Queering Religion

This interview was originally written for PourOverMag in April 2015. Unfortunately, the website is no longer available and the interview has been uploaded here.

I first met Stephanie Mott in May, 2011. We were fighting for the Manhattan, Kansas commissioners to not repeal the anti-discrimination ordinance passed back in February that added sexual orientation and gender identity to the list of protected classes. You read that right, only three months after passing the ordinance the new Manhattan commission was working on revoking the rights of queer Manhattan residents. The anti-discrimination ordinance had made Manhattan Kansas the second place in Kansas to add not only sexual orientation but gender identity to protected classes of citizens with Lawrence, Kansas being the first. In three short months, we saw these rights being ripped from under us.

We heard arguments from both sides, watching as ministers and fellow residents saying the protection was unnecessary because they had never seen someone discriminated on these bases. These responses came after person after person recounted tales of discrimination based on their gender and their sexual orientation, one of those people being me and another being Stephanie Mott. I remember coming down from speaking, shaking like a leaf. I was red, scared, and nervous. Stephanie hugged me and told me I had done an amazing job and handed me the card for her organization, KSTEP (Kansas Statewide Transgender Education Project).

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Short and Long-Term Effects of Family Rejection on LGBTQ Youth

A family’s most basic functions include support, both emotional and financial. Our family are the first relationships we develop and are usually the ones that we hold onto the longest, from birth to death. These bonds are not only meant to integrate us into society but prepare us for our own families when the time or choice comes (Hammond & Cheney, 2009). What happens when these family units do not fulfill their most basic functions and cast out their family members for things that are often not a choice, such as gender or sexual orientation?

Family rejection can happen for a number of reasons from personal differences, religious problems, alcohol/drug use, arguments, and so forth. However, many times families can settle their differences and still continue to act as a unit, even if they do not necessarily get along. However there are occasions where this rejection is lifelong from the moment it happens. This can lead to short and long-term health effects, both mentally and physically, regardless of age. The impact is most significant if this rejection happens during youth and is over things that cannot be changed, such as gender or sexuality (Lowrey, 2010).

These effects can range from homelessness, increased depression, increased suicidal thoughts and tendencies, to higher accounts of HIV/AIDS and drug use/alcoholism (Ryan, Russell, Huebner, Diaz, & Sanchez, 2010). This rejection can also lead to being in and out of the criminal justice system due to the criminalization of homelessness as well as survival tactics such as the survival sex trade (Valentino, 2011). These problems are also affected by experiencing racism, transmisogyny (misogyny directed specifically at trans women), as well as sexism, heterosexism, and other institutional oppressions. For example, a Black trans women will face more problems on the streets than a White cisgender (meaning non-transgender) gay male (Grant, Mottet, Tanis, Harrison, & Herman, 2011). These impacts are both short and long-term, impacting a person’s life from the moment the rejection happens and beyond.

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An Open Letter to XSEED: Words Above People

This is the letter I sent to both XSEED and their parent company Marvelous Games about the transmisogyny in the game Akiba’s Trip and their defense of it.

 Cut for discussion of transmisogyny and slurs, as well as mention of rape, violence, and assault. Continue reading “An Open Letter to XSEED: Words Above People”

The Feminine Threat

When people critique femininity, they proclaim that femininity is weak, unnatural, and artificial. Many of the traits that people associate with femininity are seen as inferior, such as emotional, sensitive, grace, innocence, feminine styles of dress (such as colorful attire), especially when compared to their masculine counterparts. However, I find this kind of absurd when compared to how fragile masculinity actually is. It is threatened and questioned, potentially even destroyed, by being near femininity. Even associations with femininity cause chaos in the stability of masculinity.

Masculinity, especially the masculinity of cisgender straight men, is constantly under threat from femininity. Masculinity is something so fragile, that they fear to breathe the same air as someone who is feminine, especially someone they perceive as male (whether this is correct or not). For something seen as so weak and so inferior, masculinity is certainly on shaky ground. This ground becomes increasingly shakier the more masculine a person becomes. It becomes increasingly fragile the closer someone gets to hypermasculinity or idealized masculinity. It becomes threatened by something as small as painted nails.

In an attempt to stop biting my nails, I wore fake nails with sparkling purple nail polish on them. People stared at my hands. They refused to touch me. They acted as if touching me would somehow have them catch The Gay. People would take bags from me at work, avoiding at all cost touching me. The overwhelming majority were men. They were threatened by my blatant display of femininity, seen as more over the line than my long hair. It’s absurd that we see femininity as weak when masculinity is defeated and threatened so easily. How can femininity be seen as weak when masculinity is threatened by a dude with painted fingernails? A small dude, nonetheless, with painted fingernails who is 100lbs soaking wet. Yet we see masculinity as strength?

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Dysphoric Reality

TW: Suicide (potentially), dysphoria

People talk about dysphoria as if its a monster. This looming beast who lurches over us, slowly pressing its weight into our bodies. This creature that lurks around every corner, in every shadow. This Blood Mary who waits in our mirrors to strike if we dare to catch a glimpse. Dysphoria is described as dark and monstrous, something ready to rip out hearts and minds out the moment we dare to acknowledge it, feeding on the small triumphs to bring us back down. Those watchful eyes that never leave, that phantom breath down our necks.

What if I were to tell you that for some, dysphoria really is a monster. It really is a creature lurking in the shadows, sucking on happiness and leaving a hollow shell. What if I were to tell you that it may kill me soon and is just waiting for the right moment to strike with blade sharp fangs and claws? If the hushed ways we speak of these feelings manifests. It twists. It warps. It becomes real. Welcome to my world. I do not only have to deal with dysphoria, I have to live with it.

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The Tokenization of Relationships

“But I have Black friends!” “My cousin is gay.” “That’s not true! My uncle is transgender!” We’ve all seen it before, the tokenization of relationships in order to prove a fact. Someone with friends, relatives, or ever partners who belong to a marginalized community cannot be against that community or hold ideas that are oppressive against them, right? Of course they can. The tokenization of relationships to prove a point even solidifies this point. How?

 

We’re all the same.

By saying you are friends, related to, partners with, etc. X marginalized group and thus cannot hold beliefs that harm other members of the group, you are saying that all members of the group are like your friend, family member, partner, etc. This is erasive and simplification of the complexity and variance of the group. In order for you to be supportive of the entire group, you are saying their identities and lives are just like that of the person you know.

Get Out of Jail Free Card

This tokenization also uses said relationship as an object, proving that there is nothing you can do or say that would be problematic because you have some relationship to this marginalized group and they have never said anything. This goes back to the fact that it holds the idea that these groups are all the same and cannot hold varying, let alone conflicting ideas or beliefs. If one person of a group believes something, all other beliefs must be incorrect. Interesting how this only applies to the ones who agree with the person who is defending their actions, beliefs, thoughts, etc.

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Trans Masculine/Feminine: The Recreated Binary

I can only speak on the term trans masculine and how it erases CAF (coercively assigned female) trans people like myself. Thus, the majority of this piece will focus on those erasive and binary aspects of the general usage of the term trans masculine.

 

I do not feel safe in trans masculine/trans male spaces. Despite identifying in some ways as a trans guy (my identity is complicated), I know these spaces are not for me. I am not masculine. I am what I consider to be high femme. I prefer feminine clothing and dress. I embrace my feminine characteristics such as my speech patterns, movement, and hand gestures. I’d be considered camp and flamboyant by gay male standards of femininity. My personal style is more close to drag queens than it is to other trans men. I am not trans masculine.

Trans masculine spaces, in an attempt to be inclusive of people like me, have shut people like me and many others out. They tie the ideas that to be trans and have been CAF, one must also be masculine. These spaces are overwhelming dominated by masculinity, as the name implies, to the point that feminine people like me are pushed out. Our identities and ‘transness’ questioned not only by the terminology but by the members as a whole.

They continue the binary and cissexist notion that to be trans, if one is CAF, one must be masculine in some way. They tie maleness to masculinity, often in excess. Even the non-binary aspects, are tied to maleness as masculinity is tied to that idea in society. If we wish to escape the binaries of society, we need to unravel that connection. We need to remove masculinity from male, femininity from female. Another discussion for another time.

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How Much Do You Hate Yourself, @RuPaul?

CW: Discussion of slurs, homophobia, and transmisogyny.

“Derogatory slurs are always an outward projection of a person’s own poisonous self-loathing” – RuPaul Charles on Twitter, June 2, 2013 in response to Amanda Bynes using the f-slur.

So I must ask you, how much do you hate yourself to loudly proclaim you love a derogatory slur aimed at trans women and trans feminine people? How much poisonous self-loathing are you harboring to proclaim this on a national level, and repeatedly? For someone who proclaims words don’t hurt you, you seemed to take personal offense when Amanda Bynes said the f-slur. How can you love yourself, when you spew these derogatory slurs from a position of self-loathing? Clearly, RuPaul, you cannot uphold your own catchy phrases.

You tell people to get stronger, that words are just words, but if words are just words, something with no meaning, why are you defending them so vehemently? Let it go. If it has no meaning and no value, you can just simply let it go. Of course, that wouldn’t happen because words have power. They have meaning and strength behind them. They have such power, that queer people rally behind boycotting companies who state anti-gay sentiments. They boycott and speak out against people using homophobic slurs, as you did with Amanda Bynes. However, if trans women do the same, requesting you remove a singular word from your vocabulary, it becomes a problem. These women are suddenly causing the end of the gay community for requesting to not be addressed in slurs, these very women who started the Gay Rights Movement, but have you forgot your mothers of Sylvia Riveria and Marsha P Johnson?

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Drag, Counter Culture, and Transmisogyny

Currently there rages a controversy about the drag community and its use of transmisogynistic slurs, in particular the t-slur. Among the justifications from cis drag queens on their use of the word is the idea that drag is inherently offensive because it exists as a counter culture to mainstream. It is inherently offensive in today’s society because it runs the opposite as to what is expected in the mainstream. There is a problem with this, especially at the defense of transmisogyny.

There is nothing counter culture about transmisogyny. In fact, transmisogyny is so deeply ingrained in our society that it is literally everywhere. The most popular TV shows ranging from Bob’s Burgers to House and any TV show among all genres and networks all have that one episode. That one episode, or even a handful of episodes, where they drop the t-slur, make jokes about ‘men in dresses’ (in reference to trans women), or run of the ‘shock’ of a woman with a penis.

In video games, trans women are the butts of jokes as well. In Catherine a trans woman is given the same dreams as the men in order to prove how she is really a man. Grand Theft Auto V makes jokes at the expense of transgender sex workers, a very real reality due to the transmisogyny faced by trans women when it comes to finding jobs. These women are portrayed with beard shadows and make references to tucking and electrolysis. The writers did their research and then made sure to do the exact opposite, playing off the ‘men in dresses’ trope, yet again.

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On Tolerating Hate

Alongside the idea that you cannot fight fire with fire, exists the idea that you must extend tolerance towards those who despise and loathe you in order to make any ground. You need to love your oppressor in order to get them on your side (implying you wish this anyway). Tolerance breeds acceptance and thus, you must play nice with those who wish you dead and gone. You absolutely have to play nice or risk being the single person who brings the entire movement down. We treat people like Jenga blocks, one wrong move and everything you’ve worked for to get ahead is gone.

This is a simplification to damaging degrees. It implies that the reactions of one person represent the entire group and that for oppression to be gone, one must be tolerant and accepting of said oppression. You are in the spotlight at all times. Every move you make must be calculated or else, not only do you lose, you bring everyone else under your banner with you, whether they are actually with you or not. One wrong step and your entire label is tainted. It all comes down to you. Don’t rock the boat, or else you’ll cause everyone to drown. You must nod you head and bow to the status quo, hoping if you dance well enough, you will be granted a token of basic humanity, if they even see you as human at all.

CW: Mentions of rape, murder, harassment, and assault.

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We Are Failing Our Queer Youth

For many, the most difficult times of our lives are high school, or even middle school. Years of turmoil for everyone, no matter who they are. Emotions run high and wild. Puberty blossoms and devastates. Youth struggle between homework, friendships, and their own budding senses of self. It is due to this, among many other reasons, that we often fail queer youth and their power, their bravery, their courage, and their strength. This bravery does not come for free though.

Queer youth are four to seven times more likely to try and commit suicide. They face extreme family rejection as well as peer rejection. They face mockery from student and staff alike in an environment that is supposed to protect, nurture, and educate. They suffer. They suffer during one of the most difficult times during a person’s life. So why, why do we never praise them for their strength and their courage? In fact, we tell them to shut up. We tell them to take it. Programs like the It Gets Better and Day of Silence campaigns promises queer youth that if they just suffer through, it gets better, do not fight. Do not challenge. Silently suffer.

Why do we not support our queer youth more? Whether they are in the closet or living open and proud, with a target on their backs or even their foreheads? Why do we not support their choices? Why do we not fight for them to be open and proud, without the risk of being driven from school or their homes? Why do we not address the hostile environments that make 20-40% of youth on the streets queer? Why? Why are we failing our children so horribly?
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Trans Exclusionary ‘Radical’ Feminists Aren’t That Radical

Radical feminists…:

Believe that society must be changed at its core in order to dissolve patriarchy, not just through acts of legislation…Radical feminists believe that the domination of women is the oldest and worst kind of oppression in the world. They believe this because it spans across the world oppressing women of different races, ethnicities, classes and cultures. Radical feminists want to free both men and women from the rigid gender roles that society has imposed upon them. It is this sex-gender system that has created oppression and radical feminist’s mission is to overthrow this system by any possible means. (Source)

Sounds pretty wonderful, I mean, it’s the basis of feminism and got its start in the 1960’s. Radical feminism is what started the push for women’s rights, especially the critical idea of patriarchy and how women are oppressed in society. While there are various subgroups and various definitions of radical feminism, they all believe in one thing; changing society and getting rid of the patriarchy thus, ending the oppression of women.

By most notions, any feminist could be considered radical if they wish to change society at its core and how it functions, especially in regards to how women are treated through gender stereotypes, gender roles, and how society views its definitions of gender. Trans Exclusionary Radical Feminists, in summary, believe that trans women are men, trans men are women (and especially traitors), that trans women rape the bodies of cis women for existing, and that being a woman is not an identity. Many of them harbor the idea of shared girlhood, which is the notion that there is a universal narrative that is experienced by all female assigned at birth people, something that trans women will never understand. These women and their supporters actively lobby against trans-inclusive health care, protections, and basic rights. However, trans people are not the only ones they harm in their crusades.

However, when it comes to TERFs and their beliefs as well as their approaches, there is something unradical about them. In essence, they support the patriarchy and how it oppresses women.

TW: Rape, TERFs, transphobia, transmisogyny, misogyny, sexism

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