Archive | August 2013

Strangers with the same face

One of the moments this last weekend that I realized just how alien I felt in the town where I attended High School was when my Aunt Silly asked me if I liked living in Seattle. It wasn’t the question itself, nor was it even the extremely disbelieving tone of voice or her incredulous facial expression. It’s the fact that she, and several other relatives who live near her, have been asking me the same question, with essentially the same amount of incredulity, for at least a quarter of a century.

And they never accept, “Yes, I love it,” as an answer. They frown and ask, “Really?” If I try to explain, the puzzled expressions just get worse. The only times I’ve been able to get even a grudging acceptance is if I mention my work and how difficult it would be to find something similar there.

It made me think about a conversation I’ve seen unfold at work many times. In the tech industry there are always a number of co-workers who are from other countries, and sometimes people talk about the difficulties moving to a completely different culture, raising children and building a life on the opposite side of the globe from your own parents and siblings.

In the middle of a recent iteration of this topic (we were having some celebratory cake for a young man who was about to fly back home to get married) I had a somewhat shocking realization: it has been 25 years since I have seen my father face-to-face. This co-worker who flies to the opposite side of the planet once a year to visit his parents hasn’t even been alive that long.

So I shouldn’t be thinking about how odd it must be for him to go so far away to make his way in this world. Because by comparison, I’ve let more than mere physical distance separate us.

My dad and I have never been close. And I do mean “never.” I distinctly recall being scolded by both Mom and one of my grandmothers when I was four years old to make more of an effort to spend time with him. My other grandmother and an aunt have talked about how even when I was two we had problems—and not just the ordinary problems of an inexperienced parent with stubborn toddler.

How much of that was due to his abusiveness, and the co-dependent relationship that develops between a child and an abusive parent, I can’t say. But even without that issue, I think we would have had problems. In oh, so many ways, we are alike. But in others we’re completely different.

Physically we are so alike that it’s a bit spooky. For instance, once in high school (this was after my parents divorced, and I was living 1200 miles away), one of my friends saw some photos Mom had put up which included several of my dad in his teen years. My friend would not believe that the pictures were not of me wearing some costumes. He became so angry when I insisted that they were not pictures of me, that he stormed out of our house and wouldn’t talk to me for about a week. Even then, he only relented because he’d talked to Mom and she confirmed that the photos were my Dad (actually, one was of my grandfather, so the look-alike thing has gone on for a few generations).

We share a certain number of personality traits. While a lot of that might be learned behavior, some of them I think go deeper than that. Sometime in my late teens or early twenties I realized that some of his less pleasant personality traits were getting a bit too strong. I had to make some serious changes, because I didn’t want to carry on the cycle of abuse.

But in some fundamental ways we are very different, and I know that some of those differences were unsettling to him even when I was very small. My tendency to talk to myself in order to figure out problems certainly upset him. I resisted his efforts to make me conform to “boy’s toys” and the like. Not that I didn’t play with my army men and rockets, I did! But I was just as interested in “girl’s toys.” I could go from staging immense battles where the future of the entire world hung in the balance, to acting out hurt/comfort romances where my sister’s Barbie nursed Captain Action back to health after he nearly died saving my sister’s Ken from… well, I can’t remember the name of the monster toy I had.

And you won’t believe the drama that ensued—after months of him angrily telling me that I could not have an Easy Bake Oven, plus telling Mom in that tone of voice that meant someone was going to get slapped around if we didn’t listen that she wasn’t to let anyone buy me such a girl’s toy—when I opened a Christmas present from my paternal Grandparents and found my very own Easy Bake Oven.

And don’t get me started on the political arguments!

It was mostly because of the abuse, though, that I was happy to be separated from him after my parents’ divorce was final. I’m not entirely happy at just how deep that separation has become. Being 1200 miles from him also meant being 1200 miles from one set of grandparents, an aunt, a bunch of cousins, and more. I have a half sister who seems like a great person, for instance, but we’re really just long distance acquaintances.

But I’m obviously not unhappy enough about it to take a road trip and try to renew some acquaintances. I have my reasons, and maybe they are as good as I think there are. As it is, my other relatives who only live a few hours’ drive away only see me once or twice a year.

That’s probably the real source of those looks of incredulity when my aunt asks if I like living in Seattle. I’m not that far away, and yet I don’t get back any more often than as if they were half a world away. And that just doesn’t make any sense at all, does it?

A once familiar land

I spent the weekend visiting my Mom for her birthday. Just under a year ago she moved back to the town where I attended High School—a town I haven’t lived in for 28 years.

I’ve visited regularly throughout that time. My grandma lived there until her death a few years ago, along with numerous cousins and my Aunt Silly. A few years ago my sister and her two kids moved back. So I have visited for various holidays, birthdays and the like, and/or stopped in on my way elsewhere. So it isn’t that I am completely unfamiliar with the place and the changes that have occurred since I left.

For some reason this weekend left me feeling more of a stranger to that place than any previous visit.

I’m not entirely sure why. I have some suspicions. This is the first time in many years that my husband, Michael, wasn’t with me (he had stayed in Seattle to rest and recuperate). He’s never lived in that town, so I was always more familiar with the place than at least one person I was hanging out it. Being with my husband anywhere is always like we’re carrying a bit of home around with us, so no strange place feels entirely alien if he’s with me.

This was also the first visit in a long time that I didn’t at least stop at Grandma’s house. My aunt moved into Grandma’s house after Grandma died, and so I’ve continued to have a reason to visit the house. While my aunt has changed a lot about the place, it’s still Grandma’s house on Grandma’s street. I saw my aunt this weekend (she came to Mom’s for cake and ice cream), but I didn’t go by her place.

This isn’t a case of me suddenly realizing the truth encapsulated by the cliché, “you can’t go home again.” When I left to finish my college degree, I had every intention of returning to that town, or a very similar community, to settle down. But I fell in love with the city. I can’t imagine living somewhere where there aren’t multiple supermarkets open 24 hours, for instance. Let alone living without multiple theatre companies, the opera, and all the other things that come with a culturally vibrant city. And while Seattle isn’t exactly known for its racial diversity, with about two-thirds of residents being white, that’s a big difference from the 92% white demographic in Mom’s community.

Maybe it is the slow accumulation of little changes over those 28 years, making once familiar places look less and less as I remember.

But I don’t think it’s about the town changing, it’s the other way around. I’ve changed a lot, yes, and even more importantly, the world has changed.

Coming out of the closet more than 20 years ago, and realizing how little freedom to be myself I would have if I returned, played a big role in the alienation of my affections for that town. I don’t remember anyone who was living as an openly gay person when I was attending high school and community college there (there were people that everyone suspected and whispered about, of course). Now there are several gay and lesbian people living there, and at least one gay teen support group that advertises meetings and activities. But it did not escape my notice that the recent referendum to extend marriage rights to same sex couples was rejected in that community by a margin of nearly 20%.

But it’s not just about me being gay and unsure how welcome my husband and I would be if we moved there. Nor is it just the practical financial matters (there aren’t many jobs that require my skills and specializations). It’s so much more. I like not having to bite my tongue as strangers make racial comments about the president. I like walking through a parking lot and not seeing dozens of deeply conservative political, religious, and anti-science bumper stickers, and absolutely none of the other kind. I like living in a community that believes in and enjoys investing in infrastructure and schools and social services. I like living in a community that knows that a lot of its tax dollars go out to less-populated parts of the state, without resenting the people who use them.

I’ve changed. That town as changed. One can argue about which one has changed the most, but it’s not just about how far down our paths we’ve gone, but also about direction.

And I know we’re not headed toward the same goal.

A sin against all that is beautiful

Conservative Christian book cover with cast photo from the TV show Modern Family.

The evangelist designed this cover of his ebook himself! (Click to embiggen)

This fun little story, I believe first reported by the Friendly Atheist, started making the rounds yesterday. A conservative Christian preacher released an ebook entitled Bible Principles of Child Discipline, used a photograph from the ABC situation comedy “Modern Family” on his book cover.

Modern Family is pretty much universally reviled in those so-called Christian circles where this sort of “beat the devil out of your child” book is likely to sell. A big reason is because, within the show, one of the uncles of those three children in the photo the preacher chose for his book is gay, and lives with his same-sex partner, with whom he has adopted a child. There are several other reasons those folks hate the show, but that’s the biggee.

Evangelist Doug Sehorne (who describes himself on his own web page as “an Old Fashioned Bible Preacher”) was outraged when people started telling him he’d put a picture from that wicked show on his book. So, he took to his Facebook page to defend himself:

“FALSELY ACCUSED! Well, I just got a phone call about the picture I used on my Book on Child Discipline. Evidently, it is from a wicked TV show involving a gay couple! Here is the situation. 1) I do not even have a TV and have not for 35 years. 2) I never heard of the TV Show. 3) I got the image from a search on Google Images, which I assumed were not copyrighted, etc. 4) Anyone who knows me, knows I would never condone such wickedness as sodomy or even TV. Your friends will warn you and your enemies will attack without knowing all the facts. I am in the process now of removing the book and changing the cover.”

Everyone else who is sharing this story seems to just be focusing on the hilarity of a super anti-gay preacher putting a photo from one of the most famously gay television series on his book. And it is more than mildly amusing, but I have other concerns:

Screen capture of idiot trying to explain his mistake.

Old-fashioned Bible Preacher says he’s falsely accused! (Click to embiggen)

  1. First, Mr Evangelist, it isn’t a false accusation. You did put a picture which had been intended to promote this show you believe is wicked on the cover of your book because you thought the image depicts an ideal family. That’s a fact.
  2. It is a principle of both the law and the sort of fundie bible-thumping you practice that ignorance of the law is no excuse. Just as in your world view god condemns people who never heard of your religion by sending them to hell for not following it, not knowing the source and intended meaning of the image you chose doesn’t absolve you of culpability for whatever sinful things you seem to think your co-religionists have accused you of.
  3. If TV is so very wicked that you haven’t owned one in 35 years and would never watch any, what the heck are you doing on the internet? Because television is extremely tame compared to the content you can stumble onto on the net!
  4. Given the lengths to which everyone from the so-called Concerned Women for America, the National Organization for Marriage, the Family Research Council, et cetera, et cetera, et cetera has gone to condemning this show and holding it up as an example of the satanic destruction of America for four years now, I have a very hard time believing you’ve never heard of it. And if you really haven’t heard all of your co-religionist having the vapors over it, you need to actually pay attention to your own people a bit more.
  5. You found it through Google images (you didn’t find it “on” Google images, but we’ll let that little distinction slide) which you assume means it is free of copyright? You are wrong, wrong, wrong. That means you are both stupid and in violation of copyright law, as your unlicensed use of the image as a means to sell your book isn’t fair use (all of us sharing the image of your use of the image and reporting on your mistake is covered by fair use, by the way). If you are going to publish something and sell it, you cannot assume, you need to do research. If you are going to use an image for commercial purposes you cannot assume, you must confirm. Even if what you’re doing isn’t commercial, when you pick an image to illustrate a point, you should at least make an effort to determine where the image came from.
  6. On that previous bullet, I refer you again to the principle that ignorance of the law is no excuse.
  7. Claiming your friends will vouch for you isn’t a defense before either the law of man or your version of the law of god any more than ignorance is.
  8. Your stupid and illegal choice of the photo isn’t even the worst sin committed on that cover. Your font choice is awful. And if your book must have a subtitle (which are way, way, way overused in any case) the subtitle is supposed to be longer than the title. Also, everyone knows that if you use punctuation to set off the subtitle it’s supposed to be a colon, not parenthesis. And finally, a title should be at least somewhat engaging. That isn’t a title, that’s a boring literal description. I could go on further about your color and layout choices…
  9. Evangelist Doug Sehorne? I was not aware of any church that uses the word evangelist as a formal title. It’s usually Reverend, though I know in the ultra-fundie circles you move in, there is a resistance to reverend because it is considered prideful to think of yourself as revered, but I don’t see how giving yourself a title of Evangelist and putting it at the front of your name and using it in the same manner people refer to governors and presidents is any less prideful.
  10. I can’t get away from that horrid font. My god! Look at the awful kerning between the capital P and lower-case r! Then the opposite kind of horrid kerning between the c-i-p combo in the same word! Using that font for a book title in that way is truly a crime against everything right, good, and beautiful in this world. And if your god doesn’t condemn you to the lowest pit of hell for that alone, he isn’t worth believing in!

Juggling chainsaws

I often use the metaphor of juggling to describe my work load. Particularly since my work is often covered by multiple non-disclosure agreements, it’s best I keep things metaphorical and oblique.

Because of re-orgs and various forms of attrition, we no longer have a technical writing team, instead we’ve been separated so that divisions and/or groups of the company have one (singular) tech writer each. For months my boss (a director of software development in a group within a division) has been worried about my workload this summer, because when we plotted the projects, based on my estimate of the total hours required for the doc sets of each of the projects, their deadlines, and the typical distribution of my workload (for waterfall projects most of my time and effort is needed during the last two and a half phases), July and August looked like they would require more than 80 hours each week from me.

It hasn’t come to that, for several reasons (one being that I know what that kind of workload did to my health when I was stupid enough to do it in my thirties; I don’t want to find out how much worse it would make me feel in my fifties—so I found ways to pull a lot of the work into earlier phases), but I am running very ragged, juggling the six or seven full-sized chainsaws, a couple of lighter chainsaws, plus a couple of knives and at least one flaming baton.

I’m surprised I managed to keep the blog going as well as I did in July. Things may be very spotty for a while.

No monsters needed for Monster Croquet

Nine people posing with croquet mallets.

The gang from this year’s Monster Croquet match (except for Lady K, the youngest player this year, who didn’t want to be in the picture with her parents are their old, weird friends)

Every summer the literary society of which I am a member has a barbecue/picnic hosted at a member’s home. And every year we play the Monster Croquet match.

I don’t know which year it was that we first played croquet at the barbecue, but I have photos of matches going back at least to 1996. That first time we were using an old set that had belonged to Auntie’s family on a yard that wasn’t flat. Like a typical Seattle-area lawn in the summer (when almost no one waters their lawn in the summer), there were odd patches of brown grass, and so forth. So most of the challenge of the game was the uneven ground and turf causes the balls to bounce, and take weird turns, or just go rolling down a hill.

Someone said it wasn’t a croquet match, but a monster croquet match. And the name stuck.

Over the years we’ve evolved a set of odd rules. David constructed a set of wooden wickets with large, easily-read numbers. We got in the habit of multiple people bringing croquet sets so there are enough mallets and balls for however many want to play.

Each year the course is different, and we take pains to make parts of the course treacherous. The uneven terrain and such proves to be a great leveler, so one’s skill level is often less important than luck. Which adds to the fun.

Sometimes the course if very different. When Julie (also known as “Julie with an e”) and Mike (also known as “Julie’s Mike”) hosted it at their new home a few years ago we knew it would be a challenge. Julie & Mike’s yard consists of an ornamental pebble stream bed, several decks, a couple of curved wooden bridges, various ornamental plants, and no grass. So we got a Nerf Croquet set and made the course go over the bridges and around the decks.

When Keith and Juli (also known as “Juli sans e”) first bought their house some years earlier, the backyard was devoid of any vegetation and was all slope. We thought that was perfect for treacherousness! But after many, many hours of grueling play, when no one had made it even halfway through the course, and the sun was setting, we realized it was too treacherous. We were debating calling the game because of darkness, when my godson (who was, I think, six at the time) finally went through the pair of wickets at the turn-around point. When he hit the turn-around stick, we unanimously declared him the winner, grateful that we could finally stop. We have often referred to that year’s match as the Death March Croquet Game.

A booklet

Rules for croquet as played at the barbecue.

The rules have always been somewhat ad hoc, based on an aggragate of the collective memory of childhood croquet games, with an evolving set of modifications. Some years ago someone requested a rules reference, so Auntie and I created a rules booklet.

On the front page it says that the rules aren’t binding and can be modified midgame by consensus. Please note that consensus doesn’t mean majority vote, it means everyone has to agree. Usually the rules changes that hapen midgame are for weird situations that never come up again. Though the Notorious Incident of Wicket 12 on the Glacial Till is where we made the rule that if you miss a single wicket 12 times, you can then move on to the next as if you made it. Which we’ve since kept.

This last weekend was hosted at Juli-sans-e and Keith’s (I think this is the third time there), and having learned our lesson, we stuck to the front lawn. The wickets did a lot of criss-crossing and were not in order. And we had a pair the were several numbers apart, but physically next to each other at not quite right angles. We were starting to worry that we might have to call the game because of darkness, but everyone had made it to the turnaround and was more than halfway through, so it was nowhere near as bad as the Death March.

Then Chuck got back to the starting stake, becoming poison, and the race was on. I had been in last place for most of the game (I forgot to count, because no one expects trouble at the first wicket. But it took me a very long time to get through the first one), so I was the least threatening target. While Chuck was busy killing off everyone else, I did manage to get through three or four wickets. But I still got knocked out at the end.

It was a great way to spent a Saturday.

Cousins, part 2

Sometimes when I’m talking about my extended family, people express confusion at how many cousins I have. I have learned, in the course of these conversations, that a lot of people don’t know what the anthropological definition of a cousin is, and how many different types there are.

For a long time I was confused, as well. I had been told while growing up that my cousin, Sheila, who is the youngest child of one of my grandmother’s younger brothers, and was near my age, was a second cousin. I had also been told that the children of my mom’s cousin (themselves grandchildren of my grandmother’s oldest brother) were second cousins.

But only one of those is correct.

Most people, when asked, will usually define a cousin as “it’s like when your father has a brother, and your father’s brother has kids, those kids are your cousins.” That is correct, but is a little convoluted. And doesn’t help one understand the difference between a second cousin or a first cousin once-removed.

So, the anthropological definition of a cousin is: a person, other than a sibling, who shares at least one ancestor. A first cousin (which is what most people mean when they say “cousin”) is a person, other than a sibling with whom you share one or more grandparents. A second cousin is a person, other than a sibling, with whom you share one or more great-grandparents.

The once-removed part means that it is a cousin who is not of the same generation of descent from the common ancestor. So, for instance, the cousin I mentioned at the beginning, the daughter of my grandmother’s brother, is a first cousin once-removed. We are both descended from my Great-grandma S.J., but while S.J. is my great-grandmother, she is Sheila’s grandmother. So we are one generation out of synch. Her children are my second cousins. And if those second cousins have children, they would be my second cousins once-removed.

If that confuses you, I’ve barely gotten started.

What’s the difference between a half-cousin and a semi-cousin, for instance. Now, semi- as a prefix can mean “half” so you might think the terms are interchangeable. They refer to two difference relationships.

My Great-grandma I. married fairly young, as was common back then. She and her husband had two sons. Then her husband died. She remarried. She had several more children, the youngest of which was my Grandma P. Grandma grew up, married, and had several children, one of whom was my Mom. Grandma’s oldest brother (who was a half-brother), also married and had several children. Those children and Grandma’s children share a grandparent, making them first cousins, but because they only share one grandparent, rather than two, they could also be referred to as half-cousins (just as the previous generation are half-siblings).

My parents divorced with I was in my early teens, and he remarried. Thus I have a half-sister. My mom’s sister has several kids. The children of my mom’s sister are my first cousins, but they aren’t related by blood to my half-sister, but most everyone would agree that she falls into the definition of family. It would be even more strongly felt if we had all grown up together. So, a person who is a half-sibling of your cousin, but isn’t related by blood is sometimes referred to as a semi-cousin.

Feeling brave enough to take a guess as to what the term demi-cousin means? Demi- can also mean “half” but it doesn’t have anything to do with half-siblings.

A demi-cousin is a person, other than a sibling or half-sibling, who shares a grandparent with your cousin, but does not share a grandparent with you.

I think this one is easiest to understand if we return to the common informal definition of cousin. My mom’s sister has three children. They are all my first cousins. We share a pair of grandparents, Grandma and Grandpa P. My mom’s sister’s husband had a brother. And the brother had some children, and they are first cousins to the children of my mom’s sister. They share a pair of grandparents with my three first cousins, but that pair of grandparents are people they call Grandma and Grandpa H. I am not related by blood to the children of my mom’s sister’s husband’s brother… yet they are related by blood to my mom’s sister’s children, who are related by blood to me. So sometimes that relationship is referred to as demi-cousins.

Step-cousin is fairly straightforward, it is used to refer to someone who is a stepbrother or stepsister of a cousin. It is also used to refer to the niece or nephew of your own step-parent.

Then, of course, we have parallel cousins: a child of a parent’s same-sex sibling. And a cross cousin: the child of a parent’s opposite sex sibling.

Is your mind reeling, yet? Well, you better take a sip of a fortifying drink and buckle your seatbelt, but because we haven’t yet tackled double-cousins.

A double-cousin is someone, other than a sibling, with whom you share both sets of grandparents. In other words, imagine two brothers, James and John. James falls in love with a girl named Sue, who has a sister named Sarah. James and Sue get married, and during the course of all those social events leading up to the wedding, John finds himself falling for Sarah, so they get married. The children of James and Sue are first cousins to the children of John and Sarah, but they are cousins on both sides, therefore they are double-cousins.

That last one may sound too unlikely to contemplate, but hang onto your hat: during the 17th and 18th Centuries in England (and a ways into the 19th Century), it was thought extremely lucky to get married to a double-cousin. And it wasn’t just in England. That particular relationship has, at one time or another, figured prominently in the folklore of most cultures.

First cousin marriages weren’t just common for much of history, they were actually encouraged (I will get into why this isn’t as bad a thing, genetically, as a lot of people believe, in a subsequent post). In some cultures, parallel cousin marriages were considered off-limits, while cross-cousin marriages were not. On the other hand, some cultures considered father’s side parallel cousins particularly lucky or blessed, but not others.

I don’t have any double-cousins myself, but I did grow up living near and often going to school with: first cousins, second cousins, first-cousins once-removed, semi-cousins, half-cousins, step-cousins, and a dizzying number of demi-cousins.

Some of my demi-cousins called my Grandma P “Grandma.” Some of my second cousins called her “Aunt Gert”-as did some of the demi-cousins. Most of the demi-cousins all around referred to my step-cousins’ grandmother as “Nana.”

And generally, we just told friends and acquaintances we were cousins, and dispensed with all the demis, semis, and so forth. We might have said that it was simpler than trying to explain. I think sometimes we would forget exactly how we were related. My grandma would simply shrug and say, “We’re all just family.”

Cousins, part 1

In The Human Blueprint: The Race to Unlock the Secrets of Our Genetic Script, science writer Robert Shapiro at one point explains that if you pick any two people at random on the street, it’s nearly impossible to go back more than six hundred years before finding a common ancestor. Yes, even if the two people appear to be of completely different races.

There are several caveats, the biggest being that is isn’t impossible, it’s just that the probability has gone down to such an incredibly small number (there were a bunch of zeros between the decimal point and the 1 in the percentage he gave), that for most purposes it might as well be impossible. There are pockets of human population that have been isolated for many more generations than covered in 600 years, of course. But they’re very small.

He also explained how for most of human history most people lived their entire lives within 30 miles of the place they were born, which was usually the same community where both their parents lived, and their parents before them, and so on. So most everyone in a particular community were related to each other, at least distantly.

That doesn’t contradict the previous statement, beacuse all you needed was a small fraction of people to occasionally wander far afield before finding someone to have a family with, and in a matter of a dozen or so more generations, most of the population of said insular community have inherited at least some genes from that one wanderer, and are now all distantly related to everyone back in his old community. They just don’t know it.

Humans have been doing this for hundreds of thousands of years, long before modern technology made world travel and relocation commonplace.

In other words, we’re all cousins, of one sort or another.

Better to stay silent and thought wise

I finished a long post last night. I’ve been working on it a few days. It’s highly personal, though I think it contains important information that I think people should hear.

Because most of the people in the story are members of my extended family (which is very extended), I even came up with fake names for everyone. But as I re-read the finished piece, I felt uncomfortable putting that much detail out there, even when it is somewhat anonymized. At least not without the permission of those involved.

And I know quite well some would never give permission.

Which left me wondering why I thought it was a good idea in the first place.

I know why this particular string of events, a story that meanders through a couple of decades of my life, has been on my mind this week. Maybe I just needed to process it all from today’s perspective, now that some years have passed since the “ending.”

Or maybe I needed a good reminder of why not everything is meant for public consumption.

I hate being wrong

I hate being wrong, but I try to own up to it when I find out.

When I wrote a few days ago about the leader of an ex-gay group who was saying ex-gays deserve federal protections just like the ones gays get, I said that there aren’t any federal protections explicitly for gays. That was really a minor part of my argument, but a number of people took issue with it.

When the spokesman was asked to explain what kind of discrimination ex-gays experience, he said that they’re intimidated, threatened, called liars, and that the media doesn’t take them seriously. Now, threats and intimidation can be serious, depending on what form they take. That’s why the Civil Rights Act of 1964 called out acts of interference and intimidation by force when it is motivated by a person’s actual or perceived race, color, religion, or national origin. It only covered such acts of force in specific areas: attending school, patronizing a public place, applying for work, serving on a jury, or voting.

But being called a liar? Not usually considered a crime. Particularly when it has been proven many times that you have lied. And not being taken seriously by the media? Excuse me? Since when is the federal government ordering the media to take gays seriously?

In 1994, the Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act added gender to the list of motivations that could be considered a hate crime, and directed a sentencing commission to provide guidelines for increased sentencing of those acts.

Several attempts were made over the years to add sexual orientation and gender identity to the list, and those all failed.

Until 2010, when a rider was attached to the National Defense Authorization Act. Thanks to this rider, federal hate crimes laws do cover crimes where the motivation of the criminal is the perceived or actual sexual orientation and gender identity of the victim. The law also removed the requirement that the crime had to be committed when the person was attempting to vote or attend school and so on. It still has to be a crime of force or actual injury, though.

Somehow I had the recollection that the attempt to add this had been blocked in one of the houses of congress. But I had completely misremembered. Thus, I was wrong in my original posting.

So, federal hate crime laws do now include crimes committed because of one’s sexual orientation (or someone’s perception thereof—so people like the guys who beat and killed a pair of straight brothers because they thought the men were a gay couple would still qualify as a hate crime; the attackers thought the men were gay and the entire reason they attacked the men was because of that perception).

However, I must point out that even this act doesn’t protect specifically gay people. Besides the example I gave, of someone attacking a straight person because they mistake them for a gay person and they think gay people should be beaten or killed, it applies the other way, too. In other words, the law doesn’t say “perceived or actual homosexuality” it’s any sexual orientation, including straight.

And if the ex-gays are correct, despite a mountain of evidence to the contrary, that they have somehow changed their orientation, then they are simply straight people, and if anyone is intimidating them through force or injuring them because of their no-longer-gay orientation, they are covered.

If I, and every medical and psychological association that has studied the issue, are correct, and they’re just gay people who are pretending to be cured so they can keep making money selling their fake cure to desperate and frightened people, well, if anyone is intimidating them through force or injuring them because of their not-really-ex-gay orientation, they’re still covered.

If someone is intimidating Mr Doyle or his fellow ex-gays through force (or threat of force) or are injuring them, those people are wrong and should be held accountable to the full extent of the law.

But having people like me point and laugh at them, that isn’t intimidation through force, it isn’t a threat, and it isn’t a crime. When specialized news blogs, such as Good As You, Truth Wins Out, Americablog, or Wonkette point out their lies, inconsistencies, and ridiculous claims, that isn’t a crime. When news organizations report on studies that show their therapy causes more harm than good, that isn’t a crime. When not even Fox News can be bothered to cover their rally denouncing gay rights groups, that isn’t a crime.

Maybe I’m mean when I call them parasites and liars, but the facts back me up. It might sound less harsh to say that they are disingenuously taking advantage of desperate and vulnerable people, but the meaning is the same. So I’m going to stick to “lying parasites.”

Why do you care?

Jon in cloak and jacket pointing into the camera.

Jon Pertwee was the Third Doctor (1970-74).

I’m a big nerd and long-time Doctor Who fan. For years my favorite was Jon Pertwee, and not just because he totally rocked a velvet jacket, ruffled shirt, and opera cloak. I was watching years before the BBC revived the show with Christopher Eccleston playing a decidedly dark and delicious doctor. I’ve got piles of DVDs with at least some of the adventures of all the doctors (William Hartwell, Patrick Troughton, Jon Pertwee, Tom Baker, Peter Davidson, Colin Baker, Sylvester McCoy, Paul McGann, Christopher Eccleston, David Tenant, Matt Smith, and even both of the 60s movies starring Peter Cushing as a Doctor Who that was not a time lord, but traveled in a Tardis and fought Daleks).

Okay, that’s still not complete. I don’t have a DVD of Doctor Who and the Curse of the Fatal Death,in which the Doctor was protrayed by Rowan Atkinson, Richard E. Grant, Jim Broadbent, Hugh Grant, and Joanna Lumley. I’ve seen it, they’ve just never released this parody special for charity on DVD.

I am an enormous Doctor Who fanboy. In the years since many of the old adventures have become available on disc, I have reached the point where I now frequently say that my favorite Doctor is whichever one I happen to be watching right now.

Despite that, I don’t think every episode or serial has been awesome. There has been more than once that I thought the new actor cast to play the Doctor was a terrible mistake. There have been companions that I wanted to strangle, stories that made me embarrassed on behalf of the actors, endings that made me want to drown the writers (or at least shake them by the throat and yell, “That really insipid, self-indulgent pile of refuse you spewed out there could have been saved with just two lines of dialog!”).

A picture of the cover of the VHS release of the special.

Doctor Who and the Curse of the Fatal Death.

So I’m a super fan, but not a blindly-love-anything-they-put-out fan.

I understand why I watched the announcement of the new actor who will take over the role at the end of the 50th anniversary Christmas special. I understand why I, and many other fans, may have been disappointed, or are feeling apprehensive about the new actor chosen.

What I don’t get are the people (and there was more than one being re-tweeted around the internet yesterday) who say they have never watched a single episode, and that they are angry about the actor who was cast.

Images of each actor who has played the doctor, over the current show's logo.

The eleven official Doctors.(Click to embiggen)

“Why do you care?” isn’t really the question, because they have an answer to that. They are upset that the actor cast was a white man. They wanted either an actor of color or an actress cast as the next Doctor. And I understand that, boy do I understand not feeling included when you don’t see actors who look like you in lead roles or even recurring roles.

I was not terribly happy when Matthew Smith’s casting was first announced specifically because I really wanted to see a comedienne cast. Someone like Jennifer Saunders was what I had in mind. I didn’t see any reason the Doctor couldn’t regenerate as a gal instead of a guy. Smith won me over, and I’ve been very sad since learning that he is leaving the show.

I’ve also wanted to see someone like Idris Elba or Adrian Lester or Paterson Joseph play him, because I like their work in other shows, and I don’t see why, even if the Doctor does regenerate as a dude, he has to be white.

I really do understand the diversity/inclusivity issue. For instance, even though at the time I was amazed that they let Eccleston flirt with and eventually kiss John Barrowman, I’ve grumped a bit since then at how little non-heterosexuality has been allowed (other than as a joke or misunderstanding) in the main Doctor Who show unless Captain Jack is visiting.

Acto Paterson Joseph standing in front of the Tardis.

Seriously, why couldn’t Paterson Joseph play the Doctor? (Click to embiggen)

So while I agree with the point that it’s disappointing that they haven’t gone outside the white dude box in the casting, I don’t understand why someone who has never, ever watched a single episode out of the 798 that have been made during its 50 year run, feels the need to express a public opinion on this casting decision.

What fuels your sense of entitlement? Seriously. I have plenty of friends and acquaintances who share your disappointment or outrage for exactly the same reason, and I sympathize with them. I share, to a lesser extent, their disappointment (not really the outrage, but I understand the outrage). I have absolutely no objection to them posting long screeds about it, tweeting about it, re-tweeting other disappointed fans comment about it, and so on.

But why expend time, effort, and bandwidth (not a lot of bandwidth to post, I know, but every one of your followers and the followers of your re-tweeters have also had to use bandwidth for this) for a show that you have never, ever watched? If you can’t be bothered to watch the show, even once, then please don’t bother those of us who have with your “opinion.”

Someone’s going to respond to this either accusing me of censorship or at the least harassing someone just for expressing an opinion. I’m not in a position to silence them, so the censorship argument doesn’t apply as a matter of definition. This is nothing to do with whether you have a legal right to express yourself. It does have to do with whether you ought to be commenting on something you’ve never seen.

Freedom of expression does not mean freedom from disagreement or from other people expressing the opinion that you are a complete and utter git.

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