Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Pray the Trans Away?

It's a sad fact that Christianity and other religions have a history of demonizing gay people.  Whether you are reading the original texts the religions are based on or witnessing the actions of the current religious zealots, it's pretty clear that religion tends to find homosexuality "icky".  I used to believe this was unique to the Abrahamic religions, but after studying the five major religions in college I've since learned that all of them, at least in their original iterations, see same-sex attraction as worthy of second-class citizenship with varying degrees of condemnation.

Of course, you can find queer-friendly religion out there.  Even the denomination I escaped from has since come out in support of gay and trans people.  It takes some apologetics and interpretations to get there, but as long as people are being supported then I'm happy.  Even I've been known to pull out my knowledge of the Bible to help a kid argue with their homophobic or transphobic parents.  Though I think Butters from South Park pretty much summed it up best:

I won't lie, Butters is my favorite character because he's pretty much me in elementary school.
All of that progress is great, but there are still "ex-gay ministries" out there.  And now it seems that there are "ex-trans ministries" as well, often combined with the ex-gay garbage.  This is because they conflate gender identity and sexuality.  The see being trans as just an extreme form of homosexuality.  Here's a quote from an "ex-trans" person, Sy Rogers, for an example:
There was a time when I would never have believed such fulfillment was possible for me. Only three years earlier, I was lost in pursuit of my identity, desperately seeking love and acceptance. I was transsexual – or at least that’s what my psychiatrist called it. Although physically a man, I felt “trapped” in the wrong body. I was obsessed with the desire to change my outward gender and conform my body to what I believed I really was – both mentally and emotionally. I convinced myself, and worked hard to convince others, that sex-change surgery was necessary for me if I was ever to lead a fulfilled life.
Unlike many transsexuals, however, I was also very homosexually active prior to my sex-change efforts. I began having homosexual encounters before I was ten years old. I was aware of an intense desire to be intimate with men, and I wanted men to desire me too.
 Sy Rogers is one of the more tame ones out there.  He doesn't outright condemn transgender people or SRS, but still believes it's something to be conquered to be a Christian.  Others out there are not as understanding or forgiving.

The funny thing is that an "ex-trans" minister is pretty difficult to find.  Then again, many "ex-gays" ultimately come out again, such as Michael Bussee, one of the founders of the infamous Exodus International:

There has been a lot of progress made against the "ex-gay" movement.  Therapists can no longer endorse "reparative therapy" and be accredited by the APA because homosexuality is no longer considered a mental disorder.  And now with the new DSM, the same goes for "Gender Identity Disorder".  So no these groups are forced to hide behind religion.  And that's fine.  Really.  I'm okay with that.  As long as the only people deluding themselves are adults.

The problem I have with all this "ex-gay/ex-trans" bullshit is when it is forced onto minors who have no legal power.  I feel just as disgusted with parents who attempt to shame their children with these programs as I do with parents who let their children die rather than seeking medical attention.  And both of these horrendous acts are excusable if the parents claim a religious motivation.  I think that's something that needs to be stopped.  Yes, we all have freedom of and from religion in this country, but when you use that freedom to hurt your child you forfeit your rights to have children.  End of story.

Because I'm the one who has to pick up their pieces and help with the damaged goods.  I'm the one who has to tell their children that they are human beings worthy of respect and love.  And I am willing to bend my personal beliefs (or rather my disbelief of gods) in order to soothe and help those children.  If a youth asks if I think god hates gays or trans people, I tell them "Absolutely not.  If there is a god, then that god made you perfect the way you are.  You have worth.  You make a difference in this world in ways you can't even comprehend.  You are a treasure."  I don't tell them that I personally don't believe in deities or the supernatural, or that the Bible could be read to condemn us.  I tell them what they need to hear.  Because that's what you do to help children grow.  Not damn them to hell unless they act the way you want them to.  That sort of behavior almost makes me wish there were such a place so that all the parents who do not offer their unconditional love could experience the pain their children feel.

Friday, May 10, 2013

What's So Bad About Sex?

I'm back!  Sorry it's been so long, but I've been dealing with exciting changes at my youth center as well as finishing up my finals.  It looks like I've got three As and Two Bs for the semester, and considering how terrible some of my classes were, I couldn't be happier!

So today, I was at a bit of a loss about my subject.  I thought I might write about how my body issues seem to have disappeared since I started running two months ago.  But I'm sure that's been done before and while there are some feminist implications there, it doesn't have much to do with being queer or atheist.

So I thought, "What about sex?"  It's always a good subject and I've been thinking about it lately.  But not in the "I'll be in my bunk" kind of way, but rather the "why do I feel guilty?" kind of way.  To back things up a little bit, I should remind you that my relationship is a "monogamish" one.  Meaning, we're completely committed to each other emotionally and romantically, but a little bit of sexiness outside the relationship is fine as long as we're both cool with it.  Until relatively recently, this was more of an intellectual idea than a practiced one.  But lately I've fooled around with a girlfriend of mine from time to time.  We both get a way to release our bisexuality, enjoy someone a different gender from our partners, and have a great time.  And both our partners are totally cool with it, maybe even turned on by it.  So everyone is happy, right?  

But it seemed like I would always feel guilty the next day.  I felt like I had cheated, even though this was allowed in our relationship and therefore not cheating.  And then, to top it all off, I'd have these weird suspicions that I wasn't bisexual at all, just a lesbian.  I'd worry that having fun with another girl would somehow send my totally awesome relationship with my future husband crashing down, leaving me alone and miserable.  And these thoughts would cycle through my head for a few days or more until I would calm myself down, only to then worry if I was just rationalizing my behavior.  Round and round I'd go, until I finally had something more important to worry about, like school.

This time, though, I did something different and talked about my concerns.  Novel concept, right?  I talked with my partner about my guilty feelings and he swiftly brought me back to reality.  And after that, I talked with my friend Caitlin about my fears of being an in-denial lesbian.  And she reminded me that, while I might be more attracted to women in general than men in general, lesbians usually don't have "exceptions" that they love to have sex with, stay with for three years, and plan on marrying.  So in the space of a day, all of my silly worries were fixed and I learned to breathe easy and appreciate what an awesome life I have.  

I began to wonder where these feelings came from in the first place.  My partner had never implied that he felt wounded or rejected by my girl-on-girl adventures, only disappointed that he couldn't watch.  And as much fun as I have with my girlfriend-with-benefits, I have absolutely no desire to pursue anything romantic with her.  She's a great friend and I like to hang out with her whether we're talking or fooling around, but that's as far as either of us want it to go and we're both really happy with our men.  So what was I worried about in the first place?  I think it might have something to do with our society, heavily influenced by religion, conflating sexuality with love and commitment.  Not only is it possible to have sex without loving someone, or love someone without desiring them sexually, but maybe separating sex and love can actually make a relationship stronger.

I remembered the most recent episode of Godless Bitches, when the ladies discussed how most people who claim "Marriage isn't all about sex" inevitably make their marriage all about sex.  By manipulating someone to marry you for sex, you are making the marriage all about sex.  Could it be that cohabitation, being sexually adventurous, and separating emotions and commitment from sex can actually make a relationship stronger?

The reason why my relationship works so well is how we communicate.  There is nothing we can't discuss, no taboo subjects, and no hasty, irrational proclamations.  We talk about "ground rules" for our relationship, what kind of future we hope and plan for, what turns us on and what doesn't, and even when we disagree we still respect each other.  We trust each other completely.  And while we had a ground rule of "other girls don't count", it wasn't until I went back to communicate and double-check that I could relax about it.  But in a rigidly monogamous relationship we would have repressed any sexual feelings to anyone except each other.  This would either cause someone to cheat or someone to build up resentment.  Either way, it probably wouldn't be communicated for fear of destroying the relationship and thus things would spiral out of control and crash.  

Years ago, whenever I heard someone say that humans didn't evolve to be monogamous, I thought they were just trying to excuse their promiscuity.  But now, I see that the choice doesn't have to be black and white.  It's totally possible, maybe even healthy, to find a happy medium.  To have a secure, loving, stable partner who supports you and understands you, and an occasional outlet for our primitive instinct to spread our genetic code elsewhere.  Is it really possible to have your cake and eat it too?  I hope so.

There's so much more to this subject, especially as it ties into religion and patriarchy, but I think this is a good place to stop for today.  What are your thoughts?  What works for your relationship?