To Cis/Het People Wondering Why Queers are Freaking Out About Pulse/Orlando

Flowers, candles, and posters at 18th and Castro in San Francisco, memorializing Orlando shootings. Photo by Greta Christina.
Flowers, candles, and posters at 18th and Castro in San Francisco, memorializing Orlando shootings. Photo by Greta Christina.

CN: Orlando/Pulse, 9/11

To any cis/het people who are wondering why queer people, and especially Latinx and African-American queer people, are responding so strongly to the attack on Pulse in Orlando:

Did you grieve over 9/11, even if you didn’t personally know anyone who was killed? Did you feel frightened, angry, in shock? Did you feel that the attack was an attack on all of us? Did you realize it could easily have been you, or people you knew? Did it make you fear for your own safety? Did you wonder if there would be follow-up attacks, copycat attacks, or simply more attacks by people who hate us? Did you feel rage and bafflement at the idea of people having that much hatred towards you and people like you?

If so, you need to SIT THE FUCK DOWN and listen.

Note: I am not going to be patient in the comments.

To Cis/Het People Wondering Why Queers are Freaking Out About Pulse/Orlando

Politics and Tragedies

Flowers, candles, and posters at 18th and Castro in San Francisco, memorializing Orlando shootings. Photo by Greta Christina.
Flowers, candles, and posters at 18th and Castro in San Francisco, memorializing Orlando shootings. Photo by Greta Christina.

They tell us we shouldn’t politicize tragedies.

When a man sees two men kissing and responds by walking into a gay bar with an automatic weapon and murdering 50 people, we’re told we shouldn’t politicize the tragedy.

When a man writes a 107,000-word manifesto detailing how and why he despises women and wants to murder and terrorize us, and proceeds to murder six people and injure fourteen others, we’re told we shouldn’t politicize it.

When a man murders nine people in a Black church and later confesses that he did it to start a race war, we’re told we shouldn’t politicize it.

When a hurricane hits a major U.S. city, and thousands of mostly poor, mostly black people are abandoned for days; when the evacuation plan assumes everyone has a car; when the Federal government’s emergency management agency is run by an incompetent boob, in a deliberately created political climate that holds the very idea of government in contempt; when the aftermath is rife with real estate speculation and other grossly predatory profiteering — we’re told we shouldn’t politicize it.

I could give you examples all day.

So here’s the tl;dr, the punch line: We didn’t politicize these tragedies. They were already political. Continue reading “Politics and Tragedies”

Politics and Tragedies

Frivolous Friday: Peter Pan, and Killing Fairies

Frivolous Fridays are the Orbit bloggers’ excuse to post about fun things we care about that may not have serious implications for atheism or social justice. Any day is a good day to write about whatever the heck we’re interested in (hey, we put “culture” in our tagline for a reason), but we sometimes have a hard time giving ourselves permission to do that. This is our way of encouraging each other to take a break from serious topics and have some fun. Enjoy!

Peter_Pan_and_Wendy_book_cover_1911 200
Okay, maybe this is a little macabre for Frivolous Friday, but it was on my mind and was making me chuckle, so I thought I’d share.

You know the bit in Peter Pan, where Peter explains that every time a child says, “I don’t believe in fairies,” somewhere a fairy falls down dead? I read this when I was a kid. And afterwards, I started to go around saying under my breath, “I don’t believe in fairies, I don’t believe in fairies, I don’t believe in fairies,” and imagining fairies dropping like flies, one by one, all over the world.

I’m not sure why I did this. I didn’t actually believe in fairies, and I certainly didn’t think I could murder them from a distance by saying words out loud. In retrospect, I think I was annoyed by how saccharine and manipulative it was. It was like, “You’re going to guilt-trip me into believing something I have no reason to believe, by telling me my non-belief will destroy it? Yeah, screw you.” But maybe I’m reading too much into this, and putting too much of my adult interpretation on it. Maybe I was just a contrarian little fuck with a thirst for power. Strike that. I know I was.

I was thinking about this because of Tony Thompson’s HI-FREAKING-LARIOUS piece about the Catholic cardinal, who apparently thinks that the acceptance of TBLG people is killing God. No, really. Tony is very excite about his newly-discovered superpower, as well he should be. And it occurred to me: This is totally like the Peter Pan thing. Every time a queer person is happy and accepted, a little bit of God dies.

Let’s all say it together: “TBLG people are awesome. TBLG people are awesome. TBLG people are awesome.” And we can imagine a little bit more of God dying, every time.

If you read Peter Pan, did you have any reaction to the “I don’t believe in fairies” bit? Or was that just me, being contrarian and power-hungry and weirdly macabre?

Frivolous Friday: Peter Pan, and Killing Fairies

What I Hear When I Hear “Not for White People”

Content note: sexual content.

I’m going to make an analogy. It’s going to be flawed, as analogies always are, and if I get stuff about this wrong I hope the people concerned will tell me.

On Our Backs Summer 1984 small
In the late ’80s and early ’90s, I worked for the lesbian sex magazine On Our Backs, the first sex magazine created by dykes and for dykes. We had a fair number of male customers and subscribers, and that was fine with us. We couldn’t have done anything about it even if it hadn’t been fine with us, but it was fine with us. If straight guys who got off on lesbian sex wanted to help bankroll our operation, we weren’t going to argue.

But we didn’t make the magazine for them. We made it for us. When the writers were writing, when the photographers were shooting, when the illustrators were drawing, when the editors were deciding which photos and stories and illustrations and essays and news items to include, we thought about dykes. We thought about the lesbians and bisexual women who were hungry for authentic sexual images of ourselves, who were hungry to see our sexuality recognized and reflected, who were hungry for new ideas about hot things to do in bed. We thought about the dykes who were hungry for a feminism that celebrated the huge variety of lesbian sexual possibilities (i.e., that didn’t shame women for being into kink and dildos and porn).

We never thought, “What will our straight male customers enjoy?” Continue reading “What I Hear When I Hear “Not for White People””

What I Hear When I Hear “Not for White People”

Steven Universe Episode 9: Tiger Millionaire

Steven Universe Steven and Amethyst as Tiger Millionaire and Purple Puma

Ingrid and I are re-watching the entire Steven Universe series — yet again — and I thought I’d blog some of my observations. Please note: I’m not writing these as a series summary or recap. I’m just writing down some of my observations and reactions, about individual episodes and the show as a whole. These posts will probably make more sense if you’ve already seen the show, but I hope they inspire the rest of you to check it out, as it really is one of the richest and most emotionally intense things I’ve seen on TV. This post contains spoilers about Steven Universe: the show as a whole, and/or about Episode 9: Tiger Millionaire

“Pumas are cool!”

OMLOG, so much going on with this episode! At least three major themes: learning to accept other’s imperfections, learning that different social arenas have different rules, and gender fluidity.

I believe this is the first time we’ve seen Amethyst alter her gender presentation.* Most of the time she presents as female, and that seems to be the form that comes most naturally to her — but in most of “Tiger Millionaire,” Amethyst shapeshifts into the form of a male wrestler, the Purple Puma.** What I find interesting is that nobody thinks this is interesting. Everyone takes it in their stride, and it’s not the point of the episode. Steven is fascinated by the fact that Amethyst can shapeshift, and he’s super-impressed that she (he? not sure what the right pronoun is here) has a second life as an underground wrestler — but the fact that the wrestler form is male isn’t blinked at, by Steven or anyone else. Gender fluidity comes up more than once in Steven Universe, and I find it really interesting that in “Tiger Millionaire,” the episode where it’s first explored at any length, it’s central to the storyline, and at the same time is widely accepted and is no big deal.

The more overt theme, IMO, is learning that different social arenas have different rules. Steven is fascinated to learn that there’s a world — the wrestling world — where playing at being mean is acceptable and people voluntarily step into the ring to pound on each other. He’s ordinarily such a sweet, generous, affectionate kid, and most of his life with the gems is spent learning to be a good person and a good gem. So unsurprisingly, when he’s given a chance to play-act at being a mean-spirited, conniving jerk, he jumps at it.

But he takes it too far. Continue reading “Steven Universe Episode 9: Tiger Millionaire”

Steven Universe Episode 9: Tiger Millionaire

Rants at Fictional Characters: Jameson Henthrop and the Bullying Flash Mob in Empire

Empire Jamal Jameson Lucious

Occasionally I rant in my head at fictional characters, as a sort of stand-in for rants against real people who’ve done similar real-world bullshit — in part because I get to be more of an unforgiving hardass to fictional characters than I am to real people. I’ve decided to start blogging them. Content note: biphobia. Also spoilers for Empire, Season 2, Episodes 10-12.

Dear Jameson, and the bullying flash mob that came after Jamal:

What the fuck do you think the B in LGBT means?

I will tell you what the B in LGBT means. It means “bisexual.” And I am so goddamn sick of LGBT leaders and activists who use the phrase LGBT — but then treat people as like traitors or fence-sitters if they even occasionally have sex or relationships with people of a different gender.

There’s a reason we started using the term LGBT. It’s because our movement was focusing almost exclusively on gay men (gay white men at that, but that’s a different rant), and was ignoring and even dissing lesbians, bisexuals, and trans people. We started using the term LGBT as a signal of inclusion — and as a reminder to be inclusive. I am so goddamn sick of leaders and activists who think they can shit on bisexuals and trans people, as long as they use the term LGBT. I am so goddamn sick of leaders and activists who use the phrase LGBT, when what they really mean is G, or maybe LG on a good day. I am so goddamn sick of queers who forget what the term LGBT even means,

Yes, I know — Jamal isn’t bisexual. He says he isn’t, and he gets to self-identify. And if I had his sexual history, with two opposite-sex sexual experiences in my entire life, I probably wouldn’t identify as bisexual, either. That’s not the point. Continue reading “Rants at Fictional Characters: Jameson Henthrop and the Bullying Flash Mob in Empire

Rants at Fictional Characters: Jameson Henthrop and the Bullying Flash Mob in Empire

Godless Perverts Social Club Tuesday April 5: What Do We Mean By Sex? Sex, Language, and Inclusivity

Godless Perverts Social Club Banner What is Sex

Godless Perverts are having a Social Club in San Francisco on Tuesday, April 5, 7-9 pm! We have a specific discussion topic this time: “What Do We Mean By Sex? Sex, Language, and Inclusivity.” Overly narrow definitions of sex can leave queers and kinky people out in the cold. Overly broad ones can do the same for asexual people. Religion and science have both tried to define and control sexual language, to the detriment of pretty much everyone. How can we support people’s right to self-definition, and still communicate coherently? How do we accept the ways that language evolves naturally, without letting it be controlled by the majority? Is there a difference between language and labels? Come to the Godless Perverts Social Club for a friendly and vigorous discussion of how we talk about sex.

Community is one of the reasons we started Godless Perverts. There are few enough places to land when you decide that you’re an atheist; far fewer if you’re also LGBT, queer, kinky, poly, trans, or are just interested in sexuality. And the sex-positive/ alt-sex/ whatever- you- want- to- call- it community isn’t always the most welcoming place for non-believers. So please join us! Hang out with other nonbelievers and chat about sex, sexuality, gender, atheism, religion, science, social justice, pop culture, and more. All orientations, genders, and kinks (or lack thereof) are welcome.

We meet on the first Tuesday of every month at Wicked Grounds, 289 8th Street at Folsom in San Francisco (near Civic Center BART). (We also meet on the third Thursday of every month at Rudy’s Can’t Fail in downtown Oakland.) 7-9 pm. Admission is free, although we do ask that you buy food and/or drink at the venue if you can: Wicked Grounds has beverages, light snacks, full meals, and milkshakes made of literal awesome sauce.

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!

Godless Perverts Social Club Tuesday April 5: What Do We Mean By Sex? Sex, Language, and Inclusivity

Godless Perverts Social Club in Oakland, Thursday March 17!

Godless Perverts Social Club Oakland March 2016
Godless Perverts is having a Social Club in our wonderful new Oakland location, Thursday, March 17! 7-9 pm. We have a new location for the Oakland Godless Perverts Social Clubs — we’re now meeting at Rudy’s Can’t Fail Cafe, 1805 Telegraph Avenue, next to the Fox Theater (and right near the 19th St. Oakland BART station). Rudy’s Can’t Fail is a fun, friendly space that serves meals, small bites, beer, cocktails, soft drinks, and desserts. We’re meeting in the back room/ dining car, which is ridiculously cute: the dining car has somewhat limited space, probably enough for all of us, but it’s a good idea to arrive on time if you want to be sure to get a seat. The Oakland Social Clubs are on the third Thursday of the month (First Tuesdays are still in San Francisco at Wicked Grounds.)

So please join us! Hang out with other nonbelievers and chat about sex, sexuality, gender, atheism, religion, science, social justice, pop culture, and more. Community is one of the reasons we started Godless Perverts. There are few enough places to land when you decide that you’re an atheist; far fewer if you’re also LGBT, queer, kinky, poly, trans, or are just interested in sexuality. And the sex-positive/ alt-sex/ whatever- you- want- to- call- it community isn’t always the most welcoming place for non-believers.All orientations, genders, and kinks (or lack thereof) are welcome. We meet on the third Thursday of every month at Rudy’s Can’t Fail Cafe (we also meet on the first Tuesday of every month at Wicked Grounds, 289 8th Street at Folsom in San Francisco, near Civic Center BART). 7-9 pm. Admission is free, although we do ask that you buy food and/or drink at the venue. Continue reading “Godless Perverts Social Club in Oakland, Thursday March 17!”

Godless Perverts Social Club in Oakland, Thursday March 17!

Hillary Clinton and the Nancy Reagan AIDS Thing: What We Hoped To Accomplish

ACT UP 25 memorial man grieving in front of posters of people who died of AIDS
ACT UP 25 memorial, corner of 18th and Castro, San Francisco. Man grieving in front of posters of people who died of AIDS. Photo by Greta Christina.

What did we hope to accomplish?

Quick summary, for the six of you who were vacationing on Mars and may have missed it: Hillary Clinton recently said this utterly fucked-up thing about how Ronald and Nancy Reagan had “started a national conversation” about HIV and AIDS, and praising Nancy Reagan’s “low-key advocacy.” The Internet exploded with queers and others screaming about how this not only erased the reality of the many AIDS activists who actually did start the conversation about AIDS, but rewrote the history to laud the very people who had ignored AIDS, perpetuated the shame and silence about it, and caused the deaths of millions in the process. Clinton issued a brief apology on Twitter: the Internet exploded some more, with queers and others screaming about how this was nowhere near good enough, how Clinton’s historical revisionist bullshit needed a much stronger and clearer response than a 140-character apology. Clinton finally issued a more thorough statement, spelling out that the Reagans did not start a national conversation about HIV and AIDS, acknowledging the activists who did start the conversation, and discussing the history of AIDS and AIDS activism in the U.S.

After the first apology, during the second round of the explosion, a number of people expressed bafflement and even disapproval at the exploders. “Why do you have to keep talking about this?” they asked. “She apologized in her tweet. What else do you want? You’re giving Donald Trump and the GOP ammunition. Why don’t you let it go? Why do you keep pressuring her? What do you hope to accomplish?”

Speaking for myself, and for some others but not all: What we hoped to accomplish was the second statement.

We got Clinton to learn some important history that matters to us, and to use her sizable platform to educate others about it. We got millions of other people to learn this important history. We got the actual national conversation about AIDS that she’d claimed the Reagans had started. We put a serious dent in the disgusting, revisionist Reagan hagiography — and we got Clinton to help us do that. And we got her to realize that we are not to be fucked with, and that she cannot take us for granted.

The second statement was not perfect. I wish she had explained how she made this ghastly mistake in the first place; I wish she hadn’t praised herself and her platform (that definitely undercuts an apology); I wish she had actually said “I’m sorry” (she did in her tweet, she didn’t here). But there were things about the statement that were surprisingly good. It was a pretty good brief summary of the history of HIV/AIDS, and the points it addressed about the current U.S. epidemic and what needs to be done about it were very on-point: a number of people I know who work in public health or HIV say it could have been written by one of them. And she gave a shout-out to ACT UP, which was surprising and awesome. I’m not sure any serious Presidential candidate has done that before.

We would not have gotten any of that if we hadn’t kept pressing.

There’s something important about this incident that I think some people may not be tracking on. It’s almost impossible to convey what it was like to be in the LGBT community during the worst years of the AIDS pandemic, when your friends and community were dying in huge numbers, the government was ignoring it at best, and most of the world was laughing, scolding, shaming, shunning, or worse. The scars from those years run deep (here is an extraordinary piece of writing about it by Tim Kingston on the Grief Beyond Belief website). And there were so many people who had to put a lid on their grief when it was happening, who had to just put their heads down and cope. When people saw the Reagans being lauded as heroes of the epidemic — the very people who were arguably most complicit in what can fairly be described as a genocide — the lid came off. When you saw the Internet explode, you weren’t just seeing a Presidential candidate criticized for a dreadful gaffe. You were seeing over 25 years of pent-up grief and rage.

I’ll be honest and clear: It wasn’t just straight people, or people who didn’t live through the worst years of the pandemic, who were trying to convince us to quit screaming. LGBT people, people who were around during those days, were saying it as well. There is, of course, a huge variety among our community, including a variety of responses to AIDS and the way people speak about it. And when it comes to an issue that’s this emotional, this traumatic, this loaded with personal grief and political rage, it can be hard when other people who went through it are responding differently; when other people are more pragmatic or more ideological, more diplomatic or more hard-assed, more willing to forgive or less. My own general rule is that, within some obvious broad limits of ethics and legality, people get to speak about their own marginalization any way they like, and people get to decide for themselves who they forgive and when. When emotions are running high, though, I get that this can be hard.

But speaking up makes a difference. Demanding accountability from the people who represent us, or who are asking to represent us, makes a difference. Do not tell people who went through a genocide how to speak about it.

(Note: Please DO NOT turn this into a Sanders/Clinton election thread. I will enforce this, possibly without second chances.)

Hillary Clinton and the Nancy Reagan AIDS Thing: What We Hoped To Accomplish

Welcome to The Orbit!

Welcome to The Orbit!

Comet the cat with laptop

This is my new blogging home. It’s a new blogging network, specifically dedicated to atheism and social justice, co-founded by over twenty bloggers including me.

I’ll have a lot more to say about it in the coming days. For now, I mostly just want to say Welcome! I am hugely excited and happy to be here. I’m excited to be a co-builder of something new: I think The Orbit is going to be an important and valuable place for atheists who care about social justice, and I’m so proud to be part of creating it. A lot of atheists have felt increasingly disconnected from organized atheism, and we hope to give these people a home. In fact, we hope to give a home to anyone who cares about the things we care about.

If you want to find out more about us — our mission, who we are, how we’re structured, why we chose The Orbit as our name, what’s unique about us, what we even mean by social justice  — please visit our About Us page. You can also ask me questions here in the comments, but I can’t promise to answer all or even any of them: I’m a little swamped right now, as you might imagine.

The other bloggers currently in The Orbit are Alex Gabriel, Alix Jules, Alyssa Gonzalez, Ani, Ania Bula, Aoife O’Riordan, Ashley F. Miller, Benny Vimes, Brianne Bilyeu, Chris Hall, D. Frederick Sparks, Dana Hunter, Dori Mooneyham, Heina Dadabhoy, Jason Thibeault, Luxander Pond, Miri Mogilevsky, Niki M., Sincere Kirabo, Stephanie Zvan, Tony Thompson, and Zinnia Jones. I hope you’ll take some time and visit all of them over the coming days and weeks: pulling together this roster has been one of the most fun and exciting parts of this process, and I am so excited to be working with these people, I cannot even tell you.

happy Greta in colorful outfit in garden
We’ll probably be shaking out a few tech issues over the next few days. If you run into any problems, please let us know — and please be patient. And if you’re excited and happy about this, please help us out if you can — kick in to our Kickstarter campaign to help cover our operating costs (even small amounts help, they really do add up), or just spread the word about us. Welcome to my new home!

Welcome to The Orbit!