Being Female

In the center of my body is a tube.

Some think this tube has been there since I had four cells; others think it didn’t present itself until there were eight cells for me to link together.


There is a tube, a hollow, at the center of my body, and I have pretty much always had it, and it is what most essentially defines me as female.

All of us who are female have this tube. This hollow, this, if you will, “uterus.” Or “womb,” if we are completely formed. We may not consciously be aware of it. We may hate it, or endure it, or – if we are particularly well-adjusted – love it.

We all accommodate it. We all process it, however unconsciously or consciously, as the core of our existence.

We might be born without an ovary, or without two ovaries. Our uterii might be malformed or missing. But that hollow is still there.

We normally develop two (or three, or more) nipples, as all mammals do; we might remove the nipples for one reason or another, and bewail our lost femaleness, but that is not where our femaleness lies.

We normally develop extra breast tissue, and we discuss and compete with each other on the most perfect size and shape of the resulting breasts, or we have them removed for one reason or another, or we decry or pity male people who develop them, and we base our shared femaleness on these breasts. But we know, we intuit, that this is also not where our femaleness lies.

We are female because of our hollow.

The hollow dictates where our other internal organs lie, the organs that we all share as mammals, as humans. The hollow dictates the types of things we experience: what our internal bacterial makeup is comprised of, what our organochemical balance is; if our balance is incorrect, it is not because we are male, it is because our hollow and its associated organs are functioning outside their base parameters.

We negotiate this hollow as babies, as girls, as teenaged thunderstorms, as weary women.

This is our immutably shared experience.

Male people do not have the hollow at their core. Somewhere, a little further along in their development, they encase the hollow, and narrow it into a tube, and extrude it to the outside of their bodies.

Forever, the reality of their maleness is conditioned on this extruded hollow.

It might be so small as to be visibly indistinguishable from a female clitoris, or it might rival that of a stallion, or it might be damaged or viciously removed – or it might be discarded with prejudice.

Regardless of how large or small it is, even regardless of whether and when it is fully extruded, regardless of the presence or absence of the ovary-analogs that are their testicles, every baby, every boy, every teenaged thunderstorm, every weary man negotiates this extruded tube.

This is their immutably shared experience.

There are some babies who visibly retain the hollow at their core and also manage to extrude a part of it. The word we have applied in English is Herm-Aphrodite, and, because it does not happen often, because it is uncommon, we regard it as ab-normal, and pity or fetishize the situation, and speak of cures or therapies. Because we fetishize the normal, oblivious of the reality that life is mutation.

Their experience is not that of females. It is not that of males. Their experience shares in each, and expands beyond both. What that experience is comprised of is theirs to identify and proclaim, and is not known to me. And if it were known to me, it would still not be mine to identify and proclaim.

There are some babies who, as they become aware of their bodies, negotiate the hollow or tube they developed around with horror or utter rejection. They are convinced that their cells ought to have developed in the other direction. They take the steps they can to alter the situation.

I accept (without the belief that they need that acceptance) that their horror and rejection is very real. I applaud (without the hubris that they need or in fact want my applause) the steps they take to process this horror and rejection to a state they can endure and in which they can thrive.

In English we have applied such terms as transgender, trans-man or trans-woman; there are many other words of which I am unaware, or which I would refuse to use as being offensive to the dignity of the persons to whom they might be applied.

I use, and will always use, the gender terms required by the individual. This is mere politeness, this is only courtesy, this is basic civilized behavior. I negotiate, and will always negotiate, whatever dissociation I may experience concerning the displayed gender norms, privately. It is the responsibility of each individual to come to terms with alterations in their understanding of the world in their own way and time, and I am diligent in my adherence to this responsibility.

What I will not do, and what I refuse to accept any guilt for, is to accept the concept that the hollow at the core of my being is without worth; to embrace the concept that the internal tube that makes me female should be dismissed.

I refuse the notion that my efforts to negotiate the hollow at my core is an act of violence toward those who lack it. I have my hollow, and I have always had it. I and my sisters have our experiences of life in relationship to our hollows and how they behave. Though it distressed me with greater or lesser violence from my ninth year to my fiftieth year, it is mine, it is real, I do not make any compromise with my femaleness.

Adult men individually, and the misshapen western male culture collectively, have distressed me with greater or lesser violence specifically due to the hollow at the core of my being from my ninth year to this my current year of existence.

I reluctantly accepted my uterus. I fought to live in spite of my uterus. I relaxed into the war my uterus was waging on me, and I have embraced my uterus, the more so now that its passion has abated.

Do not ever think that a born male person has the right to tell me. Again. That my uterus is without worth. And that my introspection harms him.

The “micro” portion of “micro-aggression” will not apply.

Robert Mapplethorpe: a criticism of a critic’s work

Originally published in Dreamwidth, NOV. 19TH, 2004 02:59 PM

Because of the impact of Robert Mapplethorpe, not least in some of our very own endeavors, I went to read up on him. Following is an email sent by me to Arthur C. Danto, author of the book I discuss below.

Dear sir,

I am in the process of reading your book “Playing with the edge: The Photographic achievement of Robert Mapplethorpe” and I came across several points at which I must take issue with your analysis.

Please let me precede such criticism by stating that I consider the greater part of your essay to be highly insightful, especially when you deal with the serious eroticizing of art within the serious artistry of eroticism that Mr. Mapplethorpe intended and achieved. I am very grateful for the presentation of your reactions to Mr. Mapplethorpe’s exhibition in 1988. I was much taken by your analysis of the extent to which trust was an issue in his work as compared with that of Mr. Winogrand and Ms. Arbus (with whose work I am entirely unfamiliar).

But I was initially jarred by your description of “a black leather garment, cut away to expose his buttocks and genitals …” (p. 130) for what was to my eyes a very ordinary pair of leather-community chaps (which are understood to be different in material and function from those used by riders). Now, it may be that you were drawing attention to the function these are playing in this situation, but you did not then name them, which caused me to believe you did not recognize them. However, when I later began at the start of the book to read through, I found that you did recognize chaps in other photographs, leading me to wonder whether you recognized them only when they are worn more properly over jeans.

I found, a few pages later, the statements “… it seems to me, immensity must play an important part in this aestheticizing, and hence in the vision from within which the (male) genitals are perceived as beautiful. And this is disappointingly as reductive and mechanistic an attitude as that which thematizes big breats in women.” (p. 132) On the following page you complain that the genital measurements of Mark Stevens and the Man In A Polyester Suit are not typical in your experience of the world, in a fashion that leaves the reader with the impression that you wished Mr. Mapplethorpe had used models more close to normality, an impression enhanced by your evocation of Louise Bourgeois’ recalling of the use of gigantic phalluses in antique theater as subjects of humor.

Your complaint puts me forcibly in mind of the complaints of feminists (of which I am one) that images of beautiful women designed to appeal to men’s tastes do not in the least approach normality in the female body and face. The reason that I am so forcibly put in mind of these complaints is that we feminists were saying, as you did not appear to notice yourself doing, that the artists claim we are not desirable simply as we stand.

One of the amazing things about the homosexual community (to which I belong as a female member) is that the object of one’s desire has roughly the same form as one’s self, leaving one in the possible position of competing, aesthetically, with the object of desire.

Which is very destructive to one’s self-image as well as to any relationships.

A more healthy position to take is to admire, with amazement, all of one’s possible objects of desire, and through that admiration, also admire one’s own body – regardless of its own limitations and imperfections. Which is something our culture has always condemned when it has not made such admiration impossible.

I can assure you that I have personal experience with heterosexual gentlemen having the dimensions indicated in the above portraits, and I can also assure you that such dimensions are sufficiently rare as to be objects of admiration and lust within the gay male community. And, from an analysis of heterosexual pornography, objects of profound envy in the straight male community.

I would also like to wonder in your general direction why, in a society in which Pamela Anderson and Dolly Parton are considered to be visually compelling by so many heterosexual men, you are surprised that men attracted to other men – and who lack any hint of the kind of body-liberation philosophies feminists have developed – would find massive phalluses to be equally visually compelling. Mr. Mapplethorpe was not engaged in the liberation of the male erotic image from chains of sizism or muscle-centrism; he was engaged in the liberation of the male image from its chains of aneroticism. And you must admit – you do admit – that he achieved this aim. I am always suspicious of criticism that complains that the artist did not achieve the critic’s aims.

Next, I would like to comment on your analysis of the picture “Rosie.” I believe that you were suffering from a profound misunderstanding of the physical structure of the image that led you to misunderstand Mr. Mapplethorpe’s possible motives in taking the picture.

The child’s dress is not pulled up. It is pulled down over her knees. And she has pushed the skirt further down with her arm. Her problem is that her knees are pulled up in a semi-defensive position, which then acts to expose her bottom and genitals.

My daughters assumed the same position innumerable times at roughly the same age, and were always thunderstruck that I could tell when they had neglected to put on underwear.

The picture’s message is simply this: In our innocence, we have no idea how much we are exposing to an observant world.

I think a similar misunderstanding shapes part of your analysis of the picture “Jim And Tom, Sausolito.” The misunderstanding is of the function of the hood Jim wears, which you saw as “menacing,” and which is more visible in the portrait “Jim, Sausalito.” You noted that it has zippers for eyes and mouth. What you may not have known is that this is a submissive’s hood, designed to limit, at his (or her) dominant’s discretion, vision, speech, and access to food, water, and other’s bodies. It has been buckled around Jim’s neck with a collar. It is unclear, in this set of pictures, whether he has the use of his eyes, though it looks to me as though he clearly does not in the other.

Tom is the dominant partner. He is not being humiliated. He is asserting complete control.

Jim’s left hand is behind his back, out of the way, unable to balance him or to grasp the head of his partner or to stimulate his own skin. Only his right hand is in use, and then only as a means of controlling the direction of his stream of urine. His hands are gloved, cutting him off from a great deal of his sense of touch – he is not being allowed to pleasure himself in this process.

Tom is saying: All your body and all of its functions are for my pleasure and my use. This, too, is mine.

The statement would be different if it were Tom who was wearing the hood and gloves.

I do not know to what extent this information would alter your essay. It is very possible that others have pointed these things out to you before now. But I felt that I should write to you concerning them.



Dear [glitchen]

Thanks very much for taking the time and the trouble to write so thoughtfully about my book, from perspectives that were not available to me. I am not likely to revise the book, but I would certainly think about your criticisms if I should do so. I am not at all sure that your observations materially affect the argument, but would have to think about this seriously were I to undertake revision, especially your detailed discussion of the hood in Jim and Tom in Sausalito. Meanwhile, it would probably be interesting to you to get to know the work of Winogrand and especially of Diane Arbus.

Many thanks and best wishes,

Arthur Danto


Originally published on Dreamwidth, AUG. 19TH, 2005 08:05 AM.

It is a common, a frequent, a harried question: our uncomprehending observers look to the sexual characters of those we slash, and argue that it is highly unlikely that such a man would ever turn to another man sexually. They look at the pairs we slash, and fulminate that we dishonor the friendships between them by holding that any such friendship must be sexual in nature.

“Sue,” whoever she may be and blessings upon her, has written, of all things, a Poirot/Hastings story that is true to character, completely believeable, suitable for your grandmother – or even mine – and which is a complete explanation of what we do and why we do it.

The story concerns the discovery of the murdered body of a young Argentinian sailor who bears a profound resemblance to Captain Hastings, and who, it transpires, was the son of his extremely brief dalliance with a since-deceased young lady back before the War. Poirot has arranged for his funeral – with friends – kept Hastings close and retrieved him from nightmares, and worked with Inspector Japp in the pursuit of the young man’s murderer. Because of the young man’s illegitimacy, the question has arisen several times of why none of the three – Poirot, Hastings, and Miss Lemona – has never married, nor is likely to do so. At the core of the story comes this passage:

“Would you like me to read it to you?” Miss Lemon was asking, smoothing the opened pages and inserting a narrow strip of card to mark the place.

He gave her one of his rather wan, inattentive smiles. On the other side of the glass partition Poirot was deep in conversation with Japp, and he wondered what they were talking about. Their voices were soft and respectful, so he supposed it must be something to do either with Ramon or with himself. No doubt Poirot would tell him if he felt he needed to know, but he was experiencing no sense of urgency or concern about it. On the whole it was much more comfortable to let Poirot make the decisions; he would know soon enough if it was anything he needed to worry about.

“Let me not to the marriage of true minds Admit impediments,” Miss Lemon began, almost impatiently, responding to his air of detachment. “Love is not love Which alters when it alteration finds, Or bends with the remover to remove.”

Very true, Hastings thought, not concentrating on her voice but letting it wash through him. There was something soothing, almost healing, about the words; he would ask her to type them out for him and then he could study them when he had peace and quiet and the letters would stay still on the page and not try to jump into his face like the performers in a flea circus.

“O no; it is an ever-fixèd mark,” Miss Lemon continued, her tone mellowing almost to sweetness as she noticed the direction of his gaze. “That looks on tempests, and is never shaken; It is the star to every wandering bark, Whose worth’s unknown, although his height be taken.”

“That looks on tempests and is never shaken! That’s the one!” The phrase seemed to have sunk beneath his skin somehow, spreading out through his veins, touching his nerve endings with the reassuring warmth of a friend’s hand gripping his in time of need.

“Yes.” Miss Lemon paused, sympathetically, looking over her glasses at Hastings’ pale face and the rapt look of total absorption in his half-averted eyes. He had no idea he was being observed; he was totally caught up in whatever thoughts were running one after another through his exhausted mind, but it looked at least as if they were benign ones. That was exactly the expression of the Mona Lisa, she realised; not smug, but completely content. She had seen him in the past overflowing with vivid excitement, caught up in some grandiose scheme or other, dazed with delight at some piece of gratuitous good fortune, but she had never seen him looking as thoroughly happy as he did at this moment.

“Love’s not Time’s fool,” she continued, cautiously, “though rosy lips and cheeks Within his bending sickle’s compass come; Love alters not with his brief hours and weeks, But bears it out even to the edge of doom.”

His lips were moving. She could almost have believed she heard him repeating the last words under his breath.

“If this be error, and upon me prov’d,” she finished, her tone hushed almost to a whisper, “I never writ, nor no man ever lov’d.”

“Yes,” he said, what seemed an infinitely long time afterwards. “I know I’ve heard that before. I wonder why it came to me when it did?”

But he did not really need to ask, because he already had the answer. Whilst she had been speaking he had looked properly into the empty place in his life where a wife ought to have been, and instead of some conjectural feminine form dispensing love and consolation and strength and reassurance what he had found there had been Poirot, endlessly resourceful and irritating and loyal beyond any hope of understanding. He had never seen it in those terms before, but it was pretty damned obvious to him now that Poirot loved him.

And I suppose I love him, he thought, for the first time. I suppose that’s what love really is. Wonder why the hell I didn’t realise it sooner? Nothing strange about it; neither of us is the limp-wristed type, thank God. But you can see why chaps settle down together and how they make a go of it, if one of them’s somebody like Poirot. Infuriating, of course, but I could happily make my life with him if that was the way things turned out. Actually, come to think of it, I probably already have, without ever even noticing.

Poirot was listening intently to Japp’s end of the telephone conversation, but when briefly the police officer fell silent he took the opportunity of glancing through the panel to check up on Hastings. Thus their eyes met, and if Hastings felt at all sheepish or clumsy as a result of his epiphany that feeling was dispelled immediately by the warmth in Poirot’s regard. He did not smile, precisely, but the corners of his mouth lifted a little beneath his moustache and his eyes crinkled, and somewhere in them was the element of mischief that was not always successfully disguised by his feigned pomposity. Hastings had always suspected that there was a joker hidden deep within Poirot’s nature, a defier of convention who would one day burst free in outrageous fashion and laugh pitiless scorn at all those who had once seen fit to laugh at him – except that he could not imagine Poirot being quite so ungenerous. No, he would just go on absorbing all the ridicule and responding to it with immaculate courtesy, looking on the tempest and remaining unshaken.

It is not so much, you see, that we think – ah, they’re such good friends, they must be doing it. It is more: Oh, would that I were doing it with someone who respected and trusted and liked me that much. Because that has never been a part of the social understanding of male-female relationships: we are not supposed to be friends with each other. Go play with the girls, we are told; Go play with the other little boys. Our adult relations with each other as friends are subverted into the expectation of courting, which must be negotiated in some fashion before the friendship has a chance to occur. One of us not being of the appropriate orientation is a good way of dealing with that: explanation enough for women’s friendships with gay men. Men have a more difficult time being friends with lesbians, because there is definitely a subvocal societal expectation that men can and should “seduce” them back to heterosexuality. (The same expectation is present the other way up, of course, but women are less likely to decide that they are expected to commit rape for the cause.)

But trust of the level that we see between Kirk and Spock, between Blair and Jim, between Frazer and Ray, between Poirot and Hastings, comes because they have put their lives, their fortunes, and their sacred honor on the line for each other, more than once. Without the expectation of courtship.

And that, in my opinion, is what we crave.


Originally published on Deamwidth, SEP. 26TH, 2005 07:50 PM.

It’s because we must grow.

The first and most powerful impulse in living communities is the conservative impulse: the will to keep things the way that they are. And this is a good and a necessary thing: the Way Things Are is sufficiently complicated to learn, let alone master, without people coming along and changing it on you. Hence the fact that teenagers tend to be more conservative than others: they can just about see their mastery, and they don’t want the rules changing right now.

The second most powerful impulse is the rebellious impulse: anger, generally that one is thwarted in a specific goal, and then sees that there are more things that one is prevented from doing. Since the original goal was desirable, these other goals can become contemplated as desirable as well.

Then comes creativity: as inborn as handedness, those who are afflicted with it cannot be prevented from creating without twisting them into a frightening caricature of a socialized being.

Criticism comes next, and it derives from rebelliousness, above: the rebellion against the vision of another. Embedded within it is a profound conservative view, one that sees the shadows of perfection and matches them against the creativity that another has exhibited.

Justice comes next. Please do not think that I consider this not very powerful: all of these impulses are profoundly powerful, and fit very close to each other. The desire for justice, fairness, equitability, is hardwired into our systems and can be observed in our near and distant cousins: the fierce need to see that we are treated by the same rules as everyone else.

Together with justice comes love: the desire for the good of another, even at the cost of one’s own good.

Conservatism keeps things from spinning out of control: changes are temporary unless they meet several of the other impulses.

Rebelliousness keeps things from stagnating: as sheerly destructive as it sometimes seems, it exposes assumptions to light and air, and allows them to be challenged: if they are sound, they will survive. If not, the rebellious will toss them loudly about and cause all kinds of ruckus which will eventually wear them into small, easily smooshed pieces. Rebelliousness challenges without initial judgment: the calm of conservation examines nothing, and makes it hard to see what should, and what need not, be turned upside down.

Creative people invent, make, grow, and they come up with both genuinely new things and new ways of using old and ancient things. Creative people – the creative impulse in general – is the strongest force against entropy. On the other hand, if they are not kept under some sort of control – some manner of pruning – their works become cancerous, and crowd out other good things.

This is where the critical come in. They keep the creative in check, and force them to justify their works, and enrage them into further, but further refined, efforts. They cause focus.

Justice acts directly upon conservatism, in that it agrees that there must be stability, but defines that stability in terms of the entire organism. It subverts conservatism in that it demands a higher level, a more refined version, of the same society.

Love does not care about fairness. It commands creativity to serve its purposes. It employs criticism as a halberd. Conservatism is used as a blanket by love, and is tossed aside if it becomes smothering.

And who any individual loves is chaotic: it falls generally into patterns, but is entirely unpredictable for any specific person. Because of that chaos, society must continue to churn. Such churning always hurts because it grinds against what we most like about our lives.

And that’s why we can’t all just get along.

The actual rules for Christians and Bible-based folks

Originally published on Dreamwidth, OCT. 29TH, 2005 01:11 PM.

Okay, I confess. I was raised a Methodist, and got more fundamentalist yet before I pitched the entire thing. But I’ve always been a great believer in measuring people by their own standards rather than by mine.

Here we have many many people in the American government and influencing it that call themselves Christians, and that look to the Old Testament for what they consider to be important.

Myself, I do not think they are doing it right.

In the New Internation Version of the Bible I found 178 entries for the word POOR; following are a few.

Exodus 23:2-7 (New International Version)
New International Version (NIV)
Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society

2 “Do not follow the crowd in doing wrong. When you give testimony in a lawsuit, do not pervert justice by siding with the crowd, 3 and do not show favoritism to a poor man in his lawsuit.

4 “If you come across your enemy’s ox or donkey wandering off, be sure to take it back to him. 5 If you see the donkey of someone who hates you fallen down under its load, do not leave it there; be sure you help him with it.

6 “Do not deny justice to your poor people in their lawsuits. 7 Have nothing to do with a false charge and do not put an innocent or honest person to death, for I will not acquit the guilty.

Exodus 23:10-12 (New International Version)
New International Version (NIV)
Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society

Sabbath Laws
10 “For six years you are to sow your fields and harvest the crops, 11 but during the seventh year let the land lie unplowed and unused. Then the poor among your people may get food from it, and the wild animals may eat what they leave. Do the same with your vineyard and your olive grove.
12 “Six days do your work, but on the seventh day do not work, so that your ox and your donkey may rest and the slave born in your household, and the alien as well, may be refreshed.

Leviticus 19:9-10 (New International Version)
New International Version (NIV)
Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society

9 ” ‘When you reap the harvest of your land, do not reap to the very edges of your field or gather the gleanings of your harvest. 10 Do not go over your vineyard a second time or pick up the grapes that have fallen. Leave them for the poor and the alien. I am the LORD your God.

Leviticus 19:14-16 (New International Version)
New International Version (NIV)
Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society

14 ” ‘Do not curse the deaf or put a stumbling block in front of the blind, but fear your God. I am the LORD.

15 ” ‘Do not pervert justice; do not show partiality to the poor or favoritism to the great, but judge your neighbor fairly.

16 ” ‘Do not go about spreading slander among your people.
” ‘Do not do anything that endangers your neighbor’s life. I am the LORD.

Leviticus 23:22 (New International Version)
New International Version (NIV)
Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society

22 ” ‘When you reap the harvest of your land, do not reap to the very edges of your field or gather the gleanings of your harvest. Leave them for the poor and the alien. I am the LORD your God.’ “

Leviticus 25:35-36 (New International Version)
New International Version (NIV)
Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society

35 ” ‘If one of your countrymen becomes poor and is unable to support himself among you, help him as you would an alien or a temporary resident, so he can continue to live among you. 36 Do not take interest of any kind [a] from him, but fear your God, so that your countryman may continue to live among you.

Deuteronomy 15:7-8 (New International Version)
New International Version (NIV)
Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society

7 If there is a poor man among your brothers in any of the towns of the land that the LORD your God is giving you, do not be hardhearted or tightfisted toward your poor brother. 8 Rather be openhanded and freely lend him whatever he needs.

Deuteronomy 15:10-11 (New International Version)
New International Version (NIV)
Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society

10 Give generously to him and do so without a grudging heart; then because of this the LORD your God will bless you in all your work and in everything you put your hand to. 11 There will always be poor people in the land. Therefore I command you to be openhanded toward your brothers and toward the poor and needy in your land.

Deuteronomy 24:10-13 (New International Version)
New International Version (NIV)
Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society

10 When you make a loan of any kind to your neighbor, do not go into his house to get what he is offering as a pledge. 11 Stay outside and let the man to whom you are making the loan bring the pledge out to you. 12 If the man is poor, do not go to sleep with his pledge in your possession. 13 Return his cloak to him by sunset so that he may sleep in it. Then he will thank you, and it will be regarded as a righteous act in the sight of the LORD your God.

Deuteronomy 24:14-15 (New International Version)
New International Version (NIV)
Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society

14 Do not take advantage of a hired man who is poor and needy, whether he is a brother Israelite or an alien living in one of your towns. 15 Pay him his wages each day before sunset, because he is poor and is counting on it. Otherwise he may cry to the LORD against you, and you will be guilty of sin.

Now, check out the things I found among the 109 citations for “alien.”

Exodus 12:49 (New International Version)
New International Version (NIV)
Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society

49 The same law applies to the native-born and to the alien living among you.”

Leviticus 19:33 (New International Version)
New International Version (NIV)
Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society

33 ” ‘When an alien lives with you in your land, do not mistreat him.

Leviticus 19:34 (New International Version)
New International Version (NIV)
Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society

34 The alien living with you must be treated as one of your native-born. Love him as yourself, for you were aliens in Egypt. I am the LORD your God.

The rest of the entries are similar: Aliens (strangers, outlanders) are subject to the same laws, with the one exception of the holiness laws to which only Israel is subject. Anyone who mistreats them dishonors God.

Adulter* got 79 results; Sexual* immoral* got 27 results; prostitut* or harlot* got 108 (of course, that included the symbolic references); divorce got 33 (also including symbology). Homosexual got one reference, and sodomite got none, although it’s referred to in the topical index.

AND note what Ezekial says:

Ezekiel 16:49 (New International Version)
New International Version (NIV)
Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society49 ” ‘Now this was the sin of your sister Sodom: She and her daughters were arrogant, overfed and unconcerned; they did not help the poor and needy.

Finally, check this part out:

Genesis 41 (New International Version)
17 Then Pharaoh said to Joseph, “In my dream I was standing on the bank of the Nile, 18 when out of the river there came up seven cows, fat and sleek, and they grazed among the reeds. 19 After them, seven other cows came up—scrawny and very ugly and lean. I had never seen such ugly cows in all the land of Egypt. 20 The lean, ugly cows ate up the seven fat cows that came up first. 21 But even after they ate them, no one could tell that they had done so; they looked just as ugly as before. Then I woke up.

22 “In my dreams I also saw seven heads of grain, full and good, growing on a single stalk. 23 After them, seven other heads sprouted—withered and thin and scorched by the east wind. 24 The thin heads of grain swallowed up the seven good heads. I told this to the magicians, but none could explain it to me.”

25 Then Joseph said to Pharaoh, “The dreams of Pharaoh are one and the same. God has revealed to Pharaoh what he is about to do. 26 The seven good cows are seven years, and the seven good heads of grain are seven years; it is one and the same dream. 27 The seven lean, ugly cows that came up afterward are seven years, and so are the seven worthless heads of grain scorched by the east wind: They are seven years of famine.

28 “It is just as I said to Pharaoh: God has shown Pharaoh what he is about to do. 29 Seven years of great abundance are coming throughout the land of Egypt, 30 but seven years of famine will follow them. Then all the abundance in Egypt will be forgotten, and the famine will ravage the land. 31 The abundance in the land will not be remembered, because the famine that follows it will be so severe. 32 The reason the dream was given to Pharaoh in two forms is that the matter has been firmly decided by God, and God will do it soon.

33 “And now let Pharaoh look for a discerning and wise man and put him in charge of the land of Egypt. 34 Let Pharaoh appoint commissioners over the land to take a fifth of the harvest of Egypt during the seven years of abundance. 35 They should collect all the food of these good years that are coming and store up the grain under the authority of Pharaoh, to be kept in the cities for food. 36 This food should be held in reserve for the country, to be used during the seven years of famine that will come upon Egypt, so that the country may not be ruined by the famine.”

Have you ever in your life seen a more clear commandment to tax the people when times are good so that you can help the people when times are bad?


It’s not the gay-pride festivals that brought down retribution on New Orleans and Florida, according to this reading. It’s the tax-cutrs for the wealthy and the benefit-cuts for the poor that did it.


Originally published on Dreamwidth NOV. 16TH, 2005 01:49 PM.

Among the Norse, when a mankilling (fair fight or accidental) happened (as opposed to a murder by stealth), there were two options: the victim’s family could declare blood-feud on the killer and his family; or the Althing could set weregild, literally “man-gold,” a partial reparation paid to the family by the killer that superceded and replaced the blood-feud.

Interestingly enough, no one has ever suggested that Odin caused Olaf to kill Leif so that Sigrid could buy a boat for her son.

We see people teetering these days between a belief that God caused all sorts of ills so that individuals could better fulfil certain functions later, and a kind of distress that said ills might have brought any benefit at all.

I suggest that the wisdom and skill and understanding that results directly from ills caused to us should be regarded as Weregild: as a partial reparation paid to us to ease the harm we suffered, so that we may draw back from declaring blood-feud (on our attackers, or Diety, or Society – whatever).

We would rather have our family member alive, or our missing limb restored, or our childhood uncorrupted. But the gifts that were offered as a result are useful.

For my weregild, I have a profound understanding of sexual psychology, a gift for description, and, from time to time, the tact to say things in a way that is both true and capable of being heard.

What is your weregild?


Originally published on Dreamwidth MAR. 10TH, 2006 09:58 AM.

I’m gonna have to send that man fudge. An open letter to Donna Reddick reads, in part:

They’re so panicked at the thought that somebody accidentally might treat gay people like people. They run around Chicken Little-like, screaming, ‘Th’ homosex’shals is comin’! Th’ homosex’shals is comin’!” Meantime, people are ignorant in Appalachia, strung out in Miami, starving in Niger, sex slaves in India, mass-murdered in Darfur. Where is the Christian outrage about that?

Well worth reading in its entirety.

I’m embarrassed about my own response to the man, however.

Dear sir,

I was intrigued by your response to Professor Pitts, and, as always, delighted by your prose. But I’d like you to update your response to her invocation of Sodom and Gomorrah. In my experience, people always get that one wrong.

Ezekiel 16:49 (New International Version)
New International Version (NIV)
Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society

49 ” ‘Now this was the sin of your sister Sodom: She and her daughters were arrogant, overfed and unconcerned; they did not help the poor and needy.

As you can see, Ezekiel was wholly unconcerned about the sexual sins (which, from my personal reading, involved rape and assault rather than loving nonstandard consensual adult intimacy), and far more concerned about their welfare philosophy.

Which, so far as I can make out, matches fairly strongly to that of the current and the past several Republican administrations.

I’ve been calling President Bush a Sodomite for some time, on this basis.


*bangs head* Reddick! Her name is Reddick! His name is Pitts!


Originally published on Dreamwidth MAR. 17TH, 2006 03:38 PM

Part of the argument that we continue to hear is that:

(pro)Homosexuality is genetic, and therefore it is gratuitously violent to legislate against a …hm, situation? that is not within the individual’s control.
(con)Homosexuality is a choice, not genetic, and therefore a different choice can and should be made.

While I am all for the scientific exploration of the function of our physical natures upon our societies, I have to say: Back the Truck Up. *beepbeepbeep*

Whether there is a genetic or biological component to a specific behavior is wholly irrelevant to whether or not a behavior should be illegal, deemed immoral, tolerated, legal, or recognized.

There are biological components, do not forget, to child molestation, serial rape, murderous cannibalism, and torture. They have all been found in many animal societies outside of our own. The fact that homosexual attraction and bonding have also been found in many animal societies outside of our own does not, therefore, in itself dictate that it should have protected status.

Contrariwise, the lack of a biological component is also wholly irrelevant to social legality. There has never, for example, been offered one shred of evidence that either religious or political affiliation has any biological, genetic, or indeed (much to the dismay of parents everywhere) even environmental components – though all do, of course, play a part in the interpretation of such affiliations.

And yet, both the religious and political freedom of the individual, the most choice-ridden situations available, are enshrined within our Constitution as inviolate.

The choice of which behaviors to protect legally and which to punish legally have historically rested on one and only one basis: danger to the social body. I will leave the proof of that to your own devices, but if you pare away the outer hulls, that is what you will find. The thing that changes over time, leading to changes in the law, is the understanding of what damages the social body and what does not.

I propose that homosexual behavior, identification, and affection be legalized to precisely the same degrees that heterosexual behavior, identification, and affection are legalized, and to the same end: the protection of the young, the unwilling, and the defenseless; the provision for stable relationships; and the promotion of the general mental health that is possible only when people can be honest about who they are in the gaze of the larger society. And that would be mental health for all concerned.

Who you are cannot be dictated by society and your parents: not political beliefs, not religion (Judaism and Catholicism notwithstanding: people do both come in and go out), and not affectional orientation. Regardless of, and wholly separate from, genetics.

CHURCH CONDEMNS LESBIAN IVF USE (and gets condemned right back)

Originally published on Dreamwidth NOV. 19TH, 2007 02:30 PM.

Cardinal Murphy-O’Connor wrote: “The bill proposes to remove the need for IVF providers to take into account the child’s need for a father when considering an IVF application and to confer legal parenthood on people who have no biological relationship to a child born as a result of IVF.

-um, ya mean, kinda like folks calling someone “Father” who not only has no relation to them genetically or legally, but whom the folks answering to that appellation still see as necessarily overriding the folks of the first parts’ own judgment in all kinds of personal and political situations?

Of course, they did say that “The direct and intentional destruction of innocent human life is always wrong and is not just one issue among many, […]It must always be opposed.” I wish they had been holding to that standard there in the 1960s-1990s, when they were asked to defend innocent human life. – Oh, right, they only care about protecting innocent life when there’s a chance of controlling a woman along with it. Because otherwise, as Garry Wills says in his LA Times opinion piece, “The supreme irony is that, properly understood, abortion is not even a religious issue.”

I have said before, verbally if not in this forum, that

the damage goes beyond disillusionment with a father figure because the exploiter-abuser was a priest, a “godlike” person, who occupied a position of sacred trust to the youth and his or her family. Furthermore, the victim had not only been violated but his or her source of spiritual support in a time of trouble—the church and its representative—had been rudely swept away.

The authors of this article and writers of the above words obviously (and unknowingly!) agree with me and bring back to the fore the fact that, media skew aside, we are really, really not talking about priests being homosexual predators. On page 56 of this document, they examine the various sources and interpretations of the statistics. But even if only half as many girls as boys get victimized – a statistic questionable on a number of grounds – that still means that a full third of the victims are young females, and their predators thus heterosexual priests. AW Richard Sipe is quoted in that same Boston Globe article as finding that “the numbers change dramatically among late adolescents and adults, with woman victims outnumbering males 4 to 1.”

John Paul II said in his Evangelium vitae of 1995 that

It may be that many people use contraception with a view to excluding the subsequent temptation of abortion. But the negative values inherent in the “contraceptive mentality”-which is very different from responsible parenthood, lived in respect for the full truth of the conjugal act-are such that they in fact strengthen this temptation when an unwanted life is conceived. Indeed, the pro- abortion culture is especially strong precisely where the Church’s teaching on contraception is rejected. Certainly, from the moral point of view contraception and abortion are specifically different evils: the former contradicts the full truth of the sexual act as the proper expression of conjugal love, while the latter destroys the life of a human being; the former is opposed to the virtue of chastity in marriage, the latter is opposed to the virtue of justice and directly violates the divine commandment “You shall not kill”.

I submit that the full truth of the sexual act is a proper expression of affection between consenting adults, and that the total rejection of any sexual permission outside that of a conjugal attempt for reproduction in itself breaks down the attempt by morally desperate but fragile people to understand the rules – which are psychiatric and neither physical nor legal in nature – by which we may sustain a society.

The sexual act between friends – male and female, or female and female, or male and male – does not in itself cause mental agony. The sexual act of a solitary person, like the sexual act between more than two friends, does not cause mental agony.

But a sexual act between an authority figure and a dependent person, whether a child, a legally or religiously submissive person, or a mentally or emotionally fragile or non-competent person, does cause mental agony. It destroys the dependent person’s full capacity for societal participation; it injures and may destroy the dependent person’s full capacity for sexual expression; and it destroys the dependent person’s trust in unconditional love, which has been shown to be profoundly necessary to full moral development.

And a sexual act between people who are not friends, or between people at least one of whom has promised sexual fidelity to one not present, does cause mental agony, to the participants who find their sexual experience to be mechanical or even despairing, and to the person or people not present, who find that their trust in their beloved is unfounded.

There are sexual crimes, oh yes. But I have no ability to hear the words of the authorities of the Catholic church on this matter: their actions are screaming too loudly.


Originally published in Dreamwidth OCT. 21ST, 2004 10:23 AM.

When a few progressive women asked for the right to vote, the society rose up in a body and answered, “That would devastate the family and change society as we know it.”

When more progressive women asked for the right to be treated equally under the law, the society rose up in a body and answered, “That would devastate the family and change society as we know it.”

When even more progressive women asked for the right to legal, safe abortions, the society rose up in a body and answered, “That would devastate the family and change society as we know it.”

Now that various and sundry people (including some gays) are demanding that laws be changed to permit the marriage of gay people to the ones they love, the society is rising up in a body and answering, “That would devastate the family and change society as we know it.”

It is important for us to acknowledge that they were absolutely correct, according to their definitions of marriage, the family, and society as they know it.

Marriage as they know it requires that, and I quote, “The wife submit to the husband as the church submits to Christ; and the husband love the wife as Christ loves the church.” There is a profound sense of unidirectional ownership in this marriage – the wife belongs to the husband, but the husband does not necessarily belong to the wife – and there is also the assumption that wrong behavior shall be chastised.

The family as they know it is the cauldron in which the above and below situations are trained and maintained. Within the family, everyone has a place and a set of duties, responsibilities, and rights that are the same in each and every family in society. Training to a position that will not be held by that family member is rightly suspected to lead to discontent by the one trained when that training is not used. (E.g.: a boy taught to cook will be disappointed when his future wife drives him out of the kitchen, as is her right.)

Society as they know it is predicated on the idea that those in charge tell the rest what to do, and are obeyed. That there are ranges of appropriate behavior for every person, and that those ranges can be understood by looking at the person in question. That the attempt to move outside those ranges of appropriate behavior indicates a desire to belong to the group for whom that behavior is appropriate. That such a desire is both sinful and criminal, and is possibly pathological, and is a pointer to further desires to break societal rules.

Our foremothers and their male allies and family members have absolutely accomplished all of the changes ascribed to them. It is up to us to continue the battle.


Yes, you are seeing this correctly. The Trumpian “conservative” political movement is, in fact, attempting to recreate “the family and society” as they knew it. Or thought they did.