Reflection, because I am so reflective

For my final project I want to reflect really on the class, and how we all ( as different as we were) interacted.

I want to start off saying, this class I took on a whim, WGS350; women and gender studies. I must admit I wasn’t even sure what that was, or what that meant, but I would soon find out.

The first day was intimidating, there were students who really had opinions and were really vocal about them, one student declared on the first day ” I love Queer studies”, and there I was not even being clear on what “queer studies” was ( I didn’t even know queer was a cool word to use, I was under the impression it was still a rude word). Questions about dropping the class raced through my mind, would I be able to keep up? Would my thoughts sound stupid compare to the wiser more experienced women and gender study’s students. Sure, it sounds rather silly now, but its true. I was in an unfamiliar place, with unfamiliar people of course I was out of my comfort zone.

To be completely honest I had never read books so explicit in language and in content than the books I had read for this class. At times, to be candid and completely honestly, I felt as if the explicit nature of some of the novels was unnecessary, even vulgar and at times made me really uncomfortable. But again, this was something I was looking to do- step out of my comfort zone, feel uncomfortable and open my mind to different things. And believe me in this class we talks about many different things.

We spoke and discussed topics from “what is dirty?”, “are people really straight or really gay, or are we all just liquid?”, one of the more heated debates came from the discussion of “what is love?”. And as I said before what made this class so great was the different opinions. Many of us believed that no person is gay or straight, we fall in love with people, not gender. Others spoke out to say of course there is straight, or gay there is no way they could love a gender that they weren’t attracted to. As for what we thought was dirty, almost every single one of us had different ideas, some of us thought dirty was tabu sex, others thought the idea of dirty demanded on what type of culture or society it was. We all did agree that different social groups and different societies had different ideas of sex, gender roles, and taboos. I thought a fair amount of the students in the class were from a similar social group, or that they could relate to each other. For me, I felt that my social group was completely different from most of the other’s groups. The people I know are defiantly not as open, or as liberal minded as my fellow students or their groups.

As for my social group, or social circle as sad as it is I feel as if the people in my social circle or in the group of people I know are pretty much similar. We all sort of like the same things, do the same things, speak the same way, and have pretty much the same thoughts. I know this sounds horrible, but it is true. Again to be painfully honest my friends would never take a class like this, I didn’t even discuss the contents of the class with any of them because I knew they wouldn’t understand. Sometimes I think groups of mold into clones of each other, in order to be friends we all want to be alike. I’m not sure we realize this, but thinking about in depth I must agreed it’s true. Personally, I wanted to branch out, I wanted to learn something different, I didn’t want to be a clone of my friends. I wanted to have my own thoughts, I want to be open minded, and most importantly maybe I didn’t want to be confined to a limited group of people.

By taking this class, being exposed to it’s content, and the other students in the class I feel refreshed. The classroom was truly a “safe place”, a safe room, we could say anything we wanted an we wouldn’t be judged, and we could say WHATEVER we wanted ( as long as it didn’t offend anyone) and feel safe about what we had said.

The theme of the class was indeed openness. I hope even after this class, I will remain open to other people’s ideas, beliefs, lifestyles that maybe I don’t take part in or that maybe I don’t agree with. I feel as though I have changed. From the beginning to the end of the class my voice and my opinions have become stronger, now I can speak my mind without the fear of being put down or disagreed with. I’ve learned its really okay to disagree with others as long as you respect each other’s opinions. This may seem cheesy, or very elementary, and well it is, but still we don’t really remember these simple guidelines.

While taking this class I have also noticed the level of homophobia among males especially. I never really noticed how politically incorrect and really offensive the guys I hang around with are. I’m not sure if I was immune to it before, or I just didn’t care. The way the males I interact with use queer terms to insult each other. An example is when a boy isn’t being manly enough he’s called a “fag”, or a “homo”. I am now more aware and more interested with the male’s preoccupation with masculinity and their fears of being deemed gay among their peers. Being enlighten to queer issues now, I’m not really sure how to react when this happens. Like should I correct them? Should I ignore them? Should I not be offended? I’m really not sure. I’m going to create a poll and insert it at the bottom of this post and see how you ( my readers) feel about homophobia, and what’s the proper way to react to it?

I want to conclude this post saying this class taught me a lot about queer life and the different terminology, and the liquid nature that the queer peoples can and do embrace. I also, actually, learned a lot about myself and how to disagree effectively. I am grateful ( as cheesy as this sounds) to the other students in the class, they, even more the the queer literature, taught me so much about queer studies.

What the (expletive) is intersex anyway?

About a decade ago people in society speculated about the technology we would be using in 2010. In playful essays about the future you can read details about flying cars, alien co-habitation, and space age buildings. While we as a society (US society and World society) have indeed come along way. Our technology is so advanced that we can send messages in seconds from opposite sides of the World. So why is it that in a World that is so advanced we (as a World society) cannot see beyond our simplest differences? Religion, color, and of course, gender. Why are we so insistent on categorizing humans by gender, segregating by gender, and discriminating based on gender? Why is gender “such a big deal” to us?  These are the questions that motivated me to become interested in intersex. Simply, non-scientifically, and in ‘valley girl’ terms intersex is when you are “both”.

When my WGS350 class was told to watch a movie based on the topic of intersex, my first thought (as ignorant as it might have been) was “What the (expletive) is intersex?” I knew what a boy was, I knew what a girl was, but what was an intersex? I asked my friends, I asked my fellow students, I asked my neighbors ( no I really did), and all I heard back was ” what the ( expletive) is intersex?” It occurred to me that we as a society are uneducated, and completely ignore to a relatively large group of people. We are ignorant to this group of people, because (in my theory) because society cannot clearly categorize them, so we ignore them. ( Side note, I say “we” alot, not talking about YOU or even ME, but a gerneral term of the majority). It was here that I came to my conclusion that we as a society sort of like sweep these people under the run because we cannot label them, and I don’t approve of that. I HATE labels.

I want to use my blog to educate others on intersex peoples. I don’t what us to be ignore to something just because we do not understand it, or cannot label it.  With this said, I want to keep an open mind while writing this blog, I want us (me and you) to think about the questions I previously brought up. While discussing intersex I want both of us to reflect on whether we agree with the way society labels us based on gender. I want us to question in our minds why we put such a great emphasis on gender. Aren’t we all just humans anyway?

Okay. Enjoy my findings loyal blog followers.

The following are my sources, they are all peer reviewed scholarly articles,

http://www.annals-general-psychiatry.com/content/7/S1/S129

(Information on transcriptional anatomy, specifically the androgen disorders)

http://www.annals-general-psychiatry.com/content/7/S1/S129

(Information of surgical treatments and the German Network of Sex Development)

http://www.annals-general-psychiatry.com/content/7/S1/S129

(Information of the psychological effects of incorrect sex reassignment)

http://www3.interscience.wiley.com/emrw/9780470015902/els/article/a0005508/current/abstract

(Information on the different types of intersex)

“Intersex” is an extremely generic term. The general description of intersex is when a person is born with reproductive anatomy that cannot be traditionally defined as male or female. It should also be noted that the causes of different conditions are sometimes different, there is a general misconception that all intersex conditions are caused by chromosomal make up.

I have listed and described below the most commonly documented types of intersex.

Turner Syndrome – is usually when female sex characteristics are present but underdeveloped in comparison to the majority of other females. For example girls with turner syndrome do not get a menstrual cycle, they more often than not are sterile because of non-working ovaries.

Swyer Syndrome  ( aka XY gonadal dysgenesis)- is distinguished by lack of testicular development, streak gonads, the presence of well-developed Mullerian structures (a uterus and fallopian tubes), underdeveloped breasts and female external genitalia.

Progestin Induced Virilization- is caused by exposure to exogenous androgens (usually progestin) while babies are in the womb. Here females could have a larger than average clitoris, or a male with no testes.

Partial Androgen Insensitivity Syndrome (PAIS)- is caused when a girl lacks ovaries, womb and fallopian tubes, the development of the vagina varies from person to person. Newborns with PAIS have XY sex chromosomes therefore develop testes and not ovaries. The testes give off normal male amounts of androgens but, because the androgen receptor is abnormal, the cells of their bodies cannot respond normally.

Ovo-Testes- is when sex glands have both ovarian testicular tissues. Unfortunately testicular tissue in ovotestes comes with a higher risk of sex gland cancer.

Mullerian Agenesis, Vaginal Agenesis, Congenital Absense of Vagina or MRKH – is when a person has ovaries but no uterus, or a smaller uterus.

Mosaicism involving sex chromosomes- is when a person a person has different karyotype (A karyotype is the number/appearance of chromosomes in the nucleus of a eukaryote cell /  eukaryote is an organism whose cells contain complex structures inside the membranes)  in some cells than others. This occurs while babies are in embryo cells sometimes divide incorrectly.

Klinefelter syndrome- is the most common intersex condition it is typically when males inherit an extra x chromosome, so their karyotype becomes 47, xxy. Some of the symptoms of Klinefelter are small, firm testes, a small penis, sparse pubic, armpit and facial hair, enlarged breasts. One in every 500 males have an extra X chromosome but do not have the syndrome.

Hypospadias- this referees to a condition where the urethral meatus (scientific for “peep-hole) is located along the underside of the penis, rather than the traditional tip of the head. In some cases the urethra could possibly be from the mid-shaft to the glands, in other documented cases there is no urethra at all.

Congenital Adrenal Hyperplasis (CAH) – is a little different from the others in the respect that it occurs when a disruption occurs while the body is making cortisone in the adrenal glands (some of the glands that make hormones and put them in your blood), the adrenal glands are trying to make cortisone may produce a high level of other hormones which sometimes makes female genitals larger than traditional aka clitoromegaly.

Now that you understand more about intersex conditions, and what causes them – let me educate you on the different ways people “treat” intersex.

In the 1950s (Doesn’t it seem like everything backward occurred in the 50’s?) doctors at Johns Hopkins began doing gender assignment surgeries on children very early on based on the said knowledge that they could be raised as whatever sex was chosen for them. This practice was enforced my psychologists like the famous John Money who preached and believed in the idea of “nurture”, you teach your children what they should be, you said teach them what sex you want them to be. And most of the time the newborn would be reconstructed to be a female, based on the fact that it was considered easier to reconstruct female genitalia than male. However, in mid nineties controversy arose when intersex advocacy groups began to immerge as a result of many unhappy intersex persons who had their sex chosen for them. The main issue with the reconstructive surgery is that it is done at infancy, before the child can grow, mature, and discover what sex they feel they are, some people don’t even want the reconstructive surgeries, and it is being done for them at an age where they cannot consent. Today, with great efforts  made by intersex advocacy groups and other enlightened peoples the at birth reconstructive surgery is being practiced less and less, parents are seeing the value in letting their children grow to an age/maturity where they can make their own choice or chose forgo the surgery all together. Hopefully, with the growth of these progressive groups, and the education of people/parents of intersex children the term intersex will carry less of a negative stigma, and we as a society will feel more comfortable and open to discuss intersex. I sincerely hope my blog educated you more on intersex, and you feel comfortable to talk and educate others on this once closeted topic.

Advocacy group sites to check out

American Association for Klinefelter Syndrome Information and Support — www.aaksis.org

CARES Foundation — www.caresfoundation.org

Congenital Adrenal Hyperplasia Education and Support Network — www.congenitaladrenalhyperplasia.org

Hypospadias and Epispadias Association — www.heainfo.org

Intersex Society of North America — www.isna.org

Turner Syndrome Society of the US — www.turner-syndrome-us.org

My Amazing Project!

Welcome to my Blog “Shutup & Listen”, this is the greatest blog you will ever read written by the most fascinating person you will ever meet.  So, shut up & listen,

Lets start at the beginning, somewhere in the beginning….

As the time approached to pick out a project based on the coming of age novel “Animal’s people” I was anxious for many reasons. One, I was afraid that the guidelines were just too ambiguous for me. I had never addressed such an abstract concept before as an assignment and I was anxious that I would some how fail at the task. Second, and perhaps this was my greatest fear, that I would not do Animal, or the novel justice. The novel spoke to me in such a way that I felt extremely moved by Animal, not only because he was unjustly disabled, but I felt- could almost relate, to his adolescent, coming of age plight.

The novel, to me, had no limitations, it crossed over boundaries to reached people who would not generally be affected, or could not generally relate to a disabled character. That’s the beauty of “Animal’s People” -it’s not another book about a disabled character, because that’s not who Animal is. Animal is so much more than a disability, he is a human, a vulnerable, relatable adolescent human- and that’s how the novel crossed all boarders, in a way it almost broke a mold.

So, for me the problem was folks -I wanted to give my friend Animal respect, I wanted to make his story proud, therefore a killer project idea was superlative.  I began my brainstorming by deciphering what I personally took from the novel, the “main ideas” if you will. I came up with a few ideas, but I decided, after much debating, that the idea of self-sacrifice, and why people genuinely care about the wellbeing of others is the theme of the novel. While reading the novel Animal is suspicious of Zafar, he frequently questions the sincerity and genuine nature of his self-sacrifice. We also see the people of Khaufpur skepticism about the nature of Elli and her Clinique. In general, we as people are confused about the sincerity of people when they sacrifice so much. Does this mean we as humans are selfish? Does this mean we don’t care about the unfortunate or those who have been hurt unjustly? Do we just care about issues that effect us directly? These are the questions that the novel left me with and I thought the project was a perfect opportunity to get the answers, to get to the heart of these issues in my mind.

After researching the actual events that inspired and influenced Indra Sinha to write “Animal’s People” I came up with the beyond, brilliant idea that I would survey people and get their reactions to the actual event of the Bhopal disaster.

For those of you reading my beyond brilliant blog that aren’t educated on the Bhopal Disaster, it is very similar to the chemical disaster described in the novel.  I will insert a brief explanation and description of the disaster from Greenpeace (Greenpeace is a non-government organization focused on environmentalism, human rights and peace, they have been actively involved in the clean up and advocacy of Bhopal)

BHOPAL, India — It all began 18 years ago during the night of 2 December 1984 when 40 tones of lethal gases leaked from Union Carbide Corporation’s pesticide factory in Bhopal, India. People just did not know what had hit them. There was no warning. Before anyone could realize the full impact of the disaster an area of about 40 square kilometers, with a resident population of over half a million, was engulfed in dense clouds of poison.

People woke up coughing, gasping for breath, their eyes burning. Many fell dead as they ran. Others succumbed at the hospitals where doctors were overwhelmed by the numbers and lacked information on the nature of the poisoning. By the third day of the disaster, an estimated 8,000 people had died from direct exposure to the gases and a further 500,000 were injured. Today, the number of deaths stands at 20,000.”  (Greenpeace, December 2002)

To focus back to the social experiment, I set out to survey two groups of college students.  Group one would be non- international college students with no affiliations with foreign countries (meaning no relatives live over seas and/or they never have lived over seas). The second group would be students who are either international or have international afflictions.  The surveying originally went pretty well, I gave them information from the Greenpeace website about Bhopal (Although, pictures are very moving I did not want to give them pictures, pictures would no doubt tug at my testis heart strings, but for now I wanted the reactions to be based solely on facts not images. Perhaps, later if I continue the study I will use pictures as another variable) Armed with the information and my survey I sent my testis on their way. I did not want to be near them when they read the information, or answered the questions, I did not want to be a variable on their results.

Now, I know you’re dying to hear about my results! So, without further adieu…….

This is the exact questioner survey everyone of the testis received.

1)   How does this information make you feel?

2)   Have you ever heard of Bhopal before?

3)   What do you think should be done about it?

4)   Do you feel as if you can help?

5)   Do you feel as if you need to be extremely rich to financially contribute to the survivors or the cause?

6)   Do you think America should take action? If so why?

7)   What to you is the worst part of the disaster?

8)   What do you think the consequences for Dow should be?

9)   If you had 200 dollars and you were asked to donate it to the cause would you? If so why?

10) What would you sacrifice to help this cause?

It was sort of difficult to tally and make a conclusion on this experiment because the answer sheet was not  simply” yes” or “no” answers, I had to make an educated conclusion on the information I received.

IMPORTANT NOTE- I encouraged my entire test group to be as honest as they possibly could, and I promised them no names would be used and no one would judge them.

Results  (My results are currently based on fourteen people from both groups)

1. ) 12 out of fourteen people polled answer the first question with “sad”

2 out of 14 people responded with the word “angry”, these two people were from the            American group.

2.) 11 people out of 14 answered they have never heard of Bhopal before, of the three that had two were American students while the other was from England.

3.) 13 out of 14 people answered that those harmed by the Bhopal disastore should receive retribution from the Union Carbide Corporation, and the corporation should be forced to pay. One person who’s answer differentiated from the others was  from the American group polled responded ” It was an unfortunate accident, and things similar to it happen everyday everywhere. Nothing can be fairly done”.

4.) Surprisingly 14 out of 14 felt as if there was nothing they could do about it, and they couldn’t help.

5.) Only 5 out of 14 people polled  felt they needed to be extremely rich to financially contribute to the cause, all five were American persons.

6.) 13 out of 14 polled felt as if the Americans should not take action, the discerning answer was from an American persons. The majority’s answer for why was because the United States is either too nosey with other people’s problems, or has their own problems to deal with both of these responses were from Americans.

7.) 14 out of 14 people polled answered that “injured people were the worst part of the disaster”.

8.) 9 out of 14 people polled responded with “I don’t know” or  I am not qualified to say the answers were from both groups, 3 American’s answered they should pay off damages, the other answers ranged from jail time for the offenders, to a trial.

9.) 7 out of 14 said they would donate their 200 dollars, three were Americans and four were or had ties to over seas. Their answers ranged from ” I would donate my money because they need it more than I do”, “I would donate the 200 because I have enough to spare” both of these answers were from Americans. Those who would not spare their 200 dollars to the cause four were Americans and three were not. Their answers ranged from “It’s a recession, no way”- an American polled, ” I can’t spare money like that” a Cuban polled.

10.) The answer to question ten was not a yes or no answer. However, I shall list some of the responses. Five Americans, and three non-Americans said they would sacrifice time to help, The remaining two Americans noted they would sacrifice anywhere from 50 dollars to 200 dollars, and the four remaining non-Americans noted they would sacrifice anywhere from 50 to 1000.

I can’t really come to a conclusion, as I had wished before. As I finished polling all my persons and while tallying up my final answers I discovered my answers were too all over the board to make such a generalization as I had originally wanted. Perhaps, this is a good thing- maybe its a message that one group of people doesn’t care less or more than another. I truly enjoyed working on this project, and of my project I have done for the blog, finishing up this I realized this was my favorite. I really enjoyed interacting with people and finding out their true thoughts about an important issue. I will post the survey here so any one reading can take part and tell me their thoughts !