A Very Brief (And Woefully Incomplete) Primer on Asexuality

… Well, some of us do on occasion, but we aren’t exactly crazy about doing so.
Source: falunel.deviantart.com

I’ve made mention several times on Twitter, Facebook, and right here on The Archive that I am an out-and-proud Asexual. But recently, I’ve noticed people within my circle of friends and family discussing the topic of asexuality more or even coming out to me as falling under the asexual spectrum (yes, asexuality is a spectrum; we’ll get into that).

So, I felt like it was my duty to talk about asexuality; not just among friends, but publicly so that all of those curious about it could understand it better. After all, one of the biggest problems plaguing the asexual community is a lack of visibility that leads other to claim that it “doesn’t exist” or that we’re just “secretly gay” or “trying to be special.”

Now, to be clear, this isn’t going to be a perfect resource. I may be asexual myself, but I’m not an authority on sexual orientation (if such a thing can be said to exist). To that end, this is going to be a HIGHLY simplified collection FAQs and debunked misconceptions tinged by my own experiences. If you want to learn more, I deeply ask you to check out The Asexual Visibility and Education Network for more information. So, with all veneers of expertise removed, let’s begin.

Attraction Vs. Desire Vs. Activity

One of the larger misconceptions is that asexuality is just a fancy name for what others would call celibacy. Another is that asexuality is just an excuse to justify a weak libido. These couldn’t be further from the truth.

Asexuality, low-to-no libido, and celibacy together demonstrate the disconnect between sexual attraction, sexual desire, and sexual activity respectfully. It’s often difficult for most asexuals or “aces” to explain the concept of sexual attraction since – surprise – we don’t experience it and it’s kinda hard to explain something that you don’t have a frame of reference for.

The simplest explanation I can muster is this: An ace can still be sexually aroused (genitals are stupid and can be turned on by just about anything) and many are still willing to engage in intercourse (until evolution allows humans to reproduce through parthenogenesis, babies need to come from somewhere). However, they simply don’t find others sexually attractive. We can certainly identify people as “cute,” “beautiful,” or sometimes even “sexy,” but sexual attraction may as well not exist to us.

This separates asexuality from the aforementioned low libido – a loss of sex drive and sexual desire that can be countered with medical treatments – and celibacy – the active choice to abstain from sexual activity for various reasons. So when in doubt remember this: if there’s no sexual attraction, it’s asexuality. If there’s attraction but no drive or desire, it’s low libido. If there is attraction and desire but you actively choose not to, it’s celibacy. The important point to take home here is that, whatever you identify as, it’s your identity and it’s valid.

Sex-Positive, Sex-Neutral, and Sex-Repulsed Aces

As briefly mentioned above, many aces still engage in sex or sexual acts. However, not all of them do and not all of them enjoy it or enjoy it to the same extent. This is why the asexual spectrum and the distinction of grey-asexuality or “gray-a” is so important. Different aces may, and likely will, have varying feelings towards sex.

Sex-positive aces regard sex as an enjoyable experience and may even encourage openness about sexuality. However, they still don’t find themselves sexually attracted to anyone. When interacting with a sex-positive ace, please note that their sexual identity is still valid and the fact that they find sex enjoyable doesn’t make them less of an ace. Remember; there’s a difference between attraction, desire, and action.

Sex-neutral aces – the camp that I belong to – tend to treat sex as a tertiary thought. We aren’t exactly opposed to the idea of sex and many of us will gladly engage if it means pleasing a lover or wanting to start a family. However, we aren’t exactly crazy about the idea and probably won’t break our necks to get some. The same considerations paid to sex-positive aces above should be given to sex-neutral ones. Again, attraction is not desire is not action (is that getting through yet?).

Sex-repulsed aces are genuinely disinterested or even disgusted by sex and/or sexual activity. In some cases, just the mere mention of sex makes them incredibly uncomfortable. Bare this in mind when interacting with sex-repulsed aces and respect their comfort zone. This also means not treating them – or any ace, for that matter – as emotionally or psychologically broken. There doesn’t necessarily need to be some kind of trauma to be repulsed by sex. Sometimes, people just find sex undesirable for any number of reasons (speaking personally, I usually just find sex too funny or too clinical to be enjoyable).

Demisexuality

I can’t in good conscience talk about the asexual spectrum without giving at least a brief mention its most often underrepresented section; the demisexuals.

Demisexuality falls under and is a very important part of the asexual spectrum. It describes a person who CAN develop a sexual attraction towards a person, but only after a deep, emotional connection has been formed. This makes it one of the most difficult orientations in the asexual spectrum to explain to people and, by extension, one that catches a lot of criticism – even from fellow aces.

But, it’s important to note that demisexuals ARE part of the asexual spectrum. They don’t experience sexual attraction in the same way as other sexual orientations would and need to be respected and welcomed. They aren’t outsiders; they’re human and kin.

How To Respect An Ace

I know I’ve beating the “attraction/desire/action” drum this whole time, but it seems so difficult to convey the importance of it to some people. These folks and I have a valid and legitimate orientation – a very specific way that we prefer to interact with our lovers in order to feel comfortable and secure. This doesn’t mean that we are broken or seeking attention and it’s not a moral or ethical choice like some people consider celibacy to be; it’s just the way we are and we all need to respect that.

Also, just as you should ANY sexual orientation, we ask that you respect our boundaries. If one of us tells you that sex or talking about sex makes us uncomfortable, please stop. If we don’t want to have sex with you, please understand that it’s not a negative judgment of you but us trying to maintain a comfortable sexual environment.

Ultimately, we aces are just like everyone else. And like everyone else, we just want to feel happy and comfortable in our own way.

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What I Learned From Coming Out As Androgynous

For those of you that follow my antics on Twitter, you may be very well aware that I recently came out as androgynous. And honestly, it’s been a long time coming.

I’ve always known that this was a critical part of myself since I was roughly five years old; I recognized parts of myself that were equally masculine and feminine. I questioned why boys and girls weren’t allowed to dress or act in certain ways and didn’t buy into the excuses they gave. I envied androgynous celebrities like David Bowie, Prince, and Joan Jett for allowing themselves the freedom to be whatever they wanted. In fiction, I naturally gravitated to characters that danced between or outright rejected the gender binary.

Part of me is still fluid in terms of gender identity; I just feel more girly or more macho on some days than I do others. But the case remains that whether I look like a host(ess) at a swanky club, …

… your oddly hip-and-with-it aunt, …

… or like someone spliced the genetic material of Daria Morgandorfer and Dr. Amy Farrah Fowler, …

I feel the most ‘in-my-element’ when I can play and toy with gender roles.

And, like any person exploring their identity freely for the first time, I’ve been quick to take notes on what things feel like and how to get the most enjoyment out of myself as I come into my own. So today, I’ll be sharing my experiences and what I’ve learned about myself over the last few weeks as I continue to explore myself.

But, before I start, I realize that my experience may not match your own. You could do all of the things I do and get a completely different result. But that’s what identity exploration is all about. It’s about finding out where the best you lies and expressing it. So, I hope that sharing my personal reflections will encourage others to begin exploring and find their ideal self.

So, let’s start with the most obvious realization I’ve had since coming out…

I feel WAY more confident in social settings

Makes sense, doesn’t it? Of course you’d feel better and act more confidently when you like who you are. But what took me off guard was just how much of a confidence boost I got from being open.

I’ve been smiling a lot more often, my stride is taller and more powerful, and I have almost no problems confronting people with problems. It’s as if those few brushes of eyeshadow and lipstick are the much-needed war paint to give me the physical presence I need to march on to the social battlefield with pride.

Of course, confidence CAN be a double-edged sword, because…

I’m more tempted to tell people what I ACTUALLY think of them

With an untempered boost in confidence comes a feeling of indestructibility. And with my new found confidence, I’ve had to work much harder to keep my attitude in check.

This isn’t a wholly bad thing; my freshly unchained savage self has done a good job of removing many of the more toxic elements of my social life that have been plaguing me for years. However, I realize that there are still some bridges that need to go unburnt (at least for now) and I find myself straining at my self-imposed leash wanting nothing more than to verbally destroy the poor unfortunate soul by telling them all the ways they’ve been screwing the pooch for as long as I’ve known them.

It’s almost as if my ego was a puppy whose owners – negative influences in my life if we’re continuing this metaphor – beat and abused me trying to make me act like the dog THEY wanted. Now, I’ve come out as a 120-pound Rottweiler that just wants to stop the abuse. Of course I bit you as soon as my kennel was opened; YOU WOULDN’T STOP HITTING ME WITH THE GODDAMN NEWSPAPER.

But let’s be real, those people are thankfully few and far between. Because much to my surprise…

People actually ADORE the “new” me

I’m thankful to live in a time where androgynes and androgynous people – androgynous women, in particular – are seeing a level of acceptance in media not seen since the 80’s (seriously, have you noticed how many women in film and television are rocking shaved/buzzed heads, minimal makeup, and plain clothes in the last decade or so?). As a result, not only have most people accepted me for what I am, they’ve ENCOURAGED me to keep exploring myself.

They love seeing me in full makeup, they tell me that they appreciate how tastefully I dress and carry myself, and they even share styling tips – offering to give me makeovers.

Even the people that weren’t accepting at first often come around when I confront them and force them to ask me questions rather than make assumptions and/or gossip with others behind my back (I’m actually quite open as long as you’re respectful; ask me anything).

Of course, one of the biggest questions I’ve been getting is the old stand-by, “are you a boy or a girl?” And in reflecting on that question, I’ve discovered that…

I really don’t put much stock in gender pronouns

I’ve never really seen myself in terms of gender. I’m far more likely to label myself as ‘human’ before I do the same with ‘man’ or ‘woman.’

Plus, there’s the aforementioned fluidity issue. There are some days where my masculinity takes dominance and others where it steps aside to let my feminitiy shine. So settling on a black-and-white man or woman label just feels disingenuous.

So, while I do respect that some non-binary people have preferred pronouns and I try to avoid misgendering wherever and whenever possible, I personally don’t get hung up on them. If you see me as a dude who just happens to be good with makeup, you’re correct. If you see me as a six-foot-four, 250-pound amazon of a woman, you’re correct. If you see me as a very pretty Lego brick, YOU. ARE. CORRECT.

Basically, I’m the closest you’ll likely ever get to seeing NiGHTS in real life (Yes, NiGHTS was meant to be gender fluid).

And seeing as how I’ve been rambling for longer than I think I ever have here on The Archive, I now turn the floor over to you. Share your coming out stories and the realizations you made as you explored your own identity so we can encourage and inspire more in the future.

The Agent on The Florida Shooting and Gun Control (AGAIN)

I’m getting really sick of having to look at this same image every few months in this country.
Source: New York Times

Well, here we go again.

I know I already made my statement on where I stand on gun control some time ago… multiple times, as a matter of fact. But given how the recent school shooting in Parkland, Florida is one of the most lethal in recent history, I feel we need to bring it up again.

Yes, I understand that this is still a very recent tragedy and that the emotional wounds are still raw. However, I honestly believe that we owe it to the 17 innocent kids from Florida and the hundreds of others in our country that have been brutally cut down in a hail of gunfire in recent years to have this talk to protect future lives.

As I’ve made clear in the past, I’m not for gun bans – I’m for gun CONTROL. The gun, especially the modern assault firearm, is a very useful tool that has the unfortunate capacity to claim multiple lives in a near instant. The incident at Stoneman Douglas High School is just the most recent example of how we have too many people who lack too little empathy to be trusted with such a massive responsibility.

I feel I can safely say that I have yet to hear a sound argument against tighter gun laws.

“But places with strict gun laws have higher homicide rates.”

Yes, some of them do because of factors like economic status and general education levels. But this isn’t about stopping murders altogether because that would be logistically impossible. This is about denying those with an inclination to kill a means of doing so more efficiently. I think we can all agree that stopping a single victim knife-murderer is both easier and more preferable than a shooter with an AR-15 that destroys lives numbering into the double digits before anyone can respond.

“But Switzerland has mandatory gun laws and they never have mass shootings.”

Not true on multiple counts. Firstly, guns are only mandatory with military service; you have to have served first before they hand you a firearm. Otherwise, you must obtain a ‘weapon acquisition permit’ that requires a valid ID, a residence address, and a clean criminal record no older than three months. And even then, automatic firearms are still prohibited.

As for gun violence, despite having much lower gun death rates than the U.S., Switzerland still struggles with its gun culture. Much like us, Swiss historians believe that it was an armed citizenry that discouraged direct attacks during World War II. But they are struggling to keep track of military-issued weapons which contributes to gun violence in the country.

“But owning a gun is an American right.”

Yes, and that’s what we’re arguing about. You think it’s an inalienable right, I think it’s an earned privilege. And if someone abuses that privilege or are inclined to abuse that privilege, they should have it taken away for the safety of those who know how to handle that kind of power properly. It’s a simple system that every movie geek like myself is familiar with – “Bust a deal; Face the wheel.”

Look, I get that gun culture is a proud American tradition. But the thing about traditions is that they grow stale and outdated as time passes and our understanding of the world changes. As such, it’s our duty to call traditions – major and minor alike – into question when they can be used to the detriment of another. Remember; public executions and slave ownership used to be traditions.

So, while you all heal from this latest tragedy, I hope you continue to find the strength to make your voices heard – to stop the violence for the memory of those lost and the future of those we don’t want to lose.

The Agent on Trans-Visability, Drag, and a Horrible Misunderstanding

In the words of the photographer, my home state is primarily, “…covered bridges and drag queens.” (Side note: the model’s name is Porcia J. Chanel and she is gorgeous)
Source: American Society of Picture Professionals

So, you want to know something that’s been eating me alive for the past week or so?

I have a lot of very close friends in the transgender community. Like, A LOT of very close friends. They made up some of my most trusted confidants in college, one of them is an amazing teacher/writer, and I still try to keep them close even after graduation made us part ways. I would break myself to do anything for them if they asked me personally.

I also have close ties with the drag scene. I got started in early college doing drag for charity for the American Cancer Society (you speak to a two-time Mz. Relay winner, for the record). It then carried over into a later college acting career where my role in the dinner theatre mystery Murder at Rutherford House as the bubbly maidservant Ruby Pinkbottom was widely regarded as my best work ever. It allowed me to acknowledge the fluidity of my identity as well as a repressed feminine side of myself that, if I can be honest with you all, I feel I’ve been neglecting the last few years and really want to get back into the show.

So, considering my undying affection for these two factions of people, you can imagine how hurt I was to be told that drag shows hurt trans-visibility by delegitimizing transgender issues.

I won’t lie; when I first heard that, I had an existential crisis. I broke down crying because I cared so much about both of these aspects of myself that seemed to be at odds with each other in the eyes of those I cared for.

But, after a few days of rest and a daily regiment of herbal stress relievers and vitamin D supplements, I was able to sort out the information and I think (keyword: THINK) I understand where the confusion lies.

On a quick glance, I will grant you that the average drag show does look like a bunch of straight cis-gender dudes imitating and, by extension, mocking the trans community to someone viewing the action with no context. But thinking like this disregards the hefty number of transgender women that comprise a large section of the drag community. To demonize drag in this way is to throw many of the very same transgender folks you’re defending under the bus.

And even if there were absolutely no overlap between drag and trans, you still have to consider the number of non-binary and gender fluid people that use drag as a means of truly free self-expression – non-binary performers like the incomparable Jinkx Monsoon and gender fluid people like, you know, ME.

Drag should always be about inclusiveness regardless of how you identify yourself. To me at least, it’s about separating femininity/masculinity from gender identity and viewing it as something wholly beautiful and even artistic. That’s why there’s a big hullabaloo about whether or not cis-gender women should be allowed to perform in drag shows (I’m personally for it, even though I feel it’s a bit redundant).

And before anyone says anything, yes; I’m well aware that the queen of queens RuPaul said some rather dishearting things about transgender people claiming that the only thing that separates them from drag is, “about twenty-five thousand dollars and a good surgeon,” – a statement that totally insults the trans folks that can’t afford hormone replacement and gender reassignment surgery. But let’s be brutally honest with ourselves here; Ru is NOT a good role model for either community. She’s a shock jock that says horrible things and throws shade at everyone because she knows it will keep her in the spotlight for a little while longer and stave off the effects of being an outdated antique in the drag world. You hear me, Ru – you are the Daniel ‘Keemstar’ Keem of drag queens and you’re making the rest of us look bad by association.

So, in closing, no – drag is not, nor was it ever meant to be, a slanderous statement against trans-people and if something should happen in the future to change its meaning for the worse, I will burn my dresses, throw away my makeup, and flush my nail polish down the drain never to return. Until then, let us all take pride – not in who we are – but in who our brothers and sisters are. For we are all works of art that we have spent years crafting through the torturous trials that life uses to impede the creation of our magnum masterpiece and we need to take the time to appreciate each other’s amazing artistry.

Be proud, be fabulous, and #GodBlessTheFreaks.

The Agent on The Unforgivably Poor Judgement of Logan Paul

“Gaze in wonder at my ignorance and immaturity!”
Source: Kotaku

Well, this is a hell of a way to start off the New Year…

For those blissfully not-in-the-know, Logan Paul is a YouTube personality who is most well-known for his vlogs and rap tracks who fancies himself to be a rebel (you know, like every OTHER YouTuber that I don’t give two s***s about until they f*** up).

Though, starting this year, he’ll be known for something far worse.

Logan had just gotten finished with a set of vlogs of his tour through Japan in which he does just about everything in his power to make an absolute ass of himself (and, by extension, fellow Americans) in a foreign land. He plays up Japanese stereotypes in public and pesters and annoys strangers just trying to go about their day in a multitude of ways.

But, probably most egregious of all, Logan filmed himself in the infamous Aokigahara “Suicide Forest” where many good people have ended their own lives. He then proceeded to film and post the video containing the ACTUAL body of a man who hung himself to death.

Let’s be clear about something here; Part of why this is so terrible is that Logan would have been hated and ostracised for all of these actions IN HIS OWN COUNTRY. The fact that he thought he could get away with this behavior in a foreign land – in someone else’s home – displays a horrifying level cultural insensitivity and lack of basic social etiquette.

But the fact that Logan did do this in another country makes matters SO much worse. Whether you like to admit it or not, most people HATE Americans; they see us a rude, boorish, uneducated, clod-hoppers that care only about themselves. Hell, even OTHER AMERICANS hate Americans.

The second you set foot outside of your territory, you become an involuntary representative of your country. To that end, it behooves you to understand the laws and customs of the land and respect them and the people who follow them. By doing otherwise, Logan has made it so that those that were sickened by his antics – which is most, if not all, of Japan – now have their views of Americans tarnished, making opening a meaningful dialog between the two of us even more difficult to the chagrin of those who’ve been working towards open exchange all their lives. Don’t believe me? Just look at fellow YouTuber Gaijin Goombah, who spent YEARS living with a Japanese family with the goal of cultural exchange, get nearly tear-jerkingly wrathful at how Logan acted.

Of course, it’s not just cultural sensitivity that’s on the plate; it’s also making light of suicide. Take it from Boogie2988 who has actually struggled with suicidal depression. Hell, take it from ME who has shared his own experience on the subject multiple times.

Logan has apologized for his actions and the Aokigahara footage has been removed, but the fact that his other Japan vlogs still remain seems to show that he doesn’t truly grasp just how far he stepped over the line. So, I want to conclude by shifting gears from an only semi-serious rant to a VERY serious open letter to Logan Paul about what he did.

Logan – Mister Paul. What you have done not only made you and your fellow Americans look like even bigger laughing stocks but hurt countless others around the world. I truly want to believe that you meant no harm, but your history and choice of words and actions refuse to let me believe that you were actually thinking about the greater good when you made those videos. You have made life infinitely more difficult for those coping with suicide and suicidal depression, for our friends in other countries, for those of us looking to connect with and aid both of them, and for your fellow YouTube Personalities.

I know you’re taking time off from your vlogs to reflect on all this and I hope you can find some form understanding in that time. If you need to reach out to someone to discuss this, I hope you find the courage to do so because some of us want to see you get through this and become a better person for your experiences. I hope you understand that being a celebrity of sorts – even a minor one as compared to those outside of YouTube – comes with an obligation to use your charisma and cult of personality to unite people and guide them towards a better future together.

Please don’t let this be the end, Logan; prove to this world that you can learn from and rise above your mistakes.

The Agent On ‘Toxic Fandoms’ and How to Keep a Community Positive

I can no longer stand idly by while everything I love is being destroyed!
Source: Amino

So, over the last month, I had to come to terms with a very sad truth – many of the things I love have terrible people that love them too.

It’s one of those facts that you know in your sub-conscious mind; the law of averages just ensures that at least a few undesirables make their way into the flock. But you really don’t think about it until a clutch of them jump out of the woodwork to make you and everyone else look bad.

Over the last month though, I’ve seen a rise in discussions on so-called ‘Toxic Fandoms’ and I won’t lie – it’s actually a little frustrating. So, I just want to give a quick step-by-step guide to how to deal with unsavory elements in the world of entertainment media fans in hopes of quelling the outrage and (admittedly) leveling some criticism on fandoms I consider myself a part of.

Step one: Make sure YOU aren’t part of the problem

I feel a lot of issues could be resolved if more people took a critical eye to themselves. It seems most people aren’t even aware that they might be helping to perpetuate a lot of the negative stereotypes around a fanbase.

Take my beloved Steven Universe for example. You’d think I show that is LITERALLY about love, acceptance and friendship would spawn and attract large scores of similar people – people who believe in respecting the diverse nature of the world and recognizing the value in differing visions and opinions. And for the most part, you would be right…

… Until you get to the kind of  s***lords that go on witch hunts for people they feel aren’t being PC enough and bullied a fan artist until she nearly attempted suicide.

Now, you may not be THAT terrible; in fact, I’m willing to bet most of you probably aren’t. But, are you the sort of person with a knee-jerk reaction perceived bigotry without questioning the context first? Well then, you may be perpetuating the stereotype without even knowing it.

Take some time to reflect on the ‘toxic’ aspects of your fandom, see where you and they are similar and take steps to put distance between the two of you. Not only will this help you identify the problem, but you will better yourself in the process.

Step two: Recognize them as the minority

Let’s state the obvious here because it seems surprisingly easy to forget; these a-holes that are making it hard to enjoy nice things are the exception, not the standard.

If these fandoms – massive as they are – really were full-to-bursting with these kinds of anti-social numbnuts, there would be absolute chaos. In fact, these fanbases likely wouldn’t get as big as they are if people thought there was a legitimate threat.

It’s important to remember that the majority of fans aren’t insufferable douchebags, but normal folks like you and me. Painting the whole fandom with a wide brush like that throws a lot of decent people under the bus that could help you regain the peace.

So remember, they are the minority – a vocal minority just large enough to screw things up for the rest of us, but a minority none the less.

Step three: Ask yourself, “How bad are they, really?”

The old saying goes that, “You need to choose your battles.” So ask yourself honestly, how many ‘toxic fandoms’ are ACTUALLY a problem and not just super annoying?

Are just creepy and weird folks that can be easily ignored like the Cuphead fan artists that draw Rule 34 incest slash art? Or are they legitimately socially disruptive like the Rick and Morty fans that made life miserable for underpaid McDonald’s employees?

If you’re going to start policing fandoms, you need to understand that there’s a line and not all ‘toxic fans’ cross it. Focus your energy on actual problems instead of minor grievances.

Step four: Deny the problem people entry

When you get down to it, fandom is a club. It’s a place where like-minded people can gather to converse with one another and network in a civil manner.

And like any club, occasionally, the bouncer needs to tell a few slimy-looking creeps that they aren’t on the list.

The biggest insult you can lay on a ‘toxic fan’ is the shame of knowing that the rest of the fandom has rejected you – that you so obviously missed the point of your fandom, that they refuse to let you associate them. That’s why I’ve been using the sarcastic air quotes whenever I use the term ‘toxic fandom’ or toxic fan.’ There are no ‘toxic fans.’ There are just people that miss the point of the story or art and make a mockery of real fans through their inexcusable behavior.

If you bully people for not acquiescing to your worldview, you aren’t a ‘toxic Steven Universe fan’ – you’re a narrow-minded jackass so concerned with the cosmetic aspects of bigotry that you fail to see it within yourself.

If you think it’s cool to get belligerent with a clerk because they don’t have what you want, you aren’t a ‘toxic Rick and Morty fan’ – you’re a self-important, entitled brat that thinks the world owes you something just for existing.

So if you see someone claiming to be a fan of something – even if it’s something you don’t particularly care for – acting out in a disgusting manner, don’t be afraid to call them out on their poor behavior. Don’t bully them into submission, but make it clear that they aren’t welcome here and don’t deserve to associate with you until they shape up and start acting like an adult. Remember, there are no ‘toxic fandoms’ – only terrible, ill-tempered, and reprehensible human beings that the world can do without.

Why I’m Okay With The “Take A Knee” Protest

Yeah, I’m totally cool with this.
Source: Statesman

Anyone who knows me knows I couldn’t care less about sports. I’m not into competitive events (especially not ones that boil down to, “hit the other guy as hard as you can”). But when a sport starts stirring up political controversy and touches on issues of social justice by kneeling down during the national anthem, I can’t deny that it sits in several of my wheelhouses.

As you’ve almost certainly have gathered from the title, I have no problems with the ‘take a knee’ protests going around the NFL right now. I fact, as long they continue the protests peacefully and no one gets hurt, I wish them the best and hope people start to listen. After all, that’s the point of a controversial protest; to do something so shocking that people have no choice but to pay attention to you.

But, I also understand how a lot of people have misinterpreted this as an attack on the flag and the pledge. So, in an attempt to bridge the divide between us and promote empathy between divided factions, I’m going to attempt to debunk a few of the common complaints I’ve heard so far.

It was never about the flag

This the most common cry heard on the web right now, so I’ll keep it short. People joining the protest aren’t protesting against the flag; they’re using the flag as a vehicle to protest against police brutality.

It’s like I said at the start; the point of committing a controversial act in protest is to garner attention. If these players protested by doing something benign and mundane, you would be giving a thought about this right now. You have to do something shocking when you’re trying to rally awareness to a cause.

We ‘disrespect the flag’ LITERALLY every day (and the law doesn’t care)

This is probably the second thing people bring up when they hear the complaints of respecting the flag.

If you actually read Chapter 10, Subsection 176 of the U.S. Flag Code which details how to respect the flag, you’d find a shocking number of ways we screw it up every day. Such examples of douchebaggery towards our banner include flag-printed clothing, carrying the flag horizontally, flag-printed uniforms and costumes, and – probably the most damning of all – using the flag in advertising (actually, you can double down on that last one since you’re also not supposed to use the flag as a receptacle).

That said, almost nobody freaks out about these ‘disrespectful’ acts because the flag code makes it clear that it is merely a suggestion. It makes sure that every entry on respect is bookmarked with the word “should” – not must.

The great irony is that this protest would have probably been ignored entirely if most of us just realized what the flag code does…

The flag is not our nation

As I understand it, the reason people get up in arms about respecting the flag is that they conflate disrespecting the flag with disrespecting the nation. The fact of the matter is, however, that the flag isn’t the nation; That’s the role of the people. And this protest’s intent was trying to protect a group of people (a legitimate concern, considering how often we see side-by-side video footage of how long hostile white criminals are allowed to resist arrest compared to less threatening black perpetrators) and, by extension using my previous analogy, the nation.

When you get right down to it, the things we associate with our nation – the flag, our anthem, our pledge of allegiance and more – are just symbols our nation uses. If we started taking the advice of George Carlin and just, “leave symbols to the symbol-minded,” to focus on the REAL substance of our country – our people – we might find that we could improve this home of ours immeasurably.