Things Are Bad. What Can We Do?

The whole “you have to use the bathroom of the gender assigned to you at birth” bill is bad enough. I mean, it’s bad enough that you might want to take a moment to just be shocked by that before we move onto the next part.

The worst part is that one of the sponsors of the bill says this:

“I believe if I was standing at a dressing room and my wife or one of my daughters was in the dressing room and a man tried to go in there — I don’t care if he thinks he’s a woman and tries on clothes with them in there — I’d just try to stomp a mudhole in him and then stomp him dry,” Floyd said.

“We cannot continue to let these people dominate how society acts and reacts. Now if somebody thinks he’s a woman and he’s a man and wants to try on women’s clothes, let them him take them into the men’s bathroom or dressing room. Don’t ask me to adjust to their perverted way of thinking and put my family at risk. I’m just sick and tired the way this thing’s been going.”

Let us not downplay this. We all think the bathroom bill goes way too far (and by “way too far” I mean, “that it exists at all is disgusting.”) He wants to be able to beat a person to death because he doesn’t like how she looks. “Wants to” is probably too weak. He says he will beat a person to death. Let’s take Floyd at his word.

Let us also be clear that this bill is a threat to everyone who doesn’t conform to gender expectations–not just transgender people. Floyd could beat a butch lesbian to death and then, oops, find out that she has two XX chromosomes. So, even if you don’t know, or think you don’t know, transgender people, you certainly know long-haired guys or gals who don’t wear make-up who could be hassled by this legislation.

Since transgender people and gender non-conforming people are in actual physical danger–not just from this bill, but from Representative Floyd and others like him–it’s very necessary for those of us who are not in obvious physical danger to use our social capital to resist this bill (and law, if it comes to that).

What can you do?

You can write our state legislators. Their emails can all be found here. While it’s true that the majority of our legislature is unlikely to be moved by the plight of transgender people, you can point out that the bill would prohibit fathers from bringing their toddler daughters into the bathroom with them and would be a burden on men with prostate issues, if the only open bathroom was the women’s. Yes, in other words, appeal to the problems this bill would cause cis-gender men.

You can make sure that you go to the bathroom in groups. For women, this won’t be that hard to learn. We already do this a lot. But most people are cowards at heart, so they are much less likely to make trouble for a woman that doesn’t quite “look right” when she’s with a group of her friends, some of whom may be that uncomfortable woman’s co-workers and friends. For women, this just means a switch from “we go to the bathroom in groups a lot” to “we go to the bathroom in groups.”

For men, this may take a little more getting used to, but it’s still an important social change you can make right now. Use the buddy system. You know that even two guys are much less likely to get jumped than one.

Same thing for dressing rooms. Go in groups.

If you are obviously a stereotypical straight cis-gender person, normalize the use of the opposite sex bathroom. If you’re someplace where there are two one-seaters and the one that matches your gender is full, use the empty one.  Don’t hesitate to take your small children into the bathroom with you. Or into the dressing room with you. Make your non-compliance obvious and do it in such a way that narcing on you makes that person an asshole.

They’re picking on transgender people because they believe transgender people are a small minority most people in this state don’t care about. In order to drum up resistance to this bill, we’re going to have to make the case that everyone is impacted negatively by it.

Then there is the matter of taking Representative Floyd at his word–that he really would try to kill you if he thought you looked “wrong” for where you were.

I obviously don’t have the answer for this. He knows he can say stuff like this and nothing will happen because you don’t have enough cultural capital to make something happen. He’s probably pretty sure he could do something like this and get away with it and, frankly, he’s probably right.

That’s just the truth of the matter.

But here’s the thing I just want you to consider. We live in a state with some of the most lenient gun laws in the nation. You can carry just about anywhere. And a gun is a shit-ton of cultural capital.

I know some of you are not comfortable with idea. And I hesitate to even broach the subject.

But this is past dangerous. This is now an elected official threatening violence against people.

So, I’ll just put this out there: If you think you might feel safer going to the bathroom if you had a gun, we have good resources right here in Tennessee available to you. Say Uncle is a libertarian gun nut who runs an incredibly informative blog. And while I can’t guarantee you’ll agree with his politics, I can guarantee that he will find you any gun resources you might need. He may not know what gun would fit best in a small clutch, but he’ll be able to tell you who can answer that.

There are plenty of people in Tennessee who would be happy to go with you to a shooting range. I’m just saying, at the least, you could try it out, see how it feels.

It’s not against the law to defend yourself. If you think your self may need defending, please consider all of your options.

Edited to add: Now that Representative Floyd has revealed his desire to try to kill transgender people, Senator Watson has withdrawn his version of the bill. Countdown to Senator Campfield introducing another Senate version starts… now.

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Two Things that Made Me Happy

1. Naomi Wise was a person. Her being really murdered sucks, but she was a real person!

2. My mom said of A City of Ghosts, “The best thing about a hard copy is rediscovering stories. Some excellent ones fade and come back even better.” Wow. Thanks, Mom.

And 2a. I see that some stranger on the internet says–

“A City of Ghosts” isn’t like anything else I’ve read. It isn’t ghost stories that are fiction intended to scare you, like in the “Alfred Hitchcock Presents” books I read years ago. The stories aren’t stories in the sense of plot or characterization.

It’s a guided tour of Nashville’s haunted spot, and at each location, you discover its ghost and learn a bit of that ghost’s tale.

At first, I found myself wishing the author had filled the tales in more, expanded them, answered all of the questions. By the time I finished the book, I was glad that she hadn’t. Each tale is what it is; it felt like the tales were more true by not being embroidered or “enhanced”. Her approach gives the tales a feel of authenticity.

I found myself carrying this book with me everywhere, because whenever I had a few free minutes, I could pop back into the book and enjoy more of the haunted spots in Nashville. It was a wonderful read.

Holy shit, internet stranger, that is so very kind.

One Reason We Shouldn’t Legislate Morality

I’m sure this is probably true everywhere, to some extent, but I can only speak about Tennessee, because this is where I live and where I’ve spent the longest portion of my adult life. But one thing that strikes me repeatedly in Tennessee is how often people want things they think are wrong–morally wrong–to be illegal, but then they don’t want their friends, who they know are good people, to face the harsh legal consequences for their moral ills.

And to me, this makes sense. There are a lot of things I think are morally wrong–like telling your husband your child is his (and believe me, I think that is a huge, huge moral wrong), or being addicted to drugs, and so on–that I don’t think should be against the law. They’re just not matters that we actually want to see legal penalties applied equally to everyone in the same circumstances. We just want people to not do them. So, if I hear about this total bitch, Sue Jones, who let her husband think the kid he raised was his and he didn’t find out until the real dad came forward, I’m like “Wow, she is a total bitch.” I know the point I’m about to make and just rereading that sentence, I’m like “Yeah, there totally should be some recourse for Sue’s husband. She should have to pay!”

But if it’s my friend, Sue Jones, and I know her husband beats her and would kill her if he knew that kid wasn’t his, I would council her every damn day to keep her mouth shut. And if it’s only because the kid’s big, scary, “I will put you in the ground, Mr. Jones” actual dad got out of prison for his involvement in a scary biker gang that Sue felt safe having Scary Dad tell Less-Scary Not-Dad that he’s not the dad, I would think “Whew, thank goodness everyone got through that scenario in one piece.

I think that’s only human. When we know the people involved and we know the complexities, things that seemed so clear cut in one direction in the abstract–it should be illegal for a woman to let a man think he’s the father of her child if he’s not–become very clear cut in the other direction when we know the particular people–My friend, Sue, should NEVER tell her abusive husband who would kill her if he learned she’d cheated on him that the kid is not his.

But it seems like, in Tennessee, we want to have it both ways. We want “women” to be held legally accountable, but we want our friend Sue to be let off the hook.

So, now we have this situation in Knoxville, where the D.A. who knew his friend, Judge Baumgartner, was not fit to be on the bench and yet, rather than seeing him removed from the bench the second he knew there was a problem–i.e. following the rules–he looked the other way–i.e. treated Baumgartner’s behavior like it was a moral failing, not a legal one.

And now?

Prosecutors warned that if the fact a judge was using pain medications as grounds for a reversal, that ruling could have “far-reaching implications.”

Now, let’s not be coy. The fact that a judge was abusing pain medications is grounds for reversal, should indeed have “far-reaching implications.” That’s why you don’t treat your friend’s legal failings like moral failings. Because it means every prosecution you conducted in front of him is fucked.

For our own good as a state, we need to stop conflating morality and legality and expecting exceptions in the way the law is applied for our friends.

How is Free?

I said a little about this in a comment to W., but I wanted to explain (for those of you thinking about self-publishing) why I decided to participate in this. One, I don’t have A City of Ghosts available at other ebook vendors, because I don’t want my personal finances tied into their systems as much as it would require and I don’t want to have to open up a separate checking account purely for book stuff. Amazon (and CreateSpace, which is  a part of Amazon) cuts me a check.

I based this decision on the fact that sometimes times are lean around here. Yes, it would be nice to have the other guys just pouring money into my checking account as they need to, but I really don’t need them deciding they’ve made an accounting error or that they’ve had returns and so they need to pull money out when I’m not expecting it.

If you want to set up your finances differently or if you’re not as worried about that, then it’s not a big deal. I just drew a line where I felt like “On the other side of this, it’s too much work and I’m too in over my head in financial matters I know nothing about” and that stuff was on the other side of it.

Also, the active life of the book is pretty much over. I’m selling, if I’m lucky, one copy a month. Some months, no copies. So, giving the book away for free (if only for five days) to Amazon Prime members who own Kindles isn’t going to hurt my sales. For all practical purposes, I have no sales. All it can do, I think, is bring more readers to the book.

Obviously, if your book was newer, you might make a different calculation.

But I’m just not seeing any downside to this for A City of Ghosts. I’d already been wondering if I should lower the price and this gives me a chance to really lower the price and see if that drums up readers. So, if you were ever thinking of recommending the book to someone, now’s the time.