How to unlearn being a doormat

The ways in which we desire, consume and live are not “natural.” They are constructed.

Dead Wild Roses extensively quotes Christopher Lasch on the issue of the cultural revolution that turned us all into mindless consumers.

As Emma Rothschild has shown in her study of the automobile industry, Alfred Sloan’s innovations in marketing-the annual model change, constant upgrading of the product, efforts to associate it with social status, the deliberate inculcation of an insatiable appetite for change-constituted the necessary counterpart of Henry Ford’s innovations in production. Modern industry came to rest on the twin pillars of Fordism and Sloanism. Both tended to discourage initiative and self-reliance and to reduce work and consumption alike to an essentially passive activity.

The medical establishment doesn’t want you to talk about how transgender transitioning is connected to mental illness.

When I was trans identified I took any insinuation that my gender identity was caused by mental illness, trauma, or neurodivergence as a great personal offense. It is a pervasive narrative that trans people are merely “delusional”, that being trans is caused by some sort of personal defect, and that trans-ness or any sort of proximity to being trans is a disgusting and reprehensible sort of deviance from “normal”. I have seen these narratives pop up everywhere from Jerry Springer to so-called “gender critical” resources, and I do still find them completely unhelpful, uncompassionate, and actually, still fucking offensive. They misunderstand both the nature of mental illness and what drives (at least female people) to consider transition.

I fixated most on questioning my gender and potentially transitioning when I was near-completely socially isolated, trapped in an abusive home, unemployed with no income, and spending most of my time asleep or drugged in a dirty bed. I could barely meet my most basic needs, was emotionally terrorized and functionally in captivity, and had no ability for anything resembling self-actualization. This isn’t a coincidence, and the first thing I noticed upon talking to other women within the detransition/reconciling community is that I was very distinctly not alone in this experience, sometimes down to specific details of my experiences with abuse or mental illness. If you read between the lines in FTM (or other AFAB trans) communities you will notice the same dynamics in play, just covertly, as recognizing the reality of what happens or has happened to us jeopardizes our ability to rely on trans identification or transition as a coping mechanism.

There is an extreme investment in trans community, as well as among the healthcare providers who provide transition-related medical resources, in believing that transition is either undertaken completely of one’s free will, or if it is forced, it is a decision made solely due to an unchangeable, intrinsic part of one’s makeup (a cross-sex “soul”, or more modernly, a cross-sex brain). There are a whole host of reasons why trans people believe this, but one reason I have not seen ever explored is what function it has for the medical system to be invested in this belief. Healthcare providers are invested in believing this because it essentially absolves them of responsibility for harm to very vulnerable people and justifies their homophobic and misogynist practices in a way that totally obfuscates the fact that they are committing medical abuse. In fact, this is the fundamental point of “gatekeeping”: transition gatekeeping is a ritual that manufactures the illusion of a consenting patient and a doctor that has their best interests in mind. Trans people buy into intrinsic gender identity (a thing not affected by life experience or mental illness/neurodivergence) because they have historically been coerced into believing that this was the explanation for what was “wrong with them” and why they were suffering. Once a person recognizes this “reason” (that they have an internal gender identity or at least a cross-sex brain) then it becomes a matter of mere logic to treat the suffering using transition; the trans person will now consent to medical treatment under the belief that it is best for them, and the doctors responsible for the treatment are satisfied that they not only did something permissible but that they did the right thing.

Actually recognizing that trans identification and desire to transition can be influenced by mental health issues or disability or neurodivergence, or life circumstances, or the violence LGB people and women are subjected to under a patriarchal society, would totally blow open this set of justifications. The medical establishment does not want to hear it because it would mean they would have to admit to massive, systematic abuse, particularly of lesbians and gay men. Most trans individuals don’t want to hear it because they would have to face the reality of their situation when they are using trans identification as a coping mechanism precisely because they are in a situation where their psychological or other survival depends on avoiding their pain.

Does determinism imply fatalism?

I have already addressed the more extreme and bizarre versions of associating determinism with fatalism, the versions where determinism is some kind of external force that you can trick or fight against. But there are more subtle versions of this confusion as well, which are not as clearly wrong or bizarre, and therefore are worth addressing.

I want to address two specific sort of arguments here. The first is that determinism is incompatible with knowledge, and is similar to an argument used by Christian apologists about the incompatibility of evolution with knowledge. The apologist argument is that we should not expect evolution to have brought about a brain which generates truths, and that the human brain would be fundamentally unreliable if evolution was true. There are many things we can reply to this, but the main objection is that the brain is not a proposition-generating machine but rather a versatile tool which, like other parts of our body, can be used for many different purposes. One of these purposes happens to be finding rationally justified propositions.

The anti-determinist argument is somewhat similar to this, but basically replaces evolution with determinism. If determinism is true, then our thoughts are the result of predetermined processes in the brain, therefore we cannot assume that our beliefs are correctly justified. This is usually accompanied by a fallacious argument from incredulity: how can we assume that any proposition that is the result of random natural processes will be properly justified?

The main fallacy with this argument is the assumption that natural processes are random or unguided. Everything humans do is determined and regulated by natural law, and yet we don’t say that buildings or computer chips are random, came into existence unguided, or necessarily unreliable. If it would be laughable to assume this in the case of buildings or computer chips, then why should we assume it in the case of human reasoning? When I construct an argument and justify it rationally, am I not acting in a determined manner and in accordance with natural law? The main difference is that a building is an entirely physical product while an argument is a conceptual product, but both require the careful use of our minds in constructing justified beliefs (about construction or about concepts).

Saying that a thought was determined instead of volitional does not change the nature of the thought, or its justification or absence thereof. The only way we can tell whether a proposition is justified remains to look at arguments or lines of reasoning in favor of, or against, it. What I believe about, say, the sky being blue still hangs upon observations of the sky and the facts about light passing through air, regardless of how my brain arrived at the proposition. For that matter, a Markov chain algorithm could theoretically compose an entire argument (with premises, logic, and conclusion) on some subject: the argument would still be true or false on its merits, regardless of the fact that it was the result of an unthinking algorithm (note that I am not arguing that we are anything like a Markov chain algorithm!).

This argument also begs the question of how a volitional brain could use evidence to formulate reasoning. After all, we are told that volition is not affected by physical processes, since anything caused by a physical process is determined. Perceiving evidence is a physical process. So how can a volitional brain process evidence?

The second argument I wanted to discuss is one which attacks the ethical consequences of determinism. In its simplest version, the argument is simply that determinism cannot explain why people change their minds, or how people can consider arguments and “choose” one side over the other. Sometimes this takes the ironic form that determinists are self-contradictory because they are trying to change people’s minds about agency, when that is impossible according to determinism.

This argument always puzzles me because there is no logical connection between determinism and being unable to be convinced by an argument. All that determinism says is that the processes in our brain are the result of natural processes. It does not indicate anything about the kind of thoughts we can or cannot have. Of course we can change our minds, as is demonstrated every day. Indeed, most or all determinists arrived at their position because some argument or discussion changed their minds on the subject. It would be very silly for a determinist to deny that we can change our minds, but we don’t need to, since there is no logical argument going from “determinism is true” to “we cannot change our minds.”

Sometimes the argument is actually backed by a kind of fatalism: people cannot help being what they are. But this is not a position about whether natural law applies to the brain, this is a psychological position. Whether human beings have some “true nature” which is always reflected in their thoughts or actions or not, this has nothing to do with determinism. You can believe in “fixed personalities” (to give a name to this belief) and be a determinist or an anti-determinist, and you can believe that there are no “fixed personalities” and be a determinist or an anti-determinist.

I think the idea that there are “fixed personalities” is silly because people do change their minds. Nothing about this fact has anything to do with determinism, except the obvious conclusion that such changes take place within the realm of natural law, i.e. are a psychological result of some prior psychological cause. Some people are more set in their ways and less likely to change, while others are more tolerant of new attitudes or ideas. This is a very interesting subject, but, again, it has nothing to do with determinism.

Why I think minors should not medically transition- a detransitioner’s perspective

Transition is not a proportionate response to body dysphoria.

b0rnwr0ng asks: why does everyone assume that medical transition is the only possible treatment for dysphoria? Who gains respectability, and a lot of money, from this “surgery-or-suicide” false dogma?

Being isolated from others who have complicated feelings about their transition and being unaware of alternative ways to handle the feelings that led me to transition seemed to be the main factors that kept me from exploring negative feelings about this stuff. Without access to those, I think I would have continued transitioning indefinitely. It didn’t feel like a choice. I have a major beef with that- the idea that transition isn’t a choice.

I felt I had no choice but transition for a long time, and the reason I felt that way was because other choices were not offered to me. I didn’t know anyone who had survived feelings like mine without transition, and I didn’t have any ideas about how someone might do that. That’s a problem! How can someone give informed consent to transition when they believe the only alternative is a miserable life eventually cut short by suicide? People who transition believing it’s absolutely the only way they can ever experience any relief are people whose community and healthcare professionals have failed them.

Liberals, you’re forcing us to cheer at violence because we have no alternative.

here is something i think people don’t understand, when they get all pearl-clutchy about nazis getting punched:

we – and by this i mean ‘people targeted by nazis’, but mostly jews, because i am a jew and that’s where my experience lies – we did not want to end up in a scenario where the highlight of our day could be some guy getting punched. in fact, that’s kind of ghoulish.

like, ok. i am pretty much the worst kind of bleeding-heart, dyed-in-the-wool pacifist you will ever meet, when circumstances allow me to be. i don’t, personally, want to kill nazis; i just want nazis to stop being nazis. ideally, the world would work like it did in my 10-year-old fantasies, where i could walk up to a nazi and be like “jews are people,” and he would be like “holy shit!!! mind blown” and stop being a nazi and we’d sit down and have a deep philosophical discussion.

but real nazis have this unfortunate, terrifying habit of continuing to be nazis. when you hit them with intellectual debate, or reason, or “tolerance”, or “just giving them a chance”, or “compromise”, or any of that shit. they continue to be nazis, which means they still want to wipe out me and my people, and many other swathes of people as well.

which is why i understand people who want to kill nazis. or, in a milder variation, punch them.

i wish they would stop being nazis but they wish i would die. when you, historically, adhere to an ideology that advocates mass murder past the point of any nonviolent resistance, you have forfeited your right to a fair debate. you have forfeited your right to any response but self-defense that is as violent as whatever you make necessary.

nazis forfeited their right to nice counter-tactics long ago, and jews know this.

there’s another reason, too, why i whooped at that video. not because someone was getting hurt – don’t be dense. as i said, that’s ghoulish. we did not want to end up with our livelihood as a people so threatened that violent self-defense makes us cheer. can you think about that for a second? can you think about the kind of corner we’re backed into, here? it’s not a natural state of being. it’s a place where most people, as far as we can tell, truly do not give a shit if we live or die, because they’re talking about “tolerating” people whose ideology involves straight-up killing us. and so if we see somebody punch a nazi, it’s evidence: that person in the black mask, they’re on my side.

there is one person who recognizes the nazi as a mortal threat, which means they recognize that jews are people. that people of color are people. that any of the groups threatened by nazis deserve to have their fear recognized.

and every time you, a moderate liberal, a white goy, wring your hands about a nazi getting punched, about violent tactics, about fighting hate with hate, you push us further and further into the corner where we have to cheer at that. it’s sheer relief, at somebody recognizing the terror enough to punch back.

so no, we weren’t born bloodthirsty, just salivating at the chance to kick a nazi in the balls. we got driven here reluctantly, by history, to a place where violence in our defense can make us weep with gratitude. you drove us here.

“Do you hope you’re wrong?”

Jewish religious writer Dennis Prager is interested in “understand[ing] the atheist as a person and as a thinker.” Because of this, he wants to ask us two questions:

1. Do you hope you are right or wrong?
2. Do you ever doubt your atheism?

He has some… weird opinions about what these questions imply. Here is his analysis of question 1:

I respect atheists who answer that they hope they are wrong. It tells me that they understand the terrible consequences of atheism: that all existence is random; that there is no ultimate meaning to life; that there is no objective morality — right and wrong are subjective personal or societal constructs; that when we die, there is nothing but eternal oblivion, meaning, among other things, that one is never reconnected with any loved ones; and there is no ultimate justice in the universe — murderers, torturers and their victims have identical fates: nothing.

Most of that is just plain wrong. Atheism in itself does not imply that existence is random, that there is no ultimate meaning to life, no objective morality, or that there’s nothing after death. Prager is confusing the atheistic culture, which is areligious and pro-science, with atheism, which is just a lack of belief in gods. You can lack belief in gods and belong to some denominations of Buddhism, Hinduism, Satanism, be a Subgenius, or be a follower of certain secular cults, which all do impart an ultimate meaning to live, an objective morality, and so on. So this is simply sloppy reasoning.

All that being an atheist implies is that any conclusion based on the existence of God is incorrect. This does imply no divine creation, no divine judgment, and no divinely appointed afterlife. However, I don’t see this as a “terrible consequence of atheism.” First of all, it’s not a consequence of atheism: the fact that I don’t believe in a god does not cause the non-existence of an afterlife. The only consequences of atheism are changes to the person who lacks belief, and the people who care about that person’s belief or lack thereof (such as religious family or clergy).

Our thoughts do not cause external things to exist or not exist. To say otherwise is magical thinking. There already is no ultimate justice and no afterlife. The number of atheists in the world, no matter how small or large it is, does not change that.

That being said, I personally do agree that there is no meaning to life, that there is no afterlife, and no ultimate justice (I have no idea what “existence is random” is supposed to mean, and it seems meaningless to me). Do I wish I was wrong about those things? No, because a god would need to exist for these things to exist. The idea of a supreme dictator which created all the evils in the world and who is the supreme arbiter of morality is a horrific one. Such a profoundly evil being is not worthy of admiration, let alone worship, and it is so unreliable that it makes the supposed upsides questionable: what kind of ultimate justice or afterlife would such an immoral being devise, and do we really want it? I sure as Hell don’t (pun intended).

Anyone who would want all those things has either not considered the consequences of atheism or has what seems like an emotionally detached outlook on life. A person who doesn’t want there to be ultimate meaning to existence, or good and evil to have an objective reality, or to be reunited with loved ones, or the bad punished and the good rewarded has a rather cold soul.

I know what being a cold person means, but I don’t know much about cold souls. Either way, I can’t blame anyone who wants there to be objective morality, but there already is, so that’s not a problem. As for ultimate meaning, an afterlife, or ultimate justice, I don’t think there’s anything wrong with someone who doesn’t want any of those things. I also don’t blame people who do want those things, especially if they are coming off of religious indoctrination.

Within the Christian or Jewish worldview, for example, these things are taught as being extremely good, but they are also taught as extremely simplified concepts and with the (false) belief that God is infinitely good. Ultimate justice is not so attractive when you consider that the judge also created a world with profound evils. The afterlife is not so attractive when you consider the length of eternity and who you get to spend it with. Ultimate meaning is not so attractive when you consider that it means that every life can be judged on its basis, and could be found wanting.

Someone who rejects these things, in my opinion, is not a “cold soul,” but rather a realistic person who’s able to see through the ultra-simplifications of the religious believer.

That’s why I suspect atheists who think that way have not fully thought through their atheism. This is especially so for those who allege that their atheism is primarily because of their conclusion that there is too much unjust human suffering for there to be a God. If that is what has led you to your atheism, how could you possibly not hope there is a God? Precisely because you are so disturbed by the amount of suffering in the world, wouldn’t you want a just God to exist?

This is a nonsensical argument, and I don’t understand why he thinks it makes any sense. Why would I hope that all the suffering in the world was caused by a god which has control over mankind? That would make things much, much worse, in the same way that human hierarchies, and the power they enable some people to wield, magnify and concentrate the evil qualities of humans.

The formulation here invites another question: what does it mean for a god who creates evil to be a “just God”? Where is the justice in this world? God didn’t create justice, it is apparent nowhere in his creation. It can only be created by human beings and other beings who have evolved as social animals. God did not evolve, and therefore has no justice in its heart.

As for question 2:

…I never met a believer who hadn’t at some point had doubts about God. When experiencing, seeing or reading about terrible human suffering, all of us who believe in God have on occasion doubted our faith. So, I asked the atheists, how is it that when you see a baby born or a spectacular sunset, or hear a Mozart symphony, or read about the infinite complexity of the human brain — none of these has ever prompted you to wonder whether there really might be a God?

This is such an old argument that it has to make you smile that a religionist seriously believes we’ve never heard such a thing before. The emotions a person gets when they listen to music, grasp something extremely complex, or see a childbirth, are strong emotions, but emotions, like beliefs, do not cause any external thing (like a god) to exist. The fact that the feelings a religious believer like Prager gets when he goes to temple and when he listens to classical music are similar does not mean that the two objects are similar as well. A sunset is nothing like a piece of music, and a piece of music is nothing like a human brain. The similarity of feelings tells us something about us, about the way our brains process stimuli, but nothing about the objects themselves.

I have no doubts about my atheism, because atheism is not an ideological position. I have doubts about actual positions that I hold, sure. It’s necessary to keep watch for possible errors in your beliefs, if you want to keep being rational. But what does it mean to doubt a lack of belief? It is a fact that I lack a belief in gods. There is nothing to doubt about that. The very idea of this is nonsensical and proves that Praeger doesn’t have the experience of communicating with atheists that he claims to have, because I think an atheist would have pointed that flaw out pretty quickly.

Now, I do also believe that there are no gods, and that is an ideological position. I don’t really doubt that, either, because gods are mythical creatures and that’s the extent of the evidence we have. I assume that Praeger does not believe in, say, leprechauns or Santa Claus, based on them being mythical. Does Praeger doubt his position that leprechauns do not exist? Does Praeger experience doubts on the issue of whether Santa Claus exists?

It is not surprising that people who believe in God experience doubts. Their belief is so irrational, so immoral, so inhumane, so disconnected from reality, that I would be surprised if someone believed in such a thing and never doubted the validity of their belief. I don’t recommend believing in things that are insane. That being said, there’s nothing wrong with having doubts, but this method has limits. Doubting everything all the time would just leave us paralyzed with indecision and confusion. I am willing to bet that Praeger, like all of us, is selective in his doubting abilities. So there really is no issue here.