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Social Issues

stuff I’ve been into: winter edition

First up: my new blog feature of making blog recommendations. I’ve fallen a bit out of touch with the blogging community, and this is my solution to that, as well as starting to help build connections. We’re going to need that more than ever in the days to come.

Everyone, meet Bailey. She writes at her blog Ezer, which y’all know is a nod to ezer kenegdo and the big complementarian vs. egalitarian debate about “helper.” She reminds me a lot of me when I was first starting out. Obviously we disagree on some things, but her writing and thought process makes me want to engage with her– when I usually just want to rant at people about how ill-informed they are. It was a welcome experience.

I’m also very excited to introduce Zaynab, who runs the Queer Muslims blog on tumblr. Her twitter and the tumblr she runs are good resources, in my opinion, and I’m so happy to have discovered them.

Feminism

I responded to Kate Shellnut’s “Women’s March Sets Out to Exclude 40 Percent of American Women” by tackling the misunderstandings driving the whole conversation and talking about the limits of “big tent” feminism. There was one part of Kate’s article that bothered me, but I didn’t have the time to really dig into since it needed an article of its own. Thankfully, Ruthie Johnson wrote on it: “Stop Appropriating Intersectionality.”

A colleague of mine wrote this, and I absolutely adore it because it made me Think New Thoughts. I present “Discourse in the Garden of Eden” by Amethyst Marie.

Abortion is a Social Good” by Veronica Flores is not as well-argued as I would like (in the sense that her intended audience is already convinced abortion should be legal and accessible), but it’s a less abrasive presentation of this argument than many that I’ve come across.

Judith the Activist” by Alicia Jo Rabins is a good introduction to this apocryphal character that we should all be better acquainted with. I’m a big fan of women weaponizing femininity because I have a dark sense of humor, so Judith and Jael have a special place in my heart.

I’ve known for a while that Monopoly was stolen from a woman inventor, but I had no idea how awesome her story really was. “Monopoly’s Radical, Anticapitalist, Feminist Origins” was a great read.

In the “things everyone needs to be aware of category,” we have “‘I Have to Text my Rapist’: Victims Forced to Parent with Attackers” by Thom Patterson. And yes, this even applies to fathers who were convicted of assaulting their child’s mother.

Racism

Sometimes There are More Important Goals than Civility” by Vann Newkirk II is, in my opinion, incredibly well written and well argued. It does everything I want good argumentation to do– acknowledge the strengths of your opposition, the nuances in the argument, and then shred them all to bits. Respectfully.

If you haven’t read “White Evangelicalism is White Nationalism” by Fred Clarke, read it now and then bookmark it as a resource. I’m sure there will be a lot of conversations over the next four years where it will be relevant.

Misc.

Not everyone is a literary nerd like me, so “In Defense of Facts” may not be the writing you’re looking for, but honestly William Deresiewicz is commenting on a broader trend than just John D’Agata’s A New History of the Essay. I don’t know how I ended up on the side defending Facts and Truth, but somewhat hilariously I am and I’m also arguing that everyone else should care about them, too. How I changed places with fundamentalists on this, I’m not sure I’ll ever know.

Books and TV

Facebook had been pushing The Magicians trailers on me for a few weeks, so I decided to watch the first season on Netflix before the second season aired. I did not regret it. Like most new shows it takes a bit for the writers/directors/actors to gel, but once they it got interesting. It’s being advertised as “Narnia meets Game of Thrones” which confused me at first until I figured out that “_____ meets Game of Thrones” doesn’t mean “______ meets epic scale or political intrigue”– it means “______ meets We Kill So Many People. So. Many.” Mostly it’s just very … whimsical yet dark. Like things are cute and light-hearted and a little bit quirky and then someone kills a puppy or a fluffy bunny rabbit and oh my heart. So– I warned you. It’s good, but may not be for everyone.

Also: massive trigger warning for the season finale, where there’s a rape scene. I trust the writers and directors and show runners not to ruin it for me and I think they’ll handle the storyline well, but it was really triggering … largely because of how well it was shot, interestingly enough. I’m not usually triggered by rape scenes because they’re usually … well, the “masked man in a bush, she fights and screams and kicks and also we’re going to make it seem a little bit sexy” variety. The one in The Magicians is much closer to my actual experience and what I think rape is actually like for many of the people who experience it. They don’t sexualize it, and it’s compassionately filmed … all of which made it difficult for me to handle. I think it does get one thing amazingly right: the character who is raped doesn’t fight, and doesn’t really articulate a verbal “no” in any way that I can remember … and it is still absolutely clear that her character is most definitely not consenting. For that one thing alone I can appreciate what the show did by including a rape scene. It’s clearly, unambiguously rape, but they did it without signaling that to the viewer in a way that reinforced rape culture.

I read Ender’s Game as a young teen, and that book shaped a lot of my experiences over the next eight years. I’ve read it somewhere around a dozen times– I’ve bought multiple copies of the book because I’ve worn a few out. So when Earth Unaware, a prequel set during the First Formic War, came out I was so excited. I read the first prequel trilogy over Christmas and then went to the bookstore to buy The Swarm the second I finished Earth Awakens. It introduces a new character, a Buddhist chemist, who is amazing. Most of the characters are amazing– Orson Scott Card and Aaron Johnston are doing a fabulous job.

I also really enjoyed The Invisible Library trilogy by Genevieve Cogman. It was delightful, and I’ve blown through each of the books. Each one has a different flavor– the first is solidly steampunk although I wouldn’t necessarily categorize the next two in the same way. It subverts a lot of tropes and it has a “magic” system that my writerly heart deeply appreciates. One complaint: Genevieve does the thing where her main character thinks of herself as “plain” but like three dudes and some ladies interact with her like they think she’s gorgeous, so blah. But otherwise I liked them.

I read Susan Dennard’s Truthwitch a while back, and I’m liking the sequel Windwitch just as much– sometimes second books aren’t as successful as first books, but I think this one is standing up to the promise of Truthwitch. I enjoyed Susan’s explanation of her writing process, too– “Writing Out of Order.”

Larkin and Erik K both recommended that I read Michella Sagara– and while the library never got her book in for me, the first book in Chronicles of Elantra was 99 cents recently so I downloaded it. Cast in Shadow was entertaining– I don’t usually read fantasy series that are intended to be a “monster of the week”-style story, but I’m enjoying the second book so far. Although, question for you two: where does Michelle go with the flower on Kaylin’s cheek (cough cough)?

I also convinced my dad to buy Terry Pratchett’s A Hat Full of Sky for my mother for Christmas … and then I read it. Because obviously the way I’m dealing with everything that’s happened since November is reading every book I can lay my hand on. A Hat Full of Sky was what you’d expect from Terry Pratchett: solid gold, and an amazing ending that manages to communicate Deep and Abiding Truthfulness without gettting preachy.

***

So what all have you been reading and watching?

Photo by Laszlo Ilyes
Social Issues

re-writing bad advice #1

Among my favorite things in the world are advice columns. I read Dear Abby every week growing up, and as an adult I discovered advice columns like Captain Awkward and Dear Prudence— which is written by Mallory Ortberg, one of the founders of The Toast  and who is definitely one of the funniest women on the internet. Captain Awkward has been life-changing for me and many of my friends, and I can’t recommend her enough.

Not all advice columns are created equal, and some are really, really bad. One of the worst offenders, in my opinion, is the advice column at Boundless. If you’ve never heard of Boundless before, it’s a branch of Focus on the Family and is designed for twenty-something singles, “with the goal of helping young adults grow up, own their faith, date with purpose and prepare for marriage and family.” I heard of it when I was at Liberty, where it was really popular because it pitched itself (oh-so-slightly) against the I Kissed Dating Goodbye narrative. One post in particular that went viral is “Learning from Ruth” which encouraged women to make romantic overtures toward men.

I read Boundless regularly for several years until I couldn’t take their advice column anymore because it infuriated me so often. A long time ago I kicked around the idea of taking the letters written in to the Boundless team and answering them with better advice, and I’ve decided to actually go ahead a do it. With almost 600 letters to choose from, there’s tons of fodder and it should be light-hearted and easy enough to continue when I’m slogging through mid-terms in seminary.

***

I’m a 28-year-old guy with stable income. I feel mentally and emotionally ready for marriage. I’ve been praying about it for sometime. I met a wonderful Christian lady during my college years. After we both graduated, we stayed in touch. She has all the characteristics of a godly woman, and I am sure she will be a great wife. The only problem is that I am not attracted to her.

I know that she is somewhat attracted to me, and even her family seems interested in me.

Should I pursue her, hoping that I will become attracted to her, or should I keep my distance?

If you read the original response, Candice Watters tell him that being a man means “leading his feelings,” but that he’ll need God’s strength to do so. She goes on to tell him to spend time with her “with all purity and honor” and that he might be surprised if (heavily implied when) he becomes attracted to her.

Dear Stable Income,

Before I answer your main question, I want to address a possible assumption here that might affect other choices you make about dating relationships down the road. You said “she has all the characteristics of a godly woman, and I am sure she will be a great wife,” and your phrasing here implies that the first guarantees the second, when that is not how relationships– especially marriage relationships– work. Godly characteristics can be all well and good, but they must be placed in context; depending on the context, those “godly characteristics” may be fine for one relationship and disastrous for another. Take for example the virtue of patience. To one person, how they demonstrate their patience may be comforting and helpful– to another person, it could feel constrictive and overly passive. People are complicated, and it all depends.

Figuring out who you want to date and eventually marry isn’t about finding someone who lines up with your Godly Woman Checklist. Two women could appear to have the same exact list of “qualifications” you’re looking for and one could be a good match and the other your Date from Hell. It is important to find someone who shares your values, but equally as important is that you’ll be sharing your entire life with a partner. Your personalities should mesh well, you probably shouldn’t have wildly conflicting ideas of how you want to spend your average day, and you should respect their ideas, arguments, point of view, opinions … even if you don’t always agree. That and so much more goes in to figuring out who you’d like to eventually be with.

In short, don’t obsess too much about whether or not she meets your definition of A Godly Woman and instead figure out if you even like her and want to spend time with her, for starters.

Now, moving on to your main question. Chances are since you’re asking this question you know a) what attraction is and b) that you’ve experienced it. While it is possible to develop an attraction over time, I’m guessing you’ve known her for at least six years at this point (if you graduated around the average time) … if after six years you’ve never been attracted to her, you’re probably not going to be attracted to her. Not every person wants or needs to be sexually attracted to their life partner– see asexual people who have platonic partners– but since you’re writing the question I’m assuming you’re not one of those people.

Sexual attraction isn’t the end-all-be-all of marriage (neither is sex), but it is a component that shouldn’t be neglected for those of us who feel it. It’s totally normal to feel different kinds of attraction for different people, but it would be unusual for attraction to develop after you’ve known someone this long. Not impossible, though– so if you want to hang out with her and see, there isn’t anything stopping you.

Which leads me to my final piece of advice: if you date someone and it doesn’t work out, that’s ok. The world will not end, and you will not have given (or taken) a piece of heart you can’t get back. That’s not how it works. If you do decide you want to see if something could happen between you and your college friend, just make it clear to her that’s all your interested in for the time being, and that neither of you should feel obligated to force anything if there just isn’t a spark. There’s no need to tell her “I want to see if I can be attracted to you,” but do be honest that you’re not hearing wedding bells and that this is just to see how it goes. If she’s not interested in that, well, there’s your answer.

Kindly,

Samantha Field

Photo by Steven Depolo
Social Issues

stepping into the future

I spent the bulk of my early twenties thinking I was going to be a freelance editor, largely because I was a freelance editor. It’s something I’d been doing for a decade by my mid-twenties, and that’s just where I thought my future was going. I got a Master’s degree in English, I went to the Denver Publishing Institute– everything was nice and orderly and mapped out. And then I started blogging, and that managed to blossom into the early stages of a writing career. At first I struggled to keep up with everything that was happening when I started this little adventure with all of you; I’d spent so much time and attention plotting out a different future that when it suddenly changed on me I found myself coasting a bit.

It surprised me when I fell in love with it, found it incredibly fulfilling, and was so thrilled and energized by all the possibilities I hadn’t allowed myself to even imagine when I was thinking I was going to be an editor. I don’t know why I’d assumed I’d fail as a writer without even trying, but I did … until you proved me wrong. Your support showed me I could do this.

So, for the first time, I’m trying to be truly intentional about this whole “I’m a writer” business. Nothing around here should change much, since it’s just going to be me frantically working in the background. Seminary is proving extraordinarily fruitful ground for post ideas– my notebooks are crammed full of dashed-out notes with BLOG written next to them. I think I’ve decided on my thesis topic, which will form the foundational research I’ll need to write the books I want to write. I’m also going to seriously dedicate myself to finding freelance writing opportunities (so if you know of a site like SheLoves, The Mudroom, The Flawless Project, etc, that would be interested in writing like mine, let me know about it).

One of the things I’ve decided to introduce is a monthly community feature. Elizabeth Esther used to do this, but she’s decided to take a step away from writing for a while, so I want to continue what she started. I want to get blog recommendations from everyone– comments, twitter, facebook, private message, e-mail, however you want to get it to me– and every month I’ll choose a handful to feature in my “Stuff I’ve Been Into” post. I’d like them to be either a) less than 3-ish years old, b) have a smaller readership, and c) be written by women, POC, or LGBT+. They don’t have to be religious or have a religious focus, although religious feminist blogs written by people from non-Christian faith traditions would certainly perk my interest. Feel free to pitch your own, even!

I also want to purposely resurrect the Learning the Words guest post series. Check out what’s in the series so you can get a feel for what I’m hoping to see, and then send me your ideas!

There’s a lot of work ahead of us, but I’m ready to get started.

Social Issues

stomping on eggshells: on white fragility and speaking up

It’s been two weeks since the election, and I’ve been struggling to find something to say. Somehow life has to keep moving, we have to keep going … but it’s difficult to come here and continue reviewing Redeeming Love when it feels like the entire world is going up in flames. On the other hand I don’t want to continue re-iterating what you’re likely seeing through the rest of your social media/blogging channels, and as important as it is for us to be aware of the steps Trump is taking, I don’t want to merely add to the noise.

I went to a march and protest in DC the Saturday after the election. We started at a candlelight vigil, singing 70s-era protest songs and “Hallelujah,” and it was amazing to be with thousands of people who were grieving as much as I was. Then, thousands more of us marched to the Trump hotel– the one he’s asking foreign dignitaries and diplomats to stay in when they come to Washington– and shouted “Islamaphobia is not America” and “My Body My Choice” and “Black Lives Matter.” That whole experience was cathartic, and I plan on taking more actions in the future as they are necessary. I also attended the local county meeting of the Democratic party last night, and I’m going to become involved with organizing on that level. I can’t sit on my hands and watch the world burn. I encourage all of you to take whatever action you can, whatever it is.

Which brings me to the topic of today, which is part criticism, part education, and part encouragement for my fellow social justice advocates and progressives. In speaking with people over the past two weeks about ways to get involved and stand up for vulnerable people– especially Muslims and people of color– I’ve been seeing a common theme. It’s certainly not new, and it’s something I’ve struggled with until relatively recently. People with privilege– white, straight, male, Christian, etc– frequently want to do what’s right, but they feel like they’re “walking on eggshells.” They want to be an ally, but they don’t want to say or do the wrong thing. Many of us feel anxiety or nervousness about racial issues in particular.

I would like to gently and lovingly and directly say that this feeling of “walking on eggshells” is based in a lie, and one we believe because our privilege has made us incredibly arrogant. I don’t say this to be mean or harsh, but because I believe it’s the truth, and one I had to learn for myself sometimes painfully.

To be bluntly honest, I started this blog because I was bored. I’m fortunate now to have a job that only asks me to work twice a week, but three years ago I didn’t have that. I was stuck at home, working on periodic freelance editing contracts and watching TV the rest of the time. After a few months I started writing a blog … and now I’m here. I’m an activist, a professional writer, I’ve been interviewed for multiple BBC radio shows, for the Washington Post and Marie Claire, gave a talk at the Gay Christian Network, and now I’m being published at major feminist websites and helping to organize state politics.

I didn’t intend to become a feminist activist. I almost literally stumbled into it on accident because I started talking about my personal experiences with fundamentalism and conservative evangelicalism… and now I’m considered an expert in my field. It’s weird, and mind-boggling. Coming to this the way I did meant that there were more than a few rough patches. I had no choice but to learn as I went, and it was not always sunshine and rainbows.

For a long time I was so incredibly nervous about messing it all up. When you’re first thrown into social justice, it can be incredibly overwhelming. It’s so hard to catch up and learn all the ropes. Is it trans or trans*? African-American or black? What is a polite way to engage with a hypervisible black woman on twitter? How do I find resources? How can I figure out who’s credible and who isn’t? It’s a lot.

Getting started did make me feel like I was walking around on eggshells. When there is that much to try to absorb all at once, how do you even begin without being afraid you’re going to make a mistake?

Here’s where the lie and the arrogance come in: we think it’s possible to avoid making mistakes.

I believed for a long time that I could do enough research and get enough education and listen hard enough to the right people for long enough and that would mean I was ready to be a “social justice warrior” and work for all the causes I believed in. If I worked hard enough at it, I could say everything I wanted to say without any blunders or missteps. I wanted to be a good ally. I wanted to be a part of Jesus’ mission to liberate the oppressed and set the captive free, and I certainly didn’t want to hurt anyone while doing it.

I was so incredibly arrogant to think that was even remotely possible. I was blind to just how much my whiteness could affect me– that my whiteness would affect me. And not only did I believe the arrogant lie that a white person could avoid making any mistakes when talking about racial justice, I was also prioritizing my own fear over doing what was right. I was terrified of being “called out” if I did or said something wrong … so, sometimes, I didn’t do anything. Instead of speaking up, I’d let my anxiety about screwing up keep me silent.

That was my white privilege in action… or inaction, really.

We can’t let our pride get in the way of taking steps, of using our voice and our privilege on the behalf of the oppressed. We have to be humble enough to know that we will fuck up. It is inevitable. We will say something racist. We will say something homophobic, or transphobic, or biphobic, or sexist. We have to be willing to speak up anyway, but we have to do so while practicing humility and listening. It would be just as wrong to let our fervor carry us away from the marginalized we’re supposed to be fighting for, which has happened time and time again in progressive circles. We can’t shield ourselves from criticism– either through saying nothing, or refusing to see when we said something wrong.

I think what this all comes down to is that I’m asking us to be bold. To set aside our white fragility and get to necessary work of fighting for justice and equality for everyone– even when we’re uncomfortable, even when we make mistakes.

Photo by Jorge Andrade
Social Issues

the day after tomorrow

I spent last night deliberately avoiding the election results because I knew I wouldn’t be able to handle it. Instead I spent the evening watching Suffragette and season six of The Good Wife. Both Handsome and I had a terrible sense of foreboding watching the story of women fighting and dying for the right to vote. I had high hopes that watching Suffragette would be prophetic, a good omen on the eve of electing our first woman President, that my hope could stave off the fear and dread I felt.

My hopes and dreams did not come true last night. I woke to a dark and terrible world, one filled with uncertainty. There’s no way to tell what the next four years could bring, and I am afraid.

I am afraid for myself. The county I live in is deeply conservative, racist, segregated, misogynistic, and homophobic. It’s almost as bad the town I grew up in– and that town elected the local Ku Klux Klan’s Grand Giant as mayor until the 90s. I’m afraid that I could be attacked for who I am. I’m afraid that the people who hate me will be emboldened, that someone will attempt the unthinkable if I and my queer friends go to an LGBT bar this weekend.

I am concerned about my future health. Right now the main treatment for my endometriosis and polycystic ovary syndrome is covered by my insurance, but that’s only true because of the Affordable Care Act, which seems likely to disappear next year. What happens then? I don’t know, and I’m afraid.

But mostly I’m not afraid for myself. If Trump keeps his promises– and there’s no way to tell if he will– I’m afraid for the thousands upon thousands of people whose lives could be destroyed because of his policies and the actions of his followers. I have latinx friends– will their families be ripped apart in a mass deportation? I have Syrian friends who still have family there– will they ever see them again? Native Americans are already facing militaristically-equipped police in Standing Rock– are we going to see another Wounded Knee in the coming months? All my disabled friends who depend on the ACA– are they going to die because they can’t afford to pay for their healthcare? Will we actually withdraw from NATO and send the world into chaos? Will our President continue to use an antagonistic nation’s cyberattacks on his political opponents? How many women will die if Roe v. Wade is overturned? Will all the women with my common medical condition end up in prison because we miscarried and even “spontaneous abortions” (the medical term for miscarriage) become suspect? Is the freedom of the press, the freedom to peaceably assemble, under threat of evaporating?

Outside of policy– foreign and domestic–  I’m afraid burning crosses are going to become commonplace again. I’m afraid that the constant barrage of assault and harassment women already face on a daily basis will worsen. I’m afraid that attacks on my LGBT family are going to rise. I’m desperately afraid for my Muslim friends and for their families. I’m afraid for my latinx friends and how the suspicion and mistrust they already encounter could escalate into something far more terrifying.

I’m afraid, and I’m hurting.

***

But.

But.

We have faced all these things before, and we fought.

We have been tortured, and we spat in their faces.

We have been murdered, and we used our grief to drive our fury.

We have been denied the right to vote, and we endured beatings to get it.

We have died of ravaging diseases while a bigoted nation ignored us, and we searched until we were well again.

We’ve been here before. None of this is new to any of us. People of color are brutalized and slaughtered every day, while a black President watched and was helpless to stop it. The Supreme Court said I could marry whoever I wanted, but that didn’t affect the one-hundred-plus rights LGBT people still don’t have that straight people do. Roe v. Wade is still law, but that hasn’t stopped TRAP laws from encroaching on my autonomy or “religious freedom” letting women suffer or die in Catholic hospitals.

We had a long road ahead of us already. It just got longer and rougher.

Today and tomorrow we grieve. We let ourselves experience the full breadth of the horror we’re facing. An excruciating light is burning in our eyes and souls, illuminating the putrescence buried in the core of our nation and our people. The pain can take our breath away today; we have to deal with the reality of the gauntlet that hatred threw down at our feet last night. Today we hold ourselves and each other. We’ll find each other in the aftermath, we’ll search the battlefield for survivors. When we can’t walk anymore, we’ll find someone to carry us home.

And then we’ll fight, like we always have and always will.

Photo by Tim Sackton
Social Issues

experiencing hate as a queer woman

For almost a year I’ve been dealing with the aftermath of finding out that people I know hate me. I had to look in their eyes and see nothing but rage and disgust at my very existence. It’s been difficult in a way that few things have been, in a way I wasn’t able to articulate until recently.

***

I hate someone, too. The man who raped me. The fact that he exists, that he is out there, somewhere, carefree and happy and free while I’m burdened with everything he did to me… it fills me with fury. I am disgusted by him, by what I know he’s capable of doing. The fact that he can still suck air into his lungs and be filled with life makes me want to retch because I can barely stand the thought that I am utterly helpless to stop him from hurting other people.

I’ve done the one thing I can– I reported him to the police. Hopefully when he hurts another girl, another woman, if she decides to go to the police there will be a report there saying you’re not alone, he’s done this before, he deserves to go to prison, and we can send him there.

I hate him. The world would be a better place if he weren’t in it.

***

It was hard looking into someone else’s face and seeing that feeling there, directed at me. To see hatred for everything I am as a person, everything I represent, flickering at me in their eyes. Wishing for my disappearance, my non-existence. Not that they want me dead exactly– just to have never existed in the first place.

It’s a different sort of hard than the banality of hatred I encounter almost daily. Lots of people think I’m uppity, or selfish, or a liar, or stupid, or fat, or unattractive– and have told me so, as loudly as they can manage through a keyboard. There are people out there who love to pick me apart or whip up angry, pitchfork-toting mobs. While occasionally frightening, and certainly disruptive, mostly it’s simply a matter of time before I can set it aside and not let if affect me. I don’t have to pick up any of their labels and carry them around with me. If someone calls me stupid, the only reaction that calls for is laughter. If they call me a liar, well– I know I’m telling the truth, and that’s all that really matters.

But when someone you know reacts to your presence in the room with loathing it’s not possible to just set it aside. It’s not some ridiculous accusation hurled in your direction over the internet for you to ignore and delete.

If you’re a good, decent person, and someone looks at you like that, your automatic question is going to be what did I do? People typically have very good reasons for their hatred and disgust. I hate a rapist because of what he did to me, and what I’m afraid he’ll do to others. So, of course, the natural impulse will be to try to figure out what you could have possibly done to provoke that reaction.

When the answer is “you exist,” it’s devastating.

If you’re a good person, you want to try to fix whatever you’ve done, or change it. You want to undo whatever’s happened and earn their forgiveness– because irrational and bigoted loathing simply doesn’t make any emotional sense. You can objectively know that bigotry exists in the world and there’s not a whole lot you can do about it, individually, but then you encounter it in someone you care about and what you objectively know doesn’t matter as much as trying to do everything you can to make them stop hating you so much.

Queer people encounter this in our friends, our family, our churches, our communities. We can feel all the revulsion directed at us, and our reaction is so human. We want to fix it– and it’s not like we haven’t been told how. Lie to yourself, lie to us. Let us electrocute you. Take this mountain of shame and self-loathing and carry it on your back wherever you go. Never love anyone the way Christ loves the church or Jonathon loved David or Ruth loved Naomi. Deny every chance at romantic happiness. Never have a family.

Do it all alone, because we certainly won’t help you.

Many of us have tried. Many of us have died trying. I certainly tried for most of my life– and was somewhat good at it, too. Until the moment I realized that being queer makes me incandescently, buoyantly, happy. Until I met someone that didn’t force me to lie to him in order for us to be together– who finds as much joy in my queerness as I do. Until I discovered acceptance among my queer family in a way I’d never felt before. Until I discovered that I can feel pride in who I am and what I bring to the world as a queer person.

I had the chance to let my burden fall off my back and tumble away, and I will never go chasing it down. Not even if all the dishonesty and deceit and duplicity in the world could wipe away the disgust I see in their eyes. It’s just not worth it, however much their hatred hurts. I’m not going to stop existing to make anyone else more comfortable. I will not light myself on fire to keep you warm.

Love isn’t the thing that needs to change. Hate is.

Photo by Alex Holyoake
Social Issues

keeping y’all in the loop

So I knew coming into this that seminary was going to throw a monkey wrench into the blogging works, and I was right. Because of that, I wanted to let y’all know that in the absence of blogging I’m still feeling the impetus to get my thoughts out there into the ether, and the best way for me to do that is what fancy internet folk are calling microblogging: ie: posting mini-posts to Facebook and Twitter.

I’ve posted a few thoughts on Facebook– one that’s my ruminations on being inspired by Witches, and another that digs into why I’m so repulsed by “Hillary the Enabler” arguments that have been stirred up in the wake of TapeGate. I also have a few threads over on Twitter– like this one about the “vote for Hillary because she’s the one who will REALLY do something about the abortion rate!” arguments that have popped up recently, or this one that explains why Trump attacking Hillary for her husband’s infidelity makes perfect sense to conservative evangelicals.

This week I’ve been working on an article for Rewire which hopefully I’ll be able to share with you soon, and then next week I’ll be on United’s campus for classes. I have a long list of post ideas just waiting for me to tackle them, which I think I’ll be able to get to next month because my life will have hopefully settled down by then. Mostly I just want this whole damn election to be over … which for Trump supporters is November 28. Clinton supporters and everyone who just wants to vote in local and state elections, we vote November 8.

Photo by Jeremy Keith
Social Issues

stuff I’ve been into: September edition

Mostly this month I’ve been into Halloween. I cannot even express how unbelievably excited about Halloween I am this year. For the past half-dozen years I’ve daydreamed about throwing a wildly extravagant All Hallow Eve’s costume party, and this is the first year I’ve been in my own house and have the space to entertain, so I’m finally doing it. It’s all I’ve really been able to talk about much, other than seminary and the big projects I’ve been doing at work. I’ve even been crafting, which long-term friends and family will tell you is not something I usually do.

Anyway, if you’d like to share in my Halloween joy, here’s my Pinterest board. I’ve decided to go with a white-black-and-gold color scheme, and a “Fairy Queen’s Study” theme. I start beaming every time I think about it. My favorite thing so far: we had about 50 hardbound Left Behind books at work left over from the end of the craze, and I’m turning them all into sorcery and witchcraft “books.” I think this is the best possible use for them. I’m positively gleeful at the image of Tim LaHaye turning green at the thought of what I’m doing to his books.

Articles on Feminism

I’ve spent a significant amount of time talking about the fact that there isn’t some sort of clearly delineated line between “rape as a horrible crime” and “wonderful sex.” Women, because of a variety of factors, experience this as a spectrum. “The Problem with how Men Perceive Rape,” by Lux Alptraum, is an excellent breakdown of all that.

When Detectives Dismiss Rape Reports before Investigating Them” by Alex Campbell and Katie Baker is a well-reported resource for talking about that whole “rape victims are lying, look at all these ‘unfounded’ reports” conversation MRAs love to have.

Remember that Atlantic article a while back about how women “can’t have it all”? Turns out the author’s come around a bit.

The Hidden Conservatism of American Horror Storyby Laura Bogart helped put into words the reaction I had to AHS when I tried to watch an episode– and why I continued thinking “nope” every time I saw a trailer for a new season.

Articles on Race

If you didn’t hear about the “hot chicken” debacle in Nashville a little bit ago, “Race, Credit, and Hot Chicken” by Betsy Phillips explains how covert and institutionalized racism contributed to that whole mess.

The White Protestant Roots of American Racism” by Alana Massey is a deep look into the centuries-old Christian justification for chattel slavery and also why American Christian culture is so caught up in seeing capitalism as an innately Christian concept– and also explores why those two things are linked.

Books

Not a lot of time for fiction reading this month. I’ve mostly just been trying to keep my head above water with a heavier work schedule and finding my footing with seminary. The best book I’ve read so far for seminary has been Jewish Bioethics: Rabbinic Law and Theology in Their Social and Historical Contexts by Yechiel Barilan. It was fascinating to see how Jewish I’ve become in my thinking about faith, the Tanakh (Old Testament), and Jesus. This isn’t exactly shocking news– I’ve been prioritizing Jewish perspectives on the Old Testament in my research for a few years now, and I read The Jewish Annotated New Testament when I’m studying something there. I’ve also got Amy-Jill Levine’s Short Stories by Jesus as a go-to resource, too. It’s not a revelation of any kind to say “Jesus was Jewish,” but I think we’ve lost that almost completely in a lot of ways. Anyway, if you’ve got the time to read a seminary-level text, Jewish Bioethics is an amazing book.

I did finish the Night Angel trilogy. It’s solidly good, although it becomes apparent by the last book that Brent Weeks, the author, is a Christian– characters start quoting the Bible, and the climax of the whole series embodies a crucifixion-style Atonement (although, bonus: the Christ Figure is a woman). I didn’t mind the Christian themes since they didn’t damage the writing or the narrative, but I will say I was plumb annoyed toward the end when purity culture reared its ugly head for no gosh darn reason. There’s also some heavy handed “men are ___” and “women are ____,” but the trilogy was enjoyable enough and the women characters well-rounded enough to let me shrug it off.

Whoever told me to check out Michelle Sagara, I have one of her books coming for me at the library, and I’ll let you know what I think.

TV and Movies

Still enjoying The Good Wife, although season five is hella tense. In order to break up some of that tension, I introduced Handsome to Don’t Trust the B**** in Apartment 23, which has actual-goddess Krysten Ritter. Also, Luke Cage released today, and that’s what we’re binge-watching this weekend. The creator, Cheo Hodari Coker, saying “the world is ready for a bulletproof black man” makes me want to cry. I can’t wait to see it.

Seeking a Friend for the End of the World was lovely and melancholy and sweet and funny, and I highly recommend it. I’ve also been raving about Ex Machina– the ending oh my god the ending. Sweet mother of God. I also enjoyed The Martian a lot more than I thought I was going to– I absolutely loathed Cast Away and I thought The Martian was basically going to be “Cast Away in Space.” It’s not. It’s hilarious. I cannot say enough good things about Spotlight and Concussion, either.

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So what all have you been reading and watching?

Photo by Matthew Howarth
Social Issues

stuff I’ve been into: August edition

So I’m heading out to seminary today, so no Redeeming Love review this week. Sorry that’s been inconsistent so far, but I’m hoping that after this I can be better about posting new segments on Mondays.

Articles on Feminism

In Defense of Villainesses” by Sarah Gailey is just positively brilliant. Also, if you’re a geek and not reading the Tor blog what are you even doing? I’ve read it a few times because I’ve loved it just that much. I read a review of Gone Girl a while ago that inspired similar feelings— her “we need women who breathe fire” still manages to induce chills.

This one also could go under “Politics,” but I think it fits better under “Feminism.” Written by Michelle Cottle, “The Era of ‘The Bitch’ is Coming” should help remind all of us that just like electing Obama didn’t end racism, if we elect Clinton it’s not going to be the end of sexism. In fact, if Obama’s presidency is anything to go by, misogyny is going to come out into the open in a way we haven’t seen in a while.

Articles on Theology

This will probably become a more dominant category now that I’m in seminary. My theology reading tends to come from books, not articles, but anything that I read that’s not behind a paywall I’ll try to share with y’all.

I read “God is not Great; God is Good” by Alexis Waggoner right after Handsome and I had an intense debate about that very topic during small group a few weeks ago. I’ll probably explore this concept more in seminary, but I’m definitely leaning toward a deistic/open theism view of God. As someone who spent her life suffering abuse, the idea that God takes an active hand in world events … bothers me.

So I talk a lot about how the Old Testament treats gender identity, and “Is God Transgender?” by Rabbi Mark Sameth is a good introduction to the concept, I think.

Someone I know is going to be participating in The Courage Conference, and I encourage all of you to look into it and push your pastors and church staffs into attending, even if all they can do is watch online.

I do my best, when I’m reading about racism, to focus on reading work by men and women of color. However, “How God as Trinity Dissolves Racism” by Richard Rohr was really good. If I can find an article on the same topic written by a person of color, I’ll share that one down the road.

Articles on Politics

The alt-right is more than warmed-over white supremacy. It’s that, but way weirder” by Dylan Matthews was … interesting. I tend to cringe away from calling a white nationalist movement something bland and mild like “alt-right,” and I wish Clinton hadn’t used it. I understand why she didn’t, but this bandying around the bush just gives them credibility, in my opinion. However, like Dylan notes, it is more than just white supremacy.

I love meta analyses. When you really want to whip out some hard-hitting science, nothing beats a meta analysis. If you’re not sure what that is, it’s basically “a study of studies.” It looks over all the available, credible research on a given topic and tries to come to a more-firm conclusion than any of the independent studies could have arrived at on their own. “Parents have been spanking children for millennia. 50 years of scientific evidence said they were wrong” is primarily an interview with Elizabeth Gershoff, who compiled 75 studies and a combined data set of 161,000 children to say– as conclusively as possible– that spanking fucks everything up. To which I and every other spanking survivor say: no shit.

Books

I’ve been doing more movie-and-TV watching than book-reading this month, so I’ll just give you an update. I’m still reading A History of God by Karen Armstrong which continues to be fascinating. I’m also working through Kameron Hurley’s Geek Feminist Revolution. This weekend I picked up Birth of the Pill: How Four Crusaders Reinvented Sex and Launched a Revolution, but I haven’t touched it at all yet. I also got Good Christian Sex to review next month, and will be interviewing the author, Bromleigh McCleneghan. I’m also going to be reading God’s Feminist Movement in the next few weeks for another review. None of that counts for seminary reading, though, so I’ll probably still be working on most of these for a little while.

For fiction reading I’m digging into Brent Weeks’ Night Angel trilogy and so far I’m enjoying it. Been a while since I’ve read a book written by a man about men, so we’ll see how it goes. If he includes more women characters than Karen Miller’s Kingmaker, Kingbreaker set, I might cry. So far we’ve got one minor character who’s a girl, and another two tangential characters that are women that I’m not sure we’ll see again … which is already beating out Karen’s complete and utter lack of women background characters. She almost made up for it in the last book with two lead women characters … almost.

I read Beautiful Creatures last week and it was … well, I really liked how well the author included elements of the Southern Gothic. I grew up in the kind of rural Southern community that makes up the cultural setting, and I think the authors did it well. There were a few moments that would have been better if they’d really embraced the creep but overall I enjoyed the feel of the book. The main character was a little shit, though, so I wasn’t interested in continuing the series.

Books that I’m looking forward to reading when I’m not inundated by seminary:

His Majesty’s Dragon by Naomi Novik looks like it’s going to be brilliant. I was explaining the concept to Handsome, and I discovered that I know a shocking amount about the Napoleonic-era naval conflicts for how much I’m not interested in that. I’m also really fascinated by Last Song Before Night because of this article about her approach to worldbuilding. After a months-long search aided by r/tipofmytongue and r/fantasy– as well Peter Ahlstrom– I finally found the title for a book I’d been desperately wanting to read but couldn’t’ remember: The Paper Magician. Pretty sure I’m never going to forget the title of that book.

TV and Movies

Still watching Alias, still enjoying it– although, at this point, I’m really just watching it for Jack and in the hopes that Michael goes deliciously dark and murders his traitor double-agent wife. I discovered that there are two premises for this show: 1) everyone in it, with the exception of Jack Bristow, is actually a really fucking bad spy, and 2) everyone marries a Russian spy.

Discovery of the month: The Good Wife. I got into it because it aired between Elementary and Madam Secretary and I didn’t feel like getting up off the couch, so I’ve actually seen the last few episodes of the final season. Handsome was out of town on business last week, so I decided to download the first season to check it out and I am loving it. I haven’t enjoyed a show as much as this one in a while. Possibly since the first time I saw The West Wing. There’s a main character who’s a bi woman, and there have been a few times where I’ve squeed and started bouncing on the couch because yay. Although, to be honest, the fact that when Alicia asks her if she’s gay and her response is that she’s “private” I was a little bit meh about.

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So what all have you been into?

Photo by Carmela Nava
Social Issues

Stuff I’ve Been Into: July Edition

This has been a week from hell in more than one way for me, since I’m coming off period week and it’s also been the horrific shitshow that is the Republican National Convention. Thankfully, I’m leaving for vacation tonight, so I wanted to leave you with reading material, although I might pop in with a post or two next week if the mood strikes me.

Articles on Politics

The Republican National Convention and the Criminalization of Politics” by Dylan Matthews is a must-read in my opinion. If you haven’t paid any attention to the goings-on in Cleveland, Christie said that we should imprison Hillary Clinton because of her policy positions, such as negotiating with Iran. Matthews does a good job of explaining why it’s an all-around horrifically bad idea to start advocating for things like political prisoners.

Speaking of dictatorships, “Donald Trump and the Authoritarian Temptation” by Shadi Hamid was one of the better articles I’ve read over the last year that attempts to understand why Trump’s bid for the American presidency has been so successful. Considering he’s praised Putin, Kim Jong Un, al-Assad, Gaddafi, and Saddam Hussein for being “tough,” “strong,” “incredible,” and “ruthless,” I think I have more than enough reason to be legitimately frightened of a Trump regime.

Donald Trump’s Ghostwriter Tells All” by Jane Meyer is probably the best profile on Trump I’ve read. It’s an interview with Tony Schwartz who “co-wrote” The Art of the Deal, and if you haven’t read it yet, it’s worth the time.

Who Are All These Trump Supporters?” by George Saunders was excellent, and I think another must-read because it does what all good journalism should: it humanizes the people we disagree with most.

Articles on Race

We’re No Angels” by Danielle Moss Lee is a heartbreaking piece about what it’s like growing up as both a girl and black, and makes it brutally clear that you can have a stellar performance record, get amazing grades, have no disciplinary problems, and still face racism from the authorities in your life. White people need it drilled into our racist heads that there is no standard a black woman could possible meet that could help her escape racism.

Stop Kidding Yourself: the Police were Created to Control Working Class and Poor People” is written by Sam Mitrani, an expert on the history of policing, especially in Chicago. It doesn’t dig into the race element in depth, but it does make it clear that “to serve and protect” is a convenient bit of myth-making.

I grew up believing that the “War Between the States” and the “War of Northern Aggression” was strictly a matter of “state’s rights.” So it knocked me on my arse when I found out that I was incredibly wrong about that. “Why do people believe myths about the Confederacy? Because our textbooks and monuments are wrong,” written by the author of Lies My Teacher Told Me (good book!) puts a lot of what I’ve learned in one place.

How a $2 Roadside Drug Test Sends Innocent People to Jail” by Ryan Gabrielson and Topher Sanders was mind blowing. I had no idea how this whole process worked, and this piece was more than just illuminating, it was infuriating.

I’ve had a difficult time trying to understand cultural appropriation. As a concept it’s not super cooperative with my tendency to want all information neatly sorted into black and white. It’s cultural, and is therefore complicated and messy and nuanced. “Why Defending Your Cultural Appropriation” by Ana Thomas was a brilliant explanation and very helpful for me.

Why I’m Skeptical of White Liberals in the Black Lives Matter Movement,” although written by a white woman, was incredibly thought-provoking. She asks a question that I think deserves incredibly serious thought and introspection, and it’s been following me around ever since I read it. She asks us to figure out how racism hurts us as white people— something that had never occurred to me before. I think she’s getting at something fundamentally true: white supremacy’s target is people of color, it benefits us as white people … but it also must therefore limit us in order to keep us in power.

Articles on Feminism

I love, love, love, love, love this metaphor for consent: the Consent Castle by Robot Hugs.

In the “solidly good things happening in the world” category, there’s a new program being funded by the NFL because they fucked up big time and are trying to balance some of their bad karma. It’s called Safe Bars, and it’s teaching bartenders how to identify sexual harassment and intervene before an assault happens.

‘Empowerment’ is Warping Women’s View of Real Power” by Ruth Whippman is one of those articles that borders on a style of feminism I fundamentally disagree with (the kind that still defines “power” and “success” in white supremacist, patriarchal, capitalist terms) while still making a valid point. She also critiques things like “lean in!” and, in her words: “Sexism, in this story, is not the fault of the patriarchy or systemic injustice, but rather a regrettably unavoidable consequence of the fact that women are a pathetic bunch of compulsive apologizers with vocal fry.”

On the other side of the feminist spectrum is “What works for men doesn’t work for everyone: why cities need to start planning with women in mind” by Caroline Criado-Perez. There are a host of things in this world that people would never think of as having gendered consequences– like public parks, parking garages, snow clearing methods, bathrooms, and lighting– but they do.

Language Matters: Why I Don’t Fear being Called ‘Pro-Abortion’“by Maureen Shaw appealed to my feminist, English-major heart. The first time I ever wrote about being pro-choice, I described myself as pro-abortion, even though I was aware of all the negative associations tied up in the term. I wanted to own my public position and be proud of it, even though most of my fellow Christians would probably prefer I be ashamed about this and keep it hidden. In the same vein is “It’s Time to Say ‘Abortion’ When We’re Talking About Abortion” by Genevieve Cato.

My friend Gabby wrote “Reproductive Freedom and Pride Go Hand-in-Hand,” and it’s something I wish more of us grasped. The few times I’ve brought up reproductive rights to my gay friends, they weren’t exactly dismissive but it was clear that they thought the plight of Planned Parenthood doesn’t affect them. Considering Indiana is now experiencing a rise in HIV because Mike Pence shut PP clinics down, this isn’t something the LGBT+ community can afford to ignore. Feminism and queer rights are intrinsically tied up together.

This one could go under both race and feminism, but either way it’s another must-read: “This is What I Mean When I say ‘White Feminism.’

Books

I’m almost finished with the Kingbreaker, Kingmaker series, and while I’ve read four of them so I must be enjoying them at least a little, my original complaint from three weeks ago stands. I had such high hopes for The Relectant Mage, since the back copy and cover art made it seem like the main character was going to be a woman. Well, I’m a third of the way into it, and most of it has been from male points of view. Two villains, and she introduced three more characters last chapter– all men. Again. Le sigh.

I picked up Dietland the other day, though, and while I’m not very far along into it, I’m pretty sure it’s going to be amazing. I don’t read fiction books that aren’t in the sci-fi/fantasy category that often, but it seems like this one might be a winner.

I also grabbed Karen Armstrong’s A History of God, which I’ve had my eye on for a while. As in, multiple years, so hopefully it’s good. I’ll keep you updated on what I think.

TV

We finished season two of The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt, and I think the season ends even better than it started. Kimmy starts therapy and decided to confront her mother, and it deals with all sorts of important things I think trauma survivors will recognize and understand.

Based on a recommendation from my sister-in-law we watched Grace and Frankie, which was one of those that we’ve been meaning to watch for a while but hadn’t gotten around to it, mostly because we’re both firmly convinced that there is no better television than The West Wing— and that’s coming from a Trekkie and a Firefly-fan. Anyway, Grace and Frankie was solidly good and enjoyable. It’s amazing watching Jane Fonda and Lily Tomlin together, especially since they’re playing women seven or eight years younger than they are.

We also started Alias, and it’s hilarious. I’m not sure why the Bones theme song is better since they both sound sort of exactly the same, but it is. Jennifer Gardner’s costumes are the crème de la crème of 90s fashion, and Bradley Cooper as “plucky reporter” is also awesome. My only observation so far is that most of Sydney’s troubles could be prevented if she got better at lockpicking. Just throwing that out there.

Anyway, enjoy the rest of July!