Riots and commemoration

As massive anti-racism protests erupted across the US (and the rest of the world as well) we had yet another public conversation about the value and significance of riotous actions within protests. My own social media environment is very progressive and supportive of the protests, but even there I saw some disagreement, as some folks argued that rioting was valuable and significant, and others argued that it was not a significant part of the mostly peaceful protests.

After about a week, the latter view seemed to win out, especially in light of the much more significant violence perpetrated by the police themselves. “The Police are Rioting. We Need to Talk About It” is an article title that about sums it up. At this point I feel like I’m addressing the topic too late. But there’s one argument that stuck in my head.

This one argument justified recent riots by comparing them to the Stonewall riots. In the US, June is Pride Month, which originated as a commemoration of the Stonewall riots. The Stonewall riots clearly demonstrate the potential value of violent protest. On the other hand, the history of Stonewall is heavily mythologized, and there is a danger of drawing the wrong conclusions based on fiction.

Today I’d like to discuss a scholarly article: “Movements and Memory: The Making of the Stonewall Myth” by Elizabeth A Armstrong and Suzanna M Crage (via belowdesire, who has many other informative articles). And I do recommend reading the entire article yourself if you have the time. By examining the history we can better understand the potential–and limitations–of riots.

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On subversivism

This has been crossposted to The Asexual Agenda.

“Subversivism”, according to Julia Serano, is

the practice of extolling certain gender and sexual expressions and identities simply because they are unconventional or nonconforming. In the parlance of subversivism, these atypical genders and sexualities are “good” because they “transgress” or “subvert” oppressive binary gender norms.

Serano criticizes subversivism because it creates a double-standard, where people who are perceived as having less transgressive experiences are excluded or othered.

Subversivism was established in Serano’s book, Whipping Girl, and further discussed in Excluded. Although, I admit that I have not read these books, and have instead gotten the short version from Serano’s blog. I refer to subversivism often enough that it seems useful to write up my own thinking about it, and discuss its applications to my own area of activism.

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Two cents on pansexuality

For about ten years, I’ve been hearing about this dispute between pansexuality vs bisexuality. In its most basic form, the contention is that the “bi” in “bisexuality” refers to two genders, which seems to entirely forget about nonbinary people. Some people propose using “pansexual” instead. Other people defend “bisexual”, or admit that it has problems but still prefer it as the more recognizable term.

I am neither bisexual nor pansexual nor nonbinary, so I’m just weighing in from the perspective of someone who has been hearing about it for a long time.

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On trans athletes

Lately people have been talking about the downturn of the Austin Community of Atheists (see video explaining timeline, or transcript). But the point of me leaving the atheist movement was so I didn’t have to concern myself with all the bullshit that goes on in atheist groups, so I’m not going to talk about it. Instead I’ll address an issue that came up in relation to the drama: the right of trans athletes to compete in athletic events. HJ Hornbeck has been talking about it for literally months, and this is my independent take.

I’ll admit upfront that I don’t care about athletics. The only sports I personally care about are video game speed running and competitive Dominion. I only care about athletics to the extent that I have empathy for things that other people care about.

So a good place to start is with someone else who cares more, and has more expertise. I present Dr. Rachel McKinnon, who is not only a trans athlete, but also a philosophy professor who teaches courses about sports ethics!

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Natalie Reed’s “Trans 101”

Who was Natalie Reed? She was a writer for Skepchick in late 2011, one of the earliest writers to introduce people in the skeptical/atheist blogosphere to trans thought. She also led Skepchick’s sister blog, Queereka (no longer online), and then blogged on FreethoughtBlogs until early 2013. She disavowed the atheist/skeptical community around that time–she was years ahead of the rest of us. Natalie Reed is in fact still active on Twitter, although I understand that she has some major tensions with her earlier writing.

I was a big fan of Natalie Reed for most of her brief, but prolific blogging career. It’s no secret that The Asexual Agenda, a group blog I launched in 2012, was inspired and modeled after Queereka. But I have to admit that I did not read a lot of Natalie’s later blogging, not because of any real disagreement, but simply because it was too long. I feel hypocritical making that complaint considering the length of my writing. And it’s unfortunate because “early” Natalie and “late” Natalie are somewhat at odds with each other, and I mostly just saw one side of that.

So I’d like to reflect on some “late” Natalie. Specifically, this is about the very last article she ever wrote for FreethoughtBlogs, titled “Trans 101“, dated March 2013.

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My responses to TERF concerns

Recently, ContraPoints released a video responding to Gender Critical Feminists (i.e. TERFs).

I’d like to offer my own responses to the same TERF concerns, not really because I think TERF concerns deserve to be addressed at length, but because I believe in participatory learning.  I also like to think that I’m adding a few useful points.

1. Gender metaphysics

Asking trans people “What even is gender?” is kind of like asking theft victims, “What even is property?” That is to say, it’s a really tough question that deserves a serious answer, and therefore should be asked in a different context where it’s not a transparent troll. Otherwise, don’t be surprised when you get reductive slogans like “man trapped in a woman’s body”.

IMHO, a lot of gender, as it is commonly understood, seems to come down to snap judgments that we make about other people. Those snap judgments are based on appearance and voice, cross-referenced to the gendered customs of your culture. But snap judgments can also be “wrong”, suggesting that gender does not refer to appearance itself, but refers to an essence indicated by appearance. But the nature of the essence itself is unclear.

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Reason is a powerful aesthetic

I feel like we’re living in a golden age of YouTube vlogging. Every month my link roundup seems to include Lindsay Ellis, Contrapoints, or the like, because they make powerful arguments, and they’re very entertaining. This past month, ContraPoints posted a video called “The Aesthetic”, which I felt was worthy of a longer comment.

The video asks, “What matters more—the way things are or the way things look?”

Justine: I’m not against reason. Reason is a very powerful aesthetic. If you’re a man.
Tabby: What if you’re a woman?
Justine: Oh, don’t be a woman. That’s not a good idea.

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