Archive for ‘activism’

July 13, 2013

The 99 – Lies, Bad Theology, and Scare Tactic Evangelism

TL;DR version – “The 99″ is basically a Hell House that happens in Not October. There’s nothing on their website, anywhere, about it being a religious thing. They convince tweens and teens to come and then scare and shame them into Jesus.

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My friend Carly and I were the tamest college students imaginable. In the course of our college careers we never drank, never tried any kind of drug, didn’t party, and liked to do things like run children’s book clubs at the local library, talk about church, and watch old episodes of Little House on the Prairie. After we graduated in 2010 she began her teaching career in Connecticut and I started seminary a couple years later in Boston. We see each other somewhat regularly and get overly excited about things like book fairs and laugh about church politics – she’s a life-long member of a United Church of Christ congregation and I’m in school to be a Unitarian Universalist minister.

When Carly texted me to ask if I wanted to hang out on Friday I said sure, and later as we were talking about what we wanted to do she asked if I could take the commuter rail out to Providence so we could to go “this thing about the common causes of death for young adults.” I figured it was just another weird thing Carly had discovered somewhere on the internet. Usually our rule with what we attend is that it either has to be good or it has to be so absurdly bad that it’s good.

We showed up to the Swansea Mall parking lot, I saw the tent, and I immediately said “Carly, this looks like a ‘Come to Jesus’ thing. While she ran into the mall to find a bathroom I tried running a few searches using my phone but wasn’t seeing anything about it being overtly religious. Searching was complicated by the fact that this production is called “The 99” and entering that phrase, in any way, into search engines brings up a lot of stuff about the occupy movement.

The other thing to know here is that I’m transgender; I was born female but now identify as male. I “pass,” meaning people see me as male, about half the time but I look very, very young. I was raised in an evangelical church and was kicked out or left (depending on who you ask) when I came out as gay years ago. Though I’m clearly fine with religion at this point and have no vendetta against Christianity I’m definitely not a fan of the brow-beating Evangelical Christianity that tries to do things like scare tweens into accepting Jesus.

We stood in line for this event, held in a giant tent, as they slowly let in groups of about twenty people. As soon as we got to the people with handheld metal detectors and started separating us into lines of men and women I got worried. I was directed to the male line, so I went, got wanded and waited for Carly. We approached a table where we had to sign a “release” which was actually a way to get out contact information. I put down my name, a fake email address, left the phone number part blank, checked adult, and got reprimanded by the woman at the table for not filling it out “correctly.”

We waited some more, and were finally allowed inside the tent. We paid our $3 admission price and were showing to a roped off area with a TV that told us the rules after showing a few PSAs about not doing meth or texting while driving. It was one of those faux-edgy productions – lots of messy handwriting, jump cuts, and a supposedly creepy voice reading them out loud. No video, no cameras, no loud conversations, no touching the actors “even if they touch you” and if you are disruptive you will be removed and required to wait for your party at the end.

The entire event is set up in a giant tent with “rooms” that you get in via people in safety vests lifting flaps of tent tarps. The first “room” has an empty chain-link cage in the middle. The lights go completely dark and when they come back on a grim-reaper like person has appeared in the cage. The grim-reaper is your “guide” and shows you through each of the rooms. Carly says she heard the guide referred to as a spiritual guide at some point but I didn’t catch that.

The 99 purports to show the 5 most common causes of death for teens and young adults. According to them these are; gang violence, drunk driving, drug overdose, suicide, and texting while driving. There were not statistics or cited studies anywhere so, sure, let’s go with that for the premise of this whole thing. It was emphasized over and over that these were bad choices, you had a choice, everything is a choice.

Our spiritual guide first showed us into the gang violence room. Two kids, a boy and a girl, are beaten up by four other teens. The acting was hilariously bad with phrases like “oh man that was so cool!” and “we really beat them up!” and lots of high fiving and fist bumping. Then a backlight comes on, highlighting a car behind a mesh screen and one of the “gang member” girls is shot and killed. Her friends unceremoniously pick up her body and walk out with it. As our guide leads us into the next room we walk past her lifeless body dumped on a fake park bench.

Our next room is a car crash. One girl is covered in blood and splayed on the hood of the car, the girl in the driver’s seat is gasping and sobbing and crying and covered in blood. There’s another lifeless body in the back seat. The other car has a man and a woman, also both seriously injured, and an audio track of a baby screaming starts up. I still have no idea if this was supposed to be drunk driving or not wearing seatbelts or just car wrecks in general.

Next up was a crack den. We were given chairs to sit in for this long and memorable scene in which Nothing Happens. A pregnant woman sits on a bed in the corner sobbing for “Steven.” There’s a filthy toilet bowl off at one side and people sit around pretending to do every form of drug you have ever heard of. There’s a bong being passed around, somebody cutting up what looks like a cup of crack cocaine on the table (seriously, it was a giant pile), someone making meth in a corner, a guy in an arm chair with a needle in his arm. This man was apparently injecting into a giant open wound. One of the women on the couch beats her daughter with a stick of some kind, and at one point “Steven” lumbers over and slaps the pregnant woman.

We walked from there into a teenagers bedroom where we were told to look up at a television screen. A jumpy, scratchy suicide note-video comes on that starts “mom, dad? By the time you watch this I’ll already be dead.” While dramatically pulling her hair she talks about how she was never the perfect daughter and was tired of being unhappy and how everyone would be happy now that she was dead. The screen goes black, a light comes on in the corner behind us, and there’s the girl laying there, dead from what appeared to be a chestburster alien but was, we were informed, a self-inflicted gunshot to the chest.

Next room! Two coffins and a large projected video that was a replay of three news stories. An 11 year old girl who hanged herself because of bullying, a college student who died in a car accident because her brother was driving drunk, and a group of people who started an anti-texting while driving campaign because a boy had died when a girl was distracted while texting.
Then things got really weird. We were led into what we dubbed pre-hell. A comparatively older woman, in her forties or so when most of the actors had been teens, was chained to a wall and wailing. She was then taken by a demon away as she struggled. Carly and I both later confirmed we’d had the same thought, that this was sex trafficking or something, but it was just showing people who made bad choices being led to hell.

And then WE, too, entered hell. A man dressed as “the devil” walked back and forth and badly lip-synced to us about how hell was a real place and he was the devil. We’d seen people making bad choices and now all those people were in hell. While this is going on caged people dressed, basically, as zombies are wailing and reaching out toward us asking us to take them out. And then a beam of light comes through and the devil screams “no, they’re mine, don’t take them!” and other such things.

The next scene takes place on mount Golgotha. I remember this mostly for the line “COME ON JESUS, MOVE!” as he’s led out, lugging his cross, covered in hilariously fake wounds. Next room is the crucifixion. There are three crosses – two of them have televisions mounted on the crosses and the third, tallest, has a ridiculously gory Jesus on it, facing away from us. The televisions come to life, showing scenes from a passion movie of Jesus being beaten, and then the middle cross begins to rotate so we see Jesus full on, heaving and bloody and wearing a pair of ripped up LL Bean shorts.

We’re led into a final room with a TV screen where we watch “The Bridge.” This is a dramatic depiction of the quandary that I thought was used to diagnose psychopaths. A man who apparently has the job of flipping a lever to move a train track so a train doesn’t derail realizes his child is playing on the mechanism. If he flips the lever his son will be crushed to death. If he doesn’t the whole train load of people will die. He flips the lever.

This version was further complicated because an attractive, perky young woman is on that train and about to shoot up the heroin she’s heating up on a spoon in the main cabin. As the train goes past the distraught man she catches sight of him and decides not to shoot up. You then see her, holding her young daughter, see the man and they smile at each other for a long time.

The movie ends and a man stands up and talks about how God also chose to let his son die so we could have life. He goes on for a bit and then asks us to bow our heads and close our eyes for a prayer “just out of respect” and raise our hands if we want to accept Jesus. Then he says “I see those hands.” and we’re led into the final room which has maybe around 100 small tables set up with people at each. The person says “gentlemen to the left ladies to the right” and Carly and I ended up separated. As I walked toward the men’s side with no exit visible anywhere one of the security people points and me and says “what is that?” trying to figure out if I’m male or female. I caught sight of the exit and got the hell out of there.

Carly sat down with one of the counselor people and had a conversation in which she was told she wasn’t a real Christian because she’d been baptized as an infant, not as an adult, and that being confirmed in the church was not salvation. While that was going on I made a pissed off Facebook post and left a ranting message on a friends answering machine. Finally Carly came out and we left kind of angry about the really terrible theology and how they had duped people into this.

If you look at their website there is nothing about religion anywhere to be found unless you already know what you’re looking for. Is that the only way they think they’ll be able to save people? By lying to them about what they’re going to and scaring, pressuring and forcing them into hearing a poorly translated message of salvation? It’s some seriously flawed theology they’re working from.

http://www.whatisthe99.com/

May 21, 2013

Praying With Johnny and Other Thoughts from Trans Day of Celebration

I’ll admit to kind of rolling my eyes when the idea of the Transgender Day of Celebration was brought up. I agreed to take part in the service and did my bit to invite folks but I kind of figured it would be a bit of a letdown. “Who was even going to come to this?” was my primary thought. Secondary thoughts included, “I have nothing of value to say” and “why does my voice squeak so much when I’m nervous?” Tertiary to those was, “crap, I have to iron a shirt.”

I procrastinated on writing. I angsted to friends online, I convinced myself anything I had to say was crap, and finally on Saturday night I erased everything and started from the beginning. It was only 5 minutes of talking, it wasn’t like I trashed a novel I’d was almost done with.

I walked into the narthex of the church and dutifully found who I needed to. We did all the run through stuff and scribbled down some cues and just went for it. There was surprisingly little direction; mostly I think we all just assumed that we’d done enough church in our respective lives that we could pull off this service with all the advance planning Jamez had done. Which was totally true; the main folks in the service have done a LOT of church between us.

My reflection went well I guess. You can tell it’s a queer service when people give you snaps to affirm what you’re saying.

So much of my time preparing for this service had been put into trying to figure out how to encapsulate my trans experience, in relation to Psalm 139, into under 5 minutes that I had completely ignored that I’d agreed to offer personal blessings during the service.

I walked up to the front and the first two people who came up to me were people I, at the very least, knew somewhat well. I knew their names, I knew their pronouns, and I knew enough of who they were and what they were doing with their lives that I could somewhat tailor the prayer to them.

And then Johnny Blazes walks up and I’m like, “crap. Really?” Not because I don’t’ like Johnny. I think Johnny is awesome. I’m basically in awe of Johnny. I don’t, however, know Johnny very well. We travel in a lot of the same circles but, being an antisocial grad student who leaves the house only under extreme circumstances like “I’m out of coffee,” I’m not sure we’d ever had an actual conversation. I may have complimented their hair once at Trannywreck.

So Johnny comes up, we hold hands, I ask their pronouns and just kinda went for it.

I prayed. I probably said the word community like 20 times, asking that they be upheld by the community that they do so much to uphold, and it was all over pretty quickly. I mean, it’s a prayer, not a dying declaration. Shortness is okay.

Nobody else came up to me. I was fine with that.

I keep realizing how much personal prayer means to me. I’ve posted about it at least twice before here and here. It wasn’t something that spoke to me for a long time but I keep realizing time and again how important it is to me to be able to sit with somebody and be prayed for or to pray for them.

It’s another fucking growth opportunity, okay? I’ll work on it in seminary.

The rest of the Trans Day of Celebration was awesome. It was like all the best of my community all in one room doing awesome things. Red Durkin did some of the funniest stand up I’ve ever seen. Liam and Johnny and Bethel and Evan and so many other people sang songs that spoke to all of us and Evan’s kid stole the entire show, no questions asked, by singing part of Twinkle Twinkle Little Star with, I think… trigger warnings prefacing it. Evan’s kid is 2.

So basically what I’m saying is twofold: my thoughts are totally scattered and it was awesome.

The end!
Look, we sang This Little Light of Mine!

April 11, 2013

Have you policed the trans community today?

policetranscommunity
For those unable to read the image:
Set up is a bingo board with a bluish purple background in a gradient from dark to light.

Title is “Have you policed the trans community enough today?”

Spaces read, from left to right, top to bottom
Real trans people aren’t excited about HRT
Born in the wrong body
“Trans Pride” is dumb
You aren’t trans if you don’t try hard enough
Genderqueer people don’t exist
Being trans isn’t something to be proud of
You aren’t trans if you didn’t hate your childhood
Living deep stealth is the only way to authentically experience
Real trans people aren’t gay/lesbian
Trans people don’t enjoy having sex “like their birth gender”
No real trans person would ever reveal their birth name
Trans people don’t belong at Gay Pride events
You aren’t trans without SRS
Nobody will take you seriously if you don’t change your voice
If you aren’t on HRT you are “just” a gay man/lesbian
You have to pack/tuck when you’re dressed up or EVERYONE WILL KNOW
Trans people are uncomfortable with their bodies at all times
All trans people hate swimming
You aren’t really trans if you like “playing with gender”
Trans men can’t be feminist
Trans women can’t wear jeans
Religious trans people are dumb; God messed up with your body
No real trans man wants to get pregnant
Real trans people want to date hetero cis people
Real trans people want to stop IDing as trans after they “fully transition”

January 12, 2013

We lost a hero this week

Did you know a hero died this week?  I suppose the argument could be made that heroes die every day of every week of every month but a hero died this week.  Jeanne Manford passed away at the age of 92 after living a life of acceptance with grace and compassion.  Manford founded PFLAG; Parents and Friends of Lesbians and Gays.  In 1972 she marched in the New York City Pride Parade carrying a sign in support of her gay son, Morty.  Morty’s life was cut short, as so many of my queer parents and siblings lives’ were, by AIDS.  Jeanne Manford continued to fight for acceptance of LGBTQ people; she evolved with the times, moved with the movements, and was an ally and a presence for her entire life.

We lost a hero this week.  The LGBTQ community lost not only an ally but a parent and a grandparent.  Because of activism like Jeanne’s so many of us were able to go further, faster, and with less fear of not being accepted and knowing we were entering a world with greater understanding.  She didn’t solve the problem of families that don’t accept their children but she helped let those children know that other people did accept them.  She brought allies into the movement; a necessary step in bringing the oppression of LGBTQ people into the greater public knowledge.

A prayer for the heroes

Thank you, God, for giving us the heroes
The down to earth folks who speak quietly
From living rooms
And computers
And through small acts of kindness

Thank you, God, for giving us the heroes
That shout from the rooftops
And the pubs
And the street corners
Whether anybody listens or not

Thank you, God, for the grandparents
Who stand up and say
No
Oppression wasn’t okay in my time
And it’s not okay now, either

Thank you God for the younger siblings
Who never question who you are
Since you’re always the person
Who stole Halloween candy
When you were eight

And thank you, God
For the blessing of those who stand
When we cannot be our own hero
Or when we don’t want to be
Or when one voice isn’t enough

Thank you, God, for the allies
Who stand by our sides
And let us lead
And follow with gusto

Thank you, God, for the heroes
The every-day
And the extraordinary
And the old
And the young
And the visible
And the invisible
God, thank you for the heroes.

November 16, 2012

Corrupting the Future of America

I live with a couple of absolutely amazing kids.  DangerLad is 5 and AdventureLass (their parents’ picked the nicknames) is 3; I’ve known them since they were born and they’re tons of fun and I’ve lived with them for almost two years now.  DangerLad, at least, knows that I’m not a “regular” boy, or he did at one point but sometimes he wants it explained again.  It comes up really infrequently with him and is definitely not a part of our day to day conversations.  AdventureLass, frankly, is a three year old.  She just knows me as Andy and that’s enough for her.

Last night I took the kids out to dinner.  It was just a chain restaurant but they’re young enough that it’s still a big treat.  AdventureLass was sitting on my lap and asked what the button on the collar of my shirt said.  I took it off and pointed to the words as I read them.  “Trans Rights Now.”  DangerLad piped up with, “what’s that mean?”

It’s Transgender Awareness Week which ends in the Transgender Day of Remembrance so I wore my button from the Massachusetts Transgender Political Coalition to class.  AdventureLass, being three, is interested in anything shiny.  But DangerLad, at the ripe old age of 5, wanted to know what the shiny thing meant.

This is where I feel like people get hung up on explaining stuff to kids.  They’re afraid that they’ll scar the kid, or that the kid isn’t ready to have their questions answered.  This is how I’ve chosen to explain being trans and the fight for equitable rights to the kids; I know that they won’t understand every word but hearing a message of inclusion is important.  Their parents have never specifically asked how I’ve explained my identity to them but their kids seem no worse for the wear and they trust me to answer the other questions the kids ask… so why not these?

When people are born their parents or their doctors either call them a boy or a girl and usually those little baby boys grow up to be big boys and then men and usually those little girls grow up to be big girls and then women like your mommy and daddy.

Sometimes, however, those baby boys don’t want to grow up to be big boys or men; they feel like they aren’t really a boy.  Maybe they feel like a girl, and maybe they don’t feel like a boy or a girl, so they might dress differently or cut their hair differently than people think a boy should.  And sometimes those baby girls don’t want to grow up to be big girls or women so they might dress more like boys and maybe cut their hair.  That’s called being transgender, or trans.

Some people are mean to trans people because they think they look different or sound different but that’s not nice.  In church we learn that EVERY person is important and that we should be kind in everything that we do and that we should treat everybody fairly.  That is what a “right” is – treating everybody fairly and being kind to everybody and not just the people who are just like you.  So “Trans Rights Now” means that transgender people, or trans people, deserve to be treated fairly like everybody else.

This isn’t, of course, verbatim what I said.  I checked in with DangerLad a couple times to make sure he understood, and he asked a few questions that led to short tangents.  It was more of a conversation than a lecture.  But… yeah.  That’s how I explained being transgender to a 5 year old.  He’d heard most of it before, in various ways, but it never hurts to repeat it.  It also never hurts to answer questions.  And as he gets older I’m sure he’ll have more questions that either I, or his parents, will answer.
So yes, folks, this IS the gay agenda.  We corrupt children over cheap faux-Mexican food.  Be afraid.

May 9, 2012

All this gay stuff

Last week a North Carolina Baptist pastor went on a 55 minute sermon-tirade about amendment one, gay people, and most notably what to do if you think your son is acting “gay” or “effeminate.”  Though any parenting book in the world would tell you otherwise, this man recommended breaking the limp wrist of young boys and punching your son if he acted too effeminate.  Young girls, in contrast, are not to be allowed to get “too butch;” dress them up and make them objects of attraction.

The outcry from the queer community was immediate and intense.  Child abuse is bad; that’s just a baseline standard most all people operate under.  Moving on from that those in the queer community either personally know the pain of being “different” as a child or they have friends or partners who know that pain.  Allies in the fight for just treatment in society heard the sermon and said “no, that’s wrong.”  We united.

This pastor eventually issued an apology – sort of.  He apologized if we were offended.  He didn’t say he was sorry he said it.  He justified it by saying he was using hyperbolic speech to get a point across like in the bible.  He didn’t elaborate on which parts of the bible he found hyperbolic but I know I’d be interested.

This sermon-tirade occurred in North Carolina before the Tuesday vote on Amendment One, an amendment that passed and therefore reinforced the ban on same-sex marriage in North Carolina but also took scores of rights away from not married couples, same sex or heterosexual, that live together.  It’s an amendment that had no purpose whatsoever and passed only because of fear, homophobic, lies, and scare tactics.  I know what it is like to lose these fights; to sit around as your rights are voted on all day and then watch the polls come in not in your favor.  It’s heartbreaking.

There’s the heartbreak of those voting against you but there’s the added heartbreak of the “liberal” community who have decided they are “too liberal” or “too radical” or “above” marriage equality.  These are folks who tear down the victories many of us have fought long and hard for by telling us that we’re not being radical enough, or liberal enough, or that we’re buying into the system too much.  And when we lose something we fought hard for we’re told by these people not to be sad.  We were fighting for the wrong thing anyway.  Immediately articles about how we only car about marriage when, for instance, the prison industrial complex still targets LGBTQ prisoners and nobody cares pop up all over social networking sites.

The message is clear: if you fight for equality that buys into preexisting systems you are being naïve.

Today, less than 24 hours after Amendment One passed in North Carolina, President Obama came out publicly in support of full marriage rights for same sex couples making him, obviously, the first sitting president to do so.  I, along with hundreds of others, was elated.  We had a president, finally, saying something beyond evasive answers like “that is up to each state” and “civil unions that grant all the same rights and protections are comparable…”.  We had a president saying “I believe gay people who want to get marriage should be able to.

It’s a big moment.  We shouldn’t underestimate that.

Almost immediately those “I’m more liberal than you” folks came out, posting articles titled things like “Barack Obama’s Bullshit Marriage Announcement.”  Saying, again, “You’ve bought in.  It’s pathetic how much your bought in.”

This is an issue I’ve been passionately fighting for for years.  Marriage equality DOES still matter; we cannot wait for everything to be perfectly aligned, for all other injustices to be healed before we celebrate any wins.

I’m happy that Obama came out in favor of marriage equality.  I’m going to celebrate that.

March 12, 2012

The Foreign Country of “College”

I went to the nicest college I’ve ever heard about.  It’s not the fanciest, or the most expensive (it’s not the cheapest by a long shot!).  We’re not churning out folks in congress (we do have one, though).  My college isn’t well known, and it doesn’t earn the same amount of immediate “respect” upon mention as, say Harvard or Brown.  But it’s a wonderful place where you learn a lot in and out of class and where the people are genuinely nice.

There aren’t really bullies at College of the Atlantic, not in the traditional sense.  If you lined up all the students, which wouldn’t be that hard since there are only around 300, you probably couldn’t pick out who the most popular ones were, or the ones who led student governance, or the ones who spoke the most in class.  In some ways we’re a school of misfits and outcasts who have a lot of good ideas and found a place where we were told to speak up.  You’re in a class of MAYBE 10 other people; if you don’t make your opinions known it’s noticeable.  So you learn to be heard.  Not necessarily to speak, but to be heard.

I learned to speak up before College of the Atlantic; I was carefully groomed by some well-known LGBTQ organizations on how to speak loudly, proudly, and on topic.  I’ve been through more media trainings that I know what to do with, and I know how to pick three talking points and stick to them.  I know how to not get injured while protesting and I know how to deescalate confrontation if it needs to be deescalated.  I know how to make protest signs that cannot be misconstrued by media on the opposing side.

What College of the Atlantic taught me was to be intentional; that it’s actually okay to “sit one out” when something comes up and you’re just too exhausted for it.  It’s perfectly alright to let a chance at organizing, protesting, or giving a speech pass you by and assume that somebody else will take it up.  College of the Atlantic was homogenous enough that I was able to fit in and, therefore, relax.  I didn’t have to be on eggshells there because I was just another one of the quirks at the school.

There’s this thing about college though; it ends. I graduated in 2010, moved out of town then out of state and suddenly I was back in the real world.  The world where my haircut signifies something other than “owns a pair of clippers” and where I can’t expect to introduce myself as Andrew and not have folks question it.  The world where it wasn’t accepted that folks would engage in debate about an issue while sticking, somewhat, to accepted rules.  The world where you can’t point out privilege to somebody and expect them to know what you mean.  The world where people lock their doors at night.

College of the Atlantic, and I’m assuming lots of places like it, gave you enough comfort to fight for what you truly cared about rather than everything that came across your path.  I took a ton of interesting classes there but that lesson, of fighting for what I felt was truly right rather than what I felt I had to fight for, was far more necessary than many of the classes.  It’s not something you can learn in a weekend retreat or a week long class; it took three years to even start making sense to me, and I’m still sorting stuff out almost two years after graduation.

In short, College of the Atlantic taught me to say, “no” when I needed so that I could say, “yes” to life.

And then I left.

It was almost like having lived in a foreign country during your formative years and then being dropped right back off in your country of origin as soon as you hit your stride.

I’m still struggling a little bit; misspeaking here and there, and having some major flops at times.  I forget that it’s not totally acceptable for me to speak up when I feel something isn’t okay in the same way I have been.  That’s not necessarily a good thing, but there are existing power structures that I get to play in to as I move forward toward ministry.  There are some pretty gross examples of people using their power and privilege over me in ways that I hadn’t experienced before because in the past that stuff would have been called out and stopped immediately.  It’s hard for me to step back and say “there’s a power structure here that’s much bigger than me, and I don’t have the right to change it right now.”

This isn’t better than the system at my school.  This doesn’t make those existing and limiting power structures okay.  And this doesn’t make the people abusing their power and privilege over others right or responsible or okay.  And sometimes I’ll explode a little because somebody is being so monumentally ridiculous in private and the antithesis of who they claim to be in public.

But we will get there.  Heaven knows how we will get there.  But we know within.

Right?  Please tell me that’s right.  Please tell me we will get there.  We’ve gotta.

February 14, 2012

Do Trans People Have Sex?

You betcha.

You know what we also have?  We have questions.  We have questions about sex and sexuality and all that stuff, especially when we’re younger and especially because “that stuff” often isn’t covered by mainstream sex education.  It’s not covered by most but the most liberal and extensive of sex education.

Scarleteen is a comprehensive sexuality education site; we have a messageboard, a text service, articles, polls, blog posts, and expert advice columns.  We support over FIVE MILLION young people every year on a really modest budget; under 60K to support all of that.

And when I say “we” I do mean “we” because I work with Scarleteen.  I am a Scarleteen volunteer because I know how important sexuality education is, and I know how important it is to be able to ask absolutely any question and receive a factual, nonjudgmental answer from somebody.  This is especially important to me, as a trans person, because there’s just not a ton of information out there about sexuality education for folks outside the gender binary.

Sexuality education goes way, way beyond “how not to get pregnant” or “don’t get a sexually transmitted infection.”  Sexuality education is about healthy relationships AND healthy bodies.  We truly focus on both at Scarleteen.  And we do it with an almost-entirely volunteer staff, and any extra education we need comes entirely from the wonderful (and overworked) Heather Corinna.  We’re a really small group, all with lives outside Scarleteen, providing a lot of services to a lot of people and we do it because we love and respect healthy sexuality.  But we can’t do it for free.

Please consider a generous donation to Scarleteen.  If all you can spare is a few dollars that’s great.  But if you truly care about sexuality education and you CAN afford to give more please consider doing so.  Sexuality education is so important.

Donate here.

February 11, 2012

Let’s Hold a Revival

Let’s find a field in the middle of nowhere.  Preferably in a “flyover” state.  Maybe somewhere in the Midwest just to really mess with our “northerner” sensibilities.   Let’s find a field and let’s pitch a tent.  And maybe put up a little stage, but that’s totally optional.  Let’s make sure we can have bon fires, though.  Those aren’t optional.

Let’s invite the best and the most passionate of the “up and coming” folks in our denomination to come and preach.  Let’s make sure we arrange for folks to be able to carpool and let’s bring tents.  We all own tents now, after OccupyEverywhereInTheFreakingUS.  So let’s break out those tents again and let’s camp.  Let’s be alive in our faith without worrying that we look silly or ridiculous or too passionate.

Let’s hold a revival.

I’m thinking August 2013.

Who’s in?

January 12, 2012

“Cookies Support the Transgenders”

At least according to one young girl in California. Recently a video was posted by a young teenager from California who says that she has been a Girl Scout for 8 years and is really upset that the Girl Scouts have a policy in place that welcomes transgender girls (she repeatedly calls them transgender boys) into full inclusion and community with the Girl Scouts. She encourages us to boycott Girl Scout cookies, either by not selling them if we’re a member of Girl Scouts or by not buying them if we’re just part of the cookie loving masses.

Thankfully most of the response I have seen from my friends has been “let’s buy extra cookies this year to support the Girl Scouts and their policy of inclusivity.” That’s great! That is positive activism, that is change through love. There have been the few comments I’ve seen on Facebook calling this girl stupid, calling her a bitch, calling her things that NO parent would want to see their kid called. Names I don’t want to see any kid called, either.

She is a kid. She’s 14 I think, and it’s clear this movie wasn’t totally her idea. The editing is a little too sophisticated, her reading a little too stilted, everything just a little “too” to be completely written, planned, filmed, edited, and posted without adult intervention somewhere in the process. None of that is to say it might not have been her idea, or something that she mentioned at dinner that a parent latched on to. But more than likely she’s a girl who was put up to something by her conservative parents who were upset about the possible inclusion of transgender or gender varient girls in Girl Scouts. That kind of thing CAN sound scary if presented in the wrong way to a young girl (or, frankly, to anybody) and I have no doubt that she does believe what she’s saying.

It’s scary when something is presented to you in a way that makes it sound like something you know and love is changing. If a young teen is told “we’re going to let boys into your Girl Scout troop!” I can see how that could freak a kid out. The problem, of course, being that boys aren’t being allowed into Girl Scout troops. There’s a good chance that this girl has no way of knowing that; if she’s been fed the typical right-wing rhetoric about what transgender means then… yeah, she has it wrong and it probably does sound scary. That rhetoric usually goes something like “unstable men who like to dress up like women so they can use the girl’s bathrooms and possibly hurt girls.”

I have no doubt that this girl was raised in a conservative Christian household; every sign is there. She wears a cross, the video was immediately up on a very Christian-centric website, and even the script she was reading from was very “family values”-centric. Read the terminology they use… all those words are carefully chosen and come from the same place as Focus on the Family, the American Family Association and other innocuous-sounding-but-hateful groups.

I feel bad for this girl. I feel bad that it’s clearly going to be awhile before she has any actual chance to explore the world a little and meet people not in her religious, social, and political demographic. I feel bad that she’s probably getting a lot of hate directed at her right now from liberal folks and that that is just going to enforce the points she has been fed. I feel bad that she was used in this way to push an agenda that she clearly doesn’t know much about. I just feel bad for her.

Let’s keep this boycott-of-the-boycott positive. Let’s buy a ton of cookies and let’s send letters of support to Girl Scouts, thanking them for being inclusive and forward-moving. Let’s not demonize a 14 year old girl for something I have no doubt she’ll regret at some point. She really is just a kid.

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