Friday, 31 August 2007

Cosmos Intersex Article Online

As a blogged about earlier, I did an Interview for the Science Magazine Cosmos a few months ago, in April.

The article has now been made available online, along with my interview as one of the case studies - though without my picture. Probably just as well...
Gender is so basic to our identity that few of us stop to even think about it. However, for a significant proportion of the population it's not so black and white. Consider these real-life stories:

There once was a boy named Bruce. As a baby he lost his penis in an accident and was surgically transformed into a girl called Brenda.

Then there's Kylie. She was told that she was born with deformed ovaries that were surgically removed at age four. As a young woman, she discovered she was actually born with testes and male chromosomes, though she has only ever considered herself female.

Tony was also technically born as a genetic male but, because of his atypical genitalia, the doctors at the time decided he would be better off assigned as a female. By the time he turned seven, his phallus had started to grow. Doctors subsequently removed his testes to prevent him from masculinising any further; but the truth was he had always felt like a man, not a woman. When he turned 30, he chose to live his life as a man.

Zoe was born a male but always felt like a female. She did her best to accept her male form and identity but found the effort to maintain the charade became increasingly difficult and stressful over the years. Then, aged 47, her body spontaneously began making the transition into a female … and the relief was enormous.
But regular readers of my blog would have followed that in Real Time, as it happened. So you know all that. Still, it's interesting, No?

Thursday, 30 August 2007

The Race for the Moon

From CBS News :
With Asia's biggest powers set to launch their first moon missions, possibly as early as next month, the countdown is on in the hottest space race since the Cold War.

Japan claims its project is the biggest since the Apollo missions put the first humans on the moon. China, hoping to pave the way for its own manned missions, says its probes will study the lunar surface to help plan a landing.

But the big question right now is not about science — it's who will get there first.

Japan's space agency said last week its SELENE lunar satellite is on track for a Sept. 13 launch, following years of delay as engineers struggled to fix a slew of mechanical problems. China, meanwhile, was rumored to be planning a September launch for its Chang'e 1 probe, but is being coy as to the exact date.

Both sides say all systems are "go."

The Chinese satellite and its Changzheng 3 rocket carrier have passed all tests and construction of the launch site is finished, according to the National Space Administration's Web site. Last month, China's minister of defense technology told CCTV that all was ready for a launch "by the end of the year."
And from Asia Times :
With the Chinese and Japanese making plans to establish moon bases, can India be far behind?

"Global players have declared that by 2020, they will have their bases on the moon," Madhavan Nair, chief of the Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO), declared on August 18. "I don't think India can afford to be lagging behind in that."

Nair said ISRO is defining technologies needed for India's first manned space mission in an Indian space vehicle scheduled for 2015...
Leading Asia's moon ambitions is the Japanese Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA), which rescheduled its lunar orbiter, Kaguya, to September 13 instead of this month. On August 17, China insisted its lunar Chang'e I program is purely scientific and not competing with any other country (read Japan).

India is expected to invest US$1.5 billion over the next five years to develop technologies for a manned space flight by 2015 and a moon flight by 2020. Most of the designing, research and technical jobs are to be completed by 2012.
Watch this, er, Space

Wednesday, 29 August 2007

Today's Battle

Over at Gene Expression. Looks like I've unearthed a genuine Raymondite.

Tuesday, 28 August 2007

I'd Forgotten to Post about this one

A Brain Post. Summary: Long-term memory is DRAM, and the refresh mechanism allows errors.

From ScienceMag.Org:
Rapid Erasure of Long-Term Memory Associations in the Cortex by an Inhibitor of PKM
Little is known about the neuronal mechanisms that subserve long-term memory persistence in the brain. The components of the remodeled synaptic machinery, and how they sustain the new synaptic or cellwide configuration over time, are yet to be elucidated. In the rat cortex, long-term associative memories vanished rapidly after local application of an inhibitor of the protein kinase C isoform, protein kinase M zeta (PKM{zeta}). The effect was observed for at least several weeks after encoding and may be irreversible. In the neocortex, which is assumed to be the repository of multiple types of long-term memory, persistence of memory is thus dependent on ongoing activity of a protein kinase long after that memory is considered to have consolidated into a long-term stable form.
Not only is Long-term memory DRAM, but the refresh mechanism can be chemically interrupted, causing what appears to be permanent degradation of long-term memory.

DRAM - dynamic random-access memory - is the "memory" on your PC or laptop. It's cheaper to make than SRAM, Static RAM, which maintains its contents even when switched off as long as there's power applied. The memory in your mobile phone is SRAM Flash RAM, the addresses are still there even when you change the battery. The Hard Disk on your PC is also SRAM Flash Ram, essentially. When your system "boots up", the saved contents in it are loaded into the blank DRAM of the computer's memory. It's blank, because if DRAM isn't refreshed every 64 milliseconds, it loses its contents.

This work implies that the long-term memory in rats - and thus presumably all mammals, and probably all vertebrates - is DRAM. It has to get refreshed every few days (at most) by some form of inate mechanism. Interrupt the mechanism, and memory will fail.

(My thanks to Hildy for the correction. Even Jove nods)

Monday, 27 August 2007

Sex and the MAPI

That is, Sex Change, and the Manual of Australian Passport Issue.

The 2005 Version (PDF)

The 2007 Version (PDF)

This blogpost brought courtesy to anyone who is Australian, Transsexual, and is applying for a passport. I did the hard yards so you won't have to.

Friday, 24 August 2007

Psychological Monsters

Something to keep in mind. Something to help me keep my perspective, when I read about some of the unconscionable experiments various psychologists have subected people to.

From The AP
Lawyers have negotiated a settlement in a lawsuit filed by orphans who claim they were damaged emotionally after serving as subjects in a stuttering experiment at the University of Iowa more than 60 years ago.

A spokesman for the Iowa Attorney General's office said Friday the cases had been settled for $925,000.

The lawsuit, filed by former test subjects and estate representatives of those who have died, sought damages to offset the lifelong emotional, psychological and self-image problems caused by taking part in the 1939 study.
The experiment has come to be known as "The Monster Study" because of its methods and the theory researchers set out to prove — that stuttering is a learned behavior that can be induced in children.

Over a six-month period, Dr. Wendell Johnson, a nationally renowned pioneer in the field of speech pathology, and his staff tested his theory on 22 children who were in the care of the state-run Iowa Soldiers' Orphans' Home.

The children were placed into two groups, one the control group, the other the test group, which was subjected to steady harassment, badgering and other negative therapy in an attempt to get them to stutter.

Researchers concluded the experiment failed to cause children to stutter or develop other speech disabilities.

But the university kept the experiment and its methods under wraps for decades. It was not until 2001 when the San Jose (Calif.) Mercury News published an investigative story about the study and its methods did the former subjects learn about the experiment's true purpose. The newspaper based its story on statements made by Mary Tudor, one of Johnson's former research assistants, who lived in California at the time the story was published.

The university apologized for the experiment in 2001.
The experiment happened only 19 years before I was born. The coverup lasted until it was blown, only 6 years ago.

Thursday, 23 August 2007

The War On Drugs

Or rather, Drug Running. This is what happened to a North Korean freighter caught smuggling.

Well, it's not often the RAAF gets to practice on a live target.

Wednesday, 22 August 2007

Passports Round 2 - Section 9

From a letter to my lawyer
However.... it's now been totally clarified in the APD that the gender
on the passport is *always* that shown on the Australian Birth
Certificate, or for those born overseas, the gender in the Department
of Immigration and Citizenship (DIAC) database, as evidenced by the
Citizenship Certificate. DIAC only issues a new one in a new name if
the citizen's gender changes.

Now in August last year, two months before I got the final knock-back,
I'd had my details changed by DIAC (DIMIA as was at the time). DFAT
had been given a copy of my new citizenship certificate.

Furthermore, the now super-secret MAPI (Manual of Australian Passport
Issue) is a section 9 document according to the National Archives.
It's on the record that the MAPI is available for inspection at any
Passport Office. When I confronted the APO with the DFAT section 9
list showing this, I was still not able to be granted full access.
There had been a directive that certain parts are not to be made

However, and in a total contrast to the whole atmosphere before, I was
given a printout of the sections I was interested in, free of charge.
Not only that, but a photocopy of the MAPI as was in force at the time
of my application, and until May this year. The attitude was one of
helpful co-operation, no longer adversarial. I may be disappointed in
future, but I have hopes that matters will be resolved for me soon.

A Cynic would say that they were just glad that I didn't insist on
seeing the whole thing - that would have put them in a very difficult
situation, in direct contravention of the FOI act. My evident goodwill
in not putting them on the spot was followed by a change in attitude
on their part. It may be causal.

If I had applied today, the case would have been straightforward, and
a passport issued immediately. The problem is that my case lay outside
the guidelines before. It is arguable that it should have been granted
anyway, that the new amendment merely clarifies matters that already
existed. In any event, it was certainly a case that should have been
recognised as outside the usual, and kicked upstairs so someone human
could make a reasonable decision, rather than be shackled by
administrative guidelines.

DFAT were astonished that they'd already received the citizenship
certificate. I think this snuck under their radar, they'd already had
months of trouble with this "turbulent priest" and were convinced I
was trying to pull a fast one of some kind. That I could have gotten
the DIAC records changed was an impossibility (so they thought) as I'm
married, and they *knew* the Marriage Act prevented that.
By the current rules, my reading is that they definitely should have
issued a passport when they received the DIAC data. Certainly everyone
at Immigration was astonished and horrified that they didn't, seeing
it as blatant discrimination.

The Saga Continues. Hopefully Reason will prevail. If not, well, not only I know
how shamefully I've been treated, but DFAT knows now as well.

It's important to step back, and think about what this whole situation is about.

It's about simply getting a Passport, something that by the Australian Passport Act,
every Australian has a right to. I'm no Criminal, nor someone with dodgy citizenship,
nor a Passport Trafficker or Terrorist. I already had a UK passport with the same
correct details in. I needed to go overseas for surgery, there was a growing risk
of cancer. I have a congenital medical problem, nothing particularly unusual, and
that's all.

At a time when I was under great stress, when I was most vulnerable, I was treated
worse than a Murderer - they can get passports. I was ordered to Divorce before a
passport would be granted, something that was a gross abuse of power, and blatantly
discriminatory. Had I not recorded it on my blog, as it happened, it would seem
unconceivable that anyone could be treated this way.

For many months I faced the possibility that I would not be allowed back in the country
to see my little son. The sleepless nights, the vast amounts of time spent writing
letters, or waiting (sometimes for hours) at the Passport Office, all that was
totally un-necessary. Pain and Suffering is an exact description of what was inflicted
on me. I think many in a similar situation would not have coped. I came very close
to losing it, as was reflected in my writings.

Now that there may be some light at the end of the tunnel, I can let my outrage at
being treated like dirt show. I'm crying now, trying to get rid of the pain, the
anguish, the frustration at the unreasonable and unconscionable conduct of some of
those who had me at their mercy. HOW DARE THEY DO THIS TO ME? I'm Human.

I'm Human. I'm human. No human being should be treated like that.

I intend to make sure they don't ever do it again. That they never order anyone to
Divorce. Victimised, I refuse to be a Victim. They don't have my permission to
de-humanise me. Revenge is not in order, but Recompense, and Retribution, is. If I
can swing it.

A good Barrister has been recommended. Hopefully it won't come to Court. I have no
wish to see people suffer, but I do wish to give such aversion therapy that they
never, ever, do anything like this again.

Tuesday, 21 August 2007

Passports Round 2 - First Volley

Mr Zoe Ellen Brain
(address redacted)

Mr Ross Tysoe
Assistant Secretary
Passport Client Service Branch

Date: 17 August 2007

Letter recieved 6th October 2006
Letter sent 17th September 2006

Dear Sir,

1. Could you please inform me of the legislative basis for denying my passport application, and offering me a Document of Identity (DOI) instead, in the letter of the 6th Oct 2006?

I would appreciate it if you quoted not merely the name of the relevant acts, determinations, explanatory notes, and instructions, but the exact sections therein.

As I understand it, section 6.3 of the Australian Passports Determination 2005 as was in force at the time indicated that an offer of a DOI may be made to

"an Australian citizen to whom the issue of an Australian passport is unnecessary or undesirable"

The Explanatory notes paragraph 89 indicated that such people included:

* Australian citizens who are transgender, that is are living in the identity of a member of the opposite sex
* Australian citizens whose travel the Minister believes should be restricted.

along with other categories that obviously do not apply.

I will leave aside the blatant contravention of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (1980 ATS 23, Article12) as clarified by the The Yogyakarta Principles on the Application of International Human Rights Law in relation to Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity Principle 22.

I was born overseas, and the DIAC (DIMIA as was) records indicated that I was female at the time of your letter. I had supplied the APO with evidence of that in the form of a new Citizenship certificate (something only issued for a gender change), so the APO knew, or should have known, that fact. I applied for a passport in a female gender, so to say that I am "transgendered" under the definition of para 89 of the Notes would be a difficult assertion to substantiate.

Recent DFAT statements have been made asserting that the DIAC record is legal recognition of gender.

"The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade said the purpose of the amendment was to "strengthen the integrity and security of Australian passports", arguing that only the State and Territory Registrars of Births, Deaths and Marriages and the Department of Immigration and Citizenship have the legislated power to amend records when people have satisfied their requirements to record a change of gender.

"It would be inconsistent ... for the Department to continue to issue passports, albeit limited in validity, to persons in a sex other than that shown in the records held by the State or Territory BDM Registrar or the Department of Immigration and Citizenship," a spokesperson told SX."

2. Can I assume then, that the Minister believes my travel should be restricted? If so, could you please explain why, in a manner that would convince the AAT that such a belief was reasonable?

3. I would appreciate you telling me the exact portion of the Manual of Australian Passport Issue, that states that persons born overseas (I must emphasise that) in this situation must be unmarried to gain a passport.

DFAT already has in its possession and in my file a statement by the Hon Phillip Ruddock to the effect that valid same-sex marriages can exist under the Marriage Act if, and only if, one partner changes legal gender. Leaving aside the issue that it is not for DFAT to make up rules to enforce it's own peculiar and contra-legal interpretation of the Marriage Act, as far as I'm aware, the rules at the time did not require an overseas-born applicant to be unmarried.

It is my contention that I should have been issued a passport last year. Since according to Medicare Australia I was biologically female (more female than male, anyway), and since according to DIMIA (as was) I was legally female, no Sex Reassignment Surgery from Male to Female was legally or medically possible. I did have reconstruction in that area subsequent to my application, and according to my gynecologist, look normally female there at last. But the reconstruction was Gender Affirmation, rather than Re-assignment, and arguably would not count under the exact letter of the law. I was medically and legally female before it.

4. Since the recent amendments to the Australian Passport Determination 2005 (no 4), it is now clear that the record of gender for those born overseas is the DIAC record according to section 7.2. I would appreciate a statement as to the likelihood of a further passport application with exactly the same data supplied succeeding.

As I am on a fixed income, a subsistence level scholarship, I cannot afford to keep on making applications that get knocked back for reasons unclear to me, and possibly without legal foundation. Contrary to your letter of October last year, I still have not received any form of refund, although I'm given to understand that this may be forthcoming at some future time.

So in summary:

1. Please tell me the legal basis for refusing my application last year.
2. If the Minister believes my travel should be restricted, could he tell me why?
3. Where does it say that I have to be unmarried?
4. Would an identical application succeed now?

Yours Sincerely,

Zoe E Brain

Monday, 20 August 2007

Normal Service now resumed

On Thursday, my Internet connection became unreliable. So much so that I couldn't post.
On Friday, I couldn't get on the Internet at all.
On Saturday, there was a loud POP and the set-top box that provided the cable TV service and Internet connection blew up.

They've just replaced it with a new one. Parts of the old one may be salvageable, but when the power supply shorted out, it took the display (at least) with it. I was lucky nothing else it was connected to got fried.

So expect a backlog of daily posts to be cleared over the next few days, starting with Today's Battle over at the Huffington Post of all places.

Wednesday, 15 August 2007

A Canon for Andrew

To my little son, now turned 6, from Zeddie, who loves him so much.

Tuesday, 14 August 2007

Passports Part II

Now that my health is better, time to deal with some unfinished business.

I just had a TELCON with the case officer for my passport application from last year. In it, he stated that for me to remain married and be recognised as female would contravene the Marriage Act.

I remonstrated, quoting the Re Kevin decisions by the full bench of the Family Court, the letter from the Attorney-General, the Hon Phillip Ruddock, and Mr Ruddock's numerous speeches on the subject to the contrary. The APO may not be lawyers, but they have a copy of the letter.

I informed him that according to the Australian Passports determination 2007(4), someone's sex is determined by their Australian Birth certificate (if born in Australia), or, if born overseas, the records held by the Department of Immigration and Citizenship (DIAC - formerly DIMIA).

As was reported:
The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade said the purpose of the amendment was to "strengthen the integrity and security of Australian passports", arguing that only the State and Territory Registrars of Births, Deaths and Marriages and the Department of Immigration and Citizenship have the legislated power to amend records when people have satisfied their requirements to record a change of gender.

As I was female according to DIAC... whereupon he interrupted, saying that if I was married, I couldn't be. I then told him that I was, and that there was no requirement for the person to be unmarried, they merely had to show adequate medical evidence.

He then spent some time looking up the regulations. And found out that indeed, there was no requirement to be unmarried. He was also unaware that my gender had been changed by Immigration, he thought that was impossible. (So my bet is that they didn't bother checking...)

I then emphasised that this state of affairs hadn't changed since my last application. That I was legally female then, and am legally female now. I asked what legislative basis the APO had for demanding that I divorce before a passport would be issued.

He said "when you put it that way..." and advised me to re-apply. A refund cheque will also be sent to me, as should have happened almost a year ago.

I may not win. But if not, it's straight to the AAT - Administrative Appeals Tribunal. Come to think of it, I'm going to write a letter asking for the legislative basis for them denying me a passport last year, when they knew, or ought to have known, that Immigration had changed my details.

Of course if I do win, then those Australian TS women born here might have a very good case for a complaint of discrimination. That those born outside the country are allowed to be unmarried, while those born inside are not. This might help them.

Monday, 13 August 2007

5 Thousand Calories

The full count of everything in this ¥ 3,550 pizza / burger / hot-dog mutant is over at Geeks Are Sexy. Including 10,000 mg of sodium...

Saturday, 11 August 2007

Going Backwards

A Seattle local writes:
"I am post-op and live in Seattle, and have visited the Social Security Office three times now. The first time I was told I did not have all the paperwork I needed, the second time they flagged my number as fraudulent because I was trying to change the gender on my card. I am still trying to change the marker, by following the policies in place, but I'm getting no cooperation from the office."
Not unusual. Sometimes it takes weeks, sometimes months, sometimes years. It depends on the competence, and often the religious convictions, of the bureaucrats responsible. Just something we have to live with. Except that now it has more severe consequences.
An Orlando local writes,
"Previously, the Social Security Administration was sending out letters to businesses where employee's name or gender marker on their file weren't matching.

These "No-Match" letters told the company that they had 60 days to fix this information or have the employee update their information. This previously caused transgender employees to be outted at their workplace. A new policy going into effect will require companies to fire employees if they do not fix the information within 90 days. If this policy goes into effect, there will be a lot of unemployed transgender individuals. I've actually received a notice from my employer a few months ago regarding one of these letters from the SSA. I'm definitely seeing this issue popping up again for me in the near future.

While the new policy is meant to find those who have committed identity fraud, it has an inadvertent effect on the LGBT community."
Well, I hope it's a bug, and not a feature. There have been too many of these recently.
This policy will cause the most problems for anyone who is pre-operative, living "full time", and has an employer who sends gender markers to Social Security as part of the verification. These individuals will be flagged, and if they are unable to clear the issue with the Social Security Administration, they will have to out themselves at work or risk loosing their jobs. Before the Social Security Administration will change the gender marker on a Social Security Card, they require a letter from the surgeon. There are many individuals who are unable to have surgery for medical reasons, and these individuals will always be "in transition" as they are unable to complete surgery and the final steps of the process. This same problem exists for most states and Birth Certificates, which must also match the Social Security Card.
TS people from Ohio, Tennessee, and some counties in Texas cannot get their Birth Certificates changed. In Tennessee, the state constitution was amended specifically to disadvantage TS people here, it's not a matter of a simple change to the law.

Did they really mean for all TS US citizens born in Ohio and Tennessee to be fired, and be made unemployable (and unable to claim social security benefits)? Or is it an unintended consequence?

Maybe it will all collapse under its own weight. But maybe not. It's not as if TS people can just change their residence, this is a matter of where they were born.

It must be incompetence, not malice. I hope.

Friday, 10 August 2007

Please, Please Help!

I'm calling for help here, from any and all readers and bloggers.

From SAGE:
Passports Denied to Trans Community by Australian Minister for Foreign Affairs

In May 2007 Alexander Downer the Australian Minister for Foreign affairs signed an order that changed the policies of the Australian passport office concerning the issuing of passports to members of the trans community. The paper was signed in secret without consultation with the sex and gender diverse community, health service providers and nor was it debated in open parliament.

Quote from Passport news July 2007

"On the 31st. May 2007 the Foreign Minister signed Australian Passports Amendment Determination(2007 (No. 1), which spells out that a person's identity for passport issuing purposes comprises four pieces of information; That is name, gender place and date of birth, as recorded on the applicant's cardinal document. This amendment particularly affects the issue of travel documents to transgender people and new policy instructions are being drafted and will be released shortly via the content Management System (CMS)

Transgender people travelling overseas for gender reassignment surgery will no longer be able to obtain a limited validity passport reflecting their intended sex. Instead, they may be issued a limited validity passport showing the gender recorded on their cardinal document, which may be replaced gratis after the gender reassignment is completed (i.e. produces a cardinal document in their assigned gender). Alternatively a limited validity Document of Identity (DOI), which does no include a gender field, may be issued, letter 10 must be given to the client explaining the limitations of the document and Letter 11, acknowledgment of receipt of the advice must be completed by the client.

Transgender clients are often supported by active advocacy groups and passport applications should be handled sensitively. Any client issues should be documented carefully. Only cases that meet the new policy may be issued a passport in the assigned gender."


People in Australia who have undergone sex and gender realignment and have had surgery to remove their reproductive organs have been able to change their passport to their new sex and gender, for many years. Until May of this year natal birth males who were transitioning to female could get a one-year passport to go abroad for genital realignment surgery; and on proof of that surgery, then acquire a long-term female passport. For natal born females who transition to male that construction of male anatomy is surgically much harder to do so the burden of proof of genital surgery has always been a grey area, which the Australian government has never delved too deep into.

Unlike in the UK, people who are medically unable to undergo such big operations, as genital reconstruction, have been unable to get a passport that reflects the gender that they may have transitioned to because they have not had that surgery. Also people who are transgender in Australia, and live as one sex but have genitals of another sex, are also unable to have a passport that matches their social presentation whereas in the UK they would. This has always left this sector of the Australian population in the very difficult position of not being unable to travel abroad or having to travel abroad on a passport that was a different sex to the gender they were presenting. This means they are immediately identified as trans and susceptible to abuse, unnecessary interrogation and embarrassment by passport officials in other countries, hotel staff and in any situation where they would have to prove their identity.

From a human rights perspective this has always been a breach of international law by Australia as those countries, who are members of the United Nations Covenant of Civil and Political Rights (Freedom of Movement Article 12), should not deny their citizens a passport and the rights of free and safe passage. A passport that does not reflect the gender in which a person lives in society leaves that person open to danger during travel.

The effect of this order

This was an unnecessary policy change by the Australian Passport Office that sought to victimise one of the most vulnerable minorities, who the government believed could not fight back. It was plainly a move by the Howard government to please the right-wing arch conservative voters, who the government are relying upon for votes during the up and coming election. It is further a move on behalf of the Howard government to shut down any possibility of gay marriage so that a person with a passport in one sex and birth certificate in another could not marry, thereby creating a gay marriage; an extension of the present government's extreme homophobia translated into transphobia out of desperation.

These polices are in line with the kind of religious extremism that seeks to terrorise minority group in countries like Australia, America and Saudi Arabia and Iran etc, who do not fit into the mainstream religious concepts prominent in those countries. They are the opposite to countries like the United Kingdom which have embraced trans people travelling on passports of their choice or Spain which has embraced gay marriage.

This change in passport policies will affect very few Australians but it will affect one of the most vulnerable trans groups in our society: pre-operative and non-operative trans people, leaving them open to danger, intimidation, and security issues during travel abroad. A Document of Identity, which they may be issued with, does not carry the same status as a passport to restrict the travel of its owner and does not state the person's sex or gender identity. Health organisations who cater for the trans and intersex community in Australian were never consulted on this change in policy.

What the Australian Government needs to do

The Australian Minister for Foreign Affairs, Alexander Downer, needs to review the policies of the passport office, bringing them in line with humane principles for treating all Australian citizens with equal validity. Some people identify as male and some as female but there are many people who are neither physically or socially part of the polarity separatism. Many trans people are part of the intersex spectrum but also many transgender people live as one gender but have genitals that may be different from how they present.

The passport office needs to:

1. Give passports to pre-operative or non-operative transsexuals or transsexed people, who have not had genital surgery, in the gender in which they live, for unrestricted travel.
2. Allow people who were married before transition to remain married and get a passport in their new gender presentation.
3. Give passports to transgender people in the gender in which they live for unrestricted travel.
4 Allow an individual who requires it to have no sex or gender stated on their passport.


See also the article in SXNews.
Two weeks ago, a pre-operative trans woman, Stefanie Imbruglia (singer Natalie's cousin), went to the Australian Passport Office in Sydney to obtain a temporary passport showing her sex as female, which would allow her to travel to Thailand for genital realignment surgery. She didn't anticipate any problems, since hundreds of trans people before her had successfully applied for and received such interim passports as a matter of course. However, in what she describes as a "twilight zone moment", things went awry: she was subjected to a passport officer insisting on calling her 'Sir' when she was presenting as obviously female, and denied a passport that reflects her gender identity.

"I handed my documentation across to him [and] almost immediately, he referred to me as 'Sir', but the first two times, I thought I was just hearing things," Imbruglia recalls. "He then told me that I could not get a passport with the letter 'F. I asked to see where I couldn't in writing and he went away for about five minutes or so."

Upon his return, the passport officer, still referring to Imbruglia as 'Sir', handed her a copy of the July 2007 issue of Passport News, an internal newsletter for staff, with a story titled 'Transgender Passport Applicants: New Policy'.

The story, seen by SX, states that the Foreign Minister, Alexander Downer, signed an amendment to the passport legislation in May this year that disallows trans people to obtain a passport in their "intended sex". Applicants may obtain a passport stating the sex on their birth certificate or be issued with a Document of Identity (DOI), which states their new name and the fact they are an Australian citizen, but does not disclose their sex.
I blogged about this previously.
This piece of legislation was slipped through without any consultation with the trans community and has caused an uproar with trans advocacy groups and professionals who work with trans people. Sex and gender specialist psychotherapist, Dr Tracie O'Keefe DCH, tried unsuccessfully for a week to get Downer's office to supply full documentation on the new amendment and lambasted him for putting trans people wishing to travel overseas in danger.

"This will put members of the trans community in danger when they are travelling because they will not have a passport that matches their gender presentation," O'Keefe told SX. "The psychological damage as well as the security risk to these already vulnerable people will be enormous."

Information officer at the Gender Centre NSW, Katherine Cummings, agreed. "Our clientele are forced to carry documentation which doesn't include their innate gender, leaving them open to be harassed in customs areas."

Imbruglia's case has been taken on by lobby group Sex and Gender Education (SAGE) which is planning a campaign and online petition. Spokesperson Norrie May-Welby told SX: "You can't travel with breasts and 'male' on your passport and this is what Downer is making trannies do. A DOI creates fuss and bother and someone travelling overseas doesn't need that. They could be travelling through fundamentalist countries or just going through high-security post-9/11, where if there's something out of the ordinary, they can target someone. It's most unfair to single trans people out to travel with dodgy paperwork."

The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade said the purpose of the amendment was to "strengthen the integrity and security of Australian passports", arguing that only the State and Territory Registrars of Births, Deaths and Marriages and the Department of Immigration and Citizenship have the legislated power to amend records when people have satisfied their requirements to record a change of gender.

"It would be inconsistent ... for the Department to continue to issue passports, albeit limited in validity, to persons in a sex other than that shown in the records held by the State or Territory BDM Registrar or the Department of Immigration and Citizenship," a spokesperson told SX.
My Department of Immigration records state that I'm female. I have been refused a passport anyway. This goes beyond mistakes, glitches, or misdirection. It's Lying.
Trans activists, however, have suggested that that the move was precipitated by the government wanting to plug a loophole which could open the door to same-sex marriage.

A post-operative trans woman has a case pending in the Administrative Appeals Tribunal (AAT) in which she is suing the federal government for refusing to grant her a female passport because she is still legally married to a woman. The trans woman married her female partner using her male birth certificate. She is challenging the federal government on the grounds that it was out of its jurisdiction by taking any other information from the birth certificate apart from residency. If she wins the case, she and her partner will be the first legally recognised same-sex married couple in Australia. But this new amendment to the passport legislation now gives the government power to ask for more information for a passport, including sex and nationality.

As for Imbruglia, the change in law leaves her fearing for her safety. "I'm now unsure about my travel to Thailand," she told SX. "I have two options: go with M on my passport which I don't want or travel with a DOI with no sex written on it. So basically I'm forced not to have a passport, so my peace of mind has been shattered and I shouldn't be in that position."

Please forward this information and petition link to your family, friends, colleagues, networks, groups etc.

Please do that. Please at least look at the petition yourself too.

There have already been cases of women travelling on male passports being refused entry into the US, and missing out on necessary surgery there as the result. None have as yet been put in male immigration holding areas, with the guarantee of rape there, but this possibility cannot be excluded. They know that. That's why the limited-validity passports are in the legislation.

Thursday, 9 August 2007

More Elephants

Because I'm in no position to blog sensibly now.

Elephants Painting.

Wednesday, 8 August 2007

I've got the Flu

Like about 2/3 of Canberra, it seems.

So without further ado, an Elephant riding a Tricycle.

Tuesday, 7 August 2007

Today's Battle

There seems so many of them. The tide of ignorance is so vast, the prospect of making any difference seems slim. But women like me aren't known for giving up easily.

So go over to SayAnythingBlog, part of Pyjamas media, and see how at least one person thinks I should be exterminated.

Sunday, 5 August 2007

Apollo Photos

To allow full access to the original flight films for both researchers and the general public, Johnson Space Center and Arizona State University's Space Exploration Resources are scanning and creating an online digital archive of all the original Apollo flight films. Through this online interface, users may browse through the archive and download any of the images. This web site also provides a suite of resources regarding the images and the cameras that were used during the Apollo program.

Over at Arizona State University Apollo Film Archive

Saturday, 4 August 2007

Another Day, another Battle

This time over at the Grauniad

"Radical feminist Julie Bindel argues that sex change operations constitute unnecessary mutilation."

Friday, 3 August 2007

An Incident at the Motor Registry

As I've blogged, my wallet containing my credit card, drivers license, medicare card etc etc was stolen in the Old City of Jerusalem.

So now I've been back in Australia for 48 hours, time to get a replacement.

Him: "I can't seem to find you on the database... Zoe Ellen? Brain? B R A I N?"
Me: "Yes, that's right." (gives address again)
Him: "Hmmmmm.... Oh those idiots!"
Me: "What's the problem?"
Him: "No wonder I couldn't find you. Someone had put you down as male!"
Me: "Oh well, easy enough to do, keystroke errors happen all the time."
Him: "I'll correct the database entry immediately" (mutters something about "idiots" under his breath)

I wonder how many other areas I thought I'd had corrected weren't? Or had been "de-corrected". Oh well. Good job I'm not concerned about Stealth. It really doesn't matter, I'm me.

One young girl at the clinic, newly post-op, said to me "I can't believe that you were ever a guy. Or looked like one. You've shown me the photos, but I still can't believe it."

Bless her. She meant it too. Probably because her mum and I got along like a house on fire, we're the same age.

Thursday, 2 August 2007

The Infinite

Two things are infinite: the universe and human stupidity; and I'm not sure about the universe.
- Albert Einstein

And that brings me to, The Voters' Right to Protect Marriage Initiative.

Only marriage between one man and one woman is valid or recognized in California, whether contracted in this state or elsewhere. A man is an adult male human being who possesses at least one inherited Y chromosome, and a woman is an adult female human being who does not possess an inherited Y chromosome. Neither the Legislature nor any court, government institution, government agency, initiative statute, local government, or government official shall abolish the civil institution of marriage between one man and one woman, or decrease statutory rights, incidents, or employee benefits of marriage shared by one man and one woman, or require private entities to offer or provide rights, incidents, or benefits of marriage to unmarried individuals, or bestow statutory rights, incidents, or employee benefits of marriage on unmarried individuals. Any public act, record, or judicial proceeding, from within this state or another jurisdiction, that violates this section is void and unenforceable.

So what do we do now - require Karyotypes before marriage? Any woman, even if she's a biological mother, who has any amount of 46xy or 47xxy chromosomes is now male. And any man, even a biological father with a translocated Sry complex and 46xx chromosomes is now a woman.

Not forgetting the common-or-garden 46xx or 46xy post-operative transsexuals, of course.

Or maybe not : maybe this means that a large number of people - in fact, pretty much anyone whose body does not match their chromosomes, are now neither a Man nor a Woman, and so are to be denied the human right of marriage to anyone, not even "one of their own kind". A male adult human being who is not a man. A female adult human being who is not a woman.

No matter if any of the above have been married for years in another jurisdiction, now their marriage is to be invalid in California.

Many people affected by this - and quite possibly some of those most in favour of it - could be Intersexed and not know it.