Libertarian mayoral candidate for Meridian has been shot to death in the woods outside of his home, according to Mississippi’s local paper The Clarion Ledger, and there is a bit of confusion regarding the circumstances. See, not long ago, Mariner Durant withdrew from the mayoral race, citing law enforcement officials who had advised him to withdraw because of death threats–there is no evidence of this suggestion, or indication of what law enforcement officer or official he may be referring to. Meridian is about three hours southeast of where I live (I’m right at the Mississippi/Tennessee border, so generally am more a Memphisian than a Mississippian), but I supported his candidacy nonetheless. Even though he supported Johnson/Weld–at the local, mayoral level that isn’t a big enough deal for me to refuse to support a candidate. Only in the national spotlight would that be a point of concern for me. While it did bother me that he never liked, replied to, or shared anything I wrote to him, I understand why, and held no grudge against him for it–being a libertarian in Mississippi is hard enough without having an openly trans ally.
C’est la vie.
Photo courtesy of the Clarion Ledger.
But now he’s dead.
Here are the facts as we know them:
Mariner Durant withdrew from the mayoral race, citing threats to his safety and the advice of unknown law enforcement.
Mariner Durant was found shot to death in the woods outside of his home, shortly thereafter.
Local police are ruling it a suicide, though are bringing in the Mississippi Bureau of Investigation.
Most people seem to take the local police’s word for it that it’s a suicide, and that Mariner likely had some sort of psychosis or paranoia where these threats were imagined, and that this psychosis ultimately led to his suicide. That’s certainly a valid interpretation, and we’ll probably never know.
Now let me tell you some stuff about Mississippi.
Several years ago, we had a murder (on a street where one of my best friends lives) occur that was so barbaric and horrific that it made national news. This 18 year old girl was forced to imbibe lighter fluid (or gasoline), and was burned alive. All evidence suggests that she was with someone she knew and trusted, and the last visible sign of her was at a gas station where she bought gasoline and showed no signs of distress, and the other, unidentified person, was in the car. You may remember this, because it was truly a horrific crime.
Now let me tell you some other stuff that the national media missed.
The girl’s father is a police officer who served time in prison for cooking and selling methamphetamine before becoming a cop. Read that sentence again, because nothing shows how strongly filial attachments can pull the strings of people in Mississippi than the idea that a former meth dealer came out of prison and became a police officer.
Now let me tell you more stuff the national media missed.
The girl was a drug-addict and prostitute (when she needed the drugs or the money to buy the drugs), and had recently stolen $400 from a man by selling him fake pills. I used to be addicted to pain killers myself. I know that game well. One of the people I bought pills from was found several years ago in a ditch, with a bullet in his head, and neither I nor my father have any doubt: he screwed over the wrong person. It only takes once. And he screwed me over repeatedly*. Now, when you’re a drug addict, that won’t keep you from going back to them if you can’t find anyone else. My dad and I once took him to a trailer park around midnight, and he wanted us to give him $100 while he ran in to get the pills for us. We knew better than to do that. We’d give him the money, and we wouldn’t hear from him for months.
Yet there’s more to this “person who was robbed for $400” than most people know. For one, he’s a known arsonist, and helped burn down a building for its owner to collect the insurance money. Everyone around knows and knew it was arson, and knows exactly who did it–even the police. But this person… This person is above the law. This person has very high connections in politics extending at least to the governor of the state. This person has also been involved in at least one murder.
So let’s have a recap.
18 or 19 year old girl (I don’t remember her name) who is a drug addict and hooker and whose father is a cop who went to prison for cooking and selling meth before becoming a police officer was found murdered in one of the most awful ways imaginable shortly after stealing $400 from a known arsonist and person known to be “above the law.” Additionally, many, many people suspected that the girl was an informant–wouldn’t you?–and I know damned well that this accusation is often enough to get you killed. If you do heroin and your dealer thinks you’re an informant, he’ll lace your next batch, you’ll die, and no one will ever know it happened. There are few things as lethal as being accused of being an informant.
Oh, we need to also mention that the girl’s parents were racist and that she had a history of dating black men, often to the point that she’d been kicked out on several occasions and ended up living with her black boyfriends and their families. This isn’t a thing in and of itself, but it’s something to consider about the girl’s parents. Let’s see… What else…? There are so many Sleeping Dogs in this story that it’s hard to remember them all, and I followed it very closely–like I said, one of my best friends lives on the street that she was murdered on. This happened like fifteen minutes from where I live.
How does this story end? It doesn’t. Eventually, the murder was “solved!” rather innocuously last year–or the year before–when a seemingly random black guy who was already serving time in Louisiana was pinpointed as the murderer, despite his name never having been mentioned before or since in any context related to the girl. Because the Internet Detectives went to work, man. They dug up all her ex-boyfriends, harassed them on Facebook, and all kinds of shit. This dude’s name never got mentioned. No news article, no Internet Detective, no whisper among the community…
You know what the whispers around the community were?
Everyone knew who did it, but no one was going to say it. “They went too far,” was what people said. “They went too far with what they did.” Everyone knew who, and everyone knew why. But, if you knew, would you talk, knowing that everyone else knew already, and knowing what had happened to the girl?
So the sleeping dog sleeps.
I know of a family who lives on the edge between two counties with a similar “above the law” status. No one touches them, no matter how horrific their actions have been. They’ve been known to openly torture and murder dogs and cats, tying them to trees and to four-wheelers, and quartering them in a more Modern American way. The sheriffs know about this. They know about the allegations of rape, of people going missing, of child abuse. They know the property extends back mile after mile of woods and empty tankers that contain God-knows-what, and they know there may very well be victims in those tankers screaming right now. But County A says they’re in County B, and County B says they’re in County A. So no one does anything about the crimes alleged, much less known.
I don’t know what happened to Mariner Durant. I have no idea if he has a history of paranoid or schizophrenic behavior, but, if he does, this is the first anyone will have heard about it (which wouldn’t really be the case, since they’d have used that against him in the mayoral race, but, hey, let’s forget that for the moment).
But I do know that Mississippi has lots and lots of sleeping dogs. And if he posed a threat of accidentally or purposely waking one of them, then it’s not at all beyond belief that he’d have been killed for it, whether he withdrew from the race or not. Once you threaten one of those dogs, that’s often all it takes, even if you back down.
Just ask the man who went to prison for cooking and selling meth and then became a cop.
Regardless, it sucks that this libertarian candidate is dead, and I wish that wasn’t the case. I wish he hadn’t withdrawn, and I wish he had won the election. I wish there weren’t so very many things wrong in Mississippi.
* That sounds freaking awful. My point is that he had a known history of screwing people over. He was found dead long after I got out of that game.
Want to read the whole story? Well, now you can! For a limited time (until June 15), Dancing in Hellfire is finally available for sale, for only $3.49. You can buy it here, through this very site, using PayPal or a typical credit/debit card (payment is processed by PayPal, so I don’t see the info), after which you’ll be given access to the book as both a PDF and an ePub.
Whether being four years old and watching one of my parents’ friends shoot up peanut butter on our couch and dying before my eyes; whether being effectively kidnapped at the age of eight by my meth-addicted mother and forced to endure a summer of being too poor to buy food, with our water turned off due to non-payment, and with mom being beaten mercilessly by a violent alcoholic; whether coming to terms with her disappearance like something out of a murder mystery show; or whether being transgender in the midst of all of this and trying desperately to come to terms with it while surrounded by a fundamentalist Christian family that forced me to not merely repress who I was but also to forget who I was, I have seen a great deal of tragedy.
It’s strangely easy to forget how devastating all of this must truly have been, even as I was the one who experienced it, because it’s easy to forget how it truly felt to lie awake, crying and listening to the sounds of shattering glass as my mother was thrown brutally through windows. It’s easy to forget how angry I have the right to be at my father and grandmother, for forcing me to oppress myself and attempting to turn me into something that I am not.
Today I am a transgender woman and resident of the state of Mississippi. This is as frustrating, difficult, and dangerous as one would expect, but I survive, and I roll with the punches. I have no choice, just as I had no choice those early mornings as I bore witness to horrific domestic violence.
So this is my story–a story of how low human depravity can sink, but also how the human spirit can stand resilient and refuse to surrender. However, I know that I am one of the lucky ones. The majority of people who endure such childhood trauma, and who are forced by religiously oppressive authorities to repress their own natures, are not so fortunate. Most of the former lose themselves in a sea of drugs that allow them to forget, while the latter often lose themselves to the blade of a razor. Yet I know, because I have lived it, that we can survive the struggles–and not merely survive, but become stronger through them.
Where to begin, in this sordid tale of devils and demons?
My family is exactly what one would expect of a north Mississippi lower middle class / upper lower class white Christian family; it was only a few years ago that I first heard the acronym WASP, but I have to admit: aside from its redundancy, there is no more apt description of my family. They are almost stereotypical in how typical they are of an ordinary white fundamentalist Christian family from the southern United States.
Everyone in Mississippi isn’t like that, however, which is a point I’ve tried to stress in the past: Mississippi does contain many people like myself. As a friend recently put it, “We grew up in an area that is run-down, poor, and stupid, over all, where most of the populace is indoctrinated by religious nonsense to the point where they can’t even recognize rational thought. We pushed through what it takes to fit in here, and we defined ourselves. That’s something to embrace and be proud of.”
My friends and I have reached the end of a long and grueling journey that was filled with adversity and people who would use any means at their disposal—terrorism, fear, violence, and coercion—to bend us to their wills, and we’ve looked back at the paths we traveled and rejoiced that we survived and stayed true to ourselves. Friends are priceless when one is transgender in a family full of fundamentalist Christians.
Both of my paternal grandparents would reject me entirely—they do not yet know, and they will be among the last to know, since I see them only a few times a year. “You don’t know how they’ll react,” I’ve had people tell me. “Give them a chance. Sometimes people surprise you.”
With all due respect, those allies and friends have no idea the type of people we’re really dealing with. My Mississippian friends know better, too; they know that there is no chance that my family will ever welcome me at Christmas dinner as a female. When my grandfather (who, for the record, is on his tenth or eleventh wife) learned that my sister was living with her boyfriend, he wrote her a lengthy letter, wherein he quoted Biblical passages and called her a whore. When my grandmother found girls’ clothes hidden between my mattresses, she wanted to send me to a foster home and asserted that she would not have that in her house. If they had thought I was gay, they would have sent me to one of those awful “pray the gay away” camps.
This isn’t to say that I’m perfect, and acknowledging my own faults and mistakes will be the most difficult part of writing this. I have made plenty of mistakes and stupid decisions that brought people around me severe difficulty and hardship, particularly regarding past relationships.
My memory is also not perfect, and I am likely to make mistakes, and, given that some of the information comes from extremely unreliable sources (like my father), some of that can’t really be helped. It doesn’t matter, though. The point of this is to show how awful parenting shaped me, and the countless lies that my dad told me are part of that. I strive for honesty, integrity, and sincerity in all things. Consider this my vow that everything within is, to the best of my knowledge, the unaltered truth, except that names have been changed.
I was born premature, thankfully, since the umbilical cord had wrapped around my throat and I was choking to death. This was surely a result of my mother’s cigarette smoking and eating painkillers while pregnant. My father insists that she didn’t do drugs while she carried us, but… Yeah, she did.
I certainly don’t remember my birth, but I do remember some things from shortly after my birth. Though my family says there is no way I could remember it, my introduction to the world came with overwhelming confusion: I was in some sort of cradle, and the back of my right hand hurt because a number of needles and tubes penetrated my flesh. The details are blurry and fuzzy, as one would expect from such early memories, but the needles burned and itched. They irritated me, and I wanted them out. I was afraid and confused, with no idea why these things penetrated my hand and no understanding of what was going on. I knew only that I was hurting and helpless to do anything about it.
Confusion—pure confusion. I didn’t even have a sense of self. I had no idea that I existed, that I was a baby in a hospital, and that I was a being. I could feel the needles in the back of my hand, and they hurt. The pain, however, was not unbearable, and wasn’t the main facet of that moment. It was confusion. I was not afraid—I didn’t have enough self-awareness for the confusion to make me scared. I simply knew nothing. I was a blank slate, onto which was being written reality in the ink of experience. I didn’t even know that I was a blank slate. I knew only that I hurt, and that I was confused. I was not in the arms of a loving mother whose warmth brought me comfort. I did not stare up and into the eyes of a nurse who was delighted to see a baby growing healthier by the hour. I was not being cooed by an older brother, or rocked in the cradle while a loving grandparent read a story. I was alone and hurting in a room bathed in fluorescent light.
That was my first experience with the world. That was how I was introduced to the universe—in the sterilizing, emotionless light of an empty hospital room, not the gentle and soothing light of a home. I heard the beeps and sounds of monitoring equipment, not the joyous laughter of a loving family. I lie alone in a hospital contraption with the shrill, uncomfortable hospital sheets, not wrapped in a blanket and the arms of a doting mother.
And the worst part—the indisputable worst part—is that I remember this.
The first few years of my life were probably normal, about what anyone would expect from a southern, lower middle class white family that subsisted more on the successes of previous generations than the merits of its own. There were some oddities, though, and signs even then of who I really was, but it was the mid-80s. It wouldn’t really be fair to blame my parents for not recognizing and embracing that I was transgender.
Of course, I was born male, “with a penis and everything.” But whenever all of my underwear was dirty, my mother would put me in my sister’s panties; it wasn’t a punishment, to clarify. Being the clever child that I was, I began hiding all of my underwear, just so that I could tell my mom that I didn’t have any, and so that I could wear panties instead. Somewhere around three years old, I took all of my underwear and threw them into the back of a closet that no one ever opened, and then I reported to my mother that, strangely, all of my underwear was suddenly gone.
So when I say that I’ve been transgender since birth, it’s as close to “since birth” as one can get. I couldn’t have been older than three years old at that point, because my sister hadn’t begun kindergarten herself. I knew then that I preferred women to men: I loved my mother and sister, and, even at that age, I had a deep appreciation for feminine beauty. I also thought that my Aunt Diane was the most beautiful woman I’d ever seen, and my mother used to make fun of me for my enamorment with my aunt.
My experience with men at this point was limited to my father (who was fat and not overly pleasant to look at), my brother (who was thin, but who had nothing on my mother), my grandfather (who was also overweight, and a jerk), and my Uncle Danny (who has always been an asshole). Although it’s typical for young boys to love their mothers, I wanted to be just like mine, and I suspect that had a lot to do it with, but who can say? I was three when it began, and I simply wanted to be a girl.
I had a blanket (what most people would call a “blankie,” though I never called it that), and it was one of those cotton-threaded ones similar to fishnet. I refused to sleep without it and my pillow. The pillow actually wasn’t that important, but the pillowcase certainly was. I rubbed the pillowcase between my finger and thumbnail, sleeping on the central heating vents in the floor and driving my father crazy with all of it.
A Look at My Father
I would love to say that my father isn’t a bad man.
But he is.
That’s a difficult thing to say and accept, but I have to stress that it doesn’t really make me love him any less, and that the dominant emotion I have for my father is pity. Even so, I would be lying if I said that he was a good man who simply made some mistakes; that isn’t the case at all. He’s a bad man who has made some good decisions, not a good man who has made a few bad ones.
His own childhood was no walk in the park, damaged by my alcoholic and abusive grandfather beating the hell out of my grandmother. Though not much of that has been shared with me, I can certainly relate to what he has said, and it’s clear the recollections are as painful to him as it is for me to recall the abuse my mother endured at the hands of alcoholics.
At some point, my grandparents divorced—Go, grandma!—because my grandmother wouldn’t put up with the abuse. My grandmother is easily worthy of her own story, because she is an unsung hero of the feminist movement without even trying. In the sixties and seventies, she left her violent husband and blazed her own path in Mississippi, won the house in the divorce, and then worked at a college until she retired at the age of 67.
True to the family history, my grandmother endured her own screwed up childhood, and was even sent away by her mother to live with Uncle Bill and Aunt Edna on their farm. Evidently, Aunt Edna didn’t like my grandmother one bit, and was very unkind to her. What internal strength caused my grandmother, in what must have been the 40s, to graduate as the valedictorian of her class? What quiet resolve allowed my grandmother to learn the necessary skills to work in the administration section of a college during the 60s?
These are questions to which I would love answers, but I’ll never have them, because they are not things that my grandmother is willing to discuss. Questions about her past are met with short answers, and I can’t blame her for not wanting to talk about it.
On one particular drunken rampage, my father held a gun on my grandfather so that my grandmother could limp out of the house. While I truly hate that he had to do such a thing in the first place, I’m also jealous that he was old enough to do something about it. When my mother suffered under Everett’s hands, I was in the second grade, and too young and weak to do anything to intervene.
For years, my father insisted that he was drafted to Vietnam, and he even talked about how he was called a murderer and spit upon when he returned. Eventually my sister and I realized that there’s no way this is true. Either he was actually the oldest between him and his brother (and thus wouldn’t have been drafted), or the Vietnam War ended when he was 16. In this little alternate reality he had constructed, he had to be older than our mother was (which was blatantly false—she had always been recognized as the older one), his brother had to be lying about his own age, and almost everyone had to have falsified birth records.
He changed his story to say that he was in Vietnam during the 80s, through another offensive that we did, but I have been unable to find any military record for him. Whether he actually fought in Vietnam, he did mislead us into believing he’d fought in the Vietnam War, which is a lie of such magnitude and scope that one has to marvel at it.
He is a religious man, though it’s hard to tell by his behavior: heavy drug usage, constant lies, and steady manipulation. Although he is less religious than other family members are, his secularism is applied selectively, and he’s generally as fundamental as everyone else is. He continues to believe that President Obama is a Muslim, is more or less openly racist, and is a diehard Republican, despite that he’s effectively a ward of the state who benefits substantially from liberal policies.
I obviously don’t see eye-to-eye with him, but we do have some similar interests. It was he who introduced me to Fantasy literature and tabletop gaming, both of which almost immediately became passions for me. In turn, I exposed him to the tenth installment of a popular roleplaying video game, and I’m still happy that I was able to show him to something that he enjoyed so immensely. He must have played through it a dozen times, and he certainly discovered more of its secrets than I ever would have.
There is some kinship between us, and I do love him, despite the numerous differences, and in spite of the fact that he has done me far more harm than good. More than anything, I pity him, because his childhood evidently destroyed him; he is one those who did not escape unscathed. He was swallowed by the mentality that the world owes him something, and oblivious to the reality that the world will never give it.
The rifts between us began because I was not the son that he wanted. He hated that I loved sleeping on the heating vents—I’ve always loved heat. I wouldn’t sleep anywhere else. I had to sleep on one of the floor vents, and the heat had to be on. There in the floor, I had the pillow and pillowcase that I refused to sleep without, and the blanket that I required as I slept.
My father hated all of these things. We went to visit some relatives at one point, and I left my blanket and pillow at home. With no other way to shut me up, my parents took me to a store to get a new pillow, and there I went from one to the next, tearing open the plastic just slightly, and “testing” it until I found one that was satisfactory. When we got back to our trailer a few nights later, dad went outside and told me to bring my pillow.
As I stepped out into the night air, I saw him kneeling just outside the small stone circle beside our front steps. It had once been a flower garden—conceived during one of mom’s highs, when she was bolstered with energy from painkillers. The high wore off, but the flowers remained in that little circle of rocks—at least for a while. Then they died, shriveled, neglected, and forgotten.
Almost like a demon out of a child’s horror story, there was my dad, grinning devilishly and eagerly, urging me to throw my old pillow onto a mess of crumbled newspapers soaked in lighter fluid as he held his flaming lighter above it. “We need to burn it!” he said, but I refused. There was no need to burn it. They were already making me throw it away—they were already making me discard this pillow that I loved and had slept with every night for years. Was that not enough?
“We need to burn it!” he said again, as I ran inside and cried to mom that dad wanted to burn the pillow that I loved. It may seem strange that I had such attachment to a pillow, but I did, and both of my parents knew it. My father certainly knew very well that I loved that pillow.
That’s why he wanted to burn it. Because I loved it.
We didn’t burn random things, and I doubt that we ever burned anything there at all. He wasn’t content to force me to throw away this pillow, the symbol that I was an emotional person and not the crass son that he apparently wanted. The pillow had to be destroyed in flames because I loved it, and because “real men don’t love.” This silly, feminine weakness, this emotional attachment to an object—it had to be gotten rid of, and in the most dramatic way possible.
It was not the pillow that my dad wanted to burn.
It was my heart.
My mother intervened, though my father came inside and continued insisting that we needed to burn the pillow, because he was afraid that I would be able to talk my mother into letting me keep it. One has to wonder why it was an issue that I wanted to keep it. In the end, I placed it gingerly on top of the garbage can in the kitchen and told it goodbye. I hated to do so, and I cried, because it didn’t make sense to me.
It’s understandable that I developed such strong emotional ties to objects, as neither parent spent much time with me, and there was not much hugging in the family. Mom and dad were always high on one drug or another, lying on the couch and borderline comatose. I don’t know how Brandi handled it then, or what she did in order to get through the long and miserable days, but it was surely as awful for her as it was for me. Unlike our older brother, we didn’t have friends with whom we could go hang out. Or, at least, I didn’t. Brandi was friends with a girl who didn’t live too far from us, and I hope that my sister was happy then.
Aunt May and Kay-Kay
For a while, mom did work, as did my father. While Brandi and Eric were gone to school and my parents were at work, I was babysat by our great aunt who lived next door, a relatively kind woman who I remember as mostly humorless. My father fleeced her out of most of her money, just as he did to my great-grandmother, and just as he is currently doing to my grandmother. However, I was too young to comprehend that, and there isn’t much that I remember about Aunt May.
It was horrendously boring at Aunt May’s. There were few places worse for my pre-school self. I wasn’t allowed to take my Nintendo, which left me there alone with an eighty-year-old woman and very little to actually do, because there was no one to play with and nowhere to play at. Aunt May wasn’t unkind, but she was also not particularly joyful. I don’t blame her for that—she was a very old woman, and probably not happy to babysit a four-year-old.
I should have been outside having fun, rather than sitting in a living room with an eighty-year-old woman and playing with paper dolls that she cut out of a magazine. Of course, such things seem droll only from a modern perspective, but I was accustomed to video games and cartoons, the heightened entertainment possibilities of the late 1980s. In the 1880s, a child would have been thrilled to sit on a couch in an air-conditioned house and idle away the hours with paper dolls.
However, imagine the horrified response one would get if a modern child was asked to spend day after day in that environment, with only a very old woman as company. There would probably be allegations of child abuse, though I’m not making that claim. However, many modern parents would likely consider that to be, at the least, borderline child abuse. To me, it was simply boring, and the time passed so slowly that I probably lived more moments there at Aunt May’s house than all the moments I have lived since.
I don’t intend any of this to be disparaging to Aunt May. I have no doubt that she did the best she could, and significantly better than many people in her position would have. Still, I dreaded those days when both parents had to work, and it was routine for me to ask mom each afternoon, “Do you have to work tomorrow?”
Aunt May had a moustache, as well, but I never noticed it. It wasn’t until I was a teenager and I was shown a picture of her that I learned she had a moustache. I was pre-kindergarten when I spent time with Aunt May, so the idea that a woman didn’t have facial hair wasn’t in my head yet, so it seemed perfectly normal to me. My father had a moustache and Aunt May had a moustache. Cars had tires, and houses had walls.
One horrible day, as Aunt May sat in her recliner, concealed from view of the kitchen as I sat on the couch near the front door, there was suddenly a crash in the kitchen. The backdoor entered into the kitchen, and I will never forget the fear that fell over this old woman’s face. Someone had broken in through the back door.
She and I hid in the living room, cowering in the corner behind her chair. I don’t believe she ever called the police (she didn’t have a phone), or did anything about it, but my memory of that ordeal is vague. I recall only the noise, the unmistakable terror in her eyes that I was able to recognize even at four years old, and the hiding.
Because she was very old, it simply wasn’t possible for Aunt May to always babysit me, and I had another sitter called Kay-Kay—a hefty, middle-aged woman who seemed to be doing pretty well in life. She had a house, at least, which I recognized to mean that she was okay—we lived in a trailer, and most of the people we knew lived in a trailer. Living in a house… That was a grand thing to me. I didn’t mind that we lived in a trailer, and I was much too young to know that being the child of two fast-food workers (even if they were supervisors) who raised Confederate flags, shot up heroin, and ate Xanax made me the definitive example of “trailer trash,” but I knew that it was a great thing to have a house.
Kay-Kay was an ordinary woman, and there was much going on beneath the surface that most people never saw. As I sat in one of her bedrooms, playing a video game, there was suddenly a banging on the door and people shouting, demanding to be allowed inside and promising that, if Kay-Kay refused, they would tear the house down.
Although I was shocked and scared at first, Kay-Kay put my fears to rest by handling it expertly. She answered in an almost aloof way, as though she had no concern about it. Even as they banged and screamed, I was unafraid, because Kay-Kay didn’t appear to take it seriously. After a minute or so, the banging stopped, and then the rhythmic pounding echoed through her home, coming from somewhere in the back.
“They’re going to tear the house down!” I shouted to Kay-Kay, scared once more. In my head, I had the image of two enormous, burly, and angry men outside with huge hammers, smashing away the bricks and crashing through the walls.
“Oh, no, they’re not, sweetie,” came Kay-Kay’s reply as she dropped to a knee and hugged me. “They’re just mad. They’ll get over it and leave in a few minutes.”
Sure enough, Kay-Kay was right: they did leave shortly thereafter. In actuality, they probably just had given up on the front door and gone to try the back door. Finding it locked, they banged and shouted some more, and then left. I never learned what it was about, and Kay-Kay asked me not to mention it to my parents, which made sense: that isn’t the sort of thing a mother wants happening at the selected babysitter’s home. I didn’t stay quiet, though, and that was the last time Kay-Kay ever babysat me. It was also the last time that I saw her.
The Rise of Tumult
There was a “friend of the family” called Doc, and I liked him a lot. Everyone liked Doc—he was a friendly, charismatic person. Being my parents’ friend, he was heavily on drugs, but Doc was also in a motorcycle gang, which created a problem, because shooting up was explicitly against the gang’s laws. Just to be clear here: this is the world I grew up in. This was normal to my three-year-old self. On any given day, I was likely to see one or both of my parents shoot up heroin with a buddy who was in a motorcycle gang, smoke a joint or two, and collapse onto the couch in a stupor and droning out “Yeah…” to no one.
I watched my mother, laid out on the loveseat, look to my father on the other side of the living room. She held up, toward my father, a syringe full of some red liquid, and then she asked in a seductive voice, “John, do you want some of this?” And as she spoke, she pressed in the syringe and sent a jet stream of this stuff—whatever it was—flying across the living room. They were both out of their minds, just high as hell.
Disheveled, frantic, panicked, and terrified, Doc stopped by our trailer and wanted to sell my father a half-pound of weed for fifty bucks. My father had twenty dollars he could pay. Knowing my father, it’s amazing that he had any money, but he did, and he explained to Doc what he had.
Doc in turn explained that he had to get out of town. “Had to,” he said, and my father understood what that meant. The gang somehow learned that Doc was shooting up, so Doc had to get out of town before they found him and forced him to run “The Gauntlet.” Because, apparently, that actually happens. My father bought the weed, and Doc fled, but it was to no avail, and he was later found dead.
We frequently drove north to visit my Aunt Diane and Uncle Danny (the man who would later go to prison for murder and, in all likelihood, killed my mother, though there is no body or evidence), as well as our cousins. One of these trips proved to be one of the most traumatic experiences of my childhood.
As Brandi and I rode with dad in his yellow truck, in a secluded area where the road was surrounded by steep ditches that spelled death for anyone who lost control and went over, a truck driver decided to pass us. The trucker blew his horn a few times, and then he went for it. As he passed, he veered to the right—or dad swerved to the left. The enormous side view mirror of the rig crashed through the window beside dad and sent a spray of glass shards through the cab of our truck. Luckily, neither my sister nor I sustained any injuries.
The fault was probably my father’s (driving under the influence of one drug or another), but the reason officially given was that the highway wasn’t wide enough to pass. This excuse came much later in the day, after the trip got significantly worse.
We passed through Memphis as we traveled, and came upon an intersection. Not paying attention, I couldn’t tell you exactly how it happened, but there was shaking and noise. We rear-ended another vehicle. It’s possible that my father didn’t stop quickly enough, and it’s possible that he pressed the gas too hard and too quickly after the light turned green. Regardless, we hit the vehicle hard and sent it careening into the intersection. Reportedly, it traveled fifty feet from the impact.
The woman driving that car died on the spot with a broken neck.
Someone obviously called the police, and they arrested my father. The police placed Brandi and me in the back of the police car with him, which made us feel as though we were also being arrested, and that is terrifying when you’re four or five years old and have no comprehension of what is going on. As though we were playing out a scene in a movie, the very same trucker who had hit us earlier happened upon the accident, and presumably told the police that dad was driving erratically. The next thing I knew, the trucker was banging on the glass beside me, shouting obscenities at us—not just at our dad, but honestly at the five-year-old children, too. I was terrified, confused, and frightened out of my mind, and it didn’t help that dad, with his hands cuffed behind his back, was frothing at the mouth, rocking the police car, and demanding to be let out so that he could fight the truck driver.
My sister and I were taken to the hospital, and police, doctors, and therapists repeatedly questioned us about the accidents. We were separated from our father, but also from each other, and that made the experience more traumatic than it had to be. We were finally told that we would be going into the care of Aunt Diane and Uncle Danny briefly, and they were the ones who picked us up from the hospital. My grandmother acquired a good lawyer for my father, and he was able to go to rehabilitation rather than prison, or something to that effect.
For a long time, my nerves were absolutely shot, and it was nearly impossible to get me into a vehicle, which is probably the normal response of a four year old child after being in two accidents in a single day, one of which resulted in a death, all because the parents didn’t mind driving after eating a bunch of pills. Naturally, their solution was to shove pills down my throat, giving me what they called “nerve pills” that were probably Xanax or Klonopin. This was the only way to get me into an automobile for several months after the accidents, because otherwise I would scream and throw fits. Eventually the anxiety faded, but knocking me out with drugs was the only way to get me into a car for a while.
Things returned to what we considered normal, though that isn’t to say that either of my parents stopped doing drugs. I doubt either parent was clean for any notable period, and they continued inviting friends over. These parties, while they were more or less tame and consisted of people drinking, doing drugs, and playing spades, would not constitute “normal” for most kids.
On one such occasion, one of the people with whom they were hanging out decided that it would be a brilliant idea to inject peanut butter. Presumably, he’d heard that “The high is incredible, man!” and wasn’t much interested in maybe asking a doctor before doing something so horrendously and creatively stupid. According to my father—who is a known pathological liar, it’s worth remembering—the man died on the spot, so they took him home and left him on his couch, dead. I have no memory of this, but it allegedly happened sometime around my fifth birthday.
I started kindergarten, and I loathed it. Up until that point, my life was fantastic. I could wake up whenever I wanted, spend the entire day watching cartoons and playing videogames, snacking whenever I desired, and just doing anything I pleased. Then suddenly I couldn’t do that any longer; I had to wake up at a specific time, go spend the entire day in a boring school, and then only had a few hours afterward to do the things that I enjoyed doing. As early as kindergarten, it struck me as absurd: if the point of life is to be happy, as everyone constantly insisted to me, then why did I have to go to school?
We were poor—dirt poor, as you might expect, given the heavy drug usage. Although both parents were managers at various fast food restaurants at times, my mother eventually quit working altogether and got onto disability for her migraines. It was with tremendous excitement that we were approved for food stamps, and we waited for weeks with palpable eagerness in the air, though I had no idea what it even meant. There are two times that I distinctly recall the entire family waiting anxiously for something to happen, and the anticipation was identical on both occasions; we waited for food stamps and we waited for our cable to be activated with the same sense of impending thrill, as did I, even though I had no understanding of what either meant.
Being approved for food stamps felt like having a birthday, and so did the cable company finally coming out, after weeks of waiting, to connect our cable television. While I understood that having cable meant that we would have Nickelodeon, there was no way that I understood the concept of food stamps, so my excitement was surely nothing more than a mirror of my parents’ own eager anticipations. It was just months after this that I began school, and that mom became convinced that dad was not really working, that he was only disappearing while he was supposed to be at work.
It was a school day when it happened, because we were supposed to be in class, but mom kept us at home. My much older brother, my slightly older sister, and I were told that we were leaving dad, and I’m sure I handled that as well as any six year old child would, which is to say with naked emotion untempered by the jaded self-control we are taught to exercise in later years. I didn’t understand what was going on, but I was devastated nonetheless. First, the life I had come to know and love was wrecked by having to go to school, and then what little semblance of it remained was being irretrievably shattered by this upheaval. I spent the entire day in tears, as did my sister. Whatever was going on between our parents had nothing to do with us, and our lives were being cast into the hurricane because of it.
Too young to truly understand what was really going on, my primary concern was whether to leave my father “the good Nintendo” or the bad one. They both worked, but one of them was much more difficult to get working. Both my dad and I were big on video games, and so was my older brother, and even my mom and sister played occasionally. There were lots of family moments when we all took turns, and we even had a device that allowed four controllers to be used.
I agonized over that decision far more than a six year old should, and my mom didn’t give the situation nearly as much attention as it deserved. My entire world, prior to school, consisted almost entirely of playing video games. That I even debated which one to leave was a tremendous indicator of how much I loved my father, how much I didn’t want to leave, and, above all, how poorly equipped I was to cope with the chaos I suddenly was confronting. Mom was tearing our family apart, breaking it into two pieces, and she never sat down with my sister and me to explain what was happening, to assure us that we’d still see our dad, or to promise us that it would be okay. While to some extent that’s understandable, since she had to pack and load things up, the utter failure to remember that she was literally wrecking her youngest kids’ lives is very difficult to excuse.
To make matters worse, she was cowardly about it, too, because all of this happened while my father was at work. We lived in a trailer on my grandfather’s land, and it’s very likely that my grandfather was the one who alerted my father to the moving truck that was at his home. However, seeing as my grandfather later offered to shoot my mother for my dad, I doubt he would have showed the restraint simply to inform my dad of what was happening.
Regardless, dad pulled up while we were finishing and preparing to leave. The next little bit is a blur of anger, hostility, and shouting from which I am able to pull very few details. In a flash, dad went from anger to pleading, but mom refused to listen; her mind was made up, and she cranked the car, put it into gear, and hit the gas. Dad threw himself into the side of the car and then hit the ground, fell onto his back, and then lie there in the grass. My sister and I screamed and cried—our dad had just been run over!—and mom shouted at us to stop yelling. I gazed out of the back window at my father as we drove away, and there he was, lying unmoving in the grass, and all I could think was the horrible thought, “Dad is dead.”
There in the back of the car, crying quietly, having just watched my father die from being hit by a car, I sat at the age of six years old, being shouted at by my mom to shut up because I freaked out when I saw her kill my dad.
Want to read the whole story? Well, now you can! For a limited time (until June 15), Dancing in Hellfire is finally available for sale, for only $3.49. You can buy it here, through this very site, using PayPal or a typical credit/debit card (payment is processed by PayPal, so I don’t see the info), after which you’ll be given access to the book as both a PDF and an ePub.
It must be nice to have opinions that are so popular and so mainstream that you can cease enjoying people’s content if you disagree with them on something politically. In fact, it seems to me that this is the very essence of privilege, at least with opinions and politics. If I refused to watch videos from people with whom I disagree, or listen to music from musicians with whom I disagree, then I’d find myself very quickly in a droll, colorless, unfunny world, with a total number of musicians I can safely listen to being about two.
It occurred to me that the reason I have no difficulty enjoying the content of people who I disagree with is precisely that my positions are so unorthodox and rare. It’s necessary, if I am to get any enjoyment at all out of life, that I learn to love Stephen Hawking’s physics books, even though he makes me grind my teeth when he starts spouting off at the mouth about the necessity of a world government. In contrast, people whose opinions are extraordinarily common don’t have to make that adjustment. Why, if they don’t like Jon’s political views, they can easily do a search and find a half-dozen people who make funny gaming videos and who they don’t disagree with.
That’s a luxury. It is… a privilege.
See, I can’t do that. If I am bothered by the political opinion expressed by a YouTube personality, I can’t just pop open YouTube and find a gamer who makes funny videos and shares my political opinions. And before anyone prattles on about popularity lending opinions credibility, I’ll just say… argumentum ad populum.
It’s similar to how I’m not offended by a lot of things people say about transgenderism and transsexualism. I don’t have the luxury of being offended over stupid, little things, just as I don’t have the luxury of turning against a content producer over a political opinion.
I want to start this off my commending Jon Jafari for having the courage to express his opinions in an environment that is increasingly hostile to any amount of dissent. With universities throughout the country playing host to vicious riots and attacks against people who were invited to speak, and with DDoS attacks regularly taking place against any popular person who dares voice a criticism of something else, it has become difficult to openly say what you think. This is, in fact, why the media missed the mark so much on the 2016 Election. Criticism around the clock from every corner of the web and media attacked Trump supporters, washing them all as racist, homophobic, transphobic, and xenophobic, to the point that many people were reluctant to express their support for him. But then they were able to voice their opinion through the ballot, where there was no more judgment, no ostracizing, and no hostility.
I’ve had people criticize me for daring to criticize another transgender person. That’s how deep and pervasive the groupthink has become–the allegation was, seriously, that I was not allowed to express a negative statement about another transgender person, because I’m transgender, and that means my individuality, my thoughts, and my mind don’t belong to me–they belong to my tribe. I became a heretic simply for expressing my opinion.
The Internet is largely the domain of the same people who riot on college campuses. Partially due to observable biases that see right-wing figures blocked for hate speech while left-wing figures can rant all they want, social media increasingly leans to the left. This is exacerbated by the reality that anyone who expresses their opinion invites themselves to be ripped to shreds. Combined, we’ve ended up with a very loud leftist bent on the Internet and a meek, intimidated right that is only beginning to speak again.
Nowhere was this more apparent than with my since-deleted video criticizing the Liberal Redneck. One person after the next came and attacked me, simply because I dared criticized a leftist who was, purportedly, “speaking for me.” This hearkens back to the tribal mindset I mentioned earlier–I was being told to shut up and be silent, to let the tribe speak for me, and I was ostracized when I refused to allow my voice to be cut off and stolen by a group with whom I disagree. The attacks were so constant and so persistent that I did something I never thought I’d do: I deleted the video that caused the ruckus. The only things that remain of it are my follow-ups about tribalism and the Us and Them mentality that demands I sheepishly abide what the tribe says on my behalf, whether I agree with it or not.
For someone like me, even voicing an opinion at all can, much of the time, result in attacks. I once commented on a video of a woman overreacting that someone smacked her with a newspaper by saying, “This is how liberals acted every time Trump opened his mouth.” The first reply to that was from a Trump supporter who criticized me for being transgender. People on the right will relentlessly attack me for being transgender, regardless of how unrelated to the discussion it is. Meanwhile, people on the left will relentlessly attack me for not being a Democrat.
It’s easy to stand on video today and say, “I support gay rights.” It’s not only easy; it’s passe. It’s expected, especially in places notoriously dominated by millennials, like YouTube, Twitter, and Reddit. There’s no battle there, no controversy there. It’s little more than virtue signaling at this point. Remember the episode of South Park where Stan and Cartman drove a boat into the dam and broke it? At the end of the episode, Stan musters his courage and confesses that he broke the dam. Then the rest of the crowd decides that Stan means it in a metaphorical sense, and the assembled people begin stating one after the other, “I broke the dam.”
Finally, Cartman, laughing a bit, steps forward and confesses, “I broke the dam.”
That is what it is to be a modern progressive in a university, in a city, or on the Internet. It’s a safe, uncontested position, where on is bolstered on all sides by people who agree, because people who have the courage to disagree are either silenced and told to go along with the majority, or are condemned and, increasingly, outright attacked violently. It takes no courage to be a Mississippian high schooler standing up and saying that he believes in Jesus, either, because that’s the prevailing opinion.
Caitlyn Jenner made a huge stink last year about going to use the women’s restroom at Trump Tower, after Trump had stated that transgender people could use whatever restroom they wanted in his building. It took no courage to do that. She wanted to be like Rosa Parks, except Caitlyn would only ride the bus if she knew the bus driver would let her sit wherever she wanted. The courageous act would have been going to South Carolina or Mississippi and doing it there. It takes no courage or bravery to jump onto a bandwagon that everyone else has jumped on.
During the 2016 Election, I unfollowed a number of YouTube personalities for proclaiming quite inexplicably things like “I’m interested in politics, and I’m going to discuss it! If you don’t like it, unfollow me!” I unfollowed them because it was bullshit. There was nothing courageous about being yet another YouTube personality jumping on the Sanders bandwagon without being able to give a single, cogent reason that Sanders made a good candidate, and neither was there anything courageous about proclaiming “I’m with her!” once Hillary stole the nomination. And now that the election is over, all those people who were “interested in politics” have gone back to cosplaying or whatever they do, having fully confused their eagerness to jump on a bandwagon with genuine interest and awareness of a complex subject.
I like Jon Jafari’s videos. That’s why I’m aware of his existence in the first place. The only video of his that I don’t like is the one about the Dungeons & Dragons movie, and that’s only because it hits so near to home for me, because my grandmother did think that shit, and was convinced of that shit by our pastor. Jon’s a hilarious guy, and he’s the only person I’ve ever watched who made me genuinely ask, “How does he come up with this shit?!” while laughing hysterically. I don’t particularly care about his politics, because he’s just a guy who makes stuff that I like. That doesn’t place his opinions in any place higher than my own opinions, just as I disagree with David Gilmour of Pink Floyd on several things, and even with John McAfee on a few.
I like Mark Dice’s videos–most of them, at least. There’s almost nothing that I agree with Mark Dice about.
I like Jim Sterling’s videos, and he is commonly called a SJW. I don’t think he’s one, because he is perfectly reasonable, and the mark of the SJW is that they are completely unreasonable. I disagree with him on a number of things, but that doesn’t stop me from liking him and enjoying his videos. Considering Jim intentionally encourages a Cult of Personality type of thing, that’s particularly humorous, but The Jimquisition is all in good fun. Even though he says “Thank god for me,” I think he’d probably be a little concerned and probably a lot disturbed to learn if there is a little kid out there who says each night before going to bed, “And thank you, God, for Jim Sterling” with sincerity.
What I’m saying is that we should all break this cult of personality thing, but it looks like it’s actually going to take off and become worse, with Oprah announcing her intention to run for office in 2020. All of his knowledge of physics in the world wouldn’t make Neil deGrasse Tyson a good administrator, and neither would it make him any more likely to hold sound policies. Being funny as hell shouldn’t give Jon’s opinions any more validity in anyone’s eyes–he’s still just some guy expressing an opinion.
But it does, and now condemnation pours in from all over the Internet on this funny guy who dared express his opinion because that opinion wasn’t the bandwagon, trendy opinion of the day.
I happen to think Jon is wrong. There’s no such thing as immigrant. There’s just an animal exercising their natural right to move from a place with fewer resources to a place with greater abundance. Just as the birds have the natural, innate, and unalienable right to fly south during the winter, so does a human have the natural, innate, and unalienable right to go any-damn-where they want, as long as they don’t trespass on another person’s property. But while people can own property and claim resources–a claim that stands prima facie and can be disputed formally, but, if not overturned formally and with civility, cannot be undermined without the initiation of force, violence, or coercion–a nation isn’t a real thing, either, and so a nation can’t claim resources.
Jon said that a nation is either sovereign or it isn’t. That’s an incorrect way of viewing the world, as it places tremendous value and weight in imaginary, artificial human constructs. Nations aren’t sovereign because nations aren’t real. They’re categorical constructs meant to simplify classification, and the tribal nature of our species had made them far more trouble then they’re worth, because instead of being just handy labels to convey characteristics quickly and easily, they become delineations that we’re willing to fight, torture, kill, and maim over. “How dare you hail from a different tribe? You are wicked!” becomes the norm, instead of, “Oh, you hail from Europe? So you’re more likely to have this, that, and the other characteristic. Neat.”
But I do commend Jon, even though I don’t agree with him, for having the courage to go against the grain. A lot of people would adamantly deny that the Internet, particularly, has a strong bias to the left, but that’s to be expected. People in the south insist that there’s no social pressure to be a Christian, too, but there most certainly is. I’ll leave once more with this video by TheraminTrees on conformity, and how the social pressure to conform and jump on the bandwagon compels us more than we think. At the very least, people should have the proper context for viewing Jon’s statements–he’s just another person–and should neither take him as a gift to the alt-right or an enemy of the left, and he definitely shouldn’t become Public Enemy Number One just because he dared speak his opinion.
I’m not going to talk about how some elements of the left are attempting to undermine the principles of free speech, or how recent regulations in conservative states pose a threat to the right of people to peacefully protest. These things are problems, but I feel that other people have addressed them. Nor am I going to discuss the freedom of the press, or how many people have misinterpreted Trump’s antagonism of the press as a bad thing and as heralding the end of a free press; quite the opposite, the press of a free country should not be in bed with politicians. We want an adversarial press that attacks politicians and goes after them, and we want politicians to get pissed off about it. This just means that things are working as intended. For too long, the press and the government were sleeping together, and I’m glad to see that coming to an end.
Instead, I’m going to talk about the death of free religion, especially for Christians.
I’m an atheist. I’m not just an atheist, though. I reject everything supernatural as unsubstantiated. I believe in no gods, no souls, and no afterlife. I wasn’t always an atheist, however. In fact, I was born to a fundamentalist Christian family that was, as I stated in this unscripted video, as fundamentalist as fundamentalists get. What did you do for the year 2000 celebration? I cowered with my family who expected the Anti-Christ to use the computer binary code of 666 to exploit the Y2K bug and take over the world, ushering in Armageddon.
I’m not kidding.
Rather than repeating all of that, if you want to know all the details, just watch this:
When Mississippi passed its Religious Freedom Bill, I was initially behind it. I was misled by an attorney friend into thinking that the bill merely allowed Christian businesses to discriminate against people whose lifestyle choices they didn’t approve of. In reality, the bill did allow that, but it also prevented anyone from discriminating against Christians in retaliation. Upon learning that, I immediately dropped support, because… No, this has to go both ways. If an employee is going to discriminate and refuse to fix a gay person’s computer, then I need the right to discriminate against employees who refuse to do their job because of their religious beliefs. It has to be a two-way street, and what Mississippi’s law attempted to do wasn’t reassert the right of religious people to act in accordance with their religious beliefs; it was to do that and to protect them from any and all consequences of that.
Iron cross at mountain top in alp. Cross on top of a mountains peak as typical in the Alps. Monument to the dead climbers
But it should never have been necessary in the first place for Mississippi to pass a law stating that religious people can conduct their lives in accordance with their religious beliefs, and go ahead and get used to that phrase; I’m going to repeat it a lot. Because we all know that the First Amendment guarantees everyone the right to believe whatever they want. The problem arises because a lot of people don’t make the connection between “what a person believes” and “how that person acts.” In many cases, there is no connection. But in other cases, especially among fundamentalists and other types for whom religious beliefs are most important, there certainly is a connection. In fact, the more important a person’s religion is to them, then the more their religious beliefs inform their behavior.
The First Amendment doesn’t just protect a person’s right to believe any religious thing they want. It also protects their right to act in accordance with those religious beliefs. There are limits, of course. A person whose religious beliefs tell them that it’s okay to have sex with their children, for example, won’t be allowed to act in accordance with their religious beliefs. And I’m going to avoid that minefield by simply pointing out that “children”–that is, at minimum people under ten years of age–do not lack the ability to make decisions of consent without at least implicit coercion, and as such sex with a child would be inherently coercive and wrong. We can extend that age if we want; it’s not important. I’m just pointing out that this is a religious belief that involves immoral behavior–demonstrably immoral behavior, because, all other considerations aside, it is wrong to coerce people into things.
Strictly speaking, the Bible states that Christians should kill homosexuals. Pastor Steven Anderson certainly loves pointing that out. On numerous occasions, he has expressed dismay that the transgender teen suicide rate isn’t higher. And while there are certainly some Christians out there who agree with him, and probably some who would like to kill homosexuals, society would not allow them to do so, because violence is obviously wrong.
This should never have been necessary, and it just goes to show how terribly far from the First Amendment we have gotten. I can’t believe any sane American would demand that a Christian adoption agency be willing to turn children over to atheists; it is an appalling disregard for the Christians’ religious beliefs, and their right to act in accordance with those religious beliefs. They believe in a deity, and they believe that children should be raised to believe in a deity. As they understand things, turning a child over to an atheist is highly likely to result in that child being raised as an atheist, which means that child will go to hell one day, and the responsibility for that will ultimately fall back on the adoption agency. How can we demand they set all those beliefs aside to pander to people who are defined by their lack of belief in that?
So if an atheist in South Dakota wants to adopt a child, clearly they can’t go to a Christian adoption agency. I fail to see the problem. Are all the adoption agencies in South Dakota Christian organizations? If so, then adopt from a different state. If the person cannot afford to go to a different state to adopt, then the person probably shouldn’t be adopting in the first place, don’t you think? Ditto for gay couples and single people.
This reminds me of what Trump said about abortion and states in an 60 Minutes interview. He said that he wanted abortion to go back to the states, so that each state could make up its mind. Of course, the interviewer asked, “Well, what about when Texas outlaws abortion and a woman needs one?”
“She can still have one,” Trump pointed out. “But she’d have to go to a different state.”
And that’s not good enough for this sort of liberal mindset. They don’t think that women simply have the right to an abortion; they think that women have the right to a convenient abortion, and damn anyone whose rights get trodden in order to make it convenient for them. It’s the same thing here in South Dakota. Atheists, gays, and single people could still go to other adoption agencies, or even go to different states, but that’s just not good enough, is it? No, they won’t allow any inconvenience. If they want something, you have to give it to them. Period. If you don’t, then somehow you’re the fascist.
I’ll give you the right to have an abortion. But I can’t give you the right to have a convenient abortion. No one can.
I’ll give you the right to adopt children. But I can’t give you the right to have a convenient adoption process. No one can.
We shouldn’t be so self-centered that we’re willing to rampage right over people’s Constitutionally protected rights just because we want everything to be convenient and just because we don’t think someone should be able to tell us “No” about something. And that’s the mindset that this all rises from. “How dare they tell me ‘no!’ They can’t do that! That’s a violation of my rights!”
What about their right to say “Yes” or “No?”
You don’t get to tell other people what to do just because you want something.
And just because religious beliefs aren’t important to a lot of us doesn’t mean they aren’t important to a lot of people, and we should respect that. No, I don’t think that a Christian adoption agency giving a kid to an atheist will result in that kid going to hell fifty years later. But they do think that. If we want them to respect our right to be transgender, gay, and atheists, then we have to respect their right to be straight and Christian. And just as we might act in accordance with our right to believe that transgenderism is okay by being transgender, so must they be allowed to act in accordance with their belief that Christianity is the correct religion by being Christians.
Through the last year, I’ve been working on a book titled What Steam Greenlight Teaches Us About Anarchy. Since I was also writing (and completing) Dancing in Hellfire, which had a higher priority, as well as daily articles, thrice-weekly podcasts, and weekly videos through most of last year, SGAA (Steam Greenlight and Anarchy) didn’t get much attention, but I did make a fair bit of progress with it–it’s about 100 pages. I’ve actually got several documents that are around that length and in some state of “needing to be finished.”
Unfortunately, Valve is shutting down Greenlight, which immediately made the book obsolete. By the time I finish it, Greenlight will be little more than a bad memory for people, but it’s also eerily pertinent that Valve has, due to community pressure, shut down the anarchic Greenlight to replace it with an alternative that is, without irony, much more state-like, with more power concentrated in Valve’s hands and with Valve employees unilaterally making the decisions that the wider community once made democratically. It basically parallels the rise of the state, and what we would expect to happen in an anarchic society if the underlying mentality is not first eradicated.
The underlying mentality is two-fold:
“I don’t approve of this, and therefore it shouldn’t be allowed to exist.”
“We have to take these measures to protect ignorant/naive/stupid people from themselves.”
These statements are never said so bluntly, but those are the hearts of the position that we need Valve to intervene in the process and implement some quality control.
I Don’t Approve
It hardly needs to even be pointed out that “I don’t approve of this” is a subjective value statement, and isn’t an objective truth. Even if there is 100% agreement that the item in question is of extremely low quality, it remains a subjective value statement, because widespread agreement doesn’t turn a subjective value into an objective one. We can go back fifty thousand years and find 100% agreement that the Earth is the center of the universe, but that wouldn’t make that an objectively true statement.
As far as I can tell, this mentality is limited pretty much to Steam, as I don’t think I’ve ever heard anyone say something like, “This movie is shit! What is it doing in Wal-Mart, where some unsuspecting person who doesn’t know any better might buy it, believing it to be a good movie?” or “This music album is terrible! What is it doing in this record store? It has no business being in this store alongside Pink Floyd’s A Momentary Lapse of Reason!
Yet when it comes to Steam, we do hear these sorts of arguments.
In a lot of ways, I agree with the premise. I no longer even check Steam’s weekly sales and specials, because it’s never anything more than page after page after page of bullshit games that no one has ever heard of and are on sale at 19 cents from 99 cents. Here is a screenshot I took a few months ago of exactly this. It has actively discouraged me from browsing Steam’s special, which, in the longrun, hurts Valve because it means they aren’t selling games.
What is all this bullshit?
I would have rather seen more advanced filtering options, though. Even something simple like being able to filter out all indie titles or all “games” smaller than 100 MegaBytes would have gone a long, long way toward fixing the problem that is an overload of what I consider to be bullshit, crappy games that aren’t worth 99 cents by a long shot. I wouldn’t download and play this shit if it was free. I don’t want to look at it, I don’t want to look through it, and I don’t want to see it.
So… I don’t.
Rather than demanding that what I consider to be bullshit is prevented from landing on Steam altogether, I find it vastly preferable to check my ego and entitlement and to remind myself that there are billions of people in the world, and that my opinions aren’t objectively right. Rare though they may be, there is surely someone out there who genuinely likes Pajama Sam and wouldn’t have found it if it wasn’t on Steam. There’s surely someone out there who likes Temper Tantrum, The Slaughter Grounds, and all kinds of other games that I consider to be bullshit trash. I consider Rise of the Tomb Raider to be bullshit trash, too, and Mass Effect 3. Not to mention Dragon Age: Inquisition.
Basically, what I’m saying is that I have my preferences and you have your preferences. We all know this to be true, and people only get butthurt when they mistake a reviewer’s word as objective truth. But despite the tendency of some misguided people to interpret my or Jim Sterling‘s reviews as irrefutable fact, the only fact is that reviews are opinions and opinions are, by their very nature, subjective. So we need only apply this to our assessment of games on Steam to realize that just because we dislike a game–despite probably never having played it–doesn’t mean that no one likes the game, and that any attempt to remove the game simply because we and 99% of other people like it is nothing more than an attempt to spit on, ignore, and overrule the 1% who do like it.
Some would say that “We’re only talking about video games! C’mon, and chill out!”
But we aren’t just talking about video games, because this same pattern plays out in the real world in very real, damaging ways. It wasn’t terribly long ago that homosexuality was illegal because this minority of homosexuals was overruled and forced to go along with the majority who felt that homosexuality was bad. And while we might say “Yes, but we’re enlightened! We’re on the other side of that argument!” it would be wrong to say that, because right now exercising one’s rights to act in accordance with their religious beliefs is being universally spit upon by the majority. The minority of people who want to live their lives according to their moral values and choose with whom they do and do not associate are being spit upon and, once more, forced to go along with the majority.
The attitude hasn’t gone away. It’s just a new majority tyrannizing a new minority. Nothing has changed beyond which side of the aisle has the power. Tyranny today remains alive and well, such that this woman has lost the right to choose with whom she associates, simply because she is in a minority of people who would choose not to associate with people who partake in behavior that she doesn’t approve of. Of course, we say that we don’t approve of her behavior, don’t we? We don’t approve of her lifestyle choice to not associate with LGBT people, and therefore we won’t even allow her to do it. It’s no different from fifty years ago, when the majority didn’t approve of the lifestyle choice to be LGBT, and therefore wouldn’t even allow people to be LGBT.
Same shoe, different foot.
It’s my contention that this mentality has to be assaulted and addressed everywhere that it appears, because we do readily see it playing out in the real world. It’s not the application to LGBT issues or to video games that is the problem; the problem is the underlying mentality that connects both, that arrogance and ego that suggests, “I don’t approve of this, and thus it shouldn’t be allowed/shouldn’t exist.” How can we say we’re just talking about video games, when we see exactly the same thing happening in the real world, and real people being demonstrably tyrannized and prevented from being free to choose the people with whom they associate, simply because they are in a minority?
We find ourselves arguing opinion against opinion. Bob is a fundamentalist Christian who hates LGBT people, believes they are the product of Satan, and believes they’re going to hell. Tim is what we’d call a Social Justice Warrior, and as such Tim hates fundamentalist Christians. Bob thinks that being LGBT constitutes “abhorrent behavior.” Tim thinks that hating LGBT people constitutes “abhorrent behavior.” Bob wants to make it illegal to be a practicing LGBT person, and Tim wants to make it illegal to be a practicing fundamentalist Christian*.
Once upon a time, the majority agreed with Bob, and homosexuality was illegal and transsexualism was a mental illness. Today, the majority agrees with Tim, and fundamentalist Christianity is illegal in practice. There aren’t too many people who are more impacted by this than I, since I’m an openly transsexual lesbian resident of the state of Mississippi. And yet I stand, and will continue to stand, for people’s right of free association, even when I am the person they don’t want to associate with. It would certainly suck to walk into a gas station and have the owner tell me that I wasn’t welcome there, but it’s the owner’s business and property. At what point did we forget this?
We have to separate ourselves from the situation and recognize that we are arguing opinion against opinion and that neither side is objectively right. Bob isn’t objectively right to say that being LGBT is evil, and Tim isn’t objectively right to say that wanting to disassociate from LGBT people is evil. Why? Because morality is a set of subjective value statements built from assumptions. Even something like murder can’t be definitively stated to be good or evil, so how can something infinitely less destructive be objectively good or evil? The only exception to this might be rape, because, despite many attempts to do so, I have yet to come up with a theoretical scenario wherein rape would be considered morally good. It doesn’t matter how far-fetched our hypothetical scenario is; if we can come up with even one example wherein murder would be the morally right thing to do, then the conclusion must be that murder is not objectively wrong. So, to reiterate, with even murder being morally ambiguous, how could we ever attempt to make the argument that something with consequences considerably less dire and permanent can be absolutely morally clear?
Right now, you and I are on the wrong side of historical morality in countless ways. Two hundred years from now, people will look back on us and will decry us as heartless, immoral fiends, just as we do today when we look back at the ubiquity of slavery, sexism, and racism. We shouldn’t delude ourselves into believing that the set of moral values we currently have are eternal and will never change, because they will, and I can point to at least one specific area where, in a few centuries, you and I both will be known as evil barbarians.
We are horrific to our non-human brothers and sisters. Not only do we kill them and eat them after they’ve lived their lives in abysmal conditions that we would quickly identify as torture if a human was forced to endure them, but we actively consider animals to be our property. Does that sound familiar? It should, because the arguments people use today to justify their treatment and perception of animals are exactly the same arguments people put forward 150 years ago to justify their treatment and perceptions of non-white people. Even though we know now, scientifically and beyond a shadow of a reasonable doubt, that animals think and feel things, we continue to largely treat them like unthinking, unfeeling automatons who are our property.
“‘My’ pets,” people say, claiming ownership of these living, breathing, thinking, and feeling creatures. Even I say “my cats,” though my position on them is clear, and I generally use the expression as shorthand–“my” cats are mine in the same way that my friends are “mine.” But even without going into how we commonly have to do things that animals don’t want “for their own good,” the fact remains that we participate in the widespread enslavement, torture, and murder of, if I recall correctly, eighty-five million animals a day, just in the United States. Society will one day look back on us, having ruled that eating meat is immoral, and call us evil barbarians.
My position is almost identical to Richard Dawkins’ position on this. Strictly speaking, yes, the vegans are absolutely right. It is unconscionable, and it is unjustifiable, yet I continue to do it. I eat meat. I passed through a vegetarian, and even a vegan, phase, but today I eat meat. But they’re right–the vegans are right, and their logic is unassailable. I’m not trying to convert anyone to vegetarianism or veganism, but it’s simply true that there’s no way to justify it in the modern world, and that a rational evaluation of the situation leads inexorably to the conclusion that eating meat and using animal products are immoral things to do.
We Have To Protect People From Themselves
I noticed last year that a scary number of people want to speak for me, to the extent that if I dare try to speak for myself, I was frequently slapped back down and told to shut up. The most jarring example was my video about the Liberal Redneck, where I criticized him for criticizing a fundamentalist Christian woman, and criticized him for asserting that she was a racist, simply because the woman was a white Christian. The response to this video was so bad that I actually took the video down. The video had like 5 likes and more than 80 dislikes, and one comment after the other, it was just “Uh… He’s speaking up for you, you idiot!” and “He’s on YOUR side, dumbass!”
It was one of the most bizarre things I’ve ever experienced, because there I was, speaking for myself and expressing what side I was on (neither the Christian’s nor the Liberal Redneck’s), yet people were disregarding that and telling me to shut up so that the Liberal Redneck could speak for me. This continued through all of last year. I remember seeing one Facebook post from Occupy Democrats that I remarked, “This had better have been written by a black female Muslim lesbian. If not, whoever wrote it needs to seriously re-evaluate why they think they have the right to speak for so many people.”
We have divided ourselves into these groups, and these groups demand our loyalty, to the extent that if we dare speak for ourselves or show any disloyalty, then they will turn and hang us alongside the other group. It’s an attitude that is rampant in the United States: “If you aren’t with us, then you’re against us.” Take, for example, how I repeatedly attacked Hillary last year, which led to countless people assuming that I supported Trump. This is especially noticeable on my Quora profile, where nearly everything I said about Trump or Hillary led to someone calling me a Trump supporter. I don’t know why. I have never supported Trump, and never would. His positions are contrary to almost everything I believe.
The recent women’s march showcases this, too, because it wasn’t a “Women’s March,” was it? No, it was a Democratic Women’s March, but no one is allowed to say that. When a Pro-Life group of women expressed the desire to join the march, they were told that they couldn’t. So it couldn’t possibly have been an All Women’s March; it was a Women’s March As Long As You Side With Us Politically. It was the same thing I experienced with the Liberal Redneck–neither he nor the dozens of vicious people who attacked me were interested in LGBTQ people. They were demonstrably only interested in Liberal LGBTQ people.
The only “group” I speak for are the lesbian shemale anarchists, and, the last time I checked, I’m the only one of those.
More to the point, a few years ago the Russian government made gay pride parades illegal. The reason they gave was that they had to protect children from being corrupted. While I’ve no doubt that the person reading this disagrees with the Russian Government about what constitutes “corruption,” the fact remains that their desire to protect the “innocent children who don’t know any better” from things they deem to be bad is what led them to do it. Again, that should sound familiar, because it is precisely what people have argued in regard to Steam Greenlight–it is necessary, they say, to protect the people who don’t know any better from being exposed to these things that they deem are bad.
If you haven’t seen that mentality playing out in the United States, then you haven’t been exposed to what we call the Social Justice Warrior. This isn’t an insult aimed at anyone who advocates social equality–I’m an egalitarian, after all. No, SJW refers to a specific type of person, like the kind of person who would say something like “I can’t wait for all these people who disagree with me to hurry up and die.”
That’s fucking scary.
That should fucking scare you.
And these are the people who say that their positions come from empathy! This guy honestly and truly believes that he came to his beliefs because he’s just so filled with empathy toward Group A–and all this empathy that he feels with Group A just accidentally leads him to talk like a fucking psychopath about the people in Group B. I can barely imagine something more psychopathic than “People who don’t agree with me need to hurry up and die.”
And it’s got a like!
This is the long-run result of the extreme divisiveness that has characterized American society for the last several decades. “If you’re not with us, then you’re against us. And if you happen to have any of these characteristics by which we’ve divided ourselves but you still don’t agree with us, then you’re an idiot who should shut up and let us protect you from yourself and your stupid opinions.”
* Many would instinctively reject this assessment, but they would be wrong. It is currently illegal to live according to fundamentalist Christian values, as the previous link about the flower woman shows. It would be illegal for someone to tell me that I wasn’t welcome in their store because I’m transsexual. We are willing to allow them to quietly believe these things, but the moment they attempt to act in accordance with those things they believe, they are committing a crime, and we will prosecute them. So yes. It absolutely is illegal in the United States to practice fundamentalist Christianity.
Stay tuned for Parts 2 through 5, which will be posted over the next week and are from the actual book What Steam Greenlight Teaches Us About Anarchy, instead of this precursory explanation.
After sharing my previous article to an Anarchist, Voluntaryist, and Libertarian page on Facebook–not something I do often; in fact, this was only the second time in a year that I’ve done so–the very first comment was, predictably, that no one cares about my mental illness. Right, because that is a conversation transgender people aren’t sick of having. And it’s extremely common. With almost every video, every post, every article around the Internet that is from a transgender author about transgender things, there is very likely to be some asshat who thinks that he, and only he–because, sorry, I have yet to come across a female doing this–understands that gender is binary, transgender people are insane, and being transgender undermines everything else you have to say because you’re insane. Remembering now that I posted this to a closed group of like-minded people, I found myself having to point out that there is no such thing as a “legitimate reason” for kidnapping, sexual assault, theft, or ransom.
I was also called a “transgender fascist” because of my desire to force the state to accept my right to define myself and to identify myself. This, in the mind of the confused person who is so terrified that I’m going to force my beliefs onto them that they are eager to force theirs onto me, is nothing short of fascism. It’s a remarkable disconnect, and showcases just how warped a person’s brain can get when they hold reverence to dogmatic values and insist they aren’t arbitrary. I once stated that sex was a binary thing–I was mistaken. Sex has never been a binary thing; we simply treated it as one. Initially, we understood sex as XX and XY chromosomes, but more recent developments have revealed how horrifically inaccurate that was, and that the reality is that every cell in a person’s body has a sex, and they’re not all the same. This literally means that, far from being a binary matter, sex is an infinitely fluid matter, ranging from 0.0000001% male to 0.0000001% female.
If we look at these three shades of blue and just say they’re all “blue,” and then spend decades treating them all the same, does that really mean that there’s only one blue? No. It just means we were short-sighted, overly eager to simplify, and mistaken.
And, as we’ve learned more recently as our technology advances and we peer deeper into cells, genes, and chromosomes, what looked like a single shade of blue when we stood back seventy feet from the television and looked at little boxes actually turned out to be totally different shades when we got up close and examined them. So yes, I was again wrong; sex is not a binary thing and has never been a binary thing. So to be so beholden to the idea of sex as a binary concept when all scientific evidence disputes that idea is the very definition of dogma, especially since what we’re talking about is evidently an arbitrary human construct of generalities and oversimplifications. I would call dogmatic loyalty to an artificial construct so severe that it causes one to utterly lose the ability to empathize with another human being the “mental illness,” if we really want to talk mental illness.
Of course, it was brought up that “gender dysphoria” is classified as a mental illness. This is true. And I pointed out, though I can’t find the source, the AMA has gone on record stating that they did this in order to ensure that transgender people’s medicines, hormones, and surgeries were deemed “necessary” rather than “cosmetic.” It’s rather like how some dental plans won’t give you a full set of dentures because it’s deemed cosmetic, and will instead cover only partial sets. That rift between “cosmetic” and “necessary” is a big deal, and while I appreciate their reason for doing it, people who have chosen to treat it like the holy grail of definitive medicine–even as they dispute numerous other diagnoses in its pages (“Addiction isn’t a disease! They’re so wrong about that! Addiction is a choice! But gender dysphoria? No, they’re right! You’re insane, because they said so! Because ‘mental illness’ obviously means ‘full-blown insanity!'”)–end up causing transgender people in the real world no end of headaches.
When I pointed out to this person that gender dysphoria is the disease and “being transgender” is the cure, he replied, “They’re the same thing.”
It’s frustrating, because, as I said, this is a conversation that any transgender person has had countless times. Almost any time the subject is brought up, there’s at least one fuckwad who does this, and it’s always hard to ignore. It’s hard to ignore someone sitting there and calling you insane because they don’t have any understanding of things that are pretty easy to Google. But even if we don’t reply–and for the most part, I didn’t, because a wonderful other person took up the cause for me–it still stings. How could it not? It’s like a white kid being told he’s insane because he likes rap, or a guy being told he’s insane because he’s gay.
More to the point, the basic issue is his inability to understand that this interaction between transgender people and the state… doesn’t impact him in any way. If I fight the state, succeed, and force the state of Mississippi and its police officers to recognize people as the gender they identify as, this does absolutely nothing to force this random person to accept my definitions or gender identity–unless he is one of the police officers in question.
This gets into messy territory, doesn’t it? Do I have the right to force the state to recognize my gender identity?
See, that’s the wrong question, and it reveals how skewed this discussion even is. The actual question is: Does the state have the right to dictate my gender? Does any state employee have the right to say whether I am male or female, and to treat me accordingly? This is the real heart of the question, and the answer is obviously “No.” If state employees could do this, then an officer could tell any woman he arrested, “No, you’re a male. Now get naked. It’s time for a strip search, dude.” According to this guy who thinks I shouldn’t be able to prevent the state from forcing its definitions onto me, this would be totally acceptable. The state defines me, regardless of what I say, and to this Voluntaryist, Anarchist, or Libertarian, that’s totally okay–because the state’s definitions are the same as his definitions. But no, that’s not bias or hypocrisy. It’s just a happy coincidence that it happens to be his definitions that the state is forcing onto people.
By treating me as a male, the state is forcing their definition of genders and sexes onto me. My telling them, “No, you can’t do that. You have to treat me as the gender that I am, not the one you say that I am,” is defense, not offense. It would not be an issue if the state was not attempting to force their definition onto me. But they are, and they did. When I say that I’m a female, absolutely no one has the right to dictate over me as though I’m male. This random person can use whatever definitions he wants and believes me to be whatever he wants, but he has no authority to dictate over me, no ability to impact my life unless I allow him to. If he wants to insist that I’m a male, that’s his right, and it’s my right to call him a bigoted, ignorant idiot and stop having anything to do with him.
See? That’s the difference. I can’t just “stop having anything to do with” the state or the police.
This is the state we’re talking about. I’m not talking about this random dipshit on Facebook. If he wants to treat me as a male, fine. I don’t care. If he says “Turn around and drop your pants,” I don’t have to obey him. And if he pulls a gun on me, I can pull one back out on him. If he attempts to rape me, I can fight back without risking getting beaten to death by fifteen freaking people. He has no authority to trap me in a windowless concrete box with the steel door shut and command me to drop my panties. So I don’t give a flying fuck what he thinks.
Whether we like it or not–and I don’t like it–the state does have authority. It’s stolen authority, it’s immoral authority, and it’s disgusting authority, but the reality is that they have it. In a moral world, it wouldn’t have been an issue because no one could have kidnapped me and held me for ransom at gunpoint yesterday. In a moral world, it wouldn’t be an issue, because someone wouldn’t have a badge giving them the authority to coerce me into doing a strip tease. Without a state, these wouldn’t be issues at all. Fighting against the state’s attempts to define me as a male in full disregard of my own wishes, physiology, preferences, and identity is reactionary–by definition–but it is also necessary, defensive, and justified. It is the equivalent of shooting an armed burglar who has broken into your home. By kidnapping me at gunpoint and coercing me with the power of the badge to do a striptease, the officers roundly violated my rights as a human being. I should not have to explain this to anyone who claims to be a Voluntaryist, Anarchist, or Libertarian.
“What perceived rights do you think were violated?” someone asked.
Well, that’s an interesting question. All the more interesting because it came in this same group of people who are supposed to understand these things. I guarantee you that when the Constitution was written, the American Founders didn’t intend “forcing a prisoner to do a strip tease” to be any sort of reasonable search.
I shouldn’t have to explain to anyone that a male officer forcing a woman prisoner to do a striptease while she’s being processed for a misdemeanor traffic violation and waiting on the paperwork to be completed so that she can leave is a full and total violation of her Fourth Amendment rights. I don’t give a SHIT what the Supreme Court has ruled about it. Besides all of that, this person has completely missed the point–a few other people have totally missed the point as well.
It’s not about whether the strip search can be justified. It probably can’t, and I’ve now spoken with nine other people who have been through this jail–in fact, I’ve been there twice and this is the first time I was strip searched–and none of them were strip-searched, including several people who actually were in custody for a few days. You can’t hide behind “Standard Operating Procedure” when I can present a list of a dozen people who passed through that very jail for the very same charge in the very same circumstances and were not forced to do a strip tease. You simply can’t, because the evidence is against you. If you attempt to play that card, you are being a statist apologist. I can point you to these people right now, my own sister among them. She’s been to that jail twice. She was only patted down on both occasions. You’d better believe I’m compiling a list of names of people who will swear before a grand jury that they weren’t strip searched.
What it’s actually about, though, is related to the above–the fact that I was strip-searched because I was transgender by a cop who abused the authority of his badge to sate his curiosity. That’s the allegation–one of them. Because that’s clearly what happened. I know females who weren’t strip-searched, I know males who weren’t strip-searched, and I’ve now been in that jail three times–once when I was 17, once for 3 days when I was 19, and yesterday. Only on one of these occasions was I strip-searched, and only on one of these occasions “was I transgender.” Holy crap, the evidence is overwhelmingly against Tate County and the officer in question.
Furthermore, there is the fact that I’m transgender. And while this will be the messiest part, and will inevitably land before a federal appeals court, I have full confidence that it is a legal battle that I will ultimately win. A long-time friend asked me today, “If you found a competent lawyer, and Tate County offered you $10,000 to settle, what would you do?” It was a question of such profound ignorance that I didn’t know where to begin.
Dude, you think this is about money? Me? The quasi-Buddhist? The chick who shuns materialism? You think I’m motivated by money?
Don’t get me wrong. I’ll be fighting for money, because that’s all they can offer. They can’t undo what they did, and they can’t fix what they did. Will ten grand be enough to satisfy me? Not by a fucking long shot. The real answer to that question is that I will do whatever my attorney suggests that I do. What the hell? How can he be that unfamiliar with litigation? The attorney would advise me whether or not to accept the settlement. I don’t even understand how someone can ask me such a question barely 12 hours after the incident even occurred.
Beyond that, I do have a goal. Not just for Tate County, but for the state of Mississippi to institute a policy regarding transgender people that is identical to the city of Seattle’s: that all transgender people will be recognized and treated as the gender they identify as. That is what I want. That is my goal. If they don’t give me that, then absolutely no amount of money will appease me. They could offer me ten trillion dollars and I would not take a penny of it if they will not adopt that policy.
If I hadn’t been bailed out last night, do you know what would have happened? I have to wonder if these people have given this sufficient thought. If I had been forced to spend the night–or a few days or weeks–in jail, I would have been tossed into a men’s cell block–panties, makeup, bra, boobs, curves, and all. This happens. In fact, looking into this issue makes me enraged that people are discussing bathrooms, because I read about a transgender woman who served a prison sentence in a men’s block, where she was reportedly raped more than two thousand times. And what are we discussing?
It’s true that there is much less rape in county jails, but this isn’t to say there is none, and my friend’s attempt to assuage me by saying there is “very little risk” of being raped in a county jail is nothing short of sociopathic. “It’s fine. There’s only a 0.2% chance that you would have been raped, so what’s the big deal?” It’s a mark of how fucking ridiculous this entire conversation is that someone would even say such a thing. I tried pointing out to him that he would never say that about his sister, his wife, one of his daughters, or even any female friend of his, and that the only reason he’s saying it to me is that I’m transgender. It stems from more of that “You’re not really a woman” stuff that pervades more of their thought processes than such people understand.
He infuriated me in his attempt to play the devil’s advocate, because there was just so much wrong with it. For one, the event, as of right now, happened barely more than 24 hours ago. This shit just happened. I was just sexually assaulted. Yesterday. I was just forced to do a strip-tease by a male cop against my will. 24 hours ago. No ordinary or reasonable human being would ever say, “But what harm was really done?” to someone in such a situation, much less when not even a full day had passed since it happened. He got pissed off when I replied that he was being borderline sociopathic, but I absolutely stand by that assessment. Actually, I’d say psychopathic to stand by the assessment.
No judge, jury, prosecutor, defendant, or attorney in their right fucking mind would ever dare ask a sexual assault victim what “demonstrable damages” were done. That is a question of such extraordinary offensiveness that I informed him bluntly that I would henceforth not discuss the litigation or my transgenderism with him again. Because of that line of questions, he has all but been thrown from my life. These are not questions that any jury would ask. They are questions that Charles Manson would ask. They are questions that the desperate pedophile on trial for child pornography would ask: “But, Your Honor, what harm was there really? I only downloaded the pictures. I didn’t perform any of the acts or take any of the pictures!”
It is unbridled madness to even ask such a thing. There’s being a devil’s advocate, and there’s being an absolute dick. No woman in any modern American court–transgender or otherwise–would have to explain to any sane juror the harm of being forced to do a strip-tease by a male cop. And I told him that if he was to ask anyone the same questions that he asked me, his wife would divorce him, his sister would never speak to him again, and he’d find that everyone thought he was a psychopath. It’s like asking a rape victim, “But you didn’t get pregnant and it was over quickly, so there weren’t really any damages, were there?”
It’s sexual assault. The very act itself causes damage. That’s why we outlawed it.
I didn’t mean to get into all this, but it’s been a full day as I’ve learned who my friends are and who my friends aren’t. It’s been a devastating day. Before I began writing this, I lied in my bed, cuddled with my cat, and cried. I did that for about an hour, and then I forced myself to get up, because I’m not a crier. I won’t lie down and cry–at least not for long. I will fight. I will fight against anyone and everyone who stands in my way. It’s more “You’re not really a woman, though” bullshit.
Because it would unequivocally be sexual assault if a male officer did this to a natural-born female, and even this “devil’s advocate” wouldn’t challenge that. Even asking such a thing is a tentative admission that he doesn’t consider me a female–just a guy wearing women’s clothes. Because I refuse to believe that any sane person could imagine their sister or wife or other female friend in a closed cell with a cop being forced to do a strip-tease and somehow dispute whether or not it counted as sexual assault and whether or not that entailed damages. And naturally when I got pissed off, he pulled the “You’re too emotional to talk about this” card.
You’re goddamned right, you fucking dick, and your bigotry and borderline psychopathy are the fucking reasons why. If your wife came out of this situation and was looking into attorneys and you asked her about “demonstrable damages,” she would divorce your ass. It’s understood, by the act itself.
The Senatobia cop who was both polite and professional, I didn’t care if he referred to me as a male, or called me “dude” or anything else. I didn’t tell him that I’m transgender because I insisted that he call me “ma’am,” although he did. I told him because I wanted him to know in case it became relevant. It’s just like I don’t care if my friends occasionally call me “him,” or if clients think I’m a guy. Their opinions don’t matter to me, and their misgendering me isn’t a concern, because it’s best for everyone involved if they do misgender me.
But it matters when people have authority over you. Holy fuck, does it matter when you’re being forced to do a strip-tease for a curious male cop and facing the prospect of being thrown into the men’s cell block. Despite this “I’m such a devil’s advocate I’m almost a psychopath”‘s assurances, it is not true that “everyone” is in there awaiting DUI trials. I’ve been in county jails before. There are some people waiting on murder trials, some waiting on rape trials, some waiting on drug trials. Some of these people face 25 years. Some face life.
And American prison and jail systems have a long fucking history of placing gay men in cell blocks where they know the men will be raped, only to then say, “You must have been asking for it.” This guy had the audacity to say to me, “They wouldn’t want to add on a rape charge to their jail sentence.”
Dude, how many occurrences of prison and jail rape do you think result in charges? It’s been a long time since I looked at the numbers, but the last I checked it was like 5.7% or something along those lines. It would have been my word against the rapist’s. The rapist would have insisted that I consented to it, and I would have obviously disputed that. It’s a profound ignorance about not just male-on-male rape and prison rape but rape in general. The rape culture hysteria is certainly overblown, but we do have a problem with police officers putting forward and accepting the rationale that “she was asking for it” and “she actually wanted it.” This problem is particularly prevalent with male-on-male rape and prison rape.
One of the main reasons that most men don’t report it when they are raped is the psychological damage of it. Through no desire or enjoyment on the rape victim’s part, his penis will become erect–at least semi-erect–from stimulation of the prostate. It is well-known that rapists use this to their advantage, saying things like, “Yeah, you know you like it–that’s why you’re getting hard.” And you don’t think this ignorant ass officer who forced me to do a strip tease for him would say, “Well, her penis got hard, so clearly she enjoyed it, and she wouldn’t have enjoyed it if it had been rape”? How insulated in a bubble can a person be?
Last night, the state forced its binary, unscientific, and inapplicable definition of “male” onto me, despite my protests and explicit statements otherwise. Realistically, at the very moment I told the officer that I’m a transgender female, it could damned well have meant that I have a vagina. This has to be considered–the officer had no idea what type of transsexual I am, and didn’t ask. Rather than ask, he forced me to do a strip-tease to find out.
For the most part, it’s just so not important what people call me. I call myself the Anarchist Shemale. Almost all of my clients call me “he,” and a few of my friends still call me by my old name. It’s so meaningless to me. These transsexual and transgender people who get up in arms–“Did you just assume my gender?! Did you just misgender me?!”–they are undermining the actual problems out there. Those things are irrelevant. They are issues created by people who have never truly suffered. One of the greatest revelations for me in the last few months was that the Dunning-Kruger Effect applies very much to a person’s understanding of what suffering is. I don’t blame them for that. I applaud them. Congratulations–they have lived lives of such ease and comfort that some random person at a store calling them by the wrong pronoun is an offense and losing an election is traumatic. I don’t care what this asshole on Facebook wants to call me, or if he wants to label me as a male. It makes no difference to me. It’s tedious and exhausting, but I don’t care.
I’m not and will never fight to force Random Joe to call me a female. In fact, I have a long record of fighting for the right of Random Joe to exercise all of his rights, including the right to hate me and disassociate from me.
So anyone who accuses me of trying to force other people to accept my gender identity is either not listening, not paying attention, or purposefully misunderstanding me. In his overzealousness to prevent me from forcing him to accept my gender identity, he becomes okay with the state forcing me to accept his and their gender definitions. I’m not trying to force him to accept my gender identity. I’m trying to stop him from forcing his definitions onto me. And I hate myself for even saying this, but his inability to understand that difference is the very essence of the whole “privilege” thing.
When you’re that accustomed to forcing your way onto everyone else, it does seem like someone forcing their way onto you when they stop you from forcing your way onto them. This doesn’t mean there aren’t people out there trying to force their way onto them–there are. Lots of them. There are lots of transsexual and transgender people who think it should be totally illegal to call a transgender person by the “wrong” pronoun. I’m not among them, and any idiot who reads anything I write would quickly realize that. It was outright stated in the fucking initial article about this.
I refused to vote for Gary Johnson, and my primary reason for that was precisely that he wouldn’t allow religious people the right to conduct business in accordance with their religious beliefs. This is a message to all those fucking idiots who don’t understand simple concepts. I have been fighting this fucking battle for the right of people to discriminate against me for years, and I have the record to prove it. To all those people, I have stood by their rights for years, even when it actively harmed me and went against my own direct interests, and I will continue doing so. Now it’s time for those people to shut the fuck up and stand beside me like I stood beside them. I’m not asking them to accept me. I’m asking them to help protect me from the goddamned state, just like I fought to protect them from the state.
I apologize for how this next paragraph is written, but there was no other way to convey it in written words.
I also learned from this experience how seriously damaging it is to be transgender–to be struggling to be transgender because more than 5/6 of your life was stolen from you and you’re fighting against every single day you’ve lived past puberty without the correct hormones coursing through your body… To already be struggling everyday with doubts about “Am I feminine enough?” To look in the mirror at every opportunity, hoping and praying to see yourself more feminine, more how you should be, more how you want to be… To already struggle so much with day-to-day life as a transgender person, not to mention all the other stuff, the family stuff, the parasitism, the economic and financial struggles, the struggles to get a book published… To be depressed deep down inside and constantly in a state of mild cognitive dissonance–because I know I’m not as feminine as I want to be, that I’m not as passable as I must be… And then to have an authority figure slap you back down viciously, rebuke you firmly, and state that no, you are not female, so turn around and drop your pants.
It’s always painful to look in the mirror and not see what I want to see, to have the fear constantly nagging in the back of my mind that maybe I’ll never see what I want to see, that maybe it’s too late, maybe there’s no hope. To then have long-time friends reveal that they consider me a guy in women’s clothes–even if they don’t have the balls to outright say it… That’s painful. And to have an authority–not just any authority, but the ultimate authority, the state itself–rebuke you, spit on your efforts, spit on your life, your hopes and your dreams, and insist that you are a male whether you like it or not. Most people won’t understand. Most people can’t understand.
I’ve got a difficult choice to make, about whether I want to try to fight this battle or not–whether I can fight this battle, whether I have the emotional strength and emotional need to fight this battle. It will be messy, and it will be painful. It will certainly land in a federal appeals court.
Earlier today I was arrested for driving on a suspended license. I’m not sure how long my license has been suspended–it’s part of the $3,000 the state wants from me because it decided that I owed it that money. So today when it found out that I was going about my life in full disregard of how they wanted money from me, the state did what the state does best: it used its armed thugs to kidnap me and hold me for ransom. The fines I’m faced with aren’t major, and aren’t even really of concern. What is of concern is a much more serious matter.
I was strip-searched.
I was strip-searched by a male officer.
I was strip-searched by a male officer over a traffic misdemeanor when my bail bondsman was literally there waiting on me and after I’d already explained that I’m transgender and identify as female. For all intents and purposes, a male officer strip-searched a female prisoner today when she was arrested over a misdemeanor and while she was waiting on paperwork to be processed so she could be released.
It may seem minor. The officer didn’t touch me while I was naked, after all, but if you’ve never been there, then you couldn’t imagine. These are the police. The “Do as we say, or we beat you or shoot you” people. It’s hard to express what exactly it feels like to be told to turn around and face the wall, pull down your pants and panties, to lift up your genitals, and to stand there presenting your ass to a male officer.
Because he said so.
And if you don’t comply, he might just beat you to death.
So here’s how it happened, the events I wrote down as soon as it occurred to me a little while ago to write them down.
After being arrested by the Senatobia officer–I’m horrible with names, and even though I tried damned hard to take note of them, I don’t recall them–I was taken to the Senatobia Police Department for processing. The officer can vouch easily for my good behavior, respectfulness, and politeness. It was always “yes, sir” and “no, sir.” The officer admitted this and handcuffed me so that my hands were in front of me–in fact, they were loose enough that I could have slipped out of them if I’d wanted to. I didn’t want to, obviously, but I did tinker with them during the ride. I still had my phone, my pocket full of things; the officer had given no thought whatsoever to me as a danger, and had let me finish smoking a cigarette precisely because I was polite, well-mannered, and cooperative.
On the ride to the Senatobia Police Department, I informed this officer of the fact that I am transgender and identify as female. I pointed out that it probably wouldn’t matter since I was immediately being bailed out, but if it became important to know, he needed to know it. He asked a few questions mostly out of curiosity and, as he said later, to make sure that all of his “i’s were dotted and t’s were crossed,” a position that I completely understand. As I’ve said to all of my friends and everyone else, I’m not going to get worked up over someone using the wrong pronoun to address me, or using my old name. So I made it clear to the officer that there was no chance that I was going to make it unnecessarily difficult for him; I was just verifying that things wouldn’t get unnecessarily difficult for me.
As further evidence of how the officer considered me no threat and nothing but polite, during the processing he left me alone for long periods of times, never searched me, and only asked what I had in my pockets. I complied to the fullest extent to his offhanded query and placed all the contents of my pockets on the desk, and put my phone on silent, even though he had requested none of these things. In fact, he explicitly told me at one point that it was fine for me to look and reply to a text message. He removed the handcuffs through my stay at the Senatobia Police Department, and left me more or less to wander at my leisure through the room. Clearly, nothing about my demeanor or appearance suggested that I was remotely a threat.
Then he had to take me to the actual jail, the Tate County Jail, and again handcuffed me with my hands in front for the ride. They were even more loose this time, and as we pulled into the parking lot he remarked that my father and grandmother were already there with the bail bondsman, and that they’d beaten us to the jail. I didn’t reply, because there were too many thoughts racing through my mind. He asked if I’d heard him, and I replied that I had, but had been lost in thought. Through this ride, he listened to music and invited someone to go with him to a ball game after work. It was a relaxed ride–considering–and more evidence that I was nothing but polite and compliant.
Once inside the jail, the processing began again, and I was told to turn and face the wall, where I was patted down. This was done professionally, and was not odd in the least. The officer who had brought me there–the Senatobia Police Officer–had gone. This other male officer emptied out my pockets and patted me down while the other officer on duty, a female, helped him process the paperwork so that I could go. He then took my shoes and my belt, as well as the rest of my possessions, and placed them in a basket. He then instructed me to enter a nearby room, and I did so.
He asked something about my size–I don’t recall exactly what, but he made it clear that his intention was to get one of the jailhouse jumpsuits for me to wear. Thinking he must have overlooked the fact that the bail bondsman was there and had already been talking to both officers on duty, including the officer I was then speaking to, I said, “Is it really necessary to do all this? The bondsman is right there to get me out, and… I’m transgender. I’ve been taking hormones for months. I’ve got breasts, I’m wearing a bra and women’s underwear.”
Then he stated that no, it wouldn’t be necessary, but he would still have to search me for weapons–one would have expected this to be included in the pat-down that he had done, but more than anything there was the vibe that this was in response to my statement that I’m transgender. It may not have been, but it absolutely felt that way, and is a moot point anyway. The moment that I informed the officer I’m transgender and identify as female is the moment it became unlawful for him to search me. Regardless, he shut the large steel door, leaving just the two of us in the concrete box. “Turn around and face the wall,” he instructed, this authority figure with a gun.
I obeyed. You don’t have a choice but to obey. It’s “obey or get the shit beaten out of you.”
“Drop your pants and lift up your shirt,” he said.
I gulped, and braced myself. God only knew where this was going, but none of it felt right–obviously. So there I stood, door shut, with this officer standing behind me, with my pants down around my ankles and shirt lifted, broadcasting to him my panties and ass.
Then it got worse as he said, “Pull down your underwear and lift up your shirt.”
Again, I complied. What manner of society is this, where a man can lock you in a concrete box and command you to drop your pants and underwear to your ankles? It was humiliating, degrading, and terrifying, to stand there with my pants and panties around my ankles, effectively presenting my ass to this male officer. He instructed me to lift up my genitals. So I stood there then with my pants and panties around my ankles, one hand holding up my shirt, one hand holding my genitals out of his view, naked and presenting my ass to him.
I don’t know how long we stood like that. I was busy trying to convince myself that I was literally anywhere else and doing literally anything else. I really don’t think it was very long, but there was absolutely no reason we should have been in that situation in the first place, as I was arrested for a misdemeanor and was simply being processed, with the bondsman already waiting outside. After some period of time elapsed, the officer said “Okay, you can pull your clothes back up.”
I’m sure it seems minor. It may even seem routine. But no part of it felt routine, and I’d already been patted down and searched–one would presume that he was patting me down for weapons, after all. I identify as female. That has been the case for more than a year. I’ve got A cups, some curves, and I perpetually wear both a bra and female underwear. Because of the nuances of life in Mississippi and still being relatively early in the process, it is necessary that I still pretend to be a male some portions of the day, especially in regard to work. This is done, though, not to present myself as a male but to minimize the consequences of certain people finding out before I am able to deal with those consequences. When you’re being arrested, the consequences of not informing the police are multitudes higher than the consequences of telling them, and at that moment it became illegal for the male officer to strip search me–alone in a concrete box with the heavy steel door shut.
As soon as I told him I’m transgender, it became unlawful for a male officer to strip search me alone.
Much less make me stand there with my pants and panties at my ankles with my balls pulled up and showing him my ass.
I do believe I’m going to pursue this. I haven’t stopped shaking since the event happened, and I’m sure that it’s noticeable on the lobby camera, since we returned the lobby after this utterly pointless strip search by a male officer of the female prisoner who was arrested for a misdemeanor and whose bondsman was merely waiting on the paperwork for her to be released. Even if they could justify the strip search–which isn’t at all likely, given the circumstances–there is absolutely no justification for a male officer strip searching a female arrestee, and certainly not in that manner, certainly not in private.
I don’t like the government, and that includes when the government has things like its Civil Rights Act and all that other stuff that is supposed to help transgender people. But clearly the state of Mississippi has no transgender policy. When they entered my information into the system, I saw this second officer–the one who had performed the strip search–enter me as “male.” The prompt offered him only the choices of “male” or “female.” It is backward, and the police exist to lord power over people and hold them at their mercy. If anyone must have their feet held to the flames, it is them.
Please forgive me if I’m not quite up to date with the latest in the Christian world.
When I was in junior high and high school, we received a notebook every year around January that contained on its cover the Ten Commandments. There were even occasions (at least once when I was in the tenth grade) that we were given those little New Testament Bibles. So naturally our school had no sex education program–abstinence or otherwise, which is fine since it’s a parent’s duty to explain procreation to their children, not the state’s–and only barely had a drug education program.
I’m speaking for… basically all… Mississippians when I say that the Bibles and notebooks were unnecessary. In a pragmatic sense, the notebooks were fantastic, because they always came around the time I needed a fresh notebook to continue my writing and not doing schoolwork. Teachers often loathed me for that, because they knew I was not paying attention, that I was writing some story, but when I passed the tests it didn’t leave them many ways to chastise me.
I’d wager that maybe one in two hundred kids didn’t have their own copy of the Bible, though, and I had at least two.
There was controversy surrounding the Ten Commandments, though (because of course there was), specifically whether it was stated that Thou shalt not kill or Thou shalt not murder.
This is an important distinction for a few reasons. First, God kills a number of people in the Bible by any translation, and, if you really want to split hairs, is inadvertently responsible for every death by creating life (unless you subscribe to the literal interpretation of Genesis, in which case he’s still responsible for putting the tree in the garden, but it’s not my intention to attack theology). Second, large portions of the Bible prescribe killing people as the punishment for everything from witchcraft to adultery. In order to avoid a conflict between “Thou shalt not kill [period]” and “Thou shalt kill these people,” it was necessary to draw a distinction between killing (The taking of life) and murder (presumably the unjust taking of human life).
It’s worth mentioning, though, that if our universe has a creator, then its moral mandates to us are not commandments to itself. Such a being has a perspective on human existence that we simply cannot attain, and is sure to abide what would seem to us as Blue & Orange morality. We silly mortals are unlikely to understand the value system of this creator, its criteria for assessing value, or its reason for doing so. Mandate from such a being would be perfectly acceptable, because we couldn’t even grasp its reasoning.
But the “Do as I say, not as I do” thing isn’t really a point of contention for Christians anyway–whether they’ve given it sufficient thought or not, they understand this. It’s mostly just a masturbation exercise for atheists (The Atheist Experience comes to mind, as they do it a lot) who refuse to accept that the existence of a god would instantly invalidate all moral values that weren’t its own. But he who makes the rules determines who is just; he who defines morality determines who is moral.
So the true importance of this distinction isn’t whether the creator of the universe must abide the moral proclamations it passes down to us; the true importance is whether the state has to.
Whew! What a leap, right? Here we were discussing theology, with no mention of the state, then BAM!
It’s not a leap at all, though, because what is the institution that would be responsible for outlawing and punishing heretics and adulterers? It would be the state.
Obviously, the church and state were not always separate things; if they had been, we wouldn’t today have the phrase “separation of church and state.” However, we’d be delusional to suggest that the separation of church and state has been total, throughout the world or throughout the United States. In fact, many sects within Christianity attempt to legislate based on the moral values that they (correctly or incorrectly) say stem from their religion. North Carolina’s transgender restroom law comes to mind, and anti-sodomy laws have only recently been repealed.
In order to carry out and enforce this fundamentalist morality, it is often necessary to break that morality, as we mentioned above. In order to carry out the moral proclamation “Thou shalt not suffer a witch to live,” it is necessary to break the moral proclamation “Thou shalt not kill.” This is why the state, much as the deity we mentioned earlier, gets a pass on its own moral statements.
We do this with euphemisms. “Thou shalt not steal” doesn’t apply to taxation for some inexplicable reason. “Thou shalt not murder” doesn’t apply to war, the abomination of capital punishment, or a police officer killing someone. “Thou shalt not keep slaves”* doesn’t apply to forced military conscription or prison labor. “Thou shalt not rape” doesn’t apply when you send someone to a place where you know they will be raped.
The knee-jerk reaction is to say that taxation isn’t theft, that conscription isn’t slavery, and that being an accomplice sending someone to a rape factory doesn’t count as rape. But no arguments can be put forward to back these positions. One can only say, “Nuh-uh!” and leave it at that, because the position is indefensible.
It is called “theft” when a large group of people gather together and decide to take money and resources from other people who don’t consent to having their money taken. It doesn’t really matter whether three hundred million people agree and only one objects; it’s still theft to take money and resources from the one who objects. We cannot consent to taxation on his behalf any more than one can consent to sex on his behalf.
We recoil at that analogy, and rightly so. The mere thought of consenting to sex on a woman’s behalf, even though she is expressly against it, strikes us as vehemently immoral, but it’s really only a stroke of luck that we don’t live in a world where “sex” is alongside slavery and murder as things we consent to for other people while they object. There appears to be no limit to what we may mandate for other people. We kidnap them against their will, steal from them against their will, enslave them against their will, and kill them against their will. It’s only a matter of fortune that “have sex with them against their will” isn’t on that list.
We can give an omniscient creator of the universe a pass on our morality, because its perspective is too wide for our tiny minds to grasp, but we cannot give the state a pass. The state, after all, is filled with people of no particular greatness. They are not wiser, smarter, or more considered than anyone else, and that rulers are not special was the great revelation that set forward the rise of governance “by the people.”
We can’t have it both ways, of course. We can’t say in one breath that “we are the government” and then say that our government can violate moral values because it is special and exempt. It must be that trying to do such a thing is merely an attempt to give ourselves a pass on morality, to make ourselves into official hypocrites, because “we are the government” and “The government is exempt from our morality” means literally that “we are exempt from our morality.”
So are we? Are we exempt from our morality?
Of course, the truth is that “we” aren’t the government. Even if we buy into the conceit that our representatives actually represent us, “we” still wouldn’t be the government; our representatives would be.
What use is a morality system if we establish loopholes and exemptions that allow systemic violations more horrible than anything an individual might do? Despite our philosophy that killing is wrong, governments last century managed a body count above 160,000,000–a staggering number of dead people. Despite our maxim that theft is wrong, the American Government steals huge chunks of everyone’s money.
We established this moral system. If we judge ourselves by our own rules and standards, I don’t think we’d like the result.
What role do I play in the atrocities committed by the state? Very little, but I could certainly do more to fight it beyond writing articles and arguing with people. Shouldn’t I be out marching in the streets, demanding an end to war, theft, kidnapping, and slavery? By this measure I’m as guilty as anyone.
What role does the average voter play? Well, the average voter is more of an accomplice than a weakly active resistor. The average voter doesn’t just allow it by not resisting strongly enough; the average voter encourages and legitimizes it. The average voter is the rubber stamp that legitimizes the euphemisms and allows the theft, murder, kidnapping, and slavery to continue.
It’s one thing to perhaps-be-not-as-adamant-as-one-could-be about seeing a moral tragedy ended. At least we Pen and Paper Anarchists do something, even if we don’t do enough. Then again, what more can we do without violating the very moral tenants we are trying to spread? We cannot zerg rush DC with guns–the entire point of anarchism is that violence cannot be used to prevent violence. If we use violence, we cease being anarchists immediately and become statists, because its exemption to violate morality is what defines the state. That’s how authorities always function. “For the greater good, we must do evil.”
Fear is what I think compels us to embrace the state and its lies. “Government is a necessary evil,” went the advocates of classical liberalism. “Government is a necessary evil, except ours. Ours is a good one,” states the modern liberal and modern conservative. They arrive at this conclusion by different roads, but they reach it all the same. For the liberal, the government is mostly good because it protects us from ourselves; for the conservative, the government is mostly good because it protects us from others. And the miraculous thing is that these statements can be flipped without problem.
Any skilled chess player will tell you that there are huge differences between defence and offense, and between protecting and attacking. This isn’t to say that the two are always exclusive, because in chess they aren’t–the best attacking moves are those that defend, too.
But we’re not chess pieces to be moved about on a board and sacrificed to gain the upper hand. The pawn would never advocate a pawn sacrifice.
Unless the king had convinced him it was the only way to win.
* Although, to be clear, the Bible never states this.
Clearly, what we have here in the United States isn’t a free market. It’s occasionally free in a few places, if you’re careful and if you’re doing something very innocuous, but we can’t really say that there is “a free market” here simply because the state doesn’t intervene in a few limited areas. No, we have a Fascist Market here in the United States, not a “capitalist plus regulation” one, because one simple pillar of capitalism has been utterly destroyed: private property.
Just this week, during emails to a friend of mine, I said,
We have meaningless property–the same property we’d be allowed to claim as ours under communism. Consumption items, I guess I’d call them. Food, televisions, phones. But actual, meaningful property? It’s not ours. It’s the government’s. Your house will always be the government’s and if you don’t pay your extortion fee, they will take it from you. With private property, that’s not the case: you are the owner, and anyone taking it from you is stealing it (unless you explicitly signed a voluntary contract with the property as collateral). Your house isn’t yours. It’s yours as long as you pay the government. If it’s your property, why can’t you add your own septic tank? Why can’t you add a wing to it? Why can’t you raise cows on it? Because it’s not yours. You’re simply allowed the privilege of using it as long as you pay their rental fees and abide their ownership rules.
And if they want, they can go “eminent domain” and take it from you. Their claim to it always supersedes yours x but they’ll let you stay as long as you follow their rules and pay rent to them.
Private property protects us from exactly that. But it’s not private. It’s “private per the government’s TOU, per your payment of extortion, and per their disinterest in it.” It’s an illusion that we can maintain until we come face to face with it, like the illusion people have that the police aren’t omnipotent falling apart once a person has been pulled over at 3 in the morning and held at their mercy.
To this, the friend replied:
I truly am not following you. In fact, I’m wondering if you’re joking with me. Are you not aware that the vast majority of property in the US is owned – outright – by private interests? For example, my father OWNS two houses outright – bought, fully paid for. No mortgage, no loan, no rent, no monthly fees, certainly no “extortion.” The farm, for example: Dad owns that house, the place you live in, and 10 acres of land. He owns vehicles, tractors, farming implements, and hundreds of thousands of dollars in furniture and assets related to my mom’s business. He owns buildings in <area>, the property they sit on, and for years he owned mini-storage units that he sold outright to another individual. Before that he owned a large building on 3rd St in Memphis, paid it off, and sold it, too. At any point he can sell anything he owns and do whatever he wishes with the money.
The house I live in: it’s owned, 100%, outright, by my father in law. He paid it off in full when he sold his part of <edited> Company – a company that was co-owned by two men. He can dig a hole tomorrow and bury a septic tank by lunch, if he wants. Neither my dad nor my father in law pays the government anything in the way of rent, fees, or extortion. I guess you could say property taxes are along the lines of “fee,” but that’s a totally different matter than private ownership. Taxes are real. And taxes suck. But the property – land, houses, assets, etc – are owned outright.
My cousin is a farmer. He farms about 3000 acres of prime MS Delta farmland. He owns about 1/3 of it, and he leases the rest – from rich, “landed gentry” in the delta. Neither he as leasor or the landowners are in any way beholden to the government. If anything, most Americans spend their lives beholden to banks and other creditors – which themselves are private interests, owners of vast assets. In fact, what individuals don’t own, banks do, generally speaking. But the government certainly doesn’t own it.
I’m really not following you on this one. Are you speaking figuratively, or perhaps referring to taxes?
And I was truly blown away.
How could he not be following me? What I described was clearly taxation. And despite drawing a direct line from taxation to how it turns us into glorified renters, because of the words involved, he was unable to see what I was saying. I remarked that it was curious how dangerous words are. It’s so clear I don’t know how else to put it: if you don’t pay your extortion fees–property taxes–to the state, then they will take your house from you. How is it your property if you must continually pay a fee just to prevent it from being taken from you?
So even though we have to pay the government taxes regularly to prevent them from taking our property from us, we are not beholden to the government. It’s one thing to have to pay a bank monthly to keep the land, and that certainly does curtail ownership, but it’s a completely different thing to have to pay the government to keep the land, which doesn’t curtail ownership because “those are taxes.” As I said–what a danger words are. The situation I described is unimpeachable; it is a fact of life in the United States, but because he waves it away as this word “taxes,” it gets compartmentalized in his head as something that must be ignored.
Medicine and the Free Market
We can never have free market medicine until the ability of doctors to prescribe medication is no longer sanctioned by the state. Pharmacies, of course, can set their own policies. Does Pharmacy X wish to allow people to get medications without a prescription? Maybe they will for most medications, but won’t allow people to get opiates without a doctor’s prescription? Maybe Pharmacy Y will allow anyone to get any medications they want–as long as they are 18, I suppose, though I would also be against that.
There are several gatekeepers in the way of a person getting medication that they need.
First, it is simply assumed that the doctor knows more about your condition and physiology than you do. In a lot of cases, this is true, because someone who self-diagnoses through Web MD may go to the doctor asking for treatment for a disease contracted by not properly cooking frog legs that came from the Amazon Rainforest, when they really just have a cold. Is this always going to be the case, though? Certainly not.
I’ve contracted pneumonia four times in my life; I have a known susceptibility to it, and it will almost certainly be what kills me one day. I know exactly what it feels like, and I don’t need a doctor running a bunch of tests to confirm that I have pneumonia. This is a minor example, because the “tests” involve little more than using a stethoscope to hear your breathing, but the point remains perfectly valid. I can probably recognize the illness better than most doctors, but there isn’t a doctor alive who would just “take my word for it,” because the state would drop the hammer on them quickly if they turned out to be wrong.
The pharmacy, though, is the true holder of the drugs and the true gatekeeper. After all, they are the ones with shelves full of all kinds of pills, most of them as damaging as whatever symptom they’re supposed to address, but they will only give you those pills if you have a sheet of paper from a doctor–which costs, roughly, $100 to acquire. Why? Because the government has sectioned these pills off into varying degrees of acceptability, and if they let you have those pills without that doctor’s scrap of paper, then the state will drop the hammer on them. If they have that sheet of paper, then they have no responsibility in the matter; the responsibility is shifted to the doctor who gave you the prescription.
So what I’m about to call “free market medicine” isn’t in any sense truly free market.
My Involvement With Free Market Medicine
Last year, I took the extraordinary step of accepting that I am transgender. It was actually about a year ago today that I dropped the ultimatum on my sister that she could accept me or lose me, but I’m not going to hide it. Still, I was not doing well financially, having had my life completely wrecked by someone who betrayed me about as completely as anyone ever betrayed anyone, and it was a long, painful, awful road from that to where I am today.
Obviously, she chose not to have anything to do with me.
Click for full image. It’s more self-aware and devastating than you’d expect, so be warned.
So in January I moved, and I was not making very much money–about $150 a week on good weeks, but it actually came closer to about $100 a week on average. It certainly wasn’t easy, but I managed.
I had spent the previous few months looking into hormone therapy, and ran into brick wall after brick wall. Everything I found online suggested that even if I did find a doctor in Mississippi who would be willing to prescribe me estrogen, they would not do so until I had been in therapy for at least six months, and then all they would do is send me to an endocrinologist who, after extensive testing, would determine the quantity of estrogen that I could take.
Not only was I too old for that–because late twenties is old to be taking hormones to change your freaking gender, so don’t offer me any of that “No, you’re still young!” crap if you don’t know what you’re talking about–but there was no way that I could possibly have afforded it. Affording all that was a pipe dream with no relation to my situation. And I didn’t want to wait six months; I’d waited more than twenty years, mostly because my fundamentalist Christian parents had traumatized me to the extent that I’d forced myself to forget… It’s not something that’s easy to convey. But it took a long time to come to terms with all of that. And it took courage to say, “I’m an adult with friends and family who all know me as a male. But screw it. I’m coming out as transgender.”
So I turned to the Internet.
I was not just researching how to get hormones through the previous few months; I was learning everything there was to know about estrogen and taking it, with the only thing I couldn’t find being its impact on a person’s face. Luckily, it absolutely does impact the face–which is good because I’m sick of my masculine eyebrows, and they are, thankfully, the result of fat and muscle rather than the result of bone. It’s why it frustrates me when transgender friends lie to me about the effects hormones have on them: one girl told me that, after a year, she had already grown C cups. And no… No, she hadn’t. She might have had B cups, but with her using her arms to prop them up it was hard to tell. I know Cs, though–that’s my favorite cup size, and those are no Cs. Plus, the idea that a transgender person will grow C cups in one year is absurd. They probably won’t ever grow C cups, and if they do it will only be after the full 2+ year period of taking high doses of estrogen everyday.
I finally found a website that would let me order them, but it seemed a bit fishy. It was located in China, first of all, and no prescription was required in order to buy the estradiol. Most places I checked did require that a prescription be faxed to them, so obviously I was a bit skeptical. However, I took some money and ordered 56 quantity.
Nearly a month later, they arrived. That was in February.
The next several months were extraordinarily difficult. Every time that I tried to repurchase, the payment failed to process. The pharmacy said that my bank was blocking the international transaction. I spoke with my bank repeatedly, and they were not receiving any attempt to charge my account, much less blocking one. We underwent 3-way calls, and never arrived at a solution. Finally, I took some money and, after having been out of hormones for weeks because of the delays–
For whatever freaking reason, this international pharmacy does not process payments when you make them. They process your payment at some point “within the next 24 hours” after you give them your info. This meant that I had to give them my info one day, and then wait until the next day to find out if there was a problem. If there was a problem, then we would try something else–usually speaking with my bank–and then we’d try again, only for it to fail again. These sort of delays cost me months of being on hormones.
I finally bought a reloadable debit card from a store, loaded it with the money I needed, and the purchase went right through. The next month rolled around, and I took the card to the store, reloaded it, and–once again, the payment failed. Now, it was already difficult to come up with the $60~ I needed every month; there was no way at that point in time that I would have been able to order the next batch of hormones until the very last minute. Now I order them with plenty of room to spare, but I wasn’t able to then.
After a week of making no progress and repeatedly running into that same problem where they couldn’t process the payment because my bank was “blocking the transaction,” even though Visa insisted that they were not blocking the transaction, I broke down and asked a friend to order them, and I’d give him the cash. He did, and the payment went right through. There was yet another period of going 2-3 weeks without any hormones, completely undoing the previous period of taking them.
Not to mention that I was in some kind of emotional state from this extreme fluctuation of hormones. From 8mg estrogen a day for three weeks to zero mg of estrogen a day for three weeks. It’s amazing that I managed to be calm to any degree.
The next refill time came around, and I decided to just purchase another identical reloadable card. But wouldn’t you know it? I bought the wrong damned one. I meant to buy a My Vanilla card, and instead bought a One Vanilla card because, fuck me, I didn’t expect there to be a fucking difference. There was a difference, though, and that difference was that One Vanilla cards couldn’t be used internationally. So I had $65 on a reloadable Visa that served absolutely no purpose, and did not have the $65 I needed to buy the correct one for another week, since you can’t use a debit card to buy a reloadable debit card.
I think it was in July that I worked out the last of the problems, and had been taking hormones consistently for about two months–even though there were fluctuations in the dosage to avoid running out–when I ran into the last snag. I don’t recall what the last snag was; it may have been the one I just described, of buying the stupid One Vanilla card. No, it wasn’t that. Fucking USPS had lost my shipment. That’s what it was. They were just gone, having been sent to Jackson, MS, which was currently being overhauled and which was out of the way of where I lived. They should have gone to Memphis, and then to my local post office. Instead, they went right past Memphis and onto Jackson. And I had one day left, at only 2 mg a day–just enough to keep from undoing the progress I’d made, perhaps.
With nowhere else to turn, I called a pharmacy and told them everything. The pharmacist there, when I told him I’m transgender, confessed that he wasn’t that, but he was “something” himself. Like “No kidding, dude. You’re gay. I think everyone knows that.”
Thanks to his kind heart and sympathy, I was able to make it. He stole something like 46 2mg estrogen tabs, met me when he got off work, and then gave them to it at no cost. Why couldn’t I just have walked into the pharmacy and bought some of these non-narcotic meds? Because of the government. I am extremely thankful to this person for helping me out. And, wouldn’t you know it, ten days later USPS finally delivered the hormones, and I’d already ordered another batch, finally placing me ahead of the cycle.
Customs in New York rubberstamps my packages now when they arrive from Denmark. It’s a strange thing, but yeah–order from China, they ship from Denmark or Germany. Initially, my packages stayed in Customs for 2 or 3 days; now, they’re in and out. So I’m thankful to the people in Customs for recognizing the name on the package, the size of the package, and the contents of the package, and sending it straight on without delay.
Believe it or not, I’m also thankful to Barack Obama, who has promised not to prosecute or impede anyone who orders their medicines online from other countries. While that is fantastic, this entire arrangement could change under President Trump, and that does scare me. Rather than giving a blanket pardon and absolution to everyone ordering medicine internationally, Obama would have done more for health care in the United States if he had repealed the laws that make it technically illegal in the first place–even if he has promised not to enforce those laws.
I suspect, given his propensity for “free-ish markets” that Trump won’t do anything to limit the competition, either.
But this is why competition is such a beautiful thing. If all of these laws were repealed, then pharmacies here in the United States would have to compete with the International Drug Mart to get my business, by offering me lower prices and lower shipping. But they can’t, and they won’t, because they don’t have to. Instead, they can just petition the government to make it illegal to order medicine internationally, and then they have me by my transgender balls, able to charge me whatever they want and capable of making me jump through whatever hoops they want.
Things are different now. Obama, I have heard, has mandated that all doctors must assist transgender patients. I’m not okay with that, because I think that should be between the doctor and the patient. I was not happy when regulations required the doctor to send the patient to six months of therapy, and I’m not happy now that regulations require the doctor to write hormones to anyone who asks for them, whether they may be making a mistake or not. I think the doctor should be able to sit down with me and make that determination himself about whether he thinks I’m serious, without being afraid that I will sue him if he thinks some therapy would do me some good. If he did, I would just find a different doctor.
That wasn’t the case in January, though, that’s for damned sure.
Those eyebrows and cheeks, though… Just gotta let the hormones do their thing now. :/
Because of all these shenanigans, I don’t actually know how long I’ve been on hormones. It’s not an easy estimate to make, and international delays still occasionally cause me to have to cut down to 4mg a day–on occasion only 2mg a day–while I wait on the next package to arrive. I would guess, though, that it’s coming on five months of continuous, uninterrupted estrogen. The funny part about that is that my situation would be about the same today if I’d gone through the “proper” channels, only I’d have burned through a whole lot more money and would have been totally at the mercy of people who, for some reason, had the right to decide for me whether or not I should be on hormones. And, no, I’d probably just be in month 2 or so, if I’d gone the official route, when instead I’m actually starting to look fairly feminine.
My muscles are finally beginning to drop off–if only slightly so far–and there’s no doubt whatsoever that I’m growing breasts. I’m thankful that there was a backdoor for me to take control of my life and not be at the mercy of the government, its machinations, and the myriad mechanisms it has in place to force me to live according to the parameters set by other people.
The free market allows me to be transgender.
What are you not allowed to do because markets aren’t free? I’d wager there are more things than you’d immediately think of.