I have always been very open and honest about this part of my life with my friends, my family, and my colleagues. In a perfect world, I don’t think it’s anyone else’s business, but I do think there is value in standing up and being counted. I’m not an activist, but I am a human being and I don’t give that up by being a journalist.
—  The key quote from Anderson Cooper’s letter to Andrew Sullivan where he admits that he’s gay.
We were discussing homosexuality because of an allusion to it in the book we were reading, and several boys made comments such as, “That’s disgusting.” We got into the debate and eventually a boy admitted that he was terrified/disgusted when he was once sharing a taxi and the other male passenger made a pass at him. The lightbulb went off. “Oh,” I said. “I get it. See, you are afraid, because for the first time in your life you have found yourself a victim of unwanted sexual advances by someone who has the physical ability to use force against you.” The boy nodded and shuddered visibly.“But,” I continued. “As a woman, you learn to live with that from the time you are fourteen, and it never stops. We live with that fear every day of our lives. Every man walking through the parking garage the same time you are is either just a harmless stranger or a potential rapist. Every time.” The girls in the room nodded, agreeing. The boys seemed genuinely shocked. “So think about that the next time you hit on a girl. Maybe, like you in the taxi, she doesn’t actually want you to.”

Andrew Sullivan

Homophobia: The fear that another man will treat you like you treat women. 

To my mind, Obama dominated Romney tonight in every single way: in substance, manner, style, and personal appeal. He came back like a lethal, but restrained predator. He was able to defend his own record, think swiftly on his feet, and his Benghazi answer was superb. He behaved luke a president. He owned the presidency. And Romney? Well, he has no answers on the math question and was exposed. He was vulnerable on every social issue, especially immigration. And he had no real answer to the question of how he’d be different than George W Bush.

I’m excitable - but sometimes politics is about emotion as well as reason. And my view is that Obama halted Romney’s momentum in its tracks and his performance will bring women voters in particular flooding back. He’s just more persuasive. On watching with the sound off - apart from weird gaps in the CSPAN coverage - Obama did not grin like Biden; he smiled confidently, leaning forward. Within twenty minutes, Romney looked flush and a little schvitzy.

Game, set and match to Obama. He got it; he fought back; he gave us all more than ample reason to carry on the fight.

—  That’s Andrew Sullivan on tonight’s debate.
The great conservative bugaboo, Obamacare, is also far more moderate than its critics have claimed…Yes, it crosses the Rubicon of universal access to private health care. But since federal law mandates that hospitals accept all emergency-room cases requiring treatment anyway, we already obey that socialist principle—but in the most inefficient way possible. Making 44 million current free-riders pay into the system is not fiscally reckless; it is fiscally prudent. It is, dare I say it, conservative…What liberals have never understood about Obama is that he practices a show-don’t-tell, long-game form of domestic politics. What matters to him is what he can get done, not what he can immediately take credit for. And so I railed against him for the better part of two years for dragging his feet on gay issues. But what he was doing was getting his Republican defense secretary and the chairman of the Joint Chiefs to move before he did. The man who made the case for repeal of “don’t ask, don’t tell” was, in the end, Adm. Mike Mullen.
—  Andrew Sullivan absolutely kills this.  He defends Obama’s first term as remarkably prolific, moderate and true to principle.  Hear, hear. 

The strongest argument for “race” is that people who trace their ancestry back to Europe, and people who trace most of their ancestry back to sub-Saharan Africa, and people who trace most of their ancestry back to Asia, and people who trace their ancestry back to the early Americas, lived isolated from each other for long periods and have evolved different physical traits (curly hair, lighter skin, etc.)

But this theoretical definition (already fuzzy) wilts under human agency, in a real world where Kevin Garnett, Harold Ford, and Halle Berry all check “black” on the census. (Same deal for “Hispanic.”) The reasons for that take us right back to fact of race as a social construct. And an American-centered social construct. Are the Ainu of Japan a race? Should we delineate darker South Asians from lighter South Asians on the basis of race? Did the Japanese who invaded China consider the Chinese the same “race?”

Andrew writes that liberals should stop saying “truly stupid things like race has no biological element.” I agree. Race clearly has a biological element – because we have awarded it one. Race is no more dependent on skin color today than it was on “Frankishness” in Emerson’s day. Over history of race has taken geography, language, and vague impressions as its basis.

“Race,” writes the great historian Nell Irvin Painter, “is an idea, not a fact.” Indeed. Race does not need biology. Race only requires some good guys with big guns looking for a reason.

An Open Letter to Savage and Sullivan

Dan Savage doesn’t often crop up in my day to day conversation – I prefer to talk about things I actually care about – but when he does, it’s never positive. Discussing him with members in my queer community means discussing his biphobia, or talking with my polyamorous friends about his problematic concepts regarding those types of relationships, which are never fun conversations. They’re mostly depressing conversations, as it is disheartening that such a large figurehead for the queer community has these poisonous opinions that people pick up on and run with (a list of such poisonous opinions can be found here). So when I heard that Dan Savage used the t-slur, yet again, this was old news.

However, this time, it was different. Why? Because on Thursday, May 22, Savage’s target was a 17-year-old University of Chicago student. More specifically, my sibling.

My sibling, who is a minor, and whose name will not be used in this article, attended Savage’s lecture at its college (to be clear, my sibling uses it/its/itself pronouns), and a ways into the presentation, Savage (and moderator Ana Marie Cox) used the t-slur.

Coming from a household full of activists, I can only describe the feeling that swelled in me when I heard what happened next as pride, because my sibling stood up for itself and asked Savage to not use the slur in the context of this presentation, since it was not his word to reclaim.

What followed that request – which was a polite, “Please don’t use that word in a safe space, it makes me, a trans student, uncomfortable,” request, and not even toeing the edge of being hostile or threatening – was a litany of slurs Savage hurled at my sibling. He outright listed a bunch of slurs, sarcastically asking my sibling for permission to use each one. Among the words he asked if he had the right to use was the word “d*ke,” and my sibling said he did not, as he did not identify as a lesbian woman, and asked if he had the right to use the word “s**sy,” and my sibling said that was a word he could reclaim, because “s**sy” was used to target gay men, or effeminate men who were assumed to be gay.

A physics junior at the University of Chicago who was present at the event asked me to not use his name. For sake of simplicity, we will call him David. David said:

[Dan Savage] made the choice to have people address him with the f-slur on his blog, which since he is a gay man, is his prerogative. He talked about other slurs that were being reclaimed as well, and in this said the t-slur. A trans student in the audience raised its hand [and] said that the use of the slur distresses it. [Name redacted] asked that, in this room, could the speakers not use the actual slur and instead say ‘the t-slur.’ Dan and Ana both refused, and each continued their talk, using the slur.

Let’s talk a bit about reclaiming words. It is a common belief in activist circles that you can only reclaim slurs if they affect you. If you’re not black, you cannot reclaim the n-word; if you’re not a gay man, you cannot reclaim the f-word; if you’re not a woman, you cannot reclaim the b-word; and if you are not a trans woman, you cannot reclaim the t-word.

People like to say words are harmless. People like to say that words are just words, get over it! But let’s really talk about words for a second. Words create reality. They construct our societal norms, our legislation, our media. Language is, inarguably, a very powerful weapon. And words, especially words that have been systematically used in the past to dehumanise and hurt a marginalised group, whether you like to admit it or not, those words hold power, and harm. No one is “giving” those words power. No one is “letting” those words hurt them because of some supposed “thin skin.” Those words are harmful. And hiding behind “free speech” doesn’t change that. (To clarify: you have the right to say what you like, and people have the right to get angry at you for it; free speech goes both ways, as people who consistently say hateful things seem to forget. People are allowed to spew homophobic propaganda on a daily basis under free speech, that doesn’t mean you or I agree with it. It’s no different when you run your mouth and say transphobic things.)

Following this harassment of being singled out in the crowd and hurled slurs at, Cox took over. She told my sibling that she “[felt] sexuality is a lot deeper than gender because you can’t tell a person’s sexuality from just looking at them.” (These quotation marks do not symbolise an exact quote from Cox, but a quote from my sibling, paraphrasing what it had been told in the crowd that Thursday.) My sibling told me on the phone that it tried to explain to Cox you cannot tell someone’s gender just by looking either, and it was at this point Cox said, “Publically, you can,” and then proceeded to misgender my sibling. My sibling became upset and tried to explain to Cox that you couldn’t tell its gender and Cox said, “I don’t really care.”

My sibling replied, “Yeah, I can tell,” and it was then, emotionally stressed out and in tears, my sibling left the auditorium. Not because it didn’t “get its way.” Not because it was “throwing a tantrum,” or whatever ludicrous reason Savage and his friends would like to spin this into. But because it had been singled out, harassed, multiple insults lobbed at it, and finally, misgendered massively by Cox after politely asking its safety to be considered.

When students were not responded to positively after lodging a complaint with the Institute of Politics (the organisation who had sponsored the event), they turned to other measures.

Sara Rubenstein, a University of Chicago gender and sexuality studies sophomore, started a petition and over 1900 students signed it, asking that safe spaces for students be paramount.

This, in turn, sparked Savage to write an article, asking that my sibling personally apologise to him. In this article, he also attacks my sibling’s usage of the pronoun set “it/its/itself” as transphobic. Let’s pretend, even if he is correct, and this makes my sibling a transphobe. Just because someone else is a transphobe, it doesn’t make you less so? Deflecting the criticism you’ve been receiving and turning it elsewhere – “I’m not a transphobe, you are!” – is kindergarten rhetoric. You both could be transphobes. You both could not be transphobes. The both of you are not dependent variables that change when the other is or isn’t something. You are two independent people, and Dan Savage, your history very much marks you as a transphobe.

But about that accusation. My sibling is very much aware of the stigma surrounding that pronoun, and it is not the first person to use that pronoun, and it won’t be the last person, either.

It says:

Let’s be clear. I know that ‘it’ pronouns makes people uncomfortable. And being perfectly honest, discomfort is sometimes the goal. How many transphobic cis people use 'it’ to dehumanize trans people? How many times have I heard someone jokingly say, “I can’t tell if it’s a boy or a girl?” So, yeah, when a cis person uses 'it’ pronouns for me, I’m definitely banking on them thinking back to any time they’ve ever done that, and if they haven’t, I’m hoping they think about how other cis people have done that.

For trans individuals who find “it/its/itself” triggering, my sibling offers an alternative set of pronouns which many trans people, like myself, use.

Regardless of someone’s reasoning behind their pronouns – whether for an "activist” reason or not – you use them. Why do you use them? Because trans people’s pronouns are not about your comfort. They are about the trans person’s identity and safety. As someone who claims to be a part of the LGBT activist movement, if you claim to be an “ally” to trans people, you do not get to decide whose pronouns are more “valid” and whose you will use, and whose you will not use. It is your duty to respect and use the correct pronouns even if it makes you “uncomfortable.”

I want to clarify that this article is not going to get side-tracked by the importance of pronouns or whether Savage is allowed or not allowed to use the t-slur. This article takes the position that the slur is not his to reclaim. But this article is not about words, or their usage of them. This article isn’t even about whether or not Dan Savage is a transphobe. There are countless articles and comprehensive lists (one of which was linked at the beginning of this article) that will show that over and over again.

This article is about a grown man, a key figure at the head of the LGBT right’s movement, the founder of the It Gets Better project – someone well acquainted with the numbers of LGBT youth anxiety, depression, and suicide, not to mention trans-specific statistics – bullying a minor on the Internet.

If that’s not hypocrisy, I’m not sure what is.

Let’s break away from Savage for a little bit because, honestly, he makes me sick to my stomach, and talk about Andrew Sullivan.

We’ll only talk about him for a paragraph or so, because he’s not worth my time, and I would just like to point out if calling a 17-year-old trans kid on the Internet a “pathetic excuse for a student,” is not bullying, I think you may be defining the word wrong, and surely there are better ways to suck up to your buddy.

My sibling is holed up in its living space, stressed out, and afraid to go outside because the backlash caused by this petition and Savage’s response to it, is so great. It has told me that it has turned off facebook notifications for the UChicago facebook page, and several other facebook pages associated with UChicago’s, because it consistently gets tagged by people using the slur, and saying hateful things. It has told me it fears that “half the student body hates me,” and it has lost more than few friends (as well as a few nights of sleep) over this debacle. 

Despite our family’s personal situation, of which I have no intention of going into detail on, my sibling is powering through. Every day it accomplishes wonderful things just by being alive and existing, because of the homophobia and misgendering we’ve suffered at our own parent’s hands, not to mention our difficult financial situation right now. My sibling doesn’t need more stress in its life on top of the dysphoria, on top of the daily microaggressions, on top of educational worries, on top of everything else. The bottom line though, isn’t that you shouldn’t have to know someone’s personal life and story to care about them as a human being. Everyone has hardships, difficulties, and obstacles to get over. Being aware of that, you should treat other people the way you would like to be treated.

My sibling wrote a post on its facebook which read:

I sat through a school-sanctioned speaker and moderator bullying me out of a space, using dehumanizing language, and saying inconsiderate things about my gender identity. I dealt with the triggered dysphoria and panic, and then had to deal with loads of students, people who walk around this campus, telling me that I was misrepresenting the situation. That I was too sensitive. That I was weak for admitting that I felt unsafe. That I shouldn’t have spoken up. That my concerns, my feelings, my existence was ridiculous. I’ve dealt with knowing there are people on this campus who hold this view of me, and are out there walking around. I’ve dealt with the panic attacks as, in the course of our discussions, they have said incredibly rude and invasive things, have made me even more dyshporic, have made me have an even harder time than usual feeling like I deserve to get out of bed, like I deserve to be on this campus. 

I have dealt with, not just this on this campus, but having spiteful articles written about me depicting me as a hysterical, attention-grabbing child. I have complete strangers saying hateful things about me. About my family. About my mind. About my mental health. About my gender identity. About my body. I have people I have never met saying that I am thin-skinned, that I haven’t experienced the real world, that I deserve to have awful things done to me, that I need to grow up, that I need to stop harming progress.

This has all happened in a couple of weeks, as a result of my refusing to accept anything less than safe-space from the IOP.

To my cis friends - this is primarily addressed to you. This is hard enough for me, as a trans person, to deal with. I absolutely understand that other trans people will have a hard time with it as well. But as cis people, you have the privilege of not being so personally affected. And if you have ever, ever, ever claimed to be an ally to trans people, I ask you to prove it.

My sibling doesn’t need grown men on the Internet to get their audiences to attack it and threaten its mental health and physical safety.

I am asking for not just an apology, but a promise. A promise that you do value young “T” lives as much as you value young “LGB” ones. Because, as an older sibling, I cannot and will not tolerate a world that tells my own flesh and blood that it is worthless because it is different. I refuse to. I need to believe the world we are living in is better than that; that people are better than this.

So, like my sibling, I am asking you to prove yourselves. Prove to me and my sibling and the thousands of other “T”s that you conveniently leave off your legislation when trying to “push progress” through city halls that you care about us and that you will protect us. Prove to me you are allies to your own cause, because the T is a part of the L, G, and B community, and it’s time you started treating us as such.

I am saturated in digital life and I want to return to the actual world again. I’m a human being before I am a writer; and a writer before I am a blogger, and although it’s been a joy and a privilege to have helped pioneer a genuinely new form of writing, I yearn for other, older forms. I want to read again, slowly, carefully. I want to absorb a difficult book and walk around in my own thoughts with it for a while. I want to have an idea and let it slowly take shape, rather than be instantly blogged. I want to write long essays that can answer more deeply and subtly the many questions that the Dish years have presented to me. I want to write a book.

I want to spend some real time with my parents, while I still have them, with my husband, who is too often a ‘blog-widow’, my sister and brother, my niece and nephews, and rekindle the friendships that I have simply had to let wither because I’m always tied to the blog. And I want to stay healthy. I’ve had increasing health challenges these past few years. They’re not HIV-related; my doctor tells me they’re simply a result of fifteen years of daily, hourly, always-on-deadline stress. …

But this much I know: nothing will ever be like this again, which is why it has been so precious; and why it will always be a part of me, wherever I go; and why it is so hard to finish this sentence and publish this post.

—  Adieu, Andrew Sullivan
How Obama's Long Game Will Outsmart His Critics

Presenting the first three paragraphs of Andrew Sullivan’s epic takedown of President Barack Obama’s critics, on newsstands & online today.

You hear it everywhere. Democrats are disappointed in the president. Independents have soured even more. Republicans have worked themselves up into an apocalyptic fervor. And, yes, this is not exactly unusual.   

A president in the last year of his first term will always get attacked mercilessly by his partisan opponents, and also, often, by the feistier members of his base. And when unemployment is at remarkably high levels, and with the national debt setting records, the criticism will—and should be—even fiercer. But this time, with this president, something different has happened. It’s not that I don’t understand the critiques of Barack Obama from the enraged right and the demoralized left. It’s that I don’t even recognize their description of Obama’s first term in any way. The attacks from both the right and the left on the man and his policies aren’t out of bounds. They’re simply—empirically—wrong.

A caveat: I write this as an unabashed supporter of Obama from early 2007 on. I did so not as a liberal, but as a conservative-minded independent appalled by the Bush administration’s record of war, debt, spending, and torture. I did not expect, or want, a messiah. I have one already, thank you very much. And there have been many times when I have disagreed with decisions Obama has made—to drop the Bowles-Simpson debt commission, to ignore the war crimes of the recent past, and to launch a war in Libya without Congress’s sanction, to cite three. But given the enormity of what he inherited, and given what he explicitly promised, it remains simply a fact that Obama has delivered in a way that the unhinged right and purist left have yet to understand or absorb. Their short-term outbursts have missed Obama’s long game—and why his reelection remains, in my view, as essential for this country’s future as his original election in 2008.

Keep reading.

Anderson Cooper: “I’m gay”

In an email exchange with The Daily Beast’s Andrew Sullivan, CNN host Anderson Cooper tells Sullivan that he is gay.

“The fact is, I’m gay, always have been, always will be, and I couldn’t be any more happy, comfortable with myself, and proud,” Cooper says. Cooper also explains that although he had always been very open about his sexual orientation to friends and family, others misinterpreted his silence:

“It’s become clear to me that by remaining silent on certain aspects of my personal life for so long, I have given some the mistaken impression that I am trying to hide something - something that makes me uncomfortable, ashamed or even afraid. This is distressing because it is simply not true.”
I was going to do a roundup of reactions, but then I saw Andrew Sullivan's and said screw it, because I knew none of the others would be 10 percent as good. So here it is, in full.

It’s been a long long slog these past five years of backing the skinny guy with the funny name. But this election, to my mind, is immensely more important than the breakthrough of 2008, after the catastrophe of Bush-Cheney. What it has done is rip open the complete epistemic closure on the Republican right about what America now is. It has revealed that Fox News, Drudge, and the rest have been engaged in a massive propaganda campaign to create an alternative reality and get the rest of us to go along.

But this president has never been a radical; he has always been a moderate; he has been immensely skilled at foreign policy, ended one war and won another, killed Osama bin Laden and saved the American auto industry, deflected a Second Great Depression and initated universal access to healthcare. He has presided over a civil rights revolution and the beginning of the end of prohibition of marijuana. He has created the new and durable coalition that was once Karl Rove’s dream.

Americans saw this. They were not fooled. And they made the right call, as they usually do. What was defeated tonight was not just Romney, a hollow cynic, but a whole mountain of mendacity and delusion. That sound you hear is the cognitive dissonance ringing in the ears of ideologues and cynics. Any true conservative longs for that sound, the sound of reality arriving to pierce through fantasy and fanaticism.

We are the ones we have been waiting for. And now we have entrenched it deeply in the history of America and the world. That matters. May the next four years make it matter even more.

That said, the reaction by Ace of Spades HQ was pretty rich.

In some ways, our personal digital records are very much the summation of ourselves. Not our physical, intimate, human selves – the selves we eat with and run with and fall in love with – but our abstracted Selves, the conglomeration of every detail, feeling, idea, thought, impulse, and friend that tells the story of me. Long after I am dead, will that not be the most accessible incarnation of me – alongside all the published words I have written in part to live past my physical expiration date? Will I not continue to exist in some form that is available to all of humankind for ever?

Beautiful and necessary meditation by Andrew Sullivan on what happens once we concede that our memory (and our selves) will belong to the cloud.

And yet, for centuries, the same has happened with the diaries and letters of the dead, which have always held enormous allure to the living.

I believe in the pursuit of happiness. Not its attainment, nor its final definition, but its pursuit. I believe in the journey, not the arrival; in conversation, not monologues; in multiple questions rather than any single answer. I believe in the struggle to remake ourselves and challenge each other in the spirit of eternal forgiveness, in the awareness that none of us knows for sure what happiness truly is, but each of us knows the imperative to keep searching. I believe in the possibility of surprising joy, of serenity through pain, of homecoming through exile.
—  Andrew Sullivan, This I Believe
Labeling the violent acts of those Muslim Others as “terrorism” - but never our own - is a key weapon used to propagate this worldview. The same is true of the tactic that depicts their violence against us as senseless, primitive, savage and without rational cause, while glorifying our own violence against them as noble, high-minded, benevolent and civilized (we slaughter them with shiny, high-tech drones, cluster bombs, jet fighters and cruise missiles, while they use meat cleavers and razor blades). These are the core propagandistic premises used to sustain the central narrative on which the War on Terror has depended from the start (and, by the way, have been the core premises of imperialism for centuries). That is why those most invested in defending and glorifying this War on Terror become so enraged when those premises are challenged, and it’s why they feel a need to use any smears and distortions (he’s justifying terrorism!) to discredit those who do.