Showing posts with label 20 U.S.C. ch. 38—Discrimination Based on Sex or Blindness. Show all posts
Showing posts with label 20 U.S.C. ch. 38—Discrimination Based on Sex or Blindness. Show all posts

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Beyond Trans: Does Gender Matter? by Heath Fogg Davis

Rating: WORTHY!

Note that this is from an advance review copy for which I thank the publisher.

In a seemingly radical, but ultimately common-sense challenge to status quo, this author asks whether it's ever necessary to require someone to have their gender flagged on something like a birth certificate or a driver's license. He examines four areas where a true unisex environment is called for - not just to not use a binary sex-marker, but to dispense with sex-markers altogether. These areas are (from the blurb): "sex-marked identity documents such as birth certificates, driver's licenses and passports; sex-segregated public restrooms; single-sex colleges; and sex-segregated sports." A section of the book is devoted to each of the four topics.

While I support this agenda as a general principle - there are far too many areas where gender is irrelevant, but where it's made into an issue of one kind or another - I'd take some small issue with the way this argument is presented in some areas. I felt it didn't make as good of a case as it ought to have, and I felt it was a somewhat biased case - there wasn't much of a serious effort to look at the opposite side of the argument or to seek out opposing views and present them - and argue against them.

Yes, there were some objections raised and summarily overruled, but it felt more like the author was trying to steamroll his case through in preference to offering a completely calm and rational approach. Not that he was raving or ranting, but it felt a little bit like a high pressure salesperson, and I have little time for those!

One example of this was in the section where the author is talking about how long a person has to live as a woman before they're considered fully a woman. It's more complicated than that, and you'd have to read the book to get the full scoop on the issues and arguments, but for my purposes, this fell into the gripe I made about too little use of studies to back arguments and more reliance on personal opinion and anecdote than was healthy to make a solid case.

The author says, "...does it matter that some transgender women will have been socialized as boys and/or men for certain periods of their lives?" The problem with this is the inherent assumption it carries that they have indeed been fully socialized as their biological gender as opposed to their desired or self-identified gender.

I could see my argument being irrelevant if a need for a gender-switch was triggered from a head injury or by a sudden whim or need for attention, but this is flatly not the case. One thing I learned early in my reading about transgender people is that they had lived all their life feeling like they were the gender they eventually (hopefully!) were able to migrate to. So why would they honestly be socialized as boys/men or as girls/women necessarily?

It felt presumptive and patronizing to leap to the conclusion that they had or likely had. We had no evidence presented to support (or refute) this - it was just out there like it was self-evident, and this felt like the author had fallen into the same trap he was arguing against: if it's always been this way, why should we change?

Of course we haven't always been this way. Binary gender is just a convenient convention we fell into because historically we were too ignorant and blinkered to think it through. Maybe a biological male who has always felt female might be rather less acclimatized to male patterns of behavior and thinking than we should feel comfortable assuming, and so might a female in inverse circumstances. This is what I mean when I talk about making better arguments.

So one issue I had with the book was that it felt like it relied too much on anecdote - some of which was personal - which left some holes where a wider survey or study would have filled the gap. Some studies are quoted, but the inline references in this book are not actually links, which is a problem in this day and age for an ebook. In a print book you can flip through pages to get to end notes. It's a lot harder in an ebook, which is why actual links would have been a big help.

That said, the anecdotes were engrossing, saddening, disturbing, and downright horrifying at times, and this is the main reason people need to read this book, because the hit is still shitting the fan, even after all these years, and it needs to stop now. If getting rid of sex markers is guaranteed to do that, then I'm pretty well on-board! But I have some qualms about the arguments, mainly because of the area the book did not cover, which is medical care.

You can argue all you want about men and women and everyone between and on both sides being treated equally in areas of sports, rest rooms, college admissions, and state and government documents, but being treated in hospital is another issue because the fundamental fact is that men and women are anatomically and biochemically different and sometimes it genuinely matters what gender you are.

Let me give a simple example:- a traffic accident victim is brought into an ER unconscious, and xrays need to be taken. if this is a man, there's usually no problem, because men never get pregnant, but if this is a woman, the doctors need to be sure they're not harming a fetus.

Often, it's easy (or at least seems easy!) to tell what gender the patient, but also often it's not and it's downright foolish to make assumptions, as this author has pointed out often! If the woman is a mtf individual, then short of religious miracles, there's going to be no fetus, but if the doctors do not know, then there's potentially a problem.

I'd argue this is a case where gender does indeed matter and more importantly, knowing the gender matters, and while this is a simple demonstrative example, it's not the only medical instance where the gender (or sex if you like - I don't like to use that term because it's so loaded with baggage) of the patient matters. Men and women react differently to some medications, so knowing the gender of the patient can be vitally important.

Now you can no doubt press arguments against my simplistic example, and maybe against medical treatment and knowing the birth sex of the patient, but that's just the problem: since this critical topic wasn't covered in this book, none of this was ever addressed. Having a sex-marker on the driver's license could be in some cases, the difference between life and death here. So maybe we should not argue to eliminate the sex-marker at least on driver's licenses or state ID cards, but to make it voluntary? It's just a thought.

I don't typically comment on book covers because my blog is about authoring, not fa├žades and lures, but in this case I have to say that this cover was quite a stunner. The ambiguity and charm in it were remarkable! It's a credit to the book and a pity the publisher rarely sees fit to give some credit to the model.

One curious personal comment I found was when the author volunteered, "For example, my birth mother was white and my birth father African American. I identify as either biracial or black" but he never went on to explain why he doesn't ever identify as white. It seems to me he has an equal case for either or both. It's not a big deal to me, but I just found it interesting and curious that someone with one black and one white parent had to be (at least historically), considered black instead of white!

To me, that's just as screwed-up as the gender issues discussed here, but I guess it's none of my business; however, it was one of several times things were tossed into the mix which I found curious. Another was his reference to the 2013 movie Identity Thief. The author cites this as an exemplar of the inadequacy of sex verification as fraud protection.

I thought it was an inappropriate reference in a book that rightly tries to set a more scholarly tone, but the objection here was that, as the author explains, "...the fact that many people have gender-neutral or 'unisex' names, Sandy being just one of many examples." I get that this is irrelevant when credit card fraud is perpetrated over the phone,or the internet, but it does prevent some abuse in person when a woman might try to use a credit card which clearly has a male name on it. It's not foolproof, especially in these days of fast everything, but it does offer some preventive opportunities! The real question to ask is: is it worth the hassle some people might get for the prevention it offers in other cases?

But that's not the reason I thought the example of the movie was a poor one; it's that, in the movie (which I have not seen I have to say), the man whose identity has been stolen, Sandy, seems like a sad sack of an example to offer since he apparently never thought to report his card stolen and thereby avoid all of the issues he was subject to in the movie! Hollywood is not real life and I think it was a mistake to cite what seems to be a rather slapstick comedy movie in support of a serious topic like this.

That said, I recommend this because it needs to be read - it's that simple. It has important issues in it about an ongoing problem that needs to be cut off summarily at the ankles, and it makes some good arguments, especially in sports, which has long been a pet peeve of my own. Some of the sports anecdotes are truly upsetting, as indeed are the anecdotes in other areas. Read them and weep - seriously. I felt like it after reading what some of these people - including the author - have had to endure.

Sunday, June 30, 2013

Catching Jordan by Miranda Kenneally

Title: Catching Jordan
Author: Miranda Kenneally
Publisher: Sourcebooks
Rating: worthy

Don't confuse this novel with Crossing Jordan or with Jordan's Catch!

I've been aware of this novel for a while and shied away from reading it because it's similar in some regards to my own Seasoning. So what made me take the plunge? Well I was kicked into dealing with it by the news story of Maddy Paige's appalling treatment by the delusional and clueless so-called Strong Rock Christian School. It needs to be renamed "Rocks in the Head Christian School" or "Strong Discrimination Christian School". Things desperately need to change, and reviewing this novel and others like it down the road is one albeit tiny way to get the feeling out there that gender is irrelevant to everything except procreation, and amongst some species, not even then! Since my own Seasoning novel is already published and was originally written some years ago, no one can accuse me of ripping off someone else's work!

Having completed Catching Jordan, I can say that the two novels are indeed very different. Seasoning isn't about romance or getting into college, it's about the game and about genderism, and it's about growing up, not about wallowing blindly in some adolescent fiction; it's about leading and taking charge, and it's about overcoming paralyzing fear. This isn't a comment on Catching Jordan, but it is a comment on bad YA fiction. Seasoning was never aimed at the young adult market although I'm working (on and off, mostly off!) on a partially illustrated version which will be aimed precisely at that market.

Before we get started on the review let me comment in detail on the Maddy Paige insanity. I noticed while reading the limited news items about it, that the Atlanta Phoenix is supporting Maddy, but it seems a bit sad to me that a team which is segregated from "men's" sports is supporting a woman who wants precisely the opposite: a fully-integrated team!

Maddy's case is clearly religiously motivated. This world is always sadder when religion ceases to be personal and becomes a power-play once more, but this goes beyond just religion: it's also an ingrained societal imperative, as was shown by's article about it, where Veronica Griffin of all people labeled Atlanta Phoenix as a "Women's Professional Football team", not simply as a "Professional Football team".

The bottom line is that if a person is good enough, that's all there is; gender (or anything else for that matter) is irrelevant. It's time to stop seeing this as inviolably delineated "men's" and "women's" and start seeing it as "people's". What, exactly, does Strong Rock's Phil Roberts mean when he talks about "girl sports" and "boy sports"? Do sports have gender now‽ Seriously? If history teaches us anything, it's that segregation has never been the answer. We're in a position where even the military is fully integrating women, so why are we deliberately segregating half of our population in sports?

If Phil Roberts was scared that "...boys were going to start lusting after her...", then what he needed to address is the abject failure of his (evidently not) Strong Rock Christian school to inculcate children in appropriate values and behaviors instead of punishing a 12-year-old girl for his school's sorry failure. Or does he want us to believe that a good Christian education necessarily turns out lustful boys? Maybe it's a case of strongly sucks, not strongly rocks?

If it's true that women cooperate better than men as some studies suggest, then including women on the team (not "the boys team", just "the team") is not only a just thing to do, it's a demonstrably smart thing to do!

So let's review! I have to say that I was turned off this novel rather quickly (by p15!) when Tyler Green ("Ty" of course) saunters onto the stage, and Jordan Woods turns almost literally to Jell-O™. Now this is the tough captain of her team, used to being in charge, used to playing rough, used to focusing, surrounded by hunks every day, getting down and dirty with them, and not a whisper of an overt attraction, but her legs literally go rubbery when Ty shows up. I'm sorry but that made me nauseous. Keneally betrayed Jordan right there and then. I found myself seriously hoping this novel was better than this, but I had little faith that it was over the next thirty pages that I read.

Jordan Woods (cool last name!) is the captain of her high school football team. She's also the quarterback. This parallels my own Janine Majeski character who is the captain of her factory soccer team and also the lead striker, and that's pretty much where the parallel ends. Jordan's dad is a major league football player (who predictably isn't supportive of her, but he is supportive of her bother, who plays college football). Her mother, predictably, is supportive, but has some weird ideas about how her daughter needs to represent herself to guys. Her idea of selling herself is to completely sell out.

When Ty, the predictable new kid in town, appears at practice hoping for a place on the team, Jordan is so predictably distracted in practicing a new snap that one of her own team, playing opposition, sacks her. For those not familiar with American football, the term 'sacking the quarterback' doesn't mean firing her, it means tackling. Why it has to be described in such dramatic terms is a mystery. Rome was sacked, a quarterback is simply knocked over - like a liquor store. Americans are probably the only nation on the planet who think along Muslim lines, but not about god: about their own nation! Whereas the Muslims assert in the Shahada that "there is no god but Allah; Muhammad is the messenger of God," Americans assert however unconsciously, there is no nation but the USA; capitalism is its profit.

So while to the rest of the world, 'football' means two teams of eleven kicking a ball around a pitch, trying to get it into opposing nets, America begs to differ. No, not even begs: demands! Contrary to real football where the hand isn't allowed to touch the ball unless you're a goalkeeper or you're throwing the ball back in after it goes out over the side line (and there are strict rules covering all that), in (American) football the foot never touches the ball! Well, yeah, there's a rare instance or two, such as kick off, for example, but this is really not football. It's Carryball or Throwball. Tarryball? Crowball?!

Anyway Jordan is fine: she's a tough player, but all of this is about to go as far south as the South Auckland Saints courtesy of super-hunk Ty. Suddenly Jordan, hitherto the consummate player, cannot think of anything else but Ty and his hunky body. Indeed, her whole life quits orbiting planet football and starts circling the drain of sinkhole Ty. I'm sorry, but I don't buy this given what we've been told about Jordan. Yes, I would buy that she's strongly attracted to a guy, but not like it's described here, and not to the virtual abandonment of everything else. That's not the Jordan I was introduced to in the first fifteen pages. I don't know why Kenneally betrays and abandons that Jordan, disrespecting her and morphing her from a worthy, even remarkable female protagonist into nothing more than a gland warmer.

Over the next thirty pages or so we reach the point where Jordan isn't sleeping because she can't stop thinking of Ty, and where she's spending hours doing her hair, shaving her legs, and picking out a wardrobe. One thought she has is "I hope Ty likes shea butter," although whether she imagines him eating her or simply fondling her skin isn't detailed. And yeah, I hope that did disgust you because it disgusted me to read what Keneally was writing here. But Keneally thinks it's okay to write this stuff as long as she has Jordan agree that "Yeah, I know. I make myself sick, too."! She tops all this with a lacy underwear set which barely covers her (and which her own mother bought for her), and incorporates a push-up bra underneath an unusually (for her) low-cut T-shirt.

What bothers me about this is that there seems to be a mindset here that Ty is somehow going to intuit exactly what Jordan is wearing and react favorably, even predictably to it! I really don't care if she falls for a guy or sleeps with him if she's thought it though some. That's her business. It's also her business what she wears, but for her to react like this when she's met Ty just once, hardly spoken to him, and doesn't know squat about him is a disgrace. Is she planning on flying into bed with him when she knows nothing about him, his habits, his attitude towards women, or most importantly, his sexual history? Remember this is a girl who, we're told, has been playing school football for many years. She's not thirteen, she's seventeen. She supposed to be on the cusp of adulthood. She's the best there is at what she does in her state. She didn't get there by failing to plan, failing to anticipate, failing to look ahead and to consider all the options, or by acting like she's brain-dead. Yet all of that training, which is ingrained if we're to believe what Kenneally has told us in the first fifteen pages, runs completely off the clock!

Keneally's genderism exposed in this novel is another disgrace, as is her appalling deprecation of "math nerds". She puts this bigotry into Jordan's mind, but that only makes it worse: if Jordan is in a position where discrimination and bigotry come into play, then where does she get off employing that same attitude towards others? This just makes Jordan look like a hypocrite or a privileged brat. Those are not qualities which will endear her to me. To her credit, Keneally does try to claw some of this back later in the novel, but whether she does enough is up to you to decide.

If some clueless guy had written this novel it wouldn't be any less excusable, but it would be more understandable. For this to come from a female writer is disturbing at best. Keneally's attitude towards Jordan's fellow football players is pretty much that they're all closet rapists. And what's with them all calling her 'Woods'? It seems all the girls and virtually none of the guys get to be called by their first name. That just struck me as weird. The two main protagonists are the exceptions to this. There is another, the third element of the almost inevitable triangle, but both his first and last names sound like first names so it doesn't really make an impact!

Jordan's attitude towards the cheerleaders is that they're all essentially ignorant, rude, cruel, and air-headed bimbos who neither know nor care about football, only about the hunks who play it. I don't doubt for a minute that there are cheerleaders like that, and high school football players like she describes and implies, but to categorize all of them in one way is bigoted nonsense. It's no better than saying something as idiotic as "all black people are drug addicts", or "gays are pedophiles". I was dearly hoping at this point that this novel improved, but I wasn't optimistic, especially when I discovered that Keneally is yet another writer who thinks in terms of 'bicep' and not 'biceps'!

Jordan gets screwed over by her coach in the first game of the season when he dumps her after the first half and puts Ty in, in her place. This is the game which has scouts from the University of Alabama watching; then Alabama seems to want her as a college player, but makes her pose in make-up and a demeaning outfit for their calendar. I have to wonder if anyone from the UoA has seen this novel and how they feel about Keneally describing their picture-taking as she does. I just Googled pictures for UoA and women's sports and saw nothing even remotely like Keneally describes! Is this a personal vendetta against Alabama?

On the emotional front, Jordan really starts screwing things up. For a seventeen-year-old she acts like a ten year old. For a team captain she's clueless in how to apply what she supposedly knows there to other parts of her life. She does precisely what we expected, and starts dating Ty, and then she discovers how utterly clueless she's been with Sam, who she's known for a decade and who is in love with her. She rides roughshod over his feelings and while she's telling him that she wants everything to remain the same between them (but really, he's not good enough for her). While she's doing this, she ignores message after message from Ty. When he finally comes over in tears through worry about her whereabouts and welfare (and yes, he does overdo it on the "I need to know where you are" power-play, but he lost his parents to a car accident and didn't know where they were, either). Jordan rightly tells him off about that, but this is after she basically told Sam how things were going to be! In short, she treats both guys like dirt.

At that point, I didn't like Jordan any more, and since this was the only character in this entire novel who had offered any hope of holding my interest, I was disappointed to say the least. The opening few pages were all about sports, but sports was quickly ditched with the arrival of Ty, and that was a mistake; the novel took a turn for the worst with that, but by the time my doubts were maximizing, I had only a hundred or so pages left to go, so I pressed on, and Keneally actually did struggle to pull this out of the fire. It's for that reason alone that I'm rating it as a cautious 'worthy'. The writing - technically speaking - isn't bad, but the events and conversation are rather tedious at times, stuck in a groove. However since I have to operate under the assumption that what might seem less than ideal to me could seem reasonable to someone who is actually the same age as Jordan. I would hope that such people have a bit more going for them and be looking out for something stronger than this, but maybe this will do for now.