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Once in elementary school I couldn’t find my parents. I looked in room after room. My terror mounted; by the time I realized my dad was just in the shed, I’d been fully panicked for about ten minutes. What if this was it, I thought? What if this was the Rapture, and I hadn’t believed in Jesus hard enough to fly up to Heaven with my family?

I suspect most people with a conservative Christian background can relate. I remember feeling so guilty when I realized that, although I certainly didn’t question whether Jesus really would come back, I contemplated…


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Of course, you’re really country.”

I blinked. How did anything about me convey “country” to my friend? I grew up in a metropolis nearly as populous as the entire state I live in now. Up here, drive an hour in any direction and you’re in a rural area. Back home, drive an hour and you haven’t yet left the city.

But I knew what my friend was getting at. The West Coast context makes my East Texas twang sound stronger than it is. For the locals here, the difference between “y’all” and “all y’all” is esoteric stuff, some real oathbound…


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Safe spaces don’t exist.

I don’t mean that they shouldn’t exist. This isn’t a right-wing culture war volley about how campus leftists have just gone too far this time! I mean that safe spaces, in a pure literal descriptive sense, don’t and can’t exist.

Life hurts. We’re all caught in a cycle of wanting things to be a certain way and being disappointed. Either you don’t get what you want or you do get it — but then, you discover that the wanting is still there. You’re still discontented with the circumstances you have. A normal person thinks, “If I…


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It’s funny how gay slang evolves.

Coming out in the South, I always felt warm in my stomach whenever someone called LGBTQ people “family.” It seemed so meaningful: whatever our disagreements, however, we felt about each other individually, we were going to stick together. We had to watch each other’s backs. In Texas, who else would?

After moving to the West Coast, I remember my shock the first time a gay person my age had no idea what I was talking about. She looked confused and asked, “Family? What, do you mean like the Rainbow Gatherings?” Older LGBTQ people around…


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Lately I’ve been rebuilding my relationship with my brother. The last time we were close, we both still lived at home. But now, after years of distance, we’re finally befriending each other as adults.

Catching him up on the last decade, I told him about my activist experience. I didn’t just attend protests and go home. I believed that I had a moral duty to totally subordinate my life to the radical cause. I built the movement while I was awake and dreamed about it when I slept. I called myself a revolutionary cadre, a “soldier who trains soldiers.”

Anyone…


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I had a conversation the other day about one of my favorite twists on the superhero formula: organized, professional villainy. The heroes and their archnemeses both have the genre-savviness to realize that they’re dancing, not fighting — leading and following, not winning and losing. So, they each form their own trade association and establish some clear rules of engagement. Since everyone’s got work to do, why not have a little professionalism?

In fiction like that, villainy isn’t a monstrous aberration. It’s just a job. And superheroes aren’t lonely sentinels bending, Atlas-like, under a burden too heavy to bear. They’re cheerful…


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I was reading a blog post in which the author expressed frustration with the current state of the discourse around gender. They described decades of relating ambivalently to the gender they were assigned at birth (and as which they currently present). They wrestled with it. They felt discomfort. Certainly, they’d never inhabited it in an easy, unselfconscious way. All of that ambiguity and struggle, though, they felt was getting lost and flattened, covered up by the reductive label “cisgender.” Calling them “cis” felt totalizing and simplifying. “You identify with your assigned gender, end of story,” failed to capture their reality.


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I was reading a left-leaning academic’s blog post about disliking pronoun rounds. They weren’t coming from an indignant “I’d rather go to jail than use they/them” perspective — instead, they thought it was a bit dehumanizing not to address someone else in the room by name. They felt that the best pronoun for everyone in a conference was “you.” Talk to people directly, they said. Don’t abstract them away as though they weren’t sitting next to you.


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I knew a transfeminine person who preferred to go by “they/them.” But whenever it was time for a pronoun round, that’s not what they would say. Instead, they always asked for “she/her.” When I was curious about that, they told me that asking for “she” meant getting “they” in practice — but asking for “they” would only get them “he.”

I’d like to be more optimistic than that, to assume sincere intentions of those who go to the trouble of asking for people’s pronouns. But I do admit that since leaving the activist community, I don’t miss having to do…


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I had only come out as trans a couple of years earlier. I’d recently moved from a small town to a larger city, and I was sick of waiting. It was time for me to finally plug into the community. Meeting another openly trans person sent me over the moon. Here was someone I could actually connect with! My cisgender friends were nice, but they didn’t really understand. “Sympathetic but confused” was as good as they could manage.

So I opened up to my new acquaintance, pouring out my feelings about transition and social isolation. I expected them to reciprocate…

Sophia Burns

Paganism, Buddhism, Classics, philosophy, LGBTQ culture, and the art of living well. Former activist; I don’t trust culture war. http://patreon.com/sophiaburns

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