Not Male or Female, But Bi-Gender

DSC00275_1As medical experts dig deeper into the world of sexual orientation and gender identity, their research expands this field of knowledge in ways that are nothing less than bizarre. Case in point is the work of Dr. Vilayanur Ramachandran, Director of the Centre for Brain and Cognition at the University of California, San Diego, who claims to have discovered a new gender which is neither male nor female, but bi-gender.

The condition identified by Dr. Ramachandran, called “alternating gender incongruity” or AGI, occurs when people involuntarily switch between male and female. Individuals with AGI experience phantom breasts or genitalia of the opposite sex, according to the highly respected neuroscientist.

His study considered 32 people who registered on an online bi-gender forum, 11 women and 21 men. One-third of the group said their gender switching was predictable; a majority switched weekly while 14 others said they switched once or more daily.

Dr. Ramachandran said that his findings to date indicate that between the extremes of male and female is a “spectrum of a poorly understood and poorly studied group of ambiguously defined sexual identities that are very much part of the human condition.”

He did, however, caution that his results are suggestive, but not conclusive of his theory, and that he still needs to rule out multiple personality disorder or role-playing by his research subjects and ascertain whether there are biological indicators present, such as fluctuating hormone levels.

His research also revealed that those with AGI had a tendency to ambidexterity and bipolar disorder. Nonetheless, while admitting that more work is required, scientists are pushing for a new category of transgender or neuropsychiatric condition.

Ryan Wigley, age 22, also known as Ria Wigley, describes to The Mirror, a British publication, what it feels like to be bi-gender:

”It hit me that I was two genders, it’s so confusing…

“I have to guess which I’ll be the next morning to plan my day. I try to work out how I feel the night before.

“If I feel more feminine I’ll have a shower and set my alarm earlier so I have time to get ready.

“If I feel like a girl several days in a row, the upkeep is hard. I need to shave my face, chest and legs every day, wash my hair and keep my make-up in place.

“I feel like I prefer to be female but I’m much more relaxed in what I look like when I feel like a man.”

Ryan/Ria has an understanding girlfriend who accommodates his dual gender identity. Speaking of confusion, I can only imagine how baffled his acquaintances, friends and workmate are!

The medical exploration of strange phenomenon is nothing new for Dr. Ramachandran who earlier investigated “synaesthesia”, a condition affecting millions, where one’s senses are intermingled; people can taste words, hear colours and feel sounds.

Lawdiva aka Georgialee Lang

Judge Orders State of California to Pay for Inmate’s Sex-Change

DSC00258_1Mule Creek State Prison just outside of Sacramento in Ione, California houses over 3,000 men and is the only California penal institution designated a “sensitive needs yards” facility.

What that means is that prisoners who are at risk for gang retaliation, are former police officers or correctional officers, or are susceptible to victimization, such as sex offenders or gay prisoners, are housed here. Famous Mule Creek inmates include Charles Manson and Tex Watson of Helter-Skelter notoriety, Lyle Melendez, serving life without parole, who with his brother Eric murdered their parents, and Geronimo Pratt, former Black Panther.

Recently, however, Mule Creek Prison has captured media attention because of inmate Michelle-Lael Norsworthy’s successful application to have the State of California pay for her sex-change operation. United States District Judge Jon Tigar ruled that denying medical treatment to Michelle was unconstitutional.

In the court hearing Norsworthy deposed that she is “a woman trapped in a man’s body” and that “[her spirit] is imprisoned in a way that causes excruciating pain and frustration to a point that therapy and other remedies are the only way to relieve that agony” The “psychological and emotional pain” and “frustration and agony” she experiences mean that she is “unable to complete [her] existence or complete who [she is].”

She deposed that at times, the anxiety caused by her gender dysphoria causes symptoms such as sleeplessness, cold sweats, hypervigilance, panic attacks, and mood swings.

Michelle entered Mule Creek Prison in 1987 as Jeffrey Bryan Norsworthy, serving a life sentence for second degree murder. By 1990 he was living as Michelle with support from the California Department of Corrections in the form of counselling, mental health treatment, and hormone therapy to feminize her male features.

Diagnosed with gender dysphoria, Judge Tigar noted that Michelle is the
first California inmate to obtain an order to have the state pay for her sex-change. Recently a Massachuset’s inmate was granted the same order, but on appeal the order was overturned. An appeal to the United States Supreme Court is pending.

State officials are contemplating appealing the order made by Judge Tigar and have identified practical problems that will arise if the surgery proceeds. They say that returning Michelle to a male prison population could put her at risk for assault or rape. On the other hand, she may also be in danger in a female facility, or pose a danger to female inmates because of her history of domestic violence.

Correctional authorities are also concerned that the costs of sex-change surgery, estimated to be $100,000, will severely impact the prison’s budget, particularly if additional inmates seek similar orders in the future. The State’s cost estimate has been criticized as an exaggeration by transgender support workers.

The floodgates argument is difficult to assess as statistics on the transgender population in the United States are hard to come by.

Gary Gates, a demographer at the University of California Los Angeles School of Law’s Williams Institute, who studies sexual orientation and gender identity law and public policy, is responsible for one of the most frequently cited estimates of the transgender population — 700,000, about 0.3 percent of U.S. adults, an estimate that remains controversial.

As transexuals, transgenders, and cross-dressers feel more accepted and become comfortable in disclosing their sexual orientation, data-collection and public policy will advance in this area.

Lawdiva aka Georgialee Lang

Canadian Couple Sue Georgia Sperm Bank for Misrepresentation

DSC00507 (2)An Ontario couple were over-the-moon with delight when their first child was born. Angela Collins and Margaret Elizabeth Hanson of Port Hope Ontario had purchased sperm from Xytex Corp. in Atlanta, who touted the sperm donor as an overachiever with a 160 IQ, working on his PhD in Neuroscience Engineering.

The couple received their donor’s photo which showed an attractive man, only later did they learn the photo had been photoshopped.

Seven years after the birth of their son, Xytex inadvertently released the name of the anonymous donor to Ms. Collins and Ms. Hanson. That was when they discovered their child’s father was schizophrenic ex-convict, James Christian Aggeles, a college drop-out who had fathered 20 other children through the services of Xytex.

The couple’s lawsuit reveals that if they had known the truth about the donor’s background and medical history they would have declined. Their lawyer, Nancy Hersh, said the couple love their child but want to ensure they have the funds to properly evaluate and care for him if he is diagnosed as schizophrenic. Ms. Hersh is representing 15 other mothers in the same situation as the Ontario couple.

Collins and Hanson say they have suffered emotional and financial damages and are suing for fraud, negligent misrepresentation, breach of warranty, and unfair business practices.

According to John Hopkins Medical School, research data shows that schizophrenia affects about 1% of Americans. If a parent has schizophrenia, there is a 10% chance their child will be similarly afflicted.

Canadian couples are forced to use offshore sperm banks as Canada has only one national sperm bank, Toronto’s Institute for Reproductive Medicine, and they have only 51 active donors. Two small clinics in Quebec have several donors but only operate locally.

It is reported that there is a need for donor sperm for more than 5,500 inseminations per year in Canada, 3,000 of those for lesbian couples.

Spokesperson, Wendy Kramer, for the American non-profit “Donor Sibling Registry” says there is little regulation or oversight in the sperm bank industry allowing donors to get away with saying whatever they want about their personal and medical histories.

With the number of women requiring donors, it surely is time for proper protocols to be legislated to protect vulnerable women, eager to have a child.

Lawdiva aka Georgialee Lang

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