philosofunk

what if the worlds/were a series of steps/what if the steps/joined back at the margin


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What Transgenderism Is Part 2

In my last post, “What Transgenderism Is” I mistakenly stated that it is not viewed as a mental illness. It is called “Gender Identity Disorder” because it is viewed as a disruption of functional life, thus it is a disorder and classified in the DSM-5. I am unsure if I object to this classification. On one hand, if transgender individuals are classified as a mental ill, then they are afforded certain unique protections under the law. This could be positive for the transgender community. At the same time, it is questionable as to whether being transgender is actually a disorder, or if the greater nonacceptance society has bestowed on transgender individuals is the reason for the disruption and possible dysfunction in their lives.


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What Transgenderism Is

Today I was surfing Reddit.com when I found an excellent thread called “ELI5 [explain like I’m 5]: How are transgendered individuals different from other dissociative disorders?”. Oh boy, I thought, there is so much ignorance in that one small statement. I am a person who has a hard time remembering that ignorance  does not always equate meanness or small mindedness, it just means a person doesn’t understand certain concepts or lacks all the facts or hasn’t done the research to properly articulate a point on a certain subject. I am ignorant to certain topics, such as car mechanics, but that does not mean I am not intelligent. So, I had to take a minute to remember that just because this person severely lacked an understanding of mental illness and gender identity does not mean that they are being intentionally malicious. They started the question like this:

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So this person is familiar with certain mental health terms but has a poor understanding of what they mean or how they are applicable in the real world. This was important for me to note, because “the more I think about it. The more it makes zero logical sense” was an indicator to me that this person doesn’t really think about things outside their own perspective, and is hopefully operating on a smartphone because their grammar is horrific. From point one, it is important to remember that a solipsistic perspective is one that has incredible difficulty imagining the other side.

It is important to note that transgenderism is not a mental illness. Body dysmorphic disorder has nothing to do with transgenderism, dissociative identity disorder does not either. Body dysmorphic disorder is when a person obsesses over perceived flaws with their body. This is different from being transgender because having the social and physical identity of the wrong gender is not a perceived flaw, it is an identity expression that exists on a larger scale than is widely accepted by heternormative society. For transgendered individuals, something isn’t incorrectly perceived, there really is something wrong with the discrepancy between the identity they had accumulated versus the identity they feel comfortable with. People with body dysmorphic disorder often have the perception that they have fat where there is none, for example, something which has little to nothing to do with identity. Dissociative identity disorder is when a person has more than one personality states, which means they can become confused, withdrawn, or apathetic to their surroundings when they are in an altered state, that being the other personality. It is not like what Hollywood has typically portrayed the illness as, a person with a bunch of wild personalities going crazy. It is more likely that a person experiencing an episode of disassociation would become markedly different in attitude, rather than a sudden bout of ranting and raving. Certainly, a transgendered individual can have both these illnesses but neither is the cause of being transgendered.

A redditor (user or Reddit.com) more or less explained this point:

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Unfortunately, this did not fully clarify the point for the inquisitor:

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It is important to look at the number of “points” this received because it is indicative of how cis-gendered people view this issue. On reddit.com a member can up-vote something if it adds to the discussion, or down-vote something if it does not add value to the discussion. Sometimes dumber things can get up-voted depending on the relevancy to the reddit.com culture. This post got up-voted 52 times, meaning at least fifty-two people shared similar sentiments. This is a medium up-vote, its not hundreds and certainly not thousands like some posts get, but its enough to indicate that this is a shared feeling among cis-gendered people enough to not get down-voted like it would in queer circles or academic circles.

It is also important to read the last paragraph thoroughly. The poster says “it really bothers me that people are taking their own lives when they are such great people”, so this person is admitting that they feel no malice against transgendered folk, and that they just really do not understand what transgendered people are going through. Since there is no way to listen to tone on internet posts, so the last sentence can either seem condescending or genuinely confused depending on the reader’s internal reading voice.

Panda-pup has a fantastic explanation for sparkreason:

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It is a calm, comprehensive rebuttal. Transgendered individuals do not enter into altered states nor do they imagine things about their body to be true that are not. They soberly have understood something about the discrepancy between biological sex and socialized gender, and that they are not personally part of the heternormative gender binary that has been traditionally presented as normal. In fact, there are many genders and gender expressions like there are sexualities and sexual expression. For example, a person can be hetero-romantic and bisexual, or homo-romantic and pansexual. A person can have a penis and be a woman, this is a difficult thing for some people to understand because we have been taught to believe that biological sex and gender are the exact same thing. To live as a woman or to live as a man is definitely a lifestyle choice, they are not the same type of life. Obviously being human we have things in common, but there are clear differences in the identity of a woman versus the identity of a man, including masculine women and feminine men. To be genderqueer, or a clear combination of masculine and feminine qualities, or androgynous, or a clear ambiguity of masculine and feminine qualities, is also a clear lifestyle and identity choice. To be cis-gendered is for your biological sex to match your prescribed gender, which is what the majority of people are. However, there is logical and reasonable explanations to having a transgender or gender fluid identity.


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Rethinking “Serial”

I love documentaries and true crime. “Serial” was a compelling podcast because it was based on a real life tragedy with elements of deception, love, sex, betrayal, and at the height of its success was dramatically relayed to 2.2 million people. On this blog I originally and uncritically went along with Sarah Koenig’s conclusion that it was reasonable to believe that Adnan was innocent and had been a victim to a great barrage of deception on the famed story changer Jay’s part. It was a stylized story, a sexy story as storytelling goes because of how well Koenig got the story to flow. It was compelling, surprising, and disturbing at the same time. As was reflected with this combination, people love stories that are woven tales of the complex intricacies of real life. With Adnan, Koenig found a relatively likable character who was charismatic and intelligent. However, after a few months of listening to “Serial” sporadically after listening to it relatively non-stop for days on end over the course of a few weeks during the winter, my perspective on Adnan’s innocence to one of guilt and how the techniques Koenig employed effected the overall point of view of Adnan’s innocence.

By far, women are more likely to know their violent attacker rather than experiencing violence from a stranger. While in my other blog post I flirted with the plausible idea that there could have been a serial killer who was targeting Asian women, it is statistically more likely that Hae knew her attacker and that he was or had been an intimate partner. That is why Adnan and Don were initially suspects. While listening to the podcast after the shiny sensationalism faded away, I noticed that Koenig uses this to stir the audience against the police and to create sympathy for how Adnan must have felt to be falsely accused by these two police who did nothing but just look at him. She finds other people to corroborate this perspective, notably a lawyer named Dierdre Enright who runs an innocence project at the University of Virginia School of Law. While Diedre Enright makes some legitimately construcitvely critical statements about the investigation into Adnan’s guilt, notably Jay’s inconsistencies and the lack of hardcore physical evidence, there are still things Koenig does to gloss over some of  the aspects of the case that look badly for Adnan.

However, while Adnan is talking, there are points where it feels like he is too slick to not be lying. When Koenig confesses to having feelings that she and Adnan are friends, he balks and exclaims that she barely knows him. Koenig doesn’t understand, saying that she has talked to him for probably more hours than she has other people she most certainly considers friends. This always struck me because of how poorly Koenig demonstrates she doesn’t understand Adnan’s life. For Adnan, he never escapes the people he lives with, he is constantly around other people as the result of being stuck in prison. He knows who his friends are and are not in prison. Koenig also notes that he does not tell her about any violence in the prison, probably more likely because it is not his business to spread the instances of violence rather than the idea that there aren’t any instances, which is what Koenig infers. There is some naivete to Koenig, she appeals to the white liberal idea that people who say that they were framed were indeed framed, and that the reality that is presented is the truth. Perhaps its how she manipulates the media she uses to tell a tale that ends up being sympathetic to Adnan that makes me take this perspective about her, but she seems too eager to believe Adnan that nothing other than the conclusion of “Serial” where she states she believes in his innocence is possible.

There is also what could be infinitely referred to as “The Jay Problem” and that is figuring how the ever elusive and slick Jay with his differing accounts of what happened on the day in question. Why does he do things like change the name of a mall they allegedly went to, is he correcting himself or making it up? Koenig presents Jay as a villain in the podcast, she casts him in with the prosecution and police that went after the presumptuously innocent Adnan. The point that just because a story changes doesn’t mean the truth isn’t revealed is thrown out in the “Serial” podcast. There is a curious question as to why Jay would frame Adnan. In my previous post, I posited that it may have something to do with drugs, that perhaps there was a deal Jay and Adnan were making and Hae saw, and was killed, and that somehow the convoluted stories that Jay came up with were a way of protecting the drug source. For all I know, my theory is as likely as the one I am positing now, which is that it is fairly likely that Adnan killed Hae and Jay is just getting the story wrong for reasons of being nervous, or stoned, or mixing up his days and times and the simple process of being human getting in the way of having the story go smoothly. Jay did admit to participating in the disturbing act of witnessing the burial of the murdered body of a friend. However, maybe that is why he came clean in the end and using a patchwork of the stories he told to be the truth of the day in question, ended up revealing what happened to Hae.

The courts are taking another look at this case soon. Hopefully something constructive will be revealed.


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Queerism and Love

Earlier in this blog I introduced a social concept I had come up with during my time studying philosophy and LGBTQ issues: queerism. As it stands, my deceleration on queerism stands as: “I believe that queerism, as opposed to feminism, is needed as a national discourse because the recognition of genders and sexes other than the male/female binary will literally, quantifiably result in less violence in our society and lead to a more authentic, liberated identity expression that is actually more in align with what is natural, contrary to how we have been conditioned to recognize as true.” I wondered back in March, though, if I couldn’t include some kind of extra theory about love into the queerist definition.

Love is perhaps the most speculated, investigated, questioned, feared, and hoped for part of human existence. The feeling of love, real love that is about knowing and accepting another person for who and what they are, is a feeling all of us are either after or in revolt against. True love, truly dedicated love can change the course of lives. Love is also not simply an easy thing despite it feeling so natural, sometimes we must be willing to make great sacrifices for love if indeed that is what we are committed to doing.

After cleaning my room recently I found a New York Times article about a pair of star-crossed lovers in Afghanistan, Zakia and Mohammad who were forced to chose between each other and the tradition of their notoriously conservative society. After choosing each other, “the young couple had faced criminal charges and death threats after eloping and fleeing their village in the high mountains of central Afghanistan last year. Now they have had their legal issues resolved and their marriage legally recognized”. Most Afghanis have arranged marriages out of respect for tradition and keeping tribal bonds strong. In order to succeed with going against the grain of their conservative society, Zakia and Mohammad had to prioritize what was most important in their lives, and they both chose each other. However, triumph did not come without tribulation. After fleeing their families and then returning to their village, Mohammad was confronted with a gun and a knife and chased through the potato fields by Zakia’s brother. They’ve faced social repercussions that have made getting work difficult, and now with a baby, receive relief from “an anonymous benefactor in the United States who had read about their plight and sent them $1,000 via Western Union to help care for their baby.”

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Zakia and Mohammad qualified under international law for refugee status in order to escape the hardship of their situation in Afghanistan, however, they chose not to go that route. People are eligible for refugee status if they face “a serious threat to their lives based on discrimination because of gender, race, religion, ethnicity, and choice of spouse”. Zakia personally experienced an extension of rape culture by her own male relatives due to choosing Mohammad, she “never goes out at all, for fear that she might encounter someone from her own large family. her fathers and brothers publicly vowed to kill her and Mohammad Ali when they eloped”. Believing the female body to be an extension of the familial bond and/or public property and therefore a necessary thing to control is a form of rape culture. That Zakia’s male relatives could chose to end her life for her pursuit of romance, love, and sexual satisfaction is a form of the control rape culture employs and encourages. Queerism by definition must fight against rape culture because rape culture presents a direct threat to trans bodies. Many people hear about transwomen being murdered because “he found out she was a he” (to say it in a disgusting heteronormative manner) at some point during courtship or sexual encounter and then, in a rage, killed another human being out of issues revolving around convoluted notions of masculinity and dominance. For many years, murderers walked free because of the “gay panic defense” or the heteronormative solipsistic defense strategy to employ as many homophobic notions concerning the idea of proper male sexual attitudes against the murder victim. Sadly, one state in the nation, California, has banned the defense in 2014. It is shocking how badly transpeople are treated by the criminal justice system, but it is only a reflection of how badly they are treated in greater society.

While not a queer relationship, Zakia and Mohammad’s tale fits within the paradigm of the need for queerism because of the issues surrounding the rules of love in their society. Two people who the world tries to keep a part for reasons of socialized rules and regulations that are only as real as people make them need queerism because by definition queerism recognizes the legitimacy of love that is not viewed as an acceptable norm or even questioned on the legitimacy of the norm. For example, how could a straight man love a transwoman while knowing that that person used to be a man? To many in the heteronormative solipsistic world, it would be a demonstration that the straight man is not as masculine as he could be, and that the transwoman will never “really” be a woman. But for people who understand queerism, they recognize that the straight man is as masculine as he ever is, and that the woman he is involved with is a woman, and that there is no problem here anyway because it really isn’t anyone’s business except the two people involved in the relationship. Queerism grants autonomy and legitimacy to all consensual adult relationships without the societal pressures of aligning with norms of that culture.

Zakia and Mohammad represent a time old conundrum of love and injustice, which is that the most perfect person for you can bring you such pleasure while only to have societal norms and cultural customs screech with indignation at the boldness of your actions. It is an unfair and harsh world. One of the only points of peace for a person is intimacy and love. Part of realizing the ugliness of the world is understanding that there are people, cultural customs, and societal norms that will stand in the way of the one universal thing that will give people comfort. Queerism stands to fight against that in whatever form it takes.


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Light Summer Reading: The Politics of Heroin

I read often and read a variety of fiction and non-fiction, it is one of my passions. Thick, juicy books are a particular favorite because of the offering that this book can take a person for a wild ride for awhile. These books also offer the feeling of a monumental achievement when they’re finally finished, and a sadness occupies the reader knowing that their book is over, the story is now known, the journey is through. This summer’s thick book selection is Alfred W. McCoy’s The Politics of Heroin: CIA Complicity in the Global Drug Trade, a thoroughly juicy book that documents the global heroin trade from the 1920s to the early 2000s. McCoy was a graduate student who compiled first hand accounts of the international heroin trade from military officers, government officials, drug dealers, drug traffickers, and other academics. It is a comprehensive and detailed work, something to be admired considering the depth and scope of the work on a particularly dangerous trade. McCoy admittedly started out somewhat naive and had to learn rapidly how to navigate the underground world of the heroin business while gathering accurate information from people who had great reason to keep their secrets private. What McCoy found was that the CIA was not only complicit, but took leadership in the opium and heroin industry on an international scale. From page xvi of the preface, McCoy writes:

By now I was certain the the CIA’s Air America was transporting opium for its Hmong hill tribe allies. I knew too that somebody in the CIA station had good reason to stop my research. After all, if it were just a matter of a few soldiers smuggling tribal opium on a few flights, why the ambush? Why the death threats? Clearly, I had to look beyond the villages to explore involvement in the upper echelons of the Lao military. One source, an American police adviser, hinted that the chief-of-staff of the Royal Lao army, General Ouane Rattikone, owned the laboratory that was producing the “Double U-O Globe” heroin brand then flooding U.S. Army camps in South Vietnam. But I needed confirmation. And it could only come from one source, General Ouane himself. 

As a result of his investigation into the CIA’s role within the global heroin trade, McCoy was harassed and the publication of his book was nearly censored by the American government:

Claiming that my book was a threat to national security, the CIA official had asked Harper & Row to suppress it. To his credit, Mr. Canfield had refused. but he had agreed to allow the agency to review the manuscript prior to publication

Defeated in the public arena, the CIA turned to covert means, tugging at every thread in the threadbare life of a graduate student. Over the coming months, CIA agents in Laos intimidated my sourced. HEW investigated my graduate school fellowship. The FBI tapped my phone. The IRS audited my poverty-level income. during these difficult days, New York Congressman Ogden Reid, a ranking member of the House Foreign Relations Committee, telephoned to say that he was sending his investigators to Laos to look into the opium situation. (xxi)

Most of the reason of CIA involvement with the international heroin trade has to do with pandering to rebels within politically volatile situations where the CIA needs to make positive relations with rebels in order to achieve American interests. For instance, in order to defeat the political reach of communism in Europe, the CIA teamed with Corsican crime syndicates who were sophisticated international heroin smugglers:

The CIA, through its contacts with the Socialist party, had sent agents and a psychological warfare team to Marseille, where they dealt directly with Corsican syndicate leaders through the Guerini brothers. The CIA’s operatives supplied arms and money to Corsican gangs for assaults on Communist picket lines and harassment of important union officials. During the month-long strike the CIA’s gangsters and the purged CRS police units murdered a number of striking workers and mauled the picket lines. (60)

The Guerinis gained enough power and status from their role in smashing the 1947 strike to emerge as the new leaders of the Corsican underworld. While the CIA was instrumental in restoring the Corsican underworld’s political influence, it was not until the 1950 dock strike that the Guerinis gained enough power to take control of the Marseille waterfront. This combination of political influence and control of the docks created the ideal environment for the growth of Marseille’s heroin laboratories-fortuitously at the same time that Mafia boss Lucky Luciano was seeking an alternative supply of heroin. (61)

The book goes on to document American involvement in the Vietnamese, Afghani, Central American, and Colombian drug trade. This clearly stands in stark contrast to American domestic and foreign policy that endorses the total and complete prohibition of narcotic substances. In order to protect capitalist interests of the first world, the CIA supported a trade that was illegal by American law. With this the theme of the book, the Kantian view of the law is extremely applicable when investigating American complicity within the international heroin trade. It is extremely disturbing that the government can operate as a completely hypocritical about as something as serious as opium and heroin. While endorsing a backwards policy of prohibition, something that serves neither the addict nor the public, the CIA has furthered a dangerous substance that needs proper regulation and restrictions in order to have a more honest view of how to police drugs in order to have an effectively functional relationship to something as dysfunctional as addiction.


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soft machine cut up

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William S. Burroughs is arguably my favorite author, mostly due to the fact that I knew more about him before I read his writing due to reading the tragic tale of Billy Burroughs Jr., his sad whose story of epic proportions is both a compelling and depressing example of what lackadaisical parenting can bestow on a person. Billy was always looking for his strung out father, his absent father who could not connect, his father who was once described as having a reptilian repertoire who brought him to the fantastically dark Tangiers of the 1950s, the father who was such an outlaw of American morality, the one who professed to enjoying living in foreign slums rather than the suburban environment of Palm Beach, Florida. This is a man whose work is rather obscure, nearly unreadable at times. William S. Burrough’s work The Soft Machine is a hodgepodge of queer sex, references to his young Moroccan lover Kiki (an impoverished male prostitute), and bizarre ramblings of a dirty old man.  Whatever his age, at the end of the day Burroughs was a dirty old man.

Using his cut-up technique, I devised the following from The Soft Machine:

slower hours dripping down coming like machine guns she cocks polite flour films and some cloths. Milky warmly shitting himself under the noose spurt slow, flour flights in dirty brown Chinese jade. Face blurred sprouted semen identical in film smoke. FEd up with being in position he found the massive shadow. The warm smell, he walked said, before they get to respectfully covered his gun. Broker police pumped Japanese wrestler flopped in the sun. Within an earshot broken sex bloody green jelly strapped on spasmodically “i’ll get mine later” he pulls aside curtains.


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Bitch Better Have My Marijuana Money

Currently obsessed with Rihanna’s “Bitch Better Have My Money”, the title of this article comes from the title of the song based on a tragic life event of epic financial proportions, “Bitch Better Have My Money” stems from Riri’s real life dealings with a shady financial dealer. The video is insane and looks like it cost a pretty penny to have made:

Like a lot of people in the world, I worry about money for a number of personal reasons. Like a lot of millennials, when I’m relaxing at home in my bed letting my mind wander, sometimes it stumbles on the “oh my fucking god I’m going to get old” moments. These can be happy imaginings, like how beautiful and sweet my grandchildren will be someday, or terrifying and distressing like what the hell is going to happen when social security collapses? How am I going to live when I am old and decrepit? Why am I not doing something to make money that I love doing? Then, I read about something how Colorado made fifty three million dollars in legal marijuana as of February 2015.

New York also likes to pretend it has legal weed. It does not, it has non-smokable marijuana derived products that require a license to legally obtain. That is in no way shape or form marijuana reform progress nor is it something that should be considered legal weed. This is a legitimate problem, this is not an problem of immature people or people who refuse responsibility or quality of life. Obtaining marijuana is a normal problem for many millions of American adults. As Colorado demonstrates, huge cash flows are being diverted to black market economies which could be used more positively and in ways that directly benefit society.

I included the Rihanna video because the aesthetic is so pleasingly angry that an issue could be made over having to living your life with integrity and dignity. This person, this financial person, screwed her over despite that she contends she “calls the shots”. In our lives, whether or not we feel we do, we call the shots. It is my decision to spend my time and money on an illegal substance and quite possibly could suffer legal consequences because of the use of that prohibited substance. It is parallel to Kantian notions that law is essentially arbitrary and is not inherently moral because of it’s simple nature as law; law is law, it is not morality. It is not immoral to smoke marijuana, and due to such, to a degree, it is not necessarily immoral that I spend some of my money within the black market economy which does not officially benefit society due to the lack of a tax system. This is something that reasonable and responsible people should seek to quell the discrepancy of such a normalized part of life for so many millions of American marijuana users.