Sunday, May 26, 2013

Some of the Worst South Park Messages Ever

You ever have a show that you know you used to just love, and when you watch it now you expect to love it but find that you can't get past how fucking awful its writers apparently are?  That's me with many shows, but it especially rears its ugly head with South Park.  Recently the subject of their ridiculously problematic "life lessons" came up, and swarming throughout my head came memories of several times when South Park's messages have been extremely oppressive.

I'm not talking their entitled casual use of slurs, their overall offensiveness, their stereotypical characters, swearing, or any of that usual stuff.  South Park is the kind of show that explicitly intends to have a political moral... and that moral is usually bullshit that specifically appeals to privileged young people.  In other words, the one part of the show that isn't meant to be offensive is the part that is the most problematic.

When White People Can't See Racism, It's So Heartwarming

In the episode "Chef Goes Nanners," It is revealed that South Park has a flag.  And, well, that flag is pretty obviously racist, depicting four cheering white figures lynching a black figure.

The town winds up embroiled in a battle over whether to keep the flag or design a new one, with Stan and Kyle fighting on the side of good and right, as usual.

Naw, I'm just kidding, they're totally on the side of keeping it the way it is.

Here's the part that just had me speechless, though.  In the end the boys are "redeemed" because it turns out the only reason they didn't understand it was racist is that they're "colorblind" and didn't even see the figures as black and white.  Huzzah!  A win for antiracism!  Gleaming endorsement from Chef!  They then redesign the flag, keeping he lynching theme (because there's totally nothing problematic about that) but making the people doing the lynching multi-racial and holding hands.

The assumption here is that being so-called "colorblind" is the appropriate way to challenge racism.  I have literally met no anti-racist activists who think in such a shallow, non-constructive manner.  This is the sort of "non-racism" championed by, well, racists.  It's the exact attitude I encounter time and time again when white people insist that their racist behavior isn't racist because "oh, their race doesn't matter."

Well, yeah, it does.  The only way to usefully challenge racism as a white person is to be aware of it and how it colors your perceptions and your actions, not blissfully ignorant.  But predictably, the writers of this show chose the "moral" most appealing to whites.

Hate Crimes Legislation is like Totally Discriminatory

Speaking of racist bullshit promoted as anti-racism... there's an episode called "Cartman's Silly Hate Crime 2000" in which Cartman throws a rock at Token and is charged with a hate crime because Token is black.

This was the first time I saw South Park use the "fabricate a minority character to say something appealing to majority viewers" tactic.  The boys attempt to get Cartman out of prison by questioning the effectiveness and fairness of hate crimes legislation.  The basic lesson is "all crimes are hate crimes."

I have conflicting opinions on hate crimes legislation due to the faulty nature with which we deal with crime anyway.  I'm not going to go into detail with that here except to say that there are plenty of issues with hate crimes legislation that need to be addressed, and that I can't really get behind them.  These issues were entirely avoided in the episode by setting up a case which was very clearly not a hate crime.  They made the issue out to be "if a majority just so happens to commit a crime against a minority, that's a hate crime."  That's just not how it works.

But the kicker here is that the idea of fighting against hate crimes legislation comes from Token's father, so despite the episode being written by a white man the episode makes it appear as though there is a consensus among people of color regarding this issue, and as if by magic it's the same opinion expressed by so many privilege-blind whites!  Hooray, racism is solved!

There's also another ludicrous level, which is that the Cartman character has a history of doing just ridiculously bigoted and often very illegal things, such as killing a kid's parents and cooking them into chili and leading an unwittingly neo-Nazi group.  If any of the children of South Park belong in jail, it's Cartman.


Vegetarianism Makes You a P**sy 

All my personal issues with vegetarianism aside, the episode "Fun with Veal" is a great episode to watch when you want to feel great for having done absolutely nothing.  The kids go to a farm and realize that veal calves are treated cruelly.  They liberate the calves and hole them up in a bedroom, where Stan decides to go vegetarian.  He becomes very sick, later finding that he was growing tiny vaginas all over his body which would eventually turn him into "one big p**sy."  They eventually wind up stopping everyone in town from eating veal, having had the name changed to "tortured baby cow," but vegetarianism is dismissed as effeminate and unnecessary.

This type of advice is pretty typical of non-critical animal welfare slacktivism.  There are plenty of animal industries which engage in unethical treatment of animals besides the veal industry, including conventional beef, but it's easier to just not eat something most of us don't eat anyway than make real lifestyle changes.  But hey, that's OK, wouldn't want to be a p**sy.

Being Called Out For Racism Is Like Racism 

The episode "With Apologies to Jesse Jackson" got a lot of praise, which I actually understand for the same reason that "If Heterophobia Were Real" video making the rounds got so popular.  The idea of flipping oppression on its head looks really good on paper, but in practice it's an ineffective message for pretty much anybody who didn't already get the message in the first place.

Randy goes on "Wheel of Fortune," where the puzzle was "N_GGERS" and the clue was "people who annoy you."  This eventually leads to Randy being verbally abused by people who begin calling him "that n***er guy."  He even winds up being chased by a gang of socially progressive rednecks.  In the end he organizes with other people in his situation to get the phrase "n***er guy" banned.

There are so many things this episode just fails at.  First, it makes calling people out for racism into an equivalent to being racist, which it absolutely fucking is not.  Although it's clearly not meant to suggest that the two are equivalent, it was written in blissful ignorance of the fact that white racists and other people with privilege already make this very comparison.  Consider for instance anti-queer bigots who piss and moan about how legislature protecting queer people from discrimination is "oppressing them."

It also ignores--and this is something that's true across-the-board for flip-around comparisons such as these--that people who are unreceptive to that sort of message (*ahem* the majority of South Park viewers perhaps) are either going to misinterpret that message or reject it entirely anyway.  There simply is no real equivalent for most of these cases.



The Boy Scouts Shouldn't Discriminate But Making Them Stop Is Mean

The episode "Cripple Fight" features a long-time stereotypical gay character named "Big Gay Al."  He is the leader of a troop of scouts called the Mountain Scouts--meant to represent the Boy Scouts--and gets kicked out for being gay.

Eventually Big Gay Al sues the Mountain Scouts for discrimination and wins.  But in the end, he gives this speech about how it's the Scouts' right to discriminate if they want to and that he doesn't want to take that right away. So they decide to keep discriminating, which is apparently a big win.  Vomit.

This was, by the way, the second time I saw Trey Parker fabricate a minority character with the intent to make them say something members of that minority wouldn't necessarily say.  How many LGBT people are there that actually think the Boy Scouts should be free to discriminate?  The fact that they have been given the legal go-ahead to do this is seriously undermining to nondiscrimination legislature.

Some would argue that the scouts should be treated more like a church, because they're a "religious organization."  First off, bullshit.  But regardless, the Boy Scouts gets ample public funding, both explicit and implied, something which actually does make discrimination on their part illegal, regardless of what fucked up libertarian capitalist views you have.  But oh, it's OK if a fictional gay character supports it, right?

Transgender People Must Worry About Everyone Else First

The last three come from what is for me the most infuriating South Park episode Trey Parker ever barfed up, "Mr. Garrison's Fancy New Vagina."  I was going to give it one section, but in the end I realized that my infuriation with this episode comes from three distinct but related "life lessons" targeted toward transgender people.

The first came when Mr. Garrison decided to transition into Mrs. Garrison (Why "Mrs.?" Fuck if I know.).  She returns home to her boyfriend, Mr. Slave, who begins bawling and chides her for not considering how her family and friends will feel about it.

Which is seriously awful advice, but which people still regularly give to trans people.

"Oh, you need to wait until your kids are out of the house!"  "You need to at least wait until your grandmother dies!"  "Don't you know how this is going to affect them?"  "You're so selfish!"  Am I getting the point across how disgusting and irresponsible this "life advice" really is?  Trans people are on a regular basis called "selfish" for pursuing our medical needs.  We don't need more of this bullshit.  And the worst part is that this isn't the worst part of the episode.

Transgender People Have No Idea What They're Doing To Their Bodies and Wind Up Mutilated

Alright, Trey, seriously, bro, do you do no research whatsoever?  Do you give yourself an alphabet soup enema and shit on a page?

Mrs. Garrison freaks out because she suddenly realizes, after the sex change, that she can't get a period or have children (or an abortion)?  Have you met any trans people ever?  Because we already know this.  You aren't teaching us anything new.  One of the things my therapist brought up over and fucking over again was that if I had any suggestion that I might want children in the future I needed to freeze my eggs.

And yes, there are trans people who lament not having a functional womb or testicles that produce sperm, but that doesn't change the fact that we know what we're getting into.  The medical establishment makes sure of that because they're incredibly anxious about the process we go through.

In fact, the rest of the episode was mostly dedicated to driving the "mutilated, cosmetic-only, and non-functional" point home.  Kyle decides to get a "negroplasty" to become a black man to play basketball only to find that the surgeries were "only cosmetic" and that his attempts to play result in him becoming seriously injured.  That's not how sex reassignment works, though.  It isn't just cosmetic.  It's emotional, psychological, and hormonal.  We don't generally fall apart or injure ourselves attempting to do stuff generally associated with our gender identities.  The entire concept is ludicrous.

Transgender Bathroom Privileges Require like So Much Work For People

I was going to make this last one about how transgender people are not comparable to people who want to be a non-human animal, but honestly that point has been overdone and I worry about acting like one of those hypocritical trans people who hate on therians. There was one part of the Gerald-dolphinplasty situation that was telling and infuriating, though.

Gerald goes to a sports game and needs to go to the bathroom.  He then starts demanding the organizers give him access to a bathroom with a pool of water of sufficient size to properly evacuate.

Wait, what?  Did they just make an analogy to transgender bathroom rights?  Really?  Where do I even start with that?  Do I even start with that?

Does Trey Parker actually believe that transgender people require radically different venues in a bathroom?  Is he expecting trans women to demand urinals or something?  Considering the rest of the episode is so clearly meant to be an offensive transgender-related hyperbole, I have a really hard time believing he wasn't trying to say something with this.  But whatever he's saying is obviously shit.


Unfortunately, this is nowhere near the end of brain-warping messages found in the South Park series.  There are several I don't remember well enough to write something useful about, and I haven't watched it very often in a while so there's a perfectly reasonable chance they've ascended to new levels of arrogant Libertarian bullshit in the past couple years.

I know I just did a search results post recently, but...

...really.  I can't resist.  Some of the things you search for to find me... they're just the best.

I'll start with a couple serious ones, but I warn you some of the remainder are downright ridiculous.

"can someone hug me without my consent?"

No.  Unwanted hugs fall under assault, and depending on the intensity of the hug and other factors it can be a huge deal.

As somebody who disdains unsolicited hugs, I also think it's a huge deal.

"is paws good dog food"

No, it's literally the worst dog food I've ever seen sold in a store.



"how to tell if a rape story is false"

What in the name of the Gods makes you think anybody on the Internet is able to give you such advice?

"sex with therians"

This isn't an awful subject or anything, but I do wonder what Googling it would really accomplish.  Do therians have sex particularly different from others?  If they do couldn't you just figure out how on the Discovery Channel or something?

"tirans sexler"

...wat?

"Italian trans sex 2013"

Is this a conference or something?  Because this seems awfully specific.

"do warlock eat food"

Dear Gods, tell me this is some sort of roleplaying game reference or something because this is just priceless.  Yes, we eat food.  Warlocks--like all people--are animals and as such require food to survive.

"gay warlocks sex tumblr"

Does this exist?   Because if it does, somebody should tweet it for me.  It seems... relevant to my interests.

Good Birding Day, and Pagan Spirit Gathering

I got my Pagan Spirit Gathering information in the mail today.  I'll be going for the latter weekend (because I have a job now and can't take the whole week, but on the bright side because I have a job now I can actually... you know, go!).  I gave them my consistent-online-alias of Jack Warlock, so I hope to see some of you there!  I've been gathering camping materials both for this and for a camping send-off with a friend.  Plus, I like camping and haven't been able to for... well, actually exactly two years.

Anyway, birding.  Holy cow.  My feeders have been consistently alive all weekend.  Most of them aren't necessarily new birds--they're birds I saw last year or this year already--but I am increasing the county list somewhat and just the sheer variety of birds that show up all at once or within the same hour is awesome.

Oh, I also bought a book called "1001 Secrets Every Birder Should Know" by Sharon Stiteler.  I admit I literally bought it because the first page I opened to was titled "Polyamory."
Not a bad book.  It gives interesting tidbits about equipment, birding culture, the "rules" and etiquette, bird behavior, feeding and housing, and birding time frames.  Also I got to buy it at Fireside Books which has been very supportive of the local queer community.

Anyway, where was I.  Oh, birds.  I saw lots of birds today, but most importantly I got some cool pictures of birds I've never gotten good pictures of before.  I mean, they aren't sale-quality or anything, but they're identifiable:

European Starling.  I know some birders who shoot or trap these
to donate to raptor centers because they're an invasive species
brought by people who did not understand the impact they'd have.
I don't mind the killing, but honestly they're here to stay anyway, so
I don't personally recommend it (although you can eat 'em, too,
so if you really feel like it...)

Red-winged Blackbirds are kind of a bully bird, but so far
these ones are playing nice.

Another Red-winged Blackbird.

I've been getting a ridiculous number of Ruby-throated Hummingbirds.
They tend to sip from the oriole feeder and then hang around a bit.

Ruby-throated Hummingbird flying away.

Finally, I have a pair of Gray Catbirds. My only pictures of these before
were in flight or obscured by brush, so this is nice.

I got an Eastern Towhee and I was so excited because it was a new
life lister for me.  Unfortunately he was on my deck's steps and
I only got a picture of a part of his ass. But I swear it's a Towhee!

Saturday, May 25, 2013

Kate Hunt and Age of Consent Laws

It's not particularly often, but sometimes there is a cry of "homophobia!" from the queer community that leaves me with an unusually sour taste in my mouth.  So Kate Hunt is being criminally charged with statutory rape because she is 18 and having a sexual relationship with a 14 year old girl.  Kate's parents have been leading a fight claiming that these charges are due to homophobia, and there have been people proclaiming that this would never have happened had it been a heterosexual relationship. While I somewhat understand the knee-jerk reaction, it's extremely inaccurate.  This stuff happens with heterosexual couples all the time, usually involving a 17 or 18 year old male being branded a sex offender for having an underage girlfriend.

There was a similar situation with a somewhat smaller age gap at a place I worked at years ago, between I believe a 19 year old and a 16 year old in which one was fired.  Again, people were making the case that had the 19 year old been a man they wouldn't have cared.  This was even more bizarre because at a similar workplace down the street the exact same thing happened with a heterosexual couple involving a 20 year old male and a 17 year old female.  The hetero situation made the news, the lesbian one did not.

Where I live, there are no Romeo and Juliet laws*; if you just turned 18 and have sex with a 17 year old just a month or two younger than you, that's considered statutory rape.  Whether it's enforced or not is contingent on several factors (such as how supportive your parents are), but the law remains the same.

In fact, hundreds of boys have been charged with this same crime, so the assumption that this was only a result of homophobia is ludicrous and actually kind of offensive.  There is a major double-standard when it comes to these relationships.  If a man has a sexual relationship with an underage woman, he's a deviant creeper, but if a woman has a sexual relationship with an underage man, he's a stud.  Surely you've heard of this.  There have been terrible movies made about it.

That doesn't mean Katie doesn't deserve an outpouring of support--the parents who accused Katie may very well have been acting on homophobic impulses--but we're talking about a youth sexuality issue that extends far beyond one lesbian couple.  In fact, back before things like marriage became a concern, age of consent was a prominent queer issue.  This was because there have been and sometimes still are disparities between the laws (and enforcement of laws) between same-sex and opposite-sex couples.  In the UK, for instance, the age of consent for heterosexual couples was 16... for same-sex couples it was 21 (I always think of this song when I remember this).  In Nevada and New Hampshire the age of consent is 16 for opposite-sex couples and 18 for same-sex couples.  In some countries, age of consent was or is determined based on particular sexual acts, which wind up creating a distinction in age of consent between female-female couples, female-male couples, and male-male couples based on the type of sex they are likely to have.  With anal intercourse involving the highest age of consent, male-male couples wind up having to wait longer than female-male or female-female couples.

While people are railing against this case due to perceptions of homophobia, what they should really be railing against is the current age of consent laws.  They are inconsistently applied, unrealistic, anti-sex, and make teenage sex into something inherently deviant, which it isn't.  The real problems that arise with underage sexuality have to do with lack of sound sexual education and/or exploitation by people in positions of power--teachers, relatives, caregivers, and so on--which is something that can happen regardless of age.

So yeah, this is an issue concerning to us as queer activists, but maybe not for the reasons people automatically assume.



* -- These are laws in some states and countries that have fewer or no penalties for somebody at or above the age of consent having sex with somebody below that age if the age disparity is not great.

Buntings! Woodpeckers! Orioles!

I got Indigo Buntings last year, but they didn't have
this kind of pretty plumage.

Jealous Baltimore Oriole watches Red-bellied Woodpecker
drink nectar from an oriole feeder.

Aw, OK, we can share.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Here, Let Me Help You With That

In this sometimes-occurring blog segment I look at search terms people have used to get to my blog and, if it's clear that there was absolutely nothing on my blog that was even close to referring to that thing, I comment on it or point you in the right direction.  Ready?  Go.

Anything with "House of Netjer" and "cult."

I already said this, but I can't reiterate it enough:  Even though I left on relatively bad terms, the House of Netjer/Kemetic Orthodoxy isn't a cult*.  There are negative aspects to the faith, but there is a very low level of attempted control over individual members. 

* - By "cult" here I'm referring to the pop definition of a destructive religious group. "Cult" has more than one definition, not all of which are negative.  A small group specifically dedicated to a God or Goddess is also a "cult" even if it is not destructive.

 Are furries part of the trans community?

I read this and my first thought was honestly "Wait... what?"  The answer here is "no."  Although I've found the furry community to be generally trans positive, it isn't an offshoot of the trans community.

I feel like part of this question has to do with the appropriation of transgender related language by therians, who are people who feel they are part non-human animal in some way.  This includes phrases like "transspecies."  I don't believe this type of language is inherently wrong, but I don't feel as though the therian community really understands why so many transgender people oppose this.  That's something I may write about at a different time, though.

Although the furry and therian communities overlap, they are two distinct  communities, and neither is inherently connected to the transgender community outside of some attempted language uses.

Furries who think they are real animals.

I am repeating myself right away, but furries and therians are two different but overlapping communities.

Is Tamara Siuda real?

...Yes.  We are connected on LinkedIn.

I'm worried someone is going to accuse me of false rape.

This is going to sound ridiculously cynical, but with the number of reported rapes that go unpunished what do you really think you have to worry about?  The idea that there's some rash of false rape reports resulting in poor oppressed men being put on sex offender lists is absolutely ridiculous, speaking as somebody who was in fact falsely accused.

If this is really happening to you, though, what you need is a lawyer and not Google.

trans gay man appropriation

I really have no idea what kind of thought process could possibly compel somebody to actually write this question in a Google search that isn't terribly problematic.

demisexual ratkin

Is this in reference to that Morris Confessions page on Facebook?

difference between being rude and irrational

 Ahh, probably wound up at my vegan essay, huh?  Irrationality is a mental thing and rudeness a behavioral thing.  One can be irrational (although it happens less frequently than people tend to believe) while being either rude or polite, and one can be totally rational and ridiculously rude about it.  So like I said in my essay, veganism isn't irrational (as much as my fellow meat-eaters might assume it is), but plenty of vegans are rude.

Saturday, May 18, 2013

Graduation Bird

My graduation ceremony was today.  Third of an undetermined number.  We had a get-together with family at the park, where I happened upon this gem of a bird, who is eating some other small animal.

I believe this is a Cooper's Hawk.  Which is a new bird for me.  Yay!

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Feeder Bird Frenzy

My bird feeders have been going nuts lately what with it just being that time of year and all.  There are so many colors that they've been creating a morphed little rainbow!  Red Northern Cardinals, orange Baltimore Orioles, yellow American Goldfinches, green Ruby-throated Hummingbirds, Blue Jays, Purple Finches... and more.

I love that there are so many adult orioles this year.  Last year there were many drab young ones without so many of the gorgeous bright orange males and mature yellow females.
Baltimore Oriole at an oriole feeder.

There was a lot of color around! American Goldfinches and Baltimore Oriole.

Somewhat angry Blue Jay.

Honestly I don't know what this little guy's doing,
but he's a White-breasted Nuthatch.


Rose-breasted Grosbeak.

My Newly Engraved Dagger

Dad got an engraver that he was unsatisfied with for some reason.  I've become marginally obsessed with engraving things since, but this turned out really cool.  In person it actually looks somewhat like it's glowing.

The other side says "My Two Fathers Dazzle," which is what the name engraved on the dagger means.

Women's Pagan Groups and Male Opinions

Very strong and stubborn opinion time: I very deeply believe that women's Pagan groups that exclude trans women are acting on bigoted, largely made-up premises.  These groups view women's mysteries as primarily physical mysteries--menstruation, childbirth, having a womb, etc.--but would any of them ban a cis woman who did not experience these things?  Some do.  But more often than not there are excuses.  Cis women without wombs have "womb-space."  Cis women who never menstruated due to physical or hormonal issues have "shared experience."  No explanation as to why trans women would not have womb-space or how they figure all women have shared experiences (isn't that one of the issues womanists and feminists of color have been rightfully going on about?).

I acknowledge the right of women's groups to exclude whoever they want.  But then again, I also acknowledge the right of Christian churches to exclude gays.  Doesn't mean they don't deserve ample social criticism.

I do not acknowledge the right of women's groups to exclude trans women at public rituals, especially when they have not advertised the event as being exclusive.  What it boils down to, because most trans women do not wear signs around their necks saying they're trans, is that they wind up being turned away at the door for looking trans.  And not everyone who looks trans to a transphobic bigot actually is.

Which brings me to the subject that got me thinking about this.  A prominent male Dianic was heckled by a TERFy Dianic woman who insisted he was a trans man who transitioned and still thought he still had the right to occupy that space.  After this occurrence I'm suddenly seeing men talking about transgender inclusion in Dianic rituals.  Not a lot, mind you.  But enough.  Talking about transgender inclusion in Paganism is incredibly important, but I feel I need to point out that some of these elements are problematic.

First, there's a bit of label confusion here.  The reason I say "women's Pagan groups" instead of "Dianics" is because "Dianic" is not just one thing.  There are exclusive, women's-only Dianic groups.  Some are cis women only, others are inclusive of trans women.  There are also inclusive Dianic covens that allow all genders, including men.  And there are solitary devotees of Diana who may refer to themselves as Dianic without any of the commonly-stereotyped rules of Dianic Paganism.

These all get conflated.  So people say "Dianic" when they really mean "exclusive, women's-only covens," or assume that because they know a Dianic man that means all covens obviously would be just fine if they allowed men, or in the case of the aforementioned heckler they assume that everyone who is in a Dianic coven must have been at one time a woman or they wouldn't have been let in, or some other garbage.

There are Dianic covens and groups that are women-only.  That's OK.  It's OK for the same reason safe space for minorities is OK.  There are women who do not feel they can reach their full spiritual potential in space men also occupy because of men's tendency to use privilege.  There are women who are also extremely uncomfortable with women-only groups.  That's also OK.

What's not OK is making this issue about men.  And that's what's happening here... people are taking an issue relevant to women--cis women, trans women, intersex women, and so on--and using maleness to explain away the actual issues at hand.  But the issue here isn't that men are being excluded from Dianic covens... it's that trans people--usually women but men as well--are having our genders devalued by TERFy women's groups.

What's even more interesting is that the catalyst here was a case of mistaken identity in which a cis man was misidentified as a trans man.  The heckler's presumption and attitude were certainly fucked up, bigoted, and inaccurate, but she actually highlights a real problem:  There are trans men who for some reason feel they have the right to occupy women's space.  I mean, watch "Transgeneration" some time if you want to watch trans men moan about how a women's-only college doesn't accommodate them.  I know that some of you are going to be pissed off that I'd be so blunt, but unless we're talking about something involving medical needs, you don't fucking belong there.  I mean, we don't fucking belong there.  I don't buy the "I paid my dues" bullshit boasted by trans men who do ludicrous shit like expose themselves at MichFest.  Get the fuck out.  Really.


The relevant issue isn't whether men can be Dianics or trans men can occupy women's space.  The former is certainly true for some forms of Dianic Paganism, and no, trans men shouldn't occupy women's space.  The relevant issue is transmisogyny and the offensive de-womanization of trans women by high-profile women's Pagan groups and their leaders.

So while I do commend that this is being talked about, framing it as an all-gender inclusiveness issue instead of a women's issue misses the point and takes trans women out of the center of the issue.

Monday, May 13, 2013

Food Addiction Relapse and No Diet Day Alienation

Before you read this, I should mention that this essay is not a condemnation of the fat pride/anti-fatphobia movement and I hope it won't be perceived as such.   My critique of the movement has to do with the way my own issues have been characterized within the movement.

Also, there's a content warning. Normally I put likely triggering content at the end of the document, but it doesn't make sense in this case, so instead I've placed an endpoint so you can scroll past it if you need to for emotional health reasons.


Eating-disorder related content begins here


I had an ironic binge eating relapse beginning around two weeks ago.  I've gained enough weight for it to interfere with my mobility in some (but not most) daily activities, and that's getting me down lately.  It was triggered by the fact that I expected my bloodwork to be really bad (I hadn't been eating very well) and it turned out perfect.  So I "celebrated" by eating some really bad food, only to fall into the same destructive eating pattern I default on when I'm not restricting what I eat.  It comes in stages, although I don't always get through all of them:
  1. The initial consumption of a trigger food.
    "Well, I'll just have one."  Or...
    "I've been feeling so healthy lately I'll go to a buffet and eat whatever I want!"  Or...
    Something along those lines.
    This is worsened by the fact that most of the time when other people see me eat a trigger food they make backhandedly derisive comments like "I'm so glad you're eating real food again!"
  2. Delusions that I should be able to practice an always-in-moderation diet.This is the stage where I start having bizarre Weight-Watchers-type fantasies.  I think about where my measuring cups and scale are and am really motivated into thinking things like
    "Yeah! I can totally do this!"  Or...
    "I'm going to start eating whole grain bread!" Or...
    Something along those lines.
  3. Attempts at a moderation diet ending in a nightly binge.
    I dutifully eat a moderate breakfast, a moderate lunch, and a moderate dinner.  I'm feeling really good about myself.  Then something snaps at the end of the day and I maul every packaged food I own.  Also every packaged food my dad owns.  Sometimes if I have the ability and don't have the food I'll drive to the store and go on a really-bad-food shopping spree, but usually it's just a case of eating the same damn thing I ate for breakfast, lunch, and dinner.  So, for example, eating a couple waffles for breakfast results in eating a box of waffles later.
  4. Long-term binge.This is what I'm (hopefully) coming off of right now.  It's anywhere from a couple days to a month of uninhibited eating.  My eating habits wind up going something like this:
    • Very little consumption of meat of any kind (including processed).
    • Very little consumption of unprocessed plant foods.
    • Consumption of soda and fruit juice, which I don't normally drink.
    • Eating until my stomach distends uncomfortably, but still eating more.
    I should mention that serious weight gain doesn't always happen when I get to this point. Usually it's typical for me to gain 5-10 pounds.  This time I gained 25, which is the worst I've ever had happen.  The weight gain is only secondary in importance, though.  Many of the foods I eat during binges make me physically ill, either by virtue of being those foods (whole wheat gives me cramps, refined wheat gives me headaches) or consequences of being overfull (painful stomach distension, tight clothing, sluggishness, etc.).
  5. Very slow recovery.There's a period of "Just one more day..." or "Just one more doughnut..." or "Just until the pantry's clean..." that lasts what feels like forever.  Finally I get back on the wagon.
Normally it doesn't get that far.  When I am on a strict diet that avoids trigger foods to the best of my ability I tend to eat a normal amount of whatever I want within those parameters without needing to count calories or weigh food or things like that.  Although I haven't gotten into what most people would call a "normal" or "healthy" body weight in well over a decade, on a no-trigger diet my weight tends to stabilize along with my blood pressure and cholesterol.


Major Triggers End Here


I tell this last story because this binge also coincided with No Diet Day.  Reading the things my friends wrote and posted on that day was actually really distressing for me.  Not because I disagree with the underlying principles of body acceptance, but because body acceptance culture has this tendency to ignore that eating disorders and body acceptance aren't a one-way street.

What I mean is when I tell people I have an eating disorder they assume that I'm referring to strict eating. What they forget is that compulsively overeating and eating without control are also eating disorders.  The ability to shun diets is a privilege for those who do not have one of these types of eating disorders.  In other words, the focus placed on restrictive-eating-based eating disorders (anorexia, bulimia, etc.) in the body positive community too often lumps all restrictive eating into that category.  The message is boiled down to "don't diet."

Derailing the media and medical obsession with fat as though it's the only litmus test for health is a constructive message.  Creating acceptance of the diversity of all body types including both thin and fat people is a constructive message.  Being critical of the ableism inherent in fatphobic shaming is a constructive message.  These are constructive because they don't make assumptions about peoples' personal motives for doing what they do.  Being critical of the food supply, including packaged fad diet crap, is a constructive message.  "Don't diet" is not a constructive message.  It's not constructive because "diet" is a subjective term and people don't all diet for the same reasons.

The most interesting part is that what I'm saying isn't actually at odds with what most advocates mean when they say "don't diet."  Michelle of the Fat Nutritionist wrote a very popular post entitled "Eat food. Stuff you like. As much as you want."  This is an excellent, positive message... if you are able to actually do that without harming yourself.  She does add a little asterisk that kind of implies that people like me don't count, and some of her comments shed more light on the situation, but there's still the overall implication that we can learn to eat intuitively and still eat things like Cheetos and candy bars.  The Twinkie example she uses makes a clear assumption that the reader is the kind of person who wouldn't dive into a vat of Twinkies and eat all of them.  Some of my most famous binges have been buying multiple boxes of Hostess or Little Debbie products and eating all of them in one sitting.

I don't believe Michelle's message is intentionally antagonistic towards food addicts and binge eaters.  Eating what your body wants is an excellent message for people who are at the point where they can do that.  But it only works for me when within the context of dietary restrictions... if I eat a Little Debbie snack cake it's going to fuck up the whole system.  I can't just decide "Hmmm. I think today I'll have a Little Debbie snack cake and then I'll eat a wholesome healthy dinner"  I won't eat a reasonable number of Little Debbie snack cakes. I'll eat until they're either gone or I literally can't fit any more into my stomach.  This has been the case ever since I was a child; and no, my parents never coerced me to eat.  In fact, I distinctly remember overhearing my mother talking about me to a friend who was trying the (perfectly reasonable, by the way) child-rearing method of not forcing her child to clean her plate every meal and allowing her choose for herself how much she needed to eat.  My mother responded by explaining that upon taking me to a buffet I literally would not stop eating until I was unable to bend over.  If you give me a snack cake, I will not stop eating them.

No, I really won't.  Wait, you don't believe me?  Huh.  That's interesting and hypocritical.

Because here's where the issue becomes insulting and alienating.  This whole system of eating what you want when you want it runs on the (in my opinion, true) assumption that unsolicited dietary advice is bad.  Unsolicited dietary advice is bad because you have absolutely no fucking clue whether it's good for that person or not, whether that person needs the advice you have to give, and it flat out states that that person is not competent enough to understand what's good for them.  Telling somebody they just need to exercise more and they'll lose weight, that they should go on the vegan/paleo/grapefruit/cabbage soup/whatever diet, or that "it's all about the calories" when they haven't actually consulted you is unsolicited dietary advice.  Telling somebody not to diet is also unsolicited dietary advice.

This isn't about Michelle really, though.  Michelle of the Fat Nutritionist has never personally shamed me, after all.  I do not consider a blog "unsolicited advice," because bloggers have target audiences who are looking for that information.

What bothers me is that people have used her work and other works like it to shame me when I try to find a diet that best alleviates the problems I encounter through my eating disorder.  What bothers me is that people make the assumption that my eating disorder is not real, that if I just learned to love my body or "give myself permission to eat things I like" that it'll all go away and I can be a happy fat person who eats normally.  What bothers me is that people don't understand how many of the weight-related issues are due to physical discomfort and gender dysphoria rather than mere social stigma.  In short, the insistence that I not diet is an extreme denial of my lived experience and the things I know about my eating habits.

I should mention, of course, that this as well goes both ways.  I do not--cannot--judge what you eat or choose not to eat for the same reason.  It would be easy for me to try explaining that sugar and wheat will cause you to binge-eat because they have that effect on me.  It's very clear, though, that this isn't the case for everyone.  So I am by no means suggesting that we replace one system of unsolicited dietary advice with another.  I'm suggesting we drop the whole diet rhetoric altogether.

Friday, May 10, 2013

On Those Uniquely-Conservative Queer Republicans

Alright, I'm going to make something clear that should already be pretty much clear to any queer or LGBT person who knows me:  I find being a Republican when you are queer to be ridiculously unsettling.  I see a strong element of self-hate--or at least self-demeaning--to vote for a party which includes fighting against federal same-sex marriage in its platform.  The Republican party has been openly antagonistic toward queer people.  So no, I don't affirm queer people being Republicans.  Nor do I really affirm anybody being a Republican.

And I still get kind of annoyed listening to most LGBT people talk about conservative queers.  Not because I affirm them being conservative, but because this ire so often comes from people who have enthusiastically voted Democrat their whole lives and seem blissfully unaware that Democratic favor toward mainstream gay issues (marriage, military, etc.) is relatively recent.  They haven't had the same open ire as the Republican Party, which in many ways panders to religiously fundamentalist whiners and racists, but they certainly aren't the ├╝ber-liberal party people from the United States tend to assume them to be. They're not particularly bold and they're woefully centrist.  And most of them waited until well after public opinion had swayed before flipping their positions on LGBT issues, using the type of separate-but-equal banter LGBT activists have always argued against.

During the primary battle between Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton, my friends broke off into their little contingents proclaiming one or the other was totally the right candidate for the LGBT community.  Like, enthusiastic proclamations.  They weren't even questioning their LGBT stances.  There was no effort to promote candidates who actually openly believed in LGBT rights... a few were promoting Green Party, even fewer were promoting, say, Dennis Kucinich, who was openly in favor of same-sex marriage when most other Democrats weren't.  Most of them were into separate-but-equal shit about treating gays nicely but like they don't deserve the same rights as straight people, no.

There's also a willingness to forget shitty things Democrats have done.  I mean, just Google "GLAAD," "Bill Clinton," and "DOMA."  The guy who signed the fucking Defense of Marriage Act got a fucking GLAAD award.

So assuming that Republican-voting queers are uniquely self-hating is to assume other queers are somehow voting significantly better on their own issues.  But the Democrats only became the pro-gay party when it was fashionable to do so, and are only marginally better at other social issues than Republicans.  To summarize, they aren't interested in doing half the crap Republicans accuse them of, even in cases where that would be totally awesome (free healthcare, etc.).  And both Democrats and Republicans are capitalism-preservation parties that only do the right thing if it's campaign-marketable.

I'd also like to mention that the LGBT and queer movements have a serious problem with not marketing themselves to people we assume to be conservative because we automatically dismiss them.  When I lived in a city I got so many mailers from the Democratic Party and LGBT groups.  These mysteriously disappeared when I moved back to the country, replaced with alarmist literature about dead babies and "traditional" marriage.  I was the target of canvassers in the city, but never in the country.  I got plenty of Jehovah's Witnesses and some Republicans, but never a Democrat.  This doesn't surprise me.  There's the assumption that rural automatically means conservative, and conservative automatically means unfriendly to mainstream LGBT issues.  Neither of those is necessarily the case, but we wind up leaving large gaps in that demographic anyway just because we assume that there's only one demographic worth reaching out to, and that's relatively young, urban or college-dwelling, liberal-by-United-States-standards people.  We forget that there certainly are otherwise conservative people who are in favor of those issues as well as rural people.

Belated Birding Adventures

I've had quite a few bird adventures in the past week or so what with fishing and combining trips to save gas and such. I haven't been finding all that many new birds, but they're filtering in and I'm seeing quite a few honorable old birds.

Baltimore Orioles are becoming abundant. I love these, which
is I guess why I identified enough with them to draw this.
When I first saw these I thought "Forster's Tern" because that's
what that last tern was. Then I realized that their tail is different,
and I really paid attention because that was how people helped
identify the Forster's... also they're rather large...
so I believe this is a Caspian Tern. New bird!

Caspian Terns

As I was geocaching at Lakeside Park I found this
House Finch in a spruce tree.  Or a fir tree. I identify birds, not trees.
  He was kind enough to allow me to photograph him multiple times.

House Finch again.

I was looking at a Red-bellied Woodpecker and I thought "Hmmm,
I wonder if I'll get any Northern Flickers."  As soon as this thought
was completed, suddenly, a Northern Flicker!

I've been getting a lot of Chipping Sparrows, too.  This was new a
little while ago but they already feel familiar because they're everywhere.


Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Birding, Fishing, Geocaching, and Walking

Haven't been here in a week... wow!  There are a few reasons for that.  First, my semester's winding down so I have a lot of work to do.  Second, it's been just gorgeous outside so I've been walking 2-5 miles a day birding, Geocaching, and doing other various hobbies.  Today I post the results of these hobbies.

First, I released three Bookcrossing books (out of at least five) at various gas stations.  Then I went fishing with my father, brother, and step-niece.  We got a lot of bullheads, which are a kind of catfish, as well as a few bluegills and a crappie.  Oh, and I caught a bass, although it was too small to keep.
While we were there I watched an American Robin steal a worm from our bait container, and there were several American Coots and Horned Grebes that bobbed along by.
Horned Grebe.
I also spent the next couple days going on walks along trails that were once in fact railroads (you can tell not only because of the distinctive size and shape, but because there are leftover railroad ties everywhere).  I went to an arboretum and thought I'd check up on the first Geocache I found  In it I found my first Travel Bug.  Exciting!
While learning what to do with Travel Bugs (although I had the basic idea) I learned about GeoKrety, which is like a Travel Bug except free.  I will wind up using this a lot in the future, I feel.

I found a series of Geocaches on a rail-trail that all looked pretty similar.

Ike helped on one of the trips.
While on my way to a different rail-to-trail I noticed my app telling me there was a Geocache by a signpost.  It turned out the actual cache was across the street tucked into the post of a stop sign.
I moved onward and found a pair of Blue-winged Teals in the pond at the elementary school.
Blue-winged Teal
I go back to the original rail-to-trail to drop off some trades and exercise.  I saw a Wilson's Snipe, a new life-lister, but I can't prove it because despite attempting to chase him I could not get a picture.  Sigh.  Later I did see a bunch of Palm Warblers, though, which are now #100 on my life list!
Palm Warbler.
I also saw a chicken.
And non-bird wildlife, as usual, was also in abundant supply.

On a weird note, I also saw a dead armadillo.  This is weird because we don't actually get armadillos.  I attempted to post a picture, but Blogger isn't cooperating tonight, so I'll just link to it on Twitter for those of you who are that ready and raring to see a dead armadillo.

Anyway, it's been a good week.  My physical went fantastic, probably because of the ridiculous amount of walking I've been doing, and I got to spend a lot of time outdoors.