Thursday, November 20, 2014

Why Transgender Day Of Remembrance Matters

TW: Violence, Transphobia, Murder, Suicide, Rape

Because within the first few months of 2014, 102 transgender people were reported murdered worldwide.

Because 10% of all acts of violence against transgender people were against transgender youth.

Because nearly half of all transgender people have attempted suicide.

Because 64% of transgender people have reported being sexually assaulted.

Because transgender women of color are more likely to experience violence.

Because trans lives matter, period.

Because it's 2014 and we still have to protest this shit!

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Yes, Virginia, There Are Transphobic Atheists

*UPDATE 11/20/14: A Redditor sent me a link to something they wrote about the biology vs. social norms debate. Turns out it's more both/and than either/or. However, I still stand by everything I said about transphobia in secular circles.

* * *

TW: Transphobia, Cissexism, Reddit

There's an old Internet proverb that says, "Don't read the comments!" This is especially true for /r/atheism.

This past Monday, the PR Director of American Atheists came out as a transgender woman. Danielle Muscato made her announcement as a guest post on Friendly Atheist. She says that while she fully supports "ntersectionality and working together with LGBTQ activists on mutual goals," she mainly identifies as an atheist activist.(Personally, I think you can be both an atheist activist and a queer activist, but that's just me.)

Despite the "Don't read the comments" rule, the comments on Friendly Atheist have been overwhelmingly positive. Which was a shock to me, since I don't see a lot of conversations about trans issues in the atheist community. I decided to post the link to Muscato's piece on /r/atheism, which bills itself as "the world's largest atheist forum." Surely the Reddit atheists will be just as supportive, right?

Well . . .

There were some positive comments, but then came the old transphobic cissexist bullshit:

  • "Fact: boys have a penis, girls have a vagina."

  • "I personally would like to take this opportunity to come out as a lamp. I'll be wearing this lampshade which totally makes me a lamp. Sigh. Sorry. Identify as whatever you like obviously, I'm just feeling a little old fashioned when apparently everyone is making up their own shit these days, from Masculine Hairy Woman With A Penis to Furry GenderQueer Pony with Xe-Pronouned Spirit Other And a Sequoia In a Past Life."

  • "Unpopular dissenting opinion: a person cannot declare themselves the opposite gender any more than a white person can suddenly declare themselves black. Unless you've got Klinefelter's or you're a true hermaphrodite, I just don't think it's healthy to start saying you are something that you're clearly not. This is America, you have every right to dress however you want and modify your body however you want, but this guy didn't grow up with a substantial subset of typical female experiences. It's disrespectful to lay claim to something you simply haven't experienced or earned."

For people who pride themselves in being intelligent, atheists can be dumb motherfuckers sometimes!

It's particularly upsetting to see transphobia in atheist circles because there's so much support for gay rights and marriage equality, but hardly any mention of transgender rights. In fact, the only prominent transgender atheist activist I know of is Zinnia Jones. When it comes to social justice for LGBT people, there's plenty of focus on the G and the L (although most of the time queer women are more fetishized than supported), but hardly any mention of the B and the T. (Or asexuals. Or aromantics. Or pansexuals.)

When talking to transphobes, the number one argument I keep hearing over and over again is, "What about biology?" I love science just as much as the next atheist, but gender goes beyond genitals and chromosomes. Gender is a social construct; all of our ideas what it means to be either a man or a woman come from human ideas and social norms. If you are a designated male at birth (DMAB), you're expected to play with certain toys, dress a certain way, hold your books a certain way, cross your legs a certain way, and take on a certain role in romantic relationships. Same thing for designated females at birth (DFAB). The funny part is these gender roles have absolutely NOTHING to do with biology. Nature doesn't demand us the wear certain clothes, or have certain careers when we grow up. Humans decided that men should be the dominant ones in relationships. Humans decided that men should be stoic and not emotionally vulnerable. Humans decided that boys can get dirty while girls have to be clean and pretty all the time. Maybe in our early evolutionary stages we had to adopt certain roles in order to survive, but since then we've evolved to this point where we can take a look at our socially constructed norms and say, "This is bullshit!"

By the way, biological sex isn't always black and white, either. All clownfish are born male, but the dominant male will turn female if the female of the group dies. Some reed frogs change from female to male when there aren't enough males for reproduction. Even some humans are born intersex.

To borrow a quote from Doctor Who, people assume that gender is a strict binary of male and female, but actually, from a non-binary point of view, it's more like a big ball of wibbly-wobbly gendery-wendery . . . stuff.

I've come to expect transphobia from conservative Christians, but it's especially disheartening to see transphobia in atheist circles. With all the progress made by secularism in the past few centuries, we've still got a long way to go.

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Interview with a Bisexual Christian: Five Questions with Eliel Cruz

I don't always read Christian bloggers, but when I do, I prefer folks like Eliel Cruz. He is quickly become a rising voice in the LGBT Christian community. He writes about bisexuality, LGBT issues, and religion on his new blog Faithfully LGBT. He has also written for The Advocate and Mic. And now I get to interview him!

Did you grow up in a religious household? What was that like?

I was born and raised in the Seventh-day Adventist Church, and have only gone to Seventh-day Adventists schools. In fact, I'm currently a senior at Andrews University which is a private Christian college. I had quite a few bumps in the road right before and after I came out, but it's the religious homophobia I have encountered, and still encounter, that makes my faith stronger.

When did you realize you were bi? How did you reconcile your sexuality with your faith?

I realized I was bi probably around 9 years old. That's when I found the word bisexual and really started to embrace it. I didn't really start finding men attractive until high school (I'm not sure if that's because guys hit puberty later or what!)

Reconciling faith and sexuality is a long answer. It took quite a long time dealing with the responses from many Christians. But in short: I reconciled my faith and sexuality when I was shunned from the Church because it made me rely solely on my relationship with Christ. No one can tell you God thinks you're an abomination if you have a personal relationship with God and God is telling you you're not.

Here on Bi Any Means, I focus on the intersection of secular humanism and social justice. As a Christian, how do you see social justice and religion intersect?

Good question! So the Bible says the Word became flesh talking about Jesus here on earth. If you look at Jesus actions, given that time period, it's quite counter cultural and always stood up for the marginalized. Jesus was asked over 40 times in his 3 years of ministry to choose the law over the "sinner" and every time He stood in solidarity with that sinner. For me, that shows me what we're suppose to do as Christians, and that sometimes we have to defy the law to stand in solidarity with those who are being oppressed by it.

What's the biggest misconception you've heard about bisexuality?

The biggest misconception is probably when someone assumes I'll end up with a man or a woman by their perception of me. Some have met me and said I'm gay, others have said I'm really straight. It's really interesting to me how people read me and decide what the gender of my future partner will be!

Progressive Christians have gotten better about supporting gays and lesbians, but what about bisexuals and transgender people?

We still have a long ways to go for bisexual and transgender Christians. One thing I hope to do on my new blog at RNS is highlight those voices. I was able to write an introductory post to bisexuality on mega Christian blogger Rachel Held Evans site, but just with that Bi 101 you saw how much education there is left to do. I hope to bring some light to that on my blog Faithfully LGBT.

Saturday, November 1, 2014

Matt Walsh Is A Sexist Douchebag

TW:  Matt Walsh, rape, sexism, GIFs

At this point, why do I expect anything else from Matt Walsh other than typical right-winged Christian bullshit? Still, the man never ceases to amaze me. How can one man be that ignorant about . . . everything?

This time he's wrong about feminism.

In a recent article on Glenn Beck's The Blaze, Walsh goes into a shitstorm about how much feminism is "a poison, a "disfigured beast," and a "zombie corpse." And it all stems from this little video from FKH8:

Apparently Walsh isn't a big fan:

I understand that the whole point of this video is to offend the silly conservative prudes who don’t think it particularly appropriate to train your six year old to use phrases like “pay up, motherf**ker” — so I guess I’m going to be in the silly prude camp today. Truly, it is beyond the bounds of basic human decency to use your children like this. These kids are victims of child abuse, plain and simply. Their parents should be exposed and shamed as the gutless, idiotic bullies they are. And to think: a mom might get CPS called on her if she spanks her kid at Walmart, but I doubt anyone from social services will be following up with the parents who forced their six-year-olds to star in an R-rated feminist propaganda film.

So basically getting kids to curse is the same thing as child abuse. Maybe it's because I'm a godless queer, but I just don't get the connection.

Walsh then goes into a rant about how the pay gap is a "myth," how one out of six women are not raped, and how men and women are not equal. The cherry on top of the shit sundae is when Walsh says "a woman’s uniquely feminine qualities ought to be used to serve and honor men, just as a man’s masculine qualities ought to serve and honor women."

Hey Matt, want to hear a secret?

Come on, lean a little closer.

Here's the secret:  YOU'RE WRONG!

You're wrong about rape statistics. You're wrong about the pay gap. And you're wrong about how women ought to serve men. Women don't owe you shit! Yes, all relationships--including same-sex ones--should include mutual and consensual partnership. But the way you say it, you make it sound like a woman's only goal is to please men. Hate to break it to you, buddy boy, but that's Objectification 101.

And yes, FKH8 is extremely problematic. They're transphobic, they use other people's art without permission, and they're racist, for starters. But using their latest video to attack all feminists is just as bad.

I know readers will tell me to just ignore Matt Walsh and he'll eventually go away. But Walsh isn't just some fringe Christian hiding in his bunker with a tinfoil hat. He has 253,632 likes on Facebook, so people actually read him and agree with him. It's people like Walsh who are arming up people to fight marginalized people like me. Hell yeah, I'm gonna call him out every chance I get!

So once again I say fuck Matt Walsh and his bullshit!

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

I'm Not A Faitheist, But . . .

A few weeks ago I wrote how I might be a "faitheist" a la Chris Stedman and Nonprophet Status. Needless to say, I got a lot of criticism for it, especially on /r/atheism. So I think I should probably clarify a few things.

First of all, I'm not a faitheist. I admire Stedman and what he's doing (plus I think he's cute). However, I feel Stedman doesn't criticize religion enough. I've yet to hear him address the problems that are often motivated by religion:  suicide bombings, female genital mutilation, blasphemy laws, colonization, wars, the caste system, queer homelessness, etc. True, there are other factors that fuel these atrocities, like racism, misogyny, and homophobia. But it's easier to get away with oppression if you wrap it in religion.

Having said that, though, I do agree with Stedman on some things.

For starters, while moderate religious people often toss the No True Scotsman card to distance themselves from religious fanatics, atheists can be just as guilty. The only difference is some atheists paint ALL religious people as fanatics, and that's simply not true. As Heina Dadabhoy said in our interview the other day:

My greater concern lies with [Sam] Harris, who claims to be in favor of reforming Islam but keeps insisting that Muslims who don't for instance "behead infidels" are Muslims who aren't serious about their faith. There are Muslims who take Islam very seriously yet don't perpetuate violence, and Muslim who do violence in the name of Islam yet don't practice it very closely. I personally think that encouraging progressive and reformist Muslims is much better practice than telling Muslims that by not being violent, they aren't being serious about their faith.

In Christian circles, I've met several Christians who as passionate about social justice as I am. I'm not talking about the watered down version of social justice that the Emergent Church preaches. I'm talking about folks like Suey Park, Eliel Cruz, and Sarah Moon: activists who shake up the white-dominated heteropatriarchy. I disagree with them about God, but I agree with them on everything else.

So there you have it. Not a faitheist, but agrees with Stedman to a certain extent. Got that?

Monday, October 20, 2014

Interview with an Ex-Muslim: Six Questions with Heina Dadabhoy

Heina Dadabhoy is an ex-Muslim, an atheist, and a feminist whose blog Heinous Dealings can be found at Freethought Blogs. They blog about the intersection of religion, gender, sexuality, culture, and feminism. Naturally I thought it would be great to interview them for this blog. And so, without further ado, here's Heina:

What was your childhood like growing up Muslim?

My early childhood was pretty typical suburbanite Californian American: engineer father, stay-at-home mother, one younger sibling. Our weekly treat was Happy Meals at MacDonald's. I wore the skorts that were so fashionable in the early 90's and played AYSO soccer. I knew that we were different from the majority because we were Muslim, but given that I grew up in an area with a large Jewish and Asian population, not eating pork or being Christian hardly marked me as an outsider.

Everything changed when I was about 5 years old. My parents became more and more religious. They decided that the best course for our family would be to move to another country. A year later, we returned to the United States, but my stint in a London Islamic girls' school surrounded by very observant Muslims changed me as a person.

As a literal, bookish, and obedient child, I took everything I read about Islam very seriously and practiced it to the best of my ability. I wept nightly at the sins I had committed and for the good deeds I could have done had I been a better Muslimah. Allah wasn't the only person I begged in the hopes of not going to hell: I wanted my father to throw out the television and stop listening to the radio and for them to send me away to a religious boarding school. Though I went to Islamic schools for first through seventh grade, I was bullied quite a bit because my peers saw me as a kiss-up for how devoted I was. Members of my own family mocked my religious fervor as well. I have very little nostalgia for the joys of childhood. I spent most of it tortured by other human beings and scared of Allah's wrath.

What made you decide to leave Islam?

I don't really know if losing my faith was a decision, though ceasing my practice of Islam definitely was. I lost my faith in a process that started slowly but intensified exponentially.

I experienced my first doubt when I was eleven years old. My sister had been brutally mangled in a carnival ride accident on mosque grounds. After she had been rushed into the trauma ward of the hospital, my family and I anxiously waited for news from the doctor about her condition. When they told us that there had been no brain damage, tears and gratitude to Allah flowed from everyone but me. My wry reaction was to wonder why Allah didn't stop the accident from happening in the first place. I immediately quashed the thought, but the years following were punctuated with the occasional blasphemous thought.

By the time I started attending university at age 17, I had learned about existentialism as well as figured out that not everything Islam said was 100% scientifically correct. I still identified strongly as a Muslim and practiced Islam, but my grip was tenuous. The final push came from my study of the writings of Augustine in a history of philosophy course. It dawned on me that many religions use the same theological justifications to defend the "logic" of belief, but somehow end up both killing each others' followers over it and saying that it's a matter of faith rather than reason. Over the course of a few months, I went from waffling devotee to atheist.

For a short period, I was an atheist in a headscarf. I had no idea what to do or how to live without Islamic practices. I eventually eased my way out of them.

You've written about identifying as an ex-Muslim besides an atheist. Tell us about that.

Islam was my life for eighteen years. As part of my background, it affects my ideas and perceptions of the world. The religion continues to deeply affect the way in which my family members live. There's no way that I could say that I'm just an atheist. Being a former Muslim leaves me indelibly marked in more ways than I can say, and probably in ways that I will only realize in the future.

There's a lot of controversy surrounding how folks like Sam Harris and Bill Maher criticize Islam. What do they get right and what do they get wrong?

Bill Maher criticizes Islam in his normal nuance-free, blustering style, the same tone by which he promotes other forms of bigotry. I disagree with him but I also disagree with him on almost everything else. My greater concern lies with Harris, who claims to be in favor of reforming Islam but keeps insisting that Muslims who don't for instance "behead infidels" are Muslims who aren't serious about their faith. There are Muslims who take Islam very seriously yet don't perpetuate violence, and Muslim who do violence in the name of Islam yet don't practice it very closely. I personally think that encouraging progressive and reformist Muslims is much better practice than telling Muslims that by not being violent, they aren't being serious about their faith.

Tell us about the book you're working on, A Skeptic's Guide to Islam.

I wanted to write a book that explained some Islam 101 items from the perspective of someone who doesn't see Muslims as Other but also who isn't trying to convince anyone that Islam is the best thing. It's intended to be a starting point for people looking to better understand and further explore Islam.

Here at Bi Any Means, I try to explain how social justice and secular humanism intersect. How do the two intersect in your life?

Secular humanism is my framework for my worldview. Social justice informs the actions I take that reinforce and promote that worldview. In other words, I engage in social justice because I am a secular humanist.

Friday, October 10, 2014

Confessions of a "Sensitive Nice Guy" Douchebag

(Picture found on

TW:  Rape, Misogyny, Sexism, Mental Illness

When it comes to sexism and misogyny, most people automatically think of dudebros. You know the type:  the hyper-masculine alpha male fratboy who wears that "Cool story, babe, now go make me a sandwich" t-shirt. The guy who sees sex as a conquest, and will stop at nothing to claim his prize (even if it means raping a girl). We all know that guy. We all know he's up to no good. Guys like Mark Driscoll and Ray Rice are the poster boys for misogyny, just like the Westboro Baptist Church is for homophobia.

But dudebros don't hold a monopoly on misogyny. There's another group of men that are just as bad:  the Sensitive Nice Guys.

Robyn Pennacchia at Death and Taxes writes:

They are always the first to lock arms with you and rail against sexism coming from these other types of men. They are always happy to poke fun at Pat Robertson saying something horrifically misogynistic. They like to think of themselves as “the good guys” and the jocks and bros as “the bad guys.”

In some ways, these men align themselves with women. They were perhaps even picked on by the same “bro-dudes” that they believe are the sort of men that victimize women. Which is why they get all the more touchy when criticized for behaving exactly like them.

The Sensitive Nice Guy may seem harmless at first. He listens to what women have to say. He gives his female friends a shoulder to lean on when they are victimized by dudebros. He may have even read Audre Lorde. But deep inside of him, he's still controlled by male entitlement. He thinks that because he's against rape, women are obliged to date him. And when women say, "I don't think of you that way," the Sensitive Nice Guy gets angry, creepy, and even threatening. But the Sensitive Nice Guy doesn't realize this. He still sees himself as the Sensitive Nice Guy; it's the women who are full of shit.

I know this because I am a Sensitive Nice Guy.

Last year I made a friend:  a genderqueer DFAB. We loved the same kinds of music, books, movies, and craft beers. We were both feminists. We were both queer. We became friends fast. We had beers nearly every weekend, and talked about music, feminism, and queer politics. We would watch Twin Peaks together. We saw one of our favorite rappers, Milo, perform in Baltimore. Because I can't relate to about 90% of humanity (I don't know if I have an undiagnosed mental disorder like Borderline Personality Disorder or Asperger's, or if I'm just an odd duck) I was so happy to meet someone I could finally talk to about the things that mattered to me the most.

Then I did a stupid thing:  I developed feelings. They said they didn't think of me that way, and I said I was okay, but it was pretty obviously that I wasn't. I would make comments here and there that made them uncomfortable. It finally got to a point where they finally said they needed space, and that we could no longer be as close as we used to be. At first I hated them for that, but eventually I realized that I was to blame. We talk occasionally now, but we're no longer close. We are, as they describe it, amicable acquaintances.

I still beat myself up about it. Here I am, a genderqueer feminist who's always on Tumblr reblogging posts about sexism and misogyny, and I'm guilty of the same sins I preach against. Shiri Eisner once wrote that we can all be both oppressed and oppressors, but it isn't until you see yourself oppressing someone that it finally hits you.

So here's my plea to all other Sensitive Nice Guys:  STOP IT! Nobody owes you shit for being nice. You owe it to everyone else not to be a douchebag.