Learning to Love Tommy — My Latest for Splice Today

I was 10 when I first discovered The Who’s Tommy. I rented the cassette tape of the 1975 movie soundtrack, and fell in love with the story of the deaf, dumb, and blind boy who could play a mean pinball. Four years later I watched the movie, and hated it. It was over-the-top and confusing. Luckily I bought the original 1969 Who album shortly after, which washed the awful taste of the movie out of my mouth. It’s still one of my all-time favorite albums.

Now almost 35, I’ve grown to appreciate director Ken Russell’s cinematic interpretation of Tommy. Not only did he bring Pete Townshend’s vision to life, but also added his own interpretation to the story. Tommy tells the story of a boy who becomes psychosomatically deaf, mute, and blind after watching his father kill his mother’s lover. He experiences the outside world through vibrations, and his parents subject him to the abuse of his Cousin Kevin, Uncle Ernie, and the Acid Queen. Despite his disability, Tommy becomes a pinball champion, and when he finally regains his senses he’s hailed as the new messiah. Unfortunately, he abuses his power, his followers disown him, and the story ends with Tommy realizing true enlightenment comes from within.

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When Monsters Invade Your Happy Place — My Latest for Splice Today

CW: Sexual abuse

When I was a child, I collected various pop culture icons to create an alternate reality for myself called the Happy Place. It was somewhere I could go whenever the real world became too much, which was frequent. Where the Wild Things AreThe Dark Crystal, Nirvana, The Beatles, TommySuper Mario Bros., The Maxx, and The Legend of Zelda were all pieces of media I used to build a fantasy world that made more sense than the real world.

I pretended I was in Hyrule fighting monsters in order to save the princess. I imagined I was in the Pac-Man maze walking through the halls of school on my way to class. I sat on the couch with my Ren and Stimpy plush dolls and pretended I was watching The Muddy Mudskipper Show with them. Living in the Happy Place was the only way I could make it through my grandmother’s violent temper and the kids bullying me daily at school.

As I got older, I realized many of the people who created the works that went into my Happy Place were extremely problematic. John Lennon was abusive to his first wife and eldest son. David Bowie had sex with a thirteen-year-old girl. More recently, I found out the creator of Ren and Stimpy, John Kricfalusi, is an alleged sexual predator.

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The Atheist Movement’s Future — My Latest for Splice Today

CN: Sexual misconduct

I have a love/hate relationship with the atheist movement. On one hand, I’ve experienced more grace, fellowship, and healing among my close-knit group of atheist podcaster friends than in a church. On the other, many prominent atheist activists have either been outed as sexual predators or tried to deny any problems within the movement. The latter has only intensified with the recent BuzzFeed article detailing the sexual misconduct allegations against Lawrence Krauss. While some organizations, like the American Humanist Association and the Center for Inquiry, have cut ties with Krauss, others feel most prominent atheist activists aren’t doing enough to address this issue.

For example, Seth Andrews of The Thinking Atheist podcast, has received pushback for statements he made on social media regarding sexual misconduct in the atheist movement. While he did call Krauss’ behavior “inexcusable” in a Facebook post, he also referred to several friends of mine in the comment section as “extremists,” and claimed they believe in “a vast conspiracy of frontline male activists who don’t care about respect for and the safety of women.” One of these so-called extremists is Minnesota Atheist associate president Stephanie Zvan, who told me on my Bi Any Means podcast a few weeks ago about the history of prominent men in the atheist movement misusing skepticism as an excuse to not believe in women’s stories. While I’ve deliberately avoided online disputes with Andrews, I’m still disappointed at his poor response to those telling him misogyny in the atheist movement is a systematic problem.

The incidents involving Krauss and Andrews are just the latest examples in a long line of controversies—Elevatorgate, “Dear Muslima,” MythCon, etc.—that have stirred up heated debates about the atheist movement’s future. Some have left the movement altogether, some have formed smaller sub-communities, and others suggest the problematic elements of the movement are just a few bad apples. So where does the atheist movement go from here? Can the movement survive? If so, how?

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#MeToo and the Masks We Wear — My Latest for Splice Today

Content Warning: Sexual assault

Standing out in the #MeToo conversation is how we all wear masks. Continuously, men we thought were good aren’t. The latest example is physicist and public speaker Lawrence Krauss. Friends in the atheist movement knew about his reputation for years, but it wasn’t until BuzzFeed published an article detailing his history of sexual misconduct allegations that everyone else found out.

Shortly after, allegations against someone in my own circle of atheist podcasters came to light. I heard some things about him before, but he seemed like the epitome of a male feminist so I had doubts. He spoke about the dangers of White Feminism, giving non-white non-men space to tell their stories, and how all politics are identity politics. That changed last week when several friends shared screenshots that proved he was wearing a mask the whole time. I’ve since cut off all contact with him.

That’s why I try to be as naked (figuratively speaking) as possible. When #MeToo first started, I shared the story of how I was the Creepy Sensitive Nice Guy many years ago. I needed to cleanse myself from the toxic masculinity I inherited from our sexist culture and encourage men to do the same.

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Free Speech Goes Both Ways — My Latest for Splice Today

I forgot to share this yesterday.

My friend Helen Pluckrose of Areo Magazine spoke on a panel recently at Portland State University called “We Need to Talk about Diversity,” which also featured James Damore, the Google Memo Guy. Based on all accounts, everything ran smoothly, except for one incident where someone smashed audio equipment. Other than that, Antifa didn’t show up and burn anything down like last year during a Milo Yiannopoulos speaking engagement.

There’s a myth that Leftists are against free speech and want to shut down controversial speeches. I’m a proud Leftist, and consider myself one of the most pro-free speech people around. In fact, I believe the Portland State panel could’ve been more pro-free speech if they had actual people of color and LGBTQ people to talk about diversity rather than four white people.

Critics of identity politics often say that identity has nothing to do with the validity of one’s argument. When it comes to social and political issues, however, including people from different backgrounds creates a more diverse array of opinions on controversial subjects.

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The Facts Behind Gender Pronoun Activism — My Latest for Splice Today

There’s a festering debate about whether cisgender people can talk about transgender issues. I believe cis people should have the same free speech rights as me, and cis people should talk about transphobia with other cis people. However, when it comes to explaining what it means to be trans and gender nonconforming, it’s best to leave that up to trans and gender nonconforming people themselves. If not, one ends up with Andrew Moody’s latest Splice Today article “The Truth Behind Gender Pronoun Activism.” Despite what the title claims, the facts reveal that the so-called “truth” is anything but.

In the first paragraph, Moody equates being a trans woman with rape and that being trans is a mental illness. While anyone can be a rapist, including trans women, statistics show that trans women are more likely to be raped than they are to rape anyone else. Also, while the DSM-V does include gender dysphoria, it doesn’t say that being trans is a mental disorder. Instead, gender dysphoria describes the anguish and distress trans people experience when there’s an “incongruence between a person’s gender identity, sex assigned at birth, and/or primary and secondary sex characteristics.” If being trans was a mental disorder, why does the American Psychological Association say trans people “are more likely to experience positive life outcomes when they receive social support or trans-affirmative care” instead of conversion therapy?

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I Can Only Take You So Far — My Latest for Splice Today

As a bisexual genderqueer person in a world where sexuality and gender are still seen as strict binaries of gay/straight and man/woman, I had some explaining to do when first coming out. I love educating people most of the time. That’s why I write about sexuality and gender for various websites, talk about those issues on my Bi Any Means Podcast, and did a presentation on non-binary gender identities at last year’s American Humanist Association conference. I lost count of how many people have walked up to me at conferences and sent messages thanking me for what I do, so apparently I’m doing something right.

However, sometimes people treat me as not just a source of information, but the ultimate source of all things LGBTQ rights. For example, a few years ago a Facebook friend messaged me and asked what I meant when I said I was genderqueer. I explained it to her, and she seemed to get it, but then she started asking about asexuality and pansexuality. It probably wasn’t her intention, but I got the impression that she expected me to educate her about all the letters in LGBTQIAA. I wanted to scream, “Google is free!”

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In Defense of Gender Neutral Pronouns – My Latest for Splice Today

My Splice Today colleague Chris Beck wrote about how polarizing Jordan Peterson is, and I want to highlight what first put Peterson in the public spotlight: his refusal to refer to transgender students by gender neutral pronouns. In 2016, Peterson released a series of YouTube videos in which he railed against political correctness, specifically how, according to him, Canada’s C-16 bill would throw him in prison for not referring to trans students by gender-neutral pronouns. Most legal experts disagreed with his assertion, Parliament passed the bill, and Peterson hasn’t been arrested since.

The reason why he’s so adamantly against gender-neutral pronouns is, according to a televised debate, he thinks they’re “the constructions of people who have a political ideology” and “an attempt to control language… by force.” Peterson also claims that while the singular they has been used on occasion, it has never been used as a replacement for he or she.

The truth is more complex than Peterson’s talking points. Technically all language is constructed. All words are made up. I don’t know the exact origin of human language (although this neat little pamphlet from the Linguistic Society has some speculations), but do know that as new ideas develop, words are created in order to express those ideas.

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(So far no trolling from Peterson fanboys yet.)

My Silence Will Not Protect Me — My Latest for Splice Today

Puberty was not kind to my voice. Instead of growing deeper like all the other boys, I sounded like Steve Urkel, which made everything I said hilarious to my classmates. Someone would ask me for the time, and then laugh as I squeaked out “11:30.” I told them to stop, but that only made them laugh more, so I decided the best way to survive high school was to stay silent.

There was one problem: my silence wasn’t protecting me. Every day the other kids would laugh and yell “faggot” because they somehow knew I was queer and trans before I did. They saw my sashaying hips and limp wrist and appointed me the official school punching bag. I wore baggy clothes to hide the scars on my arm; bright red screams that expressed what I was too afraid to say. I didn’t have the language to express my worth and dignity as a human. The B in LGBT was just a footnote back then, and the T was only for people who wanted surgery, so I didn’t feel like I was queer or trans enough to come out.

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A State of Contradictions — My Latest for Splice Today

In front of the Talbot County courthouse in Easton, MD are two monuments. The first is a statue of Frederick Douglass, the great civil rights leader born right here. The second is a memorial of the Talbot Boys, members of the community who fought for the Confederacy during the Civil War. These are monuments commemorating the legacy of a man born into bondage, who was viciously beaten for learning how to read, who eventually escaped from his shackles, and who dedicated the rest of his life to liberty and human rights, and another dedicated to the memory of those who fought to keep men like Douglass in shackles. To know Maryland is to understand the symbolism of these two monuments standing side by side.

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