Thursday, March 28, 2019


A baby duck swimming. Image source.
1. Notes from Philly Trans Wellness Conference: Strategy Words for Medical Self Advocacy (posted 2018) "I REFUSE: This is the SAFE WORD of healthcare, essentially a sledgehammer of a word that means FULL STOP."

Also this: F*ck Your Health Volume I: Hey, Let’s Get A Pap Exam! It's a guide for trans people who have a cervix and therefore need to get pap exams, about how to make the experience less scary/triggering. I am not trans, but because I am asexual, going to the gynecologist is really hard, and wow this guide is useful for me.

2. Muhammad Was Visited by a Demon (and Other Things Evangelicals Taught Me) (posted March 21) I was never taught this explicitly, but if somebody said it I would have felt like "ah yeah, that's reasonable, that could be the case" because it's 100% consistent with what I was taught about demons (they are real) and religions besides Christianity (they are bad).

3. Clarity: Shane Claiborne & The Wild Goose Festival (posted March 25) "And — for crying out loud — Methodist queer kids are already hearing that their sexual orientation is a 'big issue.' Can we not find someone else?"

Monday, March 25, 2019

This Is the Stuff That Happens to Us Immigrants

US passport. I'm so privileged to have one of these, but still, being an immigrant is HARD. Image source.

I wrote this post a long time ago. Just publishing it now~


So I'm working here in China, and every year I have to renew my residence permit. (Which is functionally the same as a visa.) Last year, we hit so many problems while renewing it- it was just one complication after another after another- but the BIGGEST ONE was finding out that you can't use the last 3 pages of a US passport for visas or residence permits, so I needed to get a whole frickin' new passport.

And now I'm way more familiar than I ever wanted to be with the big Shanghai immigration office, the local office for the district where I work, and the US consulate in Shanghai.

I got the residence permit, in the end. I didn't get kicked out of China. But Hendrix and I had planned to go on vacation in Japan- 1 month after all this residence permit stuff was supposed to be done- and I couldn't go because the whole thing kept dragging on, and when it was time for the vacation, I didn't even have my passport with me, it was at some office waiting for some government official to look at it or whatever, so I couldn't leave Shanghai. (And even if I did have my passport and I did go to Japan, I wouldn't have been able to get back into China.)

I spent that whole month completely stressed out, trying to figure out what I would do if I couldn't get my residence permit. (I told Hendrix, "I'll miss you when I get kicked out of China and have to go live in Hong Kong"...) And Hendrix ended up going to Japan without me. We lost all the money we had paid for my ticket.

It just sucked. It really sucked.

I didn't pray. I didn't pray because I don't want a god who helps one immigrant not lose her vacation that she spent a thousand dollars on, while leaving other immigrants in dangerous, live-threatening situations. I don't want god to favor me over others. I certainly wanted the government workers at these various offices to favor me over others- and I don't think there's anything wrong with pushing for that- because they are finite human beings. They aren't able to assess the situation of everyone in the world and give out help in a way that's 100% fair. They are limited to inhabiting a specific place at a specific time. They have limited knowledge about who needs what. They have limited resources. I don't expect them to be perfect judges- and so it's fine for me to ask if they can push things along faster, even if I'm not the most deserving person in the world.

But I don't want a god like that. God should be the perfect judge who helps the most poor and helpless people before anyone else.

And while I was stuck at home and Hendrix was in Japan, our toilet started leaking. And I hate how my first thought was, "maybe this is why God planned for it to happen this way- because if I wasn't here when the toilet started leaking, we would come back from our vacation and find water all over the floor." I hate that. I hate that I used to believe in a God who thinks the best way to address a future leaky toilet is to completely sabotage my residence permit renewal process, so I get all worried about getting kicked out of China, I lose all the money from the vacation, and Hendrix and I have an argument about it... But that's how people thought, in the church culture I was raised in. If something bad happens, God planned for it to be that way for a reason. So you search for a little minor slightly-positive result of the bad thing, and claim that it MUST BE THE REASON that God did the bad thing.

"Perfect Number, you didn't want to come home from your vacation and find water all over the bathroom floor, did you? No? Well then you have to admit this was a GOOD THING God did to you, and you're not allowed to be unhappy about it."

I'm so glad I don't believe that crap anymore. There was no "silver lining." It just sucked.

Anyway, I'm telling this story because this is the kind of stuff that happens to immigrants. It's not that uncommon. In the community of international people living in Shanghai, we all know people whose visa process took way longer than it should have. We all know the stress of trying to navigate this giant bureaucracy. We all know people who are trying to do it without even being able to speak Chinese. A lot of us know someone who married a Chinese citizen and then spent thousands of dollars and filled out so much paperwork to get their spouse a US green card. A lot of us know someone who's teaching English here illegally on a tourist visa. We know people whose passports have been stolen, and they had to run around to various consulates and government offices to get a new passport and visa. We know people who came here for a job, and then when they got here, the job turned out to be way different than what was promised (it's teaching English instead of teaching music, the company can't actually get you a work visa, the company wants you to hand over your passport "for safekeeping", etc), so they had to scramble around and find a different job or else leave China. And we all know what the "Hong Kong visa run" is- in some situations, people are required to leave mainland China in order to renew their visa, and the most convenient way to do that is to fly down to Hong Kong.

It's just part of life, being an immigrant. These things just happen sometimes. It's stressful and it sucks, but that's what being an immigrant is.

So remember us.

But we are privileged immigrants. We chose to come to China. We chose to leave our home countries. We are educated and can speak English. We can find teaching jobs easily- especially those of us who are white. We have enough money for international plane tickets.

Nobody is trying to kick us all out of China for political reasons. Nobody is claiming we are dangerous, or we are stealing their jobs, or we are a "burden on society."

So remember the immigrants, anywhere in the world, who have it harder. The refugees who didn't have a choice, who had to leave their homes because of violence. Remember the immigrants who don't have money and don't have good job prospects. The ones who fill out visa applications while politicians make speeches about how dangerous their country is, how immigrants of certain races or religions are all criminals.

This kind of crap happens to us, and that's just the way it is. We don't have the same rights that citizens do. We need piles of paperwork just to live here. Just want you all to know that.


I Didn't Count the Cost Before I Moved To China

Thursday, March 21, 2019


1. On Disability and on Facebook? Uncle Sam Wants to Watch What You Post (posted March 10) "But advocates for people with disabilities say the use of social media in this way would be dangerous because photos posted there do not always provide reliable evidence of a person’s current condition." Ooh this is bad.

2. Andy Stanley's Church is NOT the "Safest Place in the World" for My Gay Teen (posted March 12) [content note: churchy homomisia] "She posted a beautiful “love letter” to the gay community and for the first time publicly declared that she is gay. It was part of a campaign for PRIDE month and I couldn’t be prouder of the words she wrote. The comments she received were so positive and uplifting. She received no negative feedback until she attended church the next weekend, where she was told she could no longer lead at North Point Ministries."

3. I'm not saying I'm Captain Marvel, but... (posted March 15) [content note: spoilers for "Captain Marvel"] "She was told that her power came from an invisible supreme intelligence and could be taken away as easily as it was given; her entire purpose was to serve at the will of this being. I was told that any good deeds or accomplishments I achieve in life are all due to an invisible deity; my entire life purpose was to serve at the will of God."

4. Selma Blair Became A Disabled Icon Overnight. Here's Why We Need More Stories Like Hers (posted March 7?)

Monday, March 18, 2019

Captain Marvel, Boundaries, and Why I Don't Go To Church

Scene from "Captain Marvel", where Yon-Rogg is training Carol to fight, and her fist is glowing with energy as she looks at him with determination. Image source.
[content note: spoilers for "Captain Marvel"]

I loved the movie "Captain Marvel" so much! This post is full of SPOILERS from this point forward, so, you have been warned.

In this movie, our hero lives on an alien planet (the inhabitants are called Kree) where she does military training and goes on secret missions. But she has no memory of the part of her life before all that. And the movie is about how she discovers who she really is. She finds out that she is NOT a Kree; her name is actually Carol Danvers, and she is a human from Earth, who used to be a pilot in the US Air Force.

Also, she discovers that the Kree ideology, which she had been fighting so hard to uphold, was actually violent, imperialistic, and wrong. She was taught lies about the Skrulls (which is another race of aliens)- she was taught they were terrorists and Kree need to fight them, but later she finds out the truth is that Skrulls are victims of war, who are living as refugees scattered around the galaxy, just trying to survive.

My FAVORITE SCENE IN THE ENTIRE MOVIE is near the end, when Carol is fighting Yon-Rogg, a Kree that had been a mentor to her. She is extremely angry with him because he lied to her about everything (and actually he's the one who kidnapped her from Earth in the first place). He tries to stop her by saying she needs to fight without any weapons, without using photon blasts from her hands- just like what he used to tell her when he trained her. He says she should fight him without weapons to "prove" that she can.

And she says "I have nothing to prove to you" and blasts him with a photon blast.


YES! I was so happy. I was like "Boundaries!" Because I believe in boundaries morality now, and one aspect of that is you don't have to play by other people's rules. Just because somebody says "you need to do XYZ" doesn't mean it's actually true. You don't have to change yourself to fit into somebody else's idea of what you're supposed to be.

And this is why I'm so glad I don't go to church anymore. It's so incredibly healthy for me, not being involved in Christian culture at all.

Because, I'm a Christian, but I know that good evangelicals have been trained to label someone like me as a "fake Christian." I used to try so hard to present my beliefs in a way that would prove to them that I really do love God and the bible and I really am a real Christian, that I didn't "fall away" because I'm "selfish" and "just want to sin." I know that if I use language like "feminism" or "mental health" or "I deserve good things", those are giant red flags which immediately get me branded as a "fake Christian." So instead I tried to use evangelicalese, terms like "legalism" and "the gospel is good news" and "by their fruit."

I tried so hard. I kept trying various churches and churchy small groups, tried so hard to play by their rules and find Christians who would accept me. It didn't work. Instead, I would just get so nervous every time. I would be sweating, with my heart racing, rehearsing things over and over in my head so I could say them in just the right way... trying so hard to push the discussion in a more feminist direction and correct some of the anti-human Christian-supremacist ideas that people were sharing, while still staying within the confines of their opinion of what a "real Christian" believes.

And I realized, back then, that I was starting to develop depression symptoms because of this. I was trying so hard to make myself into something they could accept, and I saw that it was going to lead to depression.

And eventually I realized, I don't need their approval. I don't need Christians' approval, and I don't need God's approval. I know I'm a Christian, and that's all the approval I need. So I stopped trying to go to church. I stopped trying to prove myself to them. And wow. Wow. That was SUCH A GOOD DECISION. No depression anymore. Everything is so much better, now that I'm not spending so much emotional energy trying to gain acceptance from people that are never going to accept me.

(Note: In my case, this is what cured my depression. Oh, and also I went to a lot of therapy. Everyone is different, so please don't interpret this as "this is what you have to do to quit being depressed, and if it didn't work then you should feel bad about yourself and it's your fault" or any of that nonsense that ignorant people are always saying about depression.)

And I could give a lot of examples like this, related to church and getting accepted by Christians. LGB Christians are always asked to explain how they can "reconcile" their LGB identity with the bible- like they gotta play some kind of bible-verse-go-fish game, like they have to explain their whole personal life to any random Christian who is "concerned" about their "sin." No. You don't have to play by their rules.

Or when I've been in a Christian small group and some man says something about how he doesn't agree with how this or that church "lets" women preach, and the group is supposed to treat that like it's an okay opinion for Christians to hold. Like we all have to be polite and respectful while we tell him we disagree. No, I don't play that game any more. I will not attend a church that acts like sexism is fine if the bible says it.

Or any time some random Christian on the internet pops up and asks you to justify how you can be a Christian and believe XYZ. And they'll only take you seriously if you have the same general approach to biblical interpretation as they do. Blah, nope, you don't have to play by their rules. You don't have to "debate" them.

Here's the thing, though: If you don't play by their rules, then you won't be able to earn their approval. Setting this boundary and refusing to play their games means giving up on the possibility that they'll accept you. But if they're not willing to accept you the way you are, if they want you to limit and censor and filter yourself to fit their expectations, then I would say their approval isn't worth it anyway. In my case, it was so damaging to my mental health, the way I forced myself to try to play that role, and it never worked anyway. So no, I don't try to get acceptance from church people any more. I've given up on that, and that means I get to be me and I don't have to prove anything to anyone.

In "Captain Marvel," Carol discovers her true identity, and she decides she doesn't have to follow rules made by people who have lied to her and tried to control her life. Just because Yon-Rogg says she should fight him without weapons, to "prove" that she can, doesn't mean it's true. She doesn't need his approval. She doesn't need to play by his rules. I love it.


It Was Beautiful When Star-Lord Rejected the Gospel 
From "Virtues Morality" To "Boundaries Morality" 
Dr. Strange's Ways Are Higher Than Our Ways

Thursday, March 14, 2019


This image wishes us "Happy Pi Day", with the pi symbol stylized to look like a cherry pie. In the background are digits of pi. Image source.
1. Philadelphia becomes first major US city to ban cashless stores (posted March 7) Having the option to pay in cash is also really important for international travelers.

2. Why Idaho Lawmakers Killed a Child Marriage Bill (posted March 4) "Their opposition to bans on child marriage is not so much that they don’t think girls are pressured into marriage as children as it is that they think pregnant girls should be pressured into marriage as children."

Remember when I wrote a post called Which is a Bigger Deal: Marriage or Sex? For this one, we could ask "Which is a bigger deal: child marriage or single motherhood?" See, the problem is the giant disagreement on the answer to that question.

3. The Anti-Choice Movement’s Imaginary Scenarios about Abortion Later in Pregnancy are Extremist Propaganda (posted February 26) "This simply is not how healthcare works, and the anti-choice movement is completely aware of that, but that hasn’t stopped them from trying to urge their followers to believe it."

4. Atheist to give invocation at DuPage board meeting (posted March 8) Cool!

5. Prospiracy Theories (posted March 4) Wow this is so good! The reality that is actually true, instead of conspiracy theories, but they've been stylistically formatted to look like conspiracy theory memes.

6. Behold Your Queen (posted March 11) [content note: this article is a misogynistic trash fire, published on 'Desiring God'] Wowwww it's our friend Greg Morse, here to tell us that "Captain Marvel" is a bad movie because women aren't supposed to fight to rescue men (?????). CAN YOU IMAGINE looking at the lack of representation of women in superhero movies and thinking, 'yes this is good and godly'? AND ACTUALLY THIS ARTICLE IS EVEN WORSE THAN THAT- Morse's actual point is that society should not let women have military careers that might involve putting their lives at risk. WOWWWWWWWWW. Hey Desiring God, friends don't let friends publish articles by Greg Morse.

Monday, March 11, 2019

Perfect Number Watches VeggieTales "Minnesota Cuke and the Search for Samson's Hairbrush" (2005)

THIS. "Sometimes you can't do anything to change them." I wish that had been emphasized more- because the rest of the "lesson" very strongly implies that it's your responsibility to change the bullies by "turning the other cheek" etc.

And if a kid tries following this advice and it doesn't "work", then what? It would be easy for the kid to conclude that it's their own fault. They might think they didn't follow the advice correctly and need to try harder. When in reality there will always exist mean/abusive people in the world. Sometimes you just need to cut them out of your life, because trying to change them is not going to work.

"Turn the other cheek" can be an effective strategy for getting people to stop mistreating you. (For example, look at nonviolent protest during the Civil Rights movement.) BUT. It's only going to be effective if you've really thought it through. If you've evaluated the risks and possible outcomes, if you're clear about what your goals are, if you understand the power dynamics of the situation, if you have a plan for how to set up a situation where "turn the other cheek" will make a big impact. In other words, it's only going to work if you're able to carefully evaluate it beforehand and understand exactly what you're doing and have the option to NOT use it if you decide it's not useful. Don't just naively do it because "it's the right thing to do."

I remember I actually tried this, as a little kid. Another kid, let's call him Mark, was always trying to be the first one to get off the school bus, instead of letting us all file out one row at a time from front to back like the bus driver said. I believed Mark's behavior was very unfair to me (and all the kids who were waiting their turn), but I responded by "loving my enemy" and politely letting him go first even when it was my turn. GUESS WHAT? He never said "wow why are you so nice to me when I'm so mean to you?" He probably didn't even know that I believed he was mistreating me. I had extremely strong feelings about how Mark was being such a bad person- and probably nobody else even noticed because I never said anything about it. I just stood quietly and let him go first, imagining that he understood how generous and forgiving I was being, and how unfair his own behavior was. Imagining that I was "heaping burning coals on his head."

Haaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa wow they are using the story of SAMSON to teach kids to LOVE THEIR ENEMIES oh my godddd let's take a minute to just marvel at how completely backwards that is.


To see all my VeggieTales reviews: Perfect Number Watches VeggieTales (Master Post)