Coming Out (Part Three Of Four): When I Actually Came Out

There’s two things you should know, which kind of make this story a tad less dramatic and awesome and fun to tell than it would otherwise be:

1) My family are scattered all over the place. We currently live in Vancouver, Alaska, Montreal, North Carolina, England, Scotland, Ethiopia, Thailand, Boston, Canterlot, New York and Toronto. I’m the only one in Vancouver, and I made one of those up.

2) At the time all this happened, I had only recently moved to Vancouver, and didn’t yet have any friends in the city. Except for Mittens, my cybernetic velociraptor.

This means all my coming out as trans didn’t happen in person, which makes the story a whole lot less cool and exciting than most people’s stories. Sending e-mails doesn’t quite have the same dramatic force as speaking to family in dim 1am kitchens over glasses of port. Nonetheless, I can hardly do a series all about coming out without talking about my own coming out. It’s times like these that I regret my policy of telling the truth about my experiences.

“No seriously, guys! I totally killed a Tigerman warlock with an allen key and a pack of mint skittles!” [Read more...]

Coming Out (Part Two Of Four): Spooking, Disclosure And The Revolving Closet Doors

One of the many problematic aspects of treating gay and lesbian (mostly just gay) experiences and narratives as the archetype against which all queer experience is measured is how it causes particular models and tropes of queer lives to be applied indiscriminately across the many varying identities that comprise our community All kinds of important nuances, subtleties and distinctions can get lost in this process, and entire identities erased. Concepts, issues and experiences which are complex or problematic in very particular ways for certain kinds of queer lives end up being expected to fit into the same patterns, and have all the same implications and meanings and values, as how they operate in relation to gay lives.

There are lots of issues that end up being treated as exceptionally meaningful and central to queer experience, often being sort of central rallying points for the LGBTQ rights movement despite their lack of universality, and how they really don’t have nearly the same implications for everyone. Marriage equality, for instance, is treated as sort of the priority objective in the push forward for legal equality even while the narratives used to support it can be dismissive of other queer identities, such as those who are polyamorous or asexual. Non-discrimination bills will be structured around sexual orientation while choosing to leave gender identity and gender expression out of the wording. The “born this way” narrative is pushed in increasingly dogmatic terms at the expense of bisexual, pansexual and gender-fluid experiences. Narratives of gay self-acceptance often hinge themselves on the idea of bisexuality not even existing. The “just like normal people” narrative pushes aside butch, effeminate, drag and transgender identities entirely.

And the concept of coming out, its significance and what it means, is applied indiscriminately across the queer spectrum, failing to consider the vastly different implications it carries for people who are not gay or lesbian… such as how it means something almost wholly different for transsexual experience. [Read more...]

Thoughts From A Diversity Hire

Those of you who follow FTB as a whole, or were keeping up with the Target Audiences comment thread, are probably already aware of a rather nasty remark John Loftus made insinuating that I’m not really qualified to be writing for this network and was only brought in for the sake of diversity.

This post is not going to be another discussion of Loftus or his remarks. There’s not really any need to carry that any further, I feel comfortable with how this resolved and like there isn’t much left to be said. I also feel for the most part that his comments speak for themselves, and my colleagues at FTB have already done a great job of defending my worth and discussing why his diversity-hire comment was not okay and crossed the line.

But I do want to talk about the issue of diversity, and “tokens”, both as a general thing and within the skeptic, atheist and humanist community. The issue goes well beyond Loftus’ remark, of course, and has been coming a lot lately, most notably perhaps in the Staks Rosch “Hitchie award” controversy. [Read more...]

Coming Out (Part One Of Four): When Coming Out Is Shutting Yourself In

This piece was originally posted at Queereka. I am re-posting it here because it had originally been intended as part of a series, which I will now complete this week. Please visit Queereka for all kinds of awesome LGBTQ stuff, from a secular, skeptical angle!

For me, being a skeptic, and the personal importance skepticism has for me, almost entirely boils down to one thing: knowing that I’m an irrational, crazy idiot capable of incredible cognitive distortions and amazing feats of self-deception. Skepticism is a safety precaution and coping mechanism. My intellectual emergency brakes.

The initial crazy that led me into discovering and understanding the enormous importance of doubt and hesitation was managing to convince myself during my first year of college that the world was secretly being run by a cabal of occult-oriented secret societies. I was approximately 2.5 grams of psilocybin mushrooms away from buying into the shape-shifting reptile people. Snapping out of that snapped me into skepticism.

But the conspiracy theories, in terms of personal significance, is dwarfed in irrationality, cognitive distortion and self-deception by how I convinced myself for twelve years following the initial revelation of my transsexuality that that wasn’t what was really going on, that I must have made a mistake (over and over and over), that I couldn’t possibly be the T-word and…

…ultimately convincing myself that I was really just gay. So I came out as such.

[Read more...]

“You Look Great! I Never Would Have Guessed!” And Other Acts Of Well-Intentioned Cissexism

Disclaimer: this post is not specifically inspired by or directed towards ANY of my friends, family, colleagues, readers or fans. I am very appreciative of all of your kindness and support.

A couple weeks ago when I posted about how to ask trans people questions without doing so in an insensitive or invasive way, I made a point about unintended implications or underlying assumptions. I also used as a brief example the compliment mentioned in this title. I wanted to explore that a little bit more, focusing on the context of compliments and support. [Read more...]

Target Audiences And Playing Nice

There’s been some really interesting discussion in and around FTB lately about the issues of different approaches to blogging and different kinds of target audiences. A lot of this came up in response to our new blogger Libby-Anne (of Love, Joy, Feminism) making a post in which she requested that the FTB natives maintain an extra level of civility when commenting on her blog as she feels the people who will most benefit from her work, and a group she is specifically trying to engage, are those who are still involved in religious and patriarchal communities and beliefs. She feels (and I agree) that if the same take-no-prisoners approach that’s adopted at a blog like Pharyngula were applied at her’s, it would intimidate or drive away most believers, or simply shut down the dialogue and make it impossible to communicate with them. This would be directly detrimental to Libby-Anne’s goals for her work.

I’m completely and totally with Libby-Anne on this. It’s her blog, her house, her rules. If she has certain goals, and needs to set a certain tone in order to pursue those goals, she has every right to ban or moderate commenters who aren’t willing to adapt to that tone. See, one of the main things that bugs me about accommodationists like Chris Stedman is their insistence that there is only ONE possible way to go about atheism… their way. The rest of us, to them, are doing it wrong. I believe our movement is strongest when we recognize the value of multiple approaches, multiple specific goals or priorities, and multiple perspectives. Even if we focus strictly on the micro-issue of attempting to deconvert individual believers, different believers are going to respond best to different kinds of approaches. It’s kind of like how a bio-diverse ecosystem is a whole lot more likely to survive than a homogenous one if there’s a significant change in the environmental conditions.

It’s one of the things I love about Freethought Blogs. We have an extremely diverse set of writers, each coming to this from different angles, with different backgrounds and specializations, different identities, experiences and perspectives, different priorities and interests, different skills and styles and tones, and each doing certain things particularly well in particular ways. It’s like a good, functional Dungeons & Dragons party. You’ve got your fighter, your wizard, your thief and your cleric, each playing different roles… killing goblins, lighting darkened passages, picking locks, and healing the goddamned fighter.

So why am I commenting on this, if this is just one of those little happy things I’m totally cool with? Well, lately things have gotten kind of strange. John Loftus, former FTB blogger, has recently written a number of vague and somewhat nasty (in the JREF Steve Cuno “sea monkey” kind of way) comments over at Camels With Hammers about the “mean-spirited” atheists back here at FTB and has openly threatened to “turn his guns” on such atheists. This is where things stop being cool for me. [Read more...]

Fun Video On Cynthia Nixon’s Choice, And An Announcement (I’m giving a live talk!)

This is a little late, and a little less than topical, but as many of you may have heard, earlier this month Cynthia Nixon (an actress known for her role on Sex And The City) made a very open declaration that for her, being a lesbian was in fact a choice. This directly challenged the currently prevailing queer narrative, and the increasingly dominant mantra of “Born This Way”, and she received some pretty significant negative backlash.

Kind of creeps me out. The fact of the matter is, we don’t yet have much conclusive evidence as to what exactly determines sexual orientation or just how innate it really is. For most people who are queer, our identities feel quite fixed and immutable, and we often fought very, very hard to make them conform to social expectations and went through a long period of hating ourselves and desperately wishing to be “normal” before ever accepting that this is who we are and is who we need to be to be happy. But that experience is NOT universal, and many people have a far more fluid and shifting experience of sexuality and/or gender.

And what really stands out for me is the fact that the Born This Way debate really doesn’t matter unless we buy into the concept presented by the religious right that queer identities or acts are somehow immoral, sinful, disgusting, inferior or otherwise undesirable (“But we can’t help it!”). Even if it is a choice, it’s a choice we bloody well have the right to make for ourselves.

Anyway, a couple really great ladies I know from Teh Twitterz put up this incredibly cute, insightful and fun video last week, which articulates these issues wonderfully (and with wonderful accents) and I happened to watch last night and found too awesome not to share: [Read more...]

A Matter Of Survival

The other day I was archive-binging at the fantastic (and alternately hilarious and deeply depressing) tumblr Yo, Is This Racist? and came across this interesting exchange:

Anonymous asked: Is it racist that my science teacher sucks balls?

Yo, science education in the US is a fucking political mess of a tragedy, but it’s worth sticking around and at least trying to learn how to apply evidence and logic, because bastardizations of science are basically the favorite tool of the modern racist.

I loved it.

But… for some reason my mind immediately snapped back to the awful Be Scofield scuffle of a couple weeks ago. And the years I’ve spent hearing repeated accusations that science, maths, reason, education or any kind of intellectual pursuit (take your pick) is somehow inherently an imperialist or patriarchal or racist or heteronormative force of oppression. I’ve heard it so many times, it’s hard for me even to be all that angry about it anymore. But every once in awhile I encounter something inspiring like the beautifully concise response above, or the sheer audacity of Scofield’s accusations of the “purest form of evil”. In short, I want to address this. [Read more...]