Bil Browning

Hall of Shame Edition: Comment of the Week

Filed By Bil Browning | November 20, 2011 7:30 PM | comments

Filed in: Media, Site News
Tags: bad behavior, comments policy, flame wars

Warning: This is a stream-of-consciousness post. I have deliberately not gone back to tweak and massage it to include a happy ending full of rainbows and kittens. I'm angry. There's a lot of cursing in it. Don't like that? Don't read it.

So, here's the thing. This has been bothering me for a while... I just don't like a lot of our commenters. No, not you. Well, okay. Maybe it is you.

trolls.jpegYou see, I started Bilerico Project so people could talk together. With so many voices in our community that were being overlooked - folks from flyover country, trans folk, people of color, etc - why should a small group set our agenda and what the community talks about? From our first day as an Indiana-only blog, the goal has been to get people to talk to each other and grow from the experience.

Unfortunately, some commenters have abused the site's purpose to suit their own needs. I talked to another large blog owner this weekend about our respective comments sections and they nailed it succinctly. "Many of your commenters," he said, "aren't really interested in the conversation. They're interested in an argument. That's all they do - they rip into the writers and other readers constantly. They're snobby, know-it-all jackasses intent on proving they're more personally oppressed than anyone else."

Well, I agree. That about sums up the situation. It's a nightmare to deal with and the entire Ed Team has burnt out from dealing with the daily nastiness and bitterness. Take, for example, this comment from earlier in the week; the person who left it is getting banned.

Over on the "Sec of Labor Issues Statement for Transgender Day of Remembrance" post, Lisa McDonald decided to use the topic - a day set aside to honor transgender people murdered because of their gender expression - to reiterate her dislike for LGBT people:

What about the rights of anyone that is included in the Transgender umbrella living or murdered? You know those who don't wish to be labeled Transgender or that might take offense to gay politics? I suppose their rights don't matter as long as those who are happy being labeled Transgender and the LGBT gets from free press from their loss of life.I will be openly protesting the Transgender Day of Remembrance on their behalf and to point to the injustice of forced transgender inclusion. As for the Obama administration shame on them for bowing to queer politics and Mara Kiesling.

I'll be damned if I give any space to someone who apparently wants to wrap themselves in the Fred Phelps flag and piss on someone's grave. If that's the type of person you are, you don't belong here.

If you regularly write complaints about how much you hate being lumped in with the gays and lesbians and the "transgenders," feel free to haul your ass right out of here.* Seriously. If it bothers you that much that people refer to themselves as they wish, go somewhere other than our comments section where they're free to do so.

If you're trans of any flavor and the only thing you can think of to comment about on a daily basis is some complaint or another about how oppressed you are and how gay and lesbian people are fucking you over by [insert reason here], don't let the screen door slam behind you. Offer a way to solve the problem instead of blaming blog readers for the systemic issues of an entire community.

If you're gay and regularly complain about the trans folk being added to the alphabet soup, same message. Are you a radical feminist set on "educating" everyone about the dangers of transwomen using the bathroom? Au revoir. Constantly feel the need to tell us that bisexuals have it worst and intent on disparaging anyone who disagrees? Sayonara.

Have a criticism? Perfectly fine. I have lots too and I air them regularly. I've become rather the Larry Kramer of the blogosphere according to some. I'm grumpy, but I try to offer solutions too.

I've poured my life and savings into this site and I'll be damned if I'm going to let a bunch of whiney fuckers take over. If you've got nothing constructive to say, then let someone else talk while you listen. If you're not adding to a discussion - which includes being constructive along with critical - you're only taking up space. I'd rather do without the $.00000001 the bad apples bring me in ad revenue if I don't have to spend my time moderating unceasing hateful diatribes.

I spend over 12 hours a day working on the site and I do it mostly alone. I wrote 137 posts in October and 130 in September. If I'm putting that much work into something I love, why should I bother putting up with a cartful of jackasses who are only interested in tearing it down?

We started as my personal site. I said what I wanted and people responded. As time progressed I grew more and more worried about what the readers would think or how people would react. I'm sick of doing it and it's gotten me nowhere. I've seen my name plastered all over the internet as the most misogynistic/transphobic/racist/ablest/anti-gay/you-name-it motherfucker on the Earth so many times by now that I've become immune to it. I don't care anymore. I'm not changing to satisfy a group of people who will never be satisfied.

So this is going to bring about a change in Bilerico Project that I've long been considering. The site became popular originally because of our style. We welcomed everyone and allowed a diversity of voices to flourish that wasn't happening anywhere else online. Lately, that style has faded somewhat as contributors have moderated their thoughts in an attempt to stem the rising tide of nastiness that some of you call "responses."

Since it's up to me to moderate the comments now on top of everything else I do daily, I'm not going to put much time and effort into it. If you start causing trouble, I'm just going to ban you from commenting. You'll still be able to read the site, but there's no need for us to see what your thoughts are - obviously, they're not deep. If I want to smell shit, I'll visit a farm - not my online living room.

Many of our commenters seem to have forgotten that they're guests. There is no freedom of speech here - we're not owned by the government. So if you're making my job harder, you're toast. I'm the last man standing and I don't have time for some crazy person with a 20 year blood feud with some aspect of the movement. As a guest, I expect you to act like one. You can't shit on the rug, break all the mirrors, and then demand that I feed you off my own plate too.

To conclude, if you read the first paragraph of this post and thought, "I wonder if he means me?!", the answer is probably yes. Most folks won't need to wonder. Don't let the door hit you in the ass on your way out.

*Personally, I could give a shit less what you want to call yourself, but some folks seem to be worked up over this whole transsexual vs transgender thing. Let me put it into perspective for those who seem intent on continuing this ongoing charade about who's terminology is more important: No one gives a shit but you. At the end of the day when some asshole is bashing you upside the head or stabbing you to death, he's gonna call you a queer - just the same as he'd call me, a lesbian, a transgender person or a transsexual. Those labels are absolutely meaningless when you're laying in the gutter bleeding. And I can guaran-damn-tee you that he wouldn't attend our funeral - or protest it.

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You can probably hear me applauding all the way from WV.

Is that what that was? *grins*

As a contributor, do you find yourself worrying about where the next attack will come from in the comments section? Does it make a difference in how often you post?

I have definitely been posting less often since the commenters got so harsh.

I know that my columns here and elsewhere used to be something I came back to and interacted with the readers in the comments. Now I tend to throw things out there and forget them. At times the hate can be too much, and I've come close to quitting blogging altogether several times just in the last two months just because of commenters.

I wonder if Lisa McDonald is the nom de plume for Ashley Love.

Ashley Love is actually very articulate. And, no disrespect whatsoever intended, while I don't agree with her tactics, I do agree with a lot of what she says.

I really do feel there is some truth and some wisdom in what pretty much everyone has to say, that some legitimate pain or passion drives ppl to say and do whatever. That is one thing that definitely came through to me in the painful threads of the last few days. It's just that for a lot of us (definitely me), the pain and passion are what we express, rather than a genuine dialog about how to reach a collaborative solution that meets the greater needs.

In case this wasnt clear, I want to say clearly that I completely understand why gay men, as well as trans women, would have issues with Ashley. I wasnt trying to dismiss how you felt. And I apologize if I came across that way. :)

No. I'll give Lisa that - she used her real name and Facebook profile. She stood behind what she wrote. This post, however, isn't about Lisa. It's about the comments section morass itself and what the expectations are for the future.

I know both of them and they are not the same person.

Yes you were.

I'm not speaking of you only here, but I find the dynamic unpleasant whereby people pile on a named individual who is not present and, especially, has no way on site to defend themselves since they are no longer allowed admittance. It is cliquish, smacks of bullying, and adds nothing to the supposed conversation on civility.

By the by, I'm conflicted about naming individuals who get the hook. On the one hand, when someone just disappears, it seems unfair to leave everyone else wondering what happened. Having the site owner name the person gives a clear picture for good or ill of how he or she thinks and how evenly they enforce the terms of service. I'm generally in favor of this. However, allowing the banned person to become a pinata for others' sport just reflects badly on the stick wielder, the site owner and the site.

Agreed. I named Lisa just because she was the commenter in question. Notice I didn't name anyone else. Just seems tawdry.

Btw - Ashley isn't banned. She can comment whenever she'd like - as long as she stays within the guidelines. ;)

Good for you, Bil! I felt you should have done this a long time ago (I even suggested it several times).

And I say this being fully aware that I am one of the ppl to whom you are referring. And I'm sorry that I get carried away and let myself be that kind of person.

Carol :)

I disagree that this describes you. I have always found your post to be respectful unless provoked and even then I think you show a great deal of restraint. You are one of the people who really inspires me because every time I want to throw my hands up as being a gay man trying to be an ally to the transgender community I am reminded that the majority of the community are like you and not the small minority who are loud and abusive. I appreciate everything you post.

You've stepped over the line occasionally, but you're not one of those I'm referring too. We all make mistakes; that's understood.

Hey Bil, I read this site daily. I use it as my primary news source for the LGBT community and to better understand how people discuss and conceptualize our issues. I very rarely comment because I'm young, I'm inexperienced, and I don't think I have a lot to offer you guys in terms of facts or opinions. But I do read the comments and I see the vitriol you're describing. And yes, it is sad.

I want you to know that your hard work is appreciated by your readers. Those of us who have been here as the silent or not-so-silent majority, and find value in the rarity that is an unobstructed space for people discuss issues that never see the light of day otherwise. It makes perfect sense to me why you are angry. There are people who are mean, and spiteful, and presumptive, and insulting. You have given so much of yourself to this project. For them to interject their nastiness here is outrageous considering the environment you have worked so hard to create. You deserve better.

But for me, I'd like to ask for some grace on behalf of the Evil trolls. Maybe I'm alone here, but over the past two years that I've been reading Bilerico...for as long as I've been out really...I am glad those people have had a voice. Despite how little I might like their opinions and the way they express them, I'm genuinely glad to have been exposed to their point of view. It's part of my education as a new person to this community, and it's authentic to the diversity of how people really are. I don't like them, I don't agree with them, sometimes I don't respect them, but isn't there value in knowing they are out there and being able to articulate why we disagree?

This is your site. We are guests here. And I am so grateful that you've opened up yourself to do what it is you do. I wouldn't be the same person without the important things I've learned from this place. And I understand. You have every right to be angry. It sucks the way some people have used Bilerico as a platform to voice their hurtful, mean-spirited opinions. But the fact that they can do so is what makes this site so unique and useful. Thanks.

Jeffy, I've always been a big believer in letting folks have their say. I don't mind folks who disagree or hold strongly held beliefs.

What I do object to is those who feel the need to blow their one note over and over and over again on every post they comment on. Most of the time they're only doing it to start a flame war. Those are the folks I'll be targeting for removal from the site.

But thanks for sharing your opinion. I like it that you're as willing to allow folks reign to be themselves as I am. :) Hope to see you in the comments section more often.

Well I certainly don't think anyone's going to complain about kicking _that_ individual out. Blatantly spitting on people's graves as a means to push one's own quite narrow agenda is not really a recipe for making friends.

I will just reiterate what I said on the other thread: my impression is that the "transgender umbrella" (or "transgender vs. transsexual") debate is largely an English language phenomenon (I could be wrong but I'm fairly certain of that). It's an argument that resides in part in the nuance of semantics. Personally, I'm glad that when I'm with my trans friends, some of us are pre-op, post-op and non-op. And we hardly talk about it... except perhaps to make a friendly joke. After all, sex and gender are kinda funny.

I will acknowledge that both sides in this debate have committed great sins (such as Lisa's little turd that Bil mentioned above... though I could mention things that people on the other side of the debate have said). I think in the end we do need to push the LGBTI community to be better T allies, and we do need to work together better in the trans community ourselves. But continuing this argument is something I have no interest in. It's not that either side is right or wrong... it's just that both sides annoy the shit out of me.

My impression is that the "transgender v. transsexual" debate is largely an American phenomenon which is strongly tied to the unusual strength of the social conservative movement in this country. The anti-umbrella trans people are motivated by a desire to emphasize their compatibility with the social and cultural mainstream by explicitly dissociating themselves from "deviant freaks".

Let's save that particular argument for this thread, which has been specifically designated for that topic. I'd like to keep this one on topic about the comments section, please.

I agree whole heartedly Bill.

Hey, sorry, Bil. I certainly agree also with the observation in your footnote that the equal-lack-of-opportunities haters who may be bashing us probably really don't much care exactly WHY they are doing so or what precisely our orientation is. And looking to advance our own rights and opportunities, whoever we are, is certainly NOT a "zero-sum game."

That goes directly to the point of the site, Ed. If we can't talk amongst ourselves civilly, why are we trying to engage a larger audience? Divide and conquer is the tactic most often used to keep people down. It's only by banding together that we can move forward.

The bitterness and nastiness has really escalated here in the past few months. I read some of the comments, and to say I'm shocked with the lack of civility is too mild a statement.

I'm glad you put the hammer down on the rampant hate that is threatening to swallow up my beloved Bilerco. Its time people learn to be respectful of others feelings. We all have strong feelings, and expressing them can teach others who may not have seen the world thru that particular lens of truth. However, we never have the right to be mean and hurtful to others.

Thanks for agreeing, Steve. I hope to see more of you in the comments section to help bring back some sanity to the site.


Gods, I couldn't agree more. I wrote a single guest article almost a year ago, over an issue I cared about, and I didn't censor it. I don't. I strongly disagree with such things. As a musician, especially so. But the feedback I got, as well as feedback on many contributor's articles, was so badly focused on non-constructive and, even worse, attacking the author, it just killed my motivation. I mean, why bother?

It's only gotten worse since then, as well. I remember first visiting Bilerico years ago when I first started taking an active interest in the politics of LGBTQ. This site was at the top of my daily reading list. Now I find myself barely making it by once a week. And yes, much of it was because it did seem like bloggers were watering their work down to avoid a "debate." Which would occur anyways. I use "debate" loosely when it's hard to tell the difference between the "debate" and a flame war.

So, go Bil!

(NOTE: Ran into error while posting, apologies of this repeats itself.)

Thanks Sera. I actually thought of your post when I was writing this screed. You (and other contributors) spend quite a bit of time crafting your thoughts to share here. For you to be personally attacked and demeaned is ridiculous. I hope you'll submit again soon.

That was great! Feel better? I do after a good rant.
I too come to your site for news and commentary as well as read the comments for what others think on the issues. I started doing it for personal knowledge and now do it for a blog I started a year ago. I have seen some angry and mean things said here and other blogs. I do not get much feed back from my readers but the few I do get are important to me. Good or bad, they let me know someone is reading my stuff and this is not a waste of my time. Most readers don't relize the amount of time a blogger spends to bring in the news, write commentaries, and keep an eye on the comments coming in.
Some people get their rocks off by trolling. Some are just angery. Most have an open mind and want to learn.
It is a damn shame that the fighting under our umbrella is keeping us from being a better example of the peace and co-exsistance we seek.
We are together in the fight for equality. LGB and T

I think folks sometime lose sight of the fact that the comments do provide validation for the writer that folks are reading them and digesting what they have to say. A good back and forth to exchange ideas - or to disagree - is healthy. Spewing vitriol and writers and other readers just stifles conversation and leaves the author wondering, "Why did I bother?"

Jaime Dunaway Jaime Dunaway | November 21, 2011 9:29 AM

I'm glad to see this. Even though I don't comment that much, I do read most of the articles and comments. Seeing people get attacked for their views was putting me off of commenting altogether. I'm not much for direct conflict these days, even online.

And thanks for providing this site and all the effort you and the other contributors put into it.

Here's hoping this inspires you to rejoin the conversations and help me take back the comments section, Jaime.

Thank you, Mr. Bil. I've been wondering how long it would take before you finally whipped out your bitch-pumps and vented on this topic. You should do so more often - bottling up your anger/frustration/constipation isn't good for you. It makes wrinkles, and grows warts all over your Peenemunde.

Personally, I've come to this site for the past 3+ years for news, insight, and to edumacate myself on issues that I get so very little direct exposure to out here in the Hinterland (a.k.a. Kansas City). It has always been at the top of my list for sites/blogs that I visit daily. But for the last 6 months my visits and participation have fallen off - precisely for the reasons you rant... um, wrote about. I've always been of the belief that - as Bj Lincoln said - we're all in the same fight... or at least we used to be. Now, it seems, we're all just fighting. Makes my tits tired.

...and "over 12 hours a day"? Sheee-it! I really need to speak to your husband about peeling you off the computer more often. Then again, at the rate things are going, it's taking me similar gymnastics and bombastics to to get Network Solutions and Word Press to get their shi... um "act" together just to remap my domain. may be a babe in the woods, but for what I'm paying these two idiots I'd expect a lot better performance. Right now I'm sitting on four posts that are quickly becoming irrelevant because I don't want them lost to the ether when this technical issue is resolved... but enough about my troubles. The point of this jibberish is that I fully understand your point. Running a blog as new and small as my own is enough of a pain in the ass, and I'm a network administrator by trade - I don't even want to think of what you and and the Ed Team have to deal with. So I'll be content with my little mess, where I can rant... um, "write" whatever bubbles up through the Stoli, and I'll keep my moderation enabled. The Gods bless you, Bil, now pry your fingers off the keyboard - eat something, take a shower, walk the mutt, and go molest that hunk of yours. It's good for ya.

I've always been of the belief that - as Bj Lincoln said - we're all in the same fight... or at least we used to be. Now, it seems, we're all just fighting.

Which is exactly why I'll be nixing it here. We can't move forward if we're pulling everyone else back.

Thanks for the kind comment. Feel free to send me those posts as guest posts and I'll see if they're something we'd run. :)

Thank you for writing this up, Bil. I've been reading Bilerico for probably about a year now, but each time I thought about commenting on a post there always seemed to be a feud going on that I didn't want to jump into. I am also young and semi-new to the community and I didn't want to get torn apart in the comments by saying something that would betray me as a novice.

For me, and what I feel like was probably part of the intention of Bilerico, I would love for the comments to be a place where those new and experienced can come together to share and learn from one another. Bilerico has been one of my main sources for LGBT news and learning, and I would love if that could include the comments, too.

Thank you for your commitment to this site. I had no idea how much work you put into it each day. As someone who grew up in a very conservative area, I'm thankful for the opportunity to see and learn from what's posted on this site.

For me, and what I feel like was probably part of the intention of Bilerico, I would love for the comments to be a place where those new and experienced can come together to share and learn from one another. Bilerico has been one of my main sources for LGBT news and learning, and I would love if that could include the comments, too.

Help me build that dream, Tora. Let's do it together.

I haven't commented on the site — nor even read any of the comments — for nearly a year for this very reason. Comment moderation is a time-consuming endeavor over at the Blade's site, I can imagine its 10050 times worse for Bilerico. It would be a shame if folks can be good citizens and force you to spend time sorting through, removing and editing comments, rather than do the important work you're supposed to be doing.

That said, there are other sites much worse than Bilerico when it comes to commenters. I don't know what the solution would be. Maybe everyone goes to a Facebook comments system, where your comments on blogs show up with your name and Facebook photo linking back to your profile where your comment shows up as a status update? May deter SOME trolls who don't necessarily want everyone they know know that they are a troll. But then again, maybe it won't.

One thing is for sure, I'm not going to register to receive notifications of further comments on this thread, because I know from experience, I'll now get 50 nasty replies to my mere mentioning of Facebook. This is a really hard mountain to climb, Bil, I don't envy you your taking on the trolls, but I certainly admire you!

As a contributor has it changed how often you post and what you write about?

I don't know if this is directed to all contributors, but yes.

That said, there are times any one of us has deserved the anger that was received, myself included.

Frankly, the thing that drew me to TBP most was that it was challenging -- sometimes frustratingly so -- and not afraid to think differently. But that line where something stops being challenging and becomes invalidation, stops being civil and becomes a personal attack, stops being specific and starts being a broad over-generalizing brush, stops being clarification about differences and starts being vilification of those who are different... that line still remains an issue. It may have started out as a difference between intent and reception, but nowadays, there's usually a whole lot of intent in there too. I don't know how you fix it. It's probably endemic to understanding identity.

I do know that there are topics I'm reluctant to discuss here: sex work, poly, kink, sometimes even bi and/or omnisexuality. Maybe that's for the better, since the various movements are far from embracing many of those, as of yet.

I think the defining line is "good intentions." Some of our commenters seems to have forgotten that in the end we're all on the same team. If we assumed good intentions behind the post, we could save a lot of upset rants and accusations and focus on the topic at hand.

Phil Reese, would you really want to include people who have Facebook accounts? As the biggest servant of the 1% and a data mining advertising-focused goldmine, Facebook is a corrupt organization with horrific privacy policies. Why would you want to favor members of such a group and exclude the many millions of internet users who do not have a Facebook account? Also, such a policy would automatically eliminate the majority of gay people from participation (i.e. those who not completely out). I don't think having a Facebook account makes any more sense as a filter than having a National Rifle Association membership or a Wal-Mart frequent shopper card.

I have to say that I have been one of the biggest asses when it come to the comment section on Bilerico. I know this and I am willing to admit it. I'm sorry to all that I have pissed off during this past year, especially to Bil.

My issue is that when I am attacked or pushed, I have to respond in kind. Not a great personality trait. It could come from my Navy training, my Italian heritage, what I have put up with as an activist for the last 15 years, being an arrogant ass, or being a curmudgeon because of my age. Also, I was picked on as a kid and I refuse to be picked on ever again.

Whatever the reason I do this, or the combination of reasons, it is not the right way to behave. And, even by apologizing, there will be still plenty here who will always hate my guts. I will try harder, but like other bad habits, I'll probably fall off the wagon. Just don't step on me too hard when I do. It'll make a difference.

To Monica: I don't have the least problem with your getting PO'd or your attitude. I have read several of your articles in Transgender Tapestry (is it still being published?) and except for never being in the military and not being Italian, I do share being picked on and being somewhat arrogant. But I'm arrogant (narcissistic according to my last therapist) because I'm an artist, composer of concert music, writer of poetry and fiction and I don't fit in well with "lesser educated" trans-people or LGB people. I will respect almost everybody I deal with in the outside world, unless (and a big unless) their hostility is imminent. Then I just get the hell away.

I don't pick fights. I just avoid them. That's just the way I operate.

Monica you have been around for a long time. I remember you in Atlanta. Fight the good fight, just don't lose your home training.

Ugh, I'm the same way and I'm definitely going to blame it on my Italian heritage. XD

You thought that since I was slow to respond to your comment, that I would ignore it. Didn't you? :)

Monica, we've buried the hatchet at least a half dozen times. Can we leave it in the ground now? Please?

I know I lose my cool with you often (you seem to be the person I blow my "be civil" theme with each time). I'm sorry. Let's work together to model the behavior we all seek. Deal?

Bil, one of the biggest problem Bilerico has is that many of the people who write for it do not revisit the comments sections for their post. From my standpoint, if you choose to write for this or any blog, you should be responsible for responding to SERIOUS criticism and discussion (not narcissistic bs) to your post, you should delete comments which are clearly derailing and not allow out and out attacks on other people who comment on that thread. In other words... this is about being engaged and committing to discussion within the threads and subjects you initiate... stay engaged.

That said, I'm wondering if Lisa M., Cathy B. and certain others who start a large amount of the shrillness are being 'EX'd?' If so it would be long overdue. If not, then why?

I can't speak for anyone else on this, but I know there have been times I've had to leave comments with substance alone and come back to them, because the level of burnout from everything else just makes it impossible to digest them at the time they're made.

And as far as deleting derailing comments and attacks, contributors don't have that power (or if we do I wasn't aware of it), other than reporting them like anyone else. And that's probably fair, if there is to be consistent moderation standards.

Rachel Bellum | November 21, 2011 9:40 PM

Bil (I really want to call you Mr. Bil now that I've seen someone else do it -though I'm somewhat ashamed I didn't think of it in all this time),

It occured to me a few weeks ago that many sites use volunteer moderators to help with these types of issues. Perhaps you could gather some people and train them to approximate the value judgements you desire as much as possible. While their may be some discrepancies (and probably some need for an appeals process in extreme cases) this might both help relieve some of the burden from administrators and contributors, while helping to encourage a civil forum.

Rachel Bellum | November 21, 2011 9:43 PM

It might also help relieve the authors/contributors from the burden of being the "bad cop."

If you were to do this I would totally volunteer to moderate comments.

Ha! Please don't call me Mr. Bil - I hate that. I got that all the time when I was a kid. :)

Thanks for the suggestion on building a moderating team. We're considering that quite seriously right now.

Rachel Bellum | November 22, 2011 7:21 PM

Oh No!

hahaha. I would've bet money that you had heard that a time or two before. I hereby promise to only use that name in case of extreme humor emergency and to never, ever include a link to a video. :) Nah, I'm pretty absent-minded and I'll completely forget about it in a few days. Every day's a new day to the forgetful. :)

I don't know how moderators would function here, but they might at least spread the workload as well as sharing some of the responsibility/blame for monitoring conversations. Besides the amount of work, there's some burden in being the sole "face" of the site in that you're responsible for everything everyone writes, every bug in site funtion, every ad, and every comment. Just not having to be the sole "badguy" might relieve a little stress.

Of course this is all assuming no moderator ever calls me out. That would just be wrong and an indication of a bad system. :)

One of the big reasons contributors have stopped responding to comments is the vitriol. Many of them have asked it to be reigned in recently so they feel more comfortable engaging in a conversation instead of a flame war. When the first comments tends to be something negative without real regard to the topic, it's off-putting.

As for the bannings - I've laid out the ground rules above. The next time they break them, they're gone. Period. I don't want to stifle legitimate conversation though so if they're on topic and not degrading, they're more than welcome to join a real conversation.

Just be a little careful, Bil. You don't want to stifle freedom of speech and censor ideas rather than censoring the way people make their ideas known. Elitism is always to be avoided. Also be considerate of the different levels of education and verbal skills. A lot of transwomen come from a street based life having been kicked out by their parents, making a living the best way they can and denied an education. The trans community is a particularly sensitive one, like a new plant still trying to sprout. It is not fully accepted by the glbt community, much less the non-gay community. I think it is still trying out names. Remember, it was not long ago that it was left out of equal opportunity laws and even Barney Frank did not support trans-inclusion. It has been even less time since ALL the "girls" were referred to as "drag queens" whether they did shows or not. I know one who still refers to herself that way even though she no longer drags. She is old school.

Learning and giving information is important as is support. Name calling is overall a bad thing and should be eliminated especially as it refers to members of the GLBT community. Monitor, but do so carefully and try to determine intent.

Good point, twinkie. The point isn't to stifle debate - just to remove the trolls who only sound one note over and over and over again just to derail a conversation.

Wilberforce1 | November 21, 2011 1:05 PM

I also am sorry for my unkind tone.
I came to this site because I had a lot of sympathy for trans folk. But after learning how many of them feel about gay people, that sympathy is just about gone.
But really, good luck with changing the focus of the site. It's worth the effort. You've mostly done a good job, and this can be an important forum of trans thought. Best wishes.

"But after learning how many of them feel about gay people, that sympathy is just about gone."

It's this kind of statement which creates so many of the problems on threads. Using "they" statements. For the record, I am a trans woman who has long supported and had deep friendships in the gay community as well as march against The Briggs Initiative, rights for PWAs, against DADT and for Marriage Equality. What I refuse to do is allow the issues of the trans community be ignored or put on the lower shelf or even ridiculed by non-trans people. Nor will I allow non-trans gay men to refer to me as a "tranny," pathologize me, call the trans community some kind of blood-suckers on the backs of the gay movement, or make us invisible from the history of activism. See, "they" don't hate gay men, "they" hate certain behaviors which have been perpetuated within the gay community. Try to make those distinctions and you'll have far better and more mature relations with the trans community.

Echoing Gina here a little. I, speaking for myself, my trans wife, and the community both here in LA County & Online, I meet a great many trans & genderqueer people that do not consider their sexual orientation to be straight. Degrees of bi or omnisexuality, sure. Completely gay/lesbian, plenty. So, all of these trans and/or genderqueer people? They hardly have any disagreements with the LGB communities. Because like it or not, for all of us that have that overlap, we're all in this together. And even for those that ARE completely separate, well, we face many of the same greater discriminations from the outside world; why not band together?

Yeah, I got a little off topic here, but I'm hoping it helped.

I think Wilber has a point, Gina. Quite a bit of the feedback I get from gays and lesbians about trans issues surrounding Bilerico can be boiled down to "Why do they hate us?" A lot of the comments tend to track what I said above...

If you're trans of any flavor and the only thing you can think of to comment about on a daily basis is some complaint or another about how oppressed you are and how gay and lesbian people are fucking you over by [insert reason here], don't let the screen door slam behind you. Offer a way to solve the problem instead of blaming blog readers for the systemic issues of an entire community.

With so much vitriol and so few suggestions, that's the message that's being communicated - even if it's only coming from a small percentage.

I'll be responding to commenter amber below in a way that's relevant to this response. Check it out.

Bil, the "why do they hate us" needs to asked of trans people and a discussion ensue. Many trans writers/bloggers have given highly civil, historically detailed accounts of issues between the trans community and others in the LGBQ Alliance. It's most often met with denials (without any proof), bitterness, accusations and imperious statements. If a non-trans person is going to write about issues which directly impact trans people, then you better be prepared to listen to reasoned feedback, to engage, to genuinely exchange ideas and TO LEARN. I totally agree that trolls on all parts of the spectrum need to be given the boot... sooner, not later.

This has been my experience -- when I try to be polite I'm generally ignored, when I don't bother to moderate my tone, I get scolded for being "combative". In the meantime, cis people are rarely if ever held accountable for saying the most unbelievably nasty, bigoted things about trans people as long as they do not raise their voices, so to speak.

Slightly off-topic. As Ginast suggested above, and as I am greatly paraphrasing, there do seem to be some people here, as there are on a number of sites, who seem content just to deposit a residue, like tossing beer bottles out of a moving car, and don't seem to bother coming back to respond to responses.

Obviously no one needs, and few people want, "flame wars." But if someone consistently leaves messes behind for other people to deal with, well, there's no reason for other people (i.e., Bil Browning) to have to deal with them.

Thanks Ed. Those are exactly the folks I want to leave. I'm tired of mopping up after them.

Huzzah! I've been scared off of commenting for the most part because I didn't want to get into comment flame-wars with people with chips on their shoulders trying to bash other people in the face. I think some people get so blinded by the poles in their own eyes that they think those are the specks in others' eyes. Thank you, Bil, for stepping up and making this change. I've loved Bilerico for a while now, and I'm sure my reading--and commenting--experience will be more positive as a result of this. We need more focus on reaching for solutions rather than in-community bashing of one another.

Welcome back, Jennifer. I hope to see more of you in the comments section.

Actually this post-transsexual not transgender finds the identity politics of the Transgender Movement to be way too straight, middle class, and conservative.

Too self centered and disconnected from the general struggles against corporate fascism, racism and the military industrial complex.

Last night we went to the local TDOR, after we left my partner and I said, "We can be allies but we don't belong and aren't part of the Transgender Community."

We felt a greater sense of community with the people at the Media Reform Conference we went to a few years ago, or the general Gay and Lesbian + alphabet Communities. We feel more a part of Occupy.

BTW I too defriended Lisa. I am friends with Ashley and applaud her involvement with Occupy Wall Street. She went to jail for the cause.

Where was the majority of the LGBT/T community when the people of Occupy were being arreste?

Let's keep it on topic - about the comments section, please.

Cue the pepper spray in 3..2..1.. - Bil I admire you for placing the focus on civility. Differences of opinion can be educational but when the exchange degenerates into name calling, hostilities and other transgressions (pun intended) then there is no exchange of ideas and opinions. This may seem way off concept but I have been outraged by the police assaults on the occupy movements especially by incidents such as the pepper spraying of an 84 year old woman who was not in any way threatening to the officer. I call that police brutality. On the other hand it would not bother me to see an officer use pepper spray against an adversary who was truly threatening to others or the officer. As guests we need to behave civilly and in ways that are not threatening to either you or the site. If we can't then by all means pull out the mace and let the dawgs loose.

If there was a LIKE button on Bilerico comments, Deena. I'd have clicked it for yours.

I hope this isn't an attempt to silence a specific group of people. Those of us who are passionate about our views have legitimate concerns that are often simply dismissed. To be honest, it is what pushed me into a more aggressive type of activism. I went places I probably wouldn't have ever went before because of the silencing and dismissal of our voices by the transgender community. I was truly once on the fence and two well known bloggers pushed me off of it and I most certainly didn't fall on their side of it.

Definitely not any specific group of people. It's an equal opportunity disgust with the tone of recent comments meant only to tear the community (and other readers/writers) apart.

You mention "flyover country". I guess that's where you started from but you are not in "Kansas" anymore. You are in Washington, D C, now. Where you stand and the influence you and your contributors carry can have enormous consequences for some of us. The issues go way beyond semantics.

I don't come from flyover country. Members of the LGBT hold key political posts where I live. The former head of Marriage Equality R I wields quite a bit of political power. He is spokesperson for our city council president, head of R I DFER, a group composed of hyper influential hedge fund managers trying to gain control over local school systems, a former chief of staff of a U S Senator from our state when he was attorney general, etc, etc, etc.

I have been to a few TDOR functions. It is mostly an LGBT event composed of people least likely to be the sort of victims who are commemorated. The people who sponsor it are involved within a web of quasi public/private non profits that receive a lot of public funding. Some of the people involved with TDOR events, here, are closely connected politically and to groups that are involved with pension reform that will have adverse affects on many union drudges who had promises made to them that are now being reneged on. I have mixed feelings because some people who are neither transgender or transsexual have been involved in promoting anti-discrimination legislation that benefits everyone, even if some of my most serious concerns go unacknowledged..

For a while, I was on the board of a local trans organization. I tried to volunteer my services but really got the message I wasn't needed. At one of the meetings I was asked by a supposedly "female identified" person what I was doing there. "She" was presenting completely as male. I have volunteered for Marriage Equality Rhode Island. I tried to get involved in supporting hate crime legislation but never received anything but a gratuitous response, after doing quite a bit of writing and showing up at legislative hearings; from a person who I have later found to be someone who is probably covetous of his political connections. I am part of a constituency. I don't think my concerns are adequately represented.

I find the video you put up extremely dismissive, regardless of how relevant to a conversation people are hell bent on shutting down and certain celebrity figures might find it. The term "transgender" is a socio-political term. If one is part of the political status quo it is understandable why someone would be reluctant to relinquish that status than turn their attention to issues that are more specifically focused on a small minority. Some of the disputes you refer to, as I already stated go a lot deeper than semantics in spite of any kind of reductio ad absurdum argument or appeal you might choose to resort to.

Those with the power to do will do as they intend. Might makes right. In relative terms your might may seem miniscule in a larger national context but within the subculture you represent there are those of you who wield great power.

I disagree where the "equality" frame is located when it comes to people who have gone through sex changing processes you tacitly refuse to acknowledge by consistently using the word "transgender" to render transsexual processes people go through meaningless. If I am not allowed to say that and refrain from doing so, I have been silenced whether I have been banned or not regardless of how unfortunate I might find it. I am sympathetic to many of the positions taken by many of your contributors, even those I may have strong disagreements with in certain areas.

I disagree with Lisa on many key issues but I think the Fred Phelps comparison is way over the top.

so, maybe I should have said and a false analogy using absurdity to make an argument look ridiculous to drive home a position that totally misses the mark through it's utter dissmissiveness rather than a "reductio ad absurdum", so what?

dismissiveness . . .

There is ridiculous and then there is ridiculous. Bil, I agree with your stance, especially in light of how much time and energy you expend on the site.

I'm happy to be able to read what's new, pick and choose that which I'll read thoroughly and comment on; and I'm glad that there is this sort of forum for those of us who are such late-comers to recognize and understand better what the LGBT experience has been, what it means to all of us and what it can become in the future (if we can all get along).

Kudos to you for the site to begin with, Bil; and major kudos for having put up with so many wacky people with wacky ideas and comments.

Gracias, George. I hope to see more constructive and engaging comments from you.

Bil, you do a near-impossible job with your site. I agree 100% with your position and believe it is long overdue. In fact, I don't know how you have sustained yourself and the site with all you have been through what with a major move to a city.

Your patience is amazing, but you absolutely do not have to welcome nut cases and their opinions to your site. Don't burn-out and don't give up. Your site means a lot to many, many people even if we are not frequent commenters.

Thanks Kim. I'll admit, burn out is becoming a problem lately.

I freely admit that I not only talk like a sailor I also make comments like a, I am a sailor and do have a potty mouth and I usualy am part of 'the problem' but lately the shear um... 'anti-community' (read as GLBT, LGBT or whatever the acronym of the day is) comments being made do make me wonder IF, if its simply a concerted effort to overwhelm the staff. To discourage both the staff and readership to turn away.
Wouldn't be the first time psych-ops have been used against a civilian by a group who know and understand how to do that stuff.
Trust no one and all that.
But yeah, If you get a problem child then the standard thing in Trans-spaces is vacations, banning and perma-banning for trolls and trolling.
Some times its someone who is just challenging, some times its someone whos' ignorant and simply doesn't know how to talk or ask the things they need too,but have no skills on how to ask or how to talk without sounding confontational.

I agree Bil. Sometimes people can be harsh. It's one thing to disagree or voice your opinion, even to make a mistake now and then and get emotional on an issue. To be nasty or disrespect someone is not acceptable.

Everyone has an opinion and everyone deserves respect. If you can not extend that then you are the problem not anyone else. You can not change minds with hostility. And you certainly do not win arguements with it. You only create bitterness.

Maybe I am naive or a bit old fashioned but I believe you are accountable for yourself and change begins within. Respect and dignity are essential.

In a community it is about us not I or me. I am valuable and an important part of the larger community but at some point it becomes we and all of us are equal. So please put away your poison pens and be civil.

Bil thank you for all your efforts I have truly enjoyed your work. Please continue.

Sometimes people can be harsh. It's one thing to disagree or voice your opinion, even to make a mistake now and then and get emotional on an issue. To be nasty or disrespect someone is not acceptable.

It happens to all of us. I expect that and will make allowances for it. People are people. It's the "I only mean to derail this conversation" folks I'm targeting.

I've been reading for a long time now. But rarely commenting, and there are plenty of threads where I have just shaken my head and moved on, and I'm sure that I've missed some thought-provoking and wonderful comments that way. But there is only so much hatred and vitriol I've been willing to read to get to those comments. Hopefully this will make a difference in that regard.

I hope so Chrys. I look forward to seeing what your opinions are.

Hiya Bil.

Yeah, it's me. The troublemaker. The one that once was willing to just run down any old derail and let it run on and on and on and them just stopped finally and now only comments when it strikes her as essential because, well, let's face it: I brought a lot of this stuff here when I contributed because the ideas I wrote about are generally much more challenging than the weekly dumbass republican joke.

A lot of the commenters that are here now arrived as I was exiting, and even today people still write me about stuff I wrote two years ago.

I haven't blogged since may, And the only reason I am not so often talked about is because people made a point of not using my name.

I Don't hold back. If I write a short comment it is usually very direct these days and I am not up for explaining it. Like everyone who is really doing the work I have better things to do than deal with people who can't be bothered to at least try and get familiar with what they are talking about.

I value my friendship with you. But as you know, I am not one to let a friendship censor my views. And my views are often strongly flavored.

I will continue to do so, knowing that if I ever do cross a line, you Will call me and ask wtf. Likely after banning me.

Conversations take good faith. Before anything else, look at that, and don't be shy about it. One can seem really neutrals and ye be horribly negative in reality. Or pleasant while talking about something unrelated to the main topic that is ugly. It is easy to derail into all manner of areas.

And know that I support you and Jeremy, always. Even if it may take a quarterly boards meeting to make something happen.

Your friend and and that really annoying commenter and alumni,

Toni D'orsay

The only self-censorship I'm asking for is easy. No personal attacks. Stay on topic. Don't start flame wars. If you can handle that, you're more than welcome. If not, see you later.

You know I love you too, but that's not going to dissuade me from enforcing this stance.

My first comment here. I have read a lot of posts here but refrained from commenting for the very reasons you talk about. Perhaps I will now as some of the topic matter relating to trans issues in particular is relevant to me. Good luck to you.

And yet here is the next comment you posted on the site - just minutes after leaving this one:

It continues to amaze and confound me that gay men insist on being involved with trans issues. Dont they have anything better to do with their time? Most of us feel no connection with the LGB community and in truth we have nothing in common. Our issues, our needs are entirely different. Im not bothered much by Dan Savage, to me he is just another ego centric gay male interfering in things he does not and will never understand. It may be a strange idea but trans people need to be represented by trans people. We really gain very little from being part of the LGB and the LGB suffers from constant foot in mouth disease when it comes to people like myself. Something the LGB community should reflect on - many of us are heterosexual transitioned individuals living ordinary lives. Why would we want gay men speaking for us? I have nothing in common with gay/lesbain/bisexual people - I do have a lot in common with cis sexual people. Just a thought before the next so-called gay spokesmen opens his mouth and says something foolish.

Why spend your time avowing your connection to the LGBT community in a comment on an LGBT blog? Why call gay men "ego centric" for being an ally? Why the insistence that gay men butt out of trans issues?

This is exactly what I meant by:

If you're trans of any flavor and the only thing you can think of to comment about on a daily basis is some complaint or another about how oppressed you are and how gay and lesbian people are fucking you over by [insert reason here], don't let the screen door slam behind you. Offer a way to solve the problem instead of blaming blog readers for the systemic issues of an entire community.

Since these are your first two comments on the site, I'll give you a small grace period. If the same crap shows up again, you're gone.

I'm yet another one who dances on the line of civility from time to time, but I try (key word) to do that only when it's called for, and, let's be honest, there are times when it is called for, whether to draw attention to an important point or to call out someone else who's stepping over the line.

Thing is, there are times when this kind of thing is called for and times when it's not, and among the most important factors in making that determination is whether or nor not the point, even if it's an unpopular point, has already made and made effectively in a more civil manner.

For me, and I expect for most reasonable people, there's a difference between a passionate defense of one's viewpoint and just being a jerk, being aggressive not to draw attention to what one has to say, but simply to attack and denigrate a point of view one doesn't agree with and by extension the person who holds that point of view.

For me, that's where the line is. We fight hard here for what we believe in, and that's as it should be. We call out opinions and ideas we disagree with, and that's good too. It's a far better, more productive way of having discussion about important issues than the watered-down, heavily-censored forums I've seen elsewhere.

Yet, at the same time, there reaches a point, such as with Lisa McDonald, where it becomes clear that the person isn't posting something edgy or close to the line to make an important point and draw attention to it, but rather just to be mean and nasty for the sake of being mean and nasty, to issue a big blanket "Fuck You!" to anyone and everyone who doesn't agree with their particular point of view.

Those kinds of people aren't contributing anything new or even relevant to the discussions, they're just making Bilerico a less pleasant place to hang out. When that happens and the person responsible refuses to listen to reason and play by the rules of quality discussion and basic human-to-human civility they certainly deserve be shown the door.

Wow, I have not been around in a while. If things get more peaceful It would be a more pleasant place. Thanks, Bill even though I know that I have been a right ass on some occasions myself. Sorry about that.

Justus Eisfeld Justus Eisfeld | November 22, 2011 12:16 PM

Thank you. My mantra is 'don't feed the trolls', and sometimes you have to enforce that as as site owner for people who didn't get the memo. I pretty much stopped reading beyond the first 5 comments on any trans-related topic on Bilerico recently, because that is usually when troll feeding time begins. It is sad, because a lot of important discussions cannot take place that way. That is freedom of speech too: letting the softer voices be heard and give them space to live and grow. Freedom of speech is not giving space only to those who can scream and shout the loudest and thereby overpower everybody else.
I blame it on minority stress and associated coping mechanisms and I am praying for the day when we have some research on how to deal with that in our collective organizing efforts. It is taking away so much from our community efforts, and I believe these kinds of structures are hurting our communities as much as outside oppression is.