Thursday, June 28, 2012


As some of you know my health isn't so hot these last six months. I'm sorry for the long gaps between posts but I just don't have the spoons to keep up with my daily life let alone blogging. I will get back to it and hopefully my health will improve sooner rather than later but for now - I am going to have to continue my unplanned hiatus as yet another thing has failed on me that requires yet another specialist and even more medication.

Cheers and thanks for the patience

Update aug 26:
I've gotten a discogram and have essentially confirmed that I'll have to have a disc replacement. Well, likely at some point four of them but here in the states I can only get two at a time so I'll get two replaced then later the other two because they are all dead. I don't recommend a discogram, they suck horribly.

Update jul 30
I'm starting to feel better and while I'm far from 100% I am working regularly again and am getting out a bit. The deep depression I've been in is fading back away so I feel like I should be around again. I've been working through some posts for asexy on sex, and am working on ideas for queer transformations and a good night for science. I'll be trying to write a post during work for at least one of my blogs every day. I may resurrect on dread more to write about games. I am actually feeling excited to write for y'all so look for content soon!

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Herpes good food/bad food response

This is a response to this tumblr post as reblogged by fuckyeahsexeducation. It appears to be sourced from e-how. I have posted each section in the article, then my response below it. 

Foods to Avoid
When a herpes outbreak occurs, you should do your best to avoid foods with a high arginine content. Arginine essentially provides the food necessary for the survival of the herpes virus. High-arginine foods include coffee, chocolate, nuts, oatmeal, raisins, seeds, whole wheat bread, brown rice, coconut and lentils. You should also avoid eating fruits with high citric acid content, such as oranges and grapefruits, during an outbreak. In general, you should avoid processed foods and artificial cola drinks.
This is an area where it's a bit more complicated than you think. Dosage matters. Take over what you should or under and you run into problems. A study by Naito et. al. Found that Arginine suppresses the growth of HSV-1 but only up to 50-60 nM. They also found that it is time dependent and that it doesn't directly interfere with the recurrence of the virus. SO what does this mean? It means that you can have your mocha and not really worry about its effect on your herpes. Should you binge on them? No, but in moderation your coffee, brown rice, whole wheat bread and coconut shouldn't do you any harm. As for the claim about citric acid I couldn't find any studies on that – positive or negative. As far as I can tell this came from nowhere.

Good Foods to Eat
Lysine, on the other hand, serves to combat herpes when an outbreak occurs and helps prevent outbreaks as well. Foods with high lysine content include cheese, chicken, eggs, fish, milk, potatoes, beef, brewer’s yeast, yogurt, sprouts, avocados, papaya, mango, apricots, apples, figs, beets and lamb.
Lysine – according to Griffith et. al. Lysine does indeed seem to suppress the clinical manifestations of herpes virus infection. This means that it helps speed up recovery and helps suppress another outbreak. HOWEVER. These results were found with a daily dose of just over 1,000 mg. The lower dosage studied in McCune et. al. Study on the same therapy (around 600 mg per day) found no results. While consuming these foods might give you an increase in lysine intake – you're better off talking to your doctor about options for when you get an outbreak and how to prevent them. If your doctor agrees that a Lysine dosage might help – they can assist you in getting a safe, reliable dosage so that you don't need to gamble on the unknown dosages you might get from foods. Remember – the amount you take matters. A dose too small might not do anything and a dose too large could do some serious damage. 
Other Dietary Considerations:
Broccoli, cabbage, and Brussels sprouts contain a compound known as indole-3-carbinol (I3C) that may be effective in suppressing herpes. Green tea is also a good thing to work into your diet, as it contains antiviral and antioxidant properties. Most organic herbal green or white teas are good. Consume lots of sprouts as well, because sprouts contain powerful enzymes and vitamins, even more than the actual vegetables themselves. Try to consume fruits and vegetables in raw form rather than cooking them, as cooked vegetables usually have lower vitamin content. Drinking fresh vegetable and fruit juice can do wonders for the immune system and your overall health. There are also some good enzyme and vitamin supplements on the market that can help control herpes. Vitamin C, B5, B6, zinc, and magnesium are all good choices.
Here's the deal on this portion. Have a healthy diet and you don't need to worry about any of this. Yes, green tea is lovely but the research is mixed, we can't say that it will do any good to help with HSV-1 because we don't have results showing this. Based upon the scant evidence I have been able to find in reliable places I am inclined to lean toward this not helping anything save a very minor effect in oral herpes infections that are currently active. Of course there is a huge placebo effect there still.

Consume lots of sprouts as well, because sprouts contain powerful enzymes and vitamins, even more than the actual vegetables themselves.” What does this even mean? How can something contain more “powerful enzymes and vitamins” than the actual vegetable? I don't get it.

As for the cooking vegetables claim to somehow reduce the vitamin and mineral content in vegetables the evidence is mixed. The method of cooking, the type of vegetable etc. all make a difference. According to Masrizal et. al. Microwaving or steaming most vegetables retains most of the vitamin C, iron, and beta-carotene content. Other studies, one such conducted by Leichter et. al. Shows that what reduction there is in boiled vegetables is usually merely leached into the water it's boiled in. My conclusion from this? If you want to keep your cauliflower nutrients make a stew or soup out of it and poof, you still have them.

There are also some good enzyme and vitamin supplements on the market that can help control herpes. Vitamin C, B5, B6, zinc, and magnesium are all good choices.” Or, take your valtrex, and talk to your doctor. If, and only if, you have a vitamin deficiency do you need supplementation and your doctor can help you with that. Otherwise you will merely have at best expensive pee and at worse too much of the vitamin's which can be harmful. Eat a healthy diet, get a bit of sunlight and drink water – the vast majority of people don't need supplements and if anyone other than your doctor (mind you that's a real doctor not a naturopath, herbalist, nutritionist or other such bunk) tells you to take a supplement because you're somehow needing supplementing get a second opinion from your doctor. For some more information about supplements check out the amazing work done by the Science Based Medicine people –  Here,  Here and Here.

As far as the whole “Drinking fresh vegetable and fruit juice can do wonders for the immune system and your overall health.” thing – yeah, fresh vegetable and fruit juice is a great way to get your daily intake of fruits and vegetables but what do they mean 'do wonders for the immune system'? What part of the immune system? How does it help? Does drinking your fruits and vegetables make any difference when compared to eating them? Yes we do need them to help keep up our health but it doesn't do anything different than consuming those particular edibles would anyway. You need the nutrients and your stomach isn't particularly picky about how it gets them. The immune system is complicated and saying things like it 'can do wonders for the immune system' is an immediate red flag for something not to take particularly seriously. Especially without a decent citation.

I took a look at the citations e-how provided (which don't show up on the tumblr story) and they were sketchy to say the least. Is it surprising that “global herbal supplies” is recommending supplements? Or that the naturopath over at herpes coldsores has a whole host of diet changes with no supporting evidence to recommend? Or that a site flogging books and herbs is recommending something similar with a similar level of evidence? I'll stick with the literature. I personally get oral cold sores and have my whole life, I do indeed practice what I preach and go to the doctor (again – a real one, a MD) when I have an outbreak. She gives me Valtrex – my outbreak goes away in a day or two. It's a virus, we have it for life and pseudoscience trying to persuade us to change our quality of life on the abstract hope that we can somehow prevent an outbreak is ridiculous. Go with the evidence, talk to your doctor and work with them to manage your progress. If you think you are deficient in a vitamin – again, talk to your doctor. There are simple tests that can be done to see and if you are a proper, safe supplement can be prescribed. Thanks to the lack of regulation in the supplement industry on the shelf pills may not actually contain what they are claiming. Some have been seen to have more or less of the dosage, some have other contaminates in them, some herbal supplements have even been found to have high levels of heavy metals. You can take your chances – I'll stick to something that is regulated and has been tested. Overall it comes down to your choice – do you go with something that isn't proven, has clear biases in the recommendations, and isn't regulated well or tested, regulated medicine given by a properly trained MD?

Have evidence I missed? Let me know. I would love to be wrong.


Griffity et. al. A multicentered study of lysine terapy in Herpes simplex infection. Dermatologica. 1978;156(5):257-67.
McCune et. al. Treatment of recurrent herpes simplex infections with L-lysine monohydrochloride. Cutis. 1984 Oct; 34(4):366-73.
Naito et. al. Antiviral effect of arginine against herpes simplex virus type 1. Int. J Mol Med. 2009 Apr;23(4):495-9.

Sunday, April 8, 2012

A few definitions

I had someone call me on the fact that some of the words I use aren't always in common usage so I thought I would start a definitions list. Given how busy this last weekend has been and my upcoming surgery this seemed right up my alley for something I could do during the 6 hours or so of riding in a car I had over the last weekend. If you see any errors in this list or have things you think should be added, let me know! I am always up for corrections and comments. 

Asexual - a person who doesn't feel sexual attraction towards other people
Agendered - a person who feels they have no gender
ASAB - assigned sex at birth - afab or amab for female/male
Appropriation - taking something from another persons identity that isn't a part of yours.
Body map - a persons internal map of what their body should look like. A person generally experiences some level of dysphoria if this doesn't match their body.
BDSM - bondage, discipline, dominance/submission, sadomasochism
Busted language - language that is oppressive to another group of people
Cis - an overarching term for people whose asab and gender identity match
Cis sexual - a person whose body map matches their body
Cis gendered - a person whose asab matches their gender identity
CASAB - coercively assigned sex at birth
Demisexual - a person who is sexually attracted to people only after getting to know them
Dysphoria - the feeling that something isn't right with your body, either something is there and shouldn't be or something is missing
Erasure - the systematic failure to have things a person can identify with in the culture, e.g.  Not having trans* people represented in schools
Fetish/paraphilia - something that is typically non sexual that arouses a person or is required for sexual gratification
Grey-asexual  - a person who isn't sexually attracted to people the majority of time
Gender fluid - a person who feels their gender is variable and doesn't fit in the binary
Gender queer - a person who feels their gender doesn't fit in the binary
Gender fuck - a person who intentionally expresses their gender to play with people's preconceptions
Heterosexual - a person who is sexually attracted to what is considered the opposite sex
Homosexual - a person who is sexually attracted to the same sex
Intersex - a person who, at birth, the doctors determined their genitalia was "ambiguous." typically doctors would "correct" the ambiguation, thankfully this is being done less and less. Often this leads to ASAB becoming CASAB.
Misgendering - not using the correct gender signifiers for a person
Neutrois - a person who is agendered and experiences dysphoria
Passing - trying to appear as another gender than your asab, e.g. Afab Trying to pass as a male
Queer - a person who feels that modern societal norms don't fit them for their gender, sexuality or expression thereof. Also a political ideology
Sapiosexual - a person who is sexually attracted to intelligence
Sadomasochism - a person who enjoys giving (sadism) and receiving (masochism) pain
Trans* - the overarching term for a person whose asab doesn't match their gender identity
Trans sexual - a person who is trans* and has or intends to have gender alignment surgery or hormones
Trans gender - a person who is trans* and does not intend to have gender alignment surgery or hormones at this time
Tokenizing - having one person represent a whole group

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

On Passing

Why do so many trans sites and trans people seem so concerned with “passing?” I don't get it and yet I fall prey to it as well. Sometimes the overarching concern is to be attributed as cis but sometimes the effort seems to be in deliberately being either misgendered or confusing. I know the second part if a choice (though in my gender classes I have felt pressure to 'show' my gender fluidity, which is ridiculous) but it's the first one, the pressure to be attributed as cisgender that really gets me.

I understand wanting to appear cis for safety reasons. There is a huge privilege you gain by being perceived as a part of the typical cis binary. This helps smooth the way in so many ways that cis people likely don't realize. Just not having the thread of being harmed, verbally or physically, by appearing cis (or at least lessening that threat) is likely worth it for many trans and non-binary people. There isn't anything wrong with choosing to accept a certain level of misgendering and dysphoria for safety reasons. That being said, it is an individuals choice to make and one which shouldn't be a decision which others try to influence.

Unfortunately the pressure to 'pass' is something that a lot of people, trans and cis both, put on trans people who aren't passing or who don't 'fir' a mold for their identity. For example, currently the 'in' thing for gender queer people is a kind of hardcore androgyny. Those who don't fit that are questioned to see if they are “real” gender queers or if they are faking it. Unfuck that, a person's gender expression doesn't necessarily equate to their gender identity for one and for two holy no true Scotsman fallacy badman. They aren't “real” gender queers if they don't “fit” a preset idea of what a gender queer person “should” be. That's bullshit flat out. The range of “acceptable” presentation for cis males and especially cis females is massive. Why do those who aren't cis and who aren't binary have such a narrow range of acceptance?

Just look at the difference between a cis female and a trans female. The cis person can range in gender expression from a super femininity to the most hardcore butch and they are still accepted as female. Their femininity, may be questioned, their orientation may be questioned, but almost never their gender. Now for the trans person, unless their gender expression is what is typically considered feminine or they pass well and no one knows their trans history their gender is regularly questioned and is often rejected, even by other trans people. Hell, likely especially by other trans people. I have heard more trans people accuse those of us who aren't trying to pass of “making trans people look bad.” No we aren't, those who insist on being in a box of trans expressions with no deviations are.

This behavior is ridiculous, those who are trans have every gender expression represented just as cis people do but this policing of what is a “true” trans or gender queer or neutrois expression is just horizontal oppression and merely perpetuates the idea that if you don't “fit” you are other. As a whole trans* people are already showing that cis ideals aren't working, non-binary people are showing that binarist ideals aren't working. Rather than accepting that peoples expression needs to “fit” to their gender identity we need to allow for people to express themselves and their gender how they feel is right for them not for some ideal of gender. The cis privilege of gender expression needs to be taken up by trans* people. No matter your gender identity cis male or trans gender queer you should not be condemned for your choice of expression of that gender. We need to move away form this oppressive dialogue of passing and allow people to freely express who they are.

Sunday, April 1, 2012

A bit about reclaiming words

The only thing that gives me pause about reclaiming words that I, in my target group identities have had used against me is the fear that the privileged people who hear my reclaimed words will think to themselves “Well they use that word why can't I?”. Words have contexts, histories and meanings and we need to be careful of that. We need to realize that when people are reclaiming that it can be a perilous time for them because the words still hurt and the words are hard to use and the words remind us every damn time we use them that we are oppressed.

It is worth it though. It is worth taking back the power and the hurt and the glory and the pain to fully live. To not let a word with history and power over us hurt us anymore. It is not something that can be done for another person though. They have to do it themselves. A person has to find their words that they want to empower themselves with and if those words need to be reclaimed from their oppressors, more power to them.

It is their choice though. What words, what sounds, what sights, smells and feelings they want to reclaim. What they have the ability to handle right now to reclaim. That needs to be respected. For me, personally, I love the word 'cunt' for my reproductive organs because it's something that has been used to demean me in the past. HOWEVER I know that a lot of people, especially a lot of people with vaginas or who other perceive as having vaginas really really don't like that word. So I don't use it a lot and if I know someone has a problem with it then I will do my best not to squick them in their space.

On my pages, in my blog, and in my head however it is mine and because of that I am empowered.

If that is how a person is reclaiming then awesome.
If that is how a person is using it then awesome.
If that is how a person is being empowered by it then awesome.

I have however seen supposed reclaiming that is harmful.

I have seen people 'reclaim' words used against them and then turn around and horizontally oppress other people in their own target group, with their own identity, with the very word they say they are reclaiming. If the word is still being used to harm, to hold someone down, to trigger bad memories, to attack, then it is not being reclaimed it is being propagated.

Reclamation is not about stealing power from others it is about empowering ourselves so that the words with their whole history of harm and abuse of our own people aren't hurting. When we used these words to harm people who have had them used as weapons by oppressors already we are setting that process back.

That is the difference to me.

Saturday, March 31, 2012

California's Universities may be asking about Sexual Orientation

In the news recently was the possibility of the California public university system adding to their demographics collection for applicants questions about their sexual orientation. I have mixed feelings about this depending on the question. For example, one of the news reports mentions a private school in Illinois that has “3% reporting to be homosexual, bisexual or transgender.” One thing that I have never understood is why 'transgender' is on a list of sexual orientations. It's not a sexual orientation, it's a gender history. A person can be a homosexual trans woman, or a bisexual trans man, or even something not even mentioned like a pansexual trans gender queer.

This gets into part of the problem I can see happening. According to the same news source the new law that asks universities to allow students and staff to be able to “identify their sexual orientation, gender identity and gender expression” This would be really cool and validating if it was done right but from what I can tell so far the question is mainly going to be about sexual orientation, and the only orientations I have seen listed yet are heterosexual, homosexual, bisexual and questioning. This is really invalidating to the students who don't identify with this limited list of orientations. If it was a fill in the blank, or even had the option of 'other' it would be a little better. Even though 'other' is still rendering a person into that status and is dehumanizing at least then their voices could possibly be heard but as is it isn't looking likely.

Another disheartening part of the stories is the discussion of the UC Undergrad Experience Survey which listed gay/lesbian or self-identified queer together and bisexual and questioning as separate categories. My first response was 'wait what?' This is completely ridiculous and tells me that whoever designed the survey questions has no idea what the different orientations are.

Elmhurst College was also reported but they seemed to do things a little better by asking “would you consider yourself to be a member of the LGBT community?” See, while that isn't perfect it is at least a bit better. There they are asking what they want to know – are you part of the community we are interested in serving. It feels like they aren't doing lip service to wanting to actually know about the sexual orientations of the people on campus but actually asking the question of if you would use the services provided for LGBT people. This doesn't have as much pretense as questions on your actual orientation.

More services for QUILTBAG students is great and a worthy goal so I am glad that the uni's are trying to do something to help ensure that these students are getting the services they need but it needs to be done right. At the moment, I have little faith that the schools will be putting questions on their admittance forms that validate non-binary students, especially given that most still have 'sex: male/female' on there. Maybe this is a step in the right direction but it seems to me like another way to keep rendering those who aren't binary in gender and orientation, or those who aren't sexual, invisible.

All of the quotes in this are from LA Times, the article can be found here

Friday, March 30, 2012

Orientation – just when you thought it made sense.

When most people think of orientation they think of sexual orientation but the reality is that it is more complicated than that. Who people are attracted to sexually is only one aspect of orientation there is also who people are attracted to romantically as well as what other people attribute your orientations to be. These different aspects line up in most people, though the attribution can be different for some who aren't heterosexual or obviously homosexual but for those who aren't of a 'mainstream' orientation or whose sexual and romantic orientation this aspect of who they are can be rendered invisible.

Sexual orientation can be divided into a number of categories, not all of which many people have heard of. The categories are hetero, homo, bi, pan, omni, a, demi, and sapio. Heterosexual people are those who are sexually attracted to people of the opposite sex (whatever that means, usually this is used for people in a binary-identification of sex or gender). This is also called androphilia when people don't want to attach a gender to the people involved. Homosexual people are those who are attracted to people of the same sex, this has the same binary implications as heterosexuality does. This is also called gynephilia for similar reasons to androphilia. Bisexuality is the last binary identification and is sexual attraction to 'both' genders.

Pansexual and omnisexual are sexual attraction to all genders and attraction that isn't based off gender respectively. These two orientations are often put together into the same category. Asexual people aren't sexually attracted to other people and demisexual people require a relationship before sexual attraction occurs. Sapiosexual people are attracted to intelligence without regards for gender or sex. Romantic attraction has the same categories as sexual attraction but deals with who a person is attracted to have a romantic relationship with.

Orientation attribution is what other people assume your sexual and romantic attribution. Usually people assume that these two attributes match but that isn't always the case. Unless yours happen to not match however there is a distinct possibility that you have never realized that they are two different orientations. People who are assumed to be heterosexual/romantic are given cis privilege even if they aren't hetero, even the assumption of homosexuality and bisexuality give a person cis privilege that the other orientations don't get. Far too often a person who is of a non-binary orientation is rendered invisible, even in human sexuality classes where the professor should know better.

One thing that happens far too often, especially in homosexual communities is the assumption that orientation must be stable. A person changing their orientation is seen as a traitor to the community and even if that doesn't occur in many cases they aren't welcomed back into the community to the extent that they were previously. The reality however is that all orientations have some degree of fluidity. While many people have relatively stable orientations, like with gender, orientation can have a small, moderate or high level of fluidity. These fluctuations may just be for one person, or just every so often but in others there is a significantly greater level of fluctuation. Maybe the person identifies as homoflexible – a designation that says that the person is mainly homosexual but isn't entirely objecting to the possibility of an attraction to a person of another gender.

There is a lot of research into sexual orientation already, though most of it is on hetero, homo, and bi sexual people. Research is minimal on asexuals, and nearly non-existent for the other orientations. I think the best way to do this research would be to do a survey of people to find their sexual and romantic orientations both via self report and adaptations of scales previously used to detect sexual orientation. A lot of these scales can easily be adapted for use on looking at romantic orientation as well.

Looking into orientation attribution would be done in the same way as the other attributions; asking a group of people to identify peoples orientation based off of a profile of the person. In this case a written case report of various people from a variety of sexual and romantic orientations and having the people involved write down what they think the case studies orientations are. Another way to do this would be to have a staged video of a dance or party then have the participants watch and determine what the people at the event have for orientation.

As with the other categories that deal with fluidity sexual and romantic orientation fluidity can be measured retrospectively via a survey asking people how their orientations have changed over time. This can then branch out into a more in-depth set of research where people journal their orientation perhaps on a monthly basis over the course of time to see if it changes. The longitudinal study would have to take place over a number of years so that there would be a complete picture of peoples fluidity. This would be the most difficult to develop a measure to test because orientation fluidity isn't socially acceptable in may areas and many people have a goal of finding one person to settle down with and thus don't do a lot of changing of orientation after that.

As for practical uses of this I think that the best place this information can be used would be in couples therapy to establish a background on the clients. I am not sure that this orientation information alone would have much practical use beyond that but used in suite with the other areas of sexuality and gender this can give a clinician working with a person a lot of information to go on when they are assessing someone for gender or sexuality related problems. Establishing a clear baseline that doesn't deny the person's identity is vital so that a good therapeutic outcome can be reached.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

The Maze of Gender

Gender is confusing. When I first started questioning my gender this is something that I said regularly and frankly, that hasn't changed much in the last year or so. Growing up it's always boy or girl, no in between, this idea is reinforced in school until as adults we are so used to a binary that is difficult for most people to change. Unless you are one of those kids who never really felt like they sat right in their gender. That little kid who did all of the 'boy things' and who didn't like the 'girl stuff' and didn't get why other kids wanted to do silly things rather than run around outside and climb trees. Thankfully University came along and I got one more opportunity to question again. Now here I am supposedly an adult and I get to do all of the gender exploration that I never got to do as a child.

My reading and researching has led me to divide gender into five categories; gender identity, gender expression, gender attribution, gender identity fluidity and gender expression fluidity. These five categories tell us what gender a person is, how often that changes as well as how that is presented to the world. As with Sex, these aren't necessarily stable quantities - a persons identity can change over time and their expression surely does. From what I have seen in my reading so far this is especially true for afab people because society is more accepting of their gender exploration than people who are amab. Now for a little more detail on each of the categories, what research needs to be done on the different hypothesis involved and then what can be done with the information.

Gender identity is one of the characteristics that people are likely most familiar with because this is where trans gender people become known. The category is a little more complicated that just cis vs trans though because we have two classifications to start with, binary and non-binary then we break those down even further. On the binary side we have cis male and cis female as well as trans male and trans female. On the non-binary side things are more complicated. We have neutrois, gender fluid, gender queer, gender neutral, agender, and I am sure there are more that I don't know of yet. Each of these non-binary classifications can have a trans history as well, though that is up to the person to identify.

Gender expression gets even more complicated with gender fucks and gender queers intentionally playing with peoples attributions. There are what are considered 'masculine' and 'feminine' expressions and dyke, boi, femme, androgynous, and all of the different combinations and classifications that can appear. For the sake of my brain I have just those I have listed here as well as an 'other' category but that may change as the research finds what people feel their expression best falls into.

Gender attribution is what other people think is your gender identity (and often your asab) just from your gender expression. This is most commonly male, female or trans but depending on the person doing the attribution the range of options can be just as broad as the range of potential identities. As with any attribution, those who are active in the gender world likely will ask a persons gender identity and their pronouns before this attribution is fully made.

Gender identity and expression fluidity can both very drastically for people, especially gender expression. The difference here though is if people attribute you to be a female then more fluidity in gender expression is accepted vs the tighter levels of acceptable gender expression exploration that society finds acceptable in males. The variation can be from essentially stable or small amounts of fluidity to semi-regular, or moderate fluidity and finally to high fluidity where your identity or expression changes quite a bit. These are two different categories but both have a big impact on a person both in how others perceive them to if they get cis privilege or not.

There have been a number of studies already into gender identity but, as is common in many programmes, non-binary identities have largely been ignored. I would like to try to replicate some of the research that has been done on gender identity while taking into account that there are non-binary people out there. I would also like to see about modifying some of the existing questionnaires to be more inclusive of non-binary people and to be able to accurately measure the gender identity of a person, rather than just leaving things in the binary.

For gender expression the best way to get this information would be a survey of people with a variety of different gender identities asking them what kinds of expression they do to show the world their gender. This can range from clothing and jewelry to body language and even methods of speaking. Clinical interviews would also be useful for this because then more information can be gathered on points that need clarification.

For gender attribution, the best way to do this would be to have a variety of people from a variety of backgrounds look at people of a variety of gender identities and expressions and have them label each with what they think the persons gender identity is. This would not only give the different kinds of labels people give but the frequency of the labels as per different identities and expressions.

Gender identity fluidity and gender expression fluidity can both be done in similar ways to the body map fluidity research I outlined last post. This would be a preliminary retrospective survey on the persons gender identity and expression and how the changes over time and a follow up longitudinal study having people journal their identity and expression over time. This combination would give both how people perceive themselves changing over time as well as the reality of what is occurring.

The practical aspect of this is that it can help a person who is struggling with their identity to clearly see what is going on, or for their therapist to get a better idea of what they are presenting. Especially if measures can be made or adapted to be used to determine this information. Examples of the use of this is to help people who are trans and want to either have surgery or go on hormones. A clinical interview to get the needed information on sex and gender in this system would tell someone that the person is trans and if they want to do hormones or surgery it can inform the process from there while validating the persons gender. The current system is invalidating for people with non-binary genders and even may binary trans people find the system to be deeply problematic. While this wouldn't entirely renovate the system a therapist using this base to evaluate the persons need for alignment processes while removing the invalidation of either the therapist denying your gender identity or having to lie about it, thus rendering your actual identity invisible. 

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Let's talk about Sex

Don't get your hopes up, I am not meaning intercourse. Lets talk about bodies and what our brains tell us our bodies should be. The hypothesis I am working on when it comes to sex has it broken down into a couple of different areas as I outlined in my last post. These are (C)ASAB, Sex Identity, Sex Attribution and Body Map Fluidity. I am not entirely sure that this is what will end up as sticking in this category but it's a place to start. I'll go into more detail on each of the categories then go into ideas on how to do the research for this and potentially how it can be used.

(C)ASAB stands for (Coercively) assigned sex at birth. This can be assigned female at birth (AFAB), assigned male at birth (AMAB) or assigned intersex at birth which is then typically coercively assigned female or male following that designation. A lot of people in the non-binary and trans* communities are not only unhappy that they were assigned a gender at birth but that people seem to reduce us to our CASAB rather than listen to us when we give our gender. This is the only construct that is entirely stable for everyone, as each person has been assigned a sex at birth.

Sex Identity is if your internal body map matches your body, as well as if you plan on altering your body to better match your body map. This can be broken down into three categories. Cis sexual is where your body map and your body match. Trans sexual is where your body map and your body don't match and you have, or plan to have surgery or take hormones to align your body and map. Trans* sexual is where your body map and body don't match and you don't have plans to align your body either because you don't feel the need or can't do so. This body map and body match doesn't entirely have to do with sexual characteristics, it can also be other major aspects of your body. For example, a person who is a furry may have a body map that has a tail and since their body doesn't they may be considered trans* sexual.

Sex Attribution is what other people attribute your sex identity (usually assumed to be your asab) to be. This varies depending on the social context, but the majority of people will assume someone to be their asab or what they think is your asab. In other social contexts this might not be as likely but most people don't know what a trans* background might entail.

Body Map Fluidity is the final category under sex and is the amount that a persons internal body map fluctuates over time. Some people will have very stable body maps, where their idea of what their body should look like doesn't change much over time. People whose body map changes every so often will have a small amount of body map fluidity, people whose body map changes a decent skamount, enough to be noticeable on a regular basis would have a moderate amount of body map fluidity. The final group that has a high body map fluidity would have their map change quite often and regularly feel that change.

There isn't a lot of research to be done into ASAB as it is an assignation rather than something which will change over time. My research into sex identity will need to be in the form of surveys and interviews where I ask people about their body map, their body, and what they identify with for their sex (cis, trans, trans* etc.). This would need to be done with a sample of people who are cis as well as people who aren't. Sex attribution would need for me to have a group of people determine what someone's sex identity is based off of sight. This would need to be done with a number of people from a variety of backgrounds who would be viewing people who have cis, trans and trans* backgrounds. Body map fluidity could go in a number of ways. This could be done retrospectively by asking people about how often their body map changes or by having people regularly journal on their body map and any changes in it over a long period of time. The second one may need to be done after a retrospective survey is done so that there is a better idea of how often peoples body maps change.

What can be done with this information? To be honest I am not sure, if this system is found to be true with research then measures may be able to be developed which can help a therapist get a better picture of what a client is going experiencing. This also helps legitimize a person's body dysphoria by acknowledging it and respecting its legitimacy. This information would likely be most useful as a part of a complete picture of a persons gender and sex rather then standing on its own. 

A Research Project in the Making

My current project involves an in depth look at gender, sex, sexuality, and orientation. I am working on a hypothesis of how these are actually divided up, what is fluid, how fluid the different aspects are and the potential rates for each different 'classification.' As many who look into gender in any depth know, it's complicated. So is a persons sex, sexuality and orientation. I am going to go through my current basic breakdowns in the hopes of getting some feedback on what others think of it. Parts of this will likely make up the subject matter for my masters thesis as well as my PhD dissertation.

So here are the basic breakdowns:
Sex – (C)ASAB, Sex Identity, Sex Attribution, Body Map Fluidity
Gender – Gender Identity, Gender Expression, Gender Attribution, Gender Identity Fluidity, Gender Expression Fluidity
Orientation – Sexual Orientation, Romantic Orientation, Orientation Attribution, Sexual Orientation Fluidity, Romantic Orientation Fluidity
Sexuality – Libido, Exploration, Expression, Identification, Identification Fluidity, Libido Fluidity

Each of the second categories have the various classifications; e.g. ASAB → AFAB/AMAB. The ones I still need to work on are in the Sexuality category as that is the area I have done the least formal thought on for this kind of project. I really feel that doing this kind of mapping can help someone realize that they are complicated, fluid and that it is okay. While most people seem to assume that their ASAB = Sex Identity = Gender Identity = Gender Expression and that Sexual and Romantic Orientations are the same. While part of the research I want to do on this includes asking people these kinds of questions to find out if my hypothesis (that people assume SO and RO are the same etc) is correct I also want to use the fleshed out (and fully researched) version of this as a potential prop for therapists working with gender or sexuality “atypical” people to really look into themselves and to be able to clearly share this kind of information with their family or friends who they are having difficulties discussing these topics with.

While therapy isn't my area of interest I want my research to have practical applications for people and I hope that this is the start of something that can really help people who are struggling with identity issues. It can also help people who just need to understand what someone is talking about. By putting together a clear reference point a person can say oh on this categorization scale my Sexual Orientation is Homo and my Romantic Orientation is Hetero, both however are highly fluid. This tells a clinician something specific and useful about doing relationship therapy with the person. E.g. that the person is homosexual and heteroromantic but that they aren't stable things and may change depending on the other people involved or even just randomly. However if the romantic orientation was stable then the clinician knows that the person may be having problems in their homoromantic relationship because the client isn't homoromantic and that isn't likely to change over time either.

This gives me the idea of working on developing a set of measures to help determine a persons categories. (I really need a better word for it but right now, that's all I have. Ideas would be useful.) For example doing a 'fill in the blank' where the person puts down what they think of themselves as for each scale then have a series of questions that can help determine the answers as well. A clinical interview would also be useful to help make sure that there is a complete picture of the client. This is straying out of my field of expertise though so I will end the pondering there.

Long story short; I am working on teasing out the complicated areas of sex and gender as well as how they interact with others. I will be going into more detail on each of the different categories over the next week or two and will continue to do updates on this as the idea and the research gets more fleshed out.

Monday, March 26, 2012

What internalized and insidious oppression can look like

My recent conversations around the web have led me to realize that not everyone knows what some of the less overt kinds of oppression looks like. It's hard to tell sometimes when something is oppression when it isn't in your face. I am working on putting together a list of various ways people are oppressive to themselves and others, often without even realizing it is happening.

I'll start by going through the different '-ism's and then go through some of the tactics used to shut down even the discussion of the '-ism' in question. After all, we can never change the system if we never talk about it.

(Some of these are pretty overt examples – I would really appreciate it if people think of more insidious or internalized examples that they either share them here or message me them so I can have better examples of less overt methods. Also, if you think something in my definition is busted or if you can think of a clearer or more succinct definition please share it. Thanks! -Lee) 

The Oppressions


“Of course you can afford that, all you need to do is cut out one coffee or pack of smokes a week”
Classism is oppression based upon a persons assumed wealth or overall monetary value. This example assumes that the person can even afford to get coffee, or smokes and doesn't take into account the fact that many people can't even afford one pack of smokes a month because they don't have the extra money.


(said by a cisfemale to a cisfemale) “Girl, if you wear that you will never get ahead, you have to be sexy.”
Sexism is discrimination against someone because of their presumed sex or gender. In the example this is horizontal oppression of another female with the assumption that you have to dress to appeal others in order to 'get ahead.' This implies that your body is valued over your brain.


 “So where are your people from”
Racism is oppression due to a persons race, real or presumed. In this case the question assumes the person is from somewhere else because they don't look like what the person asking thinks they should to be a local.


“But you were born with a penis, that makes you a boy”
Cissexism is when people assume that your genitals and gender identity “match.” This not only reduces a person to their genitalia but denies their gender identity, especially if they don't plan on aligning their body physically with what society expects it to look like for their identity (if society even accepts their identity otherwise it reduces it to an assumed binary identity).


 “So... You were born a girl, cut off your tits and pretend you don't have a gender?”
Transphobia is oppression against people who are not cis*. This can be against transsexual people and transgender people both. The example is a case where someone is assuming that a trans* person is pretending (and thus being trans* isn't a valid identity) and is reducing them to their CASAB.


 “So... are you a boy or a girl?”
Binarism is the assumption that a person fits into the gender binary. This fails to take into account all of the people who are non-binary in gender identify.


 “I feel really fat and it makes me look not sexy.”
Sizeism occurs when people are discriminated against due to their size, usually due to being larger than the socially accepted ideal though it can occurs for “too skinny” too. In the example it is internalized sizeism where the person equates being “fat” with “not sexy.”


“Grandpa, you wouldn't understand the new computer. It's after your time.”
Ageism is discrimination based upon older people. This can be youth's onto adults, or adults onto other, older (or perceived as older) adults. In this case the person assumes that someone who is “older” can't understand a new technology.


 “You'll get it when You're older.”
Adultism occurs when adults discriminate against youth. This example is a patronizing display of adultism that assumes a young person couldn't possibly understand the situation.

Religious Oppression (ever wonder why this one doesn't have an '-ism'?)

“So what church do you go to?”
Religious Oppression occurs when people discriminate based upon religion. This also occurs in the general assumption that people are christian (sometimes this is even more specifically protestant). In this example the person fails to consider the person might be jewish, hindi, shinto, atheist, muslim or any other of a number of non-church based religions. (oh, and I don't know why either, if someone has an idea please share – I am curious.)


“Oh so where is your girlfriend?”
Heterosexism happens when people automatically assume heterosexuality in another person. This is an example of someone assuming a male attributed person must then have a girlfriend.


“So... if you're a guy why are you in a dress?”
Cisgenderism happens when people assume that everyone's gender identity and/or gender expression agrees with what society thinks it should be. This is an example of people forcing you to conform to societies expectations of how you should present your gender.


A person uses skin bleach to lighten their skin tone.
Colorism happens when people are treated differently because of the amount of visible melatonin in their skin. This is an internalized example where the person feels the need to lighten their skin because of the social stigma they face for having a darker skin tone.


“Wow, look at that, she's got one eye bigger than the other. She must hate herself.”
Lookism happens when people who fit the social ideal are treated better than others. This is related to sizeism, transphobia and more but is also distinct. The assumption that 'she' must hate herself is assuming that having traits that aren't socially ideal is bad.


“We need to make sure that American's get jobs, it's ridiculous how those immigrants are getting all of the jobs hard-working American's need.”
Nativism happens when people who were born in a country are systematically privileged over people who have immigrated or are perceived to have immigrated. This shows that by assuming that someone who has come to this country shouldn't be considered for a job if an American is also qualified.


“You're Hispanic so you must really like Mexican food then”
This is when members of a culture look down on people from other cultures. This is also making assumptions about a person's cultural identification based upon assumed ethnicity.

Dyadism or Couple Privilege

“We each have veto power for new partners because our relationship always comes first.”
This is the assumption that the people in a pre-existing relationship (a dyad) is more important than a new relationship. This leads to systematic oppression of 'secondaries' in a poly relationship by the 'primary relationship'.


“Here, read this.”
This is the oppression of those without credentials or who are not literate by those who have credentials and are literate. In this case it is the assumption that the other person can read.


“So, when are you going to have kids?”
This is the assumption both of fertility and the desire to have children. Not everyone can have kids or wants them so this default is oppressive.


“Where did you learn to speak English so well?”
This is a bias against people with English as a second language, this also appears when someone assumes English isn't the other person's primary language.


“Oh him? He's just crazy don't worry about that.”
This is oppression of the neurotypical against the neuroatypical. This occurs either with the systematic oppression of those with mental illnesses or those assumed to have mental illnesses.


“You're too mouthy to be a submissive,”
This is the oppression of those who take a submissive role by those who take a dominant role in a power exchange.

American exceptionalism/American privilege

“The African's should be grateful for our aid, we are clearly helping them out of a tough place."
This is the oppression of non-American's by American people. This also, as with many other oppressions, extends to those assumed to not be from America. 

The Derails and Denies


“Do we really need to have this discussion now?”
Unfortunately, yes we do. Silencing is also effectively done with pretty much any other derail or deny. This is an overt example – all of the other ones are silencing techniques that can be a little less obvious.


“Your right, I don't have to work to attend, I just sneeze and 100 dollar bills fly out my nose.”
The patronization techniques are many and varied but generally involve, snark, sarcasm, hyperbole, or a protestation of innocence. Sometimes these get combined together for one big whopping patronization fest.


“Stop acting like a child.”
Telling the person that their behavior isn't age appropriate isn't just ageist, it's a derail! This demeans the other person and shuts down the argument.


“You're just seeing problems where there aren't any.”
If we pretend it isn't there it goes away right? No. Dismissing that there is even a problem just forces it to get even more insidious. This is why “colorblindness” is such a big problem. (well, one of the reasons)


“I didn't know, so you can't blame me.”
Ignorance may seem like the perfect alibi but it isn't. After all, there are a huge number of resources out there for you to educate yourself with so ignorance isn't an excuse. Ignorance is something that can only be afforded with privilege.


“Oh my gosh, I have so been there too! I mean, I know I'm not black but people totally make fun of me because I'm so pale!”
No. Just... No. Unless you are in the target group you don't get to appropriate their experience. This happens all the time and just makes the discussion about the privileged again and frankly, they have had their space, it's the time for the target groups to get a voice. Oh and it denies target groups their experiences, trivializing them. In this case it's comparing the systematic oppression of a person of color with someone teasing because of skin tone.

False Argument

“Complaining at the cost of something like this, and calling it classist, reeks of entitlement to me. Like they should just hand tickets out to everyone, and if they don't, well, they're discriminating”
This is when someone, rather than arguing about the oppression you're actually talking about, argues about something similar but not the actual question. This makes them feel like they are arguing against you but often leaves you with a face/palm. In this case discussing classism doesn't assume that the event has to be free, just that the policies don't systematically exclude people due to their class.


“if you don't want a discussion to take a hostile tone, then maybe you shouldn't throw out such dirty and accusatory words as "privilege" at people who really worked hard to get somewhere just because you didn't.”
This is when they don't discuss the issue at hand but instead attack you, your tone, or your word use. Who needs discussions when you can just flame!


“I'm sure it isn't as bad as you think.”
This is when someone not of the target group, assures the person trying to discuss or interrupt oppression that they are exaggerating. This minimizes the problem and allows it to be dismissed, not talked about, and also allows it to continue.

Red Herring

“why are we talking about racism? The real problem is the systematic oppression of the poor!”
This happens when the person just changes the subject. Sometimes this is done by some who isn't in the social justice field or doing social justice work, but it also is often done within those doing the work. This perpetuates the system but literally silencing the ones discussing it.

I am sure there are more of these since lists like this are never complete so if you have additions, corrections or suggests please send me a message or leave a comment! Thanks.