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... or those who can be persuaded to do things that go against their consciences, when their leaders command it. Whether in a church or in service to other ideals.
Posted on Feminist Mormon Housewives:
Um, I think there’s something to be said for mirror neurons being the basis of universal morality. In people with functioning consciences, they make us hurt too when we see others hurting.
Making someone ignore their conscience requires either mental illness, like sociopathy (where you can’t empathize at all), or indoctrination, like Mormonism (where the Other is demonized and you are given reasons to enjoy or ignore their suffering).
The reason Mormonism is becoming increasingly unpopular, these days, is not because people reject morality altogether. It’s because their consciences tell them your church’s teachings are immoral and hurtful.
I personally left, when I realized that. My commitment to kindness and love allowed me to transcend the awful beliefs I was raised with, and see others — and myself — for the valuable people we were. If my life still has fear and pain in it now, it is largely because of people like you, who believe in a sort of moral relativity where an act (like forbidding others to marry) is evil if done against you but blessed if done against someone your god disapproves of.
If you are struggling with matters of conscience as well, I strongly suggest considering that your god may be the one with the problem, and that you ought to find one who doesn’t tell you to hurt people.
Also, being intolerant of intolerance does in fact make sense. Functioning empathy is the basis of solidarity, and community. “If you want to hurt them, you’ll have to go through me first” is only unreasonable if you believe that you have a right to hurt others.
Or if you don’t believe your actions are, in fact, hurtful, in which case you may want to stop and listen to others explain why it is.
tbh being apolitical is a privilege. some people can't ignore politics bcs politics attack their identity on a daily basis
My existence is apparently the subject of heated political (and theological) debate. As is my right to exist.
Perhaps unfortunately, for people who have decided to be my opponents, I intend to go on existing. And talking about what I go through.
Maybe we can just be friends instead? Playing tabletop games is a lot more fun than arguing. Especially when the whole substance of your argument is "you can't be real, because if you are I would need to rethink my life."
I didn't write that earlier post from the viewpoint of a trans woman who's scared for her safety, because "bathroom laws" do not target me. They don't target trans people in general, or even trans women in general. The only people they target are those who look or sound stereotypically "between genders," whether or not they pose any danger to anyone.
I've apparently never been one of those people. Just out of sheer luck, I was born with lightly-coloured body hair and "feminine" facial features. So with a bit of invisible makeup and a growing, immature bust, I have never had someone even look at me funny in the women's room.
That didn't keep me from being mortally terrified of the place, though, and waiting until long after I was on hormones to go there. So what did happen was that I caused an awful lot of double-takes in the men's room, both before and during transition. ^^; Especially from elderly men and little kids.
"Who she, daddy? Who she???"
I'd be washing my hands, and people would open the door and just stop, looking at the back of my head and trying to figure out where they were. Sometimes they abruptly backed out, letting the door shut again. Were they making sure this was the right one? Did it seem easier to them to let this obviously-confused woman dry her hands and walk out, than to confront her?
Not that I've never been confronted about it. One time I tried to step into the men's room at a convenience store, and the clerk stopped me and gave me a weird look. (I sheepishly went in the women's room, which had a lock on the door, thank goddess.) Another time I was waiting in line at a bus stop's public restroom, and realized the guy behind me in line was trying to get my attention.
"Hey, you can't go in there! The women's room is that way." He pointed it out for me, helpfully.
"I beg your pardon?" I asked, turning to face him and using my pre-transition voice on purpose.
"Oh, sorry man!"
I avoided that bathroom from then on. >_>;
Remember, it's the law!
If you take these new "bathroom laws" literally, this is what I'm supposed to be doing. Making guys trip over themselves, and giving somebody's grandpa a heart attack.
None of the laws' supporters actually want me to do that, though. This is because, like I said, they don't target me. These people don't spare any thoughts when they see me in public, because I don't look like "one of those people." I really don't know how I feel about this! But again, it's not about me, except that my existence helps make it obvious what this is really about:
All they want is to be able to bully people whose looks they don't like.
(Content note for these links and this essay: Racism, sexism, classism, transphobia, and xenophobia.)
I'd just like to take a moment to remind everyone, including my friends who are also transgender, that if you live in the first world everything that you have and enjoy is made possible through unthinkable violence and slavery. Of humans, to say nothing of nonhuman animals.
It's not a matter of how moral you are, or how much you consciously choose not to inflict violence on others. This is an inherent feature, of a world where some people are valued so much more than others. Because the purpose of inequality, inhospitality, and inhumane treatment is to make people broken and desperate.
The purpose of immigration restrictions, for instance, is to enable human trafficking, which means (among other things) being able to keep people in sheds they pay rent on and beat them if they don't wash your car just right. Meanwhile, the reason that the United States lacks the social safety net that other so-called "liberal democracies" have is because one of its political parties (we all know which one) used its "Southern Strategy," of convincing white voters that welfare payments would go to the wrong kind of people.
You know, the ones who are supposed to avert their eyes when they see you walk by, and who call you "sir" and shine your shoes for you.
Trans World Problems?
No. No, the new laws here in the States, that make it even more dangerous for trans people to use public restrooms, aren't a "First World Problems" thing. A "be grateful that you aren't a literal slave" thing. As though becoming a sex worker with no legal protections weren't something a lot of trans people have to turn to, and as though there are no trans people who are black, immigrant, or enslaved.
What this is, is a reminder that we (as trans people) aren't the first to suffer this indignity, and we won't be the last. Unless we can join our grasping appendages with others who are resisting things like it*, and turn the tables on our capitalist oppressors.
(It's redundant to call them that, but sometimes it just helps to hammer it home.)
* Or even others who are affected by it, despite not being trans. Don't forget; besides barring people who don't pass as cis from using the restroom, North Carolina's HB2 also banned local living wage laws, and made it harder for any worker to bring a discrimination suit against their employer. These aren't unrelated coincidences; these things are all part of systemic inequality and oppression.
The other day, an evil man named Boyd Packer died.
(EDIT: Corrected some things after re-reading quotes, and changed the description of this person's legacy.)
He was one of the highest leaders of the Mormon church, called an apostle. Apostles are appointed to their positions for life, and he spent most of his tenure saying hateful things to captive audiences.
In 2010, he gave a talk in worldwide General Conference where he said God would never make someone gay. The line was edited out when his talk was published in print and online, but not soon enough to keep the rate of LGBT suicides in the state of Utah from spiking right afterwards.
When I was a young adult, I was given a pamphlet that was a printout of one of his talks, in which he condemned people for masturbating and said that it was okay to deck gay people who come on to you. Partly because of this man's words, I hated myself for more than a decade, and came very close to taking my life.
He called gays, feminists, and intellectuals the enemies of the Mormon church, and famously declared in a talk to church educators that "some things which are true are not useful." I feel like that sums up his legacy. The things he proclaimed as true are already being thrown out by the institutional Mormon church, because they are not very useful in making them look good. In fact, they make them look pretty damned awful, to anyone with a conscience and even a basic understanding of how words affect others.
I'm glad he lived long enough to see his victims turn the tables on him, and win.
If you want a more vivid look at how I felt because of this man, read this story.
Content note: Sexism, rape, and abuse.
Creeps and assailants of any kind—rapists, harassers, inappropriate co-workers, slimy strangers in a bar—rely on complicity to function. They know it is unlikely that their actions will elicit repercussion. They commit crimes [...] without fear of ever being punished because they’ve learned that they won’t be. And so we have a culture that treats [victims] like voiceless, undermined objects of servility. [...]
Silence may seem civilized, but passivity is diabolical.
- Carly Lewis, The Year of Complicity
The original piece is specifically about certain high-profile, famous rapists, whose fame entitled them to commit horrible acts while others looked the other way. I feel that it really describes why I haven't felt comfortable in any Free Company in FFXIV, though, and I will explain why so that people who don't play the game can relate it to their own experiences.
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I hope I will eventually find enough people in-game who value my friendship that I'll feel safe in their home and their chat.
There's a MormonAd (basically a pre-internet meme) in one of their church magazines which shows a bug in a bowl of ice cream, and reads "IT'S GREAT EXCEPT FOR THE BAD PARTS."
The ice cream, in this case, is media, and for Mormons the "bad parts" are anything that "drives away the Spirit" ... which means they cause them to feel unacceptable emotions, like cognitive dissonance, sexual arousal, or adult anger and frustration as expressed through profanity. The more hardcore a Mormon is, the more of a learned fear response they have to emotions that normal adults have, which is why more hardcore Mormons used memes like this one: To shame kids for not having that response, and for thinking it was okay to watch R-rated movies and South Park.
You see what I did there, with the note just beneath that video? This is how grown-ups handle people's different levels of tolerance for offensive content: By clearly labeling stuff using a shared vocabulary. The point isn't to say "if you like this then you're a racist;" it's to warn actual people of colour (in this case First Nations / Native American people) that "if you watch this then it might ruin your day," and let them make an informed decision.
It's hard to explain or justify doing this to people who've never imagined someone's day actually being ruined by this stuff. Or who chalk it up to "choosing to be offended." Healthy people don't have the kind of PTSD triggers that are caused by discrimination, and the kind of broken people that Mormonism and other abusive societies produce often don't realize they have triggers.
How abuse f**ks kids up, part 22
Claire used to just about go berserk when she saw gratuitous violence against innocents, like in action movies where they dwell on the villains casually killing people. I had no idea that it was because these scenes caused her to feel the anger we were never allowed to have or express, at our father of origin for beating the crap out of us. Because of that, we didn't know how to describe why we felt this way, or how to see the fact that these movies affected us in ways that they didn't affect other people. We thought that either we were broken, or everyone else was.
Don't you just wish, sometimes, that you could make people understand? That you could show those sexist white male jerks on Twitter what it's like to have people make rape jokes around you, or "jokingly" threaten your body with sexual violation?
... yeah, that's what happened to us shortly after we realized that we were transgender.
We got the kind of crash course in feminism that a person gets from presenting as female online, from having our work on GNOME more or less ignored by the male contributors to having irate Final Fantasy XIV players chase us off Tumblr for posting stuff they didn't like. Stuff like screenshots of the kind of blatantly sexist and rape-y stuff that the game is just saturated in, that we put on our sarcastic blog about how "FFXIV Is Totally Not Sexist."
The tl;dr is that it feels like every woman who can be threatened with rape or harassment is, and -- a handful of high-ranking NPCs excepted -- the women in Eorzea all read like they were written by a man who finds sexual harassment funny.
I found the sexism funny, at first. Not because "lolwomen," but because it was so blatant and ridiculous. I started the Tumblr so people could laugh at it. But after a year of being harassed just for pointing it out, and dealing with creepy jerks who were other players in the game, and seeing women get threatened with rape and chased out of their homes just for being women on the Internet, it's not funny to me anymore.
The rape and sexism in FFXIV now feel less like bad jokes, and more like "the bad parts."
It's a great game, except for them. I'm just not sure I can deal with them anymore.
(1) Joseph Smith initially claimed only that he'd been "forgiven of his sins," and only later started saying God told him all religions were wrong. Also, he first tried to sell the copyright to the Book of Mormon in Canada, instead of founding a religion with it. It wasn't until after Mormonism picked up steam that he started having affairs and soliciting children, at least the ones that we know about.
I don't know what the Quakers have to do with anything, aside from generally being awesome (and living on the Moon).
Content note: Sexism, descriptions of physical and emotional abuse, some brief strong language towards the end, and descriptions of interpersonal conflict within a family.
There's a good story somewhere in Ender's Game. A child gets taken away to a magical school In Space, and is forced to survive when both teachers and students are literally trying to kill him. In the end, he faces a moral dilemma, and how he responds after everything that he's been through defines who he is as a character.
It resonates with me, because it basically describes a Mormon upbringing.
On the one hand, you're mass produced and depersonalized, especially if you come from one of those Utah families with nine kids. On the other hand, you're told repeatedly that you are a Chosen One, part of a chosen generation of Mormon kids, and your actions and faithfulness will help bring about the second coming of Christ. (Mormons are averse to calling him "Jesus" for some reason.)
Ender spends his whole childhood training to be a soldier. Mormon kids spend their whole childhoods training to be either a mom or a missionary. I can't overstate how much these two roles are glorified, or how much the bike-riding, nametag-wearing missionaries are held up as role models to Mormon kids who are assigned the male gender. And all the while, your belief that you're one of the few people that God approves of -- and that everyone else needs to be like you -- is creating this wedge between you and the people around you, which you are encouraged to see as "they hate me because of my righteousness."
Seriously, this is the major theme in the first couple parts of the Book of Mormon. The POV character is a Mary Sue, whose brothers hate him and repeatedly try to kill him because he's so awesome and always does what God wants him to.
The problem with Ender's Game is not that Ender goes through all this. It's that Orson Scott Card did, and is apparently blind to it.
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tl;dr: Women aren't living "the female lifestyle." Trans women (and men, and non-binary trans persons) aren't "living a lifestyle" by being who they are, either.
Are you a boy or a girl?
Everyone gets told the answer to this question when they're little. But sometimes, the answer they're given is wrong.
As many as 1 in 100 people are born intersex, meaning their bodies aren't strictly male or female and may have both sets of sexual characteristics. This isn't a pleasant thing to be, in sex-obsessed North American society. You might get mutilated by doctors when you're still an infant, to try to make you look more like a boy or a girl. You might grow up feeling uncomfortably different from everyone else, and never be told why, because even your parents thought it was shameful. And if an intimate partner finds out that you're different, they might tell everyone you're a "trap," reducing you to your genitals and making you out to be some kind of freak.
Because North American society is obsessed with sex, and tries to define everyone by their genders, parents of intersex children usually feel pressured to choose a "true" sex to raise their child as, even when their doctors have no idea what their child's "true" sex is and may as well settle it using a coin flip.
Sometimes, an intersex child grows up and realizes their parents called "heads" when they should've called "tails" (or just let the coin lay on its side). Sometimes, they don't even know their parents made the call. They just know they don't fit in the box they've been put in, and it's making them miserable.
Sometimes, a person feels this way even when they aren't visibly intersex, and there is no outward indication that they are anything other than their assigned gender. The only sign that things are wrong is that person's misery and feeling of not-right-ness, which psychologists call gender dysphoria and the people who go through it call "being trans."
"I am confused about my gender"
This is a common stereotype, about what it means to be trans. But while the process of self-discovery that trans people go through starts with being confused, that's usually not where it ends. By the time someone comes out as transgender (i.e. announces it to their friends and/or loved ones), they feel confident that their actual gender is not the one that they were assigned by the doctors at birth. Whether they now consider themselves to be "male," "female," "both depending on my mood," "none of the above," or even simply "I don't know yet."
They may not have figured everything out yet, and it can sound confusing to hear them discuss it when you don't know what the words mean and have never met someone like them (at least not and knew that you had). But just because you're confused about what gender somebody else is, that doesn't mean that they are, or that you know better than they do how they should feel about what they see in the mirror.
Finding out what you are
The first step can be as simple as finding out "transgender" is a thing, and immediately knowing "that's me." Other times, it takes years of soul-searching and introspection, during which time you might legitimately be confused. The reason that you are confused, though, is because you were told to expect one thing (feeling like your assigned gender is natural) and encountered another instead.
The answer isn't to double down on the thing that you know isn't right (i.e. acting out your assigned gender's role), in the hopes that this will somehow make dysphoria go away. If anything, that just makes it worse. The answer is to try something different, and see if it makes you feel better. Whether it's trying on another gender's clothing, playing a character of another gender in an online video game (where no one can see what you look like "IRL"), or even "transitioning" genders through medical and/or cosmetic treatments.
Unfortunately, trans people -- as opposed to women of Chinese legend -- can't just transition in a Disney montage. It takes time, money, and effort, both to undergo treatments like hormone therapy and to ... well, basically learn everything that a person of your actual gender is normally taught from birth, in a very short time.
Worse, trans people are especially vulnerable during this time, because they might be visibly (or audibly) "between genders," which is just about the worst thing a person can be in sex-obsessed North American society. On top of that, they have to face the reactions of their family, friends, and acquaintances, which can range from "I love you no matter what" to "pack up your things and get out."
In many American states, it is completely legal to terminate someone's employment or kick them out of their rented home because of their gender identity. (This may mean that you could fire someone for being cisgender, or "not trans." But I don't know for sure because I'm not a lawyer, and there isn't a cisgender rights lobby because as far as I know no one has ever done that.)
In many places there's no social stigma for treating trans persons like crap. Some religions actively mandate it. Doctors and police may be hostile, and even emergency medical technicians may refuse treatment. There are few protections of any kind for trans persons specifically, which may be part of the reason their suicide and mortality rates are so high.
The Transgender Day of Remembrance, held each year on November 20, memorializes the lives of trans persons lost to violence. This, if anything, is what characterizes the "transgender lifestyle," especially for trans women of colour: Living your life in fear.
My transformation story
My birth certificate says that I'm male, and up until my late teenage years I thought I was okay with that. It helps that boys get cooler toys to play with.
Even when I was little, though, I was fascinated with stories of transformation, like in myth and in young adult fantasy. I remember reading a story about a girl who was transported back in time and was suddenly living her ancestor's life, with her clothes changing to match. And I imagined going through the same thing, including becoming a girl. It just seemed really neat.
I picked female characters in video games, when they were portrayed as equally competent. I liked Samus from the Metroid series, and Blaze from Streets of Rage II. When Digimon Tamers debuted on TV, I became a Renamon fangirl, and bought mediocre PlayStation games just so I could play as her. I also wrote self-insert fanfic (which I never published) starring me as a tamer and her as my Digimon partner.
Of course, my self-insert was female.
Later on, "Erin Fox" kept showing up in the tabletop RPGs I GMed, from Star Wars to Dungeons and Dragons, as a helpful non-player character. I tried to make a male self-insert, but kept killing them off or sidelining them because I just wasn't all that invested in them.
It didn't help that I was raised Mormon. So in between being asked by my adult male bishop, one-on-one behind closed doors, about my sexuality, I was bombarded with messages about how women are "God's crowning creation." While "the natural man is an enemy to God" and I was a dirty good-for-nothing, if I didn't completely stop masturbating and thinking about sex at all, go on a two-year proselyting mission to convert more people to Mormonism, and get a high-paying job so I could support a wife and twelve kids.
Obviously, this isn't the message that most Mormon men get. If anything, their self-flagellating rhetoric about how they'd be starving, naked, and on fire without their wives, is a means of overcompensating for how Mormon culture treats women as inferior.
The last man to speak on motherhood was Brother Rick Dalmonico, 23, a new father. “Sometimes when I come home and my wife is nursing our newborn, the spirit is so strong that I feel it would be irreverent to interrupt them,” he confessed. “So I just usually go in the other room and watch football. I wouldn’t want to interfere with something as sacred as precious motherhood.”
-- From "The Sugar Beet," a parody Mormon newsletter
In my case, though, it hurt because I was a woman. I didn't just dislike the insulting male stereotype they presented me with; I hated having to be male to begin with. I wasn't just ashamed of the "sacred parts" of my body, after being taught to feel bad for having sexual feelings. I was disgusted by them, so much so that I could barely admit I was morbidly fascinated with these bizarre alien things.
I didn't want to have them. I didn't want to sound like this, I didn't want to be shaped like this, I didn't want to hear jokes about "testosterone poisoning" causing car accidents and feel ashamed for having it.
If I'd had the choice, I would have picked "female"
But Mormons believe you consented to live the life you have, in the "pre-existence." So I told myself it was my burden to bear, an act of self-sacrifice so that through marriage, I could complete a person who was born female.
My Mormon parents mostly supported me through my deconversion, which occurred after I realized gay people have feelings too and "the church" is making life Hell for them. My mother of origin only cried in front of me once, and my father of origin only called me "stupid" once or twice, at least where I could hear him. He went on about the "cloud of darkness" that I brought into their home, when I visited. But it was because I was afraid that my brothers would stab me to death, like one had basically threatened to, not because I was playing Final Fantasy III.
When I came out as transgender, it was a different story. He cut off contact with me completely, right before Christmas, except to do something stupid and hateful that made life much harder and more expensive for me. I tried to reach out to my other family members, but my mother of origin made it clear that everything about my life that they disapproved of (which was seemingly just about everything) was off-limits for discussion. Meanwhile, one of my brothers broke radio silence long enough to express his disgust at me, and to compare me to a violent criminal just for doing what amounted to growing my hair long and changing my name.
The point of the above story isn't to shame my family of origin, or to open myself up to amateur psychoanalysis by people who want to know the real reason I'm trans. It's to give an idea of what the life of a transgender person is like. And I said "life" and not "lifestyle," because the latter is used as a slur. It depersonalizes those that it's used against, and reduces whole people to what's in between their legs and what they choose to do in bed.
Sex-obsessed North American society sees those things as more important than anything else about a person. The stories we tell, the things we create, and the causes we choose to devote ourselves to are irrelevant. Just like my 16-year-old self sitting in Priesthood quorum, unable to take my mind off of how many "sausages" were in the room with me, a lot of people see trans folk of whatever kind (but especially trans women it seems) and all they can think of is sex. The kind they don't like.
It's wrong. Please stop.
My transitioning does not hurt, endanger, or threaten anyone. I am not going to turn you gay. I am not going to make your child trans. The only thing my being "out" does is remind you that people like me exist.
If you can't bear to think of that, then maybe I don't want to be in the same world as you, either.