Tag Archives: personal

A Conversation About Gender and Sexuality

As many of you know, I am involved in an interfaith group. Today was our weekly meeting. At the end of the meeting, five of us stayed late to talk about gender and sexuality. Three of us are in our 20’s and we all consider ourselves queer. I have said before that I am demisexual and gender queer. There was another gender queer person who identifies as a lesbian there as well, and the final twenty-something identifies as bisexual. The final two members of our small group were a retired teacher and a Lutheran pastor. They were both very interested in how gender and sexuality are discussed today because the language we use today was not used when they were young.

One of the main concerns discussed was education. For my generation, it is very easy to take a Sociology, Psychology, or Philosophy of Gender and Sexuality course and learn all about the terminology and what it all means. We often take that for granted because the language we use is so easily available to us. But this information is not easily available to those outside of the post-secondary community. So how do people become knowledgeable about the nuances of sexuality and gender without going to university or college?

There are resources available online, but they aren’t resources that would be found by anybody who doesn’t know to look for them. This is unfortunate. It also means that those of us who identify as queer are forced to educate others about ourselves. This is important, but it is also not fair.

Why is it important? Because we don’t identify as the majority identifies. We are the minority. If we want people to understand how we feel, we need to explain our feelings to them. By creating a community of those who understand us, then we create a community where we are accepted and treated as equals. This is something that we all want. Luckily there are a lot of queer people who are willing to take the time to educate other.

But not everyone is willing to educate others, and we shouldn’t be expected to. This is why is is unfair. It is not uncommon for people to demand that we educate them. It is not our job to educate we. I am willing to talk about my gender and sexuality to help others understand who I am. I am willing to talk about them to create empathy and understanding. But I don’t have to do so. And a lot of other people don’t want to talk about their gender or sexuality. They aren’t often comfortable conversations, especially when someone isn’t fully accepting of one’s identity. As such, nobody should be made to educate others.

I felt it necessary to discuss this today, because I do want to create that understanding. I want to make the resources available to those who don’t know where to look. So here are a few:

For those of you interested in learning more about gender and sexuality, I hope these resources help. If you want to learn more, I will happily find more resources, or answer questions to the best of my ability. I’d also suggest finding a local LGBTQ community willing to offer education to those interested in becoming allies. But please don’t demand that anybody educate you. Please be respectful and understand that they are doing you a favor by giving you the information, and they are probably willing to give it to you because they want to improve the community in which they live.


My Coming Week Will be a Busy One

I will be getting back into my Bible review posts in September. I am swamped with some other projects right now, so I don’t have time to worry about that series. I’ll also be putting the Mere Christianity review on hold. I doubt I’ll really be posting anything for the next week and a bit.

But Withteeth is currently working on a series of posts about feminism which should be posted soon. And when he’s done with that he’ll get back to his GMO series. As such, there should be some interesting reads coming.

The Thinking Atheist and Mental Illness

Earlier today I listened to The Thinking Atheist’s latest podcast, which was on mental illness. It was a wonderful podcast, as usual, and brought up some points that I feel are worth discussing. JT Eberhard, Michaelyn Eberhard, Jeremiah Beene, and Dr. Darrel Ray were the guest speakers on the show.

I think one of the most important points made on the podcast was that mental illness isn’t rational. Someone with a mental illness can’t simply rationalize their way out of it. Trust me, I’ve tried. They talked about how sometimes skeptics can be too hard on people with mental illness because of their preference for all things rational. They don’t understand that it’s not possible for a mentally ill person to rationalize their way through it. I’ve said before: it’s not possible for people to be rational all of the time, but many people think it is possible and they hold people that they view as irrational to be beneath them. This is a problem because you don’t see your own biases, but it’s also a problem because you risk doing great psychological damage to another person. Yes, mental illness isn’t rational, but that doesn’t mean that the person doesn’t hold rationality in high regard and doesn’t fight hard to be as rational as possible. I have to be more aware of my irrationalities than most people because I have a mental illness. I can’t afford to ignore them.

For those of you out there who have never experienced mental illness, I feel that the above point can’t be expressed enough. Mental illness isn’t rational, so don’t tell someone with a mental illness to just rationalize their way out of it. It’s like telling someone to dig their way to China with a tea spoon. It won’t happen. If you know someone who needs help, walk them through it. Sometimes that’s the only way things will get dealt with. And don’t judge anyone to harshly because of their irrationality where their mental illness is concerned. It’s not their fault. They didn’t ask to be mentally ill, and they have enough to deal with already.

I think JT Eberhard said it best: “It may be nothing to you, but it’s life or death to us.” Too many people with mental illness commit suicide. Too many do themselves physical harm. It’s easy enough to brush off their words when you know it’s irrational, but, at the end of the day, you aren’t the one who may go home and kill themself. The podcasters mentioned that people don’t kill themselves when they’re at their lowest. They don’t have the motivation. It’s when they are coming up that they kill themselves. When they seem to be getting better. This is a sad fact of mental illness.

I’ve never been in a position where killing myself seemed worth it, but I do know about the highs and the lows. It’s very true: when I’m at my lowest, I can’t do anything. I freeze because everything just seems too intense. I don’t feel capable of accomplishing anything, so I can’t even try. It’s not that I don’t want to try, it’s that I can’t. My brain won’t let me. But when I’m coming up, when I can act, but everything still feels too hard, That’s when I could see myself self-harming (were it ever to get that bad). This is very common with many different mental illnesses.

Here is the link to the podcast if anyone is interested: http://www.thethinkingatheist.com/

My Thoughts on a Few Quotes

I’ve decided to make a post on a few quotes that I find worth reading.

“To be absolutely certain about something, one must know everything or nothing about it.” Olin Miller

This is a great one because it is impossible to know everything about anything. This means that we should never be absolutely certain about anything because it is probably a sign that we know nothing about it.

“If he is infinitely good, what reason should we have to fear him? If he is infinitely wise, why should we have doubts concerning the future? If he knows all, why warn him of our needs and fatigue him with prayers? If he is everywhere, why erect temples to him? Percy Bysshe Shelley

I like this quote because it asks some good questions. The Old Testament says many times that God should be feared, but many people believe in a benevolent God. If God has ultimate wisdom, then shouldn’t the future be set? Shouldn’t we know for sure if and when everything is going to end? Though I like the temple bit best. Are religious buildings necessary? If they aren’t, why treat them with any sort of deference?

“Lighthouses are more helpful than churches.” Benjamin Franklin

This one goes back to the last point. We treat churches with deference, but lighthouses keep ships from sinking and we let them fall apart.

“I believe that our obligation is to make life better because it’s our obligation to each other as human beings. Not in relation to eternal rewards and infernal punishments.” Susan Jacoby

This quote is very much a humanist quote. We have a duty to help others because we’re all human. Why do we need a god to treat each other well?

“Doubt is not a pleasant condition, but certainty is a ridiculous one.” Voltaire

This quote is very similar to the first quote. We can’t know everything, so how can we justify certainty? It’s better to admit not knowing than it is to pretend to knowledge that isn’t there.

That is just a few of my thoughts on a few useful quotes.

Another Rant, Because They Seem to Only Work For a Short Time

Today is one of those days where I can really understand the atheists who avoid the whole religion discussion. And even the ones who want nothing more than to antagonize the religious. For the most part, I’d prefer to have an honest conversation with those that I disagree with. I want to get to know them as people and understand why them believe what the believe. I have no intention of converting anyone, but I do like to have these conversations.

However, it is really hard to find people who share this interest. I know a number of atheists who enjoy it, but, since I’m an atheist, these conversations are pointless to have with them. At least, they are in the way that I have them in religious believers. This is one reason why I like interfaith groups: the people there are usually happy to have conversations about belief, both in general and theirs personally. And they’re genuinely interested to hear about my belief. But most religious people are not like that. If I try to start these conversations with believers, I find I get one of two responses: they either lash out angrily or they throw rhetoric at me and it never goes farther than that.

And the responses are worse when it comes to my own blog. Luckily, I have found a few people who are interested in having real conversations. They will ask me questions and actually expect an answer in return. They will reply politely and will remain friendly throughout the entire conversation. And, to those of you who fit this description, I’d like to say thank you. Those conversations are a lot of fun and very informative. I wish all conversations were like that. But too many are not like that. Too many people come here and throw assertions at us like it’s holy water or something. They seem to think we’ve never heard these words before. They seem to think we’ll read their rhetoric that is never presented with evidence and suddenly have a revelation. But it doesn’t work like that. We’ve read it all before. We had read it long before we started blogging. It’s not going to suddenly work now because you’ve said it. Both of us are perfectly willing to respond to your issues with our posts. We don’t think we’re perfect. We don’t think that we always get it right. But rhetoric isn’t compelling. Evidence is. Give us reasons why we’re wrong, don’t just throw words at us.

We also get no few insulting comments, but I’ve already wrote a post about that. We aren’t here to be your atheist-strawmen punching bags. If you don’t like what we have to say, you don’t have to read it. Nobody is making you push the like button. Nobody is forcing you to comment. Insults aren’t productive. They won’t make us go away and they certainly won’t make us change our minds.

I set my blog up because I like writing and we both want to get our ideas out there. But right now I’m quite sick of the Christian community out there. To be fair, I’m annoyed with a few atheists too. But mostly it’s the Christians. I’m tired of the rhetoric. I’m tired of the insults. Yes, I’m an atheist, but I’m a human too. So can you please just show some respect?

What Cats Can Teach Us About Emotions and Rationality

Withteeth and I got a second cat today. We’re going back to school soon and will be leaving our cats alone for a good portion of the day. Our first cat, Mazy, is very energetic and doesn’t like it when we leave her, so we were hoping that a second cat would make our absence more bearable. However, as far as she’s concerned, this is her territory, so she’s a bit concerned about the new cat.

Earlier today, Withteeth accidentally stepped on Mazy’s foot because she walked under him. At that time, she was intently watching our other cat, Benny. She was so focused on Benny that when the pain struck she associated it with him and struck out at him. Poor Benny didn’t know what to think.

This got me thinking: how often do we focus so hard on something that we associate everything bad with it, even when the bad is a completely separate issue? It seems to me that humans are quite good at doing this. We misassociate an effect with the wrong cause. But this isn’t really all that surprising: we have emotions and they play a large role in our lives. The best that we can hope to do is step back and look at things as rationally as possible. To try and find the right cause before we make assumptions. We can’t always do this. Sometimes we’re going to find it impossible to step back far enough. We’re always going to have our biases.

I don’t think that this is inherently a bad thing. Our emotions shouldn’t be viewed as something to be overcome, just as something that can’t always be trusted. I think that most people make the mistake of assuming that their emotions are infallible. They won’t step back and think about them critically. But there are other people who make the opposite mistake. They try to rationalize everything, and believe themselves capable of doing this very thing. They think that every conclusion that they come to is purely rational, causing them to not see their own biases and misassociations. This is as problematic as taking emotions as infallible. In the first case, one will act on emotion before they’ve really thought about the situation, which will lead to them making mistakes. In the second case, the person will act on emotion, call it rationality, and make mistakes.

So what is my point here? Acknowledge your emotions, acknowledge that they aren’t perfect, try to be rational when possible, but realize that you will react emotionally and that is not always a bad thing. Don’t punish yourself for being emotional and making mistakes. Don’t punish yourself from being human. And don’t hold others to higher standards than it is possible for them to achieve.

A brief point on consent

Let’s talk a bit about ambiguous consent, and the double standard we have in our society toward sex, verses other social contracts. In no other area are we so comfortable in saying that ambiguous consent is “good enough” for sex, or whatever else may be implied. It’s basically like this: a person is going to a party, they begin talking to the host about how much they like host’s TV and ask if they can have it, but the host, for whatever reason, doesn’t make it clear if they can have the TV, only giving an ambiguous answer. Since there was no clear communication of “no, you can’t have my TV” then it must be safe to assume the host was saying yes.

“Hell, no,” you’re probably saying, and good! That person who went to the party stole that TV from the host, yet why then do we say ambiguous consent is okay when it comes to sex? People will jump in and say “well, some people play hard-to-get,” or “non-verbal communication isn’t clear communication, so it’s ambiguous.” I have some hard stances in this area, particularly since in every other area dealing with contracts the law and cultural understanding is clear*. If someone is playing hard-to-get, and there isn’t some sort of clear communication that they are doing it, then you should assume that they are saying “no.” They are not giving clear consent, so any respectable person should not have sex with them until they give that clear consent. And, if your non-verbal communication isn’t clear, you’re doing it wrong. If you’re hot and bothered, and so is you partner, and there is a lot of reciprocal grabbing of body parts, particularly genitals, you’re almost certainly safe to go forward. But, if one partner is not reciprocating, particularly if they are laying still, not moving, or if they look like they are uncomfortable or scared, that’s when you stop and ask for consent directly.

Or better yet you just ask for consent right at the beginning, and then keep asking as you’re going along and trying out new things. Plus, this can be really hot, so honestly there is no downside, unless you actually do want to rape people. But, if you’re going about fulfilling that particular desire, you should be going to jail for what should be obvious reasons.

*Take business as another example, you can’t take over a business just because someone said it might be a good idea. That sort of thing need clear and written consent of both parties. I’m not saying you need written consent to have sex like with legal contracts, but you need clear affirmative consent like you would with other social contracts.


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