Are you now or have you ever been

I almost never close posts to comments here, but I closed one just now because it was an explosion of inquisitorial dogmatic stupid. I deleted the last few comments, so don’t bother looking for them.

Don’t ever, ever ask me questions of the form: “Do you think X is Y, yes or no?”

And don’t ever follow up such a question (or any question) with “be aware that ‘yes, but’ or any other kind of ‘sort of’ or ‘maybe’” will be treated as a no and you will be excommunicated accordingly.

Just fuck right off with that kind of thing, because it’s ordering me not to think and analyze but just say yes or no, and that’s not what I want to be doing. I don’t do yes or no questions, and I don’t want people here prancing around like cops demanding that I do.

Yes or no questions are of no interest. Pretending that the way to deal with complicated and/or contentious subjects is to reduce them to yes or no is the enemy of thought.

I refuse to make that kind of forced choice. I refuse to be told to limit my answer to yes or no.

Then again I probably don’t even need to say this, because y’all don’t try to ask questions in that form or bully me into answering them in that form. It’s only people drunk on what they take to be the most radical of all radical politics who do that, and they mostly don’t read this blog, because it’s not their kind of thing.


  1. Freodin says

    I am sorry, I didn’t want to come over as “inquisitorial”.

    But at least it wasn’t me who demanded such a “yes or no” only questions. (I admit that I have been confronted with such, and I hate it.). My question was just meant to solve my personal confusion about your personal position. It might just be my limited mental capacities, but based on the ongoing conversation I was just a little uncertain just what you were arguing for and against.

    Please don’t be offended!

  2. anon1152 says

    I fear I’m guilty of asking those yes/no questions too. Like Freodin, I tend to ask them to get clear on what someone’s position is (rather than just assuming). For the record: “yes but” and “no but” answers make my world go ’round.

  3. yazikus says

    That sounds like a very tedious thread! I’m rather glad to have missed it. I appreciate your refusal to be boxed in like that.

  4. deepak shetty says

    I dont know what this is about – but the binary programmer in me is offended. It’s all 1 and 0.

  5. says


    (Begin pedantry) Mind, at the physical level, all that code runs and all that binary data lives in wires and resistors and transistors and diodes arranged in such a fashion that anything above 2 something volts gets treated as one, everything below as zero (assuming 3.3V logic), and we tend to build things in such a fashion that the upstream logic is sufficiently emphatic about its ones (2.4V should be clear enough) and zeroes that there’s little ambiguity. But it’s not so much you can never say ‘maybe’ as the logic you’re driving with it is going to take it as one or t’other anyway…

    Which, come to think of it, reminds me of some people I know.

    … And of course, you can absolutely arrange software to express ‘maybe’ or ‘sort of’ or ‘sometimes but with at least these qualifications’… It’s just that, if you’re running it on something digital, at some level of the system, it has to get pretty definite about that maybe.

    (/Which, come to think of, I heartily approve of. Because, quite frequently, when it really is ‘sometimes’ or ‘maybe’ or ‘with many qualifications’, I find I have to be pretty damned definite about it. Emphatic, even. Generally to get it through exactly the same people’s heads.)

  6. says

    I dont know what this is about – but the binary programmer in me is offended. It’s all 1 and 0.

    I would also be offended if my computer only gave one bit answers. Having lots of bits helps, sort of. 😉

  7. says

    … come to think of it, I’d like to own a three-sided coin.

    You could sort of do it. Four, of course, is a bit easier, being a Platonic solid. But come up with anything that’s inherently unstable lying on the remaining surfaces normally made necessary by conventional geometry (same as a coin is on other than the standard two that get all the attention), and you’ve got three, close enough. A triangular thing with large faces, the centre of gravity nestled deep between them, and long spindles tending to upend it onto one of the three you’re trying to constrain things between, though, would get you there, more or less. Essentially a three-sided dreidel or teetotum.

    … it amuses me a bit. Pull it out, say just ‘call it’. Paint two faces like some common coin, wherever you usually live. The third contains perhaps the likeness of Cthulu…

    … come to think of it, a better illustration is maybe a solid that doesn’t even have the spindle. Just curve the surfaces so you only wind up with the three, and they’re also where you’d have had the spindle. Thing really only has three surfaces, two vertices, three (also curved) edges.

    (/… and this, no doubt, is why I get invited to so many parties.)

  8. says

    I can’t actually see any legitimate point to the question that is not inquisitory. Are you US or are you THEM? I mean obviously the answer is yes, and if anyone says no they’re a bigot. But then what? Does this close all other questions?

    it’s also obvious that trans women have different experiences of being women than do cis women. As also the 1%er experience of womanhood is different from that of poor women, and black from white from Asian, and lesbian from bi from straight. This is why we have intersectionality, and why we need to listen and learn from each other. And why shutting conversation down is baad, mmmkay?

  9. Pierce R. Butler says

    The title phrase here activated a long-lost tune in my head (whose lyrics I do not doubt all here will appreciate): the criminally-underfamous Washington Squares singing Other Side of Sin.

  10. latsot says

    I have difficulty understanding why people feel it’s OK to make demands of bloggers. Blogger said something you don’t agree with? Complain. Blogger didn’t listen to your complaint? Complain elsewhere, if you want. Your expectation of the blogger’s behaviour is cute but futile.

    We all live in hope that our favourite bloggers will usually say things we agree with, but that hope says a shitload more about us than it does about them.

  11. John Morales says


    We all live in hope that our favourite bloggers will usually say things we agree with, but that hope says a shitload more about us than it does about them.

    To be fair, Ophelia does interact with (and accommodate) commenters regularly.
    But yes, there’s a substantive difference between a genuine question/request and an accusative demand based on an alleged suspicion.

  12. latsot says

    John @21:

    Yes, I was already being fair. I know Ophelia talks to commenters. For instance, she talks to me, sometimes! Sometimes she tells me off. Sometimes I deserve it.

    My point is that we can demand whatever we like from Ophelia but she has absolutely no obligation to deliver. Reading her blog gives us no claim over what she should write. Several people on Twitter seem to think otherwise. That’s the thing I don’t understand.

  13. says

    Demanding an answer to a question like that is just more bullying, imo. And if there’s one thing that Ophelia won’t tolerate, it’s bullying. Of course the answer-my-question-demanders interpret her refusal to engage with their bullying to be some sort of tacit admission that she’s ZOMG A TERF.

  14. brucegorton says

    AJ Milne

    Aren’t most coins three sided? I mean because the coin is round the edge is one side.

  15. says


    Heh. I salute your superior pedantry! But this, too, seems to me a bit of an illustration. Trick would be arranging to it’s at all likely to land on the edge and stay there…

    (/Perhaps a very thin strip of velcro around the edge…)

  16. anon1152 says

    I got it!

    No velcro needed.

    A three sided coin could be made if you just make it thicker.

    If it were a cylindrical prism, where the length of the cylinder is about equal to the diameter of the circular sides. That way it would be about as likely to land on its side as on the “heads” or “tails” side.

    Has this been invented yet? Should I have taken this idea to the patent office before revealing it to the internet here?

  17. says


    Well, I just engaged a Chinese factory to crank out a few tens of thousands of those for sale in novelty shops and on the web.

    (/So: yes. You should have.)

  18. Z says

    Meanwhile, elsewhere on FtB:

    As a result, apparently, a ton of people who aren’t even anywhere near Glasgow and have no reason to concern themselves with its Pride events started heaping threats and harassment onto the organizers. While it sounds like the organizers rescinded the ban at least in part because they had changed their minds on the issue, it also sounds like it might’ve been an act of self-preservation in response to bullying. (Which, by the way, is what it is when you get people to change their opinions or behavior by sending them death threats.)

  19. elephantasy says

    The Brute Reason post Z links to is illuminating. I find the concept of “competing access needs” compelling. I also liked the linked article from The Unit of Caring, safe spaces and competing access needs, as it describes arguments very much like those that seem to get out of hand in places I read. I love the concept of a “safe space for people who perseverate on weird hypothetical questions”, and the discussion of how such questions are important to and needed by some people for dealing with an issue, but incredibly offensive to others.

  20. Sili says

    An ordinary d6 (is that the right nomenclature?) is already three-sideed if you work modulo 3. Why reinvent the wheel?

  21. says

    Z @ 30 – why did you post that? Are you saying I incited death threats against the people at Free Pride? Or that I heaped threats and harassment on them myself? Or that I bullied them? Or all those?

  22. Z says

    Are you saying I incited death threats against the people at Free Pride? Or that I heaped threats and harassment on them myself? Or that I bullied them? Or all those?

    No, no, no, and no.

    why did you post that?

    I posted the link, because I thought that I may not be the only one interested in following up on the Pride story, that it’s a perspective that deserves attention, and the comments to the original discussion of the event on this blog got locked, so I couldn’t post the link there.

    I posted the excerpt, because I guessed that it would be more eye-catching than just the bare link. AFAIK, the audience here cares about harassment a bit more than average.

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