Violence and Trans Women of Colour: The Intersections – Keynote Address

I was asked to provide facilitation and a keynote address of sorts for “Violence and Trans Women of Colour: The Intersections,” an event hosted by Carleton University’s Carleton Equity Services, Graduate Students’ Association, Carleton University, and CUSA Womyn’s Centre as part of the university’s Sexual Assault Awareness Week. While my remarks during the event did not exactly match what I prepared, the original material is now here for others’ perusal.

Announcement for Sexual Assault Awareness Week

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Violence and Trans Women of Colour: The Intersections – Keynote Address
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Some Thoughts for the Ottawa-Carleton Institute of Biology

This year will most likely be the last year that I attend the Ottawa-Carleton Institute of Biology’s yearly symposium. This small-scale conference is advertised internally, and draws its attendees almost exclusively from the two university biology departments that comprise the OCIB. As a graduating Ph.D., I’m unlikely to either get those advertisements or have the open schedule required to be present on subsequent occasions. It has served as a way for biology students at the two departments to meet and get to know one another, for people to become familiar with the research going on elsewhere at the Institute, to practice for higher-stakes presentations at larger conferences, and to attend curated talks from well-credentialed and diverse researchers in various related fields. I have never found attendance at the OCIB Symposium to be wasted, not even the year where they got that weirdo suggesting we start using Aristotelian teleological models to better understand parts of biology.

(For those not in the know, those models also underlie much Christian philosophy and therefore Intelligent Design.)

This year, though, was marred by two instances of tone-deaf, science-illiterate microaggression that only get to keep the “micro-” qualifier because I’m not prepared to accuse these two speakers of deliberately attacking the autistic and transgender communities. Yet.

Continue reading “Some Thoughts for the Ottawa-Carleton Institute of Biology”

Some Thoughts for the Ottawa-Carleton Institute of Biology

Priorities, CFI-Ottawa, and How the Atheist Movement Failed Me

The Centre for Inquiry is the third atheist group whose events I’ve attended, after the then-new Secular Humanists, Atheists and Agnostics for Reason, Knowledge, and Science (SHAARKS) in Miami and the Humanist Association of Ottawa.  I enjoyed both sets, because I urgently needed a space in my life where being an atheist was a given and not something I had to carefully guard on pain of losing friends.  One set I had to abandon when I graduated from the University of Miami and, promptly, left town; the other I set aside because it seemed geared to an older crowd and because my preternatural awkwardness kept me from feeling at home there.
The one that stuck, the one that made me want to come back and get involved and watch the Internet for their upcoming events and eat and drink with its members in pubs—that was the Centre for Inquiry.  It was the Centre for Inquiry that seemed to hit on that magic combination of activism, public events, and community that could and did engross me.  I put effort into this organization.  I wrote web site content and provided public presentations.  Ania put far more, aggressively promoting CFI-Ottawa’s biggest venture ever despite being effectively sabotaged by CFI-Canada’s then-executive director and known MRA Justin Trottier.  We sought sponsors, cultivated relationships with other organizations, promoted other events, attended protests, designed media, and handed out flyers at Gay Pride.
We stuck around through the protracted process of getting Justin Trottier removed from his management role in the national organization, and then his de facto replacement Michael Payton, both for what seemed to veer madly from sheer incompetence to active antipathy toward CFI-Ottawa and its events.  We stuck around through the growing pains of an organization still finding its voice and its priorities. Like so many other corners of the atheosphere, the Centre for Inquiry still had to decide whether it would be an inclusive and welcoming space for people marginalized elsewhere for reasons other than their atheism, or whether it would perpetuate the same inequalities and claim reason and science as their justification.  It looked, for all intents and purposes, to be an enthusiastic CFI-Ottawa executive body against a complacent membership and a complacent-at-best national organization, and that was a battle we could win.
That’s when I began noticing cracks.

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Priorities, CFI-Ottawa, and How the Atheist Movement Failed Me

Talking about Yesterday’s SCOTUS rulings

Last night, I had the privilege of being part of an on-air hangout with Ed Brayton of Dispatches from the Culture Wars to discuss recent US Supreme Court rulings, in particular Burwell v. Hobby Lobby.  This ruling came with a lot to unpack, a surprising amount of which was not overwhelmingly bad news for secularists and those interested in social equality for women.

It was a tremendously educational experience, as an interested party whose grounding in constitutional law and the inner workings of high-level American politics is weak, and I even got to add some perspective about how this mess would play out in Canada and the role of the Justices’ religions in their putative decision-making process.  There’s a truism about the benefits of not being the smartest person in the room, and that was massively brought home for me last night.
And now I get to share that with you all.
Talking about Yesterday’s SCOTUS rulings

Hispanic, Atheist, American, Me

Women in Secularism 2 was an amazing event, and one whose various liveblogs I encourage people to read.  The talks and panels were fantastic, despite being bookended by obnoxiously wrongheaded attacks on the conference’s very premise.  Short review: would do again.  And not just because fellow attendees and bloggers Kate Donovan, Jason Thibeault, Miri Mogilevsky, PZ Myers, and Ashley Miller kept the atmosphere awesome throughout.

Some things that were said, in particular by CFI-Transnational Director for Outreach Debbie Goddard, got me thinking.  It’s no secret these days that organized atheism’s roots in predominantly white, male, well-educated circles has often made it tone-deaf to the different experiences, priorities, and demands of people outside those groups.  It’s also no secret that some of these “outsiders” have far more to gain from abandoning religion than Western atheism’s white, male, well-educated old guard ever did or hopefully ever will.

Which brings me to the Sarlaac pit of contradictions that is being a Hispanic-American atheist.
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Hispanic, Atheist, American, Me

There. Now You Have a Country.

In case anyone has avoided the bevy of mentions on this site and elsewhere, CFI Ottawa’s end-of-the-world-themed conference, Eschaton 2012, was a few weekends ago, and it was AWESOME.  Recordings of the conference’s talks and panels should be up on AtheismTV in a short while, but for now I want to draw attention to the words of Eric MacDonald of Choice in DyingThe text of his presentation is available here and here.
Take a moment to read that.
Take a moment to read that in Eric MacDonald’s sonorous, quavering voice.

Continue reading “There. Now You Have a Country.”

There. Now You Have a Country.