Reading Tea Leaves

A recent article from The Atlantic discusses the relationship between gender non-conforming children and later social transitioning. Much depends on where one starts. Looking at the nonconforming children, the study finds that some will, some won’t socially transition, that the intensity of experience of nonconformity increases the probability of social transitioning. This suggests that the universe, the meaning of childhood gender nonconformity, is not only larger, but carries other meanings for the children themselves.

However, looking from the viewpoint of one who has socially transitioned, it is clear that the shape of one’s life was there from early on. A useful paragraph captures the reality:

“Implicit in a lot of people’s concerns about social transition is this idea that it changes the kids in some way, and that making this decision is going to necessarily put a kid on a particular path,” says (Kristina) Olson. “This suggests otherwise.” Children change their gender because of their identities; they don’t change their identities because they change their gender.”

A second aspect of the story will be its social location. The children studied are all from the upper middle class. The opening acceptance of gender non-conformity at a young age may be grounded in the advantages and perspectives of this class. Do their advantages and intellectual understanding allow them to respond earlier, in a more open fashion? Does it especially allow them to see? Elsewhere, the evidence is still out whether other children in say, blue collar household, experience their gender non-conformity in the same manner, with the same outcomes in terms of social transition.

Adding to the need for further research is that the CDC now reports that two percent of teens consider themselves transgender. As the early study by Olson highlights, what that means will need to be studied longitudinally.

Finally the question for all of us remains, whether who we understand ourselves to be now is a sort of persona, or the sign of something to become. How do we read those tea leaves for our selves?

Ed Yong. “Young Trans Children Know Who They Are”, The Atlantic. January 15, 2019.

Valerie Strauss. “CDC: Nearly 2 percent of high school students identify as transgender — and more than one-third of them attempt suicide,” The Washington Post. January 24 2019

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The Voice of Money

Emma Green takes a look at the changing face of (Evangelical) Christian philanthropy over at The Atlantic. On one hand the shift from funding the cultural wars is welcome — it is hard to see how this conflict has especially promoted a Christian sensibility in culture. (Everything is given away with Donald Trump). Then again, will the funding build institutions? This gets to the heart of the issue, whether programs (and followers) exist, and if they do not, can the money then be a catalyst for a new identity.

this seems to be the greatest shift in how rich evangelicals are thinking about their influence at a moment of juncture for their church: At least some of them seem more interested in living out their faith than in asserting an agenda onto American culture. “One of our deeper hopes … would be that praxis, which means faith in action, would be the reputation of the church over a long term—not in the brand, but in posture,” said Dave Blanchard, who helped found Praxis along with (Josh) Kwan. “That we would be more known for redemptive action than political position.”

Can money, in short step into the place where the church has historically done its work. Without a change there in the community, the new voice is likely to get lost.

Emma Green, “Evangelical Mega-donors Are Rethinking Money in Politics.” The Atlantic. Jan 2 2019.

Take that, future!

Screen Shot 2018-02-20 at 10.42.41 PM.pngThe door to our future opens in many ways. For Caitlin Flanagan, it was through pulp fiction.

Modesty Blaise was merely a cartoon character turned into a bit of pulp fiction, but in the midst of my unhappy adolescence, she changed the way I thought about myself and my future. … for the first time, I imagined what it would be like to be physically unafraid in the world, to walk down any city street I wanted, at any time of night, and not give a second’s thought to the special care a girl has to take. I thought about what it would be like to be deeply loved by a man, deeply known, but still be the main character in my life story, the only one with her name in the title. Time passed, and I learned in a hundred hard ways how careful you have to be if you’re born female, how many places hold dangers—even just an ordinary office with a respected male boss.

The Comic-Strip Heroine I’ll Never Forget

 

*Illustration by WG600; Modesty Blaise: The Killing Game (Titan Books), © Associated Newspapers LTD / Solo Syndication

Dark Star

David Frum  rages at the President’s inattention to the national threat from Russia, as he he notes, “It’s worth thinking about what a patriotic president would have done.”
The President’s behavior is indeed striking for its very peculiarity. It is like some astronomical anomaly: we see the gravitational bent, but do not know what object it is that causes this bend. What dark matter is this?

Second Chances

Andrew Zaleski reports on a very simple idea: instead of paying for a $40,000 prison cell, try education.

Why Boston Is Paying Ex-Gang Members To Go To College

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At $400/week that’s an investment in the future, and in families. While the criminal system asks us to look at the moment, a counter view is to look at the life. What happens next? What could happen next?

“I always wanted to do good in my life. I just felt like because of the area I lived in, because I got involved in gangs, I couldn’t do it,” he says. “This program is giving us a stepping stool to better our life.”

A story with great hope.

 

Walking Away (but keeping the memory)

 

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Matthew Loftus links to Peter Beinart’s article, “Breaking Faith” and asks

What if being secular makes you more tolerant towards things like gay marriage or pot legalization, but makes you more intolerant towards other groups? If you thought the Religious Right was bad, wait ’til you see the Post-Religious Right:

For decades, liberals have called the Christian right intolerant. When conservatives disengage from organized religion, however, they don’t become more tolerant. They become intolerant in different ways. Research shows that evangelicals who don’t regularly attend church are less hostile to gay people than those who do. But they’re more hostile to African Americans, Latinos, and Muslims. In 2008, the University of Iowa’s Benjamin Knoll noted that among Catholics, mainline Protestants, and born-again Protestants, the less you attended church, the more anti-immigration you were.”

One is tempted to reference those who “have the form of religion…” This cultural faith, of course, is always there. And when it’s connected with one party, then the other side is likely to reject the entire apparatus — good riddance! 

On both sides, the secularists think that religious faith is primarily a matter of culture, and so a matter of politics. Yet the practice of the religious community points in another direction (as does its own moderation). Faith always lies askew of the culture, and so the church provides an alternate affirmative good of community. the shape of this community is not built on the internal values of that community (what it does in gathering), but on its appeal to the transcendent. This “otherness”, this faith gives us permission to walk away from ourselves, our natural “tribe.” Otherness gives a breadth, a counter-cultural narrative, that is not only theological, but experiential. This aching need for connectives is all around us. Old guys long for it and often die for lack of it. Likewise there was a terrific article a couple weeks ago on the Epidemic of Gay Loneliness on the Huffington Post — read subtly, there was still this longing to connect (the folks at Spiritual Friendship have it right). We thirst.

Partisanship, this divide, feeds off of a lack of inner life. When all we are left with is our externals, than it is easy to appeal to the stuff of the tribe.

David Geltner

Conor Friedersdorf has a fascinating interchange with Geltner in the Atlantic. The ideas are rich and wide ranging. In an era of STEM, the computer scientist has other things on his mind, not least, how we nurture our soul.

 As important as scholarship and science are, arts and religion are more important. … Arts and religion define, in a sense, a single spectrum rather than two topics. And this spectrum is where you find mankind’s deepest attempts to figure out what’s going on in the universe. A student who doesn’t know the slow movement of Schubert’s B-flat major op post sonata, or the story of David and Absalom, needs to go back to school and learn better.

HT: Micah Mattix, Prufrock