Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Inquisition School

If respect requires refraining from attacking people’s identity, then the only respectful discussion of religion is one in which everyone affirms everyone else’s beliefs, describes those beliefs without passing judgment, or simply remains silent.
Alan Levinovitz, assistant professor of religion at James Madison University. "How Trigger Warnings Silence Religious Students"
What crossed my mind when I read this is "What place does invalidating or passing judgment on other people's religion and or beliefs have in an academic environment?" I don't think that I was a particularly precocious child when I was in school, but even before taking four years of theology classes in high school, I understood that for any belief system confident in it's own exclusive salvific truth, anyone who was not a follower was doomed to whatever torments that a lack of salvation entailed. Accordingly, I didn't need anyone to tell me that as far as they, and whatever clergy they followed, were concerned, I was going to Hell. By the same token, I was well aware of the idea, espoused off and on by many different religions (and divisions thereof) throughout the centuries, that other religions were at best incorrect and at worst deliberate fabrications by some ineffable evil, serving no other purpose than to lead the gullible away from the one true path.

For me, the attitude of avoiding certain types of contention speech, which Professor Levinovitz describes as "a disaster in the religious-studies classroom," is little more than learning the difference between discussing religion as an academic topic and discussing religion as a means of partisan proselytization. When I was in college I could perfectly understand that many religions had an idea of divine punishment meted out to those who transgress certain rules (after all, I'd already had four years of theology by that point). I could even understand the social and community cohesion aspects of that particular article of faith. But I was also perfectly capable of comprehending that the person who felt the need to tell me specifically that I was a sinner saw me as a target for conversion, a buttress for their own feelings of moral righteousness, or some combination thereof. If clergy can explain their religion to you, and contextualize it in a world of other religions without the need to pass judgement on people who believe differently, it seems disingenuous to presume that college-aged young adults can only discuss their faith through calling each other out as sinners or fools.

I can understand that students who are sincerely convinced "that if others don’t believe what they do, they’ll go to hell." And I understand where Professor Levinovitz is coming from when he says that his irreligious students "probably agree with Thomas Jefferson that the final book of the New Testament is 'merely the ravings of a maniac, no more worthy, nor capable of explanation, than the incoherences of our own nightly dreams'." (Although I do believe that he is a bit quick to ascribe that negative viewpoint as universal.) But he seems put out that "they’d never say so in class." But he never explains what benefit that a Baptist student telling a Jew that they'll suffer eternal torment or an atheist calling out an Evangelical's belief in the Rapture as lunacy brings to an academic discourse around religion. In other words, while he disagrees with the idea that "respect requires refraining from attacking people’s identity," he never sees fit to justify his apparent understanding that the two can productively coexist. He simply takes it as an article of faith that being exposed to what seems to be little more than the same garden-variety sectarian bickering one can find anywhere is an important part of religious-studies education. It's a faith that strikes me as misplaced, at best.

Monday, August 29, 2016

Bygones

So I was at The Atlantic, and I found an article titled: Choosing to Stay in the Mormon Church Despite Its Racist Legacy. The subtitle read: "One black woman tries to reconcile her faith with the institution’s history of discrimination."

My first thought was "Are there any religious institutions in the United States that don't have a 'history of discrimination'?" Sure, I suppose there are some relative latecomers that simply aren't old enough to have been through the worst parts of American racial history, and depending on how you look at it, you could make the case that historically Black churches might not have that same history, but it seems to me that pretty much every Christian denomination that existed prior to the Civil War, or maybe even the Civil Rights Movement has a "history of discrimination" to contend with. Sure, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints went so far as to actually code a certain level of racial discrimination into its rules, and in doing so, may have gone farther than some other Christian denominations, but to the degree that it has a history of discrimination, it's because it's a home-grown religious sect in a nation that has a history of discrimination (to put it mildly).

The article itself was boring, a litany of Mormon racism that was new only in the details. And in this, it seemed unnecessary. Had the article actually been about the work that Ms. Graham-Russell needed to do to reconcile herself with a faith that has often been hostile to people like her (and me, for that matter), it would have been a worthwhile read. While I have no "yearning for a church home" and have never felt that "something was missing within me, spiritually," I do find the journeys that people find themselves on interesting, no matter where they lead. The absence in my life of deities, spirits or supreme beings does not prejudice me against the wisdom and serenity that other people find in such entities - even if I do look askance at the idea that its only in the submission to one's chosen divinity can wisdom and serenity be found.

Mormonism is burdened with a well-documented history of racism that most other faiths simply don't have to deal with. And this allows people to ignore those histories. And I suspect that the world wouldn't end if the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints received the same pass.

Friday, August 26, 2016

Spiral

So I'm reading a short post by one of the many people I've circled over the years I've been on Google+ and there's a single comment. Of two words:

FUCK YOU
I read the post again. Had I missed something? No... everything seemed in order. Protocol 12.1.7(A) kicked in - Click the Link, Open the Profile, Block the User. Life is too short to have assholes cluttering up the comments section of people I actually want to read. I Clicked the Link, Opened the Profile and then stopped.
What in the name of Crack am I looking at?
Post after post after post after post of disappointment, bitterness and Rage. I scrolled down. It continued, without a break. I scrolled some more. It went on. It was all there was. The screen name he'd selected for himself was an incoherent mass of seething rage and self-pity. The banner image howled in despair.
Is this guy for real?
Message after message, pouring out anger and hatred at everyone who would listen. And anger and hatred at everyone, for refusing to listen. The place where he lived. The women who rejected him. The netizens who wouldn't follow his videos. The industry types who ignored his talents. The masses of humanity who wouldn't help him realize his dreams. The god who created him to be someone he loathed. He had bile and spite for all of them.
This most be Poe's Law in action. This can't be serious.
I closed the page, and went on about my business. Until there was a pause in my day, and he came to mind again. And I found myself wondering. Is this where it begins? Here was a person who was failing to attain the goals he had set for himself in life. And there was plenty of fault to go around. For everyone but him. He had ceded all control. Or had he?

There was a part of me that simply couldn't bring myself to take any of it seriously. No-one could be that, be that... That what? That self-pitying? That angry? That self-involved? That self-unaware? But of course, there had been people who were that, and more, before. And they had self-destructed. And they had often not gone to their ends alone. How real did I think them?

This wasn't a person who was part of my circles. He was just another Random Person on the Internet. Had he not chosen that one particular post to vandalize, or if the poster had caught it before I came along, I never would have noticed him. Just like it said in his screen name. And I began to wonder. Had they all started out this way? Screaming desperately into an uncaring void until they reached a point when they decided that they were going to make us care, at least for a moment. To become someone that an ever-hungry news cycle would make it impossible to ignore - that is, until the Next New Thing came along.

Home again. There he was, lurking in my History. Open the Profile. It's all still there. Post after unanswered post. There is one response, a lone question mark left by someone who didn't understand why he'd vandalized their group page with a howling screed. I took a screenshot.
No one will believe this, if I don't have proof. I don't believe this.
I didn't believe it. I scrolled down and down, looking for the punch line. The challenge. The "Bet you I can fool them all" post that I knew had to be there. I never found it. I had suspected that I wouldn't. And I wondered.
Where does this end?
Then I found the suicide post. Had it been the most recent posting, I might have believed that he'd set out to do himself in. Instead it was one of the oldest. It was a classic push-me pull-you post, where the writer pushes the reader away, in the hope that the reader will pull the writer back - and in doing so, show that they care. No-one pulled. Then the slide began.
In Fire, of course. These things always do.

Thursday, August 25, 2016

Tiny and Afraid

During an online discussion of John Pavlovitz's Dear Offended Christian, From a Very Tired Christian, one commenter claimed to have never run into a hateful Christian, and hinted strongly that they were simply the fabrications of atheists. Well, for the record, I've never run into a hateful Christian, either. But I have run into any number of fearful ones.

"God hates soft men. God hates effeminate men. If I was in a drugstore and some guy opened the door for me, I'd rip his arm off and beat him with the wet end."
Ken Hutcherson, pastor of Antioch Bible Church in Kirkland.
Anthony Robinson. "Articles Of Faith: Ridiculing gay men is hateful way to preach." Seattle Post-Intelligencer. 22 February, 2008
For many people, including Mr. Robinson, who is also a minister, that quote was proof of Pastor Hutcherson's hatefulness. And I can understand that. "The Hutch" was very much against marriage equality, taking credit for Microsoft backing away from its support of Initiative 957, an early attempt to put marriage equality on the ballot.

But for me, Pastor Hutcherson's words reveal fearfulness. The fearfulness of a man, who despite having been a professional football player (perhaps one of the most "manly" professions in the nation) is afraid enough that his god might see him as unworthy that he threatens violence over an act that most of us were lead to believe is common courtesy. And I've met other people whose religiosity was openly tinged by fear. When I worked for the YMCA in Chicago, our administrative assistant would conspicuously move away from you if you swore or did something else she considered immoral. She believed in a deity who would literally strike you down with a Bolt From the Blue - and had little concern for collateral damage.

Growing up Black, with some VERY Baptist relatives, it didn't take long to realize that they believed in a god who expected things from them, and was potentially very liberal with punishments when crossed. By the time I was in high school (and taking theology classes), I'd come to realize that a belief in collective (or at least somewhat indiscriminate) punishments was wider spread than I'd first thought.

A concern that the actions of another will cause you injury commonly leads to anger. And while some Christians may feel that they have an obligation to hate what they understand their god hates (perhaps Westboro Baptist Church falls into the category) many people are simply angry and upset that other people are so brazenly willing to upset the apple cart. Especially those who believe in an active, interventionist deity who directly controls what does and does not happen in the world. Even as a Roman Catholic, we were taught that God "allowed" certain bad things to happen because of the sinfulness of mankind. If God allowed disease and suffering to ravage mankind for not living up to expectations, is it really that much of a stretch to think that terrorist attacks might also fall into that category?

Fear and anger erode compassion. That's part, it seems, of human nature. It's difficult to be immune from it. And it often leads us to label people in ways that allow us to hold them culpable for what we see as their crimes against us. It's an urge worth resisting.

Monday, August 22, 2016

This For That

One of the issues that comes up in economics is the idea that there are no solutions, only trade-offs. And in this article in Bloomberg View, Megan McArdle points out some of the trade-offs of the march towards a $15 per hour minimum wage in Seattle. When compared to before the law went into effect, according to a study, the average worker who previously earned less than $11 per hour earned an extra $72 per quarter, while at the same time, working 4 less hours in that same timeframe. But as she points out, that 4 hours is an average. Some people kept all of their hours - but about 1.2 percent of low-wage employees became unemployed.

The best guess is that workers who remained employed saw a quarterly increase in earnings of about $184. If you live in a low-income household, $736 a year is a substantial sum. On the other hand, if you live in a low-income household, “no wages at all” is catastrophic.
The question becomes is one worth the other. And it's a trade-off that we have to make, if we don't have the ability to make labor more valuable, which would serve (to a lesser or greater extent) to obviate the problem of wages too low to live on.

There is a point to be made that it's definitely worthwhile. After all, unless one is making more than a little over $60,000 annually, that extra $736 is more than 1.2% of annual income. And in that sense, the portion of the pie that is going to people at the lower end of the income distribution has increased. But that's also what makes things like this tricky - because at the far end of that logical chain is an Omelas scenario, where some unfortunate few suffer greatly, to allow the rest to live better than they otherwise would.

This is the nature of trade-offs, and it's one of the difficult things about policymaking - opponents of whatever choices are made will always seize on the negative aspects of the trade and loudly proclaim that they have a method that eliminates the need for trade-offs - which commonly turns out be little more than an ideological commitment to ignoring the downsides of those methods.

The best-case scenario would be that some of the "extra" $736 a year would go into spending that would necessitate the hire of a new worker, to bring some number of that 1.2 percent back into the labor force. But wealthier people do not see keeping others employed as a reason to reduce their savings and investment rates - it's difficult to see how less affluent people would come to that conclusion.

This, of course, suggests something of a solution, although not a popular one. But eventually something will have to be done. Whether we chose it or it's imposed by circumstances.

Friday, August 19, 2016

Anti-Social Media

I feel that I'm starting to burn out on social media. Many of the interesting people that I first encountered on Google+ aren't posting regularly (or at all) anymore, and a number of the people that I follow who do post tend to post about the problems that they have in their lives, from severe medical conditions to being upset that other people don't listen to them well enough. So maybe I'll take a break, or maybe I'll try to build a new social media social life for myself - one filled with people who are a little more my speed.

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Shirking For a Living

The Atlantic has an article on the White underclass in the United States, and one of the books it talks about is Hillbilly Elegy: A Memoir of a Family and Culture in Crisis, by J. D. Vance. They quote part of it when talking about the resentment people feel that others are "gaming the system" by living, apparently well, on welfare, rather than working.

Most of us were struggling to get by, but we made do, worked hard, and hoped for a better life. But a large minority was content to live off the dole. Every two weeks, I’d get a small paycheck and notice the line where federal and state income taxes were deducted from my wages. At least as often, our drug-addict neighbor would buy T-bone steaks, which I was too poor to buy for myself but was forced by Uncle Sam to buy for someone else.
I've been hearing about this sort of resentment ever since Ronald Reagan inserted the term Welfare Queens into the American lexicon, and it always struck me as odd. Not because I'm somehow unable to fathom how someone could come to resent a person that they perceive as a free rider, but because I never saw the alleged "free ride" as being all that great. The idea that people could simply afford to toss off money on better food, nicer cars and flashier clothes than my parents could afford - and do this on a regular basis, was simply never born out by reality as I saw it. And I didn't know anyone who thought that one could afford a decent life on welfare. When I was growing up, our assumptions about people who lived well with no visible means of support had nothing to do with them cheating the public assistance system. Instead, we assumed that they were up to something patently illegal, like dealing narcotics, burglarizing homes or stealing from more well-off family members; because while we might have seen enough of them to understand that they didn't have the sort of "9 to 5" jobs that "regular" people had, they still had plenty of time when they were out of sight, and the idea that they spent ALL if it being high never entered the picture.

And this strikes me as an interesting difference. Mr. Vance seemed unable to imagine that his "drug-addict neighbor" may have hit upon something criminal to do in their free time (even engaging in some level of outright fraud) that netted them the money to eat better than he did. And so he doesn't seem to imagine that welfare may not have been enough to make ends meet, let alone live the good life.

I remember looking at my taxes every year and grumbling about how much I was paying out, and feeling deprived for not having that money to spend. But in the world I grew up in, "Uncle Sam" was unable to properly provide for the deserving, let alone the undeserving, regardless of the money that never made it home with me. When I was a child-care worker, there were any number of families who paid only cursory interest in their children when they came to visit for events. They were, quite literally, only there for the food. We always looked the other way when they packed up leftovers to take home with them. And when I was a foster care caseworker, from time to time I would encounter foster parents who were upset because the checks they received to support the children they'd taken in (typically those of relatives) weren't enough to feed, clothe and care for a child and leave a profit over besides; and it would be all I could do to not ask them "What were you expecting?" The ideas that welfare could fund a decent life or that women had children because they were being well-paid to have them struck me a ludicrous.

Perhaps that's the effect of regular trips into the concentrated, grinding poverty of urban areas. I understood that there were poor people in the distant suburb that I lived and grew up in, but to see really Poor people, you had to do some driving. But I think that if the only poor people I'd ever met lived in the cheap apartments on the other side of town from my parents' house, I'd think that poverty in general wasn't really all that bad. After all, there was nothing like the graffiti and roach infestations that typified urban blighting. And there were never bars on the windows.

And maybe that's the difference. In the poor neighborhoods that some of my cousins grew up in, or that I had to take children into for home visits, the understanding that it was an environment shaped by crime was inescapable. I've gone into fast-food places that put more into physical security than most banks I've been in. Perhaps that's what makes the difference. When a place visibly protects itself from the people within in, you understand that they're not living well. Regardless of how little work one might assume they're doing to earn that living.

Sunday, August 14, 2016

Strange Empathy

It’s a strange kind of empathy: one that resolutely condemns the choices, lifestyles, and self-declared identities of LGBT people, but also resolutely affirms that their underlying struggle is real.
Emma Green "Hating Queerness Without Hating the Queer"
I see nothing strange about it, even ignoring the widespread (and, let's admit it, not always followed) admonition to "Hate the sin, but love the sinner." Given that this is election season, it's easy to find examples up and down of people who see other people working to resolve real problems in their lives, yet condemn the choices they may in attempting to find that resolution. And it can be summed up in the concept of "voting against their own interests."

In fact, it's actually pretty rare that we concede that the reality of a struggle places the choices, lifestyles, and self-declared identities of the people who live that struggle above criticism, mainly because we are typically always willing to criticize choices we find objectionable and we are not accustomed to others supporting the right to make choices that they wouldn't actually select. I recall a conversation with an acquaintance, and their difficulty in understanding that I was at once pro-choice, yet unsympathetic to, and unsupportive of, the practice of abortion in general.

If that sort of empathy is at all strange, it's because we dislike acknowledging that people often have very valid reasons for making what we consider to be choices. And I think that becomes the issue in the end. I think there is an assumption that acknowledging that a given choice makes sense in a difficult situation becomes a de facto endorsement of that choice, and so we chalk choices up to failures of character and/or ethics rather than a lack of a better option at the time, perhaps because it feels wrong to both say that a choice was unacceptable and it may have been the best choice available under the circumstances.

Friday, August 12, 2016

Notes

I used to dabble in fiction, when I was younger. Living in Chicago, there were plenty of things to spark the imagination. Everything had a story, even if you had to make it up on the spot. So I jotted down, from time to time, imagined backstories of the things and people I encountered in my day to day life. I haven't done that in some time. It's likely been twenty years. But over on Google+, an acquaintance shares pictures intended to be writing prompts.

Yesterday, at the grocery store, someone left a notebook with their shopping list in the cart I'd selected. My interaction with the item was short. Still, I knew it had a story. But instead of imagining its past, I pondered its future.

*  *  *

Purple handwritten text on gray lines on tan paper. A short list of foods, and a plan for dinner. I picked it up from the cart.

"Miss!" I said, to the twenty-something woman who was walking the last yard to her car. "Miss, you forgot your grocery list."

She looked back at me, her face framed by short, dark hair. She shook her head. "It's not mine." She shrugged.

I closed the notebook, concealing its contents within its soft Celadon outer covers, and put it back where it had lain, before wheeling the cart into the store.

By the time I'd reached the checkout stand, the notebook, with it's helpful "Notes" label and copper-colored wire binding, was buried under chicken and bread and potstickers and a charcuterie sampler from California and shopping bags that I was reusing, and had been forgotten again. When it was uncovered, in the process of bagging up the food that I'd bought, the checker noticed it.

"Don't forget your notebook," she said, placing it on top. "It's a pretty color."

I opened it again, as I walked out to the car, looking for a clue to its owner. A "if found, please call," instruction placed inside the cover or a business card tucked between pages and pages of handwriting, but nothing to link it to the person who had written them. I looked around, even as I remembered that I wouldn't find a garbage can or recycling bin, not that I'd left the immediate area of the store. I replaced it on top, and loaded the bag into the front seat.

By the time I'd nearly reached home, I'd forgotten it again, else it would have found it's way into the garbage can. The one underneath the corkboard by the mailboxes that everyone uses to dispose of junk mail, advertising circulars and their voter's pamphlets. Or perhaps the recycling dumpster that sat a few yards away.

Instead, it found its way to the kitchen counter to join the clutter of a week's worth of never seeming to make it home on time, for one reason or another.

I came into the kitchen, for a last sip of water before bedtime, and saw it again. I had my drink, then picked it up, and took it back to my room.

The handwriting took a bit to decipher. Between printing and reading from screens and printed pages, my grasp of cursive had grown rusty. But the pages gave up their secrets without a fight. Tricks to fertility, instructions to stay healthy, concerns about money, lists of foods, admissions of errors and pleas for forgiveness, adjustments to life shared, questions of character, to-do lists, drafts of thank-yous, aspirations, feelings of being ignored and disrespected. And hope for the future.

As I read thoughts, feelings and a life that had never been intended for my eyes, a phantom coalesced nearby, to give form to the person who had wielded pen and pencil. And to speak the words aloud for my mind's ear. The voice was heartfelt, and powerful, even though it was completely conjured.

And then it was still.

Silenced by the steady growl of the shredder as it greedily devoured the evidence of trespass.

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Play On

So by now, everyone has heard of Donald Trump's latest "outrage," which goes something like this:
Hillary wants to abolish — essentially abolish — the Second Amendment. By the way, and if she gets to pick... If she gets to pick her judges, nothing you can do, folks. Although the Second Amendment people, maybe there is, I don't know. But... But I'll tell you what — that will be a horrible day.
And of course, people took the bait accusing Mr. Trump of essentially calling for the assassination of Mrs. Clinton.

But you could make a case, with a careful reading, that his world could point to something else entirely. And in this sense, Mr. Trump's defenders are right - people are reading what they want to see into his comments.


It's still working...
And that to me, is the point. No matter what reading of Mr. Trump's comments one subscribes to, taking them seriously and treating them as outrages simply allows Mr. Trump to continue to dominate the news cycle. Mr. Trump is intelligent enough to avoid saying anything that would really get him into trouble - or alienate his supporters. But by throwing out off-the-cuff, and more importantly, ambiguous remarks, he goads someone into reacting to him and those reactions become news, and that news becomes free campaign advertising.

It may not propel Mr. Trump to 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, but it's brilliant, nonetheless.

Monday, August 8, 2016

Unfettered

Former Republican candidate John McCain became the latest senior Republican to criticise Mr Trump for his attack on the parents of US Army Capt Humayun Khan, who was killed by a car bomb in 2004 in Iraq, at the age of 27.

Senator McCain, a veteran of the Vietnam War, said in a strongly worded statement that Mr Trump did not have "unfettered licence to defame the best among us".
US election: Donald Trump says Hillary Clinton is 'the devil'
As a matter of fact, Senator McCain yes, he does. As long as he doesn't stand to lose any support for his comments, he's going to keep making them. Donald Trump appears to have learned something that would be handy for the rest of us - not to judge himself or his actions by the standards of his critics. People may think that Mr. Trump should be doing more to appeal to people who don't already support him, but that's not normally the way politics works, or we wouldn't have so many negative campaigns.

The secret to winning elections is typically keep the people who back you enthusiastic and set out to get the people who don't like you to doubt the other options enough that they stay home on Election Day. And as long as Mr. Trump can keep his supporters clamoring for more, he's not the least bit worried about what everyone else thinks.

Saturday, August 6, 2016

Exuberance


Friday, August 5, 2016

Unerased

But, based on our experience coaching and mentoring thousands of women over the years, we believe women experience more workplace stress than men primarily because they must contend with stereotype threat — a phenomenon that is virtually unknown to men.

Stereotype threat occurs when a woman is aware of a stereotype that women perform poorly compared to men at a given task — test, negotiation, presentation, competition — as a result of which she fails to perform up to her ability.
Why Women Feel More Stress at Work
Stereotype threat is not a gendered construct. One doesn't have to be a woman to experience it. The article itself points out that even high-status men can have their performance on a task degraded by being informed that another group routinely outperforms them. But then it goes back to discussing the phenomenon in terms of women, and suggesting remedies that women can use to combat it - even there is nothing gendered about the remedies, either.

For many people, this is part of a phenomenon known as erasure, typically thought of as a sort of denial by omission. If one doesn't mention something, eventually, it fades from the public consciousness, just as if it never happened. And avoiding mentioning something becomes complicity in, or even a desire for, that fading. It's part of a desire to be "seen," and, on top of that, to have one's trials and travails recognized by others.

But there is another way to look at it, and that's simply as being directed to a limited audience. In this case, the audience is women - the fact that men might experience the same phenomenon is, temporarily at least beside the point. I can assume good intent, and decide that there is no effort underway to conceal the history of stereotypes based on race or class. Rather than reading "women" to mean "only women" I can chose to read it as meaning "women and others."

That's the choice before me. And it is my choice. Mainly because the consequences of making it fall on me. If I'm offended by the idea that, as  a Black person in America, that the Harvard Business Review is intentionally slighting the experiences that I've had with combating stereotypes, no one at HBR is likely to notice - it's my peace of mind that's at stake, not theirs. If I decide that the use of humor to deal with the issue is something that only women can use, I'm the one who loses out on what may be a useful tool. In this case, as in so many others, the assumption of good intent is not a mercy for them - it's a mercy for me. And if I already believe that the rest of the world is out to get me, I may as well be on my own team.

Wednesday, August 3, 2016

Monday, August 1, 2016

Influid

The Seattle City Council has voted to ban "conversion therapy" for youth in the city, making it punishable with fines. There are a number of people who would be happy to see the practice go away entirely, and that realization triggered a thought.

It's possible to be transgender, or even genderfluid, but there are other parts of identity that we don't allow are changeable. The idea sexuality can be changed is hotly disputed, and the idea that race is something that we should be able to chose for ourselves is considered laughable, despite the understanding that race is a social construct, rather than a biological or physiological one. But how long will that be true?

Will we see a day when identity is strictly what a person makes of it? Where being gay or being Latin are considered independent of the circumstances of one's birth in the same way gender is becoming. I suspect that it will happen, although I'm not betting I live to see it. Still, I wonder what it will look like.