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Culture War Roundup for the week of April 24, 2023

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The state of Minnesota has passed a trans refuge bill.

Specifically, the bill would prohibit the enforcement of a court order for removal of a child or enforcement of another state’s law being applied in a pending child protection action in Minnesota when the law of another state allows the child to be removed from the parent or guardian for receiving medically necessary health care or mental health care that respects the gender-identity of the patient.

From my reading of this (not a lawyer, obvs): previously if a child ran away from home, and was found, the child would be returned to the child's parents. Now, however, if a child runs away from home, and claims a "transgender identity" the state will use its powers to keep the child from its parents.

This seems: absolutely pants-shittingly insane to me? Like I'm sortof reeling from disbelief at this and am still trying to figure out what I'm missing. This also seems to imply that if a child runs away to Minnesota, that the child will be kept in Minnesota away from his or her parents.

Can anybody help me understand this? This goes so far beyond anything that I had even considered in the realm of possibility that I'm sure I must be misunderstanding this.

As a related side note: I am reaching a point where reading things on this topic is becoming incredibly difficult. There seems to be so many seemingly double/triple/quadruple entendre words that its hard to follow.

I ask this earnestly and seriously: I’m about to have a son. What specific things should I do to protect him from what seems to me like an obviously predatory movement. I’m not really interested in hashing out whether this is predatory or how to fix it on a social level. I want to know what specific things I, as a soon to be parent, can do.

Be present in your child's life.

That's all you can do. Anyone who says differently is wrong. Be a role model. Be kind. Be loving. Be there for the t-ball games. Be there for the after school concert, drop him off for sports practice and pick him up when he's done. Ask him about his day and at least pretend to be interested in the 1000th time he tells you about making macaroni art. Don't tease him about his hobbies, even if they seem incredibly dumb to you.

Eventually he's going to get older, and when he does he's going to start to look and sound and talk like a real person. Like an adult. Don't be fooled. He's still a kid. He's still your son. I'm not saying don't let him learn and grow and change, because he will, but don't make the mistake of thinking that he's a buddy before he actually is. Don't tease him about the high school girlfriend (too much), not like you'd tease a buddy who was acting like a teenager about some girl, because he will actually be a teenager. He's going to make mistakes, he's going to fuck up, and he's going to make you see red because of how angry you'll be with him. When that happens, just remember, he is your son and you love him. Everything else is crap.

You can be an authoritarian, you can rule his life with an iron fist. Monitor his internet usage, screen his friends, screen his teachers, whatever. It won't work. I grew up in what the Brits would call a "posh" neighborhood. I knew plenty of kids, good kids, who turned into raging shitheads because their parents tried to rule them. Did they all turn into trannies? No. But they didn't turn into good people either. Your job isn't to make sure your kid turns out cisgender, your job is to make sure your kid turns out to be a good person. Does that mean keeping him safe from this gender crap? Yeah. But you do that by making sure you are there for him. That's it. Just love him. Teach him your values by living them, not by talking about them.

Oh and apparently kids are more likely to laugh off a scraped knee if you don't make a big fuss over it. Worth a try.

For now though, relax. Your kid isn't even born yet. He won't be speaking until he's around a year, a year and a half old. He won't even be going to kindergarten until he's at least four. You have literal years before your kid is even going to be exposed to anyone outside you, mom, and his little play group (there will be a play group). Deep breath. Relax. In four years this may all just be a bad memory. If it's not, well, that's tomorrow's problem.

This sums it up, really. 15% of Gen Z's are apparently queer, but I think they just saw the biggest zeitgeist in society that also comes with a very easy ticket and went about seeking validation and care they never received at home elsewhere. Many socially maladjusted folk join online subcultures because of this too.

A majority of that number is 'just' bisexual or adjacent people. I don't think that's meaningless -- at least for some fandom spaces, I've seen some pretty interesting results when a specific subcommunity starts to become >40%ish bisexual. But it does make it less relevant for trans stuff.

((And I'm not sure how much of the Gallup poll's trans stuff is trans-as-you-or-I-would-define it. I'm not finding the actual questions in a quick search, and there's a lot of nonbinary or genderfluid that rounds themselves closer to trans than to queer, largely for historical reasons, but does not raise most of the conventional medical concerns for trans stuff.))

Could you elaborate what those interesting results are?

Furries have a stereotype as being, by-and-large, bi and large. While that's not true strictly true, as around 25% are strictly gay or strictly straight, the stereotype isn't exactly unfounded.

There's nothing preventing a furry from being straight, and indeed no small number of well-known artists are (I'll point to meesh and ruaidri as particularly well-known, but eddiew is another good artist that draws gay, but found out experimentally that it wasn't working for him). The standard explanation is that there's literally no alternatives, but if you actually poke at the demographic info, you find that there's actually a lot more women in the fandom than the stereotype, and even if not parity, closer to gender-parity than spaces like the ratsphere or electronics engineering, and they're more het than the fandom at large. And furries do date outside of the fandom (albeit still much more gay than the general world). Yet this large portion of bi people aren't just theoretically or socially bi, or even just bi-for-roleplay purposes. Nor does it seem solely a matter of selection bias pulling in gayer people: there's a pretty sizable number of people who identify as straight, get into the fandom, and then having the "Oh No He's Hot!" moments (cw: tasteful shirtless male).

((There's a few other fandoms I've seen with similar trends, albeit usually to less extremes. FFXIV's fandom isn't that gay in the strict sense, but it's pretty gay in the .))

And this doesn't just change the culture for the gay and bisexual people. All of the three straight artists above have done significant M/M work, often including their own characters, and Meesh in particular is pretty famous for a long-form coming-out-style comic. And there's a good few others I could name in a similar boat. Normal culture doesn't have as much a norm around drawing yourself as the middle strut in an Eiffel Tower, and less of a norm around money talking, so obviously this directly isn't something that's going to generalize; you're not going to see the world turn into an Anthrocon room party as soon as the scale hits 40% bi. And having more older straight people around will provide some inductance to slow some massive changes that do happen.

But I think there will be some pretty large changes, often faster than people would expect, probably reflecting things people can't even name, if this generalizes and if the general trend continues. Population dynamics are the most obvious and severe, and while I think there are some counterpressures, since a lot of people in same-sex relationships do want kids of their own enough to find a surrogate or lay back and think of England, it's another potential worry on top of already collapsing birth rates. Outside of that, there's just a massive potential for changes in a lot of norms, both in single-sex and mixed-sex environments.

More broadly... a common perspective is that the growth of a lot of this stuff is social status-tied, rather than some deeper or more meaningful cause: at 'best', that a lot of this new generation of LGBs are effectively Kinsey 1s, and more often Kinsey 0s who just aren't grossed out and want the recognition, and at worst have pushed themselves into situations they don't actually enjoy because of social pressures. See here for a motte-sphere example, but there's a lot of if you look at social cons, even pretty squishy ones.

Some of that's the tension between the 'born this way' framework and rapidly increasing self-identification (including changes in identification), but a bigger thing these people point at is the number of bisexuals who end up in heterosexual relationships. A different Gallup poll puts around bisexuals as six times more likely to end up in a het long-term relationship than a same-sex one, and while there are some process problems with that poll, it's definitely an existence proof of something. And you can find individual evidence of even the most extreme variants of the claim.

But a different explanation's that, until very recently, if you were Kinsey 2-3 (or 4-5!) and looking for a romantic partner, you had the choice:

  • go to very highly gay spaces (gay bars, gay clubs, so on) where most people were gay or the accepted romantic (or, uh, other) overtures were gay.

  • not, and trying to identify someone else's sexuality before making an overture.

  • not, and just go for whatever's most likely to work out.

And in practice, unless you went to the far of the first category, even if you tried all three approaches, you'd probably still end up with a majority of prospective partners being different sex. There's more to romantic compatibility than a simple odds game, but it's not a small driver, either. This seldom made it impossible or even required especially heroic acts to find a same-sex partner, but it's basically Beware Trivial Inconveniences writ large, especially since a lot of those inconveniences weren't that trivial (eg, moving to The Big City) or could be undesirable for other reasons (eg, being a teetotaller at a lot of gay bars is pretty unpleasant; gay-straight alliances tend to be a very specific sort of thing).

In a perfectly-spherical cow world, assuming 2% bisexual and 3% gay, you need to encounter 40 people to have one same-gender person who'd even consider your entire sex, already outside of the scale of a small club or a small business (as compared to 1-in-4.5ish for opposite-sex, note both gay and straight numbers are further modified by age, marital status, yada yada). But as those numbers change and it becomes easier to go looking (or to date for a specific gender from a very large supply, or not for a specific gender, qua online dating), the results twist rapidly. At 18% bisexual and 2% gay, it's 1-in-10. At 30% bisexual and 5% gay, 1-in-6, and the risk of hitting on a gay opposite-gender person has more than doubled.

And for most people, that simple division isn't quite the right math. For a variety of reasons, you're likely to spend more time around people of the same sex, and there are a number of cultural norms specific to each sex that have historically made inter-gender dating more complicated and especially complicated to start.

((LGBT identification isn't the only thing driving this; there have also been drastically changing norms about dating in the workplace or at some hobby locations, if not consistently enforced, as has the movement to online dating and finding dating partners through online communities have had a pretty big impact, too. A lot of norms about appropriate behavior to opposite-sex casual acquaintances have an impact, too, and continue to increase limits.))

Thank you for such a detailed reply! Do I understand correctly that the main point is that you expect number of same-sex relationships to grow faster than linearly with proportion of bisexuals? And I feel bad to ask for even more elaboration after such a reply, but I was most interested in something you only just touched on: “a massive potential for changes in a lot of norms, both in single-sex and mixed-sex environments,” what have such changes been in the communities you know?

Is ruaidri even a single person? The way he puts out both detailed 3d animation and high quality drawings at a steady pace, he's either several people or a true Renaissance man of furry porn.

Do I understand correctly that the main point is that you expect number of same-sex relationships to grow faster than linearly with proportion of bisexuals?

Yeah, pretty much, modulo perhaps some time offset with some hysteresis.

And I feel bad to ask for even more elaboration after such a reply, but I was most interested in something you only just touched on: “a massive potential for changes in a lot of norms, both in single-sex and mixed-sex environments,” what have such changes been in the communities you know?

It's... kinda tricky to summarize, and I'm not sure how much each change will generalize.

As a trivial example of the limits of trying to extrapolate, all three of the furry fandom and FFXIV and pre-porn ban tumblr, for example, have developed a pretty wide tolerance for 'mild' 'queer' or 'feminine' sexuality, as have some other smaller communities, not just in the mainstream sense of not being offended by its existence, but actively accepting its presence in a lot of more semi-public adult-specific spaces. That's not (just) sex or porn or lewd jokes, but the sort of conversations that pop up, even for het couples in the sphere, and how they're acceptable to make pretty public. It's not universal, but it's a very noticeable contrast from post-1990s conventions through a number of cultures that really strongly discourage even the het variants.

Some of this is probably just the possibility of male-male, female-female, or other romance, but another probably a more complicated bit where social opprobrium has driven a lot of contested behavior and a lot of bad actors out from public awareness so the normal social norms against being too flirty haven't (or don't) apply. I think in the longer term a lot of this doesn't end up surviving in its current form into day-to-day life, especially workplaces -- when it comes to queer-as-in-gay versus the administrative class, the HR sphere probably wins, even and maybe especially when it restricts subaltern groups -- but there's probably going to be some variant around.

Or... so, the expectations that gay-area gyms are rolling orgies isn't right, but I don't think it's realistic (or even possible!) to expect androphillic attraction to completely disappear as soon as someone steps into the public sphere. In practice, most areas I've seen with a lot of gay or bisexual guys always end up having a lot more romantic overtures happening in spaces that aren't gay bars or online dating, both because it stops being a minefield with only mines, and because getting an incompatible overture stops meaning anything other than a complement. This dynamic something I've seen pop up in as small groups as college clubs.

Okay, well, changes in sexuality affect sexual behavior and dating norms, that's not a huge surprise. But there's a lot of things downstream of that.

Some gay or lesbian couples adopt kids or make other arrangements, but it's not as common as straight couples doing making kids and even when it does happen it has a pretty different set of pathways -- not always later, but often later. I'm kinda hoping this trend doesn't continue or even reverses, but a lot of very-gay and very-lesbian spaces are extremely DINK, in a pretty wide variety of ways. That impacts everything from scheduling (late nights suck a lot more when you've got to get kids to the bus stop by 7am) to expectations around non-sobriety (hangovers are a lot rougher when the kids are waking you up at 7am) to availability of large time blocks (it's a lot harder to support a five-day event, even a completely kid-focused one, if you have your own kids to work around). These aren't always or even often bad; my own nature has made it a lot more possible to support a number of STEM outreach programs that have needed a lot of manpower on short notice. But it's a difference.

And more controversially... for most people, relationships are the single biggest way that they let another person into their lives after leaving home. Yes, there are the people who are actually roommates and deal with 99% of the same stuff that couples who were oh my good roommates might, but most of that is a lot closer to 'tolerate' at best. You pick up norms and expectations, and in turn so does your partner. And to some extent, there are a lot of gendered norms and expectations that get tempered in our society by being forced to deal with their counterparts. A lot of gay guys historically have had other IRL exposures to women that a lot of straight men didn't, hence a lot of the flouncy stereotypes, but that's going to be less and less present.

Is ruaidri even a single person? The way he puts out both detailed 3d animation and high quality drawings at a steady pace, he's either several people or a true Renaissance man of furry porn.

I don't know. There are a few 'artists' that are collaborative works, either openly (Blotch, MrSafetyLion) or less so, but I've not seen any evidence of it for ruaidri specifically. He presents as a single person in a way that would take a lot of effort to fake, at least, but I don't think he has a major presence in convention circuits.

He's far from the only multi-disciplinary furry artist, including a number that are pretty good at what they do: compare ToykoZilla (dragons in 2d digital media, does a lot of VRchat avatars, sfw), pre-burnout Fek (bi trending gay, some mild bdsm, drawing, 3d models, and did programming for the solo projects RACK/RACK2), accelo (about as gay as it can get for media sometimes involving women, mostly digital art, some 3d modeling for resin-scale printing, /very/ NSFW). Even for the list of straight furries, Eddiew's not particularly happy about his artwork or writing, but he does both reasonably well by my standards and has been at a good pace for over a decade. And there's a lot of other people with stranger focuses in skillsets or content focuses: see SixthLeafClover for a (mostly SFW) artist that's branched out to collectables, and there's a handful of artists that are also general aviation pilots. Not every furry creator is a Renaissance man (or woman, or whatever), but there are a lot.

But ruaidri does have an amazing tempo; I could see that, combined with the lack of other social media presence, as a plausible explanation. But it's very weak evidence if so.

Oh and apparently kids are more likely to laugh off a scraped knee if you don't make a big fuss over it. Worth a try.

In my experience this does work, but only if done as a combination of emotional support and distraction. First take the child in to console them, then immediately transition to directing their attention to something interesting. I.e., don't tell them to suck it up, don't teach them that you don't care about their pain, but do show them that daddy cares and that there are better things to do than dwell on pain.

So true. Whenever one of my young daughters get hurt I pick them up and do something silly. The tears turn to laughter and thirty seconds later they forget they were even hurt.

Which is also a good way to handle pain in one's own life, emotional or physical. "It sucks, but..." is a powerful schema.

Pain is: a prompt for corrective action, a learning opportunity, or pointless and should be moved on from... Pain is never: an excuse to inflict misery on others, a way to increase your status, an indication of your worth as a human being...

A kid who learns this would in my opinon be well equipped to deal with life.

Pretty much. I recently had a revelation when I realised that the most important part of "conscientiousness", which has all this data linking it to success, is just frustration tolerance - whether pain, disappointment, rejection, or whatever irks someone. Achieving notable things generally requires tolerating a lot of "frustration", in the sense of things you are frustrated about. Of course, that doesn't mean that frustration itself is what is useful: it's frustration in pursuit of a goal.