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Sex, gender, and why we shouldn’t care

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Jim Opionin by Jim Powers
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We all like a story about the triumph of good over evil. A favorite trope is the story of a schoolyard bully who someone finally finds the courage to punch in the face, the bully collapsing in tears. “He cried like a little girl,” we tell our friends.

What do we mean by that? That suddenly his chromosomes switched from XY to XX? Do we mean that his sex organs changed, that his body hair become lighter, that he suddenly became more curvaceous? Of course not. We are ascribing to his behavior a cultural stereotype that little girls cry when they are hurt, and little boys don’t. We all know that isn’t true, everyone cries sometimes.

Our culture is full of stereotypes that make no sense. Girls wear skirts, boys wear pants. Girls wear makeup and most boys don’t. Those are cultural norms, though.

There are two definitions we need to get out of the way, because most people seem to believe they refer to the same thing, and that’s not the case.

“Sex” is the categories humans are divided into based on their reproductive functions. If we define someone by their sex, we define a man as someone who fertilizes an egg in a woman, who then hosts the fetus until birth.

Gender can describe either of the two sexes and refers to social and cultural differences in contrast to biological ones. Something tha affects people of both genders.

Our identification with one gender or another is only tangentially related to the number of X chromosomes we are born with. Many factors during our development in the womb ultimately affect who we understand ourselves to be. Everyone is familiar with the hormone testosterone, so I’ll focus on how much it affects our view of ourselves.

As I have written before, my father and I are very different people. He had high testosterone levels. He was a boys boy growing up. Constantly getting into fights, playing every sport, spending the rest of his time hunting and fishing…doing what we culturally consider “man stuff.”

But high levels of testosterone are not always a good thing. He was aggressive, easily angered, was bald in his mid 20s and suffered from maladies related to high testosterone as he aged. He died at age 69.

I’m much more like my mother. She was peaceful, even tempered (I never saw her angry (seriously)), enjoyed reading, sewing, and doing things around the house.

My testosterone level is in the normal range. I never got into fights growing up, am generally very laid back (my wife and I have argued only five times that we can remember is our 45 years of marriage). I also enjoy reading, writing, various forms of art, etc.  I still have all the hair on my head, and other than an aortic value replacement in 2019 (a congenital defect) I’m very healthy at age 71.

I grew up with both parents, so could have been influenced equally by either. But as far as my gender is concerned, I’m closer on a spectrum to mom than dad.

There are people born with XX or XY chromosomes that as they are growing up, relate far more to the gender identity of people of the opposite sex. This usually is because of factors during their development in the womb beyond their control. Hormone imbalances, brain development, health of the mother, all can affect fetal development. This experience is very confusing for a maturing child. They feel and think like a girl, but they have the sex organs of a boy. As they reach puberty, the conflict becomes unbearable. Society tells them that they should be attracted to girls (if they have boy sex organs), or vice-versa, but that’s not the case.

Social pressure from other teens, parents’ refusal to accept what is happening, can ultimately become more than they can handle. The result is often suicide.

Sexual reassignment can be lifesaving for these young people. They can finally be physically what they are mentally and emotionally.

Attacking trans-sexual people and sexual reassignment is cruel and irrational. The existence of trans-sexual people does not diminish the rest of us in any way. The idea that they are more likely pedophiles or will engage in sexual assault is nonsense. 

Most child sex crimes and assaults are by members of the child’s own family. The idea that they are using their status to sneak into bathrooms and leer at naked people is silly. 

Our separate public bathrooms are a cultural thing. Other cultures are different. If folks want to look at naked people, three clicks on the Internet will get you XXX porn. Why pretend to be a woman in the hope of getting a quick look at naked flesh through a crack in a stall?

I don’t know what has happened to our society. Why have we become so obsessed with how other people look, think, or live their lives. Maybe TikTok has turned us all into other obsessed voyeurs, believing we have the right to pry into the lives of and control others.

Unless someone’s behavior is directly affecting your life, leave people alone.

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Ashby sends condolences to grieving Uvalde community

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Trent Ashby in HouseBy Trent Ashby

District 57 Repsentative

The tragedy and senseless act of violence that took the precious lives of 19 children and two teachers at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde leaves us all with heavy hearts.

As Texans grieve over this unspeakable loss, we grapple with the unfortunate reality that something this catastrophic can take place in our own backyard. In a place where children are meant to prosper and feel protected, no parent should ever have to carry the inescapable concern of losing their child at school.

As a father, I send my deepest condolences and heartfelt prayers to the families of the twenty-one people who lost their lives. As Texans and as Americans, it is my sincere hope that we come together to find sensible and thoughtful solutions to address the all-to-common occurrence of mass shootings that currently plague our society.

As we mourn the loss of life and grieve alongside our fellow Texans, I'd like to share a verse in scripture that I hope will resonate in the hearts and minds of all those affected by this tragedy:

"Repay no one evil for evil. Have regard for good things in the sight of all men. If it is possible, as much as depends on you, live peaceably with all men … Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good." Romans 12:17-18;21.

In the wake of our most recent primary runoff elections, I thought it would be appropriate to cover the House Committee on Elections for this week’s examination of House Interim Committees and charges.

The House Committee on Elections has the important duty of overseeing the Texas Ethics Commission and the Texas Secretary of State. This nine-member committee has jurisdiction over voting rights, state elections, election code, and campaign finances.

Over the interim, this Committee will spend time keeping an eye on relevant legislation passed in the 87th Legislature and study recent changes to election procedures.

If you're a Texan who is eligible to vote by mail, you can now track the status of your ballot with a digital tool on the Texas Secretary of State's website. Enacted under HB 1382, the Committee will examine this new tool to ensure it is working as intended.

Allowing voters to check their mail-in status eliminates the uncertainty that your vote didn't get counted, thus increasing accessibility transparency, and turnout. The Committee on Elections will also review the implementation of HB 1622, which seeks to increase transparency and efficiency in the elections process by allowing voters to file a complaint with the Secretary of State if early voting turnout numbers are not posted in a timely manner.

Current law requires early voting clerks to maintain a roster listing the number of people who voted during each day of early voting. The daily roster must be submitted to the Secretary of State and posted publicly on the Secretary of State's website.

Ensuring these posting requirements are met in a timely manner helps both administrators and the Secretary of State monitor vote totals for accuracy to identify any problems or irregularities, which helps maintain the integrity of our electoral process.

This Committee is also charged with studying laws related to local ballot initiatives and propositions to assess whether reforms are needed to ensure ballot language is clear, consistent, and easy to understand.

When Texans have an opportunity to vote on a constitutional amendment or a local proposition, at times, the wording may be difficult to comprehend, leaving voters unsure as to whether they support the measure.

As always, please do not hesitate to contact my office if we can help you in any way. My district office may be reached at (936) 634-2762. Additionally, I welcome you to follow along on my Official Facebook Page, where I will be posting regular updates on what's happening in your State Capitol and sharing information that could be useful to you and your family: https://www.facebook.com/RepTrentAshby/.

Trent Ashby represents District 57, soon to be District 9, which includes Trinity County, in the Texas Legislature.

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The value of a human life

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Jim Opionin by Jim Powers
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“I mean, they say you die twice. One time when you stop breathing and a second time, a bit later on, when somebody says your name for the last time.” Attributed to Banksy

"Someday soon, perhaps in forty years, there will be no one alive who has ever known me. That's when I will be truly dead - when I exist in no one's memory. I thought a lot about how someone very old is the last living individual to have known some person or cluster of people. When that person dies, the whole cluster dies, too, vanishes from the living memory. I wonder who that person will be for me. Whose death will make me truly dead?” ― Irvin D. Yalom, Love's Executioner and Other Tales of Psychotherapy

What’s the value of a human life? Does it even have individual value, and if so, why?

I often drift into philosophy in these columns, simply because our opinions are based strongly on our individual philosophical beliefs. So I think it’s important that I reveal my philosophical bias when I rant on about this or that. Philosophically, I am an existentialist.

Philosophy is a slippery slope and existentialism is one of the most slippery of the slopes in philosophy. Reduced farther than it should be, it’s the belief that, as the writer Hunter S. Thompson wrote, that we are all alone, and that we are responsible for creating meaning and purpose in our own lives, not teachers, or gods or governments. 

I’ve been thinking about this lately as we are really debating whether life has inherent value, and the nature of that value, when we talk about abortion or mass murder or whether the government should exercise ultimate control over women’s bodies, or who we love, or when and if we have children.

We might argue that life always has value to the individual, because without it we have nothing. The fact of suicide seems to dispute that idea, though. I believe there are far worse things than death, including enduring a life of intractable suffering, of inescapable poverty, of oppression by individuals or governments, only to die alone and lonely.

Many Christians would say that the Bible teaches us that life has inestimable value because God created it. They have used this belief to justify the right of the government to make abortion illegal from the moment of conception, or to make birth control illegal. I think this is a gross misunderstanding and misuse of the Bible.

If you look at the Bible in its entirety, neither the Old Testament God nor the New Testament Jesus appear to place ultimate value on human life. It is the human soul that is the concern of the Bible.

God repeatedly ordered in the OT his people to commit genocide. He destroyed almost all of humanity in the great flood. In the New Testament, it seems clear that Jesus and the NT writers valued the fate of the soul far more than human life. Jesus literally gave up his life to secure the souls of Christians.

“For our conversation is in heaven; from whence also we look for the Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ: Who shall change our vile body, that it may be fashioned like unto his glorious body, according to the working whereby he is able even to subdue all things unto himself.” (Phil. 3:20-21)

We don’t have to spend much time talking about how little our society values human life. 

Billion- and Trillion-dollar corporations control our society and government because money is deemed speech and has corrupted our representatives. Social problems that directly affect people and events, such as mental illness, are ignored as “too expensive” to solve, while we have the most expensive military in the world, and our government constantly erodes individual liberties by at the same time arguing for restrictions on gun ownership because, well you know, life is valuable.

What’s my argument in all of this? Do I actually believe that life is without value? Of course not.

To the existentialist, individual life is the ultimate value.  But our government and the giant corporations that control it, are using a supposed concern for life as a tool of control. And, where we as a society focus our attention and wealth seem to clearly contradict the idea that we care, ultimately, about human life. And that ultimately falls back on our lives as individuals. Because it’s not governments or gods or authorities who are responsible for giving our lives meaning or purpose. It is us. Don’t give up that power in the pursuit of shiny baubles.

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By Jim Powers
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Jim Opionin Here we are again. A bullied kid turns into an angry teen who buys a couple of guns on his 18th birthday and takes out his frustration on children in an elementary school. And with a mid-term election fast approaching, politician’s outrage is raising to a fever pitch. The events are awful. Shouldn’t have happened. Heartbreaking.

Of course, the senseless loss of life is maddening. But, as usual, renewed demand for gun control overwhelms any hope of solving the real problem of disaffection in our society. I’m an old guy. I grew up in a different world. One common denominator though was that the world I grew up in was awash with guns. And, it was a lot easier to buy a gun.

Walk into one of the popular GI Surplus stores in East Texas during the 1960s and you would find barrows scattered around the store stuffed with military surplus rifles from various countries.

In one barrow would be Italian Carcano rifles in 6.5 caliber, in another variations of the British Lee-Enfield in .303 caliber, and on and on. Not locked up behind a counter. I bought both as a teenager, just picked one out of the barrow, plunked down $10 bucks, and walked out the door. Nothing to sign, no background check. I would get home with the gun, hang in on the wall loaded in an open gun rack, without concern.

 If the difference isn’t the availability of guns, which are much harder to legally own these days, it’s hard to blame the guns. But blaming the guns is easier than dealing with the real problems of our society. What are those problems?

One factor in the rise of gun crimes is population. The U.S. population in 1960 was 180 million. It is now 329 million. People are more crowded together, and as the population grows, the number of bad guys grows with it.

Another factor is the difficulty in this country of accessing mental health care. Unless you regularly fantasize about buying a couple of rifles and killing a lot of elementary school children, you understand that your average well-adjusted person isn’t a mass murderer, even if he has access to a hundred guns and thousands of rounds of ammo.

And then there is the Internet and social media, where mental health challenged people are regularly radicalized by constant bombardment with bizarre and dangerous conspiracy theories.

Yeah, I get it. It’s easier to ban gun-shaped objects than solve the social and mental health issues plaguing our country. And it’s a convenient rallying cry for politicians seeking office or re-election. But the gun control debate is only a distraction from solutions to heal our sick society.

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Time wasted looking for wrong answers

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FromEditorsDesk Tony CroppedBy Tony Farkas
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As a parent, one with school-aged children, the news from Uvalde is gut-wrenching in more ways than one.

Children should be loved, and cherished, and face the best things the world has to offer, and should not have to face such horrors as a homicidal rampage.

This one hits much too close for comfort as well. As terrible as it is, leaping to conclusions and tossing blame around will not now nor has it ever.

A very good friend of mine was interviewing an editor candidate for his newspaper, who turned down the job so his children could remain in the Uvalde school system. He lost his child.

His point is that we’re the smartest nation on the planet, so we should be able to find a solution.

But not as things stand.

During a briefing by law enforcement officials, which included Gov. Greg Abbott, Democratic candidate for governor Beto O’Rourke storms in and laying the blame for the shooting at Abbott’s feet.

Abbott pulled no triggers, nor was even in the area. It is not Abbott’s fault.

Media pundits of most stripes, liberal lawmakers across the board, all began the expected call for gun control. Given that mass shootings have been occurring with more frequency regardless of whether laws exist or not, this doesn’t seem like the proper path.

It is not the gun’s fault.

I’ve seen arguments that the creation of gun-free zones and the rise in mass school shootings. I’ve also seen calls for legislation to arm teachers, or to ensure that all schools have police presence, or single-entry points with metal detectors, or a host of other things that are expected to end this.

It’s not the fault of the law or laws.

Former President Barack Obama built an equivalence between the shooting in Uvalde and the death of George Floyd, who died while being arrested.

It’s not the fault of the police.

The ultimate fault lies with the perpetrator, the person or persons who made the decision to be evil, to take up arms and kill. Motives aside, there was a decision made.

I saw a video recently where a man on a subway train tormented other passengers, and even assaulted and took one as a hostage, and no one in the car attempted to intervene. It was described as another example of the “slow extinction of the values necessary for the proper functioning of a civilized society.” (h/t Gad Saad).

There is credible evidence that there needs to be a stronger attention paid to mental health issues and intervention. Seems like something worth exploring, anyway.

I agree with my friend that we’re a very, very smart country. One of the smartest things we can do is to stop pointing fingers and start talking with each other.

There has to be some way, some connection, something to create or find that will start all of us, perpetrator, potential perpetrator or victim, to heal, to step back from the brink of a heinous act that puts out ripples of evil, ever growing.

Some way to convince us that this barbarity only makes it worse.

Some way to reach out a hand, one not holding a weapon. This only will happen together, not apart.

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