Saturday, September 30, 2006

Gender Myths: Let Science Decide

Studies Say Women Are Safer, Men More Reckless
Sept. 28, 2006 — ABC 20/20 News

People joke about the differences between men and women: Men don't listen. Women can't read maps. Men snore more. Women are less likely to have affairs. But are men and women really different or are those statements myths? It turns out that science says men and women are different.

At the University of Rochester, students were blindfolded and then led through a maze of tunnels that run underneath the campus. The experimenter stayed behind them and guided them with a tap on the shoulder so they wouldn't run into anyone. When the women were asked where a college building was, they rarely knew. Men, however, have a better sense of spatial relations, according to the experiment. Most knew roughly where they were.

In contrast, at York University in Toronto, students were asked to wait in a cluttered room. After two minutes, the experimenter moved them to another room and asked the students to tell him every object in the room that they could remember. Women typically gave incredibly detailed answers. The men were more likely to say, "I dunno. There was some stuff there." Many women went on and on.

Why are there differences like that or more men at the top levels of science?

Is it, as transgendered Stanford University neurobiologist Ben Barres says, all because of sexism? Or is it inborn, caused by the bath of testosterone boys get in the womb?

June Reinisch, a former Kinsey Institute director, studied data on thousands of baby girls and boys, and she concluded there were just inborn differences. "Girls sat up without support earlier than boys did. Boys crawled independently, away from their caretaker, earlier than girls," Reinisch said. Still, one could argue that even those differences happen because of some early sexist parenting.

But how do you explain behavior differences in newborns? "So when they look at babies in the first 72 hours of life, they find that males and females are not identical in the way they behave," Reinisch said. "Males startle more than females. If you give a little puff of air on their abdomen, they startle much bigger and much more likely to startle than females, and females rhythmically mouth. They suck on their tongues. They move their lips and so forth more than males do."

Could this explain the myth that men don't listen?

"The male brain … actually has a harder time processing the female voice versus the male voice, which is a possible explanation to why we don't listen when our wives call us," Dr. Billy Goldberg said on "20/20."

Goldberg and Mark Leyner are co-authors of "Why Do Men Fall Asleep After Sex?" They said it was true that men listened less because of biology. "Male babies make less eye contact, for instance, with their mothers than female babies," Leyner said. "So what we're talking about are different ways of relating to people that start at the earliest possible age."

So can men say, "Honey, it's not my fault. It's my brain"?
"I like to use that excuse," Goldberg said.

Despite the book's title, the authors don't have an exact answer for why men fall asleep after sex. "Science has not figured this one out. It could be that men are more often having orgasms during sex than, than women," Goldberg said.

Another gender myth: Women don't have Adam's apples.

"Well, that's another of these myths that's out there," Goldberg said. "Women do have Adam's apples. They're less prominent than men's." Adam's apples are basically thyroid cartilage, which everyone has. Testosterone causes it to enlarge. "Meg Ryan, Sandra Bullock -- they have larger Adam's apples," Goldberg said. If a woman has a noticeable Adam's apple, it doesn't mean she has more testosterone than the average woman, according to Goldberg. "It doesn't reflect on the testosterone levels," he sad. "Some people develop anatomically different and just happen to have a more prominent Adam's apple."

As for snoring, men do it more than women. "There's a couple of reasons for that. One reason is that men tend to drink and smoke more, and that leads to more snoring," Goldberg said. "Women actually have a wider airway circumference, and that decreases the amount that they snore. Also, when men gain weight, they tend to gain it around the neck, and that weight around the neck also increases snoring."

Another common gender myth is that men cheat much more than women. Studies show the cheating difference is now slight. Current research data says 80 percent of women remain faithful to their husbands, while 65 percent to 85 percent of men are faithful. Women are catching up.

Although men often claim that they're better at driving, the jury is still out on whether men are better at this mechanical skill, but when it comes to safe driving, women are ahead. Men are much more likely to get into accidents, killing themselves and others. Men speed more, drive drunk, run stop signs, and crash twice as often as women, research shows.

A World Health Organization study said, "Masculinity may be hazardous to health."

Study after study shows that men, especially young ones, take more risks than women. It is one reason women live five years longer. But it's not the only reason, according to Goldberg.
"You still have heart disease," he said. "Heart disease tends to be the big factor that makes men die earlier, even once you get beyond the traumatic injuries."

Another reason is evolution, Goldberg and Leyner said.

"Women are evolutionarily around to prolong the species," Goldberg said. "They need to raise our children and to have our children." Leyner said, "Men are basically sperm-dispensing machines and once they've done that, they're not as necessary." Of course it's always bad to generalize.

"People are very afraid to say that men and women are different," Goldberg said. Different can mean one is better, and many people don't want to hear that. "There are differences that are genetic, and those don't necessarily mean that we're different and bad, that means that we're different and good," Goldberg said.
Copyright © 2006 ABC News Internet Ventures

Monday, September 25, 2006

State of Mind

Gender identity is a state of mind.
If one has it internalized there is not, at least in principle, any assimilation issue vis-a-vis the exterior world.
The reality and the world are in essence what oneself makes of it from his/her interior world. Thus, each person can live different experiences even in a same place and time.
A state of mind is what turns out after a series of experiencies and challenges which goes by the discovery, then the rediscovery (re-establishment) and finally, the trascendence (let go) of the social canons in respect to sex and gender.
Summarizing, it is a state of mind which, if we achieve it (working it enough), very well can become the state of mind of our environ. This would mean that we find ourselves highly conscious of who we are, what are we doing here and where we are heading.

Sunday, September 24, 2006


Looking back upon the whirlwind that was SCC 2006 I wanted to take a moment and say how impressed I was with the GE girls I was lucky enough to meet in person. You can get a pretty good idea of the person’s character by their writings, but to meet them in person and experience first hand the overwhelming sweetness, caring, compassion, sense of humor and friendliness; well I was left in awe! My personal contact with these amazing people has deepened my respect for the girls of GE. Each and everyone one of you is so amazing. Thanks for allowing me to join you here at GE and thank you for allowing me to call you friends! You girls rock!

Friday, September 15, 2006

What is Feminine?

We often make reference to "feminine", an energy that many of us admire and/or aspire to on a daily basis. What I am pondering at the moment is - what does it mean to be feminine? How do we define femininity?

Although there are some basic generalizations about the term, beyond that there is tremendous diversity of what is deemed feminine. If we set aside the notion that only biologic women can be feminine, if we separate physical from gender and say that both males and females can possess femininity, I query what is this coveted quality we aspire to? What is feminine, and how does our self expression change when we become more feminine?

Focusing on the positive aspects of femininity, I'd like to give a few ideas of my own, a non-exhaustive list of what I deem to be feminine characteristics and how we show them, and hopefully get some feedback from you reading this.

I think transgendered women, be they part time or full time, have an abundance of inner feminine. Many have told me that transformation is like letting their true self "come out". But what are these inner feminine feelings? When we "let our femininity come out", what does this mean?

For me, these are some of the positive internal feminine qualities that I aspire to…

Emotions/Communication – having the ability to show my feelings and talk honestly about them, possessing active listening skills, opening up and being my true self.

Empathy/Tenderness – being attuned to subtle details about people, putting myself in others' shoes, treating people tenderly with kindness and non-judgement.

Nurturance/Compassion – wanting to take care of my people, be they family, friends, loved ones, less fortunate people and animals, feeling maternal instinct and unconditional love.

Sensuality/Intimacy – showing the softer side of romantic erotic affectionate feelings, welcoming intimacy, being receptive and letting go of control, understanding feminine sensuality and the subtle details upon which erotic femme fantasies can dwell.

Cooperation/Gentility – working together with others, instead of competition, focusing on synergistic group dynamics, possessing feminine gentility and social graces.

These are a few of the real authentic feminine gifts, of which women, transwomen and men can partake. You don't need to look feminine to be feminine, but for many of us, it helps.

Please share your thoughts and ideas. Let's not worry about being "sexist" because we all know that both women and men can be feminine. What is your idea of "feminine"? What helps you to bring out your feminine side? What do you admire most about feminine people?

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

The Cross dresser and male privilege

To many, M to F transgender people would seem to be the natural ally of Feminists. Many of us express empathy, sympathy, a sense of sisterhood with natural born women when it comes to the status of women in our culture. Many of us are as repulsed by the behavior displayed by men we know as any Feminist would be. The stumbling block for some Feminists in accepting us is male privilege.

I gleened the following from Wikipedia:

“Male privilege is a term used to describe the rights allegedly granted to the male population in society on the basis of their biological sex. The female, transsexual, transgender (Chow: 2005), and sometimes the gay male populations (Jacobs: 1997), are usually denied these rights, but females may have other rights not granted to males. For these purposes in cases alleging discrimination, "sex" is usually preferred as the determining factor rather than "gender" because it refers to biology rather than socially constructed norms which are more open to interpretation and dispute (Render: 2006 at p102). Thus, biologically "male" privilege is only one of many power structures within a given society (Foucault: 1976), and levels/manifestations of male privilege differ both between disparate societies as well as in different contexts within the same society. The term "male privilege" does not apply to a solitary occurrence of the use of power, but rather describes one of many systemic power structures that are interdependent and interlinked throughout societies and cultures (Narayan: 1997).”

The Wikipedia article seems to have been reworked a few times and even has a debate page linked. Even though gender varient people may be on the down side of male privilege, “sex” is preferred as the determining factor rather than “gender”.

Some would say that since our biology was sufficient to gain us a designation of “male” on the birth certificate, we were irretrievably placed on the path to male privilege. We were raised and aculturated as boys to men. We may not like this and we may object but it does not change the fact that we are somehow part of and in some ways perpetuating the power structure built on male privilege. A trip through URNA, Yahoo, and Myspace profiles of transgender people, testify to the objectivication of women. We may desire to look pretty but do we think like, accept the status of, and standbeside women. If not, are we to be accorded the respect and acceptance of women?

There is a male privilege checklist that you can find on the web ( ) it seems to be quoted often on other sites. I can debate about how any given point relates to me, but I have found as time goes by a perspective that accepts the truth behind some points and how they relate to my behavior. The last line of the checklist is “I have the privilege of being unaware of my male privilege.” ; it is our biggest violation when we say “I am not part of societal male privilege.”
Some Feminists are concerned that we want to be around for the party but absent from the struggle, or when work needs to be done. Can they take us seriously? Are we worth wasting their time? Are we to be accepted as equal? I frequently describe myself as “I’m transgender, I just pass easier as a man than a woman.” It is the fact that I can be on which ever side of the fence suits my needs, that make some see us as traitors.

Anecdotes abound of women being ripped off by mechanics and car sales people or atleast being treated like idiots. Men even of minimal intelligence are not treated the same way. The number of women mechanics being small, the old boy network rules.

I spend quite a bit of my life enfemme or gender bending. Once last year the fan belt popped on the van. I've put it back on myself a few times before and know how. We pulled into a parking lot and I climbed under the hood. A fifty something male in a pick up truck pulled up to help. I got the "Maam, you don't belong under the hood" routine.

Now even though I was enfemme, I don't think I pass well; but a number of older folks here in PA are not even capable of imagining a guy in wig makeup etc... With that type it is hard not to pass. I tried in my not particularly femme voice to explain that I knew what I was doing and could handle it. In a very polite condescending tone, he would not let me fix my own vehicle (I think if he read me the polite part would have been dropped).

At the time I was amused. Even if it was a poor way to treat women, I was pleased to be treated as one. In reflection I felt I had a taste of what it was like for a woman to deal with "Men and Machines".

Now for my male privilege moment. Recently my vehicle needed some work. With that incident in mind, and knowing women who were given a hard time by mechanics I intentionally did not go to get work done enfemme (I go enfemme/genderbend anywhere my wife does not suggest I should not). I did not fear prejudice against a trans person, when it came to things mechanical, I just did not want to be treated like a woman. I, an enfemminist trans person invoked male privilege.
When life on the feminine side has troubles it is too easy for us to retreat to our male selves. How much of what we as transgender people perceive as discrimination, is just people shitting on us the way that they do women? It’s not just the guy in a dress, they treat everyone in a skirt lousy. We can run away though, will we be there when it’s tough. When faced with work place discrimination we hide ourselves, real women can’t hide they fight or put up with it.
As long as we take advantage of male privileges, we are traitors to woman kind. To be a woman is not a series of beauty contests and fun filled girl’s nights out; It is a struggle to find your place in a male dominated world. To balance career and home. To bear children and raise them. To meet the expectations of a world that thinks you need to be better than the other guy (but won’t recognize it).
To those trans people who feel that they are an example of femininity for woman kind. What have you done to earn the word she, maam, or her; that you should be considered woman. Sure you can wear a dress, a wig and apply make up, but can you really say you’ve lived a woman’s life, just because you took a trip to the mall?
Before you call yourself WOMAN, and label yourself a member of the sisterhood consider whether you’ve earned it. Be aware of male privileges, and recognize how you make women feel when you are not Enfemme. You may consider yourself a T-activist, but what are you doing for the rights of all women. Remember when you go back into hiding to avoid negative consequences, that most of womankind can not do that.

Another pondering from,
Samantha Leigh Rieth


Monday, September 11, 2006

Babies in womb exposed to 'gender-bending' chemicals

By EMILY COOK, The Daily Mail

Babies are being exposed to "gender-bending" chemical pesticides before they are even born, disturbing new evidence has showed. Tests on blood taken from the placentas of pregnant women revealed up to fifteen different types of pesticide, the research found. Worryingly, the chemicals were found in every single one of the 308 women tested. The findings will fuel concern about the chemicals, known as hormone disruptors or EDCs - endocrine-disrupting chemicals.

High levels of exposure have been linked to reproductive abnormalities - so-called gender-bending - because they upset the hormonal development of the embryo. The effects are already being seen in nature where some species of fish and animals with deformed sex organs have been found. Scientists blame agricultural pesticides and other hazardous chemicals such as those found in flame retardants which have leaked into the environment.

Last year a similar report by WWF-UK and Greenpeace found that babies are being exposed to a whole array of chemicals at the most vulnerable point in their development. Tests on the blood of 30 newborn babies found the presence of eight different groups of chemicals, ranging from cleaning products to chemicals used to make plastics and non-stick waterproof coatings.

A study led by scientists at the University of Rochester in New York also found that common chemicals found in thousands of household products such as soaps and make-up can harm the development of unborn baby boys.

The results reinforce calls for pregnant women to be especially careful about their diet and for the reduction of chemicals in food production. The latest findings were made by the Department of Radiology and Physical Medicine at the University of Granada in Spain.

Analysis of the placentas revealed the "presence of seventeen endocrine disruptive organochlorine pesticides" - the so-called gender benders. Some patients' placentas contained 15 of the 17 pesticides tested for.

Maria Jose Lopez Espinosa, who headed the research, feared that the chemicals could cause health problems for children who suffered exposure in the womb. She said: "The results are alarming: 100 per cent of these pregnant women had at least one pesticide in their placenta but the average rate amounts to eight different kinds of chemical substances."

She warned, "We do not really know the consequences of exposure to pesticides in children but we can predict that they may have serious effects since this placenta exposure occurs at key moments on the embryo's development."

The modern, chemical-laden environment can be especially harmful to pregnant women. During the gestation period, contaminants which accumulate in fatty tissues, access the unborn child via the blood supply and the placenta.

The Spanish research was carried out at San Cecilio University Hospital among 308 women who had given birth between 2000 and 2002. Tests were performed on 668 samples.

The study also found a higher presence of pesticides in older mothers and those who had a higher Body Mass Index. Miss Espinosa believed that a healthy lifestyle with plenty of exercise, good food and no smoking would help combat the effect of "inadvertent exposure" to the chemicals.

She added, "It is possible to control pesticide ingestion by means of a proper diet, which should be healthy and balanced, through consumption of food whose chemical content is low.

"Moreover, daily exercise and the avoidance of tobacco, which could also be a source of inadvertent exposure, are very important habits which help to control the presence of pesticides in our bodies".

Find this story at

©2006 Associated New Media

Thursday, September 07, 2006

Effluent tipping scales on fish gender

A landmark study has found that wastewater from sewage-treatment plants in Boulder and Denver is causing gender deformities in suckers living downstream.
By Katy Human Denver Post Staff

Wastewater pouring from sewage-treatment plants in Boulder and Denver is bending the gender of fish living downstream, a new study has found.

Some of these strangely sexed sucker fish have male and female organs, and others have sexual deformities, according to a study by University of Colorado researchers.

"It's sort of a sentinel for us," said David Norris, a CU biologist and an author of the report. "Every major city in the Western U.S. is looking at it."

The paper, published this month in the journal Comparative Biochemistry and Physiology, is the first peer-reviewed study documenting the reproductive problems of fish downstream from Colorado wastewater-treatment plants.

Similarly odd fish have been found in England and in the Potomac River in Washington, D.C., Environmental Protection Agency officials said.

Although gender-deformed fish have been found in Front Range streams in the past few years, skeptics argued that any number of pollution sources - even natural effects - could be the cause.

The CU scientists now say they've confirmed that wastewater effluent is to blame.

The new results raise concern about whether the stuff people dump down drains - from urine to cleaning products to cosmetics and medicines - can alter the hormonal systems of other animals, researchers said.

Healthy male minnows placed in diluted effluent from Boulder's treatment plant stopped making sperm within two weeks, said Alan Vajda, a CU research associate and another author of the new report.

Many Colorado cities and towns pull drinking water from creeks downstream of wastewater-treatment plants.

There is, however, no evidence yet that the so-called endocrine-disrupting chemicals found in wastewater are concentrated enough to cause significant problems in people, Norris said.

People are bigger than fish, he said, and don't live in water.

"The problem is, that's not the only source of this type of chemical," Norris said. "It's in our food, it's in our plastics, it's in pesticides. ... We're being bombarded all the time."

People eating fish probably aren't at risk of harmful exposure, said Larry Barber, a researcher with the U.S. Geological Survey in Boulder.

Endocrine-disrupting chemicals are at low levels in sucker fillets, Barber said.

Patti Tyler, science adviser for the EPA's Denver office, said, "We're still not clear about ... whether exposure to these compounds has effects on humans."

The CU research team has been given about $800,000 in EPA grants to continue investigating the strange fish maladies downstream from state wastewater-treatment plants, Vajda said.

Other EPA offices are also funding similar work around the country on endocrine-disrupting chemicals in waterways, Tyler said.

Also, the EPA has recommended limits for some of the chemicals, such as the nonylphenols found in cleaning products.

Boulder wastewater-plant officials cooperated with the research, helping set up a mobile laboratory on site.

"It's valuable information not only for Boulder, but for other people in this industry," said Floyd Bebler, the city's wastewater coordinator. "It's happening all over, especially in the effluent-dominated streams ... of the West."