meaning of marriage has changed over time and has differed greatly among different cultures and societies throughout human history,

He writes that “The people of a State are free to expand marriage to include same-sex couples, or to retain the historic definition.”

First, it’s really not an “historic definition.”  And when a state runs afoul of the 14th amendment, as it did in Loving v. Virginia, the SCOTUS does have a right to set things to rights. If we recognize the principles of due process and equal protection under the 14th Amendment, it’s really not possible to rationally decide against marriage equality.

“The majority’s decision is an act of will, not legal judgment. The right it announces has no basis in the Constitution or this Court’s precedent.” - Just because Chief Justice Roberts chooses to be willfully blind to the Constitution when the Constitution doesn’t suit his prejudices, his opinions should not be given any credence.  All the Chief Justice needed to do to grasp the constitutional basis for today’s decision, would be to read and understand his colleague Antonin Scalia’s Cassandra-like dissents in Lawrence and Windsor.  Justice Scalia has been predicting the inevitability of gender-neutral marriage being recognized as required under the Constitution since before the Massachusetts court decided to follow his reasoning.

Chief Justice Roberts exhibits a startling lack of knowledge of world history when he writes: “the Court . . .  orders the transformation of a social institution that has formed the basis of human society for millennia, for the Kalahari Bushmen and the Han Chinese, the Carthaginians and the Aztecs.”

He ignores the precedent of Loving when he writes “The majority today neglects that restrained conception of the judicial role. It seizes for itself a question the Constitution leaves to the people, at a time when the people are engaged in a vibrant debate on that question.”

When Loving was decided, a large majority of white Americans disapproved of interracial marriage – and it was not until the late 1990’s that a majority of white Americans became reconciled to the idea – thirty years after the decision.  It’s pretty clear to me that, had Chief Justice Roberts been on the Loving court, he would have tried to keep each race on its separate continent, and left anti-miscegenation laws to the states to mull over in due time.

“For all those millennia, across all those civilizations, “marriage” referred to only one relationship: the union of a man and a woman” – as we’ve seen, just repeating a lie does not make it true.

The human race must procreate to survive. Procreation occurs through sexual relations between a man and a woman.”

It appears that Chief Justice Roberts has never heard of artificial insemination, in vitro fertilization, and other medical methodologies that eliminate the need for heterosexual copulation.

“When sexual relations result in the conception of a child, that child’s prospects are generally better if the mother and father stay together rather than going their separate ways.”

That assumes that there is a “mother and a father” in the first place, and not some random copulation resulting in a baby – and children do as well or better when they have two mommies, or two daddies – and other family constellations are also good for babies.

“Therefore, for the good of children and society, sexual relations that can lead to procreation should occur only between a man and a woman committed to a lasting bond.”

There is nothing wrong with that being a marriage – but it is a lie to call it the only constitutionally-protected kind of marriage –under the due process and equal protection provisions of the Constitution, the law of marriage must be applied in a gender-neutral manner as well as in a race-neutral manner.

And when he writes this:

“And by bestowing a respected status and material benefits on married couples, society encourages men and women to conduct sexual relations within marriage rather than without. As one prominent scholar put it, “Marriage is a socially arranged solution for the problem of getting people to stay together and care for children that the mere desire for children, and the sex that makes children possible, does not solve.””

Roberts would apparently in his premise that marriage is solely for the “be fruitful and multiply” crowd, forbid infertile people, post-menopausal women, and others who are unable to “procreate” from having the same equal protection under the law as everyone else. 

He glowingly writes about chattel slavery - “Early Americans drew heavily on legal scholars like William Blackstone, who regarded marriage between “husband and wife” as one of the “great relations in private life,””

Lovely – the Chief Justice holds to the ideal of common law marriage prior to 1848, that “the two become one – and that one is the husband.” Typical of a patriarchal misogynist, but not expected from the Chief Justice.

“The majority observes that these developments “were not mere superficial changes” in marriage, but rather “worked deep transformations in its structure.” Ante, at 6–7. They did not, however, work any transformation in the core structure of marriage as the union between a man and a woman.”

Not true – first, the “core structure” is a union of two people – possibly more, but multiparty unions are not the topic of the day (at least until Roberts brings them in).  At one time, the relative bundles or rights were based on whether one was a husband, or a wife.  By the 1970’s the sex-based “reproductive rights” issue was resolved by giving women control over their own bodies, regardless of whether they were married.  Then by the 1980’s, marriage laws had become largely gender-neutral – i.e., the same rights and responsibilities, regardless of whether one was “husband” or “wife.” At that point, it became obvious that even the connubial right – the right to marry, ought to be gender-neutral under the Constitution.  Indeed – at the point at which marriage became a union of equals, it first became possible to understand the constitutional implications to which the Chief Justice and the other dissenters are blind.

When Chief Justice Roberts approvingly cites Baker V. Nelson, the appeal of which which was summarily dismissed by SCOTUS in 1972 – he does not take into account the fact that it was 1972, marriage laws at the time did not create a union of equals.  It was not possible for the SCOTUS at that time to even see the issue on its radar. 

Then Roberts whimpers that “They argue instead that the laws violate a right implied by the Fourteenth Amendment’s requirement that “liberty” may not be deprived without “due process of law.”

Well, that IS true – and that right is exactly what drove the Loving court.  As Justice Scalia correctly predicted in his dissent in Lawrence, striking down statutes against same-sex relations would inexorably lead to marriage rights – as there was no longer any reason to deny connubium.

I am appalled at Roberts’ citation comparing the majority decision to Dred Scott (I am not quoting it here) – does he have no shred of decency?  That is the SCOTUS equivalent of calling the majority “Nazis” in violation of Godwin’s Law  it appears that since Roberts has no argument except those based on lies, he feels free to descend to that level, but cloaked in enough legalese to make it seem erudite.

Here is something true – but not as Roberts seems to imply: “Expanding a right suddenly and dramatically is likely to require tearing it up from its roots.

What is untrue is applying this principle in the current case.  The common law of marriage in America has been changing gradually since 1848 – and over time, the rights of the parties have been made gender neutral.  By the late 1980’s,  it first became possible to recognize even connubium as gender-neutral – but this took another 20 or more years before Justice Scalia first recognized it in his dissent in Lawrence.

Making connubium gender-neutral isn’t something sudden or dramatic.  It has been inevitable since the 1980’s that marriage rights are no longer sex-based – and one can thanke Roe v. Wade as much as the evolutionary changes over time started by Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Ernestine Rose in 1836.  The fact is that when it isn’t criminal to be gay, or to have same sex relations, and when the bundles of rights and responsibilities in marriage are identical on a gender neutral basis, it no longer becomes possible to defend against the right to marriage being gender neutral – to deny the right would be to violate due process and equal protection.

In discussing the ‘right to marry’ cases, Roberts clains “In short, the “right to marry” cases stand for the important but limited proposition that particular restrictions on access to marriage as traditionally defined violate due process.

Roberts interpolates the “as traditionally defined” in an effort to make a distinction when in fact there is none.  None of the cases prior to the late 1980’s could have contemplated gender-neutral marriage, because until that time, marriage rights were inherently unequal. And we’ve already established that there is no “traditionally defined” marriage “thoughout human history.”

When Roberts lies with “the marriage laws at issue here involve no government intrusion” it seems to glibly fall from his pen onto the paper – but it’s yet another lie.  Government licenses marriage, and often licenses those who can perform weddings.  Government creates and recognizes bundles of rights and responsibilities that are associated with marriage.  If “marriage” was merely a Catholic sacrament with no government involvement, [perhaps he could have a point – but in the real world?

With the following, Roberts dips into playing a Cassandra role – will polygamy be next?

One immediate question invited by the majority’s position is whether States may retain the definition of marriage as a union of two people. Cf. Brown v. Buhman, 947 F. Supp. 2d 1170 (Utah 2013), appeal pending, No. 14-4117 (CA10). Although the majority randomly inserts the adjective “two” in various places, it offers no reason at all why the two-person element of the core definition of marriage may be preserved while the man-woman element may not. Indeed, from the standpoint of history and tradition, a leap from opposite-sex marriage to same-sex marriage is much greater than one from a two-person union to plural unions, which have deep roots in some cultures around the world. If the majority is willing to take the big leap, it is hard to see how it can say no to the shorter one.

You’ll note that he trips himself here – far from being universally “one man, one woman” throughout history, he writes “plural unions . . .  have deep roots in some cultures around the world” as if we haven’t been reading abous this “universal; definition” thing through his entire opinion.

At least he didn’t bring in marriages to dogs, other animals, trees or inanimate objects.  And he also steps back from the Cassandra precipice, but only slightly, with “do not mean to equate marriage between same-sex couples with plural marriages in all respects. There may well be relevant differences that compel different legal analysis.”  He does imply that perhaps there might be no difference.

So while we’re at this point, let’s address plural marriages.  The principles would be different, and unlike merely extending connubium on a gender-neutral basis, plural marriages would require a whole host of legal changes.  It could be done – and there are models that could be based on various kinds of business arrangements or religious orders.  This isn’t the topic here, but since Chief Justice Roberts chose to go there, I’m perfectly willing to discuss this with him one day.

This case deals with gender, not number.  I’m surprised he didn’t bring up duration, but that, too, is an issue that isn’t on today’s table.

Once we get past the lies about “universal definition” and polygamy, we get to a “religious liberty” argument that could have come straight from the pages of Chuck Colson and Robbie George’s Manhattan Declaration.

Today’s decision, for example, creates serious questions about religious liberty. Many good and decent people oppose same-sex marriage as a tenet of faith, and their freedom to exercise religion is—unlike the right imagined by the majority—actually spelled out in the Constitution.

What Roberts does not understand is that the religious liberty issue cuts both ways.  Why should my religious liberty to marry my wife be infringed?  The right to religious liberty means the right to believe – but not the right to act on those beliefs to harm others.  Catholics like Roberts don’t have to marry same-sex partners, and no one should force them.  Catholic priests should not have to perform same sex weddings in their churches (though they shouldn’t be acting on behalf of the state or licensed by the state in any event, that ought to be held to violate the first amendment, unless they do nto discriminate – they should be limited to prerforming their religious rites without state molestation or interference, but in some future case, when the issue comes up, they should be free from government licensing or authority).

He then proceeds to defend the haters and bigots - “the tens of millions of people who voted to reaffirm their States’ enduring definition of marriage—have acted to “lock . . . out,” “disparage,” “disrespect and subordinate,” and inflict “[d]ignitary wounds” upon their gay and lesbian neighbors. Ante, at 17, 19, 22, 25. These apparent assaults on the character of fairminded people will have an effect, in society and in court.

Fairminded people?  Really? Perhaps Roberts is the one who would have joined with the majority in Dred Scott­ – after all, if he thinks the people who have worked to deny rights to a minority to be “fair-minded people” there is not a scintilla of evidence that he wouldn’t side with property-owning slaveowners against their property. And as the majority in Citizens United proved, the Court has a habit of protecting the rich against the poor and disadvantaged, most of the time.

He writes “It is one thing for the majority to conclude that the Constitution protects a right to
same-sex marriage; it is something else to portray everyone who does not share the majority’s “better informed understanding” as bigoted.

But they are – bigoted, that is.  It’s no difference from the enduring beliefs of white supremacists. Perhaps Chief Justice Roberts is guilty of the very thing that he accuses the majority of doing – letting his personal prejudices interfere with his ability to render an impartial decision.  His expression of sympathy to people who are no better than slaveowners or segregationists is jut one more indication of his willful blindness. 

This is a constitutional issue, not a matter of sentiment.

He closes out with the sour grapes “Celebrate the availability of new benefits. But do not
celebrate the Constitution. It had nothing to do with it.

Sorry, Chief Justice Roberts, the Constitution has everything to do with it,  It’s sad that you don’t “get it.”

Friday, December 19, 2014

Nonsense from the USCCB about gender identity

Archbishop Cordileone, one of the
 authors of the USCCB statement. 
On December 5, 2014, four chairmen of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (Archbishop Thomas G. Wenski of Miami, Archbishop Salvatore J. Cordileone of San Francisco, Archbishop William E. Lori of Baltimore and Bishop Richard J. Malone of Buffalo, New York)  issued a statement that included the following sentence, with reference to the US Department of Labor “Final Rule” to implement President Obama’s July 21, 2014 Executive Order prohibiting federal contractors to discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity:

Additionally, the regulations advance the false ideology of “gender identity,” which ignores biological reality and harms the privacy and associational rights of both contractors and their employees.

Let’s start with “false ideology.”

Gender identity is not a “false ideology.” It is not even an “ideology” at all. The only false ideology in the picture here is the distorted and fundamentally unsound heterosexist and cissexist “moral” theology advanced by the Magisterium of the Roman Catholic Church, which is based on superstition, lies, and nonsense, having nothing at all to do with an understanding rooted in science or nature. 

Gender identity is actually one (and a very important) aspect of biological sex.

It is physiologically based in the biological structure of an individual’s brain.

Everyone has a gender identity – most people happen to have a brain-based gender identity that is congruent with the genital tract (mullerian or wolffian) that developed as they went through gestation.

However, there are a number of individuals who have one or another genetic factor that led to their brain developing entirely or partially along one “sexed” path, while their genital tract development, occurring during a different period during gestation, went partially or entirely along the other sexed path. 

There are many different kinds of genetic and developmental difference.

For those whose brain developed entirely or partially along the opposite sex path from the genital tract, which developed entirely the other way, we have the term transsexual or transgender.

For those whose genital tract development differs from the expected path, there are various other forms of intersex terminology.

The bottom line is that the assignment of sex on a binary basis into male or female is not a reflection of a biological reality that includes a multiplicity of sexed outcomes.

The science is out there – the Catholic Church hierarchy has willfully blinded itself to the science.  Examine the genes that lead to a “long androgen receptor” or to enzymes that super-efficiently process testosterone.  Watch them as they influence brain development – and then see the outcome.

In 1965, even the best medical science did not understand the nature of these variations in human development – but parts of this knowledge have been in place since the late 1990’s and some of the genetic pieces have been known since 2008.

While the large majority of people turn out to be “cis” (cissexual or cisgender), those who turn out to be transsexual, transgender, or intersex are human beings, too – and should be endowed under the law with the same rights against discrimination as anyone else.

The Roman Catholic catechism is silent on the issue of transgender or intersex people.  However, the Roman Catholic Church’s sacred scriptures contain three interconnected passages that make it clear that transgender people are special to God.

Isaiah 56, Matthew 19:12, and Acts 8 are all intertwined in such a way as to imply that people like me are special in the eyes of God.

No one should be allowed to use “religious faith” as an excuse to discriminate against other people in the public square.  The fact that these bishops demand special rights above and beyond what they do within the confines of their churches and among the adherents of their faith is an outrage.

Federal contractors must and should be held to a greater and more moral accountability than that allowed or required by the false, bigoted and objectively disordered and immoral teachings of the Roman Catholic Church, or any other religion that holds to beliefs that are harmful to members of any oppressed minority.

I call upon Archbishop Thomas G. Wenski of Miami, Archbishop Salvatore J. Cordileone of San Francisco, Archbishop William E. Lori of Baltimore and Bishop Richard J. Malone of Buffalo, New York, to retract their statement and go out and learn some science before they make greater buffoons of themselves than they did in this statement.  And this column does not even address the apoplexy they have over the issue of sexual orientation.

Put simply - if they want to fire gay organists and music directors for their churches, they have that right.  But if they are acting as a federal contractor providing services wholly or partly at taxpayer expense, they have to be able to play nice with others - or get off the taxpayer-funded gravy train.

Friday, October 25, 2013

Keynote Speech

Keynote Speech for Community Healthcare Network
3rd New York Transgender Health Conference:
Transgender Care and the Universal Right to Health

Joann Prinzivalli – Challenging Assumptions

We are living in a period of societal transition in Western culture – in which the fundamental understanding of certain assumptions about reality are being challenged. 
There have been other times, and other issues –
For many years, people believed the earth was flat and the sun traveled around the earth. 
In 1633, the Italian scientist Galileo, who saw the workings of orbital mechanics with his own eyes by using a telescope, was condemned to spend the remainder of his life in house arrest, by an Inquisition tribunal consisting of a number of Cardinals of the Roman Catholic Church, primarily because he had the temerity to advance the Copernican heliocentric theory of cosmology over the traditional Church-approved Ptolomaic geocentric theory of cosmology. 
Under threat of a painful execution, Galileo recanted the material from his book, which allowed the Inquisition to spare his life - but there is a possibly apocryphal story that as the Inquisitors left, he muttered "Il pur se muove" (It still moves!) under his breath.
It took 359 years before the Roman Catholic Church formally rescinded the condemnation of Galileo, On October 31, 1992, after a lengthy inquiry that Pope John Paul II set in motion in 1979. 
Even though we may still poetically refer to the beauty of a “sunrise” or a “sunset” we, or at least most of us, Flat Earthers excluded, actually now know the earth is round and that it is the earth that orbits the sun, and not the other way around.
For many years, Western culture classified animals in accordance with the book of Genesis – if it flies, it is a bird, if it swims it is a fish.  This was challenged by the early 1800’s – and there is a celebrated 1818 New York court case, Samuel v. Judd, which pitted the testimony of preachers and whaling captains against that of the most famous naturalist (i.e. scientist) of the day - and even with all the testimony, the whales were still held to be fish, despite the scientific evidence to the contrary Luckily the state legislature changed the law to make it clear that the tax on fish oil did not apply to whale oil.
Moving forward to 1920, the issue that of rocket ships.  The august New York Times opined in an editorial that Robert Goddard was wrong in asserting that a rocket could travel to the moon - - the editorial writer wrote that Goddard “… does not know the relation of action to reaction, and of the need to have something better than a vacuum against which to react…. Of course he only seems to lack the knowledge ladled out daily in high schools.” since "every schoolboy knows that in space there is nothing to push against"  To its credit, 49 years later, in 1969, when humans landed on the moon, the Times quietly printed a retraction.
And speaking of the New York Times, we can move forward to 2006, when in what was supposedly a news story, the New York Times libeled me by referring to me as “a man who has lived as a woman since 2000.”  Apparently, in 2006 the New York Times was still behind the times, lurking in the quaint understandings of a bygone era, much as it was in 1920 about space travel.
Moving back to 1965, we can see what era the Times was stuck in - The New York City Department of Health assembled some of the leading lights in the medical field in a “blue ribbon” commission to study the nature of transgender people, which came to the conclusion that transgender people are delusional members of their originally-assigned sex, and for whom any treatment is merely "palliative" (i.e., doesn't really do anything except make us "feel more comfortable").
Scientific studies from 1995 to date tell a different story.
In studies that were reported in 1995 and 2000, it was reported that there are significant structures in Trans brains that are different from those of members of the sex they are assigned at birth, and similar to those of the "opposite" sex.
In the last decade, we learned that there are genetic predispositions for embryological development in which the brain develops in one sexed direction while the genital tract develops along the other sex's lines. So when trans people are born, we really do not belong to the originally-assigned sex.
In 2008, two separate studies from Australia established separate genetic predispositions for different kinds of transgender development.
In one study, the predisposition for those who develop with female-identified brains and male genital tracts was shown to involve a long androgen receptor gene
The other study,aimed at those who develop with male-identified brains and female genital tract development, was entitled A Polymorphism of the CYP17 Gene 
These studies, the earlier brain structure studies from 1995 and 2000, and numerous other reports, provide clues to the ontological developments that result in transgender people. While there is much additional study required, these studies make it possible to discredit the primitive “brain as Skinner-box” understandings of transgender people that dates back to the time of that 1965 blue ribbon commission.
The reality is that trans people do not fit into a single narrow definition - since the most likely causation is rooted in one or another genetic predisposition, and not an “on-off” switch, working in conjunction with other factors affecting the ontological development of the embryo and fetus, it may explain why there is a diversity of trans experience.
We are arriving at a point in Western history in which there is a greater but not yet universal realization that "biological" includes the ontological development of the entire person and not merely the genitalia, and that genetics does not stop at the gross shape of the 23rd chromosome pair, but also delves into a number of genes and their expressions (the coding for the creation of enzymes, telomeres, cell receptors, etc.), and the probabilities of developmental paths that vary in one way or another from the binary expectation.  
Once society gets the science, then it might be time for us to gain a greater understanding of semiotics - the deeply esoteric study of the understanding of understanding, and the meaning of meaning.  I would recommend Umberto Eco's Kant and the Platypus to anyone who wants to get a grasp as to how people's perceptions are affected by improvements in knowledge.  It is a messy process, and it is neither instantaneous nor universal.  After all, some people still do believe in literalist young earth creationism, and that the moon landings were a hoax because the earth is flat. 
My assertion is that we who are trans are born *different* - we do not belong to the initially-assigned sex ab initio, even if we also may not at that time be properly assigned to the other. Since birth records are based on the simple expedient of the observation of infant external sex characteristics, it should be made easier to amend and correct the records once the reality is ascertained. I do believe that it should be possible for society to evolve to accept a diversity of sex assignment. Of course, since the "reality" in which we currently live does still have a strong binary-sex assignment bias, many of us, particularly those of us who are over a certain age, strongly identify with the binary sex not assigned at birth.
I cannot predict how an evolving societal perception of reality will affect those who are born into a society in which (one could postulate) trans-kids are accepted as being different. Leslie Feinberg might, if born in today's world, grow up to identify as genderqueer.
The fact that we are born different does not mean that trans people are all different in exactly the same way, or to exactly the same degree.
Being different in a binary-sexed world is a challenge.  My birth certificate calls me male, even though I know that is an error.  My driver’s license calls me female, because I fit into the New York DMV’s definitions for women.  I can get a passport that says female, and I can now have my social security records reflect that I am female.
That leads to a conundrum – up until now, I’ve had to deal with health insurance in which I am expected to fit one or the other of the binary expectations of sex, even though my trans body doesn’t fit entirely into either Column A or Column B.
If I was classified as “male” my medical insurance would cover prostate screenings, but not hormones – classify me as “female” and I get the HRT, but have to get anonymous PSA tests at a free clinic.
Having my driver’s license identifying me as female, and having more of a need for HRT than for a rare prostate screening, I am listed as female on my health records – which comes with a periodic reminder from a well-meaning insurer that I am overdue for my pelvic exam and pap smear.
What trans people need is medical care and medical coverage that is designed to treat us with dignity and respect, and that rather than denying us coverage based on arbitrary decisions as to what comes under Column A, and what comes under Column B, we are able to get tested and treated for those items from both Column A and Column B that apply to our bodies.
And yes – some of us actually do need a periodic pelvic exam and pap smear as well as a PSA test.
The time of the either/or coverage may be coming to an end under the Affordable Care Act – there are twoc ritical sections of this law that have, or should have, a bearing on transgender health care:
Affordable Care Act §1302 requires consideration of “diverse segments of the population” in the design of the Essential Health Benefit standard. This provision is intended to help fulfill the Affordable Care Act’s goals of reducing health disparities and expanding access to adequate insurance coverage, especially for populations that prevailing practices in insurance markets frequently marginalize.
ACA §1302 also prohibits Essential Health Care package designs that discriminate against individuals on the basis of factors such as disability. Though the statute directs this requirement at the Secretary of Health and Human Services, any scope and duration limits included in state-designated essential benefits packages will be subject to review by the Department of Health and Human Services, which effectively extends this requirement to the states as well.
Even though the New York State Medicaid Regulations in effect since 1998 prohibit hormone and surgical care for trans people, neither the Affordable Care Act nor any New York statute excludes Gender Dysphoria or related conditions from the term “disability.”

This indicates that GD and related conditions may be seen as constituting a disability under the law, subject to the same requirements as other conditions.
Arbitrary condition-based exclusions such as those targeting transgender people represent exactly the kind of discriminatory barriers to coverage and care that the ACA was designed to eliminate.
The 2011 Institute of Medicine report on the essential benefits clarifies that Congress intended “to ensure that insurers do not make arbitrary and discriminatory decisions based on certain characteristics of people rather than assessing the individuality of each case when making medical necessity decisions and applying clinical policies.” Fully implementing the law’s nondiscrimination mandates thus requires reasonable restrictions on condition-based exclusions in the context of the essential benefits.
The other section that bears watching is the provision calling for Nondiscrimination on the basis of sex and gender identity: ACA §1557 and federal regulations regarding the establishment of exchanges and standards for eligibility and enrollment in qualified health plans
ACA §1557(a) prohibits discrimination in any health program receiving federal funds or by any entity established under Title I of the Affordable Care Act, including the exchanges. This provision references the protections of several federal civil rights laws, including Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972. Through this law, §1557 incorporates nondiscrimination protections on the basis of sex. Recent interpretations by federal courts and executive agencies indicate that such sex-based protections cover transgender people through an interpretation of the term “sex” that includes gender identity and nonconformity with sex stereotypes.  In particular, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission recently issued a formal ruling that gender identity discrimination is per se sex discrimination.
Further, regulations issued by the Department of Health and Human Services in March 2012 explicitly prohibit discrimination on the basis of gender identity in all activities of the exchange, as well as the activities of qualified health plan (QHP) issuers with regard to their QHPs.  Accordingly, QHP issuers are prohibited from offering QHPs that discriminate on the basis of gender identity by denying transgender consumers coverage for services that are covered for nontransgender consumers.
Notwithstanding the fact that the ACA seems to prohibit discrimination, we’re already seeing discriminatory practices popping up.

In a Huffington Post piece and at a White House briefing on the topic in September, Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius claimed that Obamacare will address these problems, specifically in the areas of discrimination, lower premiums, and pre-existing conditions like HIV/AIDS, cancer, and mental health.
"We've also taken action to strengthen the civil rights provision in the law, by clarifying that the new law's prohibition on sex discrimination includes discrimination based on sex stereotyping, and on gender identity," Sebelius wrote.
BUT in at least two known cases, trans women have been denied free mammogram screenings under the ACA because of misguided guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control guidelines that ignore the statute and limit free mammogram screenings to women who are “genetically female” - Whatever that is supposed to mean – “genetically” ought to include those women of trans experience with that long androgen receptor gene, as well as anyone with a similar predisposition that is as yet undiscovered.
Separately, a New Jersey transgender woman, aged 44, also had to fight for a mammogram for breasts that developed from hormone therapy, the New York Daily News reported.
In that case, the Transgender Legal Defense and Education Fund helped the transwoman get the screening — and an apology from Aetna, the insurer. Previously, Aetna denied the mammogram because it fell under policy exclusions for treatments related to “changing sex”
Section 1557 of the Affordable Care Act prohibits discrimination in health care programs on the basis of race, color, national origin, sex, sex stereotypes, gender identity, age, or disability.  This is the first time that federal law has prohibited sex discrimination in health care.  Health insurers, hospitals, the health insurance exchanges, and any other entities that receive federal funds are covered by this law.  It became effective upon passage of the ACA.

While it will still require a continuing struggle, we can make a difference as society comes to grips with an improved understanding of the nature of reality – one that includes trans people as people entitled to dignity, respect, and fair and equal treatment.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Massachusetts at the Cutting Edge?

The following is the text of an e-mail message I sent to Boston Globe columnist Lawrence HArmon, who wrote in his column how he was enrsaged by a court's decision to allow convicted murderer Robert Kosilek, sho is serving a life sentence without possibility of parole for killing her wife, to have GRS at state expense:

Mr. Harmon:

In your September 7, 2012 column, Judge goes too far in sex change ruling which I read at:

http://articles.boston.com/2012-09-07/opinion/33713842_1_reassignment-surgery-gender-identity-disorder-michelle-kosilek ,

you described the judge's decision to mandate that the government provide GRS to imprisoned felon Kosilek as "enraging."

I have to disagree - I think of it as an encouraging sign of the change in the societal perception of trans people that has been taking place in the past decade or so.

What enrages me is the fact that medical insurance, medicare, medicaid, etc. don't all cover trans medical needs in the same way that they treat diabetes, atherosclerosis or any other medical issue. GRS is far from experimental - it is the standard method of treatment for transsexual people.

You describe inadequate treatment as being "more moderate" - it's not "more moderate," it's cruel and unusual. or should be unusual.

It is not that Kosilek should be denied treatment, it's that everyone else who needs it should have it available - whether they are privately insured or on a government medical program.

Societal understanding has been improving over the years. In the 1960's the best medical experts considered trans people to be delusional members of their initiallya ssigned sex, for whom any treatment would be merely "palliative."

Today we know that trans people have brains that develop physiologically along the gendered lines associated with the sex not associated with their genital duct development. Scientists have found at least two kinds of genetic predisposition for embryological development along these lines, where the developing body "zigs" along one path for the developigng brain, and "zags" along the other path for the development of the reproductive system.

At one time, people thought the earth was flat and the sun traveled around the earth. Galileo was condemned by the Inquisition for advancing the Copernican theory - but we now know the earth is round and the earth orbits the sun.

In 1818, a New York court ignored the testimony of the leading natural scientist of the day, in favor of the testimony of sea captains and clergymembers, to hold that whales are fish. But whales are still mammals - and the state legislature recognized that shortly thereafter.

I'd recommend you read a little of Umberto Eco's works on semiotics. What our society is experiencing in connection with the understanding of the trans phenomena is much like the way society has experienced changes in the understanding of other things.

Your column represents the resistance of ignorance - perhaps out of ignorance, but I'd think you, as a journalist, should be educable, or I wouldn;t have bothered with this message to you.

I'd suggest you do some research on your own. Perhaps you might read my occasional blog. (And I think I am going to take this message and post it there . . . at www.trans-cendence.blogspot.com )


Joann Prinzivalli