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Gender identification: not as simple as it seems

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BERLIN - AUGUST 16:  (L-R) Tetiana Petlyuk of ...

Image by Getty Images via Daylife

Perhaps you’ve heard of the world-class South African runner Caster Semenva (on the right in photo).  Last week, she won the gold medal in the women’s 800 meters at the world championship games in Berlin.   And then, someone—no one’s saying who—challenged her victory on the basis of gender.  In other words, “She’s not a woman, he’s a man.”

Now to we non-scientists, this seems like a simple question.  Turns out it’s difficult (not to mention humiliating for an 18 year old girl).  From the New York Times:

It requires a physical medical evaluation, and includes reports from a gynecologist, an endocrinologist, a psychologist, an internal medicine specialist and an expert on gender. The effort, coordinated by Dr. Harold Adams, a South African on the I.A.A.F. medical panel, is being conducted at hospitals in Berlin and South Africa.

Why all the fuss?  Either she is or she isn’t, right? Read on:

clipped from www.nytimes.com
To be fair, the biology of sex is a lot more complicated than the average fan believes […] f the person has XY chromosomes, you declare him a man. If XX, she’s a woman. Right?
Wrong. A little biology: On the Y chromosome, a gene called SRY usually makes a fetus grow as a male. It turns out, though, that SRY can show up on an X, turning an XX fetus essentially male. And if the SRY gene does not work on the Y, the fetus develops essentially female.[…] Even an XY fetus with a functioning SRY can essentially develop female […]
In the case of Androgen Insensitivity Syndrome […] the genitals and the rest of the external body look female-typical, except that these women lack body hair […]
Moreover, a person can look male-typical on the outside but be female-typical on the inside, or vice versa […]
Matthew, a 19-year-old who was born looking obviously male, was raised a boy, and had a girlfriend and a male-typical life. Then he found out […] that he had ovaries and a uterus […] he had XX chromosomes […] his body developed[…] male-typical […]
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In the end, it’s a judgment call.

Which brings to mind the subject of sexual orientation (though, far as I know, it’s not a question Semenva has raised). Many of my good friends are convinced that gay men and lesbian women should remain celibate, for (they say) homosexual sex is “un-natural.”

But if an individual has both male and female characteristics, with which gender, my friends,  is he or she to be prohibited from marriage? What is natural?

Even more, what dozens of unknown psychological aspects of sexual identity and behavior might this combined physical identity bring about?  What aspects of it might never appear physically but influence sexual preference?

So I wonder.  How can we, who understand all this so very little, legitimately insist upon legal or theological control over the sexual destiny of people who are personally—perhaps even unknowingly—involved in these mysteries?  If scientists can’t conclusively say whether an athlete should race as a male or a female, how could we amateur theologians possibly know enough to judge who should be attracted to whom?

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Dazzling: Olbermann indicts elected officials on healthcare-funded campaigns

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Watch this video!

Keith Olbermann reveals the numbers behind those Senators and Congressmen and women who have funded their elections with health industry money, and who now deliver the goods by killing the public option.

I believe that Iowa’s own Chuck Grassley (who lately has joined in the “death panels” fabrication)  is among the top ten recipients of health industry contributions in the Senate.  Sen. Max Baucus, chair of the Senate Finance Committee, received more campaign money from the industry than from his home state.

The public option is the single greatest cost-cutting measure of this entire process.  It creates competition for an industry that operates in near-monopoly conditions. It takes the need to make a profit out of the choices doctors offer their patients.

It is good for Americans but bad for health industry millionaires.  And the CEOs are calling in their debts.

The politicians who rode industry money into office know what’s at stake:  choke the the public option, or find other money to fund your re-election.

Write your elected officials today.  Tell them you want the option to choose insurance that doesn’t connect care with profits.  You can find their addresses in the right sidebar, under the heading “E-mail.”

They’ve got the money.  But we cast the votes.

sig1_100w

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In it but not of it (sermon for May 24)

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An older version

An older version - with the same problem!

My first regular job was in a small jewelry store in Burlington, Iowa. I was about 15, and I worked for the princely sum of $.65 per hour.  I’ll tell you about it in a moment.

First, listen to Jesus as he prays for his followers, just hours before the mob comes to take him to his death.

John 17:6-19 (NIV)
Jesus Prays for His Disciples
“I have revealed you to those whom you gave me out of the world. They were yours; you gave them to me and they have obeyed your word. Now they know that everything you have given me comes from you. For I gave them the words you gave me and they accepted them.

They knew with certainty that I came from you, and they believed that you sent me. I pray for them. I am not praying for the world, but for those you have given me, for they are yours. All I have is yours, and all you have is mine. And glory has come to me through them. I will remain in the world no longer, but they are still in the world, and I am coming to you.

That must have driven them crazy.

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When the fur flies

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OK, let’s take a break from heavy stuff.

Got a woolly mammal in your house? You may have just found your winter project. Authors say: “Better a sweater from a dog you know and love than from a sheep you’ll never meet.”

clipped from ifitshipitshere.blogspot.com

These aren’t just lovely portraits of people posing with their pets, but look a little closely and you’ll see that the owners are wearing sweaters and vests that resemble the fur of their dogs. And they should because they were literally made from them.

Below is a series of photographs (an ongoing project) by photographer Erwan Fichou of people posing with their beautiful dogs, sporting canine couture… actual sweaters and vests made from the hair (fur?) of their own pet dogs.

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Written by Monte

October 24, 2008 at 9:27 pm

Posted in Politics

Out from bigotry (sermon for August 17, 08)

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And a bit about white privilege …

Isaiah 56:1, 6-8

1 This is what the LORD says: “Maintain justice and do what is right, for my salvation is close at hand and my righteousness will soon be revealed.[…]

Something’s about to happen – what is it [a revelation of God], and so what do we do? Maintain justice,” Isaiah has God saying, “and do what is right.”

6 And foreigners who bind themselves to the LORD to serve him, to love the name of the LORD, and to worship him, all who keep the Sabbath without desecrating it and who hold fast to my covenant-
7 these I will bring to my holy mountain and give them joy in my house of prayer.

Who’s this about now? Foreigners. And those who will follow God from any land (though following God is described here in Jewish terms, of course), gain a rich welcome to the presence of God.  Watch:

Their burnt offerings and sacrifices will be accepted on my altar; for my house will be called a house of prayer for all nations.”

I love it!  “A house of prayer for all nations.”  Is this just about white middle-class Americans like me?  Nope. Read the rest of this entry »