#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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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!

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.

Click here to read the rest.

Will the Mythinformation Conference Destroy the Atheist Community? – Latest Splice Today Article

I’m relatively new to atheist/secular conferences, but the ones I’ve attended have been great. Last year’s Women in Secularism conference was a blast; I found family at this past April’s ReasonCon3, and made my conference speaking debut at this past June’s American Humanist Association conference. I love connecting with fellow humanist activists, making new friends, and meeting online friends for the first time at these conferences, and hope to do the same at next month’s PASTAHcon. However, there’s one I won’t attend, next week’s Mythinformation conference.

The annual Mythinformation event is hosted by Mythicist Milwaukee. Some of their past guest speakers include Dan Barker from the Freedom of Religion Foundation, Hemant Mehta of the Friendly Atheist blog, Mandisa Thomas from Black Nonbelievers, and scholar Richard Carrier. This year’s conference, however, includes three infamous YouTube personalities: Armoured Skeptic, Shoe0nHead, and Sargon of Akkad.

Armoured Skeptic, aka Gregory Fluhrer, began his career debunking creationism and pseudoscience, but has since turned his attention to anti-feminism. Fluhrer makes a living stirring YouTube drama. His girlfriend Shoe0nHead, aka June Lapine, was always a YouTube nuisance who makes fun of everyone she doesn’t like, including non-binary trans people. Neither so-called “skeptic” cites sources for their claims and their rhetoric boils down to “No, you’re an idiot.” And then there’s Sargon of Akkad, aka Carl Benjamin, who’s anti-feminist, a 9/11 truther, a Brexit supporter, and a professional asshole. He’s also a hypocrite; he loves to critique safe spaces on campus, yet once started a Change.org petition to ban social justice college courses. Not exactly in the Christopher Hitchens range of intellectualism.

Click here to read the rest.

Two New Articles on Ravishly and Splice Today

Forgot to mention last week that my first article for Ravishly went online. It’s called “I’m Done Trying to ‘Prove’ My Non-Binary Identity.” So far it’s gotten good feedback.

I also have a new article published on Splice Today called “A Humanist Struggles with Nonviolence.”

Hopefully once I become more financially stable, I’ll go back to blogging more often.

What Activist Burnout Looks Like — My latest for Splice Today

It looks like having a moment of panic every time you hear your phone ding because you’re afraid either trolls are threatening to beat you up on Twitter, or an argument in the comment section of your Facebook page has turned into an ugly shouting match.

It looks like staring at a thought-provoking article you found on either The Establishment or Everyday Feminism for five hours and debating whether or not to share it online because you’re afraid someone will accuse you of being a stupid SJW who hates white people (even though you are white).

It looks like wanting to hide in shame because when you tried to explain the complexities of modern feminism—including valid criticisms of it—all you get in return is a bunch of guys replying, “Feminism is cancer, you cuck!”

It looks like having to take a bunch of deep breaths about half an hour before correcting someone who says, “Black Lives Matter is a hate group.”

It looks like not getting anything done because you’ve spent the entire day explaining to a Facebook friend you don’t think all white straight cis men are inherently bad.

It looks like wanting to punch a baby in the face whenever someone demands you validate your gender identity with a peer-reviewed science journal article.

It looks like wanting to punch a baby in the face whenever, after explaining to someone the science behind gender identity, they respond, “Transgenderism is a mental disorder!”

It looks like gaslighting yourself and wondering if maybe they’re right and you’re just a special snowflake and not a transgender person.

Click here to read the rest.

Finding Family in the Atheist Podcast Community – My Latest for Splice Today

I didn’t expect to be a podcaster. After co-hosting the progressive Christian podcast Something Beautiful for two years, I got burned out and decided to hang up my headphones and stick with writing. Things changed in 2015, however, when I asked blogger Alex Gabriel for a blog interview. He wanted to do it through Skype, but I was too lazy to transcribe the conversation, so I started the Bi Any Means Podcast. I still didn’t consider myself a podcaster, though, until I started getting more guests and eventually joined a Facebook group for atheist podcasters. Turns out not only did people like what I was doing, but that I became part of a large family.

The first time I realized this was at Reason Rally 2016. It was my first atheist gathering, and also the first time traveling and staying in a hotel room by myself. On the night before the rally, I met podcasting friends in person at a bar, and it was surreal. Everyone that I’d just listened to week after week suddenly became real people. Not only that, but they actually wanted to talk to me. How’s that possible? I’m just some schmuck in Easton, MD with a nasally voice who has a handful of listeners. It was the first time I felt accepted at the popular kids’ table, and didn’t get any sleep that night because I was trying to process everything. That sense of acceptance continued the next day during the Rally as I met more atheist activists who not only recognized me, but also let me know I was one of them. I came home from that weekend feeling like I was no longer the Token Freak; I was part of a family.

Click here to read the rest. I must warn you; this is the first of several posts gushing about ReasonCon3.

We’re Not Alone in This Fight: My Latest for Splice Today

Besides having anxiety attacks over whether or not people will accept me as a non-binary trans person, I also had them all last week in trying to decide if I should attend a town hall hosted by Republican Rep. Andy Harris (MD-1). On the one hand, this would be a chance to make my voice heard and push for change. On the other, the Eastern Shore doesn’t take kindly to progressive queer trans people, so I was afraid I’d get hurt. I texted my friend Jim—a seventysomething hardcore progressive anti-theist who doesn’t take shit from anyone—to come along with me, and he agreed.

We arrived at Chesapeake College just after five to see a huge line outside. Jim and I chatted with people from Talbot Rising who were holding protest signs, which meant we weren’t able to get seats inside, so we stood in the back of the auditorium. I had a question for Harris written down on a piece of paper, but unfortunately missed the deadline to submit it.

The meeting began with a pastor reciting a Christian prayer (roll of eyes), followed by the Pledge of Allegiance (another eye-roll since it included “Under God”). Then Harris came onstage. He began with a short slideshow to make everyone believe that Obamacare ruined America, but the audience wasn’t having it. They booed, yelled, and demanded Harris skip the slideshow and go straight to the questions. At one point he told one woman in the audience, “Ma’am, if you don’t stop yelling, I’m going to ask you to leave,” but he quickly shut up when we all yelled in unison.

***

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ICYMI, Three Recent Splice Today Articles I Think You All Will Appreciate

As you may or may not know, I recently started writing for Baltimore-based website Splice Today which covers politics, art, and culture. Here are three recent articles I wrote for them that I think y’all might like:

Fear Builds Walls: How Pink Floyd’s The Wall Predicted Trump

Gender Dysphoria as a Still, Small Voice (It’s pretty emotionally raw, so discretion is advised)

The Failure of Classical Liberalism (Oh boy, this is gonna piss off the Free Speech Warriors!)

So yeah, hope you like them.