Govt. petition to recognize nonbinary genders on legal documents

Dear everyone who reads my blog: Please go and sign this petition.  It's a really tiny change that's a huge deal to a lot of people, and there's no good reason not to make the change. All the petition asks for is for US legal documents (like similar documents in Australia, New Zealand and the UK) add a check box for "None of the above" in the "Gender" question.

Legal documents in the United States only recognize "male" and "female" as genders, leaving anyone who does not identify as one of these two genders with no option. Australia and New Zealand both allow an X in place of an M or an F on passports for this purpose, and the UK recognizes 'Mx' (pronounced "Mix") as a gender-neutral title.This petition asks the Obama administration to legally recognize genders outside of the male-female binary, and provide an option for these genders on all legal documents and records.

Here's the link.  Go sign it.  Now.

Gender neutral toys aren't evil: A response to Christina Hoff Sommers

Christina Hoff Sommers at the Atlantic has published a very long, very annoying article complaining about the existence of gender-neutral efforts in Sweeden:

 subterfuge and propaganda appear to be the order of the day in Sweden. In their efforts to free children from the constraints of gender, the Swedish reformers are imposing their own set of inviolate rules, standards, and taboos.

Sommers thinks it's very important to defend the position that it might be incredibly immoral, like, Orwell-level immoral, to pursue a non-gender-delineated society.  The subhed of her article is "The logistical and ethical problems with trying to make toys gender-neutral."  Yeah, thats right.  Ethical problems.  She's arguing that it's ethically wrong to raise kids in a nongender environment.

Her article extensively insists that "Boys and girls are different."  That quote comes from a statement put out by a Hasbro manager.  The whole article is obsessive about maintaining an impression of a gender binary, in a system that's explicitly denying it -- trying instead to insist, apparently, that Sweeden is attempting to manufacture a new gender to which they expect everyone to conform, rather than what they seem to actually be doing: removing the idea of a gender binary from the kids' self-identity, and encouraging them to value life skills outside the ones most valued by the gender they've been assigned at birth.

Children, with few exceptions, are powerfully drawn to sex-stereotyped play. David Geary, a developmental psychologist at the University of Missouri, told me in an email this week, "One of the largest and most persistent differences between the sexes are children's play preferences." The female preference for nurturing play and the male propensity for rough-and-tumble hold cross-culturally and even cross-species (with a few exceptions—female spotted hyenas seem to be at least as aggressive as males). Among our close relatives such as vervet and rhesus monkeys, researchers have found that females play with dolls far more than their brothers, who prefer balls and toy cars. It seems unlikely that the monkeys were indoctrinated by stereotypes in a Top-Toy catalog. Something else is going on.

(emphasis mine)

This section is just blatantly disingenuous.  Of course our close relatives among primates are influenced by the culture around them.  There are many well-known examples of monkeys modeling their behavior based on the behaviors of other monkeys, and enforcing social norms even without particular reasons.  The fact that they won't have gotten these impressions from a toy catalog doesn't mean they weren't influenced by their peers.

Sommers even tries to force people who don't identify with their assigned gender all into one category -- that of the other gender.

The Swedes are treating gender-conforming children the way we once treated gender-variant children. Formerly called "tomboy girls" and "sissy boys" in the medical literature, these kids are persistently attracted to the toys of the opposite sex. They will often remain fixated on the "wrong" toys despite relentless, often cruel pressure from parents, doctors, and peers.

No, it's not the same thing at all.  The Swedes are treating everyone like liking things and giving things a chance shouldn't be conditioned upon one's genitals.  What you're doing is saying everyone fits into one of two absolutist categories, and that the only non-traditional manifestation of these categories is when a kid of one sex identifies with the other gender.

Sommers's point overall seems to be that there's something morally wrong with discouraging children from aggressively gendering themselves and each other.  But we discourage children from plenty of needlessly harmful behavior that may come naturally to some of them.  What this sounds like to me is the panicked wailing of a cisgendered person struggling to find a way to avoid thinking about gender as being more complicated than a simple binary, and thinking about people not being constrained by particular conditions of their biology.

And if, at the end of all of this, upon the success of the Swedish nongendered schools, more people with penises than with vaginas still like trucks and arm wrestling, that doesn't mean the Swedes weren't right.  All it means is that there is a biological component to interests -- the existence of which does not validate proactively pouring massive civilization-scale resources into enforcing and reinforcing a much more restrictive and oppressive cultural component to interests.

Gender neutral Easy-Bake Oven petition

(via Boing Boing)

The above video implores viewers to sign a petition for Hasbro to push back against the ubiquitous assumption that women are the only people who want to learn to cook, or play with cooking toys.  Mckenna Pope recorded her brother explaining that he wants an Easy-Bake Oven for Christmas, but thinks "Only girls play with it."

From the Change.org petition:

Imagine my surprise when I walked into his room to find him "cooking" tortillas by placing them on top of his lamp's light bulb! Obviously, this is not a very safe way for him to be a chef, so when he asked Santa for his very own Easy-Bake Ultimate Oven, produced by the Hasbro company, for me to help him be the cook he's always wanted to be, my parents and I were immediately convinced it was the truly perfect present.

However, we soon found it quite appalling that boys are not featured in  packaging or promotional materials for Easy Bake Ovens -- this toy my brother's always dreamed about. And the oven comes in gender-specific hues: purple and pink.

I feel that this sends a clear message: women cook, men work.

I have always been adamantly against anything that promotes specific roles in society for men and women, and having grown up with toys produced by the Hasbro corporation, it truly saddens me that such a successful business would resort to conforming to society's views on what boys do and what girls do.

I want my brother to know that it's not "wrong" for him to want to be a chef, that it's okay to go against what society believes to be appropriate.

Here: go sign.  I did.  They're only about 6,000 signatures away from the 35,000 signature goal.

Mustache transplants: a real thing

(via Boing Boing) Plastic surgeons in Turkey and Paris were both interviewed for an article on KTLA.com, Mustache Transplants on the Rise in the Middle East, to comment on their experience giving people extra hair on their upper lip.

"For some men who look young and junior, they think (a mustache) is a must to look senior ... more professional and wise," [Turkish plastic surgeon Selahattin Tuluany] said. "They think it is prestigious."

Pierre Bouhanna is a Paris-based surgeon who, for the past five years, has been performing increasing numbers of mustache implants. He says the majority of his patients come from the United Arab Emirates, Iran, Lebanon and Turkey, with men traveling to France to have the surgery performed.

"My impression is more and more they want to establish their male aspect," he said. "They want a strong mustache."

Both surgeons use a technique -- follicular unit extraction -- in which groups of hairs are taken from areas of dense hair growth to be implanted in the mustache area.

I'm not totally sure how to process this information.  I mean, I'm already aware how profoundly weird plastic surgery is already[1. Which is not to say that I think there's necessarily something wrong with it, especially when helping a person bring their physical body closer to their self-identity.], but mustaches are a whole new entity of strange that I just wasn't expecting.

For one thing, I didn't know that hair could be transplanted like that.  But for another, I guess facial hair was fixed in my mind as one of those inalienable features of one's own body, a thing one couldn't manipulate in any particular direction.  It literally never occurred to me to think that medical science might some day be capable of altering one's ability to grow facial hair.

Womens Menswear

This IndieGoGo campaign has already met their funding goal, but they deserve more money -- specifically, the money that comes from people patronizing their business. Krezubach 10 is a clothing label that makes menswear cut to fit women's bodies.  From their IndieGoGo page:

We don't like to say we make women's shirts, because that makes us sound like a lot of other labels who take a button up shirt, feminize it with girly colours  and patterns and maybe even add some frilly bits then still have the nerve to call it 'man style.'

That's not us.

Our shirts are designed to be straight up what you'd expect to find in the men's department; Primary colours, geometric patterns, no frills.

This is awesome -- I can't personally shop with them, being male-bodied, but I know a lot of female-bodied people who have wished they could find mens clothes that fit them.

Here's a link to their IndieGoGo campaign, for information, and here's their Facebook page, for future updates.  I will continue to update as I hear of new information about their progress.

Cool political maps

(via io9) Buzzfeed has a really cool set of maps that shows how this election would have broken down if the circumstances of various past points in American history had limited the voting populace (only white people, only men, etc.)  Here's one of them, how the election would have gone if only men (regardless of race) had been allowed to vote.

Check out the rest here.

Gender-swapped Legend of Zelda

Ars Technica writes about an awesome father's total rewrite of the text of Legend of Zelda: Wind Waker to refer to Link as a woman rather than a man in every instance, to give his daughter a good female hero to look up to.

The modifications proved a bit tricky, since the new female-oriented wording had to be a byte-for-byte alteration of the original; even throwing in "she" in place of "he" would mess things up. So Hoye got creative, using words like “milady” in place of “my lad” and “master."

“Sentences need to be changed or reworded just because 'young lady' is one character longer than 'young man,' line breaks need to be in about the right places, that sort of thing,” Hoye told Ars via e-mail.

This is demand: here's hoping the game industry sees it as a reason to supply.  A good first step would be taking games like Legend of Zelda, where it wouldn't be that had to pass off the main character as female, and adding a settings feature for a gender-swapped version of the script.

I like the idea of gender neutral games too, but it's harder to make them work as genuinely gender neutral -- people attribute maleness to them.  It'd be nice to see gender neutral games with pronoun choice sets for dialogue.  He, she, them, it, xe, etc.

Still looking forward to Anita Sarkeezian's series, by the way.  Haven't heard much about it, but she generally goes a while between updates and I'm sure it's going to take a very long time to play through all the games she committed to.  Those videos are going to be awesome when they come out.

Laci Green is back

Laci Green, a vlogger who primarily deals with sex positivity, was off the internet for a while, because there was some drama about her older videos and some of her critics went farther than anyone should ever go on the internet. Fortunately, though, she's back, opening up with a new intro clip and an episode of Sex+ on friendships between cissexual men and women.  She addresses the history of gender conflicts and some of the ways that cultural trends arbitrarily reinforce the idea that male people and female people can't just be friends with each other.

It's a great video, and you should check it out.  Also, welcome back, Laci.  We missed you.

Shannon Hale on genderequd reading habits

(via To Write Is To Live Forever on Tumblr) I had never heard of Shannon Hale before today, but now I'm absolutely interested in seeking out and reading her work.  She writes young adult fantasy and adult fiction, and she posted this on her Tumblr late last month:

When I do book signings, most of my line is made up of young girls with their mothers, teen girls alone, and mother friend groups. But there’s usually at least one boy with a stack of my books. This boy is anywhere from 8-19, he’s carrying a worn stack of the Books of Bayern, and he’s excited and unashamed to be a fan of those books. As I talk to him, 95% of the time I learn this fact: he is home schooled.

There’s something that happens to our boys in school. Maybe it’s because they’re around so many other boys, and the pressure to be a boy is high. They’re looking around at each other, trying to figure out what it means to be a boy—and often their conclusion is to be “not a girl.” Whatever a girl is, they must be the opposite. So a book written by a girl? With a girl on the cover? Not something a boy should be caught reading.

Continue reading...

This is the kind of thing that the gender binary does to people -- this is a great example of the ways that sexism hurts boys.[1. In case any Men's Rights Activists stumble onto this post, no, I'm not arguing that men are more/equally/similarly oppressed than women.  The problems men face in a sexist culture are best addressed by fighting for the social equality of women and breaking down the rigid gender norms of "manliness" and "femininity".]

The idea that boys aren't supposed to like 'girly' books, shows, or other narratives means boys are de facto not exposed to strong female characters, good female role models, and whole values-sets that don't mesh with the ideas of 'boys writing.'

I strongly recommend reading the whole post, because it's kind of tragic and very, very important.

The DSM-V takes gender off the table

(via Upworthy on Tumblr) Like every other academic field, the claims made by psychology are constantly open to revision and rebuttal, and like every other academic field, psychology becomes less biased, stratified, and private as time passes and advances are made.

I'm reminded in particular of the history of geometry, which acquired non-Euclidean geometry over 2000 years after Euclidean geometry came up.

Unlike geometry, though, the impact of biases in psychology affect the individual lives of people every day.  Systems of oppression have been hung on bad psychology.  Social myths and prejudices are perpetuated by bad psychology.  Bad geometry can only hold up new creation, whereas bad psychology can do specific harm.

That is why I am thrilled to report that the next edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, DSM-V, the standard textbook from which individuals are diagnosed and medicines are prescribed, is eliminating Gender Identity Disorder.

Well, I say eliminating.  What they've done is switched Gender Identity Disorder (which describes the dissonance between one's assigned gender and experienced gender as unhealthy, and tends toward implicitly arguing that the assigned gender is the correct one) for Gender Dysphoria, which they describe as:

a marked incongruence between one’s experienced/expressed gender and assigned gender.

Why is this a good thing?  Starting from a purely semantic perspective, "Gender Identity Disorder" means the problem is with the individual's perception of their gender.  "Gender Dysphoria" means the individual is unhappy about the state of their experience of gender.

Under the new definition, especially within the context it's been changed, someone who was assigned male at birth but identified as female could seek therapy to help deal with the dissonance, medication that might either help with the depression or help her transition, and insurance-covered surgery to help resolve the incongruance between her body and her identity.

It wouldn't mean that she could be treated by the medical institution like she was a boy and just needed the right treatment to fix her.

The arguments that Advocate.com's article cites in favor of keeping Gender Identity Disorder are for purposes of medical standing for surgery and legal standing in discrimination cases.  But I don't think either of those issues are actually affected by the change.

The new definition still affirms that gender identity is a legitimate, medically valid source of stress and psychological pain.  It just doesn't insist that the problem is boys thinking they're girls and girls thinking they're boys. (And boys and girls thinking they're either or neither...  Does my statement need to be fully inclusive if it's a characterization of a bigoted opinion?  Let me know what you think in comments.)