Some Thoughts On International Women’s Day

I love and respect International Women’s Day. I do. I think it is deeply important, and deserves to be acknowledged and celebrated, as well as used as an opportunity to engage in certain kinds of thinking and dialogue we normally don’t bother with. Sadly, it does seem that the people who ignore feminism and issues of women’s rights tend to ignore IWD, and those who pay attention to the value of IWD are those who were already paying attention to feminism and women’s rights. But I still think it’s of huge importance to have a day where we specifically do everything we can to bring those issues forward, and remind people they’re there. Even just the reminder alone, even if it doesn’t lead to further discussion, is worth having this day. [Read more…]

On Being A Feminist, A Trans/Queer-Rights Advocate And An Atheist/Skeptic At The Same Time, Or: How To Be Hated By All Your Friends & Allies

On Friday, Russell over at The Atheist Experience, aware of how nervous I was about the potential backlash my God Does Not Love Trans People post could receive (due to the hostile reaction I received on Twitter just for mentioning the possibility of writing it), put up a little post asking his readers to help support me in the event that I did get trolled or attacked by religious believers or apologists.

That’s not quite what happened. [Read more…]

God Does Not Love Trans People

He doesn’t love anyone. He’s not there at all.

I’m sorry.

Lately there have been a number of posts circulating throughout the trans blogosphere making statements to the effect that God loves and accepts His transgender children, and that being trans is not necessarily in conflict with being a religious believer, or even a Christian, Muslim or Jew. While I perfectly understand the motivation behind these posts, and why people feel such a strong need for this message, I nonetheless find it very deeply problematic, and kinda sorta feel a bit of a compelling need to address it. See, I honestly believe that religious faith is inherently dangerous and harmful, that we, the queer community, often are especially victimized by it, and especially ought to understand its potential harms, that the danger is an element of the underlying definition of religious faith itself rather than simply particular sects, beliefs or institutions based upon it, and that we are doing ourselves a pretty big disservice in constructing apologetics (or encouraging them) designed to ease the dissonance between our identities and the belief systems we hold dear.

That dissonance is a gift. [Read more…]

“Shut Up, That’s Why” – A Follow-Up

So having a bit more fun with taking things Greta Christina said really, really well and beautifully in regards to atheism, and applying those concepts to things I’ve observed in terms of how other minority groups are treated, like in my Catches Twenty-Two post…

I’ve been thinking for awhile that it would be interesting to talk a bit about how the “Shut Up, That’s Why” non-arguments she once elegantly described being used against atheists also show up in tactics used against other unpopular ideas and movements, like feminism, queer rights, or social justice.

“Shut Up, That’s Why” was right away one of my absolute favourite things Greta had ever written. Given how much I adore her work, and how she has been possibly the single most influential atheist blogger for me, personally, that’s pretty high praise. But in all honesty, the kinds of tactics she was describing I had come across far more frequently in the context of feminism than atheism, and resonated with me on that level more strongly than on the level of being an atheist. Maybe it’s just because I do a generally lousy job of being truly outspoken as an atheist, but still… I always thought it would be interesting to explore that a bit, and talk about how “Shut Up, That’s Why” shows up in other contexts. So this is me doing so. [Read more…]

Human Beauty

One thing I’ve been having a bit of trouble with lately is trying to negotiate some kind of balance between what I’ve come to understand about how perceptions of beauty are mediated by social and cultural convention against the fact that ultimately, I really rather do appreciate the beauty of the human form, of people. And that I find some people more exceptionally beautiful than others. Let’s say… Benedict Cumberbatch? Andrej Pejic? Gael Garcia Bernal? Kim Petras?

How do you allow yourself to appreciate given traits when you know they’re all so conditional and relative, and even help prop up perceptions you’d rather rid yourself of? Are we willing to just take the hit, decide “whatever beauty I perceive is a projection, not really there” and move on? [Read more…]

Catches Twenty-Two

We were chatting in our top secret and amazingly awesome backchannel, full of such incredible wit and delightful banter that you shall never ever know, about how some folks over at an intelligent design website called Uncommon Descent decided to do a bit of a breakdown of the whole Loftus thing, propping it up (in act of unconcealed schadenfreude) as indicative of some kind of big rift or infighting amongst atheists.

Which is a bit tedious and uninformed in that it hasn’t exactly been much of a conflict or controversy at all. No battle lines actually got drawn, nobody was attacking anybody (except in Loftus’ imagination), and there was no grand battle. In fact, pretty much everyone agreed that his remarks were over the line and his behaviour erratic and strange. All that really ultimately resulted from it was a nice, timely nudge in the direction of having an interesting and important discussion about the value of diversity in networks like FTB and in the atheist community as a whole, and a reminder of the problems lying behind accusations of tokenism.

Greta Christina made a really interesting point, though, that got my brain pieces to start doing brain stuff. She pointed out how whenever there’s a disagreement within our community, no matter how minor, people will exploit it to make up stories about “rifts” and “infighting” and “drama”, how we’re a bunch of angry little kids who endlessly squabble amongst ourselves. And then when we do agree with one another, suddenly we’re a “hive mind”, an “echo chamber”, “preaching to the choir”, a “circle jerk”, “silencing dissent”. We’re mocked and attacked for disagreeing with each other, and mocked and attacked for agreeing with one another. A catch-22, no-win, damned if you do and damned if you don’t situation.

What occurred to me, though, was how familiar these kinds of tactics are. While I’m relatively new to the atheist community, and new to seeing them play out here, I’m familiar with the same kind of “fit the circumstances to your opinion” thinking (rather than fitting your opinion to the circumstances), the same way of finding means of interpreting any action as terrible, even the acts that a moment ago you had criticized someone for not taking. I was familiar with them from feminism, from the trans community, from poverty activism and social justice work, from social attitudes towards addicts, and things like that.

I started wondering if these catch-22 set-ups are actually sort of the hallmark of discrimination, sort of the most direct and immediately recognizable way of knowing that a given group has been predetermined to be in the wrong regardless of what they do, or just generally aren’t being given a fair chance in terms of how they’re treated or understood. [Read more…]

Coming Out (Fourth And Final Part): Why Coming Out Matters

A closet. A metaphor. Articulating a concept of identity.

If coming out of the closet can sometimes be nothing more than an act of constructing a new false identity so as to further bury the truth of what you’re experiencing, if the closet metaphor only really adequately describes certain particular kinds of queer narratives but is dangerously and indiscriminately applied to all of them, if even when being “properly” used the closet still poses a constructed and particular identity that leaves one just as limited as before, if it dangerously posits a type of human experience defined by behaviour, action, relationships, love and pleasure into a category of person, if it totally fails to describe the actual complexity of articulating our endlessly changing states and degrees of trust and honesty we provide those in our lives, if we can’t possibly reduce this complex, shifting dance of how we present ourselves to a simple “closeted” versus “out” dichotomy, if the responses we receive to the act of “coming out” can terrify us to the extent that it takes us years to once again recover the confidence to confront the truth of ourselves and permanently compromise our ability to trust the love of others… why do we have this metaphor? Why do we continue to use it?

Because it’s still too bloody useful to abandon. [Read more…]

Thoughts From A Diversity Hire

Those of you who follow FTB as a whole, or were keeping up with the Target Audiences comment thread, are probably already aware of a rather nasty remark John Loftus made insinuating that I’m not really qualified to be writing for this network and was only brought in for the sake of diversity.

This post is not going to be another discussion of Loftus or his remarks. There’s not really any need to carry that any further, I feel comfortable with how this resolved and like there isn’t much left to be said. I also feel for the most part that his comments speak for themselves, and my colleagues at FTB have already done a great job of defending my worth and discussing why his diversity-hire comment was not okay and crossed the line.

But I do want to talk about the issue of diversity, and “tokens”, both as a general thing and within the skeptic, atheist and humanist community. The issue goes well beyond Loftus’ remark, of course, and has been coming a lot lately, most notably perhaps in the Staks Rosch “Hitchie award” controversy. [Read more…]