Thirdmill301 and Cis Cowardice

Normally I respond to people talking about trans lives in comment threads in those comment threads. Partially this is because I really do believe in the power of discussing and exchange of information. Yes, I can be harsh on people who, in my opinion, have commented enough times in ways that repeat errors which have been corrected in the same thread that I believe it’s reasonable to infer that they aren’t actually learning from the tactics of helpful education. At that point, I usually decide to change tactics, and one set of tactics involves going for the jugular of a bad argument. Despite the harshness with which I treat those bad arguments, I’ve historically wanted to maintain those responses in the same threads as the comments which occasioned them.

But today, I’ve decided to change tactics, because I believe that sometimes it simply isn’t enough to directly address one person in a thread while the conversation goes on around us. For that reason, I’m going to do a couple posts responding to thread comments with blog posts. And I’m going to start with a bit by Thirdmill301:

that’s the danger here: It is possible to support transgender equality and transgender rights while at the same time recognizing that not every demand made by someone who is transgendered is a reasonable demand. But, anyone who says, “That’s not a reasonable demand” risks getting attacked for being a transphobic bigot. And by the way, there is room for honest disagreement over what is, and is not, a reasonable demand.

Thirdmill says in the Pharyngula thread The Atheist Experience is going away, that “that’s the danger here”, but what is this danger?

anyone who says, “That’s not a reasonable demand” risks getting attacked for being a transphobic bigot

The asymmetry here is as laughable as that of men who engage in misogyny while whining about how much it wounds them when women act as if they’re autonomous persons acting on their own preferences and making their own decisions by declining the offer to go on a date.

Let’s first realize that anyone who says, “I happen to be trans,” in a huge number of states and countries risks being fired from their job without any recourse? Anyone who says, “I happen to be trans,” risks being accused of “raping all women”. In fact, as soon as a person comes out as MtF, they arguably have been accused of “raping all women” by merely existing, even if the accusation hasn’t named them specifically. Since at least the 1970s if not before it has been an article of faith among far too many that this is true.

Yes. If you argue against the equal treatment of trans* people under the law because you believe that equal treatment of trans* persons under the law will lead to whatever, then whether or not your beliefs about the consequences of new law or policy are well founded, you’re taking a risk that someone might actually think that you’re cissexist. They might even say so out loud or on the internet.

Is that going to kill the alleged transphobe’s marriage or long term relationship? Are that person’s parents going to disown them because some random person on the internet said that they’re transphobic? Will the head of their religion insist that they will no longer receive access to the rites of purification or atonement, without which they are presumed to deserve eternal, agonizing, torture? Will they be targeted for murder by people who actually, fundamentally believe that you’re destroying civilization and that your continued existence threatens the lives and souls of their children? Will they be harassed by police on the street without probable cause? Will they be subject to violence and detention by the power of the state?

Is there even one single example of one single person who got fired merely because some random person on the internet thought an arguably reasonable argument sounded transphobic?

I mean, let’s just lay our cards on the table here. Trans people are afraid cis people will kill them. Cis people are afraid a trans person might mistakenly describe them with a word that only arguably, but not certainly, applies to them.

I really don’t know how to give this idea more contempt than it deserves. Yes. If you have a conversation with someone, it’s possible that that person might think worse of you than you actually deserve. If you have a conversation with someone, they might not only think that, but they might actually communicate their not-fully-justified bad feelings about you to someone else in sign or out loud or in writing. This isn’t unique to conversations about the meaning of legal equality of trans persons. This happens in conversations about pineapple on pizza. The only way to avoid the possibility that someone, somewhere might think less of you then you deserve is to never interact with people in the hope that they won’t think of you at all.

So… the Thirdmill301 argument is that because cis people are fucking cowards, what, exactly? It’s hard to know, because Thirdmill301 never specifies what action might need to be taken in light of this terrible threat to cis dignity. It is the unfortunate truth that Thirdmill301’s rant about how it is literally possible in the world today for someone to use a word that is less than fully justified … connects with nothing. It is entirely gratuitous. There’s no recommendation for how to limit this risk in the future. There’s no list of the great many harms that have resulted from the slightly-too-casual use of the word “transphobe”. Nothing.

Yet Thirdmill301 certainly doesn’t bring it up in a context where the only topic of discussion is the particular behavior of a particular individual who should bear individual responsibility for their personal choices. Nope. That would be weirdly disconnected from the topic at hand, but at least one could argue that sufficient evidence is in to judge that one person’s behavior as good-or-not-good. Not so with the behavior of the legal system or the operation of non-discrimination law, unless Thirdmill301 wishes to argue that, unlike every other human being, trans* persons’ claims under Canadian provincial Human Rights Codes should never be filed and a hearing on them should never be held. And yet, Thirdmill301 states,

I support full legal equality for the transgendered.

and it’s sure hard to make that consistent with the idea that trans* claims under provincial law should be preemptively denied even pro forma consideration.

There simply is no coherent critique of, well, anything. Certainly there’s no critique of The Atheist Experience or The Atheist Community of Austin. There’s no critique of the FtB decision to no longer host the AXP blog. There’s no critique of the process by which FtB reached such a decision. There’s really nothing but,


And so there is no point to bringing up a legal case which has not yet been decided because Thirdmill301 has an opinion on what the optimal outcome of the case should be, not unless the entire point was simply to bash trans* advocates for actually, well, advocating.

It’s almost as if this entire, gratuitous digression is intended to make others reticent to speak up when they perceive injustice on the off chance that they might be wrong, because the extensively documented consequences to cis people who were wrongly accused of transphobia once dramatically outweigh any possible benefit of publicly discussing transphobia, cissexism, and the manifestations of each.

Dare I say it? That makes Thirdmill301’s comment seem downright




  1. John Morales says

    Perhaps you’re overthinking the intent; I read it as basically “FtB got it wrong by supporting unreasonable demands”. Was a bit oblique about it, and I have good idea as to why.

    (Also, your post as it stands indicates a missing section)

  2. says

    The whole argument reeks of the old, “well, if you atheists weren’t so shrill, then people might like you more”. Good thing ol’ TiredThirdmill301 is here to ‘splain the difference between “reasonable” and “unreasonable” demands!

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