Bruce Jenner Gender Bender

DSC00507 (2)You can’t open a newspaper or magazine today without reading about Olympian Bruce Jenner’s sex change. At first I didn’t believe it, but with his longer hair, nail polish, adam’s apple and facial surgery, together with his mother’s remarks to the media, I now believe it’s true. I also understand that he remains sexually attracted to women and so will live as a lesbian. I can’t imagine the courage it takes to commit to this transition so late in life.

His story, however, reminds me of an article in the New York Post about a gender change involving prominent ABC network news editor and producer, Don Ennis.

One morning in 2013 Mr. Ennis arrived at the ABC New York studios wearing a tight black dress and a long brown wig and advised his colleagues he was transitioning to a female. He asked to be called “Dawn”.

“Please understand,” he said in a statement, “this is not a game of dress-up, or make-believe, it is my affirmation of who I now am and what I must do to be happy, in response to a soul-crushing secret that my wife and I have been dealing with for more than seven years, mostly in secret.”

He left his wife of 17-years and began living as a woman however, the “change” lasted only three months when he realized he had made a mistake. He was a man.

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.

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 friends and workmates 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.

Unfortunately for Dawn/Don, he changed his mind again and showed up at work in his female attire. It may just have been bad timing, but shortly thereafter he was fired from ABC for “performance issues”.

Not hard to understand that his mind may not have been on his work! Hopefully for Dawn/Don he will receive the support and treatment he so sorely needs.

The statistics on sex change reversals are highly controversial. The transgender community asserts that reversals are rare, however, website SexChangeRegret.com disagrees.

While in the past the media rarely reported on these stories, more recently they have been making news, including the fate of the transexual Belgian man who was permitted by Belgian authorities to participate in legal euthanasia.

Lawdiva aka Georgialee Lang

Are Jurors Biased Against Fat Women?

10950859361151CDPResearchers 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.

Statistics Canada says that almost one-third of Canadians aged five to 17 are overweight or obese.

Using World Health Organization standards of measurement, 31.5 per cent of five- to 17-year-olds — an estimated 1.6 million Canadians — were classified as overweight (19.8 per cent) or obese (11.7 per cent) from 2009 to 2011.

Among children aged five to 11, the percentage of obese boys (19.5 per cent) was more than three times that of obese girls (6.3 per cent), the agency said.

According to the Canadian Heart and Stroke Foundation 60% of Canadian adults are overweight or obese.

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?

Lawdiva aka Georgialee Lang

Rampant Sex Discrimination in Saudi Arabia

_DSC4179 - Version 2To be born female in Saudi Arabia is to endure a life of discrimination…on many fronts. First of all, it is legal for men in Saudi to have up to four wives who may be as young as 10-years old, as long as they can afford to support them all. It is reported that polygamy is increasingly popular with younger generations, bolstered by their oil wealth.

Saudi women cannot leave their home unless they are escorted by a male guardian, usually their father, brother or husband. They cannot marry, divorce, travel, open a bank account, or consent to elective surgery, without the approval of their guardian. They also are not permitted to drive a vehicle and women who disregard this law have been subject to punishments like flogging.

Photos of Saudi women show them covered up with only their hands and eyes showing, a custom/law that is enforced by the “religious police”.

It was not until 2005 that women were entitled to vote or run for political office, and in 2008 they were finally allowed to initiate and engage in educational studies on their own.

Family law in Saudi Arabia is equally demeaning and restrictive. A woman who socializes with a man who is not a relative can be accused of adultery, fornication, or prostitution. Sex segregation is the norm, with special female entrances and sections in banks and other public institutions. Women must sit with other women when they dine in a restaurant. It is reported that men’s sections in restaurants are usually well-furnished and welcoming, while the women’s sections are sparse and uninviting.

Divorce laws are cruel and unjust. Men may divorce their spouses anytime they want for any reason or no reason at all, while women can only divorce if their husband consents, or they obtain a judicial divorce, but only if they can prove harm or injury during their marriage. Fathers obtain custody of all children over seven-years-old.

The only obligation a man has to his ex-wife is to provide financial support for a period of four months and ten days.

Two recent divorces in Saudi have gone viral in the west, because of their unusual capriciousness. In one case an arranged marriage, which is the norm, came to a sudden end, just after the couple were declared man and wife. The couple had not met prior to the wedding and the first time the groom saw his bride was when she lifted her veil at the conclusion of the ceremony.

Her groom was taken aback when he saw his new wife’s face and according to media reports said: ““You are not the girl I want to marry. You are not the one I had imagined. I am sorry, but I divorce you.” She immediately collapsed with tears and the marriage was over.

In the second case, a Saudi man text messaged his wife to inform her that he wanted a divorce, because she ignored his previous text messages.

According to a story from Gulf News, this couple were having marriage difficulties because the husband believed his wife spent too much time on her cell phone talking to her girlfriends and ignoring him. The last straw for him was his unanswered phone messages and text messages to his wife. He knew from the app on his phone that she had received and read the text message but had not bothered to reply.

It’s no wonder the divorce rate in Saudi is 50%, but with multiple wives I guess the loss of one is not a real hardship.

Lawdiva aka Georgialee Lang

Guest Post: Spousal Support: Heads She Wins, Tails He Loses

I have been a fan of Ontario lawyer/writer KAREN SELICK (karenselick.com) for many years and appreciate her “tell-it-like-it-is” approach to some of Canada’s absurd laws. Karen wrote the piece below on spousal support seventeen years ago in the November, 1997 issue of “Canadian Lawyer”, when the Spousal Support Advisory Guidelines were nothing more than a law professor’s dream. Enjoy!

“The law of spousal support has become so repugnant to me lately that I often ponder giving up the practice of family law altogether.  It’s almost impossible to feel good about what you’re doing.  If you act for wives, you have to inform them about the kinds of claims they can make—including claims which I consider to be unjust or downright ridiculous.  If you act for husbands, you have to be prepared to be on the losing side most of the time. 

It seems that no matter what course a couple’s married life took, the wife can always find some reason to claim spousal support.   If she  worked outside the home and supported her husband while he became a brain surgeon, her claim is for “compensatory support.”  If she did just the opposite, sitting around eating bonbons while the brain surgeon supported her, her claim is for  “developing a pattern of economic dependency.”

I’ve even seen cases where the wife has claimed both grounds in the same action, oblivious to the possibility that the bonbon-eating lifestyle she enjoyed in the later years of marriage has already more than compensated her for whatever work she did in the early years, or to the idea that if she was such a great provider in the early years, there was nothing stopping her from maintaining her lucrative career throughout the marriage. 

In fact, the only common thread running through most support orders is this: males pay.

I remember reading once about the peculiar notion held by some eastern philosophy that if you rescue a person from impending death, you become responsible for him for the rest of his life.  Canadian courts seem to apply a similar prescript to support cases.  Once a man has kindly provided a woman with a higher standard of living than she could reasonably have hoped to achieve on her own, he’s stuck with providing it for years to come—maybe even the rest of her life–regardless of how she has behaved toward him or the reason they separated. 

The Divorce Act enshrines this principle.  It tells judges to alleviate any economic disadvantage arising from either “the marriage or its breakdown.”   That “or” is a powerful word.  Suppose the marriage gave the wife an advantage rather than a disadvantage: a more affluent, leisured lifestyle than she would have earned on her own. Then, obviously, the termination of the marriage constitutes a disadvantage. 

If a man genuinely caused his wife some disadvantage during the marriage, he pays for that reason.  But if instead he bestowed an advantage upon her, he pays for having stopped.  Heads she wins, tails he loses.

Another objectionable thread woven through both the legislation and the case law is the notion that if a woman can’t support herself after separation, the courts should make her ex-husband support her rather than see her go on welfare.  Maybe the legislators and judges who came up with this idea thought it would placate opponents of welfare. If so, they’ve misunderstood the nature of the objection to welfare. 

Welfare is objectionable because it is coercive and one-sided.  It’s not like charity, which is voluntary.  It’s not like a contract, from which both parties benefit.  No, welfare simply forces some people to hand over money to others whose predicament they didn’t cause and who have provided no value in exchange. 

The same could frequently be said about spousal support.  Take, for instance, the recent Ontario case, B. v. B.   The trial judge accepted the husband’s evidence that this was a marriage “made in Hell.”  The wife, whose IQ was only 68, didn’t work outside the home, but also didn’t do housework.  She watched a lot of television, while the husband assumed responsibility for cooking and cleaning, in addition to being the sole breadwinner.  They argued a lot, and she was occasionally violent towards him. 

The trial judge awarded her only time-limited support, saying “…this husband started to pay for this marriage about three months after it occurred, and then he paid for the next 15 years, and I am not prepared to make him pay for the rest of his life.” 

On appeal, the Divisional Court removed the time limit on the wife’s support, stating explicitly that the burden of the wife’s support should fall on family members, not on taxpayers.  Why?  What principle of justice or morality warrants making Mr. B. pay, as opposed to some unrelated taxpayer? Neither of them caused the wife’s need for support. Neither of them ever received any benefit from her existence.

In fact, we’ve thrown out just about every principle there ever was—from the notion of contract to the notion of fault—that made matrimonial law rational, comprehensible, predictable, controllable or just.  While some people may feel that no-fault support has been a liberating event, it’s clear that for others, it has meant nothing but grief and involuntary servitude. 

It’s about time we re-examined the unfashionable idea of marital conduct to see whether justice can ever again form part of matrimonial law.”

Lawdiva aka Georgialee Lang

Why I Support Canada’s Proposed New Law on Prostitution

BarristerOn Tuesday I will make submissions to the House of Commons Justice Committee on Canada’s new prostitution laws, which passed second reading several weeks ago, and will surely become the law of the land, perhaps with some amendments.

As many of you know, I was counsel for the Evangelical Fellowship of Canada in Attorney General v. Bedford and one of the few voices in the Supreme Court of Canada that urged that prostitution not be legalized.

Of course, we all know that the law criminalizing activities related to prostitution was deemed unconstitutional by the Supreme Court of Canada last December, thus opening the door for our federal government to create new law, taking into account the necessity for it to pass constitutional muster.

The new law does just that. It decriminalizes prostitution for the women and girls that trade in sexual services, but makes it illegal to purchase sex in Canada, thus targeting customers (johns) and those who seek to exploit (pimps) the mostly female, often aboriginal victims of the sex trade. It permits the selling of sexual services so long as it is not conducted in the vicinity of children 18 or under. It also forbids the advertisement of sexual services.

The basis of my objections to the legalization of prostitution is founded on one of Canada’s underlying principles, that respect for the human dignity of each person is foundational to our society, a dignity whose inherent value was confirmed by our highest court in the Rodriguez case (euthanasia) and finds expression in the 1949 United Nations Protocol on the trafficking of humans, a convention signed by Canada which provides:

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

The view that prostitution subordinates and victimizes women and girls is not particularly popular, but I have seen it first hand when I lived on Granville Street in the early 1970’s and in Vancouver’s west end in the 80’s. The image of a “happy hooker” is a Madison Avenue gimmick that has no basis in reality.

When my husband, Doug, ran the Vancouver Vice Squad, I saw again the squalor and exploitation of young, addicted woman, both tragic and poignant.

To those who say that legalization is the only answer, one only has to look at those countries who have based their social policy on sex work as a legitimate job with benefits paid and tax collected.

Perhaps the best example that the harms inherent in prostitution are not alleviated by legalization is the State of Victoria in Australia where prostitution was legalized in the 1990’s.

It was said that legalizing sex work would assist in eradicating the criminal element, guard against unregulated expansion, and combat violence against prostitutes.

How wrong they were…violence was not eliminated, street prostitution was not curtailed as they naively expected, working conditions were no safer than before, prostitution escalated and turning sex work into a legitimate business opportunity for women and girls did not dignify or professionalize prostitutes.

Instead there occurred massive expansion, particularly in the illegal sector with unlicensed brothels. Women were not empowered to become self- sufficient entrepreneurs, as they could not compete with the businessmen who took over the brothel business. Street prostitution was not eliminated as street workers had a host of social problems including addictions, mental illness, and an inability to be hired by legal brothels because of their lifestyles.

Canada’s new prostitution bill addresses many of the safety concerns identified by the Supreme Court of Canada, but more than that, the tenor of the law does not accede to the notion that prostitution is acceptable and legitimate in a free and democratic society.

In my view, prostitution not only harms the women and girls involved but also undermines the social fabric of Canada. It is too easy not to try to provide a way out for our mothers, sisters and aunts who are trapped in this degrading practice. It is a basic issue of human rights.

Lawdiva aka Georgialee Lang

Transgendered Widow Sues for Life Insurance Proceeds

GEO#1It’s over ninety degrees in Texas but it’s going to get a lot hotter. A court battle is heating up over the estate of Thomas Araguz in Wharton, Texas. Araguz, age 30, was a fire captain in the Wharton Fire Department before he lost his life in a blaze on a local chicken farm on July 4, 2010.

Araguz’s life insurance policy of $500,000 should be distributed to his wife of two years, Nikki, and his two children from a previous marriage, however, Araguz’s parents and ex-wife are asking a court to block the distribution and anul Mr. Araguz’s marriage to Nikki Araguz, because she was born male and had sexual reassignment surgery. If that occurs, the children will receive the entire life insurance policy proceeds, presumably to be managed by the children’s sole custodial parent, Araguz’s ex-wife.

The family is relying on a case decided in Texas in 1999 where the court held that same-sex partners cannot marry and the State of Texas does not recognize gender reassignment.

Nikki was born Justin Perdue in 1975 and claims that her husband knew about her gender reassignment and supported her during reconstructive surgery. The problem is that earlier on, Mr Araguz’ ex-wife was challenging Mr. Araguz for custody of their two children and to present the best case in court, both Thomas and Nikki Araguz swore under oath that Mr. Araguz knew nothing about her previous life as a man.

Now Nikki says that they both lied to the court in order to receive a more favourable result in the custody action. Public opinion in Texas is mixed but most people believe the money should go to Nikki. I believe a fair result is the division of the proceeds equally between the two children and Mr. Araguz’ widow.

UPDATE:

In 2011 the Texas Court ruled in favour of the Araguz family and against Nikki Araguz. However, in April 2014 the appeal court reversed the decision and ordered a new trial with a stipulation that Ms. Araguz cannot be prejudiced by her change in gender.

Lawdiva aka Georgialee Lang

“Where Have All the Fathers Gone?”

10950859361151CDP Lawdiva will be participating in a Pre-Father’s Day Virtual Media Conference on June 4, 2014 from 1 pm to 2 pm Pacific time, online http://www.newswise.com

Jason Patric, the actor (best known for his roles in Lost Boys and Speed 2: Cruise Control) and activist, who is fighting to be an equal parent, will join three nationally known parenting experts in a virtual media conference Wednesday, June 4, the week leading up to Father’s Day.

This online event comes at a time when 53% of women under 30 who have children are not married*. That statistic predicts a generation of children with little or no father involvement – a potential threat to society and a troubling development for America’s children.

MEDIA EVENT WILL FEATURE:

* Jason Patric – actor, activist, and founder of Stand Up for Gus

* Dr. Warren Farrell — author of Father and Child Reunion

* Georgialee Lang — Leading Women for Shared Parenting

* Dr. Ned Holstein – founder and chair of the National Parents Organization

WHEN:

Wednesday, June 4
4 pm – 5 pm EDT

WHERE:

Online via http://www.newswise.com
Journalists must pre-register; click here to register.

Among issues the four speakers will explore:

* Why aren’t more fathers more involved with raising young children – and where have all the fathers gone?

* What are the implications for America’s future?

* Are there larger issues involved in Stand Up for Gus and Jason Patric’s battle for co-custody of his son? Or is this just about cases of in vitro fertilization?

* How are women becoming a political force for the equal involvement of both parents?

*What role do family courts play in keeping fathers apart from their children

* Any and all questions from media.

KEY QUOTE:

Warren Farrell says: “Today we consider it unfathomable that the world of work could neglect the contributions of women. We will soon consider it unfathomable that the world of our children is neglecting the contributions of their dads. The result is overburdened moms; fathers who feel unvalued; children doing worse in more than thirty areas in which they could be excelling.”

ISSUES & ANGLES:

Issues and story angles the presenters will discuss during the online media conference:

–Jason Patric, actor, activist and founder of Stand Up For Gus; http://www.standupforgus.com

— Everyday-life examples of what he and Gus did together that Gus has been deprived of for more than a year;
— Why he’s fighting for Gus and all the kids who are being deprived of their dad;
— What he’s learned about how the system treats dads.

–Warren Farrell, PhD, author Father and Child Reunion; http://www.warrenfarrell.biz

— What the research shows about why children do better when fathers are equally involved;
— What dads do that provides checks and balances to what moms do – and why those differences matter;
— The conditions that must prevail for a child raised in a non-intact family to do as well as a child raised in an intact family.

–Georgialee Lang, J.D., of Leading Women for Shared Parenting; http://www.lw4sp.org

— Why mothers need to make the equal involvement of both parents a top priority for their children;
— How women and mothers are becoming a political force toward this end;
— Why Leading Women for Shared Parenting is redefining the “maternal instinct” as providing a child with both parents.

–Ned Holstein, M.D., Founder and Chair of the National Parents’ Organization; https://nationalparentsorganization.org

— What’s happening in the U.S. and Canada about the challenges fathers face on a legal level;
–Which states and provinces have implemented the most progressive legislation?

Journalists: Click here to register for the online conference.

* Child Trends, 2012. Drawn from U.S. Census data.http://www.childtrends.org/index.cfm. Cited in Jason De Parle and Sabrina Vavernise, “For Women Under 30, Most Births Occur Outside Marriage, The New York Times, Feb. 17, 2012,” http://www.nytimes.com/2012/02/18/us/for-women-under-30-most-births-occur-outside-marriage.html?nl=todaysheadlines&emc=tha2