Monday, December 31, 2012

Happy New Year!

Hey Folks,

Hope you all had a great holiday and I'm wishing you all a wonderful new year.  I'll be ringing it in with my man as we supervise the NYE Lock-In for a few dozen youth.  Video games, art projects, snacks, pizza, movies and sparkling grape juice as we watch the NYC Ball drop.  Have I mentioned that I love my job?  In other exciting news, it looks like Chris might be popping the question some time in 2013!  That's all I'll say for now, but I feel a rant about diamonds and other ridiculous things you're "supposed" to spend money on for weddings coming up soon.  Until then, I hope you have a safe and fantastic new year.  See you in 2013!

Monday, December 24, 2012

Happy Holidays

I've finished my semester and received Straight A's!  I'll be spending the next two days with my family and Chris's, so I won't be updating as often as usual this week.  However, my next post will be a lot of fun and incorporate what I've learned.  I'm looking forward to it!  I hope you and your loved ones have a fantastic holiday season, or as Spock would put it:

Monday, December 17, 2012


Bitch is one of those loaded words in our society.  For some, it's a way of comparing a woman to a dog.  For some, it's a way of saying a woman doesn't know her place in society.  For some, it's what women call a woman who goes against the grain.  For some, it's a man who acts like a woman.  In my family, Bitch is a badge of honor.  When I say I was raised by New York Yankee bitches in the wilds of Arkansas, I say it with great love about my matriarchal upbringing.  Because in my family, if someone calls you a bitch then you must be doing something right! 

One of my favorite Bette Davis quotes about the subject neatly sums it all up, "When a man gives his opinion, he's a man. When a woman gives her opinion, she's a bitch.”  I say it's time we start to take the word back.  I love how the queer community has taken the slurs used against us and turned them into compliments.  Such as, "I love that butch look you got going on."  Faggot, Tranny, Butch, Dyke, Fairy, Bitch, the list goes on and on.  But rather than give the haters ammunition to use against us we've turned it around.  If you use the term to describe yourself it takes the intended sting away.  Hell, we turned "queer" from a derogatory term to a descriptive and inclusive one.  So let's do the same thing with bitch.

My proposed re-definition of bitch:

Bitch [bich] Noun.  Slang.  A person who stands by their convictions and is not ashamed of who they are, especially a woman.

So from now on, when someone says you're acting like a bitch, you can respond with, "I know.  Thank you for noticing."  If you need a derogatory term for someone who is rude (and who doesn't from time to time?) I've always been partial to "asshole".  It's gender-neutral and has a nice sharpness to it that can be downright satisfying when shouted.  I won't say that I haven't called someone a bitch out of anger before, but I make a conscious effort to reprogram that instinct, just like when I switched from "bless you" to "gesundheit".  It might be awkward at first, but once you commit to it things get easier and easier.  Let's turn this slur into a compliment just like we have with others before it.  Now get out there and change some minds, bitches!

Friday, December 14, 2012


Given the tragic events of today, I wasn't sure that I wanted to write.  But then I logged on to facebook and was bombarded with prayer circles, praises of god(s) and finger-pointing to every social problem or politician.  Everyone wants to figure out how to prevent something like this from happening ever again.  And I hate to be a Debbie Downer, but the truth is: we can't.

There's no way we're ever going to prevent something like this from ever happening.  Can we reduce our odds?  Of course.  But not by banning guns or punishing parents or censoring video games or any other agenda being peddled.  Even improving the mental health care system won't prevent it from ever happening, and I'm a mental health care student!  The truth is, crazy people do crazy things and crazy people will continue to do crazy things no matter what sacrifices we make or freedoms we give up.  The good news is there are far more good people out there than crazy people.  The vast majority of us are good, decent people trying to make the best of our lives.  This is not a time to beat ourselves up or try to pass the buck to someone else.  We need to offer our help and condolences, then continue to make our world a better place.

I know that I'm a bleeding heart liberal, but I believe in the Constitution.  It may be the greatest thing our country has going for it and we can't just try to tear parts out whenever something terrible happens.  The Second and Fourth Amendments are there for a reason!  Look at the TSA agents who chip away at our rights a little more every year so they can offer the illusion of safety in a post-9/11 world.  Look at the gun detectors in schools that we put in after Columbine.  These actions don't stop crazy people from doing crazy things, they only punish the vast majority of good citizens.  If you "ban" guns, that means only the crazy people who are willing to break the law will own them.  And if it's not guns it will be home-made explosives or some other awful thing.  There is no law that will obliterate violence and tragedy from our lives.

That being said, the best thing you can do to reduce the chances of something tragic happening are to reach out to those around you.  We're all social creatures and sometimes even the worst of us need a hug.  Don't pray for someone, help them!  Prayer is lazy.  It's a way of feeling like you're involved and making a difference when all you're doing is closing your eyes and wishing.  Wishes aren't going to take away the pain that families are experiencing today, but a shoulder to cry on and an ear to listen will make the world seem like a slightly less cold and forbidding place.  When something like this happens, you need to remember that for all the tragedy in the world, there is a lot more good.

Monday, December 10, 2012

Happy Human Rights Day

Happy Human Rights Day, everyone!  Take this day to remember to stand up for your rights and the rights of others.  And never let someone, including yourself, tell you that you can't make a difference.  The image of Tank Man standing up for what he believes in, quite literally, against a battalion of tanks is one of the most inspirational photos ever taken.  Think what we could all do for human rights if we each had the courage to take a stand. 

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Phoenix Rising

The night before I finally came out as trans, I had a dream...or maybe it was a nightmare. 

I "wake" from my bed to find my apartment engulfed in flames.  This has been one of my worst fears ever since I was a small child.  I panic. I scream.  I call out to my roommates.  Nothing.  All of my possessions, books, clothes, furniture, all of it is feeding the fire.  There is no safe way to escape my bedroom.  I have no window and the door is blocked.  I can either die or try to face the flames.  I run for the door with my arms around my face.  It is pure agony.  Every inch of my flesh screams in pain and my lungs seize as they fill with thick, black smoke.  I crash through the crumbling door and am immediately seized by a firefighter, who covers me in a fire blanket and lifts me out of the house.  A few seconds later I'm outside, staring at my apartment as it turns to ashes.  The firefighter places an oxygen mask around my face and I realize I'm no longer in pain.  I glance down at my skin, expecting to see charred flesh and instead my skin is perfect and clear.  Then I realized my clothes have burned away and I'm naked, save for the fire blanket.  The firefighter bends down to talk to me. 

"Ma'am, are you okay?  Do you know how the fire got started?" 

Ma'am?  Why is he calling me ma'am?  Surely he could see plain as day that I'm not a woman, he carried my naked body out of there. 

"No, I'm sorry.  I just woke up and ran for the door." 

My voice sounds strange...different.  The firefighter leaves me to put out the fire and I'm left alone.  I look down at my miraculously intact body and realize it looks very different.  Very different.  It is right after I realize what has happened that my roommates, Greg and Heather, are led out of the building.

"Have you seen our roommate?" Heather asks as another firefighter puts an oxygen mask on both of them.

"He's short, kind of stocky, brown hair." Greg helps.

"No, I'm sorry.  The only other person we've rescued from the building is this young lady."  The firefighter answers.

"Oh," Heather says, "Are you okay?  Do you live above us?"

"Um," I hesitate, "Yes.  I think I'm okay."

It was after this dream that I realized that I was willing to lose everything in order to be myself.  In my dream I lost my friends, my identity, my possessions, my home, everything but who I truly was.  And I realized that would be enough.  The next day I told my roommates.  There were plenty of times when I was asked to slow down my transition.  Told it was great I was being myself but that I needed to give others time.  I needed to be understanding.  I told them I would rather die as a woman than live as a man.  And I meant it.  It sounds dramatic, but honestly, when you're trans it is a life-and-death situation.  And there are few things in this life more liberating than staring down death and saying you would prefer it to losing your dignity.  That gives you the kind of power and freedom that can never be taken away.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

My Very Atheist Christmas

Last week I was decorating the queer youth center I work at with some of my favorite youth and a volunteer.  For the sake of this article, let's call her Kathy.  Kathy is what I like to call a "momma-teer", she's a straight ally who volunteers so her gay son will have a fun place to hang out.  As Kathy and I were setting up the Christmas tree and listening to festive music she carefully asked me a question.

"So, I know you and Chris are atheists and you celebrate Christmas, so what does the holiday mean for you if it's not about Jesus?"

Now, this was not a malicious attack of any kind.  Kathy is a sweet woman and very accepting.  And it's a fair question when most are regularly told that Jesus is "the Reason for the Season."  I could have been a smart ass and said that the Earth's tilted axis was the true reason for the season, but I didn't.  I took the time to explain to her why I like Christmas so much.  I gave her a brief history about how Christmas has been many holidays before and has borrowed many traditions along the way and discarded others.  The very tree we were putting up was actually condemned by the early church for it's pagan roots before they realized they were fighting a losing battle.  The same can be said for mistletoe and exchanging gifts and decorations and most of the things we love about the holidays. 

So, in following that proud tradition I too have kept the traditions I enjoy and discarded the ones that do not work for me.  I love the tree and decorations and, to a lesser extent, the gifts.  I love getting together with my family and loved ones to have fun and share stories from the past year.  I love giving them whatever token of appreciation I can, even if it's just a box of homemade cookies and a card.  I love that, for a brief moment every year, everyone tries to be a little kinder to each other, even if they're strangers.  And as I get older, it's the little things that seem silly to outsiders that I might love most of all; the way my mom, sister, and I sing "I Want a Hippopotamus for Christmas" to each other; the time we spend preparing the Christmas dinner together, even if it's only for the three of us; the new ornament my mom gives us every year; having all of us together, something that doesn't happen often now that we're grown; and even watching the silly Christmas specials we've seen since we were kids.

There are plenty of things that irritate me about the holidays, like the "War on Christmas" fanatics who freak out whenever you use the word "holiday" or, god forbid, "X-Mas".  It seems they've forgotten that the "X" in X-Mas is not crossing out Jesus, but was used as a substitution for Christ because it was a cross!  X is still Christ!  And I guess the Jews and Muslims and everyone else who celebrate something different during December should just shut up about it so that we don't hurt the Christian majority's feelings.  I'll never forget how my Jewish friend put it, "I don't get offended when they wish me a Merry Christmas.  They may or may not know I'm a Jew, but I know they just hope I have a nice holiday with my family, so why get bent out of shape?  The name isn't important, it's the thing itself that matters."  Whether you call it Christmas, Hanukkah, Festivus, Kwanzaa, Winter Solstice, or anything else is not important.  What is important is being a good person and spending the day to love your family of origin or choice.

Another tradition we're ditching is Santa.  Chris and I have ultimately decided that when we have kids we're not going with the whole Santa thing.  It's not that we'll try to hide the fact that Santa is a part of Christmas.  They can still go see him at the mall and read stories about him and all the rest of it, but we're not going to pretend that he's real.  As far as our kids will be concerned, Santa is just one of the many stories we like to tell.  The Wild Things aren't real and neither is Harry Potter, but that doesn't make us enjoy them any less.  It just doesn't seem right to intentionally lie to your children.  I'm not okay with religious indoctrination of children, but I can understand why religious people do it.  They see belief in their god is a good thing and want to pass that on to their children.  But no adult believes in Santa, yet many try to make their kids believe in him anyway.  I don't understand it.  You may disagree with us, and no doubt many in my family will as well, but that's just the way we see the matter.

Consumerism continues to get out of control every year.  This was the first time in over 9 years I've managed to escape retail during the holiday season, where we swapped Black Friday stories like we were old war veterans.  We talked about how this employee was punched by this customer, how this customer screamed until she was blue about this sale, and all other manner of depravity.  Only in America can we spend a day being thankful for what we have and then kill each other the next day in order to buy more shit.  It may be cheesy, but I always get sentimental when I think about the ending of How the Grinch Stole Christmas.  When all the people in Whoville hold hands and sing, even though all their possessions have been stolen, it makes my Grinch heart grow three sizes. 

"Maybe Christmas doesn't come from a store.  Maybe Christmas, perhaps, means a little bit more." 

That's what Christmas means to me.  It's not about buying things or having the best looking tree in the window where all the neighbors can see or even about Jesus.  It's about sharing your love with the world.  It's about braving the coldest time of the year with the people you cherish most and being grateful for spending another year of our short lives together.  This holiday has had many shapes and many names and many traditions over the centuries, but it always comes down to Peace on Earth, and Goodwill for all Mankind.  Do what you can this holiday season to make those happen, and I'll wish you a Very Atheist, Christian, Jewish, Muslim, Hindu, Buddhist, or Pagan Holiday from my family to yours.  Merry Christmas!

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Barbies and Legos for All!

For those of you not linked in with the Trans and Godless facebook page, I posted this yesterday:

Dear Toy Advertisers,

Is this really so fucking difficult? Rather than making kids feel bad about playing with toys they enjoy, why not just admit that toys don't have a gender? They're just toys! No boy ever "turned gay" from playing with a doll and no girl "turned lesbian" from playing with guns. Besides, Nerf guns are fucking awesome.

Sincerely yours,

The image in question comes from a Swedish toy catalogue that works as an importer for Toys R Us.  Last year they were in some hot water for violating Sweden's laws against sexist advertising.  Yes, you read that correctly.  There are laws in Sweden against sexist advertising.  How.  Fucking.  Cool.  Is.  That?  You may also recall from previous posts that many European countries have laws that limit or prohibit the types of pervasive marketing to children we have in The States.  This means Swedish children may have the least amount of brainwashing when it comes to selecting toys they enjoy.  It means Swedish children will be more creative with their play because they're not just mimicking what they've seen advertised ad nauseum on television.  It means Swedish children can have more fun and enjoy their toys more.  And because they're not being told to limit their selection to only one half of the store, they have more variety to choose from and the toy sellers have twice as many opportunities to sell the same number of toys.  If nothing else sinks into the heads of Corporate America, that concept should.  Why on earth would you intentionally alienate half of your potential buyers for a product?

Here's the problem with sexist advertising.  While the intention is to alienate half of the population in order to win the loyalty of the other half, such as saying Barbies are only for girls so that girls will like it more, you still end up alienating your intended consumers as well.  Plenty of women will tell you they had no idea what they were supposed to do with Barbie, but rather than just shrug it off as not being a toy that holds their interest, they start to wonder if there's something wrong with them instead of the toy.  She may think, "Girls like Barbies, so if I don't like them what does that make me?"  This creates a whole group of girls who may resent Barbie for making them feel confused about their gender.  These girls grow up to be women who don't buy Barbie for their daughters.  Meanwhile, their daughters may actually enjoy a Barbie doll and resent their mother's for not buying one.  All this over a 12-inch piece of plastic!  Meanwhile, a boy really wants a Barbie doll so he can brush and style her hair, but he can't have one because "Barbies are for girls" and his parents don't want him to grow up gay/queer/trans/"different".  So you've got a girl who hates her Barbie and a boy who desperately wants one and neither of them can be happy because of the sexist marketing designed to induce loyalty.  Can anyone come up with a more fucked up system?

Let's imagine, just for a little while, that we live in a world where toys are marketed by their function and not by their non-existant gender.  Barbies and Superheroes and Dinosaurs would be on the same "Toy Figures" aisle.  This means you could have some cross-over rather than a huge divide.  Barbie could go on away missions as a secret spy and later go on a Triceratops ride with Batman.  (By the way, this is how I played with our toys as a kid.  If my sister's Barbies weren't being lesbians, than they were dating Superheroes.  Even as kids we could tell Ken wasn't really interested.)  You could have a "Make Believe" aisle, with all the play kitchens, mini lawnmowers, and baby dolls that let kids imitate their parents and pretend to be grown-ups.  And since men and women become parents and cook and shop for groceries there is really no need to segregate.  There could be a "Dress-Up" aisle, where you have princess dresses and firefighter coats and ten-gallon hats with cap guns on holsters and all kinds of other costumes that are a ball for any kid to try on.  There could be an "Outdoor" aisle, with Nerf guns and supersoakers and hula hoops and jumpropes and balls and all the other fun stuff you can do outside.  What girl wouldn't have fun playing capture the flag with her brother? 

My point is, you don't have to radically change toys in order to appeal to all genders.  A lot of the most popular toys out there are popular because they're fun to play with.  Legos are awesome!  Nerf guns are awesome!  I loved my baby doll as a toddler and learned to double-dutch when I was in elementary school.  We shouldn't try to limit who is allowed to play with toys or tell kids how they should play with them.  Playing is how kids learn.  It's how they figure out the world and decide how they're going to fit into it.  If they want to coordinate Barbie's outfits and style her hair, that's great.  If they want to strip her naked, paint a costume on her, and have her fight crime, that's great too!  Toys are fun and kids don't need any help from adults figuring out how to play.  It's when adults get involved and start trying to make rules that we stunt their imaginations and limit who they can be.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Religion and Patriarchy

I've been asked on multiple occasions why I conflate my atheism with my feminism.  It's not as though you need to be one in order to be the other.  In my opinion, it helps, but it's not necessary.  But the ultimate reason why is because nothing supports patriarchy better than religion.  Religions are created by men and, conveniently, place men at the top just below whatever deity or power is being proposed.  All of the major religions who have deities have male gods as the "figurehead", which is then used to justify the same set up in the mortal world.  This simple position trickles down into countless other atrocities that could not be justified by moral, rational people without a supernatural argument.

Let me clarify two things.  First, when I say religion, I mean organized religion.  Not just major or generally accepted religions, but all organized religions including cults.  If your "religion" is just tripping on acid and talking to trees on the weekends than I have no issue with it as long as you are not then taking what you believe the trees said to you and using it to place yourself above others.  I have absolutely nothing against personal religious beliefs that in no way interfere with others.  I think it will harsh your trip on the earth, but that's your decision to make.  Second, when I say patriarchy I don't just mean men oppressing women.  That's certainly the common use of the phrase, but I want to expand it to mean any person or group exploiting power against another person or group.  This would include men against women, whites against non-whites, heterosexual and cissexual against homosexual and transsexual, English-speaking Americans against ESL or non-English-speaking Americans.  Whatever class oppression you can picture in your mind at any point in history, that's what I mean when I talk about patriarchy.  So let's not dissolve this discussion with arguments about "My religion is one of peace" or "Men's rights" or anything else.  Let's really examine the issue at hand.

I can still remember the first time doubt crept into my head as a Christian.  I was 12-years-old in the 7th grade and had just started youth group at my church not long ago.  At one point our bible classes were split by gender and, in one of the many farcical moments of my life, I was the only appalled one in a room of a couple dozen boys and men being taught about the position of power men have in Christianity.  You know, the man is the head of the household just as God is the head of the church.  Women are ultimately servants of men just as Even was created to serve Adam.  A marriage was meant to produce children and a wife's primary function is to raise good little Christian children.  You've heard it all before, I'm sure.  The problem was I'd been raised by my feminist mother, who obviously illustrated she knew how to function far better than the majority of men I'd known.  So I began to ask my teacher questions, which will always get you into trouble.  I started to wonder what other disturbing things were in the bible and that's when I stumbled on the passages about slavery.  I asked why we no longer held up those passages but still hung on to the outdated views on gender roles.  I got a lot of apologetic crap in return and was basically told, "Hey, don't rock the boat, dude."  In the years toward my de-conversion I realized that women were seen only as property in the bible and that all the commands to be faithful and keep your virginity and the rest were just paranoid men worrying about passing their inheritance to someone else's son.  Not a very good basis for morality.

The two most damaging aspects of religion when used against women are "modesty" and "submission".  These are the foundation for what "good girls" are supposed to be and set up a double standard that no one can follow all the time.  Let's start with The Ugly Side of Modesty.  Religions in varying degrees all try to shift the blame of men's actions and thoughts about women back onto the women themselves.  This is why religious women are required to cover their hair, or not show skin, or only where skirts to their ankles or whatever ridiculous dress code might be put in place.  The thought process is always the same, "Men can't control themselves if women are unmodest, therefore it's the woman's responsibility to be modest lest she face the consequences of the out-of-control man."  It's the justification for rape we've heard too many times before.  What was she wearing?  It doesn't fucking matter!  Even if you walk naked down the street that's no justification to be raped.  And the fault lies with the person raping, not the victim.  This tries to make women out to be something mystical or perhaps evil by nature that must be tamed and controlled by men.  Fathers are expected to keep their daughters from having sex.  Husbands are expected to keep their wives from promiscuity.  Well, I have news for all religious men out there:  You are responsible for what you do with your penis.  Case closed.  No other arguments.  And women are responsible for what sex acts we decide to take part in.  No man has control over a woman and no woman has control over a man unless someone willingly gives it to or coercively takes it from them.  But the most disturbing part about modesty is how it's used against little girls who are just beginning to understand and maybe even love their body. 

Their told their body is an evil temptation that must be guarded, lest they lead boys into sin.  Fashion choices are no longer about what they enjoy, but are all directed back to what men will think about them.  Look at this disgusting "test" from SecretKeeperGirl, a website that shames tweens about their bodies and clothing in the name of God.  If there is one thing I am greatful for about growing up trans, it's that I internalized much less of this bullshit than my cis sisters out there may have.  I still struggled with thoughts about whether I'm showing too much skin, but it's not because I worry about what a man might think, it's usually because of body issues, which is another topic for another time.

So how about submission?  And I don't mean the fun, consensual kind that people can enjoy in their bedrooms.  I mean the kind that says women only have a limited number of purposes and these are all dictated by the man who owns her.  The most disturbing aspect of this to me are those women coerced into the "quiverfull" movement.  And I use the word coerced because hardly any of the girls raised in this lifestyle are given any kind of informed consent.  Many are homeschooled and given no alternative views about life and reproduction.  They may not even know about contraception and other birth control options until they've already been brainwashed by decades of indoctrination and married off at a young age.  The Duggar Family are the most famous example of the mindless reproduction. But I don't want to talk about them, although I could.  I'd rather point out a more tragic consequence of this "quiverfull" bullshit.  I want to talk about Andrea Yates.

Now for those who don't know, Andrea Yates is a woman who suffered from severe psychotic episodes brought about by postpartum depression.  This means that every time she had a child she was deeply depressed and often delusional and a danger to her children and herself.  This was an issue known by her, her husband, and her mental health practicioner, who warned the couple not to have any more children, lest the psychosis return.  Her husband didn't listen and proceeded to impregnate his wife again.  They could have used any number of forms of birth control, but they didn't because he believed God wanted him to have as many children as possible.  Baby number five came along and only a few months later Andrea drowned all five of her boys because she believed God had told her it was the only way to ensure their salvation.  This is one of the most disturbing illustrations I know of to show how religion not only twists someone's mind to believe that killing one's child could ever be a good thing, (Don't forget the stories of Abraham and Jephthah) but because a tragedy that could have easily been avoided was pushed further because of outdated views about women from the Bronze Age.  That is why I get so disgusted with religion.  I don't have a problem with the good people think religion helps them do.  I have a problem with the evil that can only come about because of religious beliefs that one is doing the "right thing".

And I believe patriarchy is one of those evils that can only be perpetuated by religious thinking.  Even the non-religious misogynists out there (and they're out there) are still suffering the effects of a religious society that routinely views men and women as different and perpetuates that misconception with every chance it gets.  It's going to take a lot of work to reverse the damage done to all of us, religious, non-religious, men, women, queer, straight, white, black, Asian, Hispanic.  We've all suffered at the hands of religion for too long.  It's time to realize the only good morality comes before religion, not from it.  If, after all is said and done, you want to hang on to the few moral stories in the Bronze and Iron Age books, that's fine.  So long as you keep it to yourself.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Transgender Day of Remembrance

Today is one of the saddest days in the transgender community.  It's Transgender Day of Remembrance, the day when we honor our dead, specifically those who have been killed because of their gender expression.  This year, 265 people have left us forever because of hateful people lashing out at something they did not understand with violence.  We've made a lot of progress over the years, but until a November 20th rolls by with no deaths to honor, than we're never finished fighting. 

Even if you can't attend a memorial service tonight, take a moment to think about our fallen brothers and sisters.  Think about their last short moments of terror as someone, usually someone they were close to, ended their life.  That is why we must never stop working to make this world a better place.  So we no longer have to live in fear when we begin a relationship with someone.  So we no longer worry about being spotted and targeted for a hate crime.  So we no longer hear lawyers and defendants using the "gay panic" defense as a justification for taking the life of another human being. 

We are the lucky ones.  We are the survivors this year.  Let's not waste such a precious gift by hiding or being silent.  Our lives are short and precious.  Let's use them to fight back until we no longer draw breath.  Because every year, some of us become sacrificed on the alter of hatred and if we don't stand up and say, "ENOUGH!", than our silence will be taken as consent and next year we'll have even more names to honor. 

Tonight, we honor our brothers and sisters and shed a tear for what should not be.  Tomorrow, we rise up and give the world hell.  Tomorrow, we hold others accountable for their hatred, their silence, and their indifference.  Let's make sure our fallen are not forgotten or abused even further in their death.  Hopefully next year, we won't need a Day of Remembrance.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Not Too Proud to Beg

In response to the overwhelming support of my fans and loved ones (especially my Aunt Carole and Rosie Roetto) who responded to my last blog post and wanted to help, I've set up a "GoFundMe" website.  It's a nifty little fundraising site that lets anyone make whatever size donation they'd like.  There's even special rewards ranked for everyone who can give me a hand.  I'm not too proud to beg, and whatever help can be offered would be wonderful.

Surgery Blues

I put up a good game when it comes to representing trans women and the atheist community.  I answer all the questions I can as respectfully as I'm asked, I try to be out to as many people as I can to disprove stereotypes, and I work hard on writing this blog so I can share my perspective with others.  But some days are harder than others.

This week I've been in a slump because of surgery, specifically my lack of it.  It's hard to wake up every day and have to deal with this thing during my morning routine.  Typically I just wear my panties in the shower so I don't have to look at or touch it.  That may seem extreme, but I'd rather not start my day off depressed.  It's those few brief moments when I have to change or use the restroom that I get the most down and realize that for all my effort I'm no closer to affording surgery now than I was 4 years ago.

Ten thousand dollars doesn't seem like too much.  About the price of a good used car or a few semesters at a university, but trying to come up with that kind of money as a full-time student and part-time worker is damn near impossible.  Practically all my finances go toward living and whatever I do save generally gets used by some kind of emergency eventually.  I've learned not to set dates because whenever they sail right past me I get absolutely depressed and start to wonder if things are ever going to work out.

I don't mean to make this a pity party, but for those who aren't trans it's a strange kind of feeling to express through words.  Imagine you have a serious physical deformity but nobody notices it.  To the outside world, you're just like everyone else, and even you forget about it through most of your day, but you know if you or anyone else examines too closely the illusion bursts and revulsion and disgust quickly follow.  I feel like everything else in my life is going well.  I've had a wonderful boyfriend for almost 3 years, I start a new job next week with better pay that isn't retail, I'm getting straight As in my classes, my educational and occupational future looks very bright, this blog has become increasingly popular, and I've become established as an atheist speaker in the region because of it.  I try to remind myself of all these wonderful things whenever I beat myself up, but it doesn't change the fact that part of me is still broken.

I struggle with my weight occasionally and other body issues, but for the majority of the time I like the majority of my body.  It's mine, I've fought my ass off to make it the way it is, and we've been through heaven and hell together.  I just wish I could fix this one damn birth defect so I could escape from the shame I otherwise don't feel about my body.  It feels like finishing a giant puzzle and missing one piece.  It's going to drive you crazy and with that last piece it's never complete.  You can't glue and frame a puzzle that's missing a piece.  It's not fit for display.  That's what being a pre-op trans woman feels like.

Sorry I'm not my usual fired-up, humorous activist self today, but like I said, some days are harder than others.  I'll try to come back at you next week with something more light-hearted and inspiring if possible.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

This Just In: I Masturbate (And So Do You)

As you all know, I spent the weekend in Springfield, MO at the amazing Skepticon!  It was so much fun.  The setting was informal, but still educational, and I got to hang out with so many friends I generally only see at atheist get-togethers and make plenty of new ones as well.  We even got to debate the Christian protesters who bothered us every morning, one atheist even "street preached" all the horrific and graphic sections of the bible.

One of the talks that I found most inspiring was from Darrel Ray, author of Sex & God: How Religion Distorts Sexuality, titled "Why Do We Act Like Christians?"  He took the data he discovered while working on his book and pointed out the obvious that often gets swept under the rug.  The religious have sex just as much as the secular.  We start having sex around the same time, we both masturbate, we both look at pornography, and we both have fetishes and unusual sexual practices.  In other words, the religious are almost indistinguishable from us when they're in the bedroom.  The difference is how they present themselves when they're not having sex.  Every major religion uses sex and other acts (like jealousy) that all humans engage in so its members will experience steady amounts of guilt which drive them back to the very religion that caused the guilt in the first place.  This is one of the biggest problems I have with religion, I makes us feel disgusted with ourselves for behaving in a perfectly healthy way.

Darrel pointed out that, even though we are not religious we still act like it when it comes to talking about sex.  Many of us lie about our sex acts, number of sexual partners and every other detail about our sex lives.  Ask yourself if you've ever felt ashamed or embarrassed about masturbating, if the thought of talking about sex with your children makes you blush, if you lie about your sexuality or go to great efforts to keep it "private".  If so, then you've become a victim of the toxic environment created by a religious culture.  There is absolutely no reason to feel embarrassed or ashamed about doing something that is so common it may as well be universal.  It makes about as much sense as being embarrassed about sleeping or eating.  We all do it, so get over it.

My mother told me there are two kinds of people in this world: people who masturbate and people who lie about masturbating.  I proudly place myself in the first category and encourage you to do the same.  Masturbation is healthy and helpful, even (or especially) if you're in a sexual relationship.  It helps you blow off steam when you're partner is not able to, it helps you discover what feels good, it helps you communicate with your partner so you both have a better time, and it helps you feel more confident about your body.  It does not lower your sex drive, make you grow hair on your palms, make you go blind, make you infertile, or make you a sex fiend.  So don't lie about it and don't be ashamed.  If someone asks you if you masturbate, you should treat it like they just asked if you brush your teeth.  Sure, a few outliers don't brush, but we certainly shouldn't encourage that kind of behavior.

I think what I find most freeing about the queer community is how sex and sexuality are upfront and open topics.  It has to be, that's why we're there!  But it's exceptionally rare to be at an LGBT function and hear someone try to hide their sexuality.  And I don't just mean what gender they're attracted to, I mean sexuality simply to mean that they are a sexual person, as are the vast majority of us.  Sex isn't something to be ashamed about in the queer community because so many of us have fought like hell in order to express ourselves sexually.  Shit, we have a damn parade to celebrate it at least every year!  Whenever I hear stupid, bitter, homophobic straight people say they want a "straight pride parade", I agree with them, so long as their parade is also a celebration of all the wonderful sex acts they perform on each other.  If straight people want to dress up in lingerie and leather, paint their bodies, dance down the street and share their love of sex with the world, then I'm all for it.  Though, really, you could just join our parade to make matters simpler.  I know plenty of straight atheists who love to march in the pride parade, and they don't give a shit about who fucks who as long as it's done between adults with "enthusiastic consent".  (A new phrase I picked up from Rebecca Watson, which I love!)

The bottom line: Regardless of your beliefs, celebrate the fact that you are a human being.  That entails all the things that make you a happy and healthy human being such as sex, appetite, yearning to improve the lives of yourself and others, and an ability to share love and compassion with all you meet.  Let's make the world an awesome place where everyone can get their rocks off without feeling dirty or ashamed.  Let's shout from the rooftops (at least metaphorically), "I have sex and I masturbate, and so do you!"

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Yes We Did!

Way to go America, I'm damn proud of you.  Four more years of the most supportive president of LGBT rights and the most inclusive of secular citizens.  Even though my state didn't vote for you, I'm glad the rest of the country helped me out.
Too bad Hillary has already said she won't be running in 2016.  But hey, I've got my fingers crossed.

Skepticon, Here I Come!

This week I'll be joining my friends from Secular Students at Collin College, Metroplex Atheists and the Fellowship of Freethought for a road trip to Skepticon in Springfield, Missouri!  There's going to be a ton of awesome speakers and events and the best part is IT'S FREE!  So if you're free this weekend and in the area, why don't you join me and these lovely people:

Jessica Ahlquist - Student who fought for seperation of Church and State in Ahlquist v. Cranston.

Richard Carrier - Freethough Blogger.

Sean Carroll - Theorhetical Physics and Astrophysics Scientist.

Greta Christina - Awesome blogger.

James Croft - Skeptics of Oz

Matt Dillahunty - Host of The Atheist Experience and pretty decent magician too.

JT Eberhard - Blogger of "What Would JT Do?" and Campus Organizer for Secular Student Alliance.

Phil Ferguson - Skeptic Money blogger.

David Fitzgerald - Author of Nailed: Ten Christian Myths that Show Jesus Never Existed at All and a good friend of mine.

Julia Galef - For a Rational Future blogger.

George Hrab - Skeptic musician and a pretty cool dude.

Deborah Hyde - Editor in Cheif of The Skeptic Magazine!

Keith Lowell Jensen - Atheist comedian.

Amanda Knief - Secular Coalition for America

Teresa MacBain - Ex-Minister and fierce Female Freethinker.

Hemant Mehta - The Friendly Atheist blogger.

PZ Myers - Well known blogger of Pharyngula.

Jennifer Oulette - Author of The Calculus Diaries: How Math Can Help you Lose Weight, Win in Vegas, and Survive a Zombie Apocalypse.

Tony Pinn - Liberation Theology professor with a focus on African-American Humanism.

Darrel Ray - Founder of Recovering from Religion and author of The God Virus and Sex and God: How Religion Distorts Sexuality.  Also a good friend of mine, he's like the dirty uncle everyone loves to hang out with.

Rebecca Watson - Skepchick blogger and a pretty cool lady.

So what are you waiting for?  Get registered now!  And I'll see you this weekend.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

I Don't Vote for Bullies

First off, I'd like to apologize for my week-long hiatus.  I just finished all my mid-terms/papers and Chris and I adopted a 13-week old puppy this weekend.  'Nuff said.  But I'm back and ready to talk about what's on everybody's mind: The Election.

I intentionally try to avoid politics on this blog.  I think it's fairly obvious I'm a bleeding-heart, pinko liberal, but I don't bash or praise specific politicians so as not to alienate others and imply that in order to be trans and/or godless you need to vote for a certain person or party.  I consider myself an independent for several reasons:

1)  Even the Democrats aren't liberal enough for me.  Not to mention they don't have the balls to get half the shit done they wish they could.  I'm all for "reaching across the aisle" and all that, but if the folks across the aisle won't even talk to you then you've got to move forward and start working on your own if needed.

2)  While I am super liberal about nearly all social issues, I do support the second amendment on the principle that I support the rest of the Constitution just as fiercely.  I think the second amendment is in place so that we the people have the means to overthrow the government if we believe it has become corrupt.  That's what the founding fathers just did when they wrote the damn thing and they wanted to be sure we could do the same.  I personally would never own a gun, but I will defend your right to own one.

3)  "Socialism" is not a dirty word to me.  There are plenty of "socialist" programs in our country that no one has a problem with.  Like the military, or the police department, or fire fighters, or the coast guard.  Should everything be run by the government?  Hell no!  Should things essential to life be protected and overseen by the government?  That's what it's there for!  To "establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty".  Oh, and for the record, socialism is not communism and it's not fascism.  If you're going to attempt to insult me at least get your basic terminology right.

4)  Neither major party is financially conservative.  They both spend a lot of money, but on different things.  The Republicans need to quit pretending they spend less than the Democrats, because the GOP spends our taxes on giving tax cuts to the rich and creating government projects for their corporate buddies like Blackwater and Halliburton.  Both of the parties spend way more money than they should.  That being said, I'd rather my taxes go toward helping the most citizens who need it the most, so I tend to side with the Democrats more often.

All of that being said, if the right Republican candidate comes along, I vote for him.  It's never happened in a National election for me, Presidential or Congressional, but it has happened locally.  Often in local politics the party is just a brand name with no ideology attached to it, so I vote for the best qualified who matches my values the closest.  No one is ever a perfect match, but I shoot for the best fit.  However, there is one issue I will not budge on -- Bullies.

Not only was I the victim of bullying in my younger years, but I work with LGBT youth, who are disproportionately targeted by bullies.  Any politician who tries to defend gay-bashing or bullying will forever be black-listed for me.  We can talk all day about what defines a marriage or a family, but the abuse of children and young adults should be a non-partisan issue.  Even if you believe that same-sex marriage is somehow offending to other-sex marriage, we should all agree that no one deserves to be assaulted or killed because of who they are.  At least, I wish we could.  Some politicians are trying to spin the LGBTQA community as the bullies against other people's religious freedoms.  But here's the thing.  You can believe anything you want until that belief violates someone else.  As soon as your belief crosses that line it is no longer protected.  I could believe death is a liberation from this life into a better one, but that doesn't give me the right to kill others.  A religious belief that homosexuality is wrong does not give anyone the right to bully.  Some politicians try to frame LGBTQA issues as "special rights" and "playing favorites", claiming that we all have the same marry someone of the other sex.  This is the same argument that was used during the civil rights movement and I won't even dignify it by arguing against it.  Asking for the same rights as everyone else isn't "special", it's just fair.

Even these moronic arguments I could almost see as political grandstanding.  I mean, if I squint my eyes and try really hard.  But some politicians have gone beyond defending bullies and actually are or have been bullies.  When I read the story of Mitt Romney and his high school buddies tackling a fellow student to the ground as Romney forcibly cut his hair to an "acceptable" length, hot angry tears came to my eyes.  I've experienced that kind of helplessness, I've held teenagers who have experienced it as well and tried to tell them there is life after high school.  It's something no one should ever go through.  Ever.  As furious as this story made me, I like to think I could have accepted an apology from Mitt Romney.  I know we all do stupid things when we're teenagers that we wish could do differently as adults.  If Romney could honestly look back on that day and feel sickening shame about the animal he allowed himself to be, I would try to forgive him.  But Romney claimed he didn't even remember the incident.  Let me repeat that.  He didn't even remember pinning a young man to the ground, taunting him, humiliating him, brandishing a sharp instrument at him, and hacking away at his hair.  What kind of human being does something like that and doesn't even remember it?  I'll tell you what kind, the kind that will never get my vote.  Not even if he agrees with me on every other issue, I will not support him.  There are some stains that don't come off.

I don't agree with any politician on everything.  I have a big problem with Obama's immigration policies, but his support of the LGBTQA community has been the best we've ever received from a president.  I didn't agree with Bush about nearly everything, but the words he said to his transgender classmate at their college reunion, "You came back as you," were truly touching and sincere.  Clinton is still my favorite president within my lifetime, but I can't forget he's the reason we had DADT and still have DOMA.  Nobody's perfect.  I get that.  But some things are unforgivable.  I wouldn't even say the act of bullying is unforgivable if the person sees the error in their ways and because I like to think most people are good, I think most former bullies regret what they've done.  But to not even acknowledge it, to not even attempt to put yourself in someone else's shoes and try to understand what you've put them through shows a coldness I wish weren't possible.  I can't understand how you can laugh at another person's suffering.  And anyone who can do that and still feel okay with themselves is not someone I want representing me and the people and country that I love.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Double Standards, Part 2

For those who may have missed it, in Part 1 I talked about the double standards that trans women get weighed down with in society.  In particular the "Madonna/Whore Complex", which all women must deal with, and the "Permission Paradox", which often results in trans people being denied their rights because they're polite enough to ask for them.

For Part 2, I'd like to discuss two more sets of double standards that are unique to trans women.  There may be some overlap for issues trans men face, but since I'm not a trans man I'm not the best to make that judgement.  So let's get started with what I like to call, "Man if you do, and man if you don't."  This set of double standards basically states that if trans women act feminine, then it's artificial.  If a trans woman likes to wear skirts or high heels or make up she can be accused of "supporting the patriarchy" and "appropriating women's identities" by crazy, hateful, misguided feminists.  To be fair, these same accusers might turn around and say cis women who enjoy femininity are a problem too, but they're just "duped" or "misguided", whereas trans women are somehow actively trying to work against women by becoming women.  It sure doesn't make sense to me, but I'm sure in their minds it is flawless logic.  But let's say you're not a very feminine trans woman.  Hell, let's say you're a big ol' butch lesbian.  Now you're persecuted because you're not feminine.  People might accuse you of not "really" being a woman because you like to keep your hair short, don't wear make up, or enjoy "masculine" activities.  And if you're a lesbian, especially a butch lesbian, people will always ask, "Why did you bother to change in the first place?"  As if being a straight man and a butch lesbian are the exact same thing.  The same goes for straight trans women being compared to gay men.  Then people take it even further with surgery.  If you decide a vaginoplasty is not right for you or can't afford one, many will say you're still a man because you have a penis.  And yet, if you do get SRS than people say, "Well, you're still not really a woman because you don't have a uterus."  I guess that means all women who've had a hysterectomy aren't really women either.  Some people will carry a grudge against you if you're a trans woman no matter who you are, what you do, or how you act.  For them, you'll always be a man and there's nothing you can do about it.

The second double standard I'd like to discuss is the "Deceiver/Pathetic Complex".  This is something the media is especially guilty of.  Trans women are often seen as a "deceiver" if they don't disclose their birth status.  This can be with a romantic partner or friend or any other acquintance.  The thought is that trans women aren't just dealing with the circumstances of their birth as best they can, but rather are actively trying to "trick" others into seeing them as female.  This is often used in the issue of "women's only spaces" excluding trans women.  The myth is that trans women are only trying to get into, say, the women's restroom so they can spy on or assault women.  Never mind the fact that there is no recorded case of this ever happening.  (However, trans women have been physically and sexually assaulted in women's restrooms.)  The deceiver portrayal is pervasive and is often applied to trans women who are perceived as cis.  The media loves to create deceiver trans women as a "twist" in movies.  (The Crying Game, Ace Ventura)  Many cis people can't handle the fact that cis assumption is prevalent in our society.  Unless you perceive someone as trans -- often this is a flawed image of what a trans person is -- you assume they're cis.  The same can be said for heterosexuality as well.  But rather than examine their own bias, the cis person blames the trans person for "tricking" them.  This complex is what romantic or sexual partners of trans women use to justify violence toward them.  Otherwise affectionately known as the "Gay Panic Defense".  Unless you're sexually involved with someone, it's nobody's goddamn business what your genitals look like, now or then, yet so many people can not get a grasp on that concept.  And even if you're sexual partner didn't disclose her birth status with you, that's no justification to kill her.  Even if a trans woman is out, she can still be labeled a deceiver if she's potential competition.  This was what I experience when my cis friend resented me for having larger breasts than her.  It was okay for me to be trans woman, but not to considered as or more attractive than a cis woman. 

If you're not a "deceiving" trans woman, then you are a "pathetic" trans woman instead.  This is applied to trans women who are known to be trans and have a hard time being perceived as female.  It transforms the trans woman into a sad, confused man in a dress.  This is the most popular type used in the media (Transamerica, Priscella Queen of the Desert) in order to make the trans woman non-threatening.  The thought is, "No man/woman would find this person attractive, therefore I don't have to worry about competing with them."  This turns trans women into something worthy of pity rather than people to relate to or be romantic with.  While there is less violence commited in the name of "Gay Panic", it's just as harmful a stereotype because it dehumanizes trans women, and once you dehumanize someone it is much easier to commit brutal acts toward them.  In fact, I would say this is the most harmful stereotype because it's so widely prevalent and reduces trans women to the role of confused gay men.  It justifies ridicule and violence to the most vulnerable among us, either those who have a difficult time transitioning or those just starting out.  These women often don't have the self-confidence to stand up for themselves which makes the atrocities committed against them all the easier.  Either way, you can't win.  If you "pass", you're a threatening deceiver.  If you don't, you're pathetic and harmless.

While it's damn near impossible to avoid these double standards, it's important to be aware of them.  You need to know the "Madonna/Whore Complex" is used to justify rape and disrespect of sexually confident women so you can protect yourself from physical and social slurs cast against you.  You need to know about the "Permission Paradox" so you can learn to demand the rights you deserve rather than ask for them.  You need to know about "Man If You Do..." so you don't waste time trying to win the support of biggots.  You need to know about the "Deceiver/Pathetic Complex" so you notice the negative portrayals of trans women and fight against the different justifications for disrespect and violence.  Ignorance can't protect you, but awareness and actively pointing out the double standards to others will make things easier.  Not over night.  It's going to be a gradual journey that may never end, but we'll never even get started if you don't educate yourself and start fighting against them.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Double Standards, Part 1

I, like many trans folk, went a little overboard when I first came out and started living "full-time".  My wardrobe was almost exclusively skirts and dresses and I don't know that I even owned a t-shirt.  I wore full makeup every day because I was worried I wouldn't pass otherwise.  I (briefly) convinced myself I was only attracted to men and flat-out refused to have anything to do with LGBT gatherings or rights.  I was terrified of being mistaken for a gay man rather than a woman, and thus I did and said things I'm not proud of, now that I look back.  Nearly every experience I had was like experiencing it for the first time, and in some ways it was, but I'm sure it got a little irritating to others after a while.  I resented the accusations that my hormones made me "emotional", but they did change how I felt and expressed my emotions and, if I'm completely honest with myself, there was some "relearning" involved when it came to controlling my emotions rather than letting them control me.  In short, if you had only seen me my first six months or so of transition, it would probably have left a bad taste in your mouth about transsexual women.  But I was only experiencing what nearly all teenage women do, albeit at an accelerated pace and in my early twenties.  The only strange thing about what I went through then was my age.  Had I been between the ages 12 and 16 or so, no one would have blinked an eye at my behavior.

While I went through all this self-discovery I was forced to deal with many double standards that, intellectually, I had known to be true but were very different once directly experienced.  The "Madonna-Whore Complex" was (and still is) the most baffling to me, as my feminist mother had always raised us to be unashamed about sex or our bodies, and yet society seemed to say that as a woman I was expected to be sexy, but not too sexy.  I was supposed to be a sexual object, but not a sexual being.  I was expected to be ashamed or disgusted about every aspect of my body, yet put it on display for men.  And the worst part, for me, was realizing that many women are enforcing these harmful standards on other women.  My breasts grew very quickly when I started hormones and a friend at the time, who had a tall and slender body type, seemed obsessed with what I did with my boobs.  I still remember one particularly confounding coversation:

"So, now that I've been on hormones for three months I'm going to see my doctor next week so he can look at my bloodwork again and adjust for what my full dosage should be."

"Do you really need to be on more estrogen?  Your boobs have already grown into B-cups."

"You know the amount of estrogen has nothing to do which my cup size, right?  My hormone levels are going to be about the same as any other woman's.  It's all a matter of genetics.  My mom has Double-Ds, what were you expecting?"

"I don't know.  You just seem to be flaunting them around lately."

"In what way?  It's not like I'm walking around topless or anything."

"No, but you shouldn't wear low-cut tops.  People might get the wrong idea."

"There's nothing wrong with a little bit of cleavage.  I like my boobs.  I had to fight like hell in order to get them.  And it's not like my boobs are constantly threatening to fall out.  Hell, my mom wears lower-cut shirts than I do."

"Fine.  I don't care.  Do whatever you want."

What truly amazed me was the implication that, as a trans woman, I shouldn't be allowed to have larger breasts than her.  It was this same friend who taught me another painful lesson: women can be extremely petty to each other.  We ultimately lost our friendship over something as stupid as breast size.

There's are unique double standards for trans women that seems breath-takingly cruel, especially because they are often enforced by other women, be they cis or trans.  I'll call the first one the "Permission Paradox".  When coming out as trans, many of us constantly ask for permission to be trans.  We ask the women in our lives if we can join their ranks.  We ask our employers if it would be okay to transition.  We ask if we're allowed to use the women's restroom.  The problem with asking for permission is that people can, and often do, refuse to give it.  This puts you, the trans woman, in an awkward position.  Do you directly defy the people you asked for permission and come across as a selfish bitch?  Or do you become a doormat and hope that maybe, someday, they might reconsider?  I fell victim to this double standard early on when I asked my employer permission to transition and was told to go for it, follow the women's dress code, but don't wear any skirts or dresses.  At first, I thought this was a fair compromise and didn't push things.  But as my self-confidence grew I began to ask questions like, "What the fuck does it matter if I wear a skirt or not?" and "Why should I have my own special dress code just because I'm trans?"  I wore a dress to work the first week of my transition and was prepared to fight over it, but nobody said a damn thing.  It was my first lesson that you can not ask for your rights.  You have to take them.  This is advice I give to every young trans person or anyone else that is facing discrimination.  Don't ask if you can use the women's restroom.  No other woman has to do that, so why the fuck should you?  Just walk in there, do your business and go on about your day.  You have just as much right to be there as anyone else.  Yes, you might be seen as a bitch, but that's a price worth paying for your self-respect and dignity.

Check back on Thursday for Part 2.  Thanks for reading!

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Come Out, Come Out, Wherever You Are

Today is National Coming Out Day, an important holiday that encourages everyone to come out of the closet to their friends and loved ones.  I make a point to come out to at least one person every year on this day, which begins to get more difficult when you're as out as I am, but it's still an important reminder for me that coming out is a life-long process.  Do all of my family and close friends know that I'm trans, bi, and atheist?  You bet your ass.  But as my life has changed, the meaning of coming out has changed as well.  When I first came out it was completely necessary in order to live my life (it's pretty hard for your loved ones not to notice you're growing boobs and wearing skirts, so it's kind to give them a head's up first.)  But now that I'm pretty much done transitioning and blend in with everyone else, coming out is a statement for my rights and others'.  It's about celebrating my trans history rather than hiding it as something shameful.  It's about changing people's ideas of what a transsexual is and what a transsexual looks like. 

Now that my life as a woman is secured, I use coming out as a weapon.  I use it to blow up stereotypes and nip prejudice in the bud.  I use it to shatter the myths and stereotypes portrayed by media and politicians.  I use it to say, "I am a human being, just like you."  That's the real power behind coming out of the closet.  When people realize that "transsexuals" or "gays" or "atheists" aren't this big scary boogieman out to destroy their lives, but instead are people they know and care for, it puts a face to the movement and makes it that much harder to discriminate.  That's why it's so important.  It's easy to fear "them".  But it's not easy to fear your neighbor or the woman you buy coffee from every morning or your classmate or your coworker or the person you always chat with on the train.  Those are real people, not some faceless "agenda".  They're people who just want to live happy, beautiful lives with the people they love.  There's nothing scary about that, it's universal. 

So today, I'd like you to join me in coming out of the closet.  If you're so deep in the closet you're finding Christmas presents, consider making this the day you share who you are with your loved ones (assuming it's safe to do so.)  If you're already out to your family, consider coming out to some of your elected officials and letting them know that, like it or not, they are representing queer and/or godless constituents and would be wise not to demonize you.  Or come out to someone you don't know very well.  Maybe someone who has made a prejudiced joke in your presence before, but you just let it slide because you didn't want to cause a fuss.  If we don't continue to come out of our closets it's going to be easy for someone to lock the door on us and trap us there.  Never be ashamed of who you are and always stand up for yourself.  Because whenever you stand up for yourself, you stand up for everyone.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Comic Shop Love

For those who may not know, I was the assistant manager of a comic shop for about 4 years before I went to college.  It was the place I learned about who I was, matured as a person and finally transitioned on the job there.  There's a special place in my heart for my comic shop, as well as all the regular customers I got to know over that time.  We had over 300 customers who came in at least every month for subscriptions and I knew every one of their names by memory.  Nearly all of them shattered the stereotype of what a comic book fan is, they were business executives, teachers, bus drivers, factory workers, entrepreneurs, students, personal trainers, coaches, and every other job under the sun.  They were men and women, some as young as 3 and some as old 80 and everything between.  They were married, they were single, they were straight, they were gay, they were some of the most interesting people to talk with.

If you've never been to a comic shop, I want you to stop what you're doing right now.  Open up a new window or tab and go to this website right now.  Type in your zip code and find the nearest one to you.  Make a point to visit on a Wednesday (that's New Comic Book Day) and when you go, don't just stand sheepishly looking around.  Go to the salesperson and tell them what you're passionate about.  It doesn't have to be superhero related.  There is a comic or graphic novel out there for everyone.  Do yourself a favor and enjoy yourself.  Rant about politics, chat about history, theorize about philosophy.  Whatever it is, I guarantee someone will want to talk with you about it.  And you'll enjoy yourself immensely.  Why?  Because I've learned there is one supreme rule of the comic shop: You're allowed to be yourself here without reservation, because we've all faced ridicule and will not do that to you here.  Despite our differences, we will respect each other.

Maybe I'm a little over-sentimental when it comes to my comic shop, but if you can change sex somewhere and face little to no harassment about it, that seems like a utopia of understanding to me.  For the majority of people who even bothered to ask when I started presenting as female, the average conversation would go something like: "Why are you dressed like a girl?"  To which I responded, "Because I am one."  And that would be the end of it.  Some might go on to ask about details, but it was always out of respect and a curiosity to understand better so as not to offend.  It was a great experience for which I'm extremely grateful.  I wish all trans people could have as smooth a transition as I did.

I wish the whole world could be one big comic shop.  A place where everyone passionately discusses literature, mythology, politics, religion, and human rights, while still respecting opposing opinions and enjoying each other's company.  I wish the world was a safe place for everyone, where everyone has enough empathy to know ridicule hurts no matter the reason.  If the world was one big comic shop, maybe we'd finally work through some of our issues and focus on more important things.  Like space travel.

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Wow! Ten-Thousand? Really?

Wow!  Trans and Godless has ten-thousand hits now!  I'm speechless.  Thank you so much for all your support and comments.  What started out as a hobby I did in passing has turned into something I feel compelled to do so I can reach out to all of you.  Words aren't enough to show my appreciation, but maybe my new logo for Trans and Godless will bring a smile to your face:

Hope that made you giggle.  Thanks again for all the support and I look forward to writing more stories for you every week.


Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Privilege: We All Have Some

A common tactic to explain why trans women should be discriminated against by some feminists is because trans women have "experienced Male Privilege".  Now, I'm not denying that Male Privilege exists or that trans women don't experience some benefits during their pre-transitional years, but I'm calling out this claim that being born with a penis permanently excludes you from the Female Club.  It's prejudiced bullshit used to justify a pre-conceived conclusion of bigots and goes against the core concept of feminism: judging someone based on their biology rather than their character.

There are plenty of privileges extended to me by our society.  I have White Privilege, despite being one-eighth Native American, because I'm perceived as white.  Because of this, American society caters to my culture almost exclusively, I have no difficulty finding representation in the media of my skin color, and my actions are not considered a reflection on all white people.  I have Female Privilege, which is not as generous as male privilege but does have it's own unique benefits.  Because of this, I can interact with and work with children without suspicion of child-molestation, I can wear any clothing I want, be it "men's" clothes or "women's" clothes, and not be questioned or harrassed about it, and I am free to express my emotions without being harrassed or ostracized by others.  I have Heterosexual Privilege, despite being bisexual, because I am in a straight relationship and therefore considered heterosexual.  Because of this, I can show affection to my partner in any social setting and not worry about assault or retaliation from strangers, government and society respect my relationship and if we were married it would not be called into question, and regardless of where I work, I will have a much easier time securing benefits for my partner than others would.  I even have Cissexual Privilege, despite being transsexual, because I am perceived as cissexual.  Because of this, my gender is never called into question regardless of what I wear or how I act, I can enter "women-only" spaces, such as a restroom, without being harrassed, and I can assume my gender will be respected above paperwork, such as a driver's license, even if it misrepresents my gender.  These are just some of the privileges I benefit from.  I'm not thrilled about it, and if it were up to me everyone would be equal, but wishing doesn't change the fact that I do have privileges.

Now, let's talk about Male Privilege.  No doubt, some people have already taken issue with me listing Female Privilege and will probably claim this is evidence that I still have "residual" Male Privilege.  That's ridiculous.  In order to benefit from a privilege you have to be perceived and/or identify as a member.  There is no way I would ever be perceived as a man now, nor have I ever identified as one, so Male Privilege will never be extended to me.  This is also why, even before transition, I was never extended "full member" privilege, if you will.  My feminine appearance and mannerisms singled me out as a "not-male" at a young age, and so I was punished by bullies, teachers, coaches and other men for my "not-maleness".  As a result, I only partially benefited from Male Privilege as a child but it was all at the cost of being misgendered for over 20 years and being systematically targetted for any "not-male" behavior.  Trust me, it wasn't a decent trade-off, which should be obvious, considering I made the choice to throw away male privilege by transitioning and being perceived as female.  One of the most unique experiences I've had as a transsexual was getting a first-person perspective on what privileges both genders receive.  Women don't receive nearly as much as men, but to deny that we have any is just abusing our privilege.  It's as obnoxious as a white male claiming he doesn't experience privilege. 

Privilege is fucked up, because nearly all of it is extended due to things completely outside of personal control.  Nobody chooses to be male or female (even trans folk), your gender identity is set from birth.  Nobody chooses to be cissexual or transsexual.  We don't choose our race, class, sexuality, ancestry, or nationality.  So why the hell should we judge anyone on the least interesting parts about them?  Why should any privilege be extended purely because of what genetic lottery numbers you were born with?  People should be judged on their actions.  Your choices are what make you who you are and are the most interesting thing about you.  They set you apart as an individual rather than lazily lumping you together with others, making the completely inaccurate assumptions that "All Xs are Y".  There's no such thing as an X.  You can't generalize someone based on things outside their control.

Women certainly wouldn't choose to be born with a penis, so it's unfair to judge a woman because she has a particular birth defect you don't.  If the Michigan Womyn's Festival decided they were going to ban all black women, or straight women, or immigrant women, or lower-class women there would be hell to pay.  These are all based on birth circumstances, but so is trans-status.  Why the fuck is the discrimination against trans women at MWF and other events like it tolerated?  Because not enough people stand up and say, "I will not condone the oppression of another person."  I'm sure most patrons are ambivalent at best about "womyn born womyn" policies, but because they don't stand against it they are enabling privilege.  If we want to live in a world without inequality and privilege, we need to stand up and speak out when we see it.  Especially if it's a privilege we benefit from.  Let's make this a fair world for everyone and judge people on their character, not birth.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Why I am a Trekkie

I was never really exposed to Star Trek until I started dating Chris, who has a Star Trek shrine and owns every single series and season on DVD.  A common date for us in our first year together would involve having sex like animals, then watching Deep Space Nine while eating whatever dinner I threw together to satisfy our sex munchies.  It got to the point that "Hey, wanna watch DS9?" was code for "Hey, wanna fuck?"  Fast forward to the present and we've been together for two and a half years, living together since March.  We've finished DS9 as well as Enterprise and we're currently on the last season of Voyager

The greatest thing about Star Trek is it gives us a vision for what the future not only could be, but should be.  Even though the first series comes across as sexist (and not just because of Captain Kirk) it was still incredibly liberal for it's time.  Not only were women military officers, but black women were military officers.  People of all different races and cultures were working together toward a common goal of exploration, but rather than pointing out "look what we can accomplish when we work together" in a heavy-handed way, the characters were incidentally multi-cultural.  The fact that they were multi-cultural was a non-issue for the characters, and so it promoted the idea that it should be a non-issue for us.  For this reason, Martin Luther King Jr. convinced Nichelle Nichols to stay on the show, telling her that playing Uhura the most important thing she could do for the Civil Rights Movement.  She was a role model for countless minorities, including Whoopie Goldberg who ran to tell her parents, ""I just saw a black woman on television; and she ain't no maid!"

In Star Trek, the petty divisions that exist in our time are gone.  There is no discrimination.  Now, just because there is no institutionalized discrimination, doesn't mean prejudism doesn't exist.  An individual character can be racist, such as Miles O'Brien against Cardassians or Worf against Romulans, but that doesn't mean the Federation discriminates, nor is prejudism tolerated.  Nearly everyone acts as an ally and will call out prejudiced behaviour whenever it occurs.  That's not an unreasonable future to hope for.

In the future of Star Trek there is virtually no religion, since creator Gene Roddenberry was an atheist.  But this isn't a future where religion is outlawed, in fact there are many instances of religious characters, such as Chakotay's shamanism or Kira's worship of the Prophets.  However, the show often points out the dangers of religion and dogmatic faith, most memorably with Vedek Winn who turns from a devout nun, of sorts, to a tyrant hellbent on destruction because she believes she's being led by her gods and does not stop to question.  And who can forget Q, which is pretty much how I imagine the Abrahamic god would act if he existed.  Star Trek also embraces science and naturalism.  Whenever there appears to be a supernatural phenomenon on the ship, there is ultimately always a scientific explanation for it.  Often the writers will attempt to make these episodes ambiguous so that spiritual people can believe in the supernatural explanation while the rest of us can believe in the natural one.

Diversity is an essential part of the Star Trek universe.  When exploring the galaxy the various crews come across countless different species, many which defy our socially constructed norms such as race, gender, bipedal bodies and more.  Some of my favorite episodes are those that directly confront gender and sex and it is for this reason that Jadzia Dax is my favorite character.  Dax is a joined Trill, a privileged member of the Trill species that has joined with a symbiote, a kind of parasite that can remember the lives and memories of all it's former hosts.  As a result, Dax has the memory of seven (or nine) previous hosts, all of which have been blended with her own personality.  At the start of DS9, Ben Sisko, who was good friends with the previous host, meets the "new" Dax for the first time.  It's a little awkward, considering Dax was a man and is now a woman.  As a result, many trans jokes pass through the show, including Sisko continuing to call Dax "Old Man".  And even though this is uncomfortable for him, as it is for all friends of people transitioning, I'm sure, he handles it respectfully and ultimately learns to love the new Dax as much as the old one.

So why am I a Trekkie?  Because when I think of a future I'd like to live in, I can't think of a better one than what Star Trek shows.  There's no discrimination, diversity is a fact of life, peace is always preferred over war, science and exploration are encouraged, religion is a personal matter and not public policy, and the economy is like communism, except it works.  The human race has grown beyond nationality and is now working together as one planet, which is only a small part of a larger, galaxy-wide coalition.  I know there are plenty of questionable things about Star Trek (faster-than-light travel, for instance) but isn't that vision of the future worth striving for?  Even if we never achieve it it's a noble goal to shoot for.