Trans* Humanism

Commemorating IDAHOBIT Day (17 May),
Pansexual and Panromantic Awareness and Visibility Day (24 May),
and Mabo Day (3 June).

Earlier this month, we commemorated the International Day Against Homophobia, Biphobia, Interphobia & Transphobia (IDAHOBIT); last week we also commemorated Pansexual Visibility Day, and this week we commemorate Mabo Day. This blog article, deliberately coming in between all of them (but close enough to those days to remain topical), is designed to acknowledge their fight, while attempting to avoid the tokenism of having only one day per year set aside for each of these important social issues.

And yet I also believe that such days can point to an optimistic and better future.

Just as the fight for LGBT+ rights began as ‘gay liberation’ and evolved and expanded to embrace an ever-growing alphabet of terms and cohorts, IDAHOBIT Day began as IDAHO Day to tackle homophobia, and then expanded its mandate and terms to also include biphobia, transphobia and interphobia. IDAHOBIT Day challenges us to reconcile with an ever-expanding variety of oppressed cohorts of people. Pansexual and Panromantic Awareness and Visibility Day – also undergoing its own expansion of terms – adds to this increased awareness and activism. I find such social evolution to be both exciting and encouraging.

Meanwhile, Mabo Day offers us a perspective on another form of entrenched and institutionalised discrimination, and while it does not directly link to the other days in question, it does offer us an opportunity for intersectionality. People within one marginalised group should surely empathize with those within other marginalised groups. If we wish to confront one form of discrimination and oppression, we should surely confront them all.

Transgressions and Transformations

In a pluralist world, some people – many of them falsely presenting themselves as being feminist, progressive, in leadership, or otherwise enlightened – nevertheless manage to display discriminatory attitudes and behaviours against varied cohorts of people. Today, such bigotry is often displayed against trans women, who are seen as the most vulnerable members of the LGBT+ community. I see cisgender heterosexual white men (or heterosexual women who support patriarchal structures) – who have spent a lifetime promoting their privilege – bleating about protecting women’s sport as an excuse to promote transphobia: in Australia over recent weeks, even our Prime Minister aligned himself with such views – and this may be at least partly why his government was effectively wiped out by voters at the subsequent election.

Trans and gender diverse people have actually been part of their human societies for as long as there have been human societies. Even during the homophobic and transphobic bogan Australian society of the 1960s, I recall as a young child seeing other boys who wore clothing or makeup that transgressed gender binary norms for the era. Later, as a teen in the 1970s, I met my first trans friend, who was accepted unconditionally by my cohort of forward-looking, progressive young adult friends. I see the same acceptance today among younger people who often ‘come out’ as trans at younger ages, and in greater numbers, than they did in previous generations. I celebrate the era to come, despite the problems that older people – bigoted, hateful people – create for these young and free spirits.

Art by janeb13 on Pixabay

It seems tragically ironic that some of the most bigoted people on the planet – those who subscribe to particularly narrow and archaic understandings of sexuality and gender, preach the unconditional love of their favourite deity while practising the opposite. The irony of their situation is self evident when considering that although their proclaimed form of divine love for their neighbour appears to be pansexual (loving all humans regardless of whether they are cisgender, transgender, gender nonbinary, genderfluid, or agender, and straight or LGBT+), their lives are a tragic denial of the concept of pansexual human love.

And in fuller recognition of intersectionality, I acknowledge that indigenous LGBT+ kids remain some of the most marginalised people in our country. Their lives challenge all of us to be better and to care more; to all experience a transformation or transition to be the best authentic humans that we can be.

Trans Humanity

This brings to my mind perhaps the most lateral and optimistic intersection of all: the concept of TransHumanism is a philosophy that advocates the advancement of humans through the application of science and technology. It is another form of trans* that challenges us to evolve and become a better species because it implicitly presumes that we will amass the wisdom to suitably use our new technology.

Whether through ethical advancement such as might be found in our treatment of our trans siblings, or scientific advancement as proposed by TransHumanism, we have the potential to be better. This reveals our fullest intersectionality: that of being most fully, authentically human. I do not fear change and evolution, advancement and expansion of our LGBT alphabet; I find it to be exciting and I fully embrace it.

© 2022 Geoff Allshorn

Why Science Fiction?

Commemorating International Day of Living Together in Peace.

Art by Dick ‘Ditmar’ Jenssen

The Sky Is The Limit

I admit that I have not been blogging so much this year – I have been distracted by a need for activism in the world around me. My desire to help create a better world is not only my human instinct kicking in, but a manifestation of my interest in sci fi.

And in my quieter moments, I have been doing voluntary work for the Australian Science Fiction Foundation, especially helping to create their new website (soon to be launched) as my latest contribution to advancing futurism and cultural innovation. This is a refreshing exploration of other worlds and other realities, far from our mundane world of COVID and war and politics and world poverty.

And no, I have not been seeking mere escapism. I do not subscribe to the cliché that science fiction is a crutch for those who cannot cope with reality. Instead, I have been using the ideals and visions within SF to replenish my optimism for the real-life future and to contribute, in lateral ways, to building a better world by (hopefully) encouraging others to look upwards and ahead. Fictional character Sarah Connor once commented that a storm is coming, and her words should inspire us to prepare for whatever that storm may be – climate catastrophe, nuclear war, pandemic, political upheaval, or whatever the future may hold.

Which of course brings up an obvious question: why science fiction?

Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay

The Human Adventure Is Just Beginning

Humans have probably been telling stories since our distant forebears leant how to communicate. Those stories reflect our cultures, our values and our circumstances.

Where Jason and his Argonauts once explored unknown vistas, we now have James Kirk and his astronauts exploring strange new worlds. Where King Arthur or Robin Hood once fought for justice against corruption and oppression, we now have Harry Potter and Leia Skywalker. Superman and the Marvel Avengers police the ethereal skies where Olympian deities or other divinities once claimed exclusive sovereignty.

In the past, we had Pythia or Merlin or Sherlock Holmes as our fictional or mythological guides for morality and rationality responding to technology and circumstance; today Spock or the Doctor or R. Daneel Olivaw serve as transHumanist and secular reworkings of our template Everyman.

Through such timeless motifs – including the use of metaphoric humans disguised as robots, superheroes, artificial intelligence, or other forms of sentient life – science fiction holds up a mirror to ourselves and teaches us what it means to be human.

Fair use,

Mission to Planet Earth

Climate change and pollution are hardly new kids on the science fictional block. They have been explored for decades. Through SF films like Silent Running, I became aware of the looming threat of environmental catastrophe, while The Omega Man introduced me to the dangers of epidemics a decade before HIV/AIDS appeared on the world scene and a generation before COVID. Through the Planet of the Apes books and films, I became aware of the power of metaphor and nuance in exploring religious or philosophical themes, while 2001: A Space Odyssey taught me that the Universe’s poetry could be visual if we gaze into the cosmos.

Perhaps most powerfully, Star Trek and Thunderbirds showed me the power of people working together to explore strange new worlds and helping each other out of natural disasters.

And all of this before I hit puberty (which is testimony to the power of sci fi – as a genre that explores the future, it has special power to inspire and empower young people especially).

In the wider world, science fiction has the ability to warn us (The Handmaid’s Tale) or inspire us (Hidden Figures). I have known people whose career choices were inspired by SF: authors, teachers, human rights activists, scientists, doctors, even astronauts. And in turn, the real-life space program has helped to create the technological and scientifically literate cultures in which we live today.

More than all that, space and science fiction have already saved our planet, through NASA’s ‘Mission to Planet Earth‘ (launched in 1991) which led the world response in solving the hole in the Ozone layer.

I have previously written about the inspiration that can be found within science fiction:

I enjoy science fiction because it promises me that humanity has a future, full of dreamers, explorers and heroes. It promotes the joy of diversity – including aliens, robots, cyber citizens, sentients, men and women, [variously] queer and trans and gender non-binary humans – all living together in peace and equality.

We can do more than dream of such a world: we can help to create it. Make it so.

© 2022 Geoff Allshorn