I didn’t expect to make another post with the same name so soon.
Earlier today I learned my father is suffering cognitive decline. He builds houses and hires a lot of sub-contractors, and apparently now he will sometimes get confused, and order or approve work he didn’t really want or need. He won’t remember doing it later, and will get upset about it.
I fear for him. He’s proud, and he’s never taken advice well. As this continues, it will become easy for evil people to take advantage of his growing confusion, and he won’t accept help lightly.
I really despise myself, for not having a better relationship with him. He was hard to have a relationship with as a kid, he was very authoritarian and stereotypically reserved. As I grew older and lost my Polish proficiency, the language barrier became a problem. Now it’s hard to relate, there is such a gulf between us. I know it’s not too late yet, but I fear I won’t cross it before his mind really starts to fragment. I’ve never known my dad, and maybe I never will.
I’m also afraid for myself, which is selfish, but there it is. He’s about 25 years older than me. That’s a lot of time, but it’s also not a lot of time.
If I quit accounting and focus on writing, that’s time to get out 25 books or so.
I’ve been a rationalist for 12 years… I have twice as much time left in the movement as I’ve already put in, to help create something greater, and I don’t know if that’s enough. I’ve done so little in the past 12.
Anti-aging tech hasn’t come far enough in my lifetime that I can say with confidence it’ll reach a place that can prevent my own brain decline within 25 years.
I hate that I’ve destroyed every relationship I’ve had that would’ve afforded me someone’s shoulder to cry on tonight.
Maybe I’ve got more of my mom’s genes. Maybe he’s just extraordinarily unlucky. Maybe it isn’t as bad as I’m thinking it is… I haven’t noticed any changes in our interactions, personally. But would I, seeing as I don’t even know him that well?
He’s done well for himself, and for us. He came to a foreign country with almost nothing, and is now very comfortable. I can’t complain. It feels so unjust this should happen to him now, after he’s finally done all the work and gotten to the restful part of life. I want to say it’s not fair, but that’s stupid and childish, nothing is fair. But… fuck. Fuck death, and fuck aging. I feel I have failed utterly, and I didn’t realize this was the test. Now it’s too late to go back and study.
I didn’t really know what a TERF was or why anyone cared for a while. If some minority of women didn’t think that some women were “real” women, how was that different from any other form of dumb gatekeeping? As usual, enlightenment came in the form of a blog post —
If you ever visit a racist internet forum or user group or whatever, you’ll notice that they do the same thing. They talk about every single gruesome crime committed by a black person or an immigrant or a Muslim, anywhere in the world. They seek these out […] [in] TERF blogs, a large share of the content is – yep – circulating gruesome, horrifying, and detailed accounts of random crimes or acts of bullying committed by specific trans people. […] Doing this warps your intuitions. It is possible to target any group of more than a few thousand people with this tactic, it tells you nothing, and it’s bad.
TERFs don’t just do the usual shitty gatekeeping thing — they actively practice blood-libel. That’s basically all I need to know about them. They’ve outed themselves as horrible people who deserve contempt. Maybe in a time before social media, that would have been the end of it.
II. Universal Guilt
Societies tend to be in favor of guilty people being punished and innocent people being left alone. This is all well and good normally, but some groups want to really dominate everyone. Millenia ago religion came up with one of the simpler mechanisms of control — universal guilt. It starts with Original Sin, sure, but that’s too abstract for the common folk. The real money is in making normal behavior “deviant.” The more powerful the drive to do the “evil” thing is for everyone, the more power the church has. Once you make sexual attraction itself a sin, you’ve really got ’em by the balls.
Governments picked up on this. It’s very inconvenient having citizens you can’t threaten with imprisonment at any time, which is why it’s impossible not to break some law simply by living a normal life. The more impossible it is to not break a law while trying to live, the more power the government has. Then the government selectively enforces the law based on how much you’ve annoyed them.
This is also the reason there are words you can’t say. Much of the purpose of having such shiboleths is for the creation of victims. It gives the punishing organization control over people’s lives. And the more such words are things people feel driven to say, the more power the organization has.
III. Outrage Junkies
I’m not going to re-examine the guts of the social media mob, it’s been so extensively documented that there’s nothing for me to add. Self-righteous rage is addictive, and many people need someone new to hate and destroy every week to keep their endorphins going. The bigger the target, the stronger the rush. And a juicy fall-from-grace narrative that allows people to get in on a plunge from truly outlanding heights… well, that is a prize you don’t get every day.
Enter JK Rowling. Rowling has a long history of championing progressive causes, from women to minorities to the queer community. She’s among the most famous people in the English-speaking world, and a billionaire, and has used that fame and wealth to advance the causes of progressives. It would be quite a scandal if she was a Secret Nazi.
Rowling has never displayed hatred of trans persons. (Yes, she fears cismen as a class, but I think such fears are largely legitimate) She hasn’t participated in bloodlibel showcasings of trans criminals, nor of dehumanizing speech. The worst one can say she’s done is prioritized outreach to ciswomen, and expressed fears that safe spaces for women could be phased out for gender-neutral spaces instead.
I don’t think there is anything wrong with someone prioritizing helping other people like themselves who have had the same struggles in life. No one can help everyone, and many people are motivated to help minority groups which they themselves belong to. This is fine, and common. Very few people complain that scholarships for black people don’t accept applicants who aren’t black. Or that support groups for immigrants don’t support people who aren’t immigrants.
What Rowling is “guilty” of is using words that are tabooed. Of (most recently) pointing out (correctly) that our society used to have a word for “people who menstruate” and now such a word no longer exists. And being flippant and salty about it.
IV. Creating Frankenstein’s Monster
Because certain people are so eager for their outrage porn, when Rowling has uttered tabooed words before, they were quick to denounce her as a transphobe and a TERF, and spread the word as quickly as possible.
It’s obvious that Rowling’s first missteps were, as is normally the case, the missteps of someone who thinks that merely being a good person and being allied with progressives will offer some protection. “These people know I’m not evil” is a common mistake of someone questioning official dogma they think might be wrong.
As has been pointed out before, when good people censor the truth, then the only place people who want to know/say the truth can go is forums held by bad people. If one was never allowed to say “Black criminality rates are higher than the US national average” one couldn’t follow that up with “due to government-aided impoverization and the legacy of racist policies.” If the only place one could go to even utter the question “Why are black criminality rates higher?” was the forums of racists, the only answers one would find is “because black people are inherently bad.”
If the only place one can say anything in the vein of “I’m uncomfortable with governments treating a cisman who says the words “I’m a woman” as a woman for policy purposes” without being turned into a pariah is in TERF forums, then one will go there to say it. As surely as horny teens will fool around regardless of how evil sex may be in the eyes of God. And once in the forums of the TERFs, one is going to be assaulted by their vile sewage.
This is the stupid, stupid cycle of wokeism. The thought-lines must be kept pure, so deviation is met with exile, and exiles are subsequently exposed to drowning oceans of hate-mongering and bloodlibel. The justice mob ruins lives AND makes society worse by their own metric. But hey, at least they feel really good while doing it.
Frankly, I’m relieved that Rowling appears to have remained mostly trans-friendly, with a possible blindspot regarding safe-spaces. I think she has a strong heart, and she’ll ultimately resist the hatred spewed by the TERFs. But man, what a horrible thing to do to someone. Way to go, Wokes.
V. Why Bother?
I pondered for some time about whether to write this at all. I lost one of the most important relationships of my life by publicly & repeatedly opposing woke dogma a few years back. Usually the price of speaking up isn’t nearly that high, but there is a social cost every time, and a lot of stress.
In large part it goes back to pedophile priests.
When I was an atheist activist, I was outraged by pedophile priests and the cover they got from their parishioners. Not just The Church. I couldn’t believe how much ordinary people would just not say anything about it. It wasn’t their business. Their priest was fine. Why involve themselves in this mess that wasn’t their fault?
I think maybe it was unfair of me to expect church-going people to denounce pedophile priests. They aren’t to be held accountable for someone else’s actions. But I never could get over the silence. It still angers me.
I don’t want to be the person who is always silent. Who sees denunciations I think are unfair, but leaves it alone because it’s not my business. That’s how everyone ends up thinking everyone is a woke-ist, when most people are not.
To call Rowling a transphobe is to devalue the word to the point where it’s not useful in fighting actual hate. Those calling her such are outrage-porn addicts that don’t care what damage they do as long as they can get their next hit. Don’t be like them. And if you see something like this happen, if you can afford to take the hit, dropping even just a “I disagree” helps. :)
I’m a Polish immigrant. I’ve had certain experiences in my life that no native-born American will have because of this, and even a few that no non-Polish-immigrant will have. In addition, I’m eligible to join certain organizations in some major cities that accept only Polish immigrants as members.
I also have some very woke friends, because I don’t discriminate against people for having bad politics. :) It’s not uncommon to sometimes hear things like “Only Native Americans are true Americans, everyone else immigrated here!” or something similar. This is mainly used in arguements against racists or anti-immigration bigots.
But, in theory, such a friend could say to me “We’re all immigrants, only Native Americans are true Americans. You have no moral right to exclude me from your organization. Moreover, you have no right to claim I am not an immigrant! We are all immigrants! You are a racist bigot, and the world should know you deserve to be shunned.”
Would a person who was born in a different country not have a valid complaint here? That there are in fact some material differences between the two groups, and that conflating the word “immigrant” to such a degree erases my experience, and the shared background I have with other immigants?
To be fair, I came here so young that this barely effects me, but my parents would be extremely put out, and I would be strongly on their side. Or should my parents be required to sit quietly for fear of being called anti-immigration bigots?
Life is the ability to do things*. Much of my hatred of death is that it takes away ones ability to do anything and affect anything in the world.
To my chagrin, that is not the only thing that takes away one’s ability to do things.
Last year I suffered a back injury. I’m slowly recovering, but it’s altered my life. On the most easily-quantifiable level, I spend about an hour every day on physical therapy. That’s a large chunk of my ~19 waking hours per day. I’ve lost over 5% of my ability to do anything else in a day to that factor alone.
My sleep is usually worse, so even in my regular waking hours I’m less productive. But much worse than that is the constant physical pain. It’s been lessening lately, but it is a constant drain on my energy. I used to be able to Do Things for 15+ hours a day, if I needed to. Now I have a hard time just putting in my 8 hours/day for paid work, and I certainly get less done in those 8 hours than I used to. When I’m done with that work, it’s not just that I don’t want to go write a story, or improve my home. It’s that I do not have the energy to do much of anything, because the relentless pain has sapped me of everything. It’s all I can do to lay down and read for a while. Maybe I can get in an hour of other work in the evening. More likely I’ll be putting it off to the weekend, where I won’t be working as much as I used to at all.
At this point I’m up to maybe 2/3rds the ability to do things that I was at before my injury. This means it takes me 3 weeks to accomplish what I used to be able to do in 2 weeks, and it takes more effort. More strikingly, that means it takes me 3 years to accomplish what I once could have accomplished in 2 years. Assuming that I have another 30 productive years in front of me, if things don’t improve further, that means it’ll take me all those 30 years to do what before it would have only taken me 20 years to do. A pre-injury equivalent of 20 years of life is going to take 30 years instead. I will lose everything that I could have done in those hypothetical last 10 years that I won’t ever get to now.
In effect, this injury has taken 1/3rd of the rest of my life, even assuming I live just as long as I would have otherwise. (and assuming I don’t continue to recover). I haven’t been killed… but 1/3rd of me has.
And it occurs to me, that this will happen more and more often as I age and my shitty meat-suit decays around me. There will be more injuries and insults that further degrade my capacity. That is what aging is. It’s dying in pieces.
*Not a biological definition.
(On a related note, I always thought it was dumb when people said “Teenagers think they’re immortal.” No teenager I ever knew thought that, and neither did I. We knew we could die, and we feared it. What I think people meant (and should have said) is that teenagers don’t realize you can die in pieces. I thought it was a binary thing, and either I would survive and (at worst) return to baseline after a few months of healing, or I would die completley. I didn’t yet know that I had a middle-ground to be scared of, a dying that is partial, but just as permanent.)
I had a saddening encounter this weekend. On a panel about civil verbal disagreement, an audience member asked what to do when people use terms that are viewed by one side in a debate as slurs (such as “climate-denier”) and was told that in such a case, rather than getting upset one should stay quiet and introspect on their situation and see if they can understand why the other party would say such things. So I turned to my fellow panelist and told her that sounded very self-serving. Yes, we all dislike climate-deniers and don’t find anything wrong will calling someone literally what they are. But by way of comparison, if someone called me a “fag,” should I also introspect on my situation and see if I can understand why someone would say such a thing, rather than getting upset? She said of course not, and there was some concession that maybe this wasn’t the most fair-handed advice, but the topic was quickly moved past because panels are fast-paced and many people had questions/comments to get to.
(I know that “climate denier” is obviously drastically different. No one’s ever been kicked out of their house or beaten to death for being a climate denier. But after a failed attempt using a more analogous example, I found this was the only one that could get my co-panelist to consider how someone from the outside would view her call to ponder “why am I so bad?” rather than anything remotely realistic.)
Importantly, afterwards the panelist told me privately that she didn’t mean to be unfair or anything. It’s just that the person who asked the question was a White Man, he obviously needed to reflect on himself. And implicit both in her words and the “you know…” look she was giving me was that white men can have no legitimate complaints about how they are treated, and that was the basis of her answer. They are a class that can only ever do violence, and no verbal abuse can be visited upon them that is not morally justified. The only thing she knew about the question-asker was that he was white and male and somewhere north of his 40s, and that was enough.
I’ve spoken at length with a few people about the non-binary gender stuff over the last few weeks, and I’ve made a few updates.
First, and most significantly, is I find I resent non-binary people far less now that I’m honest about disliking (and not holding myself to) using neutral pronouns. Neat.
Second, I withdraw most of what I said in “Reducing the Spectrum to a Binary.” The people who most have their spectrum options reduced have them reduced by rightist bigots, not nb folks. And giving people more options doesn’t take away their previous options. I was mainly feeling like my allies in “taking back masculinity to mean many, many things besides Macho He-men” were being stripped away as they got removed from the category of “male”, but they really weren’t, and my feelings of dwindling support were misplaced.
Third, I have firmed up a position I didn’t quite have the words to express before. I don’t like being press-ganged into a war I don’t support. To explain: Declaring oneself to be of a non-sex is the equivalent of declaring oneself non-racial. (ie: I don’t identify as any race, and therefore I am non-racial.) Fine, you do you — but then asking that others use non-conforming pronouns for you to publicly identify you as non-racial (or non-sex) serves the sole purpose of drawing everyone around you into an culture war that they don’t necessarily want to be in. Either they use your pronouns and show that they have joined your side in the culture war (with all that entails), or they don’t, and they have joined the Other Side in the culture war (and all that THAT entails). Which, quite frankly, is bullshit.
This is hopefully my last post on the issue for a long time. :)
As promised, here is why I think they/them pronouns are more harmful than useful.
Up through the 2000s, we were making good progress on diversifying the sexes. Gender was coming to be understood as more of a spectrum. There were many ways to be a man. You could be a drag queen or a bro. You could be a stay-at-home-dad or a metrosexual. Being gay or straight didn’t even matter anymore. Sure, there was still some toxic masculinity enforced in various hellholes, and lots more internalized toxic masculinity everyone was trying to get over. But it was accepted that there was no one script for “manliness” anymore.
Women, of course, have always had multiple options, and as men’s options expanded, women’s kept pace. Dozens of TV shows and movie roles explored the myriad ways one could be a woman, and there were role-models galore.
And somehow our progressive movement managed to take this spectrum and cut it down to just three options. Just last week I saw a friend bemoaning “a binary culture which only allows masculine males and feminine females.” The new dogma is that there exists only this binary, that we’ve only ever had this binary, and that if you don’t think of yourself as a He-Man Woman Hater or a Barbie Doll Girly Girl you are non-binary and should adopt a neuter-sex position.
This is stupid. It erases all the people who’ve come before who pushed the boundaries of what it meant to be male and what it meant to be female. The people who made it OK to be a guy and cry without crippling shame. The people who made it OK to be a woman and like casual sex, or heavy metal music.
It also tells everyone who doesn’t identify as neuter-sex that they must adopt the traditional ultra-masculine or ultra-feminine roles or they aren’t really part of that gender. This is almost exactly the same message that the assholes had been preaching before. This is a regression. When someone says “I’m not the kind of person who enjoys slamming back beers and hitting on random chicks all night” and someone else tells them “There’s a word for that! It means you’re non-binary!” I die a little inside. I guess that, since I was born with a penis and I don’t ask people to deny that fact with awkward pronoun-usage, I’m just like all those chads. That’s great.
Obviously there’s no reason our language needs to have gendered pronouns. But inventing a neuter-sex and trying to shoehorn people who aren’t inter-sex into it is the opposite of a good way to reform the system. That’s adding complications rather than removing them. Since so few people are inter-sex, this neuter-gender can only be filled by creating a false gender-binary and offering the only alternative. This is not so different from creating a false “original sin” and then offering the only absolution. And since the invented neuter-sex doesn’t carve reality at the joints, its use can only be enforced with shame and social ostracism… which will make these reforms deeply unpopular even among the sympathetic.
1. I don’t particularly care about anyone’s gender (unless they’re a romantic or sexual partner, in which case it’s relevant). I don’t know how many genders there are, but it’s at least three, and I’ve seen claims that they number into the dozens. I don’t have the time or interest to learn everyone’s gender. When I use he/him/she/her pronouns, I use them in their gender-neutral forms. My use of pronouns is simply a reflection of the perceived sexual characteristics of the person I’m referring to. NOT their gender.
Yes, it is dumb that our language has different pronouns for apparently-male-sex people and apparently-female-sex people. It’s dumb that our brains have different specialized slots for apparently-male-sex people and apparently-female-sex people too, but there it is. When I was young and my brain was being molded, the language parts of my brain were hooked up to the sex-recognition parts of my brain via methods that have been refined through cultural evolution to hook those two parts together very strongly. And it took.
When one insists others use pronouns that contradict with the one’s sexual presentation, I am required to overrule my own lying eyes and instead use arbitrary terms picked by that person. It feels like I am being told there are five lights every single time. Last time it was my church and parents who were telling me there were five lights. Now it’s my friends. :( I am being forced to lie every time I speak of them, and I despise it.
This is bad enough on it’s own! But in addition…
2. Misgendering suffers from Lie Inflation. Many trans people suffer from dysphoria, and successfully transitioning is an intensely laborious task that takes years of effort, and usually major biological intervention. And since perceived sex is socially mitigated, how people are treated can make a big difference to perception for those who are on the borders of passing. So intentional misgendering can be really harmful. “Misgendering” someone used to be the term for a malicious attempt to drag people backwards in their transition.
Of course, if you know your friend is trying to get better at something, the polite thing to do is to act like they’re already good at it. This is why writers can never trust feedback from friends and family. It is polite and affirming to use the pronouns that go with the sex someone is hoping to be seen as. So naturally the term “misgendering” has in time been inflated to include people who are unwilling to deny that a dude with a beard has apparently-male sexual characteristics. As a result, if I don’t constantly monitor myself I am in the same moral ballpark as the fundamentalist who is maliciously tearing apart the years of work of trans people.
And yes, my friends are kind and supportive, and they “forgive” me when I slip up, because they know this is a hard thing that takes a lot of effort. No one is about to disown me (I think), they just keep dropping polite reminders. But inside I am seething, because I don’t need forgiveness for accidentally blurting out that There Are Four Lights. I’m jealous of the people in my social group who haven’t yet been told that Person X is a Them now, because no one judges them poorly for using the obvious pronouns. I sure as hell won’t ever tell them, because I don’t want to the the jerk who has permanently imposed that cost on them. Honestly, if I would be better off not knowing someone’s mystery gender, I wish they simply wouldn’t tell me their gender.
3. This is where I came to see the parallels with my earlier life. I grew up with abusive relationships. As is typical, I recreated my past, so I was in several abusive relationships as an adult as well. A constant in nearly all abusive relationships (and certainly every one I’ve been in) is that the abused party is constantly monitoring their behavior and speech around the abuser so as not to set them off. The common phrase is “walking on eggshells.” Mistakes are rarely punished, of course, but that randomness makes things worse, because you can never be sure you’re safe.
The constant monitoring of my speech to not ever slip into using words that match the perceived sex in this one particular case invokes that exact same feeling. Never has anyone exploded on me for failing to use the neuter pronouns, but of course that just means it’ll be even worse once it does happen, according to my brain. Perhaps I could use this as evidence to slowly move away from this fear, if it wasn’t for the fact that some of the neuter-gender people I personally know have publicly announced “If you can’t respect me enough to use the right pronouns, I don’t want you in my life.”
This wraps up the emotional reasons for hating they/them. The lesser reason is a practical one – there currently is no neuter-sex, and trying to create one in this manner does social harm that isn’t worth the cost. But that’ll be a post for later in the week.
I find myself distressed by the casual fading of my They friends.
I know a number of people who have jumped on the They train. I don’t care what anyone calls themselves, so at first I was all “OK, whatever, you do you.” But not long after that, several of these friends have made it clear they find anyone who doesn’t adopt their new pronouns to be moral degenerates.
I will not do that. I noped out of that game when I abandoned fundamentalist Christianity in my teen years, and I’m not about to bend over for the latest dominance move just because now it’s people on my side asserting moral superiority. But I also like my friends, and seek their acceptance and approval. Until I can figure out what to do about this, I’ve instead stopped using pronouns to refer to them at all.
In their presence, this is super easy. Generally you address people you’re with directly, with things like “Hey, what did you think about that latest episode?” and pronouns never come into it.
But when a friend isn’t present, I refer to them only by their name now. Or simply drop the pronoun from the sentence altogether in a sort of abbreviated slang. Both of these things are very inconvenient. They require constant self-censorship and interrupt the through process, which is a major cost in itself. Perhaps even worse, they remind me every time I want to mention this friend that they’ve joined with the moralizing puritans and are now part of a group that wishes me harm, which hurts.
So I’ve found myself simply not talking about these friends at all. Their existence fades out of my casual conversation altogether. I didn’t notice it at first, and I’m writing this blog post now because I realized just this week that this was happening.
I find that really depressing. It’s counter to one of the things I really like about friendships. :/
I’ve posted a few times before that one can read my novel serially online, as I’m publishing a chapter per week at What Lies Dreaming.com. If you’d rather have it all in one place, the ebook and physical book will be available July 2nd! Which means one can read to the end about 2.5 months before the final chapter is published online. And, for those who are forgetful and would rather place their order right now, you can also preorder the ebook starting today!