Tag Archives: lgbtq

Why I’m Glad We Didn’t Boycott Sochi

Anyone who reads this blog regularly knows how strongly I feel about gay rights.

I remember when the issue of Russia’s policies first came up in relation to the games.  Some people called for the U.S. to boycott.

But all I could think of was how many professional athletes I know.[1]  And how hard they work.  How hard they strive.

How much a shot at the Olympics means to those athletes.  How short athletic careers can be, meaning this might be their only shot.

How (I’m sure) a good number of Olympic athletes are LGBTQ themselves.

If I were a gay athlete who’d been training six, ten, twelve hours a day at my sport, who had been striving to be the best I could possibly be, to push my body to incredible feats of strength or agility, the last thing in the world I would want would be a boycott of the Olympics.  Instead, I’d want to go, and to be awesome, and to tell Russia to suck it.  And possibly make out with my partner in the middle of Sochi afterwards.

Olympic athletes are amazing.  To be at that level at your sport, to put in the work and dedication to achieve that level—to have the sheer inborn talent these athletes do—it floors me.  I love watching people who are that talented.  I love that they exist.  And I wouldn’t want anything to interfere with their opportunity to compete at one of the most prominent international competitions there is.

Especially the gay athletes.

So I’m very glad the U.S. didn’t boycott. But I do hope a whole mess of queer athletes win gold medals. Russia can’t do a damn thing about that.

  1. And yes, it just happens I know a lot, including former Olympians, and yes, it’s very cool.

A Call to Stop Politicizing People’s Existence

There’s been this thing happening online the past few days.

First, Alex Dally MacFarlane wrote a column for Tor exhorting SFF authors to stop thinking of binary gender as the default.

Then this happened.

There’s been a lot of chatter all over the Internets since, of course.  Too much for me to address, even if I wanted to engage with it all.  But there’s one thing I do want to speak up about: I’m downright sick of people labeling the inclusion of PoC, women, genderqueer, or other QUILTBAG people as a political agenda.  As leftist.  As “liberal.”

People with non-binary genders aren’t an agenda. They exist. They’re reality. Same with people of nonwhite races and non-Western ethnicities and queer orientations. I don’t consider my existence to be part of some “liberal agenda”—in fact, my personal political ideology might be considered quite conservative in many respects, but my existence is neither conservative nor liberal.  And neither is anyone else’s.

(Goddammit, now I’m tempted to write some excessively message-heavy CONSERVATIVE science fiction in which all the characters are gun nut libertarians but also just happen to be non-binary gendered or PoC or women or queer, because, dammit, we exist.)

Like MacFarlane, I want an end to defaults. I want to read fiction where diversity is just part of the landscape, where there doesn’t have to be a “story reason,” where people just are different races/gender identities/orientations because people in the real world just are. We don’t have “plot reasons” in our lives that make us nonwhite or QUILTBAG or whatever—why is it somehow a “liberal agenda” if we argue that this reality should be reflected in fiction?

I don’t see why advocating a lack of default is so controversial.  After all, fiction doesn’t even come close to reflecting reality—come talk to me about “political agendas” when half of SFF main characters are women and we regularly get 60-percent-Asian casts in humanity-to-the-stars space operas.  Come talk to me when I see as many gay people in media as I interact with in daily life.

And yeah, I think it would be great if science fiction worldbuilding didn’t automatically assume two genders, if authors made the decision to invent binary-gender worlds rather than defaulting to them.  If authors regularly considered making characters genderqueer for no reason at all even if they ultimately decided against it, in the same way they might consider what hair color to choose.

SFF has always identified itself as a genre where anything is possible.  Yet as a genre, we so often automatically fall into assuming narrow representations of humanity before we even begin writing.  I would like to see SFF be a proper superset: to encompass all of humanity, and go beyond.

But first, for the love of God, can we stop calling the existence of actual, real-life people a political agenda?

Links and Such Like

Freedom of Information, Intellectual Property, and Such Like

What It’s Like to Get a National Security Letter, from one of the only people in the country able to talk about it: “Again, they advised me to not even ask my board whether or not I can do this. So this is, in some sense, really putting myself at risk personally. Here I am, trying to make a decision as to whether or not we should sue the United States government over a secret demand for information, on my own.”

Buffy vs. Edward Remix Unfairly Removed by Lionsgate: It’s fair use.  Everyone agrees it’s fair use.  Lionsgate even agreed it was fair use . . . initially.  But they’ve still managed to make this remix artist’s life an exhausting mash of court cases.  This is a very good example of how broken copyright law is in the United States.

Science, Math, and Such Like

Why the Internet should STOP saying dolphins rape each other.  It’s scientifically incorrect and trivializes rape.  Excellent read.

Crazy Living Rock.  Go home, Evolution, you’re drunk.

The caterpillar with a stack of heads.  Seriously, Evolution, go home.  And don’t drive.

A scientific paper published as a 38-stanza poem.

What happens when the media and blogosphere start picking up an academic article. Fascinating.

The math on whether Superman could punch someone into space.

And Superman’s ability to inflict people with prosopagnosia.  Since I’m faceblind myself, I got a kick out of this.

A Category 5 Kaiju would only need to eat 18 humans per day.  The math on Kaiju biology!

More math on Pacific Rim: How can they helicopter-lift the GIANT ROBOTS?  I love math on popular media!

A researcher tastes one-billion-year-old water.  For science.

The fallacious ways people weigh medical risk.

HPV rates have dropped by more than half thanks to the vaccine.  FUCK YEAH SCIENCE.

Writing, Blogging, and Such Like

The stats on how much of an article people are likely to read online.  I am totally guilty of most of this, except for the inverse relationship between reading and sharing—generally the articles I share are the ones I was interested enough in to read all the way through!

Why typing two spaces after a period is WRONG.  (Unfortunately, I cannot break myself of the habit, though Twitter is having a good go at it.)

Don’t tell the audience what you’re about to tell them.  Just tell them.

 Sexism, Racism, Homophobia, and Such Like

A tumblr of medieval European art showing that POC, y’know, existed there.  So quit it with the “historical accuracy!” argument.

Fat Nutritionist on beauty as a mask.  Fascinating, thought-provoking, wonderful read.

Real Women Have Carbon-Based Molecules.  Strikes back at the idea that “real women” need to look any particular way.

The Bad Touch.  About the Kickstarter thing.

A 17-year-old girl started a feminist society at school.  What happened next will make you sick.  These girls are high schoolers.

Twitter Trolls Turn Anime Convention Into “Paranoid Nightmare.”  My god . . . the hashtag “#gropecrew” . . . TRIGGER WARNINGS LOTS AND LOTS OF TRIGGER WARNINGS.

Just Because He Breathes: Learning to Truly Love Our Gay Son.

 I Have Met George Zimmerman.  One of the many, many moving responses to the Zimmerman verdict.

Game On Ladies: A man discovers what female gamers face when he plays as his wife’s character.

U.S. Supreme Court Rules on DOMA, Prop 8

The Supreme Court today announced its decisions striking down DOMA and ruling that the proponents of Proposition 8 did not have the standing to have put the case before them.

Salient notes:

  • The decision on Proposition 8 returns the case to the lower courts’ decisions, which both struck down the law.  This means, barring future complications, that same-sex marriage will be legally restored in California.  It does not, however, make any statement about overall constitutionality regarding bans of same-sex marriage. Edited to add: Reading the decision indicates that the lack of standing ruling vacated the decision of the Ninth Circuit.  The district court also struck down Prop 8, however, so I think that should still make same-sex marriage legal in CA going forward?
  • As much as I would have liked to see a wider ruling, in a way, I kind of love that SCOTUS told the people bringing the case that they didn’t have standing to do it.  It’s like what I always say about same-sex marriage: why do you people care so much?  Nobody’s going to force you to marry someone of the same sex; why are you putting so much effort into this?  And SCOTUS effectively just told those petitioners they were sticking their noses where they didn’t have the legal standing to!
  • From what I’ve read, the only part of DOMA before the courts was the part about federal benefits.  The rest of the law still stands, I believe, including the part about states not being required to recognize same-sex marriages performed in other states (this part of the law was not being challenged in this court case).  But now federal benefits will have to be extended to legally-married same-sex couples.  (I wonder if this will be applied retroactively back through to the Massachusetts decision ten years ago?  If so, a lot of people are going to get hefty tax refunds.)
  • Both decisions were 5-4, but with different breakdowns.

This is about what I expected to happen from reading analyses of the cases, but I’m still ridiculously happy about it.

Final Thoughts on the SFWA Thing, and Additional Linkspam

Final Thoughts on the SFWA Thing, in the Form of Other People’s Thoughts

For those who are getting news through my blog, Scalzi apologized in his position as president and editor Jean Rabe resigned.  That’s the latest official news I know of.  While talking about official news, however, I would like to note that SFWA does have an official statement on sexual harassment that was in effect when this article was published.

Jim Hines has a great list of links for those interested, but I shall make particular note of:

Ann Aguirre’s for how much sexism and misogyny are not dead (horrifying);

Mary Robinette Kowal’s for a heartbreaking perspective from someone to whom SFWA means a great deal;

Foz Meadows’ for a breakdown of why the column is so problematic (warning for language);

Laura Resnick, Mike Resnick’s daughter, doesn’t respond to the issue in particular but talks about sexism in SFF;

and Radish Reviews, the wonderful purveyor of the original scans, has a great roundup / summation, including links to the sexist reaction of a former SFWA president and a critique of Scalzi’s apology in the first comment.

Personally, I’m still waiting and seeing.  I want to see what SFWA does to come back from this going forward.

Writing/Publishing/Intellectual Property

Mark Twain’s hilarious, devastating critique of castigation of James Fenimore Cooper’s “Deerslayer.”  Oh, how I hated “Deerslayer;” I love that Twain agrees! Quote: “Now I feel sure, deep down in my heart, that Cooper wrote about the poorest English that exists in our language, and that the English of ‘Deerslayer’ is the very worst that even Cooper ever wrote.”  And people say negative reviews shouldn’t be written with entertainment in mind!

Trademarks.  Fascinating article on what they’re meant to do and how they work, legally.

Tor.com on their experience going DRM-free.  “As it is, we’ve seen no discernible increase in piracy on any of our titles, despite them being DRM-free for nearly a year.”  What!  Shocking! </sarcasm>

Tobias Buckell on why 90 percent of the “knowledge” and advice about self-publishing is crap (with graphs!).

Gender/Race/QUILTBAG

We Have Always Fought: Kameron Hurley brilliantly challenges the long-held ideas about women throughout history.  This is the post that has inspired women all over the net to pop up calling themselves “llamas.”  Highly, highly recommended.

Liz Bourke, one of my favorite people on the entire Internet, wrote a follow-up to an article I had previously linked to (Sophia McDougall’s The Rape of James Bond) that I somehow missed.  She goes into even more depth about the statistics regarding male rape and the strange double standard in fiction that the rape of women is “necessary because REALISM” and the rape of men is . . . nonexistent.  (She has numbers.  Lots and lots of numbers.)

The Hawkeye Initiative succeeds in real life!  A touching story of challenging sexism in the workplace through humor.

Television Writing Staffs Are Still Overwhelmingly White and Male, Surprise!

Hollywood is remaking The Crow, and they want to cast a white guy.  Fucking Hollywood.

What Kind of Asian Are You?  *snerk*  Hilarious video.

The iNotRacist App!  Best.  Satire.  Ever.  (video)

For more satire: Sexual Abuse in the White Community

It’s Time to Retire “Boob Plate” Armor.  Because It Would Kill You.  (Tor.com)

Strong is the New Skinny.  Great article about pushing for healthier aesthetic expectations for women.

Wikipedia’s sexist categorization.

People are racist about a Cheerios commercial featuring an interracial couple.  Every time I decide to have faith in humanity . . .

A former Navy Seal came out as transgender.

Kelly Sue DeConnick on the crap she goes through as a female comics writer.  More of the same, folks.  More of the same.  Still worth a read.

Nerdy/Scientific/Environmental/Etc.

We don’t have a twin primes proof yet, but there’s a new proof that infinitely many pairs of primes come within 70,000,000 numbers of each other.  That’s AWESOME.  Seriously.  We’ve hit finiteness!  And apparently since the publication of the proof a couple months ago, the bound has been reduced to 5 million.  Closer and closer!

If you heard about the poachers who stole 10 percent of an entire tortoise species, here’s a sobering follow-up.

NOT SAFE FOR WORK!!  Scientifically Accurate Ninja Turtles (video) and Scientifically Accurate Spider-Man (video)NOT SAFE FOR WORK!!

Stunning graphical representation of why sharks should be more afraid of you than you are of them.

I feel like reading about obscure neurological conditions like this one should not be so fascinating.

Video of someone solving three Rubik’s cubes in six minutes . . . while juggling them.

And a few more links on Star Trek: Into Darkness, because I can:

Some hilarity from io9 that pretty much sums up how I feel about this movie.

All the plotholes and questions the movie failed to address.  Spoiler: There are a lot.

Could Benedict Cumberbatch really crush a skull with his bare hands?

The first Star Trek conventions were female-dominated.  I’m just going to leave this here.

Links from the Wider Internets

Sexism, Racism, and Homophobia

The Rape of James Bond: You know how when people complain about the prevalence of rape in grimdark fantasy, people argue back with, “But, REALISM!!!1”?  This article makes the INCREDIBLY good point that the logical extension of the “but, realism!” argument is that we need way more rape of men in media.  But . . . people don’t seem to be complaining about not having that in their books and movies at the level it happens in real life.

Straightwashing GLBT Characters: “Now we’re getting Da Vinci’s Demons, that would be Leonardo Da Vinci, he was repeatedly accused of sodomy, never married, was never connected to a female lover, but repeatedly with men, drew erotic pictures of them and left his most valuable painting in his will to one of his live-in “apprentices” Da Vinci. It’s an act of wilful ignorance to not realise Da Vinci played for our team. […] Well his love interest has been cast (a woman) and the trailer shows lots of naked sexy times between them. But, fear not, the writer has assured us that there may, sorta, kinda be some male flirting. FLIRTING!”

Microaggressions.  This site is a stark demonstration of the concept.

More on microaggressions.  I didn’t know there was a name for this before I found these links, but I love that there is, because it helps to have language to be able to point to what’s wrong here when people come back with, “Oh, but that’s not a big deal; get over it!”

For something else striking: Groups that are 100 percent men.

To (All) the White Girls Who Didn’t Get Into the College of Their Dreams: “By your logic, if a white girl with your background doesn’t get into an Ivy League college, it’s because there weren’t enough spots for white students that year. But, if a non-white girl with an identical profile is rejected, who do they blame? No one. They don’t have the excuse; they simply weren’t good enough. We don’t get to make ourselves feel better by engaging in a smear campaign against the fictional Cherokee girl that took our Ivy League slot.”

Anti-gay rights activists say they are the real victims.  Because, y’know, fighting marriage equality is taking so much time, and they’d so much rather be doing something else.

Superhero women in pants.

On Math and Science

Programmable goo helps solve the traveling salesman problem.  SO COOL!  Though like one of the commenters, I want to know how they find the Hamiltonian circuit . . .

Mars is faaaaaaaaaaaar.  Love this!

What happens when you wring out a hand towel in space?  (Awesome video.)

On Writing and Publishing

The differences in expected plot structure in different cultures: not all traditions say plot needs conflict.  Fascinating.

A bestselling author pirates his own book, and finds it helps his sales.

A TechDirt smackdown of author Scott Turow’s rant about the changing wold of publishing.  I skimmed the original rant; the smackdown was much more informative and interesting.

Jane Goodall accused of plagiarism.  And shoddy science.  Sigh.

Never Learn About Your Heroes — On Ben Carson

I’m sure we’ve all had this experience: there are people we admire, maybe actors or musicians who brings art to life in a way that monumentally connects with us, but when we make the mistake of looking them up, they disappoint us.  Maybe they cheated on their spouses, or committed tax evasion, or voted for the “legitimate rape” guy, or said something racist—or maybe they’re just dull people.  Whatever the reason, we quietly close the tab and swear we won’t look up our heroes ever again.

Well, I just had an odd and unlooked-for case of this happen.  You see, when I was a kid, I heard Ben Carson speak.

It was a national science competition where I was a contestant.  I had never heard of him before I heard him speak, and to be honest, not being in the medical profession myself I’d forgotten his name until he came up in the news last week.  The reason I remember him and his speech after so many years is that he was amazing.

He talked about his mother making him read, and what a difference it had made.  He talked about how obsessed he had been with College Bowl in high school, in such a dorky way that we all fell in love with him—he had set his sights on being in it, diligently studying every category, becoming obsessed with classical music and opera so he would be able to answer those questions.  His family only had the money for one application fee, and he chose Yale instead of Harvard, he said, because Yale had won the College Bowl that year and he didn’t, y’know, want to go to a school of losers!  (We laughed.  He was adorable and self-deprecating.)  And then he matriculated at Yale and they canceled the College Bowl that year.  We aww’ed in sympathy.

(He described using his knowledge of classical music and opera in a job interview many years later.  That stuck with me for some reason.)

He moved on and talked about medicine and science.  He asked us all to raise our hands if we remembered when our birthdays were, and in a burst of rapid technobabble listed the entire process that had just happened in our brains from the moment we heard his question.  (And then he apologized to the poor stymied ASL translator.)  He talked about the extraordinary science, the extraordinary emotions, that had gone into his surgery separating the conjoined twins.  He excited us and moved us.

I heard him speak many years ago now, and he’s one of the few speakers I heard as a teenager that I even remember, let along recall with such excitement.  I wish I’d kept that memory the way it was, a shining anecdote from childhood, a person whose life intersected mine ever so briefly with no other context.

Then Dr. Carson came up in the news recently.  Apparently he’s a rising conservative star, and commentators listed enough biographical details that I thought, “Wait a minute . . . !”, looked him up, and realized he was the same person I’d heard speak so long ago as a kid.

You know, the fact that I disagree with him on . . . everything . . . is not the problem.  I respect plenty of people I disagree with.  Yes, the fact that he seems to have little clear understanding of any science outside his own—he doesn’t believe in evolution!—makes me want to cry . . . but then I read his remarks comparing homosexuality to bestiality and pedophilia.

There’s a difference between disagreeing with me and saying—that.  I can’t, guys.  I just can’t.

How can someone be so inspiring and yet fail so entirely as a human being?

Equality. There’s No Downside.

I just wrote quite a long post that I’m going to save for another day, because, no, I have to talk about the marriage equality stuff that’s going on right now.

I don’t have anything new to say, really.  All I can do is comment on how, in my lifetime, I’ve never seen this staggering and steady a reversal of public opinion, this fast.  How it’s knocking the wind out of me a little bit, this tsunami of support rising in the nation—in a good way, in a really good way, like I’m on a carnival ride swooping so fast it’s taking my breath away.

Half my Facebook is filled with red equal signs.  Friends are passing me their phones to show me tweets from George Takei or sharing pictures of celebrities sporting supportive slogans.  In the news, Senate Democrats are flocking to support marriage equality in droves, and Republican lawmakers are mostly silent.  Companies—private corporations!—are bursting out all over the place in support of gay rights.

I’m getting the distinct feeling some of the politicians are scrambling because they don’t want to be remembered as being on the wrong side of history.  To which I say: Good. That’s how you should feel.  That’s how we, your constituents, should make you feel.  Like this is inevitable, like the power of public outrage will topple the bigotry of legislation banning same-sex marriage until a generation hence it’s viewed with the same scandal and shame as miscegenation laws.

Marriage equality isn’t the be-all end-all for LGBTQ rights, of course.  We still have a long way to go—after all, look at all the entrenched institutional attitudes with regard to race and sex still persisting an entire half a century after we passed the Civil Rights Act.  Making same-sex marriage legal won’t automatically make everyone treat it as normal—won’t necessarily make everyone treat gay people as normal.  It won’t solve bullying, bigotry, or stereotyping; won’t convince religions to accept and embrace their gay parishioners; won’t stop families from judging and rejecting their gay children; won’t convince America that gay relationships aren’t any more scandalous than straight ones.  It won’t stop some lawmakers from continuing to try to pass sneakily bigoted laws.  It won’t stop television shows and movies from portraying gay people poorly or invisibly.  It won’t solve the mess our society makes of embracing everyone else on the QUILTBAG spectrum.

But you know what?  It’s a step.  And it will be the rectification of an injustice that has already gone on for far too long.

The Whole “PC Police” Thing, and Why It’s Ridiculous

I hate the term “politically correct.”

Notice how it’s never, ever used by, say, a person of color to tell someone to be less offensive.  It’s only used as a term to encapsulate, “Those silly women/POC/gay people/etc. are OVERSENSITIVE so I have to be, ew!, politically correct.

The implication is that you don’t want to express yourself in a way that is not offensive, but you HAVE to because of, y’know, those silly whiny oversensitive people.  By extension, this means that not only do you not care about the opinions of women/POC/gay people/etc. regarding how they themselves are represented in discourse, but you are dismissing all of those people as being oversensitive whiners.  Which is not only rude and patronizing as hell, but how is it possibly helpful to the larger conversation?

One of the main things I hate about the phrase “politically correct,” however, is that it’s just plain wrong.  The “politically” part of it implies that “PC” means being polite/tactful to the world in order to avoid getting people mad (which, again, patronizing).  But if you look at the way the world actually works, particularly in America, the actual politically correct thing is to be a white straight cis-gendered Christian man who doesn’t make any effort to make sure the issues of women, POC, QUILTBAG people, or anyone else are a part of his platform.

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“They’re Not Going to Kiss. It’s a Family Show.”

So, I don’t really watch Once Upon a Time.  But I do watch Revenge, and the friend I’ve been watching it with does watch Once Upon a Time, so since it comes on right before I’ve ended up watching the odd episode with her this season.

(general thoughts on Once Upon a Time, and very specific thoughts on a character aspect of the most recent episode, below)

(also, trigger warning for passing mention of rape)

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