Okay, But Are You REALLY Pansexual?

Yes, it’s the year 12,017 HE and people are learning to embrace their sexuality again. Whether or not you’re into the whole “labels” thing, many more people are openly considering themselves bisexual, sexually fluid, queer, or “pansexual.”

But, are they right though?

Identity policing is problematic, yeah, but so is a lot of the rationale behind many people’s apparent pansexuality.

To be pansexual is to be attracted to people regardless of their gender, or to be attracted to people of all genders. Note the prefix “pan” here, which means “all.”

“Bisexual” refers to attraction to people of two genders, typically those of your own gender and those of another gender. Some may define bisexuality as the attraction to “two or more” genders, but that may also (and more accurately) be referred to as “polysexuality.” Again, note the prefix “bi” here that denotes a quantity of two.

So where’s the problem?

First, many people assume that bisexuality refers only to attraction to binary genders. However, you could rightfully consider yourself bisexual if you were attracted to a binary and a nonbinary gender, or if you were attracted to two nonbinary genders. Ex: “I am attracted to men and androgynes. I am bisexual,” or “I find both neutrois and intergender people attractive, I am bisexual.”

Secondly, repeat after me: Bisexuality is not inherently transphobic. 

Yes, many bisexual people are transphobic. A lot of people of many sexualities are. But bisexuality in and of itself isn’t a transphobic concept.

So a huge problem arises when pansexuals define their distinction from bisexuals as something along the lines of “Yeah I like men and women, but like…I’ll also date trans men and trans women, so technically I’m pan and not bi.”

Literally no.

Trans women are the exact same gender as cis women, and trans men have the exact same gender as cis men. Are you doing the math? Because that totals two genders. You don’t need a separate category for your inclusion of trans people. Furthermore, your implication that bisexual people inherently don’t also date trans people is incorrect.

And as discussed before, not all bisexual people are only attracted to binary genders. But one hilariously ironic thing is that so many pansexual people subscribe to the myth of the gender binary.

Do you proudly call yourself pansexual? And do you also find yourself scoffing at those who don’t identify as men or women?

Then congratulations, you’re fucking preposterous! The pansexual pride flag, shown above, literally includes yellow as a representation of attraction to those outside the binary. Pink for women, blue for men, and yellow for…you guessed it, enbies.

So, to recap, if you “don’t believe in” nonbinary people but you still consider yourself pansexual, you’re probably just a transphobic bisexual. If that’s the case, you can find your flag here.

My Friend ‘Came Out’ as Nonbinary; Now What?

Assuming that you’re the kind of person who considers themself to be generally open-minded and you want to accept your friend for who they are, there are some things you should be aware of concerning nonbinary identities to help you avoid rude or inappropriate comments and behaviors.

“Does this mean my friend is under the trans* umbrella?”

First, there is no asterisk behind “trans.” While you may intend it to be inclusive or representative of the aforementioned “umbrella,” the asterisk is generally inappropriate and othering. Why? This is because the term “trans” (or “transgender”) is already inclusive. You need not add an asterisk to include those who haven’t transitioned, those who are nonbinary, etc. because those people are already included. The term “transgender” refers to anyone who identifies as a gender other than, or in addition to, whichever one they were assigned at birth. If someone does not fit that category, such as cis crossdressers or cis people who disregard gender norms, then they are not trans and do not need to be included with an asterisk either.

Therefore, the answer to the above question is technically “yes.” Though if your friend specifies that they feel they are not transgender, for any reason, and does not identify with the term, then the answer would be “no.”

In addition to this information, here are some other things to keep in mind:

  • Your friend’s preferred pronouns are grammatically correct. 

People often erroneously take issue with neopronouns or neutral pronouns with the reasoning that they are “grammatically incorrect.” For starters, this is technically untrue, as English has recognized the singular “they” since the late fourteenth century. Its use to refer to someone of unknown or unspecified gender is far from a new phenomenon. While its use as a specifically nonbinary term is relatively new, this makes little difference. In my personal experience, the vast majority of those who take issue with whether or not singular “they” is grammatically correct tend to do so hypocritically: They often make grammatically errors in casual writing, they use a regional dialect that may be considered (again, erroneously) by outsiders to be incorrect, etc. In other words, those that make these complaints are hardly holding themselves to the grammatical standards that they hold nb/trans people to. Not only this, but few of these people understand how a language forms and becomes officially recognized, and what makes certain grammar correct or incorrect. There’s a high probability that your own personal grammar 24/7 is not stellar, let alone entirely flawless, so don’t fret over the ‘correctness.’ So while it may sound strange and may be uncomfortable to use at first, you should always make an effort to learn and use your friend’s chosen pronouns.

  • Their gender is not a matter of debate. 

Yes, your friend’s gender is certainly “real.” If you’re only looking to accept them on the basis of “well, people can do whatever they want and call themselves what they want even if its technically not real,” then you need to take a step back and educate yourself further on gender and what it means to be a friend. Not only does your friend likely know themselves better than you do, but it you’re cis (unless you happen to hold a degree in gender studies and human biology), there’s a really good chance that your friend understands the concept of gender a bit better than you do. And that is perfectly fine! No one needs to know everything about everything, but it means that you should respect your friend’s knowledge of themself and gender. Unfortunately, gender is seldom ever discussed in-depth or actually accurately in lower levels of education. So it is important to remember that your eighth grade class on sexual reproduction by no means gives you the qualifications to invalidate your friend or critique anyone’s sense of gender. Not only do you probably not know what you’re talking about, but it is a very unnecessary, callous, and inappropriate debate topic.

  • Support and Acceptance =/= Patronizing Comments and Being OTT

By all means, let your friend confide in you if they choose. Use their preferred name and pronouns. Reassure them. Defend and protect them. But realize that there is a difference between being a good friend and ally, and being…embarrassing. If your friend happens to be transfemme, for example, save the “YAAASSS gurl, slay hunny! omg” comments every time they wear makeup or something. Unless that is how you respond to all your friends wearing makeup every time they wear it, in which case I’m not sure how you still have friends. All jokes aside, casual compliments will suffice. Don’t try too hard in being supportive, just be genuinely accepting.

  • Avoid Performative Allyship

On a related note, there is a difference between genuine support and the above. Performative allyship is basically anything that serves as a (whether or not you are conscious of it) “Look at how unproblematic I am!” And it doesn’t actually help at all. For example, consistently apologizing to trans/nb people for what cis society has done doesn’t really help anyone at all. All that tells us is that you, for some reason, feel the need to apologize for something you allegedly aren’t doing or partaking in. Don’t go around talking about how you’re so much unlike other cis people, don’t be a social media activist who spouts about how “good” you are, don’t conflate jokes about cis people to actual issues and oppression faced by trans/nb people, don’t demand any awards or good treatment for being a decent human being, don’t claim to be a flawless source of information on trans/nb topics just because you have trans/nb friends, etc. Truly being an ally doesn’t require just a media outlet or an audience. “Ally” isn’t part of your qualifications or identity, so don’t bother including that in every bio on every social media. If you’re an actual ally, we’ll know.

 

It is also important to remember that your friend is still who they have likely always been, and is just beginning to express themselves better- not actually changing overall as a person. You don’t have to change how you feel or change your relationship to/with your friend. Liked shopping before? Great, you can still do that together! Liked gaming? Yep, you both can still do that as well. Surfing? Go for it.

And while it may take some time to get used to a name change or using different pronouns, and it may be strange to get used to an overall different appearance/presentation if your friend chooses to start HRT, it shouldn’t be anything that makes you generally uncomfortable. It may seem weird at first, but the more you dwell on the transition of your friend rather than go about a normal friendship, the weirder it will seem. Things will only be awkward or uncomfortable if you let them be.

Furthermore, however difficult or strange things may feel for you at first, remember that it is far easier to support someone during transitioning or be the friend of a nonbinary person than it is to actually come out or begin transitioning yourself. Your friend may have already felt very uncomfortable and dysphoric before coming out or transitioning as well, so remember that it is best to keep their feelings in mind.

 

 

The Trees Are Transphobic, Too: How Social Justice is Ironically Lacking in Rewilding

I have discussed the topic of rewilding many times previously, so if you are unaware of what is meant by the term “rewild,” perhaps read either Rewilding: A Radical Approach to Environmentalism? or Towards a Better Understanding of “Progress” first.

However, if you are already acquainted the community, you are well aware of the intense social justice movement that has been at the core of true rewilding. Rewilding groups have long since served to give indigenous peoples a valid voice, to help white people acknowledge their potentially racist views, to give women a stand, and to confront toxic masculinity. Seldom does one come across an anti-civ or anarcho-primitivist without also encountering radical feminism.

In other words, a large portion of rewilders or “hunter-gatherer wannabees,” are self-proclaimed Social Justice Warriors…and proud of it. After all, racism, sexism, and classism are all problematic results of civilizations. These must therefore also be abolished, along with civilization itself.

The reality of many of these people, however, is that you’re unlikely to find a more ironically harmful sanctimonious group in any other area of activism. How? Let’s break this down.

 

More women are harmed than empowered

If you’re a victim of sexual assault or harassment, you might want to steer clear of these groups. They will frequently equate deforestation to rape, or virtually anything they deem harmful to rape. And content warnings? Ha. Women with PTSD have obviously never existed…especially not from rape! (sarcasm).

In addition, though well meaning, you will often be valued as a woman before being valued as an individual. For example, do you have some interesting point to add to a conversation that is irrelevant to gender? Prepare to hear “I appreciate the input of a woman” before you hear “I appreciate your unique perspective.” And if your gender is for some reason undisclosed, you can always increase the validity of any argument you make with “As a woman,” or “and this is coming from a woman!” despite the actual content of your argument.

 

Science is an enemy, conspiracies are valid. 

While you might gain some respect as a scientist if you loudly and frequently remind everyone you’re a woman, you’ll still have a fair chance of being equated to a rapist man.

Any science relevant to medicine is automatically “Big Pharma” propaganda, any science relevant to the origin of humanity is probably racist colonial ideology, any science regarding nature is probably imposing on the spirits of wildlife and the spirituality of indigenous peoples.

Science is regularly condemned for sexism, animal cruelty, and racism. And while not all of these criticisms are invalid, the overwhelming proposed solutions are (i.e “fuck science.”)

There is also heavy use of cherry-picking, wherein problematic scientists from the (18)eighties are regularly cited as examples to the faults of science, but virtually no one takes note of up-to-date articles or analyzes currently active research facilities and practices. Essentially because there is an idea that any information we have on past scientists is 100% verifiable, but any information on modern science (or scientists) must inherently be false information meant to disguise the truth…that is, unless the information reveals more problematic practices or beliefs.

 

But mainly, I want to discuss one grievance I have in particular: Transphobia. And, not surprisingly, how it is hurting everyone.

 

First and foremost, supporting a minority group means supporting all of that group and not just those it is easy to support, not just those you agree with politically, not just those you’re friends with.

Therefore, it doesn’t matter how many Nazis you want to punch, you’re still not anti-racism if you blatantly refuse to address the fact that transwomen of color face some of the highest murder rates in predominately white nations. We’re only four months into 2017 and at least eight trans WoC have been murdered already.

You say Black Lives Matter. You update you profile picture to say that you stand with Standing Rock. You call out Stormfront. You address the growing white supremacy among Asatruar/heathens.

But I haven’t seen a single person outrage over these murders. In fact, I haven’t even seen anyone briefly mention any of these women.

Where’s your allyship now? Does the gender of these women somehow negate their skin color? I’d love to say something along the lines of “Please explain, I’ll wait” but if anything, I’ve learned from these various rewilding micro-communities that you can’t wait for hypocrites to address their own hypocrisy.

Let me know when you not only know what “DAPL” stands for, but who Jamie Lee Wounded Arrow was. Let me know when you not only know who Trayvon Martin was, but who Ciara Mcelveen was. Until then, fuck off because you’re still very much your average white person.

And yes, these rewilding communities tend to be primarily composed of cishet white men regardless of how socially progressive they claim to be or how humble they try to be. So I suppose you can only hope for so much when you think of a group of radical feminists founded and composed of the above.

Here, you’ll find assertions that there is more to a woman than tits and a vagina whilst transwomen are invalidated because of the genitalia they had at birth (regardless of whatever their physical anatomy may be currently, although this is irrelevant).

Here, you’ll find claims that gender is a social construct that results from patriarchy, alongside claims that transwomen cannot be women because of “biology” (which is an evil science anyway, right?)

Here, you’ll find criticisms of the illogical standards of beauty women have been held to, while gender non-conforming ciswomen are also criticized for not embracing their femininity (which has to look like dresses and makeup, according to some).

Here, you’ll see the “it doesn’t matter that she was raped and is someone’s mother/daughter/sister, because she is SOMEONE period” signs with commentary that includes how women are women because of motherhood and nurturing.

And in addition to the above, you’ll see transwomen invalidated because they cannot have children or breastfeed. As though infertile women are just men, as though women who have had to undergo hysterectomies are just men, as though women who have every right to have NO interest in mothering are just men.

You’ll find the literally just false idea that misogyny only ever affects ciswomen. And despite the large number of ciswomen who claim to have never experienced misogyny and don’t need feminism, these rewilders will say it applies to all women. Yet when a transwoman has tangibly experienced misogyny and pleads to be included in feminism, they will either cover their ears and eyes or go from radical feminist to misogynist themselves in less than five seconds.

Rewilding groups are meant to provide education and be a safe-space for minorities. But there is virtually no appeal. I, being an AFAB person, find no comfort among these people. I, being a victim of sexual assault, feel no safer around these people. And yet they have the audacity to claim to genuinely care for people like myself. Funny how that works.

 

Another significant complaint: Ableism

Science and scientists in general will be called “eugenicists” insultingly. Eugenics is bad, they say, because it has been used as a tool of racists. It isn’t just PoC who are targeted, but they’re evidently all who matters. In fact, a PoC (who had no photos of themselves, but asking for proof of their ethnicity would’ve been racist too), who was a member of one such group recently posted about “fake genders” that the eugenicist scientists were now recognizing. And yet, being queer was legitimately once considered a mental disorder. Trans people are still erroneously considered “mentally ill.” And the mentally disabled were one of, if not the primary target of eugenics. While the vast majority of people today wouldn’t dare suggest culling society of PoC, far more people are perfectly accepting of abortion of fetuses that may be born disabled (even if they’re otherwise aggressively pro-life) and of “putting down” or euthanizing  mentally ill people. “Rehabilitation costs money, and extra care requires too much energy” is commonly held sentiment in regards to the existence of the disabled.

And as mentioned earlier, there are few accommodations for those who are neurodivergent. No content warnings on posts or discussions, and certainly no “trigger warnings.” No or few clarifications of sarcasm in case anyone involved lacks the ability to pick up on sarcasm and differentiate it from normal speech.

Oh yeah, along the lines of insensitivity to women who have been raped by the callous equation of environmental destruction to forcibly engaging in sex with an unwilling person there is the equation of civilization/industrialization being a product of collective mental illness or that the average person (who doesn’t want to leave civilization) suffers from psychosis.

One could also argue that the rewilding movement in and of itself is purely ableist due to its rejection of modern medicines that depend on industrial society, and what with how industrialization in medicine is part of what is keeping so many people alive at all. This is something I have seen briefly refuted once, but the idea is reasonably still there.

So in other words, these communities often don’t genuinely care about people per se, but rather their ideology and anyone they can use or exploit to further said ideology. If women see civilization as inherently patriarchal, they will further the movement. If more PoC want to return to “pre-contact” states of existence, they will further the movement.  Trans people and disabled people simply don’t fit it here, they’re useless…or worse, a threat.

 

Although, there is a humorous aspect to all of this. Despite the numerous shitty people with shitty illogical opinions that tend to dominate these communities, queer people are still here. The otherly-abled are still here.

I’ve been, in various degrees of activity, involved in rewilding groups for about five years or so. I never once would have thought other trans people had any knowledge of the existence of this movement, let alone had any interest. I never once stumbled upon an openly trans person. It wasn’t until I became more active in trans support groups and trans-friendly spaces that I found others who had experiences with some of the same exact people I observed in these groups. In fact, I vaguely mentioned some transphobia I came across by one prominent member of the rewilding movement, and someone messaged me afterwards knowing exactly who I was vaguely referring to.

Trans people can be feminists.

Trans people can be radical environmentalists.

Trans people aren’t always white, and can experience racism.

Trans people can be a part of this movement, and have been, without many knowing. Many of these trans people I contacted later have actually worked with specific people in such groups and organizations, and yet I doubt that if any of these rewilders happen to read this, that they have been aware they’ve worked with trans people before.

So regardless of any passerby’s opinion on environmentalism, or social justice, or the existence of queer people….it is worth noting that many people in this particular group are in fact hypocritical and potentially dangerous. This isn’t an argument on the validity of the rewilding ideology or feminism, but merely an observation that the social justice involved therein is hardly social justice.

I previously mentioned in Why I Left the Wiccan Faith the concept of “breaking up” with a religion and why. This concept might also now have to apply to this rewilding subculture, as like a scientist (cue laughter), I change and grow with more information. And a lot of information is slowly raising up a red flag over these groups.

 

No, Patricia, black women do not dress that way because of slavery.

A post that has been making the rounds on Facebook by a woman named Patricia expresses her disappointment with the, for lack of a better word, slutty appearance of other black women. She goes so far as to claim that “they feel compelled to walk around half naked, showing their bodies and see nothing wrong with it is because it was beaten and forced upon them during slavery.” And proceeds to claim that “before we were put on those slave ships, we never expose our bodies.”

Essentially, all these black women who attempt to disregard an out-dated subjective moral stance by general society are only doing so because white people forced their ancestors to. Makes sense, right?

Not really. In fact, not even remotely. Why? Let’s break this down (and explain how it itself contains its own racism)

  1. So white slave masters forced women to strip, so the descendants of those women also want to expose their bodies? Okay, and do you have proof that every single “slutty” black woman’s ancestry shows slavery? Humans are not dogs. It is quite literally impossible, biologically speaking, for a woman to have any inherent behavior just because something happened to her ancestors. That isn’t to say the actions of the past do not still affect us, but that is because racism is a modern issue as well. Racism is still relevant. Those that do anything allegedly because of white supremacy aren’t doing so because it once existed. It’s because it still does affect people in 2017. In fact, research has shown that the more subtle a form of prejudice or discrimination exists in society, the greater the impact it has on the target group cognitively. It isn’t enough that slavery is over.
  2. “Slave masters made us strip to humiliate us/punish us.” Did you look at a painting and just guess that? Or do you just ‘feel’ like that makes sense? OR did you actually use historical reverences and first-hand accounts? Yes, there is no question that slave masters humiliated and punished slaves. And yes, white men would rape slaves as a form of control. Sexuality and dominance had a very disturbing significance in relation to slavery, so it actually makes sense to assume that this was why many illustrations of slave women show their bare breasts. But is it the only factor? Of course not. Men were also largely bare in many of these instances, so why is there no supposed inherent black male slutiness? Well for starters, this lack of clothing often was used for slave masters to inspect the physique of the people in question, to see what work (if any) they were deemed useful for. This also allowed easier access to the skin for physical punishment. Female slaves often had their breasts exposed to sexualize the women and make them uncomfortable,and to perhaps increase the chances of sexual assault. But while this did occur, it isn’t true of every female slave. What about the descendants of the females slaves who didn’t have to expose their breasts? Are they the modest women we see today? Unlikely. If it was far more common for female slaves to be paraded around in the nude than it was for them to dress modestly, wouldn’t that mean that virtually all black women in the US are these immodest women? Is that not a bit of a stretch?

 

But easily the most blatantly incorrect and ironically Eurocentric of Patricia’s claims is that “before we were put on those slave ships, we never expose our bodies.” In saying this, Patricia not only reveals her ignorance of history, but she reveals her disrespect of fellow contemporary African women. She erases centuries of history of African women. She shows shame in the very ancestors that are responsible for her existence. How? 

pygmes-42_article_column

This is a family of the Twa peoples of Africa. This is no painting from a history book. It’s real, modern life. The Twa are a group of the Pygmy* peoples whose history dates back several centuries. Hundreds of years before the existence of “African-Americans.” Before many Africans were uprooted. See that woman and two lovely children? Now show me the white man forcing them to dress like this. You can’t. But the worst thing is, is that there is an effect from racism on these people. But you cannot see it here. They’ve experienced genocidal violence, cannibalism, eviction from their land, and more. And for what? So that they will dress modestly and settle into society as accountants or electricians or whatever other fantasy that the surrounding areas want. This is not who they are, it is not who they have been and it is not what they want. They would prefer to continue their proudly indigenous lifestyle (that, yes, includes being topless *gasp*) that to be robbed of their cultural identity just because some white cultures across the seas find them offensive.

“A ‘Pygmy’ loves the forest as she loves her own body” -MBENDJELE SAYING 

himbadancer

Guess who else never left Africa, and whose traditions predate much of foreign slave-trade history? These proud Himba women. Still modern. Still not forced to be this way. And still enjoying their rich African heritage. That is of course, when white tourists aren’t stopping by and looking at them like they’ve arrived at a freak show. Or when all the men and boys are being forced to live to go to the cities to try in vain for jobs that they wouldn’t need, if they were just left alone. Or when foreign people aren’t introducing drugs, alcohol, and junk food.

Shakaland-Tour

As you can see, indigenous Africa isn’t all just white little churches and dresses from 1950’s America. If you are a black women, you most definitely had ancestors at some point in history who exposed their bodies long before white man even knew what Africa was. And why? Because their cultures, yes…plural, don’t always perfectly mirror the standards of Western civilization. And they don’t need to. The African peoples who cover themselves head to toe are just as African as any of the people listed here. You cannot just generalize all black women outside of Africa and say with certainty that no ones ancestors happened to be like these people. And if they did, all the more power to them!

So what about historical Africa then? The great civilizations? Well surely there was no way a woman ever exposed her skin! Wrong. 

“…some of the archaeologists who unraveled the story of the Sun Pharaoh had difficulty accepting what they found and became highly critical of Akhen-Aton and Nefertiti. “‘Brought up in an environment of Victorian and puritanical notions, they condemned these entrancing figures of Egyptian history because they discovered that not only the Pharaoh and his wife but also their children and officials went around with too few clothes (transparent at that!) or no clothes at all, that they practiced nudity in the royal palace, in the royal gardens and swimming pool, that they loved physical beauty, valued good food and wine, and led a frankly joyful existence’.”

What was that about skin exposure not existing before the slave ships arrived? Hm…

African history is full of women who dressed in a variety of less-than-your-idea-of-modest ways. This wasn’t the result of white people (ha, like they could be responsible for that much diversity in cultures). It’s purely African, purely human. To look at this history and all these variety of people with shame or disgust is to be ridiculously shallow and indicated nothing more than your lack of true values. Not theirs. 

But anyway, does it really matter if white people actually were responsible for this alleged epidemic of black slutiness? Well, let’s think about it. Things white people definitely aren’t responsible for: Nudity. Things white people definitely are responsible for: Crusading around the globe to erase indigenous culture and force people to convert to Christianity (often at gun point and/or threat or rape). Hmmm. Yet there appears to be an issue many people have here with nudity, because of their Christian values. Interesting. Patricia claims white people want black women to be overly sexualized, but white people have most certainly instilled the idea into everyone’s heads that there is only one good way to be: Capitalist (contrary to the vast majority of indigenous cultures), monogamous (still contradictory to many indigenous cultures), Christian (contradictory to virtually every indigenous population), and the list goes on and on. Let us also not forget the plethora of other indigenous POC currently facing hardships due to racism who also still have and have had nudity or skin exposure in their cultures as well. May as well say white people created the moon, if they are responsible for that much of human global culture and all of human history. 

Have you ever asked: “Are my values really mine, or were they too enforced upon my ancestors?”

But to conclude, the REAL reason anyone is any amount of “slutty” is because this is the United States** (or other area) where we have the freedom to be. Confidence. The primal beauty of courting. Self-love. Enjoyment of what it means to truly embrace humanity. The way YOU respect YOURSELF doesn’t have to align with every other woman in existence. Because just like Africa, women too are diverse with a variety of different beliefs, values, and traditions. 

*”Pygmy” was once a derogatory term but is now preferred by many of these tribe members.

**Not everyone is here  in the US, obviously. But many of the black women I knew personally were. If she wants to refer specifically to her own black ethnic group or nationality, that is fine (albeit still inaccurate). Yet now many black American women feel their self-love is a shameful result of dark American history, and that isn’t okay.

***Yes, not everything white people do is bad, not all of white history is bad, POC history has faults too, etc. This all is beside the point, and everyone is aware of this already.

Are Men Obsolete?

In the modern and ever-progressing world of science, we’ve discovered ways in which it is possible for two biological females to produce a child without the use of a man’s sperm. Along with a modern perspective on gender and feminism, we’ve seen women running for presidency to plumbing to computer science and more. So why do men even still exist? Would it not, logically of course, be more productive for a society to now ‘prevent’ men? In some nations, women already outnumber men, so it might be an easier transition from a male inclusive world to a male exclusive world than we thought. Saves time, at least?

I’ll go ahead and take my chances with assuming that, so far, someone has been offended and thought “this is so sexist!” And trust me, I understand where you are coming from. You probably should be questioning my intent of this post. But I assure you, it isn’t sexism. I am merely pointing out a reality.

The reality is that around 1.7% of children have been born “intersex.” This means their physical anatomy, hormone levels, and chromosomes in consideration do not match either “male” guidelines or “female” guidelines. They fall out of our binary concept of human sex. Yes, 1.7% is a small percentage. However, it equates to roughly 119,000,000 people. This means that about 1 in every 1,500-2,000 babies are born with genitalia that require a specialist to help determine the sex of the baby (even though these babies are the minority, as many more infants are born with subtle or internal sex differences).

Yet, instead of accepting or embracing this harmless occurence, we’ve considered it a repulsive disability. We’ve historically put these people as performers in freak shows. We’ll force expensive surgeries on people to “cure” them.

And why?

  • “They’re already a minority anyway.” It being relatively rare justifies this? But…men are outnumbered in some nations too. Is the frequency of occurrence so significant to warrant an entire exclusion of a sex of people?
  • “They’re gross/unappealing.” I’m sure lesbians could say the same of a penis, but again, should be really be considering men useless because of that? Clearly not everyone is lesbian though. And not everyone has the idea that intersex people are disgusting. Furthermore, many intersex people have subtle internal differences- you wouldn’t be able to tell if someone was intersex or not. I cannot burn every shoe store that sells Crocs just because think they’re disgusting. So what could possibly give anyone the idea that preventing an entire group of human beings based on the same concept is rational or anything less than extremely egotistical?
  • “They’re broken/a mistake.” Anyone could say the same of any other sex as well. Imagine, now that men are obsolete, attending a birth wherein instead of blue It’s a Boy! balloons, you see weeping family members. Instead of hearing “Congratulations on bearing a healthy baby boy!,” you hear “I’m sorry to inform you, but your child has been diagnosed as heterogametic. It’s an XY. The penis can probably be removed, but…” In fact, there already historically have been similar attitudes towards the births of females, due to them being economically less valued or not permitted to rule in a monarchy, or for other reasons.

And while people can continue to deny the reality, with at least some level of logic remaining visible to some people, that being transgender or queer is a choice, there is literally no question no matter how hard you pretend otherwise in this case. Most of us are aware of the fact that being queer isn’t a choice, but all of anyone with even a minute amount of sense knows that no one can choose the hormones, chromosomes, or anatomy they were born with. Sure, continue annoying everyone with “Adam and Eve, not Adam and Steve” posters. But it’d be quite a stretch to start saying “It’s Adam the penis-having, XY heterogametite and Eve the vagina-and-breast XX homogametite, nOT ANYTHING ELSE EVER!” That’s akin to protesting anyone with blue eyes because you think Adam and Eve had brown eyes, or protesting anyone who uses the internet because Adam and Eve couldn’t back in their day. Hell, why not start naming every boy Adam and every girl Eve because it was only ever them who ever mattered…ever. (Oh, but….not everyone is born a boy or girl!)

If intersex people do exist, and they do, maybe instead of getting upset, we could finally acknowledge the persistent fact that sex is not binary, but it in reality a spectrum. The only thing that results in these illogical attitudes towards intersex people is the completely unneccessary expectation of sex to be binary. But clearly, it isn’t. I can expect a rose bush to grow where I planted any given random seed, but that by no means ensures that a rose bush will grow. So why throw a fit when a coleus grows instead?

There isn’t anything inherently wrong with wanting a daughter, or looking forward to finally having a son. The issue arises when you can only love your child if it results in the expected daughter or the expected son. The issue arises when you abuse, neglect, or disown your own child over this mere expectation.

So if the first paragraph disturbed you, you have no reason to not be disturbed by the erasure and abuse of intersex individuals.

An Idiot’s Guide to Writing (book) Reviews

We’ve all seen them: Reviews on Amazon or Ebay that are so bad that they are used solely for comedic purposes. A favorite of mine was an Amazon review of an infant’s car seat that was rated with one star due to the fact that the warning and caution stickers apparently ruined a photo of the baby in the seat….despite the fact that they had actually been in an accident before and the baby was not harmed at all, thanks to the seat.

Sadly, I’ve seen book reviews on Goodreads that are nearly as bad. So here are some things you might want to keep in mind while writing your next book review.

Keep note of the book’s genre. 

The genre of a book will likely have a strong effect on how the reader responds to it. Many people have favorite genres and dislike others altogether. The reviewer needs to be conscious of the book’s intent in this manner. This will prevent you from making the foolish mistake of, for example, rating an erotica work with two stars because it ‘contained too much sensuality.’ Yes, a horror novel will probably contain gore or violence. It is supposed to, so please don’t take off points just because you didn’t look into what you were reading before you actually started reading. This mistake is akin to parents who took their children to see Sausage Party or Deadpool, and then complaining because it was not a family-friendly film. Ask yourself:

  • Does this genre interest me?
  • What elements of this work might appeal to me?
  • Why do I want to read this book?
  • What can I infer about the content of this book based on title, genre, summaries, reviews, the jacket, etc? Am I still interested?

You don’t have to like the main character(s). 

People fall into the habit of identifying with the main character, even when it may be inappropriate. Sure, it might be easy enough for many to relate to Halley of Dessen’s Someone Like You. If that makes the experience more enjoyable for you, all the more power to you. But keep in mind that a character isn’t necessarily poorly developed, useless, or overall ‘bad’ just because you cannot see a reflection of yourself in them. A fourteen year old girl might relate more to Halley over say, Sydney Carton, but that doesn’t mean A Tale of Two Cities is inherently a bad piece of literature.  This is especially important in works wherein the main character is intended to repulse the reader. I, as an avid cat enthusiast, certainly don’t intend on building a fandom around the unnamed narrator in Poe’s The Black Cat. But I won’t rate the poem poorly on that basis alone. Ask yourself:

  • Why is this character this way?
  • What is the author trying to portray with this character?
  • How is the character received by others in the book? Negatively or positively?
  • Is this character static or dynamic? Why? How do I know?
  • How does this character see themselves?
  • How does this character react to conflict? Why?
  • Is this character fundamental to the plot? Does the character compliment the story?

You won’t be the only reader. 

Everyone has different tastes. Clearly, because if it were up to me, James Patterson couldn’t have achieved a 3.97 average rating on Goodreads. And while I stay true to my opinion of Patterson, I am willing to accept that fact that many people actually do (somehow) enjoy his writing. When writing a review, it is helpful to consider the public as a whole as well as yourself individually. I’ve often personally felt that a book merits 5 stars, but gave 4 due to the acknowledgment that many others would likely rate it with 3 stars. Reviews are not only to provide feedback for an author, but to help others decide if they should even bother picking up the book, or to perhaps even give them a new perspective on a book they’ve already read. So even if something in a book is done well, but you dislike it, at least praise whatever it for what you can. The reverse is also useful: “While I enjoyed x in this book because *insert explanation*, I can see why many others would not due to *insert potential reasoning*”

Be useful, or go home. 

Again, reviews are meant to have a purpose. If you just want to write “This book sucked and wasted my time,” please write in your diary. Those of us who will be reading book reviews, including writers themselves, are looking for explanations, specific criticism, key emotions, what thoughts were evoked, etc. not merely the whether or not you liked the book, hence why these are reviews and not polls with “yes” or “no” questions. We are looking for why more than just a what. Ask yourself:

  • Would I recommend this book to anyone? If so, to whom?
  • Was this book worth reading? Would I read it again if given the chance?
  • What were my favorite things about this book? My least favorite things?
  • What compelled me to read this book in the first place? Did I make the right choice in choosing to read it?
  • Did I laugh, cry, get frustrated, or bored while reading? At what parts?

 

There isn’t necessarily a “wrong” way to write a review, but perhaps these tips can help you write some that are much more useful and less laughable.

Realizing I Wasn’t ‘Straight:’ Coming To Terms With My Sexuality

As this is a more personal bit of writing, I understand that it holds very little appeal and has very little purpose. It does, however, address a relevant issue in society: heteronormativity. [NSWF post]

I’ve heard “well, if you’re REALLY gay/trans/etc you’d know it since forever!” countless times and it never ceases to amaze me with its sheer inaccuracy. Whether I was born queer or some life event in early childhood resulted in who I am is unknown and of no consequence to me. But I do know that regardless of being queer, I didn’t even begin to consider it as a possibility until maybe age twelve. I didn’t fully accept it until age 14 or so.

Being raised in a heteronormative environment, I was convinced that queerness was some rare, strange occurrence. That the possibility of being queer was exponentially small. Furthermore, and most importantly, I was sure that being anything other than straight would feel weird. I therefore went throughout my life (hilariously so, in retrospect) justifying obviously queer aspects of my life as things that were normal and natural to me, so that they were obviously a part of being straight…since being straight was the normal and natural occurrence. And of course, there was no shortage of stories of females ‘experimenting’ in college, or women acknowledging the beauty of other women, etc. which only solidified my idea that whatever in myself that seems not straight was just a normal part of life for a heterosexual, cis female-born individual.

Despite the fact that the first two (non-celebrity*) people I had ‘crushes’ on were females, the fact that the first person I ever kissed was female, that the only porn I had ever viewed (which occurred very seldomly to begin with) almost always only had women, that one of my first bits of creative writing was about a queer couple…I still considered myself heterosexual. And is it possible for someone to have had all those experiences and be a heterosexual female? Sure, I suppose. The sexuality of born-females is apparently more flexible than those of others, though that only leads me to question the normality of heterosexuality even more.

And at some point I realized that the reason these things felt normal and natural was because they obviously literally just were. And that was that. There was no special rule that allowed heterosexuality the titles of “normal” and “natural.” I realized that there was no logical rule that would require me to have had sex with multiple females (and only females) to be rightfully queer. There is no certification, no “queer license.”

If people would stop insinuating that other sexualities have to manifest themselves in painfully obvious stereotypical ways for prolonged amounts of time in an individual (a male infant playing with dolls, growing up to be a toddler with a crush on Zac Efron, growing up to be a teenager in skinny jeans with a high-pitched voice, growing up to be a fashion designer etc) to be ‘real,’ it would be much easier for other young individuals to accept their sexualities.

Instead of the annoyingly persistent question of “Well, are you SURE?” in regards to a young person questioning their sexuality, we should stop expecting them to be straight to begin with. Because though the amount of individuals who are LGBT+ is still very minute in relation to the overall population, it is likely that that percentage is smaller than reality…due in fact to hetero/cisnormativity and prejudice. There are reasons that many are not open about their sexuality, and there may be some who refuse to accept (or wouldn’t even be able to see how) that they are queer. As acceptance (and logic) in the United States increases, there will likely be an increase in those who are openly queer. And why? Because it IS normal and it IS natural.

 

*Fun fact: The first, and only, celebrity crush I had at those times was Sonny Moore.

Evolution: FAQs

Whether you are a creationist who is growing disillusioned with what you think you know, you are skeptical of the theory of evolution, or you’re simply looking for clarification in some areas, this post may be able to help you. Even among those who readily accept evolution as a fact of nature, misunderstandings are all too common. Here, you will find some basic answers and addresses to more common questions and misunderstandings.

Q: If humans evolved from monkeys and apes, why are there still monkeys and apes?

A: By far the most commonly asked question by those who argue against evolution, the question itself highlights the sheer lack of understanding many people have of evolution. A main issue with this question is that many people are under the false impression that the theory of evolution claims animals such as chimpanzees and rhesus monkeys are our ancestors. This is not the case. The theory of evolution states that these organisms are related to us, and that we share a common ancestor- not that they are our ancestors. Just as how dogs are falsely thought to be evolved from wolves, yet wolves still exist. Though in reality, dogs and wolves are closely related and share a common ancestor.  

Q: At what point in time does an organism become a new species?

A: This is a much more complicated question. A species is defined based on multiple aspects: Appearance, DNA, and reproductive isolation. Members of a same species share a common gene pool that is unique to them because the gene pools of individual species are independently evolving.  There is not necessarily a defined key point in an organism’s history wherein it evolves to become a new one because evolution is an ongoing process, so these different aspects together determine whether an organism should be classified as a new species or not. For example, species endemic to the Hawaiian Islands have ancestors that arrived several million years ago. While when these ancestral species first arrived, they may have been capable of reproduction with other species elsewhere in the world, their geographical isolation on the islands resulted in their adaptation, or evolution to, the specific environment of the islands. Due to the fact that many of these species have adapted and changed so much to fit their new habitat, many of these species on these islands became reproductively isolated from species elsewhere in the word. And hence are classified on their own. So if a group of organisms progresses to the point wherein hybridization is not favored by natural selection, or this group is incapable of reproducing with another species, or this group has a drastically different appearance or ecological function, it will typically be classified as a new, distinct species. 

Q: How can evolution be true when “survival of the fittest” does not make sense? And isn’t this a problematic/eugenics concept anyway?

A: The phrase “survival of the fittest” was coined by philosopher Herbert Spencer, and was often incorporated into the notion of “social Darwinism,” which Darwin himself was not a fan of. While this phrase was added into later versions of Darwin’s The Origins of Species,  it remains the root of many misunderstandings. One of which is the lack of understanding of the biological term “fitness.” Fitness does not merely refer to physical prowess, but is the relative probability that a hereditary characteristic will be favored and therefore reproduced. The fitness may be determined via natural selection by means of competition, or may be determined by environmental factors. Either way, the “fitness” here is not a matter of human preference or conventional ideas of “good genes,” as even mutations that are generally harmful and undesirable may turn out to have a better fitness in specific regions. The most common example among humans being that of hemoglobin A, which is a 4-component molecule composed of two α and two β hemoglobin chains. One gene, HbA codes for the 146 amino acid hemoglobin β chain. However, a mutant allele of HbA, HbS, results in the β chain the amino acid valine in the sixth position rather than the correct glutamic acid. This substitution changes the properties of hemoglobin so that homozygotes with the mutant allele, HbSHbS have a typically fatal form of anemia known as “sickle cell anemia.”  Though it seems natural selection would have eradicated this gene with a seemingly very low fitness, it actually results in heterozygotes, HbAHbS, persisting in greater numbers than the homozygotes without the mutation, HbAHbA. This is because it is thought that these heterozygotes are resistant to malaria, which is particularly severe in regions where these mutations are found. So here we see that we cannot determine based on subjective or conventional ideas of preferred traits whether or not a trait will be beneficial in some way, and thus have a degree of fitness. But the fact that this mutation is in fact concentrated in certain areas, ones where it is beneficial due to circumstances, shows that the idea of fitness is a sound one.

Q: For evolution to be true, the world would have to be millions or even billions of years old. There is no way this is possible! Isn’t the world only around 5,000-12,000 years old? How do we know for sure?

A: One of the primary means of dating artifacts, such as fossils, is through a process known as carbon dating. And while it sounds simple enough, it involves an extensive amount of mathematics. Carbon dating is based on the decay of the radioactive isotope of carbon, 14C. Due to the fact that there is a close constant ratio of 12C, which is naturally more abundant, to 14C, it is used rather than the former specifically because this ratio is maintained until death wherein 14C is no longer replenished. The decay of the overall amount of 14C begins to therefore decay (literally) exponentially, so by determining the amount of 14C remaining in a fossil one can determine how long ago the organism died by the departure of 12C to 14C ratio from the ratio seen in a living organism. The half-life of radioactive isotopes such as 14C are known as the amount of time for the initial amount of the isotope to remain, which is significant because the decay of these isotopes is not logarithmic. The model of the decay of 14C would be: N(t) N0e−0.0001216t.However, it is important to remember than several radioactive isotopes are used in determining ages of fossils, as 14C has a relatively short half-life in comparison to how long organisms overall have existed. Therefore, isotopes with longer half-lives are used to determine the age of presumably older fossils, such as that of 238U (the example I personally used when teaching a class of southern high school students the process of aging fossils). While this may or may not seem mathematically complex at this point, it is certainly not the only math involved. There is also math behind determining not only rate of decay, but the very half-lives themselves. Going back to 238U, using the example provided by Dr. Chabot, if we used a 5.00 mg of pure 238UO2, it would contain 4.41 mg of 238U which decays 100% of the time by alpha emission. If the 5mg were deposited in a thin uniform layer and its alpha activity accounted for, we would obtain a count rate of 16.9 cps with an alpha detection efficiency of 0.315 counts per disintegration (Bq-s). This would then be calculated as follows: A = 1014 cpm/0.315 c d-1 = 3219 dpm = λ N = (ln2/T1/2)(4.41 x 10-3 g/238.03 g/g-atomic weight)(6.022 x 1023 atoms/g-atomic weight). If you solve for T1/2, you get T1/2 = 2.40 x 1015 minutes = 4.57 x 109 years. Overall, faulty arithmetic does exist. But numbers are numbers, and math does not lie. 2+2 will always =4, regardless of if you manage to make a mistake in the process yourself. Math is often a foundation to many scientific concepts, and we know them to be true accordingly. Using these tried-and-true methods of dating, we know for a fact that our own ancestral lineage alone has existed far longer than 5,000-12,000 years. In fact, Earth itself is known to be around at least 4.5 billion years old from the radiometric dating of an old zircon rock in Australia. 

Q: Why trust one random guy? Isn’t evolution all just Darwin’s thing? Creationism is found all over the world and has been for centuries. Certainly thousands of people throughout history are more accurate than this just one man. 

A: While Darwin is often seen as the father, or worse, the “inventor,” of evolution, he is not the only one to truly discover it. Nor is he the only one with early significant contributions to this field. In fact, the first generally realistic theory of evolution was proposed by de Lamark, a French naturalist who lived from 1744 to 1829. Alfred Wallace (1823-1913) is also thought to have discovered it independently from Darwin even though they took up correspondence in 1855, three years before Wallace’s idea of natural selection as a means of explaining evolutionary change. Unlike Darwin, who sought initially to explain the adaptation of organisms to their habitats and the adaption of their physical structure, Wallace intended on actually accounting for the evolution of distinct species, as can be seen in the title alone of his paper “On the Tendency of Varieties to Depart Indefinitely from Original Type.” Other notable people in society at the time of these discoveries also defended the idea of evolution, such as biologist T.H. Huxley. In addition, many others took the idea and modified it into their own theories, applied it to human social life, or went out and obtained further relevant discoveries that would also be published. Founder of the germ-plasm theory, German biologist August Weismann too supported the discovery of natural selection. Others who contributed to an understanding of natural selection are Sewall Wright, an American geneticist, British geneticists R.A Fisher and J.B.S Haldane, Russian-born American Dobzhansky, German-born American zoologist Mayr, Georges Cuvier, American botanist Stebbins, American paleontologist George Simpson, and English zoologist Julian Huxley. When various nations obtained the technologies and scientific abilities to understand ideas such as hereditary, it was no longer a matter of ‘who’ or ‘where.’ Numerous people from different nationalities were able to scientifically support these theories. A lack of ability to explain or rationalize something accurately in the past does not dismiss the findings we have today. Just as it was once thought in the scientifically illiterate and inept past that illnesses were caused by a lack of faith in god or evil spirits, we now know that this is not the case. Although that is not to say that many ancient human societies were not close to hinting at a similar concept, if even for spiritual reasons. This can be seen in the prevalent concept of interconnection of species in many ancestral religions and indigenous communities.  Rest assured, evolution is not just one man’s radical idea. 

Q: I thought evolution was like how a baby deer has spots for camouflage, not like a fish turning into a dinosaur turning into a bird. Which is it? Does this mean deer will turn into bears one day or something??

A: There are two types of evolution: Cladogenesis and anagenesis. The latter is also known as “phyletic evolution” and occurs when lineages of organisms change through generations. Cladogenesis, which is the process by which directly new species arrive, occurs by evolutionary divergence from an ancestral form or diversity as a result of lineage splitting.  ANAGENESIS VS. CLADOGENESIS IMAGE   

The former is determined by looking at the gene pools of a species. In cladogenesis, the original gene pool splits into two or more different gene pools. In anagenesis, one species gradually changes into another on the basis of diversity in characteristics that arose as a result of various adaptions and mutations. Cladogenesis directly forms multiple distinct species, rather than one species gradually becoming a new one. Regardless, a species cannot evolve into a preexisting species. It is quiet possible that given an adequate amount of time and a situation that would make it beneficial, for deer to gradually mutate and change into a species resembling modern-day bears. For example, if one were alive during the Eocene, one might look at pakicetids and remark of evolution “What’s next, pakicetids turning into giant, furless, legless sea mammals?!” without knowing that pakicetids are in fact cetaceans and now known as one of the earliest species giving rise to modern whales. 

Q: How are those evolution tree diagrams made? How do we know they are accurate? Why do some look different? 

A: The tree diagrams used to visually represent evolutionary history of taxa are known as “phylogenies.” The branching of the trees are representative of relative relationships of ancestry or cladogenesis. These trees are also capable of representing anagenesis, or changes that have occurred along each lineage. The anagenetic changes are represented by marks or notches along a specific lineage line leading up to a specific taxon. There are many methods in existence for the creation of phylogenies; different methods exist for different desired interpretations of data. One method that had been frequently used in the past, for example, known as “distance method,” is primarily used with molecular data but may also be used with morphological data as well. The “distance” in the name of this method refers to the distances between two taxa with respect to certain characteristics or to macromolecules like the sequence of nucleotides in RNA or DNA or the sequences of amino acids in proteins. Morphological data may be used by creation of a distance matrix, such as a table using morphological comparisons, which are then transformed into a phylogeny by usually by “cluster analysis.” The smallest distance element in the distance matrix is found and the two taxa or species used are joined at a branching point. The process is again repeated with the next smallest distance and the two next taxa are clustered accordingly. Another method for constructing phylogenies is the “maximum-likelihood method,” which uses statistics to assess the probability of particular mutations. They require a preexisting evolutionary model to be present which makes it then possible to determine the probability of each possible change. All possible phylogenetic trees are considered, and the probabilities for each change are multiplied for each possible phylogeny. The phylogeny that results in the highest probability is determined to be the best tree. This method is typically reserved for smaller numbers of taxa, as with 10 taxa alone there are 3.6 million possible phylogenies. For this method, as well as the distance method, a process known as “bootstrapping” is used to determine the statistical degree of confidence. This is done by random sampling that is repeated hundreds or sometimes thousands of times, and consists of taking samples of the data and removing one data point at random and creating a new tree for the new set of data. Maximum-parsimony is another more common method for making phylogenetic trees. This method intends to reconstruct a tree that requires the fewest number of changes summed along the branches. While this is most likely, it is not always the case because the same changes may occur independently along different branches (some of which may have involved intermediate steps) and therefore sometimes lowers the reliability of this method. The probability of evolutionary changes, even those with the same  number of steps, are not always the same, so this method must take into account any known different probabilities of occurrence.  Typically, ML method and a method known as Bayesian are considered most reliable, while MP is used less often and DM is rather obsolete.

 

Q: If evolution is true it wouldn’t go against my religion. So why do so many churches teach against it if it is a fact?

A: Well, setting aside the fact that religion typically has nothing to do with facts or even the best interests of a person, many religions do not reject the concept. Some are indifferent, some embrace it, and some are skeptical. This goes for many Christian denominations and churches as well. For example, the Catholic Church views evolution as an instrument of God. That yes, God designed and created everything, but that he also is responsible for evolution. The Episcopal church also embraces evolution as a manner in which God can create, and criticizes the idea of intelligent design. The Evangelical Lutheran church states that God may have used evolution in the creation of everything, but seems to have no further interest in the matter one way or another. The truth is that many religions do not find any inherent conflict between their faith and evolution, but that those that do tend to be the loudest thus making it appear that evolution is some form of blasphemy. Surely enough, if you are hardset on following a religion, even Christianity, and your particular path or denomination rejects it, there are many more churches who would be perfectly fine with accepting an evolutionist with open arms. 

 

Q: If humans and apes are so closely related, why don’t they even have an upright posture like we do?

While the means of locomotion for primates is relatively diverse, some of those that are closest related to us actually do have an upright posture. Chimpanzees and gorillas both exhibit a locomotive behavior known as “knuckle-walking.” When observing this motion, one can clearly see that it is done in a way that elevates the upper body, causing a downwards slope following the head down the spine. This is, while not bipedalism, an upright posture. An upright posture can be seen in many other primates as well, albeit not in the form of regular motion as it is with ourselves, gorillas, and chimpanzees. For example, baboons often take advantage of upright posture while eating/foraging, scouting, etc. Another technical form of upright posture is seen when a primate is sitting erect. The reasoning as to why they are not bipedal as we are refers back to reasons as to why we are not classified as members of the same species. Bipedalism is a trait that is, thus far, unique to humans and our direct ancestors. It is unknown as to whether or not true bipedalism was found in the ancestors of chimpanzees.

 

 

[This post will be continually updated as more questions are received and more information is brought to my attention.]

Identity: Gender…and species?

Regardless of whether you are in favor of social progression or not, transgender individuals and the overall concept of identity has reached more publicity than it has it the recent past. As with any marginalized group gaining more representation, there has been backlash such as protests over keeping certain people out of restrooms.

Some people are tired of hearing about what they have deemed “political correctness” and the “social justice warriors” that encourage it. Largely due to the fact that within a few years, people have gone from being encouraged to accept concepts sexualities like bisexuality, to being encouraged to support the existence of multiple genders. And now, presumably, people are being encouraged to support the existence of “otherkin,” those who do not identify as human.

This concept has also been erroneously referred to as “trans-species” and has been speculated by some  many to have originated on the blogging website Tumblr as a means to discredit or mock transgender identities. While this is verifiably false, and I will go into more detail on that further on, there are some issues present regarding the rights of transgender people and the existence of ‘otherkin.’

The first issue is that many people, otherkin or otherwise, often equate and compare the two, and falsely so. This has only caused not only more backlash against trans people, but also against otherkin themselves. Otherkin or not, we cannot ignore that a transgender and an otherkin identity have significant differences.  This is true even if they do manage to have some similarities.

One of the most significant differences between the two is that transgender identities are serious. They are relevant. Sure the definition of “gender” may be vague to some and debated (unnecessarily), but all in all genders are a human thing. A person can have an actual gender. If someone walks up to you and says “I am a man,” they are a man. Simple enough.

This is not the case with species. Species is an entirely physical thing, with no misunderstandings or cultural implications that prove otherwise. If a person walks up to you and says “I am a frog,” it is likely going to leave you confused.

Gender is relevant. It involves everyday life: Pronouns, dating, legal documents, etc.

There are no additional species you can add to your drivers license. There are no pronouns that correspond to species.

Furthermore, transgender identities can concern medical issues, and are practical. It makes sense to transition if you are transgender and you choose to do so.

You cannot transition to another species. This would not in any way ever make sense. Transitioning to another species is completely impossible insofar as modern science goes, and would likely end badly 99.9999% of the time even if it were possible. If you changed species, you would drastically alter your daily life, more so than anything else would. You likely would not be able to survive at all, having been raised as a human. You would not likely be accepted by other members of the species that were born into that species. And you would likely wreak havoc on the local ecosystem. If we should not even release pet store-bought feeder crickets into a lawn, then there is absolutely no way releasing humans-turned animals into the wild to live as a completely different species would ever be condoned.

Other significant differences to consider are the experiences of the two. Otherkinity does not have a uniform experience that goes with it, nor does it have a set reasoning behind it. While the cause of gender dysphoria is largely unknown, there is no set experience of otherkinity for which to search for a cause. A person can be otherkin for reasons ranging from psychology to spirituality to family traditions. There is no singular thing that could cause an identity that has such diverse explanation behind it, unless otherkinity itself was broken down into smaller groups and rationalized that way.

One misunderstanding with the experiences is with that of dysphoria. While it is true that many people experience gender dysphoria and many otherkin experience species dysphoria, it is important to realize that species dysphoria as a concept and as an experience is not ultimately tied to otherkinity. Many people who identify as otherkin for psychological reasons cite species dysphoria as an explanation. However, many otherkin who identify they way they do often experience species dysphoria but do not use it as the reasoning for their identity, but instead use a spiritual explanation. And then there are those spiritual otherkin who do not experience dysphoria at all, as well as psychological otherkin who do not experience dysphoria. To make matters more complicated, there are those who experience species dysphoria but do not associate with otherkinity in any way.

 

“NO, the difference is that transgender people are real and otherkin are a joke. THAT’S the difference!” 

Now I am sure someone who has stumbled across this has thought something along the lines of the above quote. So now I will clarify on the history and ‘reality’ of otherkin.

For starters, denying the existence of something just because you do not “believe” in it does not make it go away. I do not believe in Christianity, yet Christians still exist. I do not believe in reincarnation, but that does not change the fact that there are people out there actually considering themselves to be a fox in a human body because of it. Whether or not you respect a group of people or believe in the reasoning behind their identity, they will still exist and continue to perceive themselves in the way that they do. You could say “otherkin identities are not logical,” but not everyone is logical, and being illogical does not make you disappear entirely.

As far as otherkin literally being a joke, this is a completely false assumption made by those who do not bother looking into things that bother them. Otherkin did not pop up by some ‘troll’ on Tumblr to make fun of transgender people.

The modern otherkin community has its roots loosely in a neo-Pagan group known as The Elf Queen’s Daughters, which was established before the mid 1970s. From there, another neo-Pagan group known as The Silver Elves arose, which directly influenced the existence of the modern otherkin community. All of this was happening long before the existence of Tumblr and the unfortunately widespread ‘hobby’ of “internet trolling.” From these groups of people, who largely identified as humanoid mythological creatures for spiritual purposes, came two separate groups of those with nonhuman identities: In 1994, therianthropes, those who identify as nonhuman Earthly animals; and draconites/draconics, those who identify as dragons came about. As of the last half decade or so, however, those who identify as dragons are simply referred to as “otherkin,” “dragonkin,” or “mythkin,” and those who identify as real animals are referred to as “therians.” The modern otherkin community was initially largely spiritual, but has since included many more of those who consider their identity to be psychological, philosophical, or experiential.

All in all, otherkin were completely unrelated to transgender issues (as the should have been) until their presence on Tumblr, wherein the assumption that they were the joke of a transphobe popped up, and when younger, ignorant individuals began solidifying this assumption by actually calling themselves “trans-species,” and/or callously equating the two when they discovered the concept on Tumblr alone. In addition to this, unsurprisingly, many pseudo-otherkin accounts were created by others specifically with the intent on making otherkin into a transphobic joke, hence the presence of “toastkin” or “chairkin” Tumblr accounts and the phrase “sexually identify as” often accompanying those identities, along with ‘nounself’ pronouns like “che/chairs/chairself.” Whether or not these people aim to simply discredit otherkin or to further transphobia, they are certainly neither real nor relevant to actual gender identities or otherkinity.

 

“Actually, neither are real. There’s no proof, so there actually is no difference!” 

…And I am sure someone reading this has probably thought this as well.

This goes back to the fact that disrespect or dislike for, or disbelief in someone or something does not mean it does not exist.

That aside, identities are not necessarily something that can be proven or disproved. If someone legitimately sees themselves a certain way, no amount of not believing them will change their self-perception. The causes and explanations for an identity, however, are another story…sort of. For example, if someone identifies as a dragon because they believe in an alternate universe where they are a dragon and their soul (or whatever) got switched with that universe’s version of themselves, that may very well be disproved by science one day. If we gain scientific evidence that shows there is only one universe, we will know this person’s logic behind their dragon identity is invalid. If we gain scientific evidence that souls and any variation thereof does not have any physical existence whatsoever, we will know that an identity reasoned with reincarnation is using an invalid explanation. Certain explanations for self-perceptions and identities can be false. If someone says “I am a wolf because my mother was a wolf,” this is clearly biologically impossible and therefore not a valid explanation for why they see themselves or consider themselves the way they do. This is more likely to be a delusion rather than a reason or explanation.

The above quote also follows the logic that despite there being reason for believing in something’s existence, it does not truly exist until confirmed with scientific evidence. This is irrational. If we followed this logic, we would have to insist that no human had ever experienced love up until oxytocin and/or vasopressin were discovered (and we were made aware of their role in human relationships). But considering the fact that pair-bonding ceremonies have existed for centuries in various cultures, that many of us humans seem to be so fond of monogamy, that mothers have not been murdering their infants left and right for no reason, that love poems and courting have been around for centuries, that we cry when our family members die….all of these things and more have suggested the existence of love. Regardless of how well it was understood scientifically and regardless of the fact that it, in and of itself, was not considered to have any singular physical or visual existence. It was known to exist because we experienced it and people documented it. Perhaps someone who has never been in love would have no reason to believe that it existed at all, if it were not for others recounting their own experiences.

Experiences that may or may not explain an identity can be the same way. There may not be a singular, solid scientific explanation for gender dysphoria  yet, but this does not mean that it does not exist at all. The fact that there have been suicides due to some peoples inability to cope with gender dysphoria, the fact that many therapists and psychologists diagnose people with it, the fact that concept of “transgender” has existed in multiple variations throughout history in a variety of cultures, the fact that in around 30BC Philo of Alexandria described it, and many more occurrences and situations all repeatedly suggest that gender dysphoria does exist whether or not we can explain why.

Species dysphoria, understandably, is more complicated. It makes sense for it to be a much less commonly experienced phenomenon. However, the fact that there are a plethora of individuals who have been documented to have reported this experience for decades suggests it is a real experience. Lying on the internet is one thing, creating a satire account to further your own opinions on a group of people is another…but these things do not persist for entire lifetimes. That “toastkin” Tumblr account is a Tumblr thing only, and will be active for at most…three years? But these otherkin who have reported these feelings to their family members since youth, these otherkin who have confided in therapists about it, these otherkin who still experience it after having identified the way they do for decades are not simply making it up for ‘shits and giggles.’ It is not a joke to them. It is a real part of their real life that they deal with. And yes, these people exist. Looking for young otherkin on Tumblr will only ever find you young otherkin on Tumblr. Only looking for Tumblrkin (or fake otherkin accounts created by trolls) will only ever find you Tumblrkin. Otherkin exist off of Tumblr, though because I have stated before that these identities are irrelevant socially and not legally serious, many otherkin stay away from mentioning their identities on social media because they have virtually no reason to. Those who do tend to stray away from Tumblr for obvious reasons, especially those who have been in the communities longer and are older.

In regards to the identity without the experience of dysphoria, again, there cannot exactly be proof to begin with. These identities can be akin to an opinion of one’s self, a feeling, and yet again, self-perception. These things do not require “proof.” If you feel ugly, you feel ugly but you may not be aware of the psychological and cultural reasons as to why as soon as you feel ugly. If you look in the mirror and think “Eww, I am ugly” you are likely not thinking “How unfortunate is it that due to human biology we are hardwired to find symmetrical faces appealing, and mine is slightly lopsided. I am ugly!” If you perceive yourself to be a funny person, you do not necessarily need proof. Of course some people may disagree with you, just as many people disagree with the logic behind an otherkin identity, but you may still think of yourself as funny nonetheless…just as otherkin will proceed to be otherkin despite people disagreeing with the logic behind it.

 

Overall, when it comes to otherkinity, keep your knee-jerk reactions private. Otherkin know they are not literally  not human. In the definition of otherkin itself (“Identifying as nonhuman being on a metaphysical, integral level for reasons other than delusion”) it clarifies this. In fact, many otherkin reject the idea that otherkin identify as nonhuman, but that they have a nonhuman identity within their human one. They do not reject humanity. In any case, there is no need for a “otherkin rights” movement, there are no petitions to add a different species to legal documents, there are no species pronouns anyone is asking you to learn, they are not asking to get away with socially unacceptable behaviors, they are not even asking you to acknowledge otherkinity, and there is no otherkin pride parade. There is nothing, because it is unimportant, insignificant, and irrelevant to you. Acting like it is a big deal is what makes it a big deal.

 

Being otherkin essentially does not matter. Your gender does.

 

A related musing can be read here.