Wednesday, October 24, 2007
by David Suzuki, with Faisal Moola
Most people alive today were born after 1950. To these people, our modern world is just the way things have always been. Imagining life without TV, radio, telephones and the Internet is next to impossible. Teenagers probably have a hard time imagining life without text messaging!
And it's true, human reach is now profound. We are the most integrated, interconnected and mobile species that has ever existed on this planet. Some of these interconnections produce marvelous results. We get to know other cultures. We understand more about history and each other. We can easily chat with friends and family on the other side of the world.
What startled the scientists was that fish populations crashed to near-extinction levels by the end of the experiment.
But we have to remember that, although we are connected with each other more than ever, we are also intimately connected to the rest of the natural world. These connections can manifest themselves physically, such as through global warming. But they can also manifest themselves biologically — and in some surprising ways.
Recently, researchers writing in the US journal, Proceedings of the National Academy of Scientists reported that male fish became "feminized" when exposed to human hormones. Some of the fish, a type of fathead minnow, produced early-stage eggs in their testes while others actually developed tissues for both reproductive organs.
How would fish be exposed to female human hormones? Through treated or untreated municipal wastewater, of course. It seems that widespread use of birth control pills has elevated the amount of estrogenic substances going into our waste stream. Remember, things that go down our toilets don't just disappear. They can actually survive simple sewage treatment processes and end up in our rivers, lakes and oceans.
Reports of fish feminization due to human female hormones are today fairly well documented — but long-term studies of what impact this can have on fish populations have not been done. For this latest study, researchers actually added the synthetic estrogen found in contraceptive pills to a remote lake in northern Ontario in amounts that are normally found in human wastewater. They did this for three years, and monitored the results over a period of seven years.
The results were startling. As expected, the male fish developed some feminized characteristics, such as producing proteins normally synthesized in females. But what really disturbed the scientists was how populations of the fish crashed to near extinction levels by the end of the experiment. Feminization of the males combined with hormonal changes to the females apparently damaged their overall reproductive capacity to the point that the fish were unable to maintain their population.
Conclude the researchers: "The results from this whole-lake experiment demonstrate that continued inputs of natural and synthetic estrogens and estrogen mimics to the aquatic environment in municipal wastewaters could decrease the reproductive success and sustainability of fish populations."
This spells trouble. Most Canadians have probably never heard of the fathead minnow, but these fish are a vital food source for well-known and popular sport fish that people have heard of — such as walleye, lake trout and northern pike. They are also well-studied and often used in toxicology testing because they have short life cycles, adapt well to lab conditions and are representative of a large family of fish. . . .
by Cara Davis
Almost 10 percent of transgender people will be murdered, compared to 0.0055 percent of the general population.
By MARTIN ABBUGAO
A Singaporean transsexual fights the ‘culture of shame’ in Asia.
SHE loves children and her lifelong dream is to be a wife and a mother, but the raspy voice and masculine frame betray the fact that Leona Lo was born a man.
Unlike many other transsexuals in Asia who prefer to live privately because of the social stigma of sex change, the British-educated, Singaporean transsexual has chosen to live a normal life, but in public.
Smart, confident and articulate, the communications specialist who heads her own public relations company has embarked on a mission to help turn around the “culture of shame” surrounding transsexuals in Singapore and the region.
“Somewhere out there, not just in Singapore but throughout Asia, there are lots of young people who are suffering the way I suffered years ago,” Leona, 32, says.
In her former life as a man, she was called Leonard.
These days, she draws on her experiences of gender identity crisis, rejection and discrimination to challenge social mores on behalf of the so-called silent community.
“It’s this entire culture of shame that gets under your skin. It’s not something that you can isolate and demolish because it is so much a part of our culture,” she says.
While a few transsexuals are gaining prominence in Asia – notably China’s Jin Xing – most continue to live in silence.
In Thailand, transsexual kickboxer Parinya “Nong Toom” Charoenphol’s rags-to-riches story was made into a movie, Beautiful Boxer. Former Chinese People’s Liberation Army colonel-and-now-woman Jin Xing is a prize-winning dancer and choreographer.
Discrimination is the biggest challenge, Leona says, recalling repeated rejection by prospective employers in Singapore despite her academic credentials.
“Singapore may be a cosmopolitan city, but many things are still swept under the carpet,” Leona adds. No reliable figures on the number of transsexual men and women in Singapore, or the region, are available, because those who feel they have been born into the wrong body prefer to endure in silence rather than embarrass their families, she says.
“It’s because a lot of transsexual women face discrimination at work and experience failure of relationships that a lot attempt suicide, or suffer depression. They end up on the streets as prostitutes.”
This is why she has taken time off from her thriving consultancy which promotes beauty products to wage her campaign.
After much persuasion, one local university allowed her to speak to an audience of students but she is finding it hard to pry open a window to share her thoughts in the corporate world.
Last month, she launched her autobiography, From Leonard to Leona – A Singapore Transsexual’s Journey to Womanhood. . . .
Wig industry maven Amy Gibson relates to her transgender clientele -- and not just because they provide incredible income. Skeptics can rest assured her sympathy is rooted in commiseration, not marketing.
“I really feel what they go through, being stuck in the wrong body,” says the Emmy-nominated Gibson, who played runaway alcoholic Lynn Henderson on the long-running soap Love of Life. “I really get it.”
As a teenager, she was diagnosed with alopecia areata, an autoimmune disease that eventually fried her hair follicles, leaving her bald. Years later she parlayed her own journey of hair loss into a growing business. In March 2006 she launched Crown and Glory Enterprises, a Los Angeles boutique that produces high-end, customized wigs as well as international luxury line called Amy’s Presence.
For her new venture, Gibson is extending a hand, or rather a few cap sizes, to trans women.
“It’s important for them to understand that getting the right wig could be the answer to a lot of discomfort,” Gibson says. “It truly is the finishing touch.”
Her interest in the trans market ignited when she started hearing complaints that wig boutiques offered nothing feminine and durable in the range of larger cap sizes. With Amy’s Presence, she now provides larger sizes (24 and 25) in up to eight different styles, with costs ranging from $1,600 to $2,500 per wig. The hairpieces also feature Cyber Hair, a revolutionary velvety material that when tousled remolds to its original form within 15 minutes. For the choosier athletic customer, a swim cap version is available that performs well in water.
“I don’t want to call it a wig,” says Stacy Alexeief, a 52-year-old Long Beach, Calif., resident. “A wig almost connotes something that’s artificial. There’s a lightness and flow to [the hairpieces] that’s beyond human hair.” . . .