A few resources re: Manning’s transition from Bradley to Chelsea.

Not an expert, not a member of the LGBTQ community, etc, etc, all the caveats. Also, FWIW, I’m pretty convinced that Manning’s massive leak to Julian Assange, a foreign national, in the knowledge that Assange would turn around and indiscriminately dump unprecedented amounts of classified information into the public domain was not a good, right, or smart thing to do. Aside from anything else, Manning was a soldier at the time, and had taken an oath. As Josh Marshall wrote at TPM yesterday

Soldiers get in huge trouble for going AWOL, even though one individual soldier abandoning his post seldom does much damage to a country or an army. This is a far graver insubordination with incalculably more widespread consequences….. I think a military force requires a substantial amount of secrecy to operate in any reasonable way. So when someone on the inside breaks those rules, I need to see a really, really good reason. And even then I’m not sure that means you get off scott free.

At the same time, I’m also pretty well convinced the the level of government and military freak out over Manning’s actions does not accurately reflect the damage done, the intent, or the person responsible. As Amy Davidson wrote in The New Yorker yesterday: “This sentence, given all we know about Manning and what he did (and what was done to him), is a strikingly harsh one.”

I highly recommend that you read both pieces (both of which also discuss the Edward Snowden case and both of which are excellent, in very different ways), but, that’s not what I’m here about.

This morning Manning came out as transgender, and asked to be called Chelsea and referred to with female pronouns henceforth. I happen to have read something at Boing Boing some time ago (possibly as long as two years ago) that indicated that Manning identified as a woman — a hugely complicating factor for anyone making the kind of moral and ethical choices that the then-20 year old Manning felt duty-bound to make (as Davidson wrote yesterday [before the request had been made to transition to female pronouns]: “He thought, his lawyer argued in the trial, that he might save someone, or everyone”).

As far as I’m concerned, you are who you tell me you are. Chelsea Manning is a woman. Period, full-stop — and it’s a matter of sheer good manners and civility to refer to her as such. Whether or not I agree with the actions which earned her a dishonorable discharge and 8-35 years at Fort Leavenworth is utterly and completely beside that point.

So. Here are just a few resources that I’ve found useful as I’ve attempted in recent years to become more familiar with the reality of trans folks. I hope you find them helpful, and would love any added recommendations.

  1. Transgender Terminology – a vocabulary resource (the good, the bad, and the don’t-ever), by GLAAD.
  2. Led by the Child Who Simply Knew – a beautiful feature article in the Boston Globe about a girl who knew she was a girl even though her family thought she and her twin brother were both boys.
  3. How To Make Love to a Trans Person – a beautiful poem about how we talk about bodies and making love: “Break those words open/ Like a paramedic cracking ribs…. Scratch new definitions on the bones.”
  4. A good (brief) definition and explanation of “cisgender,” a recently coined term which roughly means people who identify with the gender they were assigned (“it’s a girl!”) at birth.
  5. And finally, I’ve posted it before, I’m posting it again – Hank Green’s video on Human Sexuality. It’s remarkable, and less than four minutes long.

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Egypt Explained – no, really.

I just had to post this video by Hank Green laying out the basics of the situation in Egypt (Hank is one-half of the fabulous Vlogbrothers and host of Crash Course Science; the other half of the Vlogbrothers is now-mega-author John Green, author of The Fault in Our Stars, among other lovely books). I will confess: I had no idea of the extent of the Egyptian military’s economic apparatus, and that said apparatus is broad enough to include such things as refrigerators and chickens — so thank you Hank Green, all you Egyptian Nerdfighters who helped him, and especially, apparently, a Nerdfighter by the name of Mokhtar Awad!

“And when Mubarak [was] like – ‘hey, military, we’ve got a problem. Right?’, they’re like ‘Noooaaah, not really.'”

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Mind you, I was first introduced to the Vlogbrothers and inducted into Nerdfighter culture by my then-12 year old son via a video that John Green [then a respected author, but not yet a MEGA-author] made about the 2008/9 war in Gaza. So the fact that Hank produced this video and hit it so far out of the park should come as no surprise (and didn’t, really. I was not surprised. Perhaps you were surprised? I, however, was not).

Update: It occurs to me to note that Hank Green is also the dude behind an astonishingly good explainer on human sexuality (click here) and an entirely impassioned plea to exercise your right to vote, the latter of which was ultimately posted to the President’s own Tumblr account (click here and scroll down). So. Yeah. Dude’s ok, is what I’m saying.

“The best video on human sexuality ever” – my 13 year old son.

There I was dozing on the couch (as one does) when I heard my 8th grader, sitting one room away at his computer, say the words “that was the best video on teenage sexuality I’ve ever seen.”

Now, it turns out he’d actually said “human sexuality,” but either way, those are words that will perk your ears right up.

I lifted my head as much as I could, yelled a muffled “Send me the link!” and — irresponsible mother that I am — fell back into a doze. But then! The very first thing I did when I arose from my slumber was to click on that link (responsibility!).

Now, I will admit, the instant I saw that the video in question had been made by Hank Green — of the VlogBrothers, Crash Course, DFTBA Records, and General Awesomeness — any concern I might have had was (and I mean this) instantly erased. The Green brothers have already taught the boy (and me) any number of wonderful things, and I have real confidence that anything either one of them might say about human sexuality is something that I can get 100% behind. Truly.

But you know: Still. If one’s boy is watching videos about human sexuality, one should watch said videos. Moreover, and not incidentally, now I was interested. What, in fact, had Hank Green said?

Well, as it turns out: Only everything. Only everything that anybody should ever say or hear about human sexuality, whether teenage or otherwise. Only everything, and in three minutes, forty-nine seconds, no less. Watch, and marvel.

And then maybe share it around, because honest to Pete. These are words that everyone on earth needs to hear. Especially these ones:

But what’s really important is that we trust ourselves and we understand ourselves, and we love and respect ourselves, and we grant that same understanding and respect to the people around us.

Thanks, Hank!

The daily barrage of insults.

Update below.

Every day of my life — all day long — I have to ignore insults in order to partake in pop culture, general conversation, and/or intellectual pursuits.

If I am to enjoy the music on the radio, or the jokes in a movie, or a conversation among like-minded political animals, I have to close my ears and numb my senses on a regular, sometimes hourly basis. I have to pause and think: “Is that bad enough for me to have to not like this righteous beat anymore? Or can I carry on bobbing my head without being a traitor to myself, my daughter, my mother, my sister, my aunt, and about 80% of my friends?”

I know I write about this a lot, but it’s only because it makes me want to tear my hair out. Or move to a distant planet. It’s only because it really, really matters and very few people who aren’t women (and not a lot of them) seem to notice or, more to the point, care.

For instance:

Yesterday morning, the boy was telling me about what transpired to be a very funny animated video providing a literalist interpretation to the lyrics of an entirely enjoyable stupid song, the wildly popular “Party Rock Anthem” — and thus I heard my 12 year old say the words “so when they say ‘I run through hoes like Drano’….”

Yesterday afternoon, the same boy showed me a delightful, funny, and in fact quite interesting video made by a young video blogger named Charlie McDonnell, someone who is part of the so-called “Nerdfighter” community (all part of the Vlogbrothers phenomenon, about which I posted earlier). The Nerdfighters take as their goal in life “to increase awesome in the world and decrease suck” — by which they mean: Be the change you want to see in the world. They’re good people, led by good people. And there’s Charlie, in a “Fun Science” video, teaching us all about the nature of sound — making it fun and clever and amusing and generally increasing the awesome — and at the very end, he makes a small, silly, throw-away joke, referring to a man who had failed at something as a woman.

Then last night, during the Republican debate, folks on my side of the political map were getting justifiably angry about the ease with which the GOP candidates dehumanize undocumented workers by constantly and consistently using the phrase “illegal aliens”  — and one gentleman tweeted (in all caps, which, given the anger, makes sense to me): “BITCH YOU DON’T OWN THE EARTH NO ONE IS AN ILLEGAL ALIEN WE’RE ALL HUMANS!!”

So.

Yesterday morning, I said something to the boy before he even got to the point of explaining how the animators had interpreted “running through hoes like Drano” (it’s a can of Drano, running under an honor guard of garden hoes — click here to watch, it’s actually pretty good). I said something to him in the afternoon, once Charlie’s Fun Science had faded to black and I’d said how much I’d liked it (it’s decidedly great — click here to watch). I almost said something in the evening to the stranger on Twitter, but I was fairly certain I would be seen as derailing, or missing the point. So I didn’t. And frankly, one gets so tired of always having to say something.

But you know what English-speaking world? When you call women hoes, or sling “bitch” around, or insult men by calling them women? You are telling me, my daughter, my mother, my sister, my aunt, and about 80% of my friends (and 50% of the English-speaking world) that we are less.

Less than human, less than men, less than worthy.

And it is not derailing, or humorless, or missing-the-point, to point it out. Because I am not less than human, less than a man, or less than worthy.

But some days (most days) I don’t point it out. I don’t even let it register. Because it wears me down, and wears me out, and I am just fucking tired.

*****

UPDATE: And then in the course of my afternoon, I learn that there is a new book out that is actually titled: Becoming China’s Bitch. In interviewing the author about it, a writer with Foreign Policy (!) posed the following questions: “When did you first realize we were in danger of becoming China’s bitch?…What can we do to prevent becoming China’s bitch?… How do we make China our bitch?” Yes, fucking really.

And a child shall lead them: In which I discover the Vlogbrothers.

Three years ago, Israel was waging war in Gaza. I had some pretty powerful opinions about it.

This evening, the boy (a 12 year old, it should be noted) discovered and showed me the following video, made the day after the war began by a person I’d never heard of: John Green, brother of Hank Green, and one-half of the (I’m coming to discover) pretty dang boss Vlogbrothers, who (I’m coming to discover) the boy really loves. And the thing is: This John Green dude has summed up the entire Israeli-Palestinian situation in less than four minutes.

Accurately.

I would argue that there’s a little boat-missing when he gets into the question of  the connection between the Muslim Brotherhood, Hamas, and al-Qaeda, and as an Israeli, I would argue that Israel has the larger share of responsibility at this point (greater power = greater responsibility, etc), but really, for a person to get this much this right, and all in less than four minutes? Wowza. And by that I mean: Huzzah.

And there’s a puppy. Because he couldn’t bear to talk about something so depressing without a little relief.

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For more Vlogbrothers goodness, click here. (This one, for instance, on proper tipping, is both funny and accurate. And now the boy knows how important it is to tip, and why. Rock and roll, baby!)

To sweeten the pot, the reason my kid loves the Vlogbrothers is because they’re funny, they’re talented, and they’ve built a community (the “Nerdfighters”) of “great people doing great things.” Can I just remind you of his age? He’s 12. The boy is 12. And he’s moved by people trying to make the world a better place through humor and knowledge. I LOVE MY KID.