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Article on trans inclusion in Michfest–and I’m in it

Date: May 30, 2007

The latest issue of LOUDmouth magazine, published by the Women’s Resource Center of California State University, Los Angeles, contains an article by Daniel Bede Dumont about the exclusion of trans women at Michigan Womyn’s Music Festival. The magazine is available for free online and offline, so go download and read up. And I’m not saying only because the article quotes my paper, “Whose Feminism is it Anyway? The Unspoken Racism of the Trans Inclusion Debate” (see readings section):

Clearly for the organizers of the MWMF, the festival is a safe space for female-born people, and transgender women are so different and threatening that they cannot enjoy this safe women’s space without making others feel unsafe. But what exactly is the threat? Emi Koyama gives acute insight into this issue in an article called Whose Feminism is it Anyway? The Unspoken Racism of the Trans Inclusion Debate:

“… To argue that transsexual women should not enter the Land because their experiences are different would have to assume that all other women’s experiences are the same, and this is a racist assumption. Even the argument that transsexual women have experienced some degree of male privilege should not bar them from our communities once we realize that not all women are equally privileged or oppressed. To suggest that the safety of the Land would be compromised overlooks, perhaps intentionally, ways in which women can act out violence and discrimination against each other.”

Transwomen do have different experiences and a certain complicated experience of gender privilege. Transwomen are likely to have avoided the early experiences of female-born women that often include messages about our female bodies being disgusting, dirty and weak. Transwomen are likely to have been taught as children to be assertive, entitled leaders, to speak loudly and take up space, an opposite message from the subordinance that female-born girls are taught, and one that can imbue useful lifeskills. Female-born people have our own experiences, and deserve separate space as much as any group.

However, full-blown exclusion is not the only option. Are these differences truly so significant that all transwomen need to be excluded from the entire 650 acres for all seven days in order for the space to remain “safe”? Vogel stated, “supporting womyn-born womyn space is no more inherently transphobic than supporting womyn-of-color space is racist.” However, she did not state a reason why we cannot “support womyn-born-womyn space” by setting up space within the festival similar to that of the Women of Color tent. What, besides transphobia, makes these privileges/differences more threatening than the many others among women?

Problem with “Gender Identity Disorder” Specialists

Date: May 23, 2007

An article in The Guardian (05/23/2007) features someone who feels that she was “improperly” authorized for sex reassignment surgery after only 45 minutes of consultation 20 years ago, and now regrets the decision. The psychiatrist who diagnosed her with gender identity disorder and approved the surgery was censured by the professional body last week for this and many other rushed diagnoses/surgeries.

The problem with “gender identity disorder” specialists like this psychiatrist is that trans people generally don’t want anybody who would actually evaluate their mental state rigorously. They know what they want for the most part, and prefer “specialists” that would issue a letter of approval as quickly as possible. As a result, less rigorous “specialists” become popular within the trans community and drive out competitors who are more thorough. I’ve come across more than a few GID “specialists” who seem unprofessional and incompetent, because professionalism and competency are not what trans people look for in a GID counselor/psychiatrist. The only attributes required to succeed as a GID “specialist” are the ownership of medical (or sometimes psychotherapist) license and the ability to sign on a form letter (being disinterested in patient’s well-being is actually a plus).

I believe that the current standards of care that requires doctors to act as “gatekeepers” to ensure that the patient is a true transsexual is fundamentally flawed, as it perverts the clinical relationship between the physician and the client. In fact, I would argue that it is in violation of basic therapeutic ethics because the role of the “gatekeeper” conflicts with the primary responsibilities of a physician or a therapist. When anything they say in a counseling session could be used to block a procedure they want badly, trans people have no incentive to speak honestly about any anxieties or confusions they might be feeling, for example.

I think everyone would be better off if we moved on to a medical regime in which doctors only concern themselves with ensuring that the client is properly informed of risks and benefits of the sex reassignment surgery, and that s/he is not making a life-determining decision in a haste.

(Via Feminist Philosophers)

Detailed report on “Ashley treatment” (growth attenuation, etc.) symposium @ University of Washington, May 16

Date: May 17, 2007

Yesterday I attended this one-day symposium on the so-called “Ashley treatment” at University of Washington’s William Gates School of Law. “Ashley” is a nine year old girl with severe developmental disabilities (her mental capacity is said to be equivalent to average three-month old) and is also non-ambulatory, who at the time she was six, had her growth hormonally attenuated (stopped), and uterus and breast buds removed at Seattle Children’s Hospital (SCH) so that she would remain childlike appearance for the rest of her life. The treatment was justified as “in the best interest of the child,” as parents are able to take better care of their daughter when she is smaller and lighter without having to rely on outsiders or institutionalizing her.

The case was reported in Archives of Pediatric and Adolescent Medicine last October, and in this past January it became a major media story with her parents starting a blog about it to “help other parents” who have children in similar predicament to “Ashley.” Then this past week, Washington Protection & Advocacy System (now Disability Rights Washington) issued an investigative report that concluded that the hospital violated the anti-sterilization law by performing hysterectomy on a child with developmental disability without a court order. The hospital acknowledged the error, and went into an agreement with WPAS to create further checks for similar cases in the future, and also to add representatives of disability rights movement to its ethical review committee.


Preliminary report on “Ashley treatment” (growth attenuation, etc.) symposium

Date: May 16, 2007

I just came back from Seattle, where I attended a symposium on the so-called “Ashley treatment”–a combination of hormonal growth attenuation, hysterectomy, and breast buds removal on a girl with severe developmental disabilities–at University of Washington. It was pretty intense, with some parents of disabled kids lining up to praise the “Ashley treatment” and demanding it for their own children. They were also extremely disingenuous–they insist that they are 100% looking out for the best interest of their children, and their own convenience or comfort has absolutely nothing to do with their request for this sort of treatment. I’d been able to have more empathy toward them if they were to express their own needs as caretakers, rather than masking them as the children’s.

It was also painful to watch doctors involved in this case, including the chair of the ethics committee that approved the treatment, totally exposing themselves to be ignorant of bioethics as well as the sterilization statute. They seem to think that their failure to seek court order before performing hysterectomy was a minor, procedural error, when in fact (as Anne Tamar-Mattis, director of Institute for Intersex Children and the Law said) Ashley was denied the fundamental right to have her interests represented by a guardian ad litem. They said, for example, that it would be useless to appoint a guardian ad litem because they won’t be familiar with the case and can’t possibly be completely neutral and balanced. But that’s not the point of the process at all: guardian ad litem is not supposed to be neutral or balanced, but to steadfastly advocate for the child’s bodily integrity, especially in sterilization case (it should be adversarial, i.e. the default position for an advocate is to oppose the procedure).

I’ll have a fuller report on the symposium tomorrow (or maybe the day after). I need to go to bed now, after four hours of Greyhound.

Going to Seattle for symposium on so-called “Ashley treatment”

Date: May 15, 2007

Anne from Institute for Intersex Children and the Law told me about the University of Washington symposium on the so-called “Ashley treatment” titled Ethical and Policy Implications of Limiting Growth in Children with Severe Disabilities this Wednesday, and I decided to attend it.

As some of you may already know, this case involves a six year old girl (now nine year old) with severe cognitive disabilities whose breast buds and uterus removed, and her future growth halted by hormone injection, so that her parents could continue to take care of her at home. The rationale goes that the parents would not be able to take care of her properly if the girl, who is said to have the mental capacity of normal three month old, and that she would suffer as the result of it.

Ever since the procedure was first publicized last October in a medical journal and reported in the news, disability rights activists, such as Feminist Response in Disability Activism, ADAPT, and Not Dead Yet have condemned the procedure, and called for a ban of similar treatment in the future. This past week, Washington Protection & Advocacy System issued an investigative report that found the hospital in violation of the state’s sterilization statutes.

I’ve been somewhat following the controversy (I blogged about the topic in my Japanese blog), but since yesterday (when I decided to attend the symposium) I’ve been reading lots of articles and opinions from disability activists, scholars, and others. Of all critiques I’ve read, Mary Johnson’s “Ashley’s Treatment in the Media” in Women in Media & News is especially insightful, and perhaps one of the few that actually addressed the gendered aspect of the discourse, along with the disability part.

On the other hand, Alice Dreger (as always) offers a very nuanced analysis in “Ashley and the Dangerous Myth of the Selfless Parent,” which points out how our inability to admit to selfishness in parenthood obfuscates the reality, making it harder to prevent egregious abuses of children’s rights. Exactly: once parents stop feeling guilty about being selfish sometimes, they can express their own needs as such, rather than what their children need. And then, we as the society can step in to provide meet that need for the parents, leaving the children unaffected.

There’s a lot of anger toward parents among disability activists, both to our own parents as well as to groups that represent the interests of the parents of disabled people and yet call themselves to be for the disabled (e.g. National Alliance for the Mentally Ill). These groups not only promote laws allowing forced medication, forced institutionalization, end-of-life decisions made by family members, etc. that diminish disabled people’s right to self-determination, but also claim that they are doing it for their disabled family members. It would be much more helpful, as Dreger suggests, if these groups became more forthright and admitted that they speak for the parents, not the disabled people themselves. Too many people don’t seem to understand that parents’ and disabled people’s interests are not the same. Sigh…

Anyway, I’m going to Seattle…

Meeting Filmmakers for “Emperor’s Naked Army Marches On”

Date: May 11, 2007

As previously discussed, I’m visiting the University of Chicago this week, doing two public lectures and two classroom appearances. Yesterday I went to a reception/dinner with students at the Center for East Asian Studies, where I unexpectedly met Kazuo Hara and Sachiko Kobayashi, the director and producer respectively of cult documentary film, “Emperor’s Naked Army Marches On” (read about it here).

I’ve only seen a small segment of the film, but as you can see from the description, the film is so provocative and unusual that I was almost shocked to find both Hara and Kobayashi to be quite reasonable, likeable individuals. I ended up chatting with them about how expensive and tiresome it had been to produce films in the past and how the availability of cheap video cameras and editing environments are changing the field of filmmaking, etc. Kobayashi-san also seemed to be interested in my work around disability and feminism, as she herself is disabled (I’m not sure if that’s how she’d describe, but you get the idea). I’ll have to see the entire film (and any other film of theirs that I can get hold of) once I get back to PDX…

As I go back to Portland this weekend, Hara and Kobayashi will be in Michigan showing some of their films at the University of Michigan, and there will also be a public talk session between Hara and Michael Moore, who has praised “Emperor’s Naked Army Marches On” which he saw while working on his first film, “Roger & Me.” Now that’d be interesting… I wish I were there.

Emi’s secret connection to J. Michael Bailey Exposed! Oh and she drinks the blood of infants too.

Date: May 10, 2007

Recently, person identifying herself as “Gina” has been appearing on various blogs that mention my involvement in the intersex activism, and making some bizarre allegations on me. One such example is found on the blog The Blind Bookworm Blog, which simply posted an announcement about my upcoming (tomorrow!) University of Chicago lecture on the topic. Here are Gina’s comments and my responses.

DSD is a term favored by medical interventionists and parents . It is not a term many Intersexed like used on themselves.

It’s true that the term is generally favored by medical professionals and parents. It’s also favored by many of the intersex patients’ groups, both activist and support groups. On the other hand, there is indeed a large number of intersex people who do not like the term, and that should be taken seriously. But it’s simply not true to say that intersex people generally reject the term. Gina doesn’t speak for the entire intersex people any more than I or any other person would.

You should look to Emi Koyomas conections.

Clearly, Gina never has. If she had, she would not be able to find any connection whatsoever to J. Michael Bailey in any way.

She is not intersexed and

It looks like Gina is the one who is deciding who is intersex and who isn’t, even though she alleges others of doing just that.

is conected to the discredited group from Northwest university that includes J michael bailey.

Gina has no evidence to support this. I don’t know J. Michael Bailey except for the fact I’ve read some of his controversial papers.

These people favor eugenics amongst other things.

I don’t know if J. Michael Bailey favors eugenics or not, but regardless of that it has nothing to do with me.

The DSD consortium are attempting to controll the definition of who is intersexed and who is not. Those that do not comply with their dictates are labeled Autogynophiliacs or homoerotic.

Well, it defines DSD as “congenital conditions in which development of chromosomal, gonadal, or anatomic sex is atypical.” It’s actually a broader and clearer definition that the traditional “intersex.”

“Autogynephilic” and “homoerotic” Gina is referring to are two subtypes of male-to-female transsexuality proposed by Ray Blanchard and promoted by J. Michael Bailey. I can understand why transsexual people would be upset with Bailey’s claim that these are the only possible variations for transsexual women, and I would totally support trans activists challenging Bailey et al. on that. But still, that’s the controversy around transsexuality, not intersex.

Needless to say, if one has a DSD under its current definition, she or he does: that fact won’t change whether or not they “comply” or agree with the terminology in any way.

Besides, whatever her disagreement with DSD Consortium might be, I’m not part of the consortium or have any relationship with it.

Unfortunately, the controversy over the DSD term has brought about the kind of personal attacks as evidenced by Gina’s comment (and she has been posting similar attacks against me on other blogs as well).

Gina is not alone in disliking the term DSD, and I support her in expressing her opinions. But she has no right to spread lies and ridiculous conspiracy theories about other intersex activists whom she happens to disagree with (that said, I’m not even sure if she actually understands what my positions are to begin with, since she continues to attribute things to me that I had nothing to do with). If she is going to allege that I associate with J. Michael Bailey or that I endorse eugenics, she needs to produce evidence–so far, absolutely none has surfaced.

Oh by the way, Lynn Conway’s website that Gina speaks about is this:

As you see, you won’t find it mentioning my name at all (Google couldn’t find it). So whatever position she thinks the site might support, it doesn’t support anything she alleges about me.

Going to Chicagoland (this week, then the month of June)…

Date: May 6, 2007

On Tuesday, I’m leaving for Chicago to give two lectures at University of Chicago. My talks are part of the Celebrating Protest series, which has been bringing in various progressive activists and artists from Japan as well as from within the U.S. (like myself). Here’s the info on my talks:

Wednesday, May 9 at 5:00pm
“Colonialism, Militarism and the Political Economy of Transracial Adoption”
Pick Lounge, Ground Floor, Pick Hall, 5828 S. University Ave.

Friday, May 11 at 12:15pm
“Intersex at the Intersection of Queer Theory & Disability Theory”
Conference Room, Center for Gender Studies, 5733 S. University Ave.

Also Chicago-related: I’m thinking about spending the month of June in Chicago area, and looking for an apartment I could sublet for the month. I’m hoping that perhaps some student would go home for the summer and might be needing someone to pay the rent for them… Due to my disability, it needs to be on the accessible level (I can manage some steps); and also it needs to be close to public transportation. If you have a lead, do email me with the info.