Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Boys And Their Toys

Warning, this is another Transgender-related blog. It also covers ground I've covered before, in a much earlier blog.
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

My Grandfather's Obituary

From today's Tennessean:

John Astor BROWN
Age 90
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

Jane, You Ignorant Slut.

I really don't want to do this... First off, contrary to what you might think, I try to keep my transgender-related posts to a minimum. You don't need to read my whiny rants about how I wish I could look cuter in a skirt; it's a waste of your time and mine. Plus, I feel like I'm about to cross a line here...
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

What Would Jesus Do For A Klondike Bar?

A friend of mine has informed me that some of my recent posts might be offensive to stupid people. To any stupid people reading this, please accept my heartfelt apology... but you might just want to avoid my blog from now on.

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.