Trans People, Pronouns, and Choosing Between Social Justice and the Chicago Manual of Style

Chicago_Manual_of_Style_15th_editionWhen it comes to the pronouns we use for transgender people, which is more important — treating marginalized people with basic respect, or following the Chicago Manual of Style?

I recently wrote a column for The Humanist magazine, Trans People and Basic Human Respect, in which I made the case (a case that should have been obvious but regretfully isn’t) for treating trans people with basic human respect, including accepting their own evaluation of their own genders, and using the names and pronouns they prefer.

Tom Flynn — executive director of the Council for Secular Humanism, vice president for media at the Center for Inquiry, and editor of Free Inquiry magazine (for which I am a columnist) — has written a reply. He generally applauds the piece, and says that he mostly agrees with it. But when it comes to pronouns, and using the singular “they” for trans people who prefer it, that’s just a bridge too far. Flynn objects to anyone — trans, cis, anyone — using the singular “they,” on the grounds that “it unnecessarily degrades the clarity of our language in regards to number.” (Read Flynn’s piece for a more thorough explanation of his concerns.)

As you might guess, I strongly disagree. That’s putting it mildly. I disagree on grammatical grounds — and far more seriously, I disagree on social justice grounds. Flynn’s understanding of the linguistics behind the singular “they” is just flatly wrong — and his take on the social justice issue is distressingly retrograde. [Read more...]

Trans People and Basic Human Respect

There’s something that’s been puzzling me. I’ve been thinking about cisgender people who get upset about transgender people. (“Cisgender,” for those of you who aren’t familiar with the term, is the opposite of “transgender”; it means someone whose gender identity corresponds with the sex they were assigned at birth.) Some cis people object to the new vocabulary many trans people are advocating for or are simply making use of—changes in names, pronouns, and so on. Others object to the very existence of transgender people: they think gender is solely and entirely determined by the genitals we were born with, and that any other perception of it is just nonsense.

Here’s what’s puzzling me: Why do these people care?

Let’s assume, purely for the sake of disproving the assumption, that trans people are somehow mistaken—that they “really” are the gender they were assigned at birth based on their genitals, and it’s silly for them to think otherwise. I obviously don’t think that—I think it’s a horrible opinion, deeply offensive, and out of touch with well-documented reality. But assuming that this opinion is true will help me demonstrate just how wrong it is. So for the sake of argument, let’s assume it’s true.

So what? How could it possibly affect you? What business is it of yours? If someone else is identifying with a gender that you personally think is “wrong,” how does it harm you in any way?

*****

The Humanist magazine coverThus begins my latest Fierce Humanism column for The Humanist magazine, Trans People and Basic Human Respect. To read more, read the rest of the piece. Enjoy!

Godless Perverts Story Hour Saturday September 6! Plus Godless Perverts Social Club, Tuesday September 2!

Godless Perverts Banner

The next Godless Perverts Story Hour is happening Saturday, September 6!

It’s time again for the Godless Perverts Story Hour, the performance and entertainment branch of the Godless Perverts empire! Join us at the Center for Sex and Culture for an evening about how to have good sex without having any gods, goddesses, spirits, or their earthly representatives hanging over your shoulder and telling you that you’re doing it wrong. We’ll be bringing you depictions, explorations, and celebrations of godless sexualities, as well as critical, mocking, and blasphemous views of sex and religion. The evening’s entertainment will have a range of voices — sexy and serious, passionate and funny, and all of the above — talking about how our sexualities can not only exist, but even thrive, without the supernatural.

Our performers this time include:

Charlie Jane Anders

Charlie Jane Anders

Juba Kalamka

Juba Kalamka

Anthony O'Con

Anthony O’Con



Cinnamon Maxxine

Cinnamon Maxxine

Hew Wolff

Hew Wolff



Greta Christina

Greta Christina

Chris Hall

Chris Hall


Blogger and managing editor of io9, Charlie Jane Anders;
Poet and co-founder of homohop group Deep Dickollective Juba Kalamka;
Poet and activist Anthony O’Con;
Genderqueer burlesque artist Cinnamon Maxxine;
Jon Longhi, author of Wake Up and Smell the Beer, and The Rise and Fall of Third Leg;
Writer and all-around nerd, Hew Wolff;
Godless Perverts co-founders Chris Hall and Greta Christina.

It’ll be at the Center for Sex and Culture, 1349 Mission Street in San Francisco (near Civic Center BART), starting at 7:00 pm. $10-20 sliding scale; no one will be refused entry for lack of funds; benefit for the Center for Sex and Culture. Hope to see you there!

And we’re having a Godless Perverts Social Club on Tuesday, September 2! [Read more...]

LGBT Americans Are “Significantly Less Religious” – And There’s Almost No Gender Difference

So this is interesting.

According to a recent Gallup Poll, LGBT Americans are less religious than straight Americans. Like, a lot less. Here are the numbers:

gallup poll lgbt americans less religious

If you can’t see that image: 24% of LGBT Americans are highly religious; 29% are moderately religious; and a whopping 47% are not religious.

I’ll say that again: 47% of LGBT Americans are not religious.

Almost half.

Compare that to non LGBT Americans. 41% of non LGBT Americans are highly religious; 29% are moderately religious; and 30% are not religious.

So there’s two things I want to pull out of this data.

heresy makes for progress women in secularism logoOne is the gender breakdown. One of the most consistent patterns in these religiosity polls — for Americans, anyway — is the gender difference, with women consistently polling as more religious than men. (That shows up in this poll as well. Among male non-LGBT Americans, 36% are highly religious; 28% are moderately religious; and 35% are not religious. Among female non-LGBT Americans, 45% are highly religious; 30% are moderately religious; and 25% are not religious.) Many ideas have been floated about why this is, from “women have more pressure on us to be religious” and “religion is one of the few spheres where women have power and influence” to assorted evo-pysch explanations arguing that women are just born that way.

I hope this survey puts the last nail in the coffin of the evo-psych explanations. Because among LGBT Americans, there is almost no gender difference in how religious we are. Among male LGBT Americans, 25% are highly religious; 26% are moderately religious; and 49% are not religious. Among female LGBT Americans, 24% are highly religious; 31% are moderately religious; and 46% are not religious. That’s a tiny, tiny difference. Whatever the reasons are for the gender disparity in religiosity, it disappears among LGBT Americans. Unless you’re going to argue that queers are just born this way — that queer women’s brains are born radically different from straight women’s brains, in a way that somehow links sexual orientation and/or gender identity with religiosity — you now have to accept that whatever the reasons are for the gender disparity in religiosity, it’s not inborn.

The other thing I want to pull out of this data: Almost half of LGBT Americans are not religious. So LGBT organizations need to wake the fuck up.

LGBT organizations that present LGBT people as religious in an attempt to make us seem mainstream and nice — and that throw LGBT atheists under the bus — need to wake the fuck up. LGBT organizations that bend over backwards to court interfaith alliances, while ignoring alliance-building with atheist organizations and communities, need to wake the fuck up. Major LGBT conferences that have approximately 764,906 sessions about religion, with three sessions about atheism, need to wake the fuck up.

rainbow_atheist_scarlet_letterI don’t know how many of those non-religious LGBT Americans are self-identified atheists, and how many are non-believers under some other name (humanist, agnostic, non-believer, etc.), and how many are “spiritual but not religious,” and how many just don’t think of themselves as religious but don’t give that a name because they don’t consider the issue to be very important. I’d like to see that data. And I don’t know why exactly we would be so much less religious than straight people: David Badash at The New Civil Rights Movement, where I saw this data in the first place, has a pretty good analysis, as does Gallup itself. But however that data breaks down, the bottom line is clear, and it’s important: LGBT Americans are much, much less religious than straight Americans. Almost half of LGBT Americans are not religious. So LGBT organizations need to wake the fuck up.

We’re here. We’re queer. We don’t believe in God.

Get used to it.



Coming Out Atheist Bendingwhy are you atheists so angryGreta Christina’s books, Coming Out Atheist: How to Do It, How to Help Each Other, and Why and Why Are You Atheists So Angry? 99 Things That Piss Off the Godless, are available in print, ebook, and audiobook. Bending: Dirty Kinky Stories About Pain, Power, Religion, Unicorns, & More is available in ebook and audiobook.

LGBT Atheists — Creating Change is Seeking Workshop Proposals! UPDATED

creating change logo

Heads up, LGBT atheists!

Creating Change, the ginormous and mega-awesome LGBT conference, is soliciting workshop proposals (PDF) for 2015. Let’s submit ours! There’s lots of ways that atheism intersects with queerness, lots of particular issues for LGBT atheists, and lots of opportunities for alliance building between the two communities/ movement. Let’s get a good strong atheist presence at the con!

Creating Change will be in Denver, CO, February 4-8, 2015. The deadline to submit workshop proposals (PDF) is September 30, 2014. Hope to see you there!

UPDATE: It’s been pointed out that conference registration for presenters is $225, plus you have to pay for your own travel. If that’s out of your range — I don’t know this for sure, but I would bet that some atheist organizations might be willing to help with funding for atheist presenters at an LGBT conference. Worth asking, anyway.

Bisexual or Pansexual?

bisexual_triangleI’ve been pondering the question of whether I should keep using the word “bisexual” to describe myself, or whether I should start using “pansexual” instead. I wanted to run the pros and cons by y’all and get feedback.

On the one hand: The word “bisexual” feeds into the gender binary, in a way that I don’t feel comfortable with. It implies that either (a) there are only two genders, or (b) there are more than two genders, but I’m only attracted to two of them. Neither of these is correct. I accept the existence of people who don’t identify on a gender binary — and there are non-gender-binary-identifying people who I think are hot. “Pansexual” would be a more respectful word, and it would be more accurate.

On the other hand: Most people more or less know know what the word “bisexual” means. Far fewer people know what “pansexual” means. I’m very much a pragmatist when it comes to language: given a choice between (a) a word that means exactly what I want to say but that only ten people will understand without looking it up, and (b) a word that doesn’t quite mean what I want to say but that comes close and that almost everyone who speaks English will understand, I’ll almost always choose (b). It’s part of being an accessible, conversational writer. (It’s one of the reasons I tend to avoid words like “humanist” and “freethinker” unless I’m talking with other godless folks: there are contexts where “humanist” is a slightly more accurate description of the particular facet of godlessness I’m expressing at that particular moment, but I don’t always want to derail the conversation with a ten-minute explanation of what exactly “humanism” is.)

On the other other hand: The only way people are going to learn about pansexuality is if people use the word. Using the word is what will make it more widely understood.

On the other other other hand: I’ve self-identified as bisexual for a long time, and it’s become a political and cultural identity as well as a personal one, having to do with my particular relationship with the LGBT community. I have a longish history of being one of the people pushing for recognition and respect of bisexual people, both outside the LGBT community and within it. And I think bisexual visibility is important — again, both in and out of the LGBT community. That matters to me, and I’m somewhat reluctant to let it go.

pansexual symbolOn the other other other other hand: There’s no reason I can’t become one of the people pushing for recognition and respect of pansexual people, both outside the LGBT community and within it. Who knows — in twenty years, that might be an important part of my personal, political, and cultural identity.

On the other other other other other… okay, enough.

I’m toying with the idea of saying “Bisexual — well, pansexual, actually,” which opens the door to at least a short discussion of what pansexuality is and the rejection of the gender binary. Again, I don’t always want to derail the conversation with a ten-minute explanation of what exactly “pansexual” means… but at least sometimes, that might be worth it.

Thoughts?

(Oh, for the record: I’m not hugely interested in the “Why do you even need labels?” argument. I’m a writer. I care about language. We need language to talk about who we are.)

Godless Perverts Story Hour This Saturday June 14 — And a Godless Perverts Social Club Thursday June 19!

Godless Perverts Banner

We have a couple of awesome Godless Perverts events coming up soon! We’re having one of our infamous performance events, the Godless Perverts Story Hour, on Saturday June 14. And this month, we’re expanding the Godless Perverts Social Club, the social/ community arm of the Godless Perverts empire, to twice a month — third Thursdays, as well as first Tuesdays — and our third Thursday Social Club will be Thursday June 19!

Saturday June 14: We’re having a Godless Perverts Story Hour on Saturday June 14! The Godless Perverts Story Hour is the performance/ entertainment branch of the Godless Perverts empire. It’s an evening about how to have good sex without having any gods, goddesses, spirits, or their earthly representatives hanging over your shoulder and telling you that you’re doing it wrong. We’ll be bringing you depictions, explorations, and celebrations of godless sexualities, as well as critical, mocking, and blasphemous views of sex and religion. The evening’s entertainment will have a range of voices — sexy and serious, passionate and funny, and all of the above — talking about how our sexualities can not only exist, but even thrive, without the supernatural.

Heina annalee-newitz jon ginoli Juba Kalamka

SImon Sheppard Chris Hall Greta Christina

Our June 14 event is part of LGBT Pride Month, and for the occasion, we’ll be emphasizing queer readers and sexualities. Our readers and performers include: renowned Skepchick contributor Heina; Jon Ginoli, co-founder of queercore band Pansy Division; local tech geek and editor-in-chief of io9, Annalee Newitz; poet and co-founder of homohop group Deep Dickollective, Juba Kalamka; and erotica writer and activist Simon Sheppard. Not to mention co-hosts and co-organizers Chris Hall and me me me! Center for Sex and Culture, 1349 Mission St. in San Francisco (near Civic Center BART). Festivities start at 7:00 pm. $10-20 sliding scale donation; no-one turned away for lack of funds; benefit for the Center for Sex and Culture.

Thursday June 19: Starting in June, the Godless Perverts Social Club will now be meeting twice a month — first Tuesday, and third Thursday! This is the socializing/ hanging out branch of Godless Perverts. 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. So please join us — on Thursday June 19, and on Tuesday July 1.

We’re going to do slightly different formats for the two clubs. Our Third Thursday Social Clubs will be a little more structured — we’ll pick a topic, let people know what it is ahead of time, have a moderator/ host who leads the discussion, maybe even get in special guests to guide discussions on particular topics. In June, that’ll be Thursday June 19.

Our topic for June 19: Sex-Positivity and Secularism in Schools: The New Frontier of Tolerance Education. We’ll be talking about promoting sex-positive sex education, supporting non-religious youth, ending peer-to-peer and institutionalized slut-shaming in schools, and anything else related to secularity, sexuality and education.

The first Tuesday Social Clubs will continue to be more loosely-structured, casual affairs: we typically start with a check-in question and do a little moderating to make sure everyone gets to talk who wants to, but mostly we just nosh and sit around schmoozing about whatever topics happen to come up. On First Tuesdays, we’ll keep doing that. In July, Tuesday July 1.

All Social Clubs are at Wicked Grounds, San Francisco’s renowned BDSM-themed coffee house — 289 8th St in San Francisco, near Civic Center BART — for an evening of conversation and socializing. All orientations, genders, and kinks (or lack thereof) welcome. 7:00 – 9:00 pm. There’s no admission, but we ask that you buy food and drink at the counter, and/or make a donation to the venue. (Their food is quite yummy, with both full dinners and lighter snacks/ beverages, and they have the best milkshakes in town.)

If you want to be notified about all our Godless Perverts events, sign up for our email mailing list, or follow us on Twitter at @GodlessPerverts. You can also sign up for the Bay Area Atheists/ Agnostics/ Humanists/ Freethinkers/ Skeptics Meetup page, and be notified of all sorts of godless Bay Area events — including the Godless Perverts. And of course, you can always visit our Website to find out what we’re up to, godlessperverts.com. Hope to see you soon!

Godless Perverts Social Club Tuesday June 3 – And Thursday June 19! Plus Godless Perverts Story Hour June 14!

Godless Perverts Banner

Two great pieces of Godless Perverts news! Starting in June, the Godless Perverts Social Club, the social/ community arm of the Godless Perverts empire, will be meeting twice a month — first Tuesdays, and third Thursdays. Yes, first Tuesday is tomorrow, June 3. And we’re having one of our infamous performance events, the Godless Perverts Story Hour, on Saturday June 14!

Tuesday June 3 AND Thursday June 19: Starting in June, the Godless Perverts Social Club will now be meeting twice a month — first Tuesday, and third Thursday! This is the socializing/ hanging out branch of Godless Perverts. 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. So please join us — on Tuesday June 3, AND on Thursday June 19!

We’re going to do slightly different formats for the two clubs. The first Tuesday Social Clubs have been loosely-structured casual affairs: we typically start with a check-in question and do a little moderating to make sure everyone gets to talk who wants to, but mostly we just nosh and sit around schmoozing about whatever topics happen to come up. On First Tuesdays, we’ll keep doing that. In June, that’ll be Tuesday June 3.

Our Third Thursday Social Clubs will be a little more structured — we’ll pick a topic, let people know what it is ahead of time, have a moderator/ host who leads the discussion, maybe even get in special guests to guide discussions on particular topics. In June, that’ll be Thursday June 19. (We haven’t yet picked a topic — we’ll announce when we do.)

All Social Clubs are at Wicked Grounds, San Francisco’s renowned BDSM-themed coffee house — 289 8th St in San Francisco, near Civic Center BART — for an evening of conversation and socializing. All orientations, genders, and kinks (or lack thereof) welcome. 7:00 – 9:00 pm. There’s no admission, but we ask that you buy food and drink at the counter, and/or make a donation to the venue. (Their food is quite yummy, with both full dinners and lighter snacks/ beverages, and they have the best milkshakes in town.)

Saturday June 14: We’re having a Godless Perverts Story Hour on Saturday June 14! The Godless Perverts Story Hour is the performance/ entertainment branch of the Godless Perverts empire. It’s an evening about how to have good sex without having any gods, goddesses, spirits, or their earthly representatives hanging over your shoulder and telling you that you’re doing it wrong. We’ll be bringing you depictions, explorations, and celebrations of godless sexualities, as well as critical, mocking, and blasphemous views of sex and religion. The evening’s entertainment will have a range of voices — sexy and serious, passionate and funny, and all of the above — talking about how our sexualities can not only exist, but even thrive, without the supernatural.

Heina annalee-newitz jon ginoli Juba Kalamka

SImon Sheppard Chris Hall Greta Christina

Our June 14 event is part of LGBT Pride Month, and for the occasion, we’ll be emphasizing queer readers and sexualities. Our readers and performers include: renowned Skepchick contributor Heina; Jon Ginoli, co-founder of queercore band Pansy Division; local tech geek and editor-in-chief of io9, Annalee Newitz; poet and co-founder of homohop group Deep Dickollective, Juba Kalamka; and erotica writer and activist Simon Sheppard. Not to mention co-hosts and co-organizers Chris Hall and me me me! We’re hoping to add more names to that list — further bulletins as events warrant. Center for Sex and Culture, 1349 Mission St. in San Francisco (near Civic Center BART). Festivities start at 7:00 pm. $10-20 sliding scale donation; no-one turned away for lack of funds; benefit for the Center for Sex and Culture. Hope to see you there!

If you want to be notified about all our Godless Perverts events, sign up for our email mailing list, or follow us on Twitter at @GodlessPerverts. You can also sign up for the Bay Area Atheists/ Agnostics/ Humanists/ Freethinkers/ Skeptics Meetup page, and be notified of all sorts of godless Bay Area events — including the Godless Perverts. And of course, you can always visit our Website to find out what we’re up to, godlessperverts.com. Hope to see you soon!

Greta Christina and Alex Gabriel Yak About Sexual Identity, Secularity, and Politics

Alex Gabriel: I’ve tended to observe that people who march under the banner of humanism in the states lean somewhat more strongly to the left than humanists in Britain. I’m not sure why that is, but – in my experience, anyway – it’s more of a countercultural identity, [with] more immediate openness to class concerns in politics, feminism and that kind of thing.

I’ve found that humanists in the UK are first of all a little less well defined. You find people under the humanist banner everywhere politically, but as far as major organisations, I think that the British Humanist Association – the people that run it, and I’ve met quite a few of them, I would place more in the political centre than people I know at African Americans for Humanism or the American Humanist Association.

Greta Christina: I’m not sure why that is, but it’s interesting.

That’s a good question. Because this is me, and this is what I do, I’m going to speculate and pull speculative conclusions totally out of my ass – so, therefore, this is a provisional guess – but I think that to some extent [it’s] because being a nonbeliever in Britain is more normal, it’s more ordinary, it’s more common anyway.

Being a nonbeliever in the states is oppositional, and there’s no way around that. It’s a little different if you live in New York City or some place like that, but even then you have to contend with the rest of the country. And so I wonder if because of that, right now at least in the United States, we have a situation where in order to reject religion you have to be willing to question the religious right, for one thing.

Certainly in the United States, religion and conservative politics are very much welded together. One of the reasons why I’m engaged in atheist activism is that I do see it as a crowbar: when people become atheists, they do tend to become more liberal, more progressive. I think that may not always be true. I think that if atheism does become more common in the United States, then in a few decades that tendency of atheists, humanists, just any nonbeliever…

So I don’t think that humanists are more progressive: just ‘nonbelievers’ in the States tend to be more progressive, because the kind of personality that gets you questioning religion is also perhaps the kind of personality that gets you questioning other conventions about politics and society and so on. I think it’s possible that in a few decades that won’t be true.

*****

In which Alex Gabriel and I have a conversation about sexual identity, secularity, and politics.

Here’s the deal. When I was writing Coming Out Atheist: How to Do It, How to Help Each Other, and Why, Alex Gabriel (of the Godlessness In Theory blog) was deeply involved in the process. He did two rounds of very thorough copy editing on the book, and I made numerous changes both small and large based on our conversations. (He’s a first-rate copy editor, by the way: I don’t know if he’s hiring himself out for that, but if he is, I can’t recommend him highly enough. UPDATE: Yes, Alex is hiring himself out as a copy editor. And I can’t recommend him highly enough. Seriously. Hire him.)

Anyway, when we were going over the book together, a number of topics came up where we said, “That’s an interesting topic, we should really talk about that more sometime.” How non-religious people name ourselves; whether sexual orientation is fluid depending on culture and awareness of possibilities; political differences between humanism and atheism; whether the phrase “coming out” was a cultural appropriation of LGBT language; whether the “born this way” narrative of the LGBT movement makes bisexuals even more invisible; and more.

This is that conversation. (Or the first of those conversations, anyway. Next time we’ll get into assimilationism and the Oxford comma.)

If you prefer to read than to watch the video, Alex has the conversation transcribed on his blog. Enjoy!

*****

Oh, and once again, here is ordering information for Coming Out Atheist in all three formats — print, ebook, and audiobook.

Coming Out Atheist cover 150Ebook edition:

The Kindle edition is available on Amazon. (That’s the link for Amazon US, btw — it’s available in other regions as well.)

The Nook edition is available at Barnes & Noble.

The Smashwords edition is available on Smashwords. Right now, it’s only available on Smashwords in epub format: I’m working to make it available in other formats.

All ebook editions and formats cost just $9.99.

Print edition:

The print edition is now available through Powell’s Books.

The print edition is also available at Amazon. However, be advised (if you haven’t been already) that seriously abusive labor practices have been reported at Amazon warehouses. Please bear that in mind when you’re deciding where to buy my book — or indeed, where to buy anything. (For the records: Powell’s employees are unionized.) Again, that’s the link for Amazon US — it’s available in other regions as well.

The print edition is $17.95 USD. It is being published by Pitchstone Publishing.

Wholesale sales of the print edition:

Bookstores and other retailers can get the book from Ingram, Baker & Taylor, and other standard wholesale distributors. It can also be purchased directly from the publisher, Pitchstone Publishing.

Audiobook edition:

The audiobook version is available on Audible.

The audiobook is also available through Amazon.

The audiobook is also available through iTunes.

And yes, I did the recording for it!