So I’m enjoying the glow of victory today. Last night, our team, The Gallifreyan High Council, emerged as Time Lords Victorious in the Vancouver leg of the Cross-Canada Skeptical Smackdown quiz night. In addition to myself, the trans-feminist skeptic-ish atheist blogger, we had Joe Fulgham, co-host of the Caustic Soda science and pop-culture podcast, Xavier MacDonald, who bears a striking resemblance to The Green Arrow, and Lars Martin, both a nuclear astrophysicist and the cuddliest, most loveable German in the world. Pics will probably be forthcoming at either Skeptic North or Confessions Of An Asshole Skeptic, probably around the time we also figure out our national standing.
But that isn’t the only bit of pride I will oh-so-immodestly strut around today!
Because you know what this is?
This is my 100th post at SNR!
If we’re to assume that the Phawrongula wiki’s entry on me got my average word count right (as opposed to several other things they definitely did not get right… and yes, I mean actual factual errors, not just subjective opinion stuff), then we can assume that’s something like 163,000 words. A slim, but solid, trade paperback!
Or three NaNoWriMos, in eight weeks. If you’re okay with using NaNoWriMos as a unit of measurement. Which you obviously should be. Sheesh. Do I have to explain everything?
It has me sort of thinking “damn, if I just make a slight adjustment to my writing routine, I could honestly get a couple books done by the end of the year”.
So I’m’a prolly do that.
‘Cos, like, writing books and stuff is sort of what I always wanted to do. I think? That or being a dinosaur and bug wrangler.
Anyway, to celebrate this little milestone (there won’t be any others for awhile), I thought I’d so a little something special today, and share why I do what I do… why I continue pressing forward with this, despite all the flack and hassle and work and attacks and bigotry and phawrongula/ERV idiocy and everything I end up having to deal with. Why I’m willing to so thoroughly compromise my privacy and put my gender on the line as a public fact. Why I’ve decided to repeatedly say all kinds of guaranteed-unpopular things like, oh, “God does not love trans people”.
The reason I do it is because of e-mails like these:
I have been wanting to send you a letter for a while to tell you how much I appreciate you and your blog. As a trans woman I really needed to see someone out there who was talking about things in a way I understood. Nearly all the trans people I met are constantly telling me to look to god or how god loves us, they also have varying degrees of hostility towards feminism (somewhat understandable) and a strong tendency to anti intellectualism. It limited the degree to which I felt that I was part of the community. My skepticism/atheism in particular got me treated like a pariah when it came up. I remember one particular meeting where everyone was talking about how bad vaccination was and I made the mistake of arguing….
Reading you blog was the first time in a long time I felt like perhaps I wasn’t weird even in my own community. I can’t identify with everything you discuss but its enough that for the first time in a long time (perhaps ever) I felt like I wasn’t alone. Being trans always made me feel that and being even non standard in the trans community heightened it. Even more important I found your blog on Skepchick a few months after I had started transitioning and I really really needed to feel connected somewhere. Your blog gave me a voice at the most important time possible when I was realizing how hard things would be for me. I am eternally grateful for that.
I know you’re probably getting a lot of replies after the big deal made about you on Freethought Blogs, but I wanted to thank you personally. An avid follower of Pharyngula, I’m trans myself and found myself connecting to your posts. One gave me the courage to insist on a discussion with my parents about getting their condolence to be myself (dress as a girl) around our extended family, and it worked out so that the next time we meet, I’ll get to be as beautiful as I want. Thank you for that encouragement.
thank you for being someone to look up to. thank you; as a nerdsome transgender woman in the early/mid stages of transition; for being a positive role model. thank you for showing me that surviving doesnt have to mean crawling back into the mire of lies from which i was spawned. thank you for showing me that as i grow, go through a complicated gender transition (theoretically; yes. there is. i think there are lizards that do it.) deal with big issues, and discover more about the inner workings of who i am, that i dont have to sacrifice my self or whatever integrity and compassion i may possess if i wish to grow and thrive as you clearly have. thank you thank you thank you thank you. please continue being awesome; no pressure.
Thanks for being so open on your blog.
I am currently going through some issues around my gender identity and who I want to be, and one of the most comforting things has been your writings. It is nice to know that there are others out there who have been through similar problems, and that they are (or at least seem, and i hope you are happy.
So thank you for being so open about what you have been through, and for the links to other trans* sites that you have provided. I totally owe you a drink and/or hugs if you ever come near [snip]
This is just a quick email to say how much I’ve been enjoying your blog since you started writing at freethoughtblogs. Not to say I think its changed your writing, rather that’s just when I discovered your writing.
I am sorry to say that trans people were completely off my radar, despite being queer myself. I couldn’t have hoped for a better or more informative place to be introduced to the variety of issues that you cover, from the trials that trans people face to atheism and scepticism as well as addiction. I’ve learnt a lot from your blog pieces and I hope that your blog has made me more aware and will give me the confidence and knowledge to be an effective ally.
I know this may seem silly, but seeing you blogging and being so eloquent and confident despite the danger that this puts you in makes me feel far more confident. I am a rape survivor and seeing someone be as incredible as you are write about issues that do cause people to be confrontational and threatening on a day to day basis makes me feel like I can put myself out there more. I don’t feel that I am putting this very well. I look forward to reading your blog because, aside from the fact that I love your writing style, I feel more able to face the rest of the day, it make me feel that I can stand up for myself and other people, that I can walk from work to the train station. I suppose its like a one way support system.
This email is just to say thank you for that. Your writing has done a lot for me.
I’ve been a longtime reader of Pharyngula and followed PZ over to FTB. I haven’t been too interested in the other blogs on there, until you started blogging on the network. I wanted to thank you because reading your blog has allowed me (perhaps even forced me) to deal with gender issues I had repressed and tried to forget.
I’m not sure whether you’re really interested or not, but I’ll explain what I mean regardless. I grew up in a very ultra-born-again, evangelistic, young-earth creationist, bigoted, anti-science, anti-everything home. Even more unfortunately for me, I was also born male and had intense gender dysphoria from about 10 years of age onward. I never told my family about it for reasons which are probably obvious.
I did my best for the longest time to suppress the whole thing. But when I was 13, I met a boy I really liked. We became best friends quickly, but he was also an superultramega-Christian, and was virulently homophobic (how he felt about trans people, I have no idea– I didn’t even know what trans was back then.) So I never said anything. But our friendship continued for the longest time, and meanwhile I worked even harder to hide my feelings towards him.
When I was about 19 I [...snip...] And I spent about the next five years pretending to be a perfectly normal guy. I even met a girl and fell in love with her (pansexuality has its benefits), and we’re now married. I was atheist by then, but I was a stupid Libertarian atheist who thought you could be perfectly rational and used that as a rationale to “decide” to be normal.
But now and then the dysphoria would come and knock me down, and I still had feelings for my long-time friend. It actually got so bad that I couldn’t talk to him anymore– I was too afraid he or someone else would find out and my new “normal” life would be shattered. I just stopped returning his calls and pretending not to be home when he came around. Eventually he got the idea and we were no longer friends.
This is where you come in. I’ve actually been starting to accept myself. I got in contact with my old friend and told him everything. Turns out he liked me too, and he considers himself to be bisexual, and he always kinda figured I was trans. For various reasons we’re not considering getting together (friendship, marriage, etc.) but it’s great that it’s all in the open now and I can stop being dishonest.
Anyhow… there’s a lot more detail I’m missing out, because I simply don’t want to bore you with my entire life story. But I wanted to let you know that you’ve helped me, even though I’m still technically in stealth mode.
I wanted to write to express to you how deeply your work has affected me. I came out as a trans woman last year and it was a struggle for the first few months to find clear and logical information and perspectives that I could relate too. Since then I have found a few but none as important as when I started reading your articles on SkepChick and then Queereka and now here. As a secular, rationalist, atheist, feminist myself I appreciate and adore all your posts. I feel like you so brilliantly contextualize many amorphous feelings floating around in my head in that sort of way where when I read your blog I constantly get those “A-ha! this makes perfect sense” moments. I am very passionate about all these subjects as well as futurism and social and political trends and would love to be as effective a communicator of my ideas as you. I guess I see you as a role model in that way, especially since I had all but abandoned ideas of any sort of entry into the public sphere since coming out, and we have had very similar histories (from what little I know about you from your posts). Anyways, thank you. Thank you for being a light in the darkness of pseudoscience and misinformation. Considering myself an intellectual, it is important to me to be moved by a carefully constructed argument and I find that is often very rare when dealing with issues of cissexism and transphobia. Never stop doing what you do, it is so tremendously important. And thanks for the contributions so far!
The way I hear it, you’ve had an awfully shitty week.
I can’t say I’m writing because I know you personally. But I can tell you the difference you’ve made, and your importance, and hope that at some point, it makes a little tick mark on the less shitty side of the scale for you.
I read your blog every morning. I’ve got early class at the university, and before it, I make my coffee, head over to the FTB site, and scroll down to the bottom right, and click on whatever’s new on Sincerely, Natalie Reed. It’s especially great if there’s a couple new things, because it means I’ll get my mind bent in multiple new directions. (I might also be late to class if they’re long posts.) I, like most people, do that thing where I scan internet articles. But you have this fantastic way of writing where everything sorta cascades and sounds like you’re talking conversationally, and then it all pulls together and I realize something I haven’t thought about. I sit down and read your posts end to end, and I love it. You’ve educated me more than any other FTBlog has. It’s pretty awesome. I’m cis and straight, and being from Texas, trans issues rarely ever (okay, probably never) crossed my life. I was anti trans discrimination, but I wasn’t very knowledgable, and I’m sure beyond a doubt that I would have asked at least a couple of the insensitive questions on the list, totally unthinkingly. Now I won’t. Because you said something, and you said it brilliantly.
You inspire me, and dammit, it pisses me off when people, particularly atheists, treat you badly. So here’s a huge thank you. And a kitten.
[that one had a little pic of a kitty with it... which I'm apparently not allowed to upload to wordpress because it says the filetype is not okay "for security reasons". You heard it here first: WordPress hates kittehs.]
So… hopefully that can give you all a bit of an idea as to why I do this, and why I’m going to continue on doing so for the foreseeable future. You guys, the readers, are what matters to me and gives me the strength and sense of purpose to carry on, and to always resist the recurrent temptation to just say “fuck it… this is not worth it!” and just give up on it all. You all mean the world to me, and just knowing that in whatever tiny way my writing and my blog has been able to help people out and give them some little bit of extra hope or strength or sense of being a little less alone in the world, that is everything, and all the reward a writer could ever ask for.
For me, writing has always been about reaching out. Casting a fragile little message in a bottle out into a big scary, intimidating, seemingly-hopeless and endlessly empty sea, in the tiny hope that somehow somewhere it will wash up on shore, and find a reader, and mean something to them. In that hope, of a reader connecting to your words, is where the draw of writing lies- a (perhaps desperate) defiance of the loneliness of being stranded in a human life. And in that act of reading, in that moment of finding some words that suggest that someone, somewhere, somehow understands what you feel or think or have lived, that is the same thing too. That same sense of salvation and comfort and light. The sense of not being alone. The sense of being understood.
Thank you all so much for that.
ETA: And here’s a pic of our winning team, The Gallifreyan High Council! (sadly, we did not end up placing as national champions, though)