An Intersexual Child

While reading “Hermaphrodites and the Medical Invention of Sex” a question popped into my head, what would I do if I had a child who was intersex*. It is unlikely that I will have any children, and even less likely that my partner will go through pregnancy to have our child, so I posed the following to Facebook to see how others handled this:

Before having kids did you research and discuss with your partner things like intersexuality?

Like, how would you handle it if your child was born with both male and female genitalia, or “abnormal” genitalia?

The results were kind of mixed. I’ll start with the group that I agree with.

Do Nothing: Unless there was a medical need for survival or the health of my child I would do nothing. I wouldn’t remove testes, trim back a phallus that was “too big” for a clitoris but “too small” for a penis, alter the urethra opening, create a vaginal cavity, or anything else. If my child decides to alter their body to conform to how they feel inside that is a choice they can make when they are adults. I don’t think permanently altering the body of a child (and this includes circumcision) is within the rights or responsibilities of the parent unless that permanent alteration is necessary for survival or a healthy life.

Don’t Worry About It Now: The second group basically said the chances of it happening are so small that it isn’t even worth discussing until it happens. Personally, I don’t operate that way. My partner and I discuss a lot of things that probably won’t happen, we don’t sit around worrying and fretting, but we do have basic plans if something unexpected (tragic or not) happens. While numbers are very hard to come by for intersexuality current estimates put about 1 in 100 babies are born that differ from the standard binary, and about 1 in 1,000 babies receive surgery to “correct” “abnormalities”. That isn’t a small number and is in the realm of a child having Down Syndrom (which seems to be discussed more often). That seems like something that should be discussed at least once if you are bringing a life into this world, at least to get an idea that you and your partner are on the same page. You may not know exactly what you will do but the discussion seems worth having.

Abort: One person put abortion but he may have been trolling. I disagree with this for two reasons. First, it is technologically impossible, you don’t know whether your child is intersex until after it is born. Secondly, wanting a child but aborting it because there might be some difficulty raising it is a shitty move. Don’t have a child if you only want it to be easy or normal.

Appeal to Authority: Another response was to let the doctor decide what to do. Honestly, this may have been my response before reading the book. Aside from giving a view into the history of intersexuality in France and Great Britain, the book also showed that doctors have traditionally had a vested interest in maintaining a heterosexual binary in society. To many of them all sexuality should fit in two boxes, humans are either MEN (male, attracted to women, masculine) or WOMEN (female, attracted to men, feminine) and there is no room for things in between. That is changing in some circles but doctors aren’t gods, they are biased humans who lack a lot of knowledge and won’t bear the consequences if they make a mistake when permanently altering an infant.

As we continue to explore what it means to be human we are finding that sexuality is far more complicated than anyone could have realized. Terms like pansexual, polyamory, and genderfluid didn’t even exist a generation ago. What it is all really pushing towards is an acceptance of individuals as individuals instead of pushing them into boxes. Many power structures (particularly religion and government) have a vested interest in keeping everyone in easily defined boxes and categories but, thanks to the internet (imo), that is changing. Someone’s gender, chromosomes, and genitals are becoming less important. Questions like “are they straight?” or “is that a woman?” have always been cover for what we really want to know “Could they be attracted to me?” or “Do they fit into a category?”, those questions replace individuality with tribalism and changes their value based on whether they will be a potential sex partner.

Thankfully, we are moving away from that. We are moving to a time where we love ourselves as we are and we love others for who they are.

*I realize definitions can be tricky but for this blog intersex means that the genitalia (internal and/or external) do not easily fit into the male/female binary. I think that binary is limiting and bullshit given the diversity of our evolved species but that is for a different blog post.

Pathfinder

For the last few months or so I have been getting together online with my brothers and few other friends to play Pathfinder (basically Dungeons and Dragons), but sadly that time has come to an end. Trying to coordinate the schedules of five or more adults who have families, kids, jobs, etc has become unmanageable. I guess that is a common story when it comes to D&D and I am a bit surprised at how sad I am about the whole thing.

This was my first experience with “pencil and paper” games. Growing up I was told that D&D (and similar games like MechWarrior) were evil, tools of the devil, would cause addiction, would destroy my grades, etc. It turns out that isn’t really the case. What struck me most about playing is how open it is, you can literally try and do anything. This sets it apart from video games, even massive games like World of Warcraft. We are just not at the point technologically where software can even begin to compete with the human imagination.

Playing D&D is more of an art than a science. Sure, having book knowledge about your characters and rules and such is necessary, but the real enjoyment comes from using creativity to find solutions. Often, the most fun is not shooting fireballs and swinging swords, but is getting into your character and talking your way out of a solution, or even finding a way to avoid a problem altogether. I am going to miss taking a few hours out of each week to become a cleric with a hawk on my shoulder and going around bringing balance back to the world, but maybe I’ll be able to play again soon. Until then, I have those wonderful guys at The Adventure Zone podcast playing D&D version 5.0 to keep me entertained.

Rules

Recently my friends Isaac and Zak posted some of the “rules” they have for their own life. It seemed like a cool idea so I did the same thing, though many of these rules I break regularly and some are more like goals instead of laws in my life.

  • Drink plenty of water: Cutting out soda and other beverages (except for evening beer and morning coffee) has really made me feel healthier. Sometimes I forget to drink water regularly throughout the day so I have an app called Plant Nanny that reminds me to drink water and rewards me with cute plants that grow.
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Aren’t they cute? (Despite the terribly fuzzy picture)

  • Apply my ethics to food: I strive to apply my ethical stances on harming others (basically, don’t harm others) to my food sources as well. That means I am generally vegan unless the food is going to go in the trash or is a gift from someone. A bonus to this is eating a minimally processed plant-based diet has been really healthy for me.
  • Partners Come First: My sexual partners should have at least one orgasm before I have mine. Aside from just being polite, focusing on the pleasure and satisfaction of another person is an incredibly rewarding experience.
  • Unfriend Negative People: I try to unfriend people on Facebook who contribute nothing of value to conversations and only serve to be a negative force. I don’t mind debate and discussion on my posts (though I think Facebook is a terrible platform for that) but some people seem to show up just to dash the happiness of others. I don’t need that in my life.
  • Lose Pants: I take off pants (and all clothes) whenever possible. Environment often dictates this but if I am in a public or private place where nudity isn’t going to get me arrested or kicked out of a home then I will go au natural
  • Educate Myself: The internet provides access to nearly endless amounts of education so I try to do Khan Academy or watch educational videos or listen to podcasts before I get on Facebook each morning. Similarly, I try to blog before Facebook each day (this is new though)
  • Go Digital: When I want a new book I try and purchase an Audible or Kindle version. This is both for practicality (I can’t take all my books on the bike ride) and to guarantee I have access to that information in the future. It is unlikely something saved to Amazon’s server will get lost or broken like a book will.
  • Yelp: Write yelp reviews often, and try to be as honest as possible
  • Kiss: Kiss my wife passionately at least once a day and make sure she knows I love her
  • Savor Beer: Only drink good beers as the first or second one of the night. If I’m buzzed I can’t appreciate the artistry of brewing.
  • Minimize Distractions: When I am working or creating I put my cell phone in a different room and close all tabs that aren’t part of the task at hand.
  • Balance Art and Entertainment: When I am watching something on Netflix, reading a new book, or listening to music I strive to balance artistic stuff that makes me think and analyze my own life, and entertainment which serves to relax and distract for a time.
  • Love Myself: Whenever I get out of the shower I take several moments and look at myself naked in the mirror. I then mentally pick out the things I like about my body.
  • Minimize Trash: I purchase products in bulk or second-hand whenever possible.

At Our Fingertips

There is an old joke or something that I read once that goes something like this…

Question: If you could go back in time 100 years and could tell people anything, what do you think you would tell them that would amaze them the most?
Answer: By 2015 much of humanity will have access to nearly all of human knowledge on small plastic devices that fit in their pocket, but instead of learning and growing, humans mostly spend their time looking at cats and calling each other Nazis,

For me, the truth in that makes me chuckle and stings a bit. While I don’t think I have ever called someone a Nazi and looking at cat photos isn’t really my thing, I do spend way too much time on the internet wasting time and arguing with other people instead of improving myself. Hopefully, I can change that and take greater advantage of the opportunities that present themselves with the internet.

In total I currently pay for Netflix, Audible, Spotify Premium, and Amazon Prime. I split the costs with my partner so this amounts to about $20 a month. That is a hell of a deal for films, audio books, music, and quick/cheap shipping of physical goods. These resources would have literally costs millions ten years ago, if they even could be purchased at all. Maybe it is because I was born in 1981 and am an older millennial that this is staggeringly awesome to me. I remember renting VHS films, buying cassettes, scouring libraries hoping they have one or two outdated books on a subject. Now, most of that information is free or very low cost.

I can’t imagine my life now without Wikipedia, global access to more information than I could hope to consume in a lifetime (even if we stopped adding things now). You can even get educated through Khan Academy, Code Academy, and a variety of Open Courses provided by major traditional higher education facilities. Maybe colleges know they need to adapt or die.

All this information really comes down to opportunities for freedom though. My bike ride will be kicking off again soon and it is the first time in human history where something like this would be possible to maintain inevitably without some sort of financial fortune. My partner and I can work online from the road, power our devices with solar panels, access the internet on our phones, and even continue to educate ourselves, learn new languages, read thousands of books on a small thin, light, computer, stay up to date with the news, and listen to our favorite artists album’s the moment they are released.

It really should be no surprise that millennials travel more, reject “secure” careers, and are putting off families. The internet has made it possible to customize our lives. We can find happiness, meaning, satisfaction, and love in our own way instead of following the model of our parents.

Beer

Yesterday was National Beer Day in the United States. Unlike most random “national” holidays this one has some roots in history. April 7th, 1933 ended the incredibly harmful prohibition of alcohol… well, sort of. You could only buy beer with less than 4.05% ABV (alcohol-by-volume), but it was a step in the right direction. Prohibition of alcohol, just like prohibition of drugs today, always makes things worse.

As my Facebook friends, my coworkers, and my family know, I love beer. My coworkers usually see me purchase a couple of beers a night and I probably drink 1-2 every night. My mother is worried I am an alcoholic. It isn’t about the alcohol though, I don’t buy and drink beer to get drunk. To me, it is an appreciation of an artform. It is experiencing the hard work, experimentation, creativity, and diversity created by another person. As I have started brewing my own beer I have come to appreciate the nuances and variety that comes in the form of an amber ale.

I realize this is one of the trappings the Stoics wrote about. Becoming a snob in a certain area means the endless pursuit of something better, richer, more rewarding. It is a never-ending quest because you can never really catch them all (just ask Ash). Whether it is beer, video games, comic books, Magic cards, porn videos, rare coins, visiting new restaurants, or whatever other hobbies exist, the pursuit of the new instead of the appreciation and enjoyment of what you have can create dissatisfaction.

I don’t think I’ve fallen into that trap yet. Maybe I will someday, but for right now I am very happy enjoying a wonderful beer for the taste. Yes, I try to buy new ones regularly, but I am also happy to abstain from drinking or turning to an old favorite. Brewing is an artform to be appreciated, analyzed, and hopefully shared with friends. I’m sure the brewers around the world who provide this wonderful creation are happy to know that their work is enjoyed and they are appreciated.

Election Season

Well, in my little corner of the world it looks like election season is here. It’s true that the actual Presidential election is over 550 days away but that isn’t what is important. The important thing is that Rand Paul is announcing his intent to run for President. This provides my libertarian friends the opportunity to pass on a cultish devotion from father to son. Of course, libertarians aren’t the only ones who do this, just ask a member of the GOP about Bush or Reagan, or a member of the Democratic party about Obama or Hillary Clinton. Personality trumps action in national elections.

My lack of support for Rand Paul is blasphemy in some circles. He has been held up as some last, best chance to turn the country in the “correct” direction…. whatever the hell that means. The truth is, even if I agreed with Paul on everything (which I don’t) or even if I trusted him to keep the government out of the areas I disagree with him on (which I don’t) one person as President trying to change the course of the country is like one guy on the Titanic paddling against the engine.

If Paul is elected it could be a very negative thing for libertarians. He will have a hostile congress on both sides of the aisle. Anything bad that happens will be seen as a failure of libertarianism (even though that is way too simplistic in all cases). The few areas where he could make some positive changes, like the drug war, the momentum is already there for success. By time 2016 rolls around there will be a dozen or more states with recreational marijuana legalized and most states will have it decriminilized and/or medicinal use legalized. It would be political suicide for any candidate to stand against that wave and I’m willing to bet most plausible candidates in 2016 will vocally support states making the decision on marijuana themselves. Marriage is another issue that really won’t be an issue in the election (except maybe to rile up the religions right). The courts will have decided by then and there won’t be anything a President can do about it.

So no, I won’t be voting for Paul. I don’t see the Presidential elections as any real value. It is a dog and pony show, and for most people in this country their vote doesn’t even matter on a national scale. If I vote it will be only for local candidates and propositions that expand freedom. I only hope I can make it through the next 18 months or so without unfriending half the people I know on Facebook.

Final Thoughts on Death

This is the fifth post in a series where I think about death and the afterlife. The first post was kind of an introduction, the second covered the elimination of consciousness at death, the third was about reincarnation, the fourth was about an afterlife, and the this final one will be my concluding thoughts.

Our society has an unhealthy relationship with death. It is something we pretend isn’t happening but we all know it will likely come to each of us. As far as I know there has not been anyone who has been able to escape it, though the film “The Man From Earth” had an interesting premise and you should all go watch it on Netflix. Part of our fear comes from how sheltered we are from death in the modern world and part of our fear comes from not knowing what happens afterwards.

Nobody actually knows what happens to our consciousness after death, and anyone that says they know really mean they have a hypothesis that is based on subjective feelings or intuition. Regardless of what happens we really shouldn’t have anything to fear, the most likely scenarios are either neutral or good. Though I have no more empirical knowledge about death than the next person I think the likelihood of each scenario we discussed is as follows (first being most likely and last being lease likely):

  1. Nothing. I think it is most likely that when we die our consciousness dies with us. This hypothesis fits best with our current understanding of life and our universe. That isn’t to say it is the only possibility though, it is possible that humans have a consciousness that exists separate from our bodies and upon bodily death that consciousness continues to exist. We just don’t have, and may never have, the technology necessary to measure that. I still think that is unlikely though.
  2. Video Game:  The next likely scenario to me is that our entire existence is really a simulation or game for a technologically advanced species and our consciousness is all that is “real” about this universe.. Upon my death my consciousness will return to the future and play a new game or do whatever it is advanced species who have overcome death and can harness all the energy needed to never need to work. This hypothesis also has the benefit of fitting within our understanding of the universe and human nature, though I’m not sure if it could ever be verified. If a species can create a simulation this advanced surely they can program it to prevent the characters from discovering it.
  3. Traditional Reincarnation. Now we move much further down the likelihood scale for me. The first two exist in cooperation with our understanding of the universe while the rest require more subjective measures. If our consciousness stays alive and moves to another being after death we have no objective way to check that. Instead, subjective measures like past-life regressions, DMT use, and patterns of spiritual traditions that exist throughout different cultures are all we have.
  4. A General Afterlife. Perhaps when we die our consciousness does move to a heaven (or hell) but no religion has it specifically right. Humans have rewritten, translated, and passed down orally almost all of the divine documents in the world and a lot has been messed up. The prophets were also all human who may have gotten the spiritual path or message from a being from another universe but things got lost in translation or were dummied down for the audience. Instead of any religion having a monopoly on truth it seems more likely that patterns that exist almost universally throughout religions should be trusted instead of worrying about the details of which person to deify.
  5. A Specific Afterlife. This seems like the least likely scenario to me. The idea that one specific modern interpretation of a prophet’s words is the truth is unverifiable and seems to ignore everything we know about history and science. It also seems to point to a cruel and selfish deity who would punish and torture good people because they grew up in a place where the “wrong” religion was more common.

So, there we go. Just my random thoughts on death and the afterlife. Things like this go through my head a lot when working (stocking groceries isn’t a very mentally intensive activity) and I like to play with different scenarios. Maybe I’ll do more multi-post series in the future, this was fun.