Burn Out

So it’s been 10 months since I have written anything. My last piece of writing was my last assignment for my Creative Writing course at university and it has been a total of 19 months since I’ve uploaded to this blog, back in 2017. I only say this because over that time I had become increasingly despondent to the idea of being creative. I wish I could say it was because I was off doing crazy things that took me away from it. But in truth I can’t. I wasn’t having a adventure somewhere with no internet access (like that’s even a thing nowadays). No, I was sat in my bedroom for that entire length of time wasting away playing video games, baring some unique events like a friend’s wedding or birthday.

The idea of writing quite honestly sickened me. Spending time, maybe just a hour to two out of one of those days, to type down my thoughts, not even checking spelling or grammar, bored me. Spending four years of my life earning my 2:1 Creative Writing degree should have given me some sense of accomplishment, given me the energy and motivation to continue writing, but to be frank I was only left with overwhelming sense of apathy and anhedonia. Imagine that, four years of my life, thousands of pound in debt, only to feel a colossal “meh, whatever” at the end of it all. I had suffered burn out. The fact that couldn’t even bring myself to attend my graduation is further evidence of of my feelings at the time, despite any other bullshit reason I gave as an excuse. It felt like attending the ceremony would cement the decision taken all those years ago and I just couldn’t though with it.

And I’m not gonna lie, when I saw this memory pop on Facebook today I was partially filled with regret. A regret that has been increasingly persistent over the past couple of years. When I was first deciding what degree to take Drama popped into my head because I already had this burning desire to pursue a career in acting/comedy. But at the time my anxiety was overwhelming I thought I couldn’t do it. So I settled for the next best thing I could think of; Creative Writing. I still have the ambition to write but it’s not nearly as strong. So if I couldn’t perform then I could at least learn to write better and tell the kind of stories I wanted to.
 
Joining the Comedy Society at University gave me the opportunity to perform on stage and it was so addictive. It was so liberating being on stage because, in those brief moments, my anxiety/depression disappeared. However, over the past 9 months since graduation my depression worsened. I was self-destructing though self-harming and taking drugs. I have thankfully recently sought medical help and I am back on anti-depressants. Since then my desire to perform has returned and now at the end if the month I start a paid 10 week course in Swindon for improv/acting.
 
I guess the main reason I’m sharing this is because I’m so grateful to everyone I met over the past 5 years who gave me the confidence to be myself and learn to go for the things that I whole heartily believe will make me happy. I don’t know or even care how far I will go but this is something I have to do. My depression and anxiety have crippled me in the past, but I refuse to let them get the better of me any more. Now that I have this intensity within me, it feels like my nerves are on fire, and I’m not going to waste the rest of my life being afraid of taking risks.

 

An Aphantasiac Writer’s Dream Journal – 1

So through out most of my life I was blissfully unaware that people genuinely not only had dreams with images and colour but a conscious ability to imagine with images as well. I always struggled to understand how people can just imagine stuff so easily, like it was second nature to them, and was something that I always attempted to do but with no clear result. I was completely ignorant to the fact that this was even the norm. But when I was 29, I found an article online that describes this same exact phenomenon that I had; the complete lack of the ability to imagine with any visual imagery. After becoming obsessed over the past couple of years, trying to alter my situation, I have been attempting to ‘train’ my mind to finally see something in my dreams and for the first time, on the 30th of May 2017, I finally did. Now again, this morning, as of the 1st of August 2017, I had a second series of dreams more vivid than the previous installment but more varied. I’m going to keep this journal in the hope that it can help others one day understand what ‘Aphantasia’ is, or at least help myself focus on developing my dreams and imagination.

Just to clarify, I have never really considered this a hindrance before but as someone who loves writing fiction and sci-fi, I now feel somewhat at a disadvantage, and possibly the reason why I struggled with writing in the first place. In retrospect, the only form of imagination I have ever had consistent access to is a tactile one. I can imagine the feel of bristles on a brush, as if holding it in my hand; I can hold an imaginary ball of clay, or some other malleable substance, and style it into another object. I can’t see what it is inside my head but I know what it was and has become. I can feel myself around imaginary rooms, feel the furniture, what they are made of; all except for the visual shape, texture and colour. This is effectively how I have manage to write stories in the past, that and from the knowledge and memory of what real world objects look and feel like. Creating a story required mentally moulding everything from characters to settings, for each and every sentence at a time. The only thing I can liken this too is imagining how a blind person is capable of moving about their environment or knowing what they are holding. I also lack any audible imagination too, which exception to that inner voice—not the crazy kind mind you, the thinking to oneself kind (I at least hope they aren’t the same thing).

For the most part my dreams consist of nothing visually but black static but I have still have dreams nonetheless. I have had dreams about aliens, zombies, video games, sex and being in relationships, (all with the emotions that are generated with them) but mainly the majority of which are me as some form of super hero or, if I was upset or angry when going to bed, a villain wreaking havoc against those who wronged me. I can’t ‘see’ what’s going on but I still ‘know’ what’s happening. If there are any shapes or colours they are vague and blotchy at best, much like a fuzzy psychologist inkblot test but in inverted black and white. I have had vague images before, rarely, but these last less than a mere second, as if the act of me focusing or thinking on them causes them to dissipate. Saying this has become frustrating, certainly as a writer, is an understatement.

The first dream I had that was in vividly in colour was this year, May 30th 2017; so noticeable an occurrence this was that I remember the exact date. It started off with me on a beach, with the shoreline far, far out in the distance, and a setting sun. The sand was a beautiful rainbow of colours, that every grain of sand a different spec of the colour spectrum. Then I saw a large white wooden clad building on the beach, only to discover it was some huge shower room (which would make sense, as you’d probably want to shower and change after being on the beach) but what didn’t make sense was this huge art deco design of black vertical and horizontal lines on one of the walls, criss crossing each other, and the squares created in between were filled in with either blue or yellow. But this is where it turned weird. Leaving the building through a white wooden panel door (which wasn’t there in the first place as I entered), I continued through a series of similar doors, one after another, starting to panic because I couldn’t escape. Then I did but not back out onto the beach but into a bedroom. It consisted mainly of white decorations, toys, and white furniture; including a white vanity desk. And again, on the white bedsheet, the exact same pattern as before; black vertical and horizontal lines, with the squares in between blue or yellow. The next part consisted of me proceeding towards the window from which I could see out into a field of snow, surrounded by a white picket border fence, and in the distance dark grey mountains. Then, out in the distant field, a pure red light erupted from the ground and a golem of rock and lava climbed out of rubble and proceeded towards me and the room I was in. When it finally reached me outside the window the dream ended.

The second series of rapidly changing dreams, today as of 1st August 2017, were hard to make out but mainly consisted of varying landscapes, one even in the style of Minecraft blocks. Another where I was being instructed by someone to perform ballet or a dance move, but couldn’t due to my physique, and next to me lying in my bed. At this point I was fully aware that I was in this twilight of being awake and dreaming at the same time. Wanting to awaken myself and move but couldn’t, and reached out calling for help in a weak voice, and panicking. I only awoke properly due to my alarm going off and the minor pump of adrenaline giving me that nudge.

After all these years of never having dreams to having a few in such a short time span has been a weird but thrilling experience. These couple of times I have had dreams with vivid imagery, I can consciously feel myself mentally being pulled into one and they have only ever occurred when I have slept for some hours, awoken to use the bathroom and since gone back to sleep. As if my dreams only arrive in reverse to my sleeping pattern. I truly hope they continue, as I keep focusing on having them and develop techniques for myself to do so. Only staring at the black static behind my eyelids before inevitably losing consciousness has always been so tediously dull and now having dreams has become addictive pursuit. I still can’t imagine shapes or colours while conscious yet, and I doubt I ever will. It hasn’t stopped me living my life so far. I hope now that striving for mental imagery isn’t going to become some kind of white whale in my life, at least with sleeping anyway.

Laura Steel © 2017

That ‘Boy Meets Girl’ Show

On the 3rd of September 2015, the BBC marked a turning point in British television with it’s new romantic comedy ‘Boy Meets Girl’, which finally aired after it’s successful pilot earlier in the year. While many may be aware that there have been other shows with transgender characters, none of them have really been centralised around, to the point of being the main protagonist in their own story. Additionally, if there were transgender characters they usually never seen more than a one-off episode. (With notable exceptions like: Orange is the New Black with Laverne Cox and Transparent with Jeffrey Tambor, for example) One that leaves the main character, in a awkward social situation to deal with and one they are left to decide how to confront. Transgender characters were left to become the butt of the joke; and a rather often misguided and out of ignorance, joke at that. One that many may deem comical for a few chuckles but without having any real sense of humour and certainly without realising what the fall out would be, especially with regards to transpeople who may watch it.

When I first heard of the Boy Meets Girl show, I had no real interest in watching it, romcoms just are not my thing; preferring stand-up and sketch shows instead. Indeed had it not been from a request by someone else for a radio show (which I’ll mention later) I really don’t think that I would have watched the show at all. I don’t have much desire to watch anything trans related but not because they don’t have anything to offer but I just don’t get anything from them and are therefore not particularly capable of holding an interest for me even as a transwoman; I know that might seem a tad ironic, even though some may be informational or factual. Its just that I know enough to be sure and more importantly happy with who I am. If they are documentaries about celebrities who have transitioned even less so; there’s something of a freak show peculiarity to them, like they are attempting to film and document a rare species of life which have finally been discovered, or rediscovered if you will. Trying to understand from a naive objectivity and not always putting the proper context of the person’s circumstances and life into perspective.

So naturally watching Boy Meets Girl, I couldn’t help do so with a trace of scepticism. Thankfully I did, as I can honestly say that it left me quite positively buzzing and heart warmed. Even if the show had it’s awkward moments and a somewhat contrived ending line: “I think she is the One!” But then its not that hard to expect from a romantic comedy and one that is actually making many attempts at promoting a positive blossoming relationship. However, while there is humour in Boy Meets Girl, at least from what I have seen in this first episode, it wasn’t laugh out loud funny for me. The funny moments that were there had been built up from elements of truth, of which I’m sure many, transgender or otherwise, could identify with. It also meant that for the first time, in a show including a transgender character I could feel myself wearing a wide smile and not rolling my eyes back into their sockets, literally in some instances, as is usually the case with any show that features transgender or transsexual characters.

While positive and humorous as it was, it unfortunately, does not fully portray the variety of lives that transpeople experience, whether they be good or bad. Indeed there were moments were Judy’s mother and sister go on about her ‘crazy psychiatrist’ and a sleuth of ex-boyfriends that have mistreated her in the past, in reality many transpeople are cast out, beaten and sometimes killed, simply because they are attempting to embrace who they are. My hope is that the story line does progress and help portray this, with as much accuracy as possible without subtracting from the story and humour and it doesn’t simply gloss over the many problems that many more transpeople suffer on a day to day basis. Then again this is meant to be a light hearted romcom, so perhaps expecting more from the a short six episode series could be left as an exception, one in place of just having a for once a simple story line about a transperson who isn’t the punchline to a bad quip about not having been born with the right equipment; even though this was in fact used quite bluntly in the first few minutes, it was used to get it out the way rather than using it as a cheap plot twist. Furthermore, while I was smiling and cringing slightly, I also could feel that minor pang of that inescapable uncomfortable sensation, when Judy was describing what it feels like to be “in a prison without a release date”. Something I’m sure many transpeople would identify as feeling and of whom suffer with the occasional bout of Gender Dysphoria. In this example of emotional revelation from the character, it further highlights how beneficial it can be to having a transgender actor(ess) perform as the character, due to the level of empathy they themselves do possess and bring to the role.

While I hope not to judge an entire show based on the merits of one episode even though it has already been marked as an important step in terms of television. I do wonder if this show will last and not be simple written off as a fad. Unfortunate as it is, transpeople alone won’t be able to carry the show into more series, assuming that they like it too and will undoubtedly require as many non-transpeople enjoying the show as well due to them making up the majority of the vast viewing public. This is why it will be all the more important that the image and the social acceptance of transpeople is developed as much as possible. I hope that this will also provide some momentum for general acceptance for not just transpeople but everyone, to show that transpeople are still fundamentally very human. That we are just trying to live our lives as normally as possible, just as anybody else would.

So the next day after it had aired, I had the rare opportunity to talk about the show on BBC Wiltshire, with my friend and TransSwindon’s front man Jeremy. It was for me personally one of the most nervous thing’s I have had to do, excluding of course the whole ‘coming out’ business in my own story. But despite that, it did feel great to be able to share my views on something that will, underneath it all, affect my life. The public perception of transpeople will need to continuously improve should we all collectively, both transgender and non-transgender, want a better society. The opportunity to talk on the radio as a member of TransSwindon shows that the opportunity for transpeople to give their opinions are being far more respected than they once were and that the combined efforts of TransSwindon admin team, including it’s growing members, is clearly working to give transpeople that much needed voice. Hopefully it is evident that we are now, as a community, slowly but surely being given the chance to make the most of our lives from opportunities that we have been seeking for so many years.


Laura Steel 2015 ©

The Impact of the Internet on my Life as a Transgender Person: Blogging and Creative Writing

Ever since the start of my transition there has always been one resource that I have always found myself relying upon time and time again, more than anything else that has been available, the Internet. Not a day goes by that I rarely have access to the web or even forego using it, unless I am otherwise engaged—although mobile devices can still keep the bridge the gap on the go, if you have the finance. As an established global entity, the Internet has been by far the best tool I use to assist myself in the various activities of my life, of which includes: shopping, gaming and the ability to socialise between family and friends. This wondrous digitised realm has become like a second home to me, with the almost infinite amount of websites available to browse from turning into an entirely whole new world to explore. To be cut off from this world, for even a brief moment, brings about a strong sense of withdrawal—one which that can be rather uncomfortable to bare at times.

Before I finally sought medical intervention for my gender dysphoria I had spent many hours searching for the causes of the severe anxiety I found myself with. I had an inclination for many years, since my early pre-adolescent years in fact. But this feeling wasn’t something I tried to confront fully because of the fear of being rejected by my family, should I reveal who I really was. I desperately searched for some form of officiated information that would allow me to understand the reason why I felt the way I did and what I could do to alleviate myself from it. My hope was that somewhere online there was the knowledge I so desperately sought after. So I used the Internet to search through online encyclopaedias and other websites, with their hordes of medical knowledge on gender dysphoria, transgender people and the process of transitioning—which I hoped were all accurate and reliable enough to inform my enough to better my understanding— and I would take to browsing every last link I could find on these subjects. While none of the contents on these websites have truly answered all my questions, with regards to discovering who I am as a person, they undeniably had given me a good base point in which to start my journey of self discovery. My absolute certainty of who I am was only achieved through prolonged and deep introspection. All of the information these websites have provided me with, however intentional, has been to an such an immense degree that I feel I will never be able to repay the help provided by their existence. They have not only given me such a better sense of who I am today but have allowed me to define myself much further as a person, regardless of my ‘trans’ identity.

One of the sub-sections that just happen to inhabit this digitised realm is the websites dedicated to blogging. When I first heard about these blogging sites, young and naive as I was to the use of the Internet, I did not care for their existence and I was rather unimpressed with the few I had inadvertently stumbled upon. I only really saw them as way for people to just be egotistical, boarder line narcissistic over, and who were only trying to fill a psychological need that wasn’t being met in their real lives; away from the computer screen. My perspective was that these individuals were only using their blogging sites as somewhere to just dump boring unintelligible information about themselves, in a vague attempt to justify their own existence. This was all in a narrow minded view that was previously only held before I had “come out” or even come to terms with who I was, and a view that I thankfully no longer hold.

However, having access to the blogs of transgenders, who have shared their own experiences, back in what was a time of immense depression and self-destructive hate for me, would truly become invaluable. I continually searched for any account of transgender individual’s experiences online because at the time I couldn’t even bring myself to talk about it to those I loved. Being that depressed had the unfortunate side effect of causing me to become so distant from my family that it took several years to tell them the truth. The increased desperation of trying to understand why I felt the way I did would further drive me to search for anything else there was to know about what being transgender means, into the processes of transitioning and even into the some of the surgeries; which involved the viewing of graphic photos and videos of them being performed. I especially looked for the written experiences by other transgenders believing that their first hand knowledge would be much more useful for me because it’s not as if any of it is taught in schools or freely handed out on pamphlets as you walk down the high street. While I have fully accepted and embraced who I am now, as have my family and friends thankfully, possessing the knowledge that I wasn’t alone in what I was going through was something I had taken an immense comfort from and I still do. I know the conclusion I have come to, of who I am as a person and who I am today, was aided by other transgender individuals and the experiences they had bravely shared on their blogs.

Overtime I started to understand that there was a clear difference between the different types of blogs and the contents they housed. As I grew older—and hopefully a little wiser—I slowly started to appreciate the impact they can have on their readers, which I know at the very least is true with regards to myself. I eventually learned that many of these people weren’t blogging because they were being self-obsessed or sought the attention of others for the sake of it but rather were people who, just like myself, wanted be seen, accepted and loved. To have a means to express themselves truly without any restriction and in a manner that is sure to be on some level therapeutic for them, which is something I have since found for myself after I creating my own. My hope was that when I had created my own blog it would afford me the same opportunity to express myself not just as a person but as a transgender too, which is something I can safely say for certain that it has. I feel like I no longer have to accept being cast into the shadows and left wallowing in self-pity, doomed to live a life of fear and repression, simply because of who I am but can start to express and embrace my life as an individual, let alone because I am transgender. As an added result I have found that I can not only express myself freely in this online realm but subsequently in the offline world too, which is something I am continually enjoying doing so. This was all because I had the luxury and privileged access to the Internet; access to which I no longer take for granted, as I once did.

It is for this reason I believe I have come to learn, love and embrace the creative aspect towards writing. One of my pass times since transitioning has come in the form of reading the creative works written by other people, in particular those written by fellow transgenders. Analysing their apparent structure and form of prose, such as: poems, flash fiction or short stories, and on their even deeper meaning. The best way I have been able to approach this has yet again been through having access to the blogs of other individual writers, via the Internet. Blogs and other forums such as social media sites on the web can give the opportunity for transgender writers to not only share links to their creative writings to be read and enjoyed. Geared up correctly and in the right way they can allow for comments and criticisms, that allow others, regardless of how they choose to define themselves, a means to improve their skills of writing, with help of their fellow transgender piers and from other members of community groups. This is also because just about any one, assuming they have Internet access, can find the required information on them, with the simple aid of a search engine or because of a social media site or two. The very fact that this essay has been written is evidence of this; as I would not have been aware of the opportunity to do so if I did not have access to the Internet or the dear friend who kindly shared the link for it across one of these sites to begin with.

An additional beneficial aspect of being able to post online is due to the fact that what ever has been written is left up to the pure discretion of the individuals who have written them. There are rarely any other intermediary people who could perhaps edit, abuse or otherwise get in the way of anything creatively written by anyone, least of all those written by transgenders. Transgenders who wish to take up the art of writing are freely able to express themselves, with the only limit being their own imagination and the confidence to post them. This can be accomplished even if they consciously choose or have to rely upon the use of a pseudonym or using an anonymous name coupled with an avatar of any suitable digital image. Even I have found it relatively easy to set up a website, despite not being an expert; from information that was once again obtained within the vastness of the Internet. The ease and quickness for additional entries into a website’s expandable content can all be done for a rather minor cost per month or even for free if your limited in budget and don’t mind the annoyance of the odd advertisement. Being able to have such an affordable forum, that little digitised haven to call my own, in which I can upload my own work or to do with as I please, is truly liberating. It imparts a strong sense of freedom and is something that would have to have it be prized from my cold dead fingers before I would ever choose to give it up willingly.

After all, to me creative writing is more than just a fancy collection of words, bound together to just paint a picture with vocabulary or project the imagery of fantastic characters, setting and theme; all presented in one of the various forms of prose, such as a short but potent poem or a rather long drawn out story. It has the ability to affect the senses of the readers and gives the ability to develop ideas from within the subtlety of the text regardless how it appears in a book, on a computer monitor or on the TV screen; just as long as it leaves that lasting impression on the mind of the reader. Whether it is about a transperson’s dramatic journey of self-discovery or an epic fantasy about a foxy heroine, who just happens to be transgender, brandishing her swords as she bravely fights off a ravenous monster. Creative writing may hopefully even go further towards inspiring people to reflect upon aspects of their lives and help further shape who they are and will become. I can only hope it will increase the amount of transgender literature, written by and for transpeople, as this can only work to increase our exposure in a broader and ideally better understanding. The Internet is an exceptional platform for self-expression and is capable of capturing a wide array of audiences, regardless of how they choose to define themselves.

Ultimately, the Internet’s existence continues to dominate my life, as well as the lives of others; either at home or on the move. Despite any of the negativity that it has been associated with the Internet, I know it has changed my life for the better, as I hope it has the same effect on others. Whether it’s socialising between family and friends, learning and researching new ideas, as one ploughs though website after website of information, or expressing one’s self via a blog or forum, with each and every upload. I know with out exaggerating that I would be fully amiss without the Internet, which is something I believe a lot of other people may be too even if they may not be fully aware of it themselves. Not just as a person trying to live my day to day life but especially because I am a transgender person with the freedom to express it; something which is achieved in the way I choose. So great is the power and liberation that the Internet can have.


Laura Steel © 2016

Are you a Humanist?

humanistwhiteblacklogo2

Are you a Humanist? Because according to the British Humanist Association I am. In accordance to their online quiz[3] my result was an astounding 96%, so I can only assume this must be true. While I feel that the test somehow actually trivializes the definition of what it truly means to be a Humanist, I would like to think it is a good indictator. However, how can any belief in a philosophy be summed up in a short 10 question quiz? It must surely be a good indication if it comes from an official source though. My understanding is that the B.H.A is such a source. It’s Registered Charity No: 285987.

Humanists. (etx)
“Think for themselves about what is right and wrong, based on reason and respect for others.

Find meaning, beauty and joy in the one life we have, without the need for an afterlife.
Look to science instead of religion as the best way to discover and understand the world.
Believe people can use empathy and compassion to make the world a better place for everyone.”
British Humanist Association (2014)[2]

I have considered myself a Humanist years prior to taking this test, having previously researched some of the various philosophies and their values, if only to quell a bored mind at the time that and during my initial start to my transition as a Trans-women I looked out for answers to help explain who I truly was. It wasn’t something I actively sought out to prove to others either, as quite frankly I know I’m a good person I don’t feel the need to justify it or my existence to others (if you exclude this post of course). I took the test knowing full well what the core Humanist values were already. I just happened upon this quiz idly looking for something to write about while the same time wanting to further reinforce why I had always felt this way about my life.

Furthermore, I have never required the label to be put upon myself formally, its not like its mandatory to do so, it’s not a requirement on an application form that would have prevented me from doing something I wanted. Also I’ve never really needed it to be happy and I would have just continued to live my life with the same values a Humanist would have done so without it. However thanks to the definition provided initially by Wikipedia (Yes I know, hence no reference) and more importantly from other sources, including the B.H.A. I can firmly (and proudly) tag myself with such a label. Saying I am a Humanist doesn’t nor will it ever change the way I live my life but in doing so is a nice reminder of how much I believe to have grown myself as a person, to prove to others that I have learned to accept and respect others despite their differences. To emphasize my ability to feel compassion towards others regardless of any immediate emotional connection.

Humanism and its aspirations. (etx)
“Humanism is a progressive philosophy of life that, without supernaturalism, affirms our ability and responsibility to lead ethical lives of personal fulfillment that aspire to the greater good of humanity.”

American Humanist Association (2003)[1]

I am however not trying to imply that anyone who reads this can’t be a good person because they have never called themselves or will ever call themselves a Humanist, it is to me just an attributed title that fits to my own understanding of myself and my environment.

Although I will admit there is a level of comfort ascribed to tagging oneself “as” something – as for me Humanist does. It becomes a small, albeit sweet moment in your life’s journey when you finally figure out a piece of yourself and can say “yes that’s exactly who I am!” – or at least a part there of. It’s like the universe has reveal a secret for the very first time and the discovery of an untold wondrous secret fills you with an euphoric wave that blankets your soul. I’m left wondering if this the same feeling others have when they “find” a God or a faith/religion that speaks to them in the same way. I have no idea, nor do I suspect I ever will.

Additionally, since I have always considered myself previously; a born and raised atheist, and in later years an agnostic. I don’t have any real comparison of this feeling. Having held no belief in a deity of any kind – due in part to the lack of evidence to support either side of the argument (hence the change from atheist to agnosticism), I cannot attribute the sensation of having a faith, to that of being a Humanist. While having a faith or belief in a deity is sensation or mentality I some thing believe I never will acquire, I don’t feel I am missing out. I’ve never needed a god to be happy or be a “good person”. Why would I start now?

While I have looked at other philosophies, Humanism seems to have a major claim as to who I am, but it is by no means the end. I have looked at a similar branching philosophies such as; Personism[4][6], Religious Humanism[7], and Secular Humanism[5], – branching beliefs of Humanism that transcends species or the traditional views on life. I do believe in some of the principles such as artificial life and aliens enjoying the same rights we would want for ourselves (assuming they themselves have the same mentality and eagerness to respect life regardless of it’s origins) and ensuring that any state government and most if not all aspects of everyday life are free from any religious influence. Not that I would either condemn anyone or their right to believe in a faith or follow a peace based religion. I just don’t like the thought that religion influences my life, as much as it currently has done so already, or will do.

About Religious Humanism. (etx)
“We embrace the best aspects of religious congregations while rejecting all supernatural agencies and the traditional, hierarchical, dogmatic and creedal religions.”

UU Humanist Association (2014)[7]

The question is can we pick and chose how we apply something like Humanism? The pain full answer is yes – and with it makes the Humanist ideal a double edged sword, the immediate example of Personism is, what is the cut off point we apply this too? Who gets to decide what does and doesn’t deserve the same level of equality as us mere humans? I would love to see our planet one day filled with aliens and artificial intelligence of like minded individuals. People given the same rights as everyone else despite their origins or attributes, much like a world featured in the popular cartoon series – Futurama. Or a more utopian version such as the one in the more scientifically based fictional series – Star-trek.

Personism. (etx)
“Personism states that being human does not give one exclusive claim to moral rights.”

“Personism is an ethical philosophy of personhood as typified by the thought of the preference utilitarian philosopher Peter Singer”
A Wikipedia entry.
[5]

(I am aware that Wikipedia isn’t the best site to quote from but this post isn’t being assessed formally – hence again no reference.)

Taking Humanism Beyond Speciesism. (etx)
“Why should we ground values in the welfare of human beings rather than in the welfare of all beings capable of having a welfare at all?”

Peter Singer (2004)[6]

The reason is not because I think a world filled with aliens and A.I based androids would be cool (even though I think it would), or for any other frivolous reason, but because it would show that we as humans have transcended the segregation that exists pretty much everywhere. For example; I find the thought of a AI/artificial based slave abhorrent, just I do with a human slave. The notion that humans are the only species of intelligent-sapient life in the universe to me is also ridiculous and dangerously arrogant.

That Human based racism/speciesism/ageism/sexism/add-something-else-with-ism or discrimination against others because of [Insert backwards reason here.], like that towards those of the LBGTQAI community for example and of which I am a twice member of: Are concepts that should only found in old text books highlighting how awful we have been towards each other.

I will concede that there isn’t any concrete evidence as yet to support the idea of alien life thus far, but considering we already exist among the billions of stars and planets in our one galaxy. Odds are we aren’t alone and aliens just have the better sense to leave “us” alone until we grow beyond our current mentality.

Secular Humanism Defined. (etx)
“As a secular lifestance, secular humanism incorporates the Enlightenment principle of individualism, which celebrates emancipating the individual from traditional controls by family, church, and state, increasingly empowering each of us to set the terms of his or her own life.”

Council for Secular Humanism (2014)[4]

Also, why is it that because of this quiz on the B.H.A website do I feel a little dis-concerned? 4% may not seem like much to a lot of people, but it holds a level of doubt over me that I can’t help shake. What was the question I answered that has robbed me from being 100% Humanist? Is there a small part of me that questions the philosophy? It is not like I can just go back and work out from the many permutations that question has blocked me from doing so…well I could but it would take too long and would ultimately prove pointless. It would also cheapen the initial result and yes 96% was my initial result. I would have to go through each question assuming I know each correct answer, and selectively chose the “right answer” just to make up that remaining percentage. Anyway, its not as if there are strict guidelines to being a Humanist (hence the many branches there of) and being one or two questions out doesn’t mean I am anything less than the attributed name…I hope – I can always call myself a Humanist despite this percentile minority.

Below are the website’s quiz’s questions (In bold) and my answers. Ones I picked the first time round which resulted in the 96%. Which combination has left this 4% deficit I will have to let go unanswered. If I am to believe that the initial result is a true representation of my “level” of humanistic ideals, then it will have to do. Assuming of course you exclude the lack of rigorous scientific processes used to determine the quiz’s outcome. There is a lot of doubt in the many various aspects of my life…why should this be an exception?

Question – My answer.
(Q.1) Does God exist? There is no evidence that any god exists, so I’ll assume that there isn’t one.
(Q.2) When I die… I will live on in people’s memories or because of the work I have done or through my children.
(Q.3) How did the Universe begin? The scientific explanations are the best ones available. No gods were involved.
(Q.4) The theory that life on Earth evolved gradually over billions of years is… True. There is plenty of evidence from fossils, DNA and many other sources showing that this is how it happened.
(Q.5) When I look at a beautiful view I think that… We ought to do everything possible to protect this for future generations.
(Q.6) I can tell right from wrong by… Thinking hard about the probable consequences of actions and their effects on other people.
(Q.7) It’s best to be honest because… People respect you more if you’re trustworthy.
(Q.8) Other people matter and should be treated with respect because… They are people with feelings like mine.
(Q.9) Animals should be treated… With respect because they can suffer too.
(Q.10) The most important thing in life is… To increase the general happiness and welfare of humanity.

Consequently I guess some would say at the end of it I am just being picky…or that an innate level of O.C.D I hold, is screaming at me to go back; “Go back and do it right!” or “It’s not 100%!, It’s not 100%!!, It’s not 100%!!!”.

Besides, It really won’t change anything I do currently and I will live the rest of my life the same as I would have otherwise. It won’t blossom into a grand campaign to persuade others into coming to the same conclusion, even though a part of me wish I would. Nor is it something I can use to force people to into believing in the same principles, because in doing so would automatically snatch that Humanist label away from me, leaving an unhealable scar of intolerance. Even though I really wish everyone respected others despite any differences, imposing the ideology by force really isn’t the way to go. Maybe this is the 4% I fail to comprehend. Perhaps a representative part of me that would, if I was able to – force it upon others.

Either way, respect for others is one of the root principles, even if global acceptance and treatment of others is not going to be witness-able with in my life time, which to me is more than a little depressing. I just hope that every person, regardless of their denomination, may one day find peace among themselves and among others. At the end of it, we live our lives by other’s ideals or by our own, I’ve already made my choice.


Laura Steel © 2014


Bibliography:

[1] American Humanist Asssociation. (2014). Humanist Manifesto III. [Online]. Available at:http://americanhumanist.org/Humanism/Humanist_Manifesto_III
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[2] British Humanist Association. (2014). Are you a humanist?. [Online]. Available at:https://humanism.org.uk/humanism/are-you-a-humanist/.
[Last accessed 26th Sept 2014].
[3] British Humanist Association. (2014). Defining ‘Humanism’. [Online]. Available at:https://humanism.org.uk/humanism/
[Last accessed 26th Sept 2014].
[4] Council for Secular Humanism. (2014). Secular Humanism Defined. [Online]. Available at:https://www.secularhumanism.org/index.php/13
[Last accessed 26th Sept 2014].
[5] Encyclo.co.uk English Encyclopedia. (2014). Personism.[Online]. Available at:http://www.encyclo.co.uk/define/Personism
[Last accessed 26th Sept 2014].
[6] Peter Singer. (2004). Transcending Humanism Beyond Speciesism. [Online]. Available at: http://www.utilitarianism.net/singer/by/200410–.htm
[Last accessed 27th Spet 2014].
[7] UU Humanist Association. (2014). About Religious Humanism. [Online]. Available at:http://huumanists.org/about/religious-humanism
[Last accessed 27h Sept 2014].