So I’ve had an eventful few months.
There are a lot of good things to be said about the body positivity movement. Encouraging people of all shapes, sizes, backgrounds, and abilities to feel beautiful and valuable despite not fitting into their society’s narrow mold is a transparently good idea. People deserve to not feel insecure or ashamed of their bodies, especially when the source of that insecurity isn’t much bigger than marketing. There is a darker side to constantly proclaiming that people should accept themselves “just as they are,” however. Some people’s problems with how their bodies are shaped aren’t a matter of trying to live up to an unreachable beauty standard, and shouldn’t be treated as such.
Transgender people face continuous, intense opposition to everything we are and everything we do in much of the world. One of the forms that this aggression takes is proclaiming that trans people shouldn’t want to reshape our bodies to fit with their genders, and should accept our deviant shapes “just as they are,” all couched in the language of body positivity. To undertake aesthetic, medical, or surgical interventions to change appearance is, in this view, to succumb to social pressures that we should instead be resisting. By their logic, a trans man should strive to be content with growing breasts he never wanted, and a trans woman should embrace the androgenic baldness that awaits her if she doesn’t take hormone replacement therapy, because to do otherwise would be insufficiently “positive.”
There are two comments that are rarely far off when self-proclaimed allies encounter anti-queer politicians.
“I bet he’s secretly queer.”
“I hope he ends up with a queer kid.”
Naïve, ironic, and insensitive in the trademark way of ignorant would-be allies, these comments rankle deeply. Much has been written about how the first of the two effectively assigns all responsibility for society-wide anti-queerness on queer people and absolves from same the straight people who invented and perpetrate it, so today’s topic is the other one.
There are many places where I won’t go. I hate moving, in general, and would gladly donate a kidney to whatever demiurge could reconfigure the universe to render this unwholesome task unnecessary for achieving any of my goals ever again, but that’s not what this is about. There are many locales where it is plainly unsafe for me to be, on any of various axes, and I intend to particularly avoid relocating to those places. Right now, that includes the United States, despite overwhelmingly better career prospects there than I seem to have where I am. This unsafeness is not something I’ve had an easy time getting a number of sympathetic people in my life to recognize, and it comes down to one crucial error: they think stealth is safe.
“Stealth,” for the uninitiated, refers to pretending one’s gender doesn’t bear the adjective “trans.” It means pretending to be a cis representative of one’s gender, to have been recognized as a member thereof for one’s entire life, and to have never borne a different name. “Going stealth” means hiding a large chunk of one’s past and papering over the resulting gaps with denial and occasional lies. This was once medically mandated for transgender women, who were expected to leave their hometowns and live somewhere where no one knew their history. And it doesn’t work. Continue reading “Stealth Is Not Safe”
Existing as a transgender person is hard. We face expenses and hazards that few other people share, progressive organizations consider our rights a bargaining chip to trade for what they actually care about, and most of us lose a big part of our social circle when we emerge as ourselves, forcing us to rebuild at a time when we’re subject to tremendous abuse.
While the difficulties specific to trans people in any of various situations—airports and prisons suddenly come to mind—are worth discussing at length, one sphere in particular needs highlighting: the medical system. A lot of us travel by air and too many of us end up in prison, but virtually all of us see doctors, and seeing a doctor is a frustrating mess for people like us.
CN pretty much every kind of bigoted abuse but mostly racist, instructions to suicide, MRAs/libertarians/edgelords being themselves.
As expected, answering 27 Questions has induced a steady influx of anti-humanist nonsense into my comments queue. I’m better prepared than most to receive this onslaught, because I’ve watched this happen to people far more important and interesting than me for a long time, I’ve read what the various subsets of atheist dirtbag are about, and I feel no need to let them get close enough to get under my skin. They have no surprises for me, and nothing to say that far more articulate bigots haven’t said before. They can whine endlessly about how, in this heat, taking away their freeze-peach is a super mean thing to do, the kind of thing only a crate of hippos would dare make standard policy, and I can look at the other things in my spam folder and derive amusement from the idea that they think I’ll ever take them seriously.
Y’all are dangerous, not interesting. Understanding yourselves is a big step toward becoming better people, and I’m glad I could help.
With that in mind, this comment stuck out at me for how impressively it missed all the points.
[Spoilers for the Season 1 finale of Steven Universe follow.]
The moment that sealed Steven Universe into richly-deserved fame and a place in future discussions of the evolution of pop culture was the 52nd episode, ”Jail Break.” In addition to pointedly and thoroughly burnishing the show’s credentials as queer-inclusive and emotionally complex, it provided viewers with a beautifully-composed song-and-fight sequence, from the only one of the four main characters to have avoided a musical number until then:
The words of “Stronger Than You” are poetic and poignant, particularly these:
I am a conversation.
I am made
And it’s stronger than you.
The hunter or warrior specialized in fighting a particular kind of enemy is a classic fantasy trope. The dwarven goblin-killer, the cleric with a knack for exorcising possessing demons, the well-armored knight with a notch on her shield for each dragon she slays, the hunter who knows from a pattern of broken branches the age of the werebear that stomped through this forest last week: these are well-worn archetypes found in great variety in fantasy literature and its freestyle derivative, roleplaying games.
They also provide an interesting opportunity to talk about racism. Continue reading “Apartheid Dragonslayer”
It’s easy to deride philosophy classes. Few people have jobs as philosophers, so the entire field is easy to dismiss as esoteric navel-gazing, dooming most of its practitioners to lives of unskilled menial labor. But there are few classes outside my specialization that I found more beneficial than my philosophy courses, because I acquired very valuable skills there. Philosophy courses present difficult problems, problems that require very careful terms and proofs, and set their students on them to flex and build brain pathways. Those problems touch on virtually the whole of human experience, between the various classical branches: What is real (metaphysics)? What is knowledge (epistemology)? What is truth (both)? What is beauty (aesthetics)? What is good (ethics)?
And every time my philosophy courses got around to that last question, one particular lump of nonsense would be treated with vastly outsized seriousness: the divine command theory.
To say nothing of the chance of encountering something personally significant in such a jagged game, and having to explain a reaction other people would rightly not have. The best CAH sessions I’ve been part of include the stipulation that if a player doesn’t understand a reference, finds something personally hurtful, or otherwise can’t find the humor in a particular answer card, they can trade it and discard or return the old one, no questions asked.
Cards Against Humanity has been rightly criticized for too often punching down rather than up, and treating the existence and difficulties of many real-world marginalized groups as the stuff of mirth. This has the exact opposite effect from the scenarios discussed above, and is a major detriment to the pleasure that many groups derive from this game. Perhaps no card in the series is more notorious for this attribute than the “passable transvestites” card in the original set, showing all the tact and class of Grand Theft Auto and inspiring a rather graphic disposal from at least one CAH fan. The creators of Cards Against Humanity are aware of this failing and, to their credit, periodically purge cards from the game’s massive accumulated archive as they reconsider whether they cross the line from edgy to cutting. This willingness to admit that finding a particular Cards Against Humanity combination hurtful isn’t the same thing as lacking a sense of humor, “looking to be offended,” or some other strawman of typical progressive attitudes means that the Cards Against Humanity team understands the role that their game plays in our ecosystem. Here’s hoping that the “the profoundly handicapped” card is part of that same rejected set. (Of course, there are other factors at play that could make one queasy about participating in this game or buying it, of a different nature.)