Wednesday, October 28, 2015

The Messy Business of Gender and Our Kids

If you're like "lol caitlyn is bruce still because birth" you should probably read this - I took the time to write it and everyone can use some interesting science knowledge that's written so simply Dahlia could teach it to Escher. And it's pretty hilarious in parts, so that's the hook.


Let's have a talk about sex determination. In mammals (that's us, dudes), there are two processes (sequential in nature) that determine the overall sex/gender of a developing fetus. Primary sex determination starts vaguely happening after approximately four weeks of fetal development. Rudimentary structures that will form gonads start to form. At week 7 of fetal development, XYs start to sprout two different sex parts: the testicular cord and interstitial region. XXs don't develop distinguished ladyjunk until later. This shit is all determined by genes, though the introduction of serious doses of endocrine disruptors can totally override the sequence of events that make Boys and Girls, per se. So that's one step, and it can be altered. There are things OTHER than XX ("girl") and XY ("boy"). In fact, there's XXX, XXXX, XXXXX, XXXXY, XXY (Klinefelter), Non-Klinefelter XXY, Turner syndrome (X without Y, but considered female), XX male syndrome (considered male but very small significance of male sex characteristics), XXXY, XXYY, XYY, and Y chromosome microdeletion.

Secondary sex determination is a far more messy experience: Early in development, the effects of testosterone and AMH (a hormone) cause Wolffian ducts to develop into a vas deferens and other boyparts. If there isn't a whole lotta testosterone or AMH, the Wolffian ducts shrivel up, causing Müllerian ducts to develop into the female fallopian tubes, uterus, cervix, and upper vagina. But as we all should know from taking ANY SCIENCE WHATSOEVER, that doesn't always happen perfectly. Some males lack a pee-tube, balls, or sperm creation. Some females lack any one of the ladyparts required for babymaking. Some have both. Some have neither. COMPLETELY FUCKING SEPARATE FROM THIS, there is the idea of gender identity. No matter how supremely uncomfortable it may make you... every individual - because we're living in 20-fucking-15, has the ability to shape and put forth their own goddamn gender identity. At birth we are not granted a special crown that tells us For The Rest of Your Life, You Have to do All Boy Things (or All Girl Things). We all have intersex brains, most of us produce BOTH estrogen and testosterone (unless you have a genetic mutation that prevents it), and we are all capable of doing everything each other does, in the physical realm (except baby things, but not everyone has kids anyway). We can even fashion new genitals with surgery. So to sit there and say SEX IS STATIC CHROMOSOMES DETERMINE IT THE END is like saying "okay everyone named Kristi has to be a stripper and can do nothing else in life. Everyone named Ashley has to..." blah blah blah. It's archaic, shortsighted, ridiculous, and it should probably bring shame on your family.

So how does this relate to the upbringing of children? Entirely. No child should be forced to fit in a gender box, especially when it's the last thing they want. Phrases like "ugh, you're such a tomboy, can't you be more girlie?" and "stop being a girl and crying so much, be a man, son!" have NO place in raising children. People who use religion to uphold these ridiculous ideals are hugely at fault for many problems foisted unnecessarily on young people navigating puberty. In an already difficult and ever-changing world, let your child develop without gender expectations. They will fully realize their own gender at some point in their life, and respect their decision. I saw the show Sense8 the other day, and the character Nomi (who is trans) was repeatedly berated and called Michael against her wishes by her overbearing and frankly SHITTY mother. Don't be that person. If you need help, ask. I am personally living with the same gender identity as my corresponding sex at birth - but I have plenty of friends who aren't, and that's okay. For the most part, though I cannot speak for the entire community as I am not a member, trans people are sick of the concept that they should be treated as lesser-than by the morally superior (in their mind) segment of society that believes you cannot change your sex or gender - so forcing the idea won't make it more comfortable or lovely for us to all coexist peacefully and respectfully.

Sunday, September 13, 2015

If you rape a prostitute, is it just shoplifting?

Original Sun Times article here.

Mary Mitchell, who seems like she would be my archnemesis, from some of the more uninspired and alarmist soccer mom tweets and articles she puts forth into the world (e.g. her gem of a tweet on July 15, 2015: I like to enjoy art, not be shocked by it.), wrote an opinion piece which posited that a sex worker who was raped at gunpoint shouldn't have been considered a rape victim, at least not on par with a girl who was raped during a home invasion, because she was asking for it. As if there weren't a shortage of cheap-shot jokes about "dead hookers" and shoplifting rape. I attempted to go to the comments to write a response, but there wasn't a field for it.

So, I'll post what I would have written, here:
First, what you MEAN is - Tom Dart waged a war on business transactions that should, for every reason, be perfectly legal. If you can sell your hair and plasma, and rent the space in your uterus for nine months - all legally - there's absolutely no reason someone who may give away sex for free should be banned from the sale of it. This is 2015, the Draconian laws on sex should start reflecting that. Ridiculous.

Second, your analogy fails. If a boxer goes to meet a fellow fighter and that other person ambushes him and beats him to death, you wouldn't suggest that his death is "lesser than" someone who was beaten to death who had never been in a fight. You wouldn't say a firefighter that stepped in to help put out a fire in a restaurant that resulted in something falling from the ceiling and killing him "lesser than" someone who died in a fire in their sleep.

This sort of divisive writing is spurious; it's ACTUALLY a joke. The punchline to rape apologist frat boy jokes ("is it shoplifting if you rape a hooker" hur hur hur). Lazy journalism. Furthermore, Tom Dart and his sex worker war are as pathetic as this piece. Get over it, Chicago. If someone can legally meet someone, have dinner bought for them, receive flowers, and then have sex with their admirer - there's zero reason they can't have a more direct cash transaction and skip the nonsense. Especially WOMEN who denigrate other women who engage in sex for pay seem like they're jealous they've had to give sex away all these years. Must be because I have no interest in it that my attitude is "treat all sex workers as people, perhaps they'll be seen as such by society, and they'll stop ending up face-down in ditches with bullet holes in their heads."

You're GRATEFUL that he wasn't charged with "snatching" an "innocent" woman off the street? How sick are you? This woman was RAPED at GUNPOINT and you're reserving judgment of HER rather than her attacker? It's at this point that the phrase "rape culture" seems especially poignant when you'd rather demonize a VICTIM than her ATTACKER. Get some psychological help re: your unresolved issues with women being able to turn a profit on sex. And until then, do yourself and everyone else a favor and don't write about it. Embarrassing.  

Hopefully I'll live to see an age where sex workers can engage in legal business enterprise in Chicago. If you look at it neutrally, their service is ONLY beneficial. It isn't even akin to drugs, where one can make the argument that their usage is harmful and addiction is crippling. It's sex. When paid for, at least it's satisfying. At most, it's therapeutic. That women are legally compelled to give all sex away for free that they engage in, is borderline fascism. It's bad enough they aren't allowed full reproductive freedom, at least legalize the commercial utility of their vagina.

And I'm going to say something, now. By the end of the article, the reader is propositioned FOUR TIMES to "follow" Mary Mitchell.

Would it really be stalking if someone followed you to your house and pointed a gun in your face?

I mean, you were asking for it.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Discrimination - Kenneth Rexroth

I don’t mind the human race.
I’ve got pretty used to them
In these past twenty-five years.
I don’t mind if they sit next
To me on streetcars, or eat
In the same restaurants, if
It’s not at the same table.
However, I don’t approve
Of a woman I respect
Dancing with one of them. I’ve
Tried asking them to my home
Without success. I shouldn’t
Care to see my own sister
Marry one. Even if she
Loved him, think of the children.
Their art is interesting,
But certainly barbarous.
I’m sure, if given a chance,
They’d kill us all in our beds.
And you must admit, they smell.

** Kenneth Rexroth is my spirit animal.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Birth Announcement for Escher! (uhm, only 9 days late, no big deal).

Escher Aemilius Keorkunian-Rivers burst forth (quite literally) from my body at 7:46AM on November 2nd, 2014. He weighed 6lbs 14oz, and was 21" long. He was purple, covered in vernix (goop), and silent. This caused his normally very stoic father to damn near panic, as he considered the possibility Escher didn't make it through the birth process. I forgot to mention to him that babies are sometimes a cute little lilac color when they come out, and they don't immediately scream, as he wasn't present for Dahlia's actual birth.

The birth process started at Midnight on Halloween - well, actually, I had my membrane stripped a few days prior to birth, so that allegedly started the process, but for the purpose of inducing me, that started at 12AM on 10/31. I was sure we were going to have a Halloween baby on our hands, but he decided to wait 57 hours to be officially born. At 1:30AM on Day 1, I had a cervical softener (prostaglandin) put in place. After waiting 12 hours with no discernible progress, they inserted a cervical squeezer (one balloon full of saline in my uterus, one balloon full of saline outside of my cervix) to try to dilate me further. That started the contractions, but did not do much to dilate. Pitocin was added at this point, which made the contractions even stronger. Somewhere between 24 and 48 hours in, I caved and got an epidural (95% because Escher's heart rate was getting in the danger-zone every time I got a contraction, and 5% because the contractions were exhausting and seemed like they would never yield a higher dilation, only tiring pain). Ironically, this was the most painful part of the delivery, and in fact, I ended up crying, which is incredibly unlike me, as I am usually the bared-teeth warrior birther - but... I felt the needle scraping against my spine as it went in. The local anasthetic wasn't very helpful (or maybe it would have been even worse?). Apparently I was sitting crooked, which didn't make the process any easier. I joke the the worst part of birth is the IV and epidural, but, uhh, it's really not that much of a joke. I fucking hate IVs, and the actual procedure of being epidural'd. Contractions are bad, but if they weren't so long-lasting and exhausting to the point of not being able to push properly, I'd do birth au naturelle. I did get a catheter, though, which I love. Having to pee in a hospital is no easy task, dragging long IV carts along to the bathroom, navigating around wires and whatnot... it's all obnoxious and fragile. Not to mention the possibility of banging my IV port on random crap on the way to the water closet, which I did twice. Even recalling the IV-banging incident NOW is enough to make me shudder. I cannot express enough how much I hate IVs.

As I got closer to the birth point, they popped my water. There wasn't much to report, but I was in a haze and Rick was getting food so I don't recall exactly what they said about it. The epidural started to get weaker, and I started to feel every contraction again, which caused Escher's heart rate to become dangerously high - so they started to check my progress more carefully at the end. I was also fitted with an oxygen mask, which ironically made me feel like I was being very slowly suffocated. Since I had been in labor for a long time, they felt the need to add more water to my uterus, as I had gotten another dose of epidural fluid, so Escher's heart rate started to dip into the 90s. They figured the added fluid would help him (which it seemed to). The only problem with it, was that the fluid never leaked out of the catheter tube, so it just pooled in my uterus, on the bottom left side, and felt so intensely painful that I was sure my uterus was doomed to rupture.

About an hour and a half before Escher catapulted out of my vagina, I was asked to start pushing, just to see if I'd get further dilated from 8 to 10. Not much happened, so the doctor briefly left. She came back half an hour later, and announced I should start pushing. So, I did. Ten seconds of pushing, one intake breath, ten more seconds of pushing, one intake breath, ten final seconds of pushing. I had to remove the oxygen mask at one point, because I literally could not get enough breath to sustain my consciousness (the O2 wasn't being pumped into the mask fast enough for how I was breathing). For about twenty minutes, I had my legs up in the stirrups, but then my doctor informed me that I should drop my legs down and lay on my side. So I actually gave birth out of stirrups, keeled over to the left. Nurses held my legs, Rick held my hand, and Dr. Bernardo held my baby. An hour after the pushing began, Escher exploded out of me in a gush of amniotic replacement fluid, blood, and general gross. I pushed out the placenta shortly after, while he was receiving an APGAR score, and I was informed that I was one of the best, most patient patients ever. I'd never seen my husband look so afraid, but once it was established that the baby was healthy and fine, he was quite relieved.

And with that, Escher was born!

Monday, September 22, 2014

Running Away to a Commune!

Okay, that was a joke title. More like "diligently researching and carefully selecting what will hopefully be an appropriate commune."

You see, my son will be born soon. I want him to grow up in an atmosphere that I've always wanted to be a part of, growing up; people and children co-existing and interacting in a loving, supportive environment. I've always wished for a place to belong. A sense of community - family. A place of peace and comfort. Where communication is abundant and screaming is rare. Knowing and negotiating expectations, mitigating disappointments. A place of dancing, musicality, and joy. Where people don't feel excessively bound to cultural norms to the point of sacrificing their own dreams or desires to do what's merely expected of them, but they can flourish. I hope it is a growing experience for me, and I know my husband will learn quite a bit. Dahlia has been in a basic state of pure excitement, more or less, since I told her I was pregnant. Since she's 7, and happy about new things, I'm sure the transition will be much easier than some of the other ones we've been through, and there will be kids on the other side of this one. I have favored communal living since I was a child, and in fact, I've lived in a couple of them along the way (either hackerspace-type anarchist communes in Chicago - with the likes of Jeremy Hammond and his twin, Jason, or in the shared estates/homes of relatives). Always temporarily, as I was just "too busy" to make the commitment to moving there for a longer stay. I like the idea of working in a collective - doing new and strange, difficult and bizarre things.  I've always just joined up in things and made stuff happen, rather than swimming through the bureaucracy of the corporate world in its current iteration - and then left when the projects ended. But I'm ready for the longer haul, now. And more than willing.

I don't consider myself a hippie, at all. Despite this, I am hopelessly in love with drum circles, festivals, being barefoot, incense, tie-dye, henna, hemp products as viable building materials, being a vegetarian for the love of animals, making jewelry, moon cups, camping, homeschooling, essential oils (especially coconut, which is in all of my company's products!), occult stores, DIY-ing as much as possible, basically everything except free love and pot - but if you engage in that, cool. I'm not bothered; it's just not my thing.

Probably the main reason I cannot, in good conscience, give myself a title from Hippiedom, is because of my political alignment. I'm an anarchist, right, but not that kind. I'm the free market variety - the black sheep of the anarchist movement. I think monetary exchange for both the management and production of goods and services, as well as the purchasing of those products by consumers as a pretty cool option. I'm not saying it always works perfectly, or that it's The Best System Forever, but I'm just saying I support the idea (in a stateless society, of course!). But, before you start making assumptions, I would like to inform you of three things about myself, all of which are true:

  • 1. I do not support Ayn Rand, Ron Paul, or anything Tea Party related. 
  • 2. I do not believe in a system that supports the eradication of any type of anarchist (or other system of choice), anarcho-communists or -syndicalists, -socialists or anything of the sort. However, I've heard other sorts of anarchists wishing they could ban my ideology, which kind of hurts my feelings, actually. I believe in the freedom to choose your own community, based on your desires and shared ideals, if that is what you want, regardless of setup. People should be free to make their own choices, even "bad" ones.
  • 3. While I am fine with libertarian brutalists (though not a fan), I would not personally practice or adhere to basically anything they believe, in a "versus humanitarian libertarian" way. 
So how can a proponent of capitalism or similar adjacent system possibly be okay within a socialist commune? Easy. I like sharing, and finding common ground. My common ground is that I like to live among people, I love farming and/or gardening, production, business, sustainability, and creating good times. So do the socialists of the communes. As long as we're not quibbling over possible details of a far-off stateless society, we'll get along brilliantly. I don't usually like to quibble. The only brand I enjoy is gentle volleying with my ulra-utilitarian husband over the merits and importance of aesthetic beauty and art in the lives of every human being. He's science. I'm art. Sometimes, like over MC Escher, we meet in the middle!

So I'm checking out a bunch of communes now, mostly in Missouri (though I haven't discounted other places), and hopefully I'll be able to find one that's great for our family. I'm kind of nervous about the embarkation process, but I'm starting to view it as a similar sort of thing my ancestors went through in coming to America from Jordan/Jerusalem/Czechoslovakia/Moravia/Austria (depending on the line). A whole new world, a whole new life. That sort of thing. Cross your fingers for us!

Friday, June 20, 2014

Hookin' Ain't Easy.

At 19:56, Thaddeus Russell starts discussing prostitutes. Here I begin to realize something: it strikes me as strange that sex workers are considered "lower class" by most american women, either as a "last resort" profession, or a "pre-med profession" - either way at the expense of (or a prelude to) doing something "more worthwhile"... but historically prostitutes and brothel-owning women were walking firecrackers who would kick anyone's ass that tried to hold them to an unfair moral standard. The idea that a woman who owned herself and her body could make a profit from the products or services involving it was revolutionary. These brave women endured such hardship and turmoil, and now people have the audacity to trivialize their role in the turn of history in favor of women. I find it supremely ironic when women who dress in a revealing fashion (cleavage everywhere and short everything) will complain about prostitutes taking the "easy" job - and they're being "just whores." These hypocritical ladies, too, capitalize on their body's attributes - but do not charge a premium for it, and then dog the wise ladies who do make such a decision. I am not personally a prostitute, if you're wondering, I choose to be in a monogamous relationship with my husband - but I come from two generations of "street-walkers" on one side of my family and never understood the stigma. I've worked for and been involved with both the NCSF and SWOP-Chicago. I have written scathing articles about the johns registry in Chicago, and I've worked extensively with sex workers to try to ease up some of the unfair treatment they suffer at the hands of "well-meaning" law enforcement (who do more harm than good). In the end, if you are a consenting adult and someone wishes to buy a sexual experience from you, that is nobody's business but the two people in the transaction, and nobody should say anything about it. Period!