Thursday, December 17, 2009
Tuesday, December 15, 2009
Apparently, the recording companies that whined and cried for years that internet file sharing was a violation of copyright laws were, themselves, violating the copyright laws. In a BIG way.
Tuesday, December 8, 2009
Now, if you noticed a few RCMP officers shoot an unarmed man, then shoot him some more while he's on the ground, you might wonder if they were being a little over-zealous. That's what 4 RCMP officers did to a Polish man in Vancouver in 2007. Now a report is out saying that the officers used their weapons irresponsibly, that they did not follow proper protocols, and that the RCMP as an organization didn't respond properly either.
Response from RCMP Commissioner William Elliott? "No comment."
Forgive me for thinking that RCMP Commissioner William Elliott is a jerk.
Tuesday, December 1, 2009
Sweden joins countries including Russia that have already changed their laws to allow gay men to donate blood. Meanwhile, the United States and England still bar men who have had sex with men from donating.So does Canada, but it's time we opened our eyes to the fact that our ban on gay blood donors is ridiculously overbearing.
Saturday, November 28, 2009
Now that that's all over with, I'm hoping that I can get back to blogging a little bit. Today we'll start things off easy (by letting someone else to all the writing). ;)
Via Canadian Cynic (who just recently linked to this blog, nearly making me crap my pants with excitement), Kathleen Parker of The Washington Post elaborates on how today's Republicans are more concerned with their outdated principles than adapting to the times.
My favourite part:
Most of us know that decisiveness isn't always a virtue, yet those pushing the purity test seem to view nuance as an enemy of conservatism. The old elite corps of the conservative movement, men such as William F. Buckley and Russell Kirk, undoubtedly would find this attitude both dangerous and bizarre. When did thinking go out of style?
Thursday, October 8, 2009
When Galileo told the Pope
“Here, look into my telescope—
You’ll see much beauty there, I hope.”
His Holiness, the Pope, said “Nope.”
“Now kiss my ring, instead, and swear
That nothing of the sort is there—
I know you think it is not fair,
But I’m the Pope, as you’re aware.”
The Pope’s command was quite absurd,
But Galileo gave his word,
(Though some report him undeterred:
“E pur si muove” overheard.)
In hindsight now, with great delight,
We know, despite his Papal might,
That evidence would come to light
To prove the heretic was right.
With Urban’s ring already kissed,
The chance to get it right was missed,
Just one more error on the list—
But now, we find another twist!
What wonders will the cosmos bring?
Now Saturn sports another ring!
Much bigger than the Pope’s, this thing
Is interplanetary bling!
Four centuries have come to pass
Since Galileo ground his glass;
Far too much time for him, alas,
To tell the Pope to kiss his ass.
But now, the kids will learn in school:
That Saturn sports another jewel;
That telescopes are really cool;
One may be Pope, but still a fool.
Monday, September 28, 2009
Tuesday, September 22, 2009
This information should be considered by Mainers who will be asked to approve or REJECT Proposition 1 this November, barring gays and lesbians from marrying in that state.
In a much-appreciated memo today, the Maine chapter of the American Academy of Pediatricians urged voters to reject the ban. Cuz, you know, that's what would ACTUALLY be good for the children of Maine. From the press release:
"As pediatricians, we see how supportive parents -- whether gay or straight -- positively impact the development of children. That is why we oppose the referendum that would rescind the law that allows same sex couples to marry."
*Please note that there are also studies that suggest that single-parents can do just as well raising children.
Maine's gay marriage law is being put up to a public vote this fall because of the workings of anti-gay activists who simply couldn't accept that the Maine legislature passed the law fair and square. If you live in Maine, or know anyone who does, spread the message: NO ON 1!
Hat tip to Sandwalk--a fantastic Canadian science blogger based out of Toronto.
Thursday, September 10, 2009
First, the plight of homosexuals with regards to mental health bears the double taboo of homosexuality and mental illness. Both of these topics tend to make people skiddish, particularly when speaking in public. But this issue needs to be discussed publicly, not least because LGBT people have higher rates of suicide and suicide attempts than the general population.
Secondly, the old mistake of equating correlation with causation plays into the hands of anti-gay activists. They consistently take these types of findings and twist them to make it seem as though being gay is inherently detrimental to one's mental well-being. This will likely also happen with this study, despite the authors' own statement that:
"The pervasive and historically rooted societal pathologizing of homosexuality may contribute to this propensity for treatment by construing homosexuality and issues associated with it as mental health problems."
The truth needs to be trumpeted, loud and clear.
Alvin McEwan does an excellent job of cataloging and dismantling these anti-gay attacks at his blog Holy Bullies and Headless Monsters.
Saturday, September 5, 2009
Friday, August 28, 2009
These treatments are usually benign. Usually. How, you might ask, could something like homeopathy (which is really just water) be unhealthy? Well, sometimes the practitioners of ACM (alternative and complimentary medicine) are very critical of real medicine. Frankly, I'd hate to lend my credibility to a practitioner that is just going to diss me behind my back and possibly convince my patient they no longer need my help. Also, some ACM/natural treatments actually are harmful, or can decrease the efficiency of proven medical remidies. St. John's wort, for example decreases the efficacy of anti-retrovirals (used in the treatment of HIV infection) and oral contraceptive therapy. Even grapefruit juice can alter the metabolism of certain drugs.
So even though "alternative treatments" usually don't hurt, I still cringe when my patients say they use them, and I never recommend them.
But some other people in the world are soooooo certain that their unproven, hokey, primitive, might-as-well-be-called-magic treatments are the only way to go, they let people die instead of taking them to a real doctor. Like this kid. Washington really, really needs to fix their legislation.
Thursday, August 6, 2009
The short story is that the APA set up a task force to review the (admittedly scant and old) literature concerning efforts to change peoples' sexual orientation. They did manage to find about 80 old studies, and after reviewing them, found no evidence to suggest that sexual "reorientation" is possible. In fact:
"Contrary to the claims of SOCE practitioners and advocates, recent research studies do not provide evidence of sexual orientation change as the research methods are inadequate to determine the effectiveness of these interventions." Glassgold added: "At most, certain studies suggested that some individuals learned how to ignore or not act on their homosexual attractions. Yet, these studies did not indicate for whom this was possible, how long it lasted or its long-term mental health effects. Also, this result was much less likely to be true for people who started out only attracted to people of the same sex."
That paragraph made me smile ;)
This resolution is extremely important, because there are still a large number of organisations that run or support programs that claim to cure homosexuality.* If someone you know tells you that they're considering patronizing one of these types of programs, please direct them to this resolution, so they at least know what they're getting into.
Many of these programs cost thousands of dollars, not to mention the psychological trauma of being "treated" by someone with no psychological credentials and the guilt of being systematically told that you're sick in some way.
Another reason this resolution is so important is because it was recently found that many therapists in the UK are still under the impression that sexual orientation can be changed in some way, and many have actively helped their patients to try to become straight. Hopefully this consensus will bring an end to this ridiculous practice.
*Actually, a lot of these programs only claim to help you "leave homosexuality" or claim that "change is possible," whatever that means. It's probably just so they don't get sued for false advertising.
Sunday, July 26, 2009
First, though, it's important to distinguish the difference between the terms "genetic," "developmental," and "in-born." When we say that something is genetically inherited, we mean that a quality is determined by one's genetic code. A good example would be sickle cell anemia. The hemoglobin (Hb)in your red blood cells is coded for by a handful of genes; a particular mutation in one of these genes results in misshaped Hb, which then deforms your red blood cells and makes you sick. Sickle cell anemia is entirely genetic in origin.
To say that something is developmental is to mean that a quality is determined by the the environment an organism is exposed to during development. Your height, for example, is partially determined by what kind of foods you eat while growing up, your level of exercise, and other factors.
However, we still refer to one's height as something that is "in-born;" that is to say, a personal quality that is outside one's control. Something determined by one's own nature. Keep this in mind for later in the post...
Now, homosexuality poses a bit of an evolutionary paradox. If evolution favours traits that improve a species' reproductive success, how could a trait like homosexuality become so common? Surely any gene or genes for homosexuality would decrease the likelihood of its' possessor's reproduction, and be lost from the gene pool.
In a June 2008 paper, Andrea Ciani et al., propose an evolutionary mechanism called "sexually antagonistic selection" that could account for the prevalence of homosexual behaviour. To sum up (to the best of my abilities), their paper suggests that sexuality is determined by two genes, one of which is located on the X chromosome. Having the "gay" version of these genes (we could say "gay alleles") makes males gay but makes females more likely to reproduce. The gay alleles could be said to simultaneously decrease male fitness but increase female fitness. This provides a solution to our paradox, assuming that the advantage for females outweighs the disadvantage to males. Indeed, this genetic model is also compatible with other data, such as the fact that homosexual males' maternal aunts and grandmothers are found to be more fecund than baseline. 
This model adds to the growing data that support a natural cause for homosexuality. Previous studies have shown that homosexuality is at least 35% genetic in origin, and various other theories are being researched to understand the developmental components (handedness, brain anatomy, and hormonal exposure in the womb, for example).
However, as my friend and I agreed, while all this information is interesting from a basic sciences perspective, it serves almost no purpuse in terms of informing public opinion or policy concerning homosexuality. ...Or, rather, it shouldn't.
Public interest in the genetic/developmental origins of homosexuality center around the debate about whether or not being gay is a choice. While all the evidence so far points to a substantial "in-born" component to sexual preference, it doesn't matter anyway. There is nothing unnatural, immoral, or harmful about homosexual behaviour, so there should be no public recourse against it. And even if it were a choice to be gay (can you imagine choosing to be gay!?), lots of other life choices (such as religion, most notably), receive widespread public support. People who advance the "it's a choice" argument are either lacking integrity or honesty.
1. My apologies for the long time since my last post.
2 It is, in fact, quite common. See here for some examples of homosexuality observed in the Animal Kingdom.
3. Camperio Ciani A, Cermelli P, Zanzotto G (2008) Sexually Antagonistic Selection in Human Male Homosexuality. PLoS ONE 3(6): e2282. doi:10.1371/
4. This paper uses a LOT of wacky mathematics that make my head spin. I leave it to my more "numbered" readers to judge the merits of the authors' work.
Wednesday, June 17, 2009
...The condescension is so patronising it boils my blood. For the following reasons:
1. Same-sex partners and their children will not receive Health Care benefits, which is one of the most devastating aspects of marriage discrimination.
2. These benefits will only apply to Federal employees, i.e. very few people.
3. The only reason the LGBT community is being offered even this *scrap* of dignity is so that they won't make a fuss at the Democratic National Convention's big fund-raiser on June 25th.
LGBT's were thrilled at the prospect of a President who would treat them with dignity. ...Looks like their elation was premature.
For any Americans who might read this: I think you should tell Obama and the entire DNC--loudly--that your cash won't go to support "leaders" who have done nothing to stand up for your rights or dignity.
PS Another thing that just occurred to me is that this happened with the stroke of a pen. It was a ship-shod quick response to try to quell the LGBT community...and as such, it could have been done MONTHS ago. Obama has been sitting on this for 5 months, and is only now putting pen to paper.
So, once again to my American friends: If Obama's been able to grant you these rights (however limited they may be), what else is he holding back? What else can you pry out of the Democrats' terrified little paws? I suggest you yell, write, call, email, protest, and above all let them know you won't give them one pink penny until you get the civil rights you deserve! *HUG*
Sunday, June 14, 2009
Background: In the few states that do allow gay marriage, those marriages only entail rights at the state level (no federal recognition for tax purposes, for example) and the rights they do have end at the state border (once a couple enters another state, they are legal strangers). This stunning example of second-class citizenship is made possible by DOMA--the Defense of Marriage Act--that was enacted in 1996 under the Clinton Administration. DOMA ensures that:
- No state (or other political subdivision within the United States) needs to treat a relationship between persons of the same sex as a marriage, even if the relationship is considered a marriage in another state.
- The federal government may not treat same-sex relationships as marriages for any purpose, even if concluded or recognized by one of the states.
However, Americans have this pesky Amendment in their Constitution that guarantees equal protection for all citizens under the law. So someone had the bright idea of taking DOMA to court since it's a pretty obvious case of discrimination and denial of civil rights at the federal level.
Since this lawsuit is challenging a federal law, it's up to the President's Department of Justice to try to defend it. One would think that the DoJ for a President who has described himself as a "fierce advocate" for LGBT rights and has actually argued that DOMA needs to be repealed would take a fairly soft stance in defending this blatantly anti-gay law.
One would be gravely, slap-in-the-face-ingly wrong.
Not only did Obama's DoJ defend DOMA, they went so far as to claim that the law is totally constitutional, that it's ok cuz we also don't let adults marry kids, that gay people aren't a suspect class that can be discriminated against, and that it's not really discrimination since gay people are free to marry someone of the opposite gender.
Calling this a slap in the face is an understatement. This is the legal equivalent of a solid kick between the legs. Obama's administration has officially argued that gay people do not deserve to marry. They did this by completely dehumanizing gay people. It's disgusting.
Obama can go suck a lemon. I'm done supporting this two-faced liar.
Monday, June 1, 2009
Under normal circumstances I'd say "too little, too late." But this is just so...shocking. I mean, can you think of anyone more Conservative than Dick Cheney? He's second only to Steven Colbert in being a parody of conservatism. And yet here he is, supporting marriage equality. It's like hearing a vegan say "You know what? Eating venison is no big deal..."
Whatever. If it can help convince a few more people that gay marriage isn't the end of the world, I'm all for it. :)
The State legislature and senate of Nevada have overridden their governor to pass a domestic partnerships bill. For those not familiar with these types of things, domestic partnerships (or civil unions) are legal contracts that can be entered into by same-sex or opposite-sex couples. They confer varying degrees of legal rights upon the two parties, depending on the state law. I believe the Nevada bill bestows all the legal rights of marriage, just not the name. This truly is a huge win for Nevada's same-sex couples, as voters outlawed gay marriage years ago.
Nevada's LGBT's and allies should not stop there, though. It's become more and more clear over the years that domestic partnerships and civil unions aren't as good as marriage, probably largely due to the fact that they are not recognized federally. Upwards and onwards, American neighbours!
Thursday, May 21, 2009
9. Beer doesn't tell you how to have sex.
8. Beer has never caused a major war.
7. They don't force Beer on minors who can't think for themselves.
6. When you have a Beer, you don't knock on people's doors trying to give it away.
5. Nobody's ever been burned at the stake, hanged, or tortured over his brand of Beer.
4. You don't have to wait 2000+ years for a second Beer.
3. There are laws saying Beer labels can't lie to you.
2. You can prove you have a Beer.
1. If you've devoted your life to Beer, there are groups to help you stop.
Stolen from lolgod.blogspot.com
Sunday, May 17, 2009
Word must have gotten back to Pope Benedict, though, because he followed up with another statement--and it's with this one that I take issue. He said that "the brutal extermination of Jews by the "godless" Nazi regime would never be forgotten or denied."
Ummmmm... exsqueeze me? I have 3 words for the Pope: Gott mit uns.
I think there could be a genuine debate on Hitler's faith, and whether he actually believed in a god or just used religious rhetoric to inspire loyalty. But it simply cannot be denied that Christian faith was an integral part of Nazism. The Pope blatantly shifted the blame from Christians to atheists for Nazi anti-Semitism, which is a disingenuous lie. The people who committed the crimes of the Holocaust were Christians, and the Pope disrespects Judaism by simply passing off the blame to others.
Saturday, May 9, 2009
Comments on my response are welcomed by anyone.
I just had a heated conversation with my husband about how warped the catholic church is. He maintains that if the church has said sorry it's enough...my question is when will the church mean it?
I was raised as a Catholic, but was lucky enough to attend a very progressive Church. Also, as you know, my parents are very open-minded people. I enjoyed being part of my Church growing up, and I believe that my experiences there helped me learn how to be a better person. Even since I stopped believing in god, I still have a very strong emotional attachment to the Church in which I was raised. That attachment, however, no longer extends to the Catholic church as an institution, for reasons I will now elaborate on.
The lessons that I learned in Church while growing up included going out of your way to help others, spending more time with your family, the vacuity of being judgmental, and the power of forgiveness. Humility, love, compassion.
While these ideals might be the stated aims of the Catholic Church, they are certainly not values that I see displayed regularly.
Instead, I hear about institutionalised cover-ups to protect child-assaulting priests from being prosecuted. I hear about the Vatican protesting against a UN resolution to denounce violence against homosexuals. I hear their continued misogynist refusal to allow women to hold positions of authority.
It has become clear to me that the Catholic Church, as an institution, is more concerned with promoting adherence to it's own dogma than it is with the relief of human suffering. It is more concerned with maintaining power than with maintaining integrity. It has consistently failed to uphold the dignity of human existence, and for that I can no longer associate myself with it.
Take for example, the recent case of a 9-year-old Brazilian girl who became pregnant with twins after being repeatedly sexually assaulted by her step-father. After determining that, due to her young age and low weight, the girl's life would be put in danger if the girl took the pregnancy to term, two doctors medically ended her pregnancy. Despite the medical necessity of the abortion, the Brazilian Chruch excommunicated the two doctors and the girl's mother--but not the step-father, who is also accused of sexually abusing the girl's 14-year-old handicapped sister.
Another brazen example of the Church's indifference to the human condition lies with it's stubborn refusal to condone the distribution of condoms in Africa to stem the spread of AIDS, the world's leading cause of death by infectious disease. This is despite the fact that condom use has been shown to decrease the transmission of HIV, and that abstinence-only programs have been shown to be ineffective.*
And then, of course, there's the Church's outdated, dehumanizing view on gay relationships. It never ceases to amaze me how they can take a few (highly interpretable) passages from the Bible and use them to denigrate healthy, loving relationships. One would think that with all the claims they make about promoting love and companionship, they wouldn't make such a fuss about two men's relationship being recognized by the government.
Nonetheless, the Chuch's massive resistance to gay marriage is second-only in fervor to its opposition to abortion. However, it is not alone in its denial of gay people's humanity. Pat Robertson recently said that legalizing gay marriage will result in the legalization of pedophilia and bestiality (one wonders how children or animals, who can't give legal consent, would sign a marriage contract). James Dobson, of Focus on the Family fame, recently said that a bill in the US House that would basically make gay-bashing a hate crime would also give protections to pedophiles and necrophiliacs (because the bill does not explicitly define "sexual orientation"). This is a lie, and Dobson knows it becuase he's a psychologist. "Sexual orientation" includes heterosexuality, homosexuality, and bisexuality; pedophilia and necrophilia are defined as "paraphilias."
Rick Warren, one of the most popular evangelical leaders in the US and head of an enourmous mega-church, also equated gay relationships to pedophilia and incest (though apparently he later apologised). He then went on to lie about his support for Proposition 8 (which took gay marriage away from Californians) on national TV, despite video proof of the contrary.
It seems like the people who say the worst things about gay people are actually the religious devout. Religious instituions are the major impediment to respect for gay people. Historically, they have also been the source of major resistance to almost every progressive social advancement in the past few centuries (women's rights, abolition of slavery, interracial marriage, etc.).
Lest my message be misconstrued at this point, let me say that I don't think all religious people are homophobes. Nor are all Catholics cold-hearted. What I'm trying to prove with the above anecdotes are the following:
1. While claiming to be on higher moral ground than the rest of us, religious people and their leaders often take positions that are completely inhumane and often detrimental to their fellow man. This includes countless recent examples of outright lies being spread to keep gay people from gaining equal protection and rights under the law.
2. While I have no problem with people choosing to live by whatever personal beliefs they choose, I do not believe that they have a right to force their religious beliefs on others. By denying gay people the right to marry or to be protected from discrimination without any secular reasoning, that's exactly what they are doing.
3. Perhaps my biggest disappointment is with "moderate" religious people, who claim that the outspoken homophobes "don't speak for them." News flash: the homophobes are speaking loud enough for everyone, but the voice of opposition from moderates is not being heard. It sounds an awful lot more like silent consent.
I haven't heard of any recent apology from the Catholic Church, but even if I did, it would take a lot more than that to make up for the hurt they've caused gay people everywhere (not to mention other minorities and women). I'll start listening to them again once they show that they're more concerned with helping their fellow man than getting their own way.
*Clarification: the best type of education is one that includes information on both abstinence and safer-sex practices, not necessarily just one or the other.
Update (11/05/09): The Catholic Bishop of Maine has just issued a statement in response to the Maine legislature's legalization of gay marriage. The good Bishop claims that gay marriage is "dangerous." However, I'm starting to think that maybe the Catholic Church is dangerous:
[In Maine] 63 priests and other diocese employees had been accused of sexual abuse over the previous 75 years
...Like--seriously--he physically threatened his guest on national TV. And you know what? As far as I can tell, he's suffered absolutely no punishment for his distasteful behaviour. Which just goes to show that threats and violence are wrong...unless the victim is someone gay.
Friday, May 8, 2009
Of course, conservatives are going nuts. Someone's proposing a public referendum. What this means is that the law cannot take effect until the group either fails to gather the required number of signatures to put it on the ballot, or until the motion fails in the November election. It's a highly unfortunate situation.
Tuesday, May 5, 2009
Here's a transcript from an article I just wrote. It's a last-minute addition to the upcoming copy of our med student newsletter. Enjoy, and please feedback with your ideas and opinions. :)
In the world of public health, the goal is to benefit the greatest possible number of people. When it comes to blood donations, that means getting as many people to donate as possible, without compromising the safety of the blood supply. To this end, Canadian Blood Services not only screens the blood it receives for pathogens, but also screens out at-risk donors from giving blood in the first place.
In the 80’s, when HIV first burst into the public health scene, little was known about it except that the infection was endemic among gay men. This prompted a blood-donor ban, not just on sexually active gay men, but on any man who had ever had sex with another man (MSM) since 1977. This policy is still in place today. Potential donors are screened via questionnaire.
The obvious purpose of banning MSM from donating blood is to prevent iatrogenic transmission of HIV and other STI’s. However, the donor questionnaire doesn’t ask potential donors if they’ve had unprotected sex recently, nor does it inquire about anonymous sexual partners more than 6 months prior.
To clarify, this means that some guy who got “curious” (yes, including oral) at college once in 1981 but now has been straight and monogamous for 25 years and has 4 kids can’t donate blood. Meanwhile, another guy who had unprotected sex with 3 strangers in Vegas last year can. Somehow, I don’t feel like our blood supply is made safer by this policy.
Think of it this way: since, in Canada, men have a higher prevalence of HIV than women, we should ban men from donating blood, right? Of course not, that’s a ridiculous overgeneralization. The at-risk group can be narrowed down, as it has been. But limiting the at-risk group to MSM is still overly general. There are lots of sexually active gay men who use condoms intelligently with every partner, who get tested regularly, or who have been monogamous for years. These men are no more at risk of contaminating the blood supply than heterosexuals—and are less likely to do so than some!
One obvious remedy to this problem is to ask donors pertinent questions, rather than use a criterion that’s both over-inclusive and under-inclusive. Such questions could include “Have you had unprotected sex or a new sexual partner in the past year?” or “When was the last time you were tested for HIV?” These types of questions would weed out potential donors are at genuine risk for infectious diseases, but allow healthy, monogamous gay men to help their fellow Canadians by donating blood.
Other solutions include improving the reliability of testing and removing monetary incentives. However, the latter has already been implemented in Canada, and current blood screening is already so reliable that only one HIV-positive sample in a million would fail to be detected, according to the US FDA. Surely the best way to solve today’s shortage of donors is to add to the donor pool. The question is: how do we weed out those people who are truly at risk, without turning away healthy donors? Whatever the best answer is, the current policy is certainly not it.Note: image from slapupsidethehead.com--a wonderfully humourous gay-centric Canadian blog.
Thursday, April 30, 2009
The bill being debated is supposed to allow the federal government to assist in the prosecution of violent crimes based on sexual orientation (and disability, actually). Since this represents protection for gay people, many conservatives are flipping their lid. The most commonly touted argument is the claim that people who view homosexuality as immoral would be prosecuted for expressing their opinion. Of course, the bill explicitly targets violent crime only (AND Americans have the 1st Amendment that protects freedom of speech), but talk of gay rights tends to decrease some people's preoccupation with "truth" and "reality." ;)
There is another argument, however, that I take more seriously. That is disagreement with hate-crimes laws in general. The general argument goes: an old lady gets murdered, and a gay guy gets murdered because he's gay, but the murderer of the gay man gets a longer sentence--why is the gay man's life "worth" more?
There is some validity to this concern, but it's unfounded if we consider that perhaps there is an additional crime in the murder of the gay man, and I believe there is. This additional crime is a form of terrorism, in that murdering someone because of their sexual orientation sends a message to the queer community at large. That message is one of violence and intimidation towards a particular group of people, which I think falls within the definition of terrorism. That's why I think that additional penalties for people who commit "hate-crimes," but it has to be made clear that the additional punishment is for the act of intimidation and violence towards a greater community.
I would, of course, love to hear what everyone else thinks. :)
UPDATE: The bill includes gender identity as well
Friday, April 24, 2009
Now, tons of parodies of the ad have been made and posted on youtube. Some of them are actually pretty good, too. But this one, I think, is the best. It's not mocking, it's truthful. And the truth hurts...
Ten, even five years ago, people in my situation in Massachusetts would have faced prejudicial treatment in some of these interactions--in addition to having to deal with protracted legal issues because of being denied the right to be married--simply because marriage equality was an unknown, often feared, and that fear was exploited by our opponents for political gain. Coming of age in a time when AIDS felled so many so quickly, I was aware of far too many horrible, heart-wrenching stories in which the surviving partner was completely shut out and cast aside by next of kin. Now, we are legally next of kin. For all the wonderful things that marriage equality does for the living, it maintains our dignity in death.
Thursday, April 23, 2009
As a warm up, here's an article I wrote for our student paper:
Imagine my surprise when my gay med-student friend says to me “Yeah, but I don’t think gays should be having kids or adopting. Kids need a mom and a dad.”
Gay! Med student!
It’s surprising that misconceptions still exist about gay parenting even among the medical community. Of course, even though we’re all pretty fantastic people, I guess no one’s perfect, right?
Still, it seems like a logical premise. If two dudes are raising a kid, where will they get the female “mom” influence? Won’t they be more likely to be gay, or gender-confused? Turns out the answer is no. According to current research, kids raised by gay parents fit into normal gay-to-straight ratios. In fact, their development is indistinguishable from their peers raised by heterosexuals.
As far as the opposite-sex influence is concerned, one can easily apply the same logic to kids raised by single parents; just because they only have one gender parent doesn’t mean they don’t have aunties and uncles, grandmas and grandpas, and friends of both genders at school. The same goes for kids with two same sex parents (with the added benefit of having two parents instead of one!).
Gay parents have been found to be more involved with their childrens’ school life than heterosexual parents are, and have been shown to be exceptional parents even despite facing the additional stresses of discrimination. In fact, groups such as the American Psychological Association and the American Academy of Pediatrics, who are kind of a big deal, agree that there is no evidence to suggest that gay parents are any less fit than their heterosexual counterparts.My friend was surprised about these researched facts (and he did, in fact, want to see the evidence), but in the end I think he sees the logic of it. After all, as the AAP says: “A growing body of scientific literature demonstrates that children who grow up with 1 or 2 gay and/or lesbian parents fare as well in emotional, cognitive, social, and sexual functioning as do children whose parents are heterosexual.” Contrary to our pre-conceived notions of what type of family is “best,” kids raised by gay parents turn out just fine.
Sunday, April 5, 2009
Regardless of one's opinions regarding the moral issues surrounding homosexuality/gender issues, the vast majority of people are of the opinion that LGBT people should not be subject to discrimination or violence.
That being said, many people still take issue with making it illegal to discriminate against LGBT's, even going so far as to oppose anti-bullying laws specifically for their LGBT-inclusive clauses. They cite their personal values of homosexuality as being immoral, against their religious convictions, etc.
In comparison, I am a firm non-believer in astrology. The whole "you're going to act a specific way because you were born on a day when the Earth was within a particular rotational angle" baffles me. In fact, I think it's not just a waste of time to give astrology any credence, I think it's a flagrant promotion of outright lies that serves no purpose other than to put money in the pockets of astrologers.
However, if it could be shown that Libras were frequently being denied housing because of their astrological sign, I would fully support legislation to ban such discrimination. If students in public schools were being subjected to verbal or physical harassment because they were born between May 20-June21, I would support legislation that would help keep them safe.
The reason is not because I give any credence to the signs of the zodiac, but rather because people who are systematically treated badly for illogical reasons deserve to be protected from that discrimination. Anti-gay activists should be aware that their positions suggest that by fighting these legislative efforts, they suggest that it is acceptable to dehumanize LGBT people. Meanwhile, supporting these efforts would in no way undermine their theological convictions.
Friday, April 3, 2009
The most recent news to hit the interwebs concerns differences between hetero and gay couples with respect to gender preference in their adoptive children. The main finding was pretty in line with what I would have expected:
Dr. Goldberg found that many couples, irrespective of sexuality, had no preference for the gender of their adopted child. They were simply grateful to finally have a child and gender was insignificant in the context of their larger goal of becoming parents.
However, there were also some interesting discrepancies:
The most common reason for preferring boys among heterosexual women was an inexplicable desire for a son, whereas heterosexual men's preference for a son reflected patriarchal norms, including keeping the family name going and gender identity considerations i.e. their own masculine interests. When explaining their preference for a boy, lesbians most frequently mentioned their own atypical gender identities, including the fact that their own interests tended to be more masculine and tomboyish, whereas gay men most often highlighted that they felt more confident about their ability to raise and socialize boys.
Très cool. The idea of adoption grows on my mind every day, and a lot of the things said in the paragraph above resonate with me. Little girls are adorable, but I would be at a complete loss with regards to how to raise one...
'Course, I doubt I'll have to make any decisions soon. ;) You can find the article here.
In other news: I should have mentioned this yesterday. Congratulations to Sweden are in order too!
Sunday, March 8, 2009
1. While this slippery slope argument raises a common fear among same-sex marriage opponents, I have to agree with Robinson; legalizing same-sex marriage does not automatically legalize polygamous relationships. If polygamists would like to have their relationships recognized under the law, they will have to argue it on it's own merits. Insinuating that polygamy will be legalized because of legalized same-sex marriage is a red herring. It merely distracts from the topic at hand, which is whether same-sex relationships should be recognized by the state. Polygamy is not the same thing.
2. Even people who are known to be infertile would never be discouraged from marrying. It's fallacious to suggest that our society is actually that intent on having every marriage produce children.
Furthermore, your claim that the government only recognizes marriage in order to provide incentive for creating the types of families they want misses the point entirely. The fact is, same-sex couples have families already. They have kids and/or other dependents, and it's in the state's interest to help those families be as stable and healthy as possible by providing legal recognition for their relationships and even tax breaks to ease the raising of children.
And if a single mother and her sister are working together to provide the best possible environment for her child, why shouldn't they have a civil marriage? Having their relationship is recognized by the law doesn't require that they have sex. If the legal aspects of their lives are no different than those of a heterosexual couple, why shouldn't they gain the same legal status and benefits?
3. Once again, same-sex couples already have children, and so it's in the state's interest to provide them with the same benefits that are provided to families headed by opposite-sex couples.
Also, same-sex couples can adopt, and more and more scientific studies are showing that children raised by homosexual couples are just as well off as their heterosexually-raised counterparts. By providing legal recognition to same-sex couples, the state would be providing more opportunities to find loving and supportive families for the state's orphans.
4. One of the biggest problems facing couples with civil unions is that their relationship is often not recognized for what it is. It takes merely a Google search to find stories of loving partners turned away at the hospital because they didn't have their official documents, while their partner lapses into a coma. Or couples harassed at airport security for proof of their relationship with their adopted kids. Civil unions don't cut it; "marriage" is the only term most people understand.
And I do think you make a valid point: the law does normalize our lives. Just as Loving vs. Virginia helped to normalize multi-ethnic marriages, and Laurence v. Texas helped to normalize gay sex, legal same-sex marriage will help to show people that LGBT people can partake in unions that are just as loving and healthy as those of their heterosexual counterparts.
PS Schools these days teach kids that marriages of different ethnic backgrounds or different religious backgrounds are ok. Books like "And Tango Makes Three" do the same thing, only for homosexual marriages. Of course, that doesn't prevent you from teaching your kids that homosexual marriages are immoral anymore than it would prevent you from teaching them that Muslim, Jewish, Buddist, or Civil marriages are immoral. The schools teach kids to accept everyone for who they are, but you can still teach them to look down on different types of relationships when they get home.
Lemme know what you think.
Saturday, February 21, 2009
Still haven't quite gotten back to normal yet. I'm in Montreal at the moment; last-minute visit with the family, who are here for a hockey game.
What's new in the world? Well, it turns out that the original paper that started the "ZOMG vaccines cauze autizm!" movement was fraudulent. I can't say how much it pains me that there are little kids out there getting measles (which has serious complications, people) for no reason other than that their parents have a bone to pick with modern health care.
In other news, the US (now under new management) has decided that, after all, throwing people in jail to rot for loving someone of the same gender isn't that cool. Good for you, US. :)
Hopefully, something interesting and peer-reviewed will come soon...
Monday, February 16, 2009
So I'm here sitting with the loverly BF, and he brought up a very interesting point. We were talking about some people's inability to accept homosexuality as a natural part of the human experience/existence, and he mentioned this: Once realizing that being gay is not wrong, anyone (e.g. a priest) who had, in the past, condemned a gay person for their feelings or attractions, would have to look back on that experience and realize that they had made a huge mistake. Maybe a very grave mistake, depending on their reaction and how often they did it. And for a lot of people, that would probably result in an astronomical amount of guilt. So maybe it is a little easier to understand why "homophobic" people are so reluctant to give up their views--because to do so would make them the evil ones.
Thursday, February 5, 2009
Friday, January 30, 2009
One of the things that I find is lacking in my curriculum is talking about death and how to deal with it. That being said...I'm not sure if anything could have prepared me for this.
My heart goes out to his family. I wish there were a way to help alleviate their pain.
I know that I'll always remember him, and I know that his memory will make me a better person.
Wednesday, January 28, 2009
People who don't consider a gay medical student with an honours degree in human physiology talking about the nature/nurture hypotheses of homosexuality should tune out. Right about...now.
So, much to your dismay/pleasure/utterly-unphasedness, homosexuality isn't entirely genetic. In fact, genetics explains only about 35% of a person's tendency to turn out gay. But does that really surprise you? So many aspects of your life are goverened by your environment and development; even those that are genetically-based!
For example, you have the genetic potential for a certain height. BUT!!! if you, say are raised in a famine-stricken country for the first 15 years of life, chances are you'll be a little shorter. OR if you eat foods with a bunch of anabolic steroids (no, I can't think of a real life example--so sue me!) you'll be bigger (and "bacne"-er).
The interesting thing you'll notice if you follow the link above is that an additional 64% of homosexuality can be accounted for by environmental factors. Just to be clear, that excludes having an overbearing mother or distant father, being exposed to Madonna rather than Mozart while in the womb, and being born in the Castro in 1980. Oh, right, and also that means...
PEOPLE ARE, INDEED, SOMETIMES BORN GAY.
Of course, "born gay" in the sense that someday they will likely be sexually attracted to the same sex, not in the sense that there are a bunch of baby boys out there who think that JT "is, like, so totally hawt!" That would be too weird...
Maybe someday I'll get around to talking about what those "environmental" factors could be...
But for now, I'll just say this: it doesn't matter anyway. Who cares if it's biological or not? Because then it would be a choice? So what? People are religious (or not) by choice, and we still protect religious minorities with hate crimes laws, we allow people of all religions (and none) to marry, to assemble, to equal treatment under the law. And why? Because a person's religion has no direct negative effect on anyone else. So there's no reason to discriminate against someone for how they identify themselves religiously.
And the same goes for sexual identity.
So there's a new paper in Developmental Psychology (produced by the American Psychological Association--oooouuuu, faaaancy) that discusses bisexuality in women; namely, are bisexual women really bisexual, or is it just a transition between being gay and being straight, or is it just an artifact of everyone's ability to..."adapt" to social situations. ;)
So Lisa Diamond, of the University of Utah, got about 80 women who identified as lesbian, bisexual, or unlabeled, and asked them questions about their sexual identities, their past (growing up, socio-economic situation), and their sexual attractions. She then followed up with them every two years for the next ten years. This is UBER-cool, because most studies released up until now haven't followed participants that long.
Her idea was that the womens' identities could fall into 3 patterns:
1. Bisexuality as a "transitional phase": this would be suggested if it were found that women tended to drift from bisexual or unlabeled identities to either lesbian or heterosexual identities as time passed.
2. Bisexuality as a 3rd orientation: this would be suggested by finding that women tended to keep their bisexual/unlabeled identities and their relative attrations to males versus females.
3. Bisexuality as an example of sexual fluidity: would be suggested that as women mature and become more in touch with their sexuality, there would be a shift of participants to the bisexual/unlabled identities.
So, interesting findings? Um, YEAH! So get this: the women's identities did change (quite often actually--67% of the women had changed sexual identities by the end of the 10-year study), but the interesting thing is that the majority of the transitions were to or within the bisexual or unlabeled identities. Further more, the transitions tended to reflect the womens' sexual activity over the past year (i.e. previously "unlabeled" women who were in a long term relationship with a man or a woman tended to change to a heterosexual or lesbian identity).
HOWEVER (and this part is SO cool) despite the women's change in identity, they reported much less actual change in sexual attraction! Basically even those women who initially identified as bisexual/unlabeled and then changed to a lesbian identity STILL reported attraction to men. I think that this is the most important finding of the whole study, because it validates an idea that I have had for a while.
That idea being that people adopt heterosexual or gay identities, despite actually having bisexual orientations or tendencies. Why would anyone do this, you ask? Because our society is less receptive to the idea of bisexuality than it is to homosexuality! And just imagine how un-receptive THAT must be! ;)
I, in fact, do consider myself to have some attraction to women (I must, since I was in a number of long-term heterosexual relationships, none of which were "for show"), but that is outweighed by my attraction to men. However, it's difficult to even explain that to people that I meet, let alone expect them to accept the idea as valid (and not assume that I was just lying or trying to "pass" as straight). So I identify as gay, even though I know that it's not 100% true.
Reading between the lines, this study says a lot about how even now, "sexually liberated" people still have a difficult time being completely honest when presenting their sexuality to other people. There are limitations to the study (the participants were mostly white; can the results be extrapolated to males; are 80 women really a representative population) but all in all it's a great springboard for future studies.
Thursday, January 22, 2009
So the fight against Prop8 continues, not only through grassroots protests, but also in the courts. 6 couples are filing suit in Cali, claiming that Prop8 is invalid, because it denies a fundamental right to only a particular group of citizens. Apparently, a whole pile of law experts (SERIOUSLY respected people) have filed "friend of the court" briefs stating their agreement that Prop8 is invalid (or at the very least would have had to be approved through a different process).
And this is why I finally understand what the Chief Justice George was saying about his ruling last May. While it was huge that the court ruled in favour of allowing gay marriage, and established marriage as a fundamental right, it also deemed queers to be a suspect class (and, thus, a group that can be identified and discriminated against). I think that will have an important sway on the decision about Prop8's validity; if gays aren't recognized as an actual class of people, they can't be discriminated against under Cali's Equal Protection clause.
Wednesday, January 21, 2009
I had a brief discussion with a friend yesterday about Obama's choice to have Rick Warren, the leader of a huge mega-church in California, to deliver the prayer at his inauguration yesterday. Apparently this is a position of prestige and generally considered to be an honour, which miffed the queer community (Warren was a strong advocate for passing Prop8 in November, has said some rather inflammatory things about the nature of queer relationships that he later downplayed, and his church supports programs to help "change" gays).
Some people support Obama's decision to invite Warren as his way of truly being "inclusive." Others point to the invitation of Gene Robinson, an openly gay Anglican Bishop, to give a prayer earlier as a counterpoint to Warren. There are also people who see Robinson's invitation, and the invitation of the Lesbian and Gay Band Association to the parade, as an affront to "family values" folks.
I think that the opposition to Warren and Robinson come from two different angles, and that the opposition to Robinson's presence isn't merited, while opposition to Warren is. This is because Warren himself has said extemely insulting, demeaning things about gays; he, himself, is a person who does NOT accept all Americans as being equal, under the law or in the eyes of "God." On the other hand, opposition to Robinson's presence comes not (necessarily*) from specific things he has said or done, but simply because he is gay. Opposition to this man comes from a stigmatization of all gay people, but opposition to Warren does not come from an opposition to all evangelicals.
There are, of course, exceptions to all these points, but this is by and large how the arguments are going, and I think that valid points are being made to suggest that Warren does not fit the spirit of "inclusion" that was supposed to be the theme of this inauguration.
*Some people do specifically have a problem with comments that Robinson has made in the past about homophobic religious types not being true to their religions.
Tuesday, January 20, 2009
I'm of two minds on this issue. I do think that it's important that sizable donations be made public, since the outcome affects public policy. I think it's right that everyone be able to see who donated what. However, while I do think that listing business addresses and contact info is important, I don't think that anyone should be required to make their home address known. What does it accomplish? Plus, we do have to consider that some people might misuse the information to target political opponents at home, which is simply unacceptable. Sending a message or boycotting business is a normal and fair way of expressing opposition, but having someone's home address is not necessary for that.
The story, though, gets SO much more interesting. It's easiest to 'splain in bullet form:
Fact 1: "Yes on 8" is suing to change the law such that their donors will not have to be publicly disclosed. They're complaining that they're being discriminated against for their political descisions.
Fact: "Yes on 8" has also claimed that the courts had no right to overturn the "will of the people" by declaring the marriage ban to be unconstitutional in May of last year.
Ironic hilarious hypocrisy #1: "Yes on 8" took the list of people who donated against the passage of Prop 8 and tried to blackmail them into donating to "Yes on 8" instead. (An actual excerpt from that letter: "It is only fair for Proposition 8 supporters to know which companies and organizations oppose traditional marriage." Apparently that doesn't apply the other way around! Hilarity!)
Ironic hilarious hypocrisy #2: The law requiring public disclosure of all donors was passed by popular vote, but "Yes on 8" wants the courts to repeal it--just like the marriage ban!
I was surprised to find out the other day that one of my friends didn't know that there are actually quite a few examples of transitional forms in the fossil record. We had been discussing the film Expelled, and while my friend was aware that the documentary was full of misinformation, he didn't seem to have a lot of knowledge about evolution in general.
So here, I thought I would post some useful links and info about (the extremely well-tested, thoroughly scientific) theory of evolution.
One of the most useful sites out there is TalkOrigins. This site catalogs tons of info on examples of evolution (as in: yes, we've documented actual instances of evoluationary change. Not just "microevolution" of bacterial resistance to antibiotics, but "macroevolution" of new species.), common creationist claims (for those who are new to controversies about evolution, a lot of people refuse to "believe in" it, and insist on teaching various creation theories, such as Intelligent Design (ID) or a literal interpretation of Genesis), and other über-useful information.
The National Center for Science Education also has a lot of useful information, more centred around the teaching of evolution. Teaching evolution has actually generated a number of court cases, one of the most recent (and my personal favourite) being the Dover trial.
If anyone reading this has any questions about the theory of evolution, the teaching of it, or the controversies surrounding it, feel free to let loose in the comments. :)
Monday, January 19, 2009
Wednesday, January 14, 2009
So the break from school was delightful. Full of friends, family, BF, and BF's friends and family. Not much rest but very much fun. But that's neither hardly gay, and not medical at all, so let's get to the good stuff!
A talk that I went to today reminded me of one of my favourite (or least favourite, depending on how you look at it) topics: gay parenting. It's my fave/least fave because there are SO many dreadful misconceptions about gay parenting, but it is a great feeling to set the record straight. Shall we? Let's shall. :)
So, since gay marriage is such a hot topic, some really bright fella (is it "fellette" if it's a woman?) decided to actually, you know, take a look at gay parents to see if they're actually blood-thirsty, neglectful, abusive, Cinderella's-stepmother-like nincompoops, as many anti-gay marriage activists would have us think.
Turns out, that idea is completely false.
Who could've guessed? ;)
Indeed, it seems that lesbian couples are actually slightly better at parenting than heterosexual couples. Isn't that just FABULOUS? ;) Apparently more research has been done on lesbian couples raising children than gay male couples, but from what I've heard they don't seem significantly worse off than lesbians or heterosexual couples.
In fact, the American Psychological Association, the American Psychiatric Association, the American Academy of Pediatrics, and pretty much everyone who knows a gay person agree that gay couples are just as good at parenting as straight couples.
That's why public policies, like the constitutional amendment banning adoption by unmarried couples (i.e. gay couples) in Arkansas (they couldn't even get married if they wished to), make me so upset. It's not based on any sort of sound reasoning at all. And worse still, it deprives orphaned children of finding stable families to live with long-term.
The frosting on the cake with this case, though, is that single people are still allowed to adopt. Cuz, you know, one person raising a kid on their own is fine--but if their partner moves in (adding additional financial and emotional support) then it's no longer a household fit for a child.
LOVE the logic. ;)