Tobi Hill-Meyer

Proposed Changes: Structural Inequity on Bilerico

Filed By Tobi Hill-Meyer | December 15, 2009 4:00 PM | comments

Filed in: Site News, Transgender & Intersex
Tags: transphobia

I responded in clear terms to Ronald Gold's article, explaining exactly how it is ignorant, hurtful, and bigoted. But it's clear from the discussion over the past few days that people weren't just hurt by the post, but a sense of betrayal from the Bilerico ed team's decision to post it in the first place. It's now being recognized as clearly a mistake and has been apologized for, but many are wondering what changes can be made so that a similar incident doesn't arise again.

In order to address that, I feel it's important to outline the structural inequities that allowed it to happen in the first place. Upon doing some serious consideration, I found a lot. Many of them are things that exist in the larger LGBTQ community in general, but for the purposes of this article I'm going to examine how they play out here.

Bilerico's mission is to include as wide a range of LGBTQ perspectives as possible and provide a forum for people from different perspectives to engage each other. The ed team prefers to take a hands off approach to moderation, only taking action when it is clearly needed or asked for.

Rather then ban and remove any bigoted comments and perspectives, the general preference is to allow for community dialog to call out and address the situation, hopefully providing a situation where the offender learns, grows, and is able to avoid doing the same thing again. From this perspective, people are allowed to make anti-trans statements (as well as sexist, racist, etc) in the hopes that they will fall on their face and be discredited more effectively then having their comment removed and being allowed to play the martyr.

It's a perfectly reasonable approach given how much work in-depth moderation requires. However, the strategy of leaving people to work out their own conflicts relies on the assumption that we are all coming from an equal playing field. We are not.

Homophobia and transphobia have a lot of overlap, but they are essentially two separate axis of power. We clearly know that there are LGB folks who are rabidly transphobic, as well as trans folks who are rabidly homophobic. However, the extremely homophobic trans people generally don't want to participate in an LGBTQ blog, whereas the extremely transphobic LGB people not only want to participate, but feel a level of ownership of the space that allows them to complain about trans people's mere existence on this blog. I'm not just talking about Ronald Gold, it happens somewhat regularly, even just last week.

Ignoring the more extreme examples, the vast majority of trans people participating in this blog are familiar with LGB life and issues - if not LGB themselves. When it comes to the LGB population, the opposite is true. The vast majority of LGB folks participating here are not trans and it seems likely that most do not have significant exposure to trans lives.

This impacts a number of the ways in which this blog operates: In the kind and number of incidents that arise, in the way complaints are responded, in the way the commenting Terms of Service (TOS) are written, and how they are enforced. Let's go over them here, starting with a breakdown of the TOS.

No personal attacks

When moderating heated discussions, a distinction is drawn between personal attacks, i.e. "You're stupid," and impersonal attacks, i.e."Trans people are stupid." That means that an individual who wants to slam another person on the blog is welcome to do so as long as they don't name that person individually. It also means that hurtful language directed at populations or an individual not on this blog, no matter how extreme, is allowed.

It can be argued that this is a two way street, but the impact is very different when the same language is hurled back. Calling white people "uppity" does not have the same impact as doing the same to people of color. The same thing with calling men "shrill" as opposed to women.

The worst instance of that I can recall was an article last year about a porn star who was raped where commenters claimed that due to his line of work and the fact that he was kinky then he just got what he deserved, "Raped? I think he rather likes it," and "This guy is a whore and deserves no respect."

It seems as if the assumption is that "personal" attacks are much more direct and that people will have more distance from other kinds of attacks, resulting in less of a personal impact. While that might be a factor, it is only one. As a kinky sex worker, I'd much rather have someone tell me I'm stupid then be told that people like me deserve to be raped.

No Slurs

As I eluded to in my response to Ronald Gold, there are a lot of verbal attacks that act very similar to slurs -- including words like "uppity," and "shrill," as well as "mutilated" and "deluded." It causes me to stop and wonder what exactly is the reasoning for forbidding slurs. Is it to limit the amount of bigotry that people are exposed to? Is it to focus conversation in more constructive avenues?

Why is it okay to say "Those uppity trans women of color are at it again. I can't stand listening to them when they are so shrill," yet not okay to say "Those trannies are arguing again."? Why is it okay to say "I fucking hate those sick and perverted gays" but not okay to say "Those faggots make me mad."? Is there any difference in intent or impact of those two statements? Why is the line drawn there?

We're all LGBTQ Family

Often times an appeal is made to the fact that "We're all on the same side here," that we all have similar experiences of oppression and similar goals to end that oppression, and as a result people are assumed to have good intentions so long as their is no clear malice. This was a major issue that came up around how the ed team responded to Ronald Gold.

Additionally, we might have an acronym, but we shouldn't forget when we are acting as allies to each other. Being a gay man does not make it okay to tell a lesbian that she's overreacting to something sexist and it's not a big deal. Similarly, being bi does not make it okay to tell trans people something isn't transphobic. If you're not trans, then defer to trans people's determination of what is and is not anti-trans.

The assumption of good intentions does a lot to impact how the use of slurs is allowed/not allowed. We can recognize that many slurs can be reclaimed. "Queer" is what the Q in the Bilerico subtitle stands for, yet it is a slur. So it's okay to use some slurs, and usually it's easy enough to tell in context if it's appropriate.

These two tendencies combined creates a situation where cis LGB folks using anti-trans slurs are usually defended so long as it is not in a malicious context. Such as one incident a year ago when Eric Marcus wrote a post about a high school discussion that mentioned a hypothetical trans woman and titled it "Chick with a... at Hillcrest High School,"* even though "Chick with a dick" was never mentioned in that high school conversation.

The choice to use the slur was explained as a way to get more people to read the article. It was by no means malicious but there were clear problems with the usage. Even though there was a good educational moment in the comments section, it's worth noting that Eric and the ed team weren't able to predict that it would be a problem -- and the title was never changed.

Using Homophobia as a Model for Other Oppression

Somewhere in the mess of comments I recall someone suggesting that a way to determine when an article is offensive rather then just challenging is to use the mental exercise of applying the same thing to an oppressed group you belong to. Generally that's a good piece of advice, but there are instances where it fails.

As pointed out above, some words only have traction due to a larger system of oppression. Oppression is not mix-and-match. Calling a woman of color "broken" and a person with a physical disability "sexually voracious" is not going to have the same impact as the other way around. In the same vein, the average cis LGB person being called "deluded" or "mutilated" is most likely to respond "huh?" or "whatever."

It's not enough to think of equivalent images of oppression, but analogous ones. An analogous example to Ronald Gold's post would be one calling gay men "sick," "perverted," living a dangerous lifestyle, advocating that their parents should stop supporting them and HIV clinics should stop offering them treatment.

Contributor Selection

As I pointed out in the introduction, it's very unlikely that a homophobic trans person would want to participate in this blog, but transphobic LGB folks do. I honestly don't know too much about the process for selecting contributors, but I might guess that it focuses more on looking for positive attributes rather then checking for negative ones. If someone has an expertise on gay issues, then that is what they are judged on, and not their perspective on trans issues. At least, that seems to be what happened with Ronald Gold. It's worth pointing out that the process is highly unlikely to produce an anti-gay contributor under any circumstances.

I'm not calling for all contributors to have to pass a litmus test or otherwise all express the same viewpoint. That wouldn't be necessary in order to have a more comprehensive and holistic review of a potential contributor. If someone didn't have very much knowledge in an area that would be fine so long as they were aware of their limitations. Ignorance or arrogance are both tolerable on their own, but there is little worse then someone who belligerently insists that everyone defer to their opinion when they have neither logical or factual reasoning to support it.

Under the Jump Warnings

So long as transphobia is allowed on the blog (again, with the hopes that criticizing it is more effective then hiding it), perhaps there could be warnings similar to how there are currently warnings for NSFW content. If the ed team is going to allow posts they believe many people would interpret as transphobic (or racist, sexist, ableist, etc), then they could make certain that all offending parts are under the cut and a warning makes it clear what to expect. While the ed team does not necessarily endorse any of the posts made, this also makes it clear to the readership when a post is being presented for consideration and critique.

Ed Team Decisions

As Bil explained, the ed team was split on whether or not to post Ronald Gold's article and he made the call. But it makes me question if a simple majority is the best way to approach such circumstances. I would guess that it would only be under fairly extreme circumstances that an editor (let alone two) would raise an objection to allowing a regular contributor's post to go up.

It might make more sense to take it as an opportunity to get additional input. The ed team can never hope to have a token representative of every oppressed minority and it's not appropriate to rely any one individual in those situation to represent everyone who shares their identity. Perhaps the ed team could identify individual Projectors ahead of time who could be available to give additional feedback whenever any editor believes an article is too offensive, hurtful, or bigoted to meet the quality standards of Bilerico.

Comment Moderation

This is probably one of the most controversial areas to bring up, having to balance a variety of needs including safety, welcomeness, addressing bigotry, and maintaining freedom to express unpopular viewpoints just to name a few. I don't have a clear answer here but I would love to hear more discussion or suggestions from others in the comments.

One thought I had would be to abandon the personal/impersonal attack distinction and simply judge verbal attacks based on severity. The reality is that we already do this to a degree. Commenters often say things like, "You must be really stupid if you think that," or make other less severe personal jabs during arguments that are never moderated. There simply isn't the capacity to do otherwise. Perhaps we could say that any ad hominem attacks against individuals or groups will be looked down upon and potentially removed, based on severity. That way "sex workers are icky" could stay up, but "sex workers deserve to be raped" would be taken down. Just the same way "You are stupid" might remain unmoderated but "you deserve to be raped" would be taken down.

It's true that such an approach would be a judgment call, but we'd be fooling ourselves if we believed any other system wouldn't also rely on judgment calls.

So now that I've written quite a lot let me boil this down to a few changes I propose.

  • A contributor selection process that examines awareness on issues relating to transphobia, racism, sexism, ableism, classism, and other anti-oppression movements in general.
  • Posted warnings when editors believe an article is likely to be seen as transphobic, racist, sexist, ableist, classist, or otherwise hurtful.
  • Ed team identifies several individuals who can give additional perspective whenever significant disagreement arises on the ed team.
  • Comment Terms of Service do not allow ad hominem attacks regardless of whether it is against an individual or a group.
  • Additionally, the ed team encourages and works under the understanding that non-trans people are not authorities on what is or isn't transphobic and should be aware of and cautious of the unbalanced playing field when dealing with trans issues.

Please let me know what you think. Are these ideas no-brainers? Do you have a problem with any? Think they would work better with a slightly different approach? Do you have any other ideas that would address the problems I've outlined?

*I don't feel a need to go over this situation again, but in case anyone is wondering if the self-censoring use of "..." should excuse the usage of this slur, let me point out that it most likely wouldn't make a difference if someone maliciously threw around words like f@g and f*ggot. Creative spelling and grammar to communicate the exact same message does exactly that -- communicate the exact same message.


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I would expand the idea of bullet point four above to read that we would also acknowledge that that non gay people would not be considered to be authorities on gay people and that non bi people would not be considered to be authorities on bi issues or non lesbian people are not authorities on lesbian issues.
I like the idea of not allowing ad hominem attacks since I believe that the nature of we as activists are doing is trying to stop ourselves and others from being attacked or dismissed simply based on existence and who the person is.
That doesn't prevent us from calling one another out but I do believe that it elevates the level of discourse. I also would like to make sure that these attacks are not accepted against anyone be they part of an oppressed group or not.

Don Sherfick Don Sherfick | December 15, 2009 4:29 PM

And of course everyone on all sides is in perfect agreement as to what is and what is not an "ad hominem" attack.

I see a very busy time, all the time, for the Bilerico editorial team.

Nice theory.....getting anywhere near to acheivement in practice is entirely another matter.

Tobi, a thorough and thoughtful post. Thank you.

I would like to expand on the bullet point that Rob pointed out:

Additionally, the ed team encourages and works under the understanding that non-trans people are not authorities on what is or isn't transphobic and should be aware of and cautious of the unbalanced playing field when dealing with trans issues.

I think it should be added that just because someone is transgender doesn't necessarily automatically make that person an authority on trans issues. The trans community is not a monolith (no community is), and we can't expect one person to be the representative voice of a group. It reminds me of TV writers rooms, where someone will come up with, say, a racist joke against Asians, and everybody turns to the one Asian guy in the room for approval. If the one Asian guy gives it a pass, it's okay, and, when criticized, they will say, "Well, Mark said it was okay, and he's Asian!"

I agree with Prince on this. And the same is true for any communities. I think it's unfair to ask one person to stand in for an entire community's issues. At the same time, and I think this is also where Prince is heading (not to speak for him), we can't discount the fact that a person not belonging to a group might actually have experiences and/or knowledge that are valid and need to be heard. There are, for instance, all kinds of reasons why certain kinds of anthropological inquiry have been historically problematic and devastating to socio-economic groups, but there are also specific kinds of legitimately formed conclusions that outsiders, whether anthropologists or non-academic experts, can and do bring.

We suffer, these days, from too much intense focus on the idea that only someone who has lived an experience can and should have something to say about it.

By that reasoning, my ongoing research on Marilyn Monroe, whiteness and celebrity culture is rendered useless. Just saying.

Prince, you and Rob are absolutely right. That bullet point in particular isn't a structural change so much as a reminder, so I don't expect it to become a rule of who has what say as much as it is something to keep in mind and I'm not tied to the language. I don't want to see the TV writers room scenario either.

Yasmin, I was thinking about that. It's complicated to frame because individual trans people can make bad calls or express internalized transphobia. I've also been in situations where I've been greatful for strong cis allies calling out such behavior. So I understand it's not always a case of trans-people-are-right-cis-people-are-wrong when it comes to transphobia. But it becomes a problem when an all cis ed team is making decisions about what level of transphobia is acceptable or not.

I've seen committees of all cis queers make horrible decisions, such as the lambda literary award nomination to the most transphobic book of this generation, and the decision by multiple queer film festivals to show the incredibly anti-trans movie, the gendercator. This seems to happen quite a lot, where cis queers feel entitled to make decisions like this for the trans community, and I think it has to do with the idea that we're all a LGBTQ family. I've never heard of a racial justice organization forming an all white committee and deciding to promote racist material. Yet I can think of several instances where LGBTQ organizations form all cis committees and decide to promote anti-trans material. It's that tendency that I'm aiming to discourage.

It's true that some cis folks are very knowledgeable and well schooled in trans issues. But regardless if someone has been associated with the trans community for decades or if they met a trans person at a meeting last week, it's important to know and acknowledge your limitations, wherever they might be.

Prince and Yasmin,

This is something that I personally find very interesting. That some people can become very knowledgeable about topics with which they are perceived by others not to be directly involved (possibly shouldn't be) while some of those who are chose not to do the same. I just think the psychology behind these choices and evaluations is fascinating.

While at times it can be quite important, I often find myself trying to limit the amount of "demographic" information I know about someone when evaluating what they are trying to say to me.

Yasmin and Sara, thanks for expanding on my points. As you may know, I come from an arts background, and the reason I'm interested in the specific issue we're addressing is because I see some obvious parallels in my industry. In the writing classes I teach, we occasionally run into discussions about "permission" and "ownership"; i.e., what "right" does a writer from a particular background have to write about x, y, or z. I stress that gay writers do not have a "monopoly" on gay stories, Asian-American writers aren't the only ones who are "allowed" to write Asian-American stories, etc. There is the risk, of course, of exploitation (unintentional or otherwise), as well as there is the risk of pandering or creating stereotypes or any number offenses that could occur if, say, a white writer decided he wanted to write about "the black experience." My rule of thumb in creative writing is that you don't need "permission" to write; you can write about anything you choose, the caveat being that the experience you write about is "true" to somebody, whether it's your own experience or someone else's. If we restrict who's "allowed" to write about something, we'd miss out on a whole hell of a lot. One of my recent posts, for example, was about how Brokeback Mountain was the top-grossing LGBT-related film of the decade, and it's regarded as a masterpiece within and outside of the LGBT community. What's useful to remember here is that Brokeback, a movie about a gay relationship between two men, was originally a short story written by a straight woman, Annie Proulx; adapted into a screenplay by straight scribes, Diana Ossana and Larry McMurtry; directed by straight filmmaker, Ang Lee; and starred straight actors, Heath Ledger and Jake Gyllenhaal. (If any of them have identified themselves as other than straight, then please correct me.) What I take from that and from my discussions in my writing classes leads directly back to Yasmin's comments:

We can't discount the fact that a person not belonging to a group might actually have experiences and/or knowledge that are valid and need to be heard.

and

We suffer, these days, from too much intense focus on the idea that only someone who has lived an experience can and should have something to say about it.

For further thoughts about this, as it applies to writers and the arts, you can read my post on my own blog titled, "Permission, Ownership, Exploitation, and Truth."

Tobi,

This is one of the more intelligent pieces to come out of the whole discussion, and if you don't get a lot of responses immediately it might be because there's a lot that needs mulling over (which is what I will now go off and do).

On the whole, I think these are worthwhile suggestions and I like the fact that it's not leaning towards censorship/taking down of posts that cause offense. On that note, I think there's a lot to be thought about with regard to the comments sections and the comments themselves.

I don't take away from the legitimate sense of hurt and betrayal felt by many of the readers of Ron Gold's blog, but I do feel that a lot of what went on in the comments section was unwarranted and completely, frankly, over the top and I think that much that was, to use what I believe is a sporting term (although one's mind always tends towards the orgiastic), a pile-on. My sense from reading a lot of the comments was that too many of the commenters were disinterested in the politics and anguish around the actual post and far too interested in stirring the pot and creating

To that end, I think the edteam is in a delicate and knotty position - as someone who has written posts that have invited a ton of comments, I've always appreciated their attempts to do right by everyone, commenters and bloggers alike. But I think that it's time for us all to understand that the Bilerico of today is a vastly different animal than the one I started writing for at its outset as a national blog. Success brings more eyes to the blog, but it also brings too many people who make it their day's - and lives' - business to spend all day on various blog websites, inciting petty squabbles or desperately trying to change the topic so that they may make even unrelated blogs all about them. I think anyone who is a regular reader here knows exactly what I'm talking about (and I also know that this comment itself will probably incite a distracting firestorm of its own, but there it is).

To that end, I would also suggest that the comments section be reduced in some way so that they don't become entities unto themselves, swallowing up the blog. Perhaps the lengths of comments might be curtailed (HuffPo does that), in which case this deliciously long comment, the one I'm writing, would disappear or be cut short :-) I think the physical appearance of the blog might be changed so that the blogs are preeminent. For the most part, the comments threads here eventually fall into a self-correcting mode, where distractors are bounced off by fellow commenters - but I think even that is becoming increasingly difficult as the hordes swarm the gates (and often under multiple identities, as we're all learning).

I know this will be read as a contributor wanting to gain more prominence for her blogs. To which I would respond - well, this is a blog. I think we, this nebulous "we" that constitutes both Bilerico and the blogosphere in general need to divest ourselves of an older and perhaps more quaint model that convinces us that this is a community of people. It's not, even as it is, in some more nebulous way. The danger we are skirting is that this blog is being mistaken for a number of things - a therapy session en masse (and this goes for both the gay and trans-identified populations of readers); a publication with EXACTLY the same rules as that followed by the print press (when, in reality, it has has none of the same resources or, perhaps, even the same obligations - I don't know, I'm writing a piece that looks at that in more depth); a place for people to assert lives and characters that they might not possess in real life (let's be honest here); a safe space; a political haven; and so on. Blogs are blogs. They are tendentious and unwieldy things, the rules of which are still to be deciphered. But they are not any of the other things I just listed.

Some of this will sound cruel to someone who might depend on this or other blogs for a sense of community. But a blog can only do so much. When it comes to issues that are uncomfortable, the job of a blog is to have those aired out and perhaps some posts, like Gold's could be framed in such a way. But where would we draw the line? What does all this presage for unpopular views in the larger community? Do we really imagine that yelling for someone's post to be taken down is going to make those views actually disappear?

Overall, I think much of the rethinking of Bilerico and the issues you raised needs to come with an understanding that this is a blog that is somewhat different from what even the creators, who have put hours of unpaid labor into it, had envisioned. Perhaps what we need to confront is not a moment of failure or breakdown (as so many are gleefully portraying it, judging from the insanity around this issue) but a point where Bilerico has wildly succeeded. This might be the place where we acknowledge that it's too big an entity to think of as a small and comfortable community. Change might mean some drastic revisions in how we now perceive our sense of community. All that needs to be done in a way that does not overburden an already frazzled edteam and also asks readers and commenters alike to assume the roles of grown-ups.

Ah, no matter how often one edits, there's always a word or phrase left out...

I meant to write: "My sense from reading a lot of the comments was that too many of the commenters were disinterested in the politics and anguish around the actual post and far too interested in stirring the pot and creating dissension."

Yasmin- thanks for chiming in- I was curious what you thought about this whole experience.

Please don't reduce the comments sections in any way.

I feel the comments section of Bilerico is one of its most defining characterisitics and a large part of what draws me here. Unlike even most of those sites that claim to be in positions of leadership, the comments sections here are quite impressive and full of thoughtful people (and a surprisingly active contributor population as well).

I don't just learn from the posted essays; the comments are just as important.

Sara,

I've often felt that way as well. Unfortunately, as evidenced in some recent posts, particularly in the Ron Gold one, I've watched and wondered if those conversations are to be had as often or if it isn't possible that there are too many threadjackers waiting around to tear up a comment thread for their own utterly non-nefarious but entirely too silly reasons (such as, I'll venture to say, too much time on their hands). A lot of that has to do with the site's success, I think, which draws more people - a good thing for many reasons. But also not, for other reasons. I do think some kind of modification might be necessary.

But, ultimately, the edteam will make the decisions on that and I'm fine with whatever gets decided. I'm not the one who has to deal with the thousands of comments and e-mails every week, and they need to do what works best for them.

Good points, Yasmin. I'm not sure that reducing the size of each comment would do the trick, as someone can be as disruptive with a series of 150 character comments as with long diatribes. I also like the long thoughtful comments, and I find I can just skip the long less-thoughtful ones. Right now I feel that the blog format is susceptible to boil-overs periodically, and perhaps that's ok too. By the way, my colleague Ruma and I were chatting about you a few weeks ago, did she tell you? Small world.

Jillian,

You're right - it doesn't take much to lob a nasty comment. And I agree about the long comments sometimes being helpful (and will admit that I would miss being able to write the same :-))

And, yes, of course, you work with Ruma - how lovely! We go back aeons, as you know - but I haven't heard from her recently. I'm glad she remembers me!

I just talked to Tobi about this post on the phone, talking more than about structural changes and focusing more on policy changes.

As has probably been explained a lot this past week, we've posted around 13,300 posts on TBP and rejected 3. There's a lot of inertia here for putting up everything, whether we agree with it or not, whether we think it's offensive or not. We take on contributors, not contributions, which means that we post 100% of what an individual person gives us to post. In the end, we rely on contributors to take responsibility for their own words as our first line of defense against these sorts of posts, and our second line is trusting readers to be discerning enough to understand what they agree with and what they don't.

So, while I agree that there needs to be a new way to make decisions around here, the question also becomes "What content do we say 'no' to?" What exactly is that line?

Too offensive? People will always find stuff offensive, and you can't please everyone.

Too hurtful? Lots of people are actually hurt by real disagreement with their positions, even if it is intellectual disagreement.

Too untruthful? Well, I got schooled on that a while ago, and the person who did the schooling was right: we don't have the time or resources to have a real fact-checking department around here, so any attempt to run one will really just end up being viewpoint discrimination shrouded in the language of "facts," since we're not going to catch all of them.

Doesn't advance equality? Well, half the point of TBP is to question those basic foundations of the movement: what is equality? Is equality an important goal? How do we achieve equality? How do we resolve the fact that your vision of equality is different from mine?

Is a personal/group attack? Probably getting closer to something workable here, although sometimes groups of people do need to be attacked. Someone could post about how conservative queers are wrong on X issue... is that an attack? Is it an "ad hominem" for a contributor who is a gay man to call gay men "faggots" and say that they're racist (with no nuance of "some gay men," etc.)?

On some level, I don't trust anyone to make a decision on what speech is OK for the masses to consume and what speech is too dangerous and needs to be kept wrapped up on the highest shelf. Sometimes you've gotta trust people, but then, on the other hand, sometimes there's no point and people just can't be trusted. We post 100% of what contributors submit, but 100% of people aren't contributors, which means that there's plenty of content not going up. More than deciding who makes that decision, I'm hoping to get input on how that decision should be made so that it ends up being the fairest system possible.

This is a good analysis.

I would add, because this group is often missed, that HIV+ people deserve to be treated as respectfully as is here outlined.

I found the recent post "Why Are So Many Gay Men Grateful They Got HIV?" to be an incredibly hurtful direct attack on HIV+ people and the methods that many of us use to cope with our virus. It is telling that, for the most part, the denigration of HIV+ people went unnoticed and undefended, even in the comments. The belief that HIV+ people are getting what they deserve seems to be widespread and accepted. Many of the old stigmas about the virus are still strong and casual abuse is common.

Most importantly, HIV- people should not be considered an authority of what it means to live with the virus, or be put in a position to publicly and severely judge those who are HIV+.

The comments before mine appeared while I was writing mine, and I realize that I need a bit of clarification: I am not sure that the changes outlined here are for the best. I have the same questions that Alex and Yasmin outline.

I don't know the answers. My point is that in considering the questions, HIV+ people are an oppressed group that should be remembered. While people of any gender or sexual orientation can and do get HIV, the virus inordinately affects the LGBTQ community.

Melanie Davis | December 15, 2009 5:12 PM

You bring up very well reasoned points and provide great suggestions based upon those points, but I have to disagree with you all around.

In my LGBTIQQA@#$^*()... tenure, I've experienced a lot of people with the same assumptions and prejudices Mr. Gold expressed. And those people are here, they are in our neighbourhoods and everywhere we go. They are not getting the education they need to move beyond their near-sighted ignorance, and without a safe forum for debate, they will not be exposed to a broader reality. I was declined a chance to write a column for the sole local LGBT paper because the gay male readership wouldn't be interested in the point of view of a bi, intersex, transwoman parent. It served neither the "readership" nor the greater community not to have that perspective (though it spared them my writing).

We are a family, nasty uncles, uptight cousins, crazy aunts, poppas, mamas, and our own odd selves. None of us are exactly alike except the twins, and even they have differences, so why should we go on and on about how aunt Twilly's divorce is nothing as bad as cousin Haywood's was and just embrace them in their time of pain. Likewise it doe no good to not call out Uncle Sam as the molester (autobiographical, here) that he is, because the silence is far more damaging than the truth. Mr. Gold has been asked to leave the party, but he is still family, and he has to be dealt with every day by someone.

Let someone express their ignorance, and then may it be illuminated! Pushing the problem further down seldom makes it go away. Usually, it only festers into another problem somewhere else, like an inclusive ENDA not passing, say. In our modern lives there is so much ugliness we no longer have to face as a society: death, birth, food production, illness, bugotry, and on. We have built walls to keep that which we do not want to face out. We are obsessed with spaces safe from all of those things, but there is nowhere safe, because they are a part of life we must see and deal with.

I think this is a really important discussion, Tobi, and I am so glad you brought it up. I am really unsure about how best to handle these issues. I liked a lot of what you said, but I'm not sure how it might work in practice. Might be worth a shot, though. I really like the diversity of Bilerico, and I like that all of what the contributors write goes to the front page for its day in the sun. I would have been okay with Gold's piece being published, dumb as it was, if it had not used derogatory language like mutilation and silly. I mean, lots of us question whether transition is the right thing for us, I know I certainly did until I made my decision, and I certainly know people who shouldn't have gone forward, or who should have waited, and the results were devastating. I'm going to have to think about this a lot more, and I appreciate your having brought up these excellent points.

This has moved far past pedantic to outright insanity.

So now we are to play a game of who is more discriminated against and thus apply the appropriate level of censorship to whoever's feelings are hurt the most?

As a transwoman I take great umbrance at the notion of needing a blog's editorial staff's protection from one man's, in this case, Mr. Gold's words. Let him have his opinion on what he obviously knows little about. His understanding or lack thereof has no bearing whatsoever on the validity of my existance.

"No one can make you feel inferior without your consent." - Eleanor Roosevelt


I left Pam's House Blend not because of the transphobia that is sometimes displayed there but because personal attacks were/are tolerated. Appealing to the blog mistress never did any good and that silence just encouraged more transphobic personal attacks. A couple of the offenders even admitted that they resented the trans presence and would rather limit it to lesbians only. Even though none of these people were contributors, moderators or baristas, (as they are called over there), they essentially took over all conversation and the silence from the editorial staff just allowed it to spiral out of control. I'm not saying this to slam Pam because I very much like and respect her but to point out that these forums tend to settle into cliques when a small group of regulars begin to feel privileged and start to control the entire discussion and become defacto censors of people who aren't in the clique. I left Americablog because the blog owner is a transphobic asshole, I left Pam's because many of her regular readers are. It's a shame that we can't put them together, thus giving Pam and her reasonable readers a chance to grow. I'm new to Bilerico and I hope we don't degenerate into that.

I agree with your point about the problems of editorial silence in response to comments that directly denigrate others' personal characteristics, Margaretpoa. One of the things I like about Bil and the Ed team here is that they do not tolerate such things for very long.

"...these forums tend to settle into cliques when a small group of regulars begin to feel privileged and start to control the entire discussion and become defacto censors of people who aren't in the clique."

Hivemind.

Tobi, I appreciate your mention about community vs. personal attacks. It drives me crazy when someone can dismiss an entire community or literally spread disinformation about them but the second their behavior is brought to question that person will channel 3rd grade, jums up and down with their hand shot up in the air screaming "oooh, ad hominem, ad hominem". My general rule is, anyone who uses the term ad hominem' very likely said something which was highly offensive. The golden rule applies... don't want to be called on the carpet, then don't disrespect other people (much less cry about being picked on).

I also agree with your editorial suggestions, they're just common sense. It might also be helpful to have the editorial team clearly identified and, perhaps, even required to leave a brief note about their thinking process for potentially controversial posts.

I think what we should be working towards is something like this:Ron Gold on the Transgendered - A Dialogue

Now I've missed out on taking Mr Gold to task about cisgendered privilege, or a bisexual man assuming everyone else is bi too just because he is, and rather a lot more. That can wait till later, and to some extent is obvious and doesn't need saying.

And for another, the division of Gay/Bi/Straight is arbitrary, the Kinsey scale almost as arbitrary, quantising a bimodal or trimodal continuum can only ever be an approximation... but that os a digression.

Why be so outraged? It's just more of the same old, same old.

This attack/opinion is nothing new. It's been going on for over 35 years.

I'm beginning to believe every new generation of "T" folks believes things have changed -- then they learn NOTHING has changed.

Ever since the right wing has reappeared, ever since there have been all these successful attempts to enshrine LGBT folks as absolute second class citizens by passing Constitutional Amendments in state after state, there have been attempts to chip away at the rights of various "T" folks.

Now, when post-op FtM's or MtF's look at attacks on their being from supposed allies, and they look at the way the right wing (among others) conflates them with, for example, crossdressers, is the rage surprising?

After going through hell to become the person you always thought you were/are both your "friends" and "enemies" tell you that you simply do not exist. In addition, many say you are no different from someone who dresses up on the weekend. This comes from all sides (there are more than two).

This is not an attack on TV's/crossdressers, etc. -- it just says there is a significant difference between many of the different folks in "Transworld". In truth, we are ALL under attack.

"Real life tests", surgery, losing most, or all, old friends, losing jobs, moving to a different city, etc., etc., etc -- and then your friends and enemies all say you are "mutilated men", "delusional faggots", with an "inverted penis".

"Biology is destiny" is another good line.

Is there any wonder there is so much rage?

What I find even more surprising is that I still support the goals of the greater LGBT community, still support (openly) expanded marriage rights, ENDA, etc., etc., etc.

Perhaps the LGBT community should applaud all the different "trans" folks who do support the LGB folks in spite of everything.

"A contributor selection process that examines awareness on issues relating to transphobia, racism, sexism, ableism, classism, and other anti-oppression movements in general."

This seems like something that would be difficult to implement, possibly bar a number of quality contributers, and quite possibly, over time, work to reduce the diversity of opinions expressed here by contributers and commenters alike.

It kind of seems like people should be knowledgeable about the subjects on which they choose to write, but I would also be suspicious about limiting contributors only to certain subjects. I would rather hear about what interested someone that day than know that a certain contributor will discuss their assigned topic on their assigned day of the week.

Although it's nice to have TOS rules to allow deletion of comments and barring of participation, I actually don't like words or phrases being banned outright. I don't like zero tolerance policies in general. I do like a certain "I know it when I see it" polciy toward purposely disruptive behavior.

In general, whatever Bil and staff are doing here I really like. The level of discussion tends to be unusually high and often enjoyably challenging. At the same time, though a lot has been said about how this site encourages debate, even controversy, and despite seeing transphobic comments on plenty of other queer sites, somehow seeing it here was a surprise. Maybe one way to interpret that is that this site generally does a good job and just needs to make some policy decisions regarding specific issues regarding highly controversial posts (such as what sort of approval should be obtained, if/when an article should be pulled, when should people lose contributor privileges).

Given the type of forum this is, there will probably never be an end to controversial posts here (not to dismiss the current matter). I worry that the harder the stance Bilerico takes to prevent such an event again, the less like Bilerico this site will become. At the same time, I wouldn't waste my time here readings the rantings of some Klan leader. I understand the argument that such ideas as were stated in the offending article represent a number of people, but I guess I just feel like this was something the staff should have just not aired for the same reasons as the Klan leader. I know ignorance exists. There are plenty of places to see that in it's natural habitat. And I would prefer this sites resources be spent on better material.

I do come for the diversity of opinions, but the opinions of knowledgeable people who are continuously pushing things forward, sometimes through controversial acts. The moving forward part seems very significant right now.

Hi, Sara, I agree with you on your comments about that first bullet point. Thanks for your thoughts.

That's the summarized bullet point, but here's one of the two full paragraph on the subject.

I'm not calling for all contributors to have to pass a litmus test or otherwise all express the same viewpoint. That wouldn't be necessary in order to have a more comprehensive and holistic review of a potential contributor. If someone didn't have very much knowledge in an area that would be fine so long as they were aware of their limitations. Ignorance or arrogance are both tolerable on their own, but there is little worse then someone who belligerently insists that everyone defer to their opinion when they have neither logical or factual reasoning to support it.

Currently, contributor selection involves reviewing submitted writing samples, any statement of why they want to be a contributor, and whatever else the ed team might personally know about them. What this suggestion might look like in practical terms is to ask them questions about their awareness and knowledge on several topics that frequently come up.

Notice that I'm not suggesting a criteria for evaluating them, just an expansion of what is evaluated. I would assume they would be judged on the same standards their writing samples would be judged on -- communication ability, clarity, ability to engage with other perspectives, insight, etc. Lacking knowledge in any area shouldn't be a reason to reject someone so long as they are aware of their limitations. The issue is that contributors often write on areas outside of their expertise, it only makes sense that an evaluation should go beyond such limitations as well.

Tobi, I agree that the ability to think intersectionally across a range of oppressions should be valued in the contributor selection process. Since Bilerico strives to bring together diverse voices and experiences, it's partly a matter of being sensitive to context, which is part of being an effective writer anyway.

As a contributor, one of the things I value most about Bilerico is the diversity of the readership, because it pushes me to consider how the things I'm writing about will seem to people with experiences and identities very different from my own. It makes me aware of my own privilege and forces me to try to be accountable for my own blind spots. I think it has made me a better writer, and I know it has shaped my politics.

It's a bit disingenuous to keep claiming that it's so incredibly difficult to tell the difference between hate speech against a minority you're not part of and something that's merely "controversial."

To use a pertinent example, I think Yasmin Nair's an awful human being, and one who has the particularly unpleasant combination of cis-apologism and my-wadikalism-is-more-important-than-your-life going on. However, there's a galloping difference between her regular obnoxiousness and the sort of malicious bile that's being talked about here. One is "controversial", one should be shot on sight, and the difference between the two should be flaming obvious.

Brynn Craffey Brynn Craffey | December 16, 2009 10:31 AM

Why hasn't this comment been removed?! I thought the terms were no personal attacks.

I think Yasmin Nair's an awful human being...her regular obnoxiousness...

Those are both personal attacks, not attacks on opinion or ideas. They do nothing to further the discussion.

Also, while the comment "shot on sight" allegedly refers to the controversy, I think context makes it more than a little threatening.

This is exactly the sort of thing that goes on unchecked in these threads that disturb me greatly. I'm working on a post now in more detail, but I think this comment should be removed.

Brynn,

Did you e-mail the edteam about it? At the bottom of every page is this:

If you would like to let the editorial team know about a possible policy violation, please use the Contact Us link at the top of the page.

You've reported comments before. You know how it works. We don't read the hundreds of comments that come in daily from registered users. If you find a comment to be inappropriate, you let us know so we can check it out.

That is why it hasn't been removed. We didn't know about it.

After talking to Yasmin about it, she's fine with the comment and doesn't take it as a personal attack since Rebecca is trying to prove a point about the differences between controversial and malicious hate speech.

Defining someone's intent is a very delicate balancing act. This one falls on the side of "worthwhile conversation."

Hi everyone,

I've had sporadic access to phone and internet (Bil had to call me on my secret cell number), and may lose it again, so I'll make this quick.

Hey, Brynn, I appreciate the note (and I know you weren't just concerned about me alone, but about the possibility of this as a personal attack directed against anyone). But, to be fair to Rebecca, I think she's using the sentence as an example. It's slightly immature, and clearly designed to incite a response from me (apparently, I must bear that burden as the reigning Queen of Bilerico), but it's a fair example. And, to be honest, at this point, I don't really care about anyone's personal attacks against me (although others might feel differently if such are directed against them). There's too much going on in real life for me to worry about the Rebeccas of the world, who are helping me prove the exact points I made in my first comment above.

Also, I think we may all have differing views on what constitutes "hate speech." I, as some here know, don't believe in curtailing the same. Yes, as some have pointed out, there are stricter laws against it in Europe - but the racism there is, some others might argue, more insidious as a result.

But that's a different conversation altogether.

As for the exact and vexing nature of ad hominem, I found this website which might be useful. I rather like the dry tone:

http://plover.net/~bonds/adhominem.html

Rebecca,

"cis-apologism?" Actually, quite an interesting phrase. Which does not describe what I do or say (and that is not an invitation to carry on a discussion with me, btw - from here on, you're talking to yourself), but still an interesting phrase.

And I absolutely LOVE "my-wadikalism-is-more-important-than-your-life." Bil, are you taking notes? That "wadikalism" is a stroke of brilliance.

We've been pondering various ideas for t-shirts here ("yasminites" is a top favourite), and I vote that this phrase should gain immortality in the same way.


You said, "the extremely homophobic trans people generally don't want to participate in an LGBTQ blog." We, we know of an extreme group of trans people who are not only homophobic but trans phobic and post here on a regular basis. Some have been banned from posting here because of how they were disrespectful to many. I have never understood why some people who don't identify as trans and don't identify as gay or lesbian seek out blogs like this just to cause trouble.

Brynn Craffey Brynn Craffey | December 16, 2009 10:38 AM

Monica, I'm writing something about that now, to be posted soon. I still haven't decided whether or not to remain as a contributor, but I'm not gone yet.

I'm going to relax, just this once, the promise I made to myself never to respond to you again.

Since I am clearly one of the main targets of your hatred here, I am a bisexual woman, something I have always been quite open about. Last time I checked us bisexuals hadn't quite been tossed out of the community. I have a very very stong affinity with other bisexual women and lesbians, I have zero, nada, zip for trans anything in no small part due to you.

Monica, do you seriously think you have an ounce of credibility left with anyone but Brynn after the three day whine fest about how you weren't as bad as Gold but Bil wouldn't make you a contributor? Not a word about the actual issues, just me me me......

This is a part of a problem that goes beyond anything the TOS can do, in my opinion. Why do they want to come here and stir up trouble? Probably the same reason you and me and many other commenters responded to Ronald Gold's piece -- an urge to refute invisibilization and dismissal.

THose that you speak of certainly have said some incredibly hurtful and unecessary comments in the past. And for a long time that was all I could see. But now I'm also seeing a mentality that perpetually disrespects them and hurls some of the exact same hurtful comments back. A perfect example of what Yasmin calls "a pile-on." It's no longer about competing ideological perspectives, and I'm not sure it ever was. It only seems to be about who's right and who's wrong and the perspective that others are so wrong that it justifies disrespectful treatment.

And perhaps it does. I've seen some incredibly inappropriate behavior, continued intentional misgendering, and some of it has personally enraged me. But I fear that this ongoing fight will only further devolve when people respond that way and I'm not going to stand for any intentional misgendering anywhere, but I'm making it my intention not to be baited by anyone into responding with disrespect either. It's the whole "do unto others..." thing, or at the very least "don't feed the trolls." Whether straight up dismissing and disrespecting them is justified or not is another issue -- it's not an effective means to achieve what you want.

Thank you Tobi for proving what I said about you minutes before you responded to this. I have a lot of personal respect for you.

For more than a decade I have heard and had hurled at me I will never be a "real" woman, that my corrected body is a fake, even mutilated crotch, faux vagina, inverted penis and worse and all from the elements that also claims me as one of their own and their right to speak for me while shouting down my objections.

I do not approve of misgendering either but this is exactly the same thing from my own point of view and is essentially exactly the same as the things Ron Gold said. His crime was apparently a wider focus to include transgender as well as women of operate history since all past complaints about how we have been addressed are systematical ignored, especially here at Bilerico.

Tobi, let me paint a picture for you. For over ten years, I have been a target of some of the most hateful language you would ever want to hear. I would feel more comfortable spending time with Fred Phelps and his family then around this group. Lies, misgendering, name calling, etc, etc, etc. For over ten years. All I have to do is type these three letters "HBS" and I get accused of spreading hate, as has already been done in this comment section. You read what I wrote and it is factual information only. Can you handle this for over ten years.

Interesting enough, one of the founders of that movement in the 1970s, Susan Cooke, has not only become a friend and supporter of mind. She had the same language for me for years, but after many E-mail exchanges, she understood me better and changed her mind.

Now, because of our friendship, she is getting a ration of shit by the very people who worshiped her. That should paint you a very

(My phone messed up)

Now, because of our friendship, she is getting a ration of shit by the very people who worshiped her in the past. That should paint you a very vivid picture of the people I have to deal with and have been dealing with for over ten years. They will attack their own in a heartbeat if they person stops believing what they do.

Maybe. Maybe not.

*You* attempted to dismiss and silence me.

*You*. Not them. Not others. Two people.

*You*. And Sandeen.

i was new. i had no idea about sides, or conflicts. Just somebody newly transitioning who was wobbling around on new-born fawn legs, trying to get my online bearings, and get help.

And when i made the grave sin (quite by accident) of saying something that wasn't rigidly within the machine's party line, both of you tried to squash me like a bug.

And to think that back then, being new as i was, i vaguely looked up to both of you. But that's easy to do when you don't really know somebody. Just the same as despising them.

It's both of you, and a careful analysis of the reasons behind all the anger, that have put me in the position i'm in now.

As i've told Dys over email, i *know* these women. How they work, play, look and live. They are warm-hearted and caring, and have helped me immensely.

And some of them have said some things out of rage because they were slapped around, shoved out and pushed that far. By you, and those like you.

You, and those like you crying 'privilidge' this and 'phobia' that don't know *fuck-all* one about any of these women.

Just like you didn't know fuck-all one about me when you tried to bring me in line, and dismiss me. The only difference is, i didn't stick around to get *knocked around* as long as they did.

So there's much less rage on my part, and a thread of willingness left to give someone the benefit of the doubt when engaging in conversation, even if they oppose my views.

Yes, we all saw your angry posts about not being given some permanent postition here. It all but included stamping your feet and holding your breath. And speaking as someone with a thread of willingness left, as mentioned, to engage, let me throw in my (sure to be ignored) opinion that you would be the worst, *worst* choice this site could make.

'Inflame the situation' would be putting it mildly.

i like Tobi. She's articulate, thoughtful, and compelling. And although making Dys a contributor is just about as bad in the view of seperatists, i at least have a regular dialogue with her over email.

Even though we have opposing views. Amazing, isn't it?

Ponder why that's possible.

Or don't. What do i care?

And some of them have said some things out of rage because they were slapped around, shoved out and pushed that far.

I think you hit the nail on the head there. And while you're talking about specific folks on one "side," I think it applies to folks on the other "side" as well as folks who don't really fit into one side or the other.

I'll be honest, in many of these conversations I've heard about how trans women who are non-op, questioning-op, and even some who are pre-op are "really men" and don't deserve to be a part of the rights we are trying to get and it's really hard to think about the warm-hearted and caring person on the other side of the internet.

It puts me right back to when my home town was trying to get a non-discrimination policy and one warm-hearted trans woman in particular attempted to force an amendment that under certain circumstances it's okay to discriminate against trans people as long as they are pre/non-op. The radical injustice of writing discrimination into a non-discrimination policy still makes my blood boil its hard to think straight. That was such a defining moment for me, perhaps I should write about it.

But my point is that lashing out in rage can feel justified, and some may even argue that it is. But there are two additional issues that often get lost in the pain-driven response. First, that justified or not, is it really going to accomplish your goals? In most cases it's just plain ineffective. Second, and most important, in lashing out we often target more than just the individual who offended us. It's no longer about person 'x' who did something messed up, but about everyone on their "side" or people who share some vague identity with them. That's when the random bystanders get hit with stray fire, that's what is ultimately not okay in my book.

And beyond that, it also perpetuates the conflict investing more people (the newly hurt bystanders) into the conflict. Then everything becomes about grudges and "defending" one's own "side" until we forget what we were fighting about in the first place. I hate to put it in such gang-mentality language, but that's really the dynamic that this epic argument has taken on. Here (which has been quite mild, thanks everyone for keeping it cool) and in the past few flare ups I've seen, it's not about any issues except who did what to whom.

i remember exactly why i fight.

And i have detailed certain unresolved issues more than once on my blog, tho i don't expect anyone to be familiar with them.

i am aware of how thoroughly obscure and ignored i am in the grand sceme of things in Transland.

In the attempt at forcing society as a whole to bend to a gender-everything/nothing utopia, hard, practical questions are being suppressed or ignored.

i ask questions, because i don't know the answers. Sometimes i don't even have a guess.

It's strange how specific things are taboo, and anyone asking them is instantly branded a self-hating 'phobe of some kind.

Group A: 'Not every person who declares themselves a woman should automatically be legally considered as such. It's dangerous, and could blow up and harm everyone as a result.'

Group B: 'That's hate speech. Everyone should be respected and treated as such, no matter what or who.'

Group A: 'How about just lately? Jasper and the 'pre-op' rapist put in the women's prison?'

Group B: 'Yeah, well....hey, look at the time. Gotta go.'

Very weird.

At any rate, i have no desire to attempt a discussion here right now. Although currently civil, it's been clearly demonstrated what would happen beyond this point.

Any time you have a free moment in your thoroughly-booked personal time, you're more than welcome to email me.

Very valid indeed. Still, I think what I was trying to get at is that that's what's not actually being discussed here. Neither was it discussed the last time I saw this come up, nor the time before.

In any case, I will try and write you about it, as you're right. We could probably have a much better conversation without an audience.

It puts me right back to when my home town was trying to get a non-discrimination policy and one warm-hearted trans woman in particular attempted to force an amendment that under certain circumstances it's okay to discriminate against trans people as long as they are pre/non-op. The radical injustice of writing discrimination into a non-discrimination policy still makes my blood boil its hard to think straight. That was such a defining moment for me, perhaps I should write about it.

I'm really sorry, Tobi for how you feel. No one ever came out and asked me what I was doing. I'm not really a very well versed person only trying to do what I thought was right for all. I went all through the transition right before your eyes and tried to get people on board long before this went to council. I put myself out there, I had no one else with me. I got hate mail from people on all sides. All I wanted was to get a non discrimination ordinance in our city, like the one or better in Portland. I spent my own money and time on trips to Portland and on a support group. You don't have to worry about my politics any more as I quit all of them. I am my own person now and the only thing I do for trans is read about it on the internet. You and your group made me very aware that I have no business trying to change the world. It is on your shoulders, good luck.

Sheila,

I was actually referring to Rebecca. You supported her amendment, but it was still her amendment, she was the one going to the press about it, and it was clear that it was her support we needed. So it was her that we talked to about the amendment.

As for what you did with the human rights commission I thought that was admirable, and I know you had to put up with a lot to do it. The area we disagreed on always seemed to come down to compromises. Call me an idealist, but I'm not willing to get my piece of the pie at the expense of others. The compromise of selling out pre/non-ops, or the compromise of selling out undocumented imigrants and those who can't afford therapists were ones that I could not support. And you could hardly expect my support on an amendment that cuts my protections out of the non-discrimination policy.

I still believe that we could have passed it had it not been for bad press Rebecca got us, but either way, it worked out in the long run. The opposition was so fixated on our city, and so confident that they could win a repeal there, that they never saw it coming when we went to the state level. And now we have a statewide non-discrimination policy that made it through virtually uncontested.

Monica,

I certainly don't fault you for being upset here. And I'm not saying you're doing anything wrong here -- on this thread at least I don't see anyone doing anything worth judging.

What I'm trying to do is insert a bit of empathy in the hopes that a little bit will eventually breed more and more. Even when you strongly disagree with folks, it's useful to understand where they are coming from.

And if you've been facing such horrible treatment for such a long time, I might urge withdrawal simply for no other reason than your own self-interest. That's why "don't feed the trolls" is such commonly given advice. You might want to read this excellent blog post on trolling, the impact it has on activists, and suggestions for dealing with it.

Very interesting article. Here are some highlights:

"Trolls, among other types of draining social engineer types, are intensely damaging influences. Not only do they suck the energy and motivation out of a network but they often harm and scatter the members of that network to the four winds, further damaging its integrity." This is true.

"Other types of trolls tend to concentrate mostly on hurting or dominating people."

"So no matter what, trolling marginalized groups is marginalization and therefore it is a bigoted act."

"It works in the long term because trolls don’t just seek to quiet us, they literally seek to make permanent wounds."

"Most trolls do it out of a need to hurt, dominate, control or exert hate. All of these emotions require instant gratification, rarely is one patient for a fix (and addicting it is to dominate and control people, so the drug analogy is a good one) and so if you don’t give the trolls what they want, you leave them shaking and moving out for another more useful place." It hasn't worked yet.

Just as a moment to point out, you actually have given them their fix.

You've responded, you've shown anger. Your posts on your haters specifically include the individual trolls and sometimes the group that the trolls are coming from. Lambasting the people who are trolling you, that's the response they're looking for. Continuing to post stuff like that will encourage them to continue targeting you.

Truly disengaging requires a lot more than just not responding to certain comments, unfortunately

Thank you, Tobi. It's time for this old dog to learn a few new tricks. This is a good article and has a lot to do with the discussion of ensuring Bilerico is a better place to visit. Someone needs to do a version for here.

You said, "If you're not trans, then defer to trans people's determination of what is and is not anti-trans." Case in point: I had a private E-mail exchange with a prominent person on this blog who thought he knew better about what kind of therapist I should see. I hope he's reading your article here.

(Since this is so long, I will be making separate comments to individual parts to ensure I keep my thought correct.)

Here's a question. Should we point out transphobia regardless of who is spouting it?

What are you going to call it, "Walking on Eggshells?" seems whenever "they" are brought up in a conversation I hear, "Oh no! Don't bring 'them' up! 'They' will flood the comment section with off-subject comments and personal attacks." One of the biggest reasons I'm not a contributor here, I was told, was I'm one of their favorite targets and Bilerico can't have "them" constantly here attacking me. So, my articles and videos will rarely see the light of day here because of "them." You noticed my ENDA video and Repeal DADT video were not posted here.

The above comment was meant for Brynn.

I found Tobi's structural analysis interesting and helpful, but then, as a structural analysis it is all but invisible to those whose position of privilege in society, in positions of power on this blog, permitted the posting of Gold's blog in the first place.

Long ago I learned that to challenge ideas, as I'm doing here, that some people hold as fundamental to their identity, is considered personal attacks. So, when I challenge the primacy of sexual orientation, then, well of course I'm attacking all gay people, and personally attacking the gay people in whatever the current thread is. Or to challenge any other ideas others hold close to their identity.

Being one of those Monica has identified as

an extreme group of trans people who are not only homophobic but trans phobic and post here on a regular basis. Some have been banned from posting here because of how they were disrespectful to many

I suppose I should expect this comment to be deleted. Certainly, it was made clear to me I would never be permitted to be a contributor to this site.

Ho hum, I guess I'm never to be part of a "community" that, here as elsewhere, views sexual orientation as the single, important characteristic. But then this is specifically and explicitly the result of the structural issues Tobi has identified.

Simply to declare the phrase transgender and transsexual is to raise Monica's ire, as quoted above--and no doubt others. Now, this is something I'm less concerned about--though her personal attacks on me, minor compared to others, have been allowed to stand; they were upsetting at one moment.

What concerned me more was the response from the proprietor that my comments were not likely to have me as a contributor.

Frankly, it is clear my years of activism, my many blogs count for less. Recent resignations from this site seem quite trivial in the face of the ongoing structural bias that remain all but invisible to the LGBT "community" which, in the light of this analysis--and a conclusion revealed many, many years ago--is that this is LGB(almost)t, if that.

I suspect there are more significant changes needed in this site even to begin to realize its goals--structural analysis has always pointed out how terms declared by the majority have quite different meanings for the minority.

But then, the structural issues identified by Tobi are really just reflections of the society at large and the, so-called, LGB(almost)t "community".

There had always been a possibility this site could have had a leading role in addressing these structural issues.

To go into the depths of debate that seem to be the goals of this site would require the inclusion, as contributors, of the very people Monica castigates--they would nicely balance the Ron Gold's who seem always to get a pass on their brand of . . . .

But then that is utopia and though here, on the internet, there is no there there hopes for utopia here, as in society, as in the LGB(almost)t "community(ies)" founder on structural issues, privilege and the invisibility power promotes.

For what it is worth..

If Bilerico is to acquire a trans something editor, I personally could not think of anyone better suited for that position than Tobi. She and I do not agree on much but at least she understands that disagreements on issues is not a personal threat or a reason to take personal offense but simply something that can be debated. I am quite impressed by that and appreciative.

Thanks for the vote of confidence. I appreciated the similar one from ATG as well. It helps me feel validated in my intention of de-escalating this conflict.

As for an editor position, I'll say that unfortunately I don't feel I have the time to commit to such a position, but I'll continue to try to do what I can to help this space become a better environment.

This is a good start. I'm hoping that this becomes more than a start and actually becomes real change. Obviously one or two things may not be viable or may require editing, but having a visible, upfront and transparent set of guidelines that can be used to inform and lead the changes (as well as allowing people to provide input to them) is a really good way to achieve that.

Thank you, Tobi.

I'm just gonna collate some responses here since I don't have a lot of time to go jump from reply link to reply link


@Monica:

I'd be willing to guest post the trolls post here only after changes of the caliber and effect that Tobi has suggested (or similar changes that bring about a similar leveling of the playing field between the privilege cis gay folk have over trans folk here). I know that Austen is working on some change too, so I'm not saying that as a "never gonna happen" pronouncement either. I have faith in both Austen and Tobi, I know they are both good at what they do.

But before such a process began in earnest, I would simply be unwilling to contribute even a necessary article like that one to this site. I've learned some hard lessons about how associations with certain places or people can stain one, even if they're fighting from the inside or don't see eye to eye.


@Yasmin:

It's telling that you spend more of your time being cheekily amused at accusations of cissexism then actually checking to see if you've made the mistakes to justify the call. But then again, you also buddied up to Brynn's lovely little Polanski Excuse Fest for Why Rape Is Okay Provided He's Old, Exiled, Jewish™ and It Was Complicated, Seriously, Nuanced And Her Mom Is Totally To Blame, Even Though He Forced Her, So Really Why Be So Upset?™ and didn't see a single thing wrong with that either.

So I guess I'm not all that surprised really.

And yes, Brynn, I really can summarize your post on Polanski into those two catch phrases. No it isn't inaccurate and I do hope you avoid making silly claims that a criticism of your rape apologism post is a personal attack.