Readings in Sex and Gender

There have been plenty of people who appear to want education and/or debate on the topics of sex and gender recently. I’m not going to give you debate, in part because this isn’t my field. I don’t know enough to make any debate produce anything useful.

Education, however, I can help with. If you want to understand sex, gender, and how debates over both have been used against trans people, you’d do worse than to read these free, online resources. And even if you do want debate, you want to be debating from a place of education, right? [Read more…]

Saturday Storytime: The Totally Secret Origin of Foxman: Excerpts from an EPIC Autobiography

My friend Kelly McCullough just launched his new book, School for Sidekicks, this week. (No, literally, he launched it.) It’s his first middle-grade book after a history of writing for adults, and it’s getting ridiculously good reviews. This story is set in the same universe, though the protagonist and the intended audience are both older.

The railway provided us with a little slice of urban wilderness mostly cut off from the city around it. We could sit on the brush-covered slopes out of sight of anyone official and do the sorts of things that teenage boys playing hooky have always done. There were bums around, sure, but we had something of a truce with the regulars. Besides, we were fifteen and sixteen—you know, invulnerable.

But tonight was different. Tonight we were going to test my rocket board. It was December fifteenth, around six p.m.—solidly dark and into rush hour. There’d been some real snow finally, which made the pavement into a death trap for a skateboard going a reasonable speed. Add in the rocket . . . yeah. Not going to happen. Not inside the warehouse either. I’d already had plenty of warning about the dangers of mixing rocket fuel and interior spaces.

That’s how I’d settled on the railway. Not only was it clear of snow, but it was a perfect straightaway. I’d had to rig up a custom wheel set and a magnetic lock, but now the only way off that rail involved me hitting the toe release. That meant I didn’t need to worry about turns or bumps or anything but staying on the board. Perfect!

Michael shook his head as I locked the board onto the rail. “I don’t know, Rand. Don’t you think this is kind of dangerous? Maybe an unmanned test first . . .”

“Don’t worry. I’ve already tested the thrust on the rocket seventeen ways from Sunday. It’ll barely get me up to fifteen miles an hour before it tops out. A bike goes way faster than that. If anything goes wrong I can jump clear easy. It’ll be fine.”

“What about the bridge?”

“That’s nearly a mile away. I don’t even have enough fuel to make it that far. I’m going to go half a mile on rocket assist, max. I’ll coast to a stop well short of the bridge. I’ve done all the math more times than I’d care to count.”

I was more nervous than that, but hell if I’d admit it to Michael. I did check the straps on my helmet and various pads one more time. I know I didn’t mention them in the script version of this scene, but that’s the movies, man. Safety gear isn’t cinematic. I stepped up onto the board.

“Wish me luck.”

“Good luck, crazy man!”

I poised the toe of my sneaker above the rocket engage, and . . .

The world vanished with an intense purple flash like the world’s biggest black-light strobe firing off. For one brief instant I could see Michael’s skeleton like a green framework within the translucent purple outline of his body—oddly, nothing else seemed to go translucent. But I barely registered that over a sensation that felt like someone pumping every cell in my body full of hydrogen and lighting it on fire.

KRAKOOOOM!

The sound of the Hero Bomb hit like summer lightning taking out the tree I was leaning on. If not for the sheltering banks of the railway, I think it might have knocked me off the board. Is it any wonder I accidentally stomped on the rocket ignition?

Keep reading.

What Is a Blogger to Do?

Okay. This can’t affect the outcome for the individual in question vis a vis the network anymore. Time for some answers. What do you do, as a network-entrenched blogger:

Street scene in black and white with yellow caution sign saying, "Quiet Zone".

“Quiet Zone” by CPG Grey, CC BY 2.0

When you see a colleague react to being told they’ve retweeted people who advocate for the exclusion of trans women from radical feminist spaces and women-oriented services (also known as TERFs) with blocking, hostility to being given this information publicly, and discussions on their Facebook page about how “TERF” is a term used by younger feminists to invalidate older feminists?

When you see them tell someone that some people would look at his gender nonconformity and tell him he is trans, however he identifies?

When you see them repeatedly deride feminine-identified clothing, grooming, and verbal expressions?

When you see them publish a post that ambiguously blames either a trans woman or the magazine telling her story for putting pressure on women to perform femininity, then have them argue to you specifically that trans women bear a responsibility not to do this?

When you see them link and quote from a post that says trans women aren’t women because they don’t have a common girlhood with cis women?

When you see them link to a trans person and say, “See? This is what I was saying. Why would you be upset with me”, when it wasn’t what they were saying at all?

When you see them flat-out deny that the people who call them trans-antagonistic or even a TERF in response to posts like those have any history to base this judgment on (despite having seen some of it yourself)? [Read more…]

“Center for Medical Progress”, Amanda Marcotte on Atheists Talk

This week, the Center for Medical Progress has released its fifth video claiming to show that Planned Parenthood is illegally selling aborted fetuses for medical research. This video, like each video before it, has been shown to be deceptively edited to hide Planned Parenthood’s actual practices–allowing abortion patients in a small number of states to donate tissue as a service to those patients. In response to the deceptive video, Senate Republicans attempted to defund Planned Parenthood and failed. In the meantime, the Center for Medical Progress is being investigated for illegal practices of their own.

This Sunday, Amanda Marcotte, writer and host of the RH Reality Cast, will return to Atheists Talk to fill us in on these videos and place them in the context of the current political assault on reproductive rights.

Related Links:

Listen to AM 950 KTNF this Sunday at 9 a.m. Central to hear Atheists Talk, produced by Minnesota Atheists. Stream live online. Call in to the studio at 952-946-6205, or send an e-mail to radio@mnatheists.org during the live show. If you miss the live show, listen to the podcast later.

Follow Atheists Talk on Facebook and Twitter for regular updates. If you like the show, consider supporting us with a one-time or sustaining donation.

Abuse and Power in Activist Spaces

This is the most recent essay I delivered to my patrons. If you want to support more work like this, you can sign up here.

Over the last couple of years, there’s been a lot of talk about toxicity or abuse in activist cultures. The overwhelming majority of this talk has been crap scapegoating some of the most vulnerable people in activism. As it turns out, when the largest space is given to privileged voices talking about social justice activism, Sturgeon’s Law is an understatement.

Still, there are good, thoughtful people doing good, thoughtful work on the topic. A few pieces worth reading:

I would argue with some of those pieces here and there, but they’re all written by activists putting in work to think about and articulate what activist spaces need from and for their members. Beyond pieces like these, there is a small world of internet writers unpacking different social interactions and general approaches to social interaction that is worth checking in on if the topic interests you. I recommend Miri’s Brute Reason Tumblr and Kate Donovan’s Monday Miscellany posts as aggregators, though both contain plenty other interesting content as well.

Composite photo of a woman pictured twice, once in the background with tape on her mouth and once in the foreground holding out her arms to shield her silent self.

“Don’t Speak” by Kristin Schmit, CC BY 2.0

Quibbles aren’t what this post is about, however. This post is about making sure we don’t underestimate what it will take to deal with abuse in communities of activists who are themselves marginalized. This is about understanding the costs of viewing abusive behavior primarily as something to be excised. It’s about recognizing the skill required to navigate desperation and conflict. It’s also about recognizing the power that good communicators have within these communities even as they remain otherwise marginalized. [Read more…]

Farewell and Thank You to the Ada Initiative

Today, the Ada Initiative announced that it will be shutting down in October. It wasn’t a surprise to me. Having worked closely with Valerie in the past, I was told last week, but even before that, I knew it might be coming. The announced end of AdaCamp a month ago was only one hint.

Ada Initiative founders Val and Mary are working to make all their projects open source, and others have already expressed determination to keep those projects growing and changing to meet the needs of more women in open technology and culture. This is a very good thing indeed. In fact, it might turn the end of the Ada Initiative into exactly what we all need. [Read more…]

Mock the Movie: Farewell Edition

Roddy Piper had a knack for being appealing in some very terrible movies. Watch Hell Comes to Frogtown if you want to know what I’m talking about. (Don’t watch Hell Comes to Frogtown. Just don’t.) To commemorate his work on the occasion of his recent death, we’re going to watch one of those movies this Wednesday: Tough and Deadly. Then we’re going to mock the hell out of it, because that’s what we do.

This one is available on YouTube. [Read more…]

Saturday Storytime: The Shape of My Name

Time travel stories are hard to do well. They’re even harder when they don’t hide where they’re going, when the map of time is laid out on the table so the story is all about the travel. This story by Nino Cipri manages that and more. Thank you to all the readers at Lady Business who recommended it.

I had two childhoods.

One happened between Dad’s ten-day hitches in the White County oil fields. That childhood smells like his tobacco, wool coats, wet grass. It sounds like the opening theme songs to all our favorite TV shows. It tastes like the peanut-butter sandwiches that you’d pack for us on our walks, which we’d eat down by the pond, the same one I can just barely see from my window here. In the summer, we’d sit at the edge of the water, dipping our toes into the mud. Sometimes, Dad told me stories, or asked me to fill him in on the episodes of Gunsmoke and Science Fiction Theatre he’d missed, and we’d chat while watching for birds. The herons have always been my favorite. They moved so slow, it always felt like a treat to spot one as it stepped cautiously through the shallow water. Sometimes, we’d catch sight of one flying overhead, its wide wings fighting against gravity.

And then there was the childhood with you, and with Dara, the childhood that happened when Dad was away. I remember the first morning I came downstairs and she was eating pancakes off of your fancy china, the plates that were decorated with delicate paintings of evening primrose.

“Hi there. I’m Dara,” she said.

When I looked at you, shy and unsure, you told me, “She’s a cousin. She’ll be dropping in when your father is working. Just to keep us company.”

Dara didn’t really look much like you, I thought; not the way that Dad’s cousins and uncles all resembled one another. But I could see a few similarities between the two of you; hazel eyes, long fingers, and something I didn’t have the words to describe for a long time: a certain discomfort, the sense that you held yourselves slightly apart from the rest of us. It had made you a figure of gossip in town, though I didn’t know that until high school, when the same was said of me.

“What should I call you?” Dara asked me.

You jumped in and told her to call me by my name, the one you’d chosen for me, after the week of indecision following my birth. How can I ever make you understand how much I disliked that name? It felt like it belonged to a sister whom I was constantly being compared to, whose legacy I could never fulfill or surpass or even forget. Dara must have caught the face that I made, because later, when you were out in the garden, she asked me, “Do you have another name? That you want me to call you instead?”

When I shrugged, she said, “It doesn’t have to be a forever name. Just one for the day. You can pick a new one tomorrow, if you like. You can introduce yourself differently every time you see me.”

And so every morning when I woke up and saw Dara sitting at the table, I gave her a different name: Doc, Buck, George, Charlie. Names that my heroes had, from television and comics and the matinees in town. They weren’t my name, but they were better than the one I had. I liked the way they sounded, the shape of them rolling around my mouth.

You just looked on, lips pursed in a frown, and told Dara you wished she’d quit indulging my silly little games.

Keep reading.

“Legal Battles Loom for LGBT,” Annie Laurie Gaylor on Atheists Talk

On June 26, 2015, the United States Supreme Court, in a historic vote, moved our nation one step closer to finding equality under the law by legalizing same sex marriage nationally.  There are many in the religious right, however, unwilling to allow their fellow citizens participate fully in society.  Unfortunately, in far too many cases, those in the religious right are also in positions of power, or have the authority to exercise control over the freedoms of their fellow Americans.

On this episode, we welcome Annie Laurie Gaylor, cofounder of the Freedom From Religion Foundation, editor for Freethought Today, the nation’s only freethought newspaper.  In addition to her editorial and leadership roles within the FFRF, Annie also has found time to author the books Woe to Women: The Bible Tells Me So, Betrayal of Trust: Clergy Abuse of Children, and Women Without Superstition: No Gods – No Masters.  Annie is here to discuss, and help us understand what obligations are there for people in the religious right have when it comes to executing the duties government. We’ll also discuss areas of continued, state-sanctioned discrimination where people across the entire LGBTQIAA spectrum still face hurdles on a daily basis.

We welcome Annie Laurie Gaylor to the show to bring her expertise and experience on legal issues concerning this new tactic to punch a hole in the wall between church and state.

Related Links:

Listen to AM 950 KTNF this Sunday at 9 a.m. Central to hear Atheists Talk, produced by Minnesota Atheists. Stream live online. Call in to the studio at 952-946-6205, or send an e-mail to radio@mnatheists.org during the live show. If you miss the live show, listen to the podcast later.

Follow Atheists Talk on Facebook and Twitter for regular updates. If you like the show, consider supporting us with a one-time or sustaining donation.

Saturday Storytime: When Your Child Strays From God

Sometimes a bad review will lead you to a story you’ll like. In the case of this story from Sam J. Miller, it was the reviewer’s distaste for the name “Carolina Bugtuttle”. Combine that with the religious themes, and I knew that the protagonist inhabited a world that would be at home in an alternate Green Gables universe. And though the comparison feels very strange given the trappings of the story, I was right.

Understand: Timmy was not a bad boy. There was a sweet curious creative little nugget inside that lanky angular body he’d metamorphosed into. Love and kindness, buried under all the hate and anger. He acted like everyone in the world hated him, and preemptively acted to hate them harder. Every single day, it seemed, he made my husband so mad he spit nails.

This, of course, was my fault. Everything a child does is his mother’s fault.

We venture now into territory that could potentially be the subject of another e-bulletin: Confronting the Whore Your Son Is Dating. I have lots to say on the subject, not all of it germane to the subject at hand, although my husband Pastor Jerome would say that’s never stopped me before, since The Deacon’s Wife routinely goes On and On about Unnecessary Details No One Cares About, but I say what the heck. That’s what the internet is for.

A brachiosaurus raced me most of the way to Susan’s house, every heavy footfall shaking my teeth, some of them an arm’s length from my soccer-mom SUV, and I wondered what would happen if one of them came down squarely on top of it.

Webslingers have a lot of theories about the things they see in the webworld, none of it backed up by science but all of it rooted strongly in This Happened To a Friend of a Friend of Mine. Some visions were real things, transformed, like how Marge became Pug-Marge. The brachiosaurus could have been a tractor, or a bug. Some visions were total figments of the imagination—though whose imagination exactly, and what they meant, was the subject of endless webhead debate. Some slingers said the visions couldn’t hurt you—So and So got stabbed like a dozen times by Bettie Crocker and that teapot from Beauty and the Beast one time and she bled until she passed out and when she woke up she was stone cold sober and unharmed—and some said web-world wounds would follow you, Freddie-Kruger-style, into the real world. Drugs are maddeningly resistant to methodical study, or even rational scrutiny.

To be honest, though, all the dinosaurs were a good sign. Timmy used to love dinosaurs. When he was little. The fact that his webworld was packed full of them meant maybe he was in a peaceful happy childlike state of mind.

I passed a skate park. Teenagers moved through the little hills and curves, on rollerblades and skateboards, enjoying the sudden snap of early-spring warmth. What did it mean, I wondered, that every one of them had a horse head? That they were dumb animals, or that they were strong and noble? Being on drugs was a lot of work. I’d only been under for a half hour and already I was exhausted.

You may imagine, fellow congregant, that risking death or imprisonment by venturing out into the world Under the Influence was the most frightening part of my ordeal. Not so! For I realized, as the horses watched me pass with hostile looks on their faces, that the law and bodily harm were the least of my worries. The real terror came from two warring forces that threatened to crack me open. The first was love: that tether that tied me down, a choking liquid swamp I floundered in, thick and warm as phlegm, floodwaters that had started rising the second I took a hit of webbing, the only thing I couldn’t vanquish with a Good Attitude. Love for Timmy, helpless maternal love that overpowered my anger at everything he’d put us through.

The second was fear.

Keep reading.