Obligatory end of summer update

Whoa, so I haven’t been around here in, like, forever. I’ve been splitting my time between working on a paper and actually having a social life for the first time in about a year. On Monday it’ll be back to having no life: I start my new job and then after a week of orientation it’s back to school. After taking part in the book discussion group earlier this summer, my professor–who has turned into something of a mentor this past year–gave me permission to sign up for her graduate seminar in Advanced Metaphysics in the fall, which will be focusing on feminist metaphysics this semester. I just got approved for that class on Monday by UNL’s Graduate Studies department, so I dropped my Spinoza class. Here’s the new schedule:

  • Intro to Physical Anthropology
  • Ethical Theory
  • Advanced Metaphysics
  • Fiction Writing
  • Writing Theory for Consultants (job-related)

In addition, I’m still volunteering at the LGBTQA Resource Center, so it should be a pretty busy semester. I’ll probably either end up killing myself or coming out totally prepared for grad school. My Philosophy of Language professor has been helping me with my paper. I’ve decided to write on the reappropriation of the word ‘queer’. Specifically, I want to explore how a word which started its modern life as a pejorative could end up changing connotations due to a conscious effort among
a specific language community. I suspect it has something to do with how much a word is needed to perform a particular job. Professor Dowell sent me some information about a conference coming up in November in Memphis that she said my paper would go over well at, so I think I’ll be submitting it.

Also, I had my almost-three-month hormone check-up on Wednesday. I switched doctors and am now going to Planned Parenthood. The doctor I was seeing at UNMC is more qualified, but it’s just easier to grab a 5-minute bus ride to Planned Parenthood than to venture up to Omaha at the asscrack of dawn, especially with how busy I’ll be this semester. They did more blood tests, and I’ll find out next week if they’re going to do anything with my doses. I have been noticing some significant changes already. The most exciting is that I’ve started developing breasts. They’re painfully sensitive and nearly microscopic, but progress is progress. Also, my body hair has started to diminish and grow more slowly. My skin also seems smoother and generally healthier, but I’m not sure how much of that is the hormones and how much is the fact that I recently started a new skin-care regimen. I’ve also started getting ma’amed a lot on the phone, which is a big plus. And today when I went to the pharmacy to refill my sleeping pills, which are prescribed under my full male name, the pharmacist asked if I was picking them up for someone else, which made me feel good.

Finally, on the dating front, I’ve met a lady whom I think seems like quite the winner. We seem to have quite a bit in common, and she is incredibly sweet and caring. The main problem is that she lives in Omaha and my piece-of-shit car probably isn’t fit to travel the highways. Also, she’s allergic to cats, which could be an issue…

Anyway, I’ll try not to disappear for weeks on end again. I realize that a lot of my friends come here to keep up with what’s going on in my life, which is nice, but I may be kinda busy for a while. I’ll still try to keep you folks posted.

Book discussion group and other philosophy jazz

So I haven’t been posting here for a while because I got invited to join a book discussion group one of my philosophy professors has put together with her grad students and I’ve been busy doing reading for that. Honestly, it’s kind of intimidating, since I’m just an undergraduate and probably not as smart as everyone else there, but I figured I would try it out since I’ve decided that I want to pursue a Ph.D. in Philosophy. The book we are discussing is Judith Butler’s Bodies That Matter, which is an incredibly interesting read. Not sure how much I agree with her, but it’s interesting nonetheless.

One thing that came up during the discussion that makes me want to reread the introduction came from a woman I’ve had a class with named Clare. I had read Butler as arguing that our classification of people based on sex leads to two groups: those who are “people”, i.e., those who fit into the category of “normally sexed”, and those who are categorized as “not normally sexed”, who are culturally unintelligible. Clare, on the other hand, thought Butler split people into three groups, with the “culturally unintelligible” as people outside the “masculine/feminine” spectrum. We never quite figured out who was right, so I’m going to go back and re-read that bit.

Another thing that came up is something I feel strongly about. I’m only going to bring it up here because I’m thinking of using the idea for a writing sample for graduate school applications; I’m not going in-depth because I haven’t properly fleshed it out yet. Anyway, we were discussing the nature of language as well as trying to get to the central focus of humanity’s collective worldview, and I proposed that the answer was control. Everything we do is an attempt to control our environment, which drive has been the primary moving force behind all of human history. It’s similar to Foucault’s notion of power, but slightly more nuanced. I haven’t yet figured it all out, but I’ll try to post more as I do.

Another idea I’m playing with is a pragmatic account of hate speech and its relevance for radical word reclamation/reappropriation. I’m waiting for some articles I ordered through interlibrary loan to get here (they weren’t available online). Once I get the details set in stone I’ll post more.

Less than a week to go

So I have my appointment at the University of Nebraska Medical Center next Friday, which is only 6 days away. I’m really excited. Like, really excited. Super-stoked. Anyway, in light of the fact that I’m going to soon be on massive doses of estrogen, I’ve decided to give quitting smoking a second shot. (More like an eighth shot, but maybe the eighth time’s the charm.) I’m doing it by cutting down my smoking by about 25% a week until I’m all done. I start today.

Also, I have been working super-hardcore on my female voice since school got out. This last semester was really crazy hectic, which cut down on the time I could spend doing vocal exercises and suchlike. It was really discouraging. But I think I’ve gotten the right voice now and I’m working on fine-tuning it. It’s really weird, because now I’m looking for excuses to talk to people just so I can practice it. To be honest, it’s much easier when I’m alone and only talking to myself, because then I’m not worrying about what someone else is thinking; when I talk to other people I find myself worrying about it and having a difficult time maintaining it. However, I think that problem will be solved as I become more confident with my voice.

All in all, this is shaping up to be a great summer. My transition is really going to take off, which has me super-excited. Plus, despite the fact that I was disappointed by the fact that this past semester was my worst grade-wise since going back to school, I realized that I still got a 3.87, which is still a ridiculously good semester average. At the very least, it’s good enough for the Dean’s List. Also, my dad is thinking of starting a web-based software/app company and wants my help with it, so this could be my in to the video game industry. At the very least, it’ll be a fun father/daughter business venture. Things are going pretty well for once.

“We need a leader who is biblically based”

So the Reverend Ralph Martino just got done blabbing his word-flap on CNN about this big shitstorm with Obama alienating lots of black voters by showing that he has a heart. I sort of knew this was going to happen, because black folks in America are slightly more concerned with gender roles and norms than whitey. (Generally speaking; obviously, there are people who break the mold.) Anyway, when asked if he and Watch and Pray Ministries would still be supporting President Obama, he responded that they will be praying for them and went off on a tangent about how we need an über Christ-lover in the Oval Office. I think this is rather coincidental, because I just found out that I got an A+ on my paper about why atheists are qualified to hold public office. If I were clinically insane, I might think this was synchronicity at work.

Anyway, I won’t go into the fine details about why I’m opposed to deeply religious folks running things. If you want, you can read my full project, which is up on my Open Letter to American Atheists page. Really, it boils down to this: Christianity is a deficient belief system, and people who blindly follow its tenets are not going to have the problem-solving skills to run a country. It is perfectly possible to have a secular ethical system based on logic (again, read my paper or this post or the entry on Humanism at ReligiousTolerance.org). In fact, I think it is desirable to have an ethical system based on reason as opposed to faith. You see, the nice thing about basing things on reason is that you actually have reasons for them. Reasons which are objectively verifiable and don’t boil down to gut intuitions.

Also, I was shocked when Rev Martino said that his ministry prays for more than 32,000 minutes a week. What a waste of time. Prayer has never solved any problems. Active doing of things is what gets things done. That’s why it’s called “doing things.” Prayer doesn’t do anything other than shut down certain parts of your brain, causing you to mildly dissociate and think that things coming from your own mind are coming from supernatural fairy-being. Direct action is the way to effect change in the socio-political world.

SOrry, Christians, but you’ve had your millennium of dominance. Time to let the rational empiricists have a turn.

This is what happens when asocial trans lesbians go back to school and rediscover the internet

So since my big mental snaffu a few years ago I’ve been hearing a lot of folks throwing this word, “asocial”, around in reference to me. At first I was a little irritated and offended, because I thought “asocial” was like “antisocial” and the only time I ever do anything truly antisocial is when I think that the relevant social norm/custom is anti-humanist. Anyway, I did some research and found out that “asocial” is basically just a fancy clinical word for folks who are pathologically critical of society, which, to me, sounds like it’s actually a good thing. For that reason, I’ve come to embrace the fact that I’m a pathological outsider. Really, it explains a lot about me.

Anyway, part of being asocial is that I never really understood the social media jazz. I’ve had a Facebook account since 2004 (or 2006: the first got deleted for making too many “mean” joke groups so I made a new one), but I’ve never really used it much. Anyway, my thing with friends is I have a few close ones that I deal with all the time, and then a bunch of acquaintances whom I hung out with regularly for a short time before deciding that thy bored me. So, I’ve never really understood the point of Facebook or Twitter or any of that jazz. If I want to know what you’re doing (or vice versa) I can text you or call you. Chances are, I already have a rough idea of what’s happening. Why you need the interweb machines for friend things?

Anyway, my internet horizons were broadened when I went back to school last spring. It started with the porn. You see, I had never really been exposed to pornography until the summer of 2007 when I got a job at a video store that sold it. Before I found out what pornography really was, I thought it was probably just videos of people making sweet, passionate love after a really romantic evening. (No, I’m not kidding; I really thought that’s what porn was like.) Turns out it’s not like that at all. It’s a bunch of sociopaths treating human beings as sub-human pleasure objects and forcing them to do the most ridiculously raunchy things they can imagine. Totally not hot. So, when I went back to school and took Philosophy of Feminism and saw that one of the paper topics was porn, I went crazy on that shit and got me an A. Anyway, part of my research for that paper was surveying internet porn sites, which tipped me off to the fact that there are such things as porn aggregators. Seriously. Google “Darlina.” And on these porn aggregators there is a category called “pizza porn.” Yes, people get of on jamming manly meat parts through the center of a pizza pie. I wish I were making this shit up. Anyway, this made me look at the internet in a whole new light.

Then, last fall, I took a political science class for which part of my participation grade was opening a Twitter account and twitting away about the news. At first I was kind of irritated, because to me this was like requiring students to go to a bar and make small talk with the other drunks, but then I discovered that Twitter is really secretly the world’s greatest news website. Seriously, just follow every new outlet you can find there and you’ll never miss out on what’s happening in the world. Fucking amazing! And then there are all the awesome radical twits. Just twenty minutes ago I discovered that Twisty Faster of I Blame the Patriarchy fame is actually on Twitter now. Now I can get Nobel Prize-worthy radical writings delivered straight to my phone device. Huzzah!

Finally, about a week and a half ago, I discovered that “liking” people and things on Facebook is akin to following them on Twitter, and you can repost whatever they post. This has lead to an orgy of me reposting everything on George Takei’s wall. This shit is fucking awesome! And now, just yesterday, I discovered Google+, which appears to be the new hangout for trendy artists and tech geeks. Totally the coolest of them all. Too bads most of my friends seem to think it’s not the coolest thing since Creepy Crawlers. Oh well, they’ll come around.

Anyway, I guess the point I’m trying to make is that all this social media bullshit might not be total bullshit. It does seem to help people spread news and share opinions. It seems like these sites have replace the Greco-Roman forums (or fora, if y’all wanna be smart about it). The internet really is the greatest invention in the history of inventing.

New page: Open Letter to American Atheists

So, I uploaded the final project from my writing class that I mentioned and created a page from part two of the project. It’s an open letter to American atheists, hopefully providing some advice on how to overcome anti-atheist prejudice in the political arena. View it here. The entire project should be available for download at the top there if you want to read it all; if the download doesn’t work, let me know.

Souls and justice

So being a good atheist, I’m celebrating Easter by writing a paper for class about why atheists are qualified to hold public office. It’s for a literacy class and I’m supposed to demonstrate public literacy by writing about a public debate and I chose the debate over whether or not atheists should hold office. 50% of Americans say no.

Anyway, for my paper I’ve interviewed a few atheists and theists about their opinions on the issue, and one person in particular really made me chuckle a little. He said that atheists are not entitled to belief in justice, because in order to believe in justice on needs to believe in equality, and the only way to believe that people are “created” equal is to believe in a soul. This raises at least on major question: what exactly is a soul?

According to my theist frienemy, a soul is the root of the intellect, emotion, and creativity. This sounds a whole lot like a mind to me, which is one of the things which has always confused me about souls. If one’s soul is simply one’s mind, what do you say about people who suffer a traumatic brain injury and undergo drastic mental or personality changes afterwards? What about folks with schizophrenia or Alzheimer’s? If, however, the soul is not the mind, then what relevance does it have? If we can’t see any evidence of it, how do we know it’s actually always their, or that it’s the same soul we were born (“created”) with? How do we know my soul isn’t currently flying over into my brother’s body on the other side of the room? These are some questions you need to answer if you posit the existence of an immaterial soul.

As for the belief in justice, any good atheist–such as my friend, Tony, whom I interviewed right after this theist–will tell you that what makes people equal is not a soul but our capacity for emotions, empathy, and sensation of pain. Most people are capable of the same basic emotions as everyone else, and everyone has the same basic reactions to some of them: by definition, everyone likes pleasure and no one likes being depressed. Sure, there are rare disorders like anhedonia and congenitive analgesia which prevent people from enjoying (or suffering, in the case of CA) the whole range of human experience, but these folks–particularly folks with anhedonia–are not lesser in any way, because they can still feel other emotions. (Also, anhedonia in particular is usually just a symptom of a larger problem, which can usually be treated, so these people still have the capacity for pleasure.)

So, in a nutshell: souls are silly, and atheists believe in equality. If you doubt that latter fact, just remind yourself that Amnesty International is founded on what is essentially an atheistic philosophy. They don’t appeal to God for the good work they do: they’re just humanists helping humans.