Friday, May 09, 2008

Transgender student is age 9

For comments on this appalling business, see STACLU

For school officials in Haverford Township, the challenge was daunting: What do you do when a 9-year-old student, with the full support of his parents, decides that he is no longer a boy and instead is a girl? Parents of a third-grade student at Chatham Park Elementary School approached the administration on April 16 to ask for help in making a "social transition" for their child.

The Haverford School District consulted experts on transgender children, then sent letters to parents advising them that the guidance counselor would meet with the school's 100 third-grade students to explain why their classmate would now wear girls' clothes and be called by a girl's name. Some parents objected. Eight called the principal to ask that their child not attend the session, and some posted angry messages on the Haverford Township blog. "Why is the school introducing this subject to 8- and 9-year-olds?" wrote the parent who started the blog thread, which had been viewed more than 3,000 times as of yesterday. "Why were we not notified sooner. We received the letter today, the discussion at school is tomorrow."

Other parents thought the school should not have called attention to an already delicate situation. "I did not think that the letter needed to go out," said Valerie Huff, whose daughter is friends with the transgender student. "The kids don't make any big deal about it at all."

Mary Beth Lauer, district director of community relations, said there were no easy answers for school officials. "This is something that was going to come out," Lauer said. "Isn't it better to be proactive, and let people know what is happening and how we're dealing with it?"

The student has not received medical treatments to change his sex, but has told others that he considers himself a girl, according to several people who know the family. He had begun wearing girls' clothes, Huff said, and an approaching school event would have made the child's gender identity an issue, according to Lauer, who declined to discuss the matter in greater detail.

In the April 21 letter to parents, Chatham Park principal Daniel D. Marsella wrote that a transgender child is one whose biological gender does not match his or her gender identity. Marsella assured parents that the talk with students, held two days later, would use "developmentally appropriate language" to explain "how we need to help this student make a social transition in school."

When the guidance counselor, Catherine Mallam, spoke with the children, she explained that one of their classmates looked like a boy on the outside but felt like a girl inside, according to a summary of her remarks prepared by the school for parents. She asked them to accept the student as a girl and not make unkind remarks. The students seem to be accepting their classmate's change, Lauer said. The child is doing well but some comments on the blog have upset the child's parents, Huff said.

About one in 5,000 people is transgender, said Walter O. Bockting, a psychologist and coordinator for transgender health services at the University of Minnesota. Bockting said he sees about 10 children a year who are 9 or younger. "It's a little early, but occasionally that happens," he said. Not all transgender people have sex-reassignment surgery in adulthood, and such surgeries are not typically performed on children, said Sharon Garcia, president of TransYouth Family Allies, a non-profit group that helped the Chatham Park student and school officials devise a way to explain the situation to parents. So far, 49 families have contacted TransYouth Family Allies asking for help with a transgender child, Garcia said. Most of the children are between 6 and 10.

Parents of transgender children often change school districts in order to accommodate a child's desire to switch genders, which is what Garcia said she did when her 5-year old son tried to hurt himself after professing for years that he was a girl. "I have yet to meet a parent who did not fight this kicking and screaming," she said. "None of us want this for our children, none of us want to go there, but it gets to the point where it's not a choice anymore." The child at Chatham Park wanted to stay at the same school because of friends, Garcia said.

Bockting said families of transgender children should consult an expert and carefully consider whether to switch roles before trying it. The child's feelings should be deep and persistent, he said. When a young child seems set on changing his or her sexual identity, he encourages him or her to wait until puberty. "Many transgender people have feelings that date to childhood, but puberty will give an idea how strong the feeling is," he said.

Some medical experts think parents should not let a child change gender roles at a young age. Paul McHugh, a psychiatrist and professor at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health who studied sexual reassignment surgery in the 1970s, said a school's decision to support a student's transition could have long-term psychological consequences. "They do not have a right to stop the child, but it's different when they gather everyone around and say, 'Johnnie is Jeanie,' " he said. Society, he added, should not support the decision of an immature person. There is no evidence that the transition ultimately helps the person, he added.

McHugh said he reached his conclusions after studying the issue for 30 years, especially in the 1970s, when Hopkins was pioneering sexual-reassignment surgery. "People came to us saying that if we changed them, we'd solve all their problems," he said. "So we changed them, and their problems remained."

Garcia says letting her child dress and act as a girl was the right decision. "I went from a suicidal child to a child who tries out for a lead part in the play," she said. "I knew society wasn't going to be accepting, but my choices were, do this and have a happy, alive girl or have an unhappy, dead boy. So we did what we needed."


What Happened to the Middle East's Jews?

By Barry Rubin

Uh-oh! It's Israel's sixtieth birthday and that means articles on Israel in the news media and, in turn, that may often mean something between inaccuracy and slander. I've been conditioned by now to know what to expect. Let's try a test. Read the following headline from a Reuters story, and guess the theme. Ready? Here we go:

"Israel's Advent Altered Outlook For Middle East Jews." My assumption was that the headline implied a story saying: everything was fine for Jews in the Arab world and Iran until Israel was created and that fact was responsible for forcing them to leave. The article itself isn't that bad, does include material to the contrary, and doesn't directly blame the destruction of these communities on Israel's creation. Yet still this is an implication, no doubt, that many readers will take away from the text which can be found here

Consider this formulation. The article states: "The 1948 war at Israel's creation, which forced some 700,000 Palestinians to flee their homeland, hardened Arab attitudes to deep-rooted Jewish minorities across the Middle East." Get it? First the Palestinians flee and then the Arabs get angry at the Jews. Up to then the Jewish minorities are "deep-rooted" which implies they were well accepted and secure. A couple of paragraphs down the article continues: "Israeli statistics show more than 760,000 Middle Eastern Jews had moved to Israel by 2006, with more than 40 percent arriving in the first three years of the state's existence." So let's summarize:

Step 1: Palestinians become refugees

Step 2: Arabs are angry. (Can you blame them?)

Step 3: They take it out on the Jews or at least these Jews "moved," a word used for when you get a new job, load up the U-Haul and head across town.

In other words, the sins of Israel's creation include both Palestinian Arabs and Middle Eastern Jews becoming refugees, rather than it involving a de facto population transfer with an equal cost to both sides, and in which only the deliberate creation of permanent refugee status for Palestinians by their own leaders and Arab states produced prosperity on one side and ongoing problems for the other. What this concept also leaves out, at least in part, is:

* Centuries'-long discrimination against Jews, ranging from the mild to the violent, including forced conversions at times, a problem Moses Maimonides was dealing with nine hundred years ago. Of course, as in Europe, there were long periods (certainly in Iraq and Egypt, for example) in which Jews fared very well. This is not to say that all Jews lived terribly among their Arab neighbors but clearly this was a major factor in their lives. A strong current of anti-Semitism in Islam long preceded the origin of Zionism.

To be fair the article does say:

"In the past, Moroccan Jews were considered subordinate to Muslims and discrimination was widespread. Every city has its Mellah, the poorest quarter to which Jews were once confined. Their residents were the first to leave when they could." And it mentions that "Over 120,000 [Iraqi Jews] were flown to Israel after 1948 when government persecution intensified.

* Rising Arab nationalism which was not all or mostly, in contrast to what the article seems to argue, due to Zionism or Israel's creation. Even the secular nationalist movements had a strong tinge of Islam also, certainly so in North Africa, which made it hard to believe that Jews would be welcome in the future regardless of Israel.

It should be noted that Christians, too, have been pushed out of the Arab world and often treated badly, though their treatment varies widely among different countries. Indeed, leaving aside Egypt, the proportion of Christian emigration approaches that of Jewish emigration. There is a serious problem with intolerance in Arabic-speaking countries and a dominant "secular" nationalism (with some exception for Syria and Lebanon) that in fact discriminates against non-Muslims. Even if Israel had never been created, a high proportion of Jews would certainly have left or been forced to leave.

* No mention of major violent incidents like the 1941 pogrom in Baghdad or a massacre a few years later in Yemen. Nor does it mention that Yemeni Jews had to flee their homes a few weeks ago to avoid being murdered or kidnapped. Or is there the story of how Jews tried to escape Syria, Iran, and other places, sometimes at the cost of their lives. Nor does it include the executions of Jews in Iraq, a trauma which shattered the remaining post-1948 community there.

* The stress of being a dhimmi, meaning the need to shut your mouth and keep a low profile, again parallel to the deformations of Jewish life in Europe. But the article quotes Jews in Morocco (no anti-Semitism) and Iran (everyone is treated ok) who clearly cannot speak honestly.

For example, in Iran several Jews were arrested as spies without evidence and tortured while some historic synagogues were recently bulldozed out of existence. Don't these people really feel scared? Of course, these interviews are like asking people in Iraq a decade ago what they thought of Saddam or finding out that everyone was just delighted with Stalinist Russia, things journalists in those times actually did do.

Now to be fair the article, as I said I've seen much worse, does state: "Hundreds of thousands of Jews were displaced. Some migrated voluntarily from mainly Muslim countries to the newly proclaimed Jewish homeland. Others were forced out by dispossession, discrimination or violence. Thousands stayed on." Clearly, the great majority, however, were forced out. What percentage stayed on? Less than one-tenth.

A key problem with the currently accepted narrative on Middle East history can be seen in a little two-line statement of fact: "Conflict in Palestine in the 1930s made life harder for Egyptian Jews, as militant nationalist groups became active."

This relates the rise of militant nationalism to the conflict. Certainly, this was a factor (I wrote a whole book on it, The Arab States and the Palestine Conflict), but militant nationalism was due to far more than just the Palestine conflict. And this doesn't even mention the formation of the Muslim Brotherhood in the 1920s, seeking to transform Egypt into an Islamist state. It was first and foremost a response to conditions at home and to the kind of society that Arab activists wanted to build. As such, it is parallel to revolutionary, Communist, fascist, and nationalist movements in Europe and other places, all of which existed without Israel as a catalyst.

Those two lines are a very powerful theme today: everything Arabs or Muslims do is merely a response to what Israel (or the West) does and not an expression of their own beliefs and goals. This robs others of their history, under the guise of humanitarian egalitarianism, and puts the blame on others for everything that happens.

Here's another example: "Jewish emigration accelerated after Israel attacked Egypt in 1956 and economic pressures mounted at home."

While there is some truth in the statement the "economic pressures" was the fact that the regime of Gamal Abdel Nasser expelled all non-Egyptians, not only Jews but large numbers of Greeks and others, due to xenophobia and militant nationalism.

Even in tiny phrasing choices--admittedly a matter of judgment but the judgments almost always go in the same direction--are certain assumptions present. Consider this phrase: "Iran, seen by Israel as its deadliest foe...." But since the issue here is Iranian Jews why not write: "Iran, which views Israel as its deadliest foe...." From which direction, after all, does the aggressive view come?

The article could easily have drawn a parallel between the Middle Eastern Jews and Palestinians. Both were refugees but the Jews rebuilt their lives rather than nursing grievances and pursing violence for decades. Moreover, one could say that their sufferings and claims balance those of the Palestinian Arabs. None of these arguments--very commonplace in discussion of these issues among Middle East-origin Jews--are presented.

Again, I don't mean to exaggerate the problems with this article, which does at least present the issue and some of the points that should be made. But it also shows weaknesses in dealing with Israel, some of the assumptions on which the contemporary hostile narrative is based.


Why we need a shield law for journalists

By Arlen Specter

There is some merit in Senator Specter's argument below but a "shield" would encourage journalists to make stuff up even more than they do already

The importance of a free press is so woven into the fabric of our history that Americans often take it for granted. But when we observe fledgling democracies around the world, Americans can see just how essential a free media are to democracy -- and how easily they can be chilled. If we are to have a free press, it is necessary to protect the relationship between journalists and trusted sources to whom journalists have promised confidentiality. For this reason, every state but Wyoming has established some form of reporters' privilege.

The federal courts are split, however, on whether reporters have a common-law privilege to withhold information from a federal court. Attorneys general of 34 states recently urged the Supreme Court to recognize a federal reporters' privilege because the lack of a federal standard undermines state shield laws and the public interest embodied in those laws. It takes only a few well-publicized cases of the government or federal courts forcing reporters to reveal confidential sources -- Time's Matt Cooper; former New York Times reporter Judith Miller spending 85 days in jail; or former USA Today reporter Toni Locy being ordered to pay up to $5,000 for each day she remains silent, with no contributions allowed from her employer, family or friends -- to chill those who have important things to say.

Certainly the courts should compel disclosures in cases involving acts of terrorism, exigent circumstances or leaks of classified information that undermine our national security. Courts should compel disclosure if a journalist commits a crime or is an eyewitness to a crime. And, of course, journalists should not be "above the law." To clarify any suggestions to the contrary, there will no doubt be modifications to the bill that was voted out of the Senate Judiciary Committee 15 to 4 last October. It is also notable that the House passed a similar media shield bill last year by a vote of 398 to 21.

All three of the presidential candidates have endorsed a federal shield law. They acknowledge, as do my other colleagues in the Senate who support this bill, that we must seriously consider the concerns raised by the attorney general. Federal courts routinely balance liberty and security. When time is of the essence and the stakes are high, courts typically defer to the factual judgments and expertise of those better situated to make certain decisions. But the courts need guidance from Congress regarding the standards they should apply to the varying facts and circumstances -- to the evidence -- when a reporter refuses to reveal confidential sources. That is what a media shield bill would do. It would not be a drastic change in the law, but it would be an important one.


From Welfare State to Police State

Family fragmentation costs taxpayers at least $112 billion annually in antipoverty programs, justice and education systems, and lost revenue, according to a report released last week. Astonishingly, the report's publisher, Institute for American Values, is using these findings to advocate even higher costs, through more federal programs.

As welfare and child support enforcement programs show, there is zero proof that further government intervention into families would be a good investment for taxpayers. After more than a decade of welfare reform, out-of-wedlock births remain at record highs, and married couples now comprise less than half the nation's households. "The impact of welfare reform is now virtually zero," says Robert Rector of Heritage Foundation. Welfare reform, as currently conceived, cannot possibly make a difference. Out-of-wedlock births no longer proceed only from low-income teenagers. Increasingly, middle-class, middle-aged women are bearing the fatherless children. This excludes children of divorce, which almost doubles the 1.5 million out-of-wedlock births.

The problem is driven not only by culture, but by federal programs not addressed by welfare reform-such as child support enforcement, domestic violence, and child abuse prevention-which subsidize single-parent homes through their quasi-welfare entitlements for the affluent. It's not called the welfare "state" for nothing. Even more serious than the economic effects has been the quiet metamorphosis of welfare from a system of public assistance into a miniature penal apparatus, replete with its own tribunals, prosecutors, police, and jails.

The subsidy on single-mother homes was never really curtailed. Reformers largely replaced welfare with child support. The consequences were profound: this change transformed welfare from public assistance into law enforcement, creating yet another federal plainclothes police force without constitutional justification.

Like any bureaucracy, this one found rationalizations to expand. During the 1980s and 1990s-without explanation or public debate-enforcement machinery created for children in poverty was dramatically expanded to cover all child-support cases, including those not receiving welfare. This vastly expanded the program by bringing in millions of middle-class divorce cases. The system was intended for welfare-but other cases now account for 83% of its cases and 92% of the money collected.

Contrary to what was promised, the cost to taxpayers increased sharply. By padding their rolls with millions of middle-class parents, state governments could collect a windfall of federal incentive payments. State officials may spend this revenue however they wish. Federal taxpayers subsidize state government operations through child support. They also subsidize family dissolution, for every fatherless child is another source of revenue for states.

To collect, states must channel not just delinquent but current payments through their criminal enforcement machinery, subjecting law-abiding parents to criminal measures. While officials claim their crackdowns on "deadbeat dads" increase collections, the "increase" is achieved not by collecting arrearages of low-income fathers already in the system, but simply by pulling in more middle-class fathers-and creating more fatherless children.

These fathers haven't abandoned their children. Most were actively involved, and, following what is usually involuntary divorce, desire more time with them. Yet for the state to collect funding, fathers willing to care for them must be designated as "absent." Divorce courts are pressured to cut children off from their fathers to conform to the welfare model of "custodial" and "noncustodial." These perverse incentives further criminalize fathers, by impelling states to make child-support levels as onerous as possible and to squeeze every dollar from every parent available.

Beyond the subsidy expense are costs of diverting the criminal justice system from protecting society to criminalizing parents and keeping them from their children. The entitlement state must then devise additional programs-far more expensive-to deal with the social costs of fatherless children. Former Assistant Health and Human Services Secretary Wade Horn contends that most of the $47 billion spent by his department is necessitated by broken homes and fatherless children. One might extend his point to most of the half-trillion dollar HHS budget. Given the social ills attributed to fatherless homes-crime, truancy, substance abuse, teen pregnancy, suicide-it is reasonable to see a huge proportion of domestic spending among the costs.

These developments offer a preview of where our entire system of welfare taxation is headed: expropriating citizens to pay for destructive programs that create the need for more spending and taxation. It cannot end anywhere but in the criminalization of more and more of the population.



Political correctness is most pervasive in universities and colleges but I rarely report the incidents concerned here as I have a separate blog for educational matters.

American "liberals" often deny being Leftists and say that they are very different from the Communist rulers of other countries. The only real difference, however, is how much power they have. In America, their power is limited by democracy. To see what they WOULD be like with more power, look at where they ARE already very powerful: in America's educational system -- particularly in the universities and colleges. They show there the same respect for free-speech and political diversity that Stalin did: None. So look to the colleges to see what the whole country would be like if "liberals" had their way. It would be a dictatorship.

For more postings from me, see TONGUE-TIED, GREENIE WATCH, EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, FOOD & HEALTH SKEPTIC, GUN WATCH, SOCIALIZED MEDICINE, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS, DISSECTING LEFTISM, IMMIGRATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL and EYE ON BRITAIN. My Home Pages are here or here or here. Email me (John Ray) here. For times when is playing up, there are mirrors of this site here and here.


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