What are we Talking About

Weekly Roundup: What Are We Talking About?

Straight from our Member’s Only Group to you, what we and our members are reading and discussing!

It’s been a busy week of sharing, discussing, and reading in our Member’s group this week. There is a petition circulating to elect a female president of the Royal Society; certainly a timely call in light of Tim Hunt’s sexist comments about female scientists. It’s also worth noting that there has been no female president since the society was established in 1660; we think it is time for a change!

Evidence has been uncovered that a U.S. Army doctor performed horrendous and torturous experiments on soldiers for many years, including inducing shock and likely sexually assaulting students under the guise of medical procedures. So far he is being cited for training he provided to students during the years of 2012 to 2013 but there is evidence to indicate that officials knew of his experiments as long ago as 2005 and allowed them to continue.

Juneteenth vigils and celebrations were held all over the U.S., taking on special poignancy in light of the terrorist violence in Charleston where 9 black people were slaughtered in church by a white supremacist. In Rhode Island, vigils were held to remember black women killed by police.

Finally, a woman’s face will grace the 10 dollar bill starting in 2020 (the 100 year anniversary of women’s right to vote) but we still can’t decide who should be on the bill. Can you?

And last, but far from least, we are getting so exciting about the Secular Women Work conference being held in Minneapolis from August 21st – 23rd. If you need a scholarship to attend the deadline for applying is July 6th!

What are we Talking About

Weekly Roundup: What Are We Talking About?

Straight from our Member’s Only Group to you, what we and our members are reading and discussing!

We and our member’s were very saddened to hear of Anne Nicol Gaylor’s death. Gaylor was the founder of the Freedom From Religion Foundation and a tireless advocate for women’s rights.

Much excitement has been growing in our group too around a new app released by the ACLU in multiple states – the app enables you to record the police and have that recording automatically upload to the ACLU so that your recording can’t be erased. The app has other features as well, including a comprehensive rundown of laws in your state that relate to your civl rights.

When Tim Hunt showed his sexist beliefs about female scientists to the world, our member’s had a field day posting articles and participating in the epic takedowns on twitter such as the #distractinglysexy tag used by women scientists to post pictures of themselves.

As discussions of Caitlyn Jenner continue all over the world, members posted a number of interested articles on Caitlyn and on trans women’s issues generally, such as this article on the violence faced by trans women of color and letters to the editor from the NYT, many of which criticized the coverage of Caitlyn by Elinor Burkett due to her transphobic framing of trans women.

Member Article: Why the GOP Should Worry About the Shutdown Gender Gap

By Dr. Kristi Winters

It is no secret that the Republican Party has a problem with women voters and an edge with men. President Obama won women voters by 12 percent and lost men’s votes by 8 percent in the 2012 election. That cumulative 20 point difference between men and women voters was the largest ever observed since Gallup began collecting data in 1952 (Gallup, 2012).

However, that aggregate data obscures important variation. Known as the ‘marriage gap’, single and married women’s voting patterns differ.  Romney did better among married women than Barack Obama, 53 percent for Romney to 46 percent for the President. The opposite was true for single women, 63 percent of whom voted for Obama (McDonnell, 2012).

Another socio-demographic cleavage between women’s votes is race.  White women were more likely to vote for Romney than the President, 56 percent to Obama’s 42 percent.  Women in every other racial category were far more likely to support the President: 96 percent of black women and 76 percent of Latinas (Wilson, 2012).[i]

These figures help up to build up a mental image of the women who are most likely to vote Republican: white, married women.  Add in the information on religiosity (especially belonging to an evangelical form of Christianity) and income (the higher it is the more likely you are to vote Republican) and we can refine the picture of the reliably Republican woman voter even further. 

That is what makes the results of a poll published this month so shocking to me. It seems that on the issue of a government shutdown, the GOP is manufacturing its own, unnecessary intra-party shutdown gender gap.  And it’s a big one.

David Winston conducted a national survey of 1,000 registered voters between July 31 and August 1, 2013 (York, 2013). Respondents were given the following question: ‘Some members of Congress have proposed shutting down the government as a way to defund the president’s health care law.” People were then asked to indicate if they were in favor of that idea or opposed to it.

For all respondents to the survey, 71 percent indicated opposition to the idea, 23 percent favored it.  For Republicans, 53 were opposed and 37 percent were in favor.  But what I found fascinating was the internal Republican gender gap the survey found.

Republican men narrowly support the idea of a shutdown, 48 percent in comparison with the 41 percent who oppose it. This number would indicate that the GOP is not wrong in pushing the idea of a shutdown, and this view reflects the plurality view of its base. It would seem to indicate that Senators Mike Lee and Ted Cruz reflect the views of the people who elected them.

And you might be right in thinking that until you look at the numbers for Republican women in this survey. A whopping 61 percent of Republican women oppose a federal government shutdown in this survey, compared with only 29 percent who support it.

The Mike Lees and Ted Cruzs of the Republican world are not speaking for all Republicans.  They are Republican men speaking to other Republican men and ignoring the views of, what this survey suggests, is the view of the vast majority of Republican women.

After the 2012 election, an election characterized by the phrase ‘war on women’ and the meme ‘binders full of women’, the Republican National Committee published the results of a deep introspection – some called it an autopsy – of their 2012 election cycle.  In their ‘Women’ section, they wrote, ‘…when developing our Party’s message, women need to be part of this process to represent some of the unique concerns that female voters may have’ (RNC, 2013:19).

If we compare the political strategies offered by radical Republican members of Congress to these polling, the results the obvious conclusion is that the GOP hasn’t yet begun to listen to the women who voted for them, let alone women who do not identify as Republican.

Republican women might favor smaller government and less regulation, but they still want government to function. Those Republican women’s voices might not be the loudest in the room in a town hall meeting, or the most radical on issues of shutdown but Republican women are paying attention. Based on these poll numbers, if the GOP attempts to play chicken with the daily operations of the federal government those silent voices of women could turn into disappearing support at the ballot box.

As Congress reconvenes after the summer recess, elected Republican men, you have been warned.  Defy the silent majority of women in your party at your own peril (and voter base).


Online sources:

Gallup. (2012) 'Gender Gap in 2012 Vote Is Largest in Gallup's History.’ Gallup.com. http://www.gallup.com/poll/158588/gender-gap-2012-vote-largest-gallup-history.aspx

McDonnell, Meg. (2012) ‘The marriage gap in the women’s vote.’ Mercatornet. http://www.mercatornet.com/articles/view/the_marriage_gap_in_the_womens_vote

Republican National Committee. (2013) ‘Growth and Opportunity Project’ Republican National Committee. http://growthopp.gop.com/rnc_growth_opportunity_book_2013.pdf

Wilson, David. (2012) ‘The Elephant in the Exit Poll Results: Most White Women Supported Romney’ Huffington Post. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/david-c-wilson/the-elephant-in-the-exit_b_2094354.html

York, Byron. (2013) ‘GOP poll finds strong opposition to government shutdown.’  Washington Examiner. http://washingtonexaminer.com/gop-poll-finds-strong-opposition-to-government-shutdown/article/2534580

[i] In this dataset all other races were collapsed into a single category, of which 66 percent of women of all other races supported the President.


It’s Time for a New Equal Rights Amendment

It’s Time for a New Equal Rights Amendment
By Dr. Kristi Winters

It is time for a new Equal Rights Amendment in America. This wouldn’t be your mother’s Equal Rights Amendment. America has changed a lot since 1972. Our values have changed a lot since 1972. Our families have changed a lot since 1972 and that is why we need a new Equal Rights Amendment for the 21st century.

In my view, it is time to rewrite the Equal Rights Amendment to include sexual orientation to truly protect all American men and women from discrimination. Only a small addition in the wording is needed:

Section 1. Equality of rights under the law shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of sex or sexual orientation.

When I get to thinking about it, there are many good reasons for a New ERA. In this article I will only focus on three. First I will look at a few of the arguments offered by Phyllis Schlafly; a key actor in the defeat of the original ERA. I then compare that out-dated worldview to three examples of why a new ERA could help working women, same-sex couples and men’s parental leave.

The Equal Rights Amendment debated in the 1970s was (by comparison) a narrow argument that contested the roles of heterosexual women and men in the public and private spheres. I use the views of Phyllis Schlafly to represent the attitudes that were advanced to defeat the original ERA. On marriage she wrote: ‘Marriage and motherhood give a woman new identity and the opportunity for all-round fulfillment as a woman’ (Schlafly 2003, p. 196). How should women act within marriage and motherhood? According to Schlafly, ‘Society simply has not invented a better way of raising children than the traditional family…[The] division of labor is cost efficient, the environment is healthy, and the children thrive on the ‘object constancy’ of the mother’ (ibid, p. 207). She is dismissive of women’s roles outside the home. “After twenty years…a mother can see the results of her own handiwork in the good citizen she has produced and trained. After twenty years…in the business world, you are lucky if you have a good watch to show for your efforts” (Schlafly 1977, p. 52).

Mrs. Schlafly’s fantasy world where everyone is heterosexual, fertile, and where men earn enough money to feed, house and clothe themselves, their wives and all their children never existed in America, but it bears even less resemblance to the America of today than the 1960s and 1970s.

Let’s consider the reality of people’s lived experiences. The most obvious difference between Mrs. Schlafly’s notion of marriage and today is the movement for marriage equality. The Supreme Court of the United States announced on June 26 that denying same sex couples the same federal benefits as their opposite sex counterparts was ‘treating those persons as living in marriages less respected than others’. They concluded that the Defense of Marriage Act was ‘in violation of the Fifth Amendment’.

Advocates of marriage equality now turn their attention to the state-by-state campaigns to alter state legislation, court cases demanding equal treatment under the law. It seems to me that a constitutional amendment enshrining those rights in the form of a New ERA should be part of that effort.

Another stark difference to the fantasy world of Mrs. Schlafly is found in the breadwinngin role that increasing numbers of American women are taking up in the home. According to Pew Research Center, US Census Bureau data showed that in 2011 40 percent of leading or sole breadwinners in American households were women. That is up from only 11 percent in 1960 (Langfield 2013). Yet despite the fact that women are equally or better educated than their husbands, most men still earn more than their spouses, the Pew study noted. I would argue that part of that wage gap is the result of not having constitutional protections against sexual discrimination.

With a New Equal Rights Amendment we could protect women’s wages from the 2011 views of Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia who said: ‘Certainly the Constitution does not require discrimination on the basis of sex. The only issue is whether it prohibits it. It doesn't. Nobody ever thought that that's what it meant. Nobody ever voted for that. If the current society wants to outlaw discrimination by sex, hey we have things called legislatures, and they enact things called laws’ (Terkel 2011).

I agree with Justice Scalia. If the Constitution has a blind spot for the protections of Americans based on their sex or sexual orientation then let’s change it!

Finally I want to address the men’s rights and the new ERA as regards family leave policies. According to a Boston College study, less than 1 percent of American men take significant amounts of parental leave. It also found that the more time fathers spent with their children the more confident they felt as parents. American men clearly experience an invisible form of sexual discrimination when they seek to take up a caring role rather than the role of earner.

Anecdotally, I found an article where an employer details a male employee who had taken off time for family leave, during which time the company held performance reviews. The employer wrote, ‘Bonuses are based on these reviews, and some of the management team feel like he doesn't deserve a bonus because of taking 3 months off. Do we have to give him a review? Can we skip giving him a bonus?’

The answer that came back was loud and forceful: ‘Simple answer? No. You cannot withhold a bonus because someone took legally allowable time off. I suspect that if this was a woman taking maternity leave, the conversation about withholding the bonus would have never even come up’ (Lucas 2011). The author’s response was right, of course. But shouldn’t our goal for American fathers be that no manager or employer even considering financially punishing a man for spending time in that most vital of all men’s roles in life: being a father?

For these reason, and for far more, all Americans need a new Equal Rights Amendment. Rather than pitting men against women, this new Equal Rights Amendment debate can be about eliminating sex and sexual orientation as a basis for discrimination for all Americans: straight, lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered. It will protect working moms, stay-at-home dads, and every form of family we have in America.

That is why I call upon U.S. Senator Tammy Baldwin to author and introduce a new Equal Rights Amendment. As the first openly gay woman elected to the Senate she embodies the presence of women in traditionally male spaces. Further her presence upends the heteronormativity that dominates the framing of work-life balance issues. I hope that she and Senator Robert Menendez, who introduced the old ERA as S. J. Res 10 on March 5th of this year, will draft new language that will restart an old debate from a completely different perspective.

Please lend your support by signing and sharing the petition calling on Senators Tammy Baldwin and Robert Menendez to introduce a new Equal Rights Amendment for the 21st century.



Langfield, Amy. 2013. ‘Pew Study Shows Women Leading Breadwinners in 40 Percent of Households’ The Daily Beast. Retrieved from: http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2013/05/29/pew-study-shows-women-leading-breadwinners-in-40-percent-of-households.html

Lucas, Suzanne. 2011. ‘Will paternity leave hurt your career?’ CBS Money Watch. Retrieved from: http://www.cbsnews.com/8301-505125_162-57322597/will-paternity-leave-hurt-your-career/

Schlafly, Phyllis. 1977. The Power of the Positive Woman. New York: Arlington House Publishers.

Schlafly, Phyllis. 2003. Feminist Fantasies. Texas: Spence Publishing Company.

Terkel, Amanda. 2011.‘Scalia: Women Don't Have Constitutional Protection Against Discrimination’ The Huffington Post. Retrieved from: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/01/03/scalia-women-discrimination-constitution_n_803813.html

This article was edited on 05 September 2013.

Queer Shaming by Religious based Abstinence Only Education

Secular Woman’s second article in the LGBTQ week Series

By Karin Weiss, read her blog Abstinence Only Recovery

I’ve been out as bisexual since 9th grade (14 years old). I was lucky that most people in my high school were accepting of it. There were only a few very seriously religious teens at my school, but, unfortunately, the curriculum of my abstinence only sex ed class was not so accepting.

First let’s talk about one of the extremely religious teens. I had a friend we’ll call Joe. When I was in 10th grade and he was in 11th we became very good friends. He liked to watch Star Wars and go hiking and read books. We started crushing on each other and decided we wanted to date. Then I told him that I was bisexual. I didn’t think it would be a big deal. I knew he was religious but it never occurred to me that one of my friends would be anti-LGBT. He was hurt by the fact. He wanted me to be straight because he couldn’t date someone with homosexual tendencies. He wanted me to go to church with him, and since I was a teenager with raging hormones I agreed.

Just before we started dating I had been realizing that I was an atheist. I was raised without religion and it just never occurred to me to put a name on it.

I got to know him and his family and saw that he got along really well with his parents. Now, he is currently in school to be a physician. His family looks like the American Dream, but I know from conversations with them that they believe that the human body has the ability to live for 900 years if the person lives Biblically. They believe that people can choose to be gay, straight, trans, or bisexual. Once Joe said “I’ve thought about dating guys and I find the thought disgusting, so I have decided to be straight”.

It took me 7 months to stop trying to be straight and stop trying to believe in Joe’s religion. I broke up with him when I realized that it was wrong for me to try to change who I was to be in a romantic relationship.

I think that a big part of why I put up with that relationship and denial of my identity was that my school used a curriculum of abstinence-only sex education which ignored or shamed LGBT students and taught religious views on sex as scientific and psychological fact. We were taught that even our “normal” sexual impulses were disgusting and evil, so if someone was LGBT they were even worse in the eyes of our health class. We were taught that sex is a tool for procreation within a marriage and that any other sexual activity would “destroy your reputation”, give you a disease, or make a girl pregnant with an unwanted child. LGBT sex was not mentioned, but it was implied that it was wrong because it did not produce a child and the partners could not be married.

I remember being in that class and thinking that I would wait until marriage to have sex whether I ended up with a man or a woman. Since it was a public school the instructors couldn’t tell us that sex before marriage would send us to hell, but they did make it sound like our lives would be a living hell of disease, depression, and bullying. Only after I graduated did I understand that the class was based on religious opinions about sex and completely devoid of real scientific information. In high school I still believed that if a teacher told me something was based on real science it was true. I didn’t have the presence of mind to research the information my teachers told me because I never doubted it.

I’m in college now and I’m still recovering from the shame about sex and being bisexual that I was taught by that class. Abstinence only education is horrible for LGBT students and straight cisgender students. It led me to deny my own identity for the sake of a relationship and it caused me much shame and pain in my sex and dating life later on.

Fundamentalist Survivor: Staying alive while being Queer

Secular Woman's first article in the LGBTQ week Series

by Aaron Roberts

I'm queer. I can say it now with assurance, pride even, but it took many long painful years to get to this place. I started from a place where gay was sinful, gross, wrong, immoral. Where sex was hidden, something no one talked about. Where sexuality of any kind was looked on with deep suspicion and shame. I've peeled those layers of oppression off over the years and this is my story.

My parents strongly discouraged any thoughts of romance or sex while I was growing up. They made me feel it was wrong to be attracted to anyone regardless of sex or gender. They said it was wrong to have sex before marriage and that it should not be about pleasure. They made me feel like any sexual attraction was an unforgivable sin. I was terrified of being attracted to anyone. But when I was about 15 I couldn't help myself anymore.

At night I started having visions of being intimate with girls. At first I felt guilty because I thought it was wrong. My mind took over, and my fantasies turned to me getting raped by a woman. I thought that, "well, if its against my will then it's not my fault. Then, I won't be guilty."

As I got older I started doubting religion and everything I was taught. By the time I was 18, I was self identifying as Agnostic. As my religious beliefs began to fade, I felt less and less guilty about masturbating and having erotic fantasies. It was very liberating, now I was able to enjoy myself without feeling guilty. My fantasies became more varied, and I also learned that queer people existed and wondered what two men would do together sexually. I started having fantasies involving men, and enjoyed them.

When I started having queer fantasies it was hard for me to imagine being able to have a family because I'd never seen queer families. I thought that they wouldn't be accepted by society and that I couldn't have a queer family. I remember telling my sister, "I think I would like having sex with a man, but I don't think I could fall in love with one."

During this changing period, I went on 4-H exploration days. It was a program where kids would go to Michigan State University for 4 days. There were classes that taught a wide range of subjects. One year I took sailing and a drama/acting class. The classes weren't too involved, but it was enough to teach you about a subject and get you interested in it. We also got to go on an all day adventure away from the campus.

This particular year we went to an amusement park. At the amusement park I hung out with some boys that were in my same 4-H group and we went on some water slides. I remember being aroused by their naked chests.

We were assigned dorm rooms on campus during our classes and in our rooms the boys talked about masturbating among other general conversations. Before this point in my life, I'd never had the opportunity to be with my peers; therefore, I hadn't heard people talk so openly about what I thought were private, taboo topics. These experiences were very educational for me.

When I was seventeen, my parents let me put a door on my room, but I wasn't allowed to put a lock on it. I thought I was lucky because I had the only door in the house. My sisters and my parents didn't have doors to their rooms, and there was no door to the bathroom either, as our house was in a constant state of renovation and my parents didn't believe in giving us privacy.

But, since I had a door I felt safer exploring my sexuality and masturbating to porn. I would shut my door and watch porn, listening intently for my mother walking up the stairs. Usually I was able to hear her before she got to my room, so I would close the pornography and pretend I was just surfing the web or playing a game. She would just open my door unannounced and look at my computer to see what I was doing. I know she was scanning my window tabs for porn. She would accuse me of closing a page so that she couldn't see what I was looking at. Then she would tell me to go to bed and not stay up too late.

Because of my mother's unannounced "visits" to my room I started taking pictures of the porn with my parent's digital camera because then I could take it to bed with me. I thought that would be less risky. I had the foresight to swap out the memory cards so that my parents wouldn't find them in the camera but one night I forgot.

That next morning my father came in to wake me up and tell me to feed my horse. He saw the camera and tried to turn it on, but the battery was dead. I immediately asked him to let me see it. He sensed my anxiety and asked me why. I told him I took a silly picture of myself and wanted to erase it. He took the camera downstairs to find more batteries.

I quickly got up and dressed. I ran out to feed my horse. I was hoping to convince my father to let me have the camera back. However, when I got back inside he had told my mother. I went upstairs to my room because I knew I was doomed.

My mother and my father interrogated me about masturbating and my mother went on to tell me how disgusting and repulsive the pictures were; it was clear that she was referring to the gay pictures. She was equally upset about all the porn though. She was very grossed out by any references to sex. My mother then asked me how I would feel if other people were watching my sister like that. She was trying to make me feel guilty.

My mother then quizzed me if I watched porn with my friends. She told me that she was taking my computer away and I wasn't allowed to play computer games or use the Internet. She also said that I wasn't allowed to see any friends. She went on to say that from now on they would make me go to church with them every Sunday. I begged her to not tell anyone about my porn. She got so irate that she left the room and went downstairs.

My father was calmer. After my mother left the room he told me that he had been into things that were wrong when he was younger, and that he wanted to help me to not crave these evils. I'm not sure if he was talking about my sexuality or porn in general. I didn't say much because I knew that they were wrong but I couldn't argue with them.

One of the most upsetting parts about this was they ignored the sexuality issue completely. I knew they believed that gay people didn't exist and that gay sex was just evil and that there was no attraction between two people of the same sex. Because of this mindset my parents only saw porn and sex for pleasure as evil and a sin. The fact that it was gay porn made it no worse because being gay was just as sinful.

My mother said that they were taking me to see our pastor to talk about what happened. I was very upset because I had asked her not to tell anyone. My parents took me to the church to talk with the pastor.

The pastor and my parents started out by discussing my lack of faith. I told them that the biblical story was full of holes and that I didn't need religion to be good and moral. The pastor said that some people, famous atheists, come back to the lord. He also agreed that many people leave the Christianity.

He went on to discuss porn and the sex industry. He said it was evil and that the women were forced to participate. My mother sat there agreeing with him. He said that watching sexual images was wrong. He then went on to say that pornography led to homosexuality. My parents asked if I would be willing to meet with the pastor and talk more. They made it clear that if I didn't meet with the pastor I had to move out.

I was forced to see the pastor a couple times, and during our visits we talked and he tried to pressure me into reading a book about a crazy evangelical guy. The pastor and my parents basically wanted to convert me back to Christianity, convince me of the evils of pornography and get me to become ex-gay.

After this traumatic experience I became more reserved. I knew my life was over. This person was dead. It took me years to come out and be comfortable with myself. My family used religion to try and control my sexuality and it scarred me for life.

After this experience, about a year later, I moved out and started college. I played soccer and hung out with the soccer guys. I said I was straight and tried to be straight. It was a very difficult time for me because I was trying to be someone I wasn't. The soccer team was very homophobic also, which didn't help. I also tried to have sex with girls and began dating a girl for several months. I tried to make our relationship work but I just didn't feel an attraction for her. Finally, I came out as bisexual, which made her very uncomfortable. She was afraid I would leave her for a man. I was very sad that she couldn't accept me because I knew she had other friends in the LGBT community.

After I broke up with my girlfriend I started dating a guy who was a friend of my sisters'. I felt more comfortable with him right away, and I just knew inside that this was right for me. I'd never felt that way before. It's something that you can't explain with words.

Since I had a boyfriend it was easier for me to come out because all I had to do was mention my boyfriend. Most people at my work were friends of mine and so everyone would mention my boyfriend once in awhile in conversations. It didn't take long for every new employee to find out that I was queer.

One time I was working with a guy who I knew from a conservative family. I don't think he knew for sure I was queer, so one day he was goofing off and called me a faggot. I told him never to call me that again. He immediately became embarrassed and asked me what he could call me. I told him anything but a faggot.

One time another conservative guy made a comment about a customer who he heard over the headset saying, "Sounds like he plays for the other team." It was not necessarily a negative comment; he didn't have a negative tone, but, I knew the comment itself was heteronormative and homophobic. I was taken by surprise, but I also knew this guy wouldn't understand what heteronormative meant, so I just dropped my jaw and stared at him with the expression, "what the fuck?" I think he got the message without me saying a word.

Another time at work I was telling my co-worker about the night before when I ordered pizza for my boyfriend and I. The guy delivering supplies for the store overheard our conversation. After the delivery guy left my co-worker told me that he had asked about my sexuality and commented that he didn't know people were so open. I was surprised about this reaction because I assumed that he would have seen open people before. I realized how important it is to be open because other people notice it. If they are queer themselves it will help them feel more comfortable and if they are straight they will realize that queer people exist and are comfortable.

Now I know that I am queer and I am proud to be who I am. I define myself as queer because it is a broader term than gay. I think the term queer explains that I do not fit into normative gender identity and gender expression categories as well as covering my attraction to men.

For me, queer also encompasses how I don't fit with society on many levels. For example, I used to have a speech impediment and to this day sometimes it surfaces. I don't have the same values or beliefs, as most of my peers. I do not accept our capitalist, greedy mind set that so many do. I know that the clothes I wear have no bearing on my character. I have many terms to define myself; hard worker, liberal, atheist, humanist, queer, and survivor. But, although I happen to be queer and I am proud to be who I am, it is only a fraction of my being, my identity.

Introducing the LGBTQ Article Series, Recognizing Pride Month

This week Secular Woman will be featuring stories on LGBT people and their experiences with the oppressive forces of religion. Many queer and gender variant people face horrific and relentless discrimination and hatred from their faith (or former faith), and often from their family who practices a faith which rejects them. Part of our vision is a world where secular values celebrate same-sex love and people of all gender identities and expressions.

The stories this week show how far we have to come as a society and the capacity of the secular, atheist, and humanist communities to embrace LGBTQ people and stand with them in their fight for equality and justice. It is our goal to share these stories with the expectation of increasing understanding in the secular community of the challenges gender and sexual minorities face and the importance of continuing to support their struggle for acceptance and equality.

Implications of Gender Disparities in Secular Leadership

By Elsa Roberts

Earlier this year, Secular Woman compiled the number of women and men working for 15 secular organizations in a staff or board capacity. We found that staff were comprised of 46% women and 54% men while the boards were 31% women and 69% men. The leaders of these organizations were 29% women and 71% men. In every capacity men outnumber women, particularly when it comes to positions of power and leadership (i.e. boards and heads of organizations). This disparity in sex has far reaching implications. Policy, strategy, and goals for organizations in the secular community are affected when the voices of those with more privilege are represented at a rate higher than the voices of those with less privilege. For example, does a secular organization make the target of their separation of church and state about nativity scenes or about religious exemptions to providing women with birth control and abortion as part of their health plan?

When oppressed groups are the minority voice their perspective is often overshadowed by those with more privilege and more social capital. This means that critical issues are not addressed and that the focus of an organization can become myopic – because they are only considering a subset of issues defined as “secular”. Expanding our movement to ensure that women, people of color, working class people, etc. have a voice means allowing our movement’s goals to expand and shift. It means thinking about what constitutes a secular issue in new ways, and it means expanding our notions of what an issue that “everybody” cares about and what everybody is affected by is

This is an exciting time in the secular movement. Like many important social movements before us we are experiencing growing pains as we recognize that our movement must change and expand to include the interests of new members, to become an equitable movement that values social justice and understands the effects of systemic oppression. As atheists we are in a unique position to link instances of systemic oppression with religious influence.

This year Secular Woman is making women’s maintaining bodily autonomy a priority, connecting the ways that religious influence in government is hollowing out women’s liberty and impeding equal access to medical care. Women’s issues are our issues. It’s time we stopped categorizing the issues that directly affect half the population as “special interests” and secular organizations can lead the way by incorporating issues that affect women into our platforms. Let us embrace the women in our midst and promote a culture of equality and insightfulness and take this movement to the next level!

I am a Secular (Trans) Woman by Trinity Aodh

I am extremely proud to be able to stand up and say “I am a secular woman.”

Growing up in North Carolina, I was treated less than nicely by my peers for being an atheist. To the other elementary school students, you couldn't not believe in "God". It simply didn't work that way, it wasn't something they knew or understood. At that age it was about as different as I could have gotten, and it was tough.

That kind of treatment continued throughout all of public school, and it wasn't until I went away to university that I found relief. The school I chose to attend actually had atheists in the majority, and even the religious people who attended were far less likely to bother me, and the campus, as a whole, was a much more accepting place that I had ever been. This environment contributed in no small part to me finally making the decision to transition, and the lack of religion breathing down my neck made it much easier to accept myself after I had made that decision. I am extremely proud to be able to stand up and say “I am a secular woman.”

This statement means a lot to many of us. We're not just atheists, we're female atheists in a world dominated by male voices, and we're ready to stand up and be heard. We're fighting for diversity within a group that is already a minority, and the ways we are doing that extends beyond simply the gender gap. To me it means something very special, to stand up and be recognized not only as an atheist, but as a woman.

A friend of mine, Bridget Gaudette, recently mentioned in a blog post that she has a responsibility to be “extra visible” as a secular woman of color. I am realizing more and more not only how correct she is, but how I share a similar responsibility as a secular transgender woman.

Transgender individuals on a whole are very often misunderstood and misrepresented. Just today I've seen two or three atheist blog posts use improper terms to refer to us. Usually it's at least not the slurs, as it is starting to become more common knowledge that “tranny” and “shemale” aren't acceptable, but surprisingly few people seem to know the word is “transgender” not “transgendered.” Someone isn't “gayed” or “bisexualed,” these words are adjectives, not verbs. Similarly, they aren't nouns, and calling me “a transgender” won't put you on my good side.

I was designated male at birth, or DMAB (though you might also see coercively assigned male at birth, or CAMAB, depending on the person), but my gender is female. My preferred gender pronouns (PGPs) are she, her, and hers. One of the questions I get asked rather often is if I am “pre or post op,” and besides the fact that that question excludes the rather large group of people who are non op, it's really impolite to go around asking people about their genitals. I am about six months into hormone replacement therapy, or HRT, and am quite literally going through a second puberty. I deal with gender dysphoria almost daily, which is the discomfort caused by one's physical characteristics not aligning with one's gender.

Some terms have varying degrees of acceptance among the transcommunities (trans* being a broad term for any number of identities that might start with "trans"). Transsexual used to be the general term for people whose gender doesn't align with what they were designated, but has fallen out of common use for being too reminiscent of sexuality, as well as until recently being classified as a mental disorder. Female-to-male (FTM) and male-to-female (MTF) are still very often used, but can give the impression that a person used to be one gender, then switched.

A great majority of people reading this likely aren't transgender. This doesn't make you normal, this makes you cisgender. Further from that, gender is far more than a strict binary of male and female. You can be both, neither, somewhere in between, something different all together. You might be genderqueer, neutrois, androgyne, hard femme, butch, third gender, gender fluid, or any number of different genders.

My experience is very unique, and I'm not asking anyone to try to completely understand. What I am asking is to be respected as any woman deserves to be. If there is something you don't understand, all you have to do is (politely) ask. Remember what applies to me doesn't necessarily apply to other trans* people, or even other trans women.

I have fought hard for both my non-belief and my womanhood, and I won't let anyone deny me either. I will stand up, I will be counted, and I will not be silenced. I am Trinity Aodh, and I am a Secular Woman.

Trinity Aodh, Secular Woman Member