Sunday, January 12, 2014

Somebody on That Internet (Guest Post).

Sheldon's note: Today's post is from a fan of the blog who recently contacted me, she wanted to tell her story of leaving Christianity, and coming to terms with being transgender. She wants to only be identified as Natasha.

On Christmas day 1995, I received my first computer. It was all mine, no censorship, no controls. In the beginning, I used it to play games, sooner or later burning it out, and progressing to other computers, like my sister's Windows 98. Parallel to my computer progressions were personal progressions. Most notably, at around ten years old I scoured the internet to find people who felt like I did, my first exposure to the term "transgender."

When I was twelve, my internet exploration expanded. I found my way to conspiracy sites and then back around to sites that promoted skepticism and critical thinking. It was a total paradigm shift, as between the ages of twelve and fourteen I went from a Noah's Flood-doubting Jesusite to a full-blown atheist. To be sure, it was mostly my initiative: I became active in questioning the things in the Bible that didn't make any sense (starting with the flood) and worked my way to the actual scientific questions of evolution and the big bang. I was absolutely relentless in this search for knowledge.

It was somewhere in the middle of that period of rapid change where Somebody On That Internet first showed his face.

When I started openly questioning the doctrines of Christianity, asking my parents to source their statements or tell me how things were the least bit rational, they had a curious defense: Somebody On That Internet must be training me to be anti-Christian.

During this period, I had no internet friends, it was just me and Google, plus occasional regular sites like Bad Astronomy. To them, being from a hardcore Christian culture, it must have made no sense for someone so young to be able to think for themselves, so they had to invent a villain who was trying to warp my mind.

Somebody On That Internet didn't just dabble in skepticism, however. Somebody On That Internet was also the first (and last) person to go around trying to convert people to transsexuality.

My first time coming out as transgender was in 2005, when I would have been between fourteen and fifteen. I had been caught "crossdressing" no less than four times over the preceding 7 years and they probably knew that even after the last time I didn't stop.

 In retrospect, they had to know. Like atheism, it was just a phase, they knew what I wanted more than I did, and it wasn't "to be a girl." After coming out as transgender, I was told that Somebody On That Internet was brainwashing me into bad things, first turning me into an atheist and then making me think I didn't want to be a boy. Clearly, Somebody On That Internet was a master of manipulation.

Over subsequent years I focused more on the fight against religion. Everything I brought out, both curiosities I found in the Bible itself and things I found on my relentless internet search, was quickly derided as the work of Somebody On That Internet. Not only was Somebody On That Internet trying to convert me to the LGBT "lifestyle", not only had he converted me to atheism, he was now trying to convert my parents.

Unlike most internet friends who fade in a few years, Somebody On That Internet was clearly in for the long haul.

I had also shaken off my Republican roots by later 2005, being a convinced communist by that time. I went out of my way to read all the books demonized by the elders of the faith, anything from Marx and Lenin back around to the old school anarchists.

I wasn't ready to come out as a communist, considering how brutally everyone spoke of them, but I was moving in that direction. Gradually, my public political views went further and further left. Who was to blame for this leftward shift? You guessed it; "Somebody On That Internet is feeding you things that ain't true. I don't know where Somebody On That Internet gets their information but it's wrong."

Not satisfied with converting me to atheism, making me think I'm transgender, turning me into a dirty bisexual, and trying to convert my parents to atheism, Somebody On That Internet for some reason wanted to change my political views to something every bit as radical.

Sometime towards 2008 and 2009, I basically gave up the fight. They weren't budging, I wasn't either. I went off to university and Somebody On That Internet seemingly disappeared from my life. Peace, however, was not to last very long at all.

In 2011, it was apparent I was legitimately a communist, transgender, an atheist. All doubt was removed, these things were accepted as is. Yet when trying to talk about them, bring up new information (new to me or new scientific/political studies), Somebody On That Internet made his return. After three years of peace, Somebody On That Internet came back to make sure I wasn't getting out of this godless communist transgender hole that he had dug me into.

In 2013, Somebody On That Internet told me that my parents were evil/crazy and very likely either going to kill me or drive me to the point of suicide. Instead of pointing these things out to them, I talked to enough people seeking help that Somebody Else On That Internet helped me out.

Thanks, Somebody On That Internet and Somebody Else On That Internet.

Sheldon's final thoughts: Her story about her family's reaction to the new ideas, and the reality she was confronting them with was to blame "someone else", really resonated with me.  

Though I had nearly no access to the internet until I was 18, any time I would say something that didn't reflect their orthodoxy, be it political, or religious, I would get the question "Who told you that?", as though I couldn't have possibly come up with those ideas on my own, no matter how minor in the grand scheme of things they were.

Looking back, I realize it's a tacit admission of how fundamentalist parents view children as property, with no real opinions or rights of their own. They think of raising children as programming a robot, information in, information out. If the "robot" is churning out ideas that run counter to theirs, it couldn't possibly be coming from their own mind, it had to be "someone else" entering bad programming code, and the exposure to "someone else" must end to stop it. 

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