The Biskeptical Podcast #30: Scaramucci, Will You Do the Fandago?

Today on the show, we’re discussing the latest on the dumpster fire that is the Trump presidency. We’re talking Spicer, Scaramucci, indoctrinating Boy Scouts, healthcare, and banning trans people from the military. Also, because it’s the Biskeptical Podcast, Morgan takes us through the strange story of former Ole Miss coach Hugh Freeze and why it’s got enough drama for a Faulkner novel.

Listen to “The Biskeptical Podcast #30: Scaramucci, Will You Do the Fandago?” on Spreaker.

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Bi Any Means Podcast #109: Catching Up with Marissa Alexa McCool

Returning to the show today is Marissa Alexa McCool. She’s the host of the Inciting Incident podcast, and co-host of the Cis Are Getting Out Of Hand and Doubting Dogma. She’s also the author of several books, including her latest one “Voice in the Dark.” A lot has happened since Marissa was last on the show back in February, so today we’re going to find out what she’s been up to.

Listen to “Bi Any Means Podcast #109: Catching Up with Marissa Alexa McCool” on Spreaker.

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Is Biological Sex a Social Construct? It’s Complicated — New Paste Magazine Article

Much has been said already about YouTube sex educator Laci Green’s supposed “taking the red pill,” so I don’t want to rehash everything. I do, however, want to bring up one of her latest Twitter threads regarding the phrase “biologically male/female.” Teen Vogue recently published an article about anal sex where they used the terms “prostrate owner” and “non-prostrate owner” instead of “male and female.” Green criticized the article’s use of the terms on her Twitter feed,where she said, “’Female’ and ‘male’ are not identities or genders. They are biological sexes and refer to someone’s literal body parts (for reproduction).” This, along with her latest videos debating whether or not there are more thantwo genders, led many to criticize Green for being transphobic. Although she does affirm trans and gender non-conforming people’s gender identities in her latest video, the debate sparked by her recent tweets brings up a question I often hear from my fellow trans people: Is biological sex a “social construct?”

According to another YouTuber, Riley J. Dennis, the answer is yes. In a video she did back in February of this year, she explains biological sex is a social construct because not everyone experiences secondary sex characteristics the same way. “Some people with penises don’t develop much if any facial hair,” she says, “while some develop beards, and the amount of facial hair that they have doesn’t make them more or less male. The same goes for people with vaginas. Some of them will develop large breasts, some will develop small breasts, but neither of those is more or less female.” She also points out many trans people have genitals, hormones and other secondary sex characteristics altered during transitioning, so how would “biologically male/female” still apply? Ultimately the biggest criticism towards the term “biologically male/female” is that, according to Dennis, “when people say that a trans woman is ‘biologically male,’ they use that as a way to attack trans people. They use it as an excuse to exclude us from bathrooms, locker rooms and other women’s spaces. It’s just a more subtle and more socially acceptable way of discriminating against trans people.”

Biologist Jerry Coyne, on the other hand, disagrees. For example, he writes, Dennis’ example of medical transitioning “irrelevant to the argument from biological sex as a reality at birth. I could use lasers to remove the sex combs of Drosophila males (stiff tufts of bristles on the forelegs that males use to grasp females during copulation), but that doesn’t mean that sex in Drosophila is a social construct.” Coyne later clarifies that he affirms transgender people’s identities, and acknowledges bigots often use biological sex as an excuse to discriminate against trans people. However, he continues, “The concept of biological sex has been extremely useful in biology—it’s a linchpin of a ton of research in evolutionary biology and other fields, and, with very few unclassifiable cases, it’s an objective reality.”

While both Dennis and Coyne made good points, I decided to ask trans activist and biologist Julia Sereno for her take. It turns out that, like with most science, it’s complicated.

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Bi Any Means Podcast #108: Chatting with a Progressive Christian with Charlotte Salafia

My guest for today is my Facebook friend Charlotte Butler Salafia, who volunteered to be on the show. According to a brief bio she sent me, she’s 52, lives in Orlando, a military brat, and has a son and two stepdaughters, one of which is a lesbian. She works part-time for a contractor, went to a Christian liberal arts college, has worked in all types of business, and has lived in England, Florida, Atlanta, Washington DC, and Phoenix. So today we’re going to hear her story in this Everyone’s Agnostic-styled episode.

Listen to “Bi Any Means Podcast #108: Chatting with a Progressive Christian with Charlotte Salafia” on Spreaker.

The Biskeptical Podcast #29: But His Emails!

(I’m releasing this a day early because I’ll be out of town tomorrow.)

On today’s episode, we go over some recent news items, including Donald Trump Jr.’s rendez-vous with Russia, Turkey taking evolution out of schools, Hobby Lobby’s new illegal antique collecting habit, Katy Perry’s plot to turn kids gay, and what can possibly the premise for the weirdest gay Catholic porno ever (trust me, we’ve seen a few). We also revisit bad vaginal hygiene practices—a particular favorite subject among our fans—and we top off the show with another reason why my home state is better than Morgan’s.

Listen to “The Biskeptical Podcast #29: But His Emails!” on Spreaker.

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Bi Any Means Podcast #107: Laci Green, Toxic Leftists, and Egotistical Podcasters (Random Thoughts)

Due to the lack of a guest this week, I just turned on the recorder and talked about a few things on my mind for about 22 minutes. Hopefully it’s not too boring.

Listen to “Bi Any Means Podcast #107: Laci Green, Toxic Leftists, and Egotistical Podcasters (Random Thoughts)” on Spreaker.

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The Dangers of Antipsychiatry — My Latest for Paste Magazine

If you spend as much time as I do on Facebook, you’ve probably seen the meme that shows a picture of a forest with the words, “This is an antidepressant” and a picture of Prozac with the words, “This is shit.” The meme comes to us from the folks at TruthTheory.com, which “offers alternative news, documentaries and much more.” It sounds interesting at first, until you look at some of their other memes, which include 9/11 conspiraciesanti-GMO memes and a claim that the government is using Snapchat filters to create a database. Naturally the anti-Prozac meme met with a large amount of backlash, and for a good reason: claiming psychiatry is a “pseudoscience” is deadly.

But where did this idea come from? The main source is psychiatrist Thomas Szasz’s 1961 book The Myth of Mental Illness, where he argued mental illness is just a “metaphor,” and that psychiatry is no more legitimate than alchemy. The book became an instant classic, and the American Humanist Association named Szasz Humanist of the Year in 1973. And to be fair, Szasz was right about a few things, like the overuse of electroshock therapy. However, his main argument—that mental illness is just a metaphor—is just plain wrong.

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Bi Any Means Podcast #106: Dispatches from Standing Rock with Desiree Kane

My guest for today is journalist and activist Desiree Kane. She’s is a Miwok woman, multi-media journalist, and a live-media event producer. Her body of journalistic work ranges widely, including a short form documentary on coal on the Navajo Nation for VICE News, photojournalism and writing for Yes! Magazine, her travel + tech column for nearly 3 years at Creative Loafing, reporting on an Indigenous Women’s Treaty Signing in Paris during the COP21 in Earth Island Journal, and writing and producing a multi-media exposé detailing immigrant detention in Aurora, CO for Shadowproof. She also spent 7 months at Standing Rock, so today we’re going to hear all about it.

Listen to “Bi Any Means Podcast #106: Dispatches from Standing Rock with Desiree Kane” on Spreaker.

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Respectability Politics, Not Identity Politics, Are Hurting Secular Activism –Latest Splice Today Article

A couple of weeks ago I went to the 76th annual American Humanist Association conference to give a talk called “WTF is Genderqueer?” They loved it! I lost track of how many people came up afterwards and thanked me for explaining it in a way they could understand. The conference also gave me the chance to catch up with old friends Sincere Kirabo, Matthew Facciani, and Diane Burkholder; meet online friends for the first time like Ashton P. Woods, Conor Robinson, and Desiree Kane; and make new friends like Rajani Gudlavalleti and Greta Christina. It was a great weekend that recharged my activist batteries, and made me feel accepted in the broader secular humanist movement.

Unfortunately, not everyone there received the same amount of love.

Several talks and presentations focused on racial justice, and while I thought they were all terrific, not everyone agreed. Not only were there white tears during Q&A sessions (which are always expected), but apparently someone on the AHA board walked out of Woods’ talk because they “didn’t want to hear another angry black man.” Allegedly this same individual gave Gudlavalleti a lot of shit about her presentation on racial justice with Robinson (who didn’t receive any push back even though he said the same thing Gudlavalleti did). Also, Kane (who spent seven months at Standing Rock) told me someone said to her, “If you all at Standing Rock didn’t burn stuff and leave so much garbage behind, maybe the cops wouldn’t have shot rubber bullets at you.”

If you spend enough time on YouTube, you’d be convinced “identity politics” are ruining secular activism. I disagree: respectability politics are the real culprit.

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Thoughts on Accountability

Around this time last year, I got called for some shit and reacted poorly. Looking back, I realize I didn’t take the time to actually listen to what people were trying to tell me. In fact, even when I wrote my public apology, I was too busy trying to make myself look good. But I took some time off from blogging and read some articles about accountability that really helped me out. I don’t want to do a big dramatic speech about how much I’ve changed; I’d rather have my actions speak for me. I will say this, though. One of the people that called me out later sent me a private message and said I’ve really changed since that incident, so I guess I’m doing alright.

I mention all this because the latest episode of The Inciting Incident got me thinking about accountability. Marissa interviews Gleb Tsipursky about the Pro-Truth Pledge, and how to hold people accountable. According to Tsipursky, the way they hold people accountable is they first privately message someone who says something not true on social media. The more the person backs down, the more public the call-outs get. It sounds like a nice counter-approach to so-called “call out culture,” although I’m not even sure what that term means. I’ve seen call-outs be abused, but I’ve also seen people (like me) use the term to not take responsibility.

Funny thing is I’ve seen toxic call-outs not just among some social justice activists, but also in the Church. In fact, I was once engaged to a woman from a conservative Calvinist family who regularly berated me whenever I said something on Facebook they didn’t like. Whenever I criticized George W. Bush, they would always respond, “Where do you get your information? The mainstream media? Stop it!” It was a very thought-policing environment where I constantly felt like I had no agency, and so one reason why I reacted so poorly to being legitimately called out last year was because I felt they were doing the same thing. I didn’t realize I was wrong until after I talked to a friend privately, and he explained to me what was going on.

Anyway, I’m starting to ramble now, so let me wrap things up with a few final thoughts. For starters, I like Tsipursky’s approach of either privately explaining to someone why they’re wrong or leaving a comment on someone’s Facebook post as a first step. This definitely works for me; I’ve had friends comment on problematic posts of mine explaining why they’re problematic, and I was able to change my mind before things got out of hand. Second, if someone tells you you’ve said something problematic, don’t automatically start flogging yourself for penance. It just tells everyone you’re more interested in your facade than changing your mind. Take time to listen to what the other person has to say, and then say, “Thank you for letting me know. I’ll definitely think about it.” Third, when you say, “I’ll think about it,” actually think about it, don’t just say it! If you’re like me, you have problems processing information, so stepping back and thinking about criticism is a good way to process things without being reactionary.

If anyone has any more tips or thoughts, let me know in the comment section.