The Truth Hurts »« Carrie Poppy and the Nay-Sayers

The Outrage Brigade

DJ Grothe, not content with his reputation and desperately lacking a communications director through which he can vet his random personal thoughts (any takers on that job?), posted to Facebook a terribly transphobic thought. Or, at least, so we Outrage Brigaders interpreted it!

No hyperbole: I just saw the worst-passing transsexual I’ve ever seen in the lounge here. It was so disruptive that I am forced to believe it was an intentional way to protest against rigid gender binaries. Or so I’d like to think.


A huge number of folks were upset by this. The usual suspects rushed to his defense and called these folks “The Outrage Brigade”. Rather than actually accepting that possibly the people whose toes he just stepped on might have a point, and he did wrong, he’s just sitting back and letting the terrible human beings that inhabit the skeptical and secular communities run roughshod over the critics — the people who have a grudge-on for “FtBullies” and Skepchick and Atheism Plus, and some strange idea that anyone criticizing anyone else for shitty behaviour are somehow associated with these entities. And he’s Liking some pretty terrible things, including Sara Mayhew posting shitty “fan art” of some of the bigger names on our side of the divide.

Some time thereafter, he changed the post’s security settings such that I can no longer see it while logged in. Chances are he actually blocked me, or added me to a “rage bloggers” list, or something. I’m not sure. I don’t really care, honestly. It just means he knows people are going to criticize him, and he knows which people specifically. It means he knows he did wrong, but doesn’t care to actually take the criticism for it.

The Twitter version still exists publicly, and cuts off at an unfortunate point that makes it even more transphobic-sounding than it already was, as it cuts off the last little sentence that attempts to temper the transphobic nature of the thought. Not that on Facebook it was much better, since DJ had his own first response:

I know it would have been especially insulting to take a picture but I was tempted to ask. The world or at least my little world would have appreciated that disruption.

Giving DJ the benefit of the doubt for a brief moment here — let’s assume that yes, he was celebrating that a person wanted to protest the gender binary, like he later protested (and like he apparently tried to imply with his last sentence). Let’s assume that he didn’t mean offense, that he didn’t mean insult — which he clearly tried to avoid with the person in the flesh, but wasn’t ashamed enough to not post about his insulting inclinations on Facebook. Here’s how he could do so without contributing to the mockery — especially by all the people who agreed with him and later posted anti-trans stuff.

“I just saw someone who I think might be protesting the gender binary in a context where people aren’t accustomed to seeing such things, and good on them for it.”

That’s still not perfect, but that’s at least BETTER. Less insulting. No value judgments, no “worst-passing” as though “passing” is a laudable quality, no “disruptive” as though that was certainly their aim, no “transsexual” with its loaded connotations and assumption of correct identification. And no implication that he’d “like to believe” that the person was protesting the gender binary because the alternative, that they just DON’T pass despite TRYING, was a less realistic proposition.

And if he actually cared that people considered that bullshit bullshit, he might have said “I’m sorry, that’s not what I meant, and what I said instead was kind of shitty.”

Because it was.

Comments

  1. says

    Whether it’s DJ putting his foot in his mouth over trans* people or Chris Rodda posting ableist Helen Keller jokes, it’d be nice if people would learn that the response to “Hey, that thing you said is [bigoted]” was “Oh, sorry, I didn’t realize. My bad.” Or something similar. You can disagree, you can ultimately think that the person is being unreasonable or oversensitive, but your first reaction should be apology, not defensiveness and digging in. It works out so much better for everyone that way.

    It goes back to the stepped-on-toes analogy.If someone tells you “hey, you stepped on my toes,” you don’t say “nuh-uh, no I didn’t, you’re just being oversensitive. If you’re going to walk around, you need to expect to get your toes stepped on, so just deal with it and stop whining.” Why would it be different for “hey, you said this bigoted thing”?

  2. says

    It was so disruptive…

    “Disruption” is an action of some sort. Did DJ ever specify who did what to disrupt…whatever? I kinda doubt that the trans person’s appearance ACTED to disrupt anything. So where DID the “disruption” come from? If it wasn’t the trans person, that leaves one or more of the people who saw the trans person.

  3. says

    I’ve been there. I’ve been the person someone like DJ looks at and thinks just those thoughts above.

    It hurts. Tremendously, achingly, viscerally, it hurts. And yes, we can tell, every single time. If you think we can’t, you’ve never been a marginalized person, never been someone whose safety, whose very life, depends on being able to read just those kinds of reaction.

    We can see it in your faces, your eyes, your body language, the talking out the side of your mouth, the little nods of direction given to a friend, the ways you pointedly don’t look at us, the laugh when you think we’ve turned away, we see it all. We have to.

    It hurts. Physically. A pain in the gut, an ache, “Will I ever be able to just walk down the street and not worry about this crap?”

    This is the kind of thing that forces us into excessive displays of genderedness, because we have to reassert that aspect of ourselves if we want to be taken for who we are. It’s why one of my friends never wears pants, even in some of the worst cold here in Canada*, because she doesn’t want to have to suffer yet more pain of this kind. It creates its own problem, in the sense that “passing” becomes a survival skill, rather than a choice.

    I’m not ever going somewhere that I know this walking collection of used bog-roll will be. Between his rapeyness and his enthusiastic defence of rapeyness and his gross transphobia and general misogynist assholeishness…he can practice his oral autopodiatry somewhere I’m not.

    * She lives in northern Alberta.

  4. Josh, Official SpokesGay says

    Good god he’s horrible. CaitieCat, I am so remorseful for all the years I was blind to this behavior on my own part. I hate that I *still* catch myself trying to “sort out” people on the street—gender conditioning is fucking hard to break out of. But at least I’ve forced myself to not betray my mind and act it out on my face. The very fucking minimum, I know.

  5. jackal says

    That coming form a gay man living in Los Angeles. Grothe needs to get out more. Someone introduce him to the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence.

    I’m in total agreement with the OP regarding Grothe’s use of “transsexual” and “worst passing.” Some of us who protest the gender binary would wear “disruptive” as a badge of honor, though we tend not to identify as “transsexuals.” Gender benders tend to be cis or non-binary. Of the trans people I know, most present very binary, and the preferred term is “transgender.”

  6. says

    Thanks, Josh. Happily, as long as I remember to keep my eyebrows in somewhat less dark-thick-curly shape, I’m alright (of course, doing so while dealing with depression is…problematic; thankfully I work at home and don’t go out a whole bunch anymore). I’ve not been misread face-to-face in…ten years? Occasionally get it from weirdos who insist on using gendered language to people on the phone (sir, ma’am, miss) or drive-through. If it happens on the phone more than once after I say something, I give up on the call and hang up. Which is why the first time I make it very clear what the right pronoun/style is, and that I won’t brook any other.

    But not in person anymore. It took probably five or six years before I reached that point comfortably. Maybe a year, eighteen months before I hit “90/90″, as I called it: 90% of the time, 90% of the people read me right (as a woman). That first year to eighteen months were 500-odd days of people like JREF’s mobile sculpture of a person (made from used toilet paper and misogyny!), only without Facebook orTwitter, so they tended to just yell, attack, or point and laugh. Or sometimes all.

    Plus, y’know, the jobs that now wouldn’t give me references (because I changed my name, they claimed they couldn’t do so), or insisted that they would do so only with my old name, and that why yes, they’d be sure to mention the old name while they were at it. Or the organizations that threw me out when they found out my history.

    Odd how people wonder why so many of us just disappeared post-transition, into the stealth and woodwork, and not a few of us to graves.

    The pre-Net thing was awful in that people had to be much more personal and in-my-face about their disapproval, but it also had the advantage that I’m reasonably sure my rare last name and my very rare Old First Name never made it onto the net. Doxxing me would be a Very Difficult Knowledge (Internet) check indeed.

  7. UnknownEric the Apostate says

    Apologies for the frivolity, but the last two post titles would make amazing band names.

    Tonight! Carrie Poppy and the Nay-Sayers, with special guests The Outrage Brigade! Only a $5 cover! Guinness on tap!

  8. says

    They seem to as a group reject the idea of “ethical behavior” in its entirety. Not just acting ethically, but that there’s even a thing called ethics that applies to human behavior. They don’t seem to see “sexual assault” in any other terms besides either “a claim we can use to attack our enemies” or “a claim that is being used to attack our friends”. The truth or falsehood of the claim, and/or the harm done by sexual assault, aren’t considerations worth addressing.

  9. says

    If you are going to play the BOD game, you’ll also have to allow for “disruptive”, which isn’t a value judgement although it rather tends to be used that way.

    Not that I can bring myself to employ the BOD option in reading DJ here. At this point he’d have to earn that.

  10. Tony! The Immorally Inferior Queer Shoop! says

    CaitiCat:
    I am sorry for how you have been treated.

    ****
    I don’t know what to make of DJ’s second sentence

    it was so disruptive…

    I read about this early yesterday, but just now realized: what was disruptive? I have read that over and over and I keep returning to this thought: DJ just referred to another human being as “it”.

    Am I reading this wrong?

  11. ludicrous says

    I am fairly new around here but given what I have read recently about DJG, his referring to someone else as”disruptive” is about as transparent a projection as one can imagine.

  12. Sassafras says

    I read about this early yesterday, but just now realized: what was disruptive? I have read that over and over and I keep returning to this thought: DJ just referred to another human being as “it”.

    Am I reading this wrong?

    As stupidly oblivious as he is to his own bullshit, I don’t think that’s what he was trying to say, given the context of the later part of the sentence. I think the “it” in that sentence was referring to the person’s gender presentation, not to the person. Particularly since the “it” subject is referred to as a protest in the same sentence, implies he’s talking about the action, not the person.

    It’s still massively nasty, of course, and continues the fine tradition of cis people using trans people as props to explore cis ideas of gender.

  13. GuyThroway says

    [i]Whether it’s DJ putting his foot in his mouth over trans* people or Chris Rodda posting ableist Helen Keller jokes, it’d be nice if people would learn that the response to “Hey, that thing you said is [bigoted]” was “Oh, sorry, I didn’t realize. My bad.” Or something similar. You can disagree, you can ultimately think that the person is being unreasonable or oversensitive, but your first reaction should be apology, not defensiveness and digging in. It works out so much better for everyone that way.[/i]

    No one ever does this though. Everyone wants to pretend that *they* get how to deal politely and reasonably when they’ve made a grave error, and blame their ideological allies for being completely inadequate in that area but in reality it’s just natural human behavior to fail to live up to this reasonably high standard – unless we’re being brought up short by respected people of our own ideological bent in the correct way that speaks to things we already agree about – for example when Raging Bee was engaged in some quite blatant rape apologism over on Heteronormative Patriarchy for Men he did none of that. Not because he and and his ideological allies are terrible people who don’t care when they’re shown to be wrong but because it came from the “Other” outside his usual paradigm and the natural reaction when the Other confronts you over your moral failings is to refuse to believe it, get defensive and dig in deep. You can’t expect people to do anything else because you’re *always* being accused of moral failings by your opponents, and mostly (in your eyes) they’re wrong, and you’re not going to agree with people misrepresenting you, are you?

  14. says

    I really don’t mean to hijack this thread or anything, and definitely let me know if I’m stepping out of bounds, but I find it hard as a cis-person to understand transgender presentation when it becomes ambiguous. I don’t mean that it literally doesn’t make sense, but there are definitely times when I see someone, assume they’re male (or female) and act off that immediate idea, calling them sir or ma’am appropriately (as far as I can tell at the time).

    Sometimes, this means that I mislabel people’s genders due to my inability to properly discern what they’re presenting as. I feel super guilty about this every time it happens and I’d really like to get an honest perspective from a transgender person on this. Am I just being an insufferable asshole? I do correct any gender mistakes the instant I’m made aware of it and I would literally never call anyone by something other than their preferred sex (if I’m aware of their preference at the time), but sometimes I feel as though I have a huge burden with people who are, for lack of a better explanatory word, in-between genders. The folk who are born as one sex, transition to another, but because of circumstance don’t quite appear to have transitioned to people who don’t know them well.

    I’m hugely socially anxious as a person and I’ll spend hours at home going over the interactions I have with everyone during the day (exhausting as fuck…). So yeah, my question is if I misread someone who’s transgender, but I then correct myself at the earliest opportunity, have I committed a faux paus? Or is that just life and my tendency to over-analyse things getting in the way?

  15. says

    Drewzilla, maybe it’s time to revisit why it’s important to you to be able to ascribe gender to everyone you see. And why it’s important to you to then project that gender onto people using archaic politesse.

    That is to say, why do you need to say “sir” or “ma’am”? Can’t you just be respectful without assigning gender to people?

    In short, yes, it hurts (it’s not a “faux pas”, but a hurtful act), and no, I don’t think there’s any good way for you to appoint yourself judge of what other people’s gender is. If you’re unsure and need to use pronouns, ask. “Excuse me, but would you be willing to tell me which pronouns you prefer?” Is that so hard?

    Basically, go by what clothes people are wearing, if they’re gendered. Because of the very strong pressures on gender conformity, very few people will knowingly wear clothes specifically made for a gender which is not their own. If someone’s wearing a skirt but also shows a bit of beard shadow, the skirt is the part they can control easily, so assume the skirt’s the important part.

    And really. Consider reflecting on why it’s so important to you to gender other people.

  16. ludicrous says

    CaitieCat,

    There are lots of reasons it is important to me, as a male, to know the gender of a person I may be addressing. Just one example; if I am driving and need directions I would pull over roll the window down and ask a lone male pedestrian and think nothing of it I would not approach a lone female that way.

    Not speaking for Drewzilla, but I think it is really important for a woman’s security to be able to know, from a distance if possible, the gender of a person who she may encounter, whatever the circumstances.

  17. ludicrous says

    Drewzilla,

    It’s nice to know you care about the feelings of others, and I am sorry that you find yourself taking more responsibility than is comfortable for you. I can’t advise you how to get around that but I can say I am one person who forgives you for any errors you have made, and I’ll bet there are many many, others who do also.

  18. geekgirlsrule says

    @GuyThrowaway

    Actually, yes, people do just go, “Whoops, I’m sorry. My bad.” I’ve done it, while participating in a panel and accidentally putting my foot in my mouth and saying something ableist. I see other people do it all the time.

    The secret is to take a moment and a deep breath, and apologize. You CAN train yourself so that your “gut” reaction is to apologize. Maybe on deeper introspection you may decide that the apology was unwarranted, but in that case, being wrong doesn’t cost anyone anything, as opposed to you shooting off your mouth and getting angry, and damaging friendships and possible connections.

  19. CompulsoryAccount7746, Sky Captain says

    @Drewzilla #15:

    there are definitely times when I see someone, assume they’re male (or female) and act off that immediate idea, calling them sir or ma’am appropriately (as far as I can tell at the time).
    Sometimes, this means that I mislabel people’s genders due to my inability to properly discern what they’re presenting as.

    I read that as passive response to deliberate cues from others, so I’ll respond in that framing…
     
     
    Why assume everyone would want cis-gendered roles when you interact with them? And that when you perceive ambiguious sex/gender cues, that’s still an invitation to be treated as one of the two roles.

    Moreover when uncertain, why risk insult – adding an inappropriate formal pronoun – when the point of deference was to be polite?

  20. says

    Drewzilla, I think you may be overthinking it. Remember the apology option. If your job obliges you to call people Sir & Ma’am, then pick the one based on their presentation, and if they correct you, simply apologise and go with the correction from then without fuss. If you’re not obliged to use gendered terms, then just don’t. If only there were a gender-neutral honorific, that would be great.

  21. debbaasseerr says

    No hyperbole: I just read a Fb message of the worst excuse for the head of a skeptical organization I’ve ever seen on the internet here. It was so damning that I am forced to believe it was an intentional way to protest against anyone defending what he says. Or so I would like to have had thought – were it not for like, all the other awful shit he’s said, and done, and not-done.

  22. ludicrous says

    Drewzilla @ 15

    ” So yeah, my question is if I misread someone who’s transgender, but I then correct myself at the earliest opportunity, have I committed a faux paus? Or is that just life and my tendency to over-analyse things getting in the way?”

    At the risk of pointing out the obvious or mansplaining, I want to suggest that
    it may be useful to consider how sexism multiplies the pressure on women to never make social mistakes that might hurt someone’s feellings. Indoctrination begins in the cradle, girls must not only not offend anyone directly but must take care that any (male)onlooker will not be upset. (we see that backlash continously on these blogs)

    The goal of patriarchy is to get females to internalize the arbitrary rules of sexism to the extrant that they will find it extremely difficult to ignore or transgress them and will even punish themselves for doing so. Male indoctrination has different rules, of course, but the penalties are rarely as severe.

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