Don’t Let’s be Beastly to the Bigots!
Is now the time for trans people to open any sort of dialogue with those whose primary goal has always been our literal obliteration?
With the GRA out of the way, there has been an uptick in the number of well-meaning liberal types suggesting that maybe now we should be looking for ways to re-open lines of communication betwixt trans folks and transphobes. Is that a realistic proposition? Or mere pie in the sky proving, once again, how the vast majority of commentators have no clue as to what has been going on?
So, yes. I am talking to a friend. They are liberal, with a free speech pedigree as long as my arm. They have influence amongst those folks collectively referred to as “movers and shakers”. And recently they wondered, aloud, if now that the GRA was behind us it might not be possible for some of the reasonable folks on “both sides” to sit down and build bridges.
Good to talk?
Because, in an entirely reasonable world, that is what reasonable people do. They talk. They debate. They discuss. In the end, those wielding the sword of Truth, not to mention the shield of Righteousness will prevail. That’s how things are.
You can kill me, grind my corpse to dust, bring me back as a fully-paid up member of the walking dead and…I still would not be up for talking to the hateful bigots […] who have actively campaigned to remove medical treatment that will lead to some trans folks dying early and in pain.
My response, I fear, as one once judged to be one of the more reasonable tranz, was a less than reasonable: not in this lifetime! Nor even the next. Or the one after that. You can kill me, grind my corpse to dust, bring me back as a fully-paid up member of the walking dead and…I still would not be up for talking to the hateful bigots who have not just made trans folks’ lives a misery but who have actively campaigned to remove medical treatment that will lead to some trans folks dying early and in pain.
Besides, this is the wrong question. Because the very idea that trans folk are not engaged, daily, in debate, discourse and just generally talking to cis folk about trans stuff is untrue. This is the conceit of a well-conceited privileged commentariat, for whom you are not “doing it properly” unless you bend over backwards and allow them to insert you into their performative, two-sides, he-said-she-said gladiatorial public school debating soc format.
Oh, look. Here is Jane, provided just three short sentences on air to explain the intricacies of support for young trans people. And here is highly-paid bigot Jemimah, or Jaundice or Julie, or even just plain Karen, to whine “won’t someone think of the children”. When it comes to TV and radio, the debating format actively detracts from debate. I was tempted to prefix “debate” there with intelligent, but years of experience suggest that is to grant mainstream broadcasters too much.
But who is editing the conversations?
As for print media, just don’t. Work I carried out with Trans Media Watch highlighted how little space, ever, trans voices are allowed in anti-trans articles. In one national paper, over 15 months, just 5% of trans-related pieces included input from a trans person: 45% included “allies” who did their best, but were often just not up to the task. 75% included comment from the haters.
just 5% of trans-related pieces included input from a trans person: 45% included “allies” who did their best, but were often just not up to the task. 75% included comment from the haters.
Even when we are allowed that small courtesy of a “right to reply”, there are endless devices used by the mainstream to reduce and belittle trans input. Cutting it short. Sending it to the very bottom of the article, almost as afterthought. Or surrounding the response with language designed to reduce and belittle the speaker. But hey! They’re “balanced”.
Free speech is absolute — unless it is about ME-E-E!
Don’t even get me started on comment pieces. Because, of course, the start point for the exercise of free speech is that you should be allowed to say whatever you wish. All else is cancel culture and the end of civilisation as we know it. So we see endless pieces generalising about trans folk (other minorities, too). Yet those selfsame free speech absolutists throw a conniption fit at the merest suggestion that they, as individuals, are anything less than perfect. Because libel, doncha know!
Thus it is that more than a few highly paid columnists lately have played with hints that not just trans folk, but LGBT people in general, are soft on paedophilia: but say similar of them as an individual and the writ will likely be in the very next post.
But, but, but, my friend butted…people who aren’t haters might “have concerns”. Which is problematic in itself. For since phrases like that have been deliberately weaponised as tools against trans people they are no longer evidence of reason, but, more often, taint of bigotry.
Everyone talks in the end?
But, but, but…everyone talks in the end. The Brits and the IRA in Ireland. The apartheid regime and those they had oppressed for so long in South Africa. And that is true, but incomplete. In those — and similar situations — there was a war going on and the costs to both sides had become too great.
when it came to actual Nazis — and there is more than a whiff of overlap between modern-day trans exterminist views and the racial and other exterminations advocated by that group — they fought til the bitter, bitter end
Whereas when it came to actual Nazis — and there is more than a whiff of overlap between modern-day trans exterminist views and the racial and other exterminations advocated by that group — they fought til the bitter, bitter end. In ultimate defeat, they preferred the cyanide pill to talking: a task they left to “moderate” war criminals, like Dönitz.
Or we could just talk…like normal people
Still, the conversation — with my friend — was not without its positives. For a start it reminded me that there is a point to talking. There are circumstances where groups such as Trans Media Watch encourage talk ABOUT stuff. When, for example, issues are not stripped down to one extremist bigoted position set up to challenge trans people on all the supposed evil we are doing, but when discussion is subsumed in a wider forum.
The best instance, for me, is the Big Questions, where even with haters involved, the wider audience acts as a useful cis brake on cistremism. Other views get aired, and the burden of explanation is not laid entirely on the backs of trans people. Perhaps citizen assemblies could perform a similar role?
No-one has the right to demand you talk…
It recalled to me, too, my father who, when I was young startled me with the view that “The only good German was a dead one!” (Likewise, Russians!). Then, in all the arrogance of youth, I was surprised, disappointed that one otherwise so gentle in life could espouse such violence.
It took a long time for me to understand the depths of despair that could leave such a mark. To compute that the line drawing that adorned the wall of our living room was not just the uncle I never met…but my father’s older brother, murdered in wholly unnecessary conflict.
It took time for me to understand what it meant to lose your home and country: to live for years, decades even, never knowing when — or if — you would see your parents again. The closest I came to that was when we feared my cousin, active in Polish politics in the early 80s had been arrested and carted off to jail during the military crackdown.
it was not…was never…my place to preach to one who had survived such horror how he should respond now to “the other side”
I could never endorse my father’s sentiments. But later, there was time and room for both of us to understand better. He softened. He forgave. A little.
And I learned that it was not…was never…my place to preach to one who had survived such horror how he should respond now to “the other side”.