In every movement for civil rights, there are people who go overboard, over the top and/or over the edge. It's understandable that people who are being denied civil rights will be angry, even very angry, and understandably edgy with those within the movement who are trying to "be reasonable." "Being reasonable" is seen as a call for collaborating with "the enemy." When people are being discriminated against in education, jobs, housing, public services, public accommodations and a million other less definable ways, there is little patience with "compromise," which seems to mean "we'll get to you eventually, so be quiet."
Thus it is that we see outpourings of passionate, angry, and even rageful commentary seen on this and other blogs whenever questions about transgender and transsexual civil rights are raised.
As an associate editor of this blog, it is my responsibility to delete comments that include elements of personal attack on authors and commenters, or calls for violence. It's surprising how much time this takes. In no area other than trans issues do we see so many comments, and so many comments that include ad hominem attacks. And yet, it is not surprising that trans civil rights, which lag far, far behind gay rights in the U.S., should invoke such passion. I am proud to be part of the transgender and transsexual community and the fight for social justice.
But when threats of violence against our opponents are made, we have a duty to condemn them. It doesn't lessen our movement to make such condemnation, nor does it mean we agree with people of opposing views. It means we are advocates of social justice, regardless of who has been targeted.
When I read stories like this, about a well-known transgender person, an official of an LGBT rights organization, who allegedly writes in a comment that he would like to kill someone with a baseball bat and a car and an axe because he doesn't like their position on trans rights, it makes me angry. (I say allegedly, because, although the comment seemed to come from his Facebook account, it has not yet been confirmed.) Such comments also validate the idea that our community is crazy and violent, rather than impassioned for civil rights. It makes me agree with some of the criticisms of our movement.
Frankly, some of the angry, irrational, unreasoned comments I find on The Bilerico Project, though they rarely threaten violence, make me angry as well. I don't have the time, nor would it be productive, to respond to every over-the-edge comment. I delete the personal attacks and the threats. (And of course, get the emails arguing why their personal attack was justified.) But there are too many other over-the-edge comments to keep up with.
Honestly, people? Do you think you can found a movement for social justice on social injustice? If your argument for trans civil rights involves demeaning others, then it is not only wrong, but counterproductive. Look, there are many times that I want to say something angry and irrational in response to what I perceive as a bigoted statement. I'm human, too. I'm not saying I'm above all that. No one is, when they think the microphone is off. But we're not going to get anywhere if that is our standard operating procedure. Yes, there are bigots, and people who just say dumb things about trans people. Yes, we need to speak up about it. But PUTTING YOUR ANGER IN ALL CAPS AND PRESSING SEND YOU GOSH-DARNED SO-AND-SO!!! is not the answer.
You may feel that your angry comment is just a drop in the bucket, and totally justified, and it's not going to hurt anyone, and anyway "those" people totally deserve it. But there are hundreds and thousands of drops, and they add up. You think that the public doesn't see this? You think that the people we need to persuade in public office of the justice of our cause aren't seeing this? And when the rest of us tolerate these over-the-edge type comments and don't note our disapproval of personal attacks, we perpetuate it. When comments include threats of any kind, whether of violence or of seeking to invade a person's privacy, we must not be silent.
I stand with those who condemn the comments allegedly made threatening violence. Threats of violence against a person is wrong and it's criminal as well. I'm sorry that the woman who was the subject of those threats has to endure this, and I stand with her in condemning those comments. When our community has people in its midst who do not understand the limits of public discourse, and who make personal threats against others, we must speak up and condemn them.
Please let me know if you agree with my position or not. I need to know whether I'm the only one who feels this way.
UPDATE: According to the Kentucky Courier-Journal, the political action committee of the Fairness Campaign accepted the resignation of its treasurer on Tuesday, two days after writing a Facebook post that used violent, threatening language against a lesbian activist.
The former treasurer, Anthony Casebeer of Louisville, also apologized for the posting, according to a Tuesday blog post attributed to him.