Hetero Couple Divorce in Order to Remarry as Same-Sex Spouses

GEO CASUALAre you as confused as I am between sexual orientation and gender? Are you clear on what the difference is between transvestites, transsexuals, transgendered, or cross-dressers? Me too, I can’t figure it all out, but perhaps the story of Andrew and Kate Ratcliffe will help us out.

Andrew and Helen married when he was 22 and she was 17. Although nobody thought the marriage would survive a year, it flourished, producing three children and 28 years of married bliss ( or a reasonable facsimile of same!) However, at year twenty Andrew confessed to Helen that he wanted to be a woman. She, of course, was shocked and angry, as any spouse would be.

Andrew reported that even in his teen’s he yearned to wear women’s clothing, but upon his mother discovering female underwear in his bedroom he repressed those feelings and threw himself headlong into the macho male world of motorbikes and cars. As a young married couple in Britain, Andrew and Helen immersed themselves in the “goth” scene, where Andrew could legitimately paint his face with black eyeliner and lipstick. Once their children arrived they abandoned this pursuit and he got a crew cut, along with multiple tattoos and body piercings.

Life carried on, but along the way, Andrew ran into some old friends who he discovered were cross-dressers and his new journey began.

After he told Helen, but not their children, Andrew and Helen spent their date nights as two women on the town. Six years later he began to explore a sex-change operation, but was advised he needed to live openly as a woman for two years. It was at this point that Andrew changed his name to Kate and let their teenage children know of his situation and plans.

The new couple experienced a set-back when Andrew/Kate learned that he would have to divorce Helen before he could finalize his transition. Helen balked, couldn’t cope and they separated, but only for a time.

They reunited and Andrew/Kate had her surgery, paid for by Britain’s National Health Service. Their happy ending concluded with a white wedding, each of them wearing wedding gowns, as Kate was escorted to her bride, Helen, accompanied by her father.

Kate, still called “dad” by her three adult children, remarked that if she had known how easy it would be, she would have made the change sooner.

So, the question is “Do cross-dressers generally feel they are in the wrong body?” Apparently not. The research says that most men who cross-dress simply like to dress up in women’s clothing because it makes them feel good and right with the world. They are not gay, but rather straight men who have an intense desire to put on makeup and wear jewelry.

Social scientists don’t know how many men cross-dress because many men only disclose their behavior to their wives. In earlier times, cross-dressers were called transvestites. Cross-dressers can be like Andrew/Kate, men or women who are born male or female but feel they have the wrong body. These persons are called transsexuals and usually take hormonal treatments and have surgery to transition from their biological gender to their psychological and emotional gender. Researchers often say that it is not really a “transition” because their brains are born female, while their anatomy says they are male.

But transsexuals are not necessarily transgendered, according to most authorities on the subject. Transgendered persons are those who have any form of gender identity issue that causes them to be criticized, discriminated against, or even shunned because of their appearance, mannerisms, or voice.

Gender dysphoria, as it is referred to by psychologists and psychiatrists, was once considered a mental illness, but modern research and studies tell us that the basis for it is much more complex with biological, hormonal and neurological factors.

Thankfully we are becoming better educated and hopefully, more tolerant of people who are different from us.

Lawdiva aka Georgialee Lang

The Case for Shared Parenting

There is a groundswell of activity and energy swirling throughout North America as lawmakers take a closer look at shared parenting, also known as joint physical custody.

Despite the best efforts of dinosaur lawyers and jaded feminists to disparage a better model for parenting, shared parenting is a child-centered response to the institutionalized model of parenting that has plagued families far too long.

Based on twentieth century cultural traditions of stay-at-home moms and working dads, the maternal preference was shored up by untested psychological theories about mothers and children that unwittingly led to a template of a “visiting” parent, usually relegated to every second weekend for a total of four nights per month.

The primary caregiver model became the default position without consideration of the quality of parenting, the psychological functioning of each parent, or the history and nature of the parent/child relationship.

Good parents were lumped together with dysfunctional parents because judges relied on precedent, a straight-jacket that we now know has hurt generations of children and needlessly disempowered parents.

Later most jurisdictions added a week night visit for the non-custodial parent. Who are we kidding by using gender neutral language? It’s “Dads” that are marginalized by these entrenched legal and judicial practices.

But the tide is slowly turning as the public clamour for a more civilized way to determine custody, and social science researchers provide empirical evidence that compels a reconsideration of a parenting regime that is far past its due date.

Dr. Joan Kelly, well-known psychologist and parenting researcher, confirms the literature demonstrates numerous benefits to children when their living arrangements enable supportive and loving fathers to be actively involved in their children’s lives on a weekly and regular basis, including overnights. The outcomes for children include better psychological and behavioral adjustment, and enhanced academic performance.

She also notes that children and adolescents who have lived in a shared parenting arrangement are generally satisfied, feel loved, have less feelings of loss, and do not frame their lives through the lens of parental divorce, compared with those who have been placed in the sole custody of their mothers.

With the endorsement of 110 international research scholars, Dr. Richard Warshak recently published “Social Science and Parenting Plans for Young Children: A Consensus Report” in Psychology, Public Policy and Law 2014 Vol. 20 #1- p.46-67 which concludes that shared parenting should be the norm for children of all ages, including very young children. The consensus was that 50/50 parenting is also indicated where the logistics of the parents’ schedules are compatible with that arrangement.

Of course, it is universally accepted that deficient, negligent or abusive parents, and those that may have mental illness or substance abuse problems will rarely be candidates for shared parenting.

Public sentiment on shared parenting can be illustrated by Massachusetts’ 2004 non-binding election ballot where 85% of voters, numbering 530,000 people, agreed that children should live with both parents following divorce. In another survey of 375 people called for jury duty, 67% of them favoured shared residential parenting. (Braver et al 2011)

Presently seven States promote shared parenting including Arizona, Alaska, Oklahoma, Iowa, Kansas, Arkansas, and Wisconsin. A Florida bill for alimony reform and shared parenting was expected to pass, but was crushed by a veto from Florida’s governor. The proposed amendment sought to increase the minimum amount of parenting time from 25% to 35%.

Connecticut established a Task Force to study the issue of shared parenting, with a report expected this month. In Maryland, legislators initiated a Commission on Child Custody Decision Making with a report due in late 2014.

Canada’s Bill C-560 on shared parenting is scheduled for second reading in the House of Commons in mid-March 2014. In previous iterations of this bill there has been non-partisan support from the Liberals, Conservatives and the Green Party, the latter two include shared parenting in their platforms.

For those who ignore the burgeoning research and say the jury is still out, or those who continue to rely on the tired refrain that shared parenting is impossible with the rancour that accompanies divorce, a new day is dawning.

It can’t come too quickly for Canada’s children.

Lawdiva aka Georgialee Lang

Same-Sex Marriage is Sweeping America

Barrister While Canada was way ahead of most countries in legalizing same-sex marriage, the United States languished, but is now quickly catching up.

You may remember several years ago when actor and certifiable “hunk” Brad Pitt said that he and Angelina Jolie would not marry until same-sex couples in America had the right to do so. The most recent news from the Pitt/Jolie camp is that their wedding ceremony in Hawaii is set for December 2013, followed by an extravagant winter reception at their French manor.

Not entirely surprising, since same-sex marriage is legally recognized in numerous jurisdictions within the United States and is recognized by the federal government for such purposes as taxation and immigration.

As of October 2013, fourteen states (California, Connecticut, Delaware, Iowa, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Rhode Island, Vermont, and Washington), the District of Columbia, several counties in New Mexico, and seven Native American tribal jurisdictions – covering 33% of the US population – issue marriage licenses for same-sex couples.

Oregon recognizes same-sex marriages performed in other states and the issue is being litigated in a New Mexico Supreme Court case, where officials are seeking a ruling of statewide applicability.

Meanwhile, six states now recognize “domestic partnerships” including Oregon, Wisconsin, Hawaii, Colorado, Nevada and Illinois.

A new day has dawned and best wishes go to the engaged couple!

Lawdiva aka Georgialee Lang

Ten-Year-Old B.C. Boy Champions Case for Gender Identity Syndrome

GEO CASUALA ten-year-old boy from Comox British Columbia, who calls himself Harriette, has gone public with his crusade to reform the law that prevents him from acquiring a new birth certificate to reflect his preferred gender.

Harriette’s birth name is Declan Forrest Cunningham, but he recently announced to his Grade 5 teacher and classmates that he is transgendered and lives as a girl, with the full support of his family, who decry the Canadian bureaucracy that refuse to issue him new identification.

Harriette could be a poster child for a debate that is brewing over the treatment of children who are confused about their gender.

Picture a little boy in a pink tutu, fairy wings and ballet pumps. Now imagine that boy being treated with hormone-blocking drugs in a clinic established to diagnose and treat children who believe they were born in the wrong body.

Gender Identity Syndrome, first identified by the American Psychiatric Association in the 1990’s, has spawned a new industry, one where children as young as five, are receiving puberty suppressing injections, despite a paucity of research with respect to the side effects or medical dangers that may accompany these treatments.

At Tavistock Clinic in the United Kingdom over 165 children are being treated by the clinic’s team of social workers and child therapists. Seven of these children are under the age of five, despite Tavistock’s own research that indicates that up to 80% of these children will change their minds about living in the wrong body, once they reach adolescence.

Nonetheless, proponents of hormone therapy believe the treatment is worthwhile to prevent the mental distress these children will experience as their bodies mature. The treatment is also said to be beneficial to those children who will eventually have gender-changing surgery. Others say the treatment reduces suicide and self-harm rates.

Contrary opinions abound. Professor Russell Viner, a hormone specialist at London’s Institute of Child Health believes the impact on a child’s developing bones and brain has not been ascertained and warns of the potential danger. He notes the drugs reduce a patient’s fertility level.

Dr. Kenneth Zucker, a world authority on gender issues, with a Toronto clinic, is opposed to hormonal treatments for children. He says:

“Suppose you saw a black kid that wanted to be white. Wouldn’t you try to understand what was happening…You certainly wouldn’t recommend skin-bleaching.”

He says that gender confusion is an issue of nurture, not nature and believes dysfunctional families or cultural backgrounds play an important role. Other experts say that children confused about their gender may have experienced sexual abuse or have psychiatric ailments and need psychotherapy, not drugs, and not sexual reassignment surgery.

While it is reported that most adults who complete sex-change surgery are happy with their new lives, for others the surgery is anything but positive.

After allegations were made in 2009, psychiatrist Dr. Trudy Kennedy of the Monash Gender Dysphoria Clinic in Melbourne, Australia was forced to close her clinic for a time, while she dealt with numerous complaints and three lawsuits alleging negligence and faulty diagnosis.

Certainly the medical and ethical issues of prescribing intrusive treatments on vulnerable children requires more intense scrutiny than it has received to date.

While the Cunningham family believe their young son’s passion to find justice for himself is laudable, they ignore the potentially negative consequences of his public campaign. He is a child in his formative years who deserves to develop and mature away from the prying eyes of the media. If I was cynical I would say that it is his parents that seek the spotlight…another reality TV show?

Lawdiva aka Georgialee Lang

Gender Bender: From Male to Female, Back to Male

DSC00507 (2)In a bizarre story from the New York Post, ABC news editor Don Ennis revealed that his three-month foray into the world of the transgendered was a mistake and he actually was a man, not a woman.

Apparently Mr. Ennis was a child actor whose mother gave him female hormones to extend his modest acting career. Over the years he felt like a man trapped in a woman’s body and eventually had a breast augmentation.

In May of 2013 he took the brave step of leaving his wife and announcing to his friends and colleagues that he was now Dawn Ennis and began life as a woman.

However, after suffering from what he describes as two days of “transient global amnesia” he realized he was not a woman and had been misdiagnosed. His letter to announce his second gender reversal read:

“I am writing to let you know I’m changing my name . . . to Don Ennis. That will be my name again, now and forever. And it appears I’m not transgender after all.

“I have retained the much different mind-set I had in 1999: I am now totally, completely, unabashedly male in my mind, despite my physical attributes,”

“I’m asking all of you who accepted me as a transgender to now understand: I was misdiagnosed. I’m already using the men’s room and dressing accordingly.”

Mr. Ennis sought professional help at the National Institute of Health in Bethesda Maryland to understand why his mind and body changed from male to female. He was told he had a hormone imbalance. After his bout with amnesia he suffered a “drastic loss of memory” and could only remember himself as a man, hence the second gender reversal.

Medical literature describes the amnesia suffered by Mr. Ennis as related to emotional instability triggered by a phobic or challenging precipitating event.

What could be more emotionally challenging than waltzing into the ABC studios wearing a black dress and an auburn wig? Hard to top that!

Lawdiva aka Georgialee Lang

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Justice for Jassi: Honour Killings and Extradition

DSC00280This week the Harper government announced the allocation of $200,000 to British Columbia non-profit “Mosaic”, an immigrant services organization, to implement an educational program designed to combat honour killings.

Mosaic will work with young men and boys in multicultural communities over a period of two years to help them understand the issues behind ethnic gender violence.

Minister of State for the Status of Women, Rona Ambrose, noted there have been 19 high-profile honour killings in Canada, but that threats and violence against women in multicultural communities are an everyday occurrence.

Jassi Sidhu is one of the nineteen who is still waiting for justice.

Last month an extradition hearing began in a British Columbia courtroom, almost 13 years after Ms. Sidhu was beaten, tortured and strangled to death in India, punishment for marrying a man she loved, not the older, wealthy man her family wanted her to marry.

Jassi met rickshaw driver, Mithu Sidhu in 1994 when she visited India with her family. They fell in love and their long-distance relationship culminated in a secret marriage ceremony in India in March of 1999.

She returned home to British Columbia dreaming of the day she and Mithu could be together. One day in 2000 family members discovered a marriage certificate in Jassi’s bedroom. They were furious. They offered her money and a new car if she would annul the marriage. She would not. They then forced her to sign annulment papers.

Jassi worked as an esthetician in a small salon in Port Coquitlam, but after her marriage came to light she was a prisoner in her home. One of her family members would escort her to and from her workplace. She was physically abused and threatened by family members, as was her husband in India.

She feared for her life and fled her home, borrowing money from a friend to fly to India to reunite with Mithu. Now she was free, but it was not to be.

On June 8, 2000 Jassi and Mithu were attacked by a group of men in the state of Punjab. Mithu survived the attack, but Jassi’s body was found in a canal. Mithu was arrested for rape and languished in prison for four years until he was released with no charges. The woman who accused him of sexual assault was connected to Jassi’s family in India.

Seven men were convicted of Jassi’s murder, men who had been in constant communication with Jassi’s mother Malkit Kaur Sidhu, and her wealthy uncle, Surjit Badesha before her death. They testified at trial that the killing was initiated by Jassi’s mother. On appeal, three of the convicted killers were acquitted and released.

Now begins the long wait for the release of the British Columbia Supreme Court decision on extradition. Experts in the field acknowledge that extradition to India is rarely granted because of shady Indian police practices, including the use of truth serum in investigations, and a corrupt judiciary.

Honour killings have become such a pressing issue in Canada that the Canadian citizenship study guide mentions it specifically, saying, “Canada’s openness and generosity do not extend to barbaric cultural practices that tolerate spousal abuse, “honour killings”, female genital mutilation, forced marriage or other gender-based violence.”

Will Jassi get the justice she deserves?

Lawdiva aka Georgialee Lang

When Mom Loses Custody

GEO CASUALNow that most North American courts are truly focusing on a child’s best interests, and not just slavishly awarding custody of young children to moms, many mothers are experiencing what dads have faced for decades. Life without Jimmy and Susie…

A case in point is the situation that American actress, Kelly Rutherford, found herself in after her two-year marriage to husband Daniel Giersch collapsed in 2009. Star of television’s Gossip Girl, Ms. Rutherford engaged in a lengthy, tortuous custody battle with the father of their two children, Hermes and Helena, who are now six and three-years old.

From the get-go it was as ugly as can be, with mean-spirited, nasty allegations tossed about for the Hollywood media to lap up. He asserted that her life was not focused on the kids, but on spa appointments, shopping excursions and her career, while she accused Giersch of dealing in drugs and weapons in South America.

Ultimately, Ms. Rutherford’s allegations backfired. Mr. Giersch, as a citizen of France, had no legal status in the United States and some media reported that his wife’s unproven complaints stymied any chance Giersch had of remaining in America after his visa was revoked.

At the end of the battle, Giersch was awarded custody of both children who now live with him in France. Ms. Rutherford was awarded access to her children with the proviso that she pay all the costs of visiting them in France. It is reported that to date she has made over 40 trips.

The financial aftermath of her court battle and access costs has led Ms. Rutherford to file for bankruptcy. Despite earning $486,000 a month from her work on Gossip Girl, she has virtually no assets and debt of more than $2 million dollars. The cancellation of Gossip Girl is another setback for the star.

And she has apparently not abandoned her quest for custody of the children. Having spent $1.5 million in legal and related fees, she is now living for free with friends in New York as she continues to battle her ex.

She recently remarked:

“Having to peel my son off my body, screaming, “Mama, save me!” when I had to give him to his father—not because he doesn’t love his dad, but because he’s too young and it was like a forced thing.”

While women have righteously sought gender equality for years, it may be that in this case Ms. Rutherford would rather have the old rules apply.

Lawdiva aka Georgialee Lang

The Case Against Legalized Prostitution

BarristerProstitution is a practice that arises from the historical subordination of women and the accompanying patriarchal right of men to buy and exchange women as objects for sexual use.

Canadians embrace and respect the worth and dignity of every person and our Courts have confirmed that respect for human dignity is an underlying principle upon which Canada is based. However, the practice of prostitution is an assault on human dignity.

In 1949 Canada signed the United Nations Convention to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking In Persons which included this statement:

“Prostitution and the accompanying evil of the traffic in persons
for the purpose of prostitution are incompatible with the dignity and worth of
persons and endanger the welfare of the individual, the family and the community.”

While Canada has chosen not to criminalize prostitution itself, our criminal law provides that communication for the purpose of soliciting, living off the avails, and common bawdy houses or brothels are illegal.

The argument to legalize these prostitution offences is based on the notion that, if legal, women will be safer; they will be able to communicate and screen their potential customers; they will be able to hire bodyguards and assistants; and they will move from street soliciting to brothels, which are safer.

The trouble with their argument is that countries that have legalized prostitution for those same reasons have learned the hard way that the gains they hoped to achieve for women in prostitution have been illusory.

The best example is the State of Victoria, Australia, home to capital city Melbourne, where prostitution was legalized in the 1980′s in order to minimize harm to prostitutes.

Their worthy goal was to eradicate the criminal element, guard against unregulated expansion of the practice and combat violence against prostitutes.

Instead, according to noted expert and social scientist Dr. Janice Raymond and others working in the field, legalization led to a massive expansion of prostitution, where ironically, the growth was mainly in the illegal sector where unlicensed brothels proliferated.

The legalization of brothels did not empower women to work as independent businesswomen in their own organized brothels because, not unexpectedly, large brothel operators dominated the brothel industry making it difficult for individual prostitutes or even small groups of women to compete against the huge money and marketing of commercial brothels.

Street prostitution did not disappear simply because women who work outside have a host of social problems including homelessness, addictions, are under-age, or are unwilling to register with the government. Women in these situations were not able to be employed by brothels by the nature of their lifestyle.

The law, while intending to eliminate organized crime, brought with it an explosion of human trafficking by international crime syndicates. Finally, the legalization of brothels legitimized pimps and procurers as business men.

While prostitution will always be with us, do we want our streets, not just the back alleys, to be strolls for working girls, who can linger as long as they choose when the communication law is struck? Do we want our neighbouring homes and apartments to be commercial legal brothels? Do we want to change the social fabric of Canada by endorsing prostitution?

You ask if there is a solution? Many are recommending the approach taken by Sweden where their legislators recognized that prostitution causes serious harm to individuals and society as a whole, that it is associated with crime, violence, and human trafficking, but that at its core it is the victimization and oppression of women.

The Swedish model criminalizes the purchaser of sexual services, but not the women who engage in prostitution. The government reports that street prostitution has been reduced by 50%, but more importantly, the practice of prostitution is not condoned and is seen for what it is: a form of violence against women.

Lawdiva aka Georgialee Lang

Anti-Gay Bill in Uganda Resurfaces

DSC01152_2 (2)_2When you live in a country where human rights and the equality of every man and woman is revered, it is difficult to comprehend a society where Parliamentarians debated and considered imposing the death penalty for people who are gay, lesbian or transgendered.

Uganda’s gay agenda, introduced in 2009, made international headlines in 2011 with the murder of Ugandan gay rights activist David Kato, who was bludgeoned to death in his home in Kampala.

Mr. Kato was one of a large group of gays and lesbians “outed” by the Ugandan newspaper, Rolling Stone (no relation to the American publication) in October 2010. The headline read: “100 Pictures of Uganda’s Homos Leak”. The article contained Mr. Kato’s name and home address. It also identified venues frequented by gays and lesbians. Its subheading read “Hang them”.

Homosexuality is already illegal in Uganda and imprisonment of up to 14 years may be imposed. However, it was a bill introduced by politician David Bahati in 2009, and recently resurrected, that has upped the ante for Uganda’s gay population.

The original Anti-Homosexuality Bill imposed the death penalty for serial homosexual offences; for sexual activity with persons under the age of 18 or the disabled; and for sexual activity where HIV is passed to another.

It has now been reported that after world-wide criticism, including from Prime Minister Stephen Harper, the death penalty provisions have been abandoned in favour of life in prison.

However, government fervor behind the bill has not faded. In November 2012 the Speaker for the Ugandan Parliament announced that the amended bill would be passed before the end of 2012 as a “Christmas gift” for Ugandans, which has support from 96% of the electorate. Fortunately, this deadline passed with no new law, but law makers are expected to vote on the legislation this month.

Some media outlets report that Bahati’s bill came to fruition after he spent time with certain evangelical christians who came to Uganda in 2009, espousing family values and denouncing homosexuality as a sin. Barack Obama’s inauguration “Pastor”, Rick Warren from Saddleback, California, has been named as a Christian leader who influenced Mr. Bahati and other high-placed politicians.

Warren’s mega-church has focused considerable charitable efforts in Africa, including Uganda, however, Mr. Warren has forcefully denounced the death penalty bill, while adhering to biblical standards concerning sex outside of marriage and the sanctity of marriage, between one man and one woman.

A leading evangelical group in Canada, Crossroads Christian Communications, has also come under fire in recent days. Crossroads receives over $500,000 in funding from the Canadian government to bring aid to Uganda by building wells, latrines and promoting good hygiene.

Critics, however, decrie the organization’s public stance against homosexuality and it is reported that Crossroads funding will be reviewed in light of this position.

What cannot be overlooked, however, is that while many world religions consider homosexuality a sin, discrimination against gays, lesbians and the transgendered is a human rights issue and unlike the hateful Westborough Baptist Church in Kansas, there is no evidence to suggest that Rick Warren or Crossroads support human rights abuses. To the contrary, these organizations are bringing hope and change to Uganda.

Lawdiva aka Georgialee Lang

Do Male Jurors Discriminate Against Fat Women?

BarristerResearchers at Yale University recently conducted a study with 471 mock jurors. Each of them was given a hypothetical criminal case of cheque fraud, together with photographs of four fake defendants.

The four accused consisted of a portly man, a slender man, a svelte woman and an overweight woman. The jurors then assessed each accused’s guilt on a scale of five, based on their appearance.

The study results showed that male jurors consistently found the fat woman to be guilty, and the bias against overweight women was even greater if the male juror was a thin man. Curiously, this weight bias did not apply to male jurors assessing the guilt of overweight men and female jurors displayed no discrimination against fat people.

Natasha Schevey, who led the research, concluded that weight-based stigmatization is now on par with rates of racial discrimination. In other words, overweight people are vulnerable to bias and discrimination similar to racial prejudice, based on stereotyping that depicts overweight people as “greedy, lazy, unmotivated, and lacking in self-discipline and will power”.

The results of this study are no surprise to researchers who specialize in obesity. Similar studies at Yale have shown that the medical community holds disdain for fat people under their care, even in cases where the physicians themselves specialize in obesity.

Other studies have shown that young people choosing partners would prefer a disabled partner rather than an obese one, and employment research indicates that overweight people are 37 times more likely to suffer employment discrimination.

What is shocking is that gender, disability, sexual orientation, and racial bias is protected by law, but weight discrimination has no legal protection. The victims of weight bias suffer in silence. Is it even possible to change public opinion?

In 2004 there were 7 million overweight people in Canada and 4.5 million obese people.

Lawdiva aka Georgialee Lang