I’ve asked and answered

Random musings from another nattering TERF cloud that recently bombarded my feed: “Just asking questions of gender identity” was one of the ways this particular TERF piece of shit cloaked her bigotry.

So, thing is, gender variance as a concept is already being investigated. By researchers, not anonymous bloggers on the internet. Even I don’t perform original research, I merely propagate its findings in the naive hope that facts will eventually enter this fucking conversation. But when TERFs say this, they don’t mean they’re investigating gender variance as a concept–more of them would be actual researchers if that were the case, and they’d have more than one citation that will inevitably be That Fucking Swedish Study–they mean they have taken it upon themselves to question my questioning as to how it applies to me.

Frankly I just want to stop and ask them how many times they think I’ve wrestled with this question. Did I come to terms with my gender by popping up one morning and saying “oh yeah, this’ll be a laugh”? Or was this a process delayed unnecessarily for 15 years between the first inkling that something was wrong and having the vocabulary to articulate myself because the very culture I live in treats my existence as some kind of baby-eating taboo?

It’s fucking offensive, and that’s not a word I use a lot, to tell me I haven’t thought this through. Every day. Every morning. At most finding distractions for half an hour to get my mind off it. I’ve spent more time questioning my life than living it, so the sheer arrogance of some self-appointed fucktwit spouting off a bunch of invasive and uninvited psychosexual nonsense just blinds me with anger. Don’t you dare fucking tell me I could’ve found better ways to cope when those “other ways” would involve me drowning myself in drugs and pain all because you misapprehended Judith Butler in first year women’s studies. Like if I say I don’t want any motherfucking blueberries, that doesn’t mean I want you to keep giving me blueberry pie or blueberry tarts or blueberry salads until we find a format I might like, it means don’t. give. me. blueberries.

Fuck me I’m so done with TERF bullshit. I think after I get these projects up I’mma do a couple weeks of something else.

-Shiv

Journalist or Activist?

Borrowing from the tradition of anti-intellectualism, activist is now a snarl word in journalism, too. 

As a gender variant person who writes on gender variant issues, I am routinely accused of being “political” in my writings.* What I find utterly bizarre is that I label any contextualizations of my personal experiences as personal experiences. In the absence of that label, I stand by that work on the basis of its adherence to evidence.

I am utterly baffled as to how drawing upon sources to make statements supported by scientific consensus is now a “political” activity. Let me be perfectly clear: If evidence-based argument is “activism” rather than a strain of politics, then by definition your politics don’t include facts. This is ultimately what has alienated me from mainstream media, this strange and frankly broken idea that all opinions are equivalent, even when one is bullshit from start to finish and the other is well-researched. It has groomed an entire generation of self-appointed experts who quite frankly are amazing at wasting my fucking time.

Of course I’m hardly the first person to encounter this and I doubt I’ll be the last. Stephen Colbert (apparently) called this out back in the era of Bush Jr.–“reality has an anti-conservative bias”–but it’s quite another thing to actually experience it first hand. When it comes to gender variance, the bottom line is that enough people consider themselves equipped to participate in the conversation, spouting off shit that’s already been refuted forwards and backwards, or more commonly not bothering with citations at all.

My politics require facts. I will not be made to apologize for that.

-Shiv


 

*Even the, uh, political posts.

Self care Saturday, Revisited: Cleaning out the gunk

I pushed myself a little too hard.

Between Thursday and Friday I woke up at 3 AM. I couldn’t fall back to sleep anyway. Knowing “Transgender Kids: Who Knows Best” had been aired, I briefly popped it into Google to see what the internet spewed forth. Obviously I found Sarah Ditum and felt compelled to respond.

Then I picked up some more evidence for another piece I’m doing on the judicial undermining of gender identity laws in the UK, USA, and Canada, and something snapped. Or shattered, perhaps. Like a dropped champagne glass, and suddenly the whole room went silent and turns to face you. All the areas of my brain which usually just bounce information around at a speed and volume that leaves me caught between “hyperfocused” and “disoriented” gave way to a single voice.

You monsters.

A flippant comment on a petition. I know the comment was based on a blatantly false assertion, and still the imagined voice of the commentator filled in the silence. Abominations. You’re all sick.

I’ve been examining a bit too much transphobia, lately, and now those positions are taking root in my head. Even as I know they are wrong.

It’s a feeling I haven’t had since I ended my relationship with my abusive ex, someone who routinely engaged in manipulation and emotional abuse. Like feeling that I suddenly can’t trust my own judgement, despite the great pains I take to fact check.

We know if Trump repeats something enough times to the media that the volume of people who believe him increases. Is this the strategy of trans-antagonists? Can they really repeat it enough times to make even an evidence-based trans feminist crack? It seems my clarity has finally left me, and all I can see is the trail of fog left in trans-antagonistic’s wake.

This is the “hyperbole” as it is often characterized by opponents to trans rights. This debate, that trans people are sane and worthy, ironically eats away at your sanity. Who could possibly retain a flawless psyche against a never-ending undercurrent from every fucking thing you open questioning “HEY YOU? ARE YOU SANE? ARE YOU SURE YOU’RE SANE? ARE YOU REALLY REALLY SURE?”

And it feels like no matter how confidently I answer, I get another round of “ARE YOU REALLY REALLY SURE?”

Imagine if that was all people wanted to talk about. Imagine you liked NASCAR and every day of every year some asshole somewhere on the internet is petitioning the government to intern NASCAR fans in psychiatric hospitals. Imagine the courts stripped your parental custody because they think liking NASCAR is child abuse. Imagine hearing story after story of police raping NASCAR fans. Imagine entire sections of the internet dedicated to both hosting and mocking violent videos of NASCAR fans being assaulted, raped, and murdered.

And then imagine a snarling asshole whose career is organized around telling you all these things are made up.

Sticks and stones can break my bones, but words can convince me I deserve it.

I’ve got a few posts left in the queue, but I’m gonna try my best to unplug for a few days.

-Shiv

All the reasons I won’t ever have a FB Page or Twitter

I’ve had a few people ask me whether I plan on opening a Twitter or Facebook page. The short answer is no, but I thought I’d provide the long answer.

1. Both platforms facilitate abuse, especially of minorities

Twitter is almost unmoderated. I think its well documented tolerance of abuse is thoroughly proven.

Facebook moderation actually goes a step farther and allows abusers to make bad faith reports, resulting in such absurd outcomes as a trans artist being banned for quoting the abuse directed at in her inbox while the people sending the abuse are left active.

Given that my fans include Jihadists, TERFs (sorry, “gender critical” dingleberries), fundagelicals, MRAsshats, libertarians, capitalists, and a smattering of transphobes from across all ideologies, I have every reason to believe increasing my access on social media would simply result in a torrent of abuse and major headaches as I try to clean up after automated moderation.

2. Neither serves a function I care for

Twitter’s 140 character limit abhors me, because it is next to impossible to have anything other than snarky quips. Don’t get me wrong, I love snark. But I can just snark here, where I am able to moderate comments, and couch it in actual arguments.

Again, I have little reason to start conversations on Facebook when I can just start them here.

3. People use either tool to share my posts anyway

Self explanatory. Sometimes people like my shit enough to post it on social media. Yeah I’d get shares faster if I posted directly to Facebook. But then there’s the whole “access to abuse” thing again. I’m okay building exposure slowly if it means not having to filter nattering TERFs all the time.

4. Trolls are annoying

On here, you have to sign up. Then your first comment has to be approved, and my bullshit detector is pretty good. Then if you get obnoxious, or if you ping my trolldar, all that effort you spent signing up is wasted when I ban you.

On Twitter and Facebook, a troll has their account open already. With more editorial control, the website itself is a bottleneck for abusers.

5. The rest of the network is my editorial control

Facebook and Twitter can pull the plug on my content. But their editorial control is based on generating traffic, rather than convincing arguments or anything resembling an ethical compass. FTB is based off a mission statement, which makes me more confident my material wouldn’t be arbitrarily challenged.

6. I have a contact email anyway

If someone wants to engage in a way that wouldn’t work in the comments, they can just email me instead. Again, gmail allows me to filter bad faith actors. But for now it is predominantly used by readers giving reasonable feedback, as well as my back-and-forth with other outlets as I try to sell some investigative work I’m sitting on.

So, yeah, that’s why I won’t be on other forms of social media.

-Shiv

 

Decent human beings tie up mental health resource to prove how decent they are

Content Notice: Ableism and gaslighting.

Gold star human being Clay Travis of Fox Sports decided the highest priority in his life was to coordinate a mass of false reports to a university mental health help line after it released a Halloween reminder that minorities affected by the extensive stereotyping that occurs on the crude celebration could ask for help:

“Some Halloween costumes reinforce stereotypes of particular races, genders, cultures, or religions,” the post said. “Regardless of intent, these costumes can perpetuate negative stereotypes, causing harm and offense to groups of people.”

Clay Travis, the prank-calling journalist, learned about the post and the CWC hotline from one of his readers. He said he wanted to make a point about how overly sensitive people have become to seemingly harmless acts or comments.

“Anyone who is offended by a Halloween costume is a complete and total loser deserving of ridicule and satirization,” he wrote in an email.

In an Oct. 12 livestreamed video, “LSU-Florida mess, CFB gambling picks,” Travis called the hotline and said he was a gay student who went to a fraternity’s Halloween costume party. He said he was offended by someone at the party dressed like Harambe, a gorilla who was shot in late May at the Cincinnati Zoo after a child fell into his enclosure.

Travis also gave out the CWC’s phone number to his live audience. He already made headlines earlier this month for his criticism of the cancellation of the Oct. 8 game against LSU, alleging impending Hurricane Matthew was used as an excuse to avoid losing to a superior team.

UF spokeswoman Janine Sikes said the prank calls have burdened UF’s counseling services. The hotline, a free service available every day of the year, is not exclusively for costume complaints, and students with mental health concerns or issues also use the hotline.

“Our role is to support students,” Sikes said, “and when we are diverted to having to deal with people calling in fake reports, we aren’t there to help our students.”

So because you’re an ignorant sack of manure who can’t wrap their head around the exhausting, non-stop drivel minorities have to deal with from assholes like you, you decide the best use of your time is to sabotage a mental health resource that we need. You want to mock people for being “overly sensitive,” yet self care and setting boundaries for ourselves fucking triggers enough outrage such that you orchestrate a harassment campaign against a group of people that are trying to help people cope. In other words, you want to grind us down with denigrating stereotypes, ignorant statements and widespread myths, and then mock us for seeking help because of it.

That meets every definition of abuse I can think of.

Clay Travis, you and everyone who participated in that stunt are ethically bankrupt, egocentric, and unfathomably provincial. It’s a wonder you know how to put your pants on in the morning.

I throw it right back at you: Anyone who who is offended by minorities demanding respect is deserving of nothing less than satire and ridicule.

-Shiv

Seasonably Miserable

“Get the attention you deserve.”

Despite the protestations of Edmontonians, autumn continues apace. The temperature dropped below freezing, and with precipitation, brought the season’s first snow. It would bring with it a cutting wind that at least had the courtesy to make me feel what I had felt for some months: a sense of cold, numb, a stinging pain made distant, but never entirely gone.

Several hours after her words flashed across my screen, I made my way to a busy downtown street. I wawhytented the histories to tower over me. On either side of the avenue stood scowling sentinels, snow-peppered witnesses to drunken revelry and crime of desperation. So too did they bear witness to hapless little me, waltzing straight into the black widow’s web. I traced my steps past her apartment, the grocery store we’d walk to, the drug store where she’d buy her stupid “all natural” this and that, the corner where she first called me girlfriend, the pizza parlour we had our first date at, the restaurant of our second date, the pub where we celebrated with friends, the place where we celebrated Valentines, the bus stop where we’d await our public chariot to the local dungeon.

“Get the attention you deserve,” or so sayeth the dating profile from the app that had the indifferent cruelty to tell me my rapist was, evidently, a “great match.” Her piercing blue eyes filled my screen, her hair flowing behind her as if she posed for a shampoo commercial. Knowing her, she did. Of course it would be her profile picture. She was beautiful, stunning, statuesque. Every bit as alluring as when we first met. The app, in its ignorant calculus, specifically recommends her.

“Get the attention you deserve.” What a way to introduce yourself. She is an escort, I suppose. Perhaps that was the logic in her mind when she humiliated me while I was at her mercy. You couldn’t convince her she did anything wrong that night–certainly a select few of our mutual friends tried. Seeing the first line of her profile, the profile so graciously specially recommended so we’ll send it straight to your phone! by the dating app, brought to the surface the flood of our peers. Their indifferent scoffs and eyerolls and “I don’t do dramas,” composing a tangle of silk all leading back to her hands. After so many months stumbling through the “why” of it all, the answer delivered itself to my phone: She thought I “deserved it.” She says so herself at the start of her profile. The attention I deserve. 

In a sense, it is clarity. I stare at the street ahead of me, knowing the web I am about to traverse. The wind has the common decency to make my plunge into ice literal. I thank it. I trace these good memories not as a testament to the good person I think she can be, but as a reminder of how skilled her act is.

She may spin her web. I will burn it down.

-Shiv

Signal boosting: Everybody’s against rape as long as we’re not proposing to do anything about it

Content Notice: Abuse and sexual assault.

Yes Means Yes is a delightful blog, in part because it discusses the sort of 300-level feminist analyses that I don’t often get outside of school. As a whole, it covers a wide range of topics. Unsurprisingly, I found their BDSM posts and immediately exploded with glee–feminist kinksters write amazing stuff. I certainly wasn’t disappointed in Thomas’ series on the intersection of kink and rape culture.

It is a long read, but my gosh it is detailed and sharp and to the point. Check out some of these select quotes:

[Read more…]

In which Miri accidentally writes my life story

Miri (Brute Reason formerly of FTB) over on The Orbit wrote a piece that has nothing to do with me directly, except that she described my abuse situation in basically 100% detail (pronoun of the abuser notwithstanding, emphasis mine):

The idea that a “real” sexual predator will inevitably prey on every single person they are involved with comes from the idea that people who harass, assault, and abuse are unable to control themselves, that they are rapid beasts who lunge at every available target. As knowledgeable folks have already pointed out many, many, many times, that’s not how the overwhelming majority of sexual violence works. At all.

I’m not inside any sexual predator’s mind, so I can’t tell you how any particular individual decides who to try to harass, assault, or abuse and who to pretend to be a good person to. But I’ve watched quite a few of these situations unfold and what they all had in common was that the accuser was young, relatively unknown in the community, queer, non-white, and/or marginalized in other ways, whereas the current and former partners stepping up to defend the accused were well-known, well-respected, often older members of the community it happened in.

What’s going on with that?

What’s going on is that people who want to hurt people pick people that they doubt will feel empowered to speak up, and who will be much less likely to be believed if they do.

Just like abusers aren’t uniformly awful to the people they’re abusing–if they were, it’d be much easier to leave–they aren’t uniformly awful to everyone else. They’re often charming, beloved by their friends, and professionally successful. And yes, in a polyamorous context, that can even include other partners.

Geez, Miri. I don’t know if you read my column or not, but you are rapidly becoming a very enlightening resource when it comes to understanding my own abuse–how difficult it was to speak from the back foot as a queer trans woman in the BDSM community, and how my abuser was a charismatic and charming volunteer who had a habit of making herself useful everywhere she went.

It went about as well as you’d expect. #NeedNewFriends

-Shiv

Transition Reactions p7: Feeling unsafe vs. Being unsafe

Content Notice: Abuse and violence of all stripes.

Context

I haven’t had a great year, so far. I left an abusive relationship in which I was sexually assaulted, and my vindication (snark) was to lose my chosen family because I spoke out about it. I had all the sting of family rejection–plus a generous helping of self blame. After all, I chose them. I don’t even have the excuse that they were thrust upon me by circumstance. I trusted them, and was rewarded with cold shoulders, victim-blaming, “taking no side”ism, etc. I had trusted friends tell me they believed my story and then… nothing. My abuser was still welcome at every venue we shared. “No drama” became the watchword. Shouting me down was the response any time murmurs of coming forward surfaced. That’s what my reputation became: dramatic, a ticking time bomb. Unreliable. Untrustworthy. Don’t play with her, she’ll malign you over a silly mistake (a “silly mistake” that has landed me in trauma counselling). Soon the rumours make a round trip through all the lovely cogs of rape culture and I get the freeze for “spreading rumours.”

Trying to grapple with that and the fallout of leaving an abusive relationship, including the PTSD?

Yeah. 2016–worst year of my life. And it’s not even over.

During all that I lost gainful employment, just as the economy started to really tank. What was painful about that was that it was a work place where I could be openly trans. I swore off the private sector after routinely being told to endure abuses from my coworkers. My boss basically said it was on me to go back in the closet if I wanted the workplace harassment to stop. Government employers actually did something about it, when it happened. And non-profit? I’ve never had a problem with a bigoted coworker. After all you don’t get far working for crisis resources by being an insensitive asshole. Emotional intelligence is a prerequisite.

[Read more…]

Confronted by the word

At pretty much the exact same time I accepted a probationary offer from FtB to write on New Frontier, my relationship at the time took a drastic nosedive. What had previously been a subtle form of chipping away at my self esteem (which I would later learn is known as “grooming”) abruptly exploded. Shouting matches, belittling, cornering, threats, gaslighting, compulsive lying–daily. Near fucking daily. It all culminated in a scene at one of the local BDSM clubs where she… well.

I suppose I always knew what happened. I’ve used the words before. “She hurt me,” “she violated me,” etc. It’s one thing for you to recognise what it is from the other side of the fog installed by gaslighting. It’s one thing to try and recognise the fog for what it was–a survival tactic used by a serial abuser to keep her victims dizzy and unwilling to fight back.

It’s another can of worms to have someone else look you in the eye and say, “girl, she raped you.”

My counselor doesn’t quite understand BDSM. There was no sexual contact that occurred that night, so arguably the legal applications of sexual assault are ambiguous at best (regular assault might be more plausible?). But that’s not the point. My abuser will never be charged. At least not for what she did to me. The legalities aren’t important. What is important is fully capturing the following:

  1. She removed my ability to consent;
  2. She proceeded not knowing or caring whether I consented;
  3. She blamed me for being upset

I didn’t–couldn’t–consent, and she proceeded anyway. I knew this. So why is it so different to have someone else say it? Have I been so inundated by skepticism from the community that having someone believe me feels so alien?

-Shiv