Lessons from the first FtBCon trans panel


Our inaugural FtBCon transgender panel was fantastic in almost every way. 200 or more people saw it live, thousands more watched the recorded session on YouTube, our panelists had a great time, and many viewers had their questions answered at length. I’d like to express my deepest gratitude to Trinity, Autumn, Ellen and Amy for their participation, my fellow FTBers for putting the con together and making it happen, and all of our viewers for their interest.

Given the smashing success of the first panel, we’ve committed to doing a second in the series early next year. Crucially, our experience with this initial panel has illuminated a number of areas we must work on to make the next one even better. First and foremost:

DIVERSITY

Again: DIVERSITY. This year’s panel was white. White white white white white. It was also all-female, giving the false impression that “trans people” means “trans women”. Furthermore, all of us were from the US. We might as well have called it White Lady Chat Featuring Five White Ladies. This is exclusively my fault: in assembling this panel on short notice, I drew heavily on my immediate social circle, which does not reflect the vast and extensive diversity the event deserved. As a result, this year’s panel failed to include the voices and unique concerns of trans women of color, trans men and trans masculine people, genderqueer and non-binary people, trans people outside the US, and intersex people. The next panel will not occur unless I can ensure the presence and representation of all of these important voices.

Planning ahead

Again, this panel came together at the last minute, and we were left without sufficient time to gather a broader spectrum of panelists or assemble a more detailed agenda of topics to discuss. The event also could have used more extensive promotion and publicity in the weeks prior. By planning the next panel well in advance, we hope to invite some of the leading speakers in the field as well as everyday trans people from around the world, as well as develop a more structured format for the discussion.

Technical difficulties, please stand by

Most of us only familiarized ourselves with the technical aspects of Google Hangouts less than an hour before the event began, which resulted in a brief delay and some confusion. This is another Planning Ahead thing. Next time, we’ll make sure that all participants have their equipment set up properly, and that they have a solid grasp of the format long before the event airs.

Working overtime

I first scheduled the panel to last for one hour, and this turned out to be a mistake. Allotting just one hour to discuss trans people as a subject is like allotting just one hour to discuss the entirety of science, medicine, society, sexuality, and feminism. Obviously, at least two hours are required for that, and we ultimately had to extend the panel by another hour in order to cover trans topics adequately. Our next panel will likely be scheduled to last two hours, giving us the time we need to address the wide variety of subjects involved in trans issues.

YouTube comments considered harmful

Not having used Google Hangouts before, I was unaware of what would happen when the event began streaming live on my personal YouTube channel. This interacted badly with the fact that my channel has 40,500 subscribers and countless more casual viewers. Because this is YouTube, our panelists were exposed to the worst sexism, homophobia, transphobia, and general hate that the internet is capable of. One issue in particular was the number of comments where people felt it was necessary to offer their uninvited opinions on how ugly we were, how pretty we were, or how pretty or ugly we were compared to our fellow panelists. Having their looks positively or negatively judged, or compared to others, is a common experience for women who speak in public forums. For trans people, this also often becomes a referendum on the very legitimacy of our genders. Such comments are never acceptable – transphobia, homophobia, misogyny and hate are never acceptable. During the next event, these comments will either be actively and strictly moderated, or switched off entirely. In either case, the panel must remain a safe place for its participants.

Bathroom breaks

One word: Spironolactone. No way around it, really.

By making the effort to enact all of these improvements, I’m confident that the next trans panel will be an event of unsurpassed quality. I hope that all of you will tune in once again – we promise it’ll be worth your time.

Comments

  1. Nentuaby says

    One word: Spironolactone. No way around it, really.

    *Looks up context.* Huh, used “primarily” as a diuretic? Ah, the details one misses, that inform our lives so heavily.

    Anyway… Hope to see all that quality analysis turned into a second episode not too long from now. :)

  2. Scr... Archivist says

    “White Lady Chat Featuring Five White Ladies”

    That sounds like a name for a Saturday Night Live sketch.

  3. says

    Yeah, I wasn’t sure what to make of the lack of trans men and genderqueer people on the panel, but it was still a great panel, and I look forward to the improved diversity next time.

    I also thought it was cool that there was trans presence on couple of the other panels (can’t remember which ones) and it didn’t have to be the central topic or anything.

  4. internetpal2012 says

    I really hope you don’t wait until early next year till you do another Google Hangout event like this one? I know you’re very busy with projects, your writing, your job where you work from home and future speaking engagements plus raising a family. But you’re not a single parent, this event did take place on a Sunday, the other people on the panel did look like they wanted it to continue on longer than you wanted them to.

    Most of the comments in the comments section were supportive. Ok, once in a while a unusual comment did appear. But everyone there were adults. I really hope you don’t use censorship in the next Google Hangout like you do on the LGBT/ Reddit or on any of your live shows? By doing so you treat everyone who go’s there like little children. This was started by your infamous partner who shall not be named here. She wants to treat everyone like their little kids in the schoolyard.

    It would be nice if she practiced what she preached but she doesn’t. Whenever she gets the chance to speak either at one of your live shows or online she curses like a drunken sailor. I can’t count the number of times she has cursed me our or shown utter contempt for people in general. I worry about you safety living with a woman like that, if she talks to people like that she no doubt talks to the people she lives with the same way.

  5. says

    Holy crap internetpal2012!?

    Maybe you should introspect about what is appropriate and inappropriate to comment on and not simply police the negative reaction you get. Perhaps? Protecting yourself from constant hateful speech is not “treating people like children” and not allowing people to inundate people you asked to be on a panel with hateful, triggering bullshit speech is also not “treating people like children”.

    It’s also frickin’ WEIRD for you to stand up for people’s right to vomit up transphobic homophobic and misogynist aggression and then complain about someone “cursing like a drunken sailor”?! Like what now?

    ANYWAY – I thought the panel was really great, and I appreciate the panelists sharing their insights.

    I didn’t know about the YouTube comments because I was in the chat. Let me know if you want any help with the next panel. My nephew might be willing to participate.

    If you have too many people, it might be too much. You could break it up into two panels with different focuses.

    • internetpal2012 says

      Please don’t put words in my mouth. I always thought there was something called “Freedom Of Speech?”. There was very little of “transphobic homophobic and misogynist aggression” whatever the hell all that means on the google hangout broadcast. What kind of questions can you ask a trans person without making them angry? Probably none at all.

      In the future Zinnia/Lauren should just ban all of the comments and also ban all comments on her you tube channel, and also keep on crushing any form of freedom of speech on the LGBT/ Reddit as well. North Korean Censorship should be used whenever possible to make sure everyone is always nice to each other at all times. Go read the book “1984” by George Orwell, I’m sure you’ll love the book to your heart’s content.

      • says

        She was talking about comments on Youtube and explained which comments were problematic and why – not the comments in the chat, which were civil.

        “What kind of questions can you ask a trans person without making them angry? Probably none at all.”

        If you have so little respect for transgender people why the hell do you want another panel?

        Have you had a chance to read some of the comments that wind up on ZJ’s YouTube channel? I have no idea how she is able to do what she does and deal with that shit constantly. Speakers should not have to be subjected to it in order to participate in the panel. Zinnia recognizes that.

        Yes, certainly my hyperbolic friend – having comments about how trangender women on a panel “rate” based on their fuckability censored on a YouTube comments section is the same thing as having a cage of rats bolted to your face to encourage you to love Big Brother and sever emotional ties with other human beings.

        “North Korean Censorship”?!

        Holy fuck, have some respect. Why don’t you just bring up the Holocaust too while your at it.

        • internetpal2012 says

          I’ll have you know I have plenty of respect for transgender people, I have gone so far as to make paypal donations to them, which is something I know your cheap little ass has never done. I’ve even met trans people in person, have you ever met one, I sure as hell doubt it. I have also “been” with a actual trans person like this one here, more than once http://classifieds.myredbook.com/classified.php?adid=117427 and it was all in the name in research only.So please, mind you own business, go out and look for a job. You sure as hell sound like you need one my dear.

  6. yuzufruit says

    I just stumbled onto the stream, and watched it earlier! Was great stuff. In particular I liked the way it challenged the idea that there’s one ‘standard’ narrative for our lives. Considering the systemic levels of gatekeeping that go on, and the way this is presently being challenged with different models of treatment based upon informed consent and the like, my hope is that this sort of misconception will dissipate, as I suspect it’s largely based less upon the experiences of our own lives and more upon the continual need to tell the standard ‘story’ to the gatekeepers in order to receive proper medical and legal care. Have happily followed all the participants on twitter, and look forward to hearing more! Would also love to converse about these matters sometime.

  7. psanity says

    I am very glad to have watched your panel, which I had to time-shift by a few hours. I’m still working my way through the weekend, but I was especially interested in the trans panel. As a straight, cis, woman, I feel like I need to know more than I do about, well, practically everything. I work for a nonprofit agency, and worked with teens for many years, and working with youth always makes you feel like you can’t possibly know enough. Reading your blog, and Natalie’s, has helped a huge amount with not being a total ass when I’m talking with folks at Pride events or whatever. Out here in Rural Western US Land, there is so little structural, org, or peer support for LGBTQ folks generally, but especially kids.

    In this environment, I feel acutely that it’s my responsibility to be supportive, accessible, and have some reasonable amount of clue. I need language to understand, and express myself. I need context. I need resources to turn to, and direct others to. I need to be able to make sense when I’m the person in the room who calls out bigoted jokes or language.

    So, I have to say that just watching the discussion, hearing the conversation, was kind of thrillingly helpful for me. I was disappointed that there were no men or people of color on the panel, but I figured it was an issue of time and logistics (as indeed it was). And, the panel was actually very diverse, in a certain sense — very different life experience, decisions, etc. The discussion of being trans and having medical issues or disabilities was very interesting to me, as someone who has often struggled to get medical providers to understand how my whacko immune system does and does not affect other things. Yet, it never had occurred to me that is an extra hassle for trans folk, even though it’s sort of blindingly obvious. A “D’oh!” moment.

    It is lousy and rotten, and unfortunately about what we expect, that the panelists got abusive crap from commenters. I so much wish for a world where that doesn’t happen.Thank you so much to all the panelists for participating. Conversations like this actually do make the world better. I know you all know that; but I hope saying it helps to balance the crap, a little. Your discussion was so informative, and funny, and moving, and inclusive. I’m looking forward to the next incarnation already.

    • yuzufruit says

      “The discussion of being trans and having medical issues or disabilities was very interesting to me, as someone who has often struggled to get medical providers to understand how my whacko immune system does and does not affect other things. Yet, it never had occurred to me that is an extra hassle for trans folk, even though it’s sort of blindingly obvious. A “D’oh!” moment.”

      Agreed! I enjoyed that part a lot too. I know in my personal situation, it’s been both a source of anxiety for me about the physical aspects of transition (ie – is this going to make my health worse?) and as someone with an ‘invisible’ illness, a source of anxiety about somehow making that even more invisible – because of the possibility that people will only see me as ‘trans’ and in the process erasing all I go through and have gone through because of my medical situation.

      • CaitieCat says

        I dunno if it’ll help or not, but I worried for a long time about people finding out about my history, for exactly the reason you cite: I don’t want to become anyone’s “I’ve Got a Trans Friend” trophy, and become seen as “that trans woman I know, Caitie” rather than “Caitie, my friend, who oh yeah, happens to be trans”.

        The weird part is, the best way I’ve come across to ensure that is simply to not be hidden among my friends, and to not care about anyone who isn’t affecting my ability to live otherwise. There can be an initial phase of awkward when people find out, but that usually passes with anyone I would actually want to be friends with. I hope you have good luck in finding new friends and keeping old ones. :)

  8. John Pieret says

    Because this is YouTube, our panelists were exposed to the worst sexism, homophobia, transphobia, and general hate that the internet is capable of. One issue in particular was the number of comments where people felt it was necessary to offer their uninvited opinions on how ugly we were, how pretty we were, or how pretty or ugly we were compared to our fellow panelists. Having their looks positively or negatively judged, or compared to others, is a common experience for women who speak in public forums.

    While, of course, you are ccorrect, it is inevitable thst this will happen. The comments about the appearnce of Michelle Obama among the idiotacrasy are no less demeaning. For the time being, as painful as it may be, I think you will have to endure those kind of comments, with the knowledge that the people who make them are are far more ugly than anyone has a right to be.

    I thought all of you were beautiful, which has almost nothing at all to do wth your appearance. It shines from within.

  9. great1american1satan says

    While I think it would be great to be able to have open comments, you obviously can’t, in this toxic culture we have. The people trying to freeze up some peaches here are either immune to the harmful effects of insult (good for you!) and therefore incapable of empathizing about the issue, or they are trying to keep the door open for abusers (hello sheisty slymers!).

    I suspect you guys are the former and not the latter, in which case, eh, sorry about your peaches but some people care more about their mental health than insuring everybody gets to say whatever they want to whomever they want at all times unto the ends of the earth. Try to understand, and go vent about it in your uncensored spaces. I know you have them.

  10. CaitieCat says

    There were definitely trans* people on other panels; I can say this as I was on another panel, and I am a trans woman. It didn’t really come up in the topic, so it didn’t come up on the panel, but then, there’s no particular reason it should, so as noted above: goodness achieved, trans-ness normalized, for one hour anyway.

    I hadn’t thought of the inside/outside US thing, when I saw the lineup of five white trans women, I figured adding another wouldn’t help much, but I am at least outside the US, barely (America Lite, actually, north of the border), and I could probably find Canada- and/or UK-based folk, including men and non-binary people and PoC, if you’re looking for people for the next one, Zinnia.

    The probability of finding useful comments in a Youtube thread generally makes me write off the idea of consulting them at all. I haven’t, nor will I, had a look at those on my own panel. Don’t care. Long as they’re not in my space, I don’t much give a rat’s arse. But then, I take advantage of the privilege of a ‘nym, so that helps a lot.

  11. says

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