Review: Deadly Sweet Lies by Erica Cameron

The cover of Deadly Sweet Lies by Erica Cameron

This is another book I read for Mystery Grab Bag Ace Fiction Month.

What is this novel about?

Julian, a teenager living in Las Vegas, is a supreme master of the art of bullshitting people. That’s how he keep the rent paid – his mother is a wreck who cannot hold a steady job or manager her finances, so it’s up to Julian to get enough money through illegal poker matches to cover both of their basic needs. And Julian hides the severity of his mother’s problems because he does not want to be placed in a group home or foster care. Fortunately, he has the refuge of the dream world, where he can meet Orane, his one true friend … until Orane dies, and it turns out he was not such a good friend after all.

Meanwhile, Nadette is also a teenager. She can detect lies as soon as she hears them – and she cannot lie herself because it would make her head hurt. For years, she has been pursued by people in the dream world, but since she knows right away that they are lying to her, she never falls for their schemes. Until one person from the dream world comes to tell her that, if she does not do what he wants, he will hurt her family – and Nadette knows that he is telling the truth.

What sexual and/or violent content does this novel contain?

There is assaulting young children, murder … oh, you asked about sexual content first. There isn’t any sexual content, unless kissing counts as sexual content. And yes, there is a nonconsensual kiss in the story.

Tell me more about this novel.

This book is the second novel in the The Dream War Saga series. It is possible to start with this book since there are enough references to events of Sing, Sweet Nightingale (the first book in the series) to follow what is going on.

Even though this novel is presumably in a different genre than Assassins: Discord (this novel is fantasy, whereas Assassins: Discord is a thriller), these two novels are both remarkably similar. Teenage protagonist from abusive/neglectful family who has honed their deception/manipulation skills because of their family? Check. A suspenseful chase between Florida and New York? Check (though at least it’s in a different direction – in Assassins it’s NY-to-Florida, whereas this novel is Florida-to-NY). A preoccupation with figuring out which of the powerful people is lying and about what? Check. Female teenage protagonist who finds a haven and falls in love with girl at said haven? Check (though at least the orienation is different – Nadette in this novel is lesbian, whereas the protagonist of Assassins is bi).

All that said, I found it easier to suspend suspension of disbelief in this novel because it IS fantasy. In that sense, it worked better for me than Assassins. However, I felt that Assassins had a better character growth arc than this story.

I do like the contrast between Julian and Nadette’s powers – Julian is a magical liar, and Nadette is a magical lie-detector. As it so happens, Julian’s power beats Nadette’s power – Julian is the only person who can lie to Nadette without her detecting the lie.

Then the novel abruptly cuts off right before the climax of the story. In other words, it’s a major cliffhanger ending. I am not quite as against cliffhanger endings as some readers, but even by my standards, this novel pushing the limits of my tolerance. Even if the main issue is meant to be resolved in the next book in the series rather than this book, I felt that it would have been much better for this book to go a chapter past where it actually did.

Asexuality?

On the asexuality content scale (1 = least asexual content, 10 = most asexual content), I rate this as being a 2.

Most of the asexual content is in Chapter 21.

Before Chapter 21, Julian realizes that he likes Nadette, and when a boy likes a girl, that means he’s in love with her right? So he kisses her without permission (yep, I groaned too). But when Nadette tells him that, no, she does not like him that way, she’s a lesbian, Julian is relieved. So he wonders what is up with him when he’s happy that the girl he likes does not want to be his girlfriend.

Then we get to Chapter 21, in which Julian talks to Beth about all this. Eventually, their conversation gets to this point.

Beth’s next question stops me cold. “What do you think about sex? In a general sense.”

“What? Seriously?” I stare at her. She doesn’t take the question back or even try to clarify it. She just sits there. Waiting. “It’s … I don’t know. A biological and evolutionary imperative.”

As Beth’s smile grows, the expression hovers between amused and sympathetic. “Have you ever heard the term asexual?”

“Like a worm? Or an amoeba?”

Her laugh echoes through the room. “No, not like an amoeba. Keep in mind this is another one of those ‘everyone-is-different’ things, but on the scale of human sexuality, asexuality can mean that you’re not sexually attracted to anyone. Girls, boys, trans, genderfluid – no matter what form humans take, you have no desire to have sex with them.”

“That’s …” My mouth is dry. It feels like my heart has stopped. I have to swallow a couple of times before I can create words. “That’s a thing? People do that?”

“Yeah. It’s a small portion of the population – like one percent or something, maybe less – but if that’s how you feel, you’re definitely not the only one.”

“But …” The word spins through my head as I look back at my life. I figured I never wanted to sleep with anyone because I poured all my focus into staying financially steady. I thought I pushed it aside by choice. But looking back on the last few years, when all the guys I knew were suddenly obsessed with finding someone (anyone, really) willing to sleep with them … I never had to push that hard. It never felt like I was sacrificing anything.

So we have both the ace explanation and the allo-savior complex on display here. And I also notice the way it constructs ‘trans’ as being separate from ‘girls’ and ‘boys’, implying that ‘trans’ is a gender separate from ‘female’ and ‘male’ (I know some trans people get unhappy when they have to choose between marking, say ‘female’ ‘male’ and ‘trans’ on questionnaires because they are both ‘female’ AND ‘trans’ or both ‘male’ AND ‘trans’).

The scene keeps going on in that vein, with Beth pouring out more ace explanation. How does a non-ace like her happen to be so informed about ace stuff? Julian asks that very question…

I take another breath, this one shakier than I want it to be. “How do you know all this?”

Beth relaxes, the slight shift of her shoulders an additional ease to her posture suddenly cluing me in to the nervousness I somehow missed. “I had a friend growing up who identified as demisexual and talking to her about that got me interested in human sexuality in general. I started doing a lot of reading on my own.”

Not much happens with Julian’s asexuality in the story after this point.

What this written by an ace?

Yes, Erica Cameron is asexual. In fact, she figured out she was asexual while she was during research for this novel.

Hey Sara, do you like this novel?

No *sigh*. Erica Cameron is not a bad writer, but the novels she writes do not seem to agree with my reading tastes. I think this will be the last Erica Cameron book I’ll ever read.

We Are All Barbara Yung

A photo of Barbara Yung.

Recently, I read the article “Making Athens Great Again”. Though it’s been a long time since I’ve immersed myself in Ancient Greek literature, it is consistent with what I remember.

Meanwhile, I’ve taken up the study of Classical Chinese lately, which means I’ve been spending quite a bit of time lately pouring over Chinese texts written over two thousand years ago (though, because I am not proficient in Classical Chinese yet, I read it slowly, and thus have not read a large volume yet). I can tell, based on what I have read so far, that the writers of the late Zhou dynasty through the Han dynasty were concerned with a lot of the same issues as the people of ancient Athens – the brevity of human life, how to make human life matter in spite of its brevity, the possibility of doing something that matters so much one is known even after death. The ancient Chinese did not always have the same answers as their Greek contemporaries, but they were grappling with some of the same philosophical issues.

Reading all of this stuff thousands of years after these people wrote down their thoughts adds a whole other dimension to this discussion of whether people can do something which matters so much that their names will be known long after their death, and whether this does any good. The fact that Socrates is still so well known thousands of years after his death is a statement in itself.

It also has a humbling effect on the way I think about my own times. On the time scale of thousands of years, the United States of America does not seem as significant as it does in my usual modes of thought (which is on the scale of minutes-thru-decades).

So, in the context of all that, where does Barbara Yung fit in?

A few of the people reading this blog recognize the name Barbara Yung (or recognize her Chinese name, 翁美玲). However, I am guessing that most of the people reading this do not have the foggiest idea who Barbara Yung was.

So who was Barbara Yung? She was a very popular Hong Kong actress – to this date, she has a large fanbase. Barbara Yung is so famous that it was reported in (Chinese-language) news when her mother died in January, 2017. Barbara Yung rose to fame due to being cast as Huang Rong in the 1983 TV adaptation of Legend of the Condor Heroes, and even though she continued to star in other TV shows, she is still most strongly associated with the character Huang Rong, just as Emma Watson is most strongly associated with the character Hermione Granger. To this day, there are still many Barbara Yung fans out there, people who felt that she touched their lives in a good way (here is an example of a fan tribute music video). She is more famous than most people will ever be, and she has arguably had a positive impact on more people than most people ever will.

Barbara Yung in her most famous role as Huang Rong

I’ve seen some episodes of the 1983 adaptation of Legend of the Condor Heroes. Overall, I think it’s overrated, but Barbara Yung is one of the best things about the show. If I ever go back and watch more episodes, it will be mainly for her. She captured how vibrant and spontaneous Huang Rong is.

Though I am not attached to any of the TV adaptations of Legend of the Condor Heroes, I do have a personal attachment to the Condor Trilogy (which is obvious to anyone who has followed this blog for a long time). I remember that reading about Huang Rong’s death in third book in the trilogy made my tears come out – and most fictional character deaths do not bring out tears in me. In the novels, if my calculations are correct, Huang Rong is about 70 years old when she dies.

Barbara Yung died when she was twenty-six years old.

If we measure how ‘good’ a life was by its length, then Barbara Yung clearly got a short end of the stick. But if we measure how ‘good’ a life was by fame and positive impacts on others, then Barbara Yung did really well. She is known to hundreds of millions of people.

But there are still billions of people who have no idea who she is. And she is best known among people who have watched 1980s Hong Kong television, which is less popular among younger generations than among generations which were alive during the 1980s. Two hundred years from now, Barbara Yung may be so obscure that she will be hardly more famous than the average person who lived in the 20th century.

There are also many people who are more famous and/or had a much greater impact on the world than Barbara Yung: Yu Gwansun, Jeanne d’Arc, Anne Frank, Malalai of Maiwand, and Princess Zhao of Pingyang, among others. You know what all of those names I just mentioned have in common (aside from the fact that they are all female, which was actually unintentional on my part, and that they are all from Eurasia)? They all died before their 26th birthdays – i.e. their lives were even shorter than Barbara Yung’s. I think all of those people will be remembered even after Barbara Yung is forgotten, but for how much longer? I do not know.

Thinking in terms of millennia – and if we are bringing Socrates-era Athens and Han dynasty China into this, then we are talking in terms of millennia – how much do any of these people matter? I think it’s safe to say that, even on the timescale of millennia, Princess Zhao of Pingyang matters because she’s already been dead for over a thousand years and she is still a famous person. Jeanne d’Arc will probably still be famous a thousand years after her death. For the others, it’s harder to predict.

What about in terms of tens of thousands of years? From the perspective of someone ten thousand years from now (assuming humanity is still around – I think there will probably still be humans ten thousand years from now, but extinction within the next ten thousand years is possible), I might as well have lived at the same time as Barbara Yung, even though there is no overlap between our chronological lifespans! Also, from the perspective of people ten thousand years from now, the difference between Barbara Yung’s level of fame and impact on the world and my level of fame and impact on the world will not matter at all.

Also, when we are talking in terms of tens of thousands of years, the different between a lifespan of 26 years and, say, 91 years (the lifespan of Barbara Yung’s mother) does not seem like much. It happens to matter to me personally a great deal whether my own lifespan will be, say, thirty years or a hundred years, but that is because I am living in terms of years and decades, not tens of thousands of years. I certainly do not feel, emotionally, that there is much difference between a human dying at the age of three weeks old and a human dying at the age of ten weeks old.

On a time scale of a million years, we (that is, myself and everyone who reads this blog) are all practically indistinguishable from Barbara Yung.

What conclusions can we draw from this? Well, the conclusion I draw is that trying to have one’s name known long after one’s death is a futile goal – no matter what I do, I will eventually be forgotten, and I do not particularly care whether I am forgotten just years after my death, or whether I am forgotten tens of thousands of years after my death. I do care about having a good impact on people, but one can have a good impact and still be totally anonymous. Furthermore, I think doing my best is a much better goal than trying to be extraordinary (maybe I might end up being extraordinary anyway, but that’s not the point).

I sometimes do get caught up in and upset by petty bullshit, because that’s how my psychology is set up. However, when I’m collected enough that I can pull out of that, reminding myself of the vastness of time helps me understand that petty bullshit ultimately does not matter.

I do not know how long I will live, though I probably will not live to be a hundred years old. However long or short my life ends up being, I’ll try to make the most of it.

Clearly, I have been recently reading parts of the Zhuangzi (one of the most influential works of ancient Chinese philosophy), since its logic seems to be slipping into my thoughts. To quote the Zhuangzi, 莫壽乎殤子,而彭祖為夭 – (Mandarin pronunciation) “Mò​ shòu​ hū​ shāng​ zǐ​, ér​ Péng​ Zǔ wéi​ yāo​​” – “There is no one more long-lived than a child which dies prematurely, and Peng Zu [who supposedly had a lifespan of 800 years] did not live out his time.”

Review: Seven Way We Lie by Riley Redgate

The cover of Seven Ways We Lie by Riley Redgate

This is yet another book I’m reading for my Mystery Grab Bag Ace Fiction Month.

What is this novel about?

It’s set at a high school in a fictional town in Kansas. It is about seven teenagers, each of whom represent one of the seven deadly sins of Christianity (Lust, Envy, Greed, Sloth, Gluttony, Wrath, and Pride). As one would expect from teenagers who are metaphors for deadly sins, they each have some kind of serious problem – for example, the one who represents ‘lust’ keeps on hooking up with guys to fill the emptiness in her life left by the mother who abandoned her, and one who represents ‘sloth’ uses marijuana all the time and never does his homework, and the one who represents greed is the high school’s marijuana/beer-for-the-underaged dealer.

Anyway, the school administration gets an anonymous tip that one of the teachers is in a romantic relationship with a student, but they do not know who the teacher or the student is. That is the spark which sets this high school drama on fire.

What sexual and/or violent content is there in this story?

The teacher and the student in a romantic relationship do NOT have sex, but they do touch each other a lot, lie down together in bed, etc. – and obviously, it is a student/teacher romance. There is quite a bit of discussion of the characters sexual activities and sexual feelings, and there is on-page sexual kissing, on-page detailed making-out, and a dick pic, but no on-page sex.

As far as violence … one of the kisses in non-consensual. A student is involuntarily outed as being non-heterosexual, and there is some physical violence associated with that (as well as a ton of drama). A student drinks so much alcohol that she has to go to the hospital.

Tell me more about this novel.

There are seven point-of-view (POV) characters.

You serious? SEVEN POV CHARACTERS? And this is a standalone novel, not part of a series, so you’ve never met any of these characters before, right? How did you keep track of all of them?

Well, it did take me about a hundred pages for me to get a good handle on who all of them were. I felt like I ought to have figured out sooner that Olivia Scott and Kat Scott were twin sisters, even though the fact that they have the same last name ought to have been a big hint.

So, which of them was the ace character?

Err, can’t you want until we get to the ‘Asexuality’ section?

I MUST KNOW NOW WHICH DEADLY SIN THE ACE CHARACTER REPRESENTS!

The character who represents the deadly sin of ‘Pride’ is ace.

Now that’s just typical – of course they present the ace character as acting holier-than-thou towards all of the non-asexual characters…

Ummm, this novel is not like that.

… and I bet the ‘Lust’ character is the other non-heterosexual character…

Err, no. The pansexual character does not represent ‘Lust’, he’s the marijuana/beer dealer who represents ‘Greed’.

How about you let me get on with the review?

Fine, get on with it.

I thought this was a pretty good high school drama. It does not really feel like my experience in high school (unlike This Song Is (Not) For You), but it also did not feel as fake as a lot of the high school fiction I’ve encountered.

While Olivia Scott was not the character I liked the most, she certainly had the most colorful voice. Here are some examples:

It’d be less awkward than letting this silence stretch on longer, that’s for sure. But my voice is on lockdown, which is bizarre, given that locking down my voice is usually about as doable as locking down a rampaging rhinoceros.

I don’t want to say anything that might make him go.

Why am I invested? This is a horrible idea. Whoever invented emotions is hopefully frozen in the ninth circle of hell. They deserve it.

I think the POV I liked the most was Kat Scott. The only thing she gives a shit about is theatre – specifically, performing in an intense Russian drama in which nobody is happy. She doesn’t care about her classes, and she doesn’t want to spend time with her family, so she fills her time when she’s not occupied with theatre with play first-person shooter electronic games in which she blasts away zombies. (If you’re wondering, her deadly sin is ‘Wrath’).

Anyway who has had any contact with the high school fiction genre knows that there is a tendency to pair off characters romantically/sexually for a happy ending. Does this happen here? Yes – there is one pair who gets the sex-and-romance Happy Ending Special (except it’s too clichéd to be special). However, the other five POV characters get more interesting endings, so huzzah for that.

Is the pansexual character one of the ones who gets the Happy Ending Special?

No. And by the way, that character has a name: Lucas McCallum. You don’t have to call him “the pansexual character”.

That’s just typical.

It IS typical. But his ending isn’t tragic either. While I recognize the pattern of heterosexual characters getting the Sex-and-Romance-Happy-Ending-Special while the queer character does not, I actually prefer this to and ending in which *all the characters* get shoved into a Sex-and-Romance-Happy-Ending-Special.

Asexuality?

On the asexuality content scale (1 = least asexual content, 10 = most asexual content), I rate this as a 2.

The ace character is Valentine Simmons. A review I read while I was deciding whether or not to read this claimed that Valentine is autistic. This is never explicitly stated in the novel, but Valentine’s character does seem autistic.

The word ‘asexual’ is never used. Instead, we get descriptions like this:

Part of me wonders what it would feel like, a kiss. I’ve never felt compelled to try putting my mouth on somebody else’s mouth. I refuse to believe it feels like a symphony of violins, or a ferociously panning camera, or an eruption of emotion in the center of my chest, or anything else it’s supposed to be.

Then, in a later scene, there is this:

“Right. You’re not into guys,” he says, disappointment settling onto his face.

Frustration mounts in my chest. He’s attractive; that’s obvious. I’ve never connected with a human being the way I have with him. And still – still … “I’m not into anyone,” I say desperately. “I don’t know if it’s because I’ve hardly had a friend, or what, but conceptualizing crushes has always been a problem, and I just – I don’t.” The words stick in my throat. I say them again, a broken record spitting broken words: “I don’t.”

There are other instances in the novel when it’s stated, in one way or another, that Valentine is not sexually/romantically interested in people. Fortunately, it’s not a source of angst or unhappiness for Valentine (with the exception of the above scene where Valentine disappoints a friend). Valentine just finds it baffling that other people make such a fuss about sex/romance.

Was this written by an asexual?

I don’t know.

Hey Sara, do you like this novel?

I do. It’s not a literary masterpiece, and some parts of the novel do not entirely cohere together, but I found it an enjoyable distraction.

Review: Kindred Spirits by Katharine Eliska Kimbriel

This is what the cover of my copy of Kindred Rites looks like.

This is yet another review for my Mystery Grab Bag Ace Fiction Month.

What is this novel about?

Alfreda Sorensson, who lives in the Michigan Territory in the early 19th century, has begun learning how to her her Gift (i.e. magic) from her cousin, Marta Helgisdottir Donaltsson. They come from a long line of ‘practitioners’ i.e. magic users – from Sweden. The descendants of European immigrants living on the frontier rely on magic to defend themselves from the hostile Indians, specifically the Miami and the Shawnee. Since Alfreda is entering puberty, she has attracted a poltergeist, which constantly annoys her.

However, there are worse things out there than an annoying poltergeist. In the Indiana territory, there are the Hudsons, a family of British sorcerers – that is, practitioners of evil magic – led by an immortal patriarch. They kidnap girls around the age of thirteen who possess the Gift to take as wives to steal their power and ensure that their children will also have strong Gifts. And Alfreda is exactly the type of girl they want to take.

What sexual and/or violent content is there in this novel?

There is no sex. The protagonist is going through puberty (she is thirteen), there are threats of sexual violence, there are vague allusions to sexual violence off-page, and there is an instance of non-consensual kissing. There is a graphic childbirth scene (which is not sexual or violent per se, but has a lot of pain, danger, and bodily fluids). There are also instances of on-page violence in the story (drugging, strangling, etc.), but nothing more gory than the childbirth scene.

Tell me more about this novel.

It’s the second book in the Night Calls series.

Have you read the first book?

No.

Why didn’t you start with the first book?

Because I don’t have a copy of the first book.

Why do you have a copy of the second book in the series but not the first book?

Because someone gave me a copy of the second book in the series, not the first book. And I recalled that it worked pretty well as a standalone, since I did not feel I missed much by starting with the second book.

‘Recalled’? Is this the book that you first read back in the 1990s?

Bingo! At the time I first read this, I was younger than the 13-year-old protagonist. In fact, I distinctly remember the protagonist being older than me, so this time around it was weird to read about this 13-year-old who I am used to thinking of as being ‘older’ than me.

Anyway, I decided to re-read this one not just because I conveniently still have a copy of it, but because I have a nostalgia for this one which I won’t have for the other books in the series.

So spill it! What is the novel like?

The novel can be split into two parts – the first part is mainly about Alfreda learning about the Wise Arts (i.e. magic) as well teaching her younger brothers about mundane survival skills. The second part is about Alfreda and the Hudsons. However, the two parts are connected – in the first part, we learn about Alfreda’s skills, and in the second part, we watch Alfreda put those skills to use.

I remember, when I read this as kid, I thought it was pretty cool that there was a fantasy story set on the American frontier. Now, as a more educated adult, I think I better appreciate some of the historical subtleties – for example, instead of following the current convention of white people be a monolithic group, it clearly presents different groups of European immigrants as being different (which is consistent with how people in the 19th century United States viewed race and ethnicity). Also, having read about MammothFail, I appreciate that not all white authors who choose to write fantasy on the American frontier include Indians in their worldbuilding. I am not giving Katharine Eliska Kimbriel a cookie for this, simply noting that others have done much worse than her in this regard.

I also found the dynamics of the Hudson family very interesting. Of course, they are creepy as heck – they kidnap, marry, and rape 13-year-old girls to sustain their power – but that leads to a complex set of relationships. Some of the Hudson women have attained a degree of power within the family, some of the kidnapped brides have found ways to resist their captivity, some of the young men are afraid that they will be preyed upon by their elders and respond by trying to dominate the young women OR forming alliances with the young women, and so forth. I like Felicity, a captured bride who seems mentally ill and is secretly using wild magic to protect herself, and it’s not clear whether she is able to use wild magic because she is really is mentally ill, or that she feigns mental illness to prevent the Hudsons from figuring out that she can use magic beyond their control.

And overall, I enjoyed re-reading it, just as I had enjoyed reading it the first time.

Asexuality?

This is a bit tricky … on the asexuality content rating scale (1 = least asexual content, 10 = most asexual content), I am rating this as a 1 * – yes, that is an asterisk.

The asterisk means that, in the absence of Word of Ace, I would think ‘hmmmm, I suppose it’s possible that Alfreda is on the ace-spectrum, she does seem more ace than most 13-year-old girls, but it’s not conclusive’. As it so happens, Word of Ace states that Alfreda is demisexual. This novel, in isolation, suggests asexuality more than demisexuality to me, but it’s the nature of demisexuality that it can look an awful lot like asexuality, especially at younger ages.

So, what are the things in the novel which makes me think “hmmm, maybe ace?” Mostly, it’s Alfreda’s relationship with her friend Idelia. Idelia is just a year older, yet she is already engaged, and is very enthusiastic about marrying this boy. Alfreda does not relate to the enthusiasm.

That was hard for me to understand, her longing for marriage. Yes, I could see wanting your own home, but I had so much still to learn, I couldn’t imagine getting married yet. Marriage was followed by babies, unless you used a decoction of Queen Anne’s lace to keep from getting pregnant. And a baby would slow my lessons.

A mistake about a man could be a nightmare for a practitioner. I was in no hurry – I didn’t want to make any mistake.

Of course, the reasoning in the above passage could also be used by a non-ace 13-year-old, but the subtlety I noticed is that Alfreda does not list having a mate in the ‘pro’ part of her thoughts on ‘pros and cons of marriage’.

There is a later scene, when two handsome young men are visiting. Alfreda’s reaction, after having her friend Idelia walk her through how to receive them, is:

I had no chance of learning this game. Could it ever matter to me more than my lessons?

Only a little while longer. I might have been the only girl in a week’s riding who was trying to get rid of two good-looking young men, but there you have it. The struggle not to say anything odd always tired me, and they’d stayed almost an hour.

In the scenes with the young men, Idelia and Marta seem to assume that Alfreda will enjoy the attention of the young men, whereas Alfreda mainly finds it really awkward. Furthermore, she finds the situation confusing, and needs Idelia to explain it. This to me is a sign of possible aceness.

In short, the most ace thing about this novel is that Alfreda and Idelia seem like a mild version of the Ace Foil trope.

Was this written by an asexual?

I don’t know.

Hey Sara, do you like this novel?

Yes! It’s not one of my favorites, but it was a pleasure to re-visit this tiny little corner of my childhood.

A Political Cost of Social Unorganization

Last week, I went to a meeting to recruit volunteers for a legislative campaign (specifically, the campaign to pass SB 562 in the California legislature, but this post is not about SB 562). Whereas an election campaign is about persuading voters among the general public to vote in a particular way, a legislative campaign is about getting legislators to vote in a particular way, so the strategies and tactics are different. One of the things which struck me when the presenters said that, for a legislative campaign, getting individuals to send letters/emails/phone calls in support of legislation is not an effective tactic.

Now, I do not think that they meant that letters/emails/phone calls to legislators never has an effect. One could point to the campaign against SOPA in the U.S. Congress, for example. However, I think it’s pretty obvious that the campaign against SOPA was an outlier, not a typical legislative campaign.

The way the presenters put it, the legislators do not care about individuals, unless they happen to be particularly influential individuals. For example, if Haim Saban, as an individual, sent a letter to California legislators expressing an opinion on a legislative bill, the California Legislature would definitely pay attention. Most Californians, however, are nowhere close to being billionaire media moguls.

Do legislators pay attention to anyone other than the most influential individuals? Fortunately, the answer is yes. They pay attention to organized groups. Thus, one of the key tactics of a legislative campaign is to get as many groups as possible – and to get the most diverse set of groups possible – to send letters endorsing the legislation one wants. It’s not the only tactic, but the only tactic which the presenters recommended which could be carried out by an individual was speaking up at legislators’ town hall meetings. All of the other tactics they recommended require organized groups.

What kinds of organizations can send letters of endorsement (and thus might be worth contacting to try to persuade them to endorse)? Answer: lots of kinds of organizations. Labor unions, faith groups, business associations, neighborhood associations, disease-specific organizations (such as the California chapters of the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society), newspapers, local governments (school boards, county board of supervisors, etc.), local political party clubs, crisis hotlines, professional organizations (such as bar associations) … and more. Heck, I’m think even Asexuality SF and Ace Los Angeles might be able to endorse legislation in the California legislature (not sure about AVEN because it is not a specifically Californian organization and nor has a specifically Californian subgroup).

Obviously, the legislators are going to pay more attention to endorsements from organizations with more members than organizations with fewer members. But they also pay attention to diversity. For example, an endorsement from a labor union representing 50,000 Californias + an endorsement from a faith group representing 50,000 Californians is more influential than a labor union representing 100,000 Californians OR a faith group representing 100,000 Californians. In other words, legislatures pay more attention when both labor unions and faith groups want the same thing than when it’s something only labor unions want or it’s something only faith groups want, even if the sum of membership numbers is the same. Thus, while small organizations cannot bring in much pressure from membership size, they can bring in a significant amount of pressure via organization diversity.

It makes sense. If I were a California state senator, would I be particularly concerned if, say, 30 isolated constituents were unhappy with what I was doing? Unless they were particularly influential constituents, then nope, it would not reach my concern radar. On the other hand, an organization with 30 members being unhappy with what I was doing probably would not be enough to reach my concern radar either – but it would get get closer to the concern radar, because 30 organized people are in a much better position to influence elections than 30 isolated individuals. And paying attention to organization diversity also makes sense, because a more diverse coalition of organizations can reach out to a wider range of voters than a less diverse coalition of organizations, and thus the more diverse coalition of organizations ultimately can do more to support (or hinder) a politician.

There is another reason why getting broad support from organizations is sometimes very important for legislative campaigns in California (but not in the U.S. Congress, and I’m not sure about other state legislatures), but that is something more specific to the way the political system in California works, and not so much a general comment on the political costs of social unorganization.

So, given that organizations have a lot more political power than unorganized individuals … what does that say about the trend in USA society to become more atomized – in which people cooperate less and less at a social level higher than a household. Labor union membership has been declining for fifty years. One of the neighborhood associations I am eligible to join (and I am seriously considering it) used to be one of the most powerful civic groups in San Francisco – it changed San Francisco history in the 1960s – and now it’s just a shadow of its former self. While, as an atheist, I do not disapprove of people leaving faith groups, I do recognize that when people leave faith groups without joining other organized social groups, this is detrimental to civil society. I think that the decline of social organization in the United States means, among other things, that political power gets more skewed in favor of the most influential individuals, and the vast majority of citizens lose political power.

Does that mean never write letters/emails to legislatures again? Not at all. At the very least, such letters/emails do not hurt one’s cause, and probably do at least slightly more good than doing nothing at all. However, that meeting made it clearer to me that, if I am serious about having even a little influence in politics, it would be a good idea to increase my participation in organized social groups. After that meeting, I decided to become a member of the organization which put on the meeting, and I paid the membership dues.

Review: Clariel by Garth Nix

Cover of the Australian edition of Clariel. I like this cover better than the cover of the US edition.

So, this is another book that I’ve read for my Myster Grab Bag Ace Fiction Month.

What is this story about?

Seventeen-year-old Clariel loves being the forest around the town of Estwael, and dreams of becoming a Borderer so she can live in the forest and serve the kingdom. However, her parents bring her to Belisaere, the capital city, which to Clariel feels like a prison with too many people and not enough trees.

Clariel schemes to get away from the city as soon as possible and return to the forest around Estwael. Unfortunately, others have their own schemes, and they involve Clariel. Her parents want to arrange either an apprenticeship or marriage for her. King Orrikan III refuses to rule AND refuses to appoint a regent to rule in his place, and since his heir Princess Tathiel is missing, power-hungry people have stepped into the void – and since Clariel is a cousin of the king and one of his closest living relatives, they want to control her. And though the kingdom has been safe from ravages of necromancers and Free Magic creatures for a long time, there is now a Free Magic creature active in Belisaere itself, and it too has an interest in Clariel…

What sex and/or violence is there in this story?

There is no sex, though there are quite a few references to characters’ off-page sexual activities, as well as various expressions of sexual interest. This story never dwells in gory details, but there is definitely substantial violence in the story, including on-page murder.

Hey Sara, before you even read this book, let alone wrote this review, I know you wrote a spiel about another book in the series.

I did. Here it is:

Cover of Lirael (old US edition, not the new US edition)

I read Sabriel, the first book in the Old Kingdom series … when I was about ten or eleven years old. I read Lirael when I was about sixteen years old.

Though I did not identify as asexual when I was sixteen, and Lirael, the protagonist of Lirael: Daughter of the Clayr, is not an ace character, I really related to her, and I think it was partially because I subconsciously took her story as a metaphor for my experiences which I would later describe with the word ‘asexual’.

Lirael is born among the Clayr, a group of people who have the Sight – a limited ability to see the future (though not all futures which they see come to be). Clayr on average first develop the sight at the age of 12, though some develop it earlier, and there are rare cases where it will not develop until they are 16 years old. Developing the Sight considered a major rite of passage among the Clayr, complete with a ceremony to mark the change, and it is considered one of the top things which distinguishes a child from an adult.

Lirael, at the age of 14, still has not gotten the Sight, but all of her peers has. She believes that she is broken, that something is wrong with her. When people learn about Lirael’s distress, they tell her that she is just a late bloomer.

Is the parallel between experiencing the Sight and sexual attraction obvious yet? Is the parallel between being a Sightless adolescent Clayr and an ace clear yet?

Does Lirael ever develop the Sight? Spoiler: No. And Lirael must come to terms with the fact that she is never going to experience something which she has been taught from childhood that all Clayr experience. She must find a different path to adulthood.

When I was sixteen, I still thought of myself as a late bloomer with regards to experiencing sexual feelings, but I think I also sensed on some level that I just might never feel those feelings the way most people did.

For this reason, it made intuitive sense to me that the Old Kingdom series would have an ace protagonist at some point. At the time I wrote this, I had yet to read Clariel. However, if you are reading this, and you did not get access to this by hacking into my computer, that means that I have read Clariel by now, and that this is being incorporated into the review.

Okay, so now talk about Clariel.

Clariel is set about 600 years before Sabriel. In Sabriel, the Old Kingdom has practically fallen – it had been two hundred years since there has been a monarch, the country is overrun with Free Magic, necromancers, and their slaves summoned back from death, and the once mighty Abhorsen family is no longer powerful enough to guarantee the safety of its own children, which is why the Abhorsen sends his child to grow up in Ancelstierre, not the Old Kingdom itself. By contrast, Clariel is set during the peak of the Old Kingdom’s prosperity, when necromancy and Free Magic are so rare that even the Abhorsen is not worried about them, and the nobility looks down upon studying Charter magic because that’s something for servants to do. However, in the very overconfidence amid the prosperity of the Old Kingdom, as well as the political instability caused by the king’s refusal to take responsibility, one can see the beginnings of the decline of the Old Kingdom. In other words, if Sabriel is set after the fall of Rome, then Clariel is set during the Pax Romana.

Since this is a prequel, I think a reader who had never read any other novel in the series would have no trouble reading Clariel first.

Even though it is almost 400 pages long (in hardback), I read this in two days. I totally got sucked in.

So, Asexuality?

On the asexuality content scale (1 = most asexual content, 10 = most asexual content), I rate this as a 3.

The first sign of Clariel’s (a)sexuality is this passage, early in the novel:

They had talked about solitude an self-sufficiency once, Lemmin and her niece, soon after Clariel had first chosen to lie with a young man and had found herself quite separate from the experience, and not caring one way or another about repeating the act itself or the emotional dance that went with it.

“Perhaps I don’t like men,” Clariel had said to her aunt, who was pulling garlic bulbs and delighting in her crop. “Though I can’t say I have those feelings for women, either.”

“You’re young,” Lemmin had replied, sniffing a particularly grand clump of garlic. “It’s probably too early to tell, one way or another. The most important thing is to be true to yourself, however you feel, and not try to feel or behave differently because you think you should, or someone has told you how you must feel. But do think about it. Unexamined feelings lead to all kinds of trouble.”

Clariel examined her feelings once again [a year later], and found them unchanged.

A few chapters later, it comes up again:

“I … I like to go my own way, without needing anyone else.”

“Very few people need no one else,” said Ader.

“I mean I don’t need to be with someone, married, or tied down.”

“Marriage need not be a shackling together of the unwilling,” said Mistress Ader. “But it is not impossible that you are a natural singleton.”

The term “natural singleton” appears a few times in the story. It seems to be the term that the Old Kingdom uses for adults who have no urge to for sexual or romantic relationships (in other words, aromantic asexuals, since this culture does not seem to distinguish sexual and romantic interest). I am quite happy that the Old Kingdom culture has any kind of vocabulary for people who do not experience sexual feelings, and it makes sense to me that it would not perfectly align with our own.

In a later passage, we learn more about Clariel’s sexual experience:

Clariel’s own sexual experimentation with a twenty-two-year-old Borderer the previous year had happened out of curiosity, not love, or even very much desire. She had liked Ramis well enough and he had certainly desired her, but though she had slept with him three times to be sure of what she was feeling – or not – she had not particularly cared when he was posted away, and neither had she sought out a new lover.

Throughout the novel, whenever a scene comes up in which, in general, the heroine would be expected to deal with romance or romantic feelings, Clariel essentially says “Nope. I still have no interest in this sex and romance stuff.” I like that the writer repeatedly restated it during relevant scenes, since it was a) consistent and b) really drove home the point that Clariel really has no inclination for sex or romance. One of the more interesting scenes of this type was this one:

“Thank you,” said Clariel. “I hope I do get to fly with you. You’ve been a good friend.”

Bel mumbled something and the tips of his ears turned red, the blush easy to see on his pale skin. Clariel noticed the blush and perceived she was meant to hear the mutter, no doubt a protestation about “mere friends” or something like that. Bel wanted more, obviously, but she did not. She liked his company, and he was a friend, as she judged things, proven by his actions. But she felt no passionate attraction, no giddy desire. She’d never felt that, though she’d heard enough about it from other young women in Estwael. She had always presumed it just came upon them, but she did wonder now if it might grow from a small spark of friendship. But it didn’t matter. Not now.

“A good friend,” she repeated.

“I know,” sighed Bel. “If I had a denier for every time I’ve heard ‘let’s be friends’ I’d be richer than Kelp.”

“Come on, Bel,” said Clariel, suddenly cross with him. “Denima was falling all over you. She’s prettier than me, and smarter too, I’d say.”

“I wouldn’t say so,” said Bel stiffly. “Either one.”

“I’m just not … not interested in men,” said Clariel.

“Oohh,” said Bel, blushing again.

“Or women either,” added Clariel. She felt a strong desire to slap him around the ears a bit and if he hadn’t been wounded might have done so. “Think about the situation I’m in, will you! How could I be thinking about … about kissing and bed games with everything that’s happened … that is happening?”

Bel was silent. Evidently he had no trouble thinking about such things, at any time.

There is a supporting character, Guillaine, who like Lirael, was born among the Clayr. She does have the Sight, but it is so weak that she could not fully integrate with Clayr society, so she left and moved to Belisaere. If we keep running with the metaphor ‘having the Sight is the equivalent to experiencing sexual attraction’, then Guillaine is the equivalent of a grey-asexual.

And then … there is the stuff which I’m not going to discuss because it is majorly spoilerful. Some of the thoughts which Agent Aletha has about what the story implies about asexuality/aromanticism were thoughts I had as well when I was reading the novel, though my take on it is a little different. Some ace and/or aro readers may find certain aspects of how the novel presents asexuality/aromanticism to be problematic.

In any case, I am really happy to see such a clearly ace protagonist in a bestselling series.

Was this written by an asexual?

I don’t know.

Hey Sara, do you like this novel?

I LOVE this novel, issues with the presentation of asexuality/aromanticism aside. Not as much as I loved Lirael as a teenager, but this novel reminded me of how good the Old Kingdom series can be. Since I was left hungering for more, I even went back and started to re-read Sabriel, for the first time in almost twenty years. I don’t think Sabriel is as good as Clariel, but it’s better than I remembered.

In which I critique a magazine article about transgender people’s bathroom access

The article I am critiquing is “Stall Wars” by Gene Callahan. I am going to go through it paragraph by paragraph (instead of quoting the full thing, I’ll quote the parts I am responding to on a paragraph-by-paragraph basis. One may refer to the full article for context).

The Trump administration has made headlines, as it seems to do about once every 15 minutes (if my feed from CNN is accurate), by rescinding the Obama administration’s executive order on school bathroom policies … So a policy that was never put in place was “protecting” transgender students, and revoking that policy will leave them defenseless, as apparently merely suggesting the policy was some sort of super-shield against “hate.”

This is obviously merely another excuse for outlets that already despise Trump to despise him some more.

Yes, I do understand that the executive order never took effect because the judge blocked it. However, even though rescinding this specific executive order has little direct effect, it is a signal of how the president intends to handle trans* policy. And that is why I do not think this is “merely another excuse for outlets that already despise Trump to despise him some more.”

… Solutions to social problems should start with the individual and the local community, and should rise to higher levels of organization only when there is strong evidence of malfeasance at the lower level.

Let’s see where the writer is going with this. (Spoiler: the writer contradicts this point later in the article).

The “gender diversity” activists often say that the advocates of bills such as those in North Carolina and Texas are trying to paint all transgendered people as sexual predators, but that is just about the opposite of the truth: orders like de Blasio’s specifically forbid any attempt to differentiate biological males who really do self-identify as women from perverts who realize that the mayor has created a handy way for them to gain access to their victims…

Errr, what is a ‘biological male’? Is it someone with XY chromosomes? It is someone who has a penis? Is it someone whose testosterone levels fall within the 225–900 ng/dL range? The subsets “has XY chromosomes” “has penis” and “has testosterone in the 225–900 ng/dL range” do not entirely overlap, and I honestly do not know which subset the writer is referring to.

Also, I think “biological males who really do self-identify as women” is really wordy. Why not just say “transwomen”? Especially since the writer is trying to present himself as not being bigoted towards trans* people.

The reason to start at the local level is that it’s here where people meet face-to-face … one is too likely to confront [an opponent’s] humanity on a daily basis to easily turn him into a devil.

I don’t disagree, but … what about when the local level is the problem? For example, what about when a critical mass of a trans* person’s face-to-face acquaintances think that being trans* is sinful, and that they believe they need to shun the trans* person to keep in God’s good graces, or something like that?

Also, trans* people have already started at the local level, and they continue to do a lot at the local level. If merely working at the local level had been enough to solve major problems for trans* people such as, say, stop the trans* unemployment rate from being double the overall unemployment rate, I doubt trans* people would have bothered taking it beyond the local level.

…If a biological man wants to dress up like a woman, or a woman wants to dress up like a man, it really does not concern most people. And if someone who “presents” as a woman, despite having a penis, goes quietly into a stall in the women’s bathroom, goes about his/her business, and leaves, most people will be happy to leave that person alone. When there are special situations, like an inter-sexed child who has trouble fitting in with their assigned locker room, the average person is happy to create accommodations to make the child comfortable. And this is especially true, again, at the local level, where the child is a real human being, rather than a symbol in a political struggle…

Again, with the “biological man [who] wants to dress up like a woman” thing, and now “woman [who] wants to dress up like a man”. This makes it clear that the writer believes that transwomen are men pretending to be women, and that transmen are men pretending to be women. I think this is the real reason why this writer chooses lengthy phrases instead of words such as ‘transwoman’ and ‘transman’. Also, I would not claim that “the average person is happy to create accommodations to make the [intersex] child comfortable” without doing research on the real lives of intersex people. Furthermore, I am going to quote this comment:

Have you met us? Few people are “average”. Roughly half are above average and half are below average. So half the time, you’re going to encounter someone who is below average. About 1/6th the time, you’ll encounter someone at least one-sigma below average and 1/40th of the time a 2-sigma ‘low-ender’. There are quite a number of public institutions with bathrooms and quite a number of people in charge of them.

I can see the logic of winning people over to an idea at the grass roots to build consensus but if you believe that the average person would reach a good accommodation for inter-sexed children and if you agree that the choice has great impact on the welfare of those children, then why would you cast their fates to the whims of chance?

Anyway, continuing with the main article.

But it was transgender activists who disrupted the possibility of achieving these local accommodations by bringing down the heavy hand of legislation and executive orders. In New York City, for instance, Mayor Bill de Blasio declared that “Access to bathrooms and other single-sex facilities is a fundamental human right that should not be restricted or denied to anyone.” Which is a fairly obvious self-contradiction, since if no one is denied access to a bathroom or changing area, surely it is no longer “single-sex”!

Actually, that’s not obvious. The vast majority of places which have single-sex facilities have two sets, and a plausible interpretation of that de Blasio quote is that he means that nobody can be denied entry to both sets.

The article then goes on to quote de Blasio’s order:

Executive Order 16 requires all New York City agencies to ensure that City employees and members of the public have access to single-sex facilities, such as bathrooms and locker rooms in City buildings and areas, consistent with their gender identity or expression without being required to show identification, medical documentation, or any other form of proof or verification of gender.

I appreciate that the article did quote de Blasio’s executive order directly. Let’s see what the article has to say about it.

In other words, it is now illegal to prevent anyone at all from using any public “single-sex” facility, just so long as they declare their “gender identity” is the same as the sex designated on the door.

The executive order does nothing to make it illegal to prevent someone who, for example, is wielding a knife in a threatening manner, from entering a public bathroom.

…Contrary to the repeated refrain of those advocating these laws, that “they have never created any problems,” they already have, and we can be certain that as the population of voyeurs, molesters, and rapists figures out the import of these new dictates, we will see more such cases.

Okay, I’m going to look at that link, and report back.

[goes off to look at link]

[comes back]

Here’s my report of that link. The headline is “5 Times ‘Transgender’ Men Abused Women And Children In Bathrooms”. Now, I originally thought that headline meant transmen, and that it would be stories about transmen who went into women’s bathrooms and abused women. Which confused me, because if transmen were abusing women in women’s bathrooms, why would the writer oppose allowing transmen to use men’s bathrooms instead of women’s bathrooms?

Anyway, the first example is the incident in which a (cis) man entered the women’s locker room at Evans Pool in Seattle. Since the man never even claimed he was trans*, I do not know why this is on a list of examples of ‘transgender’ men abusing women and children in bathrooms. I agree with this analysis.

Anyway, example #2 is sexual assault, and examples #3-#5 are people peeping on/filming women and/or children in bathrooms. Hey, that’s all illegal! It was illegal before any ordinance/executive order/law regarding trans* bathroom access was put in place, and it still illegal afterwards. If these people are already willing to break the laws against sexual assault and filming people in bathrooms/showers without consent, then how would a law about who is allowed to use which bathroom stop them? What’s to stop them from saying “My religion requires me to enter women’s bathrooms, and keeping me out of the women’s bathroom is violating my religious freedom” or something like that?

And one person in the comments section says:

This whole controversy strikes me as wildly overblown. There are already plenty of laws against harassment and assault. These should be sufficient for dealing with creepers.

Back to the article itself…

What’s more, these activists never rise to their own challenge and provide evidence of any widespread problem that these laws are addressing.

Okay, this is wrong. Flat-out wrong. Trans activists have been providing evidence of a widespread problem for years. For example, there is this article:

Relieving yourself outside the comfort of your own bathroom will give even the overly confident some understandable anxiety. But for transgender people, it’s more than just nerve-racking, it’s dangerous, according to a survey released this week.

The survey, published in the Journal of Public Management and Social Policy, found that 70 percent of responders have been denied entrance, were harassed or assaulted when attempting to use a public restroom of their identifying gender.

And it’s no surprise that these traumatic experiences affect the daily life of transgender people, the survey points out. More than half of respondents reported having physical problems, including dehydration or kidney infections, because they “held it” to avoid using public bathrooms.

More than half also said they have skipped leaving the house because they didn’t feel safe in public, the study says.

That sure seems to me like an existing problem of serious magnitude.

Additionally, I am going to make a linkspam, and exclude anything from after December 31, 2010, just to make it clear that trans* advocates have been documenting the bathroom access problem for years.

Special Linkspam of Trans* Advocates Providing Evidence of Bathroom Access Problems

Re: “Bathrooms for the transgendered” (December 24, 2007)
Maine Human Rights Commission Rules In Favor Of Transwoman (May 21, 2009)
“Some Transgender Bathroom Background” & “More Transgender Bathroom Background” (October 25, 2006)
There is this old blog which collects stories of trans* people who have been harassed in bathrooms.
“Bathrooms in Arizona, Letter to the Advocate (August 3, 2007)
“Alternative Places to Piss” (October 7, 2007)

I put this linkspam together really fast, so yes, I am sure it could be much improved, but the point is not to make the best linkspam ever, but to point in the general direction of just how much documentation of problems with trans* people having access to bathrooms there is out there.

Note that I was able to put that linkspam together even though I am a cis person with no expertise in trans* issues. In other words, since *I* was able to throw this linkspam together in a short period of time, that means that this is all information which is readily available to anybody who can read English and has an internet connection. And I cannot help but notice that the evidence presented in all of these links “of [a] widespread problem that these laws are addressing” is SO MUCH BETTER THAN THE EVIDENCE THIS WRITER PRESENTS to support the claim that anti-trans-discrimination statues enable sexual harassment/assault in bathrooms that it makes the evidence the writer presents seem pathetic.

Looking at this, it seems that the trans* advocates are indeed trying to solve a existing practical problem of serious magnitude, and that the article writer is the one who is trying to defend some particular notion of how gender is and that his ideas about gender are the “essential nature of humankind”.

And it was in response to a similar law, passed in Charlotte, that the North Carolina “bathroom bill” was passed. (By the way, the North Carolina policy permits people to “re-sex” themselves on their birth certificate so they can quietly go about their business in the restroom they wish to use.)…

Well, I did a quick check, and found that North Carolina will only change the sex on a birth certificate if there is a notarized statement from a physician who has done sex-reassignment surgery on the person, or of a physician who has examined a person’s gentalia and confirmed that sex-reassignment surgery was performed. Some trans* people do not do such surgery, so they would not be able to change the sex on their birth certificates. Also, some trans* people who live in North Carolina were not born in North Carolina. Some were born in states where changing the sex in the birth certificate is even more difficult than in North Carolina, or in the case of a few states (such as Ohio) currently impossible. And then there are the trans* people who were born outside of the United States…

Oh, and here is part of another comment from the article, by LisaMullin

The other points made are almost too ridiculous to comment on, but since misconceptions seem rife:
(1) North Carolina makes it nearly impossible for transgender people to change their birth certificates. It requires full gender confirming surgery, which excludes all trans adolescents since the minimum age for this is at least 18.
(2) Some states are framing legislation based on the original birth certificate, therefore changing it will have no affect.

We see the absurdity of this position with the young trans male being forced to wrestle with girls, because they are classified as one and they cannot change that designation.

Anyway, back to the original article…

So it was the transgender activists who disrupted the status quo, blocking the ability of communities to work out reasonable solutions to these matters on their own. The bills so far passed in North Carolina and contemplated in Texas may be heavy-handed, but have no doubt, it is the activists who are forcing the situation here … In response to this attempt to protect their daughters, [the supporters of HB2] are being told they are “bigots,” and that their state will be economically crushed by “caring” organizations like the NFL and NBA if they persist in trying to protect those girls.

So … the writer who advocates solving these issues at the local level supports a state law which prevents local communities with coming up with their own solutions. The comments section definitely notices this. Here are some quotes…

From Oakinhou:

It’s surprising that, for all the recommendations on subsidiarity as the only way forward, Mr. Callahan is glossing over the fact that North Carolina HB2 started as a way to take away from local communities, like Charlotte, the ability to decide locally on these matters.

If Mr Callahan truly favors subsidiarity, he would reject NC HB2. Let’s see if he follows through on what he preaches.

From peanut:

“Leave it to the localities” is such a tired cliche. The most current clash on bathroom rights started in North Carolina, where the city council passed a non-discrimination ordinance, and the state legislature passed a bill that nullified it. So- at what “local” level should decisions be made? Should states stay out?

From chipcassin:

This whole kerfluffle probably would not have happened as it did had the state legislators in North Carolina not themselves obviated local municiple [sic] control with state mandates. To now claim subsidiarity at this point borders on fart level comedy.

Also, Charlotte is not the first place ever to have an anti-trans-discrimination ordinance. Quite a few states, and hundreds of cities, have also passed ordinances/laws/statues/orders that trans* people be allowed to use bathrooms consistent with their gender, and this writer completely failed to mention all of the drastic increases in sexual predation happening in bathrooms as a result of those ordinances/laws/statues/orders … oh wait a minute, that might be because there was no increase. Given that it has been demonstrated by literally hundreds of real-life experiments that ordinances such as the one Charlotte passed do not increase sexual predation of girls in bathrooms, no, these parents are doing nothing to protect their daughters by supporting bills like HB2 (in fact, they are probably harming their trans* daughters – see all of the links above about how bathroom discrimination hurts trans* people).

(I hope my focus on biological men’s interest in women’s private areas is not deemed “sexist.” I think I am on empirically firm footing when I say the odds of a woman being raped by a man are astronomically higher than the reverse, and that there are far more male voyeurs than female voyeurs…)

Okay, it’s the ‘biological men’ thing again! I could not find any statistics about what percentage of sexual predation is done by cis people, and what percentage is done by trans* people, so I cannot cite them. First of all, that footing might not be as empirically firm as the writer thinks (and, on a more personal note, I have been sexually harassed by women, and in my experience, it is just as bad as being sexual harassed by men, which I have also experienced). However, based on what I have read about sexual predation, social forces seems to have a much stronger effect on whether or not someone will be a sexual predator than biology. Female sexual predation perpetrators have not been studied nearly as well as male perpetrators, but in the case of male perpetrators, sexual predations is associated with certain types of extreme masculinity (I emphasize ‘certain types’ – not all types of masculinity encourage sexual predation). Transwomen explicitly reject masculinity, so to the extent that they engage in sexual predation, they are more likely to do so for the reasons that ciswomen engage in sexual predation … and ciswomen are already in women’s bathrooms! Though I do not have data to back me up, I think the odds that a transwoman would sexual prey upon me are roughly the same that a ciswoman would sexually prey upon me.

The “gender diversity” activists often say that the advocates of bills such as those in North Carolina and Texas are trying to paint all transgendered people as sexual predators, but that is just about the opposite of the truth: orders like de Blasio’s specifically forbid any attempt to differentiate biological males who really do self-identify as women from perverts who realize that the mayor has created a handy way for them to gain access to their victims.

You know what differentiates “biological males who really do self-identify as women from [sexual predators]”? (I did that word switch because some people do consider transwomen to be ‘perverts’ even if they never hurt anybody ever). Whether they actually sexually prey upon people. And nothing in de Blasio’s order forbids distinguishing between “sexually preys upon people” and “does not prey upon people.”

…To convince my many progressive friends that this approach—adopting a respect for local preferences and not trying to economically crush localities that pass laws you don’t like—is their best bet right now, I might suggest that starting a civil war, when the other side owns the vast majority of the guns in the nation and has most of the police and military on its side, is probably not a winning proposition.

Let me flip this around. How about “adopting a respect for local preferences and not trying to threaten with the use of guns, police, and military—is their best bet right now, I might suggest that starting a civil war, when the other side can economically crush you, is probably not a winning proposition.” Okay, I take the issues of wielding economic power and wielding guns/police/military more seriously than that, and there are a lot of implications of one group in this nation having one type of power, and another group having another type of power, but that is not the topic of this post. I’m just trying to make the point that suggesting that it’s wrong to use economic threats, but that using threats based on guns/police/military is alright … is not convincing. And the last time I checked, boycotts are legal, and threatening to hurt people with is not, and futhermore, most people consider those who use boycotts to promote their cuase to have higher moral ground than people who use guns to promote their cause.

Of course, this article is full of stale old arguments against anti-trans discrimination policies which were stale and old ten years ago. However, since they keep getting recycled, and evidently have some effect on policy, they are still worth critiquing. If you are wondering why I did not criticize some particular aspect of this article, the answer is probably because either a) I am not an expert on trans* issues or b) I did not want this post to be even longer than it already is.

Why critique this article? 1) it was linked in the linkspam of a blog I respect and 2) I looked at the comments sections of a mainstream news article I saw about the rescinding that executive order. Out of about 50 comments, I could not find a single trans-friendly comment on that mainstream news article, which surprised me. The combination of those two things convinced me that it was worth writing this critique (which is super-long by the standards of this blog).