Sunday, November 25, 2007
A micro-update on my life: We're out of money, in massive debt, and there will be no Christmas this year. We're quite depressed about the money issues. I've been trying to empty out the attic, to sell some stuff on E-Bay, but there's just not a whole lot we want to part with. No sense selling something that you know you're going to buy again when you have money again. Especially when it's a hard-to-find collector's item.
So, anybody been to the Creationist Museum yet? Here's some pics from one visitor. I really want to visit it sometime, for the same reasons this guy did - just so I can laugh at it. Did you know that all dinosaurs were vegetarians? Yep, even the raptors. See, according to Creationism, all the animals in the Garden of Eden were vegetarians. They had to be, as meat-eating requires killing, and death hadn't been invented yet. When Eve ate the forbidden fruit, part of the punishment was that the Dinosaurs all dropped dead (how this was a punishment, I don't quite get). I'd be interested in knowing how many people consider themselves Creationists, then visit the museum, see what Creationism really means, and change their minds.
I try to be respectful of other people's religions and philosophies. I really do. And I try not to write too many anti-religion blogs, because I don't like reading other people's pro-religion blogs. If I'm going to object to fundies spreading their word everywhere, then it would be hypocritical of me to impose my non-relgion on other people.
But total Christian Fundamentalist Creationism (believing that the Earth is only 6,000 years old, etc) is just so baffling to me. The concept of a "god" is at least scientifically explainable. We're more powerful than other creatures on this planet. Our technology would look like magic to primitive people. So it stands to reason that there could be other people in the universe, technically advanced enough to appear godlike to us. Anyone who's played SimCity knows how much fun it is to build a civilization, and scientists now know how to grow a human from scratch. So I see no compelling reason to dismiss the idea of a Supreme Being.
Every thinking Christian knows, there is nothing anti-religious about belieiving in evolution. Science and religion CAN go hand-in-hand, if you don't take every Biblical word literally. And why should you? It's been translated and retranslated and mistranslated so many times over so many years. Much of the book is written like poetry. Even if every word was directly dictated by God personally (and no one believes that), He would still have been writing it for a more primitive culture, who couldn't understand a lot of the concepts we do today.
How explain to primitive people the concept of microscopic bacteria? It's easier to just say, "Don't eat unclean foods." How do you explain to ancient people the connection between unsafe sex and STDs? It's easier to say, "Save sex for marriage." A lot of what we decided was "moral" was actually just practical ways to keep society (at the time) from falling into chaos.
If the Bible had been written this century, it wouldn't have said, "Don't eat pork", it would have said, "Make sure you cook pork for at least this amount of time, make sure you keep it refrigerated, make sure you don't leave it on the counter, etc." The modern Bible also wouldn't tell us, "Save sex for marriage"; instead it would tell us ways to prevent unwanted pregnancy and disease.
Some religious zealots think that AIDS was invented by God to punish gays and other "sexual deviants". I think they're getting their cause and effect mixed up. Disease was already here, probably a side effect that God just couldn't iron out. Unable to stop the disease itself, God tries various methods of keeping people from spreading it. Reliable condoms hadn't been invented yet, so He had to make rules for human sexual behavior.
Of course, this would mean that God wasn't truly omnipotent. Does it really matter? Personally, I would much rather worship a Creator who had put a lot of work into the universe. Yeah, sure, be thankful that God granted you life, but does that really mean anything when he did it just by snapping His fingers? That cost Him nothing. There's nothing wrong with calling him omnipotent, because His power is so great that we mortals could never conceive of its limits. But that doesn't have to mean He can do absolutely anything. There's even parts of the Bible where God seems to be unable to stop certain events, or is surprised at something that happens (can someone all-knowing ever be surprised?) Worshippers rationalize this by saying, "God works in mysterious ways." I rationalize it by saying, "If there is a Supreme Being, he's not technically omnipotent."
I have been accused of thinking I'm the only one who has life figured out. I promise you, the only thing I know for certain is that I don't know a damn thing. I don't know if there's a god and I don't know if there's an afterlife. So please don't accuse me of looking down on religious people. I really don't. Everyone is entitled to their own philosphy of life. There are a lot of things in the universe that are simply unknown, and probably always will be. People don't like unanswered questions, so they fill those gaps with whatever they can find. The only time I really dislike religion, is when people use the name of their god to justify what I consider to be immoral behavior. And that's what trips people up - what I consider immoral obviously isn't going to be universal law. But I keep my beliefs fairly generic, and follow the ol' medical rule, "First, Do no harm." If you believe that people who are different should have different legal rights, then you are immoral. If you want to take away my rights, simply because you don't believe in my philosophy, religion, race, or sexual orientation, then you are doing harm.
For the most part, I am perceived as a bleeding heart liberal. This is because I believe in life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.
By "Life", I mean all human life, and some animal life as well. I get sick of hearing people complain about welfare, by saying crap like, "Why should my tax dollars pay for his liquor" and so on. Yes, some people abuse it, but I challenge you to find any system of anything that people can't abuse. A few flaws doesn't mean a system is bust. A system is defined by the people it helps, and welfare keeps some people from starving to death. If we allow our harsh capitalism to starve people who weren't strong enough to keep up, then we're not really guaranteeing life. I'm not saying give everything away free; in fact, if I were Queen of America, I'd probably do away with a lot of the government aid we already have, even ones I've benefitted from in the past. But for people to overcome the hardships in their life, the first thing they have to do is live.
"Liberty" and "Pursuit of Happiness" may as well be the same thing, in my opinion. Everyone should have the right to do anything they want, provided they aren't harming anyone else. I think most people can agree to that, or at least they think they do... until an issue like gay marriage comes up.
In reference to religion, a while back someone asked me, "What if you're wrong?" I assume the full question to that would be, "What if you're wrong, and there really is a God, and every word of the Bible is true and literal, and the fundies are right, and homosexuals are evil, etc etc etc?" Well, what if?
Once upon a time, I justified my Christian beliefs by figuring that I wasn't losing anything by believing in God, so I might as well do so. If it turned out I was wrong, so what? If there was no God, there'd be just as little an afterlife whether I believed or not. I'm out nothing either way, so might as well believe, rather than risk eternal Hell. Of course, I wasn't the first to come up with this philosophy. I later learned that it's called Pascal's Wager, and there's more info about it here. But to sum up, it looks like this:
Just looking at it, it seems to make a lot of sense. If nothing else, 1B (Hell) is just too great a risk for anyone NOT to become a believer, so if you have nothing to lose, why not believe in God?
But it makes a few illogical assumptions:
1. It assumes that there are no negative repercussions from believing in God. The whole basis of "what have you got to lose" conveniently forgets that a lot of people do live rougher lives because of their religious beliefs. There's closeted homosexuals who never find a fulfilling relationship because they think their sexual orientation is a sin. There's starving people in third-world countries who continue to have children they can't feed, all because Catholic missionaries told them that birth control was evil. There are countries at war because each believes in a different God, which often turns out to be the same God wearing a different hat. There are people missing out on some of the world's greatest literature, because their pastors told them those books were evil. There are people denying their children much-needed medical care, because they believe God is going to heal them. There are people destroying the environment, justifying it with the belief that the events of the Book of Revelation are near.
2. It assumes that one can simply say, "I believe in God" and it'll happen. Can you really force yourself to believe something, all the way to your core? And will that really fool the Supreme Being? There are a lot of things in life that I want to believe, and I would very much like to believe that all the pain in this lifetime will be rewarded in the next one. I'd also very much like to believe that I'll win the lottery. But if wanting something really bad magically made it happen, my life would be a lot different. I'll admit to being a bit nuts, but I'm not nearly crazy enough to believe in a magical man in the clouds. At least not without some sort of proof.
3. "Believing In God" is not so black-and-White. Which God? Which religion? Which denomination? There's a zillion religions out there, and each one has many denominations, sects, and other subsets. Is there any evidence that your religion is the correct one, or do you just go with the ones your parents taught you? Of course there can't be proof, because religions are built on blind faith. But when two rival religions tell you, "You have to believe and have faith without proof", how do you decide which is right? What happens if you pick the wrong one? Some people claim they felt a calling to the right religion, but I'm better at noticing and interpreting my mental rationalizations than some people. Some people experience a euphoria when they first go to church, brought on by the air of excitement in the room, and the attention they get from the other churchgoers, and they interpret that exhillaration as the moment that they were saved by God.
So, to answer the question, "What if you're wrong?", I'd have to say that I can't be wrong. I'm not saying there is no God, I'm just saying that I don't have any compelling reason to choose a religion. I haven't made any claim that I know what happens after you die. I can't be wrong because I haven't actually said anything to be wrong about. All I've said is, "I don't know." And while I may go on from time to time about GLBT rights, I make no guarantees about any potential gods agreeing with me. Of course, I could counter with a thousand counter-questions, most centering around, "What if you picked the wrong God?", but I've tried that before and I rarely get a straight answer.
Oh, I just remembered another reason I don't blog much: I never know how to end them.
Monday, July 2, 2007
Sybil is an 8-week old female tortoiseshell. Like many kittens, she has two modes: Play and sleep.
Banchi and Honi are NOT happy about the new addition. They both ran upstairs, and have holed up in separate hiding spots. They hiss whenever we go near them, or when they see each other.
But they will get over it. Sooner or later they'll realize that the new kitten is not going away, and they'll have to accept her (or at least learn to avoid/ignore her). Until then, we're keeping their claws trimmed, and keeping an eye on them to make sure they don't hurt her.
Saturday, June 9, 2007
A "Mondegreen" is a misunderstood song lyric. The term was invented when a certain author misheard "upon the green" as "mondegreen". The example I hear of most is "'Scuse me while I kiss this guy" instead of "kiss the sky". You can find mondegreen web sites all over the web, just Google "misheard song lyrics". There's a good database at www.kissthisguy.com.
While some are more well-known than others, none of them are universal. There's oodles of different ways people sing the lyrics to "Louie Louie". And just ask 10 different people what Springsteen says after "Blinded by the light..." I think my favorite Mondegreen is the one Phoebe mentions in an episode of Friends, the Elton John song that says, "Hold me closer Tony Danza..."
I have a slight hearing problem. Noises aren't too quiet; I hear volume just fine. But if there's any interfering noises, I have trouble picking out the sounds I want to hear. So I have a big problem with song lyrics, because the instruments are too distracting. As such, I can have a favorite song that I've heard for years, without ever having memorized the lyrics. So I got in the habit of making up my own.
You probably pity KJ about right now.
These days, most of my alternate lyrics aren't really "mondegreens", as I've pretty much gotten into the habit of singing the wrong words to every song on the radio, whether I understand the actual words or not. You can probably blame Weird Al. He's always been one of my favorite performers, and ever since I first heard of him in the 80s, I've been coming up with my own alternate lyrics for popular songs. The main difference being, I suck at it. In college, my buddy Alan and I came up with lots of odd lyrics, and we completely rewrote "Here's a Quarter" with our version titled, "Ned McWhorter Just Fell Down The Stairs". ("Call someone who glistens... and might live on Spam... or one of them chocolate eclairs...")
A couple of years later I started singing this version of the song "I Swear": "I swear... Like a sailor with tacks in his boot... I swear... Like a soldier who just shot his foot... Whenever there's trouble, whenever there's pain, Whenever I just washed the car and it rains, I swear..."
But most of the time it's not nearly that complex or thought out. There's a lot of commonly used words in songs that I just automatically substitute with other words, often without even thinking about it. For example, I often replace "love" with "slug". This works well both as a noun ("You Can't Hurry Slugs") and a verb ("Slug The One You're With"). However, if the context has someone "falling in" love, then I replace love with "lava" ("Don't Fall In Lava").
I also replace "peace" with "peas", for example: "Carry on my wayward son... There'll be peas when you have corn." One of the sillier things I do is replace "way" with "curds" (curds and whey, get it?), as in, "Oooooh, baby I love your curds..." On the rare occasion I hear the song "I Fall To Pieces, I sing the words, ""I swallow Reese's..." Lets see... instead of "Heaven Is A Place On Earth", I sing, "Heaven Is A Place With Smurfs."
One December at work, the radio station would alternate between Christmas songs and classic rock. It was kind of surreal, one minute you'd be listening to "Rudolph, the Red-Nosed Reindeer", the next minute they'd be playing the Stones' "Paint It Black". Which led me to start singing, "I see a reindeer and I want it painted black..." Now that you've read that, I dare you to try to hear the song again without thinking that.
Sometimes I'll come up with something subconsiously, and sing it without even knowing I'm singing it, regardless of who's around. Luckily only KJ was in the car when I belted out this highly perverse alternate verse for "I Will Follow Him" (Warning, not for young eyes): "I love him, I love him, I love him, and when he comes I'll swallow, I'll swallow, I'll swallow..." I've probably ruined that song for you for life.
Anybody else got any favorites they want to post here?
Thursday, April 26, 2007
My work seems to have blocked MySpace. At first I thought it was all the machines, but nope. I know a couple of employees who can still access it, and I know of one other who can't. Usually when they block a site, it blocks it for everyone. So apparently they feel certain specific employees are spending too much time on MySpace. I can't see how; I admit I was checking it for messages now and then throughout the day, but only during downtime. And each visit only took a few seconds - log on, check it, log off.
Well, I do have one alternate theory... I think sometimes my work's content blocker will block sites based on certain keywords on the page. I suppose it's possible there's some ads or something that only show up on mine (and the other blocked employee). But I don't think so - I cleared my cache, and went straight to the main page (www.myspace.com), and it's still showing up as "Forbidden".
Jumping the Shark
I really hate the phrase "Jump the Shark". I don't know why; it just gets under my skin. Last night on the TV Guide channel, they had a special on current TV shows they felt had Jumped the Shark, and of course they felt obligated to explain the origin of the phrase (as if anyone watching the thing didn't already know it). In the explanation, they mentioned (without drawing attention to it) that Happy Days ran from 1974-1984, and the JtS episode was in 1977. So Happy Days - one of the most popular TV shows of all time - jumped the shark after three years, and still lasted another seven? That doesn't really fit the generally understood meaning of the phrase.
A friend of mine heard a radio interview with Henry Winkler a while back. Winkler said that at the time of the shark episode, the show hadn't even hit the height of its popularity yet. Usually a show jumps the shark when it's on the way out, and the writers are grasping at straws to save the series. I'll admit the shark episode was a really bad idea for an episode, but as the origin of the phrase, it's an utter misnomer.
The Name Game
Anyway, I've been using "Christine" as my Femme name, but now I'm considering "Madeline". I've always loved the name Christine. Someone asked me if I named myself after Christine Jorgenson, one of the most famous early sex-change recipient. But no, it's just always been my favorite female name, even when I was a kid. Oddly enough, I remember being in elementary school, and thinking that if I ever had a daughter, I'd name her Christine.
But being my favorite name doesn't make it "my" name. I'm finding that I don't really connect to it the way I thought I would. People call out "Christine", and I don't turn my head. Granted, I'm not used to it yet. But still, I don't know. There's a woman at work who calls me "Mattie", and I've found that it really works for me. Of course, a lot of transfolk use the opposite-gendered version of their original name. Anything to make the transition easier.
So I'm keeping Christine - I still have a strong affection for it - but it'll be my middle name. Madeline Christine, "Maddy" for short.
By the way, I think I really like peanut butter.
Just looking at the coverage of the Steve Stanton story (I know, I sound like a broken record), it really bugs me the misconceptions people have about transfolk. The bigots of Largo - and I feel perfectly justified in calling them bigots after hearing their statements - have absolutely no idea what "transgender" even means. People, Stanton is not changing genders so she can wear a leather thong and sing "YMCA". She's not doing this so she can participate in public orgies. She's not doing this so she can wear a Tammy Fay Baker makeup job and parade her transsexuality around town. She's just doing this so she can - someday - live a "normal" life as a normal woman.
People judge transfolk by their most outrageous specimens, the ones who end up on TV. I would imagine that when the average person hears the word "transsexual", what they actually picture is a drag queen. And it makes sense that you don't know what an actual transperson looks like - the most successful transpeople are living ordinary lives in their new gender, and often their newer friends are none the wiser.
I recently read "She's Not There" by Jennifer Finney Boylan. It's a very entertaining autobiography of a transsexual, and I highly recommend it to anyone who wants to understand subject a little better. Anyway, there's a statistic in there I found interesting:
"Professor Lynn Conway at the University of Michigan estimates that there are forty thousand transgendered male-to-females in this country, and that counts only the ones who have already had the surgery. According to Professor Conway, that makes the condition more common than cleft palate and multiple sclerosis."
Note, the book was printed in 2003. I'm sure it's gone up since then.
Which means there's a fair chance that you know someone who wasn't born the sex they are now. That's right, they walk among us! And you might never know, and why would you? For that matter, why should it matter to you? They are who they are; there's no reason to judge them for it. Being a transsexual doesn't make them weirdos, freaks, or sexual deviants. It just means that at some point in their lives, their brains didn't match their bodies.
For those who missed it on my main page, here's The Daily Show's take on the Stanton case:
Monday, April 23, 2007
...at least, somebody probably thinks so. I'd like to tell you that the actual headlines aren't quite as silly (or in as poor taste), but at this point I honestly can't.
The bodies weren't even cold yet, and the media's biggest attention-hounds were already trying to use the tragedy to support their own agenda. Let's take Jack Thompson, for instance. He hates video games so much, that he scans the newspaper every day for atrocities he can blame on them. So when something like the Virginia Tech shooting happens, good ol' JT already has his speech nearly written; he just has to fill in the specific names and dates. The good news is, nobody has to pay attention to anything Thompson says any more, because you can pretty much guess it. A postal worker goes on a shooting spree? Must have been playing GTA. Peeping tom terrorizes neighborhood? Must've learned his voyeuristic habits from playing The Sims. Obesity on the rise? Blame Pac-Man. World Trade Center attacks? The terrorists must've been playing Microsoft Flight Simulator.
Jack Thompson blames the VA Tech shootings on Counterstrike. Dr. Phil also agrees that video games must have been an influence. Neither has any actual evidence to base this on - no games were found in Cho Seung Hui's possession, and his roommate confirmed that he never saw Cho playing them. But why mess up a perfectly good theory with facts? Meanwhile, Reverend Fred Phelps, head of the charming "God Hates America" and "God Hates Fags" websites, is claiming that the tragedy is yet more evidence that America is being punished for its sins (you know, like tolerating homosexuals)... and is using it as an excuse to disrupt the funerals. And Christian news website "One News Now" somehow managed to blame the shootings on the fact that evolution is being taught in public schools.
When people accuse this of being a "blameless society", it usually means that it's the criminals who come up with excuses for what they've done. But now it's not just the perpetrators making the excuses; everyone wants to get in on the act. Now bear with me. Isn't it possible - even remotely - that the shooting had nothing to do with God or video games or evolution or violent movies or karma or astrology or Harry Potter? Isn't it possible that Cho Seung Hui is just an asshole? Can we please let a tragedy go by without trying to blame it on whatever "hot button" is currently vogue? When you come up with ridiculous objects of blame, all you're doing is helping the criminals by giving them new things to try in court.
Now, I'm all for examining Mr. Hui to find out how his brain works. I'll happily allow my tax dollars to go towards researching the psychopathic mind. Anything to keep this kind of thing from happening again. But Jack Thompson, Fred Phelps, and the rest of these loudmouths aren't trying to probe a killer's mind. They're just furthering their own careers, and playing "the blame game" without a shred of real evidence to support their opinions.
Wednesday, April 4, 2007
I've told KJ many times how much her gambling habits annoy me. It's a silly hobby, and statistically it's cheaper to just throw money out the window. On the other hand, I don't mind playing video poker, since it's basically just a video game. And unlike a video game arcade, there is at least the possibility you'll walk out with more money than you had coming in.
So I'm of two minds on it. I still think it's a waste of time, but KJ has fun whether she wins or loses. As long as she's doing it for the fun instead of the money, and she sets aside how much she's going to spend beforehand, I don't mind her gambling that much. Not that I would try to stop her anyway, it's her life.
But I must confess that whenever she comes home emptyhanded, there is a part of me that enjoys saying "I told you so." Which is why this last trip was wonderfully, horribly, blissfully, ironically bittersweet.
Yesterday was KJ's birthday, and she wanted to spend it gambling in Metropolis. We booked a one-night stay at Harrah's hotel, which only cost $20 because of KJ's rewards card. The room was wonderful. Second most comfortable bed we'd ever slept in (the first was the Sheraton in Indianapolis). We had a view of the river, a widescreen TV, and a bathtub I could have used for high diving.
Of course, I don't like casinos. Too noisy. And there's really not much else to do in Metropolis, if you've already been to the Superman museum. But I was two thirds through a great book ("She's Not There" by Jennifer Finney Boylan), and had just purchased Final Fantasy III for my DS. So I was set for the night.
KJ leaves to go gamble. She takes no actual money, just some rewards coupons Harrah's sent her. Probably about $30 worth. A few hours later, I'm finishing up my book, and KJ comes back. She hands me $1100. I tuck $1000 of it away, and she keeps $100 to gamble on later. We go to dinner, which is on the house (another rewards coupon). Afterwards, she gambles away the $100 while I play my DS in the hotel room. I'm asleep by the time she gets in.
After breakfast this morning, KJ went to gamble some more, while I sat in the car playing FFIII. She didn't take any money, just another coupon. This coupon was for a surprise amount, which KJ thought was going to be $5. Well, it turned out to be for $100. A few hours later, my DS was just starting to run low on charge when KJ came back to the car, and handed me another $1000.
So for the price of gas and a $20 for a hotel room, we came home with about $2000. Now I know what this means. Tomorrow KJ has a dentist appointment. I bet the dentist is going to tell her she needs a $2000 dental procedure. That's just how our lives work. Which is a pity, because I really wouldn't mind a TV like the one they had at the hotel, but a few sizes larger. But the bigger tragedy is that for once, I can't say "I told you so."
Tuesday, March 27, 2007
The hearing is final, and the city of Largo decided to fire Stanton. More here:
And some of the backlash here:
I'm in a flowcharty sort of mood, so here's my opinion once again:
You bow to pressure from a religous group...
You are committing a crime against both God and country. Allowing one church group to govern our laws? Even if this country were 100% Christian, what makes you think all denominations would agree on the same laws? No matter which church group you favor, you're going to piss off another church group's version of God. And if you legally force people to follow your God's rules, then people are no longer worshipping Him by choice, which makes it that much harder to tell the truly religious from those who are going through the motions. The act of following God's word means nothing when it's impossible to do anything else. This country was founded on the concept of religious freedom, and we should never allow religion to influence our laws.
But let's assume you're an asshole, and like a little religion in your law...
You feel that sexual diversity should be forbidden...
You're committing a crime against both God and your fellow human beings. Whatever happened to letting God do the judging? Why is it any of your business what goes on in someone else's bedroom? Heh, a friend of mine recently was trying to convince me that homosexuality was wrong. One of his reasons was that anal sex is gross. I can't disagree (I'm not into it either), but so what? A lot of straight couples have anal sex too. Does this mean that lesbians are even better than straight couples, religiously speaking? From the RENT soundtrack: "...Sodomy is between God and me..."
But let's assume you're a stupid bigot, and feel homosexuality is a mortal sin that should be punishable by death...
You feel that people who want sex changes are in the same category as homosexuals...
You're committing a crime against both God and logic. What's so anti-religious about a sex change? There's a vast difference between sexual orientation and gender orientation. Homosexuality may or may not be evil, depending on your denomination, but transsexualism is more like a birth defect that needs to be fixed. And by "fixed", I mean through hormones and surgery - trying to change the brain doesn't have a history of success. One might even argue that if God put a woman's brain in a man's body, she's committing a sin by NOT doing anything about it. Maybe God gives us these challenges to overcome, so that we are stronger people in the end.
If all of the above describes you - you hate gays/transsexuals, you think laws should be based on your religious denomination, etc - then I would strongly encourage you to move to another country. Or another planet, if possible. This world has no use for you. The only people I truly hate are people who hate, and I'll bet God agrees.
Of course, I don't know if there's a God. But for an agnostic, I feel I have a lot more respect for the Great Being than a lot of born-again, church-going Christians. The God I used to know was all about love, not hate, and I try to live by His example. He was about standing up for things, not tearing things down. He was about giving people hope, not taking it away.
So if there is a God, then let Him do His job, and you do yours. His job is to decide who gets to go where in the afterlife; your job is to be nice to each other while you're here.
Tuesday, March 20, 2007
I first read this article about Susan Stanton a couple of weeks ago:
Steve Stanton, City Manager of Largo, FL, announced that he was transgendered, and would soon start living as a woman. She had the mayor's support, and the other city officials seemed to be understanding. Overall, I thought it was a rather inspirational story. Then, just a few days later, a read a follow-up to the story. Turns out Stanton is getting booted out of office after all. There's a good (but long) article about it here:
It's hard to find an unbiased article, but I hear that the Largo City Commission was influenced by a very loud local church. Look, if the people vote to have her step down, it's hard to argue with that. That's democracy - the majority gets to decide, even if that majority is made up of idiots. But this is like firing someone because she's a woman. You just can't do that. Or, if you think of transgenderism as a birth defect, it's like firing someone because they're handicapped. Another bad idea.
Of course, in their minds, it's probably more like firing someone because they're gay. Uh... you really can't do that either. And if this goes through, it's going to set a lousy precedent. Stanton is facing a hearing, on "moral" charges, because of aspects of her life that have nothing to do with her ability to do her job. She is in trouble for who she is, not for anything she's done.
Transgenderism is not a choice, it's something you simply are. Yes, you can choose whether or not to cross-dress. You can choose whether or not to have the surgery. But your other self is going to come out eventually, no matter how hard you try to suppress it. You can not simply choose to be "normal". You can't choose to have a male brain any more than you can choose to be heterosexual or caucasian or naturally blonde. So while Stanton may have made the choice to start living as a woman, it wasn't really a choice at all.
But wait, the plot sickens. During the commission hearing, Florida Executive Director Nadine Smith was arrested for handing out flyers supporting Stanton. Apparently distributing the flyers was in violation of a city ordinance. Why? Well, according to this site (again, very biased, so form your own opinion), it's because flyers are supposedly a fire hazard and people can slip on them. Note, Smith wasn't throwing flyers around, she was handing them to people. If you see someone drop a flyer on the ground, you can arrest them for littering. But arresting someone for handing pieces of paper to other people? Calling it a felony? With a $5,000 bail? Where do you come up with that?
Florida's not my favorite state... it's hot, it has hurricanes, and it has trouble voting. But on the plus side, it's got more theme parks than churches, it's shaped like a giant penis, and it has birds and trees right out of Dr. Seuss. So I guess I can give or take Florida. But Largo... you're on my list. In big bold letters, right between Paul McHugh and Jack Chick. Heck, I might even forget about Jack Thompson for a while; there's bigger fish to fry.
It must be nice to be religious. You can say the most outrageous things, and then just say, "Well, God said so." You can hate anyone you want, just call them a blasphemer. You can claim that women shouldn't have the same rights as men. If you work at it, you can even make a case for white supremecy. It must be great to be able to declare your own race/sex/beliefs to be superior to all others, and then justify your claims by saying, "It says so right here in the good book!"
If you would like to show your support for Susan Stanton, here's her e-mail address: firstname.lastname@example.org
If you would like to complain to Largo's commissioners, here's their collective e-mail address: Commission@largo.com
Or if you'd rather call, here's the number for Largo City Hall: (727) 587-6700
Tuesday, February 20, 2007
The good: A couple of weeks ago, I got a new computer!
The bad: It came pre-loaded with Microsoft Vista!
The ugly: Now I can't get onto the internet!
So, if I don't blog as much for a while, that's partly why. I'm just waiting until a certain driver gets updated for Vista, or until I think of a better network configuration for our house. Whichever comes first.
Most people I know, especially online, are extreme Microsoft-bashers. But I've yet to see the company commit any sins that other companies wouldn't do if they had the chance. Most companies will use whatever means neccessary to make as large a profit as possible; some are just more successful than others. Call it jealousy or fear, but people in general just hate large corporations. Personally, I don't care one way or another. Have one company with a million jobs, or a million companies with one job each, it's all the same to me.That being said, right about now I'd like to take Bill Gates and install Vista where the sun don't shine.
Tuesday, January 30, 2007
My brother was recently in town for our Grandfather's funeral, and he showed me photo of me as a kid, holding a couple of Barbies. I don't know the context of the photo. I know I'm at my grandparents' house, but I don't know the occasion. I don't think I ever actually owned any Barbie dolls, so I would imagine that my cousins must have been there as well. So it was probably Christmas Eve or something.
But the picture still made me think about my childhood, and how I would play. Well, it was already on my mind, ever since KJ's Transgender-related blog on 1/11, which I countered in my own blog on 1/13. But, the discovery of the picture gave me something tangible to wrap my brain around. Of course, the picture proves nothing. I don't know the context, and even if I did, it's one isolated incident. Heck, it's probably posed: "Here, Matt, hold these and smile, it'll make a funny picture". But the expression on my face (as opposed to the "Ew, Barbie!" face some boys would have shown), somehow validates some of my feelings. At least it does to me.
Thinking back, I showed plenty of signs that I wasn't destined to be masculine. But without hearing my thought processes at the time, these signs were dismissed as things that all boys do. Do I think I was the only little boy to pick up a Princess Leia figure? Of course not. But when a lot of boys play, the action figures themselves are just instruments to shoot at each other. My play was more like that of an actor, and I was always looking at my character's motivation. I usually picked female figures because I identified with them. My play style was sometimes similar to the way girls play with Barbie dolls. Sometimes the characters wouldn't even get around to fighting, because what I did was more like a soap opera.
Overall, though, it depended on who I was playing with. Some specific memories:
CB:I can't remember exactly when this happened, probably around the third grade. My next-door neighbor ("CB") and I were about to play Voltron. I was the one who had suggested Voltron. And the truth was, I didn't care about Voltron itself, I just wanted to play as Princess Allura. There were a lot of times when I was more interested in "being" a character than in playing itself. Usually I didn't think about the fact that these characters were usually female. But sometimes I would avoid using female characters around certain friends, because I knew they'd make fun of me. CB was a couple of years younger than me, but I was still afraid of how he would react to my playing Allura.
So, I made it look like I was having difficulty deciding which of the five characters I wanted to pick. I had him run through the cast list, while I gave fake reasons that I didn't want to be that character.
CB: "Keith?" Me: "No, he's a jerk."
CB: "Lance?" Me: "No, he's boring."
CB: "Hunk?" Me: "No, he's fat."
CB: "Pidge?" Me: "No, he's a dork."
CB: "Allura?" Me: "No, she's a girl."
I'm probably not remembering all my answers correctly, but it really doesn't matter. All the reasons were lies; I wanted it to look like none of the characters were appealing to me, so I could work my way into picking Allura without it seeming like I specifically wanted to pick her. Next, I pretended to play "Eenie-meenie-miny-moe" to pick my character, faking the outcome so I could be Allura. I was still embarrassed to play her that day, though. I didn't speak much, and we just got in our imaginary lion-bots and blasted aliens. CB even made a comment about how quiet I was. The truth was, I was afraid that he had figured out that I had wanted to play Allura. Suddenly I wasn't sure if I should speak in a female voice. Not that my voice was terribly masculine at the time, but I did try to sound more girly if I was playing a girl.
JS was my best friend for many years. Around the third grade or so, sometime after "Return of the Jedi" anyway, we started playing "Bounty Hunters". The Bounty Hunters were Boba Fett, Boushh (the figure was Princess Leia in Boushh disguise, but we considered Boushh to be a character of her own), Snake-Eyes (from GI Joe), and Lamprey (also from GI Joe - a generic Hydrofoil pilot; he only got picked because one of us thought he had a neat costume).
I would play Boushh, and JS would be Boba Fett. When we played, our plots were a lot closer to "Moonlighting" than "Star Wars". And here's the thing, even though Boba Fett was my favorite Star Wars character, I was the one who insisted that JS play him. Because I didn't actually want to be Boba Fett, so much as I wanted to date him.
We played the same plots over and over, with different twists. We'd play Boba and Boushh meeting each other. Boba wouldn't realize at first that Boushh was a female. Boushh would hide that fact because she didn't think a female bounty hunter would get as much respect. At some point in the game, Boba would find out her secret. We loved playing out that part for some reason. How would he find out this week? Would they fall in love this time? These are some of my fondest childhood memories, and I don't say that lightly. When adulthood overwhelms me, and I fantasize about being a kid again (as everyone does sometime or another), "Bounty Hunters" is one of my safe places.
Another friend, probably around fourth grade. "SO" was smart and creative, but he didn't have much respect for girls. When I brought out a female GI Joe figure to play with, he questioned why I wasted money on her, and he wondered why they even made female figures. I remember when we were playing Bounty Hunters, we took some cardboard and made a headquarters for our action figures. It had a command room, a garage, and even living quarters. I went into a lot of detail, including making beds, putting pictures on the walls, etc. SO kept questioning why I was wasting valuable time on those details. After all, "it's not a dollhouse, it's a base! We're not going to play them sleeping!"
But of course, SO had a more aggressive play style than JS. JS and I had all sorts of uses for beds, bathrooms, and anything else that would make the base more realistic. And that's probably why, overall, I ended up being better friends with JS than SO. With JS, I could be myself, in a way that just didn't work with any of my other friends.
Wednesday, January 24, 2007
From today's Tennessean:
John Astor BROWN
January 22, 2007
Age 90 of Nashville, January 22, 2007. Preceded in death by his wife, Lorraine Brown; son, David Brown. Survived by daughters, Rosemary (Charles) Burdeshaw, Sara (Roger) West, Kathleen (Stanley) Bright; 5 grandchildren; 9 great-grandchildren; 1 sister and brother; several nieces and nephews.
After retirement from Brown Dental Laboratory, Mr. Brown was active in acting, owned J.B's Hot Stuff, Pepper Shop. His last employment up to four months prior to his death, he worked as a driver for Tennessee Auto Auction.
Funeral service to be conducted 1130 a.m. Friday, January 26, 2007 with Rev. Charles Burdeshaw officiating. Interment to follow in Woodlawn Memorial Park, with family and friends to serve as Pallbearers. In lieu of flowers, contributions may be made to Alive Hospice. Visitation with the family will be 2-4 and 6-8 p.m. Thursday, and one hour prior to the service on Friday. HIBBETT & HAILEY FUNERAL HOME, 429 Donelson Pike, 615-883-2361; A Dignity Memorial Provider.
Saturday, January 13, 2007
It's like this. My dear, lovely, brilliant, beautiful wife KJ recently posted a blog, in which she explains her feelings on my transgenderism (or lack thereof). It is well-written and smart, as is everything she writes. But of course it also disagrees with pretty much everything I believe.
So, now I face a dilemma... let it go? Respond in public? Reply directly to her blog, or post a counter-blog of my own? Do people really want to read our arguments? If I respond, will it solve anything, or will it just escalate? And why should I sit down and type this out in my blog, when I can just say it to her? What's the point of writing a long, pointless post, when she's six feet away from me watching TV on the couch?
I guess I knew all along I'd have to put this on my blog. For one thing, I don't want to muddy up KJ's blog with petty bickering. Her page is hers, and I don't want to post anything negative on it. But I do need to make a mark somewhere, partly because it's cathartic, and partly because I've already had one friend e-mail me asking for my counter-arguments. I could answer him privately, but this way I can let everyone know at once.
If this turns into a long-running debate, so be it. I will happily play Demosthenes to KJ's Locke, if for no other reason than that I like to argue. But I'd rather this post be the end of it. KJ and I are generally mature when it comes to our disputes, and "agreeing to disagree" is one of the things we do best.
Note, don't read any further until you've read her blog. If you can't access her blog for some reason, let me know. I'll be doing a bit of snipping here and there to quote her, and I don't want KJ to look stupid because of something taken out of context.
Here goes nothing.
>>> WARNING: This is not a happy fun blog. This is also not meant for those who are easily offended, not secure enough with themselves to make mature, adult comments, or too young to take immature coarse language. This is not anything to curse me or praise me but what is on my mind at this point.
*** Actually, there's very little in it I found offensive. "There ain't no good guys, there ain't no bad guys, there's only you and me, and we just disagree." I do think the title's a little misleading, though... you spend most of your blog arguing whether or not I'm transgendered, and don't actually get to your "views on transgenderism" in general until the last couple of paragraphs.
>>> My husband is an absolutely brilliant man who could be anything he/she wants to be and that includes a woman. The whole thing boils down to this--just because he could be a woman does not mean he IS.
*** Of course not. I don't believe I've ever used that argument. Heck, I could be a bowling pin impersonator if I wanted to. Means nothing.
>>> I will not stop him from pursuing what he wants. Its not part of who I am but that does not mean that I have to agree. He acts as though I do not understand what is like to feel lost and unsure of yourself. He seems to think that I have never had to become my own person, separate from what my parents and peers have taught me. I like to think I kept some of the better parts to offset the bad habits instilled upon me by genetics and breeding.
*** I never claimed you haven't gone through anything like this. If I honestly thought I was the only one in the world to ever face an identity crisis, I probably really would shoot myself.
>>> However, he is not the first person to go through a crisis of conscience, to stop believing in everything because it just didn't quite turn out the way it should have. The one thing everyone learns and keeps learning is life is not fair, life is not predictable and bad things happen to good people. He is not the only person to look back at his life and say, "oops." I do think that his intellect has submarined him.
*** This is where you start to part from reality. Your idea - that life was turning out badly, so I invented another one - has no basis in fact. While it had been building for years, the day I actually had my epiphany was hardly one of our darkest days. Yes, my father had recently passed away, I'll give you that one. But that was about it. The other factors you mention - money, your miscarriages, etc - just weren't factors at the time. We are talking about a time when, while I was still technically in mourning, overall I was fairly happy. We were doing pretty well financially, I hadn't thought about the miscarriages in a very long time, and so on.
In fact, one of the biggest tragedies about all of this is that we were so happy. It's as if I was waiting for things to settle down - for us to get caught up on bills, etc, before I decided to throw a wrench in the works. Your "failure as a man" theory might have made sense back when we lived in Bowling Green, but I'm rather proud of the progress we've made since then.
>>> My darling hubby seems to be a text-book example. It is interesting to note that the more he reads, the more he "realizes," the more text-book he becomes. That is already a flag for most first-year psychology students.
*** On principle I can't disagree. It's a common phenomenon, and not limited to psychology. Someone picks up a book of diseases, starts thumbing through the pages, and they're sure they have every one of them. "Let's see, symptoms... 'vomiting'... well, I did feel like I was going to throw up the other day... 'pale skin'... yep, I haven't had much of a tan this winter... 'unusual sweating'... yeah, I was pretty sweaty after my aerobics this morning... I must have a deadly disease!" People do that, and it's not always just the hypochondriacs.
But you have me in a catch-22. If I were to walk around saying, "I'm a girl, I'm a girl", without doing any research, you'd say I had no idea what I was talking about. But when I actually do the research, you use your "first-year psychology student" cop-out. You've got me trapped to where there's simply no way to prove anything to you.
>>> Even laymen eventually come to realize that when dealing with the individual a text-book case is a rare thing. There is a guideline, there are examples with similarity, but to be down the line text-book is very unusual and highly suspicious.
*** Again, catch-22. Before, whenever you found ways that I differed from the "textbook example", you used them to tell me why I wasn't transgendered. Now you think I fit the textbook case too well. So what you're saying is, before you had too little proof, and now you have too much proof? What is the exact amount of proof you need to believe something?
It's moot anyway. As far as I'm concerned, it's not about "proof". When I list "symptoms" from my childhood, like how I would often pick female characters when playing GI Joe with my friends, you dismiss them because "all little boys do that now and then". In fact, most examples I could give - most examples ANY transperson could give - could be dismissed as something lots of boys do. I mean, everybody tries on Mommy's shoes sooner or later.
But the proof means NOTHING. If I couldn't list a single example of how I fit the profile, I would still know that I feel female inside. If my list of childhood memories was nothing but NASCAR races and NFL games, I would still know that I'd rather be a woman.
>>> Hubby is brilliant and can put himself in any situation or on either side of any argument. What happens if you are putting yourself into an argument and you don't know yourself enough to separate who you are from what the topic is? You become Spock doing a mind-meld with Nomad, "We are Nomad. We are Nomad."
*** Well, I am a master debater. But are you trying to tell me that the fact that I'm good at arguing, somehow proves that what I argue is wrong? I can see how it would give my arguments less weight, sure. But that doesn't make me flat-out wrong.
>>> I say because he was searching for answers he found one that was as close to getting away from his old life as possible.
*** And I submit that I love my old life, and want to change as little as possible. I'm not even trying to "change" myself, so much as "find" myself. The fact that I like my life is reason I've been able to stay this way for such a long time. Some transfolk are from broken homes, had difficult school lives, were beaten and humiliated for being different, and so on. I'm sure such people can't wait to break out and establish their own identities. I had a great childhood, and I have many happy memories. Between playing female characters with friends, and living vicariously through characters in the comics I drew, I had some outlets for my femininity. Enough to keep me from questioning my happiness, anyway. I believe that this is one reason it took me so long to become dissatisfied with my identity - I just had too many reasons to be happy.
> 1.) He is effeminate.
*** And your point is, being effeminate doesn't mean you're transgendered. I totally agree.
> 2.) He hates males in general
*** I say that a lot, but it's really not true. I like men just fine. What I don't like is MEN. I trust I don't need to spell this one out for you, but what I don't like is manly, chauvinistic, muscle-headed he-men who only care about sports, cars, and sex. I suppose the opposite would be empty-headed girlie-girls who don't care about anything but nails, clothes, and makeup. I can't say I like those either, but I don't mind being around them nearly as much as the men I mentioned.
The reason I hold a particular grudge for manly-men is the fact that I've had so many negative experiences from being around them. The girlie-girls are at best entertaining, and at worst offensive to my intelligence. But the manly-men actually scare me - it's guys like these that beat up people like me. It's cause-and-effect time. They sensed my femininity, they made fun of me, I stopped liking them. You seem to think it's the other way around - that I disliked them first, then made myself feminine so I wouldn't be like them.
>>> I don't think the concept of its okay to like pink and have a dick was ever explained to him until there was just no way he could accept it as true.
*** Please. My entire childhood was an esteem-building excercise. "Different is better" has been my mantra since, well, since before I knew the word "mantra". Yet another reason I came out to myself so late in life: I always knew I was "different", and I was comfortable with that. What wasn't explained to me was that "wanting to be a girl" was okay. In fact, it was specifically explained to me that "wanting to be a girl" was a very bad thing that would cause the ground to open beneath my feet, dropping me straight to Hell. So if you're looking for a good example from my formative years, that might be one to examine.
>>> 3.) Low self-esteem
*** Comes and goes; probably the same with everyone. Having a poor view of one's identity is no ego booster, but this is another one of those "chicken-or-the-egg" scenarios. The hard part is, you don't even know what you think you know. I don't even know myself that well. I've been wearing masks since I was a child, and I'm so used to them, that I don't always know when I have them on. If I look like I'm on an ego trip, it's probably because I'm kicking myself inside for doing something stupid. If I look like I've lost the will to live, it's probably because I'm proud of myself and don't want to look like a show-off. This might make me seem a bit deceitful, but when you've been told that one of your core personality traits is a mortal sin, you too might decide you want to be harder to read.
>>> Where is the line drawn for reality, for the quantitative data that cannot be changed and must be accepted? In this day and age it gets smaller and smaller. Welcome to the world of plastic surgery!! Think you should have been born with horns and a tail because you know, just absolutely know, you are the prince of darkness? Do you have the money? Just step right up and we'll check it out! You say you have at least five people who truly believe you are the prince of darkness or that you should have been born with perfectly white razor sharp teeth? Have you acted like you have razor sharp teeth? Do you have the money? Oh you're a bird man too!! Where should we put the feathers exactly, please pay the girl on you way out. Enjoy your new life disco duck; you'll get just about as much respect and prestige.
*** Well, arguably, the Prince of Darkness should have the power to make these changes without having to resort to surgery. And if not, well, he's probably better off keeping his ability to blend in with the crowd.
The line you question is drawn by psychologists. Remember psychology, that subject you once majored in? A person who believes he is the Prince of Darkness has serious mental issues, which ought to be addressed before he gets any surgery. And hey, guess what, transpeople DO go through therapy first (assuming they follow the rules). The irony is, that I could probably walk into the plastic surgeon's office right now and have horns by the end of the day. Depressing, but true. But unlike the delusion that you are the devil (or a bird), transgenderism is a real, psychologically accepted condition, and yet it's incredibly difficult to be allowed the surgery that corrects it.
And why are you so focused on the surgery, anyway? You understand that's the very LAST step, and one that not every transperson even takes. Your mind is who you are. A woman born in a man's body IS a woman. She was born a woman, and she will die a woman, regardless of whether she ever gets the surgery. If it makes her happy, and her therapist is sure she won't regret it later, what's the downside? Typically, by that time she gets the surgery, she's already gone through all the tragedies that would "ruin" her life. She is required to live as a woman for at least a year first. During that time, she will have already lost any friends/family/jobs that this condition will cause her to lose. When the time comes around for the actual surgery, that's just something that makes her feel more complete.
Thursday, January 4, 2007
A lot of my rants of late have centered around my own bias against organized religion. This is probably unfair of me. Growing up, I was always ready to defend Christianity. A lot of the other kids thought of me as the "holier-than-thou" type. Even after college, I had a reputation as a teetotaler. I can't really pin down exactly when I changed; some of it was gradual, but there were some obvious spikes in there.
Some of my family would probably blame KJ for "corrupting" me, and I don't doubt that she was a factor. But I honestly think I've been a bigger influence on her than the other way around. Personally, I would give more credit to a friend I met online, who for anonymity's sake I'll call "BH". I could tell early on that this guy was the smartest person that I had ever met, either online or off. BH was the type of person who wouldn't open his mouth unless he had completely researched everything about the subject. I'm not saying he was infallible, but he definitely possessed a powerful combination of education, wisdom, and common sense.
And yet he was an athiest. I didn't once think about trying to convert him. I knew that there was no point I could make that he wouldn't be able to counterpoint. But at the same time, he didn't try to convert me either. BH didn't mind his friends being religious. He did draw the line at absolute Creationists - he felt that those ideas (Earth only being 6000 years old, created in six days, etc) were so silly that only a complete idiot would believe them. Luckily I was never that type of Creationist, and it didn't bother him at all that I considered myself a Christian.
But without even trying, he planted a seed in my mind. It wasn't any particular thing he said, but rather the simple fact that he was so smart and rational, and yet an athiest. For the first time in my life, I realized that it was okay to be an athiest. Well, not "athiest" specifically, so much as I realized it was okay to have your own beliefs. You don't have keep the beliefs you grew up with. You don't have to believe something just because your parents and grandparents believed it.
"Duh", you say. Of course I always knew it was okay to believe what you want. But there's more than one level of knowing something. For instance, I might have felt it was okay for people to have their own beliefs, but I never thought it was okay for me to have my own beliefs.
So I went agnostic. It wasn't a major life change or anything. Generally speaking, my beliefs didn't change much.
Before: I thought all recreational drugs should be illegal.
After: I still think drugs are for the stupid, but it should be legal for people to make their own mistakes.
Before: I felt that abortion was murder and should be illegal.
After: I still think abortion is a very bad thing, but sometimes unwanted pregnancies destroy even more lives.
Before: I felt premarital sex was evil.
After: I still feel that you should limit your sexual partners, and never sleep with anyone you don't think you'd marry. But that's just a "should", not a "you're going to Hell."
Before: I didn't want to push my religion on to others, so when someone offended me, I just got quiet.
After: It's a lot harder to offend me, but I'm still just naturally quiet.
While I was no longer actively worshipping God, I still defended religion. I didn't suddenly decide that all Christians were idiots, nor did I try to tell anyone else what to believe. I still believed that by and large, religion was a good thing, and that some people needed religion in order to keep themselves in check. Some people were naturally good people, while others required the fear of God to keep their natural selfish tendencies from taking over.
I would have defended religion to my dying day, whether I was in it or not. So what changed? When was that "magic moment" when I decided that Christians had gone too far? I don't know, exactly. Well, no doubt my transgenderism played a big part in it. I've now had greater exposure to a segment of the population that is often persecuted by religion. But even when I was religious, I knew that sometimes people went too far "in the name of God", so that opinion hasn't changed much.
So, I'm trying to figure out exactly why I've developed a chip on my shoulder lately. Forgetting my world-issues, I'm specifically trying to list ways religion has hurt me personally. Here's what I've come up with so far:
1. My realizations about my sexual identity. When I was a kid, I thought that the word "gay" meant, "a guy who wishes he was a girl." I had been told time and time again that being gay was wrong. So whenever I had thoughts about wanting to be a girl, I pushed them out of my head. Those thoughts were the work of the Devil, and would send me straight to Hell. If it weren't for religion, I might have figured myself out a lot earlier in life. Granted, if society as a whole had understood as much then as it almost does now, then I might have been better off. Gender Dysphoria is completely different from homosexuality; it's more like a birth defect. And as such, it's slightly more likely to be acceptable to homophobic Christians. But I was just a kid then, at a time when even adults were confused about the subject.
2. Dungeons & Dragons. In the past few years I've developed a love for role-playing games. I would have liked to have played them with my friends as a child. There's one childhood friend in particular who probably would have loved to play D&D... except his parents wouldn't allow it. D&D was the subject of a lot of several urban legends, and my friend's family firmly believed them. There was that one where the kid played D&D then jumped out a window, which was just an evolved version of the story where the kid puts on a Superman cape and tries to fly. Not to mention a precursor to the one where the kid watches Harry Potter and jumps out a window holding a broomstick (*). If kids were really as stupid as the ones in these legends, nobody would reach adulthood.
(* Before anyone tries to correct me on the Harry Potter thing, yes, I do know there really was a child who got hurt playing with a broomstick. But that child was much younger than the kids typically are in the legends, and she fell off the kitchen counter (the legends have them jumping off of rooves or out of windows), and I'm not convinced she actually thought the broomstick would make her fly. But in addition to that true story, an urban legend also circulated that was much more similar to the D&D/Superman legends. )
But forgetting the legends for a minute, D&D was considered evil for other reasons too. Magic, demons, and other anti-Christian themes. But seriously, it's based on mythology, not religion. You might fight made-up evil gods, but you never fight Satan. And even if you did, I'm not sure how that would make it anti-Christian, since the players are (usually) fighting on the side of good. Is there something in the Bible about not making up stories? Because that's all the game is - a group of creative friends sitting around a table, making up a story. If that's wrong, then so is the entire fiction section of your local bookstore.
3. Censoring myself to my wishy-washy friends. The only thing worse than a friend who has just discovered Jesus, is one who goes through cycles of piety and hedonism. A few years ago, I received a phone call from a long-lost friend. We talked for about 10 minutes before I realized he was currently in Saint mode. Once I knew, I thought back to the things I'd been saying over the past few minutes, and counted how many times I'd probably offended him. But, I swear this guy switched back and forth every week. And while I am loathe to censor myself, I do try to be sensitive to others when I'm speaking. It would be nice if people came with ratings labels. You'd look at a person, see he's wearing a "PG-13" T-shirt, and you'd adjust your conversational topics accordingly. Wait, no, actually it would be nice if people just weren't so easily offended. But I've already done that rant.
5. Censorship in general. I don't mind keeping adult materials away from kids, but I hate it when they outright ban something because someone thought it was offensive. Off the top of my head, I can't think of too many ways this has affected me personally. Removing the blood from the SNES version of Mortal Kombat kind of pissed me off at the time. I vaguely remember hearing about an irreverent animated sitcom I wanted to see, which got cancelled because of a letter-writing campaign from a small church group in Ohio or somewhere. There was a time in Kentucky when KJ and I weren't allowed to receive the "Adam & Eve" mail-order catalog because it violated some local law.
I could probably list a lot more examples of how censorship almost affected me, like when Married With Children nearly got taken off the air, but in most cases smarter heads have prevailed.
6. The assumptions of others. When you live in the Bible Belt, people don't ask, "Do you go to church?", they ask "What church do you go to?" ...which leads to a lot of awkward silences. And every office has that one employee who forwards every sappy religious e-mail they receive, assuming that all the recipients will be overjoyed to have their inbox clogged up with these made-up stories of miracles (punctuated by animated gifs of wide-eyed puppies). Then there's the people who mix politics and religion. Terrorists commit horrible acts in the name of their gods, while our country's Christians shake their heads and say, "poor misguided fools"... completely failing to make the connection.
That's really about all I can come up with right now, but I think it's enough to explain my grudges. Now I have to ask myself a lot of questions.
Do my own experiences justify my bias against religion?
Do the global issues I've studied justify my prejudices?
When I pick on Christians for being bigots, am I being just as bigoted as the people I condemn?
The truth is, I probably have gone too far. Ranting is a great way to work out my frustrations, but it does sound like I'm judging all religious people by the actions of a few. And deep down, I don't really feel that way. I stand by everything I've said, but - Keep in mind, when I rant on Christians and other religious people, I really don't mean "all Christians" or "everyone who believes in a god". If I felt that way, I would consider myself an athiest, not agnostic. I'm specifically talking about that subgroup of believers who commit the sins I've listed.
So before anyone sends me hate mail, just remember - Right now you're probably one of those Christians I support (or at least tolerate). But by complaining, you're being easily offended and trying to censor me. And if you do that, you're placing yourself into the very categories I've been insulting. Sure, it's a catch-22, but that's my bottom line.