Don’t get *too* optimistic, there

Abby Brockman strikes me is a bit too optimistic despite catching a critical detail in this scoop: The United States’ border patrol agencies are bleeding out employees faster than they can hire. However, it’s not because the employees in question are having crises of conscience--it’s because the conditions in which they work are shitty.

Trump has ordered the agency to add 5,000 agents to beef up patrols and surveillance in advance of his proposed border wall. But its current 19,000-strong force is already 2,000 shy of a target set during the Obama administration.

Officials said tough screening, especially a lie-detector test, rejected many qualified candidates, and that tough conditions such as living in remote, rugged areas prompted more than 1,000 agents to quit every year.

“Some people just don’t want to live there,” said Randolph “Tex” Alles, acting deputy commissioner of CBP, a 60,000-strong agency that includes Border Patrol. “Hiring challenges are not new. Attracting and recruiting high quality individuals is a challenge for us.”

I wish I could claim optimism and say more people are becoming aware of the imperialist functions required by a state like the USA and consider said functions morally unconscionable, but those functions typically attract the bullies and sociopaths anyways. Boredom definitely strikes me as a much likelier culprit than the sudden discovery of a moral compass.

As ever, authoritarians give us a glimpse into their mindset with delightful(?) Freudian slips: (emphasis mine)

Tony Crowder, the executive director of Air and Marine Operations, told the Guardian his agency was struggling to retain and recruit enough pilots.

Commercial airlines were luring pilots who in some cases were expected to work in remote areas and participate in arrests. “They pay more and it’s a different type of work.”

Another problem is the attitude of young people, especially those for whom 9/11 is distant history. “They have a different view of public service. I don’t want to indict an entire generation but it’s harder to sell self-sacrifice for the common good.

I would argue the reverse, Mr. Crowder. Millenials are more likely to accept that the brown people you’re abusing count as part of the “common good.” To say nothing of how the Mexicans and South Americans brutalized by your practices had sweet fuck all to do with 9/11. That my generation is less willing to blindly accept authority is in my estimate a virtue we must desperately cling to. By the time we’re your age, the coastal cities will be flooded and we’ll need to start electing politicians governments who can think farther ahead than 4 years.

-Shiv

An open letter to Albertan parents concerned about GSAs

When I first began volunteering for LGBTQ+ social resources, one of the first rules I learned was to Never tell a dependent youth that they “need” to come out to their parents or guardians. By now, those parents concerned about Alberta’s student run Gay-Straight Alliances (alternatively Queer-Straight Alliances) are likely aware that professionals and volunteers affirming LGBTQ+ youth tend to follow this rule, and now we have a law written by the New Democratic Party setting the same as policy for school administrations. The leadership of both the Wildrose and the Progressive Conservatives have gone on record to disagree with this policy, stating that they think students joining the student-run GSA clubs ought to result in a notification for their parents, along with hundreds of other community organizers stepping into the conversation to concur.

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I find no problems when I investigate myself, too

I gather that some of the arguments made in favour of abolishing Alberta’s parallel-to-public Catholic education system are about costs–there’s a redundancy in management, so amalgamating the two services would find the public budget a few extra million after restructuring. And Adriana LaGrange writes a cheery “alternative reality” for the Edmonton Journal about the state of Catholic schools, arguing–among many other things–that the costs probably wouldn’t be lower if we were to amalgamate.

There are a few statements which get a good giggle from me, considering the context of the ACSTA splinter group scandals.

Compare LaGrange’s words here:

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Glenn T. Stanton didn’t read That Fucking Swedish Study either

It’s back! I said I was serious when I said I could predict which doctors transantagonists would quote (or in the case of Cecilia Dhejne, misquote).

Me on November 14th, 2016: Five years later and they still haven’t read That Fucking Swedish Study.

Error #1: The study found that gender affirmation increased/didn’t reduce rates of suicide, therefore gender affirmation is ineffective/harmful.

The overall mortality for sex-reassigned persons was higher during follow-up (aHR 2.8; 95% CI 1.8–4.3) than for controls of the same birth sex, particularly death from suicide (aHR 19.1; 95% CI 5.8–62.9). Sex-reassigned persons also had an increased risk for suicide attempts (aHR 4.9; 95% CI 2.9–8.5) and psychiatric inpatient care (aHR 2.8; 95% CI 2.0–3.9).

“For controls of the same birth sex” ought to be printed on a giant neon billboard, as that unfathomably important comparison is lost in this error.

In other words, this only supports that trans people, even if they access gender affirmative care, are a higher risk of suicide than cisgender controls. Indeed, the study itself points out that it is not a comparison between trans folk who have and haven’t received affirmation care:

It is therefore important to note that the current study is only informative with respect to transsexual persons health after sex reassignment; no inferences can be drawn as to the effectiveness of sex reassignment as a treatment for transsexualism. In other words, the results should not be interpreted such as sex reassignment per se increases morbidity and mortality. Things might have been even worse without sex reassignment. As an analogy, similar studies have found increased somatic morbidity, suicide rate, and overall mortality for patients treated for bipolar disorder and schizophrenia. This is important information, but it does not follow that mood stabilizing treatment or antipsychotic treatment is the culprit.

IT’S RIGHT THERE IN THE STUDY. AND PEOPLE STILL THINK THIS STUDY SUPPORTS THEIR CONCLUSION THAT GENDER AFFIRMATION IS HARMFUL OR INEFFECTIVE. A;RKEHAEKTH;ALJET;LJ

That’s it. There isn’t some elaborate maze to guide you through, a slog of logical fallacies to hack apart as if their argument were the untamed wilds of an inner Brazilian jungle. They. Literally. Didn’t. Finish. Reading. The. Paper.

Glenn T. Stanton on April 4th, 2017:

A 2011 Swedish study, a long-term follow-up of men and women who underwent gender reassignment surgery, indicates that cutting bodies and administering hormonal treatments are not as ameliorative as many think.

Me on March 11th, 2017:

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Signal boosting: Inside Immigration Court

Thanks in part to Marcus, I’ve begun a process that questions many of the functions of the State that I take for granted, even if I am unlikely (or at least less likely) to be affected by most of them. Around the same time that I began this questioning, there was a particular term used by xenophobes on the topic of immigration–“illegal”–that began to strike a particularly unpleasant chord in me. Though written, it struck me as a venomous slur, something you spit at someone. Immigration, sovereignty, even the idea of the State–all these lofty ideals seemed to clash with the gritty details once you stop seeing people as immigrants first and human second.

It’s hard to stomach complicity in these ideas, because once you actually take the time to look, you notice the blood tribute they require. (Content Notice: Violence)

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Community growing pains

A lot of my long-form work is sitting incomplete since I’ve been spending the past couple weeks with my boots on the ground. March on! Edmonton, the successor to the Women’s March (an American incorporated “Women’s March Canada,” because nothing says “intersectionality” like embracing your inner capitalist scum), had a town hall and I’ve been networking with various community organizers in a bid to coalition-form for the 2019 provincial election and 2020 federal election. It’s a ragtag bunch of misfits, and we’ll see how it goes.

In the mean time, my palm has been glued to my forehead in some of the most migraine-inducing nonsense I’ve ever had the displeasure of dealing with. Edmonton’s BDSM scene is going through some growing pains and it is neatly cleft in twain along an aggravating but not surprising fault line: Consent. There’s my peeps, who are principally concerned with organizing around sexual ethics, and the other peeps, who are literally complaining that our spaces have rules and standards.

Maddening. Utterly maddening that it’s 2017 and people are still trying to pretend that sexual ethics is difficult. I seriously do not have any respect for this debate anymore. We live in a culture that provides a fertile ground for honing sexual predation as a technique, why in the everloving fuck of Dog would you create a space that is especially vulnerable (lots of naked people high on adrenaline) and not police the shit out of it?

Answer? Some of them are the fucking predators. Others are just clueless. I don’t think the distinction matters to me. I’m trying to fight for an ethical BDSM space and that includes telling rape apologists they are unwelcome. But the sheer amount of resistance to a space that affirms bodily autonomy is not encouraging in a broader political landscape that increasingly targets minorities as disposable.

-Shiv

What fresh cis nonsense is this

Stop me if you’ve heard this one before: An otherwise sharp-witted feminist has a very public and very unnecessary meltdown after being posed with a question in the vein of “are trans women real women?” As if this were kryptonite, all of the critical thinking skills she ordinarily exhibits will shrivel up and die, reducing this feminist to an incoherent blubbering mess who can’t argue herself out of a wet paper bag. Instead of identifying the appropriate rhetorical error (define “real”), they happily and freely frolic into a minefield performing a response that could only be described as “interpretive dance.” Wells are poisoned, dictionaries are consulted, ontologies are confused with empirical fact, migraines are had, shots of rum are quaffed, questions are dodged, and my eyes roll out of my head because I can’t believe people haven’t figured out that the rhetoric of realness is a dead, dead horse.

That man over there says that women need to be helped into carriages, and lifted over ditches, and to have the best place everywhere. Nobody ever helps me into carriages, or over mud-puddles, or gives me any best place!” And raising herself to her full height, and her voice to a pitch like rolling thunder, she asked. “And ain’t I a woman?”

–Sojourner Truth, “Ain’t I a Woman?”, 1851

Eighteen fifty one. I’m sure Truth’s speech is far from the earliest example.

And yet, here we are, 166 years later.* Apparently we haven’t learned a fucking thing.

Jenni Murray…

Murray, writing in the Sunday Times magazine, said that she was “not transphobic or anti-trans” and called for respect and protection from bullying and violence equally for “transsexuals, transvestites, gays, lesbians and those of us who hold to the sex and sexual preference assumed at birth”.

However, the piece appeared under the less nuanced heading: “Jenni Murray: Be trans, be proud – but don’t call yourself a ‘real woman’. Can someone who has lived as a man, with all the privilege that entails, really lay claim to womanhood? It takes more than a sex change and makeup”.

Murray wrote: “I know that in writing this article I am entering into the most controversial and, at times, vicious, vulgar and threatening debate of our day. I’m diving headfirst into deep and dangerous waters.”

And Chimamanda Adichie…

In the interview, broadcast on 10 March, Adichie said “I think the whole problem of gender in the world is about our experiences. It’s not about how we wear our hair or whether we have a vagina or a penis. It’s about the way the world treats us, and I think if you’ve lived in the world as a man with the privileges that the world accords to men and then sort of change gender, it’s difficult for me to accept that then we can equate your experience with the experience of a woman who has lived from the beginning as a woman and who has not been accorded those privileges that men are.”

…are apparently uninterested in how this dialogue has played out before–and no, I’m not merely referring to Ophelia Benson.

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Sadistic Catch-22s

The legalities of gender variance in its most benign form can be a matter of tedium. This is what I have to cope with–an initial not insubstantial cost to request my first legal change to my name, and from there, just a long series of much smaller requests with much smaller fees. For the most part, my difficulty is discovering the sheer number of databases in which I exist–and in which I must request changes.

Compare that to this trans teacher in Wisconsin. State employees recently had a policy change instituted seemingly without warning on gender designation changes, and now it has suddenly erected onerous bureaucratic barriers that needlessly involve courts and doctors. Perhaps the most insidious requirement is “proof” of gender change–in this case, surgery.

Remember that the Affordable Care Act prevented discrimination from insurers against trans people, and that the provision was removed by a Trump order. Having had no direction to include trans people within their coverage, the State of Wisconsins’s health insurer reinstated the ban on transition-related surgeries. Now trans people have to pay between $15,000-$25,000 out of pocket to get bottom surgery, assuming they even want it in the first place (which most don’t).

On top of that, after yanking out coverage for surgery, Wisconsin is now implementing a requirement for the surgery they just denied coverage to in order to change your documents. Talk about sadistic!

Before I get to discussing the additional demands ETF is making, let me point out a very broad problem, and that is the idea that agents of the state can change one’s legal status retroactively at any time. Imagine, for example, if the state decided that it wished to make it harder for people to get married, and so it imposed a new requirement–that in order to have a marriage recognized, residents would have to provide DNA evidence proving they and their spouse are not related (an expensive prospect). Then imagine that all married state employees were informed that their status had been reverted to single in employment databases and systems, because they had not complied with the DNA test requirement when documenting their marriages. That’s not the way regulatory changes, mundane or shocking, operate–they are applied going forward, but not retroactively.

Now, as for the new procedures for gender transitioning, there are three requirements listed by ETF. The first is that the employee must notify ETF directly, providing their old and new names, old and new gender markers, ETF ID number, and a declaration that they are gender transitioning. Previously, employees notified HR at their place of employment, and employer HR staff changed the gender marker directly in the benefits system. But now ETF will centralize control over implementing transitions, and maintain a database of gender transitioners. In essence, we are being required to register with the state. As a Jewish person who lost extended family in the Holocaust, I find this extremely creepy.

The second thing trans people are required to do is provide “proof of identity,” such as a driver’s license or military ID showing the new name and gender marker. That’s what we had to do in the past, and my wife and I can easily produce our Wisconsin driver’s licenses showing our names and most correct binary gender markers. But now ETF is demanding more.

We are now being required to produce a third item, “proof of gender.” This is very strange, because a driver’s license already provides state-recognized proof of one’s gender. Requiring more serves no purpose other than to make it harder for people to get their identified genders recognized. And the new “proof of gender” items are difficult and intrusive items to get.

Let’s look at the options. One is a court order of gender change. To get one of these is difficult, expensive, and in many states, like Wisconsin, requires a doctor to testify that one has had surgical sex reassignment. Now, some people cannot have such surgery for medical reasons. Others do not want it–they desire social recognition of their identified genders, not a program of body modifications. And nonbinary gender transitioners often find they are denied access to surgeries. But let me underline that in any case, the very surgeries that ETF is making necessary in order to have one’s transition recognized it has also categorically excluded from insurance coverage. My wife and I have been waiting for years to access some surgical interventions that would make our lives easier on many levels, one of which is being able to access things like a court order of gender change. But we can’t afford them without insurance coverage. It’s a Catch-22, and seems deliberately cruel.

All of this contributes to a very roundabout “unpersonhood” of trans people. The retroactive editing of legitimately modified documents is un-fucking-believable and nothing less than a directed attack against us.

-Shiv

Shit cis people say, trans & intersex athletes, and warped double standards

As with the ethics of (non)disclosure concerning one’s gender history, athletics is one area of trans rights where otherwise sympathetic voices routinely fly off the rails. I have noticed two areas in which this manifests: Ignorance on how hormones actually work; and conflation of statistical averages with the specific outcome of a given individual.

Fallon Fox is a mixed-martial arts fighter who was invited to speak at Skepticon back in 2015. She is also a transgender woman. Fox has been subject to a great deal of scientifically illiterate criticism following Fox’s victory during a match between her and another fighter who was assigned female at birth. The substance of the criticism was that Fox had fundamentally violated the conditions on which they agreed to fight by “being male,” despite having lower testosterone than her opponent and despite having a similar body frame. Out came the weird pseudoscience.

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Conservatives blast NDP for following conservative energy plan

I’ve been blindly poking and prodding at the Mythical Centre everyone seems to insist exists in Albertan politics, insistently pointing out that our current government run by the New Democratic Party isn’t all that aggressively socialist after all. In fact, I don’t even have to go as far back as Peter Lougheed, widely considered one of the Progressive Conservative’s most reasonable and productive Premiers, to find similarities between the energy plan of the NDP and the PCs–Rachel Notley’s policy is nearly identical to that of the late Jim Prentice.

Which seems… odd… given how Canada and Alberta’s mainstream media has a never-ending lineup of pundits screaming of the coming plague over the NDP’s governance.

Yesterday, journalist Jason Markusoff published a story in Maclean’s Magazine outlining Mr. Prentice’s recommended approach to making Canada a true energy superpower, as opposed to the blustering would-be powerhouse we saw during the years Stephen Harper was Conservative prime minister.

“Prentice’s arguments are striking not only in their closeness to those of Notley and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, but also in how far they diverge from the orthodoxy of today’s Conservative Party, where Michael Chong is the clan’s black sheep for daring to advocate a price on carbon,” Mr. Markusoff wrote.

In the book, Mr. Markusoff observed, Mr. Prentice “gives Notley credit for instituting a carbon tax and suggests he’d helped lay the groundwork for her approach.” (Emphasis added.)

Mr. Prentice also credited the approach taken by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Premier Notley with more success than the “amateurish” bullying favoured by Mr. Harper and his acolyte Mr. Kenney.

These so-called Centrists that everybody insists exists ought to then be confronted with the basic reality that Notley’s NDP is behaving a lot more like Lougheed’s PCs and not the Communist Diktatorship Post Media pundits have cooked up in their feverish imaginations.

Hell, Jim Prentice even answered the open-ended question I was concerned with regarding Indigenous treaty rights: (emphasis mine)

Mr. Markusoff quotes Mr. Prentice’s argument that if Canada won’t commit to serious coastal protection measures as demanded by so many people in British Columbia, “then we shouldn’t be shipping oil at all.” The late Conservative premier also advocated that Alberta help bear the costs of protecting the West Coast and include Canada’s Indigenous peoples as full partners in our national energy policy.

There remains the big question–with Jason “I don’t get caught up in the details” Kenney slated to win the PC leadership race and steer the party into an iceberg, are the Centrists everybody insists exist going to wake the fuck up and vote for the not-terribly-liberal NDP? Or are they going to continue slamming back that delicious Red Scare whipped together in the dingy basements of Alberta’s gasbag political pundits?

-Shiv