Why the Charlie Hebdo attack goes far beyond religion and free speech

From Salon:  http://www.salon.com/2015/01/10/the_real_politics_of_charlie_hebdo_it_wasnt_about_religion_or_free_speech/

Debates about Islam and free speech only go so far. This was a political blow aimed at multicultural democracy

Saturday, Jan 10, 2015

We can blame religion in general, and we can blame Islam. (We can hem and haw around, Bill Maher-style, and say that we’re not blaming absolutely all Muslims but only some of them, perhaps most. Or we can go full Fox News and blame the whole damn religion.) We can blame free speech carried to irresponsible and obnoxious extremes, and we can blame the pantywaist spinelessness of liberalism. We can blame the cultural arrogance, racism and Islamophobia of French society, and we can turn around and blame its overly lax immigration policies, the residue of colonial guilt. But with the two principal suspects in the Charlie Hebdo attack now dead and the relentless cycle of punditry churning onward to third-level meta-analysis, I think we’re in danger of overlooking the obvious, or to use Joan Didion’s memorable phrase about the journalist’s task, failing to observe the observable.

 What happened in Paris this week was a political act. Terrorism is always a political act, or nearly always. Its goals lie in the here-and-now or at least the near future, not in the hereafter. Did that guy we’ve all seen in that terrible videotape, shooting that cop in the head on the sidewalk, look as if he believed there was a bevy of virgins waiting for him in Paradise? I don’t believe this attack was driven by religious faith on any fundamental level, and to define it as an assault on freedom of speech is far too narrow. Its true target was multicultural democracy in general and the specific version, both more fragile and more successful, found in France in particular.

If anything, this attack testifies to the power the French model still holds, even in an era of sustained political crisis, social conflict and economic stagnation. Amid its evident difficulties, France remains a peaceful, prosperous and culturally vibrant nation with a relatively well integrated and increasingly secular Muslim minority. (As has been widely reported, one of the police officers killed on Wednesday was a Muslim.) That model of democracy — or perhaps we should say that possibility — is exactly what came under attack from the Charlie Hebdo gunmen. Their aim was to pry open that model at a tender spot, expose its contradictions and undermine its stability.

Debates about the role of religion in modern society, and the outer limits of free speech, are undeniably seductive. I am liable to get drawn into them at any moment. But when we allow our discussion about a political act, which took place in the familiar context of a Western liberal democracy and whose origins are not especially mysterious, to get sidetracked into grand pronouncements about abstract moral and philosophical categories, we are deliberately clouding the issue and not talking about the things we should be talking about.

For the record, since this has become a point of contention: I personally would not have published the famous Charlie Hebdo cartoons depicting the Prophet Muhammad. I wouldn’t have published a whole bunch of the things Charlie published, which strike me as juvenile and in poor taste. But I’m not the editor of a French satirical weekly whose mission is to jam its thumb into the eye of propriety, and to continually test how far it can go in mocking the sanctimonious and self-important attitudes of others. If anyone gave me that job, I would fire myself immediately. I see no contradiction between personally finding Charlie Hebdo distasteful and saying that the editors and cartoonists who died this week must be remembered as heroes of free speech, and that the attack was a direct attempt to undermine a fragile, frayed and embattled core value of the Enlightenment.

Continue reading at:  http://www.salon.com/2015/01/10/the_real_politics_of_charlie_hebdo_it_wasnt_about_religion_or_free_speech/

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Let’s Talk About Sex (Change)

I have long noted a tendency among the politically correct in the various trans-communities to engage in a form of social terrorism against other members of various trans-communities for using words or phrases to describe their life experiences that are not on some list of PC terms for proper transgender warriors to use.

The tizzy in a tea cup over the word “Trannie”, a term that was in common usage among transsexuals and queens some 50 years ago when I was coming out is but one example.  All the politically correct terms for what we used to call a sex change operation or sex reassignment surgery is yet another.  Hell even using the word transsexual as a self descriptor rather than the politically correct word transgender causes all sorts of PC folks to get their panties all twisted in a knot.

Last week we saw where the whole PC thing goes when taken to insane extremes.  Me?  I’d rather live in a world where we have freedom of speech and thought.

From Huffington Post:  http://www.huffingtonpost.com/zoe-dolan/lets-talk-about-sex-chang_b_6418690.html?utm_hp_ref=gay-voices


Sex-change surgery gave me my life. I would not be who I am without it.

Nevertheless, public discourse around the subject is governed by media guidelines that operate to suppress discussion, such as this one from GLAAD: “Journalists should avoid overemphasizing the role of surgeries in the [gender] transition process.”

For me, you could not overemphasize the importance of sex-change surgery if you tried.

Consider one risk of the politically correct script of deflection: It undermines the medical necessity of sex-change surgery for many of us.

People have questions: Do you have a vagina? Can you have sexual intercourse? Is there sensation down there? Are you able to have orgasms?

So I decided to start being open about my operation, beginning by mentioning it in a talk at Chicago Ideas Week.

You may say that I’m a contrarian, but I’m not the only one.

My story is that in fourth grade I learned a word that describes me: transsexual. It was during recess, and I was in a field of grass, talking with a couple of friends, including the deaf play buddy I was paired up with to practice sign language.

Years later I would date a deaf guy for like five minutes. I thought that he, of all people, would understand the challenges of being judged based on how I was born, but no. He grimaced, stood up, and walked out of my apartment within minutes of learning about my past.

The horror of locker rooms and swimming pools began in high school, during puberty. I changed in a corner, or maybe in a bathroom stall or under a towel, to avoid the light of day in the presence of others.

Then there was the period of being in-between as an adult, after I had transitioned but before the surgery. Oh, how I loved to swim! And how I hated what my bathing suit revealed.

And then there was dating. I met a number of men who identified as straight while professing attraction to pre-operative or non-operative transgender women; two men who blinked at me in confusion during a series of questions, until they said that I was pretty and then kissed me; and a gorgeous young Italian man who made out with me in Amsterdam, then yelled and slammed the door behind him after I interrupted his caresses to explain.

Continue reading at:  http://www.huffingtonpost.com/zoe-dolan/lets-talk-about-sex-chang_b_6418690.html?utm_hp_ref=gay-voices

Screw Putin – Transgender people are finally in the driving seat

From The Telegraph UK:  http://www.telegraph.co.uk/women/womens-life/11335759/Screw-Putins-Russia-Transgender-people-are-finally-in-the-driving-seat.html

Vladimir Putin may have just banned transgender people from driving, but Paris Lees, a leading trans activist, isn’t losing hope. Far from it

By Paris Lees
09 Jan 2015

Russia has just made it illegal for transgender people to drive. Are you surprised? Don’t be. Around the world trans people are subject to a litany of injustices from birth to death, ranging from the unforgivably tedious, like not being granted access to appropriate changing rooms, or loos, to the downright soul destroying, like, I don’t know, not even being able to walk down the street without fear of being attacked. It’s all very well if you drive, I suppose, but in Russia now trans individuals don’t even have that.

Maybe the trans folk there should just lock themselves up in a room and never come out again. I did that for a few years, and I doubt I was the first, or last, trans person to do so.

The Russian government says it is tightening down on driving laws to improve road safety. People with “mental disorders”, ranging from fetishism to “pathological” gambling will also be denied driving permits. This is what happens when we treat trans and gay people as though they are mentally ill rather than products of natural human variation.The Professional Drivers Union supports the move, with the organisation’s head, Alexander Kotov saying: “We have too many deaths on the road, and I believe toughening medical requirements for applicants is fully justified”. This is an actual debate that is happening in Russia at the moment. It is beyond satire.

One only has to look at the degraded status of women in countries like Saudi Arabia for comparison. Women there are not allowed to drive themselves, but not because they have been deemed to be suffering from a mental disorder. No, it is their ovaries that prevent them from operating vehicles, according to learned Saudi clerics. It’s astonishing the logic bigots employ to justify nothing more than plain old discrimination. Mind you, we have had quite a bit of rain since equal marriage was introduced last summer, so maybe the fear-mongers are onto something after all.

So why don’t we hear more about these daily injustices? Well, we’re finally starting to. Transgender children have suffered abuse at the hands of their own families for decades, but the mainstream is only just starting to comprehend the scale of the problem. The reaction to Leelah Alcorn’s death last month, the 17-year-old trans girl driven, by her own account, to suicide by her parents, has sparked an outpouring of sympathy and understanding over the past few weeks. People get it. Such a response would have been unimaginable even just a few years ago, not least for the fact that social blogging sites like Tumblr, on which Leelah left her damning, moving, and heart-breaking suicide note, didn’t exist. Mainstream society is starting to understand exactly what trans people have to endure because we have finally found ways to tell you.

Continue reading at:  http://www.telegraph.co.uk/women/womens-life/11335759/Screw-Putins-Russia-Transgender-people-are-finally-in-the-driving-seat.html

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