Abortion Restriction Enacted in Texas, or “This is a set-back, but the fight is far from over.”

Perry Signs Sweeping Texas Abortion Restrictions : NPR.

So a few weeks back, I did a lot of writing about Texas SB5, a piece of horrid legislation that will severely restrict the availability of safe abortions in Texas, as well as the incredible effort put forth by Wendy Davis to prevent the bill from passing during a special session of the Texas legislature.

Unfortunately, Governor Rick Perry decided that oppressing women and controlling their bodies was SO important that he called a SECOND special session of the legislature to get these abortion restrictions in place. I find it very disturbing that the very same week that he signed that order, Texas celebrated (and I do mean celebrated) the execution of their 500th prisoner. Unfortunately, with an entire 30-day window to push through this disgusting encroachment on women’s bodies, there was simply no procedural method available to prevent the bill from being pushed through. Today, Perry signed the bill into law.

The immediate effect will be to prevent women from receiving abortions after the 20th week of pregnancy. The justification is the highly disputed and poorly supported idea that fetuses feel pain at that point.  But, far more disturbing will be the impact next fall. The law imposes extremely onerous restrictions on abortion providers far in excess of any other kind of medical practice. Clinics will have one year to comply or be forced to shutter their doors. As thing stand now, the second largest state in term of both size and population will be reduced from 42 abortion providers to just 5. The impact will hit low-income and minority women particularly hard; with no money to travel to a clinic they will have any notion of “choice” erased from their lives. What terrifies me most is that this will open the door for the re-introduction back-alley abortion providers; many desperate women will end up on the tables of the these unscrupulous people, and will risk scarring, infection, disability, infertility, and even death because a safe alternative simply isn’t available. It’s more than a right to choose…it’s a right to choose safely.

Luckily, lawsuits are already being written to delay and hopefully completely stop these new restrictions from taking effect. The federal courts have not looked favorably on similar bans in other states, and I’m hoping that trend continues here. After all, Roe v. Wade clearly set a precedent for the available of pregnancy termination at least to viability, which is pretty universally defined as 24 weeks. Unfortunately, Texas isn’t the only state taking the war on women’s rights to terrifying new heights. North Carolina, Ohio, Wisconsin, and Virginia have all recently enacted similar restrictions, and several other states are considering the same.

This push by the GOP to further invade women’s private health decisions and erode their rights over their body is nothing new, but it’s hitting with new fervor. It’s time those of us on the pro-choice side to start making more noise of our own and let our leaders know that will not stand for these intrusions. We need to all Stand With Wendy, and stand with each other.

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A New Safe Space in Chicago, or “Service, space, and community? What a concept!”

Chicago House opens nation’s first transgender housing.

My hat is off to some really wonderful people in Chicago today. Chicago House has pulled out all the stops to set up a safe living space for at-risk trans people in the greater Chicago area called the TransLife Center. It’s part of a larger organization effort they’ve titled the TransLife Project to improve the lives of transgender individuals in Chicago. As many of you may know, housing security is a huge concern for transgender people, and we suffer from a much higher-than-average rate of homelessness. Although Chicago House is primarily a organization geared towards caring for those with HIV/AIDS, they have recently expanded their efforts with the trans community at the urging of activists within their troup. The TLC will be a space where trans people can live safely if they are need as they get on their feet (transitional housing), as well as get access to employment services and health care. I think this will be a huge boon to the community of Chicago.

I think it would be fantastic to see groups in other cities follow this model and make sure that vulnerable trans people do not fall through the cracks and end up on the street or worse. The rates of suicide and homicide for the transgender community are very high, and homelessness only increases those risks.

Kudos to you, Chicago House, for all your hard work!

Some Horrible Science Journalism, or “You shouldn’t write about science and medicine if you don’t have a basic grasp for how science works.”

Autism May Start in The Gut, Study Finds – Autism Center – Everyday Health.

So basically, the above article is a pile of horseshit that completely perverts the study that was actually done. I’m absolutely disgusted and enraged reading it.

The basic finding of the ACTUAL research is that there a decrease in the diversity of intestinal flora in people on the autism spectrum, and the researchers believe that it may play a part in why autistics suffer from a lot gastrointestinal disturbances. What the article implies, however, is that somehow a change in intestinal flora is RESPONSIBLE and CAUSATIVE of the autism, and that perhaps by fixing this problem, we could cure autism. This is NEVER discussed by the researchers in their publication, and it doesn’t even make sense from a medical/science standpoint.

I have a lot anger and frustration at science journalism in the US, particularly when it comes to medical research. There is a constant tendency to over-read the research findings, draw false implications, and fail to understand the extremely basic premise that correlation does not equal causation. It’s a sensational form of journalism, and it’s wholly inappropriate for medical journalism. The public as a whole does not have the background to read the research itself, and when the data is sensationalized, you can create all kinds of public health scares and complications for the medical community.

But with autism, I think there’s an even bigger problem. Parents are often desperate for any explanation for why their children are autistic, and it’s already incredibly challenging to sift through the huge piles of information out there. Sadly, much of the information is misleading bordering on out-and-out falsified bullshit. Articles like this only add to that complication. And it really takes away from the fact that this IS a pretty major step forward. There are a number of unusual physical maladies that plague the ASD community, and GI problems are chief among them. If this research leads to a way to reduce just the GI problems that we have, that’s a wonderful thing and it will improve our lives. There’s no need to dig deep for false hope for some sort of miracle cure to come out of it.

When it come to science journalism, let’s stick to facts and appropriate conclusions and not twist the words of the researchers to fit the narrative you’re looking for.

Big News and a Significant Step for the US Government on Gender, or “The SSA is no longer concerned about what’s between your legs.”

Social Security Removes Surgical Requirement for Gender Marker Change | Advocate.com.

This one came as a complete shock to me, and it’s incredibly encouraging. Today, the Social Security Administration announced it would no longer require documentation from a surgeon that Gender Confirmation Surgery had been performed in order to change the gender marker in an individual’s Social Security record. Now, all that is required is “medical certification of appropriate clinical treatment for gender transition in the form of an original signed statement from a licensed physician.”  This change in policy, along with a similar recent change for US passport documents is a huge leap forward for the federal government in recognizing that GCS is not an appropriate way to mark the change from one gender to another. In many senses, this means that a letter from an appropriate physician is all that is required for the US government to legally recognize you as your new gender.

I’m absolutely overjoyed by this news. Not only because it will directly make my transition process easier, but because it represents an awareness of trans issues at a national level. So many thanks to everyone who works so hard lobbying for these changes and striving to improve the every day lives of the trans community.

With any luck, a simplified process for changing gender markers on state-issues driver’s licenses is not far behind.

Doctor Appointments and HRT Progress, or “Medical students say the darndest things!”

For those of you keeping track (no one, I hope…that’d be creepy) today is day +99 since I was initiated on hormone therapy. So, what would be the best way to celebrate such an arbitrary occasion? How about taking a day off work and going to a bunch of doctors appointments. Clearly, I’m a girl who KNOWS how to have fun.

First up was my very first appointment with a brand new primary care doctor. I haven’t had a primary care doc in nearly five years, because I have tendency to fire them for any number of things. The most common reason has been an obnoxious obsession with my weight, but others have been fired for giving me transphobic nonsense, or not being willing to work around some of the anxiety triggers I have. But my therapist has been pushing me to be a little better about taking care of general health type things, and did the leg work of tracking me down a trans-friendly family medicine specialist. So, I figured the least I could do was give her a chance. Since I use an academic hospital for most of my medical care, I pretty much always have to endure the physical and verbal prodding of a medical student and/or a resident. I endure with a smile because I recognize that I represent a good learning opportunity for these soon-to-be doctors. Today was no different, and I had my initial exam and history done by a very friendly young female student. While I can often tell when I’m someone’s first transgender patient, this young woman went about our time together as if it were absolutely nothing she hadn’t done a hundred times. I’m very grateful for it, as I was already fairly nervous about the whole encounter. She was honest about the skills she was still practicing, apologized for her cold hands, and engaged me in actual human conversation. All in all, I was fairly impressed and encouraged. After this, I got finally meet my new doctor, and I was also pleasantly surprised. She was supportive and encouraging, and had none of the fat-hating overtones that I had grown accustomed to with other doctors. She even took the time to ask me about my triggers AND note them in my chart. It feels so good to have a doctor who is on my side, and is actively interested in working with me, instead of just treating me like another patient to hurry out the door. Anyway, I got a clean bill of a health (other than the couple of known little problems), and a big pile of blood tests run to make sure there’s nothing weird hiding and to check my hormone levels, plus my responsible adult STI screening. It will be really nice to have a general doctor I can rely on when general health issues come up, and not have to risk an urgent care or something similar unless it’s serious.

Next up on my agenda was a trip to my endocrinologist for my first HRT check-up. Once again, I had the pleasure of chatting with a young medical student. This one was a little more nervous talking to me, and she rambled during the history to cover her nerves. I felt a little bad for her. She lost her head for a second when her notes got the reproductive systems review portion, and she asked when my last period was, then panicked and blurted out “Oh wait, you don’t have a uterus, right?” Still not the most awkward encounter I’ve had with a med student, but still kind of silly. In the end, hopefully she learned something, and will be better able to handle her next transgender patient. Anyway, after my chat with nervous med student, my doc came in to do our quick check of progress and side effects from my current HRT regimen. I really enjoy talking to my endocrinologist. He’s been working with transgender patients for twenty years, and he seems so genuinely excited and happy to be a part of our transition. Anyway, I had my moved up my Estrace to 4 mg for 2 months, and then to 6 mg after that. But I don’t have to come back for 4 months, which is wonderful to hear given how busy my life is going to get here shortly. My estrogen levels are at 93, which is fairly good for a 2 mg dose. Testosterone is now well below normal male range, but still higher than is preferred at 1.1. But the increased Estrace dose should help push the T down even more, and the hope is that I’ll be essentially hormonally indistinguishable from a genetic female.

All in all, not a terrible day for having to spend a lot of it at medical appointments. It would have been nice to have gotten my eye appointment done today too, but alas, I couldn’t get in, so that’ll have to wait a week. I’m pretty excited about that one…I haven’t had an eye exam in about 5 years, so i’m sure my script has changed, and my new vision coverage has a pretty nice frames allowance. Hopefully I’ll be able to get some cute new glasses!