So, I’m still somewhat raw and upset about the latest push against trans kids so hey, my little used personal blog is gonna be all rebuttals to transphobic bullshit posing as concern for awhile.
So, basically the TERFs and the TERF-adjacents have found a new go-to to argue against accepting trans kids. And that go-to is that they aren’t against trans kids, no, they’re just against folks going through “potentially unnecessary medical treatments”:
Now everyone and their mother knows what this is about. It’s about tying the way cis people freak out at the very idea of surgeries or hormones and try and displace that fear on trans kids and act like it’s out of some genuine concern for children. Y’know, like how homophobes associate gayness with sex and then try and argue this automatic word association is a reason to be strongly against anyone talking about queer sexualities with children.
Again, these people are not exactly subtle in their antipathy for us.
So, there’s a few things fucked with this.
One, is that it continues to value the vague unease of cis people over the lives and well-being of trans folks*
*Not to keep beating up the dead horse of Jesse Singal, but he decided to follow-up his last trainwreck with a response to Julia Serrano who is… well, the exact person Jesse Singal should seek out, a biologist, academician, and trans woman who speaks eloquently on both trans research and trans experiences, albeit sometimes with frustrating framing. And he tries to tackle a thought experiment she had, which was to have an audience of cis people imagine that they were offered 10 million dollars for their gender, to live as the wrong gender the rest of their life and suffer through that dysphoria. And it’s pretty powerful because most cis people who actually think about it rather than dismissing it with a crude joke about how “easy” women have it or assuming that being thought of as a man all the time when you are not is somehow bearable, don’t take up the offer. Because they at some level understand that one’s gender is one’s gender. Naturally Jesse Singal repeats the thought experiment, comes to the same conclusion, but nonetheless dismisses the thought experiment and argues that some cis folks would still take that because gosh sexism is just so bad, ignoring the life experiences of trans women who’ve lived that and know that the sexism and transphobia and all the hatred is worth no longer being treated as if a boy over and over again. Cause in his mind the idea that one cis person could somehow be wooed over with the “10 million dollars” of dealing with slightly less sexism is too high of a price to universally get behind any form of actual care outside of “concern for” trans kids. And is worth endless articles wringing his hands because he has vague unease at the thought of someone transitioning (i.e. he has vague unease at the thought of himself transitioning and displaces that on women because he’s that type of male feminist) and somehow this must be based on something worthy of reason rather than just his implicit biases. But then, we already knew all that.
Second, is that it makes no goddamn sense, because we already treat children for things they might not actually have. Hell, we treat adults for things they might not actually have.
Like, the obvious example is mental health. I’ve got a lot of students with various mental health conditions. A lot of them had to go through a lot of processes, a lot of tests, and a lot of drugs that simply did not work for them or didn’t work right at that dosage to find the right blend to help them stabilize and better function as themselves.
Cause that’s part of finding out what works. And it’s a major part of medicine. If you go in to a doctor’s office with depression, they try you on various medications to find the one that works. When one doesn’t, that gets crossed off the list and you continue on. So, all this hand-wringing over this terrifying thought that some cis person could somehow stumble through the years of defeating various gatekeepers trans kids and trans people are expected to go through and the million chances to turn back if the treatment is not working is based on something that is just part and parcel of any form of medicine. You try something on the list for that condition or illness. And if that doesn’t work, you go back to the drawing board.
Not to mention that again, the medicines these fucks are freaking out about are some of the easiest to get off medicines possible. And require the most hoops to jump through to get them. Like, very very few clinics are actually cool enough to say “oh, you’re trans, yeah, let’s get you on some blockers, kid” right off the block. A lot of them require potentially years of stable identity and even then refuse because of this ingrained cis fear that they somehow could be trans-ified in the same way that homophobes are scared that standing next to a gay person could “convert” them to “that unhealthy lifestyle” in their estimation.
And blockers themselves are a compromise to hormones, delaying the decision until its been years of stable identity with no shifts and the kid is practically an adult already, albeit now with a stunted pubescence to “make sure they’re sure”. And are undoable by simply not taking them anymore and as far as medications go, they have very few side effects**.
**Transphobes have recently begun arguing that blockers are “shady” and despite all the research that their health risks are minimal, they insist that ha, there might be long-term damage for those who take them for a long time. Somehow ignorant of the realization that someone who takes puberty blockers for a long time is very unlikely to be cis.
But then, the whining about “medicine” is just to rope in the rubes. A way of demonizing blockers and hormones and making it seem nefarious and shady for a doctor to follow AMA and APA best practices and making recommended treatment protocols and how mental health medication simply works seem nefarious and off and find something anything to complain about that isn’t what really bothers all these fucks.
And that’s surgeries.
Like, push any transphobe about “trans kids” or even trans people and eventually they’ll start ranting about genitalia and saving those genitalia from “mutilation” like some annoying anti-circumcision activist crashing the Trans Pride. Even Singal fell into this trap trying to defend his vague unease about supporting trans people without hemming and hawing all the damn time about it when Noah Berlatsky wrote an article critiquing his article on desistence, by immediately seeking out ex-trans folks who regretted surgeries. Many transphobes in the religious right and in the TERF movements cite the same handful of folks, all ones who underwent surgeries and claimed that those surgeries ruined their life.
Cause like the automatic assumption that gay people equal anal or oral sex among homophobes, people automatically associate trans folks with genitals and genital surgeries.
Endless “comedians” making jokes about trans folks that mostly center around “chicks with dicks” because trans women scare the beejesus out of transphobic fuckheads. Endless sobbing pieces lamenting the tragic downfall of “intact” bodies due to the evils of trans surgeries.
That shit massively impacted my life when my family was in the process of disowning me for being trans and trying to force me into reparative therapy at the careful coaching of a TERF piece of shit. Both my uncle and father lamented over my penis and its future fate, because to them that’s all a trans person is.
Their genitals and “the surgery” which, let’s not kid ourselves, to cis people there is only ever one surgery and that is bottom-surgery. It’s fucking everywhere.
And it’s in the creepy way trans folks talk about trans kids, obsessing about their junks like a child molester eyeing up a victim to groom. SecretGamerGirl had a really good deconstruction of that shit here.
To them, that’s all we become. And our humanity is subsumed into that automatic trigger. And this happens to the point where writers writing about us from a position of bias can’t stop flicking their tongue against that wound as they write, freaking out about the poor penii and uterii of the world and lamenting the idea of a cis person ever going through the horror we regularly expect trans folks to go through.
It’s the reason for the careful framing of hiding behind “just being against unnecessary ‘medicine'”, because it makes their actions seem noble in the same way that homophobes reframe their attacks on gay people’s private lives as “standing up for religious freedom” for the same reason.
Because it’s not like just avoiding giving a kid antibiotics because hey, it might not be a bacterial infection. It’s like denying a kid any form of antidepressant because you don’t want to risk ever giving an undiagnosed bipolar kid experiencing depression an antidepressant that might not work. So all the kids need to suffer without ever even trying the drugs and starting that process.
And it ignores what the kids are asking for. The first medication in all this isn’t those much feared surgeries. It’s not even the hormones and blockers that purity-fetishizing assholes try and demonize as somehow super scary, because they deep down realize that obsessing about surgeries with kids who may never get them is kinda really creepy***.
*** One of the things that’s been fucking with transphobes for a bit now is that their chosen victims have been doing activism for awhile. Fighting against the type of rigid and transphobic/homophobic structures that used to govern our only access point to treating dysphoria. Creating community and community support that was actively discouraged before. And one of the consequences of that and the growing acceptance for trans folks is that a fairly large section of trans folks don’t really bother with surgeries. Or if they do, they opt for the less sensationalized surgeries like orchidectomies or hysterectomies rather than what is typically thought of when people think of bottom surgery. And this fucks with transphobes, because their whole pitch is based on the universality of surgeries and making those seem like a cabal of evil trannies is somehow forcing these surgeries on impressionable youth in the same way that homophobes obsess about older gay men forcing gayness on impressionable youth. So, transphobes have had to switch to these not very transparent methods of demonizing things like blockers and hormones because those just aren’t as scary to a cis frame of mind and actually make one more likely to sympathize with the pain and suffering trans kids go through unnecessarily****.
**** I know this piece has gotten super rambly and a giant hot mess. But I’ll summarize my main problem with this shit. It’s Christian Science. It’s someone knowing of a medical treatment to cure and existing problem and some asshole yelling, stop, no, don’t give this kid that treatment, they might not need it, they might only need Jesus. Just with Jesus replaced with some vague handwaving about potential cis-ness. And it’s because they are just in denial of medical reality as Christian Scientists in that they believe that all this trans stuff is a myth and thus all the “treatments” for it are unnecessary medicine getting in the way of “proper” development.
Hell, the first medication isn’t even names and pronouns.
It’s hair. It’s clothes.
This is where trans kids first fight with their parents. To have the right to look how they want, to reduce that dysphoria sartorially. It’s a bitter fight and it’s often hard won, at best.
Hell, even supportive parents balk at this first medication. Feeling pressure from society to try at least a little to enforce some semblance of gender-congruence.
The second medication is the names and pronouns. Fights to be recognized as who they are, allowed to explore pronouns and see what fits. Find what reduces that dysphoria.
Everything else comes way later. Even for folks who figure it out later in life. I know, I’ve mentored a lot of trans college spaces and I’ve seen a large number of folks who came out as trans in college. Every time, years over appearance. Years over name. Then maybe hormones. Surgery a potential speck on the horizon, frequently reduced in importance once folks see just how magical hormones can be in reducing a lot of dysphoria.
Trans folks think about this shit. A lot. They don’t just go waltzing into a pharmacy and ask for everything on the top shelf. They agonize over this shit, analyze it from every angle, and seek out trusted professionals or close friends.
No transition is chosen willy-nilly.
And that’s kind of the unspoken boogieman in all this. The idea that some cis person could “transition” as a lark and by that they almost always mean surgery. Which doesn’t happen.
Even the scant few ex-trans folks they can pull out who didn’t detransition because of social stress (the majority of names transphobes like to trot out to try and make “desistance” and “detransition” seem like huge issues affecting hundreds of folks are well… folks who had to fight for years to transition in the first place. Folks who spent years lying to doctors and ignoring their own dysphoria and probably still lying to themselves (like honestly, people have we learned literally NOTHING from the whole ex-gay malarky). Folks who weren’t at all pressured to do surgery or else, rather the opposite. Who’ve now conveniently fallen in with folks eager to use their confusion and pain to deny the rights of trans people everywhere.
Because no matter what we do to show how little we’re asking for, they’ll nonetheless try and couch their actions in concern.
Because this is a repeat of the same old shit we went through with gay rights and still go through with gay rights to this day. The same automatic assumptions, the same effect of “liberal” folks using their personal antipathy and feelings of unease to try and demonize or cast “reasonable doubts” on the rightness of letting kids explore gender or sexuality in spaces without prejudice. Even the same organizations forming to oppress us (let us not forget that their used to be a homophobic batch of second wave feminists just as strident as TERFs have been about trans folks).
And being a veteran of a lot of those gay rights battles, I’m tired of all of it.
I’m tired of my kids being hemmed and hawed over, because some assholes can’t stop thinking of junk when they think trans folks. I’m tired of watching kids go without care and respect and recognition and HUMANITY because of all the cis people hemming and hawing and floating bad faith arguments. I’m tired of watching all my trans friends get to the edge of suicide because of endless harassment from the sort of fucks who think we never thought deeply and agonized over our genders.
I’m tired of this bad faith bullshit and bigots hiding behind “science” and “the kids” and “the bible” to justify their tired reflexive negative feelings.
I’m tired of people prioritizing unease built out of ignorance, out of a failure to incorporate us into their personal lives and get to know us and let that fear wash out, over our rights and our access to the very few avenues of legal medicine and care we are allowed as transgender citizens.
I’m tired of the knowledge that we’ll repeat every phase of fighting for gay rights with trans people and hell, will probably do the same damn thing for poly people and ace people and non-binary people and so on and so on. Over and over and over again.
And I’m most of all tired of begging for my humanity from folks who think it perfectly okay to take dominance over it and make it a public issue worthy of debate. Who find the pain I went through, the confusion being a young trans girl growing up with no clue what was happening to her, just that it was all so very wrong, so very fascinating but not nearly as compelling as the way they just sort of feel wary when they think about the health care we use to undo that.
I’m tired of having this fight with fuckers who are the equivalent of some ignorant fuck wandering into a cancer ward going “gosh, what’s the deal with all this radiation, that’s really freaky to think about, y’know what we need, a public debate on whether or not y’all really need this. I mean, imagine if one of you didn’t have cancer, that would be awful.” And acting like their reflexive bullshit isn’t something that’s been answered a thousand times in a thousand ways by people who inherently have thought of it way more than they ever will.
Fuck TERFs, fuck people who surround themselves with TERFs, fuck their transparent bad faith arguments, fuck this bigoted nonsense hiding behind the passive terrorism that is perpetuated against trans folks.
I let myself be disowned because I was done with fighting for my humanity, with begging for my humanity. I walked and risked homelessness and have only now years later begun really putting together the shattered wreckage of my psyche caused by believing the transphobic culture that treats our identities as something to hem and haw over rather than accept. And along the way, being trans, has meant I’ve nearly been killed, multiple times. Has meant a lot of jobs not calling me back “mysteriously”. Has meant a lot of bullshit from a transphobic society that is eager to repeat the bathroom battles of the 1950s.
And I’m done putting up with it from anyone else.
So, all y’all cis fucks can just get over it. Get over trans kids. Get over trans adults. Get over trans celebrities like (unfortunately) Caitlyn Jenner.
Get over us, introspect, just fucking acknowledge why you react with unease at our existence and really examine your life far far away from us.
So we can try and save as many of the kids you try and kill every year as we possibly can and try to build for them a future where they don’t ever have to feel they have to beg for their humanity.
So, yeah, let’s just close the lid on this transphobic waste of space.
And yeah, I’m saying he’s a transphobic piece of shit, because not only does he write these “I’m not saying I’m freaked out by kids using different pronouns, I’m just implying that it’s awful and practically the same thing as surgery in a way that lets me deny it and angrily denounce ACLU lawyers who point out the striking similarity between my arguments and the arguments of anti-trans hate groups by claiming they are the ‘real’ gender essentialists”:
But because of this one tweet chain:
The article he’s complaining about is an article decrying the American College of Pediatrics, a fake organization run by a hate group intentionally trying to be confused with actual Pediatricians because said hate groups want to pretend their bad science is actually what is recommended by pediatricians.
Yes, that’s right. Not only does Jesse Singal keep writing these shit articles about trans people, not only does he salivate over reparative therapy clinics like they were the one true bastion of sanity in the trans “debate”, not only does he intentionally surround himself with TERFs who prop him up against those “evil transgender activists” and let him play male ally hero to his heart’s content.
He has straight up risen in anger in defense of a fake medical organization literally run by folks who are recognized by the SPLC as members of hate groups.
Yes, that’s right, shitbird Singal defended a literal fake agency whose only existence is to disseminate bad science about trans folks. Decrying the writer as a fake ally just trying to get in with the trendy transgenders because gosh darnitt we’re just crawling with allies at the moment.
And his fig leaf to try and justify this as anything other than his rising to the defense of his fellow bigots is this:
Yes, that’s right, he’s angry that an article talking about an active hate organization posing as a real reputable national organization speaking on behalf of all pediatricians didn’t go off on a random tangent to ramble about his pet theory about gender dysphoria having all these social causes so really there’s some secret underground of cis kids secretly tricked into being trans that need to be saved by making it even more difficult than it already is for trans kids to even receive social support in favor of their names and pronouns.
And the worst part of it all is this:
He cites a heart-breaking tale of a genderqueer (i.e. NON-BINARY) individual who experiences variations in just how destructive their gender dysphoria is not as an example on non-binary experiences and how they are frequently erased in these “trans debates” or an example of what fresh hell trans people are expected to deal with before society considers them “trans enough” to even experiment with pronouns and names…
No, not as any of that, but as an example of his bugaboo hinting at a supposed “regret culture” of ex-trans individuals.
Which… no, fuck you. Our non-binary brethren. Our questioning brethren. Our egg-mode brethren terrified by a general culture wherein it is perfectly legal to discriminate us out of jobs, wherein most of our murders aren’t even investigated, and where family disownment is so common, that we’re actually stunned when a trans person actually has the support of their parents.
These are not tools for you to push your bullshit ex-trans cheerleading on behalf of bankrupt ideologies working to strip us of all legal rights.
These are people, scared people, trying to figure themselves out.
Who are not planning on hoping on the surgery three weeks in. They’re still working on whether or not to try a different pronoun or wondering if they remain in the closet, whether or not they’ll become one of the many statistics of trans youth who off themselves because our society treats gender dysphoria as some sort of game or meaningless distraction.
And here’s Singal, defending hate groups, smearing people who expose them as “liberal journalism at its worst”, all because he does not understand what gender dysphoria is, what the transgender spectrum is, or even what trans activists want for trans kids.
Cause, for all the hinting that he’s doing working up to his no-doubt lucrative future career being a Robert Oscar Lopez or a Maggie Gallagher for trans issues that trans activists are somehow recruiting the youth and confusing them with “you can only be x binary with x transition path”, that’s not how any of this shit works.
Trans adults, what we want for our trans kids is for them not to be dying by the hundreds every year. We want them to not commit suicide, feeling alone and scared like so many queer youth have felt for years.
We want them to be able to explore what they want to be without it being terrifying or brutally punished, even if at the end of it, they decide they’re totally cis.
We want kids to be able to try on a pronoun and see if it fits and not have to fight their teachers for it to be respected. To be able to try out a name and have it not be a thing.
And frankly, modeling this behavior in my own school. Letting kids explore, letting them see that trans teachers exist, that trans adults exist, is so fucking easy and non-disruptive. Even our genderfluid students whose pronouns changed from week to week. And for all the scare tweets from Singal hinting at societal ruin resulting from letting kids be, even if they are non-binary. It doesn’t have to be a thing.
Cause if we can do a little to make teenage life less hellish, to create a safe space for trans students to exist and thrive and be who they are. Where their identities and pronouns are respected whatever they may be today.
We should do it.
And in the meantime, I’d like this to serve as the closing of the book on Singal. Because it’s clear that this is just gonna be the typical path of the neo-TERF. Hang out with TERFs, pen questionable articles, defend your hanging out with TERFs and questionable articles, straight up cite hate groups and prominent anti-trans organizations and join a fictional reality.
Because apparently we’re going to have to go through all the same steps as gay folks for the mushy middle to actually recognize their antipathy as the bigotry it is and grow the fuck up already.
In the meantime, fuck Jesse Singal. And when he’s opening for Focus on the Family or retweeting the dark lord of TERFdom in a few years, let it be a surprise to no one.
FINAL UPDATE (8/23):
For those who say, okay, no, Jesse Singal couldn’t actually be defending the Liberty Council’s pet think tank as if they were a legitimate science organization:
No, he did.
So either he’s so bad at his job he literally does not understand what organizations of medical professionals are real or not or he’s gladly willing to stir the pot and murky the waters if it will feed causes he believes in (to whit, performing gender reparative therapy on young trans kids*)
*Again, no really:
Oh, and supposedly “many” trans people now apparently believe reparative therapy is awesome. Yeah, totes, and “many” gay people love ex-gay camps and “many” pregnant women love pregnancy crisis centers.
He’s also a fan of the theory that we were forced to be trans by evil parents who “confuse us” about our true gender (because his unstated belief that comes through in all his works seems to be that trans kids need to be saved from the “irreversible” consequences of trying out a name and a pronoun for awhile and seeing if it sticks, because some combination of evil mothers and trans activists will trick them into taking hormones and getting surgeries when they are actually cis (rather than the kid just figuring it out along the way):
Which, I say to that, I wish. My mom tried to beat the trans out of me and hide that possibility from me and my parents disowned me when I came out. These trans kids I work with, almost none have parents that support them. Every ounce of identity they have to carve out of a mountain of constant fighting. But hey, it’s not like we’ve noticed how sexist asshole men tend to assume that mothers of trans folks are bad mothers “forcing them” to be trans:
Oh wait, we have. And it’s transparent as fuck.
Bonus points? He’s also a non-binary truther, who believes that non-binary gender identities and neopronouns are all a trick to get feminists to “waste resources” on non-women. As if non-binary people aren’t hesitant enough about belonging to “women’s spaces” or like non-binary identities don’t exist:
Cause to ignorant cis assholes the notions of more than two genders seems absurd and proof that us trans folks are delusional and lying.
Bonus to the bonus? He’s also a big fan of claiming trans folks are gender essentialists because of his whole “not supporting reparative therapy means you believe in a strict binary system where there is one way to be trans” strawperson oral sex contest… while decrying the notion of more than two genders as ignorant claptrap and non-binary people as not deserving protections of being a protected class.
Fuck you, you disingenuous hack. Fuck your ascientific bullshit and rancid repolishing of TERF talking points and fuck your working for and standing up for literal hate groups. And fuck your transparent transphobia. Fuck you trying to exploit our NB youth while denying they even exist. Fuck your sad little douche dance and just fucking come out as the bigot you clearly are but don’t want to be seen as.
It’ll at the very least be less insulting to our intelligence.
So, I wrote a monster thread below going in depth on his latest post and especially noting the bizarre nature of his seeming understanding and acknowledgment that even in his shitty studies “regret” or desistence does not seem to happen all that often in pubescent trans kids as well an acknowledgment that blockers and hormones are often very useful and life-saving. But one major thing bothered me and it took several tweets of his to become fully crystalized.
The first is this:
Which is a subtweet to this chain by Sady Doyle:
Which is just… angering, in its myopic woe, is me victim-pose. And it’s becoming somewhat of a habit of late. His responses to trans and trans ally academics and writers writing scholarly deconstructions of his arguments and responding like, well… academics with far more politeness than Singal’s ignorant pop-sci ramblings metrit have been illustrative.
His response to Julia Serrano writing a very long piece deconstructing his arguments about desistence and his continued defense of reparative therapy for trans kids was to argue that her noting that he only bothered to quote parents who thought it was a good thing their kids ended up not trans was actually an attack on the parents themselves:
His response to Noah Berlatsky’s article I cited in my last post was to sic a bunch of ex-trans motherfuckers on him because he noted that Jesse Singal was raising fears of a potential kid existing to deny healthcare to actual kids hurting right now or at least “be very concerned about it”.
Every time he’s rightfully critiqued with an undue amount of respect, he whines about “attacks” and reframes deconstructions as single line mentions that allow him to feign defensiveness on behalf of a “put-upon” population of transphobes and allows him to escape responsibility for the transphobia in the world.
Even I’ve dealt with this shit from him, reaching out to him about how his actions make it harder to keep my trans kids alive because his articles are cited and used by their parents to deny them even the basic dignity of having their pronouns and identities respected. Instead he whined that the parents must have misinterpreted his words, because god forbid he take some fucking responsibility for his actions and the impact his words have as someone who takes deliberate care to pose himself as a rational bearer of “hard truths” in a “irrational” desert of “activists” and their “opinions”.
And it’s especially annoying that he does this, “pfft, words, how could they impact someone’s life” when he’s written extensively about online harassment and abuse and how thoroughly that shit fucks with women’s lives online and where he fully expects that his work as a writer matters and will engage and affect people on a personal level.
But with trans stuff? Nope, displace, deny, and denounce the evil trannies for “smearing his good name”.
Like, fuck, that post on top is sickening in how its phrased, because it’s perfectly designed to be every asshole’s favorite dismissal topic. An unholy blend of “my critics are crazy” and “women be all emotional and shit”. And that’s infuriating.
Largely because despite his denials, his words do contribute to the death of trans kids. And he knows it. He knows and admits and acknowledges that dismissal of trans identities by parents causes an increase in trans suicide rates as does public transphobia and loss of public access. And yet, he makes the same arguments as are currently being used by the ADF to eliminate trans rights around the country and his works are taken by parents as confirmation that it is indeed “a phase” and so there is no point in supporting their trans kids.
He knows that his words contribute, but he can’t accept it, because it would mean introspecting about his actions and the toxic pool of TERFs he has willingly surrounded himself with. And he can’t stop trying to poison the well for his critics, making them out to be crazy, because much like a lot of other “feminist men”, he can’t stand being called out for his garbage.
And it sickens me. And the reason it sickens me is that Sady Doyle is right. Jesse Singal does indeed value living trans kids way less than cis kids and puts his fears of things being “icky” or “hard” over the well-being of children and does fear-monger over things that are completely harmless and easily undone by evoking the larger fears and anxieties society has over the precious penii and uterii of the world and the spectre of surgeries most trans folk don’t even get potentially happening years later.
Cause, there’s a moment when Zinnia Jones has a thread responding to him directly and asking him about his arguments in an effort to get him to clarify, quoting a myriad of studies on trans folks and desistance because Zinnia Jones is a major nerd for scholarly papers and does a lot of the functions of an academician:
Wherein Jesse Singal makes a major revelation as to his beliefs:
Oh, a kid on the cusp of puberty is probably trans, blockers are fine, in Singal’s estimation. Which is news considering his last piece was a giant dumpster fire fixating on blockers and making them sound super scary. Additionally, he’s admitted before that hormones are usually prescribed after years of blockers and thus very unlikely to be given to someone not trans. And so on.
So all the shit he fear-mongers about and acts like is so hard to undo, he’s totes okay with.
But what gets his goat, what leads him to balk at fully supporting trans youth and the AMA-recommended medically ethical care procedures in place, is “younger kids”. Kids who are pre-pubescent.
But here’s the thing about pre-pubescent kids…
THERE’S NO BLOCKERS THEN. There’s no hormones. There’s no surgeries.
Because puberty literally hasn’t even begun so it fundamentally does not make sense even in the most permissively liberal of households for anyone to start blockers because there’s nothing to block. And since no one of their age group is starting hormones, there’s even less of a reason to start the kid on those, because their body is fundamentally not ready for it. And surgeries… well, we’ve already touched on the irony of transphobes being all pearl-clutching over surgeries that fundamentally do not happen before the age of 16 or so while turning a blind eye to how the medical community has normalized the brutality of “correcting” intersex kids’ genitalia for the comfort of those same pearl-clutchers. But again, no one is going to do that. The genitals have not finished growing, have not been through puberty. Hell, most surgeons balk at most any form of non-emergency surgery for these reasons, because the damage can massively extend as the kid goes through puberty in ways that can be hard to predict.
And that’s a big deal, because it means all his hand-wringing isn’t about any of the things he’s hand-wringing about.
It’s instead about the only form of care we give to pre-pubescent kids. Which is respecting names and pronouns.
But he’s too much of a coward to say that outright and so dances around things and keeps raising the spectre of “evil drugs” and “trans activists” to hide the fact that what has got him all worried and verklempt in the night is the idea that prepubescent trans kids might be using a different name or different pronouns and happily supported in that rather than aggressively “encouraged” to be cis.
And he’s blaming those kids and those who support them for him immediately thinking about sugeries and hormones and potential “life-altering medication” they might go through one day never having been told that they are a deluded freak who doesn’t realize how cis they are.
And this is monstrous. Because pronouns and names are literally the least one can do and has little to no impact on anything other than the well-being of the kid.
And I know, because I’m a trans teacher and that means the trans kids in my classes find me. Because that’s the benefit of fighting the very real attempts to ban those like me from my profession, kids get to see themselves in people of authority and this makes them a little more willing to come out and take that risk, because they can trust that at least one person will fight for them.
Currently I work with middle school and high school kids and their struggles often begin with names and pronouns, coming out as them, trying some out to see what fits, convincing parents that this isn’t a phase and to respect their identities and stop causing them pain by misgendering them or calling them deluded freaks. It’s a genuine struggle to keep them alive in a transphobic society, but I work hard at it and knock on wood, I haven’t yet lost one though I’ve gotten way closer than I’d like*.
*Kid away on break, constantly misgendered while on a trip exacerbating a depressive spell, made an attempt that school officials and friends were able to intervene on and which a group of us teachers were able to talk them down from when they got back. If one person didn’t answer the phone, if they didn’t listen to the teachers asking for extra time for them to let new medications have an effect, then we would have lost them. Shit like this haunts me and gets me really riled up about assholes like Singal.
And a lot of the techniques we use to respect names and pronouns, to adapt even to frequent shifting of pronouns for our genderfluid students, are simple. A matter of sending emails updating people about pronouns and what to use in missives home. A matter of taking an extra five seconds to practice. It’s something so little for the teachers, but makes all the difference in our students and in how safe and supported they feel on our campus.
So to demonize and fearmonger about this like it’s some grand social experiment or is somehow going to convince cis kids to go through years of dysphoria — and believe me the kids feel the dysphoria fast. Had a bigender student who initially thought ce might be genderqueer, but was hitting massive dysphoria when trying to just go by they and couldn’t figure out why ce was getting dysphoria in either direction when ce tried to be one or the other. Until ce figured out ce could be bigender and found a pronoun that worked for cir and allowed ce to escape that feeling of dysphoria. Yet, a kid working out something complex out like that with little to no social support is somehow “easier” than a cis kid figuring out they aren’t actually trans after the first week of being misgendered? Puh-leeze. And even the ex-trans folks he trotted out to defend himself note that they spent a long time experiencing dysphoria trying to force a transition, but hid it because they didn’t see themselves reflected and respected and had ignorant health care workers who literally didn’t know what they were doing.
It’s all just gobsmacking.
And frankly, I’m not just speaking about a teacher of older students. Before this job I primarily worked with elementary school aged kids. And well, some were trans or gender-non-conforming and the ones who were sought me out because I was a visibly trans teacher and they told me. And some were young. I had kids who were in 1st, 2nd, 3rd, kindergarten, even one pre-school kid who identified as trans. And well, for them, it was as simple as using their preferred name and pronoun. That’s it.
And when that happened, they were happy, just like any of their cis peers. And you could tell which ones were being bullied for it (usually starting in late elementary school), because they were more quiet, keeping to themselves, but they lit up when I was teaching the class and I could tell who was tormenting them because those kids would get visibly awkward while I was teaching. One even apologized to one of his victims after my class.
And when it didn’t? When it wasn’t even clear if the kid had a vocabulary for what they were going through, but it was definitely clear that their parents didn’t have any respect for the very idea that their kid could be anything but cis. The types who would have lapped up Singal’s and Zucker’s exclamations of “80% desisting” if the kid did try and come out? The pain on their faces was excruciating.
One of my worst teaching moments was in a job I held teaching summer camp classes right after I had been disowned by my family and discriminated out of my job. I was deep back in the closet, pretending to be cis, because I had to eat and take care of my partner who had slipped into a deep dark depression of her own.
In this job, we had a very strongly gendered bathroom policy. It was boys go here, girls go there. All of us using the restroom at the same time, because this is structured summer park time and to do otherwise was to invite the anarchy of the beasts.
And there was this kid there, who was painfully obviously gender-non-conforming and probably not at all cis. And it was painfully obvious, because nearly every time I had to do those gendered bathroom calls, the kid would actually literally flinch and they would never actually use them. Though they would slip off later on their own when they thought no one could see them with their brother watching the door.
I pretended not to notice, but I did ask their parent if the kid had a preferred pronoun. The mom reacted furiously with me, angrily insisting their kid was a boy and that was that and I immediately let it drop, because I needed the job. And I watched helplessly as this confused kid continued to go through the painful ritual of trying to make those bathrooms stop hurting them and not knowing how.
And I know my cowardice in that instance hurt that kid and I don’t know if their mom eventually softened and accepted them or if that kid ever was able to figure things out.
But it’s one of the things you see when you actually work with trans youth instead of penning fear-mongering articles about how “unsettling” you find them and how “worried” you are from afar while distancing the very real damage you do.
And that’s what infuriates me as a trans teacher about shit like Singal’s. It’s the casual dismissal of what the pain is for trans kids who are trans go through. It’s a deliberate attempt to make pronoun switches and names, something as simple to undo as using or unusing a nickname into some major thing that one should be terrified of.
And it’s a refusal to acknowledge why he’s doing any of it.
Cause I’m sorry, but Singal and his defenders are too smart to not realize what they are doing. Singal wouldn’t be dodging all critiques and making out like he’s the unfortunate victim of a howling mob of anti-science activists who just can’t accept basic reality if he didn’t at some level understand what he’s doing and how actively he’s avoiding education on that topic even when it comes from out-of-touch cis academicians or his own preferred sources.
So he knows.
He knows that he’s placing his own prejudice-fueled discomfort about the idea that there could be trans kids, about what his brain conjures in response to the knowledge that there could be trans kids, over the actual humanity of those trans kids and their needs and requests.
He’s projecting all that he thinks about when he’s thinking about trans kids (about things no trans kid is going to have access to for years when it will become quickly obvious that the kid is very likely trans and has been through all the gauntlet of gatekeepers set up currently) onto their lives. And making that immediate prejudiced antipathy into something that’s trans kids and the adults who support them’s fault.
Because he’s too “progressive” to acknowledge that he’s got a big giant blindspot regarding trans issues born out of the same bigotry that leads homophobes to cry rants about “sex” when gay kids come out.
And I just can’t anymore. I can’t keep acting like he’s at all acting in good faith anymore or appealing to his better humanity, when he’s so clearly acknowledging everything trans folks have been saying, but still plays this little victim dance anyways, when he publicly states that “oh, I’m just so worried about prepubescent kids” as if he doesn’t fully understand that all those kids are asking for is for their names and pronouns to be respected and to have the freedom to explore that identity and see if it fits.
And as much as he wants to deny it, deny his hand in the transphobic culture, his articles are indeed hurting people. Are indeed contributing to the toxic cage that drives so many kids to suicide. And it’s that case not because we mean trans activists are trying to guilt-trip him away from the cause of science.
But because this reinforcement for parents that it’s okay to react to requests for pronouns and basic dignity as if it’s a demand for surgeries now and to pray and hope that it’s a phase instead is taken seriously by parents of the same prejudices as him. Who want their kids to be cis so badly that they’ll mistreat and demonize their actually trans kids.
And that shit has a body count. It nearly added one in the case of one of my students when his parent used Singal’s article to justify continuing to deny him his pronouns and his identity.
And as a trans teacher, I don’t want to see myself lose another trans kid because some cis asshole couldn’t get his shit together and introspect about whether or not his immediate balk at the idea of pre-pubescent trans kids might have more to do with his fears about what that “might mean” rather than anything real.
Cause that shit is infuriating and I’m tired of respecting it in an age where trans rights are more under the gun than ever before.
So, sorry, Singal, but fuck you. And fuck your pose as the last rational soldier in a sea of trans adults who just want their kids to not die like so many of us did.
So, as those of you who are regular readers of my main blog (Sadly, No!) know, the site has been down for about a week now.
Apparently the reason is one of the hard drives of the site crashed and so the site owner is trying to fix that as soon as he can so we can get back up and running.
I figured I should note that here as I know some of the people who followed at Sadly, No! periodically check this blog as well, so I figure this is a good way to get out the information about what’s going on at the site.
So, yeah, in the immortal words of the Creator: “We’re Sorry for the Inconvenience”.
I remember when I first stumbled onto the forums at the Asexuality Visibility and Education Network (AVEN). I remember reading the stories of other asexuals who were in romantic relationships with sexuals. Many of the stories were tragic, detailing stories of asexuals trying to make mixed relationships work with standard monogamous models. For some that worked just fine, but for many, there existed a tension and a social pressure to perform, to make one’s partner happy, to fit the model that society quietly sets out for those who seek to date.
Sometimes the notion of polyamory would come up. Maybe as a suggestion from someone seeking to help, sometimes as a question from an asexual seeking advice. “What about polyamory? Does it work?”
Flash forward a handful of years later, I’m bringing my partner and her girlfriend to an AVEN barbeque. I’m not the only one who has. Conversations about dating spring up, the question is more common. The panel on relationship structures devotes a section to polyamory as a relationship model.
A little bit later now. Dan Savage is saying that asexuals shouldn’t date, that they do violence to their partners by denying them their core sexual needs. But at the AVEN conference, there are more happy romantic asexuals than ever before. No longer a whisper, polyamory has become the main relationship model for romantic asexuals. Every panel and discussion on relationship models includes a token part on monogamy because it’s assumed that everyone already knows about polyamory at this point. David Jay has a slide at the beginning of the conference showing his flowchart-like poly web of partners. The romantic partners of asexuals are happy and supporting their loved ones. They have been denied nothing.
I stated in the title that this is my asexual polyamorous manifesto. The emphasis is intentional, because it’s based on my musings and my thoughts in seeing how polyamory and the asexual community have danced together like salt on caramel and I would not presume to have the authority to speak for anyone else.
And I felt the need to create this, largely because there isn’t one yet. There simply isn’t a decent ace poly manifesto, which seems ludicrous seeing as how the asexual community has so quickly adopted polyamorous relationship models as their dominant dating models.
And that simple fact, that there are more polyamorous relationships by percentage in the asexual community than in general society begs a critical question.
What is it that polyamory gives asexuals that monogamy on average does not?
But before I answer that question, I must begin with some defining of terms.
Giving Words to Experiences
There is a trend sometimes in queer circles (which includes asexuals) for shying away from labels and terms because of their potential to wound or be used to exclude. But inclusive and accurate terms also have a power to define our experiences and relate just who we are in a world that seeks to ignore us.
Asexual: The definition on the front of the Asexuality Visibility Education Network website is “an asexual person is a person who does not experience sexual attraction.” Which is a perfectly serviceable definition for our experiences. But it’s not the whole story, for our gentle community also includes demisexuals (those who only experience sexual attraction with trusted partners after a long period of time and familiarity) and grey-asexuals (an umbrella term for those who experience very low levels of sexual attraction or intermittent levels of sexual attraction).
While diverse, all the people in the asexual spectrum face similar issues in general society, largely because, though our society claims it is a prudish and sexphobic one, expectations of sex and sexual performance are still paramount. Romantic relationships are still expected to have a sexual component, regardless if that is communicated ahead of time or not. Knowledge of sexual mechanics and a usual expectation of sharing in heterosexual attraction is assumed by a certain age. And unfortunately for too many, assholes feel entitled to “acquire” sex by force or coercion by those they feel have denied them their “right”.
Some of this will come up again, but for the specific benefits of polyamory, we must cover another important aspect, known as romantic orientation.
Romantic orientation: Romantic orientation is much like sexual orientation. It is the people one is romantically attracted to. In common parlance, these are the people you fall in love with or want to seek a relationship with, though you may not find them sexually attractive. Anyone who has met someone they’ve wanted desperately to fuck, but know they’d make a terrible relationship or met someone they’ve really liked and wanted to start something with, but there was no spark, has seen the way that romantic orientation and sexual orientation can differ.
In the asexual community, there are two major categories that dominate the majority of conversations about romantic orientation. They are romantic (those who do desire romantic relationships with other people, with orientations of heteroromantic (those who are romantically attracted to a different gender), homoromantic (those who are romantically attracted to the same gender), biromantic (those who are romantically attracted to men and women), panromantic (those who are romantically attracted to people all along the gender spectrum), and so on) and aromantic (those who do not desire romantic relationships).
While our conversation going forward will largely focus on romantic asexuals, it is worth noting that aromantic asexuals do not lack anything for not feeling that romantic attraction, anymore than romantic asexuals lack anything for not feeling lust or sexual attraction or a heterosexual person for lacking sexual attraction to those of the same gender. It is simply a way of being in this great wonderful spectrum of biodiversity that makes up our beautiful species.
Which brings us to the last important terms:
Monogamy or Monoamory: This is the dominant relationship model we inherit from society. We could all recite it by heart. Two people get in a relationship. They meet all their needs within the relationship: sexual, romantic, and intimate and if a compatible match, form a long-term and exclusive relationship. For many people growing up, this was sold as the only way a relationship could be. If a need couldn’t be met or if one person wanted more, you split up or dealt with the fallout in terms of cheating (one person having sexual interactions that are unknown to the partner and not approved of) or resentment.
While clearly, I and many other asexual people have found polyamory as a model that works well for us, it’s worth noting here that there is nothing inherently wrong with monogamy… for those it works for.
Much like with romantic or sexual orientation, some have theorized that some relationship structures are more suited to different people. For some, a monogamous relationship is not only the popular method of having a relationship, but is something they couldn’t do without. It’s a structure that fits them best.
And some of those people include asexuals, who despite the protestations of people like Dan Savage, are perfectly capable of forming long-term, stable, and certainly not abusive loving monogamous relationships with other people.
But as a model, it hardly fits everyone cleanly. And much of the problems in dating for a lot of people, asexual and sexual and everything in between, is when everyone is expected to fit into the monogamous relationship model as if it was the best fit for everyone.
Which brings us to the final word of our definitions.
Polyamory: Polyamory simply means many loves. And much like every other term, that covers a broad spectrum of relationship models. For one couple, that might mean a model where both are falling in love with multiple people who are themselves in love with multiple people, with each forming multiple relationships to encompass that love. Others may have a model much like a tribe, where multiple people love each other and live together, building shared lives. For still others, it may involve a single core, two people together who get other sexual, romantic, or kink (as in BDSM desires) needs or desires met outside of the core (and yes, that can even mean structures where the two are sexually exclusive to each other and have multiple non-sexual relationships to meet other romantic needs).
Some may have a relationship where it looks like a monogamous couple, but the one gets their sexual needs met outside the relationship.
But whatever the model, the real core remains the same, non-exclusivity.
Whatever the model, what makes it differ from monogamy is that those within it have an avenue that is non-exclusive. That avenue may be other romantic attractions that are acted on in additional relationships. That avenue might be other sexual attractions that are acted on in sexual encounters. That avenue might be both or mixtures.
The real point, and the real point for all relationships is a model that best meets the needs of those within it. That doesn’t put the structure of the relationship above those human beings within it and their needs and desires.
And that’s an important, critical point, because it’s something that gets lost in the expectation that everyone have a monogamous relationship that looks the same as everyone else’s, with the same “path” and the same “end goal”.
Which raises the big question: What needs is polyamory fulfilling for asexuals that monogamy isn’t?
The Global Appeal of Polyamory
Some of the appeal is the same appeal polyamory has for everybody.
Like noted before with monogamy, some people just naturally fit with a polyamorous model. They fall in love or lust with multiple people or find forced commitment destructive to their interaction with people.
And what polyamory can bring is a great deal of flexibility that a forced model of monogamy cannot. An ability to form a method of having a relationship that allows people multiple avenues to have needs met, whether sexual, romantic, or other.
And it’s important to note that, because I think polyamory often gets a reputation for simply being about sex and while there would be nothing wrong with it if it was (I mean, for the 99% of the population of the planet who are sexual, sex is often fun, exciting, and meets what feels like, to them, a basic human need), it doesn’t tell the whole story.
Cause at its most basic, polyamory is about communication. Its about talking with your partner(s) about everything, figuring out models that work best for everyone’s needs, making sure issues like jealousy are dealt with out in the open. It’s about talking with sexual partners about STD risks and preferred methods of sex. It’s about talking with romantic partners about ideal relationship models and what everyone is seeking from the arrangements.
Most polyamorous relationships involve a huge amount of conversation and focus because frankly they often need to to be successful. Unlike with monogamy, there is no “expected frame” or “one way” to do things. There isn’t a pattern one can fall into and become trapped by. Everything is out in the open, so everything must be figured out together and the effort of expanding things out can involve a lot of work and requires a lot of talking to successfully maintain and ensure that people aren’t being shut out or forced into roles they resent.
And while that may seem like a lot of work, that amount of communication also allows a lot of freedom that monogamy just doesn’t have.
If someone has a sexual attraction to someone, they can talk it out with their partner(s) and even pursue it and experience it without channeling that attraction into resentment or frustration. If someone develops a crush or falls in love with another person, they don’t have to leave their existing relationship or face a moral conundrum, they can simply date both and communicate freely.
My partner and I began being polyamorous a little less than a year into our relationship. It began with a story that would easily end most relationships and nearly ended ours at the time. My partner who is panssexual fell in love with another person, a female best friend of hers. At the time I thought I was a boy (I have since discovered otherwise) and I sort of drifted along with it. Eventually, the feeling was intense enough that that my partner decided that our monogamous relationship needed a break so she could pursue this intense romantic and sexual attraction.
I want to note here that my partner was not seeking to be cruel and in fact, in many ways, the issue highlighted here is a problem with the monogamous frame that dictates that the strongest feelings on a sexual and romantic level often take precedence.
Anyways, the story unfortunately took a turn for the tragic. Her female best friend, though she flirted constantly and had clear visible interest, was unfortunately deep in the closet and rejected the confession of feelings citing worry over negative reaction by her very religious parents.
My partner returned sheepish, approaching as friend. At the time, I thought little of the whole affair, other than I felt it was time to talk about being poly. I don’t know where I first got the thought. Somewhere online, possibly in the queer blogs I read, possibly even on the AVEN website. I don’t know, but I do know that I felt the recent events revealed that the monogamous structure just wasn’t fitting us.
We gave it a shot. And now 8 and a half years now, total, we are still polyamorous and still together.
While my story is unique and in the eyes of some, I would be considered unwise, it was what fit best for us and best alleviated the false dichotomies presented us. That I was owed exclusivity by my partner (when I had little interest in that type of ownership and have little jealousy of her external attractions) or that my partner had to sacrifice her attractions until they reached breaking points in our relationship (which was a situation I didn’t feel comfortable putting her in).
And what poly gave me in that moment was something that it gives a lot of couples, and that is a great deal of flexibility and customization to our relationship, able to patch up weak points or diverse interactions without it threatening the whole strong, committed, loving framework it was built around.
But the question still remains: Why do asexuals MORE often seek out polyamorous relationships?
And to understand that special extra bit that asexuals get, we must first explain one more thing about relationships.
Mixed Relationships and Polyamory
Man, are mixed relationships vilified in our society. Whether they be mixed racial relationships, mixed cultural relationships, or mixed orientation relationships, there is often an initial negative reaction by most people.
While things have improved in terms of public acceptance of mixed race and mixed culture couples, the same can’t be said for mixed orientation couples.
A gay man in a loving relationship with a straight woman. An asexual genderqueer person in love with a panssexual man. A monogamous person in love with someone more polyamorous.
In all cases, the societal view is one of sacrifice. One partner is going to go without a need or otherwise be taken advantage of.
Dan Savage, noted internet sex advice columnist, has often earned a large amount of deserved flak for his insistence that those of an orientation should only date those who share that orientation. That straight people should only date straight people. That gay people should only date gay people. And most infuriatingly, that bi people should only date bi people and asexual people should only date other asexuals. And more infuriatingly, that to do otherwise is to do an act of violence against one’s partner.
And as loathsome as that opinion is, it is unfortunately not an uncommon one. And a large reason for the why lies in this social perception of a relationship as a monogamous one and that monogamous relationship being one in which all needs (sexual, romantic, etc…) are met within the relationship itself. So if one person has sexual needs and the other doesn’t, then where will that person meet those needs? And what is being asked of a person to go “without”?
Which says more of the expectation than the relationships themselves. After all, we are what we are, humans in a diverse society and we have the ability to fall in love and lust with a variety of people, even one’s that seem outside one layer of our orientations. A lesbian woman and a gay man can find themselves genuinely in love with themselves. A heteroromantic individual can find themselves feeling intense sexual attraction for someone of the same gender.
And yes, most specifically to the asexual community, asexual people can fall in love with sexual people. In fact, that tends to be rather common. After all, the world is 99% made of those who are sexual and just by law of averages, those of us who are romantic asexuals are going to find ourselves forming intense intimate connections with those who have sexual desires and attractions to people.
Under the dominant models of a relationship as monogamous, all of these pairings are viewed as “doomed” or “unhealthy” or “prone to damage”. And perhaps in a way, they can be and often are.
But that’s only in a dominant form of forced monogamy.
In polyamory, mixed orientation couples can thrive.
A gay man and a straight woman can have alternate avenues to explore each others’ sexual needs without pressures being put on partners to perform or do without.
And it doesn’t just extend to those specific cases. Overall, couples with differences in libido or who like different types of sex than their partners or just happen to fall in love with multiple people, can explore those aspects without conflict and abrasion that can happen by trying to follow a model that stresses “every need met or break up”.
If you desperately want to get tied up and spanked and your partner is deeply ambivalent about rope, you can go out and get that need met. If you are bisexual and happen to want a model where you can explore sexual interactions with men and women, you can do that, even sharing those experiences with a partner. If you simply fall in love with multiple people, you can explore that with other people.
Whatever the circumstance, under polyamory, issues that would have been heart-rending and soul-confusing under monogamy can be as simple as simply giving one’s partner a good luck kiss before their big date.
And the best part about the structure of polyamory is that there is no required structure. If one is of the mindset that their partner is enough, but want to make sure they can explore their desires, one can do that without it being about “sacrifice” or “being taken advantage of”. If what fits your relationship is one person with a more monogamous focus and another with a more polyamorous model, then that can exist harmoniously without one person being robbed of intimacy or connection. In some ways, it can actually strengthen connection as you know that your partner is not suffering “on your behalf” out of a misguided obligation and you know that when they come home and spend time with you, it is with full love and understanding and communication of your needs as well.
When we started to be polyamorous, most of my partner’s dating habits were about exploring her attraction to women (yeah, looking back, it’s kind of funny to consider as a trans* woman). It felt strongly intimate, helping her uncover and feel more comfortable in her queer identity and who she was and what she wanted.
At the time, we had a model where I was pretty much monogamous and she was the one exploring other attractions. Which wasn’t to say I wasn’t allowed to explore, if I wanted to, but I was the type to very rarely fall in love with someone and as an asexual, I wasn’t all that interested in just going out and being sexual with a complete stranger out of a misguided sense of equality.
Having that split, therefore, was something that worked naturally for us and fit our relationship best. With the freedom to explore, we grew closer and were able to talk more freely about who we were by sexual orientation and in talking about her crushes or attractions, we were able to bond stronger than we ever had.
Being something of a massive tease, my favorite activity was to ramp her up before big dates, getting her a little turned on to help with nerves before sending her out the door to try meeting up with a new date. Her forays at the time weren’t often successful, but the freedom to explore and learn about what we both wanted was invaluable and still seems halcyon to consider.
Other Benefits from Polyamory
There are some who claim that polyamory necessitates a lowering of intimacy and connection. That there is only so much one can devote to a partner when one has multiple partners they are giving their energy to.
Which sort of ignores how people work. After all, outside really co-dependent relationships where every moment must be spent together, there are already moments where couples need time apart to explore other needs or simply recharge their batteries.
A couple where one partner is more extroverted while the other is more introverted may have a structure where the introverted partner has space to quietly do their own thing while their partner goes out with friends or other romantic partners.
Similarly, structures where there is a conflict in busyness. Where one partner needs romantic intimacy of a certain level, but their partner is swamped with work and other tasks and simply cannot provide that. Under a monogamous frame, this leads inevitably to conflict, where under polyamory, those needs can be met with a second partner, making those special moments less fraught with argument and more warm and connecting.
I remember myself the time I got a full-ride scholarship for a Master’s level program… in Denmark. Halfway around the world from where my partner and I had built our life. It was an opportunity I couldn’t let pass by, that I had no desire to let pass me by.
For many people, that sort of sustained absence is the moment a relationship ends. Two years apart with time zone differences that ensured that we only overlapped very early in the morning or very late at night, while I was going to be extremely busy working on grad school work and possibly even disappearing for months at a time during the thesis year.
Sustaining such a relationship might have been impossible under a model of enforced monogamy. But luckily we didn’t have to test that theory. My partner found multiple new partners during that time apart, closer in distance and willing to aid in the loneliness of the long nights. Once a week, at the least, we talked in early morning or late night, sharing our fond feelings for each other, how we missed each other, and how we looked forward to being together. I sometimes met her partners through the Skype. I sometimes only heard them described and talked about in our weekly dates.
With a lack of frustration, the loneliness was present but bearable, and our physical reunions were more sweet than bitter for not having the taste of denial and confusion poisoning them. I didn’t have to compete against fresher attractions that were closer at hand and she didn’t have to do without in order to prove her fealty to me. And thus, we were able to ride it through and reunite, stronger than ever.
Another important aspect of polyamory is something called compersion. Compersion is a feeling of joy one feels in seeing one’s partner experience joy from a source that is not you. And it’s not just a joy that is exclusive to polyamorous people.
Monogamous people feel it all the time in the form of the soft smile you feel when a partner comes back from spending a long day with friends and is smiling and laughing. It can also be the glow inside when seeing your partner geek out about a hobby or interest that they have and you don’t share.
In poly, it can occur in all those places and also in seeing one’s partner having fun and enjoying themselves with another romantic or sexual partner.
Because seeing one’s partner happy and giggling and having fun can be, well, FUN and that’s an important thing to note in a society where the only depictions of seeing one’s partner with another person are depictions of dread and sadness.
Having an open and openly communicated polyamorous relationship where your partner is having multiple romantic or sexual partners can also be thrilling for yourself, simply because seeing one’s partner in joy, no matter the source, can often feel good. As such, that can be an additional pleasure that polyamory can bring and help bring two or more people even more together than they would otherwise be.
Some of my strongest bonding moments with my partner has been seeing her coming off a date or introducing a new boyfriend or girlfriend to me. Seeing the glow on her face as she is in the throes of NRE (new relationship energy or the way new relationships can make one feel on top of the world and giddy), is something that makes me involuntarily smile as well. Not out of sacrifice but out of sharing.
Another thing that polyamory can provide is the thrush of NRE (new relationship energy). Have you ever seen a romantic comedy or any depiction of love in a romantic movie? If so, you probably have seen NRE depicted as the beginning and end of love.
NRE is the rush at the beginning of a relationship when everything is new and your partner can do no wrong. Where you are giddy and enjoying being in love or being in lust and everything being fresh before things settle more into routine and comfortable familiarity.
Everything is intense and you feel like one’s partner is perfect and you could be with them forever and that you should make some grand gesture to celebrate this intense wonderful feeling.
In short, NRE is the drug-like high of dating and it feels awesome. But in the classical monogamous frame, NRE is something that only happens once, at the beginning of a relationship. And oftentimes, media depictions of love state that once you find someone who rekindles all that NRE passion, one is supposed to run from their current partner into this new fling so that one can feel the rejuvenating feeling of new love.
Because in a monogamous relationship, that’s the only way to experience that feeling.
In a poly relationship there are no such limitations. If one wanted to have at least one relationship always in a NRE phase at all times, one can. One can feel that refreshment and invigoration by simply going out and dating, while still enjoying the stability and comfort of a more long-term and settled relationship.
In fact, that long-term relationship is often healthier for it because that reinvigoration and freshness can often spill back into that longer relationship and make it feel fresher and newer. New knowledge from handling the structure of a new person can help make an established structure stronger and can help bring new focus to the things that have gone unsaid or been taken for granted.
And that can be the difference between a long-term relationship that slowly fizzles out and one that can consistently sustain itself and actually grow stronger over time.
But again, this doesn’t answer the question of What specifically do asexuals get out of polyamory that makes it so universal?
What asexuals get out of polyamory
As noted, a lot of what asexuals get out of polyamory is the same thing everyone can get out polyamory. It allows a greater freedom of relationship design. It promotes healthy communication and a better handling of issues that might threaten monogamous relationships. Just like the general population, some asexuals are just naturally more inclined to polyamory and find it a superior model for their needs.
And for mixed orientation relationships between asexuals and sexuals, where one is asexual and the other is sexual, it can greatly reduce sources of conflict and situations where one partner is either expected to perform sexually out of obligation more than desire or where a partner needs to do without sex because to do otherwise would be to put their partner in a dreadful spot.
And that leads me to what I think might not be the reason (as there’s probably not just one reason), but is most certainly a reason that so many asexual people are finding polyamory to be the relationship model for them.
Polyamory removes the pressure to perform sexually for one’s partner.
Cause, see, by the traditional model of monogamy, it is generally expected that a partner, a “good” partner is one that meets all one’s needs. It’s someone you get along with as friends. It’s someone who is a good fit in romantic interactions and intimacy.
And it’s someone sexually compatible. Who’s into the same stuff in bed and who is into you as you are into them.
And because we are a messed up society that doesn’t like to talk about our sexual interactions, relationships are just sort of expected to have a sexual component, one that is jumped into without much discussion.
And honestly, that’s a crappy model for a lot of people. Not everyone views sex as the same thing or wants to have it at the same time as their partner wants it. The model ignores that someone might have specific wants that are not generally expected or have different erogenous zones or turn-ons than what is seen in dominant depictions of sex.
And worse, it ignores issues of consent and triggers. It ignores the fact that people may be survivors of sexual assault or rape or domestic abuse or simply may be unready for particular forms of sex. And while people do their best to do right by their partners for the most part, it leaves even the best intentioned people following the “social guidelines” for relationships in a position where they often have to trip over the landmines to notice them.
But for asexuals, it goes beyond that. Because a big social expectation, one that is reinforced in countless media depictions of love and relationships, is that in a relationship, you have sex.
And not only do you have sex, but that sexual attraction and chemistry should be taken as a given or else there is something “wrong” with the relationship. The less sexual partner is presumed to have something wrong with them or forcing their loved ones to “sacrifice” because of their “hangups”.
In the old days, I used to weep to read other asexuals write of their romantic relationships. So many people felt the intense pressure from society that they “owed” their romantic partner sex, that that is what someone had to do if they loved their partner.
And polyamory cuts through the heart of that social bullshit.
Cause even if you have the most loving and respectful partner of your boundaries and your orientation, the pressure is constantly there in a monogamous relationship. Even if your partner is sitting there telling you that this is all they need or they are fine with the fact that whatever intimacy you feel comfortable with will lack the potency of mutual chemistry, there’s a little voice of society telling you that you are robbing them of a crucial aspect of being human. That you are providing them an incomplete romantic experience. One in which you can only fully meet their romantic and intimate needs, but never their sexual ones, not really.
And even if you can cut through that little voice, you’ll be suffering a veritable gauntlet of public assholes who will repeat the same loudly and clearly. A lot of the reason that Dan Savage is a name that is hated in the asexual community is because he insists that sexual performance is something critical to a relationship and that by denying that, asexuals are denying relationships themselves. That an asexual should be ready and game for a mutual chemistry sexual relationship or they should do without powerful romantic relationships with people they love.
And that’s bullshit, yes. Clearly that is just the accumulated junk that society throws at asexuals because it is unaware of how they are affected by this “model relationship” it sells.
But by being polyamorous, one can silence that little voice and those public critics. Or at the very least eliminate their power to wound and ruin one’s relationship.
Because, by being open in one’s relationship, allowing one’s partner to explore other people and meet needs outside one’s relationship, one can be reminded everyday that one doesn’t need to “meet every need” in order to have strong, real connections that matter.
And that is something that seems odd, but can’t be overlooked, because it’s so important for real intimacy.
One can’t access the trust and connection critical for intimacy when one is worried about performing a “role” successfully or worried their partner needs a very specific set of behaviors to be happy.
And having that whole business just swept off the table? Becoming an “option” instead of a “demand” socially speaking is an incredibly liberating feeling that is so critical I can’t even describe it.
Knowing that my partner could explore her sexuality, all of her sexuality and that I didn’t even need to be involved if I didn’t want to be, that despite the protestations of those such as Dan Savage that I was “holding her back”, means knowing that I am enough.
I’ve been reading a webcomic lately titled Shades of A, and there’s an asexual character in it, very similar to those old stories on AVEN, who constantly feels like a freak and that he needs to be sexual in order to make his partners happy even though that is not at all what his partners want.
And unfortunately that’s a moment that a lot of romantic asexuals have struggled with because of all those who have said that that’s what a relationship is. That’s just how they work.
And polyamory, fiddly, tinkering polyamory rips apart that engine of pain and self-critique and reveals it as the bullshit it is.
One can have a relationship where they get cuddles and intimacy from a partner, but the partner goes elsewhere for sex. Or one where there is a form of sex, but it is not viewed as less than for lacking mutual chemistry or intense passion. Or one where one has multiple partners to connect with with love and intimacy and have different dynamics with that meets different needs.
One can make a relationship serve them, can respond to their needs and their limitations, instead of one that proscribes a “correct way of being” and that freedom with regards to sex removes a lot of the judgement and fear that relationships (especially mixed relationships between sexuals and asexuals) can carry for asexuals.
Knowing that my partner can go off and get her rocks off at any time may seem odd from an outside perspective, but it was something that made it possible to feel comfortable exploring myself and being honest to how I express intimacy.
And the funny thing is, that knowledge and that freedom actually allowed me to find aspects of sex that were interesting to me (though I would stress here that these experiences are unique to me and are by no means universal to all asexuals. If you are hoping polyamory will make an asexual person suddenly sexual, then you are an asshole and you should fuck right away from us).
Cause, see, sex without social pressure, for me, can be like the ultimate puzzle game. I mean, here’s this body and I have absolutely no personal experience with how any of this feels, but by having the right complicated hand, mouth, and spoken actions, I can make that body feel amazing and have such a powerful physical action as orgasm and that is something that is just intellectually and emotionally amazing!
I mean, it’s like Professor Layton on Speed and makes my nerd circuits go woo.
And that’s not true for every asexual. Hell, I’ll go further and say it won’t be true for most asexuals. But I know for me and for those demisexuals, grey-asexuals, and romantic asexuals who do engage in some sexual activity, having an environment of zero pressure, where there is no consequence for fucking up or suddenly deciding that I don’t want to do it anymore, is the only way I can access that curious scientific joy of discovery in that way.
And knowing that that there is that safety net means that while assholes like Dan Savage would scream that I’m doing it all wrong, treating sex like a DS game, only being comfortable with giving rather than receiving, lacking chemistry and only gaining joy through the intellectual and emotional aspects of making my partner happy, it can’t drag me down.
My relationship model is made to work for me.
To meet my needs and respond to the aspects of myself that are immutable and which may very well be arbitrary. It means that if I just drift off from doing things that are sexual with my partner, there is no pressure for me to “pick up the slack” from society. It means that if I want a relationship that is all cuddles and kisses and nothing else, I can have that and I can have that with all levels of fulfillment.
I’m in every interpretation of the word, free.
And that liberation from those chains of expectation, that what a relationship is is one in which sexual and romantic needs are one and the same, is probably the only way I could ever have had such long-term relationships or felt such joy and fulfillment in them as I do instead of sinking into self-doubt and despair like the main character in the Shades of A webcomic.
In fact, in my story, I am now in a relationship with two women, having fallen in love with another woman who is now my girlfriend, while my partner is still with me and is still dating two other people herself (her boyfriend and girlfriend). I’m not always sexual with either and when they enter dry spells, I have happily gone about my business, just enjoying the cuddling and general intimacy.
I’m free to enjoy what I want out of a relationship, because I know my partners are free to explore all of themselves and still be with me. That I don’t have to meet every need all the time.
And that freedom is something not I, nor many other asexuals would trade for the world.
Addendum to the Manifesto
While clearly this manifesto is pro-poly (after all, poly has been very useful for me and many other asexuals for a variety of reasons), it is worth noting that polyamory is not a magic elixir that fixes all ills.
Polyamory isn’t for everyone.
As noted earlier, some people are more naturally monogamous or feel more comfortable in monogamous style relationships. If you are the type of person who needs one’s romantic partner to be romantically and sexually exclusive to you, then polyamory isn’t going to serve you well at all and is just going to force another form of sacrifice. Similarly, if you are a person who gets repeatedly intensely jealous at the thought of sharing your partner with other people in a romantic or sexual manner, even when they are out of your sight or find yourself sabotaging your partner’s other relationships, then polyamory is probably not a natural fit for you and that needs to be communicated with your partner.
I’m a firm believer that the relationship model that works best is the one that works for the people inside it and if what you need in a relationship is something that looks more like the dominant version of monogamy, then you should hold out for that kind of relationship and meet those needs for yourself instead of trying to force yourself for your partner.
And on that note…
Polyamory will not fix a bad relationship
Polyamory can remove a lot of social pressure to perform sexually. But if your romantic partner is actually pressuring you to have sex, saying that you owe them out of “love” or “duty”, then that is abuse and polyamory will not fix that.
A partner who does not respect your boundaries or seeks to minimize them or use social pressure to get their way will not magically become a better, more respectful, less rapey partner if you switch to a polyamorous model.
It will not save those types of relationships, nor will it save relationships with domestic violence or emotional or sexual abuse or neglectful partners who do not want to communicate.
It will also not save relationships with partners who cheat on you without talking about it. The act of cheating is about a heck of a lot more than just getting needs met and a partner who is cheating on you regularly will probably still cheat or fail to disclose crucial information as much in a polyamorous relationship as in a monogamous one.
If you find yourself in such relationships, especially one in which your partner is explicitly stating you owe them sex, you should get out of them as soon as you safely can, enlisting aid as needed in the cases of domestic abuse.
And I know it can feel like abandoning these relationships feels like it’ll mean never finding love again, but please believe me when I say there are a huge number of genuinely respectful partners out there who will not seek to violate your boundaries or ignore your orientation. And you will find one of them, a LOT sooner than you think you will.
Poly relationships will not fix a lack of communication.
The thing about polyamory (to the point where the internal joke in polyamory circles is that polyamory is defined by this) is it is about communication.
Polyamory needs strong healthy communication to thrive and be responsive to the needs of those within the relationship. That means that both parties need to be willing to do the work to regularly communicate their needs with each other and at least be willing to highlight problem areas.
It does not require one to be an extrovert or to feel to need to share every aspect of every day with every partner, but if you don’t feel comfortable at least communicating the basics with your partner on a pretty consistent basis, then polyamory is probably not right for you.
Similarly, if your partner is closed off and uncommunicative with poly, then that system is probably not going to work well for them and will likely cause problems down the line. If open communication seems like too hard or too scary a concept and a part of monogamous relationships that’s too intense, then poly will not fix that and it might be better to take a break from relationships altogether until you can feel more comfortable sharing that sort of thing. It may even be worth introspecting if you want relationships at all as not everybody does.
There’s not just ONE right way to do poly.
Additionally, polyamory’s strength is how it can be customized to meet the needs of the people using it. There is no “one right way to do poly” and what works for one person in terms of rules and regimented forms of communication will not work for another.
As such, if you let someone tell you that there is one way to do poly or just try and copy someone else’s relationship model without thinking about or talking about what you and your partner(s) need out of a relationship, then you’re probably going to find polyamory to be as poor of a fit as a force monogamous relationship.
It can be scary to pick and choose what you need or make edits on the fly as new issues come up, but it’ll help immensely in making sure that your relationship is healthier and has more of a chance to survive and thrive.
But for those that polyamory fits, it fits well, or at least much better than monogamy.
And I think for many asexuals, the model removes a lot of the issues and conflicts that the dominant monogamous model inflicts. For many of us, polyamory gives us freedom to make our own relationship models and allow us to form our own conclusions in how we want to participate in a relationship.
These days, I regularly have my girlfriend over to my partner and I’s house. Nearly once a week, we share our queen bed, cuddling in a little row. Sometimes my partner brings her girlfriend as well. All together in a little tribe.
Sometimes I can hear my partner and her girlfriend having sex. It is wholly different than how I do it. It’s passionate and intense and her noises fill our little apartment up.
And I smile, proud and happy to hear my partner in such joy. I have been robbed of nothing. This orgasm takes nothing from me and I know that this evening, we’ll be spooning in our little row, with smiles on all our little faces.
And I sleep soundly and content, fulfilled with a relationship that works for us.
And I wouldn’t trade that feeling for the world.
This is my ace poly manifesto.
And for those who this system works, I hear yours as well, in the soft smile as a partner cuddles with you, in the soft glow of seeing them come home from a hot date, and in the strong commitments free of fear and societal intrusion.
And I no longer weep to read the stories of my fellow asexuals who are in romantic relationships.
Because we all know a way to be free.
(FOREWARD: This is a rambling mess of a post. I wrote it raw and will probably not edit it before I hit publish. I may from time to time put up raw reactions like this simply to let things out that would have no place on my regular blog at Sadly, No! But that means I will not spend the amount of time or care on these works that I would something I was putting there.
So don’t say I didn’t warn you if it turns out to be a half-coherent slog.)
In the course of my day, I read things, usually a few silly things, like webcomics or a few snark sites in order to begin my day. And in the course of reading such things, I sometimes encounter things that just sort of needle under my skin.
I mean, they aren’t badto be exact. I mean, the authors who write them are sometimes people whose work I usually respect (as is the case this time) and let’s be frank, in my usual blog I frequently encounter way worse.
But it’s annoying in its own respect, because these small little annoyances. These things that aren’t so bad, nonetheless can be as illustrative as the great big examples the modern right gives us on the socio-political landscape that we call home.
So I dust off the musty covers of this old journal and allow it some small use in covering something that I would never in a million years use for a post on the main site.
And it’s quite probable that this won’t be the last post to revive this dead journal.
Today’s post is about a tumblr post. This tumblr post, to be exact,, which is part of a tumblr blog I like called Shittiest Editorial Cartoon of the Moment that usually rips into hacktacular editorial cartoons. Which yeah, small target, easily glossed over, completely forgettable.
But it needles and so we are here.
Read the rest of this entry »
So there’s a bit of a sickness in American politics, but possibly politics in general and that’s the tendency to view politics as a sort of game.
By that, I mean, to treat the political process of elections, of drafting and passing legislation, and so on entirely as a sport, where it all becomes about whose team scored what goal, outmaneuvered the other, won the day’s news cycle, or whose tribe came out on top.
And this pattern is becoming harder and harder for me to take.
By far, the worst offender of this way of viewing our political system is of course the current news media system, endlessly obsessed with the ratings-generating horse race of elections (what sounds best to the low-information voter, what’s the optics, how will that play with this demographic). Our media apparatus has over the years fallen deeply in love with the idea of politics as a game charting the rise and fall of rhetoric and trying to spin everything like a dramatic basketball game of rebounds and come-from behind runs.
And we have seen it in the way that the substantial meat of bills and their effects on the actual people they are affecting has always been second to “what the man on the street thinks”. And said individual, because of this abrogation of responsibility, often has to make an uninformed entirely gut-based response as there is little information presented or disseminated in any large fashion.
And this focus on the horse-race of politics has also lead to the idea that both sides are equal and must be treated as equal in all things in order to keep the drama high, thus allowing the Overton window to shift drastically simply by one side getting crazier and one side to completely abandon reality entirely because substance of political view has become secondary to the rhetorical war.
And that’s precisely what we’ve seen.
Not just with getting more and more insane and disconnected from reality as we can see by simply tuning in to Fox News or listening to any given conservative these days. And not just with the media giving them a free pass (simply look at the power the merest accusation of “media bias” has to inflict “both sides do it” hand-wringing even on issues where there isn’t even remote equivalence).
But also in the way that the idea of politics as sporting event has thoroughly been sold throughout the entire political landscape.
It is a common joke throughout the left blogosphere that “it pisses the left off” is a prime motivator for right-wing political endorsement. And it’s not just a joke. A number of actual policies have been passed simply to “aggravate” assumed ideological enemies or to punish those perceived as lesser for “working against” them.
And more generally, a large number of rhetorical flourishes and argument positions have been widely adopted as ways to shut up liberals or otherwise piss them off. From the “anti-PC” bigotry to the circus around Palin’s “blood-libel” idiocy. And a number have been adopting whole purchasing and personal action decisions on trying to make hippies cry from countering Earth Day by deliberately wasting electricity and polluting to those who have decided to eat unhealthily and risk their own health just to show those hippie overlords.
But those are mere manifestations of the phenomenon compared to the big stuff.
Slacktivist had a fantastic post on anti-choice activists and the way they have to skew how the world works simply to create a moral fight they can feel on the right side of while doing nothing really and indulging in all of their tribal hatreds of anyone in a societally disadvantaged position.
I’d recommend reading the whole thing, but it goes into how this world of “pro-life” activism provides an easy fiction where one can role-play like a hero as if life was a sort of D&D campaign.
But lost in this psycho-drama, is the fact that this activism has a social cost. There are real women who are denied a sometimes critical medical surgery because of this psychodrama. Real women who die when access becomes more and more constrained.
Not to mention that this need to be a hero and be on the right side of an issue where you fight for an oppressed group is something that’s easy to find. There’s no shortage of minority groups seeking basic human rights in this country. Not to mention the number of outright atrocities and war-crimes committed overseas that it would be easy to invest oneself in without much effort to determine the “bad guys” and the “good guys”. And of course the general relief organizations who always need help getting famine aid and medical attention to disaster-stricken areas.
But these issues are off the map. Because it’s about the psychodrama, the ease of a fictional fight, and the relief one feels from being part of a group “fighting a good fight” without having to risk the disadvantages of having yourself and allies be members of non-advantaged members of society.
A sad way of living one’s life, to be sure. But it’s a natural extension of a trained system the Right has been engaged in for awhile to vote entirely on tribal resentments and imagined enemies, for one’s team of White Straight Evangelical Christian Males against the horde of Others.
It’s a function of treating politics as a game, a place for a majority voting population to vote for their particular group identification and against perceived enemies rather than for any particular policy goal.
A function that the Republicans and conservatives in general have only been happy to feed, because it works towards their political advantage. It’s extremely easy to “run” the “horse race” if one doesn’t have any consistent position and where victory over enemies is the only consistent goal. It doesn’t matter what you pass or even if the country’s functional if what is desired of you is merely a continuance of the psychodrama and a feeling that “people like you are winning”.
As such, terrifyingly, we’ve run into situations lately where dire problems that affect everyone (such as global warming, the massive gulf between rich and poor, our broken health care system, our broken regulatory system, not to mention the various discriminations against minority groups) have been hard to address because one side of the debate is no longer interested in whether or not anything passed aids anyone.
It means real people suffer because we’re treated as the football in a game of who’s winning. The DC Deomcrats or the DC Republicans. Tune in to see this local rival and then we’ll all have a beer to discuss the highlights.
And on the Left
And while it is becoming terrifying that one side of the political debate has abandoned reality and care about whether real people are affected by psychodrama and political gamesmanship, I’ve run into an attitude that is even more worrisome.
And that is, I have seen the growth of a viewpoint in Democratic-leaning blogs that since the Right has had such success in the “horse race” by adopting these tactics of treating everything like a game, that the best counter is to follow suit.
How nice it would be to treat everything like a game and try and outmaneuver them to political victories, whatever they may be using whatever compromises are necessary and so on.
And to find the satisfaction so hard to gain by the slow march of history in response to long-winded activist motion in the horse race of my team beat your team instead.
I can understand the desire, but it’s misplaced. The Right can “get away with it”, in treating politics like a game, because conservatism has always been based in resisting any and all forward political momentum in society. It is easy to treat politics as a game if “stop the other side from making a play” is a legitimate point of victory.
Additionally, the Right at the moment has been dominated by an overt sociopathy and nihilism that has ceased to appreciate how even the status quo relies on strict maintenance of social safety nets and some manner of collective work in reality. And which, more critically, has ceased to care if anyone gets hurt by their ideology owing to a strong Calvinist streak that makes victim-blaming second-nature (only those who deserve it run into problems, just be one of the Elect and everything will be fine).
The Left, especially these days, has been more defined by trying to change laws to help people. People who have fallen in the cracks, people being fucked over by the system, people for which this stuff is life and death.
As long as we care about people, we will lose the “game of politics” and if we no longer care about the people then what the hell is the point of being on the Left or supporting the Democrats?
And the Point, After all that Blather
And so I dawn very lately to my point.
Which is that there is a shit-ton of media and cultural momentum towards treating politics like a game, like a horse-race between two equal sides and who’s currently in the lead.
And it really isn’t. This shit matters.
A debate about health care isn’t a fight between two sides and a means to see who will win this week’s news cycle with the best talking points or who will have a coup that will win them new voting blocs for the next election.
It’s about who will live and die.
And I don’t say that hyperbolically. It’s literally a debate about who will live and die in this country. Whether someone will be able to access health care when they need it and whether or not they will be bankrupted by the mere attempt.
Same thing with “social issues”. Issues like abortion access, gay civil rights, trans rights issues, immigration rights may be easy to view as “distractions” given the intense game-playing of the sociopathic right, but each one of these issues affects real people.
Lack of abortion access makes being a woman a deadly proposition, one missed period or rape away from a matter of life and death. LGBT rights affect whether individuals, because of who they are partnered with or their gender identity, can manage to find employment, have their partnerships protected, have freedom from harassment and murder, and whether they can live their lives freely. Immigration rights also affecting issues of life and death, how one can settle, what one has to put up with and so on.
There are people who are committing suicide, being killed by bigots, losing their lives to preventable diseases or conditions, who are literally dying. Needlessly because to many the political system is just a game and issues that affect real people’s lives are a good thing to grandstand on for a few extra votes for the bigot candidate.
And some on the left tempted to say, yeah, that’s why we need to treat this like a game if we want to win this, I say it will not work.
The Right, the media, get away with this, because it is now part of our cultural narrative.
Everyone “knows” that we have no ability to affect the political system, that “everyone” is bought and sold, that politicians are all crooked, and that no one cares about the little guy.
It’s all a game, so who cares how we vote or why we vote or anything else than whether we’re backing the winners and losers.
And you know who are the only people benefitting from this?
It’s great for those who want to vote tribal resentment and for “Christian moral values” and feel like their team is winning. As long as it’s a game, none of this is real and it’s worth it to feed the psychodrama and get something out of the whole process.
But the only way we’re going to get out of this diseased system is by reminding everyone it’s not a game. It’s only by rubbing each one of these sociopaths in the dead and bloated bodies and having to face up to their arguments. It’s only by resisting the cultural narrative and reminding everyone that each one of these issues has real lives being affected and maybe the side dicking around like it’s all in jest needs to start getting fucking serious.
It’s certainly what history has shown. Great crimes like slavery, the treatment of women as property, the response to the AIDS tragedy were not addressed by simply playing games, throwing people under the bus if they were not the majority or wondering how these issues would affect the midterm.
They were addressed when those who suffered spoke their experiences, when the activists so shifted the cultural and so kept the spotlight on the injustices that those who resisted looked ever more the monsters that they were.
We see this today in the Sociopathic Right yelling about the 60s and becoming more and more monstrous to those of us who are young who see it as common sense that segregation was wrong, that women should be treated more or less as human beings, and that gays aren’t evil demons trying to kill Christianity.
But more importantly than that, it’s important to remember that politics isn’t a game not for tactics, not because that’s what an activist does, or anything else.
But because each and every one of these debates affects real live people. Every bill, every debate, every law affects real life people. Is the difference between life and death for them. Not just in the passage, but in the quality of what is passed.
Our media and the Right want us to forget this.
But we can never do so. Some of us, literally so (it’s hard to do, when you or your friends are the ones being targeted in each bill that comes up).
Lest we lose all humanity.
Oh, P.S. This means that if you’re one of those who are fans of saying you are “above politics”, that you are in fact a complete and total idiot. No one is “above politics” unless they a) Are so privileged to be untouched by almost any policy which is pretty much impossible and b) so devoid of empathy to be unable to care about the life and death of anyone other than oneself. Just wanted to FYI that into this overlong post.
I am a Mistress of Science!
As of minutes ago, I successfully defended my thesis, acing it out of the park without even half the nervousness I had even last night. I have officially completed my Master’s Degree in Biology and will soon return to the United States rich in the spoils I have earned through blood sweat and semi-frequent breakdowns.
And hearing the praise coming from my advisor and the censor, well, it was all worth it. I may have struggled, collapsed, fell down to the deepest ditches, bloodied and mangled, but I fucking came out of it and proved my worthiness.
Today, I am awesome!
Now, the sun is shining, the trees are fully flowering and starting to do the floating cherry blossom scattering that happens in Japan, and life is good.
This section of grad school is over. In a couple of weeks, I’ll start my repatriation to the States.
In short, I rock.
Can you dig it?