Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Paging Dr. Mengele

It's been a while since something this repellent has come to my attention, but this is just so disgusting that I have been using every outlet at my disposal to get this out into the light of day. This was taken from The Stranger website, and I implore you to repost this in any forum you have access to. This must be stopped now!!

Doctor Treating Pregnant Women With Experimental Drug To Prevent Lesbianism
Posted by Dan Savage on Wed, Jun 30, 2010 at 9:05 AM

Originally posted yesterday afternoon at 3:15 PM.

That's not fair, as Hanna Rosin at Slate will shortly point out. Pediatric endocrinologist Maria New—of the Mount Sinai School of Medicine and Florida International University—isn't just trying to prevent lesbianism by treating pregnant women with an experimental hormone. She's also trying to prevent the births of girls who display an "abnormal" disinterest in babies, don't want to play with girls' toys or become mothers, and whose "career preferences" are deemed too "masculine." Unbelievable:

The majority of researchers and clinicians interested in the use of prenatal “dex” focus on preventing development of ambiguous genitalia in girls with CAH. CAH results in an excess of androgens prenatally, and this can lead to a “masculinizing” of a female fetus’s genitals. One group of researchers, however, seems to be suggesting that prenatal dex also might prevent affected girls from turning out to be homosexual or bisexual.

Pediatric endocrinologist Maria New, of Mount Sinai School of Medicine and Florida International University, and her long-time collaborator, psychologist Heino F. L. Meyer-Bahlburg, of Columbia University, have been tracing evidence for the influence of prenatal androgens in sexual orientation.... They specifically point to reasons to believe that it is prenatal androgens that have an impact on the development of sexual orientation. The authors write, "Most women were heterosexual, but the rates of bisexual and homosexual orientation were increased above controls . . . and correlated with the degree of prenatal androgenization.” They go on to suggest that the work might offer some insight into the influence of prenatal hormones on the development of sexual orientation in general. “That this may apply also to sexual orientation in at least a subgroup of women is suggested by the fact that earlier research has repeatedly shown that about one-third of homosexual women have (modestly) increased levels of androgens.” They “conclude that the findings support a sexual-differentiation perspective involving prenatal androgens on the development of sexual orientation.”

And it isn’t just that many women with CAH have a lower interest, compared to other women, in having sex with men. In another paper entitled “What Causes Low Rates of Child-Bearing in Congenital Adrenal Hyperplasia?” Meyer-Bahlburg writes that “CAH women as a group have a lower interest than controls in getting married and performing the traditional child-care/housewife role. As children, they show an unusually low interest in engaging in maternal play with baby dolls, and their interest in caring for infants, the frequency of daydreams or fantasies of pregnancy and motherhood, or the expressed wish of experiencing pregnancy and having children of their own appear to be relatively low in all age groups.”

In the same article, Meyer-Bahlburg suggests that treatments with prenatal dexamethasone might cause these girls’ behavior to be closer to the expectation of heterosexual norms: “Long term follow-up studies of the behavioral outcome will show whether dexamethasone treatment also prevents the effects of prenatal androgens on brain and behavior.”

In a paper published just this year in the Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences, New and her colleague, pediatric endocrinologist Saroj Nimkarn of Weill Cornell Medical College, go further, constructing low interest in babies and men—and even interest in what they consider to be men’s occupations and games—as “abnormal,” and potentially preventable with prenatal dex:

“Gender-related behaviors, namely childhood play, peer association, career and leisure time preferences in adolescence and adulthood, maternalism, aggression, and sexual orientation become masculinized in 46,XX girls and women with 21OHD deficiency [CAH]. These abnormalities have been attributed to the effects of excessive prenatal androgen levels on the sexual differentiation of the brain and later on behavior.” Nimkarn and New continue: “We anticipate that prenatal dexamethasone therapy will reduce the well-documented behavioral masculinization...”

It seems more than a little ironic to have New, one of the first women pediatric endocrinologists and a member of the National Academy of Sciences, constructing women who go into “men’s” fields as “abnormal.” And yet it appears that New is suggesting that the “prevention” of “behavioral masculinization” is a benefit of treatment to parents with whom she speaks about prenatal dex. In a 2001 presentation to the CARES Foundation (a videotape of which we have), New seemed to suggest to parents that one of the goals of treatment of girls with CAH is to turn them into wives and mothers. Showing a slide of the ambiguous genitals of a girl with CAH, New told the assembled parents:

“The challenge here is... to see what could be done to restore this baby to the normal female appearance which would be compatible with her parents presenting her as a girl, with her eventually becoming somebody’s wife, and having normal sexual development, and becoming a mother. And she has all the machinery for motherhood, and therefore nothing should stop that, if we can repair her surgically and help her psychologically to continue to grow and develop as a girl.”

In the Q&A period, during a discussion of prenatal dex treatments, an audience member asked New, “Isn’t there a benefit to the female babies in terms of reducing the androgen effects on the brain?” New answered, “You know, when the babies who have been treated with dex prenatally get to an age in which they are sexually active, I’ll be able to answer that question.” At that point, she’ll know if they are interested in taking men and making babies.

In a previous Bioethics Forum post, Alice Dreger noted an instance of a prospective father using knowledge of the fraternal birth order effect to try to avoid having a gay son by a surrogate pregnancy. There may be other individualized instances of parents trying to ensure heterosexual children before birth. But the use of prenatal dexamethasone treatments for CAH represents, to our knowledge, the first systematic medical effort attached to a “paradigm” of attempting in utero to reduce rates of homosexuality, bisexuality, and “low maternal interest.”

So no more Elena Kagans, no more Donna Shalalas, no more Martina Navratilovas, no more k.d. langs, no more Constance McMillens—because all women must grow up to suck dick, crank out babies, and do women's work. And the existence of adult women who are not interested in "becoming someone's wife" and "making babies" constitutes a medical emergency that requires us to treat women who are currently pregnant with a dangerous experimental hormone. Otherwise their daughters might grow up to, um, be nominated to sit on the Supreme Court, serve as cabinet secretaries, take 18 Grand Slam singles titles, win Grammies, and take their girlfriends to prom.

And we can't have that.

Two things: Gay people have been stressing out about the day arriving when scientists developed treatments to prevent homosexuality. The preventing gay sheep freak out is here, Twilight of the Golds is here, and I recall—but can't quickly find a link for—a "fellow" at the Family Research Council or the American Family Association who backed in-utero hormone treatments to prevent homosexuality. Well, here we are—the day appears to have arrived. Now what are we going to do about it?

And will the Republicans on the Judiciary Committee invite Maria New to testify at Elana Kagan's confirmation hearings? New could argue that Kagan—childless, unmarried Kagan—is unfit to serve on our highest court because her "low maternal interest" pegs her as abnormal, well outside the "maternal mainstream." Maybe GOP senators would be mollified if Kagan knocked back a few bottles of dex during her confirmation hearings?

UPDATE: A little more about dex from Alice Dreger:

The specific drug we're talking about, dexamethasone, is not a benign drug for pregnant women, nor for the children exposed in utero. The studies we do have on the early prenatal use of "dex" are worrisome. The number of women and children missing from the follow-up studies of this drug use is more worrisome still.

This drug is unequivocally experimental and risky. That's why, back in February, I organized interested members of the Bioethics community to fight to make sure every woman offered dex for CAH knows the truth about its experimental and risky nature. (You can read about our efforts in Time magazine. And you can about the medical establishment's resultant mad scampering to make sure everyone knows this is experimental here.) Make no mistake: In spite of Dr. Maria New's outrageous FDA-regulation-flaunting claims that this off-label drug use "has been found safe for mother and child," it ain't been. New is a rogue pediatrician whom medical societies have been nudging (and sometimes yelling at) for years. Because she apparently wouldn't stop experimenting on these women and children without ethics oversight, in January I got called in to help by a few freaked-out clinicians. And I called in my colleagues to call out the feds. New just looks and sounds safe for mothers and children. Which is why she's really dangerous.

Monday, June 21, 2010

You Know What I Miss...

I miss looking forward to Saturday mornings. I miss the time when 10 pm was the beginning of the evening, not the end of the day. I miss my hair. I miss getting drunk with a room full of friends and then solving the problems of the universe. I miss having everyone I care the most about within a ten mile radius. I miss snowball fights. I miss engaging in pointless activities and not caring that they're pointless. I miss being a stagehand. I miss being able to get up fifteen minutes before I had to leave the house. I miss Shadow, and Midnight, and Dinker, and Tai, and Taj, and White Cat, and Grey Cat, but I don't miss that yappy Schnauzer. I miss D&D and late night cable. I miss sleepovers. I miss hot dogs and macaroni and cheese and cheap frozen pizza. I miss the morning headache that tells you you had too much fun the night before. I miss the Plaza Twin, and the Village Green, and the Cross County Eight, and the Town Theater. I miss the Lake Worth Playhouse. I miss my mom making a grocery bag, paper of course, full of popcorn and then bundling us into the station wagon in our jammies to go to the drive-in movies. I miss jammies. I miss not knowing so much, but thinking I knew more. I miss my mom, and I think I miss my dad, but I just don't remember. I miss Star Trek, and The Six Million Dollar Man, and The Wild Wild West, and Donny and Marie, and Space: 1999, and Battlestar Galactica(before it was all serious and gritty). I miss the Superfriends, and Johnny Quest, and Samson and Goliath, and anything narrated by Gary Owens. I miss picking my breakfast cereal based on which prize was in the box, not by the nutritional content. I miss breakfast cereal. I miss asking what's for dinner, instead of being asked.

And if you're reading this, it means I miss you, too, even if we've never actually met yet.

What do you miss?

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Not the Worst Trek

The date was Saturday, December 8, 1979, and my brother and I were standing in a line at the Village Green movie theater that wrapped around the building. Winter hasn’t really begun in South Florida by December, and it was a sunny afternoon, so we weren’t uncomfortable, besides we were waiting to see Star Trek: The Motion Picture. Nothing could dampen our spirits. Now before you start rolling your eyes let me explain the state of Trek fandom at the time. The Original Series (TOS) went off the air in 1969, and with the exception of a brief foray on Saturday morning television as a cartoon, and some poorly made fanzines that were not readily available to a 15 year old boy in those pre-Internet days, we had seen nothing new from Star Trek. What we didn’t know was that Gene Roddenberry and Robert Justman had been working on bringing Trek back to the small screen with Star Trek Phase II, but then in 1977 Star Wars took the world by storm and Paramount decided they wanted a movie, not a TV series. I don’t really remember when I first saw the now famous rainbow ad for ST:TMP, but I do remember the thrill that coursed through my guts. I memorized the date, scrutinized the magazine racks and newspapers for any mention of the film, and waited. Finally the day came, and my mother dropped my brother and me off at the cinema, and we happily joined the queue.
The lobby was decked out with huge pictures of the new Enterprise including a cut-away poster showing the new interior layout, which I purchased for the princely sum of $5. I don’t think anyone was in costume that day, but I do recall seeing one of my teachers in the crowd. We found seats as close to the center of the auditorium as possible and, again, waited. After what seemed an eternity the lights dimmed, and the greatest event of my life to that point began. The next 2 hours seemed to go by at warp speed as I memorized every square centimeter of that gorgeous ship. To this day I feel that the flyby of the Enterprise that most people think is too long could be longer. I left that theater elated, overjoyed, and totally satisfied. What I didn’t realize at the time, and what took me four more viewings to get, was that the movie was completely lacking in all the things that made Star Trek something other than a hardware expo. I went from joy, to unease, to boredom, to outrage. How dare they give us Trek that was substandard?! I spent the next two and a half decades calling it The Motion Sickness, or The Motionless Picture, and until Star Trek V came out I considered it the worst film ever. (but I still loved the new ship, and built many a model)
Somehow, as the years went by, I grew to dislike TMP less and less. Then, last year, I picked up the special edition DVD at a second hand store and watched it with a more charitable eye. Yes, it is still the slowest moving movie of all time, and yes probably forty-five minutes of footage could be cut out without affecting the story one bit, and yes the script is almost a carbon copy of The Changeling, but all that being said there is a lot to like about the film. The ship was, and still is awesome. The effects were very good for their time, and a lot of what has become standard in the Trek universe was established in TMP (Klingons that look like aliens, the large, glowing warp core, Scotty’s mustache). And though the characterizations were stilted and dull, they weren’t out of character, just boring. Finally, when I was starting to actually like much of the movie, I listened to the commentary track. Director Robert Wise explained a lot of things that softened my view of the film even more. Some of the complaints about the film had to do with it being hugely over budget, but what never made it to the papers was that the money already spent on pre-production of Star Trek Phase II was put under the accounting umbrella of TMP, so more than half of the film’s expenditures had little to do with the movie. They were also saddled with an unreasonable, and non-negotiable release date, and as a result of the special effects companies being terribly behind schedule Wise never got a chance to screen the film to test audiences, or even to edit it much. He literally hand carried a still-wet print to the gala premier. Finally there were many visual effects shots that just never got finished, so a lot of the scenes seemed incomplete. In my opinion the director’s commentary on TMP should be required listening for any true Trek fan. It may not make you love the film, but it might help you hate it less.

I will grant that there were many flaws in The Motion Picture that had nothing to do with budget or schedules. The uniforms, while functional, were drab and unflattering. The dialogue, while more accurate from a ‘we’re really on a space ship’ sense seemed overblown and stilted. The ship’s interiors were sterile and monochrome, again probably more realistic, but not very fun to watch. And that, to me, sums up the largest problem with the film…it wasn’t fun. I just rewatched the director’s cut this evening. Wise cut it tighter, and the studio used excellent CGI to either finish or put in bits that were either undone, or unaffordable, but the sense of humor and fun that permeated all of TOS just wasn’t there. Roddenberry had brought in a NASA scientist to help make the new Enterprise seem as realistic as possible, and that lead to a kind of clinical sterility that just didn’t fit for Star Trek. All that being said, however, none of the cast behaved in ways that were grossly out of character; they just spent too much time staring at the view screen looking puzzled, and not enough time doing anything interesting.

So, I can forgive Star Trek, The Motion Picture many of its sins because it was the film that brought Star Trek back from the grave, and because even though it was not an exciting thrill ride, and even though it was pretty much a rehash of a much superior TOS episode, it didn’t violate canon, or make anyone do or say anything that was wrong, and it gave us a beautiful new ship to play with. It certainly wasn’t the best of the films, but it was, in my opinion, far and away not the worst.


Wednesday, June 09, 2010

The Paw Award

Welcome to the award winning(tm) Marius' Corner. I say award winning because the lovely, talented, and oh so tolerant Stinkypaw has bestowed upon me The Paw award.

Here is how she describes it: “The Paw” is intended to be a sign that says: this blogger is a good ‘blend’ of Stinkypaw and is not afraid to admit it. He/She is not easily offended, has a good sense of humour and most importantly doesn’t take him/herself too seriously. - Stinkypaw =^..^= I am very honored that this is my second Paw, and maybe, just maybe, this will be the kick in the ass I need to get me blogging a bit more regularly.

Merci beaucoup, Stinky!!