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.

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.

Potential male contraceptive

Both the BBC and SciShow reported today on the new developments around male contraception -- it seems there's a solid lead towards developing a pill for people with Y chromosomes.  Or, at least, it works in mice.

The testes of mice taking the drug began to shrink as they produced fewer sperm, which were also less mobile. Some were rendered infertile.

When the animals were no longer taking the drug they were able to have babies.

One of the researchers, Dr James Bradner said: "This compound produces a rapid and reversible decrease in sperm count and motility with profound effects on fertility.

"These findings suggest that a reversible, oral male contraceptive may be possible."

The way these things go, human testing is probably a while off, and if that goes alright (fingers crossed) it'll still be like ten years before the pill is available to the public -- by which point, I probably either won't want it, or be ready for a more permanent intervention.

But it'll be good to know that if I have male children, they might have access to contraceptives that they're relatively more likely to keep up with.

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.

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'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.)