[Trigger warning: discussion of transphobia, transmisogyny, misgendering, self harm]
This was going to be a post about Caleb Hannan, a man who calls himself a “journalist” and who, in the course of what he thinks “journalism” is, hounded a trans woman into suicide, and then (because that wasn’t enough) turned his “story” – and the details of her suicide – into a self-aggrandizing, sensationalist narrative about himself.
But you can read many other excellent people’s writing on it:
- Aoifeschatology: Dead Trans Women in the Print Guillotine [note: includes description of suicide attempt]
- Maria Dahvana Headley: Hostile Subjects, Vulnerable Sources and the Ethics of Outing
- At Autostraddle: Why we can’t accept lazy, transmisogynistic journalism
- Shakesville: Careless, Cruel and Unaccountable [note: Shakesville has a history of shitty treatment of trans issues]
I want to discuss a different aspect of this article: the reactions of journalists, predominantly cis men, who have tried to insist:
- we can’t tell her life story without mentioning her gender identity! (when the article was never about her life story)
- it’s just like how we mention people’s past marriages! (when there are obvious differences in how our society treats divorcees and trans women)
- we should focus on the “fascinating” ethical side of this! (when a woman is dead)
And those points are all just so utterly irrelevant to the facts – that a journalist invaded an interviewee’s privacy, ignored her pleas for respect, and exploited her suicide – that I can really only come to one conclusion.
Y’all are a bit fucking insecure about trans women, aren’t you?
Every objection, every insistence that we treat this case as part of a “wider discussion”, every excuse about “telling the full story”, every lie told that Dr V’s gender identity was somehow relevant to a story about a golf putter and possible discrepancies in her academic record, boils down to one thing: WE MUST KNOW THAT SHE IS TRANS! WE MUST! THE WORLD MUST KNOW!
And we have to see this in the context of a society which treats trans women as a punchline – where the scenario of cis-men-who-have-sex-with-trans-women-without-knowing-it is treated as the height of “gotcha! oh snap!” comedy. Ally McBeal. The entire plot of Ace Ventura Pet Detective. Austin Powers. Nip/Tuck. And in a more serious vein, God knows how many episodes of the various Law & Order and CSI franchises – which usually highlight (in their sensationalist way) the real, terrible issue of trans women being murdered by their “betrayed” sexual partners – who are usually portrayed as violent thugs, but you know, violent thugs who maybe had a good reason this time.
The “reverse” situation – cis-woman-has-sex-with-trans-man-without-knowing-it – is almost non-existent.
So we end up in a society where heterosexual cis men are told that having sex with a trans woman is tantamount to having homosexual sex (and therefore wrong! And unmasculine!!!) Where trans women are seen as inherently deceitful, to the point that being-a-trans-woman-and-not-disclosing-your-history-before-sex is tantamount to a deliberate conspiracy to make poor hetero cis men have gay sex (and therefore become Not Real Men!!!) Where the good and proper dudely thing to do is to make sure that all the other dudes know that someone is a trans woman (and thus, to them, Not A Real Woman).
And we end up in a society where Dudes Who Journalise vehemently defend the rights of another Journalist Dude to invade a woman’s privacy, threaten her safety, ignore her pleas and cause her suicide. Using arguments which are irrelevant to the actual facts of the matter.
We end up saying, “how dare you treat this real-life tragedy as a thought experiment”, but what I wonder is: are they really treating this story as a thought experiment? Or does it all just boil down to hetero cis men’s sense of ownership over bodies-they-might-want-to-fuck?
Please remember, hip white young things of the internet:
While you were laughing at police officers joking about how hard it is to harass people in Palmerston North …
Police in Upper Hutt were strip-searching teenagers who didn’t even match the descriptions of their suspects and denying them access to legal counsel.
Ha ha ha, police harassment is so fucking funny, isn’t it? Gosh, why do those people of colour distrust the police, they’re just here to help us, right?
No, seriously, I can’t make this shit up.
Rugby is a game played by most boys in New Zealand in their childhood, though some don’t want to play it at all. A significant section of the community have always preferred to play a different sport, like soccer. But Rugby gets all the status in New Zealand, commanding all the respect. So much so that those who play soccer are often made to feel like second-class citizens. They lack the mana of those who play the nation’s revered game. Reliable studies show that this has statistically led to a higher degree of depression among soccer playing boys, and already our rate of male youth suicide is far too high.
Yep. Marriage is just like choosing to pick up a ball and throwing it backwards, and lol, let’s use youth suicide as a punchline because obviously our continued statements about gay people being unnatural, confused, less valuable to society and unworthy to be considered fully equal can’t be having any kind of effect on suicide at all. Mind you, given what we know about US fundy attitudes to gay kids killing themselves, it isn’t a surprise. It’s just contemptible. And if it’s not deliberately vicious, it’s really, really shittily timed. But remember, Bob and Colin are the guys who care about our children and families. Bob, I can’t believe this hasn’t happened already, but you’re Officially Scum. H/T Protect Marriage Equality on Facebook. More responses via GayNZ.com.
EDITED TO ADD: The post on FF’s website now reads “(Author Unknown”) at the top. Please compare and contrast with the screenshot below and rate Bob’s level of backtracking bullshit out of 10.EDITED EDITED TO ADD ADD: And now there’s a wonderful fauxpology at the bottom:
UPDATE: Please note that we have removed the reference to suicide in this satirical piece. In light of horrendous stats on suicide just released, it was an inappropriate reference. The piece was sent to us – we didn’t write it – but we should have vetted it better. We apologise for any offense the reference may have caused. It was certainly not our intention.
Look, the reference is only inappropriate, and only because of the statistics release – not because our actual suicide statistics are actually horrific. Also, obviously, they only apologise for any offence [it] may have caused – because quite obviously they’ve only stuck this fauxpology up randomly, and not because they’ve received any actual backlash or anything.
And Family First, clearly, just loves posting poorly-written shit sent to them anonymously. Their only real crime was “not vetting it properly”, where “vetting” is an archaic term for “reading”.
And if you believe all that, I have a big pile of bullshit to sell you. No metaphor can really do it justice.
A Rolling Stone article from February has been doing the rounds – and should carry many big, clear trigger warnings for suicide, self-harm, homophobia, and hate speech (reported). This post on its contents likewise.
It’s entitled “One Town’s War on Gay Teens“, and it was a bit of an eye-opener to me.
It certainly wasn’t a revelation to me that there are truly hateful people in this world, that bullies get away with horrific abuse, that people are honestly so afraid of pointing out that there are a lot of self-proclaimed Christians in this world whom Jesus would absolutely tear strips off that they let them get away with encoding prejudice and bigotry into our society and schools and communities.
The revelation was this: I really haven’t taken my gloves off with these people, and I need to.
Despite being a shrieking swearing ranty bitchy PMS-ing monster truck of feminist blogging, I do moderate myself (you may pause to snort, if you will.) I do refrain from Jesus-would-slap-the-shit-out-of-you comments like the above. I do have this niggling little part of my brain that says there’s a line I shouldn’t cross, a line about faith and how people define their own, a line between pointing out the hypocrisy and horrific consequences without pointing too hard at the person behind them. Just as I’ve always objected to cheap shots about Gerry Brownlee’s weight or Cameron Slater’s mental health, I’ve felt that telling a person that it’s not their belief system that’s evil, it’s actually them, was … cheap. Dirty. Unbecoming. Something like that.
And then I read that Rolling Stone article. And while yes, like I’ve said, it wasn’t a surprise to me that fundy wankers have attempted to eradicate the existence of homosexuality from their communities (perhaps I should say, the communities burdened with their residence) and it wasn’t a surprise to me that this had caused some kids to take their own lives, something broke in my brain. Something clicked together. Something aligned, possibly the stars, and I realised in that moment a sad, terrible, huge, but ultimately truthy truth:
You fuckers are just, simply, fucking evil and if there is a Hell it will be too fucking good for you.
You shat on these kids.
You didn’t even tell them they, personally, were evil – you didn’t have to. You just removed any option they had of figuring out the world for themselves, because in your heads “choice” is just fine and dandy as long as the choices presented are all fundy-Christian-approved ones.
You let them get beaten up and harassed, and you threatened the adults in the best position to protect them with the loss of their job, maybe their career, if they dared to stop it.
You demonised the people who actually understand what compassion means and could have saved these kids.
In the wake of the suicides, the fundy asshats blame gay rights groups for the suicides. Because apparently telling kids that their feelings were valid “locked them” into a “lifestyle” etc etc.
Not, “telling kids their feelings were invalid and letting bullies attack them at their most vulnerable with no reprieve or protection from authority figures.” Not, “denying children even the acknowledgement of homosexuality by letting them know there was a policy outlawing acknowledgement of homosexuality.”
You trapped teenagers in a world where they could not even examine their feelings, much less acknowledge them, much less talk about them with anyone because you created a culture which made saying “I think I like people of my own gender” basically the equivalent of “I come from Mars and have acid for blood” and you fucking dare to say that homosexuality gave them no fucking options?
You actually think bullying is okay.
Michele Bachmann has a great point when she says bullying is wrong.
It’s only slightly ruined by the fact she said it to cover her ass after arguing that shutting down bullying was basically the end of free speech (ironic!) and would inevitably lead to “boys [being] girls”.
Because bullying isn’t wrong, apparently. Well, it is, it’s just that beating up a small, quiet guy for not being sufficiently manly isn’t really bullying, and constantly harassing a girl for wearing baggy sweatshirts isn’t either. They’re just basic social correction, bringing the deviants back into line so nothing threatens the established hetero social order. And those schoolyard bullies learnt it from you.
Let me tell you, people: Jesus was all about eliminating people’s differences and trampling on their individuality. Fo sho.
You are utter fucking hypocrites.
For people who think sex is a robotic process which married hetero cis couples should only ever engage in for the purposes of bring more little schoolyard thugs into the world, you are seriously fucking obsessed with sex, and “deviant” forms of it in particular.
Labelling Gay Straight Alliance clubs as “sex clubs”? I’d say “are you fucking high” but let’s remember: you’re not honest people. You’re not sincere. You’re half-driven to distraction by a lifetime of denying basic sexual urges, half-making shit up to scare the people who aren’t as evil as you but also aren’t particularly political, particularly engaged with broader social issues, who are susceptible to the bullshit you spin because you’re a Pillar of the Community.
You are, in fact, fucking evil.
You are entirely willing to destroy people’s lives if it maintains the dominance of your belief system. You will do whatever it takes to keep other people, other ideas, other ways of living in the shadows and bullying teens to the point of suicide is pretty much just hunky-fucking dory to you.
I do not believe that fundy shitstains actually think gayness is a choice. I do not believe they think it’s a genetic mutation. I think they do not care. It’s a threat to their natural order, so say and do whatever it takes to get rid of it, right?
Demonise teenagers. Pretend to be acting in their best interests when you say “oh, but they’re so confused at that age” with one Jesus-shaped sock puppet but scream “they’re evil and trying to destroy us!” with the other. Play on your fucked-up narrow-minded cultural paranoia, primed through decades of Yellow Peril and Red Peril and War on Terror, and turn it against your children because you’d actually prefer to see them dead than gay and at peace with themselves.
Fuck drawing lines in the sand with you cretins. There is blood on your hands. Your “faith” and behaviour bears absolutely zero relationship to the shit Jesus actually preached (gayness and abortion: not actually his favourite topics.)
But do you even have the faith you claim? I’m in serious doubt here. If you’d been born in any other country or time, would you just be the same hateful, demonic little fucks, waving whatever religion of convenience, whatever writings of whatever prophet, you could find to justify your self-centred bigotry?
You are fucking evil. And I’m pretty much decided right here right now that it is my life’s goal to fucking destroy you.
~A note to you other fuckers out there~
If you have read that Rolling Stone article, and you side with those people, and it offends you that I feel entirely justified in labelling those “Christians” as absolutely unmitigatedly evil people? You can go fuck yourself, because kids are dead and your buddies over there caused it.
I’m sorry, everyone.
I’m sorry Chris Trotter likes to wax lyrical, pretending not to know what people are talking about when they’ve taken the time and energy to provide all the relevant links to his own previous sexist whinging.
I’m sorry Chris Trotter has so little respect for women he thinks we can’t concentrate on more than one issue at a time.
I’m sorry Chris Trotter is so defensive about being called on his and the “mainstream” Left’s misogyny that he has to ironically apply a “you’re either
Nexus with us or against us” strawman on feminists.
I’m sorry if any of you sustained abdominal injuries while cackling* at Chris Trotter of all people calling someone else a “bully”.
I’m sorry if anyone had to waste 5 minutes on Google to reassure themselves that Chris Trotter has no idea what he’s talking about in regards to the US antichoice movement, which has been incremental and smouldering and very subtly engineered for the most part.
I’m sorry that my heretofore mild tone is about to be cast aside in favour of my usual “expletives-included” style.
Because fuck you, Chris Trotter. Fuck you for using vulnerable solo mothers as a fucking weapon against a feminist who actually gives a fuck about helping women take charge of their bodies and doesn’t cast them aside once they’re no longer useful. Fuck you for trying to turn NZ feminists against each other and using a woman public figure, very thinly veiled, as another weapon. Fuck you for fucking implying with scare quotes that that woman was somehow being dishonest in describing herself as a mother.
And fuck you, you pathetic, outmoded hack, for trying to say “that’s politics” as though you have a single fucking clue how to get the left back into power in this country. Let me know when that brilliant racebaiting manoeuvre from fucking 2009 starts paying off, mmkay?
But thank you, too, Chris. Thank you for continuing to demonstrate your utter irrelevancy. Thank you for proving for me (as though it needed to be proven) that feminists cannot assume the left are allies (hey Marty G, if you’re reading this, remind me why you were surprised my post was less than flattering of Labour?).
Thank you for the hilarity of the fact that you have no fucking sense of history, when you try to say that the people who stood up and made noise never achieved anything. I’ll remind every civil rights activist ever, shall I? Guess they should’ve just got up and asked quietly from the back of the bus if they could be treated like full, worthy human beings, etc.
You’re not scary, Chris. You’re not intimidating. You haven’t put me in my place. You’ve just made my entire argument for me. And I thank you for that.
Today at 12.51pm many New Zealanders observed a two minutes’ silence for Canterbury.
I was at the park on Lambton Quay outside Astoria. It was lovely and solemn and quiet and some people were holding an NZ flag and it was really eerily quiet, besides the sound of the buses going up and down Lambton Quay (because even being able to leave work at a particular time to stand in a park being silent involves having some privilege).
You decided to fire up your fucking amp with your fucking Twin Peaks-esque backing track and crank out a shitty, “mournful” 4 iterations of Amazing Fucking Grace on your fucking trumpet.
Fuck you for making our observance an opportunity for you to perform.
Fuck you for turning a wonderfully secular moment into Christian-focused schmaltz and fuck you for probably just assuming it would be “respectful” because why the fuck should you, old white man, even fucking consider that non-Christians may have suffered and died in the earthquake, or that non-Christians might be showing their fucking respects to?
Fuck you for not even being a good fucking player and using the social pressure of a silent observance of respect to force people to stand and listen to your utterly shitty near-missing of notes and mangling of timing and melody.
Fuck you for leaving me not moved, and not reverential of the tragedy that has occurred, and not feeling a common bond with other Kiwis, but fucking pissed off because you fucking chose to insert yourself into a community’s poignant ritual.
Fuck you for deciding your loud, intrusive way of “showing respect” – as I’m sure you fucking thought you were doing – trumped everyone else’s fucking right to just have a moment’s fucking silence.
This wasn’t fucking about you. Fuck you.