Turns out this isn’t complicated

Around a year ago, give or take, Instagram suggested I follow what was clearly a secondary account for one of my friends. It was a new account, with one picture on it, and in that picture my friend was wearing eyeshadow. My friend was not the type of person for whom randomly choosing to be photographed in eyeshadow was a terribly surprising thing, so I thought nothing of it and followed the account, then forgot all about it.

A few days later my friend’s wife texted me and asked if I had any questions about her — and this is the point where I can’t come up with a coherent way to not choose gendered words, so for the moment I’ll go with “husband,” because at the time that was the word I would have used– making the decision to transition.(*) Apparently that account wasn’t really meant for full public attention yet. Whoops! I laughed and said that I’d found it in suggestions and followed it and not thought about it for another single second and then went on to have the type of conversation that you typically have when an adult makes a decision like that.

My son is seven. He and their youngest son are just a couple of weeks apart in age, and have been best friends for more or less forever despite them having moved a couple hours away a few years ago. They regularly communicate via the Facebook Kids Messenger app and play Roblox together. My son is aware that his friend now has two moms, and has literally never asked a single question about it or displayed the slightest bit of confusion about it.

The other day I was sitting in my recliner while he was on the couch talking to his friend, and the iPad is loud, so it’s kind of hard to not overhear their conversations and I try to keep half an ear on him while he’s on the thing anyway just because, y’know, parenting. And I hear his friend tell him that he has decided to change genders and be a girl, and that he wants to use feminine pronouns now, and be known by a different name. And, well, I went from paying halfassed attention to listening carefully quick.

And … my son says “Okay,” and immediately starts arguing with her about whether “dude” is a gender-neutral term or not, and whether “dudette” is something that he should be using now, because that’s where his priorities lie, and went right back to playing Roblox.

Now, has he been great about not deadnaming his friend? No, he hasn’t– he’s pretty much sticking with “dude” most of the time, and I’ve definitely heard far more uses of the original name than the new one over the last couple of weeks. And there was a brief discussion between the two of them later about whether his friend could really be a girl or not, because girls can have babies and boys can’t. This led to the only parental intervention I’ve had to make in this entire process, where after they were done with the conversation I pulled him aside and explained the difference between gender and sex, to which he reacted by absorbing the information and shrugging and saying “Oh, okay.”

We were over at my parents’ house earlier this week and their family came up in conversation. My mom was aware of the parental transition but not the kid’s, and after a few minutes called my son into the room and asked him what he thought about it.

“Oh. Yeah, he changed genders. He’s a girl now.”

And that was the end of it. He was done talking.

So … okay, not great on pronouns, but he’s seven. It was as if his friend had changed favorite colors or something. In my son’s head, it’s no big deal.

This is the second time in a few weeks that my son has encountered the concept that people exist who are other than cis and straight, and just like the first time, he just rolled with it. And it’s not because either my (cis, straight) self or my wife’s (cis, straight) self are some sort of woke paragons of allyship. We aren’t. I’m pretty sure we’ve literally never had a direct discussion about sexual orientation with him. It’s because this isn’t actually all that complicated to explain to kids and because if kids see their parents treat something as normal they will too.

Some kids have two dads.

Some kids have two moms.

Sometimes men love men, and sometimes women love women, just like Mommy and Daddy love each other.

Sometimes people decide that they aren’t boys or girls anymore, and sometimes people decide that they’ve always been a boy or a girl and that it’s okay to let the world know that too.

“How do we explain this to our children?” is a cop-out, and it always has been. It’s just not that goddamn complicated. You just treat it like it is: normal.

Happy Pride Month, y’all.

(*) If at any point in this post I fuck up my phrasing, call me out on it and I’ll fix it.

GUEST POST: I Refuse to Apologize

Luther again: this is the second post that my student asked me to put up; as I said earlier, I thought the first one deserved to stand on its own for a bit before getting Bigfooted by this one.  Go read that first, if you haven’t already, then come back.


When the news about Jussie Smollett came out about a month or so ago, my organization, the Queer Students of Color, decided to post a fundraiser to raise money for queer youth of color that experience violence everyday. We wanted to so something while people were paying attention. 

We were fooled. And we’re not sorry for it. 

We’re not sorry for believing a victim. We’re not sorry that there was an example of hate crimes that finally gained mass media attention. The only thing we’re sorry for is that we were lied to by someone we thought we could trust. 

The fact of the matter is this: whether or not we were lied to doesn’t take away from the truth that is violence against LGBTQ+ POC. For that reason, the fundraiser is still on, and we’ll be advocating for it until we meet our $10,000 goal, and everyday after that. We are representatives of a community that is the one of the most vulnerable demographics in the world.

Jussie Smollett took advantage of the vulnerability of millions of people. He spit in the faces of trans women of color that have been murdered. He spit in the faces of Gemmel Moore and Timothy Dean – stole attention from their story in favor of his own selfish goals. That enrages us, saddens us, and makes us even more passionate and dedicated to our cause. 

The Queer Students of Color is a collection of youth with the voice and power to bring attention to the very real fears of people that feel like they don’t have a platform. We are loving, caring people who want to use our intelligence and resources to better the world, so that we don’t have to live in fear any longer. Jussie Smollett spit in our faces. We are not ashamed, we are emboldened, and we will not stop our advocacy just because one person decided to do a bad thing. 

For those of you that feel like LGBTQ+ people of color owe you an apology: fuck you. The fact that you’re attacking us because we believed someone is just that – an attack. Why should we apologize to people that have always thought that we were predators, criminals, liars? Why should we concede to your twisted idea that we’re just attention seeking hypocrites? I’m most definitely not. I’m un-apologetically black, genderqueer and bisexual. If anything you should be apologizing to us for using the instance with Jussie to spew your homophobic vitriol. I have never had so many attacks on my character until I was accused of starting a fundraiser for the Trevor Project – a third party organization whose mission is to provide care to young LGBTQ+ people. The money never went into my hands, it will never go into my hands. The money goes to programs that want rights for LGBTQ+ medical insurance, for LGBTQ+ safe spaces, etc. Google is free, y’all. Use it. 

I’m angry, that much should be obvious. But I’m not angry at my own people, I’m angry that there are some saying “Ha! This is proof that those faggots are liars!” I’m angry that we’re receiving hate instead of support, when Jussie’s lie affected us more than anyone else in this country. That there are some thinking that this debunks all of the very real testimonies of violence that LGBTQ+ POC have finally had the chance to bring to light. I’m angry that straight cisgender black people are the main perpetrators of this awful, awful rhetoric. I’m so fucking angry that after this, people will feel emboldened to hurt us because they’ll feel like they’ll get away with it. 

I’m. Mad.

GUEST POST: On the Intersections of Homophobia/Transphobia and Race

Luther here– this piece, along with a follow-up to come in a couple of hours, is a guest post by a former student who emailed me and asked if she could get a spot on the site. The answer was yes, obviously, but life intervened and I had to delay putting it up a bit, and, well, if you’ve been following the Jussie Smollett story at all you know that it’s been … we’ll say fast-evolving and leave it at that. So she sent me a second post, after the first one. I’m running both today; this one will live on its own for a few hours and the second will run tonight. There will no doubt be more to come, as recent news indicates that just because Smollett doesn’t seem to have been perfectly honest doesn’t mean that the Chicago cops weren’t lying too.

Regardless, I encourage you to donate to the fundraiser.


Just recently my organization, the Purdue Queer Students of Color (QSOC) decided to do a fundraiser for the Trevor Project to raise money for the homeless LGBTQ+ youth in America. There were a few tragic events that happened around the same time: the attack in Chicago on actor and activist Jussie Smollett, the discovery of dead Timothy Dean  in Democratic donor Ed Buck’s home. He’s the second of two gay black men found in Buck’s home, next to Gemmel Moore. There was also news of the death of Dana Martin – a black trans woman – who was found shot to death in a roadside ditch. When the executive board of QSOC heard of Jussie Smollett’s attack, we came to the conclusion that it was a good time to raise awareness for dangers that every LGBTQ+ person of color fears on a daily basis. Those who are homeless are especially in danger of this sort of violence, so we’re doing the fundraiser for them specifically. 

When I posted the link to the Trevor Project on Twitter, an accusation against me claiming that I was gold digging was quick to the draw. Tariq Nasheed tried to impeach my character, making the assertion that I was trying to profit off of the news regarding Jussie, which did indeed cause a large uproar on social medias. His followers swarmed me with challenges: you’re just capitalizing on something bad that happened; you don’t really care about anyone but yourself; what about other LGBTQ+ people of color that have suffered violence; black people are the only people of color, really; this was more racism than anything else, you know that right, etc. 

All of these were “concerns” by people who couldn’t care less about queer people of color. None of these people care about trans women of color who have died due to hate crimes. None of these people truly care about Jussie, either. There is only one marginalized identity that matters to them: blackness. 

The Tariq Nasheed is a champion of the ever-harmful “black first” mentality. Why is it harmful? I’ll illustrate. 

As a black, genderqueer, bisexual person, the only identity that matters to them is the first. The fact that I could face discrimination based on my gender identity and/or sexual orientation goes completely over their heads. Or, if not totally oblivious, they just don’t care about anything else. They’re cutting my multi-faceted person-hood down to a singular attribute. In a way, they’re doing to me what the white hegemonic societal and governmental systems are doing to all people of color. I’m being looked at as a black person/nigger first. While one is hyper-focusing on liberating on only one of my identities, the other is placing me under the heel of their boot. 

I get it, black people are subject to hatred by a power that we’re trying to deconstruct and destroy. However, in the heavy fog of single race liberation their eyes are too clouded to see other forms of oppression faced by people of different racial backgrounds. 

“You keep saying people of color. Just say black, we’re the only real people of color.” A young lady tweeted this to me on the very same evening that I posted the fundraiser link. I may get some blow back from this statement, but fuck it. 

Black people can be racist. 

Before you get a social wedgie, let me explain. 

Racism is the act of perpetuating negativity towards people of races variant to that of the race that currently has complete socioeconomic control over a given state or states. Meaning, black people can’t be racist against white people because no matter what, what I or any other black person says against a white person it won’t affect said white person by lowering their station in the grand scheme of societal hierarchies. In fact, it may even help the white person to the detriment of the black person; the former now has ammunition as to why black people are “racist”, and can use that by perpetuating the idea that there is equity among the races. 

Think: are black people the only ones at a detriment at the hands of white hegemony? Is black power the only real social movement that matters? Are black men the only ones who suffer from police brutality?

If you answered yes to any of these questions, you’re what some would call a “hotep”

For the Whites or those who aren’t familiar with black vernacular, I can supplement the attached link with my own outline of hotepistry. 

A hotep is:

  1. A black person who stresses “black liberation” but only has black men in mind. (Black women included). 
  2. Thinking constantly that any punishment that a black man faces is the act of racism, when the black man is probably just a murderer, rapist, etc.
  3. Someone with a “black first” attitude because if someone attacks you they saw your skin color before they saw your gender presentation or sexual orientation. (Also known as homophobia/transphobia). 
  4. A person that excuses rape because “did you see what she/he was wearing? She/he was asking for it!”
  5. #BlackLivesMatter only if you’re straight and cis-gender
  6. “wHy ArE bLaCk MeN bLaMeD wHeN iT’s WhItE pEoPlE aRe ThE oNeS wHo DiD tHe CrImE???????” Promptly said after posting on twitter/facebook “If my son is gay I’m disowning him by throwing him off a balcony because that shit is for the birds.”
  7. Anyone telling Terry Crews “you’re bigger than him why didn’t you just smack the shit out of him?”
  8. Abusers. 
  9. Anyone who thinks the #MeToo movement is ruining dating culture. News flash! You’re just a rapist.
  10. Rapists (synonymous to abusers). 
  11. Tariq Nasheed and his Clan. 
  12. “He’s a he! He has a penis, don’t he?” Ew. 
  13. Sexists. 
  14. People who think that black people are the only real people of color. 
  15. Wack. 
  16. Someone who has an IQ of 4. 

Black people who think this way seem to forget the trepidation of immigrants at the border. They seem to forget that there are children that are being separated from their parents and placed in concentration camps. They eagerly bear the cross of slavery while ignoring others who are still being systematically victimized by white nationalists. And they seem to think that they’re beyond nationalism when toxic Afrocentrism is nationalism. You’re hurting people. You’re perpetuating willful ignorance. You’re racist. 

The intersection of racism and homophobia/transphobia is rampant in the black community, and I, for one, am sick of it. My brother once told me – after I came out to him, mind you – that if anyone said that “faggot” was just as bad as “nigger” that he would punch them in the face. Despite the fact that gay people and people in the LGBTQ+ community are killed every day from hate crimes. 

Despite the fact that thousands of gay men were killed in the holocaust. Despite the fact that children are killed by their own parents if they’re even suspected to be gay. 

What makes it worse, is that I’m both. I’m both black and gay. My family thinks that I experience the same amount of discrimination from just being black, but I endure even more hatred from racist homophobes. My experience is so distinct from straight cisgender black people that they don’t see that they’ve become the oppressors, too. I’m being oppressed by the people who claim to have my best interest at heart, when they really want me to tear myself apart in ways that would make me a shell of a person. 

As for the people who are homeless, a person of color and LGBTQ+, we need to prioritize them. They’re the most vulnerable population in this country. The idea that there are people losing their lives by violence, or even adverse weather like the polar vortex, because of who they are … it makes me sick just thinking about it. My organization is looking into helping homeless people locally, but we can only do so much. The Trevor Project is dedicated to bettering the lives of LGBTQ+ youth of all races and backgrounds in America. I’m stubborn, so I refuse to take down the fundraiser. If you would like to donate, please feel free. If you can’t, that’s okay too. QSOC would appreciate you spreading the word. The link to the donation page is below. 

https://give.thetrevorproject.org/fundraiser/1863720

Tl;dr: Dear LGBTQ+ kids, you are valid. You are loved. There are people fighting for you. Stay strong, and even if you can’t, that’s okay too. Take it a day at a time. No matter your race or ethnic background, you are YOU. You got this!

#REVIEW: THE TIGER’S DAUGHTER, by K. Arsenault Rivera

This is one of those books that I really want to write a full review of, but if I talk about it too much I think everyone is going to think I hated it. The last time this happened was a little book called The Goblin Emperor that I had almost nothing but negative-sounding observations about but ended up being my second favorite book of 2015. If you look at Goodreads, the book doesn’t even have very high review scores, and in some ways I would not necessarily start an argument with someone who didn’t like it. There are, unfortunately, a number of bad reasons to dislike the book that I would very much start an argument about, but certain things I’d have to shrug and mumble something about different people liking different things at.

Just to give an example, this is the back cover copy:

The Hokkaran empire has conquered every land within their bold reach―but failed to notice a lurking darkness festering within the people. Now, their border walls begin to crumble, and villages fall to demons swarming out of the forests.

Away on the silver steppes, the remaining tribes of nomadic Qorin retreat and protect their own, having bartered a treaty with the empire, exchanging inheritance through the dynasties. It is up to two young warriors, raised together across borders since their prophesied birth, to save the world from the encroaching demons.

This is the story of an infamous Qorin warrior, Barsalayaa Shefali, a spoiled divine warrior empress, O-Shizuka, and a power that can reach through time and space to save a land from a truly insidious evil.

That description is missing what turns out to be a kinda important aspect of the book, which is that the whole damn thing is a love story, and the main characters are both women. You’ll note that there are no gender-identified words describing Barsalayaa, which is actually a little offensive but I know the author doesn’t write the back cover copy so I’m not going to make a thing out of it. Also, the entire book is fairly described as the setup to what we are told about above. So I wouldn’t necessarily be mad at you if you read that description and then didn’t like the book you got. Because the book you will get is not the book that that blurb describes.

The Tiger’s Daughter is basically an epistolary novel. O-Shizuka, Empress of the Hokkaran empire, receives a book from Barsalayaa in the first chapter and spends the entire book reading it. It is clear that she and Barsalayaa haven’t seen each other in a very long time. Curiously, the book she receives is telling her the story of her and Barsalayaa’s relationship together, so for the most part she’s reading a description of stuff she already knows. This is another bit where I won’t be angry with you if you don’t like it; you can either get past this or you can’t, because it is kinda strange.

Other than that, though, this is a remarkable Goddamned book and I loved every page of it. It’s the first book on my shortlist for 2019, and I’d be very surprised if it didn’t end up on my Best Of at the end of the year. The Mongolia-and-China-inspired world Rivera has created is multilayered and fascinating, and Barsalayaa and O-Shizuka are amazing characters that I don’t think I’m ever going to get tired of. The characters are a strength across the board, honestly. The writing itself is exceptional; there’s a lovely lyricism to Rivera’s wordplay that never overwhelms the story– she’s not writing to be clever or to impress anyone, which tends to make me nuts– and the story itself is unique and will keep you up past bedtime while you’re reading. I don’t want to spoil any of the actual events of the book, which begins (or at least the book-within-the-book begins) with the two main characters as children and …

Well, I spent most of the book worrying about how it was going to end, frankly, and it ends about as perfectly as it possibly could have. I have already ordered the sequel and will be getting to it very soon; I can’t wait to read it.

Check this one out, guys.

Creepy Children’s Programming Reviews: #SHERA AND THE PRINCESSES OF POWER

Y’all.

I had He-Man toys as a kid.  I grew up in the eighties; it was inevitable.  I didn’t really pay a hell of a lot of attention to She-Ra because … well, I was a boy.  And She-Ra was for girls.  I also watched the He-Man cartoon, and I have very detailed memories of being very angry with WGN because at some point or another they chose to commit the cardinal sin of pre-empting an episode of He-Man with a Cubs game.  

I don’t think I ever watched the She-Ra cartoon.  I remember that she said “For the honor of Greyskull” instead of “By the power of Greyskull,” but I think that’s cultural osmosis and not an actual memory.  I could not have told you the names of a single member of her supporting cast prior to this week.

Honestly, I only decided to watch the show because it seemed to be pissing off a bunch of whiny manbaby manchildren, and I like it when those people’s feelings are hurt.  If that makes me a bad person, I can live with it.  

I probably shouldn’t even make this part of the CCPR series, y’all, because I loved every second of this show.  The three of us watched the first two episodes together and we had to force our son to go to bed at his bedtime because he wanted to stay up and watch more.  We watched the other eleven episodes in two big gulps over the next couple of days.  This is absolutely 100% unequivocally the best show I’ve ever done one of these pieces on, and I’m only not calling it my favorite animated series of all time because I feel like the second I hit Publish on this piece I’ll remember what my favorite animated series really is and I’ll feel dumb.

I’m not gonna lie: a large portion of my affection for this show is somewhat political.  I love what this show is as much as how it is what it is.  But before I get into that, I want to be super clear about something: the show is hilarious and touching and action-packed and the voice acting is superb and even before we get into any of the representation issues it’s a great show.  My son loved it so much that he’s created his own characters inspired by the show and he’s been drawing comic books about them and creating statues of them in Minecraft all day.  My son does not love the show because of politics.  My son loves the show because it’s awesome.

To wit: when She-Ra first turns Swift Wind, her horse, into a … pegacorn?  Unisus?  Rainbow horned wing-beast thing, the horse’s reaction to its new wings and horn had all three of us laughing so hard we could barely breathe.  Sea Hawk’s insistence on setting his ships on fire was a running joke that never got any less funny.  The relationship between She-Ra and Catra– an invention of the new series, from my understanding– is complex and heartbreaking, especially for a show where friendship is such an important theme, and it feels real.  Adora’s fish-out-of-water reaction to … well, virtually everything after leaving the Horde is great.  I love even the minor characters, with Mermista, Entrapta and Scorpia being particular favorites. The animation style, which got a lot of unnecessary abuse, is exactly appropriate for the show, and the facial expressions are worthy of The Amazing World of Gumball.  It’s phenomenal, all the way through.

But yeah.  Let’s talk about the cast.  This is what She-Ra’s cast of characters used to look like:

I mean, the two on the outside are both purple…

This is what the cast of the new show looks like:

So straight off the jump we’re in a better place here.  The cast of She-Ra and the Princesses of Power is deliberately and intentionally diverse, both in the appearances of the characters and the actual voice cast.  Glimmer is actually kinda chubby, and Spinnerella is flat-out fat,and it’s never once remarked upon by any of the characters.  That’s just what they look like.  It’s heavy on women characters, as a show with the words Princesses of Power might be expected to be, but it’s not just a palette swap with typical cartoons, where the women have less agency and less characterization.  Bow may be the only male of the three principals with Adora and Glimmer, but he’s a solid character on his own right and his relationship with Sea Hawk is hilarious.

(A moment, please, to just appreciate the He-Man style of naming characters.  This show features a sorceress character called Castaspella, mercifully called “Casta” most of the time, and a character who throws nets whose name is Netossa.  And in case “Netossa” is too subtle for you, she actually explains it onscreen.  The character named Perfuma is once represented by some random object while the group is making a plan and she insists on being represented by a perfume bottle.  The names are ridiculous.)

And, oh, guys, it’s so gay.  So very very very very very very very gay.

This show is so gay it makes Queer Eye look like 19 Kids and Counting.

Bow wears a midriff with a heart on it.  At one point he needs to wear a tuxedo for a ball.  His tuxedo has a cummerbund on it.  He tears off the cummerbund so he can continue to rock his abs in his formalwear at the ball.  Which he attends with a girl, but oh my God his reaction when he realizes Sea Hawk is there.

The bad guys are literally wiped away by a giant rainbow wave of love in the final episode.

Spoiler alert, I guess.  I mean, if you didn’t know the good guys win at the end of the season.  You probably coulda guessed.  

Oh, and the goddamn horse ends up being a socialist.

You need to watch this show.  If that means you need to get Netflix, do it.  It’s great.  I can’t wait for the second season.  Neither can my seven-year-old son.  If my recommendation doesn’t work for you, take his.