Leelah Alcorn and Being a Parent to Trans Teens

Drawing by Leelah Alcorn
Leelah was a talented artist

I was recently on the Scott Sloan show on 700WLW in Ohio to talk about Leelah Alcorn and how parents should deal with their children revealing that they are trans.  This is a pretty big deal for me — it’s a nationally syndicated show that reaches a huge audience.  Sloan misgenders Leelah a couple times in the intro, but I get the sense from this, and other things that I’ve listened to, that he’s someone who’s more or less on the right side of the issue and trying to make it palatable to what he senses Middle America to be.  For those who don’t know, Leelah Alcorn was a trans teen who killed herself last month in response to being isolated from her friends, forced into Christian therapy that was meant to make her be cisgender, and denied the ability to start to transition.

My major point is that when children need medical care that their parents don’t believe in, the state intervenes to ensure that those children get the care that they need.  Jehovah’s Witness parents don’t get to deny their children blood transfusions, parents that believe in homeopathy don’t get to deny their children chemotherapy.  We don’t prosecute those parents for child abuse, unless the child dies from medical neglect, but we also don’t let them destroy their children because of their personal beliefs in unscientific nonsense that will lead to the deaths of their children.

When parents deny proper care to children who aren’t cisgender, they are contributing to a state in which that child is guaranteed to suffer and may die.  Suicide is the third most common cause of death for teens, but it’s even more common for transgender youth.  In cases like Leelah Alcorn’s, it is often predictable and can be preventable.  41% of those who identify as trans will attempt suicide in their life and that number jumps much higher, into the 70-80% or higher, if they are mistreated by their family, are denied the ability to get medical treatment, are out as a teen, and suffer from depression or other mental health conditions, as Leelah was and did.  The national average for suicide attempts, by the way, is around 5%.  For LGB people, it’s 10-20%.

Leelah Alcorn and Being a Parent to Trans Teens

Charlie Hebdo, the attack on the NAACP, and racism

There have been a lot of accusations of racism thrown around in regards to the work of Charlie Hebdo and the media coverage (or lack thereof) around the domestic terrorist incident at the NAACP in Colorado and I want to tease out some of these ideas that I’ve seen.

1. Accusation: Media coverage of Charlie Hebdo and not the NAACP is racist

The idea here is that the media covered Charlie Hebdo because the villains were people of color and the dead were white, while the NAACP is an organization for people of color that was attacked by a white person.  The media thinks people are more likely to respond to narratives where the heroes are white, even if they are French.

I think this accusation is wrongheaded for a number of reasons.

1. No one died in the NAACP attack, 12 people died in France.

2. One of the more compelling stories to come out of France is the story of the Muslim police officer who was killed defending Charlie Hebdo against the terrorists.

3. The villains are organized and have been established villains in popular imagination.

4. Most importantly, the victims are other members of the media.  It cannot be overstated how much the media latches onto stories of the media being victimized.  This bias in the media is the most mundane one, and one that rarely gets talked about over the left vs right bias.

2. Accusation: The media not covering and being slow to cover the NAACP domestic terrorism is racist

When you separate it from the comparison to Charlie Hebdo and just note that the media has been a bit reluctant to pick up the story, then yeah, I think this is a reasonable complaint.  This is a big deal and should be big news.  It does seem to be picking up a bit now.

3. Accusation: Charlie Hebdo made racist cartoons

Ehhh, this is complicated.  Of course it is, isn’t everything?  A lot of the commentary around these cartoons has been, in my opinion, very shallow, both in the accusations of racism and the defense from racism.  I think everyone is, of course, welcome to their opinion, this is not a personal criticism of any individual.

Political cartoons are almost always kind of racist the moment you put people of color in them.  Not putting any people of color people in them would also be pretty racist.  This is because caricature relies heavily on stereotype to get messages across quickly — all communication does, but political cartoons do even more extremely.  Now, show a bunch of edgy political cartoons to people who don’t understand the language on the cartoons or the culture that produced the cartoons and ask them how racist those cartoons are?  Yeah, they’re going to think they’re really racist.  None of that, by the way, relieves cartoonists of the responsibility to make not racist cartoons.  That said, many of the cartoons that are being called out as racist are making points against oppression of minorities or oppression within minority culture or referring to specific racist behavior of politicians or other figures.  That doesn’t make them entirely not racist, but it also makes them complicated.  They also come in the context of Charlie Hebdo being equal opportunity offenders.

However, Charlie Hebdo’s many layered context comes in the further context of France being a really awful place to live if you’re Muslim.  It’s an incredibly racist and xenophobic society.  What does that all mean?  Not any one thing, except that if you are going to read criticism of Charlie Hebdo’s interaction with race, make sure it is nuanced and culturally specific and not just, “Look at this racist cartoon.”  And just because a cartoon is racist or has racist elements, that doesn’t mean the publication or the people behind the publication were “racists.”  Finally, I personally am really hesitant to take seriously any criticism of these cartoons unless it comes from someone who is a fluent French speaker and follows French politics closely, criticism from anyone else veers perilously close to cultural imperialism for lacking enough context unless they’ve done an immense amount of research.

4. Accusation: Calling Charlie Hebdo cartoons racist means you don’t support free speech

No. Nope.  Incorrect.  There are a small group of people who think that the cartoons are hate speech and shouldn’t be allowed to be published, but the vast majority of people who think that the cartoons are grotesquely racist have valid reasons for doing so and are making points about complicated histories and relationships between people and media.  They are worth listening to even if you ultimately disagree with their conclusions.  And people thinking that speech is terrible doesn’t mean they want to regulate it away.  I think the KKK and Westboro Baptist Church should be allowed to say things.  I also think they are horrible.  These two things reflect totally different values that I hold independently in the same head.

5. Accusation: You can’t be racist against Muslims

Usually accompanied with “Indonesia has the largest population of Muslims in the world.”  To which I say, “Show me one Charlie Hebdo drawing that is of someone from Indonesia.” Islam is not a race, but that really doesn’t matter, because the Western world has a racial idea of what it means to be Muslim.

Charlie Hebdo, the attack on the NAACP, and racism

Maya Angelou, Susan B. Anthony, and Ashley F. Miller together at last

Sometimes you’re doing a deep Google search on your own name and you discover new things about yourself — I discovered a Table of Contents that included me.

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An article I wrote about feminism and atheism that was published in CrossCurrents last year was put into a women’s studies anthology textbook — apparently the #1 one on Amazon: Women’s Voices, Feminist Visions: Classic and Contemporary Readings.  So now there is a thing about atheism and women in the most recent edition of, according to Amazon, the #1 gender studies textbook.  So hurray for atheism being included in discussions of gender in academia!

Of course, this inclusion happened last April and no one told me that it happened so…? I’m going to contact the editors of the book and talk to them to see if I can get some more information on what happened and see if I can get a copy for less than the $110 it’s going for.  I’ve asked my local library to pick up a copy and it looks like the school library has one that you can’t check out because it is required reading in a class.  I was contacted last year because my article was the required reading in that class, but I guess no one thought to mention that it was in a textbook rather than a journal.  Internet searching also reveals to me that the article has been cited in at least four academic papers and assigned in at least three courses.  That’s not bad for something that’s been published only 18 months.

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Anyway, so Ashley F. Miller of FreethoughtBlogs is listed and included as the same kind of feminist expert must-read in a major text as Maya Angelou, Gloria SteinemEmily Dickinson, Susan B. Anthony, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, bell hooks, Virginia Woolf, Audre Lorde, Susan Douglas, Jessica Valenti, Barbara Ehrenreich. Also, you know, Natalie Merchant, so there’s that. And more.

Torn between being confused that no one told me it existed, to ecstatic that I am considered anywhere close to the same caliber as these other writers and thinkers, to fighting down imposter syndrome, to super stoked to include this on my resume.  Gonna go die now.  And not just from the mono.  Will update if/when I find out more information or locate the Discussion Questions!  Discussion Questions, people!

Maya Angelou, Susan B. Anthony, and Ashley F. Miller together at last

I have mono and everything is difficult

I think you misunderstand. I am not here to keep the darkness out. I am here to keep it in. – Terry Pratchett, Thud!

I haven’t been around so much.  This is because I have mono.

I assumed that if I got to 30 without getting mono it meant that I was one of most everyone who got EBV as a child and it wasn’t terribly noticeable and hooray for me.  I should have been less optimistic.

It’s amazing how much you can not do with your time. Not dissertation, not work, not volunteer, not writing blogs.

There’s a lot of drama going on around here, to which I can only say this: I didn’t know Avicenna very well, I didn’t follow their blog much either.  Much as I hate how some individuals over at Slyme Pit dehumanize some of my friends and colleagues, they did FtB a favor by finding and pointing out the plagiarism.  And if it wasn’t going to be us, it is far, far better that it was them than almost anyone else.

There is something to be said for the fact that even when two groups of people hate each other as much as FtB and SP, it took only a few hours for a legitimate wrong to be corrected once brought up.  I think that speaks to something right in the world.  Now I nap.

Quis Custodiet Ipsos Custodes Qui Custodes Custodiet

I have mono and everything is difficult