Saturday, October 10, 2020

Thoughts on the Trans phenomenon

I  do not pretend to scientific understanding of  the many ways in which body and soul/mind  can be in harmony, or not. 

I get that biological sex does not have to overlap completely with gender, and there are many variations.

My personal working hypothesis is that a soul may be on its first stint of being one sex after a number of incarnations as 

the other. Of course this is not a scientific statement and I cannot prove it.

Meanwhile, if a small number of people say they feel one way while their external body says something else, I will gladly 

take their word for it.  No problem there.


As for the whole Nature/Nurture thing, I have never understood why that is presented as a conflict. 

Of course it is both, in different degrees for individuals depending on other factors.

Some aspects of identity are a social construct, but others are pretty hardwired. Stereotypes exist because they contain a kernel of truth. 


Individual qualities vary and groups will overlap, but that does not invalidate some broad truths. Sure, a strong woman can beat a weak man. Even so, taken as a group men are stronger.  Imagine for a moment.


Picture a world where all education and choice of profession is 100% gender neutral and childcare is shared equally.

Do  we really think  firefighters and kindergarten teachers would both be 50% male/female? 

Is it not more likely that say, 80% of firefighters would still be men, and  80% of child carers women? 

We may never know, but what would be so bad about that?


Anyway, on to the Trans issue. I am, quite frankly, baffled by the contradictory demands of this whole gender movement.


On the one hand, we are supposed to recognise an endlessly growing number of gender expressions. 

No problem. I am all for letting a thousand flowers bloom.

We will try even though  a plural pronoun with a singular verb  grates on my nerves.

I am grammatically sensitive. It hurts! Plus for just a second I keep looking for the other person. But, never mind that, we’ll be a good sport. 


It is true that some other cultures have done a better job  dealing with people who do not fit the male/female binary. 

However, calling the basic concept of male and female a “colonial construct” strikes me as silly. 

We are a sexually dimorphic species after all. Isn’t some form of labour division fairly universal?


On the other hand, anyone who does not chant the mantra that “trans women are women” is considered a trans phobe and a hater. How does that work? Is that insistence not enforcing the very binary that the gender diversity movement is railing against? I find that confusing.


I have said this before: I wish we could adapt vocabulary and attitudes instead of bodies.

Hormones and surgery are an insult to the body at any age and come with serious side effects.

I picture a six foot tall human being with big hands and feet, a visible Adam’s apple, a deep voice, wearing makeup and a gorgeous dress and introducing self as: “Hi, I am Joan. I am a BomaSofe."

Everyone would acknowledge Joan as Body Male, Soul Female, and treat her as a woman 90% of the time. To be varied as needed. 


In most circumstances Joan can just be one of the girls. But there are some situations where Joan has to acknowledge that no, she is not quite a biological woman. She should not compete in sports with athletes whose muscles have not benefitted from years of testosterone. She should recognise that her penis may trigger anxiety in a rape crisis shelter. The shelter  caters  to vulnerable women who have been traumatised by male sexual violence. Is insisting on a penis-free zone really the 

same as hating trans people? 


I was appalled by the baying mobs outside the Toronto library protesting a scheduled speech by  feminist Meghan Murphy. Murphy was accused of hate speech and of wanting to deny trans people the right to exist. She says nothing of the sort. She mainly wants some spaces reserved for regular biological women. I fail to see why that is hateful. 

Somehow the mob has no problem with this image. A fist with a blood stain and the words I punch TERFS.

That stands for Trans Exclusionary Radical Feminist. It is used as a slur. Now that is hate. 


Then we have J.K. Rowling, accused of the heinous crime of being a trans phobe and 

inciting hate. 

Funny. Somehow the many statements by Rowling that she wishes trans individuals well,  “Live your best life” and so on don’t seem to count. She does not like the bullying ways of the activist crowd and she thinks that a trans woman is not quite the same as one born female. I agree. It seems to be common sense. If that is as bad as hate or fear go wouldn’t this be a great world? 


“Trans rights are human rights!” shout the activists.

Well, of  course. Did anyone, even actual TERFs, deny the humanity of Trans people? 

However, one can be recognised as fully human without being 100% male or female.

Is that not behind the push to recognise  umpty  genders?


The following happened..

Human being, with full human rights, transitions from female to male but does not

have bottom surgery. This human is now a gay man with a loving partner. So far so good.

Like many gay couples they would like a family. Those female bits came in  handy after all.

Trans partner  goes off hormones, loses beard, gets  pregnant, gives birth. 

This is possible because underneath it all this Human being was still a woman. Human with full rights etc.goes back on hormones, regrows beard, becomes gay guy again.


No problem! Three cheers, welcome to the world little baby.

But now I am told “Some men can have babies”. That is when  I call BOLLOCKS.

If that makes me a TERF so be it.

















Tuesday, September 29, 2020

Trans-gressions and Kerfuffles on Facebook.

This is the prequel to a post on transgender issues. 

Plot spoiler: I do not think  J.K. Rowling is a -phobe or a hater.


I admit it, I spend too much time on Facebook. I love my simple solo life but have this compulsion to ‘live out loud’.  Somehow I also feel the need to form opinions on matters that do not directly affect me.  I call it Compulsive Comment Disorder, CCD, and suspect that it may come to a DSM one of these days. 


For myself, I have always been cheerfully female and sexually attracted to the opposite sex, exclusively. The idea of sex with a woman just does not appeal.  As Marian Engel put it: “The spirit is willing, but the flesh just can’t get interested.” Which is too bad. Communication is easier with women. I rather envy people who are bisexual. Otherwise live and let live, equal human rights for all, let a thousand ways of being bloom has always been my way.


Let me briefly establish rainbow friendly cred:


Back in 2011 I posted a picture of my offspring with straight son in a rainbow beard and sporting a tutu, with the caption that I was proud to have raised people who marched as supporters in the gay pride parade.  I was not able to attend the wedding of one of my favourite men to his husband, but I sent a present and made sure I was there in spirit by writing a speech. His  mom read it out during the ceremony and it brought tears to his eyes. 

When was the year people donned safety pins to indicate they were an ally to LBGT?

My winter coat sported one. 


Discomfort started creeping in after what one friend called The Great Kerfuffle on Facebook.  (I looked up the dialogue on my timeline.)


The Great Kerfuffle started with an innocent question. At least I thought it was innocent.

After listening to a CBC program on gender diversity I posted this: 

“Somewhere, someone was using the term LGBTQIA.  I get the idea, inclusive yada yada, diverse yadayada, but how long can this list get? Perhaps we could come up with some 

easier vocabulary? How about just plain Queer? Or non-binary?”

At the time I did not know that the terms Queer and non-binary were already in specific use in gender jargon.


The flak! The outrage! You’d think I had asked people to crawl back into the closet. 

This went on for days, with comment threads branching off comments. At the time I had not yet discovered  the Notifications feature on Facebook, which allows one to click straight to a new comment. I wasted several blue summer days scrolling through to see the new bits.


One of the first commenters said it was like saying Europe instead of Holland, which I thought an excellent analogy. So I replied  by saying that there are times for both, and it is handy to have an umbrella term. Sometimes one may want to say Europe, instead of having to list all the countries and then getting pounced upon for forgetting Kosovo. On the other hand, if one were  dealing with the  Kosovo embassy one would want to know the name of its capital.


It was not enough. Some people  I had never heard of, friends of friends, piped in with  their reason for being deeply offended by my lack of respect for their victimhood. 


It was my first experience of an online pile on. A small one as such things go, and thank goodness I have stayed off Twitter. 

But here is  what really got me: the private messages from people who said they agreed with me, but they did not want to say so openly because they did not feel like dealing with the fallout. That could lead to a whole other topic. 


I have been weary of the whole gender scene ever since.  

These days I am so fed up with the general over-correction that I am more like: “Oh rats, another rainbow.”












Saturday, August 22, 2020

The world according to Ien

I have been experiencing somewhat of  a political identity crisis. 


Increasingly I find myself cheering in favour of certain thinkers who identify as conservative. I can watch Douglas Murray videos for hours. 


Yet I believe in a strong social safety net. I don’t mind paying taxes for that. 

I believe in public institutions that create as much equality of opportunity as possible. Schools, libraries, museums, parks....

There are many other differences and I cannot imagine myself ever voting  conservative. 


It turns out that I am not alone. Youtube is crawling with channels by thoughtful people who have always considered themselves leftwing BUT.

Like myself, they are fed up with the excesses of identity politics and what has become known as the cancel culture.

The so called right is cheerfully gloating over this phenomenon and who can blame them.


Well, I am tired of trying to define myself by labels, especially since terms keep shifting in meaning.

I will never agree to seeing the noble word ‘liberal’ used as a pejorative. 

As stated before, I am aware that my life has been made easier by many privileges, but I refuse to accept the expanded definition of ‘racist’ as per the gospel according to Robin DiAngelo. 

As previous blogs attest, I have been mulling over this phenomenon for some time.


A while ago I ‘came out’ on Facebook and now self identify as Independent. If that were not an oxymoron I would call myself a fundamentalist eclectic.  Like Michel de Montaigne, I shall continue to take my good where I find it without necessarily buying into the entire world view of any thinker, left or right. 


In the case of Douglas Murray for instance I feel like standing on a street corner  handing out copies of The Madness of Crowds, yet I cringe when

I hear him praise Ronald Reagan’s breaking of the Air Traffic Controllers union.

In the case of Marx, I love the criticism of unopposed capitalism and the concept  “From each according to ability, to each according to need.” However I have no more desire to live under the dictatorship of the proletariat than under any other.


So here goes, an attempt at clarifying my own philosophy and what I would like to see.


Credo, the political section, and labels be damned. 


This has to be worked out in more detail, which is of course where the devil lives. There will be other posts on individual topics , but here is the gist.


To start with, no one gets to mess up or alienate the Commons. 

Earth, Air, Water are sacred, belong to all including  our non human fellow creatures  and are not to be messed with. 

No more externalising of costs. Polluter pays, from cradle to grave of the product. Yes, consumer items will cost more. We have too much stuff anyway. 

Humanity has to figure out its limits and play within them. 

This may require cooperation on a worldwide scale. It will not be easy.

It may well be too late. Nature has Her ways of dealing with species who overgrow their habitat. They are not pretty. 


But let’s pretend that we have some time before the great cull.


Inside the human sphere we install a floor and a ceiling.


The floor: Universal Basic Income.

Doing away with all the current bureaucracies that distribute and police existing programs would alone save a ton of money. Rutger Bregman makes a great case for this in his book Utopia for Realists.


The ceiling: A maximum income.

It can be quite high, we are not aiming for enforced equality of outcome here. But at some point enough is enough. At some point money morphs into excess power over others. Let’s call the number on the ceiling Bazinga.

Once a person’s fortune reaches Bazinga, it is time for a ceremonial GiveAway. 


I had a blog brewing titled “Why we need a Potlatch economy”,  but that

is probably a no-no what with cultural appropriation. I do want to honour the 

origin of the concept.

Anyway, for those addicted to the sport of amassing wealth and power, further status can be achieved by aiming for the maximum number of GiveAways in a lifetime.


In between the floor and the ceiling: Turn It Loose, as much as possible.

There are many discussions to be had about which functions of government 

are best performed at which level. I do not believe in full on anarchism, 

but I also like to be able to build a chicken coop without having to check a bylaw. Checking with the neighbours is another matter.


Some rules, such as those concerning the wellbeing of our shared planet, require global agreements. Others, such as the style of buildings, should be left to neighborhood level. 


Allow people to make mistakes and live with the consequences. 

Sh#t will happen. Humans are a fallible and ornery bunch. The human condition allows for the pursuit of happiness only, not its attainment. 

Happiness is more likely to occur as a byproduct anyway, but that is another topic.

 

Remember that getting it 100% right is not an option. 

The wisest law will run into cases where its application causes injustice.

What we do get is the freedom to choose in which direction to make our mistakes.


I choose to make mine in the directions of compassion and freedom.




















Saturday, July 4, 2020

A day in the life in the culture wars


Something happened on Facebook. It bothers me a lot but it required a more thoughtful, nuanced response than possible in that medium, so here is a blog post. 


As reflected upon before, the trouble with social justice movements is that over correction and the original evil both exist, side by side. 

I fear both the old evil “-isms” AND the confrontational “calling out” mentality and cancel culture. 


Do I really have to spell out that I am in favour of equal opportunity, justice for all, etc etc? Consider it spelled out, please. I am in no way denying that racist incidents still occur and must be protested. 


AND I fear living in a climate where people approach each other with an attitude of angry suspicion, rather than an assumption of goodwill.  

Social media is making it all too easy to take a remark out of context, remove all nuance, and generate an outrage storm. 


I have this friend, with who I disagree on many things. We live in different bubbles, and take in different news sources. I am an agnostic social democrat, Ken is an evangelical Christian conservative. We are both the  Canadian variety, which makes dialogue more possible.

We will never agree on for instance abortion, climate change or the role of trade unions, but in spite of our differences there is genuine respect. 


What we do share is a desire to see honesty and truth in media. 

We will both post corrections if we have been misguided by our own side. I tend to be naive and believe what I see, while Ken has a keen eye for photoshop effects. 

I treasure this friendship.


Sometimes, when I have climbed on yet another outrage bandwagon, Ken will present  a different viewpoint. For instance in any case involving police brutality  I am likely to jump to the conclusion that the cops were evil racists.  Ken is more likely to look at what is was like for people on the line trying to uphold law and order in a tricky situation. 

No, this does not mean that he wants to either deny or excuse police brutality or racism. It does mean that he may ask: “What else was happening? Is there some grey in the black and white picture?”


Then there is this other friend. A vibrant young woman who moved to our village a few years ago.  Jo has been injecting some much needed colour, in many senses of the world, into our overly grey and white community. I have enthousiastically supported many of her initiatives, including some I have no personal interest in. 


The latest venture I had misgivings about. Do we really need an investigation into racism in the Kootenays?  I voiced my concern that excessive “wokeness” may make relationships between groups worse rather than improve them. I prefer to see people as individuals, not members of a group. Correcting historical injustices is a complex issue, let’s not get side tracked. Anyway, I expressed my reservations but gamely filled out the questionnaire. I am white and live in a progressive liberal  bubble, so what do I know?

I introduced Jo to a young woman whose mother was from Trinidad. She grew up in the region and might have more to say. 


Remember, my worries around wokeness concern OVER zealousness, not the basic ideas. On May 8 I shared Jo’s story of the day, which was about doing a run to commemorate Ahmaud Arbery, and getting disgusting reactions with this comment.


“Quite frankly, when Jo started to do an inquiry into racism in the Kootenays I thought it was like looking for micro agressions, a mentality I thoroughly dislike. I honestly thought racism was rather like smoking, hardly done anymore and those who do have to hide on street corners. 

It looks like I was wrong. So please share this and shame the assholes  who think this is who we are. Carry on running Jo.”


So far the background. Now the incident.

 

I had posted a meme regarding the murder of Ahmaud Arbery. About the need to frame the narrative. You know, the regular me on the outrage wagon.


Ken chimed in with a link to a talk by a black woman, Candace Owens, introduced with the following comment: “Here is another perspective. Not saying it is correct, just a perspective.”


Jo reacted to this and talk ensued about the credibility of the speaker, and whether it is racist to call a black person with conservative views an Uncle Tom.  Jo interpreted Ken’s words a certain way, he protested that is not what he meant, it went on and on. 


This dialogue took place between two people who had never met.

I took no part in it but finally said:

“Jo Law Jo,  I  know  Ken  well  enough  to  know  that  he  absolutely  would  NOT call  a  black  man  an  animal.  That  is  just  not  what  he  meant.  Ken  and  I  disagree  on  many  matters,  but  he  is  a  deeply  moral  man  who  believes  all  humans  to  be  equal  in  the  sight  of  his God.  He likes  to  play devil’s  advocate.  As  in,  ”Have  you  looked at this  aspect  of  the  story?”


Jo:

Ieneke Van Houten wonderful, someone’s come to his rescue...

Wish someone had done that for Ahmaud.


Ken:Jo Law me too Jo.... we agree...


Me: Jo Law I know Ken. That is all. There is enough real evil and racism to fight and we all agree on that. 


These last two comments went without reaction from Jo.


The whole exchange left me with a bad taste, but that got worse when I saw a post by Jo on her page, where this exchange was described as follows.


Jo: “So recently, I was in an online interaction with an older white male. He compared Ahmaud Arbery to an attacking animal and the McMichaels to seasoned hunters. When I called him out on it, he first became defensive saying that’s not what he meant. Then to his credit, he apologized. (Sighhh) Then he hopped right back into his analogy, but now premised with the assurance that he was not racist. I told him amongst other things that whenever I call out racist behaviour, it rarely, if ever, sinks in until another white person concurs. Then, like an answered prayer, another white person chimes in.... to excuse him and gaslight me. Ah fiddlesticks... maybe next time. 

#DoBetter


So now I am a gaslighting apologist  for a racist. 


FUCK THAT.



I shall continue to assume most people mean well.

I shall continue to speak up against the evils of both racism and creating antagonism where none need exist.


And now, I have wasted enough mental energy and precious time on this during prime planting season.


Postscript


Discussion on this post happened on Facebook. Originally the post contained part of the dialogue. 


Jo made the comment that I had quoted part of the conversation verbatim, but not the parts that had been most offensive. That is valid criticism, so here is the whole thing. I do not expect anyone to wade through it all. It took so long because this requires the use of a clunky laptop instead of my beloved iPad, and it is gardening season and well, LIFE.


(Meme about reframing the narrative)


Ken: Here is another perspective. Not saying it is correct, just a perspective.


Jo: Candace Owens is what’s known as an Uncle Tom. Black people are the only ones who get blamed for being murdered.

Ken: That is the most racist thing I've read on this thread. You suggest she doesn't have the wherewithal to think for herself? That is quite appalling.

 Candace Owens did not in any way exonerate the men and in fact she felt they should be charged. What she said was thoughtful and worth hearing. If these guys were about race there never would have been a fight for the gun this young man would have been shot outright. What they did was stupid, they should be charged. Was it racist or premeditated murder? That, I'm not sure of.

Jo: Let’s not forget that these men were not charged of anything. For over 2 months they were free after murdering a man. The video was in possession of the prosecution and still nothing. Video proof and nothing. Meanwhile a 16 year old black teen gets thrown in jail for 3 years over an alleged stolen backpack (he incidentally was never charged with anything either).
It is the system in place that allows things like this to continue as it has since America was born.
For her to say the term “lynching” is a joke and people don’t get lynched anymore, well we do. It may not always be by a rope, but it certainly is public and justice is certainly never on the side of the victim, sending a very clear message to how we are valued as human beings.
So no, I’m not racist, I’m just over people who continue to excuse the brutalization of black lives.

Ken: not yet.... I don't think you are a racist Jo. But this was not a lynching it was a citizen's arrest which is legal in Georgia. AND, it went terribly wrong. As I said if their intent was to kill him there would have been no fight. He would have been shot before he attacked. The father was in the back of the truck with a gun, he could have shot long before the tussle, he didn't. These were seasoned hunters, they knew what they could do if an animal attacked them. They thought they could have arrested him by threatening with firearms. They didn't anticipate he would fight back. Whem he did, both men were now fighting for their lives. Each feared being shot by the other.
Lynching was always about making a spectacle, it often was preceded with a slow methodical torturing before death. That was not the case here. They should be charged. What they did was stupid and of course terribly tragic.

Jo: not yet what

Ken: they haven't charged them yet. The case is still being investigated...

Jo: you just said they were seasoned hunters and likened Ahmaud Arbery to an animal. This. This right here is exactly what I’m talking about. I’m out. ✌🏽

Ken: please don't read into what I said.... I didn't say that AT ALL. I said they DIDN'T treat him like an animal..... If they had they would have shot him outright... no fight would have ensured.....sheesh!!!!
just to clarify. I was in no way saying he was an animal. That was never my intent. If it came across like that I apologize.

Jo: to clarify, what “could” these seasoned hunters do if an animal attacked them?
Follow up question, what “did” they do to Ahmaud Arbery?
If the answer is the same, your intentions don’t matter. You unconsciously likened a black person to an animal. That is how you portrayed your view in your previous comment. Less than.
Did Ahmaud Arbery attack two armed men? or did he die fighting for his life?
I need you to be aware of the words you say, the “ideas” you share and if you are helping or harming. Today your words caused harm and I really just want you to think about that. I am asking you to do better.

Ken: sorry, I was trying to say because they were hunters they would naturally shoot anything that attacked them. They didnt do that with Ahmaud. If they saw him as just an animal they would have done what any hunter would do. Hunters rarely get attacked unless surprised because they shoot first. They threatened him for sure, but they didn't shoot first. When he did the unexpected and attacked them everything changed. A terrible tragedy for sure. My use of the word animal was inappropriate for this conversation. It was never intended to refer to a person.
please also consider. I gave you the benefit of the doubt when I said your original words were racist. I said after that I didn't think you were. Perhaps I could be given the same consideration?

Jo: I deal with people on a regular basis that claim they aren’t racist but then go ahead and do/say racist things. Daily. I spend time bringing awareness to people who display these toxic behaviours in hope that it will evoke positive change. I’m in a goddamn committee to this end ffs. I’ve literally never met you aside from this interaction. Regardless of my view, what I can surmise is that, contrary to your comments, at the very least, YOU do not think you are racist.
I’ll let you in on something else. I’ve been at this for a while... No one ever believes me when I call them out for saying racist shit... the only moment they start to come around is when another white person concurs...

Ken:okay well I guess there are racist people here than. That is sad because all I did was bring further information. w my character is in question while I chose not to do the same to you. I guess there is nothing more I can say. May God bless you in your future.

Ien: Jo, I know Ken well enough to know that he absolutely would NOT call a black man an animal. That is just not what he meant. Ken and I disagree on many matters, but he is a deeply moral man who believes all humans to be equal in the sight of his God. He likes to play devil’s advocate. As in, ”Have you looked at this aspect of the story?”

Jo: wonderful, someone’s come to his rescue...
Wish someone had done that for Ahmaud.

Ken:  me too Jo.... we agree... 

Ien:  .I know Ken. That is all. There is enough real evil and racism to fight and we all agree on that.
1

Friday, February 7, 2020

Losing The Great Code.

I call it the King Who? effect, after an incident that happened during my son’s teen years. 

A neighbour wanted to hire him for a few hours of manual labour, and he had to call her.

This was the deep dark ages of  phone books. 


“What was her name? How do you spell that?” 

“David. Like, you know, King David.”

“King WHO?”


At that moment I realised that I had neglected a vital part of my children’s education. 

A  precious baby of cultural tradition had been thrown out with the smelly bathwater of patriarchal religion. 

We had no desire to raise children with the fear of hell and damnation.

Yet in skipping religious indoctrination  we failed to transmit the mythology at the heart of 

our own culture.


Daughter filled those gaps in education when she belonged to a Christian youth group.

Son knew the gods and heroes of various mythologies,  could tell you all about Nanabush 

and Mouse Woman, but knew only vaguely that Easter “had something to do with Christianity”. 

I should have done better.


I have never read “The Great Code”, Northrop Frye’s classic work on the Bible as literary influence. 

But one gets the idea. A living culture needs a shared bank of stories and images to draw from. 


Until recently Western culture’s bank of stories  consisted largely of the Bible, with the addition 

of Greco Roman classics in the more educated. A hunter with a grade 8 education would feel flattered  

if you called him a Nimrod.  Everyone would know why the youngest child was called the Benjamin of the family. 

 

I certainly have no desire to return to religious indoctrination, be it Christian or other. 

More some other time on the need for meaningful shared rituals to bind a society. 

For now, in this time of transition, I feel the loss of the Great Code.