Let’s talk about “Die Cis Scum” one more time

And keep talking about it till everyone is clear.

For my first two main posts and a clarification on DCS go here, here and here. For Natalie Reed’s post on DCS go here. For April Gardener’s commentary on DCS go here. For West of a White House’s defense go here.

Those are just some defenses I have come across when reading about DCS.  I didn’t have to read them to make my own defenses of Asher’s anonymous guest post. The gist was pretty clear to me from the start. It wasn’t to everyone.

So I want to clarify my perspective a bit.

Some of this will be a repeat. Some of this will be a conglomeration of others’ ideas meshed with my ideas. I showed you readers the posts I have read so that you can determine how I came to my current stance. None of this is meant to silence trans voices. If I misspeak for the whole of trans people in this post please call me out on it. I don’t want to do that but I am not immune to mistakes. I just want to defend a portion of the movement’s use of DCS  from this one cis woman’s perspective.

Does DCS only refer to cis who are scum rather than all cis people?:

IMO no. Die Cis Scum seems to be clearly directed at ALL cis people.

Does it matter?

That kind of depends. I have seen the argument why isn’t it called “Die Trasphobic Scum” over and over again. That begs the question do all transphobic scum deserve to die. I mean if you are insisting that a change in the words makes Asher’s post all better, then you are insisting that “cis scum” deserve to die. That is a blanket determination on all cis who are scum. I can imagine plenty of cis who are scum who certainly don’t deserve a death sentence for their transgressions.

So if you think DCS is a real threat that may eventually be enacted against any cis people scum or not, the distinction doesn’t matter. Murder is murder whether the person is a transphobe or not.

On the other hand if you think DCS is not a real threat then who it is directed at is important. We will get further into that later.

Is DCS a real threat of murder?

I think you know my opinion on this. I mean especially if you read my earlier posts that discuss the post.

Let’s hash it out one more time. There are two ways to envision DCS as a threat.

The first is whether the author means it as a threat. The second is whether members of the trans movement mean it as a threat. Surprisingly the two aren’t actually related. A rallying cry for a movement can mean something far different than it’s original intent. Consider the nature of reclaiming a pejorative. I am going to still address both because I think they are both important.

Does the author mean DCS as a threat?

Well, in the OP ze states that yes, ze intends it to be a threat. I can take this at face value or I can attempt to analyze the truth of the statement. I don’t take most things at face value but a person’s stated intent is hard not to take at face value. I am still going to analyze it. The first thing to consider is the sheer ridiculousness ot DCS as a real threat. The instant the author starts trying to act out that desire for harm, the instant the boot pushes hard enough to choke the life out of that author. I mean really, audience, you think the author hasn’t thought about the implications of acting out harm on their oppressors? I mean, directly in the post ze expressly discusses the harm and fear of living as a trans person.  The author knows. The author is pushing back on that boot. The author is defending hirself. Will the author defend hirself to the point of committing murder? I can’t say for sure but considering that there is no system in place to support the author if ze turns murderous and in fact the reverse (systemic discrimination against trans people) is very true. It makes the idea of being afraid of DCS’s author seem kind of ridiculous.

That being said, the post is meant to create that kind of knee jerk visceral reaction. There is no doubt in my mind that the author means to scare the readers into believing that their lives might be in danger. I said it before, I felt the same exact thing.  I just decided to think about it for a minute after I felt that reaction. I just realized how unlikely such a scenario would be.  I just realized that in the event the author decides to go on a killing spree, I can rest easily that justice will be quickly served. That is a privilege reserved to us cis people, we get to sleep easily at night knowing that the threat of trans on cis violence is effectively nil and that it will never effect us directly. Not one trans person can say that. No trans woman or man can ever say that they get to sleep easily knowing that the likelihood of themselves or one of their friends being murdered is slim.  Because it is never slim. It is real. It is every day. It can’t be forgotten. Asher’s post is meant to be a reminder of that. For the author, for hir cis allies, for hir trans brothers and sisters, Asher’s post is meant to serve the function of both reminding us of the reality and pushing back against that reality. It is defensive violence in its purest form.

What about DCS as a rallying cry for the trans movement? Doesn’t it mean that some will consider it a call to arms?

When people ask that question, I immediately think they haven’t been listening to the members of their movement. Every corner of the internet I have seen DCS discussed the only people that consider DCS a call actual violence is those who are against the phrase. Everywhere I see it used as a rallying point, the people who find solace in thre simple words express that they are NOT violent. They express that they do not advocate actual violence. They express that this phrase helps them cope with the reality of violence in their lives. They ask for understanding in their use of DCS as a rallying point. And allies on many fronts don’t listen. They insist DCS is a threat against them. They insist that the trans people who use it are advocating violence. That is not listening. Over and over again trans people who use the term have described how and why they use it. They have explained patiently why using violent rhetoric as a mirror to real violence does not mean that they are advocating real violence. You aren’t listening.

I have said it.

I will say it again.

Die Cis Scum is an effigy. Die Cis Scum is a symbolic reflection of the fear, the actual violence that trans people (especially trans women of color) feel with every breath. Die Cis Scum is not about promoting actual violence. That does not mean some people won’t take it that way. Just as some people take the symbolic violence in books, movies, and video games and realize them in the real world. It doesn’t mean that symbolic violence is inherently dangerous. It is only dangerous in the hands of the few who might realize it.

Has anyone yet realized the violence of DCS? Has anyone pushed it past a symbolic representation?

Well there is that one time a trans woman of color defended her life against some white supremacists. We sure showed her. We sure showed any trans person who dares to defend their lives that we don’t trust you.

There is nothing even approaching reality that suggests that systemic trans on cis violence will ever happen. There is no system in place to protect trans on cis violence. There are systems in place that protect cis on trans violence.  I can’t say this enough: Any trans on cis violence (even defensive) is met immediately with swift justice ensure that it will never become systemic. Never. Won’t happen. There is no more reason to be afraid of a being murdered by a trans person who supports DCS than there is reason to be afraid of someone who enjoys Natural Born Killers.

So why are you afraid?

Probably because it feels directed at you. You are cis. You don’t want to think about dying and Asher’s post makes you think about dying. Really the post even goes a bit further and makes you think about being the victim of a hate crime. The post makes you feel fear.

That is ok I think. That is what generates these discussion. That is where we learn. Change isn’t motivated by comfort. Change is motivated by discontent. Change is motivated when the majority senses (feels) the discomfort of the minority enough to motivate change.

That is why I feel the threat of Die Cis Scum is directed at cis allies. To motivate change by making us uncomfortable. I let that discomfort motivate me to help change the world for the better. I let it be one of the many catalysts telling me that supporting trans issues is the right thing to do. I don’t let it scare me into washing my hands of a movement.

How are you going to let the discomfort of Die Cis Scum motivate you?


Jumping to unwarranted conclusions

Following a link on Twitter, I saw this post on Pope Hat. I am going to just say that before this I had never read anything on the Pope Hat blog so I have no clue if this is typical. Typical or not, the post in question crosses lines of irresponsible interpretation and generally ableist language.

The theme of the post by Patrick is to basically highlight the potential problems with the recent change in federal law as it relates to what constitutes a direct threat when deciding when and how to sanction university students. The change in the law was to essentially remove “self harm” from the Title II of the ADA of what constitutes a “direct threat.”

The new wording:

Direct threat means a significant risk to the health or safety of others that cannot be eliminated by a modification of policies, practices or procedures, or by the provision of auxiliary aids or services as provided in § 35.139.

The change in the wording is a request by the Department of Justice (DoJ)as an attempt to ensure that schools do not expel students with disabilities that only pose a risk of self harm and do not pose a risk of harm to others. The basic reasoning seems to be that suicide or other forms of self harm are symptoms of disabilities and as long as they are not disruptive, expelling students, or otherwise treating students differently than non-disabled students is a violation of the ADA. The change of wording was essentially to create consistency between Title’s II and III of the ADA as well as consistency with Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act.

It is important to note that there have been relatively few cases where colleges have overstepped their bounds with regards to suicidal students. It appears that the DoJ chose to make this move based on the potential that including “self harm” in the language can create. This is especially important on the heels of many schools changing their policies after Virginia Tech. In an effort to prevent another incident like the one at Virginia Tech in 2007, the increasingly popular new school policies would assert that the colleges can force students to withdraw if they are deemed to be a threat to themselves or others.

Under the new wording in Title II, colleges cannot create a policy that threatens forced withdrawal or coercively force withdrawal based on sanctions outside what would be expected on other non-disabled students based solely on the criteria of self harm. This does not mean that a student, whose self harming behavior is disruptive to other students, is not subject to sanction for the disruption. They are merely not subject to sanction on the basis of self harm.

Now back to Patrick at Pope Hat:

The first problem I encounter with Patrick’s post is the title. Now titles are commonly hyperbolic as to attract a wide audience but this one is fairly over the top:

I Pledge That In The Event My Urges To Go On A Shooting Rampage Become Irresistible, I Will Seek Help From A Professional Counselor, Or Turn The Gun On Myself, Should The Demons So Command. X_____________ (Sign Here).

Now based on what the general article is about, I see not one way this title could be applicable. First no colleges were preemptively forcing students to sign agreements that they enter professional counseling in homicidal circumstances with the caveat that they self harm if not seeking help. That would have been illegal for a college to suggest (even without the creative language) before the change in Title II wording.  The title might have been more applicable if Patrick changed the order of the phrases and it read, “I pledge that in the event my urges to go on a shooting rampage, should the demons so command, or turn the gun on myself become irresistible I will seek help from a  professional counselor.” At least in that direction it makes a little bit of sense to the rest of the story.

Patrick goes on to say that under the new law the title pledge may be illegal for a school to adopt as policy. Once again, creative wording aside, the general gist of the pledge would have been illegal anyway unless you used the reordered version. Essentially the title has nothing whatsoever to do with the article or the law in question, aside from snarky jabs at those who are suffering from mental illness.

The snarky jabs at mental illness don’t end there:

Query:  A male student approaches the Dean, distraught that his girlfriend has left him, raving that he has a gun, and he’s willing to use it.  The Dean, after counseling the student to seek help, may expel our hypothetical student (for the safety of his fellow students and college employees) if the student makes which of these statements?

A. I’ve got a gun.  I’m going to shoot that bitch!

B. I’ve got a gun. I’m going to shoot myself!

C. I’ve got a gun. I’m going to, I don’t know what I’m going to do, but, ARRRRRRGH!!!!, the orbital mind control lasers! They command me to kill!

Apparently Patrick can’t seem to show cases where students might seem homicidal without being completely delusional but that doesn’t matter. What matters is that under the new wording to Title II, schools can technically force all three to withdraw depending on the circumstances. If the school deems that a student is a direct threat to others they can be forced to withdraw (Options A and C can both be interpreted that way). If the school deems that the student is violating other non discriminatory policies, like carrying a gun on campus, the student can be forced to withdraw or be expelled. What the school cannot do is force sanctions on those students who threaten to harm themselves while not posing a threat to others.

Patrick gives us his reason for alarm in the form of a cute little anecdote of a person he went to school with:

Think I’m wrong?  Consider the curious case of Wendell Williamson, who murdered two people in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, way back in the days before Virginia Tech.  Williamson and I were fellow students at the same law school.  I didn’t know Williamson, but I know a lot of people who did.  One of them, a former roommate, recalled when I called him to ask what the HELL was going on in Chapel Hill that day, “Oh yeah, that was the guy who yelled at beer.”

Meaning that Williamson would utter vague but dangerous sounding threats, to his beer, at the Henderson Street Bar and Grill, which in those days was the law school hangout.

Williamson was counseled by a dean I also knew, a man of the highest integrity and the utmost concern for his students, yet Williamson slipped through the cracks and went on a homicidal rampage.

Williamson is safely interned, today, at the North Carolina equivalent of the Arkham Asylum for the Criminally Insane.

So he tells a story about a student who obviously had a mental illness and went on to murder two people. Does Patrick show at any point where this student appeared to be either homicidal or suicidal? Yelling at beer doesn’t count. It seems that Patrick just wants to lump all people who hear voices (or talk to inanimate objects) in with the “possible threat to others” category and ignore that 1) a plethora of possible causes are responsible for hearing voices (or talking to inanimate objects) and 2) the urge to commit homicide is not even mostly caused by hearing voices (or talking to inanimate objects).

Patrick seems to miss also that this murderous cohort of his might not have been able to be removed before or after the change in wording. Threatening beer does not indicate a direct threat to self or others. In hindsight, yes he was a threat to others. Without the corrective lenses of hindsight however, there is simply no way to determine if Wendell’s ramblings (based on the information Patrick gives us) indicate anything homicidal or suicidal.

Basically nothing in Patrick’s post is even near related to the removal of “harm to self” from Title II. It seems he is more interested in droning on about people who hear voices than address any real problems with the change in wording. It is not that there aren’t actual problems with the new interpretations of the law though.

This report by National Center for Higher Education Risk Management (NCHERM), gives three tricky cases decided by The US department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights (OCR) and compares them in the wake of the change in the law. One of the biggest problems with the change is that it has left colleges with few options in how to handle suicidal students. Many colleges are not equipped to properly treat suicidal students and, yes, if a student commits or attempts suicide on campus, it can be a terrible burden on other students. The problems are exacerbated by the fact that DoJ has not responded with much in the way on guidance on how the new wording affects their ability to sanction students who are suffering from a disability that causes them to be suicidal/self harming. Without much guidance schools are forced to either find new ways of addressing suicidal and otherwise self harming students or face penalties under the new interpretations.

Schools can still force students to withdraw if they are disruptive in their self harming behavior. Where the line is drawn is whether a college forces a student to withdraw based on their disability it seems. If self harming behavior is documented as disruptive and reasonable restrictions are placed on the “disruptive behavior” alone, the student can be forced to withdraw or be expelled based on continued violation of those restrictions. They cannot be forced into abiding by policies that are not imposed on other students who do not have a disability.

The biggest issue with the new wording of Title II seems to be the nuance. Schools no longer know where they have legal grounds for forced withdrawal of self harming/suicidal students. The lack of certainty is forcing colleges to rethink the options they make available for students in their mental health services. That could be a good thing over all. I still would like to see the DoJ and OCR communicate more with colleges to define parameters for what is acceptable when sanctioning self harming students. Clear guidelines will ultimately mean colleges can at least try to take the right steps. Without clear guidelines they seem to be feeling their way through the maze one case at a time.

Clear guidelines aside, there is no indication that the new change in wording will remotely result in a “voice talking to me therefore must kill” type scenario like the one Patrick from Pope Hat suggests. I have no clue why he addresses it at all. Maybe it is just an easy way to demean people with mental illnesses. Whether it was his intention or not, repeated able-ism is surely the impression I got from his piece covering a pretty important change in the law.

You can’t please these people, even by shutting up

The Day of Silence is this Friday, GASP!, and the religious fundies are up in arms about it. Americans United has a short piece about it here.

The premise behind the event is simple: Students attend classes but do not speak for the entire day. The Day of Silence isn’t sponsored by the schools. It’s run by students, often through a Gay-Straight Alliance Club that many schools now have. (Ironically, these clubs exist thanks to a federal law backed by Religious Right groups, which were eager to get Christian clubs into public schools.)…

Meanwhile, Religious Right groups like Focus on the Family and the Alliance Defense Fund (ADF) are advocating a different tack: They are calling for a “Day of Dialogue” on April 19.

The Day of Dialogue website reads, “As a high school or college student, do you wish your classmates could hear more of the story – like the truth about God’s deep love for us and what the Bible really says about His redemptive design for marriage and sexuality? Wouldn’t it be nice if a deeper and freer conversation could happen when controversial sexual topics are brought up in your school?”

Dialogue is fine. I question the value of the “dialogue” when it’s simply fundamentalist students lecturing LGBT young people that they will burn in hell or that they can “pray the gay away.” If such activity rises to the level of bullying and harassment it’s definitely not acceptable. Groups like Focus and the ADF insist that they oppose bullying of LGBT students. In light of some recent bills we’ve seen in states that purport to address bullying and harassment in public schools but give an exemption if it’s based on “sincerely held religious belief or moral conviction” I’m not so sure about that.

Here’s one thing I am sure about: The public school students all over the nation who take part in the Day of Silence are doing it to make a statement (albeit silently) about an issue that concerns them. They are aware of the risk and are willing to deal with it. Their silence is no threat to any other student.

Only a true zealot would tremble in fear or sputter in rage in the face of silence.

I say don’t worry about how they respond. They don’t want people that are different than they are to exist and they won’t be satisfied until they can convince themselves that we don’t. Don’t give them the satisfaction.

A spoonful of sugar

TW for the quote below which contains a fictional account of the rape of a child.

“She made them all close their eyes and listen to her. She told them to pretend that little girl had blond hair and blue eyes, that the two rapists were black,  that they tied her right foot to a tree and her left foot to a fence post, that they raped her repeatedly and cussed because she was white. She told them to picture that girl layin’ there beggin’ for her daddy while they kicked her in the mouth and knocked out her teeth, broke both jaws, broke he nose. She said to imagine two drunk blacks pouring beer on her and pissing in her face, and laughing like idiots. She then she told them to imagine that little girl belonged to them– their daughter. She told them to be honest with themselves and write on a piece of paper if whether or not they would kill those black bastards if they got the chance. And they voted by secret ballot. All twelve said they would do the killing. The foreman counted the votes. Twelve to zero.”-A Time to Kill by John Grisham

There is this thing we tend to do as social creatures fighting for causes. We find examples and hold them up in the light so everyone can see the moral wrongness being imposed on various groups in societies.  We see those examples as role models. If the wrongs are severe enough they become our martyrs. They become the rallying point around which we affect change in the world.

Our opponents will scrutinize them. They will find every flaw possible and try to tear our martyr to shreds. And we will try to shine the most “positive” light possible upon them. Consider the Sandra Fluke incident. I spoke once how she laid bare her own versions of martyrs for women’s rights to access birth control. I spoke how she sacrifices the sluts for the immediate win. Then she herself gets deemed a “slut” and much of the world does the same thing Fluke did. They grab their martyr and say “look how normal innocent she is.”

This is not uncommon. Happens in just about every movement. It is dangerous, however.

I will say my thesis loud this time: When we normalize martyrs and role models we end up with a bunch of short-term victories that only delay real change.

I can’t imagine our tendency to normalize will go away anytime soon. It is something we do because we are social creatures evolved to group things into categories, often into in-group and out-group categories. I would like to make people think about this tendency so that maybe next time they won’t be so quick to accentuate the normalcy of their role models to the detriment of all the other “so very human” members of their movement.

Let’s look at examples:

I started with Sandra Fluke. I am going to lay out her story in a bit more detail. When she fights for birth control access, she completely ignores the root cause of why the religious right doesn’t want women to have reproductive freedom. See, the root cause, the big idea, the entire fucking point, is that the religious right (made up of patriarchy defenders) consider women to be subjugates who should not (as ordained by god) enjoy and/or have sex unless for the purpose of generating the patriarch’s offspring. So when Fluke defends her friends’ rights to medically necessary medication, she perpetuates the normalizing ideal that women shouldn’t have or even want to have sex for fun. She says “Ignore the sluts behind the curtain. Look at these pretty little specimens I offer you.”

Now I won’t say that Fluke’s  own choice to normalize the examples presented before the panel is a causal factor in Limbaugh’s choice to demonize her as a “slut.” First Limbaugh doesn’t think about social complexities to that degree (or any degree perhaps) and second, Limbaugh’s overall assholiness is typically explanation enough. I will say that there is a deeper underlying cause though. Something far less direct but still a perpetuating force in the whole “calling Fluke a slut” kerfuffle.  Would Limbaugh call Fluke a slut if being a slut was considered socially normal? I think not. Would Limbaugh have called Fluke a slut if being a slut was considered socially good? Absolutely not. There is no benefit to using slut as a pejorative if the word has no bearing in culture as a pejorative.

So all these years fighting for women’s rights in a plethora of spheres, we still haven’t even scratched the surface in showing that sex for fun is normal for women too. We haven’t scratched the surface because almost every time we hold up a role model for scrutiny in the fight against sexism, we oh-so-conveniently discuss her purity, her untarnished résumé as why the opposition is wrong.

It gets more dangerous. Consider the effect that allowing “slut” to remain a pejorative has.  Consider the purpose of Slut Walks. How often is a woman’s purity a question in the case of rape? Every single fucking time. And it wouldn’t be if those fighting sexism had been fighting for women’s rights to fuck indiscriminately this whole time. It wouldn’t be if all the women fighting for their own cause, refused to distance themselves from sluts and instead embraced sluthood as normal and right.

Instead we continue to normalize female purity, and demonize female promiscuity.

Next example:

I haven’t blogged about Trayvon Martin. Other people have done a far better job discussing the case and the racism that still permeates our culture. I am going to discuss it now. When media attention caught onto the Martin case, the first step was to normalize Martin. “He was a straight A student.” Because failing students deserve to be murdered. “He had never been to jail.” Because every one who has been to jail deserves to be murdered.

The backlash was similar to that of Fluke”s. Defenders of race privilege in the world found every possible way to demonize Martin. Victim blaming in full force. He deserved to get shot because black men in hoodies are scary. He deserved to get shot because he had marijuana in his pocket once.

He deserved to get shot because he wasn’t as normal innocent as black people are supposed to be to not be murdered.

The long-term normalization of role models and martyrs for causes in fighting race discrimination, had done little to fight racism for actual normal victims. We still think that if you don’t “shuffle your feet” enough then you are to blame for your own death.

Trayvon Martin’s murder is a horrible consequence of this own sort of normalizing, but if that isn’t enough, consider the recent murder and coverup by police of Kenneth Chamberlain, Sr. or the long list of victims on Crommunist’s blog.

Yet one more example:

This is the case of an extremely normative member of a particular movement versus the  rest of the members of the same movement.

In Canada, two forces in the fight for transgender recognition and rights, fought simultaneously for positive cisgender media attention. The first was Canadian Trans Rights Bill C-279 which would place gender identity and expression under the rightful protection of the Canadian Human Rights Act. The second was the disqualification of pageant contestant, Jenna Talackova, from the Miss Universe Canada beauty pageant.

Both events sparked petitions. Both events begged for attention. Both deserved attention but clearly one deserved attention more. The wrong one got the most attention. As of this writing, The Canadian Trans Rights Bill C-279 has 1,817 signatures. The Jenna Talackova petition has 42, 123.

Cisgender people (and transgender people as well) came out in droves to fight for the right of one trans person to be a role model for trans rights but refused to fight the larger battle for the actual rights of trans people in general. The blanket acceptance of trans people to have the day-to-day rights that cis people enjoy with impunity (like using the restroom or flying on a plane) lost out to the right of one trans person to do exactly one thing.

This is not to say that Jenna Talackova didn’t deserve the right to do that thing. She absolutely did. The thing is though, if this bill were to pass, all the future Jenna Talackova’s wouldn’t have to worry about being disqualified. They would be protected from the discrimination that disqualified her in the first place.

Privileged people of all sorts don’t want that though. Privileged people of all sorts are being taught they only have to swallow the uneasy medicine of tolerance if we coat it in sugar first.

And it only delays teaching them to swallow like adults.

The horrible consequence that this delay can have? Consider the rights of a young, trans girl in Germany. Alexis Kaminsky isn’t a cis normative knockout like Jenna Talackova. She is too young to narrow in those terms. Instead she is a girl, born with male genitals, who wants to preserve the option to transition with relative ease in later life. Alexis Kaminsky wants Lupron and currently authorities have deemed that she cannot have it. Authorities have deemed that she doesn’t fit into their frame of reference for what is “normal” and she therefore must be corrected to fit into that frame of reference. Because she must pay for the crime of being “not normal,” authorities want to force her to undergo ineffective and possibly damaging psychiatric  treatment while her body is forced to continue to develop in a gender that she is not. Because she must pay for the crime of being “not normal,” she might now pay for the crime of not even “passing for normal.” They have put her life in jeopardy because the possibility that a trans girl might pass for a cis girl and live in congruence with her body is too bitter a medicine for them to swallow yet.

I am going to discuss the quote at the beginning of this post.  Many people have probably heard something similar in the movie version of  A Time to Kill. I chose the book version for a particular reason, and it isn’t because it makes a better sound bite. In the book by John Grisham, the lawyer Jake Brigance is not the one that makes this point to the jury. Instead, it is voiced by a juror to the rest of the jury during deliberation. Now the point made in this quote would have been well sold as a closing argument (as it was in the film adaptation), but it would have been a huge shift in Brigance’s character to do so. Grisham writes the character of Jake Brigance as a one who stubbornly refuses to make the case about race. It is a stubbornness that I absolutely love to watch play out in Brigance. From the outset he views the vigilante justice enacted by a father protecting his daughter to be the lawful, right thing to do. Race in this circumstance is a context that doesn’t matter to Brigance and he refuses to let it matter despite how much every one else tells him it does.

And in all his stubbornness, Jake Brigance is wrong.

Because all these years we have normalized our martyrs. We have coated them in sugar and flavored them in just the right way, ignoring the fact that the medicine isn’t actually bitter. We have decided the easiest best way to demonize intolerance is to offer up the most “normal” members of oppressed groups up for scrutiny rather than demonizing the excessive scrutiny itself.

And it will continue to be this way if we don’t start telling the world:

Promiscuous women* don’t deserve to be raped.

Black people who don’t “shuffle their feet”* don’t deserve to be killed.

Trans children* don’t deserve to be forced into living in fear of cis on trans violence as adults.

*I won’t use the pejoratives here because I do not own them to rightfully use them. I want sexist/racist/transphobic people to know though that no matter how pejoratively you use the terms in order to demonize your victim before you victimize them, they are still the victim and you are the horrible monster.

In case I wasn’t clear

I will get a few things out of the way:

I am cis

I support trans people when they empathize  with “Die Cis Scum” or use it as a source of empowerment.

I support trans people that think that using “Die Cis Scum” as a tool for empowerment is too divisive for their tastes. I don’t agree. I still support their right to their methods and believe that they are still working toward the same goals I am working toward.

See how easy it is to be an ally to someone whom you don’t agree with on a particular issue while still maintaining your voice?

If you can’t, then I am sorry. I have no idea how to make that more clear.

Now I haven’t posted a full and complete defense of “Die Cis Scum” yet but I think now I need to clear up why I defend it so easily. After all, I am cis, and the sentiment targets cis people. I still defend it.

First I have to distinguish between the two things I am defending.

The tattoo itself is separate from Asher’s  post on the tattoo.

I see the tattoo itself as reactionary, an act of defense against a cruel world. I see it as a desperate measure by someone who is truly, deeply afraid that they may one day become a statistic. I see it as their way of saying “Fuck you. I won’t be afraid anymore.” I empathize with that feeling. I have had real reasons to fear and real reasons to hate those who cause me fear. I don’t see the tattoo as a communication with the world in any way. I see it as a communication with one’s inner struggle. I see it as reactionary and empowering in the same way I see “men are pigs” or “fuck the police” as reactionary and empowering.

Now you may see this tattoo in a different light, but this isn’t about all the possible ways that everyone may perceive this tattoo. Instead it is my attempt to make it clear to you why I support it.

I see Asher’s post on the tattoo completely differently than I see the tattoo itself. I see it as a communication with the world. I see the post as someone who is ready to take the very thing that helped keep them alive that empowered them to not become a statistic and use it to 1) empower other people and 2) teach us something.

It has been said that the only people alienated by this tattoo and post are cis allies. I absolutely agree that Asher’s post and the author’s tattoo will have little to no effect on the general transphobic population. Most people in the general cis population have no clue that “cis” refers to them. So when I read Asher’s post, I have to take that into consideration. Don’t you think the author knows which “cis” people will understand this or even read this post? The author absolutely knows this, so it begs the question of what the author is attempting to do with this knowledge.

Is the author trying to alienate cis allies? That seems a bit self destructive, so probably not. Is the author trying to warn cis people that they are in danger of reactionary violence? While it is expressly stated in the post that the tattoo is a threat, it seems a bit ridiculous to assume that anyone intent of killing cis people at random feels the need to warn them.

Perhaps the author is attempting to use a literary device to force the reader to feel something they wouldn’t otherwise feel. I am just going to go ahead and state that this is what I think the author in Asher’s post is trying to do. I think Asher’s post is not about an actual threat of the possible mass murder of cis people. I think the author realized the most effective way for cis allies to empathize with the struggle that trans people the world over face is by forcing said cis allies to walk in their shoes for the length of time it takes to read this post.

And maybe the author is willing to lose some cis allies in the hopes the ones who stay will have a better sense of what they are fighting for.

I feel like Asher’s post gave me that, and that is I why I support “Die Cis Scum.”



Fuck. Just fuck.

I don’t even know where to start.

I suppose I have to thank @NiceGuyBrianG for exposing me to someone worse than him. I really, really don’t want to thank him, but I have to.

Title of the blog that aforementioned asswipe decided was worse than his rape apology:

The Necessity of Domestic Violence

The title alone should tell you what sort of fuckery to expect. I still wasn’t prepared. Trying not to vomit all over my keyboard. Still in aftershock. Sickhorriblefuckingmisogyny.

Example #1:

Finally, I have no sympathy for most abused women because a great many of them deliberately incite their men into attacking them, if not by being physically abusive themselves, then by creating drama. Extreme cases of this are diagnosed as borderline personality disorder, but a great percentage of the normal female population engages in this behavior as a matter of course. I found this out the hard way.

The emphasis is his but totally what I would have emphasized myself. Funny how someone who’s not a pathological abuser can look at these words and see one thing, but a pathological abuser can see something else entirely. (Lie. Not funny. Not funny at all.) I see someone attempting to shift the blame for his pathological behavior to his victims. I wonder what Ferdinand Bardimu sees. I can’t even wrap my head around the mentality of someone like this.

Example #2 is the one I really want to talk about.

If women have all the same rights and responsibilities as men, if denying privileges to someone because of the shape of their genitals is morally wrong, then that means there’s nothing wrong with bashing a woman’s face in — or, more accurately, it’s no more wrong than bashing a man’s face in. “Teach your son that all violence against women is wrong.” What if she’s coming at me with a kitchen knife? Do I get to defend myself or does the code of chivalry require me to stand there and let her stab me through the heart?

This bit follows the intro story about the “first” time a woman attacked him. I will stop and say that if the events happened as he said, and as of now I have no reason to dispute them, he was at that time the victim of domestic abuse. I wish he would have pressed charges.

Now that being said, he then uses that story to delve into a question that I am asked by many a person when I end up discussing domestic violence in the south. Is there ever a situation where I think it is ok for a man to hit a woman? I take a pretty hard line stance and say “no” but it isn’t simple. My hard line answer will always be “no, no, NO.” It isn’t ok.

The caveat is that sometimes we do “not ok” things because there is no “ok” alternative. Self defense that ends up mimicking offensive behavior is a “not ok” behavior. Basically if you have the opportunity to defend yourself without being offensive you should take it. I would argue that in the majority of situations if the female is the aggressor, the male is commonly able to escape the aggression without becoming offensive himself. In the rare situations that violence is necessary to defend yourself from harm by all means commit violence. This is true for men and women alike. That doesn’t make violence “ok” nor does it mean would should ever teach violence as “ok.”

The idea that “male chivalry” would extend into a person not defending himself from harm is patently ridiculous and no more than argumentum ad absurdum.

That is the only tiny bit in his whole rant that I felt worth commenting on. The rest is pure unfettered misogyny. I will let someone with a stronger digestive constitution parse out his overwhelming shittiness cause right now I have a date with a shower to wash the vile stench of fuckwit from my existence.

Too bad they don’t make a cleanser for erasing memories.



The c___ word

My favorite word in the English language:


It has been my favorite for a long time. I remember watching a VHS cassette of Boys on the Side when I was a teenager. It probably wasn’t the first time I heard the word, but that moment was the first time “cunt” resonated with me. I fell in love with it. I loved how Mary Louise Parker felt kind of dirty and kind of empowered at the same time when she said it. I remember rolling the word around in my mouth. Feeling that hard “k” sound flow so naturally to the hard “t” sound at the end. The euphony alone had strength.

As I grew older I heard the “cunt” more often. I heard it in porn/erotica/smut, and I loved it more. The absolute unapologetic rawness of “cunt” spoke to my inner slut in ways I can’t even describe. Nothing like a well-placed “cunt” to make this cunt moist with anticipation.

I even loved “cunt” as an insult. I had no problem reducing a person to their genitals.  I called boys pricks (another word I love the sound of) and girls cunts. Sometimes, for effect, I would reverse the gender. Did you know that boys really hate being called cunt? Shocking I know.

It wasn’t that I was unaware of how harmful the word could be. I am pretty damn sure I had been informed. Partly, I think, I believed the adages I had been taught as a child, “words only have the power we give them” and “sticks and stones…”

Oh the lies parents tell us to help us deal with the big bad world of adolescence.

And I believed them. They were useful to me. They taught me that so long as what a person said about me wasn’t true, I wasn’t to be bothered by it. I could let it roll off me. It also helped me to not be offended when someone called me a cunt. Learning that other words like “fuck,” and “goddamn” only made the toes curl of people who let them, I found a way to not give a fuck if someone called me a cunt. Same with “bitch.” So what if  they called me a bitch? Doesn’t mean I was one. So what if they tried to reduce me to my genitals? Didn’t mean I wasn’t more than that. In those ways I have some damn thick skin (in other ways my skin is transparently thin).

My thick skin and the belief that words only have the power that we, as individuals, give them kept me using the word “cunt” indiscriminately for many years. My love affair with the “cunt’s” resonance probably perpetuated the periodic utterances as well.

I don’t use “cunt” indiscriminately anymore.

It isn’t because of tone. I still think people ought to handle insults to some degree or leave the argument. (I am not going to chase you down screaming insults if you decide to bow out of a heated debate.) It isn’t because I have a problem with reducing someone to their genitals. That will probably never be an issue for me. It certainly isn’t about becoming more accommodating.  I become less accommodating with every breath I take.

No, I stopped using “cunt” in public speech as a insult for a very different reason. I learned something new:

My parents lied to me as a child.

Words don’t just have the power that we ourselves give them. They also have the power culture gives them. I think I knew this on some level already. I think, innately, it is what kept me cringing every time some racist bigot would casually let “nigger” flow from their lips.  I felt the weight of that word as an oppressor, but somehow the same concept escaped me with “cunt.”

Perhaps, it was because I somewhat owned “cunt.” I mean I was a cunt. I was damn proud of being a cunt. I loved cunts. I could separate the term as an insult versus a term of endearment quite thoroughly. Not only could I do that, but I expected everyone else to be able to as well. I expected that any sensible person should automatically assume that if I called them a cunt it wasn’t to demean women but rather point out a particular assholishness in conjunction with their womanhood. I thought if they couldn’t, they were giving more power to a word than it deserved.

I was wrong.

My whole outlook on insults and “cunt” hasn’t completely changed, but it has changed significantly. Growing up and facing aspects of culture that are more subtle and flow as an undercurrent in our language and customs has forced me to address the fact that if nigger, faggot, dyke, spic, gimp, or any number of marginalizing slurs are unacceptable, then “cunt” should be too. I had to understand something about other marginalizing slurs before I did though. I had to understand that my parents lied to me about something I had grown to take for granted as being the truth.

Words. Can. Hurt.

Yes, if they hurt me, it is because I let them. To some degree, that is the case for most. Still yet, my use of a word, your use of a word, can either serve to perpetuate stereotypes or demolish them. That is the real power that words have. If I continue to use cunt as a slur in everyday speech I cannot expect that everyone will hear the times I use it as positive as well. That would be unreasonable. In reality, people pay more attention to every time a word is said in negative light than when it is used in positive light. (Remember asking your parents why they never complimented you? They did. We just choose to forget the compliments.) So even if every time I called a person a cunt as an insult I countered with using cunt as a positive attribute, my audience will walk away feeling more like the word cunt, the existence of cunts, as being negative.

This isn’t a big issue for reasonable people. Most reasonable people can handle the dichotomy for multiple meaning words, even ones with subtle underpinnings like “cunt.” The problem is the world isn’t made of reasonable people. The world is made of mostly unreasonable people, some of whom are trying to become more reasonable by fighting their own personal biases. Some aren’t fighting their biases at all. Some are looking for every opportunity to perpetuate their hatred, and these assholes are not only loud, obnoxious trolls, they are often terrifyingly powerful. So if I happen to call a woman a “cunt” as a slur around one of them, I not only run the risk of perpetuating a mere stereotype, I also run the risk of giving fuel to one of those hateful misogynists who would happily seek the subjugation of women.

So, yeah, I don’t use gendered or otherwise marginalizing*  insults anymore in public. I use them in the private company of people that I have personally vetted to be reasonable enough to not consider my use of the terms as intending to perpetuate stereotypes. In public, I am incapable of vetting everyone that might hear my words. I don’t want to be the kind of person that gives words the power to marginalize groups of people based on an aspect of themselves that is not detrimental to the population as a whole. Being/having a cunt is not a bad thing. Being a slut is not a bad thing. There is no inherent wrongness to any particular pigmentation of a person’s skin. The need for abling devices such as wheelchairs, or psychiatric medication does not mean that a person is inherently less valuable to our culture. Insulting people for any one of these aspects (among many others) is privileged and wrong.

What I don’t understand is why other people who say they are on my side in fighting to keep women from being marginalized continue to use the term indiscriminately. I want to believe that people like Penn Jillette and Bill Maher are using the word “cunt” much in the way I previously used “cunt.” but I have a hard time believing they are incapable of understanding why their public voice necessitates a more discerning choice of words. It is so hard to believe because all it took was me reading a few people simply stating that they don’t use gendered insults to begin making sense of it all. I didn’t even have to be told their reasons before the connections started to form. I mean, these were people that obviously had no problem with tone, with intense graphic descriptions, but they objected to the use of the word “cunt” as a slur. What caused it? Then, it made sense. Still, rather than trying to make those connections, people with some of the furthest reaching voices in our community continue to marginalize a subset of the population for nothing more than adding shock value to their speech.

That isn’t to say that there aren’t groups in our culture that I think are undeserving of marginalization. Religious fanatics, absolutely deserve my vitriol. Misogynists, racists, trans phobes, and bigots of all breeds deserve my pure and utter contempt. Attempting to be more inclusive does not necessitate me tolerating intolerance. It shouldn’t for you either.

There are aspects of culture that deserve the strongest words we can throw at them. There are behaviors and attitudes that seek to make the word a horrible place to live. There is nothing wrong with parsing and defining everything that is wrong with those groups. There is something wrong, however, with allowing the vitriol to spill over into undeserving victims of our wrath.

It isn’t us just being crass when we use marginalizing slurs. It is us being bullies by contributing to a bigoted world. I don’t think any of us reasonable people want to serve bigotry in that way, so I will just have to consider that people who continue to use marginalizing slurs like “cunt” in public voice do not care if they are perpetuating misogyny. They may think they care, but they’d be wrong.

People who actually care about women don’t call them cunts (as a bad thing) in public.


*Here’s the deal. I still might use crazy as a term. I have found it to be an effective communicator in colloquial use as a descriptor for irrational behavior. I am working through my biases still and I probably won’t use it a ton. I will still likely use it some and you are free to criticize my use at anytime to help me learn.




Does context matter?

I am not perfect.

Privileged yes, but not perfect.

To be perfect first you must be able to describe the ideal. Societies are in a perpetual cycle of trying to define the ideal and all they really describe is the privilege.

I am lucky to have some societal perfections privileges. I am white. I am cisgendered. I have no physical disabilities and my mental ones (whilst still technically physical) are not readily apparent to most of society.

In other ways, I lack privilege. I am a woman. I am bisexual. I am atheist. I  do not exist in society’s narrow spectrum of beauty.

Even if I were lucky enough to meet cultural ideals in every way, I still wouldn’t be perfect. I would be privileged.

I would be scary.

I can tell what you are thinking. Wait? What? Why do you say scary? There is nothing inherently frightening about having privilege. That is where you’d be wrong.  Over the course of humanity positions of privilege have been used to evoke fear in unprivileged classes. It has done so as a means of protecting itself. Privilege has a survival instinct it seems. Privilege has promoted fear out of sheer hatred for the unprivileged as well. Privilege continues to evoke fear for both these reasons today. Privilege is a scary thing.

Back to our regularly scheduled programming.

One of my many imperfections (this time I won’t strike through as it is a personal ideal) is that I am continually less moral than I wish to be. Societies change, morals change, and  my views on morality in society change. I am just trying to keep up.

I am not a violent person, but I sometimes wish violence on other people.

Don’t bother lying from the seat of piety righteousness that you haven’t done the same. Envy of privilege is a very social creature thing. It happens to everyone by degrees. I won’t believe your lie if you say never. I will believe you if you say that you try not to. I try not to wish violence. I didn’t used to try. It is one of the ways I am trying to change morally.

Here’s an admission: When I was younger I used to wish rape on rapists as revenge, especially child rapists. It wasn’t from the piety of privilege but it was from hatred. I had been raped. I wanted every predator to feel as I felt, like the victim. I wanted them to be scared like I was scared of them. I wanted them to wonder if it was somehow their fault just as I spent my life wondering.  I have to consciously try not to wish rape as revenge now. Just one of the ways I am trying.

Another admission: Some untimely-ripped-from-the-arms-of-their-loved-ones deaths are justice for me. Sometimes I wish it upon a person. Sometimes I sit back crossing my fingers in the hope a person will die before they have the chance to further negatively influence my life. Sometimes I hope someone will kill them and do the world a favor. I don’t hope it without consequence. I do feel bad for my mental victims’ families. I would never gloat to a grieving family that my karmic victim “got what they deserved.” I might express relief to my peers which may seem like gloating, but really it is the sigh of relief washing through my body.

These wishes come from a place of fear. They come from a history of victimization and a desire to fight back. They exist even though I am not a violent person. I could never actually enact the revenge I not-so-secretly wish in my head. The act of wishing alone provides me the needed catharsis while living unprivileged in a privileged world.

It is that way for most people. When non-violent people desire violence on others either internally or externally, we do so from a  place of fear.  We fear the power others may have on us, either real or perceived. We do so as a manner of maintaining internal or external control over a situation where we otherwise feel powerless. We do so to survive as unprivileged people in a privileged world.

Part 2

I delineate here so you can recognize the shift in theme.

Part one was more like an intro. Part two explains why this is on my brain and perhaps some conclusions I have reached.

Privilege and violence have been on my brain a lot lately. Privilege, for months now. Ever since the wake of a certain incident*, I cannot go a day without considering privilege. I hadn’t really thought about it too much before. Violence on the other hand, in degrees, has occupied my brain probably my whole life. Recently, the two themes have copulated in my brain and this post is the hybrid child of their convergence.

It started here.

In a twitter comment, an anonymous male (don’t ask how they knew he was male) posted:

I want to fuck Michelle [sic] Bachmann in the ass with a Vietnam era machete.

The wish for violence is strong in this one.

I wrote a comment in the post where I fell in agreement with authorities and Zvan that more information was needed to determine whether the expressed desire was an actual threat. I stand by that. I stand by it despite my many years experience wishing violence on others.  Except for two very specific people, I can’t really imagine I would be capable of acting violently against another person unless my safety was in question. Once again I am not a violent person, but I can’t know if this guy is.

We can say that it is not statistically unlikely that he is a violent person. Males commit sex crimes against women at alarming rates. They sometimes express their desire to do so beforehand. So it is not impossible, nor improbable. Without context authorities need to dig deeper. I am all for it.

Then the next thing happened.

In this post, on Reed’s blog, I somehow missed visiting a link at the bottom. I will say somehow is not completely accurate. I am a creature of habit and the motivation was not strong enough for me to explore beyond that particular post. I am grateful for the trans perspective that Reed has brought to FtB because honestly I would probably continue to be uninformed on most trans issues if it were not her skill at blogging and the intersection between transgender and skepticism. FtB put her in front of my face and her writing kept me there. I still haven’t felt the need to explore transgender issues much beyond the perspective of her and the comments section. (Did I mention I am privileged?)

It is probably best that I missed the link originally. If I had clicked, I might have missed clicking the bottom link in that post , and then I might have missed the comments section in this post. That or I may have just skimmed it without really paying much attention at all. As it turns out when I finally saw Reed’s post mentioning the possible  alienation of  her cis readers with “die cis scum” that I did a double take. Did Reed somewhere state that cisgendered people should die? That sounded so unlike her. I had to investigate. So I went back systematically. I reread what I read already ( I have a tendency to miss stuff the first time around).  So I read the comments, trying to figure out what this “die cis scum” comment was about and found my way to Asher’s post.

Full fucking stop. Whoa, that was some powerful writing. Tears in my eyes and everything. The author made me, for one moment in my life, fully empathize with the fear of a lack of privilege I will never experience. Of course, I drew upon my own fears as an aid but Asher’s post made me feel something very real that I have never quite felt before.

Then I went back and read the comments  on this post, starting with 12 and watched them devolve into argumentum ad absurdum. I watched a commenter somehow suggest that the author in Asher’s post wanted to kill cis babies and imply that those who empathized with the post might partly hold those same desires. I am not even going to get into the idea of how on earth it was possible to determine whether a baby was cis or not because it doesn’t matter even if they will be able to eventually.

Instead I am going to go back to the first story of a guy expressing the desire to anally rape a politician and compare it to Asher’s post.

They both expressed a desire for violence. They are both anonymous. That is where the similarities end. The primary differences between the two posts are context and privilege. In Mr X’s tweet he gives the world no context. The only context we have is that he is male and truthfully if he posts anonymously he may not even be that. The author of Asher’s post on the other hand gives us more. Asher’s post is from the perspective of a transgender person in a cisgender world. Based on the wording we can assume the author, despite attempting to remain anonymous, is not attempting to set up a false identity for hirself. We also know the author was attempting to be brutally honest in hir post. We don’t know that about Mr. X’s post. We assume that Mr. X is attempting humor because of the hyperbolic nature his post, but we make no such assumption with Asher’s post. The implication of desired violence is very real in Asher’s post.

Another thing that is clear in Asher’s post (though the opposite is expressly stated) is that the author has no intention of actually harming cisgendered people. The author wants to make cisgendered people afraid, but I don’t think any reasonable person would assume that ze actually means to harm one. The author is attempting (through words) to force cis people to step off their position of privilege and experience the fear ze feels every day. The author does so because the terror of being trans in a cis world often elicits a strong response. If you are cis like me, you haven’t experienced the author’s terror.

You can’t know.

Just like you can’t know if Mr. X is serious. Asher’s post seems pretty clear that the author is not serious but if that isn’t enough try this. Try doing a Google search on crimes committed against cisgendered people by transgendered people.  What you will come up with is the reverse. Transgender against cisgender violence is not common enough to be remotely news worthy but the opposite, cis against trans violence, is extensive. Furthermore the “threat” in Asher’s post is highly unrealistic. All cis dead? Really? In contrast, Mr. X’s “threat” is not remotely unrealistic. Both females and politicians are a common target for violence.

These circumstances are incredibly different and attempting to conflate them is misrepresenting both.

Then we get to my last motivator for this post. Another implication of desired violence. Another “threat” as it seems.

Zvan defends her posting a SomeeCard that describes a cartoon depiction of a female, who states “But how can I hold the aspirin when one of my knees is moving so swiftly toward Foster Friess’ balls?” She makes a wonderful defense that does a fantastic job of differentiating the card from the inexcusable comment about kicking a fellow blogger in the cunt. I am not rehashing that argument here.I just want to compare this expression of desire to the first two.

First this example is very different from the first two as it was designed to be the expression of desire from women (not woman). It was a political argument that intends to focus on implication of violence as an acceptable response to those who would deny the rights to a subset of population. It is the same as posting the quote from Thomas Jefferson, “The tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots and tyrants.” The call to arms that sometimes defending our rights is a brutal affair.

So what we need here again is context to determine whether a person’s identification with the sentiment expressed is suggestive of an actual desire to knee Friess in the balls. I am sure that it is entirely possible that at least one person who reads this card may try to if given the chance knee Friess in the testicles. I am fairly positive that plenty of people without reading the card but given the chance may do so as well. I’m mostly certain that the overwhelming majority of people who can look at this card and laugh don’t actually have the slightest desire to cause direct harm to Foster Friess, but they wish violence as a means of releasing their anger. Once again, wishing violence is something we all do…by degrees. Pretend it’s not all you want. I won’t believe you.

So three expressions of desired violence from three very different perspectives. One a single anonymous person directed at a single known person, two a single anonymous person directed at a large majority of the population, and three an image representative of a large number of people directed at a single known person. Again, conflating any of these would be erroneous.

I looked at all these and a question formed in my head. Why do some expressions of violence seem understandable if not even justifiable and others do not?

The answer lies in the context, in the privilege.

I am going to take us back for a bit before I end this very long post (psst, thanks for staying with me if you made it this far.) I am taking us back to a time when being white held a greater privilege than it does today. Back to a time of westward expansion and the enslavement and/genocide of thousands of cultures on the very continent in which I reside. Imagine standing, watching people of your nation, your tribe die brutally at the hands of the privileged “white man.” Is it more or less understandable when you express a desire for the “white man” to perish? Is it justifiable? I think most of us can see the justification in that desire. Is it more justifiable than the expressed desire that a politician be violated by a machete? That is for you to answer. I think you can guess mine.

The point is, much like when people try to conflate Shrödinger’s Rapist with Shrödinger’s Mugger, when someone conflates Asher’s post or the SomeeCard with something like Mr. X’s post they are reversing the position of privileges. Confusing who has the most to fear in a given situation. Maybe it doesn’t make any situation morally right where the desire for violence is expressed, but it certainly makes some situations more “understandable” than others.

Context matters. To say that it doesn’t is speaking from blinded privilege.

*Referring to an incident in an elevator that will remain nameless. Not looking to support the horrible magic hypothesis.

I would like to thank Stephanie Zvan and Natalie Reed for helping me to edit and being a huge inspiration in this post.


“When I was a child, I spake as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child: but when I became a man, I put away childish things.”    1 Corinthians 13:11

Above is one of the few verses I like in a book I despise. I start with an analogy of growth to begin a story of growth.

I grew up with a fairly racist grandfather and a family hell bent on not giving me much exposure to him.  I lived with him for my youngest years but family members always tried to keep us apart.  I would like to imagine that they were trying to shield me from his bigotry but I know it was mostly because he didn’t like me very much. That is ok. He is the one who missed out. I got lucky.

Because of their protection, I came into this world without preconceived notions of racial stereotypes. I was able to go to a school with a fair amount of diversity and find early childhood friends of multiple hues. My first several years of life I was as best what you could call colorblind. Eventually concepts of race distinctions began to creep in. That is not to say that I let those distinctions turn me into a racist. I have a distinct inability to hate without a just cause. Actions are just causes. Race is not. So while I never felt the slightest inclination to view people that did not happen to match my particular color as less or unequal to me, I did start to notice those attitudes in the world.

From the beginning I knew they were wrong.

I couldn’t articulate it as I can today ( I spake as a child), but I knew.

Along with the concepts race creeping in on my life, the ideas and rhetoric of inclusiveness did as well. I began to learn of terms like racism and bigotry. I also learned a new word or rather a new meaning to a learned word.


Eventually this word would be my holy grail, an endless search for the nonexistent.

Once I knew what it meant to be colorblind, I wanted nothing more than to become it. I understood as a child. I believed it to be possible to revert back to a time where I had no concept of race. I thought as a child. I thought there was something wrong with me that I could not look at the person beside me and not be cognizant of their differences from me. It burdened me the same way that the concept of salvation burdened me. There was an aspect to this whole colorblindness concept that was untouchable, unreachable and I couldn’t understand why. With no one else to blame, I blamed myself.

Eventually I put away childish things. As I grew, as my reasoning grew, I realized that I was wrong in my original assumption that colorblindness could be achieved. I was wrong to think I could simply override all that evolution built into me to recognize the differences in people. I was wrong to try and view everyone as exactly the same.

And I was wrong about the most basic assumption of all.

Colorblindness is something to be desired.

No it isn’t. The only thing colorblindness does is make you blind to systemic privilege. Colorblindness makes it easy to ignore how race-based privilege affects us all by making us blind to the distinctions that coincide with those privileges. How can I tell that my employer discriminates against Hispanics if I am completely blind to race? How can I possibly empathize with the effects of racism on people of color if I cannot see the color everyone else sees?

The very adult truth is that we can’t. The skepticism of adulthood taught me that seeing color is not wrong. Allowing a color to erroneously bias me into unfounded assumptions is wrong.

Attempting to ignore that which we are incapable of ignoring does not make me better and blind. It only makes me weak and bland.



When shame is not wrong

Ok deep breath before we get started on this one.

Yesterday I read 300+ comments on CFI’s Facebook wall under the discussion of whether Jesus was a hermaphrodite. As of right now it is up to 429 comments and still going strong.

Personally I wouldn’t think the topic is interesting enough to warrant such a discussion from skeptics as Jesus’ divinity is highly questionable (his actual existence is somewhat questionable), so if he is mortal, the chance he is intersex is entirely possible. No evidence has been shown,  nor does it matter.

Turns out, that Jesus’ intersex status was not the hot topic on the thread. Rather a clueless individual named Colin decided to abbreviate the term “hermaphrodite” to “herme,” and Natalie Reed called him on it by saying, “not cool.”

Now if it was me, and I promise I might make such a mistake one day, I would have felt those instant pangs of indignation. I would have said to myself, “How dare she say something I said was not cool? I didn’t mean it badly.” Then I would have thought for a second. I would have thought about whether I really cared about using the term “herme” if it meant that I was bothering someone I care about.  I would have reminded myself that I thoroughly hate the sound of a particular combination of two words in the English language, “saline solution*,” and while my distaste for that combination is irrational, my friends respect me enough to not say “saline solution” around me. They don’t have to. There is no law that says “these words are wrong words” but they still respect my wishes. The funny thing is that most of the time they never would say the “saline solution” combination, so I never need to warn anyone beforehand. When I meet people I never start off with, “My name is WilloNyx and I have a problem with the words  “saline solution” so I appreciate you not saying them around me.” Instead if someone happens to use those words, I just cringe (as usual) and then explain that those are words I prefer not hear. I find out real quick who respects me enough to care about making me cringe. And, reader, be sure that I know my problem with “saline solution” is irrational while Natalie’s problem with “herme” is not. I really do know that. People’s use of the term “saline solution” has never been used to denigrate and oppress a valuable subset of the population.  Knowing the difference is the reason I choose to explain myself for my own irrational bias toward “saline solution” when Natalie shouldn’t have to against “herme.” Saying “not cool” should be enough.

Instead of it being enough, another commenter by the name of Marcus chimed in defending Colin’s right to privilege, and subsequently the whole conversation devolved into a shitstorm argument. It is worth a read if you really enjoy the masochism of watching privilege defend itself to the bitter end.

But that is not is what I want to talk about. We all know that privilege is a fighter, certainly a fighter worth our efforts to battle, but a fighter nonetheless. Rather I want to talk about a concept that “privilege defender” Marcus brings up pretty far into the debate. After incredible backlash, Marcus first attempts to conflate people telling him that his insistence upon using marginalize terminology will inevitably lead to people viewing him as an asshole with coersive silencing techniques like those of fascist regimes.  He then later proceeds to explain that shaming is wrong because it is the same tactic used to silence marginalized groups. Here are a couple of quotes fro Marcus:

My position is that all those who would restrict speech will resort to violence if they can; but first, they’ll insult (check), publicly scorn (check), try to shout down (check), or use “social norms” or shame to silence you (big check). All of these are methods of coercion, all of them reprehensible.


Sally, is that a moral argument? You tell me that others will think less of me, so I should act a certain way; this is the age-old use of shame to silence others; it’s dishonest, and simply immoral.

I know your irony meter just broke because he is trying to tell a marginalized group that they can’t shame him for his inconsiderate behavior because privileged groups like his own use shame to marginalize not inconsiderate behavior (often not only behavior but mere existence) .

First thing. There is nothing wrong with any of the behaviors that Marcus checked as having happened. The violence one is debatable in some circumstances, and I will accept his assertion that it is wrong for the purposes of this argument. Still, the others are not wrong. Insults we use quite effectively when they are accurate descriptors of a person’s position and if we can show with solid argument that their position is a wrong one to have. If I call a bigot a bigot, it is not only the truth but also an insult. So when they call Marcus an asshole (as an insult of character not as as calling him the body part itself) he  has to weigh the relative truth to their statements. They gave Marcus their arguments why they think he is  an asshole (i.e. choosing to ignore the stated wishes of someone in order to maintain his privilege to speak they way he desires). Marcus gets to counter why those behaviors do not make him an asshole.  So far I have yet to see a convincing argument from Marcus why he is not one.

Public scorning and shaming are the same thing. I want someone to show me what is inherently wrong with public shaming when the thing being shamed is deserving of that shame. The big difference here is whether you believe the shame is warranted, and what rational basis you have for believing that.  I imagine he thinks shaming atrocious behaviors like those of white supremacist groups are worth shaming to some degree. I am sure he has no problem shaming the Catholic church for its coverup of years of systematic child sexual abuse.  I am sure that he has no problem denouncing plenty of bad behaviors. We are social creatures. We learn through shame as much as we learn through praise. The big difference here, is that when bigots use shame tactics, they have no rational basis for doing so.  When we criticize their shaming, we are criticizing their very foundation for doing to. We are stating there is nothing harmful or wrong with being, a woman, a person of color, homosexual, transgender, disabled, polyamorous, or any flavor of non-harmful aspects of oneself. We are expecting others to defend their bigotry with something real, something other than god, or we will fight back with out own shaming, our own growing voices.

Oh yeah about those “growing voices,” how dare he suggest that shouting down is inherently wrong. Sometimes drowning the noise of bigotry in a single unified voice is all we have to keep us going forward. Sometimes canceling the frequencies of noise from one side with the frequency of noise from another side is enough to make us feel like serenity is achievable.

None of these tactics are without merit. They are sometimes the best tools at our disposal when dealing with unreasoned beliefs. The difference is that on our side we have well reasoned ideas behind our use of them. The difference is that we are not using them to further privilege but to further a world sans privilege. We are using them to help people rather than harm them. Big difference.

*Saline solution is not actual the word combination. I can’t bring myself to type the actual words.