You can change your DNA!

I keep reading people on the internets that say that you cannot change your DNA and this means something about anything. These people aren’t scientists, mind you. Just people looking for any reason they can to negate the existence of other people that they really have no concept or clue about. For the record, I know a lot of things about a lot of things, but I don’t know everything about everything and don’t pretend to be an expert on things that I have a vague notion about. If the subject interests me enough, I will research it. It’s a thing people do to try to understand something rather than tossing out reactionary insults to make themselves feel better about something, of which I cannot be certain. I don’t know what it means to be them and to be so highly ignorant and intolerant. It may be genetic, but I cannot say to any degree…

Speaking of genetics, back to the topic. Science! Some people who know a few terms and whatnot like to throw those terms out to make themselves seem all legitimate. These people say trans people cannot be considered their proper gender because DNA or some such thing (ignoring the incredible variance in DNA, etc…science is deeper than the shallow pool they’ve been swimming in…I could make insulting remarks about their DNA pools being somewhat shallow as well which may result in some manner of negative mutation. I could make those kinds of remarks, but I’m not going to. Not me, no.).

Anyway, I asked Google if DNA could be changed by, let’s say, a bone marrow transplant. Here’s what I found right away, from The Tech Museum of Innovation, a project “supported by the Department of Genetics, Stanford School of Medicine” in an article written by Dr. Azita Alizadeh, who works for Stanford University in their Department of Genetics, which, to me, would tend to make her more of an authority than some person on the internet who says something about the immutability of DNA. But that’s just me.

So Dr. Alizadeh says, “A bone marrow transplant turns the patient into a chimera. What I mean is that the DNA in their blood is different than the DNA in the rest of their cells.” Now this means if you get a bone marrow transplant, you now have two sets of DNA, which is something of a change. Hmmm. Let’s delve further and see if one can change their DNA otherwise…

Look at this! When I asked Google if DNA could be changed, I got a plethora of links, many referring to something called “epigenetics.” Now I won’t pretend to be a scientist (not like others on the interwebz who pretend to be scientists all the time when they talk about science as if they were scientists). Here’s a link to a story in the New York Times about epigenetics and how exercise can change a person’s DNA. Cool stuff. Over my head, mostly. But I’m not a scientist. Then again, I’m not trying to negate the existence of others by claiming that science supports their position. I only claim that science adjusts its views based on what’s observed…That’s actually Tim Minchin’s line, but I agree with Tim.

Science, like DNA, changes over time. We’re not too far off from a future where a trans person’s transition will include genetic therapy to make a Y and X or vice versa. This is just speculation on my part, but I’ve gone to genetic research centers with my son, who wants to be a genetic researcher in the future and has researched being a genetic researcher…I’ve seen the things these folks are working on and to discount what they will or will not discover and speak only in absolutes is contrary to the very basic truth of science as a field of discovery.

Next time someone tells you science supports their position, ask them for documentation. They may not know what they think they know.

Science Projects and the Problems with Believing

For the record, I’m an atheistic humanist who holds that science will someday work everything out, including the “spirit world,” which may or may not be the result of quantum entanglements and residual energy (my current unproven/untested theory of choice). I’m not a Bright. But I get them.They make a lot more sense to me than theists.

And also for the record, I generally have no issue with theists. When they pray for me or mine, I thank them. It is a positive thought action and I’d rather the world be full of positive thought actions than negative ones.

Where I do have issues is this:

I am supposed to accept that their beliefs are as valid as my reality. I do not accept the Bible as anything other than a collection of words written by a lot of different people for a lot of different reasons, many of them synchronically political, and finally compiled by a collection of clerics to reinforce their primacy in a regressive society. Anytime anyone tells me that they believe it is infallible or the literal “Word of God,” I know who I am dealing with and act accordingly. More often than not, to disengage from conversations about religion, which are dodgy at best and mostly belligerent because even Atheists fight over what it means to not believe in a deity (see the Brights).

I am supposed to accept that they can believe I am some sort of science project or my existence as a woman in negated because their deity is infallible and made men men and women women (and we won’t ask these folks to think too long on intersex people or any other non-binary, non-image-of-deity way in which people are born). I am supposed to accept their beliefs about me and other Trans folk because they are allowed to believe what they believe and I am supposed to smile and continue to have them in my life in any manner when their belief is a fundamental denial of who I am based on nothing more than their intractable position that someone who read an old book told them the old book said something that they should believe.

Sorry. You don’t get to be in my life. I accept that you have beliefs, but I don’t have to accept you in my life.

I accept that people have superstitions and need the comfort of religion. And I love many folks who are believers in deities and it may seem like I am being a judgemental ass or that I feel that I am superior having achieved a deity-free enlightenment (for the record: I am a judgemental ass and do feel that I am superior, but not because of my lack of deity-dependencies…just because I’m particularly awesome), but I can love them and have them in my life because they do not use their beliefs as an excuse to negate my pain and what I have had to do to live as authentically as I can. I also don’t talk about religion with them. It not my job to convert people to humanistic atheism (although if you are interested, message me and I will share the good word) and as long as it is not their job to try to make me believe in whatever they do, I can enjoy their company and friendship. It’s what I love about humanity at its best.

Now let’s speak for a moment about science projects.

Is my current state of being the product of scientific advances in medicine and body modification?

Yes.

You know someone who has had chemo and then a tumor removed?

Them too.

Cataracts replaced by IOLs?

Science!

Root Canal?

Yup.

The point being that medicine is the product of scientific advances that often require body modification to achieve the desired effects of a longer, healthier, happier life.

There’s a silly meme about a rapper bringing solar power to poor folks in Africa being more newsworthy than the very public transition of a formerly feted Olympian and reality show star whose primary occupation for the last decade has been to be the subject of media attention. In that meme, Jenner is referred to as a “science project” and people were offended. I was also offended, but more because a friend of mine shared the meme (he has since taken it down). The point was that there are more important things to focus on in the world than Caitlyn’s clothing choices and hair style. We should instead focus on famous people are acting more in the service of others.

Yeah. Okay. But seriously. We live in a tabloid world that revels in distractions…where people are killed because of paparazzi and those who invited paparazzi into their lives in their quest for the benefits of fame trying to escape from those people who make a living helping the famous make theirs (don’t try to make a living from fame if you’re not willing to accept that fame comes with camera-wielding lampreys who make their living from you).

I wish we lived in a world where people were more concerned with what is actually happening than what the media is doing to distract them from what is actually happening. If the media circus bothers you… If the inconsequential lives of the famous (although to be perfectly fair, for Trans folk, the coming out of a major personality is a big deal for the non-famous among us because it brings us that much further in from the fringe and more likely to be accepted without worrying about troubling legislation…baby steps). I’d rather people focus on the very terrible lives of most Trans people, especially those without privilege…heck, the pretty awful lives of most people without privilege, Trans or Cis.

If you’re truly upset that Caitlyn Jenner is pulling pop media focus from another famous person who, in an action apparently out of character for famous people, did something altruistic, then you are spending too much time looking at pop media. And, yeah, it shows up on your FB feed, but so do adds for cars or shoes or whatever else it was you were looking at and accidentally moused over a tracking pixel. You can take the click-bait or ignore it. You live in this social media world. To paraphrase Rush:

You can choose a ready guide in some commercial voice.

If you choose not to engage, you still have made a choice.

Choose free will.