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Not mad, just disappointed
July 11, 2013 7:19 AM   Subscribe

I'm a bit miffed that my post was deleted for "If this is a conversation MetaFilter is going to have that is going to go well, you need to start with a different post than this. Leave the edgy make-people-mad quotes out of it and explain why it's something interesting you think people will want to talk about." Because I don't think a) this was an "edgy make-people-mad quote but rather the core of the article and b) the thread was going reasonably well. I don't see why this post was any different from earlier posts I've written about trans issues, or for that matter, that the quote I selected was any different from other quotes on posts on equally sensitive matters I've posted. I'd like to see if and why I'd be wrong in this.
posted by MartinWisse to Etiquette/Policy at 7:19 AM (408 comments total) 15 users marked this as a favorite

The thread was not, at all, going well. We had to make a quick choice between trying to moderate that thread all day and deciding to talk about it in MetaTalk and we decided we'd rather talk about it here. I'm 100% fine if someone wants to make a post to the same link with a different framing but starting stuff off that way is a bad way to open a thread about one of the more contentious topics that MetaFilter has dealt with lately. Which means we expect people to make posts with the understanding that the topics are difficult, the community is a generalist one and if you're making a post about "The war on ________" it it worth being mindful of that.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 7:24 AM on July 11, 2013 [5 favorites]


I know some stuff was being deleted and then undeleted from that thread. Were there already a lot of comment deletions?
posted by Elementary Penguin at 7:25 AM on July 11, 2013


There were a bunch of flags on a bunch of comments right off the bat and taz was debating what do do about them and deleted and then undeleted them. This all happened right around shift change time so we were talking through what to do.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 7:27 AM on July 11, 2013 [2 favorites]


I like the article & thought it brought up a conflict I had never thought about, but would find important: that I find gender roles problematic, but that I don't have a problem with transgender people. I'd like to read that post with more links/information.
posted by toodleydoodley at 7:28 AM on July 11, 2013 [1 favorite]


Yeah, I worked on my comment for a good 30 minutes, only to have the entire thread closed. (Insert sad face here).
posted by math at 7:31 AM on July 11, 2013


I said this in the contact form but I'll re-say it here: if the thread was deleted because the mod team don't have time for it, then that's fine. But describing the FPP quote as "edgy, make-people-mad" comes across to me as quite insulting considering it's a pretty neutral summing-up of the war on trans people, our spaces, our lives, and our validity that's happening at the moment and for the last thirty years in feminist spaces.

I mean, they call us men, they're trying to exclude us from feminist and lesbian spaces, they're trying to exclude us from women's spaces in general -- including rape crisis and domestic violence shelters -- and they're having some success on those fronts. They're hounding trans women who dare to use online dating services and outing them online and to employers, family, friends. They are engaging in actions intended to end up with us dead.

I'm not sure how to phrase that much more neutrally.
posted by ArmyOfKittens at 7:33 AM on July 11, 2013 [116 favorites]


I deleted an early "I disagree" type comment that didn't have any explanation, and a request for explanation, then Diablevert returned to explain, but it was an issue that we've covered a lot in the past, and then the Trans 101 link was posted, which might have helped that question... but basically, a problem here is that it's essentially a single-link, Op/Ed, outragefilter sort of post, on a topic that people can get very heated, very quickly about, and which we've had a lot of posts recently about. We often delete single-link "let's all get mad about this" sort of posts, but I do think that this can be redone with more context, background, etc.
posted by taz (staff) at 7:34 AM on July 11, 2013 [6 favorites]


And that line from the original article by Samantha Allen, where she says,

Penises are not inherently male just as vaginas are not inherently female. Our bodies are not objective pieces of matter that pre-exist the inscription of social meaning; rather, our “beliefs about gender” inform the very notion that a penis is a male sex organ.

Well, that was an interesting thought that I didn't fully understand, and I was hoping to read other people's thoughts on this (what does make us male, or female? Is it not true that our bodies are indeed objective pieces of matter?).

But I see taz's point that we don't need more single-link "Let's all do the grar" posts.
posted by math at 7:36 AM on July 11, 2013 [1 favorite]


I disagree with with the deletion and the deletion reasons. The post should live again. But, if some reframing is needed to make it kosher, then that's a very small price to pay.
posted by Sticherbeast at 7:37 AM on July 11, 2013 [6 favorites]


perhaps we should have a generic reason for deleting things like this

"i'm sorry, but our community isn't mature enough to discuss this properly - try later, when we grow up"

could we perhaps establish the idea that the OP isn't responsible for how we react to things, that WE are?

---

Yeah, I worked on my comment for a good 30 minutes, only to have the entire thread closed.

i was still internally debating the idea that "Our bodies are not objective pieces of matter that pre-exist the inscription of social meaning"

not sure i would have said anything or not, but it's a statement that raises a lot of questions and it would have been good if people had been able to discuss this
posted by pyramid termite at 7:38 AM on July 11, 2013 [11 favorites]


I'm glad it was deleted, cause I think I was about to get really wanky in it and I got work to do today. Thanks, mods.

Allens' article was really lame. It would have been better to link to Julian Vigo's original aricle Transcending the Norms of Gender: The Left Hand of Darkness, the response by Dorian Adams (which is much better than Allens) A Trans Response to Julian Vigo: These Are Not the Radicals You’re Looking For and maybe Vigo's response to Adams Gaslighting in the Age of ‘Misgendering’
posted by nooneyouknow at 7:43 AM on July 11, 2013 [16 favorites]


And let's be really clear, if you want to workshop a different post in there, that's fine, but do not carry the original conversation over here.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 7:44 AM on July 11, 2013 [1 favorite]


I've beaten this dead horse before.

The post brought up something I'd literally never thought about, and having spent my entire life surrounded by all sorts of people in Amsterdam and New York City, that's saying something.

And this deletion reminds of the harassment policy thread the other day and the prevailing sentiment that the community often can't but should conform to some mythic and very American-centric idea of courtesy in discourse.
posted by digitalprimate at 7:45 AM on July 11, 2013


I don't necessarily disagree with the deletion, but I do agree with the OP of this MetaTalk thread that the deletion reason is not so good. The statement is not really an edgy, out there statement, relative to the rest of the content in the article being linked -- it's pretty much a low key summary of what the article is about.

That may mean the article as a whole is too edgy and inflammatory for MeFi if even the basic thesis of it is perceived as being way over the line, but the deletion reason suggests that the poster was deliberately being inflammatory and possibly editorializing a bit in their choice of quote, but I really don't think that's the case.
posted by jacquilynne at 7:46 AM on July 11, 2013 [10 favorites]


"Penises are not inherently male just as vaginas are not inherently female. Our bodies are not objective pieces of matter that pre-exist the inscription of social meaning; rather, our “beliefs about gender” inform the very notion that a penis is a male sex organ"

I don't think this is true.
posted by Diablevert at 9:37 AM on July 11


As an adult, I initially found this a difficult concept to grasp. That a person's sexual organs and DNA do not de facto define their gender and sexuality. Not because I am intolerant or uneducated, (at least I hope I'm not) but because I grew up in a time and segment of American culture where I learned a definition of gender and sexuality that was not particularly fluid or flexible, and other options were dismissed as a non-consideration.

As adults, we have to unlearn many things that we were taught were immutable facts as children. Acquiring an expanded perspective of the world around us and analyzing it thoughtfully is part of growing up.

I thought the thread was going well. I'm sorry it was deleted. Diablevert's comment in particular was being met without outrage. People first asked for clarification, then they responded pretty calmly.

If Team Mod does not have the time to babysit a contentious thread, then that's understandable. But re-reviewing the thread, it feels like it was closed because of what it could potentially become, and not what was actually happening.
posted by zarq at 7:47 AM on July 11, 2013 [35 favorites]


I said this in the contact form but I'll re-say it here: if the thread was deleted because the mod team don't have time for it, then that's fine. But describing the FPP quote as "edgy, make-people-mad" comes across to me as quite insulting considering it's a pretty neutral summing-up of the war on trans people, our spaces, our lives, and our validity that's happening at the moment and for the last thirty years in feminist spaces.

I kind of feel this way as well. There was an interesting conversation to be had that I don't think required a huge amount of background in either feminism or trans issues if one read the article and tried to engage with it constructively. But the thread got shit in right off the bat. So let's come out and say that's what happened rather than pretending it was a bad post.
posted by hoyland at 7:48 AM on July 11, 2013 [2 favorites]


I very seldom weigh in on this kind of thing, but I don't think that the thread was going in a particularly bad direction. I think the discussion as it stands offers insight into an issue that many folks don't know much about. I'm beginning to wonder if there aren't a set group of users who will, for whatever reasons, automatically flag anything trans-related. This was a poor deletion.
posted by item at 7:51 AM on July 11, 2013 [1 favorite]


I'm on the fence about the deletion, mostly because I think this is not true: There was an interesting conversation to be had that I don't think required a huge amount of background in either feminism or trans issues if one read the article and tried to engage with it constructively.

I think it does require a decent amount of grounding - certainly above and beyond the "penis is a dude thing obv" - in both trans* issues and the history of various feminisms wrt to trans* and gender issues. Maybe I'm just burned out, but I don't feel like we could have had conversation that was not 90% GRAR.

On preview: There might have been flags, but deletions don't happen just because there are flags.
posted by rtha at 7:52 AM on July 11, 2013 [1 favorite]


I'm sorry if I fucked up the thread for everybody. I agree that transaphobia, discrimination against and attacks of trans people are huge problems. I think excluding transwomen from feminist circles is wrong and the radical feminists described in the article certainly seem to be hateful.

I am, personally, not at all sure that I agree with all the current tenants of queer theory about the nature of gender. Neither, however, would I describe myself as a subject matter expert.

The article in the FPP seemed to take the position that these are all well-established, unimpeachable facts and improper subjects for debate, that to debate them at all is evidence of bigotry. That seemed to me a bridge too far.

I can understand why some people might find my disagreement tiresome, that it might evoke a reaction of "oh, Christ another one of these idiots, here's a link to Trans 101." I get that, I really do. I imagine it might be just as tiresome if I were to say to an econ professor, "I don't think the Efficient Market Hypothosis is correct." Coming from a lay person, such critiques are usually presumed to arise from ignorance.

In retrospect, I probably shouldn't have said anything, because I wouldn't really have enough time today to respond in a timely a d thoughtful manner to a contentious thread. I was striving to be neutral and temperate in my responses.
posted by Diablevert at 7:53 AM on July 11, 2013 [34 favorites]


I agree that the post should have stood. It's not something I'd heard about, and it's not like this is just some lone yahoo with a twitter, this is someone fairly influential.
posted by jonmc at 7:55 AM on July 11, 2013 [1 favorite]


I think what the mods are saying is that it would have been difficult to moderate (and was already trouble) because it wasn't framed well. More difficult than a well-framed post, at least.

Great article though.
posted by insectosaurus at 7:55 AM on July 11, 2013


On preview: There might have been flags, but deletions don't happen just because there are flags.

Yeah, I'm well aware of that. Still, a borderline sticky subject with a lot of flagging is likely going to garner more moderator attention than one with no flags.
posted by item at 7:57 AM on July 11, 2013


I would love to see a post that fits within the guidelines set by the mods, including that link, because I think it's a worthwhile and important discussion. I understand the reasoning behind the deletion, but this is the rare one that's made me sad to lose.
posted by xingcat at 8:00 AM on July 11, 2013


I think it does require a decent amount of grounding - certainly above and beyond the "penis is a dude thing obv" - in both trans* issues and the history of various feminisms wrt to trans* and gender issues.

I don't think I can argue that it's the best article ever about this issue, but I think the last several paragraphs would be thought-provoking for the "penis is a dude thing obv"-level of background person. (Now, whether they'd have read that far as the beginning is 'here's my disagreement with people you've not heard of', I don't know.)
posted by hoyland at 8:00 AM on July 11, 2013


I would have liked to see that discussion continue.

The Mods get paid to make final decisions about how the site is run. I just think they mad a bad call in this case.
posted by Pirate-Bartender-Zombie-Monkey at 8:03 AM on July 11, 2013


Martin, I thought your post was interesting and I hope you workshop it into something more palatable for the site.
posted by boo_radley at 8:04 AM on July 11, 2013 [5 favorites]


nooneyouknow: "Allens' article was really lame. It would have been better to link to Julian Vigo's original aricle Transcending the Norms of Gender: The Left Hand of Darkness, the response by Dorian Adams (which is much better than Allens) A Trans Response to Julian Vigo: These Are Not the Radicals You’re Looking For and maybe Vigo's response to Adams Gaslighting in the Age of ‘Misgendering’"

I really want to put a stake in this. Allens' article was in response to Counterpunch's framing of the issue as something with two sides. Following their narrative is like printing a couple of press releases from the oil company that just spilled all over your neighbourhood with an op-ed in between suggesting that maybe pouring oil on baby birds isn't the best way to start a flock.
posted by ArmyOfKittens at 8:05 AM on July 11, 2013 [8 favorites]


MartinWisse, I think there's a good post to be made, and I hope you'll make it. I'm uneasy with deletion because a subject is difficult, but I tend to trust the mods here.

If it requires knowledge to talk about trans issues, then the post is likely to advance that knowledge. There are trans people pretty much everywhere, and I find that most people are curious, have little information, and probably lots of misconceptions.

So, I'm a geezer, and when I grew up, there weren't out gay people, and it took me some learning, which was, at that time, not easy to acquire (thank you, Tim Berners-Lee, for the Web). Even if it's difficult, talking about trans issues is the only way to move forward.
posted by theora55 at 8:07 AM on July 11, 2013 [6 favorites]


jessamyn: "We had to make a quick choice between trying to moderate that thread all day and deciding to talk about it in MetaTalk and we decided we'd rather talk about it here."

I note that Martin made this MeTa. Does this mean you and Martin talked about the post/ deletion/ next steps? When you make a decision like this, does it follow that the mod deleting the post start the MeTa? Thank you for your consideration.
posted by boo_radley at 8:07 AM on July 11, 2013 [2 favorites]


"I think it does require a decent amount of grounding - certainly above and beyond the "penis is a dude thing obv" - in both trans* issues and the history of various feminisms wrt to trans* and gender issues. Maybe I'm just burned out, but I don't feel like we could have had conversation that was not 90% GRAR."

Having just read the thread and the linked article, I don't think that the post was live long enough for things to go very badly. And I think they likely would have.

I'm surprised that people aren't aware of this conflict. I've been a feminist long enough to remember when the default mainstream feminist view was transphobic. And it wasn't that long ago. And the problem with discussing this issue, as rtha points out above, is that it can only be discussed productively with some awareness of these issues and history and a fair amount of good-faith because there will be various interests colliding.

What hadn't happened in that thread yet, but would have, is that someone would have come along and attempted to explain to those who think that the radfems are crazy how it's not quite that simple, and there would be talk of separatism and then people will start getting angry and saying very provocative things.

I'm not sure how much the framing of the post will make a difference because I think the topic is inherently very fraught. But I agree that this particular framing highlights the conflict in a way that primes people for conflict.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 8:09 AM on July 11, 2013 [10 favorites]


If Team Mod does not have the time to babysit a contentious thread, then that's understandable. But re-reviewing the thread, it feels like it was closed because of what it could potentially become, and not what was actually happening.

I disagree. It looks to me that the thread was not going anywhere great (although a great thread could be had (and has been had) on the topic). This FPP started off wrong-footed, and will need some work to be a really solid FPP. Juliet Banana's post of recent vintage is an example of a trans* post with pretty much no "you can't tell me what to call you," so it can be done, but that is not where the deletion was heading.
posted by GenjiandProust at 8:10 AM on July 11, 2013 [4 favorites]


Did you actually read the articles I linked? Vigo's first article is the one that framed it as two sides. Adams' article, also published in Counterpuch, was a response to Vigo's article about why Vigo was on crack. It goes into much more depth than Allen's and is quite good. Vigo's 2nd article is a response to Adam's critique. Also, if you are linking to criticism of an article (either Allen or Adams), what exactly is the problem with linking to the original article. Lastly, I have to seriously go to work so I'm not going to be in this thread for a while.
posted by nooneyouknow at 8:11 AM on July 11, 2013


I generally come down on the mods' side in debates like this, but I really didn't see cause for deletion here.

The only thing that surprises me, actually, is that people say they've never heard of antagonism between lesbian/feminist groups and transpeople, but pehaps that's just 'cause I was introduced to the Michigan Womyn's Festival controversy in college. (Berkeleyan privilege, I guess?)
posted by psoas at 8:13 AM on July 11, 2013 [3 favorites]


The second article is just whingeing. They're both awful. I can go into why -- because all of this stuff is common knowledge in the online trans community -- but I gather we're not supposed to rehash the thread here.

All I wanted to say was that posting the original series of articles, in order, is implicitly supporting the trans-exterminationist point of view.
posted by ArmyOfKittens at 8:15 AM on July 11, 2013 [4 favorites]


(not edit) ...and I would be hugely disappointed in Team Mod if a post framed around them was allowed to stand where the original FPP was not.
posted by ArmyOfKittens at 8:16 AM on July 11, 2013 [3 favorites]


Does this mean you and Martin talked about the post/ deletion/ next steps?

No. It's just 99% predictable that when we delete a "People SHOULD know about this" sort of post from someone who has been here a while, that it will wind up in MetaTalk. Nothing against MartinWisse--who is more than welcome to make this post differently tomorrow if someone else doesn't do it first--but that's just how these things always go.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 8:16 AM on July 11, 2013 [2 favorites]


We had to make a quick choice between trying to moderate that thread all day and deciding to talk about it in MetaTalk and we decided we'd rather talk about it here.

I wonder if you discussed the possibility that somebody would repost the article with a different framing and you'd end up doing both.

I agree with the deletion. It was a bad pull-quote. The idea could have been written without envisioning villains invading with their blight and other scary words; and absent those crayons, 80 percent of SAT students will answer that the author's primary purpose is to examine what to call a group of people that she dislikes (Radfems or TERFs?). If there's a worthwhile topic to mine, that's not a great setup for it.
posted by cribcage at 8:18 AM on July 11, 2013 [2 favorites]


I am, personally, not at all sure that I agree with all the current tenants of queer theory about the nature of gender.

I thinking one of the problems is that there is a basic assumption that tolerance, anti-discrminiation, etc. isn't possible without accepting a whole raft of social philosophy that is, at the very least, still an open field of debate.
posted by spaltavian at 8:24 AM on July 11, 2013 [23 favorites]


I note that Martin made this MeTa. Does this mean you and Martin talked about the post/ deletion/ next steps? When you make a decision like this, does it follow that the mod deleting the post start the MeTa? Thank you for your consideration.

I am confused by this. As far as I know, mods don't start MeTas about deletions; that is a member decision, isn't it? It's just as well, because what would be the point? Not every deletion needs a MeTa (actually, fewer than the number we get in my opinion) -- obviously, doubles deletions only rarely need discussion nor and deletions-by-poster's-request almost never do. Even in a case like this, many of the deletions should be met by a conversation with the mods working out how the FPP could be reframed and posted the next day. If the mods opened a new MeTa for every deletion, it would be pretty much looking for trouble.
posted by GenjiandProust at 8:25 AM on July 11, 2013


No. It's just 99% predictable that when we delete a "People SHOULD know about this" sort of post from someone who has been here a while, that it will wind up in MetaTalk.

That feels strange to read. I mean, I know that bulletin boards are basically highly predictable systems, and members highly predictable components within those systems once you've observed their operation for long enough - watch cogs do not get existential vertigo because people surmise that they will continue to turn in the same pattern as before - but it feels odd to have it spelled out.

Ontopic - I dunno. I guess my ambivalence on this might just be that I can see a similarly framed post about, say, Apple or Microsoft, which would lead to at least as much entrenched position-sharing, staying up. I think a lot of people are weird about trans issues, but I don't think weirdness is exclusive to trans issues.

That said, once you step away from message board world the actual, real-life stakes in my-OS-right-or-wrong arguments are massively lower, so I can see a harm-avoidance argument there.
posted by running order squabble fest at 8:30 AM on July 11, 2013 [1 favorite]


Read the thread and came here to make this very post myself. Would like to see it live again in some form.
posted by marienbad at 8:31 AM on July 11, 2013


Thinking about this a bit more I guess the weird precedent I've been seeing is that things are starting to get deleted after a good number of comments. I guess I have (had?) an inherent assumption that posts that survived some amount of time/ comments would not get deleted. Seeing posts that take off for a while to get deleted half an hour or an hour later is jarring.

jessamyn: "No. It's just 99% predictable that when we delete a "People SHOULD know about this" sort of post from someone who has been here a while"

It might be interesting or useful for the community if the moderators proactively mediate in MeTa when it comes to these sort of posts. I feel like there's a tension between "here is a post that will educate you on a topic" versus "this is a post that tells you what I think about a topic" that people have difficulty grasping sometimes. A more directed intervention might be more fruitful that the currently resulting MeTas, which seem wearisome to the mods and of little practical value to the community.
posted by boo_radley at 8:32 AM on July 11, 2013 [1 favorite]


the author's primary purpose is to examine what to call a group of people that she dislikes (Radfems ...

Cribcage, you do know that "Radfem" isn't a disparaging name, right? (Or isn't necessarily a disparaging name.) It's a name some radical feminists call themselves.
posted by octobersurprise at 8:35 AM on July 11, 2013 [2 favorites]


I can see a post working that included both the CounterPunch links and the original link criticizing the way CounterPunch framed the argument.

I was striving to be neutral and temperate in my responses.

Huh. That's surprising to hear. Because jumping into the start of a trans-related thread with "American school buses are yellow. Men have penises" is about as non-neutral and intemperate as it gets. It's beyond tiresome, and dismissing the basic 21st-century scientific/medical understanding of transgendered human beings as "current tenets of queer theory" is ignorant and a hugely disrespectful derail right out of the gate.

I know, I know, there are some folks here who will be outraged at that statement, claiming it's a silencing of views, a crushing of dissent, a nanny-state approach to moderation, etc. They're wrong. If you're jumping into a MeFi trans thread to say "men have penises, end of story" then you don't need to be jumping into a MeFi trans thread. You need to be reading Trans 101 and finding a place where you can ask questions and clarify your understanding that *doesn't* involve the first MeFi trans thread that crosses your radar in the morning.

I'm glad you say you "get that" it's a problem. It happens in *every* goddamn trans thread, sometimes from the usual folks, sometimes from an excited newbie to trans issues, but always early on, as if there's some sort of urgent need to immediately assert "MEN HAVE PENISES THE SKY IS BLUE" or else...what? Ugh. I appreciate the interest and emotion surrounding the topic, but jeez do I wish folks would find somewhere else to rehash the same old Trans 101 shit.
posted by mediareport at 8:35 AM on July 11, 2013 [32 favorites]


I agree that the post should have stood. It's not something I'd heard about, and it's not like this is just some lone yahoo with a twitter, this is someone fairly influential.

That's, like, so intolerant of yahoos with twitter accounts.
posted by kaibutsu at 8:36 AM on July 11, 2013


I imagine it might be just as tiresome if I were to say to an econ professor, "I don't think the Efficient Market Hypothosis is correct." Coming from a lay person, such critiques are usually presumed to arise from ignorance.

This is a poor parallel. When you say such a thing to an economics professor, it's unlikely that you are attacking, implicitly or explicitly, a core element of that person's lived identity. You're just a subscriber to Modern Jackass. I mean, fine, you don't have to agree with current gender theory (though I will also say that queer theory doesn't always have anything to do with gender; gender theory can be a kind of queer theory, but not all queer theory is gender theory), but what is an intellectual curiosity for you, about which you admit to not knowing much, is a real part of someone else's life.
posted by liketitanic at 8:36 AM on July 11, 2013 [14 favorites]


octobersurprise: "Cribcage, you do know that "Radfem" isn't a disparaging name, right? (Or isn't necessarily a disparaging name.) It's a name some radical feminists call themselves."

And TERF is the term cooked up specifically to avoid slandering all radfems with beliefs they may not hold and only label the attackers, the ones who proudly call themselves "trans exclusionary" and "trans critical".
posted by ArmyOfKittens at 8:39 AM on July 11, 2013 [16 favorites]


I said this in the contact form but I'll re-say it here: if the thread was deleted because the mod team don't have time for it, then that's fine. But describing the FPP quote as "edgy, make-people-mad" comes across to me as quite insulting considering it's a pretty neutral summing-up of the war on trans people, our spaces, our lives, and our validity that's happening at the moment and for the last thirty years in feminist spaces.

This this this this this this this. And this. Reasonable minds can disagree about the deletion itself, but that was TERRIBLE deletion reason.

There was nothing whatsoever edgy or make-people-mad about the quote. I am, if anything, overly prickly when it comes to judgmental or nasty language from my alleged political allies, but that quote was fine. A subset of self-identified radical feminists are, indeed, actively transphobic. This has been a thing for a while. That is a fact.

...

I guess my ambivalence on this might just be that I can see a similarly framed post about, say, Apple or Microsoft, which would lead to at least as much entrenched position-sharing, staying up. I think a lot of people are weird about trans issues, but I don't think weirdness is exclusive to trans issues.

I would go even further and say that this applies to politics, too. Thinner, grar-ier, and more contentious posts about conservatives, et al. saying bad things have stayed up, but this one got the ax.
posted by Sticherbeast at 8:43 AM on July 11, 2013 [9 favorites]


I guess the weird precedent I've been seeing is that things are starting to get deleted after a good number of comments.

before we had a gaggle of mods, this used to happen all the time. then things got deleted immediately and people complained that the mods weren't giving it any time/weren't checking with each other enough (a brush taz has specifically been unfairly tarred with). so a post went up, it was close-ish to shift change, taz dug in and tried to figure out what should stay and what should go (not at all helped out by early thread shitting), the shift change happened, the mods discussed it, and the post went. from reading a lot of these threads over the years it seems like there is no time to delete a post where someone won't complain about the timing.
posted by nadawi at 8:44 AM on July 11, 2013 [18 favorites]


GenjiandProust: "I am confused by this. As far as I know, mods don't start MeTas about deletions; that is a member decision, isn't it? It's just as well, because what would be the point? Not every deletion needs a MeTa "

I think there's a certain amount of "ugh not this behavior"/ "metafilter doesn't do x" well topics that we come back to repeatedly. Rather than go through the cycle of post - belligerent commenting/ countercommenting - deletion - original poster's protestation MeTa, we might find a different way -- moderator lead discussion -- about what those issues are. If there was a structure that had the mods say "we deleted this because bald assertions about x make the community flip its collective shit. If you x-sayers could fill in the details a little bit more and maybe if you shit-flippers didn't go to the walls for every x assertion, we could have better discussions."

I dunno if people are interested in having their assertions probed and challenged like that, thought. I think Metafilter is (still) a remarkably evolutionary site when it comes to community, and like I said above, I've been trying to make sense of new patterns that I've noticed in terms of moderation, and what moderation means outside of the narrower internet definitions.
posted by boo_radley at 8:44 AM on July 11, 2013 [1 favorite]


Huh. That's surprising to hear. Because jumping into the start of a trans-related thread with "American school buses are yellow. Men have penises" is about as non-neutral and intemperate as it gets. It's beyond tiresome, and dismissing the basic 21st-century scientific/medical understanding of transgendered human beings as "current tenets of queer theory" is ignorant and a hugely disrespectful derail right out of the gate.

I think it possible that one can say "men have penises" and that transmen are men, just as one can say "American school buses are yellow" and the bus one rides to school everyday is no less a schoolbus because it is not yellow.
posted by Diablevert at 8:45 AM on July 11, 2013 [8 favorites]


there is a basic assumption that tolerance, anti-discrminiation, etc. isn't possible without accepting a whole raft of social philosophy

i remember when this sort of thing was said about the idea that two people of the same gender could love each other, or that sexuality could be fluid for some. "i love you and i accept you, but penises are made for vaginas/you have to pick a side."
posted by nadawi at 8:47 AM on July 11, 2013 [4 favorites]


I think it possible that one can say "men have penises" and that transmen are men

Do not do this here.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 8:49 AM on July 11, 2013 [18 favorites]


I imagine it might be just as tiresome if I were to say to an econ professor, "I don't think the Efficient Market Hypothosis is correct." Coming from a lay person, such critiques are usually presumed to arise from ignorance.

In retrospect, I probably shouldn't have said anything, because I wouldn't really have enough time today to respond in a timely a d thoughtful manner to a contentious thread.


Something else to consider is that your critique is claiming that a bunch of Mefites are fundamentally wrong about who they think they are, and we've already had a number of long threads about that here in recent months. So it's more like you're coming into a thread about the truth of the Efficient Market Hypothesis to say "Physics professors are the only real professors. Everyone else is just people wearing funny clothes and making stuff up." No matter how much time you have or how thoughtful you are after that, it's a deep hole for a thread to start from.
posted by jhc at 8:49 AM on July 11, 2013 [10 favorites]


I think there's a certain amount of "ugh not this behavior"/ "metafilter doesn't do x" well topics that we come back to repeatedly.

Ah, OK, I was misunderstanding what you were proposing. Thanks.
posted by GenjiandProust at 8:51 AM on July 11, 2013 [1 favorite]


GenjiandProust: "I think there's a certain amount of "ugh not this behavior"/ "metafilter doesn't do x" well topics that we come back to repeatedly.

Ah, OK, I was misunderstanding what you were proposing. Thanks.
"

I could have been clearer. Like I said, my mind's wandering around a lot of different ideas and sometimes that means I leave out a few crucial words or concepts.
posted by boo_radley at 8:54 AM on July 11, 2013 [1 favorite]


GenjiandProust: " Juliet Banana's post of recent vintage is an example of a trans* post with pretty much no "you can't tell me what to call you," so it can be done, but that is not where the deletion was heading."

JB's post was excellent and the extra 'Trans 101' links are first-rate, but I do not think we should be required to append them to all posts about the subject. Just as I would not want to have to link to "I/P 101" links when making a post about the conflict to ensure it doesn't get deleted by the mods. I realize that's not what you're explicitly suggesting. I am concerned however, that we don't start setting an informal bar for posts about potentially difficult thread topics that includes links which rehash very basic information for new readers.
posted by zarq at 8:54 AM on July 11, 2013 [5 favorites]


Diablevert, I get that you think your category point is a novel contribution to the discussion, but I'm off to work. Feel free to MeMail me if you want to talk about why I think it's an unusually oversimplified understanding of the way the sociobiology of gender works not only in humans but across the animal kingdom.
posted by mediareport at 8:57 AM on July 11, 2013 [4 favorites]


To be honest, I wouldn't mind at all if special Explainer posts could be freely inserted as needed.
posted by Sticherbeast at 8:58 AM on July 11, 2013 [3 favorites]


In comments, when threads are starting to get heated, sure. But in posts, always and preemptively? It assumes Mefites can't ever handle an adult conversation.
posted by zarq at 9:02 AM on July 11, 2013 [2 favorites]


Diablevert, I get that you think your category point is a novel contribution to the discussion

Wait, wait, though (and this is not directed at you, mediareport), it also isn't because SEMIOTICS. People have been arguing for 60 years that categories are fairly arbitrary and signifiers are contingent and relative. You don't have to know shit about gender theory to know that that's fairly standard among theorists at this point.
posted by liketitanic at 9:02 AM on July 11, 2013 [3 favorites]


I am concerned however, that we don't start setting an informal bar for posts about potentially difficult thread topics that includes links which rehash very basic information for new readers.

I wouldn't want to require this, but I think it's a tactic that people who are crafting FPPs on complicated and/or contentions topics (especially those that have a steep learning curve) should think seriously about including. It give people who are good-intentioned but under-informed a quick and easy way to get at least partway up that learning curve, allowing the people who already have engaged with the topic room to further engage without a constant pressure to educate newcomers. It might reduce the amount of ignorant statement --> GRAR -- defensiveness -- more GRAR feedback that is so counterproductive.
posted by GenjiandProust at 9:03 AM on July 11, 2013 [4 favorites]


A question I have is I guess related to why some threads (trans, religion, etc) often go badly. I understand that threads which discuss issues fundamental to people's identities have the potential to be hurtful to the people involved, but to what extent should we steer away from them on metafilter because they can be hurtful?

If the thread opens with a contentious (to the general public) statement like "penises aren't inherently male" then you have to expect a discussion about whether that is true, or at least an acceptance that many people disagree with that statement and may not be silent about it. Dropping a link to a trans101 page is begging the question, it is not a reasonable response to someone who disagrees with the statement. It presumes that they can't have a real perspective that disagrees with orthodox trans101 doctrine. It would be parallel to a young earth creationist just dropping a link to Genesis 1:1-25 in response to an argument from a geologist about the Pleistocene. You can't just appeal to your revealed truth in a discussion where not everyone accepts your revealed truth. The only way around that is if metafilter either formally or informally discourages people who don't hold a particular line from commenting. Metafilter has done this formally for certain particularly egregious opinions, and informally for many other opinions that don't match the site consensus.

Should the discussion of sensitive topics on metafilter that will hurt feelings be avoided altogether, go forward as sensitively as possible with the knowledge people will still be hurt and upset, or go forward as a robust marketplace of ideas with the knowledge that almost every discussion has the potential to hurt someone's feelings and people have to be able to cope with that for themselves. This is probably more of a personal approach rather than a metafilter policy question, but I'm curious what people think.

I like to see discussion about topics like the deleted thread, but I feel sad when these discussions make others sad, and I feel annoyed when people shut down discussions with what strike me as obnoxious "go get remedial education at XXXX 101 links", particularly when I disagree with some of what is in those links for (what I obviously think, perhaps erroneously, are) good reasons. So I'm always left bemused.

I know I would not have some of these discussions in person with a religious friend, or a trans friend, etc. in real life, but metafilter discussions seem different to me in that there are so many people that you can't cater to everyone's feelings. Maybe I'm wrong about that though, I've been thinking about it lately.
posted by pseudonick at 9:08 AM on July 11, 2013 [35 favorites]


GenjiandProust: " I wouldn't want to require this, but I think it's a tactic that people who are crafting FPPs on complicated and/or contentions topics (especially those that have a steep learning curve) should think seriously about including. It give people who are good-intentioned but under-informed a quick and easy way to get at least partway up that learning curve, allowing the people who already have engaged with the topic room to further engage without a constant pressure to educate newcomers. It might reduce the amount of ignorant statement --> GRAR -- defensiveness -- more GRAR feedback that is so counterproductive."

True.

I already try to frame my posts carefully -- especially on difficult topics, so I get where you're coming from there.
posted by zarq at 9:09 AM on July 11, 2013 [1 favorite]


Juliet Banana's post of recent vintage is an example of a trans* post with pretty much no "you can't tell me what to call you," so it can be done, but that is not where the deletion was heading.

I think this is something of a red herring. This post was always going to be more challenging than Juliet Banana's because of the difference in subject matter. Same with that FPP with portraits of trans men the other day, which, as I recall, didn't include any trans 101 stuff. (It's not in my recent activity, so maybe it's turned into a shitshow and I haven't noticed, but it didn't look like it was at the slightest risk when I last saw it.)
posted by hoyland at 9:10 AM on July 11, 2013 [1 favorite]


I guess I agree that the FPP quote could be construed as antagonistic, but... the point of the article was a trans person being angry about the way they're treated by some types of feminists.

And yes, to the OP, I would like to see this thread re-posted in some way. It was illuminating. I think I am pretty well-versed in academic feminism, but I wasn't entirely aware that there were radical feminists who espoused this particular view. In fact, it would seem like something that radicals would be against, if radical feminism is about smashing gender paradigms.
posted by nakedmolerats at 9:11 AM on July 11, 2013 [1 favorite]


There's a bit of a fight going on on tumblr right now between a bunch of old-school radical feminists who don't believe that trans women should be excluded from their spaces and a load of TERFs. Memail me for the link if you're interested (for hopefully obvious reasons I'm not going to just drop the link in the thread!).
posted by ArmyOfKittens at 9:14 AM on July 11, 2013 [1 favorite]


A question I have is I guess related to why some threads (trans, religion, etc) often go badly. I understand that threads which discuss issues fundamental to people's identities have the potential to be hurtful to the people involved, but to what extent should we steer away from them on metafilter because they can be hurtful?

I've never had the sense that we steer away from them because they can be hurtful, but rather because, depending on how they are framed, they can be thoroughly unproductive of anything except huge amounts of FUCK YOU from all sides, thousand-comment meTas, and require a disproportionate amount of mod time and attention. Mods have said here that this post is something that could have been framed better, not that it can't go up because it or the resulting discussion will hurt peoples' feelings.
posted by rtha at 9:19 AM on July 11, 2013 [4 favorites]


The deletions are getting a bit heavy-handed. We can't seem to get posters to read links, and I'm starting to wonder if that is spreading to the people deleting posts.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 9:20 AM on July 11, 2013 [2 favorites]


nadawi there is a basic assumption that tolerance, anti-discrminiation, etc. isn't possible without accepting a whole raft of social philosophy

i remember when this sort of thing was said about the idea that two people of the same gender could love each other, or that sexuality could be fluid for some.


I didn't say anything like that all. I really resent this false accusation of bigotry. It's an example of the worst of Metafilter; where even the most caveated, cautious and nuanced statement will get pounded into it's exact opposite meaning because you don't like someone approaching a subject differently than you.

It's completely possible to believe in trans equality and rights without agreeing with or being sure about every aspect of gender theory that is currently ascendant. Some people on Metafilter think if you don't, you must be bigot, and you demonstrated my point perfectly.
posted by spaltavian at 9:23 AM on July 11, 2013 [25 favorites]


It would be parallel to a young earth creationist just dropping a link to Genesis 1:1-25 in response to an argument from a geologist about the Pleistocene.

Anyone feeling a rosy glow of nostalgia for the econ professor metaphor?

(I know. Do not do this here.)
posted by running order squabble fest at 9:23 AM on July 11, 2013 [2 favorites]


If the comments are the problem, close the post to comments.
posted by the man of twists and turns at 9:23 AM on July 11, 2013


the man of twists and turns: "If the comments are the problem, close the post to comments."

Please be kidding.
posted by zarq at 9:26 AM on July 11, 2013 [6 favorites]


That's not how this place has ever worked, and it's unlikely that's something that will happen as policy.

Technically, the post is now closed to comments. Anyone who knows about meTa can find it; anyone who runs the deleted post script or knows about the deleted post blog can find it and read it.
posted by rtha at 9:27 AM on July 11, 2013


rtha:I've never had the sense that we steer away from them because they can be hurtful, but rather because, depending on how they are framed, they can be thoroughly unproductive of anything except huge amounts of FUCK YOU from all sides, thousand-comment meTas, and require a disproportionate amount of mod time and attention. Mods have said here that this post is something that could have been framed better, not that it can't go up because it or the resulting discussion will hurt peoples' feelings.


More from a personal perspective than a metafilter policy perspective though. I mean, everyone has at least some opinions that they know will hurt or offend some of their friends and acquaintances. Most people would refrain from sharing those particular opinions with those particular friends and acquintances. I would refrain from giving offence in person, I probably would not on metafilter, though wonder if I should, even if that would close various threads to comment entirely as there are places where almost anything will hurt someone.
posted by pseudonick at 9:29 AM on July 11, 2013 [1 favorite]


spaltavian - you were responding to someone who's original contribution was "American school buses are yellow. Men have penises." it seemed to me that you were saying that type stuff can coexist with tolerance and acceptance. i flatly disagree and think it sounds like "i love you and don't care what you do behind closed doors, but slot a goes in tab b." to deny that some women have penises (and some men don't) is to deny the lived experience of trans individuals while slapping a "but i accept whatever you believe" on it. you might not have been saying those things, but to me you were lending it support by classifying it as social philosophy.
posted by nadawi at 9:34 AM on July 11, 2013 [3 favorites]


I don't think the quotes provided helped me figure out what was going on with this post. A little background about the ideological differences and a link to more than one article would help a lot. I didn't know anything about this issue before this post. The article itself had a bit of explanation, but it's essentially an opinion piece.
posted by demiurge at 9:36 AM on July 11, 2013 [1 favorite]


I would refrain from giving offence in person, I probably would not on metafilter, though wonder if I should.

I mean, trying generally to avoid giving offense is probably a good idea. I think, though, that Metafilter can afford you opportunities to ask questions that you maybe couldn't ask people you know in person, at least for some things. Using this post as an example, I don't think a comment saying "Can anyone explain from a scientific perspective why gender turns out not to be biologically determined?" would have been terribly out of place in the post. I'm assuming you'd expect people have taken offense at "Men have penises, duh." so maybe the reason why that statement is false is interesting (even if the answer is 'we don't know precisely, but here are some theories').
posted by hoyland at 9:36 AM on July 11, 2013 [2 favorites]


The thing is, trans-critical theory or TERF ideology or however you want to describe it can't be divorced from history and context. If Mefi were to have a discussion about a pair of articles calmly discussing the merits or otherwise of TERF theory it'd be having half the conversation, and the other half of the conversation is basically a list of acts of violence and discrimination committed against the trans community in the name of TERF ideology.

So your conversation then has to allow for the fact that one side of this argument has a horrible history and a bad habit of going after the personal, political and professional lives of vulnerable people, which makes it pretty hard for anyone convincingly to argue in their favour; so you get a short thread.

Or your conversation concentrates solely on the theory (and referring to TERF theory without scare quotes is doing it a huge favour, tbh) which biases it massively in favour of the abusive party, since on the face of it the TERF ideology seems quite reasonable and based in common sense and thus easy for someone with no experience to grasp. Which doesn't even go into the fact that treating TERF ideology with any kind of respect is basically saying a worldview that says I, me, personally, armyofkittens, Alyson, am a liar, a rapist, an aggressor, and a misogynist, might have some good points to make.
posted by ArmyOfKittens at 9:38 AM on July 11, 2013 [22 favorites]


Like others, I found the post and ensuing discussion interesting, and while I understand (sort of) the felt need to delete it, I sure hope it gets reposted with a less "inflammatory" pull quote. And I don't think it needs to be posted with Counterpunch pro-and-con links, that's just silly.
posted by languagehat at 9:43 AM on July 11, 2013 [2 favorites]


I disagree with this deletion, because I don't believe the framing was problematic. I think the framing was clear that the subject was about a specific conflict. I think the default position that MetaFilter threads should always try to avoid conflict whenever possible is itself problematic when we pretend that discussions about conflict can themselves avoid conflict. At best, threads about conflict may do a slow burn before getting started, but the heart of the conflict isn't going to go away just because the OP buries the lede.

If the real issue is we don't want to start difficult threads about conflict in the evenings or on weekends, let's just say that.
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 9:43 AM on July 11, 2013 [7 favorites]


nadawi: spaltavian - you were responding to someone who's original contribution was "American school buses are yellow. Men have penises."

Do you really think this obvious truncation and simplification of his point strengthens your argument? Did you bother to read the preceding sentences at all?

to deny that some women have penises (and some men don't) is to deny the lived experience of trans individuals

So no, you didn't read them. He didn't deny that, which you could have seen by reading the comment in full:

I don't think biology is entirely mutable. That there exist exceptions to a trait which defines a class does mean the trait does not define the class.

I'm sure this statement still totally unacceptable to you because OUTRAGE but it doesn't deny that trans people exists, nor does it make any statement one way or the other about their "lived experience". The comment itself was in response to the claim that (to simplify) physical traits are only "sexed" socially, which, is an assertion, a useful one even, but not recieved Truth. Which was the point of my comment.

And when I said tolerance and anti-discrimination, why did you think I meant "ok, just stay closeted"? Is that your definition of tolerance? Why assume it was mine? Right, because you suspect I may approach this subject differently that you, so you are free to imagine all sorts of evil traits I almost certainly have.
posted by spaltavian at 9:43 AM on July 11, 2013 [17 favorites]


I don't think a comment saying "Can anyone explain from a scientific perspective why gender turns out not to be biologically determined?" would have been terribly out of place in the post.

This is exactly what people are referring to when they talk about "101" stuff. It's basic, underlying information that you really need to have before you can talk about more complex subjects. Turning a discussion about the intersection of various branches of feminism with gender identity into a "so what is trans anyway" conversation is immensely frustrating for everyone who wants to talk about the higher-level concepts.


The thing is, trans-critical theory or TERF ideology or however you want to describe it can't be divorced from history and context.

This is exactly why I agree with my colleagues' decision on this. I'd read the piece yesterday on Tumblr, and I have a reasonable amount of context with which to understand it, but for people without that it's going to read very differently. A post that spells out some more of that context so people can engage with it would go a lot better than this one given the average level of education on trans issues and the history of feminism here. (Which is not awful, and seems to be rapidly increasing, but is still not anywhere near the level of someone who deals with this stuff daily.)
posted by restless_nomad (staff) at 9:43 AM on July 11, 2013 [11 favorites]


And I don't think it needs to be posted with Counterpunch pro-and-con links, that's just silly.

i'd agree - that series of articles looked a lot like an internet pissing match with evidence of ugliness on both sides - bomb throwing, death threats, words that went beyond a mere "fuck you" and character assassination

hardly the kind of thing one wants to put in an fpp if the goal is to avoid contentiousness
posted by pyramid termite at 9:47 AM on July 11, 2013


Yeah, r_n, I've cooled on my belief that it was necessarily a bad deletion but I'm still of the opinion that the reason given was stunningly insensitive (albeit unintentionally so, I'm not accusing jess of giving trans members the finger or anything!).

If a TERF thread there is to be, there's a good history of trans exclusionary radical feminism available in lay language, but I'd be inclined to ask for permission to link it first.
posted by ArmyOfKittens at 9:47 AM on July 11, 2013 [10 favorites]


to deny that some women have penises (and some men don't) is to deny the lived experience of trans individuals

You are referring to me, so I wish to respond: I do not deny that, either. I accept that transmen are men and that transwomen are women.

I understand that the mods don't want to re-litigate the blue thread in here either. I'm sorry if I stepped out of line, but I didn't want to let nadwi's incorrect characterisation of my views rest unchallenged.
posted by Diablevert at 9:48 AM on July 11, 2013 [7 favorites]


This is exactly what people are referring to when they talk about "101" stuff. It's basic, underlying information that you really need to have before you can talk about more complex subjects.

I disagree because the mooted biological causes of trans-ness aren't generally in trans 101 material.
posted by hoyland at 9:48 AM on July 11, 2013 [1 favorite]


So is the official position now that ALL Trans threads have to include Trans 101 background so the "thread can go well?"
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 9:49 AM on July 11, 2013 [3 favorites]


No, it's totally not. Is there some reason you'd think it would be?
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 9:51 AM on July 11, 2013


It's Raining Florence Henderson: "So is the official position now that ALL Trans threads have to include Trans 101 background so the "thread can go well?""

I think that's a huge leap from what RN said (see below) "more context" is not All Trans Threads Must Supply Trans 101 Material. I'm not RN (or etc) but I don't see it that way.

restless_nomad: "A post that spells out some more of that context so people can engage with it would go a lot better than this one "
posted by boo_radley at 9:52 AM on July 11, 2013


ArmyOfKittens: " If a TERF thread there is to be, there's a good history of trans exclusionary radical feminism available in lay language, but I'd be inclined to ask for permission to link it first."

Would sincerely love to see that post.
posted by zarq at 9:53 AM on July 11, 2013 [11 favorites]


To elaborate, I would rather have a thread 'devolve' into people learning relatively basic trans stuff than have the thread actually devolve. Sure, I'd prefer a discussion of the article itself, but I'm not sure I can recall a trans thread without a lot of basic education going on. (Juliet Banana's post comes the closest, though it did have a small derail at the beginning about terminology brought on by the trans 101 link. It took a while to shake out to talking about the substance of the post.)
posted by hoyland at 9:53 AM on July 11, 2013 [3 favorites]


Turning a discussion about the intersection of various branches of feminism with gender identity into a "so what is trans anyway" conversation is immensely frustrating for everyone who wants to talk about the higher-level concepts.

i can see that, but this is a general discussion board full of many things that ALL of us are not going to be able to deal with on a higher concept level - especially when there is not a society wide consensus on the basic concepts

this may not be the ideal place for higher level discussions - although it would help if people tried to listen before they spout off on subjects they aren't familiar with
posted by pyramid termite at 9:55 AM on July 11, 2013 [4 favorites]


I disagree because the mooted biological causes of trans-ness aren't generally in trans 101 material.

The first google result for "trans 101" covers intersex conditions, genetics, and assigning sex by looking at collections of secondary sex characteristics. The 101-level discussion has shifted over the years - that link talks about that, too - but it's still pretty much the basics.
posted by restless_nomad (staff) at 9:56 AM on July 11, 2013 [1 favorite]


jessamyn: There were a bunch of flags on a bunch of comments right off the bat and taz was debating what do do about them and deleted and then undeleted them.

taz: I deleted an early "I disagree" type comment that didn't have any explanation, and a request for explanation, then Diablevert returned to explain, but it was an issue that we've covered a lot in the past, and then the Trans 101 link was posted, which might have helped that question...

I don't really get what happened here but I think this type of discussion pruning and then unpruning? I think? was probably a bit confusing and not particularly helpful to the discussion.
posted by lalex at 9:57 AM on July 11, 2013


spaltavian - if you're arguing for more civility or whatever and saying i'm the worst of metafilter, maybe you can find just a hair less spittle when you attack me. if someone is going to throw an early, threadshitting comment that is very provocative (and then say they were being neutral) there's going to be a reaction to that. if you classify that reaction as social science wankery, there might be a reaction to that. it's not OUTRAGE, it's fighting the same shitty arguments time and time again.

i don't think you're a bigot more than anyone else in the world is a bigot (same for Diablevert), but i think some things that at least are dressed up in bigoted clothing got said.
posted by nadawi at 9:57 AM on July 11, 2013 [2 favorites]


The first google result for "trans 101" covers intersex conditions, genetics, and assigning sex by looking at collections of secondary sex characteristics. The 101-level discussion has shifted over the years - that link talks about that, too - but it's still pretty much the basics.

I was referring to this sort of thing, not 'how do we assign sex at birth'.
posted by hoyland at 9:59 AM on July 11, 2013


I think this type of discussion pruning and then unpruning? I think? was probably a bit confusing and not particularly helpful to the discussion.

Agreed. In an ideal world we wouldn't do that. That said, it's what happened here so we figured it was better to describe how we made the choices and actions that we did. Diablevert's comment was flagged a lot really quickly and looked like an early derail. In a touchy thread that would have been a quick delete situation. As taz was doing that, Diablevert posted a clarification. Literally within the same 15 seconds. So it seemed then, given the circumstances, that it would be better to leave it alone (i.e. undelete the first comment rather than just continue the deletions). The deletion and undeletion happened within about a two minute window. Stuff like that is going to happen sometimes.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 10:03 AM on July 11, 2013 [3 favorites]


I was referring to this sort of thing, not 'how do we assign sex at birth'.

Ah. I assumed you were talking about what Diablevert seemed to be referring to.
posted by restless_nomad (staff) at 10:06 AM on July 11, 2013


I think one tricky thing here is that adding extra context may not reduce grar risk. Like, if you were looking for more context on the TERF vs transpeople stuff, you might look at Julie Bindle and Julie Burchill in the Guardian in the UK, Sheila Jeffries in Australia, Janice Raymond and The Transexual Empire in US academia, Michigan Womyn's Fest... the problem being that "there are radical feminists who will throw trans people, and specifically trans women under the bus at any opportunity, no matter what color the bus is" is going to keep coming up...

I mean, there's an interesting potential FPP about the way radical feminists form implicit or explicit alliances with the right wing to attack trans people, and how trans people respond - but I can't imagine that would be less prone to early-doors hurf-durfing...
posted by running order squabble fest at 10:06 AM on July 11, 2013 [11 favorites]


nadawi spaltavian - if you're arguing for more civility or whatever and saying i'm the worst of metafilter,

I'm not arguing for more civility. I'm arguing for intellectual honesty. For example, I didn't say you are the worst of Metafilter, I said what you did was an example of the worst of Metafilter. And you aren't fighting the same "shitty arguments", because the Diablevert's comment was only the same shitty argument in your false characterisation.

Personally, characterizing "you can be pro-trans tolerance without accepting everything in gender theory" as "I don't hate gay or bi people but they're wrong" is a shitty argument, and plenty spittle-flecked.
posted by spaltavian at 10:07 AM on July 11, 2013 [12 favorites]


I'd love to read (or even write) a post about the whole radfem-anti-trans issue, but... I'm not sure how I'd ensure that it wouldn't be deleted. I'd worry that I would spend a long time putting a post together, and then someone would say something mildly antagonistic and it would be deleted for being possibly too much work to moderate.
posted by showbiz_liz at 10:10 AM on July 11, 2013 [7 favorites]


To elaborate, I would rather have a thread 'devolve' into people learning relatively basic trans stuff than have the thread actually devolve. Sure, I'd prefer a discussion of the article itself, but I'm not sure I can recall a trans thread without a lot of basic education going on.

I think that's the problem. I wouldn't want to have to explain my existence every time a subject that personally touches on me comes up (especially to people who start from "your experience is wrong"), and I sure as hell don't think it's anyone's responsibility to have to explain theirs to me. 101 "intro to ____" conversations are great, and I love them, but graduate level discussions need their own spaces too. For that matter, non-academic discussions of simple experience sharing are equally valuable.

Not every discussion is for every person to participate in.
posted by Gygesringtone at 10:11 AM on July 11, 2013 [8 favorites]


I'd love to read (or even write) a post about the whole radfem-anti-trans issue, but... I'm not sure how I'd ensure that it wouldn't be deleted.

We are always available for consultation via the contact form. Seriously, it's great when people run drafts of potentially-troublesome posts by us first, so we can both check for possible derail spurs and be prepared to moderate it out of the gate. We will often also discuss timing - if something's likely to require intensive mod effort, there are better and worse times to put it up.
posted by restless_nomad (staff) at 10:14 AM on July 11, 2013 [2 favorites]


This is exactly what people are referring to when they talk about "101" stuff. It's basic, underlying information that you really need to have before you can talk about more complex subjects. Turning a discussion about the intersection of various branches of feminism with gender identity into a "so what is trans anyway" conversation is immensely frustrating for everyone who wants to talk about the higher-level concepts.

Yesterday there was a thread about EVE Online. The EVE players got frustrated by the conversation being anchored in what was, to them, a trivial point that annoyingly pops up in every EVE thread. That's logical and I don't begrudge them that. However, my own frustration was trying to trudge through EVE jargon. I wanted to say, but didn't because it wouldn't have helped the thread, that MetaFilter is not an EVE forum and it would be nice if players would drop the jargon and abbreviations.

Similarly, MetaFilter is not a trans forum. It's a general-interest website where even the minority of hardcore, omnipresent members don't read every thread. I'm genuinely sympathetic toward the frustration people feel at having to revisit "101" issues, but that problem is every bit as logical as your frustration with it, and personally I feel like we can label it "101" without being condescending but that isn't always the vibe I'm getting.

Not every discussion is for every person to participate in.

Yes, they are. We all paid the same five bucks. Graduate-level discussions do deserve their own spaces, but this is a conversation we've had in other contexts on MetaTalk: stating that a particular discussion deserves to exist is not a good argument for it to occur on MetaFilter. (Ironically, that's 101-level MetaTalk.)

Should the discussion of sensitive topics on metafilter that will hurt feelings be avoided altogether, go forward as sensitively as possible with the knowledge people will still be hurt and upset, or go forward as a robust marketplace of ideas with the knowledge that almost every discussion has the potential to hurt someone's feelings and people have to be able to cope with that for themselves. This is probably more of a personal approach rather than a metafilter policy question, but I'm curious what people think.

I agree with most of your comment, and I think this is a thoughtful and constructive way to think about it. To answer your question, I guess I'm unsure. In this particular case, I think my opinion is that, as a mod pointed out, MetaFilter has featured a lot of threads on this topic lately and with quite a bit of difficulty, so I'd lean toward something along the lines of a moratorium or at least a temporarily heightened bar like gets applied to I/P posts. That's how I feel when other subjects pop up repeatedly. To be clear, I don't think that will happen.
posted by cribcage at 10:15 AM on July 11, 2013 [17 favorites]


this may not be the ideal place for higher level discussions - although it would help if people tried to listen before they spout off on subjects they aren't familiar with

There are quite high-level discussions here on some topics. Those don't often seem to be derailed by people who think they know a lot more about the subject than they do coming and making pronouncements about basic things that are wrongity wrong wrong.

Posts about gender and feminism and trans* issues, though... A lot of people think they know all there is to know about biology, sex, and gender and how those interplay, and sometimes they are derailingly insistent about their obvious "expertise."
posted by rtha at 10:19 AM on July 11, 2013 [31 favorites]


I said this in the contact form but I'll re-say it here: if the thread was deleted because the mod team don't have time for it, then that's fine. But describing the FPP quote as "edgy, make-people-mad" comes across to me as quite insulting considering it's a pretty neutral summing-up of the war on trans people, our spaces, our lives, and our validity that's happening at the moment and for the last thirty years in feminist spaces.

As Armyofkittens said it, this is mostly what bothered me about the deletion, also because I don't make a habit of posting fighty posts/pull quotes and I don't like seeing that implied in a deletion reason. I still don't think the pull quote was wrong or fighty , but choose it because it summed up the article the best.

It's a pity that the trans 101 derail by Diablevert wasn't handled better as that was what caused the upset, but as said, these things can happen. To be honest though, I never thought the particular paragraph in the original article Diablevert picked up on would be a problem, as that was neither the point of the article nor of the post. I didn't include trans 101 material because it wasn't that sort of post

What I really didn't want to do was overload the post with links to the Trans*-Exclusionary Radical Feminists side of things, as that in itself would be more grar making, nor did I wanted to do an entire potted history of the subject, for the same reason. The original article already made these points without being too aggressive about and this is really not a subject there are two rights ways of looking at it.

As I will be travelling tomorrow, going on holiday and without internet for most of it, if somebody else wants to remake this post, feel free.
posted by MartinWisse at 10:25 AM on July 11, 2013 [12 favorites]


spaltavian - you think i'm switching your argument around to be seen in the worst light, i feel you are doing the exact same thing. we are not going to find agreement here so it's probably best if we just drop it.
posted by nadawi at 10:25 AM on July 11, 2013


I'd lean toward something along the lines of a moratorium or at least a temporarily heightened bar like gets applied to I/P posts.

Why? I didn't read the deleted thread, but the problems with trans* related posts in the past is that a number of really vocal users have been, in so many words, willfully ignorant, stubborn and downright contemptuous of trans* people.

I, and many others, have benefited immensely from these discussions, and learned a lot about trans* issues. Perhaps most importantly, I learned that some opinions that I held, I perceived to be innocuous, but in reality they were very offensive and hurtful.
posted by MisantropicPainforest at 10:26 AM on July 11, 2013 [13 favorites]


>Not every discussion is for every person to participate in.

Yes, they are. We all paid the same five bucks. Graduate-level discussions do deserve their own spaces, but this is a conversation we've had in other contexts on MetaTalk: stating that a particular discussion deserves to exist is not a good argument for it to occur on MetaFilter. (Ironically, that's 101-level MetaTalk.)


I really disagree with this. I occasionally skim music threads, but I also often skip them, and I pretty much never post comments in them because I have nothing to say. Music threads really aren't for me to participate in. And that's fine, there are plenty of other threads for me to read and comment on. There are a bunch of topics (rtha mentions trans* and gender and feminism, and I would add education) where it's hard to get anywhere beyond the most basic of discussions and the most noisy of derails because of people throwing out really uninformed comments.

I'm no expert in trans* issues, but I'm working hard at better educating myself, and FPPs on MetaFilter that are able to get beyond the 101 level make that process easier and more enjoyable.
posted by GenjiandProust at 10:26 AM on July 11, 2013 [14 favorites]


GenjiandProust: " Juliet Banana's post of recent vintage is an example of a trans* post with pretty much no "you can't tell me what to call you," so it can be done, but that is not where the deletion was heading."

zarq: "JB's post was excellent and the extra 'Trans 101' links are first-rate, but I do not think we should be required to append them to all posts about the subject. // But in posts, always and preemptively? It assumes Mefites can't ever handle an adult conversation"

Listen, I wish context-less trans* posts could go smoothly. I wish we were that adult. I don't think we're there yet. Here's why I believe it's important (but not required, you do you, boo), to include links to Trans* 101 education resources in trans* posts.

TRANS* THREAD WITH NO CONTEXT PROVIDED

SHITSTIRRER: Here is an ignorant statement about trans* people!
EVERYONE ELSE: Actually, that's not true.
SHITSTIRRER: That is MY BELIEF and if you want to be respected and win hearts and minds, you are required to argue with me about why my ignorant belief is not true. It's actually your fault you're constantly misunderstood, if you're not willing to argue with idiots constantly. Also no matter how much you refute my shitty, hurtful belief, I will just keep posting it and defending it over and over.

TRANS* THREAD WITH CONTEXT PROVIDED

If the ignorant belief is refuted *within the post* it's a lot harder for someone to argue "my shitty belief is valid and I am allowed to have it!" and people don't have to try to explain why this view is incorrect, yet again, for the thousandth time, because that information is already in the post.

-----------------------------------------

It appears there's a lot of people who wants to have these discussions/arguements/etc! For me, personally, they're like a fucking sucker punch. I honestly spend too much of my own time freaking out silently about the fact I have breasts to worry about what someone else thinks about the fact I don't have a penis (and I'm a weirdo boygirl cutie, not a man, anyway, but whatever). I don't want to hear that shit, and it would kill me if someone posted it in a thread I started, which is why I started the current trend of framing trans* threads to head those comments off at the pass. But for those with a stronger stomach for it, it's not a hard and fast rule.
posted by Juliet Banana at 10:27 AM on July 11, 2013 [27 favorites]


Is there some reason you'd think it would be?

The Mod responses saying this could be reposted with added context and background.

I'm 100% fine if someone wants to make a post to the same link with a different framing

the Trans 101 link was posted, which might have helped that question

We often delete single-link "let's all get mad about this" sort of posts, but I do think that this can be redone with more context, background, etc.

A post that spells out some more of that context so people can engage with it would go a lot better than this one given the average level of education on trans issues and the history of feminism here.

Except - The same quote that was described as an "edgy make-people-mad quote" provides the context and background for the conflict described in the article.
"In some bizarre alternate reality, however, I’m seen as a villain who invades “real” women’s spaces and perpetuates harmful gender stereotypes. A small but vocal band of activists known as “Radfems” see transgender women like myself as a blight on the feminist movement, but — because their views are not representative of the feminist movement as a whole — many trans*-inclusive feminists refer to them as TERFs, or Trans*-Exclusionary Radical Feminists." -- Counterpunch and the War on Transgender People, by Samantha Allen.
So what context and background are you saying would make it okay to link to this (or any other) article about Trans conflicts other than Trans 101 filler?

To ask it another way: Did you have to delete any comments about the conflict specifically detailed in this link, or were all of them the same old Trans thread fights? Is the objection really to the framing of this FPP or to having to moderate the same fights over and over again when FPPs aren't over-written to try to derail the derails before they can happen?
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 10:27 AM on July 11, 2013 [7 favorites]


Penises are not inherently male just as vaginas are not inherently female. Our bodies are not objective pieces of matter that pre-exist the inscription of social meaning; rather, our “beliefs about gender” inform the very notion that a penis is a male sex organ.

Only on Metafilter.
posted by Unified Theory at 10:31 AM on July 11, 2013 [3 favorites]


oh shutup
posted by MisantropicPainforest at 10:31 AM on July 11, 2013 [10 favorites]


Who?
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 10:32 AM on July 11, 2013


Not you; I'm a quick commenter.
posted by MisantropicPainforest at 10:34 AM on July 11, 2013 [2 favorites]


Only on Metafilter.

Said while quoting something originally from a non-Metafilter site. Achievement unlocked.
posted by emmtee at 10:35 AM on July 11, 2013 [36 favorites]


"There are quite high-level discussions here on some topics. Those don't often seem to be derailed by people who think they know a lot more about the subject than they do coming and making pronouncements about basic things that are wrongity wrong wrong."

There's a number of things besides sex and gender that are like this — language and economics comes to mind. There's just some things that are so ubiquitous that people confuse familiarity with knowledge. The contentious derailing isn't a function of the Dunning–Kruger effect, it's a function of identity and sensitivity. People say wrongity wrong wrong things about economics and it bugs me but it doesn't hurt me — but a lot of the contentious comments made in sexism/feminism threads or trans* threads are genuinely hurtful to people.

And you'd think that awareness that a topic is sensitive and people's feelings are easily hurt would motivate people to be more careful with what they say. But, in fact, there's always a minority who feels provoked by this sensitivity, they're offended by the idea that they're expected to engage with extra consideration. They're the type that is offended by sacred cows. They can be counted on to ask pointed questions and make contentious comments that go right to the core of people's identities because they're impatient with what they consider other people's foolishness.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 10:36 AM on July 11, 2013 [9 favorites]


Did you have to delete any comments about the conflict specifically detailed in this link, or were all of them the same old Trans thread fights? Is the objection really to the framing of this FPP or to having to moderate the same fights over and over again when FPPs aren't over-written to try to derail the derails before they can happen?

We didn't delete any comments besides those that were deleted-then-undeleted. And there's no objection happening here. Make a better post, one that explains for people who don't know the situation what the issue is about. Backgrounders might be helpful if you don't want people wandering in making the same comments or asking the same questions that people more familiar with the general topic already assume are foregone conclusions.

And, as I said above, we'd rather have a conversation about how to make these sorts of posts go better on MetaFilter than to try to moderate, yet again, a super-bumpy thread on MeFi that winds up with a bunch of people who are already sort of annoyed at or upset by the topic then getting upset at or annoyed by each other. I am not disputing that the linked quote was integral to the article, but that if you want to have a discussion about that article, on MetaFilter, with everyone on MetaFilter, it needs to be written differently.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 10:38 AM on July 11, 2013


Forgive my ignorance, but what's up with the asterisks after 'trans?'
posted by jonmc at 10:41 AM on July 11, 2013


its used a shorthand to include transmen, transwomen, etc.
posted by MisantropicPainforest at 10:42 AM on July 11, 2013 [1 favorite]


I don't have a argument for keeping or deleting this FPP, I personally find that any thread which includes the statement of "men have penises" which ends up offending someone as just really strange...


However, with this MeTa in mind... I must say that I find it more strange that a FPP was deleted for a reason including the mods not having time to moderate it, but which they knew would result in a MeTa thread, which in turn is being heavily moderated.
posted by Debaser626 at 10:42 AM on July 11, 2013


this thread is bumming me out and then i remembered i have an appointment after work to get BOY tattooed on my thigh above my right knee and GIRL in the same place on my left leg and i feel better
posted by Juliet Banana at 10:42 AM on July 11, 2013 [19 favorites]


Its also something I learned wholly from metafilter and this community's discussions about these issues.
posted by MisantropicPainforest at 10:43 AM on July 11, 2013 [1 favorite]


here's a handy little graphic explaining the asterisk thing.
posted by nadawi at 10:44 AM on July 11, 2013


As someone who is not very familiar with trans issues and who read the article, the post comes off as a "Look at this horrible person who does horrible things" post.

For whatever that's worth.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 10:44 AM on July 11, 2013 [4 favorites]


I disagree that high-level discussions being derailed by 101 and wrongity-wrong is something that happens disproportionately to trans threads. Somebody said in another MeTa recently that he finds it more difficult to participate in threads where he has expertise, and boy do I agree. I feel like I can count on one hand the number of high-level legal or firearms threads we'll ever have.

I pretty much never post comments in them because I have nothing to say. Music threads really aren't for me to participate in.

I empathize. I, too, often lurk in threads where I'm not educated. But I see other people make a different choice every day on MetaFilter, and it works out fine. Every thread is for you; that's why we have one front page. You don't need to be educated to participate in MetaFilter conversations.* You might need to be educated to add to the conversation at a certain level, but if we start envisioning that as the standard for participation, we'll get a radically different site. Honestly I think that site would look pretty neat, but it would be very different.

* I take that back: you probably need to be educated in written English. MetaFilter doesn't feel like a site that would tolerate prolific members who wrote in textspeak ("no skul tmrw, wat r u up 2?"). But otherwise.
posted by cribcage at 10:46 AM on July 11, 2013 [6 favorites]


...which in turn is being heavily moderated.


The distinction, I think, is between contributing to a thread as a moderator, which is the kind of moderating the mods are doing here, and which is less time-consuming and time-critical than watching over a thread waiting for things that have to be deleted or headed off, MeMailing people asking them to knock it off etc, which is the kind of moderation that would happen in the FPP.

Also, at a certain point the mods can just leave a MetaTalk thread to the wilds and only come back in when it turns into an utter retread-the-thread crapfest, whereas doing the same management by exception is harder in a MetaFilter thread, where the standards for personal abuse etc are lower.
posted by running order squabble fest at 10:46 AM on July 11, 2013


spaltavian: "That there exist exceptions to a trait which defines a class does mean the trait does not define the class."

I, and I think everyone logically understands that. Yes, there exist non-yellow school busses (but to be specific one should have said, "97.6% of school busses in the continental US are yellow." Trying to assert your generalization should stand because "everyone knows there can be exceptions" helps to Other the exceptions).

To me you appear to be emotionally missing that the non-yellow school busses haven't been Othered for much of their lives. The non-yellow school busses aren't specifically targeted for destruction. The non-yellow school busses don't have feelings. In the context of a post about logic and syllogisms this wouldn't be a problem, but there will be many plates of beans spilled about how imprecise it is to say just "us school busses are yellow."

This is in the context of trans issues; currently an emotionally powerful topic (especially for the people living this). In the context of trans issues there is a lot of specific terminology. Using such terminalogy nonspecifically will cause problems. Using terminology directly against what one's been asked to use is rude (to be generous). We're not talking about yellow school busses. We're talking about people who've suffered and are suffering abuse/stress/discomfort. We're talking about people; some of them members here. Trying to pretend otherwise is at best tone-deaf, and at worst I feel is anti-social.

If you're not being anti-social, please try to check your tone; hit the trans 101 info linked above. Understand why you're receiving such blow back, and if you can't understand how "men have a penius" isn't going to be a problem in a trans tread, unless you can find a tutor you should probably stay out of such theads, realizing your continued lack of tone will be perceived by many as anti-socialness (read: ignorant prejudiced bigot).

I would say it's intellectually dishonest to go into an emotionally charged topic and try to divorce emotions from it and attempt to reframe/repurpose specific jargon.
posted by nobeagle at 10:52 AM on July 11, 2013 [16 favorites]


I must say that I find it more strange that a FPP was deleted for a reason including the mods not having time to moderate it, but which they knew would result in a MeTa thread, which in turn is being heavily moderated.

i don't recall the mods saying they didn't have time. jessamyn said "We had to make a quick choice between trying to moderate that thread all day and deciding to talk about it in MetaTalk and we decided we'd rather talk about it here." which to me reads like they knew this was going to be a time suck either way and chose to spend their time this way rather than that. it doesn't seem so strange.
posted by nadawi at 10:54 AM on July 11, 2013 [1 favorite]


here's a handy little graphic explaining the asterisk thing.

Does trans* not include transhuman, transspecies or transethnic?

Is there a FAQ that addresses this?
posted by Ad hominem at 10:55 AM on July 11, 2013 [1 favorite]


Are there transhumans, transspecies, or transethnics?
posted by MisantropicPainforest at 10:57 AM on July 11, 2013 [1 favorite]


Ad hominem: "Does trans* not include transhuman, transspecies or transethnic?"

Nope! Just transgender, transsexual, genderqueer, and so forth.
posted by ArmyOfKittens at 10:59 AM on July 11, 2013 [10 favorites]


Ah. The furry derail. Bang on time.
posted by running order squabble fest at 10:59 AM on July 11, 2013 [28 favorites]


here's the page the graphic comes from where it's discussed. also, i really hope we aren't about to derail into an otherkin conversation...
posted by nadawi at 10:59 AM on July 11, 2013 [1 favorite]


Juliet Banana: "Listen, I wish context-less trans* posts could go smoothly. I wish we were that adult. I don't think we're there yet.

*nod* I have to remind myself sometimes that we aren't in an ideal MeFi which exists only in my head, where everyone listens and tries to keep an open mind when they aren't familiar with a raised topic, where they always read the links, and always try to treat each other with good faith.

Then again, I have to remind myself to do all of those things, too. And I've failed to do all three (sometimes all at once) on more than one occasion. Work in progress.

Here's why I believe it's important (but not required, you do you, boo), to include links to Trans* 101 education resources in trans* posts.

...

TRANS* THREAD WITH CONTEXT PROVIDED

If the ignorant belief is refuted *within the post* it's a lot harder for someone to argue "my shitty belief is valid and I am allowed to have it!" and people don't have to try to explain why this view is incorrect, yet again, for the thousandth time, because that information is already in the post.


That makes sense. Assuming they actually bother to read the links, of course.

I just wish it could be like that without the onus being on posters to provide extended context.

It appears there's a lot of people who wants to have these discussions/arguements/etc! For me, personally, they're like a fucking sucker punch. I honestly spend too much of my own time freaking out silently about the fact I have breasts to worry about what someone else thinks about the fact I don't have a penis (and I'm a weirdo boygirl cutie, not a man, anyway, but whatever). I don't want to hear that shit, and it would kill me if someone posted it in a thread I started, which is why I started the current trend of framing trans* threads to head those comments off at the pass. But for those with a stronger stomach for it, it's not a hard and fast rule."

I mentioned to someone privately earlier today that it can be depressing and frustrating to have heated and emotionally draining discussions about certain topics on Metafilter and Metatalk -- where you feel like you've come to a comfortable conclusion about a topic -- only to find the same damned issue popping up again a few weeks or months later. So you have a similar discussion again. And again. It happens most frequently in threads about religion and women's issues, and I am now noticing how frequently it is happening in threads about trans* topics. We wind up repeating ourselves all over again. Just when you've vanquished the hydra, so to speak, another head pops up to be dealt with.

After a while it starts to feel like a a futile, unending cycle.

Perhaps the trend you started is a way out of that. I guess time and experience will tell.
posted by zarq at 11:00 AM on July 11, 2013 [2 favorites]


Nope! Just transgender, transsexual, genderqueer, and so forth.

Ok thanks.

Ah. The furry derail. Bang on time.

You caught me. Always pushing the furry agenda.
posted by Ad hominem at 11:02 AM on July 11, 2013


> I think it possible that one can say "men have penises" and that transmen are men, just as one can say "American school buses are yellow" and the bus one rides to school everyday is no less a schoolbus because it is not yellow.

Why not add a single word and convey the truth you seem to recognize anyway: Most American school buses are yellow. Most men have penises.

You admit that not all American school buses are yellow, and that not all men have penises. It seems weird to insist on stating what is false and expect people to infer you're referring to what is true. It's been a while since I took logic, but starting from your premise:

"transmen are men"

Not all transmen have penises.

Thus, not all men have penises.
posted by gilrain at 11:04 AM on July 11, 2013 [8 favorites]


Stop the men/penis derail now. Seriously.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 11:04 AM on July 11, 2013 [5 favorites]


Ah, sorry. I shouldn't have replied without scrolling down for the first instruction to drop the topic.
posted by gilrain at 11:10 AM on July 11, 2013

Make a better post, one that explains for people who don't know the situation what the issue is about.
The issue is about: "I’m seen as a villain who invades “real” women’s spaces and perpetuates harmful gender stereotypes. A small but vocal band of activists known as “Radfems” see transgender women like myself as a blight on the feminist movement.... their views are not representative of the feminist movement as a whole."

I'm sorry Jessamyn, I'm not just trying to be argumentative, but I honestly don't see how the following reads as anything other than a continuing request to reframe the subject in Trans 101 terms:
Backgrounders might be helpful if you don't want people wandering in making the same comments or asking the same questions that people more familiar with the general topic already assume are foregone conclusions.

how to make these sorts of posts go better on MetaFilter than to try to moderate, yet again, a super-bumpy thread on MeFi that winds up with a bunch of people who are already sort of annoyed at or upset by the topic then getting upset at or annoyed by each other
In the spirit of trying to make these sorts of posts go better, I'm asking: what information, what framing, what backgrounder other than Trans 101 basics are you saying this post needed in order to be okay? All of the Mods who have weighed in here have said this post would have been allowed to stand on the merits of the link if it had been framed better (in other words, the linked content was good enough to stand). None of you have defined better in terms other than missing Trans 101 background.

I'm honestly not seeing it. Is there a framing of this link that would be allowed to stand that does not include Trans 101-style backgrounder?
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 11:13 AM on July 11, 2013 [7 favorites]


(This is me wearing my user hat, not mod hat)

I think the thing that happened with Diablevert's comment is a frequent cause of derails around here, and I think we could do better. The specific thing I mean is: a person makes a point intending to talk about some in-principle, abstract philosophical point, but other people take it to be a point staking out an offensive and contentious position on the social issue under discussion, and respond heatedly, and then the original person responds heatedly, and it all goes downhill.

The kind of point Diablevert was raising, I take it, was an in-principle philosophical point about the nature of generalizations and categories. It's a reasonable point that you can - in many contexts - say "birds fly" when it's still true that there are some birds that don't fly. Ok, fair enough. I thought it was reasonably clear from the comment that's what was being claimed.

But it's also mighty close to a thing someone would say if they were intending to take an anti-trans position on the real-world social issue. And anti-trans positions go right to the heart of some/many people in the discussion, and so a bunch of comments come in denouncing that position, etc.

This happens in rape threads, it happens in feminism threads, race threads, etc. A "nitpicky internet person" (in jessamyn's phrase) comes in to discuss the interesting philosophical point they thought of, and it sounds like they're picking a fight. (When - I need to underscore - they are not intending to pick a fight, not intending to assert the position on the social issue that they get accused of asserting.)

I think people on both sides of this divide could stand to be more careful and generous with each other.

The in-principle people could stand to recognize that people will hear their comment in a certain way, and always add disclaimers, and if accused, clarify calmly and non-defensively.

The social issue people could stand to assume that most people around here are more likely to be making an in-principle philosophical point (sometimes in ignorance of how it will sound) than they are to be baldly asserting something offensive - so rather than immediately denouncing the, just say "I'm sure you meant the more in-principle thing, but your comment could also be taken like this, so could you clarify which you had in mind?" or "You may not realize this but that's actually a very common misunderstanding, check out this link for more" or whatever.

That's my thought whenever this stuff comes up. Occasionally, we have the odd person who is really committed to some offensive position. Much much more often we have someone who's wanting to bring up a more abstract question, or who's starting to think through this stuff for the first time, and charitable interpretation and assuming-the-best would be the best responses, even if they're part of pointing someone to another resource.
posted by LobsterMitten (staff) at 11:14 AM on July 11, 2013 [42 favorites]


Is there a framing of this link that would be allowed to stand that does not include Trans 101-style backgrounder?

Sure, I think a backgrounder on this specific issue (who the players are, more about them, more about the TERF label, why this controversy came up, something about the author maybe) would have been fine. Otherwise it seems more like "People being awful to each other" and if that's really all that it is, then it's not a good post for MetaFilter.

I have a decent grasp of basic feminist and transgender issues and I'm vaguely familiar with this general dispute but not much more than that and definitely not this specific back and forth. It sounds interesting. The post made it seem a lot more like "Here's someone reacting to someone saying shitty things" which is a lot less interesting and is something we say about most single link blog op-ed types of posts.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 11:22 AM on July 11, 2013 [7 favorites]


The social issue people could stand to assume that most people around here are more likely to be making an in-principle philosophical point (sometimes in ignorance of how it will sound) than they are to be baldly asserting something offensive - so rather than immediately denouncing the, just say "I'm sure you meant the more in-principle thing, but your comment could also be taken like this, so could you clarify which you had in mind?" or "You may not realize this but that's actually a very common misunderstanding, check out this link for more" or whatever.

I feel compelled to point out that there's a long history of those 'in-principle philosophical points' in trans threads not actually being philosophical but are baldly asserting something offensive that gets doubled down on and doubled down on again. Assuming the most charitable reading possible has a history of being incorrect. Given that context, it is probably most helpful for people speaking purely abstractly to make that explicit or write comments long enough that it's clear they aren't talking about people's realities.
posted by hoyland at 11:23 AM on July 11, 2013 [16 favorites]


Yeah I agree with that. One of the issues we have with the "internet nitpicker" type of conversationalist is that they dig this deep hole around whatever their "Well actually..." angle, and presume that everyone must know that they're not a sexist/racist/homophobe and in reality people don't know that. I think some people could be more charitable in not assuming that, but not everyone is in a charitable frame of mind when they think someone is harassing them-by-proxy by making broad generalization about "people like them."
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 11:34 AM on July 11, 2013 [8 favorites]


One of the issues we have with the "internet nitpicker" type of conversationalist is that they dig this deep hole around whatever their "Well actually..." angle, and presume that everyone must know that they're not a sexist/racist/homophobe and in reality people don't know that. I think some people could be more charitable in not assuming that, but not everyone is in a charitable frame of mind when they think someone is harassing them-by-proxy by making broad generalization about "people like them."

The overlap between "internet nitpickers" and commenters being sexist/racist/homophobic/etc seems to be broadening on this site recently, often followed by the "I can't possibly see how you think I'm sexist/racist/homophobic/etc and that hurts" attempt to defuse the situation.
posted by zombieflanders at 11:42 AM on July 11, 2013 [9 favorites]


I could actually appreciate a link to trans 101, if someone would be kind enough to meMail me. Sincerely.

I know there's a word that scientifically represents entity-that-produces-the-sperm and a word that scientifically represents entity-that-produces-the-egg, and that those two words are not the same words that represent gender identity and related, less-fixed things, but I'd rather read the primer than guess at what they are.
posted by davejay at 11:46 AM on July 11, 2013 [1 favorite]


Nevermind, found JB's trans 101 link. I'm good.
posted by davejay at 11:47 AM on July 11, 2013 [1 favorite]


I know I would not have some of these discussions in person with a religious friend, or a trans friend, etc. in real life, but metafilter discussions seem different to me in that there are so many people that you can't cater to everyone's feelings. Maybe I'm wrong about that though, I've been thinking about it lately.

This is the big. Where does Metafilter fall on the continuum from dinner-party rules (avoid discussion of contentious topics, try to fit in, don't say anything that might make people upset) and open-forum rules (say whatever you want, let the artillery fly)? Go too far on the latter and you get the comments at Kevin Drum's page. Go too far on the other and you get a boring community where no one learns anything.
posted by ThatFuzzyBastard at 11:47 AM on July 11, 2013 [1 favorite]


I like to see discussion about topics like the deleted thread, but I feel sad when these discussions make others sad, and I feel annoyed when people shut down discussions with what strike me as obnoxious "go get remedial education at XXXX 101 links", particularly when I disagree with some of what is in those links for (what I obviously think, perhaps erroneously, are) good reasons. So I'm always left bemused.

I think the latter reaction--annoyance that people, often people who occupy the identities and positions that others feel entitled to debate without any information or expertise--do not want to spend their time doing constant basic education--is a kind of privilege, or a function of it. It's equally privileged for allies to express that exasperation, of course, but it is very much a function of privilege and of one's relative fortune and power to think that one is entitled to having old, often incorrect, often painful conversations whenever one feels "ready." It reminds me very much of when a student who misses my class deals with it by coming to me and saying "so what did I miss?" as though I ought to teach the class again for them.
posted by liketitanic at 11:48 AM on July 11, 2013 [7 favorites]


Okay, no, wait, I've read it and I'm still not good: I get that someone self-identifies as male or female (or something else) as a representation of their gender, but how are the produces-sperm and produces-eggs designations referred to, independently of gender, without causing offense?
posted by davejay at 11:49 AM on July 11, 2013 [1 favorite]


who the players are, more about them, more about the TERF label, why this controversy came up, something about the author maybe

Thanks, Jessamyn, that was helpful.
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 11:49 AM on July 11, 2013


The extra framing with regard to the Trans* v. TERF conflict would not have made things worse, but it would not have stopped the penis derail, either. In other words, I'm not seeing the connection between the framing request and the deletion reason.
posted by Sticherbeast at 11:52 AM on July 11, 2013


Ah. The furry derail. Bang on time.
posted by running order squabble fest at 10:59 AM on July 11 [9 favorites +] [!]


Damn guys. This is a case in point. I wanted a clarification on a point. I'm not trying to derail anything. If the graphic hadn't been posted I would never have brought it up.
posted by Ad hominem at 11:56 AM on July 11, 2013 [2 favorites]


nobeagle, to be clear, that comment wasn't mine, I did, however, think it was twisted either recklessly or maliciously. I assume the rest of your comment about how much education I need and how much blowback I'm getting is premised on you thinking that was my comment.

To me you appear to be emotionally missing that the non-yellow school busses haven't been Othered for much of their lives.

I think you're missing an important point, which is that the people who could be a trans ally is significantly larger than the number of people who agree with all the "necessary" theoretical background. I don't think you're going to reduce othering all that much until there is less of an entrenched camp/ideology component to it. It's only causing more othering when you tell someone they can't be on your side if they don't think everything you think.

I actually heard on the radio the other day that young people who support gay rights are actually more likely to think that being gay is or could be a choice than older people who support gay rights. Which makes sense; if you actually accept someone, it doesn't matter why they are the way they are. Older people were engaged in the gay-rights battles when they were on the losing side, and so it became very important for both sides to think "correctly".
posted by spaltavian at 11:59 AM on July 11, 2013 [12 favorites]


davejay: "Okay, no, wait, I've read it and I'm still not good: I get that someone self-identifies as male or female (or something else) as a representation of their gender, but how are the produces-sperm and produces-eggs designations referred to, independently of gender, without causing offense?"

I think no one actually has a solution to this. If I were talking about trans issues, I really might say 'egg-producing' or 'sperm-producing' if I needed to talk about the class of people who produce eggs or sperm. (Or 'people with vaginas' and 'people with penises' if possessing a particular set of genitals is what is actually relevant.)
posted by hoyland at 12:00 PM on July 11, 2013 [1 favorite]


The extra framing with regard to the Trans* v. TERF conflict would not have made things worse, but it would not have stopped the penis derail, either. In other words, I'm not seeing the connection between the framing request and the deletion reason.

I think the disconnect for me happened because there are two things going on. The Mods thought the quote set a bad tone and that the players needed additional framing.

ALSO, the usual Trans thread conversations broke out in the deleted thread and started up again here that might have been partially mitigated by appending Trans 101-type background.

I think this was not communicated well, and so it seemed as if the two issues were really one issue. Jessamyn's last reply to me seems to have clarified this (for me). Forgive me if I've misstated anyone's position.
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 12:01 PM on July 11, 2013


Damn guys. This is a case in point. I wanted a clarification on a point. I'm not trying to derail anything. If the graphic hadn't been posted I would never have brought it up.

There's a history of commentors who have made transphobic remarks steering the conversation towards otherkin and the like, purely because if MeFites aren't giving them the same breaks, they must be The True Transphobes. So it's a touchy subject.
posted by zombieflanders at 12:06 PM on July 11, 2013 [11 favorites]


You caught me. Always pushing the furry agenda.

No, darling. Pet the furry agenda, don't push it. Pet it. See? Nice agenda.
posted by octobersurprise at 12:06 PM on July 11, 2013 [31 favorites]


davejay, I think what you're looking for is "assigned male/female at birth" - or AMAB/AFAB. Of all the information in JB's links, that was the most useful to me, because I couldn't figure out how to talk about that in these sorts of discussions without upsetting people.
posted by Ragged Richard at 12:09 PM on July 11, 2013 [4 favorites]


Actually, davejay, what you might be looking for is 'assigned male/female at birth', which is not super precise (because what box gets ticked on a birth certificate is a judgement call to varying degrees), but might be good enough for when you're not talking about people's actual bodies.
posted by hoyland at 12:10 PM on July 11, 2013 [3 favorites]


I feel compelled to point out that there's a long history of those 'in-principle philosophical points' in trans threads not actually being philosophical but are baldly asserting something offensive that gets doubled down on and doubled down on again. Assuming the most charitable reading possible has a history of being incorrect. Given that context, it is probably most helpful for people speaking purely abstractly to make that explicit or write comments long enough that it's clear they aren't talking about people's realities.

I tried to be explicit.

Some people really do ask questions which could be called nitpicking or assumed to be bad faith participation, to broaden their horizons and better understand things surrounding practical implications of our society, trans* rights, and how things can best be made to work.

Go ahead, glance at my whole record of participation in that thread, as well as a few people that replied to me, and judge for yourself if I was nitpicking/trolling/shitstirring. I can toughen up my skin for the flames if you think I deserve them, for now or for then. I got some pissy, snarky replies which, I can say probably came from people assuming I was nit/troll/SSing, but I came out the other end with a better grasp and association of the issue at hand from primary sources. I'm willing to plod through those remarks to establish that I'm not that guy, because I got some really amazing responses/discussion as well, but some people might not be.

This, of course, is problematic because it puts the burden on the trans* advocate community to be educators and have the patience of Job. I know. That MUST get old. I don't know of a real world solution that will work to make all sides happy. People are going to skim posts and be pedantic if not downright shitstirrers and not read links and trans* advocates are operating from a position of oppression and exhaustion from having to reiterate and defend things from most-comers. I just don't know where to begin.

Disclaimer that I hope conveys where I'm coming from, namely not-shitstirrerland: this is not a "oh woe is me/us, we/I was discriminated against because I'm a cisgender straight (fe)male", nor do I want to depreciated the challenge it must be for trans* advocates to have to answer the same questions over and over. I'm just saying that a wide brush covers people who are on your side, or likely to be, just as well as it covers shitstirrers*. It's not an easy conversation, despite the fact that some would say it should be, and until it is there's going to have to be a lot of empathy and a lot of patience for people to sort things out in their head.

*Best identifying word ever.
posted by RolandOfEld at 12:11 PM on July 11, 2013 [5 favorites]


jessamyn, thank you for this explanation above. I think it was much clearer than the deletion reason given on the post.
posted by capricorn at 12:12 PM on July 11, 2013


According to this page, estimates of transwomen are 1 / 30 000, and estimates of transmen are 1 / 100 000, though the page also says that may underestimate true numbers. Even if those figures are indeed somewhat underestimated, they still suggest that most people are unlikely to actually know a trans person personally or at least be directly confronted by someone transitioning one way or the other (of course, those who spend time around LGBT communities are far more likely to have direct experience).

I think it stands to reason therefore that the "101" stuff is just something that has to be dealt with. I get that that must be frustrating for people that are ensconced in trans issues online, but metafilter is not a blog devoted to trans issues and it's unreasonable to expect the same about of knowledge and engagement.

When you bring up a topic with a general population that you spend a huge amount of your life thinking, talking, or writing about, it can be very difficult and frustrating to have to slow down an explain the basics - this is just as true for trans issues as it is for someone trying to explain their PhD thesis to someone with no background in the field.

I guess I'm trying to say that if you post something on a topic that is near and dear to your heart but is something that very, very few people have experience with, you need to prepare yourself to engage with people to explain exactly why their preconceptions may be incorrect, and not get angry/frustrated when not everyone gives you the same internet high-five for the post that you would have got had if you posted it on a dedicated tumblr.
posted by modernnomad at 12:17 PM on July 11, 2013 [9 favorites]


All things considered, I think MartinWisse was a little hard done by. If there are bars that must be reached or overcome to make a post on any issue, fine: set some policies down in writing. Otherwise, accept that a post is made in good faith and delete it for bad behaviour and not because the framing doesn't meet the unstated standards.
I sprinkle that observation with sugar and gentleness; I'm loathe to get into criticisms of the moderation around here and I acknowledge jessamyn's explanation gives some better context.
posted by peacay at 12:18 PM on July 11, 2013


All I know is that when I see the asterisk in trans*, my eyes automatically dart to the bottom of the entry to read the footnote.
posted by Longtime Listener at 12:18 PM on July 11, 2013 [12 favorites]


I feel compelled to point out that there's a long history of those 'in-principle philosophical points' in trans threads not actually being philosophical but are baldly asserting something offensive that gets doubled down on and doubled down on again. Assuming the most charitable reading possible has a history of being incorrect.

I was the match in the thread. I guess my main point was "I don't think biology is entirely mutable." My understanding of queer theory is that it conceives of sex and gender as entirely arbitrary social constructs, any expression of which is a willfull choice. I am not sure that that is true. It seems quite clear that they are in large part a social construct. It does not seem clear to me that they are entirely so.

I am not sure if you would call this viewpoint offensive or not.

Given that context, it is probably most helpful for people speaking purely abstractly to make that explicit or write comments long enough that it's clear they aren't talking about people's realities.

Well, the reason why I tried to keep my answer short and abstract was to keep things limited and focused, precisely because I know this issue a fraught issue for people, and I feel like it's easier to go back and forth and clarify things if you're sticking to one item at a time rather than trying to sum up and respond to a mini-dissertation.
posted by Diablevert at 12:19 PM on July 11, 2013 [1 favorite]


There's a history of commentors who have made transphobic remarks steering the conversation towards otherkin and the like, purely because if MeFites aren't giving them the same breaks, they must be The True Transphobes. So it's a touchy subject.

Thanks. I didn't know that. Thanks for telling me. I am honestly trying to understand what people are saying and I always assumed the * contained all sorts of things it apparently doesn't. I was curious after I saw the infographic.

Now I know. And knowing is half the battle.
posted by Ad hominem at 12:20 PM on July 11, 2013 [3 favorites]


No, half the battle is blue lasers. The other half is red lasers.
posted by zombieflanders at 12:21 PM on July 11, 2013 [8 favorites]


There's no way you can nest double quotes inside a double quote and not expect to make people angry.
posted by Mo' Money Moe Bandy at 12:24 PM on July 11, 2013 [5 favorites]


I guess my main point was "I don't think biology is entirely mutable."

For what it's worth (and we probably shouldn't actually be having this discussion), I actually have little to no idea what this means. I can read it in ways that make it an obvious statement and I can read it in ways that make it offensive. Your comments weren't what I was thinking of when I was talking about doubling down. (Though they were when I was talking about not being long enough to be clear. Maybe it was just me, but the whole thing seemed super cryptic.)
posted by hoyland at 12:36 PM on July 11, 2013 [2 favorites]


If there are bars that must be reached or overcome to make a post on any issue, fine: set some policies down in writing.

Which will inevitably lead to "This post conforms to points A, B and C of the Official How To Post About This Issue Guidelines; therefore, deleting it is a crime against MetaFilter itself" rules lawyering.

So the policy is that the mods are able to delete some posts, and posters are often (as in this case) encouraged to redo it in certain ways that might prevent a deletion of a resub. The policy is also that anyone is free to contact the mods and say, "Here's a post I'm working on -- do you think it will be a problem?"
posted by Etrigan at 12:45 PM on July 11, 2013 [2 favorites]


There's a number of things besides sex and gender that are like this — language and economics comes to mind. There's just some things that are so ubiquitous that people confuse familiarity with knowledge. The contentious derailing isn't a function of the Dunning–Kruger effect, it's a function of identity and sensitivity. People say wrongity wrong wrong things about economics and it bugs me but it doesn't hurt me — but a lot of the contentious comments made in sexism/feminism threads or trans* threads are genuinely hurtful to people.

Yeah, I came here to say something like this and I actually think what happens with language is really strikingly close to what happens on this topic. With language, people very often have the reaction/implicit belief, "I have a native language, therefore I know all about it / language." But this is just not the way something like language works. Why this slippery assumption is so easy to make I'm not exactly sure, though there are some obvious things to say.

I suspect that a lot of people also have an implicit reaction like, "I have a gender/sex/whatever identity, therefore I know all about it." I actually think I myself once had this reaction in some ways. But this is obviously problematic once you stop to think about it (especially if, like me, you've had to deal with the parallel reaction about language in a professional capacity): the first clause amounts in large part to something like "I have been able to assume something about myself [e.g. I am male & have a penis & those two are the same thing] without ever having had to question it my entire life until trans* people started becoming more public". In contrast to the language issue, on the topic of gender/sex/etc. this is inherently biased to the ones who have the privilege being the ones who will make the confused leap from familiarity to knowledge.

I'm not sure what the solution is except time, exposure, and small discussions with people who aren't closeminded but may not realize the leap they're making. I (and I think many other linguists) have thought about the parallel problem with language/linguistics for years and haven't come up with anything better than that. And I don't think linguistics is the easier of the two problems...
posted by advil at 12:46 PM on July 11, 2013 [5 favorites]


One of the issues we have with the "internet nitpicker" type of conversationalist is that they dig this deep hole around whatever their "Well actually..." angle, and presume that everyone must know that they're not a sexist/racist/homophobe and in reality people don't know that. I think some people could be more charitable in not assuming that, but not everyone is in a charitable frame of mind when they think someone is harassing them-by-proxy by making broad generalization about "people like them."

I guess you see this way more than I do, as I generally try to stay out of such threads now. The binary us vs them, goodies and baddies categorizations are the main reasons for that. If these sorts of discussions do typically turn into bad-faith trolling and devolve into echo-chamber shouting matches, then I'd be in all favour of more threads being nuked preemptively and earlier. Good people getting overwhelmed by over-long threads has a history of losing us some of our most interesting posters. There's a long list of names I miss seeing these days, many with associated MetaTalk burn-out threads.

I very much don't like the assumptions of bad faith on either side, but if that really is the norm, that trolling is really more prevalent than honest discussion, then I'd be in favour of a delete on sight policy. If present levels of moderation, which is probably close to the maximum sustainable or desirable, are not enough to cope, then this bath needs draining, and damn the devil's baby.
posted by bonehead at 12:52 PM on July 11, 2013 [7 favorites]


My understanding of queer theory is that it conceives of sex and gender as entirely arbitrary social constructs, any expression of which is a willfull choice.

This is not accurate, and it's why I think it's more useful to ask questions than to offer opinions when you don't know much about something.

But this is my understanding of it:

My understanding of queer theory is that it conceives of sex as biologically "real" but socially constructed, not rigidly deterministic (i.e. there is variation in how these apparently binary biological conditions manifest, and cultures in time assign meaning to them, but meaning does not naturally and explicitly emerge from them) and gender as entirely arbitrary a social constructs, any most expressions of which is aare willfull often unconscious, but nonetheless socially mediated and validated, choices.

So A) there is a key distinction between gender and sex, and B) you are incorrect that "queer theorists" think gender and sex are completely "arbitrary" or a matter of "will." It is not particularly controversial to say that some aspects of sex are not completely socially constructed. But it is a dick move to compare people to school buses.
posted by liketitanic at 12:53 PM on July 11, 2013 [11 favorites]


I guess I'm trying to say that if you post something on a topic that is near and dear to your heart but is something that very, very few people have experience with, you need to prepare yourself to engage with people to explain exactly why their preconceptions may be incorrect, and not get angry/frustrated when not everyone gives you the same internet high-five for the post that you would have got had if you posted it on a dedicated tumblr.

Maybe? But some posts about trans* people/issues that pertain to same attract the "but, penis!" comments, and others don't. The fpp of transportraits from a couple days ago attracted no "teach me 101" comments.
posted by rtha at 12:55 PM on July 11, 2013 [1 favorite]


I hear you Etrigan, but usually a redo is because the post was framed badly or was intended as flame bait or was egregiously partisan or was thin or the like. MartinWisse made a post in good faith and he's asked to give more background, educational material: that's not the usual case. I would never think to ask the mods about that. Sure, they delete whatever they deem necessary, but this Meta post - with which I agree - was only made because of the deletion reasoning.
posted by peacay at 12:56 PM on July 11, 2013


jessamyn: "Sure, I think a backgrounder on this specific issue (who the players are, more about them, more about the TERF label, why this controversy came up, something about the author maybe) would have been fine."

Quoted for truth. My first impulse when I see "radfems" is just to scan it as...radical feminism...which can mean so very many different things depending on your viewpoint. (My thoughts go to the early 1970s, but much of my family thinks that women who don't shave her legs or take her husband's last name are radical feminists.)

Oh, TERF, that kind of "Radfem," that's a whole other very specific thing that probably requires clarification of divergent definitions of "activist" and "radical" and "feminism" and so forth.
posted by desuetude at 12:58 PM on July 11, 2013 [2 favorites]


For what it's worth (and we probably shouldn't actually be having this discussion), I actually have little to no idea what this means. I can read it in ways that make it an obvious statement and I can read it in ways that make it offensive.

You're not the only one, as I am learning through reading this thread. We can certainly take any remaining discussion on this topic to me mail.

It's just hard, standing here with the burnt end between my fingertips, to not want to respond when people are like "time and time again in these trans threads, we see assholes saying X." If I was saying X and you think I'm an asshole for it, that fine, I can take my lumps, but I'd rather not be thought of as Another Asshole Who Says X if I was saying Y. (You can think of me as that Asshole Who Says Y, in that case).

(Though they were when I was talking about not being long enough to be clear. Maybe it was just me, but the whole thing seemed super cryptic.)

Well, it's kind of tough, in a fraught topic like this, to use analogies and metaphors; all analogies and metaphors are limited, and I find you hit those limits pretty quickly in these kinds of discussions. You also run the risk of inadvertently dragging in all kinds of other contentious topics. Yet you try and keep things too general and people can misread you, which is where I seem to have erred.
posted by Diablevert at 12:58 PM on July 11, 2013 [1 favorite]


RolandOfEld: "I tried to be explicit.

Some people really do ask questions which could be called nitpicking or assumed to be bad faith participation, to broaden their horizons and better understand things surrounding practical implications of our society, trans* rights, and how things can best be made to work.
"

The reason that's a problem is because it was completely irrelevant. Six-year old children do not undergo reassignment surgery - they don't even take hormones or hormone-blockers. There is an explicit tendency of uninformed people to gleefully slide to the bottom of a perceived slippery slope just to make every conversation about absurd things that they assume happen (and make the issue so much more thorny, I hope you can understand where I'm coming from, I'm just worried about the children, you see) but don't actually happen. There is an explicit tendency to ignore what is actually happening and turn all trans conversation into hypotheticals to justify why they have a problem with trans things existing or happening.


davejay: "Okay, no, wait, I've read it and I'm still not good: I get that someone self-identifies as male or female (or something else) as a representation of their gender, but how are the produces-sperm and produces-eggs designations referred to, independently of gender, without causing offense?"

There is also an explicit tendency to get hung up on terminology that doesn't matter. Here, we're talking about trans people and feminism, and out of nowhere someone starts handwringing, like, oh god, but if trans people exist how can we have biology because this PC terminology is getting so out of hand that we're heading into a genderless dystopia I just think we need some basic ways to refer to people that make sure the cisnormative establishment isn't actually challenged. We have ways for people who need to talk about things like genitalia and chromosomes to do so, but why the hell do you feel the need to talk about genitalia and chromosomes in every trans thread? As a trans person, do you know what this feels like? It feels like someone coming in and interrupting discussion to say, yeah, you're a woman, but you know you have a dick, right? So there are definitely ways for me to let you know that you're sort of really a man that are totally kosher because science.
posted by Corinth at 12:59 PM on July 11, 2013 [22 favorites]


It's just hard, standing here with the burnt end between my fingertips, to not want to respond when people are like "time and time again in these trans threads, we see assholes saying X." If I was saying X and you think I'm an asshole for it, that fine, I can take my lumps, but I'd rather not be thought of as Another Asshole Who Says X if I was saying Y. (You can think of me as that Asshole Who Says Y, in that case).

Where this starts to look like bad faith is when you ignore the folks, including me, who have tried to engage you about why you were actually saying X, even though you don't think you were.
posted by liketitanic at 1:01 PM on July 11, 2013 [4 favorites]


Yes, they are. We all paid the same five bucks.

Yeah, and that in no way obligated us to participate in every conversation. In fact, I'd bet very few payed their money down thinking "Great, now I'm going to comment in every post!" So I think the assumption that we all pick and choose what conversations we participate in isn't that far off. Since we do show that agency, I think it's not really asking that much to ask that occasionally people use it to not turn every conversation into the one they want, and let the ones others want to have happen. It's a basic politeness and respect thing.

Also, there are limits to what people can say in their comments. One of those is that you have to stay on topic with what-ever the links in the post are, so if the link is about a higher level discussion or sharing personal stories, it is likely going to be a derail to turn it into a 101 discussion. If all you have to say on a subject is about a basic issue, and the post itself isn't about that basic issue, you might not be allowed to say anything. That can suck, but... thems the rules.
posted by Gygesringtone at 1:07 PM on July 11, 2013 [2 favorites]


I think it stands to reason therefore that the "101" stuff is just something that has to be dealt with. I get that that must be frustrating for people that are ensconced in trans issues online, but metafilter is not a blog devoted to trans issues and it's unreasonable to expect the same about of knowledge and engagement.

When you bring up a topic with a general population that you spend a huge amount of your life thinking, talking, or writing about, it can be very difficult and frustrating to have to slow down an explain the basics - this is just as true for trans issues as it is for someone trying to explain their PhD thesis to someone with no background in the field.


I think what people aren't getting, though, is that Trans 101 (or Race 101, or Women's Studies 101) is not the same as trying to explain your Ph.D. topic, it's trying to explain your identity.

I think the equivalent parallel would be that every time a male poster made a post about anything, he first had to explain why he thought of himself as male, and "I have a penis" or "I've always thought of myself as male" would not be considered the end of the story. Nor would any previous explanations be ok, he'd have to make the same arguments every time, probably answering the same questions but to different commenters. Do you see how tiring and frustrating and burn-out-producing that would be?
posted by jaguar at 1:10 PM on July 11, 2013 [9 favorites]


The reason that's a problem is because it was completely irrelevant.

Yea, and cats in a box are irrelevant to physics as well, but they still come up because they're useful as an aid to understanding.

Again, again, I know there are shitstirrers and this is a hard discussion to have with the general populace... But there are people asking questions that aren't those shitstirrers and unless you're willing to discard them instead of having them becoming educated, empathetic, and hopefully with you, rather than just out there in the ether and not giving a shit either way then it's not great to engage offensively rather than cooperatively.

See the unquoted portions of my previous comment here for my thoughts on how that's tough in a practical sense because the patience of Job and all that jazz. I just don't see how instantly assuming all-comers with questions, that they may have because they don't already ya'know grok the whole picture, is something that should be defended as prudent instead of a necessity of last resort.
posted by RolandOfEld at 1:14 PM on July 11, 2013 [3 favorites]


I very much don't like the assumptions of bad faith on either side, but if that really is the norm, that trolling is really more prevalent than honest discussion, then I'd be in favour of a delete on sight policy. If present levels of moderation, which is probably close to the maximum sustainable or desirable, are not enough to cope, then this bath needs draining, and damn the devil's baby.

The thing is, these threads usually go fine until the commenters (and it's usually the same ones in each thread) drop in and pull the True Transphobes/otherkin/moral panic/"some of my best friends are trans* but..." card. They're not unaware of the problem, they just get all defensive when people tell them for the nth time that what they're saying is at best problematic and at worst flat-out offensive. Sometimes, they're doing it for what appears to be lulz, or because they like talking a lot and being "edgy," or they're transphobic and proud, or because they feel like their viewpoint is a minority on MeFite and that is Something That Must Be Corrected No Matter The Cost (this is often accompanied by a MeFites and Mods are PC Fascists flameout in-thread or on the grey). I feel like stopping trans* threads because of a few transphobic assholes is a huge overreaction, especially since we've lost a couple trans* MeFites due to said assholes. That just means their assholery wins, and I think MeFi is better than that.

Some people really do ask questions which could be called nitpicking or assumed to be bad faith participation, to broaden their horizons and better understand things surrounding practical implications of our society, trans* rights, and how things can best be made to work.

That may be the case sometimes, but when it's the same commenters doing it over and over again in thread after thread, I think we can discount that excuse for them.
posted by zombieflanders at 1:15 PM on July 11, 2013 [9 favorites]


That may be the case sometimes, but when it's the same commenters doing it over and over again in thread after thread, I think we can discount that excuse for them.

Of course, goes without saying. A thousand times.
posted by RolandOfEld at 1:16 PM on July 11, 2013


*Correction. It should go without saying.
posted by RolandOfEld at 1:18 PM on July 11, 2013


Do you see how tiring and frustrating and burn-out-producing that would be?

I absolutely do, but my point was that given that the extreme rarity of trans people in North American society as opposed to say, women or ethnic minorities in your other examples, this is unlikely to change for quite some time. You can rage all you want that hundreds of millions of men and women have been taught by their parents, friends, and society in general from the age of 2 onwards that "boys have penises and girls have vaginas", but that won't change the fact that that is how they have been indoctrinated.

For now, Trans 101 remains necessary, as frustrating as I'm sure as that is.
posted by modernnomad at 1:18 PM on July 11, 2013 [1 favorite]


I think this was a good call by the mods. However, the discussion here - some of it - has convinced me that there is scope for a good, carefully-framed post. I don't think giving relevant background means reiterating the 101 stuff.
posted by Segundus at 1:19 PM on July 11, 2013


Where this starts to look like bad faith is when you ignore the folks, including me, who have tried to engage you about why you were actually saying X, even though you don't think you were.

I would like to respond to both your recent comments more fully but I won't be able to for some hours. I did want to at least add this now so you wouldn't think I was ignoring you.
posted by Diablevert at 1:19 PM on July 11, 2013


I hear you Etrigan, but usually a redo is because the post was framed badly or was intended as flame bait or was egregiously partisan or was thin or the like. MartinWisse made a post in good faith and he's asked to give more background, educational material: that's not the usual case.

Six FPPs were deleted yesterday. Deletion reasons: 50 percent had an explicit or implied "more background, educational material" request in the deletion reason; the other three were pretty uncontroversial deletions. This post had one link, one quote and zero explanatory text. Whether it was a good thin post is certainly up for discussion, but it was thin.
posted by Etrigan at 1:20 PM on July 11, 2013 [4 favorites]

It's just hard, standing here with the burnt end between my fingertips, to not want to respond when people are like "time and time again in these trans threads, we see assholes saying X." If I was saying X and you think I'm an asshole for it, that fine, I can take my lumps, but I'd rather not be thought of as Another Asshole Who Says X if I was saying Y. (You can think of me as that Asshole Who Says Y, in that case).
If a bunch of people in the community you're trying to engage with seem to be indicating that you said X, is it possible that you did, in fact, say X even though you meant to say Y?

Start there and I suspect you'll find a font of goodwill. "Apparently I said X. I did not mean to. I'm sorry for saying X and for the hurt and trouble it has caused. I was trying to say Y and failed." Etc., etc., etc.
posted by introp at 1:22 PM on July 11, 2013 [3 favorites]


For now, Trans 101 remains necessary, as frustrating as I'm sure as that is.

In general, yes. Here, it doesn't have to happen every single post on any trans-related topic. For example, we're at the point where if someone has a problem with the term "cis" we point them to the very long MeTa and delete the comment as a derail. Likewise with persistent or deliberate misgendering - there's an old MeTa, people can go read it and come back to us or to MeTa to discuss it further if they need to, but they don't get to have that debate in a thread not specifically about it.

There's always a balance, since the population of Metafilter is fluid and there will always be new people unfamiliar with local usage, but we have structures in place to accomodate them, and we can actually have conversations where not everyone understands everything in them. Which is why Metafilter remains an interesting place, in my opinion.
posted by restless_nomad (staff) at 1:25 PM on July 11, 2013


Ah. The furry derail. Bang on time.

Sound and furry, signifying othering.
posted by jamjam at 1:26 PM on July 11, 2013 [17 favorites]


I feel like stopping trans* threads because of a few transphobic assholes is a huge overreaction, especially since we've lost a couple trans* MeFites due to said assholes. That just means their assholery wins, and I think MeFi is better than that.

I think it's important to realize though that the cost of that principle is a real loss of participation. It's happened before with I/P threads and will happen again with some other issue. In my view, these septic threads cause the site to shed membership. Is there anything of value to be had from them that outweighs that cost?
posted by bonehead at 1:27 PM on July 11, 2013 [3 favorites]


TBH, I think the mods need to start giving time-outs the transphobic assholes when they get up to their shenanigans, but that's not my call.
posted by zombieflanders at 1:28 PM on July 11, 2013 [5 favorites]


Also, the transphobic assholes tend to either be of a number of implicit and explicit -phobic (or -ist) bents, or have made trans* issues their pet peeve.
posted by zombieflanders at 1:30 PM on July 11, 2013 [2 favorites]


Also, and I have to step out because I really should be doing other things:

I am totally willing to organize and "guide" a Metafiltery offsite reading/discussion group about gender identity and gender theory (like the book club, I guess), if this is actually a thing, that people want a space for talking through how to understand this with allies who are willing and able to talk through the stuff that can inflame a public audience and venue. Drop me a note if you're interested in helping or participating. Despite my expressions of annoyance on the Internet, I am an excellent teacher of theory and am invested in helping other people understand how to hold stuff that challenges their normative identities.
posted by liketitanic at 1:30 PM on July 11, 2013 [3 favorites]


Is there anything of value to be had from them that outweighs that cost?


People ignorant of trans* issues learn something?

Plus, sometimes the loss of membership works both ways--sometimes people's transphobia causes them to disable their account or get banned. Its not a big loss to the site IMO.
posted by MisantropicPainforest at 1:35 PM on July 11, 2013


For example, we're at the point where if someone has a problem with the term "cis" we point them to the very long MeTa and delete the comment as a derail.

If you're speaking as a mod, is that official policy: no discussion about the merits or propriety of the word "cis"? Presumably that wouldn't be true in an FPP that was explicitly about the debate surrounding the word—or would such an FPP be deleted? The reason it occurs to me to ask is that a recent FPP was directly about the word (although that's not all it was about) and there was pushback from some members against talking about that aspect, but I didn't get the sense it was a mod position.
posted by cribcage at 1:36 PM on July 11, 2013 [2 favorites]


You can rage all you want that hundreds of millions of men and women have been taught by their parents, friends, and society in general from the age of 2 onwards that "boys have penises and girls have vaginas", but that won't change the fact that that is how they have been indoctrinated.

Sure, but you're acting as if any given FPP is the first time some random Mefite will have found out that trans people exist, which simply beggars belief. Surely we should be able to expect some of this processing of challenges to their assumptions happened at some earlier point in their lives?

(That trans and intersex people exist was covered (admittedly in terrible fashion) in eighth grade science for me, by the way. I have no idea if this makes my school a crazy outlier.)
posted by hoyland at 1:41 PM on July 11, 2013 [2 favorites]


I suspect intelligent debate about the use of 'cis' is allowed, I think what r_n was talking about was when people complain about 'cis' like they do in the linked thread.

And what debate is there about 'cis'? I honestly don't know.
posted by MisantropicPainforest at 1:42 PM on July 11, 2013


The reason it occurs to me to ask is that a recent FPP was directly about the word

That's a really curious reading of that post.
posted by hoyland at 1:42 PM on July 11, 2013 [3 favorites]


"Is there anything of value to be had from them that outweighs that cost?"

Yes, because things get better here because of them.

I left during the 2007 Sexism Wars and, at the time, I was pretty sure that nothing would get better. But it did! It's gotten so much better. When I came back in late 2011, I didn't plan on staying around, I only intended to comment in a specific thread that especially interested me. But the place has changed for the better. Even so, a MeTa thread last August about sexism really, really got me down all over again and I left. I didn't plan to come back, but I did for the marathon thread. I'm glad I did.

That doesn't mean that another sexism thread won't make me really, really sad and despairing, because I'm very sensitive to it and I may decide that I am happier being away from MeFi.

But there's so much less sexism here than there used to be and it's only because of all the pain and struggle that everyone slogged through to make it better. There's no avoiding this.

The same thing has been happening with trans* issues here and, speaking for myself, I've found it inspiring and wonderful. And painful. But just since I've been here in this guise, it's so obviously improved. People have learned things, the community as a whole is more sensitive. Discussing this stuff uncovers explicit ignorance and bigotry and seeing it is painful. But it was already there and was already contributing to an unfriendly environment — uncovering it makes it possible to weed it out. And that's what's happening.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 1:43 PM on July 11, 2013 [21 favorites]


And what debate is there about 'cis'? I honestly don't know.

Just to be super-clear, that's not a can I was looking to open and I'm totally fine with the mods deleting my comment (and this one) if the conversation looks to head that way. I only meant to ask about policy.
posted by cribcage at 1:44 PM on July 11, 2013


If you're speaking as a mod, is that official policy

There's a difference between talking about how things generally work here and what is written down policy. What r_n has described is how we often handle people who jump into threads on completely different trans* topics with "You know I don't like the way cis sounds, it's weird. Why do we have to have a special word?" types of comments which are basic derails. This is no different than jumping into a thread about BBQ with some sort of "meat is murder" comments or jumping into a thread about vegan desserts with some sort of "Bacon is tasty!" asides.

People can talk about the topic as it's relevant to the thread but they can't just demand that people explain to them something that has been discussed to death on MetaFilter when it's not on the topic of the thread. I can come up with other examples if you like (suggesting adoption to someone in AskMe who has questions about getting an abortion, etc). It's all case-by-case but maybe five years ago this wasn't well-trod ground in MeFi (what does cis mean, why do people use it) but now it is. So we can point people to that discussion and not keep it from derailing threads about something entirely different.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 1:45 PM on July 11, 2013 [1 favorite]


Understood, thanks.
posted by cribcage at 1:46 PM on July 11, 2013


And what debate is there about 'cis'? I honestly don't know.

Cis: The meTa.
posted by rtha at 1:48 PM on July 11, 2013 [2 favorites]


I continue to think we should distinguish between:
a) The people who have, to my mind, really argued in favor of anti-trans positions -- and I think there are *very* few of them here, even if they cause disproportionate frustration, hurt, etc. Some are already gone. Some have changed their minds.
and
b) The people who have tried to talk about some trans-related topic without any anti-trans intentions/feelings, and inadvertently stepped into it the wrong way (wrong choice of phrasing, making their point too briefly, accidentally introducing an issue that's used as a dogwhistle by other people even though they don't mean it that way, etc). I think there are a lot more of (b) here.

I know (a) are really frustrating and upsetting. I know there's a risk of indulging (a) for a short time, if we treat people as if they may not really intend/realize the offensive consequences of the words/ideas they've mentioned. I think that around here, most people are not of type (a), and it's better to take the risk and then once someone makes clear they really do mean it, explaining why they're wrong... rather than assuming people know the consequences of what they've said.

I think this is a domain of terminology/understandings that's pretty new and counterintuitive even to people of good will who think trans folks are just great. It's easy for someone whose heart is in the right place to set a foot wrong, accidentally using wrong terms or whatever. I think that is by far the most common thing that happens here, which leads to people getting upset etc, when a generous attitude on both sides of "woops, yeah, probably you don't realize" and allowing people to walk back without bringing out terms like "bigoted" would be better for discussion. (Again, user hat not mod hat talking here.)
posted by LobsterMitten (staff) at 1:49 PM on July 11, 2013 [15 favorites]


if any given FPP is the first time some random Mefite will have found out that trans people exist, which simply beggars belief. Surely we should be able to expect some of this processing of challenges to their assumptions happened at some earlier point in their lives?

That trans and intersex people exist was covered (admittedly in terrible fashion) in eighth grade science for me, by the way. I have no idea if this makes my school a crazy outlier.


I went to school in the American Deep South. This is the first I've heard of trans topics being covered in schools. The closest the conversation came in our school was when we discussed the fate of a male student that had a tragic accident that left him without his genitals. Gay students acted at their own, very serious persona,l risk. So, yea, I'm not saying I didn't know trans people existed before I met Metafilter, but I will say that I really didn't grok things all that well until a discussion here. Citation.
posted by RolandOfEld at 1:51 PM on July 11, 2013 [1 favorite]


Is there anything of value to be had from them that outweighs that cost?

Ivan said a lot of what I would have said, but I'd like to add one more point: This is, at its core, a thread about how to construct an FPP on this subject such that it won't be deleted. So, behind everything else, this is a thread about how to give people a voice. For me, that is the definition of adding value.
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 1:51 PM on July 11, 2013 [2 favorites]


I'd like to see a good mefi post covering Trans-Exclusionary Radical Feminism. There's something there that I need to understand, something I can't quite get at, and it bothers me.
posted by Annika Cicada at 1:52 PM on July 11, 2013 [2 favorites]


LobsterMitten: I don't want to overparse what you said, but could I impose upon you for a clarification?

Did you mean to put forth the proposition that those folks who argue in favor of anti-trans positions are objectively wrong, and that this is an offical mod position?

Or am I overparsing what you wrote?
posted by DWRoelands at 1:53 PM on July 11, 2013


There's always a balance, since the population of Metafilter is fluid and there will always be new people unfamiliar with local usage, but we have structures in place to accomodate them, and we can actually have conversations where not everyone understands everything in them. Which is why Metafilter remains an interesting place, in my opinion.

As a fairly new user, I haven't really found that to be true. It's like joining any long-standing community - there is a unique set of values, terminology, in-jokes, and history between users that can be quite confounding for a new member (despite reading the FAQ/Wiki) - and often I've seen that innocent questions or ignorant remarks aren't addressed with a sense of welcoming or accomodation (should they be?) but rather with snarkiness, anger, or dismissiveness. I've found for the most part, I'm afraid of writing a comment that says the wrong thing or the right thing the wrong way or misunderstands something because I've seen the way some users here react. It leaves a feeling of walking on eggshells. Just my personal experience on this site so far.
posted by averageamateur at 1:54 PM on July 11, 2013 [9 favorites]


RolandOfEld: "But there are people asking questions that aren't those shitstirrers and unless you're willing to discard them instead of having them becoming educated, empathetic, and hopefully with you, rather than just out there in the ether and not giving a shit either way then it's not great to engage offensively rather than cooperatively.

See the unquoted portions of my previous comment here for my thoughts on how that's tough in a practical sense because the patience of Job and all that jazz. I just don't see how instantly assuming all-comers with questions, that they may have because they don't already ya'know grok the whole picture, is something that should be defended as prudent instead of a necessity of last resort.
"

"Having them become educated" is a great way of avoiding saying that what you seem to want me to do is explicitly handhold uninformed people from wherever they are into the Land Of Enlightenment every time. This is even more absurd given that your question in the Privilege to Pee thread ("What if Coy's parents sue to get her reassignment surgery?") could be easily avoided and even answered by reading material already extant in the thread (or soon to be posted in it) and listening to more knowledgeable people (or, heaven forbid, actually Googling it or Wikipediaing it yourself) talking about the timeline and gatekeeping practices governing the treatment of trans children. But instead of doing that, people who don't know anything waltz in and overconfidently make a lot of noise about nonsense that doesn't exist or ridiculous hypotheticals, and act indignant when we sigh at them and are like seriously? And this happens over and over.


modernnomad: "I absolutely do, but my point was that given that the extreme rarity of trans people in North American society as opposed to say, women or ethnic minorities in your other examples, this is unlikely to change for quite some time. You can rage all you want that hundreds of millions of men and women have been taught by their parents, friends, and society in general from the age of 2 onwards that "boys have penises and girls have vaginas", but that won't change the fact that that is how they have been indoctrinated.

Okay, look. I'm not not "raging all I want" about the other hundreds of millions of people. I'm saying that here, on MeFi, you have a surprisingly rich crowd of informed people to listen to if you can stay quiet long enough, including trans people, and it's fucking enormously patronizing to tell a trans person, hey, I dunno if you know this or not, but people kind of hate you and that's a fact you can't change. Just sayin', as a "tough luck" excuse for why I have to spend extra time justifying my existence here, in these discussions.
posted by Corinth at 1:55 PM on July 11, 2013 [18 favorites]


hey, I dunno if you know this or not, but people kind of hate you and that's a fact you can't change. Just sayin',

Not at all what I said, so not sure if you're just trolling me or what. What I said was that the vast majority of people have little to no experience with trans individuals, and thus it is going to be common to get a "but boys have penises" kind of response since that it is how they have been socialized since birth. My encouragement was for people to be prepared to deal with that and to accept, even on MeFi, that Trans 101 will need to be doled out.
posted by modernnomad at 2:01 PM on July 11, 2013 [6 favorites]


what you seem to want me to do is explicitly handhold uninformed people from wherever they are into the Land Of Enlightenment every time.

Incorrect, as I've stated several times in this very thread by saying that a practical solution is very hard to come by. Basically I'm saying that an understanding that a person can actually be approaching things in good faith and still say sill things because they're uniformed, don't grok things that are hard to grok, and/or don't know trans* people from previous experience is worthwhile.

I guess zombieflanders came as close as I've seen so far to a practical solution that might work to improve the discussion here, but surely this is already being done so it's just a matter of how long to delay before hushing up the offensive party. Which brings us full circle to the meta at hand, as is often the case, the problem is where to draw the line and when. Not easy to answer.
posted by RolandOfEld at 2:03 PM on July 11, 2013


That trans and intersex people exist was covered (admittedly in terrible fashion) in eighth grade science for me

This may have to do with your age relative to the age of a lot of people here. I totally hear you and agree with your general points, but many of us did not learn anything like this via any sort of formal educational process. I went to a bleeding edge progressive college but that was in the eighties and this was still not territory that was well covered even in feminism/gender studies classes. Depending on what sort of circles people run in, this actually may be really new territory for a lot of people, and that seems to be what some people are telling us.

that this is an offical mod position?

Without putting words in LMs mouth, people who explicitly state that they are bigoted and acting in a negative/biased way towards members of our community intentionally because of, in this case, their transgender identification will not be allowed to continue interacting here. This is a complicated and fraught topic and I am overgeneralizing and perhaps oversimplifying the problem here and our mod approach but in the cases we've dealt with historically, this is how we've dealt with them. Official mod position is CASE BY CASE as always. People who appear to be making a good faith effort to figure out how to communicate and interact appropriately here in a heterogenous group will be given a lot of chances to try to get it right.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 2:08 PM on July 11, 2013 [3 favorites]


Is there a master list of topics which people get consistently butthurt about even if framed delicately?
posted by Teakettle at 2:15 PM on July 11, 2013


The word butthurt is one of them. If you are not trolling, ask that question in a different way,
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 2:16 PM on July 11, 2013 [23 favorites]


LobsterMitten, I just want to say that this is not my interpretation and I think you're being overly generous to a lot of people, and also point out that I think you're hyperbolizing about oversensitive overreaction to innocent missteps and that this is itself a dog-whistle used by people convinced there is some politically correct cabal controlling discourse on this site: "Why do these transsexuals keep getting so upset when I accidentally call them the wrong gender or insist on using the term normal instead of cis? They really need to lighten up, because I'm feeling silenced!"


modernnomad: "Not at all what I said, so not sure if you're just trolling me or what. What I said was that the vast majority of people have little to no experience with trans individuals, and thus it is going to be common to get a "but boys have penises" kind of response since that it is how they have been socialized since birth. My encouragement was for people to be prepared to deal with that and to accept, even on MeFi, that Trans 101 will need to be doled out."

I'm not trolling you, I just don't know why you think that this is something that needs to be said. If you just pretend that trans people have MP3 players embedded in their heads that play "but boys have penises and girls have vaginas" over and over on repeat all the time, you will not be far off. I don't need you to tell me what society thinks of me because society already tells me what it thinks of me all the time. You may think this is some revelation that you're sharing that will help me understand why I have to be patient, but it's background noise to my life.


RolandOfEld: "Incorrect, as I've stated several times in this very thread by saying that a practical solution is very hard to come by. "

And I'm saying that a practical solution is easy: that uninformed cis people should speak less and listen more, or do more research on their own if this is something they want to actively engage with. Not surprisingly, this doesn't actually happen because of cis privilege. But really, I bet you'd get a lot more out of threads with high-level discussion between people already on the same page than jumping in to drag everything down to the lowest common denominator. There are already tons of old threads you can read if you want that experience.
posted by Corinth at 2:19 PM on July 11, 2013 [11 favorites]


I don't need you to tell me what society thinks of me because society already tells me what it thinks of me all the time. You may think this is some revelation that you're sharing that will help me understand why I have to be patient, but it's background noise to my life.


I'm going for a walk now, but I'll just say that you appear to be adopting the most disingenuous interpretation of what I'm writing, for whatever reason.
posted by modernnomad at 2:23 PM on July 11, 2013 [9 favorites]


According to this page, estimates of transwomen are 1 / 30 000, and estimates of transmen are 1 / 100 000, though the page also says that may underestimate true numbers.

If that's the case, then there's approximately 5,000 trans people in the States....out of 300,000,000.

What I'm GENUINELY wondering is why it has become an issue on metafilter. I mean are the fpps started to get into these metas where people can have a free-for-all without regard for the rules as this is grey and not blue? If so, not cool mefites.

Or is this an issue which is becoming more of a presence in the consciousness of Americans because of recent news coverage? If so, then maybe the mods need to re-adjust what is and isn't "done well" on metafilter. Because despite the fact that most mefites are good people in real life (like most people who are not on metafilter), as more topics touch on things which affect smaller populations, there will be more things that are not "done well" on metafilter despite the fact that they are basic human rights issues.
posted by hal_c_on at 2:24 PM on July 11, 2013


it's fucking enormously patronizing to tell a trans person, hey, I dunno if you know this or not, but people kind of hate you and that's a fact you can't change. Just sayin', as a "tough luck" excuse for why I have to spend extra time justifying my existence here, in these discussions.

And this, too, is part of the insta-grar on the topic. Many people think (perhaps wrongly) that there's a difference between, for example, a transwoman or a woman-born woman. The topic of the FPP was that radfems think that difference is of tremendous significance, while others here think it's of very little significance, and some think there is no difference at all (or at least none that can be stated without causing hurt). But no one here is calling for extermination of trans* people, and implying that they are is not going to lower the temperature.
posted by ThatFuzzyBastard at 2:24 PM on July 11, 2013 [5 favorites]


I've gone back and skimmed through the first few dozen comments of the first Coy Mathis thread, and what I'm seeing does not match the "person who asks innocent question accidentally steps in it, gets shit on by people who know more" thing that's being presented as what happens in those threads (well, specifically, I guess that thread).

I see a few people saying "Thing I don't know, question, plz halp" and people responding with "Here is an explanation, free of snark."

I see way more people repeatedly insisting that (for instance) a six-year-old cannot possibly know their own mind or gender and [bad analogies] and "but what about other students who will be squicked their feelings should be given priority." People responded to those with varying degrees of snark, from none to 11, and even after a no-snark response, a number of those commenters continued to push their point as if it hadn't been addressed at all.
posted by rtha at 2:24 PM on July 11, 2013 [12 favorites]


I don't know how many people are deliberately dog-whistling on MetaFilter. I tend to agree with LobsterMitten that it's a small number, but I'm sure there are some.

Having said that, there are also a few people on the other side of these conversations who seem to show up specifically for the fight. It has honestly occurred to me that at least one person might not be earnest and might be flat-out trolling this site. It's probably not helpful to point fingers, but as an abstract principle it's something to keep in mind.
posted by cribcage at 2:27 PM on July 11, 2013 [2 favorites]


Teakettle: "Is there a master list of topics..."

There are a number of topics which seem to attract angry arguments when they're raised in posts.

Trans* topics
Political shenanigans
Religion (in general)
Atheism
Poverty / Class Strata
Obesity
Racism
Police brutality
Child abuse
Sexism
Ageism
Women's issues
Grooming habits
MRA
Rape / Sexual Harrassment
Theists or Atheists behaving badly (Such as the Catholic Church's scandals or Richard Dawkins saying theists are no better than child abusers)
Circumcision
Abortion
Various equality struggles (including religious opposition to gay marriage)
Adoption / Infertility
Israel / Palestine
Conflating anti-zionism with anti-semitism
Ayn Rand
Apple / Google / Amazon / Microsoft / Android (And on rare occasions linux)
GMO foods
Pseudoscience
The Pronunciation of "Mefi"
Vaccinations
Nazis (Everywhere, not just on MeFi. Godwin's Law)
Big Metal Chickens :)

Etc.,
posted by zarq at 2:34 PM on July 11, 2013 [5 favorites]


I would like to see the original article reposted in whatever reframing it takes (except for one that takes a "two sides" approach, of course). I'm happy with Trans 101 stuff tacked onto the end of every single trans thread because I think it really does help these threads to go less poorly. I am sort of bothered with the implication (intended or not; I'll assume not, 'cause mods here are usually inhumanly reasonable) that the post was deleted because it's "too angry." It is about hate groups that target an already victimized minority; it's worth talking about, but even completely neutral framings are going be pretty angry. I'm really surprised by the deletion; I'm not sure threads about traumas certain groups of people have experienced ever go well, but I am kind of uncomfortable with both the reasons for the deletion and with where the thread was going.

If little Trans 101 footnotes can help curb some of the more absurd derails in these threads, their inclusion is a good thing; I want 100% glurge-free stuff like this to be able to be discussed here, because the reality for most of us is that glurge is a very limited resource.
posted by byanyothername at 2:36 PM on July 11, 2013 [2 favorites]


5k trans*? And I happen to have 2 in my extended family in Minnesota and know a bunch out in the Bay Area? Seems unlikely.

This study from UCLA's Law School estimates at least 700k
posted by airing nerdy laundry at 2:37 PM on July 11, 2013 [3 favorites]


5k trans*? And I happen to have 2 in my extended family in Minnesota and know a bunch out in the Bay Area? Seems unlikely.

Yeah, that number seems absurd to me too. Counting Mefites, it would suggest I personally know something like 0.5% of all the trans people in the country.
posted by restless_nomad (staff) at 2:38 PM on July 11, 2013 [16 favorites]


Re-reading my comment, I realize "woman-born woman" might itself seem like a dogwhistle or hurtful term, for which I apologize. Not sure what term would make the distinction more accurately, though, as the radfems would certainly welcome many who could not be described as "cis."
posted by ThatFuzzyBastard at 2:38 PM on July 11, 2013


What I'm GENUINELY wondering is why it has become an issue on metafilter.

Apart from anything else, it may just be that, even given how shitty MeFi can be around trans issues, it's still a saver place to talk about these issues than elsewhere on the internet. We've got a fairly large, fairly active population of trans* posters, therefore it's not surprising that posts relevant to their interests get made.

Myself, I'm both interested in social justice topics and have been interested in trans* issues ever since I've made friends who are trans*.
posted by MartinWisse at 2:40 PM on July 11, 2013 [1 favorite]


jessamyn: "The word butthurt is one of them. If you are not trolling, ask that question in a different way,"

And this is a real thing and a sincere response, no fooling.
posted by boo_radley at 2:42 PM on July 11, 2013 [1 favorite]


ThatFuzzyBastard: "Re-reading my comment, I realize "woman-born woman" might itself seem like a dogwhistle or hurtful term, for which I apologize. Not sure what term would make the distinction more accurately, though, as the radfems would certainly welcome many who could not be described as "cis.""

TERFs usually use "womyn-born-womyn," and they accept trans men because they don't see them as men (which is ugh). The term the trans community uses is, as stated above, Assigned Female At Birth, or AFAB (and AMAB for the other way).
posted by Corinth at 2:43 PM on July 11, 2013 [2 favorites]


The Pronunciation of "Mefi"

Look, if you insist on saying it like "meffy," you're a filthy liar and you deserve whatever horrors are visited upon you, it's that simple.
posted by zombieflanders at 2:44 PM on July 11, 2013 [5 favorites]


also -- if Trans 101 is a real thing that would help metafilter in a real way, would it be useful to have it in the wiki somehow?
posted by boo_radley at 2:44 PM on July 11, 2013


boo_radley: "also -- if Trans 101 is a real thing that would help metafilter in a real way, would it be useful to have it in the wiki somehow?"

It's there! Sort of. Zarq wrote the beginnings of a page. I don't think anyone else has worked on it since.
posted by hoyland at 2:45 PM on July 11, 2013


ThatFuzzyBastard, "assigned female at birth" (AFAB, sometimes "coercively assigned female at birth" when trans men use the phrase to describe themselves) is the phrase I see other trans people using a lot for what you mean. "Cisgender woman" is, however, a lot more eloquent and accurate for what you're going for.

"Woman-born woman" is definitely a dogwhistle-y phrase. I've personally had to deal a lot with people using similarly hurtful phrases innocuously lately, and it kind of triggers a very intense anxiety/fear in me because even when the intentions are sincere, there are certain phrases and arguments bigots use against me and they feel like physical slaps in the face when I see/hear them.
posted by byanyothername at 2:47 PM on July 11, 2013 [1 favorite]


This is the page.

I'm very, very sorry I haven't updated it yet. I keep meaning to flesh it out but every time I start, other urgencies intervene.

Part of the problem for me is this is a topic I'm not too familiar with, and I'm wary of making mistakes. So I am leaning on a few knowledgeable mefites to help guide me, so I don't inadvertently say anything stupid, incorrect or offensive.

I promise to set some time aside to work on it. I especially want to add links to meta discussions and mefi posts that include helpful information.
posted by zarq at 2:51 PM on July 11, 2013 [1 favorite]


For example, we're at the point where if someone has a problem with the term "cis" we point them to the very long MeTa and delete the comment as a derail.

Can I just say "Hallelujah"? Like, that is a single action which it feels is going to make certain discussions appreciably better. Yay mods.
posted by running order squabble fest at 2:56 PM on July 11, 2013 [8 favorites]


I'm very, very sorry I haven't updated it yet. I keep meaning to flesh it out but every time I start, other urgencies intervene.

Part of the problem for me is this is a topic I'm not too familiar with, and I'm wary of making mistakes. So I am leaning on a few knowledgeable mefites to help guide me, so I don't inadvertently say anything stupid, incorrect or offensive.


I didn't mean to suggest you were entirely responsible for writing it. Do me-mail me if you want help. Not that I'm super good at getting things done. I'm certainly supposed to be doing things other than sitting in this thread all day.
posted by hoyland at 2:58 PM on July 11, 2013


But no one here is calling for extermination of trans* people, and implying that they are is not going to lower the temperature.

Where in the comment that you quoted did Corinth imply that?
posted by kagredon at 3:01 PM on July 11, 2013


Education around trans issues is totally the next big frontier for LGBT work.

One thing that I've found helpful in talking with people about it is to make the (wildly oversimplified) point that every human embryo starts out as female, and is differentiated into male expression. That makes "transgender" a lot more clear as an outcome of that process — it's part of the variety of human expression to have people who have a biological sense of self that develops contrary to the sex assigned at birth. (I usually don't even go into gender queer folks, because that's just too complicated for the My First Trans Conversation mode). Having that biological explanation of process and development which everyone has gone through to some extent makes it clearer that the male/female is differentiation, not dichotomous.
posted by klangklangston at 3:09 PM on July 11, 2013 [12 favorites]


Where in the comment that you quoted did Corinth imply that?

In the phrase (which comes up a lot in these discussions), "I have to spend extra time justifying my existence." It seems to me that if you're accusing other people of not wanting you to exist, you're implying that they want you exterminated. Which I don't believe is the case.
posted by ThatFuzzyBastard at 3:10 PM on July 11, 2013


hoyland: " I didn't mean to suggest you were entirely responsible for writing it.

Oh, no. I totally didn't take it that way, thanks. But when it was brought up 2-3 weeks ago I said in another thread that I was going to be working on it, then totally dropped the ball.

Do me-mail me if you want help. Not that I'm super good at getting things done. I'm certainly supposed to be doing things other than sitting in this thread all day."

Thank you! I will. I just added Juliet Banana's Trans 101 link under "Helpful References". I have others in my memail that I need to read through and add. I like prioritizing, categorizing and adding links. But if the page is going to be a usable, at-a-glance learning resource I want to make sure the stuff that's quoted and its descriptions are helpful and accurate.
posted by zarq at 3:13 PM on July 11, 2013


"In the phrase (which comes up a lot in these discussions), "I have to spend extra time justifying my existence." It seems to me that if you're accusing other people of not wanting you to exist, you're implying that they want you exterminated. Which I don't believe is the case."

That's a poor inference on your part. What Corinth is saying is closer to the idea of transgender people being treated as a myth when they really do exist — justifying existence isn't implying an opposition to extermination, it's talking about overcoming existential disbelief from others. Hopefully, that will help you lower the temperature, which reading Corinth's comments as implying extermination doesn't.
posted by klangklangston at 3:16 PM on July 11, 2013 [5 favorites]


But, in general, I'd like to note that it certainly looks like you're trying to talk about this in good faith, and I don't mean that to come across as more snarky than it should have.
posted by klangklangston at 3:17 PM on July 11, 2013


The first Google hit for "trans 101", for me at least, is a blog post called "Not Your Mom's Trans 101". A quote from it:
This is why I question the value of phrases like “man in a woman’s body” or “male to female.” Who is to say we ever were the “opposite sex?” Personally I will never again describe myself as “born female.” I was born a trans male and my years of confusion were due to being forcefully and repeatedly told that I was something else. This body is not a woman’s. It is mine. Neither am I trapped in it.
This isn't covered in every "trans 101", and helps me understand why people would be offended by Diablevert's reaction to the original passage they quoted. A transwoman who has not had surgery or hormone therapy wouldn't necessarily want her body being described as having "male" body parts, or being a woman in a man's body, even though many trans-positive people, and even some trans people see it that way.
posted by Pruitt-Igoe at 3:28 PM on July 11, 2013 [6 favorites]


It seems to me that if you're accusing other people of not wanting you to exist, you're implying that they want you exterminated.

That seems like a very hyperbolic reading to me. It's a recurring theme of a lot of trans* people's lives that many cis people deny, in big or small ways, their lived experiences. That's very different from "accusing" cis people of trying to "exterminate" trans* people.
posted by kagredon at 3:30 PM on July 11, 2013 [3 favorites]


Yes, it was definitely a thread where strong emotions and opinions were aroused, yea, even to the point of argument and heated words. Surely you should know by know that that sort of thing isn't a good fit for Metafilter? If you really must post about something likely to take us all out of our cosy, safe space, try to stick to passive-aggression in future.
posted by Decani at 3:46 PM on July 11, 2013


Yeah, the justifying-my-existence thing is most commonly in response (around here, anyway) to comments like "Men don't have vaginas/women don't have penises" which many trans* people (rightly, IMO) read as "You are not what or who you say you are. I get to decide, not you."
posted by rtha at 3:48 PM on July 11, 2013 [5 favorites]


What Corinth is saying is closer to the idea of transgender people being treated as a myth when they really do exist — justifying existence isn't implying an opposition to extermination, it's talking about overcoming existential disbelief from others. Hopefully, that will help you lower the temperature, which reading Corinth's comments as implying extermination doesn't.

For reference, TFB, there's a very useful example of a form of this in the aforementioned Penny Arcade thread, when you said that the people whose approach you disagreed with, in contrast with Sophie Prell, were "white knights" who had not, as Prell has, lived with the experience of being trans:
But I suppose someone who actually has to deal with life as a trans person will be more sensitive to what makes life better than people who just like to white-knight and vent, who can be blissfully indifferent to the real effects of their attitudes and actions.
When it was pointed out that many of the people discussing this in the thread were in fact trans people, you singled out ArmyofKittens as specifically showing "great enthusiasm for emotional venting and total unwillingness to engage with questions of consequences", and being by extension not a trans person but a "white knight".

When it was pointed out that ArmyofKittens was in fact trans, you said that that was interesting that she "identif[ied] as trans", although since she had not said as much you had no reason to assume that she did.

When it was pointed out that she had in fact identified as trans more than once in that very thread, you finally shut up about it.

So, that's quite a number of steps somebody had to go through to be acknowledged as trans (or rather "identifying as trans"), and a good example of the weight of the conviction that trans people are somewhere over there, rather than being actual people one might encounter, and indeed a good example of the assumption that people one encounters are by default cisgendered.

When trans people talk about their existence being denied, they're generally talking about that kind of thing, rather than being told they should be exterminated. I mean, that happens as well, but not, I think, on MetaFilter.
posted by running order squabble fest at 3:52 PM on July 11, 2013 [19 favorites]


Looking back at that cis thread, I just want to say that it wasn't my intent to offend transgendered folks (and certainly I don't think I have that kind of record here on the main site, whether it's writing about trans artists whose work I have followed for decades, to give one example, or numerous other LGBT civil rights posts I've written over the years), so if I hurt you and other transgendered individuals in any way in commenting about cis-terminology used by straight people, I offer a sincere apology to you.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 4:03 PM on July 11, 2013 [10 favorites]


running order squabble fest pretty much covered what I meant. Talking about trans people like they aren't here is pretty much like talking about anyone else like they aren't there. Stuff like "they need to be aware that society doesn't understand them" and "they need to be more patient and understanding" directly indicates how they think I need to feel or be and I'm totally right here and I'm saying that kind of misses the point in a big normative way.

I think, again, it's actually more germane to useful conversation for uninformed (usually cis) people to realize that they are uninformed and that they're probably the ones who would benefit from more patience and understanding in the form of maybe sitting back a bit and trying to understand the conversations that have already happened and are currently happening than to expect every conversation about trans stuff to be one that accomodates 101ing smoothly. Or, if they want to participate in a more advanced conversation, try to see what assumptions are already being used and then go with those instead of entering with a question or quip about first principles that are available elsewhere.

Potentially the reason that stuff like the Juliet Banana post goes so well isn't that she included awesome 101 links, but that the subject matter was solely trans people doing their own thing (fashion) in a way that didn't really involve or challenge straight cis people here. I'm not sure that even 101 links are enough to automatically make threads about clashes between trans people and a bigoted system go well because cis people have more of a stake there - it affects them and fashion doesn't. The Transportraits FPP from a couple days ago didn't have 101 links and didn't attract goofy questions, but it was again just trans people doing their own thing (and also I guess it had the benefit of being about trans men, who tend to draw less fire anyway). I think that stories about the friction that's occurring as trans people claw for their rights are going to naturally attract this stuff regardless of the presence of 101 links just because it's not perceived as inside baseball like talking about fashion is. Somebody is always going to seize on "wait, there might be penises in the women's restroom?" and want to say something about it, because hey, they use women's restrooms so they're qualified to weigh in without paying attention to context.

Or something. I dunno. Going to PFLAG now, anyway.
posted by Corinth at 4:18 PM on July 11, 2013 [13 favorites]


Or, if they want to participate in a more advanced conversation, try to see what assumptions are already being used and then go with those instead of entering with a question or quip about first principles that are available elsewhere.

There was a post somewhat recently about trans people and the military where I think Etrigan did a good job of contributing as a relatively uninformed person (and it stood out enough that I remembered it). He had particular knowledge of the military that was relevant and asked questions that were pertinent and specific while being upfront about the fact he doesn't normally think about trans people. That might have been a sort of perfect storm, where someone has particular knowledge of the non-trans-specific aspects of the thread, but (to me anyway) it very much felt like a conversation that included some trans 101 stuff, rather than "let's sit down and do trans 101 and then we can have a conversation" and I think that was in large part down to Etrigan.

(Er... I'm not actually sure of Etrigran's gender. I started writing 'he, he, he' feeling confident and am now worried I'm wrong. My apologies if I am.)
posted by hoyland at 4:52 PM on July 11, 2013 [2 favorites]


> One thing that I've found helpful in talking with people about it is to make the (wildly oversimplified) point that every human embryo starts out as female, and is differentiated into male expression.

That's excellent, and I'll try to keep it in mind when trying to help people (including myself!) understand. Sure it's oversimplified, but we all have to start with oversimplifications and then refine them into usable mental constructs.

Also, kudos to the many people who have kept this thread civilized while at the same time not covering up their often passionate personal feelings about the topic. It's a tough act to pull off, and I second IF's comment about how much better things have gotten around here.
posted by languagehat at 5:03 PM on July 11, 2013 [4 favorites]


It's a recurring theme of a lot of trans* people's lives that many cis people deny, in big or small ways, their lived experiences. That's very different from "accusing" cis people of trying to "exterminate" trans* people.

But in that case, it goes from hyperbolic to trivial. Lots of people deny the reality– or at least the relevance– of other people's lived experiences. Pat Robertson sincerely believes that the creator of the universe personally told him to fight the homosexual agenda; I doubt it really happened, and I don't care if it did. I have great respect for William Burroughs' writing, but I don't believe he actually put a curse on his landlady. I have many Pentecostal friends who truly believe that the Holy Spirit speaks through them, and Burner friends who insist that their DMT experiences gave them insight into an alternate dimension, and I don't think either of them are actually describing reality even as I acknowledge the effects those beliefs have on their lives. I find it hard to believe that anyone really derives aesthetic pleasure from Maria Abromovic performances.

And none of it matters a bit to anyone. I sometimes think the single worst concept Jesus introduced was the idea that "anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery," which implied that morality was a matter of thought rather than action. As a Jew, I could care less if anyone thinks I'm secretly running the media, the banks, and Congress. I only care if that makes them materially act in ways I find noxious. And this is tripleplus the case with people in an internet community, who have zero power over anyone else's life here.

On the other hand, this breaks down when it comes to epithets, statements of stereotypes, and other hurtful words; there people's beliefs remain harmless, but their speech becomes a kind of violence (a formulation I kinda hate, but seems true to me). But I'd argue that epithets are only powerful because of the violence behind them--that's why "cracker" is such a weak epithet, and why anti-Semitism in America is a something that I have never really worried about, because there's so little force behind it. So if someone is willing to be on the right side of policy decisions, or simply not about to push the wrong actions, the violence behind the epithet is drained, and the words are just statements of someone else's subjective beliefs.

Cis people's beliefs about trans people can be criticized, mocked, or attacked, but none of it is really important if they're supporting all the right policies (both state policies and social behaviors). Demanding that allies believe the right thing, rather than act right, is both unverifiable and unnecessary.
posted by ThatFuzzyBastard at 7:44 PM on July 11, 2013 [4 favorites]


Demanding that allies believe the right thing, rather than act right, is both unverifiable and unnecessary.

Except that this is a discussion site, where people debate and discuss ideas. Debating and discussing are both actions. So (a) the focus of people's complaints is going to be on people's presentations of their ideas, since that's what this site does, and (b) when we're talking about hateful/ignorant/dismissive speech on MetaFilter, we're not actually talking about beliefs but about actions.

I have told several people in real life that I don't care if they hold racist/sexist/homophobic/transphobic/fatphobic views, that they're allowed to think whatever they want, but I don't want to hear about it. There is a divide between internal thoughts and communicated ideas. I doubt anyone here really believes that policing people's internal thoughts is worthwhile, but once someone's ideas are expressed, they can have consequences. If someone on MeFi is voting or advocating for trans people in real life but making statements here that undermine the reality of trans people's lived experience, then their actions here on MeFi are reinforcing a status-quo mindset in the US (and elsewhere, I assume) that allows other people to dismiss trans people (at best) and to ignore or participate in the huge epidemic of violence against them (at worst).
posted by jaguar at 7:59 PM on July 11, 2013 [8 favorites]


But in that case, it goes from hyperbolic to trivial.

So you get to decide what's trivial for someone else? Fucking awesome.

It's death by a thousand fucking cuts. One person saying shit like that might be trivial. Hearing all the goddamn time from people who hate and fear you - and people who mean well! - makes it not that trivial.

Everyone's hardest struggle is their hardest struggle, and someone else saying it isn't is presumptuous bullshit.
posted by rtha at 8:18 PM on July 11, 2013 [28 favorites]


What Rtha said. Just today, I'd posted a ranty Facebook rant about how some people don't take to a gentle "Don't call me sir, please." and have angry freakouts. Five minutes later, I've got an cis guy aquaintance giving me "passing" tips and trying to tell me what is and isn't trans misogynistic because obviously he (who has thought about this for an hour) knows better than my decade of lived experience... and I hear that sort of tired crap at least once a day.

Death of a thousand cuts is absolutely right.
posted by Betafae at 8:29 PM on July 11, 2013 [8 favorites]


"But in that case, it goes from hyperbolic to trivial."

No.

First off, comparing being transgender to Pat Robertson is pretty shitty. Second off, since you mention you're a Jew, you should be able to understand that there's a place between "extermination" and "trivial." For transgender people, that includes actual violence at disproportionate rates.

What I heard from your comment is that you have a good life, good enough to be oblivious to other people's struggles, and fairly willing to (ignorantly) dismiss them.

We don't allow anti-semitism here, and even though you "could care less," I'm going to posit that you'd be more honest if you believed that literally — rampant anti-semitism would make this place worse. And I have to believe that you're smart enough, even in your privileged little bubble, that people would be pretty rightly mad at you if you just blundered about not understanding why other Jews were upset about anti-semitism.

Your being an oblivious, trivializing jackass is one of the milder things that trans people have to put up with on the daily, but that doesn't mean you're not coming across as an oblivious, trivializing jackass.
posted by klangklangston at 8:55 PM on July 11, 2013 [22 favorites]


klang, I don't know how many times I can say that actual violence is super bad in order for you to hear me say it. I'm going to give you the benefit of the doubt and assume you're just too mad to notice that I've said it, rather than deliberately pretending I didn't say it, so I'll make it crystal clear: The violence suffered by trans people is awful, and should be prosecuted and prevented, as should workplace and housing discrimination, as should bullying, as should every other act of violence.

But people's beliefs, however wrong, are not acts of violence. Comparing trans people to Christians is only shitty if you hate trans people or Christians, and I hate neither. I wonder if you are as willing to believe the lived experience of Christians as you are of trans people. I suspect not, but then, I don't know, since I understand that it's incredibly stupid to make assumptions about people's lives based on their comments on an internet forum.
posted by ThatFuzzyBastard at 9:41 PM on July 11, 2013 [2 favorites]


"klang, I don't know how many times I can say that actual violence is super bad in order for you to hear me say it. I'm going to give you the benefit of the doubt and assume you're just too mad to notice that I've said it, rather than deliberately pretending I didn't say it, so I'll make it crystal clear: The violence suffered by trans people is awful, and should be prosecuted and prevented, as should workplace and housing discrimination, as should bullying, as should every other act of violence."

Don't go moving the goalposts on me. You went from "not extermination" to "trivial." That's on you. If you wanted to make some nuanced comment about differentiating violence from the background culture that justifies that violence (and discrimination, and harassment, etc.), you could have done so. It's great that you're coming out against violence and discrimination now, but you're missing the point that without listening to trans people and taking their experiences as trans people seriously, you cannot in any meaningful way address the problems they face. Which means not declaring them "trivial" because they're not extermination, which you did, and now seem baffled as to why that's offensive, because you're, like, totally an awesome dude who's against discrimination and junk.

"But people's beliefs, however wrong, are not acts of violence. Comparing trans people to Christians is only shitty if you hate trans people or Christians, and I hate neither. I wonder if you are as willing to believe the lived experience of Christians as you are of trans people. I suspect not, but then, I don't know, since I understand that it's incredibly stupid to make assumptions about people's lives based on their comments on an internet forum."

Man, this is the frustrating rhetorical technique you retreat to over and over again. You say something inflammatory, then retreat and craft some abstract justification for why it's really someone else's problem that they were pissed off, and you get all indignant if people just treat you like an idiot. You didn't compare being trans to all Christians, you specifically used Pat Robertson and Young Earth Creationism. Further, the material versus the theological is an important distinction — trans people actually exist. God probably doesn't. So it has nothing to do with a broader hatred of Christians, though you're very noble to declare you don't hate them, and everything to do with you setting up the analogy of trans identity with falsifiable faith claims. That's a dick move, and you're not slick enough to not get called on it.

You're engaging in a pattern of microaggressions toward trans people, and while your mother no doubt loves you, fellow MeFites absolutely can and should call that being an oblivious, trivializing jackass.
posted by klangklangston at 9:55 PM on July 11, 2013 [34 favorites]


Comparing trans people to Christians is only shitty if you hate trans people or Christians, and I hate neither.

Making the comparison requires ignoring the fact that Christians, at least in American society, are not routinely mocked, threatened, institutionalized, or killed just for being Christians. I mean, I think it's shitty and rude when people go "lolinvisibleskywizard", because--well, I already wrote a comment on the "because", so I'll link it so that you can inspect my bona fides and I don't have to spend as much time on this comment (win-win!) But the fact that some people are occasionally shitty and rude to Christians does not even begin to compare to the shitty rudeness (and often, worse things) that trans people encounter.
posted by kagredon at 9:58 PM on July 11, 2013 [8 favorites]


What's with the hardcore, all sides, conflation of sex and gender that has to come riding out of the shadows every time this topic comes up anywhere ever among any group of people? People using sex words and gender words interchangeably on every side of the discussion.

Sometimes it seems like (hyperbole): "Your biology defines your gender." vs. "Biology is a social construct."

It is kind of tedious to see that thread going the same way instead of touching on the actual topic of the post. Every post about trans issues here seems to ride the same bus and the Hydra's heads keep biting each other.
posted by yonega at 10:30 PM on July 11, 2013 [2 favorites]


man yeah it would be pretty terrible if that was happening in this thread, good thing it's not.
posted by kagredon at 11:00 PM on July 11, 2013 [1 favorite]


yonega, I dunno. I think the people who get hung up on the sex words vs. gender words thing tend to be people who want to cling to some sort of biological imperative wording to make sure that they have a way of saying "people with penises" and "people with vaginas" that reinforces the idea that trans people are different or retain inherent qualities no matter how hard they try. I mean, if someone calls me "female" that feels fine to me and I don't remark on it, but there are a lot of discussions (I'm not sure if they've happened here) where someone calls me female and then some cis person steps in and is all whoa whoa whoa, Corinth isn't female - she's a woman but she's got these chromosomes and this genital configuration so she's totally male, it's scientific. (Keep in mind that even I don't know what chromosomes I have, and almost nobody on the internet talking about my genitals actually knows what they look like.) And that doesn't feel fine to me, but whatever.

This kind of ties in with the content of the linked article - I kind of feel like because I'm a woman, it's not really super absurd to call my body a woman's body, and then not super absurd to say that because my body is a woman's body it's just a different kind of female body (and then by extension we get the thing in the article about penises not being inherently masculine, but instead deriving their -ine from the attached person's gender). I don't like talking about it because it's almost asking for someone to jump in and start the above discussion just because they're suddenly concerned about precise scientific language for the first time in their lives when the topic just happens to be trans people. Nobody I'm talking to on the internet needs to be saying anything about my reproductive capacity or what gametes I did or don't produce, anyway, and so the whole thing just gets really weird really fast. Sex and gender are different, but people I'm not sleeping with or receiving health care from really have no business all up in my (or anyone else's) former.

We talked at PFLAG tonight about a letter to the editor in a local paper in which someone complained that "homophobia" isn't a real pathology and they resented the term's use because "words have meaning." One of our members had started composing a reply to this person engaging them on their own terms. I said that it's kind of pointless to engage in a semantic battle because that's often what they want you to do - waste time talking about words instead of the ideas behind the words. You see people doing this with "homophobia," you see people doing this with "marriage" and you see people doing this with "cis," and it's a common distraction tactic. If you're in a serious discussion and you find yourself trying to debate semantics instead of engaging with the people and ideas behind the words, you should very critically question your motivation to see if on some level you're trying to avoid engaging with the person or idea or if your being pedantic is an attempt at a rhetorical victory at the cost of meaningful higher-level communication and other people's sanity.
posted by Corinth at 11:26 PM on July 11, 2013 [20 favorites]


Beliefs, when spoken out loud or written for public consumption, can absolutely be acts of violence. Someone who doesn't believe in their heart of hearts that trans* folk exist but never says a word about it has a very different impact on a conversation than someone--often multiple someones--repeatedly saying "I think your lives experiences are wrong; I know your body better than you do; your gender identity is false and comparable to Young Earth Creationism". The former is bigotry; the latter is an act of erasure of identity and actively contributes to a culture that is permissive of further violence against trans* folk for their perceived Otherness. It seems very disingenuous to claim that words--which are just beliefs, expressed explicitly--don't have an impact on culture, and I'm incredulous that we're still at a point where MeFites saying "that thing you do is really hurtful to me" can be met with "but that's so trivial I don't even know why you get upset". Seriously?
posted by Phire at 11:38 PM on July 11, 2013 [17 favorites]


One of our members had started composing a reply to this person engaging them on their own terms. I said that it's kind of pointless to engage in a semantic battle because that's often what they want you to do - waste time talking about words instead of the ideas behind the words

In other words...PFLAG it and move on?

I'm sorry.
posted by kagredon at 11:59 PM on July 11, 2013 [6 favorites]


I'd like to comment from a moderation perspective generally (not specifically about MartinWisse's post) on a few aspects of creating FPPs that we look at that may be helpful for some of you when thinking about how to put something together for a possibly contentious topic (with the proviso of "this is not comprehensive, these are not 'rules' and we still and always take things case by case").

Some of the points we consider for topics that tend to create a lot of anger, recrimination, digging-in, misunderstandings, flame-outs, Metatalk threads, account-closings, etc.:

Is it a situation of "aaaargh, this really makes me MAD; I need to post this at Metafilter!"? In itself, this is not always necessarily going to lead to a bad post or bad thread, but it's much, much more likely to. Sometimes it can be the beginning of a good post if care is taken with presentation and content, but just seeing something that makes you furious doesn't mean it's going to be a great post here. "I'm really angry, and I want other people to be angry with me" is an understandable impulse, but if that's the main goal, it's probably not going to be a thoughtful or useful discussion.

So, is there content included that offers a reasonable range of thought and discussion (and possibly education) aside from people expressing outrage? Because if there isn't, we have a thread full of angry, frustrated people without a lot to do with that energy aside from turn it on each other, sometimes quite viciously, sometimes over relatively minute differences.

Is it presented with an outrage-inducing (or possibly misleading) quote offered as the introduction to the topic? Sometimes, in an effort to grab attention, folks will choose the most provocative, wtf?, or fury-producing part of an article to use as the blurb content of a post, and this will be a) the content that people will focus on / respond to the most, even if it's not ultimately the main message of the entire article, b) the element that is most likely to set the tone and atmosphere of the thread. It also would be unrealistic to say that some people won't read no more than that quote before hopping in to comment, so it's worthwhile to consider this carefully.

Have we had a lot of fraught posts on this topic lately? The bar can be higher when we've recently had (or still have open threads for) very similar posts in order to avoid an almost exact repeat of the very same arguments that we just had (or are in fact still ongoing). People's feelings are already high and primed for automatic anger; some folks want to pursue fights on the same issues with the same people as a carry-over sort of thing; some people didn't see the other posts and walk in sort of unprepared for what might be a barrage of fury that isn't so much the product of discussing this one linked article as much as a well of frustration or anger already engendered in other threads. If you feel like the content is different enough to distinguish it from recent posts and sustain a discussion that isn't a repeat or continuation of earlier arguments, it might be worthwhile to spend a bit of time thinking about how to make that really clear in the post.

Is it a single link Op/Ed? These tend to be more highly charged links because the author is, by definition, expressing their strongly felt personal opinion about an issue or topic and isn't constrained to a more neutral or objective presentation – it's "this is my opinion, take it or leave it," and opinions can engender more nitpicking and annoyance than more objective articles. This can still be okay sometimes, but often tends to create a more fight-prone situation when people take exception to how the opinion is voiced, or respond by wondering who this person is to be making absolute pronouncements, or people just react to an angry opinion piece by feeling anger in response, etc., which is why it's often wiser to include either more context around why that person's opinion is especially noteworthy, and/or include other material about the topic so that this single writer's possibly very heated or reactive point of view doesn't have to carry the entire discussion.

Does it include sarcastic, angry or "championing" commentary by the OP or include their personal thoughts at all on the topic? Some otherwise good posts can be sunk by the poster inserting their personal opinion into the title, tags, and/or description. While everything posted here will reflect each OP's interests as well as maybe being just something that particularly caught their personal attention, Mefi is not a personal blog where people come to find posts that express how you, personally, feel about an issue, and up with that our members will not put, generally speaking, especially on news/political/social justice topics. Making a post that avoids OP editorializing, but then flooding the thread with your argumentative, agenda-driven, steer-the-discussion comments is another way to ensure that things will probably go badly.

Is it a situation of "People Need To See This!" rather than "People Might Be Interested In This"? Agenda posts are less likely than other posts to go well. They are more likely to include one or more of the aspects listed above, more likely to read as axegrinding, less likely to result in good discussion unless, for some unlikely reason, nearly all the site members are in complete accordance with the position being promoted, and there's some aspect that hasn't already been discussed the same way a hundred times already. It's much harder to craft a good post from the position of "I want to promote my personal cause here," than from a desire to share something interesting.

Is it a bare cut 'n' paste link to a news article? These are extremely likely to be deleted. Metafilter is not a news aggregator or news/politics special interest site, so posts need to be much better than "here's a headline: discuss."

All that said, I'd like to stress this: Most Well-Meaning Deleted Posts On Difficult Topics Can Be Reworked and Reposted. If it's not a double or something that will split discussion from a still open thread, not a self/friend-post, not spam, not a point-and-laugh mean spirited sort of thing, not racist, sexist, etc., or maybe something like rubbernecking an internet spat, or purely HERE'S A HORRIBLE HORRIBLE THING THAT HAPPENED, chances are that it can be adjusted and posted the next day (or even the same day, if someone else picks it up).

I also understand people who might feel like they don't want to have to police their posts for all these points, and that's perfectly okay and not a problem from our point of view, but you might get a post pulled occasionally – which you can then decide to repost with some alterations or not. It's not a black mark against you at all from our perspective. While people often tend to read deletions as "you are not allowed to talk about this," or "mods don't personally like this topic" the truth is that a deletion is much more likely to mean "try again," than "shut up," and emailing us can also clear that up right away.

Finally, I'll say that while I'm offering these items as possibly helpful considerations folks may want to think about that also happen to be some of the aspects that we look at, this is in no way an outline of "posts that every moderator will delete automatically." Some posts that might have been deleted have been saved by good early discussion, some have just been overlooked because something else was going on, some might be edge cases that we happen to have more time and people to be able to monitor comment by comment... and of course, some perfectly well-formed posts can also end in rather terrible threads for whatever reason. So these are just tips, not rules, or promises.
posted by taz (staff) at 3:37 AM on July 12, 2013 [45 favorites]


aaaargh, this really makes me MAD; I need to post this at Metafilter!

Sometimes, in an effort to grab attention, folks will choose the most provocative, wtf?, or fury-producing part of an article to use as the blurb content of a post
transgenderism: a subtle form of abuse that inflicts no physical wounds but attacks the minds of children and alters by stealth the attitudes of the adult community as well.
Is it a single link Op/Ed?

Why yes, yes it is! And it's on page 2 of last Monday's edition of my local paper.

Does it include sarcastic, angry or "championing" commentary by the OP or include their personal thoughts at all on the topic?

No, but here's a link to today's edition. My letter is on page 11.
posted by flabdablet at 4:23 AM on July 12, 2013 [1 favorite]


Those aren't loading for me right now, but I can certainly imagine. I have to gently (but firmly) say, though, that Metatalk comments is also not the place to post the horrible infuriating stuff that would make a bad FPP. I do totally sympathize, fwiw, but it's not what Metatalk is for.
posted by taz (staff) at 4:39 AM on July 12, 2013


The mod response seems all well and good, but the deletion reason and reasons don't appear to correspond with the thread as it existed. I mean, earlier Jessamyn asks for context but I really think that the quote

"A small but vocal band of activists known as “Radfems” see transgender women like myself as a blight on the feminist movement, but — because their views are not representative of the feminist movement as a whole — many trans*-inclusive feminists refer to them as TERFs, or Trans*-Exclusionary Radical Feminists"

establishes the back story really well! From this we know that a small group of feminists, calling themselves radfems, don't like trans* people, and are thus given a different nickname by trans activists... See more in the article.

Sure, there is some history to this which would be interesting, but is a single link post on meta filter always constrained to produce a nice back story, especially when the article itself provides lots?

Now if the mods felt that the way the post was created was inclined to make a fighty post, then maybe fine, but the actual reality of the thread is that it was derailed completely by Diablevert. Comments which aren't addressing that do seem to be engaging with the material in a fine way.

Now I can't read the deleted comments, but if I had to guess they were mostly about the aforementioned derail.

So is what happened that modly people were sort of borderline on the whole article, and then the thread devolved into a tedious 101 derail and they thought "screw it" and deleted it as a bad mess? Thats what it feels like to me, and I'm not saying that is necessarily the incorrect response, but maybe telling people that if the thread had been rephrased then it might have been fine isn't that accurate? I mean short of putting trans 101 and stuff I'm not sure Martin could have prevented Diablevert from quoting a bit from the article and causing a derail in the second comment.

That is, I can't remember who said it upthread, but someone mentioned that if a trans thread last past a few comments without trans101 comments then it can be fine, but otherwise it becomes a mess. It feels like this thread had the bad luck to be derailed, and had diablevert not been online at that particular point in time maybe it'd have been fine?

Counterfactuals are obviously hard to prove but while I think this post could have been framed better, I'm not convinced it was framed badly.

I mean, I suppose the actual answer, as provided upthread, is to tell a mod about the thread you're gonna make, so they can tell you when to post it so they can come in and delete complete derails upthread to prevent this kind of thing from happening?
posted by Cannon Fodder at 4:45 AM on July 12, 2013 [1 favorite]


There were a couple of things going on. It was borderline from our perspective as being a single link op/ed with a pull quote that was likely to create some confusion and anger about a (general) topic that we've had recent posts (some still-open) and lots of heated discussion about, that also didn't happen to explicate some of the information included in the quote that was the entire content of the post.

Martinwisse commented a couple of times to try to clear up confusion about radical feminists and "radfem," etc. and questions about "wait, feminists are now supposed to be the big bad guy bullies on trans* issues?" sorts of questions, and this could have been a point the post might have covered, for example, aaaand at the same time we had the Penises=Male thing happening (or not... it wasn't totally clear what Diablevert was saying). We ultimately felt like a new post would be the better way to go with it. Some posts go relatively okay without much handholding and some need a little more explanation about the terms and entities involved for the majority of people who don't already have at least some grounding in that particular political/activist etc. milieu. If the audience isn't necessarily already personally familiar with a lot of the issues, groups, and players, it can be helpful if more things are backgrounded.
posted by taz (staff) at 5:19 AM on July 12, 2013 [1 favorite]


questions about "wait, feminists are now supposed to be the big bad guy bullies on trans* issues?"

For the record, I thought those questions were prompted by not having read the article rather than being prompted by a flaw in the post itself. I certainly think one could read the article and have questions about the relationship between (radical) feminism and trans issues (depending on your knowledge of one or the other), but not 'surely you shouldn't be attacking your natural allies' after an article that conveyed quite clearly that TERFs aren't even purporting to be trans allies. Though, of course, it's always possible MartinWisse's reading of Leezie's comment (which is my reading) wasn't what was intended.
posted by hoyland at 5:46 AM on July 12, 2013 [1 favorite]


Hey. I know I ducked out of this thread ages ago, and there's been considerable discussion since. I haven't read all of it. I just got overwhelmed yesterday with all the comments to which I felt that should respond to to try and stay in good faith, and looking over this thread again I confess myself daunted. I don't think I can do this. For the record, I do not believe not did I intend to imply that all men have penises, that you must have a penis to be a man, nor that one cannot have a penis and be a woman. Beyond that, if anyone feels I have demonstrated ignorance or bigotry, I ask you please to memail and I promise to read any links you send or respond to any comments you have. I am not sure how to best word that request to ensure it will be received as I hope it will be received, as a pledge made in the understanding that I'm far from free of error and willing to remedy that when I can.

Beyond that, feeling this level of anxiety over a mefi thread is a sign to me that I might need to take a break from here for a while. That's what I plan to do. Again, I will be checking my memail.
posted by Diablevert at 6:00 AM on July 12, 2013 [3 favorites]


Diablevert,

Before you go, I just wanted to address this:

"Beyond that, if anyone feels I have demonstrated ignorance or bigotry"

bigotry is of course very bad, but ignorance isn't. Ignorance is the default state. Don't beat yourself up about being ignorant about these issues--if you haven't lived them (like I haven't) you will be ignorant until you're not. Ignorance is the starting point, and is nothing to be ashamed of.
posted by MisantropicPainforest at 6:19 AM on July 12, 2013 [2 favorites]


I get that someone self-identifies as male or female (or something else) as a representation of their gender, but how are the produces-sperm and produces-eggs designations referred to, independently of gender, without causing offense?

There are plenty of people that are not trans* at all that do not produce eggs or sperm. This can even change across a person's lifetime. Gametes and gonads don't have anything to do with gender.

And yeah, as a scientist there are plenty of terms available for discussing gonads and the developmental changes that they orchestrate as part of biology, including egg or sperm development. But they are supposed to be value neutral and not used to determine or discuss gender identity (which works, in my experience at least) so aren't really relevant to this discussion.

One thing that I've found helpful in talking with people about it is to make the (wildly oversimplified) point that every human embryo starts out as female, and is differentiated into male expression.

This isn't over simplified, it's just wrong. It's based on a old sexist idea of the 'female' form as being a passive 'default' setting that just happens while the 'male' cascade is a dynamic, active process ready to stamp it's form over top of the waiting female. It sort of made sense given the chromosomes (everyone has an X, only men have a Y) but turns out it doesn't really work quite like that.

Instead, human (and other species) embryos start off as bipotential, i.e. they have every anatomical and physiological thing present that allows them to become either male or female (where I am using those terms only in regards to what gonads form, not gender). Then whatever genetic program is there engages, biology happens, and you get testes, ovaries, or some kind of combination plus all the other biology that goes along with each of those. In addition, the SRY gene notwithstanding, the genetic and biochemical path to 'female' is just as driven, dynamic, active, and complicated as the path to 'male', it doesn't just occur by default.

It's actually all very cool and way more interesting than the old version. It's also still not really relevant to gender identity since that's not what scientists are referring to when discussing the genetic sex of an embryo or the physiology of its gonads.
posted by shelleycat at 6:21 AM on July 12, 2013 [31 favorites]


For the record, I do not believe not did I intend to imply that all men have penises, that you must have a penis to be a man, nor that one cannot have a penis and be a woman.

For the record, I did not infer any such belief from what you wrote.

[not schoolbus-ist]
posted by flabdablet at 6:38 AM on July 12, 2013


Taz, thanks for that explanation, thats really useful to me. Diablevert: I realise I made a post in which you became the villain of the piece. I don't think you are, other than by an inadvertent derail far too early into a thread which really wasn't about the question you were asking.
posted by Cannon Fodder at 6:44 AM on July 12, 2013


Oh I should also point out that I'm not trying to call out klangklangston for the incorrect embryo thing by the way, that was what was widely thought at one point. More making the point of "wow sexism is everywhere amiright?". Even deciding which genes to look for in a biochemical cascade is filtered through our flawed viewpoints and weird society constructs, which can be a helpful thing to recognise.
posted by shelleycat at 6:46 AM on July 12, 2013 [6 favorites]


Instead, human (and other species) embryos start off as bipotential, i.e. they have every anatomical and physiological thing present that allows them to become either male or female (where I am using those terms only in regards to what gonads form, not gender).

If I'm remembering my High School biology textbook correctly, this is referred to by a totally awesome term: "indifferent gonads."
posted by Ragged Richard at 7:35 AM on July 12, 2013 [7 favorites]


shelleycat: " This isn't over simplified, it's just wrong. It's based on a old sexist idea of the 'female' form as being a passive 'default' setting that just happens while the 'male' cascade is a dynamic, active process ready to stamp it's form over top of the waiting female. It sort of made sense given the chromosomes (everyone has an X, only men have a Y) but turns out it doesn't really work quite like that.

Instead, human (and other species) embryos start off as bipotential, i.e. they have every anatomical and physiological thing present that allows them to become either male or female (where I am using those terms only in regards to what gonads form, not gender). Then whatever genetic program is there engages, biology happens, and you get testes, ovaries, or some kind of combination plus all the other biology that goes along with each of those. In addition, the SRY gene notwithstanding, the genetic and biochemical path to 'female' is just as driven, dynamic, active, and complicated as the path to 'male', it doesn't just occur by default.

It's actually all very cool and way more interesting than the old version. It's also still not really relevant to gender identity since that's not what scientists are referring to when discussing the genetic sex of an embryo or the physiology of its gonads.
"

Just to expand on this slightly, in case anyone else finds the subject as interesting as I do. ;)

This is a process that happens in every mammalian fetus, not just humans. Your genes determine your genetic sex (XX or XY in "normal" development) but your gonads start off developing in the same basic potential, primordial state, which can become either a male or female reproductive system.

Stealing shellycat's disclaimer: All references in this comment to male and female refer to formation of gonads, not gender. (We really need better, less confusing terms now that we have a greater understanding of how things work.)

So, there are two separate systems present in a potential state in every fetus -- the Wolffian system and the Müllerian system, and they contain structures which are triggered to develop further by specific gene expression.

If your genetic code is XY (male) then the embryo will secrete H-Y antigen, which will initiate the development of the Wolffian system resulting in male reproductive organs. Once the testes develop they secrete testosterone and in the presence of that hormone the Wolffian structures become the epididymis, ejaculatory duct, vas deferens and seminal vesicle. (The prostate, urinary bladder and bulbourethral glands form from a different duct, the urogenital sinus.)

The Wolffian system also secretes Müllerian inhibiting factor (MIF) -- also sometimes referred to in scientific literature as Müllerian-inhibiting hormone (MIH) or Müllerian-inhibiting substance (MIS) -- which is a hormone that causes a regression of the Müllerian structures and prevents them from developing further.

If your genetic code is XX (female) then the embryo doesn't secrete H-Y antigen, doesn't develop testes and secretes neither testosterone nor MIF. In the absence of all three, the Müllerian system begins to develop and the Wolffian system doesn't. The Müllerian structures then develop into part of the female gonads/reproductive system: upper vagina, uterus, cervix, oviduct (fallopian tubes, uterine tubes). The lower vagina and urinary bladder form from the urogenital sinus.
posted by zarq at 7:38 AM on July 12, 2013 [11 favorites]


The H-Y antigen, by the way is a protein whose expression is controlled/directed by the Y chromosome. It has been investigated in recent years in amphibians and mammals by scientists looking to determine genetic and biological factors that affect gender.
posted by zarq at 7:42 AM on July 12, 2013 [2 favorites]


Yeah, I also don't find Diablevert's ignorance to be troublesome, but insistent, constant, ticky-tacky nitpicky ignorance can be hard to distinguish from purposeful bigotry (which is why it got the reaction it did). It's pretty common when talking about transgender stuff for there to be a cool story going on, but the discussion is invariably peppered with people picking out the one sentence or thing relating to transgender stuff and asking "hey what's the deal with this?" Which is obnoxious! Like, I understand that a lot of people are going to read the sentence about how some people think of their penises as feminine and then want to talk about that, but the context is that this kind of thing happens all the time. I think that rather than encouraging more 101 links in every thread, or trying to select trans stories that contain absolutely no sentences that someone could pick out and boggle at, it makes more sense to encourage confused people to look up some basic stuff on their own rather than picking out the thing they find weirdest and saying "what."

Which is not to say that feminine penises are basic stuff, but I think if you understand the basics and know that, say, dysphoria exists and sucks, and that for trans people their identity pretty must has to be more important than their body, you can maybe kind of see why somebody would say that, or at least get close enough not to boggle as one of the first couple posts in a thread not directly about feminine penises.

And, I mean, I understand that that maybe feels stifling, and you totally can ask questions and get answers, but maybe try to be mindful of how and when you ask? Just kind of saying matter-of-factly "I don't think this is true" to an already sort of off-topic explanation of how some trans people see their bodies I don't think is the best way to make it clear that you're expressing ignorance rather than something else.
posted by Corinth at 8:03 AM on July 12, 2013 [8 favorites]


Corinth: "Like, I understand that a lot of people are going to read the sentence about how some people think of their penises as feminine and then want to talk about that, but the context is that this kind of thing happens all the time. I think that rather than encouraging more 101 links in every thread, or trying to select trans stories that contain absolutely no sentences that someone could pick out and boggle at, it makes more sense to encourage confused people to look up some basic stuff on their own rather than picking out the thing they find weirdest and saying "what.""

Totally agree. I also think that a few of us have probably learned a great deal just by reading threads and trying to ask inoffensive questions.

Way, way back in 2009, I posted an article about a transgender Colorado surgeon who performs reconstructive surgery for victims of female genital mutilation.

Two comments from the post:
*scans article*

Yup, there it is. The requisite photo of her putting on lipstick.
posted by Theta States at 12:22 PM on October 22, 2009 [5 favorites −] [!] Other [1/2]: ·≡»

...

(but otherwise good articles, sorry for the derail. I play a drinking game with articles like these.)
posted by Theta States at 12:29 PM on October 22, 2009 [2 favorites −] [!] Other [2/2]: «≡·
Had no idea that was a thing back then. So someone made a comment and I learned something.

It's been mentioned before in Meta, but this site's trans* members tend to be unbelievably patient about educating those of us who are ignorant about trans* ideas and issues.
posted by zarq at 8:25 AM on July 12, 2013 [3 favorites]


Corinth: "Yeah, I also don't find Diablevert's ignorance to be troublesome, but insistent, constant, ticky-tacky nitpicky ignorance can be hard to distinguish from purposeful bigotry (which is why it got the reaction it did)."

It's always worth reminding cis people that trans people who are out on the internet -- particularly trans women -- have a low-level hum of emails, DMs, comments, replies, etc. all questioning basic facts of our lives and asking, hmm, have we really thought about things? This certainly contributes to my ever-decreasing patience with questions. This can sometimes cause me to yell at people who don't deserve it.

Recent example from my terrible tumblr:

Guy who's been following me for a while comments out of the blue and asks if I'm transgender. I reply yes, and after a short interlude for some Culture slashfic (I'm so sorry) he comes back with this:
well ok. Just wondering. I feel as long as we socially emulate the power structure we want to change, there will always be oppression. Not to mention there will be people who will trend popular activism
I, for some reason, respond, and it goes on and on and on and on and on and on from there. In the end (finally!) he unfollows me, which means he can't leave replies on my tumblr any more and so instead just makes passive aggressive posts on his.

I post this because it's a visible example. Most of this shit that I get comes in the form of emails or -- most usually -- anonymous asks, which I just tend to ignore. A lot of trans women get a lot of this shit, and we spot patterns. I gave that guy the benefit of the doubt and I shouldn't have; I probably should have granted that to Diablevert.
posted by ArmyOfKittens at 8:28 AM on July 12, 2013 [17 favorites]


In the absence of all three, the Müllerian system begins to develop and the Wolffian system doesn't.

And there are genes which need to specifically turn on and trigger the biochemical cascade for this to happen as well. But I don't know what they are largely because I don't remember (I last took classes in this in 2005) but also because they weren't as well studied yet, back then at least. Because, again, sexism, these genes just weren't considered as interesting. Weird huh?
posted by shelleycat at 8:51 AM on July 12, 2013 [1 favorite]


The weirdest thing for me was that Diablevert's post (initial couple at least, I haven't read any since) seemed to be similar to what I've read of trans* people's experiences and with what I'd learned from previous 101 resources (restless_nomad's link upthread excepted, which says outright that it's a pretty big departure from other stuff). So I was pretty confused when there was a lot of pushback, but didn't want to jump in asking for clarification for fear of being the "just asking questions" guy. Do I just need to go back to the material?
posted by ODiV at 8:57 AM on July 12, 2013


ODiV: maybe?

The thing is, trans theory has been changing over the last decade or so, since the web really became a thing and we started using it to connect with each other and form support spaces. So it's only really been in that time that the theory has decoupled itself from the medical practice.

The usual medical practice is and always has been very binarist and overly concerned with the "birth sex" of the patient (look into the horrendous reasoning for the terms "homosexual transsexual" and "autogynephile", for fun). So our words for ourselves kind of flowed from that, prioritising the medical-ese and the "birth sex"-first idea: we called ourselves male-to-female transsexuals, or MtFs for short.

Since then the kind of "name the person, not the condition" thing (forgive my word choice; I'm tired!) that has been observed in other minority groups has kicked in: we were talking about ourselves as women, as trans women, and naming non-trans people as cissexual/cisgender rather than just "normal". And with the decoupling of trans theory from medical practice, other ideas long taken for granted can be looked at critically, such as the idea that penises, for example, are necessarily inherently male.

Note that I do not intend to imply that these ideas followed in exactly this order (they have their roots and earliest expressions way before the internet), just that I, as a laywoman primarily concerned initially just with transition and then with supporting other trans women and living a fairly ordinary life, observed them flowing into the popular consciousness of the trans community in that way.
posted by ArmyOfKittens at 9:07 AM on July 12, 2013 [7 favorites]


Thanks! Totally didn't want to continue the derail that jessamyn said to cut out, but was having trouble telling if the comments were problematic because of what they were saying, who they were coming from, the context, or a combination. I am now closer to having a handle on this, I think.
posted by ODiV at 9:18 AM on July 12, 2013


I think it's unfortunate this led to Diablevert taking a break. I'm sympathetic to being overwhelmed by the burden of reply—by the expectation, or at least the perceived expectation, that you need to respond (in good faith) to every person who has taken issue with something you said lest you look like a troll or worse.

Nobody but Diablevert is responsible for his/her decision to take a break; there's no blame to be assigned. Nevertheless, it does push me a step toward maybe agreeing with people upthread who've said maybe we just shouldn't discuss trans issues on MetaFilter. This was about as low-conflict a conversation as we've ever had, and it still ended up with someone feeling like they needed to walk away. That sucks. I don't feel like a conversation about the mechanisms creating that effect would be productive right now, but I do want to say that irrespective of why it's happening, it sucks.
posted by cribcage at 9:28 AM on July 12, 2013 [3 favorites]


That might have been a sort of perfect storm, where someone has particular knowledge of the non-trans-specific aspects of the thread, but (to me anyway) it very much felt like a conversation that included some trans 101 stuff, rather than "let's sit down and do trans 101 and then we can have a conversation" and I think that was in large part down to Etrigan.

I would give the credit to the MeFites who were willing to engage with my questions rather than scoffing at my use of the word "transgendered" and discounting my not-inconsiderable actual experience from the other side of the issue. Y'all know who you are.
posted by Etrigan at 9:28 AM on July 12, 2013


maybe we just shouldn't discuss trans issues on MetaFilter.

This is an absolute and total non-starter. I appreciate that this may work for you personally but everyone has to make their own personal decision about how and how much to engage with any particular topic. Trying to turn "MetaFilter doesn't do this well" into "MetaFilter shouldn't do this at all" is a very very problematic direction to consider going in, especially when discussing historically persecuted or censored minority viewpoints.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 9:34 AM on July 12, 2013 [16 favorites]


This was about as low-conflict a conversation as we've ever had, and it still ended up with someone feeling like they needed to walk away. That sucks.

Diablevert didn't button, didn't flame out, and didn't even flounce. Walking away, and talking about why one is walking away, is not (as you say) a terrible thing. We've had many threads on difficult subjects that have gone both better and worse, and I give kudos to anyone who, rather than doubling-down, realizes that it's better for them and the thread to take a break from that thread.
posted by rtha at 9:35 AM on July 12, 2013 [4 favorites]


Not to argue semantics, but I feel like "a terrible thing" is dialed-up from the more casual and low-key "that sucks"; it's a tiny point but maybe worth making explicit for sake of keeping temperatures low.

And I credit Diablevert for not disabling, flaming, or flouncing, but that's a separate conversation about how to walk away. (And doubling-down is another issue entirely.) If I misread the comment as taking a break from the site when what was intended was taking a break from this thread, then I misunderstood. But when somebody takes a break from the site, that person isn't around to chat about rock music or sitcoms or EVE Online or whatever else we shoot the breeze about here. That may be trivial to some, but it's what I enjoy most about MetaFilter.
posted by cribcage at 9:58 AM on July 12, 2013 [2 favorites]


Sure, but it might be wise not to channel your own distress about what it would feel like not to talk about rock music or sitcoms on MetaFilter into thoughts on how it might feel for someone else or proposals on what one should be able to discuss on MetaFilter.

If diablevert's stepping away from this thread, cool. If diablevert's stepping away from MetaFilteras as his/her chosen option, also cool. People can do that when they want, and come back when they want. S/he hasn't disabled his/her account - s/he explicitly said s/he would be checking MeMail - but if s/he had, again, that's not a huge thing. It's a reversible insertion of an additional level of complexity between oneself and a service that cost $5 for some years ago. Disabling can be a "never coming back" thing, but in its standard form is more like putting your chocolate in the ice box so you can't absent-mindedly snack on it, AFAICT. I've done it twice, and it was not a move I regret in either case.
posted by running order squabble fest at 10:08 AM on July 12, 2013 [1 favorite]


If I could just say to the trans* community on MeFi that I cannot imagine how exhausting it must be to have to spend a big chunk of any thread relating to trans issues going over remedial Trans 101 stuff over and over again, as though justifying your existence were a prerequisite for speaking about issues that affect you profoundly.

That said, it's a good fight. And it makes a difference.

I'm 38. And despite considering myself a progressive person my entire life, it's only been over the last few years that I've come around on trans* issues. I still have plenty to learn, but I am doing my damnedest to be on your side, just as a fellow human being.

Some years ago, I was prone to saying some of the most tiresome, ignorant shit about trans* people... just really awful, insensitive cliched bullshit. And there were exactly two things that brought me around on this: eating breakfast at McDonald's every day and MetaFilter.

I used to wait tables at a place right next to a McDonald's and I would go in every morning and get a breakfast sandwich before work. (Yeah, yeah. You and my doctor. Anyway...) Most days, a relentlessly cheerful and pleasant young man name Pedro took my order. One winter, Pedro disappeared for a few weeks. I didn't think much of it until one day I got to the front of the line and saw the familiar face again. Only this time her name was Pilar. And I don't even know how to explain the look that was on her face, except to say that it was the same smile I had always known, coming from someone who did not give a fuck if I was going to get weirded out or say something shitty. She was happy and brave and was going to be as pleasant and awesome as ever and I could not bring her down. I took my sandwich and sat down to eat, and as I watched Pilar be treated a couple dozen different ways by a couple dozen people, most of them not so kind, I watched her keep coming back to the counter and smiling, because it wasn't fucking about those people. It really stuck in my head.

Once there was that crack in my world view, over the subsequent years, the various threads on MeFi started to chip away at my ignorance on trans* issues. I still have a lot to learn, even to catch up with the other nice people here who already had your back. But I get now that it's not about me or what I do or don't understand. And I'm sure trying to have your back, too. So as exhausting as it must be to go over this shit again and again, it absolutely does make a difference. Some of us really do come around.
posted by DirtyOldTown at 10:17 AM on July 12, 2013 [30 favorites]


Trying to turn "MetaFilter doesn't do this well" into "MetaFilter shouldn't do this at all" is a very very problematic direction to consider going in...

Metafitler should not encourage the creation of skynet.

Metafilter should not encourage the career of Carrottop.

Metafilter should not become a wretched hive of scum and villainy.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 10:32 AM on July 12, 2013 [3 favorites]


TOO LATE
posted by klangklangston at 10:33 AM on July 12, 2013 [5 favorites]


bigotry is of course very bad, but ignorance isn't. Ignorance is the default state. Don't beat yourself up about being ignorant about these issues--if you haven't lived them (like I haven't) you will be ignorant until you're not. Ignorance is the starting point, and is nothing to be ashamed of.

Hold those hugs. In the abstract, ignorance is nothing to be ashamed of, no.

But knowing yourself to be ignorant and still throwing your opinions out there -- even when you could reasonably suspect them to be inflammatory -- and then defending them when called upon it? That's totally shameful.

If you're ignorant, ask questions. And, in sensitive areas, ask them gently and sincerely. "I don't think this is true?" is not a focused attempt to start the learning process any more than a punch is a tickle just because they both involve hands.
posted by bonaldi at 10:38 AM on July 12, 2013 [2 favorites]


Are there transhumans, transspecies, or transethnics?

All of those things do exist and I would think would or could fit under the umbrella of trans*, but that is not how it is colloquially understood, though it would make a lot of sense to do so.
posted by corb at 10:45 AM on July 12, 2013


Don't push this, don't bring it up again.
posted by ArmyOfKittens at 10:48 AM on July 12, 2013 [22 favorites]


oh god can we please not
posted by kagredon at 10:49 AM on July 12, 2013 [10 favorites]


*facepalm*
posted by zombieflanders at 10:51 AM on July 12, 2013 [4 favorites]


All of those things do exist and I would think would or could fit under the umbrella of trans*, but that is not how it is colloquially understood, though it would make a lot of sense to do so.

This looks exactly like trolling and you need to stop.
posted by restless_nomad (staff) at 10:52 AM on July 12, 2013 [8 favorites]


though it would make a lot of sense to do so.

Stop.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 10:52 AM on July 12, 2013 [5 favorites]


ohgodohgodohgod
posted by rtha at 10:58 AM on July 12, 2013 [1 favorite]


The question was asked above, I didn't even bring it up, and confined myself to the blandest possible answer, but sure, I guess?
posted by corb at 11:05 AM on July 12, 2013


Just in case there is someone who is genuinely not aware why people are reacting to corb's comment in the way that they are: it's basically equivalent to arguing against gay marriage by saying that it's a slippery slope to marrying kids or dogs or your sister. These are things that have nothing to do with each other, and it's relying on people's negative perception of other things to tar the topic of discussion.

Also, she didn't even execute it correctly, because "transhuman" actually means something completely different that makes no sense to slot in to that argument.
posted by kagredon at 11:06 AM on July 12, 2013 [16 favorites]


I think that rather than encouraging more 101 links in every thread, or trying to select trans stories that contain absolutely no sentences that someone could pick out and boggle at, it makes more sense to encourage confused people to look up some basic stuff on their own rather than picking out the thing they find weirdest and saying "what."

This is even more an issue with the FPP in question than trans* threads in general. Even if someone "reframes" it, the post is still about trans*-exclusive radical feminist separatists, which is like open season for ax-grinding and "what." In the context of MeFi demographics, if someone pops into such a thread with the mindset of "I'm going to cherrypick something that initially sounds weird, unfamiliar, counterintuitive, subversive, off-putting, mind-blowing, or otherwise not instantly comforting and embraceable to me personally, in order to object to it or request a lengthy tutorial about it," they've got roughly 2,700 sentences, subtopics, or concepts to choose from.

As an all-inclusive feminist with some radical/separatist sympathies who's generally familiar with the unfortunate trans*excluding phenomenon, I'd love to read an on-topic discussion of the issue, but as Ivan Fyodorovich noted, it's a fraught and complex conversation even for grounded good-faith 300-level participants in 100% supportive spaces. Whether there's a tsunami of 101 demands (trans*, human ontogenetic spectrum, radical feminism, feminist separatism, separatism in general, feminism, patriarchy, privilege, gender identity vs. expression vs. performance, etc.) and pushback is unpredictable. The eventual shitstorminess probably depends mostly on what day and time the FPP appears, how soon and closely it's moderated, how long it stays on the front page and above the fold, how many people are reading the front page during that timespan, and how many "PC Fascist Jargon Words" are in the lead paragraph.

I think (or like to think) trans* threads are overall, bit by bit going better with time and hope they'll continue to improve as the culture (site and IRL) shifts.
posted by FelliniBlank at 11:10 AM on July 12, 2013 [3 favorites]


Well, that, and because she's brought it up before and got all "man, you guys are the real transphobes here."
posted by zombieflanders at 11:11 AM on July 12, 2013 [1 favorite]


Yeah, we did the whole trans(humanracialetc.) thing in the Penny Arcade thread and if people still don't grok what's offensive and off-topic about it I don't know what to say.
posted by rtha at 11:14 AM on July 12, 2013


So, maybe I missed it but I haven't really seen any useful feedback on what would have made the contentious post stand? Would Trans 101 links have helped; or perhaps some trans 101 basics in the post itself? It seems to have been deleted mostly for being outragefilter, but it reads more as, well...what happens, to me. I think there is a significant difference between "bad things happen" and "Gargh! Get angry!" and that distinction can be blurrier or clearer depending on one's proximity to the topic. This thread is itself full of people talking about a lot of the commonplace intolerance trans people (almost typed trance people there; I am totally going to make a stupid graphic about that) experience every day. The "Okay, I know what you think you are but as someone completely ignorant of this subject I clearly have more perspective on it than you do so can you justify your existence to me based on these impossible criteria that aren't going to change my mind anyway because if I were totally honest (and I'm not going to be) the truth is that you just squick me out personally?" thing is excruciatingly common in part because of how popular it is to legitimize the "other side" of trans issues, as the original link goes into.

I guess what I want is assurance that this particular link/topic is okay to make a post about? I know there are no hard and fast rules and that everything is evaluated on a case by case basis here, and I appreciate that, but is it fine to reframe it, add more links, a trans 101 footnote, etc.? I'm assuming that's totally cool, but I would like to know that the topic of the link itself is doable.
posted by byanyothername at 11:15 AM on July 12, 2013


Lesson learned.

FTR, I am pro trans* for whatever values * contains. Any questions I may ask are genuine and not some sort of gambit. Sorry if it seemed that way. I won't mention it again.
posted by Ad hominem at 11:16 AM on July 12, 2013


Apropos of nothing, I'd be interested in and think the link in the post would work well as part of a slightly larger intellectual history of what the articles calls 'TERF'-dom. My understanding of that ugliness begins and ends at Michigan Womyn's Fest + whatever single piece essays get linked.
posted by PMdixon at 11:16 AM on July 12, 2013


These were my suggestions upthread, byanyothername.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 11:16 AM on July 12, 2013


Okay, thanks. I did miss that. :)

I'm just obviously uncomfortable with a "here are what both sides say" framing, because there aren't "two sides," so any expanded reframing is basically going to boil down to, "one of the most vocal hate groups targeting trans people are counter-intuitively a subgroup under the feminist umbrella."
posted by byanyothername at 11:22 AM on July 12, 2013


Ad hominem, you handled it okay up thread after people explained it, I think people are just kind of miffed that it had to be brought back in to the thread (which is not your fault) long after it had been asked and answered.
posted by kagredon at 11:26 AM on July 12, 2013 [1 favorite]


Every time someone makes the furry derail, an enchanted gem at Tumblr HQ glows with increasingly malefic power. Melissa Mayer cradles this gem in her hands, cooing "soon, soon". She then looks into a mirror, in which she is reflected as a crudely drawn Sonic character. The time will come soon. Soon, the gates of reality shall open, and the streets will run plush with fursonae. Soon, yes, but not soon enough. GOTTA GO FAST
posted by Sticherbeast at 11:26 AM on July 12, 2013 [9 favorites]


I think people are just kind of miffed that it had to be brought back in to the thread (which is not your fault) long after it had been asked and answered.

FWIW, I didn't see that that question had been answered and had no intention of its causing debate, which is why I kept my response so short. Also, on long threads, I tend to open two windows with the thread, and copy/paste answers into the second one so I don't have to keep scrolling up and down. When I'm done reading, then I post from the second window. It can sometimes give an inaccurate read on how far back something was.
posted by corb at 11:36 AM on July 12, 2013


It was an incredibly ignorant thing to say. You were the source of the friction in the Penny Arcade thread. I don't buy the oh-so-innocent "I was just answering a question" stance.
posted by futz at 11:44 AM on July 12, 2013 [4 favorites]


Serious question posed three ways to anyone with a grounding in gender issues who is not sick of answering stupid questions yet:
  1. How can I identify my own gender?
  2. What are some indicators of my gender, and what about them indicates my gender and not another gender?
  3. Do I have a gender and how would I know?
Thanks. If the question is inherently stupid, please explain how to pose it better.
posted by Nomyte at 11:46 AM on July 12, 2013 [2 favorites]


corb, you've admitted to not being particularly knowledgeable on trans* issues in the past. Beyond that, you've also told us that you have memory issues that prevent you from fully internalizing what people say about trans* issues. Given that, what makes you think that you are the most qualified person - or even qualified at all - to answer that question? And especially in a highly ignorant way that has personally caused for you on the exact same topic, significant drama in the past? And then especially when you don't even ACTUALLY give any useful information or grounding on the topic beyond generalities that can be summed up as "well its my uneducated belief that this is true"? You do realize that you can leave commenting on things if you have nothing constructive to add, right?
posted by Conspire at 11:48 AM on July 12, 2013 [12 favorites]


Yeah, I also don't find Diablevert's ignorance to be troublesome

I find this troubling. What are you saying is was ignorant of? The obvious Truth?

It's basically impossible under this formulation not to be a bigot and disagree with how you see the world. First he was bigoted, but now that you're giving him the benefit of the doubt, you're allowing for the possiblity that he just doesn't understand how right you are?
posted by spaltavian at 11:54 AM on July 12, 2013 [3 favorites]


What are you saying is was ignorant of? The obvious Truth?

First he was bigoted, but now that you're giving him the benefit of the doubt, you're allowing for the possiblity that he just doesn't understand how right you are?


I think treating trans* with dignity and respect, and acknowledging their existence, is being right, and not doing that is often being ignorant of the obvious Truth that trans* people are worthy of dignity and respect.
posted by MisantropicPainforest at 11:56 AM on July 12, 2013 [3 favorites]


corb, given your reputation on trans* issues and you general tendency to move goalposts, many people viewed your comment as a giant poop in healthy discussion of a thread.
posted by MisantropicPainforest at 11:58 AM on July 12, 2013 [1 favorite]


Oh, yay, now the Trans* Supporters Are Intolerant Brigade is riding to the rescue.
posted by zombieflanders at 11:58 AM on July 12, 2013 [2 favorites]


I think treating trans* with dignity and respect, and acknowledging their existence, is being right, and not doing that is often being ignorant of the obvious Truth that trans* people are worthy of dignity and respect.

Diablevert never disagreed with this. You're back to "he's a bigot" now.
posted by spaltavian at 11:59 AM on July 12, 2013 [2 favorites]


Nomyte:

I think your questions are tricky because they can often be used a form of expression of (unknowing) transphobia. Cis people will often hear about trans* issues and use that as a bit of a slippery slope to declare "well if you have a penis and are a girl how can I be sure that I'M not also a girl too because I also have a penis." I know that you're engaging in good faith, however, so to answer your questions (since they are very valid questions): it's not quite as black-and-white as "you will know" and experiences do vary, but if you are of a non-conforming gender, you generally will have at least a pretty good idea. So it is absolutely not flimsy enough thing that the existence of trans* people will invalidate your own experiences of gender identity. Keep in mind that for many however, there's a lot of cultural and societal baggage to unpack around the idea of being of a non-conforming gender that may cause people from fully realizing their own gender identity until they've had a chance to work through some of these issues - but that again is not evidence that gender identity is not a serious and grounded thing. Since the determination of gender identity a highly internalized, personal process, it would be difficult for any of us to give you any real "indicators" of what your gender is. The majority of us are fortunate enough to have gender identities that match with our sexual characteristics, so we don't have to give much thought to this internal process - but that's a luxury that many people seriously do not have.
posted by Conspire at 12:01 PM on July 12, 2013 [1 favorite]


not explicitly, but he acted like he did, out of ignorance, not out of hate. I used to, too. I didn't know about trans* issues and would say/think things that I now see are offensive.

You may view that as being indoctrinated, or conforming, or whatever, but I evolved through education (much of it on Mefi!), and trans* people are now a lot less likely to be offended or hurt by what I say and think. And that's a good thing. Others may disagree, but, that is their problem, not mine.
posted by MisantropicPainforest at 12:03 PM on July 12, 2013


Its also trans* peoples problem too. because they will have to deal with the fallout.
posted by MisantropicPainforest at 12:04 PM on July 12, 2013


MisantropicPainforest, let's keep in mind what Diablevert actually said, not what you imagined him to say, please:

I agree that transaphobia, discrimination against and attacks of trans people are huge problems. I think excluding transwomen from feminist circles is wrong and the radical feminists described in the article certainly seem to be hateful.

I do not deny that, either. I accept that transmen are men and that transwomen are women


It's not that he "not explicitly" disagreed, it's that he explicitly agreed! His entire thing was that he's not sure about all aspects of gender/queer necessarily follow from belief in transperson's equality and diginity.

You may view that as being indoctrinated

You are assuming a lot about me, especially when my entire thing has been that you can be unsure or even in disagreement with various theories and still have an iron clad belief in the equality, dignity and rights of trans people.
posted by spaltavian at 12:07 PM on July 12, 2013 [2 favorites]


Diablevert's ignorance mostly seemed to be centered around making a statement that seemed self-evident to him, and being ignorant of the broader context in which statements like his are often used. I think he didn't get it, and now he seems to, and that's pretty much all there is to that — I don't think he was trying to step on toes.

(It does seem a little disingenuous to act like the above quoted portion was what got the pushback, Spaltavian.)

As for Corb, can we just drop it now? She got told to knock it off pretty quickly, and continuing to treat her like she's trying to shit up this thread isn't healthy for her or us.
posted by klangklangston at 12:12 PM on July 12, 2013 [8 favorites]


Klang, I get the orignal comment was what sparked it, but do his approximately 11 billion clarifcations not count? Especially when they occur earlier in this very thread? I guess it's long enough that people aren't going to read everything, but I do kind of expect MisantropicPainforest not to claim Diablevert was implying the exact opposite of every comment he made in here.
posted by spaltavian at 12:16 PM on July 12, 2013


Conspire, I appreciate the response. I don't know how to differentiate "personally vested curiosity" and "self-exploration" from "transphobia," but I hope you will take me at my word.

I'm coming from the following direction: as a teenager, I began to identify as a gay man. But the thought process behind that was (a) I think of myself as male by virtue of a constellation of physical characteristics, (b) I think of the people I am attracted to as male by virtue of a constellation of physical characteristics. Ergo, I am a gay man.

I am not attached to traditional gender expression and kind of think of manly-man men and ladylike-lady women as unpleasant aspirational models. It sounds like gender studies problematizes gender. To begin with, gender as an expression of any one physical trait is very problematic.

I realize that gender theory is evolving, and my own thinking is also open to input and revision. Maybe it will be more productive for me to think of gender differently. Do I necessarily need to think of myself as having a gender, and why? By convention, I think of myself as male, but what does that actually mean? I definitely don't go around thinking "male, male, male." Does the word have any actual content, other than specifying an arbitrary choice between two pronouns people can use to refer to me?
posted by Nomyte at 12:22 PM on July 12, 2013 [1 favorite]


Diablevert said things, in the deleted thread, that is hurtful to a lot of trans* people, and can easily be interpreted to be a denial of their dignity and worth. I don't think Diablevert intended that, only that he wasn't sufficiently educated on what is and what is not hurtful in the context of a trans* discussion. Intentions are kind of irrelevant.
posted by MisantropicPainforest at 12:22 PM on July 12, 2013 [1 favorite]


Just FYI folks, I've met Diablevert and she is female.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 12:23 PM on July 12, 2013 [2 favorites]


Hopefully this is cool, mods, I'm not trying to open discussion again on the meat of the subject, but I think the feelings and hurt make it necessary:

While I would hope we all look forward to a world where no one is shamed for their choices or identity, whatever they may be, this comment just prompted some sidebar discussion/learning and I now understand that the scale of the differences makes it a hurtful comparison, both in scope and kind, where it has the effect of minimizing actual harm suffered by trans folk, including those here on Metafilter. I am sorry for re-opening old hurts for those of you who are here.

Given that, I will strive to keep discussion concerning those issues out of transgender-related threads in the future.
posted by corb at 12:25 PM on July 12, 2013 [5 favorites]


Serious question posed three ways to anyone with a grounding in gender issues who is not sick of answering stupid questions yet:
  1. How can I identify my own gender?
  2. What are some indicators of my gender, and what about them indicates my gender and not another gender?
  3. Do I have a gender and how would I know?
Thanks. If the question is inherently stupid, please explain how to pose it better.


Not inherently stupid, but complicated and with a variety of possible answers, depending on who's doing the answering.

I know my sex (female) by my secondary sex characteristics and menstruation (genetically, I have no idea! Might not really be XX, but I've never had a medical reason to get the genes checked).

I know my gender (woman) because I've never experienced a disjunction between what I see when I take my clothes off and what I feel inside. As I said in a previous thread (maybe the Coy Mathis meTa), for me at least it's less about a presence of "yes this is the right thing I feel" and more about the absence of a sense of disjunction and distress. This may not be the case for everyone.

That said, I don't know what it "means" to "feel like a woman." I only know how it feels to be me, and that feeling is "okay, all good, let's go." Hope this helps and is not just adding confusion (although once you start really thinking and reading about this stuff, well, it's confusing).

And on preview: I also identify as a lesbian. Which is sort of connected to my gender identity and sort of isn't. YMMV, but it's definitely made a difference in how I think about sex and gender.
posted by rtha at 12:27 PM on July 12, 2013 [6 favorites]


Far be it from me to tell anyone when they do or don't have a right to keep being pissed off, but if I'm reading this right, the two users who said the most inflammatory stuff in this thread both apologized, said they didn't mean to hurt anyone, tried to learn a better context for having similar discussions in the future, and promised to try and do better.

That's a good thing, right?
posted by DirtyOldTown at 12:32 PM on July 12, 2013 [2 favorites]


Seconding what rtha said. I'd also add that I have been occasionally mistaken for male in person, and being called "sir" and male-pronouned does feel weird and inappropriate, no matter how innocent or understandable the confusion. (Occasionally being female-pronouned feels weird and inappropriate, but less so - I don't 100% identify as a binary-gendered woman, but I also don't identify as trans or male. It's complicated - which is kind of the point, really.)
posted by restless_nomad (staff) at 12:32 PM on July 12, 2013 [3 favorites]


Nomyte, I've found these comments from the last MeTa pretty enlightening w/r/t being cis but not feeling strongly gendered. There are also people who identify as agender/third-gender/genderqueer/etc.; just as male/female and gay/straight aren't dichotomies that everyone neatly fits into, gender identity is a bit more convoluted than cis/trans.
posted by kagredon at 12:34 PM on July 12, 2013


Oh yeah, I get called sir a lot. It used to really piss me off, but that (I realized) was more a function of being called sir as a retail worker because to the customer I was basically invisible as a person. It didn't help that my uniform included a baseball cap and chef's jacket; I did look pretty dude-like. But how a customer could talk with me for 10 minutes and *still* think I was a guy is beyond me.
posted by rtha at 12:43 PM on July 12, 2013


So to me rtha's description of how she knows her gender disagrees with the quote from the article just as much as Diablevert's comment so I'm obviously misreading or making some assumptions I shouldn't be or something.
posted by ODiV at 1:01 PM on July 12, 2013


Argh, here are my thoughts on the whole thing:

I think the way that a lot of people get stuck on trans* issues - and indeed, on a lot of the more progressive issues - is that they get stuck on a cargo cult mentality. That is, they're concerned about that they can do to look like they're ahead on the issue externally without understanding that the process involves a lot internal inspection and overthrowing of cultural and personal prejudices. I can't exactly fault them - especially in a world that's becoming increasingly socially progressive, and on a site that is particularly socially progressive, it can be a really scary thing that realize that the things that we've known and taken for granted for the past thirty, fifteen or even five years, may not be valid anymore. And it can be really scary to realize that all of a sudden, you're subject to all sorts of social judgment for "not holding the correct views." Obviously, there's a huge pressure to conform whatever way you can.

So that's why I think there's so much emphasis on terminology in these conversations - it's a way for people to demonstrate that they aren't bigots, and they're up to date! Similarly, that's why these topics always go back to trans* 101 - it's pretty familiar territory, and not as scary as the more difficult topics where's it's exceedingly easy to make a mis-step and all of a suddenly become a bigot! You get this bizarre pressure to conform by saying the right thing and asking the right questions, or else you're a bigot! And I think a lot of people are really rightfully frustrated about that because it's a way that makes people feel insecure, having to constantly feel policed at every step. So in that sense, I really get the constant tense atmosphere that arises around these issues.

I identify as a LGBT activist and a trans* ally, and I've still occasionally misgendered people and used the wrong terminology and asked potentially offensive questions, because it's definitely a really difficult thing to internalize and keep up with. But that's okay. The goal here isn't to be perfect in presentation. The goal is just to reinforce a simple concept: sometimes, things that aren't tough for us can be really tough for other people. And occasionally, we'll realize - collectively or individually - that one of the things that we all universally thought was easy for us all - turns out to be incredibly difficult from another vantage. But that's okay, we've all got our strengths and weaknesses and wants and needs - we've just got to realize that just because we had the fortune of having some strengths does not necessarily mean that our experiences apply to everyone. And we need to do our best to take other people's expressed weaknesses and wants and needs at face value and do our best to make things easier - and if not even that, just try to personally not step on their toes in a world that constantly tramples them.

Between having flawless presentation and developing a inner sense of inclusivity, the latter is far more essential to do. So when people call you out on issues - and indeed, when people call me out on issues - the majority of the time, they're doing so to help encourage you into developing your inner dialogue on these issues. They're not trying to make you look like a bigot or call you a bigot, but they're paying you a compliment: they realize that you're trying your hardest, as most of us are, and they're trying to get you into a better headspace so you can look at things from their perspective better. And that's a thing that we can all benefit from, because the hardest darn thing but also most rewarding thing about the human experience is figuring out what it's like to be someone else.

I won't deny that sometimes people do call your presentation out for presentation's sake. Sometimes, the cargo cult begets more cargo cult - you get a lot of people who are so stuck up on looking like allies and not looking like bigots that they're willing to throw people in front of the train to make themselves look better (haha joke's on them - there IS no train, really.) And even moving past that, people experiencing things are still people, and people get stressed out and emotional and irrational and ground to the bone despite their best intentions.

But ultimately, I think it's good to take a more optimistic approach and not get hung up on the petty stuff and focus on the principle of how we can develop our internal perspectives. So in that sense, asking questions is fine - but are you asking to look progressive and concerned, or are you asking because you're coming from a genuine position of trying to better yourself? Making mistakes is fine - but are you learning from your mistakes and making fewer and fewer of the same ones on each iteration? Admitting you're imperfect and lost is fine - but are you saying that so you can accept the help of others trying to move you along your mental blocks, or to excuse yourself from developing any further?

The distinction between acting progressive, and being progressive is massive and immediately obvious to others even if not obvious to ourselves. And if you're finding that people are constantly getting fed up with you and calling you out despite the fact that you seem to be doing everything right and despite the fact that that you internally believe yourself not to hold any bigoted views, that likely means you need to recalibrate your own approach and come from a humbler internal perspective.
posted by Conspire at 1:03 PM on July 12, 2013 [7 favorites]


jessamyn: "Just FYI folks, I've met Diablevert and she is female."

Ah! Thank you for that. Good to know.

corb: " Given that, I will strive to keep discussion concerning those issues out of transgender-related threads in the future."

Thank you.

MisantropicPainforest: "Diablevert said things, in the deleted thread, that is hurtful to a lot of trans* people, and can easily be interpreted to be a denial of their dignity and worth. I don't think Diablevert intended that, only that he wasn't sufficiently educated on what is and what is not hurtful in the context of a trans* discussion. Intentions are kind of irrelevant."

I'm convinced that intentions have to matter.

I think we all make choices regarding how to respond to potentially inflammatory comments based on our read of whether people are being malicious or mean or not. Most of the time people will have an open mind if you give them enough information and respond to queries without jumping down their throats. Sometimes, people just might not understand that what they've said is a problem. It happens.
posted by zarq at 1:06 PM on July 12, 2013 [4 favorites]


"So that's why I think there's so much emphasis on terminology in these conversations - it's a way for people to demonstrate that they aren't bigots, and they're up to date!"

I really like your essential argument — that being inclusive and empathetic and taking seriously other's attested experiences and challenging yourself and progressing in your thinking is by far more important than getting the nomenclature correct.

But I disagree with your emphasis in the quote above, because I think that making an effort at getting the nomenclature right is much more than the defensive shielding that you describe. Rather, it signals something more important and vital — that you are listening and taking it seriously. It's a relatively small thing to do, and not as important as really changing how you think. But even in its smallness, it's still pretty big because it takes some actual effort, it requires paying attention, and so it's a visible act of consideration and sensitivity.

And it's inherently a lot more important than people tend to suppose because the nomenclature used by the dominant culture about a marginalized group reifies that marginalization — that's why it's genuinely so empowering when a marginalized group takes control of the language used about them.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 1:22 PM on July 12, 2013 [7 favorites]


Well no, that is a given, Ivan, but I'm making that point in the context that I do see a number of people constantly defaulting to discussions of terminology whenever trans* topics pop up. So while using the terminology is definitely extremely important, I do believe it's also possible to inflate the importance of terminology by driving a constant focus on the topic to the exclusion of other issues. At that stage, it transforms "I'm using the language to show consideration" into using language as a means to only engage with issues on a surface level.
posted by Conspire at 1:33 PM on July 12, 2013 [1 favorite]


So to me rtha's description of how she knows her gender disagrees with the quote from the article

Wait, which quote from which article?

(Also, to be crystal clear, me not saying whatever the article says doesn't make either of us necessarily wrong. "Knowing" your gender is going to be a very individual and subjective thing, with some of that knowledge overlapping with someone else's and being in contradiction with other parts of their knowledge.)
posted by rtha at 1:40 PM on July 12, 2013


"So while using the terminology is definitely extremely important, I do believe it's also possible to inflate the importance of terminology by driving a constant focus on the topic to the exclusion of other issues."

I can see that, especially because questioning and picking at terminology is a game played by those who wish to be disruptive.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 1:50 PM on July 12, 2013 [1 favorite]


Eh, I shouldn't have gotten back into it because it'll just lead back to the penis derail, but your parenthetical helped me see a bit of a difference, thanks. If anyone's interested in the derail then please MeMail me.
posted by ODiV at 1:55 PM on July 12, 2013


No, I would actually argue that most people who focus on terminology excessively are not doing it to be disruptive, Ivan, but are actually engaging with good intentions. Terminology is a very neat and concrete way of being supportive, whereas attitude and perception changes are a lot more abstract and difficult to implement, so it's obviously easier to focus on the former when you're a layman who feels intimidated and helpless by the scope and extent of trans* issues.

The other issue that drives the phenomenon is that I think terminology often gets conflated with being accepting of trans* issues. It is absolutely true that terminology is an useful heuristic to determine whether something is accepting of issues or not especially if you're coming from the other side, as someone who uses the "right words" is likely to have given at least some consideration and thought, but it's just that - a heuristic that lets one scope out initially whether a person is "safe" or not. However, proper use of terminology does not really reveal the underlying extent, rationale or scope of the person's thinking and opinions on trans* issues.
posted by Conspire at 2:05 PM on July 12, 2013


The problem with focusing on the terminology is that it looks and feels very much like the death-by-a-thousand-cuts stuff. If every time you're trying to talk about something someone is jumping in with jabs like okay, but just to be clear, you have a penis so you're still male, technically, right, or well I think really to keep things straight we should just be defining people by chromosomes, or any kind of objection to the term "cis," it becomes a recognizable pattern that some people are doing this to make sure you feel othered and to show off their cis superiority. This is a very common thing that happens all the time to trans people elsewhere, and it definitely has an effect on the calibration of our intention-measuring devices, as ArmyOfKittens said.
posted by Corinth at 2:18 PM on July 12, 2013 [8 favorites]


Terminology is also all we have here in a very real sense. That's not to say it's all that's possible, but the medium likely inclines many people toward that focus. This is another reason why going the extra mile to assume good faith, even if you think you're detecting a tone or a pattern, might be a worthwhile step to help threads go better.
posted by cribcage at 2:33 PM on July 12, 2013


Terminology is also all we have here in a very real sense. That's not to say it's all that's possible, but the medium likely inclines many people toward that focus. This is another reason why going the extra mile to assume good faith, even if you think you're detecting a tone or a pattern, might be a worthwhile step to help threads go better.

I don't know. A lot of people seem to use "discussions of terminology" as an "easy in" to a conversation where they don't haven enough background to really participate. Way upthread there was a discussion of the way that a lot of people seem to think they understand gender because they "have a gender." In a similar way, people often think they understand terminology because they "know what those words mean," when those words can have a very specific meaning in the specific content. At the very best, these people are engaging in a "101 derail."

Part of the problem is, of course, that many people on MetaFilter are facile with words, like using words, and (probably) pride themselves on their ability to use words to express themselves, get what they want, and generally deal with the world. So it's really easy to take unfamiliar terminology as something you can pick up and manipulate off the bat, while not realizing the danger of doing so. Even good intentions can look dodgy, and the cycle of offense and defensiveness is hard to avoid. This is a reason why I think 101 documents are probably a good idea for complex issues with a steep learning curve.
posted by GenjiandProust at 3:10 PM on July 12, 2013


I'm kind of focusing on the ways cis people can help threads go better because I think that they are largely responsible for helping them go worse (although you may have a different perception). Just constantly telling trans people to be more patient and assume good faith doesn't seem to be super useful - working on the stuff that is repetitive and smells like bad faith might be.
posted by Corinth at 3:12 PM on July 12, 2013 [11 favorites]


Oh, Corinth, I'm sorry if it sounds like I'm saying that. When I say that I think most people are engaging in good faith, I want to make it clear that I'm not saying that trans* people should have to be patient with that bullshit; I'm just pointing out that you can have good intentions but still be wildly offensive, because I'm hoping that helps people see how their actions can be interpreted as transphobic even if they don't consider themselves transphobes.
posted by Conspire at 3:17 PM on July 12, 2013


I was responding to cribcage! Conspire, I understand what you're saying about terminology and just wanted to toss in some extra bits.
posted by Corinth at 3:21 PM on July 12, 2013


Of possible interest: Feminist Perspectives on Trans Issues.
posted by Wordwoman at 4:06 PM on July 12, 2013 [9 favorites]


Stealing shellycat's disclaimer: All references in this comment to male and female refer to formation of gonads, not gender. (We really need better, less confusing terms now that we have a greater understanding of how things work.)

'testes' and 'ovaries' might work?
posted by Dysk at 4:54 PM on July 12, 2013


And I think a lot of people are really rightfully frustrated about that because it's a way that makes people feel insecure, having to constantly feel policed at every step.

...which is precisely why "you don't get to call yourself gender [x] on MY watch!" type comments are so frustrating for those of us who are trans and possibly trying to have a conversation about anything even slightly related. Because having to constantly feel policed at every step makes people frustrated. In fact, for a lot of us, it's not really limited to MetaFilter. Or the internet. So it can be pretty hard not to snap back.
posted by Dysk at 5:13 PM on July 12, 2013 [9 favorites]


We have ways for people who need to talk about things like genitalia and chromosomes to do so, but why the hell do you feel the need to talk about genitalia and chromosomes in every trans thread?

For what it's worth, I don't think I've ever personally participated in a trans thread, and my question about terminology was one of curiosity as to what the appropriate terminology for (what I now know to call) gender assignment at birth is vs. gender identity, because I didn't know, nothing more. So I'm not sure what's up with the "why the hell" part.

Nevertheless, the rest of your response was very interesting and helpful as far as representing your perspective, and I appreciate you sharing it.
posted by davejay at 8:09 PM on July 12, 2013


I mean maybe I am being a jerk here

but I feel like what's up with the "why the hell" part has been pretty well explained by the multiple people in this thread who have spoken about what its like to be constantly questioned about this kind of thing
posted by kagredon at 8:41 PM on July 12, 2013 [5 favorites]


'testes' and 'ovaries' might work?

Perhaps in some cases, sure. But not in the comment I made above. Testes and ovaries are only single (paired) structures that are a part of their respective reproductive systems.
posted by zarq at 10:30 PM on July 12, 2013 [1 favorite]


the question of the asterisk in 'trans*' has come up in this thread, as well as most other trans threads on mefi. It's not a big deal or anything, but I'd like to give a slightly more in-depth answer than the basic 'it means being extra-inclusive' one. There real answer to 'why is there an asterisk?" is that it's a compromise solution to a fight over terminology between different parts of the broader trans community. I'm not 100% on the history here, but I know the outlines.

"Transsexual" came first as a term, according to wiki around 1950 in english, earlier in german. This came out of a strictly medical paradigm, and used to describe trans people, mostly women, who were seeking surgical transition. Other ways of being trans were not recognized.

"Transgender" developed a little later, I'm seeing a date of 1965, and popularization in 1969. This term was used to describe what I'd now call cross dressers but at the time was called transvestites, particularly associated with Tri-S, an early cross dressing support organization. It broadened a little from there, to take up anyone who wasn't covered by transsexual - anyone who wasn't seeking surgery.

This neat dichotomy pretty much immediately fell apart. Some trans people who got surgery began identifying as transgender rather than transsexual for a number of different reasons - to simply distance themselves from the idea that being trans was a sex thing, or to encourage solidarity between people who had surgery as part of their transition and those who did not, etc. This lead to transgender becoming inclusive of trans people who got surgery too. You could be transsexual AND transgender.

Not everyone was happy with this, though. A lot of trans people were, and many still are, invested in the medicalization of being trans in a way that putting themselves in the same category as cross dressers or people who weren't getting transition related surgery felt like a threat. These people continued to identify as transsexual and definitely not transgender - and those transgender people are dangerous freaks who are nothing like them, the True Transsexuals(tm).

Now you get to the 90s. This when modern trans discourse starts up, with the internet to facilitate. People wanted a term to refer to all different kinds of trans people, but what they come up with for an umbrella term so far, transgender, wasn't cutting it. The early internet having a particularly high concentration of nerds with command line experience, the asterisk as a globbing character was relatively common knowledge, and trans* became shorthand for 'transgender and transsexual', which was needed to cover everyone to everyone's satisfaction.

That lined up with more recent developments of splitting 'transwoman' into 'trans women', etc. With the development of 'trans' as a standalone adjective, 'trans*' has been slowly losing the asterisk in a lot of places, making a new umbrella term which is just trans and is not shorthand for the old formulation of 'transsexual and transgender' but which seems to more like "trans (not otherwise specified)".

Metafilter is a bit of a holdout here, and my guess would be that's because of a high concentration of early internet types relative to other places where I've discussed trans issues. I'm pretty much in favor of ditching the asterisk and moving forward, obviously - the old transsexual vs transgender divide is still around, and always will be, but the number of people willing to be fighty about it is declining. I don't think it's necessary anymore, and just leads to the occasional noise of 'what's up with the asterisk?" It's a question that's easily handled, but we're in a situation where easily handled questions come up over and over and over again, and being able to drop one of them seems like a win.

Others will disagree, I am absolutely certain.
posted by vibratory manner of working at 11:28 PM on July 12, 2013 [21 favorites]


There real answer to 'why is there an asterisk?" is that it's a compromise solution to a fight over terminology between different parts of the broader trans community.

Thanks, this is actually really helpful, because in real life I have a friend who identifies as "Transexual" rather than "Transgender" but I've seen people be chastised for that terminology on Metafilter. Knowing that it is an internal fight helps explain both why there is differentiation but also why it is so contentious.
posted by corb at 2:34 AM on July 13, 2013 [1 favorite]


Testes and ovaries are only single (paired) structures that are a part of their respective reproductive systems.

Actually, when you're talking about biological sex specifically the gonads rule everything. All the other physiological changes, including the formation of that reproductive system and related genitalia, secondary sexual characteristics, even the decision by progenitor germ stem cells to become sperm or eggs, comes back to the high levels of testosterone or oestrogen secreted by the specific cells in each type of gonads. To the point that adding enough exogenous hormone at just the right stage of development can override the genetic and biochemical program diverting it to the other one (partially or fully depending on when and how much).

I realised I did a really bad job of replying to davejay's specific question about terms used regardless of gender (I think I missed that last part). And yeah, sex or biological sex are the ones I'm familiar with (where the settings = female, male, intersex, and become more specific from there). Genetic sex is another one referring specifically to chromosomes. But they're used in very specific contexts, do not relate to gender, are not used to define a person in any way beyond referring to which gonads are present, and it's more likely that an even more specific and dry statement would be made (e.g. 'in the presence of testes this and that happen' rather than 'in a male this and that happens'). In my experience, at least, when being used by scientists in a scientific setting it's not confusing at all because of context and definition.

Whereas trying to talk about gender *is* difficult and confusing, for me anyway. Secondary sexual characteristics do form part of gender identity for some people, which kind of blurs the line a bit, but not for everyone (which is fine). I've come to realise that gender and sexuality don't need to come back to anything physical at all, gonads are irrelevant. So I'm sorry if my still posting about them is a derail, I wish I'd been more clear the first time.

I have learnt a lot from metafilter and I really appreciate being able to hear (read?) the range of voices here. There are so many thoughtful, gracious members here who have different gender and sexuality experiences than mine and are willing to share that despite the shit they get in return. It's not something I'm particularly exposed to in the not-internet world for whatever reasons so thank you.
posted by shelleycat at 4:23 AM on July 13, 2013


zarq: All references in this comment to male and female refer to formation of gonads, not gender.

So... why are 'testes' and 'ovaries' not sufficient for "male gonads" and "female gonads"? You were explicitly talking about gonads, and not their (usual) attendant structures.

Even then, 'testes/ovaries and attendant structures' (or some more elegant phrasing of the same) would work, no?
posted by Dysk at 4:39 AM on July 13, 2013


it can be a really scary thing that realize that the things that we've known and taken for granted for the past thirty, fifteen or even five years, may not be valid anymore. And it can be really scary to realize that all of a sudden, you're subject to all sorts of social judgment for "not holding the correct views."

This is exactly how I have felt reading the trans* threads here, which I have done a lot of since I joined, but have never commented because of the realisation that I'm out of my depth. (But working hard not to be.)

I'm mid 30s and was educated in Catholic schools in Ireland. Despite that I've always prided myself on how open minded and progressive I am. I identified as a feminist when I was about 12, I was Women's Officer at my Uni which was strongly affiliated with the LGB (as was then) community, and have always been vehemently anti-homophobic. When I was first made aware of the idea that some people "were born in the wrong body" (again, 80s terminology I think) I was fully supportive of the idea that anyone has the right to identify whatever way they want. I'm a woman who has never had any issue with my gender and consider myself lucky in that regard. I've always felt that there was a little streak of "boy" in there which I am fine with, and while Im in a straight relationship I'm aware of and have experienced fluidity in my sexuality which again I'm happy to own. So far so back- patting.

And then I join MeFi. And I see Trans* and I look for the footnote. I see Cis and I have to look it up. I see penis and vagina are not inherently male/female and I think "what". And I feel like I've walked face first into a plate glass window. Cos it turns out I done got me a preju-dice. I feel resentful of Cis because, hey, I'm a woman and a religious minority where I live and dammit I'm not used to being forced to own a privilege. I didnt get a vote on the word, how come someone else gets to define who I am? I think "but if a penis isn't male then if you identify as a woman but you have one why would you need surgery?" And I hate the feeling that it turns out I've still a lot to learn and I keep quiet because I don't want to hurt anyone, and Im ashamed of these feelings and I dont want to be judged for them. And then I go off and read. And I let myself absorb the arguments and old threads and follow links, and I allow my mind to open a little wider and my knowledge base to widen a little and you know what? It feels really good. It's actually good to realise there was a dark corner of my psyche that has had some light shone on it. I roll "I'm a Cis gendered woman" around in my head and I weirdly like it, like its a new little facet to my own identity. (And still worry I've got it wrong.) I consider the idea that just because a baby is born and the doctor sees penis therefore boy or vulva therefore girl, doesn't mean that is an absolute in the way I've always thought because I never learned to think any different.

I think what I'm trying to say is that I totally get it must be tiresome to explain this stuff over and over. But I'm so grateful that you all do. I can't think of anywhere else I would have been exposed to this, not knowing a single Trans* person irl, and living somewhere its not made it into mainstream discussion yet (we don't even have abortion here, so we're way behind. Our HEALTH minister endorsed counselling to "cure" gays and was allowed to keep her job.) I know you can say people need to go educate themselves, but sometimes we don't even realise we need to educate ourselves until we walk into something we didn't even know was there. And it's hard to see someone else walk into that plate glass window in full view of everyone, and be called a bigot, because that could have been me, and I didn't get the impression that anyone was being deliberately hurtful. It really does feel like everyone is trying really hard to do this stuff right, and I thought it was a pity that the thread was deleted as I didn't sense any bad faith from the OP, but I get the context arguments etc. But I've learned so much just from this thread. I always considered myself an ally, it's good to feel like a better informed one, and I'm sorry that's at the expense of people who need to take time to inform the likes of me when they'd rather be taking the discussion forward, but I hope at least it makes it a tiny bit worth it that your patience isn't wasted.

I still consider myself an outsider here, and the one thing that always strikes me is people saying "we don't do this stuff well". Personally, I think you all do bloody brilliantly.
posted by billiebee at 6:39 AM on July 13, 2013 [37 favorites]


> the question of the asterisk in 'trans*' has come up in this thread, as well as most other trans threads on mefi. It's not a big deal or anything, but I'd like to give a slightly more in-depth answer than the basic 'it means being extra-inclusive' one.

Thanks very much for that; it answers pretty much all my questions, and I heartily agree with you about "ditching the asterisk and moving forward"—I just don't see any loss in moving from "trans*" to "trans."
posted by languagehat at 7:03 AM on July 13, 2013


I just don't see any loss in moving from "trans*" to "trans."

FWIW (and this may be a function of my age and what corners of the internet I inhabit), I've seen the asterisk appearing rather than disappearing. I think we don't have a particularly reliable story for which came first (because what you think the timeline was will depend on where you were*), but some people are making an active choice in favour of the asterisk, to explicitly include genderqueer people and people with non-binary identities. I don't really think 'Can we drop the asterisk now?' is a feasible question at the moment.

*For example, I think people can date 'cis' to like at least 2006, but no one I knew was saying 'cis' in 2006, so it's more recent in my mind.
posted by hoyland at 7:44 AM on July 13, 2013 [4 favorites]


hoyland: "FWIW (and this may be a function of my age and what corners of the internet I inhabit), I've seen the asterisk appearing rather than disappearing."

Likewise. My general rule of thumb is to use trans* when I'm talking in general: the trans* community, trans* people, although I'm most likely to just forget and drop the star out of habit. For individuals I probably wouldn't use it unless they request it: I'm a trans woman, other people might be genderqueer, bigender, two-spirit, etc.
posted by ArmyOfKittens at 7:59 AM on July 13, 2013 [4 favorites]


I would like to think it's a given that the vast majority of the folks here are allies and will use either "trans" or "trans*" as we are asked, because our key priority is recognizing our friends the way they would like to be called. If there's a consensus here one way or the other, just let us know. Most of us, as allies, are only invested in that distinction to the extent of whether or not we are using it correctly.
posted by DirtyOldTown at 8:00 AM on July 13, 2013 [3 favorites]


The problem for many of us (at least for me) as a person aiming to be an ally is that trying to parse out the terminology and understand relevant concepts, as they affect people personally, philosophically, and physically can be tough, even as it's obviously nothing compared to actually being trans. We get that. But at the same time, for a lot of us, as billiebee said, we don't actually know many if any trans people. So this is something we get stuck coming at from an abstract place. It's tricky, because this is complex stuff that can be hard to get a handle on, and the last thing we want to do is screw up and say stuff that rankles, hurts, or frustrates people for whom this is decidedly not at all abstract. We're trying though.

Pity I can't just have a bunch of MeFi friends over of all flavors for dinner so we could hash this out. I have cold beer and I'm making barbecue, too.
posted by DirtyOldTown at 8:11 AM on July 13, 2013 [1 favorite]


I doubt there'd be much of a consensus here re: trans/trans*. I'm a trans woman, and almost invariably use the former, for what little it's worth, but I'm pretty sure there are others with other preferences. That's fine. At the end of the day, you're unlikely to offend anyone particularly by using the 'wrong' one, though it's probably best to take cues from the words they use to describe themselves if you're talking about particular individuals (as is always the case).
posted by Dysk at 8:30 AM on July 13, 2013 [3 favorites]


Thanks to ArmyOfKittens and Dysk for those explanations.
posted by DirtyOldTown at 8:59 AM on July 13, 2013


I'm a trans woman, other people might be genderqueer, bigender, two-spirit, etc.

I saw it in the trans* image linked at the top of the discussion, and I've seen it before, and I was quietly wondering in my head what it meant to have big ends, what end are we talking about, and why would someone with a big end - a big-ender if you will - be associated with the varieties of trans identity. I mean, whatever size your end is, that's cool with me. Finally the penny dropped with that comment and I'm sitting here laughing at what a goddamn idiot I am.

But seriously, I do want to thank the people here on Metafilter who have posted so much information on trans issues over the years, despite some of those threads being so frustrating. I've learned so much, and I obviously have a lot more to learn, but it's been one of the best things I've gotten from the site. Thanks.
posted by Homeboy Trouble at 10:23 AM on July 13, 2013 [9 favorites]


Woah. Here's a new wrinkle for a potential FPP on all this:
Catherine Brennan, whose views are critiqued in the essay as being transphobic, has instructed her lawyer David Diggs to prepare litigation against Jacobin magazine.
posted by ArmyOfKittens at 11:08 AM on July 13, 2013 [3 favorites]


I'm one of the people who first saw "trans*", then moved to "trans". I use "trans" as an inclusive term, and I use it for myself.

Two advantages I've noticed to the asterisk, though: 1) it gets cis people thinking about who that umbrella covers, and 2) when people insist on smashing words together, the asterisk almost preserves that space I find so important: "trans*woman", for example. (For the record, I'm a trans woman, not a 'transwoman'.)
posted by jiawen at 11:20 AM on July 13, 2013 [1 favorite]


Suing Jacobin for....what?
posted by rtha at 11:29 AM on July 13, 2013


the asterisk almost preserves that space I find so important: "trans*woman", for example. (For the record, I'm a trans woman, not a 'transwoman'

jiawen, could you (if and only if you feel like it, obviously) possibly explain that? I also have friends that identify as transwomen, I want to hear you and be sensitive but I'm not sure if this is a personal choice or part of a larger ideological debate.
posted by corb at 11:31 AM on July 13, 2013


rtha: "Suing Jacobin for....what?"

Who the fuck knows. Libel maybe?

It could be said that this is her pattern.
posted by ArmyOfKittens at 11:33 AM on July 13, 2013 [1 favorite]


Yeah, I mean, knowing what I know about her (and just thinking about that makes me want to get back in the shower because ew), she's suing because she's a lawyer and because she likes to intimidate people who disagree with her and because she has this, uh, unbalanced view of who is losing or winning at the Oppression Olympics (spoiler: nobody wins).

Still, I'm curious about what the actual suit filing says.
posted by rtha at 11:38 AM on July 13, 2013 [5 favorites]


corb, i can't speak for jiawen personally - but as a general answer - the space makes it obvious that trans women are women, not some sort of third gender. a trans woman (or a cis woman) is a woman who is trans (or a woman who is cis). you can find more discussion on this if you search 'trans is an adjective' - but here are a couple to get you started transgender is an adjective and put the goddamn space in. it's basically an expanded form of the conversation you were part of in this thread about trans (and transgender) not being a verb.
posted by nadawi at 12:11 PM on July 13, 2013 [3 favorites]


Basically, what nadawi said. Also, corb, I've mentioned this to you before.
posted by jiawen at 1:08 PM on July 13, 2013 [3 favorites]


You did, and I'm sorry if you found the question grating. I think, speaking personally, for me, it is difficult when there are people who prefer very different things, but no actual orthodoxy, and I was trying to find out why that was - if there was a very specific and distinct disagreement that gave rise to those differences.

I think it is always going to be hard, when dealing with a lot of people who prefer a lot of different words and pronouns. Personally, it is also difficult when the trans people I know in real life tend to use one or perhaps two terminologies, and some trans people on metafilter use another. It doesn't mean that anyone isn't entitled to their preferred terminology, but it does mean that it's difficult to remember who is using what. I do attempt to use preferred language, but I do spend a great deal more time talking to people I actually hang out with, so that tends to be the default in the absence of conscious action. I apologize if that is hurtful to anyone.
posted by corb at 1:41 PM on July 13, 2013


This is less personal preference stuff and more a discussion of the current state of the ongoing understanding of terms and how they operate in society. Like, the idea behind keeping trans as an adjective that modifies a person, rather than lumping the two together, is pretty sound. So is the idea behind trying to encourage the use of "a trans person" rather than "a transgender." The reason we're moving towards "transgender" and away from "transsexual" (Eew! Sex!) makes sense, and so on. If it seems like there are too many trans people, all clamoring for specific labels and treatment, try to remember that this is probably less because trans people are nuts and all want special snowflake status, and more because this area of theory has changed a lot in the past twenty years or so and different people will have different snapshots of it depending on when they entered and left the conversation.
posted by Corinth at 2:10 PM on July 13, 2013 [3 favorites]


Thank you for your question, Nomyte. I have similar questions because I don't feel particularly male or female. I've taken to identifying as genderqueer but female for social purposes - but I would like to learn more about what people feel when they feel a strong gender identity. Two cis friends of mine have told me that they both have strong gender identities, so it is something one can feel without also having gender dysphoria (right word?). But it's not something I really grok, and I would like to learn more (maybe because I've had some minor gender dysphoria at times - which then went away).
posted by jb at 2:16 PM on July 13, 2013 [2 favorites]


I think I use trans* and trans interchangeably - the former when other people are and I think about it, the latter when I'm writing colloquially or I'm thumb typing on a phone (like right now).

But thank you for the bit about the space in trans woman or trans man. I hadn't ever thought of it (don't pay a lot of attention to spelling), but I will because it matters.
posted by jb at 2:19 PM on July 13, 2013


corb - generally speaking, the no space between is an old convention and might be seen more among a certain age group of people who are trans. you've asked a fairly similar question a number of times here and people have given you answers and further readings. this isn't a metafilter specific convention, but one that you can find support for all over the internet (and in scholarly papers and books and style guides, etc, etc). have you asked your friend why she prefers to use transwoman as a noun instead of trans as an adjective? i'll admit that i haven't seen any write ups that put that forward as a preference, but if they're out there i'd be interested in seeing them.

otherwise, this is pretty much seems like in-group vs wider audience type of stuff. like, in my group of friends if someone called a woman a "chick" or a "girl" no one would think twice, but in general conversations with strangers it can be considered infantilizing to call a woman a girl (for good reasons!). your in group might prefer no space for whatever reason, but the wider trans community prefers the space for the reasons that have been explained.
posted by nadawi at 2:43 PM on July 13, 2013


I think, speaking personally, for me, it is difficult when there are people who prefer very different things, but no actual orthodoxy

I hope I'm not being insensitive here, but I should think that the realization that context is everything and that different people might prefer very different kinds of address would be fundamental to someone of a libertarian bent.
posted by octobersurprise at 3:12 PM on July 13, 2013 [1 favorite]


I don't love that asterisk, but I use it because it's not for me, and it's a small enough effort to make. I have some friends who prefer transman over trans man or trans*man, and, yeah, it's a little complicated to keep it all in mind, but then I have friends who prefer Mike and friends who prefer Michael, and I manage to remember to use the right one with the right guy, so, really, it's not like I am making a terrible terrible effort to refer to my friends the way they want.
posted by GenjiandProust at 3:41 PM on July 13, 2013 [10 favorites]


I really want to underscore the value of the link that Wordwoman provided (to an entry at Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy written by Talia Bettcher) for anyone who wants a fairly comprehensive introduction to these issues — the context is specifically the relationship between feminist and trans theory, but it necessarily includes important stuff in the development of queer and trans theory. It's a long, mildly dense read, but well worth it.

Having read it, then the linked post and two of the Counterpunch pieces — I first want to say that Counterpunch's Julian Vigo really pissed me off. I expected to be pissed off at Brennan and others, but Vigo's distortions underneath faux-reasonableness just made my blood boil.

I just needed to get that off my chest.

Anyway, I think there is a really good post in this somewhere. And I disagree with the claim that anything beyond something like Samantha Allen's Jacobin piece would necessarily be a "both sides" travesty like Vigo's. First of all, Vigo's wasn't. But, second of all, for example, I think that Talia Bettcher's SEP overview does a good job of fairly presenting the motivating concerns of the TERFs without endorsing their reasoning or their conclusions. Indeed, Bettcher is quite critical. But she shows how trans theory has variously attempted to address those concerns.

It also seems obvious to me that TERFs are unreconstructed second-wave radical feminists who are increasingly marginalized within contemporary feminism. But this specific conflict brings into sharp relief the core issues of trans* identities and how they are attacked and so it is important and significant beyond itself.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 3:52 PM on July 13, 2013 [7 favorites]


Anyway, I think there is a really good post in this somewhere. And I disagree with the claim that anything beyond something like Samantha Allen's Jacobin piece would necessarily be a "both sides" travesty like Vigo's.

Agreed, although those could be included as background, preferably with a "check your blood pressure medication" warning.
posted by GenjiandProust at 3:56 PM on July 13, 2013


corb - generally speaking, the no space between is an old convention and might be seen more among a certain age group of people who are trans....have you asked your friend why she prefers to use transwoman as a noun instead of trans as an adjective? i'll admit that i haven't seen any write ups that put that forward as a preference, but if they're out there i'd be interested in seeing them.

This might be possible - I don't have any trans friends under 30, and staggeringly few under 35. Most of them are also military veterans, so it might also be a society-specific context? I will however go back and talk to my closest friend about this, and try to find out why she feels what she feels, vs what others feel, before I engage again with the topic. I could make speculations based on what she's already told me about verbiage but I don't think that would be fair to either her or you.
posted by corb at 4:07 PM on July 13, 2013


So... why are 'testes' and 'ovaries' not sufficient for "male gonads" and "female gonads"? You were explicitly talking about gonads, and not their (usual) attendant structures.

No, I was describing the embryonic development of both a fetus' gonads and other structures that make up their reproductive systems. Multiple physical organs and structures. The primary function of a gonad is to produce gametes.

Even then, 'testes/ovaries and attendant structures' (or some more elegant phrasing of the same) would work, no?

It would depend on what different 'elegant phrasing' we could come up with but I don't think 'testes/ovaries and attendant structures' would have worked because I was trying to be precise and unambiguous for a lay audience. Was describing a very specific, somewhat complex process that takes place in each mammalian embryo for people who were perhaps not well versed on the topic. I was concerned about using any words or phrases that could be considered vague or confusing, or being inaccurate by trying to describe structures in too roundabout a way.

Also, I'm not absolutely sure that doing what you suggest would be accurate. A uterus (for example) is a complex organ to itself and not what I would consider an "attendant structure" of the ovaries. But then, I'm no biologist. You could very well be right.

I really am totally open to the idea of finding better wording, though.
posted by zarq at 8:20 PM on July 13, 2013


No, I was describing the embryonic development of both a fetus' gonads and other structures that make up their reproductive systems.

Then you'll forgive me for being confused, because you explicitly said "All references in this comment to male and female refer to formation of gonads, not gender." Given that, surely it makes as much sense to name the respective gonads (testes/ovaries) as to refer to them as 'male' or 'female'... And as shelleycat says everything else pretty much follows from the gonads anyway.
posted by Dysk at 12:39 AM on July 14, 2013


And you know, 'testes and penis' or 'ovaries, uterus and vagina' or something would work, or even 'testes etc' and 'ovaries etc' - pretty sure even a lay audience has some passing familiarity with the organ structures that tend to accompany the respective gonads...
posted by Dysk at 12:43 AM on July 14, 2013


Given that, surely it makes as much sense to name the respective gonads (testes/ovaries) as to refer to them as 'male' or 'female'..

In the context of biological sex, female and male (and intersex) are used to describe the gonads and everything that goes with them. Which is actually a lot more than just "testes + penis", for example, my husband is a lot stronger than I am despite being fairly similar size because of all the testosterone in his body at various stages of development, etc etc etc. But, as I said above, scientists are a lot more likely to be very specific rather than use blanket terms like male or female (and those terms will be defined when used) and we're still not talking about gender at all.

The primary function of a gonad is to produce gametes.

Nope, it's to secrete the relevant hormones. Yes, gametes are produced too and gonads also do other things (biology is always messy), but those hormones are at the top of the cascade.
posted by shelleycat at 2:44 AM on July 14, 2013 [1 favorite]


In the context of biological sex, female and male (and intersex) are used to describe the gonads and everything that goes with them.

The point isn't that no words exist for 'the gonads and everything that goes with them', the point is that, in a conversation about trans people and their bodies, 'male' and 'female' don't work well, regardless of whether they work well elsewhere. You can find plenty of articles in the literature using 'male' and 'female' for the bodies of trans people according to what they were assigned at birth and, in addition to being completely cringe-worthy, they're utterly confusing. This is why people are saying one ought to be specific about what they're actually talking about--not causing offense and making sense is pretty much what you want to be doing. Maybe it makes biologists sad, but people use 'male' and 'female' more broadly than simply classifying bodies on the basis of gonads (though biologists use them in other ways, too, of course) and it's in that context that we're saying "don't talk as if female bodies have ovaries and all bodies with ovaries are female".
posted by hoyland at 4:42 AM on July 14, 2013 [1 favorite]


it's in that context that we're saying "don't talk as if female bodies have ovaries and all bodies with ovaries are female".

Furthermore, terms cross classification systems, and insisting in a reductionist way that [term used in Classification System X] must hold that exact same meaning in Classification System Y is not useful. It's like the old "are tomatoes fruits or vegetables?" canard. In botanical systems, tomatoes are fruits (and vegetable isn't a really useful term). in culinary systems, a tomato is a vegetable, because it is cooked in ways consistent with the class "vegetable." Since tomatoes are generally sold on their culinary rather than botanical use, the famous court decision that tomatoes are vegetables and should be taxed as such is very sensible. Insisting that tomatoes are, in fact, fruit according to botany, and, therefore, the court was stupid, is missing the point.

Whew. Additionally, I am bothered by these rather clinical attempts to hash out a classification system that doesn't put the lived experience of the people involved front and center. When an irregular customer of mine came in to the store after a bit of an absence and explained that she was transitioning, I did not analyze what biological factors were at play, I took her at her word and asked what name I should use, how we could maintain a comfortable commercial relationship, etc. I've had conversations about biology and surgery and intentions and drivers and so on with trans* friends, but they're always to get at that friend's lived experience, not build some sort of grand unified theory of trans*ness. So, I dunno, maybe less insistence on a pure classification and more attention to people's stories would lead to better threads on trans* issues.
posted by GenjiandProust at 10:50 AM on July 14, 2013 [4 favorites]


Maybe it makes biologists sad, but people use 'male' and 'female' more broadly than simply classifying bodies on the basis of gonads (though biologists use them in other ways, too, of course) and it's in that context that we're saying "don't talk as if female bodies have ovaries and all bodies with ovaries are female".

I've tried to be very clear all along that I am only talking about terms used specifically by scientists in a scientific context to describe very specific sets of biology (how many times do I need to type "not gender"?) and that it has nothing to do with the kinds of wider discussions you're bringing up. Because that was the question that was asked and because other people keep answering it slightly wrong. I'm sorry to keep bringing it up, I won't do it again, but don't make out like I'm saying something I'm not.
posted by shelleycat at 11:01 AM on July 14, 2013 [1 favorite]


Ah. The furry derail. Bang on time.

I'm always up for a trans-101 because I am constantly very much behind the curve on this stuff, and honestly, honestly want to understand. So has anyone got a trans-101 that explains why having a non-conforming sense of self that goes to, say, species or ethnicity rather than gender is totally fake and needs to be quickly dismissed as a derail?
posted by Jimbob at 8:42 PM on July 14, 2013


So has anyone got a trans-101 that explains why having a non-conforming sense of self that goes to, say, species or ethnicity rather than gender is totally fake and needs to be quickly dismissed as a derail?

Since I don't have a link: No one said it was "totally fake." It's a derail because it's a different thing, in the same way that polyamory is a different thing from homosexuality. When the discussion is about gay marriage and someone starts talking about how legalizing gay marriage will make it ok to marry more than one person, it's a derail not because polyamory or open relationships are "totally fake," but because that's not what anyone was talking about. Same thing for furries (and a bunch of other stuff) in trans conversations.
posted by jaguar at 8:48 PM on July 14, 2013 [10 favorites]


Jaguar is correct. Another factor there is that furries, transethnic people, otherkin, etc, are not facing the kind of real, quantifiable violence and systemic oppression as transgender folks. So however sincere the comparison, it reads as trivializing and insulting.
posted by restless_nomad (staff) at 8:53 PM on July 14, 2013 [10 favorites]


Seems to me that the same kind of read vs. sincerity mismatch might be part of what's going on in TERF thinking.
posted by flabdablet at 12:59 AM on July 15, 2013


As mentioned above, Jimbob, there is a fairly big difference between "not relevant to this discussion" and "totally fake". If you're interested, I asked a slightly more detailed version of the same question, but from the other direction, here.
posted by running order squabble fest at 2:12 AM on July 15, 2013


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