#2205

A friend was posed the question “Does God exist?” by an ethics professor with a clear far right bent (says you have to believe in God to be moral, purposefully deadnames his trans students, etc). I offered to answer the question for her and pounded out a few paragraphs that I probably wouldn’t have written with quite so much snark if it had been my grade on the line. She has a bunch of other equally biased prompts so maybe I’ll make this a little mini series. Enjoy!

“Does God exist?”

The first question is not whether god exists – it’s what concept you mean when you say “god”. Do you mean an entity that created the entire universe, each animal and plant and miscellaneous whatever, in a particular number of days? Do you mean an entity which in some way initiated the birth of the universe in a big bang type event and then let things continue to evolve on their own without much, or any, interference? Do you mean an entity which, regardless of its own true existence, has so shaped life and culture through the sheer belief of its followers that for all intents and purposes it exists as much as anything else? The debate regarding whether god exists changes greatly depending on which version of god you’re debating. An omnipresent, omniscient god requires a different level of proof than a remote god which only had a hand in the very beginnings of our world. A god which exists through belief requires no proof at all, depending on how loose you’re willing to be with your definitions of concepts like belief, existence, power, etc. But for simplicity’s sake let’s ignore that particular rabbit hole completely and go with a concept of deity which hinges on the actual existence of some all powerful being which still actively takes part in our world and its fate.

The second question is also not whether god exists – it’s what entity you mean when you say god. If we’re discussing whether it’s possible for such an entity to exist in the first place then to be fair we should consider any god, or every god. It’s just as possible for Odin to exist as for Yahweh or Krishna or Ra or Zeus. Any argument which can be made for the existence of God can be made for the existence of The Morrigan and Aphrodite and Inanna. The same could also be said for the existence of all gods simultaneously. Edging even further out on this metaphorical branch, you could then include what gods we might create from our own beliefs – and are they not just as real when they so influence our actions? But I won’t spoil the plot of American Gods by expanding on that topic here. Besides, you capitalized God, so perhaps you mean the Christian god. Do you mean him and only him, though, or do you also include Yahweh and Allah who share so many remarkable similarities? See, the question isn’t so straightforward. Yet, once more for simplicity’s sake, let’s assume you meant the Christian god. Let’s be honest, other possibilities probably didn’t cross your mind – or, having crossed it, were quickly dismissed due to the western-centric view that, well, of course THOSE gods wouldn’t exist. So we’ll agree we’re discussing Christianity’s God who created the world in seven days, did the flood, all of that. Now we can move on.

The third question is, I suppose, whether the extremely specific concept and identity of God we’ve chosen to debate exists. But before that, I think there’s one last question to consider: is it ethical to ask students to answer a question like “does God exist” in such a public forum? Can the debate over such a personal topic, one which may risk alienating or even endangering certain individuals, really be considered ethical when you’re also requiring them to participate for a grade? Sure, a person too uncomfortable to share their personal views could lie, or stick to safe comments and vague arguments, but that’s not the point. The point is that, given the complete impossibility of ever proving with concrete evidence that this particular God exists (and exists in the manner that we have come to expect), choosing this topic for a class discussion feels purposefully antagonistic.

(At this point I lost steam because everything I tried to write after that was probably too combative for my friend to submit for her assignment, but I think you get my drift.)

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#1897

[ I don’t have any writing for you today, so here’s some geeky info on my characters (and myself, there on the end). Enjoy! ]

Category Tanim Daren Mage The Scribe
Sexual Orientation Asexual?? Asexual Asexual Asexual
Romantic Orientation Homoromantic Aromantic Aromantic Queer
Astrological Sign Cancer Scorpio Aries Leo
Element Water Earth Fire Earth
Sin Lust Sloth Pride Sloth
Virtue Charity Patience Diligence Temperance
D&D Alignment Chaotic good Neutral Chaotic neutral Neutral good
D&D Class Fighter Rogue Mage Mage
Assassin’s Creed Templar Assassin Assassin Assassin
Hogwarts House Gryffindor Slytherin Slytherin Ravenclaw
Pokémon Team Fire Ghost/Dark Ice/Electric Eevee evolutions
Bender Element Fire Water (blood) Fire (lightning) Water

#1892

February 2017 Carnival of Aces: Resistance, Activism, & Self-Care

When I started my Tumblr blog Still-a-Valid-Ace, I did so on a whim with no thought to where it might go in the future; to be honest, I assumed I’d grow bored and delete it after a week. I just wanted a place to post my own experiences regarding asexuality and gatekeeping, maybe rant a little, and generally shout into the void of the internet. Surprisingly, though, traffic picked up pretty quickly and I suddenly had people submitting questions, problems, and pleas for advice. Without knowing a single thing about me, users seemed to expect trustworthy, valid responses that might make or break their identity or relationships. It was a lot of pressure for someone who, as I said, thought she would just be yelling into the void. I felt honored, though, and took this new responsibility very seriously. Thus, I waded into the online waters of asexual activism–

–and into a river full of rapids, waterfalls, and hidden rocks. YIKES. Asexuals have come under some serious fire recently as the the cool new minority to hate on within the queer community. Not that the other popular targets, like bisexual and transgender folks, don’t still get their share of hate; it’s just that asexuals seem to be the hot topic right now. You can’t even skim the asexual tag on Tumblr without running into rabidly acephobic posts by people who dedicate entire blogs to hating us. I receive hateful messages and reblogs from these accounts on a frequent basis, especially when I say anything about cisgender+heteroromantic aces or the right for aces to use the word “queer”. I’ve been called homophobic for supporting religious asexuals; I’ve been called a cishet oppressor for supporting all asexuals, regardless of their other identities; I am routinely accused of being a “straight” who wants to kill LGBT people. I agree that cishet isn’t a slur in and of itself, but I have seen it used dozens of times to deny and negate my actual identity. And it hurts. I am actively hurt by the very same people who claim to be protecting queer asexuals like me.

Do I daydream about all the ways I’d love to respond to these people? Of course. Do I type up pithy answers and attach sarcastic gifs, only to delete the entire thing? Of course. Do I get so filled with rage and sorrow that all I want to do is vomit curse words onto the screen or send my own hateful, hurtful messages back? Oh yes. Always. I want so badly to fight on my enemies’ level, to make the “discourse” personal so I can verbally eviscerate the trolls. But I don’t. I don’t, even when the alternative is to remain silent, or to reply with a diplomacy that feels like surrender. I don’t, because that won’t win me anything but grief, and my fellow aces nothing but fuel for the trolls. You see, one of the most difficult aspects of any activism is this: you become a spokesperson for your cause and a target for the haters. It doesn’t matter if you post five hundred thoughtful, balanced, in-depth discussions about a topic; if in just one post you act too angry, too forceful, or too callous, that’s the one you’ll get called out for. Any emotion you portray will be blown out of proportion and used against not only yourself, but your community as well. Look how angry asexuals are, they’ll say. They’re so whiny, so entitled, so ignorant! They hate gay people! They’re just special snowflakes! Your every word becomes a landmine just waiting to smear you across the internet. People assume that if you take on the role of activist, you also take on the role of subject matter expert, public information officer, and referee. Despite being passionate about the subject, you’re expected to be completely unbiased and lacking any agenda. When the topic is something that affects you personally, this is impossible. Impossible, but expected. If you can’t be objective, you’re vilified.

Despite all of this, though, I maintain my blog. I delete hate messages, ignore reblogs from anti-ace accounts, and try patiently and kindly to explain my views to those who seem genuinely confused or curious. I do this because I love my followers, my fellow aces, and my whole queer family. I truly do, with a ferocity I never imagined. If I get down in the muck with the trolls, I can’t be a safe person anymore. If I let hate leak onto my blog, it can’t be a safe space anymore. Because I actively choose to remain a source of comfort, support, advice, and protection, I can’t fight fire with fire. My activism has to be professional, no matter how much I’d love to make things personal. At the end of the day, the safety of every one of my followers means infinitely more to me than my own wishes to take an eye for an eye. If I can bring any bit of hope or understanding to even one asexual out there, no matter who or what else they are, then all the hate spam is worth it.

#1770

[ Prompt from my nemesis: Mage tries to break the new lighthouse bulb but it won’t fucking break no matter what she tries and it’s either horrifying or hilarious. ]

As the light swept over the anchored ship, several things were uttered at once:

“You bitch,” growled Mage, baring her teeth.

“Oh no,” sighed Tanim, dragging one hand down his face.

“Yesssss…” grinned the siren, flicking her tail in anticipation.

“Here we go again,” mumbled Daren, crossing his arms.

And so it began. Again.

~*~

After a week, two things had become painfully clear. One, neither cannon nor blasting powder nor lightning strike nor kraken attack could break the new lighthouse bulb. Two, no number of failures would convince Mage to give up her current obsession with re-breaking the light. All other dastardly plans were put on indefinite hold while the captain plotted by day and attacked by night. When she slept was anyone’s guess, and though it is rumored elves don’t actually need to sleep, the increased instability in her eyes begged to differ.

“What is this fucking thing made out of?” Mage cursed one night as she watched the flock of harpies fly away, razor claws blunted by the unyielding glass. “Orphan tears or angel spit or something?” She rolled her eyes and turned away. “Gods, probably. And, like, unconditional love. Ugh.” Sarcasm aside, she spent the rest of the night researching ways to break love-based spells; the next night she smeared a mixture of blood, gun powder, and gravedirt on the glass and struck it hard with the hook. Nothing happened, and when the light shone even brighter the next morning she swore so vehemently the ship’s sails caught fire.

Two weeks into the endeavor, it was now clear traditional weaponry and eldritch horrors weren’t the way to go. After several day’s absence, the ship returned to Sanctuary Island’s port loaded down with the best weapons the universe’s far reaches had to offer. Or steal. Yet the magical swords all broke against the smooth glass and the deadly lasers all bounced off to strike some other landmark a thousand miles away. Rocket launchers and missiles were certainly fun to watch explode, but every time the smoke cleared the light still gleamed mockingly. Spells and curses slid off the glass like plain water; Mjölnir chipped and Anduril bent like tin. Soon the sea floor below The Jolly Roger lay scattered with broken and abandoned weapons, which the mermaids happily collected for their own unknown use.

Two months into the doomed venture, Mage had resorted to venting her frustration through petty vandalism. She set fire to various parts of the island, graffitied bad words in a hundred different languages on the lighthouse and surrounding structures, and enchanted various objects until you couldn’t set foot on the island without dodging flying rocks, territorial trees, and uncannily intelligent birds that seemed bent on tearing out every strand of hair on your head. None of this really made the captain feel better, but it gave her something to do between attempts at breaking the bulb. It also amused the siren, who giggled gleefully at the wanton destruction and occasionally swam to shore to throw debris of her own. Still, angry rocks seemed a poor consolation prize when even the Spear of Longinus failed to scratch the glass.

On the eve of the third month, Tanim and Daren glimpsed Mage pouring over an ACME catalogue, bloodshot eyes narrowed in concentration, and knew they must intervene. Even men as used to death as they were didn’t look forward to being accidentally crushed by falling anvils or being blown up when the rocket tied to a giant slingshot backfired. Perhaps one day they would stumble across the light’s weakness and take down the beacon for a second time, but for now something had to give. By this time, however, their captain had gone far past what one would normally consider “the deep end” and lived now in a Marianas Trench of obsession. Only breaking her focus by switching it to something else would end the cycle.

Their plan was not a good plan. In fact, it was a very, very bad plan. But as Tanim and Daren waited for Mage to notice that the multitude of warding and protection spells woven into the ship had begun to weaken, thus requiring a strategic retreat while she recharged them, they agreed this was the lesser of two evils. The chances of her finding out they were the ones who had drained the spells were ever so slightly lower than the chances of them all dying in a comedic explosion, after all, and being Mage’s crew had made them nothing if not pragmatic.

#1674

[ Writing prompt via my arch nemesis: “Mage does a pilgrimage through a desert temple” ]

This is not your land, the sandstorms wail. This is not your place, the blazing sun hisses. Turn back, turn back, the dry winds moan. You will not survive here, the jackals howl.

But still she walks. Across savannah grasses, rocky outcroppings, desert sands. Over dried streambeds and through wide, still rivers. She walks across the entirety of the dark continent, a solitary traveler beneath a wheeling cobalt sky. She could have sailed her slim black ship up the Great River and to the very doorstep of her destination, but then it would not be a pilgrimage. Every step she takes is a sign of her respect for another creature, so unlike her and yet… similar. She recognizes the similarities between them, few as there are, and it is for these reasons she makes the pilgrimage. There are few she truly respects; this is one.

In time her journey brings her finally to the first branches of the Great River, and these she follows north for countless miles as they flow into the larger artery and toward the distant sea. In this way she comes to the goddess’ city, surrounded as it is on three sides by wide canals. In this reality the city stands brilliant and whole, a wonder of ancient architecture and affluence, and yet also stands empty of human inhabitants. No civilians, no guards, no royalty or merchants or farmers. Even the grand temple, sharp and new as if it has just risen from the desert sands, is tended by no worshipers or priests. No music or chanting float from its dark corridors. This is not a place for humans.

This is a place for cats. She steps carefully as she makes her way through the city and toward the temple at its center, for everywhere lay felines of every size and color, basking in the hot afternoon sun. Some are small, domestic cats with triangular faces and pointed ears. Others are much larger, wild cats with paws the size of dinner plates and teeth made for breaking bone. They seem to exist together in perfect harmony; kittens dance and play between groups, crawling over sleeping lionesses and tagging cheetah cubs into the game. The heavy air thrums with the buzz of a thousand cats’ deep purring.

The cats pay her no mind until she reaches the temple’s entrance; here the doorway is guarded by two wild felines larger than any she has passed, one the tawny color of the desert and the other black as night. They watch her keenly as she approaches. When she bows her head to them in acknowledgement, they move aside silently. Inside the temple is dark, the cats needing no torches to see the way – and luckily neither does she. She moves as surely and softly as any feline, following the hallways and antechambers deeper into the structure. Finally she comes to the altar room, a masterpiece of architecture and beauty, and approaches the giant statue at its far end. More cats nap at its base, curled up on the stone feet and nestled in the crook of the statue’s lifted arms. One even bats idly at the ankh held up in one stone hand.

“Greetings, Lady of Flame,” she says to the statue as she bows her head respectfully. “It’s time we talked, you and I. I believe we have an acquaintance in common.”

The statue begins to glow.

#1666

[ Writing prompt via my arch nemesis: “Mage admires a rival pirate ship’s pillaging before sinking it” ]

“Damn, that is nice form,” Mage clucked appreciatively as she leaned over the Jolly Roger’s rail, admiring the furious battle taking place a few hundred yards away. “Look, see the way they slip around the side like that, come up from behind for a round before she can even fire back? That’s how you take down a galleon of that size! Give me speed and agility over brute force any day.” When a shot from the rival ship sent one of the galleon’s masts crashing down she cackled and slapped her hands on the rail. “Yes! Nice one!”

“Um… Captain….” Behind her, Tanim cleared his throat awkwardly, trying to get his captain’s attention without also earning her irritation. She didn’t seem to notice his presence as she added approvingly, “Nice cannon on her, too. Bet that cost a pretty penny. Someone elses, of course.” The second mast collapsed in a shower of wood and canvas. “Ooh, good shot!” Mage exclaimed. He coughed again, louder this time. “Captain? Hello?”

“Huh?” Mage glanced over her shoulder, eyebrow raised as if she had forgotten entirely that she even had a crew. “What do you want?”

“Are we going to, well… attack?” Tanim gestured toward the pirate ship currently sacking the battered galleon of its riches. “You know, flay them alive for daring to enter our territory and hunt our prey? That sort of thing?” Mage sighed and turned her back on the triumphant ship. “Oh, I suppose… Seems a shame to waste such a nice ship, but at least the best of her will go to bolstering the Jolly Roger. Ooh, maybe they’ve got some of those pitch barrels you light on fire and throw at people. I love those.”

“We don’t have any more?” Tanim asked as he followed Mage to the wheel. With a gesture of her hand the sails unfolded and the ship lurched forward. “No,” she replied with a pout as she steered toward the other ship. “I used the last on that port town where I lost at dice.”

#1663

[ Writing prompt via my arch nemesis: “Daren becomes a regular at a coffee shop and a manic pixie dream girl falls for him so he has to shake her off” ]

The first week, Penelope played quirky and hard to get. She wore a floppy knitted cap over her long pink hair, despite the heat, and leaned against the coffee shop counter as if she owned the place. Her gaze roamed the room with calculated boredom, falling every few moments on the man in the far corner. She was prepared to glance away the moment he looked at her, thus securing her mysterious allure, but he never looked her way in the first place. After half an hour of this she gave up and slipped out the rear exit, hoping to gain mystery points by disappearing suddenly.

The second week, Penelope played quirky and outgoing. She wore her pink and purple hair in pigtails, chatted loudly with the barista as if they were old friends, and sat at the table directly next to the object of her affections. When his attention seemed to be aimed in her somewhat general direction, she pulled out a pack of tarot cards and asked if he wanted a reading. He slid flat black eyes her way, eyed her expressionlessly, then promptly returned to ignoring her. When she started doing a reading anyway, laying the cards out with great pomp and circumstance, he moved to a table on the other side of the room.

The third week, Penelope played quirky and soulful. She covered her pink, purple, and green hair with the hood of her oversized sweater, sat in a totally opposite corner from her quarry, and pretended to read a tattered paperback with some weird Russian title she had bought for a quarter. Sometimes she would pretend to jot something down on the small notebook in her pocket, gaze around the room as if in deep thought, then go back to the book. She ordered straight black coffee, the man’s apparent drink of choice, though she laced hers with copious amounts of sugar. Her obscure Russian novel didn’t seem to impress him; when she looked up from doodling a flower in the notebook he was gone.

The fourth week, Penelope played quirky and helpless. She wore her rainbow hair in a braid wrapped around her head held in place with mismatched chopsticks, and fumbled through her stuffed animal purse for change when it came time to pay for her fancy coffee. Despite the extended fumbling, the man did not come forward and offer to purchase the drink for her. When it started to rain and she gazed woefully out the window, wondering aloud how she would ever get home in such a storm with no one to accompany her, this seemed if anything to prompt him to leave completely. Penelope tried to ignore the idea that he would rather walk coatless into a rainstorm than suffer her presence; he was probably just deaf or something.

The fifth week, Penelope played quirky and edgy. She spiked up her black pixie cut, its fringe falling artfully over one eye, and took a table by herself where she could prop her legs up and glare at passersby. Like the man, she dressed in all black and spoke as little as possible. While she couldn’t smoke in the cafe, she did tuck an unlit cigarette behind her ear where it would at least be visible. Yet even this attempt earned her nothing more than a few weird glances from other patrons; the man didn’t look at her at all.

The sixth week, Penelope played quirky and geeky. She wore Tardis barrettes and Triforce earrings, a Gryffindor scarf and Avengers hoodie. She read a gaming magazine and rather loudly mentioned to the barista that the drink she had ordered was canonically Super Girl’s favorite. She even managed to accidentally drop a couple Marvel movie ticket stubs from her pockets on the floor beside the man, but not only did he not remark upon their titles, he didn’t even help her pick them up.

The seventh week, Penelope snapped. Hair unwashed, clothes hastily donned and still askew, she marched into the coffee shop and straight to the man’s customary table. “What is your problem?” she demanded. “How long does it take you to make a move? What are you waiting for?” When he blinked uncomprehendingly at her, a scowl pulling at his thin mouth, she sighed dramatically. “Fine. Fine, I’ll go out with you.”

“Pass,” The man’s reply was as terse and monotone as anything she had heard him say to the cafe employees. She spluttered with outrage as he signaled to the barista for a refill of his coffee, dismissing her completely. “Excuse me? That’s not how this goes! What are you, an idiot?” Faster than she would have given anyone credit for, the man stood, towering over Penelope’s petite frame. He scowled down at her as he leaned in and growled, “Get out of my face, kid. If I see you here again I swear you’ll regret it.”

It was at that moment Penelope realized two things: one, that there was a very thin and very sharp looking blade in the man’s hand, and two, that she didn’t really like coffee and anyway, it was about time for her to switch to women for a while. There was a lesbian bar on the other side of town where she could play the quirky, free-spirited bisexual who would win over the heart of some newly out teen, show her the ways of the world, and then leave her for an ex. She made a hasty exit from her former quarry, feeling his eyes burning holes into her back all the way out the door.