Hell in a Handbasket: Thoughts on Order, Chaos and Control

Looking back, I’ve written a number of posts that take aim at the comments sections of online news articles. In the back of my mind, I know that the Internet is riddled with hate-spewing trolls, but I still find myself drawn to them. I guess I’m hoping for that one comment that falls under the banner of honest debate – the “Holy Grail” of comments. It can be quite fun poring through the randomness that is troll logic, but it’s also quite concerning that others will see the volume of troll posts and believe they represent a consensus; adopting their views rather than engaging with them.

When I shared a link to my John Lewis article on Twitter, a couple of fellow musicians replied. Within their short discussion, it was asserted that, when things change, people don’t feel in control; however, nobody has control – it’s just an illusion created by civilisation.

It’s funny how something as simple as a tweet can inspire complex thought. Do we really have no control over anything? Beyond our own absolute position in time and space, I don’t think so either.

Think about time in terms of order and chaos. The past, I believe, represents order. In computing terms, it’s like a file that lacks random write permissions: it can only be read from or appended to. The future, on the other hand, is chaos: a vast void of uncertainty. We have knowledge of the past to inform and help plan for this future based on probability but, morbid as it may seem, we are always aware that the future holds just one certainty: we will die at some point in the future; we just have no control over when. With this in mind, the future can be frightening.

This fear of death is not necessarily physical – one can fear a social death where inflexibility leads to irrelevance, invalidity and isolation. When non-trolls proclaim that the world’s going mad or the world’s going to hell in a handbasket, I believe what they are referring to specifically is a possible future with little to no precedent to base it on – a future they either can’t envisage or a worst case scenario. Going back briefly to the subject of gender, by replacing the long-held concept of a monochrome binary with a more colourful alternative, we are causing chaos in the form of incompatibilities with whatever we built upon it – hence the hostility over things like sports, bathrooms etc. Because we have no control over the future, those who lack the flexibility to adapt to it become defensive, fighting for their own social survival.

But remember: there are no guarantees. This worst case scenario could be one of a billion possible outcomes with equal probability. You can, however, address the incompatibilities and stack the odds in favour of a more acceptable outcome. How you do so is up to you: do you reject any responsibility and insist the other party just “deals with it”, or do you collaborate on a more inclusive solution?

The answer, I believe, lies in how far you’re willing to go outside of your comfort zone; to open a dialogue you cannot control with those you perceive as a threat? It’s a gamble, but life is full of gambles.

Every once in a while, a small bet on long odds leads to a big payout.

I’m Going Spock on you all!

I’m going to conclude this arc of gender/sexuality-related posts by returning to one quote from the Catholocism Pure post that I referenced earlier this week:

We are dooming children like this to a life of hell on earth and, then, to one in eternity as well for their supreme revolt against God and nature

Earlier today, I learned about what’s called the Appeal to Nature fallacy. To put it in very abstract terms, it’s centred on the belief that only what is natural (occurring within nature) is good. To frame it within C.P.’s context, only what is natural is Godly, and only what is Godly will be spared from an eternity in hell. Therefore, being anything other than cisgender is bad for you.

Very bad!

What they don’t realise is that, logically, this probably negates their claim rather than enforces it.

They claim that choosing a gender that does not match your sex goes against nature, but that is only true if sex and gender are one and the same. On the contrary, we already know that gender is an indication of where you view and express yourself on a socially-constructed spectrum, based upon expected behaviours and characteristics. If gender is a social construct, it cannot be good; this renders all genders as ungodly – including the two that they claim are good.

Why this is called a “fallacy” is because the logic either doesn’t apply consistently, or requires more criteria in order to be evaluated. For example, Pokeberries are natural, but you eat them at your own peril. Eating one won’t damn you for all eternity, but you’ll probably spend a night hooked up to a stomach pump. Birds, on the other hand, are immune to their toxins; therefore, pokeberries are indeed natural, but whether they’re good or not depends on who’s going to eat them.

They also state the following:

We are told to consider all these identities as normal as we approach the new godless, genderless frontier of the future.

Feminists like Gloria Steinem are featured, announcing that “the most pressing gender issue of today is getting rid of the idea of gender.”

Logically, if natural equals godly, and we’ve already established that gender is a man-made concept, then only the absence of gender can be godly. Therefore, Gloria Steinem is correct. If you really want to take it to the next level, you could argue that a belief in God must be unnatural since no other species exhibit any form of religious belief and, in the wider view of human existence, religions are a relatively new invention. Unless, of course, you’re a Creationist.

While it’s framed as an Appeal to Nature, it actually looks like they’re mixing an Appeal to Tradition with an Appeal to Authority: it’s basically saying that because we’ve always equated sex with gender, and that was true during Biblical times, there’s no point in changing what’s already established. This appeal to tradition is of no use on its own since “that’s the way it’s always been” does not explicitly mean new ways should not be evaluated and judged on relative merits. The Appeal to Authority is blended in by equating the old ways with God’s way, and God’s way must be followed. As it’s not possible to debate the argument with God directly, God’s authority is invalid. Therefore, it becomes little more than a plea to maintain the status quo.

So, wherever you are on the gender spectrum (if you’re on it at all), don’t worry. Their claim that you’ll be spending eternity in hell is highly illogical.

So live long and prosper!

Facts vs. Truths

In the post I wrote yesterday, published earlier this morning, I countered the argument that feelings were less important than facts on the grounds that feelings are also facts, just on an intrapersonal scale. I recall an interview with British musician Steven Wilson published last week, prior to the release of his new album, in which he commented on the extremely-polarised opinions his new work would likely receive, and how we rarely frame those opinions as opinions. He had a point, and it got me thinking.

The way I see it, “facts” are defined as verifiable binaries, universally-perfect within its environment. As a programmer, I deal with such facts on a daily basis as computers can only “think” in binary. If I write a program to tell the computer that “a = 3″, and then ask it “does a = 3″, it will say “yes”. If I write a different program that tells it “a = 2.9295″, and then ask it the same question, it will say “no”. Whichever computer you run this program on, you will always get the same responses. Do the same with a sample of humans, and you’ll find a range of different responses: you won’t just get “yes” and “no”, you’ll likely also get answers such as “almost” and “not quite”. That’s because, as humans, we are not universally-perfect; we have a larger lexicon with which we can evaluate and respond, and emotions to guide us in doing so.

For example, ask a sample of humans “is a roughly equal to 3″, and you’ll find more yes and no answers depending on what we feel is an acceptable margin of error. Perfect precision is not in our nature.

These are what I define as “truths”: individually-derived binaries. Our thoughts, feelings, beliefs and opinions all fall under this banner. A truth cannot be verified since it exists only within its host, but neither facts nor truths are disputable. If I say “I feel hungry”, you cannot respond with “No you don’t” without looking like some kind of brain-washing totalitarian. The only way to disprove me would be to become me.

The issue is when truths are presented as facts, much with the “Catholocism Pure” blog I referred to yesterday. Facts may be more valuable than truths since they are not objective, but no truth can ever be more valuable than another. You may think that gender non-conformity is abominable, I think it’s inspirational. Is one view more virtuous or valuable than the other? No, and they never will be. The existence of intersex individuals makes it impossible to define male/female as a universally-perfect binary, so the statement that “you are either male or female” cannot be anything more than an independently-held truth. Same with the statement “you are what God made you” – my Christian friends would likely agree with that statement but, as an Agnostic Atheist, I disagree. If it was a fact, there would be no disagreement.

Truths are also transient. We replace our old truths with new truths every day as a result what we learn and what we experience. So instead of pretending our truths are superior to everybody else’s, let’s open a discussion instead and learn together.

That’s what comments sections are for!

Ideology, Feelings and a Catholic Blog

I saw a link on Facebook pointing to an article published by the American College of Pediatricians, entitled Gender Ideology Is Harming Children. The person who shared it on the group was seeking a discussion on its content; they had read it expecting the usual anti-trans diatribe, but found it more explicitly advising against gender-reassignment surgeries and treatments for young children. Fair enough – surgery and psychology are two separate disciplines.

Whilst looking a bit deeper into the subject, I came across this blog post that referenced the same article, seeing it as evidence of their anti-trans prejudices, corroborated by a professional medical body. I would have commented but, whenever I’ve written a counterpoint on a religiously-themed blog, it never gets past their censors – no matter how respecfully it was written. Some days, it’s good to have a blog of your own!

Except it was hard to tell just what their argument was, beyond mere stating examples and expressing astonishment at them.

In the first few paragraphs, they cite the case of Scottish mother Kerri McFayden who is allowing her child, assigned male at birth, to live as a girl. Besides claims that she is “promoting confused thinking”, what was it about McFayden’s case that they disagreed with and why? If the child’s happy, why does it even matter? Personally, if I’m confused by something, I do a bit of extra research or ask for help… from the seems of things, she’d already done both of those!

They then go on to repeat sections of a Time magazine article that promoted young people choosing their gender, remarking that they were choosing from “the 60+ options offered by Facebook” rather than remaining “as God made them”. Ironically, the ACP article they are using to back up their stance states that gender “is a sociological and psychological concept; not an objective biological one.” – in other words, you can’t choose the biological sex you were born with – nobody can – but choosing one’s gender is down to personal expression; no different to choosing which football team to support. If you feel a sociological and psychological connection to West Bromwich Albion, perhaps out of local pride and how you like wearing blue and white stripes, you’re not going to listen to anyone saying “Your thinking is confused! You’re either Chelsea or Arsenal!”

Further down the article, they state: “We are told to consider all these identities as normal as we approach the new godless, genderless frontier of the future. Everything depends on feelings not facts.” How’s about this then….. [drum roll]…

Feelings ARE facts!

Well, they are – they’re just facts that exist on an individually internal level. As I write this, I’m feeling moderately hungry. FACT! I’m also feeling slight discomfort in my back from having sat in my chair for the past hour. FACT! I also feel like knocking down an ice-cold lager with my dinner tonight. FACT! As these facts relate to me and me only, I can’t support them with peer-reviewed evidence, nor can you claim they’re incorrect. How is that different from a biological male who says “I feel I’m a woman”?

All becomes clear towards the end: “We are dooming children like this to a life of hell on earth and, then, to one in eternity as well for their supreme revolt against God and nature”. If they are expressing themselves in a way that is natural to them, what exactly are they revolting against? Also, back on the subject of facts, where exactly does it state – as a proven hard fact, complete with empirical evidence – they will be forced into eternal torment for doing so? You feel that they will – that’s a fact – but what are the chances? The so-called “hell on earth” that they’d face is not so much because of their choices, but because of those who see it as their duty to invalidate those choices. If, as the ACP article states, gender is a psychological and socialogical concept, then you can hardly claim a centures-old book from the Middle East has absolute authority over gender: our knowledge of human psychology has become far more advanced in the centuries since. Our understanding of gender is relatively new, and whenever there’s new learning, there will always be resistance from those who adhere to the old learning. But, as through history, the old learning fades into obscure footnotes.

Besides, if being genderless is so heinous… what gender is God exactly?

The Danger and Futility of Healing Through Religion

During my research for future posts, I came across a blog called “Healing from Cross-dressing“. It’s a blog run by, and with contributions from, former Cross-dressers who, through their Christian beliefs, have recanted their old ways and are now helping others to do so.

Before I begin, I’ll just say that if that’s what they believe, far be it from me to criticize. Their methods and motivation, on the other hand, I’m not too sure about.

Deuteronomy

Whenever I research such things, the book of Deuteronomy is an old chestnut that I see around a lot. Whenever a short-and-simple quotable is needed to demonise an entire demographic, this book is full of them. In this case, Verse 22:5 is the one most-cited:

A woman shall not wear a man’s garment, nor shall a man put on a woman’s cloak, for whoever does these things is an abomination to the LORD your God.

What I recall of Deuteronomy’s many laws can be split into two areas: ritual and moral. The ritual laws are there to constantly remind you of what’s ultimately important which, in the Christian faith, is obviously God. It’s the same as kissing Sanka’s lucky egg in Cool Runnings to remind them of why they were competing in the Olympics. The moral laws – murder, theft, assault and all that – are the ones that form our legal system today. If putting on a “woman’s cloak” was heinously immoral, it would have become illegal in most countries with a Christian majority but, as it stands, Cross-dressing is as illegal as other so-called “abominations” such as eating bacon, trimming your beard, eating with foreigners and being a shepherd.

The most detailed commentary I read of this passage – approached with significantly more emphasis on historical culture (let’s not forget the law was passed down to cultures many centuries and many miles distant from our own) – said this:

The danger of “cross-dressing,” according to the analysis followed here by Rashi and the Shulhan Arukh, is that it might allow men to enter women’s groups and women to enter men’s groups. In societies in which gender segregation was widely observed, this subterfuge was seen as a real danger.

Today the concern would be that men or women would sneak into the other gender’s locker rooms or bath rooms. Given that men and women in our society mix freely in other settings, it is hard to see how heterosexual adultery is a particular danger of what is called “cross dressing.”

Here, we see where the moral code applies- it doesn’t condemn the act of cross-dressing in itself, but the motivation for doing so. Women can go around wearing fake beards if they want to, as long as they don’t go to any stonings. Why? Because it’s written… that’s why!

Bit of Python – love it!

Addiction

Comparing Cross-dressing to a drug addiction seems a bit of a false analogy as it ignores the myriad of reasons some people cross-dress in the first place.

C10Ka6lXAAALeDaIf you’re an entertainer who regularly cross-dresses in public because it’s how you earn a living, there’s absolutely nothing wrong with that. There’s nothing you can do about it either – ask Brendan O’Carroll to relinquish his role as Mrs. Brown and I’m sure he’ll have a few choice words in response.

If cross-dressing is how you get your motor running, so to speak, you might be able to replace it with something else, but if it gets your partner’s motor running too, what’s the harm? Poking your nose into other people’s love life is a sure-fire way of getting said nose broken.

Seriously though: spread your search a bit wider, and you’ll find a significant number of cross-dressers who testify to having done so since they were very young. Children can be quite curious and fickle – for them to carry something with them throughout their life, it must really resonate with who they are. I discovered my love for music at a very young age – 4 or 5 – and I’ve not exactly grown out of it thirty years later. I’ve still got the first single I bought back in 1985.

I doubt anyone who has cross-dressed since their infancy is able to just switch it off and keep it switched off permanently. If you put the “addiction” in your brain yourself, you can remove it – if it was there to begin with, it’s there for life. It’s like if someone has a natural speaking voice in a higher register, you can’t exactly train them to defy their vocal cords and speak in deeper, “masculine” tones. Besides – why would you? Don’t answer that one, Brother Hyles.

Healing

I believe trying to “fix” someone through guilt and shame is rather dangerous in certain circumstances. In children, a little guilt and shame is needed to instil a sense of empathy, but it only works on behaviour they have control over. Making someone feel guilty for something they have no control of is going to have severe effects on their mental health. The stronger their efforts to abstain, the easier it becomes to relapse. The more they relapse, the worse they feel about themselves. The worse they feel about themselves, the less stable they become. Is it really worth the mental damage just because your interpretation of a single Bible verse condemns it?

It’s the same as trying to “cure” homosexuality: you may feel like you’re doing them a favour by cleansing their soul, but when the cleaning products you’re using are so abrasive, you end up scrubbing away a little piece of them each time.

If God made us all who we are and, as I’ve heard many transphobic pastors yell, God does not make mistakes, then what exactly are you trying to correct?

How can you be so certain that what you’re fixing should indeed be fixed, and that you’re the one to fix it?

Could it be that their higher purpose is to show you what you need to fix within yourself?

I didn’t know what an “SJW” was either.

During my weekend YouTubing, I watched a couple of videos that appeared to be ragging on so-called “Social Justice Warriors”, or SJWs. Like the term “special snowflake”, it’s not one I’ve come across until recently – it might just be more prevalent in the US than over here. Rather than continue in blissful ignorance, I looked it up.

The opening paragraph on Wikipedia describes the term as “a pejorative term for an individual promoting socially progressive views including feminism, civil rights, multiculturalism, and identity politics”. Okay, so basically anybody whose politics leans to the left. It continues: “The accusation of being an SJW carries implications of pursuing personal validation rather than any deep-seated conviction, and being engaged in disingenuous social justice arguments or activism to raise personal reputation, also known as virtue signalling.” So, by that definition, an SJW is someone who expresses left-leaning political views to serve their own reputation and not out of conviction. Is that right?

The way these videos were describing SJWs, you’d think they were trying to create a new world order by censoring and arguing with everybody who has less-progressive views than them. This actually sounds a bit extreme to me, and I doubt such actions are applicable to most progressives, whether they class themselves as an SJW or not. However, by such definition, it’s not all that different from a vocal Brexit voter shouting down anyone who wants anything but an immediate, hard Brexit. I’m also willing to bet that it’s these extreme fringes that get the press attention and, with simplified black-and-white thinking applied, we all get tarred with the same two brushes.

I hold rather progressive views – I make no apologies for that – but while I’ll express them here and on social media, I don’t insist everybody agrees with them. I’m all for civil debate, but I won’t get involved in a flame war.

I do also hold feminist views, but I’m somewhat more relaxed compared to how feminists are described in those YouTube videos. Again, I make no secret of my feminist views, but you’re more likely to find me acting upon them than preaching about them – it’s called “leading by example”.

In the whole debate about identity and gender politics, while I’m not all that keen on labels personally, I now understand how a lexicon of identities, labels and pronouns is important to those exploring and defining their identities – if a definition already exists, there’s at least one other person who identifies the same way. You’re not alone! I still maintain that all this exploration around gender identities adds vibrancy and colour to what is traditionally a strict monochrome. There does need to be some accommodation on both sides though, especially around the use of pronouns like “xe” and “hir” – it’s easy to add new nouns or verbs to your vocabulary, but as pronouns are woven into the fabric of the English language, new ones take a lot of getting used to, especially to a native speaker of almost 40 years. The singular “they/them/their” comes a lot more naturally.

The way I understand it, activism is a bit like driving a car. Those at the extreme ends have their cars in low gears with the needles on their tachometers constantly in the red: their engines are noisy and angrily revving away, but they’re not going anywhere fast and are likely to be doing more harm than good. The rest of us cruise along in higher gears at a more relaxed pace and make good progress.

I could sum all of that up in just two words…

Calm down!

Gender, Marketing and a New Year’s Challenge

Last Summer, as previously reported, I made quite some headway into giving society the middle finger and expressing myself the way I wanted to, disregarding the opinions of complete strangers and trying my hardest not to read their minds or interpret their body language. Compared to how I was this time last year, I ended the year more confident and secure but still recognising I’d still got some way to go. Going out and around the Midlands in a utility kilt was perhaps the most outwardly-expressive thing I did towards this, but as the winter has taken hold, doing so has not been a good idea. With management approval, I wore it to work for Children in Need day back in November (which was a bit scary and a little stoopid, but still raised £15), but still feel I’ve lapsed somewhat and fallen “out of practice”.

I’ve become more aware in recent months of how gendered marketing is and why, some examples of which are borderline comical. I found one superficial example in my own home. There are two cans of shaving cream in my bathroom – one “for him” and one “for her” – and I compared the ingredients of the two. Apart from the odd minor ingredient, the only real difference was that my wife’s had aloe vera and mine didn’t, but the mere presence of aloe vera doesn’t make an item “for her”; if I went a little upmarket as opposed to buying my toiletries from Lidl, I would find plenty of shaving creams “for him” containing aloe vera. In a nutshell, the only real difference was that her can was white and pink while mine was grey and blue.

Obviously those who deny that gender is “a social construct” are oblivious to how much money is being made gendering identical items, playing on our insecurities to prevent “him” and “her” from sharing.

If anything, I’m a pragmatist or, at least, I’d like to be – brushing marketing aside, an item’s purpose should be of higher priority than its demographic. Scroll back through the contents of this blog and you’ll see that I’ve also mentioned “Mantyhose” a couple of times. While this would enable my utility kilts to make an appearance during the winter months, and also push my bravery/confidence/not-giving-a-fuck to new levels, there are always safety concerns. I’ve heard stories about people being assaulted for not conforming to the normal expectations of male behaviour and appearance, but in the same breath, I’ve not heard about anything like that happening in the UK. Even so, such an attack would be rare. Would anyone be even remotely bothered, or am I just over-thinking and grossly underestimating the population’s open-mindedness?

2016 may have been a bit of a bastard for many, but I have to reflect on and feel proud of the progress I made. A new year means new challenges, and I want to try and blast even more neuroses and anxieties than I did last year.

“Be yourself. Give your free will a chance. You’ve got to want to succeed” — Jon Anderson

Why shouldn’t we let boys wear skirts to school?

Last night, I read an article by Glosswitch, published on the New Statesman website. The article mused about why we should let all boys wear skirts to school. If you’ve been following this blog for any length of time, I’m sure you’ll already know my response would be “why not?”. As the article already points out, a number of schools in the UK have already unified their uniform policies and, so far, it hasn’t caused any deaths, economic crashes or biblical apocalypses.

The article doesn’t have any comments section (just as well) – but I can imagine the response if it did. If you discount the attention-seeking brain-farts of the ultra-conservative trolls, the majority would be supportive. Parents today are getting wise to the ways in which their children are being rigidly gendered – particularly by marketing departments keen to reduce the number of “hand me downs” eating into their profit margins – and the success of the Let Toys Be Toys campaign is testament to how this practice is in decline. I can, however, see some valid concerns being raised.

What if my son doesn’t want to wear a skirt to school?

There always seems to be some confusion between a “right” and a “rule”. Your son may have the right to wear a skirt to school if they want to, but nobody’s forcing them to. It’s an additional freedom – it’s yours whether you want to make use of it or not.

What if it makes them go… well… you know…?

And so what if it does? They’re still your children. You might not like the idea now, but you may find you react differently if they do. They’re just clothes at the end of the day – what you wear on the outside has no effect on what’s on the inside, but if they do have some symptoms of gender dysphoria, I reckon it’s better for their long-term health if they express it rather than repress it.

Won’t they get bullied?

I don’t know any parent who would disagree that bullying is part of a larger, unrelated problem. Bullies will target anyone different to them, whether that difference is visible or not, but we have to remember that we’re talking about primary school children here. Children are far less prejudiced at that age and look to their elders for guidance – that’s where the school’s culture has a lot of influence. If they see another boy turn up to school in a skirt, they may think it’s a bit extraordinary but, if they see no negative reaction from their teacher, it’s likely they will accept it. They will take this acceptance with them.Parental attitude also has a lot of influence too, and it’s important that parents work with the school to ensure any kind of bullying does not go unpunished.

Schools are there to help give our children the fundamental knowledge they’ll need to get on in life. When they grow up and enter the workplace, they will be required to work with others regardless of such arbitrary characteristics; most companies take a zero-tolerance approach to discrimination and harassment, so it helps our children in the long-term if such social skills are instilled in them at an early age (Glosswitch’s article refers to this as “the indoctrination of non-indoctrination”).

The Bathroom Debate: A British Perspective

Previously, I briefly mentioned my views on the whole ‘bathroom’ debate, so I’m going to go into a little more detail.

To reiterate what I said before, I can understand why women would get rather defensive if a man – or someone they believed to be a man – walked into the ladies’ bathroom. It’s obvious there are some serious trust issues and men – or, to be more accurate, patriarchies – are largely to blame for them. A major change of attitude is required, but a sense of perspective is required too.

I have read some comments where some women have, in exceptional circumstances, used the men’s bathroom – usually when a queue has formed outside of the ladies’ bathroom and they just can’t wait any longer. Needless to say, these weren’t “risky” places like pubs or football stadia, so they came out of there completely unscathed. Whether or not there were any men in the room at the time is unclear, but had I been in the room at the time, they’d be perfectly safe – and I’m no special case. Why is that?

I’ve learned from writing some of my recent posts that there are still some pockets of American society that still believes men have power over women, that men have to be the strong, dominant and decisive ones; while women must be submissive and obedient. This is largely absent in British culture. Here, the overwhelming majority of men, whether they call themselves feminists or not, at least know how serious a crime sexual assault is. We wouldn’t wish it upon anybody, least of all our friends and family, and we certainly don’t defend anybody found guilty of it. We have a few “lads” and “players”, but there is a very solid line between promiscuous and predatory behaviour. Victim-blaming rarely goes unchallenged.

Rather than go on my observations and assumptions, I’d like to hear your opinions on this.

Let’s say, for example, we’re in a supermarket and the men’s toilet is closed for repairs. The only toilet available for men is a single disabled toilet, and a large queue has formed outside because the inconsiderate bloke occupying the toilet has taken in a copy of the Daily Mirror. He’s not going anywhere for the next 10 minutes. Under those circumstances, would any women object if any of the following broke away from the queue and went to use the ladies’ room, or would they feel threatened or unsafe? We’ll assume they did the polite thing by knocking first and asking rather than barging in.

  1. A father with an infant child who is in desperate need of the toilet and is screaming the place down
  2. An elderly gentleman with a weak bladder
  3. A man with Cerebral Palsy accompanied by a female relative or carer
  4. A boy aged between 10 and 12
  5. A man wearing motorcycle leathers
  6. A man with a non-threatening appearance

Please feel free to leave your comments or opinions below.

Meet Brother Hyles Part 2: Walk This Way!

Ladies, Gentlemen and everybody in-between… I am proud to present… more from Fundamentalist Christianity’s answer to Trinny and Susannah… PASTOR JACK HYLES!

In the first part, we learned that:

1. Pastor Hyles doesn’t like men with long hair
2. Pastor Hyles doesn’t like women wearing trousers
3. Pastor Hyles thinks that those who do are going to hell

I pick things up at the second part of his sermon, entitled “The Devil is using long hair on men to break down the barrier between the sexes.”

In the first part, I could respond to some of the sections quite seriously but, in the second half of the sermon, he goes way off the chart so what some of my responses lack in length, they make up for in flippancy.


Marshall McLuhan asked theoretically, “In what may seem a ludicrous statement, they are sending a message to all who will listen: ‘We are no longer afraid to display what you may call feminine. We are willing to reveal that we have feelings and weaknesses'”

Yes. We all do. It’s part and parcel of being human. We all have strengths and weaknesses, even Pastor Hyles, but we play to our strengths. I have quite a strong sense of detail and logic, but I don’t have an abundance of confidence and charisma. That’s why I work as an Analyst and not a Sales Rep.

“Well,”” somebody says, “what about Jesus? He had long hair.” You’ve got to be kidding! “Well,” you say, “in all the pictures I’ve seen of Him, He had long hair.” What kind of camera was used to take that picture? Was it a Kodak? You know where we got those pictures? We got them from sissy artist who had long hair. If I drew a picture of Jesus, He would be balding!

Nobody really knows what Jesus looked like. He may have had long hair, he may have been balding, he may have had short hair. We’re in the realms of Schrödinger’s Haircut, where Jesus has every conceivable hairstyle… even a Skullet. Nobody is right, nobody is wrong. Nil points all round.

In Asia, men hold hands. Why? They do it because pagan religion is in Asia.

No, they do so because it’s how their culture expresses friendliness – just because it translates into something else in America does not change its original context. Also, congratulations on potentially offending almost half a billion people. Have you met Boris Johnson, by any chance?

In Russia, men kiss each other on the mouth! Boy! I’d go to the electric chair first!

Again, culture. That’s another 70 million people potentially offended. I’d recommend you stay out of Russia but, given that this is 1972, you probably weren’t planning a visit.

EDIT: Hyles’ ultimate fear:

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I was watching a basketball game the other day. The announcer came on, and he was a doll! You men who cover up you ears with your hair, you’re pitiful! It just curls around so only your beautician knows! Ladies, if your boy doesn’t want to show his ears, cut them off!

So, by that logic, if the boy doesn’t want to show his doodle, that should be cut off too? Wouldn’t that make him even more of a woman? Come on, Hyles – show some consistency man!

You high school girls ought to go home tonight, take every pair of slacks you own, and destroy them. A lot of them would if you mothers would keep you noses out of their business in that respect.

Being a bit paternalistic, aren’t we? I think someone’s taking a bit too much interest in the teenage girls’ wardrobes.

Let me tell you one reason why I’m against a female wearing slacks. A female in slacks can sit like a man with one leg up on the other knee, and they do it. No female ought to sit like that!

Show me the passage in the Bible that explicitly tells women how to sit.

Go on.

There isn’t one, is there?

Thought so.

Do you know what? We ought to have more girls at this meeting on Thursday night to learn how to be gracious and feminine than we have at any other activity in this church, apart from soul winning. You mothers ought to insist that your daughters get up here and let someone teach them how to walk and sit.

In other words, you want girls to come to what is, in effect, an obedience school. You’re equating teenage girls with unruly dogs – you know that, right?

I go to Hammond Baptist High School sometimes an, even though the skirts are long enough, you can see as much when the girl sits down as you can see when a girl is wearing a miniskirt. Why? They have not been taught how to sit.

How about we teach Pastors not to look up girls’ skirts when they sit down?! No wonder rape culture is still an issue.

In this class, on Thursday nights, they have the girls bring an encyclopaedia. Do you think they study that encyclopaedia? No. They put it on their heads and the girls learn to walk like girls. (Any boy who can take three steps without dropping is not right with God!) A girl ought to know how to walk like a girl. Girls are not “one of the guys.” Don’t walk like one!

Girls are also not robots, yet it sounds like you’re training them to be one.

Walk this way! Talk this way! Hey… there’s a hit song in there somewhere…

Bugger, Aerosmith beat me to it.

(EDIT: I can access the whole of Wikipedia on my phone. With my phone on top of my head, I was able to take more than 3 steps before it fell off. So does that mean I walk like a girl? To be honest, I couldn’t give a rats arse if it does.)

You say, “Brother Hyles, I’ll just pack up and go some place where a preacher doesn’t preach like this.” Well, good! It will keep us from borrowing two and three quarters of a million dollars. You can do it, but you know that the unisex crowd is pleased with your trousers. It’s time we had an old-fashioned altar call about women wearing britches, just like we do about drinking and smoking and gambling and everything else.

And you’ll be preaching to an old-fashioned congregation that, in time, will dwindle into nothing. If the Great Commission calls on you to spread the Gospel to all corners of the earth, why are you so intent on pushing people away from it?

While I’m at it, let me just pay my respects to the women’s liberation movement. I think everyone in it is right.

Wait. WHAT?!

They’re not women; they ought to be liberated! I think they’re right; they’re not Miss or Mister or Mrs. They’re just Ms.!

Oh, you were demeaning women again. This is becoming a recurring thing.

Then you fellows, for Pete’s sake, or Harry’s sake, or anybody’s sake, don’t walk like a girl- swinging your hips and being prissy as you walk! If I walked like that, I would go down to some Texas ranch and ride the wildest Brahma bull they had. You say, “I might get thrown off!” That’s exactly what I had in mind! You say, “He might stick his horns right through my gizzard!” You’ve got my second idea too, but at least I would come back a man! I would rather my boy have a bull’s horn through his gizzard and bury him tomorrow than for him to priss across the platform like Miss America.

I could hear through the channels of history the collective relief of all the women in the congregation as he lays into the men for once.

So, basically, what you’re saying is that in order to be a REAL MAN, you have to be BRAVE… and that bravery should come in the form of RECKLESS STUPIDITY. Tell me this, if America needs REAL MEN, then why are you trying to get them to come within an inch of killing themselves just to prove that they are?!

I’m teaching grown men how to walk. I’m teaching them that a man doesn’t lean back when he walks; a man bounces when he walks and walks like he’s going somewhere. I wouldn’t have to teach them if you moms and dads would teach them when they were kids. Cut their hair! Take the make-up off of their faces! Take your dresses off their bodies! Put some blue jeans on them! Let them get in a fight every once in a while! Make boys out of them, and I won’t have to try to correct them when they grow up!

If he seriously wants men to be strong, brave, decisive and dominant – what’s he going to do when someone squares up to him, decides he’s having no more of this crap and tells Brother Hyles EXACTLY where he can stick his walking lessons!


To be honest, I’m glad I’m now at the end of that sermon. That was gruelling! Obviously, I never knew Pastor Hyles, but based on this one sermon, I don’t think I’d want to.

It sounds like he has absolutely no respect for other people, as if he seriously wants to put hard limits on their individual expression so they conduct themselves the way he wants them to – if this was any random person in the street, they’d be brushed aside or dismissed, so he claims God’s authority for himself and uses the threat of damnation to scare his congregation into conformity. Well, the less critically-thinking ones at least. The man sounds like an absolute control freak! He told the women they were behaving like men, the men they were behaving like women and the parents that they weren’t doing a good enough job – pardon my French, but I’d have stood up and told him to mind his own business and go raise his own fucking kids!

It’s worth noting that, throughout the whole sermon, Jesus was only mentioned 5 times. Four of those times were when he was slating the “sissy, long-haired, effeminate, homosexual” artists who painted pictures of Jesus with long hair. That leads me to believe that his sermon was based more on his political beliefs than his spiritual beliefs. The Jesus I read about several years ago was far more concerned about people’s hearts than their clothes.

I’d even go as far as saying he’s afraid. Very afraid. What of, I can’t be too sure. It’s a bit concerning that he spent a portion of the second part sticking his nose into girls’ wardrobes and looking up their skirts to see if they’re “sitting correctly”. And why is he so afraid of men showing even the slightest bit of effeminacy? My guess is that he’s no different from any other ultra-conservative: keep the nuclear family sacrosanct so that more people get married and have children. There’s a 50/50 chance they’ll have a boy and, if they do, buy him some toy soldiers and teach him how to be strong and tough. Got to replenish the army somehow, haven’t we? Especially as, at the time, the US had sacrificed so many families’ sons in Vietnam.

I’m sorry, but just don’t get the “fundamentalist” way of thinking. From this angle, it looks comparable to a factory farm where people are caged, confined and fed a special diet so that they emerge with the most desirable attributes. But like a battery hen, there is no chance at a full life – you’re bound by what is and isn’t written in a centuries-old collection of books because the fear of eternal torment prevents you from taking a gamble on a less-literal interpretation. When I studied the Bible, I always saw the Old Testament as the historical context for the “life manual” of the Gospels. I cannot say with any certainty that Jesus existed and the records in the Gospels are historically accurate, but even if that Jesus exists only on paper, the teachings of that literary Jesus are still highly significant and relevant today. If there is a god (again, I’m uncertain yet open-minded) and Jesus is wholly representative of that god, it gives life a much fuller purpose than the god described by Pastor Hyles.

One thing I am certain though: whether or not a Heaven is waiting for us after death, there’s absolutely no reason why we can’t create one while we’re still alive.