Don't let your schooling interfere with your education.
~ Pete Seeger

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Subverting Patriarchy With Language

"If thought corrupts language, language can also corrupt thought." ~George Orwell

We are all trained from birth to support the patriarchal system that limits human expression, establishes hierarchies over us, and oppresses. One of the key elements of this training is language. The language of patriarchy could be called "violent communication," since it trains us to enjoy violence, and supports a social structure that violates the humanity and the rights of individuals. However, it is called only "English," or "Spanish," or "Chinese" – it is the default language of our culture, and so it hides in plain sight, invisibly corrupting our thought.

Let me offer some examples:

Patriarchal language (violent communication, or VC) encourages the abdication of personal responsibility. It is the language of blame. "You hurt me." "You make me angry." "You scare me." "You make me happy." "You broke my heart." It is always the other person who is responsible for the way we feel. But look deeper. What is the real reason we feel the way we do?

VC supports hierarchy. It is laden with "have to's" that limit individual autonomy. This especially is used against children, to train them to blind obedience to authority and to suppress their own needs. "You have to go to school." "You have to do the dishes." "You must pay taxes." "I have to pick up the kids after school." The effect of this ubiquitous term is to reduce our autonomy, to abdicate responsibility, and to disguise the choices we make as imperative demands.

VC trains us to devalue our own needs, and also the needs of others. It trains us to believe that we are by nature evil. It trains us to suppress our emotions until we can't even recognize them.

VC is the language of judgment. It says, "You are bad." "He is good." It "otherizes" people, dividing the common human family into "us and them." "They (blacks, women, queers, Muslims, infidels, whatever) are (animalistic, weak, perverted, evil, whatever); we (Christians, whites, men, Muslims, whatever) are (good, strong, civilized, blah, blah). By this means, the "other" becomes less than human, and violence against them is not only justified, it is encouraged.

VC trains us to enjoy and think in terms of violence. "The war on drugs." "The war on poverty." "My team smashed your team." "If thy brother … saying, Let us go and serve other gods, … thou shalt surely kill him." "If a man also lie with mankind, as he lieth with a woman, … they shall surely be put to death."

Fortunately, we don't have to speak the language of patriarchy. We have a choice. But in order to avail ourselves of that choice, we have to know what it is. We must learn the language of nonviolence – compassionate communication (CC), or nonviolent communication (NVC).

Let's look a little closer at the effects of VC. What is the real reason we feel the way we do? Isn't it because we have universal human needs that are met or unmet? I feel scared not because you are brandishing a baseball bat ready to kill me because I'm queer, but because my need for safety isn't met. I feel happy when I share a nice chat and meal with a friend not because she makes me happy, but because my need for connection is met.

Compassionate communication is the antidote to the violent communication of the patriarchy. With NVC, the goal is not to establish or maintain hierarchy through domination or appeasement, but to bring about a quality of connection that enables everyone's needs to be met. NVC assumes that our natures are compassionate, and that we all share the same basic human needs, and that we choose our behavior in an effort to meet those needs.

NVC strikes at the very heart of patriarchy. It uproots the "tree of the knowledge of good and evil." It says, "Your needs matter, just as much as mine." "How you feel is important." It puts everyone on an equal basis, and encourages everyone to take full responsibility for their choices.

If I assume you are by nature compassionate, and share my same needs, how can I justify violence against you? How can hierarchy be maintained when I recognize that your needs are as valid as mine, and I start seeking strategies that meet both your needs and mine?

I'm not as fluent in NVC as I'd like. I was raised in this violent, patriarchal culture, and took in the language of violence with my mother's milk, even in a religion that is based on Love. But I'm learning, and practicing it more and more, on my children, on my opponents, on my job, and even with my own brother. Recently I stopped in the middle of one of our endless political arguments, and simply gave him empathy. Peace, and connection, was restored.

For those of us dedicated to destroying the patriarchy, there is no tool more powerful than language. We can use it to expose the cruel oppression of that corrupt system, erode the sand from under its weak foundation, and bring it down.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Iceland Institutes Gay Marriage

Iceland just became a country that has institutionalized marriage of lesbians and gays. It'll be interesting to see how this plays out...

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Thoughts on Different Kinds of Sciences

Have you ever seen a scale model of an atom? If I drew one on an 8.5x11 sheet of paper, it would consist of a tiny dot at the center, representing the nucleus, and an appropriate number of other tiny dots, smaller than could be seen by the naked eye, representing the electrons. All of these infinitesimally tiny dots would be made up of smaller particles, called quarks, or whatever. (Hey, I'm no scientist.)

The physical sciences, all the reality discernable by our five senses, is the science of those tiny dots.

Christian Science is the science of all the rest of it.

There is no overlap between the two sciences (PS & CS, for short). The realm of one is completely independent of the realm of the other. And we each experience life in the science where we invest our attention, in the proportion that we invest.

The CS science is the realm of Spirit, of infinite Mind. In this science, this substance or reality, there is no gender. There is no body. There is no death. This substance is the same throughout all space; there is no place you can go to escape it. We all live inside this substance-space of Spirit. The science that Mary Baker Eddy developed states that substance is Mind; that "all is Mind." The PS science is the realm of the earth, of mortals, of death, and it occupies only a relatively tiny, very limited existence.

One of these must be superior to the other in power and effect; and that one is the realm of Spirit, because it is the one that can influence the other. Nothing within the power or realm of PS can affect that "empty" space at all. On the other hand, the realm of PS is completely mutable. Experiments such as Schrodinger's Cat demonstrate the paradox of the physical sciences and senses. In his book, The Self-Aware Universe, Amit Goswami relates an experiment that showed a particle in two places at the same time – until it was observed, at which point it became solid in one place. (I'm relating this from memory, so if I get it wrong, my apologies to Mr. Goswami – and my readers.) Even the existence of life is a conundrum in the physical sciences, because life can't be replicated, yet it is.

Mr. Goswami comes at this situation from a different angle than Mary Baker Eddy, but comes to some remarkably similar conclusions. "Marshalling evidence from recent research in cognitive psychology, biology, parapsychology and quantum physics, and leaning heavily on the ancient mystical traditions of the world, Goswami is building a case for a new paradigm that he calls "monistic idealism," the view that consciousness, not matter, is the foundation of everything that is." [emphasis mine] Mr. Goswami reaches this conclusion from his search into cognitive psychology, biology, and quantum physics; Mrs. Eddy reached what seems to me to be an identical conclusion solely by reading the Bible and studying the works of Jesus and the prophets.

Because the foundation of reality is consciousness (or Mind), not matter, our thought creates our reality.

My problem with Christian Science is, first, that it is presented to the world as a religion, rather than as a science. And second, that the literature of Christian Science is written in the language of patriarchy and judgment. This is understandable in Mrs. Eddy's case, given the culture in which she lived; but I find it disturbing in the literature which is being written today. I find it distracting, as I am constantly interpreting the language as I read, seeking the truth hidden within a very inadequate language.

Despite that challenge, I also find it fascinating. The power of consciousness, of Mind, has barely been unleashed upon a very malleable matter. Imagine what it can do to an oil slick.

Saturday, May 1, 2010

Today I’m Beautiful

I looked in the mirror today and realized I am beautiful.

I understand that that sounds pretty cocky, narcissistic and conceited, but it's not. It's a statement of the simple fact that I like the way I look. Yes, I recognize that my jaw is too big to be classically feminine, and my shoulders are too wide, my hips too narrow. I see my physical flaws and I see that they are meaningless. I see strength and courage and gentleness and sweetness. I see love. I have come to like and respect myself a great deal. I don't want to be someone else, not any more.

That statment also recognizes that others may find me beautiful. Not everyone, no, but many may do so – some who would be surprised to learn that I'm transsexual.

More than that, though – I see that I am beautiful as being transsexual, as bridging the chasm between the sexes, as exhibiting an amalgamation of those characteristics that are divided among the sexes. I am male and female.

And I will stand here before the world and testify that it is good.

Monday, April 12, 2010

A Parable

One fine morning, walking down the street, an ugly woman met a man dressed in a fine Italian suit. The ugly woman nodded politely, and the man said to her, "Isn't it beautiful, how the sun revolves around the earth."

"Oh, but it doesn't," the woman replied. "The earth revolves around the sun. It's a proven fact."

Impatiently, the man brushed an imaginary bit of lint off his sleeve. "You are wrong!" he said. The woman was ugly, and dressed in rags – obviously she was morally inferior and unable to discern reality. "Look! You see the sun, rising in the east? Every day it goes across the sky to set in the west. Clearly the sun revolves around the earth!"

"No, look," the woman said, pulling a tattered map of the solar system from her knapsack. "See? This is a scale model of the solar system. See how tiny the earth is in comparison to the sun? See the orbit paths of the planets? The earth revolves on its axis, so we see the sun rising and setting – and the earth itself orbits around the sun."

"Aha!" the man said. He pulled a Bible from his briefcase and scanned to the first chapter of Ecclesiastes. "Look!" he cried triumphantly, pointing to verse five. "Incontrovertible proof that the sun revolves around the earth!"

The woman shook her head. "That's not what it says. It just talks about the sun rising and setting. This…" she pointed at the drawing of the solar system, "… is the model of the solar system."

"Hmmph!" the man exclaimed. He reverently put the Bible back in his briefcase and lifted his nose in the air. "You are obviously a creature of base morals. What would you know?" And he walked down the street, comforted and confident in his own inherent moral and intellectual superiority.

He who has ears to hear, let him hear.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Deconstructing Gender Again

Gender: 2. sex: the feminine gender. (

Gender: 2. Sexual category; males or females as a group. (The American Heritage Dictionary, 4th edition)

I think almost everyone understands that these definitions don't adequately define gender. A real definition of gender would be something like this:

Gender: 2. Subconscious sex; the subjective, instinctive understanding one has of their own biological sex at a subconscious level, which may or may not coincide with biological sex and conscious awareness of biological sex.

Perhaps that's why there is so much disagreement within our society about what gender really is, what the word really relates to or means. For instance, many feminists believe that gender is wholly a social construct, that it is a concept created and perpetrated by society as a means to restrict the behavior of women and oppress them. Many religious sects think gender is and means the same thing as sex, is just another word for it, like "truck" and "lorry." They assume that biological sex is completely deterministic, and that to express gender in a way that is not culturally typical to your biological sex is a crime against God (or some such). I object to both of those concepts. Both are limiting and incomplete. In fact, gender is both biologically and socially constructed.

Physical sex plays a large role in determining who we are. The physically smaller size of women, their menstrual cycles, pregnancy and childbirth, lactation and nursing, and the vulnerability that goes with them all powerfully influence one's innate, instinctual understanding of self. In addition, hormones affect thought processes, as the vast majority of women are well aware, due to their menstrual cycles. Many men, on the other hand, are completely unaware that hormones affect thought, because the lack of cycle means their hormone balance remains constant. This is borne out by the children of my friends, as they tend to be open-minded, liberal folks who go to some pains to protect their children from the social influences of gender, to allow them to express gender as they see fit. Regardless, in a general sense, boys and girls exhibit different behaviors from birth. These differences can be observed in young children, as even when they are encouraged in gender-neutral or cross-gender activities, boys will gravitate to more active, violent play, and girls to relationship play (which is not to say that either primary sex plays exclusively one or the other – just about everyone does some degree of cross-gender play, to their own unique degree). Two girls from the same family, sharing the same background and social influence, often develop quite different degrees of feminine expression, with one perhaps adopting ruffles and high femme, the other more of a butch style – and the same goes for boys.

Society also exerts a strong influence on the development of gender. A neighbor's boy frequently wore skirts before starting school, even though he exhibited a high degree of masculine-style play/behavior. When he started school, he only wore it one time – I've never seen him wear a skirt since. In most families, gendered behavior and style is encouraged in clothing choice, activities, toys, social relations, and just about everything else. Boys and girls are frequently held to different standards, with more tolerance for boys getting their clothes dirty and being loud and violent, and so forth. Often that gendered behavior is not only encouraged, it's coerced – boys' hair cut short, girls forbidden from wearing pants, etc. That coercion damages some children badly; others, already inclined in that direction, are damaged hardly at all.

Deconstructing inherent, biological gender development from socially gendered influence is probably impossible. There is a constant interplay between the two factors at least from birth, if not sooner. They weave our gendered lives together, much like the warp and weft of cloth, to determine the fabric of our lives. Some aspects, however, can be deconstructed, and must be if individuals are to be whole and free:

- Gender should never be coercive, and nobody should suffer ridicule or punishment for crossing gender lines.

- Exaggerating the natural differences among sexes/genders is destructive.

- Everyone – man, woman, child, and all those who fall between – has an unalienable right to live and express gender in their own way, in the manner that is most comfortable to them and allows them the greatest freedom in personal development – from the time of their birth.

- Gender is not a toggle switch, an either-or, on-off binary. It's a multi-faceted continuum (or perhaps continua).

- Perhaps most important, no sex, nor any gender, is inherently better or worse, stronger or weaker, more or less emotional or rational, than any other. The differences in style and expression are cosmetic, not structural. By themselves, they add beauty and diversity to life and make it richer, but the value is the same.

Monday, March 29, 2010

First All-woman Firefighter Recruit Class in the Nation!

With the first all-female firefighter recruit class in the country, Eugene rocks! Women are well-represented even in leadership positions within the Fire & EMS Department, and now this. Read about it here.

When you get down to it, it's not the size of the dog in the fight – it's the size of the fight in the dog! And it's pretty cool to live in a place like this.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Our Needs – and Yours

I started blogging about marriage roughly 2.5 year ago, during the campaign about Proposition 8, because a dear friend who had recently legally married her wife of twelve years was afraid she'd lose that special status. I began this endeavor by trying to use Nonviolent Communication (NVC) to "create a quality of connection which allows everyone's needs to be met." To that end, I engaged with the multiple posters to "The Opine Editorials" (and others), determined that I would find a way to connect and confident that NVC could guide us to solution(s) that would enable everyone's needs to be met.

I was na├»ve. After months of this engagement – after exploring the meaning of marriage more deeply than I had imagined, after trying every means I could think of to connect – I finally realized that I could not connect meaningfully with these people. They had a single story about me, and that is that because I am a transsexual, I am insane and depraved; because of their innate moral superiority and patriarchal wisdom, my needs really don't matter to them. I could not even connect to the degree that they recognized the pain, frustration, and anger that discrimination creates.

As I've considered this with the passage of time, I've come to see that this is part of the dominator relationship paradigm our culture has adopted since the first Goddess-based civilizations fell to the patriarchal warlords from the deserts and steppes. (For background, read "The Chalice & the Blade," by Riane Eisler.) This power-over system is what NVC attempts to replace, with a partnership model of relationships in which people work together to solve problems, rather than trying to impose solutions with force. In this domination system, a belief in one's own moral and/or innate superiority is essential to justify the oppression of others, whether due to race, sex, gender, religion, or sexual orientation – and judgmental religion is essential to justify that superiority. This can be seen even in so-called atheist systems, such as the Soviet Union.

The tragedy is that all the pain of oppression, and the immense energy expended to maintain or overcome power-over, is unnecessary. I still believe, with all my heart, that solutions that meet everyone's needs can be found. I have blogged with other marriage equality supporters that we would not insist on gay marriage if other means could be found to allow gays and lesbians full participation in society, including legal recognition of their relationships and families on an even basis with marriage. What I have found instead, is that those who oppose marriage equality also despise gay people. They have no interest, no willingness, to allow gays and lesbians full participation in society, on any level. Even as they often hide behind high-sounding declarations of love and tolerance, they hold the being of gays and lesbians to be depraved, evil, and undeserving of any social benefit. Again and again, I have seen them tell us (LGBT people) that our needs are met, even as we express our pain about our unmet needs. It is rare, though certainly not unheard of, for them to even recognize the pain that LGBT people experience because of the oppression and discrimination we experience. They claim that their advocacy is "for the children," but since every instance includes refusal to allow gays and lesbians full participation in society, regardless of the effect on LGBT children and the children of LGBT parents, I cannot discern sincerity. Because I cannot discern a place in which their advocacy of children is separate from their hatred and contempt of homosexuality and gender dysphoria, I cannot believe that those elements are separate; they are embedded with each other, and so their advocacy for children is not objective, but embedded, and born in, the cultural assumptions and domination paradigm of patriarchal religion – assumptions which my experience and education show to be false. I cannot accept that as a model for a society in which my own children grow and develop.

Over the course of my blogging I have shifted. As my frustration, grief, and despair deepen, I find anger, deep and hot, rise from those unmet needs. Along with my frustrations in blogging, I find it in relations with certain co-workers, who, even under a veneer of friendliness, yet make their contempt plain. I feel it in the frustration of my battle, for almost two years, to obtain equal access to health care under my employer's health plan. It burns hot with the challenges my children experience in the schoolyard. It rises from the social injustice of our dominator society in racism, in sexism, misogyny, patriarchy. And it's become harder and harder to keep that anger out of more recent blogposts.

The truth is, I don't know how to create a quality of connection that will enable everyone's needs to be met with religious conservatives and marriage-equality opponents, and I cannot find the status quo to be acceptable. I would like to find a non-violent solution, and toward that goal I'm still going to work. But I've found no success, and I have neither the patience nor the charisma of Gandhi. I feel torn between the models of Martin Luther King and Malcolm X. I am determined to do all I can to transform our culture to a partnership paradigm of relations; but I refuse to be a victim of oppression, and I refuse to accept less than full participation in society for anyone – the homeless, minorities, women, homosexuals, and, most of all, my own children – the children of a transsexual.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell

Recently I read a commentary by a civilian pundit (I don't recall her name) who said that civil rights isn't the main issue in repealing DADT, unit cohesion is. She mentioned that that she had never served in the armed forces, yet still stated this "fact" with confidence.

As a veteran of the United States Marine Corps, allow me to politely disagree.

Unit cohesion is the responsibility of the unit commander. Repealing DADT may or may not increase the challenge of that charge, but, by itself, will not affect it. That's not the issue at all, period. The issue IS civil rights.

In 1941, blacks were forbidden to enlist in the US Marine Corps. General Holcomb, the Corps commandant at that time, said, "If it were a question of having a Marine Corps of 5,000 whites or 250,000 Negroes, I would rather have the whites." According to Morris MacGregor in Integration of the Armed Forces 1940-1965, "Black enlistment was impractical, he told one civil rights group, because the Marine Corps was too small to form racially separate units." (chap. 4) President Roosevelt ordered the Navy to enlist black troops, and, under orders, Holcomb complied. Under Truman, desegregation continued, and the Korean War was, I believe, the first to see racially integrated units in action. When I joined the Marine Corps in 1979, 30 years after racial integration of the Armed Forces, one of the first scenes I witnessed in boot camp was a fistfight between a white man and a black man – which was, of course, racially motivated. And it wasn't the only one I witnessed. Nevertheless, the leadership I witnessed in the Marine Corps did what it had to do to make sure that, regardless of racial tension, the units worked together. To their credit, they did a pretty good job of it.

The point is that, in a democracy, the civil government takes precedence over the military leadership. The president – a civilian – is the head of the military, for the very good reason that the military should be placed in service to the civil and civilian purpose. As Roosevelt and Truman understood, it is the job of the military to do as the civilian establishment dictates, not the other way 'round.

To show how this basic tenet of democracy has been twisted, according to the Washington Post, three years ago John McCain deferred to the military: "A former war hero, McCain said he would support ending the ban once the military's top brass told him that they agreed with the change."
McCain knows (or should know) about unit cohesion, and he should have a good grounding in the Constitution and the American, democratic theory of government – yet he deferred to the military. The Human Rights Campaign uses the military brass's coming out in favor of repealing DADT as if that were relevant to the issue. And, as noted, the pundit who inspired this post believes that the issue is "unit cohesion," that effectiveness of the military is the concern; she has been so deceived by the recent deferral of civilian leadership to military leadership that she believes that order is correct.

Failure of unit cohesion in the military is not caused by the diversity of the members making up the unit. It's caused by a failure of leadership. It is irrelevant to the issue of repealing DADT, and where it happens, the officer (and/or NCO) in charge should be disciplined and/or replaced.

In fact, there is one issue relevant to repealing DADT: civil rights. DADT is a moral travesty. It is the ethical and moral obligation and responsibility of the civilian leadership of this country, the president and congress, to order the military brass to integrate LGBT people into the military. It is the duty of military leadership to see that it is done without compromising unit cohesion or mission effectiveness.

Believe me, they're up to the task.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Modalities of Treatment

Last Tuesday morning I woke up with a sore throat. I got a spoonful of honey and let it dissolve in my mouth and throat. Within a short time the soreness went away, and it didn't come back until evening – when I took another spoonful.

Then I took my standard meds – spironolactone to shut down the testosterone factories, estrogen to become visible, and aspirin to thin out my blood after estrogen side-effects.

That was the last day of the trial where I was serving on the jury, and I had a cough to go with the sore throat, so I headed off to the courthouse with a bottle of homeopathic cough syrup in my pocket. I had very little problem with the cough during the day.

The last two days of the trial I left the courthouse feeling rather sick from all the toxic energy in that room. I know, woo woo. Doesn't matter, it affected me. This time I used Christian Science treatment to shield myself from that toxic energy, and left the courthouse feeling fine...

… Except that I had a sore back. So I headed off to my acupuncture appointment, where I laid down on my stomach and got a nice collection of needles stuck into my back and neck. I also had some needles in my feet for migraine prevention. After an hour and a nice nap, I got up with my back hugely improved, and a much wider range of motion.

So in one day, I used five different modalities of treatment – herbal/naturopathic, allopathic, homeopathic, Christian Science, and acupuncture – for five different issues. Not earth-shattering or anything, but I found it interesting, which is why I'm posting here. I found it interesting that every one of these modalities worked, even though some are incompatible with each other, and some don't have any scientific reason for being.

I have heard people criticize Christian Scientists because they don't mix "tried and true" allopathic treatment with Christian Science treatment, and I've seen them dismiss Christian Science treatment as "faith healing." I've seen Christian Scientists refuse to use allopathic treatment even when their first choice wasn't working. I believe in using what works; the proof is in the pudding. Christian Science treatment is not faith healing; it is a teachable, replicable system of metaphysical healing, what I would consider a level above homeopathy and acupuncture on that continuum. It is covered by many health insurance companies and plans, including, partially, my own. I consider it to be an important part of my health care repertoire, and I've used it successfully in recent weeks to cure a migraine and for other healings. It's worth noting, however, that it is incompatible with other systems; if you want to use Christian Science, you'd better not use something else at that same time, or you might cancel each system's effects and end up worse off.*

I'm not a Christian Scientist because I have some issues with the church, because I don't like the pressure to rely on one system, and because I like beer and Scotch whiskey. But so what? I think it's silly that Christian Science is widely viewed as something just for Christian Scientists – you never see anyone who specializes in a different modality suggest it. You don't have to know anything about it to get results, and if you don't get results, you can try something else. Every system has shortcomings, things it can't cure, and times and places when, for whatever reason, it doesn't work. One thing I like about Christian Science is that there actually isn't anything it can't cure.

Like I said before, I believe in what works. And I like having the choice of multiple modalities of treatment for my health care needs. Every plan should provide for it.

*Note: I am not a Christian Scientist, and the folks from the church might disagree with some of my statements about it. My statements here are only my own opinion and perception of it.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Entitlement: or, Ducks Behaving Badly

I always find it depressing when people I respect do something that destroys that respect. When it's something like this – LaMichael James' recent arrest for domestic violence – it's particularly depressing; added to my disgust and loss of respect is the plentiful ammunition it gives to my friends who object to the violence of football and the adulation so freely given to sports stars.

For context, here's what I like about the guy:

So added to the injury to Courtney Eckhart is the insult to all Duck fans: Do we really want this guy on the team?

More important, perhaps, is the question that arises: Why do so many star athletes get into this kind of trouble?

On Feb. 11, Oprah Winfrey interviewed Kim Reed, who used to be Paul McKerrow.* That's not the non sequiter it seems on first glance – check out the video clip on the link. Paul had some pretty good football highlights, too. I'm bringing her up here because of something she said on the interview: She said she was glad she was born and raised as a boy because it gave her a sense of possibility and entitlement she would not have learned as a girl, though if she had to do it over again she'd transition earlier. She wants all girls to have that sense of entitlement. I can relate; my own sense of male entitlement, inculcated even in my much more awkward boyhood, still colors every aspect of my social interaction – so much, in fact, that I think it is just as important as my non-menstrual biology in guaranteeing that I won't ever have the complete experience of womanhood in our culture. Probably more so. And believe me, that's not necessarily a bad thing - rather, perhaps it is some compensation for the positive experiences of womanhood I've been denied.

The Patriarchy creates and supports this sense of male entitlement that is, to most men, invisible and taken for granted. This entitlement manifests itself in our society in various ways: as the "dominator" model of social interaction Riane Eisler identifies in "The Chalice and the Blade;" and as Rape Culture (see also my previous post and here).

I think that male entitlement is a key to understanding why so many athletes make such poor choices, but that doesn't satisfy me. That answer leads me to another question: Is this sense of entitlement inherent and inevitable? Is there a way to have football, with all its inherent violence and encouraged aggression, without the entitlement? Or am I wrong, and it's just a guy thing?

I don't think it's a guy thing. Too many men act responsibly. I think these poor choice are connected to Rape Culture. And that begs the question: Is football itself connected to Rape Culture and male entitlement?

I don't think so.

But I'm not sure.

And that pisses me off.

(*My boss at work is Kim's cousin. He copied the interview and shared it with me. I wasn't able to find it on the web, but if you can find it somewhere, it's worth watching.)

Rape Prevention Tips That Work

Personal Failure recently linked to a list Valdosa State University published (and more recently removed from their website) advising women on "Tips for avoiding rape." Between PF and Fannie, the list itself has been thoroughly deconstructed, so I won't go into it here. Instead, I'll post an alternative list below, copied from I Blame the Patriarchy, with some modifications

Sexual Assault Prevention Tips Guaranteed to Work

1. No means no. There are no exceptions to this rule. Not even when you've been necking and heavy petting. "No" immediately removes all implicit and explicit consent; to continue and force sex after "no" constitutes rape.

2. Don’t put drugs in women’s drinks.

3. When you see a woman walking by herself, leave her alone.

4. If you pull over to help a woman whose car has broken down, remember not to assault her.

5. If you are in a lift and a woman gets in, don’t assault her. You know what? Don’t even ogle her.

6. When you encounter a woman who is asleep, the safest course of action is to not assault her.

6. Never creep into a woman’s home through an unlocked door or window, or spring out at her from between parked cars, or assault her.

8. When you lurk in bushes and doorways with criminal intentions, always wear bright clothing, wave a flashlight, or play “Boys Who Rape (Should All Be Destroyed)” by the Raveonettes on a boombox really loud, so women in the vicinity will know where to aim their flamethrowers.

9. USE THE BUDDY SYSTEM! If it is inconvenient for you to stop yourself from assaulting women, ask a trusted friend to accompany you when in public.

10. Carry a rape whistle. If you find that you are about to assault a woman, you can hand the whistle to your buddy, so s/he can blow it to call for help.

11. Give your buddy a revolver, so that when indifferent passers-by either ignore the rape whistle, or gather round to enjoy the spectacle, s/he can pistol-whip you.

12. Don’t forget: Honesty is the best policy. When asking a woman out on a date, don’t pretend that you are interested in her as a person; tell her straight up that you expect to be assaulting her later. If you don’t communicate your intentions, the woman may take it as a sign that you do not plan to rape her.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Holy Intermission

I recently found out about Lily Allen, and I've kinda been getting into her. And, of course, I think about things like God and human relationships and stuff. So while I work up a new post based on the intersection of recent thoughts, recent blogposts, and recent events, here's some musical God thoughts for y'all to enjoy.

"Him." I like the song, but I think maybe it's "Her..."

Sunday, February 14, 2010

The Girl Cell

For some time, there's been a Valentine's Day tradition of performing Eve Ensler's "The Vagina Monologues." This Valentine's Day, however, I'd like to refer you to THIS VIDEO of Eve talking on TED. Watch it, and take a moment to celebrate your "girl cell."

I know I'm celebrating mine!

Saturday, February 13, 2010

The Roots of Racism?

This post is speculative, so I'm interested in hearing other people's points of view. But first, let me tie together several seemingly unrelated elements:

As a member of the Diversity Committee at work, I get links to an online "Managing Diversity" newsletter. A recent article pointed out the importance of diversity, because (assuming the trends continue), by 2030 or so, whites will be a minority.

Then, over at Black Diaspora, I saw this quote: "The Election of Barack Obama is just the most startling manifestation of a larger trend: the gradual erosion of "whiteness" as the touchstone of what it means to be American. If the end of white America is a cultural and demographic inevitability, what will the new mainstream look like—and how will white Americans fit into it? What will it mean to be white when whiteness is no longer the norm? And will a post-white America be less racially divided—or more so?" I told B.D. that, to me, losing my membership in the majority race would be "no big deal."

Daniel Quinn, in his book Ishmael, introduces the idea of "keeper" culture vs. "leaver" culture as two distinct paradigms of social relations and, primarily, human relations to our planet. "The premise of the Takers' story is 'The world belongs to man.' ...The premise of the Leavers' story is 'Man belongs to the world.'"

Riane Eisler introduces the concept of "dominator" vs. "partnership" as two models or paradigms for social relations, extending from personal/family to international in scope, in The Chalice and the Blade.

Bringing all this together, I started to wonder: Is racism integral to a dominator to keeper social paradigm?

In other words, does racism come automatically when one adopts a domination culture, as we have done – and not only racism, but sexism, etc.? Are these isms doomed to remain so long as we cling to our traditional domination culture, only to disappear at the paradigm shift to a partnership culture? And I have no doubt that we are in the process of this paradigm shift – though the default, baseline is still domination over partnership, and that trend could end at any time.

Exploring the early books of the Bible, we see the development of a domination culture, and it starts right at the beginning with the suppression and oppression of women. From there it develops into the Israelites' conquests and utter annihilation of some Canaanite tribes, along with the Israelites' clear claim to racial superiority seen in them being the chosen people of God.

But then, you also see a lot of warfare among leaver cultures, such as most Native American cultures prior to the invasion of Europeans into their territories. Tribalism, in these cases (as in Europeans and even to modern days and municipal rivalries), is widespread, perhaps universal.

There is, however, a difference. So far as I've been able to determine, warfare among pre-European Native Americans was never (or were rarely) a war of annihilation. There were territorial disputes and raiding for goods or prestige or captives. Children from enemy tribes were adopted into their captor tribes, as Barcheeampe, sometimes going on to positions of prominence in those tribes. So I don't think tribalism accounts for racism and so forth, at least by itself. I see plenty of tribalism between Duck fans and Beaver fans, but it's not infrequent that they end up married to each other.

Everything is connected, and it seems reasonable to me to think that the dominator model our society has adopted over the course of the last 3000 years or so is integral with racism, and that racism is born in that dominator model, including the fear of people of color (POC's) obtaining equality (or power). And that the same applies to women, or gays and lesbians, or trans people, etc.

What do you think?

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Corporations Are NOT Persons: Why I’m Liberal #3

This should be a no-brainer: corporations are fictional entities created for the economic benefit of individuals. Yet as the recent Supreme Court decision made clear, our nation has made an incredible mistake in granting legal personhood to these amoral institutions. And the legal personhood of corporations is both a cornerstone of the erosion of American liberty that conservatives (and liberals) decry, and a cornerstone of conservative and Republican policy. It is not a coincidence that Bush II's nominees, Alito and Roberts, both voted for corporations at the expense of people and freedom.

While it's obvious that corporate personhood is an emperor-with-no-clothes, the establishment of it has been a long time coming. The 1886 case, Santa Clara v. Southern Pacific Railroad, opened the floodgates. Note in the preamble to the text from the link that corporate personhood was never argued or discussed by the Supreme Court; it was simply an assertion by one single justice, which completely changed the law and the course of history. The author goes on to say:

"The doctrine of corporate personhood creates an interesting legal contradiction. The corporation is owned by its shareholders and is therefore their property. If it is also a legal person, then it is a person owned by others and thus exists in a condition of slavery -- a status explicitly forbidden by the Thirteenth Amendment to the Constitution. So is a corporation a person illegally held in servitude by its shareholders? Or is it a person who enjoys the rights of personhood that take precedence over the presumed ownership rights of its shareholders? So far as I have been able to determine, this contradiction has not been directly addressed by the courts."

In his book, "Unequal Protection: The Rise of Corporate Dominance and the Theft of Human Rights," (buy it here) Thom Hartmann does an excellent job of analyzing the costs and consequences of this great conservative fallacy, so I won't go into detail here. (I highly recommend reading this book – especially if you vote Republican!) Suffice it to say that the nominations of corporate lawyers Roberts and Alito to SCOTUS were not accidents. Their opinions on abortion were nothing but a sop to social conservatives; their unlimited support for the uber-rich and corporate personhood were the keys to their nominations. This is what makes Justice Sotomayer such a great choice, and is the strongest evidence to date that Obama may not be the corporate flunky his policies usually indicate.

The obvious consequence of corporate personhood is the establishment of an entity that is arguably a slave to a position of prominence over free men and women. It is a tool whereby, by amassing resources, a small cabal of individuals can exert overwhelming influence on political and economic policy. Note the resource base of the huge, multi-national corporations shown in the graph on the link to "corporations" above: what individual has any chance of matching that? Or even group of individuals? Yet these entities – some of them not even American corporations (Shell Oil, BP, DaimlerChrysler) – are granted the protections of personhood – but not the responsibilities. Individuals – persons – are fully liable for their actions; corporations, almost by definition, have limited liability.

The outcomes of this travesty are legion, but just to name a few:

  • Corporate censorship: the news media are owned by multi-national corporations, and they choose what news gets printed or broadcast. Regardless of liberal journalists, it is corporate boards who choose content. Thus the appearance of liberalism in the news media veneered over bedrock economic conservatism. The corporate elite don't care shit about the degradation of culture seen in Hollywood, or abortion, or family, morals, justice, etc. They care about maintaining their power and privilege. The news that's printed/broadcast is chosen to protect those specific economic interests. Corporate shill Rush Limbaugh's rants about liberal media are just part of the package, as deeply cynical and hypocritical as you can get. Note that General Electric, a major defense contactor, owns NBC, a major news outlet – an inherent conflict of interest. The Christian Science Monitor is one of the last relatively independent news sources of any reach, which is part of the reason for its good reputation.
  • Employment of the US military to defend the interests of corporations overseas and extend economic hegemony over the world; to defend American Empire. This is the real issue in the so-called "War on Terror," and the unsustainability of our military budget and adventurism, along with Peak Oil, is the reason we will ultimately lose. The all-volunteer military is part of this package. People who have chosen to sign a contract and make an explicit agreement to obey orders feel it is their duty to do so even when it is contrary to the best interest of themselves and their nation; draftees resist when told to do unconscionable acts.
  • The degradation of the US military and abdication of humanitarian responsibility and accountability by the hiring of mercenaries.
  • The inevitable degradation and erosion of American liberty, and growing irrelevance of both the Constitution and the federal government.
  • The degradation of our food supply, including loss of topsoil, animal abuse, etc.
  • The merger of State and Corporate power.

To quote Benito Mussolini: "Fascism should more properly be called corporatism, since it is the merger of state and corporate power."

In other words, yes, Virginia, corporate personhood is the key to fascism. By adopting the cause of corporate personhood, the Republican leadership – though not Republican membership – has unreservedly committed to fascism. You won't find any of the Republican leadership accepting this claim, however. That would be political suicide. Instead, they hide their corporate agenda under popular moral platitudes, and extend support for a cynical, perverted Christianity as a means to deceive and manipulate their own political base. In his book "American Fascists: The Christian Right and the War on America," Chris Hedges explains how this works.

Corporations are not persons, and they should be carefully controlled, granted limited charters, and restricted from political influence. I stand unreservedly opposed to fascism and the continued erosion of American liberty and secular government. I am a liberal.

*Standard note: I value dissenting opinions as crucial to the maintenance of freedom and democracy. While I would like to write convincingly, to influence opinion and sway the balance of power my way, I also consider the conservative viewpoint to be important and meaningful. I do, however, believe that political discourse does not have to be nasty and vicious. I prefer to listen to and respect my political opponents. I ask the same from them.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Gen. 1:1-3:24 v. “Origin of the Species”

In his book "American Fascists: The Christian Right and the War on America," Chris Hedges makes a strong case, backed with evidence, that it is not gays, as Sally Kern would say, or a few Muslim terrorists, as our political leaders would argue, who are the greatest threat to America and American freedom. It is the well-meaning, deluded folks who pack the megachurches of the Christian Right, and give of their wealth and being to the great Pharisees of our time, such as Pat Robertson and Jerry Falwell. In other words, it is Sally Kern, and a lot of the folks who run around abusing tea instead of putting it to good use in a cup of hot water, not Barney Frank, you need to watch out for. People who believe that the first three chapters of the Bible are the true, literal account of the origin of our species.

I'll clarify that in a bit, but first I want to address the "controversy" between creationism and evolution. After all, Hedges refers to a 2004 Gallup poll reporting that "45 percent [of Americans] said the Genesis account of creation was a true story" (p. 117). Creation museums are sprouting up around the nation, at the cost of millions and millions of dollars. There must be something there, right?

Well, first, let's compare the sources of the two diverse theories, creationism v. evolution. Genesis 1:1Gen. 3:24 v. "The Origin of Species," by Charles Darwin.

The first, creationism, relies on two ancient metaphorical or allegorical tales, handed down verbally for eons before getting locked onto paper. The authors of these two stories are lost in the mists of time, as are their intents in creating them. And yes, there are two distinctly different stories here, with different authors and different deities (Elohim & Yahweh), which are also antagonistic to and contradict each other.

"The Origin of Species" was written by a scientist, based on his observation of physical reality, and developed over time by use of the scientific method.

One is myth-based, the other is science- and reality-based.

In other words, there is no controversy. Evolution is not in doubt; it's scientific fact. The supposed controversy between creationism and evolution amounts to no more than the comparison of myth with truth. Apples with oranges. Metaphor with fact. Creationism is bullshit. The effort to require the teaching of creationism in schools amounts to no more than an attempt to degenerate the education system still further, and indoctrinate our children to believe a lie.

But if you look more carefully, you'll see that Genesis and Darwin aren't contradictory or antagonistic at all. They are irrelevant to each other – they address different issues, they talk about different things. "Origin of Species" talks about the physical development over time of biological diversity. Genesis talks about the spiritual condition of humankind, and two contradictory paradigms of human relations. It teaches not to believe a lie.

The first account, Genesis 1:1 – Gen. 2:3, is a beautiful metaphor of God (Elohim) as Love and Spirit (as Jesus taught), and of what Riane Eisler, in "The Chalice & the Blade," would call the "partnership" paradigm of human relations. It begins with light (perhaps metaphorical of the Big Bang), develops from the most basic forms of life to man and woman as both co-equal and co-created, and ends with God blessing all, which is "good."

The second account, Genesis 2:4 – Gen. 3:24, describes metaphorically what Eisler would call the "dominator" paradigm of human relations. It begins with mist. Adam (man) is created first, and God (Yahweh) needs his help to finish the creation. Eve (woman) is an afterthought, created solely for man's service and enjoyment. And at the end, it is cursed.

It teaches not to believe a lie.

It is this second model that fundamentalist Christians have chosen to adopt, and that permeates our culture – a model of male domination over women, adults over children, white people over people of color, rich over poor, powerful men over less powerful men, powerful nations over those nations they can conquer and exploit, greedy men over the earth that sustains us and gives us life. A model that enthrones oppression, cruelty, tyranny, violence, pain, greed, and environmental destruction.

The first Genesis metaphor celebrates the creation of life as the power to be worshipped. The second celebrates death – the destruction of life – as the power to be worshipped. The first celebrates in foresight Jesus's life, work, and resurrection; the second celebrates in foresight his betrayal, trial, and execution.

What would Jesus do?

On p. 113 of "American Fascists," Hedges quotes Hannah Arendt, in "The Origins of Totalitarianism: "The force possessed by totalitarian propaganda – before the movements have the power to drop iron curtains to prevent anyone's disturbing, by the slightest reality, the gruesome quiet of an entirely imaginary world – lies in its ability to shut the masses off from the real world." Expounding on that, he (Hedges) says, "The power of these non-reality-based movements is that they appeal to our deepest-held, most primitive prejudices, or classism, sexism, racism – perversions based on fear of complexity or change. So the propaganda contains much of what we already yearn to believe. Its subversive message is that it's OK to believe what we want, to believe lies." Creationists, by buying into the belief in magic and denying scientific fact, have abdicated their grasp on reality, and thus their responsibility and ability to make choices based on reality, to cynical, power-hungry men who wish to establish in the United States a Christo-fascist state, unlike Iran's Islamo-facist state only in the name of the tyrannical deity they profess to serve.

Read the books. Wake up. And resist.

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Say what?

Quote from anti-gay marriage blogger OnLawn:
"Homosexuals and Heterosexuals are not that unalike, there is a lot of room to understand each other's issues. The reason I am worried about the current homosexual dogma is that these issues for them are excuses to not show love and commitment."

Oh! So that's why gay people are fighting so hard to get married!

Who'd'a thunk?!

Dedicated to...

Proposition 8:

(Sorry. I couldn't resist...)

Marriage and Equality

Awhile back I commented on a post by a guy (conservative anti-gay type) who, in order to defend "traditional" marriage as between a man and a woman only, created the idea that women's equality came about because of their marriages – that "marriage brings equality," or, the interactions women had with their husbands were what led to women's suffrage, not the marching and the protesting and the blood of courageous women spilled on the ground in protest, along with the cultural change these brave pioneers instigated. (Well, what the heck, as the article in yesterday's post reveals, sometimes "marriage defenders" get desperate.) I wish I had found this website while I was taking issue with his fantasy.

OnLawn works hard to make his case, but the No Longer Quivering bloggers, along with their counterparts such as Our Quiverfull, offer real-time examples of how fully patriarchal marriage – traditional marriage, if you will, from the days before women's suffrage and the feminist movement – works. It's true that women often influence their husbands, even under the most oppressive legal circumstance. John Stuart Mill is an example – way back in the mid-1800's, his relations with his wife led to his essay On the Subjection of Women, where he proposed that women should be wholly equal with men. So I have no doubt that OnLawn's argument about marital interactions and relations is correct – for some men. But reading the accounts of the NLQ bloggers shows the flip side; for many – I would argue most – men, the subjection and submission of women in their households leads to varying levels of abuse, from outright physical and emotional abuse to subtle abuse that amounts to no more than fond contempt, such as one might have for a child or pet – the assumption that women are less competent, less able, less intelligent than men.

Where have you encountered that attitude before?

Even when intended with love and nurturance, that attitude damages women and society by preventing the development of the full potential of both men and women.

I have no doubt that many women were in happy, near-equalitarian relationships with their husbands, back when they were legal chattel. But that is a testament to the quality of their husbands, not to the legal disparity between them, or their powers of persuasion. As Lord Acton said, "Power tends to corrupt, absolute power corrupts absolutely." The moral character of men put in a position of absolute power over their wives must have degraded, damaging them as well as their wives. The NLQ bloggers' experience shows that it still degrades. The indoctrination of women from birth in their inferiority and natural submissiveness, along with the promise of reward in the afterlife for that submissiveness and fear of punishment for being uppity (emphasized in the past by executions of women purported to be "witches"), serves only to gain their acquiescence. It, and their marital relations, do nothing to bring equality. I know of no one who, having power, has given it up without a strong demand – often a violent demand – being made to do so.

The husbands of 100 years ago are no different. Equality – or at least, women's suffrage – was brought by the persistent demand of women, led by courageous women such as Susan B. Anthony, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Mary Baker Eddy, and others.

Friday, February 5, 2010

The Danger of Painting With Only One Color … & More

A few days ago someone posted the following comment on a liberal blog I visit frequently: "This is just more evidence that cons hate everyone except the Great and Holy White Fetus, and even then only if it can be used to oppress its mother."

I responded with, "… conservatives are no more monolithical than liberals … are. There are a lot of libertarian cons who would quite agree with Fannie on this post." Later the same day, I was vindicated by Newsweek. They featured an article written by Theodore Olson, the conservative lawyer who argued Bush v. Gore in front of the Supreme Court. Olson is "attempting to persuade a federal court to invalidate California's Proposition 8." I love this quote from his article: "I do not believe that our society can ever live up to the promise of equality, and the fundamental rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, until we stop invidious discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation." I wish him much luck, good fortune, and success.

A couple days later, and I see this at the HRC website. Turns out Colin Powell, Adm. Mike Mullen, and Secretary of War Gates have all come out in favor of repealing DADT. (I love using that phrase with these guys.) 'Bout time, guys!

I don't wish to put down the commenter, nor to say I'm better than anyone else. I'm just using her quote to showcase a common fault I see on both sides. For instance, a conservative blogger puts this in her profile: "I loathe liberals & all deluded nuts who voted for [President Obama]." The problem with painting with only one color is that you inevitably end up painting with the wrong color. And that's counter-productive.

I think what we're seeing may be a tectonic shift in politics – a tipping point, perhaps. It seems likely that the Perry v. Scharzenegger case will make it to the Supreme Court, and Olson sounds excited and optimistic about the outcome. Even with the Court heavily packed with radical conservatives, I tend to agree with him. I think every gay marriage case that has come up recently before state supreme courts – California, Maine, Iowa, Connecticut – has found for the gay couple, and it will only take one or two of these guys to choose the libertarian side of the cons to flip the Court in favor of gay marriage. The implication, emphasized in Olson's effortless evisceration of the conservative case against gay marriage, is that perhaps the judges, with the opportunity to hear the best of both sides of the argument, are more clear on the law, the Constitution, and the 14th Amendment than are the public, swayed instead by 30-second sound bites, fear, and tradition.

And think of this: If Perry makes it to SCOTUS, and the Court finds for the gay couples, the fight for marriage equality is over. Everywhere in the country. State anti-gay marriage laws from Alabama to Wyoming would be struck down, along with DOMA. Pretty cool, huh? Go, Ted!

So we see the complexities of color. The same man may be largely responsible for Bush's illegal usurpation of office and the establishment of marriage equality across the nation. His advocacy for Kristin Perry, Sandy Stier, Paul Katami and Jeffrey Zarrillo already do much to erase the damage he's done before, regardless of his success.

It's going to be interesting.

Monday, January 4, 2010

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Gay Candidates and Causes

The recent success of Annise Parker, the gay candidate for mayor in Houston, Texas, has got me thinking.

More and more, gay candidates are viable contenders. People vote for them regardless of their orientation, judging instead by their abilities and views. Here in Oregon, where we not long ago soundly rejected marriage equality for lesbians and gays with Measure 36, Kate Brown was elected Secretary of State. California instituted Harvey Milk Day. It seems that individuals have crossed a tipping point, and the majority of Americans, even in conservative areas, are willing to judge gay people by criteria other than their sexual orientation.

Compare that to gay causes, however, and there is a shift. Nowhere has a public election instituted gay marriage, or failed to prohibit it. DOMA and Don't Ask Don't Tell appear to be in no particular danger, even with a Democratic president and majorities in both houses of Congress. Some gains have been made, with Hate Crimes legislation adding sexual orientation, but even the domestic partnership law in Washington passed with an alarmingly narrow margin.

Comparing these phenomena, I come to an interesting conclusion: the motives of voters in rejecting gay causes are not personal, but instead are meant to either protect society, or resist demands and express autonomy, or both. I think there has been a cultural shift away from fear or disgust of gay individuals and homosexuality in general, which bodes well for the future. But why the difference?

Nearly every day, I receive at least one email from a liberal organization, such as the Human Rights Campaign, Planned Parenthood, or Equality California, which centers around the statement, "Demand that your legislators (or whoever) (fill in the blank)." Frankly, it reminds me a lot of my kids when they were two-year-olds. They demand this or that, and throw a tantrum if they don't get it. And I notice that when my kids demand something of me, I tend to resist it – even if it's something I'd be willing to do if it was requested.

I think people have sincere needs for autonomy that are not met when organizations or individuals "demand" something – and I also think that making those demands, in that tone of tantrum, sounds immature. I've noticed that I even feel resistant to joining in these "demands," not only because I don't care for the language, but because they feel like demands on me!

I wonder if the response to those demands would be different if that word were simply changed to "request?"

I don't know. But I do believe there is a more mature way to approach these issues that are so important to the lives of individuals. A way that recognizes that everyone's needs are legitimate and real. A way that leaves options open for different solutions, which may meet all those needs. For instance, same-sex marriage meets a need for gay people to have their families recognized and to be treated equally in taxes, inheritance, and so forth. What other strategies might meet those needs?

And how might those who reject gay causes react, if they thought their needs mattered to gay people, too? Would they be open to recommending new solutions that meet everyone's needs?

Maybe it's worth a try.

Saturday, January 2, 2010

Tribalism and the Rose Bowl

Well, after a great season, the Oregon Ducks lost the Rose Bowl. Both teams played hard, and Oregon had its chances, but Ohio State put up an excellent game on both sides of the ball and there's no doubt they earned their victory. The boys and I watched the game at our neighbors' house, along with two other families from up the street. Every one of us was a Duck fan, and, as you can imagine, there were some long faces at the end of the game.

I shared that disappointment, of course, but mostly I just enjoyed watching the game. There are a number of sports I enjoy – basketball, soccer, horse racing – but most of all I love football. I love the pacing, because you always have a chance to talk with friends or watch replays between plays. I love the choreography, as each team moves in highly practiced ways to either move the ball down the field or prevent the other team from doing it. I love watching the power, grace, speed, and skill of the athletes. I love the strategy. I love to take sides, and see my chosen team win. I even love the violence – there is something primitively satisfying in seeing a hard tackle, or watching Jeremiah Masoli run over another safety. I just wish that women's football teams (go Pride!)were more popular, and we had more chances to watch them.

I have a friend who doesn't like football at all. He hates the violence. He's got a point. A lot of people get injured playing football, and I don't enjoy that, either. He hates the competition, which he calls tribalism, and the way that fans can get aggressive and obnoxious. Wouldn't it be better to recognize the unity we all share as humans on this planet, and focus on the real problems that so beg for solutions, and which are continually ignored? He points to it as a means to pacify the masses, and distract them from the way our leaders are corrupting our political and economic systems and destroying our planet. Again, he's got a point. I see the resources continually dedicated to sports teams that really contribute nothing to solving those serious problems, but rather take potential resources away, delaying the solutions.

I also agree that it is tribalism, on a very primitive scale. Football – and other sports, for that matter – is a highly stylized form of warfare, which sets one community apart from and against another. The athletes are warriors, holding the prestige of the entire community (in a limited sense) in their hands. Fans will meet them at the airport, whether they've won or lost, and celebrate their victories, mourn their defeats, with them.

However, I question whether that tribalism is necessarily a bad thing. Perhaps resources can be better allocated, but there is a beauty to the system. First, it is certainly better to participate in this stylized competition than in genuine warfare. Sports teams also do much to contribute to the identities of their communities, to define them. Perhaps it is this that gives me the sense that sports tribalism isn't a bad thing – I've had to fight to discover and define my own identity, and so see the importance that identity carries, even for communities, for states, for nations. On a larger scale, the Olympics does the same thing. At its best, affiliation with sports teams provides an outlet for what may well be the tribalism of human nature in a way that supports peace and inter-community or international connection and understanding.

I'm not saying my friend is wrong for his view. Every part of it is legitimate, and real. For my own part, though, I think I'll claim that tribalism for my own, celebrate it, and take my place in Duck Nation proudly. I'd like to be at the airport to greet our football heroes, too.

Security is mostly a superstition. It does not exist in nature, nor do the children of men as a whole experience it. Avoiding danger is no safer in the long run than outright exposure. Life is either a daring adventure, or nothing. To keep our faces toward change and behave like free spirits in the presence of fate is strength undefeatable.
~Helen Keller

Reading List for Information about Transpeople

  • Becoming a Visible Man, by Jamison Green
  • Conundrum, by Jan Morris
  • Gender Outlaw, by Kate Bornstein
  • My Husband Betty, by Helen Boyd
  • Right Side Out, by Annah Moore
  • She's Not There, by Jennifer Boylan
  • The Riddle of Gender, by Deborah Rudacille
  • Trans Liberation, by Leslie Feinberg
  • Transgender Emergence, by Arlene Istar Lev
  • Transgender Warriors, by Leslie Feinberg
  • Transition and Beyond, by Reid Vanderburgh
  • True Selves, by Mildred Brown
  • What Becomes You, by Aaron Link Raz and Hilda Raz
  • Whipping Girl, by Julia Serano
I have come into this world to see this:
the sword drop from men's hands even at the height
of their arc of anger
because we have finally realized there is just one flesh to wound
and it is His - the Christ's, our