The Biskeptical Podcast #35: #MeToo and President Pence

CN: Sexual harassment and assault

For the first part of today’s episode, we talk about Harvey Weinstein, the hashtags #MeToo and #IHave, and rape culture. It’s a pretty heavy and uncomfortable conversation about sexual assault and harassment just to warn you all, but a much needed conversation none-the-less. In the second half, we talk about the recent New Yorker article about Mike Pence, and why maybe having him as president might be worse than Trump.

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Yes, Non-Binary People Experience Gender Dysphoria — My Latest for The Establishment

“You’re not trans. You’re just a transtrender!”

If non-binary people had a nickel every time we heard this, we’d be rich enough to hop a rocket and start our own space colony on Mars. But alas, we’re stuck here on Earth, constantly explaining to everyone what it’s like to not identify within the gender binary.

The “transtrender” argument is rooted in the belief that since non-binary people aren’t transitioning to the opposite biological sex, we must not experience gender dysphoria (defined as “a conflict between a person’s physical or assigned gender and the gender with which he/she/they identify”). Therefore, we’re just co-opting trans language to be hip and cool.

This is, in a word, bullshit — and while I expect it from those who are cis, it especially hurts coming from trans people.

Certainly, I understand the need to keep the “this isn’t just a feeling” narrative alive. Transphobes, after all, love to say things like, “Well I feel like a tree, so does that make me a tree?” — despite the number of studies that suggest a scientific basis for gender identity. But why can’t binary trans people understand that, just as they don’t identify with the gender they were assigned at birth, some people don’t identify with “man” or “woman”?

Interestingly enough, the DSM-V describes gender dysphoria in a way that includes non-binary people. Under the list of symptoms, the DSM-V lists strongly identifying as, wanting to be treated as, and having the same feelings as either the opposite sex “or some alternative gender different from one’s assigned gender.”

Well, that pretty much describes me. I’m not just an androgynous man; my entire sense of self and my experiences do not align with my assigned gender. When I was a child and socialized with girls, I felt like I was one of them. As far as my body goes, it’s complicated. I’m fine with my chest and genitals, but my body hair feels like a foreign object that’s infesting my body.

After talking to several of my non-binary friends, I found they experience similar forms of dysphoria where they are comfortable with some parts of their body, but not others. Could it be that this is the case for many, if not all, non-binary people? There was only one way to find out: the scientific method!

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Bi Any Means Podcast #120: PASTAHcon Recap

Today’s episode is another monologue episode. This time I’m sharing my experiences at PASTAHcon this past weekend. I brought my Zoom H4N portable recorder with me just in case I found someone to interview for the show, and while I met a lot of people that I would love to have on the show in the future, it was much easier for me to just listen to the talks and hang out with friends than try to chase someone down to talk to me for five minutes. Also, I was originally planning on inviting a guest for this week, but since I’m recording the Biskeptical Podcast this week with Morgan and I have a few other projects I need to do, I figure just turning on the mic and talking about this past weekend would be less of a hassle.

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#IHave: Confessions of a Former Sensitive Nice Guy — My Latest for Splice Today

Post-Harvey Weinstein, assault and harassment survivors are talking about their own experiences on social media using the hashtag #MeToo. As a result, many men are holding themselves accountable for harassing and assaulting others using the #IHave hashtag. It’s a great way for men to hold themselves accountable for contributing to the problem, and I confess that even though I’m not a cis man, I, too, have a past. I was never an MRA who thought feminism was a cancer, nor was I a sexual predator. I was worse than that. The MRAs and sexual predators are easy to spot, but there’s another kind of dangerous man whose underlying misogyny and sexism are hard to see until the damage is done: the Sensitive Nice Guy.

Not all men who are genuinely nice and sensitive are bad. When I say Sensitive Nice Guy, I’m specifically referring to guys like Luke Howard, the British musician who thought playing his piano in a park to win back his ex-girlfriend was a good idea. Some may see this as a romantic gesture, but in reality it’s just creepy. He was guilt-tripping his ex into loving him again without a single consideration for her own autonomy. It was all about him and his emotions, and I was that guy at one point.

As an autistic person, my life’s been a never-ending struggle to figure out how to relate to others. In my quest to learn how to interact with people, I picked up a lot of bad ideas without realizing it until much later. One was that since toxic masculinity was bad; the acceptable alternative was to be the brooding, emotional guy (this was before I realized I was trans) waiting for a Manic Pixie Dream Girl to save me from my misery a la the movie Garden State. Women’s sole purpose in society was to fulfill my life and be my therapists.

At best, I was annoying, but at worse, I was a creep.

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Bi Any Means Podcast #119: Latinx Secular Politics with Juhem Navarro-Rivera

My guest for today is Dr. Juhem Navarro-Rivera. According to his official bio, “Dr. Juhem Navarro-Rivera is a political scientist with expertise in Latinx political behavior and in secularism and politics. He writes about the intersection of secularism, race, and politics in his blog The LatiNone and cohosts The Benito Juárez Experience, a podcast on politics, society, and culture from a secular Latinx perspective. He is author or coauthor of many articles on secularism, politics and race in the United States. He works as managing partner and political director at SocioAnalítica Research. Dr. Navarro-Rivera earned his PhD in Political Science from the University of Connecticut.” And today we’re going to find out more about him and what he does.

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Liberal Politics and Trans Rights — My Latest for Splice Today

Despite the fact Dudebro Classical Liberals have tarnished the word, I still consider myself a liberal. I believe in using free speech to criticize bad speech, a government that works for the people, and liberty and justice for all. I’m also transgender, so when I heard that Helen Pluckrose and James Lindsay wrote an article for Areo Magazine called “An Argument for a Liberal and Rational Approach to Transgender Rights and Inclusion,” I had to read it.

I wasn’t expecting much at first, though. For starters, whenever cis straight people talk about a “rational approach” to LGBTQ rights, they end up sounding like the white moderates Martin Luther King Jr. wrote about. Also, Lindsay and I recently had an unproductive conversation on Twitter where I criticized him blaming Trump’s election exclusively on “social justice warriors,” and his response insinuated that I just shut up and go away. But I figured it’d be better if I read the article before criticizing them. It isn’t as bad as I thought, but still missed the mark.

The article begins with a false equivalence. “On the one hand,” Pluckrose and Lindsay write, “we have extreme social conservatives and gender critical radical feminists who claim that trans identity is a delusion and that the good of society depends on opposing it at every turn.” I agree; both social conservatives and TERFS (trans-exclusive radical feminists) perpetuate the deadly myth that trans women are really just men in drag that want to infiltrate women’s spaces in order to assault them (even though studies show trans women are more likely to be assaulted in public bathrooms than cis women). But then: “On the other, we have extreme trans activists who claim not only that trans people straightforwardly are the gender they experience themselves to be but that everyone else must be compelled to accept this, use corresponding language, and be fully inclusive of trans people in their choice of sexual partners.” I can understand objections to the last one, but what’s wrong with the first two? What’s so extreme about trans people wanting to been seen and accepted for who they are?

Click here to read the rest.

And in a strange turn of events, Helen Pluckrose loved the article!

Bi Any Means Podcast #118: Agnosticism, Disability, and Bisexuality with Denarii Monroe

My guest for today is Denarii Monroe. She’s a freelance writer, poet, speaker, and singer based in New York who has written for Everyday Feminism, Ravishly, Wear Your Voice, and Black Girl Dangerous, among other publications. She writes about bisexuality, race, disability, fatphobia, and how they all intersect. So today we’re going to get to know Denarii and her story.

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Taxi Driver and the Culture of Violence — My Latest Splice Today Article

One of my favorite movies is Martin Scorsese’s Taxi Driver. Released in 1976, the portrayal of madness, loneliness, urban decay, and violence still holds up. This is especially true in light of the recent mass shooting in Las Vegas. While everyone on social media is talking about gun control laws—which is important—the one key factor that everyone’s overlooking is how this recent shooting is part of a larger culture of violence in America; a culture that Taxi Driver portrays brilliantly.

The film stars Robert De Niro as Travis Bickle, a 26-year-old Vietnam vet who gets a job as a cabbie because of his insomnia. Everyday he’s disgusted by “the filth” he sees every night: pimps, gangs, hookers, and drug dealers. Bickle develops an obsessive crush on a woman named Betsy (Cybill Shepherd), who works for presidential candidate Charles Palantine. Their first date at a coffee shop goes well, but the second one fails horribly when Bickle takes her to a porno theater. She soon cuts off all contact with him, which hastens his decent into madness.

Bickle soon becomes obsessed with a 12-year-old prostitute named Iris (Jodie Foster). He tries to convince her to go back home to her parents, but she refuses. This only adds to Bickle’s obsession with “washing away” the filth in the city. He buys a round of guns via the black market, kills a man trying to hold up a corner store, and then decides to go bigger. First he tries to assassinate Palentine, but a Secret Service man chases him away before Bickle can pull out his gun. Then, in a graphically violent shootout, he kills Iris’ pimp Sport (Harvey Keitel), a brothel owner, and Iris’ john. The scene ends in an overhead shoot where the camera picks up all the carnage: Iris crying hysterically in a corner, Bickle covered in blood on a couch, the brothel owner’s brains splattered on the wall, the john lying in a pool of blood, and Sport’s corpse.

Ironically, Bickle suddenly becomes a hero. He saved a child from prostitution, and both Iris’ parents and the media praise him. Once Bickle recovers and is back driving a taxi, Betsy gets into his cab with a new respect for him. After he drops her off at her place, he drives off, but not without one last chilling look in the rearview mirror. This, according, to screenwriter Paul Schrader’s DVD commentary, means Bickle will do it again, but this time he won’t be a hero.

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The Biskeptical Podcast #34: #TakeAKnee U Bum!

On today’s show, we talk about the controversy surrounding #TakeAKnee. We talk about Trump being his usual dickish self, all the racist backlash, surprise allies, and why the hell Steven Seagal is chiming in. We also take a look at news stories from the past two weeks, including Russian hacks, private email servers, psychic vampires, and why Trump’s ignoring Puerto Rico.

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Should I Stay Or Should I Go? When Your Activist Community Becomes Toxic — My Latest For Ravishly

I didn’t start out in activist communities, but everything changed in 2013. Up until then, I was — to the best of my knowledge — a straight cis moderately liberal Christian blogger who only had a handful of readers. By the time I was 29, though, I finally figured out I was bisexual (it took me another two years to figure out I was non-binary), and started a Tumblr blog to connect with other bisexuals. What I didn’t expect was following a trail of social justice blogs that taught me about the systemic racism and misogyny that are still operating in the early 21st century.

Around the same time, I was deconstructing my faith to the point that eventually God just disappeared in a puff of logic. I was quickly evolving from a straight cis moderately liberal Christian guy to a queer trans atheist/humanist with a passion for social justice, and so I obviously had opinions. I decided to start a new blog called Bi Any Means and a podcast with the same name, and that, in the words of Robert Frost, has made all the difference.

I hoped that my blog and podcast would connect me with other activists spreading the good news of humanism. I didn’t expect to find family, but that’s what happened. As I interviewed more activists in the movement for the podcast, word about me quickly spread, and before I knew it, prominent atheist activists were sending me friend requests on Facebook. For some reason, people liked what I had to say. Fellow podcasters started inviting me to be a guest on their shows. Friends shared my blog posts. People I admired walked up to me during last year’s Reason Rally to say hello. All my hard work was finally paying off.

As clichéd as it sounds, I felt welcomed into a community for the first time in my life.

The pinnacle of this sense of community was this year’s ReasonCon in Hickory, NC. Not only did I reconnect with everyone I met at Reason Rally, I also made new friends and met more fans of my show. The talks were great, but the highlight of the conference was the amazing sense of community. We were in an environment where we were welcome to take off our masks, to laugh about the good times, mourn the loss of loved ones together, and open ourselves to the possibility of creating a lasting community. I started crying uncontrollably when I got home. I saw so much beauty that weekend — from meeting new people to sharing meals together to even witnessing a wedding proposal — that I couldn’t process it. I finally found a home.

Lately, however, my happy safe place is getting more and more toxic. The atheist movement has always had problems (remember Elevatorgate?), but I was under the impression that we’ve since moved on. Boy, I was wrong! For starters, after finding out one of my friends in the movement had been accused of inappropriate sexual behavior, I wrote on my Facebook wall, “Are there any atheists that aren’t racist or sexist?” A prominent member of the movement, who I generally respect, chimed in to basically say, “Not all atheists.” That led to several friends asking him if he’s doing anything to address racism and sexism within the movement, but he just tip-toed around the issue to my disappointment.

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