Saturday, April 27, 2013

Extinction - the Demise of the Western Black Rhino...

Western Black African Extinct.
There are some moments in the world that one just does not wish to be present for. I remember as a young child, reading through the wonderful countless books my parents had on animals and wild life. These books inspired me deeply in my love and fascination with nature and wildlife, and the entire universe for that matter. I remember reading this line - clearly, word for word - from one of those old books:

"Extinction is a natural process - the current rate of extinction is not." 

Go back and read that again. Slowly. "Extinction is a natural process - the current rate of extinction is not."
A definition of extinction reads as follows: 

A species becomes extinct when the last existing member dies. Extinction therefore becomes a certainty when there are no surviving individuals that are able to reproduce and create a new generation. A species may become functionally extinct when only a handful of individuals survive, which cannot reproduce due to poor health, age, sparse distribution over a large range, a lack of individuals of both sexes (in sexually reproducing species), or other reasons. 

Extinctions occur for numerous reasons - Genetic pollution wherein breeding is affected by inbreeding, cross breeding and colliding with species that are more numerous, or simply dropping below a sustainable amount for a breeding population. Then there is co-extinction, when the loss of one species negatively affects a co-existing species that is dependent on the interaction of their habits and life cycles. Then there is habitat degradation, predation, competition and disease. And of course we are all familiar with "Mass extinction", so well known from the ending of the dinosaurs due to a comet strike that changed the earths climate on a wide scale. However, the rate of extinctions has been climbing at an alarming rate since the beginning of the 1900's...

This past Thursday, 
April 25th, conservationists announced 
the extinction of the West Black African Rhinoceros.

Now, there are other Rhino populations - the White Rhino, the Indian Rhino the Javan Rhino and the Sumatran Rhino. About 275 Sumatran rhinos are believed to remain.and as of 2009, only 40 Javan
Rhinos remain in Ujung Kulon Conservation, Java, Indonesia.The Camaroon subspecies of Black Rhino was declared extinct 2 years two years ago, and 3 other subspecies remained critically threatened. But now the Black Rhino is totally gone. And it is gone because of poaching...its horn believed to be of medicinal value in some Asiatic countries, Rhinos have been slaughtered for years, with increasing clashes between the conservationists, the game wardens and the poachers, some of which have turned ugly and fatal.
Poaching  for their horns has
contributed overwhelmingly
to the loss and extinction of the Rhino
Greed is the ultimate bottom line - Rhino horns fetch incredible prices on the black market; an average sized horn can bring in as much as a quarter of a million dollars. Countries in which traffic for the horns runs high, have made it illegal, and are assisting conservationists and game wardens, but nothing appears to be slowing poaching down in the slightest. And even the game wardens have turned for money and aided the poachers, which contributed to the loss of the rhino. 

In other words...we did this. 

This did not happen slowly over time as natural extinction processes  occurred. This occurred abruptly, brutally and for nothing but human greed and cruelty. And the Rhino is scarcely alone in being threatened or having gone down to death....

the Irish Elk, 

the Yangtze River Dolphin, 

the Quagga, 

the Japanese Honshu Wolf, 

the Great Auk,

the Pinta Island Tortoise (the last of whom died last year)

Stellar's Sea Cow, 

Moa and the Hastian's Eagle 
(the Moa's hunted to extinction by man, the Hastian's Eagle died out because of the loss of the Moa, its primary food source.)

The Thaylacine

 The Carolina Parakeet. 

The Passenger Pigeon. 

The Dodo.

The Dutch Alcon Blue Butterfly. 

The Round Island Burrowing Boa Constrictor. 

The Spix's Macaw. 

The Javan Tiger. 

The Pyrenean Ibex. 

The Tecopa Pupfish. 

The Madeiran Large White Butterfly. 

The Zanzibar Leopard. 

The Golden Toad. 
And on...and on...and on....
And on. 
And every single one above went down because of man...our greed, our consumption of habitat, our poaching, our total lack of concern for this world we stand in stewardship to...whether to God, or the Gods, or simply to our higher human conscience if we do not believe in a Deity. 

We have saved some. The White Rhinoceros, one of the remaining species of Rhino, has an estimated population of  20,000 in the wild. But it will also be hunted by poachers still more as the over all population of the Rhinoceros declines. 

Another success story is the Przewalski's (pronounced shə-val-skee) or Dzungarian horse.  
Przewalski's Horse is a rare and endangered subspecies of wild horse native to the steppes of  Mongolia. At one time it was considered extinct in the wild (the last wild Przewalski's horses had been seen in 1966). Through careful breeding of the only 9 remaining Przewalski's horses in the world in captivity. It has since been reintroduced to its native habitat in Mongolia at the Khustain Nuruu National Park, Takhin Tal Nature Reserve, and Khomiin Tal. Maybe, if there are any captive Black Rhinoceros anywhere, something may yet be saved. Also, though cloning has not had a high success rate, still it may be possible to redeem an extinct species at some point through the processes of cloning. Until then however..

At this moment however, one of the last of the great giants of the animal kingdom - a holdover descendant of the giant mammals that used to walk the earth before the last ice age is gone and has passed from us. Remember. Do not forget. And give every thing you can to conservation efforts. To saving what remains before we lose any more, before any more drop below unsustainable breeding levels. Before our destruction of the biosphere brings about the destruction of all, ourselves included. 
  Remember forever the Black Rhinoceros. 
And use that memory to effect change! 

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

A Step Forward on the Transgender Journey...

Its that time of year again. The one I have grown to hate and dread. As a FtM Trans man, I have grown to loathe summer. I live in the south. Summers here are hot, and humid. And since I have not taken any steps - yet - towards physically transitioning, this means that clothing in the summer becomes a huge issue. I am fortunate as a FtM that my body shape and genetics did give me a fairly masculine shape; in the winter time when the weather is cold, warm concealing layers and coats pretty much shift me to easily "passing" as male. I spend winters, largely and comfortably addressed as "sir", which is very affirming and comforting.

Spring is here.

Its still cool enough, this year at least, to keep a few layers on, but the ratio of "ma'am" to "sir" is already on the rise as the layers of clothing thin down and the days warm up. By high summer, I become miserable, twitchy, furious, hating my body and desperate for cooler temperatures to come back so I can conceal the visual cues that mark me as "female"

Lets be honest here. I wear my hair cut in a man's style. I dress completely in men's clothing - with one deeply painful exception - and my basic shape, voice and so forth are just ambiguous enough that it does not take much to be the gender I am, irregardless of the "sex" I was assigned at birth. So...whats the tip off? What is the give away, when all it takes is cold weather and heavy clothing to pass and be a man. What are people looking at that blows everything else I do out of the water?
You got it. 
The breasts. 

Which means that's the visual cue that completely rules how people speak to me, behave towards me, the pronouns and forms of address they use to me and about me - it all hinges on the breasts. It is unbelievably infuriating. And people don't even know they are doing it. Really. Its wired into the culture, its part of the gender construction - flat chest, or breasts - the fastest visual cue out there to divide every person they meet into one or the other of the "boxes" marked "male" or "female" - from there, our carefully socially constructed  concepts of "gender" kick in like brainwashed programming. Doesn't matter what I wear, what I say, how I behave, how masculine the rest of me looks, if people can see the shape or outline of my breasts (and that's even hard to type here) everything else, every other visual cue is ignored or even becomes a point to hassle me on, because in no other way do I conform to the "gender box".

I cannot begin to describe how much I hate this. How much it makes me hate my own body. How much I dread the hint of warming weather, even when I do enjoy the beauty of spring and the returning vibrancy of life to the slumbering world. Because I know whats coming. I know that who and what I am will suddenly become non-existent, ignored, perhaps even harassed  because of these two visual cues I'm stuck with at this point in my life.

This year...I could not take it any more. That noise you heard a month or so ago, was the soft subtle sound of me going snap. I can't do this anymore. Can't face it anymore. So I looked at my beloved Dreamweaver and said, "I have to do it this time."

"It" being - since I am a long, long way from affording any type of physical transitioning - acquiring a binder. Or a compression shirt. Or something. Anything. Duct tape. Something! But I could not go on any further without taking steps to deal with this as best I could. So, after some research exploring companies out there that actually make products that address this issue (who knew!?) I went to Underworks, a company that makes a number of products for shaping and dealing with bodily appearance for men and women for a variety of needs. The have products specifically for FtM guys that bind and flatten breasts to conceal them. So I ordered three  of "The Concealer FTM Chest Binder Disguised Inner Panels for Extreme Compression" black.

Pictured in white,
available in black, which I got. 
Having done "drag" before, I was looking forward to how this was going to work, since passing in drag years ago required the cobbling together and then total destruction of a sports bra, duct tape (I wasn't kidding.) and a roll of ace bandage. It also required abandoning breathing. You kinda sorta had to Zen-breathe, and hope oxygen was being acquired by  osmosis. Or something. Despite being excited about finally taking the plunge and doing something about the situation this time as summer weather bore down on me, I was a little concerned about that whole "breathing" thing, y'know...because its kind of important!

I need not have worried. At all. When  the shirts arrived, I of course immediately tried one on...and was happily, enthusiastically thrilled with the comfort and effect. Comfortable fit. Totally able to breath. And most important, the shirt completely concealed and flattened the betraying curves. The difference was immediate in so many ways. I felt good about myself. I felt comfortable.  I felt like I was on the outside what I am on the inside - I was congruent. Everything matched! I could put on a simple t-shirt over this (it could be worn as is, but its a bit shiny in terms of fabric, and out of place in this area in terms of what people wear. The idea is to NOT draw attention!) and the difference was immediate and total - a flat masculine chest. And when I wore it out to run errands the next day, the feminine form of address, "ma'am" had completely disappeared from people's vocabulary. I was either addressed as "sir" or  with no gender related address or pronoun used at all The relief was enough to make me almost cry. The entire way I carried myself changed.

And I suddenly don't dread summer. (its probably still going to be a bit warm in the under shirt, but not anything like multi-layering in August would have been!) I'm free of that sinking feeling, and free to move and be who and what I am. I cannot begin to express how wonderful this is - or how grateful that I am that I finally got off the fence and did this...and that my beloved Dreamweaver was loving and supportive and seems to think I look good in it!

I'm one of those people who is NOT going to be chronicling every single step or change of the process in transitioning on a blog, or social media for all the world to see, because, for me, some things are deeply personal. But I felt that this was important enough to share here, as a mile marker, to show the possible. An out of town friend who heard I had taken this step wanted to see pictures, so I took some quick shots with my cell phone camera the full length mirror here. They're not the greatest shots in the world, but they'll do for now. I will at some point get Dreamweaver involved in taking some better ones, but I am going to share a few here.

And here I am!

Mostly I wrote this post and shared this struggle and the pictures to communicate that you should care for yourself and honor yourself. And if you feel you need to do something -anything! - outside the box to make that happen, then DO it, for yourself, whatever the situation or issue you might be wrestling with! 

Doing healthy things that support your sense of self and identity can change the world.