Today I read a Q&A that went something like:
Q. Is it possible for one of my fantasy harpies to be transgender when they're an all-female species? Isn't that like a human who thinks he's an elf???
A. Of course it's possible, because gender isn't the same as physical sex. Write your own fluff to explain if it makes you feel better.
This is going to sound melodramatic, but the answer that my heart was aching to hear was "who are you to tell [PLAYER] what body their character would prefer?"
if I can't tell free stories for people.
I'm going to talk about why I think that is, because it's not because anyone here on Dreamwidth has been a jerk. It appears to be more tied into the kinds of "abusive religion / family" things that we're used to writing about. It just took a visit to a "Mormon Meme Translator," which explains the hidden meanings behind the things we grew up with, to help us see why we are having such trouble with this.
Content note: Brief, nongraphic mention of how we were so depressed as a Mormon that we almost killed ourself, which is not how we're feeling right now, and spoilers for the plot of Puella Magi Madoka Magica.
( Read more... )
Just read Wundergeek's comic about depression and anxiety. :P And how they make you sabotage yourself.
So, what does this mean for you?
Honestly, I don't think you (meaning anyone reading this) have to do anything. We have to not be so hard on ourself, to be more realistic about what we can do, and to be accepting when bad things happen or we can't do what was expected.
We're pretty sure our readers and players are. We just need to learn it as well, because this perfectionism is a bigger problem than our triggers and lack of spoons are. The latter we can work around or wait to subside, while the former makes us feel like we shouldn't try to begin with.
Having said that, some more hugs and encouragement would be nice. >_> We're sorry we're being so hard on ourself.
Reminder: The application period for the sci-fi Fate RPG is still going. Please check out the application thread to find out how to apply to be in it.
Now, then. Here's a question and answer from an AMA, or "Ask Me Anything," thread on an internet forum:
Q. Does [your girlfriend who used to be a miko, or Shinto shrine maiden] have any opinion on all of the cosplayers wearing her sacred vestments to look cute?
A. She doesn't care at all. Also they weren't really "sacred vestments" to her so much as a uniform...like a person at a fill-up station or a convenience store. She kinda likes Touhou, or at least she thinks the characters are cute. [...] She thinks Reimu's outfit is cute, and definitely better than what she had to wear.
-- [WARNING: NSFW / sexist / Reddit link] IAmA guy whose girlfriend was a miko (Shinto "shrine maiden") AMA
Sometimes, I get the feeling that it's the people who shame others for finding meaning in Japanese stories, symbols, and mythology, who are the ones that are actually racist. And possibly ageist, since a lot of the media that portrays these things came to North America in the form of "cartoons," "comic books," and video games, which aren't okay to like because they are "for kids."
Meanwhile, real-world Shinto shrines are actually using their connections to manga and anime to attract visitors. Via Green Shinto, an English-language article in a Japanese newspaper explains:
Some may see it as a trivialisation of sacred space, but priests and anthropologists counter this with such statements as, “Since ancient times, Shinto shrines have not been exclusive. It’s good if they are talked about and become attractive destinations.”
The ema with anime characters on them may strike some readers as weird and merchandise-y. But whatever your feelings about mass media and commercialism, I don't feel like it's a good thing to shame people for liking them. And I feel like when English-speaking people police each other for liking Japanese media, folklore, and/or religion, it doesn't come from a place of respect for those things. It comes from a desire to control, and to punish, and to keep racial boundary lines from being crossed.
Cosplay and other forms of self-expression can be used to give offense and to caricature. But I'm pretty sure that Square-Enix execs aren't offended when people in North America write Final Fantasy fanfic, and the priests at the Fushimi Inari shrine aren't upset about foreign tourists buying ofuda. If they are, they'll just have to console themselves with our money.
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.
tl;dr: Religious abuse only happens because religious leaders are allowed to claim ownership of things other people need in order to live, which is basically the spiritual version of "private property." Because of this, most Internet Atheist criticisms of "religion" would be better directed at capitalism instead.
Content note: Discussion of abusive religion and eating disorders.
From CollectQT's Political Definitions page:
capitalism - An economic system wherein the means of production are largely privately owned. Capitalism is inherently oppressive.
To unpack that a little, "the means of production" are what you need access to in order to make a living. They can be anything from printing presses to app stores to hunting preserves.
In a capitalist economic system, like the ones in China and the United States, these things are all privately owned, meaning that one person or corporation is allowed to control them despite the fact that everyone needs them. This is why capitalism is inherently oppressive; whatever political freedoms you may have, the people who own the means of production have the power to decide whether you live or die, and under what circumstances.
When critics of capitalism are talking about "private property," this is what they are criticizing. The "property" in question is the means of production, not your personal effects. They are not saying that you should be forced to give up your plushies or miniatures. On the other hand, if you've ever seen someone eBay their most prized possessions in order to make next month's rent, you know that this is exactly what capitalism does to the people it makes into losers.
Content note: Bad religion, intolerant atheism, and implied homo/trans/everythingphobia.
What do I do if I have presented these questions to bishops and leaders and anyone and everyone who will listen to me and nobody has any answers but when I go quietly in prayer to the Lord and I hear the entire and total opposite of what you are asking me to do? And what if that answer gives me relief and peace and makes me a better mom and wife and sister and friend? And what if that peace is interrupted every single time I am “called to the battlefront” for this cause? What if it destroys my family, President? That’s what I am really asking. What if “defending the family” ruins my own?
Sometimes, the people who attack bad religion (or all religion) on the grounds that it's logically abhorrent remind me of people like "Brett," in the comments on the above-linked article. Who replied to the author by telling her that "defending the family" by attacking other people and destroying their families is right, despite the obvious harm it does to her and people she cares about, because the Mormon prophets have said so and God says they will never lead anyone astray. QED.
Logic is useless or even harmful if you are operating from faulty premises. The most abusive religions, in my experience, actually rely very strongly on the kind of logic that "Brett" uses. They have no use for feelings and spiritual experiences that prompt people to abandon this logic even when they don't know how to argue with it, or hearts and minds that are open enough to listen to people they "know" are wrong about everything.
When I am determining whether or not a belief (or belief system) is harmful and abusive, I don't look at whether it's theistic or not, or at which god it worships. I look at whether or not it shuts down questioning, inoculates people against empathy and understanding, and tells them to do things that they feel are wrong.
This is how my day went
Today I went to the clinic, and talked over my lab results with the endocrinologist. She decided to increase my estrogen prescription, so that I can look and feel more feminine and complete my transition more quickly. The trip went pretty well, and on the way there I stopped at my favourite coffee shop downtown, and got a cup of iced hazelnut coffee and a chocolate chip scone to go.
I stopped at the grocery store on the way back to get things for rev_yurodivy, including vegan hot dogs and some hard cranberry lemonade, since they are working hard on a project and asked for something sweet that has alcohol in it to help destress.
Once I got home, I unwound by going online, checking art sites like DA for updates and peeking in on the Mormons and exmormons to see what both groups are up to. I bought more than a half dozen games in the PlayStation Network's flash sale, where they're all being sold for under $1, and spent awhile playing the remake of Flashback. Then I snuggled with aliaspseudonym some, to help reassure it before it goes to an unfamiliar venue early tomorrow for a Magic: the Gathering set prerelease. Now I'm settled into my den, playing Xcom (I've almost platinumed it!) and sipping some of the hard lemonade myself.
This is how I was taught to see it
An unrepentant, coffee-drinking, alcoholic apostate went out on the town, to buy sex hormones and alcohol. After that she had sex with one of her sexual partners, looked up pornography on the Internet, and played violent video games while drinking.
(Transphobia and poverty-shaming mercifully omitted from the above.)
Why I don't see it that way anymore
I was taught that when you rebel or leave the Mormon church, you become "past feeling," in the sense of having gone past something, so that you can no longer feel the Spirit or anything good. You start chasing empty pleasures, to distract you from the void that fills a life you feel deep down is meaningless.
The thing is, that's exactly what I felt like while I was a Mormon. The emotions that ruled my life then were shame, fear, anger, and lust. I was taught that I had to be a certain way, just like everyone else who looked like me. And I was ashamed that I wasn't the perfect Mormon, afraid of my parents' and church leaders' punishment, and angry with myself and with "worldly" society.
I secretly longed to be in a world where my feelings -- like sexual attraction, fascination with bodies, and a desperate wish to have female gender identity -- were okay to have. I had been beaten down so hard with shame and punishment that I let myself explore these longings, locking myself in my room and going online and imagining being the characters in furry and fantasy art. Reading stories of love and friendship and transformation.
It took me awhile to realize it, but while I felt like I'd hit rock bottom I'd really found a lifeline. A window into worlds that I thought were impossible, feelings I never knew I could have, and people -- both fictional characters and their fans and authors -- who were kinder and more understanding than anyone I knew at church.
On some level, I knew this was good. And as time went on, I choose the good over the bad, until there was much less room in my life for the bad, hurtful things I'd been raised with.
Who is really "past feeling?"
Look at the two descriptions of my day above, and ask yourself which one's more honest, more accurate, and more fun to read. It's like the difference between enjoying a zesty stir-fry with rice, and saying "eww, vegetables."
Imagine being raised on nothing but honeyed gruel, and being told that everything else is awful and shameful and dangerous to eat. That's what my Mormon upbringing was like, with regards to the feelings and stories and people in my life today. And the occasional ice-cold beverage.
I can still empathize with Mormons, see the world from their perspective, and even appreciate the frisson that they call "the Spirit," which their music and ads are designed to evoke. But a lot of them can't appreciate anything I go through, and experience unsettling feelings of cognitive dissonance when they see something that contradicts what they've been taught. They're told that this dissonance means that they're losing the Spirit and displeasing God, and they need to stop whatever they're doing immediately.
They are literally trained to be unable to feel or to empathize. And one of the ways they are scared into doing this, is by telling them that if they do they will lose what feelings they have left, and become the people they're most afraid of.
I don't know what I would have done, if I could see my present self ten years ago.
I do know that I prefer being her. That "gender euphoria," the opposite of dysphoria, is a real thing. And that my real, chosen family and friends are more loving and genuine than those I was forced to be with, growing up.
The people in the faith community I used to be a part of are scared of anything that could lead them to cheat on their spouses. Since they view any and all sexual or romantic activity which does not involve their spouse, including masturbation or flirting, as cheating, this leaves a lot of them emotionally stunted and sexually repressed.
Measures I've seen them take, and publicly recommend, to avoid "cheating" include:
Shared social media accounts and/or passwords. (Yes, they're among those who have the "couple" Facebook accounts.)
Draconian limits on Internet use.
Avoidance of being alone with -- or even close to -- a person of the opposite gender, to the point of employment discrimination so that they won't have to share an office with someone they find attractive.
I personally feel that anything which can be destroyed by love, friendship, and emotional closeness, probably should be destroyed. Whether it's a bad religion, a patriarchal society, or just an unhealthy relationship.
If you really love someone, you don't stop loving them just because you (or they) have found someone or something new to love. Whether it's a person, profession, or hobby. And I say this as someone with two autistic partners, who both have intense focus on interests which dominate their lives for months or years at a time.
I don't love them despite that, I love them partly because of it. I love seeing them come alive, with the same excitement we had for each other right when we declared our romantic intent. They're more fun to be around, and more fun to snuggle as well.
I'd have to lock them in boxes to keep them from finding new things to excite them. Sort of like what Mormon spouses are taught to do to each other.
A bit of a run-on sentence, from http://stormsandpower.blogspot.com/2014/
For me this work raises other questions especially at this time when so many people seem troubled by the facts of Mormonism’s past and the politics of its present as to whether that ex- of ex-Mormon means you can no longer define them as part of the experience of the Mormons as a people.
I think that for a lot of people, that's true. Being "Mormon" doesn't necessarily mean being a member in good standing of the modern, correlated Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, no matter what its leaders say. It's more of a cultural identity, like being Jewish, and there are people who cherish and embrace that identity even as they question Mormonism's basic doctrines or historical foundations.
Personally, though, I see myself as less of a participant in the Mormon identity, and more of a victim of Mormon culture and institutional Mormon religion.
Politically incorrect, adj.: "True, but we pretend it isn't"
It's politically incorrect to use the v-word in today's society, where everyone is an ubermensch and can breathe lightning and decide whether or not something hurts them. But you can't really have a conversation about things like "victimization" and "victim-blaming" without there being victims.
The word has come to mean "morally deficient person who dwells on past grievances and blames others for her own flaws," when it really just means "person who's been wronged." And while I'm okay with some people I'd otherwise call abuse victims choosing to identify as "survivors" of abuse instead, I also think that term places abuse in the realm of natural disasters and acts of god. Things that just happen on their own, that you can't prevent and can only learn how to deal with.
It may seem that way to abuse victims / survivors, since abusers choose people who can't fight back as their targets. But in my experience, the reason abusers blame victims -- and telling them they can't call themselves victims is a form of victim-blaming -- is to keep them in an abusive situation, both mentally and physically. If they're the ones causing the abuse, there's no need to try to escape or seek redress; they just need to make themselves worthy of not being abused anymore.
And that's what Mormonism does
To a lot of people outside the institutional Mormon church, with its political activism, and to a lot of people inside it. Who don't fit into Mormon culture, but don't have a meaningful choice about what culture to participate in.
I wanted to call myself Mormon, but kept being reminded that I made a very poor one.
I was "unworthy" of their sacred ordinances and coming-of-age rituals, because I was honest in Bishops' interviews. I was constantly reminded of how different I was from the hand-shaking, back-slapping, neurotypical Mormons around me, and when my mother of origin saw me cringing from physical contact she chastised me for it.
I don't know how many youth dances and "young single adult" activities I spent pacing in driveways, parking lots, and darkened hallways, either listening to my MP3 player or watching the shadows get longer.
I don't know how many lessons and talks I sat through where people told me that the technology which enabled me to live a halfway fulfilling life, connect with people who valued me for who I was, and have experiences I never could otherwise, was an irrelevant worldly distraction.
And when I finally left the Mormon church, and started telling people about the abuse I received at the hands of my Mormon family, all the Mormons I talked to about it had two reactions: They felt very sorry for me, and they distanced themselves and their culture from the abuse, with canned statements like "not all Mormons are like that" and "our church teaches against that." Even though my parents of origin were, and as far as I know still are, "worthy" members who were never chastised or held accountable by the church for their actions, and who used its teachings to justify (and its power structures to enable) hurting me.
Meanwhile, my interactions with church members and leadership were major factors in my becoming suicidally depressed.
So if a non-mormon leaves the Mormon church
... can she still be called an ex-mormon? I don't know.
I know I've always been fascinated with Mormonism, but it's become more of a morbid fascination since I left. Their culture, doctrine, and practices basically embody abuse and rape culture and kyriarchy, and any time I need an object lesson for "what not to do" I can use them.
I also know Mormon culture has influenced me. My method of prayer is still very close to theirs, even if the object of worship is different, and their teachings on sexuality are the reason that I'm such a prude. :P Not because I'm okay with slut-shaming, rape victim blaming, and having adult men ask kids of all genders about their sex practices one-on-one behind closed doors, but because the shame I internalized from those teachings is something I may never be rid of.
If there's anything (arguably) positive I got out of Mormonism, it's being unafraid to be different in public. Nowadays, the institutional church's PR machine is spending millions of dollars to make Mormons appear normal, or at least bring them up to Mitt Romney levels of normalcy. But I was raised with the thought that I was supposed to be part of "a peculiar people," with beliefs very different from everyone else's, and I should be unafraid to share those different beliefs.
I like to think I've learned some about boundaries since then. But as you can see from the sidebar, I'm still okay with being different, and with explaining my differences to others. It helps that the only way we know how to describe ourself truthfully is to use different words, and pronouns, than others use.
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.
( Read more... )
Dungeons and Dragons (and its successor, Pathfinder) uses a mechanic called "alignment" to describe your character's morals. It consists of a Good / Evil axis and a Lawful / Chaotic axis, with the possibility of being "Neutral" on either or both.
A lot of people have discarded the alignment system, seeing it as neither a fun game mechanic nor a useful way of understanding people. We don't really like it as it's implemented in Pathfinder, but we feel like the Planescape campaign setting for D&D really showed what kind of potential it has both for storytelling and philosophy.
Planescape portrayed the Chaotic Neutral afterlife as a "Limbo" of swirling clouds of random matter, which change so often as to be essentially formless and static. It noted that there are "anarchs" who can reshape the landscape at a whim, but did not seem to think much of them.
We think that if someone were to make a game where you play as one, though, it'd look something like Microsoft's Project Spark ...
... either that, or the Internet.
Floating islands of games, stories, and content, connected by threads of imagination and lit by sparks of wonder. That's what we feel it'd be like, to live in a realm of pure creativity and personal expression.
We were always told that we'd get to create (and populate) worlds, in the Mormon afterlife. But that was always used as an excuse, to keep us from doing so here and now. We had to "endure to the end," first, and then somehow we'd go from a Lawful lifestyle of self-negation to an eternity of fulfillment. Either that, or we would be destroyed and replaced by someone who would be fulfilled as a Mormon.
I think our family of origin still wants that for us.
I think that's what all conservative religious people mean, when they talk about "loving the sinner but hating the sin."
(Content note: Abusive religion and families, depression and self/victim-blaming.)
One of the reasons I still sometimes visit the exmormon Reddit is because it helps to see what I went through from an outside perspective. When you're Mormon and live in an abusive family, everything's supposed to be all smiles and happiness, and you suppress even your memories of the times that they're not.
Part of the reason for this is that you are told, outright, that when you're having hard times it's your fault:
My FIL is a Branch President [Pastor] at the MTC [Missionary Training Center]. He shared an insight that turned my stomach [...]
Every so many weeks there is a set talk that is rebroadcast. The main theme of the message (from one of the 12 [Mormon apostles], I think) is that obedience and worthiness (and work) are the key elements of missionary success. And that there are people prepared in the mission field, prepared for every specific missionary. It is vitally and eternally important that every missionary be worthy of the full guidance of the Spirit™ to ensure they can be led to these people. These nonmembers, these brothers and sisters, are relying on the missionaries to be worthy so as to receive the inspiration to give the nonmembers a chance at the gospel – possibly their only or best chance in this life! The guilt of worthiness is laid on THICK!
So thick, in fact, that every week after this rebroadcast the Branch Presidencies are overwhelmed with missionaries bawling and shaking in dire need to confess to sins so as to be worthy. They are terrified that their past mistakes will condemn someone else. They line up to confess things they hadn’t shared before entering the MTC(fearing they’ll be sent home) or reconfess to perfect strangers sins they already owned up to but are afraid they need to make double/triple sure they have covered so they won’t condemn someone through unworthiness.
Emphasis in the original.
This isn't always the way Mormons handle these things. There's a glurgy song one of them wrote which confronts this viewpoint, and shows how unfair life is. Then it goes on to remind the Mormon listeners that "after the trials we will be blessed, for this life is a test." It's still a bad way of looking at things, and I've seen it used to minimize other people's suffering as being God's will and nothing to complain about. But it at least acknowledges that bad things happen to people who don't deserve them.
What it never quite got around to pointing out is that part of that unfairness is who gets blamed for what happens to them and who doesn't. The 18-year-olds entering the MTC are near the bottom of the Mormon hierarchy, right above women, poor people, and gays. And they're blamed for everything that goes wrong, like getting zero baptisms in a European mission. They usually pay for this privilege, out of their or their families' pockets. Meanwhile, the rich white men doing the blaming -- the Mission Presidents -- live in big houses and have their living expenses, medical expenses, kids' educations, and a lot of other things paid for out of members' tithing.
The biggest revelation I had, when I started reading books like Barbara Ehrenreich's, was that there were people who played by "the rules" and were thrown away anyway. This was such a blow to my system that I don't think I ever recovered. In a way, it helped to find out that not everything was my fault, and that the world was just a scary and unfair place. But knowing that doesn't make the guilt and feelings of worthlessness go away, and doesn't really help me deal with it.
I think that's why a lot of Mormons have this "just world" belief. (TW: Rape) They know, somewhere in their hearts, that they are all play-acting. They put so many things, so much loss and pain, on top of a shaky foundation of belief in their God's will and power, even when it means believing that they must have prevented him from blessing them through their unworthiness. And they know that if they ever stop bracing against it, it will fall down and crush them.
I'd have more sympathy for them if they weren't standing on me while they're doing so, and blaming me for not being a doormat.
I have even less sympathy for narcissists, whatever church they attend. Because what's worse than feeling like everything is your fault, is believing that nothing is.
Conservative pundits and religious leaders seem to have a thing against Facebook and Twitter. Not because of how Twitter can be used to harass women and minorities, or how Facebook's "no pseudonyms" policy excludes anyone concerned for their safety, but because they let people share themselves with the rest of the world.
"Nobody wants to know what you ate for breakfast!" they cry, and accuse people of narcissism for thinking otherwise. I could hear their voices, figuratively speaking, while writing that last entry, about things I find fun (and why I apparently can't stand them).
When I think of narcissists, though, I think of people like them. Shallow, egotistical hypocrites, who at best are extremely un-self-aware, and at worst hate and envy almost everyone else. Who whine about "whiners," complain about "complainers," take offence at people who "choose to be offended," and use force to prevent clergy members from performing marriages (and women from accessing health care) on the basis of "religious liberty."
What they all have in common, is that they seem to think things were much better when no one had the words to describe who they were, how they felt, and how others were hurting them.
That's why my profile, in the sidebar, currently lists the words that I use to describe myself. And why I write so much about what I go through. Because people, including myself, need to be reminded that this is all real. These feelings are real, these experiences really happened, I really am the kind of person for whom it makes sense to do these things and see myself this way. For whom it hurts not to be able to.
That's what it was like, before I knew the words. Before "cis" and "trans," before "allistic" / "autistic," before "fictive" and "therian" / "otherkin." It hurt, and I had no concept of why.
I had feelings for both male- and female-presenting persons, before I knew what "pansexual" was.
I saw humans as other, and identified with animals, before I knew what a "therian" was.
I thought I was demon-possessed, before I knew about multiplicity and trauma splits.
And when I read my stories back to myself, I heard them read in a female voice, in my head.
If someone had taught me the words when I was much younger, I would've been one of those 12-year-olds who wants to take androgen blockers. I would've worn cat ears or a fox tail, past the point where adults stopped seeing it as cute. I would've latched onto everything I saw that reminded me of myself, that struck me as sacred, that seemed real and not made-up like the rest of society.
And I would've written about it sooner, too. Because I need to put things into written words, to explain them to myself ... and because I'm not the only one who needs all these things explained to.
I'm not sure that's so different from writing about what you had for breakfast, either. How else are people going to find the best place to get coffee and French toast?
Earlier, I realized that if someone tells me not to be selfish, it's usually because they want to keep the selfishness all to themselves. I'm now convinced that if someone tells me not to take offence, it's because they're going to start dishing it out.
In the United States, there is no one state religion which people are taxed to support, the way there is in some European countries. Instead, pretty much any religious organization is treated like a nonprofit. They are not required to pay taxes, and they are exempt from a ton of laws, such as nondiscrimination ordinances and laws about fair treatment of employees.
(I am not a lawyer, but this is my understanding of how things work.)
To me, this is very obviously not okay. It has created a lot of small, personal kingdoms, where preachers and "prophets" can make their own rules and abuse people however they like. Stuff Fundies Like has a lot of examples, of the consequences of the way the States privilege petty tyrants.
If any religion is to be privileged here in the States, with things like free money (tax exemptions) and stuff, it should be ones like Unitarian Universalism, with their financial transparency and commitment to plurality. Money-making scams like Scientology and Mormonism should not be recognized as legitimate religious organizations, when that just lets them make even more cash and exploit free (or nearly free) volunteer labour. And churches where people preach hate speech, and exclude disadvantaged groups from their ordinances or their priesthood, should likewise not be considered legitimate by law or society.
Hate speech is not free speech. Bigotry does not deserve subsidy. Children should not be in positions where unaccountable adults, like Mormon bishops, can take advantage of them. And if no one in their churches has the back of exploited "volunteer" missionaries or "Sea Org" members, especially underage ones, then society at large should stand up for them, by mandating fair wages and humane working conditions.
That's the most commonly rendered version of Google's motto, which most people invoke ironically these days as they point out the latest evil thing Google did. But you can do a lot of evil stuff without ever seeing yourself as evil. And if you're measuring how good you are by how evil someone else is, you get to be one of those people who wants a cookie for not being as terrible as someone else.
I personally feel that if you are alive, then you deserve to be alive, by default and until proven otherwise. I believe that "kindness is goodness;" that you are a good person just for being the kind of person you are, and that if anyone says otherwise or tries to prevent you from being yourself then they are being unkind to you.
I believe that some people are damaged, disabled, marginalized, or ill. I believe they deserve to exist, and to participate fully in society. I think it is the responsibility of abled people to accommodate them. I believe in solidarity with these people, and in giving up privilege or inconveniencing myself in order to keep them from having to do without things that they need or that I take for granted. I believe this is best done not through individual acts, but as a society, so that the responsibility is spread out and so that they do not need to beg.
I believe that some people are dangerous, including (but not limited to) carnivores, narcissists, and white European Americans. I don't believe that being dangerous means that a person is evil or must be destroyed. I believe there are ways to coexist, that do not have to involve harming innocents. But I believe that the burden is on the most dangerous people to find those ways, not on their victims. And I sympathize with those who resist them.
I believe that Chaotic Neutral is the best D&D alignment, because I feel it encompasses (or can encompass) all of the above. I believe you don't have to be "good" to be kind to others and empathize with them. I believe that the concept of "good" is overrated, and is often used to cover for dangerous people's actions, or to condemn those who resist them as "evil."
If "good" exists objectively, it is willing self-sacrifice on behalf of another. I don't feel that it's needed in order to be kind to others, because I feel that most people are naturally kind (or at least not dangerous) so long as their needs are met. But I do feel that kindness -- both in the sense of being yourself, and respecting the rights of others to do the same -- is a prerequisite for the kind of self-sacrifice that is helpful.
Otherwise, you end up seeing self-sacrifice as good in and of itself. You don't trust people who don't give up enough of themselves for "the greater good." And you give your all for other people, who you then expect to do the same for others, until there's no kindness left in the universe because everyone's trying so hard to be "good."
Or at least, to appear good. Which is much easier.
(With apologies to Wreck-it Ralph. Linked video contains spoilers.)
I used to get Lawful Good on D&D alignment quizzes, because I only picked the "right" answers. Later, and for most of the last ten years, I answered honestly and got Neutral Good ... because I didn't want to rock the boat, but I still went out of my way to help people.
I still do, sometimes. But the most recent alignment quiz I took pegged me as Chaotic Neutral, and the more I think about it the more I think it fits.
I think the tipping point, for me, was seeing how corporations like Mozilla -- which I thought were purely benevolent -- were really more concerned with ensuring their own survival. And while a lot of Free Software volunteers do so out of the goodness of their hearts, after being thrown away by GNOME I saw how others like me were being manipulated thanks to their desires to do good.
( Read more... )
The more I realize how little I know, and how messed-up my programming is thanks to my upbringing, the less confident I am that it's even possible to be a "good" person in the conventional sense. Not without massive conflicts of interest, and potential for abuse / exploitation.
Instead, I'm trying to be a kind person. Both in the sense that I want to treat others as people, and in the sense that aliaspseudonym referred to in its Xenotheism essay. Where "kindness is goodness," because the most genuinely good thing any person can do is to just be the kind of person they are.
If you don't believe that, then you can't really help anyone anyway.