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Archive for December, 2011

Bill Maher: Jesus Just F*cked Tim Tebow Bad

Twitter continues to swell with a flood of complaints against comedian Bill Maher in response to a particularly scathing Tweet the outspoken television host made about Denver Broncos quarterback Tim Tebow during Christmas Eve’s Broncos-Bills showdown, NBC Sports reports.

Tebow had just thrown his fourth interception of the game (the Broncos eventually lost 14-41) when Bill Maher Tweeted to his roughly 872,000 followers:

 

Others however decided to take Maher head-on. The Tweet spurred a huge reaction on Twitter from the many conservatives and Tebow fans who were outraged by Maher. Eric Bolling of Fox News shot back at Maher with the Tweet:

Some fans are even calling to boycott Maher by canceling their subscriptions to HBO, the channel which airs Maher’s show “Real Time with Bill Maher,” Fox News reports.

It remains to be seen whether the Maher backlash will stem the recent tide of Tebow-lampooning, which often pokes fun at the quarterback’s religious ardor. Tebow has been vocal about his Christian values, famously starring in a controversial pro-life Superbowl commercial while he was still in college. Upon entering the NFL, his in-game ritual of kneeling on the field and praying to God inspired the popular Internet meme “Tebowing.” The past few months have seen both a sketch on Saturday Night Live and an article in The Onion.

Will Maher reprise his controversial tweet during next week’s Broncos game? Either way he plays it, and whether the Broncos win or lose, they’ll still win the AFC West title and earn the No. 4 seed.

 

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/12/27/bill-mahers-tim-tebow-twe_n_1171902.html?ncid=edlinkusaolp00000003

 

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WITCH-WIFE

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CHICAGO — Dan Carmichael had barely taken his first breath when a doctor announced his gender: “It’s a girl.”

That’s where gender identity begins for most. A pronouncement at birth, a quick glance at the genitals revealing a person to be either male or female.

If only it were that simple for Carmichael. He was raised a girl — then named Danielle Sosin — grew into a woman, served in the Iraq war, yet never quite felt comfortable.

“I felt like an impostor,” said Carmichael, now 33 and living as a man, the gender he always identified with. “But who do you become when you’re not really sure who you are?”

Carmichael is part of a once-hidden demographic that now feels freer than ever to show itself, even while faced with widespread discrimination and misunderstanding of what it means to be “transgender.”

Unlike gays and lesbians, who in some substantive ways have been assimilated into modern American culture, transgender people remain on the fringe, often stereotyped as “trannies” and sensationalized in movies and television shows.

The recent appearance of Chaz Bono, a transgender man formerly known as Chastity Bono, on the television show “Dancing With the Stars” caused an uproar among some conservative groups like the American Family Association. And “Work It,” a new ABC comedy that premieres Jan. 3, is being widely protested by transgender groups for its premise: Two men dress like women to get jobs.

Transgender activists have been on the front lines of the gay and lesbian civil rights movement since before the riots at New York City’s Stonewall Inn in 1969, but only fairly recently has the transgender community felt empowered to speak up and demand recognition and rights of its own.

Across the country, legislative efforts are under way to make it easier for people to change the gender on their birth certificates and align identification documents — including driver’s licenses and passports — with their gender identity. Many jails and prisons, including the Cook County Jail in Illinois, have implemented rules to accommodate transgender inmates. And legal advocates agree that while gays and lesbians continue to fight for marriage and other rights, the next significant wave of legal action will involve transgender people.

On Dec. 6 in Georgia, the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in favor of a transgender woman who was fired from her state job in 2007 after telling her boss she planned to transition from male to female. In the court’s ruling, Judge Rosemary Barkett wrote: “An individual cannot be punished because of his or her perceived gender nonconformity.”

In October, the Illinois Department of Public Health, pressed by a lawsuit from the American Civil Liberties Union, said transgender Illinoisans could change the gender on their birth certificates without undergoing genital-reformation surgery.

Also this year: the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Wisconsin ruled it unconstitutional to deny transgender prison inmates hormone therapy; Connecticut became the 15th state to protect transgender people from discrimination; and Wal-Mart made changes to its employee nondiscrimination policy to protect workers based on both gender identity and gender expression.

“I think it has been a good year,” said M. Dru Levasseur, transgender rights attorney for the national gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender legal rights group Lambda Legal. “I think the key thing — and it’s very similar to the change that happened in the movement with gay and lesbian people — is that many people thought, ‘Oh that’s a choice, that’s a lifestyle.’ When people come to understand that this is who someone is, I think that’s when they can really take it into their hearts.”

Despite progress with civil rights, transgender people still face considerable discrimination in public and in the workplace. The impact of that is crystallized in a national study released this year by the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force and the National Center for Transgender Equality.

The survey of more than 6,000 transgender and gender nonconforming people found that 41 percent of respondents had attempted suicide, compared with less than 2 percent in the general population.

One of the primary psychiatric terms linked to transgender people is “gender identity disorder,” although it has been proposed that the term be changed to “gender dysphoria” in the upcoming fifth edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual.

“People with severe gender dysphoria, there’s a very high incidence of suicide if it’s not addressed,” said Randi Ettner, an Evanston, Ill.-based psychologist who specializes in gender conditions and wrote the book “Gender Loving Care.”

Whether it’s Joan of Arc — executed in part for routinely wearing male clothing — or the Native American “berdache” — gender-variant people revered in certain tribes as “twin spirits” — the world has a long history of gender roles being blurred.

Some cultures accept people whose gender identity doesn’t match their anatomical sex. A tribe in Samoa, for example, has a third gender made up of men who perform tasks otherwise reserved for women. But in America and most parts of the world, the binary system of gender identification is not friendly to those who don’t fit in.

Experts like Ettner agree that the term “transgender” means, in essence: people who want to spend all or part of the time presenting themselves in a gender other than the one they were assigned at birth. That said, sex researchers have found that there is tremendous diversity in the transgender community, so much so that many now view gender identity not simply as “male” or “female,” but as points on a spectrum between masculine and feminine.

For Carmichael, who was serving as a woman in the Army National Guard, the time to think about gender identity came during the Iraq war. When a close friend was badly injured, the thin line between living and dying prompted him to address the confusing feelings that had plagued him since childhood: “I had hard questions to ask myself. And I did it.”

While still in Iraq, Carmichael began, in his head, referring to himself using male pronouns. It felt right. After the war, he spent time reading extensively about what it meant to be transgender. He considered his lifelong journey — being a young girl who felt awkward in traditionally feminine roles; coming out in high school as a lesbian, hoping the disconnect he felt was a matter of sexuality; then recognizing that the problem was actually one of gender identity.

When he decided to transition and began living his life fully as a man, Carmichael, at last, felt right.

“I’m very comfortable being a trans man,” he said. “I’m sort of reveling in the idea of finally being content.”

— — —

QUESTIONS AND ANSWERS

Q: How many transgender people are there?

A: It’s not a question asked on the U.S. census, and even if it were, many in the transgender community are hesitant to open up about their gender identity. The National Center for Transgender Equality estimates that 0.25 percent to 1 percent of the population is transgender, a range in line with estimates from sex researchers.

Q: Is being transgender a mental illness?

A: Gender identity disorder is a psychiatric condition listed in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual. However, most transgender people bristle at the thought of having their identity pathologized. There is a push in the transgender community to have gender identity disorder removed from the DSM, much as homosexuality was removed decades ago.

Many researchers say gender identity disorder is not a psychiatric illness that can be cured with treatment, but is a rarely occurring medical condition that has a strong psychological component. For most transgender people, a psychiatric or medical diagnosis is the only way insurance plans will deem hormone therapy and surgical procedures medically necessary. The World Professional Association for Transgender Health issued a statement in 2010 saying: “the expression of gender characteristics, including identities, that are not stereotypically associated with one’s assigned sex at birth … should not be judged as inherently pathological or negative.”

Q: What is a transvestite?

A: The term “transvestite” is now considered offensive as it implies that a person wears opposite-sex clothing as a sexual fetish. The term “crossdresser” is more appropriate. Cross-dressers are people who wear clothing associated with the opposite gender not for sexual arousal but because it gives them a sense of fulfillment and allows them to express a part of their identity. Though they dress in opposite-sex clothing, cross-dressers may identify with the gender they were assigned at birth.

Q: How do I know what pronoun to use with a transgender person?

A: Never make assumptions. If you aren’t sure, ask the person which pronoun he or she prefers you use.

Q: Is it OK to ask transgender people whether they have had any surgical procedures done?

A: Never. Those are deeply personal decisions that transgender people make. Also, many transgender people don’t feel they need surgery to be comfortable living in the gender they identify with.

http://seattletimes.nwsource.com/html/living/2017098343_trans28.html?utm_source=twitterfeed&utm_medium=twitter

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A former personal assistant to Lady Gaga claims the singer has lived up to her album title of Fame Monster.

Jennifer O’Neill has filed a lawsuit seeking nearly $380,000 from Gaga’s touring company for 7,168 hours of unpaid overtime racked up while being at the entertainer’s beck-and-call in late 2009 and most of 2010.

Describing Gaga as a nightmare boss, O’Neill claims her duties required everything from acting as a “personal alarm clock” to “ensuring the promptness of a towel following a shower.”

The lawsuit was filed Dec. 14 in Manhattan federal court. Reps for Gaga say the action is “completely without merit,” CNN reports.Mike Fleeman

 

http://www.people.com/people/article/0,,20556865,00.html

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5 Ways Castle Can Avoid the Moonlighting Curse

With Castle and Beckett inching closer to Couplesville on the daily, it’s hard not to talk about the infamous Moonlighting curse.

If you’re like “Wha?” let us explain: Moonlighting was a 1980s crime dramedy starring Bruce Willis and Cybill Shepherd that took a ratings beating after the two leads, David and Maddie — detectives with incredible will-they/won’t-they chemistry — got it on in Season 3.

While the show was sickeningly popular ‘til then, the two seasons that followed the much-anticipated hook up were boring with a capital B. In the end, giving fans what they (thought) they wanted actually drove them away. ‘Cause for real, who wants to watch an actual, functional relationship on TV? BO-RING!

Needless to say, many Castle execs — and some fans — worry that a Caskett hookup could have the same devastating results. Oh, silly humans. Always wanting what we can’t have!

Still, we’re hopeful that Castle won’t follow in Moonlighting’s ill-fated footsteps and commit the (second) biggest mistake in TV dramedy history, so we’ve conjured up five ways Castle can avoid the dreaded curse.

5. Give Us Something Else to Focus On

We love the Caskett dynamic, but that’s not the show’s only selling point. Many peg Moonlighting’s lack of other storylines (besides David and Maddie’s relationship — yawn!) as the reason the series went kaput. Given that Castle’s rife with juicy subplots and perplexing cases every week, we think they’ve already got this one covered.

4. Skip the Honeymoon Phase

We hate to compare, but another Wetpaint favorite Bones has (had?) a similar dynamic between their two leads. After six seasons of back-and-forth-ness, Bones’ fans discovered the two leads had been doin’ the hanky-panky behind their backs — and Brennan was preggo with Booth’s baby. Um, whoa!

However, Season 7 conveniently skipped the couple’s ‘honeymoon-y’ phase. While Bones’ fans didn’t get to experience a lot of Broth’s “firsts,” ditching all the googly-eyed melodrama ensured the show dodged the Moonlighting bullet. (Even if it did piss off some loyal fans. You win some, you lose some, right?)

Don’t get us wrong, we’d hate not to see Castle and Beckett’s first time waking up next to each other (sans handcuffs), but hey, it’s always nice to leave a little somethin’ somethin’ to the imagination.

Photo Credit: Adam Taylor/ABC Television Group © 2011 Disney

3. Move Another Couple Into the Spotlight

No couple could replace Caskett as Castle couple No. 1, but if Castle and Beckett were to get together — and were getting along swimmingly, nauseatingly, boringly well — it’s not like they’re the only two people on the show capable of bringing some excitement to the table.

Esplanie reuniting? Ryan and Jenny struggling with newlywed issues? The options are as endless as when — and if — Caskett will get together!

2. Take the Relationship Uber-Slow

We know the build-up to the Caskett relationship has already been killer, but another way to avoid the dreaded curse is to wait it out a few more seasons. Moonlighting’s Maddie and David hooked up after three seasons to horrible results, but Bones’ Booth and Brennan didn’t hit the sack for six, painstakingly long seasons — and it seems to be working out.

We hate to advocate waiting another. two. seasons. for Caskett’s big breakout romance, but you know. Whatever works!

In fact, even Nathan Fillion (Castle) agrees dragging the romance out ’til fans can barely stand it could be the way to go. “You know what my personal view is if they get together … I am old enough to remember Moonlighting. The ‘Moonlighting curse,’” said Nathan Fillion on Good Morning America. “I am for a long, long Castle run”

1. Just Go For It

Let’s be real: Moonlighting was filmed in the ’80s, and things have changed a lot since then. Do we not see endless couples go through dramatic ups and downs every week on shows like Glee and Gossip Girl — and that becomes the very thing that keep us hooked?

Once a couple hooks up, there’s still a lot that could happen. Whoever said relationships were a cake walk? Exactly. No one.

We also must remember Castle isn’t some steamy show that thrives on the romance element of the Caskett dynamic anyway. It’s silly and lighthearted most of the time, and so are the characters. As long as Castle writers keep throwing in the witty Caskett banter from time to time — reminiscent of their pre-couple days — we don’t see ourselves getting bored of them.

In fact, we don’t know if we could get bored of Nathan Fillion. And that, our friends, just might be Castle’s saving grace.

Source: Examiner

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Led by the child who simply knew

The twin boys were identical in every way but one. Wyatt was a girl to the core, and now lives as one, with the help of a brave, loving family and a path-breaking doctor’s care.

Jonas and Wyatt Maines were born identical twins, but from the start each had a distinct personality.

Jonas was all boy. He loved Spiderman, action figures, pirates, and swords.

Wyatt favored pink tutus and beads. At 4, he insisted on a Barbie birthday cake and had a thing for mermaids. On Halloween, Jonas was Buzz Lightyear. Wyatt wanted to be a princess; his mother compromised on a prince costume.

 

 

Once, when Wyatt appeared in a sequin shirt and his mother’s heels, his father said: “You don’t want to wear that.’’

“Yes, I do,’’ Wyatt replied.

“Dad, you might as well face it,’’ Wayne recalls Jonas saying. “You have a son and a daughter.’’

That early declaration marked, as much as any one moment could, the beginning of a journey that few have taken, one the Maineses themselves couldn’t have imagined until it was theirs. The process of remaking a family of identical twin boys into a family with one boy and one girl has been heartbreaking and harrowing and, in the end, inspiring — a lesson in the courage of a child, a child who led them, and in the transformational power of love.

Wayne and Kelly Maines have struggled to know whether they are doing the right things for their children, especially for Wyatt, who now goes by the name Nicole. Was he merely expressing a softer side of his personality, or was he really what he kept saying: a girl in a boy’s body? Was he exhibiting early signs that he might be gay? Was it even possible, at such a young age, to determine what exactly was going on?

Until recently, there was little help for children in such situations. But now a groundbreaking clinic at Children’s Hospital in Boston — one of the few of its kind in the world — helps families deal with the issues, both emotional and medical, that arise from having a transgender child — one who doesn’t identify with the gender he or she was born into.

The Children’s Hospital Gender Management Services Clinic can, using hormone therapies, halt puberty in transgender children, blocking the development of secondary sexual characteristics — a beard, say, or breasts — that can make the eventual transition to the other gender more difficult, painful, and costly.

Founded in 2007 by endocrinologist Norman Spack and urologist David Diamond, the clinic — known as GeMS and modeled on a Dutch program — is the first pediatric academic program in the Western Hemisphere that evaluates and treats pubescent transgenders. A handful of other pediatric centers in the United States are developing similar programs, some started by former staffers at GeMS.

 

 

It was in that clinic, under Spack’s care, that Nicole and her family finally began to have hope for her future.

The Maineses decided to tell their story, they say, in order to help fight the deep stigma against transgender youth, and to ease the path for other such children who, without help, often suffer from depression, anxiety, and isolation.

“We told our kids you can’t create change if you don’t get involved,’’ says Wayne, 53, sitting in the living room of their comfortable home in a southern Maine community they do not want identified.

They have good reason for caution. Their journey has included a lawsuit to protect their daughter’s rights, and a battle against bullying and insensitivity that led them to move to a new place and new schools.

It has been a hard road, but nothing that compares with the physical transformation of Wyatt into Nicole.

“I have always known I was a girl,’’ says Nicole, now 14. “I think what I’m aiming for is to undergo surgery to get a physical female body that matches up to my image of myself.’’

 

Early confusion

When Wyatt and Jonas were born, their father was thrilled. Wayne looked forward to the day when he could hunt deer with his boys in the Maine woods. The family lived in Orono, near the University of Maine campus, where Wayne is the director of safety and environmental management.

Wyatt, at age 3, wearing pink and purple.

Handout

Wyatt, at age 3, wearing pink and purple.

They had no preparation for what would come next.

When Wyatt was 4, he asked his mother: “When do I get to be a girl?’’ He told his father that he hated his penis and asked when he could be rid of it. Both father and son cried. When first grade started, Wyatt carried a pink backpack and a Kim Possible lunchbox.

His parents had no idea what was going on. They had barely heard the term “transgender.’’ Baffled, they tried to deflect Wyatt’s girlish impulses by buying him action figures like his brother’s and steering him toward Cub Scouts, soccer, and baseball.

When the boys were 5, Kelly and Wayne threw a “get-to-know-me’’ party for classmates and parents. Wyatt appeared beaming at the top of the stairs in a princess gown, a gift from his grandmother.

Kelly whisked him off and made him put on pants. Though she and Wayne were accustomed to his girly antics, they were afraid of what others might think.

To this day, she feels guilty about it. “I know she was totally confused and felt like she had done something wrong,’’ says Kelly, 50, who works in law enforcement.

“Even when we did all the boy events to see if she would ‘conform,’ she would just put her shirt on her head as hair, strap on some heels and join in,’’ Kelly says. “It wasn’t really a matter of encouraging her to be a boy or a girl. That came about naturally.’’

Kelly and Wayne didn’t look at it as a choice their child was making.

“She really is a girl,’’ Kelly says, “a girl born with a birth defect. That’s how she looks at it.’’

Fear of the unknown

After Wyatt began to openly object to being a boy, his mother started doing research on transgender children. There was little out there; it seemed they would have to find their way largely on their own.

Jonas and Wyatt (right) at their second birthday party.

Handout

Jonas and Wyatt during their second birthday party.

During those early years, while Kelly was doing her research, Wayne was hoping that this was no big deal, that this was a stage Wyatt just had to go through.

“I felt it had nothing to do with how they would grow up,’’ he says.

But as they grew older, his concern grew. “I feared the unknown,’’ he says.

Even the family Christmas card became a challenge. They would write about Jonas’s affinity for sports and Wyatt’s “flair for the dramatic.’’

Their elderly pediatrician, nearing retirement, did not want to discuss the matter with them. Finally, Kelly picked another pediatrician out of the phone book. “I told her how it was, and it turned out that she understood and was very supportive.’’

When the twins were in the first grade, their parents found a therapist for Wyatt, who was starting to act out. In the third grade, before the GeMS Clinic was even open, Kelly heard about Dr. Spack and made an appointment with him.

“He told us everything,’’ Wayne says, recalling that first meeting. “I didn’t understand it all, but I saw the weight lift off Kelly’s shoulders and a smile in Nicole’s eyes. That was it for me. There were tons of challenges for us after that, but I knew my daughter was going to be OK, medically.’’

Elementary school changes

In elementary school, Wyatt told classmates that he was a “girl-boy.’’ In the fourth grade, he grew his hair longer and started talking about a name change. That same year, he drew a self-portrait as a girl, and in a class essay, wrote: “Wyatt needs hair accessories, clothes, shoes . . . likes to wear bikinis, high heels, mini-skirts.’’

Wyatt and Jonas at age 9.  When Wyatt was 4 years old, he asked his mother: “When do I get to be a girl?’’

Handout

Wyatt and Jonas at age 9. When Wyatt was 4 years old, he asked his mother: “When do I get to be a girl?’’

Emma Peterson of Orono, a close friend from the elementary years at the Asa Adams School, recalls playing dolls with Nicole’s giant dollhouse, and the two of them putting on makeup. “Before Nikki started growing her hair out, she looked exactly like Jonas,’’ Emma says.

In fourth grade, Wyatt started using “Nicole’’ as a name, and many classmates were calling him “Nikki.’’ The next year, the family went to court and had the name legally changed to Nicole.

To Kelly, it seemed the next logical step. Family discussions merely centered around what the name would be. In the end, Nicole chose it. “I believed in Nicole,’’ her mother says. “She always knew who she was.’’

Wayne was nervous. Could he call his son Nicole? As usual, he relied on his wife’s instincts. “I have to tell you, Kelly’s the leader in our family,’’ he says. “Both she and Nicole are extremely strong-willed, and I went with the flow.’’

At first, though, he couldn’t bring himself to use the new name. An Air Force veteran and former Republican, he realizes now he was grieving the loss of a son. “But once you get past that, I realize I never had a son,’’ he says.

Legal battles

When fifth grade started, Wyatt was gone. Nicole showed up for school, sometimes wearing a dress and sporting shoulder-length hair. She began using the girls’ bathroom. Nikki’s friends didn’t have a problem with the transformation; there were playdates and sleepovers.

“They said, ‘It was about time!’ ’’ Nicole says. She was elected vice president of her class and excelled academically.

But one day a boy called her a “faggot,’’ objected to her using the girls’ bathroom, and reported the matter to his grandfather, who is his legal guardian. The grandfather complained to the Orono School Committee, with the Christian Civic League of Maine backing him. The superintendent of schools then decided Nicole should use a staff bathroom.

“It was like a switch had been turned on, saying it is now OK to question Nicole’s choice to be transgender and it was OK to pursue behavior that was not OK before,’’ Wayne says. “Every day she was reminded that she was different, and the other kids picked up on it.’’

According to a 2009 study by the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network, 90 percent of transgender youth report being verbally harassed and more than half physically harassed. Two-thirds of them said they felt unsafe in school.

To protect her from bullying at school, Nicole was assigned an adult to watch her at all times between classes, following her to the cafeteria, to the bathroom. She found it intrusive and stressful. It made her feel like even more of an outsider.

“Separate but equal does not work,’’ she says.

It was a burden that Jonas shouldered as well. The same boy who in fifth grade objected to her using the girls bathroom made the mistake of saying to Jonas in sixth grade that “freaking gay people’’ shouldn’t be allowed in the school. Jonas jumped on him and a scuffle ensued.

“He’s taken on a lot,’’ Wayne says. “Middle school boys and sexuality, you know . . . boys can get picked on.’’

Nicole and her parents filed a complaint with the Maine Humans Right Commission over her right to use the girls bathroom. The commission found that she had been discriminated against and, along with the Maines family, filed a lawsuit against the Orono School District. The suit is pending in Penobscot County Superior Court, and the Maines family is represented by lawyers from the Gay & Lesbian Advocates & Defenders (GLAD) in Boston and by Jodi Nofsinger, who serves on the Maine ACLU board.

“What Nicole and Jonas both went through in school was unconscionable,’’ says Jennifer Levi, one of the GLAD lawyers on the case. “Their one huge stroke of luck was having Kelly and Wayne as parents.’’

A huge relief

Since that first visit to Spack when Nicole was 9, her parents discussed putting her into the GeMS Clinic when the right time came. They were glad there was time to adjust to the idea. “Baby steps,’’ Kelly calls their path toward treatment.

“I wasn’t always on board,’’ Wayne says. “Kelly and I were not on the same page. My question was, what is this doctor doing? It scared me. I was grieving. I was losing my son.’’

But the more he watched his child struggle, the better he felt about going to Spack. And once he got there, he says, it was a huge relief. “Not only does he know what he’s doing, he’s extremely comforting. He’s got to deal with a ton of dads who are just freaking out, and he made me feel good.’’

Spack’s experience runs deep; before the clinic was established, he had long worked with transgender youth, as well as with adults. “The most striking thing about these kids was the fact that they were just normal young people who had this incredibly unusual and problematic situation,’’ says Spack, 68.

He believes it is crucial to intervene with such children before adolescent changes begin in earnest.

“Most of us look pretty similar until we hit puberty,’’ he says. “I bet I could go to any fourth or fifth-grade class, cut the hair of the boys, put earrings on various kids, change their clothing, and we could send all those kids off to the opposite-gender bathrooms and nobody would say boo.’’

He adds: “We can do wonders if we can get them early.’’

Second-guessing

Not everyone agrees that they should, of course, and Spack has heard the arguments: Man should not interfere with what God has wrought. Early adolescents are too young for such huge decisions, much less life-altering treatment.

SHARED JOURNEY  - Jonas and Nicole, identical twins, with their mother, Kelly, and father, Wayne, who admitted to early fears, but said, “My children taught me who Nicole is and who she needed to be.’’

Suzanne Kreiter/Globe staff

SHARED JOURNEY – Jonas and Nicole, identical twins, with their mother, Kelly, and father, Wayne, who admitted to early fears, but said, “My children taught me who Nicole is and who she needed to be.’’

Though GeMS treatment is now considered the standard of care by mainstream medical groups, some have their doubts. Dr. Kenneth Zucker, a psychologist and head of the gender-identity service at the Center for Addiction and Mental Health in Toronto, says he worries about putting youngsters on puberty blockers, drugs that suppress the release of testosterone in boys and estrogen in girls.

“One controversy is, how low does one go in starting blockers?’’ Zucker says. “Should you start at 11? At 10? What if someone starts their period at 9?’’ Nicole started on the blockers at age 11.

He also questions the role the parents have played; have they simply followed the child’s lead? “Say a 5-year-old says repeatedly that he wants to be a girl,’’ Zucker says. “The parents deduce this must mean the child is transgender, so they socially transition him to living in the other gender.’’

Spack and others, however, say the issue is a medical one and that early intervention makes sense. “We’re talking about a population that has the highest rate of suicide attempts in the world, and it’s strongly linked to nontreatment, especially if they are rejected within their family for being who they think they are,’’ says Spack, who adds that nearly a quarter of his patients admitted to “serious self-harm’’ before coming to him.

As for the criticisms about “playing God,’’ Spack quotes from the Old Testament: “Leviticus says, ‘If thy neighbor is bleeding by the side of the road, you shall not stand idly by the blood of thy neighbor.’ It’s a mandate. I think these kids have been bleeding.’’

The next step

The clinic, which includes geneticists, social workers, psychiatrists, psychologists, and nurses, has so far treated 95 patients for disorders that range from babies born with ambiguous genitalia to cases where normal sexual development does not occur.

About a third of the patients have undergone puberty suppression.

Each patient must have been in therapy with someone familiar with transgender issues and who writes a letter recommending the treatment. The child’s family also must undergo extensive psychological testing before and during treatment. And the patient must be in the early stage of puberty, before bodily changes are noticeable.

Nicole and Jonas are the first set of identical twins the program has seen, and they have provided critical comparative data, Spack says.

The effects of the blockers — an injection given monthly to prevent the gonads from releasing the unwanted hormones — are reversible; patients can stop taking them and go through puberty as their biological sex. This is critical, Spack says, because a “very significant number of children who exhibit cross-gender behavior’’ before puberty “do not end up being transgender.’’

Since the 1970s, the blockers have been used for the rare condition of precocious puberty, when children as young as 3 can hit puberty. They are kept on the blockers until they are of appropriate age. “The drugs have a great track record; we already know that these kids do fine,’’ says Spack. “There are no ill consequences.’’

It is the next big step — taking sex hormones of the opposite gender — that creates permanent changes, such as breasts and broadened hips, that cannot be hormonally reversed.

“In puberty,’’’ Spack says, “when your body starts making a statement, you either have to accept it or reject it.’’

There is no definitive answer to the question of what causes gender identity disorder, though studies suggest a genetic contribution. “It’s still a very open question,’’ Zucker says. And how could it affect just one of two identical twins? “There can be genetic changes during fetal development that maybe hit one twin but not the other.’’

Changed atmosphere

After the family’s lawsuit against the Orono schools was publicized, the atmosphere in town changed. When they went to the movies, people pointed and whispered. There were fewer party invitations, fewer sleepovers.

In the sixth grade, the twins joined the school’s Outing Club. All year they attended meetings to prepare for the crowning event: a whitewater rafting trip. Wayne went to several meetings, too, so he could serve as a chaperone.

Wayne thought he had a good relationship with the club leader. But then the man informed him that Nicole would not be allowed to sleep in the tent with the girls — the same girls who had slept over her house several times. She and her father could have a separate tent.

A difficult family conversation followed. Jonas and Wayne went on the trip. Nicole stayed home.

After that episode, Kelly and Wayne decided a new start would be good for the family. The summer after the sixth grade, they moved to a larger, more diverse community in southern Maine, and the twins enrolled in public school. Wayne still works at UMaine and stays in Orono during the week, spending weekends with his family.

For two years, in seventh and eighth grade, Nicole went “stealth,’’ as she calls it: passing as a girl. She did not tell anyone that she was biologically male. Though she made friends at school, she never brought them to the house. After that hard last year in Orono, the family was afraid to come out.

This fall the twins entered high school, transferring to a smaller, private school known for open-mindedness. Before they arrived, the school changed its bathrooms to unisex. And before classes started, the family met with members of the school’s Gay Straight Alliance — “so she’d have older kids watching her back,’’ says Wayne. After the meeting, the group changed its name to include transgender; it is now the Gay Straight Transgender Alliance.

“It made me a lot more comfortable,’’ Nicole says. “I thought, this is OK. I can do this.’’

She recently started telling some of her new friends her story. One girl replied: “Does this mean you’re going to start wearing boys’ clothes to school?’’

“No,’’ replied Nicole. “I’m male to female.’’

The girl’s reaction? “She was like, ‘Ohhhhhhhhhhhhhhh.’ ’’

Concerns about safety

The male hormone suppressors have done their job, and the next step is to add female hormones so that Nicole will undergo puberty as a girl and develop as a woman, with breasts and curvy hips. She is due to see Spack in January, and a date may then be set for adding estrogen, which she will take every day for the rest of her life. Though she will have a higher risk of breast cancer than if she were a male, she will have a lower risk of prostate cancer, Spack says. The treatment will leave her infertile.

But before the estrogen is administered, the GeMS clinic will reevaluate Nicole to make sure that she still identifies as a female and wants to continue.

“In my experience, the patients just blossom physically and mentally when they get the hormones of the gender they affirm,’’ Spack says. “It’s quite amazing. I feel good about Nicole and who she is and where she’s going.’’

An endocrinologist in Maine now administers the blockers Nicole needs, but Spack still sees her in Boston every four to six months. The Maines family has grown close to him and others in the clinic. “I love going to see him,’’ says Wayne, who has thanked Spack for “saving my daughter’s life.’’ The Maines family declined to talk about the cost of the treatment but said insurance has covered much of it.

But as well as things are going, the Maines family still worries about Nicole’s safety. Last year Wayne and Nicole attended Transgender Day of Remembrance in Maine, which honors those who have been killed in hate crimes.

Wayne spoke to the crowd, telling them that as much as Nicole is loved at home, her family cannot always protect her.

“I remind her that she needs to always be aware of her surroundings, to stay close to friends and her brother if she feels uncomfortable, and to call me anytime she feels threatened,’’ he said.

Lobbying the Legislature

Last winter, Maine state representative Kenneth Fredette, a Republican from Penobscot County, sponsored a bill that would have repealed protections for transgender people in public restrooms, instead allowing schools and businesses to adopt their own policies. The bill was a response to the Maines’ 2009 lawsuit against the Orono School District.

Last spring Wayne and Nicole roamed the halls of the State House, button-holing legislators and testifying against the bill. “I’d be in more danger if I went into the boys bathroom,’’ Nicole told the lawmakers, who ultimately rejected the bill.

“She knows how to work a room,’’ her father says proudly. “She even convinced a cosponsor to vote the other way.’’

In October, the family was honored for its activism in helping defeat the transgender bathroom bill. The Maineses received the Roger Baldwin Award, named for a founder of the American Civil Liberties Union, from the Maine chapter of the ACLU.

Surrounded by Kelly and the kids, Wayne told the audience that he and his wife have had top-notch guides as they confronted the unknown.

“As a conventional dad, hunter, and former Republican, it took me longer to understand that I never had two sons,’’ he told them. “My children taught me who Nicole is and who she needed to be.’’

Typical teens

In some respects, Jonas has had as tough a time as Nicole. For one thing, there’s the personality difference: Nicole is the dominant twin, talkative and tough, while Jonas is cautious and reserved.

“If this had been Jonas, I would have had to home school him,’’ his mother says.

The twins have always been close. During an interview, Nicole sits next to her brother on the couch and occasionally lays her head on his shoulder. At one point, when Jonas goes silent as the twins talk of their lives, she whispers words of encouragement into his ear.

But the next minute, like typical teenage siblings, they’re teasing and tussling. Jonas displays a faint scar on his arm where Nicole jabbed him with a pencil. Both have black belts in tae kwon do, which they started at age 5.

They often hang out in Jonas’s spacious basement room, where they watch TV and play video games.

“I love having a sister,’’ says Jonas, who acknowledges being protective of her. “We have a very strong relationship.’’

Nicole calls Jonas her closest friend.

“I would say my brother got lucky with me. Because we grew up with only boy neighbors, I developed a liking to shoot-’em-up and military video games,’’ she says. “I could have come out a lot girlier.’’

At 14, Jonas is handsome, Nicole pretty. Jonas is midway through puberty. His shoulders have broadened, his voice has deepened, and there’s a shadow on his upper lip. He’s 5 feet 6 and weighs 115 pounds, with a size 11 shoe.

Nicole is petite: 5 feet 1, 100 pounds. She’s got long, dark hair and she wears girls’ size 14-16. Her closet contains nice shirts and jeans, party dresses, glittery shoes, and a pair of footy pajamas.

“The thought of being a boy makes me cringe,’’ she says. “I just couldn’t do it.’’

Excited, worried about surgery

Nicole’s final step on her journey to womanhood would be gender reassignment surgery. Doctors generally won’t perform it until the age of consent, which is 18. No hospitals in New England perform such surgery, says Spack. The nearest that do are in Montreal and Philadelphia.

Nicole says she’s excited about the idea of surgery, though a bit worried about the results — “and maybe the pain, too.’’

While she’s interested in boys, she has expressed fear that “nobody is ever going to love me.’’

She has gone on weekend retreats sponsored by the Trans Youth Equality Foundation and to summer camp for transgender children, where she developed her first crush on a boy.

Over the years, the family has become close to several adult transsexuals, and Nicole has seen that some have found happy marriages. “She says she does feel better about it,’’ Kelly says, “but still wonders if she ever met a boy who falls for her, and then found out that she was trans, if he would still like her, or say awful things as he skedaddled out the door.’’

Nicole knows there is a long road ahead, but she feels she’s on the right path.

“Obviously my life is not going to be as easy as being gender-conforming, but there are perks like being able to get out there and do things that will benefit the [transgender] community,’’ she says. “I think everything’s going to turn out pretty well for me.’’

For now, at least, life feels more normal to the Maines family.

Wayne recently spoke at GLAD’s Spirit of Justice dinner in Boston and was introduced by Nicole. She kept her composure in her brief remarks and thanked GLAD for giving them a rare chance to “safely speak out.’’

Wayne choked up when thanking the group for its support. He recounted young Wyatt asking him, sadly, “Daddy, why can’t boys wear dresses?’’ Wayne hated to tell his son that society wouldn’t accept that.

But today, when Nicole asks her father what he thinks of a certain dress she’s wearing, his typical response, he told the audience, is: “That dress is too short. Go change your clothes.’’

In conversation later, Wayne tells another story of how things have changed, for good and forever. He and the twins were getting out of the car recently, and he grabbed their hands to walk with them.

Jonas, being a teenage boy, shook his father off, while Nicole was happy to walk hand-in-hand, swinging arms.

“She’ll do that the rest of her life,’’ Wayne says with a wide grin. “It was an epiphany for me.’’

 

http://www.bostonglobe.com/metro/2011/12/11/led-child-who-simply-knew/SsH1U9Pn9JKArTiumZdxaL/story.html

 

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The Big Bang Theory reaches a milestone in January with the broadcast of its hundredth episode, and as the cast and crew gathered last Thursday night to celebrate the achievement, they dished a spoiler or two to ET regarding the much-anticipated show.

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“The hundredth episode is very quirky,” reveals cast member Mayim Bialik. “It’s a little bit outside of the normal format of what we normally do, and it’s richly focused around Leonard and Penny. I think we’re not done really seeing a lot of levels of that relationship and it’s very funny.”

In light of Penny’s recent drunken confession of breakup regret to ex-flame Leonard, we wonder… do Mayim’s words point to a romantic re-kindling for the pair in the near future?

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“The 100th episode messes with your mind,” teased Kaley Cuoco of the possibility. “It’s like nothing we’ve ever done before.”

TBBT‘s executive producer Chuck Lorre was a bit more forthcoming in matter, confirming to ET that there is “very much so” a “Penny/Leonard romance in the hundredth episode” to look forward to. “We decided to go back to where we started for the hundredth. I hope people like it.”

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Don’t miss The Big Bang Theory’s 100th episode airing January 19th on CBS.

http://www.etonline.com/tv/117179_Big_Bang_Theory_Cast_Celebrates_100_Episode_Milestone/index.html?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+ETTopStories+%28Entertainment+Tonight%3A+Breaking+News%29&utm_content=Google+Feedfetcher

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