Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Recommended article: Judith Butler's ‘I affirm a Judaism that is not associated with state violence’

Judith Butler: ‘I affirm a Judaism that is not associated with state violence’

Strongly recommended.  A particularly good read if you are concerned that people who criticize Israel or endorse BDS (the boycott, divestment, sanctions movement against Israel and/or the Israeli Occupation of the Palestinian Territories) are anti-Semitic (or, if Jewish, self-hating) or automatically support Hamas or Hezbollah.  

It is untrue, absurd, and pain­ful for any­one to argue that those who for­mu­late a cri­ti­cism of the State of Israel is anti- Semitic or, if Jew­ish, self- hating. Such charges seek to demon­ize the per­son who is artic­u­lat­ing a crit­ical point of view and so dis­qual­ify the view­point in advance. It is a silen­cing tac­tic: this per­son is unspeak­able, and whatever they speak is to be dis­missed in advance or twis­ted in such a way that it neg­ates the valid­ity of the act of speech. The charge refuses to con­sider the view, debate its valid­ity, con­sider its forms of evid­ence, and derive a sound con­clu­sion on the basis of listen­ing to reason. The charge is not only an attack on per­sons who hold views that some find objec­tion­able, but it is an attack on reas­on­able exchange, on the very pos­sib­il­ity of listen­ing and speak­ing in a con­text where one might actu­ally con­sider what another has to say. When one set of Jews labels another set of Jews “anti- Semitic”, they are try­ing to mono­pol­ize the right to speak in the name of the Jews. So the alleg­a­tion of anti- Semitism is actu­ally a cover for an intra- Jewish quarrel.
In the United States, I have been alarmed by the num­ber of Jews who, dis­mayed by Israeli polit­ics, includ­ing the occu­pa­tion, the prac­tices of indef­in­ite deten­tion, the bomb­ing of civil­ian pop­u­la­tions in Gaza, seek to dis­avow their Jew­ish­ness. They make the mis­take of think­ing that the State of Israel rep­res­ents Jew­ish­ness for our times, and that if one iden­ti­fies as a Jew, one sup­ports Israel and its actions. And yet, there have always been Jew­ish tra­di­tions that oppose state viol­ence, that affirm multi- cultural co- habitation, and defend prin­ciples of equal­ity, and this vital eth­ical tra­di­tion is for­got­ten or side­lined when any of us accept Israel as the basis of Jew­ish iden­ti­fic­a­tion or val­ues. 


Thursday, August 23, 2012

Balaam's ass kicked mine

At FGC Gathering this summer, when I was at the Meeting for Worship hosted by FLGBTQC one afternoon, a Jewish Friend gave vocal ministry about Balaam's ass.

Rather than share her re-telling -- which I honestly can't -- here is the version of the story of Balaam's ass told in the World English Bible: 

1 The children of Israel traveled, and encamped in the plains of Moab beyond the Jordan at Jericho.

2 Balak the son of Zippor saw all that Israel had done to the Amorites. 3 Moab was very afraid of the people, because they were many: and Moab was distressed because of the children of Israel. 4 Moab said to the elders of Midian, "Now this multitude will lick up all that is around us, as the ox licks up the grass of the field." Balak the son of Zippor was king of Moab at that time. 5 He sent messengers to Balaam the son of Beor, to Pethor, which is by the River, to the land of the children of his people, to call him, saying, "Behold, there is a people who came out from Egypt. Behold, they cover the surface of the earth, and they are staying opposite me. 6 Please come now therefore curse me this people; for they are too mighty for me: perhaps I shall prevail, that we may strike them, and that I may drive them out of the land; for I know that he whom you bless is blessed, and he whom you curse is cursed."

7 The elders of Moab and the elders of Midian departed with the rewards of divination in their hand; and they came to Balaam, and spoke to him the words of Balak. 8 He said to them, "Lodge here this night, and I will bring you word again, as Yahweh shall speak to me." The princes of Moab stayed with Balaam. 9 God came to Balaam, and said, "Who are these men with you?" 10 Balaam said to God, "Balak the son of Zippor, king of Moab, has sent to me, [saying], 11 'Behold, the people that is come out of Egypt, it covers the surface of the earth: now, come curse me them; perhaps I shall be able to fight against them, and shall drive them out.'" 12 God said to Balaam, "You shall not go with them. You shall not curse the people; for they are blessed." 13 Balaam rose up in the morning, and said to the princes of Balak, "Go to your land; for Yahweh refuses to permit me to go with you." 14 The princes of Moab rose up, and they went to Balak, and said, "Balaam refuses to come with us."

15 Balak sent yet again princes, more, and more honorable than they. 16 They came to Balaam, and said to him, "Thus says Balak the son of Zippor, 'Please let nothing hinder you from coming to me: 17 for I will promote you to very great honor, and whatever you say to me I will do. Please come therefore, and curse this people for me.'" 18 Balaam answered the servants of Balak, "If Balak would give me his house full of silver and gold, I can't go beyond the word of Yahweh my God, to do less or more. 19 Now therefore, please wait also here this night, that I may know what Yahweh will speak to me more." 20 God came to Balaam at night, and said to him, "If the men have come to call you, rise up, go with them; but only the word which I speak to you, that you shall do."

21 Balaam rose up in the morning, and saddled his donkey, and went with the princes of Moab.

22 God's anger was kindled because he went; and the angel of Yahweh placed himself in the way for an adversary against him. Now he was riding on his donkey, and his two servants were with him. 23 The donkey saw the angel of Yahweh standing in the way, with his sword drawn in his hand; and the donkey turned aside out of the way, and went into the field: and Balaam struck the donkey, to turn her into the way. 24 Then the angel of Yahweh stood in a narrow path between the vineyards, a wall being on this side, and a wall on that side. 25 The donkey saw the angel of Yahweh, and she thrust herself to the wall, and crushed Balaam's foot against the wall: and he struck her again. 26 The angel of Yahweh went further, and stood in a narrow place, where there was no way to turn either to the right hand or to the left. 27 The donkey saw the angel of Yahweh, and she lay down under Balaam: and Balaam's anger was kindled, and he struck the donkey with his staff. 28 Yahweh opened the mouth of the donkey, and she said to Balaam, "What have I done to you, that you have struck me these three times?" 29 Balaam said to the donkey, "Because you have mocked me, I wish there were a sword in my hand, for now I would have killed you." 30 The donkey said to Balaam, "Am I not your donkey, on which you have ridden all your life long to this day? Was I ever in the habit of doing so to you?" He said, "No."

31 Then Yahweh opened the eyes of Balaam, and he saw the angel of Yahweh standing in the way, with his sword drawn in his hand; and he bowed his head, and fell on his face. 32 The angel of Yahweh said to him, "Why have you struck your donkey these three times? Behold, I have come forth as an adversary, because your way is perverse before me: 33 and the donkey saw me, and turned aside before me these three times. Unless she had turned aside from me, surely now I would have killed you, and saved her alive." 34 Balaam said to the angel of Yahweh, "I have sinned; for I didn't know that you stood in the way against me. Now therefore, if it displeases you, I will go back again." 35 The angel of Yahweh said to Balaam, "Go with the men; but only the word that I shall speak to you, that you shall speak." So Balaam went with the princes of Balak.

This is not a new story to me.  I enjoyed hearing her retelling of it.

And then her ministry kicked me in the gut.  

One of the things she asked was:

In what ways am I letting self-interest -- riches, other people's opinions -- separate me from G-d, keep me from seeing the angel?

Balaam's ass kicked mine.  

As I sat in worship, I found myself asking:

  • In what ways is this happening in my own Quaker community?  Am I letting others' opinions about how to be a good Quaker come between me and the Goddess and how the Goddess informs my Quakerism?  Am I letting my desire for their good opinion mean more than my authentic connection with, relationship with, the Goddess?  Am I letting other people's opinions twist my basic Quakerism?  Am I letting other people's notions of Quakerism, and my desire for community, corporate discernment, and Quaker process, mean more than genuine Quakerism?  
  • Community vs. integrity is an artificial, no-win fight. 
  • Am I allowing my desire to be a faithful Friend, in terms of community, keep me from being a faithful Friend, in terms of integrity and the Goddess? 

Hard questions.  Good questions to be asking, though.

If I am letting the desire for other people's good opinions of me separate me from the Goddess, keep me from "seeing the angel," than I know I need to stop.  I need and want most to be a faithful Friend by being faithful to how She leads me.  I know from experience there lies joy. 

But one of the gifts of Quakerism, indeed of spiritual community, is the assistance of others in discerning the movement of the Spirit, of the Gods, in our lives, and of the direction that movement takes.

It can be very hard to recognize that the people with whom we are trying to be in spiritual community are not leading us to be in greater tune with That-Which-Is-Sacred, but asking us to compromise ourselves.

It can be very hard for me to recognize that the people with whom I am trying to be in spiritual community are not leading me to be in greater tune with, faithful to, That-Which-Is-Sacred, but asking me to compromise myself. 

I am reminded of two things:

  • When the Meeting where I became a member didn't ask, "What will the neighbors think?," but rather, "How are we led?," and, "How can we help you be faithful?
I suspect there will be more with Balaam's ass in the future.

p.s.  Doesn't "Balaam's ass" get her own name?  She's designated as female in every version of this story I've read.  She's a creature of the Goddess, That-of-Goddess, herself.  Why should she be known only in reference to some guy?  Besides, if she's coming into my life as some sort of spirit guide, she needs her own name.  Well, I expect She'll share Her name when she's good and ready; but perhaps in the meantime you all can help me come up with a place-holder name for Her of Her own, other than "Balaam's ass."

Recommended article: "How is rape defined?"

[Trigger warnings for explicit discussion of sexually assaultive behaviors.] 

This includes a brief but excellent table comparing the laws regarding sexual assault and rape in Sweden, England and Wales, Scotland, the US, and Germany. 


  • What is the legal definition of rape?
  • How is consent understood?
  • What is meant by incapacity?
  • Can a woman be charged with rape?
  • Spousal rape
  • What is the maximum penalty?

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Recommended article: "A response to George Galloway, and what we mean by consent"

-- Note: Content and trigger warnings for rape culture and rape.

The very short version, in case you've missed it in the news: George Galloway, Respect Party MP for  Bradford West in the UK, claimed that if a man has sex with a woman while she is asleep, it is not rape:

This response post is one of the best I've seen -- much better than ones which are getting much more play on teh interwebs -- and I invite you to read it, for oh so many reasons.

"A response to George Galloway, and what we mean by consent"

A few points:  

Because the way I read [your remarks], my body, as the common parlance would suggest, is ‘fair game’ to anyone who has ever had sexual access to it. If those people tried to have sex with me without my consent, it seems you believe they would merely be guilty of ‘bad sexual etiquette’, rather than rape. 

I love the way the author puts this plainly and calls it out -- the dangerous idea, which so many persist in clinging to, that sex without consent is no big deal, rather than something life-threatening and life-changing -- that sex without consent equals "bad sexual etiquette’, rather than rape." 

The recognition that women are not the sexual property of their partners is one reason why marital rape was made a crime in this country in 1991. And why we don’t have laws that recognise degrees of rape. Such degrees don’t exist.

Consent is not an absence of ‘no’. It is not a permanent state of being. It is the presence of an enthusiastic, mutual ‘yes’. It’s present, for example, when your partner is responding enthusiastically. It is NOT present when your partner is asleep, or when it’s dependent on using a condom and no condom is used, or when you’re trying to fight off a man pushing your legs apart (the other allegation made against Assange) and that woman is trying not to cry, or when, out of fear, you’ve frozen and can’t speak that ‘no’. Those are just a few examples of when consent is absent.
Consent is not a permanent state of being.   Consent once does not mean consent two times, three times, or an infinite number of times.  

Read the full article here.  It's short and a (relatively) easy read.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Words That Are Biphobic, and Why

Yesterday, I shared a poster about words that are transphobic, and why they are transphobic ( 

The same organization that produced that poster, the UC Davis Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender Resource Center, also has this wonderful poster, "Words That Are Biphobic and Why," available at

Biphobia and discrimination against bisexual people are real, folks, and cause real harm. 

I encourage you to challenge these words and phrases when you hear them -- whether you hear yourself saying them, or someone else saying them.  

Monday, August 13, 2012

Words That Are Transphobic, and Why

I saw this fabulous poster and wanted to share it, especially since some readers have requested clarification about language which is transphobic vs language which is well-meaning but uninformed.

This is from the UC Davis Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender Resource Center.  It can be found at

They say:

"Click here to download the Words That are Transphobic and Why poster. Feel free to print and display it in your office, classroom, or room to remind everyone to be more conscientious of the words we use in our everyday interactions."

So... here it is. 

Another reason marriage equality matters for kids

Marriage equality is not only about justice for the adults involved.  It's also about what's best for all our kids: 

With only one legal parent, children in gay households are not entitled to health and Social Security benefits, inheritance rights or child support from the other parent. If a gay couple splits up, only the legal parent has custody rights.

Steven and Roger could re-adopt the kids somewhere else that allows same-sex couples to adopt together, but it is expensive, about $1,500 for each child. Steven says there always seems to be more pressing financial needs.

Read more in this article about how two dads, in a state where they can't marry, co-adopt, or adopt each other's children, finally managed to get both their names on all their children's birth certificates, with some help:
Gay dads, 12 kids are officially a family

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Recommended article: Asher's "Not Your Mom's Trans 101"

Well, except it could be, depending on who your mom is. 

I read this article a long time back, and my F/friend Nancy passed it on to me again recently.  It was definitely helpful for me to re-read it. 

I'm recommending it for a couple of reasons -- it answers a bunch of questions raised by commenters on some recent posts about transphobia, cissexism, being an ally, and languge; it brings up some more good ways to help change our thinking around gender and sex; it's another good, and interesting, resource for cisgender people. 

So, here you go. 

Not Your Mom's Trans 101

There is a huge problem with the way that people are taught about gender in this society. Children are indoctrinated early to believe that there are two sexes, corresponding with two genders, which are both immutable and non-voluntary and completely beyond our control. This worldview is called the gender binary, and it has no room in it for us.

Trying to teach a new perspective to the victims of this extremely aggressive brainwashing can be daunting. In fact, the task can seem downright impossible. The temptation, therefore, is to “dumb things down” for the benefit of a cisgender audience. This situation has given rise to a set of oversimplifications collectively known as “Trans 101.” These rather absurd tropes, such as “blank trapped in a blank’s body” cause confusion among even well-meaning cis folks, feed internalized transphobia among us trans people, and  provide endless straw-man fodder for transphobic ‘radical feminists,’ entitled cisgender academics, and other bigots.

Near the beginning of my transition, I myself taught “Trans 101” this way. Because I didn’t know any better. Because I had been taught to think of myself in terms of these same useless tropes, as an “FTM,” as a “female man,” as somebody who was “changing sexes.” Eventually, through a lot of intense discussions and a lot of tough love from people who were more knowledgeable, more radical, and more politically sophisticated than myself, I came to see things very differently.

I haven’t tried to teach Trans 101 since extracting my head from my rectum. But I think the time has come for me to tackle the problem of explaining and defining what it means to be transgender without resorting to cissexist language. It strikes me as I contemplate this task that Trans 101 is generally not only dumbed-down, but also declawed. There are truths that I must speak here that are incredibly threatening to a cissupremacist worldview, that attack its very foundations. But I for one am willing to do that. I am not here to make cis people comfortable or to reassure them that they are still the center of the gendered universe. In fact, I am totally fine with doing the opposite.

Without further ado, let’s begin.


Monday, August 6, 2012

Quaker Study Centers in the US (yes, more than one!)

I keep hearing about "Pendle Hill, the Quaker study centre in the US." 

I hardly ever hear anyone say, "Pendle Hill, one of the Quaker study centres in the US."   I don't think I've ever heard anyone here talk about any of the others (except in our house). 

I realize Friends here may be familiar primarily with Pendle Hill, but there really are others; so I thought it might be useful to post what some of them are. 

Off the top of my head, I came up with six, and that was without thinking about it very hard.  Thinking some more, doing a little research, and posting to social networking about it, I got three others. 

Granted, I'm not making a huge distinction between "study centers," "retreat centers," and "conference centers," especially since there's a lot of overlap; but I promise, more than one of these are "Quaker study centers."

Here's my list; I'm sure there are more: 

(And I'm not even including a whole raft of Evangelical conference and retreat centers which operate as camps during the summer.)

Saturday, August 4, 2012

"To People in my Facebook Circle Who Support Chick-fil-A: Are you my friend?"

by Claudia Ginanni

Before I ask you a serious question about our relationship, I want to make something clear.

I am an ardent defender of the First Amendment, and I think it was wrong--not merely a tactical error, but wrong--for government officials in Boston and Chicago (or anywhere) to suggest that they would use the power of public office to prevent a company from doing business in their cities just because they disagree with the political or religious beliefs of its owners. That's an abuse of power, and they shouldn't have done it.

Now, on to my question.

I am a lesbian. Do you think that means that I'm probably a pedophile?

If the answer is yes, please let me know so I can go ahead and unfriend you. If the answer is no, allow me to explain why I asked.

Chick-fil-A (not Dan Cathy as an individual, but the corporation) has donated millions of dollars to antigay organizations. Among the beneficiaries of this corporate largesse is the Family Research Council, an outfit whose relentless defamation of LGBT people has earned it a spot on the Southern Poverty Law Center's list of hate groups, right alongside the likes of the Ku Klux Klan and the New Black Panther Party (surprised? Yes, the SPLC considers antiwhite rhetoric hate speech, too).

Representatives of the FRC have repeatedly asserted a link between homosexuality and pedophilia, even though numerous studies by reputable social scientists have definitively established, many years ago, that there is no factual basis for this scurrilous claim. That is one of many slanders against LGBT people that the FRC and similar groups repeat endlessly.

If Chick-fil-A continues its past pattern of "charitable" giving, some of the money you spent there Wednesday will eventually fund a propaganda campaign suggesting that I am a promiscuous, sex-crazed pedophile who aims to destroy families. That insulting caricature of me and people like me will be used to justify, among other things, opposition to laws that would prevent me from being fired just because of my sexual orientation, a kind of discrimination that is still perfectly legal in 29 states. I hope you can understand why I'm not giving that a thumbs-up.

And here's my second question: if you don't believe that I'm a pedophile, and there are people going around implying that I am, why aren't you defending me against this slander? Can't I expect that of someone who claims to be my friend?

If you are a Christian who takes the Bible as a moral guide, let me direct your attention to Exodus 20:16, which says, "You shall not give false testimony against your neighbor."

The Bible passages that can be construed as prohibiting homosexuality for Christians are few and obscure, and their interpretation is a matter of dispute among Biblical scholars who have read the text in the original language. But lying and slander are condemned in so many passages in both the Old and New Testaments that it's hard to count them, and the injunction against bearing false witness is one of the Ten Commandments. Shouldn't Christians be outraged by corporate funding of that?

My belief is that bearing false witness made the top-ten list because defamation genuinely injures people, which means that it also violates Jesus' command to love your neighbor as yourself. And I promise you that the calumny against LGBT people perpetrated by the FRC and similar groups has ramifications far beyond denying us the social and material benefits that heterosexual couples get from state recognition of their relationships. It contributes to profound human suffering.

At my age and stage of life, my personal response to the steady stream of insults from groups like these is mostly anger and frustration, but young people who are just discovering their sexuality are deeply vulnerable in the hostile environments this kind of rhetoric creates.

According to the most recent National School Climate Survey, "84.6% of LGBT students reported being verbally harassed, 40.1% reported being physically harassed and 18.8% reported being physically assaulted at school in the past year because of their sexual orientation." The percentage of homeless teens who identify as LGBT is hugely disproportionate, and a large majority of those kids are on the street as a result of having been kicked out of their homes because of their sexuality or gender presentation. They are bombarded with messages telling them that they are disgusting, foul, sinful, unclean, and fundamentally unlovable--is it any wonder LGBT teens commit suicide at five times the rate of straight teens?

Chick-fil-A also funds Exodus, an organization that propounds "reparative therapy," which tries--and fails--to change people's sexual orientation through prayer and faith. Michael Busse, one of the founders of Exodus, renounced this approach several years ago. Busse recently joined three other former Exodus therapists in apologizing for their role in the organization.

"Some who heard our message were compelled to try to change an integral part of themselves, bringing harm to themselves and their families," their statement said."Although we acted in good faith, we have since witnessed the isolation, shame, fear and loss of faith that this message creates." Busse and his colleagues went on to tell some stories that illustrated the heartbreaking results of the deep self-loathing and despair that Exodus treatments create. Confronted with evidence of this failure, Busse repudiated this approach and embraced life as a gay Christian. But Exodus continues to ignore the suffering it has caused.

Unless you read lefty or LGBT media, it's likely that you haven't heard much about the organizations Chick-fil-A supports--the mainstream media has framed the story mostly as a controversy about Dan Cathy's personal views on marriage. But if you've read this far, now you know that some portion of every dollar spent at Chick-fil-A will be used to fund activities that threaten the reputations, dignity, employment rights, and even personal safety of people like me. Are you my friend? Then please don't support those efforts.

(c) 2012 Claudia Ginanni, reprinted with permission

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Llamas? Lammas!

(Sooo many Lammas / llamas jokes going around the internet...)

Happy Lammas!

  • What have you harvested so far this year?
  • What do you hope to harvest yet?

And, happy 19th birthday to Roses, Too! Tradition of feminist, eclectic Witchcraft!