activism

Medical Marijuana is an Accessibility Issue: An Open Letter to Mayor Jim Watson

Dear Mayor Jim Watson,

My name is Anna “Ania” Bula, and I am a medical marijuana patient. I use mmj to treat the symptoms of severe Crohn’s disease.

I was diagnosed in 2008, after having lost nearly 60 pounds in the space of 2 months. Crohn’s disease is an autoimmune disorder that affects the digestive system. It causes inflammation of parts of the digestive tract which results in tears and ulcers. Among its symptoms are severe and frequent pain, exhaustion, nausea and vomiting, and diarrhea. The inflammation can get so bad, that it causes blockages which can lead to bowel death that require surgery. At times it feels like my body is trying to digest itself. Imagine, being able to feel your own intestines, simply because they are so inflamed that the pain outlines them for you.

Since my diagnosis I have been hospitalized several times as a result. I’ve had countless medical procedures. The severity of my pain and frequency of my symptoms makes it difficult for me to work. On more than one occasion I have lost employment or positions at work because of interference from this disability.

I have had to miss classes, and my grades which were always very good, dropped because I was simply unable to maintain the energy required to go to class.

There is no cure for Crohn’s disease. I will have to live with this for the rest of my life and I am only 27 years old.

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We Will Light the Way With the Bridges We Burn!

Ania Cartoon Hugging a Spoon

 

It is with great excitement and eagerness that I would like to announce that Alex and Ania Splain You a Thing will be joining a new blog network!

For the last several months both Alex and I have belonged to a support group of women and non-binary folk. This is a group of people devoted to an intersectional pursuit of social justice. Our frequent discussions have led to the creation of several posts and other media.

Much of our group falls into different spheres of oppression, and like many in these spheres, a significant portion of us have also had difficulty maintaining gainful employment. For some, it is various disabilities that get in the way. For others, prejudice plays a role in minimizing the opportunities available in a struggling economy.

Determined to improve our situation, while also interested creating a space that would discuss different issues and dreaming of having our own publishing house inspired by a social justice approach to literature, we decided to start Burning Bridges.

What makes our network unique?

For one thing, all our writers and content creators are women and/or non-binary folk. While we acknowledge that there are some good male writers out there, we want to highlight voices that are not always given priority in public settings.

Our writers come from very diverse backgrounds. By combining such different perspectives, we hope to encourage discussion of how the various spheres of oppression often intersect. To look at how any given issue can actually exist along different planes of oppression. Some of our writers are parents, single or otherwise, some are or have recently been homeless, many live in different levels of poverty, they have diverse disabilities, both cognitive, physical, and mental, both visible and invisible, many are obsessed with cats, or dogs, or even fish. Many of our content creators do not exist along binary gender lines, some are transgender, they belong to different races, with different educational backgrounds. Some are atheist, some are Christian, others are Muslim, but all of them believe in a multi-intersectional approach to issues that can affect any one of us.

We are looking to offer multimedia services to cater to diverse preferences. Some of our content creators are artists, others are looking to develop regular web comics that focus on various issues. Many of our contributors are interested in starting or redeveloping existing podcasts and video casts. Many are interested in some combination of different styles in addition to their on-going writing.

It’s not just for the non-fiction enthusiast. Many of our writers are also accomplished fiction writers. Social justice doesn’t just stop at the real world. We believe in highlighting characters in minority populations, whether people of colours, disabled, trans, queer, or non-male. We would love to help promote writing that explores various issues through the lens of fiction, whether speculative science fiction, fantasy world building, myths, poetry, short stories, or any of the various possibilities out there.

The blog network is just a foundation and stepping stone for the creation of Burning Bridges Publishing: a start-up press with a mandate towards promoting writing through a social justice lens. I personally would love to see about publishing anthologies of stories on individual matters likes race, disability, poverty. I would love to see more new and emerging writers see a chance at being published. I would love to highlight stories written by those in the same circumstances.

I would love eventually to open spaces for at risk youth, whether in difficult neighbourhoods, or youth who are LGBT, where they can explore their creative voices in different media. This is a dream that I would really love to see happen, but we need your help. We need investors to help get us off the ground. To make sure that we can offer a great product off the ground. Please donate what you can, and if you cannot, please share it widely. Together we can make this dream a reality.

Thank you.

 

 

Bathroom BS: How Bathroom Bills Affect the Disabled

It happened again.

I was at the drive thru at Starbucks getting myself a small treat as I ran errands, in the hopes of waking myself up, when I felt a strong pain in my abdomen. I hoped it would just be pain but as I paid for my drink I felt the painful stirrings that warned me I needed to get to a bathroom fast. I told the cashier that I would pick up my drink inside, pulled my car into a space, and ran inside just in time to see someone step into the free washroom. I danced anxiously, hoping that one of the two rooms would be free soon.

I didn’t make it.

I avoided sobbing audibly when my control was lost and I felt the shameful feeling of losing control of my bowels. I stood there, ashamed. Waiting for a door to open so I could go clean up and finish going to the bathroom.

In some ways I was lucky. My clothing, my body shape, is such that as long as the accident is relatively small, it won’t drip to the floor the way I have seen it happen to others. The mess would be contained to my underwear, which I could remove and clean up in the sink.

Living with a bowel related disability, I am more aware than most of the importance of access to public restrooms. I’ve written before about what it means when that access is restricted for someone like me. Someone with a disability.

It is part of what makes the bathroom bills targeting transgender people so insidious.

The bathroom bill, for those who don’t know, is a name given to pieces of legislation restricting access to public restrooms for transgender people. The laws are usually presented under the guise of protecting people from predators who might try to take advantage of someone by pretending to be one gender to gain access to a restroom. Realistically the laws are a bigoted response to a problem that does not exist.

A Trans woman, using a woman’s restroom, is a woman using a woman’s restroom. She has as much right to be there as anyone else. To deny her that right, is to claim that she is not really a woman. It is an act of discrimination.

When it comes to predatory behaviour and violence, it is not Trans people who are its instigators, but rather, its victim. Using either the restroom of the gender they identify with is incredibly risky for trans women, as is using the restroom of their assigned gender. Either choice can lead to being the victims of violence from verbal assault to outright murder. It’s not cis people who need protecting in bathrooms but Trans people.

The only reason for these laws, is to satisfy the bigotry of transphobic, and particularly transmisogynistic, members of the population. It is because the people making those laws, don’t want to risk the possibility of being in a room with a trans person and want to make the world more and more dangerous for them so that they stay hidden. It is because they assume that all trans people are actually faking it or that trans people are inherently criminal or dangerous or unstable.

That there are laws being made restricting the access to restrooms just goes to show how dehumanizing our society is towards trans people. In these privileged parts of the world, we take access to washrooms for granted. So much so, that when manners make people visiting with others ask to use the facilities, the possibility of refusal is mocked. When we mock people who bring up having friends belonging to a group they are accused of being prejudiced towards, it often includes references to the restroom. “I have black friends, I even let them use my bathroom.” The idea of sharing one’s washroom with someone else is seen as such a matter of course, that the idea that you wouldn’t even if you were prejudiced, is seen as ridiculous. And yet this is exactly what is happening to trans people right now across North America.

Right now in Ottawa, the bill to include gender identity and trans people as protected under the charter, has been attached with an amendment that would make public restroom use by trans people illegal.

These laws are disgusting examples of the bigotry faces regularly on trans people, but they also highlight how often in the rush to discriminate against one group people will trample over the rights of others without so much as a second glance.

Bathroom bills are not just harmful to trans people but they can also be said to actively restrict the accessibility of public spaces to people with disabilities.

When faced with a situation like the one about, I don’t have the time to be concerned about whether the washroom I am using matches my assigned gender or not. If the choice is having a painful, uncomfortable, and embarrassing accident in public or using the men’s room, my choice in clear. Laws such as these would make it illegal for me to use to the available restroom. It would limit my access to restrooms when the women’s room is out of order.

Limited access to restrooms, means limited access to public spaces. I can’t physically go anywhere without guaranteed access to facilities, and these laws would make them less available.

In the case of trans people with bathroom related disabilities, this access would be hindered even further since most of these laws effectively bar trans people from all but gender neutral public restrooms.

Discrimination against one groups invariably affects other groups as well. Discrimination against one of us hurts us all.

Trans people have a right to safe and unrestricted access to the washroom of their choice, and I won’t let myself be a complacent back you step on to get to kick them when they’re down.

Lessons from a Root Canal

For the last four months, I have been struggling with extreme dental pain. Four months ago, I went to the dentist for the first time in over 3 years. I had three cavities that needed filling, and I was getting the first two filled. After the procedure, I started feeling pain in my teeth and jaws. I didn’t know what it was, so I went back to the dentist. She said that it was probably just healing pain but to come back if it continued, and that I would probably need a root canal. Unfortunately, I left the country to visit Alex’s parents. For the next two weeks I continued on a cocktail of Aleve and Tylenol. The pain wasn’t getting any better. It was getting worse. The day we got back home, I called the dentist and made an appointment. It would be in a week. Then two days before the appointment, on New Year’s Day, the pain got so intense that I couldn’t do it anymore. I went to an emergency dentist, who did an x-ray and gave me an unexpected answer: my wisdom teeth, which were already eventually to be removed, were infected and needed to be removed right away. There was nothing he could do so he gave me x-rays and some painkillers and sent me on my way.

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A Conference for Activists!

An exciting thing is happening this year, or at least with your help it will be. As Women in Secularism takes a sabbatical this year, a group of enterprising people and organizations are putting on a conference for activists. It is being funded in part with kickstarter. If you can, you should donate. It promises to be an exciting event and hopefully you will see me there.

“We are proud to introduce the Secular Women Work conference, a conference by and for activists. Do you want to build strong non-religious communities? Do you want to change our laws and our culture to be more accepting and accommodating of non-believers? Join us in Minneapolis in August 2015.

We live in a society in which unpaid work disproportionately falls to women. Unfortunately, this means that volunteer work, including activist work, is too often undervalued. We’re here to change that.

The Secular Women Work conference is a celebration of the work of female activists who create and run projects and communities in the secular movement. And there is no better way to honor their work than by using their expertise to help us all become better activists.

At Secular Women Work, you will find workshops: both hands-on exercises to develop your skills and facilitated group discussions where you can share challenges and solutions with other activists. You will find panels on specialist topics, with panelists who can help you broaden the horizons of your activism. And when you’re ready for a rest, you’ll find speakers who will entertain and inspire you with stories and lessons from their own work. In between it all, you’ll find a conference full of other activists who want to make a difference in the world.

All workshop leaders, all panelists, and all speakers will be experienced female or genderqueer activists with demonstrated accomplishments and skills to share. We are excited to announce that Lauren Lane, co-founder of Skepticon; Mandisa Thomas, president and founder of Black Nonbelievers, Inc., and Desiree Schell, labor activist and host of Science for the People will be appearing at Secular Women Work. We are working now to add more speakers, so keep your eye on this space for announcements.

The conference will be held in the historic Humphrey Conference Center on the University of Minnesota’s West Bank. The center is ADA compliant and situated on light rail.

So, come join us this August 21st through the 23rd for the Secular Women Work conference, and help support the women who work to make these communities happen! Make your pledge now to secure your ticket to the conference, or pledge to build a better movement by helping us make more, and more effective, activists.

See you there!

The Secular Women Work conference is a joint project of Minnesota Atheists; Campus Atheists, Skeptics, and Humanists; and Secular Woman.”

Dermals are Only Skin Deep

For the past few months Alex has been talking about getting a belly button ring. The piercing was my birthday gift to her, but we still had to find a place to do it. By coincidence on one of our outings with Alex’s brother and sister, we passed by her sister’s piercer. We had a recommendation! Later that week I called to find out if it would be possible to get an appointment and to get a price estimate.

It was around this time, that I also let myself make a decision I’ve been wanting for a while. For some time, I have been envious of all the amazing tattoos and piercings that I saw around me. I always admired the style, but always stopped myself out of a need to conform. To conform to the expectations of my family, of Alex’s family, of what is considered “proper”. For all that I am an outspoken activist, I still feel the need to conform to social expectations.

I decided to give myself permission to be as punk as I want to be. To get the piercings that I admired and give myself permission to make it about my enjoyment of my appearance. I decided to get dermals in my cheeks.

Before our appointment, we had dinner with some friends. Excited, we shared our plans with our friends. They joined us in our excitement, showing their support by agreeing to go with us, however, they also expressed some concern. What about Alex’s parents? What would they say?

This visit home had been one of the best either of us had ever experienced. Difficult subjects that came up did not end in hurt feelings on both sides, nor with anger, but rather with understanding. We were heard and accepted, and in return we felt comfortable enough to hear them out as well. This was a big step for both of us, especially when considering that we needed to build good favour for future discussions.

Suddenly my decision provoked anxiety. Alex’s piercing could be easily hidden, but what about mine? Dermals on my face would be pretty obvious. That they came only days after our conversation about “living in the real world” and overhearing their disapproval of their daughter’s less usual ear piercing, would seem like deliberate antagonism. Although my decision had nothing to do with them, it had suddenly become political.

What followed was almost a parody of what people who are in the closet play out their lives. I got the piercings, but I wasn’t willing to create a scene or risk their opinion of me by letting them find out. And so we played the game of hide the piercings.

As we waited to be picked up from the restaurant, we thought about how to explain the Band-Aids on my face. Then it came to me! I had scratched off some pimples/mosquito bites. We hoped that with it being late, the parents wouldn’t notice until either later at the house or the next morning. They noticed immediately.

We used the excuse we had come up with and hoped that no one commented on how symmetrically I managed to do so. For the next few days it was a delicate balance. I had to wash the piercings twice a day which meant changing Band-Aids, which also meant explaining why I still needed them: I washed off the scabs, they were itchy and I wanted to keep myself from scratching. I had to stall for four days, but without making it seem bad enough that someone would want to “take a look at it.”

In the meantime, every time we went out, I pulled them off my face to let the piercings breathe, and to show them off to the world. I reveled in the freedom of being able to be who I was.

Ania's new dermal piercings

Aren’t they cute!?

Whenever someone new, a grandparents, a family friend, saw the bandages on my face I had to explain them again. Mima was the only one to comment about the even spacing, but I laughed it off as a funny coincidence. A part of me suspects that the parents weren’t really fooled, but they didn’t mention anything and so everyone pretended to go along with the charade.

Because it was something of relatively little personal importance, the situation managed to be funny. I remember exasperating more than once that “I am 27 years old!” The idea that at my age I still had to hide something like piercings from my and someone else’s parents seemed silly.

But in a scary sense the relatively insignificant piercing closet was a parable for more significant and significantly more important closets: gender orientation, sexual orientation, religious belief or non-belief, the people we love, are all just some of the many examples. Ultimately what closets are are tiny prisons that remind us that the people who should love us unconditionally may not accept who we are. What makes it scarier that sometimes we wear there prisons as armour to protect us from those who we shouldn’t need to be protected from.

The world saw the results of those kinds of prison with the story of Leelah Alcorn. She is not the only one by far.  Social Media, the internet, have made it possible for these victims to burst out of their closets for glorious instances of freedom, but sometimes that is not enough. In that time, the internet becomes the place where their real eulogies can be seen rather than the dishonest tripe of those who forced closed the prison doors when they should have been the ones helping them to open.

I have heard it said that “we all come out of the closet twice…at least twice” is a running joke among trans women. I imagine it is one said with strength but also a fair amount of sadness.

People ask what the harm of jokes that make fun of people of a certain group, of using pejoratives and slurs, of having “personal” opinions that dehumanize people, and the truth is that each of these things along with a lack of representation in media, biased presentations, mocking presentations, each of these and more make up the bricks in the walls of these closets, our prisons. To make the world that Leelah dreamed of, to make a world that is safe for many of us who have to hide who we are, to do this we have to give up the idea that intentions are enough. We have to speak out. We have to DO BETTER.

No you are no longer entitled to your own opinion, because your opinion harms, and your discomfort is not worth the lives of our siblings, of our children, of our lovers, of our friends.

Dermals are only skin deep, but identities are who we are.

A Picture is Worth a Thousand Words

On December 28, 2014, the internet was rocked by the final words of Leelah Alcorn who committed suicide. Leelah took her own life because after revealing herself as Trans to her family, she was systematically abused and tortured until she would give up her identity. Her parents refused her access to treatment that would have helped her body develop in a way in line with her identity. She was isolated from any systems of support and repeatedly told that what she was and who she was, was wrong.

Her final plea was to create a Trans inclusive world where others wouldn’t share her fate.

First a quick introduction to what it means to be Trans: Someone who is transgender was assigned the wrong gender at birth. They weren’t, as is sometimes said in reference to Trans women: “born a boy/male”. They were never boys to begin with. This is not to excuse refusing to accept a trans person’s own narrative. If they chose to speak about their own story in this way, that is their prerogative and not for you or anyone else to argue with.

They go through a process called transitioning where they seek to reclaim their real gender identity through various means. These means may include a change of outward presentation through the use of clothes and jewelry, hormones, surgery, and other such actions. A Trans person may use all, some, or none, of these means, and their use of them is in no way indicative of the “realness” of their identity.

Over the last several days many people have shared her story and there is a push to make the changes that Leelah was hoping for.

I have also seen, however, in the last several days, people sharing memes about how religion killed Leelah. Even a well-known organization, American Atheists, shared her image with quotes from her note. Specifically, only those listing how Christianity was used as an excuse for her torture and abuse. What’s more, while the photo gendered her correctly, there was no mention made of the fact that she was trans. The focus on the picture was entirely on religion’s role.

While there is something to say about the religious enabling that made the bigotry possible, the level of appropriation demonstrated in this picture is sickening and an insult.

While Christianity did play a role in this abuse, it did so as an excuse to justify bigotry not as the cause. Religiously motivated bigotry exists in a chicken-egg state. Which came first the bigoted opinion or the religion that justifies it?

In this case however, the question of which came first is irrelevant. Regardless of their religious affiliation, statistical likelihood is that they would have reacted badly to her coming out. It is true that they employed their religion as a tool for their abuse, but it was not the only tool available to them. Our culture is pervaded with transmisogyny and trans antagonism. Men in dresses continue to be a major source of amusement. Gender identity is still struggling to be recognized legally as a protected right/class from discrimination. The murder of trans women is not recognized as a crime in the court system, let alone as a hate crime.

Being non-religious doesn’t prevent you from being trans antagonistic or trans misogynistic. There have been many examples within our own atheist communities. You can be an atheist and be a bigot. The two are not mutually exclusive. The graphic borrowing Leelah’s words, while denying her identity and her ultimate goal, implies heavily that that is in fact the case.

This is particularly dishonest, since American Atheists recently made headlines over asserting publicly that being pro-life and atheist are not mutually exclusive.
The purpose of the graphic was to harness the outrage over Leelah’s death and point it instead at a goal of their choosing. A goal that is not the one that Leelah gave her life in pursuit of. They are taking advantage of her death to persuade their cause. They do so with no indication or proof that their goals in any way change the lives of trans people for the better.

Let me lay down a few terrifying statistics for you:

  • The Average Lifespan of Trans women is 30. The most common causes of death are murder and suicide.
  • The ‘trans panic defence’ is the defence used by murderers of trans people for killing trans people. The defense is literally: “They were trans” and that is deemed a good enough excuse for taking someone’s life.
  • Trans youth and Queer youth make up the largest demographic of homeless youth. In the US and Canada between 40-50% of homeless youth identify with at least one letter of QUILTBAG. That percentage is higher in more conservative states.

Making atheism more accepted in the mainstream, and possibly even encouraging more people to become atheists, in no way does anything to address those statistics. This is especially the case when the organization refuses to admit that social justice concerns have a place within atheism: to wit their association with known anti-feminists, their assertion that being anti-choice is not against “atheist values”, and other such examples from their own recent history.

(EDIT: I have been told that Leelah called herself an atheist in public.Here is verification. Even if true, it doesn’t excuse the rest)) What makes this an even more shameless appropriation of the outrage at Leelah’s death is the fact that there is NO INDICATION THAT LEELAH WAS AN ATHEIST! (We don’t know! Perhaps she was, but she could have just as easily been someone who maintained a faith in a god. This appropriation just gives her parents one more fucking excuse for what they did. Her community one more fucking excuse for their bigotry. It makes fighting her fight just that little extra bit harder.

American Atheists owes trans people, and Leelah Alcorn, their apology. In the future they should show their support for trans people not by stealing the attention away from where it belongs, but rather by devoting their own organization towards creating a safer world. Either put up, or shut up.

The End.

Apartheid Dragonslayer

The hunter or warrior specialized in fighting a particular kind of enemy is a classic fantasy trope.  The dwarven goblin-killer, the cleric with a knack for exorcising possessing demons, the well-armored knight with a notch on her shield for each dragon she slays, the hunter who knows from a pattern of broken branches the age of the werebear that stomped through this forest last week: these are well-worn archetypes found in great variety in fantasy literature and its freestyle derivative, roleplaying games.

They also provide an interesting opportunity to talk about racism. (more…)

#UpForDebate

This post started life as a facebook status. I was told to put it up on here as well. Please enjoy this break from our usual style. 

So since so many in the rationalist skeptic community insist that the only reasonable thing is to have debates in which both sides of the issue with regards to human rights, I think I’ve decided to jump on the bandwagon. They’re right. We do need to start discussing these issues. So with that in mind:

Do you think we can trust men to make their own medical decisions? I think that so many of them have made irresponsible choices so I think it is time we started legislating who has access to viagra, condoms, and so forth.
Also, unless they have a life threatening condition, all men should be required to donate plasma, bone marrow, and organs to those who need them. After all, we are talking about saving a human life! Since we can’t trust them to make the right decision when it comes to maintaining life we have to make it for them. From now on, any man who doesn’t want to donate an organ has to have dinner with the organ recipient so that they can really understand the life they are taking away by making that sort of medical decision.
Since men cannot control their own desires, they really shouldn’t go out after dark, or to clubs. They shouldn’t drink. They shouldn’t spend time alone with any of their female friends and should be under constant supervision.
As for money, it is clear that white men are predisposed to crime and fraud. From now on we should restrict how many of them are allowed to work in financial sectors. They just don’t have the moral integrity to work in those areas. Also, clearly their decades and centuries of mismanagement shows white men are also unqualified to be the ruling class. So unless they can prive that they’ve overcome their racial tendency towards being cheats, they won’t really be accepted as candidates for public office. No hard feelings, it is just for their own good.
Also, since they cannot be trusted to take their responsibilities seriously, they are now required to pay any person they sleep with a monthly stipend just to be sure that any potential offspring they produced is well cared for. After all, they had sex, they should be responsible for the consequences.
Inheritance will no longer be allowed. Rich white kids have to prove that they deserve the money. Don’t worry, if they work hard I am sure they will be able to earn all that money back to have a comfortable life. After all hard work is how everyone gets their money right?
As for marriage, well clearly straight people can’t be trusted with the sanctity of marriage. They’ve made such a mess of things with divorce rates, cheating rates. I think that straight people shouldn’t be allowed to marry.
While we’re at it, I should tell you, I’m not really attracted to white cis men. It’s not that I’m racist or cisphobic, I just find their values to be different from mine. I mean, how would we raise the children? I mean, they are fine for occasional trysts but I would never really MARRY one.
Yes, clearly I am kidding. Hell, I had bile in my throat writing this entire post. But just so you know, this is exactly what you sound like to many of us when you talk about having rational discussions about issues of abortion, marriage, race, etc. rights.

Edited to Add:

I have a few more questions:

Do you think it is safe for abled people to make their own decisions about reproduction. After all, they don’t always make the best ones. Perhaps it would be helpful to forcefully sterilize all abled people?

Also while the murder of children is wrong of course, I think we can sort of forgive it in the case of abled children. I mean, with all that running around, screaming, tantrums, it is understandable that some parents just cannot handle it. It’s unfortunate, but until we have more services to help parents care for abled children, can we really judge those parents?

Since marriage is for procreation, we should ban contraceptives for married couples. Afterall, if they didn’t want to procreate, why did they get married?

RANT: A Defence of Divisiveness

 

As a movement, secularists and skeptics defend dissent. We don’t just support it; we encourage it in the name of truth. So what is the hypocrisy that suddenly when it comes to dissent in our own movement that we call it divisiveness?

Intersectionality Feminists are called divisive because speaking out about race issues, women’s issues, oppression, brings out the worst in some people. Those people then go out of their way to make people who dare to speak out feel unwelcome. They send threats, post cruel harassing comments, and in some cases release private information for the purpose of stalking and worsening the attacks.

When people defend themselves by calling out the abuse, the reaction is to accuse those self-same people of being divisive, of causing rifts within the movement.

I think we’ve too long let harassers frame the conversation by letting divisiveness be seen as a bad thing.

What is divisiveness but a move to extricate and separate oneself from those who would abuse, harm, or persecute? It is dissent and an unwillingness to accept the status quo. In other words, it is what we as secularists and skeptics do!

It ignores the fact that we as a movement are already divisive. When we identify as atheists we are being divisive. We are dividing ourselves from those who have faith with no evidence. When we identify as evidence-based skeptics we are being divisive. We are dividing ourselves and dissenting against those who would peddle woo and false miracles.  Divisiveness exists with every label. It is not something to be ashamed of and sometimes it is necessary.

Our movement is no longer so small that we have to tolerate abusive elements just to maintain some quota of membership. No longer to we have to grit our teeth to accept those whose morals and values we do not agree with in order to have the support of numbers on our side.

It is time for the atheist, skeptic, secularist movement to decide who we want representing us. What values and morals do we want to be our message to the world? Do we want to be represented by those who would be a force for equality, or do we want to be represented by people who see nothing wrong with threatening women with rape? Those who stand up for other’s whose voice might be silenced, or those who try to silence those self-same voices?

Boycotts are essentially voting with your money and your feet. Everyone has a right to do so, and if enough people do it encourages change.

The difference between someone saying they won’t go to x conference because someone like PZ or Watson are speaking and calling for boycott is honestly just branding. When known harassers raise money to go to conferences to continue their campaign of harassment, or when they are unable to go, call on people to avoid conferences with those self-same speakers, they are doing the same thing. We’ve allowed them to frame the debate however by making it seem as though they are standing up for free speech.