Rational ideals

This post is for the Carnival of Aces, whose theme this month is “Questioning your faith“.

Leaving religion was a rather unemotional process for me. There was no catalyzing event. I was interested in skepticism. I learned about philosophical arguments for God, and found them unpersuasive.  Without any real urgency, I spent a whole year thinking to myself, “Gee, there’s really no justification for belief in God, and there may never be.” At the end of the year, I considered myself an atheist.

Unlike leaving religion, leaving straightness was a far more emotional experience. And yet, I tried to treat it the same way. “Am I straight or am I asexual?” was an intellectual puzzle, to be approached under the same rational ideals.  It is not clear to me, after the fact, that this approach was a good idea.  Here I give a taste of my thought process.
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Signaling in social justice language

Social justice activists like myself have a tendency to construct a lot of rules about which words to use or avoid. For example, “gay” is preferred to “homosexual” because the latter is too formal, clinical, and distant. On the other hand, “homosexual” may be acceptable when it’s used in parallel with “heterosexual”, or if it’s contrasted with “homoromantic”. These rules can be frustrating to learn, but they have some rationale behind them.

And then there are other rules which just don’t have any clear rationale. For instance, “gay” is to be used only as an adjective, never as a noun, and certainly never as a plural noun (i.e. “the gays”). Why? We don’t have a problem with using plural nouns for other identities, such as “Americans”, “liberals” or “atheists”. Even other sexual orientations are usually acceptable, as in the case of “lesbians”, “bisexuals”, or “asexuals”.

On an individual level, the only rationale is that “the gays” just sounds wrong, and conjures negative associations. It makes me think of conservative preachers talking about all the evil things the gays are up to.

On a broader scale, this is a clear example of signaling. Following arbitrary language rules indicates that a person has taken the time to educate themselves and exercise a little empathy.
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I’m glad it has come to bathrooms

This may be a contentious statement given that I am: a) not trans, and b) not living in North Carolina, Mississippi, or Alabama. But I am glad that bathroom bills have brought discrimination and harassment against trans people to national attention.

The fact of the matter is that denying trans people access to public restrooms did not start with bathroom bills. It was already an ongoing problem.

In the last few years, when US marriage equality was imminent, LGBT activists were worried about what would come next. For so long, marriage equality has been the LGBT issue in the US, as perceived by allies and outsiders. Activists themselves knew there were plenty of other issues like employment discrimination, trans healthcare, and de facto health and economic disparities. But if the general public starts to believe queer issues have already been solved, just like they believe for racism and sexism, then activists would run out of steam and funding.
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The Extremely Simple Model of Orientation

I’m trying a monthly feature where I repost things from my archives.  This one is from 2015, and is very silly.  It’s also a great example of talking about asexuality without talking about it.  A preoccupation with modeling orientation is flamingly ace.

When it comes to models, simplicity is a value. The point of a model is not to tell you everything, but to isolate the information that you actually want to know. When people try to model human sexuality, they often undervalue simplicity, leading to such misguided attempts as the following:

Transcript: an equation for W, the amplitude of a quantum transition, including parts from quantum mechanics, spacetime, gravity, other forces, matter, and Higgs.
The Universal Equation Model of Orientation (TUEMO). Image borrowed from Sean Carroll.

Proponents of this model argue that they are making simplifications, and far too many. For instance, they already graciously ignore quantum gravity, under the assumption that black holes aren’t involved in most human relationships. But I say it still doesn’t go far enough. I propose a bolder simplification…

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Paper: Sexual racism among gay men

“Sexual racism” is racial discrimination against potential sexual or romantic partners. Sexual racism is very common among gay & bi men. The hookup app Grindr is notorious for the many profiles that say upfront, “no femmes, no blacks, no asians.” I’ve also heard several terms for gay & bi men who prefer partners of a particular race–“rice queen” being particularly frequent in my area.

Normally, when I talk about gay & bi men, I avoid contrasting straight people, because sometimes straight people complain they have it just as bad, and what do I know? But when it comes to sexual racism, research backs me up in saying it really is worse for gay & bi men.

Many defend sexual racism by saying it is a personal preference. Some say that it is a preference determined by biology, similar to gender preferences. Others say that even if racial preferences are culturally determined, they aren’t amenable to moral condemnation because preferences too difficult to change.

I’m skeptical of these defenses, but I’ve never personally used any dating or hookup services. So today, instead of relying on my personal experiences, I’ll rely on social science. Today I’ll briefly discuss the paper, “Is Sexual Racism Really Racism? Distinguishing Attitudes Toward Sexual Racism and Generic Racism Among Gay and Bisexual Men“.
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Student groups and volume

Fellow blogger Crys has a good series on cultural differences, particularly between Italy and other countries. Something I like to think about are cultural differences between atheist groups and queer groups.

Back when I was an undergraduate, I joined both atheist and queer student groups. The most obvious difference between the two was that the queer groups were very quiet, and the atheist group was very loud. Queer groups would often have awkward moments of silence, where everyone was hoping someone else will choose to speak. The atheist group was full of interruptions, even when we’d try to impose moderation.

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