Dear Christian

Dear Christian

If you want to convert me, please don’t expect anything from me that you wouldn’t be willing to do yourself. If you give me pamphlets about Christianity and expect me to read them, you’d best be willing to do the same if I give you pamphlets about atheism (yes, these actually exist, although the only ones I’ve found are just informational ‘here is what atheists are like’ stuff) or, heck, even if I pass on some interesting pamphlet about Hinduism that someone else gave me (surely, at the very least, it would help you to understand what it is like to be on the receiving end of the pamphlet giving, which might even help you come up with better pamphlet giving/writing strategies). If you expect me to consider your side in a debate, you had best be willing to consider mine. If you want me to read your holy book with an open mind, then you’d best be willing to read, with an open mind, a book I recommend to you. If you’re not willing to do that, then this whole thing becomes very one-sided, and I’m likely to end up feeling quite disgruntled and will probably resist everything you say. After all, if you won’t listen to me, why should I listen to you?

Please don’t quote Bible verses to me like they’re evidence. You may see the Bible as your most important source of information, but to me it is just a book that a bunch of different people wrote a really, really long time ago. Before you say that characterization of your holy book is insulting, just think, isn’t that the same way you view other religions’ holy texts? Would you be even remotely convinced by someone quoting the Qur’an as evidence?

Also, if you’re trying to convert me, please respect that my decisions are my own. It is not your responsibility to ‘save’ me. It is my responsibility to make my own decisions. If you want to talk about or debate religion, then that is fine, but do not use coercive tactics (like threatening me with hell) if I don’t make the decisions that you want me to. And, for goodness’ sake, do not try to ‘fix’ me or act like you know what is good for me better than I do. That’s just patronizing. Even if you did know what’s good for me better than I do, I’m an adult. Let me make my own decisions.

Don’t assume you know what my experience is like, even if you yourself were an atheist at some point in time. Atheists are an extremely varied bunch, and each of us has our own reasons for being an atheist and our own way of looking at the world. Strictly speaking, the only thing we all have in common with each other is that we all happen not to believe in any gods. While there are certain things that you can say about atheists as a group, such as that atheists are more likely to accept the theory of evolution (considering objections to the theory of evolution tend to be religiously based, this is hardly surprising) or that atheists tend to be more religiously literate, you just can’t assume that any of these things are true about an individual just because they happen to be an atheist. There are atheists who don’t accept the theory of evolution (or just don’t know enough about it to say anything one way or the other), and there are atheists who know very little about religion. In short, we’re all individuals, and there is no one standard book or creed for atheism.

You’d also do well to educate yourself about common misconceptions about atheists. There are a lot of them, and they get very tiring to deal with. If I hear you saying that atheists are nihilists and have no reason to be good, then I’m probably going to dismiss what you say out of hand because you’ve just proved you have no idea what you’re talking about. If you actually spent any time listening to atheists, you would hear all about our various reasons to be good and our various non-nihilistic philosophies.

If you live in a country which is majority Christian and where most of the government leaders are Christian, then don’t act like your religion is being oppressed. This is only going to piss off the people who actually are being oppressed for their religious beliefs or lack thereof. Yes, Christians in the early church were horribly oppressed and martyred, but that was there and then. This is here and now, and now you’re the ones holding most of the power.

Perhaps most importantly, please do not impose your religious morality on me. If something which is legal and doesn’t harm anyone (like eating blood or having anal sex with one’s spouse) happens to be forbidden in your religion… then it’s forbidden in your religion. Don’t try to apply that to people who are not part of your religion. And for goodness’ sake, don’t try to turn your religious morality into law in a secular nation. Keeping religious tenets out of the law in a secular nation helps protect everyone’s ability to freely practice their own religion. Don’t forget that even if you happen to be in the majority right now and face no realistic threat of someone else’s religious tenets being imposed on you by being made into law.

 

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Coming Out

So, I came out as trans to my parents this weekend. I was very, very nervous about it, primarily because of their religious views. I already knew that they strongly oppose gay marriage and view same-sex sex as a sin, but I knew less about what to expect with their views towards transgender people. Considering I had to explain what transgender even means, and that I knew I would have to do so, I didn’t really have any way to know what to expect. Plus, I had to do it over the phone since I live far enough away from them that I usually don’t see them in person except for holidays and such.

I was very relieved by their initial reaction. They just asked what transgender meant and asked other questions to figure out what I was talking about and what was going on, and they told me they loved me no matter what. I was a little surprised to find out that they did actually already understand that homosexuality isn’t a choice, which means it must have been quite easy for them to see being trans in that way, too. They think that since you can’t help the way you feel (with respect to sexual attraction or gender identity or the like), that there’s nothing wrong with whatever way a person feels. That’s one major point I was very glad I wouldn’t even have to argue for since they accepted it before I even started talking to them.

They don’t really seem to quite understand, though. They told me in no uncertain terms and with several examples (of tomboys) that it is perfectly ok for a person to act or dress in a more masculine manner. My mom repeated more than once that I needed to remember that I was ‘really’ female, though. They said that I might ask other people to call me something else (a ‘nickname’) or use different pronouns for me (I was too chicken to mention masculine pronouns so I only mentioned gender-neutral ones), but that they were going to keep calling me by the name they gave me and weren’t going to try to learn a new set of pronouns. We discussed what the Bible has to say about homosexuality (they’re very set in their opinion that same-sex sex is a sin and I gave up trying to argue that one since it doesn’t really affect me that much anyway) and transgenderism (very little, aside from a verse or two discouraging cross-dressing, which my mom interprets to mean that a person should not cross-dress in a deceitful manner–that’s no problem, I absolutely refuse to cross-dress in an effort to fool people into thinking I’m female *grin*).

My mom made a point of saying that I didn’t need to be coming out to everybody and that it wasn’t everyone’s business. I wonder if this is more a thing of being worried about my safety or being worried about the embarrassment (for me or them?) of my being known as trans. I’m hoping it’s much more of the former than the latter, because I feel very strongly that this is not something I should have to be ashamed of. I will and do take safety into account when determining who I want to be out to, but I refuse to hide in a closet for fear that my coming out will make other people uncomfortable.

I also ended up talking about my asexuality a fair amount. They wanted to know where I got this idea about being trans and if I would still think I was if I hadn’t found the term (I do think so, yes, although it probably would have taken longer for me to figure it out, but the same applies to my asexuality, too). I told them about figuring out that I was asexual and then, through that community, learning the basics about LGBT stuff. I’d told my dad I was asexual about a year ago, when the chance randomly presented itself. It was an awkward conversation and we hadn’t talked about it since then, but he mentioned our previous conversation, now. I’d always kind of vaguely wondered if they thought I was making up this thing about being asexual because I was gay but was too scared to tell them.

They don’t quite get the asexuality thing, either. They said maybe it was because of my depression, because depression can cause low libido. I told them, no, low libido is different from a lack of sexual attraction. In hopes of allaying their fears that I might have sex with the ‘wrong’ gender or in the ‘wrong’ circumstances, I told them that sex was really just not a ‘temptation’ for me since I am not even attracted to people that way. I said I am quite sure that I am asexual and have only become more certain as time goes on, and it’s not just the depression because thinking of myself as asexual makes my entire adolescence suddenly make sense (I was not depressed in high school). They then proceded to erase my asexual identity by saying that it might change later or I might feel different later and that it might really just be the depression or something. I kind of understand where they are coming from and that a large part of it probably really is worrying that I might be gay (or might ‘become’ gay), but it is still very frustrating. No one would tell me that “you might feel differently later” if I told them I was heterosexual or maybe even if I told them I was gay. At least they are perfectly ok with me saying that I don’t ever want kids.

I got a lot closer than I would usually like to lying about my religious beliefs during this conversation. I think I would possibly even have lied directly if I’d had to (and I have an unusually strong compunction against lying directly and knowingly). Coming out as trans is enough of a thing all by itself. I am NOT going to come out as an atheist at the same time, especially considering that my parents’ biggest worries with my coming out as anything is whether I can still be a good Christian and what is the good Christian approach to take. Fortunately for me, being Christian and being trans are not mutually exclusive, and my parents already understand this, although they are still worrying. My mom made me promise to pray about it. I suppose I can technically still do that, even if I don’t believe the god I am praying to exists.

I hate that religion has to be so strongly intertwined in all this, though. It makes things quite awkward for me as a closet atheist, and I have to be careful about what I say. I have to just let it go when they say that an archaic old book that has been translated and re-translated over and over is a more reliable source of information than science is. They don’t just mean that it is a more reliable moral source, either, they mean about factual information about how the world works, too. They keep cautioning me to take any information about LGBT stuff from secular sources with a grain of salt. The whole conversation made me feel even more afraid to come out to them as an atheist than I already was. I am more afraid to come out to my parents as an atheist than as trans, and that is saying a lot, because I was terrified to come out as trans.

But, yea. My parents seem ok with the fact that I am trans. I have no idea how they will be with me transitioning, though. They seem ok with the fact that people have gay ‘feelings’ but are vehemently opposed to gay sex. Will they likewise be ok with me having trans ‘feelings’ but not with my transitioning to overcome my gender dysphoria? Will I be able to get them to understand that there really isn’t much of a choice? These are strong feelings, not mild ones, and I don’t think I’ll ever really be able to happy if I have to live in the wrong gender.

You’d think I would be less anxious after finding out how my parents would react to my coming out. Now I am stuck worrying about whether they will try to stop me transitioning or if they will change their minds about accepting me once they realize the full implications of my being trans. But I have to be patient, because they need time to figure things out because all of this is very new to them. It just sucks not knowing what to expect about how things will go from here.

It is ok

It is ok for me to be me.

It is ok for me to stand up for myself.

It is ok for me to take care of myself.

It is ok for me to insist that people use my preferred name and pronouns, even if I decide I want people to use pronouns that are ‘weird’ like ze/hir/hirs.

It is ok to be upset if someone consistently messes up my preferred name and pronouns, even though I understand that it sometimes takes people a little while to get the pronouns right for a trans person who does not ‘pass’ very well.

It is ok for me to point out that someone is not using my preferred name or pronouns. It is not a personal attack if I say “You are misgendering me. Please don’t.”

It is ok for me to ask people to use my preferred name, even if my name on paper has to be something different for legal purposes.

It is ok for me to ask people to use my preferred name, even if I am wearing a name tag that has a different name on it. Furthermore, it is ok for me to ask the staff at an event to make me a new name tag with the correct name if my current one has the wrong name on it because I didn’t realize ahead of time that there would be name tags.

It is ok if I choose to go by my non-preferred name and/or pronouns in a particular setting because of safety or privacy or other concerns. That is my choice, and it does not make me any less me.

It is ok for me to wear whatever clothes I am comfortable with wearing (as long as they pass minimum standards for particular settings, like ‘business casual’ or ‘not naked’). It is even ok if other people are not comfortable with the clothes that I am wearing. If other people cannot deal with people not fitting their expectations of gender, that is their problem, not mine.

It is ok for me to buy clothes from whichever section of the store has the clothes that I actually like.

It is ok for me to buy undergarments from the proper section of the store. I don’t need to be ashamed or try to hide what I am doing.

It is ok for me to live in student housing. I am not making any unreasonable demands for wanting to live in student housing, even if part or all of it is segregated in a way that erases my identity and makes it unclear where I should go. I am not suddenly being unfair to my female roommates if I figure out that I am actually male, in spite of having an F on legal documents and being told that I am female my entire life, and I would like both to have my real gender acknowledged and also to continue living in my home until my lease is up. I am not suddenly ‘too male’ to continue living with my current female roommates just because I cut my hair and asked people to use male pronouns for me–I am still entirely legally female and very early in transition and would probably be considered ‘not male enough’ if I tried to get into male student housing, unless I lucked out and the administration was trans-friendly. It is NOT ok for me to be stuck in a catch-22 because I am both ‘too male’ and ‘not male enough’ at the same time.

It is most fucking definitely ok to be upset when someone says that they had hoped that my gender was ‘just a phase’.

It is ok for me to exist, even if my existence makes other people uncomfortable.

It is ok for me to feel sad and disappointed because this entire list is a response to real events and real concerns and things people actually said to me.

“Aromantics Don’t Date”

The other day Natalie Reed wrote a post about how the idea that “I always knew” is standardized to trans narratives. The people who “always knew” are considered to be “more” trans, or something. This both masks reality (as people subtly change their narrative to fit better with the standard) and delegitimizes people whose narratives are too far from the accepted standard. I think this thing with having a narrative standard happens with asexuals and aromantics to some extent as well, although aces don’t have to deal with an outside establishment trying to define the narrative standards, as trans people do when dealing with medical gatekeeping.

One of the things I hear fairly often is asexuals saying “I’ve never had sex” or aromantics saying “I’ve never dated”. Of course, this is only problematic when these statements are used as proof that the person saying them must be asexual/aromantic or to delegitimize asexuals/aromantics who have had sex or dated. Behavior is a very different thing than orientation. This is important to remember. There are plenty of asexuals who have had sex or who even enjoy sex and this does not make them any less asexual. Likewise for aromantics who have dated. The simple fact is that there is a very wide variety of different ace narratives and any standardization of one particular type of narrative at the expense of another is a disservice to the whole community.

This idea that aromantics never date is actually one of the things that kept me from considering that I might be aromantic for so long. I’d heard “I’ve never dated” or “I dated someone once, but it was awful” from so many aromantics that I thought I couldn’t possibly be one because I’ve been in at least half a dozen romantic relationships. But the thing is, and I can’t overstate this, behavior and orientation are two different things.

I do think it is a bit unusual for an aromantic* to have been in so many romantic relationships, though, although I think in my case there are some very specific quirks of my personality and upbringing that contributed to this. For one thing, I always assumed I was straight until I discovered asexuality a couple of years ago. I had always been taught that being straight is the “right” way to be and that other sexualities are a “lifestyle choice”. Having no particular attractions that might have contradicted the way I was taught, it really didn’t occur to me to question. It was just assumed that I would eventually find a nice Christian man, fall in love, date, kiss, get married, make babies, etc.

However, this would probably not have led me to date so much just because “everyone does it” except that I am also kind of oblivious, especially to certain social things (for example, I am completely oblivious to flirting). I didn’t quite realize that there is supposed to be some special attraction to a person before you are supposed to date them. Someone would ask me out, and I would say “yes” even if they were not a person it would have ever occurred to me to want to date. Or, perhaps, it is more that I could think of any person of the “opposite” gender (again with the “being straight is the ‘right’ thing” bullshit) as a potential romantic partner if they showed interest in me. I think I was more “in love” with the idea of having a relationship than I ever was with any of the people that I dated. I couldn’t tell the difference between strong feelings of friendship and romantic feelings, presumably because I didn’t have any romantic feelings. But the lesson from society was that everyone has romantic feelings, so I would assume that some other type of feeling was romantic.

Besides, I did get crushes, or so I thought. Having been introduced to the idea of a “squish” (a platonic crush or friend-crush), I’ve really been questioning which of all the “crushes” I have had were actually squishes and which were crushes. I really can’t figure out quite what the difference is between a squish and a crush though. One possible explanation for this is that I have never had a crush. In my immature, ignorant, everyone-is-supposed-to-be-straight world view, though, I would only call something a crush if it were directed towards someone of the “opposite” gender (which is about the kind of rationalization I would expect if the “I’ve never had a crush” theory were correct). Actually, now that I think about it, I totally had a squish on my older brother’s girlfriend when I was in middle school. I would think about her in a “wow, she is awesome/special and I wish she would spend more time with me because I really enjoy talking to her and look forward to the times when she will be around” sort of way. But when I had the same feelings for a guy I would assume they were romantic and then pursue or fantasize about a romantic relationship because that was what you were “supposed” to do when you “liked” someone of the “opposite” gender.

So, basically, I dated people because that was the normal thing, and I assumed I was like everyone else, and I really did not realize for a long time that I was not. I think it is easier for that to happen when a person simply lacks the usual romantic feelings that people get and is socially oblivious or doesn’t have any particular issue with any of the things that usually go along with romantic relationships. Is it really even unusual for aromantics to have had several different romantic relationships before figuring out they are aromantic?

* Actually I identify as wtfromantic (I like to pronounce it “what the fuck romantic”), but I sometimes simplify this to aromantic when I do not think that the specific nuances of why I identify as wtfromantic are important. I identify as wtfromantic because I cannot quite figure out the difference between romantic and non-romantic and cannot therefore specify what the fuck my romantic orientation is. Although, I think I must be either aromantic or grey-panromantic because I do not seem to have any particular gender preference, and if I were not at least somewhere on the “aromantic spectrum” I would have probably figured out what romantic means by now. If this whole paragraph just seems like a bunch of jargon-spewing, you’ve already discovered one of the main reasons that I just say I am aromantic, sometimes.

Edit- My generalizing about past relationships in this post only applies relationships I had before I knew I was asexual (or trans). I have been in one romantic relationship since then, and it was very different (in a good way) from my previous experiences, partly because I had learned more about myself, partly because I had learned to communicate more directly, and partly because I had started to shake off my preconceived notions about how relationships are “supposed” to be. I had more than one conversation specifically about asexuality with my girlfriend at the time.

Thoughts on Genesis

So, I finally finished reading Genesis, and I’ve only had a copy of the Bible checked out from the library for four months now! Yea, I know, I’m such a fast reader. Well, the only library books I have out from the library at the moment are the Bible, the Qur’an, and a book about the Hadith, so that means I will actually be spending most of my reading time tackling those big, thick holy books, now. I’ll still probably end up returning and checking out a different copy of the exact same Bible a couple of times due to running out of renewals, though. That thing is like 1200 pages, and, well, while it does have its exciting stories, it also has things like incredibly boring and long lists of names and genealogy stuff. It’s not really the sort of book that’s easy to just sit down on the couch and read for five hours straight. I want to say it’s boring because that’s what I always wanted to say when I was a kid but didn’t because it felt like it was wrong to think/say that. Only, the Bible really isn’t all boring. The story of Joseph, for example, is a really great story. It’s got a great deal of irony, and I love irony. I actually didn’t want to put the book down at all when I was reading that story, yesterday, because it was the opposite of boring.

So anyway, one thing I kept noticing while reading through Genesis is how incredibly sexist it is. Women are just not considered to be as important as men. For instance, when genealogy is listed, they pretty much just concentrate on the men. Jacob’s children are listed out multiple times. He had twelve sons, in total. Only one daughter is ever mentioned. It seems far more likely that this is because daughters were not thought to be worth mentioning, rather than that a person had 13 children and only one of them was female. If I am doing my math correctly, then, assuming that a child is equally as likely to be male as to be female, the chance that only one child out of 13 will be female is 0.16%. Now, if this were the only example of this, I might be jumping to conclusions by saying that they usually only bother to mention people’s sons by name. It is a little more difficult to tell in cases where only a list of names is mentioned, because I don’t know how to tell which names are female and which are male and which, if any, can be either male or female. However, some of these lists of names have enough context provided to tell which ones are sons and which are daughters. In the section where the children of the children of Jacob are listed, Joseph has two children listed, both male, and Judah has five children listed, again all male. Noah has three sons; no daughters are mentioned. The three children of Adam that are mentioned by name are all male, although it is said that he had other sons and daughters. Lot had two (unnamed) daughters and no sons… until his daughters got pregnant by him and give birth to two (named) sons. Oh, and that one daughter of Jacob that is even mentioned by name? Her entire role in the story consists of getting raped.

Which brings me right to some of the really scary social norms in the book of Genesis. Women are “given” to be people’s wives. Slavery is totally normal. It’s perfectly ok for men to marry more than one wife (I’m not saying anything about polyamory, but polygamy in a highly patriarchal system tends to work out less than wonderfully for the women). When two of Jacob’s sons kill all of the male inhabitants of a city in revenge for the rape of their sister (the rapist asked to be given their sister as his wife after he raped her… just… what the fuck?), Jacob rebukes them, not for being mass-murderers, but because the other inhabitants in the region outnumber them and would totally destroy them if they attacked. The other brothers loot the city, taking all of the wealth, livestock, children, and wives (the latter two groups, presumably, as slaves).

Now, I understand that people have had different standards of what is considered right and wrong in different times and places and cultures, and I’m sure my own culture has some truly vile social norms that will be pointed out in other times and places (and some of them even in the here and now). However, just because a thing was considered normal at some point in time does not even remotely imply that it is ok. And, worse, this stuff is not just a few examples of ugly, vile social norms that were not unusual in their time and place, these are stories in a book that is considered to be holy and is held up as the ultimate source of morality. These vile social norms are not pointed out in the stories as being in any way bad. They’re just mentioned like they’re… normal. I understand that the Old Testament is usually considered to be less important or less relevant or something to Christians than the New Testament, but it is still used to justify things (e.g. bits of Leviticus are used to justify homophobia) and figures like Abraham (the one who was willing to murder his own son for his god–he also owned slaves) are still held up as role models.