Posts tagged ‘BBC’

January 7th, 2012

Transgender Americans take on New York

by tcjmhk

4 January 2012 Last updated at 23:15 ET

Transgender Americans take on New York

By Daniel Nasaw BBC News Magazine, New York

Joann Prinzivalli says she believes a person’s sexual identity is determined by their mind rather than their genitals

 

A group of transgender men and women want New York City to make it easier to change the “M” or “F” on their birth certificates. What makes a man or a woman, and why do governments care?

In the annals of unhappy encounters with driving licence authority officials, Patricia Harrington’s and Joann Prinzivalli’s seem particularly miserable.

Both had been living as women for years, but still carried birth certificates showing the sex they were designated at birth – male.

Ms Harrington, who was hoping to transfer her New York state driving licence to the state of New Jersey, was told to return with a doctor’s note.

“It just made me furious,” says Ms Harrington.

“I would just like to get a corrected birth certificate that identifies me, so that when I have to show it for identification I don’t automatically become some kind of criminal suspect.”

‘It’s personal’

New York City, where both were born, will amend a person’s birth certificate to reflect a sex change, but only if the person has undergone “convertive surgery” on the genitals.

A detail from Joann Prinzivalli's birth certificate Joann Prinzivalli’s birth certificate lists her as male; She says she is female

In practice, transgender people say, that means turning penises into vaginas or vice versa, and Ms Harrington is content to keep the male bits she was born with.

“It’s personal, it’s my privates, it’s not necessary. It’s a very expensive procedure which I can’t afford, and it’s got complications. I’m not sexually active. If I was 21 and I could afford it, yeah, but I’m 59.”

Last year, Ms Harrington, Ms Prinzivalli and another transgender person sued the city of New York to force it to relax its birth certificate change requirements.

The suit is part of a quiet movement across the US and beyond to bring the rules governing identity documents into line with what transgender advocates describe as advances in the understanding of sex classification.

It is the contents of a person’s mind and soul, they say, which determine sex – not what is inside their pants.

“Recognition of our gender is really a matter of basic human dignity,” says Masen Davis, executive director of the Transgender Law Center in San Francisco.

“Transgender people – like all of us – deserve to live with dignity and respect. Having something as simple as government recognition of our authentic gender identity goes a long way in promoting health, wellness and safety.”

Roadblocks and harassment

In the US, birth certificates can be required to apply for public benefits like food stamps and healthcare, for professional certification, to register for school, to marry, to prove employment eligibility, and in other circumstances.

Continue reading the main story

“People don’t just change their [gender] role not knowing whether they’re going to like it or not. It’s not a casual decision”

–Walter Bockting Psychologist

Transgender Americans have complained of bureaucratic roadblocks and harassment when they produce a birth certificate that lists a sex different from the one they are living.

In interviews with transgender individuals, motor vehicle clerks seem especially unforgiving.

“When I showed them the birth certificate, the clerk behind the counter changed her demeanour and very loudly referred to me as ‘sir’ and ‘this gentleman’,” says Ms Prinzivalli, who has lived as a woman for more than a decade.

“It was a mortifying experience. I’m being stripped of my identity by some [motor vehicle] clerk that I have to treat respectfully. It took me days to start crawling back up out of the little hole I dug myself.”

Success in California

The issue at stake in New York and elsewhere – both inside the US and overseas – is not whether transgender people should be allowed to amend identity documents (only a US handful of states forbid a birth certificate change outright).

Instead the debate centres on where officials draw the line between male and female.

Patricia Harrington Harrington needed to show her ‘male’ birth certificate when she moved house

The US government and many US states, as well as the UK and Australia, have done away with the requirement for surgery to convert the genitals. That is partly in response to transgender activists who say the requirement was based on an obsolete understanding of sexual identity.

In 2011 the Transgender Law Center successfully pushed for passage of legislation ending surgery as a requirement to obtain a new birth certificate in California.

In September, Australia began allowing transgender individuals to change the sex on their passports without having to undergo sex reassignment surgery; in October the nation’s highest court gave legal recognition to two transgender men who had not had sex-change surgery.

Under the 2004 Gender Recognition Act, the UK does not require genital surgery before allowing individuals to obtain official recognition of their new gender.

And in 2010, the US State Department issued new guidelines requiring only “appropriate clinical treatment” to obtain a new passport or a birth certificate for US citizens born outside the country.

New York refuses

New York City’s board of health and mental hygiene has resisted pressure to change its birth certificate policy.

In a 2006 ruling the board cited potential impacts on hospitals, schools and jails, and opted to maintain the genital surgery requirement.

So last year, Ms Harrington, Ms Prinzivalli and a transgender man who was designated female at birth sued the city.

The city has sought to have the suit dismissed, arguing that sex as recorded on the birth certificate refers to biological and physical characteristics like the nature of the genitals, while the lived experience of socially constructed roles are gender, a separate category.

“The utilisation of sex as a classification method is rational, since it is a straight forward way to ensure that birth records in the City of New York are uniform,” lawyers for the city wrote in a court filing.

“The standard leaves little room for individual interpretation. By simply looking at a baby’s genitalia, an individual is able to determine its sex.”

The city says if it were to allow an individual like Ms Prinzivalli to obtain a new birth certificate with the different sex, it would be “knowingly issuing a false public record”.

Transgender individuals and their advocates say the city’s conception of sex is outdated and inappropriately narrow.

However, officials for the New York City department of health and mental hygiene did not respond to a request for comment.

Oral arguments in the case are scheduled for next month.

Permanent change

Genital surgery is complicated, risky, invasive and entails a long period of recovery, and the vast majority of transgender individuals have not undergone it. The procedures are also expensive and out of reach for many.

Only about 20% of male-to-female transgender people have had genital reconstruction surgery, and only about 5% of female-to-male, estimates Walter Bockting, a psychologist at the University of Minnesota medical school who has 20 years of clinical experience working with transgender patients.

Dr Bockting says a more appropriate standard for new identity documents would be evidence the role change is permanent and medically necessary to relieve the stress would-be transgender people experience from the conflict between their gender identity and their birth sex.

“People don’t just change their role not knowing whether they’re going to like it or not,” Mr Bockting says. “It’s not a casual decision.”

Some, like Joanne Prinzivalli – whose birth certificate still lists her as Paul and as male – are medically precluded from the surgery.

Nick Gorton, an emergency room doctor who has lived as a man for about nine years and who says he has “perfect passing privilege” without genital surgery, ridicules governments’ insistence that sex depends on what is between the legs.

“Let’s say if a woman gets a really bad cancer and has to have a hysterectomy or a vaginectomy. Does she have to change her gender marker?”

Source: BBC

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December 18th, 2011

Gay marriage improves health

by tcjmhk

Source: BBC.co.uk

Legalising same-sex marriage may create a healthier environment for gay men, say US researchers.

The number of visits by gay men to health clinics dropped significantly after same-sex unions were allowed in the state Massachusetts.

This was regardless of whether the men were in a stable relationship, reported the American Journal of Public Health.

A UK HIV charity said there was a clear link between happiness and health.

Research has already suggested that gay men are more likely to suffer from depression and suicidal thoughts than heterosexual men, and that social exclusion may be partly responsible.

‘Lasting repercussions’

Same-sex marriages are legal in six US states, with Massachusetts the first to allow them in 2003.

Researchers from Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health surveyed the demand for medical and mental health care from 1,211 gay men registered with a particular health clinic in the 12 months prior to the change, and the 12 months afterwards.

“Start Quote

It’s no surprise that people who are treated as second class citizens tend to have low self esteem, which in turn makes them more likely to take risks”

Terrence Higgins Trust spokesman

They found a 13% drop in healthcare visits after the law was enacted.

There was a reduction in blood pressure problems, depression and “adjustment disorders”, which the authors claimed could be the result of reduced stress.

Lesbian women were not included in the study as there were insufficient numbers to give a statistically meaningful result.

Dr Mark Hatzenbuehler, who led the study, said: “Our results suggest that removing these barriers improves the health of gay and bisexual men

“Marriage equality may produce broad public health benefits by reducing the occurrence of stress-related health conditions.”

A spokesman for the Terrence Higgins Trust, a UK-based sexual health and HIV charity, said: “There is a known link between health and happiness.

“It’s no surprise that people who are treated as second class citizens tend to have low self esteem, which in turn makes them more likely to take risks.

“Whether this is drugs, alcohol abuse, or unsafe sex, treating gay men unequally has lasting repercussions for their health.”

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December 10th, 2011

Out in the World: Episode 2

by tcjmhk

Source: bbc.co.uk

Richard Coles confronts accusations that the West is attempting to force gay rights on Africa, Asia and the Middle East.

Most Western states are keen to spread gay equality around the globe.

But some local political and religious leaders often claim that homosexuality is a foreign import – leading to charges that the West is engaged in a new form of imperialism.

Looking to the past, Richard Coles attempts to sort out historical fact from political propaganda – exploring the degree to which modern gay identity is a Western construct which has no place beyond Europe and North America.

And he asks gay rights leaders across the world about the competing claims.

Related Links

 

Discussion of China begins at 12:20 on the counter with an excellent interview of Dr.Travis Kong of the HKU Department of Sociology.

Lots of references to the Bible, poetry, and Martin Luther King.

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November 30th, 2011

Out in the World

by tcjmhk

Media :

Listen now (25 minutes)

Synopsis

Episode image for Episode 1

Richard Coles confronts accusations that the West is attempting to force gay rights on Africa, Asia and the Middle East.

Most Western states are keen to spread gay equality around the globe.

But some local political and religious leaders often claim that homosexuality is a foreign import – leading to charges that the West is engaged in a new form of imperialism.

Looking to the past, Richard Coles attempts to sort out historical fact from political propaganda – exploring the degree to which modern gay identity is a Western construct which has no place beyond Europe and North America.

And he asks gay rights leaders across the world about the competing claims.

(Image: A gay couple kisses during the 2nd Gay Parade Against Homophobia in Brazil. Credit: Getty)

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August 15th, 2011

Homosexual zebra finches form long-term bond

by tcjmhk

By Victoria Gill Science reporter, BBC Nature

Two bonded male zebra finches (Image: Julie Elie)
The male-male pairs nestled and preened each other just like male-female pairs

Same-sex pairs of monogamous birds are just as attached and faithful to each other as those paired with a member of the opposite sex.

The insight comes from a study of zebra finches – highly vocal, colourful birds that sing to their mates, a performance thought to strengthen the pair’s bond.

Scientists found that same-sex pairs of finches sang to and preened each other just like heterosexual pairs.

The study is reported in the journal Behavioural Ecology and Sociobiology.

A displaying pair of king penguins Male king penguins have been seen to “flirt” with other males in the colony

Lead researcher Julie Elie from the University of California Berkeley said that the research showed that “relationships in animals can be more complicated than just a male and a female who meet and reproduce, even in birds”.

Dr Elie and her colleagues are interested in zebra finches’ behaviour. The birds establish life-long relationships and are highly social; males sing to their mates, the birds preen each other and pairs share a nest.

“I’m interested in how animals establish relationships and how [they] use acoustic communication in their social interactions,” Dr Elie told BBC Nature.

“My observations of [them] led me to this surprising result: same-sex individuals would also interact in affiliative manners, like male-female pairs.”

Dr Elie decided to look more closely at the formation of these bonds and the behaviour of finches in same-sex pairs.

First, she and her colleagues, Clementine Vignal and Nicolas Mathevon from the University of Saint-Etienne, raised young finches in same-sex groups. More than half of the birds paired up with another bird of the same sex.

The team then closely monitored the birds for signs that they had bonded fully.

Bonded birds, Dr Elie explained, perch side by side, nestled together. They also greet each other by “nuzzling” beaks.

Continue reading the main story

“Start Quote

Albatrosses (Image: Brandon Cole/NPL)

Female partners copulate with a paired male then rear the young together”

Dr Julie Elie UC Berkeley

In the next stage of their study, the scientists brought novel females to a group of bonded male-male pairs. Out of eight males that were engaged in same-sex pair-bonds, five ignored the females completely and continued to interact with their male partner.

The findings indicate that, even in birds, the drive to find a mate is far more complicated than simply the need to reproduce.

“A pair-bond in socially monogamous species represents a cooperative partnership that may give advantages for survival,” said Dr Elie. “Finding a social partner, whatever its sex, could be a priority.”

There are many other examples of same-sex pairing in the avian world.

In monogamous gulls and albatrosses, it gives females the chance to breed without a male partner.

“Female partners copulate with a paired male then rear the young together,” Dr Elie explained.

In captivity, there have been at least two cases of male penguins forming long-term bonds when there are females available.

Perhaps the most famous of these was two male chinstrap penguins in Manhattan’s Central Park Zoo, named Roy and Silo. They bonded and paid no attention to females in their enclosure for at least a year.

They even built a nest together and incubated and hatched a fertilised egg donated to them by one of the keepers.

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The article referred to, in the journal Behavioural Ecology and Sociobiology, can be read here:
www.springerlink.com/content/l211457604334146
These materials add to a now large body of peer-reviewed knowledge that same-sex pairing, mating, and rearing of young is common in nature. The key point that really caught my attention is this:
Lead researcher Julie Elie from the University of California Berkeley said that the research showed that “relationships in animals can be more complicated than just a male and a female who meet and reproduce, even in birds”.
The traditional mantra in evolutionary biology has always been that what is “adaptive” (survival of the fittest) is what helps individuals live in order to reproduce, i.e., pass their genes along.
Anything else is not “adaptive.”  Hence, the long debate about the naturally occurring phenomenon of the “problem” of homosexuality.  How can it be “adaptive” if it is not reproductive.?
Several older books have attempted answers to this question, perhaps the best being Jim McKnight’s STRAIGHT SCIENCE? HOMOSEXUALITY, EVOLUTION AND ADAPTATION (1997).
But these recent studies are providing remarkable new and refreshing answers.
The upshot: Nothing that occurs in nature can, by definition, be “unnatural.”