Cartoon: Terfluffle in the Supermarket


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This cartoon was written by me and drawn by my most frequent collaborator, Becky Hawkins. Becky also came up with the title. Thanks Becky!


(For those of you who don’t know, “TERF” is short for “Trans Exclusive Radical Feminist.”)

Here’s something I can say for certain: When they notice this cartoon, I’ll be insulted by some TERFs, not in a “I think your cartoon sucks” way but in a “you’re a fat p.o.s. who should die” way. Of all the groups I’ve insulted in my cartoons, only the racist antisemites are more consistently hateful than the TERFs. And, of course, TERFs are kind to me compared to how they treat trans women.

It a subculture – much like the Men’s Right’s subculture – in which people sit in a bubble and egg each other on into becoming ever more bigoted. To such an extent that all of the horrible things the TERF in our cartoon says, are things I’ve seen TERFs say in real life.


TRANSCRIPT OF CARTOON

This cartoon has four panels.

PANEL 1

Two women are talking in a supermarket. The first, a woman with stylish glasses and her blonde hair pulled into a low bun, and wearing a reddish orange dress with matching shoes, is grinning with a smug expression and holding up her phone to show the other woman.

The second woman has short brown hair, worn in a style called a “quiff”:  “short hair that’s left longer on top and dramatically swept to the side.” She’s wearing jeans, brown boots, an open red button-up shirt over a white tee, and four piercings in her ear.

The two are waiting on line by a counter at a supermarket; we can see a glassed-in counter (like a Supermarket deli) behind them, with ad pictures on the wall showing a sub sandwich, a big joint of meat with slices carved off, and a salad.

GLASSES: As a feminist, I look for small ways to fight misogyny every day!

BOOTS: What a great idea!

PANEL 2

A close up of Glasses, holding up her phone in one hand, and raising her other hand’s forefinger to make a point, still smiling widely.

GLASSES: Like, here on FaceBook I told a trans “woman” that he‘s just a man in a dress!

GLASSES: And on Twitter I said that all transgenders rape women by appropriating women’s bodies!

PANEL 3

Another close up of Glasses, reading her own screen and laughing big, but with a rather mean expression.

GLASSES: And here, I said transgender “women” are to women what Twinkies are to food!

GLASSES (very large): HA!

PANEL 4

In a shot similar to panel 1’s shot, we see Glasses continuing to smile and talk to Boots. Boots, with a horrified expression, has turned away from Glasses and is now holding her own smartphone, which she’s frenetically typing on with a forefinger.

GLASSES: So what’s a small way you’re fighting misogyny?

BOOTS: Telling everyone I’ve ever met to block you.

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38 Responses to Cartoon: Terfluffle in the Supermarket

  1. 1
    J. Squid says:

    I’ve heard all but panel 3 and I can’t disagree with it more. I’m a lot more like a Big Wheel than I’m like a Twinkie.

  2. 2
    Görkem says:

    I am curious Amp, of all the groups you have criticised in your comics, which is the group that is least consistently hateful?

  3. 3
    Ampersand says:

    Gorkem, I have no idea. There are plenty of comics where I never hear any objection, though.

  4. 4
    nobody.really says:

    Fun, pointed cartoon, with a sharp, pithy punchline. Well crafted.

    But, at the risk of sounding like a fuddy-duddy, I regret that the blow our hero strikes in her progressive cause is — cancelling.

    Sure, people should feel free to discontinue communications as an act of self-care. But if the goal is to advance a cause, I prefer to regard communication–and relationships generally–as a tool, not as a reward. It’s investment, not consumption. The reward comes from helping other people grow (and perhaps from growing ourselves), not by insulating ourselves from people who hold different views. And mostly, we can extend (and receive) this help when we are in a relationship with people who hold different views.

    That said, I engage in almost no social media, and rarely speak to a broad, anonymous audience other than on blogs such as this. So perhaps my perspective is inapplicable to the context depicted in the cartoon. You know, the whole fuddy-duddy thang….

  5. 5
    Görkem says:

    The hysteria about “cancel culture” is just a neo-conservative rearguard attempting to discredit progressive activism.

    This cartoon illustrates as well as anything why so-called “cancel culture” is healthy, useful and progressive.

  6. 6
    nobody.really says:

    Glad to hear it.

    How?

  7. 7
    J. Squid says:

    The hysteria about “cancel culture” is just a neo-conservative rearguard attempting to discredit progressive activism.

    Seconded.

    Cancel Culture is just as real as The War On Christmas ™. That is to say that both are bullshit that they made up as an excuse for their complaints about being oppressed and suppressed.

  8. 8
    Görkem says:

    “How?”

    Pardon?

  9. 9
    nobody.really says:

    This cartoon illustrates as well as anything why so-called “cancel culture” is healthy, useful and progressive.

    How?

    Pardon?

    How does the cartoon illustrate why so-called “cancel culture” is healthy, useful and progressive? In the final panel, Boots says that she’s fighting misogyny by seeking to limit the ability of Glasses to communicate with people. What utility do you find in that? Can you trace a line of causation linking this action to some advancement of a progressive agenda?

  10. 10
    Görkem says:

    Yes, if people are warned, they will avoid contact with a TERF, hich means they will avoid misogynist abuse. I don’t know if you know but we progressives are pretty keen on reducing the amount of misogynist abuse going on.

  11. 11
    nobody.really says:

    [I]f people are warned, they will avoid contact with a TERF, which means they will avoid misogynist abuse.

    Fair enough–if I accept your unstated premise that speech is harm, and to protect people from harm we need to protect them from encountering speech that they might disagree with. The logical consequence of this strategy is that people of all perspectives–progressive, conservative, whatever–retreat into enclaves where they don’t have to encounter ideas they do not already share.

    Another perspective would advocate maintaining relationships with people who hold ideas that differ from your own, and engaging with them. People who hold this perspective might regard the act of severing such relationships as a failure to advance an agenda (progressive or otherwise), but rather a retreat. Honestly, if Glasses discovered that a number of people had blocked her messages, would this discovery alter her beliefs or behavior? Indeed, would she even know the reason that people had blocked her?

    Now, at the outset, I acknowledged that “people should feel free to discontinue communications as an act of self-care.” So if you find yourself sufficiently threatened by speech that you feel you must disengage, I get that. But I wouldn’t kid myself that this strategy was advancing a progressive cause. Consumption is not the same as investment; retreat is not the same as advance. Withdrawal is a strategy that promotes the interest of the person withdrawing–not to promote the interests of some progressive cause.

    On his Tweet scroll, Amp includes someone citing John Lewis’s farewell statement, saying “When you see something that is not right, you must say something … Democracy is not a state. It is an act, and each generation must do its part.” Now, perhaps Lewis wasn’t talking about the kind of circumstance depicted in the cartoon. Who knows if he ever confronted something as awful as disparaging tweets. Still, I think it’s a perspective worth considering.

  12. 12
    Ampersand says:

    Fair enough–if I accept your unstated premise that speech is harm, and to protect people from harm we need to protect them from encountering speech that they might disagree with. The logical consequence of this strategy is that people of all perspectives–progressive, conservative, whatever–retreat into enclaves where they don’t have to encounter ideas they do not already share.

    No – the unstated premise is that some people would rather not encounter certain kinds of speech. Or would like to be able to control the context for encountering certain kinds of speech. And (returning to my comic strip), letting people know “this person gets their jollies by finding trans women on the internet to make transphobic and misogynistic comments to, so I’m telling folks to block her” allows each individual to decide what to do for themselves.

    Your response to my strip does something that a lot of anti-blocking people do, Nobody – you conflate blocking even an obviously abusive person who is making comments in bad faith – Glasses in my cartoon – with blocking all dissent and all differing worldviews. But that’s ridiculous.

    Someone came into comments a couple of weeks ago with “Barry you fat piece of shit you’re gonna die soon” sort of language. I shrugged it off and deleted it. Does that mean that I refuse to ever engage with any view but my own on the subject of fat acceptance? Of course not. It means that I’m choosing to control what kind of engagement to have. For me, personally, I don’t want to spend time with people who are being mean to me. That doesn’t mean I’m “hurt,” and that doesn’t mean that I won’t ever talk to people who don’t agree with me.

    That’s me. If someone else decides they don’t want to engage at all, that’s fine too.

    And you needn’t worry about people from oppressed or marginalized groups “retreat[ing] into enclaves where they don’t have to encounter ideas they do not already share.” Because anti-trans views (or anti-fat views, or misogynistic views, etc etc etc) are everywhere. We’ve seen them. We’ve heard them. We’ve read them. They’re on TV, in the magazines, and all over the internet. And for most people, not encountering those views is not and never will be an option. What people are choosing to do, for the most part, is take control (not total control, that’s not possible, but some control) of when they’ll expose themselves to the metaphorical fire hose of the dominant position.

  13. 13
    Ampersand says:

    Now, perhaps Lewis wasn’t talking about the kind of circumstance depicted in the cartoon. Who knows if he ever confronted something as awful as disparaging tweets. Still, I think it’s a perspective worth considering.

    Are you intending to come across as disdainful, condescending and sarcastic? If so, well done. If not, perhaps you should pull it back a couple of notches.

    Edited to add: Is there a name for this sort of fallacy? I think Amanda Marcotte once called it the “I’ll show you what suffering is, bitch” fallacy; the claim that, because something isn’t as bad as what John Lewis (or the Jews during the holocaust, or slaves, or women in Saudi Arabia, etc etc) went through, it is therefore something that should be too trivial for people to complain about at all.

  14. 14
    Görkem says:

    @Ampersand: Thank you for responding to nobody.really’s strawmanning better than I ever could.

  15. 15
    Ampersand says:

    Gorkem, I’m glad you liked my comments. :-)

    Are you intending to come across as disdainful, condescending and sarcastic? If so, well done. If not, perhaps you should pull it back a couple of notches.

    Ironically, on rereading, I think I too should have pulled this back a couple of notches. Sorry, Nobody.

  16. 16
    nobody.really says:

    Are you intending to come across as disdainful, condescending and sarcastic?

    Only as disdainful, condescending and sarcastic as someone who says, “I don’t know if you know but we progressives are pretty keen on reducing the amount of misogynist abuse going on.”

    Is there a name for this sort of fallacy? I think Amanda Marcotte once called it the “I’ll show you what suffering is, bitch” fallacy; the claim that, because something isn’t as bad as what John Lewis (or the Jews during the holocaust, or slaves, or women in Saudi Arabia, etc etc) went through, it is therefore something that should be too trivial for people to complain about at all.

    Maybe there’s a name for that. But that’s not what’s depicted in the cartoon—because the cartoon doesn’t depict anyone actually COMPLAINING. Complaining might involve engaging with someone who doesn’t already share your opinion. Instead, Boots engages in HIDING—while claiming that it’s a method of fighting misogyny.

    [Y]ou conflate blocking even an obviously abusive person who is making comments in bad faith – Glasses in my cartoon – with blocking all dissent and all differing worldviews.

    I don’t know that Glasses’s conduct is in bad faith.

    You’re in the joke-telling business. I expect you receive negative feedback. And I expect you dismiss most of it as reflecting a kind of knee-jerk tribalism. But when you receive feedback from someone with whom you have an existing relationship, you might be more open to considering that feedback. And you might come to perceive things differently as a result.

    I live around a lot of engineers. They tend to be smart, helpful, energetic, self-confident, Republican—and they often regard any topic with which they are unfamiliar as ridiculous. LGBTQ topics have often been on that list. I do not regard my engineer friends as exhibiting bad faith; I regard them as exhibiting ignorance. My relationship has provided me the opportunity to offer alternative perspectives, and this may have helped alter some views. (To be fair, the fact that their kids have come out as LGBTQ has probably had a stronger effect.)

    I’m in the same boat. I tell jokes, too. I had a regular joke wherein I referred to a group of guys as “the boys.” One of the black guys took me aside to mention that referring to a grown black man as “boy” has a freighted history. I hadn’t told the joke in bad faith. I simply didn’t know how other people would perceive my choice of language. But when someone I trusted offered an explanation, I was happ–well, mortified and chagrinned, but willing–to change my behavior.

    I assume we’re all in this situation: We fail to know how our speech and conduct affect others unless we receive feedback that we regard as credible.

    All that said, we’re discussing a cartoon. Cartoons face a lot of constraints in exposition, and so must rely on familiar tropes. So perhaps the reader is supposed to see Glasses’s conduct and think “cackling = villain,” with the understanding that the audience is not supposed to seek to understand things from the villain’s point of view. Alas, this just happens to be one of my bugaboos.

    I’m choosing to control what kind of engagement to have.

    And that’s fair. John Lewis was willing to face batons to fight discrimination—but in a confrontation that he chose to engage in. I expect that he chose to avoid violent crowds on other occasions. So if you want to persuade me that Boots’s behavior was justified, you might well succeed.

    But if you want to persuade me that Boots’s behavior was fighting misogyny, I think you’d have a harder time.

    Sorry, Nobody.

    Not at all! Kind of like old times.

  17. 17
    Chris says:

    I’m having trouble following the logic that says “facing down batons while demonstrating for one’s rights against bigots” works at cross-purposes with “blocking bigots online.” Like the two are not mutually exclusive at all. One involves peacefully resisting others using their social power to oppress you, and the other involves using what social power you do have to shun bigots. They are different tools for different circumstances.

  18. 18
    Lauren says:

    I don’t know that Glasses’s conduct is in bad faith.

    I’m in the same boat. I tell jokes, too. I had a regular joke wherein I referred to a group of guys as “the boys.” One of the black guys took me aside to mention that referring to a grown black man as “boy” has a freighted history. I hadn’t told the joke in bad faith. I simply didn’t know how other people would perceive my choice of language. But when someone I trusted offered an explanation, I was happ–well, mortified and chagrinned, but willing–to change my behavior.

    But Glasses isn’t telling jokes. She is bragging about verbally attacking transwomen and spreading hatefull stereotypes. She is proudly announcing that she caused harm. Because misgendering transwomen is harmfull und can be traumatizing. Because transmisoginistic prejudices are used to justify harmfull policy. And she is bragging about being a part of this. If you want to think of yourself in Glasses shoes, it wouldn’t be accidently telling a joke with racist connotations you are not aware of. The equivalent would be you proudly telling your collegues that you think all black men are violent criminals. And Boots equivalent would be one of your white collegues making sure to take your Black collegue aside and warning him about the fact that you are a racist and he should keep that in mind when dealing with you. And then reporting you to HR for creating a hostile work environment.

    That is basically what Boots is doing here. Because yes, debating people to change their minds can be one way of fighting (trans)misogyny. But protecting the people who are hurt by it from further harm is just as valid. Because the aim of the fight against transmisogyny is not for cispeople to have an interesting debate and to arrive at a theoretical consensus, it is to reduce real harm to real transpeople. Because for the victims of this violent, hatfull bigotry, this is not a theoretical issue. It is life and death. Making their lives a little easier by making sure not to amplify hatefull people’s voices and instead shield them from at least some of the constand barrage of hatred- yes, that is fighting (trans)mysoginy.

    There were civil rights activist who faced down batons. And there were people who wrote green books, to let them know how they could travel to the protest (a bit more) safely. They contributed.

  19. 19
    nobody.really says:

    *

  20. 20
    nobody.really says:

    I guess much of this boils down to the difference between “coping with” and “fighting.”

    I’m having trouble following the logic that says “facing down batons while demonstrating for one’s rights against bigots” works at cross-purposes with “blocking bigots online.” …. They are different tools for different circumstances.

    Tools for what? Perhaps I simply don’t understand how Twitter works. But if “blocking” is a means to fight misogyny, I must be an anti-misogyny hero: By never having a Twitter account, I’ve blocked them all! And while I’m at it, I’m fighting Donald Trump—by giving him the silent treatment!

    I see little harm in with “blocking” people with whom you have no relationship. But I presume (again, perhaps mistakenly) that if you have to “block” someone, you have some kind of relationship to that person already. And I find it regrettable to forsake the opportunity to leverage a relationship for the purpose of changing minds and behavior. And I expect (again, perhaps mistakenly) that you would retain the option of blocking a person in the future if you found such efforts unavailing.

    I previously asked how blocking people alters anybody’s minds or behavior—and whether the blocked person even knows he or she has been blocked. Do shunned people even know they’ve been shunned?

    If you want to think of yourself in Glasses shoes, it wouldn’t be accidently telling a joke with racist connotations you are not aware of. The equivalent would be you proudly telling your colleagues that you think all black men are violent criminals. And Boots equivalent would be one of your white colleagues making sure to take your Black colleague aside and warning him about the fact that you are a racist and he should keep that in mind when dealing with you. And then reporting you to HR for creating a hostile work environment.

    I can see how blocking tweets and warning a black colleague might both represent coping strategies. And in each case, the offending person will have no reason to alter his beliefs or behavior.

    In contrast, reporting a person to HR might result in a person changing his beliefs or behavior or both; indeed, that would be the point. I don’t see how blocking a person would lead to this result. Have I misunderstood?

    [F]or the victims of this violent, hateful bigotry, this is not a theoretical issue. It is life and death.

    Any citation for the number of people killed by tweets?

    [T]here were people who wrote green books, to let them know how they could travel to the protest (a bit more) safely.

    I had not heard of people writing green books for the purpose of letting people know how to travel to protests a bit more safely. I had only heard of people writing green books to cope with prejudice. Should we update the Wikipedia page?

    In sum, I distinguish between coping and fighting. I think we fight prejudice when we engage people on the issue—and we’re best able to do that when we have an existing relationship with people. Thus, I hate to see people SEVERE relationships as a means to COPE with prejudice rather than LEVERAGE relationships to FIGHT prejudice. I don’t mean to dismiss the advantages of retreating; every military does it eventually. I just regret lost opportunities for advancing.

  21. 21
    Lauren says:

    If you think trying to argue with hardcore terfs is a more important aspect of fighting for transpeople than trying to protect them from pain, then I really do not want to undestand that position.

    Harm reduction is essential. So the Twitter equivalent might be reporting someones hate speach. Not to change their mind, but to protect other users of the plattform. Just as the point of going to HR isn’t so that racist collegues get a chance to lern but to make sure the company fullfills its duty to protect employes from a hostile work environment.

    Ask anyone actually suffering under bigoted oppression, I am pretty sure they woul rather you use your energy to actually help them than wast it on people who are proud of their bigotry. At least that’s what I see activist asking for. Helping oppressed people is fighting oppression.

    Any citation for the number of people killed by tweets?

    Seriously? For someone keen on the importance of talking, you seem weirdly reluctant to consider the fact that bigoted propaganda has dire “real world” consequences.

  22. 22
    nobody.really says:

    [F]or the victims of this violent, hateful bigotry, this is not a theoretical issue. It is life and death.

    Any citation for the number of people killed by tweets?

    Seriously? For someone keen on the importance of talking, you seem weirdly reluctant to consider the fact that bigoted propaganda has dire “real world” consequences.

    Seriously. We are discussing the merits of blocking people on Twitter as a strategy for fighting misogyny. I would certainly have more sympathy for that strategy if I understood how often people were killed by tweets.

    I’d also be interested to learn about the dire, real-world consequences of bigoted propaganda—and how you could minimize those consequences by inviting people who are already opposed to those messages to block such tweets. I can imagine that propaganda could prove harmful to the extent that it influences people who might be open to the message. If you block the propaganda from reaching people who are already opposed to the message, how does that impede the dire, real-world consequences that might result? If I TRULY regarded someone’s propaganda as likely to lead to lethal consequences, the LAST thing I’d do is render myself ignorant of what that person was sending out. In WWII, do you imagine the Allies said to themselves, “Gosh, the Nazis send out some hateful propaganda; be sure not to monitor it!”?

    And I provided a link to the book The Coddling of the American Mind. The authors argue that Americans increasingly regard speech as a physical threat, and thus have grown less tolerant of speech with which they disapprove. So I seriously want to take this opportunity to question the idea that a person’s life is in jeopardy if she does not block distasteful tweets. If you could support this claim, you might really change my thinking about these matters.

    If you think trying to argue with hardcore terfs is a more important aspect of fighting for transpeople than trying to protect them from pain, then I really do not want to understand that position.

    1. I don’t ask you to argue with a hardcore TERF. I ask you to argue with people. Perhaps some people really are nothing more than motiveless purveyors of evil. But the people I have encountered seem to regard themselves as well-intentioned. That provides an opportunity for communication. At a minimum, if I can help people understand how their remarks hurt people, this provides the opportunity to plant a seed of cognitive dissonance in their self-regard. It’s a start.

    How should we measure the success of a strategy in fighting discrimination? I’ve succeeded in getting neighbors to switch their political affiliations. Would I have achieved the same results by simply not talking to them? Well, I have something like a control group—the myriad neighbors I HAVEN’T talked to. And, in fairness, the neighborhood has been trending less Republican, and I can’t claim all of the credit. So perhaps my efforts have been for naught. Still, I suspect otherwise.

    2. A larger question: What threat do you feel from the idea of understanding another person’s perspective? Do you derive satisfaction from condemning wrongdoers—and fear that if you understood another person, you might lose the capacity to condemn that person? Do you fear exposing yourself to new ideas because it might change you?

    I encourage you to have courage. You’re articulate. You’re willing to speak your mind. I suspect you have greater resilience that you acknowledge. If you have a relationship with someone, I bet you could find the strength to explore their thoughts—and find opportunities to mention contrary information and alternative perspectives.

    And, ok, maybe you don’t want to have this conversation with your family. After all, not all conversations proceed amicably, and sometimes I need to push the “blocking” button, so I want to pick conversations that I can jettison if necessary. I have a child who has expressed many of the views expressed here. I obviously have some different views. But consider: Would you welcome having this kind of discussion with your parents? I failed to consider that—and have come to regret it. I suspect that my kid’s reluctance to consider some alternative perspectives will lead to difficulty down the road, but that’s a lesson she’s going to have to learn from someone else. The fewer impediments I put into this relationship, the better.

    So if you encounter someone acting like Glasses—speaking loudly, self-confidently, and perhaps with less sensitivity for other people’s perspectives as we might hope—please be gentle. If you must blame anyone, blame inadequate parents. I’d appreciate it.

  23. 23
    Grace Annam says:

    nobody.really:

    Any citation for the number of people killed by tweets?

    Oh, for fuck’s sake.

    I’ve been staying out of this because with two overlapping jobs and caring for a family member I’ve got too much on my plate already. But here I am, staying up late to tilt at a windmill.

    Statistically, trans people are at high risk for suicide. The Williams Institute has done the best work on this. As of 2015, the best data available shows that “98% of respondents who had experienced four instances of discrimination and violence in the past year thought about suicide that year”, and “51% of them attempted suicide in that year”.

    Do you think that getting dogpiled on social media won’t count as one of those instances? Do you think that enough people calling you a filthy, degraded pervert, just assuming as a baseline that you’re a childfucker and acting on that belief, do you think that won’t get under your skin, won’t make you careful about applying for jobs, won’t eventually keep you from getting out of bed?

    The study also “found that 81.7 percent of respondents reported ever seriously thinking about suicide in their lifetimes, while 48.3 percent had done so in the past year. In regard to suicide attempts, 40.4 percent reported attempting suicide at some point in their lifetimes, and 7.3 percent reported attempting suicide in the past year.”

    In the general population, about 0.5% of adults attempt suicide each year. Of military veterans (a group which has obviously seen significant stress) who accessed the Veterans Health Administration in the previous year, about 0.2% attempted suicide that year.

    By contrast, 7.3% of trans people report attempting suicide in the previous year. That is over ten times the general rate, and over thirty times the rate among military veterans.

    With the numbers that high, it’s worth noting that this is a skewed sample, because the trans people who actually did kill themselves aren’t around to answer survey questions.

    Note also the Williams Institute’s report was promptly weaponized by anti-trans people as evidence that we are mentally unstable, inherently disordered. But, no. Those of us who have family support and have found community and employment are much less at risk. (Still, it is bitter to consider that that weaponization probably tipped some trans people over into a decision to kill themselves.) So if it’s not because inherently unstable, why is it?

    It’s because of how we’re treated.

    I remember what it was like, being deep in denial about being trans. I could walk through the world and everyone saw a straight white man. I had boundless resources of personal energy. I had all the time in the world, and loved a good late-night college discussion, or its Internet equivalent. I had societal license to do all sorts of things women and minorities can’t take for granted. As difficult as my life sometimes was, on the whole, the world was my oyster.

    What an education transition was. I had a relatively privileged, relatively easy transition… and the way I was treated ended up costing me my career, my liberal and progressive community of worship, and four years of depression. During my career, I gave orders at gunpoint, pursued armed people in foot chases, entered houses and basements to arrest armed fugitives, and was the officer in charge of young, inexperienced officers with guns. I thought I knew what stress was. Then I transitioned, and discovered that up until then I had no idea what stress was.

    And still, I am in the minority, among trans people; I have never considered suicide. I have been through stress I could not imagine, ten years ago when I was gearing up to transition, and now, from my still-relatively-privileged position, I know that I have no clear understanding of the level of stress some of my trans siblings have survived (or not).

    So, nobody.really, with respect: you don’t have a clue. You can’t know how precarious anyone is. As the cartoon goes, on the Internet, no one knows you’re a dog. Well, it’s also true that on the Internet, no one knows that you’re at your limit, and you’re one social media flame war away from eating a bullet or slashing your throat. And it’s also true that on the Internet, there are lots of people who, if they did know how close you were, would actively abuse you in an effort to get you to do it. I’m not speaking hypothetically, here; there are open forums on the Internet where you can watch people coordinate a dog pile with the explicit purpose of getting someone to kill themselves.

    In sum, I distinguish between coping and fighting. I think we fight prejudice when we engage people on the issue—and we’re best able to do that when we have an existing relationship with people. Thus, I hate to see people SEVERE relationships as a means to COPE with prejudice rather than LEVERAGE relationships to FIGHT prejudice.

    It’s such a shame that in World War I those soldiers in the trenches severed their relationship with the people who were lobbing mustard gas at them, rather than using that relationship to change their minds.

    By default, I live in a war zone. So, probably, does every trans person you will ever talk to. You better believe that I put time and energy into staying as far from the center of that war zone as I need to be in order to get through my day. When people stop trying to grind me down to the point where I start wanting to kill myself, then maybe I’ll be interested in building relationships. In the meantime, I keep my powder dry and husband my resources, because I know from bitter experience how fast they can disappear. I spend my time where I hope it might do some good, like here, rather than engaging with every fuckwit who has established a “relationship” with me by being the next person to say, “but you can’t change your chromosomes” or any of a thousand other bigotries disguised as “talking points” which they’ve been taught by the people who actively want me to not exist.

    nobody.really, I know that you get this, on an intellectual level, because you’ve posted an analogy about it (https://amptoons.com/blog/?page_id=20328&cpage=2#comment-378138). I can’t wish that you understood it on a gut level, because that’s the same thing as saying I wish you had experienced the trauma necessary to understand it.

    But, damn.

    Grace

  24. 24
    nobody.really says:

    Grace! Thank you for the thoughtful, well-documented, and personal reply.

    I haven’t kept up here, so I hadn’t heard you’d left your career. Or your religious community. And I hadn’t heard about the depression. I’m so sorry. I had assumed no news was good news. Or hoped, anyway.

    I had not expected a substantive response to my query about lethal tweets. So your answer is vastly more compelling than anything I could have anticipated.

    Yes, I recall our discussions about resource depletion. And yes, I recall that classic accounts of free speech fail to account for this depletion. But it’s good to call that to mind again. (I’m astonished—and flattered—that you remembered a post from three years ago. You were fielding a lot of posts back then.)

    I had considered the effect of tweets on suicide. So I checked the CDC about suicide trends in general. In short, suicide has been on the rise in every demographic. But in 1999 (prior to the rise of much social media), white Americans were more likely to commit suicide than black, Hispanic, non-Hispanic Asian or Pacific Islander (API), non-Hispanic American Indian or Alaska Native (AIAN) (although the CDC cautioned that suicide rates may be underreported). And by 2017, only suicides among AIAN exceeded suicides among whites. This led me to suspect that the rise of social media had not caused an increase in suicide rates among members of subordinated classes. But I failed to consider the degree to which the circumstances of trans people might differ from the circumstances of other subordinated groups.

    (That said, I was looking at suicide rates, while you were discussing suicidal thoughts and attempts—and there’s almost no correlation between these variables.)

    Also, a point of clarification:

    Statistically, trans people are at high risk for suicide. The Williams Institute has done the best work on this. As of 2015, the best data available shows that “98% of respondents who had experienced four instances of discrimination and violence in the past year thought about suicide that year”, and “51% of them attempted suicide in that year”.

    Do you think that getting dogpiled on social media won’t count as one of those instances?

    Those are sobering statistics, and bolster the claim that the experience of trans people differ from the experience of other subordinated groups.

    That said—no, I don’t think getting dogpiled counts as one of those instances. The Williams Study lists a number of variables contributing to suicidal thoughts and attempts—but not dogpiling specifically. In particular, the study states on p. 2 that “97.7 percent of those who had experienced four discriminatory or violence experiences in the past year (being fired or forced to resign from a job, eviction, experiencing homelessness, and physical attack) reported seriously thinking about suicide in the past year and 51.2 percent made a suicide attempt in the past year.” Dogpiling may well contribute to suicidal thoughts and attempts, but this statistic doesn’t show it.

    It’s such a shame that in World War I those soldiers in the trenches severed their relationship with the people who were lobbing mustard gas at them, rather than using that relationship to change their minds.

    Indeed it was. During Christmas 1914, soldiers reach out to each other, shared food and drink, and played soccer. And even after fighting resumed, there remained a certain amount of collusion among opposing troops—when, for example, they made only token efforts to shoot at each other at night as they collected their wounded and repaired their barbed wire in No Man’s Land. During lulls on the Eastern Front, the Germans encouraged their troops to fraternize with the Russians in the hope that the Russians would lose their inclination to continue the fight. And then Germany wielded the most dangerous weapon of the war when it chose to ship Lenin (in a sealed car, so as to not contaminate the Germans) off to Russia. Largely by speaking and organizing, Lenin persuaded the Russians that their real enemy was not the Germans, but their Russian leaders. But by then, the fraternizing German troops picked up the same message, and by 1918 were starting to rebel against the commands of their own leaders. Arguably, the Russian army was nullified and the German army was crippled by the idea of Communism—an idea that was spread by talking across lines.

    Nevertheless…

    I take your point to be that you regard your experience on social media is so oppositional are to be basically warlike, and there is little hope for any productive connection. I’m appalled to hear this. In my social-media-light world, I have to wonder how social media could possibly provide sufficient benefits to compensate you for all this angst.

    Please take care.

    (Off-topic: If you find energy and time, I’m curious to know your thoughts about the rising opposition to police, the role of police unions, and the Defund the Police movement. You are no longer the only trans person I know, but you are now the only person with police experience with whom I correspond, if only sporadically.)

  25. 25
    J. Squid says:

    I know how privileged I am and how easy I have it, but damned if Grace’s comment didn’t just drive that home a millionfold. And as easy and cushy as I have it with relatively little friction in my transition I can’t even explain how deflating and exhausting it was when the nice folks at the hospital lab insisted that they HAD to deadname me. They apologized once I was able to make clear that this wasn’t the case, but I was so crushed by that 8 minute experience.

    So when Grace tells you about the stress that the vast majority of trans folk experience, it’s no joke. Even with my stress free life, I’ve had to block a number of folks on fb due to the things their politics permit them to trumpet. I could talk to them for all eternity but that wouldn’t impact their lovingly held bigotries. It just won’t because fake news.

    (For the record I have considered suicide. As little as 6 weeks ago. If it hadn’t been for my timing, I might have done it. I’ve considered suicide since age 10, if not earlier. How much that has to do with transness is anyone’s guess, but I can assure you that the constant drumbeat of pop culture and people considering me a joke, at best, and a likely pedophilic monster, at worst, sure doesn’t make suicide less likely to be the cause of my death.)

  26. 26
    Mookie says:

    But, at the risk of sounding like a fuddy-duddy, I regret that the blow our hero strikes in her progressive cause is — cancelling.

    I’m sorry, what about “progressive” politics, indeed any political ideology, makes “cancellation” as you define it anathema to core values? What, outside of a So Much For Liberal Tolerance meme, makes you think any of this is hypocrisy, and unique hypocrisy, on the part of “progressives?” Progressive politics includes suffering fools and bigots?

    You don’t have to regret anything because the bulk of progressives likely don’t subscribe to this self-serving concept of cancellation nor consider making use of it disqualifying.

    I realize I’m several days late and many euros short, but the idea that ~CaNc3LlInG, a gerund from a verb taken from a subculture using the term ironically and later refashioned by an opposing, extremely online right-wing hivemind quite seriously as a kind of “violence,” is the element of this cartoon in need of analysis is rib-tickling if not -bruising.

    Please do have your cake and eat it: explain why anti-trans tweets by Public Pop Culture Figures need not just normal protection, but immediate and unfettered delivery to anyone who actively ticks a box deciding, so long as the box is ticked (the shush option is activated, etc.), they don’t need to hear from said public person any more.

    It’s a decidedly odd thing to proclaim oppressive and authoritarian any social medium or user of said medium if, respectively, they offer or take advantage of the opportunity to “opt out” of certain messages by any metric (language, speaker, topic) they prefer. I know of no organization devoted to free speech that insists everyone is fully and equally obliged to act as involuntary audience for any allsorts sod that decides to hoist themselves onto any vacant plinth.

    A celebrity espouses a view using a readily accessible mode of our prevailing social media. Many applaud the message as necessary, interesting, and/or validating, and spread it round. Some other nobody, using the same medium, decides they’re not interested in hearing more. I hate to correct my grandmother on her egg-sucking techniques, but objecting to the latter on the grounds that it somehow substantively harms the former sounds to me like that Victim Culture we hear so much about. Apparently it is a politically correct shibboleth for one wing of our binary spectrum that all people, everywhere, and at all times, must both never call an opinion stupid and worth ignoring nor decline to hear in future more variations of the same opinion.

    You must listen, and you must neither object nor leave the room. Can we hazard a guess at what might happen if we were all obligated to act as an eternal captive audience for any old crank deciding to loudly bellow?

    Boycotts of certain sportsball leagues and its uppity athletes for me, but not of middling school story fiction authors for thee, sounds like a weird, rigged, and terribly inconsistent rule for hard-line free speech enthusiasts.

    You can call any unfavorable criticism you object to “cancelling” all you like, but if you want to use the concept make a lazy rhetorical point, you first have to live it yourselves and, more importantly, persuasively explain in good faith why anyone outside your bubble should deem such acts of “cancellation” automatically, to use another appropriated term, “problematic.” For all the anti-cancellation brigade loves to praise “western civilization” for its apparently robust tolerance of unpopular ideas—an ahistorical view if ever there was*—they first ought to attempt to prove they have any passing literacy in the traditions of Mediterranean European antiquity to begin with; half-heartedly pointing out their skin color or some vague and/or negligible European ancestry isn’t going to cut it.

    *The Classical and the Renaissance worlds granted near-unfettered speech to precious few, savored de-platforming of the elite and violent suppression of organized dissent and religious minorities, and their ivory tower speechifiers regularly made analogies of speech and violence. Also, The West didn’t invent these concepts nor perfected them.

  27. 27
    Mookie says:

    Also, as Grace says, the interwebs ARE real life. Increasingly, they are both the first and most accessible means to interact with other humans. No one suggested a tweet itself is fatal: the medium is not the message nor does it trump the message. Social opprobrium, neglect, and animus are reproduced by humans… even on the interwebs! The sum total of cultural and institutional transphobia is, yes, fatal. Unhealthy emotionally, psychologically, physically.

    Pretending anyone uniquely ascribed special power to twitter in the midst of a thousand different ways trans people are dehumanized is an example of the very worst kind of cherry-picking, an argument not on merits but style.

    One mistake, nobody.really: no one, or precious few, is especially dedicated to eliciting YOUR personal sympathy or conversion. Your revelations don’t cancel out the loss of potential dead and daunted trans people represent for the world. We on present and they in future are worse off for all those people, all the creative and transformative energy they represent, we write off, undermine, and consign to the dustheap for some better, wiser, later generation to sort out. History will never get to claw back lives lost to systemic injustice.

    It always matters when people who have courted a spotlight decide to use that spotlight in service of unnecessary, cruel, and costly harm. Feeling increasingly targeted is not an experience unique to trans people; indeed, a thousand Karens concerned about reverse racism feel it every day. The differences there are outcomes based on reality rather than paranoia. The numbers speak for themselves.

    If your preoccupation wasn’t fixated on only what all this means for cis people, you might stop straining that muscle and deign to accept the lifeline thrown to you: it is terrorizing to trans people to hear this everyday. That is reason enough for them to exercise their right to opt out, shush, mute. Since the actual onus is not on them to solve—bigots are responsible for their bigotry, the best medicine for the benevolent, unintentional blinkered is to acknowledge that they hold the bulk of the power to change this trajectory—yeah, the next best thing is breathing room, an opportunity to slowly process and analyze, what is contemptuously called “safe” spaces.

    If your only question is how does this immediately correct, say, misogyny, you don’t even know what misogyny means to the people that dwell in it. No one who matters thinks the easy and comprehensive answer, which doesn’t even exist, is blocking the Harry Potter author’s twitter account. It would help to be honest about that.

  28. 28
    Chris says:

    But I presume (again, perhaps mistakenly) that if you have to “block” someone, you have some kind of relationship to that person already.

    Not on Twitter. Anyone can find anyone’s account unless you have yours set to private, and anyone can reply to anyone else’s tweets.

    I previously asked how blocking people alters anybody’s minds or behavior—and whether the blocked person even knows he or she has been blocked. Do shunned people even know they’ve been shunned?

    On Twitter, you know you’re blocked if you try to interact with or view tweets by a specific user who has blocked you.

  29. 29
    nobody.really says:

    Thank you for this remedial Twitter lesson!

    Anyone can find anyone’s account unless you have yours set to private, and anyone can reply to anyone else’s tweets.

    This does put “blocking” in a different light. Do people generally set their accounts to private? Or would this practice perhaps reflect a person’s membership in a subordinated class–where (non-famous) cis white males would leave their accounts open, but everyone else would lock them down for fear of being flooded with abusive messages?

    On Twitter, you know you’re blocked if you try to interact with or view tweets by a specific user who has blocked you.

    To clarify “interact with,” if Glasses sent me a message, and I had blocked her, would she then receive notification that I had blocked her?

  30. 30
    Chris says:

    Most people do not set their accounts to private. Famous people tend to not do so because that would seriously cut down on their engagement, though they do usually close their DMs (direct messages) so that randos can’t send them private messages.

    You don’t get notified when people block you. You’d only find out if you tried to look at their account again, or if someone quote-tweeted them and you saw a message saying the quoted tweet is unavailable. Or, if you are replying to a tweet they just sent you, and they block you before you can submit the reply.

  31. 31
    Lauren says:

    In sum, I distinguish between coping and fighting. I think we fight prejudice when we engage people on the issue—and we’re best able to do that when we have an existing relationship with people.

    This idea that the main goal of fighting for transpeople (or of the fight against any system of oppression) should be changing the minds of transphobic (or otherwise bigotted) people is, I guess, where we differ. I think the fight against oppression should be focused on helping those subjected to it and limiting the powers of those perpetuating it.

    Yes, reducing the number of transphobes (or other bigots) through discussion or otherwise changing their minds can be one way to do this. But harm reduction, like warning people of transphobic terfs who enjoy causing harm, so they can chose to protect themseves from having to deal with them, is also part of it. Taking away/ reducing oppressors power, like reducing their access to victims or potential new bigots through de-platforming, or reducing the amount of money they can spent on advocating for bigoted policies by boycotting, is part of it. Not expecting the people who are suffering under constant micro- and macroaggressions to endure them and also spend their energy being forced to educate the perpetrators is part of it. Dedicating time and money to initiatives that aim to help the people subjected to bigotry, like trans-inclusive shelters, initiatives to amplify trans voices, advocating for trans-inclusive healthcare and so on, is definitely part of it.

    Considering the fact that many oppressors aim- conciously or unconciously- to make the life or their chosen targets as hard as possible, to the point of wanting them to die, living life in spite of their hatred, true to who they are, is an act of resistance and fighting back for oppressed people. And as a privileged person not suffering from that oppression, helping them live their life – helping them “cope”, as you say, is a way to fight oppression.

    Changing bigot’s minds is not the be-all end end-all of fighting oppression. Reducing, ideally ending oppression is the goal. Persuasion is just one tool in the box. Accusing those focussing on different approaches (often along with, not instead ofdiscussion, and based on a calculation of where their time and money can have the biggest impact to improve the lives of the people being oppressed) of not fighting but merely coping mistakes the tool for the goal.

  32. 32
    Lauren says:

    At a minimum, if I can help people understand how their remarks hurt people, this provides the opportunity to plant a seed of cognitive dissonance in their self-regard. It’s a start.

    This Idea that transphobic people would change their minds if only someone told them they are hurting people is absurd to me. They have been told. Over and over again. By many people. There are hundreds of articles- analytical ones, personal ones, bitingly funny ones, angry ones- about what it is like to be subjected to transphobyia. People who are aactually interested can find them easily. And for everybody who choses not to engange a transphobe- because of depleted energy, because of different priorities, to protect themselves- there is always someone who will argue back. But I have yet to see a hardcore terf- and the things Glasses is bragging about saying are hardcore terf ideas- take a moment to question their actions when confronted with the harm they are doing. Some people are beyond reasoning. So whether it is because a transperson is protecting themselves, or an ally saving their resources to help in a more productive way, there are good reasons not to get into the discussion with people who are not interested in learning, but only in spreading hate.

    I have a child who has expressed many of the views expressed here. I obviously have some different views. But consider: Would you welcome having this kind of discussion with your parents? I failed to consider that—and have come to regret it. I suspect that my kid’s reluctance to consider some alternative perspectives will lead to difficulty down the road, but that’s a lesson she’s going to have to learn from someone else. The fewer impediments I put into this relationship, the better.

    whether or not to engage in discussion is always a case-by-case question. But you are talking about a very intimate pre-existing relationship. There is absolutely no comparison between the decision not to talk about a difficult topic with your child/ your parents/ your partner- people whom you are presumably interacting with one-on-one in person- and the decision to not allow strangers to barge into conversations you are having over social media and spread hateful bigotry. The latter is what you are doing by blocking people.

    So if you encounter someone acting like Glasses—speaking loudly, self-confidently, and perhaps with less sensitivity for other people’s perspectives as we might hope—please be gentle. If you must blame anyone, blame inadequate parents. I’d appreciate it.

    Children of bigotted parents grow into decent people all the time. Children of decent people grow into bigots all the time. While I would never deny the huge impact that upbringing has on character developement, at some point people are responsible for who they chose to be.

    But it is definitely not the responsibility of oppressed people to help their oppressors become better people.

  33. 33
    Görkem says:

    Transphobes are not just unaware or even oblivious to the fact that they are hurting people – they are usually 100% aware that they are hurting people, and that is exactly why they do it. Not necessarily out of personal cruelty, but because they believe and hope that doing mental harm to individual trans people will enervate the trans community as a whole, and maybe even trans allies. Luckily this is not true – self-care by trans people is itself a form of activism just as valuable as any other. So their goal of suppressing trans rights will not be achieved, although they will (of course) cause plenty of totally unnecessary pain

  34. 34
    nobody.really says:

    Anyone acquainted with Daryl Davis?

  35. 35
    Grace Annam says:

    nobody.really:

    Anyone acquainted with Daryl Davis?

    Yes.

    Grace

  36. 36
    Lauren says:

    Anyone acquainted with Daryl Davis?

    Is this supposed to be a gotcha?

    Because as far as I can see, nobody here argues that talking to bigots can never be an effective tool in the fight against bigotry. We argued against your apparent conviction that it is the only way to fight, that surviving and thriving in the face of bigotry (or helping with that, for allys) is “merely coping” instead of itself an act of resistance, and against the idea that it is the duty of the oppressed to have these (often harmful and dangerous to their health, or even their life) conversation with every bigot who comes along.

  37. 37
    Görkem says:

    Ever heard of the tens of millions of bigots who didn’t become Daryl Davis no matter how many times they heard contrary views

  38. 38
    Celeste says:

    I guess I just feel like it’s okay for some matters to be ‘settled.’

    Like … “black people aren’t in any way inferior to white people.”

    Not interested in arguing about it. Not really interested in discussing it. It’s a waste of my time (and your time!) to try to engage me in a discussion in which you’re arguing for that inferiority. It’s settled. I have better things to argue about.

    There are a lot of things like that – the existence of bigfoot (not real), say, or whether Qanon horseshit is real (it’s not), or whether trans women are women (they are), or whether the earth is flat (still round).

    I’m certain that there are people out there who are mightily offended that I’m not interested in debating their flat-eartherism at length, but it’s just fucking stupid, and I don’t want to waste my time on it.

    And, look, it’s not just me. We all have matters we consider settled. When we consider what to do about Trump, nobody suggests, “Well, we really ought to return to a Monarchy,” because the Monarchy/democracy debate has been pretty well settled for the overwhelming majority of Americans.

    Let people treat their settled topics as settled. It’s not censorship, it’s not any kind of abrogation of anyone’s free speech, and it doesn’t stop anyone who’s interested in having those extended, exhausting, stupid arguments from going, finding a nice pod of racist flat-earther transphobic bigfoot enthusiasts and going at it.

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