“They, She, He, Me: Free to Be” and the ‘debate’ over presenting LGBTQIA+ issues in schools

Swanson Middle School, Arlington VA, which I attended in 1955-58

My own first “do ask do tell” book is 25 years old.  While sales of it over the years (after the first couple) have been underwhelming, the book and the two successors, along with all the accompanying blog material, have, I think, had an impact on policy, starting first with the leadoff issue, “gays in the military” (encompassing the “don’t ask don’t tell” policy which was finally repealed in 2011 under Obama) through passive marketing, allowing others to find it with search engines and word of mouth, without aggressive marketing as usually recommended as necessary.

Generally, fiction is easier to sell than non-fiction, especially when the non-fiction is directed more narrowly at current events and their public policy implications.  Consumer interest wanes with time, although some issues have more downstream implications for the general public than the public realizes (DADT was definitely one of them, in conjunction with ideas like possible conscription or expected service and the forced intimacy that can result.) 

Writer’s Digest, going way back to like around 2000, used to counsel new writers, to “write what others want”.  That is, if you are going to make a living at writing.  Get off you high horse. Meet people where they are. (I guess I am continuing the discussion I started by mentioning Tyler Mowery’s “Writers Mind” at the end of yesterday’s post, although that isn’t necessarily what his videos say, but it is what the literary agent and bookselling world seems to demand – as well as the screenplay world.)

I might have had the opportunity in the 2000’s to help a couple other writers doing books on DADT, and I might have behaved more commercially (than I wound up doing with blogging – and that will be another topic soon).  But it’s still a question, that I get, why don’t I address the trans or non-binary now, and why don’t I write for young people, especially children?  It would certainly sell books, wouldn’t it?

Well, I have a problem with some of the hype today from the Left on promoting LGBTQIA materials with younger kids, to try to make the overall social climate more caring and less personally competitive.  I have written in the past that there is some legitimate literature (Vox in particularly summarized it) showing that gender identity can indeed sometimes be a genuine medical issue for some children.  That is probably less than 1 in 200 children through grade school.  There is an issue of Intersex, which may affect about 1.5% of births (with some chromosomal or genetic issues) but which is not said to justify medical intervention often. So it’s a bit confusing.  Even reputable literature contradicts itself, and there is some suspicion of medical scandal on exploitation of kids by some doctors.  See the June 9 -posting with a link to a Williams Institute study in the June 13 comment.

The Twitter account “@Libsoftiktok” pointed out a few children’s books in the Tenafly NJ public school library, and I bought one of them reported to be there.  That is Maya and Matthew Smith-Gonzalez, “They, She, He, Me: Free to Be!”, 40 pages, paper, from Reflection Press, San Francisco, ISBN 978-1-945289-09-5 (also available in hardcover), Amazon SiteStripe link.

Free to Be book trailer

The book, with a green cover in the geometric shape of a perfect square, starts with some pages of drawings of kids illustration each of the four titular pronouns.

The authors follow with a page for two suggested singular neo-pronouns.  One of these is “tree”, which sounds off base since it is the English language name of a particularly important biological (botanic) organism on Earth. (Yes, it helps with climate change.)  HRC has supported neo-pronouns as the singular case for persons or animals whose gender is unknown or non-binary (with “it” only for inanimate, non-living objects). 

But some non-binary people on the far Left insist on being referred to only with plural pronouns, because they don’t want people thinking about gender at all when referring to them. (I got scolded on Twitter about this at least once.)

There are pages about “creating” and “claiming” pronouns and about the authors and how they wound up with their specific pronouns.

On page 38 there is a piece “For the Grown-Ups”.  What seems disturbing is that parents are schools are asked to invite all kids to reconsider their “genders” in early childhood, when only a miniscule percentage is likely to be genuinely transgender according to our best medical knowledge. It is particularly important to note that the instances of transgenderism in small children are that: a child gives indication that “e” (neo-pronoun) is of the gender opposite to what was assigned at birth.  Specifically we don’t hear about children saying they are non-binary this young.  The debate gives me the overall impression that this problem more about the child’s or teen’s or young adult’s perception that e will not be able to “compete” (as someone who could be sexually attractive in a heterosexual or conventionally all cis-gendered homosexual) relationship.  It seems to be an irreducible problem of well-ordering the members of a finite set or population, of logic:  If a > b, then b < a.     Yes, it’s a view that was in my mind as a youth.  If everyone stuck to this interpersonally the way I did, we might head right back to fascism.

When I was thrown out of William and Mary in Nov. 1961 for admitting (under pressure) to the Dean of Men that I was “latent homosexual”, society was not used to the idea that homosexual men could live with heterosexuals in a closed environment without incident (although it had long happened covertly during World Wars even despite overt racial segregation until “Truman” [Gary Sinese] in 1948 (see the 1996 HBO film).  They basic belief ungirded the debate over gays in the military starting more than three decades later (under Bill Clinton).  Over time, and a couple of generations, younger adults got “used to it”. 

Is the current controversy over educating younger children about LGBTQIA+  issues, in order to soften the social climate and decrease bullying and artificial competitiveness, somehow parallel to the debates over gays in the military three decades ago?  The fact that we are talking about minors, especially younger ones, is a big difference in my perception right now.  I am well aware about the controversy over using the term “groomer” in social media.  The notion that teenagers, prompted early in life by the introduction of these ideas, may imagine themselves to have gender dysphoria may well have some traction, particularly when we note that pre-teen girls right now seem particularly susceptible.  (Hence some of the derivation of the forbidden g-word – see June 9 review of Shrier’s book)  It would seem that, given the relatively small occurrence of medically genuine cases of gender dysphoria in young children right now, they should be handled with carefully designed policies involving parents and school systems, allowing invisible social transition in a few cases (which can be quite simple, especially if there are some gender-free restrooms with more privacy, but which gets more testing when you get to physical education locker rooms in middle school).  Draconian state laws, like in Texas and Florida, would not be needed.  But I don’t think we should expect all children, the overwhelming majority of whom have no issues, to question their gender identities (v. sex assigned at birth) at least in younger grades, and there should be no problem with using gender-based nouns and pronouns in common English speech and writing and grammar as taught in schools.

Should books like this live in school libraries? Maybe not grade schools. I don’t think my books are suitable for grade schools either. In public libraries, yes; it’s free speech.

Note that the trailer for the book doesn’t allow comments and may be ‘made for kids’ on YT.

SciShow: “There Are More than Two Human Sexes”.  I may have embedded this before, but it’s a necessary refresher lecture here. It would seem that the resistance to LGBTQ “ideology” in some parts of eastern Europe (like the LGBTQ-free zones) may refer much more to new gender ideology than sexual orientation, although that may not be true of Russia (2013 propaganda law), but these countries do tend to be concerned about their low native birth rates.

SciShow video: There Are More Than Two Human Sexes

HBO video for “Truman” film.

HBO “Truman” trailer

(Posted: Sunday, July 31, 2022 at 2 PM EDT by John W Boushka)

My Master’s Thesis was, after all, my first “published book”

Strong Hall, University of Kansas, 2006, Lawrence KS

In the course of moving most of my content to this site based on my legal name, I recently placed a PDF (photographic) of the 1968 Master’s Thesis at the University of Kansas, called “Minimax Rational Function Approximation”.  The link for the summary (ordinary html) is this, and the link for the document itself is this.

The subject matter comes from an areas of applied mathematics called “numerical analysis”.  I gave a technical talk on this thesis for at least one job interview in early 1970 when I was leaving the Army, at RCA David Sarnoff Labs in Princeton NJ, which became my first job.  I think I also gave a talk on it at Bell Labs in northern NJ on another interview.

I remember my experiences as a graduate student at KU (from Feb. 1966 to Jan. 1968) well, and they are described in detail in Chapter 2 of my first DADT book, or even more detail here.  

I also had a teaching assistantship (as explained in the book). In those days, graduate teaching assistants made up their own tests, and had some “power”, which was a sensitive issue in the days young men faced a military draft due to the Vietnam War, and could literally get a combat MOS (infantry) if drafted if they had flunked out of college (this would change in 1969).  All of this would lead to my losing the assistantship for a year (when I worked as a programmer).  The tests I gave were reasonable according to what I had been used to even in high school.  But I did say something to a department prof that I had no right to say (insubordinate) whatever my convictions.  I guess one could say I had been complicit in “oppression”.

When I was in Army Basic myself in the spring of 1968, I was called “algebra” or “professor” by the cadre, even when I was in Special Training Company because of my physical retardation (medically, dyspraxia).

After my mainframe IT career “cardiac arrest” (DADT Book 3, Chapter 4), 93 days post 9/11, I considered becoming a math teacher, in the days of Bush’s “No Child Left Behind”. 

I became a sub in the spring of 2004 and have described my experiences here.  There is a lot more nuance to convey about this experience, which I will revisit in a future post (it’s generating a screenplay). In September 2007 I did pass the ETS Mathematics teacher Praxis exam.  I felt I had recovered a lot of my knowledge at home. 

I recall the very first class I attended at KU early on a Monday afternoon like Feb. 7, 1966 was algebraic topology.  It blew me away and I changed immediately to an upper undergraduate course in mathematical analysis (and made a B –  grad school was hard at first).  Algebraic topology (extended to more dimensions) could explain a lot of physics, and maybe make space travel possible after all.

When I subbed, I sometimes had AP classes, and noticed with interest how some exams are setup. The student has to do part 1 of the exam without a graphing calculator, turn it in, and then do part 2 with the calculator, and budget eir time accordingly.

I do remember that in integral calculus, the exam problems could be “hard to motivate”.  You really had to know the substitutions (trigonometric, and hyperbolic)  You had to understand how euler’s number and natural logs work, in a special way.  I remember integration by parts, and integration by partial fractions (vaguely). 

But I wouldn’t be able to work many YouTube problems today.

I’ll share a video by Physics grad student Andrew Dotson, at New Mexico State University (meet his cat).

And here is John Fish’s “a day of calculus”  (he graduated from Harvard in computer science, especially “mind, brain, and behavior” – sounds good for a startup to me). He indeed did “kill” that freshman calculus final exam.

(Posted: Thursday, June 16, 2022 at 10 PM EDT)

CNN’s Anderson Cooper presents “A Mother’s Diary of War”, and the reality of old-fashioned aggression

Plains, KS 2022-5

Sunday night May 29, CNN aired a one hour documentary “A Mother’s Diary of War” at 8 PM EDT as an episode of Anderson Cooper’s AC360 program.

CNN is not very good about having fixed-URL stories about upcoming or past episodes, so here is one on the Global Herald.

A young mother named Olena, with a newborn and two other kids, starts videos two days before the Russians invade, when all is calm. Then Anderson visits her several times, as she recovers somewhat from the partial damage in Kyiv, which gets better when the Russians are forced to retreat to the East.  The kids can even play outside again.

The coverage of the mom’s life is punctuated by coverage of other horrors, especially Mariupol.

Her husband, who had no previous military training, was conscripted to fight and she hears from him occasionally.

Zelenskyy, as an actor and content creator whom I might have personally befriended in peace (and he had appeared in a Ukrainian series called “Servant of the People”) was very emphatic at the outset about conscription, requiring all able-bodied men 18-60 to remain and fight, and many of them have been wounded or killed – sacrifice.  This sort of invasion which treats civilians as enemy conscripts (and leads to war crimes and often violates the Geneva Convention) used to be the stuff of history, when one ruler wanted the natural resources of another; now it could be construed as zero-sum-game “strategy” in a world facing climate change.

One of the points I stressed in my three DADT books was the idea that many societies (historically) believe they must depend on men to protect women and children and make themselves fungible in the process.  That’s an idea George Gilder had discussed in his 1986 book “Men and Marriage”.  That, I said in my books, was one reason why the original military ban on gays could reinforce discrimination against them in other areas.  What is happening is forced on the people by external events. Olena’s little boy asks “Mom, why do we now have to go to war?” and she answers “Because the enemy came to our land and they had a bad president.”  Necessity undercuts liberal desires in the area of gender identity and sexuality, sometimes.   I haven’t heard what happens with trans persons in Ukraine (in the United States, those born as male have to register for Selective Service – and the gay lobby never mentions this).  But I also haven’t heard about COVID, or whether refugees, when they arrive in Poland or other countries, are being vaccinated before they are housed by “strangers” (to borrow Max Reisinger’s use of the word). In Poland, in fact, practically all refugees are being housed in homes of families or persons, not in dorms; this seems expected of Polish citizens, who see this as 1939 again.

.As a bonus, I just want to share a math video today, March 31, 2022 by Andrew’s Campfire, “Möbius Strip and Klein Bottle: A MIND-BLOWING Paradox Unlike Any You’ve Seen Before”.

There is an interesting paradigm for overcoming the Grandfather’s paradox with time travel using a Mobius strip, which sort of comports with quantum theory and maybe metaverses. Maybe this translates up to higher dimensions with the Klein Bottle. But that sort of begs the dangerous notion that you can just undo a previous wrong. Remember that line in “Gone with the Wind” where Rhett tells Scarlet that saying “I’m sorry” sometimes doesn’t cut it (and that’s not the last line of the movie).

(Posted: Monday, May 30, 2022 [Memorial Day Holiday in the U.S.}m by John W. Boushka)