Tag Archives: LGBT

How To Resolve The “Religious Freedom” Debate

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Every now and then, a tragic story comes along involving an innocent child who needlessly dies because their parents refused to give them medical treatment due to their religious doctrine. Whether you’re deeply religious or overtly atheist, these stories are heart-wrenching. The fact they occur is a travesty.

Just last year, a two-year-old girl died in Pennsylvania because that very reason. Consequently, her parents were charged with involuntary manslaughter and child endangerment. They were later convicted and subsequently lost custody of their other children.

Those are the least surprising details of the story. They aren’t the first parents to get charged with a crime for refusing to provide medical treatment to their children on religious grounds. According to a study by Pediatrics, 140 children died of treatable medical conditions from 1975 to 1995. You also don’t have to look far to find some pretty tragic stories of children needlessly suffering because of their parents’ inaction.

I bring up these distressing, disheartening facts because there’s one critical detail to stories like those of the girl in Pennsylvania. While the parents of that girl were convicted, the church they attended, the Faith Tabernacle, was not held liable. Never mind that the church’s tenants were what told them to pray harder rather than take their child to a hospital. They incurred no responsibility for that girl’s death.

They’re not the only church that holds those beliefs, either. According to ChildrensHealthCare.org, there are nearly two dozen churches whose tenants discourage or prohibit seeking medical treatment. Moreover, there are laws in certain parts of the United States that actually protect these organizations from liability. Much of it is done in the name of “religious freedom.”

That’s a term I’m sure most with access to a news feed have heard recently. In fact, they’re probably been hearing it a lot more frequently lately, albeit not in a way that links directly to dead children. The indirect link is still there and it’s the key to unlocking the controversy and the resolution to the issue.

Now, I put “religious freedom” in quotes because it’s another one of those vague terms that can be construed to mean anything to fit a particular situation. More often than not, it’s an excuse to argue for favorable or preferential treatment of an individual or group.

That, in and of itself, isn’t too remarkable. People are going to argue for favorable treatment with or without religion. Where “religious freedom” sets itself apart are the legal protections it seeks. Those parents of that dead little girl used religious freedom to justify their behavior.

That is, admittedly, an extreme example and one that rarely makes the news. These days, the most common manifestation of “religious freedom” controversies involve people using it to justify denying services to LGBT individuals, be it a marriage license or a wedding cake. It was also part of a major decision by Supreme Court involving a cake shop that refused service to a gay couple.

Those who champion “religious freedom” cheered the ruling and the precedent it set. This, along with the Hobby Lobby ruling in 2014, establishes that someone can use sincerely held religious beliefs to obtain exemptions from mandates prescribed by law. It seems the effort in securing this “freedom” is gaining momentum and winning battles in the courtroom.

Again, I put that word in quotes for a reason and one I hope will help craft an appropriate standard for what constitutes actual freedom and what constitutes contrived excuses. That is, in essence, what the “religious freedom” battles are seeking. They’re pursuing legally-protected excuses for their theology and its associated behaviors.

I can understand, to a limited extent, why there would need to be some legal protections for religious groups and not just for the purposes of anti-discrimination efforts. We need to have some resource for situations where someone is coerced into doing something that goes against their religion. Strapping someone to a chair and forcing them to eat shellfish will do unique distress to a Jewish person than it will for others.

That being said, it’s somewhat telling that the organizations fighting hardest for “religious freedom” also happen to be organizations that have preached hatred and misinformation on the LGBT community for years. Some of these organizations are designated as hate groups and their sentiment on LGBT issues is rarely subtle.

To them, the free exercise of their religion, as articulated in the first amendment, means the ability to treat certain people, notably LGBT individuals, a particular way. Some will even take it farther than that, seeking the right to craft their entire society around their theology, regardless of what secular law states.

It’s an effort not limited to one religion or denomination, either. There are other major religions with theology that goes beyond refusing service to LGBT individuals and crafting a society where their adherents are their primary authority. Therein lies the greatest flaw in the whole “religious freedom” debate.

When put into practice, the actual expression is less about the exercise of religion and more about the treatment of minorities. Those same Christian bakers may fight for their right to refuse service to a gay couple, but would they fight for the right of a Muslim cab driver to refuse customers with alochol? Well, when the courts ruled against that particular religious expression, there was no major outrage.

That’s the first and most critcial step to assessing the merits of “religious freedom” and the agendas behind them. If you reverse the majority/minority dynamics, is it applied equally? If the majority is the only one that benefits, then it’s not really freedom. It’s an overly elaborate excuse with religion as a cover.

There’s an even easier standard to use if majority/minority dynamics are too complex. This one goes back to the tragic stories about parents refusing life-saving medical treatment for their children. It can be articulated with a simple set of questions.

Could a form of religious expression/teaching be used to justify conduct that leads to the death of a child?

If yes, then it warrants no legal protections of any kind.

If no, then it constitutes free expression.

It’s a fairly simple standard, one that does not add a religious context to freedom and expression. There is freedom. There is expression. Sometimes it’s religious. Sometimes it’s not. Whether it’s just going to church on a Sunday or not eating certain foods, it’s just another form of freedom and freedom is a beautiful thing.

When it’s used to justify the deaths of children and discriminating against minorities, it’s not freedom. It’s just bullying looking for legal protection. I’m completely in favor of people practicing their religion as they see fit or no religion at all. However, there are standards for a civilized society and those standards cannot and should not accommodate excuses for dead children.

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How Ellie From “The Last Of Us” Does LGBT Characters Right

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In the current state of popular culture, one of the most emotionally-charged words is “diversity.” It gets thrown around like a nuclear hot potato. Anyone who holds it too long gets burned and anyone who doesn’t hold it long enough gets attacked. Whether it’s the handling of female characters or representation of minorities, diversity is one of those buzzwords that creates the wrong kind of buzz.

That’s not to say that it’s always mishandled. From a pure business standpoint, it makes sense for media companies to pursue diversity because the world is becoming an increasingly diverse place. New markets and consumer bases are emerging as people gain greater access to media, thanks largely to global connectivity. Any competent business would want to appeal to the most customers possible.

Economics aside, injecting diversity into a movie, TV, comic book, or video game is fraught with challenges and potential backlash. Movies have felt it. Comic books have felt it. Video games have especially felt it, thanks to scandals that seem to get more frustrating with each passing year.

The number of failed attempts to promote diversity is vast and tends to bring out the worst in many people. The successes, though, often fly under the radar and generate way too little attention. Other than the success ofBlack Panther” and the occasional Supergirl comic, the cases of diversity done right are few and far between.

That’s why I think it’s fitting that one of the best cases of diversity comes from the world of video games, an industry that finds itself in a new controversy every other week. It’s even more fitting that it comes courtesy of “The Last of Us,” a franchise I’ve praised before in how it portrays masculinity in a refreshingly positive way.

Beyond just being an excellent game with amazing characters, it also provides a case study in how diversity can be done effectively. It doesn’t have to be forced. It doesn’t have to be preachy. It doesn’t even have to have a larger agenda. It can just be a bonus on top of a well-made product.

The character in question this time is Ellie, the co-protagonist to Joel in the first game and the main protagonist in the upcoming sequel. Her story is every bit as rich and compelling as Joel’s. Her history, her personality, and even the way she complements the gameplay helps make her distinct. She’s a major reason why this game is so enjoyable and why it sold so well.

She achieved all this as both a female and an LGBT character. It sounds like one of those combinations that has to be forced, but that’s not the case with Ellie. In fact, anyone who plays the entire story of the first game wouldn’t even know about Ellie’s sexuality because it was only revealed through a DLC , or downloadable content.

Even within that content, though, Ellie’s sexual orientation was not a big part of the story it told. It effectively filled in a time gap within the main game while also exploring more of Ellie’s backstory, but at no point did it make her sexuality a bigger issue than it needed to be. You could’ve removed that detail entirely and the story would still work, but it wouldn’t be quite as memorable.

More recently, during a preview of “The Last of Us Part II” at E3 2018, Ellie’s status as a homosexual woman was reaffirmed. Again, it wasn’t critical to making the moment work. The fact she’s attracted to other women doesn’t take anything away from the emotional weight of the scene. It does help enhance it, though.

Therein lies the key. What makes Ellie a great character has nothing to do with her sexuality. It’s not a defining aspect of her persona, nor should it be. It defines her no more than Joel’s heterosexuality defines him. It doesn’t have to be thrown in someone’s face as this huge, all-encompassing feature. It’s just a small part of a much greater whole that is Ellie.

There’s no effort to make her this LGBT icon, which has a tendency obscure a character when forced. Her status as LGBT isn’t belabored, either. She’s not important to the overall narrative in “The Last of Us” because she’s female and gay. She’s important because of factors independent of those traits.

That importance grows throughout the story, but not because of her gender or her sexuality. It’s what she does that helps establish her as an important character and a compelling one, at that. Her story complements Joel’s and the various other characters she encounters.

In the process, she also demonstrates a unique personality. She’s tough and stubborn, but she’s also impulsive and temperamental. Many of those qualities are entirely gender-neutral. Some stand out more because she’s a woman and that’s okay because a girl acting girly isn’t a big deal, which tends to get lost with other female characters.

It may seem so obvious, but the fact that diversity in media is such an issue shows just how difficult it is to pursue. Ellie succeeds because the diversity she represents is never primary to her character. It’s not even secondary, either. That’s not to say her gender and her sexuality are ignored, but it’s never elevated beyond a certain point.

Before any of those diversity-related issues come up, “The Last of Us” works to establish who Ellie is and why she’s important. That process of establishing a good, compelling character without her gender or sexuality being the focal point does a lot to get you to care about her story. It’s a process that can’t be rushed and the game does a masterful job in that respect.

The person Ellie is when you first encounter her early in the game is not the same person by the end. She’s someone who undergoes a lot of growth, encountering more than a few setbacks along the way. There are times she’s easy to root for. There are times when she comes off as an arrogant brat. Before you ever find out about her sexuality, you learn about her as a person.

By the time her sexuality finally comes up, Ellie is already so much more than the gender she’s attracted to. She’s a survivor, a fighter, and someone who has seen everyone she’s ever cared about die or leave her until Joel comes along. She also has a vital part to play in the ongoing apocalypse the world around her faces. All of this, once again, is not dependent on her gender or her sexuality.

I know I keep belaboring that, but it’s worth belaboring because that aspect of character development keeps getting glossed over. Other efforts at diverse characters often rush to the diversity without establishing why anyone should care about them. It’s why all-female remakes rarely resonate. It also leads to characters whose diversity is so blatant that it’s hard to take them seriously.

That’s not to say Ellie is a perfect example of diversity done right. She has her flaws, as does Joel. There are times when she’s too tough for her own good. She has a tendency to push peoples’ buttons for the wrong reasons. She also has questionable tastes in jokes. Even proponents of diversity can find flaws in her.

Despite those flaws, there are many lessons that characters like Ellie and games like “The Last of Us” can teach when it comes to doing diversity and LGBT representation right. The most important can be boiled down to four basic components:

  • Don’t try and force diversity just to fill a quota
  • Develop the character before developing the diversity
  • Don’t make their status as a woman or LGBT their most defining trait
  • Have the character complement their supporting cast, regardless of their diversity status

There are probably many more lessons that I’m not qualified to teach, but I think characters like Ellie do plenty by just being memorable and endearing. She’s a great character within a great story. That wouldn’t change if she were straight, but her being a lesbian does help her stand out, albeit for all the right reasons.

It’s also worth noting that Ellie’s story is still ongoing. “The Last of Us Part II” is set to come out in 2019 and the next part of her story promises to get pretty dark. Whether she maintains the complexity and appeal of her current character remains to be seen, but she has a strong foundation to build on, which is key for any character, regardless of their sexual preferences.

Whether we like it or not, there’s a lot of animosity between both sides, there more diversity in future media because the world is a diverse place. It’s just a matter of going about it in a meaningful, compelling way. Ellie is an example of how an LGBT character can work and when done right, it works pretty damn well.

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Why Abstinence Only Sex Education Is Only Getting More Harmful

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There was once a time when it was possible, albeit cumbersome, for a parent to control the information and education their child received from the cradle up to and even a little bit beyond their high school graduation. Some even went further than that, attempting to control their children well into adulthood. I’m not saying that’s right or wrong. I’m not a parent yet so I’m not in a position to judge. I’m just saying it was possible.

A parent could, for the most part, prevent their children from watching certain TV shows, seeing certain movies, or reading certain books that contained information and messages that they didn’t want them consuming. Sure, every now and then one of their kids’ friends might sneak some “illicit” information past their guard, but they could still exert a fair amount of control over what and how their kids learned.

Without getting too deep into the logistics, it’s safe to say that those days are either over or numbered. In today’s world of ever-increased connectivity, along with cheap smartphones and easy internet access, kids are capable of accessing an unlimited wealth of information that no parent can hope to filter.

In many ways, that’s a good thing. Both the millennial generation and the emerging youth in Generation Z are the most educated cohort of people to have ever lived on this planet. Given that level of education, combined with access to so much information, why do some parents still believe they can keep their kids ignorant about sex?

I don’t deny that talking to children about sex is uncomfortable for parents, to say the least. It’s just as uncomfortable for the kids too. I still remember how awkward it was when my parents told me about sex. I still love and commend them for enduring that awkwardness because it made me more informed later in life. Other parents, however, insist on taking the opposite approach.

On April 23rd, 2018, there was a nationwide effort conducted by concerned parents who didn’t approve of how their children were being educated about sex. They called it “Sex Ed Sit Out” and it’s exactly what it sounds like. Rather than directly deal with the information their children are being taught, they seek to prevent their children from ever learning about it.

The fact they’re doing this in an era where any kid with a smartphone can look up detailed information about anatomy, sexuality, sexual orientation, and transgender issues is pretty telling. The fact this is being done with support of socially conservative, sex-negative organizations like the Family Research Council and the Liberty Counsel should also be a major red flag.

The effort, itself, was instigated by a North Carolina mother who called herself “The Activist Mommy.” She’s an extremely religious woman who espouses extremely regressive views on any form of sexuality that doesn’t fall in line with what popes, monks, mullahs, and rabbis deem moral. What set her off, though, was what she found out her kids had been learning in sex ed at their school.

It wasn’t just that they were teaching kids about contraception, safe sex practices, and the radical notion that sexual desires aren’t some disease that need to be cured or managed. It was also the idea that these programs had the audacity to inform children about LGBTQ issues relating to sexuality. It even had the gall to ask kids to think about and question how those issues effect them.

Assume that last paragraph was written with the utmost sarcasm, but that was a serious issue for these parents. This isn’t just about information that may or may not conflict with their preferred holy books. Some go so far as to call it “graphic, gender-bending, promiscuity-promoting sex education.”

They frequently throw around phrases like “the sexualization of our children” to get parents really uncomfortable. They treat such education as though they’re a how-to guide, complete with drills and a maintenance schedule. In reality, that’s not how the program works and anyone with an internet connection can verify that.

It’s still not enough for these parents, though. I don’t doubt they love their kids with all their hearts, but I think they’re seriously underestimating their ability to control both the inherent biology of children and the dangers of trying to preserve ignorance in an era where information is so easy to access.

It’s because of that same access that anyone can learn that abstinence only sex education programs don’t work. It doesn’t just bear out through data in peer-reviewed studies. Those programs even fail the basic tenets of common sense and logic. To prove this, just think of all the instances when not knowing about something made it not exist. Outside Freddy Kruger movies, that just doesn’t work in the real world.

Beyond simply being ineffective and a waste of taxpayer money, taking that same abstinence approach to LGBTQ issues is potentially more damaging. It’s one thing to tell children that having a strong desire to be intimate with someone is immoral, dangerous, and may doom their soul to damnation. It’s quite another to instill the notion that they’re somehow damaged for not having gender-based attitudes consistent with 50s sitcoms.

Like it or not, human beings are complicated, diverse creatures with a wide range of desires, attitudes, and identities. The idea that something as inherently powerful as sex can fit into the narrow scope of a 50s sitcom requires a gross misunderstanding of the chaotic, unpredictable nature of sexuality and biology in general.

Granted, this sort of repressive ideology is nothing new. Religious organizations have been protesting sex education in public school for years, favoring abstinence instead of any information that might hint that sex could involve something other than just two married heterosexuals making babies that grow into devout church-going tax-payers.

However, the rhetoric from people like the Activist Mommy is getting louder as gender-driven conflicts enter the conversation on top of the sexual components. It’s more than enough to get parents worried, outraged, and even a little anxious about what their kids are learning.

Whatever their sentiments, sincere and well-meaning as they might be, the abstinence approach still doesn‘t work. It was already ineffective in the era before the internet, as evidenced by the rates of teen pregnancy over the past several decades. However, that same inefficacy may be more damaging now than it was two decades ago.

To understand how, think back to what I mentioned earlier about parents being able to control what their kids learned in the past. Outside extremely restrictive religious communities, that’s just not feasible anymore. Today, just as during any other time period in human history, kids are going to get curious and/or horny. Unlike past eras, though, it’s easier than ever find the information they’re looking for.

That’s not just dangerous to the extent those kids learn things their parents don’t want them to know. It’s dangerous in the sense that there’s a lot of misinformation on the internet, especially about sex. That doesn’t just extend to the unrealistic depictions and expectations in the average porno either. It’s disturbingly easy to find bias sources of information.

Even if that information is accurate, there’s still more damage to be done by abstinence. Once a kid learns that information, much to the dismay of their parent, it’s hard to unlearn it. At the same time, it may also reveal to the kid just how much their parents have been lying to them on issues of sex, gender, and their own bodies.

Now, I get that parents have to lie to their kids every now and then, but some lies are more destructive than others. If the lie is too big or egregious, then suddenly that kid has a valid reason not to trust their parents. First, they say sex you can get pregnant by hugging someone. Then, they expect you to believe them when they say driving after doing tequila shots at a party is dangerous?

As a general rule, if keeping a secret from your kid involves something that can’t easily be uncovered with a couple internet searches, then they’re going to find out eventually. It doesn’t matter how hard you try to protect your kid from this information. If it’s out there and they’re curious, they’ll find it. That’s just the nature of the age we live in.

A child may or may not be capable of understanding sexuality or gender issues at a particular age, but most agree that it’s healthy for a child to trust their parents. Most people, kids and adults alike, can forgive small lies. For bigger lies that can claim natural, healthy desires are a disease, though, those are much harder to overlook.

For the parents to participated in this sit out, I hope they come to understand that at some point. Their children, which I’m certain they love with all their heart, are going to learn about sex, gender, and everything in between at some point. When that point comes and it’s too late, then the damage might already be irreparable.

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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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On Transgender Soldiers, The Military Ban, And Being A Dick

In general, I try not to comment on major news stories until after the media shit storm has died down somewhat. In my experience, very little meaningful debate comes storms of swirling shit, consisting primarily of hyperbole-heavy headlines and glorified shouting matches on cable news. Those are all things that most sane people can do without.

In this case, though, I think it’s better that I not wait because it’s likely to be an issue for a while. It also involves an issue that I’ve been looking to talk about for a while now, albeit under better circumstances. Since this blog talks a lot about sex and ongoing issues concerning human sexuality, it makes sense for me to touch on relevant social issues of the sexy kind. At the moment, few issues are more relevant than transgender rights.

In the interest of full disclosure, I need to say that I don’t know a whole lot about finer details of transgender issues. I know it’s a thing. I have only a basic understanding of the issues, concepts, and science behind transgender individuals so I apologize ahead of time if anything I write sounds ignorant or under-informed.

I do know, however, that the transgender community has had a growing target on their backs lately. The uptight, repressed, missionary position loving crowd lost the battle against same-sex marriage. They know they can’t be a dick to gay people anymore and profit from it like they used to. As such, they turn their attention to the next vulnerable minority that makes the “Father Knows Best” crowd cringe.

It started with a surge in so-called “bathroom bills,” which are much less sexier than they sound. Apparently, people were horrified that other people who don’t look like the gender they were born as were going into public restrooms to sexually abuse little girls.

Sure, it sounds extreme, but it’s not the first time society has tried to protect women from a supposedly-deviant minority. Also, never mind the fact that approximately 75 percent of child abuse is perpetrated by someone the kid already knows. The transgender community was still singled out, if only because they’re low-hanging fruit in a world where bashing gays is politically inconvenient.

Then, last week the transgender community took another blow and this time, it involved something much bigger than not being able to take a shit in a Walmart restroom. The White House announced that transgender individuals would no longer be welcome in the United States Military.

Historically speaking, singling out minorities in the military has not turned out well for those hoping to live in the world of George Wallace. That’s not to say that transgender issues are the same as those involving race, religion, or who you’re sexually attracted to. However, discrimination is still discrimination, no matter the excuse.

By all accounts, having transgender individuals in the military had not been causing any problems. Even some high-ranking officers within the military were surprised by the announcement. If anything, it comes off as a decision that simply followed the anti-transgender momentum that started with the bathroom bills.

There may very well be other dynamics involved, but in terms of the big picture, the style is the same. These are sexual minorities, the kind that don’t vote conservative or fit the profile of extras in a 1950s sitcom. These individuals are considered “weird” or “deviant” to those who prefer straight monogamous marriages with a few mistresses on the side, at most.

These same individuals used to say the same thing about homosexuals and often still do, although not in a way that carries any political weight. There’s this aura of deviance and debauchery associated with sexual minorities. They’re just so different from what we’re used to that the whole “ick factor” comes into play. It’s not like nature promotes variations and diversity within a species or something, right?

That last sentence was sarcasm, by the way, which I hope highlights the primary flaw in the debate surrounding transgender issues. It’s a flaw that most people, myself included, fail to recognize whenever they try to discuss these issues. It all comes down to one simple truth. By and large, we have a very poor understanding of human sexuality in general.

Sure, we understand that a penis goes into a vagina. We even understand that most living things are hardwired to dedicate much of their existence to pursuing that melding of body parts. It’s that exact biological wiring that I try to appeal to with my sexy novels.

However, the biggest problem with that biological wiring is that it’s biological. Biology, and nature in general, tends to be pretty chaotic and not just in sexual matters. Just look up images of a platypus, an echidna, and a naked mole rat to see what I mean. Trust me, though, the naked mole rat isn’t as sexy as it sounds.

Biology is so complex, dealing with so many moving parts in terms of chemical reactions, that it’s bound to cause some crazy manifestations. This is, however, kind of necessary because for all biological life to adapt, reproduce, and survive, it needs variation. Since the world around life is every bit as chaotic, it’s only logical that biology would try to match that chaos so it can keep up.

This certainly plays out in human sexuality. The sheer breadth of genre porn is proof enough of that. As an aspiring erotica/romance writer, I know better than most that our sexual proclivities are as diverse as they are kinky. It may horrify priests, mullahs, and conservatives, but I think it’s a beautiful thing.

In that context, I think it perfectly appropriate to put transgender individuals on the same spectrum as homosexuality. It’s a variation of the kinky chaos that is human sexuality. As such, and maybe this is just the erotica/romance writer in me, I believe it’s not something that warrants condemnation or discrimination.

I understand that’s not a universally-held opinion. There are some who still believe that transgenderism is a manifestation of mental illness. Since the science on human sexuality is often in flux, so much so that the female orgasm was once considered part of a medical disorder, there’s no telling how our understanding of sexuality will change in the future.

Based on our current understanding, though, being transgender does not fit the criteria of mental illness. Like homosexuality, shifting gender does occur in nature to some extent. There are multiple species of fish, reptiles, mammals, and insects that undergo a shift in gender under certain conditions. Since humans are part of the same taxonomic tree, it makes sense that something similar would manifest in humans.

The fact that it’s rarer than most variations, from homosexuality to being left handed, is part of what creates that “ick factor” I mentioned earlier. When something is rare, different, and poorly understood, it’s bound to cause some consternation among the population. As a famous comic book villain and Walter White precursor once said, “Mankind always fears what it doesn’t understand.”

This leads me to the ultimate crux of the transgender debate that will likely guide the debate moving forward. Unlike the science of sexuality, this is much simpler in that it basically comes down to being a dick.

Sure, the idea that someone is transgender may make certain people uncomfortable, but being a dick to a minority is an idea that most reasonable people cannot and will not get behind. It may be socially acceptable in the short term, as we’ve seen with race and homosexuality. In the long term, however, being a dick to anyone rarely works out, unless your Kanye West.

I don’t deny that this military ban is a setback for transgender individuals and their families. I certainly don’t support it. If someone wants to serve their country, regardless of what gender they are or believe themselves to be, then there’s no legitimate reason to prohibit them from doing so.

As we saw with “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” it may take a while for the transgender crowd to recover from this. I believe, though, that the momentum of history is in their favor. It’s one thing to be a dick to some random transgender person on the street, but to be a dick to an aspiring soldier is something that will never pan out in the long run.

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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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