Friday, May 22, 2015

Who's The Pervert Now, Josh Duggar?

[Image: Josh Duggar wearing a suit standing in front of a microphone with an American flag behind him]

CN: Sexual Abuse, Transphobia

By now we've all heard the news: Josh Duggar, the 27 year old son of Jim Bob and Michelle Duggar of "19 Kids and Counting" fame, admitted to molesting five underage girls--including some of his own sisters--when he was a teenager. He has since resigned from his position at the anti-LGBT Family Research Council, and TLC has pulled "19 Kids and Counting" from their schedule.

The sexual abuse is bad enough, but what makes this story especially infuriating is that the Duggars have built this image of being good ol' American God-fearing Christians who stand for "traditional family values."

And by "stand for traditional family values," I mean "tell everyone transgender people are child molesters."

In case you don't remember, about a year ago Mama Michelle sent out a robocall to voters in Fayetteville, AR to vote no on a bill that would protect transgender rights:

Hello, this is Michelle Duggar. I'm calling to inform you of some shocking news that would affect the safety of Northwest Arkansas women and children. The Fayetteville City Council is voting on an ordinance this Tuesday night that would allow men – yes, I said men – to use women's and girls' restrooms, locker rooms, showers, sleeping areas and other areas that are designated for females only. I don't believe the citizens of Fayetteville would want males with past child predator convictions that claim they are female to have a legal right to enter private areas that are reserved for women and girls. I doubt that Fayetteville parents would stand for a law that would endanger their daughters or allow them to be traumatized by a man joining them in their private space. We should never place the preference of an adult over the safety and innocence of a child. Parents, who do you want undressing next to your daughter at the public swimming pool's private changing area?

Statistically speaking, if anyone's going to get hurt in a public restroom, it's us trans people!

(Bi the way, Michelle, trans women are actually, y'know, women.)

As if things couldn't get any shittier, Papa Jim Bob knew what was going on, but didn't turn in Josh immediately. Of course, this is nothing out of the ordinary; lots of people feel too ashamed to come forward about sexual abuse. What pisses me off is that the Duggars continued to spread lies about us transgender people and paint us as the monsters, when the Duggars had a monster in their midst all this time.

Hypocrisy, thy name is Duggar!

Sunday, May 17, 2015

Six Things I Don't Need To Hear From Christians

[Image: A baby covering its ears. Picture credit: Oddharmonic. Creative commons.]


Most of my Christian friends are cool with the fact that I’m now an atheist. We all believe in the old proverb, “You respect me, I respect you.” However, sometimes a well-meaning Christian will tell me something that drives me absolutely bonkers. I ask myself, “Can people really be that ignorant?”

Then I think about all the ridiculous things I used to say to atheists when I was a Christian.

So as someone who has been both inside and outside the church, let me make it easy and tell you what I don’t need to hear from Christians:

1. You’re only an atheist because something bad happened to you. 

I don’t have enough hands to count how wrong this statement is. First, it suggests I was like the seed that fell among the rocks in Jesus’ parable; things were great at first, then trouble happened and it all fell apart. Second, it also suggests that I didn’t put any thought into being either a Christian or an atheist. Trust me, neither my conversion nor my de-conversion were on a whim.

Besides, I’ve been through some real tough shit. I even saw my co-worker lose her two-year-old daughter to brain cancer. But even though I had every opportunity to leave my faith when bad things happened, I stuck with it because being a Christian was part of my identity. Even when I started realizing everything the church taught me was a lie, I tried to find any loophole I could so I could still call myself a Christian. I deconstructed God so much that God finally disappeared one day. But even that was a long process.

 2. You haven’t heard the True Gospel yet.

Let me tell you something, buddy. During the thirteen years I spent as a Christian, I went to a Pentecostal church, a seeker-sensitive megachurch, two Lutheran churches (one conservative, one liberal), a Church of the Brethren, and a conservative Presbyterian church. I read C.S. Lewis, Brennan Manning, Max Lucado, Margaret Feinberg, Saint Augustine, G.K. Chesterton, Soren Kierkegaard, Brian McLaren, John Howard Yoder, Rob Bell, and Donald Miller. I studied Calvinism, Lutheran theology, liberation theology, process theology, and Anabaptist theology. I heard every theology and interpretation of the Bible that exists . . . and I’m still an atheist!

3. You just haven’t found a queer-inclusive church. 

Wrong again! After coming out as bisexual, I found an ELCA church that welcomed LGBT people. Everyone was happy that I was out of the closet, and nobody gave me shit for it. Yet here I am; a happy atheist. Go fig.

4. You were never a true Christian. 

Refer to #s 1 and 2 above. Being a Christian wasn’t just something I did on Sundays; it defined my life. When I started having doubts, I fought tooth and nail to keep whatever faith I had left.

5. I don't believe in that God, either.

Christians will often use this line to prove that the fire-and-brimstone version of God found in most fundamentalist churches isn't the "real God." Even though I appreciate anyone who doesn't believe in a mean and vengeful God, Christians who use this line fail to realize that I don't even believe in a happy sunshine God either!

6. God’s not dead! 

Kiss my ass, Willie Robertson!

Feel free to add your own suggestions in the comment section.

Saturday, May 16, 2015

My Gender Is Orange: Coming Out As--And Explaining--Genderqueer. My Latest Queereka Article



[CN: Bullying, Gender Dysphoria]

Whenever I tell someone I’m genderqueer, the first thing people usually ask is, “What’s that?” Most people understand the L and G of LGBTQIAA, but when it comes to the other letters, they are usually clueless. Two years before coming out as genderqueer, I already confused most of my friends when I came at as bisexual (with which I still identify). Now that the cat is out of the proverbial bag that I don’t fit either the sexual or gender binary, people really don’t know what to do with me.

Being the writer I am, I try to explain complicated things with simple analogies. The best way I can describe my gender is this:

When you’re in elementary school, they teach you that when you mix red paint with yellow paint, you don’t get something that’s half red and half yellow, right? You get a brand new color: orange. That’s how I see my gender; I’m not half boy/half girl. I’m a mixture of both boy and girl in a way that creates a brand new gender, which I call genderqueer.

Read the rest here.

Friday, May 15, 2015

Bi Any Means Podcast #9: Humanism and #blacklivesmatter with Sincere Kirabo


On today's episode, I chat with Sincere Kirabo. His blog, Notes From an Apostate, can be found on Patheos. He is a Regional Director for American Atheists, and a Board Member with Black Nonbelievers.

****************************************************
Transcribed by Marvin, with a little help from me:

Trav:                Welcome to the Bi Any Means podcast, the place where social justice and humanism meet. Hello and welcome to the Bi Any Means podcast, the podcast companion to bianymeans.com. I’m Trav Mamone, and my guest for today is Sincere Kirabo. His blog, Notes from an Apostate can be found on Patheos. He is also a regional director for American Atheists and a board member with Black Nonbelievers.
                        Sincere, thanks for joining me today.
Sincere:           Nice to have, I mean thank you for having me.
Trav:                Sure, sure. First, I want to ask you about your background. According to your bio, you grew up Pentecostal and became born again when you were 18 but you eventually de-converted. What led you to atheism?
Sincere:           Basically, it comes down to education, or autodidactic self-education, I guess you could say, like most people who are religious, I was born and raised religious. The Pentecostal faith is especially evangelical, and at least in the black tradition. It’s the faith, the dogma is so engrained, people are so convinced of it like there’s absolutely no questioning it, whatsoever. Virtually, my entire family is religious especially my mother’s side, which is quite large.
                        All the confidence and enthusiasm was conditioned into me growing up so that even though I wasn’t what you would call a religious person as a teenager, when I would act out, and be a knucklehead like many teens are, the belief system was still there and I always believed to a certain extent. My faith was what you would call dormant for three years when I was a teenager but then I rededicated myself to the Christian when I was 18. Then at that point, when I rededicated myself I was really a fervent believer.
                        I was what you would consider a very developed and very rigid about my religious beliefs for a few years there from between 18 to 20/21 but then I began reading more. My curiosity always gets the best of me and I suppose that’s a good thing. I wanted to know more so I began to research more about church history, the origin of the story, Stolen Bible. I acquainted myself with theological but also more so than that biblical historian content. Doubts crept in only like marginally here and there. I learned more about the formation of Christian beliefs, the Christian belief system. 
                        What really jolted my faith was actually reading Dan Brown’s The Da Vinci Code believe it or not necessarily, due to the book having anything earth shattering to say itself but due to the questions it asked, what I felt it was asking, asking in essence. It just hit me, just trying to say to me you believe all these things but have you really asked yourself why? It’s common for us to uncritically accept things where you are told or taught, and to have … to take for granted truth claims, and just assume the that you are actually endeavoring to diligently vet the claim especially as something as extraordinary as some hypothesis of some invisible, and corporeal absent, super natural, intentional agency.
                        The more I read in general as far as mythology, history, and philosophy the less I believed. Ultimately, I found that the prepositions offered by Christianity and theism in general really were woefully, and even pathetically unsubstantiated so I’m an atheist.   
Trav:                Not only do you call yourself an atheist but also an apostate. Tell us about that.
Sincere:           I use apostate as just another descriptor. The term atheist generally describes someone who rejects the God preposition in some sense. The term apathy is sort of more outright, or in-your-face articulation of this rejection. It deals more with the rejection of the religious belief system in particular. My blog is Notes from an Apostate. This being an accurate description of my communication related to atheistic and eve what would be considered cultural topics. Yeah, that’s right.
Trav:                Tell us a little about what you do as a regional director for American Atheists and a board member of Black Nonbelievers. 
Sincere:           As a regional director with American Atheists I’m tasked with keeping tabs on any activity in my prescribed region, which is North Carolina that involves issues where legislation or other manifestations of religious hegemony means to be provided in some way. I also act as a communications analyst of sorts between those in my region who have complaints or issues that think should be highlighted and I forward them to upper management. We have a director … the state director, or regional directors, and then also I stick with Dave Silverman
                        With Black Nonbelievers, I get input and also feedback on issues that would affect the nonprofit organization of the world, whether regarding a specific branch, project or function. Also, when I go to different functions like if I’m going to give a talk, make a . . . you know, I do public speaking, or whatever, I’ll represent one or both of the organizations. I’ll have stuff that I can pass out with American Atheists, memorabilia, Black Nonbeliever, you know, information, stuff like that, pamphlets.
Trav:                I recently read Norm R Allen Jr’s anthology, African-American Humanism, and in the introduction he says that not only have African-Americans been largely ignored in atheist circles but also atheists have been ignored in black circles. Why do you think this is?
Sincere:           I would say both statements are true for the most part. As far as why, I would say that’s actually easy to answer. Really if we just think about it as much as people wish to promote the United States as being some heavenly representation of democracy and liberty, the actual zeitgeist, the cultural norms is very much entrenched in white supremacy, which was formulated  established centuries ago. Starting with the European colonization of America, and the slaughter, enslavement, and consequential, racial stratification of people of color.
                        What needs to be remembered … what you said just reminds me. What needs to be remembered is when people like to say, “The system is broken.” That’s not even true because what it is now is being perpetuated as exactly as how it’s intended to favor certain groups over others specifically white males but more over whites in general. This basic concept is painstakingly obvious in the way our social systems were founded and organized historically speaking, and how they are yet being perpetuated now.
                        Then even with incremental progress in relation to racial disparity that we have achieved over the years, decades the mindset of racial stratification in blacks and others is still being inculcated and still being observed. Of course, it’s going to be an issue within atheist circles as the secular humanists and atheist communities have a label are but a sub-culture with a culture that operates off discriminatory forms of social norms, attitudes and practice yet being observed as a status quo.
                        Now, black circles generally are … black communities I should say generally reject atheism actually due to yet the pervasive dependency on the black church. The dependency on both faith, and the efforts, and aid of help of the structure of the protection of the church. It’s precisely due to having no other reliable place to go for refuge or solace in a society that has historically not been too keen on caring for black lives. Due to the predatory nature of the “outside forces” of assault, mistreatment and indignity suffered at the hands of whites, what you see with black communities is a tendency to especially self-reliant or dependent upon what they see as a safe haven or a place they can depend on to remedy all the wrongdoing, which is the black church.
                        Aside from the grand delusion of faith specifically the actions in activism that emanates from the black church engenders and also reinforces trust in the institution itself. Some will regard atheism … I’ve heard this several times. Some within black community would regard atheism as the white man’s thing. It’s seen by many as the ultimate slap in the face, and turning your back on your family, your social group and even your ancestors. I believe atheism is seen as both damnation and a disgrace. That’s basically how I see it.
Trav:                You host a video series called Secular Voices of Color tell us about that.
Sincere:           This started … I started collecting videos last year. It’s really a minor project I began due to not really seeing an adequate works that works, adequate representation of people of color, and a couple of other campaigns currently active. I was just thirsting for something that had a pronounced minority presence and since there really isn’t anything out there like there like that presently, I just decided to make my own.
                        The videos actually will soon be up on the African-Americans for Humanism website actually. We’ve been speaking with Debbie Goddard. She’s the director. We are going to have that up soon. Hopefully, we’ll get more visibility but the clips feature minorities from all across the US, Canada, and even Europe, and Euro-Asia. Each person gives a little tidbit about them, how they are raised, their former religious beliefs that they had then, how they became atheists and they speak to the benefits of openly identifying as nonbelievers. That’s basically the gist of it and just trying to essentially the fact that there are people of color who also don’t believe and that it’s okay to not belief because especially vital.
                        Because just like I was talking before when I was telling how it was seen as a disgrace or it’s very, very taboo to be a nonbeliever in the black community especially but also to be ex-Muslim, too. It’s the same thing. These videos they actually me … I’m not going to say, I can’t necessarily that they mean more to people of color but when people of color see other people speaking out, and they see it’s representation because it’s so rare to see. As opposed to what you see from non-people of color. In terms of where to see, it’s very, very refreshing and people really appreciate it. That’s why I did it or I’m doing it.
Trav:                Very good. Even though most of America is currently talking about black lives matter, and they should. It seems like there are a lot of atheists who haven’t said anything yet. As far as I know neither Sam Harris, nor Jaclyn Glenn, nor TJ Kincaid aka “The Amazing Atheist” have said anything about it, which is a shame because I think that they all have these huge platforms they can talk about these issues. Do you personally see a lot of silence about racial issues from the atheist community, and if so, why do you think there’s so much silence from the atheist community, or at least from certain atheists?
Sincere:           I definitely see silence. That much is apparent. I think that there are many factors. I’m thinking to really be pinpointed to just one thing, for one you have those who actually do give a damn but are either afraid of saying the wrong thing so they are hesitant or they are uncomfortable with such discussion or otherwise don’t feel confident in how to appropriately address these discussions.
                        However, there are others who are generally indifferent due to disconnect. They don’t see issues related to racial disparity, and structural racism as being real or “that big of a deal.” Privilege affords one to assume such things of course, and as those who do not experience a thing or circumstance to necessarily possess some degree of [inaudible 00:14:43] about such experiences that’s how bias works. This is only understandable to a point. After a while to continually ignore, dismiss or diminish the importance of these issues related to race or race relations. It’s inexcusable as far as I’m concerned and to be sure, our national discourse on race is incredibly impoverished, and that’s something that needs to change.
                        It’s not something that’s just going to change by turning a blind eye to it, or just acting like it doesn’t exist. I’m not going to name names but sure there are plenty within atheist, some on big platforms that could really help combat, and misinformation or whatever who are either content or silently complicit in relation to the issue of race, and racial discrimination.   
Trav:                I hear a lot of atheists say atheism doesn’t owe social justice a damn thing. They want to keep atheism and humanism separate, which I understand since atheism just means you don’t believe in any gods while humanism is an ethical philosophy. How do you respond when you hear atheists say thing things like that?  
Sincere:           It’s frustrating. It’s laughable and a flawed position right out the gate. I mean, I can’t help but find humorous when this breed of atheists really against the concept of privilege and denounce social justice using the term social justice in a blanketed pejorative sense, while simultaneously objecting to religious hegemony, religious privilege and campaigning for social justice [inaudible 00:16:35] secular and atheistic “pains”. This is proof that an internal logical consistency in an ethical world is rare, which is unfortunate but it’s obviously true.
                        This has become a modern convention of so-called free thought circles to lobby for pro-science, and the separation of church and state, oppose theocratic legislation or any resemblance of it within the political arena. Also, to openly critique religious dogma as well as point out all the ways religious privilege rears its ugly head in society, and how it unfairly discriminates against nonbelievers or people who don’t believe the exact same thing. We know this. We do this not all atheists but many do this including those who cling to the notion atheism only means disbelief in god’s spirit. Why are you trying to add on the definition?
                        On the one hand, you have this widely opposition to broad social engagement of the many manifestations of privilege and how a sense of social justice may be used in each instance. On the other hand, you have an intimacy with a narrowly defined scope of social justice, and a long enragement against a limited species of privilege. Both causes of course exceeding their prescriptive definition of what being an atheist entails.
                        It’s absurd and it’s an obvious display of privilege bias as well as the presence of defense mechanisms for this rationalism or intellectualization. 
Trav:                Right, for those of us humanists who do care, what are your suggestions for being better allies for people of color?
Sincere:           I wrote an article for The Humanist a few months ago that addressed this question in particular. The article is title Humanism and that Black Lives Matter Movement for anyone interested in checking that up. It’s on The Humanist website. Anyway, I offer up a few tips on ways people can observe ally-ship and relationship to black people in America. Step 1 is observing constancy. It isn’t enough that we only discuss these matters sporadically as if to fill a minimal quota. Dialogue about racial relations, disparity, and privileged dynamics need to be explored far more than the occasions where you see the media bolster reports of cops assaulting or murdering unarmed black bodies.
                        Though those types of discussions are important, too this topic goes way beyond that. It’s impossible to resolve or at least better understand an issue by simply ignoring it or pretending it doesn’t exist, like I said before. That’s the exact opposite of helpfulness in productivity and progress. Habitually engaging in these conversations especially with black people builds awareness and works to destabilize misconceptions and better facilitates progress.
                        Step 2 is wedded with step 1, and that’s granting a platform. If you are not a part of the out-group, the marginalized group it’s preferable to grant a platform to those who are subject to ostracism and stigmatization. Basically, this means you need to actually listen and heed what the marginalized individual or group has to say about their experiences. That’s what granting platform means basically. It seems seneschal but it seems some people don’t actually get this. It would be like men trying to discuss issues relevant to the lived truths of women without the feedback and insight of women, or heterosexuals, or cisgendered individuals attempting to grapple issues related to real life texture of queer life without actually involving input of queer individuals.
It doesn’t even make sense but people do this and they think it’s okay. Granting platform allows for pre-formed beliefs to be upgraded through the eyes of those experiencing the hurt, the frustrations and dilemmas related to whatever they are going through as far as marginalized group.
Step 3 is also intertwined with step 2 and that’s prospective taking. I’ve mentioned this several times when I’m discussing this type of issue with people. There’s been studies that suggest the prospective taking increases ones willingness to engage in contact with negatively stereo type out-group members. This is achieved mainly by creating social bonds, increased contact with the stereotype type people that the marginalized people. This type of contact can actually combat automatic expressions, implicit racial biases, which I know a neuroscientist whose name David Muir.
Actually, I quote him in the article that I mentioned before and I have a link to some of his work on this specifically. It’s very interesting stuff. That would be my suggestion as far as trying to better grapple these types of issues and how to be a better ally.
Trav:                That’s about it for me. Anything else that you’d like to add?
Sincere:           Yeah, in relation to the tips that I outlined, what it all comes down to is the key to being to an appropriate ally-ship is to be an appropriate ally more than half of being an ally entails the act of listening and prospective taking in relation to marginalized groups. That one actually claims support. Live the experiences of now what? Attempting to sufficiently comprehend or assess the particular treatment of an othered individual group while existing within an “in” group that is unmolested by the marginalized state of the out group necessarily requires insight only available by said other individuals, those who are actually marginalized and discriminated against.
                        Listening requires open ears, and caring to listen requires a certain level of empathy that is intertwined with a desire to know beyond one’s limited or even compromised perception. This is something that we all need to remember even me, myself. This is something that I take to heart because this is something that I try to remember myself.
Trav:                Definitely. Thanks again for joining me today Sincere.
Sincere:           Thank you for having me.

Trav:                Thanks for listening to the Bi Any Means podcast. The theme music is Endurance by Dream Youth. You can find more of their music at dreamyouth.bandcamp.com. The Bi Any Means logo was design by Asha Sober Man. If you like what you have heard consider becoming a Patreon on Patreon. Just go to www.patreon.com/tmamone to donate. Also, you can to www.bianymeans.com for more musings of a queer humanist.

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Friday, May 8, 2015

When It Comes To Racial Justice, Many Atheists Are Surprisingly Silent

[image: Three black flags with white letters against a white background. One says "End police brutality," one says "Black lives matter," and the other says, "No justice, no peace." Picture credit: Alicia Nauta.]

[CN: Racism, police brutality]

For the past year, #blacklivesmatter has been a rallying cry throughout the United States. While the black community has been talking about police brutality for years, mainstream (i.e. white) America is finally starting to realize that systematic racism still exists in the 21st century.

However, many popular atheists online haven't said a word.

Jaclyn Glenn? Nope.

Richard Dawkins? Nope.

Sam Harris? Nope.

The Amazing Atheist? Nope.

Thunderf00t? Nope.

Which is surprising because many vocally support LGBT rights issues, so why not vocally support racial justice as well?

Of course, these four individuals do not represent the entire atheist community (thank goodness). In fact, many in the secular community are speaking out against systematic racism. For example, Rebecca Hale of the American Humanist Society recently said:

It is neither an American value nor a humanist value to rule our citizens as if they are guilty criminals who must be proven innocent. When the police ignore fundamental civil liberties, it is time that we rethink the role of our increasingly militarized law enforcement. Instead of seeing themselves in opposition to residents, police must develop an ethic of community that includes building relationships and communicating with citizens so that both can live together in cooperation, free from fear and intimidation.

Hemant Mehta also recently wrote:

There’s no reason other groups that value reason-based thinking can’t say something similar. This isn’t about taking sides or playing politics. It’s about recognizing a problem in our society where certain groups are treated horribly through no fault of their own. We’re excellent at supporting and defending LGBT rights when they come under attack.

There’s no reason atheists should be slow (or absent) on this issue either. It’s about humanity and dignity and treating others with respect; if you don’t believe in God, it’s hard to argue against those ethics.

So why are some of the most popular atheist voices silent about racism? Why wouldn't they use their platforms to educate others about injustice?

Maybe it's because folks like The Amazing Atheist, Glenn, and Thunderf00t have made careers off of shitting on us "social justice warriors." Or maybe they believe in the whole "atheists don't owe your social justice agenda a damn thing" bullshit. True, atheism, in and of itself, simply means you don't believe in any gods. But for many of us, mere atheism isn't enough. It's not enough to simply dismiss silly myths. It's not enough to just make fun of ridiculous religious arguments (even though it is necessary from time to time). Many of us atheists want to take the conversation further, beyond just making fun of religion.

And for many of us, Humanism is that next step.

Sure, it's good to make fun of bad ideas and faulty arguments, but in the end, what good will it do? Humanism is a philosophy that not only affirms that people can be "good without God," but also seeks to make the world a better place. And to me, part of the Humanist agenda should be focused on racial justice. As Neil Carter told me when he was on my podcast:

While many secularists like myself want to see the separation of church and state and honored the way it’s supposed to be … there’s a lot of folks that that’s not just the number one thing on their priority list. If you are worried while walking through your neighborhood you are going to get shot at because you are wearing a hoodie, the separation of church and state is not the highest thing on priority list. Until secular humanists movement adopts those concerns as well getting nativities off of government lawns then it’s going to remain a very narrow group of people. I think that’s actually hurting us even from the cold, pragmatic way of analyzing what secular humanism is about.

With the kind of audiences that Dawkins, Harris, Glenn, The Amazing Atheist, and Thunderf00t have, they can help atheists better understand why systematic racism is such a big deal. But as of this writing, none of them have said anything. Which is a shame because as Martin Luther King famously said, "In the end, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends."

Friday, May 1, 2015

Bi Any Means Podcast #8: LGBT Rights in Africa with Yemisi Ilesanmi


Today I chat with Yemisi Ilesanmi about LGBTQ rights in Africa. Ilesanmi is a feminist and an LGBT rights activist, she blogs at Freethought Blogs, and she has written a book called, Freedom to Love for All: Homosexuality is Not Un-African.



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Trav:                Welcome to the Bi Any Means podcast, a place where social justice and humanism meet. Hello and welcome to another episode of the Bi Any Means podcast, the podcast companion to BiAnyMeans.com. I’m Trav Mamone and my guest for today is Yemisi Ilesanmi.
She is a feminist and LGBT rights activist. She blog at Free Thoughts Blog, and she has written a book called Freedom To Love For ALL: Homosexuality is Not Un-African. Yemisi thank you for joining me today.
Yemisi:            Thank you for having me.
Trav:                First, I want to ask you about your background, tell us a little bit about your background.
Yemisi:            I am a Nigerian woman. I’m a resident in the UK. I identify as feminist, bisexual and atheist. I actually am a barrister, and I hold a master’s degree in gender, sexuality and human rights. I’ve worked as a trade’s unionist for about a decade defending workers’ rights nationally and internationally and I’ve done so as a national woman leader of Nigerian Labour Congress. I’ve been the vice president of the International Trade Union Congress and been a member of some ILO committees on Freedom of Association and Rights.
                        Basically, I’ve worked as a trade unionist, and right now, I’m more of an advocate and human rights campaigner. I just wrote a book Freedom To Love For ALL: Homosexuality is Not Un-African and I do a lot of campaigns around LGBT issues and atheism.
Trav:                Good, good. You are an atheist now but did you grow up religious?
Yemisi:            I was born and raised as a Christian in Nigeria. I was born in a religious country into a religious family. I was deeply religious myself in my early years, actually in my teenage years. I happened to be an ardent reader and always wanted to know everything about whatever I’m involved in. I always wanted to excel in my field, and since I took my Christianity seriously then I had the urge to read everything could about it, and I read my Bible, and as a child I was Bible crazy because I had read every single page of the Bible, and all the available colorful books of Bible stories.
                        I enjoyed gathering other children and teaching them about the Bible and the adults just watched sometimes in awe. Really I think I was well into the Christian [inaudible 00:02:59] and my parents were members of White Garment Church, which is not your typical orthodox European Christianity. The Celestial Church of Christ was a bit more along the beliefs in prophecy, Holy Spirits, divination and cursing out demons. I would say at the age of 13, I was already a recognized celestial prophetess.
                        Being versitle in Bible knowledge, and a fairly good prophetess, everyone said my calling was to be a great pastor for God. Well, funny how things turned out. I’m already working on my book on that. You just watch out for it, “From Prophetess to Atheist.”
                        I think by the time I was 16 I had already read many religious tracts including tracts from Jehovah Witnesses, Eckankar, Grail message, etc. I just read really the [inaudible 00:03:57] then, and the spiritual [inaudible 00:04:01] in Nigeria. I was already questioning my beliefs I think at that time. I think the very first thing I could not get over in the Bible was the story of pharaoh and how God hardened his heart. I read that part over and over again, and all I see was a situation where an all-powerful Being used its position to harden the heart of a powerful but not all-powerful ruler and in the end caused the deaths and suffering of many people to lead to deaths of innocent children.
                        I couldn’t identify this God with all the all loving Jehovah I so much loved but no matter how many times I read the Bible the facts stared right back at me. Before I knew it, I started seeing other instances in the Bible that just did not sit well with my conscious. I think at this age I was not concerned about the historical accuracy of the Bible. I was more concerned about the morals and the equity of the actions of God and the Bible portrayal of God made me lose my faith in the … I say the equity of God and much later in the existence of God.
                        I become conscious of human rights at an early age, and as a budding human rights activist then, the God in the Bible, and all the religious tracts I was desperately reading just appeared like a great violator of human rights. He took on the face of dictator tyrannical warlord even worse than the ministry dictators I was so much opposed to in my country then.
                        By the time, I was 19 I was already calling myself a free thinker. I didn’t come across what atheist until late twenties, and I think when I did come across the word online I knew I had finally found a word that suits me. Yeah, I was born into a religious background but thankfully, I was able to leave that behind.
Trav:                Here in America there’s a huge stigma attached to being an atheist. Is there a stigma to in Africa? 
Yemisi:            Of course, yes there’s a few stigma and in some parts it’s not just about stigma, it could mean the loss of lives, and being an atheists in Africa could mean a lifetime of discrimination, isolation, ostracism and judgment and not just from society. Unfortunately, from those we care about most, and that is our family and very friends. It’s really not just about the stigma. It’s really about the isolation also, and like I said, it could be loss of lives. We have the blasphemy laws, and there’s a part of Nigeria we have the Sharia law. It’s not good news.
Trav:                Right. Now, you are also bisexual, and here in America people, say things like bisexuals are just confused or bisexuality doesn’t exist. Do you get a lot of that to?
Yemisi:            Unfortunately, yes I do. I get that a lot, as I am sure many bisexuals do. I’m aware that there is a lot of confusion out there about what bisexuality means. However, contrarily to popular opinion, bisexuals are not confused. We are not confused. The confusion is from the many who simply do not understand what bisexuality means. I can ask, what is bisexuality? Bisexuality is romantic or sexual attraction to both males and females. It also encompasses attractions to all gender identities, all gender identities and biological sexes.
Because bisexual does not fall into the normal sexual attraction or the homosexual narrative does not mean that bisexuality is invalid or in any way confusing. Bisexuals are people who are capable of sexual attraction to same, opposite or other gender. It really that simple. It is sad that we understand … if we understand that heterosexuals are people who are sexually, emotionally attracted to people of opposite sexes and that homosexuals are people who are attracted to same sex it shouldn’t be difficult to understand that bisexuals are people who are attracted to same sex and opposite sex or other gender.
Also, our sexual attraction is not an indication of whom we want to have sex or the number of partners we have. Where you have … many people ask what is bisexual if we are not just being greedy. What they are really saying is that being capable of sexual and emotional attraction to same sex and opposite is greedy. I think people should equate our sexual orientation with greed or confusion. There is no correlation between sexual orientation and greed. We do not have homosexuals and heterosexuals if they are just being greedy.
Why do we continue to pose this question to bisexuals? And I’ll say it does equate confusion. It does not equate wanting it or we are just born with the ability to be attracted to same sex, opposite sex or other gender. We should just do away with the stereotypes, and not proclaiming that we are not real, enough of saying that we are confused. Enough of the ignorance statements that bisexuals cannot stay with just one partner. This is not true.
The fact that I can be attracted to more than one gender does not make me greedy. It does not make confused. For example, the fact that I like ice cream and cookies I can always say and that I also like all flavors of ice cream does not mean I greedy. It does mean I will eat it all at the same time. Like different flavors doesn’t make me greedy, it does not mean I cannot control myself if need be and people should just stop saying we are not free. They should stop saying that and stop saying bisexuals are not real.
I am real. I am not a fantasy. Those are just examples of bi-phobia when people deny that bisexuals exist. Even within the atheist community, we have things like that. This is not just ignorance. It is an example of bi-phobia, and I wouldn’t expect that I will still have the same this within my own LGBT community but unfortunately, people still expect you to explain what the “B” is within the LGBT community. And I think by now people should understand that bisexuality orientation, and we are here to stay.
We are not confused and we do exist.
Trav:                Very good. Now, I want to talk about your book. First of all, what inspired you to write the book?
Yemisi:            I wrote this book … that’s the book “Freedom To Love For ALL: Homosexuality is Not Un-African.” I wrote it to counter the erroneous impression that homosexuality is un-African because this is a rhetoric that many African politicians keep sprouting in their bid to defend discrimination against gays, lesbians, bisexuals and transsexuals. It was also during the upsurge of anti-gays bills in many parts of Africa.
                        I was doing a lot of advocacy work on Facebook, and social media writing about it, and people were contacting me for information on or tagging me wanting me to get involved in some of the trends on Facebook. I just decided that it would be good to actually add a compilation of some of my written works and posts so that people can have easy access to this information.
I would say with the upsurge of that, again, [inaudible 00:12:21] like I said, many African countries it became imperative to provide necessary information and create awareness on issues of sexual orientation especially homosexuality and bisexuality. Information is power, and education is key to human development. In this digital age where information is easily, available it is sad to know that many people especially Africans still fall for the homophobic, bi-phobic, and trans-phobic rhetoric that sexual orientation is a matter of choice because it really is not and that’s actually my motivation for writing the book.
I wanted to put the information out there to be easily accessible to people.
Trav:                Right. One thing you mentioned in the book, like you said earlier, a lot of Africans say that homosexuality is un-African and that’s it’s an import from white people but as you mentioned Christianity was imported into Africa not homosexuality. And also you say that same sex relationships where not only a perm but celebrated in African culture. Tell us a little about that.
Yemisi:            Yeah, yeah. In the book “Freedom To Love For ALL: Homosexuality is Not Un-African,” I put together a collection of my messages debunking the myth that homosexuality because it’s just myth. The three chapters that delved into the history of homosexuality, and bisexuality in Africa and noteworthy is the wall paintings in Egypt of two black men kissing. They were named Nyankh-khnum and Khnum-hotep. They were ancient Egyptian servants and they are believed to be the first recorded same sex couple in history.
                        It is the only time in the [inaudible 00:14:14] where men are displayed in brazen and holding hands. In addition, their names actually form a linguistic reference to their closeness. Nyankh-khnum means joined to love, joined to life and Khnum-hotep means joined to the blessed state of the dead. Together the names can be translated like joined in life and joined in death. We have this wall painting there, right there in Egypt and also there are other cultural practices in Africa that indicates not just the existence but acceptance of homosexuality, bisexuality and transexuality in Africa.
                        For example, in Uganda some members of the Buganda royal family suggest that homosexuality was existent and tolerated before colonial rule. To this day, it is said that many members of the Buganda royal family are gay and that’s actually common knowledge. The Ugandans don’t dispute that, and also before the practice died out I think in the early 20th Century where the male Azande warriors in the northern part of Congo, that’s northern Congo. They routinely married male youths. The male warriors married male youths who functioned as temporary wives and they are the commented facts.
That was in the earlier 20th Century it surprises that it’s actually well known in that area, and even in Nigeria where I come from we have the matriarchy, and actually is still very strong in Calabar, Nigeria. In this place, in the absence of a male child, the oldest daughter in the family was culturally allowed to marry another woman. That is the woman who acts as the husband. She’s allowed to choose a man to impregnate a wife. The child of the woman got a family name, and she also gets to keep the child and keep her wife.
Technically this is same-sex marriage, and it involves a recognized marriage between two same sex persons that’s between two women. Of course, I wouldn’t know and say for certain what goes on behind closed doors once husband, “husband” and wife retires to their bed or in this case wife and wife. Actually, with this the anti-gay law, the Sodomy Prohibition Act in Nigeria.
I wonder what the state of this long known cultural practice is now in Nigeria because it’s a known cultural practice and it still goes on. Does that invalidate that cultural practice? I think that will have to put to test. Also, the northern parts of Nigeria like Kano and Kaduna they are actually homes to many gay and I’ll use the word effeminate men because although a effeminate doesn’t mean gay but in dressing and everything we have.
Kano and Kaduna are areas that are actually known to be homes to gays, and unfortunately, that was actually before the Sharia law came with the threats of stoning homosexuals to death because of that many have had to flee for their lives.
Some African cultures also view transgender persons as gods. They were revived before important intolerance religious started making ways in Africa. It was actually the advent of colonization and the import of foreign laws that sodomy law was brought homophobia and intolerance into many African societies. For example, Shango the Yoruba god of Tonga was often described as a beautiful woman who dressed like a woman, had his braided and accessorized like a woman. Shango priests they are men still dressed in clothing traditionally associated with women when performing rituals.
Homosexuality, bisexuality, transexuality are not concepts that are alien to Africa. Sexual orientation is not just a cultural thing. It is biologic, and if we know that and we have said that we have people originated … we [inaudible 00:18:57] we originate from Africa it’s only logical to have said that from time immemorial homosexuality is a biological thing that must have existed right then from the home town of human beings Africa itself. Really, it’s there, and since Africa is a part of human beings, it would be logical to say that we as a man cut off from that biological trace of sexual orientation.
Yeah, we have our cultural practices that have existed right before colonialism came with these concepts of homophobia and all that, legalization homophobia. I’m not saying there wasn’t homophobia in Africa before but colonialism came with sodomy laws, and we see it came legalization of that homophobia.
Trav:                Right. Now, what’s the status of anti-gay laws in Africa now? I know that when they were first proposed news came over to the States. There was a big uproar but I haven’t heard much about it since. What’s the status of the anti-gay laws now?
Yemisi:            In Nigeria, the law has been passed and signed by the incumbent president. The law actually stipulates 14 years imprisonment for same sex relationships and 10 years jail term for anyone who advocates for LGBT rights or it could be the media through attending or not reporting anyone suspicious of having same sex relationships. In Nigeria, it’s sad news it has been passed.
                        In Uganda, the law has been reopened again and we hope that it will also be thrown out. It was thrown out based on it was passed but was thrown out based on technicality ground in the because of law but it has also been reopened. We just hope that it wouldn’t sail through again and unfortunately, some parts of Africa also are trying to have a similar bill to pass it anti-same sex bill in their own country. I hope that sudden upsurge of anti-same sex bills would die down but for Nigeria it has been passed, and signed by the president, passed by the parliamentarians, signed by the president, and our hope is to go to court and challenge it.
For those of us in diaspora all we can do is to give support to those at home and challenge this.            Hopefully the LGBT community in Nigeria will get its act together and do the right thing because at this stage they have to just fight it out in the court of law but on own part for those of us that are in the diaspora we keep doing what people back home can’t do due to the law. That is bring attention to it, protest we can and when some of our parliamentarians or president visit this part of our world, this part of the planet we make sure that we make them feel uncomfortable because they send some of us away from our country. We should also make them feel uncomfortable when they visit countries where we have been accepted regardless of our sexual orientation.
We make them feel the heat, and bring the discussion back on the table.
Trav:                How did you become involved with Freethought Blogs? 
Yemisi:            I was basically prone to actually writing for Freethought Blog. I had a blog under the same name Yemmynisting on Blogger. I was active on Facebook where I got to be friends with Ophelia Benson. She’s one of the Freethought Bloggers. She was interested in some of the things I was sharing. I sent her a link to my blog on Blogger, and also a link to my YouTube channel. Suddenly I received an email from Ed Brayton if I would consider writing for Freethought Blogs and of course, I was thrilled and I said yes.
                        I’ll say it. It has been an exciting experience because it’s a place of like-minded where I could be myself and also share experiences with others. It’s really been interesting.
Trav:                Great, great. You once did a video where you talked about the so-called Atheist Plus movement. A lot of people are saying Atheism Plus is dead. What do you think?
Yemisi:            Why would anyone say such a thing? Atheism Plus is not dead. Even many of its detractors, I mean even though many of its detractors have been wishing Atheism Plus dead from the very first day it was birthed, I’m sorry to disappoint them Atheism Plus is still very much alive.
As long we have atheists that identify with the label, it is very much alive. I identify with the label as many other artists I know. I am admin of the group African Atheists Plus and that group is still up and running. I am also a member of Atheism Plus online forum as are many others that are under … lots of people are so invested in announcing the death of Atheism Plus beats me.
It is well alive and kicking, and I can’t understand . . . I don’t know why they are bothered. Why are people so bothered what labels others wear and how they choose to identify or why they choose to identify. For me it is a big deal for me to use Atheism Plus as a label. It is very important to me to use that label, and the more I meet atheists who are general assholes, or I am glad that label exists for me to use.
Actually, my Atheism Plus is an addition. It means in addition to being an atheist, I am also an atheist who speaks out on social justice issues and actively oppose racism, sexism, homophobia, et cetera. Like all [inaudible 00:25:45] aware, I just like putting it out right there. What is wrong with having a once stop shop for everything under one umbrella. For me the umbrella is as the atheist umbrella I am not just a social justice group, secular womanist umbrella but the atheist umbrella. I can wear my atheist [inaudible 00:26:08]. I know what the other person stands for.
The point is I want a place to do all of those things with atheists who are interested. It’s not a crime if you are atheist and you are not interested or you don’t care for the tag. It doesn’t not make you a bad person but what makes you a bigot and infantile person is where you throw tantrums, spill hate and invade the spaces of those who choose to identify with the Atheist Plus tag. That’s not good.
I believe [inaudible 00:26:39] would hate my own decision on which group to join and network with. It saves me precious time I use online arguing with bigot, racist, homophobic atheists on why they have no rational reason to be racist, homophobic or chauvinist. It will save me and many others the agony of joining atheists’ groups that do not care that some of their members are being subjected to degrading attitudes from other group members.
Atheism Plus agrees to me because it promotes … it promises a place to hang out with atheists who just like me believe that bigotry, racism or homophobia is irrational and are willing to critically examine social justice issues alongside our non-belief in the existence of God. We want to network. We want to talk about atheism, social justice issues, or just hang out in an environment free of bigotry.
It’s really not that difficult to understand. It’s really not a dead movement because I’m very, very much critical about the type of atheist group I join, and like I said, it saves me the headache of going into an atheist group and coming back so disappointed because I’d end up to face misogyny. I have to explain to people why they shouldn’t call me a nigga, why they shouldn’t use ableist language. It can be so tiring. It can be so tiring.
With the Atheism Plus tag, I just know what I have in for. I know I don’t have to go through with the one-on-one tutorials. I don’t have to give anyone lectures on that. We call all exchange and share ideas and it’s also a safe place to be free from the online harassments. It’s not dead. It’s very much … it’s a label that is very much alive, and it’s one that I still identify with and I think I will continue to identify with.
Trav:                Good, good. Well, that’s about it for me. Anything you’d like to add like any upcoming projects.
Yemisi:            Yeah. I still have a blog. I’m still blogging at Yemmynisting. I’ve been quiet for a while but I’m coming out with my book soon. There is a collection of book … a collection of poems anthology which I’m part of that is coming out soon. It’s on echo-sexuality and that should be out next week. I’m having my own personal collection of poems that will be out very soon too plus I’m also working on some new YouTube channel programs basically on atheism.
                        Watch out for that and yeah, I also have my book. My first book on atheism and religion coming out hopefully by the end of this year. I’m working on that too. Keep reading my blog check out my YouTube channel for the new materials and the new videos. It’s going to be titled How Moral is your God? And it’s going to be a series. I’m working on that and keep … be on the lookout for it because it’s going to be interesting.
Trav:                Thanks again for joining me today Yemisi.
Yemisi:            Thank you for having me.

Trav:                Thanks for listening to the Bi Any Means podcast. The theme music is “Endurance” by Dream Youth. You can find more of their music at dreamyouth.bandcamp.com. The Bi Any Means logo was design by Asher Silberman. If you like what you have heard, consider becoming a Patreon on Patreon. Just go to www.patreon.com/tmamone to donate. Also, you can go to www.bianymeans.com for more musings of a queer humanist.

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Friday, April 24, 2015

Why The Bisexual Slut Stereotype Is Harmful - New Queereka Article



[CN: Biphobia, Slut Shaming, Sexism, Rape]

Last week on his Focus on the (heteronormative patriarchal) Family radio show, James Dobson once again ranted and raved about how marriage equality will lead to Christian persecution and all that bullshit. Which isn’t really news; at this point if Dobson said anything nice about queer people, it would be the biggest news story of the century. But on this particular episode, he issued a warning to pastors “who are compassionate toward to those who have same-sex attraction” (which is strange because wasn’t Jesus all about compassion?):
“I would like them to think, just for a moment, about ‘LGBT.’ The ‘B’ stand for bisexual! That’s orgies! Are you really going to support this?”
Ain’t that the cherry on top of the shit sundae!

I wish I could say the whole idea that bisexuality equals “slut” is just another example of right-winged Christian bigotry, but, unfortunately, it’s a very common idea outside of the church. Despite all the supposed “progress” our society has made for LGBTQ rights, people still misunderstand bisexuality. Despite there being no correlation between bisexuality and promiscuity (go ahead, Google it), people still think that bisexuals will “sleep with anything that moves.”

Not only is the Bisexual Slut stereotype bullshit, but studies show it actually hurts bisexuals.

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Read the rest at Queereka.