Smart, Successful Transgender Martine Rothblatt

A Visionary Guided by Love

Smart, Successful Transgender Martine Rothblatt

Love night, love night, love is all around
love night, love night, here love can be found

[SWP Note: This is one of the most inspiring stories of 2014. In a world of so much discrimination and violence against the LGBT community, a highly successful and smart transgender woman who seems to have done many things out of love.

Below are excerpts of a Washington Post Magazine article. See full article]

Martine Rothblatt founded SiriusXM, a religion and a biotech. For starters.

Martine Rothblatt founded SiriusXM, a religion and a biotech. For starters.

 

By Neely Tucker  December 12, 2014 Washington Post Magazine

Let’s be clear: Martine Rothblatt is just plain more of a lawyer than anybody else in this town.

The 60-year-old grandmother and CEO of United Therapeutics, the Silver Spring-based biotech she founded to help save her younger daughter’s life, banked $38 million last year. It made her the nation’s highest-paid female executive. It also made her the nation’s highest-paid transgendered person, as she had sex reassignment surgery in 1994.

In a lab on Spring Street, Rothblatt’s newest project appears lifted from science fiction: disembodied but breathing human lungs, hissing away in dome-shaped incubators, part of a clinical trial attempting to mend donated but not-quite-accepted-for-transplant lungs so that they can actually be placed in living human beings.

On a Virginia farm, she’s also raising genetically altered pigs, in the hope that someday their lungs (and other organs) will be modified for use in human transplant, creating a nearly inexhaustible supply of organ donors.

She just published “Virtually Human,” a big-think manifesto on the rights of yet-to-be-created cyber-humans, who might one day be uploaded with all of your thoughts, dreams, memories and online activity and live for eternity as a sort-of you.

****

Rothblatt is buddies with Larry Page and Ray Kurzweil, who sort of run a little company called Google. Kurzweil, the futurist and director of engineering at Google, is on United Therapeutics’ board of directors and thinks Bina48 is a glimpse of the future.

In the late 1980s, Rothblatt conceived of and created a crazy company devoted to the idea of worldwide satellite radio. Today that’s Sirius XM. It’s in your car’s dashboard, next to the satellite navigation device … and she was president of Geostar, the first company to market that, too. Her college thesis became the first private satellite phone company.

“She has to my knowledge a perfect track record in making [her] visions real,” Kurzweil writes in an e-mail.

Bina and Martine Rothblatt with daughter Jenesis, whose illness inspired the founding of United Therapeutics. (Photo courtesy of Jenesis Rothblatt/for The Washington Post)

Bina and Martine Rothblatt with daughter Jenesis, whose illness inspired the founding of United Therapeutics. (Photo courtesy of Jenesis Rothblatt/for The Washington Post)

Rothblatt dropped out of the satellite orbit because her and Bina’s daughter was diagnosed at 5 with what is now called pulmonary arterial hypertension, an incurable lung disease. It progressively narrows the lung’s arteries to the point of death. By 12, Jenesis would faint all the time, her life seeping away in intensive care units.

So Rothblatt sold out of Sirius, set to studying biology — the last such course she had taken was in 10th grade — and formed U.T.

Today, Jenesis is 30, in good health and does film-production work for the now-$6 billion firm. Martine led the company to developing a new FDA-approved pill for pulmonary arterial hypertension, Orenitram (“Martine Ro,” backward). The stock price soared, and so did her incentive package.

****

Amid all this, Martine and Bina have been married for 32 years, before and after Rothblatt’s gender surgery. They’re so joined at the hip that the kids refer to them as “Marbina.” Their younger son, Gabriel, just ran for Congress in Florida’s Eighth District (Democrat, lost, but a respectable debut). When Rothblatt set up a $225,000 super PAC to fund Gabriel’s campaign — without his knowledge, he says — she drew a rebuke from the New York Times editorial page for parental abuse of electoral process.

Let’s see … what else? She flies airplanes. And helicopters. Kills on the piano. Runs half-triathlons. Has several houses and apartments and says she hasn’t stayed in one place more than a month in 20 years. During September and October, she and Bina touched down in Greece, Crete, Washington, Los Angeles, Bora Bora, back to Silver Spring, took the grandkids trick-or-treating in Melbourne Beach, Fla., while Gabriel was out campaigning, then flew to London and popped back to D.C.

****

Marty enrolled in UCLA but quit after a year to travel on the cheap with buddies. Van rides across Europe, selling the van in Turkey, teaching English in Iran, touring eastern Africa … wound up living in a ratty house in the Seychelles Islands, which was supposed to be cool. It wasn’t.

While there, a buddy took Rothblatt to a U.S. satellite installation. There — right there — is where she says her mind took an exponential leap forward, imagining how close future worlds really were.

Marty went back to UCLA with a wild new energy and a family in tow. The marriage to a Kenyan woman soon collapsed, but Marty raised their son Eli on his own. Father and son lived in dire, if self-imposed, poverty while dad spent seven years going through undergrad, law and the MBA programs.

“Martine wanted to do things on her own,” her mom remembers.

“Literally the starving student,” remembers Paul Rosenthal, then chairman of the communications school. “I remember her wearing one checked shirt and pair of jeans every day. It may have been all she had.”

Charlie Firestone remembers Marty clearly — “the most brilliant student I had in 13 years of teaching at UCLA law school. … Just a fascinating mind.”
It was 1979 when Marty met Bina, a real estate agent, at a mixer in Hollywood. The two shared an instant attraction and mutual life circumstances: Bina was a single parent, too, of a young daughter named Sunee.

They soon married, moved to D.C., cross-adopted Eli and Sunee and eventually had Gabriel and Jenesis.
By the mid-1980s, Rothblatt was getting a reputation among the space law cognoscenti for brilliance and knowledge of FCC regulations and of the intricacies of broadcasting wavelengths.

“A conceptual genius,” says Tobey Marzouk, partner at Marzouk & Parry, who was legal partners with Rothblatt in the 1980s. “Her ideas were quantum leaps of the technology at the time.”

Rothblatt was hired as a lobbyist for a fledgling concern called Geostar, initially a satellite tracking service for trucking companies.

Rothblatt worked insane hours — going to the office about 2 a.m. for a day’s research and planning before the doors opened seven hours later — but the family was tightknit. Bina had converted to Judaism and often worked as his de facto office manager. Bina’s mom, who had moved in with them, watched the kids.

On Friday evenings, they would have “love night” at home. It began with a family song:

Love night, love night, love is all around
love night, love night, here love can be found
family is our source of our strength
forever we are one and the same
love night, love night, love is all around

“That was at the dinner table,” says Gabriel Rothblatt, 32, now a father of four and living in Melbourne Beach. “We’d all have dinner or go out to dinner, sitting around the table, bless the bread and light the candles. We’d go from oldest to youngest and everyone say what love meant to them this week. It was an opportunity for everybody to speak while everyone else is quiet, but it was also a session to reflect on the meaning of love during the previous week and how it affected you.”

By the early 1990s, Rothblatt had founded CD Satellite Radio, a forerunner of satellite worldwide radio, then changed the name to Sirius, for the brightest star in the sky. Rothblatt came out first to Bina, announcing an affinity for wearing dresses, and Bina said it was no big deal. The kids were not exactly thrilled — some friends stopped coming over, some people stared at Martin in a dress — but they told the kids not to worry. Martine was always going to be their dad, Bina was always going to be their mom, and stupid people were always going to be stupid.

The gender switch led to Martine’s first manifesto-type book, “The Apartheid of Sex.” It argued that people come in vast ranges of sexualities and that two genders simply could not describe the reality.

The book got a $100,000 publishing contract. Sirius went to its IPO. Rothblatt earned millions.

She was 40 years old.

****

“Last night one fewer person died on the transplant list,” she wrote, exultant. “I feel confident that we’ll at minimum double # of transplants by end of 20teens.”
Roll your eyes? Sure, go ahead.

Then go back up, near the beginning of this story, and, when betting against the future, reread the handicapping of Ray Kurzweil, generally regarded as one of the planet’s great minds, about the track record of Martine Rothblatt.

Neely Tucker is a Washington Post Magazine staff writer.

What Is Sex

What Is Sex?

Anna Pulley, Alternet 

Our definitions of sex are all over the place. Why does it matter?

sexybrain In my recent piece, “10 Things Not to Say to a Lesbian,” one of the questions never to ask was “So, how do lesbians do it?” The inside joke is that many of us have actually asked ourselves, though not usually aloud, “Wait, did we have sex?” Since many people consider “sex” to mean penis in vagina, the lines for what constitutes sex for queer women can blur easily and often.

It’s an interesting question, and not just for lesbians: What is sex? The answer is something that nobody can agree on, though many have tried. Planned Parenthood looks to the dictionary for a definition: “People define ‘sex’ in different ways. The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines it as sexually motivated behavior.’ This sounds right to us. But not everyone agrees with the dictionary or with us. People all have their own definitions of what ‘sex’ and ‘having sex’ means.”

Personally, I adhere to the Salt ‘N’ Pepa definition, which counts as anything that makes me want to shoop.

Discussions about what sex is often devolve into increasingly more specific and narrower rules, as people try to pin down a precise explanation. This is evidenced by this humorous Reddit thread: “The number of times a person has had sex with another person in heterosexual relationships represents the number of male completions per unit time,” said one. “I would count each removal of the pants that ends in any number of orgasms,” said another. In the sitcom “Seinfeld,”  Elaine asks Jerry when he believes sex is taking place, and he says “when the nipple makes its first appearance.” So keep your shirts on, folks, and you’re in the clear.

As a Kinsey Institute study proffered, a culturally agreed-upon definition of “having sex” is important for medical research and clinical practice. If “having sex” to me means farting on a cake until orgasm (don’t Google that, Dad), then researchers are going to have a hell of a time gathering accurate data on sexual behavior. The Kinsey study, “Misclassification bias: diversity in conceptualisations about having ‘had sex’,” published in 2010 in Sexual Health, surveyed just under 500 participants in order to figure out what qualifiers and acts people considered “doin’ it.” Or, put more scientifically:

To our knowledge, this is the first study of a representative sample to assess attitudes about which sexual behaviours constitute having ‘had sex’ and to examine possible mediating factors (gender, age, giving/receiving stimulation, male ejaculation, female orgasm, condom use or brevity).

The results were, unsurprisingly, mixed. The highest percentage (90 percent) believed that penis-in-vagina sex was sex. This is the Gold Standard for hetero sex, “reaching home base,” what many talk about when we talk about sex. But that means around 10 percent of respondents didn’t count penis-in-vagina sex as sex. This also excludes gays and lesbians, of course, who would be considered virgins no matter how many orgies or Goddess Circlings they participated in.

Thirty percent thought oral sex wasn’t sex, and 20 percent thought anal sex wasn’t sex, despite the fact that both acts have the word “sex” in the name. Perhaps even more confusing is the orgasm factor. Eleven percent of people said it wasn’t sex if no male ejaculation occurred. Conspicuously absent was any mention of the female orgasm. Maybe they fell asleep before getting around to it. Manual genital stimulation counted more when it was received (48 percent) than when given (44 percent), and among men, “the oldest and youngest age groups were significantly less likely to believe certain behaviours constituted having ‘had sex’.”

Why does age play a factor in all this? Can we blame Bill Clinton? One group of researchers has done just that. Researchers at the University of Kentucky-Lexington think that Bill Clinton’s infamous admission that he “did not have sexual relations” with Monica Lewinsky may be the reason so many young people today don’t consider oral sex to be sex. Also published in 2010 in Perspectives on Sexual and Reproductive Health, the study surveyed 477 college students about their views on sex. Researchers found that 20 percent of those students considered oral-genital contact to be sex, compared with nearly 40 percent of a similar sample surveyed in 1991.

“Our respondents were adolescents after the Clinton-Lewinsky era, which our comparisons of data over time suggest may have been a turning point in conceptualizations of oral-genital contact,” they noted. Pinning all the blame on Clinton would be too much of a low-hanging cigar, however.

Other sources for the changing perceptions in attitudes on sex noted were access to comprehensive sex ed, increasing TV portrayals of sex, and cultural beliefs. Oral sex (and anal sex as well) isn’t tied to the cultural narrative about virginity and purity like penis-in-vagina sex is. The prevailing thought among some misguided evangelical folks is that you can blow or plow whomever you want, as long as no hymen is involved, and still get a thumbs-up from Jesus. Since you’re not really having sex the biblical way, you’re technically still a virgin, the thinking goes. Since a woman’s chastity is tied to her morality and character, the purity stakes are even higher, which in part explains the tendency not to count oral sex as sex, since doing so may boost a woman’s “number” to sluterrific proportions.

Of course, as in such discussions, both online and off, many are quick to point out that no one has real authority over what counts as a sexual act, that the experience is entirely subjective and varies not just from person to person, but culturally as well. The Sambia tribe in Papua New Guinea participate in a ritual where younger men fellate older men in the tribe in order to ingest their manliness and become strong and virile. This isn’t considered sex, but a rite of passage. In certain Latin American cultures, a man who is the insertive partner in same-sex relations isn’t considered to have had gay sex.

Then there’s situational sex, where one is in prison or a single-sex institution. Does that count? What about using sex to curry social favor or protection? What about porn stars and sex workers? Must they count those acts of sex where money was exchanged, even if it’s their job? What of kinky sex and fetish sex? Does a well-placed foot count, or a helpful balloon? Perhaps most importantly, why do we care? Why do we attach such significance to a number or a definition that doesn’t ultimately require any?

Partly, it’s neurological. Our brains categorize and compartmentalize data in order to make sense of the world. For instance, the word “dog” inevitably conjures an image of what a dog looks like, though no doubt my idea of a dog (a black Yorkshire terrier, for some reason) will be vastly different than yours. We have beliefs and ideas of what “real” sex is and we carry those ideas into our relationships, cocktail conversations, and countless all-caps-riddled YouTube comments, sometimes with very little thought about how they might be limiting or even downright silly, as the Reddit pants comment illustrates.

As Greta Christina put it in her essay, “Are we having sex now or what?”:

[Y]ou have to know what qualifies as sex, because when you have sex with someone your relationship changes. Right? Right? It’s not that sex itself has to change things all that much. But knowing you’ve had sex, being conscious of a sexual connection, standing around making polite conversation with someone thinking to yourself, ‘I’ve had sex with this person,’ that’s what always changes things. Or so I believed. And if having sex with a friend can confuse or change the friendship, think of how bizarre things can get when you’re not sure whether you’ve had sex with them or not.

Christina talks at length about her experiences working at a peep show, hosting orgies, about consent and reciprocity and pleasure and sadomasochism, concluding ultimately that she still doesn’t have the answer to the question of what is sex.

But that is also the point, and maybe we should be spending more time enjoying sex than trying to define it in a way that will satisfy every person. Now somebody bring me a cake; I’m feelin’ lucky.