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.

 

Caitlyn Jenner Is Not An Expert

I am quite annoyed with Caitlyn Jenner’s stance on marriage equality (despite her back-peddling and justifying, she’s opposed). I am also annoyed with the fact that she’s a republican. I am even more annoyed with how those in the anti-equality camp use people like Caitlyn to make their case. From their perspective, an LGBTQ+ person against LGBTQ+ rights and freedoms is tremendous support for their position. The lack of support from a prominent LGBTQ+ figure can be surprising to us as well, but there’s something we should all keep in mind … being LGBTQ+ doesn’t mean you know anything about the issues facing the community, or the first thing about social equality.

Activists on both sides of history, take note because this is important. Being gay, lesbian, bi, pan, trans, queer, etc, doesn’t come with an instruction manual. Imagine the absurdity of expecting a cisgender female to know everything about the suffragette movement, or expecting an African-American child to be born with an innate knowledge of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. We learn things by seeking out information, and even though being a member of a minority community does afford useful insight, it does not come with any particular knowledge.

Caitlyn Jenner is affluent, famous, and lives in a world that most of us can’t imagine. She is the most famous Trans woman in the world, and she should probably educate herself on LGBTQ+ issues before offering an opinion. I see no reason why we should necessarily view her as a credible voice on marriage equality. She is a person with her own interests and pursuits. She knows what she has sought to learn. Being Trans does not make her an expert of any kind.

During university, and ever since, I sought and absorbed as much information as I could. My knowledge of church doctrine, my reading of scripture, my understanding of struggle and how it affects those involved, my arguments against those who seek to deny rights and protect privilege, all came about because I worked for it. My identity as a Genderqueer person gives me insight into living that, but offers no knowledge. We earn what we know.

Caitlyn Jenner’s stance on marriage equality should not hold any weight in arguments for or against. She came out to the world, and for that she has rightly received accolades for her courage. She has spoken out against the mistreatment of Trans youth, and that is to be commended. She is not, however, an expert on LGBTQ+ issues, nor does she appear to understand what life is like for those outside of her economic class. We must not take her position on this to heart, and our evangelical opponents would be best advised to not jump to using her as an example of support. It bears repeating that being LGBTQ+ doesn’t mean you know anything about the issues facing the community, or the first thing about social equality.

Not Petty Or Meaningless: Outrage Over The Caitlyn Jenner Halloween Costume

Since coming out, Caitlyn Jenner has been praised for her courage and supported by fans and family. She has also been mocked and ridiculed, she’s been made a punchline, and just about every nasty thing imaginable has been said about her. And now, the halloween costume. The Caitlyn Jenner halloween costume, for grown adults (let’s be honest, primarily men) to openly mock her at bars, frat houses, and house parties. The Caitlyn Jenner halloween costume, fit to be worn by transphobic MRA’s alongside their comrades wearing white hoods and “down with feminazi’s” t-shirts. The same kind of people who mocked the murder of Matthew Shepard with a straw effigy on a college homecoming parade float, have sadly decided to turn a beautiful woman into a freak show. True to their immature roots in hateful traditions built on shows like Jerry Springer, Trans people are forever the “freaks,” and what I want to know is … why?

So what is it? Is there a compelling reason to behave this way? Is it “just for fun,” and if so, aren’t there any ways to have fun that don’t require tearing down someone’s identity? What is it about sending the message to Trans kids, that you see them as a joke, that you find particularly appealing? Do you care that your attitude kept me in the closet for decades, and it’s doing the same to countless others? Have you thought about it at all? Is this really you, or are you better than this?

This is not a petty or meaningless thing to be upset about. Even if it gets pulled from every retailer slated to carry it, the Caitlyn Jenner costume is a slap in the face to Trans and gender variant people everywhere. It’s straight-up mockery, and regardless of what happens with it, the damage has already been done – Caitlyn Jenner costumes WILL show up this halloween. Some people just can’t resist the relentless pursuit of dehumanizing LGBTQ+ people.

Now, the company under fire for this is ‘Spirit Halloween,’ who reportedly has a history of producing offensive costumes. Trisha Lombardo, a representative for the company, has been quoted saying “Caitlyn Jenner has proven to be the most important real-life superhero of the year, and Spirit Halloween is proud to carry the costume that celebrates her.” (Source article here) I don’t know about you, but I don’t believe her for a second. The statement is patronizing at best. All that Lombardo has done here is give an excuse to the people who will wear this costume. They will parrot her statement to cover their intent – which is to be the centre of attention in having a laugh at the expense of the Trans community. This is akin to the High School bully who torments and harasses his victim, and then gets all bent out of shape when called on it. I actually had a bully say to me once “what? It’s just a joke. I make fun because I think you’re cool. I actually respect you.” Would you have believed him?

For decades, we’ve seen Trans people presented as “freaks” for our amusement on trashy daytime TV. We’ve been subjected to “he/she,” “tranny,” “she’s really a man,” or “he’s really a woman.” Popular mediums have normalized these things, that’s how bigotry goes unchecked and socially acceptable for so long. Transphobia has always been prevalent, but at least we could find momentary relief by changing the channel. All of a sudden a very famous person comes out as Trans, and unless you live under a rock, paying attention is unavoidable. Everyone loses their minds, and now the mockery we are all too familiar with becomes even more mainstream.

Have we learned nothing from Gwen Araujo or Angie Zapata? How about Leelah Alcorn, or Zander Mahaffey, or the droves of Trans people who have been murdered in 2015 alone? Have we learned nothing from the countless lives that have been lost due to the attitudes of those who will go out this halloween dressed as Caitlyn Jenner? And shame on Trisha Lombardo for trying to claim positive intent. Not that we should expect anything better from a company that routinely sells offensive costumes under the justification of ‘showing respect,’ but a little human decency would be appreciated.

So if you’re thinking of going out as Caitlyn Jenner this halloween, I hope you ask yourself the question I asked earlier. Is this really you, or are you better than this? I hope you decide you’re better. On October 31, 2015, please do the right thing. Enjoy yourself without dehumanizing others.

Biblical Justifications For Transphobia

Transphobia is a huge problem. Murder after murder, suicide after suicide, our trans friends and family are dying due to a tragic fear of what people don’t understand. The religiously fuelled orgy of ignorance, bigotry, and aggressive action continues to plague us. As we push for social equality, trans youth are suffering in the shadows, in the hallways, in our homes, and in our schools.

Now, it’s pretty easy to find the scriptural basis for things like homophobia, at least what’s perceived to be a scriptural basis, but the biblical foundations of transphobia are not so clear. Despite all the biblical analyses and supports one might use for justifying a bias against trans people, there are really only 2 passages – and they provide very weak support at best.

Psalm 139. This Psalm is all about how God knows each one of us infinitely more than we know ourselves. At verse 13, we read “For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb,” and at verse 16 “Your eyes saw my unformed body; all the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be.”
What Psalm 139 is saying, in a nutshell, is that God knows everything about each of us because we were lovingly created according to his will. The idea that a person’s assigned sex could be out of sync with their gender identity is completely unacceptable to somebody who holds fast to Psalm 139; for if God created us according to his perfect will, our sex couldn’t possibly be wrong. Of course, every sermon I’ve listened to about this equates sex with gender, and sexual orientation with gender identity. Given this failure to understand basic terms, it’s really no surprise that some people would use Psalm 139 to justify their condemnation of what they don’t care to understand.

Oddly enough, Psalm 139 could also be used to justify acceptance of trans people. If, as is taught, we cannot know the thoughts or motivations of God, how can we say whether or not he created them just the way they are? Is gender not a social construct? Are we not flawed due to original sin? Isn’t it possible that we have imposed false social norms that were not part of God’s original plan? Psalm 139 says that God knows everything about each one of us because he created us. It doesn’t say anything about initial intent. From a biblical perspective, it may very well be that the very existence of the trans label is entirely our fault; and contrary to what God intended. Genesis lays out a differentiation of sex in the Garden of Eden, but not of gender. It could be that gender fluidity was the original idea and we screwed it up.

Deuteronomy 22:5. “A woman must not wear men’s clothing, nor a man wear women’s clothing, for the Lord your God detests anyone who does this.”

So, Deuteronomy is generally believed to be Moses’ restatement of the law originally given to the Israelites by God, in Exodus and Leviticus – approximately 40 years prior. This is questionable of course, given the fact that the laws in Deuteronomy are better described as continuations rather than restatements. In any event, this condemnation of wearing the clothing culturally assigned to the opposite gender is ridiculous. An all-knowing deity who concerns himself with what clothing we wear is extremely petty indeed, and dare I say it, quite human. One would think that if somebody had the entire universe to take care of, what clothing we wear would be quite low on the list of priorities. I think it’s a pretty safe bet that Moses injected his own displeasure with ‘cross-dressing,’ and attributed it to God. If this verse is to be taken as a condemnation, along with Psalm 139, the scriptural basis for transphobia is extremely weak.

As with discrimination of any kind, it’s just not reasonable to believe a single word of the ‘justifications’ for it. Even if the Bible came right out and said “trans people are flawed, unnatural, immoral, and must be fixed,” it would still be wrong. There are over 2,000 religions in the world, and we have one chance to make a life. Any book that says we are to waste that life trying to condemn and ‘fix’ the diversity around us, isn’t worth the paper it’s printed on.

How about trying to understand? Ancient holy books were written before anybody knew much about anything. Instead of treating the Bible like a manual, how about we accept that much of it is no longer relevant, and work to come together? You can have your faith, but believing in the infallibility of the literal word of scripture renders you useless in a civilized society. The Bible isn’t entirely irrelevant, but condemnations of things we now know to be natural belong in the same category as every other biblical thing we no longer support (ie: slavery, not eating shellfish, avoiding mixed fabrics, stoning our children, etc). We need to accept that things change as we learn, and we need to embrace that knowledge. We need to embrace one another.

You may be upset over my choice of words and my insistence on de-legitimizing scripture, but that’s kind of the point. Scripture is being used to kill trans people. It’s being used to justify murder, and it’s being used to justify the abusive action driving trans people to suicide. Criticism is 100% reasonable here, and in my opinion I haven’t been critical enough. When the Qur’an is used to justify war and suicide bombings, people are all over it. When the Bible is used to justify violence and hatred toward minority people, we are supposed to say “oh, that person has problems, the Bible is a book of love.” And then, of course, we’re reminded that we have to “respect everyone’s beliefs.” Personally, I’m sick of this. I will not respect anything that doesn’t deserve respect, and I don’t particularly care if it’s your belief or not. If your belief is harming others, or causes you to dislike them without rational justification, it is worthy only of contempt.

Without scriptural support, without anything but your personal bias toward the unfamiliar, how do you feel about trans people? Believe me, answering that question can be one of the most fulfilling things you ever do. It gets to the core of how you view humanity, and that is a profoundly beautiful thing.

Avoiding Burn-Out

In addition to speaking at the 2013 True Colours GSA Conference last October, I also attended a workshop discussing the issue of burn-out. Now, before attending this workshop, I hadn’t even considered burn-out. I always knew it was a possibility, but I hadn’t considered the effect it may have on me. Burn-out is what happens when the pressure, negativity, constant confrontation, and energy required for advocacy and activism get to you, and you’re forced to step back to avoid a meltdown. The presenter, now a friend of mine, explained that burn-out can cause you to lose your passion, often resulting in permanently stepping back from the cause, for fear that it will happen again. Because I am devoted to helping others, enjoy confrontation, thrive under pressure, and have a tremendous amount of energy, burn-out hasn’t been a problem … until now.

I have been thanked, challenged, encouraged, attacked, and applauded for my work on social equality. I have been able to do some good for some people, and with every day I find more reason to continue. I live a busy lifestyle, though, and things tend to snowball. Every once in awhile it feels like a little bit too much, and in order to avoid burn-out, I’ve decided that it’s time for a short break. I’m going to take two weeks off from writing on outspokenally.com. I encourage all of you to continue reading of course, as there are quite a few topics covered here already, but there will be nothing new posted for two weeks (note: the Facebook page will remain active).

When I come back, it will be with a new energy. I will be exploring women’s issues a little bit more, and examining the relationships between misogyny and homophobia. I plan to discuss gender roles more often, and I will be spending more time on trans issues as well. As always, Christianity will feature in these discussions when relevant. There is a lot of ignorance still to be challenged, and if the voice of Outspoken Ally is to remain relevant, burn-out has to be avoided. For those of you who, for whatever reason, may also be feeling that a meltdown is a significant possibility, I urge you to follow this method with me. Step back, take a break, do whatever it is that you find restful; and once you have recharged your energy and passion, come back with proverbial guns blazing. Social issues need voices. We must be loud, we must be reasoned, we must be bold, and we must be thoughtful. Above all, we must be cognizant of our own limitations. We must make sure to remain healthy and energized. See you in two weeks!