Sunday, April 22, 2018


A Short Story 

      Desmond pulled the fabric close over his nose. The sunlight streamed in through the window, lighting the tiny dust particles that floated around him, making the sterile living room seem like an enchanted garden. Holding the fabric tight, he reached out and touched the glass window pane with his extended index finger. It felt smooth, cool. When two women walked into his view, he gasped, ducking quickly below the windowsill.
      “Desmond!” his mother called from somewhere behind him. “Get away from the window!” Sullenly, Desmond pulled at the fabric of the curtains until the window was completely covered. The living room lost its magic.
      “Desmond, you know you shouldn’t be in the window,” mother said, approaching him. Desmond hung his head.
      “I know, mama,” he whispered. “I just wanted to see outside.” She stooped down in front of him, tenderly running her fingers through his long hair.
      “Next time, ask me, and I will stand with you,” she said to him. He nodded.
      “Yes, mama,” he said.
      “Come on,” she said, standing. “You’ve got some chores to finish.” Desmond’s mother was a tall woman in her mid-forties. She had found a spouse early in life and together they had had two children, Desmond, and his older sister Nadia. Desmond watched as mother walked away from him, back towards the kitchen, where she liked to sit and do her work. He could smell the nutty aroma of her coffee.
      Silently following behind her, he made his way to the kitchen sink where he began to wash the dishes from breakfast.
      “Such a sweet boy,” his mother cooed. “You will make a woman very happy someday.”
      “Thank you, mama,” Desmond said, scrubbing scrambled eggs residue off of the pan. His father must have still been upstairs, tidying up the beds after the long night. Mother would be leaving for work soon, and Nadia for school.
      “You will be your papa’s good helper today, right Dessy?” mother said, smiling. Setting the dish back down in the sink, he turned and smiled back.
      “Yes, mama,” he replied.
      “Good boy,” she said, rising to kiss him on his forehead. He watched as she packed her stack of papers into a case, carefully so as not to bend or tear them. Father came down the stairs, quiet as a mouse.
      “I hope your day goes well, dear,” he said. “I will have your supper ready when you get home.”
      “Thank you, sweetie,” mother said, kissing father lightly on the lips. Desmond watched them, marveling at their affection.
      “Come on, Nadia, we have to go or we’ll be late!” Desmond’s sister appeared a moment later, dressed smartly, with her book bag on her shoulder. Her bare legs and shoulders made her look commanding and strong, which made Desmond feel weak. He pulled his shirt sleeves over his wrists to cover them.
      “Oh sweetheart,” mother said, taking Desmond's top shirt button in hand. “Modesty even at home, my love.” She buttoned it for him. His face flushed a little.
      “Yes of course,” he replied meekly. Then she turned to father.
      “I’ll see you tonight, my beautiful boy.” Then mother and Nadia left. Father patted him on the head and asked if he would like to help fold the laundry upstairs. Desmond grimaced, but agreed. As father walked back up the stairs, Desmond loosened the high collar of his shirt, taking a long deep breath. That was the part he loved most: freedom.
      When mother returned home that evening, and after dinner was eaten and cleared away, she asked Desmond to read The Inception. Desmond respectfully retrieved the volume of scripture from the bookcase, taking his place in front of his parents.
      “Thank you, darling,” mother said, sitting close to father on the sofa. Desmond sat on the ottoman, adjusting his collar to cover his neck, and began to read.
      “And the Almighty Celestial Mother saw that woman was lonely, and so she caused the woman to sleep, and from out of the woman, brought forth a helpmeet, and she called him man because he came out of woman; she caused him to be a joy in her sorrows and support in her labors. And she would be his strength and his leader, and the two would bear each other up to the Celestial Mother, the man always covering himself in modesty and meekness. For these things are pleasing to the Celestial Mother. It is not good for woman to be alone; neither is it for man. And insomuch as man remains faithful to his wife, submitting to her in word and in deed, she shall provide a home and a family, that he may fulfill his promise to her, and she may be the salvation of his soul.”
      “Isn’t it beautiful?” father spoke reverently. “Such a special purpose we have son, such a special and sacred calling.” Mother kissed father on the cheek, pleased.
      “You are very special indeed,” she repeated. “And so are you, Dessy!” Nadia wasn’t paying much attention; instead she was busy with her own book. “Nadia, be respectful of your brother.”
      “Fine,” she said sullenly, putting her book away. Desmond finished the passage mother had asked him to read, feeling a warmth in his heart as he read the words. He knew the Celestial Mother had a purpose for him, and that one day he would fulfill his promise to his wife and bless her with children. He knew that he should be meek and modest, but he still wished sometimes that he had been born a woman. They were tough, brilliant, mothers of children whose strength was unsurpassed by any man. In their bodies were the seeds for the future, and they bore them in power.
      “Time for bed, children,” father said. “Off to wash, please.” Desmond hugged both of his parents before leaving the room to go ready himself for sleep. He pulled off his shirt and skirt, then slipping on the long white nightgown he combed out his hair and braided it. Mother told him his beauty was in his hair, and he must never cut it. Father’s hair was long and beautiful too, she said, and only for her. One day, Desmond would have a wife, and she would love his hair. Quietly, he knelt beside his bed and offered his small prayer to the Celestial Mother, remembering to thank her for his special purpose.
      When morning came, father woke Desmond gently by taking his shoulder. “Good morning, little boy,” he said.

      “Good morning, papa,” Desmond said, sleepily stretching out his hands.
      “Today we have our reverence service. If you need help with your veil, let me know.” Once a week, the family went to their reverence service, to gather with the other saints and feel their community spirit. The Reverend Mother would lead the congregation in prayer, and then of course the women would leave to talk of sacred things. The men would be taught the importance of home and family, especially being a support to sustain their wives. Desmond loved reverence day, not only because he was able to meet with the other boys in his community, but it was a chance to get outside for a whole day. Sometimes, he was able to attend the market with father and mother, but ever since he started wearing his veil, his outings had been less and less. Mother told him it was because he was such a beautiful boy, he didn’t need to make a spectacle of himself. He needed to focus on preparing himself to be a husband, so home was the most appropriate place for him to do that.
      After father left the room, Desmond got up and dressed, carefully securing the veil around his head and over his nose. It was a light blue color, like the sky, and matched the darker blue of his best suit-dress. He hadn’t worn pants since he was a little child, as it was immodest for a man to show the definition of his legs, and his sacred parts. Once a young man went through adolescence, it was much more appropriate for him to wear a skirt or a dress, so as not to distract the women.
      He took a yellow pin from the top of his dresser, fastening his veil, and then tugging it slightly to make sure it didn’t slip.
      “Hurry up, slowpoke,” Nadia said, walking past his open room. “Papa has breakfast ready and I don’t want to be late. I’m speaking today.”
      “I am hurrying,” Desmond said, with an air of defiance. Nadia made a face at him and went on her way. Desmond took one final glance in the mirror, before shutting off his light and joining his family in the kitchen for breakfast. Father had prepared a lovely meal of hotcakes and berry syrup, as was customary on reverence day. Desmond wished they would share their thoughts rather than simply eating in polite silence. But mother liked to be able to think while she was enjoying her meals. He remembered one time father had tried to ask her something, and she had become very agitated and called father a nagging bother. Of course, she had kissed his head and apologized for her behavior later, but it had already made Desmond feel badly. Father told him later that mother was under a lot of stress; providing for a family was a difficult task, and it was their duty to be her support.
      Mother always liked to walk to the reverence service, which made Desmond very happy. Walking out in the fresh air, feeling it on his hands was always so pleasurable. He held mother’s hand as they walked, the sound of their footsteps on the warm pavement like a hymn to his ears. Other families were walking too.
      Across the street on the opposite sidewalk, he saw Mother Delia’s family. Her husband had sanctified their family with four sons, which some people might say was misfortune, but she always said it was a blessing. Her oldest son, Adam, was Desmond’s best friend. They always sat together during their home-making class on reverence day, and would often giggle about silly topics like their hair rather than pay attention.
      When they arrived at the meeting house, the family met with the other families in the large gathering room, before separating to their respective classes. After their first set of meetings, Desmond told Adam he needed to use the restroom. Adam offered to go along with him, but Desmond said he would be fine. He adjusted his veil to make sure his face and hair were covered as he walked to the beck of the building where the restrooms were located. As he walked, he heard some laughter behind him.
      Uneasy, he quickened his pace. The laughter grew a little louder, a little more menacing. He could see the restroom door at the end of the hall, but before he reached it, three young women stepped in front of it. He recognized all of them, two were Nadia’s friends from school; they came to his home once before.
      “Well hello there,” one of them said. Desmond felt his pulse quicken with anxiety, and realized two other young women had appeared behind him.
      “You look very nice today,” a young woman behind him said.
      “Thank you,” Desmond said quietly. He lowered his head and tried not to look at them.
      “You’re a very beautiful boy,” the young woman in front of him said. She must have been about 16 years old, not much older than he, but her voice sounded threatening. “Why don’t you let us sneak a peek of your hair.” Defensively, Desmond’s hands flew to his veil. Even covered as much as he was, he felt naked. He didn’t know if he should scream, or run. He was outnumbered.
      “I love your dress,” the young woman behind him sneered. “Such quick and easy access.” She slid her foot to his ankle and raised the bottom of his skirt a bit. The other young women laughed harshly.
      “Please,” Desmond said, a tear slipping out of his eye. “Leave me alone.”
      “Just a quick peek, and we’ll let you be, promise,” the young woman with threatening eyes said. Her short hair was gelled into thin spikes, and her traditional half breasted suit bared the left side of her chest which meant she was only a few levels away from being a Mother. Desmond was shaking. He knew it was his responsibility to keep their thoughts pure; perhaps his veil wasn’t secure, or his skirt was too tight. One of the young women behind him pulled at his veil quickly. He felt the material tear, echoing the harsh laughter of the women surrounding him.
      “It’s dark, just like Nadia,” one of them said. Another pulled the band out of his braid and ran her fingers through it to loosen all of the strands. A shudder ran through Desmond’s body, as one of the young women put her hands on him. He felt sick and dirty, strongly fighting the urge to vomit.
      “I bet he will bless his future wife with many daughters,” one laughed, running her fingers dangerously close on his thighs.
      “Stop!” Desmond said, a little more forcefully. One of the young women shoved him down to the floor, taking his hair in her hands and pulling. Some of the hair came out, causing Desmond to let out a yelp.
      “Poor little boy,” she said, with feigned sympathy. She stooped down, pulled his chin up to meet hers and kissed him hard on the mouth. Then she shoved him onto his back, rising to her feet and standing menacingly above him.
      “I can’t wait till I can choose a husband,” she said, in a sickly sweet threat. “ Perhaps I will visit Nadia more often. Come on women, we’ve got a class to attend and this little boy needs to use the restroom.” The young women laughed again, and left Desmond laying there, breathing hard and crying.
      “Fix your veil, boy,” said the young woman with threatening eyes, as she turned back. “Modesty in all things.” And she left. Desmond scrambled up and darted into the restroom. He locked the door behind him, sinking to the floor and sobbing loudly. As he heaved each breath, his whole body shook with fright. Never had he felt so violated. It took a few moments to regain his composure, but he soon rose to his feet, stepping in front of the mirror. His eyes were puffy and red, his hair a tangled mess. Slowly, he braided his hair again, pulling the veil over the top of his head and around his nose. He couldn’t find his pin, so he looked for something on the restroom counter. There was a hair clip someone had mistakenly left by the sink, so he used that to fasten his veil.
      Looking at his sad eyes in the mirror, he couldn’t help but wonder what he had done to lead those young women on. Perhaps his veil was too thin, or his skirt not loose enough. Violently, he tugged at the fabric of his skirt to try and stretch it further away from his body. Modesty in all things, his mother's voice sounded in his head. He used cold water to try and make the redness in his eyes go away. Finally, after a few moments, he felt composed enough to rejoin his friends. Carefully, he unlocked the door, peeked out into the hall to make sure no one was there, and then darted as quickly as he could back to the young mens' meeting room.
      He took a seat next to Adam. He tried to keep his sniffles as quiet as he could, so as not to draw attention to himself. The man teaching the lesson spoke of the sacred duty of fathers and husbands, reminding them that their bodies were sacred gifts to be saved for their wives. But Desmond wasn't listening. He felt violated. He felt dirty. He could feel the young woman’s hand on his thigh. His head swam with terrified emotions.
      “What a special calling we have, dear men,” the father at the front of the room said. A single tear escaped Desmond’s eye.
      “Agreed,” he whispered in unison with the others. Adam put his arm comfortingly around Desmond, and Desmond knew he understood.
      “Next time, I’ll go with you,” Adam said. Desmond could only nod. He leaned his head on Adam’s shoulder, wringing his hands together anxiously, feeling the young woman’s touch on his thighs and in his hair, on his lips; their laughter echoed mercilessly in his ears. Shame washed over him.
 ​      Just two more years, and he would be given to a woman. And yet he was already hers.

Wednesday, February 7, 2018

Artistic Expression in the Form of a Gay Wedding Cake

According to a judge in California, a baker may deny services to a same-sex couple on the basis of sincerely held beliefs, because cake designing is an artistic expression which extends to the freedom of speech and religion. Therefore, the right to discriminate remains intact.

I was thinking about this. I previously owned a photography business, and photography was for me a form of artistic expression. I did not have "pre-made" photos, like a bakery might have pre-made goods. Everything I did was an extension of my subjective artistry and my freedom of expression. If someone came to me for photos, I took them. Old, young, fat, skinny, ugly, beautiful, religious, not religious, you name it. You wanted a picture taken, I was your gal.

Now, what if I had the sincerely held belief that Christians were bad people, and that sincerely held belief prevented me from interacting with them or providing professional services to them. That sounds silly, doesn't it? Or what if I had the sincerely held belief that Jesus and the Christian god were abominations, and that their existence caused pain and suffering. What if I held Christians on the same ethical level as con-artists, thieves, and abusers? What if I felt that interacting with them was morally wrong, and it would cause me emotional pain and psychological damage to provide services to them?

What if I had one of those beliefs, and a Christian family came to me for their family portraits. I would deny them services, politely of course, and recommend they find someone who is like them to take their photos. And then I'd go online and say something snotty like, today I was accosted by some horrible Christians who thought they could get me to take their family photos. But I didn't do it, I stood my ground, and I am proud of myself for keeping my beliefs and having the courage to stand up for what is right.

Now, this probably would never happen, or if it did, hold any weight. Why? Because I am a minority. The predominant ideology in the United States is Christianity. If I, as an atheist woman, denied them services, sure they would feel prosecuted, make a big stink about it, find some way to take me to court and win. But ultimately, they would have immense support, a thousand other photographers to go to, and not be hurt in the slightest by me denying them services. That's what it happens when you are the majority, and your enjoy a disproportionate privilege over others. That is what Christians in this country enjoy.

And because of that privilege, they are able to be selective about their business, services, associations, etc. All in the name of religious freedom and "sincerely held religious beliefs". All other ideologies and beliefs take a backseat to Christianity.

Christians are under the impression that they are somehow being attacked, or persecuted, or that their rights are being infringed upon. But that's not actually the case. There is no secret "gay agenda". There is no pervasive "atheist agenda". But there is a call for equal opportunity and representation. Having a sincerely held belief shouldn't remove you from being human and interacting with those who are different from you. What they are has no bearing on your personally. Offering your professional services to someone who believes something different from you, even if you don't agree with it, does not impede your freedom of religious expression. What it does is make you a decent human being.

I despise Christian ideology. It makes me sick to my stomach, and anytime I hear about someone using it as a copout or an excuse to discriminate (and yes, when you are selective about those you will serve based on their race, sexual preference, gender, or religion, you are discriminating), I am deeply disturbed. It's just an excuse, it's just an excuse so that you don't have to interact with someone who makes you uncomfortable. And that discomfort stems from an ideology forged in ignorance and perpetuated by the same. But even though I do not like Christianity, I will still interact with Christians. I will still have conversations with them, shop with them, read with them, walk with them, and take their portraits. Why? Because they are people. Just people. And I do not have the right to hate them just because they are different from me.

Religion should not be used as an excuse to hate. If anything, it should be used as an opportunity to love and to show love and understanding. What could that bakery possibly have stood to lose by offering their services to a gay couple? More business? A fostering of understanding and respect? A public display of Christian charity?

Now, there are things that are disturbing that people believe in, sincerely. And if they cause harm, we should not condone them. But two people of the same biological sex falling in love and getting married does not cause anyone any harm. And a bruised religious ego or homophobic discomfort is not harm, its just ignorance. Like I said above, so long as the predominant ideology is Christianity, there will be a disproportionate privilege associated with it. Including the privilege of discrimination.

Thursday, October 12, 2017

We Need More Boys in Dresses

I'm not much of a dress wearer, so it took a bit of effort for me to dawn a dress today to support my son who wanted to wear his dress.

Yep, you heard that right, my son.  He likes to blur the lines between masculine and feminine, as he is interested. Which means, some days he likes to wear a dress, some days it's princess shoes and his Flash t-shirt, and other days it's sweatpants and a tank top. He has a stuffed puppy that will sometimes wear a dress, and a supply of horses for his barn and Hotwheels for his track. His favorite tv shows include Doc McStuffins, The Magic School Bus, My Little Pony, Animal Mechanicals, and Rescue Bots. He loves Elsa and Gizelle, but he also loves Batman and The Flash.

He occupies that middle space between what our culture deems masculine and feminine, and he is happy there. I hope he will continue to be happy there.

It's interesting; when I was a little girl, I preferred sweatpants and baggy t-shirts. I would often sneak my brothers clothes to wear, and my favorite dress-up character was Han Solo (for which I needed my brother's suit vest....). My dad even bought me a genuine Han Solo Blaster. I hung out with boys mostly, I didn't have many girl friends. And I had a group of boy followers for many years, kind of like the little rascals. We did everything from collecting bugs, to smashing rocks, to exploring the wilderness. We even made bouncy balls out of volcanic ash and fresh tar (don't ask...) But no one ever thought it was unusual for me to wear boys clothing and be a rambunctious outdoor kid.

Now, I was expected to wear dresses and frilly socks for family gatherings and church meetings. And if I sat with my legs open, I was chastised for not being ladylike. My mother abhorred my burping, telling me I sounded like a drunken sailor. And I would get annoyed when my guy friends suggested I be the girl (like when we played Balto, they said I should be Jenna). But overall, my occupation of the gender middle space was not concerning to anyone. No one thought I was abnormal for being a "tomboy".

So why is it that we don't afford boys the same opportunity? There is a line in Orange is the New Black that struck me: "Why would he choose that? It's like winning the lottery and giving it back", says the assistant warden of the character Sophia, a transgender woman. Now, I can relate a little bit. Women are still second class citizens; we don't enjoy the power and privilege that men do. So when we hear of a man essentially giving up his power in that way, we are disturbed. But thinking of it in that way only empowers the oppressors. Women are not second class citizens, we are not the inferior or weaker sex. When a woman behaves in a masculine way, she presents with power. But when a man behaves in a feminine way, he presents weakness. Why is that? Why do we still equate femininity with weakness?

Gender norms and conditioning are socially constructed and responsive. This explains why there are many variations of what is considered masculine and feminine, and just how big of a chasm separates the two. In western culture, there is a significant and very obvious divide between what is considered masculine and feminine, and while it is becoming more acceptable for women to transgress the boundaries of feminine, men are still not afforded that opportunity. It is still strange to see a boy wanting to wear a dress. It is still strange if he wants to play with a doll or have his nails painted. But there is absolutely nothing objectively feminine about color on the nails, or pants versus a skirt. Before 1940 is was perfectly acceptable for boys to wear pink and have a frilly trim around their cuffs. In Victorian times, boys and girls were dressed in similar styles and both wore long hair. High heels were a statement of fashion and status for gentlemen at one point. But as western culture became more fearful of homosexuality, norms for boys changed, and intimate interactions with females and femininity were feared causes of becoming gay. Which anyone with an ounce of biological sense knows is not the case. A boy who interacts closely with his mother or his dolls will not "turn" gay. And if he is gay, there is nothing wrong or unnatural about that either. I like how one researcher put it: its like left-handedness, uncommon but NOT unnatural.

So why do we need more boys in dresses? Because we need to break down the social barriers that separate men and women. And we need to liberate men from the confines of toxic masculinity that force them to conform to an ideal that they can never achieve. Men have the same emotions as women, its high time we let them show it. Clothing should never be about gender conformity, but rather self-expression. And we shouldn't teach children that dresses are "girly" or "for girls". Dresses are items of clothing that can be worn by anyone who enjoys that airy and loose feeling, or who want to show legs, or be cooler, or who feel good in a dress. Just as pants are no longer reserved for just men, dresses should not be reserved for just women. And the more men and boys wear dresses, with such an obvious statement of non-gender conformity, other less obvious facets are sure to follow. The more boys cuddle with baby dolls and play house, the more natural nurturing and interpersonal relationships will be to men. The more boys take on traditionally female roles and activities, the more empathetic and understanding they will be of what it means to be feminine, and the more they will realize that those labels are subjective associations we humans make.

We need more boys in dresses the same way we needed girls to wear pants. We need to dismantle the gender scripts that govern our daily existence and just be people. And that is why my son is a hero.

Saturday, October 7, 2017

Gun Control Using a Mormon Analogy

Mormons love parables :) Well, I guess it might be a universally Christian thing. But Mormons also believe that many of their doctrines are created with the weakest of saints in mind. If everyone was stalwart and true, the rules wouldn't be as strict because everyone would be good. Like the difference between the Law of Moses and Jesus' new commandments. If you're naughty, you get privileges for everyone taken away. So, seeing as how we've had lots of naughty folks recently, I created the "Word of Gun Wisdom"


1. Given for a principle with promise, adapted to the capacity of the weak and the weakest of all Americans, who are or can be called Americans; behold, in consequence of evils and designs which do and will exist in the hearts of conspiring domestic terrorists in the USA, I have warned you, and forewarn you!

2. Guns are not for recreation, neither for terrorism, and are not good for people, but are a tool for sustenance hunting to be used with judgment and skill.

3. Handguns are unnecessary, and should be replaced with mace and pepper spray. It is not meet that a citizen should murder his neighbor for entering his home. It is not meet that a citizen should consider killing before a fair trial. Verily, law enforcement exists to carry out the laws of the land.

4. Again, Rifles and shot guns are for the hunting of wild animals in times of famine and excess hunger. The sport of killing is wasteful and Walmart existeth to feed the hungry.

5. Again, semiautomatic and automatic weapons are not for anyone outside of the military, engaged in active combat. It is not meet that citizens should be able to purchase weapons of this nature.

6. And all Americans who remember to keep and do these sayings, walking in obedience shall receive health in their navel and marrow to their bones and aid in the lowering of gun violence statistics. This a promise that shall only be filled when gun control laws are passed.