Fanfic: If Breq Were a Dinosaur, My Blog

My friend Ann Leckie showed me a tumblr where people were sharing fan fiction they’d written about the Ancillary Justice universe. This inspired me to write some of my own.

Since everyone else is writing parodies of “Dinosaur,” I figured I’d go for it, too.

It’s just meant as fun and silly, not a commentary on anything.

(Super interesting–to me–thing that happened to me while writing it, though, is that I know the physical sexes of some of the characters, and I found myself frequently using ‘he’ in the text and then having to go back through and replace it with ‘she.’)

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If Breq Were a Dinosaur, My Blog

If Breq were a dinosaur, my blog, she’d be a robotic one. And that would be awesome because she would fight in gladiator-style robo-dino competitions.

If she fought in gladiator-style robo-dino competitions, Breq would clearly win due to her superior athletic ability. She would make a lot of money and be deified and there would be a very amusing local religious icon showing a robot dinosaur with a halo.

If there were a local religious icon showing a robot dinosaur with a halo, people would start asking questions about why they didn’t also get to be awesome robot dinosaurs. There would be a flood of people uploading their brains into robo-dino bodies, and they would overwhelm the gladiator games, enthusiastic but totally incompetent.

If they overwhelmed the gladiator games, enthusiastic but totally incompetent, then Breq would quit because it’s no fun competing against suckers. She would strap herself into a robo-dino spaceship and sail off to Mars because robot dinosaurs on Mars is a thing that needs to happen.

If robot dinosaurs on Mars was a thing that needed to happen, then the people of Mars would eagerly await Breq’s arrival. They would throw a ticker tape parade, and huge holograms showing her approach would loom over the crowd. They would be surprised that, in real life, Breq did not have a halo, but everyone would be be too polite to mention it. Maybe she’d lost it on the way.

If she’d lost it on the way, it would have been found by Seivarden, who would have tried to sell it for some drugs. But the halo is holy and made of a vaporous material sacred to the universe, making it priceless, and therefore impossible to price.

If it was impossible to price, Seivarden would sulk a lot, and then steal some drugs, and then sulk a lot more, and then pass out in the snow.

If Seivarden passed out in the snow, then Breq would go save her. Yes, even as a robot dinosaur. Because robot dinosaurs have morals, too. Breq would abandon her adoring audience on Mars and strap herself back into her shapeship and spend long months sailing lonely through space until she found the ice planet where Seivarden, unconscious, was dying in the cold.

If she spent long months sailing lonely through space until she found the ice planet where Seivarden, unconscious, was dying in the cold, Breq would find someone with hands to slap Seivarden lightly across the face and wake her wake up. When Breq tried to depart with Seivarden, some people would try to shoot her down, and then they’d see she was a robot dinosaur and shout, “Holy shit! It’s a robot dinosaur! RUN AWAY!”

If they shouted, “Holy shit! It’s a robot dinosaur! RUN AWAY!” then Seivarden and Breq would high five. In fact, they’d be so trumped up on this success that they’d totally ignore the Presger gun thing and just go off to kill Anaander themselves because no Mianaai can withstand the awesome power of ROBOT DINO.

If no Mianaai could withstand the awesome power of ROBOT DINO, then Breq and Seivarden would chase the Raadch’s cloned leader’s hundred thousand bodies across a hundred thousand planets, and give each one a choice: death or being uploaded into robo-dino bodies for gladiator games.

If Breq and Seivarden gave them a choice, every Anaander would choose to become a robo-dino. At first, they would plot revenge, but then they would really get into the gladiator thing. Every match would be a down-to-the-moment battle between robot dinosaur clones. Instead of the loser being thrown to the lions, the winner would get thrown a lion for lunch.

If the winner got thrown a lion for lunch, robot-dino-clone-Anaander would eat it lazily, and then floss her giant mechanical teeth with its mane, and then settle down to snooze, dreaming of tomorrow’s competition.

Breq and Seivarden, in the meanwhile, would busily try to figure out how to fix all the stuff that Anaander had let go to hell. Unfortunately, they would be beset by the gods of plot and pessimism, and accomplish very little.

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Supreme Court Legalizes Marriage Equality Nationwide

US-JUSTICE-GAY-MARRIAGE

The vote was 5-4. From Justice Kennedy’s majority opinion:

The States have contributed to the fundamental character of the marriage right by placing that institution at the center of so many facets of the legal and social order.

There is no difference between same- and opposite-sex couples with respect to this principle. Yet by virtue of their exclusion from that institution, same-sex couples are denied the constellation of benefits that the States have linked to marriage. This harm results in more than just material burdens. Same-sex couples are consigned to an instability many opposite-sex couples would deem intolerable in their own lives. As the State itself makes marriage all the more precious by the significance it attaches to it, exclusion from that status has the effect of teaching that gays and lesbians are unequal in important respects. It demeans gays and lesbians for the State to lock them out of a central institution of the Nation’s society. Same-sex couples, too, may aspire to the transcendent purposes of marriage and seek fulfillment in its highest meaning. …

No union is more profound than marriage, for it embodies the highest ideals of love, fidelity, devotion, sacrifice, and family. In forming a marital union, two people become something greater than once they were. As some of the petitioners in these cases demonstrate, marriage embodies a love that may endure even past death. It would misunderstand these men and women to say they disrespect the idea of marriage. Their plea is that they do respect it, respect it so deeply that they seek to find its fulfillment for themselves. Their hope is not to be condemned to live in loneliness, excluded from one of civilization’s oldest institutions. They ask for equal dignity in the eyes of the law. The Constitution grants them that right.

The judgment of the Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit is reversed.

It is so ordered.

The Goodridge decision establishing marriage equality in Massachusetts was decided in 2003. It’s been astonishing how much this issue has changed in twelve years. From a post I wrote in 2004:

The Supreme Court has turned down a chance to overturn the Massachusetts SSM decision – yay! As far as I’m concerned, the longer we keep this issue from being decided in Federal courts, the better. If SSM is decided in the Supreme Court anytime in the next several years, the best we can hope for is to lose. If we actually won in the Supreme Court, there’d be a nationwide Constitutional amendment banning gay marriage so fast we wouldn’t even have time to inquire about job prospects in Canada.

Edited-To-Add bits:

* Scalia’s dissent, as you’d expect, is full of sarcasm and bitterness. Thomas’ dissent is awful, too. The “lead dissent,” by Roberts, is less snarky, but babbles on and on about how for the Court to recognize claims of bigotry from lgb people is the same thing as calling ordinary ‘Mericans bigots.

* From Towleroad: Constitution Guarantees the Freedom to Marry, SCOTUS Says: 7 Quick Takeaways from the Ruling:

1. The decision looks a lot like Windsor in that it is based not on heightened scrutiny per se, but on the Constitution’s airtight respect for the dignity of all persons, gays included.

2. The holding is based on the Fourteenth Amendment, the clause that guarantees that the states treat all citizens equally and with due process of law, but it does not choose due process over equal protection. It chooses both, and links them together, as Justice Kennedy’s Windsor‘s decision tried to do, as well.

3. It’s not the sex discrimination inherent in gay marriage bans that sealed their fate. Rather, it was the Constitution’s guarantee of equal dignity to all persons.

* Jay Kaplan of the ACLU on the work still to be done. Kaplan is talking about Michigan, but could be talking about the entire country in much of the article:

And then there’s RFRA — short for the Religious Freedom Restoration Act — and all of its assorted iterations. RFRA-style bills are quickly gaining popularity around the country as the go-to tactic for anti-gay forces seeking to continue to discriminate even after the SCOTUS ruling.

Here in Michigan, for instance, the discriminatory adoption bill that Gov. Rick Snyder signed into law earlier this month is part of a series of proposed legislation targeting the LGBT community, as a backlash response to anticipated marriage equality.[…]

Aside from the legislation we are trying to defeat, there remains a long list of proactive things to do — most important, amending our state civil rights laws to include sexual orientation and gender identity as protected categories against discrimination. In most places in Michigan it is still legal to be fired and denied housing and public accommodations for being LGBT. While LGBT people may be able to get married over the weekend should the Supreme Court issue a favorable decision, they still could be fired when they return to work Monday morning.

* Here Is The Single Most Important Word In Today’s Historic Marriage Equality Opinion | ThinkProgress It’s “immutable.” “Though the Court’s cases have, at times, been murky on this point, they often refer to immutably as one of several factors that, when combined, can trigger heightened scrutiny.”

Posted in Lesbian, Gay, Bi, Trans and Queer issues, Same-Sex Marriage, Supreme Court Issues | 44 Comments  

Supreme Court Declines To Gut Obamacare, 6-3

A demonstrator in favor of the Affordable Care Act walks with a sign in front of the Supreme Court in Washington

From Chief Justice Roberts’ decision (pdf):

In a democracy, the power to make the law rests with those chosen by the people. Our role is more confined—”to say what the law is.” Marbury v. Madison, 1 Cranch 137, 177 (1803). That is easier in some cases than in others. But in every case we must respect the role of the Legislature, and take care not to undo what it has done. A fair reading of legislation demands a fair understanding of the legislative plan.

Congress passed the Affordable Care Act to improve health insurance markets, not to destroy them. If at all possible, we must interpret the Act in a way that is consistent with the former, and avoids the latter. Section 36B can fairly be read consistent with what we see as Congress’s plan, and that is the reading we adopt.

And a bit more:

If the statutory language is plain, we must enforce it according to its terms. Hardt v. Reliance Standard Life Ins. Co., 560 U. S. 242, 251 (2010). But oftentimes the “meaning—or ambiguity—of certain words or phrases may only become evident when placed in context.” Brown & Williamson, 529 U. S., at 132. So when deciding whether the language is plain, we must read the words “in their context and with a view to their place in the overall statutory scheme.” Id., at 133 (internal quotation marks omitted). Our duty, after all, is “to construe statutes, not isolated provisions.” Graham County Soil and Water Conservation Dist. v. United States ex rel. Wilson, 559 U. S. 280, 290 (2010). […]

If we give the phrase “the State that established the Exchange” its most natural meaning, there would be no “qualified individuals” on Federal Exchanges. But the Act clearly contemplates that there will be qualified individuals on every Exchange.

As we just mentioned, the Act requires all Exchanges to “make available qualified health plans to qualified individuals”—something an Exchange could not do if there were no such individuals. §18031(d)(2)(A). And the Act tells the Exchange, in deciding which health plans to offer, to consider “the interests of qualified individuals . . . in the State or States in which such Exchange operates”—again, something the Exchange could not do if qualified individuals did not exist. §18031(e)(1)(B). This problem arises repeatedly throughout the Act. See, e.g., §18031(b)(2) (allowing a State to create “one Exchange . . . for providing . . . services to both qualified individuals and qualified small employers,” rather than creating separate Exchanges for those two groups).

These provisions suggest that the Act may not always use the phrase “established by the State” in its most natural sense. Thus, the meaning of that phrase may not be as clear as it appears when read out of context.

Scalia, in a notably snarky dissent (the other two dissenters were Alito and Thomas, as you’d expect), said that Obamacare should from now on be called “SCOTUScare.”

Rick Hasen comments:

This means of interpretation is important for a number of reasons. First, it means that a new administration with a new IRS Commissioner cannot reinterpret the law to take away subsidies. Second, it puts more power into the hands of Congress over administrative agencies (and therefore the executive), at least on issues at the core of congressional legislation. Third, and most important as a general principle, it rehabilitates a focus on the law’s purpose as a touchstone to interpretation, over a rigid and formalistic textualism that ignores real-world consequences. If followed through consistently, this principle would greatly improve our statutory interpretation.

Now that this genuinely ridiculous challenge to the law has been shot down, the only viable route for Republicans who want to destroy Obamacare is to win enough elections to do it, either by electing enough Republicans in Congress to overcome a veto, or by electing a Republican president who can allow a lot of leeway for Republican-controlled states to bend Obamacare, or both.

Posted in Health Care and Related Issues, Supreme Court Issues | 12 Comments  

Would You Believe I’m a Woman from Iran?

From Women in the World:

Posted in Iran | 2 Comments  

Help me pick out my new glasses!

Let me know which one or ones you think look best!

Continue reading

Posted in Uncategorized | 28 Comments  

The Mint Garden- a place to discuss trans people’s gender

Have you ever planted mint in a well-watered garden?  Probably not more than once.  The stuff takes over, doesn’t it?  Pretty soon you have more mint than you could use in a candy factory, and you’re hacking it back, treating it like a weed.  Most people don’t mind a bit of mint,1 but most of us like other flavors, too — dill, basil, thyme, and others — and we’d like those to have places to grow without getting choked out by mint.  Also, we’d maybe like to spend our time encouraging other things to grow, and not uprooting the mint.

Sometimes, when a trans person posts something, commenters ask questions which don’t seem to come up when a cis person posts something.  The questioners are often well-intentioned.  They’re often seeking genuinely to understand.  And, when a trans person posts from an explicitly trans perspective, naturally the topic is often gender-related.  So, gender comes up in these conversations, and fair enough.  What is “a woman”? What is “a man”?  When someone is apparently, in every way, one gender, but says they’re a different gender, what does that even mean?  Is that real?  Are there caveats?

But those questioners have just planted mint in the garden.  And there’s a place for mint.  Just not where you’d like to grow the thyme and the basil.  Not in every garden.

When this happens, when a questioner wants to interrogate an aspect of gender, the trans poster can easily start to feel that it is their gender which is being interrogated, and not just the abstract concept of gender.  There are many reasons why.  Among them:

1.  Gender as an abstract notion requires an act of will, for a trans person. Gender is very specific, for us.  It has consequences, and some of them hurt.2  This disparity in life experience between cis and trans is just about the definition of the difference between a cis person and a trans person.  One excellent definition of “trans person” is “a person whose gender is not universally considered valid.”3

2.  People4 often do question the gender of trans people, and challenge it, and deride it, and try to define it.  So this is a repeating, reiterating, recapituling, recurring, life experience for trans people which happens frequently, a lot, over and over, again and again.5  If the questioner were the first, it would not be an issue.  But the questioner is the 10,000th, even though this is the particular questioner’s first visit to this garden.  That ground has been pounded flat.  It’s hard for a green shoot to gain purchase, and the people who live there are pretty tired of the dust kicked up as visitors walk around and ask Important Questions.6

3.  Some people, with every good intention, try to spin the question artfully, to ask the question about gender in general (not your specific gender, no!) in an effort not to attack a trans person, to depersonalize the interrogation.  They want to spare the trans person the pain, and so they talk about hypotheticals. But there’s no bright line, and pretty soon the trans person is aware that they are at the focus of the questioner’s attention, and the question “What is this?” is really a stand-in for “What are you?” — which is a really dicey question to ask, especially when the questioner knows what the trans person has already said on the topic.  So, well-intentioned gender-in-general conversations also become poisoned.

4.  Some people, with no good intentions at all,7 ask questions about gender in general as a rhetorical device, so that they can attack a specific person’s gender while retaining a semblance of plausible deniability.  This further poisons discussions about gender generally.

5.  These definitional questions recur again and again on trans people’s posts about all kinds of topics, but they almost never appear on cis people’s posts, unless the cis person has actually raised the topic themself. This is not a coincidence; it is a reflection of that fact that the gender of cis people is unquestioned. Individual commenters aren’t wholly to blame for this–we’re all stewing in cissexism here–but when they can’t acknowledge the pattern, trans people tend to shut down and lose interest in talking further. This is a rational, self-protective response.


So, trans people get tired of these questions.  They can be good questions.  Tasty, even.  But they have their place, and often it’s not in the comment thread below a different topic, or a more specific topic.

Sometimes you don’t want mint.

But what about the people who want mint?  Shouldn’t there be a place to enjoy the mint?

This is that place.  Welcome to the mint garden!  Rimonim and I have decided to tend this garden, and since “gender” is an enormous topic, it’s a big garden.  We can’t take credit for the underlying landscape; there are interesting sight lines and repeated themes and grand vistas and little meditative hollows.

All we’re going to try to do is keep the mint hacked down to where the view is clear.


Rimonim and I wrote what’s above a few months ago, intending to get back to it, and he was busy, and I was busy, and we hadn’t pushed it forward… and then Caitlyn Jenner transitioned and suddenly everyone is critiquing her and talking about what makes a woman and spinning off conversations.

One of those conversations is in the the recent open thread, where Christopher and dragon_snap and Phil are having what strikes me as a very careful and caring conversation on this very topic. I reproduce it here, with some formatting fixes. I’ll comment as I have time.


Christopher wrote:

I hope this isn’t somehow over the line, but I found that Vox FAQ to be, well, confusing.

I still don’t quite understand what gender identity is.

So, I actually have tried similar thought experiments to the one described at the beginning of the article; gender and sex are a minefield of complicated ideas, so I decided to imagine something fairly simple. I switched out the terms “man” and “woman” for height terms.

“Okay, I’m [six feet tall], but imagine my mind was telling me that I was [five feet tall], I might wish that I weren’t [six feet tall]…”

And I had to stop there because I was already engaging in anti-trans language. Look at what happens when I switch it back:

“Okay, I’m [a man], but imagine my mind was telling me I’m [a woman], I might wish that I weren’t [a man]…”

If I were to describe a trans woman as “a man who wishes to be a woman”, that would be considered extremely transphobic in most trans-friendly circles.

The more acceptable description seems to be that a trans man is “[A man] who was assigned [a female gender] at birth. A trans man has always been [a man] for their whole lives.”. It’s very common to hear that a trans man has always been a man, and a trans woman has always been a woman.

But if I try to turn it back around I get “I am [a five foot tall person] who was assigned [the height of six feet] at my last checkup. But I’ve always been [five feet tall]”

That’s harder for me to wrap my head around. I’m clearly using the term “five foot tall person” to refer to something other than a measurement on a ruler, but I’m not sure what that something is.

Especially when we get to this part of the article:

Keisling and Ziegler explained that not all trans people undergo medical treatments to change their physical traits, perhaps because they are comfortable with their bodies,

So a trans man may well be okay with having a (for lack of a better term) “female” body, which means that when he calls himself a man he’s not talking in terms of what his body is, or what it should be. In fact, it seems entirely possible that he may wear “women’s” clothes; I think we can all agree that a man can wear a dress and it doesn’t magically make him stop being a man.

But I get stuck on this; if that trans man isn’t using the word “man” in terms of facts related to his biological sex, and he’s not using the word “man” to describe an effort to conform to societal gender roles, what does the word “man” mean in this context?

I’m not saying “Rargh, he’s not really a man” because in order to do that I’d first have to have a definition of what it meant to “really” be a man. And I don’t. I’d really like to know what the definition is.


dragon_snap wrote:

@ Christopher

I’m not trans, but I do have a gender identity, and as a woman, a queer person, and a trans* ally (to the best of my ability), I’ve thought about all this quite a bit.

1) You might find Julia Serano’s description of her experiences with ‘gender sadness’ illuminating. This is taken from a page on her old blog, but I highly recommend her book “Whipping Girl: A Transsexual Woman on Sexism and the Scapegoating of Femininity” if you are interested in transgender issues, sexism/feminism, or intersectionality.

i doubt i could adequately describe what “gender sadness” feels like to someone who is not transgendered. i suppose that in some ways it is similar to other kinds of sadness. for instance, you know that feeling you get when someone you love more than anything breaks up with you? and it’s about a month or two after the big break-up and you are trying to get on with your life. but no matter how busy you keep yourself, thoughts about that person just keep popping into your head about 100 times a day, and everytime they do you feel a bit of sadness. well that’s kind of what gender sadness felt like for me during most of my life. while i was always struggling with it, i could still go out and have a few laughs or go about my business and be relatively productive and happy for the most part. but unlike most types of sadness or grief, which tend to get a little less intense with every day that passes, gender sadness just keeps getting more and more intense. and by the year 2000, i had reached the point where the sadness felt more like what one feels on the actual day of the big break-up, when you can’t concentrate at all and you are totally consumed with thoughts of the person you loved. that’s how i felt almost every day: consumed with gender sadness. literally every other thought i had was about gender, about my pain. i could not get around it. it sucked all of the life out of me. i stopped calling friends, stopped writing songs and listening to music, i would go into work and just stare at the computer screen without really doing anything. it hurt as much as any other pain (physical or emotional) that i had ever felt before. and i knew there was only one way to ease that pain: transitioning.

2) It might be helpful to consider that different aspects of a person’s identity are of varying importance to different people. For instance, to some people, their nationality might be an important part of their self-concept, self-image, and their sense of who they are (i.e. their identity). For some others, their nationality may be only a very small portion of of what they consider to be their core self. The same can be said of pretty much any other trait or attribute – religious background, sexuality, profession, ethnicity, (dis)ability, family role, etc. And of course, it likewise applies to gender idenity. For instance, though I have a fairly specific and narrow range of gender expressions within which I am comfortable, I don’t have a strong innate gender identity (though I identify ‘politically’ – for lack of a better term – as a woman, and with womanhood, due to the historical and current myriad issues with sexism, strict gender roles, etc). I sometime describe my gender identity as ‘shy’, because if I ‘put it in the spotlight’ by thinking about it too hard or too long, I end up feeling uncomfortable and upset. It’s pretty neutral or androgynous though I think, and somewhat fluid. (Sometimes I feel like ‘one of the boys’, and sometimes like ‘one of the girls’.) It’s also worth noting though that I feel very much at home in AFAB (assigned female at birth) body, and I identify strongly as cissexual.

3) There are many aspects of a person’s biological sex. Some of the main facets:

– hormones: estrogen and progesterone vs. testosterone
– hormone cycles: approximately monthly vs. daily
– chromosomes: there are two sex chromosomes, X and Y, and many configurations of one or more copies of the X chromosome and zero or more copies of the Y chromosome in humans. Chromosomal testing is very rare, so we don’t really have good data at all about how common the various arrangements are in general, or how they correlate – if at all – with being cisgender, transgender, and/or intersex.
– secondary sexual characteristics, eg: breasts vs. facial hair and deepened voice
– primary sexual characteristics: genitalia
– gametes: egg cells vs. sperm cells

Now if a trans woman, for instance, has the hormones, hormonal cycle, secondary sexual characteristics, and genitals commonly associated with being female, unknown chromosomes, and no male gametes in her body, there is a very strong case to be made for her to be considered ‘biologically female’, and it certainly would be very difficult to assert that she was ‘biologically male’. Moreover, many cisgender people lack one or more of the listed factors (eg, post-menopausal women, men who have received radiation therapy, women who have had a mastectomy, etc.), yet we would not consider them to be less ‘qualified’ to be considered ‘biologically’ female or male, as applicable, nor would we doubt their experience of their subjective gender.

Many trans people have spoken or written about their experiences with HRT (hormone replacement therapy) in similar terms to the following memorable passage (emphasis in the original):

I’ve been on estrogen for nearly eleven weeks, and I still count down the hours (seven) until I can take my next dose. […] It’s hard to describe, but everything just feels more natural now that my mind and body are no longer flooded with testosterone. It’s as though after 23 years, I have finally stopped trying to fill up a diesel car with unleaded gas. My brain was made to run on estrogen.

As well, I think it’s worth noting as well that many trans people experience body dysphoria and social dysphoria as distinct but related phenomena, which they they may experience at different levels of severity. Additionally, there are a great many physical changes that can be effected via HRT, electrolysis, and various non-genital surgeries. And of course there’s really no way to tell what genitalia someone has without looking at them naked from the waist down — which really never comes up an interactions with someone who isn’t an in-person intimate partner, and sometimes not even then!

Sorry my comment was so long; I hope there was some stuff in there that was helpful or interesting.


Phil wrote:

I want to write a comment here that discusses a question that Christopher raised and also some of my own mental stumbling blocks when it comes to trans issues and gender issues. I do not intend to be impolite, but it is possible my comment here may be triggering for people who are struggling with these issues in a more personal way.

But I get stuck on this; if that trans man isn’t using the word “man” in terms of facts related to his biological sex, and he’s not using the word “man” to describe an effort to conform to societal gender roles, what does the word “man” mean in this context?

This is a question that I’m honestly trying to find a meaningful answer for.

I understand, as a writer and a progressive and a person who generally doesn’t want to cause people harm, that it is polite to refer to a trans woman as a woman, to use the pronouns that she prefers, and to use the name that she requests. I have no problem with that, and I understand that this use of language might be more than just politeness but might contribute to a space where someone feels safer.

In other words, I don’t want to sound transphobic or to do things that are transphobic. But, on another level, I don’t want to be transphobic. I can say that Janet Mock (for example) is a woman, but it feels like I’m being dishonest unless I also believe that Janet Mock is a woman.

Now, I don’t hold the belief that Janet Mock is a man, or that she is not a woman, or that being trans is a third sex. But if I’m going to hold the belief that she is a woman, then I feel like I need to understand what a woman is such that Janet Mock fits the criteria.

This might sound like a transphobic thing to say, and if it does, I’m sorry, but for me, finding out the answer to that question is the key to not being transphobic.

At the moment, the best I can glean is that a woman is a person who identifies as a woman (and a man is a person who identifies as a man). That’s functional from a rhetorical perspective, but it does render some common narratives illogical. (How can you, as a child, feel like “a person who identifies as a woman” — there must be something more, beyond simple identification, such that a person can reasonably say, “I have always known I was a woman” or “I have always known I was a man.” Or, “I did not change from being a man to being a woman, I changed what I identified as,” etc.)

The Guardian essay says this about Rachel Dolezal:

Dolezal might feel an enormous affinity to blackness – so much that she decided to identify as black – but her decision to occupy that identity is one that was forged through her exposure to black culture, not a fundamental attribute of her existence.

I feel like the Guardian essay engages in the logical fallacy of question-begging: Rachel Dolezal is not black because she is only choosing to identify as black, but trans people are the gender they identify as because they actually are that gender.


Guidelines:

So. At least two trans people (Rimonim and I) will be participating in this thread. Other trans people are welcome, too. However, since this is a thread for people to ask questions which may be shredding, fellow trans people, please participate only if you’re feeling sufficiently callused. Please look after your own resources and do not use up spoons you need for something essential.

Cis people are welcome, too (indeed, essential to the effort, since your questions are explicitly centered). We would appreciate it if you would make an effort not to be cruel, but we do want this to be a thread where people can interrogate matters like those I mentioned at the top. So, please do the best you can, and if you say something awkward, or poorly-phrased, or weirdly-conceived, we trans people will do our best to engage with it anyway.

All people, please remember that each of us only actually has one perspective. No single person has all the answers, and no single person can embody all of whatever it means to be “trans” or “cis” or “male” or “female” or “bi-gender”, or what-have-you.

Lived experience counts for a lot. If someone says that something happened to them and you don’t understand it, ask for clarification. DO NOT declare it to be impossible. Example: in a recent online discussion, Dana Beyer, who is an out trans woman who was assigned male at birth, casually referenced a traumatic incident in her life: her first period. Commenters scoffed and declared that it was patently impossible for a trans woman to have a period, and therefore everything she had said was suspect. Had they bothered to try to understand, they could have asked her. Or they could have googled her name and a few keywords, and discovered the key to understanding her comment: that Beyer is Intersex, and when she hit puberty, the unseen and unguessed-at uterine tissue in her abdomen started doing what uterine tissue does, and sloughed tissue… through the only aperture structurally available to it, her penis.

So, please, ALL people: when someone reports a life experience which you don’t understand, strap on your best humility and try, before you render judgement. Thanks.

I really hope we can have a good discussion. Again, welcome.

Grace

  1. I love mint. []
  2. So we’re clear:  not just hurt like “that hurt my feelings” (though heaven knows that’s corrosive enough as an hourly diet) but hurt like “those broken bones are going to cost a lot of money and keep me out of work.” []
  3. Hat tip to http://nodesignation.wordpress.com/definitions/ []
  4. and not always cis people []
  5. It is, so that you cannot mistake my meaning, something which trans people experience a very great deal. []
  6. Sometimes that ground is pounded and salted so hard that even well-watered mint won’t take hold; Jan Morris, upon being asked for an interview, is reported to have replied with one sentence: “When I hear the word ‘gender’ I reach for my pistol.” []
  7. at least, not toward the trans person []
Posted in Transsexual and Transgender related issues | 89 Comments  

Open Thread and Link Farm, Gerrymandered Edition

gerrymandering

  1. “Atena Farghadani is a 28-year-old Iranian artist. She was recently sentenced to 12 years and 9 months in prison for drawing a cartoon.”
  2. How to make sense of Rachel Dolezal, the NAACP official accused of passing for black – Vox
  3. There is no comparison between transgender people and Rachel Dolezal | Meredith Talusan | Comment is free | The Guardian
  4. I pretty much never get tired of the cerulean sweater scene from The Devil Wears Prada. What scenes can you watch over and over? Provide a link, if you can.
  5. Decoded | Are Fried Chicken & Watermelon Racist? | MTV News – YouTube
  6. An Anti-Feminist Walks Into a Bar: A Play in Five Acts | Whatever
  7. Stop Trying to Make Conservative Feminism Happen – Amanda Marcotte
  8. Some people say that Hitler is never funny, but this cartoon totally cracked me up.
  9. Terminal Lance – Terminal Lance “Offended II” A cartoon by a vet responding to the “Caitlyn Jenner isn’t brave, soldiers are brave” meme. The essay following the cartoon is great.
  10. Comics Pro John Byrne Compares Transgender People to Pedophiles In Conversation With Fans On His Online Forum | The Mary Sue Byrne’s approach is as pure an example of JAQing off as I’ve ever seen.
  11. DC Comics’ Batgirl writers are rewriting one of their issues to remove transphobic art. I hope they did a good job of it.
  12. Speaking of transgender characters in comics, one of my favorite webcomics right now is the wonderful As The Crow Flies, by Melanie Gillman. Melanie has a Patreon to support this comic.
  13. 9 questions about gender identity and being transgender you were too embarrassed to ask – Vox“> This seems like a good basic FAQ to me, but of course, I’m cis, so there may be things I’m missing.
  14. How a new generation of activists is trying to make abortion normal – The Washington Post
  15. White Fragility and the Rules of Engagement -
  16. I’m in an Age-Gap Marriage, and Yes, Pairing Younger Actresses with Older Male Leads IS a Problem | The Mary Sue
  17. Should the dragons on ‘Game of Thrones’ have feathers?
  18. Caitlyn Jenner: transgender community has mixed reactions to Vanity Fair reveal
  19. Anti-Gay Pastor Rick Scarborough Says 40,000 People Will Go To Jail To Defy SCOTUS Gay Marriage Ruling| Gay News | Towleroad I think I’ve said this before, but I don’t understand how they think this will work – that is, how on earth does one get arrested in defiance of a pro-gay marriage ruling? Are they planning to trespass on same-sex wedding ceremonies until the cops drag them off the alter?
  20. Time for a New Suitcase: Airlines Want to Make Your Carry-On Bag Even Smaller
  21. On The Incident In McKinney, Texas, And The Black Girls Who Survive
  22. Military’s transgender ban based on bad medical science, say medical scientists
  23. Republican senator criticizes Obamacare on the grounds that Obamacare subsidies are awesome
  24. Voluntary Intoxication and Responsibility
  25. A Debate on Online Political Discourse — Medium This exchange between Freddie deBoer and the excelent Jay Caspian Kang was excellent. It’s refreshing to see deBoer disagreeing with someone without holding them in contempt. Via Veronica.
  26. New Evidence That Voter ID Laws are Racially Biased. The more white people in a state believe in racial stereotypes, the more likely that state is to have strict voter ID laws.
  27. How Automatic Voter Registration Would Change America The problem with this argument is that, even if people are automatically registered to vote, that doesn’t mean many of them will actually vote. I’m in favor of AVR, but I don’t think it’ll have large effects.
  28. Caitlyn Jenner is High Femme, Get Over It — Medium “The attacks on Jenner’s femininity represent transmisogyny and femmephobia because there is a glaring double standard here. You won’t hear a famous cisgender female movie actress accused of being too feminine or a stereotype for wearing a dress.”
  29. Ban Noncompete Agreements. Do It Now. Noncompete agreements being used to bully low-paid cashiers and the like – and that these agreements are in effect legal because no one expects them to be enforced with a lawsuit – is pretty disgusting.
  30. Arizona mosque invites armed anti-Muslim protestors, including a dude in a “Fuck Islam,” shirt, to join them in prayer.
  31. It’s Time To Bring Back Baby Cages: Gothamist (Link Via.)

baby-cage

Posted in Link farms | 127 Comments  

I Stand By Irene Gallo

“Nielsen-Haydens, your fellow travelers, and media goombahs . . . I MOCK YOU! I MOCK YOUR ASININE INCESTUOUS CLUSTERFUCKED LITTLE CULTURE OF DOCTRINAIRE PROGRESSOSEXUAL MEDIOCRITY MASKED AS SUPERIORITY! You are all dolts. You are moral and physical cowards. You are without ethics, without scruples, and if you weren’t so patently pathetic, I’d say you might be dangerous.

Fuck you. Fuck you all. The forces of the progressive pink and poofy Xerxes were met at the Hugo Hot Gates, and repelled by a few brave dudes and dudettes with the stones to stand up to your bullshit.”

So that was Brad Torgersen, talking about two editors at the science fiction publisher Tor. Torgersen is the leader of the “Sad Puppies,” the public face of a bunch of right-wing science fiction writers whose proudest achievement is gaming the Hugo award nominations this year.

(Note also the homophobic “pink and poofy” comment. Not Torgersen’s first homophobic comment, either.)

So that’s the kind of rhetoric Puppies engage in.

Well, okay, it happens. I’m not bothered by Torgersen losing his temper – almost everyone does, in these situations. (I am icked, but not at all surprised, by Torgersen’s homophobic comments.)

So, anyway, Irene Gallo, who (I think) is in charge of cover design at the science fiction publisher Tor (which has published more than one Puppy author), was asked on her personal Facebook page “what are the Sad Puppies?” Gallo replied:

There are two extreme right-wing to neo-nazi groups, called the Sad Puppies and the Rabid Puppies respectively, that are calling for the end of social justice in science fiction and fantasy. They are unrepentantly racist, sexist and homophobic. A noisy few but they’ve been able to gather some Gamergate folks around them and elect a slate of bad-to-reprehensible works on this year’s Hugo ballot.

This is impolite, and hyperbolic, and you could argue it’s inaccurate as well. For instance, one could argue that Rabid Puppy leader Vox Day is not literally a neo-nazi, but merely a vicious fascistic racist misogynistic trans-and-gay-hating anti-semite.  I think that’s a specious distinction, because many English speakers use “neo-nazi” to refer to racist anti-semitic fascists in general, whether or not the person in question has actually joined the Nazi party; but it’s a distinction that reasonable people might make.

And, in my opinion, the primary goal of the Puppies isn’t to end social justice in sf/f, but merely to find a way to win a prestigious writing award without having to earn it through merit. (That’s certainly what the history suggests). But reasonable people might disagree.

A lot of Puppies have been arguing that it’s unfair to refer to Sad Puppies like Torgersen as “neo-nazi.” But Gallo straight-out didn’t do that; she called the Rabid Puppies neo-nazi, not the Sad Puppies.

It’s true that she refers to the puppies collectively as “unrepentantly racist, sexist and homophobic.” Although probably this isn’t true of every single Puppy, it’s no more unfair to characterize the Puppies by their leaders’ statements than it is unfair to characterize  Republicans by the positions of George Bush, John McCain and Mitt Romney.  And multiple Puppy leaders have said things that can be fairly interpreted as racist, sexist, homophobic, or all three.

And certainly, that all the Puppy nominated works were terrible is a reasonable opinion to hold.

I don’t think the way Gallo wrote would be a good way to open a respectful dialog with a Puppy supporter. But that’s fine, because Gallo was writing on her personal Facebook page. She’s not obligated to pitch her words to Brad Torgersen’s or Vox Day’s oh-so-delicate ears.

That was back on May 11. Vox Day screencaped it immediately, but didn’t publicize it until he could use it to create a distraction from the Nebula Awards. So he tweeted it, and his loyal followers exploded in the predictable way, many of them (including Day himself) demanding Gallo’s “resignation.”

Tor’s founder, Tom Doherty, responded with a blog post that sucked up to the Puppy narrative and apologized:

We apologize for any confusion Ms. Gallo’s comments may have caused. Let me reiterate: the views expressed by Ms. Gallo are not those of Tor as an organization and are not my own views.  Rest assured, Tor remains committed to bringing readers the finest in science fiction – on a broad range of topics, from a broad range of authors.

Okay, enough summary. (A fuller summary can be found on BlackGate). A few thoughts:

1) As many people have pointed out, Doherty seems to have a notable – and sexist – double-standard. Harry Connolly writes:

For years, Tor editor Jim Frenkel was widely known as a serial sexual harasser at conventions. What was done about it? Not much, for a very long time. Eventually, he was encouraged to resign after the public outcry became too much, which was announced with typical corporate blandness.

Last year, Tor contracts manager Sean Fodera publicly attacked one of Tor’s authors, Mary Robinette Kowal, in a typically gross and sexist way. […]

Did Tor CEO Tom Doherty release a letter apologizing publicly for Frenkel’s or Fodera’s behavior, while insisting that they should have been smarter about separating the personal from the professional? Of course not. For one thing, Frenkel’s shitty behavior happened while he was representing Tor Books at public events. For another, they were dudes and their victims were women.

However, it took Doherty less than 24 hours to issue a letter of apology for Gallo’s comment on her personal Facebook…

2) Trying to get someone fired because of their political opinions is terrible.

We can have a country in which people can feel safe and secure while stating political opinions. Or we can have a country where people live in fear and are subject to losing their livelihoods if they ever say anything that gets people angry. Everyone who is now trying to get Irene Gallo fired for what she said on Facebook has shown they favor the second option.

3) Prominent Puppy Dave Freer once wrote:

We should look rather harshly on anyone who takes their grudge – whatever it is, and says ‘gee I don’t like Joe Writer. I can’t get at him any other way, but let’s hurt his ability to make a living. That’ll teach him.’  […]

So far, to best of my knowledge, the Puppies, both sad and rabid, and their followers have avoided attacking things which make people a living.

Freer has changed his tune now that so many Puppies are calling for a boycott against Tor until Irene Gallo resigns or is fired. Freer doesn’t explicitly advocate the boycott, to be sure; but he weasels out of opposing it, and adds “I will hold off on buying any books from them in the meanwhile.”

Hopefully Freer will return to the principles he once claimed to believe in.

4) Happily, I’ve seen many people in the sf/f community stand by Gallo. A chorus I’m pleased to join.

5) I’m going to end by quoting Chuck Wendig at length; his entire post is excellent.

I find it no small irony that both the Sad and Rabid Puppies — who so strongly espouse freedom of speech, would then endeavor to rob that from Irene Gallo unless, gasp, we’re talking about another double-standard in play? It’s almost like women get treated differently in the world and held to different standards… hmm. *strokes beard thoughtfully*

Regardless of whether or not you agree with what she said, the fact remains: her publisher publicly rubbed her nose in the mess, then threw her under a bus, then threw her body to a pack of wolves. Again: publicly. Not privately. Perhaps this was all part of some legal stratagem or even a legal necessity — but what it feels like is an entreaty by the publisher to appease folks who believe and opine about really horrible things. And any time you want to make sure that your “inclusiveness” includes the most awful amongst us, please understand you’re not creating a safe space for anybody but the abusers. It’s like putting up a sign in your flowerbed: POISON IVY WELCOME.

I stand by Irene Gallo because she is a person who has the right to air her personal sentiments, regardless of whether or not we find them disagreeable. She has that right without being smacked across the nose by her employer in a sanctioned public shaming. I do not agree with Tor’s posturing on this point because it represents a double-standard of sexism and favoritism. I do not agree with Tor because they are opening the tent flap to the worst among us.

Posted in Civility & norms of discourse, Feminism, sexism, etc, Free speech, censorship, copyright law, etc., norms of discourse | 77 Comments  

Cartoon: Gay Bullies

I got paid to make this cartoon because of my Patreon supporters. Thanks, patrons!

gay-bullies-625

Transcript of cartoon

Panel 1
There are two women talking. One has streaks dyed in her hair; the other has black hair.
STREAKS: We can’t talk about gay rights without talking about the history of homophobia which–
BLACK: Stop GAY BULLYING me!

Panel 2
STREAKS: Pardon me?
BLACK: Anyone who disagrees with the queer agenda gets called a “homophobic,” “intolerant” “bigot!” That’s BULLYING!

Panel 3
STREAKS: Look, I’m not talking about you. It’s not personal. But can I talk about the general social context?
BLACK: Of course!

Panel 4
STREAKS: Great! Like I was saying, in a context of bigotry and homopho–
BLACK: GAY BULLIES! I’m being GAY BULLIED! HELP! HELP!

 

Posted in Cartooning & comics, Civility & norms of discourse, Lesbian, Gay, Bi, Trans and Queer issues | 17 Comments  

Cartoon: Police Shootings, or Oh The Tragedy!

police-shootings-1200
Transcript of cartoon

Each panel of this cartoon shows the same white dude in an armchair, from the same angle, watching the news on TV. Small details change throughout the cartoon – his hairline recedes, his drink changes, he switches from watching an old-fashioned thick TV to watching on a laptop to watching on a flatscreen – but the essential scene never changes. The man doesn’t seem very interested in the news, and in one panel he even dozes off.

Panel 1
TV: In today’s news, Prince Jones, an unarmed Black man, was shot to death when police mistook him for another man.

Panel 2
TV: Alberta Sprull, an unarmed Black woman, was killed by a concussion grenade thrown during a police raid.

Panel 3
TV: …almost ten percent of young black men are in prison, most often for non-violent drug offenses.

Panel 4
TV: …police say that Stansbury, age 19, was shot “by accident.” The officer was suspended for 30 days.

Panel 5
TV: …judge acquitted three officers who fired fifty shots into the car of Sean Bell, the night before Bell’s wedding.

Panel 6
TV: …despite economic growth, Black unemployment remains nearly twice as high as unemployment for whites…

Panel 7
TV: Deaunta Farrow, age 12, was shot when… Tarika Wilson, age 26…

Panel 8
This panel is divided into 17 sub-panels, getting smaller and smaller as they go on, implying a potentially endless number of panels. In each panel, the TV is speaking.
TV: …Oscar Grant was handcuffed face-down when police… Shem Walker… Kiwane Carrington… Manuel Loggins Jr…. Rekia Boyd… Reynaldo Cuevas… Kimani Gray… Eric Garner… Freddie Gray….

Panel 9
Suddenly the white dude looks engaged and outraged, leaping up from the armchair and pointing furiously at the TV.
TV: Private Property was damaged today when a protest turned into a riot…
DUDE: OH THE TRAGEDY!

* * *

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Posted in Cartooning & comics, police brutality, Prisons and Justice and Police, Race, racism and related issues | 46 Comments