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Thursday, March 22, 2007

on normal reactions

I try to mostly stay away from negative people here; This I can't let pass, though.

A fellow transitioner has been brutally murdered in San Francisco, and she'll be listed soon among our dead, no doubt, at rememberingourdead.org.

Michael Savage (pseud.), who has eight million listeners, had this to say about it, according to MediaMatters:
On the March 20 broadcast of his nationally syndicated radio show, Michael Savage discussed a San Francisco Chronicle report detailing the murder of a transgender woman whose body was found naked near a freeway outside San Francisco. Savage read a sentence from the article stating that "it appeared the victim had been in the process of becoming a woman," to which Savage replied: "Yeah, process of becoming a woman -- psychopath. He should have been in a back ward in a straitjacket for years, howling on major medication." He went on to say, "And what's this sympathy, constant sympathy for sexually confused people? Why should we have constant sympathy for people who are freaks in every society?" adding, "But you know what? You're never gonna make me respect the freak. I don't want to respect the freak." Savage concluded: "The freak ought to be glad that they're allowed to walk around without begging for something. You know, I'm sick and tired of the whole country begging, bending over backwards for the junkie, the freak, the pervert, the illegal immigrant...."
Well, it's nice to know someone out there is thinking of me.

I'm a gardener, a farmer, and a library project manager who likes kayaking and has four good kids to her credit -- and eighteen years of rave reviews from supervisors as a State employee -- so I don't feel I have to apologize for existing.

Of the 30,000 to 40,000 Americans who have had sexual reassignment surgery, nearly all are living such boring and unexceptionable lives that people like Savage don't notice us. Transmen stand next to him at the urinals, and transwomen shop next to his wife in the grocery store. And nothing weird happens. We're that ordinary.

And although medical and scientific studies have shown that our condition is innate -- not a lifestyle choice -- Savage and his ilk would deny us access to the one recourse that has been statistically shown to be helpful: transition.

According to the studies that have been done on this (Friedemann Pfaefflin, Astrid Junge, Sex Reassignment. Thirty Years of International Follow-up Studies After Sex Reassignment Surgery: A Comprehensive Review, 1961-1991), over sixteen percent of pre-operative transsexuals attempt suicide, whereas for post-operative transsexuals, the rate is under two percent. This would mean that SRS is perhaps the most successful procedure in the history of psychiatric intervention.

I sympathise with poor Mr. Savage (Dr. Weiner -- he's a nutritionist); his reaction to the thought of the existence of transpeople, which he, like many, confuses with that of homosexuals (alike in some ways but different in others - one could be both or neither), is a normal reaction.

I say that, knowing that it tends to startle my friends, most of whom are gay or lesbian or allies.

But it needs to be looked into.

Why do heterosexual parents tend to overwhelmingly shield their children from access to facts about, or the (known) presence of, gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgendered, or intersexed (born with primary or secondary sexual characteristics of both sexes) persons?

I remember that I did this myself when I was a heterosexual parent of small children, and felt very much in the right to do so at the time. I can't excuse it other than to note that the feeling was that kind of core feeling one gets from a biological imperative -- such as one's vigilance to keep one's children from being run over by a car, or starving to death.

Not everyone has, or can have, children. Some are infertile, or born with incomplete reproductive organs. Yet, so long as their behavior is heterosexual, they're not regarded as pariahs -- much.

But most people are physically capable of coupling in ways that result in children, and our social adaptations -- such as the various forms of male/female marriage (usually a property-clarifying contract assuming there will be genetic heirs) found round the world -- are shored up by sanctions intended to maximize the potential for carrying on the species.

There's a social contract, in other words, between our DNA and our culture.

We're all trained to honor that contract from a very early age, the idea being that the more people who can be restrained from turning out to deviate from the norm beyond certain culturally established bounds, the more the species will survive. Fertile people are given massive support for compliance. And infertile people are given points for at least trying.

If you marry heterosexually, have kids and successfully raise the kids to be heterosexuals (although 92% will be whether you try or not, and the other 8% won't, again whether you try or not), you will get certain advantages and protections via governmental agencies, the laws, the tax structure, the insurance system, the school systems, the church or synagogue or temple of your choice, and, importantly, your neighbors.

Tribally-sanctioned behaviors.

Woo, primitive stuff.

:::

There's a place in your hypothalamus where other people's pheromones impact your cortisol production (Ivanka Savic, Hans Berglund, and Per Lindström, "Brain response to putative pheromones in homosexual men"). If you are a heterosexual male, you tend respond to female chemicals. If you are a homosexual male, says the study, you tend to respond to male chemicals.

Studies suggest these tendencies, both the one and the other, are innate (born). And so a gay person feels just as "right" in orientation as the hetero. One person is as "natural" as the other.

And it's no good suggesting, as many uneducated people do, that this happens only in humans. The number of mammalian species in which same-sex couplings are said by scientists to have been observed is up to 1500 and counting.

:::

What happens when you smell the pheromones you aren't attracted to?

I know that for most of my life I have been repelled by the bodies of men.

Presumably I had "normal" pheromone tracking in my hypothalamus.

Woman smell good, man smell bad.

Smell woman, smile.

Smell man, frown.

And as a visual animal, I reacted to things seen much as to things smelled. The sight of men kissing each other was repugnant to me, and I am sure I must have frowned, just as I once saw my father frown upon discovering that my hair had grown.

Charles Darwin (The Expression of Emotion in Man and Animals [1904, 28-29]) deduced three principles in the production of expression: The Principle of Associated Habits; The Principle of Antithesis, and The Principle of Actions Due to the Constitution of the Nervous System.

Habit we may ascribe to individual usage over time, with or without reinforcement from a social setting (men kissing men = bad).

Antithesis, the encountering of the unexpected (such as happening upon a man kissing a man in a society in which men kissing men = bad).

Habit we may relearn at the behest of civilization; surprise ends when a thing seen often no longer surprises. These are mechanisms well understood, under the name of habituation and dishabituation, from such studies as that of the nervous system of a sea slug.

But as actions originating from the constitution of the nervous system, what shall we say?

Dr. Weiner reacts savagely to the thought of gay men or transwomen (lesbians and transmen don't seem to occupy his imagination as much).

We don't surprise him; his analysis of civilization as going to hell in a handbasket would lead him to expect our presence. He's an analytical person (though many would deny it), so I doubt that any habituation to bigotry by his parents or his synagogue can explain his attitude.

His reaction may be visceral, just as mine was for so many years.

The constitution of the nervous system is normative; he is disgusted by that which, as it is not how he is wired (from birth), must seem to him abnormal. Add societal training and assorted concepts will reinforce the impression and the reaction, which is where ideas such as "freak" or Crime Against Nature, or Sin -- come in.

This is assuming he's not a closeted/repressed homosexual himself.

Some gay men have sometimes mentioned to me that the sight of a man kissing a woman produces a similar gut reaction --as in "Ewww!"

What to watch out for is the conflation of our normal neuro/hormonally driven reactionary behaviors -- "Ewwww!" -- with normative, socially driven reactionary imperatives.

Just because the sight of a guy kissing his boyfriend has been known to creep me out does not equate to his being somehow evil or sinful for doing so.

I'm creeped out by people eating wasabi.

Doesn't mean I need to bully, ostracize or kill them for it!

My wasabi problem is my own.

Different situations, you may say. Wasabi-eaters aren't a danger to children...whereas gays...

Nope.

Gay and lesbian behavior does not lead to kids being molested. Rape isn't sex, it's power. Most of those who aren't safe to have around your children -- including those of the same sex -- are hetero males.

I'll repeat that.

Most of those, either numerically or by percentage, who aren't safe to have around your children -- including those of the same sex -- are hetero males.

Here's a quick cut-and-paste of a survey of the data by Gregory M. Herek, Ph.D. :
For the present discussion, the important point is that many child molesters cannot be meaningfully described as homosexuals, heterosexuals, or bisexuals (in the usual sense of those terms) because they are not really capable of a relationship with an adult man or woman. Instead of gender, their sexual attractions are based primarily on age. These individuals – who are often characterized as fixated – are attracted to children, not to men or women.

Using the fixated-regressed distinction, Groth and Birnbaum (1978) studied 175 adult males who were convicted in Massachusetts of sexual assault against a child. None of the men had an exclusively homosexual adult sexual orientation. 83 (47%) were classified as "fixated;" 70 others (40%) were classified as regressed adult heterosexuals; the remaining 22 (13%) were classified as regressed adult bisexuals. Of the last group, Groth and Birnbaum observed that "in their adult relationships they engaged in sex on occasion with men as well as with women. However, in no case did this attraction to men exceed their preference for women....There were no men who were primarily sexually attracted to other adult males..." (p.180).

Other researchers have taken different approaches, but have similarly failed to find a connection between homosexuality and child molestation. Dr. Carole Jenny and her colleagues reviewed 352 medical charts, representing all of the sexually abused children seen in the emergency room or child abuse clinic of a Denver children's hospital during a one-year period (from July 1, 1991 to June 30, 1992). The molester was a gay or lesbian adult in fewer than 1% in which an adult molester could be identified – only 2 of the 269 cases (Jenny et al., 1994).
He goes on to note:
Reflecting the results of these and other studies, the mainstream view among researchers and professionals who work in the area of child sexual abuse is that homosexual and bisexual men do not pose any special threat to children. For example, in one review of the scientific literature, noted authority Dr. A. Nicholas Groth wrote:
Are homosexual adults in general sexually attracted to children and are preadolescent children at greater risk of molestation from homosexual adults than from heterosexual adults? There is no reason to believe so. The research to date all points to there being no significant relationship between a homosexual lifestyle and child molestation. There appears to be practically no reportage of sexual molestation of girls by lesbian adults, and the adult male who sexually molests young boys is not likely to be homosexual (Groth & Gary, 1982, p. 147).

In a more recent literature review, Dr. Nathaniel McConaghy (1998) similarly cautioned against confusing homosexuality with pedophilia. He noted, "The man who offends against prepubertal or immediately postpubertal boys is typically not sexually interested in older men or in women" (p. 259).

This well known lack of a linkage between homosexuality and child molestation accounts for why relatively little research has directly addressed the issue. Proving something we already know simply isn't a priority. Indeed, a commentary that accompanied publication of the 1994 study by Jenny et al. in Pediatrics noted that debates about gay people as molesters "have little to do with everyday child abuse" and lamented that they distract lawmakers and the public from dealing with the real problem of children's sexual mistreatment (Krugman, 1994).
:::

Those of you who have followed this blog from its early days will remember that my own awareness of men has undergone a sea change.

I'll recap: I began hormone replacement therapy (HRT) in August of 2003. Under the influence of estrogen and in the absence of testosterone, I've gone the way of many former hetero males in becoming what can only best be described as a hetero female. That is, I find some guys (nice, gentlemanly, i.e., not Dr. Weiner) attractive.

It's my belief that this is not a homosexual orientation as it was never there before and, given my prior history of distaste for the idea of men as sexual partners, I suspect I have the "normal" set of pheromone receptors, the polarity of which reversed along with my hormone supply.

But! I am different from most norm-conforming people, in some way that enrages Dr. Weiner.

It may be that the
bed nucleus of the stria terminalis in my hypothalamus (J.-N. Zhou, M.A. Hofman, L.J. Gooren and D.F. Swaab, "A Sex Difference in the Human Brain and its Relation to Transsexuality" NATURE, 378: 68-70 [1995]) is half the size of that in cisgendered males.

Assuming that is true, I pass my own gut-feeling test of being female because that's the internal data I get. So I'm now a hetero female, at least in my own estimation and that of millions of others, who seem to be able to get on with their lives without being enraged at the existence of someone who's a little different.

I don't see where that qualifies me as Dr. Weiner's "psychopath." "
Currently, psychopathy is defined in psychiatry as a condition characterized by lack of empathy or conscience, and poor impulse control or manipulative behaviors," says the Wikipedia article.

Someone lacking empathy, hmm. Conscience, hmmm. Manipulative. I think "psychopath" is pretty close in meaning to 'bully."

Which, I gather, is pretty much what Dr. Weiner is.

A bully.


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