A link to a radical feminist's diatribe on "castrated men" appears a chat window. "This makes me sad," one of my sisters says, completely deadpan.
This doesn't bother me. What bothers me is that she posted this in response to my advice on stepping up and demanding to be treated like the woman she is. The article was her hamstring. It was her reason to be afraid.
This may seem remedial for some but it's important to revisit Conflict 101 from time to time. Conflicts about identity can get extremely heated; when one aims to erase an identity, or insist that a form of expression is against the will of God or the people, feelings are bound to be hurt. That's just how the game is played. In order to maintain our sanity we have to remind ourselves to identify the stakes of an argument. Since this whole "people are mean to trans folk" meme seems to be such a common theme in our world I figured it was best to post it here.
So some hater just spit in your cornflakes. What's at stake? The short answer is usually "not much at all."
If this is your first time dealing with an identity conflict: relax. Take a deep breath. Laugh. No matter what other people think they cannot offend you unless you let them. People stumble on this first step; they read the confused ramblings of a hater and whip themselves into anger, essentially handing power over their emotional well-being to an anonymous stranger. An identity conflict is often like a dirty knife fight, complete with ad hominem, name calling, and underhanded trolling tactics. It's not exactly a healthy debate.
My approach to conflict - persuasive essays in particular - begins with two questions:
- Who is involved?
- What do the parties get if they win?
These two questions save me a lot of heartache in the long run. In the case of the lesbian separatist attempting to protect her community from "castrated men," our first reaction is to get angry and attempt to convince her of the error of her ways. Fair enough. Before we get there, though, let's go through the questions.
Who is involved? Well, her name is Bev Jo, and her blogspot says she hails from California. That's all the more I know about her. From this position of limited exposure Bev Jo is taking on the entire transgender population with her post. She is spitting bile and vitrol behind the guise of pseudoanonymity - a definite warning flag. (Better to put effort into people who put their full names behind their words - they stand behind what they say enough to put their name on it, after all.)
What changes in your life if the Bev Jo wins the argument? The worst she could possibly do is withhold her approval. That's it. You'd be robbed of approval from a pseudoanonymous lesbian separatist. If you were to stroll down the right street in Oakland, California, at the right time, a lesbian separatist might give a dirty look and a sneer. Congratulations - you have a hater!
With those two questions answered I didn't see the article as distressing or offensive. I saw it as hilarious. I knew I couldn't convince her to see things in a fairer light, as somebody with the animus to write a scathing piece about another minority group isn't exactly looking for a discussion. With the stakes so low as to be nonexistent I could see the essay as a piece of comedy. A woman with nothing better to do writes a nasty, screeching diatribe against trans women, parroting the works of Janice Raymond down to the letter. I mean, come on! That's got comedy written all over it.
Most times it's best to treat these identity-erasing hit pieces like a freeroll poker game. We don't pay anything to get into the game, and we don't lose anything if minds don't change. Our example writer has nothing better to do than to screech about purportedly evil trans women. This is not a position based on logic, and no matter the emotional outcome nothing will change. In times like this the only winning move is not to play.
Of course, that's not to say that all conflicts are meaningless. There's a huge difference between, say, a sweeping argument on a small-time website and battling social conservative attempts to erase our identity. Trying to convince a stranger that we're really women is pretty petty, but having a "you're not really trans" talk with a family member is never easy, and has very real stakes in the form of being ostracized by the people who say they love you. Zany people making crazy assertions about the existence of LGBT people doesn't make our lives any better, granted, but it doesn't make our lives any worse, or any less meaningful. We should become pros at prioritizing the conflicts that actually matter.
For the rest, however, we simply have crazy folks devoting their time to writing ugly rants, often behind the mask of pseudoanonymity. (There's a name for this: trolling.) They can scream and holler but at the end of they day the worst a hater can do is not invite you to their Christmas party - which, quite frankly, you probably didn't want to attend anyway.
Ask the questions. Save yourself the stress. Learn to ignore the crazies. You'll live longer and happier, which is really the best form of revenge around.