Open Thread and Link Farm, Fall Back Upon Preparedness Edition

  1. CMV: Most fat people are better off not trying to become “normal” weight. Instead, we should pursue fat acceptance and other ways of improving our health. : changemyview
    I did a “Change My View.” Spoiler alert: My view wasn’t changed.
  2. One man’s mission to bring better ramen to the incarcerated
  3. A Professor says the 2nd amendment right to self-defense is necessary; is accused of racism; rebuked by his university president; there are many death threats and demands he be fired.
    How strange that (as far as I could find) none of the prominent worriers about the “campus free speech crisis” wrote about this case. I wonder what was different?
  4. Ocasio-Cortez scored a victory — for well-designed campaign posters – The Washington Post
  5. Here’s Why This Mama Merganser Has More Than 50 Ducklings | Audubon
  6. Ocasio-Cortez’s Socialism Can Work in the Midwest
    As long as it isn’t called “socialism.”
  7. I Was a Female Incel – Quillette
    I certainly don’t endorse all of this essay, but I found it interesting.
  8. Free Speech for the Chattering Class Isn’t Free Speech for All | Noah Berlatsky on Patreon
  9. Abolish ICE? Medicare for all? Democrats are campaigning in poetry. – Vox
    “An old saying about American politics holds that you campaign in poetry and govern in prose.”
  10. My cousin takes this pervert down for grabbing her ass. He is later arrested in front of his wife and 2 kids when the cops arrived. : JusticeServed
    There’s video! I feel sorry for the kids, though. (But they’re not in the video). See also: Grabbing The Situation By The A** – (thanks to Mandolin for that link).
  11. Why the Migration or Importation Clause of the Constitution does not imply any general federal power to restrict immigration – The Washington Post
    From an originalist perspective, it’s hard to see where the Constitution gives the Federal government the right to broadly restrict immigration. Of course, I’m not an originalist – but many of the people calling for stricter controls on immigration are, or say they are. ETA: Here’s an alternate link.
  12. BBC – Culture – Why these anatomical models are not disgusting
  13. Critics of the Sarah Sanders restaurant protest say MLK would never have been so “uncivil.” But in his day, King was savaged as the enemy of civility. – Vox
  14. Young Leftist Candidates Are Breathing New Radicalism Into Stale Climate Politics
  15. Easily Mused: Al Williamson’s “The Success Story”This six-page horror comic, created in the 1960s, is a wonderful tongue-in-cheek response to the longstanding comics tradition of successful cartoonists having work by unaccredited assistants. Also, really beautiful drawings by Al Williamson.
  16. Probe found FlORIDA police chief told officers to pin unsolved crimes on random black people: report | TheHill
  17. Conservatives As Moral Mutants | Thing of Things
    “Of course, from a conservative perspective, I am an incomprehensible moral mutant.”
  18. There’s no such thing as a Trump Democrat – The Washington Post
  19. Letters of Note: Arkell v. Pressdram

I have no idea if anyone reading this would even want to watch a 40 minute video essay defending Disney’s “Hunchback of Notre Dame,” which is also about the original novel and the way stories are adapted to different times. But I found it very interesting.

Posted in Link farms | 33 Comments  

Cartoon: Words, Words, Words

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Transcript of Cartoon

This panel has four panels, plus a tiny “kicker” panel below the bottom of the cartoon. Each panel shows a Black woman wearing Saddle Oxford shoes is talking to a white woman with glasses and a pony tail.

Saddle Shoes is leaning forward to explain something; Glasses rubs her chin thoughtfully and looks up into the air.
SADDLE SHOES: What we need to understand about white fragility is-
GLASSES: The phrase “white fragility” sounds racist to me.

Saddle Shoes makes a conciliatory gesture, palms up; Glasses makes a “stop!” gesture with both hands, looking testy.
SADDLE SHOES: Sure, whatever.What we need to understand about white privilege is-
GLASSES: I don’t like that term, “white privilege.” Can’t we just say “racism” instead?

Saddle Shoes, now looking testy herself, keeps trying to explain. Glasses looks angry, her hands on her hips.
SADDLE SHOES: Ooo-kay. What we need to understand about racism is-
GLASSES: The word “racism” is bullying and shuts down conversation!

Saddle shoes looks annoyed, folding her arms. Glasses looks very pleased, opening her arms in a welcoming gesture.
SADDLE SHOES: I’m getting the impression you’d rather NOT have this conversation.
GLASSES: What a great idea! Let’s do that.

The same pair of women. The woman with glasses is talking angrily.
GLASSES: Talking about things I disagree with is divisive!

Posted in Cartooning & comics, Race, racism and related issues | Leave a comment  

The Janus Case: What Freedom’s All About. Or At Least That’s What They Want You To Think.

At the end of every academic year, my union hosts a dinner at which a group of faculty, staff, and administration put on a musical show, the main purpose of which is to poke fun at ourselves. It’s a wonderful reminder that we shouldn’t take ourselves so seriously that we forget who we are, why we do the work we do, or why it matters that we are a union—one that just this year celebrated its 50th anniversary. I’ve been at the college for nearly three decades and I’ve been in every show except one, which I missed because of my wife’s graduation. The script is always original—we base it on the issues we’ve confronted during the year, the national issues that have been impinging on us, and the eternal issues that all teachers and students face—but the songs we sing are spoofs on well-known Broadway melodies, on standards from the American songbook, or popular music.

For the past two years, I have played Donald Trump, and the narrative of our show has been built around the conceit that this best president, with the best ideas, who can make the best deals, and who knows more about everything than anybody else was the best choice to solve the (very real) problems that have been plaguing our college for the past six or seven years. In last year’s show, I sang “I Am The Very Model of a Model College President”—based, of course, on Gilbert and Sullivan’s “I Am the Very Model of a Modern Major General“—and this year I sang our version of “Just in Time,” by Jule Styne, with lyrics by Betty Comden and Adolph Green, about how I/Trump arrived just in time to deal with the campus’ most pressing problems. Here’s a montage from this year’s show, in which you can see me briefly in my Trump wig:

As you might imagine—we are an academic union in an agency-fee state—the then-still-not-decided Janus decision figured prominently in our thoughts this year. In my capacity as union secretary, I’d written five posts about the case for our blog, and so I was charged with figuring out how to work the case into the show. The third post in that series, Preparing for Janus: What We’re Up Against, zoomed out to look at the case from a national perspective, and what I learned from researching that post was what I tried to channel as I wrote the monologue that would be spoken by our version of Mark Janus. Now that I’ve read the decision itself, what I wrote seems to me even more apt than it was when I wrote it.

It’s satire, of course, which means it’s unabashedly partisan, so it’s not a fully fleshed-out argument; and, despite what my Mark Janus says, Donald Trump actually has very little to do with how the Janus case ended up before the Supreme Court, though Trump has been very useful to the right wing billionaires and ideologues who’ve been working for at least 15 years to make it happen. Still, I thought the monologue worth sharing:

Hello, my name is Mark Janus. Your new president, Donald Trump, has asked me to speak to you about why it’s so important to make Right-to Work the law of the land. President Trump—successful, self-made man that he is—truly has his finger on our nation’s pulse, and he understands why it’s important for working men and women to be able to find jobs, regardless of whether they get paid fairly, whether their working conditions are safe, whether they can get fired for no other reason than slapping away their boss’ hand when he—or she; have to be careful not to be sexist—started massaging the wrong inner thigh under the table at the company dinner no other employees were invited to…truly, you have no idea how lucky you are to have as your college president a man who really gets it, who will make sure that stuff like fair pay and fair treatment don’t get in the way of your right to work.

So why did he ask me to come here to speak with you? After all, I’m just an average guy from Illinois. Well, I’m also the plaintiff in that Supreme Court case you’ve been hearing so much about. The one where the Court’s going to decide once and for all whether or not average people like us can be forced to pay a union for services that union provides us. I’ll give you an example. I work for the Department of Health Care and Family Services in Illinois, and I’m represented by AFSCME, the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees. They negotiated a fair contract. I get paid pretty well for what I do; I have a good benefits package; a path for promotion if I want to take it; a retirement plan. The contract also helps guarantee that my workload stays reasonable, that I have recourse if I’m treated unfairly; and I stand fully behind my right to all of that, and to the union’s role in making sure that contract isn’t violated…and you know what? So does my legal team, and those wonderful Koch brothers, and all those other conservative organizations, who are paying for my legal team. In fact, I don’t know a single person on my side who doesn’t say, “Sure, if there are enough people who want to form a union, they should do so; and if they want to go ahead and negotiate a fair contract for everyone in the bargaining unit, then, hell yes, they should go ahead and do just that. If it makes them happy, it makes us happy.” We just believe that if they’re the ones who want to be a union, they’re the only ones who should have to pay for being a union. That’s what freedom’s all about, isn’t it? Not having to pay for something when you can get it for free.

Here’s another example. When I was hired, even though I said I didn’t want to join the union, the union still deducted from my salary what it calls a “fair share fee.” Yeah, I know, that money is supposed to compensate them for the work they have to do to negotiate for me, to represent me…but do you know what they then had the nerve to ask me to do? Lobby for a soda tax! Can you believe it? First, what the hell does that have to do with education? More than that, though, they put me in the position of having to say no, of having not to show up for that rally or whatever—because, frankly, I think a soda tax is stupid; if people want to get fat on soft drinks, that’s their business—and putting me in that position was just so unfair! What good are all those benefits, who cares about “the work they do on my behalf” if they’re going to treat me like that?

So that’s why I’m here. Because your President Trump knows my name has become synonymous with the kind of freedom of choice you need to polish the jewel this college is, the kind of freedom on which our great country was founded—though if you study ancient Roman mythology, you also know I was named after Janus, the god of beginnings and endings, and so I am asking you to help me make this the beginning of the end of the unions’ left-wing stranglehold on our nation’s politics… (Here, Janus was interrupted by other characters who sang a pro-union song.)

At bottom, that’s what the Janus case was really about. Nothing more and nothing less.

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My life in cats: Kennedy


This is Kennedy. She lives with my friend Jenna. Kennedy is quite pretty, and Kennedy is quite aloof. She really likes Jenna. The rest of us are not that interesting. Although, if she is sitting on her scratching post, then she is willing to accept gentle patting, perhaps.


She may have been a rescue from a hoarder’s house, which perhaps explains some of her wariness.

Despite the lack of petting, I realized that Kennedy had decided we were people who belonged to her when my friends fostered another cat. Kennedy became jealous and demanded all the attention. Our attention included.

Kennedy sometimes gets very angry at the downstairs bathroom.

Posted in Cats, Living a life | Comments Off  

I Am Deeply Disappointed in Junot Díaz…

Not because I know him (I don’t); not because his work has been important to me (I have read very little of it); but as a fellow survivor of childhood sexual violence.

In April of this year, when I read “The Silence: The Legacy of Childhood Trauma,” Junot Diaz’ essay in The New Yorker about being raped as an eight-year-old boy, I was filled with such feelings of hope and empathy, of compassion and camaraderie, of solidarity and gratitude, that I immediately sent him an email to say thank you and, since I have been telling my own story publicly for more than a couple of decades now, to offer words of support and encouragement. “As more [survivors tell our stories],” I wrote in the first paragraph,

we not only offer hope to, make it safer for, those of us who have not yet been able to speak out. We also help to define a cultural framework within which to see honestly, and a language with which to talk about accurately, an aspect of all-too-many men’s experience that is profoundly misunderstood…dismissed, denied and/or derided.

I had no idea who monitored the email address I used, or if Díaz would ever read what I wrote, much less respond to it, but I was still happy to have written him. Then, just a few days later, I read the tweet in which Zinzi Clemmons alleged that Díaz had forcibly kissed her:

I read as well the statements by Carmen Maria Machado, Monica Byrne, Alisa Valdes, and others who told stories that not only seemed to shred Díaz’ reputation as an ally to women, specifically women of color, but also placed his New Yorker essay in a much more complicated context. Given my own experience of writing about what the men who violated me did to me, I did not for one moment think—as Clemmons and others suggested—that Díaz had written his essay in order to preempt accusations that he knew were coming. At the same time, however, there was no way to avoid the difficulty inherent in seeing him as both a survivor and a perpetrator, a status he seemed to confirm in the statement he released through his agent:

I take responsibility for my past… That is the reason I made the decision to tell the truth of my rape and its damaging aftermath. This conversation is important and must continue. I am listening to and learning from women’s stories in this essential and overdue cultural movement. We must continue to teach all men about consent and boundaries.

To be honest, I felt like a fool. In writing Díaz, I had without realizing it violated a commitment I made to myself at least three decades ago: Never to stand in solidarity of any kind with anyone who’d done anything like what the men who violated me had done. I didn’t blame myself for this. After all, how could I have known? Nonetheless, a part of me wanted to write Díaz again and take back every word of what my original email had said. Doing that, however, would have meant violating another, equally important commitment I feel obligated to keep: Never to turn my back on a fellow survivor.

How to keep both those commitments with integrity is a question I’ve been trying to write about for the past couple of months. Indeed, I had just finished a draft I was satisfied with when I read—and this is the source of my disappointment—the recent article in The Boston Globe where Díaz categorically denies all the allegations made against him. The denial itself, of course, is deeply problematic, if not entirely unexpected. Díaz, after all, has a lot to lose if he ends up going the way of other high profile men caught out by #MeToo accusations, and I can see how MIT’s decision not to fire him and The Boston Review’s decision to keep him on as fiction editor might encourage him to try to clear his name completely.

What’s disappointing about his denial is the form it takes. Accompanied by his attorney—which means you can guarantee that everything he’s quoted as saying has been carefully and strategically thought through—Díaz does precisely what he was accused of by the people who saw the publication of his New Yorker essay as a cynical and manipulative ploy. He uses his experience of rape and his status as a survivor to garner sympathy for himself. Then he uses that sympathy to stake out a moral high ground, calling into question the character, integrity, and veracity of his accusers—a strategy highly reminiscent of the long-discredited ploy used by defense attorneys to shame and discredit women who testify against the men accused of raping them. Continue reading

Posted in sexual assault, sexual harassment | Comments Off  

Cartoon: Democrats React To A Crisis

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After Justice Kennedy announced his retirement – within an hour – my twitter feed spat forth, again and again, Bernie fans blaming the loss of the Supreme Court on Hillary supporters (for not voting for Bernie to win the primary), and Hillary supporters blaming Bernie supporters (those who hadn’t voted for Hillary in the general). The tone, on both sides often skewed heavily towards “bitter.”

We are a month shy of two years since Bernie conceded the primary. And we lack a time machine, and cannot know what would have been different if Bernie somehow won the primary. It is time to move forward, and it is infinitely frustrating to me that, even in the face of utter Supreme Court disaster, so much of the base seems unable to. I don’t know the right way forward, but I’m positive that keeping our hands about each other throats’ isn’t it.

Saying this is not saying that neither side has a point. Hillary supporters are right to say that much of the treatment of Clinton stinks of misogyny. And Bernie supporters are right that having the primary election seemingly wrapped up by a powerful party figure long before voting has begun is not healthy for the party. These are ongoing problems that need to be addressed going forward; but whatever forward progress can be made by re-litigating the 2016 primary, has already been made. There’s no more fruit in that tree.

Artwise, I’m very pleased with how this cartoon looks. I think the color and design works well. (Although I might come to hate the art given some time.) A one-panel cartoon can have a more unified design than a multi-panel cartoon can, and it’s fun to be able to play with that.

It was also fun to do “the executioner,” another classic gag-cartoon trope. I don’t know if any executioners ever actually went shirtless, but a lot of cartoonists have drawn them that way over the decades, and I’m happy to feel a part of that tradition.

It’s funny how different gag cartooning is from adventure comics. My first instinct was to put the executioner in the foreground, mostly in silhouette, looming over the main figures on the block. It would have been much more dramatic, and completely wrong for a gag cartoon.


This is a one-panel cartoon. Two people in modern clothes are on a platform, kneeling across an executioner’s block, their hands tied behind their backs. They are arguing. Nearby, a huge man with a black hood covering his face, and a huge axe, stands at the ready. In front of the platform, a crowd cheers.

MAN: If you Hillarybots had supported Bernie, we wouldn’t be in this situation!
WOMAN: Ha! If you Bernie Bros had be reasonable, this never would have happened!

Posted in Cartooning & comics, Elections and politics, Supreme Court Issues | Comments Off  

Open Thread and Link Farm, Babe Ruth Edition

  1. This game contains absolutely no triggering material | Ben on Patreon
    This small game (written by the Ben who leaves comments on “Alas”) is fantastic. And searing.
  2. Anthony Kennedy, the Trump Court and Minority Rule
    “The House has a massive Republican tilt, requiring Democrats to win the national vote by six or seven points in order to secure a likely majority. The Senate has an even more pronounced tilt, overrepresenting residents of small states, which tend to be white and rural.”
  3. How Social-Media Trolls Turned U.C. Berkeley Into a Free-Speech Circus | The New Yorker
    I think students should have free speech, but Berkeley shouldn’t be required to spend $3 million so that Milo can come speak for fifteen minutes. Colleges should be able to set reasonable, non-partisan limits on expense without being accused of censorship.
  4. Good news at last: the world isn’t as horrific as you think | Hans Rosling
    “But while it is easy to be aware of all the bad things happening in the world, it’s harder to know about the good things. The silent miracle of human progress is too slow and too fragmented to ever qualify as news.”
  5. Most Democrats Don’t Take Sex Workers’ Rights Seriously. That’s Finally Starting To Change. | HuffPost
    A few Democratic candidates for Congress are running against SESTA/FOSTA.
  6. Today’s US-Mexico “border crisis” in 6 charts
    Or the lack thereof.
  7. Why I Am Against SESTA-FOSTA — Suraj Patel for Congress
    This campaign web page is a usefully concise summary of the case against SESTA-FOSTA.
  8. Body Positivity Is a Scam – Racked
    “There’s nothing capitalism can’t alchemize into a business opportunity, but for it to be a useful tool for marketers, body positivity needed to be decoupled from fatness and political advocacy, sanitized, and neatly repackaged into something that begins and ends with images.”
  9. Police attacked me for stealing a car. It was my own. – The Washington Post
  10. Netflix and Alphabet will need to become ISPs, fast | TechCrunch
    “One sad note though is how much the world of video is increasingly closed to startups. When companies like Netflix, which today closed with a market cap of almost $158 billion, can’t necessarily get enough negotiating power to ensure that consumers have direct access to them, no startup can ever hope to compete.”
  11. From flat-pack coffins to water cremation: how to have an eco-friendly death | World news | The Guardian
    “At a packed funeral expo in a church in Amsterdam last weekend, exhibitors included a flat-pack coffin that you construct and decorate yourself…”
  12. We Need to Talk About Reactionary Centrists – Member Feature Stories – Medium
  13. ContraPoints: Some thoughts about MtF transition, FFS, conformity, gender stereotypes, and “cis assimilation.”
  14. ‘Roseanne’ Spinoff ‘The Conners’ Ordered by ABC – Variety
    “Not part of the new series will be Roseanne Barr.” The likelihood is that this show won’t work – because MOST shows don’t work. But I’d be happy if it does work, and interested to see them try.
  15. Opinion | The Bible’s #MeToo Problem – The New York Times
  16. Jamelle Bouie: Taking the Enlightenment seriously requires talking about race.
    “Racism as we understand it now, as a socio-political order based on the permanent hierarchy of particular groups, developed as an attempt to resolve the fundamental contradiction between professing liberty and upholding slavery.”
  17. A useful appendix to the above link: Throwing Shade on the Enlightenment – Liberal Currents
    ” The italicized statements are the things Bouie did not argue!”
  18. Riots are destructive, dangerous, and scary — but can lead to serious social reforms – Vox
  19. How movies cast “ugly” characters – and how it feels to get the part | ShortList
    For the most part, they say it feels good. But the guy who played Ted the lawyer on “Scrubs” seems to have found it depressing work, which I was a bit sad to hear, since I always thought there was something joyful in how he played that sad sack part.
  20. World’s first electrified road for charging vehicles opens in Sweden | Environment | The Guardian
  21. Costume Detective – How to Date an Old Photograph
    “Elements of the coat could suggest it to be circa 1898. The sleeves with soft fullness at the head and the fitted silhouette suggest late Victorian styling. But the hat is too big for that date.”
  22. How fast can I flood the Netherlands entirely and permanently?
  23. My Rapist Friended Me on Facebook (and All I Got Was This Lousy Article)
  24. Climate Change Is Likely Killing Ancient Baobab Trees – The Atlantic
    “But when around 70 percent of your 1,500 to 2,000-year-old trees died within 12 years, it certainly is not normal. It is difficult to come up with a culprit other than climate change.”
  25. On Culture War Bubbles | Thing of Things
  26. It’s Absurd to Claim That Trans Kids Are Being ‘Rushed’ Into Transitioning
  27. How to Rinse Your Recyclables Without Wasting Water
    Okay, this is admittedly a very boring link, but it’s a question I’ve wondered about more than once.
  28. I Detransitioned. But Not Because I wasn’t Trans. – The Atlantic
  29. ‘We no longer die in childbirth’: how Indian villages saved their mothers | World news | The Guardian
    “Gupta sometimes changes the lyrics of romantic folk songs to refer to iron supplements, intrauterine devices (IUDs) and breastfeeding. ‘They find it easier to remember what I’ve told them if they sing it,’ she said.”
  30. ‘The Daddy quota’: how Quebec got men to take parental leave | World news | The Guardian
    “What they found in places like Sweden is that if you give fathers their own leave, something families will lose if they don’t take, taking the leave becomes expected.”
  31. The Southern Poverty Law Center Surrenders Unconditionally To Maajid Nawaz. We Should Be Concerned. | Popehat

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Cartoon: Civility Zombies

If you can spare it, please help me keep making these cartoons! A $1 pledge really matters.

Gretchen Koch and I were chatting on Twitter, about if I should do a cartoon about the “civility” issue. Gretchen said “I think it’s worth it, because as you said, it’s perennial. The civility zombie, that is.” This comic strip immediately popped into my mind, and fortunately for me, Gretchen said she didn’t mind if I used the idea. Thanks, Gretchen!

Also, thanks to Mandolin for suggesting the kicker panel!

Drawing cute cartoon zombies is, as it turns out, a great deal of fun.


This is a four-panel cartoon.


Two women, one with a ponytail, one with glasses, are in a house, near an open window. The woman with glasses looks angry and is holding a cell phone; the woman with the ponytail is reacting with panic.

GLASSES: Have you read the news? $@@! the GOP!
PONYTAIL: Shh! Don’t say that!
(Note: Here and throughout the cartoon, the word “civility” is lettered in fonts designed to look like dripping blood.)


Zombies appear in the window, looking like they might crawl into the house. They have rotting green flesh and each of them is raising a forefinger and waggling it.

GLASSES: What’s happening?
PONYTAIL: It’s the civility zombies! They come whenever someone on the left is impolite! RUN!
ZOMBIES: Civility! Civility…


Glasses and Ponytail flee up a hillside, pursued by zombies. A zombie in the foreground look sstraight at the viewer.

GLASSES: Can we shoot them?
PONYTAIL: That’s rude, which only makes them stronger! Plus, we’re liberals! We don’t have guns!
ZOMBIES: Civility! Civility! Civility!


Glasses and Ponytail have come to a stop, surrounded by zombies. Glasses looks frightened; Ponytail looks irritated.

ZOMBIES: Civility! Civility!
GLASSES: So this is it? We’re going to die?
PONYTAIL: No, they’re completely toothless. But so annoying!


A man in a “MAGA” hat is grinning and talking at a zombie. The zombie has his back to the MAGA hat wearer, and makes a dismissive gesture with his hand.

MAGA: Libtards! Cucks! Snowflakes!
ZOMBIE (in blood-dripping lettering): Meh.

Posted in Cartooning & comics | Comments Off  

How do you handle writer’s block?


There are a few different kinds of writer’s block.

One kind is medical. If one of my chronic illnesses is flaring up, I may not be able to write. It’s hard to write through a migraine, for instance. It’s also hard to work through things that are less acute than migraines, but last for a long time, like depressive episodes. It can feel like it’s never going to be possible to write again, and that the block is something you’re just faking, and could get through if you just tried hard enough.

I think one of the best solutions is to be gentle with yourself about it. Hammering yourself and making yourself feel guilty because of your health is in the way is only likely to make you miserable and increase your stress–which can make the health problem worse. It can be hard to be generous with yourself, especially when the illness is lasting a long time and you have deadlines. Do what you can–but when you can’t do more, keep it in perspective. You may be doing more work than you think you are, and mental work counts, too.

Mental work is the other kind of block that I find most often afflicts me. This is when there’s something wrong with the story that I have to solve before I can continue. For instance, in my current novella project, the main character is speaking in first person, past tense, so I needed to know what timeframe she was speaking from, and how she felt about events. What is she trying to communicate? Because the story lies in how she feels about what she’s “saying,” whether she’s literally telling someone else that or not.

While I didn’t know that, I couldn’t compose, because I couldn’t know how she’d feel about or relate events. I tried, of course, and I tried a few different angles on it. I talked about it with people and took other measures to deal with the problem intellectually. But in the end, I personally need to have an emotional connection with the story that I can’t just intellectually engage. A lot of mental work was happening in the back of my brain, and at some point, my subconscious was like, “Yeah, I’ve worked that out now. I’m feeling it.”

This is also a time to be generous with yourself and your pace. Tying yourself in knots about your progress can cause it to be even harder to have that psychological breakthrough. Mental work doesn’t always feel like work because it doesn’t produce words on the page, but it is work, and it’s necessary work. Give yourself credit for it.

Those are the primary types of writer’s block I experience. Do you experience a different variety?

Posted in Essays, Writing Advice | Comments Off  

No One Is Denying That “Desistance Occurs,” Jesse Singal

The desistance myth is the belief that “about 80 percent of kids with gender dysphoria end up feeling okay, in the long run, with the bodies they were born into.” This is not true. It is a pernicious and damaging myth, because it encourages parents to disbelieve their kids and even to refuse to allow their kids to get appropriate care and treatment.

This blog post is about a relatively minor claim in Jesse Singal’s latest article about trans issues, concerning what critics of the desistance myth say.

Singal’s article has many second-person-removed claims. For example:

Many of these so-called detransitioners… say they were nudged toward the physical interventions of hormones or surgery by peer pressure or by clinicians who overlooked other potential explanations for their distress.

Which clinicians pushed them? Is there any verification of this?


The concerns of the detransitioners are echoed by a number of clinicians who work in this field, most of whom are psychologists and psychiatrists. They very much support so-called affirming care, which entails accepting and exploring a child’s statements about their gender identity in a compassionate manner. But they worry that, in an otherwise laudable effort to get TGNC young people the care they need, some members of their field are ignoring the complexity, and fluidity, of gender-identity development in young people. These colleagues are approving teenagers for hormone therapy, or even top surgery, without fully examining their mental health or the social and family influences that could be shaping their nascent sense of their gender identity.

Note that Singal isn’t making any of those claims himself; he’s just reporting that others are saying that, without confirming if what they’re saying is true or not.

This seems, frankly, like shoddy reporting for a front-cover feature in The Atlantic.

Who are the clinicians who echo these concerns?

Which professionals are approving teens for top surgery without “fully examining” first? (What does “fully” examining mean, anyhow?) If these professionals are acting unethically, why not say who they are?

Did Singal fact-check at all before publishing these claims? If he did fact-check, what did he find out?

By putting all these claims in the anonymous second person, Singal inoculates himself from having to say if these claims are false or true (while strongly implying they are true). He’s made himself immune to fact-checking.

Which is why this relatively minor claim, about what critics of the desistance myth say, caught my eye. It’s one of the few places in this article where Singal makes a claim that I can actually check. Here’s Singal:

Within a subset of trans advocacy, however, desistance isn’t viewed as a phenomenon we’ve yet to fully understand and quantify but rather as a myth to be dispelled. Those who raise the subject of desistance are often believed to have nefarious motives—the liberal outlet ThinkProgress, for example, referred to desistance research as “the pernicious junk science stalking trans kids,” and a subgenre of articles and blog posts attempts to debunk “the desistance myth.” But the evidence that desistance occurs is overwhelming. The American Psychological Association, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, the Endocrine Society, and Wpath all recognize that desistance occurs. I didn’t speak with a single clinician who believes otherwise. “I’ve seen it clinically happen,” Nate Sharon said. “It’s not a myth.”

(Incidentally, many, possibly most, current critics of the desistance myth, are criticizing Jesse Singal’s own articles. Singal should have disclosed this to his readers.)

“Desistance,” depending on the writer, can refer to different things. In this article, Singal defines it like this: “desisters are people who stop experiencing gender dysphoria without having fully transitioned socially or physically.” The term has also been used to refer to people who are diagnosed as trans, but eventually identify with the sex they were assigned at birth.

Singal explicitly claims a “subset of trans advocacy” debunks “the desistance myth” by arguing that desistance never occurs.

That would be an incredibly unreasonable thing to argue. Which explains why no one of any note argues it.1 Rather, when debunkers refer to the desistance myth, in virtually every case they are referring to something like this claim:

While the actual percentages vary from study to study, overall, it appears that about 80 percent of kids with gender dysphoria end up feeling okay, in the long run, with the bodies they were born into.

That’s the actual desistance myth trans advocates are debunking. But Singal misreports their argument, replacing it with a much weaker argument.

It’s possible that Singal is not purposely deceiving, but is simply not objective enough to correctly parse the argument against the desistance myth. But it doesn’t actually matter. Singal is being purposely deceptive about what critics of the desistance myth argue, or he’s so biased that he can’t correctly discern what they are arguing. Either way, he’s not a reliable reporter.

I think this is typical of the (possibly unintentional) dishonesty practiced by Singal and many of his defenders. They refuse to address the arguments against their views in good faith, preferring to attack strawman and marginal arguments, while diminishing or ignoring more substantial arguments. Another example is Singal’s colleague Katie Herzog, who – in the pages of The Stranger – claimed critics pegged her and Singal as transphobic, not because of what they wrote, but because they are cis.2 This claim is utterly false, as anyone could tell with a google search – but how many Stranger readers will check? Like Singal, her tone seems so reasonable and trustworthy.

The fact that this claim of Singal’s is false, does not prove that Singal’s unverifiable claims are false.

But I don’t think they can be presumed to be truthful, either.

This is the end of this blog post; what follows is a description of the ten google results I examined.

Continue reading

  1. I have seen people argue that the definition of “desister” is too unspecific to be meaningful, and therefore they won’t say if desistance happens or not. But that’s a different argument than Singal’s strawman. []
  2. Here’s the exact quote from Herzog: “I was quickly pegged as transphobic, not because of the content of my piece but because I, a cis woman, had the audacity to write it. This, apparently, was many people’s problem with Singal, and they took to Twitter to argue that this article should have been written by a trans person instead.” []
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