Letters to the Future on Climate Change: I Hope We Fixed This

letters to the future logo

In December 2015, world leaders are convening in Paris soon for the critical U.N. climate talks. The Letters to the Future project is collecting letters written to future generations of their own families, predicting the success or failure of the Paris talks and what came after. (The letters will be sent to targeted delegates and citizens convening at the Paris talks.)

I was invited to participate in the project (here’s a collection of all the letters). Here’s what I wrote.

*****

To the grandkids of the kids in my life:

I wish I knew how this turned out for you.

Are you living in a reasonably healthy world? I don’t imagine you’re in a Utopia: I know human nature too well. But are you okay? Is there enough water, food, power, medicine? Is your daily life manageable, even joyful?

Or is it too hot, too dry, to sustain human life in any tolerable way? Is the world overrun with famines, mass migrations, epidemics, wars? Does my beautiful city of San Francisco even exist, or have the waters risen and drowned it? Are you not even reading this letter, because the world has disintegrated so badly that “reading letters from the past on the Internet” is not a priority, or even an option?

Did we fix this in time?

I think about social change activists of my day, and I often wonder if we’re all fools. If we don’t fix global warming, every other fight we’re fighting — for fair housing and voting rights, against misogyny and racism and plutocracy — will be a moot point. If we don’t fix global warming, now, today — game over.

I know that’s not fair. I know we all need to do the work that inspires us. And I know all these struggles are connected. Part of the reason I work so hard for a more rational, evidence-based world is that I want more people to acknowledge that global warming is real, and to take it seriously. But I often wonder if all of us — not just all activists, but all humans — are foolish beyond description to work on anything but global warming, with every scrap of power we have.

I’m an atheist and a humanist, and I have no notion that there’s another life, another world, where everything will be okay. I accept that this life is our only one, this planet the only home we have. If we don’t fix global warming, it’s game over. And I love this game. I love life. As terrible as it can be, as much as it’s filled with suffering and brutality, I love life, and humanity, and the world. So I’m working to get this right. I’m persuading as many people as I can to get this right.

I hope it’s enough.

I hope we fixed this.

I love you. I hope you’re okay.


Comforting Thoughts book cover oblong 100 JPGComing Out Atheist Bendingwhy are you atheists so angryGreta Christina is author of four books: Comforting Thoughts About Death That Have Nothing to Do with God, Coming Out Atheist: How to Do It, How to Help Each Other, and Why, Why Are You Atheists So Angry? 99 Things That Piss Off the Godless, and Bending: Dirty Kinky Stories About Pain, Power, Religion, Unicorns, & More.

Refugees, and One of the Great Shames of U.S. History

Passengers board the SS St. Louis. —US Holocaust Memorial Museum, gift of Anne Marx

Passengers board the SS St. Louis. —US Holocaust Memorial Museum, gift of Anne Marx

In July 1938, when polled on their attitudes toward allowing German, Austrian & other political refugees to come into the US, two-thirds of Americans said we should try to keep them out. Another 18% said it would be okay to accept them, but only if it didn’t mean raising our immigration quotas. Less than five percent said we should encourage them to come.

In January 1939, when asked if the US government should permit 10,000 mostly Jewish refugee children to come in from Germany, over 60% of Americans polled said, “No.”

In February 1939, a Congressional bill that would have admitted 20,000 German Jewish children above the existing immigration quota died in committee.

In May 1939, the St. Louis, a transatlantic liner with 937 passengers — almost all Jews fleeing from the Third Reich — was turned away by the United States.

Fears were raised that the Jewish refugees were politically dangerous — Communists, anarchists, potential German agents. There were economic fears about an influx of refugees in the wake of the Depression. And, of course, the very anti-Semitism the refugees were fleeing was fueling the American hostility against them.

This is one of the greatest shames in U.S. history.

Let’s not repeat it.

There are already people rushing to explain why these situations are not the same. There are already people rushing to insist that the Syrian refugees are part of ISIS or Al-Qaeda (“the Jewish refugees are dangerous anarchists and communists!”); that the Syrian refugees won’t be able to assimilate because they have low IQs (seriously?); that the two situations can’t be compared because reasons, or no reason given at all. Of course the situations aren’t identical: no two situations are. But they are damn well similar enough that we should be paying attention.

The Syrian refugees are not ISIS. The Syrian refugees are fleeing from ISIS, and from conditions created by ISIS. Let’s not repeat one of the most shameful mistakes in our history. Let’s not have to explain to our grandchildren why, in one of the greatest humanitarian crises faced by our generation, we let fear and willful ignorance overcome compassion.


Comforting Thoughts book cover oblong 100 JPGComing Out Atheist Bendingwhy are you atheists so angryGreta Christina is author of four books: Comforting Thoughts About Death That Have Nothing to Do with God, Coming Out Atheist: How to Do It, How to Help Each Other, and Why, Why Are You Atheists So Angry? 99 Things That Piss Off the Godless, and Bending: Dirty Kinky Stories About Pain, Power, Religion, Unicorns, & More.

Why Are People Bigoted, Even When It Costs Them Money?

burning moneySo there’s this interesting social justice question that has some people puzzled. Why do businesses and businesspeople continue to do things that are racist, sexist, homophobic, transphobic, ableist, classist, etc. — even when it works against their own immediate, tangible interests?

I was thinking about this when I was listening to the Cracked podcast interview with Andrew Ti, of Yo, Is This Racist? Ti was talking, among many other things, about TV producers who are weirdly not cranking out a dozen “Empire” ripoffs — even though the show is hugely successful, and even though TV is one of the most derivative industries around. (Ti was mostly talking about the sad excuses given by network execs for why they weren’t making more shows like “Empire.”)

But this question comes up a lot. It comes up in discussions of why bakers won’t sell wedding cakes to same-sex couples — even in the midst of a same-sex wedding boom. It comes up in discussions of housing, and why landlords and homeowners are less likely, even flatly unwilling, to rent or sell to black people. It comes up in discussions of hiring, and why employers reject highly qualified job candidates who would contribute greatly to their company, simply because those candidates are women/ people of color/ transgender/ otherwise marginalized. It’s absurdly common for businesspeople to perpetuate bigotry, either consciously or unconsciously — even when it means the loss of immediate, substantial profit. And this cuts across a large variety of businesses.

Sometimes this phenomenon gets treated with bafflement. “They’re so foolish! Don’t they realize they’re losing money?” Sometimes it gets treated as cause for optimism. “This means we’ll eventually win! Market forces and natural greed will break down bigotry and oppression! Capitalism will prevail!”

I don’t see it that way. I think it says something completely different. I think it says this:

The fact that people keep doing bigoted things, even when it works against their immediate financial interests, shows just how valuable privilege is.

empireEven if you lose money by not making a dozen “Empire” ripoffs, you still gain by perpetuating white privilege.

Even if you lose money by not renting or selling to black people, you still gain by perpetuating white privilege.

Even if you lose money by not hiring talented women, you still gain by perpetuating male privilege.

Even if you lose money by not selling gelato to the hundreds of attendees at an atheist convention, you still gain by perpetuating religious privilege, and more specifically Christian privilege.

Even if you lose money by refusing to sell wedding cakes to same-sex couples, you still gain by perpetuating heterosexual privilege.

Etc.

Think of it this way. Think about affirmative action, and the arguments that are most commonly marshaled against it. “You’re lowering the bar! You’re diluting the talent pool! By going out of your way to look for qualified black people, Hispanic people, women, disabled people, LGBT people — you’re discriminating against all those super-talented straight cisgender able-bodied white guys!”

If we think about this “reasoning” for six seconds, it becomes clear how absurd it is. Expanding a job search to look for qualified people who might not otherwise have been considered — that’s not diluting the talent pool. That’s expanding it. That’s getting more talented people into consideration.

And that’s exactly the problem.

Affirmative action doesn’t lower the bar. Affirmative action brings in more competition.

If you only have to compete against straight, white, cisgender, able-bodied, middle-class men — you’re going to do a whole lot better than if you’re competing against, you know, everyone. And if you’re only okay at your job — which, let’s face it, an awful lot of people are — more competition means you won’t do so well. (To use just one example: When Major League Baseball began to racially integrate, a lot of marginal white players wound up getting cut.)

And jobs are just one example. This phenomenon plays out in pretty much every business where conscious or unconscious bigotry exists — which is to say, pretty much every business.

Privilege is profitable. It’s profitable in thousands of observable, well-documented ways. It’s profitable in the long run, in the medium run, in the short run. In the (usually) unconscious cost-benefit analysis of “bigotry” versus “equality,” privilege is so profitable that perpetuating it is worth losing out on large bundles of cash being dangled right in front of your nose.

So what do we do?

We need to keep putting on the pressure.

We need to make it a whole lot harder to be bigoted than it is not to be. We need to make bigotry more inconvenient, more time-consuming, more costly. When businesspeople say and do bigoted things, we need to make it result in a PR nightmare and some expensive lawsuits and a whole bunch of customers saying, “Screw you, we’re taking our business elsewhere.” Market forces are not going to do it on their own: we need to create the forces that push things in our direction. (Please note that when pundits decry the so-called “witch hunts” and “lynch mobs” consisting of a whole lot of people on the Internet saying, “That’s racist,” “That’s sexist,” “That’s transphobic,” etc. — they’re basically saying, “Please stop putting pressure on people to not be bigoted. Please stop making bigotry inconvenient.”)

Privilege is profitable. We need to make it a huge pain in the ass. We need to make the cost-benefit analysis skew on the side of equality. We need to make bigotry not worth it.


Comforting Thoughts book cover oblong 100 JPGComing Out Atheist Bendingwhy are you atheists so angryGreta Christina is author of four books: Comforting Thoughts About Death That Have Nothing to Do with God, Coming Out Atheist: How to Do It, How to Help Each Other, and Why, Why Are You Atheists So Angry? 99 Things That Piss Off the Godless, and Bending: Dirty Kinky Stories About Pain, Power, Religion, Unicorns, & More.

Godless Perverts Social Club, Tuesday July 7 and Thursday July 16!

Godless Perverts Social Club banner 7-7-15

We have two Godless Perverts Social Clubs in July! The next one is this Tuesday, July 7 — and the one after that is Thursday, July 16.

Tuesday July 7 is one of our Casual meetups — we’re not picking a topic ahead of time, we’ll just chat about whatever comes up. Conversation is usually related to sex, sexuality, gender, atheism, religion, skepticism, science, etc. — but not always.

Godless Perverts Social Club banner 7-16-15

On Thursday July 16, we’re picking a discussion topic ahead of time — and this time, the topic is After Marriage Equality, What’s Next? Marriage equality is now legal across the U.S. So what’s next for sexual and gender politics? In the fight for secular sexual liberation and against the religious right, what issues should be our priority? Should we be focusing on transgender rights, employment and housing discrimination, homelessness among LGBT teens? Should polyamorous marriage be on the table? How shall queer communities face the problems of racism and classism? And how can atheists and skeptics support the fight for secular, evidence-based policies about gender and sex?

So please join us! Community is one of the reasons we started Godless Perverts. There are few enough places to land when you decide that you’re an atheist; far fewer if you’re also LGBT, queer, kinky, poly, trans, or are just interested in sexuality. And the sex-positive/ alt-sex/ whatever- you- want- to- call- it community isn’t always the most welcoming place for non-believers. All orientations, genders, and kinks (or lack thereof) welcome. Admission is free, but we ask that you buy food and/or drink at the cafe if you can: they have beverages, light snacks, full meals, and milkshakes made of literal awesome sauce.

The Godless Perverts Social Club meets on the first Tuesday and the third Thursday of every month, 7-9 pm, at Wicked Grounds, 289 8th Street at Folsom in San Francisco (near Civic Center BART). Admission is free, but we ask that you buy food and/or drink at the cafe if you can: they have beverages, light snacks, full meals, and milkshakes made of literal awesome sauce. [Read more…]

Why Progressives Should Stop Using Violent Rhetoric

(Content note: hate and threats, including violently misogynist hatred and threats of rape and death.)

Progressives condemn the hateful vitriol aimed at feminist women.

Why do we aim it at people we don’t like?

fireAs you probably know, Texas pastor and conservative activist Rick Scarborough recently commented on the right-wing Christian fight against same-sex marriage, saying, “We are not going to bow, we are not going to bend, and if necessary, we will burn.”

Many progressives responded as if Scarborough had threatened to set himself on fire. And many of those progressives responded to this supposed suicide threat with glee. They said things like, “I’ll give him the matches,” and, “Can I bring the marshmallows?” When the Supreme Court decision on marriage equality came down, they called for Scarborough to make good on his supposed promise, and mocked him for not doing it. (This isn’t just one or two people, either — it’s been all over my Facebook feed.)

I have a couple of problems with this. One, as Ed Brayton (Dispatches from the Culture Wars) has pointed out repeatedly on Facebook, is that Scarborough’s statement was not, in fact, a threat to set himself on fire. It was an absurd statement of a willingness to fight marriage equality to the death — but it wasn’t a threat to kill himself by burning. But that’s not what I want to talk about. I want to talk about my other problem with this progressive response.

My problem is that I see it as a threat.

Here’s the thing. I’m a feminist writer on the Internet — which means I get a whole lot of people publicly saying that I should experience brutal violence or die in some horrible way, and expressing pleasure at the thought of it happening. And when they do, I see it as a threat. Most of my readers see it that way, too. When people publicly tell me “I HOPE YOU GET RAPED,” or that “someone should tattoo a giant cock across your face,” or that “I think I’m going to become a far right wing, woman raping clergyman,” or that I should “GO CHOKE ON A DICK AND DIE,” or that I should “just die already,” or when they tell me to “Go fuck yourself with a knife,” or when they tell me “Kill yourself” — most of my readers recognize it as a threat. When other women are targeted with hateful messages saying, “You should be killed very slowly,” “Will somebody please rape Rebecca Watson,” “This bitch needs to be punched in the throat,” or “Kill yourself Kill yourself Kill yourself Kill yourself Kill yourself Kill yourself Kill yourself Kill yourself Kill yourself Kill yourself Kill yourself…”– most of my readers recognize it as a threat.

My readers understand that a threat doesn’t have to be explicit to be real. [Read more…]

Keeping Up the Momentum: Support The #MyNameIs Campaign

mynameis banner

I’m writing this to other queers — and I’m writing it to straight/ cisgender allies.

Last Friday, when the Supreme Court ruling came in about same-sex marriage, I wrote this:

We won marriage. Let’s take this weekend to celebrate. It’s Pride Weekend in San Francisco and in many other cities: let’s take this weekend to celebrate, to recognize the hard work we put into this and to to enjoy our victory. And on Monday morning, let’s roll up our sleeves, and get to work — on employment rights, on housing rights, on homelessness among LGBT teens, on school bullying, on the epidemic of violence against trans people and especially against trans women of color, on the hundreds of other ways that LGBT people are still treated as second-class citizens.

We won marriage. Let’s take that momentum, take those changed hearts and minds, and put it to work.

If you’ve been working for marriage equality — in any way, whether that’s volunteering, donating money, doing visibility on social media, simply talking about about it with your family and friends — thank you. That is awesome. And we’re not done. For LGBT people, equality and an end to bigotry and hatred and oppression are by no means over. We’ve won the right to marry. I think it’s an important right. But there is a lot more work to be done.

So let’s keep this momentum going.

Every day this week, I’ll be posting about a different LGBT rights organization. Please support them however you can. That can mean with money, of course — even small amounts help, and small automatic monthly donations help a LOT. But you can also support LGBT organizations by following them on social media, and helping spread the word about their actions and fundraisers. That’s a small, easy thing to do — and if a lot of people do it, it can make a real difference.

Today, I’m plugging The #MyNameIs Campaign.

#mynameis 200 logoThe #MyNameIs Campaign is a coalition of drag and other performers, transgender people, Native Americans, immigrants, domestic violence survivors, and allies who advocate for the reformation of Facebook’s dangerous and discriminatory “real names” policy. In October 2014, the #MyNameIs Campaign received a public apology from Facebook and a commitment to allow all users to express their “authentic identities” — however, they have yet to see substantive change in the company’s policies or procedures and are continuing to apply pressure. The #MyNameIs Campaign is organizing around three main demands: they’re demanding that Facebook remove the “fake name” reporting option; stop asking for ID; and create an appeals process.

Please support them with a donation if you can. Please follow them on social media: they’re on Twitter at @TeamMyNameIs , and they’re on Facebook at facebook.com/mynameiscoalition. And if you have a story about Facebook’s harmful “real names” policy, please consider sharing it with them — they will (of course) protect your privacy, and will publicly share only the information you’re okay with them sharing (including no information at all — they’re also gathering stories for statistical purposes that aren’t being publicized at all). Please support them any way you can. Thanks!

#mynameis shame on FB at SF Pride Parade 1

#mynameis shame on FB at SF Pride Parade 2

And if you have suggestions for other worthy LGBT organizations, please make them in the comments!


Comforting Thoughts book cover oblong 100 JPGComing Out Atheist Bendingwhy are you atheists so angryGreta Christina is author of four books: Comforting Thoughts About Death That Have Nothing to Do with God, Coming Out Atheist: How to Do It, How to Help Each Other, and Why, Why Are You Atheists So Angry? 99 Things That Piss Off the Godless, and Bending: Dirty Kinky Stories About Pain, Power, Religion, Unicorns, & More.

Keeping Up the Momentum: Support the National Center for Lesbian Rights

National_Center_for_Lesbian_Rights banner

I’m writing this to other queers — and I’m writing it to straight/ cisgender allies.

Last Friday, when the Supreme Court ruling came in about same-sex marriage, I wrote this:

We won marriage. Let’s take this weekend to celebrate. It’s Pride Weekend in San Francisco and in many other cities: let’s take this weekend to celebrate, to recognize the hard work we put into this and to to enjoy our victory. And on Monday morning, let’s roll up our sleeves, and get to work — on employment rights, on housing rights, on homelessness among LGBT teens, on school bullying, on the epidemic of violence against trans people and especially against trans women of color, on the hundreds of other ways that LGBT people are still treated as second-class citizens.

We won marriage. Let’s take that momentum, take those changed hearts and minds, and put it to work.

If you’ve been working for marriage equality — in any way, whether that’s volunteering, donating money, doing visibility on social media, simply talking about about it with your family and friends — thank you. That is awesome. And we’re not done. For LGBT people, equality and an end to bigotry and hatred and oppression are by no means over. We’ve won the right to marry. I think it’s an important right. But there is a lot more work to be done.

So let’s keep this momentum going.

Every day this week, I’ll be posting about a different LGBT rights organization. Please support them however you can. That can mean with money, of course — even small amounts help, and small automatic monthly donations help a LOT. But you can also support LGBT organizations by following them on social media, and helping spread the word about their actions and fundraisers. That’s a small, easy thing to do — and if a lot of people do it, it can make a real difference.

Today, I’m plugging the National Center for Lesbian Rights.

National_Center_for_Lesbian_Rights_logoNCLR is a national legal organization committed to advancing the civil and human rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people and their families through litigation, legislation, policy, and public education. They are a a non-profit, public interest law firm that litigates precedent-setting cases at the trial and appellate court levels; advocates for equitable public policies affecting the LGBT community; provides free legal assistance to LGBT people and their legal advocates; and conducts community education on LGBT issues. Their projects and legal issue areas include: Asylum & Immigration; Elders; Employment; Family & Relationships; Federal Legislation & Policy; State Legislation & Policy; Hate Crimes; Healthcare; Housing; Low Income & Poverty; Prisons; Rural Communities; Sports; Transgender Law; and Youth. They’ve been deeply involved in the fight for marriage equality: they are currently working on campaigns to end conversion therapy, to address the needs of LGBT people in rural American, and much more.

Please support them with a donation if you can: you can make a one-time donation, or an automatic monthly gift. And please follow them on social media: they’re on Twitter at @NCLRights, and they’re on Facebook at facebook.com/nclrights. Please support them any way you can. Thanks!

And if you have suggestions for other worthy LGBT organizations, please make them in the comments!


Comforting Thoughts book cover oblong 100 JPGComing Out Atheist Bendingwhy are you atheists so angryGreta Christina is author of four books: Comforting Thoughts About Death That Have Nothing to Do with God, Coming Out Atheist: How to Do It, How to Help Each Other, and Why, Why Are You Atheists So Angry? 99 Things That Piss Off the Godless, and Bending: Dirty Kinky Stories About Pain, Power, Religion, Unicorns, & More.

Keeping Up the Momentum: Support the Transgender Law Center

transgender law center banner

I’m writing this to other queers — and I’m writing it to straight/ cisgender allies.

Last Friday, when the Supreme Court ruling came in about same-sex marriage, I wrote this:

We won marriage. Let’s take this weekend to celebrate. It’s Pride Weekend in San Francisco and in many other cities: let’s take this weekend to celebrate, to recognize the hard work we put into this and to to enjoy our victory. And on Monday morning, let’s roll up our sleeves, and get to work — on employment rights, on housing rights, on homelessness among LGBT teens, on school bullying, on the epidemic of violence against trans people and especially against trans women of color, on the hundreds of other ways that LGBT people are still treated as second-class citizens.

We won marriage. Let’s take that momentum, take those changed hearts and minds, and put it to work.

If you’ve been working for marriage equality — in any way, whether that’s volunteering, donating money, doing visibility on social media, simply talking about about it with your family and friends — thank you. That is awesome. And we’re not done. For LGBT people, equality and an end to bigotry and hatred and oppression are by no means over. We’ve won the right to marry. I think it’s an important right. But there is a lot more work to be done.

So let’s keep this momentum going.

Every day this week, I’ll be posting about a different LGBT rights organization. Please support them however you can. That can mean with money, of course — even small amounts help, and small automatic monthly donations help a LOT. But you can also support LGBT organizations by following them on social media, and helping spread the word about their actions and fundraisers. That’s a small, easy thing to do — and if a lot of people do it, it can make a real difference.

Today, I’m plugging the Transgender Law Center.

The Transgender Law Center works to change law, policy, and attitudes so that all people can live safely, authentically, and free from discrimination regardless of their gender identity or expression. Their programs include: a legal information helpline; legal clinics in the Bay Area; a Detention Project that works to end the abuses transgender and gender nonconforming (TGNC) people experience in prisons, jails, immigration detention, state hospitals, and other forms of detention, and at the hands of law enforcement; and more.

Please support them with a donation if you can: you can make a one-time contribution, or a monthly sustaining gift. And please follow them on social media: they’re on Twitter at @TransLawCenter, and they’re on Facebook at facebook.com/translawcenter. Please support them any way you can. Thanks!

And if you have suggestions for other worthy LGBT organizations, please make them in the comments!


Comforting Thoughts book cover oblong 100 JPGComing Out Atheist Bendingwhy are you atheists so angryGreta Christina is author of four books: Comforting Thoughts About Death That Have Nothing to Do with God, Coming Out Atheist: How to Do It, How to Help Each Other, and Why, Why Are You Atheists So Angry? 99 Things That Piss Off the Godless, and Bending: Dirty Kinky Stories About Pain, Power, Religion, Unicorns, & More.

Being Part of History

In February 2004, Ingrid and I were married in the “civil disobedience” weddings, when the mayor decided to legalize same-sex weddings in San Francisco. We stood in line at City Hall for hours, with hundreds of other couples who knew that the window would be closing any day, and who were willing and able to stand in line for hours to walk through that window. (Those were the weddings that got annulled by the State of California.)

In November 2005, we had what we tend to think of as our “real” wedding: the one where we spent months writing our vows, the one with the guests and the dancing and the dresses and the cake, the one with no legal standing, the one where our celebrant, Rebecca Hensler, said, “By the power vested in me by Ingrid and Greta…”

In June 2008, we were married at City Hall again, during that brief window after the California Supreme Court legalized same-sex marriage, and before Prop 8 passed banning it again. We were one of the roughly 18,000 same-sex couples in California who, after Prop 8 passed, got to have a deeply strange “special right”: the right to be a married same-sex couple whose marriage was legally recognized by the State of California.

“We make a little history, baby/Every time you come around.” -Nick Cave.

I still do, sweetie.