Is Transgenderism a Fad?

GeorgiaLeeLang100The media circus surrounding Caitlyn Jenner (aka Bruce Jenner) has introduced transsexualism and transgenderism to a public that has been largely unaware of the nuances of these forms of gender dysphoria.

I can’t remember a time when there was such open discourse about gender identity and with this transparency comes articles, movies, TV shows, and public policy discussions.

A recent article in Britain’s Daily Mail describes an American family with two children, a girl and a boy, each of whom had researched transgenderism on the internet. Their youngest daughter who appeared to be a happy teen, albeit a tomboy, was the first to advise her parents she was transgendered and wished to transition to a male. Meanwhile, her older brother, who was bullied at school for his feminine manners and appearance came out to his parents one month later.

Both mom and dad unconditionally support their teenagers’ decisions, and surgery and hormonal treatments are underway for both, in fact, their mother wishes they had come out sooner so they each could have avoided the consequences of puberty, which complicates their gender switch.

Is this gender phenomenon on the uprise? That’s hard to say because research in this area is scant, however, if newspaper articles, daytime talk shows, the implementation of legislation in various jurisdictions to protect transgendered persons, and the development of children’s gender clinics is a sign, then the answer is “yes”.

Dr. Alice Dreger, a well-regarded American bioethicist, whose research includes intersex and sex development disorders, is not afraid to challenge the politics of gender dysphoria, while supporting social justice issues that effect this community. She opines that gender identity issues may be a symptom of other family problems.

“The dirty little secret is that many of these families have big dysfunctional issues. When you get the clinicians over a beer, they’ll tell you the truth. A lot of the parents aren’t well in terms of their mental health. They think that once the child transitions, all their problems will magically go away, but that’s not really where the stress is located.”

Experts and clinicians won’t say these things publicly, she says, because they don’t want to sound as if they’re blaming gender problems on screwed-up families.

Likewise, Dr. Joseph Berger, a consulting psychiatrist in Toronto, who is past Chairman of the Toronto district of the Ontario Medical Association, and past President of the Ontario branch of the American Psychiatric Association, believes that people who identify as transgendered are mentally ill or simply unhappy. He says that what they need is treatment for delusions, psychosis, or emotional problems, not surgery and hormones.

What is irrefutable from the research are the scores of transgendered persons who have attempted suicide, although linking suicide attempts to mental illness is problematic given the challenges faced by transgendered persons including discrimination in housing and the workplace, loss of family, homelessness, poverty, and other significant social factors.

What about sex-change regret? Numerous articles and websites discuss this issue and lawsuits against surgeons have been launched around the world, particularly in Australia. But who better to speak to regret than Rene Richards, the tennis icon who transitioned in the 1970’s:

“If there was a drug that I could have taken that would have reduced the pressure, I would have been better off staying the way I was—a totally intact person. I know deep down that I’m a second-class woman. I get a lot of inquiries from would-be transsexuals, but I don’t want anyone to hold me out as an example to follow. Today there are better choices, including medication, for dealing with the compulsion to cross dress and the depression that comes from gender confusion. As far as being fulfilled as a woman, I’m not as fulfilled as I dreamed of being. I get a lot of letters from people who are considering having this operation…and I discourage them all.” —Rene Richards, “The Liaison Legacy,” Tennis Magazine, March 1999.

Lawdiva aka Georgialee Lang

Judge Must Follow the Law Despite His Personal Beliefs

GeorgiaLeeLang100Under international media scrutiny and political pressure Utah judge Scott Johansen reversed his recent decision to remove a 9-month old foster child from the home of  April Hoagland and Beckie Peirce, a married lesbian couple in Price, Utah.

Ms. Hoagland and Ms. Pierce had fostered the baby for three months and expected to adopt the child. They had the approval and consent of the child’s mother and the local department of child welfare. During the initial hearing when Judge Johansen ordered the child welfare authorities to remove the child within seven days, he  remarked that he had read literature stating that children were better off being raised in a home with a mother and a father.

But the intervention of Utah’s Republican Governor Gary Herbert and the media maelstrom, including tweets from Hilary Clinton and a variety of anti-discrimination organizations led to a follow-up ruling from Judge Johansen who amended his original order and scheduled a hearing on December 4, 2015 to determine the best interests of the infant.

Judge Johansen is no stranger to controversy. In 1995 while interviewing a 16-year old young offender in his chambers, he slapped the youth after he tired of the boy’s belligerent insults. More recently, in 2012 a female child appeared in juvenile court for cutting the hair of a 3-year old child. Her punishment included cutting off the juvenile’s own pony tail, a sanction that led to the filing of a complaint by the juvenile offender’s mother.

While judges have significant discretion, where a legislature passes laws legalizing same-sex marriage and same-sex adoption, it is not open to a judge to inject his personal views into the decision. Only the Supreme Court of Canada and the Supreme Court of the United States can do that, although if asked, I suspect they would vigorously deny it.

Lawdiva aka Georgialee Lang

Quebec’s Former Lieutenant-Governor Sentenced to 18-Month Jail Term

BarristerPerhaps one of the most prestigious appointments in Canada is that of a provincial Lieutenant-Governor, appointments made by the Governor-General of Canada in consultation with Canada’s Prime Minister and the Premier of a particular province.

The Lieutenant-Governor performs various ceremonial duties on behalf of Queen Elizabeth, while elected politicians and those appointed carry out the daily operations of government. It is a non-partisan position although politicians have been appointed and Canada prides itself on the appointment of women and minorities.

Lise Thibault was Quebec’s 27th Lieutenant-Governor appointed in 1997 by Prime Minister Chretien. She attended teacher’s college and taught adult education for several years before she worked as a host and researcher for the CBC. Her appointment was widely heralded as she was the first woman and the first disabled person to be appointed to the post in Quebec. As a result of a tobogganing accident as a teenager she was confined to a wheelchair.

Serving for over ten years, her fall from grace occurred in 2007 when federal and provincial auditors determined she had spent $700,000 in unjustified expenses including:

-$45,000 for “gifts” without the names of recipients.
-$24,000 to transport her official van to the United States while she was on vacation, rather than renting a car there.
-$12,000 to the provincial air service for a one-day fishing trip in the Gaspe region.
-$44,000 in “tips” paid by her bodyguards during hotel stays and sporting activities.

Upon her appointment she promised to bring “values” to the position, but instead defrauded two levels of government by billing them for her golf lessons, fishing rods, roof repairs at her home, and even the legal fees for her divorce lawyer.

Her defence lawyer argued she enjoyed “sovereign immunity” against criminal charges as an agent of the Queen, an arrogant position considering she was a civil servant. However, the Court rejected her argument and Judge Carol St.-Cyr described her behaviour as “highly reprehensible” and part of a “culture of deceit”.

Ms. Thibault was also ordered to reimburse the government the sum of $300,000.

Tonight she sits in a Quebec prison, despite her lawyer’s plea that at age 76 her punishment is overly severe. She is expected to be released next week pending her appeal.

Having received three honorary doctorates during her tenure as Lieutenant-Governor, it is galling that she is nothing more than a greedy crook, who managed to obtain and abuse her coveted position, forgetting that her job was to serve the citizens of Quebec.

Lawdiva aka Georgialee Lang

JetBlue Airlines Demonstrates the Spirit of Christmas Amid the Politics of Racism

GAL & PAL #2jpgJetBlue is a discount airline with a big heart. Headquartered in Long Island, New York, the company announced they would provide free airfare to New York City for the funerals of New York police officers, Wenjian Liu and Rafael Ramos, who were ambushed and assassinated as they sat in their patrol car in Brooklyn.

The assailant, who committed suicide after the slaying, reportedly tweeted that his murderous actions were taken in revenge for the deaths of Michael Brown and Eric Garner.

JetBlue has offered free airfare to permit every police department in the United States to send two officers to the funeral. Millions of Americans have saluted the generosity of the airline, however, an abusive vocal minority, including professional protesters and anarchists, have denounced JetBlue by tweeting defamatory insults, such as the following:

@JetBlue is perfect example of white corporate America perpetuating white supremacy in police brutality #BlackLivesMatter”

@JetBlue SUPPORTS POLICE BRUTALITY!!

@JetBlue yes, they are a shitty company, would not be surprised if they are racists.

Unfortunately for the pea-brained individuals behind these tweets, and thousands of others who share their supposed outrage, the battle cry of “racism” has lost all meaning. It has been so politicized over the years that it is no longer a threatening phrase due to its misplaced use. If one opines that Michelle Obama wore an inappropriate outfit to a state dinner, cries of racism will ring out. (albeit Michelle is always perfectly outfitted).

Obama’s oval office open-door policy with race-baiter Al Sharpton is another in a long-line of White House missteps. I still shudder thinking about President Obama’s public statement that “Trayvon Martin could be my son”, a missive that did nothing to help race relations in America.

I congratulate JetBlue for their corporate generosity in facilitating a large turn out for the funerals of an Asian and a Latino police officer who were murdered, only because they wore the blue uniform. How is that racist?

Lawdiva aka Georgialee Lang

Judge Presides Over Child Support Hearing While Conducting an Affair with Litigant

DSC01152_2 (2)_2If you were the payor father in a child support hearing and you learned that the judge presiding over your case was having an affair with your child’s mother, how angry would you be? How about if you read an email from the judge to your ex, agreeing with her suggestion that you be sent to jail because you’re in arrears of child support?

“I figure if he hasn’t come current by his court date, he gets jail to pay. If he says he can’t bring me the $$, I’ll put him on a tether (electric monitoring) til he brings the receipt…or do “double time”.

You might think this kind of corruption comes from a judge in Russia or Zimbabwe, but you’d be wrong. Judge Wade McCree was, until recently, a judge in Wayne County Michigan, home to two million people, best known for Motown and Motor City, and of late, the 18 billion dollar debt and subsequent bankruptcy of the City of Detroit.

Judge McCree’s judicial career ended ignominiously this Spring when Michigan’s Supreme Court suspended him for six years, after finding his conduct affected not only the litigants involved, but harmed the integrity of the judicial system as a whole.

Initially Judge McCree pulled a “Weiner” by texting a partially nude photo of himself to a female deputy sheriff, and was under investigation by the Judicial Tenure Commission. Rather than minding his “p’s and q’s” while under scrutiny for that indiscretion, he began an affair with Geniene LaShay Mott, who was the complaining party in People v. King, a court proceeding involving the enforcement and collection of arrears of child support against Robert King, who was the father of one of Ms. Mott’s children. He was in arrears of support in the amount of $15,000.

Judge McCree’s offences included:

1. Conducting an affair with Ms. Mott while he was presiding over her child support hearing;
2. Engaging in sexual relations with Ms. Mott in his judicial chambers;
3. Allowing Ms. Mott to access the court house through a rear, private door and utilize the judicial parking lot;
4. Surreptitiously arranging for Ms. Mott’s cell phone to be delivered to her in court by a sheriff so she could call him during the hearing;
5. Texting Ms. Mott from the bench while presiding over other cases;
6. Accepting Ms. Mott’s suggestions as to how he should deal with her child’s father;
7. Giving money to Ms. Mott, as much as $6,000;
8. Lying to the Judicial Commission concerning the date that he ended his affair with Ms. Mott;

But there was even more. Judge McCree presided over People v. Tillman, reducing Mr. Tillman’s bond in another child support case. Tillman was a relative of Ms. Mott’s, a fact known to McCree. And when his affair with Ms. Mott cooled down he lodged a complaint with Wayne County’s Prosecuting Attorney, alleging that Ms. Mott was stalking him and extorting him by demanding $10,000 in exchange for terminating her pregnancy and not revealing the affair and pregnancy to Judge McCree’s wife. In fact, the alleged crimes never occurred.

While Judge McCree’s attorney argued “no harm, no foul”, the judicial panel, comprised of seven judges, disagreed, saying the judge was well aware that his conduct was egregiously inappropriate as evidenced by an email he sent to Ms. Mott:

“Second, you are the complaining witness on a case that is before me. Naturally if it got out that we were seeing each other before your baby daddy’s case closed, everybody would be in deep shit”.

As for the aggrieved Mr. King, he filed a lawsuit against Judge McCree alleging constitutional violations, including the right to equal protection under the law and the right to be treated fairly in legal processes. District Court Judge Avern Cohn ruled against Mr. King finding that Judge McCree’s decisions in King’s case were “judicial acts” covered by “judicial immunity”, a protection that applies even if a judge’s actions are negligent, incompetent, or malicious.

Unfortunately for Mr. King, this week the U.S. Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals endorsed Judge Cohn’s decision while declaring Judge McCree’s behavior “reprehensible”:

“Casual readers of this opinion…may erroneously conclude that…we are somehow endorsing Judge McCree’s conduct or going out of our way to protect one of our own…We do nothing of the sort.”

The Appeals Court also noted that “the best justice possible” was achieved by the Michigan Supreme Court when they suspended Judge McCree for six years.

Is this the end of Wade McCree’s judicial career? Only the people of Detroit can decide that, since Michigan State judges are elected, not appointed.

Lawdiva aka Georgialee Lang

Victim’s Voices to be Heard in Canadian Courts

_DSC4179 - Version 2Cretins, crooks, and convicts beware… the days of focusing on your hurts, habits and hang-ups will soon be superseded by a new Bill of Rights for victims, courtesy of Bill C-32, the Conservative government’s fulfillment of its election promise to recognize the forgotten victims of your crimes.

With the passing of this new law, victims will be empowered to ask questions and get answers about their offender’s history, bail conditions, plea bargains, parole terms, and other assorted procedures that to date have forced victims to strain to look inside the halls of justice, from a vantage point obscured by savvy defence lawyers and complacent prosecutors.

Case in point: an Ontario mother’s son was stabbed eighteen times with a penknife, suffering a horrible demise. His mother counted on Canada’s justice system to punish the offender in a manner commensurate with the brutality of the crime. When she learned, after the fact, about the plea deal that saw a reduced charge with a lenient prison term she and her family felt as if their son’s death was nothing more than an inconvenience, a second victimization.

The high-profile sentencing of pedophile Graham James to a mere two-year jail term rightly astonished his victims, adult survivors of James’ sick sexual proclivities. Thankfully, the Manitoba Court of Appeal righted the wrong by increasing his sentence to five years, still not enough for a man who repeatedly victimized young hockey players.

The proposed legislation also provides that where a victim loses his or her life, surviving family members and conjugal partners will have the ability to exercise the rights that would have been available to the victim, had he or she survived. Of course, family members charged and convicted of interfamilial homicide would not enjoy these rights.

With the new law, victim impact statements must be considered by sentencing judges and the ramifications of the victim’s physical, emotional, psychological, and financial scars will play a more central role. As well, under the Canadian Victims Bill of Rights specialized bodies will be established to review complaints from victims or their families whose rights under the legislation have been breached. Financial restitution will also be available.

Quite properly, the rights granted will not be permitted to impede or interfere with police investigations or prosecutorial discretion, nor can they be used to create excessive delay. Indeed, the new Bill of Rights will not give victims of crime any status as parties or interveners in criminal law proceedings. These rights are designed to address victim’s concerns without overburdening the justice system.

Of course, not everyone is happy with the proposed law. Not surprisingly, several criminal defence lawyers oppose the bill, including Toronto’s always colourful Clayton Ruby who said the law was a “mess of porridge”, nothing more than a political ploy to sucker victims of crime.

Other naysayers include the John Howard Society, whose mandate is to advocate for offenders, particularly upon their release from prison. Meanwhile the Assembly of First Nations have complained they were not consulted, a startling proposition if it is accurate, considering the rampant victimization of aboriginal girls and women post- Willie Pickton.

While the bill may not go far enough for some, it is Canada’s first recognition that victims of crime deserve courtesy, respect, and compassion.

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