Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Immoral Support

/iˈmôrəl səˈpôrt/

1. Reassuring a friend that, because ze’s a good person deep down inside, that what ze did wasn’t really that bad after all, and was in fact what anyone else would have done in the same situation.

2. Among Christians - Helping a friend find an obscure verse in the Bible or theological contrivance to support a decision they’ve already made, to assuage a guilty conscience.

Example: “You need to be the parent, not the friend.  If you had let her continue to live with you, she’d think it’s okay to be gay. It’s really not so bad being homeless as a teen, anyway - it’s kind of an adventure if you think about it!”

Added by me to:

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Why Do Vegetarians Get So Irritable, Anyway?

I am not a vegetarian evangelist, primarily because I don't have time, and only a mild passion for the topic.  But I do think that avoiding animal products is an action where the benefits increasingly outweigh the inconveniences as society moves in that direction.  So, I do a good deal of facepalming when I wander across bad arguments against avoiding animal consumption.

"But I don't want to eat a salad every day!"

Neither do I, so I don't.  Definitely not alone, or while laughing.

But this brings me to a surprisingly persistent argument against avoiding animal consumption, which I call the Entitled Prick Argument, but for the sake of diplomacy, I'll rename to:

The "But I Don't Like Veggies/But I Like Meat!" Argument

Most people don't realize the "I hate plants" argument is surprisingly sound.  The reason?  I can't prove your mental states wrong, short of having evidence that you do in fact gleefully consume a salad in your bedchambers every evening.  If you claim an anti-plant life stance, I really can't refute that.

The problem is, we have almost as convincing evidence that the meat industry is harmful to our planet as we have evidence for climate change itself, and that hasn't stopped multitudes of people from not giving a shit about either one of those.  Sometimes they try to summon the forces of selective skepticism against the evidence, but generally it all falls back to "but I don't want to ___", thus showing their hand as a matter of personal preference, not empirical conclusion.  They're literally saying that they see themselves as a person who is more entitled to eating meat than responsible for reducing their negative impact on everyone else.

And someone who is secure in being that kind of person with that kind of life stance isn't going to give a shit about rational arguments.

Remember the pepper spray incident at UC Davis?  (Of course you do, it just happened last weekend.)  The security personnel who mercilessly sprayed nonviolent people in the face without warning were clearly not taking the time to consider rational arguments for both sides and then go with the side which is supported by the best evidence for helping the most people.  Neither is the general public sitting down and consulting charts and statistics to try to convince them that they were wrong.  No, at some point we realize when someone just doesn't give a shit, and we move to public shaming, vegetarians included.

But for some reason, when vegetarians point out that "hey, you're actually hurting everyone by eating meat, so stop already!", they're the ones who are vilified.  As opposed to the people who are, you know, actually harming everyone.

PS: Yes, there exist good arguments for why a particular individual can't reliably avoid consuming animal products. That is not what this post is about.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Is a particular atheist community too church-like for your tastes? Don’t join!

I’ve been attending a humanist unchurch for a couple years now.  I can tell from experience that PZ has no idea what he’s talking about in this recent blog post.  He’s set up a false dichotomy between ritual and thought/action that can be blown away if he had attended even the most recent Sunday morning platform at the Ethical Society of St Louis.

Turns out, people can both sing in the choir and have a moment of silence, and listen to a presentation on community outreach projects to help keep homeless people from freezing to death and to support the local LGBT community center.  Or hear different perspectives on government regulation of vices such as gambling and drug use.  Or listen to someone’s personal story about her time in the Peace Corp.  Or learn how to combat climate change.

So sure, unchurch meetings not for everyone, and you won’t be hearing me tell anyone they “ought” to join such an organization.  But it by no means equals being “shackled by rote and rites”.  Such a narrow-minded viewpoint to think all humanist communities need operate under the same organizational principles!

Or maybe I’m deluded into thinking all these topics are anything other than pseudoreligious dogma:

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

How to Ensure Atheists Win at Transgender Acceptance

Greta Christina has said it, and I agree: atheists are very accepting of QUILTBAG peeps. When surrounded by secular supporters, I don’t have to worry about anti-transgender propaganda shit like this being flung in my face.  Atheists seem to realize that other oppressed minorities aren’t the enemy, that we all need to stick up for each other.  I can’t stress enough how much I appreciate all our cisgender allies do for us.  This world is full of bigotry, and I’m glad to have so many fighting the good fight, even though it doesn’t benefit them directly.  All for one and one for all!
Unfortunately, wanting to be a good trans ally and successfully engaging in gender-inclusive practices aren’t necessarily the same thing.  We live in a society so saturated with media misrepresentation of basicgender identity concepts that we often lack the resources to determine what is and isn’t an accurate portrayal of gender minorities.
“I’m a woman trapped in a man’s body.”  If I had a dollar for everyone who thinks that is the definition of being transgender, I could build my very own beer volcano.  What’s wrong with that definition – aren’t there people who feel that way?  Well, yes.  And no.  The problem lies in assuming that’s the beginning and end of the issue.
Take me for example: I was questioning my gender identity at age seven.  I didn’t realize that’s not typical, that not every little child is questioning God why He made such a crucial mistake in the womb.** For almost 2 decades I was unable to connect my feelings with the concept of transgender itself because of that “X trapped in Y’s body” trope.   I don’t feel particularly trapped by my body, but I’ve always felt trapped between the only two gender options offered by society.  It wasn’t until I really started digging into gender identity concepts that I was finally able to understand that my gender is real and there’s nothing wrong with me after all.
Having said that, I have to ask: if it’s so difficult for even trans people to fully comprehend gender identity diversity, who do so many cisgender freethinkers act like they have it all figured out?  The hardest part of my coming-out process wasn’t confronting my conservative Christian parents (since I was well aware of how bigoted their reactions would be, I was able to emotionally steel myself).  The hardest part was surviving the onslaught of well-meaning but painfully ignorant questions from my secular friends, questions I still receive on a regular basis from other members of the community at large.
If I could pick one question I’d like never to hear again in my life, it’s “are you getting The Surgery?”  Yes, I’m asked this surprisingly often.  First of all, there is no The Surgery.  There are several different sexual reassignment surgeries that a few transsexual people pursue, and they all serve different purposes with different results.  Second, that’s just about as rude as asking if “the carpet matches the drapes”.  You don’t need to know how long or brown or fat or crooked or whatever anyone’s bits are.  End of story.
Past that, there are a few common tropes that come out in my conversations with cisgender people.  This is where I introduce Richard, your stereotypical atheist: white, male, straight, politically progressive, etc.  (Note: I changed his name, because the FSM said I’d get a larger beer volcano in the afterlife if I addressed this in a gracious manner.)  The following stereotypical conversation actually took place on Facebook.  Let’s use it as a case study for what not to do.
I came across Richard while participating in a feminist discussion.  This comment of his was just begging for a response:
I  regularly put such neanderthals in thier place by reminding them that it is woman who possesses the power to create and that the participation required of men in the process is as limited as, it would appear, is their intellect.
Like so many other atheists of his caliber, Richard has made the assumption that “woman” is defined as  ”a human which is in possession of a reproductively-functioning womb”.  He seems to think that placing women (as so defined) on a pedestal and denigrating the intelligence of men is the equivalent of supporting women’s rights, an act I can assure you is not required for the advancement of gender equality.  Since people who don’t fit into his definition of “woman” don’t exactly go around wearing signs on our foreheads, we are often quite invisible to the Richards of the world.  That does not, however, mean we don’t exist, permeating every corner of society.  It was with that thought in mind that I replied:
Yeah, see, this is where you all lose me. I popped a kid out, and last I checked, I’m not a woman.  Oh, ye of little transgender.  :)
When faced with this situation, every atheist has an opportunity: to be the best at transgender acceptance; better than the fundamentalist bigots, better than even the liberal Christians who pass out hugs saying “we love you because Jesus loves you”.  Atheists have the opportunity to be the group known for best accepting trans people as if we were the most normal people on the planet and as if being a gender minority is as mundane as having red hair.  This means, whatever you do, do not respond to a transgender person by telling them how you think they ought to define themselves, as Richard did:
If you gave birth naturally, you did so as a physical woman, regardless of your mental perception of your gender identity. While you may perceive yourself as a male, your body remains female until after you have undergone GRS [editor note: gender reassignment surgery, by which he means sexual reassignment surgery, since gender is not defined by genital shape]. A uterus is NOT a male organ.
Perhaps my readership doesn’t know what is so offensive about this statement.  Here is the atheist equivalent for comparison: “Any atheist who is an ex-Christian never really believed in God to begin with.”  It’s insulting as hell (pun intended) when I’m telling the truth of who I really am, for the Richards of the world to replace my reality with their ignorant version thereof.
Who said I perceive myself as male? Again with the limited understanding of the diversity of human kind.
Some of you readers might be confused by now.  Neither man nor woman?  Correct: I’m genderqueer - my pronouns are ze/hir.  I intentionally didn’t reveal my personal gender identity in this post before now, because I want to make a very important point: there are going to be times in your interactions with other atheists when you meet someone who has an identity you may never have heard of.  The surprise (or possibly shock and confusion) of that is something you’re going to have to get used to dealing with gracefully if you want to create an exceptionally strong and cohesive atheist community.  Richard responded in probably the worst way possible, short of telling me that my identity has earned my place in hell (a response I’ve actually not yet received since I try not to talk to Christians):
You cannot invent a third gender. The anomoly that has you caught at odds between your physical body and your mental and emotional identity does not constitute a third gender.
Here’s something anyone can do to be more accepting of transgender people:  Don’t make claims about gender identity that can be shown to be verifiably false after a 5-second internet search.  You just look stupid.
I didn’t. Research the history of other genders if you doubt how far back this very real concept goes.
Richard, having the extremely limited understanding of the topic that he does, can do little other than start repeating himself several times more, explaining how babies are made, telling me I’m confused,  etc.  The conversation became rather tedious (I’ve spared you most of it), and I finally pointed out the obvious: that he’s acting against gender equality and civil rights.  That’s when he threw out this little gem:
I am familiar with transgenderism, as I work closely with several transgendered persons, both M2F and F2M.
That’s right, it’s the old “some of my best friends are ____” defense!  Also, nobody even calls it “transgenderism“.  Nothing says “I don’t really care what you have to say about the realities of your own life because I already know everything ever” quite like sheer unadulterated ignorance waved around as true fact.  Richard then tried to soften his public image with a reminder of his initial support of gender equality:
I have always stood for equality between men and women, without regard to their respective genders. No one person should be forced to accept less from society than another in performing the same tasks, simply for archaic notions of social roles.
By this point, even scrubbing a toilet seemed more enticing than spending another minute on him, so I left him with this:
You say “You cannot invent a third gender.” You do not stand for gender equality, as you have just rendered my gender inequal to yours. Good day sir. I have better things to do with mine.
I must point out that Richard is basically the worst case scenario.  The average secular response is “You’re genderqueer?  What’s that?” or even “oh, cool.”  And honestly, that’s A-OK.  I don’t want to stick out, or be treated like a special snowflake, I simply want to be a part of the atheist community like any other member.
I don’t intend for this to be a rant against cis people or anyone, really.  My hope is that in sharing my experience, I’ll have educated at least one more person on how to stick up for gender equality, and to fight ignorance where it lurks.  If we put our minds to it, we atheists can be the best at transgender acceptance.
**If this sounds like you, whether you first became aware of these feelings at age 7 or age 77, feel free to message me.  I’m happy to answer any questions or help you find resources for support, or even just to offer a listening ear.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Dear Supporter of Marriage Equality:

First of all, thank you for caring!  I'm glad that you don't need to be a QUILTBAG person yourself in order to take a stand for what is right.  I do, however, have one piece of advice:

Don't postpone your marriage to make yourself a better straight ally.

Now, I don't know you personally, so I don't mean to presume your particular motivation for your actions.  But perhaps you happen to share a few common sentiments with others I know who are able to legally marry their partners but are holding off on it because same-sex marriage is still not legal in their region, in which case I appreciate you listening to what I have to say.

First, consider that you're undermining a very important tenant of marriage equality: that "gay marriage has nothing to do with the success of your straight marriage".  The most recent example I have is Jay Leno telling Michelle Bachmann that he's been married 31 years, and can't think of a single way that some other person's ability to marry could harm his own marriage.  So now I ask you to consider the correlary to that situation: how does your not being straight married help me get gay married?  Answer: it doesn't.  Unless you consider it to be a form of public attention-raising.  In which case...

You can raise awareness no matter what your own personal marital status happens to be.  It doesn't take a piece of paper in the pocket to attend pro-marriage rallies, to write letters to congress people, or to donate money to non-profit organizations.  Besides, it's just as easy to stand up and say "we're a straight married couple who believe that every gay couple should be entitled to the same rights as us!" as it is to say "we're a straight couple who refuse to marry until all gay partners are able to marry!"  Either way, your support of marriage equality is much appreciated, and we hope you keep it up.

This brings me to a third thought.  Again, I don't presume to know your personal life, but I have spoken with a few straight couples who feel guilty about their marital status.  They feel like they're somehow flaunting their privilege by taking advantage of the superior rights offered to their partnership.  They may even feel like gay couples resent their marriage.  There are many ways to deal with feelings of guilt, and I can offer one possible solution:

Take all the money you save by being legally married vs cohabiting (or what have you), and donate it to the marriage equality organization of your choice.  Any time you would have otherwise had to get a power of attorney, donate that money to charity.  Every time you file your taxes jointly, also calculate the rate it would be if you both filed single, and donate the difference.  With all that money you save by being on the same health insurance, set up a monthly deposit to your local LGBT center. Bet you never thought of getting married as a fundraiser before!  Heck, you could even take a collection for donations at your wedding and at any anniversary celebrations you may hold.

I know there are many reasons people choose to marry or not to marry.  I've been married, and now I'm with someone I'm not married to, though we have the legal right if we so choose.  Life is complicated that way.  But if the only reason you are holding out on marriage is for us QUILTBAG folk, I hope I've given you a bit more to weigh in on your decision.

P.S.  If you're one of those people who are using the whole "I don't want to get married till the gays can" card as an excuse to get out of a marriage you wouldn't even want in the first place, you're a turd.

Monday, August 29, 2011

Bias in the Political Compass Test

I was taking the Political Compass Test, and I noticed something interesting… there’s no “neutral” option for answers, which is bad because some of these questions seem to be biased, particularly toward libertarianism.  What I mean is, I seem to be forced into appearing to disagree with a statement that is actually a far more complicated issue than is presented to me.  (Skip down to the bottom of this post if you want the smoking gun.)

Here are some examples of question bias:

  • “Military action that defies international law is sometimes justified.”  Is the international law corrupt, or is it justified?  And what is the goal of the military action?  ”Sometimes” is a very vague concept.
  • “Controlling inflation is more important than controlling unemployment.”  When?  How bad is unemployment?  How bad is inflation?  This isn’t always an either/or situation.
  • “The freer the market, the freer the people.”  Does this even mean anything?  It’s like saying “fancy is as fancy does” or some other such BS.
  • “All authority should be questioned.”  Asking questions doesn’t mean being anti-authority or even necessarily disagreeing with said authority.  This is far too ambiguous a statement to base a political ideology upon.
  • “All people have their rights, but it is better for all of us that different sorts of people should keep to their own kind.”  Which people?  There’s a difference between expecting blacks to keep to their own kind and serial rapists to keep to their own kind, for example.
  • “The most important thing for children to learn is to accept discipline.”  I don’t know of anyone who would say this is literally the most important thing a child could learn.  This question is obviously biased so as to be anti-authority (pro-libertarian) and also has nothing to do with political ideology anyway.
  • “When you are troubled, it’s better not to think about it, but to keep busy with more cheerful things.”  Not even relevant!  Come on!
  • “A significant advantage of a one-party state is that it avoids all the arguments that delay progress in a democratic political system.”  That may actually be a significant advantage… doesn’t mean I’d actually prefer a one-party state.  Nuance, people, nuance!
  • “Abstract art that doesn’t represent anything shouldn’t be considered art at all.”  Lol wut.
  • “Astrology accurately explains many things.”  I quit.

So now, the ultimate challenge: I “strongly disagreed” with literally everything on the list and ran the score.  The results were way into libertarianism, though on the line between left and right.  They did manage to balance the left/right scale, but they were not at all balanced on the libertarian/authoritarian scale (or as my friend Jay put it: “This compass definitely needs some declination adjustment”).  A well-written test will score perfectly center if the questions are all answered the same.  This test was clearly written in such a way as to make people squeemish about agreeing with the statements, thus allowing them to nudge their own score into libertarian territory.

In short, the Political Compass Test is a recruiting tool for an underdog political agenda, and is not to be taken seriously.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Communication and ADHD

As a person with ADHD, having conversations with single-thought people (my name for all you who only contemplate one thing at a time) can result in frustration and miscommunication, often without an obvious reason why.  My whole life has been trying to figure out why others act like I'm a bad person simply for being myself.  "You're so weird!"  "Don't you know how rude you're being?"  "Sometimes I think you do that on purpose."  Despite all that hostility, I'm still trying to figure out the secrets of so-called normal communication, and I'm getting better every year.

"But Andy!" I'm sure you're saying, "what about the secrets of ADHD communication?  I appreciate that you're trying to learn about us, but I want to learn about you too.  Don't be stingy, now."  I wouldn't dream of withholding such useful information, which is why I'm sharing this link I recently found.  It's the best summary I've ever read, and pretty much describes my experiences spot-on, but I'll go ahead and add my own notes below.

Blurting Things Out - This has nothing to do with how little I respect the person I'm talking with.  Instead, it has to do with the way my hardware runs.  I can't count how many times I was about ready to say something, tried to my tongue for a few seconds, and then completely forgot what it was I was about ready to say (and this has happened for very important issues too). As many people with ADHD are well aware, thoughts are transient things.  Any moment I'm thinking of something may well be the last, before it's lost forever to forgetfulness.  Sometimes I manage to make it to a pen and paper in time.  But often, I just say it, that way it gets out of my brain where I don't have to worry about it any longer.  You may wonder what was so important about squirrels that it couldn't wait a minute?  Well, let's just say that the fear of forgetting often overrides taking the risk to waste precious have decided that understand that yes, this cannot wait, it might be forgotten.  Also, if I'm spending time contemplating what I'm about to say, I'm diverting my attention away from what someone else is saying in a conversation, and I've just completely missed it all.  This is why I often just say what I have to say, then ask my conversational partner to continue where they left off.

Conversations that Go Everywhere - Apparently some people only think about one thing at a time.  I never saw the point.  After all, everything in life is interconnected (6 degrees of Kevin Bacon, anyone?), and drawing those diverse connections out into the open is an exciting way to learn new perspectives on familiar topics.  I you really want to focus on one particular point, let me know.  This doesn't mean I'll sit up straight and refuse to deviate (as if that were possible, ha!), but it does mean that I'll make sure to regularly touch base with that topic as we converse, especially if you bring it up again.

Monologues - If you don't like what I'm talking about, switch the topic.  I probably won't notice if you don't find my thoughts engaging.  I can't notice.  I'm about as useful for reading conversational cues as my tone-deaf father is for reading music.  The good news is, I rarely take a subject-change as a bad sign, and in fact could get excited because something new and different is now happening.

Extreme Defensiveness - I've been told I have this.  Possibly.  The author said it's because of years of being constantly criticized.  I do know I'm tired of being told I'm a bad person simply because I am neurologically different.  The best way to approach me is with the phrase "I know you may not be aware you're doing this..."

Poor Memory of Agreements or Incidents - I do my best, but I already have a long list of things I'm supposed to change about myself in order to fit in.  Your item probably got lost down at the bottom.  Just issue a gentle reminder, and I'll try to bump it up a bit.

Getting Lost in Conversations or Wildly Misunderstanding - I often get blamed as though I do this on purpose.  It helps if you use really specific examples during conversations for me to help define the topic.  In fact, tell stories, so I can form a vivid visualization of people acting out what you're trying to tell me.  Also, ask questions.  I do a lot of question-asking myself, and if they seem to be leading in the wrong direction, it's not because I'm trying to trip you up, it's because I'm trying to rule out what you're not saying to get a better grip on what you actually are saying.

There you go!  Hopefully the article and my comments help you out.  And if anyone has created a similar cheat-sheet for how single-thought people converse that is as good as this one, let me know.  I've been looking for one for over 2 decades.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Bling vs Specs

This is something I wrote for class because I'm too school for cool.

Bling (aka Large Ornate Gold Necklaces/Jewelry)
We've all seen it: the ostentatious medallion hanging around the neck of a wealthy performance artist.

 image    image  

The name was popularized by a 1999 song with the title Bling-Bling.  The term "bling" refers to the bling-bling of light reflecting off the facets of the jewelry.  This is key - it must be ornate, gaudy, a blatant display of the economic power of the wearer.  Traditionally, blacks are seen as poor and lacking in social status, so the in-your-face consumerism of bling can be seen as an empowering reaction against such negative stereotypes.  This is known as conspicuous consumption. So why consume conspicuously?  Well, let's use bling as an example.  When we think of a middle-class white adolescent wearing bling, the reaction is probably something similar to this:

I noticed that you're gangster... I'm pretty gangster myself.

We mock people like that, because we see them as trying to pretend to be what they're not, aka a poser.  We wouldn't do that if stuff is just stuff, clothes are just clothes, and each individual has a unique style.  Conspicuous consumption isn't just about wealth and self-expression, it's about identifying with a particular social caste or sub-culture.  As social creatures, we not only have an individual identity, we have a group identity.  We subconsciously label ourselves, even those of us who reject labels, by how we dress.  The bling-laden white boy in the West County suburbs isn't showing pride in his identity, he's engaging in an insensitive type of conspicuous consumption known as cultural appropriation.

Specs (aka Hipster Glasses)
Hipsters are a group of people who typically don't identify themselves as being a collective group of people for the simple reason that they share a common distaste for personal labels.  They're the natural result of our cultural cult of individuality taken to the extreme.  As such, they reject conspicuous consumption because that could potentially cause them to be mistaken for a member of a particular social caste (a practice which often causes them to be so rejecting of any culture close to themselves that the only option they have left is severe and shameless cultural appropriation).  And for a while, they were successful at being beautiful and unique snowflakes.

But a funny thing happens when enough people reject the concept of social castes - they become a social caste of people who share that common rejection.  This is where hipster irony is born.


Specs like these are nothing new, not at all.  Horn-rimmed glasses actually got their kick start in 1917 by actor Harry Lloyd.  They became rather popular in the 50s as well.  Some people never stopped wearing them.  So why do hipsters love them so?  Simple: they're ugly.  I mean, seriously.  They're so ugly, in the military they're known as BCGs - birth control glasses.  (They're the only style allowed at basic training [update: the military's policy has been changed since this paper was written].)


(Tasty.)  Hipsters caught on to the extreme unpopularity of these glasses and began wearing them ironically, as a rejection of conspicuous consumption.  Only, it caught on and became popular among the totally-not-at-all-affiliated-with-each-other hipsters themselves, and became a "hipster thing", to the point where it's now it's own meme.  That's right, you can take any image, add glasses, and it's instantly hipster.

I'm the biggest thing ever - I'm only being a hipster ironically.

"A hipster can be so emphatically, conspicuously hipster that he becomes a predictable caricature or stereotype so that he becomes, unwittingly, anti-hipster."  Ironic, isn't it?

Sunday, March 6, 2011

A Memoir

I remember when I was about the age of 7 or 8 - yes, that young! - that I thought to myself "I don't think I should have been born a girl. It doesn't feel like me, it seems wrong. ...But boys are gross, I am definitely not a boy. I'm not a tomgirl either, because I hate sports. So I guess I'll just try to be a girl anyway." Even then, I knew the two options were both wrong. I simply had no others available.

I couldn't make friends with girls because trying to be "one of the girls" made me painfully aware of just how not one of them I really was. And I was still too girly to fit in with the guys, so I ended up being a loner. My first-grade teacher said something to my mother about it, she was so concerned, but what was she supposed to do? Really, there was nothing to be done.

A few years later, I landed the leading roll in a production of Oliver Twist as the boy Oliver. I was so happy! It didn't seem like a cross-gender role, it simply seemed like me being another facet of myself. I wanted to play more roles as a boy, but by the next year I had already grown breasts and was deemed too developed. I gave up on acting.

In middle school, I still didn't have many girl friends to speak of. I would eat lunch with a group of guys that generally accepted me, and I would be teased about all "my boyfriends". Well, they weren't my boyfriends, they were just companionship, people I could actually relate to. All the girls were off on their own table talking about girl things, whatever those things were, I couldn't relate and didn't care to. Sometimes when picking me up from school, my mom would point out how they all dressed and acted alike, and how I was different and unique. That was one of the few times I could feel proud that I was me.

In high school, I started becoming more sure that I didn't really think like a girl was supposed to think, and wasn't necessarily the straightest arrow in the quiver either. It was rather conflicting, because I was super-Christian and loved to learn as much about the Bible and theology as I could. I wrote my feelings off as being of the flesh, and thought that God could cure me of my transgender feelings and of my attractions to girls. After all, I sometimes felt girly, and I sometimes liked boys, so that made me normal, right?

But no matter what I did, it wouldn't go away. Yes, I was attracted to my husband, but sometimes I was attracted to him in a very explicitly gay way... it's difficult to explain if you haven't experienced it for yourself. Yes, I gave birth to a child, but immediately I knew something was "wrong": I had (and still have) no maternal instinct, and instead of growing a desire to nurture and interact, I grew a desire to work harder and provide for his well-being. I attempted to adopt a style of dress that was sexier and more feminine, but it felt more like playing dress-up for attention than like just embracing my own personal style; a style which, my ex husband would lament, was tragic and he had "rescued" me from it - a style that I've completely reverted to now that I'm free of his BS.

It was so obvious that I'm not really a woman that when I first got with my current boyfriend two years ago, he had doubts about whether he could really be with me, because of my gender identity. I was still of the opinion that I could live as a woman and that my non-womanly parts were just personality quirks. But the funny thing about nagging truths is that they just won't go away, no matter how hard we try to ignore them. "People won't believe me", I thought. "They'll think I'm making it up for attention." "I'll never be able to actually live life as my non-woman self, so I might as well stop trying to hog attention away from real transgender people."

Unfortunately (or perhaps very fortunately), the harder I tried to suppress my gender, the more it refused to be pushed away, until finally the nagging truth was keeping me up at night and I was a physical mess. Something had to give, and that something was my stubbornness. I finally told everyone the simple truth: I'm not a woman, I'm genderqueer, and you may not understand, but I'm willing to explain as much as you need to know.

Is it easy? No. Some people don't believe me. Some people think they can ignore me and act like I've said nothing. Some people even get angry and tell me that I know what my real gender is and I'd better start acting like it too! Except... I am acting like my real gender. And I know that I'm doing the right thing, because I'm starting to finally feel like I'm not lying to everyone anymore when I tell them that I'm a woman. I'm starting to forget what it's like to fret and worry about how to know if I'm really a woman. The cognitive dissonance has melted away and been replaced by a quiet cohesion of the self. I'm happier, I'm freer, I'm me-er!

Friday, February 4, 2011

Nerd is my Gender

What is your gender?  Man, woman, boy, girl, femme, bear, whatever?

Mine is nerd.  By that I mean, everything I’ve ever done that was nerdy fit me in a way that is beyond masculine or feminine.  I do not feel male or female.  My body doesn’t fit my gender, nor is there a body for my gender.

“Are you a girl?”  Yes, well maybe, but no, wait, that’s not really it…

“Are you a boy?”  No, it’s not it either, it’s just that…

“Well, what are you?”  I don’t know, I’m just my nerdy self.

Gender is tied in closely with sexuality, and mine is no different.  I am almost exclusively attracted to other nerds.  I am a homo-nerd, nerd-queer.

Do not expect a nerd to look or act a particular way.  This often leads people to confuse us with geeks and dorks.  What is the difference?  Nerd? Geek? or Dork?

So tell me: what is your gender?