Tag Archives: LGBT Issues

A Better Way To Promote Diversity

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How do you encourage meaningful change in media, culture, and social attitudes? That’s a reasonable and relevant question to ask these days. It seems everyone is either trying to push for greater diversity or whining about the lack thereof. More often than not, however, those efforts aren’t mutually exclusive.

Even if nobody has a definitive answer to the question of how, that hasn’t stopped many from trying. There have been major diversity pushes in every form of media from video games to comics to movies to TV shows. Not all of them have been successful. In some cases, they backfired horribly and cost people money.

I don’t want to belabor the specifics of those failures, but I do think it’s worth pointing out that they also have the effect of angering and/or insulting the audience. For franchises that have a huge fan base, that can be pretty detrimental. Some franchises never recover.

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It certainly doesn’t help that there are those who push for diversity for all the wrong reasons. There’s a very vocal contingent of critics/professional trolls who go out of their way to bemoan the lack of diversity in a certain piece of media. Whether it’s a video game having too many people of the same race or a lack of strong female characters, these people will whine about it as loud as the internet will allow.

For the most part, I don’t think anyone should give much attention to such whining. We’ve all dealt with whiny children at some point in our lives. Most people learn, often the hard way, that arguing with them rarely works out. Most people just give up to stop the whining. I’ve pointed out before why this can lead to bigger problems down the line.

It quickly becomes a brutal cycle. The more attention you give to these whiny children, the more incentive they have to whine so they can get what they want. The same applies to these “critics” who keep whining about diversity. It’s not enough for them that “Black Panther” is doing so well with a diverse cast. Some will still whine that it had no LGBT characters.

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It’s inescapable. You simply cannot win against a whiny child. No matter how much you go out of your way for them, they’ll find another reason to whine and so long as they keep getting their way, they’ll keep doing it. In the long run, though, that’s still a terrible way to promote diversity.

Ideally, producers of media will pursue diversity because they want to appeal to a broader audience. They want to make money and money doesn’t care about race, religion, or genital configuration. However, when critics/trolls rely on whining to get their way, then those efforts become less about diversity and more about stopping the whining.

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I believe there is a better way to promote diversity and it does not involve any whining. It doesn’t require some radical rethinking of how we go about producing, consume, or discussing media. It doesn’t even require some major protest, a new law, or diversity quotas. It’s just a simple change in approach that anyone can do for free and without that much effort.

That change can be summed up in two words: positive reinforcement. If you’ve taken a basic psychology class at any point in your education, you already know what this means. Even if you haven’t taken any classes and just deal with a lot of annoying people/children/whiners, you probably know the idea.

Rather than complaining about what is so bad about something, positive reinforcements involve focusing on the good. Rather than whine about what isn’t there, you celebrate what is there. Most importantly, though, you turn that outrage once reserved for those bad things into apathy. Most forms of media can survive outrage. They cannot survive apathy.

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To illustrate this approach, consider the following scenario that tends to play out whenever someone criticizes a movie, TV show, video game, etc. for a lack of diversity.

“Just look at this terrible affront to women, minorities, and LGBTQ people! It’s so racist/sexist/homophobic/transphobic! It sends a terrible message and appeals to an audience that wants to cling to their regressive attitudes. It’s perpetuating a destructive, unhealthy mindset that directly impacts our culture. This affront should be censored, changed, or condemned endlessly until the world changes!”

Chances are, you’ve heard something like this over the past few years. Sometimes it involves a female character that doesn’t check the right boxes. Sometimes it involves a story that tries to check too many boxes. In any case, the whiners I mentioned earlier will find a reason to get upset about it. Moreover, they’ll demand some sort of change, coupled with condemnation over anyone who disagrees.

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That’s not going to promote diversity. If anything, that’s going to give people one too many reasons to resent pushes for diversity. Some media companies are already learning that the hard way, with Marvel being the most recent example. Ideally, you want someone to promote diversity because they want to and not because they’re afraid of a backlash.

With that in mind, here’s a second scenario that shows how positive reinforcement can further that effort.

“That thing some claim is racist/sexist/homophobic/transphobic? I don’t really care for that. Let me tell you about this other thing that I just think is amazing! I love it. It’s so much fun and it sends such a good message to men, women, and minorities of all kinds. I want more of this. I’m willing to pay for more of this. Please make more of this!”

It may come off as some peppy kid who is way too excited about something. Then again, wouldn’t you rather be around that kid instead of the one that whines to get what they want? When someone is happy and excited about something, it’s kind of infectious. It makes us want to share in that feeling.

Throw money into the mix and suddenly, the same producers that make all the media that regressive types whine about actually have a good incentive to promote diversity beyond just placating whiners. Instead of just avoiding controversy, they actually want to do diversity and do it right.

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The key is focusing on instances where it is done right. They are there. There have been plenty of examples of the media actually getting diversity right. They just don’t make the news because outrage is louder and garners more attention. Even so, excitement and praise can be just as loud.

Instead of complaining about Rey being a Mary Sue in “Star Wars,” focus on how great Princess Leia was in the first trilogy or how great Ahsoka Tano is in “Star Wars: Clone Wars.”

Instead of complaining about Lara Croft being too sexy, focus on how great Samus Aran is in the Metriod games.

Instead of complaining about the lack of diversity on shows like “Seinfeld,” focus on how great the minority characters are in shows like “Fresh Off The Boat” or “House.”

It may not sound as vocal or satisfying as venting outrage about a flaw, but it sends the kind of message that others are more likely to want to get behind. Whereas positive feelings can have many benefits to yourself and those around you, venting outrage can be very unhealthy.

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In the long run, getting others to want to promote diversity is the best way to further it. Whining about it isn’t going to accomplish that. It’s just going to make others want to stop the whining. That may work for kids, but not functioning adults.

Movie producers, TV executives, comic book writers, and video game programmers alike are all still human at the end of the day. Human beings respond positively to positive feelings. Channel those feelings into promoting diversity and you won’t just get more of it. You’ll get people who are actually excited about producing it.

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Why Treating Sexuality As A Disease (Always) Fails

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It wasn’t too long ago that discussions about reparative therapy, also known as gay conversion therapy, became more a joke than a serious concept. Going back to Michele Bachman’s failed presidential bid in 2012, and all the assorted jokes about her husband, who ran a religion-based therapy center, I think it’s safe to say that this issue has run its course and for good reason.

There was once a time when attempting to change someone’s sexuality into whatever society deemed acceptable was a serious pursuit. Even Sigmund Freud contributed to that effort, going so far as to claim that homosexuality could be cured through hypnosis. Seeing as how hypnotists are more likely to work in Las Vegas stage shows instead of clinics, it should be obvious how wrong he was.

As it stands, reparative therapy is rejected and discouraged by nearly every legitimate psychological and therapeutic organization on the planet. There are still those who claim that’s just part of the larger gay agenda, but those claims don’t deserve to be taken seriously. Whenever that many organizations to agree that something is so ineffective and harmful, it’s usually a pretty clear sign that there’s something wrong with it.

For the rest of the population that doesn’t buy into homophobic conspiracy theories, the issue is resolved. While there’s still a lot we don’t understand about human sexuality, our current understanding offers a fairly concise conclusion. It’s not possible to completely change or radically reorient someone’s sexuality.

So in light this widely-accepted conclusion, any subsequent efforts to radically alter someone’s sexuality through archaic tactics that involve shame, guilt, and pseudo-spiritual bunk should be just as asinine. The keyword there is it should be. Even though reparative therapy is roundly condemned, the spirit of that therapy continues, albeit with a different target.

This time, the targets aren’t homosexuals or some other sexual minority. Instead, the scope is bigger and more extensive than even defunct anti-gay ministries could ever hope to achieve. It’s taking aim at sexuality, as a whole, particularly that of men. While it doesn’t have an official title, the tactics are distressingly similar.

I’m reluctant to put a label on it because I’d rather not throw around blanket terms for an issue this vast. Much of it stems from those opposing everything associated with “toxic masculinity,” a term I’ve already condemned.

From sex scandals to advertising to representations in major movies, the obstacle is the same. A particular brand of male sexuality that caters to straight men seeking the company of beautiful women for basic, shallow reasons isn’t just falling out of favor. It’s seen as corrupt, part of some grand patriarchal conspiracy.

It’s so corrupt that some, such as Joss Whedon, describe it like a disease. Men who simply have these desires are somehow flawed and need to either be educated or scorned. It’s not quite at the level that homosexuals endured in the past, but the common themes are still there.

It’s hard to pinpoint where it began. Some might point to the Harvey Weinstein scandal as the catalyst that turned the public against the whims of horny men, but I think it goes back further than that, even past the 2016 Presidential Election. The concept of criticizing men’s preference to admire beautiful women isn’t new. The extent of that criticism, however, is unprecedented and still growing.

Regardless of how it began, either through vocal critics of breast depictions in video games or protesting sexy advertising, it’s a major movement now. It has popular hashtags and the backing of powerful media outlets. If you’re a straight man who enjoys admiring beautiful women, then congratulations. You’re the source of all the problems in our current sexual landscape.

Given the intensity of the rhetoric in the movement, it’s not just about protesting the injustices perpetrated by men in positions of power who freely exploited that power. It’s attacking certain manifestations of sexuality as a whole, deeming them “problematic” to the point where it’s practically pathologized. That’s how we end up with asinine terms like “toxic masculinity.”

It’s for that reason that the parallels between the long-debunked ideas of reparative therapy and ongoing condemnations of male sexuality are all the more disturbing. Stories about LGBT youth who survived reparative therapy, and not all of them do, tend to tell similar stories. The so-called therapy they get usually involves the following:

  • Excessive condemnation and shaming of certain desires
  • Attributing certain sexual desires with negative connotations
  • Demanding frequent confessions of guilt for past misdeeds, real or imagined
  • Demanding complete dissociation from a previous lifestyle
  • Attributing desires and feelings to disease or an unhealthy state of being
  • Attacking or subverting someone’s identity in an effort to re-shape it
  • Conditioning someone to associate natural feelings with negative sentiments

To anyone who has been keeping track of how men have been criticized for their attitudes towards some of the recent sexual misconduct scandals, these methods should sound painfully familiar. It’s also worth noting that these are methods that the American Psychological Association deems harmful and even dangerous.

Now, I want to be careful with my rhetoric here because I don’t want to imply that straight men who enjoy looking at beautiful women in bikinis are suffering to the same extent LGBT people suffered in these faux-therapeutic settings. That’s not the point I’m trying to make here. I’m just trying to highlight the extent to which the approaches are similar, even if they’re not the same.

It’s one thing to punish actual misconduct. It’s quite another to attack the underlying desires of an entire group. Men looking at beautiful women is now a symptom of objectification, patriarchy, and misogyny. Conversely, women looking at beautiful men is a major Hollywood movie starting Channing Tatum. See the difference?

That difference matters because treating those attitudes as diseases is every bit as misguided as treating homosexuality or transgenderism as a disease. It would be akin to referring to all homosexuality as “toxic sexuality” instead of a simple variation among the vast spectrum that is human sexuality.

That’s not to say there aren’t issues with certain attitudes men have towards sexuality. There are plenty of issues about women’s attitudes as well. However, the fact that the current culture, empowered by social media and selective biases, treats those attitudes the same way reparative therapy treats homosexuality is both revealing and distressing.

The negative impacts of those methods are well-documented, both in terms of harm and ineffectiveness. Relentlessly shaming people for their sexuality, be they straight men or gay women, is pretty damaging. It doesn’t take a licensed therapist to know that conditioning someone to hate their own desires will seriously affect their mental health.

There are many lessons to learn from the failures of reparative therapy. For one, it revealed just how powerful sexual and romantic desire can be in a person. It can also reflect how lonely it can be when those feelings are deemed defective, toxic, or deviant by a society, at large. Countless LGBT individuals have suffered because of these misguided efforts. More will suffer if those lessons aren’t heeded.

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Filed under Current Events, gender issues, sex in media, sex in society, sexuality

An Interesting Conversation I Had With A (Transgender) Woman

Every now and then, my various curiosities on sexy and unsexy topics alike will lead to some unexpected insights. Personally, I love those insights. It’s just so easy to put yourself in your own custom echo-chamber that those moments are more important now than ever.

Just his past week, I had a very revealing conversation with someone on Reddit that caught me off-guard, but in a good way. It came shortly after I posted my article on the prospect of transplanting a uterus into a person who was born a man so that they could bear children. When I wrote that piece, I got an unexpected reaction, but one that taught me something I never would’ve learned otherwise.

I’ve written about transgender issues before, but not often. I fully concede that I know very little about transgender issues. I haven’t really interact with transgender individuals. Unless you count my love of Mystique from the X-men, I really don’t have much understanding of the whole transgender phenomenon.

As a result, the article I wrote about transplanting uteri reflected that ignorance. I later found out that the transgender people who read it took offense to some of my rhetoric. For this, I apologize. I honestly didn’t understand why my words were offensive at first. Then, a very kind, very understandable transgender woman helped me understand.

Since I don’t have permission to reveal her name or even her username, I won’t say it, out of respect for her privacy. Also, I am calling her a she and that’s perfectly valid for reasons that I hope will become clear. To me, she is a woman, regardless of what the Ben Shapiros of the world may claim.

Prior to writing my article, I didn’t buy into the notion that people who identify as transgender have some sort of mental illness. I accepted the conclusions of the American Psychological Association in that that they felt they were born the wrong gender. As it turns out, that’s not even half the story.

Here’s how the woman on Reddit described it to me in ways that go beyond what you’ll read on Wikipedia.

“I know exactly what’s missing inside my abdomen, and it feels weird, as though I have the drivers for hardware that was never installed. My experience is comparable enough to other infertile women I know that we’ve been able to comfort each other, but one does tend to feel a bit broken in a society that puts such a premium on motherhood. I started trying to plan for eventual pregnancy around age four or so when my little brother was born, and it took a few years before I learned it wasn’t going to happen barring cool future technology.”

I found this to be incredibly revealing. As a man whose body and mind are fairly in sync, in terms of gender idenity, it’s hard for me to wrap my head around that. However, this woman had to spend a good chunk of her life dealing with this fundamental disconnect.

It’s not so much that she’s a woman who was born as a man. She was always a woman in the same way I was always a man. It’s not that she has a penis instead of a vagina. It’s that she’s missing the parts she already feels she has, but the biological hardware doesn’t reflect that. It’s not like being born without a limb. It’s more akin to being born with a different limb than the one your brain says should be there.

Unfortunately, it’s that outer hardware that made her look like a man that led everyone to treat her like a man while expecting her to behave as such. That’s more than a little jarring. That utterly undermines a huge chunk of your identity.

Imagine, for a moment, waking up one day and having everyone treat you as the opposite gender. Imagine having to live every day, wanting to be treated like a woman, but instead being treated like a man. That’s what it’s like for many transgender individuals. She best summed it up like this.

“Trans people aren’t an especially interesting mystery once you get past the first basic fact: I’m not a man who became a woman. I’m a woman who was treated like a boy until she was old enough to fix her body without having to ask for permission.”

It’s still an amazing thought to contemplate, having an identity that is completely inconsistent with your body. The idea that our minds and our bodies aren’t on the same page is hard for anyone to imagine, which is a big reason why there are so many misconceptions about transgender people.

In a sense, I get why some get so hostile about the very idea of transgender issues. To them, gender is determined by your chromosomes and nothing else. If you have a Y-chromosome, you’re a man, regardless of how you look. It’s simple, concise, and easy to grasp. Like many aspects of biology, though, it’s only part of a much bigger picture.

Anyone who tries to reduce complex biological and psychological concepts into simple, easy-to-understand bullet points are almost always wrong to some extent. As I’ve said before, biology and human behavior are extremely complex. Chromosomes are just a small ingredient in a much larger biological cocktail.

Chromosomes are just DNA and DNA is just a blueprint. You can’t entirely define a person by their DNA any more than you can define a building by its blueprints. Sure, those blueprints are part of the process, but they’re not nearly as influential as all the hardware that actually create the structure.

A transgender person is no more defined by their DNA than anyone else. Sure, your DNA can effect you in many ways, but it’s not the only factor. Life, people, and the world around them is just too chaotic, complex, and dynamic to be reduced to something that simple.

As such, I sincerely thank this kind, patient woman for giving me this insight into a world I wouldn’t have otherwise learned about. I don’t doubt there’s a lot I don’t know. The way I write about transgender issues may still come off as ill-informed or even offensive. For that, I apologize.

However, as someone with a general interest in people and the way they see themselves, sexually, I hope to learn more. The fact that someone took the time to help me by sharing her insights makes me all the more astonished by the breadth of human experiences.

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Why Fascists Want To (And Need To) Control Your Sex Life

Whenever I bring up a topic on this blog, be it advances in biotechnology or news on the “Wonder Woman” movie, it’s only a matter of time before I explore the sexy side of that topic. Sometimes that also involves the kinky side, but sometimes sexy and kinky aren’t mutually exclusive issues in certain topics.

Now, when it comes to issues of fascism and totalitarian governments, it’s hard to make that too sexy. However, it’s hard to discuss these issues without also discussing the implications on our sex lives. Even the most repressive governments still need people having sex o they can make babies that will eventually become works, soldiers, etc.

Throughout history, the government has always had some interest or policy in our sex lives. From state-sanctioned fertility festivals in Ancient Rome to rigid traditions in Ancient China, there’s always been some amount of government between the sheets. So those yelling for government to get out of their bedrooms probably don’t realize just how long it has been there.

For the most part, a government’s only real interest in your sex life extended to whether or not you were producing children that would become soldiers, workers, and tax payers. Beyond that, it could care less what you do with your genitals and how you do it. Those governments usually lacked the power, resources, and will to micromanage.

There were some exceptions, primarily with the sex lives of rulers and aristocrats. Since preserving the royal lineage was of the most vital importance, often leading to massive upheaval in a kingdom, they had to micromanage to some extent. If they weren’t producing heirs to the throne or to inherit the family land, then that was a problem. The entire premise of “Game of Thrones” is proof of that.

However, the world has changed a great deal since the days of kings, feudalism, and fertility rituals. Industrialization, modernization, and a better understanding of how our sexy anatomy works has changed how the people and the government approaches matters of sexuality. Sure, some people in government still have a poor understanding of certain lady parts, but our knowledge is more comprehensive for the most part.

It’s because of that knowledge, though, that a fascist or overly authoritarian regime has an even greater interest in controlling your sex life. At least the kings and emperors of the ancient world lost interest at the part where your sex life made the babies that would become soldiers and workers. Modern rulers with a keen interest in controlling a population know to go much further than that.

The best example of this is how Nazi Germany and Fascist Italy approached its citizens’ sex lives. For these governments, it wasn’t enough for people to make babies that would become soldiers and workers. They had to make perfect, super-babies and a lot of them. That whole “master race” ideology wasn’t just about subverting minorities. At some point, they need to have the race they prefer to propagate.

Sometimes, they did this through incentives. Giving birth to a healthy, racially pure baby in Nazi Germany came with all sorts of benefits. However, those benefits sometimes hid the heavy hand of the state. Women in this society were not expected to work. Their sole focus was supposed to be on producing more racially pure babies.

It wasn’t much different or better for women in Fascist Italy. While it didn’t rely heavily on concepts of genetic purity or racial supremacy, there was this ideal espoused by the state. The perfect woman, in their eyes, was supposed to be poor, subservient, and doing everything she could to give birth to as many babies as possible.

Beyond simply controlling the population, these fascist states also sought to control the nuts and bolts of family life. There was only one ideal family structure and one form of acceptable sexual activity. Any citizen that deviated from it in any way, be it homosexuality or watching certain types of porn, was prohibited.

Again, it goes several steps further than the prudish policies we sometimes get in non-fascist states. In America, we had policies like the Comstock Laws that effectively made talking about sexual issues a crime. Even today, issues surrounding sex education, which are prescribed by the government, are subject to plenty of controversy.

However, it’s that very presence of a controversy that highlights just how different a fascist state approaches sexuality compared to a non-fascist one. Say what you will about America and western governments. At least it’s possible to have a debate about sexual issues. It’s not always productive, but having that debate won’t get you killed.

The same can’t be said in a fascist state because controlling sexuality isn’t just necessary for population control. It’s a primary component of maintaining its overall power. A fascist state, by definition, needs to exercise a lot of control over its people. In general, people don’t like to be controlled. History shows it’s hard to control people. Even organized religion is finding this out.

For any fascist state to maintain control, it needs to be able to control the two most important drives in human beings, namely survival and reproduction. It needs to make sure that the citizens are completely dependent on the state to fulfill those drives.

It’s somewhat easier to confiscate food and use hunger to keep people in line. If someone is hungry, they’ll say or do anything to get a good meal, especially if a government dangles it in front of them as incentive.

The same applies to sex. Through policy, policing, and public shaming, it can dissuade people from exercising their sexuality in ways that the fascist state does not sanction. Like hunger, those who are horny will do anything they can to fulfill that basic drive. Some religions have already weaponized this drive. A fascist state would make it part of a larger system.

It’s because of that systemic approach to sexuality that it’s hard to claim that modern conservatives or liberals are seeking to control sexuality on the same levels as a fascist state. I know I make a lot of jokes about Rick Santorum’s views on sexuality, but he’s never favored creating an entire bureau of government to ensure that people have only the kind of sex that he approves of.

I also make a lot of jokes about how sex-negative radical feminism is making us more sexually uptight. While those on the more extreme liberal side of the spectrum may protest and shame those who dare exercise a form of sex they don’t like, they don’t actively ask the government the manage the sex lives of others.

That’s not to say both sides don’t have ridiculous, harmful, and often detrimental views of sexuality. They’re just not even in the same hemisphere as a fascist state, which would use human sexuality as a method of controlling its population.

It’s not just that a fascist state tends to be inherently prudish and tradition. It has to control things like sexuality because it has to control the people to achieve its goals, be it stability or some sort of racial agenda. So if and when the day comes when you need government approval to have an orgasm, you’ll know you’re living in a fascist state.

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