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Monday, May 23, 2016

You and Your Sexy Name -- Do You Have One of the Hottest?

 

Do you think you have a sexy first name? Could it be that your mom and dad were looking far into your future when they gave you such a name. Maybe they were thinking about how attractive to others your name would be, and it would eventually add to your appeal.

"Naming is dreaming," said Laura Wattenberg, founder of BabyName Wizard.com (a popular website among expectant parents) and author. She claims some parents look to the future when they name their child and decide whom they would like the child to be.

So, Wattenberg took five years and asked tens of thousands of visitors to her site to rate names for sexiness. The users could choose any of the roughly 40,0000 names in the site's "Namipedia" and rate it on a scale of 1 to 100.

"We wanted to be able to give our visitors a sense of how the name plays to other people," said Wattenberg. "We all carry around our own images of names based on our own personal experience. It's nice to get a different perspective without, say, running a poll."

(Laura Geggel. “Scarlett and Alessandro Top Sexiest Names List.” Live Science
February 24, 2015.)

So, respecting your need to know, here are the top 10 contenders for boys' and girls' names that shared a number of sexy characteristics:
  1. Boy name: Alessandro. Girl name: Scarlett.
  2. Lorenzo, Nicolette
  3. Rhett, Natalia
  4. Romeo, Anaïs
  5. Mateo, Paulina
  6. Dimitri, Alessandra
  7. Dane, Chanel
  8. Marcelo, Soraya
  9. Dante, Adrianna
  10. Rémy, Giuliana
Wattenberg said that exotic names topped the list. Here are some other “sexy' characteristics of the names that were chosen as sexiest:
  • The names have mostly American and English-speaking user base.
  • Americans still have the image of a Latin Lover – choosing Italian, Spanish, French, even Russian names.
  • The names have “an element of fantasy” – names that are chosen for lingerie brands or for perfumes
  • Most of the male names end in “o,” and many of the female names end in “a.”
  • Many of the female names have double letters – double letters evidently are sexier.
  • Added length may lend a name more elegance.
By the way, the research found that the least sexy names for girls were Gertrude, Bertha, Agnes, Ethel, and Mildred. And, for boys the least sexy were Bob, Ernest, Norman, Dick, and Howard.

Here's a name flash for those trying to choose an online dating screen name. According to new research published in Evidence Based Medicine, choosing a screen name that starts with a letter from the first half of the alphabet might be just as important.

Lead author Khalid S. Khan, associate editor of Evidence Based Medicine. found that having a screen name that starts with a letter from the latter half of the alphabet (N through Z) seriously hurts your chances of finding love online.

Why? Laziness and attention span. Dating sites typically list their search results in alphabetical order. Khan says his study confirms that the later your name appears in the alphabet, the more profiles other singles will scroll through before they get to yours (if they get there at all).

“There is something in human nature that draws us to those at the top of any listing and this phenomenon, though not fully explained, has an impact on online dating,” Khan says. “Perhaps we give higher value to things that appear to be at the top of the pile.”

Khan claims one study published in Economics of Education Revew confirmed that the earlier in the alphabet a student's name comes, the more likely they are to make it into competitive schools.

Another Georgetown study found that people with late-in-the-alphabet names are more likely to be impulse shoppers. Researchers think it's because they spent their childhoods at the back of the line, and they compensate by jumping fast at opportunities – even if they maybe shouldn't take them.

Khan says the name effect even influences what companies thrive – think Amazon and Apple.

(Aleisha Fetters. “Latest WTF Study: Your First Name Affects Your Love Life.” Women's Health. February 17, 2015.)

 

So, employing all of this useful knowledge, I've decided modify my first name Frank for full sexual appeal. I admit I am 65 years-old and way down on the scale of sexiness, but why not follow the Namipedia examples. Using the characteristics above, I have concluded that my new moniker must be Afrancolinno.

And to be save in all of those listing situations, I feel I must employ the first half of the alphabet strategy. Straight to the top for my new name. Make my surname A'Thompisono.

Yep, that's me – the new, improved, sexy me. Just call me Afrancolinno A'Thompisono. Now that has the ring of some long, serious assonance and alliteration. I don't think I have any Italian genes, but I do love pizza, spaghetti, and lasagna.

The Name by Alexander Pushkin
What is my name to you? 'T will die:
a wave that has but rolled to reach
with a lone splash a distant beach;
or in the timbered night a cry ...

'T will leave a lifeless trace among
names on your tablets: the design
of an entangled gravestone line
in an unfathomable tongue.

What is it then? A long-dead past,
lost in the rush of madder dreams,
upon your soul it will not cast
Mnemosyne's pure tender beams.

But if some sorrow comes to you,
utter my name with sighs, and tell
the silence: "Memory is true -
there beats a heart wherein I dwell."

Do You Know What Makes a Person Transgender? Exploring New Ground

 

Everyone has an opinion on transgender people. Arguments about who they are, what they think, what they do, and where they belong are now raging in almost every social media circle. One question dominates the conversation, and answers to this question frequently find their basis in religious beliefs or in personal opinion based on various environment factors. The question many want to know is “What makes a person transgender?”

Scientific theories of both psychological and biological causality have been forwarded. One cause held by many is childhood trauma – now that is widely disputed. In truth, no one knows exactly what makes someone transgender. We do know there are transgender children, not just transgender adults.

No one knows why children are transgender -- there are only theories. Through the first eight weeks of pregnancy, all fetuses' brains look exactly the same: female, nature's default position. Only after testosterone surges in the womb do male brains start to develop differently. Some scientists suggest that a hormone imbalance during this stage of development stamped the brains of transgender children with the wrong gender imprint.

Being transgender is not a disorder in itself: Treatment is considered only for transgender people who experience gender dysphoria — a feeling of intense distress that one's body is not consistent with the gender he or she feels they are, explains Walter Bockting, PhD, a clinical psychologist and co-director of the LGBT Health Initiative at Columbia University Medical Center.

Treatment? It has been standard practice to treat the client for any psychiatric conditions that might be present before starting a medical transition. After that, medical treatment may include hormone therapy to diminish unwanted secondary-sex characteristics and produce or enhance secondary-sex characteristics of the desired gender.

A 2011 study led by Colt Meier, a psychology doctoral candidate at the University of Houston (Journal of Gay & Lesbian Mental Health) showed that hormone therapy was associated with lower levels of depression, anxiety and stress, as well as increased quality of life in a sample of more than 400 transgender men.

(Eve Glickman. “Transgender Today.” American Psychological Association. April, 2013.)

But, Dr. Eric Vilain, assistant professor of human genetics and urology at the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA and a pediatrician at UCLA's Mattel Children's Hospital, found that hormones alone are not answers to why people have sexual identity issues. "Our findings may help answer an important question - why do we feel male or female?" Vilain believes sexual identity is rooted in every person's biology before birth and springs from a variation in our individual genome.

Vilain explained since the 1970s, scientists have believed that estrogen and testosterone were wholly responsible for sexually organizing the brain. In other words, a fetal brain simply needed to produce more testosterone to become male. Recent evidence, however, indicates that hormones cannot explain everything about the sexual differences between male and female brains.

"Our findings may explain why we feel male or female, regardless of our actual anatomy," said Vilain. "These discoveries lend credence to the idea that being transgender --- feeling that one has been born into the body of the wrong sex -- is a state of mind.“


"From previous studies, we know that transgender persons possess normal hormonal levels," he added. "Their gender identity likely will be explained by some of the genes we discovered."

Vilain's findings on the brain's sex genes may also ease the plight of parents of intersex infants, and help their physicians to assign gender with greater accuracy. Mild cases of malformed genitalia occur in 1 percent of all births - about 3 million cases. More severe cases - where doctors can't inform parents whether they had a boy or girl -- occur in one in 3,000 births. 

"If physicians could predict the gender of newborns with ambiguous genitalia at birth, we would make less mistakes in gender assignment," said Vilain.

(Eric Vilain. “Is Sexuality Hard-Wired by the Brain?“
Molecular Brain Research. October 2003.)

A new study cited in Psychological Science provides strong evidence that trans children's understanding of their own gender identities is indistinguishable from that of their nontrans (cisgender) peers and siblings.

Lead researcher Nicholas Eaton, Ph.D., of Stony Brook University and colleagues at the TransYouth Project say that the trans kids they studied showed a clear, deeply rooted understanding of what gender identity means, running counter to common assumptions that trans kids are "pretending" or "confused" about their gender.

"Across all these tasks, across the more and the less controllable measures of gender development, our transgender participants look just like other kids, but in the direction of their gender identity rather than their sex assigned at birth," said Dr. Eaton.

“The data reported in this paper should serve as further evidence that transgender children do indeed exist and that this identity is a deeply held one,” the researchers concluded.

(Nicholas R. Eaton, Kristina R. Olson, and Aidan C. Key. “Gender Cognition in TransgenderChildren” Psychological Science. April 15, 2015.)

 Candis Cayne is making TV history by becoming the first transsexual 
to play a transsexual on a primetime show.

Causes Explored

Basic human nature is to shun what is not understood, and this often turns to fear of the unknown. Dating back to the late 1950’s and 60’s the train of thought was that the cause of transgender children was psychological -- that it was a choice and as such the “cure” was through psychiatric means that today would be abusive. Forced behavior modification was usually the treatment including electro shock therapy and drugged detention. At its worst, people were lobotomized.

Conventional wisdom is still that gender is some kind of inalienable property of individuals – as something they either are or have. Tristan Bridges, Assistant Professor of Sociology at The College at Brockport, State University of New York, said decades of scholarship on gender have uncovered a perspective at odds with the conventional wisdom.

Bridges claims it is much more accurate to talk about gender as something we “do” than as something we simply “are” or “have.” He cites a new study by sociologists Laurel Westbrook and Kristen Schilt on how the media manages moments of conflict over who “counts” as a woman or a man, and they’ve uncovered new reasons why we ought to care more about this distinction than you might have thought. Their study of how media navigate transgender individuals tells us more than why transgender people challenge conventional wisdom on gender.

Using the findings of Westbrook and Schilt, Bridges writes ...

“This research explores “determining gender,” the umbrella term for social practices of placing others in gender categories. It draws on three case studies showcasing moments of conflict over who counts as a man and who counts as a woman:

(a) public debates over the expansion of transgender employment rights,
(b) policies determining eligibility of transgender people for competitive sports, and
(c) proposals to remove the genital surgery requirement for a change of sex marker on birth certificates.


“We show that criteria for determining gender differ across social spaces. Gender-integrated spaces are more likely to use identity-based criteria, while gender-segregated spaces, like the sexual spaces previously examined (Schilt and Westbrook 2009), are more likely to use biology-based criteria.

“In addition, because of beliefs that women are inherently vulnerable and men are dangerous, 'men’s' and 'women’s' spaces are not policed equally—making access to women’s spaces central to debates over transgender rights.


“This cultural anxiety provoked by penises in 'women’s' spaces belies a larger investment in a twin set of cultural ideals: the belief that all people with penises are uniquely capable of violence and the belief that those without penises are uniquely vulnerable. While this anxiety might be easily upset by recognizing that transgender women are most often the targets — not the perpetrators — of violence, This fact is less publicly recognized than it should be.

“Our collective failure to recognize violence against transgender women is a testament to the power of conventional wisdom about gender. While transgender people have a unique capacity to help us understand gender as more flexible than we often imagine, the research illustrates the ways that the challenges brought about by transgender individuals are often dealt with in ways that have the effect of shoring up our faith in gender as innate and gender inequality is inevitable.

“This research helps us learn more about some of the most deeply held beliefs in our culture about gender. The findings show that, despite the many gains toward greater gender equality, we still fervently hold onto a set of beliefs that speak to the endurance of inequality and just how difficult it will be to overcome.”

(Tristan Bridges.What Research About Transgender People Can Teach Us About Gender and Inequality.” Huffington Post. March 26, 2014.)

(Laurel Westbrook and Kristen Schilt.“Transgender People, Gender Panics, and the Maintenance of the Sex/Gender/Sexuality System.” Gender and Society. February 2014.)


Trying to identify causes, whether they be genetic, hormonal, 
or something else entirely, those studies are underway. 
The question is, what contributes to the formation of gender identity? It's really complex."
 

--Olson

Exit Thoughts


If you subscribe to the simple acceptance of “You are who you are,” you should acknowledge that trying to change your gender identity can cause a great deal of harm. In turn, that would mean that you also believe those who try to change the gender identity of another – in this case, that of a transgender person -- are wrong.

Still, that simple acceptance is not good enough for some people. Some demand a scientific explanation for the existence of transpeople, and some simply say they are “abominations” because they claim to know the will of God.

One astute observer posited that in place of broad acceptance, Western society has “come up with the idea that life is some sort of contest in which there are winners and losers.” Thus, people need to prove that their way of life is a winning strategy. Some of these people then claim that any life that is not lived in accordance with their strategy is the life of a loser. Then, they set out to make their belief a reality by making the lives of those they have labeled as losers more difficult and forcing them to adopt a “normal” life strategy. These “normal” people do this because “it somehow is supposed to make them feel better about themselves and their lot in life.”

(Rserven. “Why are some people transgender.” Kos Media. August 05, 2014.)

"'Normal' is a setting for machines."

--Anonymous

Labeling transgender folks as “losers” and forcing them into boxes of normality is very close-minded and judgmental even if your beliefs are based on a personal rapport with the Almighty. What makes a person transgender? I don't know. Did you ever think that perhaps it is enough to use your faith and to understand that he or she is a beautiful creation of God.

 On Gender
extraordinary – weird
unconventional – odd
exceptional – queer
peculiar – strange
gifted – outlandish
outstanding – bizarre
special – eccentric
curious – atypical
unusual – abnormal


Why is "normal"
the objective?


There is
a broad horizon
of possibility
for the human
condition.


Rather than circling
our wagons
to protect and defend
only one or two
or even just a few
acceptable ways
of living,
shouldn't we
begin the exploration
of those other
possibilities?


Why isn't it possible
to expand  the definition
of woman
and expand the definition
of man,
while simultaneously allowing
people to claim neither
or both or even
to develop
whole new categories
of gender?


What does
society have
to lose?
What does
society have
to fear?


Once again, I  ask:
Why is normality
the objective?


--Robyn Elaine Serven
--November 9, 2005

Sunday, May 22, 2016

Flatwoods, Kentucky Denies Gender Identity: Spiritual Wickedness or Mass Hysteria?

 

“The Lord Jesus Christ loves everybody, but because he loves everybody, he also has set a standard of living for people, and through the standard of living declared in the word of God find it (is) mentioned that because the Bible tells us so,” said Anthony Keaton, pastor of Abundant Life United Pentecostal Church in Flatwoods, Kentucky, to city council.

Keaton continued, “So today, I stand behind this council and the mayor and their ordinance that they have brought forth, and I pray that they would have unity, because with unity there is strength and through unity good things happen. I know that today there are people that fear if we do not pass this agenda. You say protecting the transgender? Well let’s protect the majority of our community.”

With a vote of five members of the Flatwoods City Council, and one abstaining, the second reading of a city ordinance which would deny transgender usage of restrooms and shower facilities in government buildings in Flatwoods was passed Saturday during a special meeting.

Flatwoods Mayor Ron Fields also said that he does not presently know how they (the city) will “police” restrooms in government buildings in Flatwoods and that he would be talking with the prosecuting attorney, and the chief of the Flatwoods Police Department about the matter.

(Portia Williams. “Transgender access denied: Flatwoods City Council bans restroom access.” Portsmouth Daily Times. May 21st, 2016.)

Another man at the council meeting, Doug Spillman, spoke in favor of the draft. He said, "It's spiritual wickedness in high places.” He can't imagine a world where men and women share bathrooms, especially in his hometown.

"I believe today Satan is using a lot of these issues to cause the problems we have today," Spillman said.

(Jessie Starkey. “Flatwoods City Council approves controversial transgender bathroom measure.” WCHS Channel 8. May 21, 2016.) 
 
I'm trying to comprehend the need for an ordinance that requires people to use bathrooms according to the gender on their birth certificate. The public safety? Gender-policing of bathrooms? Jesus “tells us so” regarding checking sexual parts? Declaring “unity” against transgenders?

Let me give you another religious perspective from Rt. Rev. Scott Anson Benhase, the tenth Bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Georgia. He relates his experience with the issue:

When I was a young curate in Indianapolis in the early 1980s, a parishioner of mine was also a leading pediatrician at the Indiana Children’s Hospital...

This pediatrician headed a panel of other doctors and medical professionals who had the awesome responsibility for discerning which gender to assign to babies brought to the Children’s Hospital. More often than probably anyone thinks, children are born with mixed genitalia, or confused genitalia, or none at all. My parishioner and his team had to weigh all the data they had in front of them and do their best through medical procedures and other measures to assign a gender to these babies. They were greatly committed to their work because they knew they were making decisions that would affect these children for the rest of their lives. Sometimes they got it right and sometimes they didn’t. And they often wouldn’t know whether or not they got it right until long after the children grew up.

“Science and medicine have come a long way in the last 30 years or so, but much about human sexuality and gender identity is still unknown to us. It seems odd to many of us that someone who has the apparent biology of one gender might experience life inside their soul as the other gender. What seems even odder to me is that some other people would think that people who have this gender dilemma are doing it just for fun, or to be different, or just to flagrantly express themselves. No one would wish to bring such a dilemma on themselves knowing the external pressure and possible social ridicule they could face. The pull of gender identity in each of us is strong. Most often it’s clear and unambiguous, but sometimes it isn’t. Sometimes it’s messy and confusing, like life itself sometimes is for all of us.

I’m certainly no expert on biology or medical science, but I’ve spent a life time reflecting theologically on the world around me using the teachings of Jesus and his Cross as my foundation. Often my reflection has led me to the completely obvious spiritual insight that life’s messy and not always as clear as we’d like. As St Paul says: “we see through a glass darkly” (1 Corinthians 13:12). And Jesus, no matter with whom he interacted: the rich young man, the woman caught in adultery, the woman who washed his feet with her tears, Jairus, Simon Peter, or even Judas Iscariot – Jesus always showed mercy. And he called his followers to show mercy as well, because, well, life’s messy.

“I don’t know the answers to the questions that human sexuality and gender identity pose. I do know that “Restroom Laws” try to solve a problem that does not really exist. And I do know this as well: when Jesus was faced with the messiness of this world, he responded to it with such grace that not even the grave could contain him.”

(Rt. Rev. Scott Anson Benhase. “Gender Identity, the Messiness of Life and the Mercy of Jesus.” The Ecrozier. 2016.)

Click here to read Benhase's entire article: http://ecrozier.georgiaepiscopal.org/?p=1363 .

 

I agree with Rev. Benhase. Indeed, we see through a glass darkly. As humans, we often fall victim to our own personal prejudices. And, when those of us in doubt imagine inevitable dangers that don't exist and take it upon ourselves to fight the spectres of demons, we stir deep emotions and even primal fears.

I believe when Christians use the Holy Scriptures to exert political force and incite false alarm in these situations, they deny the mercy of Jesus.

In the case of Flatwoods City Council's ordinance, what some are calling “spiritual wickedness” is based upon distrust and ignorance of the issues of gender and sex. A true guiding light is based on love and trust for all fellow humans, not just for a select majority. Knowledge can guide crucial understanding and expand human horizons.

I cannot fathom the difficulties faced by those who are transgender. I am certain they must endure overwhelming scorn and disapproval as they seek their gender identity. I know they must endure many hurtful comments and struggle for simple acceptance. It seems many people want to judge them on the “correctness” of their genitals rather than on their hearts and minds. This warrant is inhuman treatment, and the bathroom uproar is a symptom of dehumanization and further discrimination.

I have heard Christians stand on biblical passages and say transgenders are “abominations.” Are we to believe they do not fit God's design? It is undeniable that there are those with chromosomes, genitalia, and hormones that do not fit their assigned birth sex. In misunderstanding, fear, and desperation, these followers are prone to assert that everyone must fit one of two molds for gender – male or female.

Yet, Galatians 3:28 states: "There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus." Is it Christian practice to deny equality and love to those who are baptized into Christ? Policing bathrooms for gender identity certainly intrudes on privacy and reduces any person to his or her sexual organs. Where is the grace in this?

The quality of mercy is not strain'd,
It droppeth as the gentle rain from heaven
Upon the place beneath: it is twice blest;
It blesseth him that gives and him that takes:
'Tis mightiest in the mightiest: it becomes
The throned monarch better than his crown;

His sceptre shows the force of temporal power,
The attribute to awe and majesty,
Wherein doth sit the dread and fear of kings;
But mercy is above this sceptred sway;

It is enthroned in the hearts of kings,
It is an attribute to God himself;
And earthly power doth then show likest God's
When mercy seasons justice.”

--William Shakespeare, The Merchant of Venice

 

Saturday, May 21, 2016

"Fat Pigs, Slobs, and Dogs": Donald Trump Views Women as Objects Worthy of Dehumanization

 

“During a commercial break at a Democratic debate in December, Hillary Clinton stepped offstage to use the bathroom. Donald Trump, speaking at a rally a few days later, told supporters: 'I know where she went — it’s disgusting, I don’t want to talk about it. No, it’s too disgusting. Don’t say it, it’s disgusting.'”

--Nick Haslam, PhD. Melbourne School of Psychological Science

What an offensive statement to make about a woman. I remember when such a comment would have drawn outrage from all the public. Now, loose mouth blathering by Donald Trump and his followers – those who insult anyone they choose with an excuse of going against “political correctness” -- incite rudeness with regularity.

Trump understands that American women have been raised to never expose their bodily functions to men. He just doesn't care. Who can deny that women are still judged more severely for violations of the ideal of purity than men? Women are socialized to be more shame-prone than men, more mindful of being physically modest and substantially more likely to feel disgust.

In one study, a female experimenter who excused herself to use the bathroom was evaluated more negatively than one who excused herself to get some paperwork. No such difference was found for a male experimenter.

(Nick Haslam. “Psychology behind bathroom anxiety." Washinton Post in Stars and Stripes, 
May 17, 2016.)

Donald Trump claims to have more free will than others do. Perhaps this is because of his substantial money, power, and sense of entitlement. Having free will can allow a person to make wonderful choices, but it also can drive him to make terrible choices. An extreme danger occurs when a person like Trump uses free will while assuming others' minds are less sophisticated and more superficial than his own.

Using what they consider their “enormous” privilege and vastly superior minds, the egotists target others as distant out-groups less able to experience complicated emotions, such as shame, pride, embarrassment, and guilt than close members of their own group. Donald Trump sees women in general as an out-group, a weak sub-species worthy of dehumanization.

Dehumanization is viewed as a central component to intergroup violence because it is frequently the most important precursor to moral exclusion, the process by which stigmatized groups are placed outside the boundary in which moral values, rules, and considerations of fairness apply. Please consider Trump's statements about Hillary Clinton's biological need to use the restroom in light of this understanding.

Haslam states that “the animalistic form of dehumanization occurs when uniquely human characteristics (e.g., refinement, moral sensibility) are denied to an out-group.” People that suffer animalistic dehumanization are seen as amoral, unintelligent, and lacking self-control, and they are likened to animals.

Trump uses this “mechanistic dehumanization” -- likening members of a group to inanimate objects -- as a means to his end. In this case, he likens Clinton to excretions in the toilet. That is about as base and dehumanizing as it gets. He often targets others as creatures of a lower order and, thereby, judges them incapable of the courtesies of higher order cognition, refined emotions, civility, and morality.

In his impudent manner, Trump is guilty not only of committing sexual objectification of women but also of humanization the female gender. Trump is a chronic sexist and a serial body shamer. He has a long history of insults aimed at females.

"He has a 30-year pattern of this kind of sexism against women and lashing out against women when he doesn't get his way," GOP strategist Tara Setmayer said in an interview with Don Lemon on "CNN Tonight (March 2016)."
Setmayer continued, "So, you're going to have a tough time defending this (Trump's tweets about Heidi Cruz and other women) if, God forbid, he's our nominee in the general (election). Do you think Hillary Clinton is going to let this kind of stuff go? This is mild in comparison to what's going to happen to him in the general."

 

Here are some infamous Donald Trump quotes about women:

"Women: You have to treat them like s--t." 

"You could see there was blood coming out of her (debate moderator Megyn Kelly's) eyes. Blood coming out of her wherever." Trump also retweeted a comment calling her a “bimbo” (later deleted) and called her a “lightweight.” 

Trump once sent a copy of a column from the New York Times' Gail Collins to the columnist in the mail, with "Face of a Dog!" written on her picture.

"You know, it really doesn`t matter what [the media] write as long as you`ve got a young and beautiful piece of ass." 

"A person who is flat-chested is very hard to be a 10." 

“Rosie O'Donnell is a fat pig with the face of a dog.”

“Arianna Huffington is unattractive both inside and out. I fully understand why her former husband left her for a man—he made a good decision.” 

In a deposition, Trump called opposing counsel “disgusting” for wanting to break to pump milk for her 3-month-old daughter. 

Trump called out Republican hopeful Carly Fiorina saying, "Look at that face! Would anyone vote for that?"

On Celebrity Apprentice: All-Stars in 2013, Trump mused about the “pretty picture” of former Playboy Playmate Brande Roderick “dropping to your knees.” 

Regarding Kim Kardashian, Trump said, “Does she have a good body? No. Does she have a fat ass? Absolutely. If it weren’t Kim, they’d say, ‘Wow, I don’t want to go out with her.’”

(Of Angelina Jolie)  “I never thought she was good-looking. I don’t think she’s got good skin,” Trump declared. “I don’t think she’s got a great face. I think her lips are too big, to be honest with you. They look, like, too big.” (He went on and on about Jolie another time, adding, “I really understand beauty. And I will tell you, she’s not — I do own Miss Universe. I do own Miss USA. I mean, I own a lot of different things. I do understand beauty, and she’s not.”)

Yet, Trump says, “I will be phenomenal to the women. I want to help women.” 

Help?

"I think the big problem this country has is being politically correct. I've been challenged by so many people and I don't frankly have time for total political correctness and to be honest with you this country doesn't have time either," Trump said, defending past disparaging remarks about women.
"Frankly what I say and oftentimes it's fun, it's kidding, we have a good time," Trump added.

Good time?

Donald Trump claims, "I cherish women."

Cherish?

And, Donald Trump says he should get a pass on his past insults toward women because he never planned to run for President.

A pass?

I shutter to think what would happen to me if I, as a young person, had chosen to make such juvenile, hurtful comments. Trump's kind of “help, good times, and cherishing” would never have earned me a "pass." It would have caused my mom and dad to wear out a paddle out on my little butt. And, that punishment would have been well justified even when I possessed the mind of a child.

Women are not commodities or objects. They must treated with dignity. Trump endlessly objectifies women. He does so as a symbol of some senseless, new breed of man who likens civility with power. His manners are disgusting, and his tactics of dehumanization parallel the rise of despots and tyrants.

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Thomas Merton -- Kentucky Monk, Author, and World Figure

 

The beginning of love is to let those we love be perfectly themselves, and not to twist them to fit our own image. Otherwise we love only the reflection of ourselves we find in them.”

--Thomas Merton

Perhaps you have never even heard of Thomas Merton. Sometimes a truly influential figure uses a quiet voice to help bring about important change. Merton found that "happiness is not a matter of intensity but of balance, order, rhythm, and harmony." Devoting his life to better understand the human spirit and its relation to the world, Merton found his voice in solitude. In doing so, he discovered that “we live in a world that is absolutely transparent” and that “the divine is shining through it all the time.” 
 
But there is greater comfort in the substance of silence than in the answer to a question.” 
 
--Thomas Merton

Thomas Merton, (1915 – 1968) was an American Catholic writer and mystic. He was a Trappist monk of the Abbey of Gethsemani near Bardstown, Kentucky; a poet; a social activist, and a student of comparative religion.

Merton wrote more than 50 books, mostly on spirituality, social justice, and pacifism. He is arguably the most influential American Catholic author of the twentieth century. His autobiography, The Seven Storey Mountain, has sold over one million copies and has been translated into over fifteen languages.

“The theology of love must seek to deal realistically with the evil and injustice in the world, and not merely to compromise with them.”

 --Thomas Merton

Merton was one of four Americans mentioned by Pope Francis in his speech to a joint meeting of the United States Congress on September 24, 2015. (Abraham Lincoln, Martin Luther King, and Dorothy Day were the other three.) The Pope used Merton’s legacy to transition into praising the United States’ renewed commitment to mending relationships with other nations.

Pope Francis said, "A century ago, at the beginning of the Great War (World War I), which Pope Benedict XV termed a 'pointless slaughter,' another notable American was born: the Cistercian monk Thomas Merton. He remains a source of spiritual inspiration and a guide for many people. In his autobiography he wrote: 'I came into the world. Free by nature, in the image of God, I was nevertheless the prisoner of my own violence and my own selfishness, in the image of the world into which I was born. That world was the picture of Hell, full of men like myself, loving God, and yet hating him; born to love him, living instead in fear of hopeless self-contradictory hungers.' 

Francis continued, "Merton was above all a man of prayer, a thinker who challenged the certitudes of his time and opened new horizons for souls and for the Church. He was also a man of dialogue, a promoter of peace between peoples and religions."

The whole idea of compassion is based on a keen awareness of the interdependence of all these living beings, which are all part of one another, and all involved in one another.”

--Thomas Merton

 

Brief Biography

Thomas Mertin was born in Prades, France. His New Zealand-born father, Owen Mertin, and his American-born mother, Ruth Jenkins, were both artists.

Later, Mertin went to private school in England and then to Cambridge. Both of his parents were deceased by the time Merton was a young teen. After a rambunctious youth and adolescence, he eventually moved to his grandparents' home in the United States to finish his education at Columbia University in New York City. There, Merton converted to Roman Catholicism.

“We do not exist for ourselves alone, and it is only when we are fully convinced of this fact that we begin to love ourselves properly and thus also love others.”

--Thomas Merton

In 1940, Mertin took a position teaching English at St Bonaventure College in Olean, New York. In December 1941, he resigned his teaching post there and journeyed to the Abbey of Gethsemani. There, Merton undertook the life of a scholar and man of letters, in addition to his formation as a Cistercian monk.

The twenty-seven years he spent in Gethsemani brought about profound changes in his self-understanding. This ongoing conversion impelled him into the political arena, where he became, according to Daniel Berrigan, the conscience of the peace movement of the 1960's.

Referring to race and peace as the two most urgent issues of our time, Merton was a strong supporter of the nonviolent civil rights movement, which he called "certainly the greatest example of Christian faith in action in the social history of the United States." For his social activism Merton endured severe criticism, from Catholics and non-Catholics alike, who assailed his political writings as unbecoming of a monk.

“First of all, although men have a common destiny, each individual also has to work out 
his own personal salvation for himself in fear and trembling. We can help one another 
to find the meaning of life no doubt. But in the last analysis, the individual person is 
responsible for living his own life and for "finding himself." If he persists in shifting his responsibility to somebody else, he fails to find out the meaning of his own existence. You cannot tell me who I am and I cannot tell you who you are. If you do not know your own identity, who is going to identify you?” 

--Thomas Merton


During his last years, he became deeply interested in Asian religions, particularly Zen Buddhism, and in promoting East-West dialogue. After several meetings with Merton during the American monk's trip to the Far East in 1968, the Dalai Lama praised him as having a more profound understanding of Buddhism than any other Christian he had known. It was during this trip to a conference on East-West monastic dialogue that Merton died, in Bangkok on December 10, 1968, the victim of an accidental electrocution. The date marked the twenty-seventh anniversary of his entrance to Gethsemani.

“The truth that many people never understand, until it is too late, is that the more you try to avoid suffering, the move you suffer because smaller and more insignificant things begin to torture you in proportion to your fear of being hurt.”

--Thomas Merton



Monday, May 16, 2016

Guns, God-given Rights, and Holy Commandments -- Faith-based Responses

 

I watched night two of the PBS Independent Lens event on gun violence and the faith community. The program featured an evangelical minister who struggles with the conflict between pro-life and pro-gun and how it’s impossible to be both.

“The Armor of Light“ followed Rev. Dr. Rob Schenck and Lucy McBath, whose teenage son, Jordan Davis, was fatally shot at a Jacksonville gas station in 2012. The incident was the focus of another film, “3 ½ Minutes, Ten Bullets,” which brought attention to stand-your-ground laws.

Reverend Schenck, a well-known anti-abortion activist and fixture on the political far right broke with orthodoxy by questioning whether being pro-gun is consistent with being pro-life.

Rev. Schenck was shocked and perplexed by the reactions of his long-time friends and colleagues who warned him away from this complex, politically explosive issue.

The PBS release bravely attempted to make others consider America’s gun culture through a moral lens. The film was also a look at our fractured political culture and an assertion that it is, indeed, possible for people to come together across deep party lines to find common ground.

America has a very diverse religious landscape, but faith groups are increasingly agreeing that there is a religious imperative to prevent gun violence – especially when it comes to provisions such as banning assault weapons and instituting universal background checks.

Recent polls have shown an uptick in support for gun-violence prevention legislation across the country, and religious Americans are no exception. A recent survey conducted by the Public Religion Research Institute found increased levels of support among religious groups for stricter gun laws after the Newtown massacre, with support among white mainline Protestants jumping 15 percentage points from 42 percent in August 2012 to 57 percent in January 2013. Catholics also saw a small jump in support, with 67 percent supporting stricter gun laws in January compared to 62 percent last August.

White evangelical Protestants are the most likely group to live in a household where at least one person owns a gun. Gun ownership and opposition to gun control are part of the worldview of many Christians evangelicals and Pentecostals in the South and West. Southern Baptists and Mormons, in particular, are influential voices opposing restrictions on gun ownership.

Yet, evangelicals now appear to be undergoing a dramatic shift on the issue.

Although an August 2012 Public Religion Research Institute poll showed that only 35 percent of white evangelicals support stricter gun laws as a whole, a January 2013 survey conducted by the National Association of Evangelicals found that 73 percent of evangelical leaders say the government should increase gun regulations.

(Jack Jenkins and Eleni Towns. “Thou Shall Not Kill: Faith Groups and Gun-Violence Prevention.” Center For American Progress. April 23, 2013.)

 


Is There a Religious Imperative To Prevent Gun Violence?

Progressive clergy have long preached for tighter gun measures. But, many of these progressives feel religious leaders have not been visible in efforts to stop gun violence. They believe many ministers have ceded the public debate square to religious conservatives.

The Rev. Larry Snyder, the head of the Catholic Church’s social service arm; National Association of Evangelicals Leith Anderson; and mainline leaders from the Episcopal and Lutheran churches, among others issued a statement to President Obama (2013). It read in part ...

“[We] call upon our communities and our elected officials to make every effort to save human lives, especially the lives of children, from senseless gun violence that does not represent the responsible citizenship intended by the Second Amendment.”
 
(Michael Boorstein. “Faith leaders launch gun control push.” faithstreet.com
January 15, 2013.)

On January 17, 2011, 24 national faith groups announced the formation of “Faiths United to Prevent Gun Violence,” a diverse coalition of denominations and faith-based organizations united by the call of their faiths to confront America’s gun violence epidemic and to rally support for policies that reduce death and injury from gunfire. 

Two years later, Faiths United had grown to more than 40 groups representing tens of millions of American in faith communities across the nation – and their call to confront this epidemic had grown ever more urgent and imperative…” They asked faith communities across Americ to join them in contacting members of Congress to demand comprehensive gun violence prevention measures including banning assault weapons, universal background checks, financial support for mental health services, and policies that address our country's culture of violence such as school safety and anti-bullying legislation.

Representatives included leaders from Catholics United, the United Methodist Church, the African Methodist Episcopal Church, the Alliance of Baptists, the American Baptist Churches of the South, the American Baptist Home Mission Societies, the National Church Women United, the Major Superiors of Men, the Disciples of Christ, the Dominican Sisters of Peace, the Franciscan Action Network, the Baptist Peace Fellowship of North America, the United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism, the Sikh Council on Religion and Education USA, the Unitarian Association of Congregations of the United Church of Christ, the Mennonite Central Committee, the Hindu American Foundation, the Islamic Society of North America, and the National Episcopal Health Ministries.  

(“Faiths United to Prevent Gun Violence Press Releases. Faiths United. January 15, 2013.)

Did it take Newtown to bring focus on an issue that has long afflicted black children in American cities?

“African American clergy have been saying these things, we just haven’t been with them,” said Washington Episcopal Bishop Mariann Budde. “We live in such economically and racially segregated times, you don’t see it until acts cross the color and economics line, and gets people’s attention.”

(Michael Boorstein. “Faith leaders launch gun control push.” faithstreet.com.
 January 15, 2013.)

The religious imperative to stop gun violence? Some would say simply, “Pray.” However, though prayers may work miracles, immediate commitments and actions are needed to change a nation in which guns are worshiped as idols and used to commit violent, deadly crimes.

People of faith claim to be peacemakers. Putting this mission into action means getting out from behind pulpits and into the public square. I believe it is time children of God consider the sanctity of life and rethink indifference.

“To me, gun violence is a natural because it’s such an obvious theological issue,” said Dean Gary Hall of the National Cathedral, and the chair of Faiths United Against Gun Violence. He continued, “Empathy for innocent suffering is at the core of Christianity and Judaism.”

Sarah Posner, reporter and author of God's Profits: Faith, Fraud, and the Republican Crusade for Values Voters, says, “Another obstacle for faith-based gun control activists is the intensity and homogeneity with which white evangelicals view guns. While the congregants in mainline Protestant churches are split on the issue, leading to fears of stoking intra-congregational conflict by raising it, evangelical churches have 'sacralized' gun culture. (Lydia Bean. The Politics of Evangelical Identity. 2014.) Guns are not uniformly considered a 'holy' issue like abortion, there is an 'overlap of Christian heroism, gun culture, and nationalism' that gets 'packaged together.'”

(Sarah Posner. “Can Faith-Based Organizing for Gun Control Work?” religiondispatches.org. December 01, 2015.)

What, if anything, will happen to strengthen a formidable faith-based movement to end gun violence? Posner postulates …

“The movement would have more than these grassroots activists. It would have willing politicians, a legal strategy, and lots of money. All of these components would work in tandem to change people’s minds, to pressure lawmakers, to intimidate politicians running for office, to go to court when necessary.”

Gosh, that sounds like creating the antithesis to the NRA. Can a small group charged with a powerful moral imperative defeat one of the most powerful Washington lobbies? Have you ever heard of the story of David and Goliath?


A field of 331 crosses on the front lawn of the Presbyterian Church of Chestnut Hill, 
each holding a colorful T-shirt with the name, age and date of death of one of the
 city’s 2012 murder victims. 


Sunday, May 15, 2016

Gender Identity -- A Complicated Issue For Open Minds

 

Can you remember when we couldn't have a conversation in mixed company about something as racy as sex? I do. Decades ago if you brought up anything about the issue in school or in other public places, you were viewed as a heather or a pervert. Now, television commercials during prime time want me to extend my short penis or take Cialis so that I can have sex on the spot, anywhere and anytime.

I'm not sure I think all of this hubbub is good. However, to say today's youth are more open about sex and vastly more informed about it than baby boomers were when they were young is an understatement. It behooves us, no matter our age, to attempt to understand a controversial issue. Older people especially tend to pull up the blinders and resist new and confusing information.
 
Did you ever consider that “sex” and “gender” are two different things? Can I have your attention for just a few minutes as you read what follows?

It's simply amazing how much you learn about an issue when you research the literature. Especially when something is foreign to your experience, you hold a certain amount of prejudgment before searching for facts. This emotional bias can easily color the truth. It is imperative to suspend judgment until a thorough investigation of the matter is complete.

Today, I would like to examine gender issues. The opposing views about gender identity seem to be causing a major upheaval in America. To be honest, many have little idea of just what gender entails. They assume a simple term has a simple definition. In truth, the complication requires a lot of study.

When we meet a person for the first time, we automatically employ our brains in a search for gender cues. In our natural curiosity, we do this to identify the new contact. Without conscious thought, we scan their physical appearance, their dress, and their mannerisms. We then categorize the person as male or female, which leads to other judgments of their existence. The dangers of judging by first glance are well-documented.

Judgment of gender is not that simple. Experts who work with gender issues tell us there are two myths. These are …
  • First, gender is binary, offering only two options,
  • Second, gender and sex are the same thing.
Summed up, the myth goes like this: Every person is either male or female, and the distinction is based on that person's anatomy.

(“The Gender Spectrum.” Teaching Tolerance, Number 44. Summer 2013.)

“In the parlance of gender development, sex exists between your legs—it’s your biology, your chromosomes, your anatomy. Gender exists between your ears—it’s how you feel about yourself. Kids develop a sense of gender identity by age two or three,” says Diane Ehrensaft, author of Gender Born, Gender Made. Ehrensaft is a psychologist, gender specialist, author, and director of the Mental Health Child and Adolescent Gender Center, UCSF

Both birth sex and gender identity match for most kids – the cisgender. Yet, in some cases, children’s gender identity differs from their biology. Some kids know their gender identities and birth sexes don’t match almost as soon as they begin to talk. For others, their sense of gender exists somewhere between male and female, at various points along what is known as the gender spectrum.

Ehrensaft says, “My best teachers are the brave and creative children I have met who transgress and transcend the social gender constraints we have all been ingrained with and can show us the path to true acceptance, beyond a binary world of pink and blue and boys and girls.” She would have you understand the following: 
 
Gender Diversity: Words You Should Know

Assigned Gender
The gender a baby is given upon birth, usually based on the child’s birth sex.
Gender Identity
How we feel about our gender in our hearts and minds.
Gender Expression/Gender Presentation
How we show our gender to the world through external choices (e.g. dress, behavior, hairstyle).
Cisgender
Describes a person whose birth sex and gender identity align.
Birth Sex/Biological Sex
A specific set of genetic, chemical and anatomical characteristics that we are either born with or that develop as we mature.
Binary Gender
The faulty concept that there are only two genders: male and female.
Genderqueer
A broad descriptor many people use to indicate a person does not identify as either male or female.
Transgender
Describes anyone whose gender identity and birth sex do not align. The word should be used as, “transgender,” not “transgendered.” For example, “My brother Sam is transgender. His birth name was Samantha.”
Preferred Personal Pronouns
In addition to the traditional pronouns (he/him, she/her, they), some people prefer to use gender-neutral pronouns, such as ne, ve, ze/zie and xe. If you don’t know a student’s preferred personal pronoun, it’s always best to ask.

Ehrensaft reports that some children will outgrow being gender nonconforming, but some won't. There are a number of children who insist that everyone has it wrong—they are the opposite gender from the one assigned to them at birth. She believes we must allow children to establish their own affirmed gender, not the one we assigned.

Diane Ehrensaft says there is a “true gender self.” She explains ...

“The true gender self is the sense of ourselves from deep inside about the gender that feels right and that feels like it fits us best. It may be influenced but not dictated by the gender listed on our birth certificate. It is how we know ourselves, and the very first kernel of that may be there from birth. There is also the false gender self—that’s the gender face we put on to the world, usually because we feel that’s what they expect from us. In the best of all possible worlds for our children, the true gender self will prevail over the false gender self, and if doesn’t, we may have a very unhappy child.”

(Diane Ehrensaft. “An interview with Diane Ehrensaft, author of Gender Born, Gender Made.” The Experiment. January 11, 2012.) 

 

A Lesson To Be Learned

Of course, the very idea of a gender-nonconforming child may be startling or challenging to your personal, cultural, or religious beliefs. Still, if a child is telling you in words and in actions that he or she is a nonconformist, you must understand that “right” and “wrong” is not the issue and that gender identification is not simply “male” or “female.” Ignoring the special needs of these children can cause irreparable harm.

I have heard kind, well-intentioned Christians defy any variance from traditional sexual identity. In their total devotion to principles, the see any variance as being “unclean” and an “abomination.” They choose to disavow any research to the contrary, and many even disown family members who struggle with their sexual identify.

Just as many people in the past have struggled to understand the need for racial equality, a great number of people now are grossly uninformed and, frankly, ignorant to the needs of those in the wide scope of gender diversity. Gender discrimination and sexual discrimination may share some common ground, but in most respects gender and sex issues require a distinct, separate understanding. They are not synonymous and not easily comprehended.

A suspension of prejudice is necessary for a person to give an honest evaluation of gender. The refusal to do so in a stand of close-minded, blind judgment based on simple belief is senseless negativity. Study the issue closely while considering that the truth of identity will eventually lead to inevitable outcomes. At one time, we knew very little about diversity, but now we understand that everyone else isn't like us. We can learn; we can adjust; we can tolerate; and, most importantly, we can understand.