Jerame Davis

What's the plan? Answers to your questions

Filed By Jerame Davis | December 13, 2009 5:30 PM | comments

Filed in: Marriage Equality, Site News
Tags: controversy, education policy, Ron Gold, transgender inclusion

In a comment thread on Becky Juro's post about the Ron Gold controversy, a commenter asked me some very important questions. And since so many others have asked similar questions, I thought I'd put my responses into a blog post to further that important discussion.

I am new here, and trying to determine whether tbp is a "good fit" to be reading. though it is disheartening to know that some editors felt that the legitimacy & validity of trans experiences are "controversial" and up for debate, I trust that it's still possible the majority of contributors here could be worth reading.

you have said that this is an inclusive blog, that (essentially) mr. gold's post and its approval by the editors was an isolated incident, and thus I/we shouldn't paint the blog with a broad brush based on the inaccurate and blatantly transphobic piece that he wrote. if I am correct in this (and feel free to call me out otherwise) then I have a few questions...

I think you hit most of my major points pretty well and I'm happy to answer your questions as best I can.

-do tbp's terms of service apply to posts like his?

TBP's terms of service always apply to contributors, yes. In thinking this topic needed to be broached, Bil made a poor judgement call about whether this post crossed that line. We do tend to be rather lenient when someone's words attack an idea and not a specific person. Unfortunately, words like "deluded" and "mutilated" are very hurtful and feel like a personal attack and Bil didn't fully consider that aspect. He has taken responsibility for that.

Having this explained better than I was able to at the time is why Bil and the rest of the ed team ultimately decided to pull the article and also remove Gold as a contributor. That is a pretty drastic measure to take in our book and I believe makes clear that we take the concerns of the trans community seriously. If it were a stunt or done out of some malice, I would think our reaction would be much different.

I want to acknowledge here the good folks who reached out and did this education with us. They were understanding, respectful, and kind even though they too were horribly and deeply hurt and offended by Gold's words. There were some strained words among some dear friends, but it was good and healthy in the end and I think will make those relationships stronger.

-in the spirit of inclusion, what measures are currently taken to prevent transphobic content here?

First, all education is a journey. We're all at different places in that journey and we're, hopefully, all moving in the direction of better and more complete understanding. So, education is a big part of the process.

We've had 3 of our trans contributors offer to join the ed team and we will be adding one or more of them to the team in the hopes of doing a better job in the future. We have had trans ed team members in the past, but we currently do not have anyone who is trans on the team. We try to be very diverse, but being on the ed team is really a hard job for a group of volunteers.

We're also having discussions about what else we may need to do. We're a deliberative and cooperative team and we think it's vital to have input from inside and outside our group and have time to process our thoughts. It's hard to know exactly how to fix something when you're still getting your ass roundly kicked for it.

-in what ways are trans contributors supported?

We actively seek out and recruit trans contributors and have done so since the beginning. We regularly evaluate our coverage and look for under-represented perspectives on trans (and really all LGBT) issues and topics areas and then search for and recruit voices to speak to those issues and topics.

Other than marriage equality, our trans-related posts have the most heated and lively comment threads of any other posts on the site. We do our best to moderate those threads so they don't get out of hand. We are considerate of all points of view, but we try very hard to make sure that personal attacks and *-phobia(s) get tamped out quickly. We can't always hit that goal 100%, but it is our constantly repeated mantra to do so.

-if there is disagreement over whether content will be hurtful to trans people, which voices in the debate are granted greater credibility: trans voices or non-trans voices?

Anyone with direct experience will always have more credibility than someone who does not. I'm certain that if a trans person had been included in this discussion to begin with, the post would have never run - at least not in the form it ran with such derogatory and hurtful language. That was an oversight and something we intend to not let happen in the future.

Trans concerns do not take a backseat here. We believe in putting everyone on as equal of footing as possible. Not understanding an issue is not the same as not being respectful of such issues. Mistakes do and will happen and I believe they are an important part of learning and growing. We cannot undo the past, but we can learn from it and work toward preventing those mistakes in the future.

-was this just a publicity stunt to increase traffic?

This question wasn't asked in the original exchange, but I've added it because so many are throwing around the accusation that this was just a stunt.

First off, all blogs take measures to help increase their traffic. From using keywords to make your content easily found in searches to getting and giving links to other relevant content that builds the "web" that makes the internet run.

Also, posting pictures and videos that are popular is very much common practice around the blogosphere.

What isn't common practice, and we feel rather insulted having insinuated, is that we would intentionally cause harm to members of the LGBT community just for the sake of a few extra hits. I fail to understand what good that serves.

There is no good in having an angry swarm of visitors show up for a few days and then go away never to return. Our goal is to build a loyal and dedicated readership over time. That's what makes a blog successful in the long term.

It's our job to make that content easily found and accessible so the readers do indeed come to our site for information, but we want them to stick around when they come. If they leave in disgust or anger, we've only hurt ourselves and it serves no purpose. Anyone who knows anything about building an online community knows this and it's something we take seriously.

We're provocative, we push boundaries, and sometimes, we post some fluff too. But we'd never cause intentional hurt for the sake of traffic to the site. The idea is ludicrous.

-what changes will occur to prevent this from happening in the future?

I've given some of the answers to this question in my answers above. I think the most important change has already happened: There is a better understanding of the power of words and that there is more to learn about being sensitive to a community's threshold's and standards - they may be different than one's own.

We will definitely include trans voices on discussions about trans topics and how we cover them or allow them to be covered. I think our biggest mistake was not reaching out to the trans community before this piece was published.

We won't let something like that happen again.

We're putting together a new site design that has some new features, such as a comment reporting mechanism and entry recommendations that will hopefully empower our readers to be more active in shaping the way content is handled on the site.

Other than that, the discussion is ongoing. (Trust me, I haven't talked about much else in the past few days.) So, the request for input and ideas is an honest one - to paraphrase Becky in her post - this place IS for all of us. We'll push your boundaries, make you think, and sometimes make you scream...But it's never our intention to be disrespectful or hurt members of our own community.

That's what guides us and that's why I'm confident about the future.

I invite your thoughts, questions, and/or critiques in the comments.

Leave a comment

We want to know your opinion on this issue! While arguing about an opinion or idea is encouraged, personal attacks will not be tolerated. Please be respectful of others.

The editorial team will delete a comment that is off-topic, abusive, exceptionally incoherent, includes a slur or is soliciting and/or advertising. Repeated violations of the policy will result in revocation of your user account. Please keep in mind that this is our online home; ill-mannered house guests will be shown the door.

Awesome post, Jer. I look forward to working with you, the rest of the edteam, and everyone who cares about the site, to get beyond this and make the site ever better as a result. Thanks for your hard work on this, and I look forward to the future here with both comfort and confidence. :)

Thank you, Jerame. This is the best I have felt about Bilerico in over a long time. Now, I can say in a loud voice, "Apology accepted."

And, for those past issues from me that you and Bil had, I want to publicly apologize to the both of you.

MitchInOakland MitchInOakland | December 13, 2009 6:27 PM

There's an elephant in the room! It's the fact that transsexuals (in particular) insist that their bodies (as born) were deformed.

Gay people have been fighting for at least two generations for it to be recognized that being gay is NOT a disability -- nor is it in any way a semblance of deformity or dysfunction!

I happen to believe it would be far wiser to recognize that being gay is a choice -- as was my experience during a (far better and saner) time when experimentation with sexuality and drugs was accepted and gender boundaries were in the process of being discarded. My experience was that being gay is a choice -- made as a result of experimentation -- one for which a person can and should be proud! Enough of "I can't help it, I was born this way." I believe that's a major factor in how we've reached this impasse.

From issues of "disclosure" (vs. the closet) to those of deformity, gay and trans identities are implicitly somewhat opposing viewpoints. One can be a gay person who's supportive of rights for trans people on human rights or disability grounds, but we're only a single community in the eyes of our enemies.

As for terms like "mutilation" or "delusion," that's obviously someone's perception, and they (as much as those who take issue -- both, incidentally for experiential reasons) have a right to express themselves accordingly. There's an old statement attributed to Voltaire and beloved by civil libertarians: "I may not agree with what you say, but I'll defend to the death your right to say it."

The attempt to stifle certain forms of expression is hurtful, too. Who decided that one should be silenced because expressing a particular view is "hurtful"? Life (from birth trauma onward) can be hurtful, and it's not necessarily because of malice; sometimes it's the result of a genuine difference in lived realities. One such genuine difference involves whether one accepts the reality of a mind/body duality itself -- which is pivotal in accepting the very notion of transsexuality or transitioning.

Deal with it. There is no real "LGBT community." That's life.

The "there is no LGBT community" argument is kinda tired. There is. I often think the people who promote that idea are really just promoting the notion that the T is what doesn't belong in LGBT.

The reality is that our community is created by mutual discrimination based on perceived sexual orientation and gender non-conformity.

When some asshole is kicking, stabbing, or otherwise tormenting a trans person - they're not generally yelling "You fucking tranny!" they're yelling, "You fucking faggot" or "You dirty queer".

We are a community, albeit a community that doesn't get along as well as we could or should and a community that is more diverse and divergent than most - but we have a shared history and some shared marginalization that will always be the tie that binds.

crescentdave crescentdave | December 13, 2009 7:47 PM

There may be no real LGBT community per se, but there are real LGBT communities ... this being one of them. It's an intentional community. It has it's share of disagreements as well as personal attacks (of which I've been guilty). But this doesn't take away from the fact it is a community.

It does, however, explain how an editorially approved (for publishing) post can be the source of so much outrage, hurt and disaffection. Ideas matter, words matter, in intentional communities.

The same ideas could have been presented by some right-wing crank ... after all, they've been presented outside this community. Just as easy to say Bilerico should allow editorially approved posts on the main page which pathologize and deny the legitimacy of bisexuals, lesbians and gays as these views are also found outside this community.

However, they don't. It's because this is, however imperfectly formed, an intentional community- an LGBTQ community. It does not need to take up valuable page space and mind-share with sentiments which find more than enough in-depth coverage outside of this community. It's absurd to assert "any point of view" to constitute some sort of sacrosanct "right," in an intentional community.

There are limits. Asserting any particular group has no legitimate right to exist-to say it's reason to be is "down the tubes," exceeds those limits. Describing entire groups of people as "deluded" or "mutilated" exceeds the limit. Asserting an entire group of people's very existence is a "dilemma," needing to be "resolved" by other people exceeds a limit.

You want more free speech? It's out there. Go forth and share the hate and ignorance. Here's an example:

viva free speech!

Renee Thomas | December 13, 2009 9:46 PM

Dear Mitch,

I'll keep this short - how you experience both your sexuality and your gender identity is your business and I deeply and sincerely respect that. In fact, I think its swell that you chose your sexual orientation. It implies a level of thoughtfulness and volition that I am actually rather envious of. You made a choice - awesome, rock on dude! On the other hand, where I take my leave of you is when you seem to presume (from what I suspect is almost complete ignorance) to judge the validity of my narrative as a transperson while at the same time seeming to dictate it to me.

Being trans is unique. Being moved to modify one's body is unique too. The fact that it seems to work for the majority of us who undertake such things as a part of our transitions is singularly unique (and still something of a mystery to me to be perfectly honest). Let me hasten to say that taking those steps are not necessarily desired or required by the majority of individuals who identify as trans. We each do what we must to live at peace in our own skin and at peace with the world. From my standpoint if it works for you, it's all good.

But here's the deal Mitch, and this I would respectfully add to Toni's very cogent list of don'ts with respect to transpeople - check your privilege. That's Job One for all you cis-folk who think you understand the lives of transpeople. Specifically check your cisgender privilege. How you experience your gender identity is not how I experience mine. Don't pretend to know and overlay your assumptions upon any other transperson you might encounter when you are clearly and abjectly clueless as to the lived experience of transgender people.

Here’s a novel thought. Go ask a few transfolk to share with you their lived reality. You’ll get a variety of answers with I would expect a significant degree of commonality. The point is, our narratives belong to each of us - we own them - you don't. If you ask respectfully, you might be surprised at what you will learn . . . that's assuming that you're open to learning anything at all.

"It's the fact that transsexuals (in particular) insist that their bodies (as born) were deformed."

No. That's precisely *not* what any number of transsexuals on the threads here and elsewhere have been saying. Please pay better attention.

No LGBT community?
Does that mean that we Lesbians can all stop advocating for HIV medical treatment funding?

Or Hospice Housing for men with AIDS in NYC?

Or calling politicians to support the repeal of DADT?(I did my military service in Spain decades ago, doesn't affect me)

And can we stop shouting down the ex-gays since we chose to be gay and obviously could be changed?

california panda | December 14, 2009 2:31 AM


If you take any points away from this discussion please try to take away these:

1) Not all transsexuals believe their bodies are deformed as you put it. Many of us believe that , although our bodies may function normally as our birth sex would indicate, we have an emotional and mental mindset that our bodies should have been formed in a completely different sexual morphology. It's called gender identity. That's not a deformation it's an identity disjoint. "What sex are you?" is not the same as "what gender are you?" It's not gender performance either it's deeper and far more primal than that.

2) Do cis gays need surgery to experience life according to their internal sense of their gender identity? Transsexuals do. Who provides that surgery? Doctors. Want to know why there is a medical model for transsexuality? That's it in it's cliff notes form. I'm not going into whether it's right or wrong, but many male doctors get a massive pucker factor when faced with what they would consider voluntary penile removal/conversion/inversion surgeries and thus believe that male bodied individuals who would voluntarily give up their penises have serious mental issues. Ever bother to wonder why that is? What is the problem with a society that can support ear piercing and other body modifications like tattooing but be so horribly conflicted with gender affirmation surgeries. And please don't drag out the old "reproductive functionality" argument. That's just cover for the mindset that controlling sex affirmation surgery is tantamount to controlling my reproductive rights. And it's not remotely equivalent to voluntary limb amputation. Because, in my case, I function normally in society without additional medical support, albeit as a woman rather than a man. So please don't go that route either.

3) Of course we don't have an LGBTIQA, etc community. But the haters don't care. They treat us all as if we did and punish us, beat us, murder us all the same so if we don't have a community we better damn well develop one if only to help ourselves survive.

Thanks for listening and have a great non-community day.

Oh, by the way, the right to speak your mind and the defense thereof has a certain caveat:

In law, defamation—also called calumny, vilification, slander (for spoken words), and libel (for written or otherwise published words)—is the communication of a statement that makes a claim, expressly stated or implied to be factual, that may give an individual, business, product, group, government or nation a negative image. It is usually, but not always,[1] a requirement that this claim be false and that the publication is communicated to someone other than the person defamed (the claimant).


I suspect that Mitch is upset at the response to Ronald Gold's article because Mitch has also expressed sentiments implying that trans women are delusional:

One last clarification: when I disparage "trans identities," I mean "trans" as in "transition." I believe transsexualism specifically involves allowing imagination to eclipse reality.

In that thread, he also referred to trans women as "women," scare quotes included, and he referred to trans people as trannies. Those particular words were TOSed from the thread.

If a person wants to put this kind of prejudice out into the world, they have every right to get a blog of their own or even publish a book for that matter. That's freedom of speech and I believe that it's crucial that this right remains in tact, safe from the interference of any governmental authority. However, a person who owns a blog, or runs a newspaper, or publishes a book, should have the right to control the content that appears in their particular medium. That's part of freedom of speech, as well. If that means a person will not permit words of hate and prejudice in their publication, that is their right.

People also have to remember that freedom of speech does not equate to freedom from criticism. A rather horrible article was published on this site. People criticized this article and Bilerico's decision to publish it. Criticism is part of freedom of speech, too. Ultimately, it was the Bilerico editorial staff's choice to listen to this criticism or not. In this instance, Bilerico listened to people's criticism. If Bilerico had chosen to ignore this criticism, many people would have continued to critique Bilerico in other venues and The Bilerico Project probably would have lost a portion of it's readership. That's within people's rights as well.

So, is it within The Bilerico Project's rights to publish prejudice? Yes.

Is it within the reader's rights to critique this prejudice and Bilerico's decision to air those prejudices? Yes.

Is it within TBP rights to ignore this criticism, keep the original article, and publish similar articles in the future? Yes.

Is it within TBP rights to change it's collective mind, delete original article, and change it's editorial policies? Yes.

Is it within the TBP readership's rights to continue to critique TBP and/or choose to leave and read other publications? Yes.

Again, freedom of speech does not mean freedom from criticism. It does not abridge the right of a person to choose what appears in her/his publication. It does not abridge the rights of people to stop reading that publication and seek other venues.

Believe it or not Jerame, I actually value what you've written here... much more productive and to the point. There are certain ways I still mistrust BIlerico, but at least I feel what needed to be said was stated in a concise and open manner.

Trying to think how your response could have been significantly improved... nope, seems good.

I'm concerned that I haven't heard from Bil directly though. Hope he's not stressing too much over this.

Thanks, Zoe.

Bil needed a break. The comments on the blog were only a tiny fraction of the over-the-top reactions we received. He's taking time for his mental health and will be back to business tomorrow. I've just stepped in so his silence isn't perceived as ignoring the issue.

Thanks for your concern. He's doing better today than yesterday and he wanted me to express his appreciation for those who've sent their well wishes.

Give Bil my love.

I hope he is getting some distance- as someone with a mental illness I know how this kind of stuff can be really terrible.

Please let him know I'm sending good thoughts through the ether.

And for the record, I have some empathy-I've been on the other end for this general dynamic before, and not nearly to this degree, so.

This post closed the door on the issue for me! Thanks so much for this article. It explains a lot and makes me feel loved again. :)

At the risk of adding a whole new layer to this discussion, I'm going to post this personal note --- in a way, it will be about what I have to say about my having nothing to say.

Although I have posted comments about trans issues quite some months ago, I have come to avoid posting comments on this issue totally. Despite my best efforts to post something that is constructive and understanding (and hopefully a bit intelligent) there is too often a trans reader who takes issue with it. Too often the subject folds back on itself in layers of convolutions until I find it like trying to find my way out of a House of Mirrors --- am I operating in The Matrix, perhaps? --- Did I swallow the wrong pill? --- I feel totally lobotomized by the subject, so I've learned to be totally silent.

Because I'm silent, I also tend to skip over posts that deal with trans issues. This is a mistake on my part, to be sure, because it limits my education on the subject. But OTOH, I find that even the trans people dramatically disagree with each other, and it is more than I care to keep track of.

This, in turn, limits my willingness and ability to speak up in defense of trans people when the need arises. I consider myself "pro" the rights of trans people --- there but for the grace of God go I --- but obviously I am pretty much a crippled, ineffective advocate (or non-advocate).

Just thought I'd let people know that Mr. Gold isn't the only one who is being scared away by this issue, and give you some insight about the mechanism involved.

I hope it goes without saying that when I encounter a trans person IRL I am as friendly and supportive as I can manage --- but in all honesty, it is pseudo-support, I'm mostly just doing my best at "just playing nice".

These are my failings on the issue. Or maybe it is other people's failings, because this is just my understandable reaction to anger and criticism from others that I have come to regard as unavoidable. If the trans people here feel that they are putting forward a unified, coherent message, I can only conclude that my befuddlement indicates this to be incorrect.

A lot of words to say that I've tuned out. Despite all this, I wish you all well.

P.S. Mr. Gold's post was one that I skipped over and left unread. Sounds like I made the right decision.

I don't think Gold was "scared away." I think he was and is still convinced he didn't do or say anything wrong, and that that article was a perfectly reasonable way of "opening discussion" (about, not with, actual trans people, and on his terms).

And speaking as a cis person, yeah, it's...not any harder than it is or should be for your straight friends or family to talk about gay...anything. Make of it what you will, I guess.

"Despite my best efforts to post something that is constructive and understanding (and hopefully a bit intelligent) there is too often a trans reader who takes issue with it."

I've seen plenty of posts on this site that garner disagreements, whether trans-related or not. How did you handle these situations? Did you try to come across as an authority, or did you truly speak with the person? Ask questions?

"If the trans people here feel that they are putting forward a unified, coherent message, I can only conclude that my befuddlement indicates this to be incorrect."

There isn't a "unified, coherent" trans message, nor will there ever be one. We come from all sorts of backgrounds and points of view. Just because we're all trans doesn't mean we all agree. That's what it's like with any community.

The expectation of uniformity is part of what can be aggravating. We aren't prefabricated stereotypes, we are each complicated individuals just like any other group.

And thanks to a dominant culture that lacks any real language to describe our identities and situations, we are forced to make do with makeshift labels that overlap and have multiple, conflicting definitions that are in constant flux. Which can lead to all sorts of arguments over what means what and which identities and definitions are "real".

That's just the state of things. It isn't a statement about trans people, if anything it's a statement about how much cisnormative culture and language has inhibited our ability to understand and articulate ourselves fully.

Very strongly seconding this, Jamie.

I do not get the mindset amongst the dominant group that only said group has individuals with unique opinions and viewpoints, and the non-dominant group is a giant Borg mind-meld. It happens along every axis of oppression, not just cis over trans.

Anybody (cis or trans) who is expecting The One True Trans Viewpoint had better open hir eyes and see us as individuals.

"Trans concerns do not take a backseat here."

Given the transphobic hate speech you published as a main story and the hate filled comments posted since then defending it, maybe you could do us a favor and make it a backseat issue?

Thank you. Thank you very much.

I do want to quibble a little bit, but only to demonstrate that I'm still speaking to you. :)

You wrote, "We do tend to be rather lenient when someone's words attack an idea and not a specific person", and "there is more to learn about being sensitive to a community's threshold's and standards - they may be different than one's own."

Is it really true that Bilerico's usual standards are too rough for trans people? Or simply that the standards weren't applied? Would Bilerico honestly have published a piece on the theme "`No` to the notion of `gay`" - a piece claiming that nobody is actually gay, people who think they are gay are deluded, and the gay community shouldn't exist? One crammed full of slurs? (So long as it was aimed at all gay people and not any particular gay person, anyway.)

I don't know. Maybe you would have. I've never read a piece like that here, but I'm not an intensely faithful reader. But, if that sort of post is OK on Bilerico, then the words beneath this comment box as I type - "The editorial team will delete a comment that is off-topic, abusive, exceptionally incoherent, includes a slur" - seem out-of-place.

I suspect that you wouldn't have published such a piece, nor should you. "Vigorous debate" doesn't need to include claims that community holding the debate shouldn't exist.

Really, I think all we need - well, all I need, anyway - is the assurance that the same standards applied to everybody else apply to trans people, too - that the editorial team doesn't throw the rules out when the target is trans people. When you're a minority within a minority, and unsure of your welcome, you don't want to see signals that you're outside the care of the people in charge.

Posting Gold's piece was a lapse, not a policy; the scale where you weigh free expression versus everybody's right to be here doesn't get thrown away when we're the target. That's all I need to know.

I can see how you could read it that way, but no - I am not trying to say trans folk are too sensitive. I'm saying that this post got scrutiny that other posts don't normally get and that even though that scrutiny happened and was a split decision, the ultimate judgement to run it was a bad call that Bil has taken responsibility for.

And while I agree with you wholeheartedly that starting from a "you don't exist" position isn't really a discussion, I think it's important to realize that we have this problem in our community and it does need addressed. The problem being the propensity of LGB's who believe some or all of what Gold was espousing.

When we say discussion, we mean not only the comment process, but the responses from other contributors as well. As one example, the piece Tobi Hill-Meier put up deconstructing Gold's arguments is an excellent example of the kind of discussion that was desired.

It was definitely a lapse and not a policy. I think the strong defense by many of our trans contributors can attest to the fact that we don't have any intentional anti-trans bias. (It's obvious that we're not always there subconsciously, but that's why I talked about education being a journey.)

...but if it was the discussion that was so important, Jerame, why didn't you just seek out a post like Tobi's in the first place?

That sounds to me like a far more effective means of having said discussion than posting a piece of hate speech (and it really wouldn't have been any better if you'd found someone more tactful than Gold) and leaving distressed trans people to cry foul.

...just, maybe there's a lesson there?

Far more effective yes, the option that presented itself, no. The notion that Bil or anyone else on the site drove the desire for this discussion is incorrect. Mr. Gold wanted this piece published, he brought it here, we didn't ask him for it.

...but if the desire to have the discussion was why it was approved, again, why was it not rejected outright and a post which would have *genuinely* started such a discussion solicited instead?

Rebecca, I honestly think that's been explained, but let me try again.

Three people looked at that post. Bil first and he felt he needed a second opinion. He sent it to me and one other person. I said it shouldn't run, and since we are partners and live together, we had a verbal conversation about it while waiting on the other person to respond. I explained, as best I could, why I thought it wasn't appropriate. I failed at doing a good enough job of expressing my view.

The response from the other editor was also in favor of letting it run and that, essentially, left it to Bil to make the final call. He felt that open discussion was the side he should fall on, so he published the post.

It was a failure to realize how hurtful the piece would be and so it was published. We've published some very controversial stuff before and it was a mistake to see it as only controversial and not harmful.

I don't know how else I can explain it beyond that - it was a lapse in judgement and the lessons from that lapse are still being learned. Failures happen when you're trying and that's why I'm defending Bil and this website when I disagreed with the initial decision to publish the piece - because I know what happened and that it was an honest, albeit painful, mistake.

Thank you. That's good enough for me.

Thanks for the elaboration. OK, we're all good. Now we can all get back to coping with abuse from the rest of the world instead of from each other. :)


as I said in the comment thread on rebecca juro's post, thank you for this post. this sounds like a step in the right direction and I certainly intend to stick around!

in response to this comment though... if the intent was to generate a post like tobi's, why not start with her response piece without posting the hurtful rob gold piece here? there are so many [non-trans gay and lesbian] people on the internet and in print saying the same things he said... so why not have a contributor respond to one of those, rather than hosting such hateful nonsense on the front page?

Look, as someone who was being one of the harsher critics, okay...I certainly believe the outcome that actually happened wasn't what you were shooting for, let's say that much. I think, you know, the reason people were going that route was because a) Gold himself admitted he wanted to start off with a "bang," or however he put it exactly b) the whole business from Bil and others about how well at least it got people talking, and hey! challenge! For future reference? That? Is insult to injury. Just, re "pushing boundaries"...y'all need to be more careful. And pay better attention earlier when people say "look, maybe you shouldn't mess with this till you know what you're talking about, or get someone who does."

And also: "pushing boundaries" tends to go down a lot better when it's combined with "speak (your) truth to power." If anyone actually believes that a cis gay man "challenging" "the notion of" transgender is anything but a power-over move, well...that's also something that should be seriously looked at. Particularly in the larger context of, well, for instance, ENDA is up again: even assuming it's *not* intentional, what sort of effect is a piece like this going to have right now?

Mitch: there's no discrepancy between believing being gay (or anything else) isn't inborn and affirming that Gold was way, way, way off the mark, offensive, and actively harmful. If the article had *only* been about that ("gay is a choice, and we should stop pushing the "born that way" riff as part of activism) then that would have been a legitimate "controversial" article, that got people talking, maybe heatedly, but at least over something that's actually worth talking about in a back and forth sort of way.**

This? Was pure ignorance. And, you know, he can still pull up a soapbox somewhere or start his own blog and spout whatever he wants. "Free speech" doesn't mean you can say whatever you want *at any given place;* otherwise the implication is that Bilerico (or any other publication) has no right to self-select its writers or any of the content. This is obviously nonsense: if Bilerico were obligated to publish anything anyone wanted to say, it wouldn't have any focus or any standard of quality. It'd be...well, Usenet, basically. Why even bother?

Finally, I want to reiterate once again that there was nothing *radical* or *challenging* about what Gold said, or even unusual: one could have just as easily posted a link to the latest Julie Bindel article, or any number of radical feminist or even religious right wing organizations, and gotten pretty much exactly the same talking points, give or take a few.

**Back to the business about "choice," then: the problem is, see, is that Gold wasn't just saying that gender identity is mutable (this phrasing is giving him more credit than he really needs, because he didn't even manage to distinguish between sex and gender, but never mind): he was telling other people that his choices were ok and theirs were wrong. Sure, it's "just his opinion." Did he have anything new or solid to back this up? No. Did he even listen when other people told him what the problem with his position was? (i.e. he's mistaken when he makes the assumption that people transition because of *gender* discomfort rather than bodily discomfort, or that there are "two (stereo)types, and so on)? No. Is there any particular reason he should be spouting this willfully uninformed, arguing-from-prejudice opinion on the front page of a highly influential blog? Why, any more than any other random schmo? It wasn't even that well written...


p.s. I'm glad to hear that there will be more trans people joining the editorial team.

I don't know how more "responsible" you could be.
This post shows a lot of class.

Wow. I'm a long time reader though it's been a while since I commented here regularly.

I got busy and didn't check the site for a few days, and then when I did: WOW. Gold's post was already down when I logged on (though I have since seen it at Pam's House). I have not read through all the comments it generated, but I have been reading the essays posted in response.

The comments here though are some of the most impressive I have ever seen on any "political" blog. I love the Bilerico community and would hate to see it torn apart. Watching people who have been hurt and misunderstood come back together is beautiful, even in regrettable circumstances. I grow more impressed with both the posters and commenters every time I come here.


Robert Ganshorn Robert Ganshorn | December 14, 2009 12:44 AM

Jeramie, I responded at length on Juro's posting because of the lapse I saw in that moral center of kindness in allowing the post to run.

Your statement: "The fact is, Bil wanted the guy to get his ass handed to him for his ignorance." should burn up any LGBT elder.

On his first posting? At age Ninety? When it could have been stopped and you, I know, wanted to stop it. What good educational opportunity could have come from this for all concerned?

If you were to substitute "GLBT ELDER" for each time you used the phrase "trans" above you might get a sense of how I feel about this.

There is far too much dismissal of people and general lack of kindness toward:

Trans persons

Please include kindness (to both contributors and readers) in your editorial policy. Every writer needs feedback from an editor.

Robert, Gold can clearly handle himself - he's been in this fight much longer than we have been. I actually find your comment kind of agist because you seem to be saying that just because the guy was an elder, we should have sheltered him in some way. He knew full and well his position was extremely controversial and was obviously spoiling for a fight.

Why should his age factor into whether or not his incorrect views get him a round thrashing in the online forum - it was his first post as a full contributor, yes - but not his first post. And it certainly wasn't his first time at the rodeo in terms of his views on transgender issues.

Since we've had so many other people express similar notions from time to time (and, honestly my experience has been to find these opinions more frequently among older gay men - but not exclusively by any stretch of the imagination) Bil felt the topic should be discussed - he just picked the wrong post and allowed the wrong guy to open that discussion.

Robert Ganshorn Robert Ganshorn | December 14, 2009 8:13 AM

Not shelter, edit for appropriateness and most current facts. I am ageist? When I have waded through comments calling him a "has been," "past it," "dinosaur," "old fool," etc. and now you are laying the greatest frequency of trans bigotry on the backs of older gay men? How about young straight men instead?

Yeah, he can handle himself, he would have hurdles getting a driver's license renewal and would have to do so annually in most places by state law. And certainly "being handled" by all of this has doubtless improved him.

When I look at my 80 year old partner, his clinical dementia coupled with his enduring wisdom, I do not think that I am ageist. If anything I am biased in favor of the success of older people in leading full and rewarding lives involved fully with new people constantly refreshing their lives. Instead, past fifty, most people become simply invisible to others.

And if you were going to let this happen on his first posting, why offer him the slot at all? It was cruel. If Bil wanted the topic introduced he could have had a trans person do it.

I have had "baptisms in fire" and the facility to respond to them in my 20's, 30's & 40's were greater than they will be in my 80's & 90's. That too is the "ed team's" call. A movie needs a director and a publication needs an editor. Preferably one that wants to build reputations rather than handing first time full contributors "their asses" for sport.

OMG, robert ... are you actually positing that because Gold experiences ageism (and i do agree with you that there has been quite a disgusting level of ageism on these threads), that he is somehow magically inoculated from being cissexist and from being criticised for same?

Robert, as disgusted as I am with Mr. Gold's transphobia, I totally agree with you about the disposable way he was treated by Bilerico. It was a very cynical manipulation of all involved... both Gold, and the Trans community. Claiming Gold's age wasn't a big aspect of him being accepted as a contributor at Bilerico is disingenuous. It's not ageist to say one isn't going to treat a 90-year old contributor the same as someone who just got out of their gender studies program. Moreover, if he'd been another 25-year old, they wouldn't have accepted him. Also, to expect that responders were going to all respond to that diatribe with an cool-headed deconstruction of its merits and faults doesn't sound terribly believable—it's the Internet, for God's sake.

Gina, a 25 year old wouldn't have his experience. Age didn't play into it as much as experience and history with the movement. He wasn't treated disposably. His post was removed at the demand of the trans community. When Mr. Gold unapologetically defended his hateful and derogatory words, that was why we decided to remove him as a contributor.

If he were disposable, Bil wouldn't have allowed the post stay up at first. No one is disposable, but no one can stay if they can't understand they are hurting others.

Those who don't know what went on behind the scenes keep making conjecture to fill in the gaps. That doesn't help much. I'll gladly answer questions, but the accusations without evidence are indeed getting tiresome.

I said that based on what Bil wrote in the thread. They knew the post would cause a lot of controversy, they put it on anyway because they wanted to expose it. (and, the gracious view is, in Bil's naivité, he didn't know the pain and upset it would cause). Even just going by those surface known facts, I believe your treatment of Gold was shabby and ungracious. It's like inviting someone to a party knowing they're going to be hated and shunned.

I disagree, because again, your argument implies intent. There was no intent for any of this to happen.

Gold may have been treated shabbily, but it wasn't just by us. The demands from some parts of the community went above and beyond demands. There were threats, real-life threats to contributors who were uninvolved with this post. There were phone calls, emails, tweets, etc. that took it to a level that we felt like there was no other choice but to remove Gold from the site as well as his post.

Should we have known better (barring the fact that some of us did) yes, we should have. But again, I think the reaction by some was far above and beyond what was warranted. Threatening contributors, especially when they aren't even tangentially involved with the post in question, is beyond uncalled for.

Let me clarify - there was intent to expose Gold's views to sunlight and let him try to defend those views. There was no intent to make him a sacrificial lamb as has been suggested. He wanted his views known, he wanted them posted, and he chose the forum in which to do it. We allowed it to happen in the misguided view that it would spark a conversation that was needed.

Jerame, I'm not going to qualify whether Gold was treated poorly by people responding to his diatribe (I refuse to call it an essay). They were mad. Some made a mountain over it, but you have to see within in the context of their lives and the oppression and dismissiveness they've faced. Just as when one is transitioning, the pain you feel from familial rejection or rejection of a partner is going to be more intense than rejection you get from someone who sneers at you on a bus. On some level, many people took this as a rejection from within the family... and that their family is no longer safe (which, um, some of us have known for a long time). Threatening people is always wrong and I offer no apology for those behaviors.

But if a white idiot goes into the hood and yells something blatantly racist, chances are the idiot going to get beat up or at least threatened. And if I knew the person who, in some way encouraged the idiot to do that (BIlerico gave Gold a platform to publish what he wrote) I'd think that person had a mean or, at least cynical agenda for doing so rather than just exposing racism.

I know my initial reaction to Ron's post was betrayal. I felt betrayed. If I hadn't paused a minute and read the first several comments, all of which were against the post, I would probably have been bitterly angry.

I am glad it's being recognized that the judgment call in allowing Ron to post was a bad one. It was an extremely poor lapse in judgment.

Imagine a child being removed from an abusive family and sent to a loving foster home. Then, on Christmas, it's announced that his biological father has been invited over for dinner. What do you think the reaction will be? Whatever happens, it certainly won't be calm, cool, and collected.

I don't pretend that any of these explanations justify or excuse the more extreme behavior going on, but it is part of the *reason* behind them. Sending threats is never acceptable or allowable, but remember that in the minds of the people doing it, it is self-defense.

Jamie, I'd quibble with only one part of what you say - how can drawing in uninvolved parties and threatening THEM have anything to do with "self defense"? I don't see anything "defensive" about threatening uninvolved contributors if they don't immediately quit the blog. That's an offensive move, not a defensive move.

I understand feeling threatened by Gold's words and having anger toward that threat. I don't understand drawing in uninvolved parties and somehow making them responsible too.

I never said they were behaving rationally. I was only talking about the emotions driving their actions in the first place.

Robert, I am terribly sorry about the experience your partner is having with growing older. It's tough to watch those you love become something other than themselves - while I haven't seen it with a parter, I have seen it with close family, including the grandmother who raised me. It's not easy, so I want to honor that.

Nonetheless, I think you're allowing your experiences with your partner to color your views on this topic. Mr. Gold is not having the same experience as your partner. This was very much a discussion HE wanted to bring up - we sure as hell didn't ask him to do it.

And while the post was edited, it wasn't edited well enough and a bad decision was made to run it. What happened wasn't some kind of failure to protect Mr. Gold - it was a failure to fully grasp the realities of Mr. Gold's post.

That's what I meant by it sounding agist - that because of his age, he deserved some special treatment or handling. I still think that if that's what you're saying, it's agist in a way - it doesn't mean I don't understand why you feel the way you do.

We don't make a habit of editing our bloggers so they don't sound like fools or so they don't get into trouble. If they had their own blog - which we feel TBP is the contributor's own space in a way - they wouldn't have the luxury of an editor to prevent such language or terrible mistakes.

Sure, we're going to look at our policies now and decide if changes are needed - but we're not going to start editing contributors opinions because we disagree with them.

Also, we are not a wholly "journalistic" publication. Most of our bloggers have never been to journalism school. They're not here to be journalists. They're here to express their opinions and discuss the issues. There is no effective means by which we can edit someone's opinion - that's the point of dialogue and discussion.

you're aware that some gay men were assigned male at birth, and others assigned female, right?

and you're aware that trans men and trans women are among the lgbt community's elders, right?

...that they have fought for equality just as long as ron gold in some cases...right?

so you know that these are not mutually exclusive categories...right?

gay, lesbian, or bi

Robert Ganshorn Robert Ganshorn | December 20, 2009 9:39 AM

Each category individually and more so if they are an elder. There was no exclusivity implied or intended. But, plenty of people will discriminate against anyone who is "old" relative to themselves without regard to their perceived sexuality or their gender.

Renee Thomas | December 14, 2009 1:19 AM

Look, this is a rugby scrum - dress accordingly

I am pretty new to TBP but I was still shocked to see Ron's post. It completely went against the grain of what I've come to expect from this site. I am glad that the issue is being dealt with. I don't know a lot of the details, but I appreciate that there is an effort being made to include trans people in the process more. It is definitely a step in the right direction.

As someone who is ftm but has also been part of the gay male community for longer than of the trans community, I understand to a degree the decision to post Gold's essay here. (Mark me, I said "to a degree").

Here's why:
Gold's arguments have been been mainstream opinion from the 1970s to mid 1990 (at least in the EU) in all kinds of "progressive" communities like leftist, green, gay male, feminist and so on.
They were thought to be progressive because these arguments stretched the boundaries of what it meant to be male and female (while at the same time essentialising the "genetic sex" of the body). They were also against plastic surgery and the general "capitalist" trend of forcing people to change their bodies to be accepted (which I still believe is a good thing).

Obviously these opinion's weren't *really* progressive and they were the cause of a lot of grief for me me when I came out as trans in the mid 1980s.
People were constantly explaining to me why transsexuality wasn't really necessary, and that my insistence was a sign of pathology. By people I mean, gay and lesbian activists, people at gay and lesbian hotlines and progressive gay and lesbian councellors.
(The series about the common histories of LGB and T here on Bilerico show very well where these opinions came from so I won't go into that)

While a younger generation seems to be much more relaxed about trans issues, there are still many people who have been socialized during the "trans is delusional" era.
Today, the only people that I have serious problems with when I come out are those who come from that earlier leftist, feminist, gay activist background. They are the only ones who feel no qualms (word?) whatsoever to say into my face that I am delusional, which is a really baffling and somewhat depressing experience (because it's like same same all over again).
Luckily, they are not the majority anymore. While recent majority opinions on the subject are not perfect, at least they try to grapple with the sheer existence of trans people.

I'm not certain if it's possible to "educate" (what a nice US concept *lol*) people of that generation. I have spent literally months trying to talk through these issues with people who I know well, and who are even willing to listen for hours. For some reason, they don't get it, whatever I say.
That said, it is always worth a try, and it is also very necessary to come to terms with this legacy of transphobia within "progressive" communities.
The transphobia of separatist feminism has been discussed before. It's good that the same problem within parts of the earlier gay male community gets adressed now.
It is necessary to talk about it when we try to work together.

A text with a title like "No to transgender" within a LGBT context naturally can only invite controversy, to put it mildly. I have heard similar arguments about why bisexuals don't exist or are delusional.
While this is deeply annoying and has even shaped my youth in a way that only be called traumatising, I strongly believe that it's a good thing that we discuss this now. That's why I understand that the posting of Gold's essay was well intended.


Thanks for your perspectives. It might be the reason you get more grief from Lesbians is because you're FTM and you're seen has *ahem* a traitor. My condolences. Personally, I feel MTFs get it from both old school gay men (who, like Gold, think we're either delusional, self-loathing gay men or drag queens), the same dykes who diss you (only with even more vitriol) and also from younger Queer people who believe Queer theory pretty much makes transsexualism a pathetic relic and symbol of a repressive past. The entire "gender is a social construct" truism is still repeated like a religion by many under-25s who've taken a Gender Studies class (and there are lot's of good things taught in Gender Studies... but not trans issues). It's also fair to say that FTMs (especially transmasculine-spectrum peeps), who, let's face it, have a considerable hip cache among most Queer activists, are way more accepted in Queer spaces than transwomen are. To me it's no surprise that older gay men, like Gold, aim their diatribes and dismissiveness primarily at transwomen.

I'm an effeminate gay trans man and all the hate I get is also from old school gay men (and I think shipoffools is also in this category). Your assumption that he gets hate from dykes because he is FTM is incorrect. I am gay, I hang out in the gay male community and get hate from the gay male community. I will agree with you in that a lot of their anger at trans people comes from years of hating transwomen, but you don't have a monopoly.

hey Kian, what's it with those older gay men? I have had tremendous support from gay men my generation or younger but there were always these activist, and even often cross dressing gay men who are now 50+ who are totally foaming at the mouth when confronted with things trans. The trans/gay history series by Dr Weiss here on Bilerico gave me some perspective on their behaviour.

GinaSF: Yup, you're right, many lesbians see me as traitor. The joke is that I have never lived as a lesbian, I'm into guys and have a "straight" past.
I agree that trans women get a *lot* more shit than trans men, soemtimes even by trans men. It pisses me off to no end.

"The entire "gender is a social construct" truism is still repeated like a religion by many under-25s who've taken a Gender Studies class (and there are lot's of good things taught in Gender Studies... but not trans issues)"

yes, and it's a shame that queer theory is full of similar stuff. It's misunderstanding the theory of "gender as performance", I guess. I've been told that Judith Butler, who has come up with that, has since said that she didn't mean it the way it is applied now.
There is a book by a trans man who is challenging queer theory about that mistake: Second Skins by Jay Prosser.

In the past I had email exchanges with Bil (friendly) trying to educate him on some basic issues. I failed then, seemed to get through to him on a thread discussion later only to have him go totally silent.

You have a stable of trans contributors who have espoused essentially the identical ideas Gold put forth but aimed at a specific group, those who feel that once their bodies are corrected they are simply women or men. The policy here has consistently been one of ignoring complaints when this is attacked, probably under the rationale of "just another tranny fight" which in and of it's self shows an attitude of "less than" status for anyone who corrected their bodies. I'm beating a dead horse here I know, but once again, Gold's expressed ideas are really no different than several "no-ops" here past and present, contributors and not. One trans man contributor just did it again with a comment that he had to explain to a post operative woman she isn't like a woman born woman......excuse me?

Another epic thread by a gay man mixing to these issues ended with him declaring we are transgender whether we like it not (denial of right of self identity) and that those women with penises are the real women.....which is not surprising coming from a gay man anymore than Gold's misquided and heavyhanded version. This individual responded I called him a misogynist and gynophobic, I did neither then but confess I do believe he is both.

Bilerico has never supported the womanhood of post corrected women without qualifiers on their womanhood, that has always been my issue with your editoral policy. Gold's mutilation comment is merely a more inelegant wording of the exact same thing at least two contributors have said to post corrected women here with complaints about it totally ignored.

Gold's denial of the scientific reality of over three hundred studies now confirming the neurological reality of "woman trapped in a male body" has been also openly expressed here over and over by non classically transsexed transgender identified contributors and commentors...I fail to see why they were (and it was many of the same names that denied it before) outraged when Gold said the same thing., again more crudely but also with personal attacks.

I found Gold's entry offensive but not surprising because I've heard it over and over before....from your "trans" contributors more narrowly focused on women with history. Apparently the outrage was because he denied them the same way. Given Bil's exposure to this, the ongoing editorial policies of allowing it, his letting Gold's entry slide is not surprising at all and I cannot demonize him for it.

A lot of possible coalition building has been totally wiped out because of this, something I tried to do for over a decade. I gave up.

The only thing I have to say about this is that we don't tell our contributors what they can think or write. Just like most other group blogs don't either. If you have a problem with what another trans contributor is writing, that isn't a reflection of the views of the editors of the site - it's a reflection of the views of the writer and nothing more.

Also, if you think there is a trans perspective that is lacking, rather than simply bemoaning it, offer some suggestions on whom we could find to cover that perspective. Talking to Bil about what other trans contributors have to say is simply a waste of your time - as a gay man he's not going to be able to convince a trans contributor that their transgender experience is different than it is.

so your response is........outraged trannys, opps
done to others by said trannys, no problem.

Thanks for clearing this up and confirming your on going policies of "screw it, it's just a tranny fight" when it's done to a woman of operate history.

Now explain to me again how you learned a damn thing?

Wow. Sliders all over again. I must have fallen into an alternate universe.

"Barkeep! I'll take an Alternate Universe, shaken, not stirred."


You mention threats being made to Gold and other contributors- can you elaborate- were these threats of physical violence?

Your comment has me very concerned.

I don't want to get too far down the rabbit hole on this, but it is still happening even today.

The threats, as far as I know weren't of the physically violent nature. It was more of the "we're going to trash your reputation" and "your business will suffer" type.

MitchInOakland MitchInOakland | December 14, 2009 1:52 PM

Late last night (Sunday, 11/13), I wrote Jerame the following off-line note, which I now want to open for discussion (with some typos fixed) in light of some of the comments I've received overnight since doing so. I believe this discussion is long overdue, and that while it should be civil, it should not be stifled.

Jerame wrote:

"Since we've had so many other people express similar notions from time to time (and, honestly my experience has been to find these opinions more frequently among older gay men - but not exclusively by any stretch of the imagination) Bil felt the topic should be discussed - he just picked the wrong post and allowed the wrong guy to open that discussion."

One reason I posted my long comment (evolving as I read through the several intertwined discussions) involved an attempt to describe my own personal experience as a maturing gay man, and the repercussions, in that context, of the "T" being added to LGBT.

But no one seems interested in that narrative -- so who is it that truly isn't being heard? No, it's simply not true that gay mens' voices are dominant -- certainly not after most of my peers (and our culture) have died, and with the subsequent dominance of feminist-based queer theory in most discourse about sexual orientation. Heck, even HRC (since the reign of Elizabeth Birch) buys into the "LGBT" formulation -- and needless to say, so does the Religious Right.

(As for my characterization of " 'T' as something merely 'being added'"... Yes, I'm aware of the trans presence at Stonewall: don't insult my intelligence, experience, or knowledge of history. Stonewall was an airing-out, the beginning of a process of emancipation that many of us gay men deeply felt would make gay men's affectation of "womanliness," finally, once-and-for-all, an anachronism! Is anyone even aware anymore that such a narrative even exists or ever existed -- and that it's still an inextricable part of gay liberation as experienced by real, live people? Does anyone care [in any but a patronizing way] about why this might be so? Has anyone even asked? And if the answer is that it's not worth asking, then why, pray tell, should it be taken for granted that Judith Butler's or Julia Serano's experience of sexuality or identity is any more valid than mine or that of my peers?)

I support the rights of trans folks to housing, jobs, etc. (and certainly to being free from violent attack), but I bridle at demands for "trans inclusion" when faced with the claim that there's an "unquestionable need for trans people to be included in ENDA: protection FROM gays and lesbians, not protection alongside them."

My only sane response to such invective can be, "Fine, get your protection; you deserve it, though you're mistaken if you think you need it on my account. But if you're going to insult me as if my discomfort, in and of itself, makes me the oppressor from whom you need to be protected (as if I'm a hater for whom tolerance doesn't trump mere discomfort!), go get that protection on your own. You've just told me, after all, that far from being with me, you're against me! And I certainly bridle at being told, in a final insult, given all this, that I have Gwen Araujo's or Marsha Johnson's blood on my hands!

Anyone who doesn't want protection alongside me -- as I am -- should have the decency to seek that protection elsewhere. I may not oppose such protection, but with such a hostile and insulting attitude, please don't expect me to eager to help.

But already I digress. Trans "inclusion" has been riding so high in the saddle that no one seems to wonder (or care about) what it might be about the experience of gay men that makes many of us particularly uneasy at being folded into a gender-centric politics. Your own remarks above cause me to wonder whether you've pondered this question, and whether you have any idea about the answer that isn't merely condescending or dismissive.

As I've already written elsewhere, it's obvious that Ron Gold made many errors in his rather clumsy rant, but I understand his sentiments. It's hard to express those sentiments -- and the (mirror-image of trans) anger that accompanies them -- and "get it right" in a way that critiques without the potential to be taken as insulting -- especially when any critique presented by a cis person is deemed inherently insulting by many in the trans community to begin with.

As for "access" to this discourse by non-trans "outsiders," critiques of various approaches to the mind/body relationship go on in all sorts of contexts or sectors of society without those who present them having to share the experience or viewpoint of those whose view is being critiqued. (Just go into any Whole Foods or read any diet book, or almost anything about yoga or kundalini or kaballah, for just a sliver of the range of such contexts!) But evidently trans people consider themselves uniquely exempt from such discussion or criticism.

Meanwhile, is it possible that trans people often (in their anger) show that they neither understand nor accept the "lived reality" of cis gay men?

Is it possible that in your effort to be fair to trans folks, neither do you? I'd be willing to do the hard work of offering a countervailing narrative in a presentable manner, but I'm afraid that in sticking my neck out in that direction, I'd only be putting it into a noose. At age 60, life is simply too short.

Given such an impasse, is it any wonder that I'd be happy if the trans community (including those L, G and B trans people who wished to do so) simply split off and went its own way? It's starting to feel as if that's the only way a narrative my generation of gay males experienced as liberation might avoid forever being silenced -- our reality deemed illegitimate and deleted from history -- by the time the last of us few survivors is dead.


In the interest of space, time, and propriety, I'm going to take your entire comment there and address it bit by bit on my blog sometime in the next couple of days.

If it comes out well enough to my satisfaction, I *may* put it here, as well, in addition to the current stuff I already have in progress.

I'm not saying this as a member of Bilerico, either -- this is just me, one little girl, tackling the questions and issues you raise.

The catch here will be that there is much of what you describe that isn't entirely correct about the things around you -- for one example, your use of personal narratives in reference to Judith Butler and Julia Serrano. So I will need some input from you on them.

You should note that while I came to the same conclusions Butler did, I got there in a very different way, with a very different path. So there are some fundamental differences between her and my positions.

If you'd seriously like to do this, contact me via email. You can get it from my Contributor bio.

As I've already written elsewhere, it's obvious that Ron Gold made many errors in his rather clumsy rant, but I understand his sentiments. It's hard to express those sentiments -- and the (mirror-image of trans) anger that accompanies them -- and "get it right" in a way that critiques without the potential to be taken as insulting -- especially when any critique presented by a cis person is deemed inherently insulting by many in the trans community to begin with.

You should be angry at Ron Gold and other cis men when they purposely inflame "the other side" instead of being respectful. As a trans person, I don't expect you or anyone else (even queer theorists) to get it right. You will never understand what its like to be trans and that's okay. But if you expect meaningful dialogue, you must start with respect. Ron Gold started off disrespecting every trans person when he called us delusional. Have you written your response to him chastising him for ruining his chance at meaningful conversation?

I want to add that I love gay men, I am a gay man, and the thing I want most is for gay men and trans people to start talking for real. Stop the blaming, stop the disrespecting, and stop the anger. My rant is done.

Hey Mitch,
I actually do care what your motivations as older gay men are. I'm not that young myself anymore, and came out as a trans gay man in the 1980s. I have been and still am friends with many gay men of your generation. They have been my mentors and supportors, *even though* many don't like transsexuality. That they would still support me as a person, give me a place to go, and not kick me out at a time when gay ftm was something that nobody had heard before, is something that I will never forget and it also reveals the depth of their commitment to their political ideals.

That perhaps makes it clearer why I am so pained by their refusal to accept transsexuality per se.

As these are friendly, intelligent and caring men, at first I thought that I must strive harder in explaining to them my identity. But nothing helped, even though they were willing to engage in week long discussions.
From what you wrote and from Dr. Weiss' essays about trans/gay history here on Bilerico, I'm beginning to understand that perhaps I should have talked less about me and asked more about them and their history.

You wrote:
"Stonewall was an airing-out, the beginning of a process of emancipation that many of us gay men deeply felt would make gay men's affectation of "womanliness," finally, once-and-for-all, an anachronism! Is anyone even aware anymore that such a narrative even exists or ever existed -- and that it's still an inextricable part of gay liberation as experienced by real, live people? Does anyone care [in any but a patronizing way] about why this might be so?"

I care to hear about that, seriously. I'm not sure if we will agree at the end, but I want to understand where you are coming from.

MitchInOakland MitchInOakland | December 16, 2009 3:54 AM

Ship of Fools wrote:

"What's it with those older gay men... who are totally foaming at the mouth when confronted with things trans? I actually do care what your motivations as older gay men are. I care to hear about that, seriously. I'm not sure if we will agree at the end, but I want to understand where you are coming from."

My response to this would probably be too long and too personal for a public posting at this point. However, if "ShipofFools" or anyone else would like to continue this dialogue offline, please email me: [email protected]