Coming Out Day

Today, Oct. 11, is National Coming Out Day for LGBTQ, tomorrow is National Atheist Coming Out Day.  I have a lot of admiration for the reasoning behind these days — the more people realize that they know people who are different from them, the less different those people are going to seem.  If you’ve never met an open atheist, you probably think atheists are weird creatures who all talk like Christopher Hitchens (I wish!), but when you realize someone you already know and like is an atheist, it makes you rethink your prejudices.

That being said, I don’t like Coming Out Days, on a personal level, even though I completely agree with the political agenda and logic behind it.  That’s because I’m not a big fan of labels.

It’s a little easier with atheism, because I have a very clear idea of where I stand philosophically, and there are a dozen terms I could use for myself, though they don’t always make me feel totally at home.  Skeptic, atheist, agnostic, nonbeliever, nonreligious, antitheist, freethinker, bright, rationalist, skeptic.  None of those is inaccurate, but it always feels so reductive.

It is much, much harder for me when it comes to LGBT Coming Out Day.  There’s a little box the HRC (don’t get me started) asks you to fill out to describe yourself: are you a straight ally, lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer?  And I don’t really think of myself as any of those.  I don’t really think sexuality is one of those things that is very binary, and the idea that I have to reduce it to something that can be described in one word is just impossible.

I grew up in the gay community, I’ve always felt at home with the LGBT community in general.  Except, there’s a little voice in the back of my head, so quiet as to be easily missed, that says “They think you’re straight.  They think you’re a breeder.  They think you aren’t one of them.”  I don’t identify as straight, partially because I grew up hearing straight people not spoken very highly of, and partially because I find women attractive — I find people attractive based mostly on their personality and things that aren’t strictly based on their genitals.  I know, that’s a radical thought — but, realistically, I don’t see myself in a relationship with a woman.  It could happen, but I don’t think it will.  Therefore, do I really want to call myself bisexual and have to deal with everyone saying that it’s either for attention or a stage on the way to gayness?  That’s a fight I’m just not interested in fighting, because it’s almost never going to come up.

So, what then for the people on Coming Out Day who are like me?  Who don’t have a label they understand as related to them?  Shouldn’t I feel included in the movement?  What about those people who are agnostics who really aren’t comfortable Coming Out as Atheists, shouldn’t they feel included too?  Greta Christina posted about how the Atheist movement should really be working hard to include agnostics and secularists (secular ally?) because we’ve seen what happens in the gay community when you exclude bisexuals, and I think that’s true.

I hope there will be a day when the stigma is no longer attached to being atheist or gay, and I know coming out is incredibly important on that front, I just wish the price wasn’t having to reduce yourself to a label, to have to assume the responsibility of making a whole group look good, and to have people assume your entire identity is your sexuality or nonbelief.  But I think there will be a day when Coming Out Day is completely pointless, because no one cares.

I went to church: The Review

I went to the Unitarian Universalist Church in Columbia, SC, for the first time today.  It was, well it was church, which is to say it was mostly boring.  Someone recognized my name as being a blog, though, so that was pretty cool.  And everyone was super nice, friendly, and non-proselytizey.  Additionally, the minister laughed at something funny I said, so that was good.

I like the people who go to the church and what they stand for and the sermon was pretty interesting — I mean, the minister is an atheist, so it’s not really anything like church church, but it still involved the stand up, sit down, sing this, dunk the baby in water thing.  Basically, all the rituals that made church seem ridiculous and boring when I was a teenager.  It turns out, I didn’t ever grow out of this phase, to the shock of absolutely no one.

I grew up in the Episcopal Church, which I didn’t particularly like, though I have some respect for in terms of its politics and liberalness.  Church involved getting forced to wake up early, wear uncomfortable clothes, sit in incredibly uncomfortable chairs and listen to things you couldn’t care less about with the constant threat of disciplinary action if you did something interesting like read or draw — and frankly I got enough of that at school.  My instinctive feeling that church is similar to prison is, therefore, not working in its favor.

So what I learned is that church without the creepy Jesus bits is still pretty churchy.

However, after the service, I got to spend some time with a lot of the people there, and they are interesting, snarky liberals whose company I enjoy.  And the thing I did like about the service was that it was a relatively small congregation, so it was sort of informal and absolutely nothing like going to a service at Trinity Cathedral (read: pompous).  So, hopefully there are ways to get to know the people that don’t involve the hellish torture of listening to “If I had a Hammer” ever, ever again.  Ever.

People assume, for some unfathomable reason, that because I’m a progressive, liberal type person that I am also into hippie-dippie, touchy-feely, hand-holding, peacenik circle jerks singing Kumbaya and saving the Earth by composting and like loving animals and nature.  I am not that person.  I think 90% of my dislike of service would be fixed if the music wasn’t… what it is.  *shudder*

Not that church has ever been something I’ve missed or particularly wanted in my life, but it’d be nice to get to know some like-minded people.

50 Book Challenge: 46 – 50

It’s all over!  50 books in 39 weeks.  What’ll I do now?

46. Right Ho, Jeeves – P.G. Wodehouse

In the last year or so, I watched all of Jeeves and Wooster, starring the delightful Fry and Laurie.  It should be noted that I am in love with both Stephen Fry and Hugh Laurie, and therefore also in love with P.G. Wodehouse.  Wodehouse is also one of Christopher Hitchens’ favorites, so there’s that connection as well.  I did really enjoy the book, though I must say that I’m not sure I enjoyed it more than watching Jeeves and Wooster.  I think it does the show great credit that there was nothing jarring at all about reading the books, I felt like I’d already done so.

47. The Last Hero – Terry Pratchett, read by Stephen Briggs

This was a pretty funny story about a bunch of old heroes trying to bring about the end of the world by “returning fire to the gods” in the form of a giant bomb.  It also had Rincewind, Leonard of Quirm, the librarian and the patrician trying to stop them.  It was a solid adventure story.

48. The Amazing Maurice and his Educated Rodents – Terry Pratchett, read by Stephen Briggs

This is hands down the best book of the Discworld series.  It’s stand alone and I highly recommend it to anyone who has any interest in Terry Pratchett, fairy tales, young adult fiction, or hilariousness.  It’s like a cross between the pied piper, the rats of NIMH and Terry Pratchett’s general awesomeness.  This may be my favorite book I’ve read all year.

49. Soccernomics – Simon Kuper and Stefan Syzmanski

This book is exactly what you think it is, basically a statistical approach to soccer analyzing what makes a good soccer team, not from the perspective of who is a good player, but what elements it takes for a country to field a good national team.  It’s really interesting if you’re nerdy and like soccer, since it’s soccer with a lot of numbers.  I enjoyed it.

50. Night Watch – Terry Pratchett, read by Stephen Briggs

I actually stopped listening to the audiobook and read the last third of this book because I wanted to get through it faster.  This is a sort of alternate dimension, going into the past story, but I quite liked it because it offered some background on all of the older characters.  In particular, it was nice to see the Patrician as a student.  I love the patrician.  If you like the other books about the watch, then you’ll probably like this one, I did.