Not fair? NOT FAIR?

Thomas Peters, cultural director of the National Organization for Marriage and self-styled “American Papist”, recently whined a bit about the latest victories for marriage equality:

And that’s all we’re looking for is an even fight, and every place where it’s been an even fight, where we’ve had as many resources, as much chance to get our message out, people have protected marriage every time. I don’t think we could say that any of these four fights were a fair one.

Well, let’s talk a little bit about what’s fair. Does it sound fair for a nation full of devout, conservative Christians to use their homophobic faith as grounds to strip secular, civil equal rights from a 3% minority? Does it seem fair for that anti-gay movement to do this, repeatedly and successfully over the course of decades, while almost no one else is willing to fight back for this minority’s rights? Does that track record look like one of a movement that was lacking in resources, or opportunities to get their message out? Is this a movement that’s been deprived of a fair shot at achieving their political goals? Please.

And do you really think it’s at all likely that NOM would find this an acceptable and plausible excuse by the proponents of equality for the last 32 times we lost at the ballot box? That the fight was not “fair”, true as that may be? No. They would not accept that at all. They’ve spent the past decade telling us that the people’s vote is the final word on our rights. It didn’t matter how unfair the fight was. It didn’t matter how just our cause was. Without that popular support, we lost. Period. This was something they harped on endlessly – that we could never get the public on the side of marriage equality, and we just had to accept our losses and get over it.

Yet they would now claim that the formerly all-important people’s vote no longer matters. Now, they aren’t quite so willing to uphold referenda as the last word on gay rights. Where we were supposed to take our hits, getting over it is just about the last thing on their minds. Coincidentally, their stance just happened to change when they lost four times in one night. Why? The difference is that while we knew we would have to get the public on our side for this to happen, they seem to have become comfortable with the assumption that they’re simply entitled to public support for their legal homophobia. And when that ceased to be reflected in the popular vote, they suddenly cry that the game they’ve been playing without complaint for years must now be rigged – because, as they see it, they’re never supposed to lose.

But who on earth could look at results that now stand at 32 to 4, and seriously argue that this fight was unfair to the ones who had their way 32 times? Only the blindly self-righteous egotists of the religious right.

Not fair? NOT FAIR?
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A civil rights slaughter, stopped in its tracks

Fluttershy: "Yay."
It’s over. Finally.

Now that the first sitting president to endorse marriage equality has been re-elected, after a campaign that was unbearably tense and exhausting, we can relax and stop spending all day worrying about how every little development will affect his chances of victory. It’s done. We did it.

And that’s not all. In Florida, we managed to defeat Amendments 1 (which would have prevented any penalties against individuals or businesses that refuse to comply with a health care mandate), 6 (which would have barred public funds from being used for abortion services) and 8 (which would have repealed the ban on giving public funding to religions). We also retained three Supreme Court justices who had come under attack by the Republican Party and Americans for Prosperity for being too “liberal”.

Elsewhere, Tammy Baldwin became the nation’s first openly gay senator. Elizabeth Warren defeated Scott Brown, following his ridiculous claims that he could determine her Native American heritage or lack thereof by sight. Todd Akin, who said that women’s bodies would somehow prevent pregnancy in the case of “legitimate rape”, lost to Claire McCaskill – after alleging that her campaign was “trying to make me look like some kind of a weirdo or something” and “thinks you should vote based on what people say” (nah, really?). Richard Mourdock, who considered pregnancy from rape a “gift from God”, was also defeated. And Iowa Supreme Court Justice David Wiggins survived efforts by anti-gay groups to oust him following his ruling in favor of same-sex marriage in 2009. This is especially notable because three of the other justices had previously been removed by a similar campaign.

But the other really big story of the night? Marriage equality measures in Maine, Maryland, Minnesota and Washington.

State-level gay marriage bans have a long, ugly, depressing history. Until now, the result was completely predictable whenever it was put to a popular vote: we lost. 30 to 0. Then 31 to 0. Then 32 to 0. It had become a crushing regularity for us, and our opponents knew it. This became their talking point: “every time same-sex marriage is on the ballot, the people vote against it.” And it hurt because of how true it was. It wasn’t entirely unexpected when North Carolina and Maine were the most recent states to vote against equality. But when California passed Proposition 8, that really stunned us. If even the people of California wouldn’t vote in favor of gay marriage, then who would?

Quite honestly, it was looking pretty hopeless. State marriage measures had become something many of us dreaded, because we just knew in the back of our heads that we were almost certainly going to lose, no matter how hard we fought. There was always the quiet dread as we watched the poll numbers, initially in our favor, plummet in the days before the vote when anti-gay groups packed the airwaves with ads claiming we were going to teach children how to be gay. And then there was nothing to do but wait for the inevitable blow to land. I stopped getting my hopes up, and so did many others. It was too painful to be that emotionally invested.

We knew that public opinion was trending upward for us, and that the day had to come when this would be reflected in the popular vote, and we would be the victorious ones at the polls. As I said in 2009 after Maine voted to repeal marriage equality:

The margins are narrowing, and the support for gay marriage is still growing. There was a time when it was unthinkable that 47% of any state would stand up for gay marriage. We’ve come this far.

I knew that day would come, but I didn’t quite believe it – I couldn’t let myself. I’m still not sure I believe it.

But yesterday was that day.

In Maine, LGBT rights groups succeeded in placing a same-sex marriage referendum on the ballot. This time, we were the ones on the offense, taking the initiative to seize our equal rights. And in a state which only 3 years earlier had voted against our equality 53-47, we won – 53% to 47%. Marriage equality is the law of the land in Maine by the people’s vote.

In Maryland, a statute legalizing gay marriage was put on hold after anti-gay groups petitioned to put it to a referendum. And last night, we won, 52-48. Marriage equality is now law in Maryland, by popular vote.

In Minnesota, a constitutional ban on gay marriage was proposed, in addition to the statutory ban already in place. The failure of this amendment wouldn’t mean allowing same-sex marriage – its proponents simply wanted to make it even more difficult to repeal the ban, in what was nothing more than a bitter and spiteful thumbing of their nose to future citizens who would overturn their bigotry. And while same-sex marriage is still not legal in Minnesota, voters rejected this amendment 51% to 48%. Enacting marriage equality will now be that much easier.

And in Washington, a marriage equality law was likewise delayed as our opponents worked to force it onto the ballot. While the final results won’t be in for some time due to mail-in ballots that still need to be counted, it’s currently looking good for equality, and CNN has called it for same-sex marriage.

I really was not expecting this. I figured that, if we won any of these, it would have been in Washington. That alone would have been phenomenal – our first victory at the ballot box. But I had no idea we would win all of them. I didn’t think it was possible. And while I steeled myself for defeat, I completely neglected to prepare for victory. I just don’t know what to think, and the reality of it is still soaking in.

For the first time – ever – they’re the ones who are left reeling the day after. They’re the ones who will have to struggle to explain how they lost. They’re the ones who were rejected by the people. And we’re the ones who can rejoice. Their winning streak is over, and so is our losing streak. Their talking point is dead – marriage equality doesn’t lose at the ballot box every time. They can’t take state-level victories for granted anymore, and we can’t take our defeat for granted either. They told us the only poll that matters is the one on election day. Well, here it is.

Make no mistake, the opponents of LGBT rights gave this their all. They said marriage equality was a step on the road to communism. They said “the future of the family” is at stake and “our religious liberty is in jeopardy”. They said “this issue will destroy and undermine the church”, and marriage would “disintegrate”. AND THEY LOST.

The Catholic Church, the Knights of Columbus, and NOM donated millions of dollars to the campaigns against equality. A reverend described homosexuality as “worthy of death” at an official Maryland Marriage Alliance event. A Catholic archbishop went so far as to tell the mother of a gay son that her “eternal salvation” depends on believing homosexuality is a sin. AND THEY LOST.

A former Maine bishop said that Catholics “cannot justify a vote for a candidate or referendum question that opposes the teachings of the Church”. A Maine representative used his own gay brother’s death as an opportunity to claim that “we have no right to redefine marriage”. Minnesota students posted dozens of pictures of themselves citing the exclusively religious reasons for why they voted against our equality. AND THEY LOST.

Their ads featured a man who considers homosexuality a disease,  compared families with gay parents to gangs, claimed schools are teaching children “how to sodomize”, and said “the heart of transgenderism is a lie”. AND THEY LOST. They compared gay rights activists to Hitler. AND THEY LOST. They called homosexuality “highly promiscuous”, “centered around anonymous sexual encounters”, “largely predatory”, and that “many homosexuals first entered into that world through a disturbing seduction or rape or molestation or abuse”. And they lost.

They lost. Homophobia lost. Racism lost. Sexism lost. Ignorance lost. Bigotry lost.

We won. And so did our country.

A civil rights slaughter, stopped in its tracks

Come see our live election night coverage at 9 PM Eastern!

Just like pretty much everyone else, Heather and I have a lot of nervous tension to burn off about this whole election thing, so we’ll be holding a special live show on BlogTV at 9 PM Eastern time tonight, covering the presidential race and other important races and measures on the ballot this year. If you have any suggestions for particular races and proposals we should cover, feel free to recommend them in the comments or during the show. We’ll keep it going until we’re too tired to continue. See you there!

Update: We’re going to bed. Elizabeth Warren won, Florida Amendments 1, 6 and 8 were rejected, and Virginia Question 1 was approved. We are happy about all of this. Let’s hope marriage does well in Maine, Maryland, Minnesota and Washington. See you tomorrow!

Come see our live election night coverage at 9 PM Eastern!

On giving my first speech

We just got back from the Florida Secular Rally in Tallahassee, and there’s only one way I can describe it:

Rebecca Watson, Jessica Ahlquist, and me

Awesome.

This was actually my first time attending any atheist event, and in was fantastic in so many ways. While there wasn’t a massive turnout – Aron noted a distinct lack of P.Z. – this also had the advantage of being cozy and comfortable, with a friendly atmosphere all around. Everybody knew everybody, and I got to spend all day hanging out with some of my personal atheist role models.

Dave Silverman, Greydon Square, and me

Just having a place where the values of secularism, tolerance and equality are shared by everyone present was a new experience for me, and that counts for a whole hell of a lot. My family and I were able to feel safe and respected, a rarity anywhere else in Florida.

Aron Ra, Heather, and me

Everyone was incredibly supportive, and it was fun, relaxing, and a perfect setting for another first: my first public speaking engagement.

I hadn’t done any public speaking since I was 12, when my freshman English teacher gave us the simple assignment of memorizing a poem to recite in front of the class. Naturally, I completely forgot it and cried a lot in front of everyone when it was my turn (this sort of thing happened surprisingly often at that age). Since then, public speaking hasn’t really been one of my more significant interests.

But when Mark Palmer of the Humanists of Florida Association invited me to speak at the rally – and I’m beyond grateful to him for giving a first-timer a chance – I figured it was long past time to get over it. This was a big opportunity, and I couldn’t let it pass by just because of a little fear. For better or worse, I committed myself to it and said yes.

I let various ideas for the speech drift around for a couple months until they started to coalesce, and I didn’t actually finish writing it until about a week before the big day. I had little idea of what the event would be like – where I’d be standing, how many people would be in the audience, whether I’d know anybody, how it would generally feel to be there – so I just had to imagine I was addressing a crowd of thousands that I needed to impress accordingly.

I visualized this while standing at the kitchen counter, lecturing our Halloween pumpkins. I only practiced it about 3 or 4 times, when no one else was home but our toddler, who was usually more interested in Sesame Street. Heather didn’t even get to hear it before the real thing, which made her a bit nervous about how I would do. I just figured I wouldn’t know how it would all turn out until I actually did it – but I could still do my best to prepare.

Yet after looking up various recordings of major speeches from all sorts of events, I realized that I just needed to find my own voice and let it come out. There was no big secret, no key to blowing everyone away. Everyone had their own style, and it worked for them. What they had in common was exactly what I expected: to be that good, I’d have to try to connect with the audience, speak from the heart to each and every one of them, be relaxed and natural, yet confident and controlled, but also lively… while not being overly rehearsed. And though it seemed like a tall order to pull all of that off at the same time, I recognized that it would all ultimately come down to one thing: just fucking do it.

So that’s what I did. It was nice that plenty of other speakers went before me, so that I could take it all in and get a sense of the general tone of the event and of other people’s on-stage styles. And by the time it was my turn, I didn’t have to use that trick of imagining myself as a confident and prepared person anymore – because I already was.

As I stood on the stage, the loudspeakers echoing throughout the park, I imagined myself speaking to the entire world. And it felt amazing. The crowd was wonderful, and after I was done, the other speakers assured me that I did a great job. I had done it. Public speaking may have seemed intimidating before, but once I had finished, it wasn’t anymore. It was fun!

While this is supposedly a common source of anxiety, I can say that it really wasn’t all that hard. If someone ever invites you to speak somewhere, and you’re not sure whether you should: go for it! Give it a try, and you might find out it’s actually not too bad.

I’d like to thank all of the organizers, speakers and attendees who helped to make this one of the best days ever, and a pretty life-changing experience too. All of you were great, it was wonderful to meet everyone, and I’m definitely looking forward to doing it again.

On giving my first speech

My speech at the Florida Secular Rally: "The Dogma of Gender"

Remarks as prepared for delivery:

Good afternoon, everyone. Thank you very much for having me. For those of you who don’t know me, my name is Zinnia Jones. I’ve been a voice of atheism for the past four years, on YouTube and on Freethought Blogs.

I was invited here to talk about transgender issues and how they relate to the atheist movement. And really, what better topic for us to explore as skeptics and freethinkers? I’m sure most people don’t think they would have much in common with men who used to be women, and women who used to be men. But I think you’d be surprised.

Every year, more and more of us around the world are coming out and standing up for who we are. But this didn’t happen overnight. There was a time when most of us had hardly any exposure to ideas from beyond the little communities we happened to be born into. When you had doubts about who you are or what you believe, there might not have been a single person you could talk to, especially about issues that are so sensitive and personal – and in some places, unthinkable. And where would you find any information about it, when no one was willing to talk about it?

When you’re that isolated, you might start to think you’re the only one in the world who feels this way, or that there must be something wrong with you because you’ve never met anyone else like you. At most, you might see yourself represented as little more than a crude and hateful caricature in the popular imagination. And it seems impossible to believe that you could ever be true to yourself and live the life you want.

But then, slowly, the world opened up. We reached out across the globe, we got online, and we discovered who we were. We found all the knowledge we could ever need, and most importantly, we found each other. Yes, there were more of us out there, and we got together. We got organized. And we became the critical mass we needed to change our world for the better.

So, am I talking about being atheist, or being transgender? Both!

We’re all freethinkers here. Really, you have to be willing to think pretty freely just to consider the possibility that you might be another gender. All of us value reality, and the unfettered critical scrutiny of any claim, and the desire to know what’s really true, so that we can change our beliefs when the evidence demands it. This is how we’re working to dismantle the unexamined dogmas that permeate society.

And one of those is a dogma of gender, one that’s just as pervasive as any religion, and so often unquestioned that we hardly ever notice it – except when someone like me comes along and throws a wrench in the works. I’m talking about the idea that sex and gender are fixed and complete categories, that the two boxes of male and female with all of their associated features are big enough to contain everyone, and that no one can leave the box they’ve been placed in.

This is the idea that everyone with certain genes and certain anatomy must be a man or a woman. That means being expected to identify ourselves as the sex that’s dictated by our bodies, to look the way we’re “supposed” to look and act the way we’re “supposed” to act.

At first glance, this notion of gender might seem undeniable. After all, people with certain genes and body parts must be men or women – how could they be anything else? Of course, if you don’t bother looking too closely, it might seem just as obvious that the earth is flat or that nothing is evolving. But as it turns out, there’s much more to the human phenomenon of gender, and this common but naive view is empirically false.

Since most of the world only became aware of transgender people relatively recently, it’s tempting to think that this is just a kind of modern trend that’s only become possible because of advances in medical treatment. But this couldn’t be further from the truth.

From Africa to Asia to the Americas, there were numerous ancient cultures that believed there were not two genders, but three – or more! And this has persisted to the present day. There are millions of people living in South Asia who were born and raised as men, but feel more comfortable living as women, or a blend of both. Their cultures have distinct roles for them, and India, Pakistan and Nepal all legally recognize a third category of gender. Living as the gender of your choice rather than the gender of your birth is just not a new thing.

So, what do the experts have to say about this? Is it real, or just some kind of delusion that we’re a different sex? Well, every major psychological, psychiatric and medical association has agreed on one thing: you don’t fix this by denying people their identity. You don’t try to convince someone that they must be another gender. When has that ever worked? Would that work on any of you? No.

The answer is to live as who you are. That’s the cure, and it’s the only thing that actually works – because it’s what’s up here that counts, not what’s down there. We don’t consider it acceptable to try and “fix” gay people anymore. They’re not the ones who need to change. And if someone is a man or a woman, you don’t fix who they are. You fix whatever’s getting in their way.

I trust the atheist community to recognize sound science, and I trust you to stand up for everyone’s equality and civil rights. If all we stood for was mere unbelief, we wouldn’t be here right now! Wherever religious values are interfering with people’s lives, there is a place for the secular movement to set things right.

Out of every demographic, every religious group, every age group, every party and every education level, do you know who’s consistently the most supportive of legalizing gay marriage? It’s not Democrats. It’s not young people. It’s atheists! I consider the atheist movement to be one of the strongest allies of LGBT people. It’s not surprising, because we face a common enemy: religious bigotry.

The so-called “family values” groups that want government endorsement of Christianity, that want prayer in public schools, that want to take the science out of science class and the sex out of sex ed, these are the same groups that campaign against nondiscrimination laws by claiming that trans women like me are going to rape people in public restrooms. And as usual, these people are nowhere to be seen when their destruction of our civil rights fails to prevent a single violent crime.

I don’t think any of you like being seen as immoral baby-eating perverts, and neither do I. This is where atheists stand alongside LGBT people: none of us can afford to let the forces of religious ignorance prevail. And while the queer community may not be recruiting, I know atheists are!

But at the same time, it’s important to realize that just like anyone else, we’re not perfect. Greta Christina, whom I greatly admire, once said: “I feel more at home – more welcomed, more valued, more truly understood – as a queer in the atheist community than I do as an atheist in the queer community.” And while I’m sure that’s true for many people, there have often been times when I did not feel welcome, valued, or understood as a trans woman in the atheist community.

I’m a big fan of the atheist forum on Reddit.com, which has over a million readers. It may be the single largest online group of atheists. Unfortunately, I just can’t post my videos there anymore. Why? Well, I’ll let Reddit tell you in their own words. Quote:

“Is it a man or a woman?”

“I did not know she was a dude.”

“It’s a trap!”

“It is literally nauseating to look at.”

“Why are you dressed like a girl?”

“The grossest looking chick I’ve ever seen.”

“Denying your own gender is called being delusional.”

“Stop lying to yourself and admit you’re a man.”

“He will never, ever, remotely look or sound like a woman.”

Now, I realize that lots of people may just be curious or uninformed about this sort of thing. It took me a while to understand it, too. But it’s not always easy to be charitable and patient when someone calls you an “it”.

And in case you think this is limited to just a few internet trolls, consider this: One fifth of trans people have been homeless. How many of you can say that one out of five of your friends have had to live on the streets? 19% of trans people have been denied housing, and one in ten have been evicted because of who they are. Trans people face double the national unemployment rate – up to quadruple for trans people of color – and 47% have been fired, or never hired in the first place, because they’re trans. And almost one in five have been refused medical care when they needed it. All of this is because of the ignorance and prejudice against trans people that permeates our society and tells the world that it’s okay to treat us as less than fully human.

I know there are many people out there with good hearts who want to support the LGBT community – I see them doing their best every day. But they also need to understand that being trans is more than just another letter tacked on to the end. We’re people trying to go about our lives, just like everyone else.

As a nonbeliever, I want it to be acceptable to be an atheist at all levels of society, in the personal, professional and political sphere. I want this to be something that does not call into question our morality, our mental fitness, or our suitability for any occupation. And as a trans woman, I want the same thing: to be free from legal and social discrimination against who I am.

At the end of the day, being transgender is about having the determination and the courage to live as the person you really are inside, even when the world stands against us. This is how we make a fulfilled and meaningful life for ourselves, a life of love and happiness and the unbridled exuberance of our personal truth. This is something all of us can understand, and it’s what each and every one of us deserves.

Thank you very much.

My speech at the Florida Secular Rally: "The Dogma of Gender"

My speech at the Florida Secular Rally: “The Dogma of Gender”

Remarks as prepared for delivery:

Good afternoon, everyone. Thank you very much for having me. For those of you who don’t know me, my name is Zinnia Jones. I’ve been a voice of atheism for the past four years, on YouTube and on Freethought Blogs.

I was invited here to talk about transgender issues and how they relate to the atheist movement. And really, what better topic for us to explore as skeptics and freethinkers? I’m sure most people don’t think they would have much in common with men who used to be women, and women who used to be men. But I think you’d be surprised.

Every year, more and more of us around the world are coming out and standing up for who we are. But this didn’t happen overnight. There was a time when most of us had hardly any exposure to ideas from beyond the little communities we happened to be born into. When you had doubts about who you are or what you believe, there might not have been a single person you could talk to, especially about issues that are so sensitive and personal – and in some places, unthinkable. And where would you find any information about it, when no one was willing to talk about it?

When you’re that isolated, you might start to think you’re the only one in the world who feels this way, or that there must be something wrong with you because you’ve never met anyone else like you. At most, you might see yourself represented as little more than a crude and hateful caricature in the popular imagination. And it seems impossible to believe that you could ever be true to yourself and live the life you want.

But then, slowly, the world opened up. We reached out across the globe, we got online, and we discovered who we were. We found all the knowledge we could ever need, and most importantly, we found each other. Yes, there were more of us out there, and we got together. We got organized. And we became the critical mass we needed to change our world for the better.

So, am I talking about being atheist, or being transgender? Both!

We’re all freethinkers here. Really, you have to be willing to think pretty freely just to consider the possibility that you might be another gender. All of us value reality, and the unfettered critical scrutiny of any claim, and the desire to know what’s really true, so that we can change our beliefs when the evidence demands it. This is how we’re working to dismantle the unexamined dogmas that permeate society.

And one of those is a dogma of gender, one that’s just as pervasive as any religion, and so often unquestioned that we hardly ever notice it – except when someone like me comes along and throws a wrench in the works. I’m talking about the idea that sex and gender are fixed and complete categories, that the two boxes of male and female with all of their associated features are big enough to contain everyone, and that no one can leave the box they’ve been placed in.

This is the idea that everyone with certain genes and certain anatomy must be a man or a woman. That means being expected to identify ourselves as the sex that’s dictated by our bodies, to look the way we’re “supposed” to look and act the way we’re “supposed” to act.

At first glance, this notion of gender might seem undeniable. After all, people with certain genes and body parts must be men or women – how could they be anything else? Of course, if you don’t bother looking too closely, it might seem just as obvious that the earth is flat or that nothing is evolving. But as it turns out, there’s much more to the human phenomenon of gender, and this common but naive view is empirically false.

Since most of the world only became aware of transgender people relatively recently, it’s tempting to think that this is just a kind of modern trend that’s only become possible because of advances in medical treatment. But this couldn’t be further from the truth.

From Africa to Asia to the Americas, there were numerous ancient cultures that believed there were not two genders, but three – or more! And this has persisted to the present day. There are millions of people living in South Asia who were born and raised as men, but feel more comfortable living as women, or a blend of both. Their cultures have distinct roles for them, and India, Pakistan and Nepal all legally recognize a third category of gender. Living as the gender of your choice rather than the gender of your birth is just not a new thing.

So, what do the experts have to say about this? Is it real, or just some kind of delusion that we’re a different sex? Well, every major psychological, psychiatric and medical association has agreed on one thing: you don’t fix this by denying people their identity. You don’t try to convince someone that they must be another gender. When has that ever worked? Would that work on any of you? No.

The answer is to live as who you are. That’s the cure, and it’s the only thing that actually works – because it’s what’s up here that counts, not what’s down there. We don’t consider it acceptable to try and “fix” gay people anymore. They’re not the ones who need to change. And if someone is a man or a woman, you don’t fix who they are. You fix whatever’s getting in their way.

I trust the atheist community to recognize sound science, and I trust you to stand up for everyone’s equality and civil rights. If all we stood for was mere unbelief, we wouldn’t be here right now! Wherever religious values are interfering with people’s lives, there is a place for the secular movement to set things right.

Out of every demographic, every religious group, every age group, every party and every education level, do you know who’s consistently the most supportive of legalizing gay marriage? It’s not Democrats. It’s not young people. It’s atheists! I consider the atheist movement to be one of the strongest allies of LGBT people. It’s not surprising, because we face a common enemy: religious bigotry.

The so-called “family values” groups that want government endorsement of Christianity, that want prayer in public schools, that want to take the science out of science class and the sex out of sex ed, these are the same groups that campaign against nondiscrimination laws by claiming that trans women like me are going to rape people in public restrooms. And as usual, these people are nowhere to be seen when their destruction of our civil rights fails to prevent a single violent crime.

I don’t think any of you like being seen as immoral baby-eating perverts, and neither do I. This is where atheists stand alongside LGBT people: none of us can afford to let the forces of religious ignorance prevail. And while the queer community may not be recruiting, I know atheists are!

But at the same time, it’s important to realize that just like anyone else, we’re not perfect. Greta Christina, whom I greatly admire, once said: “I feel more at home – more welcomed, more valued, more truly understood – as a queer in the atheist community than I do as an atheist in the queer community.” And while I’m sure that’s true for many people, there have often been times when I did not feel welcome, valued, or understood as a trans woman in the atheist community.

I’m a big fan of the atheist forum on Reddit.com, which has over a million readers. It may be the single largest online group of atheists. Unfortunately, I just can’t post my videos there anymore. Why? Well, I’ll let Reddit tell you in their own words. Quote:

“Is it a man or a woman?”

“I did not know she was a dude.”

“It’s a trap!”

“It is literally nauseating to look at.”

“Why are you dressed like a girl?”

“The grossest looking chick I’ve ever seen.”

“Denying your own gender is called being delusional.”

“Stop lying to yourself and admit you’re a man.”

“He will never, ever, remotely look or sound like a woman.”

Now, I realize that lots of people may just be curious or uninformed about this sort of thing. It took me a while to understand it, too. But it’s not always easy to be charitable and patient when someone calls you an “it”.

And in case you think this is limited to just a few internet trolls, consider this: One fifth of trans people have been homeless. How many of you can say that one out of five of your friends have had to live on the streets? 19% of trans people have been denied housing, and one in ten have been evicted because of who they are. Trans people face double the national unemployment rate – up to quadruple for trans people of color – and 47% have been fired, or never hired in the first place, because they’re trans. And almost one in five have been refused medical care when they needed it. All of this is because of the ignorance and prejudice against trans people that permeates our society and tells the world that it’s okay to treat us as less than fully human.

I know there are many people out there with good hearts who want to support the LGBT community – I see them doing their best every day. But they also need to understand that being trans is more than just another letter tacked on to the end. We’re people trying to go about our lives, just like everyone else.

As a nonbeliever, I want it to be acceptable to be an atheist at all levels of society, in the personal, professional and political sphere. I want this to be something that does not call into question our morality, our mental fitness, or our suitability for any occupation. And as a trans woman, I want the same thing: to be free from legal and social discrimination against who I am.

At the end of the day, being transgender is about having the determination and the courage to live as the person you really are inside, even when the world stands against us. This is how we make a fulfilled and meaningful life for ourselves, a life of love and happiness and the unbridled exuberance of our personal truth. This is something all of us can understand, and it’s what each and every one of us deserves.

Thank you very much.

My speech at the Florida Secular Rally: “The Dogma of Gender”

Your search queries, answered!

One of the fun features of the blog software is that I can see what people were searching for that led them to the site – not who they are, only what was typed into Google that pointed someone here. While it can be pretty amusing to see what people have searched for (“insults for gay men”? Let’s not), it’s also evident that many of them have serious questions about all sorts of subjects, and these are often worth delving into. So, I’ve decided to take a look at a few of these search terms and give them a more personal approach. For a few lucky searchers, I’ll be playing Cha-Cha. Or Siri. Or whatever people are using now. Shall we?

“gay people and straight people arguing video”

To start with, here’s an 11-part series of a debate between former National Organization for Marriage president Maggie Gallagher, and philosophy professor John Corvino, at Oregon State University. Also, see this debate between NOM president Brian Brown and advice columnist Dan Savage. Or, for a little less civility and enlightened discussion, refer to my coverage of a Westboro Baptist Church protest and counter-protest.

“why dont people blame rapists”

Some part of this is the just-world hypothesis, people’s desire to believe that life operates in a fair manner, with positive and negative consequences being distributed only to those who “deserve it”. This does not actually reflect reality, but people often like to think that if they just act in a certain way, they can avoid anything bad happening to them. When something happens which contradicts this notion, such as rape, their idea of a fair world becomes unsettled. It undermines the idea that they’ll be protected from harm as long as they do all the “right” things. But their need for a feeling of perceived safety in the world remains, so, to reinforce their beliefs that have come under attack, they imagine that someone who’s been unfairly victimized has actually been fairly victimized – they must have done something to deserve it.

This phenomenon is complemented by widespread attitudes, across almost all cultures, that men are to some degree helpless to control their desires to have sex with women, and women are therefore responsible for provoking their own rapes if they fail to adhere to some nebulous standard of behavior and attire. Of course, women have been raped everywhere and under all conceivable conditions, regardless of dress, sobriety, occupation or location, and this reveals the underlying constant: that women’s bodies are simply always seen as sexual objects, capable of annihilating men’s ability to resist raping them. For this reason, criticism of women’s conduct as somehow causing men to commit rape essentially amounts to telling them “don’t exist in the world as a woman”. People don’t blame rapists because they think rapists are somehow less responsible, or not responsible at all, for their acts of rape.

“who is it you have chosen over jesus?”

Personally? My family. My acquaintances. My audience. Myself. Pretty much anything, because almost everything has more practical relevance to my day-to-day life in reality than an ancient myth that some people happen to believe is the most important thing ever. And that’s probably why most people who choose other things over Jesus do so. Jesus is not that important – at least not to the majority of the world.

“zinnia jones hair”

I use Garnier Fructis shampoo and conditioner, followed by Tresemme heat protectant spray and a ceramic flat iron. For color, I use L’Oreal natural black #1 creme.

“should teachers be allowed to tell class they are gay”

Let’s do a little thought exercise. How many times did you hear one of your teachers mention her husband in passing? Most likely a fair few times. Was this ever a problem? No. Yet your teachers were effectively telling their classes that they were straight. What need is there for them to share such personal information? Well, it’s just not a big deal, and nobody takes issue with it. Why should it be a problem? It would be absurd to ask whether these teachers should be “allowed” to let their students ever find out that they have a partner of the opposite sex, because it simply makes no sense to expect them to amputate that entire portion of their lives the moment they walk into the classroom. There’s no reason to treat gay teachers any differently in this regard.

Well, that’s it for this round of search queries. See you next time, and keep on searching!

Your search queries, answered!