Who Is Declaring This “War On Gender?”

What’s with this trend on the right of fighting against the wars we’re supposedly waging on the left? Every year, the viewers of Fox News are treated to Bill O’Reilly’s insane antics over his made up “war on Christmas.” Those of us who want equal protection under the law are constantly accused of waging a “war on religious freedom.” Now, in the midst of the raging debate over Trans people using the washroom, a bunch of very vocal people are fear-mongering over a supposed “war on gender.” A war on gender? What?

It’s pretty easy to tell who knows what they are talking about and who doesn’t when it comes to gender issues. For example, if you think we are all born as one gender or another, you are confused about the difference and relationship between gender and sex. If you think that all Trans people identify as the gender opposite their assigned sex and seek physical transition, you have obviously never bothered to learn anything about Trans identity; and if you think there is a war on gender, you have failed to listen to those of us who have been trying to explain this to you ad nauseum.

I’m going to take a different approach to this today, by saying that the acceptance of Trans identities, and the openness with which we listen and understand, reveals a beautiful truth about humanity. What the right has failed to realize, perhaps what many of us on the left don’t even realize, is that our movement is changing conventional wisdom on the human condition. What we have always thought, or known, about ourselves is not diminished by this, rather it is enhanced by the realization that we are much more complex than we ever imagined. As LGBTQ+ people become more emboldened, more confident in coming out and living their authentic selves, we learn more about our species. The movement sweeping our world is not a war on gender, it’s a revolution of discovery!

The bible, used by the right to justify opposition to progress, is not a textbook. It does not speak truth to the human condition, and the view(s) of humanity contained within its pages is simple and rudimentary, with little nuance. We are more complicated than that, and to embrace humanity is to try to understand that complexity. Passing judgment is something we do naturally, but when we depend on an ancient text to pass judgment in the ‘now,’ we do ourselves, and those we are judging, a terrible disservice. To insist upon this method, and to ‘double down’ on what we know, or even suspect, to be insufficient, is the very embodiment of willful ignorance. This is the problem in the church today. Too many people just don’t care enough. Too many people prefer to cast aspersions instead of seeking truth, because seeking truth, and attempting to understand it, is hard. It’s much easier to take what they have believed for so long and cling to that as infallible. What a horrible injustice it is to reject the fulfillment of discovering more about the world around us.

So I ask those who say we have declared war on gender: who is declaring this war on gender? I am what many of you would mistakenly call a “gay activist,” am I declaring war on gender? The only war on gender is the one you have made up. Just like Bill O’Reilly and his war on Christmas, you are fighting a figment of your imagination. There is no war on gender, we are merely learning. We are embracing new knowledge, preferring not to sit stagnant with ancient beliefs. Refusing to accept the ever-expanding library of knowledge about who and what we are, in favour of a belief that diminishes our complexity is, quite frankly, insulting. Why are you so threatened by the rejection of gender roles? Why are you so threatened by the notion that a person can be born in the wrong body? Why are you so threatened by a person who is biologically one sex, but whose brain is organized as both male and female? Why do you refuse to even try to learn about the reality of a gender identity that doesn’t fit the male-female binary at all?

Do you know how much we suffer? We live on edge, constantly having to check our words for fear of what we might let slip, and to whom. At 34 years old, nobody should be afraid to come out to their parents … but I was. Do you know how demeaning it is, how utterly dehumanizing, to be afraid to show your true colours, to be afraid of physical attack that too often ends in the deaths of our peers, and do you know that the suffering we endure is entirely your fault? Ideas based on religious beliefs and convictions, picked like low-hanging fruit from the pages of scripture, have been applied to social conventions with devastating effects. Those who hold these are to blame for the pain we endure. If those ideas were not pushed and insisted upon, if everybody embraced the beautiful diversity of the human condition, we wouldn’t have these problems. The issues we face are not internal, they are brought about by the exclusionary and restrictive norms and practices of tradition. My struggle, for example, is not with myself; it’s with the consequences of living openly as myself.

Think about that last statement for a minute. If you still can’t imagine any reality other than the make-believe one where me and my cohorts have declared war on gender, you’re not worth wasting any more time on.

It’s Not “Gender Confusion”

When talking about Trans issues, despite having no knowledge of Trans issues, many evangelical activists like to use the term “Gender Confusion” (or “Gender Confused”). It’s time this was confronted. When people like my favourite evangelical Dr. Michael Brown use this term, it feels like nails on a chalkboard to me. Now, for the record, the reason he is my favourite evangelical is because he is so adamantly outspoken about LGBTQ+ issues, even having written several books on us, but has so little knowledge it’s actually comical. As laughable as his work may be, however, he wields a certain amount of influence, and so do his colleagues. People need to know that Trans identity is not a matter of confusion.

Terms that minimize the validity of LGBTQ+ identities always tend to stem from the same premise – “It’s wrong because God.” The term “Gender Confusion” is inextricably linked to the idea that “God doesn’t make mistakes.” Indeed, “man and woman he created them” is right there in the Bible, and it makes sense that a believing Christian would take that to mean we are all born as one or the other. The obvious problem with this is that people are trying to pin down God’s plan … a plan that is supposed to be unknowable.

So how are we to know what God’s plan is? While it’s true that Genesis lays out the plan for procreation, how do you make sense of people who are born infertile, or those who are intersex? Did God make mistakes with those people? You wouldn’t say so, would you? You would say that they were born that way on purpose, a part of God’s plan, the reason for which we cannot know; and the reason you would say that is because you can’t deny physical evidence … but it’s easy to deny what you can’t see. Gender identity is invisible, and when it enters the discussion, God’s plan is no longer a mystery. All of a sudden, the plan is known, God doesn’t make mistakes, and Trans people are merely “confused.”

Does this not look like faulty logic to you? Is it not the height of arrogance to claim a faith in an unknowable God, and have the convenience of changing the narrative to claim to know exactly what he wants when it suits you? Is this not exactly what we mean when we talk about religion being used to justify hatred or dislike? Gender variance is unseen, it has an element of mystery, and instead of trying learn about it, how cowardly it is to grab your holy book and impose your own biases upon it.

It would be troubling indeed if Trans identity was a product of confusion. To come out and live openly despite the dangers of doing so, to struggle through the rift between social ideals and self, to live in constant fear, to fight for proper healthcare … all due to confusion? We don’t attribute women’s issues to confusion when many women face similar struggles, so why do it with gender identity? Granted, the doctrine of original sin allows for such confusion, attributing it to our fallen nature, but once again we have the application of personal bias to reach a desired conclusion.

Take a moment to consider these questions. Could Trans identity be part of God’s plan? What if the struggles faced by Trans people are due to human social bias, a bias that God did not ordain? All Christian denominations teach that humans are flawed and fallen, what if our dislike of difference is the flaw? Maybe Trans identity isn’t the problem. Maybe the problem is the use of the Bible to justify condemnation. Maybe … just maybe … you’re wrong.

At the end of the day, we are here, we are very real, and many people are going to have to learn to deal with that. Trans identity is broad, it is many things to many people, and if you are not willing to ask questions and accept that diversity is a wonderful thing, I feel sorry for you. You may be confused, but we are not. Trans identity is not “Gender Confusion.” Ask and learn, or bask in your own ignorance. Either way, we know who we are.

 

Pick Your Battles

When I began writing as Outspoken Ally, I was a new advocate. Like many new advocates, I was eager to loudly proclaim the message of equality and speak out against bigotry at every opportunity. I wrote about it, and I did it. Every chance I got, I did it, and what I found over time was that I was wasting a lot of unnecessary energy. Many people are up for the discussion in some form or another, but some either don’t get it or don’t want to. You have to pick your battles, because some just aren’t worth having.

Yesterday, I was speaking with an acquaintance who I have known since High School. The conversation was fine, until he unexpectedly launched into a string of very hurtful insults toward gay men; his comments littered with the word “faggot.” It took every bit of strength I had, but I immediately decided to let it go. Why? Because I would have voiced my discomfort with what he said, and then been dragged into a long, drawn out shouting match that would have left me exhausted, angry, and stressed; having made zero progress. Sometimes a hateful person is just a hateful person, and clashing with them isn’t worth the energy.

Let me assure you that I am still wholly committed to this work. What has happened over the past couple of years is that I have calmed down a little bit. My anger with inequality and those who uphold it, though still there, has given way to a more measured approach. Rather than fight every battle, I prefer to fight those battles that are worth fighting. I can argue with a person who just doesn’t care, and wind up feeling like I wasted precious time, or I can sit down with a person who wants to have the debate, and walk away with a sense of validation. If my opponent is unswayed but was receptive, it was worth the time.

A case in point is Dr. Michael Brown. I find Dr. Brown misinformed to say the least, and have written about him before. In my latest post (Trans Rights In 2016), I said that he decries Trans people as freaks, perverts, and liars. It is true that on his radio show he calls them broken and unnatural, frames the public washroom debate as an opportunity for dangerous men to gain legal access to young women, and blames people like me for perpetuating the “lie” that your gender can be different from your physical sex. Although not using the words “freaks, perverts, and liars,” his message is exactly that, and he took offence to my saying so. It is unlikely that I or anybody else will sway Dr. Brown … but engaging with him IS worth it. As wrong and misleading as I feel he is, he is still capable of intelligent debate. He is a smart man who believes he is doing good, and with people like him, the argument is almost always worth having. That’s why I then encouraged you all to voice your opposition to his misinformation on his Facebook page. (Taking my entire message into account, however – my numerous blog posts speaking out against vitriolic attacks, cursing at those we disagree with, and threats of violence – anybody who reads me regularly knows that I endorse civil opposition only)

If you feel the need to take every opportunity to fight, go for it. As long as you approach it with civility, you have my support. What I am encouraging you to consider here, is to save your energy for fights that are worth having. Before engaging, ask yourself one question. Is it worth my time and energy to confront this person? If you’re anything like me, you might find it less stressful, and more effective for your advocacy, to pick your battles.

Are We Too Judgmental?

In May of this year, Dr. Michael Brown brought up the issue of judgment on his radio show, “Line Of Fire.” I listened to that segment recently when I downloaded the episode as a podcast, and I heard him make an argument that I was already familiar with but hadn’t given much thought. For some reason, it struck a chord this time. The argument is that when we call people like him bigots, liars, nazi’s, etc, we are guilty of the same negative judgment. I’ve heard this from others in the religious right, and it’s worth addressing. LGBTQ+ rights and freedoms is one of those things that spurs passionate controversy. Arguments can get very heated, and because I fancy myself an advocate who can maintain a modicum of cool in those situations, I’m working through the question – as a movement, as a group, are we too judgmental?

It pains me to admit that, as a group, we on the left do have a problem with the way we handle things. This is blatantly obvious when our opponents get death threats. I have spoken out against many opponents, including a man who I consider to be the absolute worst kind of human being (Scott Lively), and not once have I suggested he commit suicide, encouraged vigilante justice, the death penalty, castration, or anything of the sort. I never cuss anybody out, and I use adjectives with definitions that fit. I do it this way because I believe that the telling of the truth must be honest, but need not be brutal. After all, the term “brutally honest” is almost always used as a justification to be hurtful, and that is unacceptable. What I’m saying here is this: I’m about to argue that we are not too judgmental, but we do have to recognize our flaws. We’re good, but we should be better. Too many of us allow our emotions to get carried away, and we say things that give anti-equality activists more to demonize us with. We have to stop doing that.

In the interest of keeping a certain objection at bay, I did write an article using the word “terrorist” in regard to anti-equality campaigners and organizations. Some people took offence to that. I wrote a follow-up piece that I won’t re-hash here (it’s all on this site to be read at your leisure), but the gist of it is that I provided a logically sound argument that, I felt, justified my use of the word. This is what I’m talking about. When you throw words out there – potentially offensive words like “terrorist” – be prepared to explain yourself. If you present a sound argument, I support that. A sound argument will stand on its own, regardless of who disagrees or how much the right attacks it. It’s when we hurl death threats and use intimidation tactics that the line is crossed. That line must never be crossed.

So are we too judgmental? In a word, NO. What you fail to realize, Dr. Brown, is that the word “bigot” has a definition that fits, and nobody called you “nazi’s” until Bryan Fischer, Rush Limbaugh and company started levelling that disgusting word against us. Now, I know an eye for an eye leaves the whole world blind, but this is a culture war that was waged by Christians. We didn’t start this. All of it could have been avoided if LGBTQ+ people were just accepted from the beginning, but instead you had to take your 11th commandment and bash society over the head with it. “Thou shalt not be gay” is a gross misreading of the text, and it’s disheartening to see a respected theologian making such weak arguments, not to mention framing arguments for us that we don’t even make, and then tearing them down on his radio show. It’s not too judgmental to call a spade a spade. As long as there is a logical argument supporting our claims, your only objection could be that the truth hurts. I have followed you for a long time. I read your articles, I download podcasted episodes of your show, and I consider you to be an example of intolerance. The judgmental attitude, sir, rests on your shoulders; and it is certainly NOT the righteous judgment that Jesus calls on you to make.

When it comes to right vs left, religion vs the secular world, one can’t help but notice the ever-present noose being toted around. Our pro-equality activism is a reaction to negative judgment, it didn’t just start on its own. Our evangelical opponents spend a lot of time and energy looking for opportunities to throw that noose over our heads and squeeze. It’s pretty bad when a pastor talks about praying for God to “rip out Caitlyn Jenner’s heart,” but we’re the villains for using the word “bigot.” Bryan Fischer takes to the airwaves ranting about the “pink swastika,” that he made up, and although I choose not to use the term “nazi,” those who do respond with it spur reactions that completely miss the point. “Look at those hateful ‘gay activists’ using our own tactics against us!” Any and every opportunity is seized upon to tighten that noose, and when their plans are thwarted by laws or Supreme Court decisions, the anger grows. “Why won’t you let us oppress you?! Religious liberty!!” It must be tiring to go through life with such anger and paranoia.

At the end of the day, we on the progressive left have nothing to apologize for. Aside from some unfortunate missteps that must be corrected, we are not the ones responsible for negative judgment, nor are we to blame for the social ills that evangelicals created all by themselves. Our cause is reactionary. Without religious bigotry, there would be no fight to be had. Without religious bigotry, the Pride movement would not be necessary. Without religious bigotry, society would be further ahead. Are we too judgmental? No. We are responding out of hurt. The charge of being too judgmental finds its home with those who condemn us.