Man, Earth is fucking weird

Every so often somebody writes about the wildlife on Earth I have yet to encounter. Typically it’s the deep sea animals that get a resounding “wtf” from me, but today I learned about another weirdo endangered mammal called the pangolin.

Like an armadillo’s shell, a pangolin’s scales are made of keratin, the same material that comprises mammal horns and fingernails. In a real sense, pangolin scales are made of densely fused hair, and they can be lifted and moved to, for example, crush ants defending their nest by getting between them to bite the underlying skin. Combining this highly unusual protective coat with the pangolin’s specialized tongue, which is disconnected from the hyoid bone in the throat to allow it to be up to a third of the animal’s total length, and their tiny, narrow heads provides an alien visage that no other creature on Earth can match.

Read more about these adorable weirdos here. Warning: It’s a story of frauds exploiting mystical myths and as is often the case with animals targeted for these practices, the harvesting methods are gruesome.


Irony, thy name is the Guardian

A headline from the Milo affair last week in the Guardian reads: Milo Yiannopoulos’s enablers deserve contempt – and must be confronted.

The irony? This is the same rag that keeps enabling Sarah Ditum and Julie Bindel.

So you’ll forgive me, Guardian, if I am somewhat skeptical of your seemingly newfound defense of trans people. While your writers are calling for confrontation with reactionary transphobes, I have to wonder if the other editors in your company are getting the same memo.


Youtube censoring educational content for trans people

A few months ago YouTube once again updated their community guidelines such that certain content could be age-restricted, and that age-restricted content couldn’t be monetized. Professional sex educators were understandably upset, as now their means of earning money was going to be denied to them. YouTube’s administrative staff seem to largely operate from America’s sex squeamishness such that even the most benign, descriptive and frankly unsexy video would be flagged. It’s not quite censorship, but it does force sex educators to volunteer their time rather than get paid for it.

Cue the institutional transphobia. Chase Ross, a transmasculine youtuber who I follow, has had vast portions of their content restricted following the guidelines update. The videos that were flagged? They were reviewing prosthesis. Not sex toys. Just implements to facilitate the health of gender dysphoric transmasculine individuals by reducing their anxiety and depression.

This seems to be operating from an aggressively transphobic, and distressingly popular, notion that anything related to transgender health qualifies as “sexual,” which plays into one half of trans-antagonists’ simultaneous hypersexualization/desexualization complex.

Much of what I do here is likewise meant to be educational. One reason I’m a lot less likely to migrate away from FreethoughtBlogs is precisely because so many other networks, in their bid to attract ad revenue, will impose restrictions upon the content they can host. And the restriction is almost always related to sexual content–again, American squeamishness (this despite the very obvious hypocrisy of what the ads on these site say. They’re very obviously trying to exploit sex. So you can sell it–if you’re an advertiser–but you can’t teach it, if you’re an educator). And the portions of my content on trans people could very well end up being called “sexual,” even if it’s as stimulating as a Donald Trump speech.


A shared frame of reference should be a necessity

I exchanged a rather grating series of messages on one of my private Facebook groups about transition regret. With such a politically loaded trope I said early on in the conversation that we should pick a specific story–bearing in mind it would be anecdotal unless it was accompanied by data–so that we have a shared frame of reference.

They said they would refuse to divulge the personal disclosures from their friends. I never actually asked for those, nor would I. I literally said pick a story. Pick just one. Her response was to flippantly tell me to Google it.

That badly missed the point. We need a shared point of reference because otherwise we’ll keep trading in hypotheticals and get nowhere. I’m well aware that stories of transition regret exist and I’m also aware that of the minority who regret their transition that the cited reason is most often poor surgical outcome and not a mistake about their identity. But that particular observation lacks political traction and doesn’t propagate as quickly as “TEH TRANS ARR RECROOTING TEH CHILDREN!”

I’ll go–but what about the fantastic mental health outcomes of youth who are supported in their transition?

They’ll go–but what about those who regret it?

And nothing will be actually achieved, because without specifics we can’t identify whether there was a failure in the service provided or if the service provider was competent or if the actual cause of their regret is discrimination or surgical outcome rather than having made a mistake about their identity and on and on and on it goes.

This is one reason–there are many–but one reason why I moderate my comments extensively. You could say the guiding principle is “stay on target.” People making references to “those damned children!” without actually providing some kind of shared frame of reference by which we can participate are usually filtered precisely because the sort of circle jerking that ensues annoys me deeply.

It reminds me of one of the most important lessons I learned in my time at university. Open-ended questions were often posed in essay projects and the only way a student can stop floundering in such prospects is to select a reference to which the professor (or more likely the professor’s teaching assistant) can compare your argument. Students who neglected to pick a specific topic found themselves failing because their essay ended up being a bunch of fluff.

Needless to say, a chorus of insults followed when I bowed out of the conversation by saying that without a shared frame of reference, I would not participate. I was accused of trying to cover up the “dark side” of transition.

Patently ridiculous considering my job is doing exactly that.

Was providing that link so difficult?



Misogyny in healthcare and women’s disabilities

Ania over on The Orbit discusses how the misogyny of front line healthcare providers can result in delays for women who may be experiencing the early symptoms of chronic illness. This delay in healthcare often exacerbates the problem:

On my Facebook memories page, I found an old Tumblr picture that includes stories from a series of girls talking about how their appendix burst because they didn’t realize the pain they were feeling wasn’t cramps. The post goes on to explain the difference between menstrual pain and appendix pain. The stories were a way for girls to discuss just how painful cramps can be – that appendicitis, which is known to be extremely painful, was not different enough from their regular menstrual pain to be noticeable.

I had shared the post, along with my commentary that the suggestion to talk to your parents or school nurse about pain, even if it was “only cramps”, ignored the reality of most people who experience menstruation who are told that they are overreacting and to suck it up. Many of us have been told that all women deal with it and that it’s not that bad. Even when my cramps would leave me shaking and with a fever, I was expected to go to class and carry on as though everything was normal. After all “every woman goes through the same thing”. (Not all women actually, and not all people who do are women, but that’s another post for another time).

In terms of what to do, this seems harder. More frustratingly, the impetus of finding a not-piece-of-shit doctor is on the patient, rather than the system which is unlikely to discipline a doctor for this kind of negligence. I suppose in terms of preserving your health it that’s what you might have to do–ask around for someone who will take the initial reports seriously and consider additional screening early on.

All of which is moot, of course, if you’re American and don’t have coverage. sigh. Every time I do homework in this area I find myself fantasizing about lining the GOP against the wall and executing them by firing squad. The degree and severity of utter negligence just astonishes me. I thought sociopaths were vanishingly rare but apparently enough Republican voters are just peachy with these outcomes?


Including chronic illness in your healthcare activism

Get your IUD before Planned Parenthood closes? Stock up on your meds? Well, when your med is radiation, that’s not exactly an option. Alaina Leary points out that the Affordable Care Act repeal, if/when it comes, is going to come down hard on those with chronic illnesses above all else:

With all the recent public discussion about the Affordable Care Act and women’s access to health care, I’ve seen a lot of posts urging people to “seek healthcare now, while you still can.” They suggest that readers stockpile their medications, schedule all their annual visits, and look into long-term birth control like IUDs. These tips are meant to help, and will help many. But they almost always leave people with disabilities and chronic health conditions out of the conversation — and we’re arguably one of the most vulnerable groups that can be affected by universal healthcare laws.

While some medications can certainly be stockpiled (my dad has been stockpiling his acid reflux and allergy medications for over two years now in case he ever loses coverage again), many cannot, including chemotherapy, insulin injections, birth control, many medications for mental health conditions, and any controlled substance. Stocking up on meds is a good idea for the basically healthy and able-bodied, but it’s not feasible for many of the people who are in the most danger from losing their prescription coverage.

“Get an IUD now before birth control stops being covered” is also fantastic advice — except for all the people it leaves out. I’m on a daily hormonal birth control entirely for serious medical reasons; I’d be physically devastated if the Pill became prohibitively expensive, whether I got an IUD or not. There are also plenty of people who can’t choose IUDs because their bodies will reject them, or they won’t be able to physically get it implanted to begin with. By treating IUDs as an imperative, we risk not only ignoring these people but making them feel alienated and hopeless.

Here’s another vile fact to file under “reasons Republican voters should be disenfranchised”–estimates of the number of people dying without healthcare if the ACA is repealed and the individual mandate is not replaced come in between 36,000/year to 64,000/year, the majority of which would be folks with chronic illness. “Negligent manslaughter” is an understatement.


Wait, when did Tomi Lahren break north of the border?

Ah, nevermind, it’s just Lauren Southern.

Rebel Media host Lauren Southern is having a hard time explaining Milo Yiannopoulis’ controversial comments about pedophilia – so now she’s floating flimsy conspiracy theories.

Yiannopoulos, who resigned as senior editor of the Breitbart Tuesday, has been disinvited from delivering the keynote speech at a major conference for American conservatives, he’s had a $250,000 book deal cancelled and he’s been denounced by his own Editor-in-Chief at Breitbart after multiple videos surfaced this weekend showing the alt-right YouTube celebrity promoting controversial views on pedophilia.

In one video, Yiannopoulos says sexual relationships between “younger boys and older men” can be “hugely positive experiences for those young boys” and describes attending parties in Hollywood where he witnessed “very young” boys “having unsafe sex with older men.”

But in a pair of tweets Monday night, Southern dismissed the “moral outrage” as a “manufactured hit job” by “the establishment.”

[Edit–Mashed the publish key too soon. Oops!]

For the record, Southern’s previous appearance on Against the Grain was posing as a trans person in order to troll a teach-in that was a good faith attempt to intercept and cool down the Jordan Peterson controversy.

Yes, the same reactionary dingleberries screeching about free speech attempted to suppress actual, mature dialogue and instead focused on the protests that would soon escalate after Peterson would prove too resilient to bend to logic.

Southern would later delete both tweets – an uncharacteristic show of restraint from someone known to call her critics “faggots” and argue that Hitler was not a fascist.

But another thing remains: Southern retweeted a conspiracy theory sourced from 4Chan, an online community often associated with the alt-right, claiming a “whistleblower” had predicted the left-wing mainstream media and George Soros would team up to launch “Operation Destroy Milo” only “one day before it happened.”

Nevermind that the video was actually dug up by a right-wing blog, that the story was first broken by a right-wing media outlet owned by Glenn Beck or that the time stamp on the message shows it was published hours after media outlets first began reporting on the videos.

Alas, I mix up one fascist walking-talking-Aryan-shampoo-commercial for another. Silly me.