Another Spectrum

Personal ramblings and rants of a somewhat twisted mind


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Conversion therapy: only partially banned

Last week, the Conversion Practices Prohibition Legislation Bill passed the final stage of becoming law in Aotearoa New Zealand It’s pleasing to note that only 7 parliamentarians (all who happen to be members of the centre-right National Party) voted against the passing of this legislation.

So why was the passing of this law a disappointment to many in the autistic and neurodiverse community? The autistic community has borne the brunt of conversion therapy for decades, well before it became a “treatment” for those in the LGBTQI+ community. The practices developed in the “treatment” of autistic people are the very practices prohibited by the new law, but only when it comes to the “treatment” of sexual orientation, gender identity, or gender expression. Conversion therapy for other “conditions” remains lawful.

During the Select Committee stage of the process, over 100,000 public submissions were received and considered by the Justice Select Committee. I know many autistic, neurodiverse and other minorities made submissions asking for all forms of conversion therapy be banned. It seems we didn’t have the numbers or the persuasive powers necessary for the Select Committee to expand the ban beyond gender identity/expression and sexual orientation.

Reading a random selection of written submissions (78,416 are available on line), it’s pleasing to see that the vast majority of submitters professing a religion supported the ban. What is disappointing is that so few submitters (religious or not) considered how harmful conversion practices can be outside the confines of sexual orientation and gender identity/expression. When you consider that 80% of autistic children who are given conversion therapy in an attempt to make them “appear normal” exhibit symptoms of PTSD as adults, there is urgent need to ban all forms of conversion therapy. Now.


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Gender self identification

Aotearoa New Zealand has had a history of being pioneers in social change, either as the instigator or an early adopter, and has at times been described as the world’s social laboratory. Here’s a few I can think of without recourse to to an online search:

Universal suffrage, old age pension: socialised medicine; a comprehensive social welfare system; inflation targeting; the 40-hour week; an arbitration system for workplace disputes; decriminalisation of homesexuality; gender self-identification on many legal documents; same sex marriages; state funded remote learning for school aged students; legal personhood to elements of nature (forests, and river basins etc), to name just a few.

On the other hand there are some social changes that remain uniquely Kiwi. For example: ACC, a universal no-faults accidents compensation and rehabilitation scheme; PHARMAC, an agency that negotiates the supply and purchase price of pharmaceutical medicines and devices with manufacturers and distributors on behalf of the nation; decriminalisation of prostitution.

As is only natural, there are critics of every social change, but on the whole, I believe we as a nation are better off because of these changes. Many of the changes have been deemed radical, especially by outside observers. These are often the same sources that describe Aotearoa New Zealand as conservative, unimaginative, and even stuffy. Generally, I don’t think Kiwis see either ourselves or the social changes this country has pioneered as being radical.

Instead, I think the Kiwi spirit of being pragmatic and our sense of fairness and egalitarianism is largely at play, along with a liberal sprinkling of a “can do” attitude. In other words, the changes have not been seen as radical or reforms, but instead viewed as practical solutions to problems that unfairly burden sections of society. One MP (Member of Parliament) recently made the observation that law making is not for the majority (they can look after themselves), but for the disadvantaged – those to whom society denies equal rights and opportunities.

A week ago today, the BDMRR (Births, Deaths, Marriages and Relationships Registration) bill passed its third and final reading in Parliament. The bill, as it was originally introduced to Parliament in 2018 was to update a previous act of the same name to streamline it, tidy up some inconsistencies and to take into account changes in technology. Nothing in it that could have been considered controversial or radical, so why has it taken three years to reach this point?

During the Select Committee stage, the interested parties can present oral and/or written submissions on the proposed law. During this process, there were a significant number of submissions asking for the right to self-declare the gender marker on one’s birth certificate, in the same way as we have been able to do for several decades on official documents such as a driver’s licence or passport. Up until now, the gender marker on birth certificates could be changed only by submission to the Family Court. By unanimous decision, the Select Committee recommended amendments to the bill allowing for self-identification.

This was a leap too far for the coalition government of the day, because the proposed amendments were added by the Select Committee after the closure of public submissions and made significant changes not foreseen at its introduction to Parliament. In effect, while those desiring the changes had been heard, there had been no opportunity for a wider perspective on self-identification to be heard – an essential aspect of democratic principles.

The government of the day, decided to delay the passage of the bill until a new round of consultations and public submissions regarding self-identification could be held. In Aotearoa, this can often take considerable time. Finally, earlier this year, a SOP (Supplementary Order Paper) covering the proposed self ID changes were introduced to Parliament and the public were able to make submissions specifically on gender self-identification.

At the completion of hearings, the Select Committee recommended some minor changes and these were accepted by Parliament. Finally on Friday, the BDMRR bill, with gender self-identification, was passed by Parliament. What perhaps was surprising what the majority by which it passed.

I appreciate that gender identification, whether or not it’s by self-identification or not, can be a controversial topic. The current (toxic) arguments that seem to be part of the argument in the UK and the US were largely lacking here, but nevertheless, I expected some MPs to very vocal in their opposition to self identification. I was quite surprised by how little there was.

A common theme that many MPs spoke to was that while the self-identification provisions will have little to no impact on most Kiwis, it will have a significant positive impact on a small sector of the community – the transgendered, intersex, non-binary and gender nonconforming.

Not one MP spoke in opposition to self identification. A number brought up the fact that as the gender of those who do not have a NZ birth certificate such as immigrants, refugees and asylum seekers and temporary residents, who are not covered by the provision of the new act will be worse off than they are at present. There is already a large body of MPs who are intent on seeing this anomaly corrected under separate legislation.

So how many Parliamentarians opposed the legislation? Not one. The BDMRR bill, including all the provisions for gender self-identification was passed unanimously. Every MP, be they from the centre left Labour Party, the centre right National Party, the libertarian ACT Party, the environmentalist Green Party, or the indigenous Māori Party, voted for it.

It’s not that common for legislation to pass unanimously. It didn’t happen with the introduction a Social welfare system, ACC, PHARMAC, homosexual law reform, the decriminalisation of prostitution, civil unions or same sex marriages. Even changes to gun ownership laws following the Christchurch mosque shootings had one dissenting vote, so I was more than a little surprised by a unanimous decision in this case.


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Changing perspectives

It still comes as a surprise to me to realise my perspective on many aspects of life have changed over the years. I’m also reminded that much of what I comprehend about the society in which I live is viewed differently by others. Some nuances are so subtle that it is only now in hindsight and because they are topics of debate today that I realise I did not understand let alone appreciate some social norms I grew up with.

One of these is gender roles. I completely failed to recognise that society had different expectations of men and women. It even baffled me why certain types of attire were considered appropriate for one gender but not the other. But it was the more subtle expectations for both men and women that I failed to pick up on and was oblivious of their existence.

I grew up in an era where most families could live in moderate comfort on a single income and virtually every household had a stay at home parent while there were children in their care. It never occurred to me that the reason most households had a stay at home mother and not a stay at home father was primarily due to social expectations and not a matter of choice negotiated between the parents.

Prior to my teen years, I adopted whatever behaviour and role I felt suited me, and being unaware of social expectations, I simply took on aspects that today would be viewed as gender nonconforming or nonbinary. Starting in my early teens I had most of this adaptation knocked out of me as I became aware of the negative views many held about me, and especially by acts of violence that I thought I had provoked merely by being different from the norm. I wasn’t fully cognisant of the disapproval being gender biased. Instead I had an understanding that it was not acceptable for me, as an individual, to exhibit such behaviour without understanding why.

It wasn’t until my mid twenties when it dawned on me that there were oh so subtle ways that societies place different expectations on men an women. The first occurred on my honeymoon when my new mate prostrated herself in front of me promising to be a good and obedient wife. To say that I was surprised is an understatement. I was shocked and appalled. I made it very clear that I was expecting an equal partner, not a servant. I later learnt that she was just as shocked at my response, but pleasantly so. Admittedly her culture had (and still has) more clearly defined gender roles, but it’s only a matter of degree, not that it was absent in my own culture.

The second occurred after I grew a beard in the mid 1970s when they were far less common than now, but more often worn by men of privilege. I didn’t grow it as a sign of masculinity or as a fashion statement, but because I loathed shaving and having very wavy hair, ingrown hairs were an all too often painful fact of life. Overnight the way both men and women responded to me changed – especially those who did not know me personally. It was quite an eye opener.

Both genders tended to be more polite to me but in different ways. Men tended to treat me as an equal or as someone slightly more “knowledgeable” than themselves. I was also assumed to be older than I was. Women on the other hand tended to display a sightly more subservient role in my presence as if somehow the beard gave me more authority. I felt even more uncomfortable in the company of others than ever before – both men and women.

The reason I was prompted to write this post was that I heard a song this morning that was a favourite of mine in the late 1960s. It has always brought a lump to my throat and a little water to the eye. It reminded me so much of the relationship between my parents who had so much respect and love for each other, although rarely expressed in the presence of others. I’ve always viewed the words as an expression of love by an equal partner, but when I now hear the answer to “what should I want from life?” in the last verse, the answer makes me somewhat uneasy. There’s an implication that one’s worth as a woman is measured by having a loving spouse. Or am I reading too much into the lyrics?

Allison Durbin – I have loved me a man (1968)
I have loved me a man, like my momma did
I have loved me a man.
Tall and tender, his hands like my daddy's were
With a mind that understands

And the arms that held me when I would cry
The lips that kissed away my tears
They're a part of the man that my momma loved
And I have loved me a man

I have wed me a man, like my momma did
I have wed me a man
I can still feel the warmth of the words he said
He held my heart tied in his hands

And in the morning I would wake by his side
And wonder what I could have done
To be loved by a man like my momma loved
And I have loved me a man

I would bear him a child, like my momma did
I would bear him a child
She'd be gentle and sweet, like my momma was
I'd watch her grow and in a while

She'd ask me momma what should I want from life
And I would tell her with a smile
Just be loved by a man like your momma loved
And I have loved me a man

And I have loved me a man


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Pay equity versus pay equality

Are “market forces” capable of ensuring a “fair day’s pay for a fair day’s work”? The fact that almost every nation has legislation requiring women to be paid the same as men for the same job would indicate that this is not so.

Pay equity vs equal pay
Pay equity is about women and men receiving the same pay for doing jobs that are different, but of equal value (that is, jobs that require similar degrees of skills, responsibility and effort).
Equal pay is about men and women getting the same pay for doing the same job.

Historically, there has been pay disparity between the sexes, but since the early 1970s, equal pay laws in Aotearoa New Zealand require that men and women should be paid equally for the same for jobs of equal value, even if those jobs are different. In theory that should result in everyone being paid equally for work of equal value – pay equity. That never happened.

The problem with the legislation is that pay equity could only be claimed through the courts– there was no provision for pay equity to be negotiated through the existing “good faith” bargaining framework. Litigation can be a costly and lengthy process and this has resulted in jobs that have historically been female dominated continuing to be paid less than similar jobs where the workforce is predominantly male.

Kiwis are not a litigious lot by nature and workers are usually reluctant to take their employers to court. Following a landmark court decision in 2014 that resulted in significant pay increases to those working in the aged care sector, the unions, employers and government agreed there had to be a better way to ensure pay equity. The outcome was the Equal Pay Amendment Bill that passed through it’s final stage in Parliament at one minute to midnight yesterday.

The amendment should benefit those who have been underpaid due to systemic sex-based discrimination. According to the Minister for Workplace Relations, Andrew Little, the Bill makes it easier to raise a pay equity claim, and encourages collaboration and evidence-based decision making to address pay inequity, rather than relying on an adversarial court process. Employers already have a duty not to pay people differently on the basis of sex – this Bill helps parties to come to an agreement about what equitable remuneration would be, and makes court action a last resort rather than a first step.

A modern and more effective system for dealing with pay equity claims is long overdue. It is just one step in a long journey towards gender equality, the work does not end here

Andrew Little, Minister for Workplace Relations

As Andrew Little has stated, this piece of legislation does not resolve all gender inequality – it’s just another step in that direction. What’s next?


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Gendercide: A hellish campaign by the Evil One??

This morning I came across an interesting article titled: APA issues first-ever guidelines for practice with men and boys. I’ll quote the first few paragraphs:

For the first time ever, APA is releasing guidelines to help psychologists work with men and boys.

At first blush, this may seem unnecessary. For decades, psychology focused on men (particularly white men), to the exclusion of all others. And men still dominate professionally and politically: As of 2018, 95.2 percent of chief operating officers at Fortune 500 companies were men. According to a 2017 analysis by Fortune, in 16 of the top companies, 80 percent of all high-ranking executives were male. Meanwhile, the 115th Congress, which began in 2017, was 81 percent male.

But something is amiss for men as well. Men commit 90 percent of homicides in the United States and represent 77 percent of homicide victims. They’re the demographic group most at risk of being victimized by violent crime. They are 3.5 times more likely than women to die by suicide, and their life expectancy is 4.9 years shorter than women’s. Boys are far more likely to be diagnosed with attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder than girls, and they face harsher punishments in school—especially boys of color.

APA’s new Guidelines for Psychological Practice With Boys and Men strive to recognize and address these problems in boys and men while remaining sensitive to the field’s androcentric past. Thirteen years in the making, they draw on more than 40 years of research showing that traditional masculinity is psychologically harmful and that socializing boys to suppress their emotions causes damage that echoes both inwardly and outwardly.

The article is worth a read.

As one who took much longer than most to understand that one’s biological sex places a heavy “social obligation” on one to act out a specific gender role, I agree that traditional masculinity is psychologically harmful. Some of the methods of “correction” I experienced were brutal, and although I’ve disclosed one example, I’m still not ready to disclose others. As one who all my life has had to act masculine instead of simply being masculine (whatever that really is) I think I’ve been very fortunate to have come out of it relatively unscathed. Perhaps I was fortunate in that I grew up in a whānau where gender roles were not set in concrete, and boundaries of what was “appropriate behaviour” were set wide. Unfortunately the wider society was not so accommodating.

While I’m not entirely comfortable about the APA’s stance on autism, I am more in agreement on their stance on gender. If you care to read the entire guideline, it can be found in PDF format at APA GUIDELINES for the Psychological Practice with Boys and Men.

I can understand that some people may disagree with the guidelines, especially if their privileged status is at stake, but some go well beyond that. In fact, according to G.C. Dilsaver, the guidelines are part of the “most demonic war in the history of the world” which he terms “gendercide“. He claims “be certain, the conductor of this hellish campaign is no other than the Evil One himself.” That tells me more than I need to know about him, but I did do a search online for more details and discovered previously unknown terms such as “Christian psychology” and “Psychomoralitics”. If you want to understand his thinking you can browse selected essays and videos of Dr G. C. Dilsaver at your leisure.

Personally I believe his views are dangerous, what do you think?


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Eleven out of twenty years

Over the last two decades, a woman has held the top political role in Aotearoa New Zealand for eleven of those 20 years. It would be nice to think that we have gender equality, but although it’s getting closer, we are by no means there yet.

Earlier this year, the UN Women National Committee Aotearoa brought together Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern and former Prime Minister Helen Clark for a recorded discussion on a number of feminist issues. This is part of their #Trailblazing125 series of advice from prominent Kiwi women in recognition of 125 years of women’s suffrage in Aotearoa New Zealand.

Helen (yes, we refer to our leaders by their first name) has had a big influence on the mindset of many people irrespective of whether or not you agreed with her politics. It was because of her, that people like Jacinda grew up not considering that gender might be a barrier to the top political job in this country.

It seems to me that what is holding women back (in the NZ context) is not the barriers imposed on them by others, but a lack of confidence in their own ability. There is still something in the way women are conditioned by society whereby they are less likely to put themselves forward for a role than is the case for men. Hopefully that attitude is no longer encouraged.

New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern and former Prime Minister Helen Clark talk gender equality


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125 years

This month, Aotearoa New Zealand is celebrating 125 years of women’s suffrage. After the celebrations die down, we should consider and evaluate what progress has really been made in the last century and a quarter.

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The New Zealand $10 note, depicting Kate Shepard (1847 – 1934), a leading light in the Women’s suffrage movement in Aotearoa New Zealand.


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Sexism in politics

Having grown up in a family with very liberal ideas on gender roles, I sometimes forget that not everyone holds similar values.

This week a TV interviewer put his foot into it by asking a question he really should have known not to ask.

This is Aotearoa New Zealand and the twenty first century. If he has been an employer, he would have been in deep doo doo for asking the question to an employee or prospective employee.

Thankfully his question raised the ire of the interviewee and a significant proportion of the community.

The question was to the new leader of the Labour party, who has a remote chance of becoming the PM (Prime Minister) after the general elections in September.

So what was the question?

“Is it OK for a PM to take maternity leave while in office?”

The question and the anger it has raised seems to have been reported around the globe. See CNN and The Guardian as examples.

I’m disappointed that there are still men around who hold nineteenth century views of gender roles, but I am pleased that most Kiwi males have moved on.


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The “extreme male brain”

I have been mulling over writing a post on flaws I see with the theory that people on the autism spectrum have Extreme Male Brains (EMB), and particularly how many on the spectrum fail to fit comfortably into gender specific roles as expected by society. I pointed Clare to the EMB article on DSQ a few days ago and she has produced the post I would have wanted to write if my head wasn’t clouded with a migraine “brain fog”.

Thank you Clare.

Clare Flourish

Is there such a thing? Do trans women have a “female brain”, or people with Asperger’s Syndrome or Autism a “male brain”?

Here’s the Disability Studies Quarterly, giving a good kicking to self-proclaimed experts on Asperger’s, which may also apply to such as Blanchard. Asperger’s is rhetorical, says Jordyn Jack: discourse fills the space that certainty in medicine leaves unoccupied. It’s not making stuff up, exactly; it’s creating a theory from little evidence because you can’t create a better one. Like GID, Asperger’s was messed about by the DSM revision: now it is lumped in with Autism, before, it was separate. The fault comes when Blanchard or Baron-Cohen cling to their theories in the face of contradiction, using them as a framework for their understanding, and excluding other possible understandings.

Another thing we might find useful in this Disability Studies article is the will to find something valuable…

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