The Exciting Future of Gender

The Exciting Future of Gender

fateofgendercoverI recently finished The Fate of Gender: Nature, Nurture, and the Human Future by Frank Browning, a former NPR reporter and writer for several other publicatins. There’s been a strong buildup to this book for me and it came at the perfect moment in my life. I spent the last spring from January – April studying gender and sexuality at Oxford through the lens of western european medieval literature which introduced me to both new ideas and ways of processing more complex sociological information, something I’ve had close to no training in besides my independent reading. My spring semester at Oxford in connection with new levels of maturity that enable to me see more clearly how I perceive and interact with my own gender identity provided the perfect time for me to read The Fate of Gender and it was not a disappointment.

I don’t want to diminish the value of my time at Oxford because it taught me important research skills, but I learned much more about how we as humans perceive sex and gender while reading this book than in all of my tutorials. And all it cost me was $10. The book clearly demonstrated to me how the biological and social sides of gender have affected us as a society and how the changing landscape of how we see gender is directly linked to many current world events in both politics and culture. (One brief passage of the book even explains Trump’s success as a backlash against changing gender politics.) And the language of the books is pretty accessible.

Since the beginning of history (/documented civilization), humans have almost entirely lived within masculine societies. As far as I can tell, this status quo is protected through monotheistic religions that use masculine gods to enforce a male superiority that has gone unquestioned for thousands of years. Though we are far from removing the masculine bias from human culture, we’re beginning to see a shift and it is causing a mix of fear and excitement. Early on Browning states:

“To the traditional pinstriped executive in his smoking room or to the laid-off line workers at U.S. Steel, or to the evangelical ministers in Alabama, Kentucky, and Arkansas, these arguments for “equity” constituted nothing less than a full-fledged assault on the natural order of the universe as designed by a singular and unmistakably male god leading to the current unwinding of strict masculine and feminine roles.” p. 10

I see a gray area here that I know will scare many people: how are these changing gender norms not natural? Nature is not constant. Even strict creationists must admit that nature is constantly undergoing an evolutionary process. What is “natural” one moment may not be natural the next. Furthermore, people who argue against the changing face of gender assume that what is natural is good. Is it? (Though this argument can go either way.)

The gender norms that we have developed as a society, though perceived as “natural” by some, may not therefore be good. This can be applied to my previous thought as well. More gray area, but that is barely the beginning of why this excites me.

“You cannot invoke Nature as the basis of human behavior. For if you do, then you might as well legalize infanticide too since certain animal species practice that! But seriously, these days when we very often hear references to what is supposed to be ‘natural’ it’s very often a cover for people who oppose marriage and adoption for everybody.” p. 114, quoting Frank Cézilly


 

Though gender is far from over, it’s changing. I suggest you pick up a book and figure out your own feelings about the changing face of sex and gender in our society. It excites me, and I hope it excites you as well.

A Note on Growing up Gay in the Christian Church

A Note on Growing up Gay in the Christian Church
(This post was originally published on Facebook. Please like/share/comment on it here.)
I’m really encouraged by Trey Pearson and the positive reaction to his coming out. I see this as an important opportunity to learn from his story.
Similar to Pearson, I grew up believing that being gay was wrong and, more importantly, a choice. I saw my church ask LGBTQ members to leave, and I accepted this as normal and the will of God. Though people in my community had the wisdom to not run around like some infamous churches (WBC), their actions were not lost on my young mind and I absorbed the same homophobic beliefs of those around me.
I assumed that my lack of attraction to women was normal. I even thought I was an extra nice person for not struggling with the horrible lust for women all my high school teachers wouldn’t stop talking about. Sure, I was attracted to men, but growing up in a community that ignored LGBTQ people taught me to believe that my feelings were not legitimate—causing me to sweep my feelings under the carpet and live as someone I was not. Though many are able to sustain this for a long time (like Pearson), it is unhealthy and I am still dealing with the mental repercussions of living a lie.
Luckily, much of the homophobic rhetoric that I was exposed to is beginning to fade away. Maybe it’s because I’ve found better friends to hang out with, but I’m seeing less and less of the heteronormative behavior that taught me to hate my sexual orientation.
However, our work is not done.
At my school I am one of few openly gay individuals. It’s not a joyride, but it is necessary. I recognize that much of what made my coming out process so arduous was the lack of gay role models. Up until my time at Walla Walla University, I had met few (if any) out gay men. They simply did not exist in my world. Though it is not my first choice to submit myself to the public eye as a gay man, I know having visible LGBTQ individuals is important to our next generations, especially within the church. And to church leaders: your actions that continually marginalize and exclude LGBTQ churchgoers are only preserving the lack of visibility and encouraging more bigotry. The less visible gay people are, the easier it is to teach our children to be prejudiced against them.
My point for you, people of the church who read this, is simple: it is extremely important to affirm to your children and peers that you support and accept LGBTQ individuals. Though you may already be supportive in your heart, your silence will be taken as affirmation of the hate that some churches choose to spread.
Please, speak up. I cannot do this alone. I am excited to be seeing some changes, but we still have a long ways to go.

The Conscientious Eater

The Conscientious Eater

I recently found myself at a small restaurant that marketed itself as an eco-friendly establishment. Their ingredients were locally sourced, their water glasses devoid of straws, they used small rags instead of napkins, and so on. I love seeing examples like this of how the environmental movement has made an impact on mainstream businesses. As I began to explore the menu it came as no surprise to me that most of their dishes relied heavily on eggs, meat, and other dairy products. This isn’t unusual, yet when you consider that this is an establishment which values its environmental friendliness, there seems to be a paradox of marketing and product.

Many who brag about being hyper environmentally aware fail to realize (or accept) that what we eat has the potential to have the largest environmental effect of any part of our lifestyle. I question the motives of those who choose to forgo personal transportation or other modern amenities for the sake of the environment but continue to eat normal amounts of meat, when in reality cutting out beef from your diet alone can be much more effective at reducing your carbon footprint than giving up cars altogether.

I could go on about this for days, throwing all sorts of statistics and depressing articles at you, or could even go as far as one UK Green Party representative who advocated for treating all meat-eaters like smokers, campaigning for rehab programs meant to help omnivores transition to an herbivore diet. Instead, I’ll leave you with this simple, cruelty-free recipe for the beginning of summer. 

 

Processed with VSCO with c1 presetA Simple, Guilt-free Summer Treat

1 qt. Strawberries

1 c. Vanilla Yogurt (Dairy or soy)

½ c. Coconut Shavings (Sweetened, because why not)

 

This one is a doozy. Simply dip, dip, and kick back.

 

 

This article is the first of many that I will be writing for my school’s newspaper The Collegian for the upcoming school year. All issues can be read online at https://issuu.com/aswwucollegian.

Why I’m Choosing to Go Vegan

Why I’m Choosing to Go Vegan

 

“The next five years may be the most important in the next ten thousand for our planet. There are plenty of reasons for hope, yet every day, doors of opportunity close. We know what to do. Now is the time to act.”

– Dr. Sylvia Earle

Cowspiracy_ScreeningPoster3During my first month at Oxford I watched the popular film Cowspiracy. There’s a common theme in environmental documentaries—an over-reliance on sensational rhetoric and repetitive language that attempts to capture the viewer’s attention. To me, this gives Cowspiracy and other films like it a completely unnecessary tone of conspiracy theory. The facts should be able to carry themselves with the aid of effective and dynamic cinematography and editing. However, many directors seem to go the way of sensationalizing everything.

Despite engaging in this pet peeve of mine, Cowspiracy convinced me to reevaluate why and what I eat. Being vegetarian my whole life has left me thinking that as far as diet goes, I’ve done my fair share of work to alleviate humanity’s environmental impact. Yet it is clear that consuming commercially sourced dairy products is forcing animals into harmful and fatal conditions that not only have a terrible effect on the animal’s wellbeing, but also is responsible for a large portion of greenhouse gas emissions. This is no joke, and cutting out dairy products such as butter, milk, eggs, yogurt, cheese, etc. can be quite effective in minimizing your personal greenhouse gas footprint.

Luckily for me, Oxford was the perfect environment to start experimenting with a vegan diet. I was cooking my own food and had several grocery stores and markets near my dorm where I could regularly buy fresh produce. Though I continued to eat eggs, I was able to completely cut out all other animal products. Instead I focused on eating a lot of beans, other legumes, and whole grains (though rarely in the form of bread). The experiment went well so I decided to continue with my dietary changes once I returned to Walla Walla.

51t5LbG4j7L._SX333_BO1,204,203,200_Near the end of my time at Oxford, I also read The World is Blue, a powerful little book by Sylvia Earle who I’ve come to call “The Rachel Carson of the 21st Century.” Each page is packed with facts and figures relating to the decline in marine biodiversity and crashing marine populations. Seeing these figures can be harrowing, and it forced the question into my mind: “Why do so many ‘vegetarians’ still eat fish?” The book, which is very similar in content to the documentary about Earle called Mission Blue, forced me to realize that though I may not be eating meat, I still have a negative effect on ocean populations by using products such as the fish oil supplements that I take daily. This thought naturally progressed into the realization that I needed to cut out all products in my life that had an adverse effect on animals, both marine and terrestrial.

“Even if you never have the chance to see or touch the ocean, the ocean touches you with every breath you take, every drop of water you drink, every bite you consume. Everyone, everywhere is inextricably connected to and utterly dependent upon the existence of the sea.”

― Dr. Sylvia Earle

My hope is that you (anonymous reader) are able to follow my thought pattern over the last several months as I’ve come closer and closer to realizing how important it is to eliminate animal products in my life. I may be subject to some criticism for not making an immediate change, but the gradual shift I am making will hopefully be easier for those around me and for myself. I still live with my mother and expecting her to immediately adapt to a vegan diet would be a bit unreasonable.

The questions that inevitably cropped up when I chose to begin transitioning to a vegan diet are not always easy to answer. Now that I’ve established that consuming animal products is harmful for the planet, is it ethical to feed my dog generic dog food? Do I want to avoid wearing leather as well? How do I feel about honey—do bees have feelings? Am I causing the bees pain?!? Though it sounds funny, I’m serious when I ask these questions. I want to make sure that my lifestyle as a global citizen is not negatively affecting any other living species. This, I’m learning, is much easier said than done.

Disclaimer: Much of this decision is influenced by other books that I have read in the past. For the sake of sharing and being a good person, here’s a list (not exhaustive) of books that I’ve found to be helpful as I explore the effect of what I eat: