Monthly Archives: May 2012

Bruce Lee, Vampires and Jesus: Ye Shall Know Them By Their Suits?!?

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Parsons: What’s your style?

Bruce Lee: My Style? You can call it the style of fighting without fighting.

Parsons: The art of fighting without fighting? Show me some of it.

That little exchange occurs in Bruce Lee’s classic martial arts film, Enter the Dragon. I love that scene! Lee outwits the hapless Aussie, and the poor guy almost drowns as his little boat is dragged behind a much larger boat en route to Han’s island fortress. So what, might you ask, has Bruce Lee to do with Jesus and Vampires? Quite a bit actually.

Lee was critical of rigid and formalized structures in traditional martial arts—the katas of Karate for example. Read this brilliant quote from the master, himself:

I have not invented a “new style,” composite, modified or otherwise that is set within distinct form as apart from “this” method or “that” method. On the contrary, I hope to free my followers from clinging to styles, patterns, or molds. Remember that Jeet Kune Do is merely a name used, a mirror in which to see “ourselves”. . . Jeet Kune Do is not an organized institution that one can be a member of. Either you understand or you don’t, and that is that. There is no mystery about my style. My movements are simple, direct and non-classical. The extraordinary part of it lies in its simplicity. Every movement in Jeet Kune-Do is being so of itself. There is nothing artificial about it. I always believe that the easy way is the right way. Jeet Kune-Do is simply the direct expression of one’s feelings with the minimum of movements and energy. The closer to the true way of Kung Fu, the less wastage of expression there is. Finally, a Jeet Kune Do man who says Jeet Kune Do is exclusively Jeet Kune Do is simply not with it. He is still hung up on his self-closing resistance, in this case anchored down to reactionary pattern, and naturally is still bound by another modified pattern and can move within its limits. He has not digested the simple fact that truth exists outside all molds; pattern and awareness is never exclusive. Again let me remind you Jeet Kune Do is just a name used, a boat to get one across, and once across it is to be discarded and not to be carried on one’s back.

Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jeet_Kune_Do

Wow! I love that! Lee also famously said:

Don’t get set into one form, adapt it and build your own, and let it grow, be like water. Empty your mind, be formless, shapeless — like water. Now you put water in a cup, it becomes the cup; You put water into a bottle it becomes the bottle; You put it in a teapot it becomes the teapot. Now water can flow or it can crash. Be water, my friend.

Source: http://en.wikiquote.org/wiki/Bruce_Lee

Much like Lee did with his martial arts philosophy, I incorporate truths outside of traditional Christian sources into my spirituality. This freedom on my part causes an immediate knee-jerk reaction from Christians adhering to stricter forms of the faith. I can almost hear the shrill warnings of apostasy raining down upon me from various religious quarters as I type this out.

I’m sure Lee encountered much the same kind of criticism from his Wing Chun peers when he incorporated Judo, Fencing, Karate, and a host of other disciplines into his fighting style. However, I am convinced that Jesus and his disciples operated in much the same way.

The target in all cases is religious form and tradition that do nothing for God but everything for self aggrandizement, exclusivity, and sectionalism. Often, the problem originates in something beneficial, born of good intent, and frequently even of a spiritual nature.

The Bible is rich in examples. One of my favorites centers on the Ark of the Covenant. No, not the one Noah hung out in with the giraffes and humpty-back camels and some chimpanzees. I’m talking about the other Ark. You know, the one Indiana Jones went after in the first movie. The one that melted the Nazi leader’s face.

Anyways, the Ark of the Covenant was a good thing. God even told the Israelis how to make it and what materials they needed in doing so. The problem was that the Jews got their focus off of God and what He wanted.

They got themselves involved in a war with the Philistines figuring they would win in convincing fashion but they got clobbered. Naturally, you’d think they’d call upon the God of Abraham, Issac, and Jacob to pull them out of the fire so-to-speak but they didn’t. What they did do was to ask for the Ark of the Covenant!

After the battle was over, the troops retreated to their camp, and the elders of Israel asked, “Why did the LORD allow us to be defeated by the Philistines?” Then they said, “Let’s bring the Ark of the Covenant of the LORD from Shiloh. If we carry it into battle with us, it will save us from our enemies.”

1 Samuel 4:3 New Living Translation (©2007)

Well, they got the Ark took it into the next big battle, and the Philistines promptly scattered them to the winds; adding insult to injury the Philistines took the Ark away from the Jews and brought it back with them as a trophy!

What happened here? Well, the Jews basically forgot all about spirituality and replaced it with a fetish. It’s the same kind of superstition you see in Vampire movies.

Van Helsing and company invariably obtain a cross or crucifix at some point in the story and burn the undead antagonist with it usually by branding their forehead or hand. There’s generally a scene included in which an impromptu cross is made of some discarded wood. The Vampire hisses and turns from the hated “holy” object usually covering himself with his cloak. I also like the cleavage scenes where Dracula or whatever fill-in is about to put the bite on a pretty victim. He pulls back the delicate bodice, young soft breasts rise and fall with each gentle breath,  but suddenly a delicate cross or crucifix is revealed!  Thank God! It successfully repels the beast from continuing with his salacious assault.

Of course all this supposes either that Dracula and his ilk believe in Christianity or God or that there is some actual power in the “symbol” of “the” cross. Again, as with the Ark of the Covenant, there is nothing inherently bad about crosses or holy water or the Eucharist or whatever. The problem comes when believers get their spiritual eyes off of God and onto some aspect of the Faith that they have fetishized.

Jesus criticized the Pharisees (Jewish religious leaders of his time) for wearing enlarged phylacteries, [religious boxes in which were contained scriptures] (Matthew 23: 5) because it allowed them to make a demonstration of their religious conviction. The Pharisees judged their spirituality on an outward show and Jesus took them to task for it. Of themselves, Phylacteries are not bad or wrong but if you fetish them, you’ve got a problem.

Jesus is quoted as saying:

“A tree is identified by its fruit. If a tree is good, its fruit will be good. If a tree is bad, its fruit will be bad.

Matthew 12:23 New Living Translation (©2007)

Figuratively speaking, Christians are presumably born again of a good tree. Therefore, borrowing from the example above, the fruit they bear is good. We are known by the fruit we bear spiritually. As Paul wrote in letter to the Galatians:

But the Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness

Galatians 5:22 New Living Translation (©2007)

Those qualities are what should set a Christian apart from the unbeliever not the crosses around our necks, the clothes we wear or the church we attend.You shall know them by their fruits… not by their suits, folks.

I agree with Bruce Lee when he says: “He has not digested the simple fact that truth exists outside all molds; pattern and awareness is never exclusive.”

Take a look at the image below:

Guess the Religion Game!

Religious Mix and Match: Can you match the religious expressions with the religions listed below?

If you can properly assign the following words to the corresponding religious expression above then I suspect there’s something wrong with this picture: Buddhism, Catholicism, Evangelicalism, Islam, Judaism, Mormonism, Druidism, Jehovah’s Witnesses, Sikhism, Rastafarianism

Ok, one more Bible story.

When Peter witnessed the “Transfiguration”; that point in the Gospel narrative where Christ is lit up with Divine light, Moses and Elijah appearing with him, the excited disciple says:

“Rabbi, it’s wonderful for us to be here! Let’s make three shelters as memorials–one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah.”

He said this because he didn’t really know what else to say, for they were all terrified.

Mark 9:5-6 New Living Translation (©2007)

It looks like Peter immediately wants to start a religion or at least mark the occasion with a religious monument. However, before the new religion can take root. God breaks in with an announcement of His own:

Then a cloud appeared and enveloped them, and a voice came from the cloud: “This is my Son, whom I love. Listen to him!”

Mark 9:7 New Living Translation (©2007)

To me this is the crux of it all (pardon the pun). Basically, God is telling Peter to forget focusing on the Holy light-show, forget erecting religious monuments and to listen to Christ. Ultimately, and in every case that trumps any religious form, structure, rite, or function you can possibly think of.

The wind blows wherever it wants. Just as you can hear the wind but can’t tell where it comes from or where it is going, so you can’t explain how people are born of the Spirit.”

John 3:8 New Living Translation (©2007)

Honestly, I firmly believe the only way someone should be able to tell if we are Christians is if we bear the character of Christ not via our tshirts, suits, and crosses or the kind of building we enter.

In other words, be like water my friend. Be like water 🙂

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The Hypocricy of Radical Feminism’s stance on Transgender Theory

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Sheila Jeffreys’ recent complaints against Transgender inspired opposition to her exclusionary Radical Feminist paradigm irked me today. Does something about the following quote read hollow with you?

For several years there has been a concerted campaign via the internet and on the ground, to ensure that I, and any other persons who have criticised transgenderism, from any academic discipline, are not given opportunities to speak in public.

Source: http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2012/may/29/transgenderism-hate-speech

For those out of the loop, Radical Feminism is in opposition to sex-reassignment surgeries and deems transsexuals to be co-opted supporters of the patriarchal status quo. As an “idiot’s guide” primer to the whole Radical Feminism vs. Transgender Theory debate check out the rather entertaining:

The Rad Fem Vs. the Trans Activist
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yBUNdv2sVzY

But back to the specifics of the topic at hand. If you are wondering why I appear to be lacking sympathy for Ms. Jeffreys’ plight it’s because Transgendered individuals have been actively dissuaded—banned from certain Radical Feminist sponsored events. Perhaps, nowhere more infamously than at the Michigan Womyn’s Music Festival.

To cite an About.com article that poses the very direct question, “Is the Festival Transphobic?” a representative of Lesbian Life responds:

We strongly assert there is nothing transphobic with choosing to spend one week with womyn who were born as, and have lived their lives as, womyn. It is a powerful, uncommon experience that womyn enjoy during this one week of living in the company of other womyn-born womyn. There are many opportunities in the world to share space with the entire queer community, and other spaces that welcome all who define themselves as female.

Source: http://lesbianlife.about.com/od/lesbianactivism/a/TransatMich_2.htm

Now where have we heard that line before?

[Donald] Trump has since reversed his “naturally-born” female position — and has promised to allow [Canadian transgendered Miss Universe contestant] Jenna [Talackova] to compete.

Source: http://www.tmz.com/2012/04/03/transgender-beauty-queen-miss-universe-gloria-allred/

Oh right, Donald Trump had his very own women-born-women policy! I wonder if Ms. Jeffreys takes comfort in the fact that she and “The Donald” see eye-to-eye on the naturally born woman issue? Certainly opponents of transgenderism make strange bedfellows!

It also brings to mind the “men-only” clubs that some feminists sought to desegregate based on suppositions of male privilege and rights of access. Yet, didn’t those men cite the same kind of argument? To paraphrase the quote above:

We strongly assert there is nothing misogynistic with choosing to spend time with men who were born as, and have lived their lives as, men in our men’s clubs. There are many opportunities in the world to share space with the entire community, and other spaces that welcome all who define themselves as women.”

In other words, “sure have your freedom. Live where you will. But um, not on my block“.

I’ve made this point before. Anti-transgender rhetoric and practice works only insomuch as our critics are able to identify us. The picture heralding this piece features yours truly, and the lovely, Miriam Rivera. We are both transgendered, but ironically, she is preoperative and I am post-operative. In other words, I’m the one with a vagina. Yet, because Miriam passes so well it is likely she that would gain access to a “woman-born-woman” event and not myself. I’m squarely in their gun-sights, not Miriam. Perception is everything folks.

Yes, because I “pass” less effectively, I am subject to greater scrutiny and derision. I applaud beautiful women such as Janet Mock who has chosen to celebrate her uniqueness as a transgendered woman when her ability to move about us undetected could have been a very real option.

I yearn for a world of inclusion—not exclusion!

I think of the ignorance, and stupidity inherent in racist ideologies. I love, welcome and embrace the fact that new genetic research, notably the Genographic Project highlights our shared humanity and common ancestral beginnings. I’ve been researching my family tree as part of the needed research for a memoir I am putting together. I’ve been excitedly pouring over old documents citing relatives in the UK. However, the greater truth is that we are all African—all of us!

One people, and a shared hope of fulfillment, and lives rich in meaning and purpose. Come one. Come all; independent of religion, race, color or creed.

As for Sheila Jeffreys and Radical Feminism all I can say is:

Live by the sword of exclusion, elitism, and  privilege, and you die by the same.

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My Lifelong Passion for Chess: A Queen’s Gambit ;)

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3D and 2D, green and cream, black and white, red and black, wood and plastic, marble and steel, Renaissance and Staunton, The Simpsons, Star Trek, and Star Wars. Whatever form the first chess set you ever looked upon took, I hope its magic called to you, captivated you, and drew you in like some inescapable, irresistible Siren’s song.

I could easily write an entire book on my love of chess, the people I’ve met—my fellow captives, and the game’s compelling history. Maybe, hopefully I think—I’ll blog more about chess. Maybe this is a one-off post? But, I hope not.

I first became aware of the game on a visit to my cousins’ place in Brandon, Manitoba in the 1960s. It would have been around 1968 and I’d have been about 10 years-old. They owned the first chess set I ever remember seeing, and the pieces fascinated me. I mean they truly captured my imagination. Those pieces belonged to a pretty standard plastic ersatz Staunton design that was doubtlessly spewed out on some droning assembly line. The pieces I first viewed were in a greyish cardboard container—half in half out sprawled haphazardly about my relatives’ golden carpeted living room floor. The board that accompanied the pieces was a garish yellow bordered black and red squared affair—a color combination I would frequently encounter in subsequent years. But none of that bothered me. I was fixated on the exotic shapes of the pieces; their names only hinted at by the stylized forms that spoke of castles, and horses, and religious symbols—mitres and crosses, and royal crowns.

How did they move? What was the objective?

I was curious beyond words, and felt unbelievable frustration when my older cousin told me that the game was boring, that I was too young; the game—too complicated to explain. However, I was driven by an indiscernible desire to unlock the mystery of those pieces.

Back in Winnipeg, my home town during the latter 1960s, I happened upon a neighbor who had in his possession a rather attractive over-sized plastic Staunton set of richly glazed auburn and black pieces set on a checkerboard of dark brown, and tan. His name was Greg Woodcock, and it was left to him to reveal the mysteries inherent within the idiosyncratic movements of the 32 pieces that made up a chess set—16 on one side,16 on the other.

Greg pointed out the 64 squares of alternating colors—32 dark, 32 light with one of the lighter colored squares habitually occupying the top left corner.

He explained that the horses were knights and the castles—rooks that there were bishops and pawns, queens and kings.

In hindsight, Greg was a undoubtedly a patzer, a duffer, a wood-pusher, a noob! He invariably played “White”; opening with a King or Queen’s Rook’s Pawn. P-KR4, P-QR4 or simply a4,h4 if one were to “notate” his moves. Horrible moves for an unskilled player but potentially dangerous in the hands of a master.

Nonetheless, I owe Greg an immeasurable show of gratitude. He explained the basics to me and patiently endured hours of my own repeated, pathetic efforts to best him. I never did, but fortunately, I did improve. Greg’s parents bought me a lovely wooden chess box/board with heavy plastic pieces that I owned for years.

In 1971 our family moved to Victoria, BC. One of the first things I did upon settling in at our new home was to hook up with the Victoria Chess Club. Harry Moore, Dan Scoones, Jeff Reeve, Ed Seedhouse were some of the gifted players that I met back then. All of them became fixtures in BC tournaments in the years that followed. We met at Royal Athletic Park before moving to the Victoria Public Library on Yates Street; then moving once again to the Gordon Head Recreation Centre.

1972 saw us all revel in the upcoming Fischer-Spassky match for the World Chess Championship. It was broadcast on ABC’s Wide World of Sports and I remember being fully engaged by US Grandmaster Larry Evans. But the 72 Chess Championship never lived up to the pregame hype. Unlike the 72′ Soviet/Canada Hockey series that more than delivered…Fischer’s neuroses, paranoia, and pure obstinacy fell like a wet blanket over a Western audience eagerly anticipating the “Match of the Century”. What an opportunity lost! Chess was poised to enter mainstream consciousness in unheralded fashion but it wasn’t to be. Fischer made sure of that, and in the process went from hero to anti-hero seemingly overnight. We, in the West were happy he’d won but the victory rang hollow despite some brilliant chess.

I still remember an embarrassed Larry Evans, obviously at a loss with the cameras rolling waiting and wondering like all of us whether Fischer would appear. Eventually, ABC cut away to some other event out of sheer necessity. Unfortunately, America cut away with the network and the promise of a chess revolution went unfulfilled.

Fischer faded into legend but thankfully the game lived on. Yasser Seirawan began his rise into prominence just as Fischer was fading from the spotlight. However, he lacked Fischer’s brilliance. A renewed interest in the game arose courtesy of the Azerbaijan/Soviet born Gary Kasparov. Kasparov’s bold play and brazen resistance to Soviet bureaucracy garnered him a legion of fans in the West. Besides, that he won…a lot! Ok, so he wasn’t American born but his charismatic extroverted and vocalized passion injected fresh life into the general population’s appreciation of chess. Obviously, not on the level that Fischer had been able to do but arguably more than any other figure in the history of American chess.

I liked Kasparov but in the years immediately following the “Match of the Century” my love of chess generally manifested in the purchase of countless books; notably, the chess books published by the Dover company. Frank J. Marshall’s Best Games of Chess being a particular favorite.

I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention Lynn Stringer whose tireless efforts organizing chess tournaments in Victoria were and remain greatly appreciated. She was a fixture on the competitive side of the Victoria chess scene for many years.

Nowadays, my interest takes the form of reading about women in chess. No doubt my own male-to-female journey plays a role in that development. Jen Shahade’s “Chess Bitch” is essential reading despite the many typographical errors it contains. Natalia Pogonina, Alexandra Kosteniuk, and Shahade are all active on Twitter and I recommend anyone interested in chess to “follow” them.

It’s funny but I only reluctantly play online or against real-life opponents. Somehow, I developed a phobia about losing somewhere along the way. It’s irrational I know but it’s a very real fear. I’m much more content to play against the artificial intelligence of various commercially available chess programs. Nonetheless, I highly recommend chess.com both for its AI opponent and a world of potential human players ranging from novice to master.

Despite the ebb and flow of my involvement with chess, the game remains a lifelong passion. I still happily lap up any newsworthy items regarding the game that I happen to stumble upon.

Simply put— I Heart Chess! 🙂

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Jenna Talackova and the Miss Universe Pageant: Who Wins and Who Loses?

On the eve of the Canadian leg of of the Miss Universe Pageant, all the media attention remains fixed on Jenna Talackova, the transgendered contestant that took on Donald Trump’s glittering showcase of feminine allure and won. Well sort of. The problem is that Jenna has been forced to dance along a rather narrow and extremely slippery runway. On the one-hand her presence and the knowledge that she is transgendered has brought the world’s attention bowing at her pretty feet. On the other, she is not viewed simply as a woman but rather as a transgendered woman.

While all the attention is undoubtedly welcomed from a career perspective and as an opportunity to promote transgender awareness, the negative impact for Jenna on a very personal level is the very real challenge to her identity as a woman, albeit as an extremely attractive woman.

For most male to female transsexuals the ultimate goal is to simply disappear and take our place amongst our cisgendered sisters, shoulder-to-shoulder as it were, completely indistinguishable from any other woman. It’s a difficult challenge for most anyone born with an XY chromosome combination and made even more difficult for those socialized in the gender role normally associated with that particular pattern.

Jenna is one of the fortunate few for whom “stealth” living could have been a viable option. By stealth I mean the ability to live beneath the world’s scrutiny with regards to her surgical past. She “passes”; that is she looks and acts just as she appears to be, a beautiful woman indistinguishable from any other aspiring beauty queen. But, she was “outed” and so has had to run the gauntlet of media scrutiny suffering the transphobic barbs of Donald Trump, and the hateful ignorant put-downs of a largely misinformed public.

For many transgendered women stealth is not an option. It certainly isn’t for me. I do reasonably well in that regard but still, escaping the scrutiny of the public at large remains a decidedly unrealistic goal. So to some extent, Jenna is “wearing one for the team” taking the criticism in graceful stride while promoting transgender awareness and furthering tolerance in a world reluctant to be so.

Of course the big winner in all this brouhaha is Donald Trump, himself. The Miss Universe Pageant and others like it are viewed by many as antiquated spectacles out of touch with women’s rights and new millennium sensibilities. Ratings have been down in past years and Ms.Talackova’s arrival on the scene could not be more welcomed. She has been a media winfall for the pageant and even Trump with all his millions must be thinking: “You can’t pay for this kind of publicity”.

Jillian Page of the Montreal Gazette recently lamented:

We’ve talked about this before: the word “transgender” is not necessary. In fact, it is considered to be discriminatory by many people. But the media are having a field day with the Jenna Talackova story, and as several senior editors have told me, the “transgender” angle is the hook — they would not be reporting this story if Jenna had been a “natural-born woman,” whatever that means.

(source: http://blogs.montrealgazette.com/author/jillianpage21/)

Sadly, I am forced to agree with Jillian’s editors. One need only look at Alex Nino Gheciu’s National Post article emblazoned with the provocative and oh so delightfully salacious title: “Jenna Talackova: Buying Undies and Stealing the Spotlight” to understand all one needs to know about the media’s take on all this.

Gheciu’s article is a blow by blow account of a Miss Universe sponsored shopping spree in which Ms.Talackova’s transgendered presence is clearly seen as the glittering jewel in the crown of whatever media coverage the pageant has been able to generate:

4:15 p.m. The media swarm continues to follow Ms. Talackova through the mall, almost shoving other contestants out of the way in the process.

4:35 p.m. Majd Souti, 26, and Kuyan Elliot, 19, take their time shopping at Sephora, ordering around employees who scurry to find them just the right shades of blush. They’ve been left mostly left unnoticed by reporters, but harbour no hard feelings toward Ms. Talackova. “As long as the judging is fair and we’re all treated equally,” says Ms. Souti. “It’ll just make winning that much better and losing not too bitter because you’re losing to strong competition.” Adds Ms. Elliot: “I’m proud of her for having the strength to do this. She’s honestly, like, a really amazing person.”

(http://news.nationalpost.com/2012/05/15/jenna-talackova-toronto/)

Sadly, the actual judging will not be fair regardless of outcome. Simply put, the knowledge that Jenna underwent sex-change surgery is too big a hurdle for most people to overcome. Even with the most positive spin: “Wow! I can’t believe that absolute fox used to be a guy.” it remains a case of “she used to be”. Can the judges dispel all thoughts regarding Jenna’s past given the media exposure she’s received? Let’s face it even criminal trials have been ruled mistrials due to media exposure influencing a jury’s decision. Will the Miss Universe judges be able to overcome media influence in this case? I sincerely doubt it.

Will we ever see a time when the words trans-woman or transgendered woman fall into disuse? Honestly, I can only see that happening when medical science and social consciousness reach a level where transgendered women are “completely” indistinguishable from their cisgendered sisters—in every dimension: menstruation, pregnancy, lactation, menopause and all that attends those functions as well as in presentation and sociopsychological expression.

So who wins here?

Donald Trump is the obvious winner. His biggest hope has to be that Jenna wins the Canadian title so he can reap the benefits of her presence in the big show. Even if she takes the Canadian title and puts in an appearance for the Miss Universe Pageant it’s a one off and things will settle down once Jenna passes through (barring the unlikely event that she wins the whole thing).

For Jenna, herself, it’s book deals, fashion photo-spreads, and offers from certain men’s magazines. If she wins the title, critics will say she only won because she’s a transsexual. If she fails to place high enough it will be thought she faced unfair discrimination because of media exposure. The truth is, Jenna is not seen and will not be seen in the same light as her competitors.

And on that account, no one wins.

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Pregnant Men and Lactating Guys: Pushing the Gender Envelope

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Well it’s Mother’s Day so what better way to celebrate this annual observance than to throw a wrench into the works and discuss transgendered males that welcome the joys of pregnancy and breastfeeding? Once again, I find myself challenged by divergent behaviors within the trans community. Not only that, but I recognize the inherent hypocrisy within myself for questioning the validity of these maternal expressions coming from my transgendered brothers.

But let me say that as a post-operative, male-female, transsexual I have undertaken every procedure current medicine is able to provide in furthering my goal to mirror, reflect—to become, as indistinguishable from my cisgendered sisters as is medically possible. In my case that has meant undergoing sexual reassignment and refashioning my penis into a functioning vagina, breast augmentation (a “D” cup in my case) forehead reconstruction, electrolysis, laser hair removal, and rhinoplasty.

And if it were medically possible, I would undertake whatever procedure would ensure menstruation and the associated risks of pregnancy. In short, I would welcome whatever biological functions are reflective of the female sex. Now, I am acutely aware that there exist many people who are passionately adverse to lending any credence to my claim of female status. Nonetheless, as I have written elsewhere in this blog, my appeal is towards a social definition of sex designation one that embodies an active effort on the part of people to project and embrace norms reflective of their chosen gender.

Whilst fervently, actively pursuing a feminine expression of self I have also divested myself of anything biologically seen as the exclusive purview of the male sex. First and foremost I have absolutely no interest in owning those rights. So, men fill your boots and have at er’. I’ll happily take my place with the women.

Honestly, I am challenged and perplexed when I see transmen embracing sexual functions related to their female heritage. I just don’t get it! In my case I spent a great deal of time, money, and effort to rid myself of my male heritage. Not only do I wish to be rid of it but there was a large degree of emotional discomfort in possessing it in the first place.

In a world where women as beautiful, articulate, and feminine as Jenna Talackova, and Jamie Clayton have their legitimacy questioned seeing transmen such as Thomas Beatie (the pregnant man) and Trevor MacDonald ( a Winnipeg transman making headlines for breastfeeding) embrace such female related sexual functions can only add fuel to the fires of criticism. I admit that we have little hope in winning over all our critics, but certainly sending mixed messages of the sort Beatie and MacDonald have delivered is in no one’s interest.

Unfortunately, I’m sure to raise the ire of others in the GBLT community but this article is an honest reflection of what I feel. Certainly, I do not advocate censure or any other move aimed at limiting freedom of  choice from individuals seeking to embrace biological functions associated with the opposite sex. I am saying that these behaviors further confuse and frustrate a public already challenged by the notion of transgender.

Yes, I am aware that at least when it comes to lactation there is some anecdotal references to males generating breast milk—and even breastfeeding in some instances. In fact, years ago when self medicating with a friend’s discarded birth control pills I was generating visible droplets of prolactin from my nipples. Self administering estrogen or testosterone is not advised by the way and can be extremely dangerous. Fortunately, I ended up under an endocrinologist’s care and my hormone levels were reduced to normal female levels. Nonetheless, I embraced the issuance of prolactin as a distinctly female condition and psychologically warmed to the notion that I was in some way functioning in a female manner.

Nonetheless, fair is fair and in that spirit you may read of Mr. MacDonald’s adventures in breastfeeding via his own blog at: http://www.milkjunkies.net/

Thomas Beatie’s homepage here: http://www.definenormal.com/PregnantMan/Home.html

Happy Mother’s Day gentlemen. Will it be a cigar or flowers? 😉

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Does it always have to be Science versus Spirituality? PART II

Science vs. Christianity

Yesterday, in part I of this discussion I blogged about a recent study whose findings suggested religious or spiritual belief suffers under the light of analytical thinking. In other words, the more thinking you do the less likely you are to believe in the supernatural. Hopefully, I was able to demonstrate that within a Christian framework there is no cause for disagreement. Further to this is another study published just days ago in which scientists identified specific regions in the brain where the spiritual interface is thought to occur.

All fun stuff, but the underlying inference is that God is simply a product of our evolutionary progression. Many news organizations covered the story but I always enjoy reading the CBC’s take on things, as they never cease to entertain:

But if we accept the implied argument here that, as a function of our evolutionary heritage, our brains have evolved to respond to the presence of God as a real, concrete person, then many of those people struggling to believe in an abstract deity are working against their very natures.

The evidence from this group in Denmark suggests that the more abstract the concept of God, the more unreal the experience is to the human brain.

That’s why the idea of a divine intermediary, as Christians and Hindus believe, is such a powerful invention — for those who accept it, that is.

(Source: http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/sudbury/story/2012/05/07/f-vp-handler-god-spot.html)

Once again, apart from the evolutionary component, Christian belief is in accordance with the study’s findings.  In other words, simply as a means of comprehending God intellectually, we are required to use our brains. Personally, I believe in a tripartite construction of the human being. Those parts consisting of spirit, soul, and body.

Fortunately, the comprehension of God transcends the limits of the soul wherein lies our intellect, rationalization, emotions, and will. God can be apprehended by spirit and connected with on a transcendent level. That is why the mentally infirm, and the comatose are able to commune with God despite their physical challenges. Christianity transcends the inherent limitations of our brains.

Of course, Christians and their scientific critics do view things differently, and this unfortunately is a critical impasse.

For the Christian the thought that we are created in the image of God resonates with us and for the secularist the opposite holds sway; or as the CBC article put it:

God may be incomprehensible, the true and ultimate “other.” But in the end, we seem to turn Him into a person. Perhaps that’s only human.

The problem with humanistic interpretations of spirituality is that you are left with a shell or a gutted husk of spirituality one lacking the transformative power  to change lives. Citing again from the CBC article:

As well, in this Ideas series, we hear James Carse, a religion writer and former history professor at New York University, tell us that belief is “the enemy of religion.”

“Beliefs come and go,” he says. They are disposable. And he’s disposed of his, pretty much.

What Carse appreciates is “tradition.” By this he means that when someone experiences God, it isn’t via some woozy, mystical event, but through participating in a community, along with other congregants.

Carse may appreciate his tradition but as the Bible recognizes:

Thus have you made the commandment of God void by your tradition. (Mathew 15:6 King James version 2000)

and again:

Having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof: (2 Timothy 3:5 King James version 2000)

To me, that’s the end result of such thinking—all the outward trappings of religion but none of its life-changing power.

And worse, traditional practices historically promote the destruction of indigenous cultures by imposing upon them rituals and religious forms alien to their native culture. Stained glass windows and wooden pews archaic rituals steeped in Euro-centric cultural traditions bearing little or no relevance at all to the subjugated populations.

What a turn-off for young people seeking real meaning and purpose in their lives. Pipe organs, Latin liturgical addresses, and Gregorian chants may inspire some but far more people will relate to a vibrant message of hope adaptable, malleable, and meaningful within the confines of any given culture.

A spirituality that will resonate with or without the availability of Bibles, manifesting uniquely whether you are an African bushman, a Ganzu fisherman, or a Seoul housewife and mother.

As Jesus said:

The wind blows wherever it wants. Just as you can hear the wind but can’t tell where it comes from or where it is going, so you can’t explain how people are born of the Spirit.” (John 3:8 New Living Translation 2007)

Pretty hard to put a box and steeple around that kind of thinking, folks—and honestly, who would want to?

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Does it always have to be Science versus Spirituality? PART I

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Too often the science vs. religion debate is framed within an either/or proposition.Two articles recently caught my eye dealing with the ongoing debate between religious (I prefer “spiritual“) belief and science. The first I found quite enlightening (pardon the obvious pun) centering on a UBC study whose results suggested that critical thinking inversely affects religious faith. The study put forth a dualistic model in which two fundamental thinking types exist: intuitive and analytical.

(The article was widely circulated but you can read the Chicago Tribune’s take on it here:  http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/la-sci-religion-analytical-thinking-20120427,0,7996681.story)

Essentially, folks operating from an intuitive “gut-level” POV report a higher affinity towards religious belief whereas their analytical counterparts are more likely to eschew religious perspectives. I most definitely fall into the former camp and therefore my own spiritual convictions may add validity to the study in question.

Obviously, the tenor of the discussion falls well within secular confines and therefore precludes any substantial opportunity for spiritual redress. But hey, that’s why I’m here! And, yes, I know that quoting the Bible make people’s eyes glaze over but it remains my go-to source for making sense out of the world. On the upside, the Bible actually tends to support the study’s own findings. So that’s gotta be good right? Now, personally, I prefer the good ol’ King James Version of the Bible, but when blogging these things out sometimes a different version proves useful.

In this case, The New Living Translation published in 2007 should do the trick:

Since God in his wisdom saw to it that the world would never know him through human wisdom, he has used our foolish preaching to save those who believe.It is foolish to the Jews, who ask for signs from heaven. And it is foolish to the Greeks, who seek human wisdom.So when we preach that Christ was crucified, the Jews are offended and the Gentiles say it’s all nonsense. (I Corinthians 1:21-23)

In other words, the Bible acknowledges that in light of rational or analytical thinking the Gospel or spiritual belief will appear as foolish, stupid, insipid—well you get the idea. Amazing how things haven’t changed much at all when it comes to spiritual understanding.

Humanist thinker, Michael Stone took note of the study as well, citing Mark Twain and Frederich Nietzsche amongst others in decrying the foolishness inherent within a faith driven paradigm:

“Faith: not wanting to know what is true.” – Friedrich Nietzsche

“Faith is believing something you know ain’t true.” – Mark Twain

(source: http://www.examiner.com/article/study-shows-thinking-diminishes-religious-faith)

Twain’s comment is tinged with that salt of the earth humor that has made him such a beloved character. And Nietzsche’s comment? Well, humor isn’t really what he’s remembered for. And yet, science and Christian belief are agreed that when examined under critical analysis faith comes out looking rather foolish.

We know the Bible is loaded with thoughts on faith. Nonetheless, its own definition of faith stands in marked contrast to the wry humor of Samuel Clemens and the biting criticism of Nietzsche.

 Faith is the confidence that what we hope for will actually happen; it gives us assurance about things we cannot see. (Hebrews 11:1 from the Living Translation again)

It’s interesting that Twain and Nietzsche both question the “truth” of Christianity and yet Christ is the self-proclaimed “Way, Truth and Life”. (the emphasis is mine).  So rather than avoiding or denying truth, Christianity avows, advances, exalts, and demands a fervent love of truth in all its adherents.

Simply put, as the Bible states:  …you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free (John 8:32)

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