Saturday, July 21, 2012

A Quick Thought about the Stupidity of Gender Roles

I work at a place that sells glasses. Every time we get a new pink frame into stock, my boss makes the same joke. "Hey, I have a new frame you will like". He than pulls out something pink and laughs. It was funny the first time and now it is just dull and old. But I am not offended by it. Why should I be? I do like pink. It is a nice color. That has nothing to do with me being gay. I am gay because I am attracted to other guys. My liking the color pink really has nothing to do with it.

My sister and brother-in-law have good friends that are married and have a 2 year old son. Their son likes to play with dolls and toy cleaning equipment. They keep trying to get him to play will baseballs and other "manly toys", but he still prefers the "girly toys". Obviously this concerns them very much. Because it is wrong for boys to want to be nurturing and clean, isn't it? Maybe they are worried about their 2 year old's masculinity. They might even be worried about his sexuality (they are super religious so I am sure that is a big "fear" of theirs).

Why are people so hung up on meaningless and empty gender roles? There are men that are amazing cooks and women that are amazing athletes. And whether those men and women are heterosexual or homosexual is of absolutely no consequence. A man can like pink and be attracted to a woman or a man. A woman can like sports and be attracted to a man or a woman.

I have a friend from my childhood who's family emotionally tortured her because she likes to play hockey. They would tell her that is not how a girl is suppose to behave. People would assume she is a lesbian, in spite of the fact that she is straight just because she liked sports.

What is even more ridiculous is when a straight guy likes something that is considered "girly" and hides it because he is afraid someone might think he is gay. What is most ridiculous is gay men that are so insecure in their masculinity that they have to prove how tough they are. I've seen on a number of gay dating sites people that write things like "I don't like rainbows. I am gay, not a girl". And if they did like rainbows what would happen? Someone might think they are gay? Well they are gay, so who cares?!

Social gender roles make absolutely no sense. They do nothing but constrain people and make them feel uncomfortable with themselves. People are all different and have all different combinations of interests. A straight guy should not be scared of liking musicals and a woman should not be afraid of linking football. Its July 2012 and I cannot believe that this is not obvious to everyone yet.  
Gender Roles are Stupid

Sunday, July 15, 2012

The Value of a Life

Six years ago, during the summer of 2006 Israel went to war with Lebanon. Actually that is not true. Israel went to war with a terrorist organization called Hezbollah that has its bases in Lebanon. This terror group ambushed a border patrol and took 2 dead soldiers hostage. The Israeli government panicked, overreacted and went to war in order to retrieve the two bodies.

At the time, I was a member of the communications platoon in an armored battalion. We were on maneuvers up near the border when the war started, so we were one of the first units mobilized. I hadn't always been in communications. I had trained to be a tank driver but due to an injury, I was reassigned to a second line position. While I was no longer serving in the tanks, I still had friends that were. One friend was named Kobi. He was picked to by the gunner in the battalion commander's tank.

Kobi was very excited to have been chosen to by the battalion commander's gunner. When the ground invasion started, he would be in the command tank. I remember the night he went into Lebanon, me and him were sitting around talking. He was telling me how energized and nervous he was about the invasion. I remember saying to him "kill some terrorists for me" and I wished him luck. With that we said goodnight.

The next morning, I woke up early and I ran over to the command center to ask if there had been any injuries over the night. I was told no. But not a second later I started hearing screaming and yelling over the radio. I heard people screaming "what was that?!" and many explosions. I was sent away so as to not be in the way. There was a few hours of confusion where no one seemed to know what was going on. I had my cell phone and I called my parents in the US and asked them and their friends to pray for me and my friends. But a few hours later I was told that Kobi had been killed. His tank had drove up onto a huge landmine and was blown apart.

A few days later, I was among the people sent home from the unit to attend Kobi's funeral. I remember having this horrible feeling at the funeral. It was not normal sadness, it was more complicated than that. Since I had been a little kid I had seen war movies and thought they were exciting and fun. I had dreamed of being a soldier. I used to fantasize about leading troops into battle and destroying the enemy. And now I was at the funeral of one soldier and I was surrounded by hundreds of bereaved family and friends. I could not comprehend how this event happens hundreds, thousands, MILLIONS of times over in other wars.

Why is life worth so little? Why are we so quick to send people to die, to volunteer to go die, or to kill some one else? I am not a pacifist, but in many cases it is just unbearably frustrating what people are willing to die and kill over; religion, land, political philosophies, money. I cannot figure out for what Kobi and the other 118 Israeli soldiers that were killed sacrificed their lives. Because a bunch of under-qualified politicians didn't know how to react to a minor incident? Thousands of Lebanese people were killed because some irresponsible, fanatically religious group decided to attack a more powerful country. What a waste.

I have written this before, but I think it bares repeating. When people focus all of their energies on a make believe fairy land called "heaven" that can only be reached after death, they are devaluing their actual lives. When you tell people from the time they are little children that "this life is full of turmoil" but the next world is perfect and amazing, why should they not throw away their lives in the hope of leaving turmoil and reaching perfection? And if you tell them they have an automatic ticket to heaven just by taking down some "heathens" with them, they are that much more tempted.

One of the best things that happened to me when I stopped believing in Judaism is that I stopped focusing on what will happen after I am dead. I stopped being afraid of "god" sending me to hell. I was able to focus on my real life and trying to make that as good as I can. Life is so valuable. People should stop treating it like it is cheap.

Friday, July 6, 2012

My Views on Traditional Male Circumcision


For the record, I have been putting off writing this post for a long time. It is a subject that causes me a lot of anger and at the same time I know it will offend many of my readers. But this subject is so very important to me that I had to finally share my opinion.

Imagine you walk into a family's living room. The room is packed with family and friends. Everyone is smiling and having a good time. They are celebrating the birth of a new baby boy. How wonderful! Everyone is mingling, catching up and of course talking about the new baby boy. The proud parents are basking in the company of those close to them and showing off their son to everyone.
"Look how cute he is".
"Isn't he just perfect".
Everyone nods in agreement - that is except for his foreskin.

Than the mohel walks in and the ceremony begins. The baby is passed on a pillow between close friends and family. The designated god-father is the last one to be handed the baby. The mohel comes to the baby and opens the diaper and starts saying a series of prayers.
The mohel's objective is to remove the baby's foreskin as a sign of the covenant between the Jewish people and "god". The foreskin contains more than 20,000 specialized nerve endings, making it the most sensitive area on any human, boy or girl. The foreskin is fused to the penis glans, or head, much in the same way a fingernail is fused to a finger and must be torn off. Once the foreskin is separated, a clamp is often used to protect the glans so that the foreskin and all of its nerves can be cut off. After this there are a few things that can happen.

In the ultra-orthodox world, the mohel will use his mouth to suck some blood from the open wound, which he will than spit out. This practice is known as mitzitza be'peh, or sucking by the mouth. This is an extremely archaic and extremely dangerous (not to mention horrifyingly inappropriate and disgusting) practice. It causes the death of tens of babies every year, due to infections passed from the adult mohel, to the victim. This dumb practice that is only legal because it is part of a religious ceremony was dropped by most non fundamentalist streams of Judaism because it is so dangerous. Instead, the mohel will most often use a glass tube to draw some of the blood out.

After this blood sacrifice, the baby is given a name, making him a full member of the Jewish nation and everyone eats some more in celebration of this "wonderful" event.

In my opinion this is THE most horrific thing practiced in Judaism today. Simple facts: A baby just had the most sensitive part of his body cut off in sacrifice to some deity that he has not chosen. No one asked this young baby if he wanted to donate 40%-60% of the skin of his penis to a "god" of which he never heard. This baby will now live the rest of his life with a very much desensitized penis. The once internal and protected glans, which is the most sensitive remaining part, is now unprotected and over exposed. It will constantly rub against clothing for the rest of the baby's life and will develop a callus in a process called keratinization causing further loss in sensitivity. Many circumcisions, are cut very tightly causing discomfort during erection. When this baby becomes a middle-aged man, he will be 60% more likely to suffer from erectile dysfunction.

I know many of you are thinking, "but I was always told it was healthy". Yes, we were all told that, but it was a lie. The main "health risk" of the foreskin is infection because the person did not keep themselves clean. In today's day and age, when we can all shower very often, it is very very easy to keep the body and the foreskin clean. Even if it was not that easy, you just don't slice off a part of a body because its hard to clean. And of course, the number one "health benefit" that people love to preach about is that it lowers the risk of catching HIV when having unprotected sex. But do you know what really lowers the risk of HIV? NOT HAVING UNPROTECTED SEX! But the Catholic Church and other religious fundamentalists are very anti condoms, so they would rather have people slice up their genitals than "god forbid" wear a condom.

Since the risks and damage greatly out ways any once thought to be real benefit, the only real reason to do this unnecessary procedure is religion. And it is wrong for the person who's foreskin is in question to not have any say in the matter. If an adult male is so dedicated to his faith that he would like to have his penis mutilated, he is free to do that. But the unnecessary mutilation of a baby's penis without his permission is simply wrong.

I know what a sensitivities subject this is to religious and non religious Jews alike. This is a core part of their Jewish identity. When I first came across these facts, I was encouraged to research the matter on my own so that I could prove all these claims wrongs. I was sure that all the new information I had just learned was part of sum anti-Semitic conspiracy. But the more I read, the more i learned it was all true and the more horrified I became by the practice.

 I always say that as much as I disagree with religion, everyone should have the right to practice the religion of their choice, as long as they are not hurting anyone. Well, in this case, every single boy comes out hurt, and damaged for life. This is a horrible practice that should be reexamined and stopped.

Here are some links that you might find interesting:
50 Reasons to Leave it Alone
An Open Letter to Mohel Michael Henesch
Cut is a documentary about circumcision from a Jewish perspective. I highly recommend it.