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Don’t lie to us about Sense8

Sense8 is a sci-fi drama thriller which is particularly popular in LGBT circles. Indeed, I wouldn’t know about this fantastic two-series Netflix show if it wasn’t for my trans connections.

The reason is obvious; it is directed by the Wachowski sisters, two transwomen, and contains a trans actress and model playing a transwoman, with no shying from the everyday drama of being trans.

She also happens to be in a gay relationship, and she isn’t the only one – there is a gay male relationship too, looking at the problems of being a gay action star icon in a socially conservative country. There is also a pansexual minor character and more than a handful of characters seem happy to swing both ways in some situations, engaging in a couple of eight-way mixed sex telepathic orgies.

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The runaway train and the vegetarian

Recently, the old moral conundrum about the derailed train popped up in conversation. Slipping into a reverie, I only rejoined the conversation when it had segued onto: “Why aren’t you a vegetarian, then?”

The speaker wasn’t vegetarian, but I understood immediately how he had got to that point. The recipient of that question had been one of the people who posits that, given the choice between leaving a train to derail and kill five people, or diverting it to kill only three people, they would choose to divert it.

From there, the conundrum deepens; what if you, personally, had to kill these people face-to-face, by your own hand? Most people who took the numbers approach, i.e., would reroute the train, here change tack and say that they could not do it, if it involved this kind of direct, personal, overtly violent action.

This leads naturally onto the question of vegetarianism because, when asked if they could kill an animal directly, most meat eaters would say they could not or would not.

Even those who claim they could, never actually do, or when faced with the opportunity, turn it down, especially if it involves something more up front and personal than firing a long-range rifle.

I always think that the numbers-is-logic answerers of the conundrum answer too quickly. They say “Of course I would divert the train,” as if that’s all there is to it and the answer is completely obvious.

Those of us who demur probably better understand the implications of this act. To “play God” and directly intervene in the lives of others has a potent effect on your psyche.

It would raise alarming questions about you, if you did not live uneasily with the guilt of taking an active role in killing those three people.

For that is what the reality that numbers-people tend to brush over; you are not merely saving five people instead of three. You are killing three people.

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Let’s stop dubbing things “first world problems”

It’s the kind of phrase where the person who coined it must have felt very smug indeed. What could be more satisfying than knowing your expression, meme or concept has gone viral?

It doesn’t last. I remember reading that the one who came up with the “manic pixie dreamgirl” concept trope was perturbed by its overapplication. And as likely as not, you’ve never heard of that.

Everyone has heard of FWP, to the point where it has its own acronym. You needn’t delve into the murky depths of Urban Dictionary to find it.

It’s not just you and the other whippersnappers. I remember, during my childhood, on tired days my mother would get rather annoyed at all manner of expressions, such as “I’m starving”, saying: “You’re not starving! People in Africa are starving!”

And also in reaction to behaviours, such as the typical childhood activity of leaving and picking at food on the plate: “Children in Africa would be glad to have that food!” It’s enough to make a ten-year-old rather resentful of children of Africa.

Of course it’s true that we, both children and adults who should know better, complain too much about things that don’t matter much, in the grand scheme of things.

But, does it really improve society, or make any difference at all, to set aside so much time to acknowledge it, to dedicate great swathes of the online world to pointing it out?

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Don’t refer to trans people in the past by their old pronouns

Caitlyn Jenner and Laverne Cox will have different experiences of being trans in the public eye. Laverne Cox became well-known after appearing in Orange is the New Black, but did so as a fully fledged woman.

She played a transwoman and was perfectly open about her past – even agreeing for her identical twin brother to play the pre-transition version of her character, a decision which I consider to be nothing less than heroic – but nonetheless appeared identifying as a woman right from the off.

Caitlyn Jenner, on the other hand, had a life in the public eye before she transitioned, which means that she will always be beset with misgendering, as much a force of habit than anything else.

This misgendering is not necessarily in regards to matters of the present; more likely, it relates to her past, where people confusingly switch pronouns or even names, depending on which time of life they are referring to.

Most people are simply confused as to procedure. For those people: You must never refer to a trans person by their old name and pronouns when talking about them in the past, unless it is essential, i.e., you are telling the story of their life. If you accept that without question, you can stop reading right here. If you can’t see why that should be, I will explain it to you.

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‘Convert’ you? You should be so lucky

Recently, I discussed how it felt to be told that I am “not like one of those” vegans. What I didn’t discuss is how the speaker should have felt about their own experience of being prodded into veganism.

A friend of mine recently said that he likes me because, of all the vegans he knows, I am least likely to shove it in his face. As I discussed before, I am ambivalent about this. There is a difference between respecting the beliefs of others and standing by while atrocious things happen, because you don’t want to rock the boat.

But it also occurred to me: shouldn’t he be flattered if I did?

However uncomfortable it may be for he, a meat-eater, to hear my views on his consumption of animal products, the fact is that if I am not true to my strongly held beliefs, I am doing him a disservice and showing him a great disrespect.

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Everyday food jokes disguise the dark side

When I became vegan, there was a certain type of joke I started making less and less. And not the one I expected.

I assumed that I would no longer partake of the casual vegetarian and vegan shaming that ritually goes on.

Because I had, of course, come to know better. I have often wondered how involved I was with it in the first place; it seems so obviously prejudiced, mean-spirited, immature, ignorant, arrogant and downright asinine now, I’d like to think I was never that person.

But what I have noticed is that I make fewer jokes about food dependency. These jokes are incredibly common, to the extent of going unnoticed; they blend into the fabric of everyday life, like the walls and floor.

They usually revolve around eating in preference to activities that eating cannot really replace, such as dates, sex or social activities.

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Tiny penis? You are inferior in ALL WAYS

There are lots of things we could say about Donald Trump. We could say he has orange skin, stupid hair, tiny hands and probably, a tiny dick.

When we talk about how ugly he is, others join in with gusto, more so than when the conversation gets political. It’s filler with subtext.

He’s an individual we don’t like because of what he thinks and does, and as a result we get a savage pleasure out of attacking his appearance.

What is lacking from this process is any consideration of why we do this, or if we should. We may rationalise that he deserves it, for being so unpleasant. Perhaps it’s because we know a cheap shot at someone’s looks often hurts, and we wish to hurt him in exchange for the harm he’s doing.

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