David Badash

No To The Notion Of Irresponsibility. Yes To Embracing Our Past And Our Future.

Filed By David Badash | December 11, 2009 11:00 AM | comments

Filed in: The Movement
Tags: Bil Browning, Christmas, LGBT history, Ronald Gold, transgender

Part One: No To The Notion Of Irresponsibility.

As a contributing writer to The Bilerico Project, I denounce the piece that ran on Thursday, Ronald Gold's "'No' to the notion of transgender" and its publishing. The piece was offensive, insensitive, mis-informative, and mired in ignorance. That it was published was equally offensive and irresponsible.

I agree, as Bil Browning wrote atop "'No' to the notion of transgender," that the role of The Bilerico Project, "is to encourage dialogue among different facets of the LGBT community that might normally never interact this intimately." I wholeheartedly support that endeavor. As it is, our community is fractured; providing a platform and encouraging dialogue is a noble, necessary, and important goal, and I applaud The Bilerico Project for its efforts.

The publication of "'No' to the notion of transgender," however, is the culmination of a misguided editorial practice. It should never have been published, in any form. I was relieved, and, quite frankly impressed, to read Bil Browning's, "My Responsibility: The difference between "challenging" and "offensive." It is my hope that a more responsible and active editorial approach will be taken by Bilerico in the future.

Part Two: Yes To Embracing Our Past And Our Future.

Now, having said all this, let me share with you a story.

Yesterday, I was sitting in my neighborhood diner with a wonderful friend, having a very late lunch and sharing remembrances of the Holidays of our youth. As we listened to the Christmas music playing, he told me about his memories of Christmas tree "bubble lights," and his favorite Christmas song, a parody of "The Twelve Days of Christmas," while I shared memories with him of one of mine, the dog barking to "Jingle Bells." Neither of us were familiar with the other's song - nor I with bubble lights - so we went back to my home and YouTubed them. (Yes, they were all there.)

Thirty-five years ago, the song of the dog barking to "Jingle Bells," that parody of "The Twelve Days of Christmas," (as I learned,) "bubble lights," and a T.V. show called "Marcus Welby, M.D.," were all commonplace. Thirty-five years ago, "Marcus Welby, M.D.," ran an episode titled, "The Outrage," which equated homosexuality and pedophilia. And thirty-five years ago, a man, one of the original five founders of a little group back then, called the "National Gay Task Force," worked to organize a nationwide grassroots campaign to prevent ABC's airing of that vile episode. That man was Ronald Gold, the author of, "'No' to the notion of transgender."

Now, I don't know Ronald Gold. Before I read his post, and wrote this one, I knew almost nothing about him. And yet, thanks to his decades of work, I am able to do mine, and to criticize his. And rightly so.

Everything in life has cycles. And there is always something taking the place of something else. Shows like "Marcus Welby, M.D." are taken over by shows like "M*A*S*H," which are taken over by shows like, "The Cosby Show," which are taken over by shows like "E.R.," which are taken over by shows like "House," and so on. The grassroots activism of Mr. Gold's a quarter-century ago has been replaced many times over. As have attitudes about sexual orientation and gender identity.

Mr. Gold may have found himself approaching the end of a cycle. His beliefs about gender identity - at least when he penned "'No' to the notion of transgender" - are out-of-date as much as "The Outrage," that episode of "Marcus Welby, M.D.," which he fought to keep off the air.

Each of us can look into our past and remember fondly, and sometimes not so fondly, the way things used to be. Thanks to Mr. Gold, things are a lot better for us all, even those he offended yesterday. Thanks to Bil Browning, things are a lot better for us all, even those he offended yesterday, too.

Even as this troubled year draws to a close, let us all look fondly upon the past, and warmly welcome our future, knowing each of us contributes to history as best we can, and knowing that the attitudes we share today about who we are, as individuals and as a community, may be equally out-of-date if we don't embrace the very change we ourselves are creating. Mr. Gold would have been wise to do that. I hope I will have been when I have reached his years.

By the way, last night, long after the diner and the memory-lane YouTubing, as I walked my dog Text, thinking about Ronald Gold, Bil Browning, and that wonderful man with whom I shared memories of Christmases past, I strolled by another diner (Hell's Kitchen has a lot of diners.) Even though it was two in the morning, they were playing their Christmas music rather loudly. And do you know what Text and I heard? The song of the dog barking to "Jingle Bells."

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I, too, have always loved the barking dogs "Jingle Bells," despite, or possibly because of its annoying nature. This might be a good example of my current view of Ron Gold. Certaily, in the context of GLB activism, Ron is to be commeded as a pioneer. At the same time, it should be noted that his efforts were, and apparently still are GLB specific, and not inclusive or respectful of the trans community, thus, the annoying bit.

My assertion that this reflects the prevailing attitudes of the GLB community toward trans Americans is supported not only by Gold's views (though there is something to be said for his opinions concerning gender stereotypes), but by the fact that Bilerico editors had the insensitivity to publish his recent piece.

Thank you, David for your denouncement of Gold's views and the publication of them. Sadly, though, it appears to have opened long suffering wounds in the relationship between the GLB and T communities that too much time has been wasted already in healing. Continued efforts to rebuild the bridge between the two communities is, I fear an effort that is delivering diminishing returns, and I for one would propose that the trans community needs to move on independently to address trans specific issues without further regard for the GLB community.

Great so now we have "denunciation" politics where if you don't like an opinion you denounce its publication rather than its factual error. This type of PC pablum is exactly what has driven so many subgroups of what used to be a broad ranging category of sexual outlaws out of the movement. Frankly I found the "no" article to be very challenging, it forced me to reexamine my own attitudes towards trans issues and it made me THINK. For that alone it deserves high praise on a site that is supposed to be about making us think.

And my kudos to the author, he hit the nail on the head. We really do need to discuss how much of the transgender experience is about societal norms and why some start to assume transgender status for a boy not meeting traditional masculine roles. Tough to talk through and if we get the language wrong and offend a few people along the way? Well tough, grow a thicker skin and acknowledge that at least we are thinking our way through it. So our opinions don't match, big deal, we'll get there when you educate us not when you cus us out for trying to hold a conversation.

What do you mean "we"?

Are you trans? If not, then what utility is there for those of us who are, in your discussion of transgender experience?

There is the difference Paulo, many of us do not think that Mr. Gold was trying to hold a conversation. His article was, for many of us, offensive and not well thought out. It was insulting. What is more bothersome is that it seemed that Mr. Gold did not and still does not mind that.
I'm all for discussing this issue. My interest is piqued in the subject. But possible discourse has been occluded by the presentation.
My interest BTW was not inspired by the post of Mr. Gold. It was actually set off by a chain of thinking linked to another post on gender-neutral parenting. That post sparked thinking and discourse in many.

There is the difference Paulo, many of us do not think that Mr. Gold was trying to hold a conversation. His article was, for many of us, offensive and not well thought out. It was insulting. What is more bothersome is that it seemed that Mr. Gold did not and still does not mind that.
I'm all for discussing this issue. My interest is piqued in the subject. But possible discourse has been occluded by the presentation.
My interest BTW was not inspired by the post of Mr. Gold. It was actually set off by a chain of thinking linked to another post on gender-neutral parenting. That post sparked thinking and discourse in many.

Stimulating thought and encouraging the exchange of ideas is one thing. Simply lashing out thoughtlesslyand throwing epithets is quite another. The former represents expression of opinion and invitation for discussion. The latter, which it is my feeling Ron Gold's article was, is quite simply hate speech, no more worthy of intellectual discourse than is similar such "op-ed" presented by the likes of Glenn Beck.

To his credit, Gold did, at least advance the idea of challenging the gender binary, but surrounded the one valid idea contained in his diatribe with the kind of transphobic vitriole one expects to hear from Fred Phelps and his ilk, but certainly not from within our own "community."

Brilliant! Perfect! I was finishing up a response myself, I think I'll put it away for now. I don't think much more about the piece needs to be said. Now I'd like to hear from the transgender community and set the record straight.

As part of the "transgender community"—though as Antonia D'Orsay pointed out and I said yesterday, this concept is something of a false idea—my commentary is that this is still missing the point.

At this point, I don't care what Ronald Gold thinks. He's a product of his time, and in his day he was no doubt enlightened beyond measure on the subjects in his world. What I've seen of his history and what I see of his statements says to me that he doesn't understand gender, sex, identity, or the intersections that occur in those realms any better today than he did when yesterday. That's irrelevant.

What I care about at this point is the fact that the Bilerico moderation staff seems more interested in saving face than in recognizing the error that was giving Ronald Gold a platform to speak his mind on a subject about which he knew nothing. I'm more bothered by the fact that Bil doesn't seem to understand why Ronald Gold's post was harmful than I am by the fact that Ronald Gold said harmful things. I'm more concerned with the fact that Bilerico's administration staff doesn't understand why they've lost readers and may lose contributors than I am with the fact that those people have left.

The first thing you need to understand is that this is no longer about Ronald Gold. This has long since stopped being about Ronald Gold in specific. This is now about Bilerico, and it has been from the moment that Bil owned Ronald Gold's post and the hurt that it caused. If Bil had taken down the post and clearly articulated the reasons why it shouldn't have been released, this would be over by now. It wouldn't undo the harm; no amount of "mea culpa" from someone who damages you will make the damage go away. If Bil had issued a repudiation and issued a stern message saying that Ronald's posts would be moderated by the new TBP trans editor, I think people would at least accept that. As it is, your front-pagers are running around going "but I don't understaaaaaand!" Even Badash's renunciation does its part to try to excuse Gold's views as "enlightened for his era" and to pardon his hurtful ignorance by cloaking his actions in the mantle of past nobility. It's not as if he hasn't had the chance to learn the error of his views. It's that he's being prevented from having to do so by a cadre of people too willing to give him a pass for what he did a long time ago. What he did was important, and it was positive, but that's no excuse for what he said yesterday.

Let me give you a different example. Thomas Jefferson was a noble and enlightened man, yes. We wouldn't understand democracy the way we do if not for him. Does this mean that we should give a pass to his slave-ownership on the grounds that he was enlightened for his day? When the people that Jefferson owned express pain and suffering at hearing him speak on the subject of slavery, is it acceptable to tell them, "look, we shouldn't have published his editorial on the need of the Negroid to be guided by the White Man, but fifty years ago he tirelessly worked to create a place where all men were created equal, and it's important to remember that!" Do you really believe that that sentiment erases or justifies the damage done?

Do you even understand why people are angry?

Gold's article was no surprise to me. I view it as an umbrella concept of the one oft expressed here towards women of operate history. It was essentially the same as the totally obnoxious Phil Reese post asking "Who are the Real Women" (among all trans and intersexed) that ended with his declaration it was those with penises with the PC wording removed.

Bilerico has been putting up gynophobic, neogynophic and transphobic articles for years. Most of them were narrowly focused towards those who embrace the binary regarding gender. Gold was compared to Bindle and Raymond which was completely accurate. Surprising to me is that many commenters on Gold's entry embraced that aspect while denouncing the conclusions which are simply the logical extention of Butler's gender deconstruction for all philosophy. They themselves missed the educational moment it provided.

Bil's "apology" was downright pathetic. His claims to promote controversy within the GLBt world given lie by the treatment of those (who's voices remain silent at this point) who have been demonized for objecting to being defined as transgender because they were born with a birth condition they corrected. Where are these voices as contributors? Enough have spoken up in the past and are intellegent and articulate writers that their POV not being represented is evidence Bil is speaking with a forked tongue.

When it was this POV being attacked the bias by the editors was overt. Now it's the turn of those who did that attacking to suffer the slings and arrows they are the ones screaming "foul"

No, no surprise here. It's what I've come to expect from Bilerico, the castration anxiety fueled position wins here every time.....

Interesting tidbit, I actually make the OPPOSITE point od Ron Gold in my piece--one that, if our audience will remember accurately, the people who came after me there were on the side of transgender-erasure. Now some of those same people are comparing Ron Gold's transgender-erasure piece with mine, and coming out against the transgender erasure, I'm not really sure what end is up anymore. I'm just going to go ahead, set the record straight--this is silliness I stand for everything that is the opposite of what Gold wote--and I'm done with this. I'm sure we can find much more that is akin to Gold's POV in your writing than mine. I've been to the blog. Anyone care to wager?

Phil what makes you kin to Gold is that you are so convinced you are right you are totally incapable of being educated and that is a trait I have run across with gay men over and over and over. You already "know" everything and thus can learn nothing.

I had a lot of gay male friends prior to transition, almost none afterwards for this very reason.

Not to review the entire prior discussion, but the minority that is women of transsexual history are a tiny number compared to the transgenders who erase and colonize our lives. We erase them? Hardly! We simply stand pat on our difference to them, differences you are apparently incapable of understanding. I suspect this is due to the innate literal gynophobia that is fueled by castration anxiety.

I view you as worse than Gold for these reasons, at least he doesn't pretend and his invincible ignorance is not hidden.

I really think this is getting to the point where somebody just needs to post what are "acceptable things to talk about" on this blog.

I imagine the list would be so small that it would make the editors jobs quite simple, because nothing would be posted.

This reminds me of so many conversations I had in college courses around privilege and -isms. They always made me furious- esp, because people would use the words, "I'm offended" or you're not acknowledging "your privilege" as a way to shut people down.

It became a party to see who could become more holier than thou - more correct than thou.

Of course no one really would ever acknowledge the privilege all of us had in the room to have the resources to attend such a wonderful Ivory tower.

The biggest change I've seen in people around any issues, including in myself - regarding classism, sexism, homophobia, and transphobia are when groups of people come together- allow people to get out of their comfort zones and speak their minds - then learn from each other - that is when progress is made.

What I would really love to see on Bilerico is more focus on real-world solutions to sexism, classism, and transphobia.

For instance, the rampant sexism at my current employer, and how to be an ally and stop it and create a new culture.

But nope, this is the conversation we have instead.

CP, the fallout from Gold's post *is* the education that you wish would come from such an event. It *is* the conversation out of the comfort zone. If you're too thin-skinned to handle appropriate feedback to a provocative post, then get out of the kitchen.

The simple fact is that it is your "comfort zone" that has been breached, and so you, far more than most of the rest of the respondents here, have resorted to petty complaint.

You're continuing to ignore the fact that this discussion needs to take place with mutual respect.

If a straight person came in here calling you gay men "a bunch of pedophile faggots that should have been beaten more by their parents, and by gawd it used to be that if a man did such ungodly things, we beat him dead out in the fields.", I think you'd be *A BIT* upset by them. Probably kick them out of here.

Same thing here. Someone is advocating attitudes that contribute to real harm and death of trans people. Maybe it's a teachable moment, but it is not one that our "allies" should be encouraging. It's one we should be smacking down and saying, "No. It's NOT okay to hurt people. Now let's talk about why what you said was hurtful."

So far, Ronald has only persisted in his hurtful and harmful words, despite the obvious fact that his words have SERIOUSLY hurt many many people. Is he showing any willingness to admit his error and start to learn about his mistake? So far, no. I'm not hopeful, either.

This is pretty much the equivilent of some guy at your office taping jokes about beating ones wife and degrading porn on the door of the frig in the lunch room - then acting surprised -and with mock seriousness says:

I was just trying to start an intellectual discussion on sexism. I can't tell you how disappointed I am that you chose to degrade the level of the conversation.

Who knows? In some alternate reality there may be a place where that would work.

Why don't you give it a try and post about the response?

I left a reply to this that does not appear. Did it vanish into the ether or did it fail to pass muster in some way?

It seems that the Gay Men of Bilerico (sounds like a musical) are circling the wagons to protect one of their own from suffuring the slings and arrows of outragous fortunes. Sorry, dudes, but you ain't heard half of what will flood this blog well into next year. Facebook and Twitter are all a buzz about. If she hasn't already, Autumn will probably have an article on Pam's. Yep, this has a life of its own. The ship has some gaping holes in it and the Damage Control Team is nowhere in sight. I can swim.

Monica- you do exactly what I mention- demean your "opponent" by marginalizing them, in this instance, "gay men" so less oppressed than thou.

Just remember how you're treating Ron right now -= as you say sending slings and arrows. There have been many times when you have posted blogs that where I have defended you when you were being berated.

I've walked more trans-inclusion picket lines than I care to imagine - but evidently I'm a "gay man" so now I'm the bad guy.

I find all of this interesting esp. considering the fact that last week Dr. Weiss did a posting about how ENDA is dead for the year- that didn't get much traction at all.

But here we have a guy spouting nonsense and we have over 400 posts of people outraged literally sending slings and arrows his way.

I wonder what we could actually accomplish if we focused our energy on something of high impact.

Fact 1. A gay man made hateful and uninformed comments about trans people.

Fact 2. A gay man made a half-assed attempt to apologize, that failed miserably.

Fact 3. The Editorial Staff who approved Ron's article has 5 gay men, only one lesbian and no trans person.

Fact 4. The only people who have made any supportive messages to either Bil or Ron have been gay men.

If this doesn't sound like putting the wagons in a circle, then I don't know what does.

california panda | December 11, 2009 7:35 PM

Omg! Now I'm an wagontrain lootin' indian with no gender identity at all! I so LOVE IT!

Give 'em Hell, Monica.


me smokem peace pipe with trans family, no others. they speak with forked tongues.

Robert Ganshorn Robert Ganshorn | December 11, 2009 8:29 PM

Monica, did you read Zoe's supportive comments? Dr. Weiss's? (that they hope Mr. Gold posts again) The points they have made indicate that there is nothing which should not be spoken of for it's learning value. But also there should be a framework for response to posters for veracity, accuracy, fairness, balance and a modicum of sensitivity to "hot button" words that were in the piece such as "mutlilated" etc.

Did you read my criticism of the editorial process down to quoting what "edit" means? Why was the managing editor first to comment when he could have bounced the post back as a TOS violation? The editors role is to help the writer not leave him or her twisting in the breeze.

I have learned a lot over the years of reading Bilerico that I would not have otherwise. And I think you know me well enough to know I have not agreed about a number of things,*grin* I have read here, but that does not mean I do not think they should have been written with appropriate moderation.

Capitalistpiggy- again, it's very simple. Answer me this one question:

If there is a need to publish articles that make personal nasty insulting attacks on all transpeople on Bilerico, then surely there is an equally strong need to publish articles that make personal nasty insulting attacks on all gay men and lesbians on Bilerico.

Where are the articles that make personal nasty insulting attacks on all gay men and lesbians on Bilerico?

And Mr. Badash-

Sure, Mr. Gold has many fine works to his credit.

Was hating transpeople necessary for the accomplishment of any of them?