People do lots of things to cope with terrible things that have happened to them. Some choose socially acceptable methods. Like pouring themselves into work. Or identifying so closely with their family that they lose themselves. Or getting married merely because you’re pregnant, and only married people are supposed to have kids.
Others choose less socially acceptable means. Such as heroin. Or profligate, anonymous sex. Or binging and purging. Or drinking until they pass out, or say something they regret, or assault a stranger. Or saying the most outrageous shit just to get people to pay attention. Just for a moment.
So. I came out publicly on Facebook this month. First, “I’m out.” But what about the content of it? Second, “I’m bisexual.” I thought this was easier to explain to people.
Then I talked to a friend at work about it. I told her, at first, that I was bi. But for some reason she seemed safe. So I told her that I lied earlier, that I was actually a “pansexual.” I then asked her if she knew what that meant. When she said yes, she responded, “Why did you tell me you were bisexual earlier?” I explained why. She told me to live my truth, and if people didn’t know what it was, they could always ask.
I thanked my coworker the next day. Our conversation prompted me to come out as “pan” on Facebook the day before. Want to know what’s cool? She asked if she could hug me. Consent is cool.
All of these disclosures in a short amount of time began to weigh on me. People came out of the woodwork to support me. Others met me with a-near-deafening silence. Also, with these revelations, I wanted to give people the choice. With my full self now in their view, others could now choose how they wanted to relate.
I don’t know about you, but it is often easier for me to remember traumatic events than it is positive events. That seems to be how I’m wired. So when some people expressed some negativity, I felt it. Hard. This wasn’t trauma. I just want to say that. But it brought up lots of past trauma.
My coping mechanisms have typically been incredibly self-destructive. I’ve almost destroyed my marriage before. That will be another blog post. But the one I really wanted to get back into? Cigarettes. Now I don’t think this is a terrible coping mechanism, but it’s not great either. It shot my singing voice. I stank. It literally took my breath away. It hurt my throat sometimes.
So I was left with a barrage of choices. Do I take up smoking again? Do I put up with the terrible negatives of smoking, because the most destructive coping means distract me the most from my pain? What about now? What about this gas station? No, I can put off the purchase until the next gas station. And the next. And each day I won this battle, it helped me face my pain directly. I sat with it. I did need a new coping skill, however.
And I met my new one: my trusty, blue, Bic pen. It’s a lot cheaper than Cook County cigarettes. It doesn’t smell. It strengthens my bite. While it doesn’t function well as a distracting coping mechanism, it gives me something to do as I muse. I haven’t arrived yet. But this is something new. I’m here for it all.
Julie Rodgers was a “Ministry Associate for Spiritual Care” at Wheaton College until she resigned yesterday. She is a celibate gay Christian whose shift in view on same-sex marriage seems to have been the reason for her resignation. If you are not used to reading gay Christian perspectives, check out her blog. Another gay Christian voice to check out is Matt Vines at The Reformation Project.
In other religio-sexual news, Reza Aslan encouraged his fellow American Muslims to fight for marginalized groups like the LGBT community in a public letter after the SCOTUS decision. In case you weren’t aware, 42% of American Muslims support same-sex marriage (21+21). Maybe you weren’t surprised by the figure. I was. It helps to look at data.
Here are the four takeaway questions quoted (except for the “And”) from the transcript:
What is the content of this product? As in, what am I looking at here?
Is it really selling what it’s advertising? Like, if you have a woman in a bikini in your commercial, it better be for swim wear and not for, ya know, hamburgers.
Who made this?…
Why do they want me to consume it? That is, which demographics benefit from me internalizing this message and which demographics are hindered by it?
My wife and I discussed this while we walked by Victoria’s Secret in the mall. She wondered why the store would have an image of a woman with no top, covering only her nipple (probably through Photoshop or a nude suit) when what it was selling was a bracelet. I speculated that marketing experts project that it will have a significant impact on the tastes of women’s significant others to push to buy that product so that their women can exude the image shown: free-spirited, virile, trophy, etc. But then I thought about it today, and realized that women (or men if they want the bracelet) don’t need other agents encouraging them to exude free-spirited, virile, trophy images; they have agency of their own.
This article talks about the origins of Western secularism. I modify it because not all secularisms are the same. Turkish secularism, for example, looks different from American secularism because of the different histories of the peoples. Even in the West, secularism in the United States differs from that in the United Kingdom which differs from that in France. For more elaboration on the various secularisms, see the interview with Tariq Modood at The Religious Studies Project.
These two articles discuss how women entering prisons are primarily non-violent drug offenders. The feministing article highlights that the major contribution to drug use/penalization occurs among sex-abuse victims. The everydayfeminism article highlights that while men’s prisons still have far more prisoners population-wise, women’s prisons are growing at double the rate of men’s: growth in prisons in general are fueled by the failed War on Drugs.
Celia Edell applies Foucault’s reading of Bentham to explain that patriarchal norms for femininity come from many directions (men, other women), including from the self. Gender expression is a show for everyone and no one. This was an article that gave me a check regarding my thoughts on the Victoria’s Secret ad.
While happenings in one place aren’t guaranteed to replicate in another, a Canadian LGBT activist warned American LGBT activists that marriage equality brings apathy among the public. It reminds me of the unfortunately failed Equal Rights Amendment. Women in the United States gained suffrage in 1920, gained lots of momentum in the 1960s and 1970s through second-wave feminism, but the culture at large seems not to have given that Amendment as much weight as they.
7. I’m going to wait on #PlannedParenthood. The story is still developing. Color me cautious (I guess you can color me cowardly if you want; I just think big stories need more development).
Because of Caitlyn Jenner in the news last month, I thought it worthwhile to cover a less well known group. Intersex persons are the little known group in the longer LGBTQIA acronym. Political recognition of them at times overlap with transgender persons, hence the upcoming post, “The Politics of Intersex.”
Regarding last week’s post on discourse, I feel I was too dependent on Bruce Lincoln’s theory of religion. While I will continue to use his outline, I am going to expand it with my own stuff. This is part two of four.
Here is a review of the outline. Religion is at least, though not necessarily reducible to:
What is practice in religion? Lincoln defines practice as rituals and ethics which designate a proper world order/person as defined by religious discourse.
I see practice as the primary identifier of religion, for it is what people outside the religion (discourse, community, institution) primarily encounter. You do not see beliefs or institutions unless you look at their texts, which are the result of the practice of writing and encoding ideologies with otherworldly authority. However, you can see clothing or grooming. You can also see texts or architecture if you are aware of it. You can hear certain music (or not hear it in its absence) or rhythmic recitations. You can taste different cuisines or items associated with a ritual. You can smell smells associated with a space, and you can feel the touch of objects or other persons.
You could argue with me about what should be primary in religion. Beliefs, or discourse in my presentation, is usually what is asserted as primary, if Protestantism is taken as normative for religion. However, even when it comes to discourse—in the construction, maintenance, replication, polemics, irenics, apologetics, destruction, or reformation of it—I see the activity of practice employed in it. Why? The act of discourse defines who is in a group and who is outside a group, a practice that is always more mobile than discursive text (though I do not limit discourse to text alone).
I am not using my religious upbringing as representative of all religion, but merely to demonstrate a point. It seemed sometimes that signing onto a belief was as important, if not more important, than enacting a practice connected with that belief. This ended up being a practice in itself. One of the practices closely identified with my group was the practice of glossolalia, or speaking in languages you hadn’t sat down to learn. While the group pushed the practice, it definitely mattered if you even considered it a possibility. Southern Baptists, who did not condone the practice, were seen as other to us because they did not even consider glossolalia a possibility. It didn’t matter that we had many in our group who did not themselves “speak in tongues” as glossolalia was referred to; it mattered that we took the practice of believing Acts 2 in a way that Southern Baptists didn’t.
Certain practices seem to have religious connotations associated with them: ingesting a limited amount of food and beverage in a communal setting (Eucharist/communion), stretching limbs in a communal setting (raising hands in worship or some settings of Hatha Yoga), dressing up (wearing a hijab, niqab, skull necklace, funerary ashes), or feeling an object in a stylized manner (prayer wheel in Tibetan Buddhism or rosary).
Lincoln goes on further to say that no practice is inherently religious in itself until defined by the discourse. I described some practices in a purely material way. If I said I was making you a cake, would you consider it religious? Consider the following. Cake-bakers mix flour, sugar, and oil together, bake this set of ingredients, and then design it. When religious discourse is added to it, some Christian bakers decided not to bake and design cakes for same-sex weddings, because they associate their practice of baking with their religious discourse.
This example brings up some important questions. Who defines practice: religious specialists or ordinary religionists? When is a practice religious and when is it idiosyncratic? Is religious practice and idiosyncrasy mutually exclusive? Is religion primarily personal or social? I’m not asking what should be, but but how practice functions in a particular time and place.
How are ethics colored by religion? Ethics here would describe interpersonal or public actions toward one’s own group and outside of one’s group (as defined by the discourse) based on discourse. This discourse can be reasonable or not, but what matters is that a group finds the discourse reasonable enough from which to authorize practice. So making cookies for your neighbor could be a way of consoling him when he’s sick (and you simply performing a practice for a friend) or a way of demonstrating care motivated by proselytizing (a religious motive). It could involve speaking with (or not speaking with) members considered outside your community and doing so in a specific way (conversationally, in a rebuking way, avoidance, etc.).
Recently in Springfield, MO, there was an issue on the ballot (“Question 1”) of whether or not to include the LGBT community in the City’s non-discrimination ordinance regarding housing, employment, and public accommodation. Depending on how you approached this, it could be merely a political and civil rights issue or a religious (or religious freedom) issue (and religious discourse occurred on the “Yes” AND “No” sides of the issue). Who got to define whether it was political/civil rights or religious?
Regarding Question 1, I lamented to Russell McCutcheon that it didn’t seem that persuasive/reasoned discussion was possible when people held fundamentally different views. It seemed to me that groups lobbed talking points at each other without hearing others’ points. He gave me the following: “They’re trying to play fair — it’s just that their mutually beneficial definitions of ‘fair’ either compete or even contradict one another. They’re not all playing the same game but each is trying to portray theirs as the only game in town…”
Even when practices are similar within a community-e.g., providing public discourse on why you should vote a certain way–they are carved out from general use to serve to the interests of your own group. This seems true to me, regardless of how libertarian you want to be.
Next Saturday I will go over “community.” You might be able to tell this from reading so far, but all of the features Lincoln lists-discourse, practice, community, and institution-are integrally related. It helps to separate them to discuss them, but they generally don’t operate apart from one another, unless a religion is extinct.
I don’t have to think twice about walking into a gas station with a hoodie and walking out with skittles.
I don’t have to travel two states over to get married because my state doesn’t recognize me.
I don’t have to look for special ways to get into a building without ramps because I can’t walk.
I don’t have to ask people to repeat themselves and eventually give up communicating because I can’t hear.
I don’t get my character questioned because of what I wear to a club.
I don’t have to pull out my green card when I’m pulled over.
I don’t have to ask someone to describe things to me because I can’t see.
I don’t have to have my loyalties questioned because I don’t practice the majority religion.
I don’t have to endure stares when I walk into a bathroom because my clothes don’t seem to match my born gender.
I don’t have to have my decisions questioned because I’m retired.
I don’t have to suffer insults at an intersection because I’m hungry and all I have is a sign.
I don’t have to work three jobs to make ends meet.
I don’t notice suspicious stares when I ask a stranger for help.
I don’t have to defend myself when I kiss my significant other in public.
I don’t have to worry about a clerk watching me when I’m perusing through electronics.
I don’t have to think about employers “losing” my application because of my last name.
I don’t have to keep being passed over for jobs because I did time over 20 years ago.
I don’t have to live in fear or instability because my country is colonized.
I don’t have to defend my body because it doesn’t fit a certain body image.
The fact that I can walk through life relatively easily and that others have to jump through arbitrary hoops isn’t fair. I enjoy most of these advantages by accident of birth and rearing. I didn’t set up these social advantages nor did I work to achieve them. I don’t mind the easy road, but I do mind that others don’t have the same privileges and that access to them is made harder by some. I do mind that some groups of which I’m a part keep other groups from their full potential. Is there a way for me to enjoy these freedoms while not appearing (or being) an utter douche? I think the only way I can is by helping to remove barriers. A friend of mine put it this way: acknowledging privilege, showing empathy to the marginalized (his words were discussing people of color), advocating and participating to remove barriers by many means, and then reading perspectives of the marginalized to hear their voices unfiltered through media outlets and paraphrases by the dominant. Who are the marginalized? LGBT, people of color, those who are poor, those of the working class, those of disability, those of non-majority religions, those who are older, those of radical politics, those who are colonized, those who are prisoners or have been, those of “different” body images, and probably others. What groups have I left out because my privilege affords me ignorance of them?
Want to hear voices different from yours? Here are some. They are not representative of every person in the group because there is ridiculous diversity within each group. Include others I don’t know about.