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Letters

TRANSGENDER GAP

I was disappointed to see Norah Vincent trashing transsexuals with a mixture of dubious reasoning and outright prejudice disguised as intellectualism ["Welcome to the Transsexual Age," Higher Ed, May 29]. Sex-reassignment surgery is not performed on demand. Ever since the 1950s, when Dr. Harry Benjamin treated Christine Jorgensen and devised the Standards of Care, there has been intense psychological and physical screening. Diagnosis by a competent doctor of a condition known as gender dysphoria must be made before a person may be declared a candidate for sex-reassignment surgery. The surgery is performed only after at least two letters have been written—one from a therapist and one from a psychiatrist or M.D.—and after at least one year of therapy and hormone treatment. This usually requires that the person live in the gender role to which they are to be assigned for at least a year prior to surgery.

Vincent makes an argument based on "philosophy" while ignoring realities that are recognized by respected medical practitioners. This comes close to expressing a medical opinion with no formal training in medicine. It is a very dangerous thing for society when "philosophy" and pseudo-intellectual social theories are allowed to compete with hard science.

Chelsea Elisabeth Goodwin
Program Director
Metropolitan Gender Network
Brooklyn

Norah Vincent replies: I'm not trashing transsexuals when I characterize their surgery as a means of self-expression. The alternative would be to pathologize it. It sounds to me like Goodwin is doing just that—describing transsexuality as a disease, a medical condition for which sex-reassignment is the only accepted treatment. That's what they used to say about homosexuality, too, before it was taken out of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual.


JUST A PIECE OF US

Re Alisa Solomon's article "Not in My Name" [May 22]: I find it interesting that one can always find any number of groups and forums within the Jewish world frothing on about the need to seek a just peace. Where are their Palestinian counterparts? From the looks of things, the latter are too busy rewriting history and poisoning the minds of their children with blind hatred to deal with the complexities of coexistence. Maybe "Junity" [Jewish Unity for a Just Peace] missed the news: Ehud Barak offered the Palestinians roughly what they demanded, with some changes dictated primarily by that dirty word "security." It has become apparent that the Palestinian leadership feels a little bloodshed might get them a better deal.

Avi Kay, Dean of Students
Touro College
Jerusalem, Israel


HANNA AND HER SISTER

In response to Alisa Solomon's "Not in My Name": I am a Muslim, half-Syrian, half-Welsh 19-year-old girl, currently residing in England. Having grown up in the Middle East, I never met any Jews until I came to England. When I got here, I realized that the ostensible "enemy" is just people, like anybody else, trying to live their lives decently with different customs and beliefs. I then went on to discover that there are Jews who do not agree with the Israeli government's treatment of the Palestinians.

It is a relief to me to find that the world is not so black and white, so "us against them," as I had thought. I would like to express my thanks to people like Ms. Solomon, who are among the only voices that the Israeli government might listen to—members of Jewish communities all over the world who have expressed their discontent with the way things are.

Hanna Mourad-Agha
Bristol, England


SHOCKING NEWS

Re "Watts Up" by Ward Harkavy [May 22]: While, as a medical researcher, I support the right of families to make decisions for a loved one suffering from mental illness, I think Harkavy was fishing for a little "shock" value of his own by portraying electroconvulsive therapy as some type of medieval torture. Indeed, I agree with the doctors who "say the treatment is now carried out more humanely than in the past." It is performed with the patient under general anesthesia, and is therefore akin to a surgical procedure: patients do not remember a thing. Moreover, it has proven to be extremely beneficial to many patients suffering from mental illness.

Anne Krauss's comment that using ECT to treat mental illness is "like blaming the hardware for a software problem" is completely off the mark. The body's central nervous system is a complex piece of "hardware" with millions of specific electrical connections between neurons that must be perfectly in line for an individual to function normally. Most mental illnesses are diseases of this "hardware," and it is therefore perfectly reasonable to expect that the brain's electrical connections and firing patterns can be reconditioned via ECT.

 

The real point of this story is that patients' rights to choose are being violated by the courts, and this is a tragedy. I'm dismayed that a safe, effective, and validated medical treatment was portrayed as barbaric. Valid treatment options for mental illness are desperately needed. The last thing that patients need is for the media to contribute to the "stigma and fear" that already shadow one of the best treatments available.

Robyn Bilinski Banino
Manhattan

Congratulations to Ward Harkavy for his critical piece on electroshock. It's time more reporters were sensitive to the many serious criticisms shock survivors have tried to get published in the mainstream media. In Canada, I've never heard or read of any judge ordering electroshock, but it's legally possible under a "community treatment order."

As an insulin shock survivor, antipsychiatry activist, human rights advocate, and board member of Support Coalition International, I wholeheartedly support the international struggle to stop the forced shocking of Adam Szyszko and Paul Henri Thomas at Pilgrim State Hospital. I'm convinced that Szyszko and Thomas, along with with many other involuntary psychiatric "patients" in New York, are political prisoners of psychiatry and the state. They're being assaulted and persecuted for daring to exercise their human right to refuse any treatment.

In my informed opinion, all electroshock is forced, inhumane, and unethical. Doctors routinely coerce patients into consenting, misinform them about permanent memory loss, and rarely mention nonmedical or community alternatives to shock. Beyond this, all psychiatric facilities are inherently coercive and intimidating.

Don Weitz
Toronto, Canada


KOSNER'S 'HOOD

There are so many omissions, misinterpretations, and unfounded insinuations in Cynthia Cotts's story about a reporter's claim of discrimination against him at the Daily News that it is impossible to deal with them all ["Mr. Kosner's Neighborhood," Press Clips, May 29].

There are no fewer than 10 anonymous quotations in Cotts's 14-paragraph story, nearly all of them negative about the paper. But it's useful to examine the assertions in two key paragraphs of the story because they are emblematic of the errors that riddle the entire piece.

Cotts writes: "Kosner employs no black reporters on the Sunday edition or in features." In fact, Angela King, who is African American, is one of four reporters on the small Sunday staff, and Carole Lee was chosen by me to be photo editor of the Sunday paper. Lola Ogunnaike is a young reporter for the features section who contributes frequent profiles and long pieces for the paper.

The story goes on to mention "his three black news reporters." In fact, there are 10 African American reporters on the city staff alone plus an assistant city editor.

Cotts then uses an anonymous source to disparage two of the News's black columnists as "window dressing." One of these is E.R. Shipp, an African American woman who won a Pulitzer Prize for commentary at the News and has been the ombudsman for The Washington Post. The other is the celebrated Stanley Crouch, one of America's leading cultural writers and critics. Our third African American columnist, Karen Hunter, is the first black woman to write a column for the front of the paper (as distinct from the op-ed page). She was a member of the editorial board that won the Pulitzer for the News in 1999 for a series of editorials about the operations of the Apollo Theatre in Harlem.

Cotts's next paragraph quotes an anonymous source saying that the News pays "lip service" to hiring minorities and doesn't train them to succeed, so "minorities leave all the time." In fact, the News has hired five African American reporters in the last two years, and the average tenure of the African American journalists on staff is more than six years. Excluding the recent hires, the average tenure is eight years. None of the African American journalists on the staff disparaged by Cotts as tokens or window dressing were called by Cotts for their response.

It's no secret at the paper that the editorial management has made a sustained and successful effort to hire and promote African American and other minority journalists. Had Cotts talked to some of them, she would have gotten the real story.

But even Cotts can't help acknowledging—grudgingly—that the News has a higher percentage of minority journalists on staff than the Times or the Post.

Ed Kosner, Editor in Chief
New York Daily News

Cynthia Cotts replies: Kosner conveniently fails to mention that I sent an e-mail to Daily News spokesman Ken Frydman on May 18, attempting to confirm the roster of blacks on the editorial staff. Frydman whined that I was making him do too much work, and on May 21 I e-mailed him again with the same request, among others. If Kosner is so proud of his efforts to promote minorities at the News, he should have set the record straight before publication instead of stonewalling and then complaining after the fact. And I did not disparage the News' black columnists, for whom I have great respect. The question raised was whether they represent the views of the city's black community—a question, like so many others, that Kosner chose to dodge.

 


HOME ON THE BOMBING RANGE

Thank you so much for Lenora Todaro's article about Vieques ["One-Stop Bombing," May 15]. As a Puerto Rican studying in New York City, I am appalled that no one knows about the horrible situation back home. When I try to explain it, it's hard for me to give exact numbers and facts about the U.S. Navy's exploitation of Vieques. Thanks to the Voice, the facts are now available for everyone to see.

Nuria Net
Manhattan


INVISIBLE WOMEN

In her article "Where Are the Women?" [May 1], Jodi Liss reported, "From 1998 to 2000 . . . the Washington Performing Arts Society . . . did not present a single dance company whose choreographer was a woman."

Because representation and institutional support for women in the performing arts is such an important issue, I would like to draw your attention to the Washington Performing Arts Society's true programmatic history.

From 1998 to 2000, WPAS presented Ballet Hispanico, led by artistic director Tina Ramirez and featuring the choreography of Maria Rovira and Ann Reinking; Victoria Marks Performance Company; Bebe Miller Company; Holy Body Tattoo, choreographed by the team of Dana Gringas and Noam Gagnon; Meryl Tankard Australian Dance Theater; Liz Lerman Dance Exchange; Ballet Folklorico de Mexico, led by artistic director Amalia Hernandez; White Oak Dance Project, featuring the choreography of Yvonne Rainer, Trisha Brown, Lucinda Childs, and Simone Forti, and a newly commissioned piece by Deborah Hay; and the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, featuring the choreography of Lisa Johnson and Jawole Willa Jo Zollar.

The Washington Performing Arts Society's programmatic commitment to women in dance continues in 2001 with presentations of the choreography of Muna Tseng, Pat Graney, Annie-B Parsons, Susan Marshall, Elizabeth Streb, and Stacey Dawson, and will continue for years to come.

Kim Chan, Director of Programming
Washington Performing Arts Society
Washington, D.C.

Jodi Liss replies: My comments referred to female choreographers with their own companies who were presented solely by WPAS. My original essay mentioned two years, not three. I did miss Meryl Tankard. I apologize for any confusion and the oversight.


STRIPES OF SORROW

Re Dean Chadwin's "New York Exchange Rates" [The Score, May 22]: Frissons of schadenfreude ran through me as I read all the "D+" and lower grades accorded to Yankees general manager Brian Cashman for his trades. Please, dear Lord, this contrarian wants to see anybody but the damn Yankees win the World Series again. Enough is enough.

Joan Mary Macey
Binghamton, New York


CORRECTION

In last week's dance Footnotes column, an incorrect date was given for the initial production of the late Arnie Zane's The Gift/No God Logic. It was first performed in 1987.


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