Trans panels at FtBCon 2!

This year’s FtBCon, running from January 31 through February 2, will have three trans panels on awesomely diverse topics. These include:

Between A Rock And…: Non-Binary Gender in Atheism (February 1, 11 AM – 12 PM)

When women started talking about women’s issues in the skeptic and atheist movements, it created an incredibly charged atmosphere within those communities. A couple years later, we’re still having this heated discussion. In talking about gender-related issues, how well do people within the community address trans* people, particularly non-binary-identified individuals? Is there an overlap between misogynistic attitudes and transphobic attitudes? Is non-binary erasure a problem for the atheist/skeptic communities? What place do binary and non-binary trans* people have within the community, and what are their contributions?

Trans* Representation in Video Games (February 1, 8 PM – 9 PM)

The few transgender characters in the video gaming world are problematic, if not outright dehumanizing. But are there representatives that aren’t complete stereotypes or foils for transphobic narratives?

Trans Men and Trans Masculinity (February 2, 1 PM – 2 PM)

The transgender male and trans masculine community includes people with a wide range of identities and lived experiences. Panelists will answer some common myths and questions and share their lived experiences. We will also address some of the similarities and differences between our experiences and those of trans women and cisgender people.

These panels feature some of the brightest minds in the trans and secular communities. Be there!

I don’t want to be “one of the good ones”

A long-awaited companion piece for Heina.

If you’ve ever favorably contrasted me against other trans people or atheists or queer folks or anyone else like me, just because I’ve been quiet when they’ve been outspoken in the face of wrongdoing, or I was overly patient and indulgent of ignorance when they’ve been rightfully terse: fuck you.

Stop it. I don’t want your support or approval. I am not on your side. I am not one of you. I want to be like them – not like you. I don’t want to be one of your “good ones”.

I’ll define this type of situation by way of example. A few months back, I was mentioned on Anton A. Hill’s blog in a list of several people with whom he’d recently had productive conversations on issues like feminism and trans stuff. In my case, this was because I happened to be in a friendly mood when he asked me a question that involved the phrase “born w/ a peepee”.

This was just one instance of a pattern that was repeated throughout the post: his surprise that his criticism of Freethought Blogs as a whole was handled calmly by NonStampCollector, or that a member of Secular Woman “respected” his “right to disagree with her” on issues of feminism (as if how people regard a man’s opinion of feminism is in any way connected to individual rights and freedoms), or that Marisa Gallego “maintained politeness” when he “downright called her on her shit” in their discussion of trans matters.

I’ll ask you to take a moment and think about which of these people you expect I’d be more inclined to align myself with – him, or the people who graciously “maintained politeness” when addressing his “born w/ a peepee”-level views on these issues.

Reading this post made me rather suspicious of what he was aiming to convey. As I found out by the end, it was nothing good: he capped it all off with vague criticism of fellow FTBer Ophelia Benson, and how his experiences with her had led him to suspect that all our conversations would descend into a “vicious, name-calling flame war”. We were the good ones… so who were the bad ones? In his estimation, she was.

I don’t agree with this at all. I don’t want to be used as a plank of someone’s argument in their ongoing grudge against FTB or Ophelia or Jen or Greta or Stephanie or Rebecca or Amy or any of the other women in the community who’ve continually stood up against harassment and threats. I don’t want to be an example cited by someone who thinks silence, or meek civility, is a norm we should all aspire to when faced with this. No – I would want such a person to know that I am not on their side here. I am not going to agree with them. I am not going to be complicit in being set apart from admirable and resilient people who have faced down this kind of abuse.

Does anyone really, honestly expect that my views come anywhere near “yeah, screw Ophelia for not suffering fools gladly! I’m with ya, buddy!”?

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This happened again after I was recently on TV to discuss the Chelsea Manning case, trans people in the US military, and access to transition care for trans inmates. Another blogger, Nelson Garcia, said I was “doing a stellar job explaining why it’s important for that person formerly known as Bradley to receive hormone therapy while she serves out her time.”

Much-appreciated praise – were it not surrounded by use of the word “tranny” (which he believes is a measured response to use of “the cis word”). Also, the claim that trans women “are just men who’ve deluded themselves and others into believing they’re women”. And the use of “he” in reference to a well-known trans woman activist. And – yes, he actually did this – nitpicking about the particular kind of surgeries she’s had, and calling this a “con” to have her identity documents updated. Oh, and then he called her a “media whore”.

I mean, holy shit.

Do you think I ever, at any point, would want a person like this to tell me I’m “doing a stellar job”? Does their judgment seem to be of such quality that I should even want to be on their good side?

Nothing I’ve ever done makes me any better than the other trans women he’s insulted and personally attacked in ways that are egregious and invasive even by the usual transphobe standards. And nothing I’ve done makes me better than, say, women on Twitter who just plain don’t feel like educating people from scratch on things like trans stuff and sexism. That’s their prerogative and it’s perfectly valid – it doesn’t make them any worse than me. Not everyone is always, or ever, inclined to get into it with people who are potentially hostile to the very foundations of their equality as human beings. We’re not all equipped to confront that every day, or any day. We shouldn’t have to be, and we shouldn’t be seen as any worse for not wanting to do so.

When what I say is used to fuel some expectation that we should all be unfailingly kind and patient in the face of nonsense, I don’t feel good about that. It’s not something I want my words to be used for at all, and such approval is not something I seek. When they try to separate us into “good ones” and “bad ones” based on how agreeable they find us, it’s often my friends who are considered the “bad ones”. And I know who I’d rather be with.

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.

FtBCon trans panel of transness! Myths and Facts About Trans People

As part of Freethought Blogs’ online FtBCon conference this weekend, we’re hosting a live Google Hangouts discussion on “Myths and Facts About Trans People” this Sunday from 5 – 6 PM Central time. Our panelists include five trans women: Trinity Aodh of the Secular Woman advisory board, Autumn Nicole Bradley (Lydia Neon), Ellen Crouch, Amy Dentata, and me. We’ll be discussing the various misconceptions about trans people that have proliferated in the public consciousness, followed by questions from the audience. If you’d like to watch the live stream, just go to the Google+ event page. The entire panel will also be recorded and saved to YouTube afterward. We hope to see you there!

A hearty welcome to Tauriq Moosa!

As FTB continues its unstoppable spread across the internet, we’ve now acquired a fantastic new member: Tauriq Moosa! I find his areas of focus very interesting…

Tauriq Moosa writes on ethical matters in the news. He writes a regular blog at BigThink.com on so-called “taboo” issues, like incest, infanticide and cannibalism, examining whether evidence matches outrage. He has tutored bioethics and critical thinking.

…not only as someone with a very personal stake in un-tabooing certain widely stigmatized identities and activities, but also as someone who just plain loves picking apart conventional wisdom and traditional attitudes in ethics.

Welcome, Yemisi!

FTB welcomes an awesome new member today: Yemisi Ilesanmi of YEMMYnisting! Yemisi describes herself as follows:

Yemisi Ilesanmi is a Nigerian woman, resident in UK. She holds a Masters of Law (LL.M) degree in Gender, Sexuality and Human Rights. She is a trade unionist, human rights activist, an author, a poet and sometimes moonlights as a plus size model. She is a passionate campaigner for equal rights, social justice and poverty alleviation. Her debut book ‘Freedom To Love For ALL: Homosexuality is Not Un-African’ is available in paperback and kindle editions on Amazon (www.amazon.com/dp/1481864815). In sometimes, what she thinks as a past life, she was- – National Women leader/Assistant National Secretary, Nigeria Labour Party. – Vice President, International Trade Union Congress – Chairperson, ITUC Youth Committee – International Labour Conference (ILC) Committee Member on Applications of Standards – Founder/President, National Association of Nigerian Female Students She is the founder and coordinator of the campaign group Nigerian LGBTIs in Diaspora Against Anti-Same Sex Laws.

Needless to say, I share many of her interests, and it’s wonderful to have her here. I’m definitely looking forward to reading her work.

Time to help one of our own

Ed Brayton, who founded Freethought Blogs and continues to run it with incomparable prowess, has just been through the rather terrifying ordeal of open heart surgery. He’s okay and on the road to recovery, but even with insurance, there are still plenty of out-of-pocket expenses to be paid. Ed is the reason FTB is here, and if there’s anything you can spare, please consider helping him by donating whatever you can.