Austen Crowder

The "Trans Mafia" stifles allies

Filed By Austen Crowder | March 08, 2010 4:00 PM | comments

Filed in: Marriage Equality, The Movement, Transgender & Intersex
Tags: anti-gay, anti-trans, opposition, separatism, silencing, sniping, straight allies, trans, trans agenda, transgender, trust

Bil made an excellent comment regarding trans allies on one of Antonia's recent posts. I want to repost it it here because I think its an important sentiment in the LGBT community:

trans-mafia.jpgEven in a previous post from this week on a trans issue, someone said in the comments that I should stop posting on trans issues. From the comment, I assume that they're trans. When I asked for a trans 101 on the site, I got knocked for not "reading a book." If I mess something up, I get bitched at for not knowing all of Trans 101.

And in talking to literally dozens of trans allies, I think that's one of the biggest reasons why folks will mouth the word LGBT - and mean all letters - but when it comes to practice, they'll shy away from getting involved for fear of messing something up and getting jumped on for it. See, for example, how many contributors - even some of our older trans contributors - no longer post about trans issues. They've been frightened off by all the nasty hateful comments those threads get telling them what ignorant motherfuckers they are.*shrugs*

Dyss, you know I wasn't even going to post on the Tosh.0 story since I was tired of the same old, same old comments. What did I get? "You should stop posting on trans issues." Yup. At this point, I agree totally.

His comment isn't the only one I've heard from straight allies. At least a half-dozen people have come to me at one point or another, admitting that they don't talk about trans issues for fear of being called out on the carpet by sensitive trans people. The big LGBTQ sites - Towleroad, AfterElton, Queerty, Joe.My.God., to name a few - approach trans issues with kid gloves, afraid of rousing this kind of attention in their comments and negatively affecting their traffic as people say "This just ain't worth it."

The real kicker, however, is that allies aren't the only ones getting scared off of trans issues; in the past few months, I've been in the same boat. Why comment about trans issues - my issues - if I'm just going to be told that I'm too ignorant to know how to talk about it?

It should be noted here that Bil is not ignorant nor callous to trans issues; he never has been and never will be. Anybody who knows Bil personally will attest to this fact. The sad fact of the matter is that he has been pushed into silence by a strong-arm force I call the "Trans Mafia," and this trend toward silencing allies is not conducive to gaining ground in terms of acceptance.

Why Does the Trans Mafia Exist?

Two words: trust and agenda.

The trust side of this question should be pretty obvious for anyone who has followed LGBT issues these past few years. Trans people have often been thrown under the bus in the name of both political expediency and "ick" factor bargaining. We saw it in 2007 with SPLENDA, in New York with the separation of GENDA, and even in 2010 the "bathroom issue" continues to be the primary point of contention in passing the law. Our issues, visibility, and acceptance is approximately 20 years behind that of gay, lesbian, and bisexual people, and sometimes that separation starts to rear its ugly head in the form of "we'll come back later" pleasantries while our concerns are stripped out of bill after bill. We know that some - but not all - people in the LGBT movement are perfectly okay with throwing our concerns to one side and are always waiting for that other shoe to drop. Nothing works like paranoia to make a group trigger-happy.

The agenda side, on the other hand, does get a little dicey. The transgender umbrella is huge, and a lot of the effort involved in trans activism still goes into defining what we need to discuss. Some people attempt to bifurcate "true transsexualism" from other trans identities, others reject the medical system as gatekeepers to transition, others make a point to mention bigender/two-spirit/other gender presentations whenever the topic of political agenda comes up in a heartfelt attempt to be inclusive. Take this in comparison to LGB talking points, for which there are specific, terminal, straightforward points: marriage/no marriage, equality/no equality, and military/no military, among a few others. In most cases the answers for this segment of the community are pretty black and white, despite debate on specifics, and this simplicity has allowed unification of opinion on every important political issue.

Not that this confusion of agenda is a bad thing: the trans community is neck-deep in the agenda-defining process, being approximately 20 years behind the LGB community in terms of idea formation and lobbying maturity, and these are debates that need to be resolved moving forward. However, this process has become remarkably dirty, and many of the daggers we aim at transphobic cis people end up becoming friendly fire, striking our allies into silence.

The Effect On the Community

When everyone is silenced out of hand, nobody can speak; when nobody can speak, we can't defend ourselves from stigmatizing legislation and rhetoric. Trans people are especially at risk for opportunistic demonization right now; as anti-LGBT groups cope with the fact that gay-hate no longer brings in fundraising dollars they will look for another group to make into villains, and they are very good at making us look like guys in dresses. (Sorry, dudes: trans men aren't usually sensational enough for their attention.) Antonia has posted about how easy it is to remove our identities, even after they are firmly established by the law. Augusta, Maine's "controversial" school-board decision to treat trans people like human beings shows just how easy it will be to whip up fervor in response to the fact that we exist.

Scarier still is the thick veil of trans denialism that pops up whenever trans issues hit the mainstream media. Search the comments of any mainstream piece about us, or the copy of a "fair and balanced" journalist just hoping to present both sides of the case and the denial becomes clear: anti-gay groups like PFOX think transition is the wrong cure [pdf] for gender identity issues.

Legal protection against discrimination based on mental illness is not provided for any other disorder. Those who wish to assume a "gender identity" contrary to their biological sex are in need of mental health treatment to overcome such disturbed thinking, not legislation to affirm it. "Gender identity" legislation endangers the physical and mental health of the very people it is trying to protect. Physically mutilating the mentally ill is not the answer. For example, will healthy limb amputation, another mental disorder known as Body Integrity Identity Disorder (BIID), be the next protected class?

What these people don't say is that transition is among the most successful treatments in the mental health community. However, people who know this and can say this are often scared to do so, knowing that some member of the Trans Mafia may come along and ridicule the cis-ally for daring try and discuss trans issues. Silly them, right? Stepping in and defending trans people from oppression. That's a trans-only job.

The Ghost of Separatism

On top of trans people becoming a trendy new target for oppression, we have some cleanup issues in our own backyard. The ghost of separatism seems to come up in every article about the trans component in the LGBT alliance, be it in comments or in the post itself. The topic has been hammered on all sides and is pretty well dented and dinged; however, I'd like to point out that the call to separate comes from both sides of the coin. As distrust has grown, some trans people have become distrusting of cis people. I've seen it in action in my local area, and the results are not pretty.

Projector Tobi Hill-Meyer wrote about the phenomenon in an essay for Questioning Transphobia:

The academic model was very familiar to my own experience with race, but I have since realized it is also very much in line with my experience the trans community. Applying the model for people of color to trans experiences: The first stage is Conformity to cis behavior and attitudes because cis-ness is perceived as positive, followed by Dissonance between trying to be "normal" but receiving drastically different treatment than their cis peers. At some point it becomes too much - my instructors described this as the "bubble bursting" moment - when the individual becomes more completely aware of the magnitude of oppression they are facing. The next stages, Immersion and Emersion, are characterized by a distrust of cis people, surrounding oneself with trans community and support structures, and of course, a lot of justified anger. Gradually, during the Internalization stage, frustration with cis people shifts off of individuals and to cis-supremacy/transphobia in general. Finally, in the Awareness or Commitment phase, their personal sense of identity is translated into a plan of action or general commitment to the concerns of trans people as a group. Of course, these phases are not always linear or in this order, and people might go back and forth between them.


What makes this really significant in my mind - beyond the insight it gives to helping defuse such conflicts - is when you take this approach to individuals and apply it on the macro level. There are cultural moments that lead to large numbers of people experiencing the same phases. The second wave of feminism and the consciousness raising groups of the time are a good example of a collective "bubble bursting" moment, leading to a decade or so of an unusually high number of people in the immersion/emersion phases. I would argue that trans people are in the middle of a similar cultural moment.

Look, I know we trans people have to be very careful, lest we get thrown under the bus once again in the name of political gain. I also understand the distrust of cis people; sometimes, good friends ask the dumbest questions, or say the dumbest things, and in the back of your mind you want to say "Shut up; you're making it worse." That's why the Trans Mafia exists in the first place.

At the same time, though, if we keep shooting at every shadow behind a tree, who will be left to stand up to say "Wait a minute! this is ridiculous!"? The answer lies not with the LGBT movement, but with its opposition, who stands on a simple, easy-to-understand platform: "Trans people are messed up, and should be cured instead of treated."

We need to stop shooting down our allies. They need us. We need them. "I don't want to post about trans issues" is not a prevalent attitude we want, need, or can afford to have.

img src

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.

Excellent article for, um, you know, a girl.

*Grins and tips hat*


(more seriously, she shouts from a safe distance, really good stuff.)

I shall let the former survive on the weight of the latter. But you're on thin ice, girl. ;)

I agree that the trans community that posts on Bilerico is hypersensitive. There is no such thing as disagreeing - if you don't think as one of several of these persons, it is an instant capital offense. I may also add that Alex is a bit too politically correct on trans issues. He announced one day that the word "tranny" would not be permitted, it is the equilivent of an epithet. However, one often encounters a trans person in writing or in person who usies the word "tranny". I am one who has been scared off, and prefers just talking about "gays and lesbians". A video blog that I have liked on youtube is "trannygirl5". One of you pc people should inform this poor transsexual how bigoted she is against herself.

PC is a way of saying courteous. If ya don't believe me, go look it up.

PC is a way of recognizing that people are different, and that there are degrees of hurt caused by language and its use.

It is PC to not use the f-word. It is PC to not use slurs in general. Because such things are mean, and hurtful.

So what you are saying, xerxes, is that you don't care about people using hurtful language. You don't care if people are rude.

Well, ok, that's fine. You don't have to find courtesy all that important in your life.

Just don't hold a double standard about it, please -- we have enough of those already.

And don't be afraid. The only thing you have to fear is learning that you might be wrong about some things.

And is that all that bad?

Please don't tell me you fear being told how terrible a person you are -- all of us -- Trans, Bi, gay, lesbian -- hear that all the time every day.

And when trans people point out that it is that bad, we get called "PC" as if its some kind of a bad thing to be courteous. To expect consideration from those around us.

A little anger? Well, yeah -- like the anger felt when one sees the effects of government mishandling of the AIDS crises. Like the anger one feels when one reads a sign by WBC.

We all feel it. It hurts us all.

And, lastly, remember that when you speak about gays and lesbians, you *are* speaking about trans people. Because a lot of trans people are gays and lesbians.

Something the trans folk need to learn as well, I should point out.

Antonia-I never used the word "tranny". You are a perfect example in your post of what the problem is here, you are one of the ones ready to pounce. And Alex did in fact issue a ban on "tranny" once, I think a few months ago. it was not I who used this. The problem being described here is why this blog is also referred to as "bile rico" on some sites.

I gotta say Xerxes your response here is the perfect counterpoint. You blast transpeople by saying "I agree that the trans community that posts on Bilerico is hypersensitive."

Notice that there is no grouping there.....just transpeople. You go on to say "There is no such thing as disagreeing".

Which takes place in a comment where you ARE disagreeing with transpeople's sensitivity.

Where it gets recursive is when Antonia tries to say that there IS some validity not using the word "Tranny" especially as a slur and that being nice has value you call her out as an offender stamping on your point by stamping on HER point....

It is a common rhetorical device.....

She did not silence you. So please, stop being hyperbolic there it does no good.

As for "tranny" Some transpeople use it. Some don't and find it offensive. Which is better in general, to offend some for the sake of a trendy term? OR to be safe and use a polite word?

The choice is yours.

I never said you used the word tranny. Not once. Not anywhere.

Where did you get that from?

Nor did I even mention anything about Alex banning the word.

I talked about what PC was.

You must be reading a different post from what I wrote.

Because there's nothing in what I wrote that has any bearing on what you responded with.

You do seem to be off on the attack here, without grounds. Xerxes was saying that he has heard lots of transexuals use the term "tranny". I have also, and I was surprised that this was even an issue until I started reading Bilerico. It seems to be a perfectly acceptable term widely used by transexuals and others in the LGBT community here in Washington DC. Antonia, you are accusing of the commenter being insensitive to hurtful language. Hurtful to whom? This is one of the points of Austens piece, that anyone outside the trans community is made to feel that speaking about or to trans persons is an extremely dangerous enterprise. You went right on the attack on lack of courtesy, double standards. Antonia, you are way out of line, and waaaaaay to sensitive.

There are a great many trans people who don't like the term "tranny", and it's not something specific to Bilerico (just about every trans blog has at least one entry about it). Just because some trans people you know are willing to use it doesn't mean all of us embrace it.

Correction to above: on youtube, it is "trannygirl15"


Where is the correction about your comments to me following that?

The ones where you correct the lies about what I said?

LOL. Don't worry, context is important. There's a difference between saying "I'm a proud tranny!" and "Trannies annoy the fuck out of me!" just as there's a difference between "I'm an angry faggot!" and "Faggots should burn in hell!"

Just as some would argue there's a difference between use of the n-word in art and white people using it to put down black people.

Really, a couple posts just went up with the word "tranny" in the title last week from transgender contributors. There's no blanket ban on any word.

Thanks for saying that Alex. Also a difference between:

Someone within the community using the term to refer to themselves (I don't always like it but it's totally their business)
Someone in the community referring to another person by that term (often disrespectful)
Globally using the term (almost always disrespectful-not cool)
Appropriating the term for hip cred (thumbs way down)
Using the term to disrespect someone else, especially for their gender identity (doesn't deserve a response)

Considering how "tranny" is extensively used in porn, and in most attempts at ridiculing trans women, it's hard to believe some people are still shocked when trans women object to it. (and I'm not suggesting all trans women do but enough do that this shouldn't even need to be a conversation).

Trans Mafia? Really? Is it more like the Sicilian mob, the Yakuza or the Russian Mafia? Does the trans mafia go to the back of some empty restaurant in Brooklyn and plan their attacks and hits? Does Lynn Conway pull up in a black stretch Hummer and have a meeting with Charlotte Goiar and HBS mob? Is there a big poster of Bil on the wall with a bullseye over his face? Do all the mean transsexual ladies get together and do arm wrestling and craps to decide who gets to be the lucky one to knock Bil off his pedestal this week?

If this is some kind of systemic, organized plot by angry trans women, then you owe it to inform the FBI and the RICO unit of the Justice Department about their activities. At the very least they should be on "America's Most Wanted" for their unconscionable hostility towards their close allies like Queerty and towards other well-behaved transgender people who, unlike these thugs, know how to play well with others.

Oh, I was just having fun with the title. :D Though I must admit, your description does paint a much more enjoyable image.

...Wait. You didn't get your copy of the "evil trans plan to Destroy Every Bit of Decency In this Super-Duper Christian Land"? My mistake. Please see your nearest Homosexual Agenda-keeper for your copy.

I may have missed the tongue in cheek, but man, it can be nasty if you are trans and comment on Queerty......

Well thought out post. I really agree that we in the trans community can be seen as hypersensitive. That said, I have consistently received more biting commentary from LGB people about my place in the world than even by hetero-cis-people.

I often wonder at core remedy, but silencing someone never works.


wait, how did you know about the craps game?

Is there a big poster of Bil on the wall with a bullseye over his face? Do all the mean transsexual ladies get together and do arm wrestling and craps to decide who gets to be the lucky one to knock Bil off his pedestal this week?

To question #1: It feels like it quite often. I always assumed you'd made one. *grins*

Question #2: They should be careful. If the winner comes from an arm wrestling match, I could always throw the game if she's strong enough to throw me around. :)

Loved your comment, Gina - and the images in invoked.

Kathleen of Norfolk | March 8, 2010 6:26 PM

I'm right there with you Austen. I used to be involved with state level advocacy and I have done a lot of transgender related academic work. However, I largely got out of it because of this sort of thing. In fact, I don't even feel that I can be part of my own community of people because I don't always buy into the "party line." In fact, I'm more comfortable working with the opposition than the trans community. At least I know where they stand.

So if another trans lady starts complaining about their allies, may I give her a little *winkie* just so she knows I know which 'stage' she's in? Kind of the way women always appreciate it when you inform them they're being a Grumpy Gus because their "Aunt Flo" has come for a visit?

So if another trans lady starts complaining about their allies, may I give her a little *winkie* just so she knows I know which 'stage' she's in?

I mean you could, but you might deserve a good smack for it. Here's how I responded to that question in the original post, specifically how cis folks might use such a model to dismiss people's anger as only a part of a phase:

That’s always a possibility. The thing I tried to emphasize a lot here is that the anger is very justified. Not to mention, being in a different stage won’t preclude someone from getting upset when they are wronged.

Besides, if a cis person makes the claim, “Oh, you’re just in the stage where you aren’t yet desensitized to oppressive behavior,” they have to admit that they are engaging in oppressive behavior. I would hope such a dismissal would be pretty transparently calloused, self-interested, and further evidence that they care more about appearing to be an ally then actually stopping their own cis-supremacist behavior.

And here's a good point Emelye Waldherr made:

I don’t see any evidence of “getting over it” in the model Tobi described, rather, I think the anger remains but its expression and targeting evolve. Besides, cis dismissal of trans experience will happen, no matter what the model looks like, so we need to deal with it as it appears.

But Tobi, could it be said that such models give an "offender" permission to pathologize HOW a trans person (or any offended person) reacts—not just that there's justifiable anger? Since when does an offender get to define what's the right way to react to their offensive comments? I still feel this is giving an oppressor the right to, in a sense, infantilize trans people (or whoever) by saying, "I know why you're acting this way... it's about you, not what I'm doing." In other words, an instant pass on their behavior.

Having grown up in the 60s and hearing a lot of white comments about "angry blacks" and "angry anti-war protesters" and then, in the 70s about "angry women" and how groups get tagged as "humorless" whenever it doesn't suit the purposes of the people benefitting from the jokes, I find myself very suspicious when such concepts get tagged to a community to which I belong. Moreover, I have huge problems when someone comes along and says, "this is the rational (aka grown-up) way to act whereas you are responding in an immature way". It's an attempt to create a power hierarchy I won't support.

Do I believe in people speaking to one another with mutual respect... absolutely. Do I believe in manners... yes. Do I accept one group saying "you just need to stop letting ________ bother you and act in a rational manner"?, that's an imposed hierarchy. Don't buy that one.


The "angry woman," the "angry person of color," the "angry fill-in-the-blank-oppressed-person" meme has been around for a long time. I don't think it needs any help in order to perpetuate itself, and I don't think a model like this actually does much to do so. The original model pertaining to race was published nearly two decades ago. Have you ever heard an offender tell a person of color that they are simply in the immersion stage and are particularly sensitive to racist behavior at the moment?

I'd highly recommend reading my entire post, as well as the linked source material. Two main things to bring in from that: while I was focusing on the oppressed-group model, there is also an oppressor-group model as well. So if someone ever did say "Aha! You're just in the stage where you're sensitive to transphobic behavior," you could say right back at them, "Aha! You're just in the stage where you refuse to take responsibility for your transphobic behavior and come up with stupid excuses that don't actually make sense."

Secondly, this model isn't about reaching the most evolved state, or seeing one stage as inherently better than another. People often go through them in a different order, or go back to previous stages again. I specifically reference how it's been called a "spiral staircase" in order to reflect just that.

All too often people dismiss someone else's experience as being a phase. Usually the response is to argue that it is not a phase. Personally, I think it's much more important to recognize that phases are completely legitimate. I went through a phase of competing for the debate team and winning many trophies. I went through a phase of going to school. I went through a phase of making home cooked meals every night. Now would anyone want to tell me to just hurry up and get over those things, as they are only phases? I always heard grown up say "Stay in school," not "Going to school is only a phase, eventually you'll grow up and get over it." And besides, some phases are good things that we'd like to return to if we could.

Unfortunately, I think the term "phase" has a more loaded meaning to many trans people, as in "your identity is a phase" "your need to transition is a phase" "your desire for surgery is a phase" "your activism is just a phase". Those are all terms of dismissal. Moreover, the phase structure you mentioned (in the QT post) still reeks a bit too much of pathologizing (and I'm not a big fan of pathologizing people I disagree with either). Personally, rather than having my "phase" identified by some wag, I'd rather know why it's so important for them to dismiss my identity/experience/reaction. No one needs to hear "I know why you're angry... ". That's not empathy, it's control.

Moreover, I'm really getting tired of the "trans women are batshit crazy and unreasonable" meme, both from straights, LGB cis people and even those with an inflated sense of their own maturity/authenticity within the trans community. Overwhelmingly, the stuff I see trans people complaining about is, in fact, intellectual laziness/lack of research, someone being highly patronizing or an attempt to institutionalize ignorant attitudes. They should be called out on it and no one should need to apologize or self-censor for doing so.

I guess it's always been important to me to confront the invalidation head on. If someone tells me that being trans is a phase -- or worries that it might be -- I'll contest it of course. But I will also contest the idea that being a phase makes something invalid.

Let's say that, hypothetically, ten years down the road I no longer identify as a woman. Let's say that I get chest surgery, grow out a beard, and decide that I'm a cis guy. **shudder**

Even if something like that were to happen, that doesn't make what's happening for me right now any less valid or important. When folks don't want to give hormone therapy to trans teenagers because of the chance that they might change their minds, I remind them that the worst case hypothetical scenario they are imagining would mean they would be living a gender that doesn't match their body -- i.e. the status quo. I'll always point out that the likelihood of a trans person's gender taking a 180 is incredibly slim, but even if it did, there's no reason to cause suffering in the present in order to prevent the exact same suffering that hypothetically might occur.

As for the anger bit, I'll only repeat myself one more time here. I know that folks acting out of privilege love to dismiss people by calling them "angry" even when there is not a drop of anger (Such as Drake's comment below about the term "cis privilege" being "snarled" whenever it's written -- it's amazing that they can hear guttural noises across the internet and know the emotional state of trans people better than we know ourselves).

That said, I like anger. I think it's a valuable motivator. I think it's a meaningful part of self-worth to get angry when people give you shit. I think whenever it's about oppression it's usually more than justified. Where do you think any social justice movement would be if no one ever got angry about oppression? Being angry in no way means that you can't be reasonable, rational, and even respectful.

I in no way think that the final stage of this academic model is automatically better than the others. Nor do I think it is completely without anger. When I point out that I believe a mass number of trans people are waking up to see the extent of the oppression out there and are angry about it, I celebrate that fact. I've been very clear about that. If hypothetical people might misinterpret or twist that into an attack on our community, there's very little I can do to stop them and I'm not going to refuse to talk about this for fear of it. If I did that, there would be almost nothing that I could talk about.

"So if another trans lady starts complaining about their allies, may I give her a little *winkie* just so she knows I know which 'stage' she's in?"

unless they're in the stage where they feel the need to be validated in their statements that they're not like other trans folks. I remember one rather prominent trans person taking it to the extreme of actually saying she was the only transsexual to come from a "good background" early in her transition. Though it comes in so many other flavors.

I think Tobi something worth considering below. It might also be worth considering that we have to contend with people wanting to speak for us in disempowering ways every single day of our lives. From academics who want to define us in stigmatizing ways in the DSM to partners of trans people who want to put themselves forward as "representatives" of trans people in legislative advocacy to the very long history of glb's seeking to disempower us from the local nondiscrimination ords post Stonewall, to Pride events, how we're portrayed in community histories to reactionaries at The We Want The Money Festival in Michigan. Right to the present day with Ron Gold here, with his feeling empowered to even make those statements and with those statements now bring used by conservatives to undermine our chances to get civil rights via legislation.

Ron was portrayed as someone who thought himself an ally and as someone who felt he was motivated by trying to help us poor deluded people. Alex rarely gets the reaction Ron did. I would suggest that this isn't due to some delusional thinking or reflexively negative statements on the part of those being talked about.

Cynthia Lee | March 8, 2010 6:43 PM

OK. I don't ussualy say anything but i am a little miffed. I won't point out the who but I am sick and tired of certain people thinking they have a right to moniter and 'corect' anyones ussage of language.
I understand that as good people we shouldn't go around just upseting people just for, but I reserve the right to spout off at the mouth and talk trash or use forbiden words if I so choose. If I feel it is apropriate to hurt someones feelings then so be it. Not everyone gets a hug, sometimes they deserve disrespect.

BTW I am a tranny. I like the word. I like how it ends in an E sound. I like words like that.
It is a word that says it all in one sylable. I also like fag, dyke, and I have no issue with my friends of color calling eachother the N word. It doesn't hurt me or anyone else. Only those who get thier panties in a wad over minor stuff get so upset.

You want me to not use certain words?!!!?!???
Stop opressing me with your views and opinions. I do not live in a kubya everyone loves eachother world. I have a right to say what I want and when I want.

(oh and it really upsets me when I see a fellow transperson talking smack to the cis because they do not use the 'right' semantics.)

So have a nice day.


who was talking smack to the cis people for not using the right semantics?

Who is oppressing you for your language -- is it a person (which wouldn't be oppression) or a system of thought?

... "tranny" is two syllables.

And you can use whatever words you want, but the downside of that is that other people have the freedom to object to those words.

It bothers me when I see cis people systematically disrespecting and dismissing trans people, and it bothers me more when I see trans people defending and legitimizing that kind of thing.

Me too, but I'd like to learn why. So that it can be addressed.

I agree generally, although I wouldn't say the phenomenon is limited to the transgender community.

I can think of gay men and lesbians who love to stifle internal debate because they can't handle the fact that there are people with their identity who think differently from them, and they tend to be the same people who are quick to get offended when a non-gay person says something they deem offensive (remember Bill Richardson saying being gay isn't genetic back in 2007? Most of us either didn't care or kinda agreed with him, but he was still forced to apologize. It had less to do with being right and more to do with toeing the company line). It's why we try to make space for dissenting voices around here, for gay and lesbian people who don't agree with the gaystream for various reasons, because we shouldn't be afraid of that sort of debate. But check out the comments in those posts - "You're a hateful homophobe/ you're an aunt tom/ you've internalized homophobia/you're just like the Religious Right/You're not really gay" - it's not all that different.

I can also think of more than a few people who work on feminist issues who act the same way. I can think of a few posts where are the comments were about just telling the contributor to shut up and fall in line, without any real reasoning, on women's issues.

While there are transgender people who act the same way, and while I agree that it's important for this discussion to happen, I'll just say that it's a bigger phenomenon and that most communities (not just oppressed minorities) have to deal with. I'm not going to step foot in the debate as to who's worse when it comes to this (because the trans mafia will get me! AHHHH!).

Part of it is simply inherent to internet culture. Some people are attracted to spending hours online because of low social skills, and this is the result.

Another part of it is the justified anger you mention above, although there's definitely a difference between being angry and being caustic for caustic's sake.

Still another part is the limitations of neoliberal politics and it's focus on advancing immutable identities status (me first!) instead people's well-being and social justice, therefore making an insult a worse injury than an actual injury.

And the biggest part of it is the fact that some people are just bullies and they aren't going to change any time soon. We tend to think of bullies as being straight, rich, white, male, cis, powerful, whatever, but they come in all stripes. And I've seen bullies of all stripes in the comments here, who usually say something like "WHAT? How dare you disagree with me on this, because believing this is exactly what it means to show respect for X group. You're sexist/transphobic/internalized-homophobic/whatever!" I've learned that when the attack precedes the reasoning, when the impact and accusation and invective take up more space than the explanation as to why someone's right, then it's best to ignore and move on. Bullies tend to just want attention.

Wow. I'm going to need more popcorn. :D

"What separates transgender and transsexual?"

It depends. It could be yellow, green and blue. Or, it could be the opposite - blue, green and yellow. Or, it could be just green and blue. Or, the opposite - green and yellow. Or it could be bluish green, green and yellow. Or, the opposite - yellow green, green and blue. Or, it could be many other, almost infinite, combinations. It's because transsexual is something that is a sense of self that is compelled to move through green to become either at least orange or indigo but not something in between. There is no fine line but transsexual exists well into the orange or indigo range when there is nothing interfering with its true but obscured nature. It should be observed that indigo is not blue and orange is not the same as yellow.

But, why shouldn't the question be what is male what is female? I think it is rarely ultraviolet or infrared and it is interesting to note that violet and red do have a lot in common. Also, there seems to be a lot of in between that does not have a sense of self that exists beyond the other side of green. Such a phenomenon is rare.

If you do not approach it in a literalist sort of way, you might find Harry Benjamin's "Transsexual Phenomenon" enlightening. He had things fairly well sorted out way back in the sixties before others distorted him out - of the picture. He had Virginia Prince pegged to a "T". Of course, he was an endocrinologist. He looked at things from more of a biological perspective than a psycho social perspective (sic - spelling is correct).

Sorry, I posted this in the wrong place. I went back after I signed in to this reply by Austen when I intended it for the following one by her. I apologize for the double post.

Margaretpoa Margaretpoa | March 8, 2010 6:59 PM

I was driven away from Pam's House Blend by a lesbian who was particularly fierce about hating trans women. Pam wouldn't do anything to rein her in, as is her right. Her blog, her rules but it became too silly trying to post any comment there when she would immediately attack anything I said with vulgar language and questions about my intelligence and parentage. I'd just had enough. I don't even go there anymore, even just to read. It's a shame because I miss some of the writers and regulars there. Look, I have people standing in line to treat me like crap, there is no shortage of the crap I HAVE to put up with so why would I put up with it voluntarily?
That being said, I have been just astonished at the rancor and vehemence from some of Bilreco's trans commentors. Some of it is just so over the top and so unjustified that it surprises me that their behavior is tolerated and not even discouraged. Yes, indeed there is some validity to the accusation that some transgendered people are hypersensitive, though I submit that when you spend your life defending your right to live, you tend to become defensive by default. Certainly I've been through more than I would wish on my worst enemy but I learned a long time ago that hostility is answered with the same and all it causes is stress and who needs more of that these days?
As for some transgendered people using the word "tranny". yeah, some do. That doesn't mean it's okay for them to do so nor does it grant permission for non transgendered people to use it, either as a term of endearment or a pejorative. Here's an analogous situation: Dave Chappelle uses the "N" word. Frequently. Does that make it an acceptable word? No. Does the fact that he uses it give me permission to use it? HELL no!
Just sayin'...

@Margaretpoa: A lot of white people shell out a lot of money EXACTLY so they can hear Dave Chappelle and Chris Rock say the "N" word.

(sorry for the derailment)

Margaretpoa Margaretpoa | March 8, 2010 7:49 PM

Why does that "derail" what I said? Because white people pay Chris Rock or Dave Chappelle so they can hear them say the "N" word makes it okay? Is that it? I don't get the "logic" that white people paying to see black comedians perform invalidates or "derails" anything I said. Maybe I'm just stupid.

I only meant derailment because it was getting away from Austen's original remarks (and is more about the "tranny" issue). No, the N word, tranny, or any other vulgarism for any group is not okay (except used as irony/sarcasm within that oppressed group). But I know people who pay $80 to hear Dave Chappelle say n*gger 100 times in a show will disagree with me. It's as if they're bizarrely paying for the right to be in a room where its use is okay and buying their way into an "insider's status" because they get to laugh at it.

Ana W.-L. | March 9, 2010 3:14 AM

Having lived my whole life on the other side of the (second-largest) pond, I don't know a thing about these shows. Still, it sounds like there are pretty strong parallels here to the people who shell out money to watch tr*nny pr0n.

Anyway, to get back on track (sort of), what this boils down to is politeness and respect. On the one hand, let's try to avoid language that others find offensive, let alone downright exploitative – but on the other hand, let's also try to avoid jumping on well-meaning people who make honest mistakes.

...And I like the word 'shemale' because it puts the 'she' in 'male'. And I also like 'shim' because it's only 4 letters long and starts with a "shhh" sound. But I don't like the term "he-she" because it excludes genderqueer folks.

I think much of what prompts these sorts of border incursions is less about the interactions between trans people and the wider queer community, and more about conflicts between differing models of being trans. Our movement has hugely changed in the last few decades, and when a person came out, both in terms of the decade and in terms of their age at the time, results in all sorts of different experiences. I mean, if you transitioned in the era of HBS protocols and gender-enforcing support groups, the more modern adjustment therapy model and the broader degree of social acceptance is going to be alien. And if people transition recently, with the path to identity documents being that much more clear, an era in which people had to carry therapist notes in case of police trouble is going to be unrecognizable, and offensive.

Add in the general perversion of our culture and the internet commentariat, in which most people think their opinion on an issue is so right as to deny the legitimacy of any alternative viewpoints, and many want to be popular and known... it just gets a little toxic. People are quick to take umbrage, quick to avoid giving the benefit of the doubt. So, even though I disagree with the way you've presented much of your point here, I must agree with your general thrust.

But one final thing. The pool of people who want to keep trans people down is not exclusive of the LGBT community. It's not as simple as this community versus everyone else. But what people most commonly overlook is that just as there are queer folk whose views on trans people keep us down and turn us into pawns for their own empowerment, these people also exist within the trans community. If we're going to assume that just because people are trans they're going to be less likely to mean ill towards us or want to use us, we must extend that courtesy to the rest of the community.

YO! What's dis I hear youz gizs talkin' 'bout da Tranny Mafia? We get real sensitive 'bout deez things. Wez Law Biding Citizens. Ya know?

Now, I'm goin' to my restaurant in the Lower East Side of Frisco and have me a quiche calizone. Iffin ya know whats good for ya, you'd end this discussion 'bout da Tranny Mafia right now, otherwise I'm gonna have to have Guidorina pay you a little visit.

Excuse me while I take this call from the Godmother.

I don't really comment here often, but I hope these words are useful in some way.

It may be, for many trans folks, that is gets exhausting having to tread the same old ground with so many ignorant people. If Bilerico is to be a safespace for trans folks to really dig into issues and have these important community-building conversations, it might be helpful if the blog had some prominently posted ground rules or places of departure to point to, and that the moderators asked folks to stick to them.

There are a lot of things to learn from anti-racist activists and writers here, I think. There is probably a list like this for conversations about trans issues but I can't find it/one at the moment:

Anyone who can't talk about issues from a place informed by the 101 should be redirected to a post where they can dig into those issues, possible aided by kind-hearted educated Samaritans who have it in them to tackle basic naivete/ignorance.

Because folks shouldn't have to explain basic dignity and respect in every conversation about trans community. Its draining.

I second the call for making some kind of change in Bilerico's moderation patterns. This being the internet, I don't think people are going to do a very good job of self-policing. If this were a support group taking place in a brick and mortar building, I think folks could discuss this out and come to the table with a different approach. However, the internet is a bit like the wild west and a discussion forum is a bit like a bar. Anyone who has watched a few westerns knows how that works out.

I used to comment here more often, but after seeing the same derailments take place over, and over, and over again, I grew quiet. (For the record, I haven't been innocent of expressing a little invective here now and again. After seeing the same off-color things said so many times, in so many places, it gets difficult to stomach.) Obviously, the issues surrounding trans folk are incredibly controversial and rife with the possibility that incredibly ignorant things will be said with a smile and a wink. I'm not sure how to deal with such conditions without the moderators of Bilerico stepping in and saying, "OK, play nice, y'all!"

I'm willing to listen to ideas, Timberwraith & Dave.

Our comment policy is written beneath each comment section. What changes would you make? We're getting ready to roll out some new changes over the next couple of weeks so now is a good time to put your cards on the table. :)

Hi there, Bil. You have mail. :-)

Re: CFOX-----(not a Canadian radio station) can assert that GID can be cured and reversed. I would say it is not by taking gender dysphoric young people and brainwashing them into enjoying being their birth gender role, but by completely tearing down the reactionary gender stereotyping in the homes, the schools, and the foster care system and allow young people to freely be themselves without fear of harrassment by the state, religion, schools, or bullies. Expel the bullies, not the bullied. Fire teachers who preach bigotry in the classroom and can the Left get a spine? How about health care reform with a single payer option and bring the troops home! repeal DADT!

The trans community is experiencing a renaissance moment of self-definition, and discovering as many ways to self-define as there are trans or remotely trans-like people. To be fair to allies, it is impossible to generalize or theorize without insulting or erasing someone.

However, the flip side is that while people are carving their precarious territory, they're particularly sensitive to being annexed from every direction since Sunday. We have newfound identities that are ours, had to fight for them in the first place, and are defensive about the possibility of them being undermined, garroted or taken away. This is especially true for some of us old folks who didn't always have support networks, didn't always have Internet, and especially true for those of us who lost pretty much everyone when we transitioned.

So it takes a lot of patience, from both sides. That kid who showed up in a basket on the doorstep at GLB house is now a teenager.

Keep in mind that there's a difference between that and either careless or deliberate hurt, which still happens and cuts far deeper.

His comment isn't the only one I've heard from straight allies.


If there is a Trans Yakuza, I bet they don't cut off a finger when they disappoint the Oyabun....

If you all think we have had a problem, just wait until you see the new language in ENDA that separates the transsexuals from the transgenders. Hold on to your hats.

Now now, no teasing nasty new legislation unless we can have a taste!

(In all seriousness, is this ears-to-the-railroad info about the ENDA markup? What separates transgender and transsexual? Am I asking questions that will probably just be answered in your next post?)

"What separates transgender and transsexual?"

It depends. It could be yellow, green and blue. Or, it could be the opposite - blue, green and yellow. Or, it could be just green and blue. Or, the opposite - green and yellow. Or it could be bluish green, green and yellow. Or, the opposite - yellow green, green and blue. Or, it could be many other, almost infinite, combinations. It's because transsexual is something that is a sense of self that is compelled to move through green to become either at least orange or indigo but not something in between. There is no fine line but transsexual exists well into the orange or indigo range when there is nothing interfering with its true but obscured nature. It should be observed that indigo is not blue and orange is not the same as yellow.

But, why shouldn't the question be what is male what is female? I think it is rarely ultraviolet or infrared and it is interesting to note that violet and red do have a lot in common. Also, there seems to be a lot of in between that does not have a sense of self that exists beyond the other side of green. Such a phenomenon is rare.

If you do not approach it in a literalist sort of way, you might find Harry Benjamin's "Transsexual Phenomenon" enlightening. He had things fairly well sorted out way back in the sixties before others distorted him out - of the picture. He had Virginia Prince pegged to a "T". Of course, he was an endocrinologist. He looked at things from more of a biological perspective than a psycho social perspective (sic - spelling is correct).

It's more divisive than that. We're dividing transsexuals from transsexuals.

I hope you're not serious, Jillina. That's what was attempted in my home town's city version of ENDA, and that killed it.

Let me guess - only protections for those who can produce proof of a diagnosis of GID if pre-op, or post-ops?

It would be a logical extension of federal policy on passports, and many state laws.

4 years ago, I would have advocated just that solution. It deals with those most in need.

I've learnt a bit since then. Maybe not enough, but enough for me to see this as, at best, an increment and temporary resting-place until 2024, but at worst, a sell-out.

IMO a significant percentage of full time MTF TSs exhibit signs of PTSD due to difficulties encountered in transitioning.

This PTSD might resolve over time except for one thing. In the LGBT/progressive communities being a victim is an entry requirement. Which may help win sympathy votes from the general public but has the undesirable effect of encouraging victim behavior indefinitely particularly from trans individuals who typically were (and sadly often still are) victimized more than others.

Try this simple test: See how many trans posters have entries in Bilerico which do not in some way refer to their victimization and/or show signs of PTSD.

Or, if you're MTF trans and thick skinned try this: make a Bilerico post about how you had an absolute blast last week getting all decked out and picking up a guy leading to, well, you know! You WILL get slammed by the professional victim trans types who frequent Bilerico.

My suggestion to the PTSD suffering trans contingent is to get professional help to reach the point you no longer desire to be a professional victim. You'll know you've reached a good point when you don't have to obsessively talk about being trans, are having fun regularly and stop being so bitchy at the slightest provocation.

Symptoms of PTSD fall into three main categories:

1. Repeated "reliving" of the event, which disturbs day-to-day activity...

2. Avoidance
Lack of interest in normal activities
Less expression of moods
Sense of having no future

3. Arousal
Irritability or outbursts of anger

I think this comment is extremely problematic for:

* Diagnosing anyone over the internet
* Accusing people of playing the victim
* "In the LGBT/progressive communities, being a victim is an entry requirement."

Also, is it so hard to refer to trans women as women? Must it always be "MTF"? Can we refer to everyone strictly as arbitrary acronyms now?

Maybe when folks log online and talk about their experiences with others, that's part of the process of moving on? Writing can be pretty darned therapeutic. Just a thought.

Other than that... what Lisa said.

Everything else aside, who would make a post to Bilerico about having straight sex?

i mean why
what would be the point

"Nerissa" Blanchard *wink-wink*, thanks for the free therapy session!

Mulling this over a bit more...

Nerissa, I think your comment is essentially a longer, kinder way of saying, "I think many trans women should STFU because they need to seek professional help." I've seen cis people (and the occasional trans person) dismiss trans people as psychologically defective in an effort to label their perspectives as suspect. Essentially, they are using the stigma surrounding mental illness as a means of dismissing trans people's words. Such attacks employ both ableism and cissexism.

Could we not use such tactics in this venue?

You'll know you've reached a good point when you don't have to obsessively talk about being trans...

And if we were at such a point, how would you know? It seems to me this may be a matter of only seeing what you expect to see. If I made a post that never even mentioned the word trans, would you notice? Did you notice? If I'm on the bus talking about the vegetarian chili I made last night, no one knows that I'm trans. If I'm talking about a campaign for trans rights, they do.

So I would suggest that we don't "obsessively talk about being trans", but rather you only pay attention to the times when we are then assume we never talk about anything else.

Everything else aside, who would make a post to Bilerico about having straight sex?

Straight men often have to confront their issues with homophobia when presented with the prospect of dating or being intimate with a transgender woman. In other words, transgender women have to be wary of straight men's homophobia. In some cases, this is a matter of life and death.

More precisely, this situation represents the nexus point where homophobia (fear/discomfort with same sex relationships) meets cissexism (not recognizing the validity of trans people's identities) and transphobia (fear/discomfort with trans people). It would be nice if all cis people would recognize trans people's identities as legitimate, but unfortunately, that's not the case. Until that golden moment in history, trans people will always have to face the specter of homophobia when being intimate with a member of the other sex. Hence, discussing these matters is entirely legitimate in an LGBT venue.

As a side note, even though I'm a lesbian, I'd be quite interested in reading transgender women's experiences in their relationships with men because I too am transgender. I too have to face down straight men's homophobia sometimes because even though I'm not into guys, they are still attracted to me. Consequently, even I have to be wary of situations in which a man's attraction to me may trigger his attendant sexual insecurities... possibly in very violent ways.

I would like to take this occasion to thank Austen and also Dr. Jillian T Weiss for their consistently great posts and comments.

As for many of the others who act as the self-annointed sole voice for the entire trans community, and attack attack attack, and who are against major pillars of the LGBT agenda (such as marriage, but bitch when they feel unsupported on their issues), remember, you make more friends with a teaspoon of honey than with a gallon of vinegar.

"I'm not going to do some politically correct faggot dance for you."

Whoa, where the hell did that come from?

I'm not PC. I'm socially inept. I curse like a sailor.

But I don't say the n-word. I understand it's not merely a curse word and it's not merely impolite for me to say. I have a whole philosophy behind my decision to not use racial slurs. And it has to do with me recognizing my white privilege and understanding my white privilege would be automatically attached to any racial slurs should I say them.

Trans people see cis privilege attached to the word "tranny" when cis people say it. And so that'll be last time I say it. Actually that was the first and the last. I've never used it because it was a no brainer for me. Because I have a philosophy about words and context. The person saying the word--and their privilege or lack thereof--is always part of the context.

For context, "I'm not going to do some politically correct faggot dance for you." was something I said to a straight woman who was offended that I failed to be inclusive of straight identified women who are occasionally attracted to women. Nevermind that I was on a site for lesbian and bisexual women and didn't think I had to think of including straight women in whatever I was talking about. I felt like she was trying to exert some heterosexual privilege in insisting that I include her while simultaneously claiming I was the one with all that glorious homosexual privilege when I exclude straight people.

I just think you can't have your privilege and eat it too. Not that I have a full tank of cis's half empty or half full depending on how you look at it...or 2/3s I dunno. I take each situation as it comes. Since gender is both binary and variable, privilege would have to be too. YMMV

HenryHall | March 9, 2010 6:36 PM

I think a problem is that, because the "trans community" (for want of a better term) is so divided among themselves what happens is that an ally listens to the point of view of a trans person and wrongly believes (or worse is led to believe) that the view expressed represents a consensus. The ally then reiterates part of the view as if it were received fact and gets slammed by a dissenter.

Nowhere is this division among trans people more marked than those who believe that psychiatric diagnosis of transsexualism is proper and those who think it is unconditionally wrong.


I think you're right to a very great extent (although I do think your theory puts a little too much blame on trans people and kind of exonerates the bigotry and ignorance among cis people).

As I've said a number of times and been informed I'm stupid or wrong, the trans community is too complex. It's like the state of California... too fragmented and comprised of too many sub groupings that have nothing to do with one another. And when someone tries to communicate their frustration with that reality, they're informed they're not being inclusive or realistic. The trans community has become, what is essentially, a huge dumping group of identities. Maybe we have common enemies, but so did the Jews and Christian Poles during WW2... that doesn't mean they're "the same group."

Yes, a genderqueer person (who might not physically transition but IDs as trans and takes a lot of sh*t for it) is going to have a very different perspective from someone who's binary-ID'd and has gone through literal hell to medically transition. To expect they're going to communicate the same message to "allies" is kind of absurd.

I agree it can be complex for allies to sort through all the absurdly differing information to arrive at a clear picture of what "trans" means or what language should or shouldn't be used. I still feel a lot of the messages cis-people/'allies' have put out there which have been excoriated by trans people are just pure laziness, a delusional sense of superiority, entitlement and self-satisfied ignorance... not confusion over differing corners of the trans world.

As long as we are discussing terms, when did lots of us suddenly become "cisgender" in these discussions? This term is a construct for the trans community to use in internal discussion, or in footnotes in academic papers. I prefer "non-trans". Here on Bilerico, it is usually snarled when written, as in "cis privilege". I don't think that any gay or lesbian (who is non trans) gives a thought to identifying as "cis gender", nor thinks that it is important to the discussion. All these discussions about all sorts of "privilege" on Bilerico usually emanate from the self-identified Q writers,followed by the T, usually in the form of attacks on all the rest of the initials in LGBTQ. I think that this multitude of terms adds to disagreement rather than coalesces. Bilerico already says that it is aiming at "LGBTQ" is there now supposed to be a C added? See Steven Cheslik-DeMeyer's post above. A short post of 10 lines generated a maelstrom, demonstrating the divisiveness.
I will close by saying that in the moderation comments over time, I have found Alex and Bil to be paternalistic in their special treatments and interventions which they impose on commenters when certain T's and Q's post. The posters are usually the most incendiary or offensive to gay males. Somehow this is ok on Bilerico. Although I do not agree with the tone of Dwerk in his comments on Cheslik-DeMeyer's post, I think that there is some truth to the perception that Bilerico is not too interested in gay males over 35 or their politics, and it is fair-season to offend them, and also fair to censor their reactions to offenses. I am not going to defend Ron Gold. I found him "meat ax" approach, instead of a scalpel. However, having heard him speak many times over the years, I was really curious what he was going to say in his post, and how he ended up dead on arrival here at Bilerico. If he were going to get the boot, I think that it should have been after hearing what he was going to say. The educational moment for the readership was lost, and instead handled by beating up the editors without a real discussion for the larger readership. It was all polemics, accusations of privilege, and otherwise emotion run rampant with very little thoughtful analysis. Bilerico has been left with a T militia pouncing ever harder since.
Finally, Austen Crowder is one of the best writers on Bilerico. I hope that she sees a calling to join one of the national organizations in a leadership role. She has a wonderful, cool analysis in all her posts, and never dumps on any others in the LGBTQ(C?). I have been amazed at how she has suffered at the hands of the PC police who prowl Bilerico. I am even more amazed at how she dusts herself off, and proceeds time after time. Keep up the great work, Austen.

You didn't suddenly become cis, you've been cis all along. It's just a new name for it. And yes, there's privilege for being cis. The state of being trans and the state of being cis are not equal in society, just as the state of being straight and the state of being gay are not equal.

Cis is not an academic term intended for internal discussion. Cis is intended to be an everyday term. It avoids the problematic nature of "trans and non-trans", in that it doesn't inherently privilege one state over the other.

It's not a matter of identification. No more than being white, straight, or able-bodied is a matter of identification.

I will never use "non-trans" to describe cis people.

For the most part, "cisgender" is basically as much an antonym of transgender as heterosexual is to homosexual. Heterosexual gets snarled when written, as does transgender, transsexual and everything else, but don't mistake the context for the word.

Put as simply as possible, would you refer to:

a) straight people as non-queer?
b) young people as non-old?
c) white people as non-people of color?
d) men as non-women?

If not, then we need a word to replace non-trans. Since the prefix cis- has the opposite meaning of the prefix trans-, it's the most logical choice.

Would you call a bisexual person straight?

No. Under the new labeling system, they will be called "people who are attracted to humans."

Thank you. ;) Dear whoever-got-stuck-with-the-job-of-slogging-through-comments-for-HRC: Call me. :)

Not that Wikipedia is the final word, but let me quote:
"Cisgender is an adjective used in the context of gender issues and counseling to refer to a class of gender identities formed by a match between an individual's gender identity and the behavior or role considered appropriate for one's sex. Cisgender is a neologism that means "someone who is comfortable in the gender they were assigned at birth."

I think that there is a huge field open to interpretation in that definition. I think that lots of gays and lesbians struggle with lots of gender issues in the initial self-identification of gay or lesbian, or straight, and then may struggle with "behavior considered appropriate for one's sex" for much of their lives, depending how "out" they are, and their living circumstances.

As far as I am concerned, the proponents of the term "cisgender" here on Bilerico are adding a label that many of us do not find appropriate or useful. It is similar to the segregationists who defined "black" or "negro" in the legal codes, and came up with varying definitions in the South of 1/8, 1/16, or 1/32 black or negro "blood". If someone is only 1/8 uncomfortable about gender issues, are they cisgender?
One thing about the term cisgender, is that a non-trans gay or lesbian may not be comfortable with the gender assigned at birth, due to social expectations or requirements in given circumstances. However, such a person may also not be trans. Labels labels labels. Is this one really helping in the context of this blog?

What does wikipedia have to do with it, Drake? Are you telling people who are using cis on a daily basis how it's supposed to be used?

Being cis doesn't mean you don't struggle with gender issues, but it does mean you're not dealing with the kind of things trans people do. And those gender issues that cis gays and lesbians deal with? Trans people of all orientations have to deal with those on top of the trans stuff.

Half of gay people could just as well identify as genderqueer on top of being gay.

In fact, I've identified as genderqueer. But I simply found it redundant since gay covers that. Gay =/= homosexual. It's an identity. People can tell I'm gay because of my gender expression, not because they can see my sexual orientation.

I propose that we give up the label "straight" because a number of people who find that they are satisfied with only opposite sex relationships have experimented with members of the same sex at some point during their lives. However, we can't really call these people bi, lesbian or gay either, now can we?

In fact, let's just junk the terms bisexual, lesbian and gay as well. People's sexual orientation can't be forced to fit into a three position labeling system. Let's just call everyone "sexuals" instead. Or maybe we can just label ourselves via measurements on the Kinsey scale.

What this comes down to is that you are saying that it simply isn't fair to designate a label for people who do not fit under the category of transgender. My reply to your concerns can be summarized as: oh well. We're not going to stop using the word cis. Tough potatoes.

It's kinda hard to erase a person's whole childhood.

Genderqueer identities generally fall under the umbrella term transgender. If you don't like that arrangement and simply want to identify as gay, that's your prerogative. However, I guarantee that if you try to officially collapse identities that fall under the term transgender into the label gay, you are going to have a long line of trans folk and LGB folk who are going to be very, very upset. Consequently, the current system of terminology (cis vs trans) isn't going away anytime soon.

I know it's essentially a big waste of time...mostly a waste of your time... to try and erase gay people and gay experiences and rewrite history.

The history that for the longest time in different cultures gays were thought of like a third gender, and gays even thought of themselves that way.

You read the articles right after Stonewall that don't mention transgender, but just "fags" and "dykes." That's not erasure, that's from a time when they were just in the same boat.

But when people decided to get organized, when the social became political, some folks got kicked out and left behind because they were just too weird. I think that was wrong. And the weird thing is, you seem to think that was totally right.

I don't have to collapse genderqueer under gay, because it's already there. Butch gay women get called man and sir and he all the time everyday. Sometimes by mistake, sometimes intentionally. It happens to me, but I blow it off because it's been happening all my life. What you think of as "privilege" I think of as "coping." Effeminate gay men call each other "girl" and "Mary" all the damn time. They make fun of it, and that's how they cope.

But mostly what people can tell, by how we look and act, that we're gay. And that's not inaccurate. Should I tell them "oh, no what you're seeing is my genderqueerness and assuming that I'm gay, which I am." I'm not going to stop someone who just called me "fucking dyke" to explain, and I'm not going to compartmentalize the ways I'm marginalized if I already know that sexism and gender bias is at the root of heterosexism.

I'm not opposed to the word cisgender. I just have a problem with sticking it in the front of gay all the time. Because people get it in their head that most or all gays are cisgender and that's not accurate, that's erasure...erasure of your own.

This is why I stick to "cissexual."

Not that I don't believe people are cisgender, I think there are a lot of people who clearly are, and a lot of lesbian, gay, and bisexual people who are. But I think that it's too easy to try to avoid accountability for one's privilege by deconstructing the concept of cisgender.

CisGay is a lot like TransGay. It means a person who is Gay and cissexual, in comparison to a person who is Trans and Gay.

It also relies on the acknowledgement that Gay is an identity, not a description-- something people have an issue with, since we (that is, the entire LGBT) are still, ultimately, mired to some extent in the whole effort of identity politics.

And Cis and Trans are not clear cut absolutes, either -- when one factors in situational membership and personal identity, it's impossible to do so, since it's entirely possible for a trans person to be cis-identified, even if cis is not really meant to be an identifier.

Who are we to tell someone how they can identify, after all?

But, eh, I'm too meta for some and not meta enough for others, lol.

It would be great if people understood the shortened "cis" to be short for cissexual.

People understand "trans" to be short for an umbrella of identities, not just transsexual.

So they understand "cis" be short for an umbrella for cisgender and cissexual. After all, why would you say cis if you can just type out cissexual. We are not limited to 140 characters here.

And it's obvious to me from the context, timberwraith means "cis" as cisgender, excluding genderqueer.

Exhibit A:

What this comes down to is that you are saying that it simply isn't fair to designate a label for people who do not fit under the category of transgender.

Exhibit B:

Genderqueer identities generally fall under the umbrella term transgender.

So I think I can safely say when timberwraith says "cis gay" that excludes genderqueer gays. But genderqueer gays aren't "Trans gays."

Do you see the hole?

The most frustrating thing to me is the lack of clarity and consistency in how people use and mean these terms.

Isn't his proposition, let's just call all people sexuals, what got Ron Gold fired here at Bilerico?

Timberwraith is engaging in satire in response to someone demanding that we only refer to people as "trans" and "non-trans."

Gays forget that homophobes have and continue to make *these same exact remarks about gays* They're just as invalid then.

Its a way of smearing people and of trying to deflect criticism and trying get out of an argument.

Read some right wing blogs if you don't believe me.

What transgender people are reacting to is cisgender people failing outright to understand trans issues or simply outright transphobia, which is more common among the LGB's than they like to admit. Sure some transgender people make crazy comments on blogs, but *every* type of person does that, its the internet.

What I'm feeling, starting with the Ron Gold fiasco is a real hostility to transgender people and trans issues on Bilerico. Maybe you should drop the "T" from your tagline because it doesn't seem you mean it.

also, how is there a "trans mafia" and how do I get "made"

You gotta find your godperson and join a crew and then prove yerself.

Give me a buzz -- I'll show ya the lay of the land...


Baiting people again? LOL

Bil asks questions, looking for answers, when he does not have a clue as to T-Issues. Maybe we should hire Bil as a Ref? Oh Yea! he is the Ref and a great one at that!

"The trans community is neck-deep in the agenda-defining process, being approximately 20 years behind the LGB community in terms of idea formation and lobbying maturity."

I'm sure no one actually believes the above Quote anymore do they? Hey, You never Know!

No disrespect is meant to any one, but if not for Stonewall and many of the others battles, The LBGT's successes might not have come to pass! The Trans. people were the first ones standing up for their rights and the rights to be "Queer" as we all were called at that time! The Trans. Community has not been 20 years behind. We were the leaders in Our battle. I beg any one that believes we are 20 years behind to do just a bit of research on Stonewall and a few of those ancient battles! Please?

Now I'm Off My soapbox and and back on solid ground! Great post!

I'm sure there's a way to prevent trans and gay from erasing each other in the middle.

Maybe if we added whiskey.

Now _that_ idea deserves a cookie! (A whiskey-soaked, super-delicious cookie, that is!)

reply to Drake above:

Drake -- you have hit the nail on the head here. The outcome of the gay male hate-on of bile rico is that NO gay men read it! The only men who do are themselves Queer or identified AGAINST gay men whom they despise as not like them. You are also pissing in the wind here if you expect any one of these people here to actually care about what you are saying. The repetition to the point of cult-chant of commenters on every single post here proves your point. Q and T are not some kind of politicl "ally" of gay -- they are a cult whose oppressor has been identified as gay men. That is what bile rico is for -- to offer gay male hating members of their fictional LBGTQ "community" a forum to vent their decades-long simmering hate. Of course your post and especially mine are nothing more that gay male power and privilege and will be trashed as such and each of us roasted alive by the Trans Mafia and Queer "allies" such as the gay male hating bill and alex.

The problem with all of this is that LBGTQ is a LIE. It is a false construction. It includes in its membership the very group who is identified as oppressing the other groups: gay "cis" men. Gay "cis" men are vilified in every single post on bile rico by a trans or queer person because gay "cis" men are their most vile oppressors. Yet, bile rico then claims to be all Kumbaya let us live together in harmoney and solidarity as LBGTQ with the caveat that daily stabbing of gay "cis" male oppressors in the eyes will be like a warm up for whatever topic is at hand. A LIE built on hate is supposed to be the basis of a "family". Utter Rubbish! And utterly preventing any of the letter groups from moving forward on their own issues. (Some mewling whiner will now post but we're all called fags when we're beaten -- kindergarten lets out at 3 twit).

ps Now they are calling for enforced 101 teaching and stricter policing of comments -- uh huh

pss Brace yourself for a complete psycho-social eviceration by the T-Mafia for daring to state anything that is not cult-think here -- scalpels to the meat! I find the attacks on gay men tell me more about the abuse each T person has suffered from the larger society -- the way each hones on something they think will hurt the most is a facinating study of external projection of their own inner rage.

Okay, I've been pretty good about not jumping on the comment boat here - I figure I made my points clear in the post and didn't need to echo them in the comments. However, I have to jump in on this one.

What webpage are you reading?

No, seriously. Tinfoil hats I get, but this is really above and beyond. Bilerico hates gay people? Forced re-education camps for all gay people? The false binary of "either you love gay people, or you love trans people"? I mean, really? I know i talk about trans issues a lot - because, you know, _I'm Trans_ - but I cover gay issues too. Last week I covered GOProud and CPAC, for example. I am an equal opportunity advocate. Why my identity must be the enemy is really beyond my understanding.

...and yet here you are, commenting in a trans-person's post about _encouraging live-and-let-live behavior_, complaining that trans people are stomping all over your gay identity. I'm not sure I get the thrust of your vitrol, or why, if you hate this site so much, why you're commenting here.

yer funny. I love it when the gay mafia stops by to say that anyone who doesn't fall in line with the gay PC line is "gay male hating" and then doesn't realize the contradiction between that and everything else they're saying.

But speaking of inner rage....

...I just got it. All those Facebook messages clogging my inbox finally make sense. The next step in LGBT advocacy... it's _Mafia Wars_!

Quick! Send a message to all your facebook friends. We need an ace of spaces, a clean gun, and a getaway car, stat! :D

Someone really needs to invent an LGBTQ version of mafia wars. Something tells me that it'll probably just be a drinking game.

"a facinating study of external projection of their own inner rage."

Is totally going on the back slip cover of any book I ever manage to finish. That's a rockin' blurb! (only... um, spell checked first)

Just as I said. You pretend to want any opinion but when you get one you do not approve of you attack and trash. You cannot hear anything but your own chants. It's your way or no way. You are so far up each others' asses on this blog, you really are Borg. The Bilerico Queer Cultural Revolutionary Guard flag is flying high. Enjoy your power and privilege. Gay liberation is happening but it certainly ain't here!

ps Alex Blaze -- your article where you crowed with joy that Paris shut down its single sex change rooms under the pretense of being open to trans people but really to end homo sex in public revealed precisely who you are -- a sex-negative homo male sex hating prude of the type the old school activist would have pilloried as a sexphobic quisling. Are you a Christian?

Dude, seriously, what are you on?

"Crowed with joy"? I didn't even know I was capable of that. And you read the entire post incorrectly - that's not what happened at all. But I really don't want to rehash the whole story again; I implore you to look it up with your favorite reading comprehension tutor and use it as an exercise in understanding narrative structure.

As for me being a "sex-negative homo male sex hating prude," ummmm... seriously? And you're the one worried about "complete psycho-social eviceration" and despise people who "attack and trash"?

Speaking of which, you said the trans mafia would sweep in and destroy you, but you're still around....

So, dwerk, what do you think of all those times when cis gay men have expressed a desire to eject bisexuals and trans people from LGBT activism? I mean, John Aravosis specifically comes to mind.

I mean, which is worse, criticizing cis gay men* for saying and doing transphobic things, or openly, explicitly wishing one could cut people out of the movement because one finds them inconvenient?


Dwerk, dude, are you always such a nasty person or this like a momentary slip on your part?

Most useful, thanks.

I suspect I will be dealing with Dwerk and some of his contemps all too soon.

And letting the weekend speak volumes.

But I think that it's too easy to try to avoid accountability for one's privilege by deconstructing the concept of cisgender.

It's also easy to prop people up on fake privilege to justify knocking them down.

It's also easy for people to think they have privilege that they don't--to be in complete denial that they're marginalized. Then they're shocked and caught off guard when the very liberal state they live in votes to take away their rights. Because they got complacent thinking they had all this privilege.

There are gay people in South Carolina right now that do not have the privileges of gays in Massachusetts or California.

South Carolina which does not have a single law protecting gay or trans folks from discrimination in anything. No domestic partnerships, no marriage-like benefits are recognized in South Carolina for any same-sex couple. That state legislature recently voted to cut all HIV funding. Go explain to them how much they're avoiding accountability of their privilege.

LGBTs in rural areas, flyover and southern states have a better understanding of how they're in the same boat. They don't need activist and academic carpetbaggers dividing them by pointing out theoretical privileges or privileges that only exist in certain geographical areas that they don't live in and thus don't directly benefit from.

Anyone want to tell that young lesbian in Mississippi that wanted to go to prom with her girlfriend and wear a tux that her girlfriend and her tux are two totally separate issues that have nothing to do with each other?

It's also easy to prop people up on fake privilege to justify knocking them down.

Another way people use to dodge accountability is to say "I don't have privilege, I'm oppressed in other ways!" as if oppression is a constant for everyone, as if there aren't different kinds of privilege and oppression that intersect.

Here's a privilege that isn't theoretical: Neither that Mississippi lesbian nor her girlfriend have to jump through hoops to get identification that matches their bodies, their sense of themselves, and their presentation. They won't have to worry about social security outing them to their own employers.

And in the case of a lot of cissexual lesbians and gays, it certainly doesn't stop them from not only thinking, but acting on the idea that they believe they're superior to trans people because they didn't want to transition. It doesn't stop them from holding fucked up ideas about how transitioning is giving in to heteronormativity because obviously being trans means that you're really gay and want to be a straight woman or you're really lesbian and want to be a straight man. It doesn't stop them from writing screeds about how trans people are threatening and invading their spaces and subculture. It doesn't stop them from denying the reality of trans lives.

Anyway, it's not trans people who are dividing. It's cis lesbians and gays pushing the division. It's John Aravosis saying that dropping the T is fine and the T never belonged there anyway. And it's not just John Aravosis who says this, he's one just one of many public figures who did.

Speaking as a lesbian trans woman, please do not tell me that being lesbian or gay means that cissexual privilege is irrelevant.

Who's not taking accountability for doing their own dividing?

Do you want to do activism, or do you just want to spend your life convincing cissexual gay people they have more privilege than you?

Your choice.

Because cissexual gay people are not the Big Bad. We're not the Big Enemy. We're not the ones who can give you privilege or your rights. We are just a very easy target for you to unload on and get all your frustrations out--frustrations that seem to come from everywhere.

Having one defeatable target is way easier to cope with than the chaotic reality that there is no one source of your frustrations.

Do you want to work with us, or fight us?

John Aravosis is not every gay person. I don't speak for him and I don't apologize for him. But I can't disown him. I don't believe in disowning any LGBT people, no matter how broken and self-loathing or crappy they are too me.

So here's the thing. I love you no matter how much you think I suck. And I want you to have all the rights that I do. But I did not cause you to not have them.

Cissexual privilege is as relevant as is male privilege. I've chosen not to constantly fight gay men about it though. And really if men and women had equal status, there wouldn't be cissexual privilege.

Yeah, a lot of LGBT people are jerks to other LGBT people. It has been my "privilege" to hear on a regular basis how very awful and cruel my kind is...from you and many others.

So, according to pretty much EVERYONE gays and lesbians are evil, the big bad, the enemy. But I've got some sort of privilege in that.

I already know how self-loathing this community is. I already know there are cissexual gays that hate trans gays, and trans gays that hate cissexual gays, and bisexuals that hate gays and lesbians, and gays and lesbians that hate bisexuals, and gay men that hate lesbians, and lesbians that hate gay men. And hell, gay men that hate gay men, and lesbians that hate lesbians.

You're not the only one that gets hated on in this community. But for all our problems, we're not the primary thing hold us back.

I never said you were the big bad or the big enemy, but I will say that a sufficient number of cissexual gays and lesbians are willing to throw trans people under the bus at every possible opportunity, negotiating us out of civil rights legislation over and over again, even trying to crowd us out of activism in general. You personally may not have caused me personally to not have all the rights you have, but cis gays and lesbians have in the past directly taken action to block trans rights, usually for the sake of bargaining for their own. Do not even pretend that there's no privilege here, no power that the cis gay and lesbian communities wield over trans people.

And while LGBT communities may not be the primary thing that holds LGBT communities back, cis LG people have done a lot of work to hold T back over the years.

It's not a matter of whether I want to work with you, but what you expect from me as the admission price for working with you, which is apparently for trans people to sit down and shut up when cis gays and lesbians show their transphobic asses. I think it's pretty ridiculous that you're so against trans people responding to transphobia, but you don't seem to have any critique for actual transphobia as well. Why is that? Why should I have to sacrifice my self-respect in order to be allowed to hang with you?

I wish you'd step away from the mischaracterization of my own words as "cis gays and lesbians are evil/the big bad/etc," as I never said that. Saying "I'd like people to be accountable" is not the same thing as saying "They're all villains."

How can you expect trans people to even be a part of this community and sit in silence while the Jim Fouratts, Norah Vincents, Julie Bindels, Ron Golds, John Aravosises, Alix Dobkins, and others do their level best to attack us, to force us out of the LGBT activism, tell us we're deluded, we're mistaken, we're wrong, accuse of simply seeking to try to "cure" what they assume to be nothing more than homosexuality, stereotype us as extremely heteronormative, as nothing more than walking gender stereotypes? And what about all of those who agree with the more prominent members of the community, who love to come into trans discussions and trash and attack trans people?

It's not divisive to not want to put up with that bullshit, but it is divisive to demand that we do.

Here's a whatever that isn't theoretical:

"That Mississippi lesbian" (as you so eloquently put it) stood up for this trans student who was sent home for wearing a dress just last month.

They don't give a damn about who's got more privilege.

By the way, you didn't say "I'd like people to be accountable."

And in the case of a lot of cissexual lesbians and gays, it certainly doesn't stop them from not only thinking, but acting on the idea that they believe they're superior to trans people because they didn't want to transition. It doesn't stop them from holding fucked up ideas about how transitioning is giving in to heteronormativity because obviously being trans means that you're really gay and want to be a straight woman or you're really lesbian and want to be a straight man. It doesn't stop them from writing screeds about how trans people are threatening and invading their spaces and subculture. It doesn't stop them from denying the reality of trans lives.

That's what you said, quoted there, no characterization needed.

So go ahead, tell me what "a lot" of cissexual gay people I have no control over do.

I don't even like John Aravosis, he's a jerk in general and doesn't listen TO ANYONE. But I can't disown him.

Doesn't anyone have a totally vile relative that they just tolerate? 'Cause that's how I look at it.

I've got family that have some really messed up opinions, including a few who believe in the rapture stuff and are sad I won't be joining them in the afterlife 'cause I'm gay. But I don't pick a fight with them everytime I see them, or continually bitch to the rest of my family about them. They're still my family, dysfunctional and all.


What you're writing here makes me wonder what exactly you think of when you think of privilege. I don't know anyone who equates having privilege with being a villain or the "big bad" guys. I mean, for one, it's hard to find anyone who doesn't have some sort of privilege of some kind.

Cissexual privilege is as relevant as is male privilege. I've chosen not to constantly fight gay men about it though.

You seem to be indicating that male privilege is not very serious and should be dismissed or set aside while we do the real work of fighting for equality. I'll note that male privilege has historically caused major divisions in almost every civil rights movement. If a woman can't stand working for a misogynist volunteer coordinator and quits, would you blame her for dividing the movement or him? What about when it happens several hundred times?

Having one kind of privilege doesn't necessarily mean someone lives a "privileged life." A hypothetical straight white homeless man with a disability certainly is dealing with a lot of oppression. But he'd still be able to access certain societal privileges based on race, gender, and sexuality that a queer woman of color in his same position couldn't. And if he was to organize alongside an able-bodied upper class queer woman of color, then they would both have to be aware of their privileges or else constantly risk stepping on each others toes.

I don't think anyone here is asking cis gays to apologize profusely while trans folk unload their frustrations on them when they themselves have done nothing wrong. But it needs to be okay to talk about privilege. It's not just one way, either. You might have cis privilege, but it's likely I have some kind of privilege that you don't. When the conversation on cis privilege is shut down before it begins, it gives the impression that concerns about transphobia aren't given equal weight. It's really hard to build a coalition on that foundation. And that's true for coalitions around other types of oppression as well.

There is such a thing as spending too much time analyzing privilege. And this is definitely it. Maybe I just find it unnecessary because I already know a lot about privilege.

I've spent most of the last I dunno, 14 hours talking at brick walls...richer, privileged, more powerful brick walls. I don't need to talk about privilege because I experience it. I deal with it. I've dealt with it all day. But I dealt with it in the process of actually trying to get stuff done.

And I don't think this conversation has gotten diddly done. Because *I* am already for trans rights. And the irony is, I had a complaint about uh, erasing genderqueer gays and y'all just turned it around into all about cissexual privilege. So I mean, congratulations, erasure successful. And I've just wasted more time talking to another brick wall. Great.

And I suppose if we just admit that you're not actually going to learn anything about me beyond just looking at each post as if they were separate as opposed to cumulative, I can save my typing energy for something else.

To John Aravois and those who think like him. For your consideration! Take two people. The first is a transgender woman who used to be a straight man. She now live full time as female socially and professionally, but has kept male genitalia and remains in a heteronorm relationship with a (cis)female. The second is a straight looking and acting Gay man who is always the bottom and squeals in bed. I mean no sarcasm. Can somebody please tell me who is more birth gender normative?


This post oversimplifies the relationship the T has had with the cis LGB over the nearly two decades since it was added, as well as the preceding decades when it was at various times ignored, reviled, and rejected. Bil's statement that it's trans people who are responsible for so many cis LGB people mouthing all the letters but shying away from the practice is simply bullshit. This post pretty much blames trans people for causing transphobia, rather than identifying the fact that trans people are reacting to transphobia.

You do reference a lot of transphobia from cis LGB people, but I think that you're placing far too much of the burden of unity and "getting along" on trans people's shoulders. And I think it's necessary for cis LGB people to get used to the fact that a lot of trans people are not instantly trusting of cis people's motivations and intentions, just as LGB people (cis or trans) are not always instantly trusting of straight people's motivations or intentions.

Unfortunately, this post comes off as little more than an extended tone argument, lecturing trans people that we're just too darned angry to get along with a movement that's tried to reject us multiple times before, and is full of cis LGB people who are willing and able to express any number of hateful and vicious sentiments about us and our lives. Somehow, though, this doesn't seem to get as much attention, beyond commenters suggesting that trans people should just let it pass and get over it.

^Agree with Lisa.

"Towleroad, AfterElton, Queerty, Joe.My.God., to name a few - approach trans issues with kid gloves"

This statement is just absurd. Firstly, sites like Queerty continue to have highly transphobic posts accompanied by a pretty much endless stream of trans-bashing comments. None of those sites has ever had coverage of the trans community as any sort of equal partner and the cis people writing about trans issues on those sites have been overwhelmingly unapologetic about their ignorance of trans issues. Towleroad, AfterElton and Joe.My.God have always had a truckload of gay men commenting on any trans-related post as though it were bringing the bubonic plague onto their site.

Other sites like Lez Get Real have trans contributors who are so apologetic about their transness (and loathing towards the trans community) they provide little to no perspective as community members.

This post further reminds how so many "spokespersons" who represent trans people in larger spheres do so only with the approval of cis-GL or straights. As with African-American conservatives in the GOP, you give out the right message, you WILL get your tv time, a platform and a spotlight on which to say it.

the existence of trans mafia doesn't real at all, never heard before, can you show me the source