Archive for ‘queer’

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/

June 12, 2013

Human Ecological Religious Leadership

My “call”

In seminary the most common question after “Wait, that’s due TODAY?” is “so tell me about your call”; in other words, “when did you know you were called by God/god/the Holy Spirit/the Divine/some higher force to go into religious leadership?” I knew some folks who have a very definitive “call” story but for me it was a long series of revelations. What it boils down to is that I loved social justice work but I felt like there was something missing and, for me, that something was spirit of community.

Discernment

When I started seriously considering religious leadership as a career path I contacted the alumni office and asked for a list of any COA alums who had gone onto religious leadership. Recognizing that not everyone keeps in touch with their undergrad and still others may be highly active in religious communities without having attained a professional degree in the subject, it was still a disappointingly small list.

There were four names on it.

Now I know that College of the Atlantic is not a large school but even within that reality four is a small number of people. Organized religion is just not a huge part of the day to day life of students at College of the Atlantic; it wasn’t really a big part of my life when I started there in 2007. Over time, though, I found myself being pulled in that direction and grasping hold of the thought that ministry was not an incompatible goal within the context of human ecology. I even wrote my human ecology paper on the 7 principles of Unitarian Universalism as my personal definition of human ecology.

I took those names and happily one of the people, Paul, was a minister from my own denomination, Unitarian Universalism; we were able to talk on the phone and even meet up in person at our national denominational meeting the following June. Later, when I was accepted into the Master of Divinity program at Boston University School of Theology, Paul shared that news with his congregation during their sharing of joys and sorrows.

Religious Education

Boston University School of Theology isn’t like College of the Atlantic in almost any way. There are students, faculty, staff, and buildings but beyond that they are pretty dissimilar. I’m at one of the larger research universities in the country, sitting in lectures with nationally renowned theologians, and a member of the Boston Theological Institute which gives me access to all 10 divinity schools here in Boston and the surrounding areas. Martin Luther King Jr. went to seminary here as the school is so fond of reminding people.

When I walked in here on that first day of orientation I was met with the nervous energy of a bunch of adults acting like middle schoolers at that first dance where nobody wants to step into the middle and just go for it. If you’ll remember COA orientation it involves a scavenger hunt and jumping into the ocean. Seminary orientation involved prayer and a whole lot of Jesus.

Unitarian Universalism is unique in that it’s not a specifically Christian denomination that grew out of the merger of the Unitarians and the Universalists in 1961. We’re historically very liberal; both denominations have been ordaining women since the mid-1800s, openly gay people since the late 1970s, openly transgender people since the 1980s, and we’ve often been at the forefront of various social justice campaigns.

While at College of the Atlantic my identity as an openly transgender social justice activist was never a concern to almost anybody; in seminary I realized I had little in common with my classmates. There were a few gay and lesbian people, and a person here and there who clearly had some understanding of LGBTQ issues. I wasn’t suddenly thrown into school with a bunch of people who were going to try to save me from the sins of my homosexuality but I wasn’t with people who I felt like I could relax around.

Now THAT’S what I call Human Ecology

I have a therapist. I swear the first two things ministers tell you when you tell them you’re planning to go into ministry are 1) “don’t” and 2) “get a therapist.” So I have this therapist who said to try to treat school as an anthropological exploration. She wanted me to act as an outsider learning about this other culture without fully immersing myself in it if that was too painful. That’s not how I learned to learn in my time at College of the Atlantic. As human ecologists we don’t learn only by observing but by immersion and participation in community.

As a human ecologist I am asked to study how I and others interact with our natural and human-manufactured environments. Seminary is a human manufactured environment; we sit in rooms and learn how to read ancient texts, or how to talk to somebody about a crisis in their life, or how to evangelize (yes, that is an actual class and no, I don’t plan to put it into practice as it was taught). I cannot learn from the outside; I have to jump in and try to carve out a space for myself while respecting that others don’t see that space for me as valid.

So I’m here. Things have calmed down a little. People are used to seeing me around even if a number of them don’t really agree with my “lifestyle.” I know that my own denomination is fully supportive even if some of the people I’m in school with don’t understand how that could be. I am serving my denomination on a national level as the Young Adult worship coordinator and on a local level I help lead worship, work with children, and provide pastoral care for people going through difficult times.

The future

I’ve only just finished my first year so I don’t definitively know where I’m going in the future. If I could pick my ideal future career I’d serve as an associate minister with a focus on social justice. I’d be able to continue my social justice work through a ministerial context while still working within a congregational setting. I think the liberal faith voice is essential when “liberal” and “faith” are often pitted against one another in our national dialogues. My background as an activist is integral to my future as a minister and my education as a human ecologist is the lens through which I act in the world. College of the Atlantic has been a non-traditional but hugely beneficial platform from which to approach seminary.

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 15, 2013

A prayer after communion

A friend was preaching tonight at the local Metropolitan Community Church and since he’s somebody I have a lot of respect for and whose ministry I value, I went. I figured “it’ll be a lot of Jesus” which isn’t a bad thing but it doesn’t really mesh with my theology. I was right; it was a LOT of Jesus.

It was a really small service, maybe twenty people in the room all told, and I think I was personally greeted by at least ten of them before the service started. I finally agreed to fill out a visitor card just so they’d stop offering them to me. When reading through the order of worship before service I noticed that they were doing communion and looked around for an explanation of their communion practices.

I’m not as stringently anti-communion as I was when the school year started. I spent a good part of spring break reading about communion practices and came up with my own “guidelines” about when I would and would not participate in communion. Suffice it to say I didn’t figure that an MCC church would have any issues with my participation in communion.

Most denominations that do communion have the same general principle behind it and then mess with it just enough to be “unique” and to “confuse newcomers.” At this church it is common practice to take communion and then receive a short prayer.

Honestly I couldn’t figure out how to not participate. Everyone else was and I was confused so I just made sure to step to the side where my friend was praying with people since, hey, I trust the guy.

I’ve had some bad experiences with folks praying over/with/about/to me. Lots of praying out the demons of homosexuality, praying out the demons that cause me to be rude to my parents, the demons that make me cuss and, when I was 10, the demons that led to my owning a CD by Hanson (perhaps that prayer was justified). Two years ago I prayed with a chaplain at general assembly which sort of made me okay with the practice in theory but it really needs to be somebody I trust in order for me to really hear the prayer rather than focus on the ten kinds of awkward inherent in the situation.

Tonight I held the hands of a friend and minister and he prayed for me and, like I said, I trust him and I respect his ministry and he’s a good person. But the really touching part was that this guy knows me. He knows I don’t really do the Jesus thing much. So he fit the prayer to me. He didn’t end with “In Jesus name” he didn’t throw much (any?) God into the prayer, and there was no hierarchical “Lord.” He held my hands and he prayed for me in a way he knew I would find accessible.

I’m always collecting bits and pieces of what effective ministry looks like but I’m not some cyborg seminary student who simply collects information whilst ignoring emotional situations. I’ve had a pretty rough year and it was really touching to feel cared for and ministered to in a different way than usual.

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”

February 23, 2013

My identity is the message I scrawl inside

I can’t write you each a thank you note
because there aren’t enough thank you notes in the world.
And I don’t have your address.
I think I lost it when I moved.
And a lot of you don’t have addresses any longer.
But let my body be that envelope
for that thank you note
and my men’s clothes the pretty picture on front
and let the simple fact that my identity exists
be the message I scrawl inside
thanking you
for all you’ve done for me.

For all the butches out there
but especially those first strong, fierce, bold women
who took their identity public
and political
and said “this is who I am” with their dapper hats and pressed shirts.
From the Beebo Brinkers
to the Leslie Feinbergs
to the unnamed women who kicked those stones out of the way
so those of us who came after them
didn’t have to tread quite as carefully.

Thank you

For all the femmes out there
who said, “oh honey, I love you exactly like you are,”
those fierce ass women who society loves to ignore
or fetishize,
for all of you who told the people I’d date in the future
that it was okay to date the girl
in the button up
and the ill-fitting men’s pants
and the too big boots
and thus led to too many flings and lots of loving embraces.

Thank you

For the drag queens
who said enough is e-god-damn-fucking-nough

Thank you

For the parents who chose love for their children
above societal expectations
and who dutifully plugged away in libraries and on websites
filled with outdated and incorrect information
only to make mistakes
and apologize
and still walk their kid down the aisle
toward her wife
or up the courthouse
after she was fired from a job she loved because other people were
too afraid of her.

Thank you.

For all of you who have been arrested
for being the fabulous queers you are
and for all of you struggling
to be fabulous queers while incarcerated.

Thank you.

For all my friends who didn’t outwardly flinch when I came out
and allowed me to have a life outside of being “the trans guy”
and who sang with me at open mics
and laughed with me while we crowded into our hallway
to watch bad TV
and who let me cry when the world got a little too tough.

Thank you.

For every one of the ministers
mentors
teachers
lovers in my life who has ever said “I believe in you”
whether they believe
in the current incarnation of me
or one of the many identities I’ve traveled through
to get to this spot.

Thank you.

For all my contemporaneous queers
who fight these fights
and accept these struggles
and lift each other up
when we get knocked down.

Thank you.

©Andrew Coate. Please do not share in full without linking back to http://www.thoughtsonblank.wordpress.com

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.

September 30, 2012

Trans folks and porn and legislating identity

This post contains frank discussion of pornography, erotica, and trans* sexuality.  Also there’s some less than “Safe For Work” language, though I’m going to * it so it doesn’t get caught by filters.

You have been warned.

The definition of trans* I’ll be working with here is anybody on the trans spectrum, including genderqueer, transgender, transexual, cross dressing, etc.  People who do not necessarily or at all times identify with the gender they were assigned at birth.

A few years ago I became kind of obsessed with porn.  There was nothing sexual about this, really.  I was obsessed with the trans* representation in porn or, more precisely, the lack of trans* representation in porn.  Porn acts almost as a distillation of society at its most basic; there’s no for nuance or dialogue or story.  You have to be able to pick up everything visually, in an instant, without needing back story or to think too hard.  And in mainstream porn there is very little trans* representation – and the trans representation that does exist only serves, really, to reinforce the gender binary.

Tonight a friend linked me to a tumblr that says it’s about FTM (Female to Male trans*) Porn; both actual porn and writing about porn.  I clicked over and scrolled down a few posts to find this post an FTM-person had written in response to a comment that has been deleted:

I don’t want support from the community. I don’t even belong to the community. I walked out when I realized how fucking stupid it was 2 months into my transition. I don’t want or need support from people who glamorize a medical condition and run around with your t*ts flopping around, being comfortable in your body when the only symptom of transsexualism is dysphoria. When you don’t show dysphoria, it’s hard for me to believe you’re not using testosterone as a beauty product. If you like your body, why alter it?

I don’t want to see t*ts and v*ginas in the ftm tag, sorry that’s a crime.

You can all spread your legs and rub your p*ssies all you want, but if you’re showing it publicly, I will not treat you like a man.

And that, my friends, is what we call a problem.

I know that there are a lot of transexual folks who do not consider themselves part of the trans community.  Once they’ve transitioned they’re done; they’re happy to finally feel whole or right or whatever term you’d like to use and they’re happy to identify as whichever gender they’ve transitioned to.  That’s fine!

When people try to push that off as the only way to be a trans person?  That becomes way not fine at all.  The only identity you can legislate is your own identity.  When you try to tell other people how to live their gender identity we end up with this gross oversimplification of gender and we end up with a lot of people who don’t or can’t fit into that binary getting shoved to the sidelines.

August 30, 2012

It begins

My minister has a framed picture on the wall of his office at church – it’s the Tichh Nhat Hanh meditation “I have arrived.  I am home.”  Since I’m in his office a fair bit, between meeting with him individually and for Pastoral Care Associate meetings and such I have stared at this picture a lot.  I love it.

 

I started seminary today.  I was a nervous wreck for the past few days and then… I got there.  And in all of its fluorescent lit, mediocre bagels and bad coffee glory I had arrived.  I took a seat and started talking to people.  People, mostly people close to my age, doing the same thing as me.  This thing none of my college friends understand even though they’re being really nice about it.  It felt so right.

We did all the normal orientation things.  It was explained what a venerable and esteemed institution we were at, the multifaceted, and I’m sure very unique, benefits were tossed around, and we mingled.  I met new people and old people and I laughed and I felt, well, blessed.  To be there.  To be able to be there.  I felt like I belonged.

After lunch four of us ended up outside playing Frisbee and already we have inside jokes (they involve me aiming at freshmen).  We went on a hideously long walking tour of Boston immediately after which we had to go to a fancy hotel to meet our professors.  We ate fancy-ish hors d’oeuvres and laughed at how underdressed almost everyone was.

It was good.  I returned home happy, and content, and thrilled, and all kinds of other adjectives.

And it was good, too, because when I posted a happy status about being in seminary over FIFTY of my friends “liked” the status on Facebook.  These friends who have been following me from when I first declared I may, possibly, be interested in seminary to today, when I started.  Friends from college and friends from church and minister after minister after minister saying “Good for you.  I’m glad.”  It was such a fun, good feeling.

Not everything was perfect.  Almost nobody got my pronouns right, and while my name was correct on my nametag it was incorrect on my folder and my advisor letter.  I am pretty sure there’s no gender neutral bathroom that’s easily accessible in the building.  I was too scared to correct people much.  I am incredibly dehydrated because, well, if you don’t think there’s a place to go to the bathroom you don’t drink enough water.

But I have arrived.  I am home.  It’s not perfect and there are going to be speed bumps and awful bits but, right now, in this moment, I’M THERE.  That’s what matters right now.  I am THERE.

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.

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