I’ve been finding it difficult to come up with ideas for blog posts, which is why this blog hasn’t been very active lately. As such, I’d like to leave it up to the readers: what would you like us to write about? Would you like to know something specific about our atheism? Do you have an argument that you’d like us to address? Would you like us to discuss a particular book? Do you have any questions about Philosophy, Biology, or History? Would you like to know our stance on a particular feminist issue? Is there something else you’d like us to write on? Let us know in the comment section.
A while ago I watched this short film on YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WwV7ENOTeek. As tends to happen in the YouTube comment section, the assholes came out of the woodwork. The film is about a young trans boy who isn’t supported by their mother, so this film deals with an issue that is very important to me. As such, I got sucked into a debate in the comment section. I thought I’d share a good chunk of the discussion here, because I think a lot of people feel the need to defend their bad behaviour and hateful words with the “you’re just making it political” excuse, and I discuss that issue in the comments I make.
The whole conversation began with this comment made by a trans teen: “Hey, people, I see you saying stuff like ‘oh just because you wear guys clothes and not dresses, doesn’t mean you aren’t a girl and you’re right, you are absolutely right. But you know what does make you a boy? BEING A BOY! IDENTIFYING AS A BOY! GOING BY HE PRONOUNS! You literally cannot take away how I feel! My mind and body do not match up, there is literally nothing you can do. I am me. You are you. We just happen to be different. Get over it, please! EDIT: Also, Gay people? Trans people? They do not harm you in any way. You’re the only one causing any pain if you’re being a douche. Odds are you couldn’t pinpoint every damn queer person on this planet, we’re all the same guys! Just love, not hate! And it’s not sexist to be trans, we’re not saying each gender has to be a different way (there’s more than two genders btw), we just KNOW what we are. I’ll answer KIND questions about sexuality and genders as well :).” This person’s comment is amazing. They make a lot of really good points. Like the assumption that being trans merely means wearing the clothes of the opposite gender. That’s called cross-dressing. It’s part of a person’s gender expression. It isn’t a gender itself. Like this person said, being transgender is to identify as the opposite gender than you were assigned at birth. Being trans means not identifying as the gender that you were assigned at birth (though not necessarily identifying as the opposite gender), or identifying with more than one gender. It’s a matter of how we feel, not a matter of what we wear.
But this is a difficult concept to understand for people. One of the first replies to this comment said “Saying ‘I am a he’ doesn’t make you a boy? Those are just words. How do you even know if you have the mind of a boy or a girl if you’ve never had the other to tell the difference???” I didn’t actually respond to this question in the discussion, and it wasn’t made by the person that I got into the argument with. However, this question shows some serious lack of understanding. For one, what does it actually mean to have a girl mind or a boy mind? This isn’t really what is meant by “my brain doesn’t match my body.” It is to a degree, but men and women don’t have completely alien brains from one another. The biggest factor of brain differences isn’t likely sex, it seems more probable that our differences are caused by…well, the fact that we’re different people. Watch this video if you don’t know what I mean: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AXj3DenRsOg. And here are a couple of articles that go into the science a bit more (keep in mind that they aren’t the scientific studies themselves): http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2576241/Men-NOT-Mars-Scientist-claims-male-female-brains-gender-stereotyping-makes-different.html, http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/science/science-news/10684179/Men-and-women-do-not-have-different-brains-claims-neuroscientist.html. Being trans is difficult to explain to somebody who isn’t trans. It’s not so much that my brain is radically different from yours, it’s more a case of my brain leading me to prefer things that society says I’m not supposed to prefer. So how do I know I’m trans? The same way you know you’re not. For example, I assume some of you reading this are men who take 10 minutes to get ready in the morning. And I assume some of you have live-in partners who are women who take a lot longer. I assume you find their interest in putting on make-up and finding the right outfit tedious and pointless. You probably justify it as “I’m a man, I’m not supposed to get it.” Well I don’t get it either. I’m supposed to get it. I’m supposed to like that tedium. But I don’t. A lot of people who identify as women don’t get it either, so don’t assume that my not getting it makes me trans. It’s just one example. But it’s that “I don’t get it” feeling that I get that lets me know that there’s something different about me. It’s not that I get it, but how often I get it and when I get it that tells me there is something different about me. I’m just not feminine. At all. And I don’t want to be.
But that’s kind of besides the point (though hopefully you got a better idea of what I’m talking about). The conversation that I wanted to focus on begins here: “Just because you hate something doesn’t mean its going to go away, grow the fuck up and accept people are different please.” This response was made by the person who made the initial comment. I’m not sure exactly what was said by the person that prompted this response, but, given other comments made by them, it was probably deserved. The person replied to that with “Sure it will. A bit of discipline and punishment goes a long way. The point isn’t eradicating differences, the point is forcing those who are different to either conform or.. idk, go to summer camp ;).” I really hope I don’t have to explain what is wrong with this comment. The original commenter rightfully replied with “‘The point isn’t eradicating differences, the point is forcing those who are different to either conform.’ That uh, sounds a lot like eradicating the differences to me bro. You sound like an early Hitler, talking about camps.” Doesn’t he though? But of course that was all just a joke: “I’m just fucking with you btw. I don’t really care about people’s sexuality or ‘identity.’ It just annoys me how overly tolerant and supportive everyone always wants to seem. If they really thought it was something normal they wouldn’t constantly baby people of other sexualities like they’re just automatically victims that can’t handle some dumb insecure cunts calling them names. Come on, you want respect, right? Then just say fuck you and move on. Society is in constant motion, no matter what an individual does, you don’t need to constantly be in protective mode.” This is what we call the “I’m not really an asshole, I’m just trying to play devil’s advocate but I have no idea what I’m doing” card. It’s not cute, it’s not funny, it’s not rebellious, you aren’t being clever, you aren’t proving or making a point, you aren’t helpful, you aren’t smart/wise, whatever you think you’re doing when you play this card, if it quacks like a duck…you get my point right? Anyway, let’s look at what he’s saying. “I don’t really care about people’s sexualities or ‘identities.'” Well, for one, both the video and the comment are about gender, not sexuality. So why even bring sexuality up? They aren’t even related.
And if you don’t care, why are you here? Why bother commenting? Why even watch the video? That does not sound like someone who “doesn’t care.” And the fact that you put identities in scare quotes suggests that, not only do you care, you wish to invalidate the identities of others. You wish to deny that they exist. And it is at this point when he shows his true colours. “It just annoys me how overly tolerant and supportive everyone always wants to seem.” So accepting me as a human being deserving of equal treatment annoys you. Poor child, how will you survive? I can’t imagine how tough that must be for you! Not tolerance! Not support! How dare anybody grant me such things! How dare I ask for such treatment! He goes on to say “If they really thought it was something normal they wouldn’t constantly baby people of other sexualities like they’re just automatically victims that can’t handle some dumb insecure cunts calling them names.” Clearly you have no understanding of history. People don’t “baby” those of us who are LGBT by treating us like we’re human beings. However, historically LGBT people have been treated very poorly by society because society deemed us “unnatural.” The problem isn’t that the people who demand we’re treated equally see us as not normal, it’s that people have historically deemed us unnatural and have used that as an excuse to oppress us. What you’re seeing isn’t LGBT people being treated as special. Having pride parades and organizations dedicated to us doesn’t make us special, it’s just another sign of how oppressed we actually are. I look forward to the day when there is no need for a pride parade because that is the day we truly become equal. And demanding equal rights isn’t playing the victim. Playing the victim is crying “why can’t I have one?” when oppressed groups do things to bring attention to their oppression and you’re part of the group with power. Playing the victim is asking why there is no white pride month or straight pride parade. And when you get called as many names as LGBT people do, then you can criticise us for “not being able to handle being called names.” Ignoring bullies doesn’t actually make them go away regardless of what your father told you. The only thing that works is confronting them and standing up for yourself. So excuse me if I don’t let you walk all over me.
As for the Nazi issue that seems to have gotten ignored, he responded to that with “I really like the Nazis, yes. They were badass.” Because nothing says badass like murdering millions of people out of hate. I think somebody needs to get their priorities straight (or they’re already a neo-Nazi and are a lost cause). The original commenter replied to that saying “a small part of me can agree just with the sheer brute force and power of the Nazis, but the majority of me (and the world) can say that what they ultimately stood for was absolutely awful.” The Nazis really weren’t all that powerful, they just had a massive head start thanks to the fact that nobody wanted another world war to happen. But I’m sure that if another world war happened, the Nazi supporter would be the first to suggest appeasement given that that’s what he wants LGBT people to do. The fact that appeasement doesn’t work be damned.
I got involved in the conversation latter on, but I replied to this next comment: “Also, I’m really surprised how many FTM (even learned the lingo :D) trannies there are. Everyone usually talks about men feeling like they’re women, I thought almost no one was the other way around.” My reply to this comment is as follows: “You clearly did not do a good job of learning ‘the lingo’ if you think “trannie” is okay to say. Like faggot [this comes up later], tranny is a derogatory term. The correct term is transgender. MTF and FTM are also outdated terms. Some transgender people are fine with them, but you should not use them unless you know how the person you’re referring to feels about them. You should really be more careful with how you discuss LGBT issues. Remember: LGBT people have a long history of being discriminated against. That’s why the terms used to refer to people are so sensitive and regularly change. Yes, these words are often politicized, but that is because LGBT people are politicized, and have been for centuries. That’s why LGBT people stand up and say “these terms are right and those ones are wrong”: society refused to give the LGBT community control over the terms used to describe them for so long while they continued to discriminate against people. LGBT people just want respect, and part of showing respect is asking LGBT people what terms they prefer and using them.” His reply: “The learning the lingo thing wasn’t serious you retard :D. Also, why are you butthurt over stupid shit like tranny and faggot, you faggot? I don’t really use faggot to describe a gay person, it’s just a silly word that conveys that I think someone is a dumb cunt :).” Do you seriously think that adding a smiley face makes this response okay? Let’s see: retard, tranny, faggot, cunt, he seems to have the writing-as-many-offensive-things-as-can-fit-in-a-couple-sentences thing down. Now he just needs to learn some tact. Assuming I did have a mental disability, I don’t see why that would invalidate my point at all. So I’ll ignore that load of stupid as irrelevant. But faggot? No. You do not get to call me that. My sexuality does not get to be used by you or anyone else to attack me. I am not gay, but I’m not straight either. My heteronormative (or largely anyway) relationship protects me from a lot of the BS that other LGBT people face, but that doesn’t mean I don’t face any difficulties as it is. You do ot get to use your privilege and self-righteousness to attack me because you don’t think I have any reason to be upset. Who the hell do you think you are? What the hell do you know about my life? Yeah, and you don’t get to call me a cunt either. My vagina is not a bad thing. It is not an insult to possess one. You with your lack of vagina do not get to try and devalue and dismiss what I’m saying by suggesting that my vagina makes me less accurate. Neither faggot nor cunt (or tranny and retard) are just words with no meaning behind them. As such, you do not get to tell me that they are. If you think I’m wrong, use what little intelligence you possess to come up with a more accurate rebuttal that “faggot” or “cunt.” Otherwise, the only one who looks dumb is you. I’ll get back to our conversation later. First I’ll go through the rest of the conversation that happened the day before I gave my reply.
The original commenter responded to his “trannie” comment by saying “And you actually make a very valid point in your first comment, thanks for sharing. I am trans and the way I see it, as long as people respect me how I respect them, then I’m fine. I just want rights is all.” This is unfortunately a very naive response. Again, this person is a teenager, and a very intelligent one at that, but they are far too easily swayed by his very bad “arguments.” He doesn’t have a point. He thinks that an oppressed group who is currently fighting for equal rights is somehow receiving special treatment because people are actually starting to give said group their rights. He goes on to ask this trans teen some very inappropriate questions, but they answered him, so I saw no reason to reply in the comment section. I will, however, reply to them here. He said “I’d actually like to know a couple of stuff about that. Of course you’re not every single trans person in the world, but still. Are you attracted to women or men? Also, to what extent do you have male tendencies. I understand you perceive yourself as a man and aren’t probably prone to many girly things, but there are still hormonal differences in not just appearance but behaviour.” I’m sure a lot of you are wondering what’s wrong with this. First, he started asking the questions without finding out if it was okay. He should have sent in one reply asking if asking personal questions was okay and waited for a reply before starting to ask. He also shouldn’t have asked if they were attracted to men or women. To begin with, that assumes that there are only two genders. It also suggests that you can also only be attracted to one or the other. This is not the case. Provided someone is willing to answer this question (though I really don’t understand why people feel the need to ask it) you should ask “who are you attracted to?” It’s really the only not problematic way to go about it. Asking what male tendencies someone has isn’t so much inappropriate as confusing. How would one actually go about answering that question? What are male tendencies? But suggesting that someone merely perceives themselves as a man is just plain rude. If someone tells you that they’re a man, accept that they are a man. Don’t tell them that they merely perceive that they are who they are. You don’t know what’s going on in their head or, in most cases, in their pants (I add the “in their pants” bit because of the perception that that actually matters where gender is concerned. And because intersex people do exist, which should make it obvious to people that sex is far more complicated than penis=boy and vagina=girl). Who are you to judge regarding either? The original commenter made these problematic assumtions obvious with their reply: “It’s good you’re learning the lingo haha, and its very good that you’d at least like to know things! To start let me explain that there are two types of attraction, romantic and sexual. I am Panromantic/Biromantic Straight, which, as you might of guessed, is the romantic attraction to women and men (all genders for me really), but sexually attracted to only guys (they can be trans guys too)! And, as far as tendencies go, I go as far as wearing chest binders, going by another name, wearing ‘guy clothes’ and tweaking my behaviour slightly to fit the more ‘stereotypical male’ just a bit. (I should point out though that I am Bigender, which means I identify with two genders, and mine happen to be male and female, he and she.) I imagine [you] might have plenty more questions since I’m guessing you don’t [know] too much about the gender/sexuality spectrum? haha please keep an open mind though?” So basically, “Are you attracted to men or women?” “No.” “What are your male tendencies?” “All of them.” “You think you’re a man.” “No, I’m Bigender.” I think he could have been a bit more intelligent with his…attempt to educate himself? Is that what this is? I’m not too sure it is. The original commenter went on to say “and also it is kind of a shock at first to find out that there’s actually lots of people out there with all types of identities (it was more of a relief for me), there isn’t much attention on trans men a lot in the media, it’s easy to think they wouldn’t exist initially :D.” This is something that has bothered me for years. Trans women are far more common than trans men, but trans men only seem to make the news when they get pregnant. While it is more acceptable for women to do stereotypically male things than it is for men to do stereotypically female things, it seems as though trans women are more socially acceptable than trans men. People who are transgender also get more media than those of us who are trans but not transgender. With that one I’m not sure if it’s because we’re more or less accepted. It’s hard to tell because we still face transphobia and transmisogyny, and we’re less likely to try to “pass,” so we’re about as likely to be attacked or discriminated against as transgender people.
It becomes clear why this guy is so unaware of his attitude when he says “AND I’m from Eastern Europe, so there was absolutely no information about any of this stuff while I was growing up (I’m 19, so basically right now 😀 ). I’d basically never seen a gay man, then suddenly when I emigrate to Germany I happen to move in right next to some LGBT-center thing, gay bars in the neighbourhood, so you can imagine how weird it was to me.” Unfortunately Eastern Europe is not known for it’s tolerance towards the LGBT community. It’s too bad this person doesn’t seem to spend any time at the LGBT center he lives near. Perhaps he’d become more tolerant and develop some empathy if he did. Not to mention that it would become very obvious very fast while it’s important to be careful with our language. He went on to say “Of course I’m open minded to knowing more about other people’s identity. Sexuality is on a spectrum, there are both heterosexual and homosexual aspects of both genders, most people just tend to be more on opposite sides of the spectrum, i.e. most women are attracted to men and most men are attracted to women and tend to act in certain ways, considered to be gender norms, we’re a dimorphic species after all, so it’s part of our nature. My problem isn’t with some people falling more in the middle or not identifying as any gender. I have a problem with some of the more radical ideas among feminists and some of the LGBT movements, that there are no natural aspects of sexuality and it’s all socially constructed. I’m not conservative, like thinking all people should identify as those simplistic archetypes of heterosexual women or heterosexual men, I just dislike the fact that the more radical liberals view sex as something absolutely fluid, even non-existent.” This is probably the most intelligent and polite he has been during the entire conversation. But he’s still confusing sexuality and gender. Sexuality is who we are sexually attracted to. Yes, it is a spectrum, but it’s more complex that this. First there is the heterosexual-homosexual spectrum with the middle area being differing degrees of bisexuality (most people are bisexual, but to such a degree that they only consider themselves to be attracted to one sex/gender) or pansexuality. Then there is the sexual-asexual spectrum. Most people are sexual, and they fit on the heterosexual-homosexual scale. I’m demisexual, which is a kind of asexuality. I do have a sex drive, but I don’t really see myself as fitting on the heterosexual-homosexual scale because my sexuality doesn’t work like that (though other demisexuals disagree). For me, it’s about romantic, not sexual, attraction. Which brings us to the next scale: heteroromantic-homoromantic. I’m pan romantic. I can be attracted to anyone regardless of gender. This scale pretty much works exactly like the sexuality scale (but don’t assume that you have to be romantically attracted to the people you are sexually attracted to). As you can see, gender is not on any of those scales. Gender has it’s own spectrum, and it is a different spectrum than the sex spectrum. This is because gender has to do with your brain and sex has to do with your gametes (though most people assume it has to do with your genitals). Gametes are our X and Y chromosomes, fyi. Anyway, The gender spectrum is man-woman. Transgender is not in the middle because a transgender person would just be either a man or a woman. The middle is the genderqueer category. It’s where those of us who identify as either neither or both man and woman fit. However, there are people who are agender and they simply don’t fit on this spectrum (don’t worry: there’ll be a visual). Sex is also on a spectrum: male-female. The middle of this spectrum is taken up by those who are intersex. And, because sex and gender are complex, there is another scale: gender expression. This scale goes masculine-feminine and deals with how a person presents themselves. The middle area is varying degrees of androgyny. I’m fairly androgynous, but I present more masculine than not.
And what does any of this have to do with feminism? Absolutely fuck all. Of course, most feminists accept the LGBT community and realise that the issues that affect the LGBT community are related to those that affect women/females. As such, the groups do tend to overlap. But the terminology used by the LGBT community, and the discussions about LGBT issues, aren’t created by feminists as a feminist thing. This isn’t something within the feminist sphere of control. This is an LGBT thing, as it should be. Unless you’re LGBT, you don’t get to determine how LGBT people identify, and most feminists are not LGBT. But even if they were, why would the fact that they are feminist ideas make them bad? Why would that invalidate them? Since he thinks that feminists believe that sex isn’t real and is fluid, he obviously isn’t well versed in feminism. Yes, some feminists do argue this, but most don’t. Radical feminists believe that the ability to reproduce is what causes women to be discriminated against. As such, they believe not only that females but also that women (though some are more open to trans identities than others) are those who can give birth. The type of feminism that says that sexuality is fluid is intersectional feminism, but even they (since I identify within this group, I guess it’s more accurate to say we) debate whether or not sex exists (yes, sex is in fact debated). Personally, I like the concept of sex as a biological thing, but only because I think it’s useful for health purposes. As for people debating that sexuality is socially constructed, I think he means sex because I’ve never heard of that debate.
Can people stop saying stupid shit like “the liberals [something dealt with within LGBT circles]” and “the conservatives [something going on within anti-feminist circles]”? There are conservatives who are pro-feminism and pro-LGBT, and there are liberals who are anti-feminists and anti-LGBT. What’s more, the political spectrum involves more that just conservative and liberal. I’m socialist. Some people are communists, libertarians (though I suppose they’re called liberals in some places), anarchists, etc. So it’s really not a case of “those liberals” and “those conservatives.”
Anyway, the original commenter replied to their response with “ooh wow, it can be quite a shock to learn that the world is not as small as you once thought to be haha. I had queer people around me since I was little, so it was more ‘normal’ for me to realize that I wasn’t straight (I’m gonna be 15 at the end of the month) and I’ve known since I was little that I was a bit different. And I totally see where you’re coming from, radical in any sense isn’t very helpful. It’s good to be open, but not so open that you’re shoving your ideals aggressively onto someone else, that’s not how acceptance works, some people just don’t change. And exactly! I understand sex is male, female and intersex, I get that, and on medical papers or work papers I have to put female for my own safety sometimes (like in an emergency if I get hurt I mean), it does exist it just isn’t everything, ya know what I mean?” He responds to this with “Sure. I guess there’s not too much difference between extremes. The conservatives think nature is everything and you can’t stray from it in any way and the liberals think there’s no such thing as nature, which they think is pro-LGBT, but if you think about it, it would mean your identity and sexuality are a choice after all. So in the end:
C: homosexuality is unnatural, therefore it’s a choice.
L: sexuality is fluid, therefore all gender is socially constructed (from which it would logically follow that you actually aren’t born like this)
In the end of the day it’s just a bunch of ass holes trying to turn the most intimate and personal aspect of our nature into something political, just to attract more attention and point to the others guys, creating fake tensions. I have been in some anti-gay circles, some of my best friends are skinheads, and I can tell you, no one actually cares, it’s just a hot topic, so everyone aside from some insecure fags that aggressively try to prove themselves just goes with it to provoke people. Don’t view people who don’t approve of all these alternative lifestyles as merely ignorant, that would be the same as me just calling you an insecure cunt, faking transsexuality for attention. People are convinced not by arguing but by comparing perspectives, explaining the way you personally view your identity and explaining your experience and understanding other people’s perspectives as well. In the end people tend to be extremely alike, it’s just the details that make them seem so different. Jesus Christ, I just read what I wrote… I’m such a faggot XD.” This is where I stepped back into the discussion, so I’ll let my reply be…well, my reply. But first I’ll show the original commenter’s post, because then it becomes a back and forth between myself and the other guy: “WOW, that is an extremely good point and you’ve got great sociological understanding, thank you for sharing your opinions, you’re not a fag at all XD.” This response makes me sigh. Great sociological understanding? I’m not sure he even knows what sociology is.
Anyway, this is where I come back into it. My response was “First of all, faggot is a derogatory term. It is not okay to say it whether about yourself or about others. Perhaps one day it will be reclaimed and it will be fine to use if and only if the person you are referring to is in fact gay and they say it is okay. But until that time, saying that is not okay.
Second, people don’t say sexuality is fluid because they want to be political, and saying that sexuality is fluid doesn’t make it a choice. Hair colour can change, but that doesn’t mean there is no genetic factors involved. People’s sexuality can and do change, but we know that there is some genetic element to sexuality. We know this because they have done twin studies. If identical twins are more likely to share a sexuality than other siblings, then it must be somewhat genetic. We find this with sexuality. But this doesn’t change the fact that people change how they identify. While most people always maintain the same sexuality, not all people do. Ergo, sexuality is fluid. This does not make it a choice, it simply makes it fluid.
Thirdly, while sexuality is very personal, this does not mean that it should not be discussed and researched. Why? Because health. If we know how sexuality works, and how it develops, then we can better help people who have issues related to their sexuality. Yes, this means that some people would use the knowledge to harm LGBT people in one way or another, but this risk does not eliminate the possibility for there to be benefits. And not everybody is enough of an asshole to take advantage and cause harm. So yes, sexuality is personal and to any given person it doesn’t really matter why they are gay, straight, bi, pan, etc, but it can and does matter to the medical community. The more we know about our bodies and our brains, the more we can do to keep ourselves happy and healthy.” I already gave his reply to this (it was when he called me a faggot). I responded to that by saying “There are reasons that these things are not okay, you arrogant little prick. Go over to that LGBT center you live by and say that shit: you’ll learn very quickly that that language is not appropriate. You are clearly not part of an oppressed group. If you were, you wouldn’t be so quick to be disrespectful. If you truly want to learn about people within the LGBT community, if you truly want to be inclusive, then that begins with showing respect. I don’t give a shit if you think that showing respect is being too sensitive because you aren’t LGBT. You don’t get a say. Now grow the fuck up and learn some respect because you are claiming to be open-minded while being incredibly homophobic and transphobic. And you’ve being talking to a trans teen.” Followed by ”And fuck yes, I’m a socialist, feminist, genderqueer demisexual who cares about the hateful things you say. Why? Because your words have an affect on people even if you don’t mean them to. People have died because people who think those words are okay murder them or drive them to suicide out of hate. Do you have any idea how many trans youth have already killed themselves this year alone? And because people tell them that they don’t get to determine how they identify, and that they don’t matter, that they are freaks, and that they are trannys? Do you have any idea how high the suicide rates are for LGBT youth are? Or how how the rates of mental illness are? The words you use don’t exist in a vacuum. They have real consequences. They affect real people. The words you use affect actual living human beings. So fuck your stupid sticks-and-stones bullshit, because we don’t live in a fantasy world where our words don’t affect people.” I was a bit angry, but I feel my response was well deserved. His response was “Sure, people are affected by words, It’s a bad thing to bully people, fucking shock. But it’s not like I’m sitting here calling you a fucking freak and saying you should die or anything. I think the problem is people take words way too seriously. Society treats words like faggot and nigger like the worst fucking shit ever, so people overreact every time someone uses them no matter what they mean. It’s horrible that people die because of bullying but that doesn’t mean you can just label anything bullying and go crazy any time someone says something. Also, I’m not TRYING to be inclusive, I just don’t give a shit about people’s sexuality.”
The conversation ended with my saying “If you don’t care about people’s sexuality, why say anything? What watch videos about sexuality and gender? Why not just ignore that it exists? I highly doubt you simply don’t care. If you didn’t, you wouldn’t be complaining about people being ‘too sensitive.’
You don’t understand privilege. Those words aren’t bad because of any power they have, they are bad because of how they are used. To go with the race example, in a predominantly white country black people are the minority. Most black people live in predominately white countries because their ancestors were brought over as slaves, and a lot of that legacy still exists. In North America, there is still the perception that black people are more aggressive and animalistic than white people. Despite having scientific evidence that suggests otherwise, people still believe that black men are more aggressive than white men and are more likely to commit crimes. This has led to the whole ‘Black Lives Matter’ thing. Likewise, black women are more likely to be seen as sexually promiscuous. As such, black women are often automatically labelled sluts and are more likely to be blamed for being raped than white women are. Those words signify a power that is held over an oppressed group by another group that is too often unaware of their own privilege.
Like black people, trans people are also part of an oppressed group. We live in a society that tells us that normal is a male child playing with a truck and a female child playing with a doll. The female child who doesn’t like dolls, dresses, and everything pink is automatically labelled a freak, and, whether or not you actually use that word, your agreement with that concept comes through loud and clear with the words that you do use. This very idea is problematic. For one thing, their is nothing natural about dolls and dresses, those are human made. For another, it wasn’t that long ago that pink was thought to be a boy colour. As such, it’s pretty obvious that these ideas that girls like dolls, dresses, and pink come from humans and not from nature. Gender is the same. Sex is biological. However, it is not as cut and dry as you might think. As we learn more about intersex it is more and more obvious that their are more than two sexes, and the sexes have less to do with reproduction than we might think. This is science, not politics. Gender, however, is nothing more than a construct. Gender is in your brain and has nothing to do with your sex, though they match more often than not. However, people assume that sex and gender are interchangeable, and they discriminate against those of us whose sex and gender don’t match because we are in the minority and they have the power. It is this power held over us, this acceptability of our being discriminated against, that makes the words you use inappropriate.
By using those words you are complicit in our being discriminated against. You are telling us that it is okay for you to discriminate against us. And to make mattes worse, when we say that it is not okay and you don’t get to discriminate against us, you act as if you’re the one being wronged. You stand up and cry ‘you’re just being to sensitive’ and ‘they’re just words’ and expect that to make it okay. But it is not okay. Blaming the fact that you don’t get to be an asshole on the ‘liberals’ and the ‘conservatives’ (as if that actually means anything) does not make your words okay. You don’t get to determine how I should be treated. You don’t get to determine what labels get used on me. I do. And you certainly do not get to be discriminatory and insulting towards me and then play the victim card. You are not the victim. You are just someone who wants an excuse to be an asshole and doesn’t want to be held accountable for their words and actions.”
I doubt this guy learned anything from the back and fourth. I’m not even sure he’ll reply to my last comment (though I do intend to let him know I wrote this). But I do hope that my commentary on why his behaviour is not to be desired or repeated is helpful to anyone who may have otherwise responded as he did to this situation (not that I think any neo-Nazi sympathizers would follow our blog [hopefully only they would think this appropriate…]).
And as a treat to those of you who made it to the end, great music 😉 :
And in honour of this day, I’d like to make some depressing states a little bit more visible.
An study based out of Ontario (Canada) found that 20% of trans people had experienced physical or sexual assault due to their gender identity. It also found that 34% were subjected to verbal threats or harassment.
That same study also found that half of trans people were living on less than $15,000 a year. To put this into context, I made $15,000 a year working part time at $12 and hour. To rent a cheap apartment, it would cost between $6000-$9600 a year. Where I live, you’d be lucky to pay the $9600. A years worth of groceries costs about $2400. That’s $12,000 just for food and shelter. Cheap utilities cost another $2400 a year where I live, which brings that total up to $14,400. The rest of that would likely go into transportation costs. This is just barely enough to live on.
That study went on to state that 77% of trans respondents in Ontario had seriously considered suicide, and 45% had actually attempted suicide.
A different study that I looked at focused on how LGBTQ students feel in Canadian schools. It found that 74% of trans students had been verbally harassed about their gender expression.
It also fund that 37% of trans students had been verbally harassed daily or weekly about their sexual orientation.
It found that 68% of trans students had been verbally harassed about their perceived gender or sexual orientation. It also stated that “Trans youth may report experiencing particularly high levels of harassment on the basis of perceived sexual orientation because often trans individuals are perceived as lesbian, gay, or bisexual when they are not.”
Finally, it found that 49% of trans students had experienced sexual harassment in school in one year (either 2007 or 2009).
None of this is okay. Everybody should feel safe and welcome in their country and their school. And everybody should have the same opportunities when it comes to economic security. That’s why today is so important.
This seems to be something that a lot of parents fail at. I spend a lot of time with people who identify as LGBT to one degree or another, and they all receive different levels of support from their parents. I personally don’t receive much support from my parents. The atheists that I know also receive different levels of support from their parents. Many of the people I know were raised in secular families, so they have no issues, but this is not the case with all the people I know. Even some of the people who prefer not to label themselves aren’t always supported. As such, I know a lot of people whose love for their children is very much conditional. I find this very sad.
As a parent, you want what’s best for your children. When your children turn away from the beliefs that you hold, or when they do something that goes against your beliefs, it is understandable to be afraid for them. But abandoning your children, or neglecting them, or making them feel as though they can’t rely on you, is not a solution to this problem. Be afraid for your children if you must, but love them unconditionally regardless. Hurt your children as little as possible, even if you feel hurt by them. You are their roll model. You are the person that your child should be able to turn to in times of need. I don’t remember the last time I was able to rely on my parents for anything. And I know a lot of people who don’t have the support of their own parents.
As a result of my experiences and the experiences of those around me, I refuse to allow myself the possibility to love them conditionally. I want to be there for any children I have. I want to be the first person they turn to when they need support. If they choose to become theists, or they get into a lot of trouble (these are the only two things I can think of that would genuinely bother me), I’m not going to let that get in the way of my relationship with my children.
I see this comment made a lot in the comment sections of feminist pages. If a woman says that she was blamed for an accident because she’s a woman and the man who hit her was in the military, people will say “That’s not a feminist issue, it’s an issue with military power.” Yes, it is an issue with military power. People act as if people in the military can do no wrong. People in the military do have privileges that the rest of us don’t have (though I’ll happily keep my lack of military privilege in exchange for not having PTSD). But that doesn’t mean that it isn’t also a feminist issue. People don’t automatically assume that the bad driver ahead of them is male. They don’t tell women “you drive like a man” in a mocking tone when they mean “you’re a bad driver.” The perception that women are bad drivers because they are women is a feminist issue because the assumption is sexist and leads people to treat women differently than they treat men.
Likewise, other “not real issues” are in fact real issues, and they really are important if we want to create a world that is equal for everybody. Men taking up to much space is a real issue. Why? Because your dick does not need so much room that you get to take up two seats worth of space while I’m forced to squeeze into half a seat. I used to ride the train for an hour to school and an hour back home again 5 days a week for two years and yes, I did experience this issue. Transit seats are already too close together. On a full train, I’m already forced to sit of stand shoulder to shoulder with strangers. When I have some asshole sitting next to me putting his leg over the line dividing his seat from mine, that’s infringing on my space. And it’s something men do. Don’t believe me? Go take a ride on a bus or a train and look around. Most of the women will have their legs crossed and their arms resting over their laps. Why? Because women are taught from a young age that this is polite and this is how ladies sit. The men, however, will often have their legs spread out crossing the line dividing their seat from another, regardless of whether or not someone else is sitting in the seat. Men and women also behave differently regarding where they put their bags and how they talk to their friends on transit. Women put their bags on their lap unless they are too big. Men almost always put their bags between their legs, which is often in the way of people getting on and off. Men shout over top of people to continue talking to their friends, but women generally stop talking if they are separated from their friends in the train or bus. So why is this a feminist issue? Because it’s a matter of entitlement. Men feel entitled to the space even if they are negatively affecting someone else to use it. Women feel as though they must make themselves small so as to have as little effect on others as possible. This is how we are raised, and it is a problem. Men shouldn’t feel entitled to the space other people are in, and women shouldn’t feel as though they should disappear in order to make room for others.
Are these minor issues? Yes, but that doesn’t mean they have no roll to play in larger issues. The same issues that lead grown men to not realise how much space they are actually taking also play a role in the “boys will be boys” attitude that people use to ignore a boy’s aggression and in the belief that men can’t control themselves when women dress provocatively. It’s all the same issue of “men are aggressive wild beasts that need to be tamed” that hurt both men and women. And the military privilege is much the same. Women in the military are treated like infiltrators who shouldn’t be there. The privilege is mostly enjoyed by men because they fit the strong warrior trope that all men are supposed to fit (even if they actually don’t). So yes, these are real feminist issues. They are feminist issues because they are yet more privileges that men get to enjoy that are denied to women. They are feminist issues because they help create a world of inequality. And they are feminist issues because size doesn’t matter when it comes to inequality. If something is unequal, it’s unequal. It doesn’t matter if it’s just a little bit unequal. And it doesn’t matter if other people have it worse elsewhere. African women being raped because they want to go to university doesn’t mean that the inequality I face here doesn’t exist or doesn’t matter. My inequality is still inequality. To say otherwise is to allow systematic inequality to persist. And small issues add up to create major issues. Personally, I’d rather deal with them while they are small.
Oh, and I can oppose that rape of African women, and other major inequalities faced by women, at the same time as I oppose the minor issues. So why would I have to pick one or the other? To say I should ignore minor inequalities because they are small is beyond ignorant. So, before you use the “that’s not real feminism” line, actually think about the issue. Think about what the person is saying about it, listen to their reasoning, and think about how that issue can play into other issues. And stop telling me that my experiences and my issues don’t matter.
“Kill your heroes” is a phrase that I have heard at various times throughout my life. However, until recently, I never really connected with the phrase. Sure, I understood the basic idea, but I failed to appreciate it. To kill ones heroes is not to literally axe your heroes, but to kill the glorified version of them you hold in you mind. This isn’t to say you should kill your dreams, or not have people you look towards for guidance or inspiration. Instead, I think of it as allowing your heroes to be real human beings, and, in turn, you allow yourself to be held to attainable standards.
It also helps when your heroes inevitably fail you in some manner, as they will. However, some people would rather defend the person no matter what and maintain a saintly image in their mind instead of face the possibility of fault in their hero. Other people go to the other extreme and, having seen the faults in those they looked up to, reject them entirely, good and bad. Since they couldn’t be perfect, well, then they can’t be a good representation for anything at all.
The truth as I see it runs more along the idea that people are flawed. We all do some things excellently and other thing not so well. Somethings we aren’t even aware that we could do them. Personally, I strive to be able to recognize what people do well, and give credit where it is due. But I also try to recognize what I don’t think they get right and why. The Most resent example that brought this idea to the front f my mind was Neil Gaiman’s book release, Trigger Warning. In his interviews about the books, Neil made it clear that he both does not like trigger warnings in general (thinking them misused), and that he does not really understand how they are generally used or in what contexts. He was confusing trigger warning as something threatening to invade an academic environment, rather then a tool to make online spaces safer for people who can be triggered. This was followed by his wife, Amanda Palmer, making transphobic remarks even though she has made it fairly clear that she is a member of the LGBT community and seemingly an ally to trans people. This was really disheartening. Particularly because I quite like both of their artistic works.
Now, it’s true that this has soured me to both of them, and, to an extent, has soured me to their works. This is part of why it’s important to “kill our heroes,” or, more generically, recognize that we can enjoy something while not accepting everything about it and it’s creators. I Still like The Sandman. I still enjoy listening to “Amanda Palmer and the Grand Theft Orchestra.” These pieces of art still have value. There are many thing to like about them, and I can go on liking them. I even still like Neil and Amanda, just considerably less than I used to. They are people, and they have done some very cool things. They have gone through trials and troubles like everyone else, although they have enjoyed a degree of success that most of us will never get to enjoy. Their flaws, however, don’t invalidate their successes, and neither do there successes forgive their flaws. Having said that, I think it’s important to say the following: you can’t take all the positive thing and negative things separately, nor do I think you should try. It’s important to think about and understand what you feel is being done right, and what was done wrong, and how those influence the person in question as they undoubtedly do. You can’t make an off handed transphobic joke and fully respect or consider trans* people. Though I also doubt Amanda sees it that way: she doesn’t see why her jokes is wrong. Possibly because she isn’t considering how jokes about a regularly victimized group of people you don’t belong too is not the same a targeting a group you belong to, or a group which has significant privilege over you.
This is the sort of complex consideration we need to grant to the people we interact with, and whose works we enjoy. We need to kill those glorified perceptions we hold. We need to accept that the people we like have good and bad. That we can like them even though they are not perfect. But we also should not ignore those things that we are bother by just because we like other parts of them. Nor should we reject something or someone just because we don’t like something about them. We need to consider their complexity, even those we look up to the most. And yes, I think that we should also including ourselves and those around us in this.
I hope I’ve given some food for thought, and perhaps some of you will also kill your heroes. Allow yourselves the opportunity to better understand the people behind the persona you erect around them.
I haven’t done an update on my surveys in a while, so here it is. For those of you who don’t know about my surveys, I am trying to do a couple of independent studies for some future blog posts. The first study will be on Religious discrimination, and I will be focusing on how people view discrimination aimed at atheists vs. how they view it aimed at Christians. The second study will be on feminism’s reputation. Namely on how people perceive it’s reputation. Please help me out by doing and sharing my survey. It will be greatly appreciated. And for those of you who have already done my survey, please share it wherever you can. I would like to write those blog posts this summer.
This is a guest post written by out friend HJ Hornbeck:
In some ways, I was a feminist first: introduced to the topic in my teens, I did an assessment and was deluged by evidence of sexism around me. While I’ve never believed in any god at any moment of my life, in contrast, I didn’t think anyone else did either. I honestly didn’t believe in theists until my 20’s, when I encountered my first passionate believer. The experience rattled me, and I was soon browsing the online atheist community trying to figure out what else I’d missed.
What led me to abandon read-only mode, though, was Elevatorgate. It was obvious the atheist/skeptic community was woefully ignorant of feminist issues, so I rolled up my sleeves and hit the feminist books.
Back in those salad days, I viewed the two topics as wildly different. As kept reading and thinking, though, I started noticing connections between them. Much to my surprise, atheism has made me a better feminist, and of course vice versa.
Well, I suppose you can…but then how can you find any reason to even be an atheist?
Atheist apologetics gave me a reason to push feminism, to risk becoming a target of hate mobs, to spend hours educating myself and others on sexism.
But there’s something deeper here. With one minor exception, atheism is about following the evidence, even if that denies easy answers to life or the promise of eternal bliss. Anti-theism is about pointing others to the evidence, so that people don’t harm themselves or others through false beliefs. This makes both of them close relatives to feminism, which encompasses both following the evidence and leading others to it. Note to self: don’t write while hungry. They’re two flavors of ice cream in the same freezer.
If there was a connection, you’d expect those opposed to atheism and feminism to be operating contrary to the evidence. That’s been my experience; it’s rare for me to spend more than a few minutes puzzling over the gaps in logic of either type. This is backed by the experience of others, indirectly at least. Skeptics are probably familiar with crank magnetism, or the tendency of people that believe in one type of woo to endorse other woo too. On the social justice side, we have multiple studies which show that people who buy into rape myths also buy into myths about race, class, and age.
This puts intersectionality in a new light. Traditionally, that word was about how multiple identities “intersect” in complicated ways that can’t be easily separated. But this overlap of irrationality adds another meaning: as bigotry tends to depend on common cognitive biases, fighting against one form of bigotry means you’ll indirectly fight against them all. Atheists and feminists are natural allies, over and above the commonplace sexism in religion.
Interestingly, those same studies find that there’s also a correlation between rape myth acceptance and religious intolerance. The study populations consisted mostly of believers, admittedly, but it’s tough to look at some of the memes and rhetoric passed around the atheist community and not give a suspicious squint.
Ultimately, that may be the greatest benefit I’ve earned by being a feminist: it’s made it easier to spot the flaws in the atheist community, and turned me into a better atheist. I do not blindly follow my thought leaders around, nor make excuses for their bad behavior, because their thoughtless sexism prevents me. I’m better able to respect the humanity of the people I argue against, because I’ve been made aware of it. This flows both ways: I’m less taken in by some of the fluffy woo that sometimes pops up in feminism, because I’ve been trained to better sniff it out via the tool-set of reason and evidence I picked up from the atheist community.
Withteeth and I haven’t been posting very regularly lately, but we do have a good reason. Our conference took place on Saturday, so a lot of our time went into that. Right now we are still in the process of recovering from the insanity.
However, we haven’t forgotten about the blog. Right now we are working on a large series. The series will go as follows: First we will do an atheism 101 where we will do a comprehensive overview of everything atheism that we deem important. This is meant to create an understanding between ourselves and our readers, as well as to educate theists about the topics of atheism that they might find the most confusing, and to give new atheists or those questioning their theism the resources necessary to make an informed decision about their stance and the words needed to express their views to others. Then we will do a Philosophy 101. This series will cover a vast array of topics in philosophy that will help our readers understand where we are coming from when we discuss philosophical ideas and how your ideas can best be expressed to us. Basically, this will be another way to eliminate miscommunication between ourselves and our readers. Then we will each do two separate 101’s: History and Biology. I will be discussing what history is, why it’s important, and what historians do in order to create an understanding of how historians come to the conclusion that certain events happened a certain way. Withteeth will be discussing Biology in an attempt to express why we do not accept creationism as well as to create a mutual understanding of what certain terms mean. Then we will collaborate once again on a couple more 101’s. First we will do a Feminism 101. Again, this will be to educate our readers about certain terms and to eliminate any misunderstandings about what certain terms mean. It will also be a way to express why we are feminists and why we find MRAs and Anti-Feminists problematic. We will finish the 101 series with an LGBT 101. Again, the point will be to create a mutual understanding of terms.
Given the topics we have chosen to discuss, a number of our posts will basically be repeats of old posts, however, we feel it is important to go through those topics again. We have two reasons for doing this series: first, it ensures that we can cover those topics that we have been meaning to get to but have not yet discussed, and second, it will help us create blog posts that we can refer back to when people ask us questions or make comments that we have dealt with multiple times in the past.
This is going to be a long series. the atheism one is already over 200 pages long. As such, it will likely take us the rest of the school year to complete this series. When we’ve finished this series, I will deal with all the books that I’ve put aside. This is meant to be a foundation, so hopefully the book discussions will add to these 101s.