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Thursday, June 24, 2010

On Violence Against Gays - Can You Help?

Art: Fabiano Spadari
Homophobic attacks are not mythological. They are real and they they happen every day in big cities and in small ones all over the world.

In Brazil, they are alarmingly common. According to one official in Rio de Janeiro, Cláudio Nascimento, over the last decade, 3 thousand homosexuals have been murdered and 64% of them have been victims of violence and that includes gay men and women, bisexuals, transvestites and transsexuals.

Many countries around the world have their hands dirty with the blood of people who have been killed simply because they are not the conventional mold. What is conventional? Does anybody know?

The story of a 14 year old boy who was beaten and strangled to death last Sunday by a group of skinheads who preach intolerance against gays. It happened in Rio de Janeiro. They have been caught and are now under temporary arrest.

As this is not a crime that has occurred in the South side where the rich live, we can make our voices heard internationally by taking up the cause ourselves and at least try to lower the statistics in that violent part of this country. For the memory of Alexandre.Please help by writing about it or retweeting this. A million thanks.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

On Warring, Scarring and Propaganda

We admit to being completely ignorant of military affairs and the way war campaigns are conducted in foreign shores/territories.

The latest scandal involving one American general is illustrative of the importance attached to such matters and we feel the reaction by the American civil authorities and the subsequent removal of the embattled general to be of consequence.

Naturally, given the high stakes and the myriad losses of lives in both camps, we believe policies designed to carry out belligerent affairs in distant lands are to be approached with the utmost respect.

While we hope and pray wars in rugged territories, be they to root out rogue militias or for the prospection of minerals lying under the soil, were a thing of the past and, also knowing that this is merely chimerical, that at least the weakest in the link were spared the rigors of battle.

The dovish amongst us cringe at every life lost over an ideology that will only reach a few on the planet, be it North or South. At the same time, we cannot possibly be termed prejudiced to the continual progress of the world since we believe the dispossessed should also be given a chance at a "future" by heavy investment on education and/or on an evolved consciousness that Peace, however illusive, is achievable and an attainable goal for the sake of the whole Planet.

Meanwhile, in the Cultural Industry in the Guardian of World Peace, magazine covers illustrate what many in Academia term as propaganda and others scratch their heads in thoroughgoing disbelief.

But hey, this is not a perfect world!

The Pain of Being Born in the Wrong Body

Roberta Close - First Surgery in Brazil
This article, originally written in Portuguese, is by far the most popular. This isn't obviously an easy subject to write about. Do please leave your intelligent and helpful comments so that we can research further into this heartbreaking story.

"A transsexual's life is very hard. The difficulty is there from the moment we are born. When we start growing up and learning about things it starts to get tricky. Ever since I was a kid, I thought I was a girl. I had this sensation and it was a natural thing to have. Maybe there is a reason, because I am the youngest of three women. Some people used to believe that it was because of that. Thing is, when I grew up, and became a teenager, I started to notice my sexuality.” Vivian Proença

“It’s tough. Everyone goes through prejudice, the lessening of their condition. It was only through hard fights, even with myself, that I was able to find out who I really was. In the beginning, you are born and you get that doubt: who am I? What am I? What am I doing here? When you start to understand you begin the search. When I started to see myself as a transsexual, when I got the chance, I looked for the ideal treatment which was surgery. I had to wait for three years. Up until January 2002 when I underwent surgery…
Fernanda Rodrigues

I am a post-op transsexual. Ever since I was a child I dreamed of becoming a woman, not only in essence but in body as well, to be one. I grew up with cravings and feelings of a woman, but with something that did not get in the way of my relationships… I had always been frustrated because of something that bothered me a lot. It was shameful to have something I did not like. I would never go to the swimming-pool. I was very repressed.Roberta Sampaio

The statements above are the gist of the suffering those born with Gender Identity Disorder, also known as transsexualism, go through. People born with this condition will only find peace of mind only after undergoing a difficult, painful and risky surgery to reassign their gender. The biggest challenge is to turn a penis into a working vagina and one that looks like a real one.

According to Psychiatrist Maria Lobato, member of the multidisciplinary team of the Programa de Atendimento dos Transtornos de Identidade de Gênero (PROTIG) – Program for the Care of Gender Identity Disorders (PCGID)- at the Hospital de Clínicas in Porto Alegre, in the state of Rio Grande do Sul, Brazil: “The alteration of male genitalia, which is irrevocable, cannot be made under the slightest sign of discomfort. The patient's request for sex-reassignment surgery must be shown to be genuine and surgeons have to make sure they are not just dealing with the erotic imaginations of an immature personality, but with a long-thought-of conviction that this is a real gender disorder."

That’s why a psychiatric evaluation has to come before such surgeries to preclude the existence of a psychosis – which may be a contraindication to surgery, but also a reasonable degree of intelligence and emotional stability must be present if the person is to be illegible for surgery. “It’s the psychiatrist who has the final say and there is no other way of helping the patient to find acceptance," the psychiatrist says.

Science says that transsexualism is a gender identity disorder that begins in infancy and is characterized by non-acceptance and distress towards the gender individuals are born with, occurring more often in males than in females. Frequently, transsexuals wish to change their sex and live with a permanent search for games, clothing, and patterns of relationship and occupation with people of the opposite sex.

Transsexualism must be set apart from other disorders of sexual identity such as travestism or homosexuality: transvestites wear clothes of the opposite sex, associated with either bisexual or homosexual behavior without the wish to change their sex; however, homosexuality involves sexual attraction to same sex individuals, without the wish to dress or become the opposite sex.

Both transsexuals and their families experience great difficulties within their family as in society at large due to the prejudice and disinformation about transsexualism. “Patients usually find it difficult to adapt in the social milieu, schools and the workplace for example”, says psychologist Jaqueline Salvador also a member of the team at the Hospital de Clínicas in Porto Alegre.

“The transsexual person believes he or she is a victim of a biological accident, cruelly trapped in the wrong body, incompatible with their sexual orientation. Many ask for sex-reassignment surgery despite the difficulties these imply. Surgery will only be justified in very motivated individuals with a stable social and professional life,” continues the psychologist.

Jaqueline Salvador says that there is an ever increasing demand for sex-reassignment surgery due to a decision by the Federal Council of Medicine (CFM) from September 1997, in Brazil, which authorizes transgenitalization, or sex change, in transsexuals on an experimental basis. The Hospital de Clínicas of Porto Alegre is in charge of about 200 patients with gender identity disorder of both sexes.

According to the psychologist, “the requirement for the candidates for surgery is that the patients have to undergo a strict evaluation by the multidisciplinary team which includes behavioral, social, clinical and existential issues performed by psychiatrists, plastic surgeons, psychologist, endocrinologists, ear, nose and throat specialists, speech therapists and social workers".

Multidisciplinarity is especially necessary in the way surgery for sex-reassignment is performed. The main requirements are at least two years of therapy, and more: proof of age, older than 21, formal consent, absence of mental disorders and inappropriate physical features that may impact the surgery. The psychologist evaluates the transsexual candidate to make sure he or she is not just a homosexual or a transvestite.

Patients are expected to undergo therapy for two years and are made aware of the pre and post-op processes and resocialized within psychological, professional and sexual criteria. The diagnosis has to be precise, thus defining the interventions which are suitable to the patient’s personal characteristics with the sole aim of adapting the biological sex to the psychological one.

“The transsexual patient undergoes a great deal of distress before the sex-reassignment surgery. He or she will only get over their misery after the conversion and the taking on of either female or male identity, be that in name, behavior or social acceptance. It’s not only the frustrated sexuality, but the gnawing pain of being gender-discordant which makes, especially males, prone to self-mutilation, suicide attempt or outright suicide.

The false relief that comes from alcohol and drugs is a frequent complication”, writes Harry Benjamin in his book the The Transsexual Phenomenon, available on the internet: “Self-mutilations are not rare in at least four of my patients out of a 112 male transsexuals. Two of them tried to castrate themselves out of a total of 152 males. Two of them tried to castrate themselves but had to give up and call a doctor. One of them did with the help of a friend. One of them mutilated his penis and had several stitches to repair the damage.

"Many incidents like this may be out there,” Harry Benjamin writes. That, in the United States. It may be happening all over the world, as it did in Brazil, with the case of a young transsexual who mutilated himself in a hotel room in a small town then dying as a consequence.

Dr. Carlos Abib Cury, chief-coordinator of the Surgical Specialties Department at the São José do Rio Preto Medical School in São Paulo, writes in an-e-mail interview that there is nothing proven about the cause of transsexualism: “Just like other anxiety states, despite the great breakthroughs, medicine is still falling behind in many areas. There is a lot of controversy as to the real number of genes in the human body." he says, and then "It used to be thought they were around 1 million in the beginning, then they thought it would be around 30 thousand. Today it is speculated that it is around 21 thousand."

Further in the interview, he says that “when they find out the real number of genes, they will study the link each gene has for organic diseases and see whether there is a link with genetics." He mentions still that "Only then will they study behavioral diseases. Until that is clear, everything is a question of hypotheses, theories, suppositions without scientific evidence. Therefore for every 40 thousandth birth, one transsexual male is born and for every 1 millionth woman, one is born transsexual.”

In Transsexual..., Harry Benjamin writes that “the cause of transsexualism and the possible sources from which the wish to change one’s sexuality comes from are probably controversial” there is a trend in scientific investigation that takes into account more than merely psychological aspects.

The possible origin of transsexualism is not discussed in medical literature very frequently or in detail. Most times, it is affirmed that it has an unknown cause. Invariably, it is linked with travestism and sometimes to homosexuality, both opening doors to controversy. Both the main theories, to date, are concerned with organic causes, that is, biological - not necessarily inherited. Or more frequently, with the purely psychological ones.”

Obviously, transsexuals are not able to serve in the Church, Catholic that is, the Vatican demands the expulsion from their orders of those who have undergone sex change. Cardinal Eduardo Martinez Somalo, Prefect Emeritus of the Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life, has signed a document eliminating any possibility of transsexuals having religious jobs in ecclesiastical orders. Still, according to the text, priests are not allowed to alter Certificates of Baptism to accommodate them to the sex change.

The position of the Holy See about the subject means that the Church has already experienced cases of transsexuality amongst its ranks. “Due to the complexity of the matter, everyone is asked to keep this letter and the Note of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith under strict secrecy and that it should be used exclusively within its institute or religious society, with the proper aim in mind", emphasizes the document which goes on with yet more instructions for the various societies of the Church.

Because the Brazilian Penal Code is from the 1940's and the studies and techniques used in medicine are very recent, there has not been a change in legislation. There is not a law or ruling for the legalization of the surgery from a legal view point, which is detrimental to the transsexual when trying to sort out their papers. There is, however, in the legal profession, people who are specialized in the matter and who have earned preliminary verdicts favorable to post-op transsexuals.

Once all the legal procedures are surpassed, society has the final say. Cases of transsexuals who are fully integrated are very rare. Most times, the contradiction of the physical appearance and the name registered officially closes doors professionally. That is why, for many men and women who have managed to change their appearance "stolen by nature", the only way out is prostitution or, in the best of cases, the entertainment world.

Only a minority will get a satisfactory job and have a love life. Dr. Carlos Abib Cury remarks that “most of the post-op cases display euphoria, elation, which we consider harmful, once life’s difficulties go on despite the sex change. No Prince Charming will turn up and change the life of a transsexual. On the contrary, free from the shackles, he or she will have to work just as hard as the next person," he concludes.

What about the women from the beginning of the story?

I was in hospital for 8 days when I got the operation. It was painful and the time to recuperate was slow. The sense of freedom you have after the surgery is difficult to explain. The dream of a female transsexual is to be operated on. Medicine and science are advanced and they managed to make a dream come true. I feel complete physically. I am proud of being a post-op transsexual because I know how much I struggled to bring awareness to people. The surgery was a great victory. I accept myself. Despite undergoing two other repair surgeries, I do not feel sad. I believe that when I get my papers in order I am going to be more complete and live life better and better." Vivian Proença

After the surgery, I did not have to hide. The anticipation is better than before. Life changes. I was full of prejudice. There were things I would not do. Then I got that and everything gets easier. I got to change my life 360 degrees. Of course you will never reach perfection. I used to say that before the surgery I was on parole, after it, I got freedom. I used to live in a cocoon. Now I am a butterfly. Words cannot Express what I feel.” Fernanda Rodrigues

Today, seven years after the surgery , I'm the happiest person in the world because I'm the body, the soul and the mind of a woman. My biggest pleasure was to feel orgasm and be penetrated. Reaching orgasm is very good. I can say I am very happy.” Amanda Sampaio

Update: Jaqueline Salvador, psychologist at the Hospital de Clinicas updates the numbers: "80 out of 243 patients have undergone sex-reassignment surgery." September 2009.

Brazilian Health to Cover Sex Reassignment Surgery. June 2010.

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Monday, June 21, 2010

On Oil Spills, Drills and Celebs

Who's to Blame for the Gulf Oil Spill?

From Newsweek:

The blame game? We've already covered this in a previous post and this is a mere rehash, via Newsweek, of the central thesis of our own view in the whole affair.

It has to do with the culture of greed and wanton neglect bestowed on the environment by predatory business practices. As our cynicism has waxed to the max, there is very little we can add to the chorus of protest going on chiefly in the United states.

If you read the article linked in epigraph, you will see that the writer has reached, thankfully, the same ironic, sarcastic conclusion that most of us have. His turn of phrase is to the point and convey to the max what most of us, rational creatures, understand as being the cause of the oil spill.

Party politics, neglectfulness, and perhaps our own lack of interest in the whole matter.

As world citizens, whenever something this important happens to Mother Nature, and it gravitates towards our shores, it suddenly becomes our interest, too. Pardon my naïvité, where is is written that they own the world's resources?

Drill, baby, drill
Spill, baby, spill
And then kill, baby, kill.

A disgruntled Louisianian

And from The Guardian

Movie star has developed a 'dream machine' that will separate oil from water to combat Deepwater Horizon spill.

Sixty days on.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

On Quixotic Manhunts and Geopolitics

We could be writing about the reaction of the American president's Gulf Spill Speech (too professorial some say) but thought otherwise. Our fellow bloggers from the U.S. are better equipped to deal with what is deemed the worst natural disaster in decades. Their territory.

Instead, why not write about this individual, American, who has decided to take matters into his own hands and, quixotically, armed with night-vision goggles, a pistol (some say with Christian texts) and a sword (!) - the most phallic of symbols - to go and look for modern times' arch-villain in the arid lands of some country in the Middle-East.

Intriguing, to say the least. Some will say that he should have to look no further than his own backyard for clues that would lead him to the iconic bad guy. That, by the way, would be extremely offensive to some of our readers.

We agree. We know next to nothing about geopolitics and the mechanics of this international manhunt. We are merely reacting to what some would call conspiracy theorists and their notion that the whole affair was an internal job. Go tell it to the victims, some of you will say.

However, and this we say with a certain degree of trepidation, the most advanced of armies on earth has access to technology that can virtually pierce the whole of the planet to the core and with their powerful lenses in orbit, it is said they can see what most of us have had for breakfast and yet, the illusive antihero is nowhere to be found.

Perhaps we are just news-fatigued. Maybe we are, cynics that we are, just saying: poo! poo! There is a lack of political will or they have not come up with a probe powerful enough to ferret out the mythological, albeit very real enfant terrible.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

On Ravenous Lions and Dangerous Liaisons

The surveillance video shows van der Sloot playing poker, then Flores walks up to his table and sits down. After he gestures, she moves to the seat next to his.

Peruvian police hustled Joran van der Sloot through a gauntlet of photographers and angry bystanders Friday into a prison system observers call on of the world's worst.

The 22-year-old Dutchman is charged with murdering Peruvian business student Stephany Flores, 21, in his Lima hotel room May 30.

He's also the chief suspect in the 2005 disappearance in Aruba of Alabama teen Natalee Holloway - but he's never been charged.

From CBS

If we could read into the future, we would never fall into such a trap. Perilous one-night stands like these happen all over the world, that is, all over where such encounters are common. Obviously we are not willing to read (body language and all...) very much into this story apart from a date going sour, bitterly sour.

Common occurrence in this part of the world, as well.

That, however, is a wake-up call for all those boys and girls who in the heat of the moment and in the very fascination of an ideal date, when your body is under the influence of your hormones, you fall into an abyss, without ever being able to crawl back up again.

How are you to know? You can't. People do not walk around with a sign on their foreheads saying "guilty of." A veritable Russian roulette...

This is what happened to the young women above who would never have thought they were walking right into a lion's den...

Knock on wood!

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Is This a Gay Love Story? A Retelling of Robinson Crusoe

"First published in 1719, it is sometimes considered to be the first novel in English. The book is a fictional autobiography of the title character—a castaway who spends 28 years on a remote tropical island near Venezuela, encountering Native Americans, captives, and mutineers before being rescued."

Penguin Classics – pg 209 – Last Paragraph

The interpolation, or addition, begins here:

"'..When that day was finished and the sun ready to wend its way towards the West, we returned to our castle; it was ours now for God in His benevolence had sent me a companion. Thus, being so glad at my fortune whereby we, upon finishing our supper, decided it was time to call it a day.

I cannot easily recall how it happened but in the beginning it was just a tug I felt in my loins, a warm current taking over and making its way to my brain, making me aware that I had been alone now for close on 24 years. Life now puts me in the presence of this beautiful creature, no more a savage to me but a kindred soul, someone I have learnt to be dependent on. I look at him, warmly, perhaps awestruck, when he seemed to have detected my innermost intentions.

As he was about to amble over to his bed, he hesitated and as if divining my thoughts which could not be verbalized and acted upon, he sidles up a bit and then walks up to me, at first touching my knees, running his hands towards my loins and undoing the makeshift clasp of my breeches and as if amazed at the sight of my anatomy, he reaches over and touches me gently, sending a wave of pleasure up my spine and as he comes closer as if to inspect me, he does things to me I cannot explain. Whereat, I pull him up towards my face and kiss him, at first tentatively and then with a passion hitherto foreign to me. He returns the offering and we strive to get the both of us into my hammock where we embrace and feel good in each other’s arms.

Exploring further, we give up and yield to the newly-found revelation that is mutual pleasure. We had found each other. This is nothing, I say, but the hand of Providence at work.

We carried our days mostly in the same fashion; we wouldn’t do it otherwise. The blessedness of discovery, at first strange, gave way to what most people call love – that invisible bond that unites people as if it were the strongest of ropes from which one cannot extricate oneself. So we led our lives, the two of us in our paradise – undiscovered, unbothered, in bliss….'"

End of interpolation. Next in bed: Sherlock Holmes and Watson.

Friday, June 11, 2010

On the Vuvuzela Sound and the Bizarre

All the very best of luck to Football (Soccer) fans everywhere. I have other fish to fry.

While frying, I will be doing the dishes, the sweeping, the ironing and will be airing out our dirty linen.

You don't know half the story: Like this person in the north of this country who has been charged with abusing his own daughter, having seven children with her, and then abusing two of his own grandchildren/children. Disgusting.

No, I'm not a spoilsport. Naa, I'm just philosophical to the nth degree. It's not like I'm throwing a spanner in the works of your soccer bliss. I'm just reacting to grim developments and scratch my head at the bizarreness of it all.

You see, how can someone subject themselves to abuse for such a long time? Words fail me.

Change of tack, do you think the vuvuzela is too loud? Is is getting in the way of your game? There is a debate going on...

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Are Bloggers Parasitic?

Could we possibly? Granted we can see quite clearly that some us will forget to attribute proper credit to our sources of information. The Online Journalism Review has an interesting take on the issue.

The piece written three years ago by Robert Niles says that "by dismissing blogs as 'parasitic,' newspaper journalists make themselves blind to the opportunities that blogging, as well as independent Web publishing in general, offer to both the newspaper industry and newspaper journalists."

I agree. Journalists now have the chance to see firsthand how their reporting on issues is received by their readership and by bloggers. Journalists, not in a thousand years, have the answers to all the questions that plague humanity. They are just as capable of making mistakes or contacting the wrong sources as, shall we say, the next blogger.

We, bloggers, understand that our work is subject to criticism from left and right and not always do we have total command and expertise on the issues we are writing about. Sometimes, we are just striving to be humorous or sarcastic and ironic. Many may be cop to our jive and many need further explaining.

Also, not all bloggers know they are supposed to reveal where they acquire their information. I do. Whenever possible, I cite my sources with a link and with that I hope to give this or that writer at a major online news source a leg up by making their work available to my followers and to others that happen on my blog. Er, all for free!

How's that for a symbiotic relationship?

Monday, June 7, 2010

Come as You Are, It's a Great World Out There

There could (might, are is) lots of things to write about this spoof (it is a parody, isn't it?) about the now famous McDonald's Gay Ad.

We have however chosen to remain neutral and not say a word. We tend to get lost in our ramblings which, more often than not, are rants and heap mountains of criticism, bad, by the way, on other people's ideas and their notions of what living under a label is.

Well, since there is virtually nothing we can do about the whole affair, let us all just sit down and relax. We should, perhaps, wait for the next installment (there are many now) on the famed commercial.

For some people, however, as we cast our net farther towards the East, that ain't no laughing matter.

We are so blissed we were, most of us, born in the West.

Will Post Soon. Soooo Tired

That's because I just got back from a visit to our next door country, Argentina. It was a bus trip.

It was a via dolorosa because it had been a while since I had had this long a trip - by bus (coach, for some of you)! Virtually 24 hours with the requisite stops, of course!

Buenos Aires is everything in between, plus top, plus bottom. No, not that! I mean on the whole. Los Hermanos (that's what we call them) are so like us in many aspects save the language because they speak Spanish and we speak Portuguese. Give and take a few words, we can sit down and chat all night long in our own languages...

Just for fun's sake, we got stopped by the road police and they asked, (in Argentine territory!) for a "fee" to allow us to go on or would we please accept the "ticket." That's when we all got off the bus and said we were going to take this up to the very highest authorities...Oh, carry on!

It must be a pattern in this part of the Hemisphere...

I know you have questions: Save the accent, it's ALL the same...

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

On Flat Screens and Suicides

Suicides in China, oil spills in the United States, aid flotillas being raided in the name of security. The status quo.

Can we change it? No? Perhaps we can.

I wish I could find something intelligent to say as regards the suicides in China and how, allegedly, they are overworking their employees, prompting a famous CEO to say that: "Foxconn is not a sweatshop."

It is like diamonds. Every time one pulls one out of the safe we can smell blood and sweat. It is obscene. Toss that choker!

Peruse your closet for an array of goddesses and wild cats all parked in neat rows as if on a port waiting to be shipped...

I hope that by using this sleek, flat screen monitor right in front of me I am not getting vile vibrations coming from the collective thought-emanations of thousands of underpaid, overworked and disgruntled slaves, all lumped together at some hostel in a certain corporate town in that very ancient civilization. All for my convenience.

I hope that the stopgap measure of giving them a raise and (nominal?) improvement in their living conditions will put the kibosh on the suicide clusters (I heard this last bit on CNN...).

And by the way, changing tacks, quoting the most famous human being on the planet: "plug that damned hole", already.

And turning my thoughts to the Middle East: please, stop the saber rattling!

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

On Followers' Reciprocity.

Am I following everyone following my blog? I hope I am.

I'd  been meaning to edit some of the blogs for quite some time now and I have just done so.

I have realized that I cannot hope to follow four hundred thousand blogs if I can't keep pace with them all and pay them proper homage.

If you can spare the time, you ought to check out the eclectic mixture of blogs I'm following. They all have something substantial to say, (and to show!) I guarantee.