Saturday, April 27, 2013

York Daily Records Publishes Beautiful Editorial on Transgender Prom King Controversy

Kings and Queens and High School Prom Ballots
York Daily Record/Sunday News editorial - April 25, 2013

Once upon a time in the land of Red Lion...

No, this isn't a fairy tale, but it is a story about kings and queens - of the prom.

Once upon a time there was girl who knew in her heart and mind that she was really a boy.

He knew he was a prince, not a princess, and one day he decided to start living his life as such.

There was no magical transformation. No kissing of frogs. No spells to overcome, other than the spell of misunderstanding that still afflicted the land of Red Lion - and all the neighboring kingdoms.

He simply changed his name and appearance and lived his life as himself. The land of Red Lion espoused freedom - and so he should be free to do just that. And he dreamed of the day when modern medical science would make his body match his heart and mind.

In some ways, though, it was hard.

Some people didn't understand. Many felt uncomfortable with this transformation. Many were ignorant of the science and psychiatric research on transgender individuals.

But others were accepting - first, and most importantly, his parents.

They supported their son's refusal to live what he felt in his very cells to be a lie. They wanted the best for him and were mostly concerned for his well-being and safety in a land where enlightenment spreads slowly - as enlightenment so often does, on issues of race and equality and human rights.

Friends were also accepting. And some teachers, too - though some might have been uncomfortable with the change.

But life was going well - at least heading in the direction of "happily ever after."

He gained confidence - enough confidence that, as the annual ball approached, he decided to run for prom king.

He made fliers with little slogans.

Would he win? Who knows - and really, who cares? This annual tradition is just a light-hearted amusement - unimportant in the grand scheme of things. In some ways, it is more of an anachronism in this day and age than a fairy tale. Really, it's just a popularity contest.

But to a person who had struggled with his identity, it was an important step to feel free and safe enough to come forward as a candidate for "king."

But then the ballots were published, and he was not among the candidates for king. She - his former identity - was listed among the candidates for queen, using his old name.

Apparently school leaders felt uncomfortable including the biological female on the ballot with biological males.

Some supported that decision. Administrators are responsible for the school. They had a tough decision to make and came down on the side of current biology. It was a legally defensible decision. The transgender person was not excluded from the ballot, after all. If the person was elected, he could be a prom queen in a suit.

There was much debate in the mystical realm of Facebook.

Would possibly having a prom king who was technically a female make people uneasy? Would the person chosen as prom queen feel uncomfortable if the "king" was biologically another female?

But what about our would-be king? What about his discomfort at feeling as if he was being forced to pretend to be something and someone he is not?

Did school administrators' discomfort really require stepping in and transforming a he back into a she - for something as inconsequential as a prom court ballot?

Could the officials not simply let the students choose? It's their ball, after all. They were under no obligation to vote for a transgender king.

Could school leaders not see the importance to that individual simply to feel the freedom - and courage - to place himself on the ballot that reflected who he knows himself to be?

Some day - perhaps even in the not-too-distant future - we'll look back on these kinds of stories as we do on fairy tales, reflecting a world that no longer exists, utterly transformed into a world where we are all free to be who we are.

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Do Racism, Homophobia, Conservatism, and Low I.Q. Go Hand in Hand?

Lower Cognitive Abilities Predict Greater Prejudice Through Ring-Wing Ideology.

by Goal Auzeen Saedi, Ph.D. - Psychology Today:

This morning as I logged onto Facebook, I came upon this image. Having followed the Boston marathon and MIT shooting coverage initially, I lost some interest when it came down to the “hunt.” As much as justice matters to me, so does tact and class, and the sensationalism of manhunts always leaves me uncomfortable. I also knew it would be a matter of time before the political rhetoric would change from the victims and wounded to the demographic factors of the suspects—namely race and religion. And alas, it has.

However, what struck me most about this image posted above was the Facebook page it came from, “Too Informed to Vote Republican.” I wondered about this, recalling an old journal article I’d come across when studying anti-Islamic attitudes post 9/11. The paper referenced a correlation between conservatism and low intelligence. Uncertain of its origin, I located a thought-provoking article published in one of psychology’s top journals, Psychological Science, which in essence confirms this.

Hodson and Busseri (2012) found in a correlational study that lower intelligence in childhood is predictive of greater racism in adulthood, with this effect being mediated (partially explained) through conservative ideology. They also found poor abstract reasoning skills were related to homophobic attitudes which was mediated through authoritarianism and low levels of intergroup contact.

What this study and those before it suggest is not necessarily that all liberals are geniuses and all conservatives are ignorant. Rather, it makes conclusions based off of averages of groups. The idea is that for those who lack a cognitive ability to grasp complexities of our world, strict-right wing ideologies may be more appealing. Dr. Brian Nosek explained it for the Huffington Post as follows, “ideologies get rid of the messiness and impose a simple solution. So, it may not be surprising that people with less cognitive capacity will be attracted to simplifying ideologies.” For an excellent continuation of this discussion and past studies, please see this article from LiveScience.

Further, studies have indicated an automatic association between aggression, America, and the news. A study conducted by researchers at Cornell and The Hebrew University (Ferguson & Hassin, 2007) indicated, “American news watchers who were subtly or nonconsciously primed with American cues exhibited greater accessibility of aggression and war constructs in memory, judged an ambiguously aggressive person in a more aggressive and negative manner, and acted in a relatively more aggressive manner toward an experimenter following a mild provocation, compared with news watchers who were not primed” (p. 1642). American “cues” refers to factors such as images of the American flag or words such as “patriot.” Interestingly, this study showed this effect to be independent of political affiliation, but suggested a disturbing notion that America is implicitly associated with aggression for news watchers.

Taken together, what do these studies suggest? Excessive exposure to news coverage could be toxic as is avoidance of open-minded attitudes and ideals. Perhaps turn off the television and pick up a book? Ideally one that exposes you to differing worldviews.

The Lavender Scare -- Still Happening in Venango County?

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Friday, April 19, 2013

Dear Diane Gramley of the American Family Association of Pennsylvania: 'Define Me'

Singer and songwriter Ryan Amador just released his new video, "Define Me," featuring Jo Lampert.

The powerful video shows Amador and Lampert stripping down to their underwear to reveal gay slurs and negative stereotypes written across their bodies.

Directed by Tom Gustafson, the video ends with the two vocalists washing away the words and sharing a supportive smile. Gustafon is an award-winning director who helmed "Were The World Mine" and "Mariachi Gringo" and who served as location casting director for films like "Pirates of the Caribbean II and III" and "The Dark Knight."

One hundred percent of the proceeds from the track will be donated to organizations actively involved with supporting lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) equality.

Check out the video above.

Monday, April 1, 2013

It Gets Better, Even in Pennsylvania as Sen. Casey Comes Out in Support of Marriage Equality

By Tracie Mauriello - Pittsburgh Post-Gazette - April 1, 2013:

WASHINGTON -- U.S. Sen. Bob Casey today took his support for gay relationships a step further when he announced he now backs the right to same-sex marriage.

The Pennsylvania Democrat previously expressed support for civil union but had stopped short of saying same-sex commitments deserved the same designation and accompanying rights of traditional marriages.

"If two people of the same sex fall in love and want to marry, why would our government stand in their way? At a time when many Americans lament a lack of commitment in our society between married men and women, why would we want less commitment and fewer strong marriages," Mr. Casey said in a written statement today.

He pledged to work toward repealing the Defense of Marriage Act, the 1996 law that prevents the federal government from recognizing same-sex marriages.

That law was at the center of a case argued before the U.S. Supreme Court on Wednesday.

Mr. Casey said he decided to stand up for gay marriage after receiving numerous letters and phone calls from constituents, including some gay couples who said they pay thousands of dollars a year more in taxes than they would if they were in heterosexual marriages.

Some of those letters and calls were part of Equality Pennsylvania's organized effort to bombard Mr. Casey's Washington and district offices with pleas for support.

"I just want my family to be treated equally and with respect by my state and federal government," one constituent wrote in a letter that particularly touched the senator.

Mr. Casey said he could no longer "in good conscience take a position that denies her and her family the full measure of quality and respect."