Further confirmation that Mark Regnerus is an asshole

Researcher Mark Regnerus didn’t just misrepresent his flawed study as being about same-sex parents when barely any same-sex couples were present in his sample. He also holds some particularly ugly opinions about same-sex parents themselves. Addressing another study that actually focused on lesbian parents, he said:

And yet all this is not actually why I think it’s time for the NLLFS to shutter its operation. No, the reason is that its sample — 78 kids growing up in activist households — is no longer a source for valid, reliable information.

Did you catch that? “Activist households.” He continues:

In this case, I’m concerned that the kids feel pressure to give better-than-accurate portrayals of their household and personal life. When the adolescent children of lesbian parents are being intermittently interviewed for a study whose results have proven quite politically important — and almost always covered favorably by the mainstream media — it’s prudent for scholars to be skeptical about whether respondents are still offering valid and reliable responses years after they were first contacted.

Take note of the dichotomy he’s set up here. He contends that his own study is superior because of its use of a nationally representative sample. This is in spite of the fact that:

1. His study defined “gay fathers” and “lesbian mothers” as any father or mother who had ever had a same-sex relationship, rather than restricting this to same-sex couples who were actually raising children together.

2. As a result, it included almost no children raised by same-sex parents in the long term, a shortcoming Regnerus himself admits before dismissing it as insurmountable.

3. He also packed these groups of so-called gay parents with as many children of step-parents, divorced parents, adoptive parents and single parents as possible – as he says, he “forced their mutual exclusivity” by removing children of gay-parents-who-may-not-really-be-gay-parents from the aforementioned groups and lumping them all together – and then compared them to “intact biological families”. This put the “gay parents” groups at an inherent disadvantage.

And yet he now claims that the results of a study that specifically focuses on lesbian mothers raising children in the long term cannot be trusted. Why? Apparently because these mothers are activists.

What evidence does he have of this? He describes the study as follows:

The NLLFS employs a convenience sample, recruited entirely from announcements posted “at lesbian events, in women’s bookstores, and in lesbian newspapers” in Boston, San Francisco, and Washington, D.C.

Whatever shortcomings there may be in such a sample, this does not warrant concluding that lesbian couples – who, shockingly, sometimes take an interest in events and publications that are relevant to their lives! – can therefore be assumed to be “activists”. Regnerus ascribes some sinister motive to these lesbian-headed families being studied, for no reason other than the fact that they are lesbian-headed families being studied.

But being in a lesbian relationship and seeking to raise a family does not inherently make someone an “activist”. Starting a family is not some kind of covert gay-agenda “activism”, any more than it’s “activist” for straight couples to do the same.  Reducing our families to little more than a political ploy is nothing but naked and inexcusable prejudice. Never did Regnerus express similar doubts about the responses to his own study. Not once did he consider that the children of opposite-sex and same-sex parents would be influenced to distort their answers to his own study about a hot-button topic like same-sex parenting. Why? Because his study allegedly reflected poorly on gay parents, a conclusion which is somehow above any doubt, while this one reflected positively on us, which means it must be faulty because that just isn’t possible.

Further confirmation that Mark Regnerus is an asshole
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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!

"I want to bury this evil, and never have to talk about it again."

The final swing of the scythe which cuts an already blighted society to the ground.”

None of them lasted past the third generation from the time that they embraced it.” “The devil is moving forward with energy and aggression.” “Something so feebly rooted, so fragilely constructed and imposed cannot last.”

Only more loneliness, desperation, and death.” “True love isn’t able to be found in those types of relationships.” “It’s the kind of sin that defiles the land.”

Absolutely nothing good to contribute to family life”. “What father would want his children exposed to this presence, this behavior?” “Beneath the dignity of human beings as free and rational creatures.”

“Trying to put a bullet in the head of one of the greatest traditions that has ever existed and has built our society”. “Enemies of the human body”. “Fundamentally dysfunctional on many levels”.

“Internationally the greatest threat“. “Choosing to perform immoral acts“. “Just like during the times of Hitler“.

They’re intolerant. They’re hateful. They’re vile. They’re spiteful.”

LET THE BIBLE KILL YOU“.

That’s what the religious right has to say about Jill and Nikki:

When it comes to abstract theological histrionics versus the human reality right before our eyes, this is how we’re winning.

"I want to bury this evil, and never have to talk about it again."

“I want to bury this evil, and never have to talk about it again.”

The final swing of the scythe which cuts an already blighted society to the ground.”

None of them lasted past the third generation from the time that they embraced it.” “The devil is moving forward with energy and aggression.” “Something so feebly rooted, so fragilely constructed and imposed cannot last.”

Only more loneliness, desperation, and death.” “True love isn’t able to be found in those types of relationships.” “It’s the kind of sin that defiles the land.”

Absolutely nothing good to contribute to family life”. “What father would want his children exposed to this presence, this behavior?” “Beneath the dignity of human beings as free and rational creatures.”

“Trying to put a bullet in the head of one of the greatest traditions that has ever existed and has built our society”. “Enemies of the human body”. “Fundamentally dysfunctional on many levels”.

“Internationally the greatest threat“. “Choosing to perform immoral acts“. “Just like during the times of Hitler“.

They’re intolerant. They’re hateful. They’re vile. They’re spiteful.”

LET THE BIBLE KILL YOU“.

That’s what the religious right has to say about Jill and Nikki:

When it comes to abstract theological histrionics versus the human reality right before our eyes, this is how we’re winning.

“I want to bury this evil, and never have to talk about it again.”

NOM speaker explains his homosexuality/incest parallels: "Too much sameness"

Robert Gagnon, professor of theology and speaker for the National Organization for Marriage’s Ruth Institute, recently explained one of his anti-gay arguments on Facebook:

When I compare homosexual practice to incest it is primarily to make the point that if we are opposed to the latter we should also be opposed to the former, since both involve a union of persons who are too much alike on a structural (formal, embodied) level: too much sameness as regards kinship (incest) or gender (homosexual practice), not enough complementary otherness.

Next up on the chopping block: marriages of white people, Christians, and partners who both prefer salty snacks over sweet. Not enough complementary otherness!

NOM speaker explains his homosexuality/incest parallels: "Too much sameness"

NOM speaker explains his homosexuality/incest parallels: “Too much sameness”

Robert Gagnon, professor of theology and speaker for the National Organization for Marriage’s Ruth Institute, recently explained one of his anti-gay arguments on Facebook:

When I compare homosexual practice to incest it is primarily to make the point that if we are opposed to the latter we should also be opposed to the former, since both involve a union of persons who are too much alike on a structural (formal, embodied) level: too much sameness as regards kinship (incest) or gender (homosexual practice), not enough complementary otherness.

Next up on the chopping block: marriages of white people, Christians, and partners who both prefer salty snacks over sweet. Not enough complementary otherness!

NOM speaker explains his homosexuality/incest parallels: “Too much sameness”

Which is more respectful of religious freedom?

A. Allowing military chaplains the option to perform, or refuse to perform, same-sex wedding ceremonies or any other wedding ceremonies on military bases.

B. Banning all military chaplains from performing any same-sex wedding ceremonies on bases, regardless of their beliefs or whether they may actually want to perform such ceremonies.

If you answered B, congratulations! You’re Senator Jim Inhofe:

U.S. Sen. Jim Inhofe hasn’t given up his resistance to the acceptance of gays and lesbians in the military or same-sex marriage.

On Tuesday, Inhofe and fellow Republican Roger Wicker of Mississippi introduced a measure that would ban same-sex marriages on military bases and protect military chaplains from “pressure” to perform such ceremonies.

The two senators described the Military Religious Freedom Act as an effort to enforce the Defense of Marriage Act, known as DOMA, on the Defense Department in the wake of the December 2010 repeal of the “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy, which ended the official ban on gay men and lesbians serving openly in the military. …

A Defense Department directive issued last year says: “A military chaplain may participate in or officiate any private ceremony, whether on or off a military installation.”

For all of their concern about non-existent “pressure” to perform same-sex weddings, the authors of this “religious freedom” measure certainly don’t seem to mind when homophobic lawmakers legally pressure LGBT-accepting chaplains to stop doing the ceremonies they themselves wish to perform. What about their religious freedom? Or do anti-gay politicians only subscribe to the “you are free to do as we tell you” theory of freedom?

Which is more respectful of religious freedom?

Linda Harvey: "Strong feelings are not proof of anything."

Linda Harvey, homophobe extraordinaire, has composed an amateurish flyer “for your older grade school or middle school children about homosexuality”. In the middle of the standard array of homophobic tropes, she makes the following contention:

Some people claim they were “born” homosexual. But there is no well-accepted science that backs up that idea. Strong feelings are not proof of anything.

“Strong feelings are not proof of anything.” I’m going to have to remember that one. Like Brian Brown’s incredible declaration that “Just because you believe something is wrong, it doesn’t mean that you make it illegal”, Harvey says this without a hint of irony or awareness of just how applicable it is. Against all odds, they’ve momentarily achieved a remarkable clarity, but utterly fail to recognize its relevance to their own positions. This one crucial realization essentially negates everything else in her ridiculous pamphlet. For instance:

But once in a while, a man wants to date and love another man, or a woman wants to date and love a woman.

Most cultures long ago decided this was very wrong. And they made rules against it, for a lot of good reasons (more grown-up stuff). First of all, two men can never create their own child. Neither can two women. And two men kissing– well, it just doesn’t seem right. That’s because it isn’t!

Sure, some people might feel that same-sex affection “just doesn’t seem right”. But strong feelings are not proof of anything.

When God made the world, in the beginning, He created just two types of humans: a man and a woman. He told them to join together and become husband and wife (Genesis 2:18-25).

After some time passed, sin came into the world, and people started doing things they shouldn’t. Some of those things involved having homosexual feelings. This sin is described in the Bible, and it’s always wrong. When a few people stubbornly did this anyway, they made life very hard for people in their community. God was not pleased (Genesis 19).

One man and one woman is the way our Creator God designed us from the start.

Linda Harvey might believe two individuals were directly formed by a deity at the beginning of time, and that some of their descendants had their cities orbitally bombarded by that same god for trying to gang-rape some angels… but strong feelings are not proof of anything. Especially not that.

Still, God has standards that don’t change, and that’s a good thing. God is always willing to forgive us if we ask Him.

Yes, she believes in some kind of metaphysics where a certain god will forgive you for things, and this forgiveness is somehow meaningful and important, but strong feelings certainly aren’t proof of that.

God had very, very strong words against homosexual conduct (Leviticus 18:22; Romans 1:26-27). So even though it’s not the only sin, it’s still a very serious one.

When Jesus came, He repeated what God said about marriage –that it should only be one man and one woman (Matthew 19:4-6). And we should not forget that Jesus was really God on earth, so He should know!

And yes, some people believe that a certain book actually contains an accurate record of the moral commands of a real deity, that these commands define an enduring and absolute structure of morality, and that one particular man was a human incarnation of that deity… but strong feelings that a religious book is axiomatic, or that someone is literally a god, are not proof of anything.

And, a lot of people who don’t even believe in God agree. From Asia to India to Africa to Latin America, most people now and throughout history agree that being homosexual or “gay” is wrong.

Large numbers of people have historically held a variety of positions like this, such as belief in the inherent inferiority of women, the inequality of certain races, the inhumanity of people with disabilities, and so on. But those strong feelings were not proof of anything.

So if you hear that everyone thinks being “gay” is okay, don’t believe it—even if that person is a grown-up, or even if he leads a church. There are many, many people who still follow God’s teachings, still believe their common sense, and believe that romance, dating and marriage are for a boy and girl, a man and woman.

Their “common sense” might tell them certain groups of people are fundamentally immoral because of some interpretations of some religions which some people hold to be fact – but strong feelings are not proof of anything.

BUT… it’s not right to tell someone that being homosexual is okay. The person may be feeling sad because of being bullied, but never try to make him or feel better by saying “gay” is okay.

Harvey may think that opposing bullying based on sexual orientation is somehow compatible with telling people they’re in direct violation of moral injunctions from the creator of the universe and in need of “forgiveness”, but such feelings are not proof that this is anything but hateful, unnecessary, counterproductive, fictional nonsense.

I think this is my new favorite thing.

Linda Harvey: "Strong feelings are not proof of anything."

Linda Harvey: “Strong feelings are not proof of anything.”

Linda Harvey, homophobe extraordinaire, has composed an amateurish flyer “for your older grade school or middle school children about homosexuality”. In the middle of the standard array of homophobic tropes, she makes the following contention:

Some people claim they were “born” homosexual. But there is no well-accepted science that backs up that idea. Strong feelings are not proof of anything.

“Strong feelings are not proof of anything.” I’m going to have to remember that one. Like Brian Brown’s incredible declaration that “Just because you believe something is wrong, it doesn’t mean that you make it illegal”, Harvey says this without a hint of irony or awareness of just how applicable it is. Against all odds, they’ve momentarily achieved a remarkable clarity, but utterly fail to recognize its relevance to their own positions. This one crucial realization essentially negates everything else in her ridiculous pamphlet. For instance:

But once in a while, a man wants to date and love another man, or a woman wants to date and love a woman.

Most cultures long ago decided this was very wrong. And they made rules against it, for a lot of good reasons (more grown-up stuff). First of all, two men can never create their own child. Neither can two women. And two men kissing– well, it just doesn’t seem right. That’s because it isn’t!

Sure, some people might feel that same-sex affection “just doesn’t seem right”. But strong feelings are not proof of anything.

When God made the world, in the beginning, He created just two types of humans: a man and a woman. He told them to join together and become husband and wife (Genesis 2:18-25).

After some time passed, sin came into the world, and people started doing things they shouldn’t. Some of those things involved having homosexual feelings. This sin is described in the Bible, and it’s always wrong. When a few people stubbornly did this anyway, they made life very hard for people in their community. God was not pleased (Genesis 19).

One man and one woman is the way our Creator God designed us from the start.

Linda Harvey might believe two individuals were directly formed by a deity at the beginning of time, and that some of their descendants had their cities orbitally bombarded by that same god for trying to gang-rape some angels… but strong feelings are not proof of anything. Especially not that.

Still, God has standards that don’t change, and that’s a good thing. God is always willing to forgive us if we ask Him.

Yes, she believes in some kind of metaphysics where a certain god will forgive you for things, and this forgiveness is somehow meaningful and important, but strong feelings certainly aren’t proof of that.

God had very, very strong words against homosexual conduct (Leviticus 18:22; Romans 1:26-27). So even though it’s not the only sin, it’s still a very serious one.

When Jesus came, He repeated what God said about marriage –that it should only be one man and one woman (Matthew 19:4-6). And we should not forget that Jesus was really God on earth, so He should know!

And yes, some people believe that a certain book actually contains an accurate record of the moral commands of a real deity, that these commands define an enduring and absolute structure of morality, and that one particular man was a human incarnation of that deity… but strong feelings that a religious book is axiomatic, or that someone is literally a god, are not proof of anything.

And, a lot of people who don’t even believe in God agree. From Asia to India to Africa to Latin America, most people now and throughout history agree that being homosexual or “gay” is wrong.

Large numbers of people have historically held a variety of positions like this, such as belief in the inherent inferiority of women, the inequality of certain races, the inhumanity of people with disabilities, and so on. But those strong feelings were not proof of anything.

So if you hear that everyone thinks being “gay” is okay, don’t believe it—even if that person is a grown-up, or even if he leads a church. There are many, many people who still follow God’s teachings, still believe their common sense, and believe that romance, dating and marriage are for a boy and girl, a man and woman.

Their “common sense” might tell them certain groups of people are fundamentally immoral because of some interpretations of some religions which some people hold to be fact – but strong feelings are not proof of anything.

BUT… it’s not right to tell someone that being homosexual is okay. The person may be feeling sad because of being bullied, but never try to make him or feel better by saying “gay” is okay.

Harvey may think that opposing bullying based on sexual orientation is somehow compatible with telling people they’re in direct violation of moral injunctions from the creator of the universe and in need of “forgiveness”, but such feelings are not proof that this is anything but hateful, unnecessary, counterproductive, fictional nonsense.

I think this is my new favorite thing.

Linda Harvey: “Strong feelings are not proof of anything.”

Names have power, such as…

My partner and I have recently been reading The Lightning Thief with our 9-year-old son. One of the recurring ideas is that “names have power”, which is usually meant as “don’t say someone’s name or they’ll get pissed off”. While it initially seemed absurd that Greek gods and other creatures would somehow be okay with people talking about them as long as no one uses their actual names, it’s more likely that this is just a literary device to allow these newly renamed figures to be included as characters in their own right without triggering too many of the cultural associations that have become attached to their usual names.

But in looking into what “names have power” might mean, I found that this was actually a somewhat common idea. One person cited the Genesis myth of Adam naming every animal as an example of the act of naming symbolizing one’s power over the thing being named. This is just a specific instance of a more general kind of power: there was already an imbalance, because animals typically lack the ability to assign or comprehend names in the same way as humans. While the actual act of naming is an expression of this power, it’s not central to it. It’s a symptom, but not a cause.

Elsewhere, the American Druid Isaac Bonewits listed the “Law of Names” as one of many “Laws of Magic”. As he explained it:

Knowing the complete and true name of an object, being, or process gives one complete control over it. …knowing the complete and true name of something or someone means that you have achieved a complete understanding of its or their nature.

Ironically, this appears to disregard the common understanding of the name “name” as a convenient label for something, instead using the term to refer to an extended and comprehensive description. While fully grasping the functioning of a given entity might enable someone to exert control over it in certain ways, merely knowing its name – as most people use the word – is only a starting point.

But even as nothing more than convenient labels, names do have a variety of “powers”. The reason they have power is that identities have power, and the use of names provides a way to create, access, alter, merge, separate and destroy identities. This applies not only to people, but also to events, concepts, and movements.

For instance, a name can serve to integrate multiple identities that would otherwise be separate, such as someone’s offline identity and whatever additional identities they may have online. By associating these with the one individual behind all of them, they can be resolved to a single identity and a single name, potentially compromising that person’s privacy or safety. Conversely, omitting any identifying information, or using a very common name like “Anonymous”, can prevent the unwanted unification of one’s identities.

Putting a name to something also allows it to be discussed much more efficiently than if it had no name. Notice the ease of simply being able to say a name like “Elevator-gate” rather than having to rehash the specific nature and timeline of a certain controversy every time you talk about it. A name enables people to begin staking out the precise boundaries of something, defining it as a distinct entity.

For example, “atheism” has an obvious and well-understood definition, but in practice, it often implies a variety of stances beyond the disbelief in gods. “Humanism” and “secular humanism” can describe some of these additional beliefs, but these terms still haven’t always been linked to specific positions on ethics or political issues, and they’re even compatible with certain religious faiths. Because of this, their practical implications are often unclear.

People who identify strongly with atheism and secularism as a movement, but also share particular beliefs pertaining to equality, sexism, racism, women’s rights and LGBT issues, have long recognized that they constitute their own movement of sorts, but the lack of a distinct banner to organize under has sometimes left unclear just who they are and what exactly they stand for. Putting a name to this, like “Atheism Plus”, gives people something to affiliate themselves with and collaborate on to establish what it should mean.

Of course, this particular power of names is not a one-way process. The use of names can clarify and distinguish ideas and movements, but the ways people use and misuse them can also make their meaning much less clear. In the case of feminism, someone might use it to mean gender equality, but others may hear it as meaning an effort to subjugate, castrate or exterminate all men. This occurs because people don’t understand feminism as one distinct concept, and they have many mutually exclusive ideas of what feminism is – ideas which have become so, shall we say, “diverse”, that using the term can often result in these disconnects in communication.

Sometimes, people act as though names have more power than they actually do. They might disavow the labels of “racist” or “homophobe” or “hateful”, and then exhibit precisely the beliefs which are understood to be racist or homophobic or hateful, mistakenly believing that they can somehow alter the substance of their behavior merely by renaming it and attaching the disclaimer of “I’m not a racist”. But in using the name “racist” for something very different from how most of us use it, they’ve already disavowed that common meaning, so their defense that they’re “not a racist” ends up meaning very little. It can only be persuasive to others who commit the same error of thinking that something isn’t racist as long as you say it’s not.

People’s attitudes toward personal names also imbue them with certain powers. Because no one is capable of naming themselves at the time of their birth, their parents or guardians must provide a name for them. That name will be attached to them throughout their upbringing, and even once they reach the age of majority, most people still never change their first name. Because of this, that original name will always occupy a privileged position in their history, and the act of naming a child carries the solemnity of having to choose something that will be fitting and proper for them until death.

Changing your own name means rejecting these norms, and many people aren’t comfortable with that. When we do change our names, some people see these newly chosen names as somehow less authentic than the original name. Because they’re no longer something that we’re tied to for life, people might treat them as simply capricious, with no more significance than a change of hair color or a twenty-something’s ill-considered decision to get a tattoo.

At the same time, a chosen name takes on additional meaning in the case of transgender people. Because names are usually gendered, and gender is seen as one of the most fundamental aspects of our identity, changing your name to that of another gender is a declaration of not only who you are, but what you are. The popular notion of one’s original name being a “real name” can cause serious problems here. If your original name is the “real” one, then any name for yourself other than that will be treated as less real. And when you’ve declared yourself as the gender you now identify as, this use of “real” implies that what you are now is less real than what you used to be.

Considering how prevalent the notion of birth names as “real names” is, it’s not surprising that many people will ask trans people what their “real” names are. But they shouldn’t expect that we’ll be all that eager to tell them. Because of how people treat names, our original names have the power to invalidate who we are in the eyes of others. Rather than just ignorantly seeing us as “really a man” in the generic sense of “man”, knowing our previous names may lead them to see us as “really that one specific man”. It assists them in constructing some imagined identity for us that simply doesn’t exist, as an alternative to the person standing right in front of them. Our present may not erase our past, but our past doesn’t erase our present, either.

We’re proud of our chosen names because they represent who we are, but we can be equally secretive about our original names because they represent who we’re not. Just as our chosen names serve our own purposes, our original names can be used against us. And much like how people are willing to fight over the concepts and movements that a name stands for, they also seem to think that who we are is open to dispute. They might argue that I’m not really Rachel, I’m actually Tom. Not everyone seems to understand that while ideologies are up for debate, individuals are not.

These are the powers of names: to declare your self or deny someone their self, to affiliate or disaffiliate yourself with a movement, to make something into a thing in its own right or make it meaningless. Know them, understand them, and use them appropriately, and the powers of names can be yours.

Names have power, such as…