A Half Apology


I do believe in giving credit where it’s due, and so I want to acknowledge some positive editorial changes that were made in the wake of the Ron Gold post at a blog I once contributed to.  I’d actually stopped naming the blog and deleted the posts about it a week later, because there are a few people out there who like to feed on mudslinging, and I don’t want to play into the back and forth blogwar stuff that could stand to make this and other blogs uncomfortable and unwelcoming places to be.  Most readers here will know where I mean.

Like I said, I believe in giving credit where it’s due, and I’m seeing that blog make some significant changes.  It probably would have been better if those changes had been made the first time, but at least they’re taking the care and attention to getting it right this time.  Among those changes are including someone trans on the editorial staff and establishing an editorial advisory board.  It was suggested that more changes are coming.

I do owe Bil Browning a half apology.  I say half because I really don’t think I was wrong to get angry about the approval of the Gold post, or even to say so publicly.  To his face would have probably been more appropos, but because of some other things happening at the time, I doubt I was in any frame of mind to communicate with him directly and if I had it certainly would have been worse.  I probably shouldn’t have involved another blog, but I doubt my reply and objections would have been seen otherwise.  I was probably meaner than I needed to be, but at the same time I still think the response had to be strong enough for people to realize how hurtful the act was, and how much of a sea change it seemed to be to introduce a new contributor with a post asserting transgender and transsexualism as delusional, at a time when the “stop dissing the HRC” crowd had grown considerably and was increasingly grumbling about transfolk as a liability now that there was a real possibility that employment protections (ENDA) might pass.

But I made the dialogue personal and it was hurtful and has caused some lasting damage.  That wasn’t called for.  And it is for that that I’m sorry.  Someone posted elsewhere about whether or not Bil is an ally.  At the time, I said yes, but also characterized him as a cat who means to do right, but then has his attention caught by something tantalizing, and he forgets.  I still think this is a reasonable assessment — which just means he’s human, and subject to the same blunders that anyone who hasn’t had personal trans experience will sometimes make.  But I do believe him to be seriously caring, and probably hurt enough by seeing for himself that anti-gay and anti-trans reactionaries are as a consequence using Ron Gold’s words to fight trans equality.  No more verbal bullets than that are necessary.

I don’t expect a reply, and in fact I kind of doubt that this is even likely to be seen.  I’m about as welcome as a gerbil in a blender in some parts these days, and even people I’d considered to be friends won’t communicate with me or talk about why.  The silence is deafening.  (And before the blog-bashers start saying anything about a slander conspiracy, I highly doubt it’s anything that sinister.  It’s far more likely that people saw my angry departure from that blog, and have made some judgments based on that.)  But still, it’s out there and needs to be out there for anyone who cares to know.

And as I tried to say before, I’m moving on.  What else is anyone going to do?

Original post: Kyra Phillips, Invalidation and Ticked Off Trannies

I’ve been struggling with whether to comment on something that happened recently or not.  As readers here will know, I’d had an issue back in January with a place where I’d regularly posted writing.  Well, that debate is old, done, and it does no one any good to keep flogging and sniping and warring between blogs — all that does is make a thoroughly unpleasant experience for regular readers of both and keep relighting the hostility levels.  There’s no need.  There was an apology and I believe it, even if I’m not so sure it was understood just how deeply the incident hurt people. Too, I see now that the promotion of someone who sparked the issue at the time didn’t signal endorsement or sea change, and that my own reaction was probably fueled by some personal things happening “offstage” and so didn’t need to go to the extent that it did.  But it’s done, and we all move on.

However, it does illustrate something that speaks to the conflicts that often happen between the GLB and T, and also to things that happen within those (and other) communities.  So I comment on it for that reason alone, and ask that if anyone replies, they keep comments general, and leave any bashing of the aforementioned website out of it.

Last week, CNN’s Kyra Phillips had discredited & unlicensed ex-gay counselor Richard Cohen on to talk about a recent legal effort to repeal an ancient and no longer enforced law in California that encourages the state to pursue conversion therapy for homosexuality.  Beyond Cohen’s own outlandish methods, ex-gay therapy is recognized by the American Psychological Association and American Psychiatric Association as harmful, ineffective and fails to recognize the intrinsic nature of sexual orientation.  Phillips, who in her reply refers to her “record and … unswerving support for all communities in the battle for human rights, including gays, lesbians, and transgendered individuals,” half-apologizes while justifying this decision as a journalistic one, to seek representation from all sides of the issue.

Ex-gay therapy at its foundation invalidates sexual orientation as a whim and a choice, a perspective that modern society outside various belief systems now recognizes as antiquated in this day and age.  Giving air time to resurrect it has understandably upset many people in the gay and lesbian community, who feel that revisiting and giving an air of validity to the outdated concept is hurtful.

Invalidation sucks.  Except that we keep doing it to each other, too.  It happens so stunningly similarly that the open letters can be almost interchangeable:

“… But I’m extremely dismayed by a recent segment on the question of whether transsexuality is “delusional” that was precipitated by … well, nothing, really. Just the framing of this question is highly offensive to me and many others. Should we be looking to “dispel” your “illusion” of your cissexuality or your masculinity? Is it possible to convince you to be “normal?” Or do we only consider “delusional” minorities that are less popular among the majority?

“What’s worse is that you pose this ridiculous question and then let a discredited transphobic meme waste valuable air time “answering” this inane and irrelevant question…

“… These people have an agenda that is based on old-school notions – not facts, not science. They peddle lies and falsehoods that perpetuate the hate and misunderstanding that foments the intolerance and discrimination trans people face daily. This is not responsible journalism…”

Example made, and moving on.  Keep in mind that invalidation is far from a one-time episode, but something that happens routinely between LBG and T, and lately exemplified by the backlashes in comments over trans protest of a film produced by a gay man which misrepresents transsexuals and until the trailer was modified, co-opted some very tragic murders as a vehicle for dismal camp comedy.  Invalidation does happen the other way around, too (though less often currently), and also between trans identities.  We’d do well to acknowledge it.

In some of the many commentary exchanges, much of this gets back to the age-old question of whether the T should be a part of the LGB — a question used to justify not giving a S#!t.  “Not my problem.”  True, one’s sexual orientation is a different thing altogether from one’s gender identity.  It’s also true that there is a huge overlap in the challenges that people from LGB and T communities face.  We can spin it one way or another until we turn blue and still not convince anyone else.

If we look at the bigger picture, though, it really shouldn’t matter.  Whether we belong in one big alphabet soup or don’t, we can afford to respect and care.  And if we’re not willing or able to lend support to other communities, at least we can stop devaluing them, invalidating them, dismissing them, or accept the selling-out of them.

Because a storm between the LGB and T has been brewing for some time, as the former wonders if a weak government will pass ENDA for the former if it includes protections for the latter.  (Meanwhile, keep in mind how transfolk are sometimes willing to dismiss same-sex marriage as irrelevant — as I said, it’s not a one-way street).

I tend not to hurl the word “privilege” around very much, although I recognize its existence and that we all have some form of it (though some less than others).  Both privilege and the denouncing of privilege stem from “colonial” thinking, which accepts the categorical boxes we’re placed in and which enable discrimination.  Colonial thinking assumes that what should matter to us is our issues alone, and that we only have enough limited energy to accomplish our own goals.  As individuals, that may be true, but as a co-operative, it doesn’t have to be.  I may write further about decolonialism, because I believe there are some universal truths we as a community keep forgetting, and it keeps us at odds and hampers our ability to function as allies.

Meanwhile, it’s time to put aside the barbs.


(since these seem to be the preference:)

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