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I think you're incredibly brave to be a cisgendered woman in this world.
April 30, 2014 7:35 AM   Subscribe

Janet Mock turns the script around and asks a cisgender woman the private / invasive questions trans people are asked regularly.

This comes in the wake of her recent interview and subsequent conflict with Piers Morgan.

Janet Mock previously.
posted by Eideteker (181 comments total) 35 users marked this as a favorite

 
I'm a cis woman and I'm trying very, very hard to be the best possible trans* ally I can, although I'm sure I don't do nearly as good a job as I'd like. That said, I've though a bit about diversity in media depictions and how it would be great if there were more women and people of color and queer and trans* people in serious roles, and I get discouraged when these groups aren't represented, or when they're only tokens. Wouldn't it be great to have more tv shows where yeah, the protagonist was gay, but s/he was a secret agent and his/her sexuality was a side issue? Wouldn't it be great to have more movies with trans* people where the fact that they are trans* isn't central to their character? And then I realized I CAN MAKE THIS HAPPEN! If being trans* isn't a big deal, then I can just make it the unspoken subtext of whatever movie I'm watching.

And this is why I believe that Independence Day is an awesome movie about how the first trans* president deals with an alien invasion, and I really appreciate that the movie doesn't focus on his status as a trans* man but instead on the awesome speech he gives to rally the world to fight off an invading alien menace. I respect the hell out of the writers and producers of that film for making it about something other than his gender identity.
posted by Mrs. Pterodactyl at 7:52 AM on April 30 [37 favorites]


Also, sorry, totally forgot to say that this was awesome and really interesting and I appreciated the chance to see this and also to see Ms. Menendez's reaction afterwards; she looked like she'd been crying.
posted by Mrs. Pterodactyl at 7:57 AM on April 30 [1 favorite]


Oh I love this.

Trans 101 links courtesy of Juliet Banana's thread.

Further reading on the Null Hypothesis.
posted by odinsdream at 8:02 AM on April 30 [2 favorites]


Fuck yeah. Janet Mock is an amazing woman. I hope I get the chance to see her speak one day.

Another one to watch if you want to see what kind of inappropriate and invasive questions trans people (especially trans women) are asked by cis people, check out Laverne Cox and Carmen Carrera flawlessly handling Katie Couric's interview technique earlier this year.
posted by fight or flight at 8:04 AM on April 30 [3 favorites]


While asking cis women about their vaginas is certainly intrusive, it is also not the same. I think I would have wanted a question that truly made the cis woman uncomfortable, like -- Do you have large or small labia? Not that asking cis women about their vaginas is less intrusive, and inappropriate, which I guess is the point. I don't know, I guess just thinking out loud.
posted by Sophie1 at 8:15 AM on April 30


Mrs. Pterodactyl: "Independence Day is an awesome movie about how the first trans* president deals with an alien invasion"

I wonder if that's the backstory Chaz Bono gave the role when he played Thomas J. Whitmore in the 30 Minute Musicals version of Independence Day.
posted by ocherdraco at 8:17 AM on April 30 [1 favorite]


I'm at work so can't watch this, but I like the concept. I suspect it would be hard to find a question that is as intrusive and awful for a cis person, just because everything about my gender presentation and genitalia and life are affirmed and supported by our entire society.
posted by Dip Flash at 8:23 AM on April 30 [5 favorites]


Perhaps it's just a side issue to this, but I saw a quote from Mock in one of the articles that I think is both incredibly true, and incredibly dangerous at the same time. She states that "gay rights are not trans rights".

As a gay woman, I realize it's quite true, as many of the things that groups like HRC fight for to benefit me, are lower down the list of priorities for trans people. But the reason I feel it's dangerous is that it feeds into the attitudes that many GLB folk have - and from what I've seen, a growing of trans folk - that the struggles for GLB and T folk are different enough that they should be separated. And I strongly disagree with that.

I've come to the conclusion that many of the things trans folk fight for are directly beneficial to the gay community too. When GLB folks are discriminated against, I firmly believe that a very significant part of that is because of real or imagined violations of gender norms. Gay men and lesbian women are significantly more likely to exhibit behaviors that are more stereotypically associated with the other gender. And those are much more visible to people than who someone is attracted to.

Getting protection for trans rights helps everyone under the GLBT umbrella, and even bleeds out into making it safer for everyone to feel free to break gender roles a bit more.
posted by evilangela at 8:38 AM on April 30 [7 favorites]


This video was fantastic and amazing. I have some issues with Janet Mock but she's at her best here. She was so good at occupying the role of the intrusive interviewer, and how people from the normative position don't realize what kind of power they exert.

I'm hesitating to link this because it's self-promotey but I did coincidentally just post a piece on my blog about being mistaken for cis by Janet Mock. Here it is if any of you are inclined to take a look. I'm a newbie so do let me know if linking to myself is completely verboten and I won't do it again. I think it's relevant to the discussion because it does show this consistent streak in her personality of having clear, aggressive defenses against common ways that trans women get slighted. Alas, I ended up on the receiving end after being misidentified as cis.
posted by mandonlym at 8:45 AM on April 30 [39 favorites]


evilangela, I think that's sort of backwards. Trans rights have a lot of positive impact on gay rights. But gay rights do not necessarily have the same level of positive impact on trans people. Same-sex marriage is about gay people and their relationships and its positive impact on straight trans people is really about the utter failure of certain places to properly recognize gender identities, so that's not really a great thing. I don't think that things like same-sex marriage and lobbying for workplace protection for various sexual orientations has nearly the same carryover to offering the same to trans people, there's a reason that a lot of the discrimination proposals have not lumped in gender identity with sexual orientation, and it's not necessarily a comforting one. Gay rights are a lot more relevant to me personally than trans issues, but I have to admit that it's absolutely correct to say that if trans people wait for most "LGBT" rights organizations to advocate for them, they are probably going to be waiting awhile, because the trans part is almost never the priority.

And there are quite a lot of people in the gay/lesbian communities who have anti-trans views, let's be honest, in quantities that I can't imagine could possibly be matched by the number of anti-gay trans people.

If particular organizations want to tackle both sides of things together, I'm not necessarily against that, but I think there's long been an idea that gay rights activism is going to trickle down to trans people that we have now seen is really not the case.
posted by Sequence at 8:47 AM on April 30 [9 favorites]


This is what educating looks like. Good for both of them.
posted by fiercecupcake at 8:50 AM on April 30


As a gay woman, I realize it's quite true, as many of the things that groups like HRC fight for to benefit me, are lower down the list of priorities for trans people.

The issue is not that LGB organizations have different priorities - because hey, when you're dealing with a heterogeneous community, people are understandably going to need to have their own spaces - but rather how LGB organizations have persistently thrown trans* people under the bus in advocacy, distribution of resources and space, and activism.

So it's not just a case of whether trans issues are useful to gay movements, and it feels somewhat like we tiptoe around historicality, tramua and the very real status quo in LGBT communities when we treat it as strictly an issue of utility.

I saw this relevant article recently.
posted by Conspire at 8:53 AM on April 30 [5 favorites]


And mandonlym, that was a fantastic post. Thanks for sharing it.
posted by fiercecupcake at 8:53 AM on April 30 [6 favorites]


Perhaps it's just a side issue to this, but I saw a quote from Mock in one of the articles that I think is both incredibly true, and incredibly dangerous at the same time. She states that "gay rights are not trans rights".

Yeah, they're not the same, but they're connected, in the same way that fighting sexism is also fighting homophobia. (Well, to me the connection seems obvious, since so much of how homophobia is enacted is based on policing gender roles. Other people have and do disagree.)

As Conspire has pointed out while I'm still typing here, mainstream gay orgs like HRC have been happy to do the "We'll totally help you get rights once we have ours and in the mean time you're scaring people so under the bus with you!" for far too long.
posted by rtha at 8:56 AM on April 30 [11 favorites]


I think you're fine, mandolym. We should not be posting our own stuff to their own articles on the blue because we're not impartial enough to say we've made the best of the web. But on-topic material in comments seems perfectly fair.
posted by phearlez at 8:57 AM on April 30 [4 favorites]


Gay rights are not trans rights, but most LGBT organizations due a VERY good job these days educating on all issues and prioritizing trans issues.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 8:58 AM on April 30


evilangela, I think that's sort of backwards. Trans rights have a lot of positive impact on gay rights. But gay rights do not necessarily have the same level of positive impact on trans people.

Re-reading my comment, I suppose I wasn't clear on what I was saying. Because this is exactly what I mean. That saying "gay rights are not trans rights" is dangerous because it implies the two groups have different goals - and I completely agree that trans rights would also be quite beneficial to the gay community, and GLB and T not only should remain working together, but make trans rights much more important because it helps almost everyone in the queer community.
posted by evilangela at 8:59 AM on April 30


This was really wonderful to see, yesterday, especially since there's a lot of internal discord right now in LGBT activism about trans stuff. We're very lucky to have Janet Mock on this planet.
posted by Corinth at 8:59 AM on April 30 [1 favorite]


Oh, and yes, this video is brilliant, even if I readily and always disagree with Janet Mock on the importance of passing. Passing is important to a lot of people.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 9:00 AM on April 30


Gay rights are not trans rights, but most LGBT organizations due a VERY good job these days educating on all issues and prioritizing trans issues.

In some sort of alternate universe, maybe.
posted by hoyland at 9:05 AM on April 30 [5 favorites]


evilangela and sequence, my take on this is that though there are overlapping concerns, there are also significant areas of disparity and I would prefer that the trans rights movement finds a footing that strongly allies with but has its own unique agenda. I talk about this in my recent article for the American Prospect about the use of "coming out" to describe trans disclosure, and why borrowing that metaphor wholesale from the gay rights movement is a problem.

Personally, I think trans also has really significant overlaps with other minority-rights movements and that tends to get backgrounded because of the strong association with LGB.

and roomthreeseventeen, I haven't seen as much of her stuff on passing but share her dislike of the term, for the way it pits cis women as superior and trans women as disguising ourselves to be cis-seeming. I prefer "blending in" or even "assimilating" myself, though not passing. I had to argue with my Prospect editor not to use that term in the article.
posted by mandonlym at 9:06 AM on April 30 [3 favorites]


See, I'd characterize it as something I think of as being worse than throwing someone under a bus--or worse in my head, anyway. Less throwing under a bus, more standing there with our supposedly very good friends while they kept getting hit by buses without actually making any move to help, but occasionally saying that we're terribly sorry that this bus thing keeps happening, but look we have real problems here, right?

Which is to say, trans rights might be good for everybody, but given the history of the rest of "everybody" not actually helping, I do think it's incredibly important that organizations take this on as their primary mission without paying even lip service to it somehow being a gay issue, because this is the point where we need to step back and be the allies and not make it about us.
posted by Sequence at 9:07 AM on April 30 [4 favorites]


Same-sex marriage is about gay people and their relationships and its positive impact on straight trans people is really about the utter failure of certain places to properly recognize gender identities, so that's not really a great thing.

Marriage equality does help trans* people. It helps straight trans* people who live where their gender isn't recognised; it helps gay trans* people whose gender is recognised and who want to marry someone else of the same gender.

And it helps the many non-cis people - genderqueer, etc - who are free to marry who they wish to with or without legally changing their gender.

Trans* rights aren't the same as gay rights, just like gay men and women have different rights and discrimination issues from each other, and bisexual men and women have different issues again. But they are all on parallel paths and can help each other -- just like how feminism and gender equality is tied up with LGBT rights. Equality for sexual and gender minorities is part of a greater battle for gender equality overall. If men and women are truly equal, then why should it matter who you love, how you present yourself to the world or what gender you identify as?

Back to the interview: the funny thing is that I think I would have answered Janet Mock's questions and been interested in discussing my own reaction to puberty, thoughts on my vagina, etc - with lots of blushing, of course. But I'm also a bit of an exhibitionist and have thought extensively about my gender identity (or confusing lack thereof). Of course, my willingness to answer such personal questions is no suggestion anyone else should feel they have to. But maybe more cis and cis-ish people should think about these sorts of questions privately, and answer them for themselves.
posted by jb at 9:08 AM on April 30


The easiest way to deal with these issues is not call yourself an ally. Allies get the most shit constantly, and always need to worry about being reprimanded.
posted by jjmoney at 9:08 AM on April 30 [1 favorite]


"Yeah, they're not the same, but they're connected, in the same way that fighting sexism is also fighting homophobia. (Well, to me the connection seems obvious, since so much of how homophobia is enacted is based on policing gender roles. Other people have and do disagree.)"

I remember getting attacked by one of the crank CRI orgs over our trans bill last year, with them saying that we want to "destroy all gender roles."

So in our statements we had to, of course, sort of pedal around that, but I remember thinking, "Well, I do, kinda." Almost all of what I do comes from a perspective of being a feminist, and I think that outdated views about gender roles is one of the biggest obstacles and opportunities.

Which is why it pisses me off to no end when we see stuff like, say, when RuPaul stopped dropping "she-mail" and "tranny" casually, we had a big backlash on our FB page over it, with a lot of, well, really, gay dudes (not so much L or B) making these weird justifications. Maybe it's because I'm on the outside of all of it, being an ally, but it was really weird that folks couldn't see the connection between how they got treated and how they were treating other gender non-conforming folks.
posted by klangklangston at 9:12 AM on April 30 [5 favorites]


Which is why it pisses me off to no end when we see stuff like, say, when RuPaul stopped dropping "she-mail" and "tranny" casually, we had a big backlash on our FB page over it, with a lot of, well, really, gay dudes (not so much L or B) making these weird justifications. Maybe it's because I'm on the outside of all of it, being an ally, but it was really weird that folks couldn't see the connection between how they got treated and how they were treating other gender non-conforming folks.

Ugh, don't even get me started on that. I have so many gay friends who tried to justify the use of those terms because they were "all in fun."
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 9:14 AM on April 30 [2 favorites]


"As a gay woman, I realize it's quite true, as many of the things that groups like HRC fight for to benefit me, are lower down the list of priorities for trans people."

It's sort of the other way around. The HRC is one of those organizations transpeople have issues with because of their historically anti-trans* positions. Old article, but it might give you some background.

"While asking cis women about their vaginas is certainly intrusive, it is also not the same."
"I suspect it would be hard to find a question that is as intrusive and awful for a cis person, just because everything about my gender presentation and genitalia and life are affirmed and supported by our entire society."


I don't think the idea is for it to be the same or as invasive... this is just to show how invasive these questions are to the non-oppressed. Just imagine how it feels going through life like this, etc.

It sort of reminds me of this:
i have no sympathy for racist white teens having to discover the ramifications of their racism the hard way. children of color are expected to be grown ass adults before they even hit puberty - you think we got a nice, soft intro into racism? that white people sat down and explained how they were gonna be, nice and polite to our face???

no. trial by fire worked for us. you can handle it too. [original src deleted]
Privileged people wanting/expecting to be educated on their privilege is privilege.
posted by Eideteker at 9:15 AM on April 30 [14 favorites]


Yeah, that's hard for me, because I'm not in a position where I can sort of lash back out with slurs — I don't own them — to point out that "in fun" can still be deeply fucked up and offensive.

Likewise, we get a ton of bullshit back any time we try to point out that racism, sexism and transphobia all exist within the LGBT community too. Again, from the outside, this seems pretty obvious, but having that perspective sometimes makes me wary of coming across as too much of a privileged, patronizing dick.
posted by klangklangston at 9:17 AM on April 30


Interesting that you bring up being misidentified as cis, mandonlym. I've been seeing a bit of talk across my social media about the term 'cis' and whether it is still useful, spurred on by this post by glosswitch about the '9 reasons why cis isn't working'. I don't personally agree with everything in that post, but I do think it's a conversation that we in the trans/queer/LGBTQ community need to have.

For what it's worth, I identify as non-binary/genderqueer but I am legally and socially read as a cis woman. I do not feel comfortable IDing as cis, nor do I usually ID as trans (although I do believe that non-binary/genderqueer people do and should fall under the trans umbrella). I'm often misidentified as cis, but we don't yet have the language to talk about this without resorting to long, clumsy explanations ("I am non-binary but socially present as masculine cis female etc etc").

So yeah, I'd love to see the trans and LGBTQ communities talking about this a little more often, with open minds and ready to listen on all sides.
posted by fight or flight at 9:19 AM on April 30 [6 favorites]


The woman behind the latest HRC snubbing (the bit with the flag) came to New Orleans to talk with our PFLAG chapter about it, since our PFLAG chapter is especially trans. She was very apologetic and wound up crying talking to two trans women who really took her to task. Also, locally, Equality Louisiana, Louisiana Progress, and Forum For Equality (of which I am a member) have been pretty great to us. People in their leadership regularly come to trans support group meetings to check in with us and listen. I was specifically asked to look over the language of one of this year's nondiscrimination bills to make sure it was fully inclusive. (I spoke to the House Committee it was never going to make it out of last week!) I just wanted to relate this as a counterpoint to the ugly stuff.

And, yeah, klang, that's the discord I had in mind. It's still ongoing, unfortunately.
posted by Corinth at 9:20 AM on April 30 [4 favorites]


Gay rights are not trans rights, but most LGBT organizations due a VERY good job these days educating on all issues and prioritizing trans issues.

I think LGBT organizations have gotten to the point where they recognize the importance of paying lip service to trans issues, but the actual practice has yet to really get anywhere. As in the article that I linked, one of the major issues with LGBT communities is that they hold trans people up to a certain level of performance in order to maintain validity and access to these communities - you have to act and look within a certain normative box of trans performance under threat of losing these resources. And furthermore, I would argue that many of these organizations are just tacking "trans-friendly" on as an afterthought without the requisite introspection and changes of how their social structures and hierarchies are not accessible to trans* people.

Case in point, I recently attended an event here in lovely progressive Vancouver that was billed towards gay, bi and trans men. Now if you went to this event, there were absolutely not many trans* people were in attendance at all. And I don't think this is a coincidence - I'm going to explain this using my experiences of ableism for a second now - because what happened at the event was that there were a few disabled people there (including myself). No one in the main circle was willing to adapt their behavior or even act like they were interested in being nice to anyone with a visible disability, so I had to create a separate circle despite not being affiliated with the hosting organization where all of the other disabled people had to sit together because literally no one there gave a damn about including people with disabilities. Later, I went back to my Deaf community and mentioned that I had attended this event - and a number of community members independently told me that they had the same experiences, and that that's why they were never going to back to this organization's events again.

Meanwhile, the leader of that organization is now getting an award for his "anti-oppressive work".

This is particularly disconcerting because this organization is also a hub for dissemination of HIV education. And if you look at the statistics - for instance, Deaf-queer people are at a 40% higher risk of contracting HIV than their hearing counterparts - this is exactly why the disparity exists. Because there are no resources geared towards them.

So what I'm saying is that because of the overarching adherence in the LGBT community to a normative view of what a queer body should look like, I imagine my experiences at this event run very parallel to the bullshit that trans* people constantly have to go through over and over again in LGBT spaces. You have to conform to a certain idea of what trans looks like to have even mere access to the spaces. When you get access to the spaces, you're confronted with impenetrable social hierarchies built by people who just won't analyze how their comfortable structures don't work for anyone else. And then as a consequence, you don't get access to the resources or even the privilege of being a social being, and systematic issues start taking root as an accumulation of these inequalities and exclusions.

I mean, from a public perspective, I think people think it's great LGBT communities are starting to look like they're becoming more trans-inclusive. But it's more than just talking about it. There are some really screwed-up, bullshit ideas going around in the LGBT community about how we include trans people.
posted by Conspire at 9:25 AM on April 30 [16 favorites]


"Privileged people wanting/expecting to be educated on their privilege is privilege."

I don't even know what that means. Being clumsily rude around something you are unfamiliar with is hardly exclusive to trans issues nor is it the end of the world. My mom is Scottish and continually gets asked if she eats with a knife and fork.

At least people are trying to educate themselves, however rudely, which should be encouraged, not mocked and derided.
posted by BlerpityBloop at 9:26 AM on April 30 [4 favorites]


"The easiest way to deal with these issues is not call yourself an ally. Allies get the most shit constantly, and always need to worry about being reprimanded."

jjmoney, allies don't get the most shit constantly, trust me. If your biggest worry is being reprimanded, I'm sure many of us would love to have your biggest worry. Ultimately, to be an ally is to believe in the basic idea that all people should be treated equally, and you should be willing to sacrifice a certain amount of your comfort for the sake of that goal. You have the choice about whether or not to be an ally. We do not have the same options as you, so that might be something to keep in mind.
posted by mandonlym at 9:32 AM on April 30 [13 favorites]


My mom is Scottish and continually gets asked if she eats with a knife and fork.

What cultural assumption am I missing here? Do they think she eats with

A) her hands
B) bagpipes
C) chopsticks or
D) trick question, she gets all nutrients from various draughts of liquids.

But seriously, why would asking even occur to someone? I'm really confused.
posted by RolandOfEld at 9:32 AM on April 30 [9 favorites]


and roomthreeseventeen, I haven't seen as much of her stuff on passing but share her dislike of the term, for the way it pits cis women as superior and trans women as disguising ourselves to be cis-seeming. I prefer "blending in" or even "assimilating" myself, though not passing. I had to argue with my Prospect editor not to use that term in the article.

In addition to the way it frames trans people as deceivers, the constant messages directed at trans people about how passing is desirable are saying "It is shameful to be trans."
posted by hoyland at 9:34 AM on April 30 [1 favorite]


Ultimately, to be an ally is to believe in the basic idea that all people should be treated equally, and you should be willing to sacrifice a certain amount of your comfort for the sake of that goal.

Depends on whether you think everyone should be treated equally well, and will work towards that in part by treating people well, or whether you think everyone should be treated equally badly, and will work towards that in part by treating people badly.
posted by ThatFuzzyBastard at 9:35 AM on April 30 [1 favorite]


That glosswatch article has way too many problems (read: tired TERF talking points, strawmen, and contradictory essentialism) to spur useful discussion. Here is not the place to talk about it but I didn't want it to stand with a tacit endorsement, so I'm saying "nope."
posted by Corinth at 9:35 AM on April 30 [3 favorites]


fight or flight: yeah, cis is definitely up for re-examination too so thank you for that link. I glanced but will read it in greater detail tonight. I'd love to hear more about your experiences. I'm non-binary identified previously mostly identified as cis-female but now that I've disclosed more often identified as female trans even though my actual identification is super-fluid. It's confusing.
posted by mandonlym at 9:36 AM on April 30 [1 favorite]


But seriously, why would asking even occur to someone? I'm really confused.

Somebody once asked FAMOUS COUSIN (who is from England) if they have sneakers, or athletic shoes of any kind, in England. You'd be amazed.
posted by FAMOUS MONSTER at 9:36 AM on April 30


TFB, can you deconstruct that for those of us trying to play along at home?
posted by Corinth at 9:36 AM on April 30 [1 favorite]


At least people are trying to educate themselves, however rudely, which should be encouraged, not mocked and derided.

Sure. Swimming lessons with a nice instructor and water wings in a shallow, warm pool would be awesome, but sometimes what happens is being shoved off the dock into a freezing and very deep lake. A lot of us got shoved off the dock precisely because we are not members of a dominant group; sometimes we actually threw ourselves off the dock not realizing how deep and cold the water can be.
posted by rtha at 9:38 AM on April 30 [6 favorites]


Here is not the place to talk about it but I didn't want it to stand with a tacit endorsement, so I'm saying "nope."

Yeah, for what it's worth I do not endorse glosswitch's views nor do I think everything in that article should stand without critique, but it has been a useful jumping off point for myself and others in my community to talk about what we say when we say "cis".
posted by fight or flight at 9:38 AM on April 30


Somebody once asked FAMOUS COUSIN (who is from England) if they have sneakers, or athletic shoes of any kind, in England.

Well, people over there have feet right? ......... right? RIGHT???

Bah, I give up. I guess the part where I messed up was in assuming that an average person would have an average amount of common sense, if not common decency which is more in line with the thread's topic, but instead it seems to be the case that I was being overgenerous and that the average common sense in question is actually below average.

Now I'm going to get some coffee to counteract these allergy and sinus meds.
posted by RolandOfEld at 9:42 AM on April 30


I've been asked if you can buy bathing suits in Canada or need to go to the US, if I need to take a dog sled to the border, if I live in an igloo (all honestly, all 90s or earlier). People ask intensely stupid things sometimes. However, being Canadian is in no way some kind of lack of privilege, so questions like this are funny, not offensive.

I admit to being curious about some, but not all, of the inappropriate questions. I'm curious about a lot of things, many of which are inappropriate, and some of which intersect inappropriate and trans issues. I'm okay with this, because I think it's human to have this curiosity, but also because I know that my curiosity is not an excuse to be rude and ask about these things because I am no longer a toddler.

Also, there's no point in *saying* you're an ally, generally. Words are easy. Actions are hard. I can say I'm whatever I want, but do my actions actually support it? A lot of people get shit for saying they are allies because their actions are the reverse.
posted by jeather at 9:45 AM on April 30 [3 favorites]


Yes, the assumption is Scottish people are highland brutes who eat raw meat and bowls of gruel. It's dumb. Ignorant. But whatever, people lead cloistered lives, it's no big thing.

My mother grew up in the working class areas of Edinburgh in the 1950s and had never seen a black or Jewish person until she was 25. She freely admits she asked some horrifically inappropriate questions, so understands that curiosity isn't malicious, it's just sometimes ridiculously offensive. And fwiw, she is the most tolerant and accepting person I have ever met.

Trans is fairly new, visibility wise, it's weird, foreign, hard to grasp for a lot of people. Hell, I read mefi regularly and I still have a shit ton of incredibly personal questions I would love to quiz a trans person on. I still don't entirely understand what's going on, chemistry wise, but I want to hear it from the horses mouth, not read a wiki page. Americans are notoriously personal, we ask all SORTS of inappropriate shit from strangers. That's not privilege, it's a lack of tact.

So yeah, It completely blows when a trans person gets asked about their labia, but I genuinely believe it comes from an honest place of wanting to understand and accept and fit it in to what you know, rather than " omg you freak what is up with your bits?" .
posted by BlerpityBloop at 9:53 AM on April 30 [4 favorites]


"Sure. Swimming lessons with a nice instructor and water wings in a shallow, warm pool would be awesome, but sometimes what happens is being shoved off the dock into a freezing and very deep lake. A lot of us got shoved off the dock precisely because we are not members of a dominant group; sometimes we actually threw ourselves off the dock not realizing how deep and cold the water can be."

You had a dock? Some of us were birthed directly into the water (and not in the Erykah Badu way).
posted by Eideteker at 9:58 AM on April 30 [3 favorites]


I'm an unusually non-dysphoric post-op trans woman (product of not growing up in the gender-olicing U.S.) who doesn't mind answering questions about my anatomy. But I think for so many trans women I know asking those questions brings up so many triggering memories.
posted by mandonlym at 10:02 AM on April 30


I know that my curiosity is not an excuse to be rude and ask about these things because I am no longer a toddler.

There's an interesting line there, I think. I run a series of talks here in London dedicated to bringing the general public, academics and practitioners together to talk about topics relating to gender and sexuality which would usually be confined to expensive conferences or inaccessible papers. We hosted a four person panel last year on transgender issues and ummed and aahhed for a long time about whether or not we should produce a "Trans 101" document for the audience to fend off any dumb or offensive questions which would derail the night. Eventually we decided to produce a glossary of terms as an educational tool (which many audience members, trans and cis, thanked us for afterwards), but a couple of people on the panel specifically welcomed questions from people unfamiliar with trans activism as they thought it would be better to learn in that environment, from the diverse trans experiences presented by our panel, than from scraps of (possibly problematic) information found elsewhere.

That said, it is always, always wrong to assume that someone will want to answer your questions, or that their experience will be universal (as there is no single "trans experience"). There is a time and a place to learn. You are not owed answers.
posted by fight or flight at 10:03 AM on April 30 [6 favorites]


I genuinely believe it comes from an honest place of wanting to understand and accept and fit it in to what you know, rather than " omg you freak what is up with your bits?" .

But is there not some kind of expectation that you reign in your curiosity when it involves something you would reasonably expect another person to find rather personal? And surely genitals are generally seen as belonging to the category "rather personal".
posted by hoyland at 10:03 AM on April 30 [2 favorites]


I'm from the Cleveland area, so what always comes back to me are CeCe Cemia and Betty Skinner and Brittany Stergis. If I ask a dumb question, I don't mind getting smacked, because I'll live, and that's a thing that actually really matters. When people have totally legit reasons to be generally angry and frustrated about their status in the world, I'm fine with enduring an occasional twinge of hurt feelings.

With most questions, I really wish people would just link to Let Me Google That For You. Because, seriously. I was curious about the surgical stuff--both directions--and you can learn all kinds of things. There are pictures! And stuff about when people choose to transition, and how, and the requirements in various places... Google doesn't require making anybody uncomfortable by asking them personally. If you ask dumb questions and get treated like you asked a dumb question, I don't mean to be glib about this, but it's shockingly non-fatal. If you're going to be less supportive of someone's rights because they were something less than gracious under immense pressure, you are not an ally, you are a jerk. A jerk in a way that is pretty common, but still a jerk.
posted by Sequence at 10:04 AM on April 30 [6 favorites]


Also, there's no point in *saying* you're an ally, generally. Words are easy. Actions are hard. I can say I'm whatever I want, but do my actions actually support it? A lot of people get shit for saying they are allies because their actions are the reverse.

A friend of mine posted this late last night on fb: Memo: If you're going to condescendingly tell me which forms of my marginalization I should and should not care about, then you are not "on my side," and you are not my ally.

Which, yeah.
posted by rtha at 10:05 AM on April 30 [5 favorites]


She states that "gay rights are not trans rights".

I have heard this as a complaint for other reasons as well - that it mentally links in the mind of the public trans people as gay or having an alternate sexuality, when that may not be true for that trans person - as though the inherent nature of being a trans person meant that your sexuality would be impacted - that no matter what you did, you were at least partially gay and could never be straight.

I'm not sure how prevalent as a complaint this is, but it is something I have definitely heard. (Admittedly, by folk who were really interested in 'passing'.)
posted by corb at 10:09 AM on April 30


Addendum: the concern is that people would think that, not that that thought is correct.
posted by corb at 10:10 AM on April 30


> Privileged people wanting/expecting to be educated on their privilege is privilege.

Expecting: sure, yes, that's a misplaced sense of entitlement.
Wanting: it is? I'm not sure. I tend to think it beats privileged people not wanting to be educated on their privilege.
posted by Too-Ticky at 10:13 AM on April 30 [1 favorite]


Wanting: it is? I'm not sure. I tend to think it beats privileged people not wanting to be educated on their privilege.

I think there's a big difference between the active and passive voices here: wanting to educate them/ourselves vs wanting to be educated (by unstated, inevitably less-privileged others).
posted by hoyland at 10:15 AM on April 30 [3 favorites]


Sure, in an ideal world everyone would educate hirsself... but it's not an ideal world and at least those who want to be educated, want to learn?
posted by Too-Ticky at 10:18 AM on April 30


"But is there not some kind of expectation that you reign in your curiosity when it involves something you would reasonably expect another person to find rather personal?"

Sure man, but asking another New Yorker about their rent is personal. Boundaries aren't fixed. Some people over-step invisible lines when they want to know something. Curiosity and wanting to understand the world around you is incredibly powerful, feelings be damned.

I was in a cave once with multiple signs saying "don't touch the stalagmites". You know what? I had to touch one. Just a quick touch, so I could experience it. Humans are clumsy about things they don't understand.

Anyway, last comment in this thread, my whole point here is humans are clumsy, and this video is great, but not everyone reads the Human Experience guidebook, and we are obsessed with boobs and penises as a species to reaching out to touch something to understand it, even if it breaks the rules of politeness is awkward, but at least people are reaching out, right?
posted by BlerpityBloop at 10:25 AM on April 30 [2 favorites]


Sure, in an ideal world everyone would educate hirsself... but it's not an ideal world and at least those who want to be educated, want to learn?

There's endless links in google and there are books and blogs and articles and if you will not avail yourself at least in part of the books and the blogs, then taking your lumps when someone points out the misstep(s) you *will* make, rather than taking your ball and going home, is something that you can choose to do. All those are options.
posted by rtha at 10:40 AM on April 30 [5 favorites]


Because yeah, if I'm required to tolerate someone's offensive-from-ignorance questions in the name of "they're reaching out and that's always a good thing" then sometimes *they* are going to have to tolerate me telling them they're being rude, I will not answer the question, they can go read a book.
posted by rtha at 10:43 AM on April 30 [15 favorites]


"The easiest way to deal with these issues is not call yourself an ally. Allies get the most shit constantly, and always need to worry about being reprimanded."

Haha, nope.

So, my day job is kinda professional ally-ship. I'm the minority here, and I deal with LGBT folks all the time, including having to deal specifically with pointed criticism — sometimes totally deserved, sometimes unfair — from LGBT activists.

But something that helps me keep perspective is that I've also canvassed alongside many of my coworkers who are LGBT, and when you're out in the field, even if you tell people, they'll just think of you as LGBT even if you're not. I've been spit on, shoved, had shit thrown at me, called all sorts of names, and only avoided some physical fights by being a big dude who's not inclined to take a lot of shit.

Because of that, I can say that first off, actual LGBT people take this kind of shit all the time. When the general public thinks you're LGBT, a good five percent of them use that as an excuse to be total fucking assholes because they assume you don't have any power to stop them. Not only that, when I don't want to deal with it, and sometimes that's happened at the end of a long day when I just want to punch everyone, I can take off my t-shirt, go home, have a nice dinner with my girl, and reassume that straight privilege out in public. It's not a survival fight for me. When people attack me for being LGBT, it's not an attack on my identity as a person, it's some bullshit assumptions they've made and them being an asshole.

Secondly, I get reprimanded sometimes, but pretty rarely. And it's not because I'm not offensive — I'm significantly raunchier with my friends and coworkers than I am here. But it's because I try to be sensitive to what's fair game and what's not, and I have a decent sense of humor about myself and my role. But I'm more likely to get reprimanded on MeFi by a mod for calling someone a bit of an idiot than I am to get taken to task over being an ally, and in both cases I generally deserve it. There's nothing about being an ally that means I can't sometimes also be an asshole who should, you know, stop being an asshole.

It's that perspective that allows me to see how ridiculous, for example, the notion that there's some dichotomy between treating everyone equally well or treating everyone equally bad — not only are the rules of politeness and respect heavily biased toward those who already hold power, but there are also areas where being an asshole matters a lot (Donald Sterling might have some choice words) and areas where it doesn't matter nearly as much (gleefully telling proselytizers and witnessers that I worship Thor and keep Thursday holy).

So if you think you're getting the most shit as an ally, you're not. If you're always worrying about being reprimanded, you're probably being an asshole.
posted by klangklangston at 10:50 AM on April 30 [25 favorites]


Rtha, that's a very unreasonable expectation. If you were at a bar and met someone who was involved in professional rodeo, would you excuse yourself and spend 30 minutes on your iPhone googling the history of correct cattle show terms or would you ask some quick questions out of general curiosity?

Not everyone is curious about a thing until they meet someone that is that thing.
posted by BlerpityBloop at 10:54 AM on April 30


The whole Google it if you want to know about it makes some sense, but I also think humans are wired to prefer stories, and even more stories told first-hand interactively. I know this and take advantage of it as a writer. I don't think that curiosity should override people's feelings of privacy or emotional well-being, but I am aware of and respect the difference between hearing about my experience specifically in the context of a story and hearing it from Google.

I don't have major triggers that I know of so I have an open-door policy with questions, and am comfortable telling people if they've crossed a line. I realize that's unusual but I consider it fortunate for myself that I didn't grow up gender-policed, and hopefully that helps other people get to know trans better.
posted by mandonlym at 10:55 AM on April 30 [3 favorites]


"I was in a cave once with multiple signs saying "don't touch the stalagmites". You know what? I had to touch one. Just a quick touch, so I could experience it. Humans are clumsy about things they don't understand."

ARG! That's thousands, even hundreds of thousands of years of damage, when that happens! Don't do that!
posted by klangklangston at 10:57 AM on April 30 [19 favorites]


If you were at a bar and met someone who was involved in professional rodeo,

Do you actually not see a difference between asking someone who does a thing as a hobby or for work about their hobby or work and asking them about what their genitals look like or if they got disowned by their family or if they've ever been arrested or what sex is like for them?

I count migrating raptors as a hobby. If we meet at a bar and this comes up, and you have questions, I will talk your ear off.

If it also comes up that I'm a dyke, yeah, I reserve the right to tell you you're being rude if you start asking me questions about what kind of sex I have and with whom and how and all that.

This is not an apples-to-apples comparison and I'm surprised to see you treat it as one.
posted by rtha at 11:01 AM on April 30 [26 favorites]


P.S. These analogies are killing me. I realize people are trying to capture the experience but being trans is not like being Scottish or belonging to the rodeo. Being trans for a ton of people is about a lifetime of not feeling right in your own body, about being exposed to violence both verbal and physical, and about being rejected by multiple people. This is the reason your curiosity doesn't outweigh our privacy. It might seem like I'm contradicting myself but I'm super-fortunate to have grown up in a country with an established third gender then lived in liberal urban areas with a lot of educational privilege. Though what I'm describing above doesn't totally apply to me, I've read enough stories and talked to enough people that I feel like I can speak from a position of empathy.
posted by mandonlym at 11:01 AM on April 30 [23 favorites]


yeah maybe if being a rodeo dude meant you got your ass kicked on the regular or the support systems in your community or culture had turned you out for contravening their morals with your sick rodeo ways probably some rube at the bar asking a bunch of dumb rodeo questions might make you want to glass that rube

come the fuck on
posted by beefetish at 11:03 AM on April 30 [16 favorites]


rtha, I don't see much wrong with wanting others to educate you, as long as you don't expect them to, and don't get upset if they don't want to.
In my opinion, everyone gets to want what they want, but that does not mean others have the obligation to make sure they get it.

And asking strangers about their genitals is just rude.
posted by Too-Ticky at 11:13 AM on April 30


"ARG! That's thousands, even hundreds of thousands of years of damage, when that happens! Don't do that"

Again, humans are clumsy. I don't touch coral when I snorkel so it balances out. (Is what I've told myself since that happened 20+ years ago)

Rtha, I see no difference in human curiosity, no. Again, as I stated, humans are obsessed with sexuality and genitalia. Curiosity and exploring the world around you is innate. We are clumsy and offensive because we want to learn and haven't read the FAQ.

You're a dyke? I have some immediate, personal questions about that. Would you prefer I retreated for two hours and read up on the subject for two hours or just point blank ask you some quick questions about why you prefer women over men, however inarticulate? They will be clumsy, and offensive, but they will be coming from a place of genuine curiosity, not malice.
posted by BlerpityBloop at 11:13 AM on April 30


ARG! That's thousands, even hundreds of thousands of years of damage, when that happens! Don't do that!

I think you may have just proven the point about the wide gap between intention and consequence.
posted by corb at 11:14 AM on April 30 [3 favorites]


Would you prefer I retreated for two hours and read up on the subject for two hours

Yes? Please?
posted by cjelli at 11:16 AM on April 30 [20 favorites]


They will be clumsy, and offensive, but they will be coming from a place of genuine curiosity, not malice.

How self-centered can you be? It is not all about your needs.
posted by Conspire at 11:17 AM on April 30 [24 favorites]


> I don't touch coral when I snorkel so it balances out.

Causing one kind of damage is not balanced out by not causing some other kind of damage. You'd need to actually do something with a positive influence to manage that.
posted by Too-Ticky at 11:17 AM on April 30 [4 favorites]


"I realize people are trying to capture the experience but being trans is not like being Scottish or belonging to the rodeo."

So, what I'm hearing is that being trans is like being a Scottish rodeo rider, right?
posted by klangklangston at 11:19 AM on April 30 [10 favorites]


They will be clumsy, and offensive, but they will be coming from a place of genuine curiosity, not malice.

Lack of malice does not absolve a person of any social liability or personal responsibility for how the interact with other people. Being curious isn't a get-out-of-jail-free card for prying questions. This is basic social boundaries stuff.
posted by cortex at 11:22 AM on April 30 [33 favorites]


They will be clumsy, and offensive, but they will be coming from a place of genuine curiosity, not malice.

whooooooo caaaaaaaaaaares

how you react to be being called out, or even pushed back a little, matters a lot

reflect on how you're reacting now
posted by Rustic Etruscan at 11:23 AM on April 30 [14 favorites]


So, what I'm hearing is that being trans is like being a Scottish rodeo rider, right?


None of them use forks.
posted by jpe at 11:33 AM on April 30 [4 favorites]


I think this is what I meant in my rambling comment above. Most cis people don't/won't get how unbelievably obnoxious it is to ask a trans person about his or her genitals, surgery, puberty, etc., especially made clear here in relating questions like this to questions about the rodeo, being Scottish or rents in New York because they've never been asked anything that threatened their safety both emotionally and physically. But I also guess that for some cis folks, there would never be a comparison since they are privileged all the way down.

There's really no adequate comparison. Or am I wrong?
posted by Sophie1 at 11:35 AM on April 30


BlerpityBloop: "Would you prefer I retreated for two hours and read up on the subject for two hours or just point blank ask you some quick questions about why you prefer women over men, however inarticulate? They will be clumsy, and offensive, but they will be coming from a place of genuine curiosity, not malice."

In this scenario, we just met at a bar, right? I feel like I served my time answering this kind of question back in the first year of uni. Please do go and hunker on the internet for a couple of hours, or ask these questions to someone you know much more closely. Sure, if I'm drinking alcohol at this bar I might reach a stage of thinking fuckit and answering, but, "Hey, you're a lesbian*, tell me all about it!" as the start of a conversation is one that immediately sinks my spirits.

The question you're asking here, though, is a good one, and now you've got an answer to it from several of us. :)

*NB I don't actually currently identify as a lesbian, but have in the past.
posted by daisyk at 11:36 AM on April 30


Rtha, I see no difference in human curiosity, no.

Then this is going to remain your problem, and is not something I feel personally obliged to either solve or accommodate. Everyone has their own style and way of thinking. You can ask whatever questions you like - that's your right. It's my right to refuse to answer, and to not engage if you're going to whine about how I'm not educating you the way *you* want when there are lots of other options out there. Your needs don't take precedence over mine (or anyone else's), especially when you have other ways to meet them. Don't like it? That's your choice.

tl;dr: Yes, I would prefer you go do some reading so that you can educate yourself *enough* to avoid being rude or offensive whenever possible. Until you do that, no, I will not answer rude or offensive questions from you, no matter how well-meaning you may be.
posted by rtha at 11:37 AM on April 30 [6 favorites]


Childbirth — How Do Girls Even Do It
posted by klangklangston at 11:38 AM on April 30


To get back the FPP, yeah, LesBiGay groups often don't have their stuff together about trans* people, even though we are all impacted by gender- and heteronormativity.

I've told the story here before, about how I almost lost my job as the ED of a LGB synagogue when the all-lesbian-&-gay board that hired me couldn't agree among them on my gender or orientation. The follow-up, which I may also have mentioned here, is that they shut the synagogue down as a public institution rather than accept young/trans*/non-binary new members.

While some conventional Jewish or LGB organizations may be trans* friendly (such as the synagogue I belong to, even though we still have work to do), there is rarely any way to tell from the outside. It isn't acceptable to demand folks risk micro-agression or worse to even find out if an organization has features they want. That LGB shul should have been the go-to for local trans* Jews; it's hard to picture more profound rejection than choosing to close rather than welcome diversity. We never had a an opportunity to discuss best practices; the only conversations summarized as "get off my kosher lawn".
posted by Dreidl at 11:41 AM on April 30 [2 favorites]


So, what I'm hearing is that being trans is like being a Scottish rodeo rider, right?

or a "thing" apparently
posted by elizardbits at 11:46 AM on April 30 [3 favorites]


"Sure. Swimming lessons with a nice instructor and water wings in a shallow, warm pool would be awesome, but sometimes what happens is being shoved off the dock into a freezing and very deep lake.

I really like that analogy. The water is 'caring about gay rights' and gay people have no way to get out of the lake no matter how they got in (pleasant or pushed), but straight people have a simple ladder out and if they really hated the experience of getting in they can just get out and never go back in and no big deal for them.
posted by the agents of KAOS at 11:48 AM on April 30 [1 favorite]


We could have a whole separate FPP about the overlap between "ally" behavior and abuser behavior.
posted by Eideteker at 11:50 AM on April 30


And, on the topic of possibly-rude-or-intrusive questions, it's usually appropriate to start with the meta-question "I am assuming you are [X], may I ask you about [Y] having to do with being [X]?" And then shutting up, or asking, depending on how the perceived-as-[X] person replies.
As a visible Jewish genderqueer, I get asked all sorts of things. (Do I have horns under my hat is a personal favorite, so much so I have a yamulkah with little stuffed horns). I know educating comes with my stance, but even depending on my mood and time priorities, genuinely curious questioners are more likely to get a civilized answer than intrusive entitled ones.
posted by Dreidl at 11:51 AM on April 30 [1 favorite]


I always learn so much in these trans* FPPs, like what Mefites I will have difficulty respecting the opinions of ever again.
posted by Juliet Banana at 11:52 AM on April 30 [23 favorites]


[BlerpityBloop, this thread needs to stop being you continually reasserting your personal position on curiosity. You've made yourself plenty clear, please let the thread breathe.]
posted by cortex at 11:54 AM on April 30


"So how long have you been in this body of water?"
"What's it like being so wet?"
"Were you ever in a different body of water?"
"What's it like struggling to keep your head above the surface? Do you ever get tired?"
etc., etc. until:
"Ugh, stop yelling at me to stop asking questions and hand you a life preserver! Fine, I'm leaving. Go ahead and drown!" *leaves the oppressed person, who cannot leave the water, to fend for themselves (or sometimes pushes their head under in outrage)*
posted by Eideteker at 12:03 PM on April 30 [4 favorites]


dviedl, i take your Jewish genderqueer and raise you my albino Filipino first-generation immigrant pansexual polyamorous genderqueer trans self (whew!). My favorite bar interaction happened in England and goes as follows:

Him: Are you Oriental?
Me: I am.
Him: Wow. I fancy blondes and I fancy Orientals, but you're both!
Me: (cautiously retreats as he realizes he may have said too much).
posted by mandonlym at 12:04 PM on April 30 [3 favorites]


If LGBT is a heirarchy from L to T, apparently even T's get to knock down CDs.
posted by porpoise at 12:09 PM on April 30 [1 favorite]


That was super uncomfortable to watch but in an interesting/good way. When I've seen this play out in real life, the super invasive questions are bad enough, but the fact that the whole gender and/or sexuality issue totally supersedes the actual interesting thing the person is there to talk about is almost more degrading and is at least really annoying. Why the fuck aren't you talking about this person's interesting book/movie/whatever!? AAAAAh.

Also I would be happy if I never heard anyone say "you're so brave" in a pitying way ever again for the rest of my life.
posted by Lutoslawski at 12:34 PM on April 30 [4 favorites]


Also I would be happy if I never heard anyone say "you're so brave" in a pitying way ever again for the rest of my life.

THIS x 1000
posted by Sophie1 at 12:58 PM on April 30


"If LGBT is a heirarchy from L to T, apparently even T's get to knock down CDs."

CDs?

All I can think of is probably wrong.
posted by klangklangston at 1:02 PM on April 30


Cross-dressers, I think.
posted by rtha at 1:03 PM on April 30


Probably crossdressers. And yeah there's a whole lot of complicated interplay between how crossdressers fit into the world compared to how people under the LGBT umbrella do - and trans people specifically - but I don't really think this is the thread for that discussion since it'd be huge and maybe a little precarious and very far removed from the actual topic being discussed.
posted by FAMOUS MONSTER at 1:06 PM on April 30 [1 favorite]


Interesting that you bring up being misidentified as cis, mandonlym. I've been seeing a bit of talk across my social media about the term 'cis' and whether it is still useful, spurred on by this post by glosswitch about the '9 reasons why cis isn't working'. I don't personally agree with everything in that post, but I do think it's a conversation that we in the trans/queer/LGBTQ community need to have.

I agree that there needs to be more on the map than trans and cis. As someone who was identified as queer for the purpose of abuse well through adolescence, my relationship with masculinity and manhood is not without a ton of problems. But that's a bit of an aside for this discussion.
posted by CBrachyrhynchos at 1:20 PM on April 30 [1 favorite]


Since we're on the topic of pet peeves I try to avoid "As a...." constructions because it puts people's identity categories before their opinions. I prefer when people state their opinion first and then state their relevant experience after. Less alienating.
posted by mandonlym at 1:21 PM on April 30 [4 favorites]


The RuPaul stuff is pretty inside baseball and would go horribly here on MetaFilter anyway.
posted by Corinth at 1:22 PM on April 30 [5 favorites]


Since we're on the topic of pet peeves I try to avoid "As a...." constructions because it puts people's identity categories before their opinions. I prefer when people state their opinion first and then state their relevant experience after. Less alienating.

It's an interesting guideline and I'll try to keep it in mind. However, I avoided identity categories in that statement for a reason. For me, it would be an anachronism. (I'm also generally skeptical of what identity categories have become in recent years.)
posted by CBrachyrhynchos at 1:58 PM on April 30


Somebody once asked FAMOUS COUSIN (who is from England) if they have sneakers, or athletic shoes of any kind, in England.

But they don't - they just have "trainers," ya?
posted by phearlez at 2:20 PM on April 30 [3 favorites]


They also don't have cookies it is a dark and friendless land.
posted by winna at 3:03 PM on April 30 [3 favorites]


Marriage equality does help trans* people. It helps straight trans* people who live where their gender isn't recognised; it helps gay trans* people whose gender is recognised and who want to marry someone else of the same gender.

I theory, yes. In practice in many places, the way that marriage equality has been implemented has had severe negative impacts for many trans people. Here in the UK, for example, you no longer have to annul your marriage/civil partnership and then re-marry/-civil partner in your new gender. No, instead, you have to get your spouse's written fucking permission to be allowed to transition in the eyes of the law. In an acrimonious divorce, that can effectively mean holding your partner's gender identity hostage to something by refusing to sign the divorce papers unless you get your way. This was seen as a perfectly acceptable compromise - by people who were not themselves trans.
posted by Dysk at 3:41 PM on April 30


"They also don't have cookies it is a dark and friendless land."

What on earth do they give their Allies?
posted by Eideteker at 4:27 PM on April 30 [5 favorites]


Dysk: that's a particular law, not marriage equality as a concept/issue.

I don't quite understand how someone could force one person to stay married - surely if one person wants to end a marriage, it ends? Unless you're an Orthodox Jewish woman.

I do understand why a relationship might end when one person transitions. As much as their partner may support them expressing their true gender, the partner may only be attracted to one sex (and I use that word consciously, meaning biological sex as opposed to gender identity). I'm genderqueer*; I am also involved with someone who loves me, supports my gender identity and trans* as well as LGB rights, but also is only attracted to female bodies. I don't need to physically transition, but I can imagine that if I did, our relationship would end.

*I totally understood what that essay meant by how some people who aren't trans* are also not nexessarily cis*. I was "assigned female at birth", but have never felt that I have any innate sense of gender, and have often wished that I could shift back and forth on a whim.
posted by jb at 4:55 PM on April 30


In Britain, there's a thing called a Gender Recognition Certificate that it can be advantageous for a trans person to acquire.* (You get much stronger legal protections. For example, there are circumstances where you can out someone without a GRC when it would be illegal to out someone with a GRC.) Prior to the introduction of same-sex marriage, if you were party to a marriage or a civil partnership, part of the process of acquiring a GRC required proving that the marriage or civil partnership had been dissolved--otherwise granting a GRC would legally a create a same-sex marriage or an opposite-sex civil partnership (which was seen as a big problem at the time of the Gender Recognition Act). Then same-sex marriage comes along, meaning this fucked up requirement to dissolve a marriage or civil partnership should logically be eliminated. At worst, maybe people would be forced to convert civil partnerships to marriages (conversions haven't started, but IIRC they'll optional for already-existing civil partnerships). But that's not what happened. Rather than simply eliminating that requirement, they created the "spousal veto". If you're in a marriage or civil partnership and apply for a GRC, you spouse has to agree to it. No problem, you say, just get divorced. If your spouse won't agree to a GRC, the relationship's probably dead in the water. However, a hostile ex then has greater incentive to drag out the divorce for as long as possible. Rather than removing the power spouses had over GRCs, it was arguably increased on grounds that are nothing but transphobic.

*I'm not sure how getting a GRC could be disadvantageous, but some people don't want them. There are definitely problems with the GRC system besides the marriage issue.
posted by hoyland at 6:09 PM on April 30 [2 favorites]


Dysk: that's a particular law, not marriage equality as a concept/issue.

The argument that marriage equality "helps straight trans people who live where their gender isn't recognised" was predicated on a particular set of legal circumstances. In particular, that benefit to straight trans people is predicated on the rights of trans people not being respected. Yes, trans people benefit from same sex marriage, but it's gross to act as if working for same-sex marriage is working for trans rights.
posted by hoyland at 6:15 PM on April 30


I was fascinated by how visibly shaken Ms Menedez was by the questions, even when she was prepared for them.

I think anyone who interviews as part of their job should run through that exercise. It clearly has a powerful impact.
posted by winna at 7:44 PM on April 30


I was frustrated by the fact that she mentioned that "we" had come up with these questions, which meant that a room of people sat around brainstorming inappropriate clichés to ask a guest and not a single one raised any red flags or even thought to find someone better informed to run them by.
posted by Corinth at 7:56 PM on April 30 [1 favorite]


I think the only reason it "worked" is that Janet Mock was right there in front of her. Clearly this isn't an exercise they could have done on their own, because they all thought these kinds of things were okay. What should be part of the job of interviewers is doing any kind of basic preparation - like running the questions by an expert ahead of time or watching other interviews the subject has given.
posted by Corinth at 8:01 PM on April 30 [2 favorites]


Sorry - just trying to clarify as I realize it's needed: Like, the conception of trans people most people like this have in their heads is oh, they're trans, they've opted into fielding questions like this all the time, they know they're different and inquiring minds want to know! You can see some of this mindset here in this discussion, even. So before Janet Mock was there to replace their notional trans person, they'd have bumbled right along imagining those questions were fine because they weren't starting with an accurate approximation of reality.
posted by Corinth at 8:08 PM on April 30 [2 favorites]


You're right, Corinth. I was just disproportionately impressed by how much it appeared to resonate emotionally with the interviewer having to field such intrusive and impertinent questions. I agree that doing basic research and using some common sense and decency are much better ways to handle the interview process.
posted by winna at 8:22 PM on April 30


Yeah, it really seemed to hit her hard.
posted by Corinth at 8:35 PM on April 30


Wait, I am now hideously, hideously confused on this marriage UK thing and the "spousal veto". Is it to prevent people from being forced to suddenly be in a legally same sex relationship against their will? Does England not have no-fault divorce or something? What was the justification given? This seems really crazy. But then, I'm also not really sure what the GRCs look like. You say it's illegal to out someone with a GRC - would that apply to, say, a former spouse talking about what the gender was when they got married and is that maybe why? Or is it mostly to do with newspapers?
posted by corb at 8:35 PM on April 30


"I was frustrated by the fact that she mentioned that "we" had come up with these questions, which meant that a room of people sat around brainstorming inappropriate clichés to ask a guest and not a single one raised any red flags or even thought to find someone better informed to run them by."

I thought the "we" meant her and Mock. Most talk shows have you discuss the questions beforehand.
posted by klangklangston at 8:47 PM on April 30


Here is a pretty good summary of what the spousal veto means. Gives some brief history on the GRC too.
posted by The World's End at 9:15 PM on April 30 [2 favorites]


I just checked, and what the host said in the video is:

"We wrote a lot of these questions and I didn't realize how awful - like even when we were roleplaying them without you I didn't realize how awful ...."

and to a lesser extent because this could be the royal we of the audience:

"I thought we needed to know that as a way of bridging an understanding gap ...."


So I think she meant her show had come up with questions before Mock got there?
posted by Corinth at 9:21 PM on April 30 [1 favorite]


but it's gross to act as if working for same-sex marriage is working for trans rights.

When I was working with Marriage Equality Now, ten or so years ago, one of the group was a transsexual person who would have disagreed with you most vehemently. At the time I was still figuring out how to wrap my head about transsexuality and I was not comfortable engaging with this conversation, but they were adamant that marriage equality was important for trans people and we needed to include something to that effect in our platform.

(sorry to be vague, but this person's gender expression was really ambiguous, and I never knew which direction they were transitioning, or what pronouns they preferred.)
posted by Mars Saxman at 10:38 PM on April 30 [1 favorite]


Is marriage equality a good thing? For sure! Is marriage equality important to many trans people? Hell yes! Does working toward marriage equality constitute working toward trans rights? Fuck no, because we've seen trans rights sacrificed on that altar time and time again.
posted by Dysk at 11:16 PM on April 30 [4 favorites]


I used to think that working for same-sex civil partnerships was throwing marriage equality under the bus - and I argued against them on those grounds. But I was wrong -- jurisdictions with civil partnerships were more likely to get marriage equality shortly after than those which held out. And, in the meantime, real people who had serious legal issues didn't suffer while waiting for the perfect political condition.

I realise that there have been issues with HRC and specific American legislation (where they agreed to drop gender identity protection in exchange for other concessions). But I also think that marriage equality -- and especially the personal stories of tragedy and hope that supported the campaign -- have changed a lot of people's ideas about gender as well as sexual orientation. I think that people are more supportive of trans* rights because of work against homophobia, because homophobia is tied up with gender and sexism.

Similarly, anti-bullying campaigns have dealt with gender non-conformity as well as sexual orientation -- and also sexual violence against women. These issues are tied together.

And that it does no one any good for allies to be attacking each other. We can talk about how we balance difference issues, but the progressive movement in general has some real problems with being obsessed with the motes in their allies' eyes while ignoring the planks in the enemies'. (yeah, that's really twisting the gospel, but it's the image I wanted).
posted by jb at 2:10 AM on May 1


Here is a pretty good summary of what the spousal veto means. Gives some brief history on the GRC too.

Thanks, that's helpful, but I think I'm still confused. Is there anything about what the government thought they were trying to do? This post kind of seems to assume you already know a little more about the subject than I think I do - like talking about the similarity of the language used to reject without actually referencing it.
posted by corb at 4:13 AM on May 1


Is there anything about what the government thought they were trying to do?

The government's line was something about both parties to a marriage being entitled to decide what that marriage looks like. Basically, that's cover for a delightful cocktail of homophobia and transphobia. God forbid a straight person should end up in a same-sex marriage! Oh wait. Legally, a marriage is a marriage, regardless of genders of the spouses, so that's not it. No, the trans person would be "forcing" their straight cis (read "normal") spouse to be queer and they want to put a stop to that. That would be offensive and is basically the justification, except that doesn't even make sense either! To get a GRC, you have to have been transitioned for at least two years, meaning your spouse is already perceived as being in a same-sex marriage! Anything the government claims to be preventing will have already happened.
posted by hoyland at 4:53 AM on May 1 [1 favorite]


I think that people are more supportive of trans* rights because of work against homophobia, because homophobia is tied up with gender and sexism.

No one is disputing that trans people benefit from same-sex marriage or anti-bullying initiatives in schools or what have you. The issue is that saying combating homophobia or sexism is working on trans rights demands issues specific to trans people take a back seat. This is the "you'll get your turn later, right now you're too scary for straight people" attitude that was mentioned above.
posted by hoyland at 5:04 AM on May 1 [1 favorite]


So I just googled to figure out more about this, and it looks like England and Wales apparently do not have no-fault divorce, which, while it seems crazy as hell to me, may be behind this. I know in states that didn't have no-fault divorce for a while, people would basically fake grounds just to get out of things. But it seems like it would be a lot simpler and less dickish to say "If your spouse gets a GRC, you have the ability to immediately annul the marriage if you want to" rather than make some weird permission-giving scenario. If you don't want to be in a marriage with someone of the gender your spouse is transitioning to, fine, but hostage-taking is shitty. It does remind me a lot of the gets for Orthodox Jews.
posted by corb at 5:27 AM on May 1 [4 favorites]


But it seems like it would be a lot simpler and less dickish to say "If your spouse gets a GRC, you have the ability to immediately annul the marriage if you want to" rather than make some weird permission-giving scenario.

This is kind of what the counter-proposal was, actually. There's a thing called an interim GRC which is only good for six months (and then vanishes in a puff of smoke) and is what you get if you don't have the 'permission slip', I believe, which can be used to dissolve a marriage/civil partnership, at which point it converts to a full GRC. So if you want to screw your ex over, you stall for six months and make them start the process all over again (I have no idea what happens to the legal mechanics of the divorce if the interim GRC has gone poof). One proposal was to have the interim GRC work the same way, but not go poof at 6 months, but to convert automatically to a full GRC at 12 months, removing the leverage. It still leaves the weird permission-giving dynamic, but would at least remove the easy way to be shitty to your ex in a messy split.
posted by hoyland at 5:56 AM on May 1


God forbid a straight person should end up in a same-sex marriage!

I had a whole long thing typed up for this that when I reread it seemed like a derail in this FPP, so I deleted it.

However, I don't know if there is a non-outragey and GRARy way to do it, but a full FPP on the UK marriage thing would be super interesting if someone put it together. It's a twist to the situation that I'd never considered, with all kinds of odd potential outcomes.
posted by Dip Flash at 6:10 AM on May 1


The government's line was something about both parties to a marriage being entitled to decide what that marriage looks like. Basically, that's cover for a delightful cocktail of homophobia and transphobia. God forbid a straight person should end up in a same-sex marriage!

I disagree vehemently -- it's not a cover for homophobia or transphobia to recognise that of course both parties should have a say in what a marriage looks like. That is what marriage is. One person doesn't get to decide whether you have kids, whether you buy a house, or what kind of sex you have: it's always a joint decision. Just like adding a third spouse shouldn't be allowed to be done unilaterally by one partner without the consent of the other (one big objection many have to traditional polygamy).

The way the British law goes about it is not good, but they should have just introduced the option of no-fault divorce (for everyone, everywhere).

Nor can one automatically assume that it would be a straight partner who would object to the transition. There are many gay people who - regardless of their support for trans rights - may not be interested or capable of staying with a partner who has transitioned to the opposite gender.

It is not transphobia to have an immutable and single-direction sexual orientation, any more than gay men are misogynistic for not being attracted to women, or lesbians are misandrists for not being attracted to men. People are born with an innate sexual orientation, which is about sex as much as it is about gender. If you change the body they are attracted to, that changes the relationship for them.

And there are some people whose innate orientation is such that they may not be able to be physically involved with a pre-operative trans* person. They could support trans* rights, campaign for trans* rights, but they were born such that a penis or a vagina is inherently unattractive to them or even anti-attractive.

I know it's hard to understand this for people who are more in the middle of the Kinsey spectrum. I used to think that everyone is a bit bisexual and those who said they weren't were just in denial. But I've grown up since and started listening to people who are straight or gay-adversive (meaning they are actively turned off by the sex they are not attracted to). One of them is currently campaigning to make his religious community actively affirming for trans* individuals, but he could not be happily married to a pre-operative trans* woman, any more than some gay men would be happy to be involved with a cis woman or trans man.

refusing to acknowledge the reality of another person's sexual orientation is like denying someone's gender identity.

I really do feel like we're all in the same boat here -- and no, we shouldn't put trans* issues on the back burner for any reason. We are many and we are capable of fighting more than one battle.

As for LGBT organisations ignoring the T: at my local LGBT community centre, services and programs for trans* people significantly outnumber those for bisexual people, though there are more bi people in the population. That's not a big issue, as many trans* people need more support than cis bi people. But the invisible letter in LGBT really isn't the T any more.
posted by jb at 8:07 AM on May 1 [5 favorites]


You'll note that I've never said anyone is obliged to stay in a relationship. The whole needing permission thing is problematic symbolically, but that's not the complaint. The complaint is that the government has provided hostile spouses who are leaving the relationship (or have left, albeit not legally) a means to inflict pain on their ex. If you're splitting up amicably as the result of one person transitioning, you're not going obstruct your ex getting a GRC. If it's not amicable, why should you get that power over your ex?

But the invisible letter in LGBT really isn't the T any more.

Maybe listening to trans people on this issue might be worthwhile?
posted by hoyland at 9:47 AM on May 1 [4 favorites]


[I appreciate everybody's trying to discuss in a good spirit here, but the GRC/divorce/how does attraction work thing seems like it is maybe a bit of a sideline at this point, maybe let's step back from that and return to the post?]
posted by LobsterMitten at 10:56 AM on May 1


mandonlym: I haven't seen as much of her stuff on passing but share her dislike of the term, for the way it pits cis women as superior and trans women as disguising ourselves to be cis-seeming. I prefer "blending in" or even "assimilating" myself, though not passing.

This is a total side note in some ways, but after participating in a long discussion about the term passing and how it is inaccurate in some pretty fundamental ways (the black person passing as white still considered themselves black, for example), I began shifting my phrasing to, "So and so can now be perceived more accurately," which also shifted the sense of error from the trans person to the people who are not or cannot perceive them accurately. It sometimes takes a bit more work to parse a sentence, since it's a change in the fundamental structure of what one is saying versus "passing," but I found it became easier with practice.

I think a lot of the "you must pass" mindset is an effect of how medicalized/pathologized gender transitions can be, and how while that can work for some individuals who fit loosely into the gender binary, it doesn't work so well for the myriad of exceptions and people with more complicated, nuanced relationships with gender. I remember one issue a decade or so ago being trans women being expected to be ultra feminine in order to be "approved" for transition, and how that caused issues with people who were questioning the worth and value of the feminine stereotypes/expectations (primarily feminists, who then unwisely blamed the trans women instead of the fsking doctors who were actually causing the problems). The fact that there are gatekeepers between people and their ability to feel comfortable in their own bodies is a major issue, and complicates peoples' relationships with gender because of the power differentials, and puts people who fall outside of the binary at more of a disadvantage.

I also think there's some serious intersection going on between members of the LGB community who are more privileged (the role of male, white, and temp-able-bodied/minded privilege in those communities seems, to me, to be under-verbalized by the figures who have mainstream visible roles) and both their relationship with trans people, and with people of color and/or women, and/or disabled in their communities. I remember reading an article once about two women who did consulting for increasing diversity, and the fact that again and again they experienced the privileged people wanting more diversity without actually having to change anything, and that's a problem.

A lot of the "I'm just curious" to "why are you people so angry" pattern seems to be about resisting change and maintaining the right/ability to judge people based on their characteristics, and there is a lot of assumptions and prejudices folded into who is and who is not a common target of this judgment.
posted by Deoridhe at 2:04 PM on May 1


"But the invisible letter in LGBT really isn't the T any more.

Maybe listening to trans people on this issue might be worthwhile?
"

The only hard data I have is in the context of mental health resources and funding for LGBT people in California, where I can say pretty definitively that bisexual people lack the specific resources that LG&T folks get. However, at least some of that is because of the broader public health move to MSM/WSW models that are less about the identity and more about the behavior.

Obviously, they're all underfunded from where I stand, but the overall proportion is very much weighted toward gay men, with lesbians and all of the trans* umbrella next, then bisexuals a very long distance behind.

This is confounded somewhat by the relative proportion of trans* folks in society; trans* folks get fewer resources on the whole, but proportionally more than bisexual folks get specifically devoted to them. It's also confounded by the fact that even as LGBT is at least four cohorts grouped as GSM, trans* itself is also a lot of different identities all grouped despite varying needs within that cohort (e.g. trans men may need ovarian cancer screenings; trans women may need prostate exams, and both come with attendant mental health support costs).

A lot of this is because there are (relatively) a shit-ton of people who identify as bisexual relative to the LGT, most of them women, and that cohort has much higher levels of mental health support diagnoses (e.g. if I recall correctly, the diagnosis levels for eating disorders in women are something like, lesbians are twice as likely to be diagnosed with an eating disorder as straight women; bisexual women are four times as likely to be diagnosed with an eating disorder as a lesbian is).

I'll also cop to the fact that this data is noisy as shit, not least because of the small sample sizes and that lower income people and people of color are more likely to identify as LGBT in general, and those groups tend to have higher mental health support needs to begin with and they're also much harder to do data collection on. Trans* people, in particular, suffer from the sample size problems, to the extent that cross-tabs within the trans* umbrella are pretty much useless at this point. There's no real ability to estimate how many people proportionally consider themselves, e.g. genderqueer or two-spirit.

(If anyone wants to totally nerd out on a year-old book length treatment of mental health disparities for the LGBT community, I can send you a PDF. The report relies pretty heavily on population estimates from the Williams Institute, which are publicly available.)
posted by klangklangston at 5:15 PM on May 1 [5 favorites]


I used to think that working for same-sex civil partnerships was throwing marriage equality under the bus - and I argued against them on those grounds. But I was wrong -- jurisdictions with civil partnerships were more likely to get marriage equality shortly after than those which held out. And, in the meantime, real people who had serious legal issues didn't suffer while waiting for the perfect political condition.

Thing is, "marriage equality" isn't people. Throwing a concept under a bus is a lot less odious. And working toward the imperfect solution of civil partnerships is still working for the benefit of gay people, whereas working for marriage equality is not necessarily meaningfully working for trans people, especially not when you're willing to outright sacrifice their rights to get it. That, after having thrown us under the bus, you then say that it's all to our benefit? That's throwing fucking salt in the wounds.
posted by Dysk at 1:13 AM on May 2


I live in a city that is overflowing with trans resources, at least in comparison to most places. That doesn't mean the local LGBT community spends time or energy on trans issues. The majority of the resources here were built by people (cis and trans) specifically working on trans issues in organisations specifically focused on trans issues. That's not to say there aren't people in "mainstream" LGBT organisations who step up, some in a big way. But then there's a leadership change and that support vanishes. So it's a bit galling to be told that the existence of resources for trans people means the LGBT community has stopped ignoring trans issues.
posted by hoyland at 5:07 AM on May 2


For transgender service members, honesty can end career
posted by homunculus at 11:47 AM on May 2


A Facebook friend of mine started identifying as male and talking quite openly about some of the more mundane issues that raises.
I had no idea how to react. In the end I decided to match his matter of fact tone. I'd have loved to congratulate him for doing this thing that must have been super important to him but that sounded really stupid. And I would have liked to ask if he's happy and so on. There was no "announcement" post.
So in the end I just replied to his posts as if it was all business as usual and no big deal.
I still have no idea what would be okay to say and what wouldn't, so I just shut up rather than be insensitive. I do wonder whether he would have liked to hear more and whether I came off as non-supportive. Kind of embarassed now!

Anyway, I just wanted to share this. It must be incredibly hard to face the discrimination and the hostility and rudeness of people. People suck.
posted by Omnomnom at 1:25 PM on May 2


I don't know your relationship, but I might send a note like, "Hey, I noticed you're identifying as male on FB now, and talking about the quotidian parts of being a trans guy. I didn't know how new this was, so I didn't want to make a thing out of it, but I want you to know that if there's anything I can do to support you, just let me know.

Yer friend, OMNOMNOM"

So, just chill, let him decide what he needs, and a bit of an attaboy.
posted by klangklangston at 4:11 PM on May 2 [1 favorite]


Personally I prefer when people do what you've done, Omnomnom - just treating it as no big deal, but using appropriate pronouns and perhaps even being willing to discuss trans politics of the trans experience when I talk about it. What klangklangston is suggesting always struck me as slightly cloying, and kind of making A Thing of it, despite the caveats about precisely that. I'm just me, though, and your mileage may vary.
posted by Dysk at 10:17 PM on May 4 [1 favorite]


How self-centered can you be? It is not all about your needs.

Whose needs do you think they are supposed to be addressing? It is the default position of people to be self-centered. As long as they're not being malicious, or overburdening others, we usually give them a pass on this. At best we can change the norms of social etiquette, but that also involves mildly asking someone to respect their privacy if they overstep those bounds, not treating it as a malicious offense to social norms. And in any case, these sorts of "questions" are not in the same category as trying to pry about your bank account or salary-- it is a genuine attempt to understand where someone with a completely different experience the one's own is coming from. And yeah, there's self-interest in using another person to get answers to those questions, but whose interests are they supposed to be looking out for, assuming it's not coming at someone else's expense?
posted by deanc at 12:29 PM on May 5


"What klangklangston is suggesting always struck me as slightly cloying, and kind of making A Thing of it, despite the caveats about precisely that."

Eh. A lot of it depends on the relationship you have with the person. I've had friends who transitioned that I'd write that to, I have friends who have transitioned that I wouldn't. Depends on the person and their particular circumstance.
posted by klangklangston at 3:56 PM on May 5


deanc, do you usually give people a pass when they ask about your junk? Would you still give people a pass if you got asked about your junk all the time? If you got asked about your junk all the time, even in national TV interviews, to the exclusion of actual stuff that you'd like to talk about? And though I'd I agree that people asking you about your junk and people asking you about your salary are not in the same category, we seem to differ on which category is more boorish.
posted by Corinth at 5:50 PM on May 5 [3 favorites]


Corinth: The RuPaul stuff is pretty inside baseball and would go horribly here on MetaFilter anyway.

Well, how about a baseball player like Julia Serano to pinch-hit: a few thoughts on drag, trans women, and subversivism.
posted by larrybob at 10:13 AM on May 7 [1 favorite]


How about no. Julia's takes on this are not great.
posted by Corinth at 10:28 AM on May 8


Too much "quit fighting, children" and not enough listening.
posted by Corinth at 10:30 AM on May 8 [1 favorite]


After Abuse Under State Supervision, Transgender Connecticut Teen Held in Solitary Without Charge
posted by homunculus at 12:46 PM on May 8


I really liked Serano's point on this. It wasn't patronising, it was pointing out that a) no one can claim to speak for the whole trans* community, b) no one drag performer represents the whole of drag, and c) maybe we should stop fighting about small differences. I've met trans* women who are "drag queens" and trans* men who are "drag kings" -- it's not a simple division.
posted by jb at 6:07 AM on May 11


The Trans community needs to understand its differences
posted by jb at 6:22 AM on May 11


God, that's such a great article. It could be its own FPP honestly. Well written and cited.
posted by corb at 7:14 AM on May 11


Serano's point is aloof and irrelevant. We don't need to speak for the whole community to ask people not to use fucking slurs that hurt people. That's the "difference" we're "fighting" about.
posted by Corinth at 10:01 AM on May 11


That dailydot article is (still) garbage. It ignores the outright transmisogyny on one "side" to present strained false equivalence after strained false equivalence. People are trying so hard to handwave away the horrible shit that James and Addams and RuPaul and Thunderfuck have run on some of the internet's largest queer outlets (Boing-Boing/HuffPo/Bilerico/etc.) by pointing to an activist's tweet as an example of "both sides do it." Give me a break. Was there this much kicking and screaming over asking GSM people to be careful using the f-word?

(Disclosure: I am a signatory on the linked open letter.)
posted by Corinth at 10:21 AM on May 11


All social justice issues aside, it's insanely and unacceptably rude to tell people in a community that you are not in that you will not respect their request to use or not use XYZ term while speaking with them because someone else who is not there is fine with the term. Large and diverse communities are not required to come to agreement on terminology just to make the rest of us comfortable in our laziness.
posted by rtha at 10:22 AM on May 11 [2 favorites]


my personal rule is that if it isn't about me, I don't use any questionable words - but people can use any words they like about themselves. Dan Savage can call himself the f-word, Calpurnia Addams can call herself the t-word, and I can call myself a shiksa (since I am, for all that I attend synagogue now).

I didn't link those articles for their points on language, but for the larger - and more interesting discussion - on the relationship between some trans women and drag culture, a relationship that other trans women don't share. You'll notice that neither article condones the use of questionable language, but is trying to explore where the divisions come from among trans people. And, frankly, I think both sides in these dustups used questionable and hurtful language and were unnecessarily uncivil to each other.
posted by jb at 11:27 AM on May 11 [2 favorites]


also - both authors (Serano, Richards) are trans women, so I don't understand how they are not part of the community.
posted by jb at 11:31 AM on May 11 [1 favorite]


What I think is unfair is picking apart cornered trans women's defenses from things like TERF talking points and videos in which trans women are murdered.

You're doing it too - you're comparing articles and videos run on enormous websites to activists' reactionary defenses on much smaller platforms (down to one person's tweet, for which she apologized weeks ago). If my brother hits me with a bat and in response I hit him with a pencil, we're both hitting each other, but holy shit it's not a "both sides in these dustups" situation.

Addams and James are trans women too, but that doesn't excuse their transmisogyny. Gay men aren't entitled to use the f-word for gay men who object to it just because they're gay.
posted by Corinth at 11:36 AM on May 11


> also - both authors (Serano, Richards) are trans women, so I don't understand how they are not part of the community.

Oh, sure, but plenty of people who are not part of the trans* community/communities use pieces like that as a bludgeon against the quote unquote PC police; plenty of other people use them as shields against being asked to be mindful of their language. I'm definitely not saying that these issues shouldn't be discussed and argued over by and within the communities and peoples, just that those of us who aren't really in them - no matter how allied we feel we are or actually are - need to watch out for a tendency to lecture folks about How They Should Really Talk (/think/be/act). We've seen that play out again and again on this site, most recently and particularly regarding trans* issues but it applies to other discussions as well.
posted by rtha at 11:49 AM on May 11 [1 favorite]


"It ignores the outright transmisogyny on one "side" to present strained false equivalence after strained false equivalence. "

Are you just dismissing it on a ctrl+f?
It’s particularly ironic that Addams and James are defending the gender subverting role of drag given they they themselves have historically represented the assimilationist school of trans womanhood. That two women who spent years teaching others how to live “deep stealth” are allied with “subversive” drag queens lays bare the essential point underlying all of this: what’s truly being policed here is womanhood. Gay men celebrate men who mess with gender and women who occupy comfortably feminine and heterosexual roles. Based on the frenzied reactions of the gay male defenders or RuPaul, Addams and James, it appears that what’s truly most subversive to the status quo is a non-passing, queer trans woman.
That's talking about transmisogyny right there, though without using the term.
posted by klangklangston at 12:50 PM on May 11


No, I'm saying that those four sentences don't comport with the rest of the piece, which takes pains to take those people seriously as having a valid, useful "side" even after acknowledging their vitriol as (merely) "ironic." If you're seeing the statements in the James and Addams pieces, and the murder video, and you still feel compelled to nitpick how trans women defend themselves from that crap, you're presenting a bogus "two sides both with good points" narrative.

It sucks that people can make a video about murdering trans women, or say all the TERF-y things that Addams and James have said, and then, since they have larger platforms, manage to use our wounded reaction (one single point out of many in the open letter) as a further indictment of us. That's bogus, and any real investigation into the double duty the term transgender is pulling (trans as in trans woman and trans as in umbrella) can't with a straight face start by fingerwagging at trans women for not being inclusive enough to RuPaul without acknowledging the full context of our rejection of his behavior. We're obviously losing the messaging war if even Serano is trying to be accommodating in the face of outright transmisogyny and deliberate portrayals of violence.
posted by Corinth at 1:10 PM on May 11


Keep in mind that this all started because we asked someone to stop using slurs and teaching/encouraging people to clock gender variant bodies on national television and were met with a chorus of very hostile nopes, largely from drag performers and cis gay men, but also from the media at large (both mainstream and queer) portaying this as a bridge too far down the path to political correctness. (How convenient that racist and homophobic slurs are on the right side of the bridge and transphobic slurs are on the wrong side of the bridge!)
posted by Corinth at 1:20 PM on May 11


I think that article contains a heavy does of telling cis people want they want to hear. That this isn't an argument they need to care about, that it's internal to the trans community. But in a way, it all boils down to who is given voice to represent the trans community (to cis people! by cis people!) and what it means for someone in their position, of their background to be saying the things they are saying. I feel like this piece gives you license to say "Well, Calpernia Addams is trans and I agree with her, so I must be okay" which is the opposite of what you ought to be doing here, which is thinking critically about transphobia.
posted by hoyland at 2:23 PM on May 11 [1 favorite]


Not all people who aren't trans are cis - and lots of cis and other non-trans people have to live and work in a community that includes cis and trans and genderqueer folk. It matters to us as well.
posted by jb at 3:01 PM on May 11


jb, you alluded to this earlier. I think you're trying to carve a space for yourself that lets you off the hook, as if declaring yourself not to be cis somehow absolves you of worrying about cis privilege you might receive.

(Generally, I would include genderqueer people under the 'trans' umbrella. Trans doesn't mean binary-identified. Nor is it limited to people interested in transition.)
posted by hoyland at 3:08 PM on May 11


I am obviously okay with people identifying however they identify and being under the trans umbrella or not as they please. I still ask for their support in opposing anti-trans slurs, scrutiny and violent imagery. I'm not super excited about people trying to hijack this conversation (not this particular conversation, I mean the general conversation over the past few weeks) to be about taxonomy and semantics instead of the actual harm trans women are opposing. That's what I mean by nitpicking that one point of the open letter (the one about whether RuPaul is or isn't trans and/or in what capacity he is or isn't trans) - it's neglecting the context which is first and foremost please stop.
posted by Corinth at 3:30 PM on May 11


After reading all the blogposts, I have to wonder what axes are being grinded in the open letter that you signed, Corinth. Looking at Malloy's stuff, she does seem to have a history of mocking showgirls, which as I understand is the preferred term for trans women who once performed in drag shows. As I understand it, the term "drag queen" is a term specifically reserved for gay men who perform in drag shows, and the use of it to refer to a trans woman is incredibly offensive. So it would seem that Malloy would also deserve to be called out by name in that open letter, unless the point was just to "take sides." So it means there's another question - what is the context where Malloy can misgender and not be called out on it where others can be held accountable for lesser crimes? Who's Parker Malloy when she's at home? Who are her constituents, as it were, and what's the larger unspoken divide?
posted by corb at 10:35 AM on May 12


Looking at Malloy's stuff, she does seem to have a history of mocking showgirls, which as I understand is the preferred term for trans women who once performed in drag shows.

Okay, but is there any of that actually in the letter in question? Because it looks a lot like you're saying 'the letter is problematic, just look at all these things other than the letter she wrote!'

As I understand it, the term "drag queen" is a term specifically reserved for gay men who perform in drag shows, and the use of it to refer to a trans woman is incredibly offensive.

Different strokes for different folks, of course, but that is not a position I have ever come across personally - I know a few self-identified drag queens who are women, cis and trans. Never heard 'showgirl' used as anything other than effectively a synonym of 'go-go girl', but like I say, your mileage may vary.
posted by Dysk at 1:04 PM on May 12


I have to wonder what axes are being grinded in the open letter ... So it would seem that Malloy would also deserve to be called out by name in that open letter, unless the point was just to "take sides."

The open letter is pretty clear about what it is saying. I'm not sure why you think that anything besides exactly equal slaps on the wrist all around constitutes grinding an axe or taking a side.

It is not agreed upon that the responses to Malloy were "lesser crimes".

It would have been possible to call out that one phrase in Malloy's response in a way that was less full of barf.

The divide between generations of trans women has been spoken about.
posted by bleep-blop at 1:16 PM on May 12


Just FYI, Parker Molloy has apologized, both for saying she hated RuPaul and calling Addams a drag queen. Thunderfuck apologized for making the video about Molloy being murdered (TW: link contains a description of the video's depiction of the murdering of a trans woman). To my knowledge, nobody else from the RuPaul/Addams/James/Thunderfuck "side" has publicly regretted any of the rest of it.
posted by Corinth at 2:16 PM on May 12


If you for whatever reason wanted to assume RuPaul learned anything, try to distinguish what he said this week from what asshole Republicans always say. Hint: You can't.
posted by Corinth at 10:20 AM on May 22 [1 favorite]


Cis gay men react angrily to the renaming of a drag event at the request of the trans community (trigger warning). In here, too, you'll find asshole Republican style rhetoric.

All this stuff is vile, but it's been going on for two months now. This particular piece is not only transmisogyny, but ignorant, irrational bashing of nonbinary identities. This is what RuPaul and James and Addams are supporting.
posted by Corinth at 12:56 AM on May 23 [1 favorite]


Interesting how that article casts those in the trans community who are opposed to the term 'tranny' as radical. My experience has been that that is far and away most trans people, and that more likely is that the author of the piece - being involved in a capital g Gay scene and drag etc. - represents the fringe rather than the mainstream, which is the exact opposite the impression they seem to be under. Historically it may have been different, but it really seems to me that most trans people lead comparatively "normal" lives these days, and the drag and ostentatiously queer scenes are the radical fringe.
posted by Dysk at 5:26 AM on May 23


That article about the T-Shack rebranding is a mess.

How many actual Trans* identified people have actually been mortally wounded by having been called “tr*nny”?

Um, way, way too many? Within statistics on hate crimes against people who are lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, and HIV-affected, violence against transgender people and people of color is disproportionately high. So, you know, sticks and stones may break my bones, and words that are also used by those wielding those sticks and stones may also hurt me.

Portraying trans activists as shrill, hysterical, and unreasonable is transmisogyny, plain and simple. Women asking to be respected have always been slandered and belittled in this way, it's nothing new.
posted by Juliet Banana at 7:27 AM on May 23 [5 favorites]


Meanwhile (still/again), on a large LGBT outlet. Bond, a performer and person who prefers gender-neutral pronouns, says predictably awful things about trans women who object to slurs (Bond also says that slurs "ACCURATELY DESCRIBE WHO AND WHAT WE ARE [sic]," applying the t-word and she**** labels to people who have made it clear they do not describe them) and the clocking of gender variant bodies for entertainment. Bond calls trans women objecting to slurs "a small group of vocal 'queers' [who have] decided it's better to pursue a shame-based agenda," "word police," "attacking, silencing and shaming," "haters who seek to diminish us and our accomplishments." Bond continues: "A reality check, if people think you are a tr**** it's because you are perceived as one."

It is hard for me to articulate how hard it has been these past couple months to wake up in the mornings, and check my RSS feeds in bed, and have shit like this right in my face. I've specifically cultivated my reading list to avoid slurs and transmisogyny and insults, but lately these sites that I had carefully invited into my morning routine are consistently disappointing me in ways that sometimes cause me to cry before I even get out of bed.

***

I'd also like to use another issue to highlight the power disparity I mentioned earlier. The band Arcade Fire has a new music video out, which stars Andrew Garfield (of the current Spiderman movies) as a trans woman. The video is very simplistic, but it features a segment filmed live at Coachella in which Garfield, a cis man in drag for the role, is brought up on stage in front of thousands of people (in real life) as an example of a trans woman to support. I find the video eye-rolling and bad, but that particular confusing intrusion to be downright gross.

In any case, here is Advocate's (another large LGBT outlet) take on it. It features a completely friendly interview with some blindingly myopic stupidity. Exhibit A, the cis man director says
"Before I got on the call [with Garfield], I thought, Is this the right person — should we be using a transgender person? But then getting on the phone with Andrew, and Andrew's commitment and passion toward the project was just overwhelming. For an actor of that caliber to be that emotionally invested in a music video is just a very special thing. It just completely made sense."
He asks himself if maybe they should hire a trans woman to play their trans woman, and then proceeds to hire the first cis man he talks to immediately - because of the cis man's "commitment" and "passion," you see. When faced with trans musician Laura Jane Grace's criticism of the casting choice, band frontman Win Butler brushes her concerns aside ("There was just so much thought and love that went into the video I don't personally see it as negative."), because obviously the opinion of cis people supplants the opinions of trans people.

As it turns out, they did have one trans woman advising the project - a woman called Our Lady J. Here's what Our Lady J (a Drag Race alumna) put out on HuffPo, a large mainstream outlet, about the RuPaul thing. It's "free speech" garbage, and dismisses trans women with concerns as "projecting," "only victims if we allow ourselves to be," "controlling," "overpolicing," causing a "class war," "threatening the core of our creative abundance," and "sacrificing the heartbeat of our queer identities in order to calm the hissing ego of fanaticism."

The reason I'm mentioning this is because it's part of a pattern: Can you guess who was the trans woman advisor hired for "Dallas Buyers Club"? It was Calpernia Addams, who rank transmisogynistic hit piece was linked above.

Clearly, even cis people who are tying to do some version of the right thing, and who seek trans woman input on projects that feature trans women, are tending to pick trans women who will tell them what they already want to hear. These trans women not only have large platforms on HuffPo, Advocate, Bilerico and others, but they have disproportionate influence that they leverage elsewhere as well. This is why we're losing the messaging war, and it's why people portraying us as shrill harpies asking for unrealistic things (like maybe stop teaching people to spot us and call us the t-word) are winning.
posted by Corinth at 1:25 PM on May 25 [4 favorites]


I forgot to mention that the byline to the linked Bond Bilerico piece is in no way neutral. It reads:
Trans entertainer Mx Justin Vivian Bond responding on Facebook to the recent push by some trans activists to make the word "tr****" a slur. The issue has divided the gender nonconforming community as people pick sides on whether or not words like tr**** should be nixed or reclaimed. (Paragraph breaks added to make it easier to read.)
(Emphasis and asterisks and eyerolls mine.)
posted by Corinth at 1:30 PM on May 25


I actually had to unfollow Justin Vivian Bond on Twitter after being a fan for years. Lots of really nasty vitriol that I found surprising, considering the source.
posted by Juliet Banana at 1:47 PM on May 25


New Zinnia Jones post on this.
posted by Corinth at 12:08 AM on May 26 [1 favorite]


"Make tranny a slur"? MAKE tranny a slur?

Wow, some of these rich fucks haven't actually walked on a pavement for a long fucking time, have they? Get out into the fucking world - not your rich Drag Race circlejerk - and listen for how people actually fucking use the word.
posted by Dysk at 1:55 AM on May 26 [2 favorites]


RuPaul wants to make sure you know how he really feels about you. (As always when a general LGBT site runs an article about trans issues, avoid the comments. Honestly, avoid the article, too: it's just a new round of hateful RuPaul tweets.)
posted by Corinth at 12:00 AM on May 27


Just sighed reading that back. How pathetic is it that LGBT site commenters hate trans people as much as mainstream site commenters? There is one sole reply on another recent Advocate article by the executive director of the TLDEF about remembering transgender veterans on Memorial Day. It is, in its entirety: "Who cares."

Why do we even fucking bother?
posted by Corinth at 12:10 AM on May 27


That article about the T-Shack rebranding is a mess.

It looks like the person responsible for much of it, Heklina, seems to be taking a much more thoughtful approach than the guy writing the article.
posted by corb at 7:20 AM on May 27 [1 favorite]


Of course she is. The people with the least stake in this stuff have the most privilege to throw tantrums with.
posted by Corinth at 9:40 AM on May 27


(Trigger warning.)

Drag queen Bianca del Rio, the winner of this season's Drag Race, immediately spouted transmisogyny at model Carmen Carrera, who had been advocating against the usage of anti-trans slurs: "I think Carmen Carrera should stick whats left of her dick and shove it in her mouth."

By all means mainstream straight and queer media, keep insisting that "both sides are to blame" or whatever. Keep waffling. You're only hurting trans women, so who cares?
posted by Corinth at 4:34 PM on May 27


Huffington Post is pushing some shitty new podcast. How do I know it's shitty? Because last week's guest was Calpenia Addams and this week's guest was RuPaul. Thanks, HuffPo! Really your only problem is that you didn't have enough glowing coverage of transmisogynists.
posted by Corinth at 3:16 PM on May 28


Carmen Carrera being way calmer and classier than people deserve.
posted by Corinth at 8:20 PM on May 29


How to Build a Kinder Web for the Transgender Community
posted by homunculus at 9:33 PM on May 29 [1 favorite]


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