Queer, Mormon, and Transhuman: Part IV
I’ve received a bit of feedback from peers about my work not being relevant enough to transhumanism and that I focus more on the “queer” and “Mormon” than “transhumanism.” A casual reading of my work might understandably lead someone to this conclusion. However, a more thoughtful reading of my work will demonstrate that my “queer” work is “transhumanist” work. My “Mormon” work is “transhumanist” work. My “queer” work is “Mormon” work.
What is transhumanism?
Commonly defined, transhumanism is a philosophical movement that advocates for the transformation of the human condition by developing and making widely available sophisticated technologies to greatly enhance human intellect and physiology. Transhumanist thinkers study the potential benefits, dangers, and ethics of emerging technologies. The most common transhumanist thesis is that human beings may eventually be able to transform themselves into posthuman beings, including superintelligence and life extension.
This may seem overwhelming, weird, intimidating, or even scary, but I promise it’s not. You are already engaging in transhumanism by hopping on the internet and reading this blog post. The words you are reading are influencing and even transforming your mind. If you have ever used medication, you’re transhuman. If you’re wearing glasses, you’re transhuman. If you have ever washed your hands with soap to avoid illness and extend your life, you’re transhuman. To be human is to be transhuman. Since the dawn of our species we have been using primitive forms of technology to enhance and transform the human condition.
Strangely, transhumanism has a reputation for being a movement for technologists, futurists, scientists, and secularists. While their participation is important and essential, transhumanism includes and needs so much more than technophiles. I’ll even contend this reputation has been to the detriment of the transhumanist movement when it thwarts diverse participation. We, transhumanists, can’t get a critical mass if we exclude the majority of the population with our rhetoric and esthetics. Transhumanism is for anyone and everyone, not just technologists and sci-fi enthusiasts.
Take me for example, I’m not a technologist. Not even close. I’m a philosopher, writer, poet, and artist. I’m also an advocate and activist. Give me a paintbrush, keyboard, idea, cause, or camera and I’ll create something interesting and beautiful with it. It’s what I do. I cannot tell you the latest findings in quantum mechanics. I cannot teach you about nanotechnology. I don’t have an interest in cryptocurrency. Hell, I couldn’t even get my Facebook notification preferences worked out without help from my husband. I’m not a technologist, but the transhumanist movement still needs my unique talents.
I think it is a mistake to consider specialized subtopics of transhumanism as “less relevant.” In fact, it is in these specialized topics that we are able to make broad, abstract, transhumanist ideals relevant to various populations. Try telling a woman the importance of quantum mechanics while she’s struggling to get out of an abusive marriage. Try telling a queer Mormon about theoretical physics of simulated worlds when their transgender partner is the victim of hate crimes. Try telling a person of color the importance of Moore’s Law when they are getting unjustifiably incarcerated and shot by law enforcement. Reducing transhumanism to science, math, and technology is not the best way to reach diverse populations. It actually only reaches a very narrow and privileged margin of humans. When the posterchildren for the transhumanist movement are wealthy, white, male entrepreneurs, people can easily get the impression this is a movement where white men come in with their technology to dominate, exploit, colonize, and even exterminate other populations and demographics. This is a brand of transhumanism which needs to be resisted. We need diversity within the transhumanist movement, including diverse specializations.
What is a transhumanist?
A transhumanist is anyone who believes in and advocates for the use of technology to better the human condition. In a sense, everyone is a transhumanist. Technology doesn’t need to be limited to sci-fi depictions of sharks with laser beams attached to their heads. Technology, broadly defined, is a tool or application of knowledge to serve a practical purpose. Technology is the cool washcloth you put on your child’s forehead until the fever breaks. Technology is the medication you give them to ease their discomfort. Technology is the bed they rest and recover in. We live in a technological world. We have been since the age of fire, the wheel, or agriculture. Our predecessors were transhumanists long before the world existed.
We are transhumanists. Whether you choose to adopt the label or not is another story. As a queer advocate, I trust you are capable of picking labels which best suit your subjective experience. Labels are political, I get it. I’m more interested in people internalizing transhumanist ideas than adopting my preferred label. I proudly and unabashedly wear the label transhumanist, so if you choose to adopt the label too just know you’re in good company.
What counts as transhumanism?
Under the previously stated definitions of transhumanism and technology, there is a broad range of topics under the transhumanist umbrella. There are obvious ones and less obvious ones: technology, science, math, physics, politics, religion, social work, art, philosophy, ethics, history, psychology, parenthood, design, caregiving, humanitarian aid, race theory, feminism, gender theory, and so much more.
Transhumanism is engaging in future making, and transhumanists by definition are advocates for transforming the human condition for the better. You might ask what’s better? That’s a great question, and one we should be actively deliberating. Deliberation on these topics is a transhumanist activity. The #MeToo campaign is a type of feminist transhumanism. The MTA and CTA are types of religious transhumanism. Transgender activism is a type of queer transhumanism. And me? I do Queer Mormon Transhumanism, which is a narrow and specialized approach to specific transhumanist topics, including: ethics, philosophy, religion, science, advocacy, and theology, politics, and more. While it is narrow, it is certainly relevant.
What is Queer Mormon Transhumanism?
I’m a Queer Mormon Transhumanist and speak about the intersections of these topics. Queer issues are transhumanist issues and transhumanist issues are queer issues. The transgender and intersex community are a prime example of the transhumanist and queer categorical overlap. Transhumanists talk about transforming their bodies, while the transgender and intersex community are adapting their morphology in unprecedented ways. You may or may not agree with it, but it is undoubtedly a transhumanist activity.
As for me and my work, asking me to limit my queer advocacy in transhumanist spaces is like asking me to stop advocating for transhumanism. This is especially true in my Queer Mormon community, where queer people are literally killing themselves. If transhumanist goals include life, love, and flourishing, then my work in the Mormon Queer community is one of the most transhumanist things I do. Queer theology is transhumanist work when it gives people hope, vision, and a future worth aspiring to. Asking me to limit my queer work in transhumanist spaces is like asking me to let my people die so privileged people can discuss “real transhumanist topics” which are relevant to a privileged subset of transhumanists. Transhumanist goals should not include the neglect, subjugation, and oppression of queer genders and sexual orientations. It’s a narrow topic, but it’s a relevant topic to transhumanism, even if I don’t explicitly use the word transhumanism.
Why is this relevant?
For the critics of my transhumanist work I say to you, transhumanism is inherently another form of advocacy work against oppressors and oppressive systems. Once we’ve achieved gender liberation, racial equality, or sexual liberation, what’s next? We all answer to the biggest oppressor of all, that great Lord and Master, Death. This is an oppressor who doesn’t care about your gender, your sexual orientation, your race, your likes, your dislikes, your religion, your family, your hopes, your dreams, your life. It doesn’t love you, it doesn’t hate you, it doesn’t feel, it’s doesn’t get tired. It exterminates, consumes, and negates life. Death comes for all of us.
Privileged systems will unfairly afford more time and life to some over others, and this is exactly why we need social work in the transhumanist movement. Death shouldn’t come to an indigenous woman in poverty any more than is does a white, male university student. We are all running from the same demonic monster, and while that monster consumes life at an unchallenged banquet table, you and I squabble over the scraps Death left laying on the floor.
One of the most effective tactics of an oppressor is to divide those the oppressor subjugates—don’t let them build friendships or join together in the spirit or comradery. Keep the oppressed class thinking that they are the oppressors of each other instead of confronting the larger oppressor pulling the strings at the top. Death doesn’t care if you’re heterosexual, homosexual, or bisexual. Death doesn’t care what nation you hail from or your religious background. Yet because Death gave us so little time, we fight like children over whose sexual orientation or gender identity is legitimate or not. We fight over nations and plots of land that don’t belong to any of us. Death mocks us. We bicker with each other while Death feasts.
Naysayers will doubt that Death is an oppressor, let alone one we should take a stand against. But alas, we are already engaging in this work when we put on a seat belt, eat our vegetables, vaccinate our children, and cure leprosy. As a species we are fighting the oppressor and always have been. It’s time we set aside our differences and take our efforts against Death seriously.
Sure, you can believe God will deliver you from Death without works on your part, or you can actually do something about it. God still hasn’t given me back lost loved ones, so no, I’m not waiting on God to override my agency when I can start working toward that goal now. If God is good, God will appreciate our willingness to earnestly try. Like a benevolent parent, They will smile at our humble and sincere attempts. I cannot imagine any loving parent rebuking their children for working together to promote love, life, and flourishing.
For the critics of my queer work I say to you, what kind of future are you building? Is it one where my queer peers are killing themselves or being tortured under conversation therapy? What kind of a future is that if it’s a future that they don’t even want to live for? No nanotechnology, terraforming, bio medicine, or pill can compensate for telling us we can’t be with the people we love—all the people we love. A future where cis-supremacy, hetero-supremacy, white-supremacy and mono-supremacy say we are less than other members of society is a dystopian future. That future needs to be resisted with every ally we can muster. This is transhumanist activism! If you’re creating an immortal future built on the oppression of others, your transhumanist vision needs to be revised, reworked, or discarded. Without hope and love, what the hell are we trying to save?
Transhumanist work isn’t tomorrow’s work, it’s today’s work. Tomorrows are always predicated by todays. Making today a little bit better than yesterday always counts as transhumanist work.