company of three, black peppermint tea

Month: May, 2012

gender binary

by cloudier

Intersex: Causes

A person’s sex is usually determined entirely by the chromosomes you end up with:

The common pathway of sexual differentiation, where a productive human female has an XX chromosome pair, and a productive male has an XY pair, is relevant to the development of intersexed conditions.

During fertilization, the sperm adds either an X (female) or a Y (male) chromosome to the X in the ovum. This determines the genetic sex of the embryo.[92] During the first weeks of development, genetic male and female fetuses are “anatomically indistinguishable,” with primitive gonads beginning to develop during approximately the sixth week of gestation. The gonads, in a “bipotential state,” may develop into either testes (the male gonads) or ovaries (the female gonads), depending on the consequent events.[92] Through the seventh week, female and male fetuses appear identical.

At around eight weeks of gestation, the gonads of an XY embryo differentiate into functional testes, secreting testosterone. Ovarian differentiation, for XX embryos, does not occur until approximately Week 12 of gestation. In normal female differentiation, the Müllerian duct system develops into the uterusFallopian tubes, and inner third of the vagina. In males, the Müllerian duct-inhibiting hormone MIH causes this duct system to regress. Next, androgens cause the development of the Wolffian duct system, which develops into the vas deferens, seminal vesicles, and ejaculatory ducts.[92] By birth, the typical fetus has been completely “sexed” male or female, the hormones and genital development remaining consistent with the genetic sex.

This process screws up sometimes:

The final body appearance does not always correspond with what is dictated by the genes. In other words, there is sometimes an incongruity between genotypic (chromosomal) and phenotypic sex. Citing medical research regarding other factors that influence sexual differentiation, the Intersex Society of North America challenges the XY sex-determination system‘s assumption that chromosomal sex is the determining factor of a person’s “true” biological sex.[93]


example 1: congenital adrenal hyperplasia

The most common cause of sexual ambiguity is congenital adrenal hyperplasia (CAH), an endocrine disorder in which the adrenal glands produce abnormally high levels of virilizing hormones.

In people without a Y chromosome (i.e., XX), this can range from partial masculation that produces a large clitoris, to virilisation and male appearance. The latter applies in particular to Congenital adrenal hyperplasia due to 21-hydroxylase deficiency, which is the most common form of CAH.

Individuals born with XX chromosomes affected by 17α-hydroxylase deficiency are born with female internal and external anatomy, but, at puberty, neither the adrenals nor the ovaries can produce sex-hormones, inhibiting breast development and the growth of pubic hair.

example 2: androgen insensitivity syndrome

People with AIS have a Y chromosome, (typically XY), but are unable to metabolize androgens in varying degrees.

Cases with typically female appearance and genitalia are said to have complete androgen insensitivity syndrome (CAIS). People with CAIS have a vagina and no uterus,cervix, or ovaries, and are infertile. The vagina may be shorter than usual, and, in some cases, is nearly absent. Instead of female internal reproductive organs, a person with CAIS has undescended or partially descended testes, of which the person may not even be aware.

In mild and partial androgen insensitivity syndrome (MAIS and PAIS), the body is partially receptive to androgens, so there is virilization to varying degrees. PAIS can result in genital ambiguity, due to limited metabolization of the androgens produced by the testes. Ambiguous genitalia may present as a large clitoris, known asclitoromegaly, or a small penis, which is called micropenis or microphallus; hypospadias and cryptorchidism may also be present, with one or both testes undescended, and hypospadias appearing just below the glans on an otherwise typical male penis, or at the base of the shaft, or at the perineum and including a bifid (or cleft) scrotum.

example 3: 5-alpha-reductase deficiency

The condition affects individuals with a Y chromosome, making their bodies unable to convert testosterone to dihydrotestosterone (DHT). DHT is necessary for the development of male genitalia in utero, and plays no role in female development, so its absence tends to result in ambiguous genitalia at birth; the effects can range from infertility with male genitalia to male underdevelopment with hypospadias to female genitalia with mild clitoromegaly. The frequency is unknown, and children are sometimes misdiagnosed as having AIS.[95] Individuals can have testes, as well as vagina and labia, and a small penis capable of ejaculation that looks like a clitoris at birth. Such individuals are usually raised as girls. The lack of DHT also limits the development of facial hair.

example 4: persistent Müllerian duct syndrome

The child has XY chromosomes typical of a male. The child has a male body and an internal uterus and fallopian tubes because his body did not produce Müllerian inhibiting factor during fetal development.

There’s another list of these here.

Read the rest of this entry »



by cloudier

Doing it tough, far from a typical Australian income

In The Australian’s piece, a couple on $200,000 a year (who admit they pay only 18 per cent tax) complain that they may be forced to get a nanny if their childcare subsidy is reduced.

Now, The Australian itself has called for reductions in ‘middle-class welfare’, so either the editors have changed their mind, or they have a misguided sense of what constitutes a middle income in modern Australia.

I don’t doubt that the family featured in The Australian’s story genuinely thinks they’re more-or-less typical, but they’re wrong. We all tend to judge what’s normal, or typical, with reference to those we work and socialise with. This leads the poor to underestimate the wealth of the rich, and leads the rich to overestimate the wealth of the poor. It also means that a lot of us tend to think we’re ‘middle class’ when we’re not.

Andrew Leigh (before he was an MP) wrote a great little paper on the effect that this misperception has on our public debate, called ‘The Political Economy of Tax Reform in Australia’. In it, he argued that:

Opinion leaders [do] not properly appreciate the distribution of income in Australia. For the most part, the taxation rates applying to most politicians, journalists, business executives and think-tank staffers (and indeed, to academic economists) are not those that apply to the average voter. In all these professions, six-figure salaries are common. Yet only 4.5 per cent of Australian adults have an income that exceeds $100,000 per year, and only 1.5 per cent have an income that exceeds $150,000 per year.

(The paper is from 2006, so the figures are a little out of date, but the principle hasn’t changed).

Leigh also, correctly, notes that “reporting of ‘average’ income in Australia focuses on a measure of earnings which is not that of the typical voter”. Journalists often use average weekly ordinary time earnings for full-time adults (AWOTE) as a measure of a typical income. This is misleading for several reasons.

Read the rest of this entry »

Re: skin deep

by cloudier

Skin Deep

I don’t quite understand how “it doesn’t matter what you look like; it’s the inside that counts” came into existence (and has transcended to the level of morally correct), given that humans evolved by looking for healthy mates through superficial assessment of physical markers.

Prior to the development of language, the most significant way (perhaps the only way) of choosing who to have sex with was just through how physically attractive they were. Language developed as a means of more effective communication (which I hope has obvious evolutionary benefits) and was thus transmitted through successive generations either through genetics or teaching. Language morphed causing, along with many other factors such as the rise of agriculture, the development of culture and society. With this, a range of characteristics (e.g. wealth, charisma, intelligence, mastery of particular skills) other than physical attractiveness developed that could be used to choose who to have sex with. This only happens if a person values another person for reasons other than physical attractiveness, or prioritise these other characteristics over physical attractiveness. As it happens, many people in modern society come to realise that they do indeed value people for characteristics other than physical attractiveness and have a method of expressing this idea (i.e. language). As a result, this idea has transcended to the level of morally correct.

This is speculation and might be entirely incorrect.

Abortion and the subjectivity of the concept of personhood

by cloudier

Abortion and Rights: Applying Libertarian Principles Correctly

Besides, treating personhood as a matter of personal opinion can lead to strange results. Imagine two pregnant women debating prenatal personhood. One says that her fetus was a person at conception. The other says hers will not be a person until birth. Both fetuses were conceived the same day. As the women debate, a drunk driver hits them, killing both fetuses. What wrong has the driver committed? If it is a mother’s choice whether her fetus is a person, then to be consistent, we would have to say that the death of one fetus is a homicide but the death of the other is only, say, destruction of property. This is absurd, of course, for the two fetuses were, objectively, the same kind of being when alive.

The logical conclusion of the given scenario is not absurd because even though the fetuses were objectively the same kind of being, their personhood status differed since the concept of personhood differs between the mothers i.e. it is subjective. (I think this faulty argument is an example of a red herring.) The concept of personhood is a concern of morality, which is clearly subjective to at least some degree – try comparing the moral codes of a typical American and Saudi Arabian male, or try looking at how controversial abortion is – so this is not an unexpected result.

As a result, I believe that everyone should have the right to act on their own opinions about the right of a fetus to personhood and be able to choose whether or not to abort. To me, this seems more in line with libertarian values than a pro-life position on abortion.

“Personally Opposed” to Abortion?

People tell us: “I’m personally opposed to abortion, but I think it should be legal.”

Perhaps the notable version of that comes from Roman Catholics abortion choicers: They insist they believe “what Catholics believe” on abortion, but don’t want to force their beliefs on others.

The usual pro-life response is to argue the substance of abortion: Are the preborn human beings with the right not to be killed? If so, should the government defend their rights along with everyone else’s?

Such a response can sometimes produce a profitable discussion, but it misses another point: What do people mean when they say they’re “personally opposed” but claim there is a “right” to abortion that must be protected by law?

Is it so unexpected that it is possible for some people who personally would choose not to abort to recognise that the concept of personhood is subjective? (I think this is a false dilemma.)

last night

by bezzle

My dad was driving us through Punchbowl home from a friend’s house and we passed the Lebanese bakery we always pass

and we watched the conveyor belt of bread like always

so for the first time, my dad caves into curiousity

and stops the car and goes into the bakery

which is open 7 days a week, 24 hours a day.

And then when he gets to the counter

a boy pops up and they start talking

and my dad asks for one of the bread things

because they look like massive round bread rolls that could ‘feed us for a week’.

Which is exaggerating, because they’re just a little bigger than a dinner plate.  But still.

So the boy reaches up, and grabs one from the conveyor belt for my dad, and places it in front of him

and my dad is all puzzled because

the bread is actually the flat Lebanese bread

and he was expecting a massive bread roll and can’t get over the fact that’s it’s flat and not-massive.

I bet the boy thought my dad hadn’t eaten for days and was a beggar or something, asking for one.

So he gave it to my dad free of charge, and my dad bought a bag of 7 for a dollar

hot from the oven.

It smelt like perfectly browned toast in my lap on the way home.

Here is the bakery’s address:

779 Punchbowl Rd

Punchbowl NSW 2196


Their conveyor belt is so cool.