Why I Love Doctor Who

You know, I hate to admit it , but despite appearances my geek credentials aren’t nearly as solid as they look.

(who am I kidding? I don’t actually mind admitting it at all)

I’m just not really all that into it all. I’m a mac user, and not a particularly talented one, and generally find computers and technology an uninteresting sort of bewildering. I read very few superhero comics, mostly prefer “indie” / “alternative” comics like Chris Ware, Lynda Barry (go Geoducks!), James Kochalka, Dame Darcy, Charles Burns (go Geoducks!) and Daniel Clowes, and my impressive knowledge of DC and Marvel canon is just because I’m freakishly good at remembering trivia and go on lots of wiki walks (though I really do adore Dr. Strange, and loved the X-Men when I was a kid). I’ve seen very little Buffy, only a couple episodes of Firefly, and don’t think Joss Whedon is all that impressive, really. Just pretty good at what he does. I’ve never seen the Battlestar Galactica reboot at all, and may never really bother getting around to it. I hate Kevin Smith, and The Big Bang Theory, with a fiery passion. I’ve never ever read Orson Scott Card, David Eddings (except for the first few chapters of the first Belgariad book when I was 10), Terry Pratchett,  Suzanne Collins, George R.R. Martin, J.K. Rowling or Isaac Asimov. I really love basketball, fashion, high art, punk rock and poetry. I’m really just a sort of culturally omnivorous sort so I just end up really liking some random things that happen to be part of geek culture (like Douglas Adams or tabletop roleplaying) and have the aforementioned weird memory thing that lets me memorize lots of canon even from franchises I don’t particularly care about…. which then lets me hang out with people who do love those things, and carry on friendly conversations with them about it, even though I don’t actually care. [Read more…]

Seven Things About Being Trans That Are Actually Kind of Awesome

You know what?

This blog is a fucking downer a lot of the time.

Now, I do what I do for some pretty specific reasons.  We’re at the cusp of a very exciting shift in the trans rights movement. Over pretty much just the last year and a half, we have quite suddenly become visible. Cis audiences are finally noticing we exist, and being open to discussing the issue. 2011 saw an amazing wave of steps forward… the National Transgender Discrimination Survey, Chaz Bono on Dancing With The Stars suddenly putting a trans man in the living rooms of mainstream America, Harmony Santana giving an amazing performance as a transsexual character in Gun Hill Road finally being portrayed by a transsexual actress, the United Nations openly including gender identity in its LGBT human rights declaration, Andrej Pejic becoming one of the most talked about and coveted models in the fashion industry, Bobby Montoya being permitted entry to the Girl Scouts, My Transsexual Summer, the Canadian trans-rights bill, etc. etc. etc.

We’ve gone from the point in the struggle where they ignore us and laugh at us, and are now moving into the part where we fight. But we’re visible. We’re here. People can no longer pretend that trans people don’t exist, or that we don’t matter. They can no longer ignore our suffering and our dead.

Two years ago, would an internet blogging network that wasn’t specifically LGBTQ in nature, even the progressive ones, have considered a trans voice and perspective to be an important addition? Would anyone have noticed its absence?

Being a part of this movement means taking advantage of that visibility. Now that people are paying attention, we need to grab hold of the discourse and use it. We need to use our newly acquired voice to say “hey! What is going on is NOT okay!”. We need to speak our truth, and show what’s been happening to us, how we’ve been treated. We need to talk about the rates of suicide, murder, violence, sexual assault, workplace harassment, homelessness, addiction and survival sex work. We need to make sure this is heard now, while we have a chance. Before they begin fighting back and whitewashing everything. Before they begin trying to wrest control of the discourse away from us. We need to use this window to shine a light on our little corner of this world, and on the pain, brutality and oppression that has been going on just beneath society’s notice.

I believe that doing this work, calling attention to the completely unacceptable manner in which trans people have been treated within our society(ies), is important, especially now, in this particularly pivotal moment in our movement’s history.

But it makes for some depressing reading sometimes. And some depressing writing.

I often worry whether the image I’m presenting of what transition is, and what being transgender means, is one-sidedly bleak. That I’m neglecting talking about everything about it that is joyful and empowering and beautiful and wonderful. I worry most about the image this all presents to people who are questioning their gender, or at the cusp of transition, and whether I’m making it all seem really hard and terrifying, like that it means forever sacrificing the goodness in this world and condemning yourself to a life of struggle and discrimination. I worry that I’m playing into a bit of a trend in which the trans community has been defining its identity in relation to our victimization; which incidentally perpetuates our identities being defined only in relation to cis people, as other. It’s not much of a self-determination.

I’m not going to lie… there’s a lot of sacrifices. And a lot of struggle. And it’s never, ever easy. And we are victimized. But it certainly beats the alternatives: suicide or a life of sadness, regret, pain and desperation. Being trans is just something that happens to you. You can’t NOT be trans, and choosing not to transition isn’t going to get rid of the shittiness of that circumstance. But what it does do is deprive you of everything great that can come from this. And there are such things.

So I’m taking a tiny bit of a break from my usual M.O. and taking a moment to appraise those aspects of being trans, and transitioning that have been, at least for me in my own limited experience, a joy and a blessing: [Read more…]

Bio-Essentialism, Social-Constructivism, And What Hormones Do And Don’t Actually Do

One of the often jarring things about being a trans feminist, or even just being a trans person who enjoys participating in discussions of feminism and gender theory, is how you’ll sometimes come across cis people using the existence of trans people to prove some point or another. One way or the other, any theory of gender will ultimately have to account for us, and the simple fact that there are such a thing as trans people, people whose gender identity is in conflict with their assigned, physiological sex, and that there always has been such a thing as gender variance, ends up having significant implications for our understanding of human gender and sex.

A lot of the time, people will just try to ignore us, or awkwardly force us into their existing framework somehow, or develop really elaborate, creaky, intellectually acrobatic theories to try to get us to fit and explain how we can exist without threatening whatever theory of gender they’ve decided to put their stake in. But when things get weird, and sometimes insulting, is when they decide to just go right ahead and use trans people as a tool for pushing their theory forward. Most of the time, you’ll seen this done by one of two groups: the extreme social constructivists, who argue that gender isn’t really real, and is sort of only in our heads, who will suggest that the existence of trans folk indicates that clearly biological sex doesn’t determine gender. And also the extreme bio-essentialists, who say that men and women are fundamentally different, and behavioural differences between the sexes emerge from underlying neurological or hormonal or genetic or evolutionary differences, and the fact that trans people exist, or behave in ways different from the gender they’ve been socialized to be, and that gender identity disorder is thoroughly unresponsive to therapy or cultural pressures and stigma, indicates that there is clearly some kind of underlying human trait that drives gender and gender differences.

Two sides of a debate, each holding contradictory theories, each claiming trans people as conclusive proof of their position. [Read more…]

Human Beauty

One thing I’ve been having a bit of trouble with lately is trying to negotiate some kind of balance between what I’ve come to understand about how perceptions of beauty are mediated by social and cultural convention against the fact that ultimately, I really rather do appreciate the beauty of the human form, of people. And that I find some people more exceptionally beautiful than others. Let’s say… Benedict Cumberbatch? Andrej Pejic? Gael Garcia Bernal? Kim Petras?

How do you allow yourself to appreciate given traits when you know they’re all so conditional and relative, and even help prop up perceptions you’d rather rid yourself of? Are we willing to just take the hit, decide “whatever beauty I perceive is a projection, not really there” and move on? [Read more…]

Catches Twenty-Two

We were chatting in our top secret and amazingly awesome backchannel, full of such incredible wit and delightful banter that you shall never ever know, about how some folks over at an intelligent design website called Uncommon Descent decided to do a bit of a breakdown of the whole Loftus thing, propping it up (in act of unconcealed schadenfreude) as indicative of some kind of big rift or infighting amongst atheists.

Which is a bit tedious and uninformed in that it hasn’t exactly been much of a conflict or controversy at all. No battle lines actually got drawn, nobody was attacking anybody (except in Loftus’ imagination), and there was no grand battle. In fact, pretty much everyone agreed that his remarks were over the line and his behaviour erratic and strange. All that really ultimately resulted from it was a nice, timely nudge in the direction of having an interesting and important discussion about the value of diversity in networks like FTB and in the atheist community as a whole, and a reminder of the problems lying behind accusations of tokenism.

Greta Christina made a really interesting point, though, that got my brain pieces to start doing brain stuff. She pointed out how whenever there’s a disagreement within our community, no matter how minor, people will exploit it to make up stories about “rifts” and “infighting” and “drama”, how we’re a bunch of angry little kids who endlessly squabble amongst ourselves. And then when we do agree with one another, suddenly we’re a “hive mind”, an “echo chamber”, “preaching to the choir”, a “circle jerk”, “silencing dissent”. We’re mocked and attacked for disagreeing with each other, and mocked and attacked for agreeing with one another. A catch-22, no-win, damned if you do and damned if you don’t situation.

What occurred to me, though, was how familiar these kinds of tactics are. While I’m relatively new to the atheist community, and new to seeing them play out here, I’m familiar with the same kind of “fit the circumstances to your opinion” thinking (rather than fitting your opinion to the circumstances), the same way of finding means of interpreting any action as terrible, even the acts that a moment ago you had criticized someone for not taking. I was familiar with them from feminism, from the trans community, from poverty activism and social justice work, from social attitudes towards addicts, and things like that.

I started wondering if these catch-22 set-ups are actually sort of the hallmark of discrimination, sort of the most direct and immediately recognizable way of knowing that a given group has been predetermined to be in the wrong regardless of what they do, or just generally aren’t being given a fair chance in terms of how they’re treated or understood. [Read more…]

Video From Tuesday Night

Okay… so… as it turns out the recording by my friend Julia Rose (thank you!!!)  did turn out okay. It’s definitely not very professional or fancy, as it was recorded on a phone, and this is my first ever public speaking engagement on skepticism stuff so I was rather nervous, and I’m probably going to regret letting you all see/hear the real life me (hidden behind low quality video as I am), but… to be honest, I procrastinated again, and don’t have anything better to put up this afternoon anyway. :P

Enjoy! [Read more…]

Transition: The Board Game

So this idea kind of emerged out of a bit of chat involving Anders over at the Giant In The Playground Forums about the possibility of using role-playing or Choose Your Own Adventure as an educational tool for cis people about the kinds of things that trans people go through, and the difficult choices we face.

My own reaction is that the best of both worlds could be found in a simple board game, which would additionally allow the presence of chance, and not sort of present the not-quite-as-realistic idea of what happens to a trans person being wholly predicated on hir choices. instead, a board game could lean heavily on luck, could be incredibly unfair, and could be structured such that sometimes nobody wins: just like real transition.

It’s also really bleak. Remember, though, that it’s meant to educate cis people about challenges faced by trans people. There is lots of joy, hope, fulfillment and awesomeness to be found in transition (and I hope to do a post all about that some time soon), but it’s tough to talk about that at the same time as talking about the difficulties we face… and talking about just how incredibly brutal those difficulties can be, especially for those of us who don’t get lucky.

A little bit a disclaimer, though: THIS IS MY INTELLECTUAL PROPERTY, YO. I wholly encourage people to go ahead and make their own home versions (which is basically exactly what this post is for) and to playtest it and tweak the rules around and whatever they want to do. I’d also love if I could get some feedback on the playtesting, and what rules or tweaks did and didn’t work. But don’t go mass-producing or marketing or selling or profiting from this game without my permission (though feel free to use it as an education tool), and don’t go pretending it was your own idea. Credit a girl, please?

This blog post is nice and time-stamped. Fun fact: this legally functions just as well as a copyright.

Anyway… [Read more…]

So Amy Pond Is Cool… But What About Irene Adler?

You know I can’t resist a good Doctor Who / Steven Moffat discussion. Especially when feminism is involved.

Yesterday, the extraordinary Stephanie Zvan of Almost Diamonds posted a response to some less-than-great criticisms levied against Mr. Moffat and the storyline he had written for Amy Pond in the most recent series of Doctor Who. Stephanie did a really great job of indicating how some of these feminist critiques of Pond’s character and arc are actually more reductive and sexist than anything Moffat himself had done.

Now, a couple weeks ago, I would have simply cheered and been on-side with Stephanie regarding this, because I really didn’t understand why people seemed to regard Moffat as being sexist. None of his work on Doctor Who really leapt out at me as such, he seemed to be doing a better job with his female characters and exploring female experiences than Russell Davies had, and he was easily head and shoulders above the vast majority sci-fi writers’ handling of women. I’m looking at you, Lost.

But then I watched Sherlock. In particular, I watched the second series premier, “A Scandal In Belgravia”. And what I saw was one of the most misogynistic stories I’d ever seen on television.

Spoilers ahead. [Read more…]

Coming Out (Fourth And Final Part): Why Coming Out Matters

A closet. A metaphor. Articulating a concept of identity.

If coming out of the closet can sometimes be nothing more than an act of constructing a new false identity so as to further bury the truth of what you’re experiencing, if the closet metaphor only really adequately describes certain particular kinds of queer narratives but is dangerously and indiscriminately applied to all of them, if even when being “properly” used the closet still poses a constructed and particular identity that leaves one just as limited as before, if it dangerously posits a type of human experience defined by behaviour, action, relationships, love and pleasure into a category of person, if it totally fails to describe the actual complexity of articulating our endlessly changing states and degrees of trust and honesty we provide those in our lives, if we can’t possibly reduce this complex, shifting dance of how we present ourselves to a simple “closeted” versus “out” dichotomy, if the responses we receive to the act of “coming out” can terrify us to the extent that it takes us years to once again recover the confidence to confront the truth of ourselves and permanently compromise our ability to trust the love of others… why do we have this metaphor? Why do we continue to use it?

Because it’s still too bloody useful to abandon. [Read more…]