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Notes for 2/09 (Goodness these are late.)

J.Yoo's picture


So, guess what I found on my computer!  ...yeah, I'm really sorry about this.


Wednesday, February 9, 2011


Class began with administrative some posts from last week.

A sizable percentage of the class posted about how labels were perhaps not desirable, but necessary.

A few people, fawei and m.agazarian in particular, posted about their feelings on our current discussion topics; fawei usually left class pessimistic about the future, while m.agazarian felt unworthy of an opinion in the face of so much new information.

cara thought stripping away the labels (her exact words were, “playing a game of strip poker”) would leave the human race colorblind and diversity-less.

We then went over the star-sticker voting sheets from last class.

Most people were in favor, both personally and congressional, of surgery to fix cleft palettes, and equally against penis enlargement. Reduction and transition surgeries gained a largely positive reaction, while augmentation and cosmetic surgeries did not.

All except one of the options were surgery, so some people may have been influenced by thinking of other, cheaper, less permanent alternatives to the ones given.

Individuals versus society were discussed: should someone get “corrective” surgery even if they are comfortable with whatever the surgery would fix? Should a parent pay for surgery for their child, or leave the child as an example of difference and hope it helps the world?

Also, if insurance pays for something, does that mean it needs to be fixed?


Next came the guest speaker, Kim Surkan. She began by discussing the gender class she is teaching at MIT that is similar to our and, also, overwhelmingly female. Since it's labeled as an engineering course, many engineers were attracted and, as a result, many people with engineering mindsets (in which “incorrect” thinking is swiftly weeded out). This is, perhaps, why most of the class were unsympathetic to the gender discrepancy: they had to learn to think like an engineer, so why shouldn't everyone else?

She then drew a chart on the board that we filled in as follows:





















romantic: homo/hetero/bi/a



















Role (society, parenting)











We eventually determined that all this identity information very complicated, and probably can't be accurate put in a chart. For example, how do you know someone's sexuality? You need to know their gender and the gender of their partner, but that might not represent them fully. What if their past partner had a different gender than their current one, or didn't identify with a gender, or changed gender? What if any of those apply to the current partner? Also, a current or past partner sometimes was not effected by who a persona was attracted to. It got pretty complicated pretty fast.


One example of gender versus sexuality problems I found interesting were members of the trans community seeking gender reassignment. The medical community had certain criteria for who could or couldn't receive reassignment. For years, the transsexual individuals matched perfectly with the doctor's criteria; it took an embarrassingly long time for the doctor to realize this was because the transsexuals had a copy of the criteria, passed hand-to-hand through the community, so they could get their surgeries.



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