A Review of Camp Quest by someone who actually attended

•September 23, 2010 • 5 Comments

Summer Camp has traditionally been an integral part of childhood for many American children. It is a place where they learn now to tie knots, perform canoe rescues, and build campfires. Unfortunately, many summer camps have religious overtones, excluding those campers who choose not the include religion in their daily lives. Boy Scouts of America, a notoriously homophobic organization, has a ban on Atheists scouts. While some camps may be more open to allowing Atheists to attend than others, a new form of camp opened in 1996. Camp Quest is among the first residential summer camps in the United Kingdom, Canada, and United States specifically for children of non-theistic parents. This summer camp offers secular families a place to explore atheism and agnosticism, along with secular humanism and other systems of beliefs in an environment that encourages skepticism and logic.

Upon first glance, Camp Quest is not unlike many other Summer Camps. Cabins are messy, teammates cheer each other up a climbing rock wall, and obnoxiously entertaining songs are sung at dinner. However, delving further into the essence of Camp Quest allows us to realize that Camp Quest is radically different. There are no prayers at meals. Instead, campers learn about famous free thinkers who challenged the traditional values of the time. Ranging from Thomas Paine, a Deist, to Douglas Adams, an ardent Atheist, the free thinkers presented come from various walks of life, much like the campers in attendance. Some come from entirely secular families, while others have gradually split away from religion.

Many religious organizations claim that Camp Quest is an Atheist Indoctrination camp, leading young children away from God and creationism. As an attendee of Camp Quest Michigan 2010, I can personally vouch that Camp Quest does nothing of the sort.The primary goal of Camp Quest is to encourage free-thought and to get people to actually think for themselves, particularly the younger generation, who will soon hold the reins of power in their hands. It is ultimately up to the individual to choose what they believe to be true. It was a liberating experience to express my personal opinions in a non-confrontational environment and the ability to question everything, not simply creationism. A popular feature of the camp is Socrates’ Cafe, where campers and counselors gather together to discuss the unknowns of the universe, with various schools of philosophy touched upon. Absurdism, realism, existentialism….

Upon returning home from Camp Quest, many thoughts persisted in my mind. Several Socrates’ Cafe discussions ignited the urge seek answers to primal questions involving the nature of human consciousness and the purpose of life. For thousands of years, the human ego has been unable to accept that the universe was not made for us and we are simply a pale blue dot in the Milky Way Galaxy. I believe there is no predetermined meaning to life; we give our own lives a purpose and direction. There is a small part of me that wishes there was an afterlife, and that when I die, I will be able to observe the progress of humanity, wherever the future may take us. Our lives burn short and bright, and then we are extinguished, left to rot in the ground. Suddenly my view on religion has become a manifestation of human desires to exist after I die.

If Camp Quest has taught me anything, it is that every idea should garner skepticism, no matter how absurd or obvious the idea seems. It is through these means that humanity will advance. (hopefully into a space-faring civilization complete with babelfish and a Federation) In Carl Sagan’s Cosmos, he taught the importence of considering all options. The most successful societies were those that encouraged polite disagreement and fostered intellect. America could learn something from the society that existed on the Greek island of Samos. The idea that the Earth revolved around the Sun was contemplated and accepted here, but it took 24 centuries for the rest of the world to catch up. I have one wish for humanity, and that is to not allow this society to destroy itself. Sentience has a price, and let us not abuse the power that comes with thought.


Top 11 Most Thought Provoking Star Trek Episodes

•August 14, 2010 • Leave a Comment

Top 11 Most Thought-Provoking Star Trek Episodes
(in no particular order)
MAJOR SPOILERS (you have been warned)

Mortal Coil: Voyager, Season 4, episode 12
Humanity (and other species of the Star Trek universe) have been trying to cheat death for many years. When Neelix dies in a shuttlecraft accident, the crew believes they have finally lost him for good. However, 7 of 9 uses her Borg technology to resurrect him. Neelix was dead for over 18 hours, thus setting a new medical record with his “resurrection”. However, Neelix’s religious faith is seriously shaken, because everything he believed to be true was actually just myth. He learned that there was nothing after death and there was no way he was ever going to be reunited with his long-dead family members. There is a certain beauty in this episode, as it challenges traditional religious beliefs of life after death and how the finality of death should be treated.

Wrongs Darker than Night or Death: Deep Space Nine, Season 6, episode 17
Major Kira is the very definition of flustered and angry. When her nemesis, Cardassian Gul Dukat, tells her that he was romantically involved with her mother during the Cardassian occupation of her home planet Bajor, she refuses to believe him. She consults the Orb of Time,who reveals, in essence, reveals that Gul Dukat has committed wrongs darker than night or death. Major Kira comes to understand that no matter how hard she tries, she will never be able to fully remove Gul Dukat from her life because they are linked with a bond that cannot be severed.

Jetrel: Voyager, Season 1, episode 15
One of the most interesting moments in history to study in the moment on August 6, 1945 when Commander Robert Lewis entered into his log, “My god, what have we done?” While that log entry referred to the bombing of Hiroshima, this episode is a Star Trek spin on J. Robert Oppenheimer’s atomic bomb and the paradox of morality in the time of war. Neelix is told he is dying of a terminal illness caused by a bomb that destroyed millions of members of his species and the only person who can help his is the person who created the bomb in the first place. The two characters wrestle with morality, redemption and if there really is a point of no return from past wrongs.

Doctor Bashir, I presume?, Deep Space Nine: Season 5, episode 16
Genetic engineering is a subject of much speculation today, given the advantages genetically enhanced bodies and brain could have over someone who “has not been tampered with.” This episode explores Doctor Bashir’s humanity, revealing him to be genetically enhanced as a child, which improved his brainpower. Starfleet bans those who are genetically engineered from serving, but Doctor Bashir is one of the stations most beloved members and also a man whose only motivations are to do good in the world. This is an interesting commentary on making exceptions for certain people and also the good and evil of eugenics.

The City on the Edge of Forever: Star Trek: The Original Series: Season 1, episode 28
This episode lives up to it’s reputation as one of the best Star Trek episodes ever. Aside from all the paradoxes that arise from time travel, the issue of saving one life over preserving a million others is contemplated. How can a person fully understand sacrificing the life of someone he knew in order to simply restore history? The episode points out that there are a million little strings attached to everything we do.

Space Seed: Star Trek: The Original Series: Season 1, episode 24
“It would be interesting, captain, to return to that world in a hundred years and to learn what crop has sprung from the seed you planted today.”-Spock. Aside from being the starting point for Star Trek II, thus episode is another eugenics debate, presenting the darker side of producing humans who are stronger, faster, and more efficient. Presenting both sides of an issue than will plague humanity in the near future has always been incorporated into science fiction, and the stories of Khan and Doctor Bashir, who has drastically different people become intertwined. Both have been genetically altered, thus proving that sometimes science can simply be a shot in the dark.

I,Borg: Star Trek: The Next Generation: Season 5, episode 23
The Borg are considered by many to be the ultimate enemy because there is no way to reason with them or ever tap into their morality, because essentially the Borg have no morality. When the crew find an unconscious, but living, Borg drone on a planet, the crew stumbles over what an appropriate course of action would be. The true measure of a man is supposed to be how he treats his enemy, but the crew knows if one of their own was discovered by the Borg, he would promptly be assimilated. The characters are forced to extend the goals and values of their Utopian society to help an enemy recover, but in the process they discover numerous interesting qualities in the Borg.

Hippocratic Oath, Deep Space Nine: Season 4 episode 4
Julian Bashir and Miles O’Brien, best friends, are taken prisoner by the Jem’Hadar, the Federation’s enemy in the Dominion War. In order to survive, Jem’Hadar must recieve a regular infusion of a certain enzyme. However, the Jem’Hadar on this planet are running out of this enzyme and suffering the consequences of it. Bashir, being a humanist, wants to help them and manufacture more of the enzyme, but O’Brien says he and Bashir should be busy formulating an escape plan. The two characters fight, go their separate ways, and end up causing a cascade of events that almost destroys them both.

Devil in the Dark, Star Trek: The Original Series: Season 1, episode 26
It is instinct for humanity to try to reject and destroying something that is new and foreign. A strange alien is killing members of a mining colony, and the crew of the Enterprise is called in to investigate. This episode blurs the line of good and evil, because in the end, it was humanity that was acting in the violent, irrational manner, but they were also acting out of self defense. This episode carries a very relevant meaning in today’s society, whether is be about overcoming instinct to fear the unknown or to not always shoot-to-kill.

The Galileo Seven, Star Trek: The Original Series: Season 1, episode 13

Vulcans are dedicated to logic, seeking it’s wisdom and knowledge throughout the course of their lives. Logic may be useful for someone who has suppressed their emotions, but when a shuttlecraft crashes on the surface of a planet, logic and emotion wage a bitter fight. This episode provides an interesting view on survival, the limitations on a single viewpoint, and risks. Logic does not save the crew in the end; an almost futile last attempt to avoid burning up in the atmosphere does. I like this episode because it proves that all thoughts have their flaws and no matter how hard you try to be completely self- sufficient, your mind is extremely limited. There are forces in the universe that are outside your control.

In Purgatory’s Shadow/By Inferno’s Light, Deep Space Nine: Season 5, episodes 14 and 15
The Dominion invasion of the Alpha Quadrant is hovering on the horizon. Garak receives a Cardassian transmission from the Gamma Quadrant, and after a brief moment of deception, he and Worf set out to trace the transmission. Deep inside the Gamma Quadrant, they are captured by the Dominion and taken to a lonely prison, where they meet a strange array of familiar faces. In order to escape from death on that forsaken asteroid, characters must face their fears and old enemies. The fate of the Alpha Quadrant rests in the hands of Deep Space Nine.

“There is no greater enemy than one’s own fears.”

Honorable Mentions:
Business as Usual, Deep Space Nine: Season 5, episode 19
In order to advance his standing in the business world, Quark decide to become a weapons dealer. Although the United Federation of Planet’s Prime Directive forbids Starfleet officers from interfering with the internal affairs of other cultures, Quark isn’t a member of Starfleet and is thus not governed by the Prime Directive. In Macbeth-like style, Quark’s morality surfaces in his dreams, haunting him for his almost destruction of multiple worlds. For once in his life, Quark chooses his ethics over his latinum.

Course: Oblivion, Voyager: Season 5, episode 18
We are all told that in this massive universe, there is no one quite like us. We enjoy this sense of self; it helps us determine who we are. This episode follows the journey of a duplicate crew and starship Voyager, who were created deep inside the Delta Quadrant. This crew has forgotten they were duplicates until several crewmembers die in dramatic fashion. Crew morale slips as they realize they could never take the place of any of the ‘real’ members of Voyager. As the number of living crew dwindles, they decide they must find a way to preserve their memory because duplicates or not, they served with honor and distinction. However, their ship is too badly damaged and they a blown into a million little pieces before any ship can help them. As the remnants of their ship float in the vacuum of space, the real Voyager stumbles across the wreckage, totally unaware of the events that have just taken place.

Final Random Episode That You Should All Watch:
Someone to watch over me, Voyager, Season 5 episode 22

I generally do not like romantic comedy episodes, but this episode is that and so much more. 7 of 9 decides to expand her knowledge of humanity into the realm of dating, with The Doctor serving as her guide. In the process of teaching 7 how to date, The Doctor falls in love with her himself. The rest of the episode is a tragic story of the reality of being thousands of light years from Earth. Although the Doctor and 7 have little desire to return to earth, they still feel the loneliness that hangs over Voyager and both discover they really do need ‘someone to watch over them’.

Top 11 Most Hilarious Star Trek Episodes

•August 13, 2010 • 1 Comment

Top 11 Most Hilarious Star Trek Episodes
(in no particular order)
SPOILERS (you have been warned)

Fascination, Deep Space Nine: Season 3, episode 10
Luxwanna Troi “invades” crewmembers of Deep Space Nine subconsciousness by accidentally projecting strong feelings of desire onto them. People confess long hidden attractions for their station-mates, marriages are proposed, people sneak off to deserted corridors, and it all manages to stay PG.

If Wishes were Horses, Deep Space Nine: Season 1, episode 16
A strange group of aliens takes over Deep Space Nine, becoming the physical manifestations of what certain crew members desire most. Commander Sisko sees his favorite baseball player, young children meet characters from their bedtime stories, and Julian Bashir sees Jadzia Dax. Station mates learn a little more about each other and also the value of privacy.

Parturition, Voyager: Season 2, episode 7
Food fights ensue when two crew members on Voyager, Tom Paris and Neelix, fall for the same woman. Captain Janeway’s solution is to send the men on an away mission together, hoping they will be able to resolve their differences without her intervention. Of course, this is Star Trek, so the away mission goes horribly wrong and Neelix ends up becoming the god-mother of a strange reptilian infant and Tom Paris gets covered in strange welts. On a different note, this episode provides numerous conflict resolution strategies, most of them quite usable!

The Apple, Star Trek: The Original Series: Season 2, episode 5
While this episode has many serious themes, like the morality of interfering with a people’s way of life in the name of technological advancement, wonderful 1960’s special effects add a humorous touch. Redshirts are stuck down by lightening, blown up by magical rocks, and Chekov finally gets some real camera action.

Q2, Voyager: Season 7, episode 19
Mr. and Mrs. Q have a child, named Q (go figure) and he is not the angel his parents hoped for him to be. Instead of uniting the Q Continuum like he was supposed to, he has only reeked chaos throughout the galaxy. The most plausible solution to Q was to leave Junior the Kathryn “Aunt Kathy” Janeway! It takes a little bit (okay, a lot) of discipline, but Aunt Kathy and Junior finally discover the cause of his behavioral problems. Q becomes a better parent and begins to fully appreciate his son.

Our Man Bashir, Deep Space Nine: Season 4, episode 10
A stable element of Star Trek is the fact that whenever something needs to work, it doesn’t. In this episode, the holosuites malfunction (again), causing Julian Bashir and Garak to become trapped inside. Various characters stationed on Deep Space Nine appear in Bashir’s holodeck program, including lovely Major Kira as a Russian spy and untouchable Jadzia Dax as an amazingly geeky, but beautiful mad scientist. Bashir and Garak managed to have a serious conversation about knowing when to quit, but this is primarily another great holosuite adventure. Buckle up!

In Theory, Star Trek: The Next Generation: Season 4, episode 25
Data, everyone’s favorite android, decides to try his hand at romance and dating after discovering that a fellow crew member has deep feelings for him. He enters a relationship, only to find humanity a very difficult species to get along with. In order to fully experience the complexity of a relationship, Data takes to studying literature dealing with dating, but his efforts are futile. Aside from all the goofiness, this episode raises an interesting question: will artificial life ever be able to experience emotion? In Data’s case, the relationship was simply another calculation and study, not the emotionally taxing yet strangely satisfying experience most humans find it to be. Is emotion a curse, a blessing, or both?

Tinker, Tenor, Doctor, Spy, Voyager: Season 6, episode 4
In another exciting attempt to become more than his program initially designed him to be, the Emergency Medical Hologram installs as daydreaming subroutine in his programming. In each of his daydreams, he has everything a man could ever want; women fighting over him, command of a starship, and, most importantly to the doctor, a sense of equality with his human crewmates. As always, technology fails, but this is still an entertaining episode.

Take me out to the Holosuite, Deep Space Nine: Season 7, episode 4
Given Captain Sisko’s affection for baseball, the writers of the show just had to organize a station-wide baseball game. Against a visiting Vulcan ship, of course. The Vulcans, with the superior strength, win the game, but Sisko’s team obviously has more fun than their opponents, because winning isn’t everything. All in all, this is a great bonding episode for everyone and lots of light jokes are thrown around.

Rascals, Star Trek: The Next Generation: Season 6, episode 7

A strange shuttle accident transforms various crew members of the Enterprise into children, including Captain Picard. The catch of the episode is that those effected only appear as children; they have retained all their adult memories. The ship is in a state of disarray, having just lost their well-respected,balding captain to a prepubescent boy. The magnificent Ferengi choose this time to raid the Enterprise, and it’s up to the 12 year old versions of the four crew members to save the day.

Bride of Chaotica, Voyager: Season 5, episode 12
Tom Paris’ “Captain Proton” holonovels allowed the creators of Star Trek to explore early human conceptions about space in a Flash Gordon, Spaceman Spiff style. This episode evokes nostalgia for a time when space travel involved wearing a jetpack on one’s back and when television was in black and white. Voyager becomes trapped in a distortion and the holodeck is left running. In order to return to the real world, crew members must first defeat the evil villain Chaotica and his infamous ‘death ray.” Be afraid.

Honorable Mentions:
Threshold, Voyager: Season 2, episode 15
This is most likely the most ridiculous Star Trek episode ever, but it is entertaining none the less. In short, Tom Paris breaks the Warp 10 barrier, speeds up his evolutionary process, becomes a salamander, kidnaps Captain Janeway, and has salamander babies with her on some lonely planet in the Delta quadrant. Enough said.

Blood Fever, Voyager: Season 3, episode 16
Vulcans, for all their great technological advances, still maintain a very Victorian attitude towards sex. When young ensign Vorik is struck with Pon Farr, the Vulcan mating drive, deep in the Delta Quadrant and far away from his mate, he must seek an alternative methods of resolving his Pon Farr. His solution is to propose to the fiery Chief Engineer B’elanna Torres, who promptly breaks his jaw. However, in their brief moment of contact, Vorik accidentally transfers his Pon Farr to B’elanna, who is now also in the “have sex or die situation.” The rest of the episode involves a lot of dancing, singing, and crying, just as human bonding rituals should.

A slightly more serious list will appear once I stop re-watching all these episodes.

Summer Reading!

•August 8, 2010 • Leave a Comment

I am going to pull a typical human reaction and make a wonderful excuse as to why I have not posted any new essays in a couple of weeks! You see, I have been reading incessantly and have become so absorbed in the world of books that I have completely forgotten about this lovely little blog. Today, I am going to share with you some of the books I have recently read, for a little bit of writer-reader interaction. Without further ado, here is the list and a basic summery of each book that does to reveal spoilers.

The Plague by Albert Camus
The common conception of isolation is something alone the contours of a lonely cell in a seemingly forgotten jail, but The Plague, written by Albert Camus, offers a new perspective on isolation, and that is quarantine in your home city. When a strain of the plague, the disease that ravaged Europe during the Dark Ages, strikes the port city of Oran, Algeria, the city is cut off from the outside world. Throughout the duration of the book, the narrator tells his viewpoint about the plague. People argue, starve, go crazy die, engage in risky escape attempts, and fight for control of their lives in this existential, absurdist novel.

Hiroshima by John Hersey
After the United States dropped Little Boy on the Japanese city of Hiroshima, the first words entered into Commander Robert Lewis’ log were, “My god, what have we done?” First published as a magazine article, this book details the lives of six individuals directly following the bombing of Hiroshima. Some are injured, some help the injured. Some have lost everything, some are still searching for remnants of their pasts. The only constant that remains throughout the books is the glaring fact that Japan was changed forever on August 6, 1945. This book offers both an historical overview of the bombing and a very human portrayal of survival that raises the question, “Were the bombs necessary?”

The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger
“Don’t ever tell anybody anything. If you do, you’ll start missing everybody”. A classic representing teenage angst and sexuality, this novel contains many aspects of teenagers that have not changed in the sixty years since it was first published. Teenagers still rebel against authority,parents, containment, and perhaps there is a reason for such actions. Society conforms teenagers into molds that are pre-cast from the previous generation, while still urging teenagers to move forward. The Catcher in the Rye questions the control people try to exert on their lives, human moral standards, and what it means to be a young person.

Notes from Underground by Fyodor Dostoevsky
This book is essentially a rambling journal of a bitter, lonely man who lives underground. (known to critics as “the underground man) Because Notes from Underground portrays humanity as irrational and unable to be controlled and rejects socialistic utopianism, it was unpopular with Soviet literary critics. As humanity becomes increasingly materialistic, Notes from Underground has been making a literary comeback. For all the existential and intellectual analysis this “journal” makes, it also offers a perspective into the human mind and the need for social interaction. The underground man views himself as awkward and often dreams different identities and lives for himself. It could be that this man is merely a victim of materialism and is really far ahead of his time, and thus, has chosen this life underground in utter isolation.

Additionally, here are a couple of books I would like to read in the near future. Your thoughts?

Stranger in a Strange Land
The Name of the Rose

I’m just a freak

•July 13, 2010 • Leave a Comment

Warning: This article contains words/phrases that some may find offensive and deals with issues including suicide.

I pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America, and to the republic for which it stands, one nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.

Read the last five words again. Liberty and justice for all. It sounds Utopian. Any land that could offer liberty and justice for all must be a marvelous land where people work hand in hand, never once looking at our physical or mental differences, while embracing our similarities. And when I look at the country in which children and adults alike repeat this message over and over like robots, what do I see? Upon gazing into the voice of the American public, I see a nation ravaged with war. People stand at religious worship one hour, praising God and binding themselves with religious vows of peace, while the next hour they are condemning homosexuals and non-believers to hell. Sounds peaceful. Sounds loving. Sounds accepting. Before you today I bring the story of someone who has suffered in silence for sixteen long years, barely clinging to life. Read his story and please, try to imagine yourself in his shoes. It’s the least you can do.

Meet Edsel. He sounds like your average sixteen year old guy. He shoots hoops at his local YMCA, he works out, he reads Manga and he does well in school. The key word in the previous statement was “sounds”, because Edsel is not your average sixteen year old guy. Edsel carries a dark secret around with him, haunting his very existence. Every action he makes is a constant reminder that he is a transsexual, biologically female but identifying as male. He tried joining Boy Scouts of America but couldn’t advance through the ranks because he wasn’t allowed on camping trips. He uses the men’s changing room at the YMCA but lives in constant fear of being discovered to be biologically female. He volunteers at a soup kitchen and goes to church but knows that he must bury his identity and the truth about who he is deep inside of him, or risk negative reactions. Edsel lives in fear, and his fear is very justified. As told in his own words, Edsel states:

Ever since I was little I’ve dealt with being called an it. Friends of my mom’s asked her sometimes why she let me dress the way I did, why she didn’t make me be a girl. In 2nd grade I shaved my head, and the school sent a letter home saying little girls shouldn’t have their head shaved and my mom was afraid they would call children and youth services on us if we did it again. People have yelled ‘Fag’ out their car windows when I was walking down the street. The kids made fun of me in school for being a lesbian, and when I came out as trans[gender] in the fire company, I was harassed a lot. They made comments about how I should be a girl and what not…

Part of the challenge about being a transgender person is making those around you who have watched you grow up as your biological gender understand that you are essentially not your biological gender. Gender and sex are two completely different things. Sex is physical, while gender is mental. Edsel continues by documenting his mother’s reaction.

I said many times over the years about being called [Edsel] and using male pronouns and stuff… And my mom always said no one would believe her, no one would think I was a boy, that I can’t do that…When I started to learn more about transsexuality and being transgendered when I was 15 (I had been in the psych ward, and they diagnosed me with Gender Identity Disorder.) I started trying to get my mom to call me [Edsel] and refer to me with Male pronouns and stuff… she made a huge deal out of it, refused to call me that, and she was saying about she doesn’t agree with it. That I can do that after I’m 18, but I shouldn’t be able to make a decision like that or whatever at such a young age. We got into a fight about it one day, and I went home and cried and sobbed like I never had before and I think I might have killed myself that night, if she hadn’t come home from work and said ‘I’ve thought about it, and you’re right’ from that day on she’s been helping me with transition. Sometimes in the car and stuff, she will talk about how she feels like her daughter died, about it’s like some cruel joke to her. She talks a lot about how much this affects her. It seems to be all about her. Her feelings and stuff. But to be honest, I hold back so much pain from her. She has no idea how I feel. She sees a mask. When I went to the school picnic at the end of this year, on the way home was one of those times. She said about how much it hurts her to sit here and ‘watch me’ have to sit here and wait for hormones. She’s so full of crap. She doesn’t see anything. It’s [a teacher] that gets to see how miserable I am every day.She 1st went from being against me transitioning, to comparing being transgender to having Cancer, and she’s trying to get her child treatment. (Treatment = hormones)

Family are not always the only people who will love you unconditionally and never judge you.

I have lost a lot of family members because of this [being transgender]. I never had much of a relationship with a lot of my family in the 1st place, but I had just started to build one with my father when I made the decision to transition to [Edsel]. He doesn’t want to support me, He pretty much wants to ‘compromise’ and not call me anything at all. He wants to treat me like I’m an it. It feels extremely painful, and I’ve made the decision not to see him at all. Every time he calls, or even sends my mother an email or what not, it completely turns my life upside down for sometimes a couple days.

Friendships have been aborted over Edsel’s transsexuality.

I have lost many friends, in the fire company I thought I had friends. After I came out though, everyone just harassed me, and made fun of me. It felt like I had been betrayed. Someone told me I was a girl, God made me a girl, and I should act/look like a girl. Someone expressed concerns that I was a liability to the fire company, cause what if the Juniors went home and said something to their parents? They just treated me like garbage. They asked so many questions, like why I couldn’t just be a masculine female? I was called names, a dyke. One kid even said that it was people like me that didn’t accept their gender that were the reason the world was so messed up (or something to that effect)

Being bottled up inside takes it’s toll.

To be honest, I don’t know why I continue to live each day. I want to die, soooo badly. But mostly I guess I’m just afraid. There was a lot of times I worried about being buried with my birth name on the head stone, or my mom putting me in a dress for the funeral. Something like that. And then there was the fear of an Autopsy, I’ve been so afraid that if I died, my body and my memory would be… disgraced. I’d have to say that kept me alive a lot of times. I was afraid of being remembered wrong, of being disgraced. I couldn’t let that happen. I worried sometimes what would happen to those left behind.

While this only scrapes the dust off the surface of Edsel’s story, the suffering he has endured is evident. It is at this point I pose a question to the religious fanatics. Is Edsel really a soldier for Satan, hoping to corrupt your good, Christian souls, or is he just another traveller adrift in the Cosmos, hoping to find some place of belonging?
Perhaps the most effective tribute we can attest to Edsel is to confront ourselves with the brutal honesty of his situation. Any transgender person would tell you that all they want is a sense of normalcy, living their lives as their true gender. For a pre-transitional transgender person, normal is intermingled with deception, terror, and stealth. A person lives in multiple realities, mimicking a shape shifter. Let us give them their hard earned normalcy and avoid another story much like Brandon Teena’s. ( http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Brandon_Teena ) If everyone could remove preconceptions from their eyes and simply talk to a transgender person, you would find a person who is just like you. Full of insecurities, but also full of knowledge and conversation.

The following is the quote that Edsel lives by. See how it applies to your life. We’re really not all that different.

“Out of suffering have emerged the strongest souls. The most massive characters are seared with scares.” – Khabil Gibran

Set Phasers to Star Trek

•July 2, 2010 • 1 Comment

I would like to warn every single one of you about the excessive nerdiness in this article.  Please do not blame me if your brain implodes or explodes with awesomeness.

Humans love to categorize everything. By placing labels on each other, it gives us a sense of control that is not there, but at the very least it makes us feel like we have something to call our own on this pale blue dot lost in the fabric of time and space. Some people wear these labels in shame, hiding from their true identities out of fear, whether the fear be of themselves or of what other people think. My label is Trekkie, and I wear it proudly. I do not think being a Trekkie is a defining characteristic, but anyone who ever so slightly associates with the Geek Underground has bee labeled by popular culture as a Geek. It’s cool with me, I am not bothered by popularity. Although I am not a sentimental person, recently, I have been thinking about how big of an impact Star Trek has had on my life. I delved into my brain and tried to determine how on Earth (or Vulcan, or Romulus, or Cardassia) I ended up a Trekkie.
To the average outsider, Star Trek is just a show for people who live in their parents’ basement and dress up like their favorite character while attending conventions. However, Star Trek has been dubbed the “smart people’s Star Wars” and is generally geared towards an adult audience. Much of the Star Wars films are built up on special effects and little character development. What early Star Trek episodes lacked in special effects was made up for by the questions of morality and human nature that the episodes stirred. Is it morally right to advance a civilization technologically at the expense of destroying a culture that has sustained them for ten thousand years? Who is more complete – the machine that can do calculations by the millisecond or the man who can feel love and compassion? How should enemy prisoners of war be treated? Should humans be able to genetically alter their offspring to make them smarter, faster, and stronger than their peers? The wonderful thing about Star Trek is that the show did not take sides on the answers to these questions, it simply showed possible outcomes and repercussions of a character’s choices. All viewpoints were expressed. In the end, most questions about ethics and morals were left up to the viewer to wrestle with. The void of morally grey area was throughly explored in all Star Trek installments.

Susan Sackett, a friend of Gene Roddenberry’s, has been involved with Star Trek for much of her adult life. In an article on Telegram News, Ms. Sackett stated:”Star Trek, like humanism, promoted ethics, social justice and reason, and rejected religious dogma and the supernatural.” In Star Trek: The Original Series and Star Trek: The Next Generation, religion is not a factor in the character’s mindsets. This goes to show that one can be conscious of morals without religion. Religion is not a prerequisite for morality. Star Trek: Deep Space Nine introduced a religious race known as the Bajorans, who have religious figures known as Prophets. These Prophets live in the wormhole that Deep Space Nine, a space station, is located near. However, religion is not portrayed as something that will answer all the questions in the universe. For the Bajorans, who endured years and years of Cardassian brutality, religion was a coping device and a light in the dark. The Bajorans do not use the religion to try to explain science. They use it to explain themselves. Another race, known as the Vorta, are genetically engineered to worships Gods named “The Founders”. Several characters cannot understand such blind devotion. A Bajoran says,

“… listen to me. I know, to Starfleet, the Prophets are nothing more than wormhole aliens. But to me, they’re gods. I can’t prove it. Then again, I don’t have to; because my faith in them is enough – just as Weyoun’s (a Vorta) faith in you… was enough for him.”

I prefer this view on religion because it backs away from the , “You’re going to hell because you don’t believe what I believe” standpoint. It is more of a, “This is what I believe. I am open for other ideas and we can compare cultures.” No race is portrayed as superior. No religion is portrayed as superior. Instead, the United Federation of Planets strives to unearth the potential of each individual race to promote a better future for all. The United Federation of Planets is much like an improved European Union. Although Gene Roddenberry was against having religion in Star Trek, I believe the introduction of the Bajoran Prophets was pivotal in the show. By having a deeply religious race, Star Trek was able to show that people may be able to use religion responsibly.

In a time when the United States had just banned prayer in public school, Star Trek promoted a rational, logical future for humans in which religion played no role.  Earth was a Utopia that Humans tried their hardest to preserve and protect. In a time period when Lynden B. Johnson declared “War on Poverty”, when the National Organization of Women (NOW) was demanding equal rights in the workplace for men and women, and when the Space Race was in the full swing, Star Trek: The Original Series provided an outcome and goal for humanity. Perhaps Star Trek does not have the greatest set of actors, or the best special effects, or the deepest plot lines, but it has been revolutionary. Star Trek: The Original Series was the only television program Martin Luther King, Jr. allowed his children to watch because it portrayed an era in time where race, national origin, and gender did not matter. Ensign Chekov, a Russian, and James T. Kirk, an American, served together in the line of duty in a time when the Cold War shaped the face of almost every foreign policy issue in the United States. Perhaps it is idealistic to hope that someday, people will be able to look beyond our obvious differences and see that we all really do have a great deal in common as a species. Let us hope that we can look beyond our own national bigotry and pride, and embrace the universe with arms wide open.

Live long and Prosper.

Hypocrisy at Its Best: Make-up

•June 22, 2010 • Leave a Comment

America, put on your face! Smear on some concealer to cover our blemishes and brush foundation onto our skin to smooth out the color variations. Smudge on some smoky eyeliner to make our eyes “pop” and paint on some mascara to make our eyelashes magically lengthen. Add some eyeshadow, blush, eyebrow pencil, toner, moisturizer, lip pencil, lipstick, lip gloss, and powder – we are ready for our day, looking more like cloned dolls than unique individuals.

52 minutes. That’s how long the average person spends on their make-up. An entire hour that could be better spent sleeping, working, exercising, or just relaxing. Or doing just about anything else, come to think of it.

"looking more like cloned dolls than unique individuals."

Looking perfect has become a very scary obsession. Americans alone spend $7,000,000,000 on cosmetics per year. This only slightly shocking number shows a dangerous trend towards self-absorbency. We have become so concerned about our own looks that we are willing to spend an average $100 per month just on our cosmetics!

Make-up advertises itself as something to make us feel better about ourselves, something that will make us feel beautiful. Ironically, the only thing that I’ve found that it helps me with is finding my flaws.

No one is exempt from the enormous stress to look “beautiful” that cosmetics create. And that definition of beauty represents a very, very shallow picture. Only a mere 2% of women in the UK think that they are naturally beautiful. 98% of us truly believe we are not attractive. Are we really going to let cosmetics and the media afflict us this severely?

Okay, I admit that I am a total hypocrite. I wear make-up, although probably not as often as most teens. And the only reason I started using make-up in the first place was because I saw everyone else using it. I felt…. less perfect and somehow left out. So I bought my first eyeshadow, eyeliner, and mascara.

However, I finally understand what make-up has done for me, so I am determined to not let the media or society influence my opinion of myself.

So this summer for a day or two, join me in setting down those pencils, powders, mascara wands, and magic wrinkle erasers. It’s not what we cake onto our faces that make us beautiful. It’s our personalities. We can shine even if we don’t look like a perfect Barbie doll.

So, someone suggested that I give some tips on how to be happy and satisfied with yourself. These tips are as much for me as all of you – I’m still working on being happy with myself. I firmly believe it’s always an ongoing process that never really ends, because you are always expanding yourself as a person.

Tip #1: Okay, this is a bit cheesy, but it really works! When you get up in the morning and look at yourself in the mirror, tell yourself one thing you like about yourself (before the make-up!). Appearance, personality – it can be anything.

Tip #2: Instead of focusing your make-up on hiding your flaws and going for the sexy smoky-eyed look, try a natural make-up that enhances your features. In this way, you’ll be pointing out to yourself what you like about your appearance. I doubt that any one who reads this article is going to completely stop using make-up, so this is an easy, self-esteem raising compromise.

Tip #3: Don’t make fun of yourself. I see so many people do this on an everyday basis – “I hate how I look! Too young!” – or – “I’m so fat…”. It’s completely not true most of the time and it focuses negative attention on yourself. Instead, talk about something you like about yourself that day.

Tip #4: Love yourself. If you don’t like who you are on the inside, you will never be confident.

I hope this helps! It certainly has given me a new perspective on make-up and appearances. ~Ma’at