What Did Roseanne Say That Was So Transphobic?
October 27, 2012
Bigots Unite! Deploying the Klan Fallacy in 3… 2… 1…
November 13, 2012

I Get The Anger, But Hate Isn’t The Answer

Over the last few days I’ve seen a lot of anger from the trans community over the Roseanne Barr controversy. I do understand the anger. We are often portrayed as being sexual deviants who just want access to women in bathrooms and showers.  I do understand the fear we live under, every single time we attempt to urinate. I get it. But  when you do something like this, in response to hatred:

or this:

or this:

and especially this:

and this:

Like I said, I understand the anger. But this kind of response is neither helpful (engaging in behavior that is sexist, especially) nor does it move our rights forward. If anything, it causes polarization and division.

When I think of these online conversations and I get angry, I channel it into a response at the IDEA that is bad, not the person. It may seem counterintuitive to not respond to a fight with anger. But I think of the words of the gay civil rights icon, Bayard Rustin. Here he’s talking about a US Senator, James Eastland, that said (among other things) that “separation promotes racial harmony”, opposed the confirmation of  Thurgood Marshall, and voted against the 1964 Civil Rights Act. Of Eastland he said:

“When I say I love Eastland, it sounds preposterous–a man who brutalizes people. But you love him or you wouldn’t be here. You’re going to Mississippi to create social change–and you love Eastland in your desire to create conditions which will redeem his children. Loving your enemy is manifest in putting your arms not around the man but around the social situation, to take power from those who misuse itat which point they can become human too.”

Nonviolent lunch counter protests in the 60s weren’t something that just spontaneously happened. They were planned and trained for.

and they KNEW that there would be anger and hatred and bile spewed at them. What won the day?

They made a PUBLIC contrast. They contrasted hatred with courage. They received physical blows but did not retaliate. They won hearts and minds because the contrast was so striking that no one with a heart could see their treatment anything other than cruel.

In the digital age our fight isn’t on the streets, but online. We must always be mindful that others are watching and  judging us by the words and tone we use. Even in the face of vile hatred and bigotry, we need to stand firm. Respond only to ideas, do not attack the person.

A troll in the community that will remain nameless has a cycle:

  1. Use unwanted, unkind, and bigoted/transphobic terminology to upset trans women.
  2. Wait until someone responds with anger, then screen caps it.
  3. Uses screen capture on their blog as proof of how horribly attacked they are by trans women.
  4. Repeat

Responding to a transphobic remark from someone with a vitriolic personal attack won’t help the community. While you might make yourself feel better, you’re damaging the community and our struggle.

Marti Abernathey
Marti Abernathey
Marti Abernathey is the founder of the Transadvocate and the previous managing editor. Abernathey has worn many different hats, including that of podcaster, activist, and radiologic technologist. She's been a part of various internet radio ventures such as TSR Live!, The T-Party, and The Radical Trannies, TransFM, and Sodium Pentathol Sunday. As an advocate she's previously been involved with the Indiana Transgender Rights Advocacy Alliance, Rock Indiana Campaign for Equality, and the National Transgender Advocacy Coalition. She's taken vital roles as a grass roots community organizer in The Indianapolis Tax Day Protest (2003), The Indy Pride HRC Protest (2004), Transgender Day of Remembrance (2004), Indiana's Witch Hunt (2005), and the Rally At The Statehouse (the largest ever GLBT protest in Indiana - 3/2005). In 2008 she was a delegate from Indiana to the Democratic National Convention and a member of Barack Obama's LGBT Steering and Policy Committee.
  • I was really, really disappointed in her. She’d long been one of my favorite, outspoken women, someone I looked up to. So it broke my heart a little to see the hateful things she’s said.

    That said, I do wish people would be more civil– although I’m not sure asking for it is ever likely to get it.

  • There was more to nonviolent protests in the 60s than most people think. They had self-defense training beforehand, for one. Nonviolence was one part of a multi-prong strategy. It wasn’t a bunch of people sitting around being super-duper nice.

    I don’t have a problem with people venting anger. There’s nothing wrong with that. You can’t expect every response to be patient and reasoned. The only time I take issue is when people use other forms of bigotry (sexism seems to crop up a lot here) in their anger. Whether it’s people calling Ann Coulter “a man”, or using the “gross vagina” trope against Roseanne Barr, that kind of sentiment runs counter to what we’re fighting for.

    Calling her a transmisogynist piece of shit, however? That’s not causing anyone harm. Bigots constantly use the righteous anger of their victims as a means of playing the victim themselves. The other extreme, blaming victims for their anger, plays right into the hands of the bigots.

    • mzmartipants

      Not blaming. But dehumazing the person that is dehumanizing you isn’t helpful. It harms. Call them a bigot? Sure, if they’re saying something that’s bigoted. But comparing them to a lump of feces? I have a problem with that. It’s not blaming the victim. I do understand the anger. It’s just not helpful in changing anything.

      • Not every communication has to be/can be a form of activism. Trans people are human beings, not activist robots who always speak eloquently and gently, even when under attack. It is dehumanizing to police people’s emotions and only allow them to express themselves in a way that bigots might find approachable.

        • mzmartipants

          I understand what you’re getting at, but to me this isn’t a game, I’m not here to make friends, or “police” anyone. But this is a huge town hall. Many will see your tweets, messages, and posts that you never hear or see from who will form opinions on entire communities on your dialogue. It’s not right that minority communities are seen this way, but it’s a fact of life. It’s why African-American civil rights leaders practiced nonviolence as a political tactic, with their bodies being their only capital.

          And what’s the difference between calling someone a piece of sh*t, and calling them the c, f, or n word? Is that out of bounds? The “I’m just a human being” thing doesn’t really work there, does it? Why it’s that? Because the root of each of those words is dehumanization.

          I’m not policing anyone. I’m walking the walk. A certain troll has attacked me and people I care about. She’s blogged about me, personally attacking me. But I’ve never spoken ill of her in public, and I never will.

          It’s not about expressing things in a way that is palatable to the bigot, but to the wider audience. Neither Tolstoy, King, Lincoln, Gandhi, or Christ used vulgar, dehumanizing words to further their cause. Again, I ask why is that? It’s not because they weren’t angry. It’s because they drew a very distinct line from their enemies.

  • what you said. ditto.