Entries in Gender (13)


Women Aggressive Toward 'Sexy' Peers, Study Finds

Courtesy Tracy Vaillancourt(OTTAWA, Canada) -- Women can be downright nasty when they don't approve of members of their own sex, according to a new study.

The harsh reactions of 43 women to a provocatively dressed peer, caught on tape by Canadian researchers, reveal just how sassy women get when they think someone else is sexier.

Tracy Vaillancourt, associate professor of psychology at the University of Ottawa and lead author of the study published in Aggressive Behavior, invited 86 women to participate in a study on conflict resolution.  But she was really interested in how the women would respond to a young female student entering the room wearing either a T-shirt and khakis or a low-cut top and mini skirt.

When dressed conservatively, the student was barely noticed.  But when she dressed sexy, she drew snarky stares and mocking chuckles as she left the room.

"This is not something that sort of happened," said Vaillancourt, describing the responses. "Ninety-seven percent of the women were inappropriate."

The inappropriate reactions were scored by 13 blinded raters on a bad behavior scale from zero to 10.  The raters could only see the study subjects -- not the female student. Most of the women were passive-aggressive, making their disapproval known without actually stating it.  The two women who refrained from making judgmental jabs, Vaillancourt said, were "probably checking their BlackBerrys."

In a second study aimed at uncovering the basis for the bad behavior the researchers showed photographs of the same student dressed conservatively or sexy to 66 different women and asked whether they would let their boyfriends spend time with her.  A third photo of the "sexy" student was altered to make her look overweight.

"When she was sexy and thin, they didn't want their boyfriends anywhere near her," said Vaillancourt.

Vaillancourt said while most women are guilty of giving attitude to sexy peers, few think about why.  One theory for the brazen behavior suggests women ''stifle each other's sexuality'' to level the playing field.

"This idea assumes that men are willing to do whatever is necessary to obtain sex and will often do roughly the minimum amount that is required," Roy Baumeister, director of social psychology at Florida State University, wrote in a 2002 study published in Review of General Psychology.  "This echoes the traditional grandmotherly advice against premarital sex, colloquially expressed in the metaphoric terms that a man who can get free milk will not buy the cow."

"When women present themselves as being sexually available, it compromises the power-holding position of the group," said Vaillancourt.  It's in the group's best interest, therefore, to punish women who violate the unspoken rule.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Single-Sex Schools Bad for Kids, Says Study

Comstock/Thinkstock(PHILADELPHIA) -- Boys and girls may be opposites, but new research shows that in the classroom, separating the two sexes may not be the best way for either gender to learn and grow.

A new study from Penn State researchers states that students who attend single-sex schools are no better educated than those who attend co-ed schools. Plus, children are more likely to accept gender stereotypes when they go to an all-boys or all-girls school.

Supporters of single-sex schools argue that boys' and girls' brains are wired differently, and therefore require different teaching styles to maximize education, but study authors note that neuroscientists have not found hard evidence that show differences in girls' and boys' different learning styles.

The report, published in the journal Science, compared two preschool classes. In one class, the teacher used gender-specific language to address the children. The other teacher did not. After just two weeks, the researchers reported that children who had the teacher using sex-specific language played less with children of the other sex. The kids also showed an increase in gender-specific stereotypes (i.e. boys played with trucks, girls with dolls).

The study also noted that a review commissioned by the U.S. Department of Education found little overall difference in academic outcomes between children in single-sex schools versus those in coed schools.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Transgender Kids Pioneer Early Changes to Identity, Body

Hemera Technologies/Thinkstock(LOS ANGELES) -- Her name is Jackie. She is 10 years old. She loves fashion; she loves pink. She has no idea she is about to become a pioneer.

Jackie lives in a small town in rural Ohio. Her parents, Jennifer and John, practice law in the firm her grandfather founded. It's a place long on tradition and family values.

But things are changing at Jackie's house. Six months ago, Jennifer and John decided they would allow their 10-year-old son, Jack, to start living as a girl named Jackie. It wasn't an easy decision, or a quick one.

Jackie is one of a small but growing number of children who are growing up as the opposite of their biological sex. It's called transgender. Anatomically, Jackie is male. For most of her life, she lived as a "he."

"When I look back I don't feel like we ever truly had a son. We had a daughter that was unfortunately born in the wrong body," said Jennifer.

For years, Jack had atypical interests and mannerisms for a young boy. As a toddler, he was obsessed with dancing, dress-up and Barbie dolls. He adored the color pink and enjoyed wearing his older sister's frilly, sparkly tutus. His parents introduced him to more typically male toys like cars and trucks, but those were of little interest. As he got older and his behavior remained consistent, he was teased and taunted in school.

Last winter Jack started having panic attacks and behavior problems at school. Jennifer and John decided that instead of forcing him to live unhappily as a boy, they would let him live as a girl. They have switched to female pronouns. When someone they don't know asks about their family, they say they have two daughters.

Dr. Johanna Olson runs the Transgender Youth Clinic at Childrens Hospital Los Angeles, one of the most highly regarded centers in the country for kids like Jackie. It has treated approximately 600 transgender kids.

"This idea that we're gonna support people at a young age is very, very new," Olson said.

Olson believes that the earlier in life kids make the social transition, which means living in the world as the gender they feel they are, the better these at-risk children function.

"We often ask parents, Would you rather have a dead son than a live daughter?...These kids have a suicide rate that is astronomical compared to any other group," she said.

Olson says you can't force kids to be a gender they don't think they are. Gender identity isn't a choice; it's set at birth. Kids know whether they're a boy or a girl on the inside by the age of three or four.

A week after turning 10 years old, Jack, with tears in his eyes, told his mother his secret.

"He was a little hesitant at first, then said, 'I have to tell you something.'...And he said, 'I'm -- I'm a girl. And I can't do this anymore," Jennifer said. "I just said, It's gonna be okay. I'm so proud of her for being brave enough to say that," Jennifer added.

"Our plan was that we would make the transition slowly," John said. But within a month, Jackie wanted to attend school as a girl. At first, her parents and teachers were worried she'd be teased and ridiculed, but to everyone's relief, Jackie has had no problems fitting in and seems to have blossomed.

This fall, her parents intend to put her on puberty blockers, which will prevent her from developing into an adolescent boy.

Fifteen-year-old Nathan, born Natalie, has already had an ugly experience with violence.

"[In] fifth grade, he was assaulted at school," said Nathan's mother, Tammy. "A group of boys weren't sure if he was a boy or a girl. And they decided that they -- if they kicked him [in the genitals], that they would be able to find out."

He was different -- especially from the other girls. "They would want to play with Barbies and do other girlie things. And from a young age, I was really adamant that I was a boy," he said.

Things got so rough at school that his parents decided he should take classes online. That left him even more isolated. He has no friends his age, he said.

Nathan does his best to be as masculine as possible. But he's already gone through female puberty, and his breasts are a painful reminder of his predicament. He binds them with three layers of spandex. He takes drugs that have suspended his period, in effect inducing an early menopause.

"Going through your period is something that's hard for a girl, but for a guy it's just completely embarrassing and wrong and it feels like it shouldn't happen," he said.

Nathan has pinned his hopes on testosterone. He believes shots of the male hormone will give him a boy body to match the way he feels on the inside. His doctor said the hormone will eventually shut down his ovaries, reducing the amount of estrogen in his body. He will grow body hair, his voice will be lower, his breasts will shrink and his muscles will grow. Female puberty will essentially be reversed.

Nathan will be part of the first generation of transgender kids to receive hormones to change their bodies to the other gender. This therapy is controversial for someone his age, as some of the effects are irreversible.

Like Jackie's parents, Nathan's parents have switched pronouns. Nathan took it one step farther, going to court to change his name. He called it "one of the greatest days of my life."

When Nathan and his parents returned home, a backyard family celebration was underway. There was laughter, friends and a cake with "It's a Boy" written in sugar frosting. Tammy said she wondered how to share the news with family and friends. She went with a new kind of birth announcement.

"I just say, Help us in accepting and loving and welcoming our son....As of this date, 'he' will no longer be a 'she.'"

There are many who believe making social and medical changes at this age is simply too young.

"I've never had a regret....I don't ever think there will be a regret," Nathan said. "I want to be a boy, and I can't be a girl."

In three to six months' time, Nathan should start seeing the effect of testosterone. To maintain it, he'll have to take the hormone for the rest of his life.

Despite the financial toll, his parents have said in a year they'll pay for a mastectomy to remove his breasts. He also says he wants his female reproductive tract removed once he becomes an adult.

In the end, he doesn't feel he needs a penis to be male. Neither does Tammy. "I think it's in your head....I don't think it takes genitals to be a gender," she said.

To fight Nathan's isolation, his parents have taken him from Arizona to Washington State to attend Gender Odyssey, a conference for transgender families like them.

"I've already made some friends," Nathan said soon after arriving.

Nathan says he wouldn't change his journey, painful as it's been.

"I was stuck on the fact that, you know, I would never be biologically male. And then I found out, You know what? I'm me. Whether I'm trans or not, I'm still me."

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Transgender Love: When Husband Becomes Wife

Hemera Technologies/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- When Diane Daniel met her husband Wessel, she was attracted to his smile, quiet humor and gentleness -- "and of course his Dutch accent." Though it shocked her, she dismissed the occasional cross-dressing as they dated and lived together as just part of his nerdy nonconformity.

But two months into their marriage in 2004, her husband revealed at dinner that he wanted to live as a woman, and the couple embarked on a long wrenching journey to stay together.

Wessel is now Lina, and at 47, she has transitioned publicly from male to female.

Diane, now 53 and a freelance writer living in North Carolina, describes in a recent story in the Boston Globe, "Goodbye Husband, Hello Wife," how her life was turned on its head when she learned her husband was transgender.

"I detached emotionally and physically," she writes. "I cried every day. I wondered what else he hadn't told me. I feared something was wrong with me to attract this kind of mate. I was angry and ashamed."

Lina was in exactly the opposite place psychologically.

"For me, it was a big, 'phew,' -- I had finally made a choice and a big burden was off my shoulders," said Lina, who works for a medical diagnostics company. "But her whole world collapsed."

"Diane needed to grieve and say goodbye to the old me and the things that were left behind," she told ABC News. "I had the strange realization that I was at a birthday party and she was at a funeral."

The turning point for Diane was when Lina told her, "What I fear most is that you will see me as a monster or some kind of a freak. That everyone will, but mostly you.''

Slowly, Diane was able to open her heart, and their story illustrates the complex world of sexuality and gender and the power of love.

But it is also a call for acceptance for the 750,000 Americans who identify as transgender -- about .3 percent of the population, according to the Williams Institute, an LGBT think tank at the UCLA Law School.

A 2011 landmark report, "Injustice at Every Turn," concludes that "nearly every system and institution" in the United States -- education, employment, housing and healthcare -- discriminates against transgendered Americans.

The report was conducted by The National Center for Transgender Equality and the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, which surveyed 6,450 Americans who were transgender or non-gender conforming.

An estimated 45 percent of those surveyed said that their relationship with a spouse or partner ended because of their transgender identity. Surprisingly, 55 percent, stayed on or their relationship ended for other reasons, according to that report.

But those like Diane who have gone through transition with a loved one, say it is a long and painful process -- and most spouses leave the marriage.

For Diane, the six years leading up to Lina's living as a woman were gut-wrenching.

"One hour I was processing one thing and the next something else," said Diane. "It would start with what does this mean for our relationship and how will you look and what will the neighbors say, and will we be legally married?"

They were, and according to Diane, no state reverses a marriage between a man and a woman, even after transitioning to a different gender. After the initial shock, Diane and Lina went into therapy.

In 2007, Lina began hormone treatment. The following year, they began to tell friends and family, all of whom were supportive. Finally, they picked a day when Lina would "leave work as a man and return to work as a woman."

Then, just last November, after telling all her co-workers, Lina officially transitioned to a woman.

Lina said she will likely "complete the picture" and have genital surgery, but international medical guidelines require that she live for at least a year as a woman. There are also financial considerations.

By June of this year, the couple stopped seeing their therapist because, said Diane, "we no longer had anything to talk about."

Both say that not having children has helped them cope better with the transition. They also don't have religious beliefs that would be in conflict with Lina's choice.

Today, Diane and Lina say they are more guarded in public, where they are often perceived as lesbians, even though Diane is straight.

"But if I really want to hold hands, then I do," said Diane. "I think it's a little easier for me than for Lina, but that's mostly because she still feels awkward about drawing any attention to herself."

As for their sex life, Diane said, "We don't talk about with anyone but us… We are a romantic and affectionate married couple. We don't live as siblings."

"I am very attracted to men," said Diane. "Does this mean I look at men and feel sad? No, because I love Lina."

Lina said that even though her gender identity female, she is not attracted to men.

"My attraction to women hasn't changed," she said. "Mine is a gender issue, not my sexual orientation."

But, it's hard to let go of the gender notions and Diane said Lina still makes some male accommodations.

"She still kills the roaches and carries the heavy stuff, but same-sex couples have those divisions of duties as well," said Diane. And Lina's "essence" is still there.

As for Lina, she said, "I feel like I can be more myself than I have ever been and enjoying every minute of that at home or at work. I am embracing life to the fullest."

Since writing her story, Diane has received more than 300 e-mails, many from readers who say they have never written before.

One praised her for helping her better understand in "a more real and compassionate way."

Diane said she feels a "deep gratitude" for how they have sustained their marriage, but would never suggest their decision be right for everyone.

"You have to be open-minded and not fixate on what other people think," said Diane. "And have a strong sense of self, and some degree of flexibility."

"Look at the person who is transitioning as a human being and try to understand their side of it and don't look at them as a monster," she advised others in a similar situation. "If I had love in the beginning, I still have it."

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


For Young Boys, Is Pink the New Blue?

Jupiterimages/Photos[dot]Com(NEW YORK) -- For generations the view has held strong that while girls must dress in pink to be girls, boys can't do anything with pink, lest they turn into girls.

It's the view that's determined the color scheme in many a kid's bedroom, clothes and toy closets, and that has held strong through decades of change.

But, in today's 21st century world, is that view changing?

"It's a big deal to see boys dressed in pink because, simply, it's not the cultural convention," gender expert, and author of the book Pink Brain, Blue Brain, Dr. Lise Eliot, told ABC News. "But it's nothing hard-wired. Boys are not innately aversive to pink and girls and are not innately attracted to pink."

Boys may not be 'innately averse' to pink but what about their fathers, the generation of men who grew up in a not-so-open society, one in which blue was, without question, for boys. Is pink also "in" among these dads, fathers like Jobson-Larkin whose young son already clearly prefers pink?

ABC News gathered a panel of fathers with sons to see where the men raising this new generation of gender-neutral kids fell in the gender color war. The dad's sons had varying interests and preferences.

"My son is into trucks and yellow is his favorite color," one dad said.

"My son loves golf," said another.

"My son likes Tae Kwon Do," said a third. "He also loves everything pink and purple.”

For the dads who saw their sons bending the gender color lines, what was their true, gut reaction that first time their little one chose pink over blue?

"I verbally said, 'Is that the color you really want? Look at...there's some other colors,'" Gregory Jobson-Larkin recalled. "I really didn't know to handle it when it first happened."

"I really wanted him to choose a different color," he told the panel. "It was really a reflection of me to be honest, of my own struggle."

And what if, in a perfect world, the dads could choose whether their son grabs a pink shirt or a blue one?

"Pink shirt," one father replied immediately. "I'd want him to go to the one he was drawn to."

Even the fathers who firmly wanted their sons dressed in blue acknowledged that, in the end, it should be their son's decision to make.

"I'd prefer my child to choose blue," said one dad. "But if he wants to choose the pink shirt over the blue shirt, it's up to him."

"I follow my child's lead," another agreed. "So it's not really the point of what I like. It's the point of what my child likes."

Dr. Eliot says fathers like those on the ABC News panel opening up to non-gender based color choices is having an impact on this generation of children.

"We actually created the color scheme that we now define as gender based," Eliot said. “Kids learn that one color is ‘bad’ for them from adults."

ABC News went straight to the source, a group of 6 to 8-year-old boys, to see if they too worried about acceptance and teasing among their peers not-in-pink.

"I don't really believe in the 'girl colors boy colors' thing," said one boy in the group.

"I like pink. I also think the 'boy color, girl colors' is not fair," another agreed.

When the boys were asked to pick a shirt and try it on, two boys chose pink, and even made a point to bond over it, giving each other fist pumps in the air over their selection.

"I would never be worried about wearing pink to school," one said.

Despite their enthusiasm for pink, however, the boys showed that, just like their dads, there is still a limit in today's culture of how far "boys in pink" can go.

"I just wouldn't want to cross the line with a princess on the shirt," one boy said when asked about wearing a pink shirt featuring a princess on it to school.

"They would probably laugh at me and I would kind of be a little humiliated if that happened," he said of his classmates' reaction. "I just wouldn't want to go there with it."

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Parents Call Genderless Baby a 'Tribute to Liberty'

David De Lossy/Digital Vision (file photo)(NEW YORK) -- Five months ago, Kathy Witterick and David Stocker gave birth to a blond-haired, blue-eyed, baby named Storm.  All the basics about this baby are known except whether it's a boy or girl.

Storm's parents decided not to share the child's sex, they say, because they want to allow the baby to develop without the constraints of gender stereotypes.  It has been kept so under wraps, the grandparents do not even know if their latest grandchild is a granddaughter or grandson.

When the baby was born, Storm's parents sent an email to friends and family explaining their decision.

"We've decided not to share Storm's sex for now -- a tribute to freedom and choice in place of limitation, a stand up to what the world could become in Storm's lifetime," they wrote.

But ever since this Canadian couple said the gender of their baby is none of the world's business, suddenly, the world wants to know and feels entitled to criticize their parenting style.

Baby Storm has caused a blizzard of criticism on the Internet, where bloggers are calling Storm's parents stupid and referring to the baby as a science experiment.

"I applaud their overall goals here," said psychologist Michale Bradley.  "But you know this child is not asking to be this thing, and the parents are imposing this role on the child, which is an imposition of identity.  This kid is being drafted into a war that may hurt him or her terribly."

But Storm's mother is defending their decision to keep the baby's private parts private.

In a letter to ABC News, she said, "The strong, lightning-fast, vitriolic response was a shock" and that "Storm will need to understand his/her own sex and gender to navigate this world (the outcry has confirmed it!)"

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Baby Raised Genderless Is Bad Experiment, Say Experts

David De Lossy/Digital Vision(TORONTO) -- No one knows the sex of Storm Stocker, a four-month-old baby from Toronto. Only his parents, his midwives, and his two older brothers have ever peeked beneath the diaper.

That's because his -- or is it her -- parents, Kathy Witterick, 38, and David Stocker, 39, want to raise their child genderless.

When Storm came into the world in a birthing pool on New Year's Day, they sent out this email: "We decided not to share Storm's sex for now -- a tribute to freedom and choice in place of limitation, a stand up to what the world could become in Storm's lifetime."

Even Storm's brothers, 2-year-old Kio and 5-year-old Jazz, along with one family friend have been sworn to secrecy.

"What we noticed is that parents make so many choices for their children," Stocker told the Toronto Star. "It's obnoxious."

The newspaper was barraged with critical responses and even Storm's grandparents, though supportive, said they resented explaining their gender-free baby to friends and coworkers.

While child development experts applaud the family's efforts to raise their child free of the constraints of gender stereotypes, they say the parents have embarked on a psychological experiment that could be "potentially disastrous."

"To raise a child not as a boy or a girl is creating, in some sense, a freak," said Dr. Eugene Beresin, director of training in child and adolescent psychiatry at Massachusetts General Hospital. "It sets them up for not knowing who they are."

"To have a sense of self and personal identity is a critical part of normal healthy development," he said. "This blocks that and sets the child up for bullying, scapegoating, and marginalization."

"We all have sexual identity," said Beresin. "The mission to have masculine and feminine traits more equalized and more flexible and not judgmental is awesome in a utopian community. But we take pride in our sexual identity."

The family gleaned the idea for unique child-rearing from the 1978 children's book, X: A Fabulous Child's Story, by Lois Gould. The author uses symbolism and allegory to explore gender "creativity."

"Identity formation is really critical for every human being and part of that is gender," Beresin said. "There are many cultural and social forces at play."

Witterick and Stocker have been besieged with phone calls since the media grabbed on to their personal story.

"Thanks for your interest," said Storm's mother on a recorded message when ABC News called for comment. "We are really swamped with calls right now and our first priority is the needs of our family."

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Masculinity: Guys Have to Earn Their Status

Digital Vision/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- There are biological, as well as social, reasons why a man has to prove his manliness, and a woman does not.

A new effort to explain that difference between the genders concludes that the rights of passage for males at least partly explains why men are more aggressive than women.  Manhood, according to psychologists Jennifer K. Bosson and Joseph A. Vandello of the University of South Florida, is a "status that is elusive (it must be earned) and tenuous (it must be demonstrated repeatedly through actions.)"

The Florida researchers are building on the global research of anthropologist David D. Gilmore of the State University of New York at Stony Brook, who found that certain male traits are present in diverse cultures around the world.  A boy does not automatically become a man.  He must earn it against what Gilmore called "powerful odds."

That most likely has an evolutionary basis.  In the old days, before the Internet, males had to earn their status by protecting the hearth, proving they could be good material for mating, and even slaying an occasional beast.  But when he could no longer slay the beast, he would lose that status, showing that manhood is indeed tenuous.

Womanhood, according to Gilmore, is biological but manhood is a "cultural construct."

The need to slay the beast may be less important today, but the Florida researchers show that males still feel the need to prove their manhood, which is not likely to surprise anyone, regardless of gender.  But they take it a step further.  It may not be an altogether bad thing.

Bosson and Vandello describe a series of experiments in a study published in the journal Current Directions in Psychological Science showing that when a man feels his manhood is threatened he will likely become very aggressive.  But that aggressiveness might also relieve his anxiety.

Like so many studies in this field, all the participants are college students, and not necessarily representative of society as a whole.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Report: Heart Health Care Gender Inequality Can Be Fatal for Women

Thomas Northcut/Digital Vision/ Thinkstock(DENVER) -- Experts say it's important to recognize the gender differences in heart health, but a new HealthGrades report, which sought to evaluate gender-specific outcomes in heart care in men and women, found that just being a woman increased the likelihood of death in heart surgery patients compared with their male counterparts.

Researchers said there are several reasons for this conclusion.  Symptoms of heart disease in women usually appear at an older age than men, and often times, many women have symptoms without any history of the disease.

The greatest inconsistency came under valve replacement surgery, where women were at a 44 percent greater risk of dying than men.

Among other statistics, the report found that only 33 percent of women who had a heart attack in 2009 received some sort of surgery, compared with 45 percent of men.  And female heart attack patients who received any kind of cardiovascular treatment had a death rate that was 30 percent higher than men.

Experts say that women tend to do worse than men in cardiovascular disease treatments.  They are also less likely to receive recommended preventive and follow-up care than men.

Along with the varying symptoms, Dr. Malissa Wood, co-director of the Corrigan Women's Heart Health Program at Massachusetts General Hospital, said there are several other contributing factors that lead to differences in treatment and outcome between genders.

Wood said that women, and sometimes even their doctors, still do not fully grasp that more women die from heart disease than men, and women are more likely to have atypical or unusual symptoms.

The American Heart Association states that women account for nearly half of all heart disease deaths, but only about half of those women are aware that cardiovascular disease is the leading cause of death in women.

"This leads to later presentation with heart attack and slower recognition by care providers," said Wood.  "Often the damage to the heart muscle has been done once women present."

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Study Claims Scouts Reinforce Gender Stereotypes

Brand X Pictures/Thinkstock(COLLEGE PARK, Md.) -- The Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts remain out-of-step with modern times, perpetuating gender stereotypes about femininity and masculinity in their manuals, according to a new study.

Kathleen Denny, a sociology graduate student at the University of Maryland, College Park, points out that the Girl Scouts manual talks about badges that back up her theory, including Caring for Children, Looking Your Best and Sew Simple.

For instance, the section under "Looking Your Best" tells girls "take turns holding different colors up to your face (to) decide which colors look best on each of you."  Meanwhile, an accessory party advises girls to figure out "how accessories highlight your features and your outfit."

The closest the Boy Scouts get to that is a Fitness badge, Denny says, which encourages boys to write down what they eat for a week and explains the dangers of drugs and alcohol to a family member.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

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