Godless Perverts Book Club: “My President Was Black,” Ta-Nehisi Coates


Godless Perverts is starting a book club! Want to talk books with other nonbelievers interested in sexuality and social justice? Come to the very first Godless Perverts Book Club, Tuesday January 17 at Borderlands! We’ll be discussing a wide variety of books over the coming months, about sex, gender, atheism, religion, science, activism, resistance, and other topics in the Godless Perverts wheelhouse.

For our first selection, we decided to read a hefty article instead of a book, since part of the first meeting will be devoted to getting things off the ground and choosing the next book. We will be reading the Ta-Nehisi Coates article in The Atlantic, “My President Was Black.” The article addresses issues around identity politics (a.k.a. civil rights), respectability politics, and the role and functions of the President. While this is not specific to godlessness and perversion, it should lead to some good discussions regarding the current political climate, what we expect from politicians (whether friend or foe) and how we should hold politicians accountable. The article is about a 2 hour read (17000 words).

The Godless Perverts Book Club is at Borderlands Cafe, 870 Valencia St. in San Francisco. Continue reading “Godless Perverts Book Club: “My President Was Black,” Ta-Nehisi Coates”

Godless Perverts Book Club: “My President Was Black,” Ta-Nehisi Coates

Politics and Sexual Shame

pointing finger

Content note: sexual shaming, the president-elect, passing mention of rape.

Please find a way to talk about the latest DT/ Russia/ blackmail story in Buzzfeed, without shaming consensual sexual activity.

If the activity being discussed isn’t your thing, please try to imagine what it’s like for people who do engage in it seeing it viciously mocked on social media. Or else, think about one of your own favorite sex acts, one that’s widely considered to be funny or weird or sick — and again, imagine seeing it widely reviled by your friends, neighbors, family members. And please act accordingly.

There are ways to discuss this news story, and to revile DT over it, without shaming or mocking this sex act. You can focus on the racism: how this act (assuming the story is accurate) was done as an act of racist dominance and white supremacy. You can focus on the blackmail aspect. You can talk about the grotesque hypocrisy of FBI director James Comey releasing a bullshit non-story about Hillary Clinton days before the election, but sitting on this story. There are lots of things you can say about this story other than “THAT SEX ACT IS GROSS! RIDICULOUS! DISGUSTING! LAUGHABLE! WEIRD! SICK!” — or making adolescent jokes rooted in the idea that the sex act is gross, ridiculous, disgusting, laughable, weird, or sick.

Remember when Rush Limbaugh made that comment about how liberals think any sexual activity is okay as long as it’s consenting, but any time something was non-consensual we wanted to call the “rape police”? Remember when we all collectively said, “Um… yeah, that’s the idea, what’s wrong with that?” Let’s live up to that now. If we want to be the better people, our sexual ethics need to be based on actual ethics — like consent, honesty, fairness, and harm. They can’t be based on which sex acts personally gross us out.

Politics and Sexual Shame

Depression in a Fascist Regime

depressed woman in window seat

(Content note: serious depression, spoilers for the last episode of “Angel”.)

I don’t know how to do this.

A lot of my strategies don’t work anymore. This round of depression isn’t just worse than my previous episodes: it’s different. My symptoms, the things that help, the things that make it worse — they’re different. I’ve spent the last four years learning how to manage depression, and now, at least to some extent, I need to start all over again.

It’s different because the world is genuinely terrible. That’s not the depression talking: that’s a reasonable, evidence-based assessment of reality. You know the joke, “just because you’re paranoid doesn’t mean they’re not out to get you?” Well, just because you’re depressed doesn’t mean the world’s not terrible. And just because you’re anxious doesn’t mean the world’s not terrifying. I keep thinking about Reviving the Tribe, Eric Rofes’s book about gay men’s lives in the worst years of the AIDS epidemic, and I keep thinking about the question he kept asking: How do you treat PTSD when the trauma is still ongoing? Continue reading “Depression in a Fascist Regime”

Depression in a Fascist Regime

Rogue One, and Collective Action


Content note: spoilers for “Rogue One: A Star Wars Story.”

There are things I liked about Rogue One, and things I didn’t. I mostly didn’t like the ratio of “Pew! Pew! BOOM!” action to dialog and plot. I like “Pew! Pew! BOOM!” as much as the next geek, but there was too much of it here: it got exhausting and overwhelming and boring, and it took time that could have been spent clarifying the sometimes confusing plot. But there were a lot of things I liked (gotta love a sarcastic robot who’s a bad liar), and one thing I liked a hell of a lot:

I liked how Rogue One was about collective action.

I liked that the movie wasn’t another goddamn Hero’s Journey. I liked that it wasn’t about another Destined One Who Will Save Us All. It was about ordinary people stepping up, not because they’re some powerful Jedi’s long-lost son, but because someone has to. It was about the difficulties of collective action, people arguing and splintering and deciding for themselves who to follow — because the alternative is the exact rigid authoritarianism they’re fighting against. It was about a team who all have their crucial part to play, who figure out on the fly how to work together.

In fact, Rogue One completely undercuts the whole Hero’s Journey thing in Star Wars 4-6. Continue reading “Rogue One, and Collective Action”

Rogue One, and Collective Action

How ACT UP Fought Back: Direct Action and Civil Disobedience (Workshop, January 7)


Since the 2016 election, many of us have been looking at how to build a resistance movement. ACT UP was one of the most effective resistance movements in recent history. In this workshop, former ACT UP SF members Rebecca Hensler, Crystal Mason, and Ingrid Nelson share some of their personal stories about how they came to be involved in direct action, how they got organized, what their strategies and values were, their successes and challenges with intersectionality, and what current resistance movements can learn from their experiences.

This is not a civil disobedience training: come to learn some history and get inspired to take action. Co-sponsored by Godless Perverts and the GLBT Historical Society.

The event is on Saturday, January 7, from 2:00 to 4:00 pm, at the Center for Sex and Culture, 1349 Mission St. in San Francisco (between 9th and 10th Streets, near Civic Center BART). We’re asking for donations of $5-$20 at the door to cover our costs, but no-one will be turned away for lack of funds.

Godless Perverts presents and promotes a positive view of sexuality without religion, by and for sex-positive atheists, agnostics, humanists, and other non-believers, through performance events, panel discussions, social gatherings, media productions, and other appropriate outlets. Our events and media productions present depictions, explorations, and celebrations of godless sexualities — including positive, traumatic, and complex experiences — focusing on the intersections of sexuality with atheism, materialism, skepticism, and science, as well as critical, questioning, mocking, or blasphemous views of sex and religion.

Godless Perverts is committed to feminism, diversity, inclusivity, and social justice. We seek to create safe and welcoming environments for all non-believers and believing allies who are respectful of the mission, and are committed to taking positive action to achieve this. Please let the moderators or other people in charge of any event know if you encounter harassment, racism, misogyny, transphobia, or other problems at our events.

If you want to be notified about all our Godless Perverts events, sign up for our email mailing list, follow us on Twitter at @GodlessPerverts, or follow us on Facebook. You can also sign up for the Bay Area Atheists/ Agnostics/ Humanists/ Freethinkers/ Skeptics Meetup page, and be notified of all sorts of godless Bay Area events — including many Godless Perverts events. And of course, you can always visit our Website to find out what we’re up to, godlessperverts.com. Hope to see you soon!

How ACT UP Fought Back: Direct Action and Civil Disobedience (Workshop, January 7)

An Open Letter to David Campos, and Anyone Else Who Thinks We Lost The Election Because Hillary Clinton Was Establishment, Moderate, or Uninspiring

Hillary Clinton

David Campos
San Francisco Board of Supervisors
San Francisco, CA

Dear Supervisor Campos:

I’ve now heard you say this twice. You said it at the Harvey Milk Memorial March and Vigil on November 27. And you said it at El Rio on Election Night, the night we were all reeling from shock and grief. You’ve said — I’m going to have to paraphrase here — that the reason we lost the Presidential election was that the Democratic Party nominated Hillary Clinton, who was an uninspiring, establishment, Republican-light, business-as-usual candidate.

When you say this, it tells me a few things.

1: You have no idea what it’s like for women participating in political discourse. Millions of women were greatly inspired by Hillary Clinton — and when we spoke about it, we were harassed, trolled, dogpiled on, dumped on with a dumptruck of false accusations, dumped on again with the same accusations every time we said her name, targeted with sexist microaggressions, targeted with openly sexist aggressions and slurs, and harassed some more. Clinton supporters had to form secret groups on Facebook, simply to talk about the fact that we liked our candidate. Millions of women were inspired and enthusiastic about Hillary Clinton — and were silenced. So when you’re analyzing the reasons we lost this election, perhaps you should take that into account. Perhaps you should consider how many people were persuaded not to vote (or to vote third party) by people who insisted that Clinton wasn’t inspiring and the candidates weren’t really different. Perhaps you should consider how many people might have been persuaded to vote for her, and weren’t, because her supporters had to put a lid on their enthusiasm and couldn’t make their case. And when you say Clinton didn’t inspire enthusiasm, that tells me you don’t know how to listen to women. It tells me that because you were personally not inspired by her, because the people in your circle were not inspired by her, therefore nobody was. It tells me that I, a queer woman in your city, am invisible to you.

2: You don’t understand what it’s like for women running for public office. I’m very sorry that you found Hillary Clinton uninspiring. Perhaps you’re not aware of how tightly her emotional expression was policed. And that’s true for any woman in politics: Clinton just got it more because she was running for President. “Smile more! No, not that much. But a little more than that. Would it kill you to laugh? No, not like that, it comes across as derisive. Can’t you be more approachable and friendly? But not too much, when women are too friendly they don’t look like powerful leaders. So look like a powerful leader! But not that much, men find it intimidating. And smile a little more! Maybe just a centimeter.” Hillary Clinton’s emotional expression was critiqued more thoroughly, and more viciously, than anyone I’ve ever seen in public life. And then she was critiqued for being robotic, impersonal, and uninspiring. Of the many sexist critiques of Hillary Clinton, including critiques from the left, this is — well, one of them.

3. You aren’t familiar with Hillary Clinton’s record and platform — or you don’t care about it. When you call her “Republican light,” that tells me you didn’t take ten minutes to look at her campaign website. You didn’t look at her record and planned policy on reproductive rights, global warming, taxing the rich, repealing Citizens United, raising minimum wage, closing tax loopholes on corporations, campaign finance reform, criminal justice reform, education, LGBTQ rights, women’s issues, children’s issues. When you call her “business as usual,” that tells me you have no idea about her extraordinary skills, legendary even among her opponents in DC: her wide-ranging and detailed knowledge of government and policy, her willingness to listen and change her mind, her ability to get things done. Either you don’t know about any of this — which would surprise me, since you’re an elected official in a major U.S. city — or you don’t care about it, and don’t think these skills are important enough to be considered exceptional.

4. You don’t seem to understand that Hillary Clinton won the election. You don’t seem to understand that she won the popular vote, by a considerable amount. You don’t seem to understand that she lost the electoral college, in large part, because of voter suppression; that this was the first Presidential election since the loss of the Voting Rights Act, and it showed up in the results. This surprises me: I know that you must know about voter disenfranchisement, probably even more than I do. But when you insist that Hillary Clinton lost because she wasn’t exciting or progressive enough, that tells me you’d rather grind your personal political axe than focus on the fact that hundreds of thousands of people in swing states wanted to vote for her, and couldn’t.

5. You have no idea about appropriate timing. At El Rio on Election Night, many of us were in deep emotional shock and despair. We were in fear over the world we were facing under Trump — and we were grieving the world we were losing, the world we’d hoped to work for with Hillary Clinton. And you chose that time to tell us that the candidate many of us had fought for, worked for, lost friends and family for, wasn’t someone anyone really cared about, wasn’t worth caring about. You chose that time to grind your political axe. You chose that time to blame the victims — the victims who had busted our asses to keep ourselves, and other people, from being victimized.

I’m told by some of my friends that you’re generally a pretty progressive guy, that you’re mostly a pretty good ally on San Francisco progressive politics. But I can tell you that every time you open your mouth on this subject, it makes me unwilling to support you, or have anything to do with you.

Greta Christina
San Francisco

An Open Letter to David Campos, and Anyone Else Who Thinks We Lost The Election Because Hillary Clinton Was Establishment, Moderate, or Uninspiring

Resistance Is Not Futile

Ohm — a unit of resistance.

Content note: depression, the 2016 election

It seems like too much.

I haven’t said anything here for a while. In the weeks before the election, I was mostly doing election work. In the weeks after the election, I’ve been in a deep depression, struggling to find my way in the new world, struggling to even want to find my way, struggling just to put one foot in front of the other every day. (Don’t worry, I’m hanging in there, I’ll be okay. But this one’s been rough.)

I keep wanting to write about smaller things, but I don’t want my first post after the election of a hard-right, racist, misogynist, xenophobic, bullying fascist to be, “Hey, we’re having a meetup!” I keep wanting to write about the election, but the topic seems too big. Where the hell do I even start? It seems too big to write about, to think about, to do anything about.

But I know that’s not true.

It’s so hard to strike the right balance. It’s so hard to realistically face and accept the ugly reality of the rise of fascism in the United States — while maintaining the will to resist. It’s such a small window. Not enough attention to the realities of fascism, and it’s denial, minimizing, gaslighting. Too much attention to the realities of fascism, and here comes despair. It’s such a small window. And it’s a different window for everyone. Hell, for me it’s a different window from day to day, hour to hour, minute to minute. But for me, the lifeline I’m hanging onto is this:

Resistance is not futile.

The best-case scenario is unbelievably shitty, a rollback of support systems and civil rights that took decades to build, an upsurge in open bigotry and hate crimes, more people than ever dying of poverty, police brutality, hateful violence. The worse scenario is the rise of literal fascism. This isn’t hyperbole: historians of Nazi Germany are saying “Yes, this is what the rise of Nazi Germany looked like.” But resistance is not futile. Resistance can be effective. Resistance can reduce harm. Resistance can even win, if the concept of “winning” makes any sense in a permanent struggle.

I don’t know what exactly resistance will look like. I know it will look different for different people. I know I need to study more about resistance movements of the past — and I also know the resistance against this regime is going to be different from anything that came before it. (If for no other reason, they didn’t have Facebook in the Spanish Civil War.) Every resistance movement has been different, and we are going to have to invent some new wheels.

I don’t yet know what that looks like. But I know that one of the ways fascism rises is by endless repetition of the twin lies: “It’s really not that bad,” and, “It’s too powerful, you can’t fight it.” Neither of these is true. It really is going to be that bad — for Muslims and ex-Muslims, for immigrants and brown people who are assumed to be immigrants, for women, for queers, for trans people, for black and brown people, for disabled people, for poor people. At some point, it’s going to be that bad for pretty much everyone but the handful of people at the very top. But we can fight it. Struggle is powerful. Collective action is powerful. Resistance is powerful. And it is not futile.

(Note: I’m currently not allowing comments on my blog. Moderating them was taking too much of my time and energy. If you want to discuss this post, please share and discuss in your own spaces. Thanks.)

Resistance Is Not Futile

Brief Blog Break Until Election Day

I’m doing a temp job, doing get out the vote work, and it’s going to last through Election Day. So I won’t be blogging, or won’t be blogging much, until the election is over. In the meantime, here are some election-related posts you might enjoy.

Why You Should Vote in Downticket Races — and a Neat Trick For Doing It
A Reason to Vote for Clinton: Disenfranchised Voters
A Reason to Vote for Clinton: The Supreme Court
A Reason to Vote for Clinton: Trump Needs to be Trounced
A Reason to Vote for Clinton: Liberal Voting Record
A Reason to Vote for Clinton: Government Knowledge and Administrative Skill
A Reason to Vote for Clinton: Reproductive Rights
7 Sexist Critiques of Hillary Clinton — Not The Ones You Think

And here are some cute pictures of our snuggly cats. Continue reading “Brief Blog Break Until Election Day”

Brief Blog Break Until Election Day

A Reason to Vote for Clinton: Disenfranchised Voters

Hillary Clinton

I’m not talking here about Clinton’s policies on voter enfranchisement. That is important, and her policies are good — but today, I’m talking about something else.

A lot of people can’t vote. Most of them would vote Democratic if they could. If you’re thinking of not voting in this Presidential election — or if you’re thinking of voting third party — I’d like you to consider voting for Clinton, on their behalf.

Voter disenfranchisement is a real thing in the United States. Obstructions to voting have been thrown up all over the country: they include insufficient voting hours, inaccessible polling places, voter ID laws (no, these laws don’t prevent voter fraud, that’s a myth), deliberate misinformation about voting, laws banning felons from voting (which disproportionately affect black and brown people, since that’s who the racist police system targets), and more. To give just two of the more egregious examples, Wisconsin has been systematically failing to provide voters with the voter IDs they say they need; and Texas recently had their voter ID laws smacked around by a federal court for illegally discriminating against blacks and Hispanics. What’s more, Trump has been encouraging his supporters to intimidate voters on Election Day — and the Trump campaign is actively organizing this intimidation campaign.

And the voters who are shut out by these obstructions would overwhelmingly vote liberal, progressive, and/or Democratic, if they could. There’s a reason these policies are put in place by Republicans. Many Republicans have explicitly said so. They don’t want black people, brown people, poor people, trans people, immigrants, to vote — because most of them will vote Democratic. I shouldn’t have to say this, but I’m going to: If you know that millions of citizens don’t like your party’s policies and don’t want to vote for you, and your response is to keep these people from voting, there is something seriously wrong with your party.

If you think voter disenfranchisement is wrong, there are a lot of good reasons to vote for Clinton. She’s pledged to make voting more accessible to more people, and to re-enfranchise people who have been shut out of the political system. She’s pledged to repair the Voting Rights Act, set a national standard for early voting, make voter registration automatic when citizens turn eighteen, and more. Trump, to the degree that he’s expressed anything resembling a coherent position on this, supports voter ID laws, opposes same-day voter registration, opposes voting rights for felons, and has made false, unsubstantiated claims about a supposed epidemic of voter fraud in support of tighter restrictions on voting access. (See above: voter fraud is extremely rare, and these policies don’t prevent it. They keep people from voting who have a right to vote.)

But one of the best reasons to vote for Clinton is to give disenfranchised citizens a voice. The people being shut out of voting are among the people whose lives will be most deeply damaged by a Trump presidency. You may not have your own life thrown in the crapper, or put into literal danger, by a Trump presidency. Millions of people will. And many of those people have had their power to do something about it systematically destroyed. Most of them would vote for Clinton if they could. They can’t. Please give them your vote.

(Comment policy: In addition to my regular comment policy, I’m going to ask people to keep comments narrowly focused on this issue. This is not a platform to discuss everything else you do or don’t like about Clinton or Trump. Thanks.)

A Reason to Vote for Clinton: Disenfranchised Voters

7 Sexist Critiques of Hillary Clinton — Not The Ones You Think

Hillary Clinton

(Comment policy: In addition to my regular comment policy, I’m going to ask people to keep comments narrowly focused on the issues raised in this piece. This is not a platform to discuss everything else you do or don’t like about Clinton or Trump. This piece was originally published on AlterNet.)

It’s entirely reasonable to criticize Hillary Clinton. She’s running for President of the United States, after all. It’s an important job, and she should be subject to careful scrutiny. If she’s elected, she’s going to be representing all U.S. citizens: we should tell her what we want from her, and speak out when she lets us down.

But a significant amount of anti-Clinton criticism is loaded with sexism. It’s not just the obvious examples, like critiquing her clothing (women’s appearance is policed far more heavily than men’s), critiquing her voice (ditto), microanalyzing her gestures and mannerisms (ditto), sexualizing her, or targeting her with sexist and misogynist slurs. Much of the sexism against Hillary Clinton flies under the radar. On the surface, it looks like legitimate political commentary: the sexism underlying it is largely unconscious. But when you understand some of the ways sexism commonly plays out, it’s glaringly obvious. Here are seven examples. Continue reading “7 Sexist Critiques of Hillary Clinton — Not The Ones You Think”

7 Sexist Critiques of Hillary Clinton — Not The Ones You Think