Sacrificing Privilege

This is a repost of an article originally posted on Skepchick. I felt I needed a bit of a day off. I mentioned yesterday the exhaustion I was feeling from having to do a whole lot of fighting, on a whole lot of fronts, in a very short period of time… and then along came Be Scofield, who decided I’m the latest incarnation of the pure evil that is Gnu Atheism, trying to force all the poor defenseless minorities into our imperialistic atheist dogma and “Western” scientific principles. So yeah, just one thing too many, and I need a moment to relax and recharge. Fortunately, Ophelia, Chris and Jason have all done a great job of responding to Be, so I don’t really need to worry much about providing a rebuttal (To respond to Be or not to respond to Be? That is the question…whether ’tis nobler in the mind to suffer the slings and arrows of outrageously slanderous blog posts, or to take arms against a sea of inanity and by posting a rebuttal end them…). It does, however, provide a nice touchstone for a piece I was planning to do this week anyway, which will be going up tomorrow. “Confessions Of A Post-Modernist”. So stay tuned, I’ll be back soon!

Special apologies to all the new readers who’ve come in as a result of Kate Beaton’s kind tweet, and the recent new-life my Lorax post has gotten. Under most circumstances, this blog features new content every weekday (typically one theory-oriented essay at 9am EST and a shorter more topical piece around 1pm EST), a recap on Saturdays (with cute animals!), and on Sundays a music video, collection of links and news items and some kind of puzzle or game (I’ll also be adding comics and drawings in the near future). I’ll be back to form tomorrow.

So anyway, here’s one of my articles from Skepchick, which was particularly well-received the first time around. I hope all my new reeders enjoy it, and older ones enjoy getting to return to it with new eyes. [Read more…]

Why I Love Doctor Who

You know, I hate to admit it , but despite appearances my geek credentials aren’t nearly as solid as they look.

(who am I kidding? I don’t actually mind admitting it at all)

I’m just not really all that into it all. I’m a mac user, and not a particularly talented one, and generally find computers and technology an uninteresting sort of bewildering. I read very few superhero comics, mostly prefer “indie” / “alternative” comics like Chris Ware, Lynda Barry (go Geoducks!), James Kochalka, Dame Darcy, Charles Burns (go Geoducks!) and Daniel Clowes, and my impressive knowledge of DC and Marvel canon is just because I’m freakishly good at remembering trivia and go on lots of wiki walks (though I really do adore Dr. Strange, and loved the X-Men when I was a kid). I’ve seen very little Buffy, only a couple episodes of Firefly, and don’t think Joss Whedon is all that impressive, really. Just pretty good at what he does. I’ve never seen the Battlestar Galactica reboot at all, and may never really bother getting around to it. I hate Kevin Smith, and The Big Bang Theory, with a fiery passion. I’ve never ever read Orson Scott Card, David Eddings (except for the first few chapters of the first Belgariad book when I was 10), Terry Pratchett,  Suzanne Collins, George R.R. Martin, J.K. Rowling or Isaac Asimov. I really love basketball, fashion, high art, punk rock and poetry. I’m really just a sort of culturally omnivorous sort so I just end up really liking some random things that happen to be part of geek culture (like Douglas Adams or tabletop roleplaying) and have the aforementioned weird memory thing that lets me memorize lots of canon even from franchises I don’t particularly care about…. which then lets me hang out with people who do love those things, and carry on friendly conversations with them about it, even though I don’t actually care. [Read more…]

Seven Things About Being Trans That Are Actually Kind of Awesome

You know what?

This blog is a fucking downer a lot of the time.

Now, I do what I do for some pretty specific reasons.  We’re at the cusp of a very exciting shift in the trans rights movement. Over pretty much just the last year and a half, we have quite suddenly become visible. Cis audiences are finally noticing we exist, and being open to discussing the issue. 2011 saw an amazing wave of steps forward… the National Transgender Discrimination Survey, Chaz Bono on Dancing With The Stars suddenly putting a trans man in the living rooms of mainstream America, Harmony Santana giving an amazing performance as a transsexual character in Gun Hill Road finally being portrayed by a transsexual actress, the United Nations openly including gender identity in its LGBT human rights declaration, Andrej Pejic becoming one of the most talked about and coveted models in the fashion industry, Bobby Montoya being permitted entry to the Girl Scouts, My Transsexual Summer, the Canadian trans-rights bill, etc. etc. etc.

We’ve gone from the point in the struggle where they ignore us and laugh at us, and are now moving into the part where we fight. But we’re visible. We’re here. People can no longer pretend that trans people don’t exist, or that we don’t matter. They can no longer ignore our suffering and our dead.

Two years ago, would an internet blogging network that wasn’t specifically LGBTQ in nature, even the progressive ones, have considered a trans voice and perspective to be an important addition? Would anyone have noticed its absence?

Being a part of this movement means taking advantage of that visibility. Now that people are paying attention, we need to grab hold of the discourse and use it. We need to use our newly acquired voice to say “hey! What is going on is NOT okay!”. We need to speak our truth, and show what’s been happening to us, how we’ve been treated. We need to talk about the rates of suicide, murder, violence, sexual assault, workplace harassment, homelessness, addiction and survival sex work. We need to make sure this is heard now, while we have a chance. Before they begin fighting back and whitewashing everything. Before they begin trying to wrest control of the discourse away from us. We need to use this window to shine a light on our little corner of this world, and on the pain, brutality and oppression that has been going on just beneath society’s notice.

I believe that doing this work, calling attention to the completely unacceptable manner in which trans people have been treated within our society(ies), is important, especially now, in this particularly pivotal moment in our movement’s history.

But it makes for some depressing reading sometimes. And some depressing writing.

I often worry whether the image I’m presenting of what transition is, and what being transgender means, is one-sidedly bleak. That I’m neglecting talking about everything about it that is joyful and empowering and beautiful and wonderful. I worry most about the image this all presents to people who are questioning their gender, or at the cusp of transition, and whether I’m making it all seem really hard and terrifying, like that it means forever sacrificing the goodness in this world and condemning yourself to a life of struggle and discrimination. I worry that I’m playing into a bit of a trend in which the trans community has been defining its identity in relation to our victimization; which incidentally perpetuates our identities being defined only in relation to cis people, as other. It’s not much of a self-determination.

I’m not going to lie… there’s a lot of sacrifices. And a lot of struggle. And it’s never, ever easy. And we are victimized. But it certainly beats the alternatives: suicide or a life of sadness, regret, pain and desperation. Being trans is just something that happens to you. You can’t NOT be trans, and choosing not to transition isn’t going to get rid of the shittiness of that circumstance. But what it does do is deprive you of everything great that can come from this. And there are such things.

So I’m taking a tiny bit of a break from my usual M.O. and taking a moment to appraise those aspects of being trans, and transitioning that have been, at least for me in my own limited experience, a joy and a blessing: [Read more…]

Coming Out (Part Three Of Four): When I Actually Came Out

There’s two things you should know, which kind of make this story a tad less dramatic and awesome and fun to tell than it would otherwise be:

1) My family are scattered all over the place. We currently live in Vancouver, Alaska, Montreal, North Carolina, England, Scotland, Ethiopia, Thailand, Boston, Canterlot, New York and Toronto. I’m the only one in Vancouver, and I made one of those up.

2) At the time all this happened, I had only recently moved to Vancouver, and didn’t yet have any friends in the city. Except for Mittens, my cybernetic velociraptor.

This means all my coming out as trans didn’t happen in person, which makes the story a whole lot less cool and exciting than most people’s stories. Sending e-mails doesn’t quite have the same dramatic force as speaking to family in dim 1am kitchens over glasses of port. Nonetheless, I can hardly do a series all about coming out without talking about my own coming out. It’s times like these that I regret my policy of telling the truth about my experiences.

“No seriously, guys! I totally killed a Tigerman warlock with an allen key and a pack of mint skittles!” [Read more…]

Coming Out (Part One Of Four): When Coming Out Is Shutting Yourself In

This piece was originally posted at Queereka. I am re-posting it here because it had originally been intended as part of a series, which I will now complete this week. Please visit Queereka for all kinds of awesome LGBTQ stuff, from a secular, skeptical angle!

For me, being a skeptic, and the personal importance skepticism has for me, almost entirely boils down to one thing: knowing that I’m an irrational, crazy idiot capable of incredible cognitive distortions and amazing feats of self-deception. Skepticism is a safety precaution and coping mechanism. My intellectual emergency brakes.

The initial crazy that led me into discovering and understanding the enormous importance of doubt and hesitation was managing to convince myself during my first year of college that the world was secretly being run by a cabal of occult-oriented secret societies. I was approximately 2.5 grams of psilocybin mushrooms away from buying into the shape-shifting reptile people. Snapping out of that snapped me into skepticism.

But the conspiracy theories, in terms of personal significance, is dwarfed in irrationality, cognitive distortion and self-deception by how I convinced myself for twelve years following the initial revelation of my transsexuality that that wasn’t what was really going on, that I must have made a mistake (over and over and over), that I couldn’t possibly be the T-word and…

…ultimately convincing myself that I was really just gay. So I came out as such.

[Read more…]

Is Religion Inherently Dangerous?

My sincere apologies if this post comes across a bit scatter-brained and rushed. I’ve had a rather weird and scary night. One of my roommates fell off the wagon. Hard. He’d almost undoubtedly been on a bit of a crack binge (I’m not joking) and was pacing around the house slamming cupboards, tossing things around, and snarling “Fucking cunt! Fucking goddamn cunt! Cunts and assholes!”… with a few semi-jubilant cries of “I’m back!” thrown in… which later progressed to “Fucking freak! Fucking goddamn freak cunt!”

I did NOT want to take the chance of sticking around to find out whether I was the freak / cunt he was angry about. I have absolutely no idea why, and it’s almost pointless trying to hazard a guess about the motives of someone in that frame of mind. Maybe because I turned him down for sex seven months ago, when he slipped an extremely creepy note under my door?

Saddest part is that this is not by any means the first time I’ve dealt with something like this. I lead a charmed life, don’t I?

Anyway, like I said, I didn’t want to stick around to find out how the episode would play out. Fortunately, there was a Cafe-Sci happening downtown amongst the Vancouver skeptics, where a climate scientist was giving an awesome lecture on massive coral bleaching events. And The Crommunist ended up offering to put me up for the night. I’m posting this from his apartment!

I have very, very awesome friends.

Now, for the article I had intended to write for the morning: [Read more…]

How I Became An Atheist

I’ve been following and enjoying Pharyngula’s “Why I’m An Atheist” posts for the last few months. I think they’re great, and really give a wonderful view into the diverse, personal paths through which we all find ourselves at this position, and have managed to move beyond the comforts and security of religious belief. Many of the stories are inspiring and beautiful, full of courage, intelligence, strength, integrity and all kinds of human virtues.

But to me, the phrase “Why I’m An Atheist” has trouble connecting. For me, it has never been a question of why. I did not choose to become an atheist, or notice something about it that suddenly made it seem more appealing than other spiritual possibilities. And there was no definitive moment at which I “converted”. In short, there was no “why”.

What there was instead was a process. A set of events, thoughts and questions that led me to the point where I was able to proudly identify myself as atheist. For me, the story of my atheism doesn’t answer a question of why, but instead a question of how. [Read more…]

Secular Addiction Recovery Part One: Just A Little Endorphin Deficiency

I seem to have somehow found myself in the business of publicly discussing highly stigmatized aspects of my identity, history and experiences, displaying them on the internet for anyone to see. I reconcile the associated risks and feelings of unease by reminding myself that if everyone were stealth, there would be no one left to speak about us, our lives, to advocate from a position of direct understanding and shared oppression. There would be no one left to demonstrate, through simple, visible being, that we do exist and share this world with the rest of you, and that we are, like anyone, complex, multi-faceted, individual, fallible, struggling, confused, suffering, thinking, hoping, feeling, participating, speaking human beings. Though it can spare an individual a great deal of hassle, cultural invisibility has never done any good for a minority group, collectively.

But so long as I’m doing this, so long as I’m being a voice, presence and advocate, why restrict myself to only one aspect of who I am? Why only one particular stigmatized and hated group to which I belong? Why not go for broke?

The thing is, I’m a recovering heroin addict. [Read more…]