This is a long, kind of stunning and maddening story about somebody on Twitter who decided, without asking my opinion on the matter, that I am a man. Not just any man, too – a MRA and a male supremacist. Her words, people.
Because the back-and-forth is so long once you add all the screencaps and “just-in-case-it-doesn’t-show-up-in-your-browser” text, I’m going to stick it at the end of this post, under the cut. Read it if you want, but if you don’t, I’ll make my point here and then get out of your way.
I’m guessing “Joy” is a TERF: a trans-exclusionary radical feminist, the type who insists that a person who was designated male at birth is always and forever a man, even if identifying as a woman, and therefore is appropriating women’s spaces on entering them. This is not a view I support.
Rather than changing my mind as I’m sure she hoped to do, she showed me how frustrating it can be to have total strangers assume they can know your gender better than you can. She totally disregards anything I might have to say about my own life (because how would I know, right?) and presumes to tell me who I am, what I believe, and why I’m untrustworthy. It’s pretty damn shocking that anyone would do this, right? That anybody (let alone a total stranger on the Internet) would try to be a greater expert on me than me?
When you think about it, though, this is par for the course in the way we discuss trans, intersex, and non-binary people. We tell them that the way they experience themselves isn’t valid enough for them to be an authority on their own lives, and they should be defined by others instead of defining themselves.
I’m still working out what gender means if it isn’t about what your chromosomes say or how your genitals look or whether your parents bought pink or blue birth announcements to send their friends or if you wore a dress on your first day of kindergarten.
But I can tell you with confidence that denying anyone the right to define themselves is not okay.
I’m an easy mark for people who want to sharpen up their pro-life street cred. I always rise to the bait. Maybe it’s because I’m an ex-pro-lifer and I absolutely cannot believe I fell for that rhetoric in the past.
A while back, I was reading on Tumblr about some things Robin Marty overheard at the American March for Life, which included these gems:
Anencephaly is, for the record, the condition wherein a fetus gestates and is born lacking a significant portion of the brain. While it’s true that there are occasionally cases where a baby born with this condition can survive for a few years, most of the time a child with anencephaly is unable to live for much more than a short time after birth.
So it’s not far from the truth to suggest that March For Life participants are asking, “How could you terminate a pregnancy just because the baby is missing a little thing like its brain?”
I am working really hard not to make quips about how the baby could have gone on to be a Republican voter. My twisted sense of humor rears its head in this sort of situation, but the truth is, this would be a heartbreaking development for somebody who wanted to have the baby. It’s hard not to have sympathy for anyone who’s been through it.
But pro-lifers, man . . . sometimes they can get pretty trying.
If you’re aware that the nefarious “LGBTQ agenda” is a right-wing anti-gay fiction, the statement makes sense. The basics of the “LGBTQ agenda” include: fair treatment for everyone, regardless of orientation or identity; support and acceptance for kids who are struggling to come to terms with who they are (whoever that is); and an end to harmful bigotry and stereotyping. Hell yes, that’s my agenda for children! Hell yes, I want to teach them to be kind to people who are different instead of bullying them. Hell yes, I want to end prejudice in all its ugly forms. It’s not about grooming kids for promiscuity; it’s about turning them into kind people and decent citizens.
I popped in to the comment threads just out of curiosity (and to see if I was still banned, which – shockingly! – I am.) And that’s where I found this incredible exchange, which I lovingly captured in a series of screenshots (which I’ll follow with transcriptions):
(Commenter Owen MacDonald says: “Just about everyone who did not join the staff of our school in rape and torture of children was raped and tortured. It went on for nine years and I am sure it is still going on, and I believe it is happening in many other places also. During, before, and after the attacks the homosexual pedophiles administer date rape drugs and electro-mind erasure, common, very common. Also the use of a hypnotic device called a marionetta, a French adaptation of the ancient occult device called The Mask for its ability to mask the truth, appears as a net similar to a hair net, can be disguised as clothing and some you can compress into a small container like a pill bottle, is often hidden in feminine hygiene – a common rape and control tool that has been in use for long time by Satanists. The occult and sorcery are common in homosexual circles. So this perverse child exploitation is nothing new in Canada, not new at all.”)
I think the occult and sorcery are kind of nifty, to be honest, so maybe I’ve been hanging out in the wrong homosexual circles. My gay friends never do this kind of thing. They’re more into hors d’oeuvres and cocktails and stuff, at least as far as I’ve seen. Are you guys just not inviting me? Is it because I’m straight?
Also, I work in a school. Never been threatened with rape and torture for failing to rape and torture the children in my care. Never even been casually invited to a weekend of rape and torture, or overheard others in the staff room discussing their weekend rape-and-torture plans. Never even found any torture devices left in the dishwasher.
(Commenter JanetM replies to original post: “The occult aspect is often overlooked because it is unknown or dismissed by those who don’t recognize spiritual realities. In other words, if you say there is no God, then there is no Satan either! Not! Mercifully outside of this cult (but how does one avoid deviants these days on every street corner and every time you turn on the TV?) I did get a couple of puzzling heads-up over the years. One particularly obsessed and sick homo admitted a couple times in his rages he was “not in control”: if he wasn’t, then WHO? But going further back, there was a group who regularly got together for Ouija board sessions. It was a window into the cultish, recruiting, pederastic, promiscuous, obsessive, narcissistic, even violent characteristics of this so-called lifestyle. It was unpleasant and troubling to be around such people (they were in artistic professions – not so great by the way) but it gave me the unmistakable truth about them that this is a package of (non) values. And I never met ONE monogamous gay couple. It is like looking over a chasm that you could have driven your car into if someone hadn’t stopped you – enough to give you a healthy fear and loathing for this dysfunction and a clear vision on how it is ruining society.”
Commenter Owen MacDonald replies to JanetM: “The light of God is a reference to knowledge and truth and love and much more. Now science has finally come to agreement with most if not all biblical truths but they are not respecting the science they have found.”
Hey, Janet! Pretty harsh on artistic professions there, aren’t you? Also kind of rude and frankly anachronistic to imply that people who feel “not in control” (maybe because of mental illness or addiction) are demon-possessed. Maybe step out of the Middle Ages.
(Commenter Domenic Marando replies to original post: “I certainly am not surprised by the details of your post. Through prayer and readings on the occult and exorcism, I have understood that homosexuality is an attack by the Evil One; his attempts to destroy God’s plan for humanity. With respect to the tools of deception, I have not come across these details. Thank you for posting them.”
Commenter Evil Conservative replies to original post: “What school did you go to? I’m genuinely curious.”
Me too, Evil. Me too.
Honestly, on first reading, I was fairly confident the original post was a Poe. It was just too much. It couldn’t be real. But after reading the whole thing, including further comments from the original poster, I’m a lot less certain. Obviously I don’t believe there’s a conspiracy to force adults to rape and torture children in Canadian schools. But I also don’t believe Owen MacDonald is a left-wing troll poking fun at the LifeSite agenda. If he is, the other commenters sure rose to the bait and proved they’ll believe anything about their bogeyman straw gays.
LifeSite News: where I’ve been banned for suggesting that women and gays are people too, but this here story is definitely worth preserving.
So one of my best friends noted as I confessed, once the month was drawing to a close, that I had been suffering from the most severe depression I’ve experienced since before my marriage ended. In some ways it was even worse because I thought leaving my marriage meant leaving depression behind, and now I had to come to terms with the reality that, no, that wasn’t happening. I’m still sick, and maybe always will be.
One of the things that made this period of depression so difficult was the setting-specific nature of my symptoms: at work I felt fine, valued and valuable, but half a day in my home would leave me a self-loathing wreck. It turns out I don’t deal well with a cluttered, messy home, and since so many of my belongings were still in chaos from moving, I was stressed out and upset for most of my time at home. Weekends became nightmares instead of oases of respite from a demanding (yet rewarding) workplace. I felt ashamed of and exhausted by my illness, yet unable to stop the self-criticism that echoed in my brain and fed a perception of myself as unlovable and unworthy.
In that context, it’s no wonder I didn’t have much to blog about in the month of February. I was too busy trying to silence a torrent of interior hate speech against myself. It’s a bit like getting dogpiled on Twitter, except you don’t have the option of turning off the computer and walking away, because the abuse is inside you, and no matter where you go, you take yourself with you.
Once March began, things began to look up. I want to take some time to make a few notes about why. I think of this post as sort of a helpful letter to Future Me, giving her tips on how to deal with the next depressive spell. I imagine a mother who writes letters to her children to remind them they’re loved. I could use that kind of love right now. Might as well provide it for myself, right? If it helps anybody else along the way, that’s awesome, but readers should keep in mind that mental illness is a personal and individual thing, and what worked for me may not work for everyone (or even anyone) else.
It’s been a long time since I wrote here (more on that in a future post) and I’ve been kicking around a few topics I wanted to write about. Then something I read on my commute home pushed that all out of the way.
I haven’t done a quiz like this in a really long time, but there are no words for how much I love this one! I found it on Tumblr this morning. (Why can I not link to this Tumblr?) Each question is asked by a character from the Harry Potter series. In addition to being wonderfully on-point as something that would be interesting to the characters, they’re really interesting questions! I couldn’t resist . . .
I’ve been hearing so much about the attacks on Charlie Hebdo and what it says about society, about liberalism, about Islam, about immigrants, about freedom. The whole thing is absolutely terrible. I’m heartsick about the killings.
But I’m also heartsick about the way those killings are being used to demonize Islam and justify attacks on French Muslim communities – “reprisal attacks”, one article calls them.
I’m heartsick when I see people making the point that good satire punches up, only to be shouted down by a virtual chorus of “FREEZE PEACH!” and “WHY DO YOU HATE FREEDOM?”
Because, yes, I am a defender of freedom of expression, and try to adhere to Voltaire’s maxim that “I may disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it” (not actually a Voltaire quote, fyi). Nobody should face physical attack for expressing their thoughts and ideas. And I am very dismayed to see anybody striking out violently at any publication for expressing certain views or making fun of certain targets.
But it is not an attack on free expression to point out that attacks on disempowered cultural groups are neither edgy nor subversive, they’re just mean and kind of cowardly. Nor is it an attack on freedom of expression to comment that “we mock everyone equally”, in the context of a society where power is shared unequally, isn’t the most laudable position.
The Globe and Mailtakes up the question in an article that tries to contextualize the French satiric tradition, writing:
As a rule of thumb, satire that punches up is more commendable than satire that punches down. To attack the powerful is noble; to mock the weak is ignominious. Yet, in the context of France, there’s ambiguity about whether mocking Islam is punching up or down. As a global religion, it is a powerful force, and as worthy of satire as the Catholic Church [. . .] But in France itself, Islam is the religion of the marginalized, those who, even if they are born in France, are seen by many of their fellow citizens as forever foreign.
For me, that’s the key distinction. Context matters.
I also think it goes a long way to helping us understand the reaction of radicals who commit acts of terror. It’s not just a reaction to some in-poor-taste cartoons from a magazine that makes in-poor-taste cartoons about everybody. It’s a way of lashing out in the context of a society in which the message that Muslims are Other, less trustworthy and less accepted, gets repeated over and over on a daily basis.
Some will say that it’s wrong to care why these attacks happen; all that matters is shutting them down. I wonder, if we cared more about why the attacks happened, could we find a way to make them less likely?
For all our yelling about freedom of speech, I think it’s important to understand that we take a lot of our own freedom for granted. I can say these things on the Internet without worrying that vigilantes – or, worse, my country’s government – will come after me. My freedom may be imperfect, but I can feel confident that my nation’s resources are not going into a campaign to silence me because I have negative things to say about the current administration, or a particular religion, or about the culture in general – all things I’ve critiqued online before.
Which brings me to #JeSuisRaif.
Raif Badawi is a Saudi blogger who has been sentenced to ten years’ imprisonment and one thousand lashes – one thousand! – for such various crimes as “insulting Islam” and “promoting liberalism” and “not obeying his father”. In the wake of the popular hashtag #JeSuisCharlie, honouring the people who died in the Charlie Hebdo attacks, a similar #JeSuisRaif hashtag has evolved for those who want to protest this parallel violation of free speech.
I can identify with Raif Badawi. I’m also a blogger (obviously, if you’re reading this) and I’ve said some things about religion that could be called insulting, disrespectful, or even blasphemous. I have never insulted Islam; since I have never been Muslim, that religion isn’t mine to discuss, critique or insult. But I’ve been pretty involved in Catholicism in the past, though, and once I became disillusioned with that religion . . . let’s just say I wouldn’t have done very well if I’d lived during the Inquisition. I have also been known to promote liberalism and disobey my father, sometimes both at the same time.
I refuse to identify with the #JeSuisCharlie hashtag for the reasons I described above. I identify much more with #JeSuisRaif.
But the truth is, I can only imagine what it’s like to live in a country where censorship is this entrenched, where your government can arrest and punish you for speaking frankly about the national religion. I have only the vaguest notion of what it’s like.
So can we please stop saying “I am [name of person whose current circumstances are in no way similar to mine]?” I get that it’s supposed to mean something along the lines of “this person is no different from me” or “it could happen to me”. But no – under the current circumstances of your life, it probably couldn’t.
If you have the freedom to tweet under #JeSuisRaif, the conditions of your online life are probably very different from those of Raif Badawi.