Hello everyone, and welcome to Queereka!
Queereka is a specifically LGBTQ skepticism blog (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer). In much the same manner that Skepchick approaches science and skepticism from a women’s, feminist perspective, and approaches feminism and women’s issues from a scientific, skeptical perspective, we shall try to be the same for the intersection of LGBTQ issues and skepticism.
I’ve felt for some time that this has been a niche that needs to be filled. The problem of diversity within the skeptic community isn’t a secret… and recent events have definitely pulled it kicking and screaming out into the sunlight for us to look at. The most notable issue of late has been sexism and misogyny, and that has received a good deal of attention… but I believe that the issue of diversity does not end there, and it certainly also extends to matters of sexual orientation, gender identity and gender expression. Off the top of your head, how many prominent voices within the skeptic, atheist and humanity community can you name who aren’t straight and cisgender? Dare you to get past five in under a minute.
Bigotry is not an inherent or essential aspect of the community. I really don’t want to suggest that, and I am aware of the great many awesome, open-minded, empathetic allies we have out there. And it’s certainly not one of its defining features, and there are definitely significant portions of the community that are passionately committed to issues of diversity, human rights, minority experience and social justice. I’ve even sometimes heard people say they felt more welcome as gay or bi in the skeptic community than they did as a skeptic in the queer community… but those issues are still there, there is work to be done, and gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender and queer voices have not been particularly prominent or powerful within our community.
It also seems that some LGBTQ people haven’t always felt wholly safe or welcomed in much of the skeptic community,
I’ve received many, many private messages in skeptic spaces in which people want to admit to me that they too are in some way queer, or have some kind of sexual or gender issue of their own. They’re seeking understanding and a sympathetic voice. I do my best to offer that when I can, but what worries me is… why privately? What is it about these spaces that has caused some people to feel uncomfortable publicly discussing their identities, sexuality or gender?
I’ve also experienced some fairly extreme instances of hatred and bigotry in reaction to my being open about my gender status. I can weather that, to a degree, but what truly frightens me is what message this might send to others who are suffering in silence and consequently terrified to disclose, come out, transition, etc. How much do these occurrences reinforce the sense of fear and risk already associated with being openly queer? Shouldn’t we be a community that encourages people to feel free to speak openly about themselves and their experiences? Aren’t we striving for a better, more reasoned, more intellectually free world? Aren’t we trying to fight irrational fears and unjustified shame?
We need safe spaces, where queer skeptics may feel welcome and able to express their identities openly, but it seems that only a select few sites really seemed to pay considerable attention to LGBTQ issues, be particularly educated about them, and positioned LGBTQ people as a valued part of the community.
In many cases, it has been blogs and communities dedicated to addressing other neglected or underrepresented voices in skepticism that played that role, such as sites with a feminist tilt like Skepchick, Blag Hag, Almost Diamonds, etc. But for the most part, that sense of safety and inclusivity was a byproduct of these sites having an awareness of the issues and concepts concerning human rights and social justice in a general sense (such as privilege, X-splaining, normativity, being othered, etc.). Many sites have the basic tool kits for addressing human rights issues and minority experiences, but nonetheless there has been an almost complete absence of spaces within the skeptic community specifically designed for the purpose of LGBTQ inclusion, and addressing issues pertaining to the many variations of human sexuality and gender.
I believe in the importance of such a space now even more than I used to. The loveliest and most heartwarming comments I’ve received in response to my articles have been those from other gender variant or queer skeptics feeling like my presence on Skepchick has helped them feel more welcome within skepticism. I also noticed a great many trans (and queer) readers popping up out of the woodwork and suddenly, proudly, confidently voicing their presence. That was an incredible, beautiful thing to see, and made me very, very proud to have been a part of it.
The responses in general were overwhelmingly positive, and it seemed that there were obviously a great many skeptics out there who, queer or not, were definitely interested in seeing these issues discussed from a skeptical angle (and skepticism approached from a trans angle).
The establishment of Queereka has been a “secret” project since I first began writing here, but absolutely my commitment to the idea of a queer space within skepticism and belief in its value has deepened greatly during that time. I sincerely hope we can live up to it.
We need such a space. Not only for the sake of allowing LGBTQ skeptics to feel like a welcomed and valued part of skepticism, but also because of how often we are directly damaged by the woo and religion and pseudo-science, how often those things are used to justify bigotry and discrimination against us, and how often we are the target and justification for the woo. Evo Psych’s insistence on outdated gender roles, Biblical admonishments against homosexuality, religious funding of “defense of marriage” initiatives, faith in tradition used as justification for demonizing LGBTQ identities, quacks who peddle “non-allopathic medicine” taking advantage of the hesitation, doubt and fear that can precede transition to peddle snake oil to vulnerable young trans men and women, New Age insistence on binary male and female “energies” that divide our universe in two, and the staggering amount of misinformation, myths, misunderstanding and ignorance surrounding every single point on the LGBTQ spectrum.
The fact that a belief is irrational, unsupported and erroneous is reason enough to challenge and critique it. But when such a belief denies a class of human beings their rights and dignity, and normalizes or justifies their oppression, then it becomes imperative to challenge and critique it.
And the fight against religion is important enough just on the grounds that their claims are ridiculous, harmful, unsubstantiated and teach people not to think critically. But when you’re the one whose human rights are being trampled, when you’re the one being most obviously harmed, it is a very different kind of fight. It ceases being ideological, philosophical or impersonal.
Given the degree to which misinformation and myth has been used against it, the battle for our rights and our validity has been fought through education, through knowledge overcoming ignorance. Every step forward we’ve made has required dismantling a misconception and replacing it with a truth. Skepticism and critical thinking are indispensable tools in our effort to push forward into a more accepting world.
Put more simply, these are our goals:
- Promote a rational discourse about sexuality and gender, and identities based on variation thereof.
- Encourage critical thought and discussion about sexuality and gender.
- Promote LGBTQ inclusivity within the skeptic / atheist / humanist community.
- Help LGBTQ individuals feel welcome and that they have a voice and presence within the skeptic / atheist / humanist community, and that their voice, presence, thoughts, opinions and concerns are of value and importance to that community.
- Promote the discussion within skepticism of issues that are of importance to LGBTQ individuals.
- Debunk myths, biases, misunderstandings and irrational beliefs about homosexuality, bisexuality, pansexuality, transgenderism and other queer issues.
- Combat heteronormativity, homophobia, transphobia and cissexism within the skeptical community, and draw awareness to straight and cis privilege and bias and how they may be negatively impacting the community and how it is detrimental to critical thinking and rational discourse.
- Combat irrationality, superstition, pseudoscience, quackery, religious belief and other forms of woo that targets, damages or exploits the LGBTQ community or occurs within it.
- Provide resources for reliable, science-based information on LGBTQ issues, on behalf of LGBTQ people, straight and cisgender people, and people in the process of questioning who are seeking greater, accurate understanding of those issues.
- Encourage the cultural discourse surrounding LGBTQ issues to move forward in a manner based upon reason, rationality, critical thought, science and evidence.
Now that I’ve said a bit about why we are, I would like to take a moment to introduce who we are. We have a fantastic, brilliant, intimidatingly talented and passionate team of contributors, who are wonderfully representative of the diversity of the queer community and all of whom have been a joy to work with these past several weeks getting this site ready.
There is myself, Natalie Reed, a young, straight, Canadian transsexual woman of no importance at all with no real qualifications whatsoever. For some insane reason, I will be managing editor. I have a BA in… linguistics or poetry or something. I forget. I must have been high.
My fantastic and enviously competent co-editor, and also our site admin, Michelle, is a badass nurse-in-training and part of a committed, loving, multi-gendered poly relationship, and will be writing (amongst many other wonderful things) an ongoing column on queer health and medicine.
There is Will, who is a frequent Skepchick commenter and firebrand (rivaled only by Marilove in his unwavering ferocity towards idiots and trolls), stupendously reliable, a gay man in a long-term partnership, and a student of cultural anthropology at University of Texas San Antonio. He will be writing about lots of things, but some of his interests include differing conceptions of sexual and gender variance in other cultures, and different religious conceptions of such variance. The other day, someone called him a “Man-Fairy”, and was promptly banned.
Rachel has studied history at Texas A&M and is an ex-Catholic who loves the ladies, vintage knitting patterns and Iron Man slash fiction (personally, I’d like to see him hook up with Cobalt Man, so they could get a cup of CoFe together). She’ll be writing a weekly column on sex and sexuality called Sunday School.
Aretha is a young Brasilian lesbian and student of Biology who was quite literally born in the Amazon. When she was 7 she refused to have an imaginary friend because they were imaginary and stupid. She will hopefully also be working a bit with Esceptica, and helping to bridge our two little Skepchick sister sites.
Yessenia lives in the East Bay and double-majored in linguistics and gender and women’s studies, and plans to return to graduate school to study speech and language pathology. She is particularly interested in the ways that language and speech, and natural variation thereof, interrelate with sexism and how the two contribute to one another. She is poly, bi and identifies as trans-masculine. She also loves astronomy, cognitive neuroscience and Pokemon.
Kendra is a skeptic and bisexual woman who works full-time as an RA at the Berkman Center for Internet and Society at Harvard Law School. She enjoys speed-skating, cooking, art, and Boston, and writes on technical topics and cyberlaw at Future Of The Internet.
Bip is originally Sr Lankan and now lives in Australia. Bip is currently working on a PHD in cell biology and virology, runs the amazing tumblr Fuck Yeah Bacteria, was raised as a Muslim girl but now identifies as atheist, feminist and genderqueer, is a strong advocate for animal rights and, as do we all, adores Doctor Who.
Bellis is originally from New Mexico and now lives in the Bay Area. She’s married, poly, bi and a mom. She’s long been active in the humanist and atheist communities, is a proud geek, has a BA in chemistry and is planning on going back to school to pursue a doctorate in pharmacology.
We’re all really excited to get to work together on this project.
We do have room for maybe a couple more people. In particular, I would be interested in having a trans man on board. If you might like to write for Queereka, shoot us an e-mail with your name, some background information, and links to whatever writing you may have done to [email protected]. Please include “help wanted” in the subject line.
You should also feel free to shoot us questions and feedback if you feel like it. To send us links and news items you’d like to see featured in our thrice-weekly Quickies, go ahead and use the contact form on the front page. You will be credited, adored, and showered with glittery blessings in our weekly heathenistic bloodletting rituals (there’s usually cake, too!). Anything related to LGBTQ stuff, science, skepticism, feminism and especially the intersections between these things would be great.
It may take us a little bit to get our banner and final format / design stuff sorted out. If the site design looks a little spartan at the moment, don’t worry, it’s just a temporary thing. We’ll also try to set up some FAQs and stuff, too. Just bear with us while we work out the kinks and get some flesh on the bones.
Also, as a quick note, I’d like to state that for our purposes, we are defining “queer” as a category of self-identification related to any significant variation from the norms of human sexuality or gender. We’ll provisionally view the concept of LGBTQ as primarily a political coalition and shared culture that has arisen from a shared oppression and related experiences.
We will also hopefully set up a nice little glossary at some point in the near future regarding terms that are commonly used in the discussion of queer topics.
Welcome to our corner of the Skepchick network, thank you for being here, thank you for reading, and I hope that you’ll find our little site to be a valuable addition to the skeptical blago-webs and inter-sphere. I hope we can be something you’ll love.
Your Faithful Servant Always,