ICYMI, Three Recent Splice Today Articles I Think You All Will Appreciate

As you may or may not know, I recently started writing for Baltimore-based website Splice Today which covers politics, art, and culture. Here are three recent articles I wrote for them that I think y’all might like:

Fear Builds Walls: How Pink Floyd’s The Wall Predicted Trump

Gender Dysphoria as a Still, Small Voice (It’s pretty emotionally raw, so discretion is advised)

The Failure of Classical Liberalism (Oh boy, this is gonna piss off the Free Speech Warriors!)

So yeah, hope you like them.

A Dream Come True–My Guest Spot on This Week’s Everyone’s Agnostic Podcast

One of my favorite podcasts is Everyone’s Agnostic where every week Cass Midgley and Bob Pondillo interview people about their deconversion stories. I always wanted to be on their show, and a few weeks ago I got my wish. Our discussion is now online, and you can listen to it here.

How Trump Will Fail Transgender Youth – My Latest Article For The Humanist

Last Wednesday the Trump administration overturned Obama’s transgender student protection directive, which ordered schools to let transgender students use whatever bathrooms and locker rooms match their gender identities. Thirteen states sued the Obama administration soon after the directive was issued in May of last year, and then federal judge Reed O’Connor of Texas issued an injunction to block it. According to the New York Times, President Trump had decided to leave the injunction in place, but then changed his mind and overturned Obama’s directive altogether.

It’s been reported that the Trump administration sees trans-bathroom rights as a state issue, not a federal one, hence the decision. “Schools, communities and families can find—and in many cases have found—solutions that protect all students,” said Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos. Many conservatives, including Students and Parents for Privacy member Vicki Wilson, applauded the president’s decision to protect girls from sharing bathrooms and locker rooms with young men who they say are “struggling with these issues” (even though, as I’ve mentioned before, trans people are not confused). DeVos says anti-bullying policies will still remain intact, but is that enough to protect trans youth? Studies suggest that anti-LGBTQ legislation does the exact opposite.

A study recently published in JAMA looked at the relationship between legalized same-sex marriage (prior to the 2015 Supreme Court decision) and suicide attempts among LGBTQ youth. “Same-sex marriage policies were associated with a 7 percent reduction in the proportion of all high school students reporting a suicide attempt within the past year. The effect was concentrated among adolescents who were sexual minorities,” the study reports. “As countries around the world consider enabling or restricting same-sex marriage,” the researchers conclude, “we provide evidence that implementing same-sex marriage policies was associated with improved population health.” While the report only focuses on marriage equality and not transgender bathroom policies, this study suggests that government limitations of LGBTQ rights in general further stigmatize LGBTQ youth and could lead more LGBTQ youth to attempt suicide.

Click here to read the rest.

Bi Any Means Podcast #87: Trans Rights, Inciting Incidents, and the PC Lie with Marissa McCool

rismccool

My guest for today is Marissa McCool. She’s the co-host of the Inciting Incident podcast, and is the author of several books, including her latest, “The PC Lie: How American Voters Decided I Don’t Matter.” Today we’re going to get to know Ris and all the great stuff she’s doing.

Listen to “Bi Any Means Podcast #87: Trans Rights, Inciting Incidents, and the PC Lie with Marissa McCool” on Spreaker.

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Between Fear and Bravery: Being Queer in a Small Town — My Latest Bitopia Article

Two strangers pass each other in Target. One is an old man pushing a shopping cart, and the other is wearing Revlon candy-apple lip butter, a black t-shirt that says “Proud to be Genderqueer and Bi,” baby blue nail polish, women’s capris, and women’s flip-flops. The two exchange glances. The old man keeps looking, not knowing what to say, while the other looks back and thinks two things: “That’s right, go ahead and say something” and “please don’t stare at me, sir.”

That sums up being a bisexual AMAB genderqueer person living in a small town. I walk the line between being out and proud, and secretly wishing to run back inside the closet. Some days I want to walk down the street yelling: “Ask me about my pronouns!” Other days I just want to say: “Um, I just want to use this gender-neutral bathroom and go home.”

Despite all the recent progress made towards transgender equality in my home state of Maryland — the Fairness for All Marylanders Act of 2014 and the more recent transgender birth certificate law — it’s still hard for me to be an out and open queer person. Maryland is considered a blue state, but there are some areas that are quite red. For example, I live in a small town in Maryland’s Eastern Shore region. It’s a beautiful town full of art, culture and probably the best coffee shop in the world. And yet it’s still a small town, so when it comes to LGBTQ equality, the general attitude around here is: “I’m okay with it as long as I don’t have to see it.” Hence, the LGBTQ community is almost underground around here.

Click here to read the rest.

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Genderqueer Literature Review #1: Alternating Gender Incongruity

As you know, I’ll be speaking at this year’s American Humanist Association conference about what it means to be genderqueer/nonbinary. I’m currently doing research for my talk, and since most of the scientific papers I’m using aren’t available for the general public (or at least not for free), I’ve decided to do a literature review series for my blog summarizing these articles.

The first is a 2012 paper by Laura K. Case and Vilayanur S. Ramachandran published in Medical Hypotheses called “Alternative gender incongruity: A new neuropsychiatric syndrome providing insight into the dynamic plasticity of brain-sex.” In the study, Case and Ramachandran created an online survey posted in a group for people who identify as bigender. The study had a total of 39 participants, although they had to eliminate one participant for having Multiple Personality Disorder, and three for having Dissociative Identity Disorder. This was done, I assume, in order to rule out the possibility of confusing gender fluidity with something completely different.

According to the survey, 14 participants reporting involuntarily “switching” their gender identities daily, 9 said weekly, 6 said monthly, and 4 said several times a year. The study also reveals “21/32 bigender respondents reported experiencing phantom body parts and rated them as moderate in strength (mean = 2.9 on a scale of 1 = weak and 5 = very strong)” (627). Case and Ramachandran reiterate that these cases of gender fluidity and phantom body parts happen involuntarily, so it’s not just “wishful thinking” (628).

In conclusion, Case and Ramachandran theorize that being bigender–or as they refer to it in the report, “alternating gender incongruity (AIG)”–“to be a neuropsychiatric condition; we reject false dichotomies between so-called ‘‘neurological’’ and ‘‘psychological’’ conditions” (629). They also believe that studying bigender people can help us better understand the complexities of gender.

I should point out that, according to Gary Stix of Scientific America points out, Medical Hypotheses is a “controversial journal” that “only adopted a peer-review system in 2010.” Nevertheless, the article sheds a little bit of light on the Big Question that drive skeptics bananas: Is there a scientific cause for non-binary gender identities? We know there’s plenty of evidence suggesting one for binary transgender people, but so far (that I know of) none for non-binaries, hence the reason why so many skeptics scream, “There are only two genders, you special snowflake!” While this particular article doesn’t say either way, it speculates that there might be a scientific basis for non-binary gender identities.

What do you think?

Quick Update On Discovering My Gender Identity

Oh hai blog!

As you’ve probably noticed, I haven’t blogged since late October, and there’s a good reason for that: Stringing words together in a way that they form something coherent really takes a lot out of me. You would think as a writer, the words just naturally flow out of me. Nope! I’ve got so many thoughts going on in my head that if I tried to write them all down, I would make the biggest and messiest word salad of all time. Hence the reason why I’ve been focusing on the Bi Any Means and Biskeptical podcasts; I put so much creative energy into those shows that I hardly have enough leftover energy for blogging.

But I do want to give you all some good news.

I started seeing a gender therapist via Skype in October. After our first session, I wondered if maybe I was more gender-nonconforming than transgender since I didn’t have the textbook discomfort with my genitals during puberty (I still don’t). But the reason why I started seeing her was to figure out my gender identity, so I went with the flow. During our second session, though, I told her I was in my 20s when I first thought, “If I had a different anatomy, I’d probably feel a lot better about my body.” I also told her that while I don’t feel the need to take hormones or have surgery, I really want to get electrolysis for my body hair (which is quite a lot since part of my ethnic heritage is Italian).

My gender therapist said, “You’re definitely not cis. Cis men aren’t uncomfortable with their body hair. Cis men don’t look at beautiful women and want to look like them.”

So I’m not just a cis person appropriating trans language to make myself hip and cool! Oh thank you God That I Don’t Believe In!

Having said that, though, she said right now I’m over-analyzing things, and that right now I need to just live the questions like Rilke. She said eventually the answers will come from inside. I totally respect that, so we’re on a break from seeing each other for now.

Although my gender therapist believes I’m a trans woman, right now I still identify as genderqueer/a non-binary trans person. Yes, being born with a different anatomy would’ve probably made me feel better about my body, but I’m still not sure. Right now, though, I’m taking my gender therapist’s advice and just living the questions.

In the meantime, you can still call me Trav, and my pronouns are still they/them/their. Yes, that even includes you, Slymepitters!

Bi Any Means Podcast #75: Conversations with a Gender Therapist with Dara Hoffman-Fox

As seen on a Sussex Directories Inc site

My guest for today is gender therapist Dara Hoffman-Fox. Dara is a Licensed Professional Counselor, and is the author of the book “You and Your Gender Identity: A Guide to Discovery.” Dara also has a YouTube channel where Dara answers questions and gives advice. Today we’re going to talk about what it means to be a gender therapist, what the process is for discovering one’s gender identity, and general misconceptions about transgender people.

Listen to “Bi Any Means Podcast #75: Conversations with a Gender Therapist with Dara Hoffman-Fox” on Spreaker.

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FYI, Jaclyn Glenn Still Sucks

So it’s been a year since the Jaclyn Glenn Plagiarism Scandal where we found out everyone’s favorite YouTube Atheist literally doesn’t say anything that hasn’t been said before by millions of other atheists. She, of course, apologized, and promised she was no longer “out for blood.”  So that means if you go to Jaclyn’s YouTube page, you’ll see better videos, right?

To quote Donald Trump, “Wrong!”

A few days ago Jaclyn made a video with Arielle Scarcella basically saying that there are only two genders, and that all non-binary identified people are just making up new words. Needless to say, people hated it, including Onision, who called out Jaclyn and Arielle for being two cis women talking over trans people’s experiences. Even though Onision is an asshole himself, he made some great points. While Arielle later apologized for her ignorance, Jaclyn got defensive and did the whole “You can’t call me transphobic because I have trans friends” bullshit.

That’s not how this works, Jaclyn. That’s now how any of this works!

I already wrote a blog post criticizing Shoe0nHead’s shitty “There are only two genders” video, so I don’t want to rehash everything I said. However, I will point out that most gender therapists recognize non-binary gender identities. Nicholas M. Teich does in his 2012 book Transgender 101. So do The Transgender Institute (through which I am currently seeing a gender therapist) and British gender therapist Christina Richards. In fact, earlier this year the International Review of Psychiatry published a peer-reviewed articles co-written by Richards that gives mental health professionals a quick rundown on what it means to be genderqueer. Here’s the money quote:

The DSM-5 … includes the diagnosis of gender dysphoria which explicitly recognizes that having a different gender is not a disorder (APA, 2013b) and crucially includes the criteria:

4. A strong desire to be of the other gender (or some alternative gender from one’s assigned gender)

5. A strong desire to be treated as the other gender (or some alternative gender from one’s assigned gender)

6. A strong conviction that one has the typical feelings and reactions of the other gender (or some alternative gender from one’s assigned gender). (APA, 2013 p. 452.)

Thus non-binary genders are recognized with the APA’s diagnostic taxonomy also.

You hear that, Jaclyn? The fucking APA!

It’s been said that every skeptic has they’re own blind spot, and I guess Jaclyn’s is her insistence that if you say any social justice buzzword, you’re automatically a stupid Tumblr Feminazi SJW. The sad part is I’ve met a lot of people like that. All’s not lost, though. I have a trans friend who is highly critical of the whole non-binary thing, but I sent her the link to the International Review of Psychiatry article, and she promised to read it, so if there’s a chance she can change her mind, maybe Jaclyn can as well.

Of course she is a YouTube Atheist, so who knows?

Is Genderqueer Made Up?: A Response to Shoe0nHead

CN: Transphobia, Dysphoria

To be a good skeptic, you have to listen to what the other side has to say just in case they know something you don’t. So I decided to put on my big kid britches and watch Shoe0nHead‘s “How Many Genders??” video.

While she brought up some good points, overall the video was your typical “Goddamn SJWs” crap.

Most of the video cuts back and forth between a video of three nonbinary people talking about their experiences and Shoe basically saying, “You’re stupid! You’re all just trans-trenders! You think being trans is a fad!” Half-way through the video, anti-feminist anti-Black Lives Matter libertarian Blaire White shows up to explain that trans women’s brain patterns are different than cis men’s, and that nonbinary gender identities were “made up” by academics. The video ends with Shoe creating a false future scenario where kids who come out as straight and cis will go to electroshock therapy like gay kids did in the ’40s. Yes, you read that right!

So now that I’ve summarized the video so you don’t have to watch it, here the points I want to make:

It’s true that, according to various studies, there is a link between different brain patterns and gender identity. It’s true that gender dysphoria is a medical condition recognized by the DSM. It’s true that there are no scientific studies about the origins of nonbinary gender identities. (Believe me, I looked.) However, that’s because there haven’t been any studies on nonbinary people. The subjects of the previously mentioned studies have been binary trans people and cis people. So what we have so far isn’t proof that nonbinary genders don’t exist; scientists just haven’t studied them yet.

Now I know some of you may say, “How is that any different from people who say you can’t disprove God?” Well, unlike God, I can prove I exist, first of all. On a serious note, though, there’s enough scientific data that, if one uses deductive reasoning, can lead one to conclude that there are no gods. We don’t have enough scientific data yet to deduct that nonbinary genders don’t exist.

When it comes to White’s claim that academia “made up” nonbinary genders, that’s not entirely true. Cultural anthropologists have studied various examples of “cogender” in many cultures for years. According to Wikipedia:

In Chile, among the Mapuche in La Araucanía, in addition to heterosexual female “machi” shamanesses, there are homosexual male “machi weye” shamans, who wear female clothing.[2] These machi weye were first described in Spanish in a chronicle of 1673 A.D.[3] Among the Mapuche, “the spirits are interested in machi’s gendered discourses and performances, not in the sex under the machi’s clothes.”[4] In attracting the filew (possessing-spirit), “Both male and female machi become spiritual brides who seduce and call their filew — at once husband and master — to possess their heads … . … The ritual transvestism of male machi … draws attention to the relational gender categories of spirit husband and machi wife as a couple (kurewen).”[5] (In ISKCON—the International Society for Kṛṣṇa Consciousness—male premin-devotees are likewise regarded as quasi-female “wives” of the god Kṛṣṇa.) As concerning “co-gendered identities”[6] of “machi as co-gender specialists”,[7] it has been speculated that “female berdaches” may have formerly existed among the Mapuche.[8]

One of the most well-known examples of cogender is the Native American concept of Two-Spirit. Here’s how Sandra Laframboise and Michael Anhorn describe it:

Our Elders tell us of people who were gifted among all beings because they carried two spirits, that of male and female. It is told that women engaged in tribal warfare and married other women, as there were men who married other men. These individuals were looked upon as a third and fourth gender in many cases and in almost all cultures they were honoured and revered. Two-spirit people were often the visionaries, the healers, the medicine people, the nannies of orphans, the care givers (Roscoe 1988). They were respected as fundamental components of our ancient culture and societies. This is our guiding force as well as our source of strength. This is the heart of Two-Spirited People of the 1st Nations (2 Spirit Nation of Ontario) This paper explores what we know of the past of two-spirit people, compares that to the present experience and looks forward to the role that two-spirit people could play in the future of First Nation’s people in Canada and across North America.

 

So contrary to popular belief, Tumblr did not “invent” nonbinary genders.

The third point I want to make is the idea that some nonbinary people do undergo medical transition. According to gender therapist Dara Hoffman-Fox, the 2011 edition of the Standards of Care for the Health of Transexual, Transgender, and Gender Nonconforming People states that genderqueer, gender-fluid, and other nonbinary identified people are allowed to medically transition if they need to. Many doctors and surgeons still need a letter from a gender therapist before undergoing medical transition, of course, but medical transition is still an option for nonbinary people.

In fact, if I may get personal for a moment, I’m currently thinking about seeing a gender therapist. I’ve been having a lot of intense emotions lately involving my gender. The other day at work I had this overwhelming feeling that I’m really a girl. It wasn’t the first time I had that feeling, although I don’t feel like that all the time. All I know that the more I express myself femininely, the more comfortable I feel in my own skin. But like I said, this is something I’ll have to discuss with a gender therapist.

As for now, though, let’s use some inductive reasoning to draw some sort of conclusion. First, even though there are no scientific studies on nonbinary gender identities, there are studies that prove there is a neurological basis for gender identity. Second, the concept of gender fluidity has been a part of many cultures throughout history. Third, trans health organizations do say nonbinary people can and should seek medical transitioning if they need it. So my conclusion at this point is that nonbinary gender identity is, in fact, a thing. Of course I could be biased since I’m nonbinary, and there’s always a possibility that I’m wrong. But until new evidence shows up, that’s my story and I’m sticking to it.

(BTW, if  you’re wondering why I’m not blogging about the Trump tape, that’ll be for this week’s episode of The Biskeptical Podcast. The saltiness shall flow!)